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Title: After the Storm
Author: Arthur, T. S. (Timothy Shay), 1809-1885
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "After the Storm" ***

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AFTER THE STORM.


BY

T. S. ARTHUR.



PHILADELPHIA:

1868



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I. THE WAR OF THE ELEMENTS.
  CHAPTER II. THE LOVERS.
  CHAPTER III. THE CLOUD AND THE SIGN.
  CHAPTER IV. UNDER THE CLOUD.
  CHAPTER V. THE BURSTING OF THE STORM.
  CHAPTER VI. AFTER THE STORM.
  CHAPTER VII. THE LETTER.
  CHAPTER VIII. THE FLIGHT AND THE RETURN.
  CHAPTER IX. THE RECONCILIATION.
  CHAPTER X. AFTER THE STORM.
  CHAPTER XI. A NEW ACQUAINTANCE.
  CHAPTER XII. IN BONDS.
  CHAPTER XIII. THE REFORMERS.
  CHAPTER XIV. A STARTLING EXPERIENCE.
  CHAPTER XV. CAPTIVATED AGAIN.
  CHAPTER XVI. WEARY OF CONSTRAINT.
  CHAPTER XVII. GONE FOR EVER!
  CHAPTER XVIII. YOUNG, BUT WISE.
  CHAPTER XIX. THE SHIPWRECKED LIFE.
  CHAPTER XX. THE PALSIED HEART.
  CHAPTER XXI. THE IRREVOCABLE DECREE.
  CHAPTER XXII. STRUCK DOWN.
  CHAPTER XXIII. THE HAUNTED VISION.
  CHAPTER XXIV. THE MINISTERING ANGEL.
  CHAPTER XXV. BORN FOR EACH OTHER.
  CHAPTER XXVI. LOVE NEVER DIES.
  CHAPTER XXVII. EFFECTS OF THE STORM.
  CHAPTER XXVIII. AFTER THE STORM.



AFTER THE STORM.



CHAPTER I.

THE WAR OF THE ELEMENTS.


_NO_ June day ever opened with a fairer promise. Not a single cloud
flecked the sky, and the sun coursed onward through the azure sea
until past meridian, without throwing to the earth a single shadow.
Then, low in the west, appeared something obscure and hazy, blending
the hill-tops with the horizon; an hour later, and three or four
small fleecy islands were seen, clearly outlined in the airy ocean,
and slowly ascending--avant-couriers of a coming storm. Following
these were mountain peaks, snow-capped and craggy, with desolate
valleys between. Then, over all this arctic panorama, fell a sudden
shadow. The white tops of the cloudy hills lost their clear,
gleaming outlines and their slumbrous stillness. The atmosphere was
in motion, and a white scud began to drive across the heavy, dark
masses of clouds that lay far back against the sky in mountain-like
repose.

How grandly now began the onward march of the tempest, which had
already invaded the sun's domain and shrouded his face in the smoke
of approaching battle. Dark and heavy it lay along more than half
the visible horizon, while its crown invaded the zenith.

As yet, all was silence and portentous gloom. Nature seemed to pause
and hold her breath in dread anticipation. Then came a muffled,
jarring sound, as of far distant artillery, which died away into an
oppressive stillness. Suddenly from zenith to horizon the cloud was
cut by a fiery stroke, an instant visible. Following this, a heavy
thunder-peal shook the solid earth, and rattled in booming echoes
along the hillsides and amid the cloudy caverns above.

At last the storm came down on the wind's strong pinions, swooping
fiercely to the earth, like an eagle to its prey. For one wild hour
it raged as if the angel of destruction were abroad.

At the window of a house standing picturesquely among the Hudson
Highlands, and looking down upon the river, stood a maiden and her
lover, gazing upon this wild war among the elements. Fear had
pressed her closely to his side, and he had drawn an arm around her
in assurance of safety.

Suddenly the maiden clasped her hands over her face, cried out and
shuddered. The lightning had shivered a tree upon which her gaze was
fixed, rending it as she could have rent a willow wand.

"God is in the storm," said the lover, bending to her ear. He spoke
reverently and in a voice that had in it no tremor of fear.

The maiden withdrew her hands from before her shut eyes, and looking
up into his face, answered in a voice which she strove to make
steady:

"Thank you, Hartley, for the words. Yes, God is present in the
storm, as in the sunshine."

"Look!" exclaimed the young man, suddenly, pointing to the river. A
boat had just come in sight. It contained a man and a woman. The
former was striving with a pair of oars to keep the boat right in
the eye of the wind; but while the maiden and her lover still gazed
at them, a wild gust swept down upon the water and drove their frail
bark under. There was no hope in their case; the floods had
swallowed them, and would not give up their living prey.

A moment afterward, and an elm, whose great arms had for nearly a
century spread themselves out in the sunshine tranquilly or battled
with the storms, fell crashing against the house, shaking it to the
very foundations.

The maiden drew back from the window, overcome with terror. These
shocks were too much for her nerves. But her lover restrained her,
saying, with a covert chiding in his voice,

"Stay, Irene! There is a wild delight in all this, and are you not
brave enough to share it with me?"

But she struggled to release herself from his arm, replying with a
shade of impatience--

"Let me go, Hartley! Let me go!"

The flexed arm was instantly relaxed, and the maiden was free. She
went back, hastily, from the window, and, sitting down on a sofa,
buried her face in her hands. The young man did not follow her, but
remained standing by the window, gazing out upon Nature in her
strong convulsion. It may, however, be doubted whether his mind took
note of the wild images that were pictured in his eyes. A cloud was
in the horizon of his mind, dimming its heavenly azure. And the
maiden's sky was shadowed also.

For two or three minutes the young man stood by the window, looking
out at the writhing trees and the rain pouring down an avalanche of
water, and then, with a movement that indicated a struggle and a
conquest, turned and walked toward the sofa on which the maiden
still sat with her face hidden from view. Sitting down beside her,
he took her hand. It lay passive in his. He pressed it gently; but
she gave back no returning pressure. There came a sharp, quick gleam
of lightning, followed by a crash that jarred the house. But Irene
did not start--we may question whether she even saw the one or heard
the other, except as something remote.

"Irene!"

She did not stir.

The young man leaned closer, and said, in a tender voice--

"Irene--darling--"

Her hand moved in his--just moved--but did not return the pressure
of his own.

"Irene." And now his arm stole around her. She yielded, and,
turning, laid her head upon his shoulder.

There had been a little storm in the maiden's heart, consequent upon
the slight restraint ventured on by her lover when she drew back
from the window; and it was only now subsiding.

"I did not mean to offend you," said the young man, penitently.

"Who said that I was offended?" She looked up, with a smile that
only half obliterated the shadow. "I was frightened, Hartley. It is
a fearful storm!" And she glanced toward the window.

The lover accepted this affirmation, though he knew better in his
heart. He knew that his slight attempt at constraint had chafed her
naturally impatient spirit, and that it had taken her some time to
regain her lost self-control.

Without, the wild rush of winds was subsiding, the lightning gleamed
out less frequently, and the thunder rolled at a farther distance.
Then came that deep stillness of nature which follows in the wake of
the tempest, and in its hush the lovers stood again at the window,
looking out upon the wrecks that were strewn in its path. They were
silent, for on both hearts was a shadow, which had not rested there
when they first stood by the window, although the sky was then more
deeply veiled. So slight was the cause on which these shadows
depended that memory scarcely retained its impression. He was
tender, and she was yielding; and each tried to atone by loving acts
for a moment of willfulness.

The sun went down while yet the skirts of the storm were spread over
the western sky, and without a single glance at the ruins which
lightning, wind and rain had scattered over the earth's fair
surface. But he arose gloriously in the coming morning, and went
upward in his strength, consuming the vapors at a breath, and
drinking up every bright dewdrop that welcomed him with a quiver of
joy. The branches shook themselves in the gentle breezes his
presence had called forth to dally amid their foliage and sport with
the flowers; and every green thing put on a fresher beauty in
delight at his return; while from the bosom of the trees--from
hedgerow and from meadow--went up the melody of birds.

In the brightness of this morning, the lovers went out to look at
the storm-wrecks that lay scattered around. Here a tree had been
twisted off where the tough wood measured by feet instead of inches;
there stood the white and shivered trunk of another sylvan lord,
blasted in an instant by a lightning stroke; and there lay, prone
upon the ground, giant limbs, which, but the day before, spread
themselves abroad in proud defiance of the storm. Vines were torn
from their fastenings; flower-beds destroyed; choice shrubbery,
tended with care for years, shorn of its beauty. Even the solid
earth had been invaded by floods of water, which ploughed deep
furrows along its surface. And, saddest of all, two human lives had
gone out while the mad tempest raged in uncontrollable fury.

As the lover and maiden stood looking at the signs of violence so
thickly scattered around, the former said, in a cheerful tone--

"For all his wild, desolating power, the tempest is vassal to the
sun and dew. He may spread his sad trophies around in brief, blind
rage; but they soon obliterate all traces of his path, and make
beautiful what he has scarred with wounds or disfigured by the tramp
of his iron heel."

"Not so, my children," said the calm voice of the maiden's father,
to whose ears the remark had come. "Not so, my children. The sun and
dew never fully restore what the storm has broken and trampled upon.
They may hide disfiguring marks, and cover with new forms of life
and beauty the ruins which time can never restore. This is
something, and we may take the blessing thankfully, and try to
forget what is lost, or so changed as to be no longer desirable.
Look at this fallen and shattered elm, my children. Is there any
hope for that in the dew, the rain and sunshine? Can these build it
up again, and spread out its arms as of old, bringing back to me, as
it has done daily, the image of my early years? No, my children.
After every storm are ruins which can never be repaired. Is it not
so with that lightning-stricken oak? And what art can restore to its
exquisite loveliness this statue of Hope, thrown down by the
ruthless hand of the unsparing tempest? Moreover, is there human
vitality in the sunshine and fructifying dew? Can they put life into
the dead?

"No--no--my children. And take the lesson to heart. Outward tempests
but typify and represent the fiercer tempests that too often
desolate the human soul. In either case something is lost that can
never be restored. Beware, then, of storms, for wreck and ruin
follow as surely as the passions rage."



CHAPTER II.

THE LOVERS.


_IRENE DELANCY_ was a girl of quick, strong feelings, and an
undisciplined will. Her mother died before she reached her tenth
year. From that time she was either at home under the care of
domestics, or within the scarcely more favorable surroundings of a
boarding-school. She grew up beautiful and accomplished, but
capricious and with a natural impatience of control, that unwise
reactions on the part of those who attempted to govern her in no
degree tempered.

Hartley Emerson, as a boy, was self-willed and passionate, but
possessed many fine qualities. A weak mother yielded to his resolute
struggles to have his own way, and so he acquired, at an early age,
control over his own movements. He went to college, studied hard,
because he was ambitious, and graduated with honor. Law he chose as
a profession; and, in order to secure the highest advantages,
entered the office of a distinguished attorney in the city of New
York, and gave to its study the best efforts of a clear, acute and
logical mind. Self-reliant, proud, and in the habit of reaching his
ends by the nearest ways, he took his place at the bar with a
promise of success rarely exceeded. From his widowed mother, who
died before he reached his majority, Hartley Emerson inherited a
moderate fortune with which to begin the world. Few young men
started forward on their life-journey with so small a number of
vices, or with so spotless a moral character. The fine intellectual
cast of his mind, and his devotion to study, lifted him above the
baser allurements of sense and kept his garments pure.

Such were Irene Delancy and Hartley Emerson--lovers and betrothed at
the time we present them to our readers. They met, two years before,
at Saratoga, and drew together by a mutual attraction. She was the
first to whom his heart had bowed in homage; and until she looked
upon him her pulse had never beat quicker at sight of a manly form.

Mr. Edmund Delancy, a gentleman of some wealth and advanced in
years, saw no reason to interpose objections. The family of Emerson
occupied a social position equal with his own; and the young man's
character and habits were blameless. So far, the course of love ran
smooth; and only three months intervened until the wedding-day.

The closer relation into which the minds of the lovers came after
their betrothal and the removal of a degree of deference and
self-constraint, gave opportunity for the real character of each to
show itself. Irene could not always repress her willfulness and
impatience of another's control; nor her lover hold a firm hand on
quick-springing anger when anything checked his purpose. Pride and
adhesiveness of character, under such conditions of mind, were
dangerous foes to peace; and both were proud and tenacious.

The little break in the harmonious flow of their lives, noticed as
occurring while the tempest raged, was one of many such incidents;
and it was in consequence of Mr. Delancy's observation of these
unpromising features in their intercourse that he spoke with so much
earnestness about the irreparable ruin that followed in the wake of
storms.

At least once a week Emerson left the city, and his books and cases,
to spend a day with Irene in her tasteful home; and sometimes he
lingered there for two or three days at a time. It happened, almost
invariably, that some harsh notes jarred in the music of their lives
during these pleasant seasons, and left on both their hearts a
feeling of oppression, or, worse, a brooding sense of injustice.
Then there grew up between them an affected opposition and
indifference, and a kind of half-sportive, half-earnest wrangling
about trifles, which too often grew serious.

Mr. Delancy saw this with a feeling of regret, and often interposed
to restore some broken links in the chain of harmony.

"You must be more conciliating, Irene," he would often say to his
daughter. "Hartley is earnest and impulsive, and you should yield to
him gracefully, even when you do not always see and feel as he does.
This constant opposition and standing on your dignity about trifles
is fretting both of you, and bodes evil in the future."

"Would you have me assent if he said black was white?" she answered
to her father's remonstrance one day, balancing her little head
firmly and setting her lips together in a resolute way.

"It might be wiser to say nothing than to utter dissent, if, in so
doing, both were made unhappy," returned her father.

"And so let him think me a passive fool?" she asked.

"No; a prudent girl, shaming his unreasonableness by her
self-control."

"I have read somewhere," said Irene, "that all men are self-willed
tyrants--the words do not apply to you, my father, and so there is
an exception to the rule." She smiled a tender smile as she looked
into the face of a parent who had ever been too indulgent. "But,
from my experience with a lover, I can well believe the sentiment
based in truth. Hartley must have me think just as he thinks, and do
what he wants me to do, or he gets ruffled. Now I don't expect, when
I am married, to sink into a mere nobody--to be my husband's echo
and shadow; and the quicker I can make Hartley comprehend this the
better will it be for both of us. A few rufflings of his feathers
now will teach him how to keep them smooth and glossy in the time to
come."

"You are in error, my child," replied Mr. Delancy, speaking very
seriously. "Between those who love a cloud should never interpose;
and I pray you, Irene, as you value your peace and that of the man
who is about to become your husband, to be wise in the very
beginning, and dissolve with a smile of affection every vapor that
threatens a coming storm. Keep the sky always bright."

"I will do everything that I can, father, to keep the sky of our
lives always bright, except give up my own freedom of thought and
independence of action. A wife should not sink her individuality in
that of her husband, any more than a husband should sink his
individuality in that of his wife. They are two equals, and should
be content to remain equals. There is no love in subordination."

Mr. Delancy sighed deeply: "Is argument of any avail here? Can words
stir conviction in her mind?" He was silent for a time, and then
said--

"Better, Irene, that you stop where you are, and go through life
alone, than venture upon marriage, in your state of feeling, with a
man like Hartley Emerson."

"Dear father, you are altogether too serious!" exclaimed the
warm-hearted girl, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him.
"Hartley and I love each other too well to be made very unhappy by
any little jar that takes place in the first reciprocal movement of
our lives. We shall soon come to understand each other, and then the
harmonies will be restored."

"The harmonies should never be lost, my child," returned Mr.
Delancy. "In that lies the danger. When the enemy gets into the
citadel, who can say that he will ever be dislodged? There is no
safety but in keeping him out."

"Still too serious, father," said Irene. "There is no danger to be
feared from any formidable enemy. All these are very little things."

"It is the little foxes that spoil the tender grapes, my daughter,"
Mr. Delancy replied; "and if the tender grapes are spoiled, what
hope is there in the time of vintage? Alas for us if in the later
years the wine of life shall fail!"

There was so sad a tone in her father's voice, and so sad an
expression on his face, that Irene was touched with a new feeling
toward him. She again put her arms around his neck and kissed him
tenderly.

"Do not fear for us," she replied. "These are only little summer
showers, that make the earth greener and the flowers more beautiful.
The sky is of a more heavenly azure when they pass away, and the sun
shines more gloriously than before."

But the father could not be satisfied, and answered--

"Beware of even summer showers, my darling. I have known fearful
ravages to follow in their path--seen many a goodly tree go down.
After every storm, though the sky may be clearer, the earth upon
which it fell has suffered some loss which is a loss for ever.
Begin, then, by conciliation and forbearance. Look past the
external, which may seem at times too exacting or imperative, and
see only the true heart pulsing beneath--the true, brave heart, that
would give to every muscle the strength of steel for your protection
if danger threatened. Can you not be satisfied with knowing that you
are loved--deeply, truly, tenderly? What more can a woman ask? Can
you not wait until this love puts on its rightly-adjusted exterior,
as it assuredly will. It is yet mingled with self-love, and its
action modified by impulse and habit. Wait--wait--wait, my daughter.
Bear and forbear for a time, as you value peace on earth and
happiness in heaven."

"I will try, father, for your sake, to guard myself," she answered.

"No, no, Irene. Not for my sake, but for the sake of right,"
returned Mr. Delancy.

They were sitting in the vine-covered portico that looked down, over
a sloping lawn toward the river.

"There is Hartley now!" exclaimed Irene, as the form of her lover
came suddenly into view, moving forward along the road that
approached from the landing, and she sprung forward and went rapidly
down to meet him. There an ardent kiss, a twining of arms, warmly
spoken words and earnest gestures. Mr. Delancy looked at them as
they stood fondly together, and sighed. He could not help it, for he
knew there was trouble before them. After standing and talking for a
short time, they began moving toward the house, but paused at every
few paces--sometimes to admire a picturesque view--sometimes to
listen one to the other and respond to pleasant sentiments--and
sometimes in fond dispute. This was Mr. Delancy's reading of their
actions and gestures, as he sat looking at and observing them
closely.

A little way from the path by which they were advancing toward the
house was a rustic arbor, so placed as to command a fine sweep of
river from one line of view and West Point from another. Irene
paused and made a motion of her hand toward this arbor, as if she
wished to go there; but Hartley looked to the house and plainly
signified a wish to go there first. At this Irene pulled him gently
toward the arbor; he resisted, and she drew upon his arm more
resolutely, when, planting his feet firmly, he stood like a rock.
Still she urged and still he declined going in that direction. It
was play at first, but Mr. Delancy saw that it was growing to be
earnest. A few moments longer, and he saw Irene separate from
Hartley and move toward the arbor; at the same time the young man
came forward in the direction of the house. Mr. Delancy, as he
stepped from the portico to meet him, noticed that his color was
heightened and his eyes unusually bright.

"What's the matter with that self-willed girl of mine?" he asked, as
he took the hand of Emerson, affecting a lightness of tone that did
not correspond with his real feelings.

"Oh, nothing serious," the young man replied. "She's only in a
little pet because I wouldn't go with her to the arbor before I paid
my respects to you."

"She's a spoiled little puss," said the father, in a fond yet
serious way, "and you'll have to humor her a little at first,
Hartley. She never had the wise discipline of a mother, and so has
grown up unused to that salutary control which is so necessary for
young persons. But she has a warm, true heart and pure principles;
and these are the foundation-stones on which to build the temple of
happiness."

"Don't fear but that it will be all right between us. I love her too
well to let any flitting humors affect me."

He stepped upon the portico as he spoke and sat down. Irene had
before this reached the arbor and taken a seat there. Mr. Delancy
could do no less than resume the chair from which he had arisen on
the young man's approach. In looking into Hartley's face he noticed
a resolute expression about his mouth. For nearly ten minutes they
sat and talked, Irene remaining alone in the arbor. Mr. Delancy then
said, in a pleasant off-handed way,

"Come, Hartley, you have punished her long enough. I don't like to
see you even play at disagreement."

He did not seem to notice the remark, but started a subject of
conversation that it was almost impossible to dismiss for the next
ten minutes. Then he stepped down from the portico, and was moving
leisurely toward the arbor when he perceived that Irene had already
left it and was returning by another path. So he came back and
seated himself again, to await her approach. But, instead of joining
him, she passed round the house and entered on the opposite side.
For several minutes he sat, expecting every instant to see her come
out on the portico, but she did not make her appearance.

It was early in the afternoon. Hartley, affecting not to notice the
absence of Irene, kept up an animated conversation with Mr. Delancy.
A whole hour went by, and still the young lady was absent. Suddenly
starting, up, at the end of this time, Hartley exclaimed--

"As I live, there comes the boat! and I must be in New York
to-night."

"Stay," said Mr. Delancy, "until I call Irene."

"I can't linger for a moment, sir. It will take quick walking to
reach the landing by the time the boat is there." The young man
spoke hurriedly, shook hands with Mr. Delancy, and then sprung away,
moving at a rapid pace.

"What's the matter, father? Where is Hartley going?" exclaimed
Irene, coming out into the portico and grasping her father's arm.
Her face was pale and her lips trembled.

"He is going to New York," relied Mr. Delancy.

"To New York!" She looked almost frightened.

"Yes. The boat is coming, and he says that he must be in the city
to-night."

Irene sat down, looking pale and troubled.

"Why have you remained away from Hartley ever since his arrival?"
asked Mr. Delancy, fixing his eyes upon Irene and evincing some
displeasure.

Irene did not answer, but her father saw the color coming back to
her face.

"I think, from his manner, that he was hurt by your singular
treatment. What possessed you to do so?"

"Because I was not pleased with him," said Irene. Her voice was now
steady.

"Why not?"

"I wished him to go to the arbor."

"He was your guest, and, in simple courtesy, if there was no other
motive, you should have let his wishes govern your movements," Mr.
Delancy replied.

"He is always opposing me!" said Irene, giving way to a flood of
tears and weeping for a time bitterly.

"It is not at all unlikely, my daughter," replied Mr. Delancy, after
the tears began to flow less freely, "that Hartley is now saying the
same thing of you, and treasuring up bitter things in his heart. I
have no idea that any business calls him to New York to-night."

"Nor I. He takes this means to punish me," said Irene.

"Don't take that for granted. Your conduct has blinded him, and he
is acting now from blind impulse. Before he is half-way to New York
he will regret this hasty step as sincerely as I trust you are
already regretting its occasion."

Irene did not reply.

"I did not think," he resumed, "that my late earnest remonstrance
would have so soon received an illustration like this. But it may be
as well. Trifles light as air have many times proved the beginning
of life-longs separations between friends and lovers who possessed
all the substantial qualities for a life-long and happy
companionship. Oh, my daughter, beware! beware of these little
beginnings of discord. How easy would it have been for you to have
yielded to Hartley's wishes!--how hard will it to endure the pain
that must now be suffered! And remember that you do not suffer
alone; your conduct has made him an equal sufferer. He came up all
the way from the city full of sweet anticipations. It was for your
sake that he came; and love pictured you as embodying all
attractions. But how has he found you? Ah, my daughter, your caprice
has wounded the heart that turned to you for love. He came in joy,
but goes back in sorrow."

Irene went up to her chamber, feeling sadder than she had ever felt
in her life; yet, mingling, with her sadness and self-reproaches,
were complaining thoughts of her lover. For a little half-playful
pettishness was she to be visited with a punishment like this? If he
had really loved her--so she queried--would he have flung himself
away after this hasty fashion? Pride came to her aid in the conflict
of feeling, and gave her self-control and endurance. At tea-time she
met her father, and surprised him with her calm, almost cheerful,
aspect. But his glance was too keen not to penetrate the disguise.
After tea, she sat reading--or at least affecting to read--in the
portico, until the evening shadows came down, and then she retired
to her chamber.

Not many hours of sleep brought forgetfulness of suffering through
the night that followed. Sometimes the unhappy girl heaped mountains
of reproaches upon her own head; and sometimes pride and
indignation, gaining rule in her heart, would whisper
self-justification, and throw the weight of responsibility upon her
lover.

Her pale face and troubled eyes revealed too plainly, on the next
morning, the conflict through which she had passed.

"Write him a letter of apology or explanation," said Mr. Delancy.

But Irene was not in a state of mind for this. Pride came whispering
too many humiliating objections in her ear. Morning passed, and in
the early hours of the afternoon, when the New York boat usually
came up the river, she was out on the portico watching for its
appearance. Hope whispered that, repenting of his hasty return on
the day before, her lover was now hurrying back to meet her. At last
the white hull of the boat came gliding into view, and in less than
half an hour it was at the landing. Then it moved on its course
again. Almost to a second of time had Irene learned to calculate the
minutes it required for Hartley to make the distance between the
landing and the nearest point in the road where his form could meet
her view. She held her breath in eager expectation as that moment of
time approached. It came--it passed; the white spot in the road,
where his dark form first revealed itself, was touched by no
obscuring shadow. For more than ten minutes Irene sat motionless,
gazing still toward that point; then, sighing deeply, she arose and
went up to her room, from which she did not come down until summoned
to join her father at tea.

The next day passed as this had done, and so did the next. Hartley
neither came nor sent a message of any kind. The maiden's heart
began to fail. Grief and fear took the place of accusation and
self-reproach. What if he had left her for ever! The thought made
her heart shiver as if an icy wind had passed over it. Two or three
times she took up her pen to write him a few words and entreat him
to come back to her again. But she could form no sentences against
which pride did not come with strong objection; and so she suffered
on, and made no sign.

A whole week at last intervened. Then the enduring heart began to
grow stronger to bear, and, in self-protection, to put on sterner
moods. Hers was not a spirit to yield weakly in any struggle. She
was formed for endurance, pride and self-reliance giving her
strength above common natures. But this did not really lessen her
suffering, for she was not only capable of deep affection, but
really loved Hartley almost as her own life; and the thought of
losing him, whenever it grew distinct, filled her with terrible
anguish.

With pain her father saw the color leave her cheeks, her eyes grow
fixed and dreamy, and her lips shrink from their full outline.

"Write to Hartley," he said to her one day, after a week had passed.

"Never!" was her quick, firm, almost sharply uttered response; "I
would die first!"

"But, my daughter--"

"Father," she interrupted him, two bright spots suddenly burning on
her cheeks, "don't, I pray you, urge me on this point. I have
courage enough to break, but I will not bend. I gave him no offence.
What right has he to assume that I was not engaged in domestic
duties while he sat talking with you? He said that he had an
engagement in New York. Very well; there was a sufficient reason for
his sudden departure; and I accept the reason. But why does he
remain away? If simply because I preferred a seat in the arbor to
one in the portico, why, the whole thing is so unmanly, that I can
have no patience with it. Write to him, and humor a whim like this!
No, no--Irene Delancy is not made of the right stuff. He went from
me, and he must return again. I cannot go to him. Maiden modesty and
pride forbid. And so I shall remain silent and passive, if my heart
breaks."

It was in the afternoon, and they were sitting in the portico,
where, at this hour, Irene might have been found every day for the
past week. The boat from New York came in sight as she closed the
last sentence. She saw it--for her eyes were on the look-out--the
moment it turned the distant point of land that hid the river
beyond. Mr. Delancy also observed the boat. Its appearance was an
incident of sufficient importance, taking things as they were, to
check the conversation, which was far from being satisfactory on
either side.

The figure of Irene was half buried in a deep cushioned chair, which
had been wheeled out upon the portico, and now her small, slender
form seemed to shrink farther back among the cushions, and she sat
as motionless as one asleep. Steadily onward came the boat, throwing
backward her dusky trail and lashing with her great revolving wheels
the quiet waters into foamy turbulence--onward, until the dark crowd
of human forms could be seen upon her decks; then, turning sharply,
she was lost to view behind a bank of forest trees. Ten minutes
more, and the shriek of escaping steam was heard as she stopped her
ponderous machinery at the landing.

From that time Irene almost held her breath, as so she counted the
moments that must elapse before Hartley could reach the point of
view in the road that led up from the river, should he have been a
passenger in the steamboat. The number was fully told, but it was
to-day as yesterday. There was no sign of his coming. And so the
eyelids, weary with vain expectation, drooped heavily over the
dimming eyes. But she had not stirred, nor shown a sign of feeling.
A little while she sat with her long lashes shading her pale cheeks;
then she slowly raised them and looked out toward the river again.
What a quick start she gave! Did her eyes deceive her? No, it was
Hartley, just in the spot she had looked to see him only a minute or
two before. But how slowly he moved, and with what a weary step!
and, even at this long distance, his face looked white against the
wavy masses of his dark-brown hair.

Irene started up with an exclamation, stood as if in doubt for a
moment, then, springing from the portico, she went flying to meet
him, as swiftly as if moving on winged feet. All the forces of her
ardent, impulsive nature were bearing her forward. There was no
remembrance of coldness or imagined wrong--pride did not even
struggle to lift its head--love conquered everything. The young man
stood still, from weariness or surprise, ere she reached him. As she
drew near, Irene saw that his face was not only pale, but thin and
wasted.

"Oh, Hartley! dear Hartley!" came almost wildly from her lips, as
she flung her arms around his neck, and kissed him over and over
again, on lips, cheeks and brow, with an ardor and tenderness that
no maiden delicacy could restrain. "Have you been sick, or hurt? Why
are you so pale, darling?"

"I have been ill for a week--ever since I was last here," the young
man replied, speaking in a slow, tremulous voice.

"And I knew it not!" Tears were glittering in her eyes and pressing
out in great pearly beads from between the fringing lashes. "Why did
you not send for me, Hartley?"

And she laid her small hands upon each side of his face, as you have
seen a mother press the cheeks of her child, and looked up tenderly
into his love-beaming eyes.

"But come, dear," she added, removing her hands from his face and
drawing her arm within his--not to lean on, but to offer support.
"My father, who has, with me, suffered great anxiety on your
account, is waiting your arrival at the house."

Then, with slow steps, they moved along the upward sloping way,
crowding the moments with loving words.

And so the storm passed, and the sun came out again in the firmament
of their souls. But looked he down on no tempest-marks? Had not the
ruthless tread of passion marred the earth's fair surface? Were no
goodly trees uptorn, or clinging vines wrenched from their support?
Alas! was there ever a storm that did not leave some ruined hope
behind? ever a storm that did not strew the sea with wrecks or mar
the earth's fair beauty?

As when the pain of a crushed limb ceases there comes to the
sufferer a sense of delicious ease, so, after the storm had passed,
the lovers sat in the warm sunshine and dreamed of unclouded
happiness in the future. But in the week that Hartley spent with his
betrothed were revealed to their eyes, many times, desolate places
where flowers had been; and their hearts grew sad as they turned
their eyes away, and sighed for hopes departed, faith shaken, and
untroubled confidence in each other for the future before them, for
ever gone.



CHAPTER III.

THE CLOUD AND THE SIGN.


_IN_ alternate storm and sunshine their lives passed on, until the
appointed day arrived that was to see them bound, not by the
graceful true-lovers' knot, which either might untie, but by a chain
light as downy fetters if borne in mutual love, and galling as
ponderous iron links, if heart answered not heart and the chafing
spirit struggled to get free.

Hartley Emerson loved truly the beautiful, talented and
affectionate, but badly-disciplined, quick-tempered, self-willed
girl he had chosen for a wife; and Irene Delancy would have gone to
prison and to death for the sake of the man to whom she had yielded
up the rich treasures of her young heart. In both cases the great
drawback to happiness was the absence of self-discipline,
self-denial and self-conquest. They could overcome difficulties,
brave danger, set the world at defiance, if need be, for each other,
and not a coward nerve give way; but when pride and passion came
between them, each was a child in weakness and blind self-will.
Unfortunately, persistence of character was strong in both. They
were of such stuff as martyrs were made of in the fiery times of
power and persecution.

A brighter, purer morning than that on which their marriage vows
were said the year had not given to the smiling earth. Clear and
softly blue as the eye of childhood bent the summer sky above them.
There was not a cloud in all the tranquil heavens to give suggestion
of dreary days to come or to wave a sign of warning. The blithe
birds sung their matins amid the branches that hung their leafy
drapery around and above Irene's windows, in seeming echoes to the
songs love was singing in her heart. Nature put on the loveliest
attire in all her ample wardrobe, and decked herself with coronals
and wreaths of flowers that loaded the air with sweetness.

"May your lives flow together like two pure streams that meet in the
same valley, and as bright a sky bend always over you as gives its
serene promise for to-day."

Thus spoke the minister as the ceremonials closed that wrought the
external bond of union between them. His words were uttered with
feeling and solemnity; for marriage, in his eyes, was no light
thing. He had seen too many sad hearts struggling in chains that
only death could break, ever to regard marriage with other than
sober thoughts that went questioning away into the future.

The "amen" of Mr. Delancy was not audibly spoken, but it was
deep-voiced in his heart.

There was to be a wedding-tour of a few weeks, and then the young
couple were to take possession of a new home in the city, Which Mr.
Emerson had prepared for his bride. The earliest boat that came up
from New York was to bears the party to Albany, Saratoga being the
first point of their destination.

After the closing of the marriage ceremony some two or three hours
passed before the time of departure came. The warm congratulations
were followed by a gay, festive scene, in which glad young hearts
had a merry-making time. How beautiful the bride looked! and how
proudly the gaze of her newly-installed husband turned ever and ever
toward her, move which way she would among her maidens, as if she
were a magnet to his eyes. He was standing in the portico that
looked out upon the distant river, about an hour after the wedding,
talking with one of the bridesmaids, when the latter, pointing to
the sky, said, laughing--

"There comes your fate."

Emerson's eyes followed the direction of her finger.

"You speak in riddles," he replied, looking back into the maiden's
face. "What do you see?"

"A little white blemish on the deepening azure," was answered.
"There it lies, just over that stately horse-chestnut, whose
branches arch themselves into the outline of a great cathedral
window."

"A scarcely perceptible cloud?"

"Yes, no bigger than a hand; and just below it is another."

"I see; and yet you still propound a riddle. What has that cloud to
do with my fate?"

"You know the old superstition connected with wedding-days?"

"What?"

"That as the aspect of the day is, so will the wedded life be."

"Ours, then, is full of promise. There has been no fairer day than
this," said the young man.

"Yet many a day that opened as bright and cloudless has sobbed
itself away in tears."

"True; and it may be so again. But I am no believer in signs."

"Nor I," said the young lady, again laughing.

The bride came up at this moment and, hearing the remark of her
young husband, said, as she drew her arm within his--

"What about signs, Hartley?"

"Miss Carman has just reminded me of the superstition about
wedding-days, as typical of life."

"Oh yes, I remember," said Irene, smiling. "If the day opens clear,
then becomes cloudy, and goes out in storm, there will be happiness
in the beginning, but sorrow at the close; but if clouds and rain
herald its awakening, then pass over and leave the sky blue and
sunny, there will be trouble at first, but smiling peace as life
progresses and declines. Our sky is bright as heart could wish." And
the bride looked up into the deep blue ether.

Miss Carman laid one hand upon her arm and with the other pointed
lower down, almost upon the horizon's edge, saying, in a tone of
mock solemnity--

"As I said to Mr. Emerson, so I now say to you--There comes our
fate."

"You don't call that the herald of an approaching storm?"

"Weatherwise people say," answered the maiden, "that a sky without a
cloud is soon followed by stormy weather. Since morning until now
there has not a cloud been seen."'

"Weatherwise people and almanac-makers speak very oracularly, but
the day of auguries and signs is over," replied Irene.

"Philosophy," said Mr. Emerson, "is beginning to find reasons in the
nature of things for results that once seemed only accidental, yet
followed with remarkable certainty the same phenomena. It discovers
a relation of cause and effect where ignorance only recognizes some
power working in the dark."

"So you pass me over to the side of ignorance!" Irene spoke in a
tone that Hartley's ear recognized too well. His remark had touched
her pride.

"Not by any means," he answered quickly, eager to do away the
impression. "Not by any means," he repeated. "The day of mere
auguries, omens and signs is over. Whatever natural phenomena appear
are dependent on natural causes, and men of science are beginning to
study the so-called superstitions of farmers and seamen, to find
out, if possible, the philosophical elucidation. Already a number of
curious results have followed investigation in this field."

Irene leaned on his arm still, but she did not respond. A little
cloud had come up and lay just upon the verge of her soul's horizon.
Her husband knew that it was there; and this knowledge caused a
cloud to dim also the clear azure of his mind. There was a singular
correspondence between their mental sky and the fair cerulean
without.

Fearing to pursue the theme on which they were conversing, lest some
unwitting words might shadow still further the mind of Irene,
Emerson changed the subject, and was, to all appearance, successful
in dispelling the little cloud.

The hour came, at length, when the bridal party must leave. After a
tender, tearful partings with her father, Irene turned her steps
away from the home of her childhood into a new path, that would lead
her out into the world, where so many thousands upon thousands, who
saw only a way of velvet softness before them, have cut their tended
feet upon flinty rocks, even to the verve end of their tearful
journey. Tightly and long did Mr. Delancy hold his child to his
heart, and when his last kiss was given and his fervent "God give
you a happy life, my daughter!" said, he gazed after her departing
form with eyes front which manly firmness could not hold back the
tears.

No one knew better than Mr. Delancy the perils that lay before his
daughter. That storms would darken her sky and desolate her heart,
he had too good reason to fear. His hope for her lay beyond the
summer-time of life, when, chastened by suffering and subdued by
experience, a tranquil autumn would crown her soul with blessings
that might have been earlier enjoyed. He was not superstitious, and
yet it was with a feeling of concern that he saw the white and
golden clouds gathering like enchanted land along the horizon, and
piling themselves up, one above another, as if in sport, building
castles and towers that soon dissolved, changing away into fantastic
forms, in which the eye could see no meaning; and when, at last, his
ear caught a far-distant sound that jarred the air, a sudden pain
shot through his heart.

"On any other day but this!" he sighed to himself, turning from the
window at which he was standing and walking restlessly the floor for
several minutes, lost in a sad, dreamy reverie.

Like something instinct with life the stately steamer, quivering
with every stroke of her iron heart, swept along the gleaming river
on her upward passage, bearing to their destination her freight of
human souls. Among theme was our bridal party, which, as the day was
so clear and beautiful, was gathered upon the upper deck. As Irene's
eyes turned from the closing vision of her father's beautiful home,
where the first cycle of her life had recorded its golden hours, she
said, with a sigh, speaking to one of her companions--

"Farewell, Ivy Cliff! I shall return to you again, but not the same
being I was when I left your pleasant scenes this morning."

"A happier being I trust," replied Miss Carman, one of her
bridemaids.

Rose Carman was a young friend, residing in the neighborhood of her
father, to whom Irene was tenderly attached.

"Something here says no." And Irene, bending toward Miss Carman,
pressed one of her hands against her bosom.

"The weakness of an hour like this," answered her friend with an
assuring smile. "It will pass away like the morning cloud and the
early dew."

Mr. Emerson noticed the shade upon the face of his bride, and
drawing near to her, said, tenderly--

"I can forgive you a sigh for the past, Irene. Ivy Cliff is a lovely
spot, and your home has been all that a maiden's heart could desire.
It would be strange, indeed, if the chords that have so long bound
you there did not pull at your heart in parting."

Irene did not answer, but let her eyes turn backward with a pensive
almost longing glance toward the spot where lay hidden among the
distant trees the home of her early years. A deep shadow had
suddenly fallen upon her spirits. Whence it came she knew not and
asked not; but with the shadow was a dim foreboding of evil.

There was tact and delicacy enough in the companions of Irene to
lead them to withdraw observation and to withhold further remarks
until she could recover the self-possession she had lost. This came
back in a little while, when, with an effort, she put on the light,
easy manner so natural to her.

"Looking at the signs?" said one of the party, half an hour
afterward, as she saw the eyes of Irene ranging along the sky, where
clouds were now seen towering up in steep masses, like distant
mountains.

"If I were a believer of signs," replied Irene, placing her arm
within that of the maiden who had addressed her, and drawing her
partly aside, "I might feel sober at this portent. But I am not.
Still, sign or no sign, I trust we are not going to have a storm. It
would greatly mar our pleasure."

But long ere the boat reached Albany, rain began to fall,
accompanied by lightning and thunder; and soon the clouds were
dissolving in a mimic deluge. Hour after hour, the wind and rain and
lightning held fierce revelry, and not until near the completion of
the voyage did the clouds hold back their watery treasures, and the
sunbeams force themselves through the storm's dark barriers.

When the stars came out that evening, studding the heavens with
light, there was no obscuring spot on all the o'erarching sky.



CHAPTER IV.

UNDER THE CLOUD.


_THE_ wedding party was to spend a week at Saratoga, and it was now
the third day since its arrival. The time had passed pleasantly, or
wearily, according to the state of mind or social habits and
resources of the individual. The bride, it was remarked by some of
the party, seemed dull; and Rose Carman, who knew her friend better,
perhaps, than any other individual in the company, and kept her
under close observation, was concerned to notice an occasional
curtness of manner toward her husband, that was evidently not
relished. Something had already transpired to jar the chords so
lately attuned to harmony.

After dinner a ride was proposed by one of the company. Emerson
responded favorably, but Irene was indifferent. He urged her, and
she gave an evidently reluctant consent. While the gentlemen went to
make arrangement for carriages, the ladies retired to their rooms.
Miss Carman accompanied the bride. She had noticed her manner, and
felt slightly troubled at her state of mind, knowing, as she did,
her impulsive character and blind self-will when excited by
opposition.

"I don't want to ride to-day!" exclaimed Irene, throwing herself
into a chair as soon as she had entered her room; "and Hartley knows
that I do not."

Her cheeks burned and her eyes sparkled.

"If it will give him pleasure to ride out," said Rose, in a gentle
soothing manner, "you cannot but have the same feeling in
accompanying him."

"I beg your pardon!" replied Irene, briskly. "If I don't want to
ride, no company can make the act agreeable. Why can't people learn
to leave others in freedom? If Hartley had shown the same
unwillingness to join this riding party that I manifested, do you
think I would have uttered a second word in favor of going? No. I am
provoked at his persistence."

"There, there, Irene!" said Miss Carman, drawing an arm tenderly
around the neck of her friend; "don't trust such sentences on your
lips. I can't bear to hear you talk so. It isn't my sweet friend
speaking."

"You are a dear, good girl, Rose," replied Irene, smiling faintly,
"and I only wish that I had a portion of your calm, gentle spirit.
But I am as I am, and must act out if I act at all. I must be myself
or nothing."

"You can be as considerate of others as of yourself?" said Rose.

Irene looked at her companion inquiringly.

"I mean," added Rose, "that you can exercise the virtue of
self-denial in order to give pleasure to another--especially if that
other one be an object very dear to you. As in the present case,
seeing that your husband wants to join this riding party, you can,
for his sake, lay aside your indifference, and enter, with a hearty
good-will, into the proposed pastime."

"And why cannot he, seeing that I do not care to ride, deny himself
a little for my sake, and not drag me out against my will? Is all
the yielding and concession to be on my side? Must his will rule in
everything? I can tell you what it is, Rose, this will never suit
me. There will be open war between us before the honeymoon has waxed
and waned, if he goes on as he has begun."

"Hush! hush, Irene!" said her friend, in a tone of deprecation. "The
lightest sense of wrong gains undue magnitude the moment we begin to
complain. We see almost anything to be of greater importance when
from the obscurity of thought we bring it out into the daylight of
speech."

"It will be just as I say, and saying it will not make it any more
so," was Irene's almost sullen response to this. "I have my own
ideas of things and my own individuality, and neither of these do I
mean to abandon. If Hartley hasn't the good sense to let me have my
own way in what concerns myself, I will take my own way. As to the
troubles that may come afterward, I do not give them any weight in
the argument. I would die a martyr's deaths rather than become the
passive creature of another."

"My dear friend, why will you talk so?" Rose spoke in a tone of
grief.

"Simply because I am in earnest. From the hour of our marriage I
have seen a disposition on the part of my husband to assume
control--to make his will the general law of our actions. It has not
exhibited itself in things of moment, but in trifles, showing that
the spirit was there. I say this to you, Rose, because we have been
like sisters, and I can tell you of my inmost thoughts. There is a
cloud already in the sky, and it threatens an approaching storm."

"Oh, my friend, why are you so blind, so weak, so self-deceived? You
are putting forth your hands to drag down the temple of happiness.
If it fall, it will crush you beneath a mass of ruins; and not you
only, but the one you have so lately pledged yourself before God and
his angels to love."

"And I do love him as deeply as ever man was loved. Oh that he knew
my heart! He would not then shatter his image there. He would not
trifle with a spirit formed for intense, yielding, passionate love,
but rigid as steel and cold as ice when its freedom is touched. He
should have known me better before linking his fate with mine."

One of her darker moods had come upon Irene, and she was beating
about in the blind obscurity of passion. As she began to give
utterance to complaining thoughts, new thoughts formed themselves,
and what was only vague feelings grew into ideas of wrong; and
these, when once spoken, assumed a magnitude unimagined before. In
vain did her friend strive with her. Argument, remonstrance,
persuasion, only seemed to bring greater obscurity and to excite a
more bitter feeling in her mind. And so, despairing of any good
result, Rose withdrew, and left her with her own unhappy thoughts.

Not long after Miss Carman retired, Emerson came in. At the sound of
his approaching footsteps, Irene had, with a strong effort, composed
herself and swept back the deeper shadows from her face.

"Not ready yet?" he said, in a pleasant, half-chiding way. "The
carriages will be at the door in ten minutes."

"I am not going to ride out," returned Irene, in a quiet, seemingly
indifferent tone of voice. Hartley mistook her manner for sport, and
answered pleasantly--

"Oh yes you are, my little lady."

"No, I am not." There was no misapprehension now.

"Not going to ride out?" Hartley's brows contracted.

"No; I am not going to ride out to-day." Each word was distinctly
spoken.

"I don't understand you, Irene."

"Are not my words plain enough?"

"Yes, they are too plain--so plain as to make them involve a
mystery. What do you mean by this sudden change of purpose?"

"I don't wish to ride out," said Irene, with assumed calmness of
manner; "and that being so, may I not have my will in the case?"

"No--"

A red spot burned on Irene's cheeks and her eyes flashed.

"No," repeated her husband; "not after you have given up that will
to another."

"To you!" Irene started to her feet in instant passion. "And so I am
to be nobody, and you the lord and master. My will is to be nothing,
and yours the law of my life." Her lip curled in contemptuous anger.

"You misunderstand me," said Hartley Emerson, speaking as calmly as
was possible in this sudden emergency. "I did not refer specially to
myself, but to all of our party, to whom you had given up your will
in a promise to ride out with them, and to whom, therefore, you were
bound."

"An easy evasion," retorted the excited bride, who had lost her
mental equipoise.

"Irene," the young man spoke sternly, "are those the right words for
your husband? An easy evasion!"

"I have said them."

"And you must unsay them."

Both had passed under the cloud which pride and passion had raised.

"Must! I thought you knew me better, Hartley." Irene grew suddenly
calm.

"If there is to be love between us, all barriers must be removed."

"Don't say _must_ to me, sir! I will not endure the word."

Hartley turned from her and walked the floor with rapid steps,
angry, grieved and in doubt as to what it were best for him to do.
The storm had broken on him without a sign of warning, and he was
wholly unprepared to meet it.

"Irene," he said, at length, pausing before her, "this conduct on
your part is wholly inexplicable. I cannot understand its meaning.
Will you explain yourself?"

"Certainly. I am always ready to give a reason for my conduct," she
replied, with cold dignity.

"Say on, then." Emerson spoke with equal coldness of manner.

"I did not wish to ride out, and said so in the beginning. That
ought to have been enough for you. But no--my wishes were nothing;
your will must be law."

"And that is all! the head and front of my offending!" said Emerson,
in a tone of surprise.

"It isn't so much the thing itself that I object to, as the spirit
in which it is done," said Irene.

"A spirit of overbearing self-will!' said Emerson.

"Yes, if you choose. That is what my soul revolts against. I gave
you my heart and my hand--my love and my confidence--not my freedom.
The last is a part of my being, and I will maintain it while I have
life."

"Perverse girl! What insane spirit has got possession of your mind?"
exclaimed Emerson, chafed beyond endurance.

"Say on," retorted Irene; "I am prepared for this. I have seen, from
the hour of our marriage, that a time of strife would come; that
your will would seek to make itself ruler, and that I would not
submit. I did not expect the issue to come so soon. I trusted in
your love to spare me, at least, until I could be bidden from
general observation when I turned myself upon you and said, Thus far
thou mayest go, but no farther. But, come the struggle early or
late--now or in twenty years--I am prepared."

There came at this moment a rap at their door. Mr. Emerson opened
it.

"Carriage is waiting," said a servant.

"Say that we will be down in a few minutes."

The door closed.

"Come, Irene," said Mr. Emerson.

"You spoke very confidently to the servant, and said we would be
down in a few minutes."

"There, there, Irene! Let this folly die; it has lived long enough.
Come! Make yourself ready with all speed--our party is delayed by
this prolonged absence."

"You think me trifling, and treat me as if I were a captious child,"
said Irene, with chilling calmness; "but I am neither."

"Then you will not go?"

"I will not go." She said the words slowly and deliberately, and as
she spoke looked her husband steadily in the face. She was in
earnest, and he felt that further remonstrance would be in vain.

"You will repent of this," he replied, with enough of menace in his
voice to convey to her mind a great deal more than was in his
thoughts. And he turned from her and left the room. Going down
stairs, he found the riding-party waiting for their appearance.

"Where is Irene?" was asked by one and another, on seeing him alone.

"She does not care to ride out this afternoon, and so I have excused
her," he replied. Miss Carman looked at him narrowly, and saw that
there was a shade of trouble on his countenance, which he could not
wholly conceal. She would have remained behind with Irene, but that
would have disappointed the friend who was to be her companion in
the drive.

As the party was in couples, and as Mr. Emerson had made up his mind
to go without his young wife, he had to ride alone. The absence of
Irene was felt as a drawback to the pleasure of all the company.
Miss Carman, who understood the real cause of Irene's refusal to
ride, was so much troubled in her mind that she sat almost silent
during the two hours they were out. Mr. Emerson left the party after
they had been out for an hour, and returned to the hotel. His
excitement had cooled off, and he began to feel regret at the
unbending way in which he had met his bride's unhappy mood.

"Her over-sensitive mind has taken up a wrong impression," he said,
as he talked with himself; "and, instead of saying or doing anything
to increase that impression, I should, by word and act of kindness,
have done all in my power for its removal. Two wrongs never make a
right. Passion met by passion results not in peace. I should have
soothed and yielded, and so won her back to reason. As a man, I
ought to possess a cooler and more rationally balanced mind. She is
a being of feeling and impulse,--loving, ardent, proud, sensitive
and strong-willed. Knowing this, it was madness in me to chafe
instead of soothing her; to oppose, when gentle concession would
have torn from her eyes an illusive veil. Oh that I could learn
wisdom in time! I was in no ignorance as to her peculiar character.
I knew her faults and her weaknesses, as well as her nobler
qualities; and it was for me to stimulate the one and bear with the
others. Duty, love, honor, humanity, all pointed to this."

The longer Mr. Emerson's thoughts ran in this direction, the deeper
grew his feeling of self-condemnation, and the more tenderly yearned
his heart toward the young creature he had left alone with the
enemies of their peace nestling in her bosom and filling it with
passion and pain. After separating himself from his party, he drove
back toward the hotel at a speed that soon put his horses into a
foam.



CHAPTER V.

THE BURSTING OF THE STORM.


_MR. DELANCY_ was sitting in his library on the afternoon of the
fourth day since the wedding-party left Ivy Cliff, when the entrance
of some one caused him to turn toward the door.

"Irene!" he exclaimed, in a tone of anxiety and alarm, as he started
to his feet; for his daughter stood before him. Her face was pale,
her eyes fixed and sad, her dress in disorder.

"Irene, in Heaven's name, what has happened?"

"The worst," she answered, in a low, hoarse voice, not moving from
the spot where she first stood still.

"Speak plainly, my child. I cannot bear suspense."

"I have left my husband and returned to you!" was the firmly uttered
reply.

"Oh, folly! oh, madness! What evil counselor has prevailed with you,
my unhappy child?" said Mr. Delancy, in a voice of anguish.

"I have counseled with no one but myself."

"Never a wise counselor--never a wise counselor! But why, why have
you taken this desperate step?"

"In self-protection," replied Irene.

"Sit down, my child. There!" and he led her to a seat. "Now let me
remove your bonnet and shawl. How wretched you look, poor, misguided
one! I could have laid you in the grave with less agony than I feel
in seeing you thus."

Her heart was touched at this, and tears fell over her face. In the
selfishness of her own sternly-borne trouble, she had forgotten the
sorrow she was bringing to her father's heart.

"Poor child! poor child!" sobbed the old man, as he sat down beside
Irene and drew her head against his breast. And so both wept
together for a time. After they had grown calm, Mr. Delancy said--

"Tell me, Irene, without disguise of any kind, the meaning of this
step which you have so hastily taken. Let me have the beginning,
progress and consummation of the sad misunderstanding."

While yet under the government of blind passion, ere her husband
returned from the drive which Irene had refused to take with him,
she had, acting from a sudden suggestion that came to her mind, left
her room and, taking the cars, passed down to Albany, where she
remained until morning at one of the hotels. In silence and
loneliness she had, during the almost sleepless night that followed,
ample time for reflection and repentance. And both came, with
convictions of error and deep regret for the unwise, almost
disgraceful step she had taken, involving not only suffering, but
humiliating exposure of herself and husband. But it was felt to be
too late now to look back. Pride would have laid upon her a positive
interdiction, if other considerations had not come in to push the
question of return aside.

In the morning, without partaking of food, Irene left in the New
York boat, and passed down the river toward the home from which she
had gone forth, only a few days before, a happy bride--returning
with the cup, then full of the sweet wine of life, now brimming with
the bitterest potion that had ever touched her lips.

And so she had come back to her father's house. In all the hours of
mental anguish which had passed since her departure from Saratoga,
there had been an accusing spirit at her ear, and, resist as she
would, self-condemnation prevailed over attempted self-justification.
The cause of this unhappy rupture was so slight, the first provocation
so insignificant, that she felt the difficulty of making out her case
before her father. As to the world, pride counseled silence.

With but little concealment or extenuation of her own conduct, Irene
told the story of her disagreement with Hartley.

"And that was all!" exclaimed Mr. (sic) Delancey, in amazement, when
she ended her narrative.

"All, but enough!" she answered, with a resolute manner.

Mr. Delancy arose and walked the floor in silence for more than ten
minutes, during which time Irene neither spoke nor moved.

"Oh, misery!" ejaculated the father, at length, lifting his hands
above his head and then bringing them down with a gesture of
despair.

Irene started up and moved to his side.

"Dear father!" She spoke tenderly, laying her hands upon him; but he
pushed her away, saying--

"Wretched girl! you have laid upon my old head a burden of disgrace
and wretchedness that you have no power to remove."

"Father! father!" She clung to him, but he pushed her away. His
manner was like that of one suddenly bereft of reason. She clung
still, but he resolutely tore himself from her, when she fell
exhausted and fainting upon the floor.

Alarm now took the place of other emotions, and Mr. Delancy was
endeavoring to lift the insensible body, when a quick, heavy tread
in the portico caused him to look up, just as Hartley Emerson pushed
open one of the French windows and entered the library. He had a
wild, anxious, half-frightened look. Mr. Delancy let the body fall
from his almost paralyzed arms and staggered to a chair, while
Emerson sprung forward, catching up the fainting form of his young
bride and bearing it to a sofa.

"How long has she been in this way?" asked the young man, in a tone
of agitation.

"She fainted this moment," replied Mr. Delancy.

"How long has she been here?"

"Not half an hour," was answered; and as Mr. Delancy spoke he
reached for the bell and jerked it two or three times violently. The
waiter, startled by the loud, prolonged sound, came hurriedly to the
library.

"Send Margaret here, and then get a horse and ride over swiftly for
Dr. Edmundson. Tell him to come immediately."

The waiter stood for a moment or two, looking in a half-terrified
way upon the white, deathly face of Irene, and then fled from the
apartment. No grass grew beneath his horse's feet as he held him to
his utmost speed for the distance of two miles, which lay between
Ivy Cliff and the doctor's residence.

Margaret, startled by the hurried, half-incoherent summons of the
waiter, came flying into the library. The moment her eyes rested
upon Irene, who still insensible upon the sofa, she screamed out, in
terror--

"Oh, she's dead! she's dead!" and stood still as if suddenly
paralyzed; then, wringing her hands, she broke out in a wild,
sobbing tone--

"My poor, poor child! Oh, she is dead, dead!"

"No, Margaret," said Mr. Delancy, as calmly as he could speak, "she
is not dead; it is only a fainting fit. Bring some water, quickly."

Water was brought and dashed into the face of Irene; but there came
no sign of returning consciousness.

"Hadn't you better take her up to her room, Mr. Emerson?" suggested
Margaret.

"Yes," he replied; and, lifting the insensible form of his bride in
his arms, the unhappy man bore her to her chamber. Then, sitting
down beside the bed upon which he had placed her, he kissed her pale
cheeks and, laying his face to hers, sobbed and moaned, in the
abandonment of his grief, like a distressed child weeping in despair
for some lost treasure.

"Come," said Margaret, who was an old family domestic, drawing
Hartley from the bedside, "leave her alone with me for a little
while."

And the husband and father retired from the room. When they
returned, at the call of Margaret, they found Irene in bed, her
white, unconscious face scarcely relieved against the snowy pillow
on which her head was resting.

"She is alive," said Margaret, in a low and excited voice; "I can
feel her heart beat."

"Thank God!" ejaculated Emerson, bending again over the motionless
form and gazing anxiously down upon the face of his bride.

But there was no utterance of thankfulness in the heart of Mr.
Delancy. For her to come back again to conscious life was, he felt,
but a return to wretchedness. If the true prayer of his heart could
have found voice, it would have been for death, and not for life.

In silence, fear and suspense they waited an hour before the doctor
arrived. Little change in Irene took place during that time, except
that her respiration became clearer and the pulsations of her heart
distinct and regular. The application of warm stimulants was
immediately ordered, and their good effects soon became apparent.

"All will come right in a little while," said Dr. Edmundson,
encouragingly. "It seems to be only a fainting fit of unusual
length."

Hartley drew Mr. Delancy aside.

"It will be best that I should be alone with her when she recovers,"
said he.

"You may be right in that," said Mr. Delancy, after a moment's
reflection.

"I am sure that I am," was returned.

"You think she will recover soon?" said Mr. Delancy, approaching the
doctor.

"Yes, at any moment. She is breathing deeper, and her heart beats
with a fuller impulse."

"Let us, retire, then;" and he drew the doctor from the apartment.
Pausing at the door, he called to Margaret in a half whisper. She
went out also, Emerson alone remaining.

Taking his place by the bedside, he waited, in trembling anxiety,
for the moment when her eyes should open and recognize him. At last
there came a quivering of the eyelids and a motion about the
sleeper's lips. Emerson bent over and took one of her hands in his.

"Irene!" He called her name in a voice of the tenderest affection.
The sound seemed to penetrate to the region of consciousness, for
her lips moved with a murmur of inarticulate words. He kissed her,
and said again--

"Irene!"

There was a sudden lighting up of her face.

"Irene, love! darling!" The voice of Emerson was burdened with
tenderness.

"Oh, Hartley!" she exclaimed, opening her eyes and looking with a
kind of glad bewilderment into his face. Then, half rising and
drawing her arms around his neck, she hid her face on his bosom,
murmuring--

"Thank God that it is only a dream!"

"Yes, thank God!" replied her husband, as he kissed her in a kind of
wild fervor; "and may such dreams never come again."

She lay very still for some moments. Thought and memory were
beginning to act feebly. The response of her husband had in it
something that set her to questioning. But there was one thing that
made her feel happy: the sound of his loving voice was in her ears;
and all the while she felt his hand moving, with a soft, caressing
touch, over her cheek and temple.

"Dear Irene!" he murmured in her ears; and then her hand tightened
on his.

And thus she remained until conscious life regained its full
activity. Then the trial came.

Suddenly lifting herself from the bosom of her husband, Irene gave a
hurried glance around the well-known chamber, then turned and looked
with a strange, fearful questioning glance into his face:

"Where am I? What does this mean?"

"It means," replied Emerson, "that the dream, thank God! is over,
and that my dear wife is awake again."

He placed his arms again around her and drew her to his heart,
almost smothering her, as he did so, with kisses.

She lay passive for a little while; then, disengaging herself, she
said, faintly--

"I feel weak and bewildered; let me lie down."

She closed her eyes as Emerson placed her back on the pillow, a sad
expression covering her still pallid face. Sitting down beside her,
he took her hand and held it with a firm pressure. She did not
attempt to withdraw it. He kissed her, and a warmer flush came over
her face.

"Dear Irene!" His hand pressed tightly upon hers, and she returned
the pressure.

"Shall I call your father? He is very anxious about you."

"Not yet." And she caught slightly her breath, as if feeling were
growing too strong for her.

"Let it be as a dream, Hartley." Irene lifted herself up and looked
calmly, but with a very sad expression on her countenance, into her
husband's face.

"Between us two, Irene, even as a dream from which both have
awakened," he replied.

She closed her eyes and sunk back upon the pillow.

Mr. Emerson then went to the door and spoke to Mr. Delancy. On a
brief consultation it was thought best for Dr. Edmundson not to see
her again. A knowledge of the fact that he had been called in might
give occasion for more disturbing thoughts than were already
pressing upon her mind. And so, after giving some general directions
as to the avoidance of all things likely to excite her mind
unpleasantly, the doctor withdrew.

Mr. Delancy saw his daughter alone. The interview was long and
earnest. On his part was the fullest disapproval of her conduct and
the most solemnly spoken admonitions and warnings. She confessed her
error, without any attempt at excuse or palliation, and promised a
wiser conduct in the future.

"There is not one husband in five," said the father, "who would have
forgiven an act like this, placing him, as it does, in such a false
and humiliating position before the world. He loves you with too
deep and true a love, my child, for girlish trifling like this. And
let me warn you of the danger you incur of turning against you the
spirit of such a man. I have studied his character closely, and I
see in it an element of firmness that, if it once sets itself, will
be as inflexible as iron. If you repeat acts of this kind, the day
must come when forbearance will cease; and then, in turning from
you, it will be never to turn back again. Harden him against you
once, and it will be for all time."

Irene wept bitterly at this strong representation, and trembled at
thought of the danger she had escaped.

To her husband, when she was alone with him again, she confessed her
fault, and prayed him to let the memory of it pass from his mind for
ever. On his part was the fullest denial of any purpose whatever, in
the late misunderstanding, to bend her to his will. He assured her
that if he had dreamed of any serious objection on her part to the
ride, he would not have urged it for a moment. It involved no
promised pleasure to him apart from pleasure to her; and it was
because he believed that she would enjoy the drive that he had urged
her to make one of the party.

All this was well, as far as it could go. But repentance and mutual
forgiveness did not restore everything to the old condition--did not
obliterate that one sad page in their history, and leave them free
to make a new and better record. If the folly had been in private,
the effort at forgiving and forgetting would have been attended with
fewer annoying considerations. But it was committed in public, and
under circumstances calculated to attract attention and occasion
invidious remark. And then, how were they to meet the different
members of the wedding-party, which they had so suddenly thrown into
consternation?

On the next day the anxious members of this party made their
appearance at Ivy Cliff, not having, up to this time, received any
intelligence of the fugitive bride. Mr. Delancy did not attempt to
excuse to them the unjustifiable conduct of his daughter, beyond the
admission that she must have been temporarily deranged. Something
was said about resuming the bridal tour, but Mr. Delancy said, "No;
the quiet of Ivy Cliff will yield more pleasure than the excitement
of travel."

And all felt this to be true.



CHAPTER VI.

AFTER THE STORM.


_AFTER_ the storm. Alas! that there should be a wreck-strewn shore
so soon! That within three days of the bridal morning a tempest
should have raged, scattering on the wind sweet blossoms which had
just opened to the sunshine, tearing away the clinging vines of
love, and leaving marks of desolation which no dew and sunshine
could ever obliterate!

It was not a blessed honeymoon to them. How could it be, after what
had passed? Both were hurt and mortified; and while there was mutual
forgiveness and great tenderness and fond concessions, one toward
the other, there was a sober, thoughtful state of mind, not
favorable to happiness.

Mr. Delancy hoped the lesson--a very severe one--might prove the
guarantee of future peace. It had, without doubt, awakened Irene's
mind to sober thoughts--and closer self-examination than usual. She
was convicted in her own heart of folly, the memory of which could
never return to her without a sense of pain.

At the end of three weeks from the day of their marriage, Mr. and
Mrs. Emerson went down to the city to take possession of their new
home. On the eve of their departure from Ivy Cliff, Mr. Delancy had
a long conference with his daughter, in which he conjured her, by
all things sacred, to guard herself against that blindness of
passion which had already produced such unhappy consequences. She
repeated, with many tears, her good resolutions for the future, and
showed great sorrow and contrition for the past.

"It may come out right," said the old man to himself; as he sat
alone, with a pressure of foreboding on his mind, looking into the
dim future, on the day of their departure for New York. His only and
beloved child had gone forth to return no more, unless in sorrow or
wretchedness. "It may come out right, but my heart has sad
misgivings."

There was a troubled suspense of nearly a week, when the first
letter came from Irene to her father. He broke the seal with
unsteady hands, fearing to let his eyes fall upon the opening page.

"My dear, dear father! I am a happy young wife."

"Thank God!" exclaimed the old man aloud, letting the hand fall that
held Irene's letter. It was some moments before he could read
farther; then he drank in, with almost childish eagerness, every
sentence of the long letter.

"Yes, yes, it may come out right," said Mr. Delancy; "it may come
out right." He uttered the words, so often on his lips, with more
confidence than usual. The letter strongly urged him to make her a
visit, if it was only for a day or two.

"You know, dear father," she wrote, "that most of your time is to be
spent with us--all your winters, certainly; and we want you to begin
the new arrangement as soon as possible."

Mr. Delancy sighed over the passage. He had not set his heart on
this arrangement. It might have been a pleasant thing for him to
anticipate; but there was not the hopeful basis for anticipation
which a mind like his required.

Not love alone prompted Mr. Delancy to make an early visit to New
York; a feeling of anxiety to know how it really was with the young
couple acted quite as strongly in the line of incentive. And so he
went down to the city and passed nearly a week there. Both Irene and
her husband knew that he was observing them closely all the while,
and a consciousness of this put them under some constraint.
Everything passed harmoniously, and Mr. Delancy returned with the
half-hopeful, half-doubting words on his lips, so often and often
repeated--

"Yes, yes, it may come out right."

But it was not coming out altogether right. Even while the old man
was under her roof, Irene had a brief season of self-willed reaction
against her husband, consequent on some unguarded word or act, which
she felt to be a trespass on her freedom. To save appearances while
Mr. Delancy was with them, Hartley yielded and tendered
conciliation, all the while that his spirit chafed sorely.

The departure of Mr. Delancy for Ivy Cliff was the signal for both
Irene and her husband to lay aside a portion of the restraint which
each had borne with a certain restlessness that longed for a time of
freedom. On the very day that he left Irene showed so much that
seemed to her husband like perverseness of will that he was
seriously offended, and spoke an unguarded word that was as fire to
stubble--a word that was repented of as soon as spoken, but which
pride would not permit him to recall. It took nearly a week of
suffering to discipline the mind of Mr. Emerson to the point of
conciliation. On the part of Irene there was not the thought of
yielding. Her will, supported by pride, was as rigid as iron. Reason
had no power over her. She felt, rather than thought.

Thus far, both as lover and husband, in all their alienations,
Hartley had been the first to yield; and it was so now. He was
strong-willed and persistent; but cooler reason helped him back into
the right way, and he had, thus far, found it quicker than Irene.
Not that he suffered less or repented sooner. Irene's suffering was
far deeper, but she was blinder and more self-determined.

Again the sun of peace smiled down upon them, but, as before, on
something shorn of its strength or beauty.

"I will be more guarded," said Hartley to himself. "Knowing her
weakness, why should I not protect her against everything that
wounds her sensitive nature? Love concedes, is long suffering and
full of patience. I love Irene--words cannot tell how deeply. Then
why should I not, for her sake, bear and forbear? Why should I think
of myself and grow fretted because she does not yield as readily as
I could desire to my wishes?"

So Emerson talked with himself and resolved. But who does not know
the feebleness of resolution when opposed to temperament and
confirmed habits of mind? How weak is mere human strength! Alas! how
few, depending on that alone, are ever able to bear up steadily, for
any length of time, against the tide of passion!

Off his guard in less than twenty-four hours after resolving thus
with himself, the young husband spoke in captious disapproval of
something which Irene had done or proposed to do, and the
consequence was the assumption on her part of a cold, reserved and
dignified manner, which hurt and annoyed him beyond measure. Pride
led him to treat her in the same way; and so for days they met in
silence or formal courtesy, all the while suffering a degree of
wretchedness almost impossible to be endured, and all the while,
which was worst of all, writing on their hearts bitter things
against each other.

To Emerson, as before, the better state first returned, and the
sunshine of his countenance drove the shadows from hers. Then for a
season they were loving, thoughtful, forbearing and happy. But the
clouds came back again, and storms marred the beauty of their lives.

All this was sad--very sad. There were good and noble qualities in
the hearts of both. They were not narrow-minded and selfish, like so
many of your placid, accommodating, calculating people, but generous
in their feelings and broad in their sympathies. They had ideals of
life that went reaching out far beyond themselves. Yes, it was sad
to see two such hearts beating against and bruising each other,
instead of taking the same pulsation. But there seemed to be no help
for them. Irene's jealous guardianship of her freedom, her quick
temper, pride and self-will made the position of her husband so
difficult that it was almost impossible for him to avoid giving
offence.

The summer and fall passed away without any serious rupture between
the sensitive couple, although there had been seasons of great
unhappiness to both. Irene had been up to Ivy Cliff many times to
visit her father, and now she was, beginning to urge his removal to
the city for the winter; but Mr. Delancy, who had never given his
full promise to this arrangement, felt less and less inclined to
leave his old home as the season advanced. Almost from boyhood he
had lived there, and his habits were formed for rural instead of
city life.

He pictured the close streets, with their rows of houses, that left
for the eye only narrow patches of ethereal blue, and contrasted
this with the broad winter landscape, which for him had always
spread itself out with a beauty rivaled by no other season, and his
heart failed him.

The brief December days were on them, and Irene grew more urgent.

"Come, dear father," she wrote. "I think of you, sitting all alone
at Ivy Cliff, during these long evenings, and grow sad at heart in
sympathy with your loneliness. Come at once. Why linger a week or
even a day longer? We have been all in all to each other these many
years, and ought not to be separated now."

But Mr. Delancy was not ready to exchange the pure air and
widespreading scenery of the Highlands for a city residence, even in
the desolate winter, and so wrote back doubtingly. Irene and her
husband then came up to add the persuasion of their presence at Ivy
Cliff. It did not avail, however. The old man was too deeply wedded
to his home.

"I should be miserable in New York," he replied to their earnest
entreaties; "and it would not add to your happiness to see me going
about with a sober, discontented face, or to be reminded every
little while that if you had left me to my winter's hibernation I
would have been a contented instead of a dissatisfied old man. No,
no, my children; Ivy Cliff is the best place for me. You shall come
up and spend Christmas here, and we will have a gay season."

There was no further use in argument. Mr. Delancy would have his
way; and he was right.

Irene and her husband went back to the city, with a promise to spend
Christmas at the old homestead.

Two weeks passed. It was the twentieth of December. Without previous
intimation, Irene came up alone to Ivy Cliff, startling her father
by coming in suddenly upon him one dreary afternoon, just as the
leaden sky began to scatter down the winter's first offering of
snow.

"My daughter!" he exclaimed, so surprised that he could not move
from where he was sitting.

"Dear father!" she answered with a loving smile, throwing her arms
around his neck and kissing him.

"Where is Hartley?" asked the old man, looking past Irene toward the
door through which she had just entered.

"Oh, I left him in New York," she replied.

"In New York! Have you come alone?"

"Yes. Christmas is only five days off, you know, and I am here to
help you prepare for it. Of course, Hartley cannot leave his
business."

She spoke in an excited, almost gay tone of voice. Mr. Delancy
looked at her earnestly. Unpleasant doubts flitted through his mind.

"When will your husband come up?" he inquired.

"At Christmas," she answered, without hesitation.

"Why didn't you write, love?" asked Mr. Delancy. "You have taken me
by surprise, and set my nerves in a flutter."

"I only thought about it last evening. One of my sudden
resolutions."

And she laughed a low, fluttering laugh. It might have been an
error, but her father had a fancy that it did not come from her
heart.

"I will run up stairs and put off my things," she said, moving away.

"Did you bring a trunk?"

"Oh yes; it is at the landing. Will you send for it?"

And Irene went, with quick steps, from the apartment, and ran up to
the chamber she still called her own. On the way she met Margaret.

"Miss Irene!" exclaimed the latter, pausing and lifting her hands in
astonishment. "Why, where did you come from?"

"Just arrived in the boat. Have come to help you get ready for
Christmas."

"Please goodness, how you frightened me!" said the warm-hearted
domestic, who had been in the family ever since Irene was a child,
and was strongly attached to her. "How's Mr. Emerson?"

"Oh, he's well, thank you, Margaret."

"Well now, child, you did set me all into a fluster. I thought maybe
you'd got into one of your tantrums, and come off and left your
husband."

"Why, Margaret!" A crimson flush mantled the face of Irene.

"You must excuse me, child, but just that came into my head,"
replied Margaret. "You're very downright and determined sometimes;
and there isn't anything hardly that you wouldn't do if the spirit
was on you. I'm glad it's all right. Dear me! dear me!"

"Oh, I'm not quite so bad as you all make me out," said Irene,
laughing.

"I don't think you are bad," answered Margaret, in kind deprecation,
yet with a freedom of speech warranted by her years and attachment
to Irene. "But you go off in such strange ways--get so wrong-headed
sometimes--that there's no counting on you."

Then, growing more serious, she added--

"The fact is, Miss Irene, you keep me feeling kind of uneasy all the
time. I dreamed about you last night, and maybe that has helped to
put me into a fluster now."

"Dreamed about me!" said Irene, with a degree of interest in her
manner.

"Yes. But don't stand here, Miss Irene; come over to your room."

"What kind of a dream had you, Margaret?" asked the young wife, as
she sat down on the side of the bed where, pillowed in sleep, she
had dreamed so many of girlhood's pleasant dreams.

"I was dreaming all night about you," replied Margaret, looking
sober-faced.

"And you saw me in trouble?"

"Oh dear, yes; in nothing but trouble. I thought once that I saw you
in a great room full of wild beasts. They were chained or in cages;
but you would keep going close up to the bars of the cages, or near
enough for the chained animals to spring upon you. And that wasn't
all. You put the end of your little parasol in between the bars, and
a fierce tiger struck at you with his great cat-like paw, tearing
the flesh from your arm. Then I saw you in a little boat, down on
the river. You had put up a sail, and was going out all alone. I saw
the boat move off from the shore just as plainly as I see you now. I
stood and watched until you were in the middle of the river. Then I
thought Mr. Emerson was standing by me, and that we both saw a great
monster--a whale, or something else--chasing after your boat. Mr.
Emerson was in great distress, and said, 'I told her not to go, but
she is so self-willed.' And then he jumped into a boat and, taking
the oars, went gliding out after you as swiftly as the wind. I never
saw mortal arm make a boat fly as he did that little skiff. And I
saw him strike the monster with his oar just as his huge jaws were
opened to devour you. Dear! dear; but I was frightened, and woke up
all in a tremble."

"Before he had saved me?" said Irene, taking a deep breath.

"Yes; but I don't think there was any chance of saving there, and I
was glad that I waked up when I did."

"What else did you dream?" asked Irene.

"Oh, I can't tell you all I dreamed. Once I saw you fall from the
high rock just above West Point and go dashing down into the river.
Then I saw you chased by a mad bull."

"And no one came to my rescue?"

"Oh yes, there was more than one who tried to save you. First, your
father ran in between you and the bull; but he dashed over him. Then
I saw Mr. Emerson rushing up with a pitchfork, and he got before the
mad animal and pointed the sharp prongs at his eyes; but the bull
tore down on him and tossed him away up into the air. I awoke as I
saw him falling on the sharp-pointed horns that were held up to
catch him."

"Well, Margaret, you certainly had a night of horrors," said Irene,
in a sober way.

"Indeed, miss, and I had; such a night as I don't wish to have
again."

"And your dreaming was all about me?"

"Yes."

"And I was always in trouble or danger?"

"Yes, always; and it was mostly your own fault, too. And that
reminds me of what the minister told us in his sermon last Sunday.
He said that there were a great many kinds of trouble in this
world--some coming from the outside and some coming from the inside;
that the outside troubles, which we couldn't help, were generally
easiest to be borne; while the inside troubles, which we might have
prevented, were the bitterest things in life, because there was
remorse as well as suffering. I understood very well what he meant."

"I am afraid," said Irene, speaking partly to herself, "that most of
my troubles come from the inside."

"I'm afraid they do," spoke out the frank domestic.

"Margaret!"

"Indeed, miss, and I do think so. If you'd only get right
here"--laying her hand upon her breast--"somebody beside yourself
would be a great deal happier. There now, child, I've said it; and
you needn't go to getting angry with me."

"They are often our best friends who use the plainest speech," said
Irene. "No, Margaret, I am not going to be angry with one whom I
know to be true-hearted."

"Not truer-hearted than your husband, Miss Irene; nor half so
loving."

"Why did you say that?" Margaret started at the tone of voice in
which this interrogation was made.

"Because I think so," she answered naively.

Irene looked at her for some moments with a penetrating gaze, and
then said, with an affected carelessness of tone--

"Your preacher and your dreams have made you quite a moralist."

"They have not taken from my heart any of the love it has felt for
you," said Margaret, tears coming into her eyes.

"I know that, Margaret. You were always too kind and indulgent, and
I always too wayward and unreasonable. But I am getting years on my
side, and shall not always be a foolish girl."

Snow had now begun to fall thickly, and the late December day was
waning toward the early twilight. Margaret went down stairs and left
Irene alone in her chamber, where she remained until nearly tea-time
before joining her father.

Mr. Delancy did not altogether feel satisfied in his mind about this
unheralded visit from his daughter, with whose wayward moods he was
too familiar. It might be all as she said, but there were intrusive
misgivings that troubled him.

At tea-time she took her old place at the table in such an easy,
natural way, and looked so pleased and happy, that her father was
satisfied. He asked about her husband, and she talked of him without
reserve.

"What day is Hartley coming up?" he inquired.

"I hope to see him on the day before Christmas," returned Irene.
There was a falling in her voice that, to the ears of Mr. Delancy,
betrayed a feeling of doubt.

"He will not, surely, put it off later," said the father.

"I don't know," said Irene. "He may be prevented from leaving early
enough to reach here before Christmas morning. If there should be a
cold snap, and the river freeze up, it will make the journey
difficult and attended with delay."

"I think the winter has set in;" and Mr. Delancy turned his ear
toward the window, against which the snow and hail were beating with
violence. "It's a pity Hartley didn't come up with you."

A sober hue came over the face of Irene. This did not escape the
notice of her father; but it was natural that she should feel sober
in thinking of her husband as likely to be kept from her by the
storm. That such were her thoughts her words made evident, for she
said, glancing toward the window--

"If there should be a deep snow, and the boats stop running, how can
Hartley reach here in time?"

On the next morning the sun rose bright and warm for the season.
Several inches of snow had fallen, giving to the landscape a wintry
whiteness, but the wind was coming in from the south, genial as
spring. Before night half the snowy covering was gone.

"We had our fears for nothing," said Mr. Delancy, on the second day,
which was as mild as the preceding one. "All things promise well. I
saw the boats go down as usual; so the river is open still."

Irene did not reply. Mr. Delancy looked at her curiously, but her
face was partly turned away and he did not get its true expression.

The twenty-fourth came. No letter had been received by Irene, nor
had she written to New York since her arrival at Ivy Cliff.

"Isn't it singular that you don't get a letter from Hartley?" said
Mr. Delancy.

Irene had been sitting silent for some time when her father made
this remark.

"He is very busy," she said, in reply.

"That's no excuse. A man is never too busy to write to his absent
wife."

"I haven't expected a letter, and so am not disappointed. But he's
on his way, no doubt. How soon will the boat arrive?"

"Between two and three o'clock."

"And it's now ten."

The hours passed on, and the time of arrival came. The windows of
Irene's chamber looked toward the river, and she was standing at one
of them alone when the boat came in sight. Her face was almost
colorless, and contracted by an expression of deep anxiety. She
remained on her feet for the half hour that intervened before the
boat could reach the landing. It was not the first time that she had
watched there, in the excitement of doubt and fear, for the same
form her eyes were now straining themselves to see.

The shrill sound of escaping steam ceased to quiver on the air, and
in a few minutes the boat shot forward into view and went gliding up
the river. Irene scarcely breathed, as she stood, with colorless
face, parted lips and eager eyes, looking down the road that led to
the landing. But she looked in vain; the form of her husband did not
appear--and it was Christmas Eve!

What did it mean?



CHAPTER VII.

THE LETTER.


_YES_, what did it mean? Christmas Eve, and Hartley still absent?

Twilight was falling when Irene came down from her room and joined
her father in the library. Mr. Delancy looked into her face narrowly
as she entered. The dim light of the closing day was not strong
enough to give him its true expression; but he was not deceived as
to its troubled aspect.

"And so Hartley will not be here to-day," he said, in a tone that
expressed both disappointment and concern.

"No. I looked for him confidently. It is strange."

There was a constraint, a forced calmness in Irene's voice that did
not escape her father's notice.

"I hope he is not sick," said Mr. Delancy.

"Oh no." Irene spoke with a sudden earnestness; then, with failing
tones, added--

"He should have been here to-day."

She sat down near the open grate, shading her face with a
hand-screen, and remained silent and abstracted for some time.

"There is scarcely a possibility of his arrival to-night," said Mr.
Delancy. He could not get his thoughts away from the fact of his
son-in-law's absence.

"He will not be here to-night," replied Irene, a cold dead level in
her voice, that Mr. Delancy well understood to be only a blind
thrown up to conceal her deeply-disturbed feelings.

"Do you expect him to-morrow, my daughter?" asked Mr. Delancy, a few
moments afterward, speaking as if from a sudden thought or a sudden
purpose. There was a meaning in his tones that showed his mind to be
in a state not prepared to brook evasion.

"I do," was the unhesitating answer; and she turned and looked
calmly at her father, whose eyes rested with a fixed, inquiring gaze
upon her countenance. But half her face was lit by a reflection from
the glowing grate, while half lay in shadow. His reading, therefore
was not clear.

If Irene had shown surprise at the question, her father would have
felt better satisfied. He meant it as a probe; but if a tender spot
was reached, she had the self-control not to give a sign of pain. At
the tea-table Irene rallied her spirits and talked lightly to her
father; it was only by an effort that he could respond with even
apparent cheerfulness.

Complaining of a headache, Irene retired, soon after tea, to her
room, and did not come down again during the evening.

The next day was Christmas. It rose clear and mild as a day in
October. When Irene came down to breakfast, her pale, almost
haggard, face showed too plainly that she had passed a night of
sleeplessness and suffering. She said, "A merry Christmas," to her
father, on meeting him, but there was no heart in the words. It was
almost impossible to disguise the pain that almost stifled
respiration. Neither of them did more than make a feint at eating.
As Mr. Delancy arose from the table, he said to Irene--

"I would like to see you in the library, my daughter."

She followed him passively, closing the door behind her as she
entered.

"Sit down. There." And Mr. Delancy placed a chair for her, a little
way from the grate.

Irene dropped into the chair like one who moved by another's
volition.

"Now, daughter," said Mr. Delancy, taking a chair, and drawing it in
front of the one in which she was seated, "I am going to ask a plain
question, and I want a direct answer."

Irene rallied herself on the instant.

"Did you leave New York with the knowledge and consent of your
husband?"

The blood mounted to her face and stained it a deep crimson:

"I left without his knowledge. Consent I never ask."

The old proud spirit was in her tones.

"I feared as much," replied Mr. Delancy, his voice falling. "Then
you do not expect Hartley to-day?"

"I expected him yesterday. He may be here to-day. I am almost sure
he will come."

"Does he know you are here?"

"Yes."

"Why did you leave without his knowledge?"

"To punish him."

"Irene!"

"I have answered without evasion. It was to punish him."

"I do not remember in the marriage vows you took upon yourselves
anything relating to punishments," said Mr. Delancy. "There were
explicit things said of love and duty, but I do not recall a
sentence that referred to the right of one party to punish the
other."

Mr. Delancy paused for a few moments, but there was no reply to this
rather novel and unexpected view of the case.

"Did you by anything in the rite acquire authority to punish your
husband when his conduct didn't just suit your fancy?"

Mr. Delancy pressed the question.

"It is idle, father," said Irene, with some sharpness of tone, "to
make an issue like this. It does not touch the case. Away back of
marriage contracts lie individual rights, which are never
surrendered. The right of self-protection is one of these; and if
retaliation is needed as a guarantee of future peace, then the right
to punish is included in the right of self-protection."

"A peace gained through coercion of any kind is not worth having. It
is but the semblance of peace--is war in bonds," replied Mr.
Delancy. "The moment two married partners begin the work of coercion
and punishment, that moment love begins to fail. If love gives not
to their hearts a common beat, no other power is strong enough to do
the work. Irene, I did hope that the painful experiences already
passed through would have made you wiser. It seems not, however. It
seems that self-will, passion and a spirit of retaliation are to
govern your actions, instead of patience and love. Well, my child,
if you go on sowing this seed in your garden now, in the spring-time
of life, you must not murmur when autumn gives you a harvest of
thorns and thistles. If you sow tares in your field, you must not
expect to find corn there when you put in your sickle to reap. You
can take back your morning salutation. It is not a 'merry Christmas'
to you or to me; and I think we are both done with merry
Christmases."

"Father!"

The tone in which this word was uttered was almost a cry of pain.

"It is even so, my child--even so," replied Mr. Delancy, in a voice
of irrepressible sadness. "You have left your husband a second time.
It is not every man who would forgive the first offence; not one in
twenty who would pardon the second. You are in great peril, Irene.
This storm that you have conjured up may drive you to hopeless
shipwreck. You need not expect Hartley to-day. He will not come. I
have studied his character well, and know that he will not pass this
conduct over lightly."

Even while this was said a servant, who had been over to the
village, brought in a letter and handed it to Mr. Delancy, who,
recognizing in the superscription the handwriting of his daughter's
husband, broke the seal hurriedly. The letter was in these words:


"MY DEAR SIR: As your daughter has left me, no doubt with the
purpose of finally abandoning the effort to live in that harmony so
essential to happiness in married life, I shall be glad if you will
choose some judicious friend to represent her in consultation with a
friend whom I will select, with a view to the arrangement of a
separation, as favorable to her in its provisions as it can possibly
be made. In view of the peculiarity of our temperaments, we made a
great error in this experiment. My hope was that love would be
counselor to us both; that the law of mutual forbearance would have
rule. But we are both too impulsive, too self-willed, too
undisciplined. I do not pretend to throw all the blame on Irene. We
are as flint and steel. But she has taken the responsibility of
separation, and I am left without alternative. May God lighten the
burden of pain her heart will have to bear in the ordeal through
which she has elected to pass.

Your unhappy son,

"HARTLEY EMERSON."


Mr. Delancy's hand shook so violently before he had finished reading
that the paper rattled in the air. On finishing the last sentence he
passed it, without a word, to his daughter. It was some moments
before the strong agitation produced by the sight of this letter,
and its effect upon her father, could be subdued enough to enable
her to read a line.

"What does it mean, father? I don't understand it," she said, in a
hoarse, deep whisper, and with pale, quivering lips.

"It means," said Mr. Delancy, "that your husband has taken you at
your word."

"At my word! What word?"

"You have left the home he provided for you, I believe?"

"Father!"

Her eyes stood out staringly.

"Let me read the letter for you." And he took it from her hand.
After reading it aloud and slowly, he said--

"That is plain talk, Irene. I do not think any one can misunderstand
it. You have, in his view, left him finally, and he now asks me to
name a judicious friend to meet his friend, and arrange a basis of
separation as favorable to you in its provisions as it can possibly
be made."

"A separation, father! Oh no, he cannot mean that!" And she pressed
her hands strongly against her temples.

"Yes, my daughter, that is the simple meaning."

"Oh no, no, no! He never meant that."

"You left him?"

"But not in that way; not in earnest. It was only in fitful
anger--half sport, half serious."

"Then, in Heaven's name, sit down and write him so, and that without
the delay of an instant. He has put another meaning on your conduct.
He believes that you have abandoned him."

"Abandoned him! Madness!" And Irene, who had risen from her chair,
commenced moving about the room in a wild, irresolute kind of way,
something like an actress under tragic excitement.

"This is meant to punish me!" she said, stopping suddenly, and
speaking in a voice slightly touched with indignation. "I understand
it all, and see it as a great outrage. Hartley knows as well I do
that I left as much in sport as in earnest. But this is carrying the
joke too far. To write such a letter to you! Why didn't he write to
me? Why didn't he ask me to appoint a friend to represent me in the
arrangement proposed?"

"He understood himself and the case entirely," replied Mr. Delancy.
"Believing that you had abandoned him--"

"He didn't believe any such thing!" exclaimed Irene, in strong
excitement.

"You are deceiving yourself, my daughter. His letter is calm and
deliberate. It was not written, as you can see by the date, until
yesterday. He has taken time to let passion cool. Three days were
permitted to elapse, that you might be heard from in case any change
of purpose occurred. But you remained silent. You abandoned him."

"Oh, father, why will you talk in this way? I tell you that Hartley
is only doing this to punish me; that he has no more thought of an
actual separation than he has of dying."

"Admit this to be so, which I only do in the argument," said Mr.
Delancy, "and what better aspect does it present?"

"The better aspect of sport as compared with earnest," replied
Irene.

"At which both will continue to play until earnest is reached--and a
worse earnest than the present. Take the case as you will, and it is
one of the saddest and least hopeful that I have seen."

Irene did not reply.

"You must elect some course of action, and that with the least
possible delay," said Mr. Delancy. "This letter requires an
immediate answer. Go to your room and, in communion with God and
your own heart, come to some quick decision upon the subject."

Irene turned away without speaking and left her father alone in the
library.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE FLIGHT AND THE RETURN.


_WE_ will not speak of the cause that led to this serious rupture
between Mr. and Mrs. Emerson. It was light as vanity--an airy
nothing in itself--a spark that would have gone out on a baby's
cheek without leaving a sign of its existence. On the day that Irene
left the home of her husband he had parted from her silent, moody
and with ill-concealed anger. Hard words, reproaches and accusations
had passed between them on the night previous; and both felt
unusually disturbed. The cause of all this, as we have said, was
light as vanity. During the day Mr. Emerson, who was always first to
come to his senses, saw the folly of what had occurred, and when he
turned his face homeward, after three o'clock, it was with the
purpose of ending the unhappy state by recalling a word to which he
had given thoughtless utterance.

The moment our young husband came to this sensible conclusion his
heart beat with a freer motion and his spirits rose again into a
region of tranquillity. He felt the old tenderness toward his wife
returning, dwelt on her beauty, accomplishments, virtues and high
mental endowments with a glow of pride, and called her defects of
character light in comparison.

"If I were more a man, and less a child of feeling and impulse," he
said to himself, "I would be more worthy to hold the place of
husband to a woman like Irene. She has strong peculiarities--who has
not peculiarities? Am I free from them? She is no ordinary woman,
and must not be trammeled by ordinary tame routine. She has quick
impulses; therefore, if I love her, should I not guard them, lest
they leap from her feebly restraining hand in the wrong direction?
She is sensitive to control; why, then, let her see the hand that
must lead her, sometimes, aside from the way she would walk through
the promptings of her own will? Do I not know that she loves me? And
is she not dear to me as my own life? What folly to strive with each
other! What madness to let angry feelings shadow for an instant our
lives!"

It was in this state of mind that Emerson returned home. There were
a few misgivings in his heart as he entered, for he was not sure as
to the kind of reception Irene would offer his overtures for peace;
but there was no failing of his purpose to sue for peace and obtain
it. With a quick step he passed through the hall, and, after
glancing into the parlors to see if his wife were there, went up
stairs with two or three light bounds. A hurried glance through the
chambers showed him that they had no occupant. He was turning to
leave them, when a letter, placed upright on a bureau, attracted his
attention. He caught it up. It was addressed to him in the
well-known hand of his wife. He opened it and read:

"I leave for Ivy Cliff to-day. IRENE."

Two or three times Emerson read the line--"I leave for Ivy Cliff
to-day"--and looked at the signature, before its meaning came fully
into his thought.

"Gone to Ivy Cliff!" he said, at last, in a low, hoarse voice.
"Gone, and without a word of intimation or explanation! Gone, and in
the heat of anger! Has it come to this, and so soon! God help us!"
And the unhappy man sunk into a chair, heart-stricken and weak as a
child.

For nearly the whole of the night that followed he walked the floor
of his room, and the next day found him in a feverish condition of
both mind and body. Not once did the thought of following his wife
to Ivy Cliff, if it came into his mind, rest there for a moment. She
had gone home to her father with only an announcement of the fact.
He would wait some intimation of her further purpose; but, if they
met again, she must come back to him. This was his first,
spontaneous conclusion; and it was not questioned in his thought,
nor did he waver from it an instant. She must come back of her own
free will, if she came back at all.

It was on the twentieth day of December that Irene left New York.
Not until the twenty-second could a letter from her reach Hartley,
if, on reflection or after conference with her father, she desired
to make a communication. But the twenty-second came and departed
without a word from the absent one. So did the twenty-third. By this
time Hartley had grown very calm, self-adjusted and resolute. He had
gone over and over again the history of their lives since marriage
bound them together, and in this history he could see nothing
hopeful as bearing on the future. He was never certain of Irene.
Things said and done in moments of thoughtlessness or excitement,
and not meant to hurt or offend, were constantly disturbing their
peace. It was clouds, and rain, and fitful sunshine all the while.
There were no long seasons of serene delight.

"Why," he said to himself, "seek to prolong this effort to blend
into one two lives that seem hopelessly antagonistic. Better stand
as far apart as the antipodes than live in perpetual strife. If I
should go to Irene, and, through concession or entreaty, win her
back again, what guarantee would I have for the future? None, none
whatever. Sooner or later we must be driven asunder by the violence
of our ungovernable passions, never to draw again together. We are
apart now, and it is well. I shall not take the first step toward a
reconciliation."

Hartley Emerson was a young man of cool purpose and strong will. For
all that, he was quick-tempered and undisciplined. It was from the
possession of these qualities that he was steadily advancing in his
profession, and securing a practice at the bar which promised to
give him a high position in the future. Persistence was another
element of his character. If he adopted any course of conduct, it
was a difficult thing to turn him aside. When he laid his hand upon
the plough, he was of those who rarely look back. Unfortunate
qualities these for a crisis in life such as now existed.

On the morning of the twenty-fourth of December, no word having come
from his wife, Emerson coolly penned the letter to Mr. Delancy which
is given in the preceding chapter, and mailed it so that it would
reach him on Christmas day. He was in earnest--sternly in
earnest--as Mr. Delancy, on reading his letter, felt him to be. The
honeymoon flight was one thing; this abandonment of a husband's
home, another thing. Emerson gave to them a different weight and
quality. Of the first act he could never think without a burning
cheek--a sense of mortification--a pang of wounded pride; and long
ere this he had made up his mind that if Irene ever left him again,
it would be for ever, so far as perpetuity depended on his action in
the case. He would never follow her nor seek to win her back.

Yes, he was in earnest. He had made his mind up for the worst, and
was acting with a desperate coolness only faintly imagined by Irene
on receipt of his letter to her father. Mr. Delancy, who understood
Emerson's character better, was not deceived. He took the
communication in its literal meaning, and felt appalled at the ruin
which impended.

Emerson passed the whole of Christmas day alone in his house. At
meal-times he went to the table and forced himself to partake
lightly of food, in order to blind the servants, whose curiosity in
regard to the absence of Mrs. Emerson was, of course, all on the
alert. After taking tea he went out.

His purpose was to call upon a friend in whom he had great
confidence, and confide to him the unhappy state of his affairs. For
an hour he walked the streets in debate on the propriety of this
course. Unable, however, to see the matter clearly, he returned home
with the secret of his domestic trouble still locked in his own
bosom.

It was past eight o'clock when he entered his dwelling. A light was
burning in one of the parlors, and he stepped into the room. After
walking for two or three times the length of the apartment, Mr.
Emerson threw himself on a sofa, a deep sigh escaping his lips as he
did so. At the same moment he heard a step in the passage, and the
rustling of a woman's garments, which caused him to start again to
his feet. In moving his eyes met the form of Irene, who advanced
toward him, and throwing her arms around his neck, sobbed,

"Dear husband! can you, will you forgive my childish folly?"

His first impulse was to push her away, and he, even grasped her
arms and attempted to draw them from his neck. She perceived this,
and clung to him more eagerly.

"Dear Hartley!" she said, "will you not speak to me?"

"Irene!" His voice was cold and deep, and as he pronounced her name
he withdrew himself from her embrace. At this she grew calm and
stepped a pace back from him.

"Irene, we are not children," he said, in the same cold, deep voice,
the tones of which were even and measured. "That time is past. Nor
foolish young lovers, who fall out and make up again twice or thrice
in a fortnight; but man and wife, with the world and its sober
realities before us."

"Oh, Hartley," exclaimed Irene, as he paused; "don't talk to me in
this way! Don't look at me so! It will kill me. I have done wrong. I
have acted like foolish child. But I am penitent. It was half in
sport that I went away, and I was so sure of seeing you at Ivy Cliff
yesterday that I told father you were coming."

"Irene, sit down." And Emerson took the hand of his wife and led her
to a sofa. Then, after closing the parlor door, he drew a chair and
seated himself directly in front of her. There was a coldness and
self-possession about him, that chilled Irene.

"It is a serious thing," he said, looking steadily in her face, "for
a wife to leave, in anger, her husband's house for that of her
father."

She tried to make some reply and moved her lips in attempted
utterance, but the organs of speech refused to perform their office.

"You left me once before in anger, and I went after you. But it was
clearly understood with myself then that if you repeated the act it
would be final in all that appertained to me; that unless you
returned, it would be a lifelong separation. You _have_ repeated the
act; and, knowing your pride and tenacity of will, I did not
anticipate your return. And so I was looking the sad, stern future
in the face as steadily as possible, and preparing to meet it as a
man conscious of right should be prepared to meet whatever trouble
lies in store for him. I went out this evening, after passing the
Christmas day alone, with the purpose of consulting an old and
discreet friend as to the wisest course of action. But the thing was
too painful to speak of yet. So I came back--and you are here!"

She looked at him steadily while he spoke, her face white as marble,
and her colorless lips drawn back from her teeth.

"Irene," he continued, "it is folly for us to keep on in the way we
have been going. I am wearied out, and you cannot be happy in a
relation that is for ever reminding you that your own will and
thought are no longer sole arbiters of action; that there is another
will and another thought that must at times be consulted, and even
obeyed. I am a man, and a husband; you a woman, and a wife,--we are
equal as to rights and duties--equal in the eyes of God; but to the
man and husband appertains a certain precedence in action; consent,
co-operation and approval, if he be a thoughtful and judicious man,
appertaining to the wife."

As Emerson spoke thus, he noticed a sign of returning warmth in her
pale face, and a dim, distant flash in her eyes. Her proud spirit
did not accept this view of their relation to each other. He went
on:

"If a wife has no confidence in her husband's manly judgment, if she
cannot even respect him, then the case is altered. She must be
understanding and will to herself; must lead both him and herself if
he be weak enough to consent. But the relation is not a true one;
and marriage, under this condition of things, is only a semblance."

"And that is your doctrine?" said Irene. There was a shade of
surprise in her voice that lingered huskily in her throat.

"That is my doctrine," was Emerson's firmly spoken answer.

Irene sighed heavily. Both were silent for some moments. At length
Irene said, lifting her hands and bringing them down with an action
of despair,

"In bonds! in bonds!"

"No, no!" Her husband replied quickly and earnestly. "Not in bonds,
but in true freedom, if you will--the freedom of reciprocal action."

"Like bat and ball," she answered, with bitterness in her tones.

"No, like heart and lungs," he returned, calmly. "Irene! dear wife!
Why misunderstand me? I have no wish to rule, and you know I have
never sought to place you in bonds. I have had only one desire, and
that is to be your husband in the highest and truest sense. But, I
am a man--you a woman. There are two wills and two understandings
that must act in the same direction. Now, in the nature of things,
the mind of one must, helped by the mind of the other to see right,
take, as a general thing, the initiative where action is concerned.
Unless this be so, constant collisions will occur. And this takes us
back to the question that lies at the basis of all order and
happiness--which of the two minds shall lead?"

"A man and his wife are equal," said Irene, firmly. The strong
individuality of her character was asserting its claims even in this
hour of severe mental pain.

"Equal in the eyes of God, as I have said before, but where action
is concerned one must take precedence of the other, for, it cannot
be, seeing that their office and duties are different, that their
judgment in the general affairs of life can be equally clear. A
man's work takes him out into the world, and throws him into sharp
collision with other men. He learns, as a consequence, to think
carefully and with deliberation, and to decide with caution, knowing
that action, based on erroneous conclusions, may ruin his prospects
in an hour. Thus, like the oak, which, grows up exposed to all
elemental changes, his judgment gains strength, while his
perceptions, constantly trained, acquire clearness. But a woman's
duties lie almost wholly within this region of strife and action,
and she remains, for the most part, in a tranquil atmosphere.
Allowing nothing for a radical difference in mental constitution,
this difference of training must give a difference of mental power.
The man's judgment in affairs generally must be superior to the
woman's, and she must acquiesce in its decisions or there can be no
right union in marriage."

"Must lose herself in him," said Irene, coldly. "Become a cypher, a
slave. That will not suit me, Hartley!" And she looked at him with
firmly compressed mouth and steady eyes.

It came to his lips to reply, "Then you had better return to your
father," but he caught the words back ere they leaped forth into
sound, and, rising, walked the floor for the space of more than five
minutes, Irene not stirring from the sofa. Pausing at length, he
said in a voice which had lost its steadiness:

"You had better go up to your room, Irene. We are not in a condition
to help each other now."

Mrs. Emerson did not answer, but, rising, left the parlor and went
as her husband had suggested. He stood still, listening, until the
sound of her steps and the rustle of her garments had died away into
silence, when he commenced slowly walking the parlor floor with his
head bent down, and continued thus, as if he had forgotten time and
place, for over an hour. Then, awakened to consciousness by a sense
of dizziness and exhaustion, he laid himself upon a sofa, and,
shutting his eyes, tried to arrest the current of his troubled
thoughts and sink into sleep and forgetfulness.



CHAPTER IX.

THE RECONCILIATION.


_FOR_ such a reception the young wife was wholly unprepared.
Suddenly her husband had put on a new character and assumed a right
of control against which her sensitive pride and native love of
freedom arose in strong rebellion. That she had done wrong in going
away she acknowledged to herself, and had acknowledged to him. But
he had met confession in a spirit so different from what was
anticipated, and showed an aspect so cold, stern, and exacting, that
she was bewildered. She did not, however, mistake the meaning of his
language. It was plain that she understood the man's position to be
one of dictation and control: we use the stronger aspect in which it
was presented to her mind. As to submission, it was not in all her
thoughts. Wrung to agony as her heart was, and appalled as she
looked, trembling and shrinking into the future, she did not yield a
moment to weakness.

Midnight found Irene alone in her chamber. She had flung herself
upon a bed when she came up from the parlor, and fallen asleep after
an hour of fruitless beating about in her mind. Awaking from a maze
of troubled dreams, she started up and gazed, half fearfully, around
the dimly-lighted room.

"Where am I?" she asked herself. Some moments elapsed before the
painful events of the past few days began to reveal themselves to
her consciousness.

"And where is Hartley?" This question followed as soon as all grew
clear. Sleep had tranquilized her state, and restored a measure of
just perception. Stepping from the bed, she went from the room and
passed silently down stairs. A light still burned in the parlor
where she had left her husband some hours before, and streamed out
through the partly opened door. She stood for some moments,
listening, but there was no sound of life within. A sudden fear
crept into her heart. Her hand shook as she laid it upon the door
and pressed it open. Stepping within, she glanced around with a
frightened air.

On the sofa lay Hartley, with his face toward the light. It was wan
and troubled, and the brows were contracted as if from intense pain.
For some moments Irene stood looking at him; but his eyes were shut
and he lay perfectly still. She drew nearer and bent down over him.
He was sleeping, but his breath came so faintly, and there was so
little motion of his chest, that the thought flashed through her
with an electric thrill that he might be dying! Only by a strong
effort of self-control did she repress a cry of fear, or keep back
her hands from clasping his neck. In what a strong tide did love
rush back upon her soul! Her heart overflowed with tenderness, was
oppressed with yearning.

"Oh, Hartley, my husband, my dear husband!" she cried out, love,
fear, grief and anguish blending wildly in her voice, as she caught
him in her arms and awoke him with a rain of tears and kisses.

"Irene! Love! Darling! What ails you? Where are we?" were the
confusedly uttered sentences of Mr. Emerson, as he started from the
sofa and, holding his young wife from him, looked into her weeping
face.

"Call me again 'love' and 'darling,' and I care not where we are!"
she answered, in tones of passionate entreaty. "Oh, Hartley, my
dear, dear husband! A desert island, with you, would be a paradise;
a paradise, without you, a weary desert! Say the words again. Call
me 'darling!'" And she let her head fall upon his bosom.

"God bless you!" he said, laying his hand upon her head. He was
awake and clearly conscious of place and position. His voice was
distinct, but tremulous and solemn. "God bless you, Irene, my wife!"

"And make me worthy of your love," she responded faintly.

"Mutually worthy of each other," said he. "Wiser--better--more
patient and forbearing. Oh, Irene," and his voice grew deep and
tender, "why may we not be to each other all that our hearts
desire?"

"We can--we must--we will!" she answered, lifting her hidden face
from his bosom and turning it up fondly to his. "God helping me, I
will be to you a better wife in the future."

"And I a more patient, loving, and forbearing husband," he replied.
"Oh that our hearts might beat together as one heart!"

For a little while Irene continued to gaze into her husband's
countenance with looks of the tenderest love, and then hid her face
on his bosom again.

And thus were they again reconciled.



CHAPTER X.

AFTER THE STORM.


_AFTER_ the storm. And they were reconciled. The clouds rolled back;
the sun came out again with his radiant smiles and genial warmth.
But was nothing broken? nothing lost? Did each flower in the garden
of love lift its head as bravely as before? In every storm of
passion something is lost. Anger is a blind fury, who tramples
ruthlessly on tenderest and holiest things. Alas for the ruin that
waits upon her footsteps!

The day that followed this night of reconciliation had many hours of
sober introversion of thought for both Emerson and his wife; hours
in which memory reproduced language, conduct and sentiments that
could not be dwelt upon without painful misgivings for the future.
They understood each other too well to make light account of things
said and done, even in anger.

In going over, as Irene did many times, the language used by her
husband on the night before, touching their relation as man and
wife, and his prerogative, she felt the old spirit of revolt
arising. She tried to let her thought fall into his rational
presentation of the question involving precedence, and even said to
herself that he was right; but pride was strong, and kept lifting
itself in her mind. She saw, most clearly, the hardest aspect of the
case. It was, in her view, command and obedience. And she knew that
submission was, for her, impossible.

On the part of Emerson, the day's sober thought left his mind in no
more hopeful condition than that of his wife. The pain suffered in
consequence of her temporary flight from home, though lessened by
her return, had not subsided. A portion of confidence in her was
lost. He felt that he had no guarantee for the future; that at any
moment, in the heat of passion, she might leave him again. He
remembered, too distinctly, her words on the night before, when he
tried to make her comprehend his view of the relation between man
and wife--"That will not suit me, Hartley." And he felt that she was
in earnest; that she would resist every effort he might make to lead
and control as a man in certain things, just as she had done from
the beginning.

In matrimonial quarrels you cannot kiss and make up again, as
children do, forgetting all the stormy past in the sunshiny present.
And this was painfully clear to both Hartley and Irene, as she,
alone in her chamber, and he, alone in his office, pondered, on that
day of reconciliation, the past and the future. Yet each resolved to
be more forbearing and less exacting; to be emulous of concession,
rather than exaction; to let love, uniting with reason, hold pride
and self-will in close submission.

Their meeting, on Hartley's return home, at his usual late hour in
the afternoon, was tender, but not full of the joyous warmth of
feeling that often showed itself. Their hearts were not light enough
for ecstasy. But they were marked in their attentions to each other,
emulous of affectionate words and actions, yielding and considerate.
And yet this mutual, almost formal, recognition of a recent state of
painful antagonism left on each mind a feeling of embarrassment,
checked words and sentences ere they came to utterance, and threw
amid their pleasant talks many intermittent pauses.

Often through the day had Mr. Emerson, as he dwelt on the unhappy
relation existing between himself and his wife, made up his mind to
renew the subject of their true position to each other, as briefly
touched upon in their meeting of the night before, and as often
changed his purpose, in fear of another rupture. Yet to him it
seemed of the first importance that this matter, as a basis of
future peace, should be settled between them, and settled at once.
If he held one view and she another, and both were sensitive,
quick-tempered and tenacious of individual freedom, fierce
antagonism might occur at any moment. He had come home inclined to
the affirmative side of the question, and many times during the
evening it was on his lips to introduce the subject. But he was so
sure that it would prove a theme of sharp discussion, that he had
not the courage to risk the consequences.

There was peace again after this conflict, but it was not, by any
means, a hopeful peace. It had no well-considered basis. The causes
which had produced a struggle were still in existence, and liable to
become active, by provocation, at any moment. No change had taken
place in the characters, dispositions, temperaments or general views
of life in either of the parties. Strife had ceased between them
only in consequence of the pain it involved. A deep conviction of
this fact so sobered the mind of Mr. Emerson, and altered, in
consequence, his manner toward Irene, that she felt its reserve and
coldness as a rebuke that chilled the warmth of her tender impulses.

And this manner did not greatly change as the days and weeks moved
onward. Memory kept too vividly in the mind of Emerson that one act,
and the danger of its repetition on some sudden provocation. He
could not feel safe and at ease with his temple of peace built close
to a slumbering volcano, which was liable at any moment to blaze
forth and bury its fair proportions in lava and ashes.

Irene did not comprehend her husband's state of mind. She felt
painfully the change in his manner, but failed in reaching the true
cause. Sometimes she attributed his coldness to resentment;
sometimes to defect of love; and sometimes to a settled
determination on his part to inflict punishment. Sometimes she spent
hours alone, weeping over these sad ruins of her peace, and
sometimes, in a spirit of revolt, she laid down for herself a line
of conduct intended to react against her husband. But something in
his calm, kind, self-reliant manner, when she looked into his face,
broke down her purpose. She was afraid of throwing herself against a
rock which, while standing immovable, might bruise her tender limbs
or extinguish life in the strong concussion.



CHAPTER XI.

A NEW ACQUAINTANCE.


_BOTH_ Emerson and his wife came up from this experience changed in
themselves and toward each other. A few days had matured them beyond
what might have been looked for in as many years. Life suddenly put
on more sober hues, and the future laid off its smiles and
beckonings onward to greener fields and mountain-heights of
felicity. There was a certain air of manly self-confidence, a
firmer, more deliberate way of expressing himself on all subjects,
and an evidence of mental clearness and strength, which gave to
Irene the impression of power and superiority not wholly agreeable
to her self-love, yet awakening emotions of pride in her husband
when she contrasted him with other men. As a man among men, he was,
as he had ever been, her beau ideal; but as a husband, she felt a
daily increasing spirit of resistance and antagonism, and it
required constant watchfulness over herself to prevent this feeling
from exhibiting itself in act.

On the part of Emerson, the more he thought about this subject of
the husband's relative duties and prerogatives--thought as a man and
as a lawyer--the more strongly did he feel about it, and the more
tenacious of his assumed rights did he become. Matters which seemed
in the beginning of such light importance as scarcely to attract his
attention, now loomed up before him as things of moment. Thus, if he
spoke of their doing some particular thing in a certain way, and
Irene suggested a different way, instead of yielding to her view, he
would insist upon his own. If she tried to show him a reason why her
way was best, he would give no weight to her argument or
representation. On the other hand, it is but just to say that he
rarely opposed her independent suggestions or interfered with her
freedom; and if she had been as considerate toward him, the danger
of trouble would have been lessened.

It is the little foxes that spoil the tender grapes, and so it is
the little reactions of two spirits against each other that spoil
the tender blossoms of love and destroy the promised vintage.
Steadily, day by day, and week by week, were these light reactions
marring the happiness of our undisciplined young friends, and
destroying in them germ after germ, and bud after bud, which, if
left to growth and development, would have brought forth ripe,
luscious fruit in the later summer of their lives. Trifles, light as
air were noticed, and their importance magnified. Words, looks,
actions, insignificant in themselves, were made to represent states
of will or antagonism which really had no existence.

Unhappily for their peace, Irene had a brooding disposition. She
held in her memory utterances and actions forgotten by her husband,
and, by dwelling upon, magnified and gave them an importance to
which they were not entitled. Still more unhappily for their peace,
Irene met about this time, and became attached to, a lady of fine
intellectual attainments and fascinating manners, who was an
extremist in opinion on the subject of sexual equality. She was
married, but to a man greatly her inferior, though possessing some
literary talent, which he managed to turn to better account than she
did her finer powers. He had been attracted by her brilliant
qualities, and in approaching her scorched his wings, and ever after
lay at her feet. She had no very high respect for him, but found a
husband on many accounts a convenient thing, and so held on to the
appendage. If he had been man enough to remain silent on the themes
she was so fond of discussing on all occasions, people of common
sense and common perception would have respected him for what he was
worth. But he gloried in his bondage, and rattled his chains as
gleefully as if he were discoursing sweet music. What she announced
oracularly, he attempted to demonstrate by bald and feeble
arguments. He was the false understanding to her perverted will.

The name of this lady was Mrs. Talbot. Irene met her soon after her
marriage and removal to New York, and was charmed with her from the
beginning. Mr. Emerson, on the contrary, liked neither her nor her
sentiments, and considered her a dangerous friend for his wife. He
expressed himself freely in regard to her at the commencement of the
intimacy; but Irene took her part so warmly, and used such strong
language in her favor, that Emerson deemed it wisest not to create
new sentiments in her favor out of opposition to himself.

Within a week from that memorable Christmas day on which Irene came
back from Ivy Cliff, Mrs. Talbot, who had taken a fancy to the
spirited, independent, undisciplined wife of Emerson, called in to
see her new friend. Irene received her cordially. She was, in fact,
of all her acquaintances, the one she most desired to meet.

"I'm right glad you thought of making me a call," said Mrs. Emerson,
as they sat down together. "I've felt as dull all the morning as an
anchorite."

"You dull!" Mrs. Talbot affected surprise, as she glanced round the
tasteful room in which they were sitting. "What is there to cloud
your mind? With such a home and such a husband as you possess life
ought to be one long, bright holiday."

"Good things in their way," replied Mrs. Emerson. "But not
everything."

She said this in a kind of thoughtless deference to Mrs. Talbot's
known views on the subject of homes and husbands, which she had not
hesitated to call women's prisons and women's jailers.

"Indeed! And have you made that discovery?"

Mrs. Talbot laughed a low, gurgling sort of laugh, leaning, at the
same time, in a confidential kind of way, closer to Mrs. Emerson.

"Discovery!"

"Yes."

"It is no discovery," said Mrs. Emerson. "The fact is self-evident.
There is much that a woman needs for happiness beside a home and a
husband."

"Right, my young friend, right!" Mrs. Talbot's manner grew earnest.
"No truer words were ever spoken. Yes--yes--a woman needs a great
deal more than these to fill the measure of her happiness; and it is
through the attempt to restrict and limit her to such poor
substitutes for a world-wide range and freedom that she has been so
dwarfed in mental stature, and made the unhappy creature and slave
of man's hard ambition and indomitable love of power. There were
Amazons of old--as the early Greeks knew to their cost--strong,
self-reliant, courageous women, who acknowledged no human
superiority. Is the Amazonian spirit dead in the earth? Not so! It
is alive, and clothing itself with will, power and persistence.
Already it is grasping the rein, and the mettled steed stands
impatient to feel the rider's impulse in the saddle. The cycle of
woman's degradation and humiliation is completed. A new era in the
world's social history has dawned for her, and the mountain-tops are
golden with the coming day."

Irene listened with delight and even enthusiasm to these sentiments,
uttered with ardor and eloquence.

"It is not woman's fault, taking her in the aggregate, that she is
so weak in body and mind, and such a passive slave to man's will,"
continued Mrs. Talbot. "In the retrocession of races toward
barbarism mere muscle, in which alone man is superior to woman,
prevailed. Physical strength set itself up as master. Might made
right. And so unhappy woman was degraded below man, and held to the
earth, until nearly all independent life has been crushed out of
her. As civilization has lifted nation after nation out of the dark
depths of barbarism, the condition of woman physically has been
improved. For the sake of his children, if from no better motive,
man has come to treat his wife with a more considerate kindness. If
she is still but the hewer of his wood and the drawer of his water,
he has, in many cases, elevated her to the position of dictatress in
these humble affairs. He allows her 'help!' But, mentally and
socially, he continues to degrade her. In law she is scarcely
recognized, except as a criminal. She is punished if she does wrong,
but has no legal protection in her rights as an independent human
being. She is only man's shadow. The public opinion that affects her
is made by him. The earliest literature of a country is man's
expression; and in this man's view of woman is always apparent. The
sentiment is repeated generation after generation, and age after
age, until the barbarous idea comes down, scarcely questioned, to
the days of high civilization, culture and refinement.

"Here, my young friend, you have the simple story of woman's
degradation in this age of the world. Now, so long as she submits,
man will hold her in fetters. Power and dominion are sweet. If a man
cannot govern a state, he will be content to govern a household--but
govern he will, if he can find anywhere submissive subjects."

"He is born a tyrant; that I have always felt," said Mrs. Emerson.
"You see it in a family of sisters and brothers. The boys always
attempt to rule their sisters, and if the latter do not submit, then
comes discord and contention."

"I have seen this, in hundreds of instances," replied Mrs. Talbot.
"It was fully illustrated in my own case. I had two brothers, who
undertook to exercise their love of domineering on me. But they did
not find a passive subject--no, not by any means. I was never
obedient to their will, for I had one of my own. We made the house
often a bedlam for our poor mother; but I never gave way--no, not
for an instant, come what might. I had different stuff in me from
that of common girls, and in time the boys were glad to let me
alone."

"Are your brothers living?" asked Mrs. Emerson.

"Yes. One resides in New York, and the other in Boston. One is a
merchant, the other a physician."

"How was it as you grew older?"

"About the same. They are like nearly all men--despisers of woman's
intellect."

Irene sighed, and, letting her eyes fall to the floor, sat lost in
thought for some moments. The suggestions of her friend were not
producing agreeable states of mind.

"They reject the doctrine of an equality in the sexes?" said Mrs.
Emerson.

"Of course. All men do that," replied Mrs. Talbot.

"Your husband among the rest?"

"Talbot? Oh, he's well enough in his way!" The lady spoke lightly,
tossing her head in a manner that involved both indifference and
contempt. "I never take him into account when discussing these
matters. That point was settled between us long and long ago. We jog
on without trouble. Talbot thinks as I do about the women--or
pretends that he does, which is all the same."

"A rare exception to the general run of husbands," said Irene,
thinking at the same time how immeasurably superior Mr. Emerson was
to this weakling, and despising him in her heart for submitting to
be ruled by a woman. Thus nature and true perception spoke in her,
even while she was seeking to blind herself by false reasonings.

"Yes, he's a rare exception; and it's well for us both that it is
so. If he were like your husband, for instance, one of us would have
been before the legislature for a divorce within twelve months of
our marriage night."

"Like my husband! What do you mean?" Mrs. Emerson drew herself up,
with half real and half affected surprise.

"Oh, he's one of your men who have positive qualities about
them--strong in intellect and will."

Irene felt pleased with the compliment bestowed upon her husband.

"But wrong in his ideas of woman."

"How do you know?" asked Irene.

"How do I know? As I know all men with whom I come in contact. I
probe them."

"And you have probed my husband?"

"Undoubtedly."

"And do not regard him as sound on this subject?"

"No sounder than other men of his class. He regards woman as man's
inferior."

"I think you state the case too strongly," said Mrs. Emerson, a red
spot burning on her cheek. "He thinks them mentally different."

"Of course he does."

"But not different as to superiority and inferiority," replied
Irene.

"Mere hair-splitting, my child. If they are mentally different, one
must be more highly organized than the other, and of course,
superior. Mr. Emerson thinks a man's rational powers stronger than a
woman's, and that, therefore, he must direct in affairs generally,
and she follow his lead. I know; I've talked with and drawn him out
on this subject."

Mrs. Emerson sighed again faintly, while her eyes dropped from the
face of her visitor and sunk to the floor. A shadow was falling on
her spirit--a weight coming down with a gradually increasing
pressure upon her heart. She remembered the night of her return from
Ivy Cliff and the language then used by her husband on this very
subject, which was mainly in agreement with the range of opinions
attributed to him by Mrs. Talbot.

"Marriage, to a spirited woman," she remarked, in a pensive
undertone, "is a doubtful experiment."

"Always," returned her friend. "As woman stands now in the estimate
of man, her chances for happiness are almost wholly on the side of
old-maidism. Still, freedom is the price of struggle and combat; and
woman will first have to show, in actual strife, that she is the
equal of her present lord."

"Then you would turn every home into a battlefield?" said Mrs.
Emerson.

"Every home in which there is a tyrant and an oppressor," was the
prompt answer. "Many fair lands, in all ages, have been trampled
down ruthlessly by the iron feet of war; and that were better, as
the price of freedom, than slavery."

Irene sighed again, and was again silent.

"What," she asked, "if the oppressor is so much stronger than the
oppressed that successful resistance is impossible? that with every
struggle the links of the chain that binds her sink deeper into her
quivering flesh?"

"Every age and every land have seen noble martyrs in the cause of
freedom. It is better to die for liberty than live an ignoble
slave," answered the tempter.

"And I will die a free woman." This Irene said in her heart.



CHAPTER XII.

IN BONDS.


_SENTIMENTS_ like these, coming to Irene as they did while she was
yet chafing under a recent collision with her husband, and while the
question of submission was yet an open one, were near proving a
quick-match to a slumbering mine in her spirit, and had not her
husband been in a more passive state than usual, there might have
been an explosion which would have driven them asunder with such
terrific force that reunion must have been next to impossible.

It would have been well if their effects had died with the passing
away of that immediate danger. But as we think so we incline to act.
Our sentiments are our governors; and of all imperious tyrants,
false sentiments are the most ruthless. The beautiful, the true, the
good they trample out of the heart with a fiery malignity that knows
no touch of pity; for the false is the bitter enemy of the true and
makes with it no terms of amity.

The coldness which had followed their reconciliation might have
gradually given way before the warmth of genuine love, if Irene had
been left to the counsels of her own heart; if there had been no
enemy to her peace, like Mrs. Talbot, to throw in wild, vague
thoughts of oppression and freedom among the half-developed opinions
which were forming in her mind. As it was, a jealous scrutiny of
words and actions took the place of that tender confidence which was
coming back to Irene's heart, and she became watchfully on the
alert; not, as she might have been, lovingly ministrant.

Only a few days were permitted to elapse after the call of this
unsafe friend before Irene returned the visit, and spent two hours
with her, conning over the subject of woman's rights and woman's
wrongs. Mrs. Talbot introduced her to writers on the vexed question,
who had touched the theme with argument, sarcasm, invective and
bold, brilliant, specious generalities; read to her from their
books; commented on their deductions, and uttered sentiments on the
subject of reform and resistance as radical as the most extreme.

"We must agitate--we must act--we must do good deeds of valor and
self-sacrifice for our sex," she said, in her enthusiastic way.
"Every woman, whether of high or low condition, of humble powers or
vigorous intellect, has a duty to perform, and she is false to the
honor and rights of her sex if she do not array herself on the side
of freedom. You have great responsibilities resting upon you, my
young friend. I say it soberly, even solemnly. Responsibilities
which may not be disregarded without evil consequences to yourself
and others. You are young, clear-thoughted and resolute--have will,
purpose and endurance. You are married to a young man destined, I
think, to make his mark in the world; but, as I have said before, a
false education has given him erroneous ideas on this great and
important subject. Now what is your duty?"

The lady paused as if for an answer.

"What is your duty, my dear young friend?" she repeated.

"I will answer for you," she continued. "Your duty is to be true to
yourself and to your sisters in bonds."

"In bonds! _I_ in bonds!" Mrs. Talbot touched her to the quick.

"Are you a free woman?" The inquiry was calmly made.

Irene started to the floor and moved across the room, then turned
and came back again. Her cheeks burned and her eyes flashed. She
stood before Mrs. Talbot and looked at her steadily.

"The question has disturbed you?" said the lady.

"It has," was the brief answer.

"Why should it disturb you?"

Irene did not answer.

"I can tell you."

"Say on."

"You are in bonds, and feel the fetters."

"Mrs. Talbot!"

"It is so, my poor child, and you know it as well as I do. From the
beginning of our acquaintance I have seen this; and more than once,
in our various conversations, you have admitted the fact."

"I?"

"Yes, you."

Irene let her thoughts run back through the sentiments and opinions
which she had permitted herself to utter in the presence of her
friend, to see if she had so fully betrayed herself. She could not
recall the distinct language, but it was plain that Mrs. Talbot had
her secret, and therefore reserve on the subject was useless.

"Well," she said, after standing for some time before Mrs. Talbot,
"if I am in bonds, it is not because I do not worship freedom."

"I know that," was the quickly-spoken answer. "And it is because I
wish to see you a free woman that I point to your bonds. Now is the
time to break them--now, before years have increased their
strength--now, before habit has made tyranny a part of your
husband's nature. He is your ruler, because the social sentiment is
in favor of manly domination. There is hope for you now, and now
only. You must begin the work of reaction while both are young. Let
your husband understand, from this time, that you are his equal. It
may go a little hard at first. He will, without doubt, hold on to
the reins, for power is sweet; but if there be true love for you in
his heart, he will yield in the struggle, and make you his companion
and equal, as you should be. If his love be not genuine, why--"

She checked herself. It might be going a step too far with her young
friend to utter the thought that was coming to her lips. Irene did
not question her as to what more she was about to say. There was
stimulus enough in the words already spoken. She felt all the
strength of her nature rising into opposition.

"Yes, I will be free," she said in her heart. "I will be his equal,
not his slave."

"It may cost you some pain in the beginning," resumed the tempter.

"I am not afraid of pain," said Irene.

"A brave heart spoke there. I wish we had more on our side with the
stuff you are made of. There would be hope of a speedier reform than
is now promised."

"Heaven send the reform right early! It cannot come a day too soon."
Irene spoke with rising ardor.

"It will be our own fault," said Mrs. Talbot, "if we longer bow our
necks to the yoke or move obedient to our task-masters. Let us lay
the axe to the very root of this evil and hew it down."

"Even if we are crushed by the tree in falling," responded Irene, in
the spirit of a martyr.

From this interview our wrong-directed young friend went home with
more clearly defined purposes touching her conduct toward her
husband than she had hitherto entertained. She saw him in a new
aspect, and in a character more definitely outlined. He loomed up in
more colossal proportions, and put on sterner features. All
disguises were thrown away, and he stood forth, not a loving
husband, but the tyrant of her home. Weak, jealous, passion-tost
child! how this strong, self-willed, false woman of the world had
bewildered her thoughts, and pushed her forth into an arena of
strife, where she could only beat about blindly, and hurt herself
and others, yet accomplish no good.

From her interview with Mrs. Talbot, Irene went home, bearing more
distinct ideas of resistance in her mind. In this great crisis of
her life she felt that she needed just such a friend, who could give
direction to her striving spirit, and clothe for her in thoughts the
native impulses that she knew only as a love of freedom. She
believed now that she understood herself better than before, and
comprehended more clearly her duties and responsibilities.

It was in this mood of mind that she met her husband when he
returned in the afternoon from his office. Happily for them, he was
in a quiet, non-resistant state, and in a special good-humor with
himself and the world. Professional matters had shaped themselves to
his wishes, and left his mind at peace. Irene had, in consequence,
everything pretty much her own way. Hartley did not fail to notice a
certain sharpness of manner about her, and a certain spiciness of
sentiment when the subject of their intermittent talks verged on
themes relating to women; but he felt no inclination whatever for
argument or opposition, and so her arrows struck a polished shield,
and went gracefully and harmlessly aside.

"Shall we go and have a merry laugh with Matthews to-night?" said
Hartley, as they sat at the tea-table. "I feel just in the humor."

"No, I thank you," replied Irene, curtly. "I don't incline to the
laughing mood, just now."

"Laughing is contagious," suggested Hartley.

"I shall not take the infection to-night." And she balanced her
little head with the perpendicularity of a plumb-line.

"Can't I persuade you?" He was in a real good-humor, and smiled as
he said this.

"No, sir. You may waive both argument and persuasion. I am in
earnest."

"And when a woman is in earnest you might as well essay to move the
Pillars of Hercules."

"You might as well in my case," answered Irene, without any
softening of tone or features.

"Then I shall not attempt, after a hard day's work, a task so
difficult. I am in a mood for rest and quiet," said the young
husband.

"Perhaps," he resumed, after a little pause, "you may feel somewhat
musical. There is to be a vocal and instrumental concert to-night.
What say you to going there? I think I could enjoy some good
singing, mightily."

Irene closed her lips firmly, and shook her head.

"Not musically inclined this evening?"

"No," she replied.

"Got a regular stay-at-home feeling?"

"Yes."

"Enough," said Hartley, with unshadowed good-humor, "we will stay at
home."

And he sung a snatch of the familiar song--"There's no place like
home," rising, as he did so, from the table, and offering Irene his
arm. She could do no less than accept the courtesy, and so they went
up to their cozy sitting-room arm-in-arm--he chatty, and she almost
silent.

"What's the matter, petty?" he asked, in a fond way, after trying
for some time, but in vain, to draw her out into pleasant
conversation. "Ain't you well to-night?"

Now, so far as her bodily state was concerned, Irene never felt
better in her life. So she could not plead indisposition.

"I feel well," she replied, glancing up into her husband's face in a
cold, embarrassed kind of way.

"Then your looks belie your condition--that's all. If it isn't the
body, it must be the mind. What's gone wrong, darling?"

The tenderness in Hartley's tones was genuine, and the heart of
Irene leaped to his voice with a responsive throe. But was he not
her master and tyrant? How that thought chilled the sweet impulse!

"Nothing wrong," she answered, with a sadness of tone which she was
unable to conceal. "But I feel dull, and cannot help it."

"You should have gone with me to laugh with Matthews. He would have
shaken all these cobwebs from your brain. Come! it is not yet too
late."

But the rebel spirit was in her heart; and to have acceded to he
husband's wishes would have been to submit herself to control.

"You must excuse me," she replied. "I feel as if home were the
better place for me to-night."

An impatient answer was on her tongue; but she checked its
utterance, and spoke from a better spirit.

Not even as a lover had Hartley shown more considerate tenderness
than marked all his conduct toward Irene this evening. His mind was
in a clear-seeing region, and his feelings tranquil. The sphere of
her antagonism failed to reach him. He did not understand the
meaning of her opposition to his wishes, and so pride, self-love and
self-will remained quiescent. How peacefully unconscious was he of
the fact that his feet were standing over a mine, and that a single
spark of passion struck from him would have sprung that mine in
fierce explosion! He read to Irene from a volume which he knew to be
a favorite; talked to her about Ivy Cliff and her father; suggested
an early visit to the pleasant old river home; and thus charmed away
the evil spirits which had found a lodgment in her bosom.

But how different it might have been!



CHAPTER XIII.

THE REFORMERS.


_SOCIAL_ theories that favor our passions, peculiarities, defects of
character or weaknesses are readily adopted, and, with minds of an
ardent temper, often become hobbies. There is a class of persons who
are never content with riding their own hobbies; they must have
others mount with them. All the world is going wrong because it
moves past them--trotting, pacing or galloping, as it may be, upon
its own hobbies. And so they try to arrest this movement or that,
or, gathering a company of aimless people, they galvanize them with
their own wild purposes, and start them forth into the world on
Quixotic errands.

These persons are never content to wait for the slow changes that
are included in all orderly developments. Because a thing seems
right to them in the abstract, it must be done now. They cannot wait
for old things to pass away, as preliminary to the inauguration of
what is new.

"If I had the power," we have heard one of this class say, "evil and
sorrow and pain should cease from the earth in a moment." And in
saying this the thought was not concealed that God had this power,
but failed to exercise it. With them no questions of expediency, no
regard for time-endowed prejudices, no weak spirit of waiting, no
looking for the fullness of time could have any influence. What they
willed to be done must be done now; and they were impatient and
angry at every one who stood in their way or opposed their theories.

In most cases, you will find these "reformers," as they generally
style themselves, governed more by a love of ruling and influencing
others than by a spirit of humanity. They are one-sided people, and
can only see one side of a subject in clear light. It matters little
to them what is destroyed, so that they can build. If they possess
the gift of language, either as writers or talkers--have wit,
brilliancy and sarcasm--they make disciples of the less gifted, and
influence larger or smaller circles of men and women. Flattered by
this homage to their talents, they grow more ardent in the cause
which they have espoused, and see, or affect to see, little else of
any importance in the world. They do some good and much harm. Good,
in drawing general attention to social evils that need
reforming--evil, in causing weak people to forget common duties in
their ambition to set the world right.

There is always danger in breaking suddenly away from the regular
progression of things and taking the lead in some new and
antagonistic movement. Such things must and will be; but they who
set up for social reformers must be men and women of pure hearts,
clear minds and the broadest human sympathies. They must be lovers
of their kind, not lovers of themselves; brave as patriots, not as
soldiers of fortune who seek for booty and renown.

Not many of these true reformers--all honor to them!--are found
among the noisy coteries that infest the land and turn so many
foolish people away from real duties.

One of the dangers attendant on association with the class to which
we refer lies in the fact that they draw around them certain
free-thinking, sensual personages, of no very stable morality, who
are ready for anything that gives excitement to their morbid
conditions of mind. Social disasters, of the saddest kind, are
constantly occurring through this cause. Men and women become at
first unsettled in their opinions, then unsettled in their conduct,
and finally throw off all virtuous restraint.

Mrs. Talbot, the new friend of Mrs. Emerson, belonged to the better
sort of reformers in one respect. She was a pure-minded woman; but
this did not keep her out of the circle of those who were of freer
thought and action. Being an extremist on the subject of woman's
social position, she met and assimilated with others on the basis of
a common sentiment. This threw her in contact with many from whom
she would have shrunk with instinctive aversion had she known their
true quality. Still, the evil to her was a gradual wearing away, by
the power of steady attrition, of old, true, conservative ideas in
regard to the binding force of marriage. There was always a great
deal said on this subject, in a light way, by persons for whose
opinions on other subjects she had the highest respect, and this had
its influence. Insensibly her views and feelings changed, until she
found herself, in some cases, the advocate of sentiments that once
would have been rejected with instinctive repugnance.

This was the woman who was about acquiring a strong influence over
the undisciplined, self-willed and too self-reliant young wife of
Hartley Emerson; and this was the class of personages among whom her
dangerous friend was about introducing her. At the house of Mrs.
Talbot, where Irene became a frequent visitor, she met a great many
brilliant, talented and fascinating people, of whom she often spoke
to her husband, for she was too independent to have any
concealments. She knew that he did no like Mrs. Talbot, but this
rather inclined her to a favorable estimation, and really led to a
more frequent intercourse than would otherwise have been the case.

Once a week Mrs. Talbot held a kind of conversazione, at which
brilliant people and people with hobbies met to hear themselves
talk. Mr. and Mrs. Emerson had a standing invitation to be present
at these reunions, and, as Irene wished to go, her husband saw it
best not to interpose obstacles. Besides, as he knew that she went
to Mrs. Talbot's often in the day-time, and met a good many people
there, he wished to see for himself who they were, and judge for
himself as to their quality. Of the men who frequented the parlors
of Mrs. Talbot, the larger number had some prefix to their names, as
Professor, Doctor, Major, or Colonel. Most of the ladies were of a
decidedly literary turn--some had written books, some were magazine
contributors, one was a physician, and one a public lecturer.
Nothing against them in all this, but much to their honor if their
talents and acquirements were used for the common good.

The themes of conversation at these weekly gatherings were varied,
but social relations and social reform were in most cases the
leading topics. Two or three evenings at Mrs. Talbot's were enough
to satisfy Mr. Emerson that the people who met there were not of a
character to exercise a good influence upon his wife. But how was he
to keep her from associations that evidently presented strong
attractions? Direct opposition he feared to make, for the experience
of a few months had been sufficient to show him that she would
resist all attempts on his part to exercise a controlling influence.

He tried at first to keep her away by feigning slight indisposition,
or weariness, or disinclination to go out, and so lead her to
exercise some self-denial for his sake. But her mind was too firmly
bent on going to be turned so easily from its purpose; she did not
consider trifles like these of sufficient importance to interfere
with the pleasures of an evening at one of Mrs. Talbot's
conversaziones. Mr. Emerson felt hurt at his wife's plain disregard
of his comfort and wishes, and said within himself, with bitterness
of feeling, that she was heartless.

One day, at dinner-time, he said to her--

"I shall not be able to go to Mrs. Talbot's to-night."

"Why?" Irene looked at her husband in surprise, and with a shade of
disappointment on her countenance.

"I have business of importance with a gentleman who resides in
Brooklyn, and have promised to meet him at his house this evening."

"You might call for me on your return," said Irene.

"The time of my return will be uncertain. I cannot now tell how late
I may be detained in Brooklyn."

"I'm sorry." And Irene bent down her eyes in a thoughtful way. "I
promised Mrs. Talbot to be there to-night," she added.

"Mrs. Talbot will excuse you when she knows why you were absent."

"I don't know about that," said Irene.

"She must be a very unreasonable woman," remarked Emerson.

"That doesn't follow. You could take me there, and Mrs. Talbot find
me an escort home."

"Who?" Emerson knit his brows and glanced sharply at his wife. The
suggestion struck him unpleasantly.

"Major Willard, for instance;" and she smiled in a half-amused,
half-mischievous way.

"You cannot be in earnest, surely?" said Emerson.

"Why not?" queried his wife, looking at her husband with calm,
searching eyes.

"You would not, in the first place, be present there, unaccompanied
by your husband; and, in the second place, I hardly think my wife
would be seen in the street, at night, on the arm of Major Willard."

Mr. Emerson spoke like a man who was in earnest.

"Do you know anything wrong of Major Willard?" asked Irene.

"I know nothing about him, right or wrong," was replied. "But, if I
have any skill in reading men, he is very far from being a fine
specimen."

"Why, Hartley! You have let some prejudice come in to warp your
estimation."

"No. I have mixed some with men, and, though my opportunity for
observation has not been large, I have met two or three of your
Major Willards. They are polished and attractive on the surface, but
unprincipled and corrupt."

"I cannot believe this of Major Willard," said Irene.

"It might be safer for you to believe it," replied Hartley.

"Safer! I don't understand you! You talk in riddles? How safer?"

Irene showed some irritation.

"Safer as to your good name," replied her husband.

"My good name is in my own keeping," said the young wife, proudly.

"Then, for Heaven's sake, remain its safe custodian," replied
Emerson. "Don't let even the shadow of a man like Major Willard fall
upon it."

"I am sorry to see you so prejudiced," said Irene, coldly; "and
sorry, still further, that you have so poor an opinion of your
wife."

"You misapprehend me," returned Hartley. "I am neither prejudiced
nor suspicious. But seeing danger in your way, as a prudent man I
lift a voice of warning. I am out in the world more than you are,
and see more of its worst side. My profession naturally opens to me
doors of observation that are shut to many. I see the inside of
character, where others look only upon the fair outside."

"And so learn to be suspicious of everybody," said Irene.

"No; only to read indices that to many others are unintelligible."

"I must learn to read them also."

"It would be well if your sex and place in the world gave the right
opportunity," replied Hartley.

"Truly said. And that touches the main question. Women, immured as
they now are, and never suffered to go out into the world unless
guarded by husband, brother or discreet managing friend, will
continue as weak and undiscriminating as the great mass of them now
are. But, so far as I am concerned, this system is destined to
change. I must be permitted a larger liberty, and opportunities for
independent observation. I wish to read character for myself, and
make up my own mind in regard to the people I meet."

"I am only sorry," rejoined her husband, "that your first effort at
reading character and making up independent opinions in regard to
men and principles had not found scope in another direction. I am
afraid that, in trying to get close enough to the people you meet at
Mrs. Talbot's for accurate observation, you will draw so near to
dangerous fires as to scorch your garments."

"Complimentary to Mrs. Talbot!"

"The remark simply gives you my estimate of some of her favored
visitors."

"And complimentary to your wife," added Irene.

"My wife," said Hartley, in a serious voice, "is, like myself, young
and inexperienced, and should be particularly cautious in regard to
all new acquaintances--men or women--particularly if they be some
years her senior, and particularly if they show any marked desire to
cultivate her acquaintance. People with a large worldly experience,
like most of those we have met at Mrs. Talbot's, take you and I at
disadvantage. They read us through at a single sitting, while it may
take us months, even years, to penetrate the disguises they know so
well how to assume."

"Nearly all of which, touching the pleasant people we meet at Mrs.
Talbot's, is assumed," replied Irene, not at all moved by her
husband's earnestness.

"You may learn to your sorrow, when the knowledge comes too late,"
he responded, "that even more than I have assumed is true."

"I am not in fear of the sorrow," was answered lightly.

As Irene, against all argument, persuasion and remonstrance on the
part of her husband, persisted in her determination to go to Mrs.
Talbot's, he engaged a carriage to take her there and to call for
her at eleven o'clock.

"Come away alone," he said, with impressive earnestness, as he
parted from her. "Don't let any courteous offer induce you to accept
an attendant when you return home."



CHAPTER XIV.

A STARTLING EXPERIENCE.


_MRS. EMERSON_ did not feel altogether comfortable in mind as she
rode away from her door alone. She was going unattended by her
husband, and against his warmly-spoken remonstrance, to pass an
evening with people of whom she knew but little, and against whom he
had strong prejudices.

"It were better to have remained at home," she said to herself more
than once before her arrival at Mrs. Talbot's. The marked attentions
she received, as well from Mrs. Talbot as from several of her
guests, soon brought her spirits up to the old elevation. Among
those who seemed most attracted by her was Major Willard, to whom
reference has already been made.

"Where is your husband?" was almost his first inquiry on meeting
her. "I do not see him in the room."

"He had to meet a gentleman on business over in Brooklyn this
evening," replied Irene.

"Ah, business!" said the major, with a shrug, a movement of the
eyebrows and a motion in the corners of his mouth which were not
intelligible signs to Mrs. Emerson. That they meant something more
than he was prepared to utter in words, she was satisfied, but
whether of favorable or unfavorable import touching her absent
husband, she could not tell. The impression on her mind was not
agreeable, and she could not help remembering what Hartley had said
about the major.

"I notice," remarked the latter, "that we have several ladies here
who come usually without their husbands. Gentlemen are not always
attracted by the feast of reason and the flow of soul. They require
something more substantial. Oysters and terrapin are nearer to their
fancy."

"Not more to my husband's fancy," replied Mrs. Emerson, in a tone of
vindication, as well as rebuke at such freedom of speech.

"Beg your pardon a thousand times, madam!" returned Major Willard,
"if I have even seemed to speak lightly of one who holds the honored
position of your husband. Nothing could have been farther from my
thought. I was only trifling."

Mrs. Emerson smiled her forgiveness, and the major became more
polite and attentive than before. But his attentions were not wholly
agreeable. Something in the expression of his eyes as he looked at
her produced an unpleasant repulsion. She was constantly remembering
some of the cautions spoken by Hartley in reference to this man, and
she wished scores of times that he would turn his attentions to some
one else. But the major seemed to have no eyes for any other lady in
the room.

In spite of the innate repulsion to which we have referred, Mrs.
Emerson was flattered by the polished major's devotion of himself
almost wholly to her during the evening, and she could do no less in
return than make herself as agreeable as possible.

At eleven o'clock she had notice that her carriage was at the door.
The major was by, and heard the communication. So, when she came
down from the dressing-room, he was waiting for her in the hall,
ready cloaked and gloved.

"No, Major Willard, I thank you," she said, on his making a movement
to accompany her. She spoke very positively.

"I cannot see you go home unattended." And the major bowed with
graceful politeness.

"Oh no," said Mrs. Talbot. "You must not leave my house alone.
Major, I shall expect you to attend my young friend."

It was in vain that Mrs. Emerson objected and remonstrated, the
gallant major would listen to nothing; and so, perforce, she had to
yield. After handing her into the carriage, he spoke a word or two
in an undertone to the driver, and then entering, took his place by
her side.

Mrs. Emerson felt strangely uncomfortable and embarrassed, and
shrunk as far from her companion as the narrow space they occupied
would permit; while he, it seemed to her, approached as she receded.
There was a different tone in his voice when he spoke as the
carriage moved away from any she had noticed heretofore. He drew his
face near to hers in speaking, but the rattling of the wheels made
hearing difficult. He had, during the evening, referred to a star
actress then occupying public attention, of whom some scandalous
things had been said, and declared his belief in her innocence. To
Mrs. Emerson's surprise--almost disgust--his first remark after they
were seated in the carriage was about this actress. Irene did not
respond to his remark.

"Did you ever meet her in private circles?" he next inquired.

"No, sir," she answered, coldly.

"I have had that pleasure," said Major Willard.

There was no responsive word.

"She is a most fascinating woman," continued the major. "That
Juno-like beauty which so distinguishes her on the stage scarcely
shows itself in the drawing-room. On the stage she is queenly--in
private, soft, voluptuous and winning as a houri. I don't wonder
that she has crowds of admirers."

The major's face was close to that of his companion, who felt a wild
sense of repugnance, so strong as to be almost suffocating. The
carriage bounded as the wheels struck an inequality in the street,
throwing them together with a slight concussion. The major laid his
hand upon that of Mrs. Emerson, as if to support her. But she
instantly withdrew the hand he had presumed to touch. He attempted
the same familiarity again, but she placed both hands beyond the
possibility of accidental or designed contact with his, and shrank
still closer into the corner of the carriage, while her heart
fluttered and a tremor ran through her frame.

Major Willard spoke again of the actress, but Mrs. Emerson made no
reply.

"Where are we going?" she asked, after the lapse of some ten
minutes, glancing from the window and seeing, instead of the tall
rows of stately houses which lined the streets along the whole
distance between Mrs. Talbot's residence and her own house,
mean-looking tenements.

"The driver knows his route, I presume," was answered.

"This is not the way, I am sure," said Mrs. Emerson, a slight quiver
of alarm in her voice.

"Our drivers know the shortest cuts," replied the major, "and these
do not always lead through the most attractive quarters of the
town."

Mrs. Emerson shrunk back again in her seat and was silent. Her heart
was throbbing with a vague fear. Suddenly the carriage stopped and
the driver alighted.

"This is not my home," said Mrs. Emerson, as the driver opened the
door, and the major stepped out upon the pavement.

"Oh, yes. This is No. 240 L---- street. Yes, ma'am," added the
driver, "this is the number that the gentleman told me."

"What gentleman?" asked Mrs. Emerson.

"This gentleman, if you please, ma'am."

"Drive me home instantly, or this may cost you dear!" said Mrs.
Emerson, in as stern a voice as surprise and fear would permit her
to assume.

"Madam--" Major Willard commenced speaking.

"Silence, sir! Shut the door, driver, and take me home instantly!"

The major made a movement as if he were about to enter the carriage,
when Mrs. Emerson said, in a low, steady, threatening voice--

"At your peril, remain outside! Driver, shut the door. If you permit
that man to enter, my husband will hold you to a strict account."

"Stand back!" exclaimed the driver, in a resolute voice.

But the major was not to be put off in this way. He did not move
from the open door of the carriage. In the next moment the driver's
vigorous arm had hurled him across the pavement. The door was shut,
the box mounted and the carriage whirled away, before the astonished
man could rise, half stunned, from the place where he fell. A few
low, bitter, impotent curses fell from his lips, and then he walked
slowly away, muttering threats of vengeance.

It was nearly twelve o'clock when Irene reached home.

"You are late," said her husband, as she came in.

"Yes," she replied, "later than I intended."

"What's the matter?" he inquired, looking at her narrowly.

"Why do you ask?" She tried to put on an air of indifference.

"You look pale and your voice is disturbed."

"The driver went through parts of the town in returning that made me
feel nervous, as I thought of my lonely and unprotected situation."

"Why did he do that?"

"It wasn't to make the way shorter, for the directest route would
have brought me home ten minutes ago. I declare! The fellow's
conduct made me right nervous. I thought a dozen improbable things."

"It is the last time I will employ him," said Hartley. "How dare he
go a single block away from a direct course, at this late hour?" He
spoke with rising indignation.

At first, Irene resolved to inform her husband of Major Willard's
conduct, but it will be seen by this conversation that she had
changed her mind, at least for the present. Two or three things
caused her to hesitate until she could turn the matter over in her
thoughts more carefully. Pride had its influence. She did not care
to admit that she had been in error and Hartley right as to Major
Willard. But there was a more sober aspect of the case. Hartley was
excitable, brave and strong-willed. She feared the consequences that
might follow if he were informed of Major Willard's outrageous
conduct. A personal collision she saw to be almost inevitable in
this event. Mortifying publicity, if not the shedding of blood,
would ensue.

So, for the present at least, she resolved to keep her own secret,
and evaded the close queries of her husband, who was considerably
disturbed by the alleged conduct of the driver.

One good result followed this rather startling experience. Irene
said no more about attending the conversaziones of Mrs. Talbot. She
did not care to meet Major Willard again, and as he was a regular
visitor at Mrs. Talbot's, she couldn't go there without encountering
him. Her absence on the next social evening was remarked by her new
friend, who called on her the next day.

"I didn't see you last night," said the agreeable Mrs. Talbot.

"No, I remained at home," replied Mrs. Emerson, the smile with which
she had received her friend fading partly away.

"Not indisposed, I hope?"

"No."

"But your husband was! Talk it right out, my pretty one!" said Mrs.
Talbot, in a gay, bantering tone. "Indisposed in mind. He don't like
the class of people one meets at my house. Men of his stamp never
do."

It was on the lips of Mrs. Emerson to say that there might be ground
for his dislike of some who were met there. But she repressed even a
remote reference to an affair that, for the gravest of reasons, she
still desired to keep as her own secret. So she merely answered--

"The indisposition of mind was on my part."

"On your part? Oh dear! That alters the case. And, pray, what
occasioned this indisposition? Not a previous mental surfeit, I
hope."

"Oh no. I never get a surfeit in good company. But people's states
vary, as you are aware. I had a stay-at-home feeling last night, and
indulged myself."

"Very prettily said, my dear. I understand you entirely, and like
your frank, outspoken way. This is always best with friends. I
desire all of mine to enjoy the largest liberty--to come and see me
when they feel like it, and to stay away when they don't feel like
coming. We had a delightful time. Major Willard was there. He's a
charming man! Several times through the evening he asked for you. I
really think your absence worried him. Now, don't blush! A handsome,
accomplished man may admire a handsome and accomplished woman,
without anything wrong being involved. Because one has a husband, is
she not to be spoken to or admired by other men? Nonsense! That is
the world's weak prudery, or rather the common social sentiment
based on man's tyranny over woman."

As Mrs. Talbot ran on in this strain, Mrs. Emerson had time to
reflect and school her exterior. Toward Major Willard her feelings
were those of disgust and detestation. The utterance of his name
shocked her womanly delicacy, but when it was coupled with a
sentiment of admiration for her, and an intimation of the probable
existence of something reciprocal on her part, it was with
difficulty that she could restrain a burst of indignant feeling. But
her strong will helped her, and she gave no intelligible sign of
what was really passing in her thoughts. The subject being
altogether disagreeable, she changed it as soon as possible.

In this interview with Mrs. Talbot a new impression in regard to her
was made on the mind of Mrs. Emerson. Something impure seemed to
pervade the mental atmosphere with which she was surrounded, and
there seemed to be things involved in what she said that shadowed a
latitude in morals wholly outside of Christian duty. When they
separated, much of the enthusiasm which Irene had felt for this
specious, unsafe acquaintance was gone, and her power over her was
in the same measure lessened.



CHAPTER XV.

CAPTIVATED AGAIN.


_BUT_ it is not so easily escaping from a woman like Mrs. Talbot,
when an acquaintanceship is once formed. In less than a week she
called again, and this time in company with another lady, a Mrs.
Lloyd, whom she introduced as a very dear friend. Mrs. Lloyd was a
tall, spare woman, with an intellectual face, bright, restless,
penetrating eyes, a clear musical voice, subdued, but winning
manners. She was a little past thirty, though sickness of body or
mind had stolen the bloom of early womanhood, and carried her
forward, apparently, to the verge of forty. Mrs. Emerson had never
before heard of this lady. But half an hour's conversation
completely captivated her. Mrs. Lloyd had traveled through Europe,
and spoke in a familiar way of the celebrated personages whom she
had met abroad,--talked of art, music and architecture, literature,
artists and literary men--displayed such high culture and easy
acquaintance with themes quite above the range usually met with
among ordinary people, that Mrs. Emerson felt really flattered with
the compliment of a visit.

"My good friend, Mrs. Talbot," said Mrs. Lloyd, during their
conversation, "has spoken of you so warmly that I could do no less
than make overtures for an acquaintance, which I trust may prove
agreeable. I anticipated the pleasure of seeing you at her house
last week, but was disappointed."

"The interview of to-day," remarked Mrs. Talbot, coming in adroitly,
"will only make pleasanter your meeting on to-morrow night."

"At your house?" said Mrs. Lloyd.

"Yes." And Mrs. Talbot threw a winning smile upon Mrs. Emerson. "You
will be there?"

"I think not," was replied.

"Oh, but you must come, my dear Mrs. Emerson! We cannot do without
you."

"I have promised my husband to go out with him."

"Your husband!" The voice of Mrs. Talbot betrayed too plainly her
contempt of husbands.

"Yes, my husband." Mrs. Emerson let her voice dwell with meaning on
the word.

The other ladies looked at each other for a moment or two with
meaning glances; then Mrs. Talbot remarked, in a quiet way, but with
a little pleasantry in her voice, as if she were not right clear in
regard to her young friend's state of feeling,

"Oh dear! these husbands are dreadfully in the way, sometimes!
Haven't you found it so, Mrs. Lloyd?"

The eyes of Mrs. Emerson were turned instantly to the face of her
new acquaintance. She saw a slight change of expression in her pale
face that took something from its agreeable aspect. And yet Mrs.
Lloyd smiled as she answered, in a way meant to be pleasant,

"They are very good in their place."

"The trouble," remarked Mrs. Talbot, in reply, "is to make them keep
their place."

"At our feet." Mrs. Emerson laughed as she said this.

"No," answered Mrs. Lloyd--"at our sides, as equals."

"And beyond that," said Mrs. Talbot, "we want them to give us as
much freedom in the world as they take for themselves. They come in
and go out when they please, and submit to no questioning on our
part. Very well; I don't object; only I claim the same right for
myself. 'I will ask my husband.' Don't you hear this said every day?
Pah! I'm always tempted to cut the acquaintance of a woman when I
hear these words from her lips. Does a man, when a friend asks him
to do anything or go anywhere, say, 'I'll ask my wife?' Not he. A
lady who comes occasionally to our weekly reunions, but whose
husband is too much of a man to put himself down to the level of our
set, is permitted the enjoyment of an evening with us, now and then,
on one condition."

"Condition!" There was a throb of indignant feeling in the voice of
Mrs. Lloyd.

"Yes, on condition that no male visitor at my house shall accompany
her home. A carriage is sent for her precisely at ten o'clock, when
she must leave, and alone."

"Humiliating!" ejaculated Mrs. Lloyd.

"Isn't it? I can scarcely have patience with her. Major Willard has,
at my instance, several times made an effort to accompany her, and
once actually entered her carriage. But the lady commanded him to
retire, or she would leave the carriage herself. Of course, when she
took that position, the gallant major had to leave the field."

"Such a restriction would scarce have suited my fancy," said Mrs.
Lloyd.

"Nor mine. What do you think of that?" And Mrs. Talbot looked into
the face of Mrs. Emerson, whose color had risen beyond its usual
tone.

"Circumstances alter cases," replied the latter, crushing out all
feeling from her voice and letting it fall into a dead level of
indifference.

"But circumstances don't alter facts, my dear. There are the hard
facts of restrictions and conditions, made by a man, and applied to
his equal, a woman. Does she say to him, You can't go to your club
unless you return alone in your carriage, and leave the club-house
precisely at ten o'clock? Oh no. He would laugh in her face, or,
perhaps, consult the family physician touching her sanity."

This mode of putting the question rather bewildered the mind of our
young wife, and she dropped her eyes from those of Mrs. Talbot and
sat looking upon the floor in silence.

"Can't you get your husband to release you from this engagement of
which you have spoken?" asked Mrs. Lloyd. "I should like above all
things to meet you to-morrow evening."

Mrs. Emerson smiled as she answered,

"Husbands have rights, young know, as well as wives. We must consult
their pleasure sometimes, as well as our own."

"Certainly--certainly." Mrs. Lloyd spoke with visible impatience.

"I promised to go with my husband to-morrow night," said Mrs.
Emerson; "and, much as I may desire to meet you at Mrs. Talbot's, I
am not at liberty to go there."

"In bonds! Ah me! Poor wives!" sighed Mrs. Talbot, in affected pity.
"Not at liberty! The admission which comes to us from all sides."

She laughed in her gurgling, hollow way as she said this.

"Not bound to my husband, but to my word of promise," replied Mrs.
Emerson, as pleasantly as her disturbed feelings would permit her to
speak. The ladies were pressing her a little too closely, and she
both saw and felt this. They were stepping beyond the bounds of
reason and delicacy.

Mrs. Lloyd saw the state of mind which had been produced, and at
once changed the subject.

"May I flatter myself with the prospect of having this call
returned?" she said, handing Mrs. Emerson her card as she was about
leaving.

"It will give me great pleasure to know you better, and you may look
to seeing me right early," was the bland reply. And yet Mrs. Emerson
was not really attracted by this woman, but, on the contrary,
repelled. There was something in her keen, searching eyes, which
seemed to be looking right into the thoughts, that gave her a
feeling of doubt.

"Thank you. The favor will be all on my side," said Mrs. Lloyd, as
she held the hand of Mrs. Emerson and gave it a warm pressure.

The visit of these ladies did not leave the mind of Irene in a very
satisfactory state. Some things that were said she rejected, while
other things lingered and occasioned suggestions which were not
favorable to her husband. While she had no wish to be present at
Mrs. Talbot's on account of Major Willard, she was annoyed by the
thought that Hartley's fixing on the next evening for her to go out
with him was to prevent her attendance at the weekly conversazione.

Irene did not mention to her husband the fact that she had received
a visit from Mrs. Talbot, in company with a pleasant stranger, Mrs.
Lloyd. It would have been far better for her if she had done so.
Many times it was on her lips to mention the call, but as often she
kept silent, one or the other of two considerations having
influence. Hartley did not like Mrs. Talbot, and therefore the
mention of her name, and the fact of her calling, would not be
pleasant theme. The other consideration had reference to a woman's
independence.

"He doesn't tell me of every man he meets through the day, and why
should I feel under obligation to speak of every lady who calls?" So
she thought. "As to Mrs. Lloyd, he would have a hundred prying
question's to ask, as if I we not competent to judge of the
character of my own friends and acquaintances?"

Within a week the call of Mrs. Lloyd was reciprocated by Mrs.
Emerson; not in consequence of feeling drawn toward that lady, but
she had promised to return the friendly visit, and must keep her
word. She found her domiciliated in a fashionable boarding-house,
and was received in the common parlor, in which were two or three
ladies and a gentleman, besides Mrs. Lloyd. The greeting she
received was warm, almost affectionate. In spite of the prejudice
that was creeping into her mind in consequence of an unfavorable
first impression, Mrs. Emerson was flattered by her reception, and
before the termination of her visit she was satisfied that she had
not, in the beginning, formed a right estimate of this really
fascinating woman.

"I hope to see you right soon," she said, as she bade Mrs. Lloyd
good-morning. "It will not be my fault if we do not soon know each
other better."

"Nor mine either," replied Mrs. Lloyd. "I think I shall find you
just after my own heart."

The voice of Mrs. Lloyd was a little raised as she said this, and
Mrs. Emerson noticed that a gentleman who was in the parlor when she
entered, but to whom she had not been introduced, turned and looked
at her with a steady, curious gaze, which struck her at the time as
being on the verge of impertinence.

Only two or three days passed before Mrs. Lloyd returned this visit.
Irene found her more interesting than ever. She had seen a great
deal of society, and had met, according to her own story, with most
of the distinguished men and women of the country, about whom she
talked in a very agreeable manner. She described their personal
appearance, habits, peculiarities and manners, and related pleasant
anecdotes about them. On authors and books she was entirely at home.

But there was an undercurrent of feeling in all she said that a
wiser and more experienced woman than Irene would have noted. It was
not a feeling of admiration for moral, but for intellectual, beauty.
She could dissect a character with wonderful skill, but always
passed the quality of goodness as not taken into account. In her
view this quality did not seem to be a positive element.

When Mrs. Lloyd went away, she left the mind of Irene stimulated,
restless and fluttering with vague fancies. She felt envious of her
new friend's accomplishments, and ambitious to move in as wide a
sphere as she had compassed. The visit was returned at an early
period, and, as before, Mrs. Emerson met Mrs. Lloyd in the public
parlor of her boarding-house. The same gentleman whose manner had a
little annoyed her was present, and she noticed several times, on
glancing toward him, that his eyes were fixed upon her, and with an
expression that she did not understand.

After this, the two ladies met every day or two, and sometimes
walked Broadway together. The only information that Mrs. Emerson had
in regard to her attractive friend she received from Mrs. Talbot.
According to her statement, she was a widow whose married life had
not been a happy one. The husband, like most husbands, was an
overbearing tyrant, and the wife, having a spirit of her own,
resisted his authority. Trouble was the consequence, and Mrs. Talbot
thought, though she was not certain, that a separation took place
before Mr. Lloyd's death. She had a moderate income, which came from
her husband's estate, on which she lived in a kind of idle
independence. So she had plenty of time to read, visit and enjoy
herself in the ways her fancy or inclination might prompt.



CHAPTER XVI.

WEARY OF CONSTRAINT.


_TIME_ moved on, and Mrs. Emerson's intimate city friends were those
to whom she had been introduced, directly or indirectly, through
Mrs. Talbot. Of these, the one who had most influence over her was
Mrs. Lloyd, and that influence was not of the right kind. Singularly
enough, it so happened that Mr. Emerson never let this lady at his
house, though she spent hours there every week; and, more singular
still, Irene had never spoken about her to her husband. She had
often been on the point of doing so, but an impression that Hartley
would take up an unreasonable prejudice against her kept the name of
this friend back from her lips.

Months now succeeded each other without the occurrence of events
marked by special interest. Mr. Emerson grew more absorbed in his
profession as cases multiplied on his hands, and Irene, interested
in her circle of bright-minded, independent-thoughted women, found
the days and weeks gliding on pleasantly enough. But habits of
estimating things a little differently from the common sentiment,
and views of life not by any means consonant with those prevailing
among the larger numbers of her sex, were gradually taking root.

Young, inexperienced, self-willed and active in mind, Mrs. Emerson
had most unfortunately been introduced among a class of persons
whose influence upon her could not fail to be hurtful. Their
conversation was mainly of art, literature, social progress and
development; the drama, music, public sentiment on leading topics of
the day; the advancement of liberal ideas, the necessity of a larger
liberty and a wider sphere of action for woman, and the equality of
the sexes. All well enough, all to be commended when viewed in their
just relation to other themes and interests, but actually pernicious
when separated from the homely and useful things of daily life, and
made so to overshadow these as to warp them into comparative
insignificance. Here lay the evil. It was this elevation of her
ideas above the region of use and duty into the mere æsthetic and
reformatory that was hurtful to one like Irene--that is, in fact,
hurtful to any woman, for it is always hurtful to take away from the
mind its interest in common life--the life, we mean, of daily useful
work.

Work! We know the word has not a pleasant sound to many ears, that
it seems to include degradation, and a kind of social slavery, and
lies away down in a region to which your fine, cultivated,
intellectual woman cannot descend without, in her view, soiling her
garments. But for all this, it is alone in daily useful work of mind
or hands, work in which service and benefits to others are involved,
that a woman (or a man) gains any true perfection of character. And
this work must be her own, must lie within the sphere of her own
relations to others, and she must engage in it from a sense of duty
that takes its promptings from her own consciousness of right. No
other woman can judge of her relation to this work, and she who
dares to interfere or turn her aside should be considered an
enemy--not a friend.

No wonder, if this be true, that we have so many women of taste,
cultivation, and often brilliant intellectual powers, blazing about
like comets or shooting stars in our social firmament. They attract
admiring attention, excite our wonder, give us themes for
conversation and criticism; but as guides and indicators while we
sail over the dangerous sea of life, what are they in comparison
with some humble star of the sixth magnitude that ever keeps its
true place in the heavens, shining on with its small but steady ray,
a perpetual blessing? And so the patient, thoughtful, loving wife
and mother, doing her daily work for human souls and bodies, though
her intellectual powers be humble, and her taste but poorly
cultivated, fills more honorably her sphere than any of her more
brilliant sisters, who cast off what they consider the shackles by
which custom and tyranny have bound them down to mere home duties
and the drudgery of household care. If down into these they would
bring their superior powers, their cultivated tastes, their larger
knowledge, how quickly would some desert homes in our land put on
refreshing greenness, and desolate gardens blossom like the rose! We
should have, instead of vast imaginary Utopias in the future, model
homes in the present, the light and beauty of which, shining abroad,
would give higher types of social life for common emulation.

Ah, if the Genius of Social Reform would only take her stand
centrally! If she would make the regeneration of homes the great
achievement of our day, then would she indeed come with promise and
blessing. But, alas! she is so far vagrant in her habits--a
fortune-telling gipsy, not a true, loving, useful woman.

Unhappily for Mrs. Emerson, it was the weird-eyed, fortune-telling
gipsy whose Delphic utterances had bewildered her mind.

The reconciliation which followed the Christmas-time troubles of
Irene and her husband had given both more prudent self-control. They
guarded themselves with a care that threw around the manner of each
a certain reserve which was often felt by the other as coldness. To
both this was, in a degree, painful. There was tender love in their
hearts, but it was overshadowed by self-will and false ideas of
independence on the one side, and by a brooding spirit of accusation
and unaccustomed restraint on the other. Many times, each day of
their lives, did words and sentiments, just about to be uttered by
Hartley Emerson, die unspoken, lest in them something might appear
which would stir the quick feelings of Irene into antagonism.

There was no guarantee of happiness in such a state of things.
Mutual forbearance existed, not from self-discipline and tender
love, but from fear of consequences. They were burnt children, and
dreaded, as well they might, the fire.

With little change in their relations to each other, and few events
worthy of notice, a year went by. Mr. Delancy came down to New York
several times during this period, spending a few days at each visit,
while Irene went frequently to Ivy Cliff, and stayed there,
occasionally, as long as two or three weeks. Hartley always came up
from the city while Irene was at her father's, but never stayed
longer than a single day, business requiring him to be at his office
or in court. Mr. Delancy never saw them together without closely
observing their manner, tone of speaking and language. Both, he
could see, were maturing rapidly. Irene had changed most. There was
a style of thinking, a familiarity with popular themes and a womanly
confidence in her expression of opinions that at times surprised
him. With her views on some subjects his own mind was far from being
in agreement, and they often had warm arguments. Occasionally, when
her husband was at Ivy Cliff a difference of sentiment would arise
between them. Mr. Delancy noticed, when this was the case, that
Irene always pressed her view with ardor, and that her husband,
after a brief but pleasant combat, retired from the field. He also
noticed that in most cases, after this giving up of the contest by
Hartley, he was more than usually quiet and seemed to be pondering
things not wholly agreeable.

Mr. Delancy was gratified to see that there was no jarring between
them. But he failed not at the same time to notice something else
that gave him uneasiness. The warmth of feeling, the tenderness, the
lover-like ardor which displayed itself in the beginning, no longer
existed. They did not even show that fondness for each other which
is so beautiful a trait in young married partners. And yet he could
trace no signs of alienation. The truth was, the action of their
lives had been inharmonious. Deep down in their hearts there was no
defect of love. But this love was compelled to hide itself away; and
so, for the most part, it lay concealed from even their own
consciousness.

During the second year of their married life there came a change of
state in both Irene and her husband. They had each grown weary of
constraint when together. It was irksome to be always on guard, lest
some word, tone or act should be misunderstood. In consequence, old
collisions were renewed, and Hartley often grew impatient and even
contemptuous toward his wife, when she ventured to speak of social
progress, woman's rights, or any of the kindred themes in which she
still took a warm interest. Angry retort usually followed on these
occasions, and periods of coldness ensued, the effect of which was
to produce states of alienation.

If a babe had come to soften the heart of Irene, to turn thought and
feeling in a new direction, to awaken a mother's love with all its
holy tenderness, how different would all have been!--different with
her, and different with him. There would then have been an object on
which both could centre interest and affection, and thus draw
lovingly together again, and feel, as in the beginning, heart
beating to heart in sweet accordings. They would have learned their
love-lessons over again, and understood their meanings better. Alas
that the angels of infancy found no place in their dwelling!

With no central attraction at home, her thoughts stimulated by
association with a class of intellectual, restless women, who were
wandering on life's broad desert in search of green places and
refreshing springs, each day's journey bearing them farther and
farther away from landscapes of perpetual verdure, Irene grew more
and more interested in subjects that lay for the most part entirely
out of the range of her husband's sympathies; while he was becoming
more deeply absorbed in a profession that required close application
of thought, intellectual force and clearness, and cold, practical
modes of looking at all questions that came up for consideration.
The consequence was that they were, in all their common interests,
modes of thinking and habits of regarding the affairs of life,
steadily receding from each other. Their evenings were now less
frequently spent together. If home had been a pleasant place to him,
Mr. Emerson would have usually remained at home after the day's
duties were over; or, if he went abroad, it would have been usually
in company with his wife. But home was getting to be dull, if not
positively disagreeable. If a conversation was started, it soon
involved disagreement in sentiment, and then came argument, and
perhaps ungentle words, followed by silence and a mutual writing
down in the mind of bitter things. If there was no conversation,
Irene buried herself in a book--some absorbing novel, usually of the
heroic school.

Naturally, under this state of things, Mr. Emerson, who was social
in disposition, sought companionship elsewhere, and with his own
sex. Brought into contact with men of different tastes, feelings and
habits of thinking, he gradually selected a few as intimate friends,
and, in association with these, formed, as his wife was doing, a
social point of interest outside of his home; thus widening still
further the space between them.

The home duties involved in housekeeping, indifferently as they had
always been discharged by Irene, were now becoming more and more
distasteful to her. This daily care about mere eating and drinking
seemed unworthy of a woman who had noble aspirations, such as burned
in her breast. That was work for women-drudges who had no higher
ambition; "and Heaven knows," she would often say to herself, "there
are enough and to spare of these."

"What's the use of keeping up an establishment like this just for
two people?" she would often remark to her husband; and he would
usually reply,

"For the sake of having a home into which one may retire and shut
out the world."

Irene would sometimes suggest the lighter expense of boarding.

"If it cost twice as much I would prefer to live in my own house,"
was the invariable answer.

"But see what a burden of care it lays on my shoulders."

Now Hartley could only with difficulty repress a word of impatient
rebuke when this argument was used. He thought of his own daily
devotion to business, prolonged often into the night, when an
important case was on hand, and mentally charged his wife with a
selfish love of ease. On the other hand, it seemed to Irene that her
husband was selfish in wishing her to bear the burdens of
housekeeping just for his pleasure or convenience, when they might
live as comfortably in a hotel or boarding-house.

On this subject Hartley would not enter into a discussion. "It's no
use talking, Irene," he would say, when she grew in earnest. "You
cannot tempt me to give up my home. It includes many things that
with me are essential to comfort. I detest boarding-houses; they are
only places for sojourning, not living."

As agreement on this subject was out of the question, Irene did not
usually urge considerations in favor of abandoning their pleasant
home.



CHAPTER XVII.

GONE FOR EVER!


_ONE_ evening--it was nearly three years from the date of their
marriage--Hartley Emerson and his wife were sitting opposite to each
other at the centre-table, in the evening. She had a book in her
hand and he held a newspaper before his face, but his eyes were not
on the printed columns. He had spoken only a few words since he came
in, and his wife noticed that he had the manner of one whose mind is
in doubt or perplexity.

Letting the newspaper fall upon the table at length, Hartley looked
over at his wife and said, in a quiet tone,

"Irene, did you ever meet a lady by the name of Mrs. Lloyd?"

The color mounted to the face of Mrs. Emerson as she replied,

"Yes, I have met her often."

"Since when?"

"I have known her intimately for the past two years."

"What!"

Emerson started to his feet and looked for some moments steadily at
his wife, his countenance expressing the profoundest astonishment.

"And never once mentioned to me her name! Has she ever called here?"

"Yes."

"Often?"

"As often as two or three times a week."

"Irene!"

Mrs. Emerson, bewildered at first by her husband's manner of
interrogating her, now recovered her self-possession, and, rising,
looked steadily at him across the table.

"I am wholly at a loss to understand you," she now said, calmly.

"Have you ever visited that person at her boarding-house?" demanded
Hartley.

"I have, often."

"And walked Broadway with her?"

"Certainly."

"Good heavens! can it be possible!" exclaimed the excited man.

"Pray, sir," said Irene, "who is Mrs. Lloyd?"

"An infamous woman!" was answered passionately.

"That is false!" said Irene, her eyes flashing as she spoke. "I
don't care who says so, I pronounce the words false!"

Hartley stood still and gazed at his wife for some moments without
speaking; then he sat down at the table from which he had arisen
and, shading his face with his hands, remained motionless for a long
time. He seemed like a man utterly confounded.

"Did you ever hear of Jane Beaufort?" he asked at length, looking up
at his wife.

"Oh yes; everybody has heard of her."

"Would you visit Jane Beaufort?"

"Yes, if I believed her innocent of what the world charges against
her."

"You are aware, then, that Mrs. Lloyd and Jane Beaufort are the same
person?"

"No, sir, I am not aware of any such thing."

"It is true."

"I do not believe it. Mrs. Lloyd I have known intimately for over
two years, and can verify her character."

"I am sorry for you, then, for a viler character it would be
difficult to find outside the haunts of infamy," said Emerson.

Contempt and anger were suddenly blended in his manner.

"I cannot hear one to whom I am warmly attached thus assailed. You
must not speak in that style of my friends, Hartley Emerson!"

"Your friends!" There was a look of intense scorn on his face.
"Precious friends, if she represent them, truly! Major Willard is
another, mayhap?"

The face of Irene turned deadly pale at the mention of this name.

"Ha!"

Emerson bent eagerly toward his wife.

"And is that true, also?"

"What? Speak out, sir!" Irene caught her breath, and grasped the
rein of self-control which had dropped, a moment, from her hands.

"It is said that Major Willard bears you company, at times, in your
rides home from evening calls upon your precious friends."

"And you believe the story?"

"I didn't believe it," said Hartley, but in a tone that showed
doubt.

"But have changed your mind?"

"If you say it is not true--that Major Willard never entered your
carriage--I will take your word in opposition to the whole world's
adverse testimony."

But Irene could not answer. Major Willard, as the reader knows, had
ridden with her at night, and alone. But once, and only once. A few
times since then she had encountered, but never deigned to
recognize, him. In her pure heart the man was held in utter
detestation.

Now was the time for a full explanation; but pride was
aroused--strong, stubborn pride. She knew herself to stand triple
mailed in innocency--to be free from weakness or taint; and the
thought that a mean, base suspicion had entered the mind of her
husband aroused her indignation and put a seal upon her lips as to
all explanatory utterances.

"Then I am to believe the worst?" said Hartley, seeing that his wife
did not answer. "The worst, and of you!"

The tone in which this was said, as well as the words themselves,
sent a strong throb to the heart of Irene. "The worst, and of you!"
This from her husband! and involving far more in tone and manner
than in uttered language. "Then I am to believe the worst!" She
turned the sentences over in her mind. Pride, wounded self-love, a
smothered sense of indignation, blind anger, began to gather their
gloomy forces in her mind. "The worst, and of you!" How the echoes
of these words came back in constant repetition! "The worst, and of
you!"

"How often has Major Willard ridden with you at night?" asked
Hartley, in a cold, resolute way.

No answer.

"And did you always come directly home?"

Hartley Emerson was looking steadily into the face of his wife, from
which he saw the color fall away until it became of an ashen hue.

"You do not care to answer. Well, silence is significative," said
the husband, closing his lips firmly. There was a blending of anger,
perplexity, pain, sorrow and scorn in his face, all of which Irene
read distinctly as she fixed her eyes steadily upon him. He tried to
gaze back until her eyes should sink beneath his steady look, but
the effort was lost; for not a single instant did they waver.

He was about turning away, when she arrested the movement by saying,

"Go on, Hartley Emerson! Speak of all that is in your mind. You have
now an opportunity that may never come again."

There was a dead level in her voice that a little puzzled her
husband.

"It is for you to speak," he answered. "I have put my
interrogatories."

Unhappily, there was a shade of imperiousness in his voice.

"I never answer insulting interrogatories; not even from the man who
calls himself my husband," replied Irene, haughtily.

"It may be best for you to answer," said Hartley. There was just the
shadow of menace in his tones.

"Best!" The lip of Irene curled slightly. "On whose account, pray?"

"Best for each of us. Whatever affects one injuriously must affect
both."

"Humph! So we are equals!" Irene tossed her head impatiently, and
laughed a short, mocking laugh.

"Nothing of that, if you please!" was the husband's impatient
retort. The sudden change in his wife's manner threw him off his
guard.

"Nothing of what?" demanded Irene.

"Of that weak, silly nonsense. We have graver matters in hand for
consideration now."

"Ah?" She threw up her eyebrows, then contracted them again with an
angry severity.

"Irene," said Mr. Emerson, his voice falling into a calm but severe
tone, "all this is but weakness and folly. I have heard things
touching your good name--"

"And believe them," broke in Irene, with angry impatience.

"I have said nothing as to belief or disbelief. The fact is grave
enough."

"And you have illustrated your faith in the slander--beautifully,
becomingly, generously!"

"Irene!"

"Generously, as a man who knew his wife. Ah, well!" This last
ejaculation was made almost lightly, but it involved great
bitterness of spirit.

"Do not speak any longer after this fashion," said Hartley, with
considerable irritation of manner; "it doesn't suit my present
temper. I want something in a very different spirit. The matter is
of too serious import. So pray lay aside your trifling. I came to
you as I had a right to come, and made inquiries touching your
associations when not in my company. Your answers are not
satisfactory, but tend rather to con--"

"Sir!" Irene interrupted him in a stern, deep voice, which came so
suddenly that the word remained unspoken. Then, raising her finger
in a warning manner, she said with menace,

"Beware!"

For some moments they stood looking at each other, more like two
animals at bay than husband and wife.

"Touching my associations when not in your company?" said Irene at
length, repeating his language slowly.

"Yes," answered the husband.

"Touching, my associations? Well, Mr. Emerson--so far, I say well."
She was collected in manner and her voice steady. "But what touching
your associations when not in _my_ company?"

The very novelty of this interrogation caused Emerson to start and
change color.

"Ha!" The blood leaped to the forehead of Irene, and her eyes,
dilating suddenly, almost glared upon the face of her husband.

"_Well, sir?_" Irene drew her slender form to its utmost height.
There was an impatient, demanding tone in her voice. "Speak!" she
added, without change of manner. "What touching _your_ associations
when not in _my_ company? As a wife, I have some interest in this
matter. Away from home often until the brief hours, have I no right
to put the question--where and with whom? It would seem so if we are
equal. But if I am the slave and dependant--the creature of your
will and pleasure--why, that alters the case!"

"Have you done?"

Emerson was recovering from his surprise, but not gaining clear
sight or prudent self-possession.

"You have not answered," said Irene, looking coldly, but with
glittering eyes, into his face. "Come! If there is to be a mutual
relation of acts and associations outside of this our home, let us
begin. Sit down, Hartley, and compose yourself. You are the man, and
claim precedence. I yield the prerogative. So let me have your
confession. After you have ended I will give as faithful a narrative
as if on my death-bed. What more can you ask? There now, lead the
way!"

This coolness, which but thinly veiled a contemptuous air, irritated
Hartley almost beyond the bounds of decent self-control.

"Bravely carried off! Well acted!" he retorted with a sneer.

"You do not accept the proposal," said Irene, growing a little
sterner of aspect. "Very well. I scarcely hoped that you would meet
me on this even ground. Why should I have hoped it? Were the
antecedents encouraging? No! But I am sorry. Ah, well! Husbands are
free to go and come at their own sweet will--to associate with
anybody and everybody. But wives--oh dear!"

She tossed her head in a wild, scornful way, as if on the verge of
being swept from her feet by some whirlwind of passion.

"And so," said her husband, after a long silence, "you do not choose
to answer my questions as to Major Willard?"

That was unwisely pressed. In her heart of hearts Irene loathed this
man. His name was an offence to her. Never, since the night he had
forced himself into her carriage, had she even looked into his face.
If he appeared in the room where she happened to be, she did not
permit her eyes to rest upon his detested countenance. If he drew
near to her, she did not seem to notice his presence. If he spoke to
her, as he had ventured several times to do, she paid no regard to
him whatever. So far as any response or manifestation of feeling on
her part was concerned, it was as if his voice had not reached her
ears. The very thought of this man was a foul thing in her mind. No
wonder that the repeated reference by her husband was felt as a
stinging insult.

"If you dare to mention that name again in connection with mine,"
she said, turning almost fiercely upon him, "I will--"

She caught the words and held them back in the silence of her wildly
reeling thoughts.

"Say on!"

Emerson was cool, but not sane. It was madness to press his excited
young wife now. Had he lost sense and discrimination? Could he not
see, in her strong, womanly indignation, the signs of innocence?
Fool! fool! to thrust sharply at her now!

"My father!" came in a sudden gush of strong feeling from the lips
of Irene, as the thought of him whose name was thus ejaculated came
into her mind. She struck her hands together, and stood like one in
wild bewilderment. "My father!" she added, almost mournfully; "oh,
that I had never left you!"

"It would have been better for you and better for me." No, he was
not sane, else would no such words have fallen from his lips.

Irene, with a slight start and a slight change in the expression of
her countenance, looked up at her husband:

"You think so?" Emerson was a little surprised at the way in which
Irene put this interrogation. He looked for a different reply.

"I have said it," was his cold answer.

"Well." She said no more, but looked down and sat thinking for the
space of more than a minute.

"I will go back to Ivy Cliff." She looked up, with something strange
in the expression of her face. It was a blank, unfeeling, almost
unmeaning expression.

"Well." It was Emerson's only response.

"Well; and that is all?" Her tones were so chilling that they came
over the spirit of her husband like the low waves of an icy wind.

"No, that is not all." What evil spirit was blinding his
perceptions? What evil influence pressing him on to the brink of
ruin?

"Say on." How strangely cold and calm she remained! "Say on," she
repeated. Was there none to warn him of danger?

"If you go a third time to your father--" He paused.

"Well?" There was not a quiver in her low, clear, icy tone.

"You must do it with your eyes open, and in full view of the
consequences."

"What are the consequences?"

Beware, rash man! Put a seal on your lips! Do not let the thought so
sternly held find even a shadow of utterance!

"Speak, Hartley Emerson. What are the consequences?"

"You cannot return!" It was said without a quiver of feeling.

"Well." She looked at him with an unchanged countenance, steadily,
coldly, piercingly.

"I have said the words, Irene; and they are no idle utterances.
Twice you have left me, but you cannot do it a third time and leave
a way open between us. Go, then, if you will; but, if we part here,
it must be for ever!"

The eyes of Irene dropped slowly. There was a slight change in the
expression of her face. Her hands moved one within the other
nervously.

For ever! The words are rarely uttered without leaving on the mind a
shade of thought. For ever! They brought more than a simple shadow
to the mind of Irene. A sudden darkness fell upon her soul, and for
a little while she groped about like one who had lost her way. But
her husband's threat of consequences, his cold, imperious manner,
his assumed superiority, all acted as sharp spurs to pride, and she
stood up, strong again, in full mental stature, with every power of
her being in full force for action and endurance.

"I go." There was no sign of weakness in her voice. She had raised
her eyes from the floor and turned them full upon her husband. Her
face was not so pale as it had been a little while before. Warmth
had come back to the delicate skin, flushing it with beauty. She did
not stand before him an impersonation of anger, dislike or
rebellion. There was not a repulsive attitude or expression; no
flashing of the eyes, nor even the cold, diamond glitter seen a
little while before. Slowly turning away, she left the room; but, to
her husband, she seemed still standing there, a lovely vision. There
had fallen, in that instant of time, a sunbeam which fixed the image
upon his memory in imperishable colors. What though he parted
company here with the vital form, that effigy would be, through all
time, his inseparable companion!

"Gone!" Hartley Emerson held his breath as the word came into mental
utterance. There was a motion of regret in his heart; a wish that he
had not spoken quite so sternly--that he had kept back a part of the
hard saying. But it was too late now. He could not, after all that
had just passed between them--after she had refused to answer his
questions touching Major Willard--make any concessions. Come what
would, there was to be no retracing of steps now.

"And it may be as well," said he, rallying himself, "that we part
here. Our experiment has proved a sad failure. We grow colder and
more repellant each day, instead of drawing closer together and
becoming more lovingly assimilated. It is not good--this life--for
either of us. We struggle in our bonds and hurt each other. Better
apart! better apart! Moreover"--his face darkened--"she has fallen
into dangerous companionship, and will not be advised or governed. I
have heard her name fall lightly from lips that cannot utter a
woman's name without leaving it soiled. She is pure now--pure as
snow. I have not a shadow of suspicion, though I pressed her close.
But this contact is bad; she is breathing an impure atmosphere; she
is assorting with some who are sensual and evil-minded, though she
will not believe the truth. Mrs. Lloyd! Gracious heavens! My wife
the intimate companion of that woman! Seen with her in Broadway! A
constant visitor at my house! This, and I knew it not!"

Emerson grew deeply agitated as he rehearsed these things. It was
after midnight when he retired. He did not go to his wife's
apartment, but passed to a room in the story above that in which he
usually slept.

Day was abroad when Emerson awoke the next morning, and the sun
shining from an angle that showed him to be nearly two hours above
the horizon. It was late for Mr. Emerson. Rising hurriedly, and in
some confusion of thought, he went down stairs. His mind, as the
events of the last evening began to adjust themselves, felt an
increasing sense of oppression. How was he to meet Irene? or was he
to meet her again? Had she relented? Had a night of sober reflection
wrought any change? Would she take the step he had warned her as a
fatal one?

With such questions crowding upon him, Hartley Emerson went down
stairs. In passing their chamber-door he saw that it stood wide
open, and that Irene was not there. He descended to the parlors and
to the sitting-room, but did not find her. The bell announced
breakfast; he might find her at the table. No--she was not at her
usual place when the morning meal was served.

"Where is Mrs. Emerson?" he asked of the waiter.

"I have not seen her," was replied.

Mr. Emerson turned away and went up to their chambers. His footsteps
had a desolate, echoing sound to his ears, as he bent his way
thither. He looked through the front and then through the back
chamber, and even called, faintly, the name of his wife. But all was
still as death. Now a small envelope caught his eye, resting on a
casket in which Irene had kept her jewelry. He lifted it, and saw
his name inscribed thereon. The handwriting was not strange. He
broke the seal and read these few words:

"I have gone. IRENE."

The narrow piece of tinted paper on which this was written dropped
from his nerveless fingers, and he stood for some moments still as
if death-stricken, and rigid as stone.

"Well," he said audibly, at length, stepping across the floor, "and
so the end has come!"

He moved to the full length of the chamber and then stood
still--turned, in a little while, and walked slowly back across the
floor--stood still again, his face bent down, his lips closely shut,
his finger-ends gripped into the palms.

"Gone!" He tried to shake himself free of the partial stupor which
had fallen upon him. "Gone!" he repeated. "And so this calamity is
upon us! She has dared the fatal leap! has spoken the irrevocable
decree! God help us both, for both have need of help; I and she, but
she most. God help her to bear the burden she has lifted to her weak
shoulders; she will find it a match for her strength. I shall go
into the world and bury myself in its cares and duties--shall find,
at least, in the long days a compensation in work--earnest,
absorbing, exciting work. But she? Poor Irene! The days and nights
will be to her equally desolate. Poor Irene! Poor Irene!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

YOUNG, BUT WISE.


_THE_ night had passed wearily for Mr. Delancy, broken by fitful
dreams, in which the image of his daughter was always
present--dreams that he could trace to no thoughts or impressions of
the day before; and he arose unrefreshed, and with a vague sense of
trouble in his heart, lying there like a weight which no involuntary
deep inspirations would lessen or remove. No June day ever opened in
fresher beauty than did this one, just four years since the actors
in our drama came smiling before us, in the flush of youth and hope
and confidence in the far-off future. The warmth of early summer had
sent the nourishing sap to every delicate twig and softly expanding
leaf until, full foliaged, the trees around Ivy Cliff stood in
kingly attire, lifting themselves up grandly in the sunlight which
flooded their gently-waving tops in waves of golden glory. The air
was soft and of crystal clearness; and the lungs drank it in as if
the draught were ethereal nectar.

On such a morning in June, after a night of broken and unrefreshing
sleep, Mr. Delancy walked forth, with that strange pressure on his
heart which he had been vainly endeavoring to push aside since the
singing birds awoke him, in the faint auroral dawn, with their
joyous welcome to the coming day. He drew in long draughts of the
delicious air; expanded his chest; moved briskly through the garden;
threw his arms about to hurry the sluggish flow of blood in his
veins; looked with constrained admiration on the splendid landscape
that stretched far and near in the sweep of his vision; but all to
no purpose. The hand still lay heavy upon his heart; he could not
get it removed.

Returning to the house, feeling more uncomfortable for this
fruitless effort to rise above what he tried to call an unhealthy
depression of spirits consequent on some morbid state of the body,
Mr. Delancy was entering the library, when a fresh young face
greeted him with light and smiles.

"Good-morning, Rose," said the old gentleman, as his face brightened
in the glow of the young girl's happy countenance. "I am glad to see
you;" and he took her hand and held it tightly.

"Good-morning, Mr. Delancy. When did you hear from Irene?"

"Ten days ago."

"She was well?"

"Oh yes. Sit down, Rose; there." And Mr. Delancy drew a chair before
the sofa for his young visitor, and took a seat facing her.

"I haven't had a letter from her in six months," said Rose, a sober
hue falling on her countenance.

"I don't think she is quite thoughtful enough of her old friends."

"And too thoughtful, it may be, of new ones," replied Mr. Delancy,
his voice a little depressed from the cheerful tone in which he had
welcomed his young visitor.

"These new friends are not always the best friends, Mr. Delancy."

"No, Rose. For my part, I wouldn't give one old friend, whose heart
I had proved, for a dozen untried new ones."

"Nor I, Mr. Delancy. I love Irene. I have always loved her. You know
we were children together."

"Yes, dear, I know all that; and I'm not pleased with her for
treating you with so much neglect, and all for a set of--"

Mr. Delancy checked himself.

"Irene," said Miss Carman, whom the reader will remember as one of
Mrs. Emerson's bridemaids, "has been a little unfortunate in her New
York friends. I'm afraid of these strong-minded women, as they are
called, among whom she has fallen."

"I detest them!" replied Mr. Delancy, with suddenly aroused
feelings. "They have done my child more harm than they will ever do
good in the world by way of atonement. She is not my daughter of
old."

"I found her greatly changed at our last meeting," said Rose. "Full
of vague plans of reforms and social reorganizations, and impatient
of opposition, or even mild argument, against her favorite ideas."

"She has lost her way," sighed the old man, in a low, sad voice,
"and I'm afraid it will take her a long, long time to get back again
to the old true paths, and that the road will be through deep
suffering. I dreamed about her all night, Rose, and the shadow of my
dreams is upon me still. It is foolish, I know, but I cannot get my
heart again into the sunlight."

And Rose had been dreaming troubled dreams of her old friend, also;
and it was because of the pressure that lay upon her feelings that
she had come over to Ivy Cliff this morning to ask if Mr. Delancy
had heard from Irene. She did not, however, speak of this, for she
saw that he was in an unhappy state on account of his daughter.

"Dreams are but shadows," she said, forcing a smile to her lips and
eyes.

"Yes--yes." The old man responded with an abstracted air. "Yes; they
are only shadows. But, my dear, was there ever a shadow without a
substance?"

"Not in the outside world of nature. Dreams are unreal things--the
fantastic images of a brain where reason sleeps."

"There have been dreams that came as warnings, Rose."

"And a thousand, for every one of these, that signified nothing."

"True. But I cannot rise out of these shadows. They lie too heavily
on my spirit. You must bear with me, Rose. Thank you for coming over
to see me; but I cannot make your visit a pleasant one, and you must
leave me when you grow weary of the old man's company."

"Don't talk so, Mr. Delancy. I'm glad I came over. I meant this only
for a call; but as you are in such poor spirits I must stay a while
and cheer you up."

"You are a good girl," said Mr. Delancy, taking the hand of Rose,
"and I am vexed that Irene should neglect you for the false friends
who are leading her mind astray. But never mind, dear; she will see
her error one of these days, and learn to prize true hearts."

"Is she going to spend much of her time at Ivy Cliff this summer?"
asked Rose.

"She is coming up in July to stay three or four weeks."

"Ah? I'm pleased to hear you say so. I shall then revive old-time
memories in her heart."

"God grant that it may be so!" Rose half started at the solemn tone
in which Mr. Delancy spoke. What could be the meaning of his
strangely troubled manner? Was anything seriously wrong with Irene?
She remembered the confusion into which her impulsive conduct had
thrown the wedding-party; and there was a vague rumor afloat that
Irene had left her husband a few months afterward and returned to
Ivy Cliff. But she had always discredited this rumor. Of her life in
New York she knew but little as to particulars. That it was not
making of her a truer, better, happier woman, nor a truer, better,
happier wife, observation had long ago told her.

"There is a broad foundation of good principles in her character,"
said Miss Carman, "and this gives occasion for hope in the future.
She will not go far astray, with her wily enticers, who have only
stimulated and given direction, for a time, to her undisciplined
impulses. You know how impatient she has always been under
control--how restively her spirit has chafed itself when a
restraining hand was laid upon her. But there are real things in
life of too serious import to be set aside for idle fancies, such as
her new friends have dignified with imposing names--real things,
that take hold upon the solid earth like anchors, and hold the
vessel firm amid wildly rushing currents."

"Yes, Rose, I know all that," replied Mr. Delancy. "I have hope in
the future of Irene; but I shudder in heart to think of the rough,
thorny, desolate ways through which she may have to pass with
bleeding feet before she reaches that serene future. Ah! if I could
save my child from the pain she seems resolute on plucking down and
wearing in her heart!"

"Your dreams have made you gloomy, Mr. Delancy," said Rose, forcing
a smile to her sweet young face. "Come now, let us be more hopeful.
Irene has a good husband. A little too much like her in some things,
but growing manlier and broader in mental grasp, if I have read him
aright. He understands Irene, and, what is more, loves her deeply. I
have watched them closely."

"So have I." The voice of Mr. Delancy was not so hopeful as that of
his companion.

"Still looking on the darker side." She smiled again.

"Ah, Rose, my wise young friend," said Mr. Delancy, "to whom I speak
my thoughts with a freedom that surprises even myself, a father's
eyes read many signs that have no meaning for others."

"And many read them, through fond suspicion, wrong," replied Rose.

"Well--yes--that may be." He spoke in partial abstraction, yet
doubtfully.

"I must look through your garden," said the young lady, rising; "you
know how I love flowers."

"Not much yet to hold your admiration," replied Mr. Delancy, rising
also. "June gives us wide green carpets and magnificent draperies of
the same deep color, but her red and golden broideries are few; it
is the hand of July that throws them in with rich profusion."

"But June flowers are sweetest and dearest--tender nurslings of the
summer, first-born of her love," said Rose, as they stepped out into
the portico. "It may be that the eye gets sated with beauty, as
nature grows lavish of her gifts; but the first white and red petals
that unfold themselves have a more delicate perfume--seem made of
purer elements and more wonderful in perfection--than their later
sisters. Is it not so?"

"If it only appears so it is all the same as if real," replied Mr.
Delancy, smiling.

"How?"

"It is real to you. What more could you have? Not more enjoyment of
summer's gifts of beauty and sweetness."

"No; perhaps not."

Rose let her eyes fall to the ground, and remained silent.

"Things are real to us as we see them; not always as they are," said
Mr. Delancy.

"And this is true of life?"

"Yes, child. It is in life that we create for ourselves real things
out of what to some are airy nothings. Real things, against which we
often bruise or maim ourselves, while to others they are as
intangible as shadows."

"I never thought of that," said Rose.

"It is true."

"Yes, I see it. Imaginary evils we thus make real things, and hurt
ourselves by contact, as, maybe, you have done this morning, Mr.
Delancy."

"Yes--yes. And false ideas of things which are unrealities in the
abstract--for only what is true has actual substance--become real to
the perverted understanding. Ah, child, there are strange
contradictions and deep problems in life for each of us to solve."

"But, God helping us, we may always reach the true solution," said
Rose Carman, lifting a bright, confident face to that of her
companion.

"That was spoken well, my child," returned Mr. Delancy, with a new
life in his voice; "and without Him we can never be certain of our
way."

"Never--never." There was a tender, trusting solemnity in the voice
of Rose.

"Young, but wise," said Mr. Delancy.

"No! Young, but not wise. I cannot see the way plain before me for a
single week, Mr. Delancy. For a week? No, not for a day!"

"Who does?" asked the old man.

"Some."

"None. There are many who walk onward with erect heads and confident
bearing. They are sure of their way, and smile if one whisper a
caution as to the ground upon which they step so fearlessly. But
they soon get astray or into pitfalls. God keeping and guiding us,
Rose, we may find our way safely through this world. But we will
soon lose ourselves if we trust in our own wisdom."

Thus they talked--that old man and gentle-hearted girl--as they
moved about the garden-walks, every new flower, or leaf, or opening
bud they paused to admire or examine, suggesting themes for wiser
words than usually pass between one so old and one so young. At Mr.
Delancy's earnest request, Rose stayed to dinner, the waiting-man
being tent to her father's, not far distant, to take word that she
would not be at home until in the afternoon.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE SHIPWRECKED LIFE.


_OFTEN_, during that morning, did the name of Irene come to their
lips, for the thought of her was all the while present to both.

"You must win her heart back again, Rose," said Mr. Delancy. "I will
lure her to Ivy Cliff often this summer, and keep her here as long
as possible each time. You will then be much together." They had
risen from the dinner-table and were entering the library.

"Things rarely come out as we plan them," answered Rose. "But I love
Irene truly, and will make my own place in her heart again, if she
will give me the key of entrance."

"You must find the key, Rose."

Miss Carman smiled.

"I said if she would give it to me."

"She does not carry the key that opens the door for you," replied
Mr. Delancy. "If you do not know where it lies, search for it in the
secret places of your own mind, and it will be found, God helping
you, Rose."

Mr. Delancy looked at her significantly.

"God helping me," she answered, with a reverent sinking of her
voice, "I will find the key."

"Who is that?" said Mr. Delancy, in a tone of surprise, turning his
face to the window.

Rose followed his eyes, but no one was visible.

"I saw, or thought I saw, a lady cross the portico this moment."

Both stood still, listening and expectant.

"It might have been fancy," said Mr. Delancy, drawing a deep breath.

Rose stepped to one of the library windows, and throwing it up,
looked out upon the portico.

"There is no one," she remarked, coming back into the room.

"Could I have been so mistaken?"

Mr. Delancy looked bewildered.

Seeing that the impression was so strong on his mind, Miss Carman
went out into the hall, and glanced from there into the parlor and
dining-room.

"No one came in, Mr. Delancy," she said, on returning to the
library.

"A mere impression," remarked the old man, soberly. "Well, these
impressions are often very singular. My face was partly turned to
the window, so that I saw out, but not so distinctly as if both eyes
had been in the range of vision. The form of a woman came to my
sight as distinctly as if the presence had been real--the form of a
woman going swiftly past the window."

"Did you recognize the form?"

It was some time before Mr. Delancy replied.

"Yes." He looked anxious.

"You thought of Irene?"

"I did."

"We have talked and thought of Irene so much to-day," said Rose,
"that your thought of her has made you present to her mind with more
than usual distinctness. Her thought of you has been more intent in
consequence, and this has drawn her nearer. You saw her by an
inward, not by an outward, vision. She is now present with you in
spirit, though her body be many miles distant. These things often
happen. They startle us by their strangeness, but are as much
dependent on laws of the mind as bodily nearness is dependent on the
laws of matter."

"You think so?" Mr. Delancy looked at his young companion curiously.

"Yes, I think so."

The old man shook his head. "Ingenious, but not satisfactory."

"You will admit," said Rose, "that as to our minds we may be present
in any part of the world, and in an instant of time, though our
bodies move not."

"Our thought may be," replied Mr. Delancy. "Or, in better words, the
eyes of our minds may be; for it is the eyes that see objects," said
Rose.

"Well; say the eyes of our minds, then."

"We cannot see objects in London, for instance, with our bodily eyes
unless our bodies be in London?" resumed Rose.

"Of course not."

"Nor with our mental eyes, unless our spirits be there."

Mr. Delancy looked down thoughtfully.

"It must be true, then, that our thought of any one brings us
present to that individual, and that such presence is often
recognized."

"That is pushing the argument too far."

"I think not. Has it not often happened that suddenly the thought of
an absent one came into your mind, and that you saw him or her for a
moment or two almost as distinctly as if in bodily presence before
you?"

"Yes. That has many times been the case."

"And you had not been thinking of that person, nor had there been
any incident as a reminder?"

"I believe not."

"My explanation is, that this person from some cause had been led to
think of you intently, and so came to you in spirit. There was
actual presence, and you saw each other with the eyes of your
minds."

"But, my wise reasoner," said Mr. Delancy, "it was the bodily
form--with face, eyes, hands, feet and material garments--that was
seen, not the spirit. If our spirits have eyes that see, why they
can only see spiritual things."

"Has not a spirit a face, and hands, and feet?" asked Rose, with a
confidence that caused the old man to look at her almost
wonderingly.

"Not a face, and hands, and feet like these of mine," he answered.

"Yes, like them," she replied, "but of spiritual substance."

"Spiritual substance! That is a novel term. This is substance." And
Mr. Delancy grasped the arm of a chair.

"No, that is material and unsubstantial," she calmly replied; "it is
subject to change and decay. A hundred years from now and there may
be no visible sign that it had ever been. But the soul is
imperishable and immortal; the only thing about man that is really
substantial. And now," she added, "for the faces of our spirits.
What gives to our natural faces their form, beauty and expression?
Is it not the soul-face within? Remove that by death, and all life,
thought and feeling are gone from the stolid effigy. And so you see,
Mr. Delancy, that our minds must be formed of spiritual substance,
and that our bodies are but the outward material clothing which the
soul puts on for action and use in this world of nature."

"Why, you are a young philosopher!" exclaimed Mr. Delancy, looking
in wonder at his fair companion.

"No," she answered, with simplicity, "I talk with my father about
these things, and it all seems very plain to me. I cannot see how
any one can question what appears to me so plain. That the mind is
substantial we see from this fact alone--it retains impressions
longer than the body."

"You think so?"

"Take an instance," said Rose. "A boy is punished unjustly by a
passionate teacher, who uses taunting words as well as smarting
blows. Now the pain of these blows is gone in less than an hour, but
the word-strokes received on his spirit hurt him, maybe, to the end
of his mortal life. Is it not so? And if so, why? There must be
substance to hold impressions so long."

"You silence, if you do not fully convince," replied Mr. Delancy. "I
must dream over what you have said. And so your explanation is, that
my thought of Irene has turned her thought to me, and thus we became
really present?"

"Yes."

"And that I saw her just now by an inner, and not by an outer,
sight?"

"Yes."

"But why was the appearance an outward manifestation, so to speak?"

"Sight is in the mind, even natural sight. The eye does not go out
to a tree, but the image of the tree comes to the eye, and thence is
presented, in a wonderful and mysterious way, to the mind, which
takes note of its form. The appearance is, that the soul looks out
at the tree; but the fact is, the image of the tree comes to the
brain, and is there seen. Now the brain may be impressed, and
respond by natural vision, from an internal as well as from an
external communication. We see this in cases of visual aberrations,
the instances of which given in books, and clearly authenticated,
are innumerable. Things are distinctly seen in a room which have no
existence in nature; and the illusion is so perfect that it seems
impossible for eyes to be mistaken."

"Well, well, child," said Mr. Delancy, "this is curious, and a
little bewildering. Perhaps it is all just as you say about Irene;
but I feel very heavy here;" and he laid his hand on his breast and
sighed deeply.

At this moment the library door was pushed gently open, and the form
of a woman stood in the presence of Mr. Delancy and Rose. She was
dressed in a dark silk, but had on neither bonnet nor shawl. Both
started; Mr. Delancy raised his hands and bent forward, gazing at
her eagerly, his lips apart. The face of the woman was pale and
haggard, yet familiar as the face of an old friend; but in it was
something so strange and unnatural that for a moment or two it was
not recognized.

"Father!" It was Irene. She advanced quietly and held but her hand.

"My daughter!" He caught the extended hand and kissed her, but she
showed no emotion.

"Rose, dear, I am glad to see you." There was truth in the dead
level tone with which "I am glad to see you" was spoken, and Rose,
who perceived this, took her hand and kissed her. Both hands and
lips were cold.

"What's the matter, Irene? Have you been sick?" asked Mr. Delancy,
in a choking voice.

"No, father, I'm very well." You would never have recognized that
voice as the voice of Irene.

"No, child, you are not well. What ails you? Why are you here in so
strange a way and looking so strangely?"

"Do I look strangely?" There was a feeble effort to awaken a smile,
which only gave her face a ghastly expression.

"Is Hartley with you?"

"No." Her voice was fuller and more emphatic as she uttered this
word. She tried to look steadily at her father, but her eyes moved
aside from the range of his vision.

For a little while there was a troubled silence with all. Rose had
placed an arm around the waist of Irene and drawn her to the sofa,
on which they were now sitting; Mr. Delancy stood before them.
Gradually the cold, almost blank, expression of Irene's face changed
and the old look came back.

"My daughter," said Mr. Delancy.

"Father"--Irene interrupted him--"I know what you are going to say.
My sudden, unannounced appearance, at this time, needs explanation.
I am glad dear Rose is here--my old, true friend"--and she leaned
against Miss Carman--"I can trust her."

The arm of Rose tightened around the waist of Irene.

"Father"--the voice of Irene fell to a deep, solemn tone; there was
no emphasis on one word more than on another; all was a dead level;
yet the meaning was as full and the involved purpose as fixed as if
her voice had run through the whole range of passionate
intonation--"Father, I have come back to Ivy Cliff and to you, after
having suffered shipwreck on the voyage of life. I went out rich, as
I supposed, in heart-treasures; I come back poor. My gold was dross,
and the sea has swallowed up even that miserable substitute for
wealth. Hartley and I never truly loved each other, and the
experiment of living together as husband and wife has proved a
failure. We have not been happy; no, not from the beginning. We have
not even been tolerant or forbearing toward each other. A steady
alienation has been in progress day by day, week by week, and month
by month, until no remedy is left but separation. That has been, at
length, applied, and here I am! It is the third time that I have
left him, and to both of us the act is final. He will not seek me,
and I shall not return."

There had come a slight flush to the countenance of Irene before she
commenced speaking, but this retired again, and she looked deathly
pale. No one answered her--only the arm of Rose tightened like a
cord around the waist of her unhappy friend.

"Father," and now her voice fluttered a little, "for your sake I am
most afflicted. I am strong enough to bear my fate--but you!"

There was a little sob--a strong suppression of feeling--and
silence.

"Oh, Irene! my child! my child!" The old man covered his face with
his hands, sobbed, and shook like a fluttering leaf. "I cannot bear
this! It is too much for me!" and he staggered backward. Irene
sprung forward and caught him in her arms. He would have fallen, but
for this, to the floor. She stood clasping and kissing him wildly,
until Rose came forward and led them both to the sofa.

Mr. Delancy did not rally from this shock. He leaned heavily against
his daughter, and she felt a low tremor in his frame.

"Father!" She spoke tenderly, with her lips to his ear. "Dear
father!"

But he did not reply.

"It is my life-discipline, father," she said; "I will be happier and
better, no doubt, in the end for this severe trial. Dear father, do
not let what is inevitable so break down your heart. You are my
strong, brave, good father, and I shall need now more than ever,
your sustaining arm. There was no help for this. It had to come,
sooner or later. It is over now. The first bitterness is past. Let
us be thankful for that, and gather up our strength for the future.
Dear father! Speak to me!"

Mr. Delancy tried to rally himself, but he was too much broken down
by the shock. He said a few words, in which there was scarcely any
connection of ideas, and then, getting up from the sofa, walked
about the room, turning one of his hands within the other in a
distressed way.

"Oh dear, dear, dear!" he murmured to himself, in a feeble manner.
"I have dreaded this, and prayed that it might not be. Such
wretchedness and disgrace! Such wretchedness and disgrace! Had they
no patience with each other--no forbearance--no love, that it must
come to this? Dear! dear! dear! Poor child!"

Irene, with her white, wretched face, sat looking at him for some
time, as he moved about, a picture of helpless misery; then, going
to him again, she drew an arm around his neck and tried to comfort
him. But there was no comfort in her words. What could _she_ say to
reach with a healing power the wound from which his very life-blood
was pouring.

"Don't talk! don't talk!" he said, pushing Irene away, with slight
impatience of manner. "I am heart-broken. Words are nothing!"

"Mr. Delancy," said Rose, now coming to his side, and laying a hand
upon his arm, "you must not speak so to Irene. This is not like
you."

There was a calmness of utterance and a firmness of manner which had
their right effect.

"How have I spoken, Rose, dear? What have I said?" Mr. Delancy
stopped and looked at Miss Carman in a rebuked, confused way, laying
his hand upon his forehead at the same time.

"Not from yourself," answered Rose.

"Not from myself!" He repeated her words, as if his thoughts were
still in a maze. "Ah, child, this is dreadful!" he added. "I am not
myself! Poor Irene! Poor daughter! Poor father!"

And the old man lost himself again.

A look of fear now shadowed darkly the face of Irene, and she
glanced anxiously from her father's countenance to that of Rose. She
did not read in the face of her young friend much that gave
assurance or comfort.

"Mr. Delancy," said Rose, with great earnestness of manner, "Irene
is in sore trouble. She has come to a great crisis in her life. You
are older and wiser than she is, and must counsel and sustain her.
Be calm, dear sir--calm, clear-seeing, wise and considerate, as you
have always been."

"Calm--clear-seeing--wise." Mr. Delancy repeated the words, as if
endeavoring to grasp the rein of thought and get possession of
himself again.

"Wise to counsel and strong to sustain," said Rose. "You must not
fail us now."

"Thank you, my sweet young monitor," replied Mr. Delancy, partially
recovering himself; "it was the weakness of a moment. Irene," and he
looked toward his daughter, "leave me with my own thoughts for a
little while. Take her, Rose, to her own room, and God give you
power to speak words of consolation; I have none."

Rose drew her arm within that of Irene, and said, "Come." But Irene
lingered, looking tenderly and anxiously at her father.

"Go, my love." Mr. Delancy waved his hand.

"Father! dear father!" She moved a step toward him, while Rose held
her back.

"I cannot help myself, father. The die is cast. Oh bear up with me!
I will be to you a better daughter than I have ever been. My life
shall be devoted to your happiness. In that I will find a
compensation. All is not lost--all is not ruined. My heart is as
pure as when I left you three years ago. I come back bleeding from
my life-battle it is true, but not in mortal peril--wounded, but not
unto death--cast down, but not destroyed."

All the muscles of Mr. Delancy's face quivered with suppressed
feeling as he stood looking at his daughter, who, as she uttered the
words, "cast down, but not destroyed," flung herself in wild
abandonment on his breast.



CHAPTER XX.

THE PALSIED HEART.


_THE_ shock to Mr. Delancy was a fearful one, coming as it did on a
troubled, foreboding state of mind; and reason lost for a little
while her firm grasp on the rein of government. If the old man could
have seen a ray of hope in the case it would have been different.
But from the manner and language of his daughter it was plain that
the dreaded evil had found them; and the certainty of this falling
suddenly, struck him as with a heavy blow.

For several days he was like one who had been stunned. All that
afternoon on which his daughter returned to Ivy Cliff he moved about
in a bewildered way, and by his questions and remarks showed an
incoherence of thought that filled the heart of Irene with alarm.

On the next morning, when she met him at the breakfast-table, he
smiled on her in his old affectionate way. As she kissed him, she
said,

"I hope you slept well last night, father?"

A slight change was visible in his face.

"I slept soundly enough," he replied, "but my dreams were not
agreeable."

Then he looked at her with a slight closing of the brows and a
questioning look in his eyes.

They sat down, Irene taking her old place at the table. As she
poured out her father's coffee, he said, smiling,

"It is pleasant to have you sitting there, daughter."

"Is it?"

Irene was troubled by this old manner of her father. Could he have
forgotten why she was there?

"Yes, it is pleasant," he replied, and then his eye dropped in a
thoughtful way.

"I think, sometimes, that your attractive New York friends have made
you neglectful of your lonely old father. You don't come to see him
as often as you did a year ago."

Mr. Delancy said this with simple earnestness.

"They shall not keep me from you any more, dear father," replied
Irene, meeting his humor, yet heart-appalled at the same time with
this evidence that his mind was wandering from the truth.

"I don't think them safe friends," added Mr. Delancy, with
seriousness.

"Perhaps not," replied Irene.

"Ah! I'm glad to hear you say so. Now, you have one true, safe
friend. I wish you loved her better than you do."

"What is her name?"

"Rose Carman," said Mr. Delancy, with a slight hesitation of manner,
as if he feared repulsion on the part of his daughter.

"I love Rose, dearly; she is the best of girls; and I know her to be
a true friend," replied Irene.

"Spoken like my own daughter!" said the old man with a brightening
countenance. "You must not neglect her any more. Why, she told me
you hadn't written to her in six months. Now, that isn't right.
Never go past old, true friends for the sake of new, and maybe false
ones. No--no. Rose is hurt; you must write to her often--every
week."

Irene could not answer. Her heart was beating wildly. What could
this mean? Had reason fled? But she struggled hard to preserve a
calm exterior.

"Will Hartley be up to-day?"

Irene tried to say "No," but could not find utterance.

Mr. Delancy looked at her curiously, and now in a slightly troubled
way. Then he let his eyes fall, and sat holding his cup like one who
was turning perplexed thoughts in his mind.

"You are not well this morning, father," said Irene, speaking only
because silence was too oppressive for endurance.

"I don't know; perhaps I'm not very well;" and Mr. Delancy looked
across the table at his daughter very earnestly. "I had bad dreams
all last night, and they seem to have got mixed up in my thoughts
with real things. How is it? When did you come up from New York?
Don't smile at me. But really I can't think."

"I came yesterday," said Irene, as calmly as she could speak.

"Yesterday!" He looked at her with a quickly changing face.

"Yes, father, I came up yesterday."

"And Rose was here?"

"Yes."

Mr. Delancy's eyes fell again, and he sat very still.

"Hartley will not be here to-day?"

Mr. Delancy did not look up as he asked this question.

"No, father."

"Nor to-morrow?"

"I think not."

A sigh quivered on the old man's lips.

"Nor the day after that?"

"He did not say when he was coming," replied Irene, evasively.

"Did not say when? Did not say when?" Mr. Delancy repeated the
sentence two or three times, evidently trying all the while to
recall something which had faded from his memory.

"Don't worry yourself about Hartley," said Irene, forcing herself to
pronounce a name that seemed like fire on her lips. "Isn't it enough
that I am here?"

"No, it is not enough." And her father put his hand to his forehead
and looked upward in an earnest, searching manner.

What could Irene say? What could she do? The mind of her father was
groping about in the dark, and she was every moment in dread lest he
should discover the truth and get farther astray from the shock.

No food was taken by either Mr. Delancy or his daughter. The former
grew more entangled in his thoughts, and finally arose from the
table, saying, in a half-apologetic way,

"I don't know what ails me this morning."

"Where are you going?" asked Irene, rising at the same time.

"Nowhere in particular. The air is close here--I'll sit a while in
the portico," he answered, and throwing open one of the windows he
stepped outside. Irene followed him.

"How beautiful!" said Mr. Delancy, as he sat down and turned his
eyes upon the attractive landscape. Irene did not trust her voice in
reply.

"Now go in and finish your breakfast, child. I feel better; I don't
know what came over me." He added the last sentence in an undertone.

Irene returned into the house, but not to resume her place at the
table. Her mind was in an agony of dread. She had reached the
dining-room, and was about to ring for a servant, when she heard her
name called by her father. Running back quickly to the portico, she
found him standing in the attitude of one who had been suddenly
startled; his face all alive with question and suspense.

"Oh, yes! yes! I thought you were here this moment! And so it's all
true?" he said, in a quick, troubled way.

"True? What is true, father?" asked Irene, as she paused before him.

"True, what you told me yesterday."

She did not answer.

"You have left your husband?" He looked soberly into her face.

"I have, father." She thought it best to use no evasion.

He groaned, sat down in the chair from which he had arisen, and let
his head fall upon his bosom.

"Father!" Irene kneeled before him and clasped his hands. "Father!
dear father!"

He laid a hand on her head, and smoothed her hair in a caressing
manner.

"Poor child! poor daughter!" he said, in a fond, pitying voice,
"don't take it so to heart. Your old father loves you still."

She could not stay the wild rush of feeling that was overmastering
her. Passionate sobs heaved her breast, and tears came raining from
her eyes.

"Now, don't, Irene! Don't take on so, daughter! I love you still,
and we will be happy here, as in other days."

"Yes, father," said Irene, holding down her head and calming her
voice, "we will be happy here, as in the dear old time. Oh we will
be very happy together. I won't leave you any more."

"I wish you had never left me," he answered, mournfully; "I was
always afraid of this--always afraid. But don't let it break your
heart; I'm all the same; nothing will ever turn me against you. I
hope he hasn't been very unkind to you?" His voice grew a little
severe.

"We wont say anything against him," replied Irene, trying to
understand exactly her father's state of mind and accommodate
herself thereto. "Forgive and forget is the wisest rule always."

"Yes, dear, that's it. Forgive and forget--forgive and forget.
There's nothing like it in this world. I'm glad to hear you talk
so."

The mind of Mr. Delancy did not again wander from the truth. But the
shock received when it first came upon him with stunning force had
taken away his keen perception of the calamity. He was sad, troubled
and restless, and talked a great deal about the unhappy position of
his daughter--sometimes in a way that indicated much incoherence of
thought. To this state succeeded one of almost total silence, and he
would sit for hours, if not aroused from reverie and inaction by his
daughter, in apparent dreamy listlessness. His conversation, when he
did talk on any subject, showed, however, that his mind had regained
its old clearness.

On the third day after Irene's arrival at Ivy Cliff, her trunks came
up from New York. She had packed them on the night before leaving
her husband's house, and marked them with her name and that of her
father's residence. No letter or message accompanied them. She did
not expect nor desire any communication, and was not therefore
disappointed, but rather relieved from what would have only proved a
cause of disturbance. All angry feelings toward her husband had
subsided; but no tender impulses moved in her heart, nor did the
feeblest thought of reconciliation breathe over the surface of her
mind. She had been in bonds; now the fetters were cast off, and she
loved freedom too well to bend her neck again to the yoke.

No tender impulses moved, we have said, in her heart, for it lay
like a palsied thing, dead in her bosom--dead, we mean, so far as
the wife was concerned. It was not so palsied on that fatal evening
when the last strife with her husband closed. But in the agony that
followed there came, in mercy, a cold paralysis; and now toward
Hartley Emerson her feelings were as calm as the surface of a frozen
lake.

And how was it with the deserted husband? Stern and unyielding also.
The past year had been marked by so little of mutual tenderness,
there had been so few passages of love between them--green spots in
the desert of their lives--that memory brought hardly a relic from
the past over which the heart could brood. For the sake of worldly
appearances, Emerson most regretted the unhappy event. Next, his
trouble was for Irene and her father, but most for Irene.

"Willful, wayward one!" he said many, many times. "You, of all, will
suffer most. No woman can take a step like this without drinking of
pain to the bitterest dregs. If you can hide the anguish, well. But
I fear the trial will be too hard for you--the burden too heavy.
Poor, mistaken one!"

For a month the household arrangements of Mr. Emerson continued as
when Irene left him. He did not intermit for a day or an hour his
business duties, and came home regularly at his usual times--always,
it must be said, with a feeble expectation of meeting his wife in
her old places; we do not say desire, but simply expectation. If she
had returned, well. He would not have repulsed, nor would he have
received her with strong indications of pleasure. But a month went
by, and she did not return nor send him any word. Beyond the brief
"I have gone," there had come from her no sign.

Two months elapsed, and then Mr. Emerson dismissed the servants and
shut up the house, but he neither removed nor sold the furniture;
that remained as it was for nearly a year, when he ordered a sale by
auction and closed the establishment.

Hartley Emerson, under the influence of business and domestic
trouble, matured rapidly, and became grave, silent and reflective
beyond men of his years. Companionable he was by nature, and during
the last year that Irene was with him, failing to receive social
sympathy at home, he had joined a club of young men, whose
association was based on a declared ambition for literary
excellence. From this club he withdrew himself; it did not meet the
wants of his higher nature, but offered much that stimulated the
grosser appetites and passions. Now he gave himself up to earnest
self-improvement, and found in the higher and wider range of thought
which came as the result a partial compensation for what he had
lost. But he was not happy; far, very far from it. And there were
seasons when the past came back upon him in such a flood that all
the barriers of indifference which he had raised for self-protection
were swept away, and he had to build them up again in sadness of
spirit. So the time wore on with him, and troubled life-experiences
were doing their work upon his character.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE IRREVOCABLE DECREE.


_IT_ is two years since the day of separation between Irene and her
husband. Just two years. And she is sitting in the portico at Ivy
Cliff with her father, looking down upon the river that lies
gleaming in sunshine--not thinking of the river, however, nor of
anything in nature.

They are silent and still--very still, as if sleep had locked their
senses. He is thin and wasted as from long sickness, and she looks
older by ten years. There is no fine bloom on her cheeks, from which
the fullness of youth has departed.

It is a warm June day, the softest, balmiest, brightest day the year
has given. The air comes laden with delicate odors and thrilling
with bird melodies, and, turn the eye as it will, there is a feast
of beauty.

Yet, the odors are not perceived, nor the music heard, nor the
beauty seen by that musing old man and his silent daughter. Their
thoughts are not in the present, but far back in the unhappy past,
the memories of which, awakened by the scene and season, have come
flowing in a strong tide upon them.

Two years! They have left the prints of their heavy feet upon the
life of Irene, and the deep marks will never be wholly obliterated.
She were less than human if this were not so. Two years! Yet, not
once in that long, heart-aching time had she for a single moment
looked backward in weakness. Sternly holding to her act as right,
she strengthened herself in suffering, and bore her pain as if it
were a decree of fate. There was no anger in her heart, nor anything
of hardness toward her husband. But there was no love, nor tender
yearning for conjunction--at least, nothing recognized as such in
her own consciousness.

Not since the days Irene left the house of her husband had she heard
from him directly; and only two or three times indirectly. She had
never visited the city since her flight therefrom, and all her
pleasant and strongly influencing associations there were, in
consequence, at an end. Once her very dear friend Mrs. Talbot came
up to sympathize with and strengthen her in the fiery trial through
which she was passing. She found Irene's truer friend, Rosa Carman,
with her; and Rose did not leave them alone for a moment at a time.
All sentiments that she regarded as hurtful to Irene in her present
state of mind she met with her calm, conclusive mode of reasoning,
that took away the specious force of the sophist's dogmas. But her
influence was chiefly used in the repression of unprofitable themes,
and the introduction of such as tended to tranquilize the feelings,
and turn the thoughts of her friend away from the trouble that was
lying upon her soul like a suffocating nightmare. Mrs. Talbot was
not pleased with her visit, and did not come again. But she wrote
several times. The tone of her letters was not, however, pleasant to
Irene, who was disturbed by it, and more bewildered than enlightened
by the sentiments that were announced with oracular vagueness. These
letters were read to Miss Carman, on whom Irene was beginning to
lean with increasing confidence. Rose did not fail to expose their
weakness or fallacy in such clear light that Irene, though she tried
to shut her eyes against the truth presented by Rose, could not help
seeing it. Her replies were not, under these circumstances, very
satisfactory, for she was unable to speak in a free, assenting,
confiding spirit. The consequence was natural. Mrs. Talbot ceased to
write, and Irene did not regret the broken correspondence. Once Mrs.
Lloyd wrote. When Irene broke the seal and let her eyes rest upon
the signature, a shudder of repulsion ran through her frame, and the
letter dropped from her hands to the floor. As if possessed by a
spirit whose influence over her she could not control, she caught up
the unread sheet and threw it into the fire. As the flames seized
upon and consumed it, she drew a long breath and murmured,

"So perish the memory of our acquaintance!"

Almost a dead letter of suffering had been those two years. There
are no events to record, and but little progress to state. Yes,
there had been a dead level of suffering--a palsied condition of
heart and mind; a period of almost sluggish endurance, in which
pride and an indomitable will gave strength to bear.

Mr. Delancy and his daughter were sitting, as we have seen, on that
sweet June day, in silent abstraction of thought, when the
serving-man, who had been to the village, stepped into the portico
and handed Irene a letter. The sight of it caused her heart to leap
and the blood to crimson suddenly her face. It was not an ordinary
letter--one in such a shape had never come to her hand before.

"What is that?" asked her father, coming back as it were to life.

"I don't know," she answered, with an effort to appear indifferent.

Mr. Delancy looked at his daughter with a perplexed manner, and then
let his eyes fall upon the legal envelope in her hand, on which a
large red seal was impressed.

Rising in a quiet way, Irene left the portico with slow steps; but
no sooner was she beyond her father's observation than she moved
toward her chamber with winged feet.

"Bless me, Miss Irene!" exclaimed Margaret, who met her on the
stairs, "what has happened?"

But Irene swept by her without a response, and, entering her room,
shut the door and locked it. Margaret stood a moment irresolute, and
then, going back to her young lady's chamber, knocked for admission.
There was no answer to her summons, and she knocked again.

"Who is it?"

She hardly knew the voice.

"It is Margaret. Can't I come in?"

"Not now," was answered.

"What's the matter, Miss Irene?"

"Nothing, Margaret. I wish to be alone now."

"Something has happened, though, or you'd never look just like
that," said Margaret to herself, as she went slowly down stairs. "Oh
dear, dear! Poor child! there's nothing but trouble for her in this
world."

It was some minutes before Irene found courage to break the imposing
seal and look at the communication within. She guessed at the
contents, and was not wrong. They informed her, in legal phrase,
that her husband had filed an application for a divorce on the
ground of desertion, and gave notice that any resistance to this
application must be on file on or before a certain date.

The only visible sign of feeling that responded to this announcement
was a deadly paleness and a slight, nervous crushing of the paper in
her hands. Moveless as a thing inanimate, she sat with fixed, dreamy
eyes for a long, long time.

A divorce! She had looked for this daily for more than a year, and
often wondered at her husband's tardiness. Had she desired it? Ah,
that is the probing question. Had she desired an act of law to push
them fully asunder--to make the separation plenary in all respects?
No. She did not really wish for the irrevocable sundering decree.

Since her return to her father's house, the whole life of Irene had
been marked by great circumspection. The trial through which she had
passed was enough to sober her mind and turn her thoughts in some
new directions; and this result had followed. Pride, self-will and
impatience of control found no longer any spur to reactive life, and
so her interest in woman's rights, social reforms and all their
concomitants died away, for lack of a personal bearing. At first
there had been warm arguments with Miss Carman on these subjects,
but these grew gradually less earnest, and were finally avoided by
both, as not only unprofitable, but distasteful. Gradually this wise
and true friend had quickened in the mind of Irene an interest in
things out of herself. There are in every neighborhood objects to
awaken our sympathies, if we will only look at and think of them.
"The poor ye have always with you." Not the physically poor only,
but, in larger numbers, the mentally and spiritually poor. The hands
of no one need lie idle a moment for lack of work, for it is no
vague form of speech to say that the harvest is great and the
laborers few.

There were ripe harvest-fields around Ivy Cliff, though Irene had
not observed the golden grain bending its head for the sickle until
Rose led her feet in the right direction. Not many of the naturally
poor were around them, yet some required even bodily
ministrations--children, the sick and the aged. The destitution that
most prevailed was of the mind; and this is the saddest form of
poverty. Mental hunger! how it exhausts the soul and debases its
heaven-born faculties, sinking it into a gross corporeal sphere,
that is only a little removed from the animal! To feed the hungry
and clothe the naked mean a great deal more than the bestowal of
food and raiment; yes, a great deal more; and we have done but a
small part of Christian duty--have obeyed only in the letter--when
we supply merely the bread that perishes.

Rose Carman had been wisely instructed, and she was an apt scholar.
Now, from a learner she became a teacher, and in the suffering Irene
found one ready to accept the higher truths that governed her life,
and to act with her in giving them a real ultimatum. So, in the two
years which had woven their web of new experiences for the heart of
Irene, she had been drawn almost imperceptibly by Rose into fields
of labor where the work that left her hands was, she saw, good work,
and must endure for ever. What peace it often brought to her
striving spirit, when, but for the sustaining and protecting power
of good deeds, she would have been swept out upon the waves of
turbulent passion--tossed and beaten there until her exhausted heart
sunk down amid the waters, and lay dead for a while at the bottom of
her great sea of trouble!

It was better--oh, how much better!--when she laid her head at night
on her lonely pillow, to have in memory the face of a poor sick
woman, which had changed from suffering to peace as she talked to
her of higher things than the body's needs, and bore her mind up
into a region of tranquil thought, than to be left with no image to
dwell upon but an image of her own shattered hopes. Yes, this was
far better; and by the power of such memories the unhappy one had
many peaceful seasons and nights of sweet repose.

All around Ivy Cliff, Irene and Rose were known as ministrant
spirits to the poor and humble. The father of Rose was a man of
wealth, and she had his entire sympathy and encouragement. Irene had
no regular duties at home, Margaret being housekeeper and directress
in all departments. So there was nothing to hinder the free course
of her will as to the employment of time. With all her pride of
independence, the ease with which Mrs. Talbot drew Irene in one
direction, and now Miss Carman in another, showed how easily she
might be influenced when off her guard. This is true in most cases
of your very self-willed people, and the reason why so many of them
get astray. Only conceal the hand that leads them, and you may often
take them where you will. Ah, if Hartley Emerson had been wise
enough, prudent enough and loving enough to have influenced aright
the fine young spirit he was seeking to make one with his own, how
different would the result have been!

In the region round about, our two young friends came in time to be
known as the "Sisters of Charity." It was not said of them
mockingly, nor in gay depreciation, nor in mean ill-nature, but in
expression of a common sentiment, that recognized their high,
self-imposed mission.

Thus it had been with Irene since her return to the old home at Ivy
Cliff.



CHAPTER XXII.

STRUCK DOWN.


_YES_, Irene had looked for this--looked for it daily for now more
than a year. Still it came upon her with a shock that sent a
strange, wild shudder through all her being. A divorce! She was less
prepared for it than she had ever been.

What was beyond? Ah! that touched a chord which gave a thrill of
pain. What was beyond? A new alliance, of course. Legal disabilities
removed, Hartley Emerson would take upon himself new marriage vows.
Could she say, "Yea, and amen" to this? No, alas! no. There was a
feeling of intense, irrepressible anguish away down in heart-regions
that lay far beyond the lead-line of prior consciousness. What did
it mean? She asked herself the question with a fainting spirit. Had
she not known herself? Were old states of tenderness, which she had
believed crushed out and dead along ago, hidden away in secret
places of her heart, and kept there safe from harm?

No wonder she sat pale and still, crumpling nervously that fatal
document which had startled her with a new revelation of herself.
There was love in her heart still, and she knew it not. For a long
time she sat like one in a dream.

"God help me!" she said at length, looking around her in a wild,
bewildered manner. "What does all this mean?"

There came at this moment a gentle tap at her door. She knew whose
soft hand had given the sound.

"Irene," exclaimed Rose Carman, as she took the hand of her friend
and looked into her changed countenance, "what ails you?"

Irene turned her face partly away to get control of its expression.

"Sit down, Rose," she said, as soon as she could trust herself to
speak.

They sat down together, Rose troubled and wondering. Irene then
handed her friend the notice which she had received. Miss Carman
read it, but made no remark for some time.

"It has disturbed you," she said at length, seeing that Irene
continued silent.

"Yes, more than I could have believed," answered Irene. Her voice
had lost its familiar tones.

"You have expected this?"

"Yes."

"I thought you were prepared for it."

"And I am," replied Irene, speaking with more firmness of manner.
"Expectation grows so nervous, sometimes, that when the event comes
it falls upon us with a painful shock. This is my case now. I would
have felt it less severely if it had occurred six months ago."

"What will you do?" asked Rose.

"Do?"

"Yes."

"What can I do?"

"Resist the application, if you will."

"But I will not," answered Irene, firmly. "He signifies his wishes
in the case, and those wishes must determine everything. I will
remain passive."

"And let the divorce issue by default of answer?"

"Yes."

There was a faintness of tone which Rose could not help remarking.

"Yes," Irene added, "he desires this complete separation, and I can
have nothing to say in opposition. I left him, and have remained
ever since a stranger to his home and heart. We are nothing to each
other, and yet are bound together by the strongest of bonds. Why
should he not wish to be released from these bonds? And if he
desires it, I have nothing to say. We are divorced in fact--why then
retain the form?"

"There may be a question of the fact," said Rose.

"Yes; I understand you. We have discussed that point fully. Your
view may be right, but I do not see it clearly. I will at least
retain passive. The responsibility shall rest with him."

No life or color came back to the face of Irene. She looked as cold
as marble; not cold without feeling, but with intense feeling
recorded as in a piece of sculpture.

There were deeds of kindness and mercy set down in the purposes of
our young friend, and it was to go forth and perform them that Rose
had called for Irene this morning. But only one Sister of Charity
went to the field that day, and only one for many days afterward.

Irene could not recover from the shock of this legal notice. It
found her less prepared than she had been at any time during the
last two years of separation. Her life at Ivy Cliff had not been
favorable to a spirit of antagonism and accusation, nor favorable to
a self-approving judgment of herself when the past came up, as it
often came, strive as she would to cover it as with a veil. She had
grown in this night of suffering, less self-willed and blindly
impulsive. Some scales had dropped from her eyes, and she saw
clearer. Yet no repentance for that one act of her life, which
involved a series of consequences beyond the reach of conjecture,
had found a place in her heart. There was no looking back from
this--no sober questioning as to the right or necessity which had
been involved. There had been one great mistake--so she decided the
case--and that was the marriage.

From this fatal error all subsequent evil was born.

Months of waiting and expectation followed, and then came a decree
annulling the marriage.

"It is well," was the simple response of Irene when notice of the
fact reached her.

Not even to Rose Carman did she reveal a thought that took shape in
her mind, nor betray a single emotion that trembled in her heart. If
there had been less appearance of indifference--less avoidance of
the subject--her friends would have felt more comfortable as to her
state of mind. The unnatural repose of, exterior was to them
significant of a strife within which she wished to conceal from all
eyes.

About this time her true, loving friend, Miss Carman, married. Irene
did not stand as one of the bridesmaids at the ceremony. Rose gently
hinted her wishes in the case, but Irene shrunk from the position,
and her feeling was respected. The husband of Rose was a merchant,
residing in New York, named Everet. After a short bridal tour she
went to her new home in the city. Mr. Everet was five or six years
her senior, and a man worthy to be her life-companion. No sudden
attachment had grown up between them. For years they had been in the
habit of meeting, and in this time the character of each had been
clearly read by the other. When Mr. Everet asked the maiden's hand,
it, was yielded without a sign of hesitation.

The removal of Rose from the neighborhood of Ivy Cliff greatly
disturbed the even-going tenor of Irene's life. It withdrew also a
prop on which she had leaned often in times of weakness, which would
recur very heavily.

"How can I live without you?" she said in tears, as she sat alone
with the new-made bride on the eve of her departure; "you have been
everything to me, Rose--strength in weakness; light, when all around
was cold and dark; a guide when I had lost my way. God bless and
make you happy, darling! And he will. Hearts like yours create
happiness wherever they go."

"My new home will only be a few hours' distant," replied Rose; "I
shall see you there often."

Irene sighed. She had been to the city only a few times since that
sad day of separation from her husband. Could she return again and
enter one of its bright social circles? Her heart said no. But love
drew her too strongly. In less than a month after Rose became the
mistress of a stately mansion, Irene was her guest. This was just
six years from the time when she set up her home there, a proud and
happy young wife. Alas! that hearth was desolate, "its bright fire
quenched and gone."

It was best for Irene thus to get back again into a wider social
sphere--to make some new friends, and those of a class that such a
woman as Mrs. Everet would naturally draw around her. Three years of
suffering, and the effort to lead a life of self-denial and active
interest in others, had wrought in Irene a great change. The old,
flashing ardor of manner was gone. If she grew animated in
conversation, as she often did from temperament, her face would
light up beautifully, but it did not show the radiance of old times.
Thought, more than feeling, gave its living play to her countenance.
All who met her were attracted; as her history was known,
observation naturally took the form of close scrutiny. People wished
to find the angular and repellant sides of her character in order to
see how far she might be to blame. But they were not able to
discover them. On the subjects of woman's rights, domestic tyranny,
sexual equality and all kindred themes she was guarded in speech.
She never introduced them herself, and said but little when they
formed the staple of conversation.

Even if, in three years of intimate, almost daily, association with
Rose, she had not learned to think in some new directions on these
bewildering questions, certain womanly instincts must have set a
seal upon her lips. Not for all the world would she, to a
stranger--no, nor to any new friend--utter a sentiment that could in
the least degree give color to the thought that she wished to throw
even the faintest shadow of blame on Hartley Emerson. Not that she
was ready to take blame to herself, or give the impression that
fault rested by her door. No. The subject was sacred to herself, and
she asked no sympathy and granted no confidences. There were those
who sought to draw her out, who watched her face and words with keen
intentness when certain themes were discussed. But they were unable
to reach the penetralia of her heart. There was a chamber of record
there into which no one could enter but herself.

Since the separation of Irene from her husband, Mr. Delancy had
shown signs of rapid failure. His heart was bound up in his
daughter, who, with all her captious self-will and impulsiveness,
loved him with a tenderness and fervor that never knew change or
eclipse. To see her make shipwreck of life's dearest hopes--to know
that her name was spoken by hundreds in reprobation--to look daily
on her quiet, changing, suffering face, was more than his fond heart
could bear. It broke him down. This fact, more perhaps, than her own
sad experiences, tended to sober the mind of Irene, and leave it
almost passive under the right influences of her wise young friend.

After the removal of Rose from the neighborhood of Ivy Cliff, the
health of Mr. Delancy failed still more rapidly, and in a few months
the brief visits of Irene to her friend in New York had to be
intermitted. She could no longer venture to leave her father, even
under the care of their faithful Margaret. A sad winter for Irene
succeeded. Mr. Delancy drooped about until after Christmas, in a
weary, listless way, taking little interest in anything, and bearing
both physical and mental consciousness as a burden it would be
pleasant to lay down. Early in January he had to give up and go to
bed; and now the truth of his condition startled the mind of Irene
and filled her with alarm. By slow, insidious encroachments, that
dangerous enemy, typhoid fever, had gained a lodgment in the very
citadel of life, and boldly revealed itself, defying the healer's
art. For weeks the dim light of mortal existence burned with a low,
wavering flame, that any sudden breath of air might extinguish; then
it grew steady again, increased, and sent a few brighter rays into
the darkness which had gathered around Ivy Cliff.

Spring found Mr. Delancy strong enough to sit, propped up with
pillows, by the window of his chamber, and look out upon the
newly-mantled trees, the green fields, and the bright river flashing
in the sunshine. The heart of Irene took courage again. The cloud
which had lain upon it all winter like a funereal pall dissolved,
and went floating away and wasting itself in dim expanses.

Alas, that all this sweet promise was but a mockery of hope! A
sudden cold, how taken it was almost impossible to tell--for Irene
guarded her father as tenderly as if he were a new-born
infant--disturbed life's delicate equipoise, and the scale turned
fatally the wrong way.

Poor Irene! She had only staggered under former blows--this one
struck her down. Had life anything to offer now? "Nothing! nothing!"
she said in her heart, and prayed that she might die and be at rest
with her father.

Months of stupor followed this great sorrow; then her heart began to
beat again with some interest in life. There was one friend, almost
her only friend--for she now repelled nearly every one who
approached her--who never failed in hopeful, comforting, stimulating
words and offices, who visited her frequently in her recluse life at
Ivy Cliff, and sought with untiring assiduity to win her once more
away from its dead seclusion. And she was at last successful. In the
winter after Mr. Delancy's death, Irene, after much earnest
persuasion, consented to pass a few weeks in the city with Mrs.
Everet. This gained, her friend was certain of all the rest.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE HAUNTED VISION.


_GRADUALLY_ the mind of Irene attained clearness of perception as to
duty, and a firmness of will that led her to act in obedience to
what reason and religion taught her was right. The leading idea
which Mrs. Everet endeavored to keep before her was this: that no
happiness is possible, except in some work that removes
self-consciousness and fills our minds with an interest in the
well-being of others. While Rose was at Ivy Cliff, Irene acted with
her, and was sustained by her love and companionship. After her
marriage and removal to New York, Irene was left to stand alone, and
this tried her strength. It was feeble. The sickness and death of
her father drew her back again into herself, and for a time
extinguished all interest in what was on the outside. To awaken a
new and higher life was the aim of her friend, and she never wearied
in her generous efforts. During this winter plans were matured for
active usefulness in the old spheres, and Mrs. Everet promised to
pass as much time in the next summer with her father as possible, so
as to act with Irene in the development of these schemes.

The first warm days of summer found Irene back again in her home at
Ivy Cliff. Her visit in New York had been prolonged far beyond the
limit assigned to it in the beginning, but Rose would not consent to
an earlier return. This winter of daily life with Mrs. Everet, in
the unreserved intercourse of home, was of great use to Irene.
Affliction had mellowed all the harder portions of her disposition,
which the trouble and experiences of the past few years could not
reach with their softening influences. There was good soil in her
mind, well prepared, and the sower failed not in the work of
scattering good seed upon it with a liberal hand--seed that felt
soon a quickening life and swelled in the delight of coming
germination.

It is not our purpose to record the history of Irene during the
years of her discipline at Ivy Cliff, where she lived, nun-like, for
the larger part of her time. She had useful work there, and in its
faithful performance peace came to her troubled soul. Three or four
times every year she paid a visit to Rose, and spent on each
occasion from one to three or four weeks. It could not but happen
that in these visits congenial friendship would be made, and tender
remembrances go back with her into the seclusion of her country
home, to remain as sweet companions in her hours of loneliness.

It was something remarkable that, during the six or seven years
which followed Irene's separation from her husband, she had never
seen him. He was still a resident of New York, and well known as a
rapidly advancing member of the bar. Occasionally his name met her
eyes in the newspapers, as connected with some important suit; but,
beyond this, his life was to her a dead letter. He might be married
again, for all she knew to the contrary. But she never dwelt on that
thought; its intrusion always disturbed her, and that profoundly.

And how was it with Hartley Emerson? Had he again tried the
experiment which once so signally failed? No; he had not ventured
upon the sea whose depths held the richest vessel he had freighted
in life. Visions of loveliness had floated before him, and he had
been lured by them, a few times, out of his beaten path. But he
carried in his memory a picture that, when his eyes turned inward,
held their gaze so fixedly that all other images grew dim or
unlovely. And so, with a sigh, he would turn again to the old way
and move on as before.

But the past was irrevocable. "And shall I," he began to say to
himself, "for this one great error of my youth--this blind
mistake--pass a desolate and fruitless life?"

Oftener and oftener the question was repeated in his thoughts, until
it found answer in an emphatic No! Then he looked around with a new
interest, and went more into society. Soon one fair face came more
frequently before the eyes of his mind than any other face. He saw
it as he sat in his law-office, saw it on the page of his book as he
read in the evening, lying over the printed words and hiding from
his thoughts their meaning; saw it in dreams. The face haunted him.
How long was this since that fatal night of discord and separation?
Ten years. So long? Yes, so long. Ten weary years had made their
record upon his book of life and upon hers. Ten weary years! The
discipline of this time had not worked on either any moral
deterioration. Both were yet sound to the core, and both were
building up characters based on the broad foundations of virtue.

Steadily that face grew into a more living distinctness, haunting
his daily thoughts and nightly visions. Then new life-pulses began
to throb in his heart; new emotions to tremble over its long calm
surface; new warmth to flow, spring-like, into the indurated soil.
This face, which had begun thus to dwell with him, was the face of a
maiden, beautiful to look upon. He had met her often during a year,
and from the beginning of their acquaintance she had interested him.
If he erred not, the interest was mutual. From all points of view he
now commenced studying her character. Having made one mistake, he
was fearful and guarded. Better go on a lonely man to the end of
life than again have his love-freighted bark buried in mid-ocean.

At last, Emerson was satisfied. He had found the sweet being whose
life could blend in eternal oneness with his own; and it only
remained for him to say to her in words what she had read as plainly
as written language in his eyes. So far as she was concerned, no
impediment existed. We will not say that she was ripe enough in soul
to wed with this man, who had passed through experiences of a kind
that always develop the character broadly and deeply. No, for such
was not the case. She was too young and inexperienced to understand
him; too narrow in her range of thought; too much a child. But
something in her beautiful, innocent, sweet young face had won his
heart; and in the weakness of passion, not in the manly strength of
a deep love, he had bowed down to a shrine at which he could never
worship and be satisfied.

But even strong men are weak in woman's toils, and Hartley Emerson
was a captive.

There was to be a pleasure-party on one of the steamers that cut the
bright waters of the fair Hudson, and Emerson and the maiden, whose
face was now his daily companion, were to be of the number. He felt
that the time had come for him to speak if he meant to speak at
all--to say what was in his thought, or turn aside and let another
woo and win the lovely being imagination had already pictured as the
sweet companion of his future home. The night that preceded this
excursion was a sleepless one for Hartley Emerson. Questions and
doubts, scarcely defined in his thoughts before, pressed themselves
upon him and demanded a solution. The past came up with a vividness
not experienced for years. In states of
semi-consciousness--half-sleeping, half-waking--there returned to
him such life-like realizations of events long ago recorded in his
memory, and covered over with the dust of time, that he started from
them to full wakefulness, with a heart throbbing in wild tumult.
Once there was presented so vivid a picture of Irene that for some
moments he was unable to satisfy himself that all these ten years of
loneliness were not a dream. He saw her as she stood before him on
that ever-to-be-remembered night and said, "_I go!_" Let us turn
back and read the record of her appearance as he saw her then and
now:

"She had raised her eyes from the floor, and turned them full upon
her husband. Her face was not so pale. Warmth had come back to the
delicate skin, flushing it with beauty. She did not stand before him
an impersonation of anger, dislike or rebellion. There was not a
repulsively attitude or expression. No flashing of the eyes, nor
even the cold, diamond glitter seen a little while before. Slowly
turning away, she left the room. But to her husband she seemed still
standing there, a lovely vision. There had fallen, in that instant
of time, a sunbeam, which fixed the image upon his memory in
imperishable colors."

Emerson groaned as he fell back upon his pillow and shut his eyes.
What would he not then have given for one full draught of Lethe's
fabled waters.

Morning came at last, its bright beams dispersing the shadows of
night; and with it came back the warmth of his new passion and his
purpose on that day, if the opportunity came, to end all doubt, by
offering the maiden his hand--we do not say heart, for of that he
was not the full possessor.

The day opened charmingly, and the pleasure-party were on the wing
betimes. Emerson felt a sense of exhilaration as the steamer passed
out from her moorings and glided with easy grace along the city
front. He stood upon her deck with a maiden's hand resting on his
arm, the touch of which, though light as the pressure of a flower,
was felt with strange distinctness. The shadows of the night, which
had brooded so darkly over his spirit, were gone, and only a dim
remembrance of the gloom remained. Onward the steamer glided,
sweeping by the crowded line of buildings and moving grandly along,
through palisades of rock on one side and picturesque landscapes on
the other, until bolder scenery stretched away and mountain barriers
raised themselves against the blue horizon.

There was a large number of passengers on board, scattered over the
decks or lingering in the cabins, as inclination prompted. The
observer of faces and character had field enough for study; but
Hartley Emerson was not inclined to read in the book of character on
this occasion. One subject occupied his thoughts to the exclusion of
all others. There had come a period that was full of interest and
fraught with momentous consequences which must extend through all of
his after years. He saw little but the maiden at his side--thought
of little but his purpose to ask her to walk with him, a
soul-companion, in the journey of life.

During the first hour there was a constant moving to and fro and the
taking up of new positions by the passengers--a hum and buzz of
conversation--laughing--exclamations--gay talk and enthusiasm. Then
a quieter tone prevailed. Solitary individuals took places of
observation; groups seated themselves in pleasant circles to chat,
and couples drew away into cabins or retired places, or continued
the promenade.

Among the latter were Emerson and his companion. Purposely he had
drawn the fair girl away from their party, in order to get the
opportunity he desired. He did not mean to startle her with an
abrupt proposal here, in the very eye of observation, but to advance
toward the object by slow approaches, marking well the effect of his
words, and receding the moment he saw that, in beginning to
comprehend him, her mind showed repulsion or marked disturbance.

Thus it was with them when the boat entered the Highlands and swept
onward with wind-like speed. They were in one of the gorgeously
furnished cabins, sitting together on a sofa. There had been earnest
talk, but on some subject of taste. Gradually Emerson changed the
theme and began approaching the one nearest to his heart. Slight
embarrassment followed; his voice took on a different tone; it was
lower, tenderer, more deliberate and impressive. He leaned closer,
and the maiden did not retire; she understood him, and was waiting
the pleasure of his speech with heart-throbbings that seemed as if
they must be audible in his ears as well as her own.

The time had come. Everything was propitious. The words that would
have sealed his fate and hers were on his lips, when, looking up, he
knew not why, but under an impulse of the moment, he met two calm
eyes resting upon him with an expression that sent the blood leaping
back to his heart. Two calm eyes and a pale, calm face were before
him for a moment; then they vanished in the crowd. But he knew them,
though ten years lay between the last vision and this.

The words that were on his lips died unspoken. He could not have
uttered them if life or death hung on the issue. No--no--no. A dead
silence followed.

"Are you ill?" asked his companion, looking at him anxiously.

"No, oh no," he replied, trying to rally himself.

"But you are ill, Mr. Emerson. How pale your face is!"

"It will pass off in a moment." He spoke with an effort to appear
self-possessed. "Let us go on deck," he added, rising. "There are a
great many people in the cabin, and the atmosphere is oppressive."

A dead weight fell upon the maiden's heart as she arose and went on
deck by the side of Mr. Emerson. She had noticed his sudden pause
and glance across the cabin at the instant she was holding her
breath for his next words, but did not observe the object, a sight
of which had wrought on him so remarkable a change. They walked
nearly the entire length of the boat, after getting on deck, before
Mr. Emerson spoke. He then remarked on the boldness of the scenery
and pointed out interesting localities, but in so absent and
preoccupied a way that his companion listened without replying. In a
little while he managed to get into the neighborhood of three or
four of their party, with whom he left her, and, moving away, took a
position on the upper deck just over the gangway from which the
landings were made. Here he remained until the boat came to at a
pier on which his feet had stepped lightly many, many times. Ivy
Cliff was only a little way distant, hidden from view by a belt of
forest trees. The ponderous machinery stood still, the plunging
wheels stopped their muffled roar, and in the brooding silence that
followed three or four persons stepped on the plank which had been
thrown out and passed to the shore. A single form alone fixed the
eyes of Hartley Emerson. He would have known it on the instant among
a thousand. It was that of Irene. Her step was slow, like one
abstracted in mind or like one in feeble health. After gaining the
landing, she stood still and turned toward the boat, when their eyes
met again--met, and held each other, by a spell which neither had
power to break. The fastenings were thrown off, the engineer rung
his bell; there was a clatter of machinery, a rush of waters and the
boat glanced onward. Then Irene started like one suddenly aroused
from sleep and walked rapidly away.

And thus they met for the first time after a separation of ten
years.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE MINISTERING ANGEL.


_A CLATTER_ of machinery, a rush of waters, and the boat glanced
onward but still Hartley Emerson stood motionless and statue-like,
his eyes fixed upon the shore, until the swiftly-gliding vessel bore
him away, and the object which had held his vision by a kind of
fascination was concealed from view.

"An angel, if there ever was one on this side of heaven!" said a
voice close to his ear. Emerson gave a start and turned quickly. A
man plainly dressed stood beside him. He was of middle age, and had
a mild, grave, thoughtful countenance.

"Of whom do you speak?" asked Emerson, not able entirely to veil his
surprise.

"Of the lady we saw go ashore at the landing just now. She turned
and looked at us. You could not help noticing her."

"Who is she?" asked Emerson, and then held his breath awaiting the
answer. The question was almost involuntary, yet prompted by a
suddenly awakened desire to bear the world's testimony regard to
Irene.

"You don't know her, then?" remarked the stranger.

"I asked who she was." Emerson intended to say this firmly, but his
voice was unsteady. "Let us sit down," he added, looking around, and
then leading the way to where some unoccupied chairs were standing.
By the time they were seated he had gained the mastery over himself.

"You don't know her, then?" said the man, repeating his words. "She
is well known about these parts, I can assure you. Why, that was old
Mr. Delancy's daughter. Did you never hear of her?"

"What about her?" was asked.

"Well, in the first place, she was married some ten or twelve years
ago to a lawyer down in New York; and, in the second place, they
didn't live very happily together--why, I never heard. I don't
believe it was her fault, for she's the sweetest, kindest, gentlest
lady it has ever been my good fortune to meet. Some people around
Ivy Cliff call her the 'Angel,' and the word has meaning in it as
applied to her. She left her husband, and he got a divorce, but
didn't charge anything wrong against her. That, I suppose, was more
than he dared to do, for a snow-flake is not purer."

"You have lived in the neighborhood?" said Emerson, keeping his face
a little averted.

"Oh yes, sir. I have lived about here pretty much all my life."

"Then you knew Miss Delancy before she was married?"

"No, sir; I can't say that I knew much about her before that time. I
used to see her now and then as she rode about the neighborhood. She
was a gay, wild girl, sir. But that unhappy marriage made a great
change in her. I cannot forget the first time I saw her after she
came back to her father's. She seemed to me older by many years than
when I last saw her, and looked like one just recovered from a long
and serious illness. The brightness had passed from her face, the
fire from her eyes, the spring from her footsteps. I believe she
left her husband of her own accord, but I never knew that she made
any complaint against him. Of course, people were very curious to
know why she had abandoned him. But her lips must have been sealed,
for only a little vague talk went floating around. I never heard a
breath of wrong charged against him as coming from her."

Emerson's face was turned still more away from his companion, his
eyes bent down and his brows firmly knit. He did not ask farther,
but the man was on a theme that interested him, and so continued.

"For most of the time since her return to Ivy Cliff the life of Miss
Delancy has been given to Christian charities. The death of her
father was a heavy stroke. It took the life out of her for a while.
Since her recovery from that shock she has been constantly active
among us in good deeds. Poor sick women know the touch of her gentle
hand and the music of her voice. She has brought sunlight into many
wintry homes, and kindled again on hearths long desolate the fires
of loving kindness. There must have been some lack of true
appreciation on the part of her husband, sir. Bitter fountains do
not send forth sweet waters like these. Don't you think so?"

"How should I know?" replied Emerson, a little coldly. The question
was sprung upon him so suddenly that his answer was given in
confusion of thought.

"We all have our opinions, sir," said the man, "and this seems a
plain case. I've heard said that her husband was a hot-headed,
self-willed, ill-regulated young fellow, no more fit to get married
than to be President. That he didn't understand the woman--or,
maybe, I should say child--whom he took for his wife is very
certain, or he never would have treated her in the way he did!"

"How did he treat her?" asked Mr. Emerson.

"As to that," replied his talkative companion, "we don't know
anything certain. But we shall not go far wrong in guessing that it
was neither wise nor considerate. In fact, he must have outraged her
terribly."

"This, I presume, is the common impression about Ivy Cliff?"

"No," said the man; "I've heard him well spoken of. The fact is,
people are puzzled about the matter. We can't just understand it.
But, I'm all on her side."

"I wonder she has not married again?" said Emerson. "There are
plenty of men who would be glad to wed so perfect a being as you
represent her to be."

"She marry!" There was indignation and surprise in the man's voice.

"Yes; why not?"

"Sir, she is a Christian woman!"

"I can believe that, after hearing your testimony in regard to her,"
said Emerson. But he still kept his face so much turned aside that
its expression could not be seen.

"And reads her Bible."

"As we all should."

"And, what is more, believes in it," said the man emphatically.

"Don't all Christian people believe in the Bible?" asked Mr.
Emerson.

"I suppose so, after a fashion; and a very queer fashion it is,
sometimes."

"How does this lady of whom you speak believe in it differently from
some others?"

"In this, that it means what it says on the subject of divorce."

"Oh, I understand. You think that if she were to marry again it
would be in the face of conscientious scruples?"

"I do."

Mr. Emerson was about asking another question when one of the party
to which he belonged joined him, and so the strange interview
closed. He bowed to the man with whom he had been conversing, and
then passed to another part of the boat.

With slow steps, that were unsteady from sudden weakness, Irene
moved along the road that led to her home. After reaching the
grounds of Ivy Cliff she turned aside into a small summer-house, and
sat down at one of the windows that looked out upon the river as it
stretched upward in its gleaming way. The boat she had just left was
already far distant, but it fixed her eyes, and they saw no other
object until it passed from view around a wooded point of land. And
still she sat motionless, looking at the spot where it had vanished
from her sight.

"Miss Irene!" exclaimed Margaret, the faithful old domestic, who
still bore rule at the homestead, breaking in upon her reverie,
"what in the world are you doing here? I expected you up to-day, and
when the boat stopped at the landing and you didn't come, I was
uneasy and couldn't rest. Why child, what is the matter? You're
sick!"

"Oh no, Margaret, I'm well enough," said Irene, trying to smile
indifferently. And she arose and left the summer-house.

Kind, observant old Margaret was far from being satisfied, however.
She saw that Irene was not as when she departed for the city a week
before. If she were not sick in body, she was troubled in her mind,
for her countenance was so changed that she could not look upon it
without feeling a pang in her heart.

"I'm sure you're sick, Miss Irene," she said as they entered the
house. "Now, what is the matter? What can I do or get for you? Let
me send over for Dr. Edmondson?"

"No, no, my good Margaret, don't think of such a thing," replied
Irene. "I'm not sick."

"Something's the matter with you, child," persisted Margaret.

"Nothing that won't cure itself," said Irene, trying to speak
cheerfully. "I'll go up to my room for a little while."

And she turned away from her kind-hearted domestic. On entering her
chamber Irene locked the door in order to be safe from intrusion,
for she knew that Margaret would not let half an hour pass without
coming up to ask how she was. Sitting down by the window, she looked
out upon the river, along whose smooth surface had passed the vessel
in which, a little while before, she met the man once called by the
name of husband--met him and looked into his face for the first time
in ten long years! The meeting had disturbed her profoundly. In the
cabin of that vessel she had seen him by the side of a fair young
girl in earnest conversation; and she had watched with a strange,
fluttering interest the play of his features. What was he saying to
that fair young girl that she listened with such a breathless,
waiting air? Suddenly he turned toward her, their eyes met and were
spell-bound for moments. What did she read in his eyes in those
brief moments? What did he read in hers? Both questions pressed
themselves upon her thoughts as she retreated among the crowd of
passengers, and then hid herself from the chance of another meeting
until the boat reached the landing at Ivy Cliff. Why did she pause
on the shore, and turn to look upon the crowded decks? She knew not.
The act was involuntary. Again their eyes met--met and held each
other until the receding vessel placed dim distance between them.

In less than half an hour Margaret's hand was on the door, but she
could not enter. Irene had not moved from her place at the window in
all that time.

"Is that you, Margaret?" she called, starting from her abstraction.

"Do you want anything, Miss Irene?"

"No, thank you, Margaret."

She answered in as cheerful a tone as she could assume, and the kind
old waiting-woman retired.

From that time every one noted a change in Irene. But none knew, or
even guessed, its cause or meaning. Not even to her friend, Mrs.
Everet, did she speak of her meeting with Hartley Emerson. Her face
did not light up as before, and her eyes seemed always as if looking
inward or gazing dreamily upon something afar off. Yet in good deeds
she failed not. If her own heart was heavier, she made other hearts
lighter by her presence.

And still the years went on in their steady revolutions--one, two,
three, four, five more years, and in all that time the parted ones
did not meet again.



CHAPTER XXV.

BORN FOR EACH OTHER.


"_I SAW_ Mr. Emerson yesterday," said Mrs. Everet. She was sitting
with Irene in her own house in New York.

"Did you?" Irene spoke evenly and quietly, but did not turn her face
toward Mrs. Everet.

"Yes. I saw him at my husband's store. Mr. Everet has engaged him to
conduct an important suit, in which many thousands of dollars are at
stake."

"How does he look?" inquired Irene, without showing any feelings but
still keeping her face turned from Mrs Everet.

"Well, I should say, though rather too much frosted for a man of his
years."

"Gray, do you mean?" Irene manifested some surprise.

"Yes; his hair and beard are quite sprinkled with time's white
snow-flakes."

"He is only forty," remarked Irene.

"I should say fifty, judging from his appearance."

"Only forty." And a faint sigh breathed on the lips of Irene. She
did not look around at her friend but sat very still, with her face
turned partly away. Mrs. Everet looked at her closely, to read, if
possible, what was passing in her mind. But the countenance of Irene
was too much hidden. Her attitude, however, indicated intentness of
thought, though not disturbing thought.

"Rose," she said at length, "I grow less at peace with myself as the
years move onward."

"You speak from some passing state of mind," suggested Mrs. Everet.

"No; from a gradually forming permanent state. Ten years ago I
looked back upon the past in a stern, self-sustaining,
martyr-spirit. Five years ago all things wore a different aspect. I
began to have misgivings; I could not so clearly make out my case.
New thoughts on the subject--and not very welcome ones--began to
intrude. I was self-convicted of wrong; yes, Rose, of a great and an
irreparable wrong. I shut my eyes; I tried to look in other
directions; but the truth, once seen, could not pass from the range
of mental vision. I have never told you that I saw Mr. Emerson five
years ago. The effect of that meeting was such that I could not
speak of it, even to you. We met on one of the river steamboats--met
and looked into each other's eyes for just a moment. It may only be
a fancy of mine, but I have thought sometimes that, but for this
seemingly accidental meeting, he would have married again."

"Why do you think so?" asked Mrs. Everet.

Irene did not answer for some moments. She hardly dared venture to
put what she had seen in words. It was something that she felt more
like hiding even from her own consciousness, if that were possible.
But, having ventured so far, she could not well hold back. So she
replied, keeping her voice into as dead a level as it was possible
to assume:

"He was sitting in earnest conversation with a young lady, and from
the expression of her face, which I could see, the subject on which
he was speaking was evidently one in which more than her thought was
interested. I felt at the time that he was on the verge of a new
life-experiment--was about venturing upon a sea on which he had once
made shipwreck. Suddenly he turned half around and looked at me
before I had time to withdraw my eyes--looked at me with a strange,
surprised, startled look. In another moment a form came between us;
when it passed I was lost from his gaze in the crowd of passengers.
I have puzzled myself a great many times over that fact of his
turning his eyes, as if from some hidden impulse, just to the spot
where I was sitting. There are no accidents--as I have often heard
you say--in the common acceptation of the term; therefore this was
no accident."

"It was a providence," said Rose.

"And to what end?" asked Irene.

Mrs. Everet shook her head.

"I will not even presume to conjecture."

Irene sighed, and then sat lost in thought. Recovering herself, she
said:

"Since that time I have been growing less and less satisfied with
that brief, troubled portion of my life which closed so
disastrously. I forgot how much the happiness of another was
involved. A blind, willful girl, struggling in imaginary bonds, I
thought only of myself, and madly rent apart the ties which death
only should have sundered. For five years, Rose, I have carried in
my heart the expression which looked out upon me from the eyes of
Mr. Emerson at that brief meeting. Its meaning was not then, nor is
it now, clear. I have never set myself to the work of
interpretation, and believe the task would be fruitless. But
whenever it is recalled I am affected with a tender sadness. And so
his head is already frosted, Rose?"

"Yes."

"Though in years he has reached only manhood's ripened state. How I
have marred his life! Better, far better, would it have been for him
if I had been the bride of Death on my wedding-day!"

A shadow of pain darkened her face.

"No," replied Mrs. Everet; "it is better for both you and him that
you were not the bride of Death. There are deeper things hidden in
the events of life than our reason can fathom. We die when it is
best for ourselves and best for others that we should die--never
before. And the fact that we live is in itself conclusive that we
are yet needed in the world by all who can be affected by our mortal
existence."

"Gray hairs at forty!" This seemed to haunt the mind of Irene.

"It may be constitutional," suggested Mrs. Everet; "some heads begin
to whiten at thirty."

"Possibly."

But the tone expressed no conviction.

"How was his face?" asked Irene.

"Grave and thoughtful. At least so it appeared to me."

"At forty." It was all Irene said.

Mrs. Everet might have suggested that a man of his legal position
would naturally be grave and thoughtful, but she did not.

"It struck me," said Mrs. Everet, "as a true, pure, manly face. It
was intellectual and refined; delicate, yet firm about the mouth and
expansive in the upper portions. The hair curled softly away from
his white temples and forehead."

"Worthy of a better fate!" sighed Irene. "And it is I who have
marred his whole life! How blind is selfish passion! Ah, my friend,
the years do not bring peace to my soul. There have been times when
to know that he had sought refuge from a lonely life in marriage
would have been a relief to me. Were this the case, the thought of
his isolation, of his imperfect life, would not be for ever rebuking
me. But now, while no less severely rebuked by this thought, I feel
glad that he has not ventured upon an act no clear sanction for
which is found in the Divine law. He could not, I feel, have
remained so true and pure a man as I trust he is this day. God help
him to hold on, faithful to his highest intuitions, even unto the
end."

Mrs. Everet looked at Irene wonderingly as she spoke. She had never
before thus unveiled her thoughts.

"He struck me," was her reply, "as a man who had passed through
years of discipline and gained the mastery of himself."

"I trust that it may be so," Irene answered, rather as if speaking
to herself than to another.

"As I grow older," she added, after a long pause, now looking with
calm eyes upon her friend, "and life-experiences correct my judgment
and chasten my feelings, I see all things in a new aspect. I
understand my own heart better--its needs, capacities and yearnings;
and self-knowledge is the key by which we unlock the mystery of
other souls. So a deeper self-acquaintance enables me to look deeper
into the hearts of all around me. I erred in marrying Mr. Emerson.
We were both too hasty, self-willed and tenacious of rights and
opinions to come together in a union so sacred and so intimate. But,
after I had become his wife, after I had taken upon myself such holy
vows, it was my duty to stand fast. I could not abandon my place and
be innocent before God and man. And I am not innocent, Rose."

The face of Irene was strongly agitated for some moments; but she
recovered herself and went on:

"I am speaking of things that have hitherto been secrets of my own
heart. I could not bring them out even for you to look at, my
dearest, truest, best of friends. Now it seems as if I could not
bear the weight of my heavy thoughts alone; as if, in admitting you
beyond the veil, I might find strength to suffer, if not ease from
pain. There is no such thing as living our lives over again and
correcting their great errors. The past is an irrevocable fact. Ah,
if conscience would sleep, if struggles for a better life would make
atonement for wrong--then, as our years progress, we might lapse
into tranquil states. But gradually clearing vision increases the
magnitude of a fault like mine, for its fatal consequences are seen
in broader light. There is a thought which has haunted me for a year
past like a spectre. It comes to me unbidden; sometimes to disturb
the quiet of my lonely evenings, sometimes in the silent
night-watches to banish sleep from my pillow; sometimes to place
silence on my lips as I sit among cherished friends. I never
imagined that I would put this thought in words for any mortal ear;
yet it is coming to my lips now, and I feel impelled to go on. You
believe that there are, as you call them 'conjugal partners,' or men
and women born for each other, who, in a true marriage of souls,
shall become eternally one. They do not always meet in this life;
nay, for the sake of that discipline which leads to purification,
may form other and uncongenial ties in the world, and live
unhappily; but in heaven they will draw together by a
divinely-implanted attraction, and be there united for ever. I have
felt that something like this must be true; that every soul must
have its counterpart. The thought which has so haunted me is, that
Hartley Emerson and unhappy _I_ were born for each other."

She paused and looked with a half-startled air upon Mrs. Everet to
mark the effect of this revelation. But Rose made no response and
showed no surprise, however she might have been affected by the
singular admission of her friend.

"It has been all in vain," continued Irene "that I have pushed the
thought aside--called it absurd, insane, impossible--back it would
come and take its old place. And, stranger still, out of facts that
I educed to prove its fallacy would come corroborative suggestions.
I think it is well for my peace of mind that I have not been in the
way of hearing about him or of seeing him. Since we parted it has
been as if a dark curtain had fallen between us; and, so far as I am
concerned, that curtain has been lifted up but once or twice, and
then only for a moment of time. So all my thoughts of him are joined
to the past. Away back in that sweet time when the heart of girlhood
first thrills with the passion of love are some memories that haunt
my soul like dreams from Elysium. He was, in my eyes, the
impersonation of all that was lovely and excellent; his presence
made my sense of happiness complete; his voice touched my ears as
the blending of all rich harmonies. But there fell upon him a
shadow; there came hard discords in the music which had entranced my
soul; the fine gold was dimmed. Then came that period of mad strife,
of blind antagonism, in which we hurt each other by rough contact.
Finally, we were driven far asunder, and, instead of revolving
together around a common centre, each has moved in a separate orbit.
For years that dark period of pain has held the former period of
brightness in eclipse; but of late gleams from that better time have
made their way down to the present. Gradually the shadows are giving
away. The first state is coming to be felt more and more as the true
state--as that in best agreement with what we are in relation to
each other. It was the evil in us that met in such fatal
antagonism--not the good; it was something that we must put off if
we would rise from natural and selfish life into spiritual and
heavenly life. It was our selfishness and passion that drove us
asunder. Thus it is, dear Rose, that my thoughts have been wandering
about in the maze of life that entangles me. In my isolation I have
time enough for mental inversion--for self-exploration--for idle
fancies, if you will. And so I have lifted the veil for you;
uncovered my inner life; taken you into the sanctuary over whose
threshold no foot but my own had ever passed."

There was too much in all this for Mrs. Everet to venture upon any
reply that involved suggestion or advice. It was from a desire to
look deeper into the heart of her friend that she had spoken of her
meeting with Mr. Emerson. The glance she obtained revealed far more
than her imagination had ever reached.



CHAPTER XXVI.

LOVE NEVER DIES.


_THE_ brief meeting with Mrs. Everet had stirred the memory of old
times in the heart of Mr. Emerson. With a vividness unknown for
years, Ivy Cliff and the sweetness of many life-passages there came
back to him, and set heart-pulses that he had deemed stilled for
ever beating in tumultuous waves. When the business of the day was
over he sat down in the silence of his chamber and turned his eyes
inward. He pushed aside intervening year after year, until the
long-ago past was, to his consciousness, almost as real as the
living present. What he saw moved him deeply. He grew restless, then
showed disturbance of manner. There was an effort to turn away from
the haunting fascination of this long-buried, but now exhumed
period; but the dust and scoria were removed, and it lifted, like
another Pompeii, its desolate walls and silent chambers in the clear
noon-rays of the present.

After a long but fruitless effort to bury the past again, to let the
years close over it as the waves close over a treasure-laden ship,
Mr. Emerson gave himself up to its thronging memories and let them
bear him whither they would.

In this state of mind he unlocked one of the drawers in a secretary
and took therefrom a small box or casket. Placing this on a table,
he sat down and looked at it for some minutes, as if in doubt
whether it were best for him to go further in this direction.
Whether satisfied or not, he presently laid his fingers upon the lid
of the casket and slowly opened it. It contained only a morocco
case. He touched this as if it were something precious and sacred.
For some moments after it was removed he sat holding it in his hand
and looking at the dark, blank surface, as a long-expected letter is
sometimes held before the seal is broken and the contents devoured
with impatient eagerness. At last his finger pressed the spring on
which it had been resting, and he looked upon a young, sweet face,
whose eyes gazed back into his with a living tenderness. In a little
while his hand so trembled, and his eyes grew so dim, that the face
was veiled from his sight. Closing the miniature, but still
retaining it in his hand, he leaned back in his chair and remained
motionless, with shut eyes, for a long time; then he looked at the
fair young face again, conning over every feature and expression,
until sad memories came in and veiled it again with tears.

"Folly! weakness!" he said at last, pushing the picture from him and
making a feeble effort to get back his manly self-possession. "The
past is gone for ever. The page on which its sad history is written
was closed long ago, and the book is sealed. Why unclasp the volume
and search for that dark record again?"

Yet, even as he said this, his hand reached out for the miniature,
and his eyes were on it ere the closing words had parted from his
lips.

"Poor Irene!" he murmured, as he gazed on her pictured face. "You
had a pure, tender, loving heart--" then, suddenly shutting the
miniature, with a sharp click of the spring, he tossed it from him
upon the table and said,

"This is folly! folly! folly!" and, leaning back in his chair, he
shut his eyes and sat for a long time with his brows sternly knitted
together and his lips tightly compressed. Rising, at length, he
restored the miniature to its casket, and the casket to its place in
the drawer. A servant came to the door at this moment, bringing the
compliments of a lady friend, who asked him, if not engaged, to
favor her with his company on that evening, as she had a visitor,
just arrived, to whom she wished to introduce him. He liked the
lady, who was the wife of a legal friend, very well; but he was not
always so well pleased with her lady friends, of whom she had a
large circle. The fact was, she considered him too fine a man to go
through life companionless, and did not hesitate to use every art in
her power to draw him into an entangling alliance. He saw this, and
was often more amused than annoyed by her finesse.

It was on his lips to send word that he was engaged, but a regard
for truth would not let him make this excuse; so, after a little
hesitation and debate, he answered that he would present himself
during the evening. The lady's visitor was a widow of about thirty
years of age--rich, educated, accomplished and personally
attractive. She was from Boston, and connected with one of the most
distinguished families in Massachusetts, whose line of ancestry ran
back among the nobles of England. In conversation this lady showed
herself to be rarely gifted, and there was a charm about her manners
that was irresistible. Mr. Emerson, who had been steadily during the
past five years growing less and less attracted by the fine women he
met in society, found himself unusually interested in Mrs. Eager.

"I knew you would like her," said his lady friend, as Mr. Emerson
was about retiring at eleven o'clock.

"You take your conclusion for granted," he answered, smiling. "Did I
say that I liked her?"

"We ladies have eyes," was the laughing rejoinder. "Of course you
like her. She's going to spend three or four days with me. You'll
drop in to-morrow evening. Now don't pretend that you have an
engagement. Come; I want you to know her better. I think her
charming."

Mr. Emerson did not promise positively, but said that he might look
in during the evening.

For a new acquaintance, Mrs. Eager had attracted him strongly; and
his thoughtful friend was not disappointed in her expectation of
seeing him at her house on the succeeding night. Mrs. Eager, to whom
the lady she was visiting had spoken of Mr. Emerson in terms of
almost extravagant eulogy, was exceedingly well pleased with him,
and much gratified at meeting him again, A second interview gave
both an opportunity for closer observation, and when they parted it
was with pleasant thoughts of each other lingering in their minds.
During the time that Mrs. Eager remained in New York, which was
prolonged for a week beyond the period originally fixed, Mr. Emerson
saw her almost every day, and became her voluntary escort in
visiting points of local interest. The more he saw of her the more
he was charmed with her character. She seemed in his eyes the most
attractive woman he had ever met. Still, there was something about
her that did not wholly satisfy him, though what it was did not come
into perception.

Five years had passed since any serious thought of marriage had
troubled the mind of Mr. Emerson. After his meeting with Irene he
had felt that another union in this world was not for him--that he
had no right to exchange vows of eternal fidelity with any other
woman. She had remained unwedded, and would so remain, he felt, to
the end of her life. The legal contract between them was dissolved;
but, since his brief talk with the stranger on the boat, he had not
felt so clear as to the higher law obligations which were upon them.
And so he had settled it in his mind to bear life's burdens alone.

But Mrs. Eager had crossed his way, and filled, in many respects,
his ideal of a woman. There was a charm about her that won him
against all resistance.

"Don't let this opportunity pass," said his interested lady friend,
as the day of Mrs. Eager's departure drew nigh. "She is a woman in a
thousand, and will make one of the best of wives. Think, too, of her
social position, her wealth and her large cultivation. An
opportunity like this is never presented more than once in a
lifetime."

"You speak," replied Mr. Emerson, "as if I had only to say the word
and this fair prize would drop into my arms."

"She will have to be wooed if she is won. Were this not the case she
would not be worth having," said the lady. "But my word for it, if
you turn wooer the winning will not be hard. If I have not erred in
my observation, you are about mutually interested. There now, my
cautious sir, if you do not get handsomely provided for, it will be
no fault of mine."

In two days from this time Mrs. Eager was to return to Boston.

"You must take her to see those new paintings at the rooms of the
Society Library to-morrow. I heard her express a desire to examine
them before returning to Boston. Connoisseurs are in ecstasies over
three or four of the pictures, and, as Mrs. Eager is something of an
enthusiast in matters of art, your favor in this will give her no
light pleasure."

"I shall be most happy to attend her," replied Mr. Emerson. "Give
her my compliments, and say that, if agreeable to herself, I will
call for her at twelve to-morrow."

"No verbal compliments and messages," replied the lady; "that isn't
just the way."

"How then? Must I call upon her and deliver my message? That might
not be convenient to me nor agreeable to her."

"Oh!" ejaculated the lady, with affected impatience, "you men are so
stupid at times! You know how to write?"

"Ah! yes, I comprehend you now."

"Very well. Send your compliments and your message in a note; and
let it be daintily worded; not in heavy phrases, like a legal
document."

"A very princess in feminine diplomacy!" said Mr. Emerson to
himself, as he turned from the lady and took his way homeward. "So I
must pen a note."

Now this proved a more difficult matter than he had at first
thought. He sat down to the task immediately on returning to his
room. On a small sheet of tinted note-paper he wrote a few words,
but they did not please him, and the page was thrown into the fire.
He tried again, but with no better success--again and again; but
still, as he looked at the brief sentences, they seemed to express
too much or too little. Unable to pen the note to his satisfaction,
he pushed, at last, his writing materials aside, saying,

"My head will be clearer and cooler in the morning."

It was drawing on to midnight, and Mr. Emerson had not yet retired.
His thoughts were too busy for sleep. Many things were crowding into
his mind--questions, doubts, misgivings--scenes from the past and
imaginations of the future. And amid them all came in now and then,
just for a moment, as he had seen it five years before, the pale,
still face of Irene.

Wearied in the conflict, tired nature at last gave way, and Mr.
Emerson fell asleep in his chair.

Two hours of deep slumber tranquilized his spirit. He awoke from
this, put off his clothing and laid his head on his pillow. It was
late in the morning when he arose. He had no difficulty now in
penning a note to Mrs. Eager. It was the work of a moment, and
satisfactory to him in the first effort.

At twelve he called with a carriage for the lady, whom he found all
ready to accompany him, and in the best possible state of mind. Her
smile, as he presented himself, was absolutely fascinating; and her
voice seemed like a freshly-tuned instrument, every tone was so rich
in musical vibration, and all the tones came chorded to his ear.

There were not many visitors at the exhibition rooms--a score,
perhaps--but they were art-lovers, gazing in rapt attention or
talking in hushed whispers. They moved about noiselessly here and
there, seeming scarcely conscious that others were present.
Gradually the number increased, until within an hour after they
entered it was more than doubled. Still, the presence of art subdued
all into silence or subdued utterances.

Emerson was charmed with his companion's appreciative admiration of
many pictures. She was familiar with art-terms and special points of
interest, and pointed out beauties and harmonies that to him were
dead letters without an interpreter. They came, at last, to a small
but wonderfully effective picture, which contained a single figure,
that of a man sitting by a table in a room which presented the
appearance of a library. He held a letter in his hand--a old letter;
the artist had made this plain--but was not reading. He had been
reading; but the words, proving conjurors, had summoned the dead
past before him, and he was now looking far away, with sad, dreamy
eyes, into the long ago. A casket stood open. Time letter had
evidently been taken from this repository. There was a miniature; a
bracelet of auburn hair; a ring and a chain of gold lying on the
table. Mr. Emerson turned to the catalogue and read,

"WITH THE BURIED PAST."

And below this title the brief sentiment--

"Love never dies."

A deep, involuntary sigh came through his lips and stirred the
pulseless air around him. Then, like an echo, there came to his ears
an answering sigh, and, turning, he looked into the face of Irene!
She had entered the rooms a little while before, and in passing from
picture to picture had reached this one a few moments after Mr.
Emerson. She had not observed him, and was just beginning to feel
its meaning, when the sigh that attested its power over him reached
her ears and awakened an answering sigh. For several moments their
eyes were fixed in a gaze which neither had power to withdraw. The
face of Irene had grown thinner, paler and more shadowy--if we may
use that term to express something not of the earth, earthy--than it
was when he looked upon it five years before. But her eyes were
darker in contrast with her colorless face, and had a deeper tone of
feeling.

They did not speak nor pass a sign of recognition. But the instant
their eyes withdrew from each other Irene turned from the picture
and left the rooms.

When Mr. Emerson looked back into the face of his companion, its
charm was gone. Beside that of the fading countenance, so still and
nun-like, upon which he had gazed a moment before, it looked coarse
and worldly. When she spoke, her tones no longer came in chords of
music to his ears, but jarred upon his feelings. He grew silent;
cold, abstracted. The lady noted the change, and tried to rally him;
but her efforts were vain. He moved by her side like an automaton,
and listened to her comments on the pictures they paused to examine
in such evident absent-mindedness that she became annoyed, and
proposed returning home. Mr. Emerson made no objection, and they
left the quiet picture-gallery for the turbulence of Broadway. The
ride home was a silent one, and they separated in mutual
embarrassment, Mr. Emerson going back to his rooms instead of to his
office, and sitting down in loneliness there, with a shuddering
sense of thankfulness at his heart for the danger he had just
escaped.

"What a blind spell was on me!" he said, as he gazed away down into
his soul--far, far deeper than any tone or look from Mrs. Eager had
penetrated--and saw needs, states and yearnings there which must be
filled or there could be no completeness of life. And now the still,
pale face of Irene stood out distinctly; and her deep, weird,
yearning eyes looked into his with a fixed intentness that stirred
his heart to its profoundest depths.

Mr. Emerson was absent from his office all that day. But on the next
morning he was at his post, and it would have taken a close observer
to have detected any change in his usually quiet face. But there was
a change in the man--a great change. He had gone down deeper into
his heart than he had ever gone before, and understood himself
better. There was little danger of his ever being tempted again in
this direction.



CHAPTER XXVII.

EFFECTS OF THE STORM.


_IT_ was more than a week before Mr. Emerson called again upon the
lady friend who had shown so strong a desire to procure him a wife.
He expected her to introduce the name of Mrs. Eager, and came
prepared to talk in a way that would for ever close the subject of
marriage between them. The lady expressed surprise at not having
seen him for so long a time, and then introduced the subject nearest
her thought.

"What was the matter with you and Mrs. Eager?" she asked, her face
growing serious.

Mr. Emerson shook his head, and said, "Nothing," with not a shadow
of concern in his voice.

"Nothing? Think again. I could hardly have been deceived."

"Why do you ask? Did the lady charge anything ungallant against me?"

Mr. Emerson was unmoved.

"Oh no, no! She scarcely mentioned your name after her return from
viewing the pictures. But she was not in so bright a humor as when
she went out, and was dull up to the hour of her departure for
Boston. I'm afraid you offended her in some way--unconsciously on
your part, of course."

"No, I think not," said Mr. Emerson. "She would be sensitive in the
extreme if offended by any word or act of mine."

"Well, letting that all pass, Mr. Emerson, what do you think of Mrs.
Eager?"

"That she is an attractive and highly accomplished woman."

"And the one who reaches your ideal of a wife?"

"No, ma'am," was the unhesitating answer, and made in so emphatic a
tone that there was no mistaking his sincerity. There was a change
in his countenance and manner. He looked unusually serious.

The lady tried to rally him, but he had come in too sober a state of
mind for pleasant trifling on this subject, of all others.

"My kind, good friend," he said, "I owe you many thanks for the
interest you have taken in me, and for your efforts to get me a
companion. But I do not intend to marry."

"So you have said--"

"Pardon me for interrupting you." Mr. Emerson checked the light
speech that was on her tongue. "I am going to say to you some things
that have never passed my lips before. You will understand me; this
I know, or I would not let a sentence come into utterance. And I
know more, that you will not make light of what to me is sacred."

The lady was sobered in a moment.

"To make light of what to you is sacred would be impossible," she
replied.

"I believe it, and therefore I am going to speak of things that are
to me the saddest of my life, and yet are coming to involve the
holiest sentiments. I have more than one reason for desiring now to
let another look below the quiet surface; and I will lift the veil
for your eyes alone. You know that I was married nearly twenty years
ago, and that my wife separated herself from me in less than three
years after our union; and you also know that the separation was
made permanent by a divorce. This is all that you or any other one
knows, so far as I have made communication on the subject; and I
have reason to believe that she who was my wife has been as reserved
in the matter as myself.

"The simple facts in the case are these: We were both young and
undisciplined, both quick-tempered, self-willed, and very much
inclined to have things our own way. She was an only child, and so
was I. Each had been spoiled by long self-indulgence. So, when we
came together in marriage, the action of our lives, instead of
taking a common pulsation, was inharmonious. For a few years we
strove together blindly in our bonds, and then broke madly asunder.
I think we were about equally in fault; but if there was a
preponderance of blame, it rested on my side, for, as a man, I
should have kept a cooler head and shown greater forbearance. But
the time for blame has long since passed. It is with the stern,
irrevocable facts that we are dealing now.

"So bitter had been our experience, and so painful the shock of
separation, that I think a great many years must have passed before
repentance came into either heart--before a feeling of regret that
we had not held fast to our marriage vows was born. How it was with
me you may infer from the fact that, after the lapse of two years, I
deliberately asked for and obtained a divorce on the ground of
desertion. But doubt as to the propriety of this step stirred
uneasily in my mind for the first time when I held the decree in my
hand; and I have never felt wholly satisfied with myself since.
There should be something deeper than incompatibility of temper to
warrant a divorce. The parties should correct what is wrong in
themselves, and thus come into harmony. There is no excuse for
pride, passion and self-will. The law of God does not make these
justifiable causes of divorce, and neither should the law of man. A
purer woman than my wife never lived; and she had elements of
character that promised a rare development. I was proud of her. Ah,
if I had been wiser and more patient! If I had endeavored to lead,
instead of assuming the manly prerogative! But I was young, and
blind, and willful!

"Fifteen years have passed since the day we parted, and each has
remained single. If we had not separated, we might now be living in
a true heart-union; for I believe, strange as it may sound to you,
that we were made for each other--that, when the false and evil of
our lives are put off, the elements of conjunction will appear. We
have made for ourselves of this world a dreary waste, when, if we
had overcome the evil of our hearts, our paths would have been
through green and fragrant places. It may be happier for us in the
next; and it will be. I am a better man, I think, for the discipline
through which I have passed, and she is a better woman."

Mr. Emerson paused.

"She? Have you seen her?" the lady asked.

"Twice since we parted, and then only for a moment. Suddenly each
time we met, and looked into each other's eyes for a single instant;
then, as if a curtain had dropped suddenly between us, we were
separated. But the impression of her face remained as vivid and
permanent as a sun-picture. She lives, for most of her time,
secluded at Ivy Cliff, her home on the Hudson; and her life is
passed there, I hear, in doing good. And, if good deeds, from right
ends, write their history on the human face, then her countenance
bears the record of tenderest charities. It was pale when I last saw
it--pale, but spiritual--I can use no other word; and I felt a
sudden panic at the thought that she was growing into a life so pure
and heavenly that I must stand afar off as unworthy. It had
sometimes come into my thought that we were approaching each other,
as both put off, more and more, the evil which had driven us apart
and held us so long asunder. But this illusion our last brief
meeting dispelled. She has passed me on the road of self-discipline
and self-abnegation, and is journeying far ahead. And now I can but
follow through life at a distance.

"So much, and no more, my friend. I drop the veil over my heart. You
will understand me better hereafter. I shall not marry. That legal
divorce is invalid. I could not perjure my soul by vows of fidelity
toward another. Patiently and earnestly will I do my allotted work
here. My better hopes lie all in the heavenly future.

"And now, my friend, we will understand each other better. You have
looked deeper into my thoughts and experiences than any other human
being. Let the revelation be sacred to yourself. The knowledge you
possess may enable you to do me justice sometimes, and sometimes to
save me from an intrusion of themes that cannot but touch me
unpleasantly. There was a charm about Mrs. Eager that, striking me
suddenly, for a little while bewildered my fancy. She is a woman of
rare endowments, and I do not regret the introduction and passing
influence she exercised over me. It was a dream from which the
awakening was certain. Suddenly the illusion vanished, as I saw her
beside my lost Irene. The one was of the earth, earthy--the other
of heaven, heavenly; and as I looked back into her brilliant face,
radiant with thought and feeling, I felt a low, creeping shudder, as
if just freed from the spell of a siren. I cannot be enthralled
again, even for a moment."

Back again into his world's work Mr. Emerson returned after this
brief, exciting episode, and found in its performance from high and
honorable motives that calmly sustaining power which comes only as
the reward of duties faithfully done.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

AFTER THE STORM.


_AFTER_ the storm! How long the treasure remained buried in deep
waters! How long the earth showed unsightly furrows and barren
places! For nearly twenty years there had been warm sunshine, and no
failure of the dews nor the early and latter rain. But grass had not
grown nor flowers blossomed in the path of that desolating tempest.
Nearly twenty years! If the history of these two lives during that
long period could be faithfully written, it would flood the soul
with tears.

Four years later than the time when we last presented Irene to the
reader we introduce her again. That meeting in the picture-gallery
had disturbed profoundly the quiet pulses of her life. She did not
observe Mr. Emerson's companion. The picture alone had attracted her
attention; and she had just began to feel its meaning when an
audible sigh reached her ears. The answering sigh was involuntary.
Then they looked into each other's faces again--only for an
instant--but with what a volume of mutual revelations!

It was four years subsequent to this time that Irene, after a brief
visit in New York to her friend, Mrs. Everet, returned to her rural
home. Mrs. Everet was to follow on the next day, and spend a few
weeks with her father. It was yet in the early summer, and there
were not many passengers on the-boat. As was usual, Irene provided
herself with a volume, and soon after going on board took a retired
place in one of the cabins and buried herself in its pages. For over
three hours she remained completely absorbed in what she was
reading. Then her mind began to wander and dwell on themes that made
the even pulses of her heart beat to a quicker measure; yet still
her eyes remained fixed on the book she held in her hand. At length
she became aware that some one was near her, by the falling of a
shadow on the page she was trying to read. Lifting her head, she met
the eyes of Hartley Emerson. He was standing close to her, his hand
resting on the back of a chair, which he now drew nearly in front of
her.

"Irene," he said, in a low, quiet voice, "I am glad to meet you
again in this world." And he reached out his hand as he spoke.

For a moment Irene sat very still, but she did not take her eyes
from Mr. Emerson's face; then she extended her hand and let it lie
in his. He did not fail to notice that it had a low tremor.

Thus received, he sat down.

"Nearly twenty years have passed, Irene, since a word or sign has
passed between us."

Her lips moved, but there was no utterance.

"Why should we not, at least, be friends?"

Her lips moved again, but no words trembled on the air.

"Friends, that may meet now and then, and feel kindly one toward the
other."

His voice was still event in tone--very even, but very distinct and
impressive.

At first Irene's face had grown pale, but now a warm flush was
pervading it.

"If you desire it, Hartley," she answered, in a voice that trembled
in the beginning, but grew firm ere the sentence closed, "it is not
for me to say, 'No.' As for kind feelings, they are yours
always--always. The bitterness passed from my heart long ago."

"And from mine," said Mr. Emerson.

They were silent for a few moments, and each showed embarrassment.

"Nearly twenty years! That is a long, long time, Irene." His voice
showed signs of weakness.

"Yes, it is a long time." It was a mere echo of his words, yet full
of meaning.

"Twenty years!" he repeated. "There has been full time for
reflection, and, it may be, for repentance. Time for growing wiser
and better."

Irene's eyelids drooped until the long lashes lay in a dark fringed
line on her pale cheeks. When she lifted them they were wet.

"Yes, Hartley," she answered with much feeling, "there has been,
indeed, time for reflection and repentance. It is no light thing to
shadow the whole life of a human being."

"As I have shadowed yours."

"No, no," she answered quickly, "I did not mean that; as I have
shadowed yours."

She could not veil the tender interest that was in her eyes; would
not, perhaps, if it had been in her power.

At this moment a bell rang out clear and loud. Irene started and
glanced from the window; then, rising quickly, she said--

"We are at the landing."

There was a hurried passage from cabin to deck, a troubled confusion
of thought, a brief period of waiting, and then Irene stood on the
shore and Hartley Emerson on the receding vessel. In a few hours
miles of space lay between them.

"Irene, darling," said Mrs. Everet, as they met at Ivy Cliff on the
next day, "how charming you look! This pure, sweet, bracing air has
beautified you like a cosmetic. Your cheeks are warm and your eyes
are full of light. It gives me gladness of heart to see in your face
something of the old look that faded from it years ago."

Irene drew her arm around her friend and kissed her lovingly.

"Come and sit down here in the library. I have something to tell
you," she answered, "that will make your heart beat quicker, as it
has mine."

"I have met him," she said, as they sat down and looked again into
each other's faces.

"Him! Who?"

"Hartley."

"Your husband?"

"He who was my husband. Met him face to face; touched his hand;
listened to his voice; almost felt his heart beat against mine. Oh,
Rose darling, it has sent the blood bounding in new life through my
veins. He was on the boat yesterday, and came to me as I sat
reading. We talked together for a few minutes, when our landing was
reached, and we parted. But in those few minutes my poor heart had
more happiness than it has known for twenty years. We are at peace.
He asked why we might not be as friends who could meet now and then,
and feel kindly toward each other? God bless him for the words!
After a long, long night of tears, the sweet morning has broken!"

And Irene laid her head down against Rose, hiding her face and
weeping from excess of joy.

"What a pure, true, manly face he has!" she continued, looking up
with swimming eyes. "How full it is of thought and feeling! You
called him my husband just now, Rose. My husband!" The light went
back from her face. "Not for time, but--" and she glanced upward,
with eyes full of hope--"for the everlasting ages! Oh is it not a
great gain to have met here in forgiveness of the past--to have
looked kindly into each other's faces--to have spoken words that
cannot die?"

What could Rose say to all this? Irene had carried her out of her
depth. The even tenor of her life-experiences gave no deep sea-line
that could sound these waters. And so she sat silent, bewildered and
half afraid.

Margaret came to the library, and, opening the door, looked in.
There was a surprised expression on her face.

"What is it?" Irene asked.

"A gentleman has called, Miss Irene."

"A gentleman!"

"Yes, miss; and wants to see you."

"Did he send his name?"

"No, miss."

"Do you know him, Margaret?"

"I can't say, miss, for certain, but--" she stopped.

"But what, Margaret?"

"It may be just my thought, miss; but he looks for all the world as
if he might be--"

She paused again.

"Well?"

"I can't say it, Miss Irene, no how, and I won't. But the gentleman
asked for you. What shall I tell him?"

"That I will see him in a moment," answered Irene.

Margaret retired.

The face of Irene, which flushed at first, now became pale as ashes.
A wild hope trembled in her heart.

"Excuse me for a few minutes," she said to Mrs. Everet, and, rising,
left the room.

It was as Irene had supposed. On entering the parlor, a gentleman
advanced to meet her, and she stood face to face with Hartley
Emerson!

"Irene," he said, extending his hand.

"Hartley," fell in an irrepressible throb from her lips as she put
her hand in his.

"I could not return to New York without seeing you again," said Mr.
Emerson, as he stood holding the hand of Irene. "We met so briefly,
and were thrown apart again so suddenly, that some things I meant to
say were left unspoken."

He led her to a seat and sat down beside her, still looking intently
in her face. Irene was far from being as calm as when they sat
together the day before. A world of new hopes had sprung up in her
heart since then. She had lain half asleep and half awake nearly all
night, in a kind of delicious dream, from which the morning awoke
her with a cold chill of reality. She had dreamed again since the
sun had risen; and now the dream was changing into the actual.

"Have I done wrong in this, Irene?" he asked.

And she answered,

"No, it is a pleasure to meet you, Hartley."

She had passed through years of self-discipline, and the power
acquired during this time came to her aid. And so she was able to
answer with womanly dignity. It was a pleasure to meet him there,
and she said so.

"There are some things in the past, Irene," said Mr. Emerson, "of
which I must speak, now that I can do so. There are confessions that
I wish to make. Will you hear me?"

"Better," answered Irene, "let the dead past bury its dead."

"I do not seek to justify myself, but you, Irene."

"You cannot alter the estimate I have made of my own conduct," she
replied. "A bitter stream does not flow from a sweet fountain. That
dead, dark, hopeless past! Let it sleep if it will!"

"And what, then, of the future?" asked Mr. Emerson.

"Of the future!" The question startled her. She looked at him with a
glance of eager inquiry.

"Yes, of the future, Irene. Shall it be as the past? or have we both
come up purified from the fire? Has it consumed the dross, and left
only the fine gold? I can believe it in your case, and hope that it
is so in mine. But this I do know, Irene: after suffering and trial
have done their work of abrasion, and I get down to the pure metal
of my heart, I find that your image is fixed there in the
imperishable substance. I did not hope to meet you again in this
world as now--to look into your face, to hold your hand, to listen
to your voice as I have done this day--but I have felt that God was
fitting us through earthly trial, for a heavenly union. We shall be
one hereafter, dear Irene--one and for ever!"

The strong man broke down. His voice fell into low sobs--tears
blinded his vision. He groped about for the hand of Irene, found it,
and held it wildly to his lips.

Was it for a loving woman to hold back coldly now? No, no, no! That
were impossible.

"My husband!" she said, tenderly and reverently, as she placed her
saintly lips on his forehead.

There was a touching ceremonial at Ivy Cliff on the next day--one
never to be forgotten by the few who were witnesses. A white-haired
minister--the same who, more than twenty years before, had said to
Hartley Emerson and Irene Delancy, "May your lives flow together
like two pure streams that meet in the same valley,"--again joined
their hands and called them "husband and wife." The long, dreary,
tempestuous night had passed away, and the morning arisen in
brightness and beauty.



THE END.





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Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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