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´╗┐Title: The Blithedale Romance
Author: Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Blithedale Romance


by

Nathaniel Hawthorne



Table of Contents

      I.  OLD MOODIE
     II.  BLITHEDALE
    III.  A KNOT OF DREAMERS
     IV.  THE SUPPER-TABLE
      V.  UNTIL BEDTIME
     VI.  COVERDALE'S SICK CHAMBER
    VII.  THE CONVALESCENT
   VIII.  A MODERN ARCADIA
     IX.  HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA
      X.  A VISITOR FROM TOWN
     XI.  THE WOOD-PATH
    XII.  COVERDALE'S HERMITAGE
   XIII.  ZENOBIA'S LEGEND
    XIV.  ELIOT'S PULPIT
     XV.  A CRISIS
    XVI.  LEAVE-TAKINGS
   XVII.  THE HOTEL
  XVIII.  THE BOARDING-HOUSE
    XIX.  ZENOBIA'S DRAWING-ROOM
     XX.  THEY VANISH
    XXI.  AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE
   XXII.  FAUNTLEROY
  XXIII.  A VILLAGE HALL
   XXIV.  THE MASQUERADERS
    XXV.  THE THREE TOGETHER
   XXVI.  ZENOBIA AND COVERDALE
  XXVII.  MIDNIGHT
 XXVIII.  BLITHEDALE PASTURE
   XXIX.  MILES COVERDALE'S CONFESSION



I. OLD MOODIE

The evening before my departure for Blithedale, I was returning to my
bachelor apartments, after attending the wonderful exhibition of the
Veiled Lady, when an elderly man of rather shabby appearance met me in
an obscure part of the street.

"Mr. Coverdale," said he softly, "can I speak with you a moment?"

As I have casually alluded to the Veiled Lady, it may not be amiss to
mention, for the benefit of such of my readers as are unacquainted with
her now forgotten celebrity, that she was a phenomenon in the mesmeric
line; one of the earliest that had indicated the birth of a new
science, or the revival of an old humbug.  Since those times her
sisterhood have grown too numerous to attract much individual notice;
nor, in fact, has any one of them come before the public under such
skilfully contrived circumstances of stage effect as those which at
once mystified and illuminated the remarkable performances of the lady
in question.  Nowadays, in the management of his "subject,"
"clairvoyant," or "medium," the exhibitor affects the simplicity and
openness of scientific experiment; and even if he profess to tread a
step or two across the boundaries of the spiritual world, yet carries
with him the laws of our actual life and extends them over his
preternatural conquests.  Twelve or fifteen years ago, on the contrary,
all the arts of mysterious arrangement, of picturesque disposition, and
artistically contrasted light and shade, were made available, in order
to set the apparent miracle in the strongest attitude of opposition to
ordinary facts.  In the case of the Veiled Lady, moreover, the interest
of the spectator was further wrought up by the enigma of her identity,
and an absurd rumor (probably set afloat by the exhibitor, and at one
time very prevalent) that a beautiful young lady, of family and
fortune, was enshrouded within the misty drapery of the veil.  It was
white, with somewhat of a subdued silver sheen, like the sunny side of
a cloud; and, falling over the wearer from head to foot, was supposed
to insulate her from the material world, from time and space, and to
endow her with many of the privileges of a disembodied spirit.

Her pretensions, however, whether miraculous or otherwise, have little
to do with the present narrative--except, indeed, that I had
propounded, for the Veiled Lady's prophetic solution, a query as to the
success of our Blithedale enterprise.  The response, by the bye, was of
the true Sibylline stamp,--nonsensical in its first aspect, yet on
closer study unfolding a variety of interpretations, one of which has
certainly accorded with the event.  I was turning over this riddle in
my mind, and trying to catch its slippery purport by the tail, when the
old man above mentioned interrupted me.

"Mr. Coverdale!--Mr. Coverdale!" said he, repeating my name twice, in
order to make up for the hesitating and ineffectual way in which he
uttered it.  "I ask your pardon, sir, but I hear you are going to
Blithedale tomorrow."

I knew the pale, elderly face, with the red-tipt nose, and the patch
over one eye; and likewise saw something characteristic in the old
fellow's way of standing under the arch of a gate, only revealing
enough of himself to make me recognize him as an acquaintance.  He was
a very shy personage, this Mr. Moodie; and the trait was the more
singular, as his mode of getting his bread necessarily brought him into
the stir and hubbub of the world more than the generality of men.

"Yes, Mr. Moodie," I answered, wondering what interest he could take in
the fact, "it is my intention to go to Blithedale to-morrow.  Can I be
of any service to you before my departure?"

"If you pleased, Mr. Coverdale," said he, "you might do me a very great
favor."

"A very great one?" repeated I, in a tone that must have expressed but
little alacrity of beneficence, although I was ready to do the old man
any amount of kindness involving no special trouble to myself. "A very
great favor, do you say?  My time is brief, Mr. Moodie, and I have a
good many preparations to make.  But be good enough to tell me what you
wish."

"Ah, sir," replied Old Moodie, "I don't quite like to do that; and, on
further thoughts, Mr. Coverdale, perhaps I had better apply to some
older gentleman, or to some lady, if you would have the kindness to
make me known to one, who may happen to be going to Blithedale. You are
a young man, sir!"

"Does that fact lessen my availability for your purpose?" asked I.
"However, if an older man will suit you better, there is Mr.
Hollingsworth, who has three or four years the advantage of me in age,
and is a much more solid character, and a philanthropist to boot.  I am
only a poet, and, so the critics tell me, no great affair at that! But
what can this business be, Mr. Moodie?  It begins to interest me;
especially since your hint that a lady's influence might be found
desirable.  Come, I am really anxious to be of service to you."

But the old fellow, in his civil and demure manner, was both freakish
and obstinate; and he had now taken some notion or other into his head
that made him hesitate in his former design.

"I wonder, sir," said he, "whether you know a lady whom they call
Zenobia?"

"Not personally," I answered, "although I expect that pleasure
to-morrow, as she has got the start of the rest of us, and is already a
resident at Blithedale.  But have you a literary turn, Mr. Moodie? or
have you taken up the advocacy of women's rights? or what else can have
interested you in this lady?  Zenobia, by the bye, as I suppose you
know, is merely her public name; a sort of mask in which she comes
before the world, retaining all the privileges of privacy,--a
contrivance, in short, like the white drapery of the Veiled Lady, only
a little more transparent.  But it is late.  Will you tell me what I
can do for you?"

"Please to excuse me to-night, Mr. Coverdale," said Moodie.  "You are
very kind; but I am afraid I have troubled you, when, after all, there
may be no need.  Perhaps, with your good leave, I will come to your
lodgings to-morrow morning, before you set out for Blithedale. I wish
you a good-night, sir, and beg pardon for stopping you."

And so he slipt away; and, as he did not show himself the next morning,
it was only through subsequent events that I ever arrived at a
plausible conjecture as to what his business could have been. Arriving
at my room, I threw a lump of cannel coal upon the grate, lighted a
cigar, and spent an hour in musings of every hue, from the brightest to
the most sombre; being, in truth, not so very confident as at some
former periods that this final step, which would mix me up irrevocably
with the Blithedale affair, was the wisest that could possibly be
taken.  It was nothing short of midnight when I went to bed, after
drinking a glass of particularly fine sherry on which I used to pride
myself in those days.  It was the very last bottle; and I finished it,
with a friend, the next forenoon, before setting out for Blithedale.



II. BLITHEDALE

There can hardly remain for me (who am really getting to be a frosty
bachelor, with another white hair, every week or so, in my mustache),
there can hardly flicker up again so cheery a blaze upon the hearth, as
that which I remember, the next day, at Blithedale.  It was a wood
fire, in the parlor of an old farmhouse, on an April afternoon, but
with the fitful gusts of a wintry snowstorm roaring in the chimney.
Vividly does that fireside re-create itself, as I rake away the ashes
from the embers in my memory, and blow them up with a sigh, for lack of
more inspiring breath.  Vividly for an instant, but anon, with the
dimmest gleam, and with just as little fervency for my heart as for my
finger-ends!  The staunch oaken logs were long ago burnt out. Their
genial glow must be represented, if at all, by the merest phosphoric
glimmer, like that which exudes, rather than shines, from damp
fragments of decayed trees, deluding the benighted wanderer through a
forest.  Around such chill mockery of a fire some few of us might sit
on the withered leaves, spreading out each a palm towards the imaginary
warmth, and talk over our exploded scheme for beginning the life of
Paradise anew.

Paradise, indeed!  Nobody else in the world, I am bold to
affirm--nobody, at least, in our bleak little world of New
England,--had dreamed of Paradise that day except as the pole suggests
the tropic.  Nor, with such materials as were at hand, could the most
skilful architect have constructed any better imitation of Eve's bower
than might be seen in the snow hut of an Esquimaux.  But we made a
summer of it, in spite of the wild drifts.

It was an April day, as already hinted, and well towards the middle of
the month.  When morning dawned upon me, in town, its temperature was
mild enough to be pronounced even balmy, by a lodger, like myself, in
one of the midmost houses of a brick block,--each house partaking of
the warmth of all the rest, besides the sultriness of its individual
furnace--heat.  But towards noon there had come snow, driven along the
street by a northeasterly blast, and whitening the roofs and sidewalks
with a business-like perseverance that would have done credit to our
severest January tempest.  It set about its task apparently as much in
earnest as if it had been guaranteed from a thaw for months to come.
The greater, surely, was my heroism, when, puffing out a final whiff of
cigar-smoke, I quitted my cosey pair of bachelor-rooms,--with a good
fire burning in the grate, and a closet right at hand, where there was
still a bottle or two in the champagne basket and a residuum of claret
in a box,--quitted, I say, these comfortable quarters, and plunged into
the heart of the pitiless snowstorm, in quest of a better life.

The better life!  Possibly, it would hardly look so now; it is enough
if it looked so then.  The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the
doubt whether one may not be going to prove one's self a fool; the
truest heroism is to resist the doubt; and the profoundest wisdom to
know when it ought to be resisted, and when to be obeyed.

Yet, after all, let us acknowledge it wiser, if not more sagacious, to
follow out one's daydream to its natural consummation, although, if the
vision have been worth the having, it is certain never to be
consummated otherwise than by a failure.  And what of that?  Its
airiest fragments, impalpable as they may be, will possess a value that
lurks not in the most ponderous realities of any practicable scheme.
They are not the rubbish of the mind.  Whatever else I may repent of,
therefore, let it be reckoned neither among my sins nor follies that I
once had faith and force enough to form generous hopes of the world's
destiny--yes!--and to do what in me lay for their accomplishment; even
to the extent of quitting a warm fireside, flinging away a freshly
lighted cigar, and travelling far beyond the strike of city clocks,
through a drifting snowstorm.

There were four of us who rode together through the storm; and
Hollingsworth, who had agreed to be of the number, was accidentally
delayed, and set forth at a later hour alone.  As we threaded the
streets, I remember how the buildings on either side seemed to press
too closely upon us, insomuch that our mighty hearts found barely room
enough to throb between them.  The snowfall, too, looked inexpressibly
dreary (I had almost called it dingy), coming down through an
atmosphere of city smoke, and alighting on the sidewalk only to be
moulded into the impress of somebody's patched boot or overshoe.  Thus
the track of an old conventionalism was visible on what was freshest
from the sky.  But when we left the pavements, and our muffled
hoof-tramps beat upon a desolate extent of country road, and were
effaced by the unfettered blast as soon as stamped, then there was
better air to breathe.  Air that had not been breathed once and again!
air that had not been spoken into words of falsehood, formality, and
error, like all the air of the dusky city!

"How pleasant it is!" remarked I, while the snowflakes flew into my
mouth the moment it was opened.  "How very mild and balmy is this
country air!"

"Ah, Coverdale, don't laugh at what little enthusiasm you have left!"
said one of my companions.  "I maintain that this nitrous atmosphere is
really exhilarating; and, at any rate, we can never call ourselves
regenerated men till a February northeaster shall be as grateful to us
as the softest breeze of June!"

So we all of us took courage, riding fleetly and merrily along, by
stone fences that were half buried in the wave-like drifts; and through
patches of woodland, where the tree-trunks opposed a snow-incrusted
side towards the northeast; and within ken of deserted villas, with no
footprints in their avenues; and passed scattered dwellings, whence
puffed the smoke of country fires, strongly impregnated with the
pungent aroma of burning peat.  Sometimes, encountering a traveller, we
shouted a friendly greeting; and he, unmuffling his ears to the bluster
and the snow-spray, and listening eagerly, appeared to think our
courtesy worth less than the trouble which it cost him.  The churl!  He
understood the shrill whistle of the blast, but had no intelligence for
our blithe tones of brotherhood.  This lack of faith in our cordial
sympathy, on the traveller's part, was one among the innumerable tokens
how difficult a task we had in hand for the reformation of the world.
We rode on, however, with still unflagging spirits, and made such good
companionship with the tempest that, at our journey's end, we professed
ourselves almost loath to bid the rude blusterer good-by. But, to own
the truth, I was little better than an icicle, and began to be
suspicious that I had caught a fearful cold.

And now we were seated by the brisk fireside of the old farmhouse, the
same fire that glimmers so faintly among my reminiscences at the
beginning of this chapter.  There we sat, with the snow melting out of
our hair and beards, and our faces all ablaze, what with the past
inclemency and present warmth.  It was, indeed, a right good fire that
we found awaiting us, built up of great, rough logs, and knotty limbs,
and splintered fragments of an oak-tree, such as farmers are wont to
keep for their own hearths, since these crooked and unmanageable boughs
could never be measured into merchantable cords for the market.  A
family of the old Pilgrims might have swung their kettle over precisely
such a fire as this, only, no doubt, a bigger one; and, contrasting it
with my coal-grate, I felt so much the more that we had transported
ourselves a world-wide distance from the system of society that
shackled us at breakfast-time.

Good, comfortable Mrs. Foster (the wife of stout Silas Foster, who was
to manage the farm at a fair stipend, and be our tutor in the art of
husbandry) bade us a hearty welcome.  At her back--a back of generous
breadth--appeared two young women, smiling most hospitably, but looking
rather awkward withal, as not well knowing what was to be their
position in our new arrangement of the world.  We shook hands
affectionately all round, and congratulated ourselves that the blessed
state of brotherhood and sisterhood, at which we aimed, might fairly be
dated from this moment.  Our greetings were hardly concluded when the
door opened, and Zenobia--whom I had never before seen, important as
was her place in our enterprise--Zenobia entered the parlor.

This (as the reader, if at all acquainted with our literary biography,
need scarcely be told) was not her real name.  She had assumed it, in
the first instance, as her magazine signature; and, as it accorded well
with something imperial which her friends attributed to this lady's
figure and deportment, they half-laughingly adopted it in their
familiar intercourse with her.  She took the appellation in good part,
and even encouraged its constant use; which, in fact, was thus far
appropriate, that our Zenobia, however humble looked her new
philosophy, had as much native pride as any queen would have known what
to do with.



III. A KNOT OF DREAMERS

Zenobia bade us welcome, in a fine, frank, mellow voice, and gave each
of us her hand, which was very soft and warm.  She had something
appropriate, I recollect, to say to every individual; and what she said
to myself was this:--"I have long wished to know you, Mr. Coverdale,
and to thank you for your beautiful poetry, some of which I have
learned by heart; or rather it has stolen into my memory, without my
exercising any choice or volition about the matter.  Of course--permit
me to say you do not think of relinquishing an occupation in which you
have done yourself so much credit.  I would almost rather give you up
as an associate, than that the world should lose one of its true poets!"

"Ah, no; there will not be the slightest danger of that, especially
after this inestimable praise from Zenobia," said I, smiling, and
blushing, no doubt, with excess of pleasure.  "I hope, on the contrary,
now to produce something that shall really deserve to be called
poetry,--true, strong, natural, and sweet, as is the life which we are
going to lead,--something that shall have the notes of wild birds
twittering through it, or a strain like the wind anthems in the woods,
as the case may be."

"Is it irksome to you to hear your own verses sung?" asked Zenobia,
with a gracious smile.  "If so, I am very sorry, for you will certainly
hear me singing them sometimes, in the summer evenings."

"Of all things," answered I, "that is what will delight me most."

While this passed, and while she spoke to my companions, I was taking
note of Zenobia's aspect; and it impressed itself on me so distinctly,
that I can now summon her up, like a ghost, a little wanner than the
life but otherwise identical with it.  She was dressed as simply as
possible, in an American print (I think the dry-goods people call it
so), but with a silken kerchief, between which and her gown there was
one glimpse of a white shoulder.  It struck me as a great piece of good
fortune that there should be just that glimpse.  Her hair, which was
dark, glossy, and of singular abundance, was put up rather soberly and
primly--without curls, or other ornament, except a single flower.  It
was an exotic of rare beauty, and as fresh as if the hothouse gardener
had just clipt it from the stem.  That flower has struck deep root into
my memory.  I can both see it and smell it, at this moment.  So
brilliant, so rare, so costly as it must have been, and yet enduring
only for a day, it was more indicative of the pride and pomp which had
a luxuriant growth in Zenobia's character than if a great diamond had
sparkled among her hair.

Her hand, though very soft, was larger than most women would like to
have, or than they could afford to have, though not a whit too large in
proportion with the spacious plan of Zenobia's entire development. It
did one good to see a fine intellect (as hers really was, although its
natural tendency lay in another direction than towards literature) so
fitly cased.  She was, indeed, an admirable figure of a woman, just on
the hither verge of her richest maturity, with a combination of
features which it is safe to call remarkably beautiful, even if some
fastidious persons might pronounce them a little deficient in softness
and delicacy.  But we find enough of those attributes everywhere.
Preferable--by way of variety, at least--was Zenobia's bloom, health,
and vigor, which she possessed in such overflow that a man might well
have fallen in love with her for their sake only.  In her quiet moods,
she seemed rather indolent; but when really in earnest, particularly if
there were a spice of bitter feeling, she grew all alive to her
finger-tips.

"I am the first comer," Zenobia went on to say, while her smile beamed
warmth upon us all; "so I take the part of hostess for to-day, and
welcome you as if to my own fireside.  You shall be my guests, too, at
supper.  Tomorrow, if you please, we will be brethren and sisters, and
begin our new life from daybreak."

"Have we our various parts assigned?" asked some one.

"Oh, we of the softer sex," responded Zenobia, with her mellow, almost
broad laugh,--most delectable to hear, but not in the least like an
ordinary woman's laugh,--"we women (there are four of us here already)
will take the domestic and indoor part of the business, as a matter of
course.  To bake, to boil, to roast, to fry, to stew,--to wash, and
iron, and scrub, and sweep,--and, at our idler intervals, to repose
ourselves on knitting and sewing,--these, I suppose, must be feminine
occupations, for the present.  By and by, perhaps, when our individual
adaptations begin to develop themselves, it may be that some of us who
wear the petticoat will go afield, and leave the weaker brethren to
take our places in the kitchen."

"What a pity," I remarked, "that the kitchen, and the housework
generally, cannot be left out of our system altogether!  It is odd
enough that the kind of labor which falls to the lot of women is just
that which chiefly distinguishes artificial life--the life of
degenerated mortals--from the life of Paradise.  Eve had no dinner-pot,
and no clothes to mend, and no washing-day."

"I am afraid," said Zenobia, with mirth gleaming out of her eyes, "we
shall find some difficulty in adopting the paradisiacal system for at
least a month to come.  Look at that snowdrift sweeping past the
window!  Are there any figs ripe, do you think?  Have the pineapples
been gathered to-day?  Would you like a bread-fruit, or a cocoanut?
Shall I run out and pluck you some roses?  No, no, Mr. Coverdale; the
only flower hereabouts is the one in my hair, which I got out of a
greenhouse this morning.  As for the garb of Eden," added she,
shivering playfully, "I shall not assume it till after May-day!"

Assuredly Zenobia could not have intended it,--the fault must have been
entirely in my imagination.  But these last words, together with
something in her manner, irresistibly brought up a picture of that
fine, perfectly developed figure, in Eve's earliest garment.  Her free,
careless, generous modes of expression often had this effect of
creating images which, though pure, are hardly felt to be quite
decorous when born of a thought that passes between man and woman.  I
imputed it, at that time, to Zenobia's noble courage, conscious of no
harm, and scorning the petty restraints which take the life and color
out of other women's conversation.  There was another peculiarity about
her.  We seldom meet with women nowadays, and in this country, who
impress us as being women at all,--their sex fades away and goes for
nothing, in ordinary intercourse.  Not so with Zenobia.  One felt an
influence breathing out of her such as we might suppose to come from
Eve, when she was just made, and her Creator brought her to Adam,
saying, "Behold! here is a woman!"  Not that I would convey the idea of
especial gentleness, grace, modesty, and shyness, but of a certain warm
and rich characteristic, which seems, for the most part, to have been
refined away out of the feminine system.

"And now," continued Zenobia, "I must go and help get supper.  Do you
think you can be content, instead of figs, pineapples, and all the
other delicacies of Adam's supper-table, with tea and toast, and a
certain modest supply of ham and tongue, which, with the instinct of a
housewife, I brought hither in a basket?  And there shall be bread and
milk, too, if the innocence of your taste demands it."

The whole sisterhood now went about their domestic avocations, utterly
declining our offers to assist, further than by bringing wood for the
kitchen fire from a huge pile in the back yard.  After heaping up more
than a sufficient quantity, we returned to the sitting-room, drew our
chairs close to the hearth, and began to talk over our prospects.
Soon, with a tremendous stamping in the entry, appeared Silas Foster,
lank, stalwart, uncouth, and grizzly-bearded. He came from foddering
the cattle in the barn, and from the field, where he had been
ploughing, until the depth of the snow rendered it impossible to draw a
furrow.  He greeted us in pretty much the same tone as if he were
speaking to his oxen, took a quid from his iron tobacco-box, pulled off
his wet cowhide boots, and sat down before the fire in his
stocking-feet.  The steam arose from his soaked garments, so that the
stout yeoman looked vaporous and spectre-like.

"Well, folks," remarked Silas, "you'll be wishing yourselves back to
town again, if this weather holds."

And, true enough, there was a look of gloom, as the twilight fell
silently and sadly out of the sky, its gray or sable flakes
intermingling themselves with the fast-descending snow.  The storm, in
its evening aspect, was decidedly dreary.  It seemed to have arisen for
our especial behoof,--a symbol of the cold, desolate, distrustful
phantoms that invariably haunt the mind, on the eve of adventurous
enterprises, to warn us back within the boundaries of ordinary life.

But our courage did not quail.  We would not allow ourselves to be
depressed by the snowdrift trailing past the window, any more than if
it had been the sigh of a summer wind among rustling boughs.  There
have been few brighter seasons for us than that.  If ever men might
lawfully dream awake, and give utterance to their wildest visions
without dread of laughter or scorn on the part of the audience,--yes,
and speak of earthly happiness, for themselves and mankind, as an
object to be hopefully striven for, and probably attained, we who made
that little semicircle round the blazing fire were those very men.  We
had left the rusty iron framework of society behind us; we had broken
through many hindrances that are powerful enough to keep most people on
the weary treadmill of the established system, even while they feel its
irksomeness almost as intolerable as we did.  We had stepped down from
the pulpit; we had flung aside the pen; we had shut up the ledger; we
had thrown off that sweet, bewitching, enervating indolence, which is
better, after all, than most of the enjoyments within mortal grasp.  It
was our purpose--a generous one, certainly, and absurd, no doubt, in
full proportion with its generosity--to give up whatever we had
heretofore attained, for the sake of showing mankind the example of a
life governed by other than the false and cruel principles on which
human society has all along been based.

And, first of all, we had divorced ourselves from pride, and were
striving to supply its place with familiar love.  We meant to lessen
the laboring man's great burden of toil, by performing our due share of
it at the cost of our own thews and sinews.  We sought our profit by
mutual aid, instead of wresting it by the strong hand from an enemy, or
filching it craftily from those less shrewd than ourselves (if, indeed,
there were any such in New England), or winning it by selfish
competition with a neighbor; in one or another of which fashions every
son of woman both perpetrates and suffers his share of the common evil,
whether he chooses it or no.  And, as the basis of our institution, we
purposed to offer up the earnest toil of our bodies, as a prayer no
less than an effort for the advancement of our race.

Therefore, if we built splendid castles (phalansteries perhaps they
might be more fitly called), and pictured beautiful scenes, among the
fervid coals of the hearth around which we were clustering, and if all
went to rack with the crumbling embers and have never since arisen out
of the ashes, let us take to ourselves no shame.  In my own behalf, I
rejoice that I could once think better of the world's improvability
than it deserved.  It is a mistake into which men seldom fall twice in
a lifetime; or, if so, the rarer and higher is the nature that can thus
magnanimously persist in error.

Stout Silas Foster mingled little in our conversation; but when he did
speak, it was very much to some practical purpose.  For
instance:--"Which man among you," quoth he, "is the best judge of
swine?  Some of us must go to the next Brighton fair, and buy half a
dozen pigs."

Pigs!  Good heavens! had we come out from among the swinish multitude
for this?  And again, in reference to some discussion about raising
early vegetables for the market:--"We shall never make any hand at
market gardening," said Silas Foster, "unless the women folks will
undertake to do all the weeding.  We haven't team enough for that and
the regular farm-work, reckoning three of your city folks as worth one
common field-hand.  No, no; I tell you, we should have to get up a
little too early in the morning, to compete with the market gardeners
round Boston."

It struck me as rather odd, that one of the first questions raised,
after our separation from the greedy, struggling, self-seeking world,
should relate to the possibility of getting the advantage over the
outside barbarians in their own field of labor.  But, to own the truth,
I very soon became sensible that, as regarded society at large, we
stood in a position of new hostility, rather than new brotherhood. Nor
could this fail to be the case, in some degree, until the bigger and
better half of society should range itself on our side. Constituting so
pitiful a minority as now, we were inevitably estranged from the rest
of mankind in pretty fair proportion with the strictness of our mutual
bond among ourselves.

This dawning idea, however, was driven back into my inner consciousness
by the entrance of Zenobia.  She came with the welcome intelligence
that supper was on the table.  Looking at herself in the glass, and
perceiving that her one magnificent flower had grown rather languid
(probably by being exposed to the fervency of the kitchen fire), she
flung it on the floor, as unconcernedly as a village girl would throw
away a faded violet.  The action seemed proper to her character,
although, methought, it would still more have befitted the bounteous
nature of this beautiful woman to scatter fresh flowers from her hand,
and to revive faded ones by her touch. Nevertheless, it was a singular
but irresistible effect; the presence of Zenobia caused our heroic
enterprise to show like an illusion, a masquerade, a pastoral, a
counterfeit Arcadia, in which we grown-up men and women were making a
play-day of the years that were given us to live in.  I tried to
analyze this impression, but not with much success.

"It really vexes me," observed Zenobia, as we left the room, "that Mr.
Hollingsworth should be such a laggard.  I should not have thought him
at all the sort of person to be turned back by a puff of contrary wind,
or a few snowflakes drifting into his face."

"Do you know Hollingsworth personally?"  I inquired.

"No; only as an auditor--auditress, I mean--of some of his lectures,"
said she.  "What a voice he has! and what a man he is!  Yet not so much
an intellectual man, I should say, as a great heart; at least, he moved
me more deeply than I think myself capable of being moved, except by
the stroke of a true, strong heart against my own.  It is a sad pity
that he should have devoted his glorious powers to such a grimy,
unbeautiful, and positively hopeless object as this reformation of
criminals, about which he makes himself and his wretchedly small
audiences so very miserable.  To tell you a secret, I never could
tolerate a philanthropist before.  Could you?"

"By no means," I answered; "neither can I now."

"They are, indeed, an odiously disagreeable set of mortals," continued
Zenobia.  "I should like Mr. Hollingsworth a great deal better if the
philanthropy had been left out.  At all events, as a mere matter of
taste, I wish he would let the bad people alone, and try to benefit
those who are not already past his help.  Do you suppose he will be
content to spend his life, or even a few months of it, among tolerably
virtuous and comfortable individuals like ourselves?"

"Upon my word, I doubt it," said I. "If we wish to keep him with us, we
must systematically commit at least one crime apiece!  Mere peccadillos
will not satisfy him."

Zenobia turned, sidelong, a strange kind of a glance upon me; but,
before I could make out what it meant, we had entered the kitchen,
where, in accordance with the rustic simplicity of our new life, the
supper-table was spread.



IV. THE SUPPER-TABLE

The pleasant firelight!  I must still keep harping on it.  The kitchen
hearth had an old-fashioned breadth, depth, and spaciousness, far
within which lay what seemed the butt of a good-sized oak-tree, with
the moisture bubbling merrily out at both ends.  It was now half an
hour beyond dusk.  The blaze from an armful of substantial sticks,
rendered more combustible by brushwood and pine, flickered powerfully
on the smoke-blackened walls, and so cheered our spirits that we cared
not what inclemency might rage and roar on the other side of our
illuminated windows.  A yet sultrier warmth was bestowed by a goodly
quantity of peat, which was crumbling to white ashes among the burning
brands, and incensed the kitchen with its not ungrateful fragrance.
The exuberance of this household fire would alone have sufficed to
bespeak us no true farmers; for the New England yeoman, if he have the
misfortune to dwell within practicable distance of a wood-market, is as
niggardly of each stick as if it were a bar of California gold.

But it was fortunate for us, on that wintry eve of our untried life, to
enjoy the warm and radiant luxury of a somewhat too abundant fire. If
it served no other purpose, it made the men look so full of youth, warm
blood, and hope, and the women--such of them, at least, as were anywise
convertible by its magic--so very beautiful, that I would cheerfully
have spent my last dollar to prolong the blaze.  As for Zenobia, there
was a glow in her cheeks that made me think of Pandora, fresh from
Vulcan's workshop, and full of the celestial warmth by dint of which he
had tempered and moulded her.

"Take your places, my dear friends all," cried she; "seat yourselves
without ceremony, and you shall be made happy with such tea as not many
of the world's working-people, except yourselves, will find in their
cups to-night.  After this one supper, you may drink buttermilk, if you
please.  To-night we will quaff this nectar, which, I assure you, could
not be bought with gold."

We all sat down,--grizzly Silas Foster, his rotund helpmate, and the
two bouncing handmaidens, included,--and looked at one another in a
friendly but rather awkward way.  It was the first practical trial of
our theories of equal brotherhood and sisterhood; and we people of
superior cultivation and refinement (for as such, I presume, we
unhesitatingly reckoned ourselves) felt as if something were already
accomplished towards the millennium of love.  The truth is, however,
that the laboring oar was with our unpolished companions; it being far
easier to condescend than to accept of condescension.  Neither did I
refrain from questioning, in secret, whether some of us--and Zenobia
among the rest--would so quietly have taken our places among these good
people, save for the cherished consciousness that it was not by
necessity but choice.  Though we saw fit to drink our tea out of
earthen cups to-night, and in earthen company, it was at our own option
to use pictured porcelain and handle silver forks again to-morrow.
This same salvo, as to the power of regaining our former position,
contributed much, I fear, to the equanimity with which we subsequently
bore many of the hardships and humiliations of a life of toil.  If ever
I have deserved (which has not often been the case, and, I think,
never), but if ever I did deserve to be soundly cuffed by a fellow
mortal, for secretly putting weight upon some imaginary social
advantage, it must have been while I was striving to prove myself
ostentatiously his equal and no more.  It was while I sat beside him on
his cobbler's bench, or clinked my hoe against his own in the
cornfield, or broke the same crust of bread, my earth-grimed hand to
his, at our noontide lunch.  The poor, proud man should look at both
sides of sympathy like this.

The silence which followed upon our sitting down to table grew rather
oppressive; indeed, it was hardly broken by a word, during the first
round of Zenobia's fragrant tea.

"I hope," said I, at last, "that our blazing windows will be visible a
great way off.  There is nothing so pleasant and encouraging to a
solitary traveller, on a stormy night, as a flood of firelight seen
amid the gloom.  These ruddy window panes cannot fail to cheer the
hearts of all that look at them.  Are they not warm with the
beacon-fire which we have kindled for humanity?"

"The blaze of that brushwood will only last a minute or two longer,"
observed Silas Foster; but whether he meant to insinuate that our moral
illumination would have as brief a term, I cannot say.

"Meantime," said Zenobia, "it may serve to guide some wayfarer to a
shelter."

And, just as she said this, there came a knock at the house door.

"There is one of the world's wayfarers," said I. "Ay, ay, just so!"
quoth Silas Foster.  "Our firelight will draw stragglers, just as a
candle draws dorbugs on a summer night."

Whether to enjoy a dramatic suspense, or that we were selfishly
contrasting our own comfort with the chill and dreary situation of the
unknown person at the threshold, or that some of us city folk felt a
little startled at the knock which came so unseasonably, through night
and storm, to the door of the lonely farmhouse,--so it happened that
nobody, for an instant or two, arose to answer the summons.  Pretty
soon there came another knock.  The first had been moderately loud; the
second was smitten so forcibly that the knuckles of the applicant must
have left their mark in the door panel.

"He knocks as if he had a right to come in," said Zenobia, laughing.
"And what are we thinking of?--It must be Mr. Hollingsworth!"

Hereupon I went to the door, unbolted, and flung it wide open.  There,
sure enough, stood Hollingsworth, his shaggy greatcoat all covered with
snow, so that he looked quite as much like a polar bear as a modern
philanthropist.

"Sluggish hospitality this!" said he, in those deep tones of his, which
seemed to come out of a chest as capacious as a barrel.  "It would have
served you right if I had lain down and spent the night on the
doorstep, just for the sake of putting you to shame.  But here is a
guest who will need a warmer and softer bed."

And, stepping back to the wagon in which he had journeyed hither,
Hollingsworth received into his arms and deposited on the doorstep a
figure enveloped in a cloak.  It was evidently a woman; or,
rather,--judging from the ease with which he lifted her, and the little
space which she seemed to fill in his arms, a slim and unsubstantial
girl.  As she showed some hesitation about entering the door,
Hollingsworth, with his usual directness and lack of ceremony, urged
her forward not merely within the entry, but into the warm and strongly
lighted kitchen.

"Who is this?" whispered I, remaining behind with him, while he was
taking off his greatcoat.

"Who?  Really, I don't know," answered Hollingsworth, looking at me
with some surprise.  "It is a young person who belongs here, however;
and no doubt she had been expected.  Zenobia, or some of the women
folks, can tell you all about it."

"I think not," said I, glancing towards the new-comer and the other
occupants of the kitchen.  "Nobody seems to welcome her.  I should
hardly judge that she was an expected guest."

"Well, well," said Hollingsworth quietly, "We'll make it right."

The stranger, or whatever she were, remained standing precisely on that
spot of the kitchen floor to which Hollingsworth's kindly hand had
impelled her.  The cloak falling partly off, she was seen to be a very
young woman dressed in a poor but decent gown, made high in the neck,
and without any regard to fashion or smartness.  Her brown hair fell
down from beneath a hood, not in curls but with only a slight wave; her
face was of a wan, almost sickly hue, betokening habitual seclusion
from the sun and free atmosphere, like a flower-shrub that had done its
best to blossom in too scanty light.  To complete the pitiableness of
her aspect, she shivered either with cold, or fear, or nervous
excitement, so that you might have beheld her shadow vibrating on the
fire-lighted wall.  In short, there has seldom been seen so depressed
and sad a figure as this young girl's; and it was hardly possible to
help being angry with her, from mere despair of doing anything for her
comfort.  The fantasy occurred to me that she was some desolate kind of
a creature, doomed to wander about in snowstorms; and that, though the
ruddiness of our window panes had tempted her into a human dwelling,
she would not remain long enough to melt the icicles out of her hair.
Another conjecture likewise came into my mind.  Recollecting
Hollingsworth's sphere of philanthropic action, I deemed it possible
that he might have brought one of his guilty patients, to be wrought
upon and restored to spiritual health by the pure influences which our
mode of life would create.

As yet the girl had not stirred.  She stood near the door, fixing a
pair of large, brown, melancholy eyes upon Zenobia--only upon
Zenobia!--she evidently saw nothing else in the room save that bright,
fair, rosy, beautiful woman.  It was the strangest look I ever
witnessed; long a mystery to me, and forever a memory.  Once she seemed
about to move forward and greet her,--I know not with what warmth or
with what words,--but, finally, instead of doing so, she dropped down
upon her knees, clasped her hands, and gazed piteously into Zenobia's
face. Meeting no kindly reception, her head fell on her bosom.

I never thoroughly forgave Zenobia for her conduct on this occasion.
But women are always more cautious in their casual hospitalities than
men.

"What does the girl mean?" cried she in rather a sharp tone.  "Is she
crazy?  Has she no tongue?"

And here Hollingsworth stepped forward.

"No wonder if the poor child's tongue is frozen in her mouth," said he;
and I think he positively frowned at Zenobia.  "The very heart will be
frozen in her bosom, unless you women can warm it, among you, with the
warmth that ought to be in your own!"

Hollingsworth's appearance was very striking at this moment.  He was
then about thirty years old, but looked several years older, with his
great shaggy head, his heavy brow, his dark complexion, his abundant
beard, and the rude strength with which his features seemed to have
been hammered out of iron, rather than chiselled or moulded from any
finer or softer material.  His figure was not tall, but massive and
brawny, and well befitting his original occupation; which as the reader
probably knows--was that of a blacksmith.  As for external polish, or
mere courtesy of manner, he never possessed more than a tolerably
educated bear; although, in his gentler moods, there was a tenderness
in his voice, eyes, mouth, in his gesture, and in every indescribable
manifestation, which few men could resist and no woman. But he now
looked stern and reproachful; and it was with that inauspicious meaning
in his glance that Hollingsworth first met Zenobia's eyes, and began
his influence upon her life.

To my surprise, Zenobia--of whose haughty spirit I had been told so
many examples--absolutely changed color, and seemed mortified and
confused.

"You do not quite do me justice, Mr. Hollingsworth," said she almost
humbly.  "I am willing to be kind to the poor girl.  Is she a protegee
of yours?  What can I do for her?"

"Have you anything to ask of this lady?" said Hollingsworth kindly to
the girl.  "I remember you mentioned her name before we left town."

"Only that she will shelter me," replied the girl tremulously.  "Only
that she will let me be always near her."

"Well, indeed," exclaimed Zenobia, recovering herself and laughing,
"this is an adventure, and well-worthy to be the first incident in our
life of love and free-heartedness!  But I accept it, for the present,
without further question, only," added she, "it would be a convenience
if we knew your name."

"Priscilla," said the girl; and it appeared to me that she hesitated
whether to add anything more, and decided in the negative.  "Pray do
not ask me my other name,--at least not yet,--if you will be so kind to
a forlorn creature."

Priscilla!--Priscilla!  I repeated the name to myself three or four
times; and in that little space, this quaint and prim cognomen had so
amalgamated itself with my idea of the girl, that it seemed as if no
other name could have adhered to her for a moment.  Heretofore the poor
thing had not shed any tears; but now that she found herself received,
and at least temporarily established, the big drops began to ooze out
from beneath her eyelids as if she were full of them. Perhaps it showed
the iron substance of my heart, that I could not help smiling at this
odd scene of unknown and unaccountable calamity, into which our
cheerful party had been entrapped without the liberty of choosing
whether to sympathize or no.  Hollingsworth's behavior was certainly a
great deal more creditable than mine.

"Let us not pry further into her secrets," he said to Zenobia and the
rest of us, apart; and his dark, shaggy face looked really beautiful
with its expression of thoughtful benevolence.  "Let us conclude that
Providence has sent her to us, as the first-fruits of the world, which
we have undertaken to make happier than we find it.  Let us warm her
poor, shivering body with this good fire, and her poor, shivering heart
with our best kindness.  Let us feed her, and make her one of us.  As
we do by this friendless girl, so shall we prosper. And, in good time,
whatever is desirable for us to know will be melted out of her, as
inevitably as those tears which we see now."

"At least," remarked I, "you may tell us how and where you met with
her."

"An old man brought her to my lodgings," answered Hollingsworth, "and
begged me to convey her to Blithedale, where--so I understood him--she
had friends; and this is positively all I know about the matter."

Grim Silas Foster, all this while, had been busy at the supper-table,
pouring out his own tea and gulping it down with no more sense of its
exquisiteness than if it were a decoction of catnip; helping himself to
pieces of dipt toast on the flat of his knife blade, and dropping half
of it on the table-cloth; using the same serviceable implement to cut
slice after slice of ham; perpetrating terrible enormities with the
butter-plate; and in all other respects behaving less like a civilized
Christian than the worst kind of an ogre.  Being by this time fully
gorged, he crowned his amiable exploits with a draught from the water
pitcher, and then favored us with his opinion about the business in
hand.  And, certainly, though they proceeded out of an unwiped mouth,
his expressions did him honor.

"Give the girl a hot cup of tea and a thick slice of this first-rate
bacon," said Silas, like a sensible man as he was.  "That's what she
wants.  Let her stay with us as long as she likes, and help in the
kitchen, and take the cow-breath at milking time; and, in a week or
two, she'll begin to look like a creature of this world."

So we sat down again to supper, and Priscilla along with us.



V. UNTIL BEDTIME

Silas Foster, by the time we concluded our meal, had stript off his
coat, and planted himself on a low chair by the kitchen fire, with a
lapstone, a hammer, a piece of sole leather, and some waxed-ends, in
order to cobble an old pair of cowhide boots; he being, in his own
phrase, "something of a dab" (whatever degree of skill that may imply)
at the shoemaking business.  We heard the tap of his hammer at
intervals for the rest of the evening.  The remainder of the party
adjourned to the sitting-room.  Good Mrs. Foster took her
knitting-work, and soon fell fast asleep, still keeping her needles in
brisk movement, and, to the best of my observation, absolutely footing
a stocking out of the texture of a dream.  And a very substantial
stocking it seemed to be.  One of the two handmaidens hemmed a towel,
and the other appeared to be making a ruffle, for her Sunday's wear,
out of a little bit of embroidered muslin which Zenobia had probably
given her.

It was curious to observe how trustingly, and yet how timidly, our poor
Priscilla betook herself into the shadow of Zenobia's protection. She
sat beside her on a stool, looking up every now and then with an
expression of humble delight at her new friend's beauty.  A brilliant
woman is often an object of the devoted admiration--it might almost be
termed worship, or idolatry--of some young girl, who perhaps beholds
the cynosure only at an awful distance, and has as little hope of
personal intercourse as of climbing among the stars of heaven.  We men
are too gross to comprehend it.  Even a woman, of mature age, despises
or laughs at such a passion.  There occurred to me no mode of
accounting for Priscilla's behavior, except by supposing that she had
read some of Zenobia's stories (as such literature goes everywhere), or
her tracts in defence of the sex, and had come hither with the one
purpose of being her slave.  There is nothing parallel to this, I
believe,--nothing so foolishly disinterested, and hardly anything so
beautiful,--in the masculine nature, at whatever epoch of life; or, if
there be, a fine and rare development of character might reasonably be
looked for from the youth who should prove himself capable of such
self-forgetful affection.

Zenobia happening to change her seat, I took the opportunity, in an
undertone, to suggest some such notion as the above.

"Since you see the young woman in so poetical a light," replied she in
the same tone, "you had better turn the affair into a ballad.  It is a
grand subject, and worthy of supernatural machinery.  The storm, the
startling knock at the door, the entrance of the sable knight
Hollingsworth and this shadowy snow-maiden, who, precisely at the
stroke of midnight, shall melt away at my feet in a pool of ice-cold
water and give me my death with a pair of wet slippers!  And when the
verses are written, and polished quite to your mind, I will favor you
with my idea as to what the girl really is."

"Pray let me have it now," said I; "it shall be woven into the ballad."

"She is neither more nor less," answered Zenobia, "than a seamstress
from the city; and she has probably no more transcendental purpose than
to do my miscellaneous sewing, for I suppose she will hardly expect to
make my dresses."

"How can you decide upon her so easily?"  I inquired.

"Oh, we women judge one another by tokens that escape the obtuseness of
masculine perceptions!" said Zenobia.  "There is no proof which you
would be likely to appreciate, except the needle marks on the tip of
her forefinger.  Then, my supposition perfectly accounts for her
paleness, her nervousness, and her wretched fragility.  Poor thing! She
has been stifled with the heat of a salamander stove, in a small, close
room, and has drunk coffee, and fed upon doughnuts, raisins, candy, and
all such trash, till she is scarcely half alive; and so, as she has
hardly any physique, a poet like Mr. Miles Coverdale may be allowed to
think her spiritual."

"Look at her now!" whispered I.

Priscilla was gazing towards us with an inexpressible sorrow in her wan
face and great tears running down her cheeks.  It was difficult to
resist the impression that, cautiously as we had lowered our voices,
she must have overheard and been wounded by Zenobia's scornful estimate
of her character and purposes.

"What ears the girl must have!" whispered Zenobia, with a look of
vexation, partly comic and partly real.  "I will confess to you that I
cannot quite make her out.  However, I am positively not an ill-natured
person, unless when very grievously provoked,--and as you, and
especially Mr. Hollingsworth, take so much interest in this odd
creature, and as she knocks with a very slight tap against my own heart
likewise,--why, I mean to let her in.  From this moment I will be
reasonably kind to her.  There is no pleasure in tormenting a person of
one's own sex, even if she do favor one with a little more love than
one can conveniently dispose of; and that, let me say, Mr. Coverdale,
is the most troublesome offence you can offer to a woman."

"Thank you," said I, smiling; "I don't mean to be guilty of it."

She went towards Priscilla, took her hand, and passed her own rosy
finger-tips, with a pretty, caressing movement, over the girl's hair.
The touch had a magical effect.  So vivid a look of joy flushed up
beneath those fingers, that it seemed as if the sad and wan Priscilla
had been snatched away, and another kind of creature substituted in her
place.  This one caress, bestowed voluntarily by Zenobia, was evidently
received as a pledge of all that the stranger sought from her, whatever
the unuttered boon might be.  From that instant, too, she melted in
quietly amongst us, and was no longer a foreign element. Though always
an object of peculiar interest, a riddle, and a theme of frequent
discussion, her tenure at Blithedale was thenceforth fixed.  We no more
thought of questioning it, than if Priscilla had been recognized as a
domestic sprite, who had haunted the rustic fireside of old, before we
had ever been warmed by its blaze.

She now produced, out of a work-bag that she had with her, some little
wooden instruments (what they are called I never knew), and proceeded
to knit, or net, an article which ultimately took the shape of a silk
purse.  As the work went on, I remembered to have seen just such purses
before; indeed, I was the possessor of one.  Their peculiar excellence,
besides the great delicacy and beauty of the manufacture, lay in the
almost impossibility that any uninitiated person should discover the
aperture; although, to a practised touch, they would open as wide as
charity or prodigality might wish.  I wondered if it were not a symbol
of Priscilla's own mystery.

Notwithstanding the new confidence with which Zenobia had inspired her,
our guest showed herself disquieted by the storm.  When the strong
puffs of wind spattered the snow against the windows and made the oaken
frame of the farmhouse creak, she looked at us apprehensively, as if to
inquire whether these tempestuous outbreaks did not betoken some
unusual mischief in the shrieking blast.  She had been bred up, no
doubt, in some close nook, some inauspiciously sheltered court of the
city, where the uttermost rage of a tempest, though it might scatter
down the slates of the roof into the bricked area, could not shake the
casement of her little room.  The sense of vast, undefined space,
pressing from the outside against the black panes of our uncurtained
windows, was fearful to the poor girl, heretofore accustomed to the
narrowness of human limits, with the lamps of neighboring tenements
glimmering across the street.  The house probably seemed to her adrift
on the great ocean of the night. A little parallelogram of sky was all
that she had hitherto known of nature, so that she felt the awfulness
that really exists in its limitless extent.  Once, while the blast was
bellowing, she caught hold of Zenobia's robe, with precisely the air of
one who hears her own name spoken at a distance, but is unutterably
reluctant to obey the call.

We spent rather an incommunicative evening.  Hollingsworth hardly said
a word, unless when repeatedly and pertinaciously addressed. Then,
indeed, he would glare upon us from the thick shrubbery of his
meditations like a tiger out of a jungle, make the briefest reply
possible, and betake himself back into the solitude of his heart and
mind.  The poor fellow had contracted this ungracious habit from the
intensity with which he contemplated his own ideas, and the infrequent
sympathy which they met with from his auditors,--a circumstance that
seemed only to strengthen the implicit confidence that he awarded to
them.  His heart, I imagine, was never really interested in our
socialist scheme, but was forever busy with his strange, and, as most
people thought it, impracticable plan, for the reformation of criminals
through an appeal to their higher instincts.

Much as I liked Hollingsworth, it cost me many a groan to tolerate him
on this point.  He ought to have commenced his investigation of the
subject by perpetrating some huge sin in his proper person, and
examining the condition of his higher instincts afterwards.

The rest of us formed ourselves into a committee for providing our
infant community with an appropriate name,--a matter of greatly more
difficulty than the uninitiated reader would suppose.  Blithedale was
neither good nor bad.  We should have resumed the old Indian name of
the premises, had it possessed the oil-and-honey flow which the
aborigines were so often happy in communicating to their local
appellations; but it chanced to be a harsh, ill-connected, and
interminable word, which seemed to fill the mouth with a mixture of
very stiff clay and very crumbly pebbles.  Zenobia suggested "Sunny
Glimpse," as expressive of a vista into a better system of society.
This we turned over and over for a while, acknowledging its prettiness,
but concluded it to be rather too fine and sentimental a name (a fault
inevitable by literary ladies in such attempts) for sunburnt men to
work under.  I ventured to whisper "Utopia," which, however, was
unanimously scouted down, and the proposer very harshly maltreated, as
if he had intended a latent satire.  Some were for calling our
institution "The Oasis," in view of its being the one green spot in the
moral sand-waste of the world; but others insisted on a proviso for
reconsidering the matter at a twelvemonths' end, when a final decision
might be had, whether to name it "The Oasis" or "Sahara."  So, at last,
finding it impracticable to hammer out anything better, we resolved
that the spot should still be Blithedale, as being of good augury
enough.

The evening wore on, and the outer solitude looked in upon us through
the windows, gloomy, wild, and vague, like another state of existence,
close beside the little sphere of warmth and light in which we were the
prattlers and bustlers of a moment.  By and by the door was opened by
Silas Foster, with a cotton handkerchief about his head, and a tallow
candle in his hand.

"Take my advice, brother farmers," said he, with a great, broad,
bottomless yawn, "and get to bed as soon as you can.  I shall sound the
horn at daybreak; and we've got the cattle to fodder, and nine cows to
milk, and a dozen other things to do, before breakfast."

Thus ended the first evening at Blithedale.  I went shivering to my
fireless chamber, with the miserable consciousness (which had been
growing upon me for several hours past) that I had caught a tremendous
cold, and should probably awaken, at the blast of the horn, a fit
subject for a hospital.  The night proved a feverish one. During the
greater part of it, I was in that vilest of states when a fixed idea
remains in the mind, like the nail in Sisera's brain, while innumerable
other ideas go and come, and flutter to and fro, combining constant
transition with intolerable sameness.  Had I made a record of that
night's half-waking dreams, it is my belief that it would have
anticipated several of the chief incidents of this narrative, including
a dim shadow of its catastrophe.  Starting up in bed at length, I saw
that the storm was past, and the moon was shining on the snowy
landscape, which looked like a lifeless copy of the world in marble.

From the bank of the distant river, which was shimmering in the
moonlight, came the black shadow of the only cloud in heaven, driven
swiftly by the wind, and passing over meadow and hillock, vanishing
amid tufts of leafless trees, but reappearing on the hither side, until
it swept across our doorstep.

How cold an Arcadia was this!



VI. COVERDALE'S SICK-CHAMBER

The horn sounded at daybreak, as Silas Foster had forewarned us, harsh,
uproarious, inexorably drawn out, and as sleep-dispelling as if this
hard-hearted old yeoman had got hold of the trump of doom.

On all sides I could hear the creaking of the bedsteads, as the
brethren of Blithedale started from slumber, and thrust themselves into
their habiliments, all awry, no doubt, in their haste to begin the
reformation of the world.  Zenobia put her head into the entry, and
besought Silas Foster to cease his clamor, and to be kind enough to
leave an armful of firewood and a pail of water at her chamber door.
Of the whole household,--unless, indeed, it were Priscilla, for whose
habits, in this particular, I cannot vouch,--of all our apostolic
society, whose mission was to bless mankind, Hollingsworth, I
apprehend, was the only one who began the enterprise with prayer. My
sleeping-room being but thinly partitioned from his, the solemn murmur
of his voice made its way to my ears, compelling me to be an auditor of
his awful privacy with the Creator.  It affected me with a deep
reverence for Hollingsworth, which no familiarity then existing, or
that afterwards grew more intimate between us,--no, nor my subsequent
perception of his own great errors,--ever quite effaced. It is so rare,
in these times, to meet with a man of prayerful habits (except, of
course, in the pulpit), that such an one is decidedly marked out by the
light of transfiguration, shed upon him in the divine interview from
which he passes into his daily life.

As for me, I lay abed; and if I said my prayers, it was backward,
cursing my day as bitterly as patient Job himself.  The truth was, the
hot-house warmth of a town residence, and the luxurious life in which I
indulged myself, had taken much of the pith out of my physical system;
and the wintry blast of the preceding day, together with the general
chill of our airy old farmhouse, had got fairly into my heart and the
marrow of my bones.  In this predicament, I seriously wished--selfish
as it may appear--that the reformation of society had been postponed
about half a century, or, at all events, to such a date as should have
put my intermeddling with it entirely out of the question.

What, in the name of common-sense, had I to do with any better society
than I had always lived in?  It had satisfied me well enough. My
pleasant bachelor-parlor, sunny and shadowy, curtained and carpeted,
with the bedchamber adjoining; my centre-table, strewn with books and
periodicals; my writing-desk with a half-finished poem, in a stanza of
my own contrivance; my morning lounge at the reading-room or picture
gallery; my noontide walk along the cheery pavement, with the
suggestive succession of human faces, and the brisk throb of human life
in which I shared; my dinner at the Albion, where I had a hundred
dishes at command, and could banquet as delicately as the wizard
Michael Scott when the Devil fed him from the king of France's kitchen;
my evening at the billiard club, the concert, the theatre, or at
somebody's party, if I pleased,--what could be better than all this?
Was it better to hoe, to mow, to toil and moil amidst the accumulations
of a barnyard; to be the chambermaid of two yoke of oxen and a dozen
cows; to eat salt beef, and earn it with the sweat of my brow, and
thereby take the tough morsel out of some wretch's mouth, into whose
vocation I had thrust myself?  Above all, was it better to have a fever
and die blaspheming, as I was like to do?

In this wretched plight, with a furnace in my heart and another in my
head, by the heat of which I was kept constantly at the boiling point,
yet shivering at the bare idea of extruding so much as a finger into
the icy atmosphere of the room, I kept my bed until breakfast-time,
when Hollingsworth knocked at the door, and entered.

"Well, Coverdale," cried he, "you bid fair to make an admirable farmer!
Don't you mean to get up to-day?"

"Neither to-day nor to-morrow," said I hopelessly.  "I doubt if I ever
rise again!"

"What is the matter now?" he asked.

I told him my piteous case, and besought him to send me back to town in
a close carriage.

"No, no!" said Hollingsworth with kindly seriousness.  "If you are
really sick, we must take care of you."

Accordingly he built a fire in my chamber, and, having little else to
do while the snow lay on the ground, established himself as my nurse. A
doctor was sent for, who, being homaeopathic, gave me as much medicine,
in the course of a fortnight's attendance, as would have laid on the
point of a needle.  They fed me on water-gruel, and I speedily became a
skeleton above ground.  But, after all, I have many precious
recollections connected with that fit of sickness.

Hollingsworth's more than brotherly attendance gave me inexpressible
comfort.  Most men--and certainly I could not always claim to be one of
the exceptions--have a natural indifference, if not an absolutely
hostile feeling, towards those whom disease, or weakness, or calamity
of any kind causes to falter and faint amid the rude jostle of our
selfish existence.  The education of Christianity, it is true, the
sympathy of a like experience and the example of women, may soften and,
possibly, subvert this ugly characteristic of our sex; but it is
originally there, and has likewise its analogy in the practice of our
brute brethren, who hunt the sick or disabled member of the herd from
among them, as an enemy.  It is for this reason that the stricken deer
goes apart, and the sick lion grimly withdraws himself into his den.
Except in love, or the attachments of kindred, or other very long and
habitual affection, we really have no tenderness.  But there was
something of the woman moulded into the great, stalwart frame of
Hollingsworth; nor was he ashamed of it, as men often are of what is
best in them, nor seemed ever to know that there was such a soft place
in his heart.  I knew it well, however, at that time, although
afterwards it came nigh to be forgotten.  Methought there could not be
two such men alive as Hollingsworth.  There never was any blaze of a
fireside that warmed and cheered me, in the down-sinkings and
shiverings of my spirit, so effectually as did the light out of those
eyes, which lay so deep and dark under his shaggy brows.

Happy the man that has such a friend beside him when he comes to die!
and unless a friend like Hollingsworth be at hand,--as most probably
there will not,--he had better make up his mind to die alone.  How many
men, I wonder, does one meet with in a lifetime, whom he would choose
for his deathbed companions!  At the crisis of my fever I besought
Hollingsworth to let nobody else enter the room, but continually to
make me sensible of his own presence by a grasp of the hand, a word, a
prayer, if he thought good to utter it; and that then he should be the
witness how courageously I would encounter the worst. It still
impresses me as almost a matter of regret that I did not die then, when
I had tolerably made up my mind to it; for Hollingsworth would have
gone with me to the hither verge of life, and have sent his friendly
and hopeful accents far over on the other side, while I should be
treading the unknown path.  Now, were I to send for him, he would
hardly come to my bedside, nor should I depart the easier for his
presence.

"You are not going to die, this time," said he, gravely smiling. "You
know nothing about sickness, and think your case a great deal more
desperate than it is."

"Death should take me while I am in the mood," replied I, with a little
of my customary levity.

"Have you nothing to do in life," asked Hollingsworth, "that you fancy
yourself so ready to leave it?"

"Nothing," answered I; "nothing that I know of, unless to make pretty
verses, and play a part, with Zenobia and the rest of the amateurs, in
our pastoral.  It seems but an unsubstantial sort of business, as
viewed through a mist of fever.  But, dear Hollingsworth, your own
vocation is evidently to be a priest, and to spend your days and nights
in helping your fellow creatures to draw peaceful dying breaths."

"And by which of my qualities," inquired he, "can you suppose me fitted
for this awful ministry?"

"By your tenderness," I said.  "It seems to me the reflection of God's
own love."

"And you call me tender!" repeated Hollingsworth thoughtfully.  "I
should rather say that the most marked trait in my character is an
inflexible severity of purpose.  Mortal man has no right to be so
inflexible as it is my nature and necessity to be."

"I do not believe it," I replied.

But, in due time, I remembered what he said.

Probably, as Hollingsworth suggested, my disorder was never so serious
as, in my ignorance of such matters, I was inclined to consider it.
After so much tragical preparation, it was positively rather mortifying
to find myself on the mending hand.

All the other members of the Community showed me kindness, according to
the full measure of their capacity.  Zenobia brought me my gruel every
day, made by her own hands (not very skilfully, if the truth must be
told), and, whenever I seemed inclined to converse, would sit by my
bedside, and talk with so much vivacity as to add several gratuitous
throbs to my pulse.  Her poor little stories and tracts never half did
justice to her intellect.  It was only the lack of a fitter avenue that
drove her to seek development in literature.  She was made (among a
thousand other things that she might have been) for a stump oratress.
I recognized no severe culture in Zenobia; her mind was full of weeds.
It startled me sometimes, in my state of moral as well as bodily
faint-heartedness, to observe the hardihood of her philosophy.  She
made no scruple of oversetting all human institutions, and scattering
them as with a breeze from her fan.  A female reformer, in her attacks
upon society, has an instinctive sense of where the life lies, and is
inclined to aim directly at that spot.  Especially the relation between
the sexes is naturally among the earliest to attract her notice.

Zenobia was truly a magnificent woman.  The homely simplicity of her
dress could not conceal, nor scarcely diminish, the queenliness of her
presence.  The image of her form and face should have been multiplied
all over the earth.  It was wronging the rest of mankind to retain her
as the spectacle of only a few.  The stage would have been her proper
sphere.  She should have made it a point of duty, moreover, to sit
endlessly to painters and sculptors, and preferably to the latter;
because the cold decorum of the marble would consist with the utmost
scantiness of drapery, so that the eye might chastely be gladdened with
her material perfection in its entireness.  I know not well how to
express that the native glow of coloring in her cheeks, and even the
flesh-warmth over her round arms, and what was visible of her full
bust,--in a word, her womanliness incarnated,--compelled me sometimes
to close my eyes, as if it were not quite the privilege of modesty to
gaze at her.  Illness and exhaustion, no doubt, had made me morbidly
sensitive.

I noticed--and wondered how Zenobia contrived it--that she had always a
new flower in her hair.  And still it was a hot-house flower,--an
outlandish flower,--a flower of the tropics, such as appeared to have
sprung passionately out of a soil the very weeds of which would be
fervid and spicy.  Unlike as was the flower of each successive day to
the preceding one, it yet so assimilated its richness to the rich
beauty of the woman, that I thought it the only flower fit to be worn;
so fit, indeed, that Nature had evidently created this floral gem, in a
happy exuberance, for the one purpose of worthily adorning Zenobia's
head.  It might be that my feverish fantasies clustered themselves
about this peculiarity, and caused it to look more gorgeous and
wonderful than if beheld with temperate eyes.  In the height of my
illness, as I well recollect, I went so far as to pronounce it
preternatural.

"Zenobia is an enchantress!" whispered I once to Hollingsworth.  "She
is a sister of the Veiled Lady.  That flower in her hair is a talisman.
If you were to snatch it away, she would vanish, or be transformed into
something else."

"What does he say?" asked Zenobia.

"Nothing that has an atom of sense in it," answered Hollingsworth. "He
is a little beside himself, I believe, and talks about your being a
witch, and of some magical property in the flower that you wear in your
hair."

"It is an idea worthy of a feverish poet," said she, laughing rather
compassionately, and taking out the flower.  "I scorn to owe anything
to magic.  Here, Mr. Hollingsworth, you may keep the spell while it has
any virtue in it; but I cannot promise you not to appear with a new one
to-morrow.  It is the one relic of my more brilliant, my happier days!"

The most curious part of the matter was that, long after my slight
delirium had passed away,--as long, indeed, as I continued to know this
remarkable woman,--her daily flower affected my imagination, though
more slightly, yet in very much the same way.  The reason must have
been that, whether intentionally on her part or not, this favorite
ornament was actually a subtile expression of Zenobia's character.

One subject, about which--very impertinently, moreover--I perplexed
myself with a great many conjectures, was, whether Zenobia had ever
been married.  The idea, it must be understood, was unauthorized by any
circumstance or suggestion that had made its way to my ears.  So young
as I beheld her, and the freshest and rosiest woman of a thousand,
there was certainly no need of imputing to her a destiny already
accomplished; the probability was far greater that her coming years had
all life's richest gifts to bring.  If the great event of a woman's
existence had been consummated, the world knew nothing of it, although
the world seemed to know Zenobia well.  It was a ridiculous piece of
romance, undoubtedly, to imagine that this beautiful personage, wealthy
as she was, and holding a position that might fairly enough be called
distinguished, could have given herself away so privately, but that
some whisper and suspicion, and by degrees a full understanding of the
fact, would eventually be blown abroad. But then, as I failed not to
consider, her original home was at a distance of many hundred miles.
Rumors might fill the social atmosphere, or might once have filled it,
there, which would travel but slowly, against the wind, towards our
Northeastern metropolis, and perhaps melt into thin air before reaching
it.

There was not--and I distinctly repeat it--the slightest foundation in
my knowledge for any surmise of the kind.  But there is a species of
intuition,--either a spiritual lie or the subtile recognition of a
fact,--which comes to us in a reduced state of the corporeal system.
The soul gets the better of the body, after wasting illness, or when a
vegetable diet may have mingled too much ether in the blood. Vapors
then rise up to the brain, and take shapes that often image falsehood,
but sometimes truth.  The spheres of our companions have, at such
periods, a vastly greater influence upon our own than when robust
health gives us a repellent and self-defensive energy. Zenobia's
sphere, I imagine, impressed itself powerfully on mine, and transformed
me, during this period of my weakness, into something like a mesmerical
clairvoyant.

Then, also, as anybody could observe, the freedom of her deportment
(though, to some tastes, it might commend itself as the utmost
perfection of manner in a youthful widow or a blooming matron) was not
exactly maiden-like.  What girl had ever laughed as Zenobia did? What
girl had ever spoken in her mellow tones?  Her unconstrained and
inevitable manifestation, I said often to myself, was that of a woman
to whom wedlock had thrown wide the gates of mystery.  Yet sometimes I
strove to be ashamed of these conjectures.  I acknowledged it as a
masculine grossness--a sin of wicked interpretation, of which man is
often guilty towards the other sex--thus to mistake the sweet, liberal,
but womanly frankness of a noble and generous disposition. Still, it
was of no avail to reason with myself nor to upbraid myself.
Pertinaciously the thought, "Zenobia is a wife; Zenobia has lived and
loved!  There is no folded petal, no latent dewdrop, in this perfectly
developed rose!"--irresistibly that thought drove out all other
conclusions, as often as my mind reverted to the subject.

Zenobia was conscious of my observation, though not, I presume, of the
point to which it led me.

"Mr. Coverdale," said she one day, as she saw me watching her, while
she arranged my gruel on the table, "I have been exposed to a great
deal of eye-shot in the few years of my mixing in the world, but never,
I think, to precisely such glances as you are in the habit of favoring
me with.  I seem to interest you very much; and yet--or else a woman's
instinct is for once deceived--I cannot reckon you as an admirer.  What
are you seeking to discover in me?"

"The mystery of your life," answered I, surprised into the truth by the
unexpectedness of her attack.  "And you will never tell me."

She bent her head towards me, and let me look into her eyes, as if
challenging me to drop a plummet-line down into the depths of her
consciousness.

"I see nothing now," said I, closing my own eyes, "unless it be the
face of a sprite laughing at me from the bottom of a deep well."

A bachelor always feels himself defrauded, when he knows or suspects
that any woman of his acquaintance has given herself away.  Otherwise,
the matter could have been no concern of mine.  It was purely
speculative, for I should not, under any circumstances, have fallen in
love with Zenobia.  The riddle made me so nervous, however, in my
sensitive condition of mind and body, that I most ungratefully began to
wish that she would let me alone.  Then, too, her gruel was very
wretched stuff, with almost invariably the smell of pine smoke upon it,
like the evil taste that is said to mix itself up with a witch's best
concocted dainties.  Why could not she have allowed one of the other
women to take the gruel in charge?  Whatever else might be her gifts,
Nature certainly never intended Zenobia for a cook.  Or, if so, she
should have meddled only with the richest and spiciest dishes, and such
as are to be tasted at banquets, between draughts of intoxicating wine.



VII. THE CONVALESCENT

As soon as my incommodities allowed me to think of past occurrences, I
failed not to inquire what had become of the odd little guest whom
Hollingsworth had been the medium of introducing among us.  It now
appeared that poor Priscilla had not so literally fallen out of the
clouds, as we were at first inclined to suppose.  A letter, which
should have introduced her, had since been received from one of the
city missionaries, containing a certificate of character and an
allusion to circumstances which, in the writer's judgment, made it
especially desirable that she should find shelter in our Community.
There was a hint, not very intelligible, implying either that Priscilla
had recently escaped from some particular peril or irksomeness of
position, or else that she was still liable to this danger or
difficulty, whatever it might be.  We should ill have deserved the
reputation of a benevolent fraternity, had we hesitated to entertain a
petitioner in such need, and so strongly recommended to our kindness;
not to mention, moreover, that the strange maiden had set herself
diligently to work, and was doing good service with her needle.  But a
slight mist of uncertainty still floated about Priscilla, and kept her,
as yet, from taking a very decided place among creatures of flesh and
blood.

The mysterious attraction, which, from her first entrance on our scene,
she evinced for Zenobia, had lost nothing of its force.  I often heard
her footsteps, soft and low, accompanying the light but decided tread
of the latter up the staircase, stealing along the passage-way by her
new friend's side, and pausing while Zenobia entered my chamber.
Occasionally Zenobia would be a little annoyed by Priscilla's too close
attendance.  In an authoritative and not very kindly tone, she would
advise her to breathe the pleasant air in a walk, or to go with her
work into the barn, holding out half a promise to come and sit on the
hay with her, when at leisure. Evidently, Priscilla found but scanty
requital for her love. Hollingsworth was likewise a great favorite with
her.  For several minutes together sometimes, while my auditory nerves
retained the susceptibility of delicate health, I used to hear a low,
pleasant murmur ascending from the room below; and at last ascertained
it to be Priscilla's voice, babbling like a little brook to
Hollingsworth. She talked more largely and freely with him than with
Zenobia, towards whom, indeed, her feelings seemed not so much to be
confidence as involuntary affection.  I should have thought all the
better of my own qualities had Priscilla marked me out for the third
place in her regards.  But, though she appeared to like me tolerably
well, I could never flatter myself with being distinguished by her as
Hollingsworth and Zenobia were.

One forenoon, during my convalescence, there came a gentle tap at my
chamber door.  I immediately said, "Come in, Priscilla!" with an acute
sense of the applicant's identity.  Nor was I deceived.  It was really
Priscilla,--a pale, large-eyed little woman (for she had gone far
enough into her teens to be, at least, on the outer limit of girlhood),
but much less wan than at my previous view of her, and far better
conditioned both as to health and spirits.  As I first saw her, she had
reminded me of plants that one sometimes observes doing their best to
vegetate among the bricks of an enclosed court, where there is scanty
soil and never any sunshine.  At present, though with no approach to
bloom, there were indications that the girl had human blood in her
veins.

Priscilla came softly to my bedside, and held out an article of
snow-white linen, very carefully and smoothly ironed.  She did not seem
bashful, nor anywise embarrassed.  My weakly condition, I suppose,
supplied a medium in which she could approach me.

"Do not you need this?" asked she.  "I have made it for you."  It was a
nightcap!

"My dear Priscilla," said I, smiling, "I never had on a nightcap in my
life!  But perhaps it will be better for me to wear one, now that I am
a miserable invalid.  How admirably you have done it!  No, no; I never
can think of wearing such an exquisitely wrought nightcap as this,
unless it be in the daytime, when I sit up to receive company."

"It is for use, not beauty," answered Priscilla.  "I could have
embroidered it and made it much prettier, if I pleased."

While holding up the nightcap and admiring the fine needlework, I
perceived that Priscilla had a sealed letter which she was waiting for
me to take.  It had arrived from the village post-office that morning.
As I did not immediately offer to receive the letter, she drew it back,
and held it against her bosom, with both hands clasped over it, in a
way that had probably grown habitual to her.  Now, on turning my eyes
from the nightcap to Priscilla, it forcibly struck me that her air,
though not her figure, and the expression of her face, but not its
features, had a resemblance to what I had often seen in a friend of
mine, one of the most gifted women of the age.  I cannot describe it.
The points easiest to convey to the reader were a certain curve of the
shoulders and a partial closing of the eyes, which seemed to look more
penetratingly into my own eyes, through the narrowed apertures, than if
they had been open at full width.  It was a singular anomaly of
likeness coexisting with perfect dissimilitude.

"Will you give me the letter, Priscilla?" said I.

She started, put the letter into my hand, and quite lost the look that
had drawn my notice.

"Priscilla," I inquired, "did you ever see Miss Margaret Fuller?"

"No," she answered.

"Because," said I, "you reminded me of her just now,--and it happens,
strangely enough, that this very letter is from her."

Priscilla, for whatever reason, looked very much discomposed.

"I wish people would not fancy such odd things in me!" she said rather
petulantly.  "How could I possibly make myself resemble this lady
merely by holding her letter in my hand?"

"Certainly, Priscilla, it would puzzle me to explain it," I replied;
"nor do I suppose that the letter had anything to do with it.  It was
just a coincidence, nothing more."

She hastened out of the room, and this was the last that I saw of
Priscilla until I ceased to be an invalid.

Being much alone during my recovery, I read interminably in Mr.
Emerson's Essays, "The Dial," Carlyle's works, George Sand's romances
(lent me by Zenobia), and other books which one or another of the
brethren or sisterhood had brought with them.  Agreeing in little else,
most of these utterances were like the cry of some solitary sentinel,
whose station was on the outposts of the advance guard of human
progression; or sometimes the voice came sadly from among the shattered
ruins of the past, but yet had a hopeful echo in the future. They were
well adapted (better, at least, than any other intellectual products,
the volatile essence of which had heretofore tinctured a printed page)
to pilgrims like ourselves, whose present bivouac was considerably
further into the waste of chaos than any mortal army of crusaders had
ever marched before.  Fourier's works, also, in a series of horribly
tedious volumes, attracted a good deal of my attention, from the
analogy which I could not but recognize between his system and our own.
There was far less resemblance, it is true, than the world chose to
imagine, inasmuch as the two theories differed, as widely as the zenith
from the nadir, in their main principles.

I talked about Fourier to Hollingsworth, and translated, for his
benefit, some of the passages that chiefly impressed me.

"When, as a consequence of human improvement," said I, "the globe shall
arrive at its final perfection, the great ocean is to be converted into
a particular kind of lemonade, such as was fashionable at Paris in
Fourier's time.  He calls it limonade a cedre.  It is positively a
fact!  Just imagine the city docks filled, every day, with a flood tide
of this delectable beverage!"

"Why did not the Frenchman make punch of it at once?" asked
Hollingsworth.  "The jack-tars would be delighted to go down in ships
and do business in such an element."

I further proceeded to explain, as well as I modestly could, several
points of Fourier's system, illustrating them with here and there a
page or two, and asking Hollingsworth's opinion as to the expediency of
introducing these beautiful peculiarities into our own practice.

"Let me hear no more of it!" cried he, in utter disgust.  "I never will
forgive this fellow!  He has committed the unpardonable sin; for what
more monstrous iniquity could the Devil himself contrive than to choose
the selfish principle,--the principle of all human wrong, the very
blackness of man's heart, the portion of ourselves which we shudder at,
and which it is the whole aim of spiritual discipline to eradicate,--to
choose it as the master workman of his system?  To seize upon and
foster whatever vile, petty, sordid, filthy, bestial, and abominable
corruptions have cankered into our nature, to be the efficient
instruments of his infernal regeneration!  And his consummated
Paradise, as he pictures it, would be worthy of the agency which he
counts upon for establishing it.  The nauseous villain!"

"Nevertheless," remarked I, "in consideration of the promised delights
of his system,--so very proper, as they certainly are, to be
appreciated by Fourier's countrymen,--I cannot but wonder that
universal France did not adopt his theory at a moment's warning.  But
is there not something very characteristic of his nation in Fourier's
manner of putting forth his views?  He makes no claim to inspiration.
He has not persuaded himself--as Swedenborg did, and as any other than
a Frenchman would, with a mission of like importance to
communicate--that he speaks with authority from above.  He promulgates
his system, so far as I can perceive, entirely on his own
responsibility.  He has searched out and discovered the whole counsel
of the Almighty in respect to mankind, past, present, and for exactly
seventy thousand years to come, by the mere force and cunning of his
individual intellect!"

"Take the book out of my sight," said Hollingsworth with great
virulence of expression, "or, I tell you fairly, I shall fling it in
the fire!  And as for Fourier, let him make a Paradise, if he can, of
Gehenna, where, as I conscientiously believe, he is floundering at this
moment!"

"And bellowing, I suppose," said I,--not that I felt any ill-will
towards Fourier, but merely wanted to give the finishing touch to
Hollingsworth's image, "bellowing for the least drop of his beloved
limonade a cedre!"

There is but little profit to be expected in attempting to argue with a
man who allows himself to declaim in this manner; so I dropt the
subject, and never took it up again.

But had the system at which he was so enraged combined almost any
amount of human wisdom, spiritual insight, and imaginative beauty, I
question whether Hollingsworth's mind was in a fit condition to receive
it.  I began to discern that he had come among us actuated by no real
sympathy with our feelings and our hopes, but chiefly because we were
estranging ourselves from the world, with which his lonely and
exclusive object in life had already put him at odds. Hollingsworth
must have been originally endowed with a great spirit of benevolence,
deep enough and warm enough to be the source of as much disinterested
good as Providence often allows a human being the privilege of
conferring upon his fellows.  This native instinct yet lived within
him.  I myself had profited by it, in my necessity.  It was seen, too,
in his treatment of Priscilla.  Such casual circumstances as were here
involved would quicken his divine power of sympathy, and make him seem,
while their influence lasted, the tenderest man and the truest friend
on earth.  But by and by you missed the tenderness of yesterday, and
grew drearily conscious that Hollingsworth had a closer friend than
ever you could be; and this friend was the cold, spectral monster which
he had himself conjured up, and on which he was wasting all the warmth
of his heart, and of which, at last,--as these men of a mighty purpose
so invariably do,--he had grown to be the bond-slave.  It was his
philanthropic theory.

This was a result exceedingly sad to contemplate, considering that it
had been mainly brought about by the very ardor and exuberance of his
philanthropy.  Sad, indeed, but by no means unusual: he had taught his
benevolence to pour its warm tide exclusively through one channel; so
that there was nothing to spare for other great manifestations of love
to man, nor scarcely for the nutriment of individual attachments,
unless they could minister in some way to the terrible egotism which he
mistook for an angel of God.  Had Hollingsworth's education been more
enlarged, he might not so inevitably have stumbled into this pitfall.
But this identical pursuit had educated him.  He knew absolutely
nothing, except in a single direction, where he had thought so
energetically, and felt to such a depth, that no doubt the entire
reason and justice of the universe appeared to be concentrated
thitherward.

It is my private opinion that, at this period of his life,
Hollingsworth was fast going mad; and, as with other crazy people
(among whom I include humorists of every degree), it required all the
constancy of friendship to restrain his associates from pronouncing him
an intolerable bore.  Such prolonged fiddling upon one string--such
multiform presentation of one idea!  His specific object (of which he
made the public more than sufficiently aware, through the medium of
lectures and pamphlets) was to obtain funds for the construction of an
edifice, with a sort of collegiate endowment.  On this foundation he
purposed to devote himself and a few disciples to the reform and mental
culture of our criminal brethren.  His visionary edifice was
Hollingsworth's one castle in the air; it was the material type in
which his philanthropic dream strove to embody itself; and he made the
scheme more definite, and caught hold of it the more strongly, and kept
his clutch the more pertinaciously, by rendering it visible to the
bodily eye.  I have seen him, a hundred times, with a pencil and sheet
of paper, sketching the facade, the side-view, or the rear of the
structure, or planning the internal arrangements, as lovingly as
another man might plan those of the projected home where he meant to be
happy with his wife and children. I have known him to begin a model of
the building with little stones, gathered at the brookside, whither we
had gone to cool ourselves in the sultry noon of haying-time.  Unlike
all other ghosts, his spirit haunted an edifice, which, instead of
being time-worn, and full of storied love, and joy, and sorrow, had
never yet come into existence.

"Dear friend," said I once to Hollingsworth, before leaving my
sick-chamber, "I heartily wish that I could make your schemes my
schemes, because it would be so great a happiness to find myself
treading the same path with you.  But I am afraid there is not stuff in
me stern enough for a philanthropist,--or not in this peculiar
direction,--or, at all events, not solely in this.  Can you bear with
me, if such should prove to be the case?"

"I will at least wait awhile," answered Hollingsworth, gazing at me
sternly and gloomily.  "But how can you be my life-long friend, except
you strive with me towards the great object of my life?"

Heaven forgive me!  A horrible suspicion crept into my heart, and stung
the very core of it as with the fangs of an adder.  I wondered whether
it were possible that Hollingsworth could have watched by my bedside,
with all that devoted care, only for the ulterior purpose of making me
a proselyte to his views!



VIII. A MODERN ARCADIA

May-day--I forget whether by Zenobia's sole decree, or by the unanimous
vote of our community--had been declared a movable festival. It was
deferred until the sun should have had a reasonable time to clear away
the snowdrifts along the lee of the stone walls, and bring out a few of
the readiest wild flowers.  On the forenoon of the substituted day,
after admitting some of the balmy air into my chamber, I decided that
it was nonsense and effeminacy to keep myself a prisoner any longer.
So I descended to the sitting-room, and finding nobody there, proceeded
to the barn, whence I had already heard Zenobia's voice, and along with
it a girlish laugh which was not so certainly recognizable.  Arriving
at the spot, it a little surprised me to discover that these merry
outbreaks came from Priscilla.

The two had been a-maying together.  They had found anemones in
abundance, houstonias by the handful, some columbines, a few
long-stalked violets, and a quantity of white everlasting flowers, and
had filled up their basket with the delicate spray of shrubs and trees.
None were prettier than the maple twigs, the leaf of which looks like a
scarlet bud in May, and like a plate of vegetable gold in October.
Zenobia, who showed no conscience in such matters, had also rifled a
cherry-tree of one of its blossomed boughs, and, with all this variety
of sylvan ornament, had been decking out Priscilla. Being done with a
good deal of taste, it made her look more charming than I should have
thought possible, with my recollection of the wan, frost-nipt girl, as
heretofore described.  Nevertheless, among those fragrant blossoms, and
conspicuously, too, had been stuck a weed of evil odor and ugly aspect,
which, as soon as I detected it, destroyed the effect of all the rest.
There was a gleam of latent mischief--not to call it deviltry--in
Zenobia's eye, which seemed to indicate a slightly malicious purpose in
the arrangement.

As for herself, she scorned the rural buds and leaflets, and wore
nothing but her invariable flower of the tropics.

"What do you think of Priscilla now, Mr. Coverdale?" asked she,
surveying her as a child does its doll.  "Is not she worth a verse or
two?"

"There is only one thing amiss," answered I. Zenobia laughed, and flung
the malignant weed away.

"Yes; she deserves some verses now," said I, "and from a better poet
than myself.  She is the very picture of the New England spring;
subdued in tint and rather cool, but with a capacity of sunshine, and
bringing us a few Alpine blossoms, as earnest of something richer,
though hardly more beautiful, hereafter.  The best type of her is one
of those anemones."

"What I find most singular in Priscilla, as her health improves,"
observed Zenobia, "is her wildness.  Such a quiet little body as she
seemed, one would not have expected that.  Why, as we strolled the
woods together, I could hardly keep her from scrambling up the trees,
like a squirrel.  She has never before known what it is to live in the
free air, and so it intoxicates her as if she were sipping wine. And
she thinks it such a paradise here, and all of us, particularly Mr.
Hollingsworth and myself, such angels!  It is quite ridiculous, and
provokes one's malice almost, to see a creature so happy, especially a
feminine creature."

"They are always happier than male creatures," said I.

"You must correct that opinion, Mr. Coverdale," replied Zenobia
contemptuously, "or I shall think you lack the poetic insight.  Did you
ever see a happy woman in your life?  Of course, I do not mean a girl,
like Priscilla and a thousand others,--for they are all alike, while on
the sunny side of experience,--but a grown woman.  How can she be
happy, after discovering that fate has assigned her but one single
event, which she must contrive to make the substance of her whole life?
A man has his choice of innumerable events."

"A woman, I suppose," answered I, "by constant repetition of her one
event, may compensate for the lack of variety."

"Indeed!" said Zenobia.

While we were talking, Priscilla caught sight of Hollingsworth at a
distance, in a blue frock, and with a hoe over his shoulder, returning
from the field.  She immediately set out to meet him, running and
skipping, with spirits as light as the breeze of the May morning, but
with limbs too little exercised to be quite responsive; she clapped her
hands, too, with great exuberance of gesture, as is the custom of young
girls when their electricity overcharges them. But, all at once, midway
to Hollingsworth, she paused, looked round about her, towards the
river, the road, the woods, and back towards us, appearing to listen,
as if she heard some one calling her name, and knew not precisely in
what direction.

"Have you bewitched her?"  I exclaimed.

"It is no sorcery of mine," said Zenobia; "but I have seen the girl do
that identical thing once or twice before.  Can you imagine what is the
matter with her?"

"No; unless," said I, "she has the gift of hearing those 'airy tongues
that syllable men's names,' which Milton tells about."

From whatever cause, Priscilla's animation seemed entirely to have
deserted her.  She seated herself on a rock, and remained there until
Hollingsworth came up; and when he took her hand and led her back to
us, she rather resembled my original image of the wan and spiritless
Priscilla than the flowery May-queen of a few moments ago.  These
sudden transformations, only to be accounted for by an extreme nervous
susceptibility, always continued to characterize the girl, though with
diminished frequency as her health progressively grew more robust.

I was now on my legs again.  My fit of illness had been an avenue
between two existences; the low-arched and darksome doorway, through
which I crept out of a life of old conventionalisms, on my hands and
knees, as it were, and gained admittance into the freer region that lay
beyond.  In this respect, it was like death.  And, as with death, too,
it was good to have gone through it.  No otherwise could I have rid
myself of a thousand follies, fripperies, prejudices, habits, and other
such worldly dust as inevitably settles upon the crowd along the broad
highway, giving them all one sordid aspect before noon-time, however
freshly they may have begun their pilgrimage in the dewy morning.  The
very substance upon my bones had not been fit to live with in any
better, truer, or more energetic mode than that to which I was
accustomed.  So it was taken off me and flung aside, like any other
worn-out or unseasonable garment; and, after shivering a little while
in my skeleton, I began to be clothed anew, and much more
satisfactorily than in my previous suit.  In literal and physical
truth, I was quite another man.  I had a lively sense of the exultation
with which the spirit will enter on the next stage of its eternal
progress after leaving the heavy burden of its mortality in an early
grave, with as little concern for what may become of it as now affected
me for the flesh which I had lost.

Emerging into the genial sunshine, I half fancied that the labors of
the brotherhood had already realized some of Fourier's predictions.
Their enlightened culture of the soil, and the virtues with which they
sanctified their life, had begun to produce an effect upon the material
world and its climate.  In my new enthusiasm, man looked strong and
stately,--and woman, oh, how beautiful!--and the earth a green garden,
blossoming with many-colored delights.  Thus Nature, whose laws I had
broken in various artificial ways, comported herself towards me as a
strict but loving mother, who uses the rod upon her little boy for his
naughtiness, and then gives him a smile, a kiss, and some pretty
playthings to console the urchin for her severity.

In the interval of my seclusion, there had been a number of recruits to
our little army of saints and martyrs.  They were mostly individuals
who had gone through such an experience as to disgust them with
ordinary pursuits, but who were not yet so old, nor had suffered so
deeply, as to lose their faith in the better time to come. On comparing
their minds one with another they often discovered that this idea of a
Community had been growing up, in silent and unknown sympathy, for
years.  Thoughtful, strongly lined faces were among them; sombre brows,
but eyes that did not require spectacles, unless prematurely dimmed by
the student's lamplight, and hair that seldom showed a thread of
silver.  Age, wedded to the past, incrusted over with a stony layer of
habits, and retaining nothing fluid in its possibilities, would have
been absurdly out of place in an enterprise like this.  Youth, too, in
its early dawn, was hardly more adapted to our purpose; for it would
behold the morning radiance of its own spirit beaming over the very
same spots of withered grass and barren sand whence most of us had seen
it vanish.  We had very young people with us, it is true,--downy lads,
rosy girls in their first teens, and children of all heights above
one's knee; but these had chiefly been sent hither for education, which
it was one of the objects and methods of our institution to supply.
Then we had boarders, from town and elsewhere, who lived with us in a
familiar way, sympathized more or less in our theories, and sometimes
shared in our labors.

On the whole, it was a society such as has seldom met together; nor,
perhaps, could it reasonably be expected to hold together long. Persons
of marked individuality--crooked sticks, as some of us might be
called--are not exactly the easiest to bind up into a fagot.  But, so
long as our union should subsist, a man of intellect and feeling, with
a free nature in him, might have sought far and near without finding so
many points of attraction as would allure him hitherward. We were of
all creeds and opinions, and generally tolerant of all, on every
imaginable subject.  Our bond, it seems to me, was not affirmative, but
negative.  We had individually found one thing or another to quarrel
with in our past life, and were pretty well agreed as to the
inexpediency of lumbering along with the old system any further.  As to
what should be substituted, there was much less unanimity.  We did not
greatly care--at least, I never did--for the written constitution under
which our millennium had commenced.  My hope was, that, between theory
and practice, a true and available mode of life might be struck out;
and that, even should we ultimately fail, the months or years spent in
the trial would not have been wasted, either as regarded passing
enjoyment, or the experience which makes men wise.

Arcadians though we were, our costume bore no resemblance to the
beribboned doublets, silk breeches and stockings, and slippers fastened
with artificial roses, that distinguish the pastoral people of poetry
and the stage.  In outward show, I humbly conceive, we looked rather
like a gang of beggars, or banditti, than either a company of honest
laboring-men, or a conclave of philosophers. Whatever might be our
points of difference, we all of us seemed to have come to Blithedale
with the one thrifty and laudable idea of wearing out our old clothes.
Such garments as had an airing, whenever we strode afield!  Coats with
high collars and with no collars, broad-skirted or swallow-tailed, and
with the waist at every point between the hip and arm-pit; pantaloons
of a dozen successive epochs, and greatly defaced at the knees by the
humiliations of the wearer before his lady-love,--in short, we were a
living epitome of defunct fashions, and the very raggedest presentment
of men who had seen better days.  It was gentility in tatters.  Often
retaining a scholarlike or clerical air, you might have taken us for
the denizens of Grub Street, intent on getting a comfortable livelihood
by agricultural labor; or Coleridge's projected Pantisocracy in full
experiment; or Candide and his motley associates at work in their
cabbage garden; or anything else that was miserably out at elbows, and
most clumsily patched in the rear.  We might have been sworn comrades
to Falstaff's ragged regiment.  Little skill as we boasted in other
points of husbandry, every mother's son of us would have served
admirably to stick up for a scarecrow.  And the worst of the matter
was, that the first energetic movement essential to one downright
stroke of real labor was sure to put a finish to these poor
habiliments.  So we gradually flung them all aside, and took to honest
homespun and linsey-woolsey, as preferable, on the whole, to the plan
recommended, I think, by Virgil,--"Ara nudus; sere nudus, "--which as
Silas Foster remarked, when I translated the maxim, would be apt to
astonish the women-folks.

After a reasonable training, the yeoman life throve well with us. Our
faces took the sunburn kindly; our chests gained in compass, and our
shoulders in breadth and squareness; our great brown fists looked as if
they had never been capable of kid gloves.  The plough, the hoe, the
scythe, and the hay-fork grew familiar to our grasp.  The oxen
responded to our voices.  We could do almost as fair a day's work as
Silas Foster himself, sleep dreamlessly after it, and awake at daybreak
with only a little stiffness of the joints, which was usually quite
gone by breakfast-time.

To be sure, our next neighbors pretended to be incredulous as to our
real proficiency in the business which we had taken in hand.  They told
slanderous fables about our inability to yoke our own oxen, or to drive
them afield when yoked, or to release the poor brutes from their
conjugal bond at nightfall.  They had the face to say, too, that the
cows laughed at our awkwardness at milking-time, and invariably kicked
over the pails; partly in consequence of our putting the stool on the
wrong side, and partly because, taking offence at the whisking of their
tails, we were in the habit of holding these natural fly-flappers with
one hand and milking with the other.  They further averred that we hoed
up whole acres of Indian corn and other crops, and drew the earth
carefully about the weeds; and that we raised five hundred tufts of
burdock, mistaking them for cabbages; and that by dint of unskilful
planting few of our seeds ever came up at all, or, if they did come up,
it was stern-foremost; and that we spent the better part of the month
of June in reversing a field of beans, which had thrust themselves out
of the ground in this unseemly way.  They quoted it as nothing more
than an ordinary occurrence for one or other of us to crop off two or
three fingers, of a morning, by our clumsy use of the hay-cutter.
Finally, and as an ultimate catastrophe, these mendacious rogues
circulated a report that we communitarians were exterminated, to the
last man, by severing ourselves asunder with the sweep of our own
scythes! and that the world had lost nothing by this little accident.

But this was pure envy and malice on the part of the neighboring
farmers.  The peril of our new way of life was not lest we should fail
in becoming practical agriculturists, but that we should probably cease
to be anything else.  While our enterprise lay all in theory, we had
pleased ourselves with delectable visions of the spiritualization of
labor.  It was to be our form of prayer and ceremonial of worship.
Each stroke of the hoe was to uncover some aromatic root of wisdom,
heretofore hidden from the sun.  Pausing in the field, to let the wind
exhale the moisture from our foreheads, we were to look upward, and
catch glimpses into the far-off soul of truth.  In this point of view,
matters did not turn out quite so well as we anticipated.  It is very
true that, sometimes, gazing casually around me, out of the midst of my
toil, I used to discern a richer picturesqueness in the visible scene
of earth and sky.  There was, at such moments, a novelty, an unwonted
aspect, on the face of Nature, as if she had been taken by surprise and
seen at unawares, with no opportunity to put off her real look, and
assume the mask with which she mysteriously hides herself from mortals.
But this was all.  The clods of earth, which we so constantly belabored
and turned over and over, were never etherealized into thought.  Our
thoughts, on the contrary, were fast becoming cloddish.  Our labor
symbolized nothing, and left us mentally sluggish in the dusk of the
evening. Intellectual activity is incompatible with any large amount of
bodily exercise.  The yeoman and the scholar--the yeoman and the man of
finest moral culture, though not the man of sturdiest sense and
integrity--are two distinct individuals, and can never be melted or
welded into one substance.

Zenobia soon saw this truth, and gibed me about it, one evening, as
Hollingsworth and I lay on the grass, after a hard day's work.

"I am afraid you did not make a song today, while loading the
hay-cart," said she, "as Burns did, when he was reaping barley."

"Burns never made a song in haying-time," I answered very positively.
"He was no poet while a farmer, and no farmer while a poet."

"And on the whole, which of the two characters do you like best?" asked
Zenobia.  "For I have an idea that you cannot combine them any better
than Burns did.  Ah, I see, in my mind's eye, what sort of an
individual you are to be, two or three years hence.  Grim Silas Foster
is your prototype, with his palm of sole-leather, and his joints of
rusty iron (which all through summer keep the stiffness of what he
calls his winter's rheumatize), and his brain of--I don't know what his
brain is made of, unless it be a Savoy cabbage; but yours may be
cauliflower, as a rather more delicate variety.  Your physical man will
be transmuted into salt beef and fried pork, at the rate, I should
imagine, of a pound and a half a day; that being about the average
which we find necessary in the kitchen.  You will make your toilet for
the day (still like this delightful Silas Foster) by rinsing your
fingers and the front part of your face in a little tin pan of water at
the doorstep, and teasing your hair with a wooden pocket-comb before a
seven-by-nine-inch looking-glass.  Your only pastime will be to smoke
some very vile tobacco in the black stump of a pipe."

"Pray, spare me!" cried I. "But the pipe is not Silas's only mode of
solacing himself with the weed."

"Your literature," continued Zenobia, apparently delighted with her
description, "will be the 'Farmer's Almanac;' for I observe our friend
Foster never gets so far as the newspaper.  When you happen to sit
down, at odd moments, you will fall asleep, and make nasal proclamation
of the fact, as he does; and invariably you must be jogged out of a
nap, after supper, by the future Mrs. Coverdale, and persuaded to go
regularly to bed.  And on Sundays, when you put on a blue coat with
brass buttons, you will think of nothing else to do but to go and
lounge over the stone walls and rail fences, and stare at the corn
growing.  And you will look with a knowing eye at oxen, and will have a
tendency to clamber over into pigsties, and feel of the hogs, and give
a guess how much they will weigh after you shall have stuck and dressed
them.  Already I have noticed you begin to speak through your nose, and
with a drawl.  Pray, if you really did make any poetry to-day, let us
hear it in that kind of utterance!"

"Coverdale has given up making verses now," said Hollingsworth, who
never had the slightest appreciation of my poetry.  "Just think of him
penning a sonnet with a fist like that!  There is at least this good in
a life of toil, that it takes the nonsense and fancy-work out of a man,
and leaves nothing but what truly belongs to him.  If a farmer can make
poetry at the plough-tail, it must be because his nature insists on it;
and if that be the case, let him make it, in Heaven's name!"

"And how is it with you?" asked Zenobia, in a different voice; for she
never laughed at Hollingsworth, as she often did at me.  "You, I think,
cannot have ceased to live a life of thought and feeling."

"I have always been in earnest," answered Hollingsworth.  "I have
hammered thought out of iron, after heating the iron in my heart!  It
matters little what my outward toil may be.  Were I a slave, at the
bottom of a mine, I should keep the same purpose, the same faith in its
ultimate accomplishment, that I do now.  Miles Coverdale is not in
earnest, either as a poet or a laborer."

"You give me hard measure, Hollingsworth," said I, a little hurt.  "I
have kept pace with you in the field; and my bones feel as if I had
been in earnest, whatever may be the case with my brain!"

"I cannot conceive," observed Zenobia with great emphasis,--and, no
doubt, she spoke fairly the feeling of the moment,--"I cannot conceive
of being so continually as Mr. Coverdale is within the sphere of a
strong and noble nature, without being strengthened and ennobled by its
influence!"

This amiable remark of the fair Zenobia confirmed me in what I had
already begun to suspect, that Hollingsworth, like many other
illustrious prophets, reformers, and philanthropists, was likely to
make at least two proselytes among the women to one among the men.
Zenobia and Priscilla!  These, I believe (unless my unworthy self might
be reckoned for a third), were the only disciples of his mission; and I
spent a great deal of time, uselessly, in trying to conjecture what
Hollingsworth meant to do with them--and they with him!



IX. HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA

It is not, I apprehend, a healthy kind of mental occupation to devote
ourselves too exclusively to the study of individual men and women. If
the person under examination be one's self, the result is pretty
certain to be diseased action of the heart, almost before we can snatch
a second glance.  Or if we take the freedom to put a friend under our
microscope, we thereby insulate him from many of his true relations,
magnify his peculiarities, inevitably tear him into parts, and of
course patch him very clumsily together again.  What wonder, then,
should we be frightened by the aspect of a monster, which, after
all,--though we can point to every feature of his deformity in the real
personage,--may be said to have been created mainly by ourselves.

Thus, as my conscience has often whispered me, I did Hollingsworth a
great wrong by prying into his character; and am perhaps doing him as
great a one, at this moment, by putting faith in the discoveries which
I seemed to make.  But I could not help it.  Had I loved him less, I
might have used him better.  He and Zenobia and Priscilla--both for
their own sakes and as connected with him--were separated from the rest
of the Community, to my imagination, and stood forth as the indices of
a problem which it was my business to solve.  Other associates had a
portion of my time; other matters amused me; passing occurrences
carried me along with them, while they lasted.  But here was the vortex
of my meditations, around which they revolved, and whitherward they too
continually tended.  In the midst of cheerful society, I had often a
feeling of loneliness.  For it was impossible not to be sensible that,
while these three characters figured so largely on my private theatre,
I--though probably reckoned as a friend by all--was at best but a
secondary or tertiary personage with either of them.

I loved Hollingsworth, as has already been enough expressed.  But it
impressed me, more and more, that there was a stern and dreadful
peculiarity in this man, such as could not prove otherwise than
pernicious to the happiness of those who should be drawn into too
intimate a connection with him.  He was not altogether human.  There
was something else in Hollingsworth besides flesh and blood, and
sympathies and affections and celestial spirit.

This is always true of those men who have surrendered themselves to an
overruling purpose.  It does not so much impel them from without, nor
even operate as a motive power within, but grows incorporate with all
that they think and feel, and finally converts them into little else
save that one principle.  When such begins to be the predicament, it is
not cowardice, but wisdom, to avoid these victims.  They have no heart,
no sympathy, no reason, no conscience.  They will keep no friend,
unless he make himself the mirror of their purpose; they will smite and
slay you, and trample your dead corpse under foot, all the more
readily, if you take the first step with them, and cannot take the
second, and the third, and every other step of their terribly strait
path.  They have an idol to which they consecrate themselves
high-priest, and deem it holy work to offer sacrifices of whatever is
most precious; and never once seem to suspect--so cunning has the Devil
been with them--that this false deity, in whose iron features,
immitigable to all the rest of mankind, they see only benignity and
love, is but a spectrum of the very priest himself, projected upon the
surrounding darkness.  And the higher and purer the original object,
and the more unselfishly it may have been taken up, the slighter is the
probability that they can be led to recognize the process by which
godlike benevolence has been debased into all-devouring egotism.

Of course I am perfectly aware that the above statement is exaggerated,
in the attempt to make it adequate.  Professed philanthropists have
gone far; but no originally good man, I presume, ever went quite so far
as this.  Let the reader abate whatever he deems fit.  The paragraph
may remain, however, both for its truth and its exaggeration, as
strongly expressive of the tendencies which were really operative in
Hollingsworth, and as exemplifying the kind of error into which my mode
of observation was calculated to lead me. The issue was, that in
solitude I often shuddered at my friend.  In my recollection of his
dark and impressive countenance, the features grew more sternly
prominent than the reality, duskier in their depth and shadow, and more
lurid in their light; the frown, that had merely flitted across his
brow, seemed to have contorted it with an adamantine wrinkle.  On
meeting him again, I was often filled with remorse, when his deep eyes
beamed kindly upon me, as with the glow of a household fire that was
burning in a cave.  "He is a man after all," thought I; "his Maker's
own truest image, a philanthropic man!--not that steel engine of the
Devil's contrivance, a philanthropist!" But in my wood-walks, and in my
silent chamber, the dark face frowned at me again.

When a young girl comes within the sphere of such a man, she is as
perilously situated as the maiden whom, in the old classical myths, the
people used to expose to a dragon.  If I had any duty whatever, in
reference to Hollingsworth, it was to endeavor to save Priscilla from
that kind of personal worship which her sex is generally prone to
lavish upon saints and heroes.  It often requires but one smile out of
the hero's eyes into the girl's or woman's heart, to transform this
devotion, from a sentiment of the highest approval and confidence, into
passionate love.  Now, Hollingsworth smiled much upon Priscilla,--more
than upon any other person.  If she thought him beautiful, it was no
wonder.  I often thought him so, with the expression of tender human
care and gentlest sympathy which she alone seemed to have power to call
out upon his features.  Zenobia, I suspect, would have given her eyes,
bright as they were, for such a look; it was the least that our poor
Priscilla could do, to give her heart for a great many of them.  There
was the more danger of this, inasmuch as the footing on which we all
associated at Blithedale was widely different from that of conventional
society.  While inclining us to the soft affections of the golden age,
it seemed to authorize any individual, of either sex, to fall in love
with any other, regardless of what would elsewhere be judged suitable
and prudent. Accordingly the tender passion was very rife among us, in
various degrees of mildness or virulence, but mostly passing away with
the state of things that had given it origin.  This was all well
enough; but, for a girl like Priscilla and a woman like Zenobia to
jostle one another in their love of a man like Hollingsworth, was
likely to be no child's play.

Had I been as cold-hearted as I sometimes thought myself, nothing would
have interested me more than to witness the play of passions that must
thus have been evolved.  But, in honest truth, I would really have gone
far to save Priscilla, at least, from the catastrophe in which such a
drama would be apt to terminate.

Priscilla had now grown to be a very pretty girl, and still kept
budding and blossoming, and daily putting on some new charm, which you
no sooner became sensible of than you thought it worth all that she had
previously possessed.  So unformed, vague, and without substance, as
she had come to us, it seemed as if we could see Nature shaping out a
woman before our very eyes, and yet had only a more reverential sense
of the mystery of a woman's soul and frame. Yesterday, her cheek was
pale, to-day, it had a bloom.  Priscilla's smile, like a baby's first
one, was a wondrous novelty.  Her imperfections and shortcomings
affected me with a kind of playful pathos, which was as absolutely
bewitching a sensation as ever I experienced.  After she had been a
month or two at Blithedale, her animal spirits waxed high, and kept her
pretty constantly in a state of bubble and ferment, impelling her to
far more bodily activity than she had yet strength to endure.  She was
very fond of playing with the other girls out of doors.  There is
hardly another sight in the world so pretty as that of a company of
young girls, almost women grown, at play, and so giving themselves up
to their airy impulse that their tiptoes barely touch the ground.

Girls are incomparably wilder and more effervescent than boys, more
untamable and regardless of rule and limit, with an ever-shifting
variety, breaking continually into new modes of fun, yet with a
harmonious propriety through all.  Their steps, their voices, appear
free as the wind, but keep consonance with a strain of music inaudible
to us.  Young men and boys, on the other hand, play, according to
recognized law, old, traditionary games, permitting no caprioles of
fancy, but with scope enough for the outbreak of savage instincts.
For, young or old, in play or in earnest, man is prone to be a brute.

Especially is it delightful to see a vigorous young girl run a race,
with her head thrown back, her limbs moving more friskily than they
need, and an air between that of a bird and a young colt.  But
Priscilla's peculiar charm, in a foot-race, was the weakness and
irregularity with which she ran.  Growing up without exercise, except
to her poor little fingers, she had never yet acquired the perfect use
of her legs.  Setting buoyantly forth, therefore, as if no rival less
swift than Atalanta could compete with her, she ran falteringly, and
often tumbled on the grass.  Such an incident--though it seems too
slight to think of--was a thing to laugh at, but which brought the
water into one's eyes, and lingered in the memory after far greater
joys and sorrows were wept out of it, as antiquated trash. Priscilla's
life, as I beheld it, was full of trifles that affected me in just this
way.

When she had come to be quite at home among us, I used to fancy that
Priscilla played more pranks, and perpetrated more mischief, than any
other girl in the Community.  For example, I once heard Silas Foster,
in a very gruff voice, threatening to rivet three horseshoes round
Priscilla's neck and chain her to a post, because she, with some other
young people, had clambered upon a load of hay, and caused it to slide
off the cart.  How she made her peace I never knew; but very soon
afterwards I saw old Silas, with his brawny hands round Priscilla's
waist, swinging her to and fro, and finally depositing her on one of
the oxen, to take her first lessons in riding.  She met with terrible
mishaps in her efforts to milk a cow; she let the poultry into the
garden; she generally spoilt whatever part of the dinner she took in
charge; she broke crockery; she dropt our biggest water pitcher into
the well; and--except with her needle, and those little wooden
instruments for purse-making--was as unserviceable a member of society
as any young lady in the land.  There was no other sort of efficiency
about her.  Yet everybody was kind to Priscilla; everybody loved her
and laughed at her to her face, and did not laugh behind her back;
everybody would have given her half of his last crust, or the bigger
share of his plum-cake.  These were pretty certain indications that we
were all conscious of a pleasant weakness in the girl, and considered
her not quite able to look after her own interests or fight her battle
with the world.  And Hollingsworth--perhaps because he had been the
means of introducing Priscilla to her new abode--appeared to recognize
her as his own especial charge.

Her simple, careless, childish flow of spirits often made me sad. She
seemed to me like a butterfly at play in a flickering bit of sunshine,
and mistaking it for a broad and eternal summer.  We sometimes hold
mirth to a stricter accountability than sorrow; it must show good
cause, or the echo of its laughter comes back drearily. Priscilla's
gayety, moreover, was of a nature that showed me how delicate an
instrument she was, and what fragile harp-strings were her nerves.  As
they made sweet music at the airiest touch, it would require but a
stronger one to burst them all asunder.  Absurd as it might be, I tried
to reason with her, and persuade her not to be so joyous, thinking
that, if she would draw less lavishly upon her fund of happiness, it
would last the longer.  I remember doing so, one summer evening, when
we tired laborers sat looking on, like Goldsmith's old folks under the
village thorn-tree, while the young people were at their sports.

"What is the use or sense of being so very gay?"  I said to Priscilla,
while she was taking breath, after a great frolic.  "I love to see a
sufficient cause for everything, and I can see none for this.  Pray
tell me, now, what kind of a world you imagine this to be, which you
are so merry in."

"I never think about it at all," answered Priscilla, laughing.  "But
this I am sure of, that it is a world where everybody is kind to me,
and where I love everybody.  My heart keeps dancing within me, and all
the foolish things which you see me do are only the motions of my
heart.  How can I be dismal, if my heart will not let me?"

"Have you nothing dismal to remember?"  I suggested.  "If not, then,
indeed, you are very fortunate!"

"Ah!" said Priscilla slowly.

And then came that unintelligible gesture, when she seemed to be
listening to a distant voice.

"For my part," I continued, beneficently seeking to overshadow her with
my own sombre humor, "my past life has been a tiresome one enough; yet
I would rather look backward ten times than forward once. For, little
as we know of our life to come, we may be very sure, for one thing,
that the good we aim at will not be attained.  People never do get just
the good they seek.  If it come at all, it is something else, which
they never dreamed of, and did not particularly want.  Then, again, we
may rest certain that our friends of to-day will not be our friends of
a few years hence; but, if we keep one of them, it will be at the
expense of the others; and most probably we shall keep none.  To be
sure, there are more to be had; but who cares about making a new set of
friends, even should they be better than those around us?"

"Not I!" said Priscilla.  "I will live and die with these!"

"Well; but let the future go," resumed I. "As for the present moment,
if we could look into the hearts where we wish to be most valued, what
should you expect to see?  One's own likeness, in the innermost,
holiest niche?  Ah!  I don't know!  It may not be there at all.  It may
be a dusty image, thrust aside into a corner, and by and by to be flung
out of doors, where any foot may trample upon it.  If not to-day, then
to-morrow!  And so, Priscilla, I do not see much wisdom in being so
very merry in this kind of a world."

It had taken me nearly seven years of worldly life to hive up the
bitter honey which I here offered to Priscilla.  And she rejected it!

"I don't believe one word of what you say!" she replied, laughing anew.
"You made me sad, for a minute, by talking about the past; but the past
never comes back again.  Do we dream the same dream twice? There is
nothing else that I am afraid of."

So away she ran, and fell down on the green grass, as it was often her
luck to do, but got up again, without any harm.

"Priscilla, Priscilla!" cried Hollingsworth, who was sitting on the
doorstep; "you had better not run any more to-night.  You will weary
yourself too much.  And do not sit down out of doors, for there is a
heavy dew beginning to fall."

At his first word, she went and sat down under the porch, at
Hollingsworth's feet, entirely contented and happy.  What charm was
there in his rude massiveness that so attracted and soothed this
shadow-like girl?  It appeared to me, who have always been curious in
such matters, that Priscilla's vague and seemingly causeless flow of
felicitous feeling was that with which love blesses inexperienced
hearts, before they begin to suspect what is going on within them. It
transports them to the seventh heaven; and if you ask what brought them
thither, they neither can tell nor care to learn, but cherish an
ecstatic faith that there they shall abide forever.

Zenobia was in the doorway, not far from Hollingsworth.  She gazed at
Priscilla in a very singular way.  Indeed, it was a sight worth gazing
at, and a beautiful sight, too, as the fair girl sat at the feet of
that dark, powerful figure.  Her air, while perfectly modest, delicate,
and virgin-like, denoted her as swayed by Hollingsworth, attracted to
him, and unconsciously seeking to rest upon his strength. I could not
turn away my own eyes, but hoped that nobody, save Zenobia and myself,
was witnessing this picture.  It is before me now, with the evening
twilight a little deepened by the dusk of memory.

"Come hither, Priscilla," said Zenobia.  "I have something to say to
you."

She spoke in little more than a whisper.  But it is strange how
expressive of moods a whisper may often be.  Priscilla felt at once
that something had gone wrong.

"Are you angry with me?" she asked, rising slowly, and standing before
Zenobia in a drooping attitude.  "What have I done?  I hope you are not
angry!"

"No, no, Priscilla!" said Hollingsworth, smiling.  "I will answer for
it, she is not.  You are the one little person in the world with whom
nobody can be angry!"

"Angry with you, child?  What a silly idea!" exclaimed Zenobia,
laughing.  "No, indeed!  But, my dear Priscilla, you are getting to be
so very pretty that you absolutely need a duenna; and, as I am older
than you, and have had my own little experience of life, and think
myself exceedingly sage, I intend to fill the place of a maiden aunt.
Every day, I shall give you a lecture, a quarter of an hour in length,
on the morals, manners, and proprieties of social life.  When our
pastoral shall be quite played out, Priscilla, my worldly wisdom may
stand you in good stead."

"I am afraid you are angry with me!" repeated Priscilla sadly; for,
while she seemed as impressible as wax, the girl often showed a
persistency in her own ideas as stubborn as it was gentle.

"Dear me, what can I say to the child!" cried Zenobia in a tone of
humorous vexation.  "Well, well; since you insist on my being angry,
come to my room this moment, and let me beat you!"

Zenobia bade Hollingsworth good-night very sweetly, and nodded to me
with a smile.  But, just as she turned aside with Priscilla into the
dimness of the porch, I caught another glance at her countenance.  It
would have made the fortune of a tragic actress, could she have
borrowed it for the moment when she fumbles in her bosom for the
concealed dagger, or the exceedingly sharp bodkin, or mingles the
ratsbane in her lover's bowl of wine or her rival's cup of tea.  Not
that I in the least anticipated any such catastrophe,--it being a
remarkable truth that custom has in no one point a greater sway than
over our modes of wreaking our wild passions.  And besides, had we been
in Italy, instead of New England, it was hardly yet a crisis for the
dagger or the bowl.

It often amazed me, however, that Hollingsworth should show himself so
recklessly tender towards Priscilla, and never once seem to think of
the effect which it might have upon her heart.  But the man, as I have
endeavored to explain, was thrown completely off his moral balance, and
quite bewildered as to his personal relations, by his great excrescence
of a philanthropic scheme.  I used to see, or fancy, indications that
he was not altogether obtuse to Zenobia's influence as a woman.  No
doubt, however, he had a still more exquisite enjoyment of Priscilla's
silent sympathy with his purposes, so unalloyed with criticism, and
therefore more grateful than any intellectual approbation, which always
involves a possible reserve of latent censure.  A man--poet, prophet,
or whatever he may be--readily persuades himself of his right to all
the worship that is voluntarily tendered.  In requital of so rich
benefits as he was to confer upon mankind, it would have been hard to
deny Hollingsworth the simple solace of a young girl's heart, which he
held in his hand, and smelled too, like a rosebud.  But what if, while
pressing out its fragrance, he should crush the tender rosebud in his
grasp!

As for Zenobia, I saw no occasion to give myself any trouble.  With her
native strength, and her experience of the world, she could not be
supposed to need any help of mine.  Nevertheless, I was really generous
enough to feel some little interest likewise for Zenobia. With all her
faults (which might have been a great many besides the abundance that I
knew of), she possessed noble traits, and a heart which must, at least,
have been valuable while new.  And she seemed ready to fling it away as
uncalculatingly as Priscilla herself.  I could not but suspect that, if
merely at play with Hollingsworth, she was sporting with a power which
she did not fully estimate.  Or if in earnest, it might chance, between
Zenobia's passionate force and his dark, self-delusive egotism, to turn
out such earnest as would develop itself in some sufficiently tragic
catastrophe, though the dagger and the bowl should go for nothing in it.

Meantime, the gossip of the Community set them down as a pair of
lovers.  They took walks together, and were not seldom encountered in
the wood-paths: Hollingsworth deeply discoursing, in tones solemn and
sternly pathetic; Zenobia, with a rich glow on her cheeks, and her eyes
softened from their ordinary brightness, looked so beautiful, that had
her companion been ten times a philanthropist, it seemed impossible but
that one glance should melt him back into a man. Oftener than anywhere
else, they went to a certain point on the slope of a pasture,
commanding nearly the whole of our own domain, besides a view of the
river, and an airy prospect of many distant hills.  The bond of our
Community was such, that the members had the privilege of building
cottages for their own residence within our precincts, thus laying a
hearthstone and fencing in a home private and peculiar to all desirable
extent, while yet the inhabitants should continue to share the
advantages of an associated life.  It was inferred that Hollingsworth
and Zenobia intended to rear their dwelling on this favorite spot.

I mentioned those rumors to Hollingsworth in a playful way.

"Had you consulted me," I went on to observe, "I should have
recommended a site farther to the left, just a little withdrawn into
the wood, with two or three peeps at the prospect among the trees. You
will be in the shady vale of years long before you can raise any better
kind of shade around your cottage, if you build it on this bare slope."

"But I offer my edifice as a spectacle to the world," said
Hollingsworth, "that it may take example and build many another like
it.  Therefore, I mean to set it on the open hillside."

Twist these words how I might, they offered no very satisfactory
import.  It seemed hardly probable that Hollingsworth should care about
educating the public taste in the department of cottage architecture,
desirable as such improvement certainly was.



X. A VISITOR FROM TOWN

Hollingsworth and I--we had been hoeing potatoes, that forenoon, while
the rest of the fraternity were engaged in a distant quarter of the
farm--sat under a clump of maples, eating our eleven o'clock lunch,
when we saw a stranger approaching along the edge of the field. He had
admitted himself from the roadside through a turnstile, and seemed to
have a purpose of speaking with us.

And, by the bye, we were favored with many visits at Blithedale,
especially from people who sympathized with our theories, and perhaps
held themselves ready to unite in our actual experiment as soon as
there should appear a reliable promise of its success.  It was rather
ludicrous, indeed (to me, at least, whose enthusiasm had insensibly
been exhaled together with the perspiration of many a hard day's toil),
it was absolutely funny, therefore, to observe what a glory was shed
about our life and labors, in the imaginations of these longing
proselytes.  In their view, we were as poetical as Arcadians, besides
being as practical as the hardest-fisted husbandmen in Massachusetts.
We did not, it is true, spend much time in piping to our sheep, or
warbling our innocent loves to the sisterhood.  But they gave us credit
for imbuing the ordinary rustic occupations with a kind of religious
poetry, insomuch that our very cow-yards and pig-sties were as
delightfully fragrant as a flower garden.  Nothing used to please me
more than to see one of these lay enthusiasts snatch up a hoe, as they
were very prone to do, and set to work with a vigor that perhaps
carried him through about a dozen ill-directed strokes.  Men are
wonderfully soon satisfied, in this day of shameful bodily enervation,
when, from one end of life to the other, such multitudes never taste
the sweet weariness that follows accustomed toil.  I seldom saw the new
enthusiasm that did not grow as flimsy and flaccid as the proselyte's
moistened shirt-collar, with a quarter of an hour's active labor under
a July sun.

But the person now at hand had not at all the air of one of these
amiable visionaries.  He was an elderly man, dressed rather shabbily,
yet decently enough, in a gray frock-coat, faded towards a brown hue,
and wore a broad-brimmed white hat, of the fashion of several years
gone by.  His hair was perfect silver, without a dark thread in the
whole of it; his nose, though it had a scarlet tip, by no means
indicated the jollity of which a red nose is the generally admitted
symbol.  He was a subdued, undemonstrative old man, who would doubtless
drink a glass of liquor, now and then, and probably more than was good
for him,--not, however, with a purpose of undue exhilaration, but in
the hope of bringing his spirits up to the ordinary level of the
world's cheerfulness.  Drawing nearer, there was a shy look about him,
as if he were ashamed of his poverty, or, at any rate, for some reason
or other, would rather have us glance at him sidelong than take a full
front view.  He had a queer appearance of hiding himself behind the
patch on his left eye.

"I know this old gentleman," said I to Hollingsworth, as we sat
observing him; "that is, I have met him a hundred times in town, and
have often amused my fancy with wondering what he was before he came to
be what he is.  He haunts restaurants and such places, and has an odd
way of lurking in corners or getting behind a door whenever
practicable, and holding out his hand with some little article in it
which he wishes you to buy.  The eye of the world seems to trouble him,
although he necessarily lives so much in it.  I never expected to see
him in an open field."

"Have you learned anything of his history?" asked Hollingsworth.

"Not a circumstance," I answered; "but there must be something curious
in it.  I take him to be a harmless sort of a person, and a tolerably
honest one; but his manners, being so furtive, remind me of those of a
rat,--a rat without the mischief, the fierce eye, the teeth to bite
with, or the desire to bite.  See, now!  He means to skulk along that
fringe of bushes, and approach us on the other side of our clump of
maples."

We soon heard the old man's velvet tread on the grass, indicating that
he had arrived within a few feet of where we Sat.

"Good-morning, Mr. Moodie," said Hollingsworth, addressing the stranger
as an acquaintance; "you must have had a hot and tiresome walk from the
city.  Sit down, and take a morsel of our bread and cheese."

The visitor made a grateful little murmur of acquiescence, and sat down
in a spot somewhat removed; so that, glancing round, I could see his
gray pantaloons and dusty shoes, while his upper part was mostly hidden
behind the shrubbery.  Nor did he come forth from this retirement
during the whole of the interview that followed.  We handed him such
food as we had, together with a brown jug of molasses and water (would
that it had been brandy, or some thing better, for the sake of his
chill old heart!), like priests offering dainty sacrifice to an
enshrined and invisible idol.  I have no idea that he really lacked
sustenance; but it was quite touching, nevertheless, to hear him
nibbling away at our crusts.

"Mr. Moodie," said I, "do you remember selling me one of those very
pretty little silk purses, of which you seem to have a monopoly in the
market?  I keep it to this day, I can assure you."

"Ah, thank you," said our guest.  "Yes, Mr. Coverdale, I used to sell a
good many of those little purses."

He spoke languidly, and only those few words, like a watch with an
inelastic spring, that just ticks a moment or two and stops again. He
seemed a very forlorn old man.  In the wantonness of youth, strength,
and comfortable condition,--making my prey of people's individualities,
as my custom was,--I tried to identify my mind with the old fellow's,
and take his view of the world, as if looking through a smoke-blackened
glass at the sun.  It robbed the landscape of all its life.  Those
pleasantly swelling slopes of our farm, descending towards the wide
meadows, through which sluggishly circled the brimful tide of the
Charles, bathing the long sedges on its hither and farther shores; the
broad, sunny gleam over the winding water; that peculiar
picturesqueness of the scene where capes and headlands put themselves
boldly forth upon the perfect level of the meadow, as into a green
lake, with inlets between the promontories; the shadowy woodland, with
twinkling showers of light falling into its depths; the sultry
heat-vapor, which rose everywhere like incense, and in which my soul
delighted, as indicating so rich a fervor in the passionate day, and in
the earth that was burning with its love,--I beheld all these things as
through old Moodie's eyes.  When my eyes are dimmer than they have yet
come to be, I will go thither again, and see if I did not catch the
tone of his mind aright, and if the cold and lifeless tint of his
perceptions be not then repeated in my own.

Yet it was unaccountable to myself, the interest that I felt in him.

"Have you any objection," said I, "to telling me who made those little
purses?"

"Gentlemen have often asked me that," said Moodie slowly; "but I shake
my head, and say little or nothing, and creep out of the way as well as
I can.  I am a man of few words; and if gentlemen were to be told one
thing, they would be very apt, I suppose, to ask me another. But it
happens just now, Mr. Coverdale, that you can tell me more about the
maker of those little purses than I can tell you."

"Why do you trouble him with needless questions, Coverdale?"
interrupted Hollingsworth.  "You must have known, long ago, that it was
Priscilla.  And so, my good friend, you have come to see her? Well, I
am glad of it.  You will find her altered very much for the better,
since that winter evening when you put her into my charge. Why,
Priscilla has a bloom in her cheeks, now!"

"Has my pale little girl a bloom?" repeated Moodie with a kind of slow
wonder.  "Priscilla with a bloom in her cheeks!  Ah, I am afraid I
shall not know my little girl.  And is she happy?"

"Just as happy as a bird," answered Hollingsworth.

"Then, gentlemen," said our guest apprehensively, "I don't think it
well for me to go any farther.  I crept hitherward only to ask about
Priscilla; and now that you have told me such good news, perhaps I can
do no better than to creep back again.  If she were to see this old
face of mine, the child would remember some very sad times which we
have spent together.  Some very sad times, indeed!  She has forgotten
them, I know,--them and me,--else she could not be so happy, nor have a
bloom in her cheeks.  Yes--yes--yes," continued he, still with the same
torpid utterance; "with many thanks to you, Mr. Hollingsworth, I will
creep back to town again."

"You shall do no such thing, Mr. Moodie," said Hollingsworth bluffly.
"Priscilla often speaks of you; and if there lacks anything to make her
cheeks bloom like two damask roses, I'll venture to say it is just the
sight of your face.  Come,--we will go and find her."

"Mr. Hollingsworth!" said the old man in his hesitating way.

"Well," answered Hollingsworth.

"Has there been any call for Priscilla?" asked Moodie; and though his
face was hidden from us, his tone gave a sure indication of the
mysterious nod and wink with which he put the question.  "You know, I
think, sir, what I mean."

"I have not the remotest suspicion what you mean, Mr. Moodie," replied
Hollingsworth; "nobody, to my knowledge, has called for Priscilla,
except yourself.  But come; we are losing time, and I have several
things to say to you by the way."

"And, Mr. Hollingsworth!" repeated Moodie.

"Well, again!" cried my friend rather impatiently.  "What now?"

"There is a lady here," said the old man; and his voice lost some of
its wearisome hesitation.  "You will account it a very strange matter
for me to talk about; but I chanced to know this lady when she was but
a little child.  If I am rightly informed, she has grown to be a very
fine woman, and makes a brilliant figure in the world, with her beauty,
and her talents, and her noble way of spending her riches.  I should
recognize this lady, so people tell me, by a magnificent flower in her
hair."

"What a rich tinge it gives to his colorless ideas, when he speaks of
Zenobia!"  I whispered to Hollingsworth.  "But how can there possibly
be any interest or connecting link between him and her?"

"The old man, for years past," whispered Hollingsworth, "has been a
little out of his right mind, as you probably see."

"What I would inquire," resumed Moodie, "is whether this beautiful lady
is kind to my poor Priscilla."

"Very kind," said Hollingsworth.

"Does she love her?" asked Moodie.

"It should seem so," answered my friend.  "They are always together."

"Like a gentlewoman and her maid-servant, I fancy?" suggested the old
man.

There was something so singular in his way of saying this, that I could
not resist the impulse to turn quite round, so as to catch a glimpse of
his face, almost imagining that I should see another person than old
Moodie.  But there he sat, with the patched side of his face towards me.

"Like an elder and younger sister, rather," replied Hollingsworth.

"Ah!" said Moodie more complacently, for his latter tones had harshness
and acidity in them,--"it would gladden my old heart to witness that.
If one thing would make me happier than another, Mr. Hollingsworth, it
would be to see that beautiful lady holding my little girl by the hand."

"Come along," said Hollingsworth, "and perhaps you may."

After a little more delay on the part of our freakish visitor, they set
forth together, old Moodie keeping a step or two behind Hollingsworth,
so that the latter could not very conveniently look him in the face.  I
remained under the tuft of maples, doing my utmost to draw an inference
from the scene that had just passed.  In spite of Hollingsworth's
off-hand explanation, it did not strike me that our strange guest was
really beside himself, but only that his mind needed screwing up, like
an instrument long out of tune, the strings of which have ceased to
vibrate smartly and sharply. Methought it would be profitable for us,
projectors of a happy life, to welcome this old gray shadow, and
cherish him as one of us, and let him creep about our domain, in order
that he might be a little merrier for our sakes, and we, sometimes, a
little sadder for his. Human destinies look ominous without some
perceptible intermixture of the sable or the gray.  And then, too,
should any of our fraternity grow feverish with an over-exulting sense
of prosperity, it would be a sort of cooling regimen to slink off into
the woods, and spend an hour, or a day, or as many days as might be
requisite to the cure, in uninterrupted communion with this deplorable
old Moodie!

Going homeward to dinner, I had a glimpse of him, behind the trunk of a
tree, gazing earnestly towards a particular window of the farmhouse;
and by and by Priscilla appeared at this window, playfully drawing
along Zenobia, who looked as bright as the very day that was blazing
down upon us, only not, by many degrees, so well advanced towards her
noon.  I was convinced that this pretty sight must have been purposely
arranged by Priscilla for the old man to see.  But either the girl held
her too long, or her fondness was resented as too great a freedom; for
Zenobia suddenly put Priscilla decidedly away, and gave her a haughty
look, as from a mistress to a dependant.  Old Moodie shook his head;
and again and again I saw him shake it, as he withdrew along the road;
and at the last point whence the farmhouse was visible, he turned and
shook his uplifted staff.



XI. THE WOOD-PATH

Not long after the preceding incident, in order to get the ache of too
constant labor out of my bones, and to relieve my spirit of the
irksomeness of a settled routine, I took a holiday.  It was my purpose
to spend it all alone, from breakfast-time till twilight, in the
deepest wood-seclusion that lay anywhere around us.  Though fond of
society, I was so constituted as to need these occasional retirements,
even in a life like that of Blithedale, which was itself characterized
by a remoteness from the world.  Unless renewed by a yet further
withdrawal towards the inner circle of self-communion, I lost the
better part of my individuality.  My thoughts became of little worth,
and my sensibilities grew as arid as a tuft of moss (a thing whose life
is in the shade, the rain, or the noontide dew), crumbling in the
sunshine after long expectance of a shower.  So, with my heart full of
a drowsy pleasure, and cautious not to dissipate my mood by previous
intercourse with any one, I hurried away, and was soon pacing a
wood-path, arched overhead with boughs, and dusky-brown beneath my feet.

At first I walked very swiftly, as if the heavy flood tide of social
life were roaring at my heels, and would outstrip and overwhelm me,
without all the better diligence in my escape.  But, threading the more
distant windings of the track, I abated my pace, and looked about me
for some side-aisle, that should admit me into the innermost sanctuary
of this green cathedral, just as, in human acquaintanceship, a casual
opening sometimes lets us, all of a sudden, into the long-sought
intimacy of a mysterious heart.  So much was I absorbed in my
reflections,--or, rather, in my mood, the substance of which was as yet
too shapeless to be called thought,--that footsteps rustled on the
leaves, and a figure passed me by, almost without impressing either the
sound or sight upon my consciousness.

A moment afterwards, I heard a voice at a little distance behind me,
speaking so sharply and impertinently that it made a complete discord
with my spiritual state, and caused the latter to vanish as abruptly as
when you thrust a finger into a soap-bubble.

"Halloo, friend!" cried this most unseasonable voice.  "Stop a moment,
I say!  I must have a word with you!"

I turned about, in a humor ludicrously irate.  In the first place, the
interruption, at any rate, was a grievous injury; then, the tone
displeased me.  And finally, unless there be real affection in his
heart, a man cannot,--such is the bad state to which the world has
brought itself,--cannot more effectually show his contempt for a
brother mortal, nor more gallingly assume a position of superiority,
than by addressing him as "friend."  Especially does the misapplication
of this phrase bring out that latent hostility which is sure to animate
peculiar sects, and those who, with however generous a purpose, have
sequestered themselves from the crowd; a feeling, it is true, which may
be hidden in some dog-kennel of the heart, grumbling there in the
darkness, but is never quite extinct, until the dissenting party have
gained power and scope enough to treat the world generously.  For my
part, I should have taken it as far less an insult to be styled
"fellow," "clown," or "bumpkin."  To either of these appellations my
rustic garb (it was a linen blouse, with checked shirt and striped
pantaloons, a chip hat on my head, and a rough hickory stick in my
hand) very fairly entitled me.  As the case stood, my temper darted at
once to the opposite pole; not friend, but enemy!

"What do you want with me?" said I, facing about.

"Come a little nearer, friend," said the stranger, beckoning.

"No," answered I. "If I can do anything for you without too much
trouble to myself, say so.  But recollect, if you please, that you are
not speaking to an acquaintance, much less a friend!"

"Upon my word, I believe not!" retorted he, looking at me with some
curiosity; and, lifting his hat, he made me a salute which had enough
of sarcasm to be offensive, and just enough of doubtful courtesy to
render any resentment of it absurd.  "But I ask your pardon!  I
recognize a little mistake.  If I may take the liberty to suppose it,
you, sir, are probably one of the aesthetic--or shall I rather say
ecstatic?--laborers, who have planted themselves hereabouts.  This is
your forest of Arden; and you are either the banished Duke in person,
or one of the chief nobles in his train.  The melancholy Jacques,
perhaps?  Be it so.  In that case, you can probably do me a favor."

I never, in my life, felt less inclined to confer a favor on any man.

"I am busy," said I.

So unexpectedly had the stranger made me sensible of his presence, that
he had almost the effect of an apparition; and certainly a less
appropriate one (taking into view the dim woodland solitude about us)
than if the salvage man of antiquity, hirsute and cinctured with a
leafy girdle, had started out of a thicket.  He was still young,
seemingly a little under thirty, of a tall and well-developed figure,
and as handsome a man as ever I beheld.  The style of his beauty,
however, though a masculine style, did not at all commend itself to my
taste.  His countenance--I hardly know how to describe the
peculiarity--had an indecorum in it, a kind of rudeness, a hard,
coarse, forth-putting freedom of expression, which no degree of
external polish could have abated one single jot.  Not that it was
vulgar.  But he had no fineness of nature; there was in his eyes
(although they might have artifice enough of another sort) the naked
exposure of something that ought not to be left prominent.  With these
vague allusions to what I have seen in other faces as well as his, I
leave the quality to be comprehended best--because with an intuitive
repugnance--by those who possess least of it.

His hair, as well as his beard and mustache, was coal-black; his eyes,
too, were black and sparkling, and his teeth remarkably brilliant. He
was rather carelessly but well and fashionably dressed, in a
summer-morning costume.  There was a gold chain, exquisitely wrought,
across his vest.  I never saw a smoother or whiter gloss than that upon
his shirt-bosom, which had a pin in it, set with a gem that glimmered,
in the leafy shadow where he stood, like a living tip of fire.  He
carried a stick with a wooden head, carved in vivid imitation of that
of a serpent.  I hated him, partly, I do believe, from a comparison of
my own homely garb with his well-ordered foppishness.

"Well, sir," said I, a little ashamed of my first irritation, but still
with no waste of civility, "be pleased to speak at once, as I have my
own business in hand."

"I regret that my mode of addressing you was a little unfortunate,"
said the stranger, smiling; for he seemed a very acute sort of person,
and saw, in some degree, how I stood affected towards him.  "I intended
no offence, and shall certainly comport myself with due ceremony
hereafter.  I merely wish to make a few inquiries respecting a lady,
formerly of my acquaintance, who is now resident in your Community,
and, I believe, largely concerned in your social enterprise.  You call
her, I think, Zenobia."

"That is her name in literature," observed I; "a name, too, which
possibly she may permit her private friends to know and address her
by,--but not one which they feel at liberty to recognize when used of
her personally by a stranger or casual acquaintance."

"Indeed!" answered this disagreeable person; and he turned aside his
face for an instant with a brief laugh, which struck me as a noteworthy
expression of his character.  "Perhaps I might put forward a claim, on
your own grounds, to call the lady by a name so appropriate to her
splendid qualities.  But I am willing to know her by any cognomen that
you may suggest."

Heartily wishing that he would be either a little more offensive, or a
good deal less so, or break off our intercourse altogether, I mentioned
Zenobia's real name.

"True," said he; "and in general society I have never heard her called
otherwise.  And, after all, our discussion of the point has been
gratuitous.  My object is only to inquire when, where, and how this
lady may most conveniently be seen."

"At her present residence, of course," I replied.  "You have but to go
thither and ask for her.  This very path will lead you within sight of
the house; so I wish you good-morning."

"One moment, if you please," said the stranger.  "The course you
indicate would certainly be the proper one, in an ordinary morning
call.  But my business is private, personal, and somewhat peculiar.
Now, in a community like this, I should judge that any little
occurrence is likely to be discussed rather more minutely than would
quite suit my views.  I refer solely to myself, you understand, and
without intimating that it would be other than a matter of entire
indifference to the lady.  In short, I especially desire to see her in
private.  If her habits are such as I have known them, she is probably
often to be met with in the woods, or by the river-side; and I think
you could do me the favor to point out some favorite walk, where, about
this hour, I might be fortunate enough to gain an interview."

I reflected that it would be quite a supererogatory piece of Quixotism
in me to undertake the guardianship of Zenobia, who, for my pains,
would only make me the butt of endless ridicule, should the fact ever
come to her knowledge.  I therefore described a spot which, as often as
any other, was Zenobia's resort at this period of the day; nor was it
so remote from the farmhouse as to leave her in much peril, whatever
might be the stranger's character.

"A single word more," said he; and his black eyes sparkled at me,
whether with fun or malice I knew not, but certainly as if the Devil
were peeping out of them.  "Among your fraternity, I understand, there
is a certain holy and benevolent blacksmith; a man of iron, in more
senses than one; a rough, cross-grained, well-meaning individual,
rather boorish in his manners, as might be expected, and by no means of
the highest intellectual cultivation.  He is a philanthropical
lecturer, with two or three disciples, and a scheme of his own, the
preliminary step in which involves a large purchase of land, and the
erection of a spacious edifice, at an expense considerably beyond his
means; inasmuch as these are to be reckoned in copper or old iron much
more conveniently than in gold or silver.  He hammers away upon his one
topic as lustily as ever he did upon a horseshoe!  Do you know such a
person?"  I shook my head, and was turning away.  "Our friend," he
continued, "is described to me as a brawny, shaggy, grim, and
ill-favored personage, not particularly well calculated, one would say,
to insinuate himself with the softer sex.  Yet, so far has this honest
fellow succeeded with one lady whom we wot of, that he anticipates,
from her abundant resources, the necessary funds for realizing his plan
in brick and mortar!"

Here the stranger seemed to be so much amused with his sketch of
Hollingsworth's character and purposes, that he burst into a fit of
merriment, of the same nature as the brief, metallic laugh already
alluded to, but immensely prolonged and enlarged.  In the excess of his
delight, he opened his mouth wide, and disclosed a gold band around the
upper part of his teeth, thereby making it apparent that every one of
his brilliant grinders and incisors was a sham.  This discovery
affected me very oddly.

I felt as if the whole man were a moral and physical humbug; his
wonderful beauty of face, for aught I knew, might be removable like a
mask; and, tall and comely as his figure looked, he was perhaps but a
wizened little elf, gray and decrepit, with nothing genuine about him
save the wicked expression of his grin.  The fantasy of his spectral
character so wrought upon me, together with the contagion of his
strange mirth on my sympathies, that I soon began to laugh as loudly as
himself.

By and by, he paused all at once; so suddenly, indeed, that my own
cachinnation lasted a moment longer.

"Ah, excuse me!" said he.  "Our interview seems to proceed more merrily
than it began."

"It ends here," answered I. "And I take shame to myself that my folly
has lost me the right of resenting your ridicule of a friend."

"Pray allow me," said the stranger, approaching a step nearer, and
laying his gloved hand on my sleeve.  "One other favor I must ask of
you.  You have a young person here at Blithedale, of whom I have
heard,--whom, perhaps, I have known,--and in whom, at all events, I
take a peculiar interest.  She is one of those delicate, nervous young
creatures, not uncommon in New England, and whom I suppose to have
become what we find them by the gradual refining away of the physical
system among your women.  Some philosophers choose to glorify this
habit of body by terming it spiritual; but, in my opinion, it is rather
the effect of unwholesome food, bad air, lack of outdoor exercise, and
neglect of bathing, on the part of these damsels and their female
progenitors, all resulting in a kind of hereditary dyspepsia.  Zenobia,
even with her uncomfortable surplus of vitality, is far the better
model of womanhood.  But--to revert again to this young person--she
goes among you by the name of Priscilla.  Could you possibly afford me
the means of speaking with her?"

"You have made so many inquiries of me," I observed, "that I may at
least trouble you with one.  What is your name?"

He offered me a card, with "Professor Westervelt" engraved on it.  At
the same time, as if to vindicate his claim to the professorial
dignity, so often assumed on very questionable grounds, he put on a
pair of spectacles, which so altered the character of his face that I
hardly knew him again.  But I liked the present aspect no better than
the former one.

"I must decline any further connection with your affairs," said I,
drawing back.  "I have told you where to find Zenobia.  As for
Priscilla, she has closer friends than myself, through whom, if they
see fit, you can gain access to her."

"In that case," returned the Professor, ceremoniously raising his hat,
"good-morning to you."

He took his departure, and was soon out of sight among the windings of
the wood-path.  But after a little reflection, I could not help
regretting that I had so peremptorily broken off the interview, while
the stranger seemed inclined to continue it.  His evident knowledge of
matters affecting my three friends might have led to disclosures or
inferences that would perhaps have been serviceable.  I was
particularly struck with the fact that, ever since the appearance of
Priscilla, it had been the tendency of events to suggest and establish
a connection between Zenobia and her.  She had come, in the first
instance, as if with the sole purpose of claiming Zenobia's protection.
Old Moodie's visit, it appeared, was chiefly to ascertain whether this
object had been accomplished.  And here, to-day, was the questionable
Professor, linking one with the other in his inquiries, and seeking
communication with both.

Meanwhile, my inclination for a ramble having been balked, I lingered
in the vicinity of the farm, with perhaps a vague idea that some new
event would grow out of Westervelt's proposed interview with Zenobia.
My own part in these transactions was singularly subordinate.  It
resembled that of the Chorus in a classic play, which seems to be set
aloof from the possibility of personal concernment, and bestows the
whole measure of its hope or fear, its exultation or sorrow, on the
fortunes of others, between whom and itself this sympathy is the only
bond.  Destiny, it may be,--the most skilful of stage managers,--seldom
chooses to arrange its scenes, and carry forward its drama, without
securing the presence of at least one calm observer.  It is his office
to give applause when due, and sometimes an inevitable tear, to detect
the final fitness of incident to character, and distil in his
long-brooding thought the whole morality of the performance.

Not to be out of the way in case there were need of me in my vocation,
and, at the same time, to avoid thrusting myself where neither destiny
nor mortals might desire my presence, I remained pretty near the verge
of the woodlands.  My position was off the track of Zenobia's customary
walk, yet not so remote but that a recognized occasion might speedily
have brought me thither.



XII. COVERDALE'S HERMITAGE

Long since, in this part of our circumjacent wood, I had found out for
myself a little hermitage.  It was a kind of leafy cave, high upward
into the air, among the midmost branches of a white-pine tree. A wild
grapevine, of unusual size and luxuriance, had twined and twisted
itself up into the tree, and, after wreathing the entanglement of its
tendrils around almost every bough, had caught hold of three or four
neighboring trees, and married the whole clump with a perfectly
inextricable knot of polygamy.  Once, while sheltering myself from a
summer shower, the fancy had taken me to clamber up into this seemingly
impervious mass of foliage.  The branches yielded me a passage, and
closed again beneath, as if only a squirrel or a bird had passed.  Far
aloft, around the stem of the central pine, behold a perfect nest for
Robinson Crusoe or King Charles!  A hollow chamber of rare seclusion
had been formed by the decay of some of the pine branches, which the
vine had lovingly strangled with its embrace, burying them from the
light of day in an aerial sepulchre of its own leaves.  It cost me but
little ingenuity to enlarge the interior, and open loopholes through
the verdant walls.  Had it ever been my fortune to spend a honeymoon, I
should have thought seriously of inviting my bride up thither, where
our next neighbors would have been two orioles in another part of the
clump.

It was an admirable place to make verses, tuning the rhythm to the
breezy symphony that so often stirred among the vine leaves; or to
meditate an essay for "The Dial," in which the many tongues of Nature
whispered mysteries, and seemed to ask only a little stronger puff of
wind to speak out the solution of its riddle.  Being so pervious to
air-currents, it was just the nook, too, for the enjoyment of a cigar.
This hermitage was my one exclusive possession while I counted myself a
brother of the socialists.  It symbolized my individuality, and aided
me in keeping it inviolate.  None ever found me out in it, except,
once, a squirrel.  I brought thither no guest, because, after
Hollingsworth failed me, there was no longer the man alive with whom I
could think of sharing all.  So there I used to sit, owl-like, yet not
without liberal and hospitable thoughts.  I counted the innumerable
clusters of my vine, and fore-reckoned the abundance of my vintage.  It
gladdened me to anticipate the surprise of the Community, when, like an
allegorical figure of rich October, I should make my appearance, with
shoulders bent beneath the burden of ripe grapes, and some of the
crushed ones crimsoning my brow as with a bloodstain.

Ascending into this natural turret, I peeped in turn out of several of
its small windows.  The pine-tree, being ancient, rose high above the
rest of the wood, which was of comparatively recent growth.  Even where
I sat, about midway between the root and the topmost bough, my position
was lofty enough to serve as an observatory, not for starry
investigations, but for those sublunary matters in which lay a lore as
infinite as that of the planets.  Through one loophole I saw the river
lapsing calmly onward, while in the meadow, near its brink, a few of
the brethren were digging peat for our winter's fuel.  On the interior
cart-road of our farm I discerned Hollingsworth, with a yoke of oxen
hitched to a drag of stones, that were to be piled into a fence, on
which we employed ourselves at the odd intervals of other labor.  The
harsh tones of his voice, shouting to the sluggish steers, made me
sensible, even at such a distance, that he was ill at ease, and that
the balked philanthropist had the battle-spirit in his heart.

"Haw, Buck!" quoth he.  "Come along there, ye lazy ones!  What are ye
about, now?  Gee!"

"Mankind, in Hollingsworth's opinion," thought I, "is but another yoke
of oxen, as stubborn, stupid, and sluggish as our old Brown and Bright.
He vituperates us aloud, and curses us in his heart, and will begin to
prick us with the goad-stick, by and by.  But are we his oxen?  And
what right has he to be the driver?  And why, when there is enough else
to do, should we waste our strength in dragging home the ponderous load
of his philanthropic absurdities?  At my height above the earth, the
whole matter looks ridiculous!"

Turning towards the farmhouse, I saw Priscilla (for, though a great way
off, the eye of faith assured me that it was she) sitting at Zenobia's
window, and making little purses, I suppose; or, perhaps, mending the
Community's old linen.  A bird flew past my tree; and, as it clove its
way onward into the sunny atmosphere, I flung it a message for
Priscilla.

"Tell her," said I, "that her fragile thread of life has inextricably
knotted itself with other and tougher threads, and most likely it will
be broken.  Tell her that Zenobia will not be long her friend. Say that
Hollingsworth's heart is on fire with his own purpose, but icy for all
human affection; and that, if she has given him her love, it is like
casting a flower into a sepulchre.  And say that if any mortal really
cares for her, it is myself; and not even I for her realities,--poor
little seamstress, as Zenobia rightly called her!--but for the
fancy-work with which I have idly decked her out!"

The pleasant scent of the wood, evolved by the hot sun, stole up to my
nostrils, as if I had been an idol in its niche.  Many trees mingled
their fragrance into a thousand-fold odor.  Possibly there was a
sensual influence in the broad light of noon that lay beneath me.  It
may have been the cause, in part, that I suddenly found myself
possessed by a mood of disbelief in moral beauty or heroism, and a
conviction of the folly of attempting to benefit the world. Our
especial scheme of reform, which, from my observatory, I could take in
with the bodily eye, looked so ridiculous that it was impossible not to
laugh aloud.

"But the joke is a little too heavy," thought I. "If I were wise, I
should get out of the scrape with all diligence, and then laugh at my
companions for remaining in it."

While thus musing, I heard with perfect distinctness, somewhere in the
wood beneath, the peculiar laugh which I have described as one of the
disagreeable characteristics of Professor Westervelt.  It brought my
thoughts back to our recent interview.  I recognized as chiefly due to
this man's influence the sceptical and sneering view which just now had
filled my mental vision in regard to all life's better purposes.  And
it was through his eyes, more than my own, that I was looking at
Hollingsworth, with his glorious if impracticable dream, and at the
noble earthliness of Zenobia's character, and even at Priscilla, whose
impalpable grace lay so singularly between disease and beauty.  The
essential charm of each had vanished.  There are some spheres the
contact with which inevitably degrades the high, debases the pure,
deforms the beautiful.  It must be a mind of uncommon strength, and
little impressibility, that can permit itself the habit of such
intercourse, and not be permanently deteriorated; and yet the
Professor's tone represented that of worldly society at large, where a
cold scepticism smothers what it can of our spiritual aspirations, and
makes the rest ridiculous.  I detested this kind of man; and all the
more because a part of my own nature showed itself responsive to him.

Voices were now approaching through the region of the wood which lay in
the vicinity of my tree.  Soon I caught glimpses of two figures--a
woman and a man--Zenobia and the stranger--earnestly talking together
as they advanced.

Zenobia had a rich though varying color.  It was, most of the while, a
flame, and anon a sudden paleness.  Her eyes glowed, so that their
light sometimes flashed upward to me, as when the sun throws a dazzle
from some bright object on the ground.  Her gestures were free, and
strikingly impressive.  The whole woman was alive with a passionate
intensity, which I now perceived to be the phase in which her beauty
culminated.  Any passion would have become her well; and passionate
love, perhaps, the best of all.  This was not love, but anger, largely
intermixed with scorn.  Yet the idea strangely forced itself upon me,
that there was a sort of familiarity between these two companions,
necessarily the result of an intimate love,--on Zenobia's part, at
least,--in days gone by, but which had prolonged itself into as
intimate a hatred, for all futurity.  As they passed among the trees,
reckless as her movement was, she took good heed that even the hem of
her garment should not brush against the stranger's person.  I wondered
whether there had always been a chasm, guarded so religiously, betwixt
these two.

As for Westervelt, he was not a whit more warmed by Zenobia's passion
than a salamander by the heat of its native furnace.  He would have
been absolutely statuesque, save for a look of slight perplexity,
tinctured strongly with derision.  It was a crisis in which his
intellectual perceptions could not altogether help him out.  He failed
to comprehend, and cared but little for comprehending, why Zenobia
should put herself into such a fume; but satisfied his mind that it was
all folly, and only another shape of a woman's manifold absurdity,
which men can never understand.  How many a woman's evil fate has yoked
her with a man like this!  Nature thrusts some of us into the world
miserably incomplete on the emotional side, with hardly any
sensibilities except what pertain to us as animals.  No passion, save
of the senses; no holy tenderness, nor the delicacy that results from
this.  Externally they bear a close resemblance to other men, and have
perhaps all save the finest grace; but when a woman wrecks herself on
such a being, she ultimately finds that the real womanhood within her
has no corresponding part in him.  Her deepest voice lacks a response;
the deeper her cry, the more dead his silence.  The fault may be none
of his; he cannot give her what never lived within his soul.  But the
wretchedness on her side, and the moral deterioration attendant on a
false and shallow life, without strength enough to keep itself sweet,
are among the most pitiable wrongs that mortals suffer.

Now, as I looked down from my upper region at this man and
woman,--outwardly so fair a sight, and wandering like two lovers in the
wood,--I imagined that Zenobia, at an earlier period of youth, might
have fallen into the misfortune above indicated.  And when her
passionate womanhood, as was inevitable, had discovered its mistake,
here had ensued the character of eccentricity and defiance which
distinguished the more public portion of her life.

Seeing how aptly matters had chanced thus far, I began to think it the
design of fate to let me into all Zenobia's secrets, and that therefore
the couple would sit down beneath my tree, and carry on a conversation
which would leave me nothing to inquire.  No doubt, however, had it so
happened, I should have deemed myself honorably bound to warn them of a
listener's presence by flinging down a handful of unripe grapes, or by
sending an unearthly groan out of my hiding-place, as if this were one
of the trees of Dante's ghostly forest.  But real life never arranges
itself exactly like a romance. In the first place, they did not sit
down at all.  Secondly, even while they passed beneath the tree,
Zenobia's utterance was so hasty and broken, and Westervelt's so cool
and low, that I hardly could make out an intelligible sentence on
either side.  What I seem to remember, I yet suspect, may have been
patched together by my fancy, in brooding over the matter afterwards.

"Why not fling the girl off," said Westervelt, "and let her go?"

"She clung to me from the first," replied Zenobia.  "I neither know nor
care what it is in me that so attaches her.  But she loves me, and I
will not fail her."

"She will plague you, then," said he, "in more ways than one."

"The poor child!" exclaimed Zenobia.  "She can do me neither good nor
harm.  How should she?"

I know not what reply Westervelt whispered; nor did Zenobia's
subsequent exclamation give me any clew, except that it evidently
inspired her with horror and disgust.

"With what kind of a being am I linked?" cried she.  "If my Creator
cares aught for my soul, let him release me from this miserable bond!"

"I did not think it weighed so heavily," said her companion..

"Nevertheless," answered Zenobia, "it will strangle me at last!"

And then I heard her utter a helpless sort of moan; a sound which,
struggling out of the heart of a person of her pride and strength,
affected me more than if she had made the wood dolorously vocal with a
thousand shrieks and wails.

Other mysterious words, besides what are above written, they spoke
together; but I understood no more, and even question whether I fairly
understood so much as this.  By long brooding over our recollections,
we subtilize them into something akin to imaginary stuff, and hardly
capable of being distinguished from it.  In a few moments they were
completely beyond ear-shot.  A breeze stirred after them, and awoke the
leafy tongues of the surrounding trees, which forthwith began to
babble, as if innumerable gossips had all at once got wind of Zenobia's
secret.  But, as the breeze grew stronger, its voice among the branches
was as if it said, "Hush!  Hush!" and I resolved that to no mortal
would I disclose what I had heard.  And, though there might be room for
casuistry, such, I conceive, is the most equitable rule in all similar
conjunctures.



XIII. ZENOBIA'S LEGEND

The illustrious Society of Blithedale, though it toiled in downright
earnest for the good of mankind, yet not unfrequently illuminated its
laborious life with an afternoon or evening of pastime.  Picnics under
the trees were considerably in vogue; and, within doors, fragmentary
bits of theatrical performance, such as single acts of tragedy or
comedy, or dramatic proverbs and charades.  Zenobia, besides, was fond
of giving us readings from Shakespeare, and often with a depth of
tragic power, or breadth of comic effect, that made one feel it an
intolerable wrong to the world that she did not at once go upon the
stage.  Tableaux vivants were another of our occasional modes of
amusement, in which scarlet shawls, old silken robes, ruffs, velvets,
furs, and all kinds of miscellaneous trumpery converted our familiar
companions into the people of a pictorial world.  We had been thus
engaged on the evening after the incident narrated in the last chapter.
Several splendid works of art--either arranged after engravings from
the old masters, or original illustrations of scenes in history or
romance--had been presented, and we were earnestly entreating Zenobia
for more.

She stood with a meditative air, holding a large piece of gauze, or
some such ethereal stuff, as if considering what picture should next
occupy the frame; while at her feet lay a heap of many-colored
garments, which her quick fancy and magic skill could so easily convert
into gorgeous draperies for heroes and princesses.

"I am getting weary of this," said she, after a moment's thought. "Our
own features, and our own figures and airs, show a little too
intrusively through all the characters we assume.  We have so much
familiarity with one another's realities, that we cannot remove
ourselves, at pleasure, into an imaginary sphere.  Let us have no more
pictures to-night; but, to make you what poor amends I can, how would
you like to have me trump up a wild, spectral legend, on the spur of
the moment?"

Zenobia had the gift of telling a fanciful little story, off-hand, in a
way that made it greatly more effective than it was usually found to be
when she afterwards elaborated the same production with her pen. Her
proposal, therefore, was greeted with acclamation.

"Oh, a story, a story, by all means!" cried the young girls.  "No
matter how marvellous; we will believe it, every word.  And let it be a
ghost story, if you please."

"No, not exactly a ghost story," answered Zenobia; "but something so
nearly like it that you shall hardly tell the difference.  And,
Priscilla, stand you before me, where I may look at you, and get my
inspiration out of your eyes.  They are very deep and dreamy to-night."

I know not whether the following version of her story will retain any
portion of its pristine character; but, as Zenobia told it wildly and
rapidly, hesitating at no extravagance, and dashing at absurdities
which I am too timorous to repeat,--giving it the varied emphasis of
her inimitable voice, and the pictorial illustration of her mobile
face, while through it all we caught the freshest aroma of the
thoughts, as they came bubbling out of her mind,--thus narrated, and
thus heard, the legend seemed quite a remarkable affair.  I scarcely
knew, at the time, whether she intended us to laugh or be more
seriously impressed.  From beginning to end, it was undeniable
nonsense, but not necessarily the worse for that.



THE SILVERY VEIL

You have heard, my dear friends, of the Veiled Lady, who grew suddenly
so very famous, a few months ago.  And have you never thought how
remarkable it was that this marvellous creature should vanish, all at
once, while her renown was on the increase, before the public had grown
weary of her, and when the enigma of her character, instead of being
solved, presented itself more mystically at every exhibition?  Her last
appearance, as you know, was before a crowded audience.  The next
evening,--although the bills had announced her, at the corner of every
street, in red letters of a gigantic size,--there was no Veiled Lady to
be seen!  Now, listen to my simple little tale, and you shall hear the
very latest incident in the known life--(if life it may be called,
which seemed to have no more reality than the candle-light image of
one's self which peeps at us outside of a dark windowpane)--the life of
this shadowy phenomenon.

A party of young gentlemen, you are to understand, were enjoying
themselves, one afternoon,--as young gentlemen are sometimes fond of
doing,--over a bottle or two of champagne; and, among other ladies less
mysterious, the subject of the Veiled Lady, as was very natural,
happened to come up before them for discussion.  She rose, as it were,
with the sparkling effervescence of their wine, and appeared in a more
airy and fantastic light on account of the medium through which they
saw her.  They repeated to one another, between jest and earnest, all
the wild stories that were in vogue; nor, I presume, did they hesitate
to add any small circumstance that the inventive whim of the moment
might suggest, to heighten the marvellousness of their theme.

"But what an audacious report was that," observed one, "which pretended
to assert the identity of this strange creature with a young
lady,"--and here he mentioned her name,--"the daughter of one of our
most distinguished families!"

"Ah, there is more in that story than can well be accounted for,"
remarked another.  "I have it on good authority, that the young lady in
question is invariably out of sight, and not to be traced, even by her
own family, at the hours when the Veiled Lady is before the public; nor
can any satisfactory explanation be given of her disappearance.  And
just look at the thing: Her brother is a young fellow of spirit.  He
cannot but be aware of these rumors in reference to his sister.  Why,
then, does he not come forward to defend her character, unless he is
conscious that an investigation would only make the matter worse?"

It is essential to the purposes of my legend to distinguish one of
these young gentlemen from his companions; so, for the sake of a soft
and pretty name (such as we of the literary sisterhood invariably
bestow upon our heroes), I deem it fit to call him Theodore.

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Theodore; "her brother is no such fool!  Nobody,
unless his brain be as full of bubbles as this wine, can seriously
think of crediting that ridiculous rumor.  Why, if my senses did not
play me false (which never was the case yet), I affirm that I saw that
very lady, last evening, at the exhibition, while this veiled
phenomenon was playing off her juggling tricks!  What can you say to
that?"

"Oh, it was a spectral illusion that you saw!" replied his friends,
with a general laugh.  "The Veiled Lady is quite up to such a thing."

However, as the above-mentioned fable could not hold its ground against
Theodore's downright refutation, they went on to speak of other stories
which the wild babble of the town had set afloat.  Some upheld that the
veil covered the most beautiful countenance in the world; others,--and
certainly with more reason, considering the sex of the Veiled
Lady,--that the face was the most hideous and horrible, and that this
was her sole motive for hiding it.  It was the face of a corpse; it was
the head of a skeleton; it was a monstrous visage, with snaky locks,
like Medusa's, and one great red eye in the centre of the forehead.
Again, it was affirmed that there was no single and unchangeable set of
features beneath the veil; but that whosoever should be bold enough to
lift it would behold the features of that person, in all the world, who
was destined to be his fate; perhaps he would be greeted by the tender
smile of the woman whom he loved, or, quite as probably, the deadly
scowl of his bitterest enemy would throw a blight over his life.  They
quoted, moreover, this startling explanation of the whole affair: that
the magician who exhibited the Veiled Lady--and who, by the bye, was
the handsomest man in the whole world--had bartered his own soul for
seven years' possession of a familiar fiend, and that the last year of
the contract was wearing towards its close.

If it were worth our while, I could keep you till an hour beyond
midnight listening to a thousand such absurdities as these.  But
finally our friend Theodore, who prided himself upon his common-sense,
found the matter getting quite beyond his patience.

"I offer any wager you like," cried he, setting down his glass so
forcibly as to break the stem of it, "that this very evening I find out
the mystery of the Veiled Lady!"

Young men, I am told, boggle at nothing over their wine; so, after a
little more talk, a wager of considerable amount was actually laid, the
money staked, and Theodore left to choose his own method of settling
the dispute.

How he managed it I know not, nor is it of any great importance to this
veracious legend.  The most natural way, to be sure, was by bribing the
doorkeeper,--or possibly he preferred clambering in at the window.
But, at any rate, that very evening, while the exhibition was going
forward in the hall, Theodore contrived to gain admittance into the
private withdrawing-room whither the Veiled Lady was accustomed to
retire at the close of her performances.  There he waited, listening, I
suppose, to the stifled hum of the great audience; and no doubt he
could distinguish the deep tones of the magician, causing the wonders
that he wrought to appear more dark and intricate, by his mystic
pretence of an explanation.  Perhaps, too, in the intervals of the wild
breezy music which accompanied the exhibition, he might hear the low
voice of the Veiled Lady, conveying her sibylline responses.  Firm as
Theodore's nerves might be, and much as he prided himself on his sturdy
perception of realities, I should not be surprised if his heart
throbbed at a little more than its ordinary rate.

Theodore concealed himself behind a screen.  In due time the
performance was brought to a close, and whether the door was softly
opened, or whether her bodiless presence came through the wall, is more
than I can say, but, all at once, without the young man's knowing how
it happened, a veiled figure stood in the centre of the room.  It was
one thing to be in presence of this mystery in the hall of exhibition,
where the warm, dense life of hundreds of other mortals kept up the
beholder's courage, and distributed her influence among so many; it was
another thing to be quite alone with her, and that, too, with a
hostile, or, at least, an unauthorized and unjustifiable purpose.  I
further imagine that Theodore now began to be sensible of something
more serious in his enterprise than he had been quite aware of while he
sat with his boon-companions over their sparkling wine.

Very strange, it must be confessed, was the movement with which the
figure floated to and fro over the carpet, with the silvery veil
covering her from head to foot; so impalpable, so ethereal, so without
substance, as the texture seemed, yet hiding her every outline in an
impenetrability like that of midnight.  Surely, she did not walk!  She
floated, and flitted, and hovered about the room; no sound of a
footstep, no perceptible motion of a limb; it was as if a wandering
breeze wafted her before it, at its own wild and gentle pleasure.  But,
by and by, a purpose began to be discernible, throughout the seeming
vagueness of her unrest.  She was in quest of something.  Could it be
that a subtile presentiment had informed her of the young man's
presence?  And if so, did the Veiled Lady seek or did she shun him?
The doubt in Theodore's mind was speedily resolved; for, after a moment
or two of these erratic flutterings, she advanced more decidedly, and
stood motionless before the screen.

"Thou art here!" said a soft, low voice.  "Come forth, Theodore!" Thus
summoned by his name, Theodore, as a man of courage, had no choice.  He
emerged from his concealment, and presented himself before the Veiled
Lady, with the wine-flush, it may be, quite gone out of his cheeks.

"What wouldst thou with me?" she inquired, with the same gentle
composure that was in her former utterance.

"Mysterious creature," replied Theodore, "I would know who and what you
are!"

"My lips are forbidden to betray the secret," said the Veiled Lady.

"At whatever risk, I must discover it," rejoined Theodore.

"Then," said the Mystery, "there is no way save to lift my veil."

And Theodore, partly recovering his audacity, stept forward on the
instant, to do as the Veiled Lady had suggested.  But she floated
backward to the opposite side of the room, as if the young man's breath
had possessed power enough to waft her away.

"Pause, one little instant," said the soft, low voice, "and learn the
conditions of what thou art so bold to undertake.  Thou canst go hence,
and think of me no more; or, at thy option, thou canst lift this
mysterious veil, beneath which I am a sad and lonely prisoner, in a
bondage which is worse to me than death.  But, before raising it, I
entreat thee, in all maiden modesty, to bend forward and impress a kiss
where my breath stirs the veil; and my virgin lips shall come forward
to meet thy lips; and from that instant, Theodore, thou shalt be mine,
and I thine, with never more a veil between us.  And all the felicity
of earth and of the future world shall be thine and mine together.  So
much may a maiden say behind the veil.  If thou shrinkest from this,
there is yet another way."  "And what is that?" asked Theodore.  "Dost
thou hesitate," said the Veiled Lady, "to pledge thyself to me, by
meeting these lips of mine, while the veil yet hides my face?  Has not
thy heart recognized me?  Dost thou come hither, not in holy faith, nor
with a pure and generous purpose, but in scornful scepticism and idle
curiosity?  Still, thou mayest lift the veil!  But, from that instant,
Theodore, I am doomed to be thy evil fate; nor wilt thou ever taste
another breath of happiness!"

There was a shade of inexpressible sadness in the utterance of these
last words.  But Theodore, whose natural tendency was towards
scepticism, felt himself almost injured and insulted by the Veiled
Lady's proposal that he should pledge himself, for life and eternity,
to so questionable a creature as herself; or even that she should
suggest an inconsequential kiss, taking into view the probability that
her face was none of the most bewitching.  A delightful idea, truly,
that he should salute the lips of a dead girl, or the jaws of a
skeleton, or the grinning cavity of a monster's mouth!  Even should she
prove a comely maiden enough in other respects, the odds were ten to
one that her teeth were defective; a terrible drawback on the
delectableness of a kiss.

"Excuse me, fair lady," said Theodore, and I think he nearly burst into
a laugh, "if I prefer to lift the veil first; and for this affair of
the kiss, we may decide upon it afterwards."

"Thou hast made thy choice," said the sweet, sad voice behind the veil;
and there seemed a tender but unresentful sense of wrong done to
womanhood by the young man's contemptuous interpretation of her offer.
"I must not counsel thee to pause, although thy fate is still in thine
own hand!"

Grasping at the veil, he flung it upward, and caught a glimpse of a
pale, lovely face beneath; just one momentary glimpse, and then the
apparition vanished, and the silvery veil fluttered slowly down and lay
upon the floor.  Theodore was alone.  Our legend leaves him there. His
retribution was, to pine forever and ever for another sight of that
dim, mournful face,--which might have been his life-long household
fireside joy,--to desire, and waste life in a feverish quest, and never
meet it more.

But what, in good sooth, had become of the Veiled Lady?  Had all her
existence been comprehended within that mysterious veil, and was she
now annihilated?  Or was she a spirit, with a heavenly essence, but
which might have been tamed down to human bliss, had Theodore been
brave and true enough to claim her?  Hearken, my sweet friends,--and
hearken, dear Priscilla,--and you shall learn the little more that
Zenobia can tell you.

Just at the moment, so far as can be ascertained, when the Veiled Lady
vanished, a maiden, pale and shadowy, rose up amid a knot of visionary
people, who were seeking for the better life.  She was so gentle and so
sad,--a nameless melancholy gave her such hold upon their
sympathies,--that they never thought of questioning whence she came.
She might have heretofore existed, or her thin substance might have
been moulded out of air at the very instant when they first beheld her.
It was all one to them; they took her to their hearts. Among them was a
lady to whom, more than to all the rest, this pale, mysterious girl
attached herself.

But one morning the lady was wandering in the woods, and there met her
a figure in an Oriental robe, with a dark beard, and holding in his
hand a silvery veil.  He motioned her to stay.  Being a woman of some
nerve, she did not shriek, nor run away, nor faint, as many ladies
would have been apt to do, but stood quietly, and bade him speak.  The
truth was, she had seen his face before, but had never feared it,
although she knew him to be a terrible magician.

"Lady," said he, with a warning gesture, "you are in peril!"  "Peril!"
she exclaimed.  "And of what nature?"

"There is a certain maiden," replied the magician, "who has come out of
the realm of mystery, and made herself your most intimate companion.
Now, the fates have so ordained it, that, whether by her own will or
no, this stranger is your deadliest enemy.  In love, in worldly
fortune, in all your pursuit of happiness, she is doomed to fling a
blight over your prospects.  There is but one possibility of thwarting
her disastrous influence."

"Then tell me that one method," said the lady.

"Take this veil," he answered, holding forth the silvery texture. "It
is a spell; it is a powerful enchantment, which I wrought for her sake,
and beneath which she was once my prisoner.  Throw it, at unawares,
over the head of this secret foe, stamp your foot, and cry, 'Arise,
Magician!  Here is the Veiled Lady!' and immediately I will rise up
through the earth, and seize her; and from that moment you are safe!"

So the lady took the silvery veil, which was like woven air, or like
some substance airier than nothing, and that would float upward and be
lost among the clouds, were she once to let it go.  Returning homeward,
she found the shadowy girl amid the knot of visionary
transcendentalists, who were still seeking for the better life.  She
was joyous now, and had a rose-bloom in her cheeks, and was one of the
prettiest creatures, and seemed one of the happiest, that the world
could show.  But the lady stole noiselessly behind her and threw the
veil over her head.  As the slight, ethereal texture sank inevitably
down over her figure, the poor girl strove to raise it, and met her
dear friend's eyes with one glance of mortal terror, and deep, deep
reproach.  It could not change her purpose.

"Arise, Magician!" she exclaimed, stamping her foot upon the earth.
"Here is the Veiled Lady!"

At the word, up rose the bearded man in the Oriental robes,--the
beautiful, the dark magician, who had bartered away his soul!  He threw
his arms around the Veiled Lady, and she was his bond-slave for
evermore!


Zenobia, all this while, had been holding the piece of gauze, and so
managed it as greatly to increase the dramatic effect of the legend at
those points where the magic veil was to be described.  Arriving at the
catastrophe, and uttering the fatal words, she flung the gauze over
Priscilla's head; and for an instant her auditors held their breath,
half expecting, I verily believe, that the magician would start up
through the floor, and carry off our poor little friend before our eyes.

As for Priscilla, she stood droopingly in the midst of us, making no
attempt to remove the veil.

"How do you find yourself, my love?" said Zenobia, lifting a corner of
the gauze, and peeping beneath it with a mischievous smile.  "Ah, the
dear little soul!  Why, she is really going to faint!  Mr. Coverdale,
Mr. Coverdale, pray bring a glass of water!"

Her nerves being none of the strongest, Priscilla hardly recovered her
equanimity during the rest of the evening.  This, to be sure, was a
great pity; but, nevertheless, we thought it a very bright idea of
Zenobia's to bring her legend to so effective a conclusion.



XIV. ELIOT'S PULPIT

Our Sundays at Blithedale were not ordinarily kept with such rigid
observance as might have befitted the descendants of the Pilgrims,
whose high enterprise, as we sometimes flattered ourselves, we had
taken up, and were carrying it onward and aloft, to a point which they
never dreamed of attaining.

On that hallowed day, it is true, we rested from our labors.  Our oxen,
relieved from their week-day yoke, roamed at large through the pasture;
each yoke-fellow, however, keeping close beside his mate, and
continuing to acknowledge, from the force of habit and sluggish
sympathy, the union which the taskmaster had imposed for his own hard
ends.  As for us human yoke-fellows, chosen companions of toil, whose
hoes had clinked together throughout the week, we wandered off, in
various directions, to enjoy our interval of repose.  Some, I believe,
went devoutly to the village church.  Others, it may be, ascended a
city or a country pulpit, wearing the clerical robe with so much
dignity that you would scarcely have suspected the yeoman's frock to
have been flung off only since milking-time.  Others took long rambles
among the rustic lanes and by-paths, pausing to look at black old
farmhouses, with their sloping roofs; and at the modern cottage, so
like a plaything that it seemed as if real joy or sorrow could have no
scope within; and at the more pretending villa, with its range of
wooden columns supporting the needless insolence of a great portico.
Some betook themselves into the wide, dusky barn, and lay there for
hours together on the odorous hay; while the sunstreaks and the shadows
strove together,--these to make the barn solemn, those to make it
cheerful,--and both were conquerors; and the swallows twittered a
cheery anthem, flashing into sight, or vanishing as they darted to and
fro among the golden rules of sunshine.  And others went a little way
into the woods, and threw themselves on mother earth, pillowing their
heads on a heap of moss, the green decay of an old log; and, dropping
asleep, the bumblebees and mosquitoes sung and buzzed about their ears,
causing the slumberers to twitch and start, without awaking.

With Hollingsworth, Zenobia, Priscilla, and myself, it grew to be a
custom to spend the Sabbath afternoon at a certain rock.  It was known
to us under the name of Eliot's pulpit, from a tradition that the
venerable Apostle Eliot had preached there, two centuries gone by, to
an Indian auditory.  The old pine forest, through which the Apostle's
voice was wont to sound, had fallen an immemorial time ago. But the
soil, being of the rudest and most broken surface, had apparently never
been brought under tillage; other growths, maple and beech and birch,
had succeeded to the primeval trees; so that it was still as wild a
tract of woodland as the great-great-great-great grandson of one of
Eliot's Indians (had any such posterity been in existence) could have
desired for the site and shelter of his wigwam. These after-growths,
indeed, lose the stately solemnity of the original forest.  If left in
due neglect, however, they run into an entanglement of softer wildness,
among the rustling leaves of which the sun can scatter cheerfulness as
it never could among the dark-browed pines.

The rock itself rose some twenty or thirty feet, a shattered granite
bowlder, or heap of bowlders, with an irregular outline and many
fissures, out of which sprang shrubs, bushes, and even trees; as if the
scanty soil within those crevices were sweeter to their roots than any
other earth.  At the base of the pulpit, the broken bowlders inclined
towards each other, so as to form a shallow cave, within which our
little party had sometimes found protection from a summer shower.  On
the threshold, or just across it, grew a tuft of pale columbines, in
their season, and violets, sad and shadowy recluses, such as Priscilla
was when we first knew her; children of the sun, who had never seen
their father, but dwelt among damp mosses, though not akin to them.  At
the summit, the rock was overshadowed by the canopy of a birch-tree,
which served as a sounding-board for the pulpit.  Beneath this shade
(with my eyes of sense half shut and those of the imagination widely
opened) I used to see the holy Apostle of the Indians, with the
sunlight flickering down upon him through the leaves, and glorifying
his figure as with the half-perceptible glow of a transfiguration.

I the more minutely describe the rock, and this little Sabbath
solitude, because Hollingsworth, at our solicitation, often ascended
Eliot's pulpit, and not exactly preached, but talked to us, his few
disciples, in a strain that rose and fell as naturally as the wind's
breath among the leaves of the birch-tree.  No other speech of man has
ever moved me like some of those discourses.  It seemed most pitiful--a
positive calamity to the world--that a treasury of golden thoughts
should thus be scattered, by the liberal handful, down among us three,
when a thousand hearers might have been the richer for them; and
Hollingsworth the richer, likewise, by the sympathy of multitudes.
After speaking much or little, as might happen, he would descend from
his gray pulpit, and generally fling himself at full length on the
ground, face downward.  Meanwhile, we talked around him on such topics
as were suggested by the discourse.

Since her interview with Westervelt, Zenobia's continual inequalities
of temper had been rather difficult for her friends to bear.  On the
first Sunday after that incident, when Hollingsworth had clambered down
from Eliot's pulpit, she declaimed with great earnestness and passion,
nothing short of anger, on the injustice which the world did to women,
and equally to itself, by not allowing them, in freedom and honor, and
with the fullest welcome, their natural utterance in public.

"It shall not always be so!" cried she.  "If I live another year, I
will lift up my own voice in behalf of woman's wider liberty!"

She perhaps saw me smile.

"What matter of ridicule do you find in this, Miles Coverdale?"
exclaimed Zenobia, with a flash of anger in her eyes.  "That smile,
permit me to say, makes me suspicious of a low tone of feeling and
shallow thought.  It is my belief--yes, and my prophecy, should I die
before it happens--that, when my sex shall achieve its rights, there
will be ten eloquent women where there is now one eloquent man.  Thus
far, no woman in the world has ever once spoken out her whole heart and
her whole mind.  The mistrust and disapproval of the vast bulk of
society throttles us, as with two gigantic hands at our throats!  We
mumble a few weak words, and leave a thousand better ones unsaid. You
let us write a little, it is true, on a limited range of subjects. But
the pen is not for woman.  Her power is too natural and immediate.  It
is with the living voice alone that she can compel the world to
recognize the light of her intellect and the depth of her heart!"

Now,--though I could not well say so to Zenobia,--I had not smiled from
any unworthy estimate of woman, or in denial of the claims which she is
beginning to put forth.  What amused and puzzled me was the fact, that
women, however intellectually superior, so seldom disquiet themselves
about the rights or wrongs of their sex, unless their own individual
affections chance to lie in idleness, or to be ill at ease. They are
not natural reformers, but become such by the pressure of exceptional
misfortune.  I could measure Zenobia's inward trouble by the animosity
with which she now took up the general quarrel of woman against man.

"I will give you leave, Zenobia," replied I, "to fling your utmost
scorn upon me, if you ever hear me utter a sentiment unfavorable to the
widest liberty which woman has yet dreamed of.  I would give her all
she asks, and add a great deal more, which she will not be the party to
demand, but which men, if they were generous and wise, would grant of
their own free motion.  For instance, I should love dearly--for the
next thousand years, at least--to have all government devolve into the
hands of women.  I hate to be ruled by my own sex; it excites my
jealousy, and wounds my pride.  It is the iron sway of bodily force
which abases us, in our compelled submission.  But how sweet the free,
generous courtesy with which I would kneel before a woman-ruler!"

"Yes, if she were young and beautiful," said Zenobia, laughing.  "But
how if she were sixty, and a fright?"

"Ah! it is you that rate womanhood low," said I. "But let me go on. I
have never found it possible to suffer a bearded priest so near my
heart and conscience as to do me any spiritual good.  I blush at the
very thought!  Oh, in the better order of things, Heaven grant that the
ministry of souls may be left in charge of women!  The gates of the
Blessed City will be thronged with the multitude that enter in, when
that day comes!  The task belongs to woman.  God meant it for her.  He
has endowed her with the religious sentiment in its utmost depth and
purity, refined from that gross, intellectual alloy with which every
masculine theologist--save only One, who merely veiled himself in
mortal and masculine shape, but was, in truth, divine--has been prone
to mingle it.  I have always envied the Catholics their faith in that
sweet, sacred Virgin Mother, who stands between them and the Deity,
intercepting somewhat of his awful splendor, but permitting his love to
stream upon the worshipper more intelligibly to human comprehension
through the medium of a woman's tenderness. Have I not said enough,
Zenobia?"

"I cannot think that this is true," observed Priscilla, who had been
gazing at me with great, disapproving eyes.  "And I am sure I do not
wish it to be true!"

"Poor child!" exclaimed Zenobia, rather contemptuously.  "She is the
type of womanhood, such as man has spent centuries in making it.  He is
never content unless he can degrade himself by stooping towards what he
loves.  In denying us our rights, he betrays even more blindness to his
own interests than profligate disregard of ours!"

"Is this true?" asked Priscilla with simplicity, turning to
Hollingsworth.  "Is it all true, that Mr. Coverdale and Zenobia have
been saying?"

"No, Priscilla!" answered Hollingsworth with his customary bluntness.
"They have neither of them spoken one true word yet."

"Do you despise woman?" said Zenobia.

"Ah, Hollingsworth, that would be most ungrateful!"

"Despise her?  No!" cried Hollingsworth, lifting his great shaggy head
and shaking it at us, while his eyes glowed almost fiercely. "She is
the most admirable handiwork of God, in her true place and character.
Her place is at man's side.  Her office, that of the sympathizer; the
unreserved, unquestioning believer; the recognition, withheld in every
other manner, but given, in pity, through woman's heart, lest man
should utterly lose faith in himself; the echo of God's own voice,
pronouncing, 'It is well done!' All the separate action of woman is,
and ever has been, and always shall be, false, foolish, vain,
destructive of her own best and holiest qualities, void of every good
effect, and productive of intolerable mischiefs! Man is a wretch
without woman; but woman is a monster--and, thank Heaven, an almost
impossible and hitherto imaginary monster--without man as her
acknowledged principal!  As true as I had once a mother whom I loved,
were there any possible prospect of woman's taking the social stand
which some of them,--poor, miserable, abortive creatures, who only
dream of such things because they have missed woman's peculiar
happiness, or because nature made them really neither man nor
woman!--if there were a chance of their attaining the end which these
petticoated monstrosities have in view, I would call upon my own sex to
use its physical force, that unmistakable evidence of sovereignty, to
scourge them back within their proper bounds!  But it will not be
needful.  The heart of time womanhood knows where its own sphere is,
and never seeks to stray beyond it!"

Never was mortal blessed--if blessing it were--with a glance of such
entire acquiescence and unquestioning faith, happy in its completeness,
as our little Priscilla unconsciously bestowed on Hollingsworth.  She
seemed to take the sentiment from his lips into her heart, and brood
over it in perfect content.  The very woman whom he pictured--the
gentle parasite, the soft reflection of a more powerful existence--sat
there at his feet.

I looked at Zenobia, however, fully expecting her to resent--as I felt,
by the indignant ebullition of my own blood, that she ought this
outrageous affirmation of what struck me as the intensity of masculine
egotism.  It centred everything in itself, and deprived woman of her
very soul, her inexpressible and unfathomable all, to make it a mere
incident in the great sum of man.  Hollingsworth had boldly uttered
what he, and millions of despots like him, really felt. Without
intending it, he had disclosed the wellspring of all these troubled
waters.  Now, if ever, it surely behooved Zenobia to be the champion of
her sex.

But, to my surprise, and indignation too, she only looked humbled. Some
tears sparkled in her eyes, but they were wholly of grief, not anger.

"Well, be it so," was all she said.  "I, at least, have deep cause to
think you right.  Let man be but manly and godlike, and woman is only
too ready to become to him what you say!"

I smiled--somewhat bitterly, it is true--in contemplation of my own
ill-luck.  How little did these two women care for me, who had freely
conceded all their claims, and a great deal more, out of the fulness of
my heart; while Hollingsworth, by some necromancy of his horrible
injustice, seemed to have brought them both to his feet!

"Women almost invariably behave thus," thought I. "What does the fact
mean?  Is it their nature?  Or is it, at last, the result of ages of
compelled degradation?  And, in either case, will it be possible ever
to redeem them?"

An intuition now appeared to possess all the party, that, for this
time, at least, there was no more to be said.  With one accord, we
arose from the ground, and made our way through the tangled undergrowth
towards one of those pleasant wood-paths that wound among the
overarching trees.  Some of the branches hung so low as partly to
conceal the figures that went before from those who followed. Priscilla
had leaped up more lightly than the rest of us, and ran along in
advance, with as much airy activity of spirit as was typified in the
motion of a bird, which chanced to be flitting from tree to tree, in
the same direction as herself.  Never did she seem so happy as that
afternoon.  She skipt, and could not help it, from very playfulness of
heart.

Zenobia and Hollingsworth went next, in close contiguity, but not with
arm in arm.  Now, just when they had passed the impending bough of a
birch-tree, I plainly saw Zenobia take the hand of Hollingsworth in
both her own, press it to her bosom, and let it fall again!

The gesture was sudden, and full of passion; the impulse had evidently
taken her by surprise; it expressed all!  Had Zenobia knelt before him,
or flung herself upon his breast, and gasped out, "I love you,
Hollingsworth!"  I could not have been more certain of what it meant.
They then walked onward, as before.  But, methought, as the declining
sun threw Zenobia's magnified shadow along the path, I beheld it
tremulous; and the delicate stem of the flower which she wore in her
hair was likewise responsive to her agitation.

Priscilla--through the medium of her eyes, at least could not possibly
have been aware of the gesture above described.  Yet, at that instant,
I saw her droop.  The buoyancy, which just before had been so
bird-like, was utterly departed; the life seemed to pass out of her,
and even the substance of her figure to grow thin and gray. I almost
imagined her a shadow, tiding gradually into the dimness of the wood.
Her pace became so slow that Hollingsworth and Zenobia passed by, and
I, without hastening my footsteps, overtook her.

"Come, Priscilla," said I, looking her intently in the face, which was
very pale and sorrowful, "we must make haste after our friends. Do you
feel suddenly ill?  A moment ago, you flitted along so lightly that I
was comparing you to a bird.  Now, on the contrary, it is as if you had
a heavy heart, and a very little strength to bear it with. Pray take my
arm!"

"No," said Priscilla, "I do not think it would help me.  It is my
heart, as you say, that makes me heavy; and I know not why.  Just now,
I felt very happy."

No doubt it was a kind of sacrilege in me to attempt to come within her
maidenly mystery; but, as she appeared to be tossed aside by her other
friends, or carelessly let fall, like a flower which they had done
with, I could not resist the impulse to take just one peep beneath her
folded petals.

"Zenobia and yourself are dear friends of late," I remarked.  "At
first,--that first evening when you came to us,--she did not receive
you quite so warmly as might have been wished."

"I remember it," said Priscilla.  "No wonder she hesitated to love me,
who was then a stranger to her, and a girl of no grace or beauty,--she
being herself so beautiful!"

"But she loves you now, of course?" suggested I. "And at this very
instant you feel her to be your dearest friend?"

"Why do you ask me that question?" exclaimed Priscilla, as if
frightened at the scrutiny into her feelings which I compelled her to
make.  "It somehow puts strange thoughts into my mind.  But I do love
Zenobia dearly!  If she only loves me half as well, I shall be happy!"

"How is it possible to doubt that, Priscilla?"  I rejoined.  "But
observe how pleasantly and happily Zenobia and Hollingsworth are
walking together.  I call it a delightful spectacle.  It truly rejoices
me that Hollingsworth has found so fit and affectionate a friend!  So
many people in the world mistrust him,--so many disbelieve and
ridicule, while hardly any do him justice, or acknowledge him for the
wonderful man he is,--that it is really a blessed thing for him to have
won the sympathy of such a woman as Zenobia.  Any man might be proud of
that.  Any man, even if he be as great as Hollingsworth, might love so
magnificent a woman.  How very beautiful Zenobia is!  And Hollingsworth
knows it, too."

There may have been some petty malice in what I said.  Generosity is a
very fine thing, at a proper time and within due limits.  But it is an
insufferable bore to see one man engrossing every thought of all the
women, and leaving his friend to shiver in outer seclusion, without
even the alternative of solacing himself with what the more fortunate
individual has rejected.  Yes, it was out of a foolish bitterness of
heart that I had spoken.

"Go on before," said Priscilla abruptly, and with true feminine
imperiousness, which heretofore I had never seen her exercise.  "It
pleases me best to loiter along by myself.  I do not walk so fast as
you."

With her hand she made a little gesture of dismissal.  It provoked me;
yet, on the whole, was the most bewitching thing that Priscilla had
ever done.  I obeyed her, and strolled moodily homeward, wondering--as
I had wondered a thousand times already--how Hollingsworth meant to
dispose of these two hearts, which (plainly to my perception, and, as I
could not but now suppose, to his) he had engrossed into his own huge
egotism.

There was likewise another subject hardly less fruitful of speculation.
In what attitude did Zenobia present herself to Hollingsworth?  Was it
in that of a free woman, with no mortgage on her affections nor
claimant to her hand, but fully at liberty to surrender both, in
exchange for the heart and hand which she apparently expected to
receive?  But was it a vision that I had witnessed in the wood?  Was
Westervelt a goblin?  Were those words of passion and agony, which
Zenobia had uttered in my hearing, a mere stage declamation?  Were they
formed of a material lighter than common air?  Or, supposing them to
bear sterling weight, was it a perilous and dreadful wrong which she
was meditating towards herself and Hollingsworth?

Arriving nearly at the farmhouse, I looked back over the long slope of
pasture land, and beheld them standing together, in the light of
sunset, just on the spot where, according to the gossip of the
Community, they meant to build their cottage.  Priscilla, alone and
forgotten, was lingering in the shadow of the wood.



XV. A CRISIS

Thus the summer was passing away,--a summer of toil, of interest, of
something that was not pleasure, but which went deep into my heart, and
there became a rich experience.  I found myself looking forward to
years, if not to a lifetime, to be spent on the same system.  The
Community were now beginning to form their permanent plans.  One of our
purposes was to erect a Phalanstery (as I think we called it, after
Fourier; but the phraseology of those days is not very fresh in my
remembrance), where the great and general family should have its
abiding-place.  Individual members, too, who made it a point of
religion to preserve the sanctity of an exclusive home, were selecting
sites for their cottages, by the wood-side, or on the breezy swells, or
in the sheltered nook of some little valley, according as their taste
might lean towards snugness or the picturesque.  Altogether, by
projecting our minds outward, we had imparted a show of novelty to
existence, and contemplated it as hopefully as if the soil beneath our
feet had not been fathom-deep with the dust of deluded generations, on
every one of which, as on ourselves, the world had imposed itself as a
hitherto unwedded bride.

Hollingsworth and myself had often discussed these prospects.  It was
easy to perceive, however, that he spoke with little or no fervor, but
either as questioning the fulfilment of our anticipations, or, at any
rate, with a quiet consciousness that it was no personal concern of
his.  Shortly after the scene at Eliot's pulpit, while he and I were
repairing an old stone fence, I amused myself with sallying forward
into the future time.

"When we come to be old men," I said, "they will call us uncles, or
fathers,--Father Hollingsworth and Uncle Coverdale,--and we will look
back cheerfully to these early days, and make a romantic story for the
young People (and if a little more romantic than truth may warrant, it
will be no harm) out of our severe trials and hardships. In a century
or two, we shall, every one of us, be mythical personages, or
exceedingly picturesque and poetical ones, at all events.  They will
have a great public hall, in which your portrait, and mine, and twenty
other faces that are living now, shall be hung up; and as for me, I
will be painted in my shirtsleeves, and with the sleeves rolled up, to
show my muscular development.  What stories will be rife among them
about our mighty strength!" continued I, lifting a big stone and
putting it into its place, "though our posterity will really be far
stronger than ourselves, after several generations of a simple,
natural, and active life.  What legends of Zenobia's beauty, and
Priscilla's slender and shadowy grace, and those mysterious qualities
which make her seem diaphanous with spiritual light!  In due course of
ages, we must all figure heroically in an epic poem; and we will
ourselves--at least, I will--bend unseen over the future poet, and lend
him inspiration while he writes it."

"You seem," said Hollingsworth, "to be trying how much nonsense you can
pour out in a breath."

"I wish you would see fit to comprehend," retorted I, "that the
profoundest wisdom must be mingled with nine tenths of nonsense, else
it is not worth the breath that utters it.  But I do long for the
cottages to be built, that the creeping plants may begin to run over
them, and the moss to gather on the walls, and the trees--which we will
set out--to cover them with a breadth of shadow.  This spick-and-span
novelty does not quite suit my taste.  It is time, too, for children to
be born among us.  The first-born child is still to come.  And I shall
never feel as if this were a real, practical, as well as poetical
system of human life, until somebody has sanctified it by death."

"A pretty occasion for martyrdom, truly!" said Hollingsworth.

"As good as any other," I replied.  "I wonder, Hollingsworth, who, of
all these strong men, and fair women and maidens, is doomed the first
to die.  Would it not be well, even before we have absolute need of it,
to fix upon a spot for a cemetery?  Let us choose the rudest, roughest,
most uncultivable spot, for Death's garden ground; and Death shall
teach us to beautify it, grave by grave.  By our sweet, calm way of
dying, and the airy elegance out of which we will shape our funeral
rites, and the cheerful allegories which we will model into tombstones,
the final scene shall lose its terrors; so that hereafter it may be
happiness to live, and bliss to die.  None of us must die young.  Yet,
should Providence ordain it so, the event shall not be sorrowful, but
affect us with a tender, delicious, only half-melancholy, and almost
smiling pathos!"

"That is to say," muttered Hollingsworth, "you will die like a heathen,
as you certainly live like one.  But, listen to me, Coverdale.  Your
fantastic anticipations make me discern all the more forcibly what a
wretched, unsubstantial scheme is this, on which we have wasted a
precious summer of our lives.  Do you seriously imagine that any such
realities as you, and many others here, have dreamed of, will ever be
brought to pass?"

"Certainly I do," said I. "Of course, when the reality comes, it will
wear the every-day, commonplace, dusty, and rather homely garb that
reality always does put on.  But, setting aside the ideal charm, I hold
that our highest anticipations have a solid footing on common sense."

"You only half believe what you say," rejoined Hollingsworth; "and as
for me, I neither have faith in your dream, nor would care the value of
this pebble for its realization, were that possible.  And what more do
you want of it?  It has given you a theme for poetry.  Let that content
you.  But now I ask you to be, at last, a man of sobriety and
earnestness, and aid me in an enterprise which is worth all our
strength, and the strength of a thousand mightier than we."

There can be no need of giving in detail the conversation that ensued.
It is enough to say that Hollingsworth once more brought forward his
rigid and unconquerable idea,--a scheme for the reformation of the
wicked by methods moral, intellectual, and industrial, by the sympathy
of pure, humble, and yet exalted minds, and by opening to his pupils
the possibility of a worthier life than that which had become their
fate.  It appeared, unless he overestimated his own means, that
Hollingsworth held it at his choice (and he did so choose) to obtain
possession of the very ground on which we had planted our Community,
and which had not yet been made irrevocably ours, by purchase.  It was
just the foundation that he desired.  Our beginnings might readily be
adapted to his great end.  The arrangements already completed would
work quietly into his system. So plausible looked his theory, and, more
than that, so practical,--such an air of reasonableness had he, by
patient thought, thrown over it,--each segment of it was contrived to
dovetail into all the rest with such a complicated applicability, and
so ready was he with a response for every objection, that, really, so
far as logic and argument went, he had the matter all his own way.

"But," said I, "whence can you, having no means of your own, derive the
enormous capital which is essential to this experiment?  State Street,
I imagine, would not draw its purser strings very liberally in aid of
such a speculation."

"I have the funds--as much, at least, as is needed for a
commencement--at command," he answered.  "They can be produced within a
month, if necessary."

My thoughts reverted to Zenobia.  It could only be her wealth which
Hollingsworth was appropriating so lavishly.  And on what conditions
was it to be had?  Did she fling it into the scheme with the
uncalculating generosity that characterizes a woman when it is her
impulse to be generous at all?  And did she fling herself along with
it?  But Hollingsworth did not volunteer an explanation.

"And have you no regrets," I inquired, "in overthrowing this fair
system of our new life, which has been planned so deeply, and is now
beginning to flourish so hopefully around us?  How beautiful it is,
and, so far as we can yet see, how practicable!  The ages have waited
for us, and here we are, the very first that have essayed to carry on
our mortal existence in love and mutual help!  Hollingsworth, I would
be loath to take the ruin of this enterprise upon my conscience."

"Then let it rest wholly upon mine!" he answered, knitting his black
brows.  "I see through the system.  It is full of
defects,--irremediable and damning ones!--from first to last, there is
nothing else!  I grasp it in my hand, and find no substance whatever.
There is not human nature in it."

"Why are you so secret in your operations?"  I asked.  "God forbid that
I should accuse you of intentional wrong; but the besetting sin of a
philanthropist, it appears to me, is apt to be a moral obliquity. His
sense of honor ceases to be the sense of other honorable men. At some
point of his course--I know not exactly when or where--he is tempted to
palter with the right, and can scarcely forbear persuading himself that
the importance of his public ends renders it allowable to throw aside
his private conscience.  Oh, my dear friend, beware this error!  If you
meditate the overthrow of this establishment, call together our
companions, state your design, support it with all your eloquence, but
allow them an opportunity of defending themselves."

"It does not suit me," said Hollingsworth.  "Nor is it my duty to do
so."

"I think it is," replied I.

Hollingsworth frowned; not in passion, but, like fate, inexorably.

"I will not argue the point," said he.  "What I desire to know of you
is,--and you can tell me in one word,--whether I am to look for your
cooperation in this great scheme of good?  Take it up with me!  Be my
brother in it!  It offers you (what you have told me, over and over
again, that you most need) a purpose in life, worthy of the extremest
self-devotion,--worthy of martyrdom, should God so order it!  In this
view, I present it to you.  You can greatly benefit mankind.  Your
peculiar faculties, as I shall direct them, are capable of being so
wrought into this enterprise that not one of them need lie idle. Strike
hands with me, and from this moment you shall never again feel the
languor and vague wretchedness of an indolent or half-occupied man.
There may be no more aimless beauty in your life; but, in its stead,
there shall be strength, courage, immitigable will,--everything that a
manly and generous nature should desire!  We shall succeed!  We shall
have done our best for this miserable world; and happiness (which never
comes but incidentally) will come to us unawares."

It seemed his intention to say no more.  But, after he had quite broken
off, his deep eyes filled with tears, and he held out both his hands to
me.

"Coverdale," he murmured, "there is not the man in this wide world whom
I can love as I could you.  Do not forsake me!"

As I look back upon this scene, through the coldness and dimness of so
many years, there is still a sensation as if Hollingsworth had caught
hold of my heart, and were pulling it towards him with an almost
irresistible force.  It is a mystery to me how I withstood it. But, in
truth, I saw in his scheme of philanthropy nothing but what was odious.
A loathsomeness that was to be forever in my daily work! A great black
ugliness of sin, which he proposed to collect out of a thousand human
hearts, and that we should spend our lives in an experiment of
transmuting it into virtue!  Had I but touched his extended hand,
Hollingsworth's magnetism would perhaps have penetrated me with his own
conception of all these matters.  But I stood aloof.  I fortified
myself with doubts whether his strength of purpose had not been too
gigantic for his integrity, impelling him to trample on considerations
that should have been paramount to every other.

"Is Zenobia to take a part in your enterprise?"  I asked.

"She is," said Hollingsworth.

"She!--the beautiful!--the gorgeous!"  I exclaimed.  "And how have you
prevailed with such a woman to work in this squalid element?"

"Through no base methods, as you seem to suspect," he answered; "but by
addressing whatever is best and noblest in her."

Hollingsworth was looking on the ground.  But, as he often did
so,--generally, indeed, in his habitual moods of thought,--I could not
judge whether it was from any special unwillingness now to meet my
eyes.  What it was that dictated my next question, I cannot precisely
say.  Nevertheless, it rose so inevitably into my mouth, and, as it
were, asked itself so involuntarily, that there must needs have been an
aptness in it.

"What is to become of Priscilla?"

Hollingsworth looked at me fiercely, and with glowing eyes.  He could
not have shown any other kind of expression than that, had he meant to
strike me with a sword.

"Why do you bring in the names of these women?" said he, after a moment
of pregnant silence.  "What have they to do with the proposal which I
make you?  I must have your answer!  Will you devote yourself, and
sacrifice all to this great end, and be my friend of friends forever?"

"In Heaven's name, Hollingsworth," cried I, getting angry, and glad to
be angry, because so only was it possible to oppose his tremendous
concentrativeness and indomitable will, "cannot you conceive that a man
may wish well to the world, and struggle for its good, on some other
plan than precisely that which you have laid down?  And will you cast
off a friend for no unworthiness, but merely because he stands upon his
right as an individual being, and looks at matters through his own
optics, instead of yours?"

"Be with me," said Hollingsworth, "or be against me!  There is no third
choice for you."

"Take this, then, as my decision," I answered.  "I doubt the wisdom of
your scheme.  Furthermore, I greatly fear that the methods by which you
allow yourself to pursue it are such as cannot stand the scrutiny of an
unbiassed conscience."

"And you will not join me?"

"No!"

I never said the word--and certainly can never have it to say
hereafter--that cost me a thousandth part so hard an effort as did that
one syllable.  The heart-pang was not merely figurative, but an
absolute torture of the breast.  I was gazing steadfastly at
Hollingsworth.  It seemed to me that it struck him, too, like a bullet.
A ghastly paleness--always so terrific on a swarthy face--overspread
his features.  There was a convulsive movement of his throat, as if he
were forcing down some words that struggled and fought for utterance.
Whether words of anger, or words of grief, I cannot tell; although many
and many a time I have vainly tormented myself with conjecturing which
of the two they were.  One other appeal to my friendship,--such as
once, already, Hollingsworth had made,--taking me in the revulsion that
followed a strenuous exercise of opposing will, would completely have
subdued me.  But he left the matter there.  "Well!" said he.

And that was all!  I should have been thankful for one word more, even
had it shot me through the heart, as mine did him.  But he did not
speak it; and, after a few moments, with one accord, we set to work
again, repairing the stone fence.  Hollingsworth, I observed, wrought
like a Titan; and, for my own part, I lifted stones which at this
day--or, in a calmer mood, at that one--I should no more have thought
it possible to stir than to carry off the gates of Gaza on my back.



XVI. LEAVE-TAKINGS

A few days after the tragic passage-at-arms between Hollingsworth and
me, I appeared at the dinner-table actually dressed in a coat, instead
of my customary blouse; with a satin cravat, too, a white vest, and
several other things that made me seem strange and outlandish to
myself.  As for my companions, this unwonted spectacle caused a great
stir upon the wooden benches that bordered either side of our homely
board.

"What's in the wind now, Miles?" asked one of them.  "Are you deserting
us?"

"Yes, for a week or two," said I. "It strikes me that my health demands
a little relaxation of labor, and a short visit to the seaside, during
the dog-days."

"You look like it!" grumbled Silas Foster, not greatly pleased with the
idea of losing an efficient laborer before the stress of the season was
well over.  "Now, here's a pretty fellow!  His shoulders have broadened
a matter of six inches since he came among us; he can do his day's
work, if he likes, with any man or ox on the farm; and yet he talks
about going to the seashore for his health!  Well, well, old woman,"
added he to his wife, "let me have a plateful of that pork and cabbage!
I begin to feel in a very weakly way.  When the others have had their
turn, you and I will take a jaunt to Newport or Saratoga!"


"Well, but, Mr. Foster," said I, "you must allow me to take a little
breath."

"Breath!" retorted the old yeoman.  "Your lungs have the play of a pair
of blacksmith's bellows already.  What on earth do you want more?  But
go along!  I understand the business.  We shall never see your face
here again.  Here ends the reformation of the world, so far as Miles
Coverdale has a hand in it!"

"By no means," I replied.  "I am resolute to die in the last ditch, for
the good of the cause."

"Die in a ditch!" muttered gruff Silas, with genuine Yankee intolerance
of any intermission of toil, except on Sunday, the Fourth of July, the
autumnal cattle-show, Thanksgiving, or the annual Fast,--"die in a
ditch!  I believe, in my conscience, you would, if there were no
steadier means than your own labor to keep you out of it!"

The truth was, that an intolerable discontent and irksomeness had come
over me.  Blithedale was no longer what it had been.  Everything was
suddenly faded.  The sunburnt and arid aspect of our woods and
pastures, beneath the August sky, did but imperfectly symbolize the
lack of dew and moisture, that, since yesterday, as it were, had
blighted my fields of thought, and penetrated to the innermost and
shadiest of my contemplative recesses.  The change will be recognized
by many, who, after a period of happiness, have endeavored to go on
with the same kind of life, in the same scene, in spite of the
alteration or withdrawal of some principal circumstance.  They discover
(what heretofore, perhaps, they had not known) that it was this which
gave the bright color and vivid reality to the whole affair.

I stood on other terms than before, not only with Hollingsworth, but
with Zenobia and Priscilla.  As regarded the two latter, it was that
dreamlike and miserable sort of change that denies you the privilege to
complain, because you can assert no positive injury, nor lay your
finger on anything tangible.  It is a matter which you do not see, but
feel, and which, when you try to analyze it, seems to lose its very
existence, and resolve itself into a sickly humor of your own. Your
understanding, possibly, may put faith in this denial.  But your heart
will not so easily rest satisfied.  It incessantly remonstrates,
though, most of the time, in a bass-note, which you do not separately
distinguish; but, now and then, with a sharp cry, importunate to be
heard, and resolute to claim belief.  "Things are not as they were!" it
keeps saying.  "You shall not impose on me!  I will never be quiet!  I
will throb painfully!  I will be heavy, and desolate, and shiver with
cold!  For I, your deep heart, know when to be miserable, as once I
knew when to be happy!  All is changed for us! You are beloved no
more!"  And were my life to be spent over again, I would invariably
lend my ear to this Cassandra of the inward depths, however clamorous
the music and the merriment of a more superficial region.

My outbreak with Hollingsworth, though never definitely known to our
associates, had really an effect upon the moral atmosphere of the
Community.  It was incidental to the closeness of relationship into
which we had brought ourselves, that an unfriendly state of feeling
could not occur between any two members without the whole society being
more or less commoted and made uncomfortable thereby.  This species of
nervous sympathy (though a pretty characteristic enough, sentimentally
considered, and apparently betokening an actual bond of love among us)
was yet found rather inconvenient in its practical operation, mortal
tempers being so infirm and variable as they are. If one of us happened
to give his neighbor a box on the ear, the tingle was immediately felt
on the same side of everybody's head. Thus, even on the supposition
that we were far less quarrelsome than the rest of the world, a great
deal of time was necessarily wasted in rubbing our ears.

Musing on all these matters, I felt an inexpressible longing for at
least a temporary novelty.  I thought of going across the Rocky
Mountains, or to Europe, or up the Nile; of offering myself a volunteer
on the Exploring Expedition; of taking a ramble of years, no matter in
what direction, and coming back on the other side of the world.  Then,
should the colonists of Blithedale have established their enterprise on
a permanent basis, I might fling aside my pilgrim staff and dusty
shoon, and rest as peacefully here as elsewhere.  Or, in case
Hollingsworth should occupy the ground with his School of Reform, as he
now purposed, I might plead earthly guilt enough, by that time, to give
me what I was inclined to think the only trustworthy hold on his
affections.  Meanwhile, before deciding on any ultimate plan, I
determined to remove myself to a little distance, and take an exterior
view of what we had all been about.

In truth, it was dizzy work, amid such fermentation of opinions as was
going on in the general brain of the Community.  It was a kind of
Bedlam, for the time being, although out of the very thoughts that were
wildest and most destructive might grow a wisdom, holy, calm, and pure,
and that should incarnate itself with the substance of a noble and
happy life.  But, as matters now were, I felt myself (and, having a
decided tendency towards the actual, I never liked to feel it) getting
quite out of my reckoning, with regard to the existing state of the
world.  I was beginning to lose the sense of what kind of a world it
was, among innumerable schemes of what it might or ought to be.  It was
impossible, situated as we were, not to imbibe the idea that everything
in nature and human existence was fluid, or fast becoming so; that the
crust of the earth in many places was broken, and its whole surface
portentously upheaving; that it was a day of crisis, and that we
ourselves were in the critical vortex. Our great globe floated in the
atmosphere of infinite space like an unsubstantial bubble.  No
sagacious man will long retain his sagacity, if he live exclusively
among reformers and progressive people, without periodically returning
into the settled system of things, to correct himself by a new
observation from that old standpoint.

It was now time for me, therefore, to go and hold a little talk with
the conservatives, the writers of "The North American Review," the
merchants, the politicians, the Cambridge men, and all those
respectable old blockheads who still, in this intangibility and
mistiness of affairs, kept a death-grip on one or two ideas which had
not come into vogue since yesterday morning.

The brethren took leave of me with cordial kindness; and as for the
sisterhood, I had serious thoughts of kissing them all round, but
forbore to do so, because, in all such general salutations, the penance
is fully equal to the pleasure.  So I kissed none of them; and nobody,
to say the truth, seemed to expect it.

"Do you wish me," I said to Zenobia, "to announce in town, and at the
watering-places, your purpose to deliver a course of lectures on the
rights of women?"

"Women possess no rights," said Zenobia, with a half-melancholy smile;
"or, at all events, only little girls and grandmothers would have the
force to exercise them."

She gave me her hand freely and kindly, and looked at me, I thought,
with a pitying expression in her eyes; nor was there any settled light
of joy in them on her own behalf, but a troubled and passionate flame,
flickering and fitful.

"I regret, on the whole, that you are leaving us," she said; "and all
the more, since I feel that this phase of our life is finished, and can
never be lived over again.  Do you know, Mr. Coverdale, that I have
been several times on the point of making you my confidant, for lack of
a better and wiser one?  But you are too young to be my father
confessor; and you would not thank me for treating you like one of
those good little handmaidens who share the bosom secrets of a
tragedy-queen."

"I would, at least, be loyal and faithful," answered I; "and would
counsel you with an honest purpose, if not wisely."

"Yes," said Zenobia, "you would be only too wise, too honest. Honesty
and wisdom are such a delightful pastime, at another person's expense!"

"Ah, Zenobia," I exclaimed, "if you would but let me speak!"

"By no means," she replied, "especially when you have just resumed the
whole series of social conventionalisms, together with that
strait-bodied coat.  I would as lief open my heart to a lawyer or a
clergyman!  No, no, Mr. Coverdale; if I choose a counsellor, in the
present aspect of my affairs, it must be either an angel or a madman;
and I rather apprehend that the latter would be likeliest of the two to
speak the fitting word.  It needs a wild steersman when we voyage
through chaos!  The anchor is up,--farewell!"

Priscilla, as soon as dinner was over, had betaken herself into a
corner, and set to work on a little purse.  As I approached her, she
let her eyes rest on me with a calm, serious look; for, with all her
delicacy of nerves, there was a singular self-possession in Priscilla,
and her sensibilities seemed to lie sheltered from ordinary commotion,
like the water in a deep well.

"Will you give me that purse, Priscilla," said I, "as a parting
keepsake?"

"Yes," she answered, "if you will wait till it is finished."

"I must not wait, even for that," I replied.  "Shall I find you here,
on my return?"

"I never wish to go away," said she.

"I have sometimes thought," observed I, smiling, "that you, Priscilla,
are a little prophetess, or, at least, that you have spiritual
intimations respecting matters which are dark to us grosser people. If
that be the case, I should like to ask you what is about to happen; for
I am tormented with a strong foreboding that, were I to return even so
soon as to-morrow morning, I should find everything changed. Have you
any impressions of this nature?"

"Ah, no," said Priscilla, looking at me apprehensively.  "If any such
misfortune is coming, the shadow has not reached me yet.  Heaven
forbid!  I should be glad if there might never be any change, but one
summer follow another, and all just like this."

"No summer ever came back, and no two summers ever were alike," said I,
with a degree of Orphic wisdom that astonished myself.  "Times change,
and people change; and if our hearts do not change as readily, so much
the worse for us.  Good-by, Priscilla!"

I gave her hand a pressure, which, I think, she neither resisted nor
returned.  Priscilla's heart was deep, but of small compass; it had
room but for a very few dearest ones, among whom she never reckoned me.

On the doorstep I met Hollingsworth.  I had a momentary impulse to hold
out my hand, or at least to give a parting nod, but resisted both.
When a real and strong affection has come to an end, it is not well to
mock the sacred past with any show of those commonplace civilities that
belong to ordinary intercourse.  Being dead henceforth to him, and he
to me, there could be no propriety in our chilling one another with the
touch of two corpse-like hands, or playing at looks of courtesy with
eyes that were impenetrable beneath the glaze and the film.  We passed,
therefore, as if mutually invisible.

I can nowise explain what sort of whim, prank, or perversity it was,
that, after all these leave-takings, induced me to go to the pigsty,
and take leave of the swine!  There they lay, buried as deeply among
the straw as they could burrow, four huge black grunters, the very
symbols of slothful ease and sensual comfort.  They were asleep,
drawing short and heavy breaths, which heaved their big sides up and
down.  Unclosing their eyes, however, at my approach, they looked dimly
forth at the outer world, and simultaneously uttered a gentle grunt;
not putting themselves to the trouble of an additional breath for that
particular purpose, but grunting with their ordinary inhalation.  They
were involved, and almost stifled and buried alive, in their own
corporeal substance.  The very unreadiness and oppression wherewith
these greasy citizens gained breath enough to keep their life-machinery
in sluggish movement appeared to make them only the more sensible of
the ponderous and fat satisfaction of their existence.  Peeping at me
an instant out of their small, red, hardly perceptible eyes, they dropt
asleep again; yet not so far asleep but that their unctuous bliss was
still present to them, betwixt dream and reality.

"You must come back in season to eat part of a spare-rib," said Silas
Foster, giving my hand a mighty squeeze.  "I shall have these fat
fellows hanging up by the heels, heads downward, pretty soon, I tell
you!"

"O cruel Silas, what a horrible idea!" cried I. "All the rest of us,
men, women, and livestock, save only these four porkers, are bedevilled
with one grief or another; they alone are happy,--and you mean to cut
their throats and eat them!  It would be more for the general comfort
to let them eat us; and bitter and sour morsels we should be!"



XVII. THE HOTEL

Arriving in town (where my bachelor-rooms, long before this time, had
received some other occupant), I established myself, for a day or two,
in a certain, respectable hotel.  It was situated somewhat aloof from
my former track in life; my present mood inclining me to avoid most of
my old companions, from whom I was now sundered by other interests, and
who would have been likely enough to amuse themselves at the expense of
the amateur workingman.  The hotel-keeper put me into a back room of
the third story of his spacious establishment. The day was lowering,
with occasional gusts of rain, and an ugly tempered east wind, which
seemed to come right off the chill and melancholy sea, hardly mitigated
by sweeping over the roofs, and amalgamating itself with the dusky
element of city smoke.  All the effeminacy of past days had returned
upon me at once.  Summer as it still was, I ordered a coal fire in the
rusty grate, and was glad to find myself growing a little too warm with
an artificial temperature.

My sensations were those of a traveller, long sojourning in remote
regions, and at length sitting down again amid customs once familiar.
There was a newness and an oldness oddly combining themselves into one
impression.  It made me acutely sensible how strange a piece of
mosaic-work had lately been wrought into my life.  True, if you look at
it in one way, it had been only a summer in the country.  But,
considered in a profounder relation, it was part of another age, a
different state of society, a segment of an existence peculiar in its
aims and methods, a leaf of some mysterious volume interpolated into
the current history which time was writing off.  At one moment, the
very circumstances now surrounding me--my coal fire and the dingy room
in the bustling hotel--appeared far off and intangible; the next
instant Blithedale looked vague, as if it were at a distance both in
time and space, and so shadowy that a question might be raised whether
the whole affair had been anything more than the thoughts of a
speculative man.  I had never before experienced a mood that so robbed
the actual world of its solidity.  It nevertheless involved a charm, on
which--a devoted epicure of my own emotions--I resolved to pause, and
enjoy the moral sillabub until quite dissolved away.

Whatever had been my taste for solitude and natural scenery, yet the
thick, foggy, stifled element of cities, the entangled life of many men
together, sordid as it was, and empty of the beautiful, took quite as
strenuous a hold upon my mind.  I felt as if there could never be
enough of it.  Each characteristic sound was too suggestive to be
passed over unnoticed.  Beneath and around me, I heard the stir of the
hotel; the loud voices of guests, landlord, or bar-keeper; steps
echoing on the staircase; the ringing of a bell, announcing arrivals or
departures; the porter lumbering past my door with baggage, which he
thumped down upon the floors of neighboring chambers; the lighter feet
of chambermaids scudding along the passages;--it is ridiculous to think
what an interest they had for me! From the street came the tumult of
the pavements, pervading the whole house with a continual uproar, so
broad and deep that only an unaccustomed ear would dwell upon it.  A
company of the city soldiery, with a full military band, marched in
front of the hotel, invisible to me, but stirringly audible both by its
foot-tramp and the clangor of its instruments.  Once or twice all the
city bells jangled together, announcing a fire, which brought out the
engine-men and their machines, like an army with its artillery rushing
to battle. Hour by hour the clocks in many steeples responded one to
another.

In some public hall, not a great way off, there seemed to be an
exhibition of a mechanical diorama; for three times during the day
occurred a repetition of obstreperous music, winding up with the rattle
of imitative cannon and musketry, and a huge final explosion. Then
ensued the applause of the spectators, with clap of hands and thump of
sticks, and the energetic pounding of their heels.  All this was just
as valuable, in its way, as the sighing of the breeze among the
birch-trees that overshadowed Eliot's pulpit.

Yet I felt a hesitation about plunging into this muddy tide of human
activity and pastime.  It suited me better, for the present, to linger
on the brink, or hover in the air above it.  So I spent the first day,
and the greater part of the second, in the laziest manner possible, in
a rocking-chair, inhaling the fragrance of a series of cigars, with my
legs and slippered feet horizontally disposed, and in my hand a novel
purchased of a railroad bibliopolist.  The gradual waste of my cigar
accomplished itself with an easy and gentle expenditure of breath.  My
book was of the dullest, yet had a sort of sluggish flow, like that of
a stream in which your boat is as often aground as afloat.  Had there
been a more impetuous rush, a more absorbing passion of the narrative,
I should the sooner have struggled out of its uneasy current, and have
given myself up to the swell and subsidence of my thoughts.  But, as it
was, the torpid life of the book served as an unobtrusive accompaniment
to the life within me and about me.  At intervals, however, when its
effect grew a little too soporific,--not for my patience, but for the
possibility of keeping my eyes open, I bestirred myself, started from
the rocking-chair, and looked out of the window.

A gray sky; the weathercock of a steeple that rose beyond the opposite
range of buildings, pointing from the eastward; a sprinkle of small,
spiteful-looking raindrops on the window-pane.  In that ebb-tide of my
energies, had I thought of venturing abroad, these tokens would have
checked the abortive purpose.

After several such visits to the window, I found myself getting pretty
well acquainted with that little portion of the backside of the
universe which it presented to my view.  Over against the hotel and its
adjacent houses, at the distance of forty or fifty yards, was the rear
of a range of buildings which appeared to be spacious, modern, and
calculated for fashionable residences.  The interval between was
apportioned into grass-plots, and here and there an apology for a
garden, pertaining severally to these dwellings.  There were
apple-trees, and pear and peach trees, too, the fruit on which looked
singularly large, luxuriant, and abundant, as well it might, in a
situation so warm and sheltered, and where the soil had doubtless been
enriched to a more than natural fertility.  In two or three places
grapevines clambered upon trellises, and bore clusters already purple,
and promising the richness of Malta or Madeira in their ripened juice.
The blighting winds of our rigid climate could not molest these trees
and vines; the sunshine, though descending late into this area, and too
early intercepted by the height of the surrounding houses, yet lay
tropically there, even when less than temperate in every other region.
Dreary as was the day, the scene was illuminated by not a few sparrows
and other birds, which spread their wings, and flitted and fluttered,
and alighted now here, now there, and busily scratched their food out
of the wormy earth.  Most of these winged people seemed to have their
domicile in a robust and healthy buttonwood-tree.  It aspired upward,
high above the roofs of the houses, and spread a dense head of foliage
half across the area.

There was a cat--as there invariably is in such places--who evidently
thought herself entitled to the privileges of forest life in this close
heart of city conventionalisms.  I watched her creeping along the low,
flat roofs of the offices, descending a flight of wooden steps, gliding
among the grass, and besieging the buttonwood-tree, with murderous
purpose against its feathered citizens.  But, after all, they were
birds of city breeding, and doubtless knew how to guard themselves
against the peculiar perils of their position.

Bewitching to my fancy are all those nooks and crannies where Nature,
like a stray partridge, hides her head among the long-established
haunts of men!  It is likewise to be remarked, as a general rule, that
there is far more of the picturesque, more truth to native and
characteristic tendencies, and vastly greater suggestiveness in the
back view of a residence, whether in town or country, than in its
front.  The latter is always artificial; it is meant for the world's
eye, and is therefore a veil and a concealment.  Realities keep in the
rear, and put forward an advance guard of show and humbug.  The
posterior aspect of any old farmhouse, behind which a railroad has
unexpectedly been opened, is so different from that looking upon the
immemorial highway, that the spectator gets new ideas of rural life and
individuality in the puff or two of steam-breath which shoots him past
the premises.  In a city, the distinction between what is offered to
the public and what is kept for the family is certainly not less
striking.

But, to return to my window at the back of the hotel.  Together with a
due contemplation of the fruit-trees, the grapevines, the
buttonwood-tree, the cat, the birds, and many other particulars, I
failed not to study the row of fashionable dwellings to which all these
appertained.  Here, it must be confessed, there was a general sameness.
From the upper story to the first floor, they were so much alike, that
I could only conceive of the inhabitants as cut out on one identical
pattern, like little wooden toy-people of German manufacture.  One
long, united roof, with its thousands of slates glittering in the rain,
extended over the whole.  After the distinctness of separate characters
to which I had recently been accustomed, it perplexed and annoyed me
not to be able to resolve this combination of human interests into
well-defined elements.  It seemed hardly worth while for more than one
of those families to be in existence, since they all had the same
glimpse of the sky, all looked into the same area, all received just
their equal share of sunshine through the front windows, and all
listened to precisely the same noises of the street on which they
boarded.  Men are so much alike in their nature, that they grow
intolerable unless varied by their circumstances.

Just about this time a waiter entered my room.  The truth was, I had
rung the bell and ordered a sherry-cobbler.


"Can you tell me," I inquired, "what families reside in any of those
houses opposite?"

"The one right opposite is a rather stylish boarding-house," said the
waiter.  "Two of the gentlemen boarders keep horses at the stable of
our establishment.  They do things in very good style, sir, the people
that live there."

I might have found out nearly as much for myself, on examining the
house a little more closely, in one of the upper chambers I saw a young
man in a dressing-gown, standing before the glass and brushing his hair
for a quarter of an hour together.  He then spent an equal space of
time in the elaborate arrangement of his cravat, and finally made his
appearance in a dress-coat, which I suspected to be newly come from the
tailor's, and now first put on for a dinner-party.  At a window of the
next story below, two children, prettily dressed, were looking out.  By
and by a middle-aged gentleman came softly behind them, kissed the
little girl, and playfully pulled the little boy's ear.  It was a papa,
no doubt, just come in from his counting-room or office; and anon
appeared mamma, stealing as softly behind papa as he had stolen behind
the children, and laying her hand on his shoulder to surprise him.
Then followed a kiss between papa and mamma; but a noiseless one, for
the children did not turn their heads.

"I bless God for these good folks!" thought I to myself.  "I have not
seen a prettier bit of nature, in all my summer in the country, than
they have shown me here, in a rather stylish boarding-house.  I will
pay them a little more attention by and by."

On the first floor, an iron balustrade ran along in front of the tall
and spacious windows, evidently belonging to a back drawing-room; and
far into the interior, through the arch of the sliding-doors, I could
discern a gleam from the windows of the front apartment.  There were no
signs of present occupancy in this suite of rooms; the curtains being
enveloped in a protective covering, which allowed but a small portion
of their crimson material to be seen.  But two housemaids were
industriously at work; so that there was good prospect that the
boarding-house might not long suffer from the absence of its most
expensive and profitable guests.  Meanwhile, until they should appear,
I cast my eyes downward to the lower regions.  There, in the dusk that
so early settles into such places, I saw the red glow of the kitchen
range.  The hot cook, or one of her subordinates, with a ladle in her
hand, came to draw a cool breath at the back door.  As soon as she
disappeared, an Irish man-servant, in a white jacket, crept slyly
forth, and threw away the fragments of a china dish, which,
unquestionably, he had just broken.  Soon afterwards, a lady, showily
dressed, with a curling front of what must have been false hair, and
reddish-brown, I suppose, in hue,--though my remoteness allowed me only
to guess at such particulars,--this respectable mistress of the
boarding-house made a momentary transit across the kitchen window, and
appeared no more.  It was her final, comprehensive glance, in order to
make sure that soup, fish, and flesh were in a proper state of
readiness, before the serving up of dinner.

There was nothing else worth noticing about the house, unless it be
that on the peak of one of the dormer windows which opened out of the
roof sat a dove, looking very dreary and forlorn; insomuch that I
wondered why she chose to sit there, in the chilly rain, while her
kindred were doubtless nestling in a warm and comfortable dove-cote.
All at once this dove spread her wings, and, launching herself in the
air, came flying so straight across the intervening space, that I fully
expected her to alight directly on my window-sill.  In the latter part
of her course, however, she swerved aside, flew upward, and vanished,
as did, likewise, the slight, fantastic pathos with which I had
invested her.



XVIII. THE BOARDING-HOUSE

The next day, as soon as I thought of looking again towards the
opposite house, there sat the dove again, on the peak of the same
dormer window!  It was by no means an early hour, for the preceding
evening I had ultimately mustered enterprise enough to visit the
theatre, had gone late to bed, and slept beyond all limit, in my
remoteness from Silas Foster's awakening horn.  Dreams had tormented me
throughout the night.  The train of thoughts which, for months past,
had worn a track through my mind, and to escape which was one of my
chief objects in leaving Blithedale, kept treading remorselessly to and
fro in their old footsteps, while slumber left me impotent to regulate
them.  It was not till I had quitted my three friends that they first
began to encroach upon my dreams.  In those of the last night,
Hollingsworth and Zenobia, standing on either side of my bed, had bent
across it to exchange a kiss of passion. Priscilla, beholding
this,--for she seemed to be peeping in at the chamber window,--had
melted gradually away, and left only the sadness of her expression in
my heart.  There it still lingered, after I awoke; one of those
unreasonable sadnesses that you know not how to deal with, because it
involves nothing for common-sense to clutch.

It was a gray and dripping forenoon; gloomy enough in town, and still
gloomier in the haunts to which my recollections persisted in
transporting me.  For, in spite of my efforts to think of something
else, I thought how the gusty rain was drifting over the slopes and
valleys of our farm; how wet must be the foliage that overshadowed the
pulpit rock; how cheerless, in such a day, my hermitage--the
tree-solitude of my owl-like humors--in the vine-encircled heart of the
tall pine!  It was a phase of homesickness.  I had wrenched myself too
suddenly out of an accustomed sphere.  There was no choice, now, but to
bear the pang of whatever heartstrings were snapt asunder, and that
illusive torment (like the ache of a limb long ago cut off) by which a
past mode of life prolongs itself into the succeeding one.  I was full
of idle and shapeless regrets.  The thought impressed itself upon me
that I had left duties unperformed. With the power, perhaps, to act in
the place of destiny and avert misfortune from my friends, I had
resigned them to their fate.  That cold tendency, between instinct and
intellect, which made me pry with a speculative interest into people's
passions and impulses, appeared to have gone far towards unhumanizing
my heart.

But a man cannot always decide for himself whether his own heart is
cold or warm.  It now impresses me that, if I erred at all in regard to
Hollingsworth, Zenobia, and Priscilla, it was through too much
sympathy, rather than too little.

To escape the irksomeness of these meditations, I resumed my post at
the window.  At first sight, there was nothing new to be noticed. The
general aspect of affairs was the same as yesterday, except that the
more decided inclemency of to-day had driven the sparrows to shelter,
and kept the cat within doors; whence, however, she soon emerged,
pursued by the cook, and with what looked like the better half of a
roast chicken in her mouth.  The young man in the dress-coat was
invisible; the two children, in the story below, seemed to be romping
about the room, under the superintendence of a nursery-maid.  The
damask curtains of the drawing-room, on the first floor, were now fully
displayed, festooned gracefully from top to bottom of the windows,
which extended from the ceiling to the carpet. A narrower window, at
the left of the drawing-room, gave light to what was probably a small
boudoir, within which I caught the faintest imaginable glimpse of a
girl's figure, in airy drapery.  Her arm was in regular movement, as if
she were busy with her German worsted, or some other such pretty and
unprofitable handiwork.

While intent upon making out this girlish shape, I became sensible that
a figure had appeared at one of the windows of the drawing-room. There
was a presentiment in my mind; or perhaps my first glance, imperfect
and sidelong as it was, had sufficed to convey subtile information of
the truth.  At any rate, it was with no positive surprise, but as if I
had all along expected the incident, that, directing my eyes
thitherward, I beheld--like a full-length picture, in the space between
the heavy festoons of the window curtains--no other than Zenobia!  At
the same instant, my thoughts made sure of the identity of the figure
in the boudoir.  It could only be Priscilla.

Zenobia was attired, not in the almost rustic costume which she had
heretofore worn, but in a fashionable morning-dress.  There was,
nevertheless, one familiar point.  She had, as usual, a flower in her
hair, brilliant and of a rare variety, else it had not been Zenobia.
After a brief pause at the window, she turned away, exemplifying, in
the few steps that removed her out of sight, that noble and beautiful
motion which characterized her as much as any other personal charm. Not
one woman in a thousand could move so admirably as Zenobia.  Many women
can sit gracefully; some can stand gracefully; and a few, perhaps, can
assume a series of graceful positions.  But natural movement is the
result and expression of the whole being, and cannot be well and nobly
performed unless responsive to something in the character.  I often
used to think that music--light and airy, wild and passionate, or the
full harmony of stately marches, in accordance with her varying
mood--should have attended Zenobia's footsteps.

I waited for her reappearance.  It was one peculiarity, distinguishing
Zenobia from most of her sex, that she needed for her moral well-being,
and never would forego, a large amount of physical exercise.  At
Blithedale, no inclemency of sky or muddiness of earth had ever impeded
her daily walks.  Here in town, she probably preferred to tread the
extent of the two drawing-rooms, and measure out the miles by spaces of
forty feet, rather than bedraggle her skirts over the sloppy pavements.
Accordingly, in about the time requisite to pass through the arch of
the sliding-doors to the front window, and to return upon her steps,
there she stood again, between the festoons of the crimson curtains.
But another personage was now added to the scene.  Behind Zenobia
appeared that face which I had first encountered in the wood-path; the
man who had passed, side by side with her, in such mysterious
familiarity and estrangement, beneath my vine curtained hermitage in
the tall pine-tree.  It was Westervelt.  And though he was looking
closely over her shoulder, it still seemed to me, as on the former
occasion, that Zenobia repelled him,--that, perchance, they mutually
repelled each other, by some incompatibility of their spheres.

This impression, however, might have been altogether the result of
fancy and prejudice in me.  The distance was so great as to obliterate
any play of feature by which I might otherwise have been made a
partaker of their counsels.

There now needed only Hollingsworth and old Moodie to complete the knot
of characters, whom a real intricacy of events, greatly assisted by my
method of insulating them from other relations, had kept so long upon
my mental stage, as actors in a drama.  In itself, perhaps, it was no
very remarkable event that they should thus come across me, at the
moment when I imagined myself free.  Zenobia, as I well knew, had
retained an establishment in town, and had not unfrequently withdrawn
herself from Blithedale during brief intervals, on one of which
occasions she had taken Priscilla along with her.  Nevertheless, there
seemed something fatal in the coincidence that had borne me to this one
spot, of all others in a great city, and transfixed me there, and
compelled me again to waste my already wearied sympathies on affairs
which were none of mine, and persons who cared little for me.  It
irritated my nerves; it affected me with a kind of heart-sickness.
After the effort which it cost me to fling them off,--after
consummating my escape, as I thought, from these goblins of flesh and
blood, and pausing to revive myself with a breath or two of an
atmosphere in which they should have no share,--it was a positive
despair to find the same figures arraying themselves before me, and
presenting their old problem in a shape that made it more insoluble
than ever.

I began to long for a catastrophe.  If the noble temper of
Hollingsworth's soul were doomed to be utterly corrupted by the too
powerful purpose which had grown out of what was noblest in him; if the
rich and generous qualities of Zenobia's womanhood might not save her;
if Priscilla must perish by her tenderness and faith, so simple and so
devout, then be it so!  Let it all come!  As for me, I would look on,
as it seemed my part to do, understandingly, if my intellect could
fathom the meaning and the moral, and, at all events, reverently and
sadly.  The curtain fallen, I would pass onward with my poor individual
life, which was now attenuated of much of its proper substance, and
diffused among many alien interests.

Meanwhile, Zenobia and her companion had retreated from the window.
Then followed an interval, during which I directed my eves towards the
figure in the boudoir.  Most certainly it was Priscilla, although
dressed with a novel and fanciful elegance.  The vague perception of
it, as viewed so far off, impressed me as if she had suddenly passed
out of a chrysalis state and put forth wings.  Her hands were not now
in motion.  She had dropt her work, and sat with her head thrown back,
in the same attitude that I had seen several times before, when she
seemed to be listening to an imperfectly distinguished sound.

Again the two figures in the drawing-room became visible.  They were
now a little withdrawn from the window, face to face, and, as I could
see by Zenobia's emphatic gestures, were discussing some subject in
which she, at least, felt a passionate concern.  By and by she broke
away, and vanished beyond my ken.  Westervelt approached the window,
and leaned his forehead against a pane of glass, displaying the sort of
smile on his handsome features which, when I before met him, had let me
into the secret of his gold-bordered teeth.  Every human being, when
given over to the Devil, is sure to have the wizard mark upon him, in
one form or another.  I fancied that this smile, with its peculiar
revelation, was the Devil's signet on the Professor.

This man, as I had soon reason to know, was endowed with a cat-like
circumspection; and though precisely the most unspiritual quality in
the world, it was almost as effective as spiritual insight in making
him acquainted with whatever it suited him to discover.  He now proved
it, considerably to my discomfiture, by detecting and recognizing me,
at my post of observation.  Perhaps I ought to have blushed at being
caught in such an evident scrutiny of Professor Westervelt and his
affairs.  Perhaps I did blush.  Be that as it might, I retained
presence of mind enough not to make my position yet more irksome by the
poltroonery of drawing back.

Westervelt looked into the depths of the drawing-room, and beckoned.
Immediately afterwards Zenobia appeared at the window, with color much
heightened, and eyes which, as my conscience whispered me, were
shooting bright arrows, barbed with scorn, across the intervening
space, directed full at my sensibilities as a gentleman.  If the truth
must be told, far as her flight-shot was, those arrows hit the mark.
She signified her recognition of me by a gesture with her head and
hand, comprising at once a salutation and dismissal.  The next moment
she administered one of those pitiless rebukes which a woman always has
at hand, ready for any offence (and which she so seldom spares on due
occasion), by letting down a white linen curtain between the festoons
of the damask ones.  It fell like the drop-curtain of a theatre, in the
interval between the acts.

Priscilla had disappeared from the boudoir.  But the dove still kept
her desolate perch on the peak of the attic window.



XIX. ZENOBIA'S DRAWING-ROOM

The remainder of the day, so far as I was concerned, was spent in
meditating on these recent incidents.  I contrived, and alternately
rejected, innumerable methods of accounting for the presence of Zenobia
and Priscilla, and the connection of Westervelt with both. It must be
owned, too, that I had a keen, revengeful sense of the insult inflicted
by Zenobia's scornful recognition, and more particularly by her letting
down the curtain; as if such were the proper barrier to be interposed
between a character like hers and a perceptive faculty like mine.  For,
was mine a mere vulgar curiosity? Zenobia should have known me better
than to suppose it.  She should have been able to appreciate that
quality of the intellect and the heart which impelled me (often against
my own will, and to the detriment of my own comfort) to live in other
lives, and to endeavor--by generous sympathies, by delicate intuitions,
by taking note of things too slight for record, and by bringing my
human spirit into manifold accordance with the companions whom God
assigned me--to learn the secret which was hidden even from themselves.

Of all possible observers, methought a woman like Zenobia and a man
like Hollingsworth should have selected me.  And now when the event has
long been past, I retain the same opinion of my fitness for the office.
True, I might have condemned them.  Had I been judge as well as
witness, my sentence might have been stern as that of destiny itself.
But, still, no trait of original nobility of character, no struggle
against temptation,--no iron necessity of will, on the one hand, nor
extenuating circumstance to be derived from passion and despair, on the
other,--no remorse that might coexist with error, even if powerless to
prevent it,--no proud repentance that should claim retribution as a
meed,--would go unappreciated.  True, again, I might give my full
assent to the punishment which was sure to follow. But it would be
given mournfully, and with undiminished love.  And, after all was
finished, I would come as if to gather up the white ashes of those who
had perished at the stake, and to tell the world--the wrong being now
atoned for--how much had perished there which it had never yet known
how to praise.

I sat in my rocking-chair, too far withdrawn from the window to expose
myself to another rebuke like that already inflicted.  My eyes still
wandered towards the opposite house, but without effecting any new
discoveries.  Late in the afternoon, the weathercock on the church
spire indicated a change of wind; the sun shone dimly out, as if the
golden wine of its beams were mingled half-and-half with water.
Nevertheless, they kindled up the whole range of edifices, threw a glow
over the windows, glistened on the wet roofs, and, slowly withdrawing
upward, perched upon the chimney-tops; thence they took a higher
flight, and lingered an instant on the tip of the spire, making it the
final point of more cheerful light in the whole sombre scene.  The next
moment, it was all gone.  The twilight fell into the area like a shower
of dusky snow, and before it was quite dark, the gong of the hotel
summoned me to tea.

When I returned to my chamber, the glow of an astral lamp was
penetrating mistily through the white curtain of Zenobia's
drawing-room.  The shadow of a passing figure was now and then cast
upon this medium, but with too vague an outline for even my adventurous
conjectures to read the hieroglyphic that it presented.

All at once, it occurred to me how very absurd was my behavior in thus
tormenting myself with crazy hypotheses as to what was going on within
that drawing-room, when it was at my option to be personally present
there, My relations with Zenobia, as yet unchanged,--as a familiar
friend, and associated in the same life-long enterprise,--gave me the
right, and made it no more than kindly courtesy demanded, to call on
her.  Nothing, except our habitual independence of conventional rules
at Blithedale, could have kept me from sooner recognizing this duty.
At all events, it should now be performed.

In compliance with this sudden impulse, I soon found myself actually
within the house, the rear of which, for two days past, I had been so
sedulously watching.  A servant took my card, and, immediately
returning, ushered me upstairs.  On the way, I heard a rich, and, as it
were, triumphant burst of music from a piano, in which I felt Zenobia's
character, although heretofore I had known nothing of her skill upon
the instrument.  Two or three canary-birds, excited by this gush of
sound, sang piercingly, and did their utmost to produce a kindred
melody.  A bright illumination streamed through, the door of the front
drawing-room; and I had barely stept across the threshold before
Zenobia came forward to meet me, laughing, and with an extended hand.

"Ah, Mr. Coverdale," said she, still smiling, but, as I thought, with a
good deal of scornful anger underneath, "it has gratified me to see the
interest which you continue to take in my affairs!  I have long
recognized you as a sort of transcendental Yankee, with all the native
propensity of your countrymen to investigate matters that come within
their range, but rendered almost poetical, in your case, by the refined
methods which you adopt for its gratification.  After all, it was an
unjustifiable stroke, on my part,--was it not?--to let down the window
curtain!"

"I cannot call it a very wise one," returned I, with a secret
bitterness, which, no doubt, Zenobia appreciated.  "It is really
impossible to hide anything in this world, to say nothing of the next.
All that we ought to ask, therefore, is, that the witnesses of our
conduct, and the speculators on our motives, should be capable of
taking the highest view which the circumstances of the case may admit.
So much being secured, I, for one, would be most happy in feeling
myself followed everywhere by an indefatigable human sympathy."

"We must trust for intelligent sympathy to our guardian angels, if any
there be," said Zenobia.  "As long as the only spectator of my poor
tragedy is a young man at the window of his hotel, I must still claim
the liberty to drop the curtain."

While this passed, as Zenobia's hand was extended, I had applied the
very slightest touch of my fingers to her own.  In spite of an external
freedom, her manner made me sensible that we stood upon no real terms
of confidence.  The thought came sadly across me, how great was the
contrast betwixt this interview and our first meeting. Then, in the
warm light of the country fireside, Zenobia had greeted me cheerily and
hopefully, with a full sisterly grasp of the hand, conveying as much
kindness in it as other women could have evinced by the pressure of
both arms around my neck, or by yielding a cheek to the brotherly
salute.  The difference was as complete as between her appearance at
that time--so simply attired, and with only the one superb flower in
her hair--and now, when her beauty was set off by all that dress and
ornament could do for it.  And they did much.  Not, indeed, that they
created or added anything to what Nature had lavishly done for Zenobia.
But, those costly robes which she had on, those flaming jewels on her
neck, served as lamps to display the personal advantages which required
nothing less than such an illumination to be fully seen.  Even her
characteristic flower, though it seemed to be still there, had
undergone a cold and bright transfiguration; it was a flower
exquisitely imitated in jeweller's work, and imparting the last touch
that transformed Zenobia into a work of art.

"I scarcely feel," I could not forbear saying, "as if we had ever met
before.  How many years ago it seems since we last sat beneath Eliot's
pulpit, with Hollingsworth extended on the fallen leaves, and Priscilla
at his feet!  Can it be, Zenobia, that you ever really numbered
yourself with our little band of earnest, thoughtful, philanthropic
laborers?"

"Those ideas have their time and place," she answered coldly.  "But I
fancy it must be a very circumscribed mind that can find room for no
other."

Her manner bewildered me.  Literally, moreover, I was dazzled by the
brilliancy of the room.  A chandelier hung down in the centre, glowing
with I know not how many lights; there were separate lamps, also, on
two or three tables, and on marble brackets, adding their white
radiance to that of the chandelier.  The furniture was exceedingly
rich.  Fresh from our old farmhouse, with its homely board and benches
in the dining-room, and a few wicker chairs in the best parlor, it
struck me that here was the fulfilment of every fantasy of an
imagination revelling in various methods of costly self-indulgence and
splendid ease.  Pictures, marbles, vases,--in brief, more shapes of
luxury than there could be any object in enumerating, except for an
auctioneer's advertisement,--and the whole repeated and doubled by the
reflection of a great mirror, which showed me Zenobia's proud figure,
likewise, and my own.  It cost me, I acknowledge, a bitter sense of
shame, to perceive in myself a positive effort to bear up against the
effect which Zenobia sought to impose on me.  I reasoned against her,
in my secret mind, and strove so to keep my footing.  In the
gorgeousness with which she had surrounded herself,--in the redundance
of personal ornament, which the largeness of her physical nature and
the rich type of her beauty caused to seem so suitable,--I malevolently
beheld the true character of the woman, passionate, luxurious, lacking
simplicity, not deeply refined, incapable of pure and perfect taste.
But, the next instant, she was too powerful for all my opposing
struggles.  I saw how fit it was that she should make herself as
gorgeous as she pleased, and should do a thousand things that would
have been ridiculous in the poor, thin, weakly characters of other
women.  To this day, however, I hardly know whether I then beheld
Zenobia in her truest attitude, or whether that were the truer one in
which she had presented herself at Blithedale.  In both, there was
something like the illusion which a great actress flings around her.

"Have you given up Blithedale forever?"  I inquired.

"Why should you think so?" asked she.

"I cannot tell," answered I; "except that it appears all like a dream
that we were ever there together."

"It is not so to me," said Zenobia.  "I should think it a poor and
meagre nature that is capable of but one set of forms, and must convert
all the past into a dream merely because the present happens to be
unlike it.  Why should we be content with our homely life of a few
months past, to the exclusion of all other modes?  It was good; but
there are other lives as good, or better.  Not, you will understand,
that I condemn those who give themselves up to it more entirely than I,
for myself, should deem it wise to do."

It irritated me, this self-complacent, condescending, qualified
approval and criticism of a system to which many individuals--perhaps
as highly endowed as our gorgeous Zenobia--had contributed their all of
earthly endeavor, and their loftiest aspirations.  I determined to make
proof if there were any spell that would exorcise her out of the part
which she seemed to be acting.  She should be compelled to give me a
glimpse of something true; some nature, some passion, no matter whether
right or wrong, provided it were real.

"Your allusion to that class of circumscribed characters who can live
only in one mode of life," remarked I coolly, "reminds me of our poor
friend Hollingsworth.  Possibly he was in your thoughts when you spoke
thus.  Poor fellow!  It is a pity that, by the fault of a narrow
education, he should have so completely immolated himself to that one
idea of his, especially as the slightest modicum of common-sense would
teach him its utter impracticability.  Now that I have returned into
the world, and can look at his project from a distance, it requires
quite all my real regard for this respectable and well-intentioned man
to prevent me laughing at him,--as I find society at large does."

Zenobia's eyes darted lightning, her cheeks flushed, the vividness of
her expression was like the effect of a powerful light flaming up
suddenly within her.  My experiment had fully succeeded.  She had shown
me the true flesh and blood of her heart, by thus involuntarily
resenting my slight, pitying, half-kind, half-scornful mention of the
man who was all in all with her.  She herself probably felt this; for
it was hardly a moment before she tranquillized her uneven breath, and
seemed as proud and self-possessed as ever.

"I rather imagine," said she quietly, "that your appreciation falls
short of Mr. Hollingsworth's just claims.  Blind enthusiasm, absorption
in one idea, I grant, is generally ridiculous, and must be fatal to the
respectability of an ordinary man; it requires a very high and powerful
character to make it otherwise.  But a great man--as, perhaps, you do
not know--attains his normal condition only through the inspiration of
one great idea.  As a friend of Mr. Hollingsworth, and, at the same
time, a calm observer, I must tell you that he seems to me such a man.
But you are very pardonable for fancying him ridiculous.  Doubtless, he
is so--to you!  There can be no truer test of the noble and heroic, in
any individual, than the degree in which he possesses the faculty of
distinguishing heroism from absurdity."

I dared make no retort to Zenobia's concluding apothegm.  In truth, I
admired her fidelity.  It gave me a new sense of Hollingsworth's native
power, to discover that his influence was no less potent with this
beautiful woman here, in the midst of artificial life, than it had been
at the foot of the gray rock, and among the wild birch-trees of the
wood-path, when she so passionately pressed his hand against her heart.
The great, rude, shaggy, swarthy man!  And Zenobia loved him!

"Did you bring Priscilla with you?"  I resumed.  "Do you know I have
sometimes fancied it not quite safe, considering the susceptibility of
her temperament, that she should be so constantly within the sphere of
a man like Hollingsworth.  Such tender and delicate natures, among your
sex, have often, I believe, a very adequate appreciation of the heroic
element in men.  But then, again, I should suppose them as likely as
any other women to make a reciprocal impression. Hollingsworth could
hardly give his affections to a person capable of taking an independent
stand, but only to one whom he might absorb into himself.  He has
certainly shown great tenderness for Priscilla."

Zenobia had turned aside.  But I caught the reflection of her face in
the mirror, and saw that it was very pale,--as pale, in her rich
attire, as if a shroud were round her.

"Priscilla is here," said she, her voice a little lower than usual.
"Have not you learnt as much from your chamber window?  Would you like
to see her?"

She made a step or two into the back drawing-room, and
called,--"Priscilla!  Dear Priscilla!"



XX. THEY VANISH

Priscilla immediately answered the summons, and made her appearance
through the door of the boudoir.  I had conceived the idea, which I now
recognized as a very foolish one, that Zenobia would have taken
measures to debar me from an interview with this girl, between whom and
herself there was so utter an opposition of their dearest interests,
that, on one part or the other, a great grief, if not likewise a great
wrong, seemed a matter of necessity.  But, as Priscilla was only a leaf
floating on the dark current of events, without influencing them by her
own choice or plan, as she probably guessed not whither the stream was
bearing her, nor perhaps even felt its inevitable movement,--there
could be no peril of her communicating to me any intelligence with
regard to Zenobia's purposes.

On perceiving me, she came forward with great quietude of manner; and
when I held out my hand, her own moved slightly towards it, as if
attracted by a feeble degree of magnetism.

"I am glad to see you, my dear Priscilla," said I, still holding her
hand; "but everything that I meet with nowadays makes me wonder whether
I am awake.  You, especially, have always seemed like a figure in a
dream, and now more than ever."

"Oh, there is substance in these fingers of mine," she answered, giving
my hand the faintest possible pressure, and then taking away her own.
"Why do you call me a dream?  Zenobia is much more like one than I; she
is so very, very beautiful!  And, I suppose," added Priscilla, as if
thinking aloud, "everybody sees it, as I do."

But, for my part, it was Priscilla's beauty, not Zenobia's, of which I
was thinking at that moment.  She was a person who could be quite
obliterated, so far as beauty went, by anything unsuitable in her
attire; her charm was not positive and material enough to bear up
against a mistaken choice of color, for instance, or fashion.  It was
safest, in her case, to attempt no art of dress; for it demanded the
most perfect taste, or else the happiest accident in the world, to give
her precisely the adornment which she needed.  She was now dressed in
pure white, set off with some kind of a gauzy fabric, which--as I bring
up her figure in my memory, with a faint gleam on her shadowy hair, and
her dark eyes bent shyly on mine, through all the vanished years--seems
to be floating about her like a mist.  I wondered what Zenobia meant by
evolving so much loveliness out of this poor girl.  It was what few
women could afford to do; for, as I looked from one to the other, the
sheen and splendor of Zenobia's presence took nothing from Priscilla's
softer spell, if it might not rather be thought to add to it.

"What do you think of her?" asked Zenobia.

I could not understand the look of melancholy kindness with which
Zenobia regarded her.  She advanced a step, and beckoning Priscilla
near her, kissed her cheek; then, with a slight gesture of repulse, she
moved to the other side of the room.  I followed.

"She is a wonderful creature," I said.  "Ever since she came among us,
I have been dimly sensible of just this charm which you have brought
out.  But it was never absolutely visible till now.  She is as lovely
as a flower!"

"Well, say so if you like," answered Zenobia.  "You are a poet,--at
least, as poets go nowadays,--and must be allowed to make an
opera-glass of your imagination, when you look at women.  I wonder, in
such Arcadian freedom of falling in love as we have lately enjoyed, it
never occurred to you to fall in love with Priscilla.  In society,
indeed, a genuine American never dreams of stepping across the
inappreciable air-line which separates one class from another.  But
what was rank to the colonists of Blithedale?"

"There were other reasons," I replied, "why I should have demonstrated
myself an ass, had I fallen in love with Priscilla.  By the bye, has
Hollingsworth ever seen her in this dress?"

"Why do you bring up his name at every turn?" asked Zenobia in an
undertone, and with a malign look which wandered from my face to
Priscilla's.  "You know not what you do!  It is dangerous, sir, believe
me, to tamper thus with earnest human passions, out of your own mere
idleness, and for your sport.  I will endure it no longer!  Take care
that it does not happen again!  I warn you!"

"You partly wrong me, if not wholly," I responded.  "It is an uncertain
sense of some duty to perform, that brings my thoughts, and therefore
my words, continually to that one point."

"Oh, this stale excuse of duty!" said Zenobia, in a whisper so full of
scorn that it penetrated me like the hiss of a serpent.  "I have often
heard it before, from those who sought to interfere with me, and I know
precisely what it signifies.  Bigotry; self-conceit; an insolent
curiosity; a meddlesome temper; a cold-blooded criticism, founded on a
shallow interpretation of half-perceptions; a monstrous scepticism in
regard to any conscience or any wisdom, except one's own; a most
irreverent propensity to thrust Providence aside, and substitute one's
self in its awful place,--out of these, and other motives as miserable
as these, comes your idea of duty!  But, beware, sir!  With all your
fancied acuteness, you step blindfold into these affairs.  For any
mischief that may follow your interference, I hold you responsible!"

It was evident that, with but a little further provocation, the lioness
would turn to bay; if, indeed, such were not her attitude already.  I
bowed, and not very well knowing what else to do, was about to
withdraw.  But, glancing again towards Priscilla, who had retreated
into a corner, there fell upon my heart an intolerable burden of
despondency, the purport of which I could not tell, but only felt it to
bear reference to her.  I approached and held out my hand; a gesture,
however, to which she made no response.  It was always one of her
peculiarities that she seemed to shrink from even the most friendly
touch, unless it were Zenobia's or Hollingsworth's. Zenobia, all this
while, stood watching us, but with a careless expression, as if it
mattered very little what might pass.

"Priscilla," I inquired, lowering my voice, "when do you go back to
Blithedale?"

"Whenever they please to take me," said she.

"Did you come away of your own free will?"  I asked.

"I am blown about like a leaf," she replied.  "I never have any free
will."

"Does Hollingsworth know that you are here?" said I.

"He bade me come," answered Priscilla.

She looked at me, I thought, with an air of surprise, as if the idea
were incomprehensible that she should have taken this step without his
agency.

"What a gripe this man has laid upon her whole being!" muttered I
between my teeth.

"Well, as Zenobia so kindly intimates, I have no more business here. I
wash my hands of it all.  On Hollingsworth's head be the consequences!
Priscilla," I added aloud, "I know not that ever we may meet again.
Farewell!"

As I spoke the word, a carriage had rumbled along the street, and stopt
before the house.  The doorbell rang, and steps were immediately
afterwards heard on the staircase.  Zenobia had thrown a shawl over her
dress.

"Mr. Coverdale," said she, with cool courtesy, "you will perhaps excuse
us.  We have an engagement, and are going out."

"Whither?"  I demanded.

"Is not that a little more than you are entitled to inquire?" said she,
with a smile.  "At all events, it does not suit me to tell you."

The door of the drawing-room opened, and Westervelt appeared.  I
observed that he was elaborately dressed, as if for some grand
entertainment.  My dislike for this man was infinite.  At that moment
it amounted to nothing less than a creeping of the flesh, as when,
feeling about in a dark place, one touches something cold and slimy,
and questions what the secret hatefulness may be.  And still I could
not but acknowledge that, for personal beauty, for polish of manner,
for all that externally befits a gentleman, there was hardly another
like him.  After bowing to Zenobia, and graciously saluting Priscilla
in her corner, he recognized me by a slight but courteous inclination.

"Come, Priscilla," said Zenobia; "it is time.  Mr. Coverdale,
good-evening."

As Priscilla moved slowly forward, I met her in the middle of the
drawing-room.

"Priscilla," said I, in the hearing of them all, "do you know whither
you are going?"

"I do not know," she answered.

"Is it wise to go, and is it your choice to go?"  I asked.  "If not, I
am your friend, and Hollingsworth's friend.  Tell me so, at once."

"Possibly," observed Westervelt, smiling, "Priscilla sees in me an
older friend than either Mr. Coverdale or Mr. Hollingsworth.  I shall
willingly leave the matter at her option."

While thus speaking, he made a gesture of kindly invitation, and
Priscilla passed me, with the gliding movement of a sprite, and took
his offered arm.  He offered the other to Zenobia; but she turned her
proud and beautiful face upon him with a look which--judging from what
I caught of it in profile--would undoubtedly have smitten the man dead,
had he possessed any heart, or had this glance attained to it.  It
seemed to rebound, however, from his courteous visage, like an arrow
from polished steel.  They all three descended the stairs; and when I
likewise reached the street door, the carriage was already rolling away.



XXI. AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE

Thus excluded from everybody's confidence, and attaining no further, by
my most earnest study, than to an uncertain sense of something hidden
from me, it would appear reasonable that I should have flung off all
these alien perplexities.  Obviously, my best course was to betake
myself to new scenes.  Here I was only an intruder.  Elsewhere there
might be circumstances in which I could establish a personal interest,
and people who would respond, with a portion of their sympathies, for
so much as I should bestow of mine.

Nevertheless, there occurred to me one other thing to be done.
Remembering old Moodie, and his relationship with Priscilla, I
determined to seek an interview, for the purpose of ascertaining
whether the knot of affairs was as inextricable on that side as I found
it on all others.  Being tolerably well acquainted with the old man's
haunts, I went, the next day, to the saloon of a certain establishment
about which he often lurked.  It was a reputable place enough,
affording good entertainment in the way of meat, drink, and fumigation;
and there, in my young and idle days and nights, when I was neither
nice nor wise, I had often amused myself with watching the staid humors
and sober jollities of the thirsty souls around me.

At my first entrance, old Moodie was not there.  The more patiently to
await him, I lighted a cigar, and establishing myself in a corner, took
a quiet, and, by sympathy, a boozy kind of pleasure in the customary
life that was going forward.  The saloon was fitted up with a good deal
of taste.  There were pictures on the walls, and among them an
oil-painting of a beefsteak, with such an admirable show of juicy
tenderness, that the beholder sighed to think it merely visionary, and
incapable of ever being put upon a gridiron.  Another work of high art
was the lifelike representation of a noble sirloin; another, the
hindquarters of a deer, retaining the hoofs and tawny fur; another, the
head and shoulders of a salmon; and, still more exquisitely finished, a
brace of canvasback ducks, in which the mottled feathers were depicted
with the accuracy of a daguerreotype. Some very hungry painter, I
suppose, had wrought these subjects of still-life, heightening his
imagination with his appetite, and earning, it is to be hoped, the
privilege of a daily dinner off whichever of his pictorial viands he
liked best.

Then there was a fine old cheese, in which you could almost discern the
mites; and some sardines, on a small plate, very richly done, and
looking as if oozy with the oil in which they had been smothered. All
these things were so perfectly imitated, that you seemed to have the
genuine article before you, and yet with an indescribable, ideal charm;
it took away the grossness from what was fleshiest and fattest, and
thus helped the life of man, even in its earthliest relations, to
appear rich and noble, as well as warm, cheerful, and substantial.
There were pictures, too, of gallant revellers, those of the old time,
Flemish, apparently, with doublets and slashed sleeves, drinking their
wine out of fantastic, long-stemmed glasses; quaffing joyously,
quaffing forever, with inaudible laughter and song; while the champagne
bubbled immortally against their moustaches, or the purple tide of
Burgundy ran inexhaustibly down their throats.

But, in an obscure corner of the saloon, there was a little Picture
excellently done, moreover of a ragged, bloated, New England toper,
stretched out on a bench, in the heavy, apoplectic sleep of
drunkenness.  The death-in-life was too well portrayed.  You smelt the
fumy liquor that had brought on this syncope.  Your only comfort lay in
the forced reflection, that, real as he looked, the poor caitiff was
but imaginary, a bit of painted canvass, whom no delirium tremens, nor
so much as a retributive headache, awaited, on the morrow.

By this time, it being past eleven o'clock, the two bar-keepers of the
saloon were in pretty constant activity.  One of these young men had a
rare faculty in the concoction of gin-cocktails.  It was a spectacle to
behold, how, with a tumbler in each hand, he tossed the contents from
one to the other.  Never conveying it awry, nor spilling the least
drop, he compelled the frothy liquor, as it seemed to me, to spout
forth from one glass and descend into the other, in a great parabolic
curve, as well-defined and calculable as a planet's orbit.  He had a
good forehead, with a particularly large development just above the
eyebrows; fine intellectual gifts, no doubt, which he had educated to
this profitable end; being famous for nothing but gin-cocktails, and
commanding a fair salary by his one accomplishment. These cocktails,
and other artificial combinations of liquor, (of which there were at
least a score, though mostly, I suspect, fantastic in their
differences,) were much in favor with the younger class of customers,
who, at farthest, had only reached the second stage of potatory life.
The staunch, old soakers, on the other hand men who, if put on tap,
would have yielded a red alcoholic liquor, by way of blood usually
confined themselves to plain brandy-and-water, gin, or West India rum;
and, oftentimes, they prefaced their dram with some medicinal remark as
to the wholesomeness and stomachic qualities of that particular drink.
Two or three appeared to have bottles of their own behind the counter;
and, winking one red eye to the bar-keeper, he forthwith produced these
choicest and peculiar cordials, which it was a matter of great interest
and favor, among their acquaintances, to obtain a sip of.

Agreeably to the Yankee habit, under whatever circumstances, the
deportment of all these good fellows, old or young, was decorous and
thoroughly correct.  They grew only the more sober in their cups; there
was no confused babble nor boisterous laughter.  They sucked in the
joyous fire of the decanters and kept it smouldering in their inmost
recesses, with a bliss known only to the heart which it warmed and
comforted.  Their eyes twinkled a little, to be sure; they hemmed
vigorously after each glass, and laid a hand upon the pit of the
stomach, as if the pleasant titillation there was what constituted the
tangible part of their enjoyment.  In that spot, unquestionably, and
not in the brain, was the acme of the whole affair.  But the true
purpose of their drinking--and one that will induce men to drink, or do
something equivalent, as long as this weary world shall endure--was the
renewed youth and vigor, the brisk, cheerful sense of things present
and to come, with which, for about a quarter of an hour, the dram
permeated their systems.  And when such quarters of an hour can be
obtained in some mode less baneful to the great sum of a man's
life,--but, nevertheless, with a little spice of impropriety, to give
it a wild flavor,--we temperance people may ring out our bells for
victory!

The prettiest object in the saloon was a tiny fountain, which threw up
its feathery jet through the counter, and sparkled down again into an
oval basin, or lakelet, containing several goldfishes.  There was a bed
of bright sand at the bottom, strewn with coral and rock-work; and the
fishes went gleaming about, now turning up the sheen of a golden side,
and now vanishing into the shadows of the water, like the fanciful
thoughts that coquet with a poet in his dream.  Never before, I
imagine, did a company of water-drinkers remain so entirely
uncontaminated by the bad example around them; nor could I help
wondering that it had not occurred to any freakish inebriate to empty a
glass of liquor into their lakelet.  What a delightful idea!  Who would
not be a fish, if he could inhale jollity with the essential element of
his existence!

I had begun to despair of meeting old Moodie, when, all at once, I
recognized his hand and arm protruding from behind a screen that was
set up for the accommodation of bashful topers.  As a matter of course,
he had one of Priscilla's little purses, and was quietly insinuating it
under the notice of a person who stood near.  This was always old
Moodie's way.  You hardly ever saw him advancing towards you, but
became aware of his proximity without being able to guess how he had
come thither.  He glided about like a spirit, assuming visibility close
to your elbow, offering his petty trifles of merchandise, remaining
long enough for you to purchase, if so disposed, and then taking
himself off, between two breaths, while you happened to be thinking of
something else.

By a sort of sympathetic impulse that often controlled me in those more
impressible days of my life, I was induced to approach this old man in
a mode as undemonstrative as his own.  Thus, when, according to his
custom, he was probably just about to vanish, he found me at his elbow.

"Ah!" said he, with more emphasis than was usual with him.  "It is Mr.
Coverdale!"

"Yes, Mr. Moodie, your old acquaintance," answered I. "It is some time
now since we ate luncheon together at Blithedale, and a good deal
longer since our little talk together at the street corner."

"That was a good while ago," said the old man.

And he seemed inclined to say not a word more.  His existence looked so
colorless and torpid,--so very faintly shadowed on the canvas of
reality,--that I was half afraid lest he should altogether disappear,
even while my eyes were fixed full upon his figure.  He was certainly
the wretchedest old ghost in the world, with his crazy hat, the dingy
handkerchief about his throat, his suit of threadbare gray, and
especially that patch over his right eye, behind which he always seemed
to be hiding himself.  There was one method, however, of bringing him
out into somewhat stronger relief.  A glass of brandy would effect it.
Perhaps the gentler influence of a bottle of claret might do the same.
Nor could I think it a matter for the recording angel to write down
against me, if--with my painful consciousness of the frost in this old
man's blood, and the positive ice that had congealed about his heart--I
should thaw him out, were it only for an hour, with the summer warmth
of a little wine.  What else could possibly be done for him?  How else
could he be imbued with energy enough to hope for a happier state
hereafter?  How else be inspired to say his prayers?  For there are
states of our spiritual system when the throb of the soul's life is too
faint and weak to render us capable of religious aspiration.

"Mr. Moodie," said I, "shall we lunch together?  And would you like to
drink a glass of wine?"

His one eye gleamed.  He bowed; and it impressed me that he grew to be
more of a man at once, either in anticipation of the wine, or as a
grateful response to my good fellowship in offering it.

"With pleasure," he replied.

The bar-keeper, at my request, showed us into a private room, and soon
afterwards set some fried oysters and a bottle of claret on the table;
and I saw the old man glance curiously at the label of the bottle, as
if to learn the brand.

"It should be good wine," I remarked, "if it have any right to its
label."

"You cannot suppose, sir," said Moodie, with a sigh, "that a poor old
fellow like me knows any difference in wines."

And yet, in his way of handling the glass, in his preliminary snuff at
the aroma, in his first cautious sip of the wine, and the gustatory
skill with which he gave his palate the full advantage of it, it was
impossible not to recognize the connoisseur.

"I fancy, Mr. Moodie," said I, "you are a much better judge of wines
than I have yet learned to be.  Tell me fairly,--did you never drink it
where the grape grows?"

"How should that have been, Mr. Coverdale?" answered old Moodie shyly;
but then he took courage, as it were, and uttered a feeble little
laugh.  "The flavor of this wine," added he, "and its perfume still
more than its taste, makes me remember that I was once a young man."

"I wish, Mr. Moodie," suggested I,--not that I greatly cared about it,
however, but was only anxious to draw him into some talk about
Priscilla and Zenobia,--"I wish, while we sit over our wine, you would
favor me with a few of those youthful reminiscences."

"Ah," said he, shaking his head, "they might interest you more than you
suppose.  But I had better be silent, Mr. Coverdale.  If this good
wine,--though claret, I suppose, is not apt to play such a trick,--but
if it should make my tongue run too freely, I could never look you in
the face again."

"You never did look me in the face, Mr. Moodie," I replied, "until this
very moment."

"Ah!" sighed old Moodie.

It was wonderful, however, what an effect the mild grape-juice wrought
upon him.  It was not in the wine, but in the associations which it
seemed to bring up.  Instead of the mean, slouching, furtive, painfully
depressed air of an old city vagabond, more like a gray kennel-rat than
any other living thing, he began to take the aspect of a decayed
gentleman.  Even his garments--especially after I had myself quaffed a
glass or two--looked less shabby than when we first sat down.  There
was, by and by, a certain exuberance and elaborateness of gesture and
manner, oddly in contrast with all that I had hitherto seen of him.
Anon, with hardly any impulse from me, old Moodie began to talk.  His
communications referred exclusively to a long-past and more fortunate
period of his life, with only a few unavoidable allusions to the
circumstances that had reduced him to his present state.  But, having
once got the clew, my subsequent researches acquainted me with the main
facts of the following narrative; although, in writing it out, my pen
has perhaps allowed itself a trifle of romantic and legendary license,
worthier of a small poet than of a grave biographer.



XXII. FAUNTLEROY

Five-and-twenty years ago, at the epoch of this story, there dwelt in
one of the Middle States a man whom we shall call Fauntleroy; a man of
wealth, and magnificent tastes, and prodigal expenditure.  His home
might almost be styled a palace; his habits, in the ordinary sense,
princely.  His whole being seemed to have crystallized itself into an
external splendor, wherewith he glittered in the eyes of the world, and
had no other life than upon this gaudy surface.  He had married a
lovely woman, whose nature was deeper than his own.  But his affection
for her, though it showed largely, was superficial, like all his other
manifestations and developments; he did not so truly keep this noble
creature in his heart, as wear her beauty for the most brilliant
ornament of his outward state.  And there was born to him a child, a
beautiful daughter, whom he took from the beneficent hand of God with
no just sense of her immortal value, but as a man already rich in gems
would receive another jewel.  If he loved her, it was because she shone.

After Fauntleroy had thus spent a few empty years, coruscating
continually an unnatural light, the source of it--which was merely his
gold--began to grow more shallow, and finally became exhausted. He saw
himself in imminent peril of losing all that had heretofore
distinguished him; and, conscious of no innate worth to fall back upon,
he recoiled from this calamity with the instinct of a soul shrinking
from annihilation.  To avoid it,--wretched man!--or rather to defer it,
if but for a month, a day, or only to procure himself the life of a few
breaths more amid the false glitter which was now less his own than
ever,--he made himself guilty of a crime.  It was just the sort of
crime, growing out of its artificial state, which society (unless it
should change its entire constitution for this man's unworthy sake)
neither could nor ought to pardon.  More safely might it pardon murder.
Fauntleroy's guilt was discovered.  He fled; his wife perished, by the
necessity of her innate nobleness, in its alliance with a being so
ignoble; and betwixt her mother's death and her father's ignominy, his
daughter was left worse than orphaned.

There was no pursuit after Fauntleroy.  His family connections, who had
great wealth, made such arrangements with those whom he had attempted
to wrong as secured him from the retribution that would have overtaken
an unfriended criminal.  The wreck of his estate was divided among his
creditors: His name, in a very brief space, was forgotten by the
multitude who had passed it so diligently from mouth to mouth.  Seldom,
indeed, was it recalled, even by his closest former intimates.  Nor
could it have been otherwise.  The man had laid no real touch on any
mortal's heart.  Being a mere image, an optical delusion, created by
the sunshine of prosperity, it was his law to vanish into the shadow of
the first intervening cloud.  He seemed to leave no vacancy; a
phenomenon which, like many others that attended his brief career, went
far to prove the illusiveness of his existence.

Not, however, that the physical substance of Fauntleroy had literally
melted into vapor.  He had fled northward to the New England
metropolis, and had taken up his abode, under another name, in a
squalid street or court of the older portion of the city.  There he
dwelt among poverty-stricken wretches, sinners, and forlorn good
people, Irish, and whomsoever else were neediest.  Many families were
clustered in each house together, above stairs and below, in the little
peaked garrets, and even in the dusky cellars.  The house where
Fauntleroy paid weekly rent for a chamber and a closet had been a
stately habitation in its day.  An old colonial governor had built it,
and lived there, long ago, and held his levees in a great room where
now slept twenty Irish bedfellows; and died in Fauntleroy's chamber,
which his embroidered and white-wigged ghost still haunted. Tattered
hangings, a marble hearth, traversed with many cracks and fissures, a
richly carved oaken mantelpiece, partly hacked away for kindling-stuff,
a stuccoed ceiling, defaced with great, unsightly patches of the naked
laths,--such was the chamber's aspect, as if, with its splinters and
rags of dirty splendor, it were a kind of practical gibe at this poor,
ruined man of show.

At first, and at irregular intervals, his relatives allowed Fauntleroy
a little pittance to sustain life; not from any love, perhaps, but lest
poverty should compel him, by new offences, to add more shame to that
with which he had already stained them.  But he showed no tendency to
further guilt.  His character appeared to have been radically changed
(as, indeed, from its shallowness, it well might) by his miserable
fate; or, it may be, the traits now seen in him were portions of the
same character, presenting itself in another phase.  Instead of any
longer seeking to live in the sight of the world, his impulse was to
shrink into the nearest obscurity, and to be unseen of men, were it
possible, even while standing before their eyes.  He had no pride; it
was all trodden in the dust.  No ostentation; for how could it survive,
when there was nothing left of Fauntleroy, save penury and shame!  His
very gait demonstrated that he would gladly have faded out of view, and
have crept about invisibly, for the sake of sheltering himself from the
irksomeness of a human glance.  Hardly, it was averred, within the
memory of those who knew him now, had he the hardihood to show his full
front to the world.  He skulked in corners, and crept about in a sort
of noonday twilight, making himself gray and misty, at all hours, with
his morbid intolerance of sunshine.

In his torpid despair, however, he had done an act which that condition
of the spirit seems to prompt almost as often as prosperity and hope.
Fauntleroy was again married.  He had taken to wife a forlorn,
meek-spirited, feeble young woman, a seamstress, whom he found dwelling
with her mother in a contiguous chamber of the old gubernatorial
residence.  This poor phantom--as the beautiful and noble companion of
his former life had done brought him a daughter. And sometimes, as from
one dream into another, Fauntleroy looked forth out of his present
grimy environment into that past magnificence, and wondered whether the
grandee of yesterday or the pauper of to-day were real.  But, in my
mind, the one and the other were alike impalpable.  In truth, it was
Fauntleroy's fatality to behold whatever he touched dissolve.  After a
few years, his second wife (dim shadow that she had always been) faded
finally out of the world, and left Fauntleroy to deal as he might with
their pale and nervous child.  And, by this time, among his distant
relatives,--with whom he had grown a weary thought, linked with
contagious infamy, and which they were only too willing to get rid
of,--he was himself supposed to be no more.

The younger child, like his elder one, might be considered as the true
offspring of both parents, and as the reflection of their state. She
was a tremulous little creature, shrinking involuntarily from all
mankind, but in timidity, and no sour repugnance.  There was a lack of
human substance in her; it seemed as if, were she to stand up in a
sunbeam, it would pass right through her figure, and trace out the
cracked and dusty window-panes upon the naked floor.  But,
nevertheless, the poor child had a heart; and from her mother's gentle
character she had inherited a profound and still capacity of affection.
And so her life was one of love.  She bestowed it partly on her father,
but in greater part on an idea.

For Fauntleroy, as they sat by their cheerless fireside,--which was no
fireside, in truth, but only a rusty stove,--had often talked to the
little girl about his former wealth, the noble loveliness of his first
wife, and the beautiful child whom she had given him.  Instead of the
fairy tales which other parents tell, he told Priscilla this. And, out
of the loneliness of her sad little existence, Priscilla's love grew,
and tended upward, and twined itself perseveringly around this unseen
sister; as a grapevine might strive to clamber out of a gloomy hollow
among the rocks, and embrace a young tree standing in the sunny warmth
above.  It was almost like worship, both in its earnestness and its
humility; nor was it the less humble--though the more earnest--because
Priscilla could claim human kindred with the being whom she, so
devoutly loved.  As with worship, too, it gave her soul the refreshment
of a purer atmosphere.  Save for this singular, this melancholy, and
yet beautiful affection, the child could hardly have lived; or, had she
lived, with a heart shrunken for lack of any sentiment to fill it, she
must have yielded to the barren miseries of her position, and have
grown to womanhood characterless and worthless. But now, amid all the
sombre coarseness of her father's outward life, and of her own,
Priscilla had a higher and imaginative life within.  Some faint gleam
thereof was often visible upon her face. It was as if, in her spiritual
visits to her brilliant sister, a portion of the latter's brightness
had permeated our dim Priscilla, and still lingered, shedding a faint
illumination through the cheerless chamber, after she came back.

As the child grew up, so pallid and so slender, and with much
unaccountable nervousness, and all the weaknesses of neglected infancy
still haunting her, the gross and simple neighbors whispered strange
things about Priscilla.  The big, red, Irish matrons, whose innumerable
progeny swarmed out of the adjacent doors, used to mock at the pale
Western child.  They fancied--or, at least, affirmed it, between jest
and earnest--that she was not so solid flesh and blood as other
children, but mixed largely with a thinner element.  They called her
ghost-child, and said that she could indeed vanish when she pleased,
but could never, in her densest moments, make herself quite visible.
The sun at midday would shine through her; in the first gray of the
twilight, she lost all the distinctness of her outline; and, if you
followed the dim thing into a dark corner, behold! she was not there.
And it was true that Priscilla had strange ways; strange ways, and
stranger words, when she uttered any words at all.  Never stirring out
of the old governor's dusky house, she sometimes talked of distant
places and splendid rooms, as if she had just left them.  Hidden things
were visible to her (at least so the people inferred from obscure hints
escaping unawares out of her mouth), and silence was audible.  And in
all the world there was nothing so difficult to be endured, by those
who had any dark secret to conceal, as the glance of Priscilla's timid
and melancholy eyes.

Her peculiarities were the theme of continual gossip among the other
inhabitants of the gubernatorial mansion.  The rumor spread thence into
a wider circle.  Those who knew old Moodie, as he was now called, used
often to jeer him, at the very street-corners, about his daughter's
gift of second-sight and prophecy.  It was a period when science
(though mostly through its empirical professors) was bringing forward,
anew, a hoard of facts and imperfect theories, that had partially won
credence in elder times, but which modern scepticism had swept away as
rubbish.  These things were now tossed up again, out of the surging
ocean of human thought and experience.  The story of Priscilla's
preternatural manifestations, therefore, attracted a kind of notice of
which it would have been deemed wholly unworthy a few years earlier.
One day a gentleman ascended the creaking staircase, and inquired which
was old Moodie's chamber door.  And, several times, he came again.  He
was a marvellously handsome man,--still youthful, too, and fashionably
dressed.  Except that Priscilla, in those days, had no beauty, and, in
the languor of her existence, had not yet blossomed into womanhood,
there would have been rich food for scandal in these visits; for the
girl was unquestionably their sole object, although her father was
supposed always to be present.  But, it must likewise be added, there
was something about Priscilla that calumny could not meddle with; and
thus far was she privileged, either by the preponderance of what was
spiritual, or the thin and watery blood that left her cheek so pallid.

Yet, if the busy tongues of the neighborhood spared Priscilla in one
way, they made themselves amends by renewed and wilder babble on
another score.  They averred that the strange gentleman was a wizard,
and that he had taken advantage of Priscilla's lack of earthly
substance to subject her to himself, as his familiar spirit, through
whose medium he gained cognizance of whatever happened, in regions near
or remote.  The boundaries of his power were defined by the verge of
the pit of Tartarus on the one hand, and the third sphere of the
celestial world on the other.  Again, they declared their suspicion
that the wizard, with all his show of manly beauty, was really an aged
and wizened figure, or else that his semblance of a human body was only
a necromantic, or perhaps a mechanical contrivance, in which a demon
walked about.  In proof of it, however, they could merely instance a
gold band around his upper teeth, which had once been visible to
several old women, when he smiled at them from the top of the
governor's staircase.  Of course this was all absurdity, or mostly so.
But, after every possible deduction, there remained certain very
mysterious points about the stranger's character, as well as the
connection that he established with Priscilla.  Its nature at that
period was even less understood than now, when miracles of this kind
have grown so absolutely stale, that I would gladly, if the truth
allowed, dismiss the whole matter from my narrative.

We must now glance backward, in quest of the beautiful daughter of
Fauntleroy's prosperity.  What had become of her?  Fauntleroy's only
brother, a bachelor, and with no other relative so near, had adopted
the forsaken child.  She grew up in affluence, with native graces
clustering luxuriantly about her.  In her triumphant progress towards
womanhood, she was adorned with every variety of feminine
accomplishment.  But she lacked a mother's care.  With no adequate
control, on any hand (for a man, however stern, however wise, can never
sway and guide a female child), her character was left to shape itself.
There was good in it, and evil.  Passionate, self-willed, and
imperious, she had a warm and generous nature; showing the richness of
the soil, however, chiefly by the weeds that flourished in it, and
choked up the herbs of grace.  In her girlhood her uncle died.  As
Fauntleroy was supposed to be likewise dead, and no other heir was
known to exist, his wealth devolved on her, although, dying suddenly,
the uncle left no will.  After his death there were obscure passages in
Zenobia's history.  There were whispers of an attachment, and even a
secret marriage, with a fascinating and accomplished but unprincipled
young man.  The incidents and appearances, however, which led to this
surmise soon passed away, and were forgotten.

Nor was her reputation seriously affected by the report.  In fact, so
great was her native power and influence, and such seemed the careless
purity of her nature, that whatever Zenobia did was generally
acknowledged as right for her to do.  The world never criticised her so
harshly as it does most women who transcend its rules.  It almost
yielded its assent, when it beheld her stepping out of the common path,
and asserting the more extensive privileges of her sex, both
theoretically and by her practice.  The sphere of ordinary womanhood
was felt to be narrower than her development required.

A portion of Zenobia's more recent life is told in the foregoing pages.
Partly in earnest,--and, I imagine, as was her disposition, half in a
proud jest, or in a kind of recklessness that had grown upon her, out
of some hidden grief,--she had given her countenance, and promised
liberal pecuniary aid, to our experiment of a better social state.  And
Priscilla followed her to Blithedale.  The sole bliss of her life had
been a dream of this beautiful sister, who had never so much as known
of her existence.  By this time, too, the poor girl was enthralled in
an intolerable bondage, from which she must either free herself or
perish.  She deemed herself safest near Zenobia, into whose large heart
she hoped to nestle.

One evening, months after Priscilla's departure, when Moodie (or shall
we call him Fauntleroy?) was sitting alone in the state-chamber of the
old governor, there came footsteps up the staircase.  There was a pause
on the landing-place.  A lady's musical yet haughty accents were heard
making an inquiry from some denizen of the house, who had thrust a head
out of a contiguous chamber.  There was then a knock at Moodie's door.
"Come in!" said he.

And Zenobia entered.  The details of the interview that followed being
unknown to me,--while, notwithstanding, it would be a pity quite to
lose the picturesqueness of the situation,--I shall attempt to sketch
it, mainly from fancy, although with some general grounds of surmise in
regard to the old man's feelings.

She gazed wonderingly at the dismal chamber.  Dismal to her, who beheld
it only for an instant; and how much more so to him, into whose brain
each bare spot on the ceiling, every tatter of the paper-hangings, and
all the splintered carvings of the mantelpiece, seen wearily through
long years, had worn their several prints! Inexpressibly miserable is
this familiarity with objects that have been from the first disgustful.

"I have received a strange message," said Zenobia, after a moment's
silence, "requesting, or rather enjoining it upon me, to come hither.
Rather from curiosity than any other motive,--and because, though a
woman, I have not all the timidity of one,--I have complied.  Can it be
you, sir, who thus summoned me?"

"It was," answered Moodie.

"And what was your purpose?" she continued.  "You require charity,
perhaps?  In that case, the message might have been more fitly worded.
But you are old and poor, and age and poverty should be allowed their
privileges.  Tell me, therefore, to what extent you need my aid."

"Put up your purse," said the supposed mendicant, with an inexplicable
smile.  "Keep it,--keep all your wealth,--until I demand it all, or
none!  My message had no such end in view.  You are beautiful, they
tell me; and I desired to look at you."

He took the one lamp that showed the discomfort and sordidness of his
abode, and approaching Zenobia held it up, so as to gain the more
perfect view of her, from top to toe.  So obscure was the chamber, that
you could see the reflection of her diamonds thrown upon the dingy
wall, and flickering with the rise and fall of Zenobia's breath. It was
the splendor of those jewels on her neck, like lamps that burn before
some fair temple, and the jewelled flower in her hair, more than the
murky, yellow light, that helped him to see her beauty. But he beheld
it, and grew proud at heart; his own figure, in spite of his mean
habiliments, assumed an air of state and grandeur.

"It is well," cried old Moodie.  "Keep your wealth.  You are right
worthy of it.  Keep it, therefore, but with one condition only."

Zenobia thought the old man beside himself, and was moved with pity.

"Have you none to care for you?" asked she.  "No daughter?--no
kind-hearted neighbor?--no means of procuring the attendance which you
need?  Tell me once again, can I do nothing for you?"

"Nothing," he replied.  "I have beheld what I wished.  Now leave me.
Linger not a moment longer, or I may be tempted to say what would bring
a cloud over that queenly brow.  Keep all your wealth, but with only
this one condition: Be kind--be no less kind than sisters are--to my
poor Priscilla!"

And, it may be, after Zenobia withdrew, Fauntleroy paced his gloomy
chamber, and communed with himself as follows,--or, at all events, it
is the only solution which I can offer of the enigma presented in his
character:--"I am unchanged,--the same man as of yore!" said he. "True,
my brother's wealth--he dying intestate--is legally my own.  I know it;
yet of my own choice, I live a beggar, and go meanly clad, and hide
myself behind a forgotten ignominy.  Looks this like ostentation?  Ah!
but in Zenobia I live again!  Beholding her, so beautiful,--so fit to
be adorned with all imaginable splendor of outward state,--the cursed
vanity, which, half a lifetime since, dropt off like tatters of once
gaudy apparel from my debased and ruined person, is all renewed for her
sake.  Were I to reappear, my shame would go with me from darkness into
daylight.  Zenobia has the splendor, and not the shame.  Let the world
admire her, and be dazzled by her, the brilliant child of my
prosperity!  It is Fauntleroy that still shines through her!"  But
then, perhaps, another thought occurred to him.

"My poor Priscilla!  And am I just to her, in surrendering all to this
beautiful Zenobia?  Priscilla!  I love her best,--I love her only!--but
with shame, not pride.  So dim, so pallid, so shrinking,--the daughter
of my long calamity!  Wealth were but a mockery in Priscilla's hands.
What is its use, except to fling a golden radiance around those who
grasp it?  Yet let Zenobia take heed! Priscilla shall have no wrong!"
But, while the man of show thus meditated,--that very evening, so far
as I can adjust the dates of these strange incidents,--Priscilla poor,
pallid flower!--was either snatched from Zenobia's hand, or flung
wilfully away!



XXIII. A VILLAGE HALL

Well, I betook myself away, and wandered up and down, like an exorcised
spirit that had been driven from its old haunts after a mighty
struggle.  It takes down the solitary pride of man, beyond most other
things, to find the impracticability of flinging aside affections that
have grown irksome.  The bands that were silken once are apt to become
iron fetters when we desire to shake them off.  Our souls, after all,
are not our own.  We convey a property in them to those with whom we
associate; but to what extent can never be known, until we feel the
tug, the agony, of our abortive effort to resume an exclusive sway over
ourselves.  Thus, in all the weeks of my absence, my thoughts
continually reverted back, brooding over the bygone months, and
bringing up incidents that seemed hardly to have left a trace of
themselves in their passage.  I spent painful hours in recalling these
trifles, and rendering them more misty and unsubstantial than at first
by the quantity of speculative musing thus kneaded in with them.
Hollingsworth, Zenobia, Priscilla!  These three had absorbed my life
into themselves.  Together with an inexpressible longing to know their
fortunes, there was likewise a morbid resentment of my own pain, and a
stubborn reluctance to come again within their sphere.

All that I learned of them, therefore, was comprised in a few brief and
pungent squibs, such as the newspapers were then in the habit of
bestowing on our socialist enterprise.  There was one paragraph, which
if I rightly guessed its purport bore reference to Zenobia, but was too
darkly hinted to convey even thus much of certainty. Hollingsworth,
too, with his philanthropic project, afforded the penny-a-liners a
theme for some savage and bloody minded jokes; and, considerably to my
surprise, they affected me with as much indignation as if we had still
been friends.

Thus passed several weeks; time long enough for my brown and
toil-hardened hands to reaccustom themselves to gloves.  Old habits,
such as were merely external, returned upon me with wonderful
promptitude.  My superficial talk, too, assumed altogether a worldly
tone.  Meeting former acquaintances, who showed themselves inclined to
ridicule my heroic devotion to the cause of human welfare, I spoke of
the recent phase of my life as indeed fair matter for a jest.  But, I
also gave them to understand that it was, at most, only an experiment,
on which I had staked no valuable amount of hope or fear. It had
enabled me to pass the summer in a novel and agreeable way, had
afforded me some grotesque specimens of artificial simplicity, and
could not, therefore, so far as I was concerned, be reckoned a failure.
In no one instance, however, did I voluntarily speak of my three
friends.  They dwelt in a profounder region.  The more I consider
myself as I then was, the more do I recognize how deeply my connection
with those three had affected all my being.

As it was already the epoch of annihilated space, I might in the time I
was away from Blithedale have snatched a glimpse at England, and been
back again.  But my wanderings were confined within a very limited
sphere.  I hopped and fluttered, like a bird with a string about its
leg, gyrating round a small circumference, and keeping up a restless
activity to no purpose.  Thus it was still in our familiar
Massachusetts--in one of its white country villages--that I must next
particularize an incident.

The scene was one of those lyceum halls, of which almost every village
has now its own, dedicated to that sober and pallid, or rather
drab-colored, mode of winter-evening entertainment, the lecture.  Of
late years this has come strangely into vogue, when the natural
tendency of things would seem to be to substitute lettered for oral
methods of addressing the public.  But, in halls like this, besides the
winter course of lectures, there is a rich and varied series of other
exhibitions.  Hither comes the ventriloquist, with all his mysterious
tongues; the thaumaturgist, too, with his miraculous transformations of
plates, doves, and rings, his pancakes smoking in your hat, and his
cellar of choice liquors represented in one small bottle.  Here, also,
the itinerant professor instructs separate classes of ladies and
gentlemen in physiology, and demonstrates his lessons by the aid of
real skeletons, and manikins in wax, from Paris.  Here is to be heard
the choir of Ethiopian melodists, and to be seen the diorama of Moscow
or Bunker Hill, or the moving panorama of the Chinese wall.  Here is
displayed the museum of wax figures, illustrating the wide catholicism
of earthly renown, by mixing up heroes and statesmen, the pope and the
Mormon prophet, kings, queens, murderers, and beautiful ladies; every
sort of person, in short, except authors, of whom I never beheld even
the most famous done in wax.  And here, in this many-purposed hall
(unless the selectmen of the village chance to have more than their
share of the Puritanism, which, however diversified with later
patchwork, still gives its prevailing tint to New England
character),--here the company of strolling players sets up its little
stage, and claims patronage for the legitimate drama.

But, on the autumnal evening which I speak of, a number of printed
handbills--stuck up in the bar-room, and on the sign-post of the hotel,
and on the meeting-house porch, and distributed largely through the
village--had promised the inhabitants an interview with that celebrated
and hitherto inexplicable phenomenon, the Veiled Lady!

The hall was fitted up with an amphitheatrical descent of seats towards
a platform, on which stood a desk, two lights, a stool, and a capacious
antique chair.  The audience was of a generally decent and respectable
character: old farmers, in their Sunday black coats, with shrewd, hard,
sun-dried faces, and a cynical humor, oftener than any other
expression, in their eyes; pretty girls, in many-colored attire; pretty
young men,--the schoolmaster, the lawyer, or student at law, the
shop-keeper,--all looking rather suburban than rural.  In these days,
there is absolutely no rusticity, except when the actual labor of the
soil leaves its earth-mould on the person.  There was likewise a
considerable proportion of young and middle-aged women, many of them
stern in feature, with marked foreheads, and a very definite line of
eyebrow; a type of womanhood in which a bold intellectual development
seems to be keeping pace with the progressive delicacy of the physical
constitution.  Of all these people I took note, at first, according to
my custom.  But I ceased to do so the moment that my eyes fell on an
individual who sat two or three seats below me, immovable, apparently
deep in thought, with his back, of course, towards me, and his face
turned steadfastly upon the platform.

After sitting awhile in contemplation of this person's familiar
contour, I was irresistibly moved to step over the intervening benches,
lay my hand on his shoulder, put my mouth close to his ear, and address
him in a sepulchral, melodramatic whisper: "Hollingsworth! where have
you left Zenobia?"

His nerves, however, were proof against my attack.  He turned half
around, and looked me in the face with great sad eyes, in which there
was neither kindness nor resentment, nor any perceptible surprise.

"Zenobia, when I last saw her," he answered, "was at Blithedale."

He said no more.  But there was a great deal of talk going on near me,
among a knot of people who might be considered as representing the
mysticism, or rather the mystic sensuality, of this singular age. The
nature of the exhibition that was about to take place had probably
given the turn to their conversation.

I heard, from a pale man in blue spectacles, some stranger stories than
ever were written in a romance; told, too, with a simple, unimaginative
steadfastness, which was terribly efficacious in compelling the auditor
to receive them into the category of established facts.  He cited
instances of the miraculous power of one human being over the will and
passions of another; insomuch that settled grief was but a shadow
beneath the influence of a man possessing this potency, and the strong
love of years melted away like a vapor.  At the bidding of one of these
wizards, the maiden, with her lover's kiss still burning on her lips,
would turn from him with icy indifference; the newly made widow would
dig up her buried heart out of her young husband's grave before the
sods had taken root upon it; a mother with her babe's milk in her bosom
would thrust away her child.  Human character was but soft wax in his
hands; and guilt, or virtue, only the forms into which he should see
fit to mould it. The religious sentiment was a flame which he could
blow up with his breath, or a spark that he could utterly extinguish.
It is unutterable, the horror and disgust with which I listened, and
saw that, if these things were to be believed, the individual soul was
virtually annihilated, and all that is sweet and pure in our present
life debased, and that the idea of man's eternal responsibility was
made ridiculous, and immortality rendered at once impossible, and not
worth acceptance.  But I would have perished on the spot sooner than
believe it.

The epoch of rapping spirits, and all the wonders that have followed in
their train,--such as tables upset by invisible agencies, bells
self-tolled at funerals, and ghostly music performed on
jew's-harps,--had not yet arrived.  Alas, my countrymen, methinks we
have fallen on an evil age!  If these phenomena have not humbug at the
bottom, so much the worse for us.  What can they indicate, in a
spiritual way, except that the soul of man is descending to a lower
point than it has ever before reached while incarnate?  We are pursuing
a downward course in the eternal march, and thus bring ourselves into
the same range with beings whom death, in requital of their gross and
evil lives, has degraded below humanity!  To hold intercourse with
spirits of this order, we must stoop and grovel in some element more
vile than earthly dust.  These goblins, if they exist at all, are but
the shadows of past mortality, outcasts, mere refuse stuff, adjudged
unworthy of the eternal world, and, on the most favorable supposition,
dwindling gradually into nothingness.  The less we have to say to them
the better, lest we share their fate!

The audience now began to be impatient; they signified their desire for
the entertainment to commence by thump of sticks and stamp of
boot-heels.  Nor was it a great while longer before, in response to
their call, there appeared a bearded personage in Oriental robes,
looking like one of the enchanters of the Arabian Nights.  He came upon
the platform from a side door, saluted the spectators, not with a
salaam, but a bow, took his station at the desk, and first blowing his
nose with a white handkerchief, prepared to speak.  The environment of
the homely village hall, and the absence of many ingenious contrivances
of stage effect with which the exhibition had heretofore been set off,
seemed to bring the artifice of this character more openly upon the
surface.  No sooner did I behold the bearded enchanter, than, laying my
hand again on Hollingsworth's shoulder, I whispered in his ear, "Do you
know him?"

"I never saw the man before," he muttered, without turning his head.

But I had seen him three times already.

Once, on occasion of my first visit to the Veiled Lady; a second time,
in the wood-path at Blithedale; and lastly, in Zenobia's drawing-room.
It was Westervelt.  A quick association of ideas made me shudder from
head to foot; and again, like an evil spirit, bringing up reminiscences
of a man's sins, I whispered a question in Hollingsworth's ear,--"What
have you done with Priscilla?"

He gave a convulsive start, as if I had thrust a knife into him,
writhed himself round on his seat, glared fiercely into my eyes, but
answered not a word.

The Professor began his discourse, explanatory of the psychological
phenomena, as he termed them, which it was his purpose to exhibit to
the spectators.  There remains no very distinct impression of it on my
memory.  It was eloquent, ingenious, plausible, with a delusive show of
spirituality, yet really imbued throughout with a cold and dead
materialism.  I shivered, as at a current of chill air issuing out of a
sepulchral vault, and bringing the smell of corruption along with it.
He spoke of a new era that was dawning upon the world; an era that
would link soul to soul, and the present life to what we call futurity,
with a closeness that should finally convert both worlds into one
great, mutually conscious brotherhood.  He described (in a strange,
philosophical guise, with terms of art, as if it were a matter of
chemical discovery) the agency by which this mighty result was to be
effected; nor would it have surprised me, had he pretended to hold up a
portion of his universally pervasive fluid, as he affirmed it to be, in
a glass phial.

At the close of his exordium, the Professor beckoned with his
hand,--once, twice, thrice,--and a figure came gliding upon the
platform, enveloped in a long veil of silvery whiteness.  It fell about
her like the texture of a summer cloud, with a kind of vagueness, so
that the outline of the form beneath it could not be accurately
discerned. But the movement of the Veiled Lady was graceful, free, and
unembarrassed, like that of a person accustomed to be the spectacle of
thousands; or, possibly, a blindfold prisoner within the sphere with
which this dark earthly magician had surrounded her, she was wholly
unconscious of being the central object to all those straining eyes.

Pliant to his gesture (which had even an obsequious courtesy, but at
the same time a remarkable decisiveness), the figure placed itself in
the great chair.  Sitting there, in such visible obscurity, it was,
perhaps, as much like the actual presence of a disembodied spirit as
anything that stage trickery could devise.  The hushed breathing of the
spectators proved how high-wrought were their anticipations of the
wonders to be performed through the medium of this incomprehensible
creature.  I, too, was in breathless suspense, but with a far different
presentiment of some strange event at hand.

"You see before you the Veiled Lady," said the bearded Professor,
advancing to the verge of the platform.  "By the agency of which I have
just spoken, she is at this moment in communion with the spiritual
world.  That silvery veil is, in one sense, an enchantment, having been
dipped, as it were, and essentially imbued, through the potency of my
art, with the fluid medium of spirits.  Slight and ethereal as it
seems, the limitations of time and space have no existence within its
folds.  This hall--these hundreds of faces, encompassing her within so
narrow an amphitheatre--are of thinner substance, in her view, than the
airiest vapor that the clouds are made of.  She beholds the Absolute!"

As preliminary to other and far more wonderful psychological
experiments, the exhibitor suggested that some of his auditors should
endeavor to make the Veiled Lady sensible of their presence by such
methods--provided only no touch were laid upon her person--as they
might deem best adapted to that end.  Accordingly, several deep-lunged
country fellows, who looked as if they might have blown the apparition
away with a breath, ascended the platform.  Mutually encouraging one
another, they shouted so close to her ear that the veil stirred like a
wreath of vanishing mist; they smote upon the floor with bludgeons;
they perpetrated so hideous a clamor, that methought it might have
reached, at least, a little way into the eternal sphere.  Finally, with
the assent of the Professor, they laid hold of the great chair, and
were startled, apparently, to find it soar upward, as if lighter than
the air through which it rose.  But the Veiled Lady remained seated and
motionless, with a composure that was hardly less than awful, because
implying so immeasurable a distance betwixt her and these rude
persecutors.

"These efforts are wholly without avail," observed the Professor, who
had been looking on with an aspect of serene indifference.  "The roar
of a battery of cannon would be inaudible to the Veiled Lady.  And yet,
were I to will it, sitting in this very hall, she could hear the desert
wind sweeping over the sands as far off as Arabia; the icebergs
grinding one against the other in the polar seas; the rustle of a leaf
in an East Indian forest; the lowest whispered breath of the
bashfullest maiden in the world, uttering the first confession of her
love.  Nor does there exist the moral inducement, apart from my own
behest, that could persuade her to lift the silvery veil, or arise out
of that chair."

Greatly to the Professor's discomposure, however, just as he spoke
these words, the Veiled Lady arose.  There was a mysterious tremor that
shook the magic veil.  The spectators, it may be, imagined that she was
about to take flight into that invisible sphere, and to the society of
those purely spiritual beings with whom they reckoned her so near akin.
Hollingsworth, a moment ago, had mounted the platform, and now stood
gazing at the figure, with a sad intentness that brought the whole
power of his great, stern, yet tender soul into his glance.

"Come," said he, waving his hand towards her.  "You are safe!"

She threw off the veil, and stood before that multitude of people pale,
tremulous, shrinking, as if only then had she discovered that a
thousand eyes were gazing at her.  Poor maiden!  How strangely had she
been betrayed!  Blazoned abroad as a wonder of the world, and
performing what were adjudged as miracles,--in the faith of many, a
seeress and a prophetess; in the harsher judgment of others, a
mountebank,--she had kept, as I religiously believe, her virgin reserve
and sanctity of soul throughout it all.  Within that encircling veil,
though an evil hand had flung it over her, there was as deep a
seclusion as if this forsaken girl had, all the while, been sitting
under the shadow of Eliot's pulpit, in the Blithedale woods, at the
feet of him who now summoned her to the shelter of his arms. And the
true heart-throb of a woman's affection was too powerful for the
jugglery that had hitherto environed her.  She uttered a shriek, and
fled to Hollingsworth, like one escaping from her deadliest enemy, and
was safe forever.



XXIV. THE MASQUERADERS

Two nights had passed since the foregoing occurrences, when, in a
breezy September forenoon, I set forth from town, on foot, towards
Blithedale.  It was the most delightful of all days for a walk, with a
dash of invigorating ice-temper in the air, but a coolness that soon
gave place to the brisk glow of exercise, while the vigor remained as
elastic as before.  The atmosphere had a spirit and sparkle in it.
Each breath was like a sip of ethereal wine, tempered, as I said, with
a crystal lump of ice.  I had started on this expedition in an
exceedingly sombre mood, as well befitted one who found himself tending
towards home, but was conscious that nobody would be quite overjoyed to
greet him there.  My feet were hardly off the pavement, however, when
this morbid sensation began to yield to the lively influences of air
and motion.  Nor had I gone far, with fields yet green on either side,
before my step became as swift and light as if Hollingsworth were
waiting to exchange a friendly hand-grip, and Zenobia's and Priscilla's
open arms would welcome the wanderer's reappearance.  It has happened
to me on other occasions, as well as this, to prove how a state of
physical well-being can create a kind of joy, in spite of the
profoundest anxiety of mind.

The pathway of that walk still runs along, with sunny freshness,
through my memory.  I know not why it should be so.  But my mental eye
can even now discern the September grass, bordering the pleasant
roadside with a brighter verdure than while the summer heats were
scorching it; the trees, too, mostly green, although here and there a
branch or shrub has donned its vesture of crimson and gold a week or
two before its fellows.  I see the tufted barberry-bushes, with their
small clusters of scarlet fruit; the toadstools, likewise,--some
spotlessly white, others yellow or red,--mysterious growths, springing
suddenly from no root or seed, and growing nobody can tell how or
wherefore.  In this respect they resembled many of the emotions in my
breast.  And I still see the little rivulets, chill, clear, and bright,
that murmured beneath the road, through subterranean rocks, and
deepened into mossy pools, where tiny fish were darting to and fro, and
within which lurked the hermit frog. But no,--I never can account for
it, that, with a yearning interest to learn the upshot of all my story,
and returning to Blithedale for that sole purpose, I should examine
these things so like a peaceful-bosomed naturalist.  Nor why, amid all
my sympathies and fears, there shot, at times, a wild exhilaration
through my frame.

Thus I pursued my way along the line of the ancient stone wall that
Paul Dudley built, and through white villages, and past orchards of
ruddy apples, and fields of ripening maize, and patches of woodland,
and all such sweet rural scenery as looks the fairest, a little beyond
the suburbs of a town.  Hollingsworth, Zenobia, Priscilla! They glided
mistily before me, as I walked.  Sometimes, in my solitude, I laughed
with the bitterness of self-scorn, remembering how unreservedly I had
given up my heart and soul to interests that were not mine.  What had I
ever had to do with them?  And why, being now free, should I take this
thraldom on me once again?  It was both sad and dangerous, I whispered
to myself, to be in too close affinity with the passions, the errors,
and the misfortunes of individuals who stood within a circle of their
own, into which, if I stept at all, it must be as an intruder, and at a
peril that I could not estimate.

Drawing nearer to Blithedale, a sickness of the spirits kept
alternating with my flights of causeless buoyancy.  I indulged in a
hundred odd and extravagant conjectures.  Either there was no such
place as Blithedale, nor ever had been, nor any brotherhood of
thoughtful laborers, like what I seemed to recollect there, or else it
was all changed during my absence.  It had been nothing but dream work
and enchantment.  I should seek in vain for the old farmhouse, and for
the greensward, the potato-fields, the root-crops, and acres of Indian
corn, and for all that configuration of the land which I had imagined.
It would be another spot, and an utter strangeness.

These vagaries were of the spectral throng so apt to steal out of an
unquiet heart.  They partly ceased to haunt me, on my arriving at a
point whence, through the trees, I began to catch glimpses of the
Blithedale farm.  That surely was something real.  There was hardly a
square foot of all those acres on which I had not trodden heavily, in
one or another kind of toil.  The curse of Adam's posterity--and, curse
or blessing be it, it gives substance to the life around us--had first
come upon me there.  In the sweat of my brow I had there earned bread
and eaten it, and so established my claim to be on earth, and my
fellowship with all the sons of labor.  I could have knelt down, and
have laid my breast against that soil.  The red clay of which my frame
was moulded seemed nearer akin to those crumbling furrows than to any
other portion of the world's dust.  There was my home, and there might
be my grave.

I felt an invincible reluctance, nevertheless, at the idea of
presenting myself before my old associates, without first ascertaining
the state in which they were.  A nameless foreboding weighed upon me.
Perhaps, should I know all the circumstances that had occurred, I might
find it my wisest course to turn back, unrecognized, unseen, and never
look at Blithedale more.  Had it been evening, I would have stolen
softly to some lighted window of the old farmhouse, and peeped darkling
in, to see all their well-known faces round the supper-board.  Then,
were there a vacant seat, I might noiselessly unclose the door, glide
in, and take my place among them, without a word.  My entrance might be
so quiet, my aspect so familiar, that they would forget how long I had
been away, and suffer me to melt into the scene, as a wreath of vapor
melts into a larger cloud. I dreaded a boisterous greeting.  Beholding
me at table, Zenobia, as a matter of course, would send me a cup of
tea, and Hollingsworth fill my plate from the great dish of pandowdy,
and Priscilla, in her quiet way, would hand the cream, and others help
me to the bread and butter.  Being one of them again, the knowledge of
what had happened would come to me without a shock.  For still, at
every turn of my shifting fantasies, the thought stared me in the face
that some evil thing had befallen us, or was ready to befall.

Yielding to this ominous impression, I now turned aside into the woods,
resolving to spy out the posture of the Community as craftily as the
wild Indian before he makes his onset.  I would go wandering about the
outskirts of the farm, and, perhaps, catching sight of a solitary
acquaintance, would approach him amid the brown shadows of the trees (a
kind of medium fit for spirits departed and revisitant, like myself),
and entreat him to tell me how all things were.

The first living creature that I met was a partridge, which sprung up
beneath my feet, and whirred away; the next was a squirrel, who
chattered angrily at me from an overhanging bough.  I trod along by the
dark, sluggish river, and remember pausing on the bank, above one of
its blackest and most placid pools (the very spot, with the barkless
stump of a tree aslantwise over the water, is depicting itself to my
fancy at this instant), and wondering how deep it was, and if any
overladen soul had ever flung its weight of mortality in thither, and
if it thus escaped the burden, or only made it heavier. And perhaps the
skeleton of the drowned wretch still lay beneath the inscrutable depth,
clinging to some sunken log at the bottom with the gripe of its old
despair.  So slight, however, was the track of these gloomy ideas, that
I soon forgot them in the contemplation of a brood of wild ducks, which
were floating on the river, and anon took flight, leaving each a bright
streak over the black surface.  By and by, I came to my hermitage, in
the heart of the white-pine tree, and clambering up into it, sat down
to rest.  The grapes, which I had watched throughout the summer, now
dangled around me in abundant clusters of the deepest purple,
deliciously sweet to the taste, and, though wild, yet free from that
ungentle flavor which distinguishes nearly all our native and
uncultivated grapes.  Methought a wine might be pressed out of them
possessing a passionate zest, and endowed with a new kind of
intoxicating quality, attended with such bacchanalian ecstasies as the
tamer grapes of Madeira, France, and the Rhine are inadequate to
produce.  And I longed to quaff a great goblet of it that moment!

While devouring the grapes, I looked on all sides out of the peep-holes
of my hermitage, and saw the farmhouse, the fields, and almost every
part of our domain, but not a single human figure in the landscape.
Some of the windows of the house were open, but with no more signs of
life than in a dead man's unshut eyes.  The barn-door was ajar, and
swinging in the breeze.  The big old dog,--he was a relic of the former
dynasty of the farm,--that hardly ever stirred out of the yard, was
nowhere to be seen.  What, then, had become of all the fraternity and
sisterhood?  Curious to ascertain this point, I let myself down out of
the tree, and going to the edge of the wood, was glad to perceive our
herd of cows chewing the cud or grazing not far off.  I fancied, by
their manner, that two or three of them recognized me (as, indeed, they
ought, for I had milked them and been their chamberlain times without
number); but, after staring me in the face a little while, they
phlegmatically began grazing and chewing their cuds again.  Then I grew
foolishly angry at so cold a reception, and flung some rotten fragments
of an old stump at these unsentimental cows.

Skirting farther round the pasture, I heard voices and much laughter
proceeding from the interior of the wood.  Voices, male and feminine;
laughter, not only of fresh young throats, but the bass of grown
people, as if solemn organ-pipes should pour out airs of merriment. Not
a voice spoke, but I knew it better than my own; not a laugh, but its
cadences were familiar.  The wood, in this portion of it, seemed as
full of jollity as if Comus and his crew were holding their revels in
one of its usually lonesome glades.  Stealing onward as far as I durst,
without hazard of discovery, I saw a concourse of strange figures
beneath the overshadowing branches.  They appeared, and vanished, and
came again, confusedly with the streaks of sunlight glimmering down
upon them.

Among them was an Indian chief, with blanket, feathers, and war-paint,
and uplifted tomahawk; and near him, looking fit to be his woodland
bride, the goddess Diana, with the crescent on her head, and attended
by our big lazy dog, in lack of any fleeter hound.  Drawing an arrow
from her quiver, she let it fly at a venture, and hit the very tree
behind which I happened to be lurking.  Another group consisted of a
Bavarian broom-girl, a negro of the Jim Crow order, one or two
foresters of the Middle Ages, a Kentucky woodsman in his trimmed
hunting-shirt and deerskin leggings, and a Shaker elder, quaint,
demure, broad-brimmed, and square-skirted.  Shepherds of Arcadia, and
allegoric figures from the "Faerie Queen," were oddly mixed up with
these.  Arm in arm, or otherwise huddled together in strange
discrepancy, stood grim Puritans, gay Cavaliers, and Revolutionary
officers with three-cornered cocked hats, and queues longer than their
swords.  A bright-complexioned, dark-haired, vivacious little gypsy,
with a red shawl over her head, went from one group to another, telling
fortunes by palmistry; and Moll Pitcher, the renowned old witch of
Lynn, broomstick in hand, showed herself prominently in the midst, as
if announcing all these apparitions to be the offspring of her
necromantic art.  But Silas Foster, who leaned against a tree near by,
in his customary blue frock and smoking a short pipe, did more to
disenchant the scene, with his look of shrewd, acrid, Yankee
observation, than twenty witches and necromancers could have done in
the way of rendering it weird and fantastic.

A little farther off, some old-fashioned skinkers and drawers, all with
portentously red noses, were spreading a banquet on the leaf-strewn
earth; while a horned and long-tailed gentleman (in whom I recognized
the fiendish musician erst seen by Tam O'Shanter) tuned his fiddle, and
summoned the whole motley rout to a dance, before partaking of the
festal cheer.  So they joined hands in a circle, whirling round so
swiftly, so madly, and so merrily, in time and tune with the Satanic
music, that their separate incongruities were blended all together, and
they became a kind of entanglement that went nigh to turn one's brain
with merely looking at it.  Anon they stopt all of a sudden, and
staring at one another's figures, set up a roar of laughter; whereat a
shower of the September leaves (which, all day long, had been
hesitating whether to fall or no) were shaken off by the movement of
the air, and came eddying down upon the revellers.

Then, for lack of breath, ensued a silence, at the deepest point of
which, tickled by the oddity of surprising my grave associates in this
masquerading trim, I could not possibly refrain from a burst of
laughter on my own separate account.

"Hush!"  I heard the pretty gypsy fortuneteller say.  "Who is that
laughing?"

"Some profane intruder!" said the goddess Diana.  "I shall send an
arrow through his heart, or change him into a stag, as I did Actaeon,
if he peeps from behind the trees!"

"Me take his scalp!" cried the Indian chief, brandishing his tomahawk,
and cutting a great caper in the air.

"I'll root him in the earth with a spell that I have at my tongue's
end!" squeaked Moll Pitcher.  "And the green moss shall grow all over
him, before he gets free again!"

"The voice was Miles Coverdale's," said the fiendish fiddler, with a
whisk of his tail and a toss of his horns.  "My music has brought him
hither.  He is always ready to dance to the Devil's tune!"

Thus put on the right track, they all recognized the voice at once, and
set up a simultaneous shout.

"Miles!  Miles!  Miles Coverdale, where are you?" they cried. "Zenobia!
Queen Zenobia! here is one of your vassals lurking in the wood.
Command him to approach and pay his duty!"

The whole fantastic rabble forthwith streamed off in pursuit of me, so
that I was like a mad poet hunted by chimeras.  Having fairly the start
of them, however, I succeeded in making my escape, and soon left their
merriment and riot at a good distance in the rear.  Its fainter tones
assumed a kind of mournfulness, and were finally lost in the hush and
solemnity of the wood.  In my haste, I stumbled over a heap of logs and
sticks that had been cut for firewood, a great while ago, by some
former possessor of the soil, and piled up square, in order to be
carted or sledded away to the farmhouse.  But, being forgotten, they
had lain there perhaps fifty years, and possibly much longer; until, by
the accumulation of moss, and the leaves falling over them, and
decaying there, from autumn to autumn, a green mound was formed, in
which the softened outline of the woodpile was still perceptible.  In
the fitful mood that then swayed my mind, I found something strangely
affecting in this simple circumstance.  I imagined the long-dead
woodman, and his long-dead wife and children, coming out of their chill
graves, and essaying to make a fire with this heap of mossy fuel!

From this spot I strayed onward, quite lost in reverie, and neither
knew nor cared whither I was going, until a low, soft, well-remembered
voice spoke, at a little distance.

"There is Mr. Coverdale!"

"Miles Coverdale!" said another voice,--and its tones were very stern.
"Let him come forward, then!"

"Yes, Mr. Coverdale," cried a woman's voice,--clear and melodious, but,
just then, with something unnatural in its chord,--"you are welcome!
But you come half an hour too late, and have missed a scene which you
would have enjoyed!"

I looked up and found myself nigh Eliot's pulpit, at the base of which
sat Hollingsworth, with Priscilla at his feet and Zenobia standing
before them.



XXV. THE THREE TOGETHER

Hollingsworth was in his ordinary working-dress.  Priscilla wore a
pretty and simple gown, with a kerchief about her neck, and a calash,
which she had flung back from her head, leaving it suspended by the
strings.  But Zenobia (whose part among the maskers, as may be
supposed, was no inferior one) appeared in a costume of fanciful
magnificence, with her jewelled flower as the central ornament of what
resembled a leafy crown, or coronet.  She represented the Oriental
princess by whose name we were accustomed to know her.  Her attitude
was free and noble; yet, if a queen's, it was not that of a queen
triumphant, but dethroned, on trial for her life, or, perchance,
condemned already.  The spirit of the conflict seemed, nevertheless, to
be alive in her.  Her eyes were on fire; her cheeks had each a crimson
spot, so exceedingly vivid, and marked with so definite an outline,
that I at first doubted whether it were not artificial.  In a very
brief space, however, this idea was shamed by the paleness that ensued,
as the blood sunk suddenly away.  Zenobia now looked like marble.

One always feels the fact, in an instant, when he has intruded on those
who love, or those who hate, at some acme of their passion that puts
them into a sphere of their own, where no other spirit can pretend to
stand on equal ground with them.  I was confused,--affected even with a
species of terror,--and wished myself away. The intenseness of their
feelings gave them the exclusive property of the soil and atmosphere,
and left me no right to be or breathe there.

"Hollingsworth,--Zenobia,--I have just returned to Blithedale," said I,
"and had no thought of finding you here.  We shall meet again at the
house.  I will retire."

"This place is free to you," answered Hollingsworth.

"As free as to ourselves," added Zenobia.  "This long while past, you
have been following up your game, groping for human emotions in the
dark corners of the heart.  Had you been here a little sooner, you
might have seen them dragged into the daylight.  I could even wish to
have my trial over again, with you standing by to see fair play!  Do
you know, Mr. Coverdale, I have been on trial for my life?"

She laughed, while speaking thus.  But, in truth, as my eyes wandered
from one of the group to another, I saw in Hollingsworth all that an
artist could desire for the grim portrait of a Puritan magistrate
holding inquest of life and death in a case of witchcraft; in Zenobia,
the sorceress herself, not aged, wrinkled, and decrepit, but fair
enough to tempt Satan with a force reciprocal to his own; and, in
Priscilla, the pale victim, whose soul and body had been wasted by her
spells.  Had a pile of fagots been heaped against the rock, this hint
of impending doom would have completed the suggestive picture.

"It was too hard upon me," continued Zenobia, addressing Hollingsworth,
"that judge, jury, and accuser should all be comprehended in one man!
I demur, as I think the lawyers say, to the jurisdiction.  But let the
learned Judge Coverdale seat himself on the top of the rock, and you
and me stand at its base, side by side, pleading our cause before him!
There might, at least, be two criminals instead of one."

"You forced this on me," replied Hollingsworth, looking her sternly in
the face.  "Did I call you hither from among the masqueraders yonder?
Do I assume to be your judge?  No; except so far as I have an
unquestionable right of judgment, in order to settle my own line of
behavior towards those with whom the events of life bring me in
contact.  True, I have already judged you, but not on the world's
part,--neither do I pretend to pass a sentence!"

"Ah, this is very good!" cried Zenobia with a smile.  "What strange
beings you men are, Mr. Coverdale!--is it not so?  It is the simplest
thing in the world with you to bring a woman before your secret
tribunals, and judge and condemn her unheard, and then tell her to go
free without a sentence.  The misfortune is, that this same secret
tribunal chances to be the only judgment-seat that a true woman stands
in awe of, and that any verdict short of acquittal is equivalent to a
death sentence!"

The more I looked at them, and the more I heard, the stronger grew my
impression that a crisis had just come and gone.  On Hollingsworth's
brow it had left a stamp like that of irrevocable doom, of which his
own will was the instrument.  In Zenobia's whole person, beholding her
more closely, I saw a riotous agitation; the almost delirious
disquietude of a great struggle, at the close of which the vanquished
one felt her strength and courage still mighty within her, and longed
to renew the contest.  My sensations were as if I had come upon a
battlefield before the smoke was as yet cleared away.

And what subjects had been discussed here?  All, no doubt, that for so
many months past had kept my heart and my imagination idly feverish.
Zenobia's whole character and history; the true nature of her
mysterious connection with Westervelt; her later purposes towards
Hollingsworth, and, reciprocally, his in reference to her; and,
finally, the degree in which Zenobia had been cognizant of the plot
against Priscilla, and what, at last, had been the real object of that
scheme.  On these points, as before, I was left to my own conjectures.
One thing, only, was certain.  Zenobia and Hollingsworth were friends
no longer.  If their heartstrings were ever intertwined, the knot had
been adjudged an entanglement, and was now violently broken.

But Zenobia seemed unable to rest content with the matter in the
posture which it had assumed.

"Ah! do we part so?" exclaimed she, seeing Hollingsworth about to
retire.

"And why not?" said he, with almost rude abruptness.  "What is there
further to be said between us?"

"Well, perhaps nothing," answered Zenobia, looking him in the face, and
smiling.  "But we have come many times before to this gray rock, and we
have talked very softly among the whisperings of the birch-trees.  They
were pleasant hours!  I love to make the latest of them, though not
altogether so delightful, loiter away as slowly as may be.  And,
besides, you have put many queries to me at this, which you design to
be our last interview; and being driven, as I must acknowledge, into a
corner, I have responded with reasonable frankness.  But now, with your
free consent, I desire the privilege of asking a few questions, in my
turn."

"I have no concealments," said Hollingsworth.

"We shall see," answered Zenobia.  "I would first inquire whether you
have supposed me to be wealthy?"

"On that point," observed Hollingsworth, "I have had the opinion which
the world holds."

"And I held it likewise," said Zenobia.  "Had I not, Heaven is my
witness the knowledge should have been as free to you as me.  It is
only three days since I knew the strange fact that threatens to make me
poor; and your own acquaintance with it, I suspect, is of at least as
old a date.  I fancied myself affluent.  You are aware, too, of the
disposition which I purposed making of the larger portion of my
imaginary opulence,--nay, were it all, I had not hesitated.  Let me ask
you, further, did I ever propose or intimate any terms of compact, on
which depended this--as the world would consider it--so important
sacrifice?"

"You certainly spoke of none," said Hollingsworth.

"Nor meant any," she responded.  "I was willing to realize your dream
freely,--generously, as some might think,--but, at all events, fully,
and heedless though it should prove the ruin of my fortune. If, in your
own thoughts, you have imposed any conditions of this expenditure, it
is you that must be held responsible for whatever is sordid and
unworthy in them.  And now one other question.  Do you love this girl?"

"O Zenobia!" exclaimed Priscilla, shrinking back, as if longing for the
rock to topple over and hide her.

"Do you love her?" repeated Zenobia.

"Had you asked me that question a short time since," replied
Hollingsworth, after a pause, during which, it seemed to me, even the
birch-trees held their whispering breath, "I should have told
you--'No!' My feelings for Priscilla differed little from those of an
elder brother, watching tenderly over the gentle sister whom God has
given him to protect."

"And what is your answer now?" persisted Zenobia.

"I do love her!" said Hollingsworth, uttering the words with a deep
inward breath, instead of speaking them outright.  "As well declare it
thus as in any other way.  I do love her!"

"Now, God be judge between us," cried Zenobia, breaking into sudden
passion, "which of us two has most mortally offended Him!  At least, I
am a woman, with every fault, it may be, that a woman ever had,--weak,
vain, unprincipled (like most of my sex; for our virtues, when we have
any, are merely impulsive and intuitive), passionate, too, and pursuing
my foolish and unattainable ends by indirect and cunning, though
absurdly chosen means, as an hereditary bond-slave must; false,
moreover, to the whole circle of good, in my reckless truth to the
little good I saw before me,--but still a woman!  A creature whom only
a little change of earthly fortune, a little kinder smile of Him who
sent me hither, and one true heart to encourage and direct me, might
have made all that a woman can be! But how is it with you?  Are you a
man?  No; but a monster!  A cold, heartless, self-beginning and
self-ending piece of mechanism!"

"With what, then, do you charge me!" asked Hollingsworth, aghast, and
greatly disturbed by this attack.  "Show me one selfish end, in all I
ever aimed at, and you may cut it out of my bosom with a knife!"

"It is all self!" answered Zenobia with still intenser bitterness.
"Nothing else; nothing but self, self, self!  The fiend, I doubt not,
has made his choicest mirth of you these seven years past, and
especially in the mad summer which we have spent together.  I see it
now!  I am awake, disenchanted, disinthralled!  Self, self, self! You
have embodied yourself in a project.  You are a better masquerader than
the witches and gypsies yonder; for your disguise is a self-deception.
See whither it has brought you!  First, you aimed a death-blow, and a
treacherous one, at this scheme of a purer and higher life, which so
many noble spirits had wrought out.  Then, because Coverdale could not
be quite your slave, you threw him ruthlessly away.  And you took me,
too, into your plan, as long as there was hope of my being available,
and now fling me aside again, a broken tool!  But, foremost and
blackest of your sins, you stifled down your inmost consciousness!--you
did a deadly wrong to your own heart!--you were ready to sacrifice this
girl, whom, if God ever visibly showed a purpose, He put into your
charge, and through whom He was striving to redeem you!"

"This is a woman's view," said Hollingsworth, growing deadly pale,--"a
woman's, whose whole sphere of action is in the heart, and who can
conceive of no higher nor wider one!"

"Be silent!" cried Zenobia imperiously.  "You know neither man nor
woman!  The utmost that can be said in your behalf--and because I would
not be wholly despicable in my own eyes, but would fain excuse my
wasted feelings, nor own it wholly a delusion, therefore I say it--is,
that a great and rich heart has been ruined in your breast. Leave me,
now.  You have done with me, and I with you.  Farewell!"

"Priscilla," said Hollingsworth, "come."  Zenobia smiled; possibly I
did so too.  Not often, in human life, has a gnawing sense of injury
found a sweeter morsel of revenge than was conveyed in the tone with
which Hollingsworth spoke those two words.  It was the abased and
tremulous tone of a man whose faith in himself was shaken, and who
sought, at last, to lean on an affection.  Yes; the strong man bowed
himself and rested on this poor Priscilla!  Oh, could she have failed
him, what a triumph for the lookers-on!

And, at first, I half imagined that she was about to fail him.  She
rose up, stood shivering like the birch leaves that trembled over her
head, and then slowly tottered, rather than walked, towards Zenobia.
Arriving at her feet, she sank down there, in the very same attitude
which she had assumed on their first meeting, in the kitchen of the old
farmhouse.  Zenobia remembered it.

"Ah, Priscilla!" said she, shaking her head, "how much is changed since
then!  You kneel to a dethroned princess.  You, the victorious one!
But he is waiting for you.  Say what you wish, and leave me."

"We are sisters!" gasped Priscilla.

I fancied that I understood the word and action.  It meant the offering
of herself, and all she had, to be at Zenobia's disposal. But the
latter would not take it thus.

"True, we are sisters!" she replied; and, moved by the sweet word, she
stooped down and kissed Priscilla; but not lovingly, for a sense of
fatal harm received through her seemed to be lurking in Zenobia's
heart.  "We had one father!  You knew it from the first; I, but a
little while,--else some things that have chanced might have been
spared you.  But I never wished you harm.  You stood between me and an
end which I desired.  I wanted a clear path.  No matter what I meant.
It is over now.  Do you forgive me?"

"O Zenobia," sobbed Priscilla, "it is I that feel like the guilty one!"

"No, no, poor little thing!" said Zenobia, with a sort of contempt.
"You have been my evil fate, but there never was a babe with less
strength or will to do an injury.  Poor child!  Methinks you have but a
melancholy lot before you, sitting all alone in that wide, cheerless
heart, where, for aught you know,--and as I, alas! believe,--the fire
which you have kindled may soon go out.  Ah, the thought makes me
shiver for you!  What will you do, Priscilla, when you find no spark
among the ashes?"

"Die!" she answered.

"That was well said!" responded Zenobia, with an approving smile.
"There is all a woman in your little compass, my poor sister.
Meanwhile, go with him, and live!"

She waved her away with a queenly gesture, and turned her own face to
the rock.  I watched Priscilla, wondering what judgment she would pass
between Zenobia and Hollingsworth; how interpret his behavior, so as to
reconcile it with true faith both towards her sister and herself; how
compel her love for him to keep any terms whatever with her sisterly
affection!  But, in truth, there was no such difficulty as I imagined.
Her engrossing love made it all clear.  Hollingsworth could have no
fault.  That was the one principle at the centre of the universe.  And
the doubtful guilt or possible integrity of other people, appearances,
self-evident facts, the testimony of her own senses,--even
Hollingsworth's self-accusation, had he volunteered it,--would have
weighed not the value of a mote of thistledown on the other side.  So
secure was she of his right, that she never thought of comparing it
with another's wrong, but left the latter to itself.

Hollingsworth drew her arm within his, and soon disappeared with her
among the trees.  I cannot imagine how Zenobia knew when they were out
of sight; she never glanced again towards them.  But, retaining a proud
attitude so long as they might have thrown back a retiring look, they
were no sooner departed,--utterly departed,--than she began slowly to
sink down.  It was as if a great, invisible, irresistible weight were
pressing her to the earth.  Settling upon her knees, she leaned her
forehead against the rock, and sobbed convulsively; dry sobs they
seemed to be, such as have nothing to do with tears.



XXVI. ZENOBIA AND COVERDALE

Zenobia had entirely forgotten me.  She fancied herself alone with her
great grief.  And had it been only a common pity that I felt for
her,--the pity that her proud nature would have repelled, as the one
worst wrong which the world yet held in reserve,--the sacredness and
awfulness of the crisis might have impelled me to steal away silently,
so that not a dry leaf should rustle under my feet.  I would have left
her to struggle, in that solitude, with only the eye of God upon her.
But, so it happened, I never once dreamed of questioning my right to be
there now, as I had questioned it just before, when I came so suddenly
upon Hollingsworth and herself, in the passion of their recent debate.
It suits me not to explain what was the analogy that I saw or imagined
between Zenobia's situation and mine; nor, I believe, will the reader
detect this one secret, hidden beneath many a revelation which perhaps
concerned me less.  In simple truth, however, as Zenobia leaned her
forehead against the rock, shaken with that tearless agony, it seemed
to me that the self-same pang, with hardly mitigated torment, leaped
thrilling from her heartstrings to my own.  Was it wrong, therefore, if
I felt myself consecrated to the priesthood by sympathy like this, and
called upon to minister to this woman's affliction, so far as mortal
could?

But, indeed, what could mortal do for her?  Nothing!  The attempt would
be a mockery and an anguish.  Time, it is true, would steal away her
grief, and bury it and the best of her heart in the same grave.  But
Destiny itself, methought, in its kindliest mood, could do no better
for Zenobia, in the way of quick relief; than to cause the impending
rock to impend a little farther, and fall upon her head. So I leaned
against a tree, and listened to her sobs, in unbroken silence.  She was
half prostrate, half kneeling, with her forehead still pressed against
the rock.  Her sobs were the only sound; she did not groan, nor give
any other utterance to her distress.  It was all involuntary.

At length she sat up, put back her hair, and stared about her with a
bewildered aspect, as if not distinctly recollecting the scene through
which she had passed, nor cognizant of the situation in which it left
her.  Her face and brow were almost purple with the rush of blood.
They whitened, however, by and by, and for some time retained this
deathlike hue.  She put her hand to her forehead, with a gesture that
made me forcibly conscious of an intense and living pain there.

Her glance, wandering wildly to and fro, passed over me several times,
without appearing to inform her of my presence.  But, finally, a look
of recognition gleamed from her eyes into mine.

"Is it you, Miles Coverdale?" said she, smiling.  "Ah, I perceive what
you are about!  You are turning this whole affair into a ballad. Pray
let me hear as many stanzas as you happen to have ready."

"Oh, hush, Zenobia!"  I answered.  "Heaven knows what an ache is in my
soul!"

"It is genuine tragedy, is it not?" rejoined Zenobia, with a sharp,
light laugh.  "And you are willing to allow, perhaps, that I have had
hard measure.  But it is a woman's doom, and I have deserved it like a
woman; so let there be no pity, as, on my part, there shall be no
complaint.  It is all right, now, or will shortly be so.  But, Mr.
Coverdale, by all means write this ballad, and put your soul's ache
into it, and turn your sympathy to good account, as other poets do, and
as poets must, unless they choose to give us glittering icicles instead
of lines of fire.  As for the moral, it shall be distilled into the
final stanza, in a drop of bitter honey."

"What shall it be, Zenobia?"  I inquired, endeavoring to fall in with
her mood.

"Oh, a very old one will serve the purpose," she replied.  "There are
no new truths, much as we have prided ourselves on finding some.  A
moral?  Why, this: That, in the battlefield of life, the downright
stroke, that would fall only on a man's steel headpiece, is sure to
light on a woman's heart, over which she wears no breastplate, and
whose wisdom it is, therefore, to keep out of the conflict.  Or, this:
That the whole universe, her own sex and yours, and Providence, or
Destiny, to boot, make common cause against the woman who swerves one
hair's-breadth out of the beaten track.  Yes; and add (for I may as
well own it, now) that, with that one hair's-breadth, she goes all
astray, and never sees the world in its true aspect afterwards."

"This last is too stern a moral," I observed.  "Cannot we soften it a
little?"

"Do it if you like, at your own peril, not on my responsibility," she
answered.  Then, with a sudden change of subject, she went on: "After
all, he has flung away what would have served him better than the poor,
pale flower he kept.  What can Priscilla do for him?  Put passionate
warmth into his heart, when it shall be chilled with frozen hopes?
Strengthen his hands, when they are weary with much doing and no
performance?  No! but only tend towards him with a blind, instinctive
love, and hang her little, puny weakness for a clog upon his arm!  She
cannot even give him such sympathy as is worth the name.  For will he
never, in many an hour of darkness, need that proud intellectual
sympathy which he might have had from me?--the sympathy that would
flash light along his course, and guide, as well as cheer him?  Poor
Hollingsworth! Where will he find it now?"

"Hollingsworth has a heart of ice!" said I bitterly.  "He is a wretch!"

"Do him no wrong," interrupted Zenobia, turning haughtily upon me.
"Presume not to estimate a man like Hollingsworth.  It was my fault,
all along, and none of his.  I see it now!  He never sought me.  Why
should he seek me?  What had I to offer him?  A miserable, bruised, and
battered heart, spoilt long before he met me.  A life, too, hopelessly
entangled with a villain's!  He did well to cast me off. God be
praised, he did it!  And yet, had he trusted me, and borne with me a
little longer, I would have saved him all this trouble."

She was silent for a time, and stood with her eyes fixed on the ground.
Again raising them, her look was more mild and calm.

"Miles Coverdale!" said she.

"Well, Zenobia," I responded.  "Can I do you any service?"

"Very little," she replied.  "But it is my purpose, as you may well
imagine, to remove from Blithedale; and, most likely, I may not see
Hollingsworth again.  A woman in my position, you understand, feels
scarcely at her ease among former friends.  New faces,--unaccustomed
looks,--those only can she tolerate.  She would pine among familiar
scenes; she would be apt to blush, too, under the eyes that knew her
secret; her heart might throb uncomfortably; she would mortify herself,
I suppose, with foolish notions of having sacrificed the honor of her
sex at the foot of proud, contumacious man.  Poor womanhood, with its
rights and wrongs!  Here will be new matter for my course of lectures,
at the idea of which you smiled, Mr. Coverdale, a month or two ago.
But, as you have really a heart and sympathies, as far as they go, and
as I shall depart without seeing Hollingsworth, I must entreat you to
be a messenger between him and me."

"Willingly," said I, wondering at the strange way in which her mind
seemed to vibrate from the deepest earnest to mere levity.  "What is
the message?"

"True,--what is it?" exclaimed Zenobia.  "After all, I hardly know. On
better consideration, I have no message.  Tell him,--tell him something
pretty and pathetic, that will come nicely and sweetly into your
ballad,--anything you please, so it be tender and submissive enough.
Tell him he has murdered me!  Tell him that I'll haunt him! "--She
spoke these words with the wildest energy.--"And give him--no, give
Priscilla--this!"

Thus saying, she took the jewelled flower out of her hair; and it
struck me as the act of a queen, when worsted in a combat, discrowning
herself, as if she found a sort of relief in abasing all her pride.

"Bid her wear this for Zenobia's sake," she continued.  "She is a
pretty little creature, and will make as soft and gentle a wife as the
veriest Bluebeard could desire.  Pity that she must fade so soon! These
delicate and puny maidens always do.  Ten years hence, let
Hollingsworth look at my face and Priscilla's, and then choose betwixt
them.  Or, if he pleases, let him do it now."

How magnificently Zenobia looked as she said this!  The effect of her
beauty was even heightened by the over-consciousness and
self-recognition of it, into which, I suppose, Hollingsworth's scorn
had driven her.  She understood the look of admiration in my face;
and--Zenobia to the last--it gave her pleasure.

"It is an endless pity," said she, "that I had not bethought myself of
winning your heart, Mr. Coverdale, instead of Hollingsworth's.  I think
I should have succeeded, and many women would have deemed you the
worthier conquest of the two.  You are certainly much the handsomest
man.  But there is a fate in these things.  And beauty, in a man, has
been of little account with me since my earliest girlhood, when, for
once, it turned my head.  Now, farewell!"

"Zenobia, whither are you going?"  I asked.

"No matter where," said she.  "But I am weary of this place, and sick
to death of playing at philanthropy and progress.  Of all varieties of
mock-life, we have surely blundered into the very emptiest mockery in
our effort to establish the one true system.  I have done with it; and
Blithedale must find another woman to superintend the laundry, and you,
Mr. Coverdale, another nurse to make your gruel, the next time you fall
ill.  It was, indeed, a foolish dream!  Yet it gave us some pleasant
summer days, and bright hopes, while they lasted.  It can do no more;
nor will it avail us to shed tears over a broken bubble.  Here is my
hand!  Adieu!"

She gave me her hand with the same free, whole-souled gesture as on the
first afternoon of our acquaintance, and, being greatly moved, I
bethought me of no better method of expressing my deep sympathy than to
carry it to my lips.  In so doing, I perceived that this white hand--so
hospitably warm when I first touched it, five months since--was now
cold as a veritable piece of snow.

"How very cold!"  I exclaimed, holding it between both my own, with the
vain idea of warming it.  "What can be the reason?  It is really
deathlike!"

"The extremities die first, they say," answered Zenobia, laughing. "And
so you kiss this poor, despised, rejected hand!  Well, my dear friend,
I thank you.  You have reserved your homage for the fallen. Lip of man
will never touch my hand again.  I intend to become a Catholic, for the
sake of going into a nunnery.  When you next hear of Zenobia, her face
will be behind the black veil; so look your last at it now,--for all is
over.  Once more, farewell!"

She withdrew her hand, yet left a lingering pressure, which I felt long
afterwards.  So intimately connected as I had been with perhaps the
only man in whom she was ever truly interested, Zenobia looked on me as
the representative of all the past, and was conscious that, in bidding
me adieu, she likewise took final leave of Hollingsworth, and of this
whole epoch of her life.  Never did her beauty shine out more
lustrously than in the last glimpse that I had of her.  She departed,
and was soon hidden among the trees.  But, whether it was the strong
impression of the foregoing scene, or whatever else the cause, I was
affected with a fantasy that Zenobia had not actually gone, but was
still hovering about the spot and haunting it.  I seemed to feel her
eyes upon me.  It was as if the vivid coloring of her character had
left a brilliant stain upon the air.  By degrees, however, the
impression grew less distinct.  I flung myself upon the fallen leaves
at the base of Eliot's pulpit.  The sunshine withdrew up the tree
trunks and flickered on the topmost boughs; gray twilight made the wood
obscure; the stars brightened out; the pendent boughs became wet with
chill autumnal dews.  But I was listless, worn out with emotion on my
own behalf and sympathy for others, and had no heart to leave my
comfortless lair beneath the rock.

I must have fallen asleep, and had a dream, all the circumstances of
which utterly vanished at the moment when they converged to some
tragical catastrophe, and thus grew too powerful for the thin sphere of
slumber that enveloped them.  Starting from the ground, I found the
risen moon shining upon the rugged face of the rock, and myself all in
a tremble.



XXVII. MIDNIGHT

It could not have been far from midnight when I came beneath
Hollingsworth's window, and, finding it open, flung in a tuft of grass
with earth at the roots, and heard it fall upon the floor.  He was
either awake or sleeping very lightly; for scarcely a moment had gone
by before he looked out and discerned me standing in the moonlight.

"Is it you, Coverdale?" he asked.  "What is the matter?"

"Come down to me, Hollingsworth!"  I answered.  "I am anxious to speak
with you."

The strange tone of my own voice startled me, and him, probably, no
less.  He lost no time, and soon issued from the house-door, with his
dress half arranged.

"Again, what is the matter?" he asked impatiently.

"Have you seen Zenobia," said I, "since you parted from her at Eliot's
pulpit?"

"No," answered Hollingsworth; "nor did I expect it."

His voice was deep, but had a tremor in it,

Hardly had he spoken, when Silas Foster thrust his head, done up in a
cotton handkerchief, out of another window, and took what he called as
it literally was--a squint at us.

"Well, folks, what are ye about here?" he demanded.  "Aha! are you
there, Miles Coverdale?  You have been turning night into day since you
left us, I reckon; and so you find it quite natural to come prowling
about the house at this time o' night, frightening my old woman out of
her wits, and making her disturb a tired man out of his best nap.  In
with you, you vagabond, and to bed!"

"Dress yourself quickly, Foster," said I. "We want your assistance."

I could not, for the life of me, keep that strange tone out of my
voice.  Silas Foster, obtuse as were his sensibilities, seemed to feel
the ghastly earnestness that was conveyed in it as well as
Hollingsworth did.  He immediately withdrew his head, and I heard him
yawning, muttering to his wife, and again yawning heavily, while he
hurried on his clothes.  Meanwhile I showed Hollingsworth a delicate
handkerchief, marked with a well-known cipher, and told where I had
found it, and other circumstances, which had filled me with a suspicion
so terrible that I left him, if he dared, to shape it out for himself.
By the time my brief explanation was finished, we were joined by Silas
Foster in his blue woollen frock.

"Well, boys," cried he peevishly, "what is to pay now?"

"Tell him, Hollingsworth," said I.

Hollingsworth shivered perceptibly, and drew in a hard breath betwixt
his teeth.  He steadied himself, however, and, looking the matter more
firmly in the face than I had done, explained to Foster my suspicions,
and the grounds of them, with a distinctness from which, in spite of my
utmost efforts, my words had swerved aside.  The tough-nerved yeoman,
in his comment, put a finish on the business, and brought out the
hideous idea in its full terror, as if he were removing the napkin from
the face of a corpse.

"And so you think she's drowned herself?" he cried.  I turned away my
face.

"What on earth should the young woman do that for?" exclaimed Silas,
his eyes half out of his head with mere surprise.  "Why, she has more
means than she can use or waste, and lacks nothing to make her
comfortable, but a husband, and that's an article she could have, any
day.  There's some mistake about this, I tell you!"

"Come," said I, shuddering; "let us go and ascertain the truth."

"Well, well," answered Silas Foster; "just as you say.  We'll take the
long pole, with the hook at the end, that serves to get the bucket out
of the draw-well when the rope is broken.  With that, and a couple of
long-handled hay-rakes, I'll answer for finding her, if she's anywhere
to be found.  Strange enough!  Zenobia drown herself! No, no; I don't
believe it.  She had too much sense, and too much means, and enjoyed
life a great deal too well."

When our few preparations were completed, we hastened, by a shorter
than the customary route, through fields and pastures, and across a
portion of the meadow, to the particular spot on the river-bank which I
had paused to contemplate in the course of my afternoon's ramble. A
nameless presentiment had again drawn me thither, after leaving Eliot's
pulpit.  I showed my companions where I had found the handkerchief, and
pointed to two or three footsteps, impressed into the clayey margin,
and tending towards the water.  Beneath its shallow verge, among the
water-weeds, there were further traces, as yet unobliterated by the
sluggish current, which was there almost at a standstill.  Silas Foster
thrust his face down close to these footsteps, and picked up a shoe
that had escaped my observation, being half imbedded in the mud.

"There's a kid shoe that never was made on a Yankee last," observed he.
"I know enough of shoemaker's craft to tell that.  French manufacture;
and see what a high instep! and how evenly she trod in it!  There never
was a woman that stept handsomer in her shoes than Zenobia did.  Here,"
he added, addressing Hollingsworth, "would you like to keep the shoe?"

Hollingsworth started back.

"Give it to me, Foster," said I.

I dabbled it in the water, to rinse off the mud, and have kept it ever
since.  Not far from this spot lay an old, leaky punt, drawn up on the
oozy river-side, and generally half full of water.  It served the
angler to go in quest of pickerel, or the sportsman to pick up his wild
ducks.  Setting this crazy bark afloat, I seated myself in the stern
with the paddle, while Hollingsworth sat in the bows with the hooked
pole, and Silas Foster amidships with a hay-rake.

"It puts me in mind of my young days," remarked Silas, "when I used to
steal out of bed to go bobbing for hornpouts and eels.
Heigh-ho!--well, life and death together make sad work for us all!
Then I was a boy, bobbing for fish; and now I am getting to be an old
fellow, and here I be, groping for a dead body!  I tell you what, lads;
if I thought anything had really happened to Zenobia, I should feel
kind o' sorrowful."

"I wish, at least, you would hold your tongue," muttered I.

The moon, that night, though past the full, was still large and oval,
and having risen between eight and nine o'clock, now shone aslantwise
over the river, throwing the high, opposite bank, with its woods, into
deep shadow, but lighting up the hither shore pretty effectually. Not a
ray appeared to fall on the river itself.  It lapsed imperceptibly
away, a broad, black, inscrutable depth, keeping its own secrets from
the eye of man, as impenetrably as mid-ocean could.

"Well, Miles Coverdale," said Foster, "you are the helmsman.  How do
you mean to manage this business?"

"I shall let the boat drift, broadside foremost, past that stump," I
replied.  "I know the bottom, having sounded it in fishing.  The shore,
on this side, after the first step or two, goes off very abruptly; and
there is a pool, just by the stump, twelve or fifteen feet deep.  The
current could not have force enough to sweep any sunken object, even if
partially buoyant, out of that hollow."

"Come, then," said Silas; "but I doubt whether I can touch bottom with
this hay-rake, if it's as deep as you say.  Mr. Hollingsworth, I think
you'll be the lucky man to-night, such luck as it is."

We floated past the stump.  Silas Foster plied his rake manfully,
poking it as far as he could into the water, and immersing the whole
length of his arm besides.  Hollingsworth at first sat motionless, with
the hooked pole elevated in the air.  But, by and by, with a nervous
and jerky movement, he began to plunge it into the blackness that
upbore us, setting his teeth, and making precisely such thrusts,
methought, as if he were stabbing at a deadly enemy.  I bent over the
side of the boat.  So obscure, however, so awfully mysterious, was that
dark stream, that--and the thought made me shiver like a leaf--I might
as well have tried to look into the enigma of the eternal world, to
discover what had become of Zenobia's soul, as into the river's depths,
to find her body.  And there, perhaps, she lay, with her face upward,
while the shadow of the boat, and my own pale face peering downward,
passed slowly betwixt her and the sky!

Once, twice, thrice, I paddled the boat upstream, and again suffered it
to glide, with the river's slow, funereal motion, downward.  Silas
Foster had raked up a large mass of stuff, which, as it came towards
the surface, looked somewhat like a flowing garment, but proved to be a
monstrous tuft of water-weeds.  Hollingsworth, with a gigantic effort,
upheaved a sunken log.  When once free of the bottom, it rose partly
out of water,--all weedy and slimy, a devilish-looking object, which
the moon had not shone upon for half a hundred years,--then plunged
again, and sullenly returned to its old resting-place, for the remnant
of the century.

"That looked ugly!" quoth Silas.  "I half thought it was the Evil One,
on the same errand as ourselves,--searching for Zenobia."

"He shall never get her," said I, giving the boat a strong impulse.

"That's not for you to say, my boy," retorted the yeoman.  "Pray God he
never has, and never may.  Slow work this, however!  I should really be
glad to find something!  Pshaw!  What a notion that is, when the only
good luck would be to paddle, and drift, and poke, and grope,
hereabouts, till morning, and have our labor for our pains! For my
part, I shouldn't wonder if the creature had only lost her shoe in the
mud, and saved her soul alive, after all.  My stars! how she will laugh
at us, to-morrow morning!"

It is indescribable what an image of Zenobia--at the breakfast-table,
full of warm and mirthful life--this surmise of Silas Foster's brought
before my mind.  The terrible phantasm of her death was thrown by it
into the remotest and dimmest background, where it seemed to grow as
improbable as a myth.

"Yes, Silas, it may be as you say," cried I. The drift of the stream
had again borne us a little below the stump, when I felt--yes, felt,
for it was as if the iron hook had smote my breast--felt
Hollingsworth's pole strike some object at the bottom of the river!

He started up, and almost overset the boat.

"Hold on!" cried Foster; "you have her!"

Putting a fury of strength into the effort, Hollingsworth heaved amain,
and up came a white swash to the surface of the river.  It was the flow
of a woman's garments.  A little higher, and we saw her dark hair
streaming down the current.  Black River of Death, thou hadst yielded
up thy victim!  Zenobia was found!

Silas Foster laid hold of the body; Hollingsworth likewise grappled
with it; and I steered towards the bank, gazing all the while at
Zenobia, whose limbs were swaying in the current close at the boat's
side.  Arriving near the shore, we all three stept into the water, bore
her out, and laid her on the ground beneath a tree.

"Poor child!" said Foster,--and his dry old heart, I verily believe,
vouchsafed a tear, "I'm sorry for her!"

Were I to describe the perfect horror of the spectacle, the reader
might justly reckon it to me for a sin and shame.  For more than twelve
long years I have borne it in my memory, and could now reproduce it as
freshly as if it were still before my eyes.  Of all modes of death,
methinks it is the ugliest.  Her wet garments swathed limbs of terrible
inflexibility.  She was the marble image of a death-agony.  Her arms
had grown rigid in the act of struggling, and were bent before her with
clenched hands; her knees, too, were bent, and--thank God for it!--in
the attitude of prayer.  Ah, that rigidity! It is impossible to bear
the terror of it.  It seemed,--I must needs impart so much of my own
miserable idea,--it seemed as if her body must keep the same position
in the coffin, and that her skeleton would keep it in the grave; and
that when Zenobia rose at the day of judgment, it would be in just the
same attitude as now!

One hope I had, and that too was mingled half with fear.  She knelt as
if in prayer.  With the last, choking consciousness, her soul, bubbling
out through her lips, it may be, had given itself up to the Father,
reconciled and penitent.  But her arms!  They were bent before her, as
if she struggled against Providence in never-ending hostility.  Her
hands!  They were clenched in immitigable defiance. Away with the
hideous thought.  The flitting moment after Zenobia sank into the dark
pool--when her breath was gone, and her soul at her lips was as long,
in its capacity of God's infinite forgiveness, as the lifetime of the
world!

Foster bent over the body, and carefully examined it.

"You have wounded the poor thing's breast," said he to Hollingsworth,
"close by her heart, too!"

"Ha!" cried Hollingsworth with a start.

And so he had, indeed, both before and after death!

"See!" said Foster.  "That's the place where the iron struck her.  It
looks cruelly, but she never felt it!"

He endeavored to arrange the arms of the corpse decently by its side.
His utmost strength, however, scarcely sufficed to bring them down; and
rising again, the next instant, they bade him defiance, exactly as
before.  He made another effort, with the same result.

"In God's name, Silas Foster," cried I with bitter indignation, "let
that dead woman alone!"

"Why, man, it's not decent!" answered he, staring at me in amazement.
"I can't bear to see her looking so!  Well, well," added he, after a
third effort, "'tis of no use, sure enough; and we must leave the women
to do their best with her, after we get to the house.  The sooner
that's done, the better."

We took two rails from a neighboring fence, and formed a bier by laying
across some boards from the bottom of the boat.  And thus we bore
Zenobia homeward.  Six hours before, how beautiful!  At midnight, what
a horror!  A reflection occurs to me that will show ludicrously, I
doubt not, on my page, but must come in for its sterling truth. Being
the woman that she was, could Zenobia have foreseen all these ugly
circumstances of death,--how ill it would become her, the altogether
unseemly aspect which she must put on, and especially old Silas
Foster's efforts to improve the matter,--she would no more have
committed the dreadful act than have exhibited herself to a public
assembly in a badly fitting garment!  Zenobia, I have often thought,
was not quite simple in her death.  She had seen pictures, I suppose,
of drowned persons in lithe and graceful attitudes.  And she deemed it
well and decorous to die as so many village maidens have, wronged in
their first love, and seeking peace in the bosom of the old familiar
stream,--so familiar that they could not dread it,--where, in
childhood, they used to bathe their little feet, wading mid-leg deep,
unmindful of wet skirts.  But in Zenobia's case there was some tint of
the Arcadian affectation that had been visible enough in all our lives
for a few months past.

This, however, to my conception, takes nothing from the tragedy.  For,
has not the world come to an awfully sophisticated pass, when, after a
certain degree of acquaintance with it, we cannot even put ourselves to
death in whole-hearted simplicity?  Slowly, slowly, with many a dreary
pause,--resting the bier often on some rock or balancing it across a
mossy log, to take fresh hold,--we bore our burden onward through the
moonlight, and at last laid Zenobia on the floor of the old farmhouse.
By and by came three or four withered women and stood whispering around
the corpse, peering at it through their spectacles, holding up their
skinny hands, shaking their night-capped heads, and taking counsel of
one another's experience what was to be done.

With those tire-women we left Zenobia.



XXVIII. BLITHEDALE PASTURE

Blithedale, thus far in its progress, had never found the necessity of
a burial-ground.  There was some consultation among us in what spot
Zenobia might most fitly be laid.  It was my own wish that she should
sleep at the base of Eliot's pulpit, and that on the rugged front of
the rock the name by which we familiarly knew her, Zenobia,--and not
another word, should be deeply cut, and left for the moss and lichens
to fill up at their long leisure.  But Hollingsworth (to whose ideas on
this point great deference was due) made it his request that her grave
might be dug on the gently sloping hillside, in the wide pasture,
where, as we once supposed, Zenobia and he had planned to build their
cottage.  And thus it was done, accordingly.

She was buried very much as other people have been for hundreds of
years gone by.  In anticipation of a death, we Blithedale colonists had
sometimes set our fancies at work to arrange a funereal ceremony, which
should be the proper symbolic expression of our spiritual faith and
eternal hopes; and this we meant to substitute for those customary
rites which were moulded originally out of the Gothic gloom, and by
long use, like an old velvet pall, have so much more than their first
death-smell in them.  But when the occasion came we found it the
simplest and truest thing, after all, to content ourselves with the old
fashion, taking away what we could, but interpolating no novelties, and
particularly avoiding all frippery of flowers and cheerful emblems.
The procession moved from the farmhouse.  Nearest the dead walked an
old man in deep mourning, his face mostly concealed in a white
handkerchief, and with Priscilla leaning on his arm.  Hollingsworth and
myself came next.  We all stood around the narrow niche in the cold
earth; all saw the coffin lowered in; all heard the rattle of the
crumbly soil upon its lid,--that final sound, which mortality awakens
on the utmost verge of sense, as if in the vain hope of bringing an
echo from the spiritual world.

I noticed a stranger,--a stranger to most of those present, though
known to me,--who, after the coffin had descended, took up a handful of
earth and flung it first into the grave.  I had given up
Hollingsworth's arm, and now found myself near this man.

"It was an idle thing--a foolish thing--for Zenobia to do," said he.
"She was the last woman in the world to whom death could have been
necessary.  It was too absurd!  I have no patience with her."

"Why so?"  I inquired, smothering my horror at his cold comment, in my
eager curiosity to discover some tangible truth as to his relation with
Zenobia.  "If any crisis could justify the sad wrong she offered to
herself, it was surely that in which she stood.  Everything had failed
her; prosperity in the world's sense, for her opulence was gone,--the
heart's prosperity, in love.  And there was a secret burden on her, the
nature of which is best known to you.  Young as she was, she had tried
life fully, had no more to hope, and something, perhaps, to fear.  Had
Providence taken her away in its own holy hand, I should have thought
it the kindest dispensation that could be awarded to one so wrecked."

"You mistake the matter completely," rejoined Westervelt.

"What, then, is your own view of it?"  I asked.

"Her mind was active, and various in its powers," said he.  "Her heart
had a manifold adaptation; her constitution an infinite buoyancy, which
(had she possessed only a little patience to await the reflux of her
troubles) would have borne her upward triumphantly for twenty years to
come.  Her beauty would not have waned--or scarcely so, and surely not
beyond the reach of art to restore it--in all that time.  She had
life's summer all before her, and a hundred varieties of brilliant
success.  What an actress Zenobia might have been!  It was one of her
least valuable capabilities.  How forcibly she might have wrought upon
the world, either directly in her own person, or by her influence upon
some man, or a series of men, of controlling genius!  Every prize that
could be worth a woman's having--and many prizes which other women are
too timid to desire--lay within Zenobia's reach."

"In all this," I observed, "there would have been nothing to satisfy
her heart."

"Her heart!" answered Westervelt contemptuously.  "That troublesome
organ (as she had hitherto found it) would have been kept in its due
place and degree, and have had all the gratification it could fairly
claim.  She would soon have established a control over it.  Love had
failed her, you say.  Had it never failed her before?  Yet she survived
it, and loved again,--possibly not once alone, nor twice either.  And
now to drown herself for yonder dreamy philanthropist!"

"Who are you," I exclaimed indignantly, "that dare to speak thus of the
dead?  You seem to intend a eulogy, yet leave out whatever was noblest
in her, and blacken while you mean to praise.  I have long considered
you as Zenobia's evil fate.  Your sentiments confirm me in the idea,
but leave me still ignorant as to the mode in which you have influenced
her life.  The connection may have been indissoluble, except by death.
Then, indeed,--always in the hope of God's infinite mercy,--I cannot
deem it a misfortune that she sleeps in yonder grave!"

"No matter what I was to her," he answered gloomily, yet without actual
emotion.  "She is now beyond my reach.  Had she lived, and hearkened to
my counsels, we might have served each other well.  But there Zenobia
lies in yonder pit, with the dull earth over her. Twenty years of a
brilliant lifetime thrown away for a mere woman's whim!"

Heaven deal with Westervelt according to his nature and deserts!--that
is to say, annihilate him.  He was altogether earthy, worldly, made for
time and its gross objects, and incapable--except by a sort of dim
reflection caught from other minds--of so much as one spiritual idea.
Whatever stain Zenobia had was caught from him; nor does it seldom
happen that a character of admirable qualities loses its better life
because the atmosphere that should sustain it is rendered poisonous by
such breath as this man mingled with Zenobia's. Yet his reflections
possessed their share of truth.  It was a woeful thought, that a woman
of Zenobia's diversified capacity should have fancied herself
irretrievably defeated on the broad battlefield of life, and with no
refuge, save to fall on her own sword, merely because Love had gone
against her.  It is nonsense, and a miserable wrong,--the result, like
so many others, of masculine egotism,--that the success or failure of
woman's existence should be made to depend wholly on the affections,
and on one species of affection, while man has such a multitude of
other chances, that this seems but an incident.  For its own sake, if
it will do no more, the world should throw open all its avenues to the
passport of a woman's bleeding heart.

As we stood around the grave, I looked often towards Priscilla,
dreading to see her wholly overcome with grief.  And deeply grieved, in
truth, she was.  But a character so simply constituted as hers has room
only for a single predominant affection.  No other feeling can touch
the heart's inmost core, nor do it any deadly mischief.  Thus, while we
see that such a being responds to every breeze with tremulous
vibration, and imagine that she must be shattered by the first rude
blast, we find her retaining her equilibrium amid shocks that might
have overthrown many a sturdier frame.  So with Priscilla; her one
possible misfortune was Hollingsworth's unkindness; and that was
destined never to befall her, never yet, at least, for Priscilla has
not died.

But Hollingsworth!  After all the evil that he did, are we to leave him
thus, blest with the entire devotion of this one true heart, and with
wealth at his disposal to execute the long-contemplated project that
had led him so far astray?  What retribution is there here?  My mind
being vexed with precisely this query, I made a journey, some years
since, for the sole purpose of catching a last glimpse of
Hollingsworth, and judging for myself whether he were a happy man or
no.  I learned that he inhabited a small cottage, that his way of life
was exceedingly retired, and that my only chance of encountering him or
Priscilla was to meet them in a secluded lane, where, in the latter
part of the afternoon, they were accustomed to walk.  I did meet them,
accordingly.  As they approached me, I observed in Hollingsworth's face
a depressed and melancholy look, that seemed habitual; the powerfully
built man showed a self-distrustful weakness, and a childlike or
childish tendency to press close, and closer still, to the side of the
slender woman whose arm was within his.  In Priscilla's manner there
was a protective and watchful quality, as if she felt herself the
guardian of her companion; but, likewise, a deep, submissive,
unquestioning reverence, and also a veiled happiness in her fair and
quiet countenance.

Drawing nearer, Priscilla recognized me, and gave me a kind and
friendly smile, but with a slight gesture, which I could not help
interpreting as an entreaty not to make myself known to Hollingsworth.
Nevertheless, an impulse took possession of me, and compelled me to
address him.

"I have come, Hollingsworth," said I, "to view your grand edifice for
the reformation of criminals.  Is it finished yet?"

"No, nor begun," answered he, without raising his eyes.  "A very small
one answers all my purposes."

Priscilla threw me an upbraiding glance.  But I spoke again, with a
bitter and revengeful emotion, as if flinging a poisoned arrow at
Hollingsworth's heart.

"Up to this moment," I inquired, "how many criminals have you reformed?"

"Not one," said Hollingsworth, with his eyes still fixed on the ground.
"Ever since we parted, I have been busy with a single murderer."

Then the tears gushed into my eyes, and I forgave him; for I remembered
the wild energy, the passionate shriek, with which Zenobia had spoken
those words, "Tell him he has murdered me!  Tell him that I'll haunt
him!"--and I knew what murderer he meant, and whose vindictive shadow
dogged the side where Priscilla was not.

The moral which presents itself to my reflections, as drawn from
Hollingsworth's character and errors, is simply this, that, admitting
what is called philanthropy, when adopted as a profession, to be often
useful by its energetic impulse to society at large, it is perilous to
the individual whose ruling passion, in one exclusive channel, it thus
becomes.  It ruins, or is fearfully apt to ruin, the heart, the rich
juices of which God never meant should be pressed violently out and
distilled into alcoholic liquor by an unnatural process, but should
render life sweet, bland, and gently beneficent, and insensibly
influence other hearts and other lives to the same blessed end.  I see
in Hollingsworth an exemplification of the most awful truth in Bunyan's
book of such, from the very gate of heaven there is a by-way to the pit!

But, all this while, we have been standing by Zenobia's grave.  I have
never since beheld it, but make no question that the grass grew all the
better, on that little parallelogram of pasture land, for the decay of
the beautiful woman who slept beneath.  How Nature seems to love us!
And how readily, nevertheless, without a sigh or a complaint, she
converts us to a meaner purpose, when her highest one--that of a
conscious intellectual life and sensibility has been untimely balked!
While Zenobia lived, Nature was proud of her, and directed all eyes
upon that radiant presence, as her fairest handiwork.  Zenobia
perished.  Will not Nature shed a tear?  Ah, no!--she adopts the
calamity at once into her system, and is just as well pleased, for
aught we can see, with the tuft of ranker vegetation that grew out of
Zenobia's heart, as with all the beauty which has bequeathed us no
earthly representative except in this crop of weeds.  It is because the
spirit is inestimable that the lifeless body is so little valued.



XXIX. MILES COVERDALE'S CONFESSION

It remains only to say a few words about myself.  Not improbably, the
reader might be willing to spare me the trouble; for I have made but a
poor and dim figure in my own narrative, establishing no separate
interest, and suffering my colorless life to take its hue from other
lives.  But one still retains some little consideration for one's self;
so I keep these last two or three pages for my individual and sole
behoof.

But what, after all, have I to tell?  Nothing, nothing, nothing!  I
left Blithedale within the week after Zenobia's death, and went back
thither no more.  The whole soil of our farm, for a long time
afterwards, seemed but the sodded earth over her grave.  I could not
toil there, nor live upon its products.  Often, however, in these years
that are darkening around me, I remember our beautiful scheme of a
noble and unselfish life; and how fair, in that first summer, appeared
the prospect that it might endure for generations, and be perfected, as
the ages rolled away, into the system of a people and a world!  Were my
former associates now there,--were there only three or four of those
true-hearted men still laboring in the sun,--I sometimes fancy that I
should direct my world-weary footsteps thitherward, and entreat them to
receive me, for old friendship's sake.  More and more I feel that we
had struck upon what ought to be a truth.  Posterity may dig it up, and
profit by it.  The experiment, so far as its original projectors were
concerned, proved, long ago, a failure; first lapsing into Fourierism,
and dying, as it well deserved, for this infidelity to its own higher
spirit.  Where once we toiled with our whole hopeful hearts, the town
paupers, aged, nerveless, and disconsolate, creep sluggishly afield.
Alas, what faith is requisite to bear up against such results of
generous effort!

My subsequent life has passed,--I was going to say happily, but, at all
events, tolerably enough.  I am now at middle age, well, well, a step
or two beyond the midmost point, and I care not a fig who knows it!--a
bachelor, with no very decided purpose of ever being otherwise. I have
been twice to Europe, and spent a year or two rather agreeably at each
visit.  Being well to do in the world, and having nobody but myself to
care for, I live very much at my ease, and fare sumptuously every day.
As for poetry, I have given it up, notwithstanding that Dr.
Griswold--as the reader, of course, knows--has placed me at a fair
elevation among our minor minstrelsy, on the strength of my pretty
little volume, published ten years ago. As regards human progress (in
spite of my irrepressible yearnings over the Blithedale reminiscences),
let them believe in it who can, and aid in it who choose.  If I could
earnestly do either, it might be all the better for my comfort.  As
Hollingsworth once told me, I lack a purpose.  How strange!  He was
ruined, morally, by an overplus of the very same ingredient, the want
of which, I occasionally suspect, has rendered my own life all an
emptiness.  I by no means wish to die.  Yet, were there any cause, in
this whole chaos of human struggle, worth a sane man's dying for, and
which my death would benefit, then--provided, however, the effort did
not involve an unreasonable amount of trouble--methinks I might be bold
to offer up my life.  If Kossuth, for example, would pitch the
battlefield of Hungarian rights within an easy ride of my abode, and
choose a mild, sunny morning, after breakfast, for the conflict, Miles
Coverdale would gladly be his man, for one brave rush upon the levelled
bayonets.  Further than that, I should be loath to pledge myself.

I exaggerate my own defects.  The reader must not take my own word for
it, nor believe me altogether changed from the young man who once hoped
strenuously, and struggled not so much amiss.  Frostier heads than mine
have gained honor in the world; frostier hearts have imbibed new
warmth, and been newly happy.  Life, however, it must be owned, has
come to rather an idle pass with me.  Would my friends like to know
what brought it thither?  There is one secret,--I have concealed it all
along, and never meant to let the least whisper of it escape,--one
foolish little secret, which possibly may have had something to do with
these inactive years of meridian manhood, with my bachelorship, with
the unsatisfied retrospect that I fling back on life, and my listless
glance towards the future.  Shall I reveal it? It is an absurd thing
for a man in his afternoon,--a man of the world, moreover, with these
three white hairs in his brown mustache and that deepening track of a
crow's-foot on each temple,--an absurd thing ever to have happened, and
quite the absurdest for an old bachelor, like me, to talk about.  But
it rises to my throat; so let it come.

I perceive, moreover, that the confession, brief as it shall be, will
throw a gleam of light over my behavior throughout the foregoing
incidents, and is, indeed, essential to the full understanding of my
story.  The reader, therefore, since I have disclosed so much, is
entitled to this one word more.  As I write it, he will charitably
suppose me to blush, and turn away my face:

I--I myself--was in love--with--Priscilla!





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