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Title: The Minister's Wooing
Author: Stowe, Harriet Beecher
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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Internet Archive)



[Illustration: _Frontispiece_

_C.XXV.P.233._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. Septr. 20th. 1859.]



THE MINISTER’S WOOING.

    BY H. BEECHER STOWE,
    AUTHOR OF “UNCLE TOM’S CABIN,” “SUNNY MEMORIES,” ETC.


    WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY PHIZ.


    LONDON:
    SAMPSON LOW, SON, & CO., 47 LUDGATE HILL.
    1859.

    [_The Author reserves the right of translation._]


    LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET.



INTRODUCTION.


The author has endeavoured in this story to paint a style of life
and manners which existed in New England in the earlier days of her
national existence.

Some of the principal characters are historic: the leading events of
the story are founded on actual facts, although the author has taken
the liberty to arrange and vary them for the purposes of the story.

The author has executed the work with a reverential tenderness for
those great and religious minds who laid in New England the foundations
of many generations, and for those institutions and habits of life from
which, as from a fruitful germ, sprang all the present prosperity of
America.

Such as it is, it is commended to the kindly thoughts of that British
fireside from which the fathers and mothers of America first went out
to give to English ideas and institutions a new growth in a new world.

                                                     H. B. STOWE.

    _18 Montague Street, Russell Square,
    August 25, 1859._



THE MINISTER’S WOOING.



CHAPTER I.


MRS. KATY SCUDDER had invited Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Jones, and Deacon
Twitchel’s wife to take tea with her on the afternoon of June second,
A. D. 17—.

When one has a story to tell, one is always puzzled which end of it
to begin at. You have a whole corps of people to introduce that _you_
know and your reader doesn’t; and one thing so presupposes another,
that, whichever way you turn your patchwork, the figures still seem
ill-arranged. The small item that I have given will do as well as any
other to begin with, as it certainly will lead you to ask, ‘Pray, who
was Mrs. Katy Scudder?’—and this will start me systematically on my
story.

You must understand that in the then small seaport-town of Newport,
at that time unconscious of its present fashion and fame, there lived
nobody in those days who did not know ‘the Widow Scudder.’

In New England settlements a custom has obtained, which is wholesome
and touching, of ennobling the woman whom God has made desolate, by
a sort of brevet rank which continually speaks for her as a claim on
the respect and consideration of the community. The Widow Jones, or
Brown, or Smith, is one of the fixed institutions of every New England
village,—and doubtless the designation acts as a continual plea for one
whom bereavement, like the lightning of heaven, has made sacred.

The Widow Scudder, however, was one of the sort of women who reign
queens in whatever society they move in; nobody was more quoted, more
deferred to, or enjoyed more unquestioned position than she. She was
not rich,—a small farm, with a modest, ‘gambrel-roofed,’ one-story
cottage, was her sole domain; but she was one of the much-admired class
who, in the speech of New England, are said to have ‘faculty,’—a gift
which, among that shrewd people, commands more esteem than beauty,
riches, learning, or any other worldly endowment. _Faculty_ is Yankee
for _savoir faire_, and the opposite virtue to shiftlessness. Faculty
is the greatest virtue, and shiftlessness the greatest vice, of Yankee
man and woman. To her who has faculty nothing shall be impossible. She
shall scrub floors, wash, wring, bake, brew, and yet her hands shall
be small and white; she shall have no perceptible income, yet always
be handsomely dressed; she shall not have a servant in her house,—with
a dairy to manage, hired men to feed, a boarder or two to care for,
unheard-of pickling and preserving to do,—and yet you commonly see
her every afternoon sitting at her shady parlour-window behind the
lilacs, cool and easy, hemming muslin cap-strings, or reading the last
new book. She who hath faculty is never in a hurry, never behindhand.
She can always step over to distressed Mrs. Smith, whose jelly won’t
come,—and stop to show Mrs. Jones how she makes her pickles so
green,—and be ready to watch with poor old Mrs. Simpkins, who is down
with the rheumatism.

Of this genus was the Widow Scudder,—or, as the neighbours would have
said of her, she that _was_ Katy Stephens. Katy was the only daughter
of a shipmaster, sailing from Newport harbour, who was wrecked off the
coast one cold December night, and left small fortune to his widow
and only child. Katy grew up, however, a tall, straight, black-eyed
girl, with eyebrows drawn true as a bow, a foot arched like a Spanish
woman’s, and a little hand which never saw the thing it could not
do,—quick of speech, ready of wit, and, as such girls have a right to
be, somewhat positive withal. Katy could harness a chaise, or row a
boat; she could saddle and ride any horse in the neighbourhood; she
could cut any garment that ever was seen or thought of; make cake,
jelly, and wine, from her earliest years, in most precocious style; all
without seeming to derange a sort of trim, well-kept air of ladyhood
that sat jauntily on her.

Of course, being young and lively, she had her admirers, and some
well-to-do in worldly affairs laid their lands and houses at Katy’s
feet; but, to the wonder of all, she would not even pick them up to
look at them. People shook their heads, and wondered whom Katy Stephens
expected to get, and talked about going through the wood to pick up a
crooked stick,—till one day she astonished her world by marrying a man
that nobody ever thought of her taking.

George Scudder was a grave, thoughtful young man,—not given to talking,
and silent in the society of women, with that kind of reverential
bashfulness which sometimes shows a pure, unworldly nature. How Katy
came to fancy him everybody wondered,—for he never talked to her, never
so much as picked up her glove when it fell, never asked her to ride
or sail; in short, everybody said she must have wanted him from sheer
wilfulness, because he of all the young men of the neighbourhood never
courted her. But Katy, having very sharp eyes, saw some things that
nobody else saw. For example, you must know she discovered by mere
accident that George Scudder always was looking at her, wherever she
moved, though he looked away in a moment if discovered,—and that an
accidental touch of her hand or brush of her dress would send the blood
into his cheek like the spirit in the tube of a thermometer; and so, as
women are curious, you know, Katy amused herself with investigating the
causes of these little phenomena, and, before she knew it, got her foot
caught in a cobweb that held her fast, and constrained her, whether she
would or no, to marry a poor man that nobody cared much for but herself.

George was, in truth, one of the sort who evidently have made some
mistake in coming into this world at all, as their internal furniture
is in no way suited to its general courses and currents. He was of the
order of dumb poets,—most wretched when put to the grind of the hard
and actual; for if he who would utter poetry stretches out his hand to
a gainsaying world, he is worse off still who is possessed with the
desire of living it. Especially is this the case if he be born poor,
and with a dire necessity upon him of making immediate efforts in the
hard and actual. George had a helpless invalid mother to support; so,
though he loved reading and silent thought above all things, he put
to instant use the only convertible worldly talent he possessed, which
was a mechanical genius, and shipped at sixteen as a ship-carpenter. He
studied navigation in the forecastle, and found in its calm diagrams
and tranquil eternal signs food for his thoughtful nature, and a refuge
from the brutality and coarseness of sea life. He had a healthful,
kindly animal nature, and so his inwardness did not ferment and turn
to Byronic sourness and bitterness; nor did he needlessly parade to
everybody in his vicinity the great gulf which lay between him and
them. He was called a good fellow,—only a little lumpish,—and as he was
brave and faithful, he rose in time to be a shipmaster. But when came
the business of making money, the aptitude for accumulating, George
found himself distanced by many a one with not half his general powers.

What shall a man do with a sublime tier of moral faculties, when the
most profitable business out of his port is the slave-trade? So it
was in Newport in those days. George’s first voyage was on a slaver,
and he wished himself dead many a time before it was over,—and ever
after would talk like a man beside himself if the subject was named.
He declared that the gold made in it was distilled from human blood,
from mothers’ tears, from the agonies and dying groans of gasping,
suffocating men and women, and that it would sear and blister the
soul of him that touched it: in short, he talked as whole-souled,
unpractical fellows are apt to talk about what respectable people
sometimes do. Nobody had ever instructed him that a slave-ship,
with a procession of expectant sharks in its wake, is a missionary
institution, by which closely-packed heathens are brought over to enjoy
the light of the gospel.

So, though George was acknowledged to be a good fellow, and honest as
the noon-mark on the kitchen floor, he let slip so many chances of
making money as seriously to compromise his reputation among thriving
folks. He was wastefully generous,—insisted on treating every poor dog
that came in his way, in any foreign port, as a brother,—absolutely
refused to be party in cheating or deceiving the heathen on any
shore, or in skin of any colour,—and also took pains, as far as in
him lay, to spoil any bargains which any of his subordinates founded
on the ignorance or weakness of his fellow-men. So he made voyage
after voyage, and gained only his wages and the reputation among his
employers of an incorruptibly honest fellow.

To be sure, it was said that he carried out books in his ship, and
read and studied, and wrote observations on all the countries he saw,
which Parson Smith told Miss Dolly Persimmon would really do credit to
a printed book; but then they never _were_ printed, or, as Miss Dolly
remarked of them, they never seemed to come to anything—and coming to
anything, as she understood it, meant standing in definite relations to
bread and butter.

George never cared, however, for money. He made enough to keep his
mother comfortable, and that was enough for him, till he fell in love
with Katy Stephens. He looked at her through those glasses which such
men carry in their souls, and she was a mortal woman no longer, but
a transfigured, glorified creature,—an object of awe and wonder. He
was actually afraid of her; her glove, her shoe, her needle, thread,
and thimble, her bonnet-string, everything, in short, she wore or
touched became invested with a mysterious charm. He wondered at the
impudence of men that could walk up and talk to her,—that could ask
her to dance with such an assured air. _Now_ he wished he were rich;
he dreamed impossible chances of his coming home a millionnaire to lay
unknown wealth at Katy’s feet; and when Miss Persimmon, the ambulatory
dressmaker of the neighbourhood, in making up a new black gown for his
mother, recounted how Captain Blatherem had sent Katy Stephens ‘’most
the splendidest India shawl that ever she did see,’ he was ready to
tear his hair at the thought of his poverty. But even in that hour of
temptation he did not repent that he had refused all part and lot in
the ship by which Captain Blatherem’s money was made, for he knew every
timber of it to be seasoned by the groans and saturated with the sweat
of human agony. True love is a natural sacrament; and if ever a young
man thanks God for having saved what is noble and manly in his soul, it
is when he thinks of offering it to the woman he loves. Nevertheless,
the India-shawl story cost him a night’s rest; nor was it till Miss
Persimmon had ascertained, by a private confabulation with Katy’s
mother, that she had indignantly rejected it, and that she treated
the captain ‘real ridiculous,’ that he began to take heart. ‘He ought
not,’ he said, ‘to stand in her way now, when he had nothing to offer.
No, he would leave Katy free to do better, if she could; he would try
his luck, and if, when he came home from the next voyage, Katy was
disengaged, why, then he would lay all at her feet.’

And so George was going to sea with a secret shrine in his soul, at
which he was to burn unsuspected incense.

But, after all, the mortal maiden whom he adored suspected this private
arrangement, and contrived—as women will—to get her own key into the
lock of his secret temple; because, as girls say, ‘she was _determined_
to know what was there.’ So, one night, she met him quite accidentally
on the sea-sands, struck up a little conversation, and begged him in
such a pretty way to bring her a spotted shell from the South Sea, like
the one on his mother’s mantelpiece, and looked so simple and childlike
in saying it, that our young man very imprudently committed himself by
remarking, that, ‘When people had rich friends to bring them all the
world from foreign parts, he never dreamed of her wanting so trivial a
thing.’

Of course Katy ‘didn’t know what he meant,—she hadn’t heard of any
rich friends.’ And then came something about Captain Blatherem; and
Katy tossed her head, and said, ‘If anybody wanted to insult her, they
might talk to her about Captain Blatherem,’—and then followed this,
that, and the other, till finally, as you might expect, out came all
that never was to have been said; and Katy was almost frightened at the
terrible earnestness of the spirit she had evoked. She tried to laugh,
and ended by crying, and saying she hardly knew what; but when she came
to herself in her own room at home, she found on her finger a ring of
African gold that George had put there, which she did not send back
like Captain Blatherem’s presents.

Katy was like many intensely matter-of-fact and practical women, who
have not in themselves a bit of poetry or a particle of ideality,
but who yet worship these qualities in others with the homage which
the Indians paid to the unknown tongue of the first whites. They are
secretly weary of a certain conscious dryness of nature in themselves,
and this weariness predisposes them to idolize the man who brings them
this unknown gift. Naturalists say that every defect of organization
has its compensation, and men of ideal natures find in the favour of
women the equivalent for their disabilities among men.

Do you remember, at Niagara, a little cataract on the American side,
which throws its silver sheeny veil over a cave called the Grot of
Rainbows? Whoever stands on a rock in that grotto sees himself in the
centre of a rainbow-circle, above, below, around. In like manner,
merry, chatty, positive, busy, housewifely Katy saw herself standing in
a rainbow-shrine in her lover’s inner soul, and liked to see herself
so. A woman, by-the-by, must be very insensible who is not moved to
come upon a higher plane of being, herself, by seeing how undoubtingly
she is insphered in the heart of a good and noble man. A good man’s
faith in you, fair lady, if you ever have it, will make you better and
nobler even before you know it.

Katy made an excellent wife: she took home her husband’s old mother,
and nursed her with a dutifulness and energy worthy of all praise, and
made her own keen outward faculties and deft handiness a compensation
for the defects in worldly estate. Nothing would make Katy’s bright
eyes flash quicker than any reflections on her husband’s want of luck
in the material line. ‘She didn’t know whose business it was, if _she_
was satisfied. She hated these sharp, gimlet, gouging sort of men that
would put a screw between body and soul for money. George had that in
him that nobody understood. She would rather be his wife on bread and
water than to take Captain Blatherem’s house, carriages, and horses,
and all,—and she _might_ have had ’em fast enough, dear knows. She was
sick of making money when she saw what sort of men could make it,’—and
so on. All which talk did her infinite credit, because _at bottom_ she
_did_ care, and was naturally as proud and ambitious a little minx as
ever breathed, and was thoroughly grieved at heart at George’s want of
worldly success; but, like a nice little Robin Redbreast, she covered
up the grave of her worldliness with the leaves of true love, and sang
a ‘Who cares for that?’ above it.

Her thrifty management of the money her husband brought her soon
bought a snug little farm, and put up the little brown gambrel-roofed
cottage to which we directed your attention in the first of our story.
Children were born to them, and George found, in short intervals
between voyages, his home an earthly paradise. He was still sailing,
with the fond illusion, in every voyage, of making enough to remain
at home,—when the yellow fever smote him under the line, and the ship
returned to Newport without its captain.

George was a Christian man;—he had been one of the first to attach
himself to the unpopular and unworldly ministry of the celebrated Dr.
H., and to appreciate the sublime ideality and unselfishness of those
teachings which then were awakening new sensations in the theological
mind of New England. Katy, too, had become a professor with her husband
in the same church, and his death, in the midst of life, deepened the
power of her religious impressions. She became absorbed in religion,
after the fashion of New England, where devotion is doctrinal, not
ritual. As she grew older, her energy of character, her vigour and good
judgment, caused her to be regarded as a mother in Israel; the minister
boarded at her house, and it was she who was first to be consulted in
all matters relating to the well-being of the church. No woman could
more manfully breast a long sermon, or bring a more determined faith
to the reception of a difficult doctrine. To say the truth, there lay
at the bottom of her doctrinal system this stable corner-stone,—‘Mr.
Scudder used to believe it,—I will.’ And after all that is said about
independent thought, isn’t the fact that a just and good soul has thus
or thus believed, a more respectable argument than many that often are
adduced? If it be not, more’s the pity,—since two-thirds of the faith
in the world is built on no better foundation.

In time, George’s old mother was gathered to her son, and two sons and
a daughter followed their father to the invisible—one only remaining
of the flock, and she a person with whom you and I, good reader, have
joint concern in the further unfolding of our story.



CHAPTER II.


AS I before remarked, Mrs. Katy Scudder had invited company to tea.
Strictly speaking, it is necessary to begin with the creation of the
world, in order to give a full account of anything. But for popular
use, something less may serve one’s turn, and therefore I shall let
the past chapter suffice to introduce my story, and shall proceed to
arrange my scenery and act my little play on the supposition that you
know enough to understand things and persons.

Being asked to tea in our New England in the year 17— meant something
very different from the same invitation in our more sophisticated days.
In those times, people held to the singular opinion, that the night
was made to sleep in; they inferred it from a general confidence they
had in the wisdom of Mother Nature, supposing that she did not put out
her lights and draw her bed-curtains, and hush all noise in her great
world-house without strongly intending that her children should go to
sleep; and the consequence was, that very soon after sunset, the whole
community very generally set their faces bedward, and the tolling of
the nine-o’clock evening-bell had an awful solemnity in it, sounding
to the full. Good society in New England in those days very generally
took its breakfast at six, its dinner at twelve, and its tea at six.
‘Company tea,’ however, among thrifty, industrious folk, was often
taken an hour earlier, because each of the inviteés had children to
put to bed, or other domestic cares at home, and as in those simple
times people were invited because you wanted to see them, a tea-party
assembled themselves at three and held session till sundown, when each
matron rolled up her knitting-work and wended soberly home.

Though Newport, even in those early times, was not without its families
which affected state and splendour, rolled about in carriages with
armorial emblazonments, and had servants in abundance to every turn
within-doors, yet there, as elsewhere in New England, the majority of
the people lived with the wholesome, thrifty simplicity of the olden
time, when labour and intelligence went hand in hand in perhaps a
greater harmony than the world has ever seen.

Our scene opens in the great old-fashioned kitchen, which, on ordinary
occasions, is the family dining and sitting room of the Scudder family.
I know fastidious moderns think that the working-room, wherein are
carried on the culinary operations of a large family, must necessarily
be an untidy and comfortless sitting-place; but it is only because they
are ignorant of the marvellous workings which pertain to the organ
of ‘faculty,’ on which we have before insisted. The kitchen of a New
England matron was her throne-room, her pride; it was the habit of her
life to produce the greatest possible results there with the slightest
possible discomposure; and what any woman could do, Mrs. Katy Scudder
could do _par excellence_. Everything there seemed to be always done,
and never doing. Washing and baking, those formidable disturbers of
the composure of families, were all over within those two or three
morning-hours when we are composing ourselves for a last nap,—and
only the fluttering of linen over the green-yard, on Monday mornings,
proclaimed that the dreaded solemnity of a wash had transpired. A
breakfast arose there as by magic; and in an incredibly short space
after, every knife, fork, spoon, and trencher, clean and shining, was
looking as innocent and unconscious in its place as if it never had
been used and never expected to be.

The floor,—perhaps, sir, you remember your grandmother’s floor, of
snowy boards sanded with whitest sand; you remember the ancient
fireplace stretching quite across one end,—a vast cavern, in each
corner of which a cozy seat might be found, distant enough to enjoy
the crackle of the great jolly wood-fire; across the room ran a
dresser, on which was displayed great store of shining pewter dishes
and plates, which always shone with the same mysterious brightness;
and by the side of the fire a commodious wooden ‘settee,’ or settle,
offered repose to people too little accustomed to luxury to ask for a
cushion. Oh, that kitchen of the olden times, the old, clean, roomy New
England kitchen! Who that has breakfasted, dined, and supped in one
has not cheery visions of its thrift, its warmth, its coolness? The
noon-mark on its floor was a dial that told of some of the happiest
days; thereby did we right up the shortcomings of the solemn old clock
that tick-tacked in the corner, and whose ticks seemed mysterious
prophecies of unknown good yet to arise out of the hours of life. How
dreamy the winter twilight came in there!—as yet the candles were not
lighted,—when the crickets chirped around the dark stone hearth, and
shifting tongues of flame flickered and cast dancing shadows and elfish
lights on the walls, while grandmother nodded over her knitting-work,
and puss purred, and old Rover lay dreamily opening now one eye and
then the other on the family group! With all our ceiled houses, let us
not forget our grandmothers’ kitchens!

But we must pull up, however, and back to our subject-matter, which is
in the kitchen of Mrs. Katy Scudder, who has just put into the oven,
by the fireplace, some wondrous tea-rusks, for whose composition she
is renowned. She has examined and pronounced perfect a loaf of cake
which has been prepared for the occasion, and which, as usual, is done
exactly right. The best room, too, has been opened and aired,—the white
window-curtains saluted with a friendly little shake, as when one says,
‘How d’ye do?’ to a friend; for you must know, clean as our kitchen
is, we are genteel, and have something better for company. Our best
room in here has a polished little mahogany tea-table, and six mahogany
chairs, with claw talons grasping balls; the white sanded floor is
crinkled in curious little waves, like those on the sea-beach; and
right across the corner stands the ‘buffet,’ as it is called, with its
transparent glass doors, wherein are displayed the solemn appurtenances
of company tea-table. There you may see a set of real China teacups,
which George bought in Canton, and had marked with his and his wife’s
joint initials,—a small silver cream-pitcher, which has come down
as an heirloom from unknown generations,—silver spoons and delicate
China cake-plates, which have been all carefully reviewed and wiped on
napkins of Mrs. Scudder’s own weaving.

Her cares now over, she stands drying her hands on a roller-towel in
the kitchen, while her only daughter, the gentle Mary, stands in the
doorway with the afternoon sun streaming in spots of flickering golden
light on her smooth pale-brown hair,—a _petite_ figure, in a full
stuff petticoat and white short-gown, she stands reaching up one hand
and cooing to something among the apple-blossoms,—and now a Java dove
comes whirring down and settles on her finger,—and we, that have seen
pictures, think, as we look on her girlish face, with its lines of
statuesque beauty,—on the tremulous, half-infantine expression of her
lovely mouth, and the general air of simplicity and purity,—of some old
pictures of the girlhood of the Virgin. But Mrs. Scudder was thinking
of no such Popish matter, I can assure you,—not she! I don’t think you
could have done her a greater indignity than to mention her daughter
in any such connection. She had never seen a painting in her life, and
therefore was not to be reminded of them; and furthermore, the dove was
evidently, for some reason, no favourite,—for she said, in a quick,
imperative tone, ‘Come, come, child! don’t fool with that bird, it’s
high time we were dressed and ready,’—and Mary, blushing, as it would
seem, even to her hair, gave a little toss, and sent the bird, like
a silver fluttering cloud, up among the rosy apple-blossoms. And now
she and her mother have gone to their respective little bedrooms for
the adjustment of their toilets, and while the door is shut and nobody
hears us, we shall talk to you about Mary.

Newport at the present day blooms like a flower-garden with young
ladies of the best _ton_,—lovely girls, hopes of their families,
possessed of amiable tempers and immensely large trunks, and capable of
sporting ninety changes in thirty days, and otherwise rapidly emptying
the purses of distressed fathers, and whom yet travellers and the world
in general look upon as genuine specimens of the kind of girls formed
by American institutions.

We fancy such a one lying in a rustling silk _négligé_, and, amid
a gentle generality of rings, ribbons, puffs, laces, beaux, and
dinner-discussion, reading our humble sketch;—and what favour shall
our poor heroine find in her eyes? For though her mother was a world
of energy and ‘faculty,’ in herself considered, and had bestowed on
this one little lone chick all the vigour and all the care and all the
training which would have sufficed for a family of sixteen, there were
no results produced which could be made appreciable in the eyes of
such company. She could not waltz, or polk, or speak bad French, or
sing Italian songs; but, nevertheless, we must proceed to say what was
her education and what her accomplishments.

Well, then, she could both read and write fluently in the
mother-tongue. She could spin both on the little and the great wheel,
and there were numberless towels, napkins, sheets, and pillow-cases in
the household store that could attest the skill of her pretty fingers.
She had worked several samplers of such rare merit, that they hung
framed in different rooms of the house, exhibiting every variety and
style of possible letter in the best marking-stitch. She was skilful
in all sewing and embroidery, in all shaping and cutting, with a quiet
and deft handiness that constantly surprised her energetic mother, who
could not conceive that so much could be done with so little noise.
In fact, in all household lore she was a veritable good fairy; her
knowledge seemed unerring and intuitive: and whether she washed or
ironed, or moulded biscuit or conserved plums, her gentle beauty seemed
to turn to poetry all the prose of life.

There was something in Mary, however, which divided her as by an
appreciable line from ordinary girls of her age. From her father she
had inherited a deep and thoughtful nature, predisposed to moral
and religious exaltation. Had she been born in Italy, under the
dissolving influences of that sunny, dreamy clime, beneath the shadow
of cathedrals, and where pictured saints and angels smiled in clouds of
painting from every arch and altar, she might, like fair St. Catherine
of Siena, have seen beatific visions in the sunset skies, and a silver
dove descending upon her as she prayed; but, unfolding in the clear,
keen, cold New England clime, and nurtured in its abstract and positive
theologies, her religious faculties took other forms. Instead of lying
entranced in mysterious raptures at the foot of altars, she read and
pondered treatises on the Will, and listened in rapt attention while
her spiritual guide, the venerated Dr. H., unfolded to her the theories
of the great Edwards on the nature of true virtue. Womanlike, she felt
the subtle poetry of these sublime abstractions which dealt with such
infinite and unknown quantities,—which spoke of the universe, of its
great Architect, of men, of angels, as matters of intimate and daily
contemplation; and her teacher, a grand-minded and simple-hearted man
as ever lived, was often amazed at the tread with which this fair young
child walked through these high regions of abstract thought,—often
comprehending through an ethereal clearness of nature what he had
laboriously and heavily reasoned out; and sometimes, when she turned
her grave, childlike face upon him with some question or reply, the
good man started as if an angel had looked suddenly out upon him from
a cloud. Unconsciously to himself, he often seemed to follow her, as
Dante followed the flight of Beatrice, through the ascending circles of
the celestial spheres.

When her mother questioned him, anxiously, of her daughter’s spiritual
estate, he answered, that she was a child of a strange graciousness
of nature, and of a singular genius; to which Katy responded, with a
woman’s pride, that she was all her father over again. It is only now
and then that a matter-of-fact woman is sublimated by a real love; but
if she is, it is affecting to see how impossible it is for death to
quench it; for in the child the mother feels that she has a mysterious
and undying repossession of the father.

But, in truth, Mary was only a recast in feminine form of her father’s
nature. The elixir of the spirit that sparkled within her was of that
quality of which the souls of poets and artists are made; but the keen
New England air crystallizes emotions into ideas, and restricts many
a poetic soul to the necessity of expressing itself only in practical
living.

The rigid theological discipline of New England is fitted to produce
rather strength and purity than enjoyment. It was not fitted to make
a sensitive and thoughtful nature happy, however it might ennoble and
exalt.

The system of Dr. H. was one that could only have had its origin in a
soul at once reverential and logical,—a soul, moreover, trained from
its earliest years in the habits of thought engendered by monarchical
institutions. For although he, like other ministers, took an active
part as a patriot in the Revolution, still he was brought up under the
shadow of a throne; and a man cannot ravel out the stitches in which
early days have knit him. His theology, was, in fact, the turning to
an invisible Sovereign of that spirit of loyalty and unquestioning
subjugation which is one of the noblest capabilities of our nature.
And as a gallant soldier renounces life and personal aims in the cause
of his king and country, and holds himself ready to be drafted for a
forlorn hope, to be shot down, or help make a bridge of his mangled
body, over which the more fortunate shall pass to victory and glory, so
he regarded himself as devoted to the King Eternal, ready in His hands
to be used to illustrate and build up an Eternal Commonwealth, either
by being sacrificed as a lost spirit or glorified as a redeemed one,
ready to throw not merely his mortal life, but his immortality even,
into the forlorn hope, to bridge with a never-dying soul the chasm over
which white-robed victors should pass to a commonwealth of glory and
splendour, whose vastness should dwarf the misery of all the lost to an
infinitesimal.

It is not in our line to imply the truth or the falsehood of those
systems of philosophic theology which seem for many years to have been
the principal outlet for the proclivities of the New England mind,
but as psychological developments they have an intense interest. He
who does not see a grand side to these strivings of the soul cannot
understand one of the noblest capabilities of humanity.

No real artist or philosopher ever lived who has not at some hours
risen to the height of utter self-abnegation for the glory of the
invisible. There have been painters who would have been crucified to
demonstrate the action of a muscle,—chemists who would gladly have
melted themselves and all humanity in their crucible, if so a new
discovery might arise out of its fumes. Even persons of mere artistic
sensibility are at times raised by music, painting, or poetry to a
momentary trance of self-oblivion, in which they would offer their
whole being before the shrine of an invisible loveliness. These hard
old New England divines were the poets of metaphysical philosophy,
who built systems in an artistic fervour, and felt self exhale from
beneath them as they rose into the higher regions of thought. But
where theorists and philosophers tread with sublime assurance, woman
often follows with bleeding footsteps;—women are always turning from
the abstract to the individual, and feeling where the philosopher only
thinks.

It was easy enough for Mary to believe in _self_-renunciation, for
she was one with a born vocation for martyrdom; and so, when the
idea was put to her of suffering eternal pains for the glory of God
and the good of being in general, she responded to it with a sort of
sublime thrill, such as it is given to some natures to feel in view of
uttermost sacrifice. But when she looked around on the warm, living
faces of friends, acquaintances, and neighbours, viewing them as
possible candidates for dooms so fearfully different, she sometimes
felt the walls of her faith closing round her as an iron shroud,—she
wondered that the sun could shine so brightly, that flowers could
flaunt such dazzling colours, that sweet airs could breathe, and little
children play, and youth love and hope, and a thousand intoxicating
influences combine to cheat the victims from the thought that their
next step might be into an abyss of horrors without end. The blood of
youth and hope was saddened by this great sorrow, which lay ever on
her heart,—and her life, unknown to herself, was a sweet tune in the
minor key; it was only in prayer, or deeds of love and charity, or in
rapt contemplation of that beautiful millennial day which her spiritual
guide most delighted to speak of, that the tone of her feelings ever
rose to the height of joy.

Among Mary’s young associates was one who had been as a brother to
her childhood. He was her mother’s cousin’s son,—and so, by a sort of
family immunity, had always a free access to her mother’s house. He
took to the sea, as the most bold and resolute young men will, and
brought home from foreign parts those new modes of speech, those other
eyes for received opinions and established things, which so often shock
established prejudices,—so that he was held as little better than an
infidel and a castaway by the stricter religious circles in his native
place. Mary’s mother, now that Mary was grown up to woman’s estate,
looked with a severe eye on her cousin. She warned her daughter against
too free an association with him,—and so—— We all know what comes to
pass when girls are constantly warned not to think of a man. The most
conscientious and obedient little person in the world, Mary resolved
to be very careful. She never would think of James, except, of course,
in her prayers; but as these were constant, it may easily be seen it
was not easy to forget him.

All that was so often told her of his carelessness, his trifling, his
contempt of orthodox opinions, and his startling and bold expressions,
only wrote his name deeper in her heart,—for was not his soul in peril?
Could she look in his frank, joyous face, and listen to his thoughtless
laugh, and then think that a fall from a mast-head, or one night’s
storm, might——Ah, with what images her faith filled the blank! Could
she believe all this and forget him?

You see, instead of getting our tea ready, as we promised at the
beginning of this chapter, we have filled it with descriptions and
meditations,—and now we foresee that the next chapter will be equally
far from the point. But have patience with us; for we can write only as
we are driven, and never know exactly where we are going to land.



CHAPTER III.


A QUIET, maiden-like place was Mary’s little room. The window looked
out under the overarching boughs of a thick apple orchard, now all
in a blush with blossoms and pink-tipped buds, and the light came
golden-green, strained through flickering leaves,—and an ever-gentle
rustle and whirr of branches and blossoms, a chitter of birds, and
an indefinite whispering motion, as the long heads of orchard-grass
nodded and bowed to each other under the trees, seemed to give the
room the quiet hush of some little side chapel in a cathedral, where
green and golden glass softens the sunlight, and only the sigh and
rustle of kneeling worshippers break the stillness of the aisles. It
was small enough for a nun’s apartment, and dainty in its neatness as
the waxen cell of a bee. The bed and low window were draped in spotless
white, with fringes of Mary’s own knotting. A small table under the
looking-glass bore the library of a well-taught young woman of those
times. The ‘Spectator,’ ‘Paradise Lost,’ Shakspeare, and ‘Robinson
Crusoe,’ stood for the admitted secular literature, and beside them
the Bible and the works then published of Mr. Jonathan Edwards. Laid a
little to one side, as if of doubtful reputation, was the only novel
which the stricter people in those days allowed for the reading of
their daughters: that seven-volumed, trailing, tedious, delightful old
bore, ‘Sir Charles Grandison,’—a book whose influence in those times
was so universal, that it may be traced in the epistolary style even
of the gravest divines. Our little heroine was mortal, with all her
divinity, and had an imagination which sometimes wandered to the things
of earth; and this glorious hero in lace and embroidery, who blended
rank, gallantry, spirit, knowledge of the world, disinterestedness,
constancy, and piety, sometimes walked before her, while she sat
spinning at her wheel, till she sighed, she hardly knew why, that
no such men walked the earth now. Yet it is to be confessed, this
occasional raid of the romantic into Mary’s balanced and well-ordered
mind was soon energetically put to rout, and the book, as we have
said, remained on her table under protest,—protected by being her
father’s gift to her mother during their days of courtship. The small
looking-glass was curiously wreathed with corals and foreign shells,
so disposed as to indicate an artistic eye and skilful hand; and some
curious Chinese paintings of birds and flowers gave rather a piquant
and foreign air to the otherwise homely neatness of the apartment.

Here in this little retreat, Mary spent those few hours which her
exacting conscience would allow her to spare from her busy-fingered
household-life; here she read and wrote and thought and prayed;—and
here she stands now, arraying herself for the tea company that
afternoon. Dress, which in our day is becoming in some cases the
whole of woman, was in those times a remarkably simple affair. True,
every person of a certain degree of respectability had state and
festival robes; and a certain camphor-wood brass-bound trunk, which
was always kept solemnly locked in Mrs. Katy Scudder’s apartment,
if it could have spoken, might have given off quite a catalogue of
brocade satin and laces. The wedding-suit there slumbered in all the
unsullied whiteness of its stiff ground broidered with heavy knots of
flowers; and there were scarfs of wrought India muslin and embroidered
crape, each of which had its history,—for each had been brought into
the door with beating heart on some return voyage of one who, alas!
should return no more. The old trunk stood with its histories, its
imprisoned remembrances,—and a thousand tender thoughts seemed to be
shaping out of every rustling fold of silk and embroidery, on the
few yearly occasions when all were brought out to be aired, their
history related, and then solemnly locked up again. Nevertheless, the
possession of these things gave to the women of an establishment a
certain innate dignity, like a good conscience, so that in that larger
portion of existence commonly denominated among them ‘every day,’ they
were content with plain stuff and homespun. Mary’s toilet, therefore,
was sooner made than those of Newport belles of the present day; it
simply consisted in changing her ordinary ‘short-gown and petticoat’
for another of somewhat nicer materials, a skirt of India chintz and
a striped jaconet short-gown. Her hair was of the kind which always
lies like satin; but, nevertheless, girls never think their toilet
complete unless the smoothest hair has been shaken down and rearranged.
A few moments, however, served to braid its shining folds and dispose
them in their simple knot on the back of the head; and having given a
final stroke to each side with her little dimpled hands, she sat down
a moment at the window, thoughtfully watching where the afternoon sun
was creeping through the slates of the fence in long lines of gold
among the tall, tremulous orchard-grass, and unconsciously she began
warbling, in a low, gurgling voice, the words of a familiar hymn, whose
grave earnestness accorded well with the general tone of her life and
education:—

    ‘Life is the time to serve the Lord,
     The time t’ insure the great reward.’

There was a swish and rustle in the orchard-grass, and a tramp of
elastic steps; then the branches were brushed aside, and a young man
suddenly emerged from the trees a little behind Mary. He was apparently
about twenty-five, dressed in the holiday rig of a sailor on shore,
which well set off his fine athletic figure, and accorded with a sort
of easy, dashing, and confident air which sat not unhandsomely on him.
For the rest, a high forehead shaded by rings of the blackest hair, a
keen, dark eye, a firm and determined mouth, gave the impression of one
who had engaged to do battle with life, not only with a will, but with
shrewdness and ability.

[Illustration: _Mary and her Cousin._

_Page 20._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. Jany. 24, 1859]

He introduced the colloquy by stepping deliberately behind Mary,
putting his arms round her neck, and kissing her.

‘Why, James!’ said Mary, starting up and blushing, ‘Come, now!’

‘I have come, haven’t I?’ said the young man, leaning his elbow on
the window-seat and looking at her with an air of comic determined
frankness, which yet had in it such wholesome honesty that it was
scarcely possible to be angry. ‘The fact is, Mary,’ he added, with a
sudden earnest darkening of the face, ‘I won’t stand this nonsense any
longer. Aunt Katy has been holding me at arm’s length ever since I got
home; and what have I done? Haven’t I been to every prayer-meeting
and lecture and sermon, since I got into port, just as regular as a
psalm-book? and not a bit of a word could I get with you, and no chance
even so much as to give you my arm. Aunt Katy always comes between us
and says, “Here, Mary, you take my arm.” What does she think I go to
meeting for, and almost break my jaws keeping down the gapes? I never
even go to sleep, and yet I am treated in this way! It’s too bad!
What’s the row? What’s anybody been saying about me? I always have
waited on you ever since you were that high. Didn’t I always draw you
to school on my sled? didn’t we always use to do our sums together?
didn’t I always wait on you to singing school? and I’ve been made free
to run in and out as if I were your brother;—and now she is as glum and
stiff, and always stays in the room every minute of the time that I am
there, as if she was afraid I should be in some mischief. It’s too bad!’

‘Oh, James, I am sorry that you only go to meeting for the sake of
seeing me; you feel no real interest in religious things; and besides,
mother thinks now I am grown so old that—Why, you know, things are
different now,—at least, we mustn’t, you know, always do as we did
when we were children. But I wish you did feel more interested in good
things.’

‘I _am_ interested in one or two good things, Mary,—principally in you,
who are the best I know of. Besides,’ he said quickly, and scanning her
face attentively to see the effect of his words, ‘don’t you think there
is more merit in my sitting out all these meetings, when they bore me
so confoundedly, than there is in your and Aunt Katy’s doing it, who
really seem to find something to like in them? I believe you have a
sixth sense, quite unknown to me, for it’s all a maze,—I can’t find
top, nor bottom, nor side, nor up, nor down to it,—it’s you can and you
can’t, you shall and you shan’t, you will and you won’t,—’

‘James!’

‘You needn’t look at me so. I’m not going to say the rest of it. But,
seriously, it’s all anywhere and nowhere to me; it don’t touch me, it
don’t help me, and I think it rather makes me worse; and then they tell
me it’s because I’m a natural man, and the natural man understandeth
not the things of the Spirit. Well, I _am_ a natural man,—how’s a
fellow to help it?’

‘Well, James, why need you talk everywhere as you do? You joke, and
jest, and trifle, till it seems to everybody that you don’t believe in
anything. I’m afraid mother thinks you are an infidel, but I _know_ it
can’t be; yet we hear all sorts of things that you say.’

‘I suppose you mean my telling Deacon Twitchel that I had seen as good
Christians among the Mahometans as any in Newport. _Didn’t_ I make him
open his eyes? It’s true, too!’

‘In every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is
accepted of Him,’ said Mary; ‘and if there are better Christians than
us among the Mahometans, I am sure I am glad of it. But, after all, the
great question is, “Are we Christians ourselves?” Oh, James, if you
only were a real, true, noble Christian!’

‘Well, Mary, you have got into that harbour, through all the sandbars
and rocks and crooked channels; and now do you think it right to leave
a fellow beating about outside, and not go out to help him in? This
way of drawing up, among your good people, and leaving us sinners to
ourselves, isn’t generous. You might care a little for the soul of an
old friend, anyhow!’

‘And don’t I care, James? How many days and nights have been one
prayer for you! If I could take my hopes of heaven out of my own heart
and give them to you, I would. Dr. H. preached last Sunday on the text,
“I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen;”
and he went on to show how we must be willing to give up even our own
salvation, if necessary, for the good of others. People said it was
hard doctrine, but I could feel my way through it very well. Yes, I
would give my soul for yours; I wish I could.’

There was a solemnity and pathos in Mary’s manner which checked the
conversation. James was the more touched because he felt it all so
real, from one whose words were always yea and nay, so true, so
inflexibly simple. Her eyes filled with tears, her face kindled with a
sad earnestness, and James thought, as he looked, of a picture he had
once seen in a European cathedral, where the youthful Mother of Sorrows
is represented,

    ‘Radiant and grave, as pitying man’s decline;
     All youth, but with an aspect beyond time;
     Mournful, but mournful of another’s crime;
     She looked as if she sat by Eden’s door,
     And grieved for those who should return no more.’

James had thought he loved Mary; he had admired her remarkable beauty;
he had been proud of a certain right in her before that of other young
men, her associates; he had thought of her as the keeper of his home;
he had wished to appropriate her wholly to himself;—but in all this
there had been, after all, only the thought of what she was to be to
him; and this, for this poor measure of what he called love, she was
ready to offer an infinite sacrifice.

As a subtle flash of lightning will show in a moment a whole
landscape—tower, town, winding stream, and distant sea—so that one
subtle ray of feeling seemed in a moment to reveal to James the whole
of his past life; and it seemed to him so poor, so meagre, so shallow,
by the side of that childlike woman, to whom the noblest of feelings
were unconscious matters of course, that a sort of awe awoke in him:
like the Apostles of old, he ‘feared as he entered into the cloud:’ it
seemed as if the deepest string of some eternal sorrow had vibrated
between them.

After a moment’s pause, he spoke in a low and altered voice:—

‘Mary, I am a sinner. No psalm or sermon ever taught it to me, but I
see it now. Your mother is quite right, Mary; you are too good for me;
I am no mate for you. Oh, what would you think of me, if you knew me
wholly? I have lived a mean, miserable, shallow, unworthy life. You are
worthy, you are a saint, and walk in white! Oh, what upon earth, could
ever make you care so much for me?’

‘Well, then, James, you will be good? Won’t you talk with Dr. H.?’

‘Hang Dr. H.!’ said James. ‘Now Mary, I beg your pardon, but I can’t
make head or tail of a word Dr. H. says. I don’t get hold of it, or
know what he would be at. You girls and women don’t know your power.
Why, Mary, you are a living gospel. You have always had a strange
power over us boys. You never talked religion much; but I have seen
high fellows come away from being with you as still and quiet as one
feels when one goes into a church. I can’t understand all the hang
of predestination, and moral ability, and natural ability, and God’s
efficiency, and man’s agency, which Dr. H. is so engaged about; but I
can understand _you_—_you_ can do me good!’

‘Oh, James, can I?’

‘Mary I am going to confess my sins. I saw that, somehow or other, the
wind was against me in Aunt Katy’s quarter, and you know we fellows
who take up the world in both fists don’t like to be beat. If there’s
opposition, it sets us on. Now I confess I never did care much about
religion, but I thought, without being really a hypocrite, I’d just
let you try to save my soul for the sake of getting you; for there’s
nothing surer to hook a woman than trying to save a fellow’s soul.
It’s a dead-shot, generally, that. Now our ship sails to-night, and I
thought I’d just come across this path in the orchard to speak to you.
You know I used always to bring you peaches and juneatings across this
way, and once I brought you a ribbon.’

‘Yes, I’ve got it yet, James.’

‘Well, now, Mary, all this seems mean to me,—mean to try and trick and
snare you, who are so much too good for me. I felt very proud this
morning that I was to go out first mate this time, and that I should
command a ship next voyage. I meant to have asked you for a promise,
but I don’t. Only, Mary, just give me your little Bible, and I’ll
promise to read it all through soberly, and see what it all comes to.
And pray for me; and if, while I’m gone, a good man comes who loves
you, and is worthy of you, why take him, Mary,—that’s my advice.’

‘James, I’m not thinking of any such things; I don’t ever mean to be
married. And I’m glad you don’t ask me for any promise, because it
would be wrong to give it; mother don’t even like me to be much with
you. But I’m sure all I have said to you to-day is right; I shall tell
her exactly all I have said.’

‘If Aunt Katy knew what things we fellows are pitched into, who take
the world head-foremost, she wouldn’t be so selfish. Mary, you girls
and women don’t know the world you live in; you ought to be pure and
good; you are not as we are. You don’t know what men, what women,—no,
they’re not women!—what creatures, beset us in every foreign port, and
boarding-houses that are gates of hell; and then, if a fellow comes
back from all this and don’t walk exactly straight, you just draw up
the hems of your garments and stand close to the wall, for fear he
should touch you when he passes. I don’t mean you, Mary, for you are
different from most; but if you would do what you could, you might save
us.—But it’s no use talking, Mary. Give me the Bible; and please be
kind to my dove,—for I had a hard time getting him across the water,
and I don’t want him to die.’

If Mary had spoken all that welled up in her little heart at that
moment, she might have said too much; but duty had its habitual seal
upon her lips. She took the little Bible from her table and gave it
with a trembling hand, and James turned to go. In a moment he turned
back and stood irresolute.

‘Mary,’ he said, ‘we are cousins; I may never come back: you might kiss
me this once.’

The kiss was given and received in silence, and James disappeared among
the thick trees.

‘Come, child,’ said Aunt Katy, looking in, ‘there is Deacon Twitchel’s
chaise in sight,—are you ready?’

‘Yes, mother.’



CHAPTER IV.

THEOLOGICAL TEA.


AT the call of her mother, Mary hurried into the ‘best room, with
a strange discomposure of spirit she had never felt before. From
childhood, her love for James had been so deep, equable, and intense,
that it had never disturbed her with thrills and yearnings; it had
grown up in sisterly calmness, and, quietly expanding, had taken
possession of her whole nature without her once dreaming of its power.
But this last interview seemed to have struck some great nerve of
her being,—and calm as she usually was, from habit, principle, and
good health, she shivered and trembled as she heard his retreating
footsteps, and saw the orchard-grass fly back from under his feet.
It was as if each step trod on a nerve,—as if the very sound of the
rustling grass was stirring something living and sensitive in her soul.
And, strangest of all, a vague impression of guilt hovered over her.
_Had_ she done anything wrong? She did not ask him there; she had not
spoken love to him; no, she had only talked to him of his soul, and how
she would give hers for his,—oh, so willingly!—and that was not love;
it was only what Dr. H. said Christians must always feel.

‘Child, what _have_ you been doing?’ said Aunt Katy, who sat in full
flowing chintz petticoat and spotless dimity short-gown, with her
company knitting-work in her hands; ‘your cheeks are as red as peonies.
Have you been crying? What’s the matter?’

‘There is the Deacon’s wife, mother,’ said Mary, turning confusedly,
and darting to the entry-door.

Enter Mrs. Twitchel,—a soft, pillowy, little elderly lady, whose
whole air and dress reminded one of a sack of feathers tied in the
middle with a string. A large, comfortable pocket, hung upon the side,
disclosed her knitting-work ready for operation; and she zealously
cleansed herself with a checked handkerchief from the dust which had
accumulated during her ride in the old ‘one-hoss shay,’ answering the
hospitable salutation of Katy Scudder in that plaintive, motherly voice
which belongs to certain nice old ladies, who appear to live in a state
of mild chronic compassion for the sins and sorrows of this mortal life
generally.

‘Why, yes, Miss Scudder, I’m pretty tol’able. I keep goin’, and goin’.
That’s my way. I’s a-tellin’ the Deacon, this mornin’, I didn’t see how
I _was_ to come here this afternoon; but then I _did_ want to see Miss
Scudder, and talk a little about that precious sermon, Sunday. How is
the Doctor? blessed man! Well, his reward must be great in heaven, if
not on earth, as I was a-tellin’ the Deacon; and he says to me, says
he, “Polly, we mustn’t be man-worshippers.” There, dear,’ (_to Mary_,)
‘don’t trouble yourself about my bonnet; it a’n’t my Sunday one, but I
thought ’twould do. Says I to Cerinthy Ann, “Miss Scudder won’t mind,
’cause her heart’s set on better things.” I always like to drop a word
in season to Cerinthy Ann, ’cause she’s clean took up with vanity and
dress. Oh, dear! oh, dear me! so different from your blessed daughter,
Miss Scudder! Well, it’s a great blessin’ to be called in one’s youth,
like Samuel and Timothy; but then we doesn’t know the Lord’s ways.
Sometimes I gets clean discouraged with my children,—but then ag’in I
don’t know; none on us does. Cerinthy Ann is one of the most master
hands to turn off work; she takes hold and goes along like a woman, and
nobody never knows when that gal finds the time to do all she does do;
and I don’t know nothin’ what I _should_ do without her. Deacon was
saying, if ever she was called, she’d be a Martha, and not a Mary: but
then she’s dreadful opposed to the doctrines. Oh, dear me! oh, dear
me! Somehow they seem to rile her all up; and she was a-tellin’ me
yesterday, when she was a-hangin’ out clothes, that she never should
get reconciled to Decrees and ’Lection, ’cause she can’t see, if things
is certain, how folks is to help ’emselves. Says I, “Cerinthy Ann,
folks a’n’t to help themselves; they’s to submit unconditional.” And
she jest slammed down the clothes-basket and went into the house.’

When Mrs. Twitchel began to talk, it flowed a steady stream, as when
one turns a faucet, that never ceases running till some hand turns it
back again; and the occasion that cut the flood short at present was
the entrance of Mrs. Brown.

Mr. Simeon Brown was a thriving ship-owner of Newport, who lived in a
large house, owned several negro-servants and a span of horses, and
affected some state and style in his worldly appearance. A passion for
metaphysical Orthodoxy had drawn Simeon to the congregation of Dr. H.,
and his wife of course stood by right in a high place there. She was a
tall, angular, somewhat hard-favoured body, dressed in a style rather
above the simple habits of her neighbours, and her whole air spoke the
great woman, who in right of her thousands expected to have her say in
all that was going on in the world, whether she understood it or not.

On her entrance, mild little Mrs. Twitchel fled from the cushioned
rocking-chair, and stood with the quivering air of one who feels she
has no business to be anywhere in the world, until Mrs. Brown’s bonnet
was taken and she was seated, when Mrs. Twitchel subsided into a corner
and rattled her knitting-needles to conceal her emotion.

New England has been called the land of equality; but what land upon
earth is wholly so? Even the mites in a bit of cheese, naturalists say,
have great tumblings and strivings about position and rank: he who has
ten pounds will always be a nobleman to him who has but one, let him
strive as manfully as he may; and therefore let us forgive meek little
Mrs. Twitchel from melting into nothing in her own eyes when Mrs.
Brown came in, and let us forgive Mrs. Brown that she sat down in the
rocking-chair with an easy grandeur, as one who thought it her duty
to be affable and meant to be. It was, however, rather difficult for
Mrs. Brown, with her money, house, negroes, and all, to patronise Mrs.
Katy Scudder, who was one of those women whose natures seems to sit
on thrones, and who dispense patronage and favour by an inborn right
and aptitude, whatever be their social advantages. It was one of Mrs.
Brown’s trials of life, this secret, strange quality in her neighbour,
who stood apparently so far below her in worldly goods. Even the quiet
positive style of Mrs. Katy’s knitting made her nervous; it was an
implication of independence of her sway; and though on the present
occasion every customary courtesy was bestowed, she still felt, as she
always did when Mrs. Katy’s guest, a secret uneasiness. She mentally
contrasted the neat little parlour, with its white sanded floor and
muslin curtains, with her own grand front-room, which boasted the then
uncommon luxuries of Turkey carpet and Persian rug, and wondered if
Mrs. Katy did really feel as cool and easy in receiving her as she
appeared.

You must not understand that this was what Mrs. Brown _supposed_
herself to be thinking about; oh, no! by no means! All the little,
mean work of our nature is generally done in a small dark closet just
a little back of the subject we are talking about, on which subject we
suppose ourselves of course to be thinking;—of course we _are_ thinking
of it; how else could we talk about it?

The subject in discussion, and what Mrs. Brown supposed to be in her
own thoughts, was the last Sunday’s sermon, on the doctrine of entire
Disinterested Benevolence, in which good Doctor H. had proclaimed to
the citizens of Newport their duty of being so wholly absorbed in the
general good of the universe as even to acquiesce in their own final
and eternal destruction, if the greater good of the whole might thereby
be accomplished.

‘Well, now, dear me!’ said Mrs. Twitchel, while her knitting-needles
trotted contentedly to the mournful tone of her voice,—‘I was tellin’
the Deacon, if we only could get there! Sometimes I think I get a
little way,—but then ag’in I don’t know; but the Deacon he’s quite
down,—he don’t see no evidences in himself. Sometimes he says he don’t
feel as if he ought to keep his place in the church,—but then ag’in
he don’t know. He keeps a-turnin’ and turnin’ on’t over in his mind,
and a-tryin’ himself this way and that way; and he says he don’t see
nothin’ but what’s selfish, no way.

’’Member one night last winter, after the Deacon got warm in bed,
there come a rap at the door; and who should it be but old Beulah
Ward wantin’ to see the Deacon—’twas her boy she sent, and he said
Beulah was sick and hadn’t no more wood nor candles. Now I know’d the
Deacon had carried that critter half a cord of wood, if he had one
stick, since Thanksgivin’, and I’d sent her two o’ my best moulds of
candles,—nice ones that Cerinthy Ann run when we killed a crittur;
but nothin’ would do but the Deacon must get right out his warm bed
and dress himself, and hitch up his team to carry over some wood to
Beulah. Says I, “Father, you know you’ll be down with the rheumatis
for this; besides, Beulah is real aggravatin’. I know she trades off
what we send her to the store for rum, and you never get no thanks. She
’xpects, ’cause we has done for her, we always must; and more we do,
more we may do.” And says he to me, says he, “That’s jest the way we
sarves the Lord, Polly; and what if He shouldn’t hear us when we call
on Him in our troubles?” So I shet up; and the next day he was down
with the rheumatis. And Cerinthy Ann, says she, “Well, father, _now_ I
hope you’ll own you have got _some_ disinterested benevolence,” says
she; and the Deacon he thought it over a spell, and then he says, “I’m
’fraid it’s all selfish. I’m jest a-makin’ a righteousness of it.” And
Cerinthy Ann she come out, declarin’ that the best folks never had no
comfort in religion; and for her part she didn’t mean to trouble her
head about it, but have jest as good a time as she could while she’s
young, ’cause if she was ’lected to be saved she should be, and if she
wa’n’t she couldn’t help it, any how.’

‘Mr. Brown says he came on to Dr. H.’s ground years ago’ said Mrs.
Brown, giving a nervous twitch to her yarn, and speaking in a sharp,
hard, didactic voice, which made little Mrs. Twitchel give a gentle
quiver, and look humble and apologetic. ‘Mr. Brown’s a master thinker;
there’s nothing pleases that man better than a hard doctrine; he says
you can’t get ’em too hard for him. He don’t find any difficulty in
bringing his mind up; he just reasons it out all plain; and he says,
people have no need to be in the dark; and that’s _my_ opinion. “If
folks know they ought to come up to anything, why _don’t_ they?” he
says; and I say so too.’

‘Mr. Scudder used to say that it took great afflictions to bring his
mind to that place,’ said Mrs. Katy. ‘He used to say that an old
paper-maker told him once, that paper that was shaken only one way in
the making would tear across the other, and the best paper had to be
shaken every way; and so he said we couldn’t tell, till we had been
turned and shaken and tried every way, where we should tear.’

Mrs. Twitchel responded to this sentiment with a gentle series of
groans, such as were her general expression of approbation, swaying
herself backward and forward; while Mrs. Brown gave a sort of toss and
snort, and said that for her part she always thought people knew what
they did know,—but she guessed she was mistaken.

The conversation was here interrupted by the civilities attendant on
the reception of Mrs. Jones,—a broad, buxom, hearty soul, who had come
on horseback from a farm about three miles distant.

Smiling with rosy content, she presented Mrs. Katy a small pot of
golden butter,—the result of her forenoon’s churning.

There are some people so evidently broadly and heartily of this world,
that their coming into a room always materializes the conversation. We
wish to be understood that we mean no disparaging reflection on such
persons;—they are as necessary to make up a world as cabbages to make
up a garden; the great healthy principles of cheerfulness and animal
life seem to exist in them in the gross; they are wedges and ingots
of solid, contented vitality. Certain kinds of virtues and Christian
graces thrive in such people as the first crop of corn does in the
bottom-lands of the Ohio. Mrs. Jones was a church-member, a regular
church-goer, and planted her comely person plump in front of Dr. H.
every Sunday, and listened to his searching and discriminating sermons
with broad, honest smiles of satisfaction. Those keen distinctions
as to motives, those awful warnings and urgent expostulations, which
made poor Deacon Twitchel weep, she listened to with great, round,
satisfied eyes, making to all, and after all, the same remark,—that it
was good, and she liked it, and the Doctor was a good man; and on the
present occasion, she announced her pot of butter as one fruit of her
reflections after the last discourse.

‘You see,’ she said, ‘as I was a-settin’ in the spring-house, this
mornin’, a-workin’ my butter, I says to Dinah,—“I’m goin’ to carry a
pot of this down to Miss Scudder for the Doctor,—I got so much good
out of his Sunday’s sermon.” And Dinah she says to me, says she,—“Laws,
Miss Jones, I thought you was asleep, for sartin!” But I wasn’t; only I
forgot to take any carraway-seed in the mornin’, and so I kinder missed
it; you know it ’livens one up. But I never lost myself so but what I
kinder heerd him goin’ on, on, sort o’ like,—and it sounded _all_ sort
o’ _good_; and so I thought of the Doctor to-day.’

‘Well, I’m sure,’ said Aunt Katy, ‘this will be a treat; we all know
about your butter, Mrs. Jones. I sha’n’t think of putting any of mine
on table to-night, I’m sure.’

‘Law, now don’t!’ said Mrs. Jones. ‘Why you re’lly make me ashamed,
Miss Scudder. To be sure, folks does like our butter, and it always
fetches a pretty good price,—_he’s_ very proud on’t. I tell him he
oughtn’t to be,—we oughtn’t to be proud of anything.’

And now Mrs. Katy, giving a look at the old clock, told Mary it was
time to set the tea-table; and forthwith there was a gentle movement of
expectancy. The little mahogany tea-table opened its brown wings, and
from a drawer came forth the snowy damask covering. It was etiquette,
on such occasions, to compliment every article of the establishment
successively as it appeared; so the Deacon’s wife began at the
table-cloth.

‘Well, I do declare, Miss Scudder beats us all in her table-cloths,’
she said, taking up a corner of the damask, admiringly; and Mrs. Jones
forthwith jumped up and seized the other corner.

‘Why, this ’ere must have come from the Old Country. It’s most the
beautiflest thing I ever did see.’

‘It’s my own spinning,’ replied Mrs. Katy, with conscious dignity.
‘There was an Irish weaver came to Newport the year before I was
married, who wove beautifully,—just the Old-Country patterns,—and I’d
been spinning some uncommonly fine flax then. I remember Mr. Scudder
used to read to me while I was spinning,’—and Aunt Katy looked afar, as
one whose thoughts are in the past, and dropped out the last words with
a little sigh, unconsciously, as to herself.

‘Wall, now, I must say,’ said Mrs. Jones, ‘this goes quite beyond me. I
thought I could spin some; but I shan’t never dare to show mine.’

‘I’m sure, Mrs. Jones, your towels that you had out bleaching, this
spring, were wonderful,’ said Aunt Katy. ‘But I don’t pretend to do
much now,’ she continued, straightening her trim figure. ‘I’m getting
old, you know; we must let the young folks take up these things. Mary
spins better now than I ever did; Mary, hand out those napkins.’

And so Mary’s napkins passed from hand to hand.

‘Well, well,’ said Mrs. Twitchel to Mary, ‘it’s easy to see that _your_
linen-chest will be pretty full by the time _he_ comes along; won’t it,
Miss Jones?’—and Mrs Twitchel looked pleasantly facetious, as elderly
ladies generally do, when suggesting such possibilities to younger ones.

Mary was vexed to feel the blood boil up in her cheeks in a most
unexpected and provoking way at the suggestion; whereat Mrs. Twitchel
nodded knowingly at Mrs. Jones, and whispered something in a mysterious
aside, to which plump Mrs. Jones answered,—‘Why, do tell! now I never!’

‘It’s strange,’ said Mrs. Twitchel, taking up her parable again, in
such a plaintive tone that all knew something pathetic was coming,
‘what mistakes some folks will make, a-fetchin’ up girls. Now there’s
your Mary, Miss Scudder,—why, there a’n’t nothin’ she can’t do: but
law, I was down to Miss Skinner’s, last week, a-watchin’ with her,
and re’lly it ’most broke my heart to see her. Her mother was a most
amazin’ smart woman; but she brought Suky up, for all the world, as if
she’d been a wax doll, to be kept in the drawer,—and sure enough, she
was a pretty cretur,—and now she’s married, what is she? She ha’n’t
no more idee how to take hold than nothin’. The poor child means well
enough, and she works so hard she ’most kills herself; but then she is
in the suds from mornin’ till night,—she’s one the sort whose work’s
never done,—and poor George Skinner’s clean discouraged.’

‘There’s everything in _knowing how_,’ said Mrs. Katy. ‘Nobody ought
to be always working; it’s a bad sign. I tell Mary,—“Always do up your
work in the forenoon.” Girls must learn that. I never work afternoons,
after my dinner dishes are got away; I never did and never would.’

‘Nor I, neither,’ chimed in Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Twitchel,—both
anxious to show themselves clear on this leading point of New-England
housekeeping.

‘There’s another thing I always tell Mary,’ said Mrs. Katy,
impressively. ‘“Never say there isn’t time for a thing that ought to
be done. If a thing is _necessary_, why, life is long enough to find
a place for it. That’s my doctrine. When anybody tells me they can’t
_find time_ for this or that, I don’t think much of ’em. I think they
don’t know how to work,—that’s all.”’

Here Mrs. Twitchel looked up from her knitting, with apologetic giggle
at Mrs. Brown.

‘Law, now, there’s Miss Brown, she don’t know nothin’ about it, ’cause
she’s got her servants to every turn. I s’pose she thinks it queer
to hear us talkin’ about our work. Miss Brown must have her time all
to herself. I was tellin’ the Deacon the other day that she was a
privileged woman.’

‘I’m sure, those that have servants find work enough following ’em
’round,’ said Mrs. Brown,—who, like all other human beings, resented
the implication of not having as many trials in life as her neighbours.
‘As to getting the work done up in the forenoon, that’s a thing I never
can teach ’em; they’d rather not. Chloe likes to keep her work ’round,
and do it by snacks, any time, day or night, when the notion takes her.’

‘And it was just for that reason I never would have one of those
creatures ’round,’ said Mrs. Katy. ‘Mr. Scudder was principled against
buying negroes,—but if he had _not_ been, I should not have wanted any
of _their_ work. I know what’s to be done, and most help is no help
to me. I want people to stand out of my way and let me get done. I’ve
tried keeping a girl once or twice, and I never worked so hard in my
life. When Mary and I do all ourselves, we can calculate everything to
a minute; and we get our time to sew and read and spin and visit, and
live just as we want to.’

Here, again, Mrs. Brown looked uneasy. To what use was it that she
was rich and owned servants, when this Mordecai in her gate utterly
despised her prosperity? In her secret heart she thought Mrs. Katy
must be envious, and rather comforted herself on this view of the
subject,—sweetly unconscious of any inconsistency in the feeling with
her views of utter self-abnegation just announced.

Meanwhile the tea-table had been silently gathering on its snowy
plateau the delicate china, the golden butter, the loaf of faultless
cake, a plate of crullers or wonders, as a sort of sweet fried cake
was commonly called,—tea-rusks, light as a puff, and shining on top
with a varnish of eggs,—jellies of apple and quince quivering in amber
clearness,—whitest and purest honey in the comb,—in short, everything
that could go to the getting-up of a most faultless tea.

‘I don’t see,’ said Mrs. Jones, resuming the gentle pæans of the
occasion, ‘how Miss Scudder’s loaf-cake always comes out just so. It
don’t rise neither to one side nor t’other, but just even all ’round;
and it a’n’t white one side and burnt the other, but just a good brown
all over; and it don’t have any heavy streak in it.’

‘Jest what Cerinthy Ann was sayin’, the other day,’ said Mrs. Twichel.
‘She says she can’t never be sure how hers is a-comin’ out. Do what she
can, it will be either too much or too little; but Miss Scudder’s is
always jest so. “Law,” says I, “Cerinthy Ann, it’s _faculty_,—that’s
it;—them that has it has it, and them that hasn’t—why, they’ve got to
work hard, and not do half so well, neither.”’

Mrs. Katy took all these praises as matter of course. Since she was
thirteen years old, she had never put her hand to anything that she had
not been held to do better than other folks, and therefore she accepted
her praises with the quiet repose and serenity of assured reputation:
though, of course, she used the usual polite disclaimers of ‘Oh, it’s
nothing, nothing at all; I’m sure I don’t know how I do it, and was
not aware it was so good,’ and so on. All which things are proper for
gentlewomen to observe, in like cases, in every walk of life.

‘Do you think the Deacon will be along soon?’ said Mrs. Katy, when
Mary, returning from the kitchen, announced the important fact, that
the tea-kettle was boiling.

‘Why, yes,’ said Mrs. Twitchel. ‘I’m a-lookin’ for him every minute. He
told me, that he and the men should be plantin’ up to the eight-acre
lot, but he’d keep the colt up there to come down on; and so I laid
him out a clean shirt, and says, “Now, father, you be sure and be
there by five, so that Miss Scudder may know when to put her tea
a-drawin’.”—There he is, I believe,’ she added, as a horse’s tramp was
heard without, and, after a few moments, the desired Deacon entered.

He was a gentle, soft-spoken man, low, sinewy, thin, with black hair
showing lines and patches of silver. His keen, thoughtful dark eye
marked the nervous and melancholic temperament. A mild and pensive
humility of manner seemed to brood over him, like the shadow of a
cloud. Everything in his dress, air, and motions indicated punctilious
exactness and accuracy, at times rising to the point of nervous anxiety.

Immediately after the bustle of his entrance had subsided, Mr. Simeon
Brown followed. He was a tall, lank individual, with high-cheek bones,
thin, sharp features, small, keen, hard eyes, and large hands and feet.

Simeon was, as we have before remarked, a keen theologian, and had the
scent of a hound for a metaphysical distinction. True, he was a man
of business, being a thriving trader to the coast of Africa, whence
he imported negroes for the American market; and no man was held to
understand that branch of traffic better,—he having, in his earlier
days, commanded ships in the business, and thus learned it from the
root. In his private life, Simeon was severe and dictatorial. He
was one of that class of people who, of a freezing day, will plant
themselves directly between you and the fire, and there stand and
argue to prove that selfishness is the root of moral evil. Simeon said
he always had thought so; and his neighbours sometimes supposed that
nobody could enjoy better experimental advantages for understanding
the subject. He was one of those men who suppose themselves submissive
to the Divine will, to the uttermost extent demanded by the extreme
theology of that day, simply because they have no nerves to feel,
no imagination to conceive, what endless happiness or suffering is,
and who deal therefore with the great question of the salvation or
damnation of myriads as a problem of theological algebra, to be worked
out by their inevitable _x_, _y_, _z_.

But we must not spend too much time with our analysis of character,
for matters at the tea-table are drawing to a crisis. Mrs. Jones has
announced that she does not think ‘_he_’ can come this afternoon; by
which significant mode of expression she conveyed the dutiful idea
that there was for her but one male person in the world. And now Mrs.
Katy says, ‘Mary, dear, knock at the Doctor’s door and tell him that
tea is ready.’

[Illustration: _Theological Tea_

Sampson Low, Son & Co. Jany 24, 1859 Page 37.]

The Doctor was sitting in his shady study, in the room on the other
side of the little entry. The windows were dark and fragrant with the
shade and perfume of blossoming lilacs, whose tremulous shadow, mingled
with spots of afternoon sunlight, danced on the scattered papers of a
great writing-table covered with pamphlets and heavily-bound volumes of
theology, where the Doctor was sitting.

A man of gigantic proportions, over six feet in height, and built
every way with an amplitude corresponding to his height, sitting bent
over his writing, so absorbed that he did not hear the gentle sound of
Mary’s entrance.

‘Doctor,’ said the maiden, gently, ‘tea is ready.’

No motion, no sound, except the quick tracing of the pen over the paper.

‘Doctor! Doctor!’ a little louder, and with another step into the
apartment,—‘tea is ready.’

The Doctor stretched his head forward to a paper which lay before him,
and responded in a low, murmuring voice, as reading something.

‘Firstly,—if underived virtue be peculiar to the Deity, can it be the
duty of a creature to have it?’

Here a little waxen hand came with a very gentle tap on his huge
shoulder, and ‘Doctor, tea is ready,’ penetrated drowsily to the nerve
of his ear, as a sound heard in sleep. He rose suddenly with a start,
opened a pair of great blue eyes, which shone abstractedly under the
dome of a capacious and lofty forehead, and fixed them on the maiden,
who by this time was looking up rather archly, and yet with an attitude
of the most profound respect, while her venerated friend was assembling
together his earthly faculties.

‘Tea is ready, if you please. Mother wished me to call you.’

‘Oh!—ah!—yes!—indeed!’ he said, looking confusedly about, and starting
for the door in his study gown.

‘If you please, sir,’ said Mary, standing in his way, ‘would you not
like to put on your coat and wig?’

The Doctor gave a hurried glance at his study gown, put his hand to
his head, which, in place of the ample curls of his full-bottomed wig,
was decked only with a very ordinary cap, and seemed to come at once
to full comprehension. He smiled a kind of conscious, benignant smile,
which adorned his high cheek-bones and hard features as sunshine adorns
the side of a rock, and said, kindly, ‘Ah, well, child, I understand
now; I’ll be out in a moment.’

And Mary, sure that he was now on the right track, went back to the
tea-room with the announcement that the Doctor was coming.

In a few moments he entered, majestic and proper, in all the dignity
of full-buttomed, powdered wig, full, flowing coat, with ample cuffs,
silver knee and shoe buckles, as became the gravity and majesty of the
minister of those days.

He saluted all the company with a benignity which had a touch of the
majestic, and also of the rustic in it; for at heart the Doctor was
a bashful man, that is, he had somewhere in his mental camp that
treacherous fellow whom John Bunyan anathematizes under the name of
Shame. The company rose on his entrance; the men bowed and the women
curtsied, and all remained standing while he addressed to each, with
punctilious decorum, those inquiries in regard to health and well-being
which preface a social interview. Then, at a dignified sigh from Mrs.
Katy, he advanced to the table, and all following his example, stood,
while, with one hand uplifted, he went through a devotional exercise
which, for length, more resembled a prayer than a grace,—after which
the company were seated.

‘Well, Doctor,’ said Mr. Brown, who, as a householder of substance,
felt a conscious right to be first in open conversation with the
minister, ‘people are beginning to make a noise about your views. I was
talking with Deacon Timmins the other day down on the wharf, and he
said Dr. Stiles said that it was entirely new doctrine—entirely so,—and
for his part he wanted the good old ways.’

‘They say so, do they?’ said the Doctor, kindling up from an
abstraction into which he seemed to be gradually subsiding. ‘Well, let
them. I had rather publish _new_ divinity than any other, and the more
of it the better,—_if it be but true_. I should think it hardly worth
while to write, if I had nothing _new_ to say.’

‘Well,’ said Deacon Twitchel,—his meek face flushing with awe of his
minister—‘Doctor, there’s all sorts of things said about you. Now
the other day I was at the mill with a load of corn, and while I was
a-waitin’, Amariah Wadsworth come along with his’n; and so while we
were waitin’, he says to me, “Why, they say your minister is gettin’
to be an Arminian;” and he went on a-tellin’ how old Ma’am Badger told
him that you interpreted some parts of Paul’s Epistles clear on the
Arminian side. You know Ma’am Badger’s a master-hand at doctrines, and
she’s ’most an uncommon Calvinist.’

‘That does not frighten me at all,’ said the sturdy Doctor. ‘Supposing
I do interpret some texts like the Arminians. Can’t Arminians have
anything right about them? Who wouldn’t rather go with the Arminians
when they are _right_, than with the Calvinists when they are wrong?’

‘That’s it,—you’ve hit it, Doctor,’ said Simeon Brown. ‘That’s what
I always say. I say, ‘Don’t he _prove_ it? and how are you going to
answer him?’ That gravels ’em.’

‘Well,’ said Deacon Twitchel, ‘Brother Seth—you know Brother Seth,—he
says you deny depravity. He’s all for imputation of Adam’s sin, you
know; and I have long talks with Seth about it, every time he comes to
see me; and he says, that if we did not sin in Adam, it’s givin’ up the
whole ground altogether; and then he insists you’re clean wrong about
the unregenerate doings.’

‘Not at all,—not in the least,’ said the Doctor, promptly.

‘I wish Seth could talk with you some time, Doctor. Along in the
spring, he was down helpin’ me to lay stone fence,—it was when we was
fencin’ off the south-pastur’ lot,—and we talked pretty nigh all day;
and it really did seem to me that the longer we talked, the sotter
Seth grew. He’s a master-hand at readin’; and when he heard that your
remarks on Dr. Mayhew had come out, Seth tackled up o’ purpose and
come up to Newport to get them, and spent all his time, last winter,
studyin’ on it and makin’ his remarks: and I tell you, sir, he’s a
tight fellow to argue with. Why, that day, what with layin’ stone
wall and what with arguin’ with Seth, I come home quite beat out,—Miss
Twitchel will remember.’

‘That he was!’ said his helpmeet. ‘I ’member, when he came home, says
I, “Father, you seem clean used up;” and I stirred ’round lively like,
to get him his tea. But he jest went into the bedroom and laid down
afore supper; and I says to Cerinthy Ann, “That’s a thing I ha’n’t
seen your father do since he was took with the typhus.” And Cerinthy
Ann, she said she knew ’twa’n’t anything but them old doctrines,—that
it was always so when Uncle Seth come down. And after tea father was
kinder chirked up a little, and he and Seth set by the fire, and was
a-beginnin’ it ag’in, and I jest spoke out and said,—“Now, Seth, these
’ere things doesn’t hurt you; but the Deacon is weakly, and if he gets
his mind riled after supper, he don’t sleep none all night. So,” says
I, “you’d better jest let matters stop where they be; ’cause,” says I,
“’twon’t make no difference, for to-night, which on ye’s got the right
on’t;—reckon the Lord’ll go on his own way without you; and we shall
find out, by’m-by, what that is.”’

‘Mr. Scudder used to think a great deal on these points,’ said Mrs.
Katy, ‘and the last time he was home he wrote out his views. I haven’t
ever shown them to you, Doctor; but I should be pleased to know what
you think of them.’

‘Mr. Scudder was a good man, with a clear head,’ said the Doctor; ‘and
I should be much pleased to see anything that he wrote.’

A flush of gratified feeling passed over Mrs. Katy’s face;—for one
flower laid on the shrine which we keep in our hearts for the dead is
worth more than any gift to our living selves.

We will not now pursue our party further, lest you, Reader, get more
theological tea than you can drink. We will not recount the numerous
nice points raised by Mr. Simeon Brown and adjusted by the Doctor,—and
how Simeon invariably declared, that that was the way in which he
disposed of them himself, and how he had thought it out ten years ago.

We will not relate, either, too minutely, how Mary changed colour
and grew pale and red in quick succession, when Mr. Simeon Brown
incidentally remarked that the ‘Monsoon’ was going to set sail that
very afternoon for her three-years’ voyage. Nobody noticed—in the
busy amenities—the sudden welling and ebbing of that one poor little
heart-fountain.

So we go,—so little knowing what we touch and what touches us as we
talk! We drop out a common piece of news,—‘Mr. So-and-so is dead,—Miss
Such-a-one is married,—such a ship has sailed,’—and lo, on our right
hand or our left, some heart has sunk under the news silently,—gone
down in the great ocean of Fate, without even a bubble rising to tell
its drowning pang. And this—God help us!—is what we call living!



CHAPTER V.

THE LETTER.


MARY returned to the quietude of her room. The red of twilight had
faded, and the silver moon, round and fair, was rising behind the thick
boughs of the apple-trees. She sat down in the window, thoughtful and
sad, and listened to the crickets, whose ignorant jollity often sounds
as mournfully to us mortals as ours may to superior beings. There the
little hoarse, black wretches were scraping and creaking, as if life
and death were invented solely for their pleasure, and the world were
created only to give them a good time in it. Now and then a little
wind shivered among the boughs, and brought down a shower of white
petals which shimmered in the slant beams of the moonlight; and now a
ray touched some tall head of grass, and forthwith it blossomed into
silver, and stirred itself with a quiet joy, like a new-born saint
just awaking in Paradise. And ever and anon came on the still air the
soft, eternal pulsations of the distant sea,—sound mournfullest, most
mysterious, of all the harpings of Nature. It was the sea,—the deep,
eternal sea,—the treacherous, soft, dreadful, inexplicable sea; and
he was perhaps at this moment being borne away on it,—away, away,—to
what sorrows, to what temptations, to what dangers, she knew not. She
looked along the old, familiar, beaten path by which he came, by which
he went, and thought, ‘What if he _never_ should come back?’ There
was a little path through the orchard out to a small elevation in the
pasture-lot behind, whence the sea was distinctly visible, and Mary
had often used her low-silled window as a door when she wanted to pass
out thither; so now she stepped out, and, gathering her skirts back
from the dewy grass, walked thoughtfully along the path and gained
the hill. Newport harbour lay stretched out in the distance, with the
rising moon casting a long, wavering track of silver upon it; and
vessels, like silver-winged moths, were turning and shifting slowly
to and fro upon it, and one stately ship in full sail passing fairly
out under her white canvas, graceful as some grand, snowy bird. Mary’s
beating heart told her that _there_ was passing away from her one
who carried a portion of her existence with him. She sat down under
a lonely tree that stood there, and, resting her elbow on her knee,
followed the ship with silent prayers, as it passed, like a graceful,
cloudy dream, out of her sight.

Then she thoughtfully retraced her way to her chamber; and as she was
entering, observed in the now clearer moonlight what she had not seen
before,—something white, like a letter, lying on the floor. Immediately
she struck a light, and there, sure enough, it was,—a letter in James’s
handsome, dashing hand; and the little puss, before she knew what she
was about, actually kissed it, with a fervour which would much have
astonished the writer, could he at that moment have been clairvoyant.
But Mary felt as one who finds, in the emptiness after a friend’s
death, an unexpected message or memento; and all alone in the white,
calm stillness of her little room her heart took sudden possession
of her. She opened the letter with trembling hands, and read what of
course we shall let you read. We got it out of a bundle of old, smoky,
yellow letters, years after all the parties concerned were gone on the
eternal journey beyond earth.

    ‘MY DEAR MARY,—

    ‘I cannot leave you so. I have about two hundred things to
    say to you, and it’s a shame I could not have had longer
    to see you; but blessed be ink and paper! I am writing and
    seeing to fifty things besides; so you musn’t wonder if my
    letter has rather a confused appearance.

    ‘I have been thinking that perhaps I gave you a wrong
    impression of myself, this afternoon. I am going to speak to
    you from my heart, as if I were confessing on my death-bed.
    Well, then, I do not confess to being what is commonly
    called a bad young man. I should be willing that men of
    the world generally, even strict ones, should look my life
    through and know all about it. It is only in your presence,
    Mary, that I feel that I am bad and low and shallow and
    mean, because you represent to me a sphere higher and
    holier than any in which I have ever moved, and stir up a
    sort of sighing and longing in my heart to come towards
    it. In all countries, in all temptations, Mary, your image
    has stood between me and low, gross vice. When I have been
    with fellows roaring drunken, beastly songs,—suddenly I
    have seemed to see you as you used to sit beside me in the
    singing-school, and your voice has been like an angel’s in
    my ear, and I have got up and gone out sick and disgusted.
    Your face has risen up calm and white and still, between
    the faces of poor lost creatures who know no better way of
    life than to tempt us to sin. And sometimes, Mary, when I
    have seen girls that, had they been cared for by good, pious
    mothers, might have been like you, I have felt as if I could
    cry for them. Poor women are abused all the world over; and
    it’s no wonder they turn round and revenge themselves on us.

    ‘No, I have not been bad, Mary, as the world calls badness.
    I have been kept by you. But do you remember you told me
    once, that, when the snow first fell and lay so dazzling and
    pure and soft, all about, you always felt as if the spreads
    and window-curtains that seemed white before were dirty?
    Well, it’s just like that with me. Your presence makes me
    feel that I am not pure,—that I am low and unworthy,—not
    worthy to touch the hem of your garment. Your good Dr. H.
    spent a whole half-day, the other Sunday, trying to tell us
    about the beauty of holiness; and he cut, and pared, and
    peeled, and sliced, and told us what it wasn’t, and what
    was _like_ it, and wasn’t; and then he built up an exact
    definition, and fortified and bricked it up all round; and
    I thought to myself that he’d better tell ’em to look at
    Mary Scudder, and they’d understand all about it. That was
    what I was thinking when you talked to me for looking at you
    in church instead of looking towards the pulpit. It really
    made me laugh in myself to see what a good little ignorant,
    unconscious way you had of looking up at the Doctor, as if
    he knew more about that than you did.

    ‘And now as to your Doctor that you think so much of, I like
    him for certain things, in certain ways. He is a great,
    grand, large pattern of a man,—a man who isn’t afraid to
    think, and to speak anything he does think; but then I do
    believe, if he would take a voyage round the world in the
    forecastle of a whaler, he would know more about what to
    say to people than he does now; it would certainly give him
    several new points to be considered. Much of his preaching
    about men is as like live men as Chinese pictures of trees
    and rocks and gardens,—no nearer the reality than that.
    All I can say is, “It isn’t so; and you’d know it, Sir, if
    you knew men.” He has got what they call a _system_,—just
    so many bricks put together just so; but it is too narrow
    to take in all I see in my wanderings round this world of
    ours. Nobody that has a soul, and goes round the world as I
    do, can help feeling it at times, and thinking, as he sees
    all the races of men and their ways, who made them, and
    what they were made for. To doubt the existence of a God
    seems to me like a want of common sense. There is a Maker
    and a Ruler, doubtless; but then, Mary, all this invisible
    world of religion is unreal to me. I can see we must be
    good, somehow,—that if we are not, we shall not be happy
    here or hereafter. As to all the metaphysics of your good
    Doctor, you can’t tell how they tire me. I’m not the sort of
    person that they can touch. I must have real things,—real
    people; abstractions are nothing to me. Then I think that he
    systematically contradicts on one Sunday what he preaches on
    another. One Sunday he tells us that God is the immediate
    efficient Author of every act of will; the next he tells us
    that we are entire free agents. I see no sense in it, and
    can’t take the trouble to put it together. But then he and
    you have something in you that I call religion,—something
    that makes you _good_. When I see a man working away on an
    entirely honest, unworldly, disinterested pattern, as he
    does, and when I see you, Mary, as I said before, I should
    like at least to _be_ as you are, whether I could believe as
    you do or not.

    ‘How could you so care for me, and waste on one so unworthy
    of you such love? Oh, Mary, some better man must win you;
    I never shall and never can;—but then you must not quite
    forget me; you must be my friend, my saint. If, through your
    prayers, your Bible, your friendship, you can bring me to
    your state, I am willing to be brought there,—nay, desirous.
    God has put the key of my soul into your hands.

    ‘So, dear Mary, good-bye! Pray still for your naughty, loving

                                              ‘COUSIN JAMES.’

Mary read this letter, and re-read it, with more pain than pleasure. To
feel the immortality of a beloved soul hanging upon us, to feel that
its only communications with Heaven must be through us, is the most
solemn and touching thought that can pervade a mind. It was without one
particle of gratified vanity, with even a throb of pain, that she read
such exalted praises of herself from one blind to the glories of a far
higher loveliness.

Yet was she at that moment, unknown to herself, one of the great
company scattered through earth who are priests unto God,—ministering
between the Divine One, who has unveiled himself unto them, and those
who as yet stand in the outer courts of the great sanctuary of truth
and holiness. Many a heart, wrung, pierced, bleeding with the sins
and sorrows of earth, longing to depart, stands in this mournful and
beautiful ministry, but stands unconscious of the glory of the work in
which it waits and suffers. God’s kings and priests are crowned with
thorns, walking the earth with bleeding feet and comprehending not the
work they are performing.

Mary took from a drawer a small pocket-book, from which dropped a lock
of black hair,—a glossy curl, which seemed to have a sort of wicked,
wilful life in every shining ring, just as she had often seen it shake
naughtily on the owner’s head. She felt a strange tenderness towards
the little wilful thing, and, as she leaned over it, made in her heart
a thousand fond apologies for every fault and error.

She was standing thus when Mrs. Scudder entered the room to see if her
daughter had yet retired.

‘What are you doing there, Mary?’ she said, as her eye fell on the
letter. ‘What is it you are reading?’

Mary felt herself grow pale: it was the first time in her whole life
that her mother had asked her a question that she was not from the
heart ready to answer. Her loyalty to her only parent had gone on
even-handed with that she gave to her God; she felt, somehow, that the
revelations of that afternoon had opened a gulf between them, and the
consciousness overpowered her.

Mrs. Scudder was astonished at her evident embarrassment, her
trembling, and paleness. She was a woman of prompt, imperative
temperament, and the slightest hesitation in rendering to her a full,
outspoken confidence had never before occurred in their intercourse.
Her child was the core of her heart, the apple of her eye, and intense
love is always near neighbour to anger; there was therefore an
involuntary flash from her eye and a heightening of her colour, as she
said,—‘Mary, are you concealing anything from your mother?’

In that moment Mary had grown calm again. The wonted serene, balanced
nature had found its habitual poise, and she looked up innocently,
though with tears in her large blue eyes, and said,—‘No, mother,—I have
nothing that I do not mean to tell you fully. This letter came from
James Marvyn; he came here to see me this afternoon.’

‘Here?—when? I did not see him.’

‘After dinner. I was sitting here in the window, and suddenly he came
up behind me through the orchard-path.’

Mrs. Katy sat down with a flushed cheek and a discomposed air; but Mary
seemed actually to bear her down by the candid clearness of the large
blue eye which she turned on her as she stood perfectly collected, with
her deadly-pale face and a brilliant spot burning on each cheek.

‘James came to say good-bye. He complained that he had not had a chance
to see me alone since he came home.’

‘And what should he want to see you alone for?’ said Mrs. Scudder, in a
dry, disturbed tone.

‘Mother,—everybody has things at times which they would like to say to
some one person alone,’ said Mary.

‘Well, tell me what he said.’

‘I will try. In the first place he said that he always had been free,
all his life, to run in and out of our house, and to wait on me like a
brother.’

‘Hum!’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘but he isn’t your brother for all that.’

‘Well, then he wanted to know why you were so cold to him, and why you
never let him walk with me from meetings, or see me alone as we often
used to. And I told him why,—that we were not children now, and that
you thought it was not best; and then I talked with him about religion,
and tried to persuade him to attend to the concerns of his soul; and I
never felt so much hope for him as I do now.’

Aunt Katy looked sceptical, and remarked,—‘If he really felt a
disposition for religious instruction, Dr. H. could guide him much
better than you could.’

‘Yes,—so I told him, and I tried to persuade him to talk with Dr. H.;
but he was very unwilling. He said, I could have more influence over
him than anybody else,—that nobody could do him any good but me.’

‘Yes, yes,—I understand all that,’ said Aunt Katy,—‘I have heard young
men say _that_ before, and I know just what it amounts to.’

‘But, mother, I do think James was moved very much, this afternoon. I
never heard him speak so seriously; he seemed really in earnest, and he
asked me to give him my Bible.’

‘Couldn’t he read any Bible but yours?’

‘Why, naturally, you know, mother, he would like my Bible better,
because it would put him in mind of me. He promised faithfully to read
it all through.’

‘And then, it seems, he wrote you a letter.’ ‘Yes, mother.’

Mary shrank from showing this letter, from the natural sense of honour
which makes us feel it indelicate to expose to an unsympathising eye
the confidential outpourings of another heart; and then, she felt quite
sure that there was no such intercessor for James in her mother’s heart
as in her own. But over all this reluctance rose the determined force
of duty; and she handed the letter in silence to her mother.

Mrs. Scudder took it, laid it deliberately in her lap, and then began
searching in the pocket of her chintz petticoat for her spectacles.
These being found, she wiped them, accurately adjusted them, opened
the letter and spread it on her lap, brushing out its folds and
straightening it, that she might read with the greater ease. After this
she read it carefully and deliberately; and all this while there was
such a stillness, that the sound of the tall varnished clock in the
best room could be heard through the half-opened door.

After reading it with the most tiresome, torturing slowness, she rose,
and laying it on the table under Mary’s eye, and, pressing down her
finger on two lines in the letter, said, ‘Mary, have you told James
that you loved him?’

‘Yes, mother, always. I always loved him, and he always knew it.’

‘But, Mary, this that he speaks of is something different. What has
passed between——’

‘Why, mother, he was saying that we who were Christians drew to
ourselves and did not care for the salvation of our friends; and then I
told him how I had always prayed for him, and how I should be willing
even to give up my hopes in heaven, if he might be saved.’

‘Child,—what do you mean?’

‘I mean, if only one of us two could go to heaven, I had rather it
should be him than me,’ said Mary.

‘Oh, child! child!’ said Mrs. Scudder, with a sort of groan,—‘has it
gone with you so far as this? Poor child!—after all my care, you _are_
in love with this boy,—your heart is set on him.’

‘Mother, I am not. I never expect to see him much,—never expect to
marry him or anybody else;—only he seems to me to have so much more
life and soul and spirit than most people,—I think him so noble
and grand,—that is, that he _could_ be, if he were all he ought to
be,—that, somehow, I never think of myself in thinking of him, and his
salvation seems worth more than mine;—men can do so much more!—they can
live such splendid lives!—oh, a real noble man is so glorious!’

‘And you would like to see him well married, would you not?’ said
Mrs. Scudder, sending, with a true woman’s aim, this keen arrow into
the midst of the cloud of enthusiasm which enveloped her daughter. ‘I
think,’ she added, ‘that Jane Spencer would make him an excellent wife.’

Mary was astonished at a strange, new pain that shot through her at
these words. She drew in her breath and turned herself uneasily, as
one who had literally felt a keen dividing blade piercing between soul
and spirit. Till this moment, she had never been conscious of herself;
but the shaft had torn the veil. She covered her face with her hands;
the hot blood flushed scarlet over neck and brow; at last, with a
beseeching look, she threw herself into her mother’s arms.

‘Oh, mother, mother, I am selfish, after all!’

Mrs. Scudder folded her silently to her heart, and said, ‘My daughter,
that is not at all what I wished it to be; I see how it is;—but then
you have been a good child; I don’t blame you. We can’t always help
ourselves. We don’t always really know how we do feel. I didn’t
know, for a long while, that I loved your father. I thought I was
only curious about him, because he had a strange way of treating me,
different from other men; but, one day, I remember, Julian Simons told
me that it was reported that his mother was making a match for him with
Susan Emery, and I was astonished to find how I felt. I saw him that
evening, and the moment he looked at me I saw it wasn’t true; all at
once I knew something I never knew before,—and that was, that I should
be very unhappy, if he loved any one else better than me. But then,
my child, your father was a different man from James;—he was as much
better than I was as you are than James. I was a foolish, thoughtless
young thing then. I never should have been anything at all, but for
him. Somehow, when I loved him, I grew more serious, and then he always
guided and led me. Mary, your father was a wonderful man; he was one
of the sort that the world knows not of; sometime I must show you his
letters. I always hoped, my daughter, that you would marry such a man.’

‘Don’t speak of marrying, mother. I never shall marry.’

‘You certainly should not, unless you can marry in the Lord. Remember
the words, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For
what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what
communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with
Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”’

‘Mother, James is not an infidel.’

‘He certainly is an _unbeliever_, Mary, by his own confession; but then
God is a Sovereign and hath mercy on whom He will. You do right to pray
for him; but if he does not come out on the Lord’s side, you must not
let your heart mislead you. He is going to be gone three years, and
you must try to think as little of him as possible;—put your mind upon
your duties, like a good girl, and God will bless you. Don’t believe
too much in your power over him:—young men, when they are in love,
will promise anything, and really think they mean it; but nothing is a
saving change, except what is wrought in them by sovereign grace.’

‘But, mother, does not God use the love we have to each other as a
means of doing us good? Did you not say that it was by your love to
father that you first were led to think seriously?’

‘That is true, my child,’ said Mrs. Scudder, who, like many of the
rest of the world, was surprised to meet her own words walking out
on a track where she had not expected them, but was yet too true of
soul to cut their acquaintance because they were not going the way of
her wishes. ‘Yes, all that is true; but yet, Mary, when one has but
one little ewe lamb in the world, one is jealous of it. I would give
all the world, if you had never seen James. It is dreadful enough for
a woman to love anybody as you can, but it is more to love a man of
unsettled character and no religion. But then the Lord appoints all our
goings: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps;—I leave you,
my child, in His hands.’ And, with one solemn and long embrace, the
mother and daughter parted for the night.

It is impossible to write a story of New England life and manners for a
thoughtless, shallow-minded person. If we represent things as they are,
their intensity, their depth, their unworldly gravity and earnestness,
must inevitably repel lighter spirits, as the reverse pole of the
magnet drives off sticks and straws.

In no other country were the soul and the spiritual life ever such
intense realities, and everything contemplated so much (to use a
current New-England phrase) ‘in reference to eternity.’ Mrs. Scudder
was a strong clear-headed, practical woman. No one had a clearer
estimate of the material and outward life, or could more minutely
manage its smallest item; but then a tremendous, eternal future had
so weighed down and compacted the fibres of her very soul, that all
earthly things were but as dust in comparison to it. That her child
should be one elected to walk in white, to reign with Christ when earth
was a forgotten dream, was her one absorbing wish; and she looked on
all the events of life only with reference to this. The way of life
was narrow, the chances in favour of any child of Adam infinitely
small; the best, the most seemingly pure and fair, was by nature a
child of wrath, and could be saved only by a sovereign decree, by
which it should be plucked as a brand from the burning. Therefore it
was, that, weighing all things in one balance, there was the sincerity
of her whole being in the dread which she felt at the thought of her
daughter’s marriage with an unbeliever.

Mrs. Scudder, after retiring to her room, took her Bible, in
preparation for her habitual nightly exercise of devotion, before going
to rest. She read and re-read a chapter, scarce thinking what she was
reading,—aroused herself,—and then sat with the book in her hand in
deep thought. James Marvyn was her cousin’s son, and she had a strong
feeling of respect and family attachment for his father. She had, too,
a real kindness for the young man, whom she regarded as a well-meaning,
wilful youngster; but that _he_ should touch her saint, her Mary,
that _he_ should take from her the daughter who was her all, really
embittered her heart towards him.

‘After all,’ she said to herself, ‘there are three years,—three years
in which there will be no letters, or perhaps only one or two,—and a
great deal may be done in three years, if one is wise;’—and she felt
within herself an arousing of all the shrewd womanly and motherly tact
of her nature to meet this new emergency.



CHAPTER VI.

THE DOCTOR.


IT is seldom that man and woman come together in intimate association,
unless influences are at work more subtle and mysterious than the
subjects of them dream. Even in cases where the strongest ruling force
of the two sexes seems out of the question, there is still something
peculiar and insidious in their relationship. A fatherly old gentleman,
who undertakes the care of a sprightly young girl, finds, to his
astonishment, that little Miss spins all sorts of cobwebs round him.
Grave professors and teachers cannot give lessons to their female
pupils just as they give them to the coarser sex; and more than once
has the fable of ‘Cadenus and Vanessa’ been acted over by the most
unlikely performers.

The Doctor was a philosopher, a metaphysician, a philanthropist, and
in the highest and most earnest sense a minister of good on earth. The
New England clergy had no sentimental affectation of sanctity that
segregated them from wholesome human relations; and, consequently, our
good Doctor had always resolved, in a grave and thoughtful spirit,
at a suitable time in his worldly affairs, to choose unto himself a
helpmeet. Love, as treated of in romances, he held to be a foolish and
profane matter, unworthy the attention of a serious and reasonable
creature. All the language of poetry on this subject was to him an
unknown tongue. He contemplated the entrance on married life somewhat
in this wise:—That at a time and place suiting, he should look out
unto himself a woman of a pleasant countenance and of good repute, a
zealous, earnest Christian, and well skilled in the items of household
management, whom, accosting as a stranger and pilgrim to a better life,
he should loyally and lovingly entreat, as Isaac did Rebekah, to come
under the shadow of his tent and be a helpmeet unto him in what yet
remained of this mortal journey. But straitened circumstances, and the
unsettled times of the Revolution, in which he had taken an earnest and
zealous part, had delayed to a late bachelorhood the fulfilment of this
resolution.

When once received under the shadow of Mrs. Scudder’s roof, and within
the provident sphere of her unfailing housekeeping, all material
necessity for an immediate choice was taken away; for he was in exactly
that situation dearest to every scholarly and thoughtful man, in which
all that pertained to the outward life appeared to rise under his hand
at the moment he wished for it, without his knowing how or why.

He was not at the head of a prosperous church and society, rich and
well-to-do in the world,—but, as the pioneer leader of a new theology,
in a country where theology was the all-absorbing interest, he had to
breast the reaction that ever attends the advent of new ideas. His
pulpit talents, too, were unattractive. His early training had been
all logical, not in the least æsthetic; for, like the ministry of his
country generally, he had been trained always to think more of what
he should say than of how he should say it. Consequently, his style,
though not without a certain massive greatness, which always comes from
largeness of nature, had none of those attractions by which the common
masses are beguiled into thinking. He gave only the results of thought,
not its incipient processes; and the consequence was, that few could
follow him. In like manner, his religious teachings were characterized
by an ideality so high as quite to discourage ordinary virtue.

There is a ladder to heaven, whose base God has placed in human
affections, tender instincts, symbolic feelings, sacraments of love,
through which the soul rises higher and higher, refining as she goes,
till she outgrows the human, and changes, as she rises, into the image
of the divine. At the very top of this ladder, at the threshold of
Paradise, blazes dazzling and crystalline that celestial grade where
the soul knows self no more, having learned, through a long experience
of devotion, how blest it is to lose herself in that eternal Love and
Beauty of which all earthly fairness and grandeur are but the dim type,
the distant shadow. This highest step, this saintly elevation, which
but few selectest spirits ever on earth attain, to raise the soul to
which the Eternal Father organized every relation of human existence
and strung every chord of human love, for which this world is one long
discipline, for which the soul’s human education is constantly varied,
for which it is now torn by sorrow, now flooded by joy, to which all
its multiplied powers tend with upward hands of dumb and ignorant
aspiration,—this Ultima Thule of virtue had been seized upon by our
sage as the _all_ of religion. He knocked out every round of the ladder
but the highest, and then, pointing to its hopeless splendour, said to
the world, ‘Go up thither and be saved!’

Short of that absolute self-abnegation, that unconditional surrender
to the Infinite, there was nothing meritorious,—because, if _that_
were commanded, every moment of refusal was rebellion. Every prayer,
not based on such consecration, he held to be an insult to the Divine
Majesty;—the reading of the Word, the conscientious conduct of life,
the performance of the duties of man to man, being, without this, the
deeds of a creature in conscious rebellion to its Eternal Sovereign,
were all vitiated and made void. Nothing was to be preached to the
sinner, but his ability and obligation to rise immediately to this
height.

It is not wonderful that teaching of this sort should seem to many
unendurable, and that the multitude should desert the preacher with
the cry, ‘This is an hard saying; who can hear it?’ The young and
gay were wearied by the dryness of metaphysical discussions which to
them were as unintelligible as a statement of the last results of the
mathematician to the child commencing the multiplication-table. There
remained around him only a select circle,—shrewd, hard thinkers, who
delighted in metaphysical subtleties,—deep-hearted, devoted natures,
who sympathized with the unworldly purity of his life, his active
philanthropy and untiring benevolence,—courageous men, who admired his
independence of thought and freedom in breasting received opinions,—and
those unperceiving, dull, good people who are content to go to church
anywhere as convenience and circumstances may drift them,—people who
serve, among the keen-feeling and thinking portion of the world, much
the same purpose as adipose matter in the human system, as a soft
cushion between the nerves of feeling and the muscles of activity.

There was something affecting in the pertinacity with which the good
Doctor persevered in saying his say to his discouraging minority of
hearers. His salary was small; his meeting-house, damaged during the
Revolutionary struggle, was dilapidated and forlorn,—fireless in
winter, and in summer admitting a flood of sun and dust through those
great windows which formed so principal a feature in those first
efforts of Puritan architecture.

Still, grand in his humility, he preached on,—and as a soldier never
asks why, but stands at apparently the most useless post, so he went
on from Sunday to Sunday, comforting himself with the reflection
that no one could think more meanly of his ministrations than he did
himself. ‘I am like Moses only in not being eloquent,’ he said in his
simplicity. ‘My preaching is barren and dull, my voice is hard and
harsh; but then the Lord is a Sovereign, and may work through me. He
fed Elijah once through a raven, and he may feed some poor wandering
soul through me.’

The only mistake made by the good man was that of supposing that the
elaboration of theology was preaching the gospel. The gospel he was
preaching constantly, by his pure, unworldly living, by his visitations
to homes of poverty and sorrow, by his searching out of the lowly
African slaves, his teaching of those whom no one else in those days
had thought of teaching, and by the grand humanity, outrunning his age,
in which he protested against the then admitted system of slavery and
the slave-trade. But when, rising in the pulpit, he followed trains of
thought suited only to the desk of the theological lecture-room, he did
it blindly, following that law of self-development by which minds of
a certain amount of fervour _must_ utter what is in them, whether men
will hear or whether they will forbear.

But the place where our Doctor was happiest was his study. There he
explored, and wandered, and read, and thought, and lived a life as
wholly ideal and intellectual as heart could conceive.

And could _Love_ enter a reverend doctor’s study, and find his way into
a heart empty and swept of all those shreds of poetry and romance in
which he usually finds the material of his incantations? Even so;—but
he came so thoughtfully, so reverently, with so wise and cautious a
footfall, that the good Doctor never even raised his spectacles to
see who was there. The first that he knew, poor man, he was breathing
an air of strange and subtile sweetness,—from what Paradise he never
stopped his studies to inquire. He was like a great, rugged elm, with
all its lacings and archings of boughs and twigs, which has stood
cold and frozen against the metallic blue of winter sky, forgetful
of leaves, and patient in its bareness, calmly content in its naked
strength and crystalline definiteness of outline. But in April there
is a rising and stirring within the grand old monster,—a whispering of
knotted buds, a mounting of sap coursing ethereally from bough to bough
with a warm and gentle life; and though the old elm knows it not, a new
creation is at hand. Just so, ever since the good man had lived at Mrs.
Scudder’s, and had the gentle Mary for his catechumen, a richer life
seemed to have coloured his thoughts,—his mind seemed to work with a
pleasure never felt before.

Whoever looked on the forehead of the good Doctor must have seen the
squareness of ideality giving marked effect to its outline. As yet
ideality had dealt only with the intellectual and invisible, leading to
subtile refinements of argument and exalted ideas of morals. But there
was lying in him, crude and unworked, a whole mine of those artistic
feelings and perceptions which are awakened and developed only by the
touch of beauty. Had he been born beneath the shadow of the great Duomo
of Florence, where Giotto’s Campanile rises like the slender stalk of
a celestial lily, where varied marbles and rainbow glass and gorgeous
paintings and lofty statuary call forth, even from childhood, the
soul’s reminiscences of the bygone glories of its pristine state, his
would have been a soul as rounded and full in its sphere of faculties
as that of Da Vinci or Michael Angelo. But of all that he was as
ignorant as a child; and the first revelation of his dormant nature
was to come to him through the face of woman,—that work of the Mighty
Master which is to be found in all lands and ages.

What makes the love of a great mind something fearful in its inception
is, that it is often the unsealing of a hitherto undeveloped portion of
a large and powerful being: the woman may or may not seem to other eyes
adequate to the effect produced, but the man cannot forget her, because
with her came a change which makes him for ever a different being. So
it was with our friend. A woman it was that was destined to awaken in
him all that consciousness which music, painting, poetry awaken in more
evenly-developed minds; and it is the silent breathing of her creative
presence that is even now creating him anew, while as yet he knows it
not.

He never thought, this good old soul, whether Mary were beautiful or
not; he never even knew that he looked at her; nor did he know why it
was that the truths of his theology, when uttered by her tongue, had
such a wondrous beauty as he never felt before. He did not know why it
was, that, when she silently sat by him, copying tangled manuscript for
the press, as she sometimes did, his whole study seemed so full of some
divine influence, as if, like St. Dorothea, she had worn in her bosom,
invisibly, the celestial roses of Paradise. He recorded honestly in his
diary what marvellous freshness of spirit the Lord had given him, and
how he seemed to be uplifted in his communings with heaven, without
once thinking from the robes of what angel this sweetness had exhaled.

On Sundays, when he saw good Mrs. Jones asleep, and Simon Brown’s hard,
sharp eyes, and Deacon Twitchel mournfully rocking to and fro, and his
wife handing fennel to keep the children awake, his eye glanced across
to the front gallery, where one earnest young face, ever kindling
with feeling and bright with intellect, followed on his way, and he
felt uplifted and comforted. On Sunday mornings, when Mary came out
of her little room, in clean white dress, with her singing-book and
psalm-book in her hands, her deep eyes solemn from recent prayer, he
thought of that fair and mystical bride, the Lamb’s wife, whose union
with her Divine Redeemer in a future millenial age was a frequent and
favourite subject of his musings; yet he knew not that this celestial
bride, clothed in fine linen, clean and white, veiled in humility and
meekness, bore in his mind those earthly features. No, he never had
dreamed of that! But only after she had passed by, that mystical vision
seemed to him more radiant, more easy to be conceived.

It is said that, if a grape-vine be planted in the neighbourhood of
a well, its roots, running silently under ground, wreathe themselves
in a network around the cold clear waters, and the vine’s putting on
outward greenness and unwonted clusters and fruit is all that tells
where every root and fibre of its being has been silently stealing. So
those loves are most fatal, most absorbing, in which, with unheeded
quietness, every thought and fibre of our life twines gradually around
some human soul, to us the unsuspected well-spring of our being.
Fearful it is, because so often the vine must be uprooted, and all its
fibres wrenched away; but till the hour of discovery comes, how is it
transfigured by a new and beautiful life!

There is nothing in life more beautiful than that trancelike quiet
dawn which precedes the rising of love in the soul. When the whole
being is pervaded imperceptibly and tranquilly by another being, and
we are happy, we know not and ask not why, the soul is then receiving
all and asking nothing. At a later day she becomes self-conscious, and
then come craving exactions, endless questions,—the whole world of the
material comes in with its hard counsels and consultations, and the
beautiful trance fades for ever.

Of course all this is not so to _you_, my good friends, who read it
without the most distant idea what it can mean; but there are people in
the world to whom it has meant and will mean much, and who will see in
the present happiness of our respectable friend something even ominous
and sorrowful.

It had not escaped the keen eye of the mother how quickly and
innocently the good Doctor was absorbed by her daughter, and thereupon
had come long trains of practical reflections.

The Doctor, though not popular indeed as a preacher, was a noted man in
his age. Her deceased husband had regarded him with something of the
same veneration which might have been accorded to a divine messenger,
and Mrs. Scudder had received and kept this veneration as a precious
legacy. Then, although not handsome, the Doctor had decidedly a grand
and imposing appearance. There was nothing common or insignificant
about him. Indeed, it had been said, that, when, just after the
declaration of peace, he walked through the town in the commemorative
procession side by side with General Washington, the minister, in the
majesty of his gown, bands, cocked hat, and full flowing wig, was
thought by many to be the more majestic and personable figure of the
two.

In those days, the minister united in himself all those ideas of
superior position and cultivation with which the theocratic system of
the New England community had invested him. Mrs. Scudder’s notions of
social rank could reach no higher than to place her daughter on the
throne of such pre-eminence.

Her Mary, she pondered, was no common girl. In those days it was a
rare thing for young persons to devote themselves to religion or make
any professions of devout life. The church, or that body of people who
professed to have passed through a divine regeneration, was almost
entirely confined to middle-aged and elderly people, and it was looked
upon as a singular and unwonted call of divine grace when young persons
came forward to attach themselves to it. When Mary, therefore, at quite
an early age, in all the bloom of her youthful beauty, arose, according
to the simple and impressive New England rite, to consecrate herself
publicly to a religious life, and to join the company of professing
Christians, she was regarded with a species of deference amounting
even to awe. Had it not been for the childlike, unconscious simplicity
of her manners, the young people of her age would have shrunk away
from her, as from one entirely out of their line of thought and
feeling; but a certain natural and innocent playfulness and amiable
self-forgetfulness made her a general favourite.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Scudder knew no young man whom she deemed worthy to
have and hold a heart which she prized so highly. As to James, he stood
at double disadvantage, because, as her cousin’s son, he had grown up
from childhood under her eye, and all those sins and iniquities into
which gay and adventurous youngsters will be falling had come to her
knowledge. She felt kindly to the youth; she wished him well; but as
to giving him her Mary!—the very suggestion made her dislike him. She
was quite sure he must have tried to beguile her—he must have tampered
with her feelings to arouse in her pure and well-ordered mind so much
emotion and devotedness as she had witnessed.

How encouraging a Providence, then, was it that he was gone to sea for
three years!—how fortunate that Mary had been prevented in any way
from committing herself with him!—how encouraging that the only man in
those parts, in the least fitted to appreciate her, seemed so greatly
pleased and absorbed in her society!—how easily might Mary’s dutiful
reverence be changed to a warmer sentiment, when she should find that
so great a man could descend from his lofty thoughts to think of her!

In fact, before Mrs. Scudder had gone to sleep the first night after
James’s departure, she had settled upon the house where the minister
and his young wife were to live, had reviewed the window-curtains and
bed-quilts for each room, and glanced complacently at an improved
receipt for wedding-cake, which might be brought out to glorify a
certain occasion!



CHAPTER VII.

THE FRIENDS AND RELATIONS OF JAMES.


MR. ZEBEDEE MARVYN, the father of James, was the sample of an
individuality so purely the result of New England society and education
that he must be embodied in our story as a representative man of the
times.

He owned a large farm in the immediate vicinity of Newport, which he
worked with his own hands and kept under the most careful cultivation.
He was a man past the middle of life, with a white head, a keen blue
eye, and a face graven deeply with the lines of energy and thought. His
was one of those clearly-cut minds which New England forms among her
farmers, as she forms quartz crystals in her mountains, by a sort of
gradual influence flowing through every pore of her soil and system.

His education, properly so called, had been merely that of those common
schools and academies with which the States are thickly sown, and
which are the springs of so much intellectual activity. Here he had
learned to think and to inquire,—a process which had not ceased with
his schooldays. Though toiling daily with his sons and hired man in all
the minutiæ of a farmer’s life, he kept an observant eye on the field
of literature, and there was not a new publication heard of that he did
not immediately find means to add it to his yearly increasing stock of
books. In particular was he a well-read and careful theologian, and
all the controversial tracts, sermons, and books, with which then, as
ever since, New England has abounded, not only lay on his shelves, but
had his pencilled annotations, queries, and comments thickly scattered
along their margins. There was scarce an office of public trust which
had not at one time or another been filled by him. He was deacon of
the church, chairman of the school committee, justice of the peace,
had been twice representative in the State legislature, and was in
permanence a sort of adviser-general in all cases between neighbour and
neighbour. Among other acquisitions, he had gained some knowledge of
the general forms of law, and his advice was often asked in preference
to that of the regular practitioners.

His dwelling was one of those large, square, white, green-blinded
mansions—cool, clean, and roomy—wherein the respectability of New
England in those days rejoiced. The windows were shaded by clumps of
lilacs; the deep yard with its white fence enclosed a sweep of clean,
short grass and a few fruit-trees. Opposite the house was a small
blacksmith’s shed, which, of a wet day, was sparkling and lively
with bellows and ringing forge, while Mr. Zebedee and his sons were
hammering and pounding and putting in order anything that was out
of the way in farming-tools or establishments. Not unfrequently the
latest scientific work or the last tractate of theology lay open by
his side, the contents of which would be discussed with a neighbour
or two as they entered; for, to say the truth, many a neighbour, less
forehanded and thrifty, felt the benefit of this arrangement of Mr.
Zebedee, and would drop in to see if he ‘wouldn’t just tighten that
rivet,’ or ‘kind o’ease out that ’ere brace,’ or ‘let a feller have a
turn with his bellows or a stroke or two on his anvil,’—to all which
the good man consented with a grave obligingness. The fact was, that
as nothing in the establishment of Mr. Marvyn was often broken or lost
or out of place, he had frequent applications to lend to those less
fortunate persons, always to be found, who supply their own lack of
considerateness from the abundance of their neighbours.

He who is known always to be in hand, and always obliging, in a
neighbourhood, stands the chance sometimes of having nothing for
himself. Mr. Zebedee reflected quietly on this subject, taking it, as
he did all others, into grave and orderly consideration, and finally
provided a complete set of tools, which he kept for the purpose of
lending; and when any of these were lent, he told the next applicant
quietly that the axe or the hoe was already out, and thus he reconciled
the Scripture which commanded him to ‘do good and lend’ with that law
of order which was written in his nature.

Early in life Mr. Marvyn had married one of the handsomest girls
of his acquaintance, who had brought him a thriving and healthy
family of children, of whom James was the youngest. Mrs. Marvyn was,
at this time, a tall, sad-eyed, gentle-mannered woman, thoughtful,
earnest, deep-natured, though sparing in the matter of words. In all
her household arrangements, she had the same thrift and order which
characterized her husband; but hers was a mind of a finer and higher
stamp than his.

In her bedroom, near by her work-basket, stood a table covered with
books,—and so systematic were her household arrangements, that she
never any day missed her regular hours for reading. One who should
have looked over this table would have seen there how eager and hungry
a mind was hid behind the silent eyes of this quiet woman. History,
biography, mathematics, volumes of the encyclopædia, poetry, novels,
all alike found their time and place there,—and while she pursued
her household labours, the busy, active soul within travelled cycles
and cycles of thought, few of which ever found expression in words.
What might be that marvellous music of the _Miserere_, of which she
read, that it convulsed crowds and drew groans and tears from the most
obdurate? What might be those wondrous pictures of Raphael and Leonardo
da Vinci? What would it be to see the Apollo, the Venus? What was the
charm that enchanted the old marbles—charm untold and inconceivable
to one who had never seen even the slightest approach to a work of
art? Then those glaciers of Switzerland, that grand, unapproachable
mixture of beauty and sublimity in her mountains!—what would it be to
one who could see it? Then what were all those harmonies of which she
read,—masses, fugues, symphonies? Oh, could she once hear the Miserere
of Mozart, just to know what music was like! And the cathedrals, what
were they? How wonderful they must be, with their forests of arches,
many-coloured as autumn-woods with painted glass, and the chants
and anthems rolling down their long aisles! On all these things she
pondered quietly, as she sat often on Sundays in the old staring,
rattle-windowed meeting-house, and looked at the uncouth old pulpit,
and heard the choir fa-sol-la-ing or singing fuguing tunes; but of all
this she said nothing.

Sometimes, for days, her thoughts would turn from these subjects and
be absorbed in mathematical or metaphysical studies. ‘I have been
following that treatise on Optics for a week, and never understood it
till to-day,’ she once said to her husband. ‘I have found now that
there has been a mistake in drawing the diagrams. I have corrected it,
and now the demonstration is complete.—Dinah, take care, that wood is
hickory, and it takes only seven sticks of that size to heat the oven.’

It is not to be supposed that a woman of this sort was an inattentive
listener to preaching so stimulating to the intellect as that of Dr.
H. No pair of eyes followed the web of his reasonings with a keener
and more anxious watchfulness than those sad, deep-set, hazel ones;
and as she was drawn along the train of its inevitable logic, a close
observer might have seen how the shadows deepened over them. For, while
others listened for the clearness of the thought, for the acuteness
of the argument, she listened as a soul wide, fine-strung, acute,
repressed, whose every fibre is a nerve, listens to the problem of its
own destiny,—listened as the mother of a family listens, to know what
were the possibilities, the probabilities of this mysterious existence
of ours to herself and those dearer to her than herself.

The consequence of all her listening was a history of deep inward
sadness. That exultant joy, or that entire submission, with which
others seemed to view the scheme of the universe, as thus unfolded,
did not visit her mind. Everything to her seemed shrouded in gloom and
mystery; and that darkness she received as a token of unregeneracy,
as a sign that she was one of those who are destined, by a mysterious
decree, never to receive the light of the glorious gospel of Christ.
Hence, while her husband was a deacon of the church, she for years
had sat in her pew while the sacramental elements were distributed, a
mournful spectator. Punctilious in every duty, exact, reverential, she
still regarded herself as a child of wrath, an enemy to God, and an
heir of perdition; nor could she see any hope of remedy, except in the
sovereign, mysterious decree of an Infinite and Unknown Power, a mercy
for which she waited with the sickness of hope deferred.

Her children had grown up successively around her, intelligent and
exemplary. Her eldest son was mathematical professor in one of the
leading colleges of New England. Her second son, who jointly with his
father superintended the farm, was a man of wide literary culture and
of fine mathematical genius; and not unfrequently, on winter evenings,
the son, father, and mother worked together, by their kitchen fireside,
over the calculations for the almanac for the ensuing year, which the
son had been appointed to edit.

Everything in the family arrangements was marked by a sober precision,
a grave and quiet self-possession. There was little demonstrativeness
of affection between parents and children, brothers and sisters, though
great mutual affection and confidence. It was not pride, nor sternness,
but a sort of habitual shamefacedness, that kept far back in each soul
those feelings which are the most beautiful in their outcome; but
after a while, the habit became so fixed a nature, that a caressing
or affectionate expression could not have passed the lips of one to
another without a painful awkwardness. Love was understood, once for
all, to be the basis on which their life was built. Once for all, they
loved each other, and after that, the less said the better. It had cost
the woman’s heart of Mrs. Marvyn some pangs, in the earlier part of
her wedlock, to accept of this _once for all_, in place of those daily
out-gushings which every woman desires should be like God’s loving
kindness, ‘new every morning;’ but hers, too, was a nature strongly
inclining inward, and, after a few tremulous movements, the needle of
her soul settled, and her life-lot was accepted,—not as what she would
like or could conceive, but as a reasonable and good one. Life was a
picture painted in low, cool tones, but in perfect keeping; and though
another and brighter style might have pleased better, she did not
quarrel with this.

Into this steady, decorous, highly-respectable circle, the youngest
child, James, made a formidable irruption. One sometimes sees launched
into a family circle a child of so different a nature from all the
rest, that it might seem as if, like an aërolite, he had fallen out
of another sphere. All the other babies of the Marvyn family had been
of that orderly, contented sort who sleep till it is convenient to
take them up, and while awake suck their thumbs contentedly and look
up with large, round eyes at the ceiling when it is not convenient
for their elders and betters that they should do anything else. In
farther advanced childhood, they had been quiet and decorous children,
who could be all dressed and set up in chairs, like so many dolls, of
a Sunday morning, patiently awaiting the stroke of the church-bell
to be carried out and put into the waggon which took them over the
two miles’ road to church. Possessed of such tranquil, orderly, and
exemplary young offshoots, Mrs. Marvyn had been considered eminent for
her ‘faculty’ in bringing up children.

But James was destined to put ‘faculty,’ and every other talent which
his mother possessed, to rout. He was an infant of moods and tenses,
and those not of any regular verb. He would cry of nights, and he would
be taken up of mornings, and he would not suck his thumb, nor a bundle
of caraway-seed tied in a rag and dipped in sweet milk, with which the
good gossips in vain endeavoured to pacify him. He fought manfully with
his two great fat fists the battle of babyhood, utterly reversed all
nursery maxims, and reigned as baby over the whole prostrate household.
When old enough to run alone, his splendid black eyes and glossy
rings of hair were seen flashing and bobbing in every forbidden place
and occupation. Now trailing on his mother’s gown, he assisted her
in salting her butter by throwing in small contributions of snuff or
sugar, as the case might be; and again, after one of those mysterious
periods of silence which are of most ominous significance in nursery
experience, he would rise from the demolition of her indigo-bag,
showing a face ghastly with blue streaks, and looking more like a
gnome than the son of a respectable mother. There was not a pitcher of
any description of contents left within reach of his little tiptoes
and busy fingers that was not pulled over upon his giddy head without
in the least seeming to improve its steadiness. In short, his mother
remarked that she was thankful every night when she had fairly gotten
him into bed and asleep: James had really got through one more day and
killed neither himself nor any one else.

As a boy, the case was little better. He did not take to study, yawned
over books, and cut out moulds for running anchors when he should have
been thinking of his columns of words in four syllables. No mortal knew
how he learned to read, for he never seemed to stop running long enough
to learn anything; and yet he did learn, and used the talent in conning
over travels, sea-voyages, and lives of heroes and naval commanders.
Spite of father, mother, and brother, he seemed to possess the most
extraordinary faculty of running up unsavoury acquaintances. He was a
hail-fellow well-met with every Tom and Jack and Jim and Ben and Dick
that strolled on the wharves, and astonished his father with minutest
particulars of every ship, schooner, and brig in the harbour, together
with biographical notes of the different Toms, Dicks, and Harrys, by
whom they were worked.

There was but one member of the family that seemed to know at all what
to make of James, and that was their negro servant, Candace.

In those days, when domestic slavery prevailed in New England, it
was quite a different thing in its aspects from the same institution
in more southern latitudes. The hard soil, unyielding to any but the
most considerate culture, the thrifty, close, shrewd habits of the
people, and their untiring activity and industry, prevented, among
the mass of the people, any great reliance on slave labour. It was
something foreign, grotesque, and picturesque in a life of the most
matter-of-fact sameness: it was even as if one should see clusters of
palm-trees scattered here and there among Yankee wooden meeting-houses,
or open one’s eyes on clumps of yellow-striped aloes growing among
hardhack and huckleberry bushes in the pastures.

Added to this, there were from the very first, in New England, serious
doubts in the minds of thoughtful and conscientious people in reference
to the lawfulness of slavery; and this scruple prevented many from
availing themselves of it, and proved a restraint on all, so that
nothing like plantation-life existed, and what servants were owned were
scattered among different families, of which they came to be regarded
and to regard themselves as a legitimate part and portion,—Mr. Marvyn,
as a man of substance, numbering two or three in his establishment,
among whom Candace reigned chief. The presence of these tropical
specimens of humanity, with their wide, joyous, rich physical abundance
of nature and their hearty _abandon_ of outward expression, was a
relief to the still clear-cut lines in which the picture of New England
life was drawn, which an artist must appreciate.

No race has ever shown such infinite and rich capabilities of
adaptation to varying soil and circumstances as the negro. Alike to
them the snows of Canada, the hard, rocky land of New England, with
its set lines and orderly ways, or the gorgeous profusion and loose
abundance of the Southern States. Sambo and Cuffy expand under
them all. New England yet preserves among her hills and valleys the
lingering echoes of the jokes and jollities of various sable worthies,
who saw alike in orthodoxy and heterodoxy, in Dr. This-side and
Dr. That-side, only food for more abundant merriment;—in fact, the
minister of those days not unfrequently had his black shadow, a sort of
African Boswell, who powdered his wig, brushed his boots, defended and
patronized his sermons, and strutted complacently about, as if through
virtue of his blackness he had absorbed every ray of his master’s
dignity and wisdom. In families, the presence of these exotics was a
godsend to the children, supplying from the abundant outwardness and
demonstrativeness of their nature that aliment of sympathy so dear
to childhood, which the repressed and quiet habits of New England
education denied. Many and many a New Englander counts among his
pleasantest early recollections the memory of some of these genial
creatures, who by their warmth of nature were the first and most potent
mesmerizers of his childish mind.

Candace was a powerfully built, majestic black woman, corpulent,
heavy, with a swinging majesty of motion like that of a ship in a
ground swell. Her shining black skin and glistening white teeth were
indications of perfect physical vigour which had never known a day’s
sickness; her turban, of broad red and yellow bandanna stripes, had
even a warm tropical glow; and her ample skirts were always ready to
be spread over every childish transgression of her youngest pet and
favourite, James.

She used to hold him entranced long winter evenings, while she sat
knitting in the chimney-corner, and crooned to him strange, wild
African legends of the things that she had seen in her childhood and
early days,—for she had been stolen when about fifteen years of age;
and these weird, dreamy talks increased the fervour of his roving
imagination, and his desire to explore the wonders of the wide and
unknown world. When rebuked or chastised, it was she who had secret
bowels of mercy for him, and hid doughnuts in her ample bosom to be
secretly administered to him in mitigation of the sentence that sent
him supperless to bed; and many a triangle of pie, many a wedge of
cake, had conveyed to him surreptitious consolations which his more
conscientious mother longed, but dared not, to impart. In fact, these
ministrations, if suspected, were winked at by Mrs. Marvyn, for two
reasons: first, that mothers are generally glad of any loving-kindness
to an erring boy, which they are not responsible for; and second, that
Candace was so set in her ways and opinions that one might as well come
in front of a ship under full sail as endeavour to stop her in a matter
where her heart was engaged.

[Illustration: _Candace’s defence of James_

_Page 70._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. Feby. 25th, 1859]

To be sure, she had her own private and special quarrels with ‘Massa
James,’ when he disputed any of her sovereign orders in the kitchen,
and would sometimes pursue him with uplifted rolling-pin and floury
hands when he had snatched a gingernut or cooky without suitable
deference or supplication, and would declare, roundly, that there
‘never was sich an aggravatin’ young-un.’ But if, on the strength of
this, any one else ventured a reproof, Candace was immediately round on
the other side: ‘Dat ar chile gwin’ to be spiled, ’cause dey’s allers
a’pickin’ on him; he’s well enough on’y let him alone.’

Well, under this miscellaneous assortment of influences,—through
the order and gravity and solemn monotone of life at home, with the
unceasing tick-tack of the clock for ever resounding through clean,
empty-seeming rooms,—through the sea, ever shining, ever smiling,
dimpling, soliciting, like a magical charger who comes saddled and
bridled and offers to take you to fairyland,—through acquaintance with
all sorts of foreign, outlandish ragamuffins among the ships in the
harbour,—from disgust of slow-moving oxen, and long-drawn, endless
furrows round the fifteen-acre lot,—from misunderstandings with grave
elder brothers, and feeling somehow as if, he knew not why, he grieved
his mother all the time just by being what he was and couldn’t help
being,—and, finally, by a bitter break with his father, in which
came that last wrench for an individual existence which some time or
other the young growing mind will give to old authority,—by all these
united, was the lot at length cast; for one evening James was missing
at supper, missing by the fireside, gone all night, not at home to
breakfast,—till, finally, a strange, weird, most heathenish-looking
cabin-boy, who had often been forbidden the premises by Mr. Marvyn,
brought in a letter, half-defiant, half-penitent, which announced that
James had sailed in the ‘Ariel’ the evening before.

Mr. Zebedee Marvyn set his face as a flint, and said, ‘He went out
from us because he was not of us,’—whereat old Candace lifted her
great floury fist from the kneading-trough, and, shaking it like a
large snowball, said, ‘Oh, you go ’long, Massa Marvyn; ye’ll live to
count dat ar boy for de staff o’ your old age yet, now I tell ye; got
de makin’ o’ ten or’nary men in him; kittles dat’s full allers will
bile over; good yeast will blow out de cork,—lucky ef it don’t bust de
bottle. Tell ye, der’s angels has der hooks in sich, and when de Lord
wants him dey’ll haul him in safe and sound.’ And Candace concluded her
speech by giving a lift to her whole batch of dough, and flinging it
down in the trough with an emphasis that made the pewter on the dresser
rattle.

This apparently irreverent way of expressing her mind, so contrary to
the deferential habits studiously inculcated in family discipline, had
grown to be so much a matter of course to all the family that nobody
ever thought of rebuking it. There was a sort of savage freedom about
her, which they excused in right of her having been born and bred a
heathen, and of course not to be expected to come at once under the
yoke of civilization. In fact, you must all have noticed, my dear
readers, that there are some sorts of people for whom everybody turns
out as they would for a railroad-car, without stopping to ask why—and
Candace was one of them.

Moreover, Mr. Marvyn was not displeased with this defence of James,
as might be inferred from his mentioning it four or five times in the
course of the morning, to say how foolish it was,—wondering why it was
that Candace and everybody else got so infatuated with that boy,—and
ending, at last, after a long period of thought, with the remark that
these poor African creatures often seemed to have a great deal of
shrewdness in them, and that he was often astonished at the penetration
that Candace showed.

At the end of the year James came home, more quiet and manly than he
had ever been known before,—so handsome with his sunburnt face, and
his keen, dark eyes and glossy curls, that half the girls in the front
gallery lost their hearts the first Sunday he appeared in church. He
was tender as a woman to his mother, and followed her with his eyes,
like a lover, wherever she went: he made due and manly acknowledgments
to his father, but declared his fixed and settled intention to abide by
the profession he had chosen; and he brought home all sorts of strange
foreign gifts for every member of the household. Candace was glorified
with a flaming red and yellow turban of Moorish stuff from Mogadore,
together with a pair of gorgeous yellow morocco slippers with peaked
toes, which, though there appeared no call to wear them in her common
course of life, she would put on her fat feet, and contemplate with
daily satisfaction. She became increasingly strengthened thereby in the
conviction that the angels who had their hooks in Massa James’s jacket
were already beginning to shorten the line.



CHAPTER VIII.

WHICH TREATS OF ROMANCE.


THERE is no word in the English language more unceremoniously and
indefinitely kicked and cuffed about, by what are called sensible
people, than the word _romance_. When Mr. Smith or Mr. Stubbs has
brought every wheel of life into such range and order that it is one
steady, daily grind,—when they themselves have come into the habits
and attitudes of the patient donkey, who steps round and round the
endlessly turning wheel of some machinery—then they fancy that they
have gotten ‘the victory that overcometh the world.’

All but this dead grind, and the dollars that come through the mill,
is by them thrown into one waste ‘catch-all’ and labelled _romance_.
Perhaps there was a time in Mr. Smith’s youth,—he remembers it
now,—when he read poetry, when his cheek was wet with strange tears,
when a little song, ground out by an organ-grinder in the street, had
power to set his heart beating and bring a mist before his eyes. Ah, in
those days he had a vision!—a pair of soft eyes stirred him strangely;
a little weak hand was laid on his manhood, and it shook and trembled;
and then came all the humility, the aspiration, the fear, the hope, the
high desire, the troubling of the waters by the descending angel of
love,—and a little more and Mr. Smith might have become a man, instead
of a banker! He thinks of it now, sometimes, as he looks across the
fireplace after dinner and sees Mrs. Smith asleep, innocently shaking
the bouquet of pink bows and Brussels lace that waves over her placid
red countenance.

Mrs. Smith wasn’t his first love, nor, indeed, any love at all; but
they agreed reasonably well. And as for poor Nellie,—well, she is dead
and buried,—all that was stuff and romance. Mrs. Smith’s money set him
up in business, and Mrs. Smith is a capital manager, and he thanks God
that he isn’t romantic, and tells Smith Junior not to read poetry or
novels, and to stick to realities.

‘This is the victory that overcometh the world,’—to learn to be fat and
tranquil, to have warm fires and good dinners, to hang your hat on the
same peg at the same hour every day, to sleep soundly all night, and
never to trouble your head with a thought or imagining beyond.

But there are many people besides Mr. Smith who have gained this
victory,—who have strangled their higher nature and buried it, and
built over its grave the structure of their life, the better to keep it
down.

The fascinating Mrs. T., whose life is a whirl between ball and opera,
point-lace, diamonds, and schemings of admiration for herself, and
of establishments for her daughters,—there was a time, if you will
believe me, when that proud, worldly woman was so humbled, under the
touch of some mighty power, that she actually thought herself capable
of being a poor man’s wife. She thought she could live in a little,
mean house, on no-matter-what-street, with one servant, and make her
own bonnets, and mend her own clothes, and sweep the house Mondays,
while Betty washed,—all for what? All because she thought that there
was a man so noble, so true, so good, so high-minded, that to live with
him in poverty, to be guided by him in adversity, to lean on him in
every rough place of life, was a something nobler, better, purer, more
satisfying, than French laces, opera-boxes, and even Madame Roget’s
best gowns.

Unfortunately, this was all romance,—there was no such man. There was,
indeed, a person of very common, self-interested aims and worldly
nature, whom she had credited at sight with an unlimited draft on all
her better nature; and when the hour of discovery came, she awoke
from her dream with a start and a laugh, and ever since has despised
aspiration, and been busy with the _realities_ of life, and feeds poor
little Mary Jane, who sits by her in the opera-box there, with all the
fruit which she has picked from the bitter tree of knowledge. There
is no end of the epigrams and witticisms which she can throw out, this
elegant Mrs. T., on people who marry for love, lead prosy, worky lives,
and put on their best cap with pink ribbons for Sunday. ‘Mary Jane
shall never make a fool of herself;’ but, even as she speaks, poor Mary
Jane’s heart is dying within her at the vanishing of a pair of whiskers
from an opposite box, which whiskers the poor little fool has credited
with a _résumé_ drawn from her own imaginings of all that is grandest
and most heroic, most worshipful in man. By-and-by, when Mrs. T. finds
the glamour has fallen on her daughter, she wonders; she has ‘tried to
keep novels out of the girl’s way,—where did she get these notions?’

All prosaic, and all bitter, disenchanted people talk as if poets
and novelists _made_ romance. They do—just as much as craters make
volcanoes,—no more. What is romance? whence comes it? Plato spoke to
the subject wisely, in his quaint way, some two thousand years ago,
when he said, ‘Man’s soul, in a former state, was winged and soared
among the gods; and so it comes to pass, that, in this life, when the
soul, by the power of music or poetry, or the sight of beauty, hath her
remembrance quickened, forthwith there is a struggling and a pricking
pain as of wings trying to come forth,—even as children in teething.’
And if an old heathen, two thousand years ago, discoursed thus gravely
of the romantic part of our nature, whence comes it that in Christian
lands we think in so pagan a way of it, and turn the whole care of it
to ballad-makers, romancers, and opera-singers?

Let us look up in fear and reverence, and say, ‘GOD is the great maker
of romance. HE, from whose hand came man and woman,—HE, who strung the
great harp of Existence with all its wild and wonderful and manifold
chords, and attuned them to one another,—HE is the great Poet of life.’
Every impulse of beauty, of heroism, and every craving for purer love,
fairer perfection, nobler type and style of being than that which
closes like a prison-house around us, in the dim, daily walk of life,
is God’s breath, God’s impulse, God’s reminder to the soul that there
is something higher, sweeter, purer, yet to be attained.

Therefore, man or woman, when thy ideal is shattered—as shattered a
thousand times it must be; when the vision fades, the rapture burns
out, turn not away in scepticism and bitterness, saying, ‘There is
nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink,’ but
rather cherish the revelations of those hours as prophecies and
fore-shadowings of something real and possible, yet to be attained
in the manhood of immortality. The scoffing spirit that laughs at
romance, is an apple of the Devil’s own handing from the bitter tree of
knowledge;—it opens the eyes only to see eternal nakedness.

If ever you have had a romantic, uncalculating friendship—a boundless
worship and belief in some hero of your soul; if ever you have so
loved, that all cold prudence, all selfish worldly considerations, have
gone down like drift-wood before a river flooded with new rain from
heaven, so that you even forgot yourself, and were ready to cast your
whole being into the chasm of existence, as an offering before the
feet of another, and all for nothing,—if you awoke bitterly betrayed
and deceived, still give thanks to God that you have had one glimpse
of heaven. The door now shut will open again. Rejoice that the noblest
capability of your eternal inheritance has been made known to you;
treasure it, as the highest honour of your being, that ever you could
so feel,—that so divine a guest ever possessed your soul.

By such experiences are we taught the pathos, the sacredness of life;
and if we use them wisely, our eyes will ever after be anointed to see
what poems, what romances, what sublime tragedies lie around us in the
daily walk of life, ‘written not with ink, but in fleshly tables of the
heart.’ The dullest street of the most prosaic town has matter in it
for more smiles, more tears, more intense excitement, than ever were
written in story or sung in poem; the reality is there, of which the
romancer is the second-hand recorder.

So much of a plea we put in boldly, because we foresee grave heads
beginning to shake over our history, and doubts rising in reverend and
discreet minds whether this history is going to prove anything but a
love-story, after all.

We do assure you, right reverend Sir, and you, most discreet Madam,
that it is not going to prove anything else; and you will find, if
you will follow us, that there is as much romance burning under the
snow-banks of cold Puritan preciseness as if Dr. H. had been brought up
to attend operas instead of metaphysical preaching; and Mary had been
nourished on Byron’s poetry instead of ‘Edwards on the Affections.’

The innocent credulities, the subtle deceptions, that were quietly at
work under the grave, white curls of the Doctor’s wig, were exactly of
the kind which have beguiled man in all ages, when near the sovereign
presence of her who is born for his destiny;—and as for Mary, what did
it avail her that she could say the Assembly’s Catechism from end to
end without tripping, and that every habit of her life beat time to
practical realities, steadily as the parlour clock? The wildest Italian
singer or dancer, nursed on nothing but excitement from her cradle,
never was more thoroughly possessed by the awful and solemn mystery of
woman’s life, than this Puritan girl.

It is quite true, that, the next morning after James’s departure,
she rose as usual in the dim gray, and was to be seen opening the
kitchen-door just at the moment when the birds were giving the first
little drowsy stir and chirp,—and that she went on setting the
breakfast-table for the two hired men, who were bound to the fields
with the oxen,—and that then she went on skimming cream for the
butter, and getting ready to churn, and making up biscuit for the
Doctor’s breakfast, when he and they should sit down together at a
somewhat later hour; and as she moved about, doing all these things,
she sung various scraps of old psalm-tunes; and the good Doctor, who
was then busy with his early exercises of devotion, listened, as he
heard the voice, now here, now there, and thought about angels and
the Millennium. Solemnly and tenderly there floated in at his open
study-window, through the breezy lilacs, mixed with low of kine, and
bleat of sheep, and hum of early wakening life, the little silvery
ripples of that singing, somewhat mournful in its cadence, as if a
gentle soul were striving to hush itself to rest. The words were those
of the rough old version of the psalms then in use:—

    ‘Truly my waiting soul relies
       In silence God upon:
     Because from him there doth arise
       All my salvation.’

And then came the busy patter of the little footsteps without, the
moving of chairs, the clink of plates, as busy hands were arranging
the table; and then again there was a pause, and he thought she seemed
to come near to the open window of the adjoining room, for the voice
floated in clearer and sadder:—

    ‘O God, to me be merciful,
       Be merciful to me!
     Because my soul for shelter safe,
       Betakes itself to thee.

    ‘Yea, in the shadow of thy wings
       My refuge have I placed,
     Until these sore calamities
       Shall quite be overpast.’

The tone of life in New England, so habitually earnest and solemn,
breathed itself in the grave and plaintive melodies of the tunes then
sung in the churches; and so these words, though in the saddest minor
key, did not suggest to the listening ear of the auditor anything more
than that pensive religious calm in which he delighted to repose. A
contrast indeed they were, in their melancholy earnestness, to the
exuberant carollings of a robin, who, apparently attracted by them,
perched himself hard by in the lilacs, and struck up such a merry
_roulade_ as quite diverted the attention of the fair singer; in fact,
the intoxication breathed in the strain of this little messenger, whom
God had feathered and winged and filled to the throat with ignorant
joy, came in singular contrast with the sadder notes breathed by that
creature of so much higher mould and fairer clay,—that creature born
for an immortal life.

But the good Doctor was inly pleased when she sung; and when she
stopped, looked up from his Bible wistfully, as missing something, he
knew not what; for he scarce thought how pleasant the little voice
was, or knew he had been listening to it,—and yet he was in a manner
enchanted by it, so thankful and happy that he exclaimed with fervour,
‘The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly
heritage.’

So went the world with him, full of joy and praise, because the voice
and the presence wherein lay his unsuspected life, were securely
near,—so certainly and constantly a part of his daily walk, that he had
not even the trouble to wish for them. But in that other heart how was
it?—how with the sweet saint that was talking to herself in psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs?

The good child had remembered her mother’s parting words the night
before,—‘Put your mind upon your duties,’—and had begun her first
conscious exercise of thought with a prayer that grace might be given
her to do it. But even as she spoke, mingling and interweaving with
that golden thread of prayer was another consciousness, a life in
another soul, as she prayed that the grace of God might overshadow him,
shield him from temptation, and lead him up to heaven; and this prayer
so got the start of the other, that, ere she was aware, she had quite
forgotten self, and was feeling, living, thinking in that other life.

The first discovery she made, when she looked out into the fragrant
orchard, whose perfumes steamed in at her window, and listened to the
first chirping of birds among the old apple-trees, was one that has
astonished many a person before her;—it was this: she found that all
that had made life interesting to her was suddenly gone. She herself
had not known that, for the month past, since James came from sea,
she had been living in an enchanted land; that Newport harbour, and
every rock and stone, and every mat of yellow seaweed on the shore,
that the two-mile road between the cottage and the white house of
Zebedee Marvyn, every mullein-stalk, every juniper-tree, had all had a
light and a charm which were suddenly gone. There had not been an hour
in the day for the last four weeks that had not had its unsuspected
interest,—because he was at the White House; because, possibly, he
might be going by, or coming in: nay, even in church, when she stood
up to sing, and thought she was thinking only of God, had she not been
conscious of that tenor voice that poured itself out by her side? and
though afraid to turn her head that way, had she not felt that he was
there every moment?—heard every word of the sermon and prayer for him?
The very vigilant care which her mother had taken to prevent private
interviews had only served to increase the interest by throwing over it
the veil of constraint and mystery. Silent looks, involuntary starts,
things indicated, not expressed—these are the most dangerous, the most
seductive aliment of thought to a delicate and sensitive nature. If
things were said out, they might not be said wisely,—they might repel
by their freedom, or disturb by their unfitness; but what is only
looked is sent into the soul through the imagination, which makes of it
all that the ideal faculties desire.

In a refined and exalted nature it is very seldom that the feeling of
love, when once thoroughly aroused, bears any sort of relation to the
reality of the object. It is commonly an enkindling of the whole power
of the soul’s love for whatever she considers highest and fairest;
it is, in fact, the love of something divine and unearthly, which,
by a sort of illusion, connects itself with a personality. Properly
speaking, there is but One true, eternal Object of all that the mind
conceives in this trance of its exaltation. Disenchantment must come,
of course; and in a love which terminates in happy marriage there is
a tender and gracious process, by which, without shock or violence,
the ideal is gradually sunk in the real, which, though found faulty
and earthly, is still ever tenderly remembered as it seemed under the
morning light of that enchantment.

What Mary loved so passionately, that which came between her and God
in every prayer, was not the gay, young, dashing sailor,—sudden in
anger, imprudent of speech, and, though generous in heart, yet worldly
in plans and schemings,—but her own ideal of a grand and noble man,
such a man as she thought he might become. He stood glorified before
her—an image of the strength that overcomes things physical; of the
power of command which controls men and circumstances; of the courage
which disdains fear; of the honour which cannot lie; of constancy which
knows no shadow of turning; of tenderness which protects the weak;
and, lastly, of religious loyalty, which should lay the golden crown
of its perfected manhood at the feet of a Sovereign Lord and Redeemer.
This was the man she loved; and with this regal mantle of glories she
invested the person called James Marvyn: and all that she saw and felt
to be wanting, she prayed for with the faith of a believing woman.

Nor was she wrong; for, as to every leaf and every flower there is an
ideal to which the growth of the plant is constantly urging, so is
there an ideal to every human being,—a perfect form in which it might
appear, were every defect removed and every characteristic excellence
stimulated to the highest point. Once, in an age, God sends to some
of us a friend who loves in us, _not_ a false imagining, an unreal
character, but, looking through all the rubbish of our imperfections,
loves in us the divine ideal of our nature,—loves, not the man that
we are, but the angel that we may be. Such friends seem inspired by
a divine gift of prophecy,—like the mother of St. Augustine, who, in
the midst of the wayward, reckless youth of her son, beheld him in a
vision, standing, clothed in white, a ministering priest at the right
hand of God—as he has stood for long ages since. Could a mysterious
foresight unveil to us this resurrection form of the friends with whom
we daily walk, compassed about with mortal infirmity, we should follow
them with faith and reverence through all the disguises of human faults
and weaknesses, ‘waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.’

But these wonderful soul-friends, to whom God grants such perception,
are the exceptions in life; yet, sometimes are we blessed with one who
sees through us, as Michel Angelo saw through a block of marble when he
attacked it in a divine fervour, declaring that an angel was imprisoned
within it: and it is often the resolute and delicate hand of such a
friend that sets the angel free.

There be soul-artists, who go through this world, looking among
their fellows with reverence, as one looks amid the dust and rubbish
of old shops for hidden works of Titian and Leonardo; and, finding
them, however cracked or torn, or painted over with tawdry daubs
of pretenders, immediately recognise the divine original, and set
themselves to cleanse and restore. Such be God’s real priests, whose
ordination and anointing are from the Holy Spirit; and he who hath not
this enthusiasm is not ordained of God, though whole synods of bishops
laid hands on him.

Many such priests there be among women; for to this silent ministry
their nature calls them, endowed, as it is, with fineness of fibre and
a subtile keenness of perception outrunning slow-footed reason,—and she
of whom we write was one of these.

At this very moment, while the crimson wings of morning were casting
delicate reflections on tree, and bush, and rock, they were also
reddening innumerable waves round a ship that sailed alone, with a wide
horizon stretching like an eternity around it; and in the advancing
morning stood a young man, thoughtfully looking off into the ocean,
with a book in his hand—James Marvyn,—as truly and heartily a creature
of this material world as Mary was of the invisible and heavenly.

There are some who seem made to _live_,—life is such a joy to them;
their senses are so fully _en rapport_ with all outward things; the
world is so keenly appreciable, so much a part of themselves; they
are so conscious of power and victory in the government and control
of material things, that the moral and invisible life often seems to
hang tremulous and unreal in their minds, like the pale, faded moon in
the light of a gorgeous sunrise. When brought face to face with the
great truths of the invisible world, they stand related to the higher
wisdom much like the gorgeous, gay Alcibiades to the divine Socrates,
or like the young man in Holy Writ to Him for whose appearing Socrates
longed;—they gaze, imperfectly comprehending, and at the call of
ambition or riches turn away sorrowing.

So it was with James: in full tide of worldly energy and ambition there
had been forming over his mind that hard crust—that scepticism of the
spiritual and exalted which men of the world delight to call practical
sense. He had been suddenly arrested and humbled by the revelation
of a nature so much nobler than his own that he seemed worthless in
his own eyes: he had asked for love; but when _such_ love unveiled
itself, he felt like the disciple of old in the view of a diviner
tenderness,—‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.’

But it is not often that all the current of a life is reversed in one
hour: and now, as James stood on the ship’s deck, with life passing
around him, and everything drawing upon the strings of old habits,
Mary and her religion recurred to his mind, as some fair, sweet,
inexplicable vision. Where she stood he saw; but how _he_ was ever to
get there seemed as incomprehensible as how a mortal man should pillow
his form on sunset clouds.

He held the little Bible in his hand as if it were some amulet charmed
by the touch of a superior being; but when he strove to read it, his
thoughts wandered, and he shut it, troubled and unsatisfied. Yet there
were within him yearnings and cravings, wants never felt before, the
beginning of that trouble which must ever precede the soul’s rise to a
higher plan of being.

There we leave him. We have shown you now our three different
characters, each one in its separate sphere, feeling the force of that
strongest and holiest power with which it has pleased our great Author
to glorify this mortal life.



CHAPTER IX.

WHICH TREATS OF THINGS SEEN.


AS, for example, the breakfast. It is six o’clock,—the hired men and
oxen are gone,—the breakfast-table stands before the open kitchen-door,
snowy with its fresh cloth, the old silver coffee-pot steaming up a
refreshing perfume,—and the Doctor sits on one side, sipping his coffee
and looking across the table at Mary, who is innocently pleased at
the kindly beaming in his placid blue eyes,—and Aunt Katy Scudder
discourses of housekeeping, and fancies something must have disturbed
the rising of the cream, as it is not so thick and yellow as wont.

Now the Doctor, it is to be confessed, was apt to fall into a way
of looking at people such as pertains to philosophers and scholars
generally, that is, as if he were looking through them into the
infinite,—in which case, his gaze became so earnest and intent that it
would quite embarrass an uninitiated person; but Mary, being used to
this style of contemplation, was only quietly amused, and waited till
some great thought should loom up before his mental vision,—in which
case, she hoped to hear from him.

The good man swallowed his first cup of coffee and spoke:—

‘In the Millennium, I suppose, there will be such a fulness and plenty
of all the necessaries and conveniences of life, that it will not be
necessary for men and women to spend the greater part of their lives in
labour in order to procure a living. It will not be necessary for each
one to labour more than two or three hours a day,—not more than will
conduce to health of body and vigour of mind; and the rest of their
time they will spend in reading and conversation, and such exercises as
are necessary and proper to improve their minds and make progress in
knowledge.’

New England presents probably the only example of a successful
commonwealth founded on a theory, as a distinct experiment in the
problem of society. It was for this reason that the minds of its great
thinkers dwelt so much on the final solution of that problem in this
world. The fact of a future Millennium was a favourite doctrine of the
great leading theologians of New England, and Dr. H. dwelt upon it
with a peculiar partiality. Indeed, it was the solace and refuge of
his soul, when oppressed with the discouragements which always attend
things actual, to dwell upon and draw out in detail the splendours of
this perfect future which was destined to glorify the world.

Nobody, therefore, at the cottage was in the least surprised when there
dropped into the flow of their daily life these sparkling bits of ore,
which their friend had dug in his explorations of a future Canaan,—in
fact, they served to raise the hackneyed present out of the level of
mere commonplace.

‘But how will it be possible,’ inquired Mrs. Scudder, ‘that so much
less work will suffice in those days to do all that is to be done?’

‘Because of the great advance of arts and sciences which will take
place before those days,’ said the Doctor, ‘whereby everything shall
be performed with so much greater ease,—also the great increase of
disinterested love, whereby the skill and talents of those who have
much shall make up for the weakness of those who have less.

‘Yes,’—he continued, after a pause,—‘all the careful Marthas in those
days will have no excuse for not sitting at the feet of Jesus; there
will be no cumbering with much serving; the church will have only
Maries in those days.’

This remark, made without the slightest personal intention, called
a curious smile into Mrs. Scudder’s face, which was reflected in a
slight blush from Mary’s, when the crack of a whip and the rattling of
waggon-wheels disturbed the conversation and drew all eyes to the door.

There appeared the vision of Mr. Zebedee Marvyn’s farm-waggon, stored
with barrels, boxes, and baskets, over which Candace sat throned
triumphant, her black face and yellow-striped turban glowing in the
fresh morning with a hearty, joyous light, as she pulled up the reins,
and shouted to the horse to stop with a voice that might have done
credit to any man living.

‘Dear me, if there isn’t Candace!’ said Mary.

‘Queen of Ethiopia,’ said the Doctor, who sometimes adventured a very
placid joke.

The Doctor was universally known in all the neighbourhood as a sort of
friend and patron-saint of the negro race; he had devoted himself to
their interests with a zeal unusual in those days. His church numbered
more of them than any in Newport; and his hours of leisure from study
were often spent in lowliest visitations among them, hearing their
stories, consoling their sorrows, advising and directing their plans,
teaching them reading and writing, and he often drew hard on his
slender salary to assist them in their emergencies and distresses.

This unusual condescension on his part was repaid on theirs with all
the warmth of their race; and Candace, in particular, devoted herself
to the Doctor with all the force of her being.

There was a legend current in the neighbourhood, that the first
efforts to catechize Candace were not eminently successful, her modes
of contemplating theological tenets being so peculiarly from her own
individual point of view that it was hard to get her subscription
to a received opinion. On the venerable clause in the Catechism, in
particular, which declares that all men sinned in Adam and fell with
him, Candace made a dead halt:—

‘I didn’t do dat ar’, for one, I knows. I’s got good mem’ry,—allers
knows what I does,—nebber did eat dat ar’ apple,—nebber eat a bit ob
him. Don’t tell me!’

It was of no use, of course, to tell Candace of all the explanations
of this redoubtable passage,—of potential presence, and representative
presence, and representative identity, and federal headship. She met
all with the dogged,—

‘Nebber did it, I knows; should ’ave ’membered, if I had. Don’t tell
me!’

And even in the catechizing class of the Doctor himself, if this answer
came to her, she sat black and frowning in stony silence even in his
reverend presence.

Candace was often reminded that the Doctor believed the Catechism, and
that she was differing from a great and good man; but the argument
made no manner of impression on her, till, one day, a far-off cousin
of hers, whose condition under a hard master had often moved her
compassion, came in overjoyed to recount to her how, owing to Dr. H.’s
exertions, he had gained his freedom. The Doctor himself had in person
gone from house to house, raising the sum for his redemption; and when
more yet was wanting, supplied it by paying half his last quarter’s
limited salary.

‘He do dat ar’?’ said Candace, dropping the fork wherewith she was
spearing doughnuts. ‘Den I’m gwine to b’liebe ebery word _he_ does!’

And accordingly, at the next catechizing, the Doctor’s astonishment was
great when Candace pressed up to him, exclaiming,—

‘De Lord bress you, Doctor, for opening de prison for dem dat is bound!
I b’liebes in you now, Doctor. I’s gwine to b’liebe ebery word you say.
I’ll say de Catechize now,—fix it any way you like. I _did_ eat dat ar’
apple,—I eat de whole tree, an’ swallowed ebery bit ob it, if you say
so.’

And this very thorough profession of faith was followed, on the part of
Candace, by years of the most strenuous orthodoxy. Her general mode of
expressing her mind on the subject was short and definitive.

‘Law me! what’s de use? I’s set out to b’liebe de Catechize, an’ I’m
gwine to b’liebe it,—so!’

While we have been telling you all this about her, she has fastened
her horse, and is swinging leisurely up to the house with a basket on
either arm.

‘Good morning, Candace,’ said Mrs. Scudder. ‘What brings you so early?’

‘Come down ’fore light to sell my chickens an’ eggs,—got a lot o’ money
for ’em, too. Missy Marvyn she sent Miss Scudder some turkey-eggs, an’
I brought down some o’ my doughnuts for de Doctor. Good folks must lib,
you know, as well as wicked ones,’—and Candace gave a hearty, unctuous
laugh. ‘No reason why Doctors shouldn’t hab good tings as well as
sinners, is dere?’—and she shook in great billows, and showed her white
teeth in the _abandon_ of her laugh. ‘Lor’ bress ye, honey, chile!’ she
said, turning to Mary, ‘why, ye looks like a new rose, ebery bit! Don’t
wonder _somebody_ was allers pryin’ an’ spyin’ about here!’

‘How is your mistress, Candace?’ said Mrs. Scudder, by way of changing
the subject.

‘Well, porly,—rader porly. When Massa Jim goes, ’pears like takin’ de
light right out her eyes. Dat ar’ boy trains roun’ arter his mudder
like a cosset, he does. Lor’, de house seems so still widout him!—can’t
a fly scratch his ear but it starts a body. Missy Marvyn she sent
down, an’ says, would you and de Doctor an’ Miss Mary please come to
tea dis arternoon?’

‘Thank your mistress, Candace,’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘Mary and I will
come,—and the Doctor, perhaps,’ looking at the good man, who had
relapsed into meditation, and was eating his breakfast without taking
note of anything going on. ‘It will be time enough to tell him of it,’
she said to Mary, ‘when we have to wake him up to dress; so we won’t
disturb him now.’

To Mary the prospect of the visit was a pleasant one, for reasons
which she scarce gave a definite form to. Of course, like a good girl,
she had come to a fixed and settled resolution to think of James as
little as possible; but when the path of duty lay directly along scenes
and among people fitted to recall him, it was more agreeable than if
it had lain in another direction. Added to this, a very tender and
silent friendship subsisted between Mrs. Marvyn and Mary; in which,
besides similarity of mind and intellectual pursuits, there was a deep,
unspoken element of sympathy.

Candace watched the light in Mary’s eyes with the instinctive
shrewdness by which her race seem to divine the thoughts and feelings
of their superiors, and chuckled to herself internally. Without ever
having been made a _confidante_ by any party, or having a word said
to or before her, still the whole position of affairs was as clear to
her as if she had seen it on a map. She had appreciated at once Mrs.
Scudder’s coolness, James’s devotion, and Mary’s perplexity,—and inly
resolved, that, if the little maiden did not think of James in his
absence, it should not be her fault.

‘Laws, Miss Scudder,’ she said, ‘I’s right glad you’s comin’, ’cause
you hasn’t seen how we’s kind o’ splendified since Massa Jim come
home. You wouldn’t know it. Why, he’s got mats from Mogadore on all
de entries, and a great big ’un on de parlour; and ye ought to see de
shawl he brought Missus, an’ all de cur’us kind o’ tings to de Squire.
’Tell ye, dat ar’ boy honours his fader and mudder, ef he don’t do
nuffin else,—an’ dat’s de fus’ commandment wid promise, ma’am; and to
see him a-settin’ up ebery day in prayer-time, so handsome, holdin’
Missus’s han’, an’ lookin’ right into her eyes all de time! Why, dat
ar’ boy is one o’ de ’lect,—it’s jest as clare to me; and de ’lect has
got to come in,—dat’s what I say. My faith’s strong,—real clare, ’tell
ye,’ she added, with the triumphant laugh which usually chorused her
conversation, and turning to the Doctor, who, aroused by her loud and
vigorous strain, was attending with interest to her.

‘Well, Candace,’ he said, ‘we all hope you are right.’

‘_Hope_, Doctor!—I don’t hope,—I _knows_. ’Tell ye, when I pray for
him, don’t I feel enlarged? ’Tell ye, it goes wid a rush. I can feel it
gwine up like a rushin’, mighty wind. I feels strong, I do.’

‘That’s right, Candace,’ said the Doctor, ‘keep on; your prayers stand
as much chance with God as if you were a crowned queen. The Lord is no
respecter of persons.’

‘Dat’s what he a’n’t, Doctor,—an’ dere’s where I ’gree wid him,’ said
Candace, as she gathered her baskets vigorously together, and, after
a sweeping curtsy, went sailing down to her waggon, full laden with
content, shouting a hearty ‘Good mornin’, Missus,’ with the full power
of her cheerful lungs, as she rode off.

As the Doctor looked after her, the simple, pleased expression with
which he had watched her, gradually faded, and there passed over his
broad, good face, a shadow, as of a cloud on a mountain-side.

‘What a shame it is,’ he said; ‘what a scandal and disgrace to the
Protestant religion, that Christians of America should openly practise
and countenance this enslaving of the Africans! I have for a long time
holden my peace—may the Lord forgive me!—but I believe the time is
coming when I must utter my voice. I cannot go down to the wharves, or
among the shipping, without these poor dumb creatures look at me so
that I am ashamed; as if they asked me what I, a Christian minister,
was doing, that I did not come to their help. I must testify.’

Mrs. Scudder looked grave at this earnest announcement; she had
heard many like it before, and they always filled her with alarm,
because——Shall we tell you why?

Well, then, it was not because she was not a thoroughly indoctrinated
anti-slavery woman. Her husband, who did all her thinking for her, had
been a man of ideas beyond his day, and never for a moment countenanced
the right of slavery so far as to buy or own a servant or attendant
of any kind: and Mrs. Scudder had always followed decidedly along the
path of his opinions and practice, and never hesitated to declare the
reasons for the faith that was in her. But if any of us could imagine
an angel dropped down out of heaven, with wings, ideas, notions,
manners, and customs all fresh from that very different country, we
might easily suppose that the most pious and orthodox family might
find the task of presenting him in general society, and piloting him
along the courses of this world, a very delicate and embarrassing one.
However much they might reverence him on their own private account,
their hearts would probably sink within them at the idea of allowing
him to expand himself according to his previous nature and habits in
the great world without. In like manner, men of high, unworldly natures
are often reverenced by those who are somewhat puzzled what to do with
them practically.

Mrs. Scudder considered the Doctor as a superior being, possessed by a
holy helplessness in all things material and temporal, which imposed
on her the necessity of thinking and caring for him, and prevising the
earthly and material aspects of his affairs.

There was not in Newport a more thriving and reputable business at that
time than the slave-trade. Large fortunes were constantly being turned
out in it, and what better Providential witness of its justice could
most people require?

Beside this, in their own little church, she reflected with alarm, that
Simeon Brown, the richest and most liberal supporter of the society,
had been, and was then, drawing all his wealth from this source; and
rapidly there flashed before her mind a picture of one and another,
influential persons, who were holders of slaves. Therefore, when the
Doctor announced, ‘I must testify,’ she rattled her tea-spoon uneasily,
and answered,—

‘In what way, Doctor, do you think of bearing testimony? The subject, I
think, is a very difficult one.’

‘Difficult? I think no subject can be clearer. If we were right in our
war for liberty, we are wrong in making slaves or keeping them.’

‘Oh, I did not mean,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘that it was difficult to
understand the subject; the _right_ of the matter is clear, but what to
_do_ is the thing.’

‘I shall preach about it,’ said the Doctor; ‘my mind has run upon it
some time. I shall show to the house of Judah their sin in this matter.’

‘I fear there will be great offence given,’ said Mrs. Scudder. ‘There’s
Simeon Brown, one of our largest supporters,—he is in the trade.’

‘Ah, yes,—but he will come out of it,—of course he will,—he is all
right, all clear. I was delighted with the clearness of his views
the other night, and thought then of bringing them to bear on this
point,—only, as others were present, I deferred it. But I can show him
that it follows logically from his principles; I am confident of that.’

‘I think you’ll be disappointed in him, Doctor;—I think he’ll be angry,
and get up a commotion, and leave the church.’

‘Madam,’ said the Doctor, ‘do you suppose that a man who would be
willing even to give up his eternal salvation for the greatest good of
the universe could hesitate about a few paltry thousands that perish in
the using?’

‘He may feel willing to give up his soul,’ said Mrs. Scudder, naïvely,
‘but I don’t think he’ll give up his ships,—that’s quite another
matter,—he won’t see it to be his duty.’

‘Then, ma’am, he’ll be a hypocrite, a gross hypocrite, if he won’t,’
said the Doctor. ‘It is not Christian charity to think it of him. I
shall call upon him this morning and tell him my intentions.’

‘But, Doctor,’ exclaimed Mrs. Scudder, with a start, ‘pray, think a
little more of it. You know a great many things depend on him. Why! he
has subscribed for twenty copies of your “System of Theology.” I hope
you’ll remember that.’

‘And why should I remember that?’ said the Doctor,—hastily turning
round, suddenly enkindled, his blue eyes flashing out of their usual
misty calm,—‘what has my “System of Theology” to do with the matter?’

[Illustration: _The Minister is moved._

_Page 90._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. March, 25th, 1859]

‘Why,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘it’s of more importance to get right views
of the gospel before the world than anything else, is it not?—and
if, by any imprudence in treating influential people, this should be
prevented, more harm than good would be done.’

‘Madam,’ said the Doctor, ‘I’d sooner my system should be sunk in the
sea than it should be a millstone round my neck to keep me from my
duty. Let God take care of my theology; I must do my duty.’

And as the Doctor spoke, he straightened himself to the full dignity
of his height, his face kindling with an unconscious majesty, and, as
he turned, his eye fell on Mary, who was standing with her slender
figure dilated, her large blue eye wide and bright, in a sort of
trance of solemn feeling, half-smiles, half-tears,—and the strong,
heroic man started, to see this answer to his higher soul in the
sweet, tremulous mirror of womanhood. One of those lightning glances
passed between his eyes and hers which are the freemasonry of noble
spirits,—and, by a sudden impulse, they approached each other. He took
both her outstretched hands, looked down into her face with a look full
of admiration, and a sort of naïve wonder,—then, as if her inspired
silence had been a voice to him, he laid his hand on her head, and
said,—

‘God bless you, child! “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast
thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest
still the enemy and the avenger.”’

In a moment he was gone.

‘Mary,’ said Mrs. Scudder, laying her hand on her daughter’s arm, ‘the
Doctor loves you!’

‘I know he does, mother,’ said Mary, innocently; ‘and I love
him,—dearly!—he is a noble, grand man!’

Mrs. Scudder looked keenly at her daughter. Mary’s eye was as calm as a
June sky, and she began, composedly, gathering up the teacups.

‘She did not understand me,’ thought the mother.



CHAPTER X.

THE TEST OF THEOLOGY.


THE Doctor went immediately to his study and put on his best coat and
his wig, and, surmounting them by his cocked hat, walked manfully out
of the house, with his gold-headed cane in his hand.

‘There he goes!’ said Mrs. Scudder, looking regretfully after him. ‘He
is _such_ a good man!—but he has not the least idea how to get along in
the world. He never thinks of anything but what is true; he hasn’t a
particle of management about him.’

‘Seems to me,’ said Mary, ‘that is like an Apostle. You know, mother,
St. Paul says, “In simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly
wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the
world.”’

‘To be sure,—that is just the Doctor,’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘that’s as
like him as if it had been written for him. But that kind of way,
somehow, don’t seem to do in our times; it won’t answer with Simeon
Brown,—I know the man. I know just as well, now, how it will all seem
to him, and what will be the upshot of this talk, if the Doctor goes
there! It won’t do any good; if it would I would be willing. I feel as
much desire to have this horrid trade in slaves stopped as anybody;
your father, I’m sure, said enough about it in his time; but then I
know it’s no use trying. Just as if Simeon Brown, when he is making his
hundreds of thousands in it, is going to be persuaded to give it up!
He won’t—he’ll only turn against the Doctor, and won’t pay his part of
the salary, and will use his influence to get up a party against him,
and our church will be broken up and the Doctor driven away,—that’s
all that will come of it; and all the good that he is now doing to
these poor negroes will be overthrown,—and they never did have so good
a friend. If he would stay here and work gradually, and get his System
of Theology printed,—and Simeon Brown would help at that,—and only drop
words in season here and there, till people are brought along with him,
why, by-and-by something might be done; but now, it’s just the most
imprudent thing a man could undertake.’

‘But, mother, if it really is a sin to trade in slaves and hold them, I
don’t see how he can help himself. I quite agree with him. I don’t see
how he came to let it go so long as he has.’

‘Well,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘if worst comes to worst, and he will do it,
I, for one, shall stand by him to the last.’

‘And I, for another,’ said Mary.

‘I would like him to talk with Cousin Zebedee about it,’ said Mrs.
Scudder. ‘When we are up there this afternoon, we will introduce the
conversation. He is a good sound man, and the Doctor thinks much of
him, and perhaps he may shed some light upon this matter.’

Meanwhile the Doctor was making the best of his way in the strength of
his purpose to test the orthodoxy of Simeon Brown.

Honest old granite boulder that he was, no sooner did he perceive a
truth than he rolled after it with all the massive gravitation of
his being, inconsiderate as to what might lie in his way:—from which
it is to be inferred, that, with all his intellect and goodness, he
would have been a very clumsy and troublesome inmate of the modern
American Church. How many societies, boards, colleges, and other good
institutions, have reason to congratulate themselves that he has long
been among the saints!

With him logic was everything; and to perceive a truth and not act
in logical sequence from it a thing so incredible, that he had not
yet enlarged his capacity to take it in as a possibility. That a man
should refuse to hear truth, he could understand. In fact, he had good
reason to think the majority of his townsmen had no leisure to give
to that purpose. That men hearing truth should dispute it and argue
stoutly against it, he could also understand; but that a man could
admit a truth and not admit the plain practice resulting from it was to
him a thing incomprehensible. Therefore, spite of Mrs. Katy Scudder’s
discouraging observations, our good Doctor walked stoutly, and with a
trusting heart.

At the moment when the Doctor, with a silent uplifting of his soul to
his invisible Sovereign, passed out of his study, on this errand, where
was the disciple whom he went to seek?

In a small, dirty room, down by the wharf, the windows veiled by
cobwebs and dingy with the accumulated dust of ages, he sat in a
greasy, leathern chair by a rickety office-table, on which were a great
pewter inkstand, an account-book, and divers papers tied with red tape.

Opposite to him was seated a square-built individual,—a man of about
forty, whose round head, shaggy eyebrows, small, keen eyes, broad
chest, and heavy muscles, showed a preponderance of the animal and
brutal over the intellectual and spiritual. This was Mr. Scroggs, the
agent of a rice plantation, who had come on, bringing an order for
a new relay of negroes to supply the deficit occasioned by fever,
dysentery, and other causes, in their last year’s stock.

‘The fact is,’ said Simeon, ‘this last ship-load wasn’t as good a one
as usual; we lost more than a third of it, so we can’t afford to put
them a penny lower.’

‘Ay,’ said the other—‘but then there are so many women!’

‘Well,’ said Simeon, ‘women a’n’t so strong perhaps to start with; but
then they stan’ it out, perhaps, in the long run, better. They’re more
patient;—some of these men, the Mandingoes particularly, are pretty
troublesome to manage. We lost a splendid fellow, coming over, on this
very voyage. Let ’em on deck for air, and this fellow managed to get
himself loose and fought like a dragon. He settled one of our men with
his fist, and another with a marlinespike that he caught,—and, in fact,
they had to shoot him down. You’ll have his wife; there’s his son,
too,—fine fellow, fifteen year old by his teeth.’

‘What! that lame one?’

‘Oh, he a’n’t lame!—it’s nothing but the cramps from stowing. You know,
of course, they are more or less stiff. He’s as sound as a nut.’

‘Don’t much like to buy relations, on account of their hatching up
mischief together,’ said Mr. Scroggs.

‘Oh, that’s all humbug! You must keep ’em from coming together, anyway.
It’s about as broad as ’tis long. There’ll be wives and husbands and
children among ’em before long, start ’em as you will. And then this
woman will work better for having the boy; she’s kinder set on him; she
jabbers lots of lingo to him, day and night.’

‘Too much, I doubt,’ said the overseer, with a shrug.

‘Well, well,—I’ll tell you,’ said Simeon, rising. ‘I’ve got a few
errands up town, and you just step over with Matlock and look over
the stock;—just set aside any that you want, and when I see ’em all
together, I’ll tell you just what you shall have ’em for. I’ll be back
in an hour or two.’

And so saying, Simeon Brown called an underling from an adjoining room,
and, committing his customer to his care, took his way up-town, in a
serene frame of mind, like a man who comes from the calm performance of
duty.

Just as he came upon the street where was situated his own large and
somewhat pretentious mansion, the tall figure of the Doctor loomed in
sight, sailing majestically down upon him, making a signal to attract
his attention.

‘Good morning, Doctor,’ said Simeon.

‘Good morning, Mr. Brown,’ said the Doctor. ‘I was looking for you.
I did not quite finish the subject we were talking about at Mrs.
Scudder’s table last night. I thought I should like to go on with it a
little.’

‘With all my heart, Doctor,’ said Simeon, not a little flattered. ‘Turn
right in. Mrs. Brown will be about her house business, and we will have
the keeping-room all to ourselves. Come right in.’

The ‘keeping-room’ of Mr. Simeon Brown’s house was an intermediate
apartment between the ineffable glories of the front parlour and that
court of the Gentiles, the kitchen; for the presence of a large train
of negro servants made the latter apartment an altogether different
institution from the throne-room of Mrs. Katy Scudder.

This keeping-room was a low-studded apartment, finished with the heavy
oaken beams of the wall left full in sight, boarded over and painted.
Two windows looked out on the street, and another into a sort of
court-yard, where three black wenches, each with a broom, pretended to
be sweeping, but were, in fact, chattering and laughing, like so many
crows.

On one side of the room stood a heavy mahogany sideboard, covered with
decanters, labelled Gin, Brandy, Rum, &c.; for Simeon was held to be
a provider of none but the best, in his housekeeping. Heavy mahogany
chairs, with crewel coverings, stood sentry about the room; and the
fireplace was flanked by two broad arm-chairs, covered with stamped
leather.

On ushering the Doctor into this apartment, Simeon courteously led him
to the sideboard.

‘We mus’n’t make our discussions too _dry_, Doctor,’ he said; ‘what
will you take?’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said the Doctor, with a wave of his hand,—‘nothing
this morning.’

And, depositing his cocked hat in a chair, he settled himself into one
of the leathern easy chairs, and, dropping his hands upon his knees,
looked fixedly before him, like a man who is studying how to enter upon
an inwardly absorbing subject.

‘Well, Doctor,’ said Simeon, seating himself opposite, sipping
comfortably at a glass of rum-and-water, ‘our views appear to be making
a noise in the world. Everything is preparing for your volumes; and
when they appear, the battle of New Divinity, I think, may fairly be
considered as won.’

Let us consider, that, though a woman may forget her firstborn, yet a
man cannot forget his own system of theology,—because, therein, if he
be a true man, is the very elixir and essence of all that is valuable
and hopeful to the universe; and considering this, let us appreciate
the settled purpose of our friend, whom even this tempting bait did
not swerve from the end which he had in view.

‘Mr. Brown,’ he said, ‘all our theology is as a drop in the ocean of
God’s majesty, to whose glory we must be ready to make any and every
sacrifice.’

‘Certainly,’ said Mr. Brown, not exactly comprehending the turn the
Doctor’s thoughts were taking.

‘And the glory of God consisteth in the happiness of all his rational
universe, each in his proportion, according to his separate amount of
being; so that, when we devote ourselves to God’s glory, it is the same
as saying that we devote ourselves to the highest happiness of his
created universe.’

‘That’s clear, sir,’ said Simeon, rubbing his hands, and taking out his
watch to see the time.

The Doctor hitherto had spoken in a laborious manner, like a man who is
slowly lifting a heavy bucket of thought out of an internal well.

‘I am glad to find your mind so clear on this all-important point,
Mr. Brown, the more so as I feel that we must immediately proceed to
apply our principles, at whatever sacrifice of worldly goods; and I
trust, sir, that you are one who, at the call of your Master, would not
hesitate even to lay down all your worldly possessions for the greater
good of the universe.’

‘I trust so, sir,’ said Simeon, rather uneasily, and without the most
distant idea what could be coming next in the mind of his reverend
friend.

‘Did it never occur to you, my friend,’ said the Doctor, ‘that the
enslaving of the African race is a clear violation of the great law
which commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves,—and a dishonour
upon the Christian religion, more particularly in us Americans, whom
the Lord hath so marvellously protected, in our recent struggle for our
own liberty?’

Simeon started at the first words of this address, much as if some one
had dashed a bucket of water on his head, and after that rose uneasily,
walking the room and playing with the seals of his watch.

‘I—I never regarded it in this light,’ he said.

‘Possibly not, my friend’ said the Doctor,—‘so much doth established
custom blind the minds of the best of men. But since I have given more
particular attention to the case of the poor negroes here in Newport,
the thought has more and more laboured in my mind,—more especially as
our own struggles for liberty have turned my attention to the rights
which every human creature hath before God,—so that I find much in
my former blindness and the comparative dumbness I have heretofore
maintained on this subject wherewith to reproach myself; for, though
I have borne somewhat of a testimony, I have not given it that force
which so important a subject required. I am humbled before God for my
neglect, and resolved now, by his grace, to leave no stone unturned
till this iniquity be purged away from our Zion.’

‘Well, Doctor,’ said Simeon, ‘you are certainly touching on a very dark
and difficult subject, and one in which it is hard to find out the path
of duty. Perhaps it will be well to bear it in mind, and by looking at
it prayerfully some light may arise. There are such great obstacles in
the way, that I do not see at present what can be done; do you, Doctor?’

‘I intend to preach on the subject next Sunday, and hereafter devote
my best energies in the most public way to this great work,’ said the
Doctor.

‘You, Doctor?—and now, immediately? Why, it appears to me you cannot
do it. You are the most unfit man possible. Whosoever’s duty it may
be, it does not seem to me to be yours. You already have more on your
shoulders than you can carry; you are hardly able to keep your ground
now, with all the odium of this new theology upon you. Such an effort
would break up your church,—destroy the chance you have to do good
here,—prevent the publication of your system.’

‘If it’s nobody’s system but mine, the world won’t lose much, if it
never be published; but if it be God’s system, nothing can hinder
its appearing. Besides, Mr. Brown, I ought not to be one man alone.
I count on your help. I hold it as a special providence, Mr. Brown,
that in our own church an opportunity will be given to testify to the
reality of disinterested benevolence. How glorious the opportunity for
a man to come out and testify by sacrificing his worldly living and
business! If you, Mr. Brown, will at once, at whatever sacrifice, quit
all connection with this detestable and diabolical slave-trade, you
will exhibit a spectacle over which angels will rejoice, and which will
strengthen and encourage me to preach and write and testify.’

Mr. Simeon Brown’s usual demeanour was that of the most leathery
imperturbability. In calm theological reasoning, he could demonstrate,
in the dryest tone, that, if the eternal torment of six bodies and
souls were absolutely the necessary means for preserving the eternal
blessedness of thirty-six, benevolence would require us to rejoice in
it, not in itself considered, but in view of greater good. And when he
spoke, not a nerve quivered; the great mysterious sorrow with which
the creation groaneth and travaileth, the sorrow from which angels
veil their faces, never had touched one vibrating chord either of body
or soul; and he laid down the obligations of man to unconditional
submission in a style which would have affected a person of delicate
sensibility much like being mentally sawn in sunder. Benevolence,
when Simeon Brown spoke of it, seemed the grimmest and unloveliest of
Gorgons; for his mind seemed to resemble those fountains which petrify
everything that falls into them. But the hardest-shelled animals have
a vital and sensitive part, though only so large as the point of a
needle; and the Doctor’s innocent proposition to Simeon, to abandon his
whole worldly estate for his principles, touched this spot.

When benevolence required but the acquiescence in certain possible
things which might be supposed to happen to his soul, which, after all,
he was comfortably certain never would happen, or the acquiescence in
certain suppositious sacrifices for the good of that most intangible
of all abstractions, Being in general, it was a dry, calm subject.
But when it concerned the immediate giving up of his slave-ships and
a transfer of business, attended with all that confusion and loss
which he foresaw at a glance, then he _felt_, and felt too much to see
clearly. His swarthy face flushed, his little blue eye kindled, he
walked up to the Doctor, and began speaking in the short, energetic
sentences of a man thoroughly awake to what he is talking about.

‘Doctor, you’re too fast. You are not a practical man, Doctor. You are
good in your pulpit;—nobody better. Your theology is clear;—nobody can
argue better. But come to practical matters, why, business has its
laws, Doctor. Ministers are the most unfit men in the world to talk on
such subjects; it’s departing from their sphere; they talk about what
they don’t understand. Besides, you take too much for granted. I’m not
sure that this trade is an evil. I want to be convinced of it. I’m sure
it’s a favour to these poor creatures to bring them to a Christian
land. They are a thousand times better off. Here they can hear the
gospel and have some chance of salvation.’

‘If we want to get the gospel to the Africans,’ said the Doctor,
‘why not send whole ship-loads of missionaries to them, and carry
civilization and the arts and Christianity to Africa, instead of
stirring up wars, tempting them to ravage each other’s territories,
that we may get the booty? Think of the numbers killed in the wars,—of
all that die on the passage! Is there any need of killing ninety-nine
men to give the hundredth one the gospel, when we could give the
gospel to them all? Ah, Mr. Brown, what if all the money spent in
fitting out ships to bring the poor negroes here, so prejudiced against
Christianity that they regard it with fear and aversion, had been spent
in sending it to them, Africa would have been covered with towns and
villages, rejoicing in civilization and Christianity!’

‘Doctor, you are a dreamer,’ replied Simeon, ‘an unpractical man. Your
situation prevents your knowing anything of real life.’

‘Amen! the Lord be praised there for!’ said the Doctor, with a
slowly-increasing flush mounting to his cheek, showing the burning
brand of a smouldering fire of indignation.

‘Now let me just talk common-sense, Doctor,—which has its time and
place, just as much as theology; and if you have the most theology, I
flatter myself I have the most common-sense: a business-man must have
it. Now just look at your situation,—how you stand. You’ve got a most
important work to do. In order to do it, you must keep your pulpit, you
must keep our church together. We are few and weak. We are a minority.
Now there’s not an influential man in your society that don’t either
hold slaves or engage in the trade; and, if you open upon this subject
as you are going to do, you’ll just divide and destroy the church.
All men are not like you; men are men, and will be, till they are
thoroughly sanctified, which never happens in this life,—and there will
be an instant and most unfavourable agitation. Minds will be turned off
from the discussion of the great saving doctrines of the gospel to a
side issue. You will be turned out; and you know, Doctor, you are not
appreciated as you ought to be, and it won’t be easy for you to get
a new settlement; and then subscriptions will all drop off from your
book, and you won’t be able to get that out; and all this good will be
lost to the world, just for want of common-sense.’

‘There is a kind of wisdom in what you say, Mr. Brown,’ replied the
Doctor, naïvely; ‘but I fear much that it is the wisdom spoken in James
iii. 15, which “descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual,
devilish.” You avoid the very point of the argument, which is, Is this
a sin against God? That it is, I am solemnly convinced; and shall I
“use lightness? or the things that I purpose do I purpose according
to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay?”
No, Mr. Brown, immediate repentance, unconditional submission, these
are what I must preach as long as God gives me a pulpit to stand in,
whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.’

‘Well, Doctor,’ said Simeon, shortly, ‘you can do as you like; but I
give you fair warning, that I, for one, shall stop my subscription, and
go to Dr. Stiles’s church.’

‘Mr. Brown,’ said the Doctor, solemnly, rising, and drawing his tall
figure to its full height, while a vivid light gleamed from his blue
eye, ‘as to that, you can do as you like; but I think it my duty, as
your pastor, to warn you that I have perceived, in my conversation
with you this morning, such a want of true spiritual illumination
and discernment as leads me to believe that you are yet in the flesh,
blinded by that “carnal mind” which “is not subject to the law of God,
neither indeed can be.” I much fear you have no part nor lot in this
matter, and that you have need, seriously, to set yourself to search
into the foundations of your hope; for you may be like him of whom it
is written, (Isaiah xliv. 20,) “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart
hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, is
there not a lie in my right hand?”’

The Doctor delivered this address to his man of influence with the
calmness of an ambassador charged with a message from a sovereign,
for which he is no otherwise responsible than to speak it in the most
intelligible manner; and then, taking up his hat and cane, he bade him
good morning, leaving Simeon Brown in a tumult of excitement which no
previous theological discussion had ever raised in him.



CHAPTER XI.

THE PRACTICAL TEST.


THE hens cackled drowsily in the barn-yard of the white Marvyn-house;
in the blue June-afternoon sky sported great sailing islands of cloud,
whose white, glistening heads looked in and out through the green
apertures of maple and blossoming apple-boughs; the shadows of the
trees had already turned eastward, when the one-horse waggon of Mrs.
Katy Scudder appeared at the door, where Mrs. Marvyn stood, with a
pleased, quiet welcome in her soft brown eyes. Mrs. Scudder herself
drove, sitting on a seat in front,—while the Doctor, apparelled in the
most faultless style, with white wrist-ruffles, plaited shirt-bosom,
immaculate wig, and well-brushed coat, sat by Mary’s side, serenely
unconscious how many feminine cares had gone to his getting-up. He
did not know of the privy consultations, the sewings, stitchings, and
starchings, the ironings, the brushings, the foldings and unfoldings
and timely arrangements, that gave such dignity and respectability to
his outer man, any more than the serene moon rising tranquilly behind a
purple mountain-top troubles her calm head with treatises on astronomy;
it is enough for her to shine,—she thinks not how or why.

There is a vast amount of latent gratitude to women lying undeveloped
in the hearts of men, which would come out plentifully, if they only
knew what they did for them. The Doctor was so used to being well
dressed, that he never asked why. That his wig always sat straight, and
even around his ample forehead, not facetiously poked to one side, nor
assuming rakish airs, unsuited to clerical dignity, was entirely owing
to Mrs. Katy Scudder. That his best broadcloth coat was not illustrated
with shreds and patches, fluff and dust, and hanging in ungainly
folds, was owing to the same. That his long silk stockings never had
a treacherous stitch allowed to break out into a long running ladder
was due to her watchfulness; and that he wore spotless ruffles on his
wrists or at his bosom was her doing also. The Doctor little thought,
while he, in common with good ministers generally, gently traduced the
Scriptural Martha and insisted on the duty of heavenly abstractedness,
how much of his own leisure for spiritual contemplation was due to the
Martha-like talents of his hostess. But then, the good soul had it in
him to be grateful, and would have been unboundedly so, if he had known
his indebtedness,—as, we trust, most of our magnanimous masters would
be.

Mr. Zebedee Marvyn was quietly sitting in the front summer parlour,
listening to the story of two of his brother church-members, between
whom some difficulty had arisen in the settling of accounts: Jim
Bigelow, a small, dry, dapper little individual, known as general
jobber and factotum, and Abram Griswold, a stolid, wealthy,
well-to-do farmer. And the fragments of conversation we catch are not
uninteresting, as showing Mr. Zebedee’s habits of thought and mode of
treating those who came to him for advice.

‘I could ’ave got along better, if he’d ’a’ paid me regular every
night,’ said the squeaky voice of little Jim;—‘but he was allers
puttin’ me off till it come even change, he said.’

‘Well, ’t’aint always handy,’ replied the other; ‘one doesn’t like to
break into a five-pound note for nothing; and I like to let it run till
it comes even change.’

‘But, brother,’ said Mr. Zebedee, turning over the great Bible that
lay on the mahogany stand in the corner, ‘we must go to the law and to
the testimony,’—and, turning over the leaves, he read from Deuteronomy
xxiv.:—

‘Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy,
whether he be of thy brethren or of thy strangers that are in thy land
within thy gates. At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither
shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart
upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto
thee.’

‘You see what the Bible has to say on the matter,’ he said.

‘Well, now, Deacon, I rather think you’ve got me in a tight place,’
said Mr. Griswold, rising; and turning confusedly round, he saw the
placid figure of the Doctor, who had entered the room unobserved in
the midst of the conversation, and was staring with that look of calm,
dreamy abstraction which often led people to suppose that he heard and
saw nothing of what was going forward.

All rose reverently; and while Mr. Zebedee was shaking hands with
the Doctor, and welcoming him to his house, the other two silently
withdrew, making respectful obeisance.

Mrs. Marvyn had drawn Mary’s hand gently under her arm and taken her
to her own sleeping-room, as it was her general habit to do, that she
might show her the last book she had been reading, and pour into her
ear the thoughts that had been kindled up by it.

Mrs. Scudder, after carefully brushing every speck of dust from the
Doctor’s coat and seeing him seated in an arm-chair by the open window,
took out a long stocking of blue-mixed yarn which she was knitting for
his winter-wear, and, pinning her knitting-sheath on her side, was soon
trotting her needles contentedly in front of him.

The ill-success of the Doctor’s morning attempt at enforcing his
theology in practice rather depressed his spirits. There was a noble
innocence of nature in him which looked at hypocrisy with a puzzled and
incredulous astonishment. How a man _could_ do so and be so was to him
a problem at which his thoughts vainly laboured. Not that he was in the
least discouraged or hesitating in regard to his own course. When he
had made up his mind to perform a duty, the question of success no more
entered his thoughts than those of the granite boulder to which we have
before compared him. When the time came for him to roll, he did roll
with the whole force of his being;—where he was to land was not his
concern.

Mildly and placidly he sat with his hands resting on his knees, while
Mr. Zebedee and Mrs. Scudder compared notes respecting the relative
prospects of corn, flax, and buckwheat, and thence passed to the
doings of Congress and the last proclamation of General Washington,
pausing once in a while, if, peradventure, the Doctor might take up the
conversation. Still he sat dreamily eyeing the flies as they fizzed
down the panes of the half-open window.

‘I think,’ said Mr. Zebedee, ‘the prospects of the Federal party were
never brighter.’

The Doctor was a stanch Federalist, and generally warmed to this
allurement; but it did not serve this time.

Suddenly drawing himself up, a light came into his blue eyes, and he
said to Mr. Marvyn,—

‘I’m thinking, Deacon, if it is wrong to keep back the wages of a
servant till after the going down of the sun, what those are to do who
keep them back all their lives.’

There was a way the Doctor had of hearing and seeing when he looked
as if his soul were afar off, and bringing suddenly into present
conversation some fragment of the past on which he had been leisurely
hammering in the quiet chambers of his brain, which was sometimes quite
startling.

This allusion to a passage of Scripture which Mr. Marvyn was reading
when he came in, and which nobody supposed he had attended to, startled
Mrs. Scudder, who thought, mentally, ‘Now for it!’ and laid down her
knitting-work, and eyed her cousin anxiously. Mrs. Marvyn and Mary,
who had glided in and joined the circle, looking interested; and a
slight flush rose and overspread the thin cheeks of Mr. Marvyn, and his
blue eyes deepened in a moment with a thoughtful shadow, as he looked
inquiringly at the Doctor, who proceeded:—

‘My mind labours with this subject of the enslaving of the Africans,
Mr. Marvyn. We have just been declaring to the world that all men are
born with an inalienable right to liberty. We have fought for it, and
the Lord of Hosts has been with us; and can we stand before Him, with
our foot upon our brother’s neck?’

A generous, upright nature is always more sensitive to blame than
another,—sensitive in proportion to the amount of its reverence
for good,—and Mr. Marvyn’s face flushed, his eye kindled, and his
compressed respiration showed how deeply the subject moved him. Mrs.
Marvyn’s eyes turned on him an anxious look of inquiry. He answered,
however, calmly:—

‘Doctor, I have thought of the subject myself. Mrs. Marvyn has lately
been reading a pamphlet of Mr. Thomas Clarkson’s on the slave-trade,
and she was saying to me only last night, that she did not see but the
argument extended equally to holding slaves. One thing, I confess,
stumbles me:—Was there not an express permission given to Israel to buy
and hold slaves of old?’

‘Doubtless,’ said the Doctor; ‘but many permissions were given to them
which were local and temporary; for if we hold them to apply to the
human race, the Turks might quote the Bible for making slaves of us, if
they could,—and the Algerines have the Scripture all on their side,—and
our own blacks, at some future time, if they can get the power, might
justify themselves in making slaves of us.’

‘I assure you, sir,’ said Mr. Marvyn, ‘if I speak, it is not to excuse
myself. But I am quite sure my servants do not desire liberty, and
would not take it, if it were offered.’

‘Call them in and try it,’ said the Doctor. ‘If they refuse, it is
their own matter.’

There was a gentle movement in the group at the directness of this
personal application; but Mr. Marvyn replied, calmly,—

‘Cato is up at the eight-acre lot, but you may call in Candace. My
dear, call Candace, and let the Doctor put the question to her.’

Candace was at this moment sitting before the ample fireplace in the
kitchen, with two iron kettles before her, nestled each in its bed of
hickory coals, which gleamed out from their white ashes like sleepy,
red eyes, opening and shutting. In one was coffee, which she was
burning, stirring vigorously with a pudding-stick,—and in the other,
puffy dough-nuts, in shapes of rings, hearts, and marvellous twists,
which Candace had such a special proclivity for making, that Mrs.
Marvyn’s table and closets never knew an intermission of their presence.

‘Candace, the Doctor wishes to see you,’ said Mrs. Marvyn.

‘Bress his heart!’ said Candace, looking up, perplexed. ‘Wants to
see me, does he? Can’t nobody hab me till dis yer coffee’s done; a
minnit’s a minnit in coffee;—but I’ll be in dereckly,’ she added, in
a patronising tone. ‘Missis, you jes’ go ‘long in, an’ I’ll be dar
dereckly.’

A few moments after Candace joined the group in the sitting-room,
having hastily tied a clean white apron over her blue linsey
working-dress, and donned the brilliant Madras which James had lately
given her, and which she had a barbaric fashion of arranging so as to
give to her head the air of a gigantic butterfly. She sunk a dutiful
curtsy, and stood twirling her thumbs, while the Doctor surveyed her
gravely.

‘Candace,’ said he, ‘do you think it right that the black race should
be slaves to the white?’

The face and air of Candace presented a curious picture at this moment;
a sort of rude sense of delicacy embarrassed her, and she turned a
deprecating look, first on Mrs. Marvyn and then on her master.

‘Don’t mind us, Candace,’ said Mrs. Marvyn; ‘tell the Doctor the exact
truth.’

Candace stood still a moment, and the spectators saw a deeper shadow
roll over her sable face, like a cloud over a dark pool of water, and
her immense person heaved with her laboured breathing.

[Illustration: _Candace receives her Freedom._

_Page 107._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. April 25th, 1859]

‘Ef I must speak I must,’ she said. ‘No,—I neber did tink ’twas right.
When General Washington was here, I hearn ’em read de Declaration ob
Independence and Bill o’ Rights; an’ I tole Cato den, says I, “Ef dat
ar’ true, you an’ I are as free as anybody.” It stands to reason.
Why, look at me,—I a’n’t a critter. I’s neider huffs nor horns. I’s
a reasonable bein’,—a woman,—as much a woman as anybody,’ she said,
holding up her head with an air as majestic as a palm-tree;—‘an’
Cato,—he’s a man born free an’ equal, ef dar’s any truth in what you
read,—dat’s all.’

‘But, Candace, you’ve always been contented and happy with us, have you
not?’ said Mr. Marvyn.

‘Yes, Mass’r,—I ha’n’t got nuffin to complain of in dat matter. I
couldn’t hab no better friends ’n you an’ Missis.’

‘Would you like your liberty, if you could get it, though?’ said Mr.
Marvyn. ‘Answer me honestly.’

‘Why, to be sure I should! Who wouldn’t? Mind ye,’ she said, earnestly
raising her black, heavy hand, ‘’ta’n’t dat I want to go off, or want
to shirk work; but I want to _feel free_. Dem dat isn’t free has nuffin
to give to nobody;—dey can’t show what dey would do.’

‘Well, Candace, from this day you are free,’ said Mr. Marvyn, solemnly.

Candace covered her face with both her fat hands, and shook and
trembled, and, finally, throwing her apron over her head, made a
desperate rush for the door, and threw herself down in the kitchen in a
perfect tropical torrent of tears and sobs.

‘You see,’ said the Doctor, ‘what freedom is to every human creature.
The blessing of the Lord will be on this deed, Mr. Marvyn. “The steps
of a just man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way.”’

At this moment, Candace reappeared at the door, her butterfly turban
somewhat deranged with the violence of her prostration, giving a
whimsical air to her portly person.

‘I want ye all to know,’ she said, with a clearing-up snuff, ‘dat it’s
my will ’an pleasure to go right on doin’ my work jes’ de same; an’,
Missis, please, I’ll allers put three eggs in de crullers, now; an’
I won’t turn de wash-basin down in de sink, but hang it jam-up on de
nail; an’ I won’t pick up chips in a milkpan, ef I’m in ever so big a
hurry;—I’ll do eberyting jes’ as ye tells me. Now you try me and see ef
I won’t!’

Candace here alluded to some of the little private wilfulnesses which
she had always obstinately cherished as reserved rights, in pursuing
domestic matters with her mistress.

‘I intend,’ said Mr. Marvyn, ‘to make the same offer to your husband,
when he returns from work to night.’

‘Laus, Mass’r,—why, Cato he’ll do jes’ as I do,—dere a’n’t no kind o’
need o’ askin’ him. ’Course he will.’

A smile passed round the circle, because between Candace and her
husband there existed one of those whimsical contrasts which one
sometimes sees in married life. Cato was a small-built, thin,
softly-spoken negro, addicted to a gentle chronic cough; and, though a
faithful and skilful servant, seemed, in relation to his better half,
much like a hill of potatoes under a spreading apple-tree. Candace held
to him with a vehement and patronizing fondness, so devoid of conjugal
reverence as to excite the comments of her friends.

‘You must remember, Candace,’ said a good deacon to her one day, when
she was ordering him about at a catechizing, ‘you ought to give honour
to your husband; the wife is the weaker vessel.’

‘_I_ de weaker vessel?’ said Candace, looking down from the tower of
her ample corpulence on the small, quiet man whom she had been fledging
with the ample folds of a worsted comforter, out of which his little
head and shining bead-eyes looked much like a blackbird in a nest,—‘_I_
de weaker vessel? Umph!’

A whole-woman’s-rights’ convention could not have expressed more in a
day than was given in that single look and word. Candace considered
a husband as a thing to be taken care of,—a rather inconsequent and
somewhat troublesome species of pet, to be humoured, nursed, fed,
clothed, and guided in the way that he was to go,—an animal that
was always losing of buttons, catching colds, wearing his best coat
every day, and getting on his Sunday hat in a surreptitious manner
for week-day occasions; but she often condescended to express it as
her opinion that he was a blessing, and that she didn’t know what she
should do if it wasn’t for Cato. In fact, he seemed to supply her that
which we are told is the great want in woman’s situation,—an object in
life. She sometimes was heard expressing herself very energetically in
disapprobation of the conduct of one of her sable friends, named Jinny
Stiles, who, after being presented with her own freedom, worked several
years to buy that of her husband, but became afterwards so disgusted
with her acquisition that she declared she would, ‘neber buy anoder
nigger.’

‘Now Jinny don’t know what she’s talkin’ about,’ she would say. ‘S’pose
he does cough and keep her awake nights, and take a little too much
sometimes, a’n’t he better’n no husband at all? A body wouldn’t seem to
hab nuffin to lib for, ef dey hadn’t an ole man to look arter. Men is
nate’lly foolish about some tings,—but dey’s good deal better’n nuffin.’

And Candace, after this condescending remark, would lift off with one
hand a brass kettle in which poor Cato might have been drowned, and fly
across the kitchen with it as if it were a feather.



CHAPTER XII.

MISS PRISSY.


WILL our little Mary really fall in love with the Doctor?—The question
reaches us in anxious tones from all the circle of our readers; and
what especially shocks us is, that grave doctors of divinity, and
serious, stocking-knitting matrons, seem to be the class who are
particularly set against the success of our excellent orthodox hero,
and bent on reminding us of the claims of that unregenerate James, whom
we have sent to sea on purpose that our heroine may recover herself of
that foolish partiality for him which all the Christian world seems
bent on perpetuating.

‘Now, really,’ says the Rev. Mrs. Q., looking up from her bundle of
Sewing-Society work, ‘you are _not_ going to let Mary marry the Doctor?’

My dear Madam, is not that just what you did, yourself, after having
turned off three or four fascinating young sinners as good as James any
day? Don’t make us believe that you are sorry for it now!

‘Is it possible,’ says Dr. Theophrastus, who is himself a stanch
Hopkinsian divine, and who is at present recovering from his last grand
effort on Natural and Moral Ability,—‘is it possible that you are going
to let Mary forget that poor young man and marry Dr. H.? That will
never do in the world!’

Dear Doctor, consider what would have become of you, if some lady at a
certain time had not had the sense and discernment to fall in love with
the _man_ who came to her disguised as a theologian.

‘But he’s so old!’ says Aunt Maria.

Not at all. Old? What do you mean? Forty is the very season of
ripeness,—the very meridian of manly lustre and splendour.

‘But he wears a wig.’

My dear Madam, so did Sir Charles Grandison, and Lovelace, and all the
other fine fellows of those days: the wig was the distinguishing mark
of a gentleman.

No,—spite of all you may say and declare, we do insist that our Doctor
is a very proper and probable subject for a young lady to fall in love
with.

If women have one weakness more marked than another, it is towards
veneration. They are born worshippers,—makers of silver shrines for
some divinity or other, which, of course, they always think fell
straight down from heaven.

The first step towards their falling in love with an ordinary mortal
is generally to dress him out with all manner of real or fancied
superiority; and having made him up, they worship him.

Now a truly great man, a man really grand and noble in heart and
intellect, has this advantage with women, that he is an idol ready-made
to hand; and so that very painstaking and ingenious sex have less
labour in getting him up, and can be ready to worship him on shorter
notice.

In particular is this the case where a sacred profession and a moral
supremacy are added to the intellectual. Just think of the career of
celebrated preachers and divines in all ages. Have they not stood like
the image that ‘Nebuchadnezzar the king set up,’ and all womankind,
coquettes and flirts not excepted, been ready to fall down and worship,
even before the sound of cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, and so forth? Is
not the faithful Paula, with her beautiful face, prostrate in reverence
before poor, old, lean, haggard, dying St. Jerome, in the most splendid
painting of the world, an emblem and sign of woman’s eternal power of
self-sacrifice to what she deems noblest in man? Does not old Richard
Baxter tell us, with delightful single-heartedness, how his wife fell
in love with him first, spite of his long, pale face,—and how she
confessed, dear soul, after many years of married life, that she had
found him _less_ sour and bitter than she had expected?

The fact is, women are burdened with fealty, faith, reverence, more
than they know what to do with; they stand like a hedge of sweet-peas,
throwing out fluttering tendrils everywhere for something high and
strong to climb by,—and when they find it, be it ever so rough in the
bark, they catch upon it. And instances are not wanting of those who
have turned away from the flattery of admirers to prostrate themselves
at the feet of a genuine hero who never wooed them except by heroic
deeds and the rhetoric of a noble life.

Never was there a distinguished man whose greatness could sustain the
test of minute domestic inspection better than our Doctor. Strong
in a single-hearted humility, a perfect unconsciousness of self, an
honest and sincere absorption in high and holy themes and objects,
there was in him what we so seldom see,—a perfect logic of life; his
minutest deeds were the true results of his sublimest principles.
His whole nature, moral, physical, and intellectual, was simple,
pure, and cleanly. He was temperate as an anchorite in all matters
of living,—avoiding, from a healthy instinct, all those intoxicating
stimuli then common among the clergy. In his early youth, indeed, he
had formed an attachment to the almost universal clerical pipe,—but,
observing a delicate woman once nauseated by coming into the atmosphere
which he and his brethren had polluted, he set himself gravely to
reflect that that which could so offend a woman must needs be uncomely
and unworthy a Christian man; wherefore he laid his pipe on the
mantelpiece, and never afterwards resumed the indulgence.

In all his relations with womanhood he was delicate and reverential,
forming his manners by that old precept, ‘The elder women entreat
as mothers, the younger as sisters,’—which rule, short and simple
as it is, is nevertheless the most perfect _résumé_ of all true
gentlemanliness. Then, as for person, the Doctor was not handsome, to
be sure; but he was what sometimes serves with woman better,—majestic
and manly, and, when animated by thought and feeling, having even a
commanding grandeur of mien. Add to all this, that our valiant hero is
now on the straight road to bring him into that situation most likely
to engage the warm partisanship of a true woman,—namely, that of a man
unjustly abused for right-doing,—and one may see that it is ten to one
our Mary may fall in love with him yet, before she knows it.

If it were not for this mysterious selfness-and-sameness which makes
this wild, wandering, uncanonical sailor, James Marvyn, so intimate
and internal,—if his thread were not knit up with the thread of her
life,—were it not for the old habit of feeling for him, thinking for
him, praying for him, hoping for him, fearing for him, which—woe is
us!—is the unfortunate habit of womankind,—if it were not for that
fatal something which neither judgment, nor wishes, nor reason, nor
common sense shows any great skill in unravelling,—we are quite
sure that Mary would be in love with the Doctor within the next six
months; as it is, we leave you all to infer from your own heart and
consciousness what his chances are.

A new sort of scene is about to open on our heroine, and we shall show
her to you, for an evening at least, in new associations, and with a
different background from that homely and rural one in which she has
fluttered as a white dove amid leafy and congenial surroundings.

As we have before intimated, Newport presented a _résumé_ of many
different phases of society, all brought upon a social level by the
then universally admitted principle of equality.

There were scattered about in the settlement lordly mansions, whose
owners rolled in emblazoned carriages, and whose wide halls were the
scenes of a showy and almost princely hospitality. By her husband’s
side, Mrs. Katy Scudder was allied to one of these families of wealthy
planters, and often recognized the connection with a quiet undertone
of satisfaction, as a dignified and self-respecting woman should. She
liked, once in a while, quietly to let people know, that, although they
lived in the plain little cottage and made no pretensions, yet they had
good blood in their veins,—that Mr. Scudder’s mother was a Wilcox, and
that the Wilcoxes were, she supposed, as high as anybody,—generally
ending the remark with the observation, that ‘all these things, to be
sure, were matters of small consequence, since at last it would be of
far more importance to have been a true Christian than to have been
connected with the highest families of the land.’

Nevertheless, Mrs. Scudder was not a little pleased to have in her
possession a card of invitation to a splendid wedding-party that was
going to be given on Friday at the Wilcox Manor. She thought it a very
becoming mark of respect to the deceased Mr. Scudder that his widow
and daughter should be brought to mind,—so becoming and praiseworthy,
in fact, that, ‘though an old woman,’ as she said, with a complacent
straightening of her tall, lithe figure, she really thought she must
make an effort to go.

Accordingly, early one morning, after all domestic duties had been
fulfilled, and the clock, loudly ticking through the empty rooms, told
that all needful bustle had died down to silence, Mrs. Katy, Mary, and
Miss Prissy Diamond, the dressmaker, might have been observed sitting
in solemn senate around the camphor-wood trunk, before spoken of, and
which exhaled vague foreign and Indian perfumes of silk and sandalwood.

You may have heard of dignitaries, my good reader,—but, I assure you,
you know very little of a situation of trust or importance compared to
that of _the_ dressmaker in a small New England town.

What important interests does she hold in her hands! How is she
besieged, courted, deferred to! Three months beforehand, all her days
and nights are spoken for; and the simple statement, that _only_ on
that day you can have Miss Clippers, is of itself an apology for any
omission of attention elsewhere,—it strikes home at once to the deepest
consciousness of every woman, married or single. How thoughtfully is
everything arranged, weeks beforehand, for the golden, important season
when Miss Clippers can come! On that day, there is to be no extra
sweeping, dusting, cleaning, cooking, no visiting, no receiving, no
reading or writing, but all with one heart and soul are to wait upon
her, intent to forward the great work which she graciously affords
a day’s leisure to direct. Seated in her chair of state, with her
well-worn cushion bristling with pins and needles at her side, her
ready roll of patterns and her scissors, she hears, judges, and decides
_ex cathedrâ_ on the possible or not possible, in that important
art on which depends the right presentation of the floral part of
Nature’s great horticultural show. She alone is competent to say
whether there is any available remedy for the stained breadth in Jane’s
dress—whether the fatal spot by any magical hocus-pocus can be cut out
from the fulness, or turned up and smothered from view in the gathers,
or concealed by some new fashion of trimming falling with generous
appropriateness exactly across the fatal weak point. She can tell you
whether that remnant of velvet will make you a basque,—whether mamma’s
old silk can reappear in juvenile grace for Miss Lucy. What marvels
follow her, wherever she goes! What wonderful results does she contrive
from the most unlikely materials, as everybody after her departure
wonders to see old things become so much better than new!

Among the most influential and happy of her class was Miss Prissy
Diamond,—a little, dapper, doll-like body, quick in her motions and
nimble in her tongue, whose delicate complexion, flaxen curls, merry
flow of spirits, and ready abundance of gaiety, song, and story, apart
from her professional accomplishments, made her a welcome guest in
every family in the neighbourhood. Miss Prissy laughingly boasted being
past forty, sure that the avowal would always draw down on her quite
a storm of compliments, on the freshness of her sweet-pea complexion
and the brightness of her merry blue eyes. She was well pleased to
hear dawning girls wondering why with so many advantages she had never
married. At such remarks, Miss Prissy always laughed loudly, and
declared that she had always had such a string of engagements with
the women that she never found half an hour to listen to what any
_man_ living would say to her, supposing she could stop to hear him.
‘Besides, if I were to get married, nobody else could,’ she would say.
‘What would become of all the wedding-clothes for everybody else?’ But
sometimes, when Miss Prissy felt extremely gracious, she would draw
out of her little chest, just the faintest tip-end of a sigh, and
tell some young lady, in a confidential undertone, that one of these
days she would tell her something,—and then there would come a wink of
her blue eyes, and a fluttering of the pink ribbons in her cap, quite
stimulating to youthful inquisitiveness, though we have never been able
to learn by any of our antiquarian researches that the expectations
thus excited were ever gratified.

In her professional prowess she felt a pardonable pride. What feats
could she relate of wonderful dresses got out of impossibly small
patterns of silk! what marvels of silks turned that could not be
told from new! what reclaimings of waists that other dressmakers had
hopelessly spoiled! Had not Mrs. General Wilcox once been obliged to
call in her aid on a dress sent to her from Paris? and did not Miss
Prissy work three days and nights on that dress, and make every stitch
of that trimming over with her own hands, before it was fit to be seen?
And when Mrs. Governor Dexter’s best silver-gray brocade was spoiled by
Miss Pimlico, and there wasn’t another scrap to pattern it with, didn’t
she make a new waist out of the cape, and piece one of the sleeves
twenty-nine times, and yet nobody would ever have known that there was
a joining in it?

In fact, though Miss Prissy enjoyed the fair average plain-sailing of
her work, she might be said to _revel_ in difficulties. A full pattern
with trimming, all ample and ready, awoke a moderate enjoyment; but the
resurrection of anything half-worn or imperfectly made, the brilliant
success, when, after turning, twisting, piecing, contriving, and,
by unheard-of inventions of trimming, a dress faded and defaced was
restored to more than pristine splendour,—_that_ was a triumph worth
enjoying.

It was true, Miss Prissy, like most of her nomadic compeers,
was a little given to gossip; but, after all, it was innocent
gossip,—not a bit of malice in it; it was only all the particulars
about Mrs. Thus-and-So’s wardrobe,—all the statistics of Mrs.
That-and-T’other’s china-closet,—all the minute items of Miss
Simpkins’s wedding-clothes,—and how her mother cried the morning of the
wedding, and said that she didn’t know anything how she could spare
Louisa Jane, only that Edward was such a good boy that she felt she
could love him like an own son,—and what a providence it seemed that
the very ring that was put into the bride-loaf was one that he gave her
when he first went to sea, when she wouldn’t be engaged to him because
she thought she loved Thomas Strickland better, but that was only
because she hadn’t found him out, you know,—and so forth, and so forth.
Sometimes, too, her narrations assumed a solemn cast, and brought to
mind the hush of funerals, and told of words spoken in faint whispers,
when hands were clasped for the last time,—and of utterances crushed
out from hearts, when the hammer of a great sorrow strikes out sparks
of the Divine, even from common stone; and there would be real tears in
the little blue eyes, and the pink bows would flutter tremulously, like
the last three leaves on a bare scarlet maple in autumn. In fact, dear
reader, _gossip_, like romance, has its noble side to it. How can you
love your neighbour as yourself, and not feel a little curiosity as to
how he fares, what he wears, where he goes, and how he takes the great
life tragi-comedy, at which you and he are both more than spectators?
Show me a person who lives in a country-village absolutely without
curiosity or interest on these subjects, and I will show you a cold,
fat oyster, to whom the tide-mud of propriety is the whole of existence.

As one of our esteemed collaborators remarks,—‘A dull town, where there
is neither theatre nor circus nor opera, must have some excitement,
and the real tragedy and comedy of life _must_ come in place of the
second-hand. Hence the noted gossiping propensities of country-places,
which, so long as they are not poisoned by envy or ill-will, have a
respectable and picturesque side to them,—an undoubted leave to be, as
probably has almost everything, which obstinately and always insists on
being, except sin!’

As it is, it must be confessed that the arrival of Miss Prissy in a
family was much like the setting up of a domestic showcase, through
which you could look into all the families in the neighbourhood, and
see the never-ending drama of life,—births, marriages, deaths,—joy
of new-made mothers, whose babes weighed just eight pounds and three
quarters, and had hair that would part with a comb,—and tears of
Rachels who wept for their children, and would not be comforted because
they were not. Was there a tragedy, a mystery, in all Newport, whose
secret closet had not been unlocked by Miss Prissy? She thought not;
and you always wondered, with an uncertain curiosity, what those things
might be over which she gravely shook her head, declaring, with such a
look,—‘Oh, if you only _could_ know!’—and ending with a general sigh
and lamentation, like the confidential chorus of a Greek tragedy.

We have been thus minute in sketching Miss Prissy’s portrait, because
we rather like her. She has great power, we admit; and were she a
sour-faced, angular, energetic body, with a heart whose secretions
had all become acrid by disappointment and dyspepsia, she might be a
fearful gnome, against whose family visitations one ought to watch
and pray. As it was, she came into the house rather like one of those
breezy days of spring, which burst all the blossoms, set all the doors
and windows open, make the hens cackle and the turtles peep,—filling a
solemn Puritan dwelling with as much bustle and chatter as if a box of
martins were setting up housekeeping in it.

Let us now introduce you to the sanctuary of Mrs. Scudder’s own private
bedroom, where the committee of exigencies, with Miss Prissy at their
head, are seated in solemn session around the camphor-wood trunk.

‘Dress, you know, is of _some_ importance after all,’ said Mrs.
Scudder, in that apologetic way in which sensible people generally
acknowledge a secret leaning towards anything so very mundane. While
the good lady spoke, she was reverentially unpinning and shaking
out of their fragrant folds creamy crape shawls of rich Chinese
embroidery,—India muslin, scarfs, and aprons; and already her hands
were undoing the pins of a silvery damask linen in which was wrapped
her own wedding-dress. ‘I have always told Mary,’ she continued, ‘that,
though our hearts ought not to be set on these things, yet they had
their importance.’

‘Certainly, certainly, ma’am,’ chimed in Miss Prissy. ‘I was saying
to Miss General Wilcox, the other day, _I_ didn’t see how we could
“consider the lilies of the field,” without seeing the importance of
looking pretty. I’ve got a flower-de-luce in my garden now, from one of
the new roots that old Major Seaforth brought over from France, which
is just the most beautiful thing you ever did see; and I was thinking,
as I looked at it to-day, that if women’s dresses only grew on ’em as
handsome and well-fitting as that, why, there wouldn’t be any need of
me; but as it is, why, we _must think_, if we want to look well. Now
peach-trees, I s’pose, might bear just as good peaches without the pink
blows; but then who would want ’em to? Miss Deacon Twitchel, when I was
up there the other day, kept kind o’ sighin’, ’cause Cerintha Ann is
getting a new pink silk made up, ’cause she said it was such a dying
world it didn’t seem right to call off our attention: but I told her
it wasn’t any pinker than the apple-blossoms; and what with robins and
blue-birds, and one thing or another, the Lord is always calling off
our attention; and I think we ought to observe the Lord’s works and
take a lesson from ’em.’

‘Yes, you are quite right,’ said Mrs. Scudder, rising and shaking out a
splendid white brocade, on which bunches of moss-roses were looped to
bunches of violets by graceful fillets of blue ribbons. ‘This was my
wedding-dress,’ she said.

Little Miss Prissy sprang up and clapped her hands in an ecstasy.

‘Well, now, Miss Scudder, really!—did I ever see anything more
beautiful? It really goes beyond anything _I_ ever saw. I don’t think,
in all the brocades I ever made up, I ever saw so pretty a pattern as
this.’

‘Mr. Scudder chose it for me himself, at the silk-factory in Lyons,’
said Mrs. Scudder, with pardonable pride, ‘and I want it tried on to
Mary.’

‘Really, Miss Scudder, this ought to be kept for _her_ wedding-dress,’
said Miss Prissy, as she delightedly bustled about the congenial task.
‘I was up to Miss Marvyn’s, a-working, last week,’ she said, as she
threw the dress over Mary’s head, ‘and she said that James expected to
make his fortune in that voyage, and come home and settle down.’

Mary’s fair head emerged from the rustling folds of the brocade, her
cheeks crimson as one of the moss-roses,—while her mother’s face
assumed a severe gravity, as she remarked that she believed James
had been much pleased with Jane Spencer, and that, for her part, she
should be very glad when he came home, if he could marry such a steady,
sensible girl, and settle down to a useful, Christian life.

‘Ah, yes,—just so,—a very excellent idea, certainly,’ said Miss Prissy.
‘It wants a little taken in here on the shoulders, and a little under
the arms. The biases are all right; the sleeves will want altering,
Miss Scudder. I hope you will have a hot iron ready for pressing.’

Mrs. Scudder rose immediately, to see the command obeyed; and as her
back was turned, Miss Prissy went on in a low tone,—

‘Now _I_, for my part, don’t think there’s a word of truth in that
story about James Marvyn and Jane Spencer, for I was down there at work
one day when he called, and I _know_ there couldn’t have been anything
between them,—besides, Miss Spencer, her mother, told me there wasn’t.
There, Miss Scudder, you see that is a good fit. It’s astonishing how
near it comes to fitting, just as it was. I didn’t think Mary was so
near what you were, when you were a girl, Miss Scudder. The other day,
when I was up to General Wilcox’s, the General he was in the room when
I was a-trying on Miss Wilcox’s cherry velvet, and she was asking
couldn’t I come this week for her, and I mentioned I was coming to Miss
Scudder; and the General, says he,—“I used to know her when she was a
girl. I tell you, she was one of the handsomest girls in Newport, by
George!” says he. And says I,—“General, you ought to see her daughter.”
And the General,—you know his jolly way,—he laughed, and says he,—“If
she is as handsome as her mother was, I don’t want to see her,” says
he. “I tell you, wife,” says he, “I but just missed falling in love
with Katy Stephens.”’

‘I could have told her more than that,’ said Mrs. Scudder, with a
flash of her old coquette girlhood for a moment lighting her eyes and
straightening her lithe form. ‘I guess, if I should show a letter
he wrote me once——. But what am I talking about?’ she said, suddenly
stiffening back into a sensible woman. ‘Miss Prissy, do you think it
will be necessary to cut it off at the bottom? It seems a pity to cut
such rich silk.’

‘So it does, I declare. Well, I believe it will do to turn it up.’

‘I depend on you to put it a little into modern fashion, you know,’
said Mrs. Scudder. ‘It is many a year, you know, since it was made.’

‘Oh, never you fear! You leave all that to me,’ said Miss Prissy.
‘Now, there never was anything so lucky as that, just before all
these wedding-dresses had to be fixed, I got a letter from my sister
Martha, that works for all the first families of Boston. And Martha,
she is really unusually privileged, because she works for Miss Cranch,
and Miss Cranch gets letters from Miss Adams,—you know Mr. Adams is
Ambassador now at the Court of St. James, and Miss Adams writes home
all the particulars about the court-dresses; and Martha, she heard one
of the letters read, and she told Miss Cranch that she would give the
best five-pound note she had, if she could just copy that description
to send to Prissy. Well, Miss Cranch let her do it, and I’ve got a copy
of the letter here in my work-pocket. I read it up to Miss General
Wilcox’s, and to Major Seaforth’s, and I’ll read it to you.’

Mrs. Katy Scudder was a born subject of a crown, and, though now a
republican matron, had not outlived the reverence, from childhood
implanted, for the high and stately doings of courts, lords, ladies,
queens, and princesses, and therefore it was not without some awe
that she saw Miss Prissy produce from her little black work-bag, the
well-worn epistle.

‘Here it is,’ said Miss Prissy, at last. ‘I only copied out the parts
about being presented at Court. She says:—

‘“One is obliged here to attend the circles of the Queen, which are
held once a fortnight; and what renders it very expensive is, that
you cannot go twice in the same dress, and a court-dress you cannot
make use of elsewhere. I directed my mantua-maker to let my dress
be elegant, but plain as I could possibly appear with decency.
Accordingly, it is white lutestring, covered and full-trimmed with
white crape, festooned with lilac ribbon and mock point-lace, over a
hoop of enormous size. There is only a narrow train, about three yards
in length to the gown-waist, which is put into a ribbon on the left
side,—the Queen only having her train borne. Ruffled cuffs for married
ladies,—treble lace ruffles, a very dress cap with long lace lappets,
two white plumes, and a blonde lace handkerchief. This is my rigging.”’

Miss Prissy here stopped to adjust her spectacles. Her audience
expressed a breathless interest.

‘You see,’ she said, ‘I used to know her when she was Nabby Smith. She
was Parson Smith’s daughter, at Weymouth, and as handsome a girl as
ever I wanted to see,—just as graceful as a sweet-brier bush. I don’t
believe any of those English ladies looked one bit better than she did.
She was always a master-hand at writing. Everything she writes about,
she puts it right before you. You feel as if you’d been there. Now,
here she goes on to tell about her daughter’s dress. She says:—

‘“My head is dressed for St. James’s, and in my opinion looks very
tasty. Whilst my daughter is undergoing the same operation, I set
myself down composedly to write you a few lines. Well, methinks I
hear Betsy and Lucy say, ‘What is cousin’s dress?’ _White_, my dear
girls, like your aunt’s, only differently trimmed and ornamented,—her
train being wholly of white crape, and trimmed with white ribbon; the
petticoat, which is the most showy part of the dress, covered and
drawn up in what are called festoons, with light wreaths of beautiful
flowers; the sleeves, white crape drawn over the silk, with a row of
lace round the sleeve near the shoulder, another half-way down the arm,
and a third upon the top of the ruffle,—a little stuck between,—a kind
of hat-cap with three large feathers and a bunch of flowers,—a wreath
of flowers on the hair.”’

Miss Prissy concluded this relishing description with a little smack of
the lips, such as people sometimes give when reading things that are
particularly to their taste.

‘Now, I was a-thinking,’ she added, ‘that it would be an excellent way
to trim Mary’s sleeves,—three rows of lace, with a sprig to each row.’

All this while, our Mary, with her white short-gown and blue
stuff-petticoat, her shining pale brown hair and serious large blue
eyes, sat innocently looking first at her mother, then at Miss Prissy,
and then at the finery.

We do not claim for her any superhuman exemption from girlish feelings.
She was innocently dazzled with the vision of courtly halls and
princely splendours, and thought Mrs. Adams’s descriptions almost a
perfect realization of things she had read in ‘Sir Charles Grandison.’
If her mother thought it right and proper she should be dressed and
made fine, she was glad of it; only there came a heavy, leaden feeling
in her little heart, which she did not understand, but we who know
womankind will translate for you: it was, that a certain pair of dark
eyes would not see her after she was dressed; and so, after all, what
was the use of looking pretty?

‘I wonder what James _would_ think,’ passed through her head; for Mary
had never changed a ribbon, or altered the braid of her hair, or pinned
a flower in her bosom, that she had not quickly seen the effect of
the change mirrored in those dark eyes. It was a pity, of course, now
she had found out that she ought not to think about him, that so many
thought-strings were twisted round him.

So while Miss Prissy turned over her papers, and read out of others
extracts about Lord Caermarthen and Sir Clement Cotterel Dormer,
and the Princess Royal, and Princess Augusta, in black and silver,
with a silver netting upon the coat, and a head stuck full of
diamond pins,—and Lady Salisbury and Lady Talbot, and the Duchess of
Devonshire, and scarlet satin sacks and diamonds and ostrich-plumes,
and the King’s kissing Mrs. Adams,—little Mary’s blue eyes grew larger
and larger, seeing far off on the salt green sea, and her ears heard
only the ripple and murmur of those waters that carried her heart
away,—till, by-and-by, Miss Prissy gave her a smart little tap, which
awakened her to the fact that she was wanted again to try on the dress
which Miss Prissy’s nimble fingers had basted.

So passed the day,—Miss Prissy busily chattering, clipping,
basting,—Mary patiently trying on to an unheard-of extent,—and Mrs.
Scudder’s neat room whipped into a perfect froth and foam of gauze,
lace, artificial flowers, linings, and other aids, accessories, and
abetments.

At dinner, the Doctor, who had been all the morning studying out his
Treatise on the Millennium, discoursed tranquilly as usual, innocently
ignorant of the unusual cares which were distracting the minds of his
listeners. What should he know of dressmakers, good soul? Encouraged
by the respectful silence of his auditors, he calmly expanded and
soliloquized on his favourite topic, the last golden age of Time, the
Marriage Supper of the Lamb, when the purified Earth, like a repentant
Psyche, shall be restored to the long-lost favour of a celestial
Bridegroom, and glorified saints and angels shall walk familiarly as
wedding-guests among men.

‘Sakes alive!’ said little Miss Prissy, after dinner, ‘did I ever hear
any one go on like that blessed man?—such a spiritual mind! Oh, Miss
Scudder, how you are privileged in having him here! I do really think
it is a shame such a blessed man a’n’t thought more of. Why, I could
just sit and hear him talk all day. Miss Scudder, I wish sometimes
you’d just let me make a ruffled shirt for him, and do it all up
myself, and put a stitch in the hem that I learned from my sister
Martha, who learned it from a French young lady who was educated in a
convent;—nuns, you know, poor things, can do _some_ things right; and
I think _I_ never saw such hemstitching as they do there;—and I should
like to hemstitch the Doctor’s ruffles; he is _so_ spiritually-minded,
it really makes me love him. Why, hearing him talk put me in mind of a
real beautiful song of Mr. Watts,—I don’t know as I could remember the
tune.’

And Miss Prissy, whose musical talent was one of her special _fortes_,
tuned her voice, a little cracked and quavering, and sang, with a
vigorous accent on each accented syllable,—

    ‘From _the_ third heaven, where God resides,
       That holy, happy place,
     The New Jerusalem comes down,
       Adorned with shining grace.

    ‘Attending angels shout for joy,
       And the bright armies sing,—
     “Mortals! behold the sacred seat
       Of your descending King!”’

‘Take care, Miss Scudder!—that silk must be cut exactly on the bias;’
and Miss Prissy, hastily finishing her last quaver, caught the silk and
the scissors out of Mrs. Scudder’s hand, and fell down at once from
the Millennium into a discourse on her own particular way of covering
piping-cord.

[Illustration: _The Doctor’s opinion consulted._

_Page 127._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. May 24th, 1859.]

So we go, dear reader,—so long as we have a body and a soul. Two
worlds must mingle,—the great and the little, the solemn and the
trivial, wreathing in and out, like the grotesque carvings on a Gothic
shrine;—only, did we know it rightly, nothing is trivial; since the
human soul, with its awful shadow, makes all things sacred. Have not
ribbons, cast-off flowers, soiled bits of gauze, trivial, trashy
fragments of millinery, sometimes had an awful meaning, a deadly power,
when they belonged to one who should wear them no more, and whose
beautiful form, frail and crushed as they, is a hidden and a vanished
thing for all time? For so sacred and individual is a human being,
that, of all the million-peopled earth, no one form ever restores
another. The mould of each mortal type is broken at the grave; and
never, never, though you look through all the faces on earth, shall
the exact form you mourn ever meet your eyes again! You are living
your daily life among trifles that one death-stroke may make relics.
One false step, one luckless accident, an obstacle on the track of a
train, the tangling of the cord in shifting a sail, and the penknife,
the pen, the papers, the trivial articles of dress and clothing, which
to-day you toss idly and jestingly from hand to hand, may become dread
memorials of that awful tragedy whose deep abyss ever underlies our
common life.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE PARTY.


WELL, let us proceed to tell how the eventful evening drew on,—how
Mary, by Miss Prissy’s care, stood at last in a long-waisted gown
flowered with rosebuds and violets, opening in front to display a white
satin skirt trimmed with lace and flowers,—how her little feet were
put into high-heeled shoes, and a little jaunty cap with a wreath of
moss rosebuds was fastened over her shining hair,—and how Miss Prissy,
delighted, turned her round and round, and then declared that she must
go and get the Doctor to look at her. She knew he must be a man of
taste, he talked so beautifully about the Millennium; and so, bursting
into his study, she actually chattered him back into the visible world,
and, leading the blushing Mary to the door, asked him, point blank, if
he ever saw anything prettier.

The Doctor, being now wide awake, gravely gave his mind to the subject,
and, after some consideration, said, gravely, ‘No,—he didn’t think he
ever did.’ For the Doctor was not a man of compliment, and had a habit
of always thinking, before he spoke, whether what he was going to say
was exactly true; and having lived some time in the family of President
Edwards, renowned for beautiful daughters, he naturally thought them
over.

The Doctor looked innocent and helpless, while Miss Prissy, having
got him now quite into her power, went on volubly to expatiate on the
difficulties overcome in adapting the ancient wedding-dress to its
present modern fit. He told her that it was very nice,—said, ‘Yes,
ma’am,’ at proper places,—and, being a very obliging man, looked at
whatever he was directed to, with round, blank eyes; but ended all with
a long gaze on the laughing, blushing face, that, half in shame and
half in perplexed mirth, appeared and disappeared as Miss Prissy in her
warmth turned her round and showed her.

‘Now, don’t she look beautiful?’ Miss Prissy reiterated for the
twentieth time, as Mary left the room.

The Doctor, looking after her musingly, said to himself,—‘“The king’s
daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold; she
shall be brought into the king in raiment of needlework.”’

‘Now, did I ever?’ said Miss Prissy, rushing out. ‘How that good man
does turn everything! I believe you couldn’t get anything, that he
wouldn’t find a text right out of the Bible about it. I mean to get the
linen for that shirt this very week, with the Miss Wilcox’s money; they
always pay well, those Wilcoxes,—and I’ve worked for them, off and on,
sixteen days and a quarter. To be sure, Miss Scudder, there’s no real
need of my doing it, for I must say you keep him looking like a pink;
but only I feel as if I must do something for such a good man.’

The good Doctor was brushed up for the evening with zealous care and
energy; and if he did _not_ look like a pink, it was certainly no fault
of his hostess.

Well, we cannot reproduce in detail the faded glories of that
entertainment, nor relate how the Wilcox Manor and gardens were
illuminated,—how the bride wore a veil of real point-lace,—how
carriages rolled and grated on the gravel walks, and negro servants, in
white kid gloves, handed out ladies in velvet and satin.

To Mary’s inexperienced eye it seemed like an enchanted dream,—a
realization of all she had dreamed of grand and high society. She
had her little triumph of an evening; for everybody asked who that
beautiful girl was, and more than one gallant of the old Newport first
families felt himself adorned and distinguished to walk with her on his
arm. Busy, officious dowagers repeated to Mrs. Scudder the applauding
whispers that followed her wherever she went.

‘Really, Mrs. Scudder,’ said gallant old General Wilcox, ‘where have
you kept such a beauty all this time? It’s a sin and a shame to hide
such a light under a bushel.’

And Mrs. Scudder, though, of course, like you and me, sensible reader,
properly apprised of the perishable nature of such fleeting honours,
was, like us, too, but a mortal, and smiled condescendingly on the
follies of the scene.

The house was divided by a wide hall opening by doors, the front one
upon the street, the back into a large garden, the broad central walk
of which, edged on each side with high clipped hedges of box, now
resplendent with coloured lamps, seemed to continue the prospect in a
brilliant vista.

The old-fashioned garden was lighted in every part, and the company
dispersed themselves about it in picturesque groups.

We have the image in our mind of Mary as she stood with her little hat
and wreath of rosebuds, her fluttering ribbons and rich brocade, as it
were a picture framed in the doorway, with her back to the illuminated
garden, and her calm, innocent face regarding with a pleased wonder the
unaccustomed gaieties within.

Her dress, which, under Miss Prissy’s forming hand, had been made to
assume that appearance of style and fashion which more particularly
characterised the mode of those times, formed a singular, but not
unpleasing, contrast to the sort of dewy freshness of air and mien
which was characteristic of her style of beauty. It seemed so to
represent a being who was in the world, yet not of it,—who, though
living habitually in a higher region of thought and feeling, was
artlessly curious, and innocently pleased with a fresh experience in an
altogether untried sphere. The feeling of being in a circle to which
she did not belong, where her presence was in a manner an accident, and
where she felt none of the responsibilities which come from being a
component part of a society, gave to her a quiet, disengaged air, which
produced all the effect of the perfect ease of high breeding.

While she stands there, there comes out of the door of the bridal
reception-room a gentleman with a stylishly-dressed lady on either
arm, with whom he seems wholly absorbed. He is of middle height,
peculiarly graceful in form and moulding, with that indescribable
air of high breeding which marks the polished man of the world. His
beautifully-formed head, delicate profile, fascinating sweetness of
smile, and, above all, an eye which seemed to have an almost mesmeric
power of attraction, were traits which distinguished one of the most
celebrated men of the time, and one whose peculiar history yet lives
not only in our national records, but in the private annals of many an
American family.

‘Good Heavens!’ he said, suddenly pausing in conversation, as his eye
accidentally fell upon Mary. ‘Who is that lovely creature?’

‘Oh, that,’ said Mrs. Wilcox,—‘why, that is Mary Scudder. Her father
was a family connection of the General’s. The family are in rather
modest circumstances, but highly respectable.’

After a few moments more of ordinary chit-chat, in which from time to
time he darted upon her glances of rapid and piercing observation, the
gentleman might have been observed to disembarrass himself of one of
the ladies on his arm, by passing her with a compliment and a bow to
another gallant, and after a few moments more, he spoke something to
Mrs. Wilcox, in a low voice, and with that gentle air of deferential
sweetness which always made everybody well satisfied to do his will.
The consequence was, that in a few moments Mary was startled from her
calm speculations by the voice of Mrs. Wilcox, saying at her elbow, in
a formal tone:—

‘Miss Scudder, I have the honour to present to your acquaintance
Colonel Burr, of the United States Senate.’



CHAPTER XIV.


AT the period of which we are speaking, no name in the new republic was
associated with ideas of more brilliant promise, or invested with a
greater prestige of popularity and success, than that of Colonel Aaron
Burr.

Sprung of a line distinguished for intellectual ability, the grandson
of a man whose genius has swayed New England from that day to this—the
son of parents eminent in their day for influential and popular talent,
he united in himself the quickest perceptions and keenest delicacy of
fibre with the most diamond hardness and unflinching steadiness of
purpose. Apt, subtle, dazzling, adroit, no man in his time ever began
life with fairer chances for success and fame. His name, as it fell on
the ear of our heroine, carried with it the suggestion of all this; and
when, with his peculiarly engaging smile, he offered his arm, she felt
a little of the flutter natural to a modest young person unexpectedly
honoured with the notice of the distinguished of the earth, whom it is
seldom the lot of humble individuals to know except by distant report.

But although Mary was a blushing and sensitive person, she was not what
is commonly called a diffident girl: her nerves had that steady poise
which gave her presence of mind in the most unwonted circumstances.

The first few sentences addressed to her by her new companion were in a
tone and style altogether different from any in which she had ever been
approached—different from the dashing frankness of her sailor lover,
and from the rustic gallantry of her other admirers. That indescribable
mixture of ease and deference, guided by a fine tact, which shows
the practised, high-bred man of the world, made its impression on her
immediately, as the breeze on the chords of a wind harp. She felt
herself pleasantly swayed and breathed upon: it was as if an atmosphere
were around her in which she felt a perfect ease and freedom—an
assurance that her lightest word might launch forth safely, as a tiny
boat on the smooth glassy mirror of her listener’s pleased attention.

‘I came to Newport only on a visit of business,’ he said, after a few
moments of introductory conversation; ‘I was not prepared for its many
attractions.’

‘Newport has a great deal of beautiful scenery,’ said Mary.

‘I have heard that it was celebrated for the beauty of its scenery and
of its ladies,’ he answered; ‘but,’ he added, with a quick flash of his
dark eye, ‘I never realised the fact before.’

The glance of the eye pointed and limited the compliment; at the same
time there was a wary shrewdness in it: he was measuring how deeply
his shaft had sunk, as he always instinctively measured the person he
talked with.

Mary had been told of her beauty since her childhood, notwithstanding
her mother had assayed all that transparent, respectable hoaxing by
which discreet mothers endeavour to blind their daughters to the
real facts in such cases; but in her own calm, balanced mind she had
accepted what she was so often told as a quiet verity, and therefore
she neither fluttered nor blushed on this occasion; but regarded her
auditor with a pleased attention, as one who was saying obliging things.

‘Cool,’ he thought to himself. ‘Hum—a little rustic belle, I suppose,
well aware of her own value; rather piquante, upon my word.’

‘Shall we walk in the garden?’ he said; ‘the evening is so beautiful.’

They passed out the door, and began promenading the long walk. At the
bottom of the alley he stopped, and, turning, looked up the vista of
box, ending in the brilliantly-lighted rooms, where gentlemen with
powdered heads, lace ruffles, and glittering knee-buckles were handing
ladies in stiff brocades, whose towering heads were shaded by ostrich
feathers and sparkling with gems.

‘Quite court-like, on my word,’ he said: ‘tell me, do you often have
such brilliant entertainments as these?’

‘I suppose they do,’ said Mary; ‘I never was at one before, but I
sometimes hear of them.’

‘And _you_ do not attend?’ said the gentleman, with an accent which
made the inquiry a marked compliment.

‘No, I do not,’ said Mary; ‘these people generally do not visit us.’

‘What a pity,’ he said, ‘that their parties should want such an
ornament! but,’ he added, ‘this night must make them aware of their
oversight: if you are not always in society after this, it will surely
not be from want of solicitation.’

‘You are very kind to think so,’ replied Mary; ‘but even if it were
to be so, I should not see my way clear to be often in such scenes as
this.’

Her companion looked at her with a glance a little doubtful and amused,
and said—

‘And pray, why not, if the inquiry be not presumptuous?’

‘Because,’ said Mary, ‘I should be afraid they would take too much time
and thought, and lead me to forget the great object of life.’

The simple gravity with which this was said, as if quite assured of the
sympathy of her auditor, appeared to give him a secret amusement. His
bright dark eyes danced as if he suppressed some quick repartee; but,
drooping his long lashes deferentially, he said, in gentle tones—

‘I should like to know what so beautiful a young lady considers the
great object of life?’

Mary answered reverentially, in those words familiar from infancy to
every Puritan child, ‘To glorify God, and enjoy Him for ever.’

‘_Really?_’ he said, looking straight into her eyes with that
penetrating glance with which he was accustomed to take the gauge of
every one with whom he conversed.

‘Is it not?’ said Mary, looking back, calm and firm, into the
sparkling, restless depths of his eye.

In that moment, two souls, going with the whole force of their being in
two opposite directions, looked out of their windows at each other with
a fixed and earnest recognition.

Burr was practised in every act of gallantry; he had made womankind
a study: he never saw a beautiful face and form without a sort of
restless desire to experiment upon it, and try his power over the
interior inhabitant. But just at this moment something streamed into
his soul from those blue, earnest eyes, which brought back to his mind
what pious people had so often told him of his mother—the beautiful and
early-sainted Esther Burr.

He was one of those persons who systematically managed and played upon
himself and others, as a skilful musician on an instrument. Yet one
secret of his fascination was the naïveté with which at some moments
he would abandon himself to some little impulse of a nature originally
sensitive and tender. Had the strain of feeling which now awoke in
him come over him elsewhere, he would have shut down some spring in
his mind, and excluded it in a moment; but talking with a beautiful
creature whom he wished to please, he gave way at once to the emotion:
real tears stood in his fine eyes; he raised Mary’s hand to his lips
and kissed it, saying—

‘Thank you, my beautiful child, for so good a thought! it is truly a
noble sentiment, though practicable only to those gifted with angelic
natures.’

‘Oh, I trust not!’ said Mary, earnestly, touched and wrought upon more
than she herself knew by the beautiful eyes, the modulated voice, the
charm of manner, which seemed to enfold her like an Italian summer.

Burr sighed—a real sigh of his better nature, but passed out with all
the more freedom that he felt it would interest his fair companion,
who, for the time being, was the one woman in the world to him.

‘Pure, artless souls like yours,’ he said, ‘cannot measure the
temptations of those who are called to the real battle of life. In
a world like this, how many nobler aspirations fall withered in the
fierce heat and struggle of the conflict!’

He was saying then what he really felt—often bitterly felt; but using
this real feeling advisedly, and with skilful tact, for the purpose of
the hour.

What was this purpose? to win the regard, the esteem, the tenderness
of a religious exalted nature, shrined in a beautiful form—to gain
and hold ascendency: it was a life-long habit; one of those forms of
refined self-indulgence which he pursued, reckless of consequences.
He had found now the key-note of the character: it was a beautiful
instrument, and he was well-pleased to play on it.

‘I think, sir,’ said Mary, modestly, ‘that you forget the great
provision made for our weakness.’

‘How?’ said he.

‘They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,’ she replied,
gently.

He looked at her as she spoke these words with a pleased, artistic
perception of the contrast between her worldly attire and the simple
religious earnestness of her words.

‘She is entrancing,’ he thought to himself; ‘so altogether fresh and
naïve.’

‘My sweet saint,’ he said, ‘such as you are the appointed guardians of
us coarser beings: the prayers of a soul given up to worldliness and
ambition effect little; you must intercede for us. I am very orthodox,
you see,’ he added, with that subtle smile which sometimes irradiated
his features. ‘I am fully aware of all that your reverend Doctor tells
you of the worthlessness of unregenerate doings; and so, when I see
angels walking below, I try to secure a “friend at court.”’

He saw that Mary looked embarrassed and pained at this banter, and
therefore added, with a delicate shading of earnestness—

‘In truth, my fair young friend, I hope you will sometimes pray for
me. I am sure if I have any chance of good, it must come to me in such
ways.’

‘Indeed I will,’ said Mary, fervently, her little heart full, tears
in her eyes, her breath coming quick; and she added, with a deepening
colour, ‘I am sure, Mr. Burr, there should be a covenant blessing for
you, if for any one, for you are the son of a holy ancestry.’

‘Eh bien, mon ami, qu’est-ce que tu fais ici?’ said a gay voice behind
a clump of box, and immediately there started out, like a French
picture from its frame, a dark-eyed figure, dressed like a marquise of
Louis Fourteenth’s time, with powdered hair, sparkling with diamonds.

‘Rien que m’amuser,’ he replied, with ready presence of mind, in the
same tone, and then added—

‘Permit me, madame, to present to you a charming specimen of our
genuine New England flowers. Miss Scudder, I have the honour to present
you to the acquaintance of Madame de Frontignac.’

‘I am very happy,’ said the lady, with a sweet lisping accentuation of
English, which well became her lovely mouth. ‘Miss Scudder, I hope, is
very well?’

Mary replied affirmatively, her eyes resting the while, with pleased
admiration, on the brilliant speaking face and diamond-bright eyes
which seemed looking her through.

‘Monsieur la trouve bien séduisante apparemment,’ said the stranger
in a low, rapid voice to the gentleman, in a manner which showed a
mingling of pique and admiration.

‘Petite jalouse, t’assure toi,’ he replied, with a look and manner
into which, with that mobile force which was peculiar to himself, he
threw the most tender and passionate devotion. ‘Ne suis-je pas à toi
tout-à-fait?’ and as he spoke he offered her his other arm.

‘Allow me to be an unworthy link between the beauty of France and
America.’

The lady swept a proud curtsy backward, bridled her beautiful neck, and
signed for them to pass.

‘I am waiting here for a friend,’ she said.

‘Your will is always mine,’ replied Burr, bowing with proud humility,
and passing on with Mary to the supper-room.

Here the company were fast assembling in that high tide of good-humour
which generally sets in at this crisis of the evening. The scene, in
truth, was a specimen of a range of society which in those times could
have been assembled nowhere else but in Newport. There stood Dr.
H., in the tranquil majesty of his lordly form, and by his side the
alert, compact figure of his cotemporary and theological opponent, Dr.
Styles, who, animated by the social spirit of the hour, was dispensing
courtesies to the right and left with the debonair grace of the trained
gentleman of the old school. Near by, and engaging from time to time
in conversation with them, stood a Jewish Rabbi with one or two
wealthy bankers of the same race, whose olive complexion, keen eyes,
and aquiline profile spoke their descent, and gave a picturesque and
foreign grace to the scene.

Colonel Burr, one of the most brilliant and distinguished of the
rising men of the new republic, and Colonel de Frontignac, who had
won for himself laurels in the corps of Lafayette during the recent
revolutionary struggle, with his brilliant and accomplished wife, were
all unexpected and distinguished additions to the circle.

Burr gently cleared the way for his fair companion, and purposely
placing her where the full light of the wax chandeliers set off
her beauty to the best advantage, devoted himself to her with a
subserviency as deferential as if she had been a goddess.

For all that, he was not unobservant when, a few moments after, Madame
de Frontignac was led in on the arm of a distinguished senator, with
whom she was presently in full flirtation.

He observed, with a quiet, furtive smile, that, while she rattled and
fanned herself, and listened with apparent attention to the flatteries
addressed to her, she darted every now and then a glance keen as a
steel blade towards him and his companion. He was perfectly adroit
in playing off one woman against another, and it struck him with a
pleasant sense of oddity, how perfectly unconscious his sweet and
saintly neighbour was of the position in which she was supposed to
stand by her rival.

[Illustration: _Col. Burr amuses himself._

_Page 136._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. June, 25th, 1859.]

And poor Mary all this while, in her simplicity, really thought she had
seen traces of what she would have called ‘the strivings of the Spirit
in his soul.’

Alas! that a phrase weighed down with such a mysterious truth and
meaning should ever come to fall on the ear as mere empty cant: with
Mary it was a living form, as were all her words, for in nothing was
the Puritan education more marked than in the earnest reality and
truthfulness which it gave to language. And even now, as she stands by
his side, her large blue eye is occasionally fixed in dreamy reverie,
as she thinks what a triumph of divine grace it would be if these
inward movings of her companion’s mind should lead him, as all the
pious of New England hoped, to follow in the footsteps of President
Edwards.

She wishes that she could some time see him alone, where she could talk
with him undisturbed. She was too humble, too modest, fully to accept
the delicious flattery which he had breathed, in implying that her hand
had power to unseal the fountains of good in his soul; but still it
thrilled through all the sensitive strings of her nature, a tremulous
flutter of suggestion.

She had read instances of striking and wonderful conversions from words
dropped by children and women; and suppose some such thing should
happen to her, that this so charming, distinguished, and powerful being
should be called into the fold of Christ’s church by her means! No, it
was too much to be hoped; but the very possibility was thrilling.

When, after supper, Mrs. Scudder and the Doctor made their adieus,
Burr’s devotion was still unabated: with an enchanting mixture of
reverence and fatherly protection, he waited on her to the last,
shawled her with delicate care, and handed her into the small one-horse
waggon as if it had been the coach of a duchess.

‘I have pleasant recollections connected with this kind of an
establishment,’ he said, as, after looking carefully at the harness,
he passed the reins into Mrs. Scudder’s hands; ‘it reminds me of
school-days and old times. I hope your horse is quite safe, madam?’

‘Oh, yes,’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘I perfectly understand him.’

‘Pardon the suggestion,’ he replied, ‘what is there that a New England
matron does not understand? Doctor, I must call by-and-by and have
a little talk with you; my theologies, you know, need a little
straightening.’

‘We should all be happy to see you, Colonel Burr,’ said Mrs. Scudder;
‘we live in a very plain way it is true.’

‘But can always find a place for a friend; that, I trust, is what you
meant to say,’ he replied, bowing with his own peculiar grace as the
carriage drove off.

‘Really, a most charming person is this Colonel Burr,’ said Mrs.
Scudder.

‘He seems a very frank, ingenuous young person,’ said the Doctor; ‘one
cannot but mourn that the son of such gracious parents should be left
to wander into infidelity.’

‘Oh, he is not an infidel,’ said Mary: ‘he is far from it; though I
think that his mind is a little darkened on some points.’

‘Ah!’ said the Doctor, ‘have you had any special religious conversation
with him?’

‘A little,’ said Mary; ‘and it seems to me, that his mind is perplexed
somewhat in regard to the doings of the unregenerate. I fear that it
has rather proved a stumbling-block in his way; but he showed so much
feeling! I could really see the tears in his eyes.’

‘His mother was a most godly woman, Mary,’ said the Doctor; ‘she was
called from her youth, and her beautiful person became a temple for the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Aaron Burr is a child of many prayers,
and therefore there is hope that he may yet be effectually called. He
studied awhile with Bellamy,’ he added, musingly; ‘I have often doubted
whether Bellamy took just the right course with him.’

‘I hope he will call and talk with you,’ said Mary, earnestly. ‘What
a blessing to the world if such talents as his could become wholly
consecrated!’

‘Not many rich, not many mighty, not many noble are called,’ said the
Doctor. ‘Yet, if it would please the Lord to employ my instrumentality
and prayers, how much should I rejoice! I was struck,’ he added,
‘to-night, when I saw those Jews present, with the thought that it was,
as it were, a type of that last ingathering, when both Jew and Gentile
should sit down lovingly together at the gospel feast. It is only
by passing over and forgetting these present years, when so few are
called, and the gospel makes such slow progress, and looking forward
to that glorious time that I find comfort. If the Lord but use me as a
dumb stepping-stone to that heavenly Jerusalem, I shall be content.’

Thus they talked while the waggon jogged slowly homeward, while the
frogs and turtles and the distant ripple of the sea made a drowsy
mingling concert in the summer-evening air.

Meanwhile Colonel Burr had returned to the lighted rooms; and it was
not long before his quick eye sought out Madame de Frontignac, standing
pensively in a window-recess, half hid by the curtain. He stole up
softly behind her, and whispered something in her ear.

In a moment she turned on him a face glowing with anger, and drew back
haughtily; but Burr remarked the glitter of tears, not quite dried even
by the angry flash of her eyes.

‘In what have I had the misfortune to offend?’ he said, crossing his
arms upon his breast. ‘I stand at the bar and plead not guilty.’

He spoke in French, and she replied in the same smooth accents—

‘It was not for her to dispute monsieur’s right to amuse himself.’

Burr drew nearer, and spoke in those persuasive, pleading tones which
he had ever at command, and in that language whose very structure, in
its delicate tu toi, gives such opportunity for gliding on through
shade after shade of intimacy and tenderness, till gradually the
haughty fire of the eyes was quenched in tears; and in the sudden
revulsion of a strong impulsive nature, she poured out to him what she
called words of friendship, but which carried with them all the warmth
of that sacred fire which is given to woman to light and warm the
temple of home, and which sears and scars when kindled for any other
shrine; and yet this woman was the wife of his friend and associate.

Monsieur de Frontignac was a grave and dignified man of forty-five.
Virginie de Frontignac had been given him to wife when but eighteen; a
beautiful, generous, impulsive, wilful girl.

She had accepted him gladly for very substantial reasons. First, that
she might come out of the convent where she was kept for the very
purpose of educating her in ignorance of the world she was to live in.
Second, that she might wear velvet, lace, cashmere, and jewels. Third,
that she might be a madame, free to go and come, ride, walk, and talk,
without surveillance. Fourth, and consequent upon this, that she might
go into company, and have admirers and adorers.

She supposed, of course, she loved her husband—whom else should she
love? he was the only man except her father and brothers that she had
ever seen; and in the fortnight that preceded their marriage, did he
not send her the most splendid bons-bons every day, with bouquets of
every pattern that ever taxed the brain of a Parisian artiste? Was not
the corbeille de mariage a wonder and an envy to all her acquaintance?
and after marriage had she not found him always a steady, indulgent
friend, easy to be coaxed as any grave papa?

On his part, Monsieur de Frontignac cherished his young wife as a
beautiful, though somewhat absurd little pet; and amused himself with
her frolics and gambols, as the gravest person often will with those of
a kitten.

It was not until she knew Aaron Burr that poor Virginie de Frontignac
came to that great awakening of her being which teaches woman what
she is, and transforms her from a careless child to a deep-hearted,
thinking, suffering, human being.

For the first time, in his society, she became aware of the charm of
a polished and cultivated mind; able, with exquisite tact, to adapt
itself to hers; to draw forth her inquiries; to excite her tastes; to
stimulate her observation. A new world awoke around her—the world of
literature, of taste, of art, of sentiment. She felt somehow as if
she had gained the growth of years in a few months. She felt within
herself the stirring of dim aspiration—the uprising of a new power of
self-devotion and self sacrifice; a trance of hero worship; a cloud of
high ideal images; the lighting up, in short, of all that God has laid
ready to be enkindled in woman’s nature when the time comes to sanctify
her as the pure priestess of a domestic temple.

But, alas! it was kindled by one who did it only for an experiment;
because he felt an artistic pleasure in the beautiful light and heat
which had burned a soul away.

Burr was one of those men, willing to play with any charming woman the
game of those navigators who give to simple natives glass beads and
feathers in return for gold and diamonds; to accept from a woman her
heart’s blood in return for such odds, ends, and clippings as he could
afford her from the serious ambitions of life.

Look in with us one moment, now that the party is over, and the busy
hum of voices and blaze of lights have died down to midnight silence
and darkness. We make you clairvoyant; and you may look through the
walls of this stately old mansion, still known as that where Rochambeau
held his headquarters, into this room, where two wax candles are
burning on a toilette-table before an old-fashioned mirror.

The slumbrous folds of the curtains are drawn with stately gloom around
a high bed, where Colonel de Frontignac has been for many hours quietly
asleep. But opposite, resting with one elbow on the toilette-table,
her long black hair hanging down over her night-dress, and the brush
hanging listlessly in her hand, sits Virginie, looking fixedly into the
dreamy depths of the mirror.

Scarcely twenty yet; all unwarned of the world of power and passion
that lay slumbering in her girl’s heart; led, in the meshes of custom
and society, to utter vows and take responsibilities of whose nature
she was no more apprised than is a slumbering babe, and now at last
fully awake, feeling the whole power of that mysterious and awful force
which we call love, yet shuddering to call it by its name; yet by its
light beginning to understand all she is capable of, and all that
marriage should have been to her!

She struggles feebly and confusedly with her fate, still clinging to
the name of duty, and baptizing as friendship the strange new feeling
which makes her tremble through all her being. How can she dream of
danger in such a feeling, when it seems to her the awakening of all
that is highest and noblest within her? She remembers when she thought
of nothing beyond an opera ticket or a new dress; and now she feels
that there might be to her a friend for whose sake she would try to be
noble and great and good; for whom all self-denial, all high endeavour,
all difficult virtue, would become possible; who would be to her life,
inspiration, order, beauty.

She sees him, as woman always sees the one she loves—noble, great,
and good; for when did a loving woman ever believe a man otherwise?
too noble, too great, too high, too good, she thinks for her, poor,
trivial, ignorant coquette—poor, trifling, childish Virginie! Has he
not commanded armies? she thinks; is he not eloquent in the senate?
and yet, what interest he has taken in her, a poor, unformed, ignorant
creature! She never tried to improve herself till since she knew him:
and he is so considerate too; so respectful; so thoughtful and kind;
so manly and honourable; and has such a tender friendship for her;
such a brotherly, fatherly solicitude. And yet, if she is haughty, or
imperious, or severe, how humbled and grieved he looks! How strange
that she could have power over such a man!

It is one of the saddest truths of this sad mystery of life, that woman
is often never so much an angel as just the moment before she falls
into the bottomless depths of perdition; and what shall we say of the
man who leads her up to this spot as an experiment? who amuses himself
with taking woman after woman up these dazzling, delusive heights,
knowing, as he certainly must, where they lead?

We have been told, in extenuation of the course of Aaron Burr, that he
was not a man of gross passions or of coarse indulgence, but in the
most consummate and refined sense a man of gallantry: this, then, is
the descriptive name which polite society has invented for the man who
does this thing.

Of old it was thought that one who administered poison in the
sacramental bread and wine had touched the very height of impious
sacrilege; but this crime is white by the side of his who poisons
God’s eternal sacrament of _love_, and destroys woman’s soul through
her noblest and purest affections.

We have given you the after view of most of the actors of our little
scene to-night, and therefore it is but fair that you should have a
peep over the Colonel’s shoulder as he sums up the evening in a letter
to a friend.

    ‘MY DEAR ——,

    ‘As to the business, it gets on rather slowly: L—— and T——
    are away, and the coalition cannot be formed without them;
    they set out a week ago from Philadelphia, and are yet on
    the road.

    ‘Meanwhile, we have some providential alleviations; as, for
    example, a wedding-party to-night at the Wilcox’s, which was
    really quite an affair. I saw the prettiest little Puritan
    there that I have set eyes on for many a day. I really
    couldn’t help getting up a flirtation with her, though it
    was much like flirting with a small copy of the Assembly’s
    catechism, of which I had enough years ago, heaven knows.
    But really, such a naïve, earnest little saint, who has such
    a real, deadly belief, and opens such blue pitying eyes
    on one, is quite a stimulating novelty. I got myself well
    scolded by the fair madame (as angels scold), and had to
    plead like a lawyer to make my peace.

    ‘After all, _that_ woman really enchains me. Don’t shake
    your head wisely. “What is going to be the end of it?” I am
    sure I don’t know; we’ll see when the time comes.

    ‘Meanwhile, push the business ahead with all your might. I
    shall not be idle.

    ‘D—— must canvass the Senate thoroughly. I wish I could be
    in two places at once, and I would do it myself. Au revoir.

                                          ‘Ever yours,
                                                     ‘BURR.’



CHAPTER XV.


‘AND now, Mary,’ said Mrs. Scudder, at five o’clock the next morning,
‘to-day, you know, is the doctor’s fast, and so we won’t get any
dinner, and it will be a good time to do up all our little odd jobs.
Miss Prissy promised to come in for two or three hours this morning, to
alter the waist of that black silk, and I shouldn’t be surprised if we
could get it all done and ready to wear by Sunday.’

We will remark, by way of explanation to a part of this conversation,
that our doctor, who was a specimen of life in earnest, made a practice
through the greater part of his pulpit course of spending every
Saturday as a day of fasting and retirement in preparation for the
duties of the Sabbath.

Accordingly, the early breakfast things were no sooner disposed of than
Miss Prissy’s quick footsteps might have been heard pattering in the
kitchen.

‘Well, Miss Scudder, how _do_ you do this morning? and how _do_ you
do, Mary? Well, if you aint the beaters! up just as early as ever, and
everything cleared away! I was telling Miss Wilcox that there didn’t
ever seem to be anything done in Miss Scudder’s kitchen, and I did
verily believe you made your beds before you got up in the morning.
Well, well; wasn’t that a party last night!’ she said, as she sat down
with the black silk and prepared her ripping-knife. ‘I must rip this
myself, Miss Scudder; for there’s a great deal in ripping silk, so as
not to let anybody know where it has been sewed.

‘You didn’t know that I was at the party, did you? Well, I was. You
see, I thought I’d just step round there to see about that money to get
the doctor’s shirt with, and there I found Miss Wilcox with so many
things on her mind, and says she, “Miss Prissy, you don’t know how much
it would help me if I had somebody like you just to look after things
a little here;” and says I, “Miss Wilcox, you just go right to your
room and dress, and don’t you give yourself one minute’s thought about
anything, and you see if I don’t have everything just right.” And so
there I was in for it, and I just stayed through; and it was well I
did, for Dinah, she wouldn’t have put ne’er enough egg in the coffee if
it hadn’t been for me. Why, I just went and beat up four eggs with my
own hand, and stirred ’em into the grounds.

‘Well, but really; wasn’t I behind the door, and didn’t I peep into
the supper-room! I saw who was a-waitin’ on Miss Mary. Well, they do
say he’s the handsomest, most fascinating man; why, all the ladies in
Philadelphia are in a perfect quarrel about him; and I heard he said
that he hadn’t seen such a beauty, he didn’t remember when.’

‘We all know that beauty is of small consequence,’ said Mrs. Scudder.
‘I hope Mary has been brought up to feel that.’

‘Oh, of course,’ said Miss Prissy; ‘it’s just like a fading flower; all
is to be good and useful, and that’s what she is; and I told ’em that
her beauty was the least part of her, though I must say that dress did
fit like a biscuit, if it was my own fitting. But, Miss Scudder, what
do you think I heard ’em saying about the good old doctor?’

‘I am sure I don’t know,’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘I only know they couldn’t
say anything bad.’

‘Well, no, not bad exactly,’ said Miss Prissy; ‘but they say he’s
getting such strange notions in his head; why, I heard some of ’em say
he was going to come out and preach against the slave trade; and I’m
sure I don’t know what Newport folks will do if that’s wicked; there
aint hardly any money here that’s made any other way: it’ll certainly
make a great noise and talk, and make everybody angry; and I hope the
Doctor aint a-going to do anything of that sort.’

‘I believe he is, Miss Prissy,’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘he thinks it’s a
great sin that ought to be rebuked, and I think so too,’ she said,
bracing herself resolutely; ‘that was Mr. Scudder’s opinion when I
first married him, and it’s mine.’

‘Oh, ah, yes. Well, if it’s a sin, of course,’ said Miss Prissy; ‘but
then, dear me! Why, just think how many great houses are living on
it. Why, there’s General Wilcox himself, and he’s a very nice man;
and then there’s Major Seaforth; and why, I could count you off now
a dozen—all our very first people. Why, Doctor Styles doesn’t think
so, and I’m sure he’s a good Christian. Doctor Styles thinks it’s a
dispensation for giving the light of the gospel to the Africans; why,
now I’m sure, when I was a-working at Deacon Stebbins’, I stopped over
Sunday once, ’cause Miss Stebbins she was weakly; ’twas when she was
getting up after Samuel was born. No, on the whole, I believe ’twas
Nehemiah, ’cause I remember he had curly hair; but any way, I remember
I stayed there, and I remember as plain as if ’twas yesterday, just
after breakfast, how a man went driving by in a chaise, and the Deacon,
he went out and stopped him for travelling on the Lord’s day (’cause,
you know, he was a justice of the peace), and who should it be but
Tom Seaforth, and he told the Deacon his father had got a shipload
of negroes just come in, and the Deacon he just let him go, ’cause I
remember he said _that_ was a plain work of necessity and mercy.[A]
Well now, who would have thought it? I believe the Doctor is better
than most folks; but then the best people may be mistaken, you know.’

‘The Doctor has made up his mind that it’s his duty,’ said Mrs.
Scudder. ‘I’m afraid it’ll make him very unpopular; but I, for one,
shall stand by him.’

‘Oh, certainly, Miss Scudder, you’re doing just right, exactly. Well,
there’s one comfort, he’ll have a great crowd to hear him preach,
’cause as I was going round through the entries last night, I heard ’em
talking about it; and Colonel Burr said he should be there, and so did
the General, and so did Mr. What’s-his-name there, that senator from
Philadelphia. I tell you you’ll have a full house.’

It was to be confessed that Mrs. Scudder’s heart rather sank than
otherwise at this announcement, and those who have felt what it
is to be almost alone in the right, in the face of all the ‘first
families’ of their acquaintance, may perhaps find some compassion for
her; since after all, truth is invisible, but ‘first families’ are
very evident. First families are often very agreeable, undeniably
respectable—fearfully virtuous; and it takes great faith to resist
an evil principle which incarnates itself in the suavities of their
breeding and amiability; and therefore it was that Mrs. Scudder felt
her heart heavy within her, and could with a very good grace have
joined the Doctor’s Saturday fast.

As for the Doctor, he sat the while tranquil in his study, with his
great Bible and his Concordance open before him, culling, with that
patient assiduity for which he was remarkable, all the terrible texts
which that very unceremonious and old-fashioned book rains down so
unsparingly on the sin of oppressing the weak. First families, whether
in Newport or elsewhere, were as invisible to him as they were to
Moses during the forty days that he spent with God on the Mount. He
was merely thinking of his message, thinking only how he should shape
it so as not to leave one word of it unsaid, not even imagining in
the least what the result of it was to be: he was but a voice, but an
instrument,—a passive instrument through which an Almighty will was
to reveal itself: and the sublime fatalism of his faith made him as
dead to all human considerations as if he had been a portion of the
immutable laws of nature herself.

So the next morning, although all his friends trembled for him when he
rose in the pulpit, he never thought of trembling for himself: he had
come in the covered way of silence from the secret place of the Most
High, and felt himself still abiding under the shadow of the Almighty.
It was alike to him whether the house was full or empty. Whoever were
decreed to hear the message would be there; whether they would hear or
forbear was already settled in the counsels of a mightier will than
his: he had the simple duty of utterance.

The ruinous old meeting-house was never so radiant with station and
gentility as on that morning: a June sun shone brightly, the sea
sparkled with a thousand little eyes, the birds sang all along the
way, and all the notables turned out to hear the Doctor.

Mrs. Scudder received into her pew, with dignified politeness, Colonel
Burr, and Colonel and Madame de Frontignac.

General Wilcox and his portly dame, Major Seaforth, and we know not,
what not of Vernons and De Wolfs, and other grand old names were
present there. Stiff silks rustled, Chinese fans fluttered, and the
last court fashion stood revealed in bonnets; everybody was looking
fresh and amiable: a charming and respectable set of sinners come to
hear what the Doctor would find to tell them about their transgressions.

Mrs. Scudder was calculating consequences, and, shutting her eyes on
the too evident world about her, prayed that the Lord would overrule
all for good: the Doctor prayed that he might have grace to speak the
truth, and the whole truth.

We have yet on record, in his published works, the great argument of
that day, through which he moved with that calm appeal to the reason,
which made his results always so weighty.

‘If these things be true,’ he said, after a condensed statement of
the facts of the case, ‘then the following terrible consequences,
which may well make all shudder and tremble who realize them, force
themselves upon us, that all who have had any hand in this iniquitous
business, whether directly or indirectly, or have used their influence
to promote it, or have consented to it, or even connived at it, or have
not opposed it by all proper exertions of which they are capable—all
these are in a greater or less degree chargeable with the injuries and
miseries which millions have suffered and are suffering, and are guilty
of the blood of millions who lost their lives by this traffic in the
human species. Not only the merchants who have been engaged in this
trade, and the captains who have been tempted by the love of money to
engage in this cruel work, and the slaveholders of every description,
are guilty of shedding rivers of blood, but all the legislatures who
have authorized, encouraged, or even neglected to suppress it to the
utmost of their power, and all the individuals in private stations who
have in any way aided in this business, consented to it, or have not
opposed it to the utmost of their ability, have a share in this guilt.
This trade in the human species has been the first wheel of commerce
in Newport, on which every other movement in business has chiefly
depended. This town has been built up and flourished in times past at
the expense of the blood, the liberty, and the happiness of the poor
Africans; and the inhabitants have lived on this, and by it have gotten
most of their wealth and riches. If a bitter woe is pronounced on him
who buildeth his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by wrong
(Jer. xxii. 13), to him who buildeth a town by blood, and establisheth
a city by iniquity (Hab. ii. 12), to the bloody city (Ezek. xxiv.
6), what a heavy, dreadful woe hangs over the heads of all those
whose hands are defiled by the blood of the Africans—especially the
inhabitants of this state and this town, who have had a distinguished
share in this unrighteous and bloody commerce!’ He went over the recent
history of the country; expatiated on the national declaration so
lately made, that all men are born equally free and independent, and
have a natural and inalienable right to liberty, and asked with what
face a nation declaring such things could continue to hold thousands of
their fellow-men in abject slavery.

He pointed out signs of national disaster which foreboded the wrath
of heaven: the increase of public and private debts; the spirit of
murmuring and jealousy of rulers among the people; divisions and
contentions and bitter party alienations; the jealous irritation of
England constantly endeavouring to hamper our trade; the Indians making
war on the frontiers; the Algerines taking captive our ships, and
making slaves of our citizens; all evident tokens of the displeasure
and impending judgment of an offended justice.

The sermon rolled over the heads of the gay audience deep and dark as a
thunder-cloud which in a few moments changes a summer sky into heaviest
gloom. Gradually an expression of intense interest and deep concern
spread over the listeners; it was the magnetism of a strong mind, which
held them for a time under the shadow of his own awful sense of God’s
almighty justice.

It is said that a little child once described his appearance in the
pulpit by saying, ‘I saw God there, and I was afraid.’

Something of the same effect was produced on the audience now, and it
was not till after sermon, prayer, and benediction were all over, that
the respectables of Newport began gradually to unstiffen themselves
from the spell, and to look into each other’s eyes for comfort, and
to reassure themselves that after all they were the first families,
eminently respectable, and going on in the good old way the world
had always gone, and that the Doctor, of course, was a Radical and a
fanatic.

When the audience streamed out, crowding the broad aisle, Mary
descended from the singers’ seat, and stood with her psalm book in
hand, waiting at the door to be joined by her mother and the Doctor.
She overheard many hard words from people who an evening or two before
had smiled so graciously upon them. It was, therefore, with no little
determination of manner that she advanced and took the Doctor’s arm, as
if anxious to associate herself with his well-earned unpopularity; and
just at this moment she caught the eye and smile of Colonel Burr, as he
bowed gracefully, yet not without a suggestion of something sarcastic
in his eye.

FOOTNOTE:

[A] A fact.



CHAPTER XVI.


WE suppose the heroine of a novel, among other privileges and
immunities, has a prescriptive right to her own private boudoir, where,
as a French writer has it, ‘she appears like a lovely picture in its
frame.’

Well, our little Mary is not without this luxury, and to its sacred
precincts we will give you this morning a ticket of admission. Know,
then, that the garret of this gambrel-roofed cottage had a projecting
window on the seaward side, which opened into an immensely large old
apple-tree, and was a look-out as leafy and secluded as a robin’s nest.

Garrets are delicious places, in any case, for people of thoughtful,
imaginative temperament. Who has not loved a garret in the twilight
days of childhood, with its endless stores of quaint, cast-off,
suggestive antiquity,—old worm-eaten chests,—rickety chairs,—boxes
and casks full of old comminglings, out of which, with tiny,
childish hands, we fished wonderful hoards of fairy treasure? What
peep-holes, and hiding-places, and undiscoverable retreats we made
to ourselves,—where we sat rejoicing in our security, and bidding
defiance to the vague, distant cry which summoned us to school, or to
some unsavoury every-day task! How deliciously the rain came pattering
on the roof over head, or the red twilight streamed in at the window,
while we sat snugly ensconced over the delicious pages of some romance,
which careful aunts had packed away at the bottom of all things, to be
sure we should never read it! If you have anything, beloved friends,
which you wish your Charlie or your Susie to be sure and read, pack it
mysteriously away at the bottom of a trunk of stimulating rubbish, in
the darkest corner of your garret;—in that case, if the book be at all
readable, one that by any possible chance can make its way into a young
mind, you may be sure that it will not only be read, but remembered to
the longest day they have to live.

Mrs. Katy Scudder’s garret was not an exception to the general rule.
Those quaint little people who touch with so airy a grace all the
lights and shadows of great beams, bare rafters, and unplastered
walls, had not failed in their work there. Was there not there a grand
easy-chair of stamped-leather, minus two of its hinder legs, which had
genealogical associations through the Wilcoxes with the Vernons, and
through the Vernons quite across the water with Old England? and was
there not a dusky picture, in an old tarnished frame, of a woman of
whose tragic end strange stories were whispered,—one of the sufferers
in the time when witches were unceremoniously helped out of the world,
instead of being, as now-a-days, helped to make their fortune in it by
table-turning?

Yes, there were all these things, and many more which we will not stay
to recount, but bring you to the boudoir which Mary has constructed for
herself around the dormer-window which looks into the whispering old
apple-tree.

The enclosure was formed by blankets and bed-spreads, which, by reason
of their antiquity, had been pensioned off to an undisturbed old age
in the garret,—not _common_ blankets or bed-spreads, either,—bought,
as you buy yours, out of a shop,—spun or woven by machinery,—without
individuality or history. Every one of these curtains had its story.
The one on the right, nearest the window, and already falling into
holes, is a Chinese linen, and even now displays unfaded, quaint
patterns of sleepy-looking Chinamen, in conical hats, standing on the
leaves of most singular herbage, and with hands for ever raised in act
to strike bells, which never are struck and never will be till the
end of time. These, Mrs. Katy Scudder had often instructed Mary, were
brought from the Indies by her great-great-grandfather, and were her
grandmother’s wedding-curtains,—the grandmother who had blue eyes like
hers, and was just about her height.

The next spread was spun and woven by Mrs. Katy’s beloved Aunt
Eunice,—a mythical personage, of whom Mary gathered vague accounts that
she was disappointed in love, and that this very article was part of a
bridal outfit, prepared in vain, against the return of one from sea,
who never came back,—and she heard of how she sat wearily and patiently
at her work, this poor Aunt Eunice, month after month, starting every
time she heard the gate shut, every time she heard the tramp of a
horse’s hoof, every time she heard the news of a sail in sight,—her
colour, meanwhile, fading and fading as life and hope bled away at an
inward wound,—till at last she found comfort and reunion beyond the
veil.

Next to this was a bed-quilt pieced in tiny blocks, none of them bigger
than a sixpence, containing, as Mrs. Katy said, pieces of the gowns of
all her grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and female relatives for years
back,—and mated to it was one of the blankets which had served Mrs.
Scudder’s uncle in his bivouac at Valley Forge, when the American
soldiers went on the snows with bleeding feet, and had scarce anything
for daily bread except a morning message of patriotism and hope from
George Washington.

Such were the memories woven into the tapestry of our little boudoir.
Within, fronting the window, stands the large spinning-wheel, one end
adorned with a snowy pile of fleecy rolls,—and beside it, a reel and
a basket of skeins of yarn,—and open, with its face down on the beam
of the wheel, lay always a book, with which the intervals of work were
beguiled.

The dusky picture of which we have spoken hung against the rough wall
in one place, and in another appeared an old engraved head of one
of the Madonnas of Leonardo da Vinci, a picture which to Mary had a
mysterious interest, from the fact of its having been cast on shore
after a furious storm, and found like a waif lying in the sea-weed;
and Mrs. Marvyn, who had deciphered the signature, had not ceased
exploring till she found for her, in an Encyclopædia, a life of that
wonderful man, whose greatness enlarges our ideas of what is possible
to humanity,—and Mary, pondering thereon, felt the sea-worn picture as
a constant vague inspiration.

Here our heroine spun for hours, and hours with intervals, when,
crouched on a low seat in the window, she pored over her book, and
then, returning again to her work, thought of what she had read to the
lulling burr of the sounding wheel.

By chance a robin had built its nest so that from her retreat she could
see the five little blue eggs whenever the patient brooding mother
left them for a moment uncovered. And sometimes, as she sat in dreamy
reverie, resting her small, round arms on the window-sill, she fancied
that the little feathered watcher gave her familiar nods and winks of a
confidential nature,—cocking the small head first to one side and then
to the other, to get a better view of her gentle human neighbour.

I dare say it seems to you, reader, that we have travelled, in our
story, over a long space of time, because we have talked so much, and
introduced so many personages and reflections; but, in fact, it is only
Wednesday week since James sailed, and the eggs which were brooded when
he went are still unhatched in the nest, and the apple-tree has changed
only in having now a majority of white blossoms over the pink buds.

This one week has been a critical one to our Mary: in it she has made
the great discovery that she loves; and she has made her first step
into the gay world; and now she comes back to her retirement to think
the whole over by herself. It seems a dream to her, that she who sits
there now reeling yarn in her stuff petticoat and white short-gown is
the same who took the arm of Colonel Burr amid the blaze of wax-lights,
and the sweep of silks and rustle of plumes. She wonders dreamily as
she remembers the dark, lovely face of the foreign madame, so brilliant
under its powdered hair and flashing gems,—the sweet, foreign accents
of the voice,—the tiny, jewelled fan, with its glancing pictures and
sparkling tassels, whence exhaled vague and floating perfumes; then she
hears again that manly voice, softened to tones so seductive, and sees
those fine eyes with the tears in them, and wonders within herself that
_he_ could have kissed her hand with such veneration, as if she had
been a throned queen.

But here the sound of busy, pattering footsteps is heard on the old,
creaking staircase, and soon the bows of Miss Prissy’s bonnet part the
folds of the boudoir drapery, and her merry, May-day face looks in.

‘Well, really, Mary, how do you do, to be sure? You wonder to see me,
don’t you? but I thought I must just run in a minute on my way up to
Miss Marvyn’s. I promised her at least a half a day, though I didn’t
see how I was to spare it,—for I tell Miss Wilcox I just run and run
till it does seem as if my feet would drop off; but I thought I must
just step in to say, that I, for my part, _do admire_ the Doctor more
than ever, and I was telling your mother we mus’n’t mind too much
what people say. I ’most made Miss Wilcox angry, standing up for him;
but I put it right to her, and says I, “Miss Wilcox, you know folks
_must_ speak what’s on their mind,—in particular ministers must; and
you know, Miss Wilcox,” I says, “that the Doctor _is_ a good man, and
lives up to his teaching, if anybody in this world does, and gives
away every dollar he can lay hands on to those poor negroes, and works
over ’em and teaches ’em as if they were his brothers;” and says I,
“Miss Wilcox, you know I don’t spare myself, night nor day, trying
to please you and do your work to give satisfaction; but when it
comes to my conscience,” says I, “Miss Wilcox, you know I always must
speak out, and if it was the last word I had to say on my dying bed,
I’d say that I think the Doctor is right.” Why! what things he told
about the slave-ships, and packing those poor creatures so that they
couldn’t move nor breathe!—why, I declare, every time I turned over
and stretched in bed, I thought of it; and says I, “Miss Wilcox, I do
believe that the judgments of God will come down on us, if something
a’n’t done, and I shall always stand by the Doctor,” says I;—and if
you’ll believe me, just then I turned round and saw the General; and
the General, he just haw-hawed right out, and says he, “Good for you,
Miss Prissy! that’s real grit,” says he, “and I like you better for
it.”’—‘Laws,’ added Miss Prissy, reflectively, ‘I sha’n’t lose by it,
for Miss Wilcox knows she never can get anybody to do the work for her
that I will.’

‘Do you think,’ said Mary, ‘that there are a great many made angry?’

‘Why, bless your heart, child, haven’t you heard? Why, there never
was such a talk in all Newport. Why, you know Mr. Simeon Brown is
gone clear off to Doctor Stiles; and Miss Brown, I was making up her
plum-coloured satin a’ Monday, and you ought to ’a’ heard her talk.
But, I tell you, I fought her. She used to talk to me,’ said Miss
Prissy, sinking her voice to a mysterious whisper, ‘’cause I never
could come to it to say that I was willin’ to be lost, if it was
for the glory of God; and she always told me folks could just bring
their minds right up to anything they knew they must; and I just got
the tables turned on her, for they talked and abused the Doctor till
they fairly wore me out, and says I, “Well, Miss Brown, I’ll give in,
that you and Mr. Brown _do_ act up to your principles; you certainly
_act_ as if you were willing to be damned;”—and so do all those
folks who will live on the blood and groans of the poor Africans, as
the Doctor said; and I should think, by the way Newport people are
making their money, that they were all pretty willing to go that way,
though, whether it’s for the glory of God, or not, I’m doubting. But
you see, Mary,’ said Miss Prissy, sinking her voice again to a solemn
whisper, ‘I never was _clear_ on that point; it always did seem to me a
dreadful high place to come to, and it didn’t seem to be given to me;
but I thought, perhaps, if it _was_ necessary, it would be given, you
know,—for the Lord always has been so good to me that I’ve faith to
believe that, and so I just say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not
want;”’—and Miss Prissy hastily whisked a little drop out of her blue
eye with her handkerchief.

At this moment Mrs. Scudder came into the boudoir with a face
expressive of some anxiety.

‘I suppose Miss Prissy has told you,’ she said, ‘the news about the
Browns. That’ll make a great falling off in the Doctor’s salary; and I
feel for him, because I know it will come hard to him not to be able
to help and do, especially for these poor negroes, just when he will.
But then we must put everything on the most economical scale we can,
and just try, all of us, to make it up to him. I was speaking to
Cousin Zebedee about it, when he was down here, on Monday, and he is
all clear;—he has made out three papers for Candace and Cato and Dinah,
and they couldn’t, one of ’em, be hired to leave him; and he says, from
what he’s seen already, he has no doubt but they’ll do enough more to
pay for their wages.’

‘Well,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘I haven’t got anybody to care for but
myself. I was telling sister Elizabeth, one time (she’s married and
got four children), that I could take a storm a good deal easier than
she could, ’cause I hadn’t near so many sails to pull down; and now,
you just look to me for the Doctor’s shirts, ’cause, after this,
they shall all come in ready to put on, if I have to sit up till
morning. And I hope, Miss Scudder, you can trust me to make them; for
if I do say it myself, I a’n’t afraid to do fine stitching ’longside
of anybody,—and hemstitching ruffles, too; and I haven’t shown you
yet that French stitch I learned of the nuns;—but you just set your
heart at rest about the Doctor’s shirts. I always thought,’ continued
Miss Prissy, laughing, ‘that I should have made a famous hand about
getting up that tabernacle in the wilderness, with the blue and the
purple and fine-twined linen; it’s one of my favourite passages, that
is;—different things, you know, are useful to different people.’

‘Well,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘I see that it’s our call to be a remnant
small and despised, but I hope we sha’n’t shrink from it. I thought,
when I saw all those fashionable people go out Sunday, tossing their
heads and looking so scornful, that I hoped grace would be given me to
be faithful.’

‘And what does the Doctor say?’ said Miss Prissy.

‘He hasn’t said a word; his mind seems to be very much lifted above all
these things.’

‘La, yes,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘that’s one comfort; he’ll never know
where his shirts come from; and besides that, Miss Scudder,’ she said,
sinking her voice to a whisper, ‘as you know, I haven’t any children
to provide for,—though I was telling Elizabeth t’other day, when I was
making up frocks for her children, that I believed old maids, first and
last, did more providing for children than married women: but still I
do contrive to slip away a pound-note, now and then, in my little old
silver teapot that was given to me when they settled old Mrs. Simpson’s
property (I nursed her all through her last sickness, and laid her out
with my own hands), and, as I was saying, if ever the Doctor should
want money, you just let me know.’

‘Thank you, Miss Prissy,’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘we all know where your
heart is.’

‘And now,’ added Miss Prissy, ‘what do you suppose they say? Why, they
say Colonel Burr is struck dead in love with our Mary; and you know
his wife’s dead, and he’s a widower; and they do say that he’ll get
to be the next President. Sakes alive! Well, Mary must be careful, if
she don’t want to be carried off; for they do say that there can’t
any woman resist him, that sees enough of him. Why, there’s that poor
Frenchwoman, Madame —— what do you call her, that’s staying with the
Vernons?—they say she’s over head and ears in love with him.’

‘But she’s a married woman,’ said Mary; ‘it can’t be possible!’

Mrs. Scudder looked reprovingly at Miss Prissy, and for a few moments
there was great shaking of heads and a whispered conference between the
two ladies, ending in Miss Prissy’s going off, saying, as she went down
stairs,—

‘Well, if women will do so, I, for my part, can’t blame the men.’

In a few moments Miss Prissy rushed back as much discomposed as a
clucking hen who has seen a hawk.

‘Well, Miss Scudder, what do you think? Here’s Colonel Burr come to
call on the ladies!’

Mrs. Scudder’s first movement, in common with all middle-aged
gentlewomen, was to put her hand to her head and reflect that she had
not on her best cap; and Mary looked down at her dimpled hands, which
were blue from the contact with mixed yarn she had just been spinning.

‘Now, I’ll tell you what,’ said Miss Prissy,—‘wasn’t it lucky you had
me here? for I first saw him coming in at the gate, and I whipped in
quick as a wink and opened the best room window-shutters, and then I
was back at the door, and he bowed to me as if I’d been a queen, and
says he, “Miss Prissy, how fresh you’re looking this morning!” You see,
I was in working at the Vernons’, but I never thought as he’d noticed
me. And then he inquired in the handsomest way for the ladies and the
Doctor, and so I took him into the parlour and settled him down, and
then I ran into the study, and you may depend upon it I flew round
lively for a few minutes. I got the Doctor’s study-gown off, and got
his best coat on, and put on his wig for him, and started him up kinder
lively,—you know it takes me to get him down into this world,—and so
there he’s in talking with him; and so you can just slip down and dress
yourselves,—easy as not.’

Meanwhile Colonel Burr was entertaining the simple-minded Doctor with
all the grace of a young neophyte come to sit at the feet of superior
truth. There are some people who receive from Nature as a gift a sort
of graceful facility of sympathy by which they incline to take on,
for the time being, the sentiments and opinions of those with whom
they converse, as the chameleon was fabled to change its hue with
every surrounding. Such are often supposed to be wilfully acting a
part, as exerting themselves to flatter and deceive, when in fact
they are only framed so sensitive to the sphere of mental emanation
which surrounds others that it would require an exertion _not_ in some
measure to harmonize with it. In approaching others in conversation,
they are like a musician who joins a performer on an instrument,—it
is impossible for them to strike a discord; their very nature urges
them to bring into play faculties according in vibration with those
which another is exerting. It was as natural as possible for Burr to
commence talking with the Doctor on scenes and incidents in the family
of President Edwards, and his old tutor, Dr. Bellamy,—and thence to
glide on to the points of difference and agreement in theology, with
a suavity and deference which acted on the good man like a June sun
on a budding elm-tree. The Doctor was soon wide awake, talking with
fervent animation on the topic of disinterested benevolence,—Burr
the meanwhile studying him with the quiet interest of an observer of
natural history, who sees a new species developing before him. At all
the best possible points he interposed suggestive questions, and set up
objections in the quietest manner for the Doctor to knock down, smiling
ever the while as a man may who truly and genuinely does not care a
_sou_ for truth on any subject not practically connected with his own
schemes in life. He therefore gently guided the Doctor to sail down the
stream of his own thoughts till his bark glided out into the smooth
waters of the Millennium, on which, with great simplicity, he gave his
views at length.

It was just in the midst of this that Mary and her mother entered.
Burr interrupted the conversation to pay them the compliments of
the morning,—to inquire for their health, and hope they suffered no
inconvenience from their night ride from the party; then, seeing the
Doctor still looking eager to go on, he contrived with gentle dexterity
to tie again the broken thread of conversation.

‘Our excellent friend,’ he said, ‘was explaining to me his views of
a future Millennium. I assure you, ladies, that we sometimes find
ourselves in company which enables us to believe in the perfectibility
of the human species. We see family retreats, so unaffected, so
charming in their simplicity, where industry and piety so go hand
in hand! One has only to suppose all families such, to imagine a
Millennium!’

There was no disclaiming this compliment, because so delicately worded,
that, while perfectly clear to the internal sense, it was, in a manner,
veiled and unspoken.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, who sat ready to begin where he left off, turned
to his complaisant listener and resumed an exposition of the Apocalypse.

‘To my mind, it is certain,’ he said, ‘as it is now three hundred years
since the fifth vial was poured out, there is good reason to suppose
that the sixth vial began to be poured out at the beginning of the last
century, and has been running for a hundred years or more, so that it
is run nearly out; the seventh and last vial will begin to run early
in the next century.’

‘You anticipate, then, no rest for the world for some time to come?’
said Burr.

‘Certainly not,’ said the Doctor, definitively; ‘there will be no rest
from overturnings till He whose right it is shall come.’

‘The passage,’ he added, ‘concerning the drying up of the river
Euphrates, under the sixth vial, has a distinct reference, I think,
to the account in ancient writers of the taking of Babylon, and
prefigures, in like manner, that the resources of that modern Babylon,
the Popish power, shall continue to be drained off, as they have now
been drying up for a century or more, till, at last, there will come a
sudden and final downfall of that power. And after that will come the
first triumphs of truth and righteousness,—the marriage-supper of the
Lamb.’

‘These investigations must undoubtedly possess a deep interest for
you, sir,’ said Burr; ‘the hope of a future as well as the tradition
of a past age of gold seems to have been one of the most cherished
conceptions of the human breast.’

‘In those times,’ continued the Doctor, ‘the whole earth will be of one
language.’

‘Which language, sir, do you suppose will be considered worthy of such
pre-eminence?’ inquired his listener.

‘That will probably be decided by an amicable conference of all
nations,’ said the Doctor; ‘and the one universally considered most
valuable will be adopted; and the literature of all other nations being
translated into it, they will gradually drop all other tongues. Brother
Stiles thinks it will be the Hebrew. I am not clear on that point. The
Hebrew seems to me too inflexible, and not sufficiently copious. I do
not think,’ he added, after some consideration, ‘that it will be the
Hebrew tongue.’

‘I am most happy to hear it, sir,’ said Burr, gravely; ‘I never felt
much attracted to that language. But, ladies,’ he added, starting up
with animation, ‘I must improve this fine weather to ask you to show
me the view of the sea from this little hill beyond your house, it is
evidently so fine;—I trust I am not intruding too far on your morning?’

‘By no means, sir,’ said Mrs. Scudder, rising; ‘we will go with you in
a moment.’

And soon Colonel Burr, with one on either arm, was to be seen on the
top of the hill beyond the house,—the very one from which Mary, the
week before, had seen the retreating sail we all wot of. Hence, though
her companion contrived, with the adroitness of a practised man of
gallantry, to direct his words and looks as constantly to her as if
they had been in a _tête-à-tête_, and although nothing could be more
graceful, more delicately flattering, more engaging, still the little
heart kept equal poise; for where a true love has once bolted the door,
a false one serenades in vain under the window.

Some fine, instinctive perceptions of the real character of the man
beside her seemed to have dawned on Mary’s mind in the conversation
of the morning;—she had felt the covert and subtile irony that lurked
beneath his polished smile, felt the utter want of faith or sympathy
in what she and her revered friend deemed holiest, and therefore there
was a calm dignity in her manner of receiving his attentions which
rather piqued and stimulated his curiosity. He had been wont to boast
that he could subdue any woman, if he could only see enough of her: in
the first interview in the garden, he had made her colour come and go,
and brought tears to her eyes in a manner that interested his fancy,
and he could not resist the impulse to experiment again. It was a new
sensation to him, to find himself quietly studied and calmly measured
by those thoughtful blue eyes; he felt, with his fine instinctive
tact, that the soul within was enfolded in some crystalline sphere of
protection, transparent, but adamantine, so that he could not touch it.
What was that secret poise, that calm, immutable centre on which she
rested, that made her, in her rustic simplicity, so unapproachable and
so strong?

Burr remembered once finding in his grandfather’s study, among a mass
of old letters, one in which that great man, in early youth, described
his future wife, then known to him only by distant report. With his
keen natural sense of everything fine and poetic, he had been struck
with this passage, as so beautifully expressing an ideal womanhood,
that he had in his earlier days copied it in his private _recueil_.

‘They say,’ it ran, ‘that there is a young lady who is beloved of that
Great Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain
seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible,
comes to her and fills her mind with such exceeding sweet delight,
that she hardly cares for anything except to meditate on Him; that she
expects, after a while, to be received up where He is, to be raised
up out of the world and caught up into heaven, being assured that He
loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from Him always.
Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest
of its treasures, she disregards it. She has a strange sweetness in
her mind, and singular purity in her affections; and you could not
persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you should give her all
the world. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal
benevolence of mind, especially after this great God has manifested
Himself to her mind. She will sometimes go from place to place singing
sweetly, and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one
knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in fields and groves,
and seems to have some invisible one always conversing with her.’

A shadowy recollection of this description crossed his mind more than
once, as he looked into those calm and candid eyes. Was there, then, a
truth in that inner union of chosen souls with God, of which his mother
and her mother before her had borne meek witness,—their souls shining
out as sacred lamps through the alabaster walls of a temple?

But then, again, had he not logically met and demonstrated, to his
own satisfaction, the nullity of the religious dogmas on which New
England faith was based? There could be no such inner life, he said
to himself,—he had demonstrated it as an absurdity. What was it,
then,—this charm, so subtile and so strong, by which this fair child,
his inferior in age, cultivation, and knowledge of the world, held him
in a certain awe, and made him feel her spirit so unapproachable? His
curiosity was piqued. He felt stimulated to employ all his powers of
pleasing. He was determined that, sooner or later, she should feel his
power.

With Mrs. Scudder his success was immediate: she was completely won
over by the deferential manner with which he constantly referred
himself to her matronly judgments; and, on returning to the house, she
warmly pressed him to stay to dinner.

Burr accepted the invitation with a frank and almost boyish _abandon_,
declaring that he had not seen anything for years that so reminded
him of old times. He praised everything at table,—the smoking brown
bread, the baked beans steaming from the oven, where they had been
quietly simmering during the morning walk, and the Indian pudding,
with its gelatinous softness, matured by long and patient brooding in
the motherly old oven. He declared that there was no style of living
to be compared with the simple, dignified order of a true New England
home, where servants were excluded, and everything came direct from
the polished and cultured hand of a lady. It realized the dreams of
Arcadian romance. A man, he declared, must be unworthy the name, who
did not rise to lofty sentiments and heroic deeds, when even his animal
wants were provided for by the ministrations of the most delicate and
exalted portion of the creation.

After dinner he would be taken into all the family interests. Gentle
and pliable as oil, he seemed to penetrate every joint of the _ménage_
by a subtile and seductive sympathy. He was interested in the spinning,
in the weaving,—and, in fact, nobody knows how it was done, but before
the afternoon shadows had turned, he was sitting in the cracked
arm-chair of Mary’s garret-boudoir, gravely giving judgment on several
specimens of her spinning, which Mrs. Scudder had presented to his
notice.

With that ease with which he could at will glide into the character
of the superior and elder brother, he had, without seeming to ask
questions, drawn from Mary an account of her reading, her studies, her
acquaintances.

‘You read French, I presume?’ he said to her, with easy negligence.

Mary coloured deeply, and then, as one who recollects one’s self,
answered, gravely,—

‘No, Mr. Burr, I know no language but my own.’

‘But you should learn French, my child,’ said Burr, with that gentle
dictatorship which he could at times so gracefully assume.

‘I should be delighted to learn,’ said Mary, ‘but have no opportunity.’

‘Yes,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘Mary has always had a taste for study, and
would be glad to improve in any way.’

‘Pardon me, madam, if I take the liberty of making a suggestion. There
is a most excellent man, the Abbé Léfon, now in Newport, driven here
by the political disturbances in France; he is anxious to obtain a few
scholars, and I am interested that he should succeed, for he is a most
worthy man.’

‘Is he a Roman Catholic?’

‘He is, madam; but there could be no manner of danger with a person so
admirably instructed as your daughter. If you please to see him, madam,
I will call with him some time.’

‘Mrs. Marvyn will, perhaps, join me,’ said Mary. ‘She has been studying
French by herself for some time, in order to read a treatise on
astronomy, which she found in that language. I will go over to-morrow
and see her about it.’

Before Colonel Burr departed, the doctor requested him to step a
moment with him into his study. Burr, who had had frequent occasions
during his life to experience the sort of paternal freedom which the
clergy of his country took with him in right of his clerical descent,
began to summon together his faculties of address for the avoidance
of a kind of conversation which he was not disposed to meet. He was
agreeably disappointed, however, when, taking a paper from the table,
and presenting it to him, the Doctor said,—

‘I feel myself, my dear sir, under a burden of obligation for
benefits received from your family, so that I never see a member of
it without casting about in my own mind how I may in some measure
express my good-will towards him. You are aware that the papers of
your distinguished grandfather have fallen into my hands, and from
them I have taken the liberty to make a copy of those maxims by which
he guided a life which was a blessing to his country and to the world.
May I ask the favour that you will read them with attention? and if you
find anything contrary to right reason or sober sense, I shall be happy
to hear of it on a future occasion.’

‘Thank you, Doctor,’ said Burr, bowing, ‘I shall always be sensible of
the kindness of the motive which has led you to take this trouble on my
account. Believe me, sir, I am truly obliged to you for it.’

And thus the interview terminated.

That night, the Doctor, before retiring, offered fervent prayers
for the grandson of his revered master and friend, praying that his
father’s and mother’s God might bless him and make him a living stone
in the Eternal Temple.

Meanwhile, the object of these prayers was sitting by a table in
dressing-gown and slippers, thinking over the events of the day.
The paper which Dr. H. had handed him contained the celebrated
‘Resolutions’ by which his ancestor led a life nobler than any mere
dogmas can possibly be. By its side lay a perfumed note from Madame
de Frontignac,—one of those womanly notes, so beautiful, so sacred in
themselves, but so mournful to a right-minded person who sees whither
they are tending. Burr opened and perused it,—laid it by,—opened the
document which the Doctor had given, and thoughtfully read the first of
the ‘Resolutions’:—

‘Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory,
and my own good profit and pleasure _in the whole of my duration_,
without any consideration of time, whether now or never so many myriad
ages hence.

‘Resolved, To do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good
and advantage of mankind in general.

‘Resolved, To do this, whatsoever difficulties I meet with, and how
many and how great soever.’

Burr read the whole paper through attentively once or twice, and
paused thoughtfully over many parts of it. He sat for some time
after, lost in reflection; the paper dropped from his hand, and then
followed one of those long, deep seasons of fixed reverie, when the
soul thinks by pictures and goes over endless distances in moments.
In him, originally, every moral faculty and sensibility was as keenly
strung as in any member of that remarkable family from which he was
descended, and which has, whether in good or ill, borne no common
stamp. Two possible lives flashed before his mind at that moment,
rapidly as when a train sweeps by with flashing lamps in the night. The
life of worldly expediency, the life of eternal rectitude,—the life of
seventy years, and that life eternal in which the event of death is no
disturbance. Suddenly he roused himself up, picked up the paper, filed
and dated it carefully, and laid it by; and in that moment was renewed
again that governing purpose which sealed him, with all his beautiful
capabilities, as the slave of the fleeting and the temporary, which
sent him, at last, a shipwrecked man, to a nameless, dishonoured grave.

He took his pen and gave to a friend his own views of the events of the
day.

    ‘MY DEAR ——,

    ‘We are still in Newport, conjugating the verb _s’ennuyer_,
    which I, for one, have put through all the moods and tenses.
    _Pour passer le temps_, however, I have _la belle Française_
    and my sweet little Puritan. I visited there this morning.
    She lives with her mother, a little walk out toward the
    sea-side in a cottage quite prettily sequestered among
    blossoming apple-trees, and the great hierarch of modern
    theology, Dr. H., keeps guard over them. No chance here for
    any indiscretions, you see.

    ‘By-the-by, the good Doctor astonished our _monde_ here on
    Sunday last, by treating us to a solemn onslaught on slavery
    and the slave-trade. He had all the chief captains and
    counsellors to hear him, and smote them hip and thigh, and
    pursued them even unto Shur.

    ‘He is one of those great, honest fellows, without the
    smallest notion of the world we live in, who think, in
    dealing with men, that you must go to work and prove the
    right and wrong of a matter; just as if anybody cared for
    that! Supposing he is right,—which appears very probable
    to me,—what is he going to do about it? No moral argument,
    since the world began, ever prevailed over twenty-five per
    cent. profit.

    ‘However, he is the spiritual director of _la belle
    Puritaine_, and was a resident in my grandfather’s family,
    so I did the agreeable with him as well as such an
    uncircumcised Ishmaelite could. I discoursed theology,—sat
    with the most docile air possible while he explained to
    me all the ins and outs in his system of the universe,
    past, present, and future,—heard him dilate calmly on the
    Millennium, and expound prophetic symbols, marching out
    before me his whole apocalyptic menagerie of beasts and
    dragons with heads and horns innumerable, to all which I
    gave edifying attention, taking occasion now and then to
    turn a compliment in favour of the ladies,—never lost, you
    know.

    ‘Really, he is a worthy old soul, and actually believes all
    these things with his whole heart, attaching unheard-of
    importance to the most abstract ideas, and embarking his
    whole being in his ideal view of a grand Millennial _finale_
    to the human race. I look at him and at myself, and ask, Can
    human beings be made so unlike?

    ‘My little Mary to-day was in a mood of “sweet austere
    composure” quite becoming to her style of beauty; her _naïve
    nonchalance_ at times is rather stimulating. What a contrast
    between her and _la belle Française!_—all the difference
    that there is between a diamond and a flower. I find the
    little thing has a cultivated mind, enriched by reading, and
    more by a still, quaint habit of thinking, which is new and
    charming. But a truce to this.

    ‘I have seen our friends at last. We have had three or four
    meetings, and are waiting to hear from Philadelphia,—matters
    are getting in train. If Messrs. T. and S. dare to repeat
    what they said again, let me know; they will find in me a
    man not to be trifled with. I shall be with you in a week or
    ten days at farthest. Meanwhile, stand to your guns.

                                     ‘Ever yours,
                                             ‘BURR.’



CHAPTER XVII.


THE next morning, before the early dews had yet dried off the grass,
Mary started to go and see her friend Mrs. Marvyn. It was one of those
charming, invigorating days, familiar to those of Newport experience,
when the sea lies shimmering and glittering in deep blue and gold,
and the sky above is firm and cloudless, and every breeze that comes
landward seems to bear health and energy upon its wings.

As Mary approached the house, she heard loud sounds of discussion from
the open kitchen-door, and, looking in, saw a rather original scene
acting.

Candace, armed with a long oven-shovel, stood before the open door of
the oven, whence she had just been removing an army of good things
which appeared ranged around on the dresser. Cato, in the undress of a
red flannel shirt and tow-cloth trousers, was cuddled, in a consoled
and protected attitude, in the corner of the wooden settle, with a mug
of flip in his hand, which Candace had prepared, and, calling him in
from his work, authoritatively ordered him to drink, on the showing
that he had kept her awake the night before with his cough, and she
was sure he was going to be sick. Of course, worse things may happen
to a man than to be vigorously taken care of by his wife, and Cato had
a salutary conviction of this fact, so that he resigned himself to his
comfortable corner and his flip with edifying serenity.

Opposite to Candace stood a well-built, corpulent negro man, dressed
with considerable care, and with the air of a person on excellent
terms with himself. This was no other than Digo, the house-servant and
factotum of Dr. Stiles, who considered himself as the guardian of his
master’s estate, his title, his honour, his literary character, his
professional position, and his religious creed.

Digo was ready to assert before all the world, that one and all of
these were under his special protection, and that whoever had anything
to say to the contrary of any of these must expect to take issue
with him. Digo not only swallowed all his master’s opinions whole,
but seemed to have the stomach of an ostrich in their digestion. He
believed everything, no matter what, the moment he understood that
the Doctor held it. He believed that Hebrew was the language of
heaven,—that the ten tribes of the Jews had reappeared in the North
American Indians,—that there was no such thing as disinterested
benevolence, and that the doings of the unregenerate had some
value,—that slavery was a divine ordinance, and that Dr. H. was a
Radical, who did more harm than good,—and, finally, that there never
was so great a man as Dr. Stiles: and as Dr. Stiles belonged to him
in the capacity of master, why, he, Digo, owned the greatest man in
America. Of course, as Candace held precisely similar opinions in
regard to Dr. H., the two never could meet without a discharge of the
opposite electricities. Digo had, it is true, come ostensibly on a mere
worldly errand from his mistress to Mrs. Marvyn, who had promised to
send her some turkeys’ eggs, but he had inly resolved with himself that
he would give Candace his opinion,—that is, what Dr. Stiles had said at
dinner the day before about Dr. H.’s Sunday’s discourse. Dr. Stiles had
not heard it, but Digo had. He had felt it due to the responsibilities
of his position to be present on so very important an occasion.

Therefore, after receiving his eggs, he opened hostilities by
remarking, in a general way, that he had attended the Doctor’s
preaching on Sunday, and that there was quite a crowded house. Candace
immediately began mentally to bristle her feathers like a hen who sees
a hawk in the distance, and responded with decision:—

‘Den you _heard_ sometin’, for once in your life!’

‘I must say,’ said Digo, with suavity, ‘dat I can’t give my ’proval to
such sentiments.’

‘More shame for you,’ said Candace, grimly. ‘_You_ a man, and not stan’
by your colour, and flunk under to mean white ways! Ef you was _half_ a
man, your heart would ’a’ bounded like a cannon-ball at dat ’ar sermon.’

‘Dr. Stiles and me we talked it over after church,’ said Digo,—‘and de
Doctor was of my ’pinion, dat Providence didn’t intend—’

‘Oh, you go ’long wid your Providence! Guess, ef white folks had let us
alone, Providence wouldn’t trouble us.’

‘Well,’ said Digo, ‘Dr. Stiles is clear dat dis yer’s a-fulfillin’ de
prophecies and bringin’ in de fulness of de Gentiles.’

‘Fulness of de fiddlesticks!’ said Candace, irreverently. ‘Now what
a way dat ar’ is of talkin’! Go look at one o’ dem ships we come
over in,—sweatin’ and groanin’—in de dark and dirt,—cryin’ and
dyin’,—howlin’ for breath till de sweat run off us,—livin’ and dead
chained together,—prayin’ like de rich man in hell for a drop o’ water
to cool our tongues! Call dat ar’ a-bringin’ de fulness of de Gentiles,
do ye?—Ugh!’

And Candace ended with a guttural howl, and stood frowning and gloomy
over the top of her long kitchen-shovel, like a black Bellona leaning
on her spear of battle.

Digo recoiled a little, but stood too well in his own esteem to give
up; so he shifted his attack.

‘Well, for my part, I must say I never was ’clined to your Doctor’s
’pinions. Why, now, Dr. Stiles says, notin’ couldn’t be more absurd dan
what he says ’bout disinterested benevolence. _My_ Doctor says, dere
a’n’t no such ting!’

‘I should tink it’s likely!’ said Candace, drawing herself up with
superb disdain. ‘_Our_ Doctor knows dere _is_,—and why? ’cause he’s got
it IN HERE,’ said she, giving her ample chest a knock which resounded
like the boom from a barrel.

‘Candace,’ said Cato, gently, ‘you’s gettin’ too hot.’

‘Cato, you shut up!’ said Candace, turning sharp round. ‘What did I
make you dat ar’ flip for, ’cept you was so hoarse you oughtn’ for
to say a word? Pootty business, you go to agitatin’ _your_-self wid
dese yer! Ef you wear out your poor old throat talkin’, you may get de
’sumption; and den what’d become o’ me?’

Cato, thus lovingly pitched _hors de combat_, sipped the sweetened cup
in quietness of soul, while Candace returned to the charge.

[Illustration: _A Discussion._

_Page 173._

Sampson Low, Son. & Co, July, 25th, 1859.]

‘Now, I tell ye what,’ she said to Digo,—‘jest ’cause you wear your
master’s old coats and hats, you tink you must go in for all dese yer
old, mean, white ’pinions. A’n’t ye ’shamed—you, a black man—to have
no more pluck and make cause wid de Egyptians? Now, ’ta’n’t what my
Doctor gives me,—he never giv’ me the snip of a finger-nail,—but it’s
what he does for _mine_; and when de poor critturs lands dar, tumbled
out like bales on de wharves, ha’n’t dey seen his great cocked hat,
like a lighthouse, and his big eyes lookin’ sort o’ pitiful at ’em, as
ef he felt o’ one blood wid ’em? Why, de very looks of de man is worth
everyting; and who ever thought o’ doin’ anyting for deir souls, or
cared ef dey had souls, till he begun it?’

‘Well, at any rate,’ said Digo, brightening up, ‘I don’t believe his
doctrine about de doings of de unregenerate,—it’s quite clear he’s
wrong dar.’

‘Who cares?’ said Candace,—‘generate or unregenerate, it’s all one to
me. I believe a man dat _acts_ as he does. Him as stands up for de
poor,—him as pleads for de weak,—he’s my man. I’ll believe straight
through anyting he’s a mind to put at me.’

At this juncture, Mary’s fair face appearing at the door put a stop to
the discussion.

‘Bress _you_, Miss Mary! comin’ here like a fresh June rose! it makes
a body’s eyes dance in deir head! Come right in! I got Cato up from de
lot, ’cause he’s rader poorly dis mornin’; his cough makes me a sight
o’ concern; he’s allers a-pullin’ off his jacket de wrong time, or
doin’ sometin’ I tell him not to,—and it just keeps him hack, hack,
hackin’, all de time.’

During this speech, Cato stood meekly bowing, feeling that he was
being apologized for in the best possible manner; for long years of
instruction had fixed the idea in his mind, that he was an ignorant
sinner, who had not the smallest notion how to conduct himself in this
world, and that, if it were not for his wife’s distinguishing grace, he
would long since have been in the shades of oblivion.

‘Missis is spinnin’ up in de north chamber,’ said Candace; ‘but I’ll
run up and fetch her down.’

Candace, who was about the size of a puncheon, was fond of this
familiar manner of representing her mode of ascending the stairs; but
Mary, suppressing a smile, said, ‘Oh, no, Candace; don’t for the world
disturb her. I know just where she is.’ And before Candace could stop
her, Mary’s light foot was on the top step of the staircase that led up
from the kitchen.

The north room was a large chamber, overlooking a splendid reach of
sea-prospect. A moving panorama of blue water and gliding sails was
unrolled before its three windows, so that stepping into the room gave
one an instant and breezy sense of expansion. Mrs. Marvyn was standing
at the large wheel, spinning wool,—a reel and basket of spools on her
side. Her large brown eyes had an eager joy in them when Mary entered;
but they seemed to calm down again, and she received her only with that
placid, sincere air which was her habit. Everything about this woman
showed an ardent soul, repressed by timidity and by a certain dumbness
in the faculties of outward expression; but her eyes had, at times,
that earnest, appealing language which is so pathetic in the silence of
inferior animals. One sometimes sees such eyes, and wonders whether the
story they intimate will ever be spoken in mortal language.

Mary began eagerly detailing to her all that had interested her since
they last met: the party,—her acquaintance with Burr,—his visit to the
cottage,—his inquiries into her education and reading,—and, finally,
the proposal that they should study French together.

‘My dear,’ said Mrs. Marvyn, ‘let us begin at once;—such an opportunity
is not to be lost. I studied a little with James, when he was last at
home.’

‘With James?’ said Mary, with an air of timid surprise.

‘Yes,—the dear boy has become, what I never expected, quite a student.
He employs all his spare time now in reading and studying;—the second
mate is a Frenchman, and James has got so that he can both speak and
read. He is studying Spanish, too.’

Ever since the last conversation, with her mother on the subject of
James, Mary had felt a sort of guilty constraint when any one spoke
of him; instead of answering frankly, as she once did when anything
brought his name up, she fell at once into a grave, embarrassed silence.

Mrs. Marvyn was so constantly thinking of him, that it was difficult
to begin on any topic that did not in some manner or other knit itself
into the one ever present in her thoughts. None of the peculiar
developments of the female nature have a more exquisite vitality than
the sentiment of a frail, delicate, repressed, timid woman, for a
strong, manly, generous son. There is her ideal expressed; there is the
out-speaking and out-acting of all she trembles to think, yet burns to
say or do; here is the hero that shall speak for her, the heart into
which she has poured hers, and that shall give to her tremulous and
hidden aspirations a strong and victorious expression. ‘I have gotten
a _man_ from the Lord,’ she says to herself; and each outburst of
his manliness, his vigour, his self-confidence, his superb vitality,
fills her with a strange, wondering pleasure, and she has a secret
tenderness and pride even in his wilfulness and waywardness. ‘What a
creature he is!’ she says, when he flouts at sober argument and pitches
all received opinions hither and thither in the wild capriciousness
of youthful paradox. She looks grave and reproving; but he reads the
concealed triumph in her eyes,—he knows that in her heart she is full
of admiration all the time. First love of womanhood is something
wonderful and mysterious,—but in this second love it rises again,
idealized and refined: she loves the father and herself united and made
one in this young heir of life and hope.

Such was Mrs. Marvyn’s still intense, passionate love for her son.
Not a tone of his manly voice, not a flash of his dark eyes, not one
of the deep, shadowy dimples that came and went as he laughed, not a
ring of his glossy black hair, that was not studied, got by heart, and
dwelt on in the inner shrine of her thoughts: he was the romance of
her life. His strong, daring nature carried her with it beyond those
narrow, daily bounds where her soul was weary of treading; and just
as his voyages had given to the trite prose of her _ménage_ a poetry
of strange, foreign perfumes, of quaint objects of interest, speaking
of many a far-off shore, so his mind and life were a constant channel
of outreach through which her soul held converse with the active and
stirring world. Mrs. Marvyn had known all the story of her son’s love;
and to no other woman would she have been willing to resign him: but
her love to Mary was so deep, that she thought of his union with
her more as gaining a daughter than as losing a son. She would not
speak of the subject: she knew the feelings of Mary’s mother; and the
name of James fell so often from her lips, simply because it was so
ever-present in her heart that it could not be helped.

Before Mary left, it was arranged that they should study together, and
that the lessons should be given alternately at each other’s houses;
and with this understanding they parted.



CHAPTER XVIII.


THE Doctor sat at his study-table. It was evening, and the slant beams
of the setting sun shot their golden arrows through the healthy purple
clusters of lilacs that veiled the windows. There had been a shower
that filled them with drops of rain, which every now and then tattooed
with a slender rat-tat on the window-sill, as a breeze would shake the
leaves and bear in perfume on its wings. Sweet, fragrance-laden airs
tripped stirringly to and fro about the study-table, making gentle
confusions, fluttering papers on moral ability, agitating treatises
on the great end of creation, mixing up subtile distinctions between
amiable instincts and true holiness, and, in short, conducting
themselves like very unappreciative and unphilosophical little breezes.

[Illustration: _A Doubt about the “Evidences.”_

_Page 177._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. Augt. 23rd, 1859.]

The Doctor patiently smoothed back and rearranged, while opposite to
him sat Mary, bending over some copying she was doing for him. One
stray sunbeam fell on her light-brown hair, tinging it to gold; her
long, drooping lashes lay over the wax-like pink of her cheeks, as she
wrote on.

‘Mary,’ said the Doctor, pushing the papers from him.

‘Sir,’ she answered, looking up, the blood just perceptibly rising in
her cheeks.

‘Do you ever have any periods in which your evidences seem not
altogether clear?’

Nothing could show more forcibly the grave, earnest character of
thought in New England at this time than the fact that this use of the
term ‘evidences’ had become universally significant and understood
as relating to one’s right of citizenship in a celestial, invisible
commonwealth.

So Mary understood it, and it was with a deepened flush she answered
gently, ‘No, sir.’

‘What! never any doubts?’ said the Doctor.

‘I am sorry,’ said Mary, apologetically; ‘but I do not see how I _can_
have; I never could.’

‘Ah!’ said the Doctor, musingly, ‘would I could say so! There are
times, indeed, when I hope I have an interest in the precious Redeemer,
and behold an infinite loveliness and beauty in Him, apart from
anything I expect or hope. But even then how deceitful is the human
heart! how insensibly might a mere selfish love take the place of that
disinterested complacency which regards Him for what He is in Himself,
apart from what He is to us! Say, my dear friend, does not this thought
sometimes make you tremble?’

Poor Mary was truth itself, and this question distressed her; she
must answer the truth. The fact was, that it had never come into her
blessed little heart to tremble, for she was one of those children of
the bride-chamber who cannot mourn, because the bridegroom is ever
with them; but then, when she saw the man for whom her reverence was
almost like that for her God thus distrustful, thus lowly, she could
not but feel that her too calm repose might, after all, be the shallow,
treacherous calm of an ignorant, ill-grounded spirit, and therefore,
with a deep blush and a faltering voice, she said,—

‘Indeed, I am afraid something must be wrong with me. I _cannot_ have
any fears,—I never could; I try sometimes, but the thought of God’s
goodness comes all around me, and I am so happy before I think of it!’

‘Such exercises, my dear friend, I have also had,’ said the Doctor;
‘but before I rest on them as evidences, I feel constrained to make
the following inquiries:—Is this gratitude that swells my bosom the
result of a mere natural sensibility? Does it arise in a particular
manner because God has done me good? or do I love God for what He _is_,
as well as for what He has done? and for what He has done for others,
as well as for what He has done for me? Love to God, which is built
on nothing but good received, is not incompatible with a disposition
so horrid as even to curse God to His face. If God is not to be loved
except when He does good, then in affliction we are free. If doing
_us_ good is all that renders God lovely to us, then not doing us good
divests Him of His glory, and dispenses us from obligation to love
Him. But there must be, undoubtedly, some permanent reason why God is
to be loved by all: and if not doing us good divests Him of His glory
so as to free _us_ from our obligation to love, it equally frees the
universe; so that, in fact, the universe of happiness if ours be not
included, reflects no glory on its Author.’

The Doctor had practised his subtile mental analysis till his
instruments were so fine-pointed and keen-edged that he scarce ever
allowed a flower of sacred emotion to spring in his soul without
picking it to pieces to see if its genera and species were correct.
Love, gratitude, reverence, benevolence,—which all moved in mighty
tides in his soul—were all compelled to pause midway while he rubbed up
his optical instruments to see whether they were rising in right order.
Mary, on the contrary, had the blessed gift of womanhood,—that vivid
life in the soul and sentiment which resists the chills of analysis,
as a healthful human heart resists cold; yet still, all humbly, she
thought this perhaps was a defect in herself, and therefore, having
confessed, in a depreciating tone, her habits of unanalysed faith and
love, she added,—

‘But, my dear sir, you are my best friend. I trust you will be faithful
to me. If I am deceiving myself, undeceive me; you cannot be too severe
with me.’

‘Alas!’ said the Doctor, ‘I fear that I may be only a blind leader of
the blind. What, after all, if I be only a miserable self-deceiver?
What if some thought of self has come in to poison all my prayers and
strivings? It is true, I think,—yes, I _think_,’ said the Doctor,
speaking very slowly and with intense earnestness,—‘I think, that,
if I knew at this moment that my name never would be written among
those of the elect, I could still see God to be infinitely amiable
and glorious, and could feel sure that He _could_ not do me wrong,
and that it was infinitely becoming and right that He should dispose
of me according to His sovereign pleasure. I _think_ so;—but still my
deceitful heart!—after all, I might find it rising in rebellion. Say,
my dear friend, are you sure, that, should you discover yourself to be
for ever condemned by His justice, you would not find your heart rising
up against Him?’

‘Against _Him_?’ said Mary, with a tremulous, sorrowful expression on
her face,—‘against my Heavenly Father?’

Her face flushed and faded; her eyes kindled eagerly, as if she had
something to say, and then grew misty with tears. At last she said,—

‘Thank you, my dear, faithful friend! I will think about this;
_perhaps_ I may have been deceived. How very difficult it must be to
know one’s self perfectly!’

Mary went into her own little room, and sat leaning for a long time
with her elbow on the window-seat, watching the pale shells of the
apple-blossoms as they sailed and fluttered downward into the grass,
and listened to a chippering conversation in which the birds in the
nest above were settling up their small housekeeping accounts for the
day.

After a while, she took her pen and wrote the following, which the
Doctor found the next morning lying on his study-table:—

    ‘MY DEAR, HONOURED FRIEND,—How can I sufficiently thank
    you for your faithfulness with me? All you say to me seems
    true and excellent; and yet, my dear sir, permit me to
    try to express to you some of the many thoughts to which
    our conversation this evening has given rise. To love
    God because He is good to me you seem to think is not a
    right kind of love; and yet every moment of my life I have
    experienced His goodness. When recollection brings back
    the past, where can I look that I see not His goodness?
    What moment of my life presents not instances of merciful
    kindness to me, as well as to every creature, more and
    greater than I can express, than my mind is able to take in?
    How, then, can I help loving God because He is good to me?
    Were I not an object of God’s mercy and goodness, I cannot
    have any conception what would be my feeling. Imagination
    never yet placed me in a situation not to experience the
    goodness of God in some way or other; and if I do love Him,
    how can it be but because He is good, and to me good? Do not
    God’s children love Him because He first loved them?

    ‘If I called nothing goodness which did not happen to
    suit my inclination, and could not believe the Deity to
    be gracious and merciful except when the course of events
    was so ordered as to agree with my humour, so far from
    imagining that I had any love to God, I must conclude
    myself wholly destitute of anything good. A love founded
    on nothing but good received is not, you say, incompatible
    with a disposition so horrid as even to curse God. I am not
    sensible that I ever in my life imagined anything _but_
    good could come from the hand of God. From a Being infinite
    in goodness everything _must_ be good, though we do not
    always comprehend how it is so. Are not afflictions good?
    Does He not even in judgment remember mercy? Sensible that
    “afflictions are but blessings in disguise,” I would bless
    the hand that, with infinite kindness, wounds only to heal,
    and love and adore the goodness of God equally in suffering
    as in rejoicing.

    ‘The disinterested love to God, which you think is alone the
    genuine love, I see not how we can be certain we possess,
    when our love of happiness and our love of God are so
    inseparably connected. The joys arising from a consciousness
    that God is a benefactor to me and my friends (and when I
    think of God every creature is my friend), if arising from
    a selfish motive, it does not seem to me possible could be
    changed into hate, even supposing God my enemy, whilst I
    regarded Him as a Being infinitely just as well as good. If
    God is my enemy, it must be because I deserve He should be
    such; and it does not seem to me _possible_ that I should
    hate Him, even if I knew He would always be so.

    ‘In what you say of willingness to suffer eternal
    punishment, I don’t know that I understand what the feeling
    is. Is it wickedness in me that I do not feel a willingness
    to be left to eternal sin? Can any one joyfully acquiesce
    in being thus left? When I pray for a new heart and a right
    spirit, must I be willing to be denied, and rejoice that my
    prayer is not heard? Could any real Christian rejoice in
    this? But he fears it not,—he knows it will never be,—he
    therefore can cheerfully leave it with God; and so can I.

    ‘Such, my dear friend, are my thoughts, poor and unworthy;
    yet they seem to me as certain as my life, or as anything I
    see. Am I unduly confident? I ask your prayers that I may be
    guided aright.

                                 ‘Your affectionate friend,
                                                       ‘MARY.’

There are in this world two kinds of natures,—those that have wings,
and those that have feet,—the winged and the walking spirits. The
walking are the logicians; the winged are the instinctive and poetic.
Natures that must always walk find many a bog, many a thicket, many a
tangled brake, which God’s happy little winged birds flit over by one
noiseless flight. Nay, when a man has toiled till his feet weigh too
heavily with the mud of earth to enable him to walk another step, these
little birds will often cleave the air in a right line towards the
bosom of God, and show the way where he could never have found it.

The Doctor paused in his ponderous and heavy reasonings to read this
real woman’s letter; and being a loving man, he felt as if he could
have kissed the hem of her garment who wrote it. He recorded it in his
journal, and after it this significant passage from the Canticles:—

‘I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the
hinds of the field, that ye stir not up nor awake this lovely one till
she please.’

Mrs. Scudder’s motherly eye noticed, with satisfaction, these quiet
communings. ‘Let it alone,’ she said to herself; ‘before she knows it,
she will find herself wholly under his influence.’ Mrs. Scudder was a
wise woman.



CHAPTER XIX.


IN the course of a day or two, a handsome carriage drew up in front
of Mrs. Scudder’s cottage, and a brilliant party alighted. They were
Colonel and Madame de Frontignac, the Abbé Léfon, and Colonel Burr.
Mrs. Scudder and her daughter, being prepared for the call, sat in
afternoon dignity and tranquillity, in the best room, with their
knitting-work.

Madame de Frontignac had divined, with the lightning-like tact
which belongs to women in the positive, and to French women in the
superlative degree, that there was something in the cottage-girl, whom
she had passingly seen at the party, which powerfully affected the man
whom she loved with all the jealous intensity of a strong nature, and
hence she embraced eagerly the opportunity to see her,—yes, to see her,
to study her, to dart her keen French wit through her, and detect the
secret of her charm, that she, too, might practise it.

Madame de Frontignac was one of those women whose beauty is so striking
and imposing, that they seem to kindle up, even in the most prosaic
apartment, an atmosphere of enchantment. All the pomp and splendour of
high life, the wit, the refinements, the nameless graces and luxuries
of courts, seemed to breathe in invisible airs around her, and she made
a Faubourg St. Germain of the darkest room into which she entered.
Mary thought, when she came in, that she had never seen anything so
splendid. She was dressed in a black velvet riding-habit, buttoned to
the throat with coral; her riding-hat drooped with its long plumes
so as to cast a shadow over her animated face, out of which her dark
eyes shone like jewels, and her pomegranate cheeks glowed with the
rich shaded radiance of one of Rembrandt’s pictures. Something quaint
and foreign, something poetic and strange, marked each turn of her
figure, each article of her dress, down to the sculptured hand on which
glittered singular and costly rings,—and the riding-glove, embroidered
with seed-pearls, that fell carelessly beside her on the floor.

In Antwerp one sees a picture in which Rubens, who felt more than
any other artist the glory of the physical life, has embodied his
conception of the Madonna, in opposition to the faded, cold ideals of
the Middle Ages, from which he revolted with such a bound. _His_ Mary
is a superb Oriental sultana, with lustrous dark eyes, redundant form,
jewelled turban, standing leaning on the balustrade of a princely
terrace, and bearing on her hand, _not_ the silver dove, but a gorgeous
paroquet. The two styles, in this instance, were both in the same room;
and as Burr sat looking from one to the other, he felt, for a moment,
as one would who should put a sketch of Overbeck’s beside a splendid
painting of Titian’s.

For a few moments, everything in the room seemed faded and cold, in
contrast with the tropical atmosphere of this regal beauty. Burr
watched Mary with a keen eye, to see if she were dazzled and overawed.
He saw nothing but the most innocent surprise and delight. All the
slumbering poetry within her seemed to awaken at the presence of her
beautiful neighbour,—as when one, for the first time, stands before
the great revelations of Art. Mary’s cheek glowed, her eyes seemed to
grow deep with the enthusiasm of admiration, and, after a few moments,
it seemed as if her delicate face and figure reflected the glowing
loveliness of her visitor, just as the virgin snows of the Alps become
incarnadine as they stand opposite the glorious radiance of a sunset
sky.

Madame de Frontignac was accustomed to the effect of her charms; but
there was so much love in the admiration now directed towards her,
that her own warm nature was touched, and she threw out the glow of
her feelings with a magnetic power. Mary never felt the cold, habitual
reserve of her education so suddenly melt, never felt herself so
naturally falling into language of confidence and endearment with a
stranger; and as her face, so delicate and spiritual, grew bright with
love, Madame de Frontignac thought she had never seen anything so
beautiful, and stretching out her hands towards her, she exclaimed, in
her own language,—

‘_Mais, mon Dieu! mon enfant, que tu es belle!_’

Mary’s deep blush, at her ignorance of the language in which her
visitor spoke, recalled her to herself;—she laughed a clear, silvery
laugh, and laid her jewelled little hand on Mary’s with a caressing
movement.

‘_He_ shall not teach you French, _ma toute belle_,’ she said,
indicating the Abbé, by a pretty, wilful gesture; ‘_I_ will teach
you;—and you shall teach me English. Oh I shall try _so_ hard to
learn!’ she said.

There was something inexpressibly pretty and quaint in the childish
lisp with which she pronounced English. Mary was completely won over.
She could have fallen into the arms of this wondrously beautiful fairy
princess, expecting to be carried away by her to Dreamland.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Scudder was gravely discoursing with Colonel Burr and
M. de Frontignac; and the Abbé, a small and gentlemanly personage, with
clear black eye, delicately-cut features, and powdered hair, appeared
to be absorbed in his efforts to follow the current of a conversation
imperfectly understood. Burr, the while, though seeming to be entirely
and politely absorbed in the conversation he was conducting, lost not
a glimpse of the picturesque aside which was being enacted between the
two fair ones whom he had thus brought together. He smiled quietly when
he saw the effect Madame de Frontignac produced on Mary.

‘After all, the child has flesh and blood!’ he thought, ‘and may feel
that there are more things in heaven and earth than she has dreamed of
yet. A few French ideas won’t hurt her.’

The arrangements about lessons being completed, the party returned to
the carriage. Madame de Frontignac was enthusiastic in Mary’s praise.

‘_Cependant_,’ she said, leaning back, thoughtfully, after having
exhausted herself in superlatives,—‘_cependant elle est dévote,—et à
dix-neuf comment cela se peut-il?_’

‘It is the effect of her austere education,’ said Burr. ‘It is not
possible for you to conceive how young people are trained in the
religious families of this country.’

‘But yet,’ said Madame, ‘it gives her a grace altogether peculiar;
something in her looks went to my heart. I could find it very easy to
love her, because she is really good.’

‘The Queen of Hearts should know all that is possible in loving,’ said
Burr.

Somehow, of late, the compliments which fell so readily from those
graceful lips had brought with them an unsatisfying pain. Until a woman
really _loves_, flattery and compliment are often like her native air;
but when that deeper feeling has once awakened in her, her instincts
become marvellously acute to detect the false from the true. Madame de
Frontignac longed for one strong, unguarded, real, earnest word from
the man who had stolen from her her whole being. She was beginning to
feel in some dim wise what an untold treasure she was daily giving for
tinsel and dross. She leaned back in the carriage, with a restless,
burning cheek, and wondered why she was born to be so miserable. The
thought of Mary’s saintly face and tender eyes rose before her as the
moon rises on the eyes of some hot and fevered invalid, inspiring vague
yearnings after an unknown, unattainable peace.

Could some friendly power once have made her at that time clairvoyant
and shown her the _reality_ of the man whom she was seeing through
the prismatic glass of her own enkindled ideality! Could she have
seen the calculating quietness in which, during the intervals of a
restless and sleepless ambition, he played upon her heart-strings, as
one uses a musical instrument to beguile a passing hour,—how his only
embarrassment was the fear that the feelings he was pleased to excite
might become too warm and too strong, while as yet his relations to her
husband were such as to make it dangerous to arouse his jealousy! And
if he could have seen that pure ideal conception of himself which alone
gave him power in the heart of this woman,—that spotless, glorified
image of a hero without fear, without reproach,—would he have felt a
moment’s shame and abasement at its utter falsehood?

The poet says that the Evil Spirit stood abashed when he saw virtue in
an angel form! How would a man, then, stand, who meets face to face
his own glorified, spotless ideal, made living by the boundless faith
of some believing heart? The best must needs lay his hand on his mouth
at this apparition; but woe to him who feels no redeeming power in the
sacredness of this believing dream,—who with calculating shrewdness
_uses_ this most touching miracle of love only to corrupt and destroy
the loving! For him there is no sacrifice for sin, no place for
repentance. His very mother might shrink in her grave to have him laid
beside her.

Madame de Frontignac had the high, honourable nature of the old blood
of France, and a touch of its romance. She was strung heroically, and
educated according to the notions of her caste and church, purely and
religiously. True it is, that one can scarcely call _that_ education
which teaches woman everything except herself,—_except_ the things
that relate to her own peculiar womanly destiny, and, on plea of the
holiness of ignorance, sends her without one word of just counsel
into the temptations of life. Incredible as it may seem, Virginie
de Frontignac had never read a romance or work of fiction of which
love was the staple; the _régime_ of the convent in this regard was
inexorable; at eighteen she was more thoroughly a child than most
American girls at thirteen. On entrance into life, she was at first so
dazzled and bewildered by the mere contrast of fashionable excitement
with the quietness of the scenes in which she had hitherto grown up,
that she had no time for reading or thought,—all was one intoxicating
frolic of existence, one dazzling, bewildering dream.

He whose eye had measured her for his victim verified, if ever man
did, the proverbial expression of the iron hand under the velvet
glove. Under all his gentle suavities there was a fixed, inflexible
will, a calm self-restraint, and a composed philosophical measurement
of others, that fitted him to bear despotic rule over an impulsive,
unguarded nature. The position, at once accorded to him, of her
instructor in the English language and literature, gave him a thousand
daily opportunities to touch and stimulate all that class of finer
faculties, so restless and so perilous, and which a good man approaches
always with a certain awe. It is said that he once asserted that he
never beguiled a woman who did not come half-way to meet him,—an
observation much the same as a serpent might make in regard to his
birds.

The visit of the morning was followed by several others. Madame
de Frontignac seemed to conceive for Mary one of those passionate
attachments which women often conceive for anything fair and
sympathizing, at those periods when their whole inner being is made
vital by the approaches of a grand passion. It took only a few visits
to make her as familiar as a child at the cottage; and the whole air
of the Faubourg St. Germain seemed to melt away from her, as, with
the pliability peculiar to her nation, she blended herself with the
quiet pursuits of the family. Sometimes, in simple straw hat and white
wrapper, she would lie down in the grass under the apple-trees, or join
Mary in an expedition to the barn for hen’s eggs, or a run along the
sea-beach for shells; and her childish eagerness and delight on these
occasions used to arouse the unqualified astonishment of Mrs. Katy
Scudder.

The Doctor she regarded with a _naïve_ astonishment, slightly
tinctured with apprehension. She knew he was very religious, and
stretched her comprehension to imagine what he might be like. She
thought of Bossuet’s sermons walking about under a Protestant coat,
and felt vaguely alarmed and sinful in his presence, as she used to
when entering under the shadows of a cathedral. In her the religious
sentiment, though vague, was strong. Nothing in the character of Burr
had ever awakened so much disapprobation as his occasional sneers at
religion. On such occasions she always reproved him with warmth, but
excused him in her heart, because he was brought up a heretic. She held
a special theological conversation with the Abbé, whether salvation
were possible to one outside of the True Church,—and had added to her
daily prayer a particular invocation to the Virgin for him.

The French lessons with her assistance proceeded prosperously. She
became an inmate in Mrs. Marvyn’s family also. The brown-eyed,
sensitive woman loved her as a new poem; she felt enchanted by her;
and the prosaic details of her household seemed touched to poetic life
by her innocent interest and admiration. The young Madame insisted on
being taught to spin at the great wheel; and a very pretty picture she
made of it, too, with her earnest gravity of endeavour, her deepening
cheek, her graceful form, with some strange foreign scarf or jewelry
waving and flashing in odd contrast with her work.

‘Do you know,’ she said, one day, while thus employed in the north
room at Mrs. Marvyn’s,—‘do you know Burr told me that princesses used
to spin? He read me a beautiful story from the “Odyssey,” about how
Penelope cheated her lovers with her spinning, while she was waiting
for her husband to come home;—_he_ was gone to sea, Mary,—her _true_
love,—you understand.’

She turned on Mary a wicked glance, so full of intelligence that the
snowdrop grew red as the inside of a sea-shell.

‘_Mon enfant!_ thou hast a thought _deep in here_!’ she said to Mary,
one day, as they sat together in the grass under the apple-trees.

‘Why, what?’ said Mary, with a startled and guilty look.

‘Why, what? _petite!_’ said the fairy princess, whimsically mimicking
her accent. ‘_Ah! ah! ma belle!_ you think I have no eyes;—Virginie
sees deep in here!’ she said, laying her hand playfully on Mary’s
heart. ‘_Ah, petite!_’ she said, gravely, and almost sorrowfully, ‘if
you love him, wait for him,—_don’t marry another!_ It is dreadful not
to have one’s heart go with one’s duty.’

‘I shall never marry anybody,’ said Mary.

‘Nevare marrie anybodie!’ said the lady, imitating her accents in tones
much like those of a bobolink. ‘Ah! ah! my little saint, you cannot
always live on nothing but the prayers, though prayers are verie good.
But, _ma chère_,’ she added, in a low tone, ‘don’t you ever marry that
good man in there; priests should not marry.’

‘Ours are not priests,—they are ministers,’ said Mary. ‘But why do you
speak of him?—he is like my father.’

‘Virginie sees something!’ said the lady, shaking her head gravely;
‘she sees he loves little Mary.’

‘Of course he does!’

‘Of-course-he-does?—ah, yes; and by-and-by comes the mamma, and she
takes this little hand, and she says, “Come, Mary!” and then she gives
it to him; and then the poor _jeune homme_, when he comes back, finds
not a bird in his poor little nest. _Oh, c’est ennuyeux cela!_’ she
said, throwing herself back in the grass till the clover heads and
buttercups closed over her.

‘I do assure you, dear Madame!’—

‘I do assure you, dear Mary, _Virginie knows_. So lock up her words in
your little heart; you will want them some day.’

There was a pause of some moments, while the lady was watching the
course of a cricket through the clover. At last, lifting her head, she
spoke very gravely,—

‘My little cat! it is _dreadful_ to be married to a good man, and
want to be good, and want to love him, and yet never like to have him
take your hand, and be more glad when he is away than when he is at
home; and then to think how different it would all be, if it was only
somebody else. That will be the way with you, if you let them lead you
into this; so don’t you do it, _mon enfant_.’

A thought seemed to cross Mary’s mind, as she turned to Madame de
Frontignac, and said, earnestly,—

‘If a good man were my husband, I would never think of another,—I
wouldn’t let myself.’

‘How could you help it, _mignonne_? Can you stop your thinking?’

Mary said, after a moment’s blush,—

‘I can _try_!’

‘Ah, yes! But to try all one’s life,—oh, Mary, that is too hard! Never
do it, darling!’

And then Madame de Frontignac broke out into a carolling little French
song, which started all the birds around into a general orchestral
accompaniment.

This conversation occurred just before Madame de Frontignac started for
Philadelphia, whither her husband had been summoned as an agent in some
of the ambitious intrigues of Burr.

It was with a sigh of regret that she parted from her friends at the
cottage. She made them a hasty good-bye call,—alighting from a splendid
barouche with two white horses, and filling their simple best room with
the light of her presence for a last half-hour. When she bade good-bye
to Mary, she folded her warmly to her heart, and her long lashes
drooped heavily with tears.

After her absence, the lessons were still pursued with the gentle,
quiet little Abbé, who seemed the most patient and assiduous of
teachers; but, in both houses, there was that vague _ennui_, that sense
of want, which follows the fading of one of life’s beautiful dreams! We
bid her adieu for a season;—we may see her again.



CHAPTER XX.


THE summer passed over the cottage, noiselessly, as our summers pass.
There were white clouds walking in saintly troops over blue mirrors
of sea,—there were purple mornings, choral with bird-singing,—there
were golden evenings, with long, eastward shadows. Apple-blossoms died
quietly in the deep orchard-grass, and tiny apples waxed and rounded
and ripened and gained stripes of gold and carmine; and the blue eggs
broke into young robins, that grew from gaping, yellow-mouthed youth
to fledged and outflying maturity. Came autumn, with its long Indian
summer, and winter, with its flinty, sparkling snows, under which all
Nature lay a sealed and beautiful corpse. Came once more the spring
winds, the lengthening days, the opening flowers, and the ever-renewing
miracle of buds and blossoms on the apple-trees around the cottage. A
year had passed since the June afternoon when first we showed you Mary
standing under the spotty shadows of the tree, with the white dove on
her hand,—a year in which not many outward changes have been made in
the relations of the actors of our story.

Mary calmly spun and read and thought; now and then composing with
care very English-French letters, to be sent to Philadelphia to Madame
de Frontignac, and receiving short missives of very French-English in
return.

The cautions of Madame, in regard to the Doctor, had not rippled the
current of their calm, confiding intercourse; and the Doctor, so very
satisfied and happy in her constant society and affection, scarcely as
yet meditated distinctly that he needed to draw her more closely to
himself. If he had a passage to read, a page to be copied, a thought
to express, was she not ever there, gentle, patient, unselfish? and
scarce by the absence of a day did she let him perceive that his need
of her was becoming so absolute that his hold on her must needs be made
permanent.

As to his salary and temporal concerns, they had suffered somewhat
for his unpopular warfare with reigning sins,—a fact which had rather
reconciled Mrs. Scudder to the dilatory movement of her cherished
hopes. Since James was gone, what need to press imprudently to new
arrangements? Better give the little heart time to grow over before
starting a subject which a certain womanly instinct told her might
be met with a struggle. Somehow she never thought without a certain
heart-sinking of Mary’s look and tone the night she spoke with her
about James; she had an awful presentiment that that tone of voice
belonged to the things that cannot be shaken. But yet, Mary seemed
so even, so quiet, her delicate form filled out and rounded so
beautifully, and she sang so cheerfully at her work, and, above all,
she was so entirely silent about James, that Mrs. Scudder had hope.

Ah, that silence! Do not listen to hear whom a woman praises, to know
where her heart is! do not ask for whom she expresses the most earnest
enthusiasm! but if there be one she once knew well, whose name she
never speaks,—if she seem to have an instinct to avoid every occasion
of its mention,—if, when you speak, she drops into silence and changes
the subject,—why, look there for something! just as, when going through
deep meadow-grass, a bird flies ostentatiously up before you, you may
know her nest is not there, but far off, under distant tufts of fern
and buttercup, through which she has crept with a silent flutter in her
spotted breast, to act her pretty little falsehood before you.

Poor Mary’s little nest was along the sedgy margin of the sea-shore,
where grow the tufts of golden-rod, where wave the reeds, where
crimson, green, and purple sea-weeds float up, like torn fringes of
Nereid vestures, and gold and silver shells lie on the wet wrinkles of
the sands.

The sea had become to her like a friend, with its ever-varying
monotony. Somehow she loved this old, fresh, blue, babbling, restless
giant, who had carried away her heart’s love to hide him in some far
off palmy island, such as she had often heard him tell of in his sea
romances. Sometimes she would wander out for an afternoon’s stroll on
the rocks, and pause by the great spouting cave, now famous to Newport
_dilettanti_, but then a sacred and impressive solitude. There the
rising tide bursts with deafening strokes through a narrow opening into
some inner cavern, which, with a deep thunder-boom, like the voice of
an angry lion, casts it back in a high jet of foam into the sea.

Mary often sat and listened to this hollow noise, and watched the
ever-rising columns of spray as they reddened with the transpiercing
beams of the afternoon sun; and thence her eye travelled far, far off
over the shimmering starry blue, where sails looked no bigger than
miller’s wings; and it seemed sometimes as if a door were opening by
which her soul might go out into some eternity,—some abyss, so wide
and deep, that fathomless lines of thought could not sound it. She was
no longer a girl in a mortal body, but an infinite spirit, the adoring
companion of Infinite Beauty and Infinite Love.

As there was an hour when the fishermen of Galilee saw their Master
transfigured, his raiment white and glistening, and his face like the
light, so are there hours when our whole mortal life stands forth
in a celestial radiance. From our daily lot falls off every weed
of care,—from our heart-friends every speck and stain of earthly
infirmity. Our horizon widens, and blue, and amethyst, and gold touch
every object. Absent friends and friends gone on the last long journey
stand once more together, bright with an immortal glow, and, like the
disciples who saw their Master floating in the clouds above them, we
say, ‘Lord, it is good to be here!’ How fair the wife, the husband, the
absent mother, the gray-haired father, the manly son, the bright-eyed
daughter! Seen in the actual present, all have some fault, some
flaw; but absent, we see them in their permanent and better selves.
Of our distant home we remember not one dark day, not one servile
care, nothing but the echo of its holy hymns and the radiance of its
brightest days,—of our father, not one hasty word, but only the fulness
of his manly vigour and noble tenderness,—of our mother, nothing of
mortal weakness, but a glorified form of love,—of our brother, not one
teasing, provoking word of brotherly freedom, but the proud beauty of
his noblest hours,—of our sister, our child, only what is fairest and
sweetest.

This is to life the true ideal, the calm glass, wherein looking, we
shall see, that, whatever defects cling to us, they are not, after all,
permanent, and that we are tending to something nobler than we yet
are;—it is ‘the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the
purchased possession.’ In the resurrection we shall see our friends for
ever as we see them in these clairvoyant hours.

We are writing thus on and on, linking image and thought and feeling,
and lingering over every flower, and listening to every bird, because
just before us there lies a dark valley, and we shrink and tremble to
enter it.

But it _must_ come, and why do we delay?

       *       *       *       *       *

Towards evening, one afternoon in the latter part of June, Mary
returned from one of these lonely walks by the sea, and entered the
kitchen. It was still in its calm and sober cleanness;—the tall clock
ticked with a startling distinctness. From the half-closed door of
her mother’s bedroom, which stood ajar, she heard the chipper of Miss
Prissy’s voice. She stayed her light footsteps, and the words that fell
on her ear were these:—

‘Miss Marvyn fainted dead away;—she stood it till he came to _that_;
but then she just clapped both hands together, as if she’d been shot,
and fell right forward on the floor in a faint!’

What could this be? There was a quick, intense whirl of thoughts in
Mary’s mind, and then came one of those awful moments when the powers
of life seem to make a dead pause and all things stand still; and then
all seemed to fail under her, and the life to sink down, down, down,
till nothing was but one dim, vague, miserable consciousness.

Mrs. Scudder and Miss Prissy were sitting, talking earnestly, on the
foot of the bed, when the door opened noiselessly, and Mary glided to
them like a spirit,—no colour in cheek or lip,—her blue eyes wide with
calm horror; and laying her little hand, with a nervous grasp, on Miss
Prissy’s arm, she said,—

‘Tell me,—what is it?—is it?—is he—dead?’

The two women looked at each other, and then Mrs. Scudder opened her
arms.

‘My daughter!’

‘Oh! mother! mother!’

Then fell that long, hopeless silence, broken only by hysteric sobs
from Miss Prissy, and answering ones from the mother; but _she_ lay
still and quiet, her blue eyes wide and clear, making an inarticulate
moan.

‘Oh! are they _sure_?—_can_ it be?—_is_ he dead?’ at last she gasped.

‘My child, it is too true; all we can say is, “Be still, and know that
I am God!”’

‘I shall _try_ to be still, mother,’ said Mary, with a piteous,
hopeless voice, like the bleat of a dying lamb; ‘but I did not think
he _could_ die!—I never thought of that!—I never _thought_ of it!—Oh!
mother! mother! mother! oh! what shall I do?’

They laid her on her mother’s bed,—the first and last resting-place of
broken hearts,—and the mother sat down by her in silence. Miss Prissy
stole away into the Doctor’s study, and told him all that had happened.

‘It’s the same to her,’ said Miss Prissy, with womanly reserve, ‘as if
he’d been an own brother.’

‘What was his spiritual state?’ said the Doctor, musingly.

Miss Prissy looked blank, and answered mournfully,—

‘I don’t know.’

The Doctor entered the room where Mary was lying with closed eyes.
Those few moments seemed to have done the work of years,—so pale, and
faded, and sunken she looked; nothing but the painful flutter of the
eyelids and lips showed that she yet breathed. At a sign from Mrs.
Scudder, he kneeled by the bed, and began to pray,—‘Lord, thou hast
been our dwelling-place in all generations,’—prayer deep, mournful,
upheaving like the swell of the ocean, surging upward, under the
pressure of mighty sorrows, towards an Almighty heart.

The truly good are of one language in prayer. Whatever lines or angles
of thought may separate them in other hours, _when they pray in
extremity_, all good men pray alike. The Emperor Charles V. and Martin
Luther, two great generals of opposite faiths, breathed out their dying
struggle in the self-same words.

There be many tongues and many languages of men,—but the language
of prayer is one by itself, _in_ all and _above_ all. It is the
inspiration of that Spirit that is ever working with our spirit, and
constantly lifting us higher than we know, and, by our wants, by our
woes, by our tears, by our yearnings, by our poverty, urging us,
with mightier and mightier force, against those chains of sin which
keep us from our God. We speak not of _things_ conventionally called
prayers,—vain mutterings of unawakened spirits talking drowsily in
sleep,—but of such prayers as come when flesh and heart fail, in mighty
straits;—_then_ he who prays is a prophet, and a Mightier than he
speaks in him; for the ‘_Spirit_ helpeth our infirmities; for we know
not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh
intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.’

So the voice of supplication, upheaving from that great heart, so
childlike in its humility, rose with a wisdom and a pathos beyond what
he dreamed in his intellectual hours; it uprose even as a strong angel,
whose brow is solemnly calm, and whose wings shed healing dews of
paradise.



CHAPTER XXI.


THE next day broke calm and fair. The robins sang remorselessly in
the apple-tree, and were answered by bobolink, oriole, and a whole
tribe of ignorant little bits of feathered, happiness that danced
among the leaves. Golden and glorious unclosed those purple eyelids of
the East, and regally came up the sun; and the treacherous sea broke
into ten thousand smiles, laughing and dancing with every ripple, as
unconsciously as if no form dear to human hearts had gone down beneath
it. Oh! treacherous, deceiving beauty of outward things! beauty,
wherein throbs not one answering nerve to human pain!

Mary rose early and was about her morning work. Her education was that
of the soldier, who must know himself no more, whom no personal pain
must swerve from the slightest minutiæ of duty. So she was there, at
her usual hour, dressed with the same cool neatness, her brown hair
parted in satin bands, and only the colourless cheek and lip differing
from the Mary of yesterday.

How strange this external habit of living! One thinks how to stick in a
pin, and how to tie a string,—one busies one’s self with folding robes,
and putting away napkins, the day after some stroke that has cut the
inner life in two, with the heart’s blood dropping quietly at every
step.

Yet it is better so! Happy those whom stern principle or long habit
or hard necessity calls from the darkened room, the languid trance
of pain, in which the wearied heart longs to indulge, and gives this
trite prose of common life, at which our weak and wearied appetites so
revolt!

Mary never thought of such a thing as self-indulgence;—this daughter of
the Puritans had her seed within her. Aërial in her delicacy, as the
blue-eyed flax-flower with which they sowed their fields, she had yet
its strong fibre, which no stroke of the flail could break; bruising
and hackling only made it fitter for uses of homely utility. Mary,
therefore, opened the kitchen-door at dawn, and, after standing one
moment to breathe the freshness, began spreading the cloth for an early
breakfast. Mrs. Scudder, the meanwhile, was kneading the bread that had
been set to rise over-night; and the oven was crackling and roaring
with a large-throated, honest garrulousness.

But, ever and anon, as the mother worked, she followed the motions of
her child anxiously.

‘Mary, my dear,’ she said, ‘the eggs are giving out; hadn’t you better
run to the barn and get a few?’

Most mothers are instinctive philosophers. No treatise on the laws of
nervous fluids could have taught Mrs. Scudder a better _rôle_ for this
morning, than her tender gravity, and her constant expedients to break
and ripple, by changing employments, that deep, deadly under-current of
thoughts which she feared might undermine her child’s life.

Mary went into the barn, stopped a moment, and took out a handful of
corn to throw to her hens, who had a habit of running towards her and
cocking an expectant eye to her little hand whenever she appeared.
All came at once flying towards her,—speckled, white, and gleamy with
hues between of tawny orange-gold,—the cocks, magnificent with the
blade-like waving of their tails,—and, as they chattered and cackled
and pressed and crowded about her, pecking the corn even where it
lodged in the edge of her little shoes, she said, ‘Poor things, I
am glad they enjoy it!’—and even this one little act of love to the
ignorant fellowship below her carried away some of the choking pain
which seemed all the while suffocating her heart. Then, climbing into
the hay, she sought the nest and filled her little basket with eggs,
warm, translucent, pinky-white in their freshness. She felt, for a
moment, the customary animation in surveying her new treasures; but
suddenly, like a vision rising before her, came a remembrance of once
when she and James were children together and had been seeking eggs
just there. He flashed before her eyes, the bright boy with the long
black lashes, the dimpled cheeks, the merry eyes, just as he stood and
threw the hay over her when they tumbled and laughed together,—and she
sat down with a sick faintness, and then turned and walked wearily in.



CHAPTER XXII.


MARY returned to the house with her basket of warm, fresh eggs, which
she set down mournfully upon the table. In her heart there was one
conscious want and yearning, and that was to go to the friends of him
she had lost—to go to his mother. The first impulse of bereavement is
to stretch out the hands towards what was nearest and dearest to the
departed.

Her dove came fluttering down out of the tree and settled on her hand,
and began asking in his dumb way to be noticed. Mary stroked his white
feathers, and bent her head down over them till they were wet with
tears. ‘Oh, birdie, you live, but he is gone!’ she said. Then suddenly
putting it gently from her, and going near and throwing her arms around
her mother’s neck,—‘Mother,’ she said, ‘I want to go up to Cousin
Ellen’s.’ (This was the familiar name by which she always called Mrs.
Marvyn.) ‘Can’t you go with me, mother?’

‘My daughter, I have thought of it. I hurried about my baking this
morning, and sent word to Mr. Jenkyns that he needn’t come to see about
the chimney, because I expected to go as soon as breakfast should be
out of the way. So hurry, now, boil some eggs, and get on the cold beef
and potatoes, for I see Solomon and Amaziah coming in with the milk.
They’ll want their breakfast immediately.’

The breakfast for the hired men was soon arranged on the table, and
Mary sat down to preside while her mother was going on with her baking,
introducing various loaves of white and brown bread into the capacious
oven by means of a long iron shovel, and discoursing at intervals with
Solomon with regard to the different farming operations which he had in
hand for the day.

Solomon was a tall, large-boned man, brawny and angular, with a face
tanned by the sun, and graven with those considerate lines which New
England so early writes on the faces of her sons. He was reputed
an oracle in matters of agriculture and cattle, and, like oracles
generally, was prudently sparing of his responses. Amaziah was one
of those uncouth over-grown boys of eighteen, whose physical bulk
appears to have so suddenly developed that the soul has more matter
than she has learned to recognize, so that the hapless individual is
always awkwardly conscious of too much limb; and in Amaziah’s case this
consciousness grew particularly distressing when Mary was in the room.
He liked to have her there, he said, ‘but somehow she was so white and
pretty, she made him feel sort o’ awful-like.’

Of course, as such poor mortals always do, he must, on this particular
morning, blunder into precisely the wrong subject.

‘S’pose you’ve heerd the news that Jeduthan Pettibone brought home in
the “Flying Scud,” ’bout the wreck o’ the “Monsoon;” it’s an awful
providence, that ’ar’ is—a’n’t it? Why Jeduthan says she jest crushed
like an egg-shell’—and with that Amaziah illustrated the fact by
crushing an egg-shell in his great brown hand.

Mary did not answer. She could not grow any paler than she was before;
a dreadful curiosity came over her, but her lips could frame no
question. Amaziah went on:

‘Ye see, the cap’en he got killed with a spar when the blow fust come
on, and Jim Marvyn he commanded; and Jeduthan says that he seemed to
have the spirit of ten men in him. He worked, and he watched, and he
was everywhere at once, and he kep’ ’em all up for three days, till
finally they lost their rudder, and went drivin’ right onto the rocks.
When they come in sight, he come up on deck, and says he, “Well, my
boys, we’re headin’ right into eternity,” says he, “and our chances
for this world a’n’t worth mentionin’, any on us; but we’ll all have
one try for our lives. Boys, I’ve tried to do my duty by you and the
ship—but God’s will be done! All I have to ask now is, that if any of
you git to shore, you’ll find my mother and tell her I died thinkin’ of
her and father and my dear friends.” That was the last Jeduthan saw of
him, for in a few minutes more the ship struck, and then it was every
man for himself. Laws! Jeduthan says there couldn’t nobody have stood
beatin’ agin them rocks unless they was all leather and inger-rubber
like him. Why, he says the waves would take strong men and jest crush
’em against the rocks like smashin’ a pie-plate!’

Here Mary’s paleness became livid; she made a hasty motion to rise from
the table, and Solomon trod on the foot of the narrator.

‘You seem to forget that friends and relations has feelin’s,’ he said,
as Mary hastily went into her own room.

Amaziah, suddenly awakened to the fact that he had been trespassing,
sat with mouth half open and a stupefied look of perplexity on his face
for a moment, and then, rising hastily, said: ‘Well, Sol, I guess I’ll
go an’ yoke up the steers.’

At eight o’clock all the morning toils were over, the wide kitchen cool
and still, and the one-horse waggon standing at the door, into which
climbed Mary, her mother, and the Doctor, for, though invested with no
spiritual authority, and charged with no ritual or form for hours of
affliction, the religion of New England always expects her minister as
a first visitor in every house of mourning.

The ride was a sorrowful and silent one. The Doctor, propped upon his
cane, seemed to reflect deeply.

‘Have you been at all conversant with the exercises of our young
friend’s mind on the subject of religion?’ he asked.

Mrs. Scudder did not at first reply. The remembrance of James’s last
letter flashed over her mind, and she felt the vibration of the frail
child beside her, in whom every nerve was quivering. After a moment she
said: ‘It does not become us to judge the spiritual state of any one.
James’s mind was in an unsettled way when he left; but who can say what
wonders may have been effected by Divine grace since then?’

This conversation fell on the soul of Mary like the sound of clods
falling on a coffin to the ear of one buried alive; she heard it
with a dull, smothering sense of suffocation. _That_ question to be
raised!—and about one, too, for whom she could have given her own
soul! At this moment she felt how idle is the mere hope or promise of
personal salvation made to one who has passed beyond the life of self,
and struck deep the roots of his existence in others. She did not utter
a word—how could she? A doubt—the faintest shadow of a doubt—in such
a case, falls on the soul with the weight of mountain certainty, and
in that short ride she felt what an infinite pain may be locked in one
small, silent breast.

The waggon drew up to the house of mourning. Cato stood at the gate,
and came forward, officiously, to help them out. ‘Mass’r and Missis
will be glad to see you,’ he said. ‘It’s a drefful stroke has come upon
’em.’

Candace appeared at the door. There was a majesty of sorrow in her
bearing as she received them. She said not a word, but pointed with her
finger towards the inner room; but as Mary lifted up her faded, weary
face to hers, her whole soul seemed to heave towards her like a billow,
and she took her up in her arms and broke forth into sobbing, and,
carrying her in, as if she had been a child, set her down in the inner
room and sat down beside her.

Mrs. Marvyn and her husband sat together, holding each other’s hands,
the open Bible between them. For a few moments nothing was to be heard
but sobs and unrestrained weeping, and then all kneeled down while the
Doctor prayed.

After they rose up, Mr. Zebedee Marvyn stood for a moment thoughtfully,
and then said: ‘If it had pleased the Lord to give me a sure evidence
of my son’s salvation, I could have given him up with all my heart; but
now, whatever there may be, I have seen none.’ He stood in an attitude
of hopeless, heart-smitten dejection, which contrasted painfully with
his usual upright carriage and the firm lines of his face.

Mrs. Marvyn started as if a sword had pierced her, passed her arm round
Mary’s waist, with a strong, nervous clasp, unlike her usual calm
self, and said, ‘Stay with me, daughter, to-day!—stay with me!’

‘Mary can stay as long as you wish, cousin,’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘we
have nothing to call her home.’

‘_Come_ with me!’ said Mrs. Marvyn to Mary, opening an adjoining
door into her bedroom, and drawing her in with a sort of suppressed
vehemence, ‘I want you!—I must have you!’

‘Mrs. Marvyn’s state alarms me,’ said her husband, looking
apprehensively after her when the door was closed; ‘she has not shed
any tears nor slept any since she heard this news. You know that her
mind has been in a peculiar and unhappy state with regard to religious
things for many years. I was in hopes she might feel free to open her
exercises of mind to the Doctor.’

‘Perhaps she will feel more freedom with Mary,’ said the Doctor. ‘There
is no healing for such troubles except in unconditional submission to
Infinite Wisdom and Goodness. The Lord reigneth, and will at last bring
infinite good out of evil, whether _our_ small portion of existence be
included or not.’

After a few moments more of conference, Mrs. Scudder and the Doctor
departed, leaving Mary alone in the house of mourning.



CHAPTER XXIII.


WE have said before, what we now repeat, that it is impossible to
write a story of New England life and manners for superficial thought
or shallow feeling. They who would fully understand the springs which
moved the characters with whom we now associate must go down with us to
the very depths.

Never was there a community where the roots of common life shot down
so deeply, and were so intensely grappled around things sublime and
eternal. The founders of it were a body of confessors and martyrs, who
turned their backs on the whole glory of the visible to found in the
wilderness a republic of which the God of heaven and earth should be
the sovereign power. For the first hundred years grew this community,
shut out by a fathomless ocean from the existing world, and divided
by an antagonism not less deep from all the reigning ideas of nominal
Christendom.

In a community thus unworldly must have arisen a mode of thought,
energetic, original, and sublime. The leaders of thought and feeling
were the ministry, and we boldly assert that the spectacle of the
early ministry of New England was one to which the world gives no
parallel. Living an intense, earnest, practical life, mostly tilling
the earth with their own hands, they yet carried on the most startling
and original religious investigations with a simplicity that might
have been deemed audacious, were it not so reverential. All old
issues relating to government, religion, ritual, and forms of church
organization having for them passed away, they went straight to the
heart of things, and boldly confronted the problem of universal being.
They had come out from the world as witnesses to the most solemn
and sacred of human rights. They had accustomed themselves boldly to
challenge and dispute all sham pretensions and idolatries of past
ages—to question the right of kings in the State and of prelates in the
Church; and now they turned the same bold inquiries towards the Eternal
Throne, and threw down their glove in the lists as authorized defenders
of every mystery in the Eternal Government. The task they proposed to
themselves was that of reconciling the most tremendous facts of sin and
evil, present and eternal, with those conceptions of Infinite Power
and Benevolence which their own strong and generous natures enabled
them so vividly to realize. In the intervals of planting and harvesting
they were busy with the toils of adjusting the laws of a universe.
Solemnly simple, they made long journeys in their old one-horse chaises
to settle with each other some nice point of celestial jurisprudence,
and to compare their maps of the Infinite. Their letters to each
other form a literature altogether unique. Hopkins sends to Edwards
the younger his scheme of the universe, in which he starts with the
proposition that God is infinitely above all obligations of any kind
to his creatures. Edwards replies with the brusque comment:—‘This is
wrong; God has no more right to injure a creature than a creature has
to injure God;’ and each probably about that time preached a sermon on
his own views, which was discussed by every farmer, in intervals of
plough and hoe, by every woman and girl, at loom, spinning-wheel, or
wash-tub. New England was one vast sea, surging from depths to heights
with thought and discussion on the most insoluble of mysteries. And it
is to be added that no man or woman accepted any theory or speculation
simply _as_ theory or speculation; all was profoundly real and vital—a
foundation on which actual life was based with intensest earnestness.

The views of human existence which resulted from this course of
training were gloomy enough to oppress any heart which did not
rise above them by triumphant faith, or sink below them by brutish
insensibility; for they included every moral problem of natural or
revealed religion, divested of all those softening poetries and tender
draperies which, forms, ceremonies, and rituals had thrown around
them in other parts and ages of Christendom. The human race, without
exception, coming into existence ‘under God’s wrath and curse,’ with
a nature so fatally disordered, that, although perfect free agents,
men were infallibly certain to do nothing to Divine acceptance until
regenerated by the supernatural aid of God’s Spirit, this aid being
given to a certain decreed number of the human race only; the rest,
with enough free agency to make them responsible, but without this
indispensable assistance exposed to the malignant assaults of evil
spirits versed in every art of temptation, were sure to fall hopelessly
into perdition. The standard of what constituted a true regeneration,
as presented in such treatises as Edwards on the Affections, and others
of the times, made this change to be something so high, disinterested,
and superhuman, so removed from all natural and common habits and
feelings, that the most earnest and devoted, whose whole life had
been a constant travail of endeavour, a tissue of almost unearthly
disinterestedness, often lived and died with only a glimmering hope of
its attainment.

According to any views then entertained of the evidences of a true
regeneration, the number of the whole human race who could be supposed
as yet to have received this grace was so small, that, as to any
numerical valuation, it must have been expressed by an infinitesimal.
Dr. Hopkins, in many places, distinctly recognizes the fact, that the
greater part of the human race, up to his time, had been eternally
lost; and boldly assumes the ground, that this amount of sin and
suffering, being the best and most necessary means of the greatest
final amount of happiness, was not merely permitted, but distinctly
chosen, decreed, and provided for, as essential in the schemes of
Infinite Benevolence. He held that this decree not only _permitted_
each individual act of sin, but also took measures to make it certain,
though, by an exercise of infinite skill, it accomplished this result
without violating human free agency.

The preaching of those times was animated by an unflinching consistency
which never shrank from carrying an idea to its remotest logical
verge. The sufferings of the lost were not kept from view, but
proclaimed with a terrible power. Dr. Hopkins boldly asserts, that ‘all
the use which God will have for them is to suffer; this is all the
end they can answer; therefore all their faculties, and their whole
capacities, will be employed and used for this end.... The body can by
omnipotence be made capable of suffering the greatest imaginable pain
without producing dissolution, or abating the least degree of life
or sensibility.... One way in which God will show his power in the
punishment of the wicked, will be in strengthening and upholding their
bodies and souls in torments which otherwise would be intolerable.’

The sermons preached by President Edwards on this subject are so
terrific in their refined poetry of torture, that very few persons of
quick sensibility could read them through without agony; and it is
related that when in those calm and tender tones, which never rose to
passionate enunciation, he read these discourses, the house was often
filled with shrieks and wailings, and that a brother minister once
laid hold of his skirts, exclaiming, in an involuntary agony, ‘Oh! Mr.
Edwards! Mr. Edwards! is God not a God of mercy?’

Not that these men were indifferent or insensible to the dread words
they spoke; their whole lives and deportment bore thrilling witness to
their sincerity. Edwards set apart special days of fasting, in view of
the dreadful doom of the lost, in which he was wont to walk the floor,
weeping and wringing his hands. Hopkins fasted every Saturday. David
Brainerd gave up every refinement of civilized life to weep and pray
at the feet of hardened savages, if by any means he might save _one_.
All, by lives of eminent purity and earnestness, gave awful weight and
sanction to their words.

If we add to this statement the fact, that it was always proposed to
every inquiring soul, as an evidence of regeneration, that it should
truly and heartily accept all the ways of God thus declared right and
lovely, and from the heart submit to Him as the only just and good,
it will be seen what materials of tremendous internal conflict and
agitation were all the while working in every bosom. Almost all the
histories of religious experience of those times relate paroxysms of
opposition to God and fierce rebellion, expressed in language which
appals the very soul, followed at length by mysterious elevations
of faith and reactions of confiding love, the result of Divine
interposition, which carried the soul far above the region of the
intellect, into that of direct spiritual intuition.

President Edwards records that he was once in this state of enmity,
that the facts of the Divine administration seemed horrible to him, and
that this opposition was overcome by no course of reasoning, but by an
‘_inward and sweet sense_’ which came to him once when walking alone in
the fields, and, looking up into the blue sky, he saw the blending of
the Divine majesty with a calm, sweet, and almost infinite meekness.

The piety which grew up under such a system was, of necessity,
energetic; it was the uprousing of the whole energy of the human soul,
pierced and wrenched and probed from her lowest depths to her topmost
heights, with every awful life-force possible to existence. He whose
faith in God came clear through these terrible tests, would be sure
never to know greater ones. He might certainly challenge earth or
heaven, things present or things to come, to swerve him from this grand
allegiance.

But it is to be conceded that these systems, so admirable in relation
to the energy, earnestness, and acuteness of their authors, when
received as absolute truth, and as a basis of actual life, had, on
minds of a certain class, the effect of a slow poison, producing
life-habits of morbid action very different from any which ever
followed the simple reading of the Bible. They differ from the New
Testament as the living embrace of a friend does from his lifeless
body, mapped out under the knife of the anatomical demonstrator; every
nerve and muscle is there, but to a sensitive spirit there is the very
chill of death in the analysis.

All systems that deal with the infinite are, besides, exposed to danger
from small, unsuspected admixtures of human error, which become deadly
when carried to such vast results. The smallest speck of earth’s dust,
in the focus of an infinite lens, appears magnified among the heavenly
orbs as a frightful monster.

Thus it happened that while strong spirits walked, palm-crowned, with
victorious hymns, along these sublime paths, feebler and more sensitive
ones lay along the track, bleeding away in life-long despair. Fearful
to them were the shadows that lay over the cradle and the grave. The
mother clasped her babe to her bosom, and looked with shuddering to the
awful coming trial of free agency, with its terrible responsibilities
and risks, and, as she thought of the infinite chances against her
beloved, almost wished it might die in infancy. But when the stroke of
death came, and some young, thoughtless head was laid suddenly low, who
can say what silent anguish of loving hearts sounded the dread depths
of eternity with the awful question, _Where?_

In no other time or place of Christendom have so fearful issues been
presented to the mind. Some church interposed its protecting shield;
the Christian born and baptized child was supposed in some wise rescued
from the curse of the fall, and related to the great redemption, to be
a member of Christ’s family, and, if ever so sinful, still infolded in
some vague sphere of hope and protection. Augustine solaced the dread
anxieties of trembling love by prayers offered for the dead, in times
when the Church above and on earth presented itself to the eye of the
mourner as a great assembly with one accord lifting interceding hands
for the parted soul.

But the clear logic and intense individualism of New England deepened
the problems of the Augustinian faith, while they swept away all those
softening provisions so earnestly clasped to the throbbing heart of
that great poet of theology. No rite, no form, no paternal relation,
no faith or prayer of church, earthly or heavenly, interposed the
slightest shield between the trembling spirit and Eternal Justice. The
individual entered eternity alone, as if he had no interceding relation
the universe.

This, then, was the awful dread which was constantly underlying life.
This it was which caused the tolling bell in green hollows and lonely
dells to be a sound which shook the soul and searched the heart with
fearful questions. And this it was that was lying with mountain weight
on the soul of the mother, too keenly agonized to feel that doubt in
such a case was any less a torture than the most dreadful certainty.

Hers was a nature more reasoning than creative and poetic; and whatever
she believed bound her mind in strictest chains to its logical results.
She delighted in the regions of mathematical knowledge, and walked them
as a native home; but the commerce with abstract certainties fitted her
mind still more to be stiffened and enchained by glacial reasonings, in
regions where spiritual intuitions are as necessary as wings to birds.

Mary was by nature of the class who never reason abstractly, whose
intellections all begin in the heart, which sends them coloured with
its warm life-tint to the brain. Her perceptions of the same subjects
were as different from Mrs. Marvyn’s as his who revels only in colour
from his who is busy with the dry details of mere outline. The one
mind was arranged like a map, and the other like a picture. In all the
system which had been explained to her, her mind selected points on
which it seized with intense sympathy, which it dwelt upon and expanded
till all else fell away. The sublimity of disinterested benevolence,
the harmony and order of a system tending in its final results to
infinite happiness, the goodness of God, the love of a self-sacrificing
Redeemer, were all so many glorious pictures, which she revolved in her
mind with small care for their logical relations.

Mrs. Marvyn had never, in all the course of their intimacy, opened
her mouth to Mary on the subject of religion. It was not an uncommon
incident of those times for persons of great elevation and purity of
character to be familiarly known and spoken of as living under a cloud
of religious gloom; and it was simply regarded as one more mysterious
instance of the workings of that infinite decree which denied to them
the special illumination of the Spirit.

When Mrs. Marvyn had drawn Mary with her into her room, she seemed
like a person almost in frenzy. She shut and bolted the door, drew her
to the foot of the bed, and, throwing her arms round her, rested her
hot and throbbing forehead on her shoulder. She pressed her thin hand
over her eyes, and then, suddenly drawing back, looked her in the face
as one resolved to speak something long suppressed. Her soft brown
eyes had a flash of despairing wildness in them, like that of a hunted
animal turning in its death-struggle on its pursuer.

‘Mary,’ she said, ‘I can’t help it,—don’t mind what I say, but I
must speak or die! Mary, I cannot, will not, be resigned!—it is all
hard, unjust, cruel!—to all eternity I will say so! To me there is no
goodness, no justice, no mercy in anything! Life seems to me the most
tremendous doom that can be inflicted on a helpless being! _What had
we done_ that it should be sent upon us? Why were we made to love so,
to hope so,—our hearts so full of feeling, and all the laws of Nature
marching over us,—never stopping for our agony? Why, we can suffer so
in this life that we had better never have been born!

‘But, Mary, think what a moment life is! think of those awful ages of
eternity! and then think of all God’s power and knowledge used on the
lost to make them suffer! think that all but the merest fragment of
mankind have gone into this, are in it now! The number of the elect is
so small we can scarce count them for anything! Think what noble minds,
what warm, generous hearts, what splendid natures are wrecked and
thrown away by thousands and tens of thousands! How we love each other!
how our hearts weave into each other! how more than glad we should be
to die for each other! And all this ends—O God, how must it end? Mary!
it isn’t _my_ sorrow only! What right have I to mourn? Is _my_ son
any better than any other mother’s son? Thousands of thousands, whose
mothers loved them as I loved mine, are gone there! Oh, my wedding-day!
Why did they rejoice? Brides should wear mourning, the bells should
toll for every wedding; every new family is built over this awful pit
of despair, and only one in a thousand escapes!’

Pale, aghast, horror-stricken, Mary stood dumb, as one who in the dark
and storm sees by the sudden glare of lightning a chasm yawning under
foot. It was amazement and dimness of anguish; the dreadful words
struck on the very centre where her soul rested. She felt as if the
point of a wedge were being driven between her life and her life’s
life, between her and her God. She clasped her hands instinctively
on her bosom, as if to hold there some cherished image, and said in
a piercing voice of supplication, ‘_My_ God! _my_ God! oh, where art
Thou?’

Mrs. Marvyn walked up and down the room with a vivid spot of red in
each cheek and a baleful fire in her eyes, talking in rapid soliloquy,
scarcely regarding her listener, absorbed in her own enkindled thoughts.

‘Dr. Hopkins says that this is all best, better than it would have
been in any other possible way; that God _chose_ it because it was
for a greater final good; that He not only chose it, but took means
to make it certain, that He ordains every sin, and does all that is
necessary to make it certain; that He creates the vessels of wrath and
fits them for destruction; and that He has an infinite knowledge by
which He can do it without violating their free agency. So much the
worse! What a use of infinite knowledge! What if men should do so?
What if a father should take means to make it certain that his poor
little child should be an abandoned wretch, without violating his free
agency? So much the worse, I say! They say He does this so that He may
show to all eternity, by their example, the evil nature of sin and
its consequences! This is all that the greater part of the human race
have been used for yet; and it is all right, because an overplus of
infinite happiness is yet to be wrought out by it! It is _not_ right!
No possible amount of good to ever so many can make it right to deprave
ever so few; happiness and misery cannot be measured so! I never can
think it right, never! Yet they say our salvation depends on our loving
God, loving Him better than ourselves, loving Him better than our
dearest friends. It is impossible! it is contrary to the laws of my
nature! I can never love God! I can never praise Him! I am lost! lost!
lost! And what is worse, I cannot redeem my friends! Oh, I _could_
suffer for ever, how willingly! if I could save _him_! But oh,
eternity, eternity! Frightful, unspeakable woe! No end! no bottom! no
shore! no hope! O God! O God!’

[Illustration: _The Comforter._

_Page 215._

Sampson Low, Son & Co. Septr. 20th, 1859.]

Mrs. Marvyn’s eyes grew wilder,—she walked the floor, wringing her
hands,—and her words, mingled with shrieks and moans, became whirling
and confused, as when in autumn a storm drives the leaves in dizzy
mazes.

Mary was alarmed,—the ecstasy of despair was just verging on insanity.
She rushed out and called Mr. Marvyn.

‘Oh! come in! do! quick!—I’m afraid her mind is going!’ she said.

‘It is what I feared,’ he said, rising from where he sat reading his
great Bible, with an air of heartbroken dejection. ‘Since she heard
this news, she has not slept nor shed a tear. The Lord hath covered us
with a cloud in the day of His fierce anger.’

He came into the room, and tried to take his wife to his arms. She
pushed him violently back, her eyes glistening with a fierce light.
‘Leave me alone!’ she said,—‘I am a lost spirit!’

These words were uttered in a shriek that went through Mary’s heart
like an arrow.

At this moment, Candace, who had been anxiously listening at the door
for an hour past, suddenly burst into the room.

‘Lor’ bress ye, Squire Marvyn, we won’t hab her goin’ on dis yer way,’
she said. ‘Do talk _gospel_ to her, can’t ye—ef you can’t, I will.’

‘Come, ye poor little lamb,’ she said, walking straight up to Mrs.
Marvyn, ‘come to ole Candace!’—and with that she gathered the pale
form to her bosom, and sat down and began rocking her, as if she had
been a babe. ‘Honey, darlin’, ye a’n’t right, dar’s a drefful mistake
somewhar,’ she said. ‘Why, de Lord a’n’t like what ye tink,—He _loves_
ye, honey! Why, jes’ feel how _I_ loves ye,—poor ole black Candace,—an’
I a’n’t better’n Him as made me! Who was it wore de crown o’ thorns,
lamb?—who was it sweat great drops o’ blood?—who was it said, “Father,
forgive dem”? Say, honey!—wasn’t it de Lord dat made ye?—Dar, dar,
now ye’r’ cryin’!—cry away, and ease yer poor little heart! He died
for Mass’r Jim,—loved him and _died_ for him,—jes’ give up His sweet,
precious body and soul for him on de cross! Laws, jes’ _leave_ him in
Jesus’ hands! Why, honey, dar’s de very print o’ de nails in his hands
now!’

The flood-gates were rent; and healing sobs and tears shook the frail
form, as a faded lily shakes under the soft rains of summer. All in the
room wept together.

‘Now, honey,’ said Candace, after a pause of some minutes, ‘I knows our
Doctor’s a mighty good man, an’ larned,—an’ in fair weather I ha’n’t no
’bjection to yer hearin’ all about dese yer great an’ mighty tings he’s
got to say. But, honey, dey won’t do for you now; sick folks mus’n’t
hab strong meat; an’ times like dese, dar jest a’n’t but one ting to
come to, an’ dat ar’s _Jesus_. Jes’ come right down to whar poor ole
black Candace has to stay allers,—it’s a good place, darlin’! _Look
right at Jesus._ Tell ye, honey, ye can’t live no other way now. Don’t
ye ’member how He looked on His mother, when she stood faintin’ an’
tremblin’ under de cross, jes’ like you? He knows all about mothers’
hearts; He won’t break yours. It was jes’ ’cause He know’d we’d come
into straits like dis yer, dat He went through all dese tings,—Him,
de Lord o’ Glory! Is dis Him you was a-talkin’ about?—Him you can’t
love? Look at Him, an’ see ef you can’t. Look an’ see what He is!—don’t
ask no questions, and don’t go to no reasonin’s,—jes’ look at _Him_,
hangin’ dar, so sweet and patient, on de cross! All dey could do
couldn’t stop his lovin’ ’em; He prayed for ’em wid all de breath He
had. Dar’s a God you can love, a’n’t dar? Candace loves Him,—poor, ole,
foolish, black, wicked Candace,—and she knows He loves her,’—and here
Candace broke down into torrents of weeping.

They laid the mother, faint and weary, on her bed, and beneath the
shadow of that suffering cross came down a healing sleep on those weary
eyelids.

‘Honey,’ said Candace, mysteriously, after she had drawn Mary out of
the room, ‘don’t ye go for to troublin’ yer mind wid dis yer. I’m clar
Mass’r James is one o’ de ’lect; and I’m clar dar’s consid’able more
o’ de ’lect dan people tink. Why, Jesus didn’t die for nothin’,—all
dat love a’n’t gwine to be wasted. De ’lect is more’n you or I knows,
honey! Dar’s de _Spirit_,—He’ll give it to ’em; and ef Mass’r James
_is_ called an’ took, depend upon it de Lord has got him ready,—course
He has,—so don’t ye go to layin’ on yer poor heart what no mortal
creetur can live under; ’cause, as we’s got to live in dis yer world,
it’s quite clar de Lord must ha’ fixed it so we _can_; and ef tings was
as some folks suppose, why, we _couldn’t_ live, and dar wouldn’t be no
sense in anyting dat goes on.’

The sudden shock of these scenes was followed, in Mrs. Marvyn’s case,
by a low, lingering fever. Her room was darkened, and she lay on her
bed, a pale, suffering form, with scarcely the ability to raise her
hand. The shimmering twilight of the sick-room fell on white napkins,
spread over stands, where constantly appeared new vials, big and
little, as the physician made his daily visit, and prescribed now this
drug and now that, for a wound that had struck through the soul.

Mary remained many days at the white house, because, to the invalid,
no step, no voice, no hand was like hers. We see her there now, as she
sits in the glimmering by the bed-curtains,—her head a little drooped,
as droops a snowdrop over a grave;—one ray of light from a round hole
in the closed shutters falls on her smooth-parted hair, her small hands
clasped on her knees, her mouth has lines of sad compression, and in
her eyes are infinite questionings.



CHAPTER XXIV.


WHEN Mrs. Marvyn began to amend, Mary returned to the home cottage, and
resumed the details of her industrious and quiet life.

Between her and her two best friends had fallen a curtain of silence.
The subject that filled all her thoughts could not be named between
them. The Doctor often looked at her pale cheeks and drooping form with
a face of honest sorrow, and heaved deep sighs as she passed; but he
did not find any power within himself by which he could approach her.
When he would speak, and she turned her sad, patient eyes so gently on
him, the words went back again to his heart, and there, taking a second
thought, spread upward wing in prayer.

Mrs. Scudder sometimes came to her room after she was gone to bed,
and found her weeping; and when gently she urged her to sleep, she
would wipe her eyes so patiently and turn her head with such obedient
sweetness, that her mother’s heart utterly failed her. For hours Mary
sat in her room with James’s last letter spread out before her. How
anxiously had she studied every word and phrase in it, weighing them
to see if the hope of eternal life were in them! How she dwelt on
those last promises! Had he kept them? Ah! to die without one word
more! Would no angel tell her?—would not the loving God, who knew
all, just whisper one word? He must have read the little Bible! What
had he thought? What did he feel in that awful hour when he felt
himself drifting on to that fearful eternity? Perhaps he had been
regenerated,—perhaps there had been a sudden change;—who knows?—she had
read of such things;—_perhaps_——Ah, in that perhaps lies a world of
anguish! Love will not hear of it. Love _dies_ for certainty. Against
an uncertainty who can brace the soul? We put all our forces of faith
and prayer against it, and it goes down just as a buoy sinks in the
water, and the next moment it is up again. The soul fatigues itself
with efforts which come and go in waves; and when with laborious care
she has adjusted all things in the light of hope, back flows the tide,
and sweeps all away. In such struggles life spends itself fast; an
inward wound does not carry one deathward more surely than this worst
wound of the soul. God has made us so mercifully that there is no
_certainty_, however dreadful, to which life-forces do not in time
adjust themselves,—but to uncertainty there is no possible adjustment.
Where is he? Oh, question of questions!—question which we suppress, but
which a power of infinite force still urges on the soul, who feels a
part of herself torn away.

Mary sat at her window in evening hours, and watched the slanting
sunbeams through the green blades of grass, and thought one year ago
he stood there, with his well-knit, manly form, his bright eye, his
buoyant hope, his victorious mastery of life! And where was he now? Was
his heart as sick, longing for her, as hers for him? Was he looking
back to earth and its joys with pangs of unutterable regret? or had a
divine power interpenetrated his soul, and lighted there the flame of
a celestial love which bore him far above earth? If he were among the
lost, in what age of eternity could she ever be blessed? Could Christ
be happy, if those who were one with Him were sinful and accursed?
and could Christ’s own loved ones be happy, when those with whom they
have exchanged being, in whom they live and feel, are as wandering
stars, for whom is reserved the mist of darkness for ever? She had
been taught that the agonies of the lost would be for ever in sight of
the saints, without abating in the least their eternal joys; nay, that
they would find in it increasing motives to praise and adoration. Could
it be so? Would the last act of the great Bridegroom of the Church be
to strike from the heart of his purified Bride those yearnings of
self-devoting love which His whole example had taught her, and in which
she reflected, as in a glass, His own nature? If not, is there not
some provision by which those roots of deathless love which Christ’s
betrothed ones strike into other hearts shall have a divine, redeeming
power? Question vital as life-blood to ten thousand hearts,—fathers,
mothers, wives, husbands,—to all who feel the infinite sacredness of
love!

After the first interview with Mrs. Marvyn, the subject which had so
agitated them was not renewed. She had risen at last from her sick-bed,
as thin and shadowy as a faded moon after sunrise. Candace often shook
her head mournfully, as her eyes followed her about her daily tasks.
Once only, with Mary, she alluded to the conversation which had passed
between them;—it was one day when they were together, spinning, in the
north upper room that looked out upon the sea. It was a glorious day.
A ship was coming in under full sail, with white gleaming wings. Mrs.
Marvyn watched it a few moments,—the gay creature, so full of exultant
life,—and then smothered down an inward groan, and Mary thought she
heard her saying, ‘Thy will be done!’

‘Mary,’ she said, gently, ‘I hope you will forget all I said to you
that dreadful day. It had to be said, or I should have died. Mary, I
begin to think that it is not best to stretch our minds with reasonings
where we are so limited, where we can know so little. I am quite sure
there must be dreadful mistakes somewhere.

‘It seems to me irreverent and shocking that a child should oppose a
father, or a creature its Creator. I never should have done it, only
that, where direct questions are presented to the judgment, one cannot
help judging. If one is required to praise a being as just and good,
one must judge of his actions by some standard of right,—and we have
no standard but such as our Creator has placed in us. I have been told
it was my duty to attend to these subjects, and I have tried to,—and
the result has been that the facts presented seem wholly irreconcilable
with any notions of justice or mercy that I am able to form. If these
be the facts, I can only say that my nature is made entirely opposed
to them. If I followed the standard of right they present, and acted
according to my small mortal powers on the same principles, I should
be a very bad person. Any father, who should make such use of power
over his children as they say the Deity does with regard to us, would
be looked upon as a monster by our very imperfect moral sense. Yet I
cannot say that the facts are not so. When I heard the Doctor’s sermons
on “Sin a Necessary Means of the Greatest Good,” I could not extricate
myself from the reasoning.

‘I have thought, in desperate moments, of giving up the Bible itself.
But what do I gain? Do I not see the same difficulty in Nature? I see
everywhere a Being whose main ends seem to be beneficent, but whose
good purposes are worked out at terrible expense of suffering, and
apparently by the total sacrifice of myriads of sensitive creatures.
I see unflinching order, general good-will, but no sympathy, no
mercy. Storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, sickness, death, go on
without regarding us. Everywhere I see the most hopeless, unrelieved
suffering,—and for aught I see, it may be eternal. Immortality is a
dreadful chance, and I would rather never have been.—The Doctor’s
dreadful system is, I confess, much like the laws of Nature, about what
one may reason out from them.

‘There is but just one thing remaining, and that is, as Candace said,
the cross of Christ. If God so loved us,—if He died for us,—greater
love hath no man than this. It seems to me that love is shown here in
the two highest forms possible to our comprehension. We see a Being who
gives himself for us,—and more than that, harder than that, a Being
who consents to the suffering of a dearer than self. Mary, I feel
that I must love more, to give up one of my children to suffer, than
to consent to suffer myself. There is a world of comfort to me in the
words, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us
all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” These
words speak to my heart. I can interpret them by my own nature, and I
rest on them. If there is a fathomless mystery of sin and sorrow, there
is a deeper mystery of God’s love. So, Mary, I try Candace’s way,—I
look at Christ,—I pray to Him. If he that hath seen Him hath seen the
Father, it is enough. I rest there,—I wait. What I know not now I shall
know hereafter.’

Mary kept all things and pondered them in her heart. She could speak
to no one,—not to her mother, nor to her spiritual guide, for had she
not passed to a region beyond theirs? As well might those on the hither
side of mortality instruct the souls gone beyond the veil as souls
outside a great affliction guide those who are struggling in it. That
is a mighty baptism, and only Christ can go down with us into those
waters.

Mrs. Scudder and the Doctor only marked that she was more than ever
conscientious in every duty, and that she brought to life’s daily
realities something of the calmness and disengagedness of one whose
soul has been wrenched by a mighty shock from all moorings here below.
Hopes did not excite, fears did not alarm her; life had no force strong
enough to awaken a thrill within; and the only subjects on which she
ever spoke with any degree of ardour were religious subjects.

One who should have seen moving about the daily ministrations of the
cottage a pale girl, whose steps were firm, whose eye was calm, whose
hands were ever busy, would scarce imagine that through that silent
heart were passing tides of thought that measured a universe; but it
was even so. Through that one gap of sorrow flowed in the whole awful
mystery of existence, and silently, as she spun and sewed, she thought
over and over again all that she had ever been taught, and compared and
revolved it by the light of a dawning inward revelation.

Sorrow is the great birth-agony of immortal powers; sorrow is the great
searcher and revealer of hearts, the great test of truth; for Plato has
wisely said, sorrow will not endure sophisms; all shams and unrealities
melt in the fire of that awful furnace. Sorrow reveals forces in
ourselves we never dreamed of. The soul, a bound and sleeping prisoner,
hears her knock on her cell-door, and wakens. Oh, how narrow the walls!
oh, how close and dark the grated window! how the long useless wings
beat against the impassable barriers! Where are we? What _is_ this
prison? What _is_ beyond? Oh for more air, more light! When will the
door be opened? The soul seems to itself to widen and to deepen; it
trembles at its own dreadful forces; it gathers up in waves that break
with wailing, only to flow back into the everlasting void. The calmest
and most centred natures are sometimes thrown by the shock of a great
sorrow into a tumultuous amazement. All things are changed. The earth
no longer seems solid, the skies no longer secure; a deep abyss seems
underlying every joyous scene of life. The soul, struck with this
awful inspiration, is a mournful Cassandra; she sees blood on every
threshold, and shudders in the midst of mirth and festival with the
weight of a terrible wisdom.

Who shall dare be glad any more, that has once seen the frail
foundations on which love and joy are built? Our brighter hours, have
they only been weaving a network of agonizing remembrances for this
day of bereavement? The heart is pierced with every past joy, with
every hope of its ignorant prosperity. Behind every scale in music,
the gayest and cheeriest, the grandest, the most triumphant, lies
its dark relative minor; the notes are the same, but the change of a
semitone changes all to gloom; all our gayest hours are tunes that have
a modulation into these dreary keys ever possible; at any moment the
key-note may be struck.

The firmest, best-prepared natures are often beside themselves with
astonishment and dismay, when they are called to this dread initiation.
They thought it a very happy world before,—a glorious universe. Now
it is darkened with the shadow of insoluble mysteries. Why this
everlasting tramp of inevitable laws on quivering life? If the wheels
must roll, why must the crushed be so living and sensitive?

And yet sorrow is god-like, sorrow is grand and great, sorrow is wise
and far-seeing. Our own instinctive valuations, the intense sympathy
which we give to the tragedy which God has inwoven into the laws
of Nature, show us that it is with no slavish dread, no cowardly
shrinking, that we should approach her divine mysteries. What are the
natures that cannot suffer? Who values them? From the fat oyster, over
which the silver tide rises and falls without one pulse upon its fleshy
ear, to the hero who stands with quivering nerve parting with wife and
child and home for country and God, all the way up is an ascending
scale, marked by increasing power to suffer; and when we look to the
Head of all being, up through principalities and powers and princedoms,
with dazzling orders and celestial blazonry, to behold by what emblem
the Infinite Sovereign chooses to reveal himself, we behold, in the
midst of the throne, ‘a lamb as it had been slain.’

Sorrow is divine. Sorrow is reigning on the throne of the universe, and
the crown of all crowns has been one of thorns. There have been many
books that treat of the mystery of sorrow, but only one that bids us
glory in tribulation, and count it all joy when we fall into divers
afflictions, that so we may be associated with that great fellowship of
suffering of which the Incarnate God is the head, and through which He
is carrying a redemptive conflict to a glorious victory over evil. If
we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.

Even in the very making up of our physical nature, God puts suggestions
of such a result. ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in
the morning.’ There are victorious powers in our nature which are all
the while working for us in our deepest pain. It is said, that after
the sufferings of the rack, there ensues a period in which the simple
repose from torture produces a beatific trance; it is the reaction of
Nature, asserting the benignant intentions of her Creator. So, after
great mental conflicts and agonies must come a reaction, and the Divine
Spirit, co-working with our spirit, seizes the favourable moment, and,
interpenetrating natural laws with a celestial vitality, carries up the
soul to joys beyond the ordinary possibilities of mortality.

It is said that gardeners, sometimes, when they would bring a rose to
richer flowering, deprive it for a season of light and moisture. Silent
and dark it stands, dropping one fading leaf after another, and seeming
to go down patiently to death. But when every leaf is dropped, and the
plant stands stripped to the uttermost, a new life is even then working
in the buds, from which shall spring a tender foliage and a brighter
wealth of flowers. So, often in celestial gardening, every leaf of
earthly joy must drop, before a new and divine bloom visits the soul.

Gradually, as months passed away, the floods grew still; the mighty
rushes of the inner tide ceased to dash. There came first a delicious
calmness, and then a celestial inner clearness, in which the soul
seemed to lie quiet as an untroubled ocean, reflecting heaven.
Then came the fulness of mysterious communion given to the pure in
heart, that advent of the Comforter in the soul, teaching all things
and bringing all things to remembrance; and Mary moved in a world
transfigured by a celestial radiance. Her face, so long mournfully
calm, like some chiselled statue of Patience, now wore a radiance,
as when one places a light behind some alabaster screen sculptured
with mysterious and holy emblems, and words of strange sweetness
broke from her, as if one should hear snatches of music from a door
suddenly opened in heaven. Something wise and strong and sacred gave an
involuntary impression of awe in her looks and words; it was not the
child-like loveliness of early days, looking with dove-like, ignorant
eyes on sin and sorrow; but the victorious sweetness of that great
multitude who have come out of great tribulation, having washed their
robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. In her eyes there
was that nameless depth that one sees with awe in the Sistine Madonna;
eyes that have measured infinite sorrow and looked through it to an
infinite peace.

‘My dear madam,’ said the Doctor to Mrs. Scudder, ‘I cannot but think
there must be some uncommonly gracious exercises passing in the mind
of your daughter; for I observe, that, though she is not inclined to
conversation, she seems to be much in prayer; and I have of late felt
the sense of a Divine Presence with her in a most unusual degree. Has
she opened her mind to you?’

‘Mary was always a silent girl,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘and not given to
speaking of her own feelings; indeed, until she gave you an account
of her spiritual state, on joining the church, I never knew what her
exercises were. Hers is a most singular case. I never knew the time
when she did not seem to love God more than anything else. It has
disturbed me sometimes, because I did not know but it might be mere
natural sensibility, instead of gracious affection.’

‘Do not disturb yourself, madam,’ said the Doctor. ‘The Spirit worketh
when, where, and how He will; and, undoubtedly, there have been cases
where His operations commence exceedingly early. Mr. Edwards relates a
case of a young person who experienced a marked conversion when three
years of age, and Jeremiah was called from the womb. (Jeremiah i. 5.)
In all cases we must test the quality of the evidence without relation
to the time of its commencement. I do not generally lay much stress on
our impressions, which are often uncertain and delusive; yet I have
had an impression that the Lord would be pleased to make some singular
manifestations of His grace through this young person. In the economy
of grace there is neither male nor female; and Peter says (Acts ii. 17)
that the Spirit of the Lord shall be poured out, and your sons and your
daughters shall prophesy. Yet, if we consider that the Son of God, as
to His human nature, was made of a woman, it leads us to see that in
matters of grace God sets a special value on woman’s nature and designs
to put special honour upon it. Accordingly there have been in the
Church, in all ages, holy women who have received the Spirit, and been
called to a ministration in the things of God—such as Deborah, Huldah,
and Anna the prophetess. In our own days most uncommon manifestations
of divine grace have been given to holy women. It was my privilege to
be in the family of President Edwards at a time when Northampton was
specially visited, and his wife seemed and spoke more like a glorified
spirit than a mortal woman, and multitudes flocked to the house to hear
her wonderful words. She seemed to have such a sense of the Divine love
as was almost beyond the powers of nature to endure. Just to speak
the words, “Our Father who art in heaven,” would overcome her with
such a manifestation that she would become cold and almost faint; and
though she uttered much, yet she told us that the divinest things she
saw could not be spoken. These things could not be fanaticism, for
she was a person of a singular evenness of nature, and of great skill
and discretion in temporal matters, and of an exceeding humility,
sweetness, and quietness of disposition.’

‘I have observed of late,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘that in our praying
circles Mary seemed much carried out of herself, and often as if she
would speak, and with difficulty holding herself back. I have not
urged her, because I thought it best to wait till she should feel full
liberty.’

‘Therein you do rightly, madam,’ said the Doctor, ‘but I am persuaded
you will hear from her yet.’

It came at length, the hour of utterance. And one day, in a praying
circle of the women of the church, all were startled by the clear
silver tones of one who sat among them and spoke with the unconscious
simplicity of an angel child, calling God her Father, and speaking
of an ineffable union in Christ, binding all things together in
one, and making all complete in Him. She spoke of a love passing
knowledge—passing all love of lovers or of mothers—a love for ever
spending, yet never spent—a love ever pierced and bleeding, yet ever
constant and triumphant, rejoicing with infinite joy to bear in its
own body the sins and sorrows of a universe—conquering, victorious
love, rejoicing to endure, panting to give, and offering its whole self
with an infinite joyfulness for our salvation. And when, kneeling,
she poured out her soul in prayer, her words seemed so many winged
angels, musical with unearthly harpings of an untold blessedness.
They who heard her had the sensation of rising in the air, of feeling
a celestial light and warmth descending into their souls; and when,
rising, she stood silent and with downcast drooping eyelids, there were
tears in all eyes, and a hush in all movements as she passed, as if
something celestial were passing out.

Miss Prissy came rushing homeward, to hold a private congratulatory
talk with the Doctor and Mrs. Scudder, while Mary was tranquilly
setting the tea-table and cutting bread for supper.

‘To see her now, certainly,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘moving round so
thoughtful, not forgetting anything, and doing everything so calm, you
wouldn’t ’a’ thought it could be her that spoke those blessed words and
made that prayer! Well, certainly, that prayer seemed to take us all
right up and put us down in heaven; and when I opened my eyes, and saw
the roses and asparagus-bushes on the manteltree-piece, I had to ask
myself, “Where have I been?” Oh! Miss Scudder, her afflictions have
been sanctified to her! And really, when I see her going on so, I feel
she can’t be long for us. They say dying grace is for dying hours; and
I’m sure this seems more like dying grace than anything that I ever yet
saw.’

‘She is a precious gift,’ said the Doctor; ‘let us thank the Lord for
His grace through her. She has evidently had a manifestation of the
Beloved, and feedeth among the lilies (Canticles vi. 3); and we will
not question the Lord’s further dispensations concerning her.’

‘Certainly,’ said Miss Prissy, briskly, ‘it’s never best to borrow
trouble; “sufficient unto the day” is enough, to be sure. And now, Miss
Scudder, I thought I’d just take a look at that dove-coloured silk of
yours to-night, to see what would have to be done with it, because I
must make every minute tell, and you know I lose half a day every week
for the prayer-meeting. Though I ought not to say I lose it, either,
for I was telling Miss General Wilcox I wouldn’t give up that meeting
for bags and bags of gold. She wanted me to come and sew for her one
Wednesday, and says I, “Miss Wilcox, I’m poor and have to live by my
work, but I a’n’t so poor but what I have some comforts, and I can’t
give up my prayer-meeting for any money—for you see, if one gets a
little lift there, it makes all the work go lighter, but then I have to
be particular to save up every scrap and end of time.”’

Mrs. Scudder and Miss Prissy crossed the kitchen and entered the
bedroom, and soon had the dove-coloured silk under consideration.

‘Well, Miss Scudder,’ said Miss Prissy, after mature investigation,
‘here’s a broad hem, not cut at all on the edge, as I see, and that
might be turned down, and so cut off the worn spot up by the waist,
and then, if it is turned, it will look every bit and grain as well
as a new silk. I’ll sit right down now and go to ripping. I put
my ripping-knife into my pocket when I put on this dress to go to
prayer-meeting, because, says I to myself, there’ll be something to do
at Miss Scudder’s to-night. You just get an iron to the fire, and we’ll
have it all ripped and pressed out before dark.’

Miss Prissy seated herself at the open window, as cheery as a fresh
apple-blossom, and began busily plying her knife, looking at the
garment she was ripping with an astute air, as if she were about
to circumvent it into being a new dress by some surprising act of
legerdemain. Mrs. Scudder walked to the looking-glass and began
changing her bonnet-cap for a tea-table one.

Miss Prissy, after a while, commenced in a mysterious tone:

‘Miss Scudder, I know folks like me shouldn’t have their eyes open
too wide, but then I can’t help noticing some things. Did you see the
Doctor’s face when we was talking to him about Mary? Why, he coloured
all up and the tears came into his eyes. It’s my belief that that
blessed man worships the ground she treads on. I don’t mean _worships_,
either, ’cause that would be wicked, and he’s too good a man to make
a graven image of anything; but it’s clear to see that there a’n’t
anybody in the world like Mary to him. I always did think so, but
I used to think Mary was such a little poppet—that she’d do better
for——Well, you know, I thought about some younger man—but, laws,
now I see how she rises up to be ahead of everybody, and is so kind
of solemn-like. I can’t but see the leadings of Providence. What a
minister’s wife she’d be, Miss Scudder! Why, all the ladies coming out
of prayer-meeting were speaking of it. You see, they want the Doctor to
get married: it seems more comfortable-like to have ministers married;
one feels more free to open their exercises of mind; and, as Miss
Deacon Twitchel said to me—“If the Lord had made a woman o’ purpose, as
he did for Adam, he wouldn’t have made her a bit different from Mary
Scudder.” Why, the oldest of us would follow her lead, ’cause she goes
before us without knowing it.’

‘I feel that the Lord has greatly blessed me in such a child,’ said
Mrs. Scudder, ‘and I feel disposed to wait the leadings of Providence.’

‘Just exactly,’ said Miss Prissy, giving a shake to her silk; ‘and as
Miss Twitchel said, in this case every providence seems to p’int. I
felt dreadfully for her along six months back; but now I see how she’s
been brought out, I begin to see that things are for the best, perhaps,
after all. I can’t help feeling that Jim Marvyn is gone to heaven, poor
fellow! His father is a deacon,—and such a good man!—and Jim, though he
did make a great laugh wherever he went, and sometimes laughed where
he hadn’t ought to, was a noble-hearted fellow. Now, to be sure, as
the Doctor says, “amiable instincts a’n’t true holiness;” but then
they are better than unamiable ones, like Simeon Brown’s. I do think,
if that man is a Christian, he is a dreadful ugly one; he snapped me
short up about my change, when he settled with me last Tuesday; and if
I hadn’t felt that it was a sinful rising, I should have told him I’d
never put foot in his house again; I’m glad, for my part, he’s gone out
of our church. Now Jim Marvyn was like a prince to poor people; and I
remember once his mother told him to settle with me, and he gave me
’most double, and wouldn’t let me make change. “Confound it all, Miss
Prissy,” says he, “I wouldn’t stitch as you do from morning to night
for double that money.” Now I know we can’t do anything to recommend
ourselves to the Lord, but then I can’t help feeling some sorts of
folks must be by nature more pleasing to Him than others. David was
a man after God’s own heart, and he was a generous, whole-souled
fellow, like Jim Marvyn, though he did get carried away by his spirits
sometimes and do wrong things; and so I hope the Lord saw fit to make
Jim one of the elect. We don’t ever know what God’s grace has done for
folks. I think a great many are converted when we know nothing about
it, as Miss Twitchel told poor old Miss Tyrrel, who was mourning about
her son, a dreadful wild boy, who was killed falling from mast-head;
she says, that from the mast-head to the deck was time enough for
divine grace to do the work.’

‘I have always had a trembling hope for poor James,’ said Mrs.
Scudder,—‘not on account of any of his good deeds or amiable traits,
because election is without foresight of any good works,—but I felt he
was a child of the covenant, at least by the father’s side, and I hope
the Lord has heard his prayer. These are dark providences; the world
is full of them; and all we can do is to have faith that the Lord will
bring infinite good out of finite evil, and make everything better than
if the evil had not happened. That’s what our good Doctor is always
repeating; and we must try to rejoice, in view of the happiness of
the universe, without considering whether we or our friends are to be
included in it or not.’

‘Well, dear me!’ said Miss Prissy, ‘I hope, if that is necessary, it
will please the Lord to give it to me; for I don’t seem to find any
power in me to get up to it. But all’s for the best, at any rate,—and
that’s a comfort.’

Just at this moment Mary’s clear voice at the door announced that tea
was on the table.

‘Coming, this very minute,’ said Miss Prissy, bustling up and pulling
off her spectacles. Then, running across the room, she shut the door
mysteriously, and turned to Mrs. Scudder with the air of an impending
secret. Miss Prissy was subject to sudden impulses of confidence, in
which she was so very cautious that not the thickest oak-plank door
seemed secure enough, and her voice dropped to its lowest key. The most
important and critical words were entirely omitted, or supplied by a
knowing wink and a slight stamp of the foot.

In this mood she now approached Mrs. Scudder, and, holding up her hand
on the door side, to prevent consequences, if, after all, she should
be betrayed into a loud word, she said, ‘I thought I’d just say, Miss
Scudder, that, in case Mary should —— the Doctor,—in case, you know,
there should be a —— in the house, you _must_ just contrive it so as to
give me a month’s notice, so that I could give you a whole fortnight
to fix her up as such a good man’s —— ought to be. Now I know how
spiritually-minded our blessed Doctor is; but, bless you, Ma’am, he’s
got eyes. I tell you, Miss Scudder, these men, the best of ’em, _feel_
what’s what, though they don’t _know_ much. I saw the Doctor look at
Mary that night I dressed her for the wedding-party. I tell you he’d
like to have his wife look pretty well, and he’ll get up some blessed
text or other about it, just as he did that night about being brought
unto the king in raiment of needle-work. That is an encouraging thought
to us sewing-women.

‘But this thing was spoken of after the meeting. Miss Twitchel and
Miss Jones were talking about it; and they all say that there would be
the best setting-out got for her that was ever seen in Newport, if it
should happen. Why, there’s reason in it. She ought to have at least
two real good India silks that will stand alone,—and you’ll see she’ll
have ’em too; you let me alone for that; and I was thinking, as I lay
awake last night, of a new way of making up, that you will say is just
the sweetest that ever you did see. And Miss Jones was saying that she
hoped there wouldn’t anything happen without her knowing it, because
her husband’s sister in Philadelphia has sent her a new receipt for
cake, and she has tried it and it came out beautifully, and she says
she’ll send some in.’

All the time that this stream was flowing, Mrs. Scudder stood with the
properly reserved air of a discreet matron, who leaves all such matters
to Providence, and is not supposed unduly to anticipate the future;
and, in reply, she warmly pressed Miss Prissy’s hand, and remarked,
that no one could tell what a day might bring forth,—and other general
observations on the uncertainty of mortal prospects, which form a
becoming shield when people do not wish to say more exactly what they
are thinking of.



CHAPTER XXV.


NOTHING is more striking in the light and shadow of the human drama
than to compare the inner life and thoughts of an elevated and silent
nature, with the thoughts and plans which those by whom they are
surrounded have of and for them. Little thought Mary of any of the
speculations that busied the friendly head of Miss Prissy, or that
lay in the provident forecastings of her prudent mother. When a life
into which all our life nerves have run is cut suddenly away, there
follows, after the first long bleeding is healed, an internal paralysis
of certain portions of our nature. It was so with Mary: the thousand
fibres that bind youth and womanhood to earthly love and life were
all in her still as the grave, and only the spiritual and divine part
of her being was active. Her hopes, desires, and aspirations were all
such as she could have had in greater perfection, as a disembodied
spirit than as a mortal woman. The small stake for self which she
had invested in life was gone,—and henceforward all personal matters
were to her so indifferent that she scarce was conscious of a wish in
relation to her own individual happiness. She was through the sudden
crush of a great affliction in that state of self-abnegation to which
the mystics brought themselves by fastings and self-imposed penances,—a
state not purely healthy, nor realizing the divine ideal of a perfect
human being, made to exist in the relations of human life,—but one of
those exceptional conditions, which, like the hours that often precede
dissolution, seem to impart to the subject of them a peculiar aptitude
for delicate and refined spiritual impressions. We could not afford to
have it always night—and we must think that broad, gay morning light,
when meadow-lark and robin and bobolink are singing in chorus with
a thousand insects and the waving of a thousand breezes, is on the
whole the most in accordance with the average wants of those who have
a material life to live and material work to do. But then we reverence
that clear-obscure of midnight, when everything is still and dewy—then
sing the nightingales which cannot be heard by day—then shine the
mysterious stars. So when all earthly voices are hushed in the soul,
all earthly lights darkened, music and colour float in from a higher
sphere.

No veiled nun, with her shrouded forehead and downcast eyes, ever
moved about a convent with a spirit more utterly divided from the
world, than Mary moved about her daily employments. Her care about
the details of life seemed more than ever minute; she was always
anticipating her mother in every direction, and striving by a thousand
gentle preveniences, to spare her from fatigue and care; there was even
a tenderness about her ministrations, as if the daughter had changed
feelings and places with the mother.

The Doctor, too, felt a change in her manner towards him, which, always
considerate and kind, was now invested with a tender thoughtfulness,
and anxious solicitude to serve, which often brought tears to his eyes.
All the neighbours who had been in the habit of visiting at the house,
received from her almost daily, in one little form or another, some
proof of her thoughtful remembrance.

She seemed in particular to attach herself to Mrs. Marvyn; throwing her
cares around that fragile and wounded nature, as a generous vine will
sometimes embrace with tender leaves and flowers a dying tree.

But her heart seemed to have yearnings beyond even the circle of home
and friends. She longed for the sorrowful and the afflicted; she would
go down to the forgotten and the oppressed, and made herself the
companion of the Doctor’s secret walks and explorings among the poor
victims of the slave-ships, and entered with zeal as teacher among his
African catechumens.

Nothing but the limits of bodily strength could check her zeal to do
and suffer for others,—a river of love had suddenly been checked in
her heart, and it needed all these channels to drain off the waters
that otherwise must have drowned her in the suffocating agonies of
repression.

Sometimes, indeed, there would be a returning thrill of the old wound,
one of those overpowering moments when some turn in life brings back
anew a great anguish. She would find unexpectedly in a book a mark that
he had placed there, or a turn in conversation would bring back a tone
of his voice, or she would see on some thoughtless young head, curls
just like those which were swaying to and fro down among the wavering
seaweeds, and then her heart gave one great throb of pain, and turned
for relief to some immediate act of love to some living being. They who
saw her in one of these moments, felt a surging of her heart towards
them, a moisture of the eye, a sense of some inexpressible yearning,
and knew not from what pain that love was wrung, and what poor heart
was seeking to still its own throbbings in blessing them.

By what name shall we call this beautiful twilight, this night of
the soul, so starry with heavenly mysteries, _not_ happiness, but
blessedness? They who have it, walk among men as sorrowful, yet always
rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet
possessing all things.

The Doctor, as we have seen, had always that reverential spirit
towards women which accompanies a healthy and great nature; but in the
constant converse which he now held with a beautiful being, from whom
every particle of selfish feeling or mortal weakness seemed sublimed,
he appeared to yield his soul up to her leading, with a wondering
humility, as to some fair miraculous messenger of heaven. All questions
of internal experience, all delicate shadings of the spiritual history,
with which his pastoral communings in his flock made him conversant, he
brought to her to be resolved with the purest simplicity of trust.

‘She is one of the Lord’s rarities,’ he said one day to Mrs.
Scudder, ‘and I find it difficult to maintain the bonds of Christian
faithfulness in talking with her. It is a charm of the Lord’s hidden
ones that they know not their own beauty; and God forbid that I should
tempt a creature made so perfect by divine grace, to self-exultation,
or lay my hand, unadvisedly, as Uzzah did, upon the ark of God, by my
inconsiderate praises.’

‘Well, Doctor,’ said Miss Prissy, who sat in the corner sewing on the
dove-coloured silk, ‘I do wish you could come into one of our meetings
and hear those blessed prayers. I don’t think you nor anybody else ever
heard anything like ’em.’

‘I would, indeed, that I might with propriety enjoy the privilege,’
said the Doctor.

‘Well, I’ll tell you what’ said Miss Prissy, ‘next week they’re going
to meet here, and I’ll leave the door just ajar, and you can hear every
word, just by standing in the entry.’

‘Thank you, madam,’ said the Doctor, ‘it would certainly be a blessed
privilege, but I cannot persuade myself that such an act would be
consistent with Christian propriety.’

‘Ah, now do hear that good man,’ said Miss Prissy, after he had left
the room; ‘if he ha’n’t got the making of a real gentleman in him as
well as a real Christian, though I always did say, for my part, that
a real Christian will be a gentleman. But I don’t believe all the
temptations in the world could stir that blessed man one jot or grain
to do the least thing that he thinks is wrong or out of the way. Well,
I must say, I never saw such a good man; he is the only man I ever saw
good enough for our Mary.’

       *       *       *       *       *

Another spring came round, and brought its roses, and the apple-trees
blossomed for the third time since the commencement of our story; and
the robins had repaired the old nest, and began to lay their blue eggs
in it; and Mary still walked her calm course, as a sanctified priestess
of the great worship of sorrow. Many were the hearts now dependent on
her, the spiritual histories, the thread of which were held in her
loving hand,—many the souls burdened with sins, or oppressed with
sorrow, who found in her bosom at once confessional and sanctuary.

So many sought her prayers, that her hours of intercession were
full, and needed to be lengthened often to embrace all for whom she
would plead. United to the good Doctor by a constant friendship
and fellowship, she had gradually grown accustomed to the more and
more intimate manner in which he regarded her, which had risen
from a ‘simple dear child and dear Mary,’ to ‘dear friend,’ and at
last ‘dearest of all friends,’ which he frequently called her, and
encouraged by the calm, confiding sweetness of those still, blue eyes
and that gentle smile which came without one varying flutter of the
pulse or the rising of the slightest flush on the marble cheek.

One day a letter was brought in, post-marked ‘Philadelphia.’ It was
from Madame de Frontignac; it was in French, and ran as follows:—

    ‘MY DEAR LITTLE WHITE ROSE:—

    ‘I am longing to see you once more, and before long I shall
    be in Newport. Dear little Mary, I am sad, very sad; the
    days seem all of them too long; and every morning I look out
    of my window and wonder why I was born. I am not so happy
    as I used to be, when I cared for nothing but to sing and
    smooth my feathers like the birds. That is the best kind
    of life for us women; if we love anything better than our
    clothes, it is sure to bring us great sorrow. For all that,
    I can’t help thinking it is very noble and beautiful to
    love,—love is very beautiful, but very, very sad. My poor
    dear little white cat, I should like to hold you a little
    while to my heart,—it is so cold all the time, and aches
    so, I wish I were dead; but then I am not good enough to
    die. The Abbé says, we must offer up our sorrow to God, as
    a satisfaction for our sins. I have a good deal to offer,
    because my nature is strong and I can feel a great deal.
    But I am very selfish, dear little Mary, to think only of
    myself, when I know how you must suffer. Ah, but you knew
    he loved you truly, the poor dear boy, that is something.
    I pray daily for his soul; don’t think it wrong of me, you
    know it is our religion, we should all do our best for each
    other.

    ‘Remember me tenderly to Mrs. Marvyn. Poor mother! the
    bleeding heart of the Mother of God alone can understand
    such sorrows.

    ‘I am coming in a week or two, and then I have many things
    to say to _ma belle rose blanche_; till then I kiss her
    little hands.

                                  ‘VERGINIE DE FRONTIGNAC.’

One beautiful afternoon, not long after, a carriage stopped at the
cottage, and Madame de Frontignac alighted. Mary was spinning in
her garret boudoir, and Mrs. Scudder was at that moment at a little
distance from the house, sprinkling some linen, which was laid out to
bleach on the green turf of the clothes yard.

Madame de Frontignac sent away the carriage, and ran up the stairway,
pursuing the sound of Mary’s spinning wheel, mingled with her song; and
in a moment, throwing aside the curtain, she seized Mary in her arms,
and kissed her on either cheek, laughing and crying both at once.

‘I knew where I should find you, _ma blanche_; I heard the wheel of my
poor little princess, it’s a good while since we spun together, _mimi_.
Ah, Mary darling, little do we know what we spin; life is hard and
bitter, isn’t it? Ah, how white your cheeks are, poor child!’

Madame de Frontignac spoke with tears in her own eyes, passing her hand
caressingly over the fair cheeks.

‘And you have grown pale, too, dear Madame,’ said Mary, looking up, and
struck with the change in the once brilliant face.

‘Have I, _petite_? I don’t know why not. We women have secret places
where our life runs out. At home I wear _rouge_; that makes all right;
but I don’t put it on for you, Mary; you see me just as I am.’

Mary could not but notice the want of that brilliant colour and
roundness in the cheek, that made so glowing a picture; the eyes seemed
larger and tremulous with a pathetic depth, and around them those
bluish circles that speak of languor and pain; yet still, changed as
she was, Madame de Frontignac seemed only more strikingly interesting
and fascinating than ever. Still she had those thousand pretty
movements, those nameless graces of manner, those wavering shades of
expression, that irresistibly enchained the eye and the imagination;
true Frenchwoman as she was, always in one rainbow shimmer of fancy,
and feeling like one of those cloud-spotted April days, which give you
flowers and rain, sun and shadow, and snatches of bird-singing all at
once.

[Illustration: _Mary & Eugenie_

_Page 238._

Sampson, Low, Son & Co. Septr. 20th, 1859.]

‘I have sent away my carriage, Mary, and come to stay with you. You
want me, _n’est-ce pas_?’ she said, coaxingly, with her arms round
Mary’s neck; ‘if you don’t, _tant pis_; for I am the bad penny you
English speak of, you cannot get me off.’

‘I am sure, dear friend,’ said Mary, earnestly, ‘we don’t want to put
you off.’

‘I know it; you are true, you _mean_ what you say; you are all good
real gold, down to your hearts; that is why I love you; but you, my
poor Mary, your cheeks are very white; poor little heart, you suffer.’

‘No,’ said Mary; ‘I do not suffer now. Christ has given me the victory
over sorrow.’

There was something sadly sublime in the manner in which this was said,
and something so sacred in the expression of Mary’s face, that Madame
de Frontignac crossed herself, as she had been wont before a shrine;
and then said, ‘Sweet Mary, pray for me; I am not at peace; I cannot
get the victory over sorrow.’

‘What sorrow can you have?’ said Mary; ‘you, so beautiful, so rich, so
admired; whom everybody must love.’

‘That is what I came to tell you; I came to confess to you. But you
must sit down _there_,’ she said, placing Mary on a low seat in the
garret window, ‘and Verginie will sit here,’ she said, drawing a bundle
of uncarded wool towards her, and sitting down at Mary’s feet.

‘Dear Madame,’ said Mary, ‘let me get you a better seat.’

‘No, no, _mignonne_, this is best. I want to lay my head in your lap;’
and she took off her riding-hat with its streaming plume, and tossed it
carelessly from her, and laid her head down on Mary’s lap. ‘Now don’t
call me Madame any more. Do you know,’ she said, raising her head with
a sudden brightening of cheek and eye, ‘do you know that there are
two _me’s_ to this person?—one is Verginie, and the other is Madame
de Frontignac. Everybody in Philadelphia knows Madame de Frontignac;
she is very gay, very careless, very happy; she never has any serious
hours, or any sad thoughts; she wears powder and diamonds, and dances
all night, and never prays—that is Madame. But Verginie is quite
another thing. She is tired of all this; tired of the balls and the
dancing, and the diamonds, and the beaux; and she likes true people,
and would like to live very quiet with somebody that she loved. She is
very unhappy, and she prays too, sometimes, in a poor little way, like
the birds in your nest out there, who don’t know much, but chipper and
cry because they are hungry—this is your Verginie—Madame never comes
here; never call me Madame.’

‘Dear Verginie,’ said Mary, ‘how I love you!’

‘Do you, Mary—_bien sur_? you are my good angel. I felt a good impulse
from you when I first saw you, and have always been stronger to do
right when I got one of your pretty little letters. Oh, Mary, darling!
I have been very foolish and very miserable, and sometimes tempted to
be very, very bad. Oh, sometimes I thought I would not care for God or
anything else—it was very bad of me—but I was like a foolish little
fly, caught in a spider’s net before he knows it.’

Mary’s eyes questioned her companion with an expression of eager
sympathy, somewhat blended with curiosity.

‘I can’t make you understand me quite,’ said Madame de Frontignac,
‘unless I go back a good many years. You see, dear Mary, my dear angel
mamma died when I was very little, and I was sent to be educated at
the Sacré Cœur, in Paris. I was very happy and very good in those
days—the sisters loved me, and I loved them, and I used to be so pious,
and loved God dearly. When I took my first communion, Sister Agatha
prepared me. She was a true saint, and is in heaven now; and I remember
when I came to her, all dressed like a bride, with my white crown
and white veil, that she looked at me so sadly, and said she hoped I
would never love anybody better than God, and then I should be happy.
I didn’t think much of those words then, but oh, I have since, many
times. They used to tell me always that I had a husband who was away in
the army, and who would come to marry me when I was seventeen, and that
he would give me all sorts of beautiful things, and show me everything
I wanted to see in the world, and that I must love and honour him.

‘Well, I was married at last, and Monsieur de Frontignac is a good,
brave man, although he seemed to me very old and sober; but he was
always kind to me, and gave me nobody knows how many sets of jewelry,
and let me do everything I wanted to, and so I liked him very much; but
I thought there was no danger I should love him, or anybody else better
than God. I didn’t _love_ anybody in those days, I only liked people,
and some people more than others. All the men I saw professed to be
lovers, and I liked to lead them about and see what foolish things I
could make them do, because it pleased my vanity; but I laughed at the
very idea of love.

‘Well, Mary, when we came to Philadelphia I heard everybody speaking of
Colonel Burr—and what a fascinating man he was, and I thought it would
be a pretty thing to have him in my train—and so I did all I could to
charm him. I tried all my little arts—and if it is a sin for us women
to do such things, I am sure I have been punished for it. Mary, he was
stronger than I was. These men, they are not satisfied with having the
whole earth under their feet, and having all the strength and all the
glory, but they must even take away our poor little reign—it’s too bad.

‘I can’t tell you how it was. I didn’t know myself, but it seemed to
me that he took my very life away from me; and it was all done before
I knew it. He called himself my friend—my brother—he offered to teach
me English—he read with me, and by-and-by he controlled my whole life.
I that used to be so haughty, so proud—I that used to laugh to think
how independent I was of everybody. I was entirely under his control,
though I tried not to show it. I didn’t well know where I was, for he
talked friendship, and I talked friendship; he talked about sympathetic
natures that are made for each other, and I thought how beautiful it
all was; it was living in a new world. Monsieur de Frontignac was as
much charmed with him as I was; he often told me that he was his best
friend; that he was his hero—his model man; and I thought, oh Mary, you
would wonder to hear me say what I thought! I thought he was a Bayard,
a Sully, a Montmorenci; everything grand and noble and good. I loved
him with a religion. I would have died for him; I sometimes thought how
I might lay down my life to save his, like women I read of in history.
I did not know myself. I was astonished I could feel so; and I did
not dream that this could be wrong. How could I, when it made me feel
more religious than anything in my whole life? Everything in the world
seemed to grow sacred. I thought if men could be so good and admirable,
life was a holy thing, and not to be trifled with. But our good Abbé is
a faithful shepherd, and when I told him these things in confession, he
told me I was in great danger—danger of falling into mortal sin. Oh,
Mary! it was as if the earth opened under me. He told me, too, that
this noble man, this man so dear, was a heretic, and that if he died he
would go to dreadful pains. Oh, Mary! I dare not tell you half what he
told me; dreadful things that make me shiver when I think of them; and
then he said that I must offer myself a sacrifice for him; that if I
would put down all this love, and overcome it, that God would perhaps
accept it as a satisfaction, and bring him into the true church at last.

‘Then I began to try. Oh, Mary! we never know how we love till we
try to unlove; it seemed like taking my heart out of my breast, and
separating life from life. How can one do it? I wish any one would tell
me. The Abbé said I must do it by prayer; but it seemed to me prayer
only made me think the more of him.

‘But at last I had a great shock; everything broke up like a great,
grand, noble dream; and I waked out of it just as weak and wretched as
one feels when one has overslept. Oh, Mary! I found I was mistaken in
him—all, all, wholly!’

Madame de Frontignac laid her forehead on Mary’s knee, and her long
chestnut hair drooped down over her face.

‘He was going somewhere with my husband, to explore out in the regions
of the Ohio, where he had some splendid schemes of founding a state;
and I was all interest; and one day, as they were preparing, Monsieur
de Frontignac gave me a quantity of papers to read and arrange, and
among them was a part of a letter; I never could imagine how it got
there; it was to one of his confidential friends; I read it at first,
wondering what it meant, till I came to two or three sentences about
me.’ Madame de Frontignac paused a moment; and then said, rising with
sudden energy, ‘Mary, that man never loved me; he cannot love; he does
not know what love is; what I felt he cannot know; he cannot even
dream of it, because he never felt anything like it; such men never
know us women; we are as high as heaven above them; it is true enough
that my heart was wholly in his power, but why? Because I adored him
as something divine, incapable of dishonour, incapable of selfishness,
incapable of even a thought that was not perfectly noble and heroic. If
he had been all that, I would have been proud to have been even a poor
little flower that should exhale away, to give him an hour’s pleasure;
I would have offered my whole life to God as a sacrifice for such a
glorious soul; and all this time, what was he thinking of me?

‘He was _using_ my feelings to carry his plans; he was admiring me like
a picture; he was considering what he should do with me; and were it
not for his interests with my husband, _he_ would have tried his power
to make me sacrifice this world and the next to his pleasure. But he
does not know me. My mother was a Montmorenci, and I have the blood of
her house in my veins; we are princesses; we can give all; but he must
be a god that we give it for.’

Mary’s enchanted eye followed the beautiful narrator, as she enacted
before her this poetry and tragedy of real life, so much beyond what
dramatic art can ever furnish. Her eyes grew splendid in their depths
and brilliancy; sometimes they were full of tears, and sometimes they
flashed out like lightnings; her whole form seemed to be a plastic
vehicle which translated every emotion of her soul; and Mary sat and
looked at her with the intense absorption that one gives to the highest
and deepest in art or nature.

‘_Enfin—que faire?_’ she said at last, suddenly stopping, and drooping
in every limb. ‘Mary, I have lived on this dream so long—never thought
of anything else—now all is gone, and what shall I do? I think,’ she
added, pointing to the nest in the tree, ‘Mary, I see my life in many
things. My heart was once still and quiet, like the round little eggs
that were in your nest,—now it has broken out of its shell, and cries
with cold and hunger: I want my dream again,—I wish it all back,—or
that my heart could go back into its shell. If I only could drop this
year out of my life, and care for nothing, as I used to,—I have tried
to do that—I can’t—I cannot get back where I was before.’

‘_Would_ you do it, dear Verginie,’ said Mary; ‘would you if you could?’

‘It was very noble and sweet, all that,’ said Verginie; ‘it gave me
higher thoughts than ever I had before. I think my feelings were
beautiful,—but now they are like little birds that have no mother—they
kill me with their crying.’

‘Dear Verginie, there is a real friend in heaven, who is all you can
ask or think,—nobler, better, purer, who cannot change, and cannot die,
and who loved you and gave himself for you.’

‘You mean Jesus,’ said Verginie. ‘Ah, I know it; and I say the offices
to him daily, but my heart is very wild and starts away from my words.
I say, “My God, I give myself to you,”—and after all, I don’t give
myself, and I don’t feel comforted. Dear Mary, you must have suffered
too—for you loved really—I saw it,—when we feel a thing ourselves we
can see very quick the same in others,—and it was a dreadful blow to
come so all at once.’

‘Yes it was,’ said Mary; ‘I thought I must die; but Christ has given me
peace.’

These words were spoken with that long-breathed sigh with which we
always speak of peace,—a sigh that told of storms and sorrows past,—the
sighing of the wave that falls spent and broken on the shores of
eternal rest. There was a little pause in the conversation, and then
Verginie raised her head and spoke in a sprightlier tone.

‘Well, my little fairy cat,—my white doe,—I have come to you. Poor
Verginie wants something to hold to her heart; let me have you,’ she
said, throwing her arms round Mary.

‘Dear, dear Verginie, indeed you shall,’ said Mary; ‘I will love you
dearly, and pray for you. I always have prayed for you ever since the
first day I knew you.’

‘I knew it,—I felt your prayers in my heart. Mary, I have many thoughts
that I dare not tell to any one, lately,—but I cannot help feeling that
some are real Christians who are not in the true Church. You are as
true a saint as Saint Catharine; indeed, I always think of you when I
think of our dear lady; and yet they say there is no salvation out of
the Church.’

This was a new view of the subject to Mary, who had grown up with the
familiar idea that the Romish Church was Babylon and anti-Christ,
and who had during the conversation been revolving the same surmises
with regard to her friend. She turned her grave, blue eyes on Madame
de Frontignac, with a somewhat surprised look, which melted into a
half-smile. But the latter still went on with a puzzled air, as if
trying to talk herself out of some mental perplexity. ‘Now, Burr is a
heretic,—and more than that, he is an infidel,—he has no religion in
his heart, I saw that often,—it made me tremble for him. It ought to
have put me on my guard,—but you, dear Mary, you love Jesus as your
life. I think you love Him just as much as sister Agatha, who was a
saint. The Abbé says that there is nothing so dangerous as to begin to
use our reason in religion,—that if we once begin we never know where
it may carry us; but I can’t help using mine a very little. I must
think there are some saints that are not in the true Church.’

‘All are one who love Christ,’ said Mary; ‘we are one in Him.’

‘I should not dare to tell the Abbé,’ said Madame de Frontignac; and
Mary queried in her heart whether Dr. Hopkins would feel satisfied
that she could bring this wanderer to the fold of Christ, without
undertaking to batter down the walls of her creed; and yet, there they
were, the Catholic and the Puritan, each strong in her respective
faith, yet melting together in that embrace of love and sorrow, joined
in the great communion of suffering. Mary took up her Testament, and
read the fourteenth of John:—

‘Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in
me; in my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would
have told you; I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go to prepare
a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that
where I am there you may be also.’

Mary read on through the chapter, through the next wonderful prayer;
her face grew solemnly transparent, as of an angel; for her soul was
lifted from earth by the words, and walked with Christ far above all
things, over that starry pavement where each footstep is on a world.

The greatest moral effects are like those of music, not wrought out
by sharp-sided intellectual propositions, but melted in by a divine
fusion, by words that have mysterious indefinite fulness of meaning,
made living by sweet voices, which seem to be the out-throbbings of
angelic hearts; so one verse in the Bible read by a mother in some hour
of tender prayer has a significance deeper and higher than the most
elaborate of sermons, the most acute of arguments.

Verginie Frontignac sat as one divinely enchanted, while that sweet
voice read on; and when the silence fell between them she gave a long
sigh as we do when sweet music stops. They heard between them the soft
stir of summer leaves, the distant songs of birds, the breezy hum when
some afternoon wind shivered through many branches, and the silver sea
chimed in; Verginie rose at last, and kissed Mary on the forehead.
‘That is a beautiful book,’ she said, ‘and to read it all by one’s self
must be lovely; I cannot understand why it should be dangerous; it has
not injured you.

‘Sweet saint,’ she added, ‘let me stay with you; you shall read to me
every day; do you know I came here to get you to take me; I want you to
show me how to find peace where you do; will you let me be your sister?’

‘Yes, indeed,’ said Mary, with a cheek brighter than it had been for
many a day; her heart feeling a throb of more real human pleasure than
for long months.

‘Will you get your mamma to let me stay?’ said Verginie, with the
bashfulness of a child; ‘haven’t you a little place like yours, with
white curtains, and sanded floor, to give to poor little Verginie to
learn to be good in?’

‘Why, do you really want to stay here with us,’ said Mary, ‘in this
little house?’

‘Do I really?’ said Virginie, mimicking her voice with a start of
her old playfulness; ‘_don’t_ I really? Come now, _mimi_, coax the
good mamma for me, tell her I shall try to be very good. I shall help
you with the spinning; you know I spin beautifully,—and I shall make
butter, and milk the cow, and set the tables. Oh, I will be so useful,
you can’t spare me!’

‘I should love to have you dearly,’ said Mary, warmly; ‘but you would
soon be dull for want of society here.’

‘_Quelle idée! ma petite drole_,’ said the lady, who with the mobility
of her nation had already recovered some of the saucy mocking grace
that was habitual to her, as she began teasing Mary with a thousand
little childish motions. ‘Indeed, _mimi_, you must keep me hid up here,
or may be the wolf will find me and eat me up; who knows?’ Mary looked
at her with inquiring eyes.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, Mary,—I mean that when _he_ comes back to Philadelphia he
thinks he will find me there; he thought I should stay while my husband
was gone; and when he finds I am gone he may come to Newport; and I
never want to see him again without you; you must let me stay with you.’

‘Have you told him,’ said Mary, ‘what you think?’

‘I wrote to him, Mary, but oh, I can’t trust my heart! I want so much
to believe him; it kills me so to think evil of him that it will never
do for me to see him. If he looks at me with those eyes of his I am all
gone; I shall believe anything he tells me; he will draw me to him as a
great magnet draws a poor little grain of steel.’

‘But now you know his unworthiness, his baseness,’ said Mary, ‘I should
think it would break all his power.’

‘_Should_ you think so? Ah, Mary, we cannot unlove in a minute; love
is a great while dying. I do not worship him now as I did. I know what
he is. I know he is bad, and I am sorry for it. I would like to cover
it from all the world, even from you, Mary, since I see it makes you
dislike him; it hurts me to hear any one else blame him; but sometimes
I do so long to think I am mistaken, that I know if I should see him I
should catch at anything he might tell me, as a drowning man at straws;
I should shut my eyes and think after all that it was all my fault, and
ask a thousand pardons for all the evil he has done. No. Mary, you must
keep your blue eyes upon me, or I shall be gone.’

At this moment Mrs. Scudder’s voice was heard, calling Mary below.

‘Go down now, darling, and tell mamma; make a good little talk to
her, _ma reine_; ah, you are queen here; all do as you say, even the
good priest there; you have a little hand, but it leads all; so go,
_petite_.’

Mrs. Scudder was somewhat flurried and discomposed at the proposition;
there were the _pros_ and the _cons_ in her nature, such as we all have.

In the first place, Madame de Frontignac belonged to high society, and
that was _pro_; for Mrs. Scudder prayed daily against worldly vanities,
because she felt a little traitor in her heart that was ready to open
its door to them if not constantly talked down. In the second place,
Madame de Frontignac was French, there was a _con_; for Mrs. Scudder
had enough of her father John Bull in her heart to have a very wary
look-out on anything French. But then, in the third place, she was out
of health and unhappy, and there was a _pro_ again; for Mrs. Scudder
was as kind and motherly a soul as ever breathed. But then she was a
Catholic, _con_. But the Doctor and Mary might convert her, _pro_. And
then Mary wanted her, _pro_. And she was a pretty, bewitching, loveable
creature, _pro_. The _pros_ had it; and it was agreed that Madame de
Frontignac should be installed as proprietress of the spare chamber,
and she sat down to the tea-table that evening in the great kitchen.



CHAPTER XXVI.


THE domesticating of Madame de Frontignac as an inmate of the cottage,
added a new element of vivacity to that still and unvaried life.
One of the most beautiful traits of French nature is that fine gift
of appreciation, which seizes at once the picturesque side of every
condition of life, and finds in its own varied storehouse something to
assort with it. As compared with the Anglo-Saxon, the French appear to
be gifted with a _naïve_ childhood of nature, and to have the power
that children have of gilding every scene of life with some of their
own poetic fancies.

Madame de Frontignac was in raptures with the sanded floor of her
little room, which commanded, through the apple-boughs, a little morsel
of a sea-view. She could fancy it was a nymph’s cave, she said.

‘Yes, _ma_ Marie, I will play Calypso, and you shall play Telemachus,
and Dr. Hopkins shall be Mentor. Mentor was so very, very good, only a
little bit—_dull_,’ she said, pronouncing the last word with a wicked
accent, and lifting her hands with a whimsical gesture like a naughty
child who expects a correction.

Mary could not but laugh; and as she laughed more colour rose in her
waxen cheeks than for many days before.

Madame de Frontignac looked triumphant as a child who has made its
mother laugh, and went on laying things out of her trunk into her
drawers with a zeal that was quite amusing to see.

‘You see, _ma blanche_, I have left all _Madame’s_ clothes at
Philadelphia, and brought only those that belong to Verginie,—no
_tromperie_, no feathers, no gauzes, no diamonds, only white dresses
and my straw hat _en bergère_. I brought one string of pearls that was
my mother’s; but pearls, you know, belong to the sea-nymphs. I will
trim my hat with sea-weed and buttercups together, and we will go out
on the beach to-night and get some gold and silver shells to dress _ma
miroir_.’

‘Oh, I have ever so many now,’ said Mary, running into her room, and
coming back with a little bag. They both sat on the bed together,
and began pouring them out, Madame de Frontignac showering childish
exclamations of delight.

Suddenly Mary put her hand to her heart as if she had been struck with
something; and Madame de Frontignac heard her say, in a low voice of
sudden pain, ‘Oh, dear!’

‘What is it, mimi?’ she said, looking up quickly.

‘Nothing,’ said Mary, turning her head. Madame de Frontignac looked
down, and saw among the sea-treasures a necklace of Venetian shells
that she knew never grew on the shores of Newport. She held it up.

‘Ah, I see,’ she said. ‘He gave you this. Ah, _ma pauvrette_,’ she
said, clasping Mary in her arms, ‘thy sorrow meets thee everywhere. May
I be a comfort to thee, just a little one.’

‘Dear, dear friend,’ said Mary, weeping. ‘I know not how it is.
Sometimes I think this sorrow is all gone; but then, for a moment, it
comes back again. But I am at peace; it is all right, all right; I
would not have it otherwise. But oh, if he could have spoken one word
to me before! He gave me this,’ she added, ‘when he came home from his
first voyage to the Mediterranean. I did not know it was in this bag. I
had looked for it everywhere.’

‘Sister Agatha would have told you to make a rosary of it,’ said Madame
de Frontignac; ‘but you pray without a rosary. It is all one,’ she
added; ‘there will be a prayer for every shell, though you do not count
them. But come, _ma chère_, get your bonnet, and let us go out on the
beach.’

That evening, before retiring, Mrs. Scudder came into Mary’s room. Her
manner was grave and tender, her eyes had tears in them; and although
her usual habits were not caressing, she came to Mary and put her arms
around and kissed her. It was an unusual manner, and Mary’s gentle eyes
seemed to ask the reason of it.

‘My daughter,’ said her mother, ‘I have just had a long and very
interesting talk with our dear good friend, the Doctor; ah, Mary, very
few people know how good he is.’

‘True, mother,’ said Mary, warmly; ‘he is the best, the noblest, and
yet the humblest man in the world.’

‘You love him very much, do you not?’ said her mother.

‘Very dearly,’ said Mary.

‘Mary, he has asked me this evening if you would be willing to be his
wife.’

‘His _wife_, mother?’ said Mary in the tone of one confused with a new
and strange thought.

‘Yes, daughter; I have long seen that he was preparing to make you this
proposal.’

‘You have, mother?’

‘Yes, daughter; have you never thought of it?’

‘Never, mother.’

There was a long pause, Mary standing just as she had been interrupted
in her night toilette, with her long, light hair streaming down over
her white dress, and the comb held mechanically in her hand. She sat
down after a moment, and clasping both hands over her knees, fixed her
eyes intently on the floor; and there fell between the two a silence
so intense, that the tickings of the clock in the next room seemed to
knock upon the door. Mrs. Scudder sat with anxious eyes watching that
silent face, pale as sculptured marble.

‘Well, Mary,’ she said at last.

A deep sigh was the only answer. The violent throbbings of her heart
could be seen undulating the long hair as the moaning sea tosses the
rockweed.

‘My daughter!’ again said Mrs. Scudder.

Mary gave a great sigh, like that of a sleeper awakening from a dream,
and looking on her mother, said: ‘Do you suppose he really _loves_ me,
mother?’

‘Indeed he does, Mary, as much as man ever loved woman.’

‘Does he indeed?’ said Mary, relapsing into thoughtfulness.

‘And you love him, do you not?’ said her mother.

‘Oh yes, I love him!’

‘You love him better than any man in the world, don’t you?’

‘Oh, mother, mother! yes!’ said Mary, throwing herself passionately
forward, and bursting into sobs; ‘yes, there is no one else now that I
love better,—no one,—no one!’

‘My darling, my daughter!’ said Mrs. Scudder, coming and taking her in
her arms.

‘Oh, mother, mother!’ she said, sobbing distressfully, ‘let me cry,
just for a little,—oh, mother, mother, mother!’

What was there hidden under that despairing wail?—it was the parting of
the last strand of the cord of youthful hope.

Mrs. Scudder soothed and caressed her daughter, but maintained still in
her breast a tender pertinacity of purpose, such as mothers will, who
think they are conducting a child through some natural sorrow into a
happier state.

Mary was not one either to yield long to emotion of any kind. Her rigid
education had taught her to look upon all such outbursts as a species
of weakness, and she struggled for composure, and soon seemed entirely
calm.

‘If he really loves me, mother, it would give him great pain if I
refuse,’ said Mary, thoughtfully.

‘Certainly it would; and, Mary, you have allowed him to act as a very
near friend for a long time; and it is quite natural that he should
have hopes that you loved him.’

‘I do love him, mother,—better than anybody in the world except you. Do
you think that will do?’

‘Will do?’ said her mother; ‘I don’t understand you.’

‘Why, is that loving enough to marry? I shall love him more perhaps
after, shall I, mother?’

‘Certainly you will; every one does.’

‘I wish he did not want to marry me, mother,’ said Mary, after a pause.
‘I liked it a great deal better as we were before.’

‘All girls feel so, Mary, at first; it is very natural.’

‘Is that the way you felt about father, mother?’

Mrs. Scudder’s heart smote her when she thought of her own early
love,—that great love that asked no questions; that had no doubts, no
fears, no hesitations; nothing but one great, outsweeping impulse,
which swallowed her life in that of another. She was silent; and after
a moment, she said, ‘I was of a different disposition from you, Mary.
I was of a strong, wilful, positive nature. I either liked or disliked
with all my might; and besides, Mary, there never was a man like your
father.’

The matron uttered this first article in the great confession of
woman’s faith with the most unconscious simplicity.

‘Well, mother, I will do whatever is my duty. I want to be guided.
If I can make that good man happy, and help him to do some good in
the world,—After all, life is short, and the great thing is to do for
others.’

‘I am sure, Mary, if you could have heard how he spoke, you would be
sure you could make him happy. He had not spoken before, because he
felt so unworthy of such a blessing: he said I was to tell you that
he should love and honour you all the same, whether you could feel
to be his wife or not; but that nothing this side of heaven would be
so blessed a gift; that it would make up for every trial that could
possibly come upon him,—and you know, Mary, he has a great many
discouragements and trials;—people don’t appreciate him; his efforts to
do good are misunderstood, and misconstrued; they look down on him, and
despise him, and tell all sorts of evil things about him; and sometimes
he gets quite discouraged.’

‘Yes, mother, I will marry him,’ said Mary. ‘Yes, I will.’

‘My darling daughter,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘this has been the hope of my
life.’

‘Has it, mother?’ said Mary, with a faint smile; ‘I shall make you
happier then?’

‘Yes, dear, you will; and think what a prospect of usefulness opens
before you; you can take a position as his wife which will enable you
to do even more good than you do now; and you will have the happiness
of seeing every day how much you comfort the hearts and encourage the
hands of God’s dear people.’

‘Mother, I ought to be very glad I can do it,’ said Mary; ‘and I trust
I am. God orders all things for the best.’

‘Well, my child, sleep to-night, and to-morrow we will talk more about
it.’



CHAPTER XXVII.


MRS. SCUDDER kissed her daughter, and left her. After a moment’s
thought, Mary gathered the long silky folds of hair around her
head, and knotted them for the night. Then leaning forward on her
toilet-table, she folded her hands together, and stood regarding the
reflection of herself in the mirror.

Nothing is capable of more ghostly effect than such a silent, lonely
contemplation of that mysterious image of ourselves which seems to look
out of an infinite depth in the mirror, as if it were our own soul
beckoning to us visibly from unknown regions. Those eyes look into our
own with an expression sometimes vaguely sad and inquiring. The face
wears weird and tremulous lights and shadows; it asks us mysterious
questions, and troubles us with the suggestions of our relations to
some dim unknown. The sad, blue eyes that gazed into Mary’s had that
look of calm initiation, of melancholy comprehension, peculiar to eyes
made clairvoyant by ‘great and critical’ sorrow. They seemed to say to
her, ‘Fulfil thy mission; life is made for sacrifice; the flower must
fall before fruit can perfect itself.’ A vague shuddering of mystery
gave intensity to her reverie. It seemed as if those mirror depths
were another world; she heard the far-off dashing of sea-green waves;
she felt a yearning impulse towards that dear soul gone out into the
infinite unknown.

Her word just passed had in her eyes all the sacred force of the most
solemnly-attested vow; and she felt as if that vow had shut some before
open door between her and him; and she had a kind of shadowy sense of a
throbbing and yearning nature that seemed to call on her,—that seemed
surging towards her with an imperative, protesting force that shook her
heart to its depths.

Perhaps it is so, that souls once intimately related have ever after
this strange power of affecting each other,—a power that neither
absence nor death can annul. How else can we interpret these mysterious
hours, in which the power of departed love seems to overshadow us,
making our souls vital with such longings, with such wild throbbings,
with such unutterable sighings, that a little more might burst the
mortal band? Is it not deep calling unto deep? the free soul singing
outside the cage to her mate, beating against the bars within?

Mary even for a moment fancied that a voice called her name, and
started, shivering. Then the habits of her positive and sensible
education returned at once, and she came out of her reverie as one
breaks from a dream, and lifted all these sad thoughts with one heavy
sigh from her breast; and opening her Bible, she read: ‘They that
trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion that cannot be moved. As the
mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is about His people
from this time henceforth and for evermore.’

Then she kneeled by her bedside, and offered her whole life a sacrifice
to the loving God who had offered His life a sacrifice for her. She
prayed for grace to be true to her promise—to be faithful to the new
relation she had accepted. She prayed that all vain regrets for the
past might be taken away, and that her soul might vibrate without
discord in unison with the will of Eternal Love. So praying, she
rose calm, and with that clearness of spirit which follows an act of
uttermost self-sacrifice; and so calmly she lay down and slept, with
her two hands crossed upon her breast, her head slightly turned on
the pillow, her cheek pale as marble, and her long dark lashes lying
drooping, with a sweet expression, as if under that mystic veil of
sleep the soul were seeing things forbidden to the waking eye. Only
the gentlest heaving of the quiet breast told that the heavenly spirit
within had not gone where it was hourly aspiring to go.

Meanwhile Mrs. Scudder had left Mary’s room, and entered the Doctor’s
study, holding a candle in her hand. The good man was sitting alone
in the dark, with his head bowed upon his Bible. When Mrs. Scudder
entered, he rose and regarded her wistfully, but did not speak. He had
something just then in his heart for which he had no words; so he only
looked as a man does who hopes and fears for the answer of a decided
question.

Mrs. Scudder felt some of the natural reserve which becomes a matron
coming charged with a gift in which lies the whole sacredness of
her own existence, and which she puts from her hands with a jealous
reverence.

She therefore measured the man with her woman’s and mother’s eye, and
said, with a little stateliness,—

‘My dear sir, I come to tell you the result of my conversation with
Mary.’

She made a little pause, and the Doctor stood before her as humbly
as if he had not weighed and measured the universe; because he knew
that though he might weigh the mountains in scales, and the hills in a
balance, yet it was a far subtler power which must possess him of one
small woman’s heart. In fact, he felt to himself like a great awkward,
clumsy, mountainous earthite asking of a white-robed angel to help him
up a ladder of cloud. He was perfectly sure for the moment that he was
going to be refused, and he looked humbly firm—he would take it like
a man. His large blue eyes, generally so misty in their calm, had a
resolute clearness, rather mournful than otherwise. Of course no such
celestial experience was going to happen to him.

He cleared his throat and said,—

‘Well, Madam?’

Mrs. Scudder’s womanly dignity was appeased; she reached out her hand
cheerfully, and said,—

‘_She has accepted._’

The Doctor drew his hand suddenly away, turned quickly round, and
walked to the window, although, as it was ten o’clock at night and
quite dark, there was evidently nothing to be seen there. He stood
there quietly, swallowing very hard, and raising his handkerchief
several times to his eyes. There was enough went on under the black
coat just then to make quite a little figure in a romance if it had
been uttered; but he belonged to a class who _lived_ romance, but never
spoke it. In a few moments he returned to Mrs. Scudder and said,—

‘I trust, dear madam, that this very dear friend may never have reason
to think me ungrateful for her wonderful goodness; and whatever sins
my evil heart may lead me into, I _hope_ I may never fall so low as to
forget the undeserved mercy of this hour. If ever I shrink from duty
or murmur at trials, while so sweet a friend is mine, I shall be vile
indeed.’

The Doctor, in general, viewed himself on the discouraging side, and
had berated and snubbed himself all his life as a most flagitious
and evil-disposed individual—a person to be narrowly watched, and
capable of breaking at any moment into the most flagrant iniquity; and
therefore it was that he received his good fortune in so different a
spirit from many of the Lords of Creation in similar circumstances.

‘I am sensible,’ he added, ‘that a poor minister, without much power
of eloquence, and commissioned of the Lord to speak unpopular truths,
and whose worldly condition, in consequence, is never likely to be very
prosperous, that such a one could scarcely be deemed a suitable partner
for so very beautiful a young woman, who might expect proposals, in a
temporal point of view, of a much more advantageous nature; and I am
therefore the more struck and overpowered with this blessed result.’

These last words caught in the Doctor’s throat, as if he were
overpowered in very deed.

‘In regard to _her_ happiness,’ said the Doctor, with a touch of awe
in his voice, ‘I would not have presumed to become the guardian of it,
were it not that I am persuaded it is assured by a Higher Power; for
when He giveth peace, who then can make trouble? (Job xxxv. 29.) But I
trust I may say no effort on my part shall be wanting to secure it.’

Mrs. Scudder was a mother, and come to that spot in life where mothers
always feel tears rising behind their smiles. She pressed the Doctor’s
hand, silently, and they parted for the night.

We know not how we can acquit ourselves to our friends of the great
world for the details of such an unfashionable courtship, so well as by
giving them, before they retire for the night, a dip into a more modish
view of things.

The Doctor was evidently green; green in his faith, green in his
simplicity, green in his general belief of the divine in woman, green
in his particular, humble faith in one small Puritan maiden, whom a
knowing fellow might at least have manœuvred so skilfully as to break
up her saintly superiority, discompose her, rout her ideas, and lead
her up and down a swamp of hopes and fears and conjectures, till she
was wholly bewildered and ready to take him at last—if he made up his
mind to have her at all—as a great bargain for which she was to be
sensibly grateful.

Yes, the Doctor was green, _immortally_ green, as a cedar of Lebanon
which, waving its broad archangel wings over some fast-rooted eternal
old solitude, and seeing from its sublime height the vastness of the
universe, veils its kingly head with humility before God’s infinite
majesty.

He has gone to bed now, simple old soul, first apologizing to Mrs.
Scudder for having kept her up to so dissipated and unparalleled an
hour as ten o’clock on his personal matters.

Meanwhile our Asmodeus will transport us to an easily furnished
apartment in one of the most fashionable hotels of Philadelphia, where
Col. Aaron Burr, just returned from his trip to the then aboriginal
wilds of Ohio, is seated before a table covered with maps, letters,
books, and papers. His keen eye runs over the addresses of the letters,
and he eagerly seizes one from Madame de Frontignac, and reads it;
and as no one but ourselves is looking at him now his face has no
need to wear its habitual mask. First comes an expression of profound
astonishment; then of chagrin and mortification; then of deepening
concern; there were stops where the dark eyelashes flashed together
as if to brush a tear out of the view of the keen-sighted eyes; and
then a red flush rose even to his forehead, and his delicate lips wore
a sarcastic smile. He laid down the letter and made one or two turns
through the room.

The man had felt the dashing against his own of a strong, generous,
indignant woman’s heart fully awakened, and speaking with that
impassioned vigour with which a French regiment charges in battle.
There were those picturesque, winged words, those condensed
expressions, those subtle piercings of meaning, and above all, that
simple pathos for which the French tongue has no superior; and for
the moment the woman had the victory; she shook his heart. But Burr
resembled the marvel with which chemists amuse themselves. His heart
was a vase filled with boiling passions, while his _will_, a still,
cold, unmelted lump of ice, lay at the bottom.

Self-denial is not peculiar to Christians. They who go downward often
put forth as much force to kill a noble nature as another does to
annihilate a sinful one. There was something in this letter so keen, so
searching, so self-revealing, that it brought on one of those interior
crises in which a man is convulsed with the struggle of two natures—the
godlike and the demoniac, and from which he must pass out more wholly
to the dominion of the one or the other.

Nobody knew the true better than Burr. He _knew_ the god-like and the
pure, he had _felt_ its beauty and its force to the very depths of his
being, as the demoniac knew at once the fair man of Nazareth; and even
now he felt the voice within that said, ‘What have I to do with thee?’
and the rending of a struggle of heavenly life with fast-coming eternal
death.

That letter had told him what he might be, and what he was. It was as
if his dead mother’s hand had held up before him a glass in which he
saw himself, white robed and crowned, and so dazzling in purity that he
loathed his present self.

As he walked up and down the room perturbed, he sometimes wiped tears
from his eyes, and then set his teeth, and compressed his lips. At last
his face grew calm and settled in its expression, his mouth wore a
sardonic smile; he came and took the letter, and folding it leisurely,
laid it on the table, and put a heavy paper weight over it, as if to
hold it down and bury it. Then drawing to himself some maps of new
territories, he set himself vigorously to some columns of arithmetical
calculations on the margin; and thus he worked for an hour or two till
his mind was as dry, and his pulse as calm as a machine; then he drew
the inkstand towards him, and scribbled hastily the following letter
to his most confidential associate—a letter which told no more of the
conflict that preceded it, than do the dry sands and civil gossip of
the sea-waves to-day of the storm and wreck of last week.

    ‘Dear——. _Nous voilà_ once more in Philadelphia. Our schemes
    in Ohio prosper. Frontignac remains there to superintend.
    He answers our purpose _passablement_. On the whole I don’t
    see as we could do better than retain him; he is, beside, a
    gentlemanly, agreeable person, and wholly devoted to me—a
    point certainly not to be overlooked.

    ‘As to your railleries about the fair Madame, I must say, in
    justice both to her and myself, that any grace with which
    she has been pleased to honour me is not to be misconstrued.
    You are not to imagine any but the most Platonic of
    “_liaisons_.” She is as high strung as an Arabian steed;
    proud,—heroic, romantic, and _French_! and such must be
    permitted to take their own time and way, which we in our
    _gaucherie_ can only humbly wonder at. I have ever professed
    myself her abject slave, ready to follow any whim, and
    obeying the slightest signal of the jewelled hand. As that
    is her sacred pleasure, I have been inhabiting the most
    abstract realms of heroic sentiment, living on the most
    diluted moonshine, and spinning out elaborately all those
    charming and seraphic distinctions between tweedle-dum and
    tweedle-dee with which these ecstatic creatures delight
    themselves in certain stages of “_affaires du cœur_.”

    ‘The last development on the part of my goddess is a fit
    of celestial anger, of the cause of which I am in the most
    innocent ignorance. She writes me three pages of French
    sublimities, writing as only a French woman can, bids me an
    eternal adieu, and informs me she is going to Newport.

    ‘Of course the affair becomes stimulating. I am not to
    presume to dispute her sentence, or doubt a lady’s perfect
    sincerity in wishing never to see me again; but yet I think
    I shall try to pacify the

                   “tantas in animis celestibus iras.”

    If a woman hates you it is only her love turned wrong side
    out, and you may turn it back with due care. The pretty
    creatures know how becoming a _grande_ passion is, and take
    care to keep themselves in mind; a quarrel serves their turn
    when all else fails.

    ‘To another point. I wish you to advertise S——, that
    his insinuations in regard to me, in the Aurora, have
    been observed, and that I require that they be promptly
    retracted. He knows me well enough to attend to this hint.
    I am in earnest when I speak; if the word does nothing, the
    blow will come, and if I strike once no second blow will be
    needed; yet I do not wish to get him on my hands needlessly;
    a duel and a love affair and hot weather, coming on
    together, might prove too much even for me. N.B. Thermometer
    stands at 85. I am resolved on Newport next week.

                                         ‘Yours ever,
                                                   ‘BURR.

    ‘P.S. I forgot to say that, oddly enough, my goddess has
    gone and placed herself under the wing of the pretty
    Puritan I saw in Newport. Fancy the _melange_; could
    anything be more piquant?—that cart-load of goodness, the
    old Doctor,—that sweet little saint and Madame Faubourg
    St. Germain shaken up together!—fancy her listening with
    well-bred astonishment to a critique on the doings of the
    unregenerate, or flirting that little jewelled fan of hers
    in Mrs. Scudder’s square pew of a Sunday. Probably they will
    carry her to the weekly prayer-meeting, which of course
    she will find some fine French subtlety for admiring, and
    “_trouve ravissante_.” I fancy I see it.’

When Burr had finished this letter, he had actually written himself
into a sort of persuasion of its truth. When a finely-constituted
nature wishes to go into baseness, it has first to bribe itself. Evil
is never embraced undisguised as evil, but under some fiction which
the mind accepts, and with which it has the singular power of blinding
itself in the face of daylight. The power of imposing on one’s self is
an essential preliminary to imposing on others. The man first argues
himself down, and then he is ready to put the whole weight of his
nature to deceiving others. This letter ran so smoothly, so plausibly,
that it produced on the writer of it the effect of a work of fiction,
which we _know_ to be unreal, but _feel_ to be true. Long habits of
this kind of self-delusion in time produce a paralysis in the vital
nerves of truth, so that one becomes habitually unable to see things in
their verity, and realizes the awful words of scripture, ‘He feedeth
on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, so that he cannot
deliver his soul, nor say, is there not a lie in my right hand?’



CHAPTER XXVIII.


BETWEEN three and four the next morning, the robin in the nest above
Mary’s room stretched out his left wing, opened one eye, and gave a
short and rather drowsy chirp, which broke up his night’s rest and
restored him to the full consciousness that he was a bird with wings
and feathers—a large apple-tree to live in, and all heaven for an
estate—and so, on these fortunate premises, he broke into a gush
of singing, clear and loud, which Mary without waking heard in her
slumbers.

Scarcely conscious, she lay in that dim clairvoyant state, when the
half-sleep of the outward senses permits a delicious dewy clearness
of the soul; that perfect ethereal rest and freshness of faculties,
comparable only to what we imagine of the spiritual state. Season
of celestial enchantment, in which the heavy weight ‘of all this
unintelligible world’ drops off, and the soul, divinely charmed,
nestles like a wind-tossed bird in the protecting bosom of the One
all Perfect, all Beautiful. What visions then come to the inner eye
have often no words corresponding in mortal vocabularies. The poet,
the artist, and the prophet in such hours become possessed of divine
_certainties_, which all their lives they struggle, with pencil or
song, or burning words, to make evident to their fellows. The world
around wonders, but _they_ are unsatisfied, because they have _seen the
glory_ and know how inadequate the copy. But not merely to selectest
spirits come these hours, but to those (humble poets) ungifted with
utterance, who are among men as fountains sealed; whose song can be
wrought out only by the harmony of deeds; the patient, pathetic
melodies of tender endurance, or the heroic chant of undiscouraged
labour. The poor slave woman last night parted from her only boy,
and weary with the cotton-picking; the captive pining in his cell;
the patient wife of the drunkard, saddened by a consciousness of the
growing vileness of one once so dear; the delicate spirit doomed
to harsh and uncongenial surroundings;—all in such hours feel the
soothings of a celestial harmony, the tenderness of more than a
mother’s love. It is by such hours as these often, more than by
reasonings or disputings, that doubts are resolved in the region of
religious faith. The All-Father treats us as the mother does her
‘infant crying in the dark;’ He does not reason with our fears, or
demonstrate their fallacy, but draws us silently to His bosom, and we
are at peace. Nay, there have been those undoubtedly who have known
God falsely with the intellect, yet felt Him truly with the heart; and
there may be many, principally among the unlettered little ones of
Christ’s flock, who positively _know_ that much that is dogmatically
propounded to them of their Redeemer is cold, barren, unsatisfying, and
even utterly false, who yet can give no account of their certainties
better than that of the inspired fisherman, ‘We know Him, and have seen
Him.’

It was in such hours as these that Mary’s deadly fears for the soul of
her beloved had passed away, passed out of her, as if some warm healing
nature of tenderest vitality had drawn out of her heart all pain and
coldness, and warmed it with the breath of an eternal summer. So, while
the purple shadows spread their gauzy veils inwove with fire along
the sky, and the gloom of the sea broke out here and there into lines
of light, and thousands of birds were answering to each other from
apple-tree, and meadow-grass, and top of jagged rock, or trooping in
bands hither and thither like angels on loving messages, Mary lay there
with the flickering light through the leaves fluttering over her face,
and the glow of dawn warming the snow-white draperies of the bed, and
giving a tender rose hue to the calm cheek. She lay half conscious,
smiling the while, as one who sleeps while the heart waketh, and who
hears in dreams the voice of the One Eternally Beautiful and Beloved.

Mrs. Scudder entered her room, and thinking that she still slept, stood
and looked down upon her. She felt as one does who has parted with
some precious possession, a sudden sense of its value coming over her;
and she queried in herself whether any living mortal were worthy of so
perfect a gift; and nothing but a remembrance of the Doctor’s prostrate
humility at all reconciled her to the sacrifice she was making.

‘Mary, dear,’ she said, bending over her with an unusual infusion of
emotion in her voice; ‘darling child.’

The arms moved instinctively, even before the eyes unclosed, and drew
her mother down to her with a warm clinging embrace.

Love in Puritan families was often like latent caloric,—an
all-pervading force that affected no visible thermometer, shown
chiefly by a noble, silent confidence, a ready helpfulness, but seldom
out-breathed in caresses,—yet natures like Mary’s always craved these
outward demonstrations, and sprang towards them as a trailing vine
sways to the nearest support. It was delightful for once fully to
_feel_ how much her mother loved her, as well as to _know_ it.

‘Dear, precious mother, do you love me so very much?’

‘I live and breathe in you, Mary,’ said Mrs. Scudder, giving vent to
herself in one of those trenchant short-hand expressions, wherein
positive natures incline to résumé _all_ when they must speak at all.

Mary held her mother silently to her breast, her heart shining through
her face with a quiet radiance of love.

‘Do you feel happy this morning?’ said Mrs. Scudder.

‘Very, very, _very_ happy, mother.’

‘I am so glad to hear you say so,’ said Mrs. Scudder, who, to say the
truth, had entertained many doubts at her pillow the night before.

Mary began dressing herself in a state of calm exaltation. Every
trembling leaf on the tree, every sunbeam was like a loving smile of
God, every fluttering breeze like His voice, full of encouragement and
hope.

‘Mother, did you tell the Doctor what I said last night?’

‘I did, my darling.’

‘Then, mother, I would like to see him a few moments alone.’

‘Well, Mary, he is in his study at his morning devotions.’

‘That is just the time. I will go to him.’

The Doctor was sitting by the window, and the honest-hearted motherly
lilacs, a-bloom for the third time since our story began, were filling
the air with their sweetness. Suddenly the door opened, and Mary
entered in her simple white short-gown and skirt, her eyes calmly
radiant, and her whole manner having something serious and celestial.
She came directly towards him, and put out both her little hands with a
smile half child-like, half angelic, and the Doctor bowed his head, and
covered his face with his hands.

‘Dear friend,’ said Mary, kneeling, and taking his hands, ‘if you want
me, I am come. Life is but a moment. There is an eternal blessedness
just beyond us, and for the little time between, I will be all I can to
you if you will only show me how.’

And the Doctor—— No, young man, the study door closed just then, and no
one heard those words from a quaint old oriental book which told that
all the poetry of that grand old soul had burst into flower, as the
aloe blossoms once in a hundred years. The ripples of that great heart
might have fallen unconsciously into phrases from that one love poem
of the Bible which these men read so purely and devoutly, and which
warmed the icy clearness of their intellects with the myrrh and spices
of ardent lands, where earthly and heavenly love meet and blend in one
indistinguishable horizon line, like sea and sky.

‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon? clear
as the sun? My dove, my undefiled, is but one. She is the only one of
her mother—thou art all fair, my beloved, there is no spot in thee.’

The Doctor might have said all this, we will not say he did, nor will
we say he did not; all we know is, that when the breakfast-table was
ready they came out cheerfully together. Madame de Frontignac stood in
a fresh white wrapper, with a few buttercups in her hair, waiting for
the breakfast. She was startled to see the Doctor entering all radiant,
leading in Mary by the hand, and looking as if he thought she were some
dream-miracle which might dissolve under his eyes unless he kept fast
hold of her. The keen eyes shot their arrowy glance, which went at
once to the heart of the matter. Madame de Frontignac knew they were
engaged, and regarded Mary with attention.

The calm, sweet, elevated expression of her face struck her; it struck
her also that _that_ was not the light of any earthly love, that it had
no thrill, no blush, no tremor, but only the calmness of a soul that
knows itself no more, and she sighed involuntarily.

She looked at the Doctor, and seemed to study attentively a face which
happiness had made this morning as genial and attractive as it was
generally strong and fine.

There was little said at the breakfast-table this morning; and yet the
loud singing of the birds, the brightness of the sunshine, the life and
vigour of all things, seemed to make up for the silence of those who
were too well pleased to speak.

‘_Eh bien, ma chère_,’ said Madame, after breakfast, drawing Mary into
her little room. ‘_C’est fini?_’

‘Yes,’ said Mary, cheerfully.

‘Thou art content,’ said Madame, passing her arm around her; ‘well
then, I should be: but, Mary, it is like a marriage with the altar,
like taking the veil, is it not?’

‘No,’ said Mary, ‘it is not taking the veil, it is beginning a
cheerful, reasonable life with a kind, noble friend who will always
love me truly, and whom I hope to make as happy as he deserves.’

‘I think well of him, my little cat,’ said Madame, reflectively;
‘but—,’ she stopped something she was going to say, and kissed Mary’s
forehead; after a moment’s pause, she added,

‘One must have love or refuge, Mary; this is thy refuge, child; thou
wilt have peace in it;’ she sighed again.

‘_Enfin_,’ she said, resuming her gay tone, ‘what shall be _la toilette
de noce_? Thou shalt have Verginie’s pearls, my fair one, and look like
a sea-born Venus; _tiens!_ let me try them in thy hair.’

And in a few moments she had Mary’s long hair down, and was chattering
like a blackbird, wreathing the pearls in and out, and saying a
thousand pretty nothings, weaving grace and poetry into the strait
thread of Puritan life.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE QUILTING.


THE announcement of the definite engagement of two such bright
particular stars in the hemisphere of the Doctor’s small parish excited
the interest that such events usually create among the faithful of the
flock.

There was a general rustle and flutter, as when a covey of wild pigeons
has been started, and all the little elves who rejoice in the name of
‘says he,’ and ‘says I,’ and ‘do tell,’ and ‘have you heard,’ were
speedily flying through the consecrated air of the parish.

The fact was discussed by matrons and maidens at the spinning-wheel and
in the green clothes-yard, or at the foaming wash-tub, out of which
arose a new birth of weekly freshness and beauty. Many a rustic Venus
of the foam, as she splashed her dimpled elbows in the rainbow-tinted
froth, talked what should be done for the forthcoming solemnities, and
wondered what Mary would have on when she was married, and whether
she (the Venus) should get an invitation to the wedding, and whether
‘Ethan’ would go—not that she cared in the least whether he did or not.

Grave elderly matrons talked about the ‘prosperity of Zion,’ which
they imagined intimately connected with the event of their minister’s
marriage; and descending from ‘Zion,’ speculated on bed-quilts and
table-cloths, and rummaged their own clean, sweet-smelling stores,
fragrant with balm and rose-leaves, to lay out a bureau cover, or a
pair of sheets, or a dozen napkins for the wedding outfit.

The solemnest of solemn quiltings was resolved upon.

Miss Prissy declared that she fairly couldn’t sleep nights with the
responsibility of the wedding-dresses in her mind; but yet she ‘must
give one day to getting on that quilt.’ The _grande monde_ also was
in motion. Mrs. General Wilcox called in her own particular carriage,
bearing the present of a cashmere shawl for the bride, with the
General’s best compliments, and also an oak-leaf pattern for quilting,
which had been sent her from England, and which was authentically
established to be that used on a petticoat belonging to the Princess
Royal; and Mrs. Major Seaforth came also, bearing a scarf of worked
Indian muslin; and Mrs. Vernon sent a splendid Indian china punch-bowl.
Indeed, to say the truth, the notables high and mighty of Newport, whom
the Doctor had so unceremoniously accused of building their houses with
blood, and establishing their city with iniquity, considering that
nobody seemed to take his words to heart, and that they were making
money as fast as old Tyre, rather assumed the magnanimous, and patted
themselves on the shoulder for this opportunity to show the Doctor
that, after all, they were good fellows, and bore him no malice, though
they did make money at the expense of thirty per cent. human life.

Simeon Brown was the only exception: he stood aloof, grim and
sarcastic, and informed some good, middle-aged ladies who came to see
if he would, as they phrased it, ‘esteem it a privilege’ to add his
mite to the Doctor’s outfit, that he would give him a likely negro boy
if he wanted, and if he was too conscientious to keep him, he might
sell him at a fair profit; a happy stroke of humour, which he was fond
of relating many years after.

The quilting was in these days considered as the most solemn and
important recognition of a betrothal; and for the benefit of those not
to the manner born, a little preliminary instruction may be necessary.

The good wives of New England, impressed with that thrifty orthodoxy of
economy which forbids to waste the merest trifle, had a habit of saving
every scrap and fragment clipped out in the fashioning of household
garments; and these they cut into fanciful patterns, and constructed
of them rainbow shapes and quaint traceries, the arrangement of
which became one of their few fine arts. Many a maiden, as she sorted
and arranged fluttering bits of green, yellow, red, and blue, felt
rising in her breast a passion for somewhat vague and unknown, which
came out at length in a new pattern of patchwork; and collections of
these tiny fragments were always ready to fill an hour when there was
nothing else to do; and as the maiden chatted with her beaux, her busy,
flying needle stitched together the pretty morsels, which, little in
themselves, were destined by gradual unions and accretions to bring
about at last substantial beauty, warmth, and comfort; emblems thus
of that household life which is to be brought to stability and beauty
by reverent economy in husbanding, and tact in arranging the little,
useful, and agreeable morsels of daily existence.

When a wedding was forthcoming, then there was a solemn review of the
stores of beauty and utility thus provided, and the patchwork-spread
best worthy of such distinction was chosen for the quilting.

Thereto, duly summoned, trooped all intimate female friends of the
bride, and the quilt being spread on a frame, and wadded with cotton,
each vied with the other in the delicacy of the quilting they could
put upon it; for quilting also was a fine art, and had its delicacies
and nice points, concerning which, grave, elderly matrons discussed
with judicious care. The quilting generally began at an early hour
in the afternoon, and ended at dusk with a great supper and general
jubilee, in which that ignorant and incapable sex who could not quilt
were allowed to appear, and put in claims for consideration of another
nature. It may perhaps be surmised that this expected reinforcement
was often alluded to by the younger maidens, whose wickedly coquettish
toilettes exhibited suspicious marks of that willingness to get
a chance to say ‘No,’ which has been slanderously attributed to
mischievous maidens.

In consequence of the tremendous responsibilities involved in this
quilting, the reader will not be surprised to learn that the evening
before Miss Prissy made her appearance at the brown cottage, armed with
thimble, scissors, and pincushion, in order to relieve her mind by a
little preliminary confabulation.

‘You see me, Miss Scudder, run almost to death,’ she said; ‘but I
thought I would just run up to Mrs. Major Seaforth’s and see her best
bedroom quilt, ’cause I wanted to have all the ideas we possibly could
before I decided on the pattern. Hers is in shells—just common shells;
nothing to be compared with Miss Wilcox’s oak-leaves; and I suppose
there isn’t the least doubt that Miss Wilcox’s sister in London did
get that from a lady who had a cousin who was governess in the royal
family, and I just quilted a little bit to-day on an old piece of silk,
and it comes out beautiful, and so I thought I would just come and ask
you if you did not think it was best for us to have the oak-leaves.’

‘Well, certainly, Miss Prissy, if you think so,’ said Mrs. Scudder, who
was as pliant to the opinions of this wise woman of the parish as New
England matrons generally are to a reigning dressmaker and factotum.

Miss Prissy had the happy consciousness always that her early advent
under any roof was considered a matter of special grace, and therefore
it was with rather a patronizing tone that she announced that she would
stay and spend the night with them.

‘I knew,’ she added, ‘that your spare chamber was full with that Madame
de What-you-call-her (if I was to die I could not remember the woman’s
name). Well, I thought I could just crawl in with you, Mary, most
anywhere.’

‘That’s right, Miss Prissy,’ said Mary, ‘you shall be welcome to half
my bed any time.’

‘Well, I knew you would say so, Mary; I never saw the thing you would
not give away half of since you was that high,’ said Miss Prissy,
illustrating her words by placing her hand about two feet from the
floor.

Just at this moment Madame de Frontignac entered and asked Mary to come
into her room, and give her advice as to a piece of embroidery. When
she was gone out, Miss Prissy looked after her, and sank her voice once
more to the confidential whisper which we before described.

‘I have heard strange stories about that French woman,’ she said; ‘but
as she was here with you and Mary, I suppose there cannot be any truth
in them. Dear me! the world is so censorious about women! But then, you
know, we don’t expect much from French women. I suppose she is a Roman
Catholic, and worships pictures and stone images; but then, after all,
she has got an immortal soul, and I can’t help hoping Mary’s influence
may be blest to her. They say when she speaks French she swears every
few minutes; but if that is the way she was brought up, maybe she isn’t
accountable. I think we can’t be too charitable for people that a’n’t
privileged as we are. Miss Vernon’s Polly told me she has seen her sew
Sabbath day. She came into her room of a sudden, and she was working on
her embroidery there, and she never winked, nor blushed, nor offered to
put it away, but sat there just as easy! Polly said she never was so
beat in all her life; she felt kind o’ scared every time she thought of
it. But now she has come here, who knows but she may be converted?’

‘Mary has not said much about her state of mind,’ said Mrs. Scudder;
‘but something of deep interest has passed between them. Mary is such
an uncommon child that I trust everything to her.’

We will not dwell further on the particulars of this evening, nor
describe how Madame de Frontignac reconnoitred Miss Prissy with keen,
amused eyes; nor how Miss Prissy apprised Mary, in the confidential
solitude of her chamber, that her fingers just itched to get hold of
that trimming on that Madame de Frogsneck’s dress, because she was
pretty nigh sure she could make some just like it; for she never saw
any trimming she could not make.

The robin that lived in the apple-tree was fairly out-generalled the
next morning, for Miss Prissy was up before him, tripping about the
chamber on the points of her toes, and knocking down all the moveable
things in the room in her efforts to be still, so as not to waken Mary;
and it was not until she had finally upset the stand by the bed, with
the candlestick, snuffers, and Bible on it, that Mary opened her eyes.

‘Miss Prissy! dear me! What is it you are doing?’

‘Why I am trying to be still, Mary, so as not to wake you up, and it
seems to me as if everything was possessed to tumble down so. But it
is only half-past three, so you turn over and go to sleep.’

‘But, Miss Prissy,’ said Mary, sitting up in bed, ‘you are all dressed;
where are you going?’

‘Well, to tell the truth, Mary, I am just one of those people that
can’t sleep when they have got responsibility on their minds; and I’ve
been lying awake more than an hour here, thinking about that quilt.
There is a new way of getting it on to the frame that I want to try,
’cause you know when we quilted Cerinthy Stebbins’ it would trouble us
in the rolling; and I have got a new way that I want to try, and I mean
just to get it into the frame before breakfast. I was in hopes I should
get out without waking any of you; and now I don’t know as I shall get
by your mother’s door without waking her (’cause I know she works hard,
and needs her rest); but that bedroom door squawks like a cat—enough to
raise the dead!

‘Mary,’ she added, with sudden energy, ‘if I had the least drop of
oil in a teacup, and a bit of quill, I’d stop that door making such a
noise.’ And Miss Prissy’s eyes glowed with resolution.

‘I don’t know where you could find any at this time,’ said Mary.

‘Well, never mind, I’ll just go and open the door as slow and careful
as I can,’ said Miss Prissy, as she trotted out of the apartment.

The result of her carefulness was very soon announced to Mary by a
protracted sound resembling the mewing of a hoarse cat, accompanied
with sundry audible grunts from Miss Prissy, terminating in a grand
finale of clatter, occasioned by her knocking down all the pieces of
the quilt-frame that stood in a corner of the room, with a concussion
that roused everybody in the house.

‘What is that?’ called out Mrs. Scudder from her bedroom.

She was answered by two streams of laughter; one from Mary, sitting up
in bed, and the other from Miss Prissy, holding her sides, as she sat
dissolved in merriment on the sanded floor.



CHAPTER XXX.


BY six o’clock in the morning, Miss Prissy came out of the best room
to the breakfast-table, with the air of a general who has arranged a
campaign, her face glowing with satisfaction. All sat down together to
their morning meal. The outside door was open into the green, turfy
yard, and the apple-tree, now nursing stores of fine yellow jennetings,
looked in at the window. Every once in a while, as a breeze shook the
leaves, a fully ripe apple might be heard falling to the ground, at
which Miss Prissy would bustle up from the table and rush to secure the
treasure.

As the meal waxed to its close, the rattling of wheels was heard at the
gate, and Candace was discerned, seated aloft in the one-horse waggon,
with her usual complements of baskets and bags.

‘Well, now, dear me! if there is not Candace,’ said Miss Prissy; ‘I
do believe Mrs. Marvyn has sent her with something for the quilting;’
and out she flew as nimble as a humming-bird, while those in the house
heard various exclamations of admiration, as Candace, with stately
dignity, disinterred from the waggon one basket after another, and
exhibited to Miss Prissy’s enraptured eyes sly peeps under the white
napkins by which they were covered. And then, lodging a large basket
on either arm, she rolled majestically towards the house, like a
heavy-laden Indiaman coming in after a fat voyage.

‘Good morning, Mrs. Scudder. Good morning, Doctor,’ she said, dropping
her curtsy on the door-step; ‘good morning, Miss Mary. You see our
folks were stirring pretty early this morning, and Mrs. Marvyn sent me
down with two or three little things.’ Setting down her baskets on the
floor, and seating herself between them, she proceeded to develop their
contents with ill-concealed triumph. One basket was devoted to cakes
of every species, from the great Mont Blanc loaf-cake, with its snowy
glaciers of frosting, to the twisted cruller and puffy dough-nut. In
the other basket lay pots of golden butter curiously stamped, reposing
on a bed of fresh green leaves, while currants, red and white, and
delicious cherries and raspberries, gave a final finish to the picture.
From a basket which Miss Prissy brought in from the rear, appeared
cold fowl and tongue, delicately prepared, and shaded with feathers
of parsley. Candace, whose rollicking delight in the good things of
this life was conspicuous in every emotion, might have famished to
a painter, as she sat in a brilliant turban, an idea for an African
genius of plenty.

‘Why, really, Candace,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘you are overwhelming us!’

‘Ho! ho! ho!’ said Candace, ‘I’se tellin’ Miss Marvyn folks don’t get
married but once in their lives (gen’rally speaking, that is), and then
they ought to have plenty to do it with.’

‘Well, I must say,’ said Miss Prissy, taking out the loaf-cake with
busy assiduity, ‘I must say, Candace, this does beat all!’

‘I should rather think it ought,’ said Candace, bridling herself with
proud consciousness; ‘if it don’t it a’n’t ’cause old Candace ha’n’t
put enough into it. I tell ye, I didn’t do nothing all day yesterday
but just make dat ar cake. Cato, when he got up, he begun to talk
something about his shirt buttons, and I just shet him right up. Says
I, “Cato, when I’se really got cake to make for a great ’casion, I want
my mind _just_ as quiet and _just_ as serene as if I was agoin’ to the
meetin’. I don’t want no earthly cares on it. Now,” says I, “Cato, the
old Doctor is going to be married, and dis yer is his quiltin’ cake,
and Miss Mary, she’s going to be married, and dis yer is _her_ quiltin’
cake. And dare’ll be everybody to dat ar quiltin’, and if de cake a’n’t
right, why, ’twould be puttin’ a candle under a bushel. And so, says
I, Cato, your buttons must wait.” And Cato, he sees the ’priety of it,
’cause though he can’t make cake like me, he’s a mazin’ good judge
of it, and is dre’ful tickled when I slip out a little loaf for his
supper.’

‘How is Mrs. Marvyn?’ said Mrs. Scudder.

‘Kinder thin and shimmery, but she is about, havin’ her eyes everywhere
and looking into everything. She just touches things with the tips of
her fingers and they seem to go like. She’ll be down to the quiltin’
this afternoon. But she told me to take the things and come down and
spend the day here; for Mrs. Marvyn and I both knows how many steps
must be taken such times, and we agreed you ought to favour yourselves
all you could.’

‘Well, now,’ said Miss Prissy, lifting up her hands, ‘if that a’n’t
what ’tis to have friends! Why, that was one of the things I was
thinking of as I lay awake last night: because you know at times like
these people run their feet off before the time begins, and then they
are all limpsey and lop-sided when the time comes. Now, I say, Candace,
all Mrs. Scudder and Mary have to do is to give everything up to us,
and we’ll put it through straight.’

‘That’s what we will,’ said Candace. ‘Just show me what’s to be done,
and I’ll do it.’

Candace and Miss Prissy soon disappeared together into the pantry with
the baskets, whose contents they began busily to arrange. Candace
shut the door that no sound might escape, and began a confidential
outpouring to Miss Prissy.

‘You see,’ she said, ‘I has _feelin’s_ all the while for Miss Marvyn;
’cause, yer see, she was expectin’, if ever Mary was married—well—that
it would be to somebody else, you know.’

Miss Prissy responded with a sympathetic groan.

‘Well,’ said Candace, ‘if it had been anybody but the Doctor, _I_ would
not have been resigned. But after all he has done for my colour, there
a’n’t nothing I could find it in my heart to grudge him. But then I was
tellin’ Cato the other day, says I, “Cato, I don’t know about the rest
of the world, but I ha’n’t never felt it in my bones that Master James
is really dead, for sartin. Now I feels things _gen’rally_, but _some_
things I feels _in my bones_, and them always comes true. And that ar
is a feelin’ I ha’n’t had about Master Jim yet, and that ar is what I’m
waitin’ for ’fore I clear make up my mind. Tho’ I know, ’cordin’ to
all white folks’ way o’ thinkin’, there a’n’t no hope, ’cause ’Squire
Marvyn he had that Jeduth Pettibone up to his house, a questioning on
him off and on, nigh about three hours. And reely I didn’t see no hope
no way, except just this, as I was tellin’ Cato, _I can’t feel it in my
bones_.”‘

Candace was not versed enough in the wisdom of the world to know that
she belonged to a large and respectable school of philosophers in this
particular mode of testing evidence, which, after all, the reader will
perceive has its conveniences.

‘Another thing,’ said Candace, ‘as much as a dozen times, dis yer last
year, when I have been a-scourin’ knives, a fork has fell and stuck
straight up in the floor: and the last time I pinted it out to Miss
Marvyn, and she only just said, “Why, what of that, Candace?”’

‘Well,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘I don’t believe in _signs_, but then strange
things do happen. Now about dogs howling under windows; why, I don’t
believe in it a bit, but I never knew it fail that there was a death in
the house after.’

‘Ah, I tell ye what,’ said Candace, looking mysterious, ‘dogs knows a
heap more than they likes to tell!’

‘Just so,’ said Miss Prissy; ‘now I remember one night, when I was
watching with Miss Colonel Andrews, after Martha Ann was born, that
we heard the _mournfullest_ howling that ever you did hear. It seemed
to come from right under the front stoop; and Miss Andrews, she just
dropped the spoon in her gruel, and says she, “Miss Prissy, do for
pity’s sake just go down and see what that noise is.” And I went down,
and lifted up one of the loose boards of the stoop, and what should I
see there but their Newfoundland pup; there that creature had dug a
grave, and was a-sitting by it crying.’

Candace drew near to Miss Prissy, dark with expressive interest, as her
voice, in this awful narration, sank to a whisper.

‘Well,’ said Candace, after Miss Prissy had made something of a pause.

‘Well, I told Miss Andrews I didn’t think there was anything in it,’
said Miss Prissy; ‘but,’ she added, impressively, ‘she lost a very dear
brother six months after, and I laid him out with my own hands—yes,
laid him out in white flannel.’

‘Some folks say,’ said Candace, ‘that dreaming about white horses is a
certain sign. Jinny Styles is very strong about that. Now she came down
one morning crying, ’cause she had been dreaming about white horses,
and she was sure she should hear some friend was dead. And sure enough,
a man came in that day and told her that her son was drown’d out in the
harbour. And Jinny said, “There, she was sure that sign never would
fail.” But then, ye see, that night he came home. Jinny wan’t reely
disappointed, but she always insisted he was _as good as drowned_, any
way, “’cause he sank three times.”’

‘Well, I tell you,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘there are a great many more
things in this world than folks know about.’

‘So they are,’ said Candace. ‘Now, I ha’n’t never opened my mind to
nobody; but there’s a dream I’ve had, three mornings running, lately. I
dreamed I see Jim Marvyn a-sinking in the water, and stretching up his
hands. And then I dreamed that I see the Lord Jesus come a-walking on
the water, and take hold of his hand, and says He, “O thou of little
faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” And then He lifted him right out.
And I ha’n’t said nothing to nobody, ’cause you know the Doctor,—he
says people must not mind nothing about their dreams, ’cause dreams
belong to the old ’spensation.’

‘Well! well! well!’ said Miss Prissy, ‘I am sure I don’t know what to
think. What time in the morning was it that you dreamed it?’

‘Why,’ said Candace, ‘it was just after bird-peep. I kinder always
wakes myself then, and turns over, and what comes after that is apt to
run clear.’

‘Well! well! well!’ said Miss Prissy, ‘I don’t know what to think. You
see, it may have reference to the state of his soul.’

‘I know that,’ said Candace; ‘but as nigh as I could judge in my
dream,’ she added, sinking her voice and looking mysterious, ‘as nigh
as I can judge, _that boy’s soul was in his body_!’

‘Why, how do you know?’ said Miss Prissy, looking astonished at the
confidence with which Candace expressed her opinion.

‘Well, ye see,’ said Candace, rather mysteriously, ‘the Doctor he don’t
like to have us talk much about these things, ’cause he thinks it’s
kind o’ heathenish. But then, folks as is used to seein’ such things,
knows the look of a sperit _out_ of the body, from the look of a sperit
in the body, just as easy as you can tell Mary from the Doctor.’

At this moment Mrs. Scudder opened the pantry-door and put an end
to this mysterious conversation, which had already so affected Miss
Prissy that, in the eagerness of her interest, she had rubbed up her
cap border and ribbon into rather an elfin and goblin style, as if
they had been ruffled up by a breeze from the land of spirits; and she
flew around for a few moments in a state of great nervous agitation,
upsetting dishes, knocking down plates, and huddling up contrary
suggestions as to what ought to be done first, in such impossible
relations, that Mrs. Katy Scudder stood in dignified surprise at this
strange freak of conduct in the wise woman of the parish.

A dim consciousness of something not quite canny in herself appeared
to strike her, for she made a vigorous effort to appear composed; and
facing Mrs. Scudder, with an air of dignified suavity, inquired if it
would not be best to put Jim Marvyn in the oven now, while Candace was
getting the pies ready, meaning of course a large turkey which was to
be the first in an indefinite series to be baked that morning; and
discovering, by Mrs. Scudder’s dazed expression and a vigorous pinch
from Candace, that somehow she had not improved matters, she rubbed
her spectacles in a diagonal manner across her eyes and stood glaring
through them, with a helpless expression, which in a less judicious
person might have suggested the idea of a state of slight intoxication.

But the exigencies of an immediate temporal dispensation put an end to
Miss Prissy’s unwonted vagaries, and she was soon to be seen flying
round like a meteor, dusting, shaking curtains, counting napkins,
wiping and sorting china, all with such rapidity as to give rise to the
idea that she actually existed in forty places at once.

Candace, whom the limits of her corporeal frame restricted to an
altogether different style of locomotion, often rolled the whites of
her eyes after her, and gave vent to her views of her proceedings in
sententious expressions.

‘Do you know why _dat ar_ never was married?’ she said to Mary, as
she stood looking after her. Miss Prissy had made one of those rapid
transits through the apartment.

‘No,’ answered Mary, innocently; ‘why was not she?’

‘Because never was a man could run fast enough to catch her,’ said
Candace; and then her portly person shook with the impulse of her own
wit.

By two o’clock a goodly company began to assemble. Mrs. Deacon Twitchel
arrived, soft, pillowy, and plaintive as ever, accompanied by Cerinthy
Ann, a comely damsel, tall and trim, with a bright black eye and a most
vigorous and determined style of movement.

Good Mrs. Jones, broad, expansive, and solid, having vegetated
tranquilly on in the cabbage garden of the virtues since three years
ago when she graced our tea-party, was now as well preserved as ever,
and brought some fresh butter, a tin pail of cream, and a loaf of cake
made on a new Philadelphia receipt. The tall, spare, angular figure of
Mrs. Simeon Brown only was wanting; but she patronized Mrs. Scudder
no more, and tossed her head with a becoming pride when her name was
mentioned.

The quilt-pattern was gloriously drawn in oak-leaves, done in indigo;
and soon all the company, young and old, were passing busy fingers over
it; and conversation went on briskly.

Madame de Frontignac, we must not forget to say, had entered with
hearty _abandon_ into the spirit of the day. She had dressed the tall
china vases on the mantelpieces; and, departing from the usual rule
of an equal mixture of roses and asparagus bushes, had constructed
two quaint and graceful bouquets, where garden flowers were mingled
with drooping grasses and trailing wild vines, forming a graceful
combination, which excited the surprise of all who saw it.

‘It’s the very first time in my life that I ever saw grass put into a
flower-pot,’ said Miss Prissy; ‘but I must say it looks as handsome
as a pictur’. Mary, I must say,’ she added in an aside, ‘I think that
Madame de Frongenac is the sweetest dressing and appearing creature I
ever saw: she don’t dress up nor put on airs, but she seems to see in
a minute how things ought to go; and if it’s only a bit of grass, or
leaf, or wild vine, that she puts in her hair, why it seems to come
just right. I should like to make her a dress, for I know she would
understand my fit; do speak to her, Mary, in case she should want a
dress fitted here, to let me try it.’

At the quilting, Madame de Frontignac would have her seat, and soon
won the respect of the party by the dexterity with which she used her
needle; though, when it was whispered that she learned to quilt among
the nuns, some of the elderly ladies exhibited a slight uneasiness, as
being rather doubtful whether they might not be encouraging papistical
opinions by allowing her an equal share in the work of getting up their
minister’s bed-quilt; but the younger part of the company were quite
captivated by her foreign air, and the pretty manner in which she
lisped her English; and Cerinthy Ann even went so far as to horrify
her mother, by saying that she wished she’d been educated in a convent
herself,—a declaration which arose less from native depravity, than
from a certain vigorous disposition, which often shows itself in young
people, to shock the current opinions of their elders and betters. Of
course the conversation took a general turn, somewhat in unison with
the spirit of the occasion; and whenever it flagged, some allusion to a
forthcoming wedding, or some sly hint to the future young Madam of the
parish, was sufficient to awake the dormant animation of the company.

Cerinthy Ann contrived to produce an agreeable electric shock, by
declaring that for her part she never could see into it, how any girl
could marry a minister—that she should as soon think of setting up
housekeeping in a meeting-house.

‘O, Cerinthy Ann!’ exclaimed her mother, ‘how can you go on so?’

‘It’s a fact,’ said the adventurous damsel; ‘now other men let you have
some peace, but a minister’s always round under your feet.’

‘So you think the less you see of a husband the better?’ said one of
the ladies.

‘Just my views,’ said Cerinthy, giving a decided snip to her thread
with her scissors; ‘I like the Nantucketers that go off on four years’
voyages, and leave their wives a clear field. If ever I get married I’m
going up to have one of those fellows.’

It is to be remarked, in passing, that Miss Cerinthy Ann was at this
very time receiving surreptitious visits from a consumptive-looking,
conscientious, young theological candidate who came occasionally to
preach in the vicinity, and put up at the house of the Deacon, her
father. This good young man, being violently attacked on the doctrine
of election by Miss Cerinthy, had been drawn on to illustrate it
in a most practical manner, to her comprehension; and it was the
consciousness of the weak and tottering state of the internal garrison,
that added vigour to the young lady’s tones. As Mary had been the
chosen confidant of the progress of this affair, she was quietly amused
at the demonstration.

‘You’d better take care, Cerinthy Ann,’ said her mother; ‘they say that
“those who sing before breakfast, will cry before night.” Girls talk
about getting married,’ she said, relapsing into a gentle didactic
melancholy, ‘without realizing its awful responsibilities.’

‘Oh! as to that,’ said Cerinthy, ‘I’ve been practising on my pudding
now these six years, and I shouldn’t be afraid to throw one up chimney
with any girl.’ This speech was founded on a tradition, current in
those times, ‘that no young lady was fit to be married till she could
construct a boiled Indian-pudding, of such durability, that it could
be thrown up chimney and come down on the ground, outside, without
breaking;’ and the consequence of Cerinthy Ann’s sally was a general
laugh.

‘Girls a’n’t what they used to be in my day,’ sententiously remarked an
elderly lady. ‘I remember my mother told me when she was thirteen she
could knit a long cotton stocking in a day.’

‘I haven’t much faith in these stories of old times; have you, girls?’
said Cerinthy, appealing to the younger members at the frame.

‘At any rate,’ said Mrs. Twitchel, ‘our minister’s wife will be a
pattern; I don’t know anybody as goes beyond her either in spinning or
fine stitching.’

Mary sat as placid and disengaged as the new moon, and listened to the
chatter of old and young, with the easy quietness of a young heart that
has early outlived life, and looks on everything in the world from some
gentle, restful eminence far on towards a better home. She smiled at
everybody’s word, had a quick eye for everybody’s wants, and was ready
with thimble, scissors, or thread, whenever any one needed them; but
once when there was a pause in the conversation, she and Mrs. Marvyn
were both discovered to be stolen away. They were seated on the bed in
Mary’s little room, with their arms around each other, communing in low
and gentle tones. ‘Mary, my dear child,’ said her friend, ‘this event
is very pleasant to me, because it places you permanently near me. I
did not know but eventually this sweet face might lead to my losing
you, who are in some respects the dearest friend I have.’

‘You might be sure,’ said Mary, ‘I never would have married, except
that my mother’s happiness and the happiness of so good a friend seem
to depend on it. When we renounce self in anything, we have reason to
hope God’s blessing; and so I feel assured of a peaceful life in the
course I have taken. You will always be as a mother to me,’ she added,
laying her head on her friend’s shoulder.

‘Yes,’ said Mrs. Marvyn; ‘and I must not let myself think a moment how
dear it might have been to have you _more_ my own. If you feel really,
truly happy, if you can enter on this life without any misgivings—’

‘I can,’ said Mary, firmly.

At this instant, very strangely, the string which confined a wreath
of sea-shells around her glass, having been long undermined by moths,
suddenly broke and fell down, scattering the shells upon the floor.

Both women started, for the string of shells had been placed there by
James; and though neither were superstitious, this was one of those odd
coincidences that make hearts throb.

‘Dear boy,’ said Mary, gathering the shells up tenderly; ‘wherever he
is, I shall never cease to love him; it makes me feel sad to see this
come down; but it is only an accident; nothing of him will ever fail
out of my heart.’

Mrs. Marvyn clasped Mary closer to her, with tears in her eyes.

‘I’ll tell you what, Mary; it must have been the moths did that,’
said Miss Prissy, who had been standing, unobserved, at the door for
a moment back; ‘moths will eat away strings just so. Last week Mrs.
Vernon’s great family picture fell down because the moths eat through
the cord; people ought to use twine or cotton string always. But I
came to tell you that the supper is all set, and the Doctor out of his
study, and all the people are wondering where you are.’

Mary and Mrs. Marvyn gave a hasty glance at themselves in the glass,
to be assured of their good keeping, and went into the great kitchen,
where a long table stood exhibiting all that plenitude of provision
which the immortal description of Washington Irving has saved us the
trouble of representing in detail.

The husbands, brothers, and lovers had come in, and the scene was
redolent of gaiety. When Mary made her appearance, there was a moment’s
pause, till she was conducted to the side of the Doctor; when, raising
his hand, he invoked a grace upon the loaded board.

Unrestrained gaieties followed. Groups of young men and maidens chatted
together, and all the gallantries of the times were enacted. Serious
matrons commented on the cake, and told each other high and particular
secrets in the culinary art, which they drew from remote family
archives. One might have learned in that instructive assembly how best
to keep moths out of blankets, how to make fritters of Indian corn
undistinguishable from oysters: how to bring up babies by hand, and how
to mend a cracked teapot, and how to take out grease from a brocade,
and how to reconcile absolute decrees with free will, and how to make
five yards of cloth answer the purpose of six, and how to put down the
democratic party. All were busy, earnest, and certain, just as a swarm
of men and women, old and young, are in 1859.

Miss Prissy was in her glory; every bow of her best cap was alive with
excitement, and she presented to the eyes of astonished Newport gentry
an animated receipt-book. Some of the information she communicated,
indeed, was so valuable and important, that she could not trust the air
with it, but whispered the most important portions in a confidential
tone. Among the crowd Cerinthy Ann’s theological admirer was observed
in deeply reflective attitude; and that high-spirited young lady added
further to his convictions of the total depravity of the species, by
vexing and discomposing him in those thousand ways in which a lively,
ill-conditioned young woman will put to rout a serious, well-disposed
young man, comforting herself with the reflection that by-and-by she
would repent of all her sins in a lump together.

Vain, transitory splendours! Even this evening, so glorious, so
heart-cheering, so fruitful in instruction and amusement, could not
last for ever. Gradually the company broke up; the matrons mounted
soberly on horseback behind their spouses; and Cerinthy consoled her
clerical friend by giving him an opportunity to read her a lecture on
the way home, if he found the courage to do so.

Mr. and Mrs. Marvyn and Candace wound their way soberly homeward; the
Doctor returned to his study for nightly devotions; and before long,
sleep settled down on the brown cottage.

‘I’ll tell you what, Cato,’ said Candace, before composing herself to
sleep, ‘I can’t feel it in my bones dat dis yer wedding is going to
come off yet.’



CHAPTER XXXI.


A DAY or two after, Madame de Frontignac and Mary went out to gather
shells and seaweed on the beach. It was four o’clock; and the afternoon
sun was hanging in the sultry sky of July with a hot and vaporous
stillness. The whole air was full of blue haze, that softened the
outlines of objects without hiding them. The sea lay like so much
glass; every ship and boat was double; every line, and rope, and spar
had its counterpart; and it seemed hard to say which was the most
real, the under or the upper world. Madame de Frontignac and Mary had
brought along a little basket, which they were filling with shells
and sea-mosses. The former was in high spirits. She ran, and shouted,
and exclaimed, and wondered at each new marvel thrown out upon the
shore, with the _abandon_ of a little child. Mary could not but wonder
whether this indeed were she whose strong words had pierced and wrung
her sympathies the other night, and whether a deep life-wound could lie
bleeding under those brilliant eyes and that infantine exuberance of
gaiety; yet surely all that which seemed so strong, so true, so real,
could not be gone so soon,—and it could not be so soon consoled. Mary
wondered at her, as the Anglo-Saxon constitution, with its strong, firm
intensity, its singleness of nature, wonders at the mobile, many-sided
existence of warmer races, whose versatility of emotion on the surface
is not incompatible with the most intense sameness lower down.

Mary’s was one of those indulgent and tolerant natures which seem to
form the most favourable base for the play of other minds, rather than
to be itself salient,—and something about her tender calmness always
seemed to provoke the spirit of frolic in her friend. She would laugh
at her, kiss her, gambol round her, dress her hair with fantastic
_coiffures_, and call her all sorts of fanciful and poetic names in
French or English, while Mary surveyed her with a pleased and innocent
surprise, as a revelation of character altogether new and different
from anything to which she had been hitherto accustomed. She was to her
a living pantomime, and brought into her unembellished life the charms
of opera, and theatre, and romance.

After wearying themselves with their researches, they climbed round a
point of rock that stretched some way out into the sea, and attained to
a little kind of grotto, where the high cliffs shut out the rays of the
sun. They sat down to rest upon the rocks. A fresh breeze of declining
day was springing up, and bringing the rising tide landward,—each
several line of waves with their white crest coming up and breaking
gracefully on the hard, sparkling sand-beach at their feet.

Mary’s eyes fixed themselves, as they were apt to do, in a mournful
reverie, on the infinite expanse of waters, which was now broken and
chopped into thousand incoming waves by the fresh afternoon breeze.
Madame de Frontignac noticed the expression, and began to play with her
as if she had been a child. She pulled the comb from her hair, and let
down its long silky waves upon her shoulders.

‘Now,’ said she, ‘let us make a Miranda of thee. This is our cave.
I will be Prince Ferdinand. Burr told me all about that,—he reads
beautifully, and explained it all to me. What a lovely story that
is;—you must be so happy who know how to read Shakspeare without
learning. _Tenez!_ I will put this shell on your forehead,—it has a
hole here, and I will pass this gold chain through—now! What a pity
this seaweed will not be pretty out of water; it has no effect; but
there is some green that will do,—let me fasten it so. Now, fair
Miranda, look at thyself.’

Where is the girl so angelic as not to feel a slight curiosity to know
how she shall look in a new and strange costume? Mary bent over the
rock where a little pool of water lay in a brown hollow above the
fluctuations of the tide, dark and still, like a mirror,—and saw a fair
face, with a white shell above the forehead, and drooping wreaths of
green seaweed in the silken hair; and a faint blush and smile rose on
the cheek, giving the last finish to the picture.

‘How do you find yourself?’ said Madame; ‘confess now that I have a
true talent in coiffure. Now I will be Ferdinand.’ She turned quickly,
and her eye was caught by something that Mary did not see; she only saw
the smile fade suddenly from Madame de Frontignac’s cheek, and her lips
grow deadly white, while her heart beat so that Mary could notice its
flutterings under her black silk bodice.

‘Will the sea-nymphs punish the rash presumption of a mortal who
intrudes?’ said Colonel Burr, stepping before them with a grace as
invincible and assured as if he had never had any past history with
either.

Mary started with a guilty blush, like a child detected in an unseemly
frolic, and put her hand to her head to take off the unwonted
adornments.

‘Let me protest, in the name of the graces,’ said Burr, who by that
time stood with easy calmness at her side; and as he spoke he stayed
her hand with that gentle air of authority which made it the natural
impulse of most people to obey him. ‘It would be treason against the
picturesque,’ he added, ‘to spoil that toilet so charmingly uniting the
wearer to the scene.’

Mary was taken by surprise, and discomposed, as every one is who
finds one’s self masquerading in attire foreign to their usual habits
and character; and therefore, when she would persist in taking it to
pieces, Burr found sufficient to alleviate the embarrassment of Madame
de Frontignac’s utter silence in a playful run of protestations and
compliments.

‘I think, Mary,’ said Madame de Frontignac, ‘that we had better be
returning to the house.’

This was said in the haughtiest and coolest tone imaginable, looking at
the place where Burr stood, as if there were nothing there but empty
air. Mary rose to go; Madame de Frontignac offered her arm.

‘Permit me to remark, ladies,’ said Burr, with the quiet suavity which
never forsook him, ‘that your very agreeable occupations have caused
time to pass more rapidly than you are aware. I think you will find
that the tide has risen so as to intercept the path by which you came
here. You will hardly be able to get around the point of rocks without
some assistance.’

Mary looked a few paces ahead, and saw, a little before them, a fresh
afternoon breeze driving the rising tide high on to the side of the
rocks, at whose foot their course had lain. The nook in which they had
been sporting formed a part of a shelving ledge which inclined over
their heads, and which it was just barely possible could be climbed by
a strong and agile person, but which would be wholly inaccessible to a
frail, unaided woman.

‘There is no time to be lost,’ said Burr, coolly, measuring the
possibilities with that keen eye that was never discomposed by any
exigency. ‘I am at your service, ladies; I can either carry you in my
arms around this point, or assist you up these rocks.’ He paused and
waited for their answer.

Madame de Frontignac stood pale, cold, and silent, hearing only the
wild beating of her heart.

‘I think,’ said Mary, ‘that we should try the rocks.’

‘Very well,’ said Burr; and placing his gloved hand on a fragment of
rock, somewhat above their heads, he swung himself on to it with an
easy agility; from this he stretched himself down as far as possible
towards them, and extending his hand, directed Mary, who stood
foremost, to set her foot on a slight projection, and give him both
her hands; she did so, and he seemed to draw her up as easily as if
she had been a feather. He placed her by him on a shelf of rock, and
turned again to Madame de Frontignac: she folded her arms and turned
resolutely away towards the sea.

Just at that moment a coming wave broke at her feet.

‘There is no time to be lost,’ said Burr; ‘there’s a tremendous wave
coming in, and the next wave may carry you out.’

‘_Tant mieux_,’ she responded, without turning her head.

‘Oh, Verginie! Verginie!’ exclaimed Mary,—kneeling and stretching her
arms over the rock; but another voice called Verginie, in a tone which
went to her heart. She turned and saw those dark eyes full of tears.

‘Oh, come,’ he said, with that voice which she could never resist.

She put her cold, trembling hands into his, and he drew her up and
placed her safely beside Mary. A few moments of difficult climbing
followed, in which his arm was thrown now around one and then around
the other, and they felt themselves carried with a force, as if the
slight and graceful form were strung with steel.

Placed in safety on the top of the bank, there was a natural gush of
grateful feeling towards their deliverer. The severest resentment, the
coolest moral disapprobation, are necessarily somewhat softened when
the object of them has just laid one under a personal obligation.

Burr did not seem disposed to press his advantage, and treated the
incident as the most matter-of-course affair in the world. He offered
an arm to each lady, with the air of a well-bred gentleman, who offers
a necessary support; and each took it, because neither wished, under
the circumstances, to refuse.

He walked along leisurely homeward, talking in that easy, quiet,
natural way in which he excelled, addressing no very particular remark
to either one, and at the door of the cottage took his leave, saying,
as he bowed, that he hoped neither of them would feel any inconvenience
from their exertions, and that he should do himself the pleasure to
call soon, and inquire after their health.

Madame de Frontignac made no reply; but curtsied with a stately grace,
turned and went into her little room, whither Mary, after a few
minutes, followed her.

She found her thrown upon the bed, her face buried in the pillow, her
breast heaving as if she were sobbing; but when at Mary’s entrance she
raised her head, her eyes were bright and dry.

‘It is just as I told you, Mary,—that man holds me. I love him yet, in
spite of myself. It is in vain to be angry. What is the use of striking
your right hand with your left? When we _love_ one more than ourselves,
we only hurt ourselves with our anger.’

‘But,’ said Mary, ‘love is founded on respect and esteem; and when that
is gone——’

‘Why, then,’ said Madame, ‘we are very sorry; but we love yet; do we
stop loving ourselves when we have lost our own self-respect? No! it is
so disagreeable to see, we shut our eyes and ask to have the bandage
put on,—you know _that_, poor little heart; you can think how it would
have been with you, if you had found that he was not what you thought.’

The word struck home to Mary’s consciousness, but she sat down and took
her friend in her arms with an air, self-controlled, serious, rational.

‘I see and feel it all, dear Verginie, but I must stand firm for you.
You are in the waves, and I on the shore. If you are so weak at heart,
you must not see this man any more.’

‘But he will call.’

‘I will see him for you.’

‘What will you tell him, my heart,—tell him that I am ill, perhaps?’

‘No; I will tell him the truth,—that you do not wish to see him.’

‘That is hard,—he will wonder.’

‘I think not,’ said Mary, resolutely; ‘and furthermore I shall say to
him that, while Madame de Frontignac is at the cottage, it will not be
agreeable for us to receive calls from him.’

‘Mary, _ma chère_, you astonish me!’

‘My dear friend,’ said Mary, ‘it is the only way. This man,—this cruel,
wicked, deceitful man,—must not be allowed to trifle with you in this
way. I will protect you.’ And she rose up with flashing eye and glowing
cheek, looking as her father looked when he protested against the
slave-trade.

‘Thou art my Saint Catherine,’ said Verginie, rising up, excited by
Mary’s enthusiasm, ‘and hast the sword as well as the palm; but, dear
saint, don’t think so very, very badly of him,—he has a noble nature;
he has the angel in him.’

‘The greater his sin,’ said Mary; ‘he sins against light and love.’

‘But I think his heart is touched,—I think he is sorry. Oh, Mary, if
you had only seen how he looked at me, when he put out his hands on the
rocks,—there were tears in his eyes.’

‘Well there might be,’ said Mary; ‘I do not think he is quite a fiend;
no one could look at those cheeks, dear Verginie, and not feel sad,
that saw you a few months ago.’

‘Am I so changed?’ she said, rising and looking at herself in the
mirror. ‘Sure enough, my neck used to be quite round,—now you can see
those two little bones, like rocks at low tide. Poor Verginie! her
summer is gone, and the leaves are falling; poor little cat;’—and
Verginie stroked her own chestnut head, as if she had been pitying
another, and began humming a little Norman air, with a refrain that
sounded like the murmur of a brook over the stones.

The more Mary was touched by these little poetic ways, which ran just
on an even line between the gay and the pathetic, the more indignant
she grew with the man that had brought all this sorrow. She felt a
saintly vindictiveness, and a determination to place herself as an
adamantine shield between him and her friend. There is no courage and
no anger like that of a gentle woman when once fully roused; if ever
you have occasion to meet it, you will certainly remember the hour.



CHAPTER XXXII.


MARY revolved the affairs of her friend in her mind during the night.
The intensity of the mental crisis through which she herself had just
passed, had developed her in many inward respects, so that she looked
upon life no longer as a timid girl, but as a strong, experienced
woman. She had thought, and suffered, and held converse with eternal
realities, until thousands of mere earthly hesitations and timidities,
that often restrain a young and untried nature, had entirely lost
their hold upon her. Besides, Mary had at heart the Puritan seed of
heroism,—never absent from the souls of true New England women. Her
essentially Hebrew education, trained in daily converse with the
words of prophets and seers, and with the modes of thought of a grave
and heroic people, predisposed her to a kind of exaltation which,
in times of great trial, might rise to the heights of the religious
sublime, in which the impulse of self-devotion and protection took
a form essentially commanding. The very intensity of the repression
under which her faculties developed seemed as it were to produce a
surplus of hidden strength, which came out in exigencies. Her reading,
though restricted to few volumes, had been of the kind that vitalized
and stimulated a poetic nature, and laid up in its chambers vigorous
words and trenchant phrases, for the use of an excited feeling—so that
eloquence came to her as a native gift. She realized, in short, in her
higher hours, the last touch with which Milton finishes his portrait of
an ideal woman:—

    ‘Greatness of mind and nobleness, their seat
     Build in her loftiest, and create an awe
     About her as a guard angelic placed.’

The next morning, Colonel Burr called at the cottage. Mary was spinning
in the garret, and Madame de Frontignac was reeling yarn, when Mrs.
Scudder brought this announcement.

‘Mother,’ said Mary, ‘I wish to see Mr. Burr alone; Madame de
Frontignac will not go down.’

Mrs. Scudder looked surprised, but asked no questions. When she was
gone down, Mary stood a moment reflecting; Madame de Frontignac looked
eager and agitated. ‘Remember and notice all he says, and just how he
looks, Mary, so as to tell me; and be sure and say that “I thank him
for his kindness yesterday;” we must own he appeared very well there;
did he not?’

‘Certainly,’ said Mary; ‘but no man could have done less.’

‘Ah! but Mary, not every man could have done it as he did; now don’t
be too hard on him, Mary; I have said dreadful things to him; I am
afraid I have been too severe. After all, these distinguished men are
so tempted; we don’t know how much they are tempted; and who can wonder
that they are a little spoiled; so, my angel, you must be merciful.’

‘Merciful!’ said Mary, kissing the pale cheek and feeling the cold
little hands that trembled in hers.

‘So you will go down in your little spinning toilette, ma _mie_; I
fancy you look as Joan of Arc did when she was keeping her sheep at
Doremi. Go, and God bless thee!’ and Madame de Frontignac pushed her
playfully forward.

Mary entered the room where Burr was seated, and wished him good
morning, in a serious and placid manner, in which there was not the
slightest trace of embarrassment or discomposure.

‘Shall I have the pleasure of seeing your fair companion this morning?’
said Burr, after some moments of indifferent conversation.

‘No, sir; Madame de Frontignac desires me to excuse her to you.’

‘Is she ill?’ said Burr, with a look of concern.

‘No, Mr. Burr, she prefers not to see you.’ Burr gave a start of
well-bred surprise; and Mary added:—

‘Madame de Frontignac has made me familiar with the history of your
acquaintance with her; and you will therefore understand what I mean,
Mr. Burr, when I say that, during the time of her stay with us, we
would prefer not to receive calls from you.’

‘Your language, Miss Scudder, has certainly the merit of explicitness.’

‘I intend it shall have, sir,’ said Mary, tranquilly; ‘half the misery
of the world comes of want of courage to speak and to hear the truth
plainly, and in a spirit of love.’

‘I am gratified that you insert the last clause, Miss Scudder; I might
not otherwise recognize the gentle being whom I have always regarded
as the impersonation of all that is softest in woman. I have not the
honour of understanding in the least the reason of this apparently
capricious sentence, but I bow to it in submission.’

‘Mr. Burr,’ said Mary, walking up to him, and looking him full in the
eyes with an energy that for the moment bore down his practised air
of easy superiority, ‘I wish to speak to you for a moment, as one
immortal soul should to another, without any of those false glosses
and deceits which men call ceremony and good manners. You have done a
very great injury to a lovely lady, whose weakness ought to have been
sacred in your eyes. Precisely, because you are what you are,—strong,
keen, penetrating, able to control and govern all who come near you;
because you have the power to make yourself agreeable, interesting,
fascinating, and to win esteem and love,—just for that reason you ought
to hold yourself the guardian of every woman, and treat her as you
would wish any man to treat your own daughter. I leave it to your own
conscience whether this is the manner in which you have treated Madame
de Frontignac.’

‘Upon my word, Miss Scudder,’ began Burr, ‘I cannot imagine what
representations our mutual friend may have been making. I assure you,
our intercourse has been as irreproachable as the most scrupulous could
desire.’

‘Irreproachable! innocent! Mr. Burr, you know that you have taken
the very life out of her; you men can have everything, ambition,
wealth, power; a thousand ways are open to you; and women have nothing
but their hearts, and when that is gone, all is gone. Mr. Burr, you
remember the rich man that had flocks and herds, but nothing would do
for him but he must have the one little ewe lamb which was all his poor
neighbour had. Thou art the man! You have stolen all the love she has
to give, all that she had to make a happy home; and you can never give
her anything in return without endangering her purity and her soul,
and you knew you could not. I know you men _think_ this is a light
matter; but it is death to us; what will this woman’s life be? one long
struggle to forget; and when you have forgotten her, and are going
on gay and happy, when you have thrown her very name away as a faded
flower, she will be praying, hoping, fearing for you; though all men
deny you, yet will not she. Yes, Mr. Burr, if ever your popularity and
prosperity should leave you, and those who now flatter should despise
and curse you, she will always be interceding with her own heart and
with God for you, and making a thousand excuses when she cannot deny;
and if you die, as I fear you have lived, unreconciled to the God of
your fathers, it will be in her heart to offer up her very soul for
you, and to pray that God will impute all your sins to her, and give
you heaven. Oh, I know this because I have felt it in my own heart!’
and Mary threw herself passionately down into a chair, and broke into
an agony of uncontrolled sobbing.

Burr turned away, and stood looking through the window; tears were
dropping silently, unchecked by the cold, hard pride which was the evil
demon of his life.

It is due to our human nature to believe that no man could ever have
been so passionately and enduringly loved and revered by both men and
women as he was, without a beautiful and lovable nature; no man ever
demonstrated more forcibly the truth, that it is not a man’s natural
constitution, but the _use_ he makes of it which stamps him as good or
evil.

The diviner part of him was weeping, and the cold, proud, demon was
struggling to regain his lost ascendency. Every sob of the fair,
inspired child who had been speaking to him seemed to shake his
heart; he felt as if he could have fallen on his knees to her; and
yet that stoical habit, which was the boast of his life, which was
the highest wisdom he taught to his only and beautiful daughter, was
slowly stealing back round his heart, and he pressed his lips together,
resolved that no word should escape till he had fully mastered himself.

In a few moments Mary rose with renewed calmness and dignity, and
approaching him, said, ‘Before I wish you a good morning, Mr. Burr,
I must ask pardon for the liberty I have taken in speaking so very
plainly.’

‘There is no pardon needed, my dear child,’ said Burr, turning and
speaking very gently, and with a face expressive of a softened concern;
‘if you have told me harsh truths, it was with gentle intentions; I
only hope that I may prove, at least by the future, that I am not
altogether so bad as you imagine. As to the friend whose name has been
passed between us, no man can go beyond me in a sense of her real
nobleness; I am sensible how little I can ever deserve the sentiment
with which she honours me. I am ready, in my future course, to obey any
commands that you and she may think proper to lay upon me.’

‘The only kindness you can now do her,’ said Mary, ‘is to leave her. It
is impossible that you can be merely friends,—it is impossible, without
violating the holiest bonds, that you can be more. The injury done is
irreparable, but you can avoid adding another and greater one to it.’

Burr looked thoughtful.

‘May I say one thing more?’ said Mary, the colour rising in her cheeks.

Burr looked at her with that smile that always drew out the confidence
of every heart.

‘Mr. Burr,’ she said, ‘you will pardon me, but I cannot help saying
this: You have, I am told, wholly renounced the Christian faith of your
fathers, and build your whole life on quite another foundation. I
cannot help feeling that this is a great and terrible mistake. I cannot
help wishing that you would examine and reconsider.’

‘My dear child, I am extremely grateful to you for your remark, and
appreciate fully the purity of the source from which it springs.
Unfortunately, our intellectual beliefs are not subject to the control
of our will. I have examined, and the examination has, I regret to say,
not had the effect you would desire.’

Mary looked at him wistfully; he smiled and bowed, all himself again;
and stopping at the door, he said, with a proud humility, ‘Do me the
favour to present my devoted regard to your friend; believe me, that
hereafter you shall have less reason to complain of me.’ He bowed and
was gone.

An eye-witness of the scene has related that when Burr resigned his
seat as president of his country’s senate, he was an object of peculiar
political bitterness and obloquy. Almost all who listened to him had
made up their minds that he was an utterly faithless, unprincipled man;
and yet, such was his singular and peculiar personal power, that his
short farewell address melted the whole assembly into tears; and his
most embittered adversaries were charmed into a momentary enthusiasm of
admiration.

It must not be wondered at, therefore, if our simple-hearted, loving
Mary strangely found all her indignation against him gone, and herself
little disposed to criticise the impassioned tenderness with which
Madame de Frontignac still regarded him.

We have one thing more that we cannot avoid saying of two men so
singularly in juxtaposition, as Aaron Burr and Dr. Hopkins.

Both had a perfect _logic_ of life, and guided themselves with an
inflexible rigidity by it. Burr assumed individual pleasure to be
the great object of human existence; and Dr. Hopkins placed it in a
life altogether beyond self. Burr rejected all sacrifice, Hopkins
considered sacrifice as the foundation of all existence. To live as far
as possible without a disagreeable sensation was an object which Burr
proposed to himself as the _summum bonum_, for which he drilled down
and subjugated a nature of singular richness. Hopkins, on the other
hand, smoothed the asperities of a temperament naturally violent and
fiery by a rigid discipline, which guided it entirely above the plane
of self-indulgence; and, in the pursuance of their great end, the one
watched against his better nature as the other did against his worse.
It is but fair, then, to take their lives as the practical workings of
their respective ethical creeds.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


‘_Enfin, chère Sibylle_,’ said Madame de Frontignac when Mary came out
of the room with her cheeks glowing and her eyes flashing with a still
unsubdued light. ‘_Te voilà encore!_ What did he say, _mimi_? did he
ask for me?’

‘Yes,’ said Mary, ‘he asked for you.’

‘What did you tell him?’

‘I told him that you wished me to excuse you.’

‘How did he look then? Did he look surprised?’

‘A good deal so, I thought,’ said Mary.

‘_Allons, mimi_, tell me all you said and all he said.’

‘Oh,’ said Mary, ‘I am the worst person in the world; in fact, I cannot
remember anything that I have said; but I told him that he must leave
you and never see you any more.’

‘Oh, _mimi_! never!’

Madame de Frontignac sat down on the side of the bed with such a look
of utter despair as went to Mary’s heart.

‘You know that that is best, Verginie, do you not?’

‘Oh! yes, I know it; but it is like death to me! Ah, well, what shall
Verginie do now?’

‘You have your husband,’ said Mary.

‘I do not love him,’ said Madame de Frontignac.

‘Yes; but he is a good and honourable man, and you should love him.’

‘Love is not in our power,’ said Madame de Frontignac.

‘Not _every kind_ of love,’ said Mary, ‘but _some_ kinds. If you have
an indulgent friend who protects you, and cares for you, you can be
grateful to him; you can try to make him happy, and in time you may
come to love him very much. He is a thousand times nobler man, if what
you say is true, than the one who has injured you so.’

‘Oh, Mary,’ said Madame de Frontignac, ‘there are some cases where we
find it too easy to love our enemies.’

‘More than that,’ said Mary; ‘I believe that if you were to go on
patiently in the way of duty, and pray daily to God, that at last He
will take out of your heart this painful love, and give you a true and
healthy one. As you say, such feelings are very sweet and noble; but
they are not the only ones we have to live by. We can find happiness in
duty, in self-sacrifice, in calm, sincere, honest friendship. That is
what you can feel for your husband.’

‘Your words cool me,’ said Madame de Frontignac. ‘Thou art a sweet
snow-maiden, and my heart is hot and tired. I like to feel thee in my
arms,’ she said, putting her arms around Mary, and resting her head
upon her shoulder. ‘Talk to me so every day, and read me good, cool
verses out of that beautiful book, and perhaps by-and-by I shall grow
still and quiet like you.’

Thus Mary soothed her friend; but every few days this soothing had to
be done over, as long as Burr remained in Newport. When he was finally
gone, she grew more calm. The simple, homely ways of the cottage, the
healthful routine of daily domestic toils, into which she delighted to
enter, brought refreshment to her spirits. That fine tact and exquisite
social sympathy which distinguishes the French above other nations,
caused her at once to enter into the spirit of the life in which she
moved; so that she no longer shocked any one’s religious feelings by
acts forbidden to the Puritan idea of the sabbath, or failed in any of
the exterior proprieties of religious life.

She also read and studied with avidity the English Bible, which came to
her with the novelty of a wholly new book, and in a new language; nor
was she without a certain artistic valuation of the austere precision
and gravity of the religious life by which she was surrounded.

‘It is sublime, but a little “glaciale,” like the Alps,’ she sometimes
said to Mary and Mrs. Marvyn, when speaking of it; ‘but then,’ she
added, playfully, ‘there are the flowers—_les roses des Alpes_; and the
air is very strengthening, and it is near to heaven—_il faut avouer_.’

We have shown how she appeared to the eye of New England life; it may
not be uninteresting to give a letter to one of her friends, which
showed how the same appeared to her.

It was not a friend with whom she felt on such terms that her intimacy
with Burr would furnish any allusions to her correspondence.

‘You behold me, my charming Gabrielle, quite pastoral; recruiting from
the dissipations of my Philadelphia life in a lovely, quiet cottage,
with most worthy, excellent people, whom I have learnt to love very
much. They are good and true, as pious as the saints themselves,
although they do not belong to the true Church, a thing which I am
sorry for; but then let us hope that if the world is wide, heaven is
wider, and that all worthy and religious people will find room at last.
This is Verginie’s own little pet private heresy, and when I tell it to
the Abbé, he only smiles; and so I think, somehow, that it is not so
very bad as it might be.

‘We have had a very gay life in Philadelphia, and now I am growing
tired of the world, and think I shall retire to my cheese, like La
Fontaine’s rat. These people in the country here in America have a
character quite their own; very different from the life of cities,
where one sees, for the most part, only a continuation of the forms of
good society which exist in the old world.

‘In the country these people seem simple, grave, severe; always
industrious; cold and reserved in their manners towards each other,
but with great warmth of heart. They are all obedient to the word of
their priest, whom they call a minister, and who lives among them
just like any other man, and marries and has children. Everything
in their worship is plain and austere. Their churches are perfectly
desolate; they have no chants, no pictures, no carvings; only a most
disconsolate, bare building, where they meet together and sing one or
two hymns, and the minister makes one or two prayers all out of his
own thoughts; and then gives them a long, long discourse about things
which I cannot understand English enough to comprehend.

‘There is a very beautiful, charming young girl here, the daughter of
my hostess, who is as lovely and as saintly as St. Catharine, and has
such a genius for religion that if she had been in our Church she would
certainly have made a saint. Her mother is a respectable and worthy
matron, and the good priest lives in the family. I think he is a man of
very sublime religion, as much above this world as a great mountain;
but he has the true sense of liberty and fraternity, for he has dared
to oppose with all his might this detestable and cruel trade in poor
negroes; which makes us, who are so proud of the example of America in
asserting the rights of man, so ashamed for her inconsistencies.

‘Well, now, there is a little romance getting up in the cottage;
for the good priest has fixed his eyes on the pretty saint, and has
discovered, what he must be blind not to see, that she is very lovely.
And so, as he can marry, he wants to make her his wife; and her mamma,
who adores him as if he were God, is quite set upon it. The sweet
Marie, however, has had a lover of her own in her little heart, a
beautiful young man who went to sea, as heroes always do, to seek
his fortune. And the cruel sea has drowned him, and the poor little
saint has wept and prayed her very life out on his grave; till she is
so thin, and sweet, and mournful, that it makes one’s heart ache to
see her smile. In our Church, Gabrielle, she would have gone into a
convent; but she makes a vocation of her daily life, and goes round
the house so sweetly, doing all the little work that is to be done,
as sacredly as the nuns pray at the altar. For you must know, here in
New England the people for the most part keep no servants, but perform
all the household work themselves, with no end of spinning and sewing
besides. It is the true Arcadia, where you find refined and cultivated
natures busying themselves with the simplest toils. For these people
are well-read and well-bred, and truly ladies in all things. And so,
my little Marie and I, we feed the hens and chickens together, and we
search for eggs in the hay in the barn; and they have taught me to
spin at their great wheel, and a little one, too, which makes a noise
like the humming of a bee. But where am I? Oh, I was telling about
the romance. Well, so the good priest has proposed for my Marie, and
the dear soul has accepted him, as the nun accepts the veil; for she
only loves him filially and religiously. And now they are going on, in
their way, with preparations for the wedding. They had what they call
“a quilting” here the other night, to prepare the bride’s quilt, and
all the friends in the neighbourhood came—it was very amusing to see.
The morals of this people are so austere that young men and girls are
allowed the greatest freedom. They associate and talk freely together,
and the young men walk home alone with the girls after evening parties.
And most generally the young people, I am told, arrange their marriages
among themselves before the consent of the parents is asked. This is
very strange to us. I must not weary you, however, with the details.
I watch my little romance daily, and will let you hear further as it
progresses.

‘With a thousand kisses, I am ever your loving

                                                ‘VERGINIE.’



CHAPTER XXXIV.


MEANWHILE wedding proceedings were going on at the cottage with that
consistent vigour with which Yankee people always drive operations
when they know precisely what they are about. The wedding-day was
definitively fixed for the 1st of August, and every one of the two
weeks between had its particular significance and value precisely
marked out and arranged in Mrs. Katy Scudder’s comprehensive and
systematic schemes. It was settled that the newly-wedded pair
were, for a while at least, to reside at the cottage. It might
have been imagined, therefore, that no great external changes
were in contemplation; but it is astonishing to see the amount of
grave discussion, the amount of consulting, advising, and running
abstractedly to and fro, which can be made to result out of an
apparently slight change in the relative position of two people in the
same house.

Dr. Hopkins really opened his eyes with calm amazement—good modest
soul! he had never imagined himself the hero of so much preparation.
He heard his name constantly from morning to night occurring in busy
consultations that seemed to be going on between Miss Prissy, and
Mrs. Deacon Twitchel, and Mrs. Scudder, and Mrs. Jones, and quietly
wondered what they could have so much more than usual to say about
him. For a while it seemed to him that the whole house was about to
be torn to pieces. He was even requested to step out of his study one
day, into which immediately entered, in his absence, two of the most
vigorous women of the parish, who proceeded to uttermost measures,
first pitching everything into pie, so that the Doctor, who returned
disconsolately to look for a book, at once gave up himself and his
system of divinity as entirely lost, until assured by one of the ladies
in a condescending manner that he knew nothing about the matter, and
that if he would return after half a day he would find everything
right again: a declaration in which he tried to have unlimited faith,
and where he found the advantage of a mind accustomed to believe in
mysteries. And it is to be remarked, that on his return he actually
found his table in most perfect order, with not a single one of his
papers missing; in fact, to his ignorant eye, the room looked exactly
as it did before; and when Miss Prissy eloquently demonstrated to him
that every inch of that paint had been scrubbed, and the windows taken
out and washed inside and out, and rinsed through three waters, and
that the curtains had been taken down and washed and put through a blue
water, and starched and ironed, and put up again, he only innocently
wondered in his ignorance what there was in a man’s being married that
made all these ceremonies necessary; but the Doctor was a wise man, and
in cases of difficulty kept his mind much to himself, and therefore
he only informed those energetic practitioners that ‘he was extremely
obliged to them,’ accepting the matter by simple faith, an example
which we recommend to all good men in similar circumstances.

The house throughout was subjected to similar renovations. Everything
in every chest, or trunk, or box, was vigorously pulled out and hung
out on lines in the clothes-yard to air, for when once the spirit of
enterprise has fairly possessed a group of women, it assumes the form
of a ‘prophetic fury,’ and carries them beyond themselves. Let not any
ignorant mortal of the masculine gender, at such hours, rashly dare to
question the promptings of the genius that inspires them! Spite of all
the treatises that have lately appeared to demonstrate that there is
no particular inherent diversity between men and women, we hold to the
opinion that one thorough season of house-cleansing is sufficient to
demonstrate the existence of awful and mysterious differences between
the sexes, and of subtle and reserved forces in the female line,
before which the lords of creation can only veil their faces with a
discreet reverence as our Doctor has done.

In fact, his whole deportment on the occasion was characterized by
humility so edifying as really to touch the hearts of the whole synod
of matrons; and Miss Prissy rewarded him by declaring impressively
her opinion that he was worthy to have a voice in the choosing the
wedding-dress, and she actually swooped him up, just in a very critical
part of a distinction between natural and moral ability, and conveyed
him bodily (as fairy sprites know how to convey the most ponderous
of mortals) into the best room, where three specimens of brocade lay
spread out upon a table for inspection.

Mary stood by the side of the table, her pretty head bent reflectively
downward, her cheek just resting upon the tip of one of her fingers,
as she stood looking thoughtfully _through_ the brocades at something
deeper that seemed to lie under them; and when the Doctor was required
to give judgment on the articles, it was observed by the matrons
that his large blue eyes were resting upon Mary with an expression
that almost glorified his face; and it was not until his elbow was
repeatedly shaken by Miss Prissy that he gave a sudden start and
fixed his attention as was requested upon the silks. It had been one
of Miss Prissy’s favourite theories, that ‘that dear blessed man
_had taste enough if he would only give his mind to things_;’ and in
fact the Doctor rather verified the remark on the present occasion,
for he looked very conscientiously and soberly at the silks, and
even handled them cautiously and respectfully with his fingers, and
listened with grave attention to all that Miss Prissy told him of
their price and properties, and then laid his finger down on one whose
snow-white ground was embellished with a pattern representing lilies
of the valley on a background of green leaves. ‘This is the one,’ he
said, with an air of decision, and then he looked at Mary and smiled,
and a murmur of universal approbation broke out. A chorus of loud
acclamations, in which Miss Prissy’s voice took the lead, conveyed to
the innocent-minded Doctor the idea that in some mysterious way he had
distinguished himself in the eyes of his feminine friends, whereat
he retired to his study, slightly marvelling, but on the whole well
pleased, as men generally are when they do better than they expect; and
Miss Prissy, turning out all profaner persons from the apartment, held
a solemn consultation, to which only Mary, Mrs. Scudder, and Madame de
Frontignac were admitted; for it is to be observed that the latter had
risen daily and hourly in Miss Prissy’s esteem since her entrance into
the cottage, and she declared that if she only would give her a few
hints, she didn’t believe but that she could make that dress look just
like a Paris one, and rather intimated that in such a case she might
almost be ready to resign all mortal ambitions.

The afternoon of this day, just at that cool hour when the clock ticks
so quietly in a New England kitchen, and everything is so clean and
put away that there seems to be nothing to do in the house, Mary sat
quietly down in her room to hem a ruffle. Everybody had gone out of
the house on various errands. The Doctor, with implicit faith, had
surrendered himself to Mrs. Scudder and Miss Prissy, to be conveyed up
to Newport, and attend to various appointments in relation to his outer
man, which he was informed would be indispensable in the forthcoming
solemnities.

Madame de Frontignac had also gone to spend the day with some of her
Newport friends; and Mary, quite well pleased with the placid and
orderly stillness which reigned through the house, sat pleasantly
murmuring a little tune to her sewing, when suddenly the trip of a
merry, brisk foot was heard in the kitchen, and Miss Cerinthy Ann
Twitchel made her appearance at the door, her healthy, glowing cheek
wearing a still brighter colour, from the exercise of a three-mile walk
in a July day.

‘Why, Cerinthy,’ said Mary, ‘how glad I am to see you!’

‘Well!’ said Cerinthy; ‘I have been meaning to come down all this week,
but there is so much to do in haying-time; but to-day I told mother
I _must_ come. I brought these down,’ she said, unfolding a dozen of
snowy damask napkins, ‘that I spun myself, and was thinking of you
almost all the while I spun them; so I suppose they ain’t quite so
wicked as they might be.’

We will remark here that Cerinthy Ann, in virtue of having a high stock
of animal spirits, and great fulness of physical vigour, had very
small proclivities towards the unseen and spiritual; but still always
indulged a secret resentment at being classed as a sinner above many
others, who as church-members made such professions, and were, as she
remarked, ‘not a bit better than she was.’

She always, however, had cherished an unbounded veneration for Mary,
and had made her the confidante of most of her important secrets; and
it soon became very evident that she had come with one on her mind now.

‘Don’t you want to come and sit out in the lot?’ she said to her, after
sitting awhile, twirling her bonnet-strings with the air of one who has
something to say and does not know exactly how to begin upon it.

Mary cheerfully gathered up her thread, scissors, and ruffling, and
the two stepped over the window-sill, and soon found themselves seated
cozily under the boughs of a large apple-tree, whose descending
branches, meeting the tops of the high grass all around, formed a
perfect seclusion, as private as heart could desire.

They sat down, pushing away a place in the grass; and Cerinthy Ann
took off her bonnet, and threw it among the clover, exhibiting to
view her glossy black hair, always trimly arranged in shining braids,
except where some curls fell over the rich, high colour of her cheeks.
Something appeared to discompose her this afternoon; there were those
evident signs of a consultation impending, which to an experienced eye
are as unmistakeable as the coming up of a shower in summer.

Cerinthy began by passionately demolishing several heads of clover,
remarking as she did so that ‘she didn’t see, for her part, how Mary
could keep so calm when things were coming so near;’ and as Mary
answered to this only with a quiet smile, she broke out again:—

‘I don’t see, for my part, how a young girl _could_ marry a minister
anyhow; but then I think _you_ are just cut out for it. But what would
anybody say if _I_ should do such a thing?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Mary, innocently.

‘Well, I suppose everybody would hold up their hands; and yet if I _do_
say it myself,’ she added, colouring, ‘there are not many girls who
could make a better minister’s wife than I could if I had a mind to
try.’

‘That I am sure of,’ said Mary, warmly.

‘I guess you are the only one that ever thought so,’ said Cerinthy,
giving an impatient toss; ‘there’s father all the while mourning over
me, and mother too, and yet I don’t see but that I do pretty much all
that is done in the house. And they say I am a great comfort in a
temporal point of view; but oh! the groanings and the sighings that
there are over me!

‘I don’t think it is pleasant to think that your best friends are
thinking such awful things about you when you are working your fingers
off to help them; it is kind o’ discouraging, but I don’t know what to
do about it;’ and for a few moments Cerinthy sat demolishing buttercups
and throwing them up in the air, till her shiny black head was covered
with golden flakes, while her cheek grew redder with something that she
was going to say next.

‘Now, Mary, there is _that creature_; well—you know—he won’t take “no”
for an answer. What shall I do?’

‘Suppose then you try “yes,”’ said Mary, rather archly.

‘Oh, pshaw, Mary Scudder! You know better than that now. I look like
it, don’t I?’

‘Why, yes,’ said Mary, looking at Cerinthy deliberately, ‘on the whole
I think you do.’

‘Well, one thing I must say,’ said Cerinthy, ‘I can’t see what _he_
finds in me. I think he is a thousand times too good for me. Why,
you have no idea, Mary, how I _have_ plagued him. I believe that man
_really is a Christian_,’ she added, while something like a penitent
tear actually glistened in those sharp, saucy, black eyes; ‘besides,’
she added, ‘I have told him everything I could think of to discourage
him. I told him that I had a bad temper, and didn’t believe the
doctrines, and couldn’t promise that I ever should. And after all,
that creature keeps right on, and I don’t know what to tell him.’

‘Well,’ said Mary, mildly; ‘do you think you really love him?’

‘Love him,’ said Cerinthy, giving a great flounce, ‘to be sure I
don’t—catch me loving _any_ man. I told him last night I didn’t, but
it didn’t do a bit of good. I used to think that man was bashful,
but I declare I have altered my mind. He will talk and talk, ’till I
don’t know what to do. I tell you, Mary, he talks beautifully too,
sometimes.’ Here Cerinthy turned quickly away, and began reaching
passionately after clover heads. After a few moments she resumed.
‘The fact is, Mary, that man _needs_ somebody to take care of him,
for he never thinks of himself. They say he has got the consumption,
but he hasn’t any more than I have. It is just the way he neglects
himself!—preaching, talking, and visiting—nobody to take care of him,
and see to his clothes, and nurse him up when he gets a little hoarse
and run down. Well, I suppose if I _am_ unregenerate, I do know how to
keep things in order; and if I should keep _such_ a man’s soul in his
body, I suppose I should be doing some good in the world; because if a
minister don’t _live_, of course he can’t convert anybody. Just think
of his saying that I could be a comfort to _him_! I told him that it
was perfectly ridiculous, “and besides,” says I, “what will everybody
think?” I thought that I had really talked him out of the notion of it
last night; but there he was in again this morning; and told me he had
derived great encouragement from what I said. Well, the poor man really
is lonesome, his mother’s dead, and he hasn’t any sisters. I asked him
why he didn’t go and take Miss Olladine Hocum. Everybody says she would
make a first-rate minister’s wife.’

‘Well; and what did he say to that?’ said Mary.

‘Well, something really silly about my looks,’ said Cerinthy, looking
down.

Mary looked up and remarked the shining black hair, the long dark
lashes, lying down over the glowing cheek, where two arch dimples were
nestling, and said quietly, ‘Probably he is a man of taste, Cerinthy.
I advise you to leave the matter entirely to his judgment.’

‘You don’t really, Mary,’ said the damsel, looking up; ‘don’t you think
it would injure _him_ if I should?’

‘I think not materially,’ said Mary.

‘Well,’ said Cerinthy, rising, ‘the men will be coming home from
mowing before I get home, and want their supper. Mother has one of her
headaches on this afternoon, so I can’t stop any longer: there isn’t a
soul in the house knows where anything is when I am gone. If I should
ever take it into my head to go off, I don’t know what would become of
father and mother. I was telling mother the other day that I thought
unregenerate folks were of some use in _this_ world any way.’

‘Does your mother know anything about it?’ said Mary.

‘Oh, as to mother, I believe she has been hoping and praying about it
these three months. She thinks that I am such a desperate case, it is
the only way I am to be brought in, as she calls it. That’s what set me
against him at first; but the fact is, if girls will let a man argue
with them, he always contrives to get the best of it. I am provoked
about it too; but dear me! he is so meek there is no use of getting
provoked at him. Well, I guess I will go home and think about it.’

As she turned to go she looked really pretty. Her long lashes were
wet with a twinkling moisture, like meadow-grass after a shower; and
there was a softened, child-like expression stealing over the careless
gaiety of her face. Mary put her arms round her with a gentle caressing
movement, which the other returned with a hearty embrace. They stood
locked in each other’s arms; the bright, vigorous, strong-hearted
girl, with that pale, spiritual face resting on her breast, as when
the morning, songful and radiant, clasps the pale silver moon to her
glowing bosom.

‘Look here now, Mary,’ said Cerinthy; ‘your folks are all gone, you may
as well walk with me. It’s pleasant now.’

‘Yes, I will,’ said Mary; ‘wait a moment till I get my bonnet.’

In a few moments the two girls were walking together in one of those
little pasture foot-tracks which run cosily among huckleberry and
juniper bushes, while Cerinthy eagerly pursued the subject she could
not leave thinking of.

Their path now wound over high ground that overlooked the distant sea,
now lost itself in little copses of cedar and pitch-pine; and now there
came on the air the pleasant breath of new hay, which mowers were
harvesting in adjoining meadows.

They walked on and on as girls will; because when a young lady has once
fairly launched on the enterprise of telling another all that _he_
said, and just how _he_ looked for the last three months, walks are apt
to be indefinitely extended.

Mary was besides one of the most seductive little confidantes in the
world. She was so pure from all _selfism_, so heartily and innocently
interested in what another was telling her, that people in talking with
her found the subject constantly increasing in interest; although if
they had really been called upon afterwards to state the exact portion
in _words_ which she added to the conversation, they would have been
surprised to find it so small.

In fact, before Cerinthy Ann had quite finished her confessions, they
were more than a mile from the cottage, and Mary began to think of
returning, saying that her mother would wonder where she was when she
came home.



CHAPTER XXXV.


THE sun was just setting, and the whole air and sea seemed flooded with
rosy rays. Even the crags and rocks of the sea-shore took purple and
lilac tints, and savins and junipers, had a painter been required to
represent them, would have been found not without a suffusion of the
same tints. Through the tremulous rosy sea of the upper air, the silver
full moon looked out like some calm superior presence which waits
only for the flush of a temporary excitement to die away, to make its
tranquillizing influence felt.

Mary, as she walked homeward with this dreamy light about her, moved
with a slower step than when borne along by the vigorous arm and
determined motion of her young friend.

It is said that a musical sound, uttered with decision by one
instrument, always makes vibrate the corresponding chord of another,
and Mary felt, as she left her positive but warm-hearted friend, a
plaintive vibration of something in her own self of which she was
conscious her calm friendship for her future husband had no part. She
fell into one of those reveries which she thought she had for ever
forbidden to herself, and there arose before her mind, like a picture,
the idea of a marriage ceremony; but the eyes of the bridegroom were
dark, and his curls were clustering in raven ringlets, and her hand
throbbed in his as it had never throbbed in any other.

It was just as she was coming out of a little grove of cedars, where
the high land overlooks the sea, and the dream which came to her
overcame her with a vague and yearning sense of pain. Suddenly she
heard footsteps behind her, and some one said ‘Mary!’ It was spoken in
a choked voice, as one speaks in the crisis of a great emotion, and
she turned and saw those very eyes!—that very hair!—yes, and the cold
little hand throbbed with that very throb in that strong, living, manly
hand, and ‘whether in the body or out of the body’ she knew not; she
felt herself borne in those arms, and words that spoke themselves in
her inner heart—words profaned by being repeated, were on her ear.

‘Oh, is this a dream!—is it a dream! James, are we in heaven? Oh, I
have lived through such an agony—I have been so worn out! Oh, I thought
you never would come!’ And then the eyes closed, and heaven and earth
faded away together in a trance of blissful rest.

But it was no dream, for an hour later you might have seen a manly form
sitting in that self-same place, bearing in his arms a pale girl, whom
he cherished as tenderly as a mother her babe. And they were talking
together—talking in low tones; and in all this wide universe neither
of them knew or felt anything but the great joy of being thus side
by side. They spoke of love, mightier than death, which many waters
cannot quench. They spoke of yearnings, each for the other—of longing
prayers—of hopes deferred—and then of this great joy: for _she_ had
hardly yet returned to the visible world. Scarce wakened from deadly
faintness, she had not come back fully to the realm of life, _only_
to that of love. And therefore it was, that without knowing that she
spoke, she had said all, and compressed the history of those three
years into one hour.

But at last, thoughtful for her health and provident of her weakness,
he rose up and passed his arm around her to convey her home. And as he
did so, he spoke _one_ word that broke the whole charm.

‘You will allow me, Mary, the right of a future husband, to watch over
your life and health?’

Then came back the visible world—recollection, consciousness, and the
great battle of duty; and Mary drew away a little and said—

‘Oh, James! you are too late! _that_ can never be!’

He drew back from her.

‘Mary, are you married?’

‘Before God I am!’ she said. ‘My word is pledged. I cannot retract it.
I have suffered a good man to place his whole faith upon it—a man who
loves me with his whole soul!’

‘But, Mary! you do not love _him_! _That_ is impossible!’ said
James, holding her off from him, and looking at her with an agonized
eagerness. ‘After what you have just said, it is not possible.’

‘Oh! James, I’m sure I don’t know what I have said. It was all so
sudden, and I didn’t know what I was saying—but things that I must
never say again. The day is fixed for next week. It is all the same as
if you had found me his wife!’

‘NOT QUITE,’ said James, his voice cutting the air with a decided,
manly ring. ‘_I_ have some words to say to that yet.’

‘Oh, James, will you be selfish? Will _you_ tempt me to do a mean,
dishonourable thing—to be false to my word deliberately given?’

‘But,’ said James, eagerly, ‘you know, Mary, you _never_ would have
given it if you had known that I was living.’

‘That is true, James; but I _did_ give it. I have suffered him to build
all his hopes of life upon it. I _beg_ you not to tempt me. Help me to
do right.’

‘But, Mary, did you not get my letter?’

‘Your letter!’

‘Yes! that long letter that I wrote you.’

‘I never got any letter, James.’

‘Strange,’ he said; ‘no wonder it seems sudden to you.’

‘Have you seen your mother?’ said Mary, who was conscious this moment
only of a dizzy instinct to turn the conversation from the spot where
she felt too weak to bear it.

‘No! Do you suppose I should see anybody before you?’

‘Oh, then you must go to her!’ said Mary. ‘Oh, James, you don’t know
how she has suffered!’

They were drawing near to the cottage gate.

‘Do, pray,’ said Mary. ‘Go—hurry to your mother—don’t be too sudden
either, for she’s very weak; she is almost worn out with sorrow. Go, my
dear brother. _Dear_ you always will be to me!’

James helped her into the house, and they parted. All the house was yet
still. The open kitchen door let in a sober square of moonlight on the
floor; the very stir of the leaves in the trees could be heard. Mary
went into her little room, and threw herself upon the bed, weak, weary,
yet happy; for deeper and higher above all other feelings was the great
relief that _he_ was living still. After a little while she heard the
rattling of the waggon, and then the quick patter of Miss Prissy’s
feet, and her mother’s considerate tones, and the Doctor’s grave voice,
and quite unexpectedly to herself she was shocked to find herself
turning with an inward shudder from the idea of meeting him.

How very wicked! she thought; how ungrateful! and she prayed that God
would give her strength to check the first rising of such feelings.

Then there was her mother, so ignorant and innocent, busy putting away
baskets of things that she had bought in provision for the wedding-day.
Mary almost felt as if she had a guilty secret. But when she looked
back upon the last two hours, she felt no wish to take them back. Two
little hours of joy and rest they had been, so pure, so perfect, she
thought God must have given them to her as a keepsake, to remind her of
His love, and to strengthen her in the way of duty.

Some will perhaps think it an unnatural thing that Mary should have
regarded her pledge to the Doctor as of so absolute and binding
a force, but they must remember the rigidity of her education.
Self-denial and self-sacrifice had been the daily bread of her life.
Every prayer, hymn, and sermon from her childhood had warned her to
distrust her inclinations and regard her feelings as traitors. In
particular had she been brought up within a superstitious tenacity in
regard to the sacredness of a promise, and in this case the promise
involved so deeply the happiness of a friend whom she had loved and
revered all her life, that she never thought of any way of escape from
it. She had been taught that there was no feeling so strong but that
it might be immediately repressed at the call of duty, and if the idea
arose to her of this great love to another as standing in her way, she
immediately answered it by saying—‘How would it have been if I had
been married? As I could have overcome then, so I can now.’

Mrs. Scudder came into her room with a candle in her hand, and Mary,
accustomed to read the expressions of her mother’s face, saw at a
glance a visible discomposure there. She held the light so that it
shone upon Mary’s face.

‘Are you asleep?’ she said.

‘No, mother.’

‘Are you unwell?’

‘No, mother; only a little tired.’

Mrs. Scudder set down the candle and shut the door, and after a
moment’s hesitation, said,

‘My daughter, I have some news to tell you, which I want you to prepare
your mind for. Keep yourself quite quiet.

‘Oh, mother,’ said Mary, stretching out her hands towards her, ‘I know
it, James has come home.’

‘How did you hear?’ said her mother with astonishment.

‘I have seen him, mother.’

Mrs. Scudder’s countenance fell.

‘Where?’

‘I went to walk home with Cerinthy Twitchel, and as I was coming back
he came up behind me just at Savin Rock.’

Mrs. Scudder sat down on the bed, and took her daughter’s hand.

‘I trust, my dear child,’ she said—and stopped.

‘I think I know what you are going to say, mother. It is a great joy
and a great relief, but of course I shall be true to my engagement with
the Doctor.’

Mrs. Scudder’s face brightened.

‘That is my own daughter! I might have known that you would do so. You
would not, certainly, so cruelly disappoint a noble man that has set
his whole faith on you.’

‘No, mother, I shall _not_ disappoint him. I told James that I should
be true to my word.’

‘He will probably see the justice of it,’ said Mrs. Scudder, in that
easy tone with which elderly people are apt to dispose of the feelings
of young persons.

‘Perhaps it may be something of a trial at first.’

Mary looked at her mother with incredulous blue eyes. The idea that
feelings which made her hold her breath when she thought of them could
be so summarily disposed of, struck her as almost an absurdity. She
turned her face weariedly to the wall with a deep sigh, and said,

‘After all, mother, it is mercy enough and comfort enough to think that
he is living. Poor cousin Ellen, too, what a relief to her! it is like
life from the dead. Oh! I shall be happy enough, no fear of that.’

‘And you know,’ said Mrs. Scudder, ‘that there has _never_ existed _any
engagement of any kind_ between you and James. He had no right to found
any expectations on anything you ever told him.’

‘That is true also, mother,’ said Mary; ‘I had never thought of such a
thing as marriage in relation to James.’

‘Of course,’ pursued Mrs. Scudder, ‘he will always be to you as a near
friend.’

Mary assented wearily.

‘There is but a week now before your wedding,’ continued Mrs. Scudder,
‘and I think cousin James, if he is reasonable, will see the propriety
of your mind being kept as quiet as possible. I heard the news this
afternoon in town,’ pursued Mrs. Scudder, ‘from Captain Staunton, and,
by a curious coincidence, I received this letter from him from James,
which came from New York by post. The brig that brought it must have
been delayed out of the harbour.’

‘Oh, _please_ mother, give it to me!’ said Mary, rising up with
animation; ‘he mentioned having sent me one.’

‘Perhaps you had better wait till morning,’ said Mrs. Scudder; ‘you are
tired and excited.’

‘Oh, mother, I think I shall be more composed when I know all that is
in it,’ said Mary, still stretching out her hand.

‘Well, my daughter, you are the best judge,’ said Mrs. Scudder; and she
set down the candle on the table, and left Mary alone. It was a very
thick letter, of many pages, dated in Canton, and ran as follows:



CHAPTER XXXVI.


‘MY DEAREST MARY,—I have lived through many wonderful scenes since I
saw you last; my life has been so adventurous that I scarcely know
myself when I think of it. But it is not of _that_ I am going now to
write; I have written all that to mother, and she will show it to you:
but since I parted from you there has been another history going on
within me, and _that_ is what I wish to make you understand if I can.

‘It seems to me that I have been a changed man from that afternoon
when I came to your window where we parted. I have never forgotten how
you looked then, nor what you said; nothing in my life ever had such
an effect on me. I thought that I loved you before; but I went away
feeling that _love_ was something so deep, and high, and sacred, that
_I_ was not worthy to name it to you; I cannot think of the man in the
world that _is_ worthy of what you said you felt for me. From _that_
hour there was a new purpose in my soul—a purpose which has led me
upward ever since.

‘I thought to myself in this way, “There is some secret source from
whence this inner life springs;” and I knew that it was connected
with the Bible which you gave me, and so I thought I would read it
carefully and deliberately, to see what I could make of it. I began
with the beginning; it impressed me with a sense of something quaint
and strange—something rather fragmentary; and yet there were spots all
along that went right to the heart of a man who has to deal with life
and things as I did.

‘Now I must say that the Doctor’s preaching, as I told you, never
impressed me much in any way. I could not make any connection between
it and the men I had to manage, and the things I had to do in my daily
life. But there were things in the Bible that struck me otherwise;
there was _one_ passage in particular, and that was where Jacob started
off from all his friends, to go off and seek his fortune in a strange
country, and lay down to sleep all alone in the field, with only a
stone for his pillow. It seemed to me exactly the image of what every
young man is like when he leaves his home, and goes out to shift for
himself in this hard world. I tell you, Mary, that _one man alone_ on
the great ocean of life feels himself a very weak thing: we are held
up by each other more than we know, till we go off by ourselves into
this great experiment. Well, there he was, as lonesome as _I_ upon the
deck of my ship; and so lying with this stone under his head, he saw
a ladder in his sleep between him and heaven, and angels going up and
down. That was a sight which came to the very point of his necessities;
he saw that there was a way between him and God, and that there were
those above who did care for him, and who could come to him to help him.

‘Well, so the next morning he got up, and set up the stone to mark the
place; and it says “Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me,
and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat
and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in
peace, _then_ shall the Lord be my God.” Now there was something that
looked to me like a tangible foundation to begin on.

‘If I understand Dr. Hopkins, I believe he would have called that
all selfishness. At first sight it does look a little so, but then I
thought of it in this way. Here he was, all alone; God was entirely
invisible to him, and how could he feel certain that He really existed
unless he could come into some kind of connection with Him? The point
that he wanted to be sure of was more than merely to know that there
was a God who made the world; he wanted to know whether He cared
anything about men, and would do anything to help them. And so, in
fact, it was saying “If there is a God who interests himself at all in
me, and will be my friend and protector, I will obey Him so far as I
can find out His will.”

‘I thought to myself, “This is the great experiment, and I will try
it.” I made in my heart exactly the same resolution, and just quietly
resolved to assume for a while, as a fact, that there _was_ such a God,
and whenever I came to a place where I could not help myself, just to
ask His help honestly in so many words, and see what would come of it.

‘Well, as I went on reading through the Old Testament, I was more
and more convinced that all the men of those times had tried this
experiment, and found that it would bear them; and, in fact, I did
begin to find in my own experience a great many things happening so
remarkably that I could not but think that somebody did attend even
to my prayers: I began to feel a trembling faith that _somebody_ was
guiding me, and that the events of my life were not happening by
accident, but working themselves out by His will.

‘Well, as I went on in this way there were other and higher thoughts
kept rising in my mind. I wanted to be better than I was; I had a
sense of a life much nobler and purer than anything I had ever lived,
that I wanted to come up to. But in the world of men, as I found it,
such feelings are always laughed down as romantic and impracticable
and impossible. But about this time I began to read the New Testament,
and then the idea came to me that the same Power that helped me in the
lower sphere of life would help me carry out these higher aspirations.
Perhaps the Gospels would not have interested me so much if I had begun
with them first; but my Old Testament life seemed to have schooled me,
and brought me to a place where I wanted, something higher, and I began
to notice that my prayers now were more that I might be noble, and
patient, and self-denying, and constant in my duty, than for any other
kind of help. And then I understood what met me in the very first of
Matthew, “He shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from
their sins.”

‘I began now to live a new life, a life in which I felt myself coming
into sympathy with you; for, Mary, when I began to read the gospels I
took knowledge of you, that you had been with Jesus.

‘The crisis of my life was that dreadful night of the shipwreck. It
was as dreadful as the day of judgment. No words of mine can describe
to you what I felt when I knew that our rudder was gone, and saw those
hopeless rocks before us—what I felt for our poor men!—but in the midst
of it all the words came into my mind, “And Jesus was in the hinder
part of the vessel asleep on a pillow,” and at once I felt He _was_
there; and when the ship struck, I was only conscious of an intense
going out of my soul to Him, like Peter’s when he threw himself from
the ship to meet Him in the waters.

‘I will not recapitulate what I have already written—the wonderful
manner in which I was saved, and in which friends, and help, and
prosperity, and worldly success came to me again after life had seemed
all lost, but now I am ready to return to my country, and I feel as
Jacob did when he said, “With my staff I passed over this Jordan, but
now am I become two bands.” I do not need any arguments now to convince
me that the Bible is from above. There is a great deal in it that I
cannot understand—a great deal that seems to me inexplicable; but all
I can say is, that I have tried its directions, and find that in my
case they do work; that it is a book that I can _live_ by, and that is
enough for me.

‘And now, Mary, I am coming home again quite another man from what I
went out; with a whole new world of thought and feeling in my heart,
and a new purpose, by which, please God, I mean to shape my life. All
this, under God, I owe to you; and if you will let me devote my whole
life to you, it will be a small return for what you have done for me.

‘You know I left you wholly free: others must have seen your loveliness
and felt your worth, and you may have learnt to love some better man
than I; but I know not what hope tells me that this will not be, and I
shall find true what the Bible says of love, that “many waters cannot
quench it, nor floods drown.” In any case I shall be always from my
very heart yours, and yours only, till death.

                                           ‘JAMES MARVYN.’

Mary rose after reading this letter wrapped into a divine state of
exaltation,—the pure joy in contemplating an infinite good to another,
in which the question of self was utterly forgotten. He was then what
she had always hoped and prayed he would be, and she pressed the
thought triumphantly to her heart. He was that true and victorious
man; that Christian able to subdue life, and to show in a perfect
and healthy manly nature a reflection of the image of the superhuman
excellence. Her prayers that night were aspirations and praises; and
she felt how possible it might be so to appropriate the good, and the
joy, and the nobleness of others, so as to have in them an eternal and
satisfying pleasure. And with this came the dearer thought that she in
her weakness and solitude had been permitted to put her hand to the
beginning of a work so noble. The consciousness of good done to an
immortal spirit is wealth that neither life nor death can take away.

And so, having prayed, she lay down with that sleep which God giveth to
His beloved.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


IT is a hard condition of our existence here, that every exaltation
must have its depression. God will not let us have heaven here below,
but only such glimpses and faint showings as parents sometimes give
to children when they show them beforehand the jewelry and pictures,
and stores of rare and curious treasures, which they hold in store for
the possession of their riper years. So it very often happens that the
man who, entranced by some rapturous excitement, has gone to bed an
angel, feeling as if all sin were for ever vanquished, and he himself
immutably grounded in love, may wake the next morning with a sick
headache; and if he be not careful may scold about his breakfast like a
miserable sinner.

We will not say that our dear little Mary rose in this condition next
morning; for although she had the headache, she had one of those
natures in which somehow or other the combative element seems to be
left out, so that no one ever knew her to speak a fretful word. But
still, as we have observed, she had the headache and the depression,
and then came the slow, creeping sense of a wakening-up through all her
heart and soul, of a thousand thousand things that could be said only
to _one_ person, and that person one that it would be temptation and
danger to say them to.

She came out of her room to her morning work with a face resolved and
calm, but expressive of languor, with slight signs of some inward
struggle.

Madame de Frontignac, who had already heard the intelligence, threw
two or three of her bright glances upon her at breakfast, and at
once divined how the matter stood. She was of a nature so delicately
sensitive to the most refined shades of honour, that she apprehended
at once that there must be a conflict; though, judging by her own
impulsive nature, she made no doubt that all would at once go down
before the mighty force of reawakened love.

After breakfast she would insist upon following Mary about through all
her avocations. She possessed herself of a towel, and would wipe the
teacups and saucers while Mary washed. She clinked the glasses and
rattled the cups and spoons, and stepped about as briskly as if she had
two or three breezes to carry her train; and chattered half-English and
half-French, for the sake of bringing into Mary’s cheek the shy, slow
dimples that she liked to watch. But still Mrs. Scudder was around,
with an air as provident and forbidding as that of a setting hen who
watches her nest; nor was it till after all things had been cleared
away in the house, and Mary had gone up into her little attic to spin,
that the opportunity long sought came, of diving to the bottom of this
mystery.

‘_Enfin, Marie, nous voilà!_ are you not going to tell me anything,
when I have turned my heart out to you like a bag? _Chère enfant!_ how
happy you must be!’ she said, embracing her.

‘Yes, I am very happy,’ said Mary, with calm gravity.

‘_Very happy!_’ said Madame de Frontignac, mimicking her manner. ‘Is
that the way you American girls show it when you are very happy? Come,
come, _ma belle_, tell little Verginie something. Thou hast seen this
hero, this wandering Ulysses. He has come back at last—the tapestry
will not be quite as long as Penelope’s. Speak to me of him. Has he
beautiful black eyes, and hair that curls like a grape-vine? Tell me,
_ma belle_.’

‘I only saw him a little while,’ said Mary; ‘and I _felt_ a great deal
more than I saw. He could not have been any clearer to me than he
always has been in my mind.’

‘But I think,’ said Madame de Frontignac, seating Mary as was her wont,
and sitting down at her feet, ‘I think you are a little “_triste_”
about this! Very likely you pity the poor priest! It is sad for him,
but a good priest has the church for his bride, you know.’

‘You do not think,’ said Mary, speaking seriously, ‘that I shall break
my promise, given before God, to this good man?’

‘_Mon Dieu, mon enfant!_ You do not mean to marry the priest after all!
_Quelle idée!_’

‘But I _promised_ him,’ said Mary.

Madame de Frontignac threw up her hands with an expression of vexation.

‘What a pity, my little one, you are not in the true Church! Any good
priest could dispense you from that.’

‘I do not believe,’ said Mary, ‘in any earthly power that can dispense
us from solemn obligations which we have assumed before God, and on
which we have suffered others to build the most precious hopes. If
James had won the affections of some girl, thinking as I do, I should
not feel it right for him to leave her and come to me. The Bible says
that the just man is he that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not.’

‘This is the sublime of duty!’ said Madame de Frontignac, who, with
the airy facility of her race, never lost her appreciation of the fine
points of anything that went on under her eyes. But nevertheless she
was inwardly resolved, that picturesque as this ‘sublime of duty’ was,
it must not be allowed to pass beyond the limits of a fine art, and so
she recommenced.

‘_Mais c’est absurde!_ This beautiful young man, with his black eyes
and his curls—a real hero—a _Theseus_, Mary; just come home from
killing a Minotaur—and loves you with his whole heart—and this dreadful
promise! Why haven’t you any sort of people in your Church that can
unbind you from promises? I should think the good priest himself would
do it!’

‘Perhaps he would,’ said Mary, ‘if I would ask him; but that would be
equivalent to a breach of it. Of course no man would marry a woman that
asked to be dispensed.’

‘You are an angel of delicacy, my child; _c’est admirable!_ but after
all, Mary, this is not well! Listen now to me: you are a very sweet
saint, and very strong in goodness. I think you must have a very strong
angel that takes care of you; but think, _chère enfant_, _think_ what
it is to marry one man while you love another.’

‘But I love the Doctor,’ said Mary, evasively.

‘_Love!_’ said Madame de Frontignac. ‘Oh, Marie! you may love him well,
but you and I both know that there is something deeper than that! What
will you _do_ with this young man? Must he move away from this place,
and not be with his poor mother any more? Or can you see him, and hear
him, and be with him after your marriage, and not feel that you love
him more than your husband?’

‘I should hope that God would help me to feel right,’ said Mary.

‘I am very much afraid He will not, _ma chère_’ said Madame. ‘I asked
Him a great many times to help _me_ when I found how wrong it all was,
and He did not. You remember what you told _me_ the other day, “that
if I would do right I must not _see_ that man any more.” You will have
to ask him to go away from this place. You can never see him, for
this love will never die till _you_ die! That you may be sure of. Is
it wise? Is it right, dear little one? _Must_ he leave his home for
ever for you? Or must you struggle always, and grow whiter and whiter
and whiter, and fade away into heaven like the moon this morning,
and nobody know what is the matter? People will say you have the
liver-complaint, or the consumption, or something. Nobody ever knows
what we women die of.’

Poor Mary’s conscience was fairly posed. This appeal struck upon her
sense of right, as having its grounds. She felt inexpressibly confused
and distressed.

‘Oh, I wish somebody would tell me exactly what _is_ right!’ she said.

‘Well, _I_ will!’ said Madame de Frontignac. ‘Go down to the dear
priest and tell him the whole truth. My dear child, do you think if he
should ever find it out after your marriage, he would think you used
him right?’

‘And yet _mother_ does not think so! Mother does not wish me to tell
him!’

‘_Pauvrette!_ Always the mother! Yes, it is always the mothers that
stand in the way of the lovers. Why cannot she marry the priest
herself?’ she said, between her teeth, and then looked up, startled
and guilty, to see if Mary had heard her.

‘I _cannot_!’ said Mary. ‘I cannot go against my conscience, and my
mother, and my best friend—’

At this moment the conference was cut short by Mrs. Scudder’s provident
footstep on the garret stairs. A vague suspicion of something _French_
had haunted her during her dairy-work, and she resolved to come and put
a stop to the interview by telling Mary that Miss Prissy wanted her to
come and be measured for the skirt of her dress.

Mrs. Scudder, by the use of that sixth sense peculiar to mothers, had
divined that there had been some agitating conference, and had she been
questioned about it, her guesses as to what it might be, would probably
have given no bad _résumé_ of the real state of the case. She was
inwardly resolved that there should be no more such for the present,
and kept Mary employed about various matters relating to the dresses so
scrupulously, that there was no opportunity for anything more of the
sort that day.

In the evening James Marvyn came down, and was welcomed with the
greatest demonstrations of joy by all but Mary, who sat distant and
embarrassed after the first salutations had passed.

The Doctor was innocently parental; but we fear there was small
reciprocation of the sentiments he expressed on the part of the young
man.

Miss Prissy, indeed, had had her heart somewhat touched, as good little
women’s hearts are apt to be by a true love story, and had hinted
something of her feelings to Mrs. Scudder in a manner which brought
such a severe rejoinder as quite humbled and abashed her, so that she
coweringly took refuge under her former declaration, that ‘to be sure
there couldn’t be any man in the world better _worthy_ of Mary than
the Doctor.’ While still at her heart she was possessed with that
troublesome preference for unworthy people which stands in the way of
so many excellent things. But she went on vigorously sewing on the
wedding-dress, and pursing up her small mouth into the most perfect
and guarded expression of non-committal, though, she said afterwards
‘it went to her heart to see how that poor young man did look sitting
there, just as noble and as handsome as a pictur’. She didn’t see for
_her_ part how anybody’s heart _could_ stand it. Then, to be sure, as
Mrs. Scudder said, the poor Doctor ought to be thought about. Dear,
blessed man! What a pity it was things _would_ turn out so! Not that
it was a pity that Jim came home! _That_ was a great providence! But a
pity they hadn’t known about it sooner. Well, for her part, she didn’t
pretend to say; the path of duty did have a great many hard places in
it,’ &c.

As for James, during his interview at the cottage, he waited and tried
in vain for one moment’s solitary conversation. Mrs. Scudder was
immovable in her motherly kindness, sitting there smiling and chatting
with him, but never stirring from her place by Mary.

Madame de Frontignac was out of all patience, and determined in her
small way to do something to discompose the fixed state of things. So,
retreating to her room, she contrived, in very desperation, to upset
and break a wash-pitcher, shrieking violently in French and English at
the deluge which came upon the sanded floor and the little piece of
carpet by the bedside.

What housekeeper’s instincts are proof against the crash of breaking
china? Mrs. Scudder fled from her seat, followed by Miss Prissy—

    ‘Ah, then and there was hurrying to and fro’

—while Mary sat, quiet as a statue, bending over her sewing, and James,
knowing that it must be now or never, was, like a flash, in the empty
chair by her side, with his black moustache very near the bent, brown
head.

‘Mary,’ he said, ‘you _must_ let me see you once more. All is not said!
is it? Just hear me—hear me once alone!’

‘Oh, James! I am too weak! I dare not! I am afraid of myself.’

‘You think,’ he said, ‘that you _must_ take this course, because it is
right; but _is_ it right? _Is_ it right to marry _one_ man when you
love another better? I don’t put this to your inclination, Mary; I know
it would be of no use. I put it to your conscience.’

‘Oh, I never was so perplexed before!’ said Mary. ‘I don’t know what I
_do_ think. I must have time to reflect. And you, oh, James! you _must_
let me do right. There will never be any happiness for me if I do
wrong—nor for you either.’

All this while the sounds of running and hurrying in Madame de
Frontignac’s room had been unintermitted, and Miss Prissy, not without
some glimmerings of perception into the state of things, was holding
tight on to Mrs. Scudder’s gown, detailing to her a most capital
receipt for mending broken china, the history of which she traced
regularly through all the families in which she had ever worked,
varying the details with small items of family history, and little
incidents as to the births, marriages, and deaths of different people
for whom it had been employed, with all the particulars of how, where,
and when, so that the time of James for conversation was by this means
indefinitely extended.

‘Now,’ he said to Mary, ‘let me propose one thing. Let _me_ go to the
Doctor and tell him the truth.’

‘James, it does not seem to me that I can. A friend who has been so
considerate, so kind, so self-sacrificing and disinterested, and whom
I have allowed to go on with this implicit faith in me so long. Should
_you_, James, think of _yourself_ only?’

‘I do not, I trust, think of myself only,’ said James. ‘I hope that I
am calm enough and have a heart to think for others. But I ask you,
is it doing right to _him_ to let him marry you in ignorance of the
state of your feelings? Is it a kindness to a good and noble man to
give yourself to him only seemingly, when the best and noblest part of
your affection is gone wholly beyond your control. I am quite sure of
_that_, Mary. I know you do love him very well, that you would make a
most true, affectionate, constant wife to him, but what I _know_ you
feel for me is something wholly out of your power to give to him, is it
not now?’

‘I think it is,’ said Mary, looking gravely and deeply thoughtful. ‘But
then, James, I ask myself, what if all this had happened a week hence?
My feelings would have been just the same, because they are feelings
over which I have no more control than over my existence. I can only
control the expression of them. But in _that_ case you would not have
asked me to break my marriage vow, and why now shall I break a solemn
vow deliberately made before God? If what I can give him will content
him, and he never knows that which would give him pain, what wrong is
done him?’

‘I should think the deepest possible wrong done me,’ said James, ‘if,
when I thought I had married a wife with a whole heart, I found that
the greater part of it had been before that given to another. If you
tell him, or if I tell him, or your mother, who is the more proper
person, and he chooses to hold you to your promise, then, Mary, I have
no more to say. I shall sail in a few weeks again, and carry your image
for ever in my heart; nobody can take that away, and _that_ dear shadow
will be the only wife I shall ever know.’

At this moment Miss Prissy came rattling along towards the door,
talking, we suspect designedly, in quite a high key. Mary hastily said,

‘Wait, James, let me think. To-morrow is the Sabbath-day. Monday I will
send you word or see you.’

And when Miss Prissy returned into the best room, James was sitting at
one window and Mary at another, he making remarks in a style of most
admirable commonplace on a copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which he had
picked up in the confusion of the moment, and which at the time Mrs.
Katy Scudder entered, he was declaring to be a most excellent book, and
a really truly valuable work.

Mrs. Scudder looked keenly from one to the other, and saw that Mary’s
cheek was glowing like the deepest heart of a pink shell, while in
all other respects she was as cold and calm. On the whole she felt
satisfied that no mischief had been done.

We hope our readers will do Mrs. Scudder justice. It is true that she
yet wore on her third finger the marriage ring of a sailor lover,
and his memory was yet fresh in her heart; but even mothers who
have married for love themselves somehow so blend their daughter’s
existence with their own as to conceive that she must marry _their_
love and not her own.

Beside this, Mrs. Scudder was an Old Testament woman, brought up
with that scrupulous exactitude of fidelity in relation to promises
which would naturally come from familiarity with a book where
covenant-keeping is represented as one of the highest attributes of
Deity, and covenant-breaking as one of the vilest sins of humanity.
To break the word that had gone forth out of one’s mouth was to lose
self-respect and all claim to the respect of others, and to sin against
eternal rectitude.

As we have said before, it is almost impossible to make our
light-minded modern times comprehend the earnestness with which these
people lived. It was in the beginning no vulgar nor mercenary ambition
that made Mrs. Scudder desire the Doctor as a husband for her daughter.
He was poor, and she had had offers from richer men. He was often
unpopular, but he was the man in the world she most revered, the man
she believed in with the most implicit faith, the man who embodied her
highest idea of the good; and therefore it was that she was willing to
resign her child to him.

As to James, she had felt truly sympathetic with his mother and with
Mary in the dreadful hour when they supposed him lost, and had it not
been for the great perplexity occasioned by his return she would have
received him as a relative with open arms. But now she felt it her
duty to be on the defensive, an attitude not the most favourable for
cherishing pleasing associations in regard to another. She had read the
letter giving an account of his spiritual experience with very sincere
pleasure as a good woman should, but not without an internal perception
how very much it endangered her favourite plans. But when Mary had
calmly reiterated her determination, she felt sure of her. For had she
ever known her to say a thing she did not do?

The uneasiness she felt at present was not the doubt of her daughter’s
steadiness, but the fear that she might have been unsuitably harassed
or annoyed.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


THE next morning rose calm and fair. It was the Sabbath-day; the _last_
Sabbath in Mary’s maiden life if her promises and plans were fulfilled.

Mary dressed herself in white—her hands trembling with unusual
agitation, her sensitive nature divided between two opposing
consciences and two opposing affections. Her devoted filial love
towards the Doctor made her feel the keenest sensitiveness at the
thought of giving him pain. At the same time, the questions which James
had proposed to her had raised serious doubts in her mind whether it
was altogether right to suffer him blindly to enter into this union.
So after she was all prepared, she bolted the door of her chamber, and
opening her Bible, read, ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God,
who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given;’
and then kneeling down by the bed, she asked that God would give her
some immediate light in her present perplexity. So praying, her mind
grew calm and steady, and she rose up at the sound of the bell which
marked that it was time to set forward for church.

Everybody noticed, as she came into the church that morning, how
beautiful Mary Scudder looked. It was no longer the beauty of the
carved statue, the pale alabaster shrine, the sainted virgin, but a
warm, bright, living light, that spoke of some summer breath breathing
within her soul.

When she took her place in the singers’ seat she knew, without turning
her head, that _he_ was in his old place not far from her side, and
those whose eyes followed her to the gallery marvelled at her face,
where—

                    ‘The pure and eloquent blood
    Spoke in her cheeks, and so divinely wrought
    That you might almost say her body thought;’

for a thousand delicate nerves were becoming vital once more, as the
holy mystery of womanhood wrought within her.

When they rose to sing, the tune must needs be one which Mary and James
had often sung together out of the same book at the singing school—one
of those wild, pleading tunes dear to the heart of New England, born,
if we may credit the report, in the rocky hollow of its mountains, and
whose notes have a kind of grand and mournful triumph in their warbling
wail. The different parts of the harmony, set contrary to all the
canons of musical pharisaism, had still a singular and romantic effect,
which a true musical genius would not have failed to recognize. The
four parts, tenor, treble, bass, and counter, as they were then called,
rose and swelled and wildly mingled with the fitful strangeness of an
Æolian harp, or of winds in mountain hollows, or the vague moanings of
the sea on lone, forsaken shores. And Mary, while her voice rose over
the waves of the treble, and trembled with a pathetic richness, felt to
her inmost heart the deep accord of that other voice which came to meet
hers so wildly melancholy, as if the soul in that manly breast had come
forth to meet her soul in the disembodied shadowy verity of eternity.
That grand old tune, called by our fathers ‘China,’ never, with its
dirge-like melody, drew two souls more out of themselves and entwined
them more nearly with each other.

The last verse of the hymn spoke of the resurrection of the saints with
Christ—

    ‘Then let the last dread trumpet sound,
       And bid the dead arise;
     Awake, ye nations underground,
       Ye saints, ascend the skies.’

And as Mary sang she felt sublimely upborn with the idea that life is
but a moment and love is immortal, and seemed in a shadowy trance to
feel herself and him past this mortal pain far over on the shores of
that other life, ascending with Christ all glorified, all tears wiped
away, and with full permission to love and to be loved for ever. And as
she sang, the Doctor looked upward and marvelled at the light in her
eyes and the rich bloom on her cheek, for where she stood a sunbeam,
streaming aslant through the dusty panes of the window, touched her
head with a kind of glory, and the thought he then received outbreathed
itself in the yet more fervent adoration of his prayer.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


OUR fathers believed in special answers to prayer. They were not
stumbled by the objection about the inflexibility of the laws of
nature, because they had the idea that when the Creator of the world
promised to answer human prayers, He probably understood the laws
of nature as well as they did; at any rate, the laws of nature were
His affairs and not theirs. They were men very apt, as the Duke of
Wellington said, to ‘look to their marching-orders;’ which, being
found to read, ‘be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer
and supplication let your requests be made known unto God,’ they did
it. ‘They looked unto Him, and were likened, and their faces were not
ashamed.’ One reads in the memoirs of Dr. Hopkins how Newport Gardner,
one of his African catechumens, a negro of singular genius and ability,
being desirous of his freedom, that he might be a missionary to Africa,
and having long worked without being able to raise the amount required,
was counselled by Dr. Hopkins that it might be a shorter way to seek
his freedom from the Lord by a day of solemn fasting and prayer. The
historical fact is, that on the evening of a day so consecrated his
master returned from church, called Newport to him, and presented him
with his freedom. Is it not possible that He who made the world may
have established laws for prayer, as invariable as those for the sowing
of seed and raising of grain? Is it not as legitimate a subject of
inquiry when petitions are not answered, _which_ of these laws has been
neglected?

But be that as it may, certain it is, that a train of events were
set in operation this day which went directly towards answering
Mary’s morning supplication for guidance. Candace, who on this
particular morning had contrived to place herself where she could
see Mary and James in the singers’ seat, had certain thoughts ‘borne
in’ on her mind, which bore fruit afterwards in a solemn and select
conversation held with Miss Prissy at the end of the horse-shed by
the meeting-house, during the intermission between the morning and
afternoon sermons.

Candace sat on a fragment of a granite boulder which lay there, her
black face relieved against a clump of yellow mulleins, then in
majestic altitude. On her lap was spread a check pocket-handkerchief,
containing rich slices of cheese and a store of her favourite brown
dough-nuts.

‘Now, Miss Prissy,’ she said, ‘der’s _reason_ in all things; and a good
deal _more_ in some things dan der is in others. Dere’s a good deal
more reason in two young, handsome folks coming together dan der is
in——’

Candace finished the sentence by an emphatic flourish of her dough-nut.

‘Now as long as everybody thought Massa Jim was dead, dere wa’n’t
nothin’ in de world else _to be_ done _but_ for Miss Mary to marry
the Doctor. But, good Lord! I heard him a-talkin’ to Mrs. Marvyn last
night; it kinder most broke my heart. Why dem two poor creeturs—dey’s
just as onhappy’s dey can be; and she’s got too much feelin’ for the
Doctor to say a word, and _I_ say _he orter be told on’t_; dat’s what I
say,’ said Candace, giving a decisive bite to her dough-nut.

‘I say so too,’ said Miss Prissy: ‘why I never had such feelings in my
life as I did yesterday when that young man came down to our house; he
was just as pale as a cloth. I tried to say a word to Mrs. Scudder, but
she snapped me up so; she’s an awful decided woman when her mind’s made
up. I was telling Cerinthy Ann Twitchel, she come round me this noon,
that it didn’t exactly seem to me right that things should go on as
they’re gone to; and says I, “Cerinthy Ann, I don’t know anything what
to do.” And says she, “If I was you, Miss Prissy, I know what I’d do;
I’d tell the Doctor.” Says she, “Nobody ever takes offence at anything
_you_ do, Miss Prissy.” To be sure,’ added Miss Prissy, ‘I _have_
talked to people about a good many things that it’s rather strange I
should, ’cause I ain’t one somehow that can let things go that seem to
want doing. I always told folks that I should spoil a novel before it
got half-way through the first volume, by blirting out some of those
things that they let go trailing on till everybody gets so mixed up
they don’t know what they’re doing.’

‘Well, now, honey,’ said Candace, authoritatively, ‘ef you’ve got any
notion o’ that kind, I think it must a come from de good Lord; and I
’vise ye to be ’tendin’ to it right away. You just go ’long and tell de
Doctor yo’self all you knows, and den let’s see what’ll come on’t. I
tell you I b’lieves it’ll be one o’ the best day’s works _you_ ever did
in your life.’

‘Well,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘I guess to-night before I go to bed I’ll
make a dive at him. When a thing’s once out it’s out, and can’t be got
in again, even if people don’t like it, and that’s a mercy anyhow. It
really makes me feel most wicked to think of it, for the Doctor is the
blessedest man.’

‘That’s what he _is_,’ said Candace. ‘But den de blessedest men in the
world ought fur to know de truth, that’s what _I_ think.’

‘Yes, true enough,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘I’ll tell him anyway.’

Miss Prissy was as good as her word, for that evening when the Doctor
had retired to his study, she took her light in her hand, and walking
softly as a cat, tapped rather timidly at the study door, which the
Doctor opening, said benignantly—

‘Ah! Miss Prissy!’

‘If you please, sir,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘I’d like a little
conversation.’

The Doctor was well enough used to such requests from the female
members of his church, which generally were the prelude to some
disclosures of internal difficulties or spiritual experiences. He
therefore graciously motioned her to a chair.

‘I thought I must come in,’ she began, busily twirling a bit of her
Sunday gown. ‘I thought—that is I felt it my duty—I thought—perhaps—I
ought to tell you—that perhaps you ought to know—’

The Doctor looked civilly concerned. He did not know but Miss Prissy’s
wits were taking leave of her. He replied, however, with his usual
honest stateliness,

‘I trust, dear madam, that you will feel at perfect freedom to open to
me any exercises of mind that you may have.’

‘It isn’t about myself,’ said Prissy. ‘If you please, it’s about _you_,
sir, and Mary.’

The Doctor _now_ looked awake in right earnest, and very much
astonished besides; and he looked eagerly at Miss Prissy to have her go
on.

‘I don’t know how you would view such a matter,’ said Miss Prissy; ‘but
the fact is, that James Marvyn and Mary always did love each other ever
since they were children.’

Still the Doctor was unawakened to the real meaning of the words, and
he answered, simply,—

‘I should be far from wishing to interfere with so very natural and
innocent a sentiment, which I make no doubt is all quite as it should
be.’

‘No! but,’ said Miss Prissy, ‘you don’t understand what I mean. I mean
that James Marvyn wanted to marry Mary, and that she was—well! she
wasn’t engaged to him—but—’

‘MADAM!!’ said the Doctor, in a voice that frightened Miss Prissy out
of her chair, while a blaze like sheet-lightning shot from his eyes and
his face flushed crimson.

‘Mercy on us! Doctor, I hope you’ll excuse me, but there, the fact is
out! I’ve said it out; the fact is they wa’n’t engaged, but that Mary
loved him ever since he was a boy, as she never will and never can love
any man again in this world, is what I’m just as sure of as that I’m
standing here; and I’ve felt you ought to know it, ’cause I’m quite
sure that if he’d been alive, she’d never given the promise she has—the
promise that she means to keep if her heart breaks and his too; there
wouldn’t anybody tell you, and I thought I must tell you, ’cause I
thought you’d know what was right to do about it.’

During all this latter speech the Doctor was standing with his back
to Miss Prissy and his face to the window, just as he did some time
before when Mrs. Scudder came to tell him of Mary’s consent. He made
a gesture backward, without speaking, that she should leave the
apartment; and Miss Prissy left with a guilty kind of feeling, as if
she had been plunging a knife in her pastor; and rushing distractedly
across the entry into Mary’s little bedroom, she bolted the door, threw
herself on the bed, and began to cry.

‘Well! I’ve done it,’ she said to herself. ‘He’s a very strong, hearty
man,’ she soliloquized, ‘so I hope it won’t put him in a consumption.
Men do go in a consumption about such things sometimes. I remember
Abner Seaforth did—but then he was always narrow-chested, and had the
liver complaint, or something. I don’t know what Mrs. Scudder _will_
say, but I’ve done it. Poor man! such a good man too! I declare I feel
just like Herod taking off John the Baptist’s head. Well! well! it’s
done, and can’t be helped.’

Just at this moment Miss Prissy heard a gentle tap at the door, and
started as if it had been a ghost—not being able to rid herself of the
impression that somehow she had committed a great crime, for which
retribution was knocking at the door.

It was Mary, who said, in her sweetest and most natural tones, ‘Miss
Prissy, the Doctor would like to see you.’ Mary was much astonished at
the frightened, discomposed manner with which Miss Prissy received this
announcement, and said, ‘I’m afraid I’ve waked you up out of sleep. I
don’t think there’s the least hurry.’

Miss Prissy didn’t either; but she reflected afterwards that she might
as well get through with it at once, and therefore, smoothing her
tumbled cap-border, she went to the Doctor’s study. This time he was
quite composed, and received her with a mournful gravity, and requested
her to be seated.

‘I beg, madam,’ he said, ‘you will excuse the abruptness of my manner
in our late interview. I was so little prepared for the communication
you had to make that I was perhaps unsuitably discomposed. Will you
allow me to ask whether you were requested by any of the parties to
communicate to me what you did?’

‘No, sir,’ said Miss Prissy.

‘Have any of the parties ever communicated with you on the subject at
all?’ said the Doctor.

‘No, sir,’ said Miss Prissy.

‘That is all,’ said the Doctor. ‘I will not detain you. I am very much
obliged to you, madam.’

He rose and opened the door for her to pass out, and Miss Prissy,
overawed by the stately gravity of his manner, went out in silence.



CHAPTER XL.


WHEN Miss Prissy left the room the Doctor sat down by the table, and
covered his face with his hands. He had a large, passionate, determined
nature; and he had just come to one of those cruel crises in life, in
the which it is apt to seem to us that the whole force of our being—all
that we can hope, or wish, or feel—has been suffered to gather itself
into one great wave, only to break upon some cold rock of inevitable
fate, and go back moaning into emptiness.

In such hours men and women have cursed God and life, and thrown
violently down and trampled under their feet what yet was left of
life’s blessings in the fierce bitterness of despair. This or nothing!
the soul shrieks in her frenzy.

At just such points as these men have plunged into intemperance and
wild excess; they have gone to be shot down in battle; they have broken
life, and thrown it away like an empty goblet; and gone like wailing
ghosts out into the dread unknown.

The possibility of all this lay in that heart which had just received
that stunning blow. Exercised and disciplined as he had been by years
of sacrifice, by constant, unsleeping self-vigilance, there was rising
there in that great heart an ocean-tempest of passion; and for a while
his cries unto God seemed as empty and as vague as the screams of birds
tossed and buffeted in the clouds of mighty tempests.

The will that he thought wholly subdued seemed to rise under him as a
rebellious giant. A few hours before he thought himself established
in an invincible submission to God that nothing could shake. Now, he
looked into himself as into a seething vortex of rebellion; and against
all the passionate cries of his lower nature, he could only (in the
language of an old saint) ‘cling to God by the naked force of his
will.’ That will was as determined and firm as that of Aaron Burr. It
rested unmelted amid the boiling sea of passion, waiting its hour of
renewed sway. He walked the room for hours; and then sat down to his
Bible, and wakened once or twice to find his head leaning on its pages,
and his mind far gone in thoughts from which he woke with a bitter
throb. Then he determined to set himself to some definite work; and
taking his Concordance, began busily tracing out and numbering all the
proof-texts for one of the chapters of his theological system; till at
last he worked himself down to such calmness that he could pray; and
then he schooled and reasoned with himself in a style not unlike, in
its spirit, to what a great modern author has addressed to suffering
humanity,—‘What is it that thou art fretting and self-tormenting about?
Is it because _thou_ art not happy? Who told thee that thou wast to be
happy? Is there any ordinance of the universe that _thou_ shouldst be
happy? Art thou nothing but a vulture screaming for prey? Canst thou
not do without happiness? Yea, thou canst do without happiness, and
instead thereof find blessedness.’

The Doctor came lastly to the conclusion that ‘_blessedness_,’ which
was all the portion his Master had on earth, might do for him also. And
therefore he kissed and blessed that silver dove of happiness, which he
saw was weary of sailing in his clumsy old ark, and let it go out of
his hand without a tear.

He slept little that night, but when he came to breakfast all noticed
an unusual gentleness and benignity of manner; and Mary, she knew not
why, saw tears rising in his eyes when he looked at her.

After breakfast he requested Mrs. Scudder to step with him into his
study; and Miss Prissy shook in her little shoes as she saw the matron
entering. The door was shut for a long time, and two voices could be
heard in earnest conversation.

Meanwhile James Marvyn entered the cottage, prompt to remind Mary of
her promise, that she would talk with him again this morning.

They had talked with each other but a few moments, by the
sweetbriar-shaded window in the best room, when Mrs. Scudder appeared
at the door of the apartment, with traces of tears upon her cheeks.
‘Good morning, James,’ she said. ‘The Doctor wishes to see you and Mary
a moment together.’ Both looked sufficiently astounded, knowing from
Mrs. Scudder’s looks that something was impending. They followed Mrs.
Scudder, scarcely feeling the ground they trod on.

[Illustration: _The Sacrifice_

_Page, 347._

Sampson, Low, Son & Co. Sept. 20th, 1859.]

The Doctor was sitting at his table with his favourite large-print
Bible open before him. He rose to receive them with a manner at once
gentle and grave. There was a pause of some minutes, during which he
sat with his head leaning upon his hand. ‘You all know,’ he said,
turning towards Mary who sat very near him, ‘the near and dear relation
in which I have been expected to stand towards this friend; I should
not have been worthy of that relation if I had not felt in my heart the
true love of a husband as set forth in the New Testament; who should
“love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for
it;” and if in case any peril or danger threatened this dear soul, and
I could not give myself for her, I had never been worthy the honour
she has done me. For I take it, wherever there is a cross or burden to
be borne by one or the other, that the man who is made in the image of
God, as to strength and endurance, should take it upon himself, and not
lay it upon her that is weaker; for he is therefore strong, not that
he may tyrannize over the weak, but bear their burdens for them, even
as Christ for His church. I have just discovered,’ he added, looking
kindly upon Mary, ‘that there is a great cross and burden which must
come, either on this dear child or on myself, through no fault of
either of us, but through God’s good providence; and, therefore, let
_me_ bear it.

‘Mary, my dear child,’ he said, ‘I will be to thee as a father; but I
will not force thy heart.’

At this moment, Mary, by a sudden, impulsive movement, threw her arms
around his neck and kissed him, and lay sobbing on his shoulder. ‘No,
no,’ she said, ‘I will marry you as I said.’

‘Not if I will not, dear,’ he said, with a benign smile. ‘Come here,
young man,’ he said, with some authority, to James, ‘I give thee
this maiden to wife,’ and he lifted her from his shoulder and placed
her gently in the arms of the young man, who, overawed and overcome,
pressed her silently to his heart. ‘There, children, it is over,’ he
said. ‘God bless you!’

‘Take her away,’ he added, ‘she will be more composed soon.’

Before James left, he grasped the Doctor’s hand in his and said, ‘Sir,
this tells on my heart more than any sermon you ever preached, I shall
never forget it. God bless you, sir!’

The Doctor saw them slowly quit the apartment, and following them,
closed the door, and thus ended


                     THE MINISTER’S WOOING.



CHAPTER XLI.


OF the events which followed this scene, we are happy to give our
readers more minute and graphic details than we ourselves could
furnish, by transcribing for their edification an autograph letter
of Miss Prissy’s, still preserved in a black oaken cabinet of our
great-grandmother’s, and with which we take no further liberties than
the correction of a somewhat peculiar orthography.

It is written to that sister ‘Martha’ in Boston, of whom she made such
frequent mention, and who, it appears, it was her custom to keep posted
up in all the gossip of her immediate sphere.

    ‘MY DEAR SISTER,

    ‘You wonder, I s’pose, why I haven’t written you; but the
    fact is, I’ve been run just off my feet and worked till the
    flesh aches so, it seems as if it would drop off my bones
    with this wedding of Mary Scudder’s. And, after all, you’ll
    be astonished to hear that she ha’n’t married the Doctor,
    but that Jim Marvyn that I told you about, who had such a
    wonderful escape from shipwreck. You see, he came home a
    week before the wedding was to be, and Mary, she was so
    conscientious, she thought ’twa’n’t right to break off with
    the Doctor, and so she was for going right on with it; and
    Mrs. Scudder, she was for going on more yet; and the poor
    young man, he couldn’t get a word in edgeways; and there
    wouldn’t anybody tell the Doctor a word about it, and there
    ’twas drifting along, and both on ’em feeling dreadfully;
    and so I thought to myself I’ll just take my life in my hand
    like Queen Esther, and go in and tell the Doctor all about
    it. And so I did. I’m scared to death always when I think
    of it. But that dear, blessed man! he took it like a saint.
    He just gave her up as serene and calm as a psalm-book, and
    called James in and told him to take her. Jim was fairly
    over-crowed—it really made him feel small, and he says he’ll
    agree that there is more in the Doctor’s religion than
    most men’s, which shows how important it is for professing
    Christians to bear testimony in their works—as I was telling
    Cerinthy Ann Twitchel, and she said there wa’n’t anything
    made her want to be a Christian so much, if that was what
    religion would do for people. Well, you see, when this came
    out, it wanted just three days of the wedding, which was to
    be Thursday; and that wedding-dress I told you about, that
    had lilies of the valley on a white ground, was pretty much
    made, except puffing the gauze round the neck, which I do
    with white satin piping cord, and it looks beautiful too.
    And so Mrs. Scudder and I, we were thinking ’twould do just
    as well, when in came Jim Marvyn bringing the sweetest thing
    you ever saw, that he had got in China, and I think I never
    did see anything lovelier. It was a white silk, as thick
    as a board, and so stiff that it would stand alone, and
    overshot with little fine dots of silver, so that it shone
    when you moved it just like frost-work. And when I saw it I
    just clapped my hands and jumped up from the floor; and says
    I, “If I have to sit up all night that dress shall be made,
    and made well too.” For, you know, I thought I could get
    Miss Ollodine Hocum to run the breadth and do such parts, so
    that I could devote myself to the fine work; and that French
    woman I told you about, she said she’d help, and she’s a
    master-hand for touching things up. There seems to be work
    provided for all kinds of people, and French people seem
    to have a gift in all sorts of dressy things, and ’tisn’t
    a bad gift either. Well, as I was saying, we agreed that
    this was to be cut open with a train, and a petticoat of
    just the palest, sweetest, loveliest, blue that ever you
    saw, and gauze puffings down the edgings each side, fastened
    in, every once in a while, with lilies of the valley; and
    ’twas cut square in the neck, with puffing and flowers to
    match; and then, tight sleeves with full ruffles of that
    old Mechlin lace that you remember Mrs. Katy Scudder showed
    you once in that great camphor-wood trunk. Well, you see,
    come to get all things together that were to be done, we
    concluded to put off the wedding till Tuesday; and Madame
    de Frontignac she would dress the best room for it herself,
    and she spent nobody knows what time in going round and
    getting evergreens, and making wreaths, and putting up green
    boughs over the pictures, so that the room looked just like
    the Episcopal Church at Christmas. In fact, Mrs. Scudder
    said if it had been Christmas she wouldn’t have felt it
    right, because it would be like encouraging prelacy; but as
    it was, she didn’t think anybody would think it any harm.
    Well, Tuesday night I and Madame de Frontignac we dressed
    Mary ourselves, and I tell you the dress fitted as if ’twas
    grown on her; and Madame de Frontignac she dressed her
    hair, and she had on a wreath of lilies of the valley, and
    a gauze veil that came a’most down to her feet and came all
    around her like a cloud, and you could see her white shining
    dress through it every time she moved. And she looked just
    as white as a snowberry; but there were two little pink
    spots that came coming and going in her cheeks, that kind
    o’ lightened up when she smiled, and then faded down again.
    And the French lady put a string of real pearls round her
    neck, with a cross of pearls, which went down and lay hid
    in her bosom. She was mighty calm-like while she was being
    dressed; but just as I was putting in the last pin, she
    started, for she heard the rumbling of a coach down stairs,
    for Jim Marvyn had got a real elegant carriage to carry her
    over to his father’s in, and so she knew he was come; and
    pretty soon Mrs. Marvyn came in the room, and when she saw
    Mary, her brown eyes kind o’ danced, and she lifted up both
    hands to see how beautiful she looked; and Jim Marvyn he was
    standing at the door, and they told him it wasn’t proper
    that he should see till the time come.

    ‘But he begged so hard that he might just have one peep,
    that I let him come in, and he looked at her as if she
    was something he wouldn’t dare to touch, and he said to
    me softly, says he, “I’m ’most afraid she has got wings
    somewhere that will fly away from me, or that I shall wake
    up and find it is a dream.”

    ‘Well, Cerinthy Ann Twitchel was the bridesmaid, and she
    came next with that young man she is engaged to. It is all
    out now that she is engaged, and she don’t deny it.

    ‘And Cerinthy, she looked handsomer than I ever saw her, in
    a white brocade with rosebuds on it, which I guess she got
    in reference to the future, for they say she is going to be
    married next month.

    ‘Well, we all filled up the room pretty well, till Mrs.
    Scudder came in to tell us that the company were all
    together, and then they took hold of arms, and they had a
    little time practising how they must stand; and Cerinthy
    Ann’s beau would always get her on the wrong side, ’cause
    he’s rather bashful, and don’t know very well what he’s
    about; and Cerinthy Ann declared she was afraid that she
    should laugh out in prayer-time, ’cause she always did laugh
    when she knew she mus’n’t.

    ‘But, finally, Mrs. Scudder told us we must go in, and
    looked so reprovingly at Cerinthy that she had to hold her
    mouth with her pocket-handkerchief.

    ‘Well, the old Doctor was standing there in the very silk
    gown that the ladies gave him to be married in himself,
    poor, dear man! and he smiled kind o’ peaceful on ’em when
    they came in and walked up to a kind o’ bower of evergreens
    and flowers that Madame de Frontignac had fixed for them
    to stand in. Mary grew rather white as if she was going to
    faint; but Jim Marvyn stood up just as firm and looked as
    proud and handsome as a prince, and he kind o’ looked down
    at her, ’cause you know he is a great deal taller, kind o’
    wondering as if he wanted to know if it was really so. Well,
    when they got all placed, they let the doors stand open, and
    Cato and Candace came and stood in the door. And Candace had
    on her great splendid Mogadore turban, and a crimson and
    yellow shawl that she seemed to take comfort in wearing,
    although it was pretty hot.

    ‘Well, so when they were all fixed, the Doctor he began his
    prayer; and as most all of us knew what a great sacrifice
    he had made, I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the
    room; and when he had done there was a great time—people
    blowing their noses and wiping their eyes as if it had been
    a funeral.

    ‘Then Cerinthy Ann she pulled off Mary’s glove pretty quick;
    but that poor beau of hers, he made such work of James’s
    that he had to pull it off himself after all, and Cerinthy
    Ann she like to have laughed out loud.

    ‘And so, when the Doctor told them to join hands, Jim took
    hold of Mary’s hand as if he didn’t mean to let go very
    soon; and so they were married, and I was the first one that
    kissed the bride after Mrs. Scudder. I got that promise
    out of Mary when I was making the dress. And Jim Marvyn he
    insisted upon kissing me, ’cause, says he, Miss Prissy, you
    are as young and handsome as any of them. And I told him he
    was a saucy fellow, and I’d box his ears if I could reach
    them.

    ‘That French lady looked lovely, dressed in pale pink silk,
    with long pink wreaths of flowers in her hair; and she came
    up and kissed Mary, and said something to her in French.

    ‘And, after a while, old Candace came up, and Mary kissed
    her; and then Candace put her arms round Jim’s neck and gave
    him a real hearty smack, so that everybody laughed.

    ‘And then the cake and the wine was passed round, and
    everybody had good times till we heard the nine-o’clock
    bell ring. And then the coach came up to the door, and Mrs.
    Scudder she wrapped Mary up, kissing her and crying over
    her; while Mrs. Marvyn stood stretching her arms out of the
    coach after her.

    ‘And then Cato and Candace went after in the waggon behind,
    and so they all went off together, and that was the end of
    the wedding. And ever since then we ha’n’t any of us done
    much but rest, for we were pretty much tired out. So no more
    at present from your affectionate sister

                                               ‘PRISSY.

    ‘P.S. (to Miss Prissy’s letter).—I forgot to tell you
    that Jim Marvyn has come home quite rich. He fell in with
    a man in China who was at the head of one of their great
    merchant-houses, whom he nursed through a long fever, and
    took care of his business, and so when he got well nothing
    would do but he must have him for a partner, and now he is
    going to live in this country and attend to the business
    of the house here. They say he is going to build a house
    as grand as the Vernons’; and we hope he has experienced
    religion, and he means to join our church, which is a
    providence, for he is twice as rich and generous as that
    old Simon Brown that snapped me up so about my wages. I
    never believed in him for all his talk. I was down to
    Miss Scudder’s when the Doctor examined Jim about his
    evidences. At first the Doctor seemed a little anxious
    ’cause he didn’t talk in the regular way, for you know Jim
    always did have his own way of talking, and never could
    say things in other people’s words; and sometimes he makes
    folks laugh when he himself don’t know what they laugh at,
    because he hits the nail on the head in some strange way
    they ar’n’t expecting. If I was to have died I couldn’t
    help laughing at some things he said, and yet I don’t think
    I ever felt more solemnized. He sat up there in a sort o’
    grand, straightforward, noble way, and told us all the way
    the Lord had been leading of him, and all the exercises of
    his mind; and all about the dreadful shipwreck, and how
    he was saved, and the loving-kindness of the Lord, till
    the Doctor’s spectacles got all blinded with tears, and he
    couldn’t see the notes he made to examine him by; and we all
    cried, Miss Scudder, and Mary, and I; and as to Miss Marvyn,
    she just sat with her hands clasped, looking into her son’s
    eyes, like a picture of the Virgin Mary; and when Jim got
    through there wa’n’t nothing to be heard for some minutes,
    and the Doctor he wiped his eyes and wiped his glasses,
    and he looked over his papers, but he couldn’t bring out
    a word, and at last, says he, “Let us pray,” for that was
    all there was to be said, for I think sometimes things so
    kind o’ fills folks up that there a’n’t nothin’ to be done
    but pray, which the Lord be praised we are privileged to do
    always. Between you and I, Martha, I never could understand
    all the distinctions our dear, blessed Doctor sets up; and
    when he publishes his system, if I work my fingers to the
    bone, I mean to buy one and study it out, because he is
    such a blessed man; though after all’s said I have to come
    back to my old place, and trust in the loving-kindness of
    the Lord, who takes care of the sparrow on the house-top
    and all small, lone creatures like me; though I can’t say
    I’m lone either, because nobody need say that so long as
    there’s folks to be done for; so if I _don’t_ understand the
    Doctor’s theology, or don’t get eyes to read it on account
    of the fine stitching on his shirt ruffles I’ve been trying
    to do, still I hope I may be accepted on account of the
    Lord’s great goodness; for if we can’t trust that, it’s all
    over with us all.’



CHAPTER XLII.

LAST WORDS.


WE know it is fashionable to drop the curtain over a new-married pair
as they recede from the altar, but we cannot but hope our readers may
have by this time enough of interest in our little history to wish for
a few words on the lot of the personages whose acquaintance they have
thereby made.

The conjectures of Miss Prissy in regard to the house which was to be
built for the new-married pair were as speedily as possible realized.
On a beautiful elevation, a little out of the town of Newport, rose a
fair and stately mansion, whose windows overlooked the harbour, and
whose wide cool rooms were adorned by the constant presence of the
sweet face and form which has been the guiding-star of our story.
The fair poetic maiden, the seeress, the saint, has passed into that
appointed shrine for woman, more holy than cloister, more saintly and
pure than church or altar—_a Christian home_. Priestess, wife, and
mother, there she ministers daily in holy works of household peace, and
by faith and prayer and love redeems from grossness and earthliness the
common toils and wants of life.

The gentle guiding force that led James Marvyn from the maxims and
habits and ways of this world to the higher conception of an heroic and
Christ-like manhood was still ever present with him, gently touching
the springs of life, brooding peacefully with dove-like wings over his
soul, and he grew up under it noble in purpose and strong in spirit. He
was one of the most energetic and fearless supporters of the Doctor in
his life-long warfare against an inhumanity which was entrenched in all
the mercantile interest of the day, and which at last fell before the
force of conscience and moral appeal.

Candace, in time, transferred her allegiance to the growing family of
her young master and mistress; and predominated proudly, in gorgeous
raiment and butterfly turban, over a rising race of young Marvyns. All
the cares not needed by them were bestowed on the somewhat garrulous
old age of Cato, whose never-failing cough furnished occupation for all
her spare hours and thought.

As for our friend the Doctor, we trust our readers will appreciate the
magnanimity with which he proved a real and disinterested love, in a
point where so many men experience only the graspings of a selfish one.
A mind so severely trained as his had been brings to a great crisis,
involving severe self-denial, an amount of reserved moral force quite
inexplicable to those less habituated to self-control. He was like a
warrior whose sleep even was in armour, always ready to be roused to
the conflict.

In regard to his feelings for Mary, he made the sacrifice of himself to
her happiness so wholly and thoroughly that there was not a moment of
weak hesitation—no going back over the past—no vain regret. Generous
and brave souls find a support in such actions, because the very
exertion raises them to a higher and purer plane of existence.

His diary records the event only in these very calm and temperate
words:—‘It was a trial to me—a _very great_ trial; but as she did not
deceive me, I shall never lose my friendship for her.’

The Doctor was always a welcome inmate in the house of Mary and James,
as a friend revered and dear. Nor did he want in time a hearthstone of
his own, where a bright and loving face made him daily welcome; for we
find that he married at last a woman of a fair countenance, and that
sons and daughters grew up around him.

In time, also, his theological system was published. In that day it was
customary to dedicate new or important works to the patronage of some
distinguished or powerful individual. The Doctor had no earthly patron.
Four or five simple lines are found in the commencement of his work, in
which, in a spirit reverential and affectionate, he dedicates it to
our Lord Jesus Christ, praying Him to accept the good, and to overrule
the errors to His glory.

Quite unexpectedly to himself the work proved a success, not only in
public acceptance and esteem, but even in a temporal view, bringing
to him at last a modest competence, which he accepted with surprise
and gratitude. To the last of a very long life he was the same steady
undiscouraged worker, the same calm witness against popular sins and
proclaimer of unpopular truths, ever saying and doing what he saw to
be eternally true and right, without the slightest consultation with
worldly expediency or earthly gain, nor did his words cease to work in
New England till the evils he opposed were finally done away.

Colonel Burr leaves the scene of our story to pursue those brilliant
and unscrupulous political intrigues so well known to the historian
of those times, and whose results were so disastrous to himself. His
duel with the ill-fated Hamilton, and the awful retribution of public
opinion that followed—the slow downward course of a doomed life, are
all on record. Chased from society, pointed at everywhere by the finger
of hatred, so accursed in common esteem that even the publican who
lodged him for a night refused to accept his money when he knew his
name, heart-stricken in his domestic relation, his only daughter taken
by pirates, and dying in untold horrors,—one seems to see in a doom so
much above that of other men the power of an avenging Nemesis for sins
beyond those of ordinary humanity.

But we who have learned of Christ may humbly hope that these crushing
miseries in this life came not because he was a sinner above others,
not in wrath alone, but that the prayers of the sweet saint who
gave him to God even before his birth brought to him those friendly
adversities that thus might be slain in his soul the evil demon of
pride, which had been the opposing force to all that was noble within
him. Nothing is more affecting than the account of the last hours
of this man, whom a woman took in and cherished in his poverty and
weakness with that same heroic enthusiasm with which it was his lot to
inspire so many women. This humble keeper of lodgings was told that if
she retained Aaron Burr all her other lodgers would leave—‘Let them do
it then,’ she said, ‘but he shall remain.’ In the same uncomplaining
and inscrutable silence in which he had borne the reverses and miseries
of his life did this singular being pass through the shades of the
dark valley. The New Testament was always under his pillow, and when
alone he was often found reading it attentively, but of the result of
that communion with higher powers he said nothing. Patient, gentle,
and grateful he was, as to all his inner history, entirely silent
and impenetrable. He died with the request, which has a touching
significance, that he might be buried at the feet of those parents
whose sainted lives had finished so differently from his own.

    ‘No farther seek his errors to disclose,
     Or draw his frailties from their dread abode.’

Shortly after Mary’s marriage Madame de Frontignac sailed with her
husband to France, where they lived in a very retired way on a large
estate in the south of France. A close correspondence was kept up
between her and Mary for many years, from which we shall give our
readers a few extracts. The first is dated shortly after their return
to France.

       *       *       *       *       *

‘At last, my sweet Marie, you behold us in peace after our wanderings.
I wish you could see our lovely nest in the hills, which overlooks
the Mediterranean, whose blue waters remind me of Newport harbour and
our old days there. Ah, my sweet saint, blessed was the day I first
learned to know you! for it was you more than anything else that kept
me back from sin and misery. I call you my Sibyl, dearest, because the
Sibyl was a prophetess of divine things out of the church; and so are
you. The Abbé says that all true, devout persons in all persuasions
belong to the true Catholic Apostolic Church, and will in the end be
enlightened to know it; what do you think of that, _ma belle_? I fancy
I see you look at me with your grave, innocent eyes, just as you used
to; but you say nothing.

‘I am far happier, _ma_ Marie, than I ever thought I could be. I took
your advice, and told my husband all I had felt and suffered. It was a
very hard thing to do; but I felt how true it was, as you said, there
could be no real friendship without perfect truth at bottom; so I told
him all, and he was very good, and noble, and helpful to me; and since
then he has been so gentle, and patient, and thoughtful, that no mother
could be kinder, and I should be a very bad woman if I did not love him
truly and dearly—I do.

‘I must confess that there is still a weak, bleeding place in my heart
that aches yet, but I try to bear it bravely; and when I am tempted
to think myself very miserable, I remember how patiently you used
to go about your housework and spinning in those sad days when you
thought your heart was drowned in the sea; and I try to do like you.
I have many duties to my servants and tenants, and mean to be a good
châtelaine; and I find when I nurse the sick and comfort the poor that
my sorrows seem lighter. For after all, Mary, I have lost nothing that
ever was mine—only my foolish heart has grown to something that it
should not, and bleeds at being torn away. Nobody but Christ and His
dear mother can tell what this sorrow is; but they know, and that is
enough.’

The next letter is dated some three years after.

‘You see me now, my Marie, a proud and happy woman. I was truly envious
when you wrote me of the birth of your little son; but now the dear
good God has sent a sweet little angel to me, to comfort my sorrows
and lie close to my heart; and since he came all pain is gone. Ah, if
you could see him! he has black eyes and lashes like silk, and such
little hands!—even his finger-nails are all perfect, like little gems;
and when he puts his little hand on my bosom I tremble with joy. Since
he came I pray always, and the good God seems very near to me. Now I
realize as I never did before the sublime thought that God revealed
himself in the infant Jesus; and I bow before the manger of Bethlehem
where the Holy Babe was laid. What comfort, what adorable condescension
for us mothers in that scene! My husband is so moved he can scarce stay
an hour from the cradle! He seems to look at me with a sort of awe,
because I know how to care for this precious treasure that he adores
without daring to touch. We are going to call him Henri, which is my
husband’s name and that of his ancestors for many generations back. I
vow for him an eternal friendship with the son of my little Marie; and
I shall try and train him up to be a brave man and a true Christian.
Ah, Marie, this gives me something to live for. My heart is full—a
whole new life opens before me!’

Somewhat later, another letter announces the birth of a daughter, and
later still, that of another son; but we shall only add one more,
written some years after, on hearing of the great reverse of popular
feeling towards Burr, subsequently to his duel with the ill-fated
Hamilton.

‘_Ma chère Marie_—Your letter has filled me with grief. My noble Henri,
who already begins to talk of himself as my protector (these boys feel
their manhood so soon, _ma Marie_), saw by my face when I read your
letter that something pained me, and he would not rest till I told
him something about it. Ah, Marie, how thankful I then felt that I
had nothing to blush for before my son! how thankful for those dear
children whose little hands had healed all the morbid places of my
heart, so that I could think of all the past without a pang! I told
Henri that the letter brought bad news of an old friend, but that it
pained me to speak of it; and you would have thought by the grave and
tender way he talked to his mamma that the boy was an experienced man
of forty, to say the least.

‘But Marie, how unjust is the world; how unjust both in praise and
blame! Poor Burr was the petted child of society: yesterday she doted
on him, flattered him, smiled on his faults, and let him do what he
would without reproof; to-day she flouts, and scorns, and scoffs him,
and refuses to see the least good in him. I know that man, Mary, and I
know that sinful as he may be before Infinite Purity, he is not so much
worse than all the other men of his time. Have I not been in America?
I know Jefferson; I knew poor Hamilton—peace be with the dead! Neither
of them had lives that could bear the sort of trial to which Burr’s is
subjected. When every secret fault, failing, and sin is dragged out and
held up without mercy, what man can stand?

‘But I know what irritates the world is that proud, disdainful calm
which will neither give sigh nor tear. It was not that he killed poor
Hamilton, but that he never seemed to care! Ah, there is that evil
demon of his life!—that cold, stoical pride, which haunts him like a
fate. But I know he _does_ feel; I know he is _not_ as hard at heart
as he tries to be; I have seen too many real acts of pity to the
unfortunate, of tenderness to the weak, of real love to his friends to
believe that. Great have been his sins against our sex, and God forbid
that the mother of children should speak lightly of them; but is not
so susceptible a temperament, and so singular a power to charm as he
possessed, to be taken into account in estimating his temptations?
Because he is a sinning man, it does not follow that he is a demon. If
any should have cause to think bitterly of him, I should. He trifled
inexcusably with my deepest feelings; he caused me years of conflict
and anguish, such as he little knows. I was almost shipwrecked; yet
I will still say to the last that what I loved in him was a better
self—something really noble and good, however concealed and perverted
by pride, ambition, and self-will. Though all the world reject him, I
still have faith in this better nature, and prayers that he may be led
right at last. There is at least one heart that will always intercede
with God for him.’

       *       *       *       *       *

It is well known that for many years after Burr’s death the odium
that covered his name was so great that no monument was erected, lest
it should become a mark for popular violence. Subsequently, however,
in a mysterious manner a plain granite slab marked his grave; by
whom erected has been never known. It was placed in the night by
some friendly, unknown hand. A labourer in the vicinity, who first
discovered it, found lying near the spot a small porte-monnaie, which
had perhaps been used in paying for the workmanship. It contained no
papers that could throw any light on the subject, except the fragment
of the address of a letter, on which was written ‘Henri de Frontignac.’

    THE END.

  LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired. “Ain’t” is printed both with and
without the apostrophe. It’s also at times printed as “a’n’t”. This was
retained.

Text uses both Olladine and Ollodine for the spelling of Ms. Hocum’s
first name.

Page 52, “bacherlorhood” changed to “bachelorhood” (a late bachelorhood)

Page 109, the hyphen after “whole” was retained in “A
whole-woman’s-rights’ convention” as it was confirmed to be printed
that way in other editions of the same text.

Page 266, illustration “Eugenie” should be “Virginie”

Page 320, “rock” changed to “Rock” (just at Savin Rock)

Page 339, actual reference for “They looked unto Him, and were likened”
is “They looked unto Him, and were lightened” from Psalm 34:5.

Page 340, “mullens” changed to “mulleins” (clump of yellow mulleins)





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