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Title: Pink and White Tyranny - A Society Novel
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pink and White Tyranny - A Society Novel" ***

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“MAKE THEIR ACQUAINTANCE; FOR AMY WILL BE FOUND DELIGHTFUL, BETH VERY
LOVELY, MEG BEAUTIFUL, AND JO SPLENDID!”—_The Catholic World._


LITTLE WOMEN. By LOUISA M. ALCOTT. In Two Parts. Price of each $1.50.

“Simply one of the most charming little books that have fallen into our
hands for many a day. There is just enough of sadness in it to make it
true to life, while it is so full of honest work and whole-souled fun,
paints so lively a picture of a home in which contentment, energy, high
spirits, and real goodness make up for the lack of money, that it will
do good wherever it finds its way. Few will read it without lasting
profit.”—_Hartford Courant._

“LITTLE WOMEN. By Louisa M. Alcott. We regard these volumes as two of
the most fascinating that ever came into a household. Old and young
read them with the same eagerness. Lifelike in all their delineations
of time, place, and character, they are not only intensely interesting,
but full of a cheerful morality, that makes them healthy reading
for both fireside and the Sunday school. We think we love ”Jo“ a
little better than all the rest, her genius is so happy tempered with
affection.”—_The Guiding Star._

The following verbatim copy of a letter from a “little woman” is a
specimen of many which enthusiasm for her book has dictated to the
author of “Little Women:”—

                                            —— March 12, 1870.

    DEAR JO, OR MISS ALCOTT,—We have all been reading “Little
    Women,” and we liked it so much I could not help wanting to
    write to you. We think _you_ are perfectly splendid; I like
    you better every time I read it. We were all so disappointed
    about your not marrying Laurie; I cried over that part,—I
    could not help it. We all liked Laurie ever so much, and
    almost killed ourselves laughing over the funny things you
    and he said.

    We are six sisters and two brothers; and there were so many
    things in “Little Women” that seemed so natural, especially
    selling the rags.

    Eddie is the oldest; then there is Annie (our Meg), then
    Nelly (that’s me), May and Milly (our Beths), Rosie,
    Rollie, and dear little Carrie (the baby). Eddie goes away
    to school, and when he comes home for the holidays we have
    lots of fun, playing cricket, croquet, base ball, and every
    thing. If you ever want to play any of those games, just
    come to our house, and you will find plenty children to play
    with you.

    If you ever come to ——, I do wish you would come and see
    us,—we would like it so much.

    I have named my doll after you, and I hope she will try and
    deserve it.

    I do wish you would send me a picture of you. I hope your
    health is better, and you are having a nice time.

    If you write to me, please direct —— Ill. All the children
    send their love.

    With ever so much love, from your affectionate friend,

                                                       NELLY.


_Mailed to any address, postpaid, on receipt of the advertised price._

                                 ROBERTS BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
                                                         _Boston._



AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL. By LOUISA M. ALCOTT. With Illustrations. Price
$1.50.


“Miss Alcott has a faculty of entering into the lives and feelings of
children that is conspicuously wanting in most writers who address
them; and to this cause, to the consciousness among her readers that
they are hearing about people like themselves, instead of abstract
qualities labelled with names, the popularity of her books is due.
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are friends in every nursery and schoolroom,
and even in the parlor and office they are not unknown; for a good
story is interesting to older folks as well, and Miss Alcott carries
on her children to manhood and womanhood, and leaves them only on the
wedding-day.”—_Mrs. Sarah J. Hale in Godey’s Ladies’ Book._

“We are glad to see that Miss Alcott is becoming naturalized among us
as a writer, and cannot help congratulating ourselves on having done
something to bring about the result. The author of ‘Little Women’ is
so manifestly on the side of all that is ‘lovely, pure, and of good
report’ in the life of women, and writes with such genuine power and
humor, and with such a tender charity and sympathy, that we hail her
books with no common pleasure. ‘An Old-Fashioned Girl’ is a protest
from the other side of the Atlantic against the manners of the creature
which we know on this by the name of ‘the Girl of the Period;’ but
the attack is delivered with delicacy as well as force.”—_The London
Spectator._

“A charming little book, brimful of the good qualities of intellect and
heart which made ‘Little Women’ so successful. The ‘Old-Fashioned Girl’
carries with it a teaching specially needed at the present day, and we
are glad to know it is even already a decided and great success.”—_New
York Independent._

“Miss Alcott’s new story deserves quite as great a success as her
famous ”Little Women,“ and we dare say will secure it. She has written
a book which child and parent alike ought to read, for it is neither
above the comprehension of the one, nor below the taste of the other.
Her boys and girls are so fresh, hearty, and natural, the incidents of
her story are so true to life, and the tone is so thoroughly healthy,
that a chapter of the ‘Old-Fashioned Girl’ wakes up the unartificial
better life within us almost as effectually as an hour spent in the
company of good, honest, sprightly children. The Old-Fashioned Girl,
Polly Milton, is a delightful creature!”—_New York Tribune._

“Gladly we welcome the ‘Old-Fashioned Girl’ to heart and home! Joyfully
we herald her progress over the land! Hopefully we look forward to
the time when our young people, following her example, will also
be old-fashioned in purity of heart and simplicity of life, thus
brightening like a sunbeam the atmosphere around them.”—_Providence
Journal._


_Mailed, postpaid, on receipt of the advertised price, by the
Publishers_,

                                        ROBERTS BROTHERS,
                                                    _Boston._



MESSRS. ROBERTS BROTHERS’

RECENT NEW BOOKS.


    A VISIT TO MY DISCONTENTED COUSIN. Handy-Volume Series, No.
    8. 16mo. $1.00.

    BURNAND (F. C.). More Happy Thoughts. 16mo. $1.00.

    ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN. The Forest House and Catherine’s Lovers.
    16mo. $1.50.

    HELPS (ARTHUR). Essays Written in the Intervals of Business.
    16mo. $1.50.

    —— Brevia: Short Essays and Aphorisms. 16mo. $1.50.

    —— Conversations on War and General Culture. 16mo. $1.50.

    HALE (EDWARD E.). Ten times One is Ten. 16mo. $0.88.

    HAMERTON (PHILIP G.). Thoughts about Art. 16mo. $2.00.

    INGELOW (JEAN). The Monitions of the Unseen, and Poems of
    Love and Childhood. 12 Illustrations. 16mo. $1.50.

    JUDD (SYLVESTER). Margaret: A Tale of the Real and the
    Ideal, of Blight and Bloom. 16mo. $1.50.

    —— Richard Edney and the Governor’s Family. 16mo. $1.50.

    KONEWKA (PAUL). Silhouette Illustrations to Goethe’s Faust.
    Quarto. $4.00.

    LOWELL (MRS. A. C.). Posies for Children. 16mo. $0.75.

    LANDOR (WALTER SAVAGE). Pericles and Aspasia. 16mo. $1.50.

    MAX AND MAURICE. Translated by Charles T. Brooks. 12mo.
    $1.50.

    MICHELET (M. JULES). France Before Europe. 16mo. $1.00.

    PARKER (JOSEPH). Ad Clerum: Advices to a Young Preacher.
    16mo. $1.50.

    PRESTON (HARRIET W.). Aspendale. 16mo. $1.50.

    PUCK’S NIGHTLY PRANKS. Silhouette Illustrations by Paul
    Konewka. Paper Covers. $0.50

    SEELEY (J. R.). Roman Imperialism and Other Lectures and
    Essays. 16mo. $1.50.

    STOWE (HARRIET BEECHER). Pink and White Tyranny. 16mo. $1.50.

    JOHN WHOPPER’S ADVENTURES. 16mo. $0.75.


“MISS ALCOTT IS REALLY A BENEFACTOR OF HOUSE-HOLDS.”—_H. H._


LITTLE MEN: Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys. By LOUISA M. ALCOTT. With
Illustrations. Price $1.50.

“The gods are to be congratulated upon the success of the Alcott
experiment, as well as all childhood, young and old, upon the singular
charm of the little men and little women who have run forth from
the Alcott cottage, children of a maiden whose genius is beautiful
motherhood.”—_The Examiner._

“No true-hearted boy or girl can read this book without deriving
benefit from the perusal: nor, for that matter, will it the least
injure children of a larger growth to endeavor to profit by the
examples of gentleness and honesty set before them in its pages. What
a delightful school ‘Jo’ did keep! Why, it makes us want to live our
childhood’s days over again, in the hope that we might induce some
kind-hearted female to establish just such a school, and might prevail
upon our parents to send us, ‘because it was cheap.’ ... We wish the
genial authoress a long life in which to enjoy the fruits of her labor,
and cordially thank her, in the name of our young people, for her
efforts in their behalf.”—_Waterbury American._

“Miss Alcott, whose name has already become a household word among
little people, will gain a new hold upon their love and admiration by
this little book. It forms a fitting sequel to ‘Little Women,’ and
contains the same elements of popularity.... We expect to see it even
more popular than its predecessor, and shall heartily rejoice at the
success of an author whose works afford so much hearty and innocent
enjoyment to the family circle, and teach such pleasant and wholesome
lessons to old and young.”—_N. Y. Times._

“Suggestive, truthful, amusing, and racy, in a certain simplicity of
style which very few are capable of producing. It is the history of
only six months’ school-life of a dozen boys, but is full of variety
and vitality, and the having girls with the boys is a charming novelty,
too. To be very candid, this book is so thoroughly good that we hope
Miss Alcott will give us another in the same genial vein, for she
understands children and their ways.”—_Phil. Press._

A specimen letter from a little woman to the author of “Little Men.”

                                                    June 17, 1871.

DEAR MISS ALCOTT,—We have just finished “Little Men,” and like it so
much that we thought we would write and ask you to write another book
sequel to “Little Men,” and have more about Laurie and Amy, as we like
them the best. We are the Literary Club, and we got the idea from
“Little Women.” We have a paper two sheets of foolscap and a half.
There are four of us, two cousins and my sister and myself. Our assumed
names are: Horace Greeley, President; Susan B. Anthony, Editor; Harriet
B. Stowe, Vice-President; and myself, Anna C. Ritchie, Secretary. We
call our paper the “Saturday Night,” and we all write stories and have
reports of sermons and of our meetings, and write about the queens of
England. We did not know but you would like to hear this, as the idea
sprang from your book; and we thought we would write, as we liked your
book _so_ much. And now, if it is not too much to ask of you, I wish
you would answer this, as we are very impatient to know if you will
write another book; and please answer soon, as Miss Anthony is going
away, and she wishes very much to hear from you before she does. If you
write, please direct to —— Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.

                                            Yours truly,
                                                     ALICE ——.


_Mailed to any address, postpaid, on receipt of the advertised price,
by the Publishers,_

                                         ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.



PINK AND WHITE TYRANNY.

    A Society Novel.

    BY
    MRS. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE,
    AUTHOR OF “UNCLE TOM’S CABIN,” “THE MINISTER’S WOOING,” ETC.

    “Come, then, the colors and the ground prepare;
     Dip in the rainbow, trick her off in air;
     Choose a firm cloud before it fall, and in it
     Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute.”
                                                    POPE.


    BOSTON:
    ROBERTS BROTHERS.
    1871.



    Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by

    HARRIET BEECHER STOWE,

    In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.


    CAMBRIDGE:
    PRESS OF JOHN WILSON AND SON.



PREFACE.


MY DEAR READER,—This story is not to be a novel, as the world
understands the word; and we tell you so beforehand, lest you be in
ill-humor by not finding what you expected. For if you have been told
that your dinner is to be salmon and green peas, and made up your mind
to that bill of fare, and then, on coming to the table, find that it
is beefsteak and tomatoes, you may be out of sorts; _not_ because
beefsteak and tomatoes are not respectable viands, but because they are
not what you have made up your mind to enjoy.

Now, a novel, in our days, is a three-story affair,—a complicated,
complex, multiform composition, requiring no end of scenery and
_dramatis personæ_, and plot and plan, together with trap-doors,
pit-falls, wonderful escapes and thrilling dangers; and the scenes
transport one all over the earth,—to England, Italy, Switzerland,
Japan, and Kamtschatka. But this is a little commonplace history,
all about one man and one woman, living straight along in one little
prosaic town in New England. It is, moreover, a story with a moral;
and for fear that you shouldn’t find out exactly what the moral is,
we shall adopt the plan of the painter who wrote under his pictures,
“This is a bear,” and “This is a turtle-dove.” We shall tell you in the
proper time succinctly just what the moral is, and send you off edified
as if you had been hearing a sermon. So please to call this little
sketch a parable, and wait for the exposition thereof.



CONTENTS.


  CHAP.                                                    PAGE
       I. FALLING IN LOVE                                     1
      II. WHAT SHE THINKS OF IT                              19
     III. THE SISTER                                         31
      IV. PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE                           39
       V. WEDDING, AND WEDDING-TRIP                          56
      VI. HONEY-MOON, AND AFTER                              63
     VII. WILL SHE LIKE IT?                                  74
    VIII. SPINDLEWOOD                                        86
      IX. A CRISIS                                           92
       X. CHANGES                                           104
      XI. NEWPORT; OR, THE PARADISE OF NOTHING TO DO        112
     XII. HOME À LA POMPADOUR                               126
    XIII. JOHN’S BIRTHDAY                                   137
     XIV. A GREAT MORAL CONFLICT                            152
      XV. THE FOLLINGSBEES ARRIVE                           161
     XVI. MRS. JOHN SEYMOUR’S PARTY, AND WHAT CAME OF IT    181
    XVII. AFTER THE BATTLE                                  197
   XVIII. A BRICK TURNS UP                                  213
     XIX. THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE                           228
      XX. THE VAN ASTRACHANS                                243
     XXI. MRS. FOLLINGSBEE’S PARTY, AND WHAT CAME OF IT     250
    XXII. THE SPIDER-WEB BROKEN                             268
   XXIII. COMMON-SENSE ARGUMENTS                            281
    XXIV. SENTIMENT _v._ SENSIBILITY                        284
     XXV. WEDDING BELLS                                     291
    XXVI. MOTHERHOOD                                        297
   XXVII. CHECKMATE                                         304
  XXVIII. AFTER THE STORM                                   321
    XXIX. THE NEW LILLIE                                    326



PINK AND WHITE TYRANNY.



CHAPTER I.

_FALLING IN LOVE._

[Illustration: LILLIE.]


“WHO _is_ that beautiful creature?” said John Seymour, as a light,
sylph-like form tripped up the steps of the veranda of the hotel where
he was lounging away his summer vacation.

“That! Why, don’t you know, man? That is the celebrated, the divine
Lillie Ellis, the most adroit ‘fisher of men’ that has been seen in our
days.”

“By George, but she’s pretty, though!” said John, following with
enchanted eyes the distant motions of the sylphide.

The vision that he saw was of a delicate little fairy form; a
complexion of pearly white, with a cheek of the hue of a pink shell;
a fair, sweet, infantine face surrounded by a fleecy radiance of soft
golden hair. The vision appeared to float in some white gauzy robes;
and, when she spoke or smiled, what an innocent, fresh, untouched,
unspoiled look there was upon the face! John gazed, and thought of all
sorts of poetical similes: of a “daisy just wet with morning dew;” of a
“violet by a mossy stone;” in short, of all the things that poets have
made and provided for the use of young gentlemen in the way of falling
in love.

This John Seymour was about as good and honest a man as there is going
in this world of ours. He was a generous, just, manly, religious young
fellow. He was heir to a large, solid property; he was a well-read
lawyer, established in a flourishing business; he was a man that all
the world spoke well of, and had cause to speak well of. The only
duty to society which John had left as yet unperformed was that of
matrimony. Three and thirty years had passed; and, with every advantage
for supporting a wife, with a charming home all ready for a mistress,
John, as yet, had not proposed to be the defender and provider for any
of the more helpless portion of creation. The cause of this was, in
the first place, that John was very happy in the society of a sister,
a little older than himself, who managed his house admirably, and was
a charming companion to his leisure hours; and, in the second place,
that he had a secret, bashful self-depreciation in regard to his power
of pleasing women, which made him ill at ease in their society. Not
that he did not mean to marry. He certainly did. But the fair being
that he was to marry was a distant ideal, a certain undefined and
cloudlike creature; and, up to this time, he had been waiting to meet
her, without taking any definite steps towards that end. To say the
truth, John Seymour, like many other outwardly solid, sober-minded,
respectable citizens, had deep within himself a little private bit
of romance. He could not utter it, he never talked it; he would have
blushed and stammered and stuttered wofully, and made a very poor
figure, in trying to tell any one about it; but nevertheless it was
there, a secluded chamber of imagery, and the future Mrs. John Seymour
formed its principal ornament.

The wife that John had imaged, his _dream_-wife, was not at all like
his sister; though he loved his sister heartily, and thought her one of
the best and noblest women that could possibly be.

But his sister was all plain prose,—good, strong, earnest, respectable
prose, it is true, but yet prose. He could read English history with
her, talk accounts and business with her, discuss politics with her,
and valued her opinions on all these topics as much as that of any
man of his acquaintance. But, with the visionary Mrs. John Seymour
aforesaid, he never seemed to himself to be either reading history or
settling accounts, or talking politics; he was off with her in some
sort of enchanted cloudland of happiness, where she was all to him,
and he to her,—a sort of rapture of protective love on one side, and
of confiding devotion on the other, quite inexpressible, and that John
would not have talked of for the world.

So when he saw this distant vision of airy gauzes, of pearly whiteness,
of sea-shell pink, of infantine smiles, and waving, golden curls, he
stood up with a shy desire to approach the wonderful creature, and yet
with a sort of embarrassed feeling of being very awkward and clumsy.
He felt, somehow, as if he were a great, coarse behemoth; his arms
seemed to him awkward appendages; his hands suddenly appeared to him
rough, and his fingers swelled and stumpy. When he thought of asking
an introduction, he felt himself growing very hot, and blushing to the
roots of his hair.

“Want to be introduced to her, Seymour?” said Carryl Ethridge. “I’ll
trot you up. I know her.”

“No, thank you,” said John, stiffly. In his heart, he felt an absurd
anger at Carryl for the easy, assured way in which he spoke of the
sacred creature who seemed to him something too divine to be lightly
talked of. And then he saw Carryl marching up to her with his air of
easy assurance. He saw the bewitching smile come over that fair,
flowery face; he saw Carryl, with unabashed familiarity, take her fan
out of her hand, look at it as if it were a mere common, earthly fan,
toss it about, and pretend to fan himself with it.

[Illustration: “I didn’t know he was such a puppy.”]

“I didn’t know he was such a puppy!” said John to himself, as he stood
in a sort of angry bashfulness, envying the man that was so familiar
with that loveliness.

Ah! John, John! You wouldn’t, for the world, have told to man or woman
what a fool you were at that moment.

“What a fool I am!” was his mental commentary: “just as if it was any
thing to me.” And he turned, and walked to the other end of the veranda.

“I think you’ve hooked another fish, Lillie,” said Belle Trevors in the
ear of the little divinity.

“Who. . . ?”

“Why! that Seymour there, at the end of the veranda. He is looking at
you, do you know? He is rich, very rich, and of an old family. Didn’t
you see how he started and looked after you when you came up on the
veranda?”

“Oh! I saw plain enough,” said the divinity, with one of her
unconscious, baby-like smiles.

“What are you ladies talking?” said Carryl Ethridge.

“Oh, secrets!” said Belle Trevors. “You are very presuming, sir, to
inquire.”

“Mr. Ethridge,” said Lillie Ellis, “don’t you think it would be nice to
promenade?”

This was said with such a pretty coolness, such a quiet composure, as
showed Miss Lillie to be quite mistress of the situation; there was, of
course, no sort of design in it.

Ethridge offered his arm at once; and the two sauntered to the end of
the veranda, where John Seymour was standing.

The blood rushed in hot currents over him, and he could hear the
beating of his heart: he felt somehow as if the hour of his fate was
coming. He had a wild desire to retreat, and put it off. He looked
over the end of the veranda, with some vague idea of leaping it; but
alas! it was ten feet above ground, and a lover’s leap would have only
ticketed him as out of his head. There was nothing for it but to meet
his destiny like a man.

Carryl came up with the lady on his arm; and as he stood there for a
moment, in the coolest, most indifferent tone in the world, said, “Oh!
by the by, Miss Ellis, let me present my friend Mr. Seymour.”

[Illustration: “Let me present my friend, Mr. Seymour.”]

The die was cast.

John’s face burned like fire: he muttered something about “being happy
to make Miss Ellis’s acquaintance,” looking all the time as if he would
be glad to jump over the railing, or take wings and fly, to get rid of
the happiness.

Miss Ellis was a belle by profession, and she understood her business
perfectly. In nothing did she show herself master of her craft, more
than in the adroitness with which she could soothe the bashful pangs of
new votaries, and place them on an easy footing with her.

“Mr. Seymour,” she said affably, “to tell the truth, I have been
desirous of the honor of your acquaintance, ever since I saw you in the
breakfast-room this morning.”

“I am sure I am very much flattered,” said John, his heart beating
thick and fast. “May I ask why you honor me with such a wish?”

“Well, to tell the truth, because you strikingly resemble a very
dear friend of mine,” said Miss Ellis, with her sweet, unconscious
simplicity of manner.

“I am still more flattered,” said John, with a quicker beating of the
heart; “only I fear that you may find me an unpleasant contrast.”

“Oh! I think not,” said Lillie, with another smile: “we shall soon be
good friends, too, I trust.”

“I trust so certainly,” said John, earnestly.

Belle Trevors now joined the party; and the four were soon chatting
together on the best footing of acquaintance. John was delighted to
feel himself already on easy terms with the fair vision.

“You have not been here long?” said Lillie to John.

“No, I have only just arrived.”

“And you were never here before?”

“No, Miss Ellis, I am entirely new to the place.”

“I am an old _habituée_ here,” said Lillie, “and can recommend myself
as authority on all points connected with it.”

“Then,” said John, “I hope you will take me under your tuition.”

“Certainly, free of charge,” she said, with another ravishing smile.

“You haven’t seen the boiling spring yet?” she added.

“No, I haven’t seen any thing yet.”

“Well, then, if you’ll give me your arm across the lawn, I’ll show it
to you.”

All of this was done in the easiest, most matter-of-course manner in
the world; and off they started, John in a flutter of flattered delight
at the gracious acceptance accorded to him.

Ethridge and Belle Trevors looked after them with a nod of intelligence
at each other.

“Hooked, by George!” said Ethridge.

“Well, it’ll be a good thing for Lillie, won’t it?”

“For her? Oh, yes, a capital thing _for her_!”

“Well, for _him_ too.”

“Well, I don’t know. John is a pretty nice fellow; a very nice fellow,
besides being rich, and all that; and Lillie is somewhat shop-worn by
this time. Let me see: she must be seven and twenty.”

“Oh, yes, she’s all that!” said Belle, with ingenuous ardor. “Why, she
was in society while I was a school-girl! Yes, dear Lillie is certainly
twenty-seven, if not more; but she keeps her freshness wonderfully.”

“Well, she looks fresh enough, I suppose, to a good, honest, artless
fellow like John Seymour, who knows as little of the world as a
milkmaid. John is a great, innocent, country steer, fed on clover and
dew; and as honest and ignorant of all sorts of naughty, wicked things
as his mother or sister. He takes Lillie in a sacred simplicity quite
refreshing; but to me Lillie is played out. I know her like a book. I
know all her smiles and wiles, advices and devices; and her system of
tactics is an old story with me. I shan’t interrupt any of her little
games. Let her have her little field all to herself: it’s time she was
married, to be sure.”

Meanwhile, John was being charmingly ciceroned by Lillie, and scarcely
knew whether he was in the body or out. All that he felt, and felt with
a sort of wonder, was that he seemed to be acceptable and pleasing
in the eyes of this little fairy, and that she was leading him into
wonderland.

They went not only to the boiling spring, but up and down so many
wild, woodland paths that had been cut for the adornment of the Carmel
Springs, and so well pleased were both parties, that it was supper-time
before they reappeared on the lawn; and, when they did appear, Lillie
was leaning confidentially on John’s arm, with a wreath of woodbine in
her hair that he had arranged there, wondering all the while at his
own wonderful boldness, and at the grace of the fair entertainer.

[Illustration: “Lillie was leaning confidentially on John’s arm.”]

The returning couple were seen from the windows of Mrs. Chit, who sat
on the lookout for useful information; and who forthwith ran to the
apartments of Mrs. Chat, and told her to look out at them.

Billy This, who was smoking his cigar on the veranda, immediately ran
and called Harry That to look at them, and laid a bet at once that
Lillie had “hooked” Seymour.

“She’ll have him, by George, she will!”

“Oh, pshaw! she is always hooking fellows, but you see she don’t get
married,” said matter-of-fact Harry. “It won’t come to any thing, now,
I’ll bet. Everybody said she was engaged to Danforth, but it all ended
in smoke.”

Whether it would be an engagement, or would all end in smoke, was the
talk of Carmel Springs for the next two weeks.

At the end of that time, the mind of Carmel Springs was relieved by the
announcement that it was an engagement.

The important deciding announcement was first authentically made by
Lillie to Belle Trevors, who had been invited into her room that night
for the purpose.

“Well, Belle, it’s all over. He spoke out to-night.”

“He offered himself?”

“Certainly.”

“And you took him?”

“Of course I did: I should be a fool not to.”

“Oh, so I think, decidedly!” said Belle, kissing her friend in a
rapture. “You dear creature! how nice! it’s splendid!”

Lillie took the embrace with her usual sweet composure, and turned to
her looking-glass, and began taking down her hair for the night. It
will be perceived that this young lady was not overcome with emotion,
but in a perfectly collected state of mind.

“He’s a little bald, and getting rather stout,” she said reflectively,
“but he’ll do.”

“I never saw a creature so dead in love as he is,” said Belle.

A quiet smile passed over the soft, peach-blow cheeks as Lillie
answered,—

“Oh, dear, yes! He perfectly worships the ground I tread on.”

“Lil, you fortunate creature, you! Positively it’s the best match
that there has been about here this summer. He’s rich, of an old,
respectable family; and then he has good principles, you know, and all
that,” said Belle.

“I think he’s nice myself,” said Lillie, as she stood brushing out
a golden tangle of curls. “Dear me!” she added, “how much better he
is than that Danforth! Really, Danforth was a little too horrid: his
teeth were dreadful. Do you know, I should have had something of a
struggle to take him, though he was so terribly rich? Then Danforth had
been horridly dissipated,—you don’t know,—Maria Sanford told me such
shocking things about him, and she knows they are true. Now, I don’t
think John has ever been dissipated.”

[Illustration: “I think he’s nice myself.”]

“Oh, no!” said Belle. “I heard all about him. He joined the
church when he was only twenty, and has been always spoken of as a
perfect model. I only think you may find it a little slow, living
in Springdale. He has a fine, large, old-fashioned house there, and
his sister is a very nice woman; but they are a sort of respectable,
retired set,—never go into fashionable company.”

“Oh, I don’t mind it!” said Lillie. “I shall have things my own way,
I know. One isn’t obliged to live in Springdale, nor with pokey old
sisters, you know; and John will do just as I say, and live where I
please.”

She said this with her simple, soft air of perfect assurance, twisting
her shower of bright, golden curls; with her gentle, childlike face,
and soft, beseeching, blue eyes, and dimpling little mouth, looking
back on her, out of the mirror. By these the little queen had always
ruled from her cradle, and should she not rule now? Was it any
wonder that John was half out of his wits with joy at thought of
possessing _her_? Simply and honestly, she thought not. He was to be
congratulated; though it wasn’t a bad thing for her, either.

“Belle,” said Lillie, after an interval of reflection, “I won’t be
married in white satin,—that I’m resolved on. Now,” she said, facing
round with increasing earnestness, “there have been five weddings
in our set, and all the girls have been married in just the same
dress,—white satin and point lace, white satin and point lace, over and
over, till I’m tired of it. _I’m_ determined I’ll have something new.”

“Well, I would, I’m sure,” said Belle. “Say white tulle, for instance:
you know you are so _petite_ and fairy-like.”

“No: I shall write out to Madame La Roche, and tell her she must get up
something wholly original. I shall send for my whole _trousseau_. Papa
will be glad enough to come down, since he gets me off his hands, and
no more fuss about bills, you know. Do you know, Belle, that creature
is just wild about me: he’d like to ransack all the jewellers’ shops in
New York for me. He’s going up to-morrow, just to choose the engagement
ring. He says he can’t trust to an order; that he must go and choose
one worthy of me.”

“Oh! it’s plain enough that that game is all in your hands, as to him,
Lillie; but, Lil, what will your Cousin Harry say to all this?”

“Well, of course he won’t like it; but I can’t help it if he don’t.
Harry ought to know that it’s all nonsense for him and me to think of
marrying. He does know it.”

“To tell the truth, I always thought, Lil, you were more in love with
Harry than anybody you ever knew.”

Lillie laughed a little, and then the prettiest sweet-pea flush
deepened the pink of her cheeks.

“To say the truth, Belle, I could have been, if he had been in
circumstances to marry. But, you see, I am one of those to whom the
luxuries are essential. I never could rub and scrub and work; in fact,
I had rather not live at all than live poor; and Harry is poor, and he
always will be poor. It’s a pity, too, poor fellow, for he’s nice.
Well, he is off in India! I know he will be tragical and gloomy, and
all that,” she said; and then the soft child-face smiled to itself in
the glass,—such a pretty little innocent smile!

All this while, John sat up with his heart beating very fast, writing
all about his engagement to his sister, and, up to this point, his
nearest, dearest, most confidential friend. It is almost too bad to
copy the letter of a shy man who finds himself in love for the first
time in his life; but we venture to make an extract:—

    “It is not her beauty merely that drew me to her, though
    she is the most beautiful human being I ever saw: it is the
    exquisite feminine softness and delicacy of her character,
    that sympathetic pliability by which she adapts herself to
    every varying feeling of the heart. You, my dear sister,
    are the noblest of women, and your place in my heart is
    still what it always was; but I feel that this dear little
    creature, while she fills a place no other has ever entered,
    will yet be a new bond to unite us. She will love us both;
    she will gradually come into all our ways and opinions,
    and be insensibly formed by us into a noble womanhood. Her
    extreme beauty, and the great admiration that has always
    followed her, have exposed her to many temptations, and
    caused most ungenerous things to be said of her.

    “Hitherto she has lived only in the fashionable world; and
    her literary and domestic education, as she herself is
    sensible, has been somewhat neglected.

    “But she longs to retire from all this; she is sick of
    fashionable folly, and will come to us to be all our own.
    Gradually the charming circle of cultivated families which
    form our society will elevate her taste, and form her mind.

    “Love is woman’s inspiration, and love will lead her to all
    that is noble and good. My dear sister, think not that any
    new ties are going to make you any less to me, or touch your
    place in my heart. I have already spoken of you to Lillie,
    and she longs to know you. You must be to her what you have
    always been to me,—guide, philosopher, and friend.

    “I am sure I never felt better impulses, more humble, more
    thankful, more religious, than I do now. That the happiness
    of this soft, gentle, fragile creature is to be henceforth
    in my hands is to me a solemn and inspiring thought. What
    man is worthy of a refined, delicate woman? I feel my
    unworthiness of her every hour; but, so help me God, I shall
    try to be all to her that a husband should; and you, my
    sister, I know, will help me to make happy the future which
    she so confidingly trusts to me.

    “Believe me, dear sister, I never was so much your
    affectionate brother,

                                                 “JOHN SEYMOUR.

    “P.S.—I forgot to tell you that Lillie remarkably resembles
    the ivory miniature of our dear sainted mother. She was
    very much affected when I told her of it. I think naturally
    Lillie has very much such a character as our mother; though
    circumstances, in her case, have been unfavorable to the
    development of it.”

Whether the charming vision was realized; whether the little sovereign
now enthroned will be a just and clement one; what immunities and
privileges she will allow to her slaves,—is yet to be seen in this
story.



CHAPTER II.

_WHAT SHE THINKS OF IT._


[Illustration: “From John, good fellow.”]

SPRINGDALE was one of those beautiful rural towns whose flourishing
aspect is a striking exponent of the peculiarities of New-England
life. The ride through it presents a refreshing picture of wide, cool,
grassy streets, overhung with green arches of elm, with rows of large,
handsome houses on either side, each standing back from the street
in its own retired square of gardens, green turf, shady trees, and
flowering shrubs. It was, so to speak, a little city of country-seats.
It spoke of wealth, thrift, leisure, cultivation, quiet, thoughtful
habits, and moral tastes.

Some of these mansions were of ancestral reputation, and had been in
the family whose name they bore for generations back; a circumstance
sometimes occurring even in New-England towns where neither law nor
custom unites to perpetuate property in certain family lines.

The Seymour house was a well-known, respected mansion for generations
back. Old Judge Seymour, the grandfather, was the lineal descendant of
Parson Seymour; the pastor who first came with the little colony of
Springdale, when it was founded as a church in the wilderness, amid all
the dangers of wild beasts and Indians.

This present Seymour mansion was founded on the spot where the house of
the first minister was built by the active hands of his parishioners;
and, from generation to generation, order, piety, education, and high
respectability had been the tradition of the place.

The reader will come in with us, on this bright June morning, through
the grassy front yard, which has only the usual New-England fault of
being too densely shaded. The house we enter has a wide, cool hall
running through its centre and out into a back garden, now all aglow
with every beauty of June. The broad alleys of the garden showed
bright stores of all sorts of good old-fashioned flowers, well tended
and kept. Clumps of stately hollyhocks and scarlet peonies; roses of
every hue, purple, blush, gold-color, and white, were showering down
their leaves on the grassy turf; honeysuckles climbed and clambered
over arbors; and great, stately tufts of virgin-white lilies exalted
their majestic heads in saintly magnificence. The garden was Miss
Grace Seymour’s delight and pride. Every root in it was fragrant with
the invisible blossoms of memory,—memories of the mother who loved
and planted and watched them before her, and the grandmother who had
cared for them before that. The spirit of these charming old-fashioned
gardens is the spirit of family love; and, if ever blessed souls from
their better home feel drawn back to any thing on earth, we think it
must be to their flower-garden.

Miss Grace had been up early, and now, with her garden hat on, and
scissors in hand, was coming up the steps with her white apron full
of roses, white lilies, meadow-sweets, and honeysuckle, for the
parlor-vases, when the servant handed her a letter.

“From John,” she said, “good fellow;” and then she laid it on the
mantel-shelf of the parlor, while she busied herself in arranging her
flowers.

“I must get these into water, or they will wilt,” she said.

The large parlor was like many that you and I have seen in a certain
respectable class of houses,—wide, cool, shady, and with a mellow
_old_ tone to every thing in its furniture and belongings. It was
a parlor of the past, and not of to-day, yet exquisitely neat and
well-kept. The Turkey carpet was faded: it had been part of the wedding
furnishing of Grace’s mother, years ago. The great, wide, motherly,
chintz-covered sofa, which filled a recess commanding the window, was
as different as possible from any smart modern article of the name.
The heavy, claw-footed, mahogany chairs; the tall clock that ticked in
one corner; the footstools and ottomans in faded embroidery,—all spoke
of days past. So did the portraits on the wall. One was of a fair,
rosy young girl, in a white gown, with powdered hair dressed high over
a cushion. It was the portrait of Grace’s mother. Another was that of
a minister in gown and bands, with black-silk gloved hands holding
up conspicuously a large Bible. This was the remote ancestor, the
minister. Then there was the picture of John’s father, placed lovingly
where the eyes seemed always to be following the slight, white-robed
figure of the young wife. The walls were papered with an old-fashioned
paper of a peculiar pattern, bought in France seventy-five years
before. The vases of India-china that adorned the mantels, the framed
engravings of architecture and pictures in Rome, all were memorials of
the taste of those long passed away. Yet the room had a fresh, sweet,
sociable air. The roses and honeysuckles looked in at the windows; the
table covered with books and magazines, and the familiar work-basket
of Miss Grace, with its work, gave a sort of impression of modern
family household life. It was a wide, open, hospitable, generous-minded
room, that seemed to breathe a fragrance of invitation and general
sociability; it was a room full of associations and memories, and its
daily arrangement and ornamentation made one of the pleasant tasks of
Miss Grace’s life.

She spread down a newspaper on the large, square centre-table, and,
emptying her apronful of flowers upon it, took her vases from the
shelf, and with her scissors sat down to the task of clipping and
arranging them.

Just then Letitia Ferguson came across the garden, and entered the back
door after her, with a knot of choice roses in her hand, and a plate of
seed-cakes covered with a hem-stitched napkin. The Fergusons and the
Seymours occupied adjoining houses, and were on footing of the most
perfect undress intimacy. They crossed each other’s gardens, and came
without knocking into each other’s doors twenty times a day, _apropos_
to any bit of chit-chat that they might have, a question to ask, a
passage in a book to show, a household receipt that they had been
trying. Letitia was the most intimate and confidential friend of Grace.
In fact, the whole Ferguson family seemed like another portion of the
Seymour family. There were two daughters, of whom Letitia was the
eldest. Then came the younger Rose, a nice, charming, well-informed,
good girl, always cheerful and chatty, and with a decent share of
ability at talking lively nonsense. The brothers of the family, like
the young men of New-England country towns generally, were off in
the world seeking their fortunes. Old Judge Ferguson was a gentleman
of the old school,—formal, stately, polite, always complimentary to
ladies, and with a pleasant little budget of old-gentlemanly hobbies
and prejudices, which it afforded him the greatest pleasure to air
in the society of his friends. Old Mrs. Ferguson was a pattern of
motherliness, with her quaint, old-fashioned dress, her elaborate
caps, her daily and minute inquiries after the health of all her
acquaintances, and the tender pityingness of her nature for every thing
that lived and breathed in this world of sin and sorrow.

Letitia and Grace, as two older sisters of families, had a peculiar
intimacy, and discussed every thing together, from the mode of clearing
jelly up to the profoundest problems of science and morals. They were
both charming, well-mannered, well-educated, well-read women, and
trusted each other to the uttermost with every thought and feeling and
purpose of their hearts.

As we have said, Letitia Ferguson came in at the back door without
knocking, and, coming softly behind Miss Grace, laid down her bunch of
roses among the flowers, and then set down her plate of seed-cakes.

Then she said, “I brought you some specimens of my Souvenir de
Malmaison bush, and my first trial of your receipt.”

“Oh, thanks!” said Miss Grace: “how charming those roses are! It was
too bad to spoil your bush, though.”

“No: it does it good to cut them; it will flower all the more. But try
one of those cakes,—are they right?”

“Excellent! you have hit it exactly,” said Grace; “exactly the right
proportion of seeds. I was hurrying,” she added, “to get these flowers
in water, because a letter from John is waiting to be read.”


“A letter! How nice!” said Miss Letitia, looking towards the shelf.
“John is as faithful in writing as if he were your lover.”

“He is the best lover a woman can have,” said Grace, as she busily
sorted and arranged the flowers. “For my part, I ask nothing better
than John.”

“Let me arrange for you, while you read your letter,” said Letitia,
taking the flowers from her friend’s hands.

Miss Grace took down the letter from the mantelpiece, opened, and began
to read it. Miss Letitia, meanwhile, watched her face, as we often
carelessly watch the face of a person reading a letter.

Miss Grace was not technically handsome, but she had an interesting,
kindly, sincere face; and her friend saw gradually a dark cloud rising
over it, as one watches a shadow on a field.

When she had finished the letter, with a sudden movement she laid her
head forward on the table among the flowers, and covered her face with
her hands. She seemed not to remember that any one was present.

Letitia came up to her, and, laying her hand gently on hers, said,
“What is it, dear?”

Miss Grace lifted her head, and said in a husky voice,—

“Nothing, only it is so sudden! John is engaged!”

“Engaged! to whom?”

“To Lillie Ellis.”

“John engaged to Lillie Ellis?” said Miss Ferguson, in a tone of
shocked astonishment.

[Illustration: “She laid her head forward on the table.”]

“So he writes me. He is completely infatuated by her.”

“How very sudden!” said Miss Letitia. “Who could have expected it?
Lillie Ellis is so entirely out of the line of any of the women he has
ever known.”

“That’s precisely what’s the matter,” said Miss Grace. “John knows
nothing of any but good, noble women; and he thinks he sees all this in
Lillie Ellis.”

“There’s nothing to her but her wonderful complexion,” said Miss
Ferguson, “and her pretty little coaxing ways; but she is the most
utterly selfish, heartless little creature that ever breathed.”

“Well, _she_ is to be John’s wife,” said Miss Grace, sweeping the
remainder of the flowers into her apron; “and so ends my life
with John. I might have known it would come to this. I must make
arrangements at once for another house and home. This house, so
much, so dear to me, will be nothing to her; and yet she must be its
mistress,” she added, looking round on every thing in the room, and
then bursting into tears.

Now, Miss Grace was not one of the crying sort, and so this emotion
went to her friend’s heart. Miss Letitia went up and put her arms round
her.

“Come, Gracie,” she said, “you must not take it so seriously. John is a
noble, manly fellow. He loves you, and he will always be master of his
own house.”

“No, he won’t,—no married man ever is,” said Miss Grace, wiping her
eyes, and sitting up very straight. “No man, that is a gentleman, is
ever master in his own house. He has only such rights there as his wife
chooses to give him; and this woman won’t like me, I’m sure.”

“Perhaps she will,” said Letitia, in a faltering voice.

“No, she won’t; because I have no faculty for lying, or playing
the hypocrite in any way, and I shan’t approve of her. These soft,
slippery, pretty little fibbing women have always been my abomination.”

“Oh, my _dear_ Grace!” said Miss Ferguson, “do let us make the best of
it.”

“I _did_ think,” said Miss Grace, wiping her eyes, “that John had some
sense. I wasn’t such a fool, nor so selfish, as to want him always to
live for me. I wanted him to marry; and if he had got engaged to your
Rose, for instance ... O Letitia! I always did so _hope_ that he and
Rose would like each other.”

“We can’t choose for our brothers,” said Miss Letitia, “and, hard as it
is, we must make up our minds to love those they bring to us. Who knows
what good influences may do for poor Lillie Ellis? She never has had
any yet. Her family are extremely common sort of people, without any
culture or breeding, and only her wonderful beauty brought them into
notice; and they have always used that as a sort of stock in trade.”

“And John says, in this letter, that she reminds him of our mother,”
said Miss Grace; “and he thinks that naturally she was very much such a
character. Just think of that, now!”

“He must be far gone,” said Miss Ferguson; “but then, you see, she is
distractingly pretty. She has just the most exquisitely pearly, pure,
delicate, saint-like look, at times, that you ever saw; and then she
knows exactly how she does look, and just how to use her looks; and
John can’t be blamed for believing in her. I, who know all about her,
am sometimes taken in by her.”

“Well,” said Miss Grace, “Mrs. Lennox was at Newport last summer at the
time that she was there, and she told me all about her. I think her an
artful, unscrupulous, unprincipled woman, and her being made mistress
of this house just breaks up our pleasant sociable life here. She has
no literary tastes; she does not care for reading or study; she won’t
like our set here, and she will gradually drive them from the house.
She won’t like me, and she will want to alienate John from me,—so there
is just the situation.”

“You may read that letter,” added Miss Grace, wiping her eyes, and
tossing her brother’s letter into Miss Letitia’s lap. Miss Letitia took
the letter and read it. “Good fellow!” she exclaimed warmly, “you see
just what I say,—his heart is all with you.”

“Oh, John’s heart is all right enough!” said Miss Grace; “and I don’t
doubt his love. He’s the best, noblest, most affectionate fellow in the
world. I only think he reckons without his host, in thinking he can
keep all our old relations unbroken, when he puts a new mistress into
the house, and such a mistress.”

“But if she really loves him”—

“Pshaw! she don’t. That kind of woman can’t love. They are like cats,
that want to be stroked and caressed, and to be petted, and to lie soft
and warm; and they will purr to any one that will pet them,—that’s all.
As for love that leads to any self-sacrifice, they don’t begin to know
any thing about it.”

“Gracie dear,” said Miss Ferguson, “this sort of thing will never do.
If you meet your brother in this way, you will throw him off, and,
maybe, make a fatal breach. Meet it like a good Christian, as you
are. You know,” she said gently, “where we have a right to carry our
troubles, and of whom we should ask guidance.”

“Oh, I do know, ’Titia!” said Miss Grace; “but I am letting myself be
wicked just a little, you know, to relieve my mind. I ought to put
myself to school to make the best of it; but it came on me so _very_
suddenly. Yes,” she added, “I am going to take a course of my Bible and
Fénelon before I see John,—poor fellow.”

“And try to have faith for her,” said Miss Letitia.

“Well, I’ll try to have faith,” said Miss Grace; “but I do trust it
will be some days before John comes down on me with his raptures,—men
in love are such fools.”

“But, dear me!” said Miss Letitia, as her head accidentally turned
towards the window; “who is this riding up? Gracie, as sure as you
live, it is John himself!”

“John himself!” repeated Miss Grace, becoming pale.

“Now do, dear, be careful,” said Miss Letitia. “I’ll just run out this
back door and leave you alone;” and just as Miss Letitia’s light heels
were heard going down the back steps, John’s heavy footsteps were
coming up the front ones.



CHAPTER III.

_THE SISTER._


GRACE SEYMOUR was a specimen of a class of whom we are happy to say New
England possesses a great many.

She was a highly cultivated, intelligent, and refined woman, arrived
at the full age of mature womanhood unmarried, and with no present
thought or prospect of marriage. I presume all my readers, who are in
a position to run over the society of our rural New-England towns, can
recall to their minds hundreds of such. They are women too thoughtful,
too conscientious, too delicate, to marry for any thing but a purely
personal affection; and this affection, for various reasons, has not
fallen in their way.

The tendency of life in these towns is to throw the young men of the
place into distant fields of adventure and enterprise in the far
Western and Southern States, leaving at their old homes a population in
which the feminine element largely predominates. It is not, generally
speaking, the most cultivated or the most attractive of the brethren
who remain in the place where they were born. The ardent, the daring,
the enterprising, are off to the ends of the earth; and the choice of
the sisters who remain at home is, therefore, confined to a restricted
list; and so it ends in these delightful rose-gardens of single women
which abound in New England,—women who remain at home as housekeepers
to aged parents, and charming persons in society; women over whose
graces of conversation and manner the married men in their vicinity go
off into raptures of eulogium, which generally end with, “Why hasn’t
that woman ever got married?”

It often happens to such women to expend on some brother that stock of
hero-worship and devotion which it has not come in their way to give to
a nearer friend. Alas! it is building on a sandy foundation; for, just
as the union of hearts is complete, the chemical affinity which began
in the cradle, and strengthens with every year of life, is dissolved
by the introduction of that third element which makes of the brother a
husband, while the new combination casts out the old,—sometimes with a
disagreeable effervescence.

John and Grace Seymour were two only children of a very affectionate
family; and they had grown up in the closest habits of intimacy. They
had written to each other those long letters in which thoughtful people
who live in retired situations delight; letters not of outward events,
but of sentiments and opinions, the phases of the inner life. They had
studied and pursued courses of reading together. They had together
organized and carried on works of benevolence and charity.

The brother and sister had been left joint heirs of a large
manufacturing property, employing hundreds of hands, in their vicinity;
and the care and cultivation of these work-people, the education of
their children, had been most conscientiously upon their minds. Half
of every Sunday they devoted together to labors in the Sunday school
of their manufacturing village; and the two worked so harmoniously
together in the interests of their life, that Grace had never felt the
want of any domestic ties or relations other than those that she had.

Our readers may perhaps, therefore, concede that, among the many
claimants for their sympathy in this cross-grained world of ours, some
few grains of it may properly be due to Grace.

Things are trials that try us: afflictions are what afflict us; and,
under this showing, Grace was both tried and afflicted by the sudden
engagement of her brother. When the whole groundwork on which one’s
daily life is built caves in, and falls into the cellar without one
moment’s warning, it is not in human nature to pick one’s self up, and
reconstruct and rearrange in a moment. So Grace thought, at any rate;
but she made a hurried effort to dash back her tears, and gulp down
a rising in her throat, anxious only not to be selfish, and not to
disgust her brother in the outset with any personal egotism.

So she ran to the front door to meet him, and fell into his arms,
trying so hard to seem congratulatory and affectionate that she broke
out into sobbing.

“My dear Gracie,” said John, embracing and kissing her with that
gushing fervor with which newly engaged gentlemen are apt to deluge
every creature whom they meet, “you’ve got my letter. Well, were not
you astonished?”

“O John, it was so sudden!” was all poor Grace could say. “And you
know, John, since mother died, you and I have been all in all to each
other.”

“And so we shall be, Gracie. Why, yes, of course we shall,” he said,
stroking her hair, and playing with her trembling, thin, white hands.
“Why, this only makes me love you the more now; and you will love my
little Lillie: fact is, you can’t help it. We shall both of us be
happier for having her here.”

“Well, you know, John, I never saw her,” said Grace, deprecatingly,
“and so you can’t wonder.”

“Oh, yes, of course! Don’t wonder in the least. It comes rather
sudden,—and then you haven’t seen her. Look, here is her photograph!”
said John, producing one from the most orthodox innermost region,
directly over his heart. “Look there! isn’t it beautiful?”

“It is a very sweet face,” said Grace, exerting herself to be
sympathetic, and thankful that she could say that much truthfully.

“I can’t imagine,” said John, “what ever made her like me. You know
she has refused half the fellows in the country. I hadn’t the remotest
idea that she would have any thing to say to me; but you see there’s no
accounting for tastes;” and John plumed himself, as young gentlemen do
who have carried off prizes.

“You see,” he added, “it’s odd, but she took a fancy to me the first
time she saw me. Now, you know, Gracie, I never found it easy to get
along with ladies at first; but Lillie has the most extraordinary way
of putting a fellow at his ease. Why, she made me feel like an old
friend the first hour.”

[Illustration: “It _is_ a very sweet face.”]

“Indeed!”

“Look here,” said John, triumphantly drawing out his pocket-book, and
producing thence a knot of rose-colored satin ribbon. “Did you ever
see such a lovely color as this? It’s so exquisite, you see! Well, she
always is wearing just such knots of ribbon, the most lovely shades.
Why, there isn’t one woman in a thousand could wear the things she
does. Every thing becomes her. Sometimes it’s rose color, or lilac, or
pale blue,—just the most trying things to others are what she can wear.”

“Dear John, I hope you looked for something deeper than the complexion
in a wife,” said Grace, driven to moral reflections in spite of herself.

“Oh, of course!” said John: “she has such soft, gentle, winning ways;
she is so sympathetic; she’s just the wife to make home happy, to
be a bond of union to us all. Now, in a wife, what we want is just
that. Lillie’s mind, for instance, hasn’t been cultivated as yours
and Letitia’s. She isn’t at all that sort of girl. She’s just a dear,
gentle, little confiding creature, that you’ll delight in. You’ll form
her mind, and she’ll look up to you. You know she’s young yet.”

“Young, John! Why, she’s seven and twenty,” said Grace, with
astonishment.

“Oh, no, my dear Gracie! that is all a mistake. She told me herself
she’s only twenty. You see, the trouble is, she went into company
injudiciously early, a mere baby, in fact; and that causes her to have
the name of being older than she is. But, I do assure you, she’s only
twenty. She told me so herself.”

“Oh, indeed!” said Grace, prudently choking back the contradiction
which she longed to utter. “I know it seems a good many summers since I
heard of her as a belle at Newport.”

“Ah, yes, exactly! You see she went into company, as a young lady,
when she was only thirteen. She told me all about it. Her parents were
very injudicious, and they pushed her forward. She regrets it now.
She knows that it wasn’t the thing at all. She’s very sensitive to the
defects in her early education; but I made her understand that it was
the _heart_ more than the head that I cared for. I dare say, Gracie,
she’ll fall into all our little ways without really knowing; and you,
in point of fact, will be mistress of the house as much as you ever
were. Lillie is delicate, and never has had any care, and will be only
too happy to depend on you. She’s one of the gentle, dependent sort,
you know.”

To this statement, Grace did not reply. She only began nervously
sweeping together the _débris_ of leaves and flowers which encumbered
the table, on which the newly arranged flower-vases were standing. Then
she arranged the vases with great precision on the mantel-shelf. As she
was doing it, so many memories rushed over her of that room and her
mother, and the happy, peaceful family life that had hitherto been led
there, that she quite broke down; and, sitting down in the chair, she
covered her face, and went off in a good, hearty crying spell.

Poor John was inexpressibly shocked. He loved and revered his sister
beyond any thing in the world; and it occurred to him, in a dim wise,
that to be suddenly dispossessed and shut out in the cold, when one has
hitherto been the first object of affection, is, to make the best of
it, a real and sore trial.

But Grace soon recovered herself, and rose up smiling through her
tears. “What a fool I am making of myself!” she said. “The fact is,
John, I am only a little nervous. You mustn’t mind it. You know,” she
said, laughing, “we old maids are like cats,—we find it hard to be put
out of our old routine. I dare say we shall all of us be happier in the
end for this, and I shall try to do all I can to make it so. Perhaps,
John, I’d better take that little house of mine on Elm Street, and set
up my tent in it, and take all the old furniture and old pictures, and
old-time things. You’ll be wanting to modernize and make over this
house, you know, to suit a young wife.”

“Nonsense, Gracie; no such thing!” said John. “Do you suppose I want
to leave all the past associations of my life, and strip my home bare
of all pleasant memorials, because I bring a little wife here? Why,
the very idea of a wife is somebody to sympathize in your tastes; and
Lillie will love and appreciate all these dear old things as you and
I do. She has such a sympathetic heart! If you want to make me happy,
Gracie, stay here, and let us live, as near as may be, as before.”

“So we will, John,” said Grace, so cheerfully that John considered the
whole matter as settled, and rushed upstairs to write his daily letter
to Lillie.



CHAPTER IV.

_PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE._


MISS LILLIE ELLIS was sitting upstairs in her virgin bower, which was
now converted into a tumultuous, seething caldron of millinery and
mantua-making, such as usually precedes a wedding. To be sure, orders
had been forthwith despatched to Paris for the bridal regimentals,
and for a good part of the _trousseau_; but that did not seem in the
least to stand in the way of the time-honored confusion of sewing
preparations at home, which is supposed to waste the strength and
exhaust the health of every bride elect.

Whether young women, while disengaged, do not have proper
under-clothing, or whether they contemplate marriage as an awful
gulf which swallows up all future possibilities of replenishing a
wardrobe,—certain it is that no sooner is a girl engaged to be married
than there is a blind and distracting rush and pressure and haste to
make up for her immediately a stock of articles, which, up to that
hour, she has managed to live very comfortably and respectably without.
It is astonishing to behold the number of inexpressible things with
French names which unmarried young ladies never think of wanting, but
which there is a desperate push to supply, and have ranged in order,
the moment the matrimonial state is in contemplation.

Therefore it was that the virgin bower of Lillie was knee-deep in a
tangled mass of stuffs of various hues and description; that the sharp
sound of tearing off breadths resounded there; that Miss Clippins and
Miss Snippings and Miss Nippins were sewing there day and night; that
a sewing-machine was busily rattling in mamma’s room; and that there
were all sorts of pinking and quilling, and braiding and hemming,
and whipping and ruffling, and over-sewing and cat-stitching and
hem-stitching, and other female mysteries, going on.

As for Lillie, she lay in a loose _negligé_ on the bed, ready every
five minutes to be called up to have something measured, or tried on,
or fitted; and to be consulted whether there should be fifteen or
sixteen tucks and then an insertion, or sixteen tucks and a series of
puffs. Her labors wore upon her; and it was smilingly observed by Miss
Clippins across to Miss Nippins, that Miss Lillie was beginning to show
her “engagement bones.” In the midst of these preoccupations, a letter
was handed to her by the giggling chambermaid. It was a thick letter,
directed in a bold honest hand. Miss Lillie took it with a languid
little yawn, finished the last sentences in a chapter of the novel she
was reading, and then leisurely broke the seal and glanced it over. It
was the one that the enraptured John had spent his morning in writing.

“Miss Ellis, now, if you’ll try on this jacket—oh! I beg your pardon,”
said Miss Clippins, observing the letter, “we can wait, _of course_;”
and then all three laughed as if something very pleasant was in their
minds.

“No,” said Lillie, giving the letter a toss; “it’ll _keep_;” and she
stood up to have a jaunty little blue jacket, with its pluffy bordering
of swan’s down, fitted upon her.

“It’s too bad, now, to take you from your letter,” said Miss Clippins,
with a sly nod.

“I’m sure you take it philosophically,” said Miss Nippins, with a
giggle.

“Why shouldn’t I?” said the divine Lillie. “I get one every day; and
it’s all the old story. I’ve heard it ever since I was born.”

“Well, now, to be sure you have. Let’s see,” said Miss Clippins, “this
is the seventy-fourth or seventy-fifth offer, was it?”

“Oh, you must ask mamma! she keeps the lists: I’m sure I don’t trouble
my head,” said the little beauty; and she looked so natty and jaunty
when she said it, just arching her queenly white neck, and making soft,
downy dimples in her cheeks as she gave her fresh little childlike
laugh; turning round and round before the looking-glass, and issuing
her orders for the fitting of the jacket with a precision and real
interest which showed that there _were_ things in the world which
didn’t become old stories, even if one had been used to them ever since
one was born.

Lillie never was caught napping when the point in question was the fit
of her clothes.

When released from the little blue jacket, there was a rose-colored
morning-dress to be tried on, and a grave discussion as to whether the
honiton lace was to be set on plain or frilled.

So important was this case, that mamma was summoned from the
sewing-machine to give her opinion. Mrs. Ellis was a fat, fair, rosy
matron of most undisturbed conscience and digestion, whose main
business in life had always been to see to her children’s clothes. She
had brought up Lillie with faithful and religious zeal; that is to say,
she had always ruffled her underclothes with her own hands, and darned
her stockings, sick or well; and also, as before intimated, kept a list
of her offers, which she was ready in confidential moments to tell off
to any of her acquaintance. The question of ruffled or plain honiton
was of such vital importance, that the whole four took some time in
considering it in its various points of view.

“Sarah Selfridge had hers ruffled,” said Lillie.

“And the effect was perfectly sweet,” said Miss Clippins.

“Perhaps, Lillie, you had better have it ruffled,” said mamma.

“But three rows laid on plain has such a lovely effect,” said Miss
Nippins.

“Perhaps, then, she had better have three rows laid on plain,” said
mamma.

“Or she might have one row ruffled on the edge, with three rows laid on
plain, with a satin fold,” said Miss Clippins. “That’s the way I fixed
Miss Elliott’s.”

“That would be a nice way,” said mamma. “Perhaps, Lillie, you’d better
have it so.”

“Oh! come now, all of you, just hush,” said Lillie. “I know just how I
want it done.”

The words may sound a little rude and dictatorial; but Lillie had the
advantage of always looking so pretty, and saying dictatorial things
in such a sweet voice, that everybody was delighted with them; and she
took the matter of arranging the trimming in hand with a clearness of
head which showed that it was a subject to which she had given mature
consideration. Mrs. Ellis shook her fat sides with a comfortable
motherly chuckle.

“Lillie always did know exactly what she wanted: she’s a smart little
thing.”

And, when all the trying on and arranging of folds and frills and pinks
and bows was over, Lillie threw herself comfortably upon the bed, to
finish her letter.

Shrewd Miss Clippins detected the yawn with which she laid down the
missive.

“Seems to me your letters don’t meet a very warm reception,” she said.

“Well! every day, and such long ones!” Lillie answered, turning over
the pages. “See there,” she went on, opening a drawer, “What a heap of
them! I can’t see, for my part, what any one can want to write a letter
every day to anybody for. John is such a goose about me.”

[Illustration: “Shrewd Miss Clippins detected the yawn.”]

“He’ll get over it after he’s been married six months,” said Miss
Clippins, nodding her head with the air of a woman that has seen life.

“I’m sure I shan’t care,” said Lillie, with a toss of her pretty head.
“It’s _borous_ any way.”

Our readers may perhaps imagine, from the story thus far, that our
little Lillie is by no means the person, in reality, that John supposes
her to be, when he sits thinking of her with such devotion, and writing
her such long, “borous” letters.

She is not. John is in love not with the actual Lillie Ellis, but with
that ideal personage who looks like his mother’s picture, and is the
embodiment of all his mother’s virtues. The feeling, as it exists in
John’s mind, is not only a most respectable, but in fact a truly divine
one, and one that no mortal man ought to be ashamed of. The love that
quickens all the nature, that makes a man twice manly, and makes him
aspire to all that is high, pure, sweet, and religious,—is a feeling
so sacred, that no unworthiness in its object can make it any less
beautiful. More often than not it is spent on an utter vacancy. Men and
women both pass through this divine initiation,—this sacred inspiration
of our nature,—and find, when they have come into the innermost shrine,
where the divinity ought to be, that there is no god or goddess
there; nothing but the cold black ashes of commonplace vulgarity and
selfishness. Both of them, when the grand discovery has been made, do
well to fold their robes decently about them, and make the best of
the matter. If they cannot love, they can at least be friendly. They
can tolerate, as philosophers; pity, as Christians; and, finding just
where and how the burden of an ill-assorted union galls the least, can
then and there strap it on their backs, and walk on, not only without
complaint, but sometimes in a cheerful and hilarious spirit.

Not a word of all this thinks our friend John, as he sits longing,
aspiring, and pouring out his heart, day after day, in letters that
interrupt Lillie in the all-important responsibility of getting her
wardrobe fitted.

Shall we think this smooth little fair-skinned Lillie is a cold-hearted
monster, because her heart does not beat faster at these letters which
she does not understand, and which strike her as unnecessarily prolix
and prosy? Why should John insist on telling her his feelings and
opinions on a vast variety of subjects that she does not care a button
for? She doesn’t know any thing about ritualism and anti-ritualism;
and, what’s more, she doesn’t care. She hates to hear so much about
religion. She thinks it’s pokey. John may go to any church he pleases,
for all her. As to all that about his favorite poems, she don’t like
poetry,—never could,—don’t see any sense in it; and John _will_ be
quoting ever so much in his letters. Then, as to the love parts,—it may
be all quite new and exciting to John; but she has, as she said, heard
that story over and over again, till it strikes her as quite a matter
of course. Without doubt the whole world is a desert where she is
not: the thing has been asserted, over and over, by so many gentlemen
of credible character for truth and veracity, that she is forced to
believe it; and she cannot see why John is particularly to be pitied
on this account. He is in no more desperate state about her than the
rest of them; and secretly Lillie has as little pity for lovers’ pangs
as a nice little white cat has for mice. They amuse her; they are her
appropriate recreation; and she pats and plays with each mouse in
succession, without any comprehension that it may be a serious thing
for him.

When Lillie was a little girl, eight years old, she used to sell her
kisses through the slats of the fence for papers of candy, and thus
early acquired the idea that her charms were a capital to be employed
in trading for the good things of life. She had the misfortune—and a
great one it is—to have been singularly beautiful from the cradle, and
so was praised and exclaimed over and caressed as she walked through
the streets. She was sent for, far and near; borrowed to be looked at;
her picture taken by photographers. If one reflects how many foolish
and inconsiderate people there are in the world, who have no scruple in
making a pet and plaything of a pretty child, one will see how this one
unlucky lot of being beautiful in childhood spoiled Lillie’s chances of
an average share of good sense and goodness. The only hope for such a
case lies in the chance of possessing judicious parents. Lillie had not
these. Her father was a shrewd grocer, and nothing more; and her mother
was a competent cook and seamstress. While he traded in sugar and salt,
and she made pickles and embroidered under-linen, the pretty Lillie was
educated as pleased Heaven.

Pretty girls, unless they have wise mothers, are more educated by
the opposite sex than by their own. Put them where you will, there
is always some _man_ busying himself in their instruction; and the
burden of masculine teaching is generally about the same, and might be
stereotyped as follows: “You don’t need to be or do any thing. Your
business in life is to look pretty, and amuse us. You don’t need to
study: you know all by nature that a woman need to know. You are, by
virtue of being a pretty woman, superior to any thing we can teach
you; and we wouldn’t, for the world, have you any thing but what you
are.” When Lillie went to school, this was what her masters whispered
in her ear as they did her sums for her, and helped her through her
lessons and exercises, and looked into her eyes. This was what her
young gentlemen friends, themselves delving in Latin and Greek and
mathematics, told her, when they came to recreate from their severer
studies in her smile. Men are held to account for talking sense.
Pretty women are told that lively nonsense is their best sense. Now
and then, an admirer bolder than the rest ventured to take Lillie’s
education more earnestly in hand, and recommended to her just a little
reading,—enough to enable her to carry on conversation, and appear
to know something of the ordinary topics discussed in society,—but
informed her, by the by, that there was no sort of need of being either
profound or accurate in these matters, as the mistakes of a pretty
woman had a grace of their own.

At seventeen, Lillie graduated from Dr. Sibthorpe’s school with a
“finished education.” She had, somehow or other, picked her way
through various “ologies” and exercises supposed to be necessary for a
well-informed young lady. She wrote a pretty hand, spoke French with a
good accent, and could turn a sentimental note neatly; “and that, my
dear,” said Dr. Sibthorpe to his wife, “is all that a woman needs, who
so evidently is intended for wife and mother as our little Lillie.” Dr.
Sibthorpe, in fact, had amused himself with a semi-paternal flirtation
with his pupil during the whole course of her school exercises, and
parted from her with tears in his eyes, greatly to her amusement; for
Lillie, after all, estimated his devotion at just about what it was
worth. It amused her to see him make a fool of himself.

Of course, the next thing was—to be married; and Lillie’s life now
became a round of dressing, dancing, going to watering-places,
travelling, and in other ways seeking the fulfilment of her destiny.

She had precisely the accessible, easy softness of manner that
leads every man to believe that he may prove a favorite, and her
run of offers became quite a source of amusement. Her arrival at
watering-places was noted in initials in the papers; her dress on
every public occasion was described; and, as acknowledged queen of
love and beauty, she had everywhere her little court of men and women
flatterers. The women flatterers around a belle are as much a part of
the _cortége_ as the men. They repeat the compliments they hear, and
burn incense in the virgin’s bower at hours when the profaner sex may
not enter.

The life of a petted creature consists essentially in being deferred
to, for being pretty and useless. A petted child runs a great risk,
if it is ever to outgrow childhood; but a pet woman is a perpetual
child. The pet woman of society is everybody’s toy. Everybody looks
at her, admires her, praises and flatters her, stirs her up to play
off her little airs and graces for their entertainment; and passes
on. Men of profound sense encourage her to chatter nonsense for their
amusement, just as we delight in the tottering steps and stammering
mispronunciations of a golden-haired child. When Lillie has been in
Washington, she has had judges of the supreme court and secretaries
of state delighted to have her give her opinions in their respective
departments. Scholars and literary men flocked around her, to the
neglect of many a more instructed woman, satisfied that she knew enough
to blunder agreeably on every subject.

Nor is there any thing in the Christian civilization of our present
century that condemns the kind of life we are describing, as in any
respect unwomanly or unbecoming. Something very like it is in a measure
considered as the appointed rule of attractive young girls till they
are married.

Lillie had numbered among her admirers many lights of the Church. She
had flirted with bishops, priests, and deacons,—who, none of them,
would, for the world, have been so ungallant as to quote to her such
dreadful professional passages as, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead
while she liveth.”

In fact, the clergy, when off duty, are no safer guides of attractive
young women than other mortal men; and Lillie had so often seen their
spiritual attentions degenerate into downright, temporal love-making,
that she held them in as small reverence as the rest of their sex.
Only one dreadful John the Baptist of her acquaintance, one of
the camel’s-hair-girdle and locust-and-wild-honey species, once
encountering Lillie at Saratoga, and observing the ways and manners
of the court which she kept there, took it upon him to give her a
spiritual admonition.

“Miss Lillie,” he said, “I see no chance for the salvation of your
soul, unless it should please God to send the small-pox upon you. I
think I shall pray for that.”

“Oh, horrors! don’t! I’d rather never be saved,” Lillie answered with a
fervent sincerity.

The story was repeated afterwards as an amusing _bon mot_, and a
specimen of the barbarity to which religious fanaticism may lead; and
yet we question whether John the Baptist had not the right of it.

For it must at once appear, that, had the small-pox made the
above-mentioned change in Lillie’s complexion at sixteen, the entire
course of her life would have taken another turn. The whole world then
would have united in letting her know that she must live to some useful
purpose, or be nobody and nothing. Schoolmasters would have scolded her
if she idled over her lessons; and her breaking down in arithmetic, and
mistakes in history, would no longer have been regarded as interesting.
Clergymen, consulted on her spiritual state, would have told her
freely that she was a miserable sinner, who, except she repented, must
likewise perish. In short, all those bitter and wholesome truths, which
strengthen and invigorate the virtues of plain people, might possibly
have led her a long way on towards saintship.

As it was, little Lillie was confessedly no saint; and yet, if much
of a sinner, society has as much to answer for as she. She was the
daughter and flower of the Christian civilization of the nineteenth
century, and the kind of woman, that, on the whole, men of quite
distinguished sense have been fond of choosing for wives, and will go
on seeking to the end of the chapter.

Did she love John? Well, she was quite pleased to be loved by him, and
she liked the prospect of being his wife. She was sure he would always
let her have her own way, and that he had a plenty of worldly means to
do it with.

Lillie, if not very clever in a literary or scientific point of view,
was no fool. She had, in fact, under all her softness of manner, a
great deal of that real hard grit which shrewd, worldly people call
common sense. She saw through all the illusions of fancy and feeling,
right to the tough material core of things. However soft and tender and
sentimental her habits of speech and action were in her professional
capacity of a charming woman, still the fair Lillie, had she been a
man, would have been respected in the business world, as one that had
cut her eye-teeth, and knew on which side her bread was buttered.

A husband, she knew very well, was the man who undertook to be
responsible for his wife’s bills: he was the giver, bringer, and
maintainer of all sorts of solid and appreciable comforts.

Lillie’s bills had hitherto been sore places in the domestic history of
her family. The career of a fashionable belle is not to be supported
without something of an outlay; and that innocence of arithmetical
combinations, over which she was wont to laugh bewitchingly among her
adorers, sometimes led to results quite astounding to the prosaic,
hard-working papa, who stood financially responsible for all her finery.

Mamma had often been called in to calm the tumult of his feelings on
such semi-annual developments; and she did it by pointing out to him
that this heavy present expense was an investment by which Lillie was,
in the end, to make her own fortune and that of her family.

When Lillie contemplated the marriage-service with a view to going
through it with John, there was one clause that stood out in consoling
distinctness,—“_With all my worldly goods I thee endow._”

As to the other clause, which contains the dreadful word “obey,” about
which our modern women have such fearful apprehensions, Lillie was
ready to swallow it without even a grimace.

“Obey John!” Her face wore a pretty air of droll assurance at the
thought. It was too funny.

“My dear,” said Belle Trevors, who was one of Lillie’s incense-burners
and a bridesmaid elect, “_have_ you the least idea how rich he is?”

“He is well enough off to do about any thing I want,” said Lillie.

“Well, you know he owns the whole village of Spindlewood, with all
those great factories, besides law business,” said Belle. “But then
they live in a dreadfully slow, pokey way down there in Springdale.
They haven’t the remotest idea how to use money.”

“I can show him how to use it,” said Lillie.

“He and his sister keep a nice sort of old-fashioned place there, and
jog about in an old countrified carriage, picking up poor children and
visiting schools. She is a _very_ superior woman, that sister.”

“I don’t like superior women,” said Lillie.

“But you must like her, you know. John is perfectly devoted to her, and
I suppose she is to be a fixture in the establishment.”

“We shall see about that,” said Lillie. “One thing at a time. I don’t
mean he shall live at Springdale. It’s horridly pokey to live in those
little country towns. He must have a house in New York.”

“And a place at Newport for the summer,” said Belle Trevors.

“Yes,” said Lillie, “a cottage in Newport does very well in the season;
and then a country place well fitted up to invite company to in the
other months of summer.”

“Delightful,” said Belle, “_if_ you can make him do it.”

“See if I don’t,” said Lillie.

“You dear, funny creature, you,—how you do always ride on the top of
the wave!” said Belle.

“It’s what I was born for,” said Lillie. “By the by, Belle, I got a
letter from Harry last night.”

“Poor fellow, had he heard”—

“Why, of course not. I didn’t want he should till it’s all over. It’s
best, you know.”

“He is such a good fellow, and so devoted,—it does seem a pity.”

“Devoted! well, I should rather think he was,” said Lillie. “I believe
he would cut off his right hand for me, any day. But I never gave him
any encouragement. I’ve always told him I could be to him only as a
sister, you know.”

“You ought not to write to him,” said Belle.

“What can I do? He is perfectly desperate if I don’t, and still
persists that he means to marry me some day, spite of my screams.”

“Well, he’ll have to stop making love to you after you’re married.”

“Oh, pshaw! I don’t believe that old-fashioned talk. Lovers make a
variety in life. I don’t see why a married woman is to give up all the
fun of having admirers. Of course, one isn’t going to do any thing
wrong, you know; but one doesn’t want to settle down into Darby and
Joan at once. Why, some of the young married women, the most stunning
belles at Newport last year, got a great deal more attention after they
were married than they did before. You see the fellows like it, because
they are so sure not to be drawn in.”

“I think it’s too bad on us girls, though,” said Belle. “You ought to
leave us our turn.”

“Oh! I’ll turn over any of them to you, Belle,” said Lillie. “There’s
Harry, to begin with. What do you say to him?”

“Thank you, I don’t think I shall take up with second-hand articles,”
said Belle, with some spirit.

But here the entrance of the chamber-maid, with a fresh dress from
the dressmaker’s, resolved the conversation into a discussion so very
minute and technical that it cannot be recorded in our pages.



CHAPTER V.

_WEDDING, AND WEDDING-TRIP._


WELL, and so they were married, with all the newest modern forms,
ceremonies, and accessories.

Every possible thing was done to reflect lustre on the occasion. There
were eight bridesmaids, and every one of them fair as the moon; and
eight groomsmen, with white-satin ribbons and white rosebuds in their
button-holes; and there was a bishop, assisted by a priest, to give
the solemn benedictions of the church; and there was a marriage-bell
of tuberoses and lilies, of enormous size, swinging over the heads of
the pair at the altar; and there were voluntaries on the organ, and
chantings, and what not, all solemn and impressive as possible. In the
midst of all this, the fair Lillie promised, “forsaking all others, to
keep only unto him, so long as they both should live,”—“to love, honor,
and obey, until death did them part.”

During the whole agitating scene, Lillie kept up her presence of mind,
and was perfectly aware of what she was about; so that a very fresh,
original, and crisp style of trimming, that had been invented in Paris
specially for her wedding toilet, received no detriment from the
least unguarded movement. We much regret that it is contrary to our
literary principles to write half, or one third, in French; because
the wedding-dress, by far the most important object on this occasion,
and certainly one that most engrossed the thoughts of the bride, was
one entirely indescribable in English. Just as there is no word in the
Hottentot vocabulary for “holiness,” or “purity,” so there are no words
in our savage English to describe a lady’s dress; and, therefore, our
fair friends must be recommended, on this point, to exercise their
imagination in connection with the study of the finest French plates,
and they may get some idea of Lillie in her wedding robe and train.

Then there was the wedding banquet, where everybody ate quantities of
the most fashionable, indigestible horrors, with praiseworthy courage
and enthusiasm; for what is to become of “_paté de fois gras_” if we
don’t eat it? What is to become of us if we do is entirely a secondary
question.

On the whole, there was not one jot nor tittle of the most exorbitant
requirements of fashion that was not fulfilled on this occasion. The
house was a crush of wilting flowers, and smelt of tuberoses enough
to give one a vertigo for a month. A band of music brayed and clashed
every minute of the time; and a jam of people, in elegant dresses,
shrieked to each other above the din, and several of Lillie’s former
admirers got tipsy in the supper-room. In short, nothing could be
finer; and it was agreed, on all hands, that it was “stunning.”
Accounts of it, and of all the bride’s dresses, presents, and even
wardrobe, went into the daily papers; and thus was the charming Lillie
Ellis made into Mrs. John Seymour.

Then followed the approved wedding journey, the programme of which had
been drawn up by Lillie herself, with _carte blanche_ from John, and
included every place where a bride’s new toilets could be seen in the
most select fashionable circles. They went to Niagara and Trenton, they
went to Newport and Saratoga, to the White Mountains and Montreal;
and Mrs. John Seymour was a meteor of fashionable wonder and delight
at all these places. Her dresses and her diamonds, her hats and her
bonnets, were all wonderful to behold. The stir and excitement that
she had created as simple Miss Ellis was nothing to the stir and
excitement about Mrs. John Seymour. It was the mere grub compared with
the full-blown butterfly,—the bud compared with the rose. Wherever she
appeared, her old admirers flocked in her train. The unmarried girls
were, so to speak, nowhere. Marriage was a new lease of power and
splendor, and she revelled in it like a humming-bird in the sunshine.

And was John equally happy? Well, to say the truth, John’s head was a
little turned by the possession of this curious and manifold creature,
that fluttered and flapped her wings about the eyes and ears of his
understanding, and appeared before him every day in some new device
of the toilet, fair and fresh; smiling and bewitching, kissing and
coaxing, laughing and crying, and in all ways bewildering him, the
once sober-minded John, till he scarce knew whether he stood on his
head or his heels. He knew that this sort of rattling, scatter-brained
life must come to an end some time. He knew there was a sober,
serious life-work for him; something that must try his mind and soul
and strength, and that would, by and by, leave him neither time nor
strength to be the mere wandering _attaché_ of a gay bird, whose string
he held in hand, and who now seemed to pull him hither and thither at
her will.

John thought of all these things at intervals; and then, when he
thought of the quiet, sober, respectable life at Springdale, of the
good old staple families, with their steady ways,—of the girls in his
neighborhood with their reading societies, their sewing-circles for
the poor, their book-clubs and art-unions for practice in various
accomplishments,—he thought, with apprehension, that there appeared
not a spark of interest in his charmer’s mind for any thing in this
direction. She never had read any thing,—knew nothing on all those
subjects about which the women and young girls in his circle were
interested; while, in Springdale, there were none of the excitements
which made her interested in life. He could not help perceiving that
Lillie’s five hundred particular friends were mostly of the other sex,
and wondering whether he alone, when the matter should be reduced to
that, could make up to her for all her retinue of slaves.

Like most good boys who grow into good men, John had unlimited faith
in women. Whatever little defects and flaws they might have, still
at heart he supposed they were all of the same substratum as his
mother and sister. The moment a woman was married, he imagined that
all the lovely domestic graces would spring up in her, no matter what
might have been her previous disadvantages, merely because she was a
woman. He had no doubt of the usual orthodox oak-and-ivy theory in
relation to man and woman; and that his wife, when he got one, would
be the clinging ivy that would bend her flexible tendrils in the way
his strong will and wisdom directed. He had never, perhaps, seen, in
southern regions, a fine tree completely smothered and killed in the
embraces of a gay, flaunting parasite; and so received no warning from
vegetable analogies.

Somehow or other, he was persuaded, he should gradually bring his wife
to all his own ways of thinking, and all his schemes and plans and
opinions. This might, he thought, be difficult, were she one of the
pronounced, strong-minded sort, accustomed to thinking and judging for
herself. Such a one, he could easily imagine, there might be a risk
in encountering in the close intimacy of domestic life. Even in his
dealings with his sister, he was made aware of a force of character and
a vigor of intellect that sometimes made the carrying of his own way
over hers a matter of some difficulty. Were it not that Grace was the
best of women, and her ways always the very best of ways, John was not
so sure but that she might prove a little too masterful for him.

But this lovely bit of pink and white; this downy, gauzy, airy little
elf; this creature, so slim and slender and unsubstantial,—surely he
need have no fear that he could not mould and control and manage her?
Oh, no! He imagined her melting, like a moon-beam, into all manner of
sweet compliances, becoming an image and reflection of his own better
self; and repeated to himself the lines of Wordsworth,—

    “I saw her, on a nearer view,
     A spirit, yet a woman too,—
     Her household motions light and free,
     And steps of virgin liberty.
     A creature not too bright or good
     For human nature’s daily food,
     For transient pleasures, simple wiles,
     Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.”

John fancied he saw his little Lillie subdued into a pattern wife,
weaned from fashionable follies, eagerly seeking mental improvement
under his guidance, and joining him and Grace in all sorts of edifying
works and ways.

The reader may see, from the conversations we have detailed, that
nothing was farther from Lillie’s intentions than any such conformity.

The intentions of the married pair, in fact, ran exactly contrary to
one another. John meant to bring Lillie to a sober, rational, useful
family life; and Lillie meant to run a career of fashionable display,
and make John pay for it.

Neither, at present, stated their purposes precisely to the other,
because they were “honey-mooning.” John, as yet, was the enraptured
lover; and Lillie was his pink and white sultana,—his absolute
mistress, her word was law, and his will was hers. How the case was
ever to be reversed, so as to suit the terms of the marriage service,
John did not precisely inquire.

But, when husband and wife start in life with exactly opposing
intentions, which, think you, is likely to conquer,—the man, or
the woman? That is a very nice question, and deserves further
consideration.



CHAPTER VI.

_HONEY-MOON, AND AFTER._


WE left Mr. and Mrs. John Seymour honey-mooning. The honey-moon, dear
ladies, is supposed to be the period of male subjection. The young
queen is enthroned; and the first of her slaves walks obediently in her
train, carries her fan, her parasol, runs of her errands, packs her
trunk, writes her letters, buys her any thing she cries for, and is
ready to do the impossible for her, on every suitable occasion.

A great strong man sometimes feels awkwardly, when thus led captive;
but the greatest, strongest, and most boastful, often go most
obediently under woman-rule; for which, see Shakspeare, concerning
Cleopatra and Julius Cæsar and Mark Antony.

But then all kingdoms, and all sway, and all authority must come to
an end. Nothing lasts, you see. The plain prose of life must have its
turn, after the poetry and honey-moons—stretch them out to their utmost
limit—have their terminus.

So, at the end of six weeks, John and Lillie, somewhat dusty and
travel-worn, were received by Grace into the old family-mansion at
Springdale.

Grace had read her Bible and Fénelon to such purpose, that she had
accepted her cross with open arms.

Dear reader, Grace was not a severe, angular, old-maid sister, ready to
snarl at the advent of a young beauty; but an elegant and accomplished
woman, with a wide culture, a trained and disciplined mind, a
charming taste, and polished manners; and, above all, a thorough
self-understanding and discipline. Though past thirty, she still had
admirers and lovers; yet, till now, her brother, insensibly to herself,
had blocked up the doorway of her heart; and the perfectness of the
fraternal friendship had prevented the wish and the longing by which
some fortunate man might have found and given happiness.

Grace had resolved she would love her new sister; that she would look
upon all her past faults and errors with eyes of indulgence; that she
would put out of her head every story she ever had heard against her,
and unite with her brother to make her lot a happy one.

“John is so good a man,” she said to Miss Letitia Ferguson, “that I am
sure Lillie cannot but become a good woman.”

So Grace adorned the wedding with her presence, in an elegant Parisian
dress, ordered for the occasion, and presented the young bride with a
set of pearl and amethyst that were perfectly bewitching, and kisses
and notes of affection had been exchanged between them; and during
various intervals, and for weeks past, Grace had been pleasantly
employed in preparing the family-mansion to receive the new mistress.

John’s bachelor apartments had been new furnished, and furbished, and
made into a perfect bower of roses.

The rest of the house, after the usual household process of
purification, had been rearranged, as John and his sister had always
kept it since their mother’s death in the way that she loved to see
it. There was something quaint and sweet and antique about it, that
suited Grace. Its unfashionable difference from the smart, flippant,
stereotyped rooms of to-day had a charm in her eyes.

Lillie, however, surveyed the scene, the first night that she took
possession, with a quiet determination to re-modernize on the very
earliest opportunity. What would Mrs. Frippit and Mrs. Nippit say to
such rooms, she thought. But then there was time enough to attend
to that. Not a shade of these internal reflections was visible in
her manner. She said, “Oh, how sweet! How perfectly charming! How
splendid!” in all proper places; and John was delighted.

She also fell into the arms of Grace, and kissed her with effusion; and
John saw the sisterly union, which he had anticipated, auspiciously
commencing.

The only trouble in Grace’s mind was from a terrible sort of
clairvoyance that seems to beset very sincere people, and makes them
sensitive to the presence of any thing unreal or untrue. Fair and soft
and caressing as the new sister was, and determined as Grace was to
believe in her, and trust her, and like her,—she found an invisible,
chilly barrier between her heart and Lillie. She scolded herself, and,
in the effort to confide, became unnaturally demonstrative, and said
and did more than was her wont to show affection; and yet, to her own
mortification, she found herself, after all, seeming to herself to be
hypocritical, and professing more than she felt.

As to the fair Lillie, who, as we have remarked, was no fool, she
took the measure of her new sister with that instinctive knowledge of
character which is the essence of womanhood. Lillie was not in love
with John, because that was an experience she was not capable of.
But she had married him, and now considered him as her property, her
subject,—_hers_, with an intensity of ownership that should shut out
all former proprietors.

We have heard much talk, of late, concerning the husband’s ownership
of the wife. But, dear ladies, is that any more pronounced a fact than
every wife’s ownership of her husband?—an ownership so intense and
pervading that it may be said to be the controlling nerve of womanhood.
Let any one touch your right to the first place in your husband’s
regard, and see!

Well, then, Lillie saw at a glance just what Grace was, and what her
influence with her brother must be; and also that, in order to live the
life she meditated, John must act under her sway, and not under his
sister’s; and so the resolve had gone forth, in her mind, that Grace’s
dominion in the family should come to an end, and that she would, as
sole empress, reconstruct the state. But, of course, she was too wise
to say a word about it.

“Dear me!” she said, the next morning, when Grace proposed showing her
through the house and delivering up the keys, “I’m sure I don’t see why
you want to show things to me. I’m nothing of a housekeeper, you know:
all I know is what I want, and I’ve always had what I wanted, you know;
but, you see, I haven’t the least idea how it’s to be done. Why, at
home I’ve been everybody’s baby. Mamma laughs at the idea of my knowing
any thing. So, Grace dear, you must just be prime minister; and I’ll be
the good-for-nothing Queen, and just sign the papers, and all that, you
know.”

Grace found, the first week, that to be housekeeper to a young duchess,
in an American village and with American servants, was no sinecure.

The young mistress, the next week, tumbled into the wash an amount of
muslin and lace and French puffing and fluting sufficient to employ
two artists for two or three days, and by which honest Bridget, as she
stood at her family wash-tub, was sorely perplexed.

But, in America, no woman ever dies for want of speaking her mind; and
the lower orders have their turn in teaching the catechism to their
superiors, which they do with an effectiveness that does credit to
democracy.

“And would ye be plased to step here, Miss Saymour,” said Bridget to
Grace, in a voice of suppressed emotion, and pointing oratorically,
with her soapy right arm, to a snow-wreath of French finery and puffing
on the floor. “What I asks, Miss Grace, is, _Who_ is to do all this?
I’m sure it would take me and Katy a week, workin’ day and night, let
alone the cookin’ and the silver and the beds, and all them. It’s a
pity, now, somebody shouldn’t spake to that young crather; fur she’s
nothin’ but a baby, and likely don’t know any thing, as ladies mostly
don’t, about what’s right and proper.” Bridget’s Christian charity and
condescension in this last sentence was some mitigation of the crisis;
but still Grace was appalled. We all of us, my dear sisters, have stood
appalled at the tribunal of good Bridgets rising in their majesty and
declaring their ultimatum.

[Illustration: “_Who_ is to do all this?”]

Bridget was a treasure in the town of Springdale, where servants
were scarce and poor; and, what was more, she was a treasure that
knew her own worth. Grace knew very well how she had been beset with
applications and offers of higher wages to draw her to various hotels
and boarding-houses in the vicinity, but had preferred the comparative
dignity and tranquillity of a private gentleman’s family.

But the family had been small, orderly, and systematic, and Grace the
most considerate of housekeepers. Still it was not to be denied, that,
though an indulgent and considerate mistress, Bridget was, in fact,
mistress of the Seymour mansion, and that her mind and will concerning
the washing must be made known to the young queen.

It was a sore trial to speak to Lillie; but it would be sorer to be
left at once desolate in the kitchen department, and exposed to the
marauding inroads of unskilled Hibernians.

In the most delicate way, Grace made Lillie acquainted with the
domestic crisis; as, in old times, a prime minister might have carried
to one of the Charleses the remonstrance and protest of the House of
Commons.

“Oh! I’m sure I don’t know how it’s to be done,” said Lillie, gayly.
“Mamma always got my things done _somehow_. They always _were_ done,
and always must be: you just tell her so. I think it’s always best to
be decided with servants. Face ’em down in the beginning.”

“But you see, Lillie dear, it’s almost impossible to _get_ servants
at all in Springdale; and such servants as ours everybody says are an
exception. If we talk to Bridget in that way, she’ll just go off and
leave us; and then what shall we do?”

“What in the world does John want to live in such a place for?” said
Lillie, peevishly. “There are plenty of servants to be got in New York;
and that’s the only place fit to live in. Well, it’s no affair of mine!
Tell John he married me, and must take care of me. He must settle it
some way: I shan’t trouble my head about it.”

The idea of living in New York, and uprooting the old time-honored
establishment in Springdale, struck Grace as a sort of sacrilege;
yet she could not help feeling, with a kind of fear, that the young
mistress had power to do it.

“Don’t, darling, talk so, for pity’s sake,” she said. “I will go to
John, and we will arrange it somehow.”

A long consultation with faithful John, in the evening, revealed to
him the perplexing nature of the material processes necessary to get
up his fair puff of thistledown in all that wonderful whiteness and
fancifulness of costume which had so entranced him.

Lillie cried, and said she never had any trouble before about “getting
her things done.” She was sure mamma or Trixie or somebody did them,
or got them done,—she never knew how or when. With many tears and
sobs, she protested her ardent desire to realize the Scriptural idea
of the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field, which were fed
and clothed, “like Solomon in all his glory,” without ever giving a
moment’s care to the matter.

John kissed and embraced, and wiped away her tears, and declared she
should have every thing just as she desired it, if it took the half of
his kingdom.

After consoling his fair one, he burst into Grace’s room in the
evening, just at the hour when they used to have their old brotherly
and sisterly confidential talks.

“You see, Grace,—poor Lillie, dear little thing,—you don’t know how
distressed she is; and, Grace, we must find somebody to do up all her
fol-de-rols and fizgigs for her, you know. You see, she’s been _used_
to this kind of thing; can’t do without it.”

“Well, I’ll try to-morrow, John,” said Grace, patiently. “There is Mrs.
Atkins,—she is a very nice woman.”

“Oh, exactly! just the thing,” said John. “Yes, we’ll get her to take
all Lillie’s things every week. That settles it.”

“Do you know, John, at the prices that Mrs. Atkins asks, you will have
to pay more than for all your family service together? What we have
this week would be twenty dollars, at the least computation; and it is
worth it too,—the work of getting up is so elaborate.”

John opened his eyes, and looked grave. Like all stable New-England
families, the Seymours, while they practised the broadest liberality,
had instincts of great sobriety in expense. Needless profusion shocked
them as out of taste; and a quiet and decent reticence in matters of
self-indulgence was habitual with them.

Such a price for the fine linen of his little angel rather staggered
him; but he gulped it down.

“Well, well, Gracie,” he said, “cost what it may, she must have it as
she likes it. The little creature, you see, has never been accustomed
to calculate or reflect in these matters; and it is trial enough to
come down to our stupid way of living,—so different, you know, from the
gay life she has been leading.”

Miss Seymour’s saintship was somewhat rudely tested by this remark.
That anybody should think it a sacrifice to be John’s wife, and a
trial to accept the homestead at Springdale, with all its tranquillity
and comforts,—that John, under her influence, should speak of the
Springdale life as _stupid_,—was a little drop too much in her cup. A
bright streak appeared in either cheek, as she said,—

“Well, John, I never knew you found Springdale stupid before. I’m sure,
we _have_ been happy here,”—and her voice quavered.

“Pshaw, Gracie! you know what I mean. I don’t mean that _I_ find
it stupid. I don’t like the kind of rattle-brained life we’ve been
leading this six weeks. But, then, it just suits Lillie; and it’s so
sweet and patient of her to come here and give it all up, and say not
a word of regret; and then, you see, I shall be just up to my ears in
business now, and can’t give up all my time to her, as I have. There’s
ever so much law business coming on, and all the factory matters at
Spindlewood; and I can see that Lillie will have rather a hard time of
it. You must devote yourself to her, Gracie, like a dear, good soul,
as you always were, and try to get her interested in our kind of life.
Of course, all our set will call, and that will be something; and
then—there will be some invitations out.”

“Oh, yes, John! we’ll manage it,” said Grace, who had by this time
swallowed her anger, and shouldered her cross once more with a womanly
perseverance. “Oh, yes! the Fergusons, and the Wilcoxes, and the
Lennoxes, will all call; and we shall have picnics, and lawn teas, and
musicals, and parties.”

“Yes, yes, I see,” said John. “Gracie, _isn’t_ she a dear little
thing? Didn’t she look cunning in that white wrapper this morning? How
do women do those things, I wonder?” said John. “Don’t you think her
manners are lovely?”

“They are very sweet, and she is charmingly pretty,” said Grace; “and I
love her dearly.”

“And so affectionate! Don’t you think so?” continued John. “She’s a
person that you can do any thing with through her heart. She’s all
heart, and very little head. I ought not to say that, either. I think
she has fair natural abilities, had they ever been cultivated.”

“My dear John,” said Grace, “you forget what time it is. Good-night!”



CHAPTER VII.

_WILL SHE LIKE IT?_


“JOHN,” said Grace, “when are you going out again to our Sunday school
at Spindlewood? They are all asking after you. Do you know it is now
two months since they have seen you?”

“I know it,” said John. “I am going to-morrow. You see, Gracie, I
couldn’t well before.”

“Oh! I have told them all about it, and I have kept things up; but then
there are so many who want to see _you_, and so many things that you
alone could settle and manage.”

“Oh, yes! I’ll go to-morrow,” said John. “And, after this, I shall
be steady at it. I wonder if we could get Lillie to go,” said he,
doubtfully.

Grace did not answer. Lillie was a subject on which it was always
embarrassing to her to be appealed to. She was so afraid of appearing
jealous or unappreciative; and her opinions were so different from
those of her brother, that it was rather difficult to say any thing.

“Do you think she would like it, Grace?”

“Indeed, John, you must know better than I. If anybody could make her
take an interest in it, it would be you.”

Before his marriage, John had always had the idea that pretty,
affectionate little women were religious and self-denying at heart, as
matters of course. No matter through what labyrinths of fashionable
follies and dissipation they had been wandering, still a talent for
saintship was lying dormant in their natures, which it needed only the
touch of love to develop. The wings of the angel were always concealed
under the fashionable attire of the belle, and would unfold themselves
when the hour came. A nearer acquaintance with Lillie, he was forced
to confess, had not, so far, confirmed this idea. Though hers was a
face so fair and pure that, when he first knew her, it suggested ideas
of prayer, and communion with angels, yet he could not disguise from
himself that, in all near acquaintance with her, she had proved to
be most remarkably “of the earth, earthy.” She was alive and fervent
about fashionable gossip,—of who is who, and what does what; she was
alive to equipages, to dress, to sightseeing, to dancing, to any thing
of which the whole stimulus and excitement was earthly and physical.
At times, too, he remembered that she had talked a sort of pensive
sentimentalism, of a slightly religious nature; but the least idea
of a moral purpose in life—of self-denial, and devotion to something
higher than immediate self-gratification—seemed never to have entered
her head. What is more, John had found his attempts to introduce such
topics with her always unsuccessful. Lillie either gaped in his face,
and asked him what time it was; or playfully pulled his whiskers, and
asked him why he didn’t take to the ministry; or adroitly turned the
conversation with kissing and compliments.

Sunday morning came, shining down gloriously through the dewy
elm-arches of Springdale. The green turf on either side of the wide
streets was mottled and flecked with vivid flashes and glimmers of
emerald, like the sheen of a changeable silk, as here and there long
arrows of sunlight darted down through the leaves and touched the
ground.

The gardens between the great shady houses that flanked the street were
full of tall white and crimson phloxes in all the majesty of their
summer bloom, and the air was filled with fragrance; and Lillie, after
a two hours’ toilet, came forth from her chamber fresh and lovely as
the bride in the Canticles. “Thou art all fair, my love; there is
no spot in thee.” She was killingly dressed in the rural-simplicity
style. All her robes and sashes were of purest white; and a knot of
field-daisies and grasses, with French dew-drops on them, twinkled
in an infinitesimal bonnet on her little head, and her hair was all
_créped_ into a filmy golden aureole round her face. In short, dear
reader, she was a perfectly got-up angel, and wanted only some tulle
clouds and an opening heaven to have gone up at once, as similar angels
do from the Parisian stage.

“You like me, don’t you?” she said, as she saw the delight in John’s
eyes.

John was tempted to lay hold of his plaything.

“Don’t, now,—you’ll crumple me,” she said, fighting him off with a
dainty parasol. “Positively you shan’t touch me till after church.”

John laid the little white hand on his arm with pride, and looked down
at her over his shoulder all the way to church. He felt proud of her.
They would look at her, and see how pretty she was, he thought. And
so they did. Lillie had been used to admiration in church. It was one
of her fields of triumph. She had received compliments on her toilet
even from young clergymen, who, in the course of their preaching and
praying, found leisure to observe the beauties of nature and grace in
their congregation. She had been quite used to knowing of young men
who got good seats in church simply for the purpose of seeing her;
consequently, going to church had not the moral advantages for her that
it has for people who go simply to pray and be instructed. John saw the
turning of heads, and the little movements and whispers of admiration;
and his heart was glad within him. The thought of her mingled with
prayer and hymn; even when he closed his eyes, and bowed his head, she
was there.

Perhaps this was not exactly as it should be; yet let us hope the
angels look tenderly down on the sins of too much love. John felt as if
he would be glad of a chance to die for her; and, when he thought of
her in his prayers, it was because he loved her better than himself.

As to Lillie, there was an extraordinary sympathy of sentiment between
them at that moment. John was thinking only of her; and she was
thinking only of herself, as was her usual habit,—herself, the one
object of her life, the one idol of her love.

Not that she knew, in so many words, that she, the little, frail bit of
dust and ashes that she was, was her own idol, and that she appeared
before her Maker, in those solemn walls, to draw to herself the homage
and the attention that was due to God alone; but yet it was true
that, for years and years, Lillie’s unconfessed yet only motive for
appearing in church had been the display of herself, and the winning of
admiration.

But is she so much worse than others?—than the clergyman who uses the
pulpit and the sacred office to show off his talents?—than the singers
who sing God’s praises to show their voices,—who intone the agonies
of their Redeemer, or the glories of the _Te Deum_, confident on the
comments of the newspaper press on their performance the next week? No:
Lillie may be a little sinner, but not above others in this matter.

“Lillie,” said John to her after dinner, assuming a careless,
matter-of-course air, “would you like to drive with me over to
Spindlewood, and see my Sunday school?”

“_Your_ Sunday school, John? Why, bless me! do _you_ teach Sunday
school?”

“Certainly I do. Grace and I have a school of two hundred children and
young people belonging to our factories. I am superintendent.”

“I never did hear of any thing so odd!” said Lillie. “What in the world
can you want to take all that trouble for,—go basking over there in
the hot sun, and be shut up with a room full of those ill-smelling
factory-people? Why, I’m sure it can’t be your duty! I wouldn’t do it
for the world. Nothing would tempt me. Why, gracious, John, you might
catch small-pox or something!”

“Pooh! Lillie, child, you don’t know any thing about them. They are
just as cleanly and respectable as anybody.”

“Oh, well! they may be. But these Irish and Germans and Swedes and
Danes, and all that low class, do smell so,—you needn’t tell me,
now!—that working-class smell is a thing that can’t be disguised.”

“But, Lillie, these are our people. They are the laborers from whose
toils our wealth comes; and we owe them something.”

“Well! you pay them something, don’t you?”

“I mean morally. We owe our efforts to instruct their children, and
to elevate and guide them. Lillie, I feel that it is wrong for us to
use wealth merely as a means of self-gratification. We ought to labor
for those who labor for us. We ought to deny ourselves, and make some
sacrifices of ease for their good.”

“You dear old preachy creature!” said Lillie. “How good you must be!
But, really, I haven’t the smallest vocation to be a missionary,—not
the smallest. I can’t think of any thing that would induce me to take a
long, hot ride in the sun, and to sit in that stived-up room with those
common creatures.”

John looked grave. “Lillie,” he said, “you shouldn’t speak of any of
your fellow-beings in that heartless way.”

“Well now, if you are going to scold me, I’m sure I don’t want to go.
I’m sure, if everybody that stays at home, and has comfortable times,
Sundays, instead of going out on missions, is heartless, there are a
good many heartless people in the world.”

“I beg your pardon, my darling. I didn’t mean, dear, that _you_ were
heartless, but that what you said _sounded_ so. I knew you didn’t
really mean it. I didn’t ask you, dear, to go to _work_,—only to be
company for me.”

“And I ask you to stay at home, and be company for _me_. I’m sure it is
lonesome enough here, and you are off on business almost all your days;
and you might stay with me Sundays. You could hire some poor, pious
young man to do all the work over there. There are plenty of them, dear
knows, that it would be a real charity to help, and that could preach
and pray better than you can, I know. I don’t think a man that is busy
all the week ought to work Sundays. It is breaking the Sabbath.”

“But, Lillie, I am _interested_ in my Sunday school. I know all my
people, and they know me; and no one else in the world could do for
them what I could.”

“Well, I should think you might be interested in _me_: nobody else can
do for me what you can, and I want you to stay with me. That’s just the
way with you men: you don’t care any thing about us after you get us.”

“Now, Lillie, darling, you know that isn’t so.”

“It’s just so. You care more for your old missionary work, now,
than you do for me. I’m sure I never knew that I’d married a
home-missionary.”

“Darling, please, now, don’t laugh at me, and try to make me selfish
and worldly. You have such power over me, you ought to be my
inspiration.”

“I’ll be your common-sense, John. When you get on stilts, and run
benevolence into the ground, I’ll pull you down. Now, I know it must
be bad for a man, that has as much as you do to occupy his mind all
the week, to go out and work Sundays; and it’s foolish, when you could
perfectly well hire somebody else to do it, and stay at home, and have
a good time.”

“But, Lillie, I _need_ it myself.”

“Need it,—what for? I can’t imagine.”

“To keep me from becoming a mere selfish, worldly man, and living for
mere material good and pleasure.”

“You dear old Don Quixote! Well, you are altogether in the clouds above
me. I can’t understand a word of all that.”

“Well, good-by, darling,” said John, kissing her, and hastening out of
the room, to cut short the interview.

Milton has described the peculiar influence of woman over man, in
lowering his moral tone, and bringing him down to what he considered
the peculiarly womanly level. “You women,” he said to his wife, when
she tried to induce him to seek favors at court by some concession of
principle,—“you women never care for any thing but to be fine, and to
ride in your coaches.” In Father Adam’s description of the original
Eve, he says,—

    “All higher knowledge in her presence falls
     Degraded; wisdom, in discourse with her,
     Loses, discountenanced, and like folly shows.”

Something like this effect was always produced on John’s mind when he
tried to settle questions relating to his higher nature with Lillie. He
seemed, somehow, always to get the worst of it. All her womanly graces
and fascinations, so powerful over his senses and imagination, arrayed
themselves formidably against him, and for the time seemed to strike
him dumb. What he believed, and believed with enthusiasm, when he was
alone, or with Grace, seemed to drizzle away, and be belittled, when
he undertook to convince her of it. Lest John should be called a muff
and a spoon for this peculiarity, we cite once more the high authority
aforesaid, where Milton makes poor Adam tell the angel,—

                “Yet when I approach
    Her loveliness, so absolute she seems
    And in herself complete, so well to know
    Her own, that what she wills to do or say
    Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best.”

John went out from Lillie’s presence rather humbled and over-crowed.
When the woman that a man loves laughs at his moral enthusiasms, it is
like a black frost on the delicate tips of budding trees. It is up-hill
work, as we all know, to battle with indolence and selfishness, and
self-seeking and hard-hearted worldliness. Then the highest and holiest
part of our nature has a bashfulness of its own. It is a heavenly
stranger, and easily shamed. A nimble-tongued, skilful woman can so
easily show the ridiculous side of what seemed heroism; and what is
called common-sense, so generally, is only some neatly put phase of
selfishness. Poor John needed the angel at his elbow, to give him the
caution which he is represented as giving to Father Adam:—

                “What transports thee so?
    An outside?—fair, no doubt, and worthy well
    Thy cherishing, thy honor, and thy love,
    Not thy subjection. Weigh her with thyself,
    Then value. Oft-times nothing profits more
    Than self-esteem, grounded on just and right
    Well managed: of that skill the more thou knowest,
    The more she will acknowledge thee her head,
    And to realities yield all her shows.”

But John had no angel at his elbow. He was a fellow with a great
heart,—good as gold,—with upward aspirations, but with slow speech;
and, when not sympathized with, he became confused and incoherent, and
even dumb. So his only way with his little pink and white empress was
immediate and precipitate flight.

Lillie ran to the window when he was gone, and saw him and Grace get
into the carriage together; and then she saw them drive to the old
Ferguson House, and Rose Ferguson came out and got in with them.
“Well,” she said to herself, “he shan’t do that many times more,—I’m
resolved.”

No, she did not say it. It would be well for us all if we _did_ put
into words, plain and explicit, many instinctive resolves and purposes
that arise in our hearts, and which, for want of being so expressed,
influence us undetected and unchallenged. If we would say out boldly,
“I don’t care for right or wrong, or good or evil, or anybody’s rights
or anybody’s happiness, or the general good, or God himself,—all I care
for, or feel the least interest in, is to have a good time myself, and
I mean to do it, come what may,”—we should be only expressing a feeling
which often lies in the dark back-room of the human heart; and saying
it might alarm us from the drugged sleep of life. It might rouse us to
shake off the slow, creeping paralysis of selfishness and sin before it
is for ever too late.

But Lillie was a creature who had lost the power of self-knowledge.
She was, my dear sir, what you suppose the true woman to be,—a bundle
of blind instincts; and among these the strongest was that of property
in her husband, and power over him. She had lived in her power over
men; it was her field of ambition. She knew them thoroughly. Women are
called ivy; and the ivy has a hundred little fingers in every inch of
its length, that strike at every flaw and crack and weak place in the
strong wall they mean to overgrow; and so had Lillie. She saw, at a
glance, that the sober, thoughtful, Christian life of Springdale was
wholly opposed to the life she wanted to lead, and in which John was to
be her instrument. She saw that, if such women as Grace and Rose had
power with him, she should not have; and her husband should be hers
alone. He should do her will, and be her subject,—so she thought,
smiling at herself as she looked in the looking-glass, and then curled
herself peacefully and languidly down in the corner of the sofa, and
drew forth the French novel that was her usual Sunday companion.

Lillie liked French novels. There was an atmosphere of things in them
that suited her. The young married women had lovers and admirers; and
there was the constant stimulus of being courted and adored, under the
safe protection of a good-natured “_mari_.”

In France, the flirting is all done after marriage, and the young
girl looks forward to it as her introduction to a career of conquest.
In America, so great is our democratic liberality, that we think
of uniting the two systems. We are getting on in that way fast. A
knowledge of French is beginning to be considered as the pearl of
great price, to gain which, all else must be sold. The girls must go
to the French theatre, and be stared at by French _débauchées_, who
laugh at them while they pretend they understand what, thank Heaven,
they cannot. Then we are to have series of French novels, carefully
translated, and puffed and praised even by the religious press, written
by the corps of French female reformers, which will show them exactly
how the naughty French women manage their cards; so that, by and by,
we shall have the latest phase of eclecticism,—the union of American
and French manners. The girl will flirt till twenty _à l’Américaine_,
and then marry and flirt till forty _à la Française_. This was about
Lillie’s plan of life. Could she hope to carry it out in Springdale?



CHAPTER VIII.

_SPINDLEWOOD._


IT seemed a little like old times to Grace, to be once more going with
Rose and John over the pretty romantic road to Spindlewood.

John did not reflect upon how little she now saw of him, and how much
of a trial the separation was; but he noticed how bright and almost gay
she was, when they were by themselves once more. He was gay too. In the
congenial atmosphere of sympathy, his confidence in himself, and his
own right in the little controversy that had occurred, returned. Not
that he said a word of it; he did not do so, and would not have done so
for the world. Grace and Rose were full of anecdotes of this, that, and
the other of their scholars; and all the particulars of some of their
new movements were discussed. The people had, of their own accord,
raised a subscription for a library, which was to be presented to John
that day, with a request that he would select the books.

“Gracie, that must be your work,” said John; “you know I shall have an
important case next week.”

“Oh, yes! Rose and I will settle it,” said Grace. “Rose, we’ll get the
catalogues from all the book-stores, and mark the things.”

“We’ll want books for the children just beginning to read; and then
books for the young men in John’s Bible-class, and all the way
between,” said Rose. “It will be quite a work to select.”

“And then to bargain with the book-stores, and make the money go ‘far
as possible,’” said Grace.

“And then there’ll be the covering of the books,” said Rose. “I’ll tell
you. I think I’ll manage to have a lawn tea at our house; and the girls
shall all come early, and get the books covered,—that’ll be charming.”

“I think Lillie would like that,” put in John.

“I should be so glad!” said Rose. “What a lovely little thing she is!
I hope she’ll like it. I wanted to get up something pretty for her. I
think, at this time of the year, lawn teas are a little variety.”

“Oh, she’ll like it of course!” said John, with some sinking of heart
about the Sunday-school books.

There were so many pressing to shake hands with John, and congratulate
him, so many histories to tell, so many cases presented for
consultation, that it was quite late before they got away; and tea had
been waiting for them more than an hour when they returned.

Lillie looked pensive, and had that indescribable air of patient
martyrdom which some women know how to make so very effective. Lillie
had good general knowledge of the science of martyrdom,—a little spice
and flavor of it had been gently infused at times into her demeanor
ever since she had been at Springdale. She could do the uncomplaining
sufferer with the happiest effect. She contrived to insinuate at times
how she didn’t complain,—how dull and slow she found her life, and yet
how she endeavored to be cheerful.

“I know,” she said to John when they were by themselves, “that you and
Grace both think I’m a horrid creature.”

“Why, no, dearest; indeed we don’t.”

“But you do, though; oh, I feel it! The fact is, John, I haven’t a
particle of constitution; and, if I should try to go on as Grace does,
it would kill me in a month. Ma never would let me try to do any thing;
and, if I did, I was sure to break all down under it: but, if you say
so, I’ll try to go into this school.”

“Oh, no, Lillie! I don’t want you to go in. I know, darling, you could
not stand any fatigue. I only wanted you to take an interest,—just to
go and see them for my sake.”

“Well, John, if you must go, and must keep it up, I must try to go.
I’ll go with you next Sunday. It will make my head ache perhaps; but no
matter, if you wish it. You don’t think badly of me, do you?” she said
coaxingly, playing with his whiskers.

“No, darling, not the least.”

“I suppose it would be a great deal better for you if you had married a
strong, energetic woman, like your sister. I do admire her so; but it
discourages me.”

“Darling, I’d a thousand times rather have you what you are,” said
John; for—

                    “What she wills to do,
    Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best.”

“O John! come, you ought to be sincere.”

“Sincere, Lillie! I am sincere.”

“You really would rather have poor, poor little me than a woman like
Gracie,—a great, strong, energetic woman?” And Lillie laid her soft
cheek down on his arm in pensive humility.

“Yes, a thousand million times,” said John in his enthusiasm, catching
her in his arms and kissing her. “I wouldn’t for the world have you any
thing but the darling little Lillie you are. I love your faults more
than the virtues of other women. You are a thousand times better than
I am. I am a great, coarse blockhead, compared to you. I hope I didn’t
hurt your feelings this noon; you know, Lillie, I’m hasty, and apt to
be inconsiderate. I don’t really know that I ought to let you go over
next Sunday.”

“O John, you are so good! Certainly if you go I ought to; and I shall
try my best.” Then John told her all about the books and the lawn tea,
and Lillie listened approvingly.

So they had a lawn tea at the Fergusons that week, where Lillie was
the cynosure of all eyes. Mr. Mathews, the new young clergyman of
Springdale, was there. Mr. Mathews had been credited as one of the
admirers of Rose Ferguson; but on this occasion he promenaded and
talked with Lillie, and Lillie alone, with an exclusive devotion.

“What a lovely young creature your new sister is!” he said to Grace.
“She seems to have so much religious sensibility.”

“I say, Lillie,” said John, “Mathews seemed to be smitten with you. I
had a notion of interfering.”

“Did you ever see any thing like it, John? I couldn’t shake the
creature off. I was so thankful when you came up and took me. He’s
Rose’s admirer, and he hardly spoke a word to her. I think it’s
shameful.”

The next Sunday, Lillie rode over to Spindlewood with John and Rose and
Mr. Mathews.

Never had the picturesque of religion received more lustre than from
her presence. John was delighted to see how they all gazed at her
and wondered. Lillie looked like a first-rate French picture of the
youthful Madonna,—white, pure, and patient. The day was hot, and the
hall crowded; and John noticed, what he never did before, the close
smell and confined air, and it made him uneasy. When we are feeling
with the nerves of some one else, we notice every roughness and
inconvenience. John thought he had never seen his school appear so
little to advantage. Yet Lillie was an image of patient endurance,
trying to be pleased; and John thought her, as she sat and did nothing,
more of a saint than Rose and Grace, who were laboriously sorting
books, and gathering around them large classes of factory boys, to whom
they talked with an exhausting devotedness.

When all was over, Lillie sat back on the carriage-cushions, and
smelled at her gold vinaigrette.

“You are all worn out, dear,” said John, tenderly.

“It’s no matter,” she said faintly.

“O Lillie darling! _does_ your head ache?”

“A little,—you know it was close in there. I’m very sensitive to such
things. I don’t think they affect others as they do me,” said Lillie,
with the voice of a dying zephyr.

“Lillie, _it is not your duty to go_,” said John; “if you are not made
ill by this, I never will take you again; you are too precious to be
risked.”

“How can you say so, John? I’m a poor little creature,—no use to
anybody.”

Hereupon John told her that her only use in life was to be lovely
and to be loved,—that a thing of beauty was a joy forever, &c., &c.
But Lillie was too much exhausted, on her return, to appear at the
tea-table. She took to her bed at once with sick headache, to the
poignant remorse of John. “You see how it is, Gracie,” he said. “Poor
dear little thing, she is willing enough, but there’s nothing of her.
We mustn’t allow her to exert herself; her feelings always carry her
away.”

The next Sunday, John sat at home with Lillie, who found herself too
unwell to go to church, and was in a state of such low spirits as to
require constant soothing to keep her quiet.

“It is fortunate that I have you and Rose to trust the school with,”
said John; “you see, it’s my first duty to take care of Lillie.”



CHAPTER IX.

_A CRISIS._


ONE of the shrewdest and most subtle modern French writers has given
his views of womankind in the following passage:—

    “There are few women who have not found themselves, at least
    once in their lives, in regard to some incontestable fact,
    faced down by precise, keen, searching inquiry,—one of those
    questions pitilessly put by their husbands, the very idea
    of which gives a slight chill, and the first word of which
    enters the heart like a stroke of a dagger. Hence comes the
    maxim, _Every woman lies_—obliging lies—venial lies—sublime
    lies—horrible lies—but always the obligation of lying.

    “This obligation once admitted, must it not be a necessity
    to know how to lie well? In France, the women lie admirably.
    Our customs instruct them so well in imposture. And woman is
    so naïvely impertinent, so pretty, so graceful, so true, in
    her lying! They so well understand its usefulness in social
    life for avoiding those violent shocks which would destroy
    happiness,—it is like the cotton in which they pack their
    jewelry.

    “Lying is to them the very foundation of language, and
    truth is only the exception; they speak it, as they are
    virtuous, from caprice or for a purpose. According to their
    character, some women laugh when they lie, and some cry;
    some become grave, and others get angry. Having begun life
    by pretending perfect insensibility to that homage which
    flatters them most, they often finish by lying even to
    themselves. Who has not admired their apparent superiority
    and calm, at the moment when they were trembling for the
    mysterious treasures of their love? Who has not studied
    their ease and facility, their presence of mind in the midst
    of the most critical embarrassments of social life? There is
    nothing awkward about it; their deception flows as softly as
    the snow falls from heaven.

    “Yet there are men that have the presumption to expect to
    get the better of the Parisian woman!—of the woman who
    possesses thirty-seven thousand ways of saying ‘No,’ and
    incommensurable variations in saying ‘Yes.’”

This is a Frenchman’s view of life in a country where women are trained
more systematically for the mere purposes of attraction than in any
other country, and where the pursuit of admiration and the excitement
of winning lovers are represented by its authors as constituting the
main staple of woman’s existence. France, unfortunately, is becoming
the great society-teacher of the world. What with French theatres,
French operas, French novels, and the universal rush of American women
for travel, France is becoming so powerful on American fashionable
society, that the things said of the Parisian woman begin in some cases
to apply to some women in America.

Lillie was as precisely the woman here described as if she had been
born and bred in Paris. She had all the thirty-seven thousand ways
of saying “No,” and the incommensurable variations in saying “Yes,”
as completely as the best French teaching could have given it. She
possessed, and had used, all that graceful facility, in the story of
herself that she had told John in the days of courtship. Her power over
him was based on a dangerous foundation of unreality. Hence, during the
first few weeks of her wedded life, came a critical scene, in which she
was brought in collision with one of those “pitiless questions” our
author speaks of.

Her wedding-presents, manifold and brilliant, had remained at home, in
the charge of her mother, during the wedding-journey. One bright day,
a few weeks after her arrival in Springdale, the boxes containing the
treasures were landed there; and John, with all enthusiasm, busied
himself with the work of unpacking these boxes, and drawing forth the
treasures.

Now, it so happened that Lillie’s maternal grandfather, a nice, pious
old gentleman, had taken the occasion to make her the edifying and
suggestive present of a large, elegantly bound family Bible.

The binding was unexceptionable; and Lillie assigned it a proper place
of honor among her wedding-gear. Alas! she had not looked into it, nor
seen what dangers to her power were lodged between its leaves.

[Illustration: “He found the date of the birth of ‘Lillie Ellis.’”]

But John, who was curious in the matter of books, sat quietly down in
a corner to examine it; and on the middle page, under the head “Family
Record,” he found, in a large, bold hand, the date of the birth of
“Lillie Ellis” in figures of the most uncompromising plainness; and
thence, with one flash of his well-trained arithmetical sense, came the
perception that, instead of being twenty years old, she was in fact
twenty-seven,—and that of course she had lied to him.

It was a horrid and a hard word for an American young man to have
suggested in relation to his wife. If we may believe the French
romancer, a Frenchman would simply have smiled in amusement on
detecting this petty feminine _ruse_ of his beloved. But American men
are in the habit of expecting the truth from respectable women as a
matter of course; and the want of it in the smallest degree strikes
them as shocking. Only an Englishman or an American can understand the
dreadful pain of that discovery to John.

The Anglo-Saxon race have, so to speak, a worship of truth; and they
hate and abhor lying with an energy which leaves no power of tolerance.

The Celtic races have a certain sympathy with deception. They have a
certain appreciation of the value of lying as a fine art, which has
never been more skilfully shown than in the passage from De Balzac we
have quoted. The woman who is described by him as lying so sweetly and
skilfully is represented as one of those women “qui ont je ne sais quoi
de saint et de sacré, qui inspirent tant de respect que l’amour,”—“a
woman who has an indescribable something of holiness and purity which
inspires respect as well as love.” It was no detraction from the
character of Jesus, according to the estimate of Renan, to represent
him as consenting to a benevolent fraud, and seeming to work miracles
when he did not work them, by way of increasing his good influence over
the multitude.

But John was the offspring of a generation of men for hundreds of
years, who would any of them have gone to the stake rather than have
told the smallest untruth; and for him who had been watched and guarded
and catechised against this sin from his cradle, till he was as true
and pure as a crystal rock, to have his faith shattered in the woman
he loved, was a terrible thing.

As he read the fatal figures, a mist swam before his eyes,—a sort of
faintness came over him. It seemed for a moment as if his very life was
sinking down through his boots into the carpet. He threw down the book
hastily, and, turning, stepped through an open window into the garden,
and walked quickly off.

“Where in the world is John going?” said Lillie, running to the door,
and calling after him in imperative tones.

“John, John, come back. I haven’t done with you yet;” but John never
turned his head.

“How very odd! what in the world is the matter with him?” she said to
herself.

John was gone all the afternoon. He took a long, long walk, all by
himself, and thought the matter over. He remembered that fresh,
childlike, almost infantine face, that looked up into his with such a
bewitching air of frankness and candor, as she professed to be telling
all about herself and her history; and now which or what of it was
true? It seemed as if he loathed her; and yet he couldn’t help loving
her, while he despised himself for doing it.

When he came home to supper, he was silent and morose. Lillie came
running to meet him; but he threw her off, saying he was tired. She was
frightened; she had never seen him look like that.

“John, what is the matter with you?” said Grace at the tea-table. “You
are upsetting every thing, and don’t drink your tea.”

“Nothing—only—I have some troublesome business to settle,” he said,
getting up to go out again. “You needn’t wait for me; I shall be out
late.”

“What can be the matter?”

Lillie, indeed, had not the remotest idea. Yet she remembered his
jumping up suddenly, and throwing down the Bible; and mechanically she
went to it, and opened it. She turned it over; and the record met her
eye.

“Provoking!” she said. “Stupid old creature! must needs go and put that
out in full.” Lillie took a paper-folder, and cut the leaf out quite
neatly; then folded and burned it.

She knew now what was the matter. John was angry at her; but she
couldn’t help wondering that he should be so angry. If he had laughed
at her, teased her, taxed her with the trick, she would have understood
what to do. But this terrible gloom, this awful commotion of the
elements, frightened her.

She went to her room, saying that she had a headache, and would go
to bed. But she did not. She took her French novel, and read till
she heard him coming; and then she threw down her book, and began to
cry. He came into the room, and saw her leaning like a little white
snow-wreath over the table, sobbing as if her heart would break. To
do her justice, Lillie’s sobs were not affected. She was lonesome and
thoroughly frightened; and, when she heard him coming, her nerves gave
out. John’s heart yearned towards her. His short-lived anger had burned
out; and he was perfectly longing for a reconciliation. He felt as if
he must have her to love, no matter what she was. He came up to her,
and stroked her hair. “O Lillie!” he said, “why couldn’t you have told
me the truth? What made you deceive me?”

“I was afraid you wouldn’t like me if I did,” said Lillie, in her sobs.

“O Lillie! I should have liked you, no matter how old you were,—only
you should have told me _the truth_.”

“I know it—I know it—oh, it _was_ wrong of me!” and Lillie sobbed, and
seemed in danger of falling into convulsions; and John’s heart gave
out. He gathered her in his arms. “I can’t help loving you; and I can’t
live without you,” he said, “be you what you may!”

Lillie’s little heart beat with triumph under all her sobs: she had got
him, and should hold him yet.

“There can be no confidence between husband and wife, Lillie,” said
John, gravely, “unless we are perfectly true with each other. Promise
me, dear, that you will never deceive me again.”

Lillie promised with ready fervor. “O John!” she said, “I never should
have done so wrong if I had only come under your influence earlier. The
fact is, I have been under the worst influences all my life. I never
had anybody like you to guide me.”

John may of course be excused for feeling that his flattering little
penitent was more to him than ever; and as to Lillie, she gave a sigh
of relief. _That_ was over, “anyway;” and she had him not only safe,
but more completely hers than before.

A generous man is entirely unnerved by a frank confession. If Lillie
had said one word in defence, if she had raised the slightest shadow
of an argument, John would have roused up all his moral principle to
oppose her; but this poor little white water-sprite, dissolving in a
rain of penitent tears, quite washed away all his anger and all his
heroism.

The next morning, Lillie, all fresh in a ravishing toilet, with
field-daisies in her hair, was in a condition to laugh gently at John
for his emotion of yesterday. She triumphed softly, not too obviously,
in her power. He couldn’t do without her,—do what she might,—that was
plain.

“Now, John,” she said, “don’t you think we poor women are judged
rather hardly? Men, you know, tell all sorts of lies to carry on their
great politics and their ambition, and nobody thinks it so dreadful of
_them_.”

“I _do_—I should,” interposed John.

“Oh, well! _you_—you are an exception. It is not one man in a hundred
that is so good as you are. Now, we women have only one poor little
ambition,—to be pretty, to please you men; and, as soon as you know
we are getting old, you don’t like us. And can you think it’s so very
shocking if we don’t come square up to the dreadful truth about our
age? Youth and beauty is all there is to us, you know.”

“O Lillie! don’t say so,” said John, who felt the necessity of being
instructive, and of improving the occasion to elevate the moral tone of
his little elf. “Goodness lasts, my dear, when beauty fades.”

“Oh, nonsense! Now, John, don’t talk humbug. I’d like to see _you_
following goodness when beauty is gone. I’ve known lots of plain old
maids that were perfect saints and angels; and yet men crowded and
jostled by them to get the pretty sinners. I dare say now,” she added,
with a bewitching look over her shoulder at him, “you’d rather have me
than Miss Almira Carraway,—hadn’t you, now?”

And Lillie put her white arm round his neck, and her downy cheek to
his, and said archly, “Come, now, confess.”

Then John told her that she was a bad, naughty girl; and she laughed;
and, on the whole, the pair were more hilarious and loving than usual.

But yet, when John was away at his office, he thought of it again, and
found there was still a sore spot in his heart.

She had cheated him once; would she cheat him again? And she could
cheat so prettily, so serenely, and with such a candid face, it was a
dangerous talent.

No: she wasn’t like his mother, he thought with a sigh. The “je ne sais
quoi de saint et de sacré,” which had so captivated his imagination,
did not cover the saintly and sacred nature; it was a mere outward
purity of complexion and outline. And then Grace,—she must not be
left to find out what he knew about Lillie. He had told Grace that
she was only twenty,—told it on her authority; and now must he become
an accomplice? If called on to speak of his wife’s age, must he
accommodate the truth to her story, or must he palter and evade? Here
was another brick laid on the wall of separation between his sister
and himself. It was rising daily. Here was another subject on which he
could never speak frankly with Grace; for he must defend Lillie,—every
impulse of his heart rushed to protect her.

But it is a terrible truth, and one that it will not hurt any of us to
bear in mind, that our judgments of our friends are involuntary.

We may long with all our hearts to confide; we may be fascinated,
entangled, and wish to be blinded; but blind we cannot be. The friend
that has lied to us once, we may long to believe; but we cannot. Nay,
more; it is the worse for us, if, in our desire to hold the dear
deceiver in our hearts, we begin to chip and hammer on the great
foundations of right and honor, and to say within ourselves, “After
all, why be so particular?” Then, when we have searched about for
all the reasons and apologies and extenuations for wrong-doing, are
we sure that in our human weakness we shall not be pulling down the
moral barriers in ourselves? The habit of excusing evil, and finding
apologies, and wishing to stand with one who stands on a lower moral
plane, is not a wholesome one for the soul.

As fate would have it, the very next day after this little scene,
who should walk into the parlor where Lillie, John, and Grace were
sitting, but that terror of American democracy, the census-taker. Armed
with the whole power of the republic, this official steps with elegant
ease into the most sacred privacies of the family. Flutterings and
denials are in vain. Bridget and Katy and Anne, no less than Seraphina
and Isabella, must give up the critical secrets of their lives.

John took the paper into the kitchen. Honest old Bridget gave in her
age with effrontery as “twinty-five.” Anne giggled and flounced, and
declared on her word she didn’t know,—they could put it down as they
liked. “But, Anne, you _must_ tell, or you may be sent to jail, you
know.”

Anne giggled still harder, and tossed her head: “Then it’s to jail I’ll
have to go; for I don’t know.”

“Dear me,” said Lillie, with an air of edifying candor, “what a fuss
they make! Set down my age ‘twenty-seven,’ John,” she added.

Grace started, and looked at John; he met her eye, and blushed to the
roots of his hair.

“Why, what’s the matter?” said Lillie, “are you embarrassed at telling
your age?”

“Oh, nothing!” said John, writing down the numbers hastily; and then,
finding a sudden occasion to give directions in the garden, he darted
out. “It’s so silly to be ashamed of our age!” said Lillie, as the
census-taker withdrew.

“Of course,” said Grace; and she had the humanity never to allude to
the subject with her brother.



CHAPTER X.

_CHANGES._

SCENE.—_A chamber at the Seymour House. Lillie discovered weeping. John
rushing in with empressement._


“LILLIE, you _shall_ tell me what ails you.”

“Nothing ails me, John.”

“Yes, there does; you were crying when I came in.”

“Oh, well, that’s nothing!”

“Oh, but it _is_ a great deal! What is the matter? I can see that you
are not happy.”

“Oh, pshaw, John! I am as happy as I ought to be, I dare say; there
isn’t much the matter with me, only a little blue, and I don’t feel
quite strong.”

“You don’t feel strong! I’ve noticed it, Lillie.”

“Well, you see, John, the fact is, that I never have got through this
month without going to the sea-side. Mamma always took me. The doctors
told her that my constitution was such that I couldn’t get along
without it; but I dare say I shall do well enough in time, you know.”

“But, Lillie,” said John, “if you do need sea-air, you must go. I can’t
leave my business; that’s the trouble.”

“Oh, no, John! don’t think of it. I ought to make an effort to get
along. You see, it’s very foolish in me, but places affect my spirits
so. It’s perfectly absurd how I am affected.”

“Well, Lillie, I hope this place doesn’t affect you unpleasantly,” said
John.

“It’s a nice, darling place, John, and it’s very silly in me; but it is
a fact that this house somehow has a depressing effect on my spirits.
You know it’s not like the houses I’ve been used to. It has a sort of
old look; and I can’t help feeling that it puts me in mind of those who
are dead and gone; and then I think I shall be dead and gone too, some
day, and it makes me cry so. Isn’t it silly of me, John?”

“Poor little pussy!” said John.

“You see, John, our rooms are lovely; but they aren’t modern and
cheerful, like those I’ve been accustomed to. They make me feel pensive
and sad all the time; but I’m trying to get over it.”

“Why, Lillie!” said John, “would you like the rooms refurnished? It can
easily be done if you wish it.”

“Oh, no, no, dear! You are too good; and I’m sure the rooms are lovely,
and it would hurt Gracie’s feelings to change them. No: I must try and
get over it. I know just how silly it is, and I shall try to overcome
it. If I had only more strength, I believe I could.”

“Well, darling, you must go to the sea-side. I shall have you sent
right off to Newport. Gracie can go with you.”

“Oh, no, John! not for the world. Gracie must stay, and keep house for
you. She’s such a help to you, that it would be a shame to take her
away. But I think mamma would go with me,—if you could take me there,
and engage my rooms and all that, why, mamma could stay with me, you
know. To be sure, it would be a trial not to have you there; but then
if I could get up my strength, you know,”—

“Exactly, certainly; and, Lillie, how would you like the parlors
arranged if you had your own way?”

“Oh, John! don’t think of it.”

“But I just want to know for curiosity. Now, how would you have them if
you could?”

“Well, then, John, don’t you think it would be lovely to have them
frescoed? Did you ever see the Folingsbees’ rooms in New York? They
were so lovely!—one was all in blue, and the other in crimson, opening
into each other; with carved furniture, and those _marquetrie_ tables,
and all sorts of little French things. They had such a gay and cheerful
look.”

“Now, Lillie, if you want our rooms like that, you shall have them.”

“O John, you are too good! I couldn’t ask such a sacrifice.”

“Oh, pshaw! it isn’t a sacrifice. I don’t doubt I shall like them
better myself. Your taste is perfect, Lillie; and, now I think of it,
I wonder that I thought of bringing you here without consulting you
in every particular. A woman ought to be queen in her own house, I am
sure.”

“But, Gracie! Now, John, I know she has associations with all the
things in this house, and it would be cruel to her,” said Lillie, with
a sigh.

“Pshaw! Gracie is a good, sensible girl, and ready to make any rational
change. I suppose we have been living rather behind the times, and are
somewhat rusty, that’s a fact; but Gracie will enjoy new things as much
as anybody, I dare say.”

“Well, John, since you are set on it, there’s Charlie Ferrola, one of
my particular friends; he’s an architect, and does all about arranging
rooms and houses and furniture. He did the Folingsbees’, and the
Hortons’, and the Jeromes’, and no end of real nobby people’s houses;
and made them perfectly lovely. People say that one wouldn’t know that
they weren’t in Paris, in houses that he does.”

Now, our John was by nature a good solid chip of the old Anglo-Saxon
block; and, if there was any thing that he had no special affinity
for, it was for French things. He had small opinion of French morals,
and French ways in general; but then at this moment he saw his Lillie,
whom, but half an hour before, he found all pale and tear-drenched,
now radiant and joyous, sleek as a humming-bird, with the light in her
eyes, and the rattle on the tip of her tongue; and he felt so delighted
to see her bright and gay and joyous, that he would have turned his
house into the Jardin Mabille, if that were possible.

Lillie had the prettiest little caressing tricks and graces imaginable;
and she perched herself on his knee, and laughed and chatted so gayly,
and pulled his whiskers so saucily, and then, springing up, began
arraying herself in such an astonishing daintiness of device, and
fluttering before him with such a variety of well-assorted plumage,
that John was quite taken off his feet. He did not care so much whether
what she willed to do were, “Wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best,”
as feel that what she wished to do must be done at any rate.

[Illustration: “She perched herself on his knee.”]

“Why, darling!” he said in his rapture; “why didn’t you tell me all
this before? Here you have been growing sad and blue, and losing your
vivacity and spirits, and never told me why!”

“I thought it was my duty, John, to try to bear it,” said Lillie, with
the sweet look of a virgin saint. “I thought perhaps I should get used
to things in time; and I think it is a wife’s duty to accommodate
herself to her husband’s circumstances.”

“No, it’s a husband’s duty to accommodate himself to his wife’s
wishes,” said John. “What’s that fellow’s address? I’ll write to him
about doing our house, forthwith.”

“But, John, do pray tell Gracie that it’s _your_ wish. I don’t want her
to think that it’s I that am doing this. Now, pray do think whether you
really want it yourself. You see it must be so natural for you to like
the old things! They must have associations, and I wouldn’t for the
world, now, be the one to change them; and, after all, how silly it was
of me to feel blue!”

“Don’t say any more, Lillie. Let me see,—next week,” he said, taking
out his pocket-book, and looking over his memoranda,—“next week I’ll
take you down to Newport; and you write to-day to your mother to meet
you there, and be your guest. I’ll write and engage the rooms at once.”

“I don’t know what I shall do without you, John.”

“Oh, well, I couldn’t stay possibly! But I may run down now and then,
for a night, you know.”

“Well, we must make that do,” said Lillie, with a pensive sigh.

Thus two very important moves on Miss Lillie’s checker-board of life
were skilfully made. The house was to be refitted, and the Newport
precedent established.

Now, dear friends, don’t think Lillie a pirate, or a conspirator, or a
wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing, or any thing else but what she was,—a pretty
little, selfish woman; undeveloped in her conscience and affections,
and strong in her instincts and perceptions; in a blind way using what
means were most in her line to carry her purposes. Lillie had always
found her prettiness, her littleness, her helplessness, and her tears
so very useful in carrying her points in life that she resorted to them
as her lawful stock in trade. Neither were her blues entirely shamming.
There comes a time after marriage, when a husband, if he be any thing
of a man, has something else to do than make direct love to his wife.
He cannot be on duty at all hours to fan her, and shawl her, and admire
her. His love must express itself through other channels. He must be a
full man for her sake; and, as a man, must go forth to a whole world of
interests that takes him from her. Now what in this case shall a woman
do, whose only life lies in petting and adoration and display?

Springdale had no _beau monde_, no fashionable circle, no Bois de
Boulogne, and no beaux, to make amends for a husband’s engrossments.
Grace was sisterly and kind; but what on earth had they in common
to talk about? Lillie’s wardrobe was in all the freshness of bridal
exuberance, and there was nothing more to be got, and so, for the
moment, no stimulus in this line. But then where to wear all these fine
French dresses? Lillie had been called on, and invited once to little
social evening parties, through the whole round of old, respectable
families that lived under the elm-arches of Springdale; and she had
found it rather stupid. There was not a man to make an admirer of,
except the young minister, who, after the first afternoon of seeing
her, returned to his devotion to Rose Ferguson.

You know, ladies, Æsop has a pretty little fable as follows: A young
man fell desperately in love with a cat, and prayed to Jupiter to
change her to a woman for his sake. Jupiter was so obliging as to grant
his prayer; and, behold, a soft, satin-skinned, purring, graceful woman
was given into his arms.

But the legend goes on to say that, while he was delighting in her
charms, she heard the sound of _mice_ behind the wainscot, and left him
forthwith to rush after her congenial prey.

Lillie had heard afar the sound of _mice_ at Newport, and she longed
to be after them once more. Had she not a prestige now as a rich young
married lady? Had she not jewels and gems to show? Had she not any
number of mouse-traps, in the way of ravishing toilets? She thought it
all over, till she was sick with longing, and was sure that nothing
but the sea-air could do her any good; and so she fell to crying, and
kissing her faithful John, till she gained her end, like a veritable
little cat as she was.



CHAPTER XI.

_NEWPORT; OR, THE PARADISE OF NOTHING TO DO._


BEHOLD, now, our Lillie at the height of her heart’s desire, installed
in fashionable apartments at Newport, under the placid chaperonship
of dear mamma, who never saw the least harm in any earthly thing her
Lillie chose to do.

All the dash and flash and furbelow of upper-tendom were there; and
Lillie now felt the full power and glory of being a rich, pretty, young
married woman, with oceans of money to spend, and nothing on earth to
do but follow the fancies of the passing hour.

This was Lillie’s highest ideal of happiness; and didn’t she enjoy it?

Wasn’t it something to flame forth in wondrous toilets in the eyes of
Belle Trevors and Margy Silloway and Lottie Cavers, who were _not_
married; and before the Simpkinses and the Tomkinses and the Jenkinses,
who, last year, had said hateful things about her, and intimated that
she had gone off in her looks, and was on the way to be an old maid?

And wasn’t it a triumph when all her old beaux came flocking round her,
and her parlors became a daily resort and lounging-place for all the
idle swains, both of her former acquaintance and of the newcomers, who
drifted with the tide of fashion? Never had she been so much the rage;
never had she been declared so “stunning.” The effect of all this good
fortune on her health was immediate. We all know how the spirits affect
the bodily welfare; and hence, my dear gentlemen, we desire it to be
solemnly impressed on you, that there is nothing so good for a woman’s
health as to give her her own way.

Lillie now, from this simple cause, received enormous accessions of
vigor. While at home with plain, sober John, trying to walk in the
quiet paths of domesticity, how did her spirits droop! If you only
could have had a vision of her brain and spinal system, you would have
seen how there was no nervous fluid there, and how all the fine little
cords and fibres that string the muscles were wilting like flowers out
of water; but now she could bathe the longest and the strongest of
any one, could ride on the beach half the day, and dance the German
into the small hours of the night, with a degree of vigor which showed
conclusively what a fine thing for her the Newport air was. Her
dancing-list was always over-crowded with applicants; bouquets were
showered on her; and the most superb “turn-outs,” with their masters
for charioteers, were at her daily disposal.

All this made talk. The world doesn’t forgive success; and the ancients
informed us that even the gods were envious of happy people. It is
astonishing to see the quantity of very proper and rational moral
reflection that is excited in the breast of society, by any sort of
success in life. How it shows them the vanity of earthly enjoyments,
the impropriety of setting one’s heart on it! How does a successful
married flirt impress all her friends with the gross impropriety of
having one’s head set on gentlemen’s attentions!

“I must say,” said Belle Trevors, “that dear Lillie does astonish me.
Now, I shouldn’t want to have that dissipated Danforth lounging in
my rooms every day, as he does in Lillie’s: and then taking her out
driving day after day; for my part, I don’t think it’s respectable.”

“Why don’t you speak to her?” said Lottie Cavers.

“Oh, my dear! she wouldn’t mind _me_. Lillie always was the most
imprudent creature; and, if she goes on so, she’ll certainly get
awfully talked about. That Danforth is a horrid creature; I know all
about him.”

As Miss Belle had herself been driving with the “horrid creature”
only the week before Lillie came, it must be confessed that her
opportunities for observation were of an authentic kind.

Lillie, as queen in her own parlor, was all grace and indulgence.
Hers was now to be the sisterly _rôle_, or, as she laughingly styled
it, the maternal. With a ravishing morning-dress, and with a killing
little cap of about three inches in extent on her head, she enacted the
young matron, and gave full permission to Tom, Dick, and Harry to make
themselves at home in her room, and smoke their cigars there in peace.
She “adored the smell;” in fact, she accepted the present of a fancy
box of cigarettes from Danforth with graciousness, and would sometimes
smoke one purely for good company. She also encouraged her followers
to unveil the tender secrets of their souls confidentially to her, and
offered gracious mediations on their behalf with any of the flitting
Newport fair ones. When they, as in duty bound, said that they saw
nobody whom they cared about now she was married, that she was the only
woman on earth for them,—she rapped their knuckles briskly with her
fan, and bid them mind their manners. All this mode of proceeding gave
her an immense success.

[Illustration: “And would sometimes smoke one purely for good
company.”]

But, as we said before, all this was talked about; and ladies in their
letters, chronicling the events of the passing hour, sent the tidings
up and down the country; and so Miss Letitia Ferguson got a letter from
Mrs. Wilcox with full pictures and comments; and she brought the same
to Grace Seymour.

“I dare say,” said Letitia, “these things have been exaggerated; they
always are: still it does seem desirable that your brother should go
there, and be with her.”

“He can’t go and be with her,” said Grace, “without neglecting his
business, already too much neglected. Then the house is all in
confusion under the hands of painters; and there is that young artist
up there,—a very elegant gentleman,—giving orders to right and left,
every one of which involves further confusion and deeper expense; for
my part, I see no end to it. Poor John has got ‘the Old Man of the Sea’
on his back in the shape of this woman; and I expect she’ll be the ruin
of him yet. I can’t want to break up his illusion about her; because,
what good will it do? He has married her, and must live with her; and,
for Heaven’s sake, let the illusion last while it can! I’m going to
draw off, and leave them to each other; there’s no other way.”

“You are, Gracie?”

“Yes; you see John came to me, all stammering and embarrassment, about
this making over of the old place; but I put him at ease at once. ‘The
most natural thing in the world, John,’ said I. ‘Of course Lillie has
her taste; and it’s her right to have the house arranged to suit it.’
And then I proposed to take all the old family things, and furnish
the house that I own on Elm Street, and live there, and let John and
Lillie keep house by themselves. You see there is no helping the thing.
Married people must be left to themselves; nobody can help them. They
must make their own discoveries, fight their own battles, sink or swim,
together; and I have determined that not by the winking of an eye will
I interfere between them.”

“Well, but do you think John wants you to go?”

“He feels badly about it; and yet I have convinced him that it’s best.
Poor fellow! all these changes are not a bit to his taste. He liked the
old place as it was, and the old ways; but John is so unselfish. He has
got it in his head that Lillie is very sensitive and peculiar, and that
her spirits require all these changes, as well as Newport air.”

“Well,” said Letitia, “if a man begins to say A in that line, he must
say B.”

“Of course,” said Grace; “and also C and D, and so on, down to X,
Y, Z. A woman, armed with sick-headaches, nervousness, debility,
presentiments, fears, horrors, and all sorts of imaginary and real
diseases, has an eternal armory of weapons of subjugation. What can a
man do? Can he tell her that she is lying and shamming? Half the time
she isn’t; she can actually work herself into about any physical state
she chooses. The fortnight before Lillie went to Newport, she really
looked pale, and ate next to nothing; and she managed admirably to seem
to be trying to keep up, and not to complain,—yet you see how she can
go on at Newport.”

“It seems a pity John couldn’t understand her.”

“My dear, I wouldn’t have him for the world. Whenever he does, he will
despise her; and then he will be wretched. For John is no hypocrite,
any more than I am. No, I earnestly pray that his soap-bubble may not
break.”

“Well, then,” said Letitia, “at least, he might go down to Newport
for a day or two; and his presence there might set some things right:
it might at least check reports. You might just suggest to him that
unfriendly things were being said.”

“Well, I’ll see what I can do,” said Grace.

So, by a little feminine tact in suggestion, Grace despatched her
brother to spend a day or two in Newport.

       *       *       *       *       *

His coming and presence interrupted the lounging hours in Lillie’s
room; the introduction to “my husband” shortened the interviews. John
was courteous and affable; but he neither smoked nor drank, and there
was a mutual repulsion between him and many of Lillie’s _habitués_.

“I say, Dan,” said Bill Sanders to Danforth, as they were smoking on
one end of the veranda, “you are driven out of your lodgings since
Seymour came.”

“No more than the rest of you,” said Danforth.

“I don’t know about that, Dan. I think _you_ might have been taken for
master of those premises. Look here now, Dan, why didn’t you _take_
little Lill yourself? Everybody thought you were going to last year.”

“Didn’t want her; knew too much,” said Danforth. “Didn’t want to keep
her; she’s too cursedly extravagant. It’s jolly to have this sort of
concern on hand; but I’d rather Seymour’d pay her bills than I.”

“Who thought you were so practical, Dan?”

“Practical! that I am; I’m an old bird. Take my advice, boys, now: keep
shy of the girls, and flirt with the married ones,—then you don’t get
roped in.”

“I say, boys,” said Tom Nichols, “isn’t she a case, now? What a head
she has! I bet she can smoke equal to any of us.”

“Yes; I keep her in cigarettes,” said Danforth; “she’s got a box of
them somewhere under her ruffles now.”

“What if Seymour should find them?” said Tom.

“Seymour? pooh! he’s a muff and a prig. I bet you he won’t find her
out; she’s the jolliest little humbugger there is going. She’d cheat a
fellow out of the sight of his eyes. It’s perfectly wonderful.”

“How came Seymour to marry her?”

“He? Why, he’s a pious youth, green as grass itself; and I suppose she
talked religion to him. Did you ever hear her talk religion?”

A roar of laughter followed this, out of which Danforth went on. “By
George, boys, she gave me a prayer-book once! I’ve got it yet.”

“Well, if that isn’t the best thing I ever heard!” said Nichols.

“It was at the time she was laying siege to me, you see. She undertook
the part of guardian angel, and used to talk lots of sentiment. The
girls get lots of that out of George Sand’s novels about the _holiness_
of doing just as you’ve a mind to, and all that,” said Danforth.

“By George, Dan, you oughtn’t to laugh. She may have more good in her
than you think.”

“Oh, humbug! don’t I know her?”

“Well, at any rate she’s a wonderful creature to hold her looks. By
George! how she _does_ hold out! You’d say, now, she wasn’t more than
twenty.”

“Yes; she understands getting herself up,” said Danforth, “and touches
up her cheeks a bit now and then.”

“She don’t paint, though?”

“Don’t paint! _Don’t_ she? I’d like to know if she don’t; but she does
it like an artist, like an old master, in fact.”

“Or like a young mistress,” said Tom, and then laughed at his own wit.

Now, it so happened that John was sitting at an open window above, and
heard occasional snatches of this conversation quite sufficient to
impress him disagreeably. He had not heard enough to know exactly what
had been said, but enough to feel that a set of coarse, low-minded men
were making quite free with the name and reputation of his Lillie; and
he was indignant.

“She is so pretty, so frank, and so impulsive,” he said. “Such women
are always misconstrued. I’m resolved to caution her.”

“Lillie,” he said, “who is this Danforth?”

“Charlie Danforth—oh! he’s a millionnaire that I refused. He was wild
about me,—is now, for that matter. He perfectly haunts my rooms, and is
always teasing me to ride with him.”

“Well, Lillie, if I were you, I wouldn’t have any thing to do with him.”

“John, I don’t mean to, any more than I can help. I try to keep him off
all I can; but one doesn’t want to be rude, you know.”

“My darling,” said John, “you little know the wickedness of the world,
and the cruel things that men will allow themselves to say of women who
are meaning no harm. You can’t be too careful, Lillie.”

“Oh! I am careful. Mamma is here, you know, all the while; and I never
receive except she is present.”

John sat abstractedly fingering the various objects on the table; then
he opened a drawer in the same mechanical manner.

“Why, Lillie! what’s this? what in the world are these?”

“O John! sure enough! well, there is something I was going to ask you
about. Danforth used always to be sending me things, you know, before
we were married,—flowers and confectionery, and one thing or other;
and, since I have been here now, he has done the same, and I really
didn’t know what to do about it. You know I didn’t want to quarrel
with him, or get his ill-will; he’s a high-spirited fellow, and a man
one doesn’t want for an enemy; so I have just passed it over easy as I
could.”

“But, Lillie, a box of cigarettes!—of course, they can be of no use to
you.”

“Of course: they are only a sort of curiosity that he imports from
Spain with his cigars.”

“I’ve a great mind to send them back to him myself,” said John.

“Oh, don’t, John! why, how it would look! as if you were angry, or
thought he meant something wrong. No; I’ll contrive a way to give ’em
back without offending him. I am up to all such little ways.”

“Come, now,” she added, “don’t let’s be cross just the little time you
have to stay with me. I do wish our house were not all torn up, so that
I could go home with you, and leave Newport and all its bothers behind.”

“Well, Lillie, you could go, and stay with me at Gracie’s,” said John,
brightening at this proposition.

“Dear Gracie,—so she has got a house all to herself; how I shall miss
her! but, really, John, I think she will be happier. Since you would
insist on revolutionizing our house, you know”—

“But, Lillie, it was to please you.”

“Oh, I know it! but you know I begged you not to. Well, John, I don’t
think I should like to go in and settle down on Grace; perhaps, as I am
here, and the sea-air and bathing strengthens me so, we may as well
put it through. I will come home as soon as the house is done.”

“But perhaps you would want to go with me to New York to select the
furniture?”

“Oh, the artist does all that! Charlie Ferrola will give his orders to
Simon & Sauls, and they will do every thing up complete. It’s the way
they all do—saves lots of trouble.”

John went home, after three days spent in Newport, feeling that Lillie
was somehow an injured fair one, and that the envious world bore down
always on beauty and prosperity.

But incidentally he heard and overheard much that made him uneasy. He
heard her admired as a “bully” girl, a “fast one;” he heard of her
smoking, he overheard something about “painting.”

The time was that John thought Lillie an embryo angel,—an angel a
little bewildered and gone astray, and with wings a trifle the worse
for the world’s wear,—but essentially an angel of the same nature with
his own revered mother.

Gradually the mercury had been falling in the tube of his estimation.
He had given up the angel; and now to himself he called her “a silly
little pussy,” but he did it with a smile. It was such a neat, white,
graceful pussy; and all his own pussy too, and purred and rubbed its
little head on no coat-sleeve but his,—of that he was certain. Only a
bit silly. She would still _fib_ a little, John feared, especially when
he looked back to the chapter about her age,—and then, perhaps, about
the cigarettes.

Well, she might, perhaps, in a wild, excited hour, have smoked _one
or two_, just for fun, and the thing had been exaggerated. She had
promised fairly to return those cigarettes,—he dared not say to himself
that he feared she would not. He kept saying to himself that she would.
It was necessary to say this often to make himself believe it.

As to painting—well, John didn’t like to ask her, because, what if she
shouldn’t tell him the truth? And, if she did paint, was it so great
a sin, poor little thing? he would watch, and bring her out of it.
After all, when the house was all finished and arranged, and he got her
back from Newport, there would be a long, quiet, domestic winter at
Springdale; and they would get up their reading-circles, and he would
set her to improving her mind, and gradually the vision of this empty,
fashionable life would die out of her horizon, and she would come into
his ways of thinking and doing.

But, after all, John managed to be proud of her. When he read in the
columns of “The Herald” the account of the Splandangerous ball in
Newport, and of the entrancingly beautiful Mrs. J. S., who appeared in
a radiant dress of silvery gauze made _à la nuage_, &c., &c., John was
rather pleased than otherwise. Lillie danced till daylight,—it showed
that she must be getting back her strength,—and she was voted the belle
of the scene. Who wouldn’t take the comfort that is to be got in any
thing? John owned this fashionable meteor,—why shouldn’t he rejoice in
it?

Two years ago, had anybody told him that one day he should have a wife
that told fibs, and painted, and smoked cigarettes, and danced all
night at Newport, and yet that he should love her, and be proud of her,
he would have said, Is thy servant a dog? He was then a considerate,
thoughtful John, serious and careful in his life-plans; and the wife
that was to be his companion was something celestial. But so it is. By
degrees, we accommodate ourselves to the actual and existing. To all
intents and purposes, for us it is the inevitable.



CHAPTER XII.

_HOME À LA POMPADOUR._


WELL, Lillie came back at last; and John conducted her over the
transformed Seymour mansion, where literally old things had passed
away, and all things become new.

There was not a relic of the past. The house was furbished and
resplendent—it was gilded—it was frescoed—it was _à la_ Pompadour,
and _à la_ Louis Quinze and Louis Quatorze, and _à la_ every thing
Frenchy and pretty, and gay and glistening. For, though the parlors
at first were the only apartments contemplated in this _renaissance_,
yet it came to pass that the parlors, when all tricked out, cast such
invidious reflections on the chambers that the chambers felt themselves
old and rubbishy, and prayed and stretched out hands of imploration to
have something done for _them_!

So the spare chamber was first included in the glorification programme;
but, when the spare chamber was once made into a Pompadour pavilion, it
so flouted and despised the other old-fashioned Yankee chambers, that
they were ready to die with envy; and, in short, there was no way to
produce a sense of artistic unity, peace, and quietness, but to do the
whole thing over, which was done triumphantly.

The French Emperor, Louis Napoleon, who was a shrewd sort of a man in
his day and way, used to talk a great deal about the “logic of events;”
which language, being interpreted, my dear gentlemen, means a good deal
in domestic life. It means, for instance, that when you drive the first
nail, or tear down the first board, in the way of alteration of an old
house, you will have to make over every room and corner in it, and pay
as much again for it as if you built a new one.

John was able to sympathize with Lillie in her childish delight in the
new house, because he _loved_ her, and was able to put himself and his
own wishes out of the question for her sake; but, when all the bills
connected with this change came in, he had emotions with which Lillie
could not sympathize: first, because she knew nothing about figures,
and was resolved never to know any thing; and, like all people who know
nothing about them, she cared nothing;—and, second, because she did
_not_ love John.

Now, the truth is, Lillie would have been quite astonished to have been
told this. She, and many other women, suppose that they love their
husbands, when, unfortunately, they have not the beginning of an idea
what love is. Let me explain it to you, my dear lady. Loving to be
admired by a man, loving to be petted by him, loving to be caressed by
him, and loving to be praised by him, is not loving a man. All these
may be when a woman has no power of loving at all,—they may all be
simply because she loves herself, and loves to be flattered, praised,
caressed, coaxed; as a cat likes to be coaxed and stroked, and fed with
cream, and have a warm corner.

But all this _is not love_. It may exist, to be sure, where there
_is_ love; it generally does. But it may also exist where there is
no love. Love, my dear ladies, is _self-sacrifice_; it is a life out
of self and in another. Its very essence is the preferring of the
comfort, the ease, the wishes of another to one’s own, _for the_ love
we bear then? Love is giving, and not receiving. Love is not a sheet
of blotting-paper or a sponge, sucking in every thing to itself; it is
an out-springing fountain, giving from itself. Love’s motto has been
dropped in this world as a chance gem of great price by the loveliest,
the fairest, the purest, the strongest of Lovers that ever trod this
mortal earth, of whom it is recorded that He said, “It is more blessed
to give than to receive.” Now, in love, there are ten receivers to
one giver. There are ten persons in this world who like to be loved
and love love, where there is one who knows _how to love_. That, O my
dear ladies, is a nobler attainment than all your French and music and
dancing. You may lose the very power of it by smothering it under a
load of early self-indulgence. By living just as you are all wanting
to live,—living to be petted, to be flattered, to be admired, to be
praised, to have your own way, and to do only that which is easy and
agreeable,—you may lose the power of self-denial and self-sacrifice;
you may lose the power of loving nobly and worthily, and become a mere
sheet of blotting-paper all your life.

You will please to observe that, in all the married life of these two,
as thus far told, all the accommodations, compliances, changes, have
been made by John for Lillie.

_He_ has been, step by step, giving up to her his ideal of life, and
trying, as far as so different a nature can, to accommodate his to
hers; and she accepts all this as her right and due.

She sees no particular cause of gratitude in it,—it is what she
expected when she married. Her own specialty, the thing which she has
always cultivated, is to get that sort of power over man, by which she
can carry her own points and purposes, and make him flexible to her
will; nor does a suspicion of the utter worthlessness and selfishness
of such a life ever darken the horizon of her thoughts.

John’s bills were graver than he expected. It is true he was rich; but
riches is a relative term. As related to the style of living hitherto
practised in his establishment, John’s income was princely, and left
a large balance to be devoted to works of general benevolence; but he
perceived that, in this year, that balance would be all absorbed; and
this troubled him.

Then, again, his establishment being now given up by his sister must be
reorganized, with Lillie at its head; and Lillie declared in the outset
that she could not, and would not, take any trouble about any thing.

“John would have to get servants; and the servants would have to see to
things:” she “was resolved, for one thing, that she wasn’t going to be
a slave to housekeeping.”

By great pains and importunity, and an offer of high wages, Grace and
John retained Bridget in the establishment, and secured from New York
a seamstress and a waitress, and other members to make out a domestic
staff.

This sisterhood were from the isle of Erin, and not an unfavorable
specimen of that important portion of our domestic life. They were
quick-witted, well-versed in a certain degree of household and domestic
skill, guided in well-doing more by impulsive good feeling than by any
very enlightened principle. The dominant idea with them all appeared
to be, that they were living in the house of a millionnaire, where
money flowed through the establishment in a golden stream, out of which
all might drink freely and rejoicingly, with no questions asked. Mrs.
Lillie concerned herself only with results, and paid no attention to
ways and means. She wanted a dainty and generous table to be spread
for her, at all proper hours, with every pleasing and agreeable
variety; to which she should come as she would to the table of a
boarding-house, without troubling her head where any thing came from
or went to. Bridget, having been for some years under the training and
surveillance of Grace Seymour, was more than usually competent as cook
and provider; but Bridget had abundance of the Irish astuteness, which
led her to feel the genius of circumstances, and to shape her course
accordingly.

With Grace, she had been accurate, saving, and economical; for Miss
Grace was so. Bridget had felt, under her sway, the beauty of that
economy which saves because saving is in itself so fitting and so
respectable; and because, in this way, a power for a wise generosity
is accumulated. She was sympathetic with the ruling spirit of the
establishment.

But, under the new mistress, Bridget declined in virtue. The
announcement that the mistress of a family isn’t going to give herself
any trouble, nor bother her head with care about any thing, is one the
influence of which is felt downward in every department. Why should
Bridget give herself any trouble to save and economize for a mistress
who took none for herself? She had worked hard all her life, why not
take it easy? And it was so much easier to send daily a basket of cold
victuals to her cousin on Vine Street than to contrive ways of making
the most of things, that Bridget felt perfectly justified in doing it.
If, once in a while, a little tea and a paper of sugar found their way
into the same basket, who would ever miss it?

The seamstress was an elegant lady. She kept all Lillie’s dresses and
laces and wardrobe, and had something ready for her to put on when
she changed her toilet every day. If this very fine lady wore her
mistress’s skirts and sashes, and laces and jewelry, on the sly, to
evening parties among the upper servant circles of Springdale, who was
to know it? Mrs. John Seymour knew nothing about where her things were,
nor what was their condition, and never wanted to trouble herself to
inquire.

It may therefore be inferred that when John began to settle up
accounts, and look into financial matters, they seemed to him not to be
going exactly in the most promising way.

He thought he would give Lillie a little practical insight into his
business,—show her exactly what his income was, and make some estimates
of his expenses, just that she might have some little idea how things
were going.

So John, with great care, prepared a nice little account-book, prefaced
by a table of figures, showing the income of the Spindlewood property,
and the income of his law business, and his income from other sources.
Against this, he placed the necessary out-goes of his business, and
showed what balance might be left. Then he showed what had hitherto
been spent for various benevolent purposes connected with the schools
and his establishments at Spindlewood. He showed what had been the
bills for the refitting of the house, and what were now the running
current expenses of the family.

He hoped that he had made all these so plain and simple, that Lillie
might easily be made to understand them, and that thus some clear
financial boundaries might appear in her mind. Then he seized a
favorable hour, and produced his book.

“Lillie,” he said, “I want to make you understand a little about our
expenditures and income.”

“Oh, dreadful, John! don’t, pray! I never had any head for things of
that kind.”

“But, Lillie, _please_ let me show you,” persisted John. “I’ve made it
just as simple as can be.”

[Illustration: “I never had the least head for figures.”]

“O John! now—I just—can’t—there now! Don’t bring that book now; it’ll
just make me low-spirited and cross. I never had the least head for
figures; mamma always said so; and if there _is_ any thing that seems
to me perfectly dreadful, it is accounts. I don’t think it’s any of a
woman’s business—it’s all _man’s_ work, and men have got to see to it.
Now, _please_ don’t,” she added, coming to him coaxingly, and putting
her arm round his neck.

“But, you see, Lillie,” John persevered, in a pleading tone,—“you see,
all these alterations that have been made in the house have involved
very serious expenses; and then, too, we are living at a very different
rate of expense from what we ever lived before”—

“There it is, John! Now, you oughtn’t to reproach me with it; for you
know it was your own idea. I didn’t want the alterations made; but you
would insist on it. I didn’t think it was best; but you would have
them.”

“But, Lillie, it was all because you wanted them.”

“Well, I dare say; but I shouldn’t have wanted them if I thought it was
going to bring in all this bother and trouble, and make me have to look
over old accounts, and all such things. I’d rather never have had any
thing!” And here Lillie began to cry.

“Come, now, my darling, do be a sensible woman, and not act like a
baby.”

“There, John! it’s just as I knew it would be; I always said you wanted
a different sort of a woman for a wife. Now, you knew when you took me
that I wasn’t in the least strong-minded or sensible, but a poor little
helpless thing; and you are beginning to get tired of me already. You
wish you had married a woman like Grace, I know you do.”

“Lillie, how silly! Please do listen, now. You have no idea how simple
and easy what I want to explain to you is.”

“Well, John, I can’t to-night, anyhow, because I have a headache. Just
this talk has got my head to thumping so,—it’s really dreadful! and I’m
so low-spirited! I do wish you had a wife that would suit you better.”
And forthwith Mrs. Lillie dissolved in tears; and John stroked her
head, and petted her, and called her a nice little pussy, and begged
her pardon for being so rough with her, and, in short, acted like a
fool generally.

“If that woman was _my_ wife now,” I fancy I hear some youth with a
promising moustache remark, “I’d make her behave!”

Well, sir, supposing she was your wife, what are you going to do about
it?

What are you going to do when accounts give your wife a sick headache,
so that she cannot possibly attend to them? Are you going to enact the
Blue Beard, and rage and storm, and threaten to cut her head off? What
good would that do? Cutting off a wrong little head would not turn it
into a right one. An ancient proverb significantly remarks, “You can’t
have more of a cat than her skin,”—and no amount of fuming and storming
can make any thing more of a woman than she is. _Such_ as your wife is,
sir, you must take her, and make the best of it. Perhaps you want your
own way. Don’t you wish you could get it?

But didn’t she promise to obey? Didn’t she? Of course. Then why is it
that I must be all the while yielding points, and she never? Well, sir,
that is for you to settle. The marriage service gives you authority;
so does the law of the land. John could lock up Mrs. Lillie till she
learned her lessons; he could do any of twenty other things that no
gentleman would ever think of doing, and the law would support him
in it. But, because John is a gentleman, and not Paddy from Cork, he
strokes his wife’s head, and submits.

We understand that our brethren, the Methodists, have recently decided
to leave the word “obey” out of the marriage-service. Our friends are,
as all the world knows, a most wise and prudent denomination, and
guided by a very practical sense in their arrangements. If they have
left the word “obey” out, it is because they have concluded that it
does no good to put it in,—a decision that John’s experience would go a
long way to justify.



CHAPTER XIII.

_JOHN’S BIRTHDAY._


“MY dear Lillie,” quoth John one morning, “next week Wednesday is my
birthday.”

“Is it? How charming! What shall we do?”

“Well, Lillie, it has always been our custom—Grace’s and mine—to give a
grand _fête_ here to all our work-people. We invite them all over _en
masse_, and have the house and grounds all open, and devote ourselves
to giving them a good time.”

Lillie’s countenance fell.

“Now, really, John, how trying! what shall we do? You don’t really
propose to bring all those low, dirty, little factory children in
Spindlewood through our elegant new house? Just look at that satin
furniture, and think what it will be when a whole parcel of freckled,
tow-headed, snubby-nosed children have eaten bread and butter and
doughnuts over it! Now, John, there is reason in all things; _this_
house is not made for a missionary asylum.”

John, thus admonished, looked at his house, and was fain to admit that
there was the usual amount of that good, selfish, hard grit—called
common sense—in Lillie’s remarks.

Rooms have their atmosphere, their necessities, their artistic
proprieties. Apartments _à la_ Louis Quatorze represent the ideas
and the sympathies of a period when the rich lived by themselves in
luxury, and the poor were trodden down in the gutter; when there was
only aristocratic contempt and domination on one side, and servility
and smothered curses on the other. With the change of the apartments
to the style of that past era, seemed to come its maxims and morals,
as artistically indicated for its completeness. So John walked up and
down in his Louis Quinze _salon_, and into his Pompadour _boudoir_, and
out again into the Louis Quatorze dining-rooms, and reflected. He had
had many reflections in those apartments before. Of all ill-adapted and
unsuitable pieces of furniture in them, he had always felt himself the
most unsuitable and ill-adapted. He had never felt at home in them. He
never felt like lolling at ease on any of those elegant sofas, as of
old he used to cast himself into the motherly arms of the great chintz
one that filled the recess. His Lillie, with her smart paraphernalia of
hoops and puffs and ruffles and pinkings and bows, seemed a perfectly
natural and indigenous production there; but he himself seemed always
to be out of place. His Lillie might have been any of Balzac’s
charming duchesses, with their “thirty-seven thousand ways of saying
‘Yes;’” but, as to himself, he must have been taken for her steward or
gardener, who had accidentally strayed in, and was fraying her satin
surroundings with rough coats and heavy boots. There was not, in fact,
in all the reorganized house, a place where he felt _himself_ to be
at all the proper thing; nowhere where he could lounge, and read his
newspaper, without a feeling of impropriety; nowhere that he could
indulge in any of the slight Hottentot-isms wherein unrenewed male
nature delights,—without a feeling of rebuke.

John had not philosophized on the causes of this. He knew, in a
general and unconfessed way, that he was not comfortable in his new
arrangements; but he supposed it was his own fault. He had fallen into
rusty, old-fashioned, bachelor ways; and, like other things that are
not agreeable to the natural man, he supposed his trim, resplendent,
genteel house was good for him, and that he ought to like it, and by
grace should attain to liking it, if he only tried long enough.

Only he took long rests every day while he went to Grace’s, on Elm
Street, and stretched himself on the old sofa, and sat in his mother’s
old arm-chair, and told Grace how very elegant their house was, and how
much taste the architect had shown, and how much Lillie was delighted
with it.

But this silent walk of John’s, up and down his brilliant apartments,
opened his eyes to another troublesome prospect. He was a Christian
man, with a high aim and ideal in life. He believed in the Sermon on
the Mount, and other radical preaching of that nature; and he was a
very honest man, and hated humbug in every shape. Nothing seemed meaner
to him than to profess a sham. But it began in a cloudy way to appear
to him that there is a manner of arranging one’s houses that makes
it difficult—yes, well-nigh impossible—to act out in them any of the
brotherhood principles of those discourses.

There are houses where the self-respecting poor, or the honest
laboring man and woman, cannot be made to enter or to feel at home.
They are made for the selfish luxury of the privileged few. Then John
reflected, uneasily, that this change in his house had absorbed that
whole balance which usually remained on his accounts to be devoted to
benevolent purposes, and with which this year he had proposed to erect
a reading-room for his work-people.

“Lillie,” said John, as he walked uneasily up and down, “I wish you
would try to help me in this thing. I always have done it,—my father
and mother did it before me,—and I don’t want all of a sudden to depart
from it. It may seem a little thing, but it does a great deal of good.
It produces kind feeling; it refines and educates and softens them.”

“Oh, well, John! if you say so, I must, I suppose,” said Lillie, with
a sigh. “I can have the carpets and furniture all covered, I suppose;
it’ll be no end of trouble, but I’ll try. But I must say, I think all
this kind of petting of the working-classes does no sort of good; it
only makes them uppish and exacting: you never get any gratitude for
it.”

“But you know, dearie, what is said about doing good, ‘hoping for
nothing again,’” said John.

“Now, John, please don’t preach, of all things. Haven’t I told you that
I’ll try my best? I am going to,—I’ll work with all my strength,—you
know that isn’t much,—but I shall exert myself to the utmost if you say
so.”

“My dear, I don’t want you to injure yourself!”

“Oh! I don’t mind,” said Lillie, with the air of a martyr. “The
servants, I suppose, will make a fuss about it; and I shouldn’t wonder
if it was the means of sending them every one off in a body, and
leaving me without any help in the house, just as the Follingsbees and
the Simpkinses are coming to visit us.”

“I didn’t know that you had invited the Follingsbees and Simpkinses,”
said John.

“Didn’t I tell you? I meant to,” said Mrs. Lillie, innocently.

“I don’t like those Follingsbees, Lillie. He is a man I have no respect
for; he is one of those shoddy upstarts, not at all our sort of folks.
I’m sorry you asked him.”

“But his wife is my particular friend,” said Lillie, “and they were
very polite to mamma and me at Newport; and we really owe them some
attention.”

“Well, Lillie, since you have asked them, I will be polite to them; and
I will try and do every thing to save you care in this entertainment.
I’ll speak to Bridget myself; she knows our ways, and has been used to
managing.”

And so, as John was greatly beloved by Bridget, and as all the domestic
staff had the true Irish fealty to the man of the house, and would
run themselves off their feet in his service any day,—it came to pass
that the _fête_ was holden, as of yore, in the grounds. Grace was there
and helped, and so were Letitia and Rose Ferguson; and all passed off
better than could be expected. But John did not enjoy it. He felt all
the while that he was dragging Lillie as a thousand-pound weight after
him; and he inly resolved that, once out of that day’s festival, he
would never try to have it again.

Lillie went to bed with sick headache, and lay two days after it,
during which she cried and lamented incessantly. She “knew she was not
the wife for John;” she “always told him he wouldn’t be satisfied with
her, and now she saw he wasn’t; but she had tried her very best, and
now it was cruel to think she should not succeed any better.”

“My dearest child,” said John, who, to say the truth, was beginning to
find this thing less charming than it used to be, “I _am_ satisfied. I
am much obliged to you. I’m sure you have done all that could be asked.”

“Well, I’m sure I hope those folks of yours were pleased,” quoth
Lillie, as she lay looking like a martyr, with a cloth wet in ice-water
bound round her head. “They ought to be; they have left grease-spots
all over the sofa in my boudoir, from one end to the other; and cake
and raisins have been trodden into the carpets; and the turf around the
oval is all cut up; and they have broken my little Diana; and such a
din as there was!—oh, me! it makes my head ache to think of it.”

“Never mind, Lillie, I’ll see to it, and set it all right.”

“No, you can’t. One of the children broke that model of the Leaning
Tower too. I found it. You can’t teach such children to let things
alone. Oh, dear me! my head!”

[Illustration: “Oh, me! it makes my head ache to think of it.”]

“There, there, pussy! only don’t worry,” said John, in soothing tones.

“Don’t think me horrid, _please_ don’t,” said Lillie, piteously. “I did
try to have things go right; didn’t I?”

“Certainly you did, dearie; so don’t worry. I’ll get all the spots
taken out, and all the things mended, and make every thing right.”

So John called Rosa, on his way downstairs. “Show me the sofa that they
spoiled,” said he.

“Sofa?” said Rosa.

“Yes; I understand the children greased the sofa in Mrs. Seymour’s
boudoir.”

“Oh, dear, no! nothing of the sort; I’ve been putting every thing to
rights in all the rooms, and they look beautifully.”

“Didn’t they break something?”

“Oh, no, nothing! The little things were good as could be.”

“That Leaning Tower, and that little Diana,” suggested John.

“Oh, dear me, no! I broke those a month ago, and showed them to Mrs.
Seymour, and promised to mend them. Oh! she knows all about that.”

“Ah!” said John, “I didn’t know that. Well, Rosa, put every thing up
nicely, and divide this money among the girls for extra trouble,” he
added, slipping a bill into her hand.

“I’m sure there’s no trouble,” said Rosa. “We all enjoyed it; and I
believe everybody did; only I’m sorry it was too much for Mrs. Seymour;
she is very delicate.”

“Yes, she is,” said John, as he turned away, drawing a long, slow sigh.

       *       *       *       *       *

That long, slow sigh had become a frequent and unconscious occurrence
with him of late. When our ideals are sick unto death; when they are
slowly dying and passing away from us, we sigh thus. John said to
himself softly,—no matter what; but he felt the pang of knowing again
what he had known so often of late, that his Lillie’s word was not
golden. What she said would not bear close examination. Therefore, why
examine?

“Evidently, she is determined that this thing shall not go on,” said
John. “Well, I shall never try again; it’s of no use;” and John went
up to his sister’s, and threw himself down upon the old chintz sofa as
if it had been his mother’s bosom. His sister sat there, sewing. The
sun came twinkling through a rustic frame-work of ivy which it had been
the pride of her heart to arrange the week before. All the old family
pictures and heirlooms, and sketches and pencillings, were arranged in
the most charming way, so that her rooms seemed a reproduction of the
old home.

“Hang it all!” said John, with a great flounce as he turned over on the
sofa. “I’m not up to par this morning.”

Now, Grace had that perfect intuitive knowledge of just what the matter
was with her brother, that women always have who have grown up in
intimacy with a man. These fine female eyes see farther between the
rough cracks and ridges of the oak bark of manhood than men themselves.
Nothing would have been easier, had Grace been a jealous _exigeante_
woman, than to have passed a fine probe of sisterly inquiry into the
weak places where the ties between John and Lillie were growing slack,
and untied and loosened them more and more. She could have done it so
tenderly, so conscientiously, so pityingly,—encouraging John to talk
and to complain, and taking part with him,—till there should come to be
two parties in the family, the brother and sister against the wife.

How strong the temptation was, those may feel who reflect that this
one subject caused an almost total eclipse of the life-long habit of
confidence which had existed between Grace and her brother, and that
her brother was her life and her world.

But Grace was one of those women formed under the kindly severe
discipline of Puritan New England, to act not from blind impulse or
instinct, but from high principle. The habit of self-examination and
self-inspection, for which the religious teaching of New England has
been peculiar, produced a race of women who rose superior to those mere
feminine caprices and impulses which often hurry very generous and
kindly-natured persons into ungenerous and dishonorable conduct. Grace
had been trained, by a father and mother whose marriage union was an
ideal of mutual love, honor, and respect, to feel that marriage was the
holiest and most awful of obligations. To her, the idea of a husband or
a wife betraying each other’s weaknesses or faults by complaints to a
third party seemed something sacrilegious; and she used all her womanly
tact and skill to prevent any conversation that might lead to such a
result.

“Lillie is entirely knocked up by the affair yesterday; she had a
terrible headache this morning,” said John.

“Poor child! She is a delicate little thing,” said Grace.

“She couldn’t have had any labor,” continued John, “for I saw to every
thing and provided every thing myself; and Bridget and Rosa and all the
girls entered into it with real spirit, and Lillie did the best she
could, poor girl! but I could see all the time she was worrying about
her new fizgigs and folderols in the house. Hang it! I wish they were
all in the Red Sea!” burst out John, glad to find something to vent
himself upon. “If I had known that making the house over was going to
be such a restraint on a fellow, I would never have done it.”

“Oh, well! never mind that now,” said Grace. “Your house will get
rubbed down by and by, and the new gloss taken off; and so will
your wife, and you will all be cosey and easy as an old shoe. Young
mistresses, you see, have nerves all over their house at first. They
tremble at every dent in their furniture, and wink when you come near
it, as if you were going to hit it a blow; but that wears off in time,
and they they learn to take it easy.”

John looked relieved; but after a minute broke out again:—

“I say, Gracie, Lillie has gone and invited the Simpkinses and the
Follingsbees here this fall. Just think of it!”

“Well, I suppose you expect your wife to have the right of inviting her
company,” said Grace.

“But, you know, Gracie, they are not at all our sort of folks,” said
John. “None of our set would ever think of visiting them, and it’ll
seem so odd to see them here. Follingsbee is a vulgar sharper, who has
made his money out of our country by dishonest contracts during the
war. I don’t know much about his wife. Lillie says she is her intimate
friend.”

“Oh, well, John! we must get over it in the quietest way possible. It
wouldn’t be handsome not to make the agreeable to your wife’s company;
and if you don’t like the quality of it, why, you are a good deal
nearer to her than any one else can be,—you can gradually detach her
from them.”

“Then you think I ought to put a good face on their coming?” said John,
with a sigh of relief.

“Oh, certainly! of course. What else can you do? It’s one of the things
to be expected with a young wife.”

“And do you think the Wilcoxes and the Fergusons and the rest of our
set will be civil?”

“Why, of course they will,” said Grace. “Rose and Letitia will,
certainly; and the others will follow suit. After all, John, perhaps
we old families, as we call ourselves, are a little bit pharisaical
and self-righteous, and too apt to thank God that we are not as other
men are. It’ll do us good to be obliged to come a little out of our
crinkles.”

“It isn’t any old family feeling about Follingsbee,” said John. “But I
feel that that man deserves to be in State’s prison much more than many
a poor dog that is there now.”

“And that may be true of many another, even in the selectest circles
of good society,” said Grace; “but we are not called on to play
Providence, nor pronounce judgments. The common courtesies of life do
not commit us one way or the other. The Lord himself does not express
his opinion of the wicked, but allows all an equal share in his
kindliness.”

“Well, Gracie, you are right; and I’ll constrain myself to do the thing
handsomely,” said John.

“The thing with you men,” said Grace, “is, that you want your wives to
see with your eyes, all in a minute, what has got to come with years
and intimacy, and the gradual growing closer and closer together. The
husband and wife, of themselves, drop many friendships and associations
that at first were mutually distasteful, simply because their tastes
have grown insensibly to be the same.”

John hoped it would be so with himself and Lillie; for he was still
very much in love with her; and it comforted him to have Grace speak so
cheerfully, as if it were possible.

“You think Lillie will grow into our ways by and by?”—he said
inquiringly.

“Well, if we have patience, and give her time. You know, John, that you
knew when you took her that she had not been brought up in our ways
of living and thinking. Lillie comes from an entirely different set
of people from any we are accustomed to; but a man must face all the
consequences of his marriage honestly and honorably.”

“I know it,” said John, with a sigh. “I say, Gracie, do you think the
Fergusons like Lillie? I want her to be intimate with them.”

“Well, I think they admire her,” said Grace, evasively, “and feel
disposed to be as intimate as she will let them.”

“Because,” said John, “Rose Ferguson is such a splendid girl; she is so
strong, and so generous, and so perfectly true and reliable,—it would
be the joy of my heart if Lillie would choose her for a friend.”

“Then, pray don’t tell her so,” said Grace, earnestly; “and don’t
praise her to Lillie,—and, above all things, never hold her up as a
pattern, unless you want your wife to hate her.”

John opened his eyes very wide.

“So!” said he, slowly, “I never thought of that. You think she would be
jealous?” and John smiled, as men do at the idea that their wives may
be jealous, not disliking it on the whole.

“I know I shouldn’t be in much charity with a woman my husband proposed
to me as a model; that is to say, supposing I had one,” said Grace.

“That reminds me,” said John, suddenly rising up from the sofa. “Do you
know, Gracie, that Colonel Sydenham has come back from his cruise?”

“I had heard of it,” said Grace, quietly. “Now, John, don’t interrupt
me. I’m just going to turn this corner, and must count,—‘one, two,
three, four, five, six,’”—

John looked at his sister. “How handsome she looks when her cheeks have
that color!” he thought. “I wonder if there ever was any thing in that
affair between them.”



CHAPTER XIV.

_A GREAT MORAL CONFLICT._


“NOW, John dear, I have something very particular that I want you to
promise me,” said Mrs. Lillie, a day or two after the scenes last
recorded. Our Lillie had recovered her spirits, and got over her
headache, and had come down and done her best to be delightful; and
when a very pretty woman, who has all her life studied the art of
pleasing, does that, she generally succeeds.

John thought to himself he “didn’t care _what_ she was, he loved her;”
and that she certainly was the prettiest, most bewitching little
creature on earth. He flung his sighs and his doubts and fears to the
wind, and suffered himself to be coaxed, and cajoled, and led captive,
in the most amiable manner possible.

His fair one had a point to carry,—a point that instinct told her was
to be managed with great adroitness.

“Well,” said John, over his newspaper, “what is this something so very
particular?”

“First, sir, put down that paper, and listen to me,” said Mrs. Lillie,
coming up and seating herself on his knee, and sweeping down the
offending paper with an air of authority.

“Yes’m,” said John, submissively. “Let’s see,—how was that in the
marriage service? I promised to obey, didn’t I?”

“Of course you did; that service is always interpreted by
contraries,—ever since Eve made Adam mind her in the beginning,” said
Mrs. Lillie, laughing.

“And got things into a pretty mess in that way,” said John; “but come,
now, what is it?”

“Well, John, you know the Follingsbees are coming next week?”

“I know it,” said John, looking amiable and conciliatory.

“Well, dear, there are some things about our establishment that are not
just as I should feel pleased to receive them to.”

“Ah!” said John; “why, Lillie, I thought we were fine as a fiddle, from
the top of the house to the bottom.”

“Oh! it’s not the house; the house is splendid. I shouldn’t be in the
least ashamed to show it to anybody; but about the table arrangements.”

“Now, really, Lillie, what can one have more than real old china and
heavy silver plate? I rather pique myself on that; I think it has quite
a good, rich, solid old air.”

“Well, John, to say the truth, why do we never have any wine? I don’t
care for it,—I never drink it; but the decanters, and the different
colored glasses, and all the apparatus, are such an adornment; and
then the Follingsbees are such judges of wine. He imports his own from
Spain.”

John’s face had been hardening down into a firm, decided look, while
Lillie, stroking his whiskers and playing with his collar, went on with
this address.

At last he said, “Lillie, I have done almost every thing you ever
asked; but this one thing I cannot do,—it is a matter of principle. I
never drink wine, never have it on my table, never give it, because I
have pledged myself not to do it.”

“Now, John, here is some more of your Quixotism, isn’t it?”

“Well, Lillie, I suppose you will call it so,” said John; “but listen
to me patiently. My father and I labored for a long time to root out
drinking from our village at Spindlewood. It seemed, for the time, as
if it would be the destruction of every thing there. The fact was,
there was rum in every family; the parents took it daily, the children
learned to love and long after it, by seeing the parents, and drinking
little sweetened remains at the bottoms of tumblers. There were, every
year, families broken up and destroyed, and fine fellows going to
the very devil, with this thing; and so we made a movement to form a
temperance society. I paid lecturers, and finally lectured myself. At
last they said to me: ‘It’s all very well for you rich people, that
have twice as fine houses and twice as many pleasures as we poor folks,
to pick on us for having a little something comfortable to drink in
our houses. If we could afford your fine nice wines, and all that,
we wouldn’t drink whiskey. You must all have your wine on the table;
whiskey is the poor man’s wine.’”

“I think,” said Lillie, “they were abominably impertinent to talk so to
you. I should have told them so.”

“Perhaps they thought I was impertinent in talking to them about their
private affairs,” said John; “but I will tell you what I said to them.
I said, ‘My good fellows, I will clear my house and table of wine, if
you will clear yours of rum.’ On this agreement I formed a temperance
society; my father and I put our names at the head of the list, and we
got every man and boy in Spindlewood. It was a complete victory; and,
since then, there hasn’t been a more temperate, thrifty set of people
in these United States.”

“Didn’t your mother object?”

“My mother! no, indeed; I wish you could have known my mother. It was
no small sacrifice to her and father. Not that they cared a penny for
the wine itself; but the poetry and hospitality of the thing, the fine
old cheery associations connected with it, were a real sacrifice. But
when we told my mother how it was, she never hesitated a moment. All
our cellar of fine old wines was sent round as presents to hospitals,
except a little that we keep for sickness.”

“Well, really!” said Lillie, in a dry, cool tone, “I suppose it was
very good of you, perfectly saintlike and all that; but it does seem a
great pity. Why couldn’t these people take care of themselves? I don’t
see why you should go on denying yourself just to keep them in the ways
of virtue.”

“Oh, it’s no self-denial now! I’m quite used to it,” said John,
cheerily. “I am young and strong, and just as well as I can be, and
don’t need wine; in fact, I never think of it. The Fergusons, who are
with us in the Spindlewood business, took just the same view of it, and
did just as we did; and the Wilcoxes joined us; in fact, all the good
old families of our set came into it.”

“Well, couldn’t you, just while the Follingsbees are here, do
differently?”

“No, Lillie; there’s my pledge, you see. No: it’s really impossible.”

Lillie frowned and looked disconsolate.

“John, I really do think you are selfish; you don’t seem to have any
consideration for me at all. It’s going to make it so disagreeable and
uncomfortable for me. The Follingsbees are accustomed to wine every
day. I’m perfectly ashamed not to give it to them.”

“Do ’em good to fast awhile, then,” said John, laughing like a
hard-hearted monster. “You’ll see they won’t suffer materially. Bridget
makes splendid coffee.”

“It’s a shame to laugh at what troubles me, John. The Follingsbees are
my friends, and of course I want to treat them handsomely.”

“We will treat them just as handsomely as we treat ourselves,” said
John, “and mortal man or woman ought not to ask more.”

“I don’t care,” said Lillie, after a pause. “I hate all these moral
movements and society questions. They are always in the way of people’s
having a good time; and I believe the world would wag just as well as
it does, if nobody had ever thought of them. People will call you a
real muff, John.”

“How very terrible!” said John, laughing. “What shall I do if I am
called a muff? and what a jolly little Mrs. Muff you will be!” he said,
pinching her cheek.

“You needn’t laugh, John,” said Lillie, pouting. “You don’t know how
things look in fashionable circles. The Follingsbees are in the very
highest circle. They have lived in Paris, and been invited by the
Emperor.”

“I haven’t much opinion of Americans who live in Paris and are invited
by the Emperor,” said John. “But, be that as it may, I shall do the
best I can for them, and Mr. Young says, ‘angels could no more;’ so,
good-by, puss: I must go to my office; and don’t let’s talk about this
any more.”

       *       *       *       *       *

And John put on his cap and squared his broad shoulders, and, marching
off with a resolute stride, went to his office, and had a most
uncomfortable morning of it. You see, my dear friends, that though
Nature has set the seal of sovereignty on man, in broad shoulders and
bushy beard; though he fortify and incase himself in rough overcoats
and heavy boots, and walk with a dashing air, and whistle like a
freeman, we all know it is not an easy thing to wage a warfare with a
pretty little creature in lace cap and tiny slippers, who has a faculty
of looking very pensive and grieved, and making up a sad little mouth,
as if her heart were breaking.

John never doubted that he was right, and in the way of duty; and yet,
though he braved it out so stoutly with Lillie, and though he marched
out from her presence victoriously, as it were, with drums beating and
colors flying, yet there was a dismal sinking of heart under it.

“I’m right; I know I am. Of course I can’t give up here; it’s a matter
of principle, of honor,” he said over and over to himself. “Perhaps if
Lillie had been here I never should have taken such a pledge; but as I
have, there’s no help for it.”

Then he thought of what Lillie had suggested about it’s looking
niggardly in hospitality, and was angry with himself for feeling
uncomfortable. “What do I care what Dick Follingsbee thinks?” said he
to himself: “a man that I despise; a cheat, and a swindler,—a man of
no principle. Lillie doesn’t know the sacrifice it is to me to have
such people in my house at all. Hang it all! I wish Lillie was a little
more like the women I’ve been used to,—like Grace and Rose and my
mother. But, poor thing, I oughtn’t to blame her, after all, for her
unfortunate bringing up. But it’s so nice to be with women that can
understand the grounds you go on. A man never wants to fight a woman.
I’d rather give up, hook and line, and let Lillie have her own way
in every thing. But then it won’t do; a fellow must stop somewhere.
Well, I’ll make it up in being a model of civility to these confounded
people that I wish were in the Red Sea. Let’s see, I’ll ask Lillie if
she don’t want to give a party for them when they come. By George! she
shall have every thing her own way there,—send to New York for the
supper, turn the house topsy-turvy, illuminate the grounds, and do any
thing else she can think of. Yes, yes, she shall have _carte blanche_
for every thing!”

All which John told Mrs. Lillie when he returned to dinner and found
her enacting the depressed wife in a most becoming lace cap and wrapper
that made her look like a suffering angel; and the treaty was sealed
with many kisses.

“You shall have _carte blanche_, dearest,” he said, “for every thing
but what we were speaking of; and that will content you, won’t it?”

And Lillie, with lingering pensiveness, very graciously acknowledged
that it would; and seemed so touchingly resigned, and made such a merit
of her resignation, that John told her she was an angel; in fact, he
had a sort of indistinct remorseful feeling that he was a sort of cruel
monster to deny her any thing. Lillie had sense enough to see when she
could do a thing, and when she couldn’t. She had given up the case
when John went out in the morning, and so accepted the treaty of peace
with a good degree of cheerfulness; and she was soon busy discussing
the matter. “You see, we’ve been invited everywhere, and haven’t given
any thing,” she said; “and this will do up our social obligations to
everybody here. And then we can show off our rooms; they really are
made to give parties in.”

“Yes, so they are,” said John, delighted to see her smile again; “they
seem adapted to that, and I don’t doubt you’ll make a brilliant affair
of it, Lillie.”

“Trust me for that, John,” said Lillie. “I’ll show the Follingsbees
that something can be done here in Springdale as well as in New York.”
And so the great question was settled.



CHAPTER XV.

_THE FOLLINGSBEES ARRIVE._

[Illustration: THE FOLLINGSBEES.]


NEXT week the Follingsbees alighted, so to speak, from a cloud of
glory. They came in their own carriage, and with their own horses; all
in silk and silver, purple and fine linen, “with rings on their fingers
and bells on their toes,” as the old song has it. We pause to caution
our readers that this last clause is to be interpreted metaphorically.

Springdale stood astonished. The quiet, respectable old town had not
seen any thing like it for many a long day; the ostlers at the hotel
talked of it; the boys followed the carriage, and hung on the slats of
the fence to see the party alight, and said to one another in their
artless vocabulary, “Golly! ain’t it bully?”

There was Mr. Dick Follingsbee, with a pair of waxed, tow-colored
moustaches like the French emperor’s, and ever so much longer. He was
a little, thin, light-colored man, with a yellow complexion and sandy
hair; who, with the appendages aforesaid, looked like some kind of
large insect, with very long _antennæ_. There was Mrs. Follingsbee,—a
tall, handsome, dark-eyed, dark-haired, dashing woman, French dressed
from the tip of her lace parasol to the toe of her boot. There was
Mademoiselle Thérèse, the French maid, an inexpressibly fine lady; and
there was _la petite_ Marie, Mrs. Follingsbee’s three-year-old hopeful,
a lean, bright-eyed little thing, with a great scarlet bow on her back
that made her look like a walking butterfly. On the whole, the tableau
of arrival was so impressive, that Bridget and Annie, Rosa and all the
kitchen cabinet, were in a breathless state of excitement.

“How do I find you, _ma chère_?” said Mrs. Follingsbee, folding Lillie
rapturously to her breast. “I’ve been just dying to see you! How
lovely every thing looks! Oh, _ciel_! how like dear Paris!” she said,
as she was conducted into the parlor, and sunk upon the sofa.

“Pretty well done, too, for America!” said Mr. Follingsbee, gazing
round, and settling his collar. Mr. Follingsbee was one of the class
of returned travellers who always speak condescendingly of any
thing American; as, “so-so,” or “tolerable,” or “pretty fair,”—a
considerateness which goes a long way towards keeping up the spirits of
the country.

“I say, Dick,” said his lady, “have you seen to the bags and wraps?”

“All right, madam.”

“And my basket of medicines and the books?”

“O. K.,” replied Dick, sententiously.

“Oh! how often must I tell you not to use those odious slang terms?”
said his wife, reprovingly.

“Oh! Mrs. John Seymour knows _me_ of old,” said Mr. Follingsbee,
winking facetiously at Lillie. “We’ve had many a jolly lark together;
haven’t we, Lill?”

“Certainly we have,” said Lillie, affably. “But come, darling,” she
added to Mrs. Follingsbee, “don’t you want to be shown your room?”

“Go it, then, my dearie; and I’ll toddle up with the fol-de-rols and
what-you-may-calls,” said the incorrigible Dick. “There, wife, Mrs.
John Seymour shall go first, so that you shan’t be jealous of her
and me. You know we came pretty near being in interesting relations
ourselves at one time; didn’t we, now?” he said with another wink.

It is said that a thorough-paced naturalist can reconstruct a whole
animal from one specimen bone. In like manner, we imagine that, from
these few words of dialogue, our expert readers can reconstruct Mr. and
Mrs. Follingsbee: he, vulgar, shallow, sharp, keen at a bargain, and
utterly without scruples; with a sort of hilarious, animal good nature
that was in a state of constant ebullition. He was, as Richard Baxter
said of a better man, “always in that state of hilarity that another
would be in when he hath taken a cup too much.”

Dick Follingsbee began life as a peddler. He was now reputed to be
master of untold wealth, kept a yacht and race-horses, ran his own
theatre, and patronized the whole world and creation in general with a
jocular freedom. Mrs. Follingsbee had been a country girl, with small
early advantages, but considerable ambition. She had married Dick
Follingsbee, and helped him up in the world, as a clever, ambitious
woman may. The last few years she had been spending in Paris, improving
her mind and manners in reading Dumas’ and Madame George Sand’s novels,
and availing herself of such outskirt advantages of the court of the
Tuileries as industrious, pains-taking Americans, not embarrassed by
self-respect, may command.

Mrs. Follingsbee, like many another of our republicans who besieged the
purlieus of the late empire, felt that a residence near the court, at a
time when every thing good and decent in France was hiding in obscure
corners, and every thing _parvenu_ was wide awake and active, entitled
her to speak as one having authority concerning French character,
French manners and customs. This lady assumed the sentimental literary
_rôle_. She was always cultivating herself in her own way; that is to
say, she was assiduous in what she called keeping up her French.

In the opinion of many of her class of thinkers, French is the key
of the kingdom of heaven; and, of course, it is worth one’s while to
sell all that one has to be possessed of it. Mrs. Follingsbee had not
been in the least backward to do this; but, as to getting the golden
key, she had not succeeded. She had formed the acquaintance of many
disreputable people; she had read French novels and French plays such
as no well-bred French woman would suffer in her family; she had lost
such innocence and purity of mind as she had to lose, and, after all,
had _not_ got the French language.

However, there are losses that do not trouble the subject of them,
because they bring insensibility. Just as Mrs. Follingsbee’s ear was
not delicate enough to perceive that her rapid and confident French was
not Parisian, so also her conscience and moral sense were not delicate
enough to know that she had spent her labor for “that which was not
bread.” She had only succeeded in acquiring such an air that, on a
careless survey, she might have been taken for one of the _demi-monde_
of Paris; while secretly she imagined herself the fascinating heroine
of a French romance.

The friendship between Mrs. Follingsbee and Lillie was of the most
impassioned nature; though, as both of them were women of a good solid
perception in regard to their own material interests, there were
excellent reasons on both sides for this enthusiasm.

Notwithstanding the immense wealth of the Follingsbees, there were
circles to which Mrs. Follingsbee found it difficult to be admitted.
With the usual human perversity, these, of course, became exactly the
ones, and the only ones, she particularly cared for. Her ambition was
to pass beyond the ranks of the “shoddy” aristocracy to those of the
old-established families. Now, the Seymours, the Fergusons, and the
Wilcoxes were families of this sort; and none of them had ever cared to
conceal the fact, that they did not intend to know the Follingsbees.
The marriage of Lillie into the Seymour family was the opening of a
door; and Mrs. Follingsbee had been at Lillie’s feet during her Newport
campaign. On the other hand, Lillie, having taken the sense of the
situation at Springdale, had cast her thoughts forward like a discreet
young woman, and perceived in advance of her a very dull domestic
winter, enlivened only by reading-circles and such slow tea-parties as
unsophisticated Springdale found agreeable. The idea of a long visit to
the New-York alhambra of the Follingsbees in the winter, with balls,
parties, unlimited opera-boxes, was not a thing to be disregarded; and
so, when Mrs. Follingsbee “_ma chèred_” Lillie, Lillie “my deared” Mrs.
Follingsbee: and the pair are to be seen at this blessed moment sitting
with their arms tenderly round each other’s waists on a _causeuse_ in
Mrs. Follingsbee’s dressing-room.

“You don’t know, _mignonne_,” said Mrs. Follingsbee, “how perfectly
_ravissante_ these apartments are! I’m so glad poor Charlie did them so
well for you. I laid my commands on him, poor fellow!”

“Pray, how does your affair with him get on?” said Lillie.

“O dearest! you’ve no conception what a trial it is to me to keep him
in the bounds of reason. He has such struggles of mind about that
stupid wife of his. Think of it, my dear! a man like Charlie Ferrola,
all poetry, romance, ideality, tied to a woman who thinks of nothing
but her children’s teeth and bowels, and turns the whole house into a
nursery! Oh, I’ve no patience with such people.”

“Well, poor fellow! it’s a pity he ever got married,” said Lillie.

“Well, it would be all well enough if this sort of woman ever would
be reasonable; but they won’t. They don’t in the least comprehend the
necessities of genius. They want to yoke Pegasus to a cart, you see.
Now, I understand Charlie perfectly. I could give him that which he
needs. I appreciate him. I make a bower of peace and enjoyment for him,
where his artistic nature finds the repose it craves.”

“And she pitches into him about you,” said Lillie, not slow to perceive
the true literal rendering of all this.

“Of course, _ma chère_,—tears him, rends him, lacerates his soul;
sometimes he comes to me in the most dreadful states. Really, dear, I
have apprehended something quite awful! I shouldn’t in the least be
surprised if he should blow his brains out!”

And Mrs. Follingsbee sighed deeply, gave a glance at herself in an
opposite mirror, and smoothed down a bow pensively, as the prima donna
at the grand opera generally does when her lover is getting ready to
stab himself.

“Oh! I don’t think he’s going to kill himself,” said Mrs. Lillie, who,
it must be understood, was secretly somewhat sceptical about the power
of her friend’s charms, and looked on this little French romance with
the eye of an outsider: “never you believe that, dearest. These men
make dreadful tearings, and shocking eyes and mouths; but they take
pretty good care to keep in the world, after all. You see, if a man’s
dead, there’s an end of all things; and I fancy they think of that
before they quite come to any thing decisive.”

“_Chère étourdie_,” said Mrs. Follingsbee, regarding Lillie with a
pensive smile: “you are just your old self, I see; you are now at the
height of your power,—‘_jeune Madame, un mari qui vous adore_,’ ready
to put all things under your feet. How can you feel for a worn, lonely
heart like mine, that sighs for congeniality?”

“Bless me, now,” said Lillie, briskly; “you don’t tell me that you’re
going to be so silly as to get in love with Charlie yourself! It’s
all well enough to keep these fellows on the tragic high ropes; but,
if a woman falls in love herself, there’s an end of her power. And,
darling, just think of it: you wouldn’t have married that creature if
you could; he’s poor as a rat, and always will be; these desperately
interesting fellows always are. Now you have money without end; and of
course you have position; and your husband is a man you can get any
thing in the world out of.”

“Oh! as to that, I don’t complain of Dick,” said Mrs. Follingsbee:
“he’s coarse and vulgar, to be sure, but he never stands in my way,
and I never stand in his; and, as you say, he’s free about money. But
still, darling, sometimes it seems to me such a weary thing to live
without sympathy of soul! A marriage without congeniality, _mon Dieu_,
what is it? And then the harsh, cold laws of human society prevent any
relief. They forbid natures that are made for each other from being to
each other what they can be.”

“You mean that people will talk about you,” said Lillie. “Well, I
assure you, dearest, they _will_ talk awfully, if you are not very
careful. I say this to you frankly, as your friend, you know.”

“Ah, _ma petite_! you don’t need to tell me that. I _am_ careful,” said
Mrs. Follingsbee. “I am always lecturing Charlie, and showing him that
we must keep up _les convenances_; but is it not hard on us poor women
to lead always this repressed, secretive life?”

“What made you marry Mr. Follingsbee?” said Lillie, with apparent
artlessness.

“Darling, I was but a child. I was ignorant of the mysteries of my own
nature, of my capabilities. As Charlie said to me the other day, we
never learn what we are till some congenial soul unlocks the secret
door of our hearts. The fact is, dearest, that American society, with
its strait-laced, puritanical notions, bears terribly hard on woman’s
heart. Poor Charlie! he is no less one of the victims of society.”

“Oh, nonsense!” said Lillie. “You take it too much to heart. You
mustn’t mind all these men say. They are always being desperate and
tragic. Charlie has talked just so to me, time and time again. I
understand it all. He talked exactly so to me when he came to Newport
last summer. You must take matters easy, my dear,—you, with your
beauty, and your style, and your money. Why, you can lead all New York
captive! Forty fellows like Charlie are not worth spoiling one’s dinner
for. Come, cheer up; positively I shan’t let you be blue, _ma reine_.
Let me ring for your maid to dress you for dinner. _Au revoir._”

The fact was, that Mrs. Lillie, having formerly set down this lovely
Charlie on the list of her own adorers, had small sympathy with the
sentimental romance of her friend.

“What a fool she makes of herself!” she thought, as she contemplated
her own sylph-like figure and wonderful freshness of complexion in the
glass. “Don’t I know Charlie Ferrola? he wants her to get him into
fashionable life, and knows the way to do it. To think of that stout,
middle-aged party imagining that Charlie Ferrola’s going to die for her
charms! it’s too funny! How stout the dear old thing does get, to be
sure!”

It will be observed here that our dear Lillie did not want for
perspicacity. There is nothing so absolutely clear-sighted, in certain
directions, as selfishness. Entire want of sympathy with others clears
up one’s vision astonishingly, and enables us to see all the weak
points and ridiculous places of our neighbors in the most accurate
manner possible.

[Illustration: MR. CHARLIE FERROLA.]

As to Mr. Charlie Ferrola, our Lillie was certainly in the right in
respect to him. He was one of those blossoms of male humanity that
seem as expressly designed by nature for the ornamentation of ladies’
boudoirs, as an Italian greyhound: he had precisely the same graceful,
shivery adaptation to live by petting and caresses. His tastes were all
so exquisite that it was the most difficult thing in the world to keep
him out of misery a moment. He was in a chronic state of disgust with
something or other in our lower world from morning till night.

His profession was nominally that of architecture and landscape
gardening; but, in point of fact, consisted in telling certain rich,
_blasé_, stupid, fashionable people how they could quickest get rid of
their money. He ruled despotically in the Follingsbee halls: he bought
and rejected pictures and jewelry, ordered and sent off furniture, with
the air of an absolute master; amusing himself meanwhile with running
a French romance with the handsome mistress of the establishment.
As a consequence, he had not only opportunities for much quiet
feathering of his own nest, but the _éclat_ of always having the use
of the Follingsbees’ carriages, horses, and opera-boxes, and being
the acknowledged and supreme head of fashionable dictation. Ladies
sometimes pull caps for such charming individuals, as we have seen in
the case of Mrs. Follingsbee and Lillie.

For it is not to be supposed that Mrs. Follingsbee, though she had
assumed the gushing style with her young friend, wanted spirit or
perception on her part. Her darling Lillie had left a nettle in her
bosom which rankled there.

“The vanity of these thin, light, watery blondes!” she said to herself,
as she looked into her own great dark eyes in the mirror,—“thinking
Charlie Ferrola cares for her! I know just what he thinks of _her_,
thank heaven! Poor thing! Don’t you think Mrs. John Seymour has gone
off astonishingly since her marriage?” she said to Thérèse.

“_Mon Dieu, madame, q’oui_,” said the obedient tire-woman, scraping
the very back of her throat in her zeal. “Madame Seymour has the real
American _maigreur_. These thin women, madame, they have no substance;
there is noting to them. For young girl, they are charming; but, as
woman, they are just noting at all. Now, you will see, madame, what I
tell you. In a year or two, people shall ask, ‘Was she ever handsome?’
But _you_, madame, you come to your prime like great rose! Oh, dere is
no comparison of you to Mrs. John Seymour!”

And Thérèse found her words highly acceptable, after the manner of all
her tribe, who prophesy smooth things unto their mistresses.

It may be imagined that the entertaining of Dick Follingsbee was no
small strain on the conjugal endurance of our faithful John; but he was
on duty, and endured without flinching that gentleman’s free and easy
jokes and patronizing civilities.

“I do wish, darling, you’d teach that creature not to call you ‘Lillie’
in that abominably free manner,” he said to his wife, the first day,
after dinner.

“Mercy on us, John! what can I do? All the world knows that Dick
Follingsbee’s an oddity; and everybody agrees to take what he says for
what it’s worth. If I should go to putting on any airs, he’d behave ten
times worse than he does: the only way is, to pass it over quietly, and
not to seem to notice any thing he says or does. My way is, to smile,
and look gracious, and act as if I hadn’t heard any thing but what is
perfectly proper.”

“It’s a tremendous infliction, Lillie!”

“Poor man! is it?” said Lillie, putting her arm round his neck, and
stroking his whiskers. “Well, now, he’s a good man to bear it so well,
so he is; and they shan’t plague him long. But, John, you must confess
Mrs. Follingsbee is nice: poor woman! she is mortified with the way
Dick will go on; but she can’t do any thing with him.”

“Yes, I can get on with her,” said John. In fact, John was one of
the men so loyal to women that his path of virtue in regard to them
always ran down hill. Mrs. Follingsbee was handsome, and had a gift
in language, and some considerable tact in adapting herself to her
society; and, as she put forth all her powers to win his admiration,
she succeeded.

Grace had done her part to assist John in his hospitable intents, by
securing the prompt co-operation of the Fergusons. The very first
evening after their arrival, old Mrs. Ferguson, with Letitia and Rose,
called, not formally but socially, as had always been the custom
of the two families. Dick Follingsbee was out, enjoying an evening
cigar,—a circumstance on which John secretly congratulated himself as
a favorable feature in the case. He felt instinctively a sort of uneasy
responsibility for his guests; and, judging the Fergusons by himself,
felt that their call was in some sort an act of self-abnegation on
his account; and he was anxious to make it as easy as possible.
Mrs. Follingsbee was presentable, so he thought; but he dreaded the
irrepressible Dick, and had much the same feeling about him that one
has on presenting a pet spaniel or pointer in a lady’s parlor,—there
was no answering for what he might say or do.

The Fergusons were disposed to make themselves most amiable to Mrs.
Follingsbee; and, with this intent, Miss Letitia started the subject of
her Parisian experiences, as being probably one where she would feel
herself especially at home. Mrs. Follingsbee of course expanded in
rapturous description, and was quite clever and interesting.

“You must feel quite a difference between that country and this, in
regard to facilities of living,” said Miss Letitia.

“Ah, indeed! do I not?” said Mrs. Follingsbee, casting up her eyes.
“Life here in America is in a state of perfect disorganization.”

“We are a young people here, madam,” said John. “We haven’t had time to
organize the smaller conveniences of life.”

“Yes, that’s what I mean,” said Mrs. Follingsbee. “Now, you men don’t
feel it so very much; but it bears hard on us poor women. Life here
in America is perfect slavery to women,—a perfect dead grind. You
see there’s no career at all for a married woman in this country, as
there is in France. Marriage there opens a brilliant prospect before a
girl: it introduces her to the world; it gives her wings. In America,
it is clipping her wings, chaining her down, shutting her up,—no more
gayety, no more admiration; nothing but cradles and cribs, and bibs
and tuckers, little narrowing, wearing, domestic cares, hard, vulgar
domestic slaveries: and so our women lose their bloom and health and
freshness, and are moped to death.”

“I can’t see the thing in that light, Mrs. Follingsbee,” said old Mrs.
Ferguson. “I don’t understand this modern talk. I am sure, for one, I
can say I have had all the career I wanted ever since I married. You
know, dear, when one begins to have children, one’s heart goes into
them: we find nothing hard that we do for the dear little things. I’ve
heard that the Parisian ladies never nurse their own babies. From my
very heart, I pity them.”

“Oh, my dear madam!” said Mrs. Follingsbee, “why insist upon it
that a cultivated, intelligent woman shall waste some of the most
beautiful years of her life in a mere animal function, that, after
all, any healthy peasant can perform better than she? The French are
a philosophical nation; and, in Paris, you see, this thing is all
systematic: it’s altogether better for the child. It’s taken to the
country, and put to nurse with a good strong woman, who makes that her
only business. She just lives to be a good animal, you see, and so is
a better one than a more intellectual being can be; thus she gives the
child a strong constitution, which is the main thing.”

“Yes,” said Miss Letitia; “I was told, when in Paris, that this system
is universal. The dressmaker, who works at so much a day, sends her
child out to nurse as certainly as the woman of rank and fashion. There
are no babies, as a rule, in French households.”

“And you see how good this is for the mother,” said Mrs. Follingsbee.
“The first year or two of a child’s life it is nothing but a little
animal; and one person can do for it about as well as another: and all
this time, while it is growing physically, the mother has for art, for
self-cultivation, for society, and for literature. Of course she keeps
her eye on her child, and visits it often enough to know that all goes
right with it.”

“Yes,” said Miss Letitia; “and the same philosophical spirit regulates
the education of the child throughout. An American gentleman, who
wished to live in Paris, told me that, having searched all over it, he
could not accommodate his family, including himself and wife and two
children, without taking _two_ of the suites that are usually let to
one family. The reason, he inferred, was the perfection of the system
which keeps the French family reduced in numbers. The babies are out
at nurse, sometimes till two, and sometimes till three years of age;
and, at seven or eight, the girl goes into a pension, and the boy into
a college, till they are ready to be taken out,—the girl to be married,
and the boy to enter a profession: so the leisure of parents for
literature, art, and society is preserved.”

“It seems to me the most perfectly dreary, dreadful way of living I
ever heard of,” said Mrs. Ferguson, with unwonted energy. “How I pity
people who know so little of real happiness!”

“Yet the French are dotingly fond of children,” said Mrs. Follingsbee.
“It’s a national peculiarity; you can see it in all their literature.
Don’t you remember Victor Hugo’s exquisite description of a mother’s
feelings for a little child in ‘Notre Dame de Paris’? I never read any
thing more affecting; it’s perfectly subduing.”

“They can’t love their children as I did mine,” said Mrs. Ferguson:
“it’s impossible; and, if that’s what’s called organizing society, I
hope our society in America never will be organized. It can’t be that
children are well taken care of on that system. I always attended to
every thing for my babies _myself_; because I felt God had put them
into my hands perfectly helpless; and, if there is any thing difficult
or disagreeable in the case, how can I expect to _hire_ a woman for
money to be faithful in what I cannot do for love?”

“But don’t you think, dear madam, that this system of personal devotion
to children may be carried too far?” said Mrs. Follingsbee. “Perhaps in
France they may go to an extreme; but don’t our American women, as a
rule, sacrifice themselves too much to their families?”

“_Sacrifice!_” said Mrs. Ferguson. “How can we? Our children are our
new life. We live in them a thousand times more than we could in
ourselves. No, I think a mother that doesn’t take care of her own baby
misses the greatest happiness a woman can know. A baby isn’t a mere
animal; and it is a great and solemn thing to see the coming of an
immortal soul into it from day to day. My very happiest hours have been
spent with my babies in my arms.”

“There may be women constituted so as to enjoy it,” said Mrs.
Follingsbee; “but you must allow that there is a vast difference among
women.”

“There certainly is,” said Mrs. Ferguson, as she rose with a frigid
courtesy, and shortened the call. “My dear girls,” said the old lady to
her daughters, when they returned home, “I disapprove of that woman.
I am very sorry that pretty little Mrs. Seymour has so bad a friend
and adviser. Why, the woman talks like a Fejee Islander! Baby a mere
animal, to be sure! it puts me out of temper to hear such talk. The
woman talks as if she had never heard of such a thing as love in her
life, and don’t know what it means.”

“Oh, well, mamma!” said Rose, “you know we are old-fashioned folks, and
not up to modern improvements.”

“Well,” said Miss Letitia, “I should think that that poor little weird
child of Mrs. Follingsbee’s, with the great red bow on her back, had
been brought up on this system. Yesterday afternoon I saw her in the
garden, with that maid of hers, apparently enjoying a free fight. They
looked like a pair of goblins,—an old and a young one. I never saw any
thing like it.”

“What a pity!” said Rose; “for she’s a smart, bright little thing; and
it’s cunning to hear her talk French.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Ferguson, straightening her back, and sitting up
with a grand air: “I am one of eight children that my mother nursed
herself at her own breast, and lived to a good honorable old age after
it. People called her a handsome woman at sixty: she could ride and
walk and dance with the best; and nobody kept up a keener interest in
reading or general literature. Her conversation was sought by the most
eminent men of the day as something remarkable. She was always with her
children: we always knew we had her to run to at any moment; and we
were the first thing with her. She lived a happy, loving, useful life;
and her children rose up and called her blessed.”

“As we do you, dear mamma,” said Rose, kissing her: “so don’t be
oratorical, darling mammy; because we are all of your mind here.”



CHAPTER XVI.

_MRS. JOHN SEYMOUR’S PARTY, AND WHAT CAME OF IT._


MRS. JOHN SEYMOUR’S party marked an era in the annals of Springdale.
Of this, you may be sure, my dear reader, when you consider that it
was projected and arranged by Mrs. Lillie, in strict counsel with her
friend Mrs. Follingsbee, who had lived in Paris, and been to balls
at the Tuileries. Of course, it was a tip-top New-York-Paris party,
with all the new, fashionable, unspeakable crinkles and wrinkles, all
the high, divine, spick and span new ways of doing things; which,
however, like the Eleusinian mysteries, being in their very nature
incommunicable except to the elect, must be left to the imagination.

A French _artiste_, whom Mrs. Follingsbee patronized as “my
confectioner,” came in state to Springdale, with a retinue of
appendages and servants sufficient for a circus; took formal possession
of the Seymour mansion, and became, for the time being, absolute
dictator, as was customary in the old Roman Republic in times of
emergency.

Mr. Follingsbee was forward, fussy, and advisory, in his own
peculiar free-and-easy fashion; and Mrs. Follingsbee was instructive
and patronizing to the very last degree. Lillie had bewailed in her
sympathizing bosom John’s unaccountable and most singular moral
Quixotism in regard to the wine question, and been comforted by her
appreciative discourse. Mrs. Follingsbee had a sort of indefinite
faith in French phrases for mending all the broken places in life. A
thing said partly in French became at once in her view elucidated,
even though the words meant no more than the same in English; so she
consoled Lillie as follows:—

“Oh, _ma chère_! I understand perfectly: your husband may be ‘_un peu
borné_,’ as they say in Paris, but still ‘_un homme très respectable_,’
(Mrs. Follingsbee here scraped her throat emphatically, just as her
French maid did),—a sublime example of the virtues; and let me tell
you, darling, you are very fortunate to get such a man. It is not often
that a woman can get an establishment like yours, and a good man into
the bargain; so, if the goodness is a little _ennuyeuse_, one must put
up with it. Then, again, people of old established standing may do
about what they like socially: their position is made. People only say,
‘Well, that is their way; the Seymours will do so and so.’ Now, we have
to do twice as much of every thing to make our position, as certain
other people do. We might flood our place with champagne and Burgundy,
and get all the young fellows drunk, as we generally do; and yet people
will call our parties ‘_bourgeois_,’ and yours ‘_recherché_,’ if you
give them nothing but tea and biscuit. Now, there’s my Dick: he
respects your husband; you can see he does. In his odious slang way,
he says he’s ‘some’ and ‘a brick;’ and he’s a little anxious to please
him, though he professes not to care for anybody. Now, Dick has pretty
sharp sense, after all, or he’d never have been just where he is.”

Our friend John, during these days preceding the party, the party
itself and the clearing up after it, enacted submissively that part
of unconditional surrender which the master of the house, if well
trained, generally acts on such occasions. He resembled the prize
ox, which is led forth adorned with garlands, ribbons, and docility,
to grace a triumphal procession. He went where he was told, did as
he was bid, marched to the right, marched to the left, put on gloves
and cravat, and took them off, entirely submissive to the word of his
little general; and exhibited, in short, an edifying spectacle of that
pleasant domestic animal, a tame husband. He had to make atonement for
being a reformer, and for endeavoring to live like a Christian, by
conceding to his wife all this latitude of indulgence; and he meant
to go through it like a man and a philosopher. To be sure, in his
eyes, it was all so much unutterable bosh and nonsense; and bosh and
nonsense for which he was eventually to settle the bills: but he armed
himself with the patient reflection that all things have their end
in time,—that fireworks and Chinese lanterns, bands of music and kid
gloves, ruffs and puffs, and pinkings and quillings, and all sorts of
unspeakable eatables with French names, would ere long float down the
stream of time, and leave their record only in a few bad colds and days
of indigestion, which also time would mercifully cure.

So John steadied his soul with a view of that comfortable future, when
all this fuss should be over, and the coast cleared for something
better. Moreover, John found this good result of his patience: that he
learned a little something in a Christian way by it. Men of elevated
principle and moral honesty often treat themselves to such large slices
of contempt and indignation, in regard to the rogues of society, as to
forget a common brotherhood of pity. It is sometimes wholesome for such
men to be obliged to tolerate a scamp to the extent of exchanging with
him the ordinary benevolences of social life.

John, in discharging the duty of a host to Dick Follingsbee, found
himself, after a while, looking on him with pity, as a poor creature,
like the rich fool in the Gospels, without faith, or love, or prayer;
spending life as a moth does,—in vain attempts to burn himself up in
the candle, and knowing nothing better. In fact, after a while, the
stiff, tow-colored moustache, smart stride, and flippant air of this
poor little man struck him somewhere in the region between a smile and
a tear; and his enforced hospitality began to wear a tincture of real
kindness. There is no less pathos in moral than in physical imbecility.

It is an observable social phenomenon that, when any family in a
community makes an advance very greatly ahead of its neighbors in
style of living or splendor of entertainments, the fact causes great
searchings of spirit in all the region round about, and abundance of
talk, wherein the thoughts of many hearts are revealed.

Springdale was a country town, containing a choice knot of the old,
respectable, true-blue, Boston-aristocracy families. Two or three
of them had winter houses in Beacon Street, and went there, after
Christmas, to enjoy the lectures, concerts, and select gayeties of
the modern Athens; others, like the Fergusons and Seymours, were in
intimate relationship with the same circle.

Now, it is well known that the real old true-blue, Simon-pure, Boston
family is one whose claims to be considered “the thing,” and the only
thing, are somewhat like the claim of apostolic succession in ancient
churches. It is easy to see why certain affluent, cultivated, and
eminently well-conducted people should be considered “the thing” in
their day and generation; but why they should be considered as the
“only thing” is the point insoluble to human reason, and to be received
by faith alone; also, why certain other people, equally affluent,
cultivated, and well-conducted are _not_ “the thing” is one of the
divine mysteries, about which whoso observes Boston society will do
well not too curiously to exercise his reason.

These “true-blue” families, however, have claims to respectability;
which make them, on the whole, quite a venerable and pleasurable
feature of society in our young, topsy-turvy, American community. Some
of them have family records extending clearly back to the settlement
of Massachusetts Bay; and the family estate is still on grounds first
cleared up by aboriginal settlers. Being of a Puritan nobility,
they have an ancestral record, affording more legitimate subject of
family self-esteem than most other nobility. Their history runs back
to an ancestry of unworldly faith and prayer and self-denial, of
incorruptible public virtue, sturdy resistance of evil, and pursuit of
good.

There is also a literary aroma pervading their circles. Dim suggestions
of “The North American Review,” of “The Dial,” of Cambridge,—a sort of
vague “_miel-fleur_” of authorship and poetry,—is supposed to float
in the air around them; and it is generally understood that in their
homes exist tastes and appreciations denied to less favored regions.
Almost every one of them has its great man,—its father, grandfather,
cousin, or great uncle, who wrote a book, or edited a review, or was a
president of the United States, or minister to England, whose opinions
are referred to by the family in any discussion, as good Christians
quote the Bible.

It is true that, in some few instances, the _pleroma_ of aristocratic
dignity undergoes a sort of acetic fermentation, and comes out in
ungenial qualities. Now and then, at a public watering-place, a man or
woman appears no otherwise distinguished than by a remarkable talent
for being disagreeable; and it is amusing to find, on inquiry, that
this repulsiveness of demeanor is entirely on account of belonging to
an ancient family.

Such is the tendency of democracy to a general mingling of elements,
that this frigidity is deemed necessary by these good souls to
prevent the commonalty from being attracted by them, and sticking to
them, as straws and bits of paper do to amber. But more generally
the “true-blue” old families are simple and urbane in their manners;
and their pretensions are, as Miss Edgeworth says, presented rather
_intaglio_ than in cameo. Of course, they most thoroughly believe in
themselves, but in a bland and genial way. “_Noblesse oblige_” is with
them a secret spring of gentle address and social suavity. They prefer
their own set and their own ways, and are comfortably sure that what
they do not know is not worth knowing, and what they have not been in
the habit of doing is not worth doing; but still they are indulgent of
the existence of human nature outside of their own circle.

The Seymours and the Fergusons belonged to this sort of people; and,
of course, Mr. John Seymour’s marriage afforded them opportunity
for some wholesome moral discipline. The Ferguson girls were frank,
social, magnanimous young women; of that class, to whom the saying
or doing of a rude or unhandsome thing by any human being was an
utter impossibility, and whose cheeks would flush at the mere idea of
asserting personal superiority over any one. Nevertheless, they trod
the earth firmly, as girls who felt that they were born to a certain
position. Judge Ferguson was a gentleman of the old school, devoted to
past ideas, fond of the English classics, and with small faith in any
literature later than Dr. Johnson. He confessed to a toleration for
Scott’s novels, and had been detected by his children both laughing and
crying over the stories of Charles Dickens; for the amiable weaknesses
of human nature still remain in the best regulated mind. To women and
children, the judge was benignity itself, imitating the Grand Monarque,
who bowed even to a chambermaid. He believed in good, orderly,
respectable, old ways and entertainments, and had a quiet horror of all
that is loud or noisy or pretentious; which sometimes made his social
duties a trial to him, as was the case in regard to the Seymour party.

The arrangements of the party, including the preparations for an
extensive illumination of the grounds, and fireworks, were on so
unusual a scale as to rouse the whole community of Springdale to a
fever of excitement; of course, the Wilcoxes and the Lennoxes were
astonished and disgusted. When had it been known that any of their
set had done any thing of the kind? How horribly out of taste! Just
the result of John Seymour’s marrying into that class of society!
Mrs. Lennox was of opinion that she ought not to go. She was of the
determined and spicy order of human beings, and often, like a certain
French countess, felt disposed to thank Heaven that she generally
succeeded in being rude when the occasion required. Mrs. Lennox
regarded “snubbing” in the light of a moral duty devolving on people
of condition, when the foundations of things were in danger of being
removed by the inroads of the vulgar commonalty. On the present
occasion, Mrs. Lennox was of opinion that quiet, respectable people, of
good family, ought to ignore this kind of proceeding, and not think of
encouraging such things by their presence.

Mrs. Wilcox generally shaped her course by Mrs. Lennox: still she had
promised Letitia Ferguson to be gracious to the Seymours in their
exigency, and to call on the Follingsbees; so there was a confusion
all round. The young people of both families declared that _they_ were
going, just to see the fun. Bob Lennox, with the usual vivacity of
Young America, said he didn’t “care a hang who set a ball rolling, if
only something was kept stirring.” The subject was discussed when Mrs.
Lennox and Mrs. Wilcox were making a morning call upon the Fergusons.

“For my part,” said Mrs. Lennox, “I’m principled on this subject. Those
Follingsbees are not proper people. They are of just that vulgar,
pushing class, against which I feel it my duty to set my face like
a flint; and I’m astonished that a man like John Seymour should go
into relations with them. You see it puts all his friends in a most
embarrassing position.”

“Dear Mrs. Lennox,” said Rose Ferguson, “indeed, it is not Mr.
Seymour’s fault. These persons are invited by his wife.”

“Well, what business has he to allow his wife to invite them? A man
should be master in his own house.”

“But, my dear Mrs. Lennox,” said Mrs. Ferguson, “such a pretty young
creature, and just married! of course it would be unhandsome not to
allow her to have her friends.”

“Certainly,” said Judge Ferguson, “a gentleman cannot be rude to his
wife’s invited guests; for my part, I think Seymour is putting the best
face he can on it; and we must all do what we can to help him. We shall
all attend the Seymour party.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Wilcox, “I think we shall go. To be sure, it is not
what I should like to do. I don’t approve of these Follingsbees. Mr.
Wilcox was saying, this morning, that his money was made by frauds on
the government, which ought to have put him in the State Prison.”

“Now, I say,” said Mrs. Lennox, “such people ought to be put
down socially: I have no patience with their airs. And that Mrs.
Follingsbee, I have heard that she was a milliner, or shop-girl, or
some such thing; and to see the airs she gives herself! One would
think it was the Empress Eugénie herself, come to queen it over us in
America. I can’t help thinking we ought to take a stand. I really do.”

“But, dear Mrs. Lennox, we are not obliged to cultivate further
relations with people, simply from exchanging ordinary civilities with
them on one evening,” said Judge Ferguson.

“But, my dear sir, these pushing, vulgar, rich people take advantage of
every opening. Give them an inch, and they will take an ell,” said Mrs
Lennox. “Now, if I go, they will be claiming acquaintance with me in
Newport next summer. Well, I shall cut them,—dead.”

“Trust you for that,” said Miss Letitia, laughing; “indeed, Mrs.
Lennox, I think you may go wherever you please with perfect safety.
People will never saddle themselves on you longer than you want them;
so you might as well go to the party with the rest of us.”

“And besides, you know,” said Mrs. Wilcox, “all our young people will
go, whether we go or not. Your Tom was at my house yesterday; and he is
going with my girls: they are all just as wild about it as they can be,
and say that it is the greatest fun that has been heard of this summer.”

In fact, there was not a man, woman, or child, in a circle of fifteen
miles round, who could show shade or color of an invitation, who was
not out in full dress at Mrs. John Seymour’s party. People in a city
may pick and choose their entertainments, and she who gives a party
there may reckon on a falling off of about one-third, for various other
attractions; but in the country, where there is nothing else stirring,
one may be sure that not one person able to stand on his feet will
be missing. A party in a good old sleepy, respectable country place
is a godsend. It is equal to an earthquake, for suggesting materials
of conversation; and in so many ways does it awaken and vivify the
community, that one may doubt whether, after all, it is not a moral
benefaction, and the giver of it one to be ranked in the noble army of
martyrs.

Everybody went. Even Mrs. Lennox, when she had sufficiently swallowed
her moral principles, sent in all haste to New York for an elegant
spick and span new dress from Madame de Tullegig’s, expressly for the
occasion. Was she to be outshone by unprincipled upstarts? Perish the
thought! It was treason to the cause of virtue, and the standing order
of society. Of course, the best thing to be done is to put certain
people down, if you can; but, if you cannot do that, the next best
thing is to outshine them in their own way. It may be very naughty
for them to be so dressy and extravagant, and very absurd, improper,
immoral, unnecessary, and in bad taste; but still, if you cannot help
it, you may as well try to do the same, and do a little more of it.
Mrs. Lennox was in a feverish state till all her trappings came from
New York. The bill was something stunning; but, then, it was voted by
the young people that she had never looked so splendidly in her life;
and she comforted herself with marking out a certain sublime distance
and reserve of manner to be observed towards Mrs. Seymour and the
Follingsbees.

The young people, however, came home delighted. Tom, aged twenty-two,
instructed his mother that Follingsbee was a brick, and a real jolly
fellow; and he had accepted an invitation to go on a yachting cruise
with him the next month. Jane Lennox, moreover, began besetting her
mother to have certain details in their house rearranged, with an eye
to the Seymour glorification.

“Now, Jane dear, that’s just the result of allowing you to visit in
this flash, vulgar genteel society,” said the troubled mamma.

“Bless your heart, mamma, the world moves on, you know; and we must
move with it a little, or be left behind. For my part, I’m perfectly
ashamed of the way we let things go at our house. It really is not
respectable. Now, I like Mrs. Follingsbee, for my part: she’s clever
and amusing. It was fun to hear all about the balls at the Tuileries,
and the opera and things in Paris. Mamma, when are we going to Paris?”

“Oh! I don’t know, my dear; you must ask your father. He is very
unwilling to go abroad.”

“Papa is so slow and conservative in his notions!” said the young lady.
“For my part, I cannot see what is the use of all this talk about the
Follingsbees. He is good-natured and funny; and, I am sure, I think
she’s a splendid woman: and, by the way, she gave me the address of
lots of places in New York where we can get French things. Did you
notice her lace? It is superb; and she told me where lace just like it
could be bought one-third less than they sell at Stewart’s.”

Thus we see how the starting-out of an old, respectable family in any
new ebullition of fancy and fashion is like a dandelion going to seed.
You have not only the airy, fairy globe; but every feathery particle
thereof bears a germ which will cause similar feather bubbles all over
the country; and thus old, respectable grass-plots become, in time,
half dandelion. It is to be observed that, in all questions of life
and fashion, “the world and the flesh,” to say nothing of the third
partner of that ancient firm, have us at decided advantage. It is easy
to see the flash of jewelry, the dazzle of color, the rush and glitter
of equipage, and to be dizzied by the babble and gayety of fashionable
life; while it is not easy to see justice, patience, temperance,
self-denial. These are things belonging to the invisible and the
eternal, and to be seen with other eyes than those of the body.

Then, again, there is no one thing in all the items which go to make
up fashionable extravagance, which, taken separately and by itself, is
not in some point of view a good or pretty or desirable thing; and so,
whenever the forces of invisible morality begin an encounter with the
troops of fashion and folly, the world and the flesh, as we have just
said, generally have the best of it.

It may be very shocking and dreadful to get money by cheating and
lying; but when the money thus got is put into the forms of yachts,
operas, pictures, statues, and splendid entertainments, of which you
are freely offered a share if you will only cultivate the acquaintance
of a sharper, will you not then begin to say, “Everybody is going,
why not I? As to countenancing Dives, why he is countenanced; and my
holding out does no good. What is the use of my sitting in my corner
and sulking? Nobody minds me.” Thus Dives gains one after another to
follow his chariot, and make up his court.

Our friend John, simply by being a loving, indulgent husband, had
come into the position, in some measure, of demoralizing the public
conscience, of bringing in luxury and extravagance, and countenancing
people who really ought not to be countenanced. He had a sort of
uneasy perception of this fact; yet, at each particular step, he seemed
to himself to be doing no more than was right or reasonable. It was a
fact that, through all Springdale, people were beginning to be uneasy
and uncomfortable in houses that used to seem to them nice enough, and
ashamed of a style of dress and entertainment and living that used to
content them perfectly, simply because of the changes of style and
living in the John-Seymour mansion.

Of old, the Seymour family had always been a bulwark on the side of a
temperate self-restraint and reticence in worldly indulgence; of a kind
that parents find most useful to strengthen their hands when children
are urging them on to expenses beyond their means: for they could say,
“The Seymours are richer than we are, and you see they don’t change
their carpets, nor get new sofas, nor give extravagant parties; and
they give simple, reasonable, quiet entertainments, and do not go into
any modern follies.” So the Seymours kept up the Fergusons, and the
Fergusons the Seymours; and the Wilcoxes and the Lennoxes encouraged
each other in a style of quiet, reasonable living, saving money for
charity, and time for reading and self-cultivation, and by moderation
and simplicity keeping up the courage of less wealthy neighbors to hold
their own with them.

The John-Seymour party, therefore, was like the bursting of a great
dam, which floods a whole region. There was not a family who had not
some trouble with the inundation, even where, like Rose and Letitia
Ferguson, they swept it out merrily, and thought no more of it.

“It was all very pretty and pleasant, and I’m glad it went off so
well,” said Rose Ferguson the next day; “but I have not the smallest
desire to repeat any thing of the kind. We who live in the country, and
have such a world of beautiful things around us every day, and so many
charming engagements in riding, walking, and rambling, and so much to
do, cannot afford to go into this sort of thing: we really have not
time for it.”

“That pretty creature,” said Mrs. Ferguson, speaking of Lillie, “is
really a charming object. I hope she will settle down now to domestic
life. She will soon find better things to care for, I trust: a baby
would be her best teacher. I am sure I hope she will have one.”

“A baby is mamma’s infallible recipe for strengthening the character,”
said Rose, laughing.

“Well, as the saying is, they bring love with them,” said Mrs.
Ferguson; “and love always brings wisdom.”



CHAPTER XVII.

_AFTER THE BATTLE._


“WELL, Grace, the Follingsbees are gone at last, I am thankful to say,”
said John, as he stretched himself out on the sofa in Grace’s parlor
with a sigh of relief. “If ever I am caught in such a scrape again, I
shall know it.”

“Yes, it is all well over,” said Grace.

“Over! I wish you would look at the bills. Why, Gracie! I had not the
least idea, when I gave Lillie leave to get what she chose, what it
would come to, with those people at her elbow, to put things into her
head. I could not interfere, you know, after the thing was started;
and I thought I would not spoil Lillie’s pleasure, especially as I had
to stand firm in not allowing wine. It was well I did; for if wine had
been given, and taken with the reckless freedom that all the rest was,
it might have ended in a general riot.”

“As some of the great fashionable parties do, where young women get
merry with champagne, and young men get drunk,” said Grace.

“Well,” said John, “I don’t exactly like the whole turn of the way
things have been going at our house lately. I don’t like the influence
of it on others. It is not in the line of the life I want to lead, and
that we have all been trying to lead.”

“Well,” said Gracie, “things will be settled now quietly, I hope.”

“I say,” said John, “could not we start our little reading sociables,
that were so pleasant last year? You know we want to keep some little
pleasant thing going, and draw Lillie in with us. When a girl has been
used to lively society, she can’t come down to mere nothing; and I
am afraid she will be wanting to rush off to New York, and visit the
Follingsbees.”

“Well,” said Grace, “Letitia and Rose were speaking the other day of
that, and wanting to begin. You know we were to read Froude together,
as soon as the evenings got a little longer.”

“Oh, yes! that will be capital,” said John.

“Do you think Lillie will be interested in Froude?” asked Grace.

“I really can’t say,” said John, with some doubting of heart; “perhaps
it would be well to begin with something a little lighter, at first.”

“Any thing you please, John. What shall it be?”

“But I don’t want to hold you all back on my account,” said John.

“Well, then again, John, there’s our old study-club. The Fergusons
and Mr. Mathews were talking it over the other night, and wondering
when you would be ready to join us. We were going to take up Lecky’s
‘History of Morals,’ and have our sessions Tuesday evenings,—one
Tuesday at their house, and the other at mine, you know.”

“I should enjoy that, of all things,” said John; “but I know it is of
no use to ask Lillie: it would only be the most dreadful bore to her.”

“And you couldn’t come without her, of course,” said Grace.

“Of course not; that would be too cruel, to leave the poor little thing
at home alone.”

“Lillie strikes me as being naturally clever,” said Grace; “if she only
would bring her mind to enter into your tastes a little, I’m sure you
would find her capable.”

“But, Gracie, you’ve no conception how very different her sphere of
thought is, how entirely out of the line of our ways of thinking. I’ll
tell you,” said John, “don’t wait for me. You have your Tuesdays, and
go on with your Lecky; and I will keep a copy at home, and read up
with you. And I will bring Lillie in the evening, after the reading is
over; and we will have a little music and lively talk, and a dance or
charade, you know: then perhaps her mind will wake up by degrees.”

    SCENE.—_After tea in the Seymour parlor. John at a table, reading.
                 Lillie in a corner, embroidering._

_Lillie._ “Look here, John, I want to ask you something.”

_John_,—putting down his book, and crossing to her, “Well, dear?”

_Lillie._ “There, would you make a green leaf there, or a brown one?”

_John_,—endeavoring to look wise, “Well, a brown one.”

_Lillie._ “That’s just like you, John; now, don’t you see that a brown
one would just spoil the effect?”

“Oh! would it?” said John, innocently. “Well, what did you ask me for?”

“Why, you tiresome creature! I wanted you to say something. What are
you sitting moping over a book for? You don’t entertain me a bit.”

“Dear Lillie, I have been talking about every thing I could think of,”
said John, apologetically.

“Well, I want you to keep on talking, and put up that great heavy book.
What is it, any way?”

“Lecky’s ‘History of Morals,’” said John.

“How dreadful! do you really mean to read it?”

“Certainly; we are all reading it.”

“Who all?”

“Why, Gracie, and Letitia and Rose Ferguson.”

“Rose Ferguson? I don’t believe it. Why, Rose isn’t twenty yet! She
cannot care about such stuff.”

“She does care, and enjoys it too,” said John, eagerly.

“It is a pity, then, you didn’t get her for a wife instead of me,” said
Lillie, in a tone of pique.

Now, this sort of thing does well enough occasionally, said by a
pretty woman, perfectly sure of her ground, in the early days of the
honey-moon; but for steady domestic diet is not to be recommended.
Husbands get tired of swearing allegiance over and over; and John
returned to his book quietly, without reply. He did not like the
suggestion; and he thought that it was in very poor taste. Lillie
embroidered in silence a few minutes, and then threw down her work
pettishly.

“How close this room is!”

John read on.

“John, do open the door!”

John rose, opened the door, and returned to his book.

“Now, there’s that draft from the hall-window. John, you’ll have to
shut the door.”

John shut it, and read on.

“Oh, dear me!” said Lillie, throwing herself down with a portentous
yawn. “I do think this is dreadful!”

“What is dreadful?” said John, looking up.

“It is dreadful to be buried alive here in this gloomy town of
Springdale, where there is nothing to see, and nowhere to go, and
nothing going on.”

“We have always flattered ourselves that Springdale was a most
attractive place,” said John. “I don’t know of any place where there
are more beautiful walks and rambles.”

“But I detest walking in the country. What is there to see? And you
get your shoes muddy, and burrs on your clothes, and don’t meet a
creature! I got so tired the other day when Grace and Rose Ferguson
would drag me off to what they call ‘the glen.’ They kept oh-ing and
ah-ing and exclaiming to each other about some stupid thing every
step of the way,—old pokey nutgalls, bare twigs of trees, and red and
yellow leaves, and ferns! I do wish you could have seen the armful
of trash that those two girls carried into their respective houses.
I would not have such stuff in mine for any thing. I am tired of all
this talk about Nature. I am free to confess that I don’t like Nature,
and do like art; and I wish we only lived in New York, where there is
something to amuse one.”

[Illustration: “But I detest walking in the country.”]

“Well, Lillie dear, I am sorry; but we don’t live in New York, and are
not likely to,” said John.

“Why can’t we? Mrs. Follingsbee said that a man in your profession,
and with your talents, could command a fortune in New York.”

“If it would give me the mines of Golconda, I would not go there,” said
John.

“How stupid of you! You know you would, though.”

“No, Lillie; I would not leave Springdale for any money.”

“That is because you think of nobody but yourself,” said Lillie. “Men
are always selfish.”

“On the contrary, it is because I have so many here depending on me, of
whom I am bound to think more than myself,” said John.

“That dreadful mission-work of yours, I suppose,” said Lillie; “that
always stands in the way of having a good time.”

“Lillie,” said John, shutting his book, and looking at her, “what is
your ideal of a good time?”

“Why, having something amusing going on all the time,—something bright
and lively, to keep one in good spirits,” said Lillie.

“I thought that you would have enough of that with your party and all,”
said John.

“Well, now it’s all over, and duller than ever,” said Lillie. “I think
a little spirit of gayety makes it seem duller by contrast.”

“Yet, Lillie,” said John, “you see there are women, who live right here
in Springdale, who are all the time busy, interested, and happy, with
only such sources of enjoyment as are to be found here. Their time does
not hang heavy on their hands; in fact, it is too short for all they
wish to do.”

“They are different from me,” said Lillie.

“Then, since you must live here,” said John, “could you not learn to be
like them? Could you not acquire some of these tastes that make simple
country life agreeable?”

“No, I can’t; I never could,” said Lillie, pettishly.

“Then,” said John, “I don’t see that anybody can help your being
unhappy.” And, opening his book, he sat down, and began to read.

Lillie pouted awhile, and then drew from under the sofa-pillow a copy
of “Indiana;” and, establishing her feet on the fender, she began to
read.

Lillie had acquired at school the doubtful talent of reading French
with facility, and was soon deep in the fascinating pages, whose theme
is the usual one of French novels,—a young wife, tired of domestic
monotony, with an unappreciative husband, solacing herself with the
devotion of a lover. Lillie felt a sort of pique with her husband. He
was evidently unappreciative: he was thinking of all sorts of things
more than of her, and growing stupid, as husbands in French romances
generally do. She thought of her handsome Cousin Harry, the only man
that she ever came anywhere near being in love with; and the image of
his dark, handsome eyes and glossy curls gave a sort of piquancy to the
story.

John got deeply interested in his book; and, looking up from time to
time, was relieved to find that Lillie had something to employ her.

“I may as well make a beginning,” he said to himself. “I must have my
time for reading; and she must learn to amuse herself.”

After a while, however, he peeped over her shoulder.

“Why, darling!” he said, “where did you get that?”

“It is Mrs. Follingsbee’s,” said Lillie.

“Dear, it is a bad book,” said John. “Don’t read it.”

“It amuses me, and helps pass away time,” said Lillie; “and I don’t
think it is bad: it is beautiful. Besides, you read what amuses you;
and it is a pity if I can’t read what amuses me.”

“I am glad to see you like to read French,” continued John; “and I can
get you some delightful French stories, which are not only pretty and
witty, but have nothing in them that tend to pull down one’s moral
principles. Edmond About’s ‘Mariages de Paris’ and ‘Tolla’ are charming
French things; and, as he says, they might be read aloud by a man
between his mother and his sister, without a shade of offence.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Mrs. Lillie. “You had better go to Rose
Ferguson, and get her to give you a list of the kinds of books she
prefers.”

“Lillie!” said John, severely, “your remarks about Rose are in bad
taste. I must beg you to discontinue them. There are subjects that
never ought to be jested about.”

“Thank you, sir, for your moral lessons,” said Lillie, turning her back
on him defiantly, putting her feet on the fender, and going on with her
reading.

John seated himself, and went on with his book in silence.

Now, this mode of passing a domestic evening is certainly not agreeable
to either party; but we sustain the thesis that in this sort of
interior warfare the woman has generally the best of it. When it comes
to the science of annoyance, commend us to the lovely sex! Their
methods have a _finesse_, a suppleness, a universal adaptability, that
does them infinite credit; and man, with all his strength, and all his
majesty, and his commanding talent, is about as well off as a buffalo
or a bison against a tiny, rainbow-winged gnat or mosquito, who bites,
sings, and stings everywhere at once, with an infinite grace and
facility.

A woman without magnanimity, without generosity, who has no love, and
whom a man loves, is a terrible antagonist. To give up or to fight
often seems equally impossible.

How is a man going to make a woman have a good time, who is determined
not to have it? Lillie had sense enough to see, that, if she settled
down into enjoyment of the little agreeablenesses and domesticities
of the winter society in Springdale, she should lose her battle, and
John would keep her there for life. The only way was to keep him as
uncomfortable as possible without really breaking her power over him.

In the long-run, in these encounters of will, the woman has every
advantage. The constant dropping that wears away the stone has passed
into a proverb.

Lillie meant to go to New York, and have a long campaign at the
Follingsbees. The thing had been all promised and arranged between
them; and it was necessary that she should appear sufficiently
miserable, and that John should be made sufficiently uncomfortable, to
consent with effusion, at last, when her intentions were announced.

These purposes were not distinctly stated to herself; for, as we have
before intimated, uncultivated natures, who have never thought for
a serious moment on self-education, or the way their character is
forming, act purely from a sort of instinct, and do not even in their
own minds fairly and squarely face their own motives and purposes; if
they only did, their good angel would wear a less dejected look than he
generally must.

Lillie had power enough, in that small circle, to stop and interrupt
almost all its comfortable literary culture. The reading of Froude was
given up. John could not go to the study club; and, after an evening
or two of trying to read up at home, he used to stay an hour later at
his office. Lillie would go with him on Tuesday evening, after the
readings were over; and then it was understood that all parties were
to devote themselves to making the evening pass agreeable to her. She
was to be put forward, kept in the foreground, and every thing arranged
to make her appear the queen of the _fête_. They had tableaux, where
Rose made Lillie into marvellous pictures, which all admired and
praised. They had little dances, which Lillie thought rather stupid
and humdrum, because they were not _en grande toilette_; yet Lillie
always made a great merit of putting up with her life at Springdale. A
pleasant English writer has a lively paper on the advantages of being
a “cantankerous fool,” in which he goes to show that men or women of
inferior moral parts, little self-control, and great selfishness, often
acquire an absolute dominion over the circle in which they move, merely
by the exercise of these traits. Every one being anxious to please
and pacify them, and keep the peace with them, there is a constant
succession of anxious compliances and compromises going on around them;
by all of which they are benefited in getting their own will and way.

The one person who will not give up, and cannot be expected to be
considerate or accommodating, comes at last to rule the whole circle.
He is counted on like the fixed facts of nature; everybody else must
turn out for him. So Lillie reigned in Springdale. In every little
social gathering where she appeared, the one uneasy question was,
would she have a good time, and anxious provision made to that end.
Lillie had declared that reading aloud was a bore, which was definitive
against reading-parties. She liked to play and sing; so that was always
a part of the programme. Lillie sang well, but needed a great deal of
urging. Her throat was apt to be sore; and she took pains to say that
the harsh winter weather in Springdale was ruining her voice. A good
part of an evening was often spent in supplications before she could be
induced to make the endeavor.

Lillie had taken up the whim of being jealous of Rose. Jealousy is said
to be a sign of love. We hold another theory, and consider it more
properly a sign of selfishness. Look at noble-hearted, unselfish women,
and ask if they are easily made jealous. Look, again, at a woman who
in her whole life shows no disposition to deny herself for her husband,
or to enter into his tastes and views and feelings: are not such as she
the most frequently jealous?

Her husband, in her view, is a piece of her property; every look, word,
and thought which he gives to any body or thing else is a part of her
private possessions, unjustly withheld from her.

Independently of that, Lillie felt the instinctive jealousy which a
_passée_ queen of beauty sometimes has for a young rival.

She had eyes to see that Rose was daily growing more and more
beautiful; and not all that young girl’s considerateness, her
self-forgetfulness, her persistent endeavors to put Lillie forward, and
make her the queen of the hour, could disguise this fact. Lillie was
a keen-sighted little body, and saw, at a glance, that, once launched
into society together, Rose would carry the day; all the more that no
thought of any day to be carried was in her head.

Rose Ferguson had one source of attraction which is as great a natural
gift as beauty, and which, when it is found with beauty, makes it
perfectly irresistible; to wit, perfect unconsciousness of self. This
is a wholly different trait from unselfishness: it is not a moral
virtue, attained by voluntary effort, but a constitutional gift, and
a very great one. Fénelon praises it as a Christian grace, under the
name of simplicity; but we incline to consider it only as an advantage
of natural organization. There are many excellent Christians who are
haunted by themselves, and in some form or other are always busy with
themselves; either conscientiously pondering the right and wrong of
their actions, or approbatively sensitive to the opinions of others, or
æsthetically comparing their appearance and manners with an interior
standard; while there are others who have received the gift, beyond
the artist’s eye or the musician’s ear, of perfect self-forgetfulness.
Their religion lacks the element of conflict, and comes to them by
simple impulse.

    “Glad souls, without reproach or blot,
     Who do His will, and know it not.”

Rose had a frank, open joyousness of nature, that shed around her a
healthy charm, like fine, breezy weather, or a bright morning; making
every one feel as if to be good were the most natural thing in the
world. She seemed to be thinking always and directly of matters in
hand, of things to be done, and subjects under discussion, as much as
if she were an impersonal being.

She had been educated with every solid advantage which old Boston can
give to her nicest girls; and that is saying a good deal. Returning
to a country home at an early age, she had been made the companion
of her father; entering into all his literary tastes, and receiving
constantly, from association with him, that manly influence which
a woman’s mind needs to develop its completeness. Living the whole
year in the country, the Fergusons developed within themselves a
multiplicity of resources. They read and studied, and discussed
subjects with their father; for, as we all know, the discussion of
moral and social questions has been from the first, and always will be,
a prime source of amusement in New-England families; and many of them
keep up, with great spirit, a family debating society, in which whoever
hath a psalm, a doctrine, or an interpretation, has free course.

Rose had never been into fashionable life, technically so called. She
had not been brought out: there never had been a mile-stone set up
to mark the place where “her education was finished;” and so she had
gone on unconsciously,—studying, reading, drawing, and cultivating
herself from year to year, with her head and hands always so full of
pleasurable schemes and plans, that there really seemed to be no room
for any thing else. We have seen with what interest she co-operated
with Grace in the various good works of the factory village in which
her father held shares, where her activity found abundant scope, and
her beauty and grace of manner made her a sort of idol.

Rose had once or twice in her life been awakened to self-consciousness,
by applicants rapping at the front door of her heart; but she answered
with such a kind, frank, earnest, “No, I thank you, sir,” as made
friends of her lovers; and she entered at once into pleasant relations
with them. Her nature was so healthy, and free from all morbid
suggestion; her yes and no so perfectly frank and positive, that there
seemed no possibility of any tragedy caused by her.

Why did not John fall in love with Rose? Why did not he, O most sapient
senate of womanhood? Why did not your brother fall in love with that
nice girl you know of, who grew up with you all at his very elbow, and
was, as everybody else could see, just the proper person for him?

Well, why didn’t he? There is the doctrine of election. “The election
hath obtained it; and the rest were blinded.” John was some six years
older than Rose. He had romped with her as a little girl, drawn her on
his sled, picked up her hair-pins, and worn her tippet, when they had
skated together as girl and boy. They had made each other Christmas and
New Year’s presents all their lives; and, to say the truth, loved each
other honestly and truly: nevertheless, John fell in love with Lillie,
and married her. Did you ever know a case like it?



CHAPTER XVIII.

_A BRICK TURNS UP._


THE snow had been all night falling silently over the long elm avenues
of Springdale.

It was one of those soft, moist, dreamy snow-falls, which come down
in great loose feathers, resting in magical frost-work on every tree,
shrub, and plant, and seeming to bring down with it the purity and
peace of upper worlds.

Grace’s little cottage on Elm Street was imbosomed, as New-England
cottages are apt to be, in a tangle of shrubbery, evergreens, syringas,
and lilacs; which, on such occasions, become bowers of enchantment when
the morning sun looks through them.

Grace came into her parlor, which was cheery with the dazzling
sunshine, and, running to the window, began to examine anxiously the
state of her various greeneries, pausing from time to time to look out
admiringly at the wonderful snow-landscape, with its many tremulous
tints of rose, lilac, and amethyst.

The only thing wanting was some one to speak to about it; and, with a
half sigh, she thought of the good old times when John would come to
her chamber-door in the morning, to get her out to look on scenes like
this.

“Positively,” she said to herself, “I must invite some one to visit
me. One wants a friend to help one enjoy solitude.” The stock of
social life in Springdale, in fact, was running low. The Lennoxes and
the Wilcoxes had gone to their Boston homes, and Rose Ferguson was
visiting in New York, and Letitia found so much to do to supply her
place to her father and mother, that she had less time than usual
to share with Grace. Then, again, the Elm-street cottage was a walk
of some considerable distance; whereas, when Grace lived at the old
homestead, the Fergusons were so near as to seem only one family, and
were dropping in at all hours of the day and evening.

“Whom can I send for?” thought Grace to herself; and she ran over
mentally, in a moment, the list of available friends and acquaintances.
Reader, perhaps you have never really estimated your friends, till you
have tried them by the question, which of them you could ask to come
and spend a week or fortnight with you, alone in a country-house, in
the depth of winter. Such an invitation supposes great faith in your
friend, in yourself, or in human nature.

Grace, at the moment, was unable to think of anybody whom she could
call from the approaching festivities of holiday life in the cities to
share her snow Patmos with her; so she opened a book for company, and
turned to where her dainty breakfast-table, with its hot coffee and
crisp rolls, stood invitingly waiting for her before the cheerful open
fire.

At this moment, she saw, what she had not noticed before, a letter
lying on her breakfast plate. Grace took it up with an exclamation of
surprise; which, however, was heard only by her canary birds and her
plants.

Years before, when Grace was in the first summer of her womanhood, she
had been very intimate with Walter Sydenham, and thoroughly esteemed
and liked him; but, as many another good girl has done, about those
days she had conceived it her duty not to think of marriage, but to
devote herself to making a home for her widowed father and her brother.
There was a certain romance of self-abnegation in this disposition
of herself which was rather pleasant to Grace, and in which both the
gentlemen concerned found great advantage. As long as her father lived,
and John was unmarried and devoted to her, she had never regretted it.

Sydenham had gone to seek his fortune in California. He had begged
to keep up intercourse by correspondence; but Grace was not one of
those women who are willing to drain the heart of the man they refuse
to marry, by keeping up with him just that degree of intimacy which
prevents his seeking another. Grace had meant her refusal to be final,
and had sincerely hoped that he would find happiness with some other
woman; and to that intent had rigorously denied herself and him a
correspondence: yet, from time to time, she had heard of him through an
occasional letter to John, or by a chance Californian newspaper. Since
John’s marriage had so altered her course of life, Grace had thought of
him more frequently, and with some questionings as to the wisdom of her
course.

This letter was from him; and we shall give our readers the benefit of
it:—

    “DEAR GRACE,—You must pardon me this beginning,—in the old
    style of other days; for though many years have passed, in
    which I have been trying to walk in your ways, and keep
    all your commandments, I have never yet been able to do
    as you directed, and forget you: and here I am, beginning
    ‘Dear Grace,’—just where I left off on a certain evening
    long, long ago. I wonder if you remember it as plainly as
    I do. I am just the same fellow that I was then and there.
    If you remember, you admitted that, were it not for other
    duties, you might have considered my humble supplication. I
    gathered that it would not have been impossible _per se_,
    as metaphysicians say, to look with favor on your humble
    servant.

    “Gracie, I have been living, I trust, not unworthily of you.
    Your photograph has been with me round the world,—in the
    miner’s tent, on shipboard, among scenes where barbarous men
    do congregate; and everywhere it has been a presence, ‘to
    warn, to comfort, to command;’ and if I have come out of
    many trials firmer, better, more established in right than
    before; if I am more believing in religion, and in every way
    grounded and settled in the way you would have me,—it has
    been your spiritual presence and your power over me that has
    done it. Besides that, I may as well tell you, I have never
    given up the hope that by and by you would see all this, and
    in some hour give me a different answer.

    “When, therefore, I learned of your father’s death, and
    afterwards of John’s marriage, I thought it was time for me
    to return again. I have come to New York, and, if you do not
    forbid, shall come to Springdale.

    “Will you be a little glad to see me, Gracie? Why not? We
    are both alone now. Let us take hands, and walk the same
    path together. Shall we?

                       “Yours till death, and after,
                                           ”WALTER SYDENHAM.“

Would she? To say the truth, the question as asked now had a very
different air from the question as asked years before, when, full
of life and hope and enthusiasm, she had devoted herself to making
an ideal home for her father and brother. What other sympathy or
communion, she had asked herself then, should she ever need than these
friends, so very dear: and, if she needed more, there, in the future,
was John’s ideal wife, who, somehow, always came before her in the
likeness of Rose Ferguson, and John’s ideal children, whom she was sure
she should love and pet as if they were her own.

And now here she was, in a house all by herself, coming down to her
meals, one after another, without the excitement of a cheerful face
opposite to her, and with all possibility of confidential intercourse
with her brother entirely cut off. Lillie, in this matter, acted,
with much grace and spirit, the part of the dog in the manger; and,
while she resolutely refused to enter into any of John’s literary or
intellectual tastes, seemed to consider her wifely rights infringed
upon by any other woman who would. She would absolutely refuse to go
up with her husband and spend an evening with Grace, alleging it was
“pokey and stupid,” and that they always got talking about things
that she didn’t care any thing about. If, then, John went without
her to spend the evening, he was sure to be received, on his return,
with a dead and gloomy silence, more fearful, sometimes, than the
most violent of objurgations. That look of patient, heart-broken woe,
those long-drawn sighs, were a reception that he dreaded, to say the
truth, a great deal more than a direct attack, or any fault-finding
to which he could have replied; and so, on the whole, John made up
his mind that the best thing he could do was to stay at home and rock
the cradle of this fretful baby, whose wisdom-teeth were so hard to
cut, and so long in coming. It was a pretty baby; and when made the
sole and undivided object of attention, when every thing possible was
done for it by everybody in the house, condescended often to be very
graceful and winning and playful, and had numberless charming little
ways and tricks. The difference between Lillie in good humor and Lillie
in bad humor was a thing which John soon learned to appreciate as one
of the most powerful forces in his life. If you knew, my dear reader,
that by pursuing a certain course you could bring upon yourself a
drizzling, dreary, north-east rain-storm, and by taking heed to your
ways you could secure sunshine, flowers, and bird-singing, you would be
very careful, after a while, to keep about you the right atmospheric
temperature; and, if going to see the very best friend you had on earth
was sure to bring on a fit of rheumatism or tooth-ache, you would
soon learn to be very sparing of your visits. For this reason it was
that Grace saw very little of John; that she never now had a sisterly
conversation with him; that she preferred arranging all those little
business matters, in which it would be convenient to have a masculine
appeal, solely and singly by herself. The thing was never referred to
in any conversation between them. It was perfectly understood without
words. There are friends between whom and us has shut the coffin-lid;
and there are others between whom and us stand sacred duties,
considerations never to be enough reverenced, which forbid us to seek
their society, or to ask to lean on them either in joy or sorrow: the
whole thing as regards them must be postponed until the future life.
Such had been Grace’s conclusion with regard to her brother. She well
knew that any attempt to restore their former intimacy would only
diminish and destroy what little chance of happiness yet remained to
him; and it may therefore be imagined with what changed eyes she read
Walter Sydenham’s letter from those of years ago.

There was a sound of stamping feet at the front door; and John came
in, all ruddy and snow-powdered, but looking, on the whole, uncommonly
cheerful.

“Well, Gracie,” he said, “the fact is, I shall have to let Lillie go
to New York for a week or two, to see those Follingsbees. Hang them!
But what’s the matter, Gracie? Have you been crying, or sitting up all
night reading, or what?”

The fact was, that Gracie had for once been indulging in a good cry,
rather pitying herself for her loneliness, now that the offer of relief
had come. She laughed, though; and, handing John her letter, said,—

“Look here, John! here’s a letter I have just had from Walter Sydenham.”

John broke out into a loud, hilarious laugh.

“The blessed old brick!” said he. “Has he turned up again?”

“Read the letter, John,” said Grace. “I don’t know exactly how to
answer it.”

John read the letter, and seemed to grow more and more quiet as he read
it. Then he came and stood by Grace, and stroked her hair gently.

“I wish, Gracie dear,” he said, “you had asked my advice about this
matter years ago. You loved Walter,—I can see you did; and you sent him
off on my account. It is just too bad! Of all the men I ever knew, he
was the one I should have been best pleased to have you marry!”

“It was not wholly on your account, John. You know there was our
father,” said Grace.

“Yes, yes, Gracie; but he would have preferred to see you well
married. He would not have been so selfish, nor I either. It is your
self-abnegation, you dear over-good women, that makes us men seem
selfish. We should be as good as you are, if you would give us the
chance. I think, Gracie, though you’re not aware of it, there is a
spice of Pharisaism in the way in which you good girls allow us men
to swallow you up without ever telling us what you are doing. I often
wondered about your intimacy with Sydenham, and why it never came to
any thing; and I can but half forgive you. How selfish I must have
seemed!”

“Oh, no, John! indeed not.”

“Come, you needn’t put on these meek airs. I insist upon it, you have
been feeling self-righteous and abused,” said John, laughing; “but
‘all’s well that ends well.’ Sit down, now, and write him a real
sensible letter, like a nice honest woman as you are.”

“And say, ‘Yes, sir, and thank you too’?” said Grace, laughing.

“Well, something in that way,” said John. “You can fence it in with as
many make-believes as is proper. And now, Gracie, this is deuced lucky!
You see Sydenham will be down here at once; and it wouldn’t be exactly
the thing for you to receive him at this house, and our only hotel is
perfectly impracticable in winter; and that brings me to what I am here
about. Lillie is going to New York to spend the holidays; and I wanted
you to shut up, and come up and keep house for us. You see you have
only one servant, and we have four to be looked after. You can bring
your maid along, and then I will invite Walter to our house, where he
will have a clear field; and you can settle all your matters between
you.”

“So Lillie is going to the Follingsbees’?” said Grace.

“Yes: she had a long, desperately sentimental letter from Mrs.
Follingsbee, urging, imploring, and entreating, and setting forth all
the splendors and glories of New York. Between you and me, it strikes
me that that Mrs. Follingsbee is an affected goose; but I couldn’t
say so to Lillie, ‘by no manner of means.’ She professes an untold
amount of admiration and friendship for Lillie, and sets such brilliant
prospects before her, that I should be the most hard-hearted old Turk
in existence if I were to raise any objections; and, in fact, Lillie is
quite brilliant in anticipation, and makes herself so delightful that I
am almost sorry that I agreed to let her go.”

“When shall you want me, John?”

“Well, this evening, say; and, by the way, couldn’t you come up and see
Lillie a little while this morning? She sent her love to you, and said
she was so hurried with packing, and all that, that she wanted you to
excuse her not calling.”

“Oh, yes! I’ll come,” said Grace, good-naturedly, “as soon as I have
had time to put things in a little order.”

“And write your letter,” said John, gayly, as he went out. “Don’t
forget that.”

Grace did not forget the letter; but we shall not indulge our readers
with any peep over her shoulder, only saying that, though written with
an abundance of precaution, it was one with which Walter Sydenham was
well satisfied.

Then she made her few arrangements in the housekeeping line, called in
her grand vizier and prime minister from the kitchen, and held with
her a counsel of ways and means; put on her india-rubbers and Polish
boots, and walked up through the deep snow-drifts to the Springdale
post-office, where she dropped the fateful letter with a good heart on
the whole; and then she went on to John’s, the old home, to offer any
parting services to Lillie that might be wanted.

It is rather amusing, in any family circle, to see how some one member,
by dint of persistent exactions, comes to receive always, in all the
exigencies of life, an amount of attention and devotion which is never
rendered back. Lillie never thought of such a thing as offering any
services of any sort to Grace. Grace might have packed her trunks to go
to the moon, or the Pacific Ocean, quite alone for matter of any help
Lillie would ever have thought of. If Grace had headache or toothache
or a bad cold, Lillie was always “so sorry;” but it never occurred to
her to go and sit with her, to read to her, or offer any of a hundred
little sisterly offices. When she was in similar case, John always
summoned Grace to sit with Lillie during the hours that his business
necessarily took him from her. It really seemed to be John’s impression
that a toothache or headache of Lillie’s was something entirely
different from the same thing with Grace, or any other person in the
world; and Lillie fully shared the impression.

Grace found the little empress quite bewildered in her multiplicity of
preparations, and neglected details, all of which had been deferred to
the last day; and Rosa and Anna and Bridget, in fact the whole staff,
were all busy in getting her off.

“So good of you to come, Gracie!” and, “If you would do this;” and,
“Won’t you see to that?” and, “If you could just do the other!” and
Grace both could and would, and did what no other pair of hands could
in the same time. John apologized for the lack of any dinner. “The fact
is, Gracie, Bridget had to be getting up a lot of her things that were
forgotten till the last moment; and I told her not to mind, we could do
on a cold lunch.” Bridget herself had become so wholly accustomed to
the ways of her little mistress, that it now seemed the most natural
thing in the world that the whole house should be upset for her.

But, at last, every thing was ready and packed; the trunks and boxes
shut and locked, and the keys sorted; and John and Lillie were on their
way to the station.

“I shall find out Walter in New York, and bring him back with me,” said
John, cheerily, as he parted from Grace in the hall. “I leave you to
get things all to rights for us.”

It would not have been a very agreeable or cheerful piece of work to
tidy the disordered house and take command of the domestic forces
under any other circumstances; but now Grace found it a very nice
diversion to prevent her thoughts from running too curiously on this
future meeting. “After all,” she thought to herself, “he is just the
same venturesome, imprudent creature that he always was, jumping to
conclusions, and insisting on seeing every thing in his own way. How
could he dare write me such a letter without seeing me? Ten years make
great changes. How could he be sure he would like me?” And she examined
herself somewhat critically in the looking-glass.

“Well,” she said, “he may thank me for it that we are not engaged, and
that he comes only as an old friend, and perfectly free, for all he has
said, to be nothing more, unless on seeing each other we are so agreed.
I am so sorry the old place is all demolished and be-Frenchified. It
won’t look natural to him; and I am not the kind of person to harmonize
with these cold, polished, glistening, slippery surroundings, that have
no home life or association in them.”

But Grace had to wake from these reflections to culinary counsels with
Bridget, and to arrangements of apartments with Rosa. Her own exacting
carefulness followed the careless footsteps of the untrained handmaids,
and rearranged every plait and fold; so that by nightfall the next day
she was thoroughly tired.

She beguiled the last moments, while waiting for the coming of the
cars, in arranging her hair, and putting on one of those wonderful
Parisian dresses, which adapt themselves so precisely to the air of the
wearer that they seem to be in themselves works of art. Then she stood
with a fluttering color to see the carriage drive up to the door, and
the two get out of it.

It is almost too bad to spy out such meetings, and certainly one has
no business to describe them; but Walter Sydenham carried all before
him, by an old habit which he had of taking all and every thing for
granted, as, from the first moment, he did with Grace. He had no idea
of hesitations or holdings off, and would have none; and met Gracie as
if they had parted only yesterday, and as if her word to him always had
been yes, instead of no.

In fact, they had not been together five minutes before the whole life
of youth returned to them both,—that indestructible youth which belongs
to warm hearts and buoyant spirits.

Such a merry evening as they had of it! When John, as the wood fire
burned low on the hearth, with some excuse of letters to write in his
library, left them alone together, Walter put on her finger a diamond
ring, saying,—

“There, Gracie! now, when shall it be? You see you’ve kept me waiting
so long that I can’t spare you much time. I have an engagement to be in
Montreal the first of February, and I couldn’t think of going alone.
They have merry times there in mid-winter; and I’m sure it will be ever
so much nicer for you than keeping house alone here.”

Grace said, of course, that it was impossible; but Walter declared
that doing the impossible was precisely in his line, and pushed on his
various advantages with such spirit and energy that, when they parted
for the night, Grace said she would think of it: which promise, at the
breakfast-table next morning, was interpreted by the unblushing Walter,
and reported to John, as a full consent. Before noon that day, Walter
had walked up with John and Grace to take a survey of the cottage,
and had given John indefinite power to engage workmen and artificers
to rearrange and enlarge and beautify it for their return after the
wedding journey. For the rest of the visit, all the three were busy
with pencil and paper, projecting balconies, bow-windows, pantries,
library, and dining-room, till the old cottage so blossomed out in
imagination as to leave only a germ of its former self.

Walter’s visit brought back to John a deal of the warmth and freedom
which he had not known since he married. We often live under an
insensible pressure of which we are made aware only by its removal.
John had been so much in the habit lately of watching to please Lillie,
of measuring and checking his words or actions, that he now bubbled
over with a wild, free delight in finding himself alone with Grace and
Walter. He laughed, sang, whistled, skipped upstairs two at a time, and
scarcely dared to say even to himself why he was so happy. He did not
face himself with that question, and went dutifully to the library at
stated times to write to Lillie, and made much of her little letters.



CHAPTER XIX.

_THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE._


IF John managed to be happy without Lillie in Springdale, Lillie
managed to be blissful without him in New York.

“The bird let loose in Eastern skies” never hastened more fondly home
than she to its glitter and gayety, its life and motion, dash and
sensation. She rustled in all her bravery of curls and frills, pinkings
and quillings,—a marvellous specimen of Parisian frostwork, without one
breath of reason or philosophy or conscience to melt it.

The Follingsbees’ house might stand for the original of the Castle of
Indolence.

              “Halls where who can tell
    What elegance and grandeur wide expand,—
    The pride of Turkey and of Persia’s land?
    Soft quilts on quilts; on carpets, carpets spread;
    And couches stretched around in seemly band;
    And endless pillows rise to prop the head:
    So that each spacious room was one full swelling bed.”

It was not without some considerable profit that Mrs. Follingsbee had
read Balzac and Dumas, and had Charlie Ferrola for master of arts in
her establishment. The effect of the whole was perfect; it transported
one, bodily, back to the times of Montespan and Pompadour, when life
was all one glittering upper-crust, and pretty women were never
troubled with even the shadow of a duty.

It was with a rebound of joyousness that Lillie found herself once
more with a crowded list of invitations, calls, operas, dancing, and
shopping, that kept her pretty little head in a perfect whirl of
excitement, and gave her not one moment for thought.

Mrs. Follingsbee, to say the truth, would have been a little careful
about inviting a rival queen of beauty into the circle, were it not
that Charlie Ferrola, after an attentive consideration of the subject,
had assured her that a golden-haired blonde would form a most complete
and effective tableau, in contrast with her own dark rich style of
beauty. Neither would lose by it, so he said; and the impression, as
they rode together in an elegant open barouche, with ermine carriage
robes, would be “stunning.” So they called each other _ma sœur_, and
drove out in the park in a ravishing little pony-phaeton all foamed
over with ermine, drawn by a lovely pair of cream-colored horses, whose
harness glittered with gold and silver, after the fashion of the Count
of Monte Cristo. In truth, if Dick Follingsbee did not remind one of
Solomon in all particulars, he was like him in one, that he “made
silver and gold as the stones of the street” in New York.

Lillie’s presence, however, was all desirable; because it would draw
the calls of two or three old New York families who had hitherto stood
upon their dignity, and refused to acknowledge the shoddy aristocracy.
The beautiful Mrs. John Seymour, therefore, was no less useful than
ornamental, and advanced Mrs. Follingsbee’s purposes in her “Excelsior”
movements.

“Now, I suppose,” said Mrs. Follingsbee to Lillie one day, when they
had been out making fashionable calls together, “we really must call on
Charlie’s wife, just to keep her quiet.”

“I thought you didn’t like her,” said Lillie.

“I don’t; I think she is dreadfully common,” said Mrs. Follingsbee:
“she is one of those women who can’t talk any thing but baby, and bores
Charlie half to death. But then, you know, when there is a _liaison_
like mine with Charlie, one can’t be too careful to cultivate the
wives. _Les convenances_, you know, are the all-important things. I
send her presents constantly, and send my carriage around to take
her to church or opera, or any thing that is going on, and have her
children at my fancy parties: yet, for all that, the creature has not a
particle of gratitude; those narrow-minded women never have. You know
I am very susceptible to people’s atmospheres; and I always feel that
that creature is just as full of spite and jealousy as she can stick in
her skin.”

It will be remarked that this was one of those idiomatic phrases which
got lodged in Mrs. Follingsbee’s head in a less cultivated period of
her life, as a rusty needle sometimes hides in a cushion, coming out
unexpectedly, when excitement gives it an honest squeeze.

“Now, I should think,” pursued Mrs. Follingsbee, “that a woman who
really loved her husband would be thankful to have him have such a
rest from the disturbing family cares which smother a man’s genius,
as a house like ours offers him. How can the artistic nature exercise
itself in the very grind of the thing, when this child has a cold, and
the other the croup; and there is fussing with mustard-paste and ipecac
and paregoric,—all those realities, you know? Why, Charlie tells me he
feels a great deal more affection for his children when he is all calm
and tranquil in the little boudoir at our house; and he writes such
lovely little poems about them, I must show you some of them. But this
creature doesn’t appreciate them a bit: she has no poetry in her.”

“Well, I must say, I don’t think I should have,” said Lillie, honestly.
“I should be just as mad as I could be, if John acted so.”

“Oh, my dear! the cases are different: Charlie has such peculiarities
of genius. The artistic nature, you know, requires soothing.” Here they
stopped, and rang at the door of a neat little house, and were ushered
into a pair of those characteristic parlors which show that they have
been arranged by a home-worshipper, and a mother. There were plants and
birds and flowers, and little _genre_ pictures of children, animals,
and household interiors, arranged with a loving eye and hand.

“Did you ever see any thing so perfectly characteristic?” said Mrs.
Follingsbee, looking around her as if she were going to faint.

“This woman drives Charlie perfectly wild, because she has no
appreciation of high art. Now, I sent her photographs of Michel
Angelo’s ‘Moses,’ and ‘Night and Morning;’ and I really wish you would
see where she hung them,—away in yonder dark corner!”

“I think myself they are enough to scare the owls,” said Lillie, after
a moment’s contemplation.

“But, my dear, you know they are the thing,” said Mrs. Follingsbee:
“people never like such things at first, and one must get used to high
art before one forms a taste for it. The thing with her is, she has no
docility. She does not try to enter into Charlie’s tastes.”

The woman with “no docility” entered at this moment,—a little snow-drop
of a creature, with a pale, pure, Madonna face, and that sad air of
hopeless firmness which is seen unhappily in the faces of so many women.

“I had to bring baby down,” she said. “I have no nurse to-day, and he
has been threatened with croup.”

“The dear little fellow!” said Mrs. Follingsbee, with officious
graciousness. “So glad you brought him down; come to his aunty?” she
inquired lovingly, as the little fellow shrank away, and regarded
her with round, astonished eyes. “Why will you not come to my next
reception, Mrs. Ferrola?” she added. “You make yourself quite a
stranger to us. You ought to give yourself some variety.”

“The fact is, Mrs. Follingsbee,” said Mrs. Ferrola, “receptions in New
York generally begin about my bed-time; and, if I should spend the
night out, I should have no strength to give to my children the next
day.”

[Illustration: “I had to bring baby down.”]

“But, my dear, you ought to have some amusement.”

“My children amuse me, if you will believe it,” said Mrs. Ferrola, with
a remarkably quiet smile.

Mrs. Follingsbee was not quite sure whether this was meant to be
sarcastic or not. She answered, however, “Well! your husband will
come, at all events.”

“You may be quite sure of that,” said Mrs. Ferrola, with the same
quietness.

“Well!” said Mrs. Follingsbee, rising, with patronizing cheerfulness,
“delighted to see you doing so well; and, if it is pleasant, I will
send the carriage round to take you a drive in the park this afternoon.
Good-morning.”

And, like a rustling cloud of silks and satins and perfumes, she bent
down and kissed the baby, and swept from the apartment.

Mrs. Ferrola, with a movement that seemed involuntary, wiped the baby’s
cheek with her handkerchief, and, folding it closer to her bosom,
looked up as if asking patience where patience is to be found for the
asking.

“There! didn’t I tell you?” said Mrs. Follingsbee when she came out;
“just one of those provoking, meek, obstinate, impracticable creatures,
with no adaptation in her.”

“Oh, gracious me!” said Lillie: “I can’t imagine more dire despair than
to sit all day tending baby.”

“Well, so you would think; and Charlie has offered to hire competent
nurses, and wants her to dress herself up and go into society; and she
just won’t do it, and sticks right down by the cradle there, with her
children running over her like so many squirrels.”

“Oh! I hope and trust I never shall have children,” said Lillie,
fervently, “because, you see, there’s an end of every thing. No more
fun, no more frolics, no more admiration or good times; nothing but
this frightful baby, that you can’t get rid of.”

Yet, as Lillie spoke, she knew, in her own slippery little heart, that
the shadow of this awful cloud of maternity was resting over her;
though she laced and danced, and bid defiance to every law of nature,
with a blind and ignorant wilfulness, not caring what consequences she
might draw down on herself, if only she might escape this.

And was there, then, no soft spot in this woman’s heart anywhere?
Generally it is thought that the throb of the child’s heart awakens
a heart in the mother, and that the mother is born again with her
child. It is so with unperverted nature, as God meant it to be; and
you shall hear from the lips of an Irish washer-woman a genuine poetry
of maternal feeling, for the little one who comes to make her toil
more toilsome, that is wholly withered away out of luxurious circles,
where there is every thing to make life easy. Just as the Chinese have
contrived fashionable monsters, where human beings are constrained to
grow in the shape of flower-pots, so fashionable life contrives at last
to grow a woman who hates babies, and will risk her life to be rid of
the crowning glory of womanhood.

There was a time in Lillie’s life, when she was sixteen years of age,
which was a turning-point with her, and decided that she should be
the heartless woman she was. If at that age, and at that time, she
had decided to marry the man she really loved, marriage might indeed
have proved to her a sacrament. It might have opened to her a door
through which she could have passed out from a career of selfish
worldliness into that gradual discipline of unselfishness which a true
love-marriage brings.

But she did not. The man was poor, and she was beautiful; her beauty
would buy wealth and worldly position, and so she cast him off. Yet
partly to gratify her own lingering feeling, and partly because she
could not wholly renounce what had once been hers, she kept up for
years with him just that illusive simulacrum which such women call
friendship; which, while constantly denying, constantly takes pains to
attract, and drains the heart of all possibility of loving another.

Harry Endicott was a young man of fine capabilities, sensitive,
interesting, handsome, full of generous impulses, whom a good woman
might easily have led to a full completeness. He was not really
Lillie’s cousin, but the cousin of her mother; yet, under the name of
cousin, he had constant access and family intimacy.

This winter Harry Endicott suddenly returned to the fashionable circles
of New York,—returned from a successful career in India, with an ample
fortune. He was handsomer than ever, took stylish bachelor lodgings,
set up a most distracting turnout, and became a sort of Marquis of
Farintosh in fashionable circles. Was ever any thing so lucky, or so
unlucky, for our Lillie?—lucky, if life really does run on the basis of
French novels, and if all that is needed is the sparkle and stimulus of
new emotions; unlucky, nay, even gravely terrible, if life really is
established on a basis of moral responsibility, and dogged by the fatal
necessity that “whatsoever man or woman soweth, that shall he or she
also reap.”

In the most critical hour of her youth, when love was sent to her heart
like an angel, to beguile her from selfishness, and make self-denial
easy, Lillie’s pretty little right hand had sowed to the world and
the flesh; and of that sowing she was now to reap all the disquiets,
the vexations, the tremors, that go to fill the pages of French
novels,—records of women who marry where they cannot love, to serve
the purposes of selfishness and ambition, and then make up for it by
loving where they cannot marry. If all the women in America who have
practised, and are practising, this species of moral agriculture should
stand forth together, it would be seen that it is not for nothing that
France has been called the society educator of the world.

The apartments of the Follingsbee mansion, with their dreamy
voluptuousness, were eminently adapted to be the background and
scenery of a dramatic performance of this kind. There were vistas
of drawing-rooms, with delicious boudoirs, like side chapels in a
temple of Venus, with handsome Charlie Ferrola gliding in and out,
or lecturing dreamily from the corner of some sofa on the last most
important crinkle of the artistic rose-leaf, demonstrating conclusively
that beauty was the only true morality, and that there was no sin but
bad taste; and that nobody knew what good taste was but himself and
his clique. There was the discussion, far from edifying, of modern
improved theories of society, seen from an improved philosophic point
of view; of all the peculiar wants and needs of etherealized beings,
who have been refined and cultivated till it is the most difficult
problem in the world to keep them comfortable, while there still
remains the most imperative necessity that they should be made happy,
though the whole universe were to be torn down and made over to effect
it.

The idea of not being happy, and in all respects as blissful as they
could possibly be made, was one always assumed by the Follingsbee
clique as an injustice to be wrestled with. Anybody that did not
affect them agreeably, that jarred on their nerves, or interrupted
the delicious reveries of existence with the sharp saw-setting of
commonplace realities, in their view ought to be got rid of summarily,
whether that somebody were husband or wife, parent or child.

Natures that affected each other pleasantly were to spring together
like dew-drops, and sail off on rosy clouds with each other to the land
of Do-just-as-you-have-a-mind-to.

The only thing never to be enough regretted, which prevented this
immediate and blissful union of particles, was the impossibility of
living on rosy clouds, and making them the means of conveyance to the
desirable country before mentioned. Many of the fair _illuminatæ_, who
were quite willing to go off with a kindred spirit, were withheld by
the necessities of infinite pairs of French kid gloves, and gallons
of cologne-water, and indispensable clouds of mechlin and point lace,
which were necessary to keep around them the poetry of existence.

Although it was well understood among them that the religion of the
emotions is the only true religion, and that nothing is holy that you
do not feel exactly like doing, and every thing is holy that you do;
still these fair confessors lacked the pluck of primitive Christians,
and could not think of taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods,
even for the sake of a kindred spirit. Hence the necessity of living in
deplored marriage-bonds with husbands who could pay rent and taxes, and
stand responsible for unlimited bills at Stewart’s and Tiffany’s. Hence
the philosophy which allowed the possession of the body to one man, and
of the soul to another, which one may see treated of at large in any
writings of the day.

As yet Lillie had been kept intact from all this sort of thing by the
hard, brilliant enamel of selfishness. That little shrewd, gritty
common sense, which enabled her to see directly through other people’s
illusions, has, if we mistake not, by this time revealed itself to our
readers as an element in her mind: but now there is to come a decided
thrust at the heart of her womanhood; and we shall see whether the
paralysis is complete, or whether the woman is alive.

If Lillie had loved Harry Endicott poor, had loved him so much that
at one time she had seriously balanced the possibility of going to
housekeeping in a little unfashionable house, and having only one girl,
and hand in hand with him walking the paths of economy, self-denial,
and prudence,—the reader will see that Harry Endicott rich, Harry
Endicott enthroned in fashionable success, Harry Endicott plus fast
horses, splendid equipages, a fine city house, and a country house on
the Hudson, was something still more dangerous to her imagination.

But more than this was the stimulus of Harry Endicott out of her power,
and beyond the sphere of her charms. She had a feverish desire to see
him, but he never called. Forthwith she had a confidential conversation
with her bosom friend, who entered into the situation with enthusiasm,
and invited him to her receptions. But he didn’t come.

The fact was, that Harry Endicott hated Lillie now, with that kind of
hatred which is love turned wrong-side out. He hated her for the misery
she had caused him, and was in some danger of feeling it incumbent
on himself to go to the devil in a wholly unnecessary manner on that
account.

He had read the story of Monte Cristo, with its highly wrought plot of
vengeance, and had determined to avenge himself on the woman who had so
tortured him, and to make her feel, if possible, what he had felt.

So, when he had discovered the hours of driving observed by Mrs.
Follingsbee and Lillie in the park, he took pains, from time to time,
to meet them face to face, and to pass Lillie with an unrecognizing
stare. Then he dashed in among Mrs. Follingsbee’s circle, making
himself everywhere talked of, till they were beset on all hands by the
inquiry, “Don’t you know young Endicott? why, I should think you would
want to have him visit here.”

After this had been played far enough, he suddenly showed himself one
evening at Mrs. Follingsbee’s, and apologized in an off-hand manner to
Lillie, when reminded of passing her in the park, that really he wasn’t
thinking of meeting her, and didn’t recognize her, she was so altered;
it had been so many years since they had met, &c. All in a tone of
cool and heartless civility, every word of which was a dagger’s thrust
not only into her vanity, but into the poor little bit of a real heart
which fashionable life had left to Lillie.

Every evening, after he had gone, came a long, confidential
conversation with Mrs. Follingsbee, in which every word and look
was discussed and turned, and all possible or probable inferences
therefrom reported; after which Lillie often laid a sleepless head
on a hot and tumbled pillow, poor, miserable child! suffering her
punishment, without even the grace to know whence it came, or what it
meant. Hitherto Lillie had been walking only in the limits of that
kind of permitted wickedness, which, although certainly the remotest
thing possible from the Christianity of Christ, finds a great deal
of tolerance and patronage among communicants of the altar. She had
lived a gay, vain, self-pleasing life, with no object or purpose but
the simple one to get each day as much pleasurable enjoyment out of
existence as possible. Mental and physical indolence and inordinate
vanity had been the key-notes of her life. She hated every thing that
required protracted thought, or that made trouble, and she longed
for excitement. The passion for praise and admiration had become
to her like the passion of the opium-eater for his drug, or of the
brandy-drinker for his dram. But now she was heedlessly steering to
what might prove a more palpable sin.

Harry the serf, once half despised for his slavish devotion, now stood
before her, proud and free, and tantalized her by the display he made
of his indifference, and preference for others. She put forth every
art and effort to recapture him. But the most dreadful stroke of fate
of all was, that Rose Ferguson had come to New York to make a winter
visit, and was much talked of in certain circles where Harry was quite
intimate; and he professed himself, indeed, an ardent admirer at her
shrine.



CHAPTER XX.

_THE VAN ASTRACHANS._


THE Van Astrachans, a proud, rich old family, who took a certain
defined position in New-York life on account of some ancestral passages
in their family history, had invited Rose to spend a month or two with
them; and she was therefore moving as a star in a very high orbit.

Now, these Van Astrachans were one of those cold, glittering,
inaccessible pinnacles in Mrs. Follingsbee’s fashionable Alp-climbing
which she would spare no expense to reach if possible. It was one of
the families for whose sake she had Mrs. John Seymour under her roof;
and the advent of Rose, whom she was pleased to style one of Mrs.
Seymour’s most intimate friends, was an unhoped-for stroke of good
luck; because there was the necessity of calling on Rose, of taking her
out to drive in the park, and of making a party on her account, from
which, of course, the Van Astrachans could not stay away.

It will be seen here that our friend, Mrs. Follingsbee, like all
ladies whose watch-word is “Excelsior,” had a peculiar, difficult, and
slippery path to climb.

The Van Astrachans were good old Dutch-Reformed Christians,
unquestioning believers in the Bible in general, and the Ten
Commandments in particular,—persons whose moral constitutions had been
nourished on the great stocky beefsteaks and sirloins of plain old
truths which go to form English and Dutch nature. Theirs was a style
of character which rendered them utterly hopeless of comprehending
the etherealized species of holiness which obtained in the innermost
circles of the Follingsbee _illuminati_. Mr. Van Astrachan buttoned
under his coat not only many solid inches of what Carlyle calls “good
Christian fat,” but also a pocket-book through which millions of
dollars were passing daily in an easy and comfortable flow, to the
great advantage of many of his fellow-creatures no less than himself;
and somehow or other he was pig-headed in the idea that the Bible and
the Ten Commandments had something to do with that stability of things
which made this necessary flow easy and secure.

He was slow-moulded, accurate, and fond of security; and was of opinion
that nineteen centuries of Christianity ought to have settled a few
questions so that they could be taken for granted, and were not to be
kept open for discussion.

Moreover, Mr. Van Astrachan having read the accounts of the first
French revolution, and having remarked all the subsequent history of
that country, was confirmed in his idea, that pitching every thing into
pi once in fifty years was no way to get on in the affairs of this
world.

He had strong suspicions of every thing French, and a mind very ill
adapted to all those delicate reasonings and shadings and speculations
of which Mr. Charlie Ferrola was particularly fond, which made every
thing in morals and religion an open question.

He and his portly wife planted themselves, like two canons of the
sanctuary, every Sunday, in the tip-top highest-priced pew of the
most orthodox old church in New York; and if the worthy man sometimes
indulged in gentle slumbers in the high-padded walls of his slip, it
was because he was so well assured of the orthodoxy of his minister
that he felt that no interest of society would suffer while he was off
duty. But may Heaven grant us, in these days of dissolving views and
general undulation, large armies of these solid-planted artillery on
the walls of our Zion!

Blessed be the people whose strength is to sit still! Much needed are
they when the activity of free inquiry seems likely to chase us out of
house and home, and leave us, like the dove in the deluge, no rest for
the sole of our foot.

Let us thank God for those Dutch-Reformed churches; great solid
breakwaters, that stand as the dykes in their ancestral Holland to keep
out the muddy waves of that sea whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

But let us fancy with what quakings and shakings of heart Mrs.
Follingsbee must have sought the alliance of these tremendously solid
old Christians. They were precisely what she wanted to give an air of
solidity to the cobweb glitter of her state. And we can also see how
necessary it was that she should ostentatiously visit Charlie Ferrola’s
wife, and speak of her as a darling creature, her particular friend,
whom she was doing her very best to keep out of an early grave.

Charlie Ferrola said that the Van Astrachans were obtuse; and so, to
a certain degree, they were. In social matters they had a kind of
confiding simplicity. They were so much accustomed to regard positive
morals in the light of immutable laws of Nature, that it would not have
been easy to have made them understand that sliding scale of estimates
which is in use nowadays. They would probably have had but one word,
and that a very disagreeable one, to designate a married woman who was
in love with anybody but her husband. Consequently, they were the very
last people whom any gossip of this sort could ever reach, or to whose
ears it could have been made intelligible.

Mr. Van Astrachan considered Dick Follingsbee a swindler, whose proper
place was the State’s prison, and whose morals could only be mentioned
with those of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Nevertheless, as Mrs. Follingsbee made it a point of rolling up her
eyes and sighing deeply when his name was mentioned,—as she attended
church on Sunday with conspicuous faithfulness, and subscribed to
charitable societies and all manner of good works,—as she had got
appointed directress on the board of an orphan asylum where Mrs. Van
Astrachan figured in association with her, that good lady was led
to look upon her with compassion, as a worthy woman who was making
the best of her way to heaven, notwithstanding the opposition of a
dissolute husband.

As for Rose, she was as fresh and innocent and dewy, in the hot whirl
and glitter and glare of New York, as a waving spray of sweet-brier,
brought in fresh with all the dew upon it.

She really had for Lillie a great deal of that kind of artistic
admiration which nice young girls sometimes have for very beautiful
women older than themselves; and was, like almost every one else,
somewhat bejuggled and taken in by that air of infantine sweetness and
simplicity which had survived all the hot glitter of her life, as if a
rose, fresh with dew, should lie unwilted in the mouth of a furnace.

Moreover, Lillie’s face had a beauty this winter it had never worn:
the softness of a real feeling, the pathos of real suffering, at times
touched her face with something that was always wanting in it before.
The bitter waters of sin that she would drink gave a strange feverish
color to her cheek; and the poisoned perfume she would inhale gave a
strange new brightness to her eyes.

Rose sometimes looked on her and wondered; so innocent and healthy and
light-hearted in herself, she could not even dream of what was passing.
She had been brought up to love John as a brother, and opened her heart
at once to his wife with a sweet and loyal faithfulness. When she told
Mrs. Van Astrachan that Mrs. John Seymour was one of her friends from
Springdale, married into a family with which she had grown up with
great intimacy, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to the
good lady that Rose should want to visit her; that she should drive
with her, and call on her, and receive her at their house; and with her
of course must come Mrs. Follingsbee.

Mr. Van Astrachan made a dead halt at the idea of Dick Follingsbee. He
never would receive _that_ man under his roof, he said, and he never
would enter his house; and when Mr. Van Astrachan once said a thing of
this kind, as Mr. Hosea Biglow remarks, “a meeting-house wasn’t sotter.”

But then Mrs. Follingsbee’s situation was confidentially stated to
Lillie, and by Lillie confidentially stated to Rose, and by Rose to
Mrs. Van Astrachan; and it was made to appear how Dick Follingsbee had
entirely abandoned his wife, going off in the ways of Balaam the son
of Bosor, and all other bad ways mentioned in Scripture, habitually
leaving poor Mrs. Follingsbee to entertain company alone, so that he
was never seen at her parties, and had nothing to do with her.

“So much the better for them,” remarked Mr. Van Astrachan.

“In that case, my dear, I don’t see that it would do any harm for you
to go to Mrs. Follingsbee’s party on Rose’s account. I never go to
parties, as you know; and I certainly should not begin by going there.
But still I see no objection to your taking Rose.”

If Mr. Van Astrachan had seen objections, you never would have caught
Mrs. Van Astrachan going; for she was one of your full-blooded women,
who never in her life engaged to do a thing she didn’t mean to do: and
having promised in the marriage service to obey her husband, she obeyed
him plumb, with the air of a person who is fulfilling the prophecies;
though her chances in this way were very small, as Mr. Van Astrachan
generally called her “ma,” and obeyed all her orders with a stolid
precision quite edifying to behold. He took her advice always, and
was often heard naively to remark that Mrs. Van Astrachan and he were
always of the same opinion,—an expression happily defining that state
in which a man does just what his wife tells him to.



CHAPTER XXI.

_MRS. FOLLINGSBEE’S PARTY, AND WHAT CAME OF IT._


OUR vulgar idea of a party is a week or fortnight of previous
discomfort and chaotic tergiversation, and the mistress of it all
distracted and worn out with endless cares. Such a party bursts in
on a well-ordered family state as a bomb bursts into a city, leaving
confusion and disorder all around. But it would be a pity if such a
life-long devotion to the arts and graces as Mrs. Follingsbee had
given, backed by Dick Follingsbee’s fabulous fortune, and administered
by the exquisite Charlie Ferrola, should not have brought forth some
appreciable results. One was, that the great Castle of Indolence was
prepared for the _fête_, with no more ripple of disturbance than if
it had been a Nereid’s bower, far down beneath the reach of tempests,
where the golden sand is never ruffled, and the crimson and blue sea
flowers never even dream of commotion.

Charlie Ferrola wore, it is true, a brow somewhat oppressed with care,
and was kept tucked up on a rose-colored satin sofa, and served with
lachrymæ Christi, and Montefiascone, and all other substitutes for the
dews of Hybla, while he draughted designs for the floral arrangements,
which were executed by obsequious attendants in felt slippers; and
the whole process of arrangement proceeded like a dream of the
lotus-eaters’ paradise.

Madame de Tullegig was of course retained primarily for the adornment
of Mrs. Follingsbee’s person. It was understood, however, on this
occasion, that the composition of the costumes was to embrace both hers
and Lillie’s, that they might appear in a contrasted tableau, and bring
out each other’s points. It was a subject worthy a Parisian artiste,
and drew so seriously on Madame de Tullegig’s brain-power, that she
assured Mrs. Follingsbee afterwards that the effort of composition had
sensibly exhausted her.

Before we relate the events of that evening, as they occurred, we must
give some little idea of the position in which the respective parties
now stood.

Harry Endicott, by his mother’s side, was related to Mrs. Van
Astrachan. Mr. Van Astrachan had been, in a certain way, guardian
to him; and his success in making his fortune was in consequence
of capital advanced and friendly patronage thus accorded. In the
family, therefore, he had the _entrée_ of a son, and had enjoyed the
opportunity of seeing Rose with a freedom and frequency that soon
placed them on the footing of old acquaintanceship. Rose was an easy
person to become acquainted with in an ordinary and superficial manner.
She was like those pellucid waters whose great clearness deceives the
eye as to their depth. Her manners had an easy and gracious frankness;
and she spoke right on, with an apparent simplicity and fearlessness
that produced at first the impression that you knew all her heart. A
longer acquaintance, however, developed depths of reserved thought and
feeling far beyond what at first appeared.

Harry, at first, had met her only on those superficial grounds of
banter and _badinage_ where a gay young gentleman and a gay young lady
may reconnoitre, before either side gives the other the smallest peep
of the key of what Dr. Holmes calls the side-door of their hearts.

Harry, to say the truth, was in a bad way when he first knew Rose:
he was restless, reckless, bitter. Turned loose into society with an
ample fortune and nothing to do, he was in danger, according to the
homely couplet of Dr. Watts, of being provided with employment by that
undescribable personage who makes it his business to look after idle
hands.

Rose had attracted him first by her beauty, all the more attractive to
him because in a style entirely different from that which hitherto had
captivated his imagination. Rose was tall, well-knit, and graceful,
and bore herself with a sort of slender but majestic lightness, like
a meadow-lily. Her well-shaped, classical head was set finely on
her graceful neck, and she had a stag-like way of carrying it, that
impressed a stranger sometimes as haughty; but Rose could not help
that, it was a trick of nature. Her hair was of the glossiest black,
her skin fair as marble, her nose a little, nicely-turned aquiline
affair, her eyes of a deep violet blue and shadowed by long dark
lashes, her mouth a little larger than the classical proportion, but
generous in smiles and laughs which revealed perfect teeth of dazzling
whiteness. There, gentlemen and ladies, is Rose Ferguson’s picture:
and, if you add to all this the most attractive impulsiveness and
self-unconsciousness, you will not wonder that Harry Endicott at first
found himself admiring her, and fancied driving out with her in the
park; and that when admiring eyes followed them both, as a handsome
pair, Harry was well pleased.

Rose, too, liked Harry Endicott. A young girl of twenty is not a
severe judge of a handsome, lively young man, who knows far more of
the world than she does; and though Harry’s conversation was a perfect
Catherine-wheel of all sorts of wild talk,—sneering, bitter, and
sceptical, and giving expression to the most heterodox sentiments, with
the evident intention of shocking respectable authorities,—Rose rather
liked him than otherwise; though she now and then took the liberty to
stand upon her dignity, and opened her great blue eyes on him with a
grave, inquiring look of surprise,—a look that seemed to challenge
him to stand and defend himself. From time to time, too, she let fall
little bits of independent opinion, well poised and well turned, that
hit exactly where she meant they should; and Harry began to stand a
little in awe of her.

Harry had never known a woman like Rose; a woman so poised and
self-centred, so cultivated, so capable of deep and just reflections,
and so religious. His experience with women had not been fortunate, as
has been seen in this narrative; and, insensibly to himself, Rose was
beginning to exercise an influence over him. The sphere around her was
cool and bright and wholesome, as different from the hot atmosphere of
passion and sentiment and flirtation to which he had been accustomed,
as a New-England summer morning from a sultry night in the tropics.
Her power over him was in the appeal to a wholly different part of
his nature,—intellect, conscience, and religious sensibility; and
once or twice he found himself speaking to her quietly, seriously,
and rationally, not from the purpose of pleasing her, but because she
had aroused such a strain of thought in his own mind. There was a
certain class of brilliant sayings of his, of a cleverly irreligious
and sceptical nature, at which Rose never laughed: when this sort of
firework was let off in her presence, she opened her eyes upon him,
wide and blue, with a calm surprise intermixed with pity, but said
nothing; and, after trying the experiment several times, he gradually
felt this silent kind of look a restraint upon him.

At the same time, it must not be conjectured that, at present, Harry
Endicott was thinking of falling in love with Rose. In fact, he scoffed
at the idea of love, and professed to disbelieve in its existence.
And, beside all this, he was gratifying an idle vanity, and the wicked
love of revenge, in visiting Lillie; sometimes professing for days
an exclusive devotion to her, in which there was a little too much
reality on both sides to be at all safe or innocent; and then, when
he had wound her up to the point where even her involuntary looks
and words and actions towards him must have compromised her in the
eyes of others, he would suddenly recede for days, and devote himself
exclusively to Rose; driving ostentatiously with her in the park,
where he would meet Lillie face to face, and bow triumphantly to her
in passing. All these proceedings, talked over with Mrs. Follingsbee,
seemed to give promise of the most impassioned French romance possible.

Rose walked through all her part in this little drama, wrapped in a
veil of sacred ignorance. Had she known the whole, the probability
is that she would have refused Harry’s acquaintance; but, like many
another nice girl, she tripped gayly near to pitfalls and chasms of
which she had not the remotest conception.

Lillie’s want of self-control, and imprudent conduct, had laid her open
to reports in certain circles where such reports find easy credence;
but these were circles with which the Van Astrachans never mingled.
The only accidental point of contact was the intimacy of Rose with the
Seymour family; and Rose was the last person to understand an allusion
if she heard it. The reading of Rose had been carefully selected by
her father, and had not embraced any novels of the French romantic
school; neither had she, like some modern young ladies, made her mind a
highway for the tramping of every kind of possible fictitious character
which a novelist might choose to draw, nor taken an interest in the
dissections of morbid anatomy. In fact, she was old-fashioned enough to
like Scott’s novels; and though she was just the kind of girl Thackeray
would have loved, she never could bring her fresh young heart to enjoy
his pictures of world-worn and decaying natures.

The idea of sentimental flirtations and love-making on the part of a
married woman was one so beyond her conception of possibilities that it
would have been very difficult to make her understand or believe it.

On the occasion of the Follingsbee party, therefore, Rose accepted
Harry as an escort in simple good faith. She was by no means so wise
as not to have a deal of curiosity about it, and not a little of dazed
and dazzled sense of enjoyment in prospect of the perfect labyrinth of
fairy-land which the Follingsbee mansion opened before her.

On the eventful evening, Mrs. Follingsbee and Lillie stood together to
receive their guests,—the former in gold color, with magnificent point
lace and diamond tiara; while Lillie in heavenly blue, with wreaths
of misty tulle and pearl ornaments, seemed like a filmy cloud by the
setting sun.

Rose, entering on Harry Endicott’s arm, in the full bravery of a
well-chosen toilet, caused a buzz of admiration which followed them
through the rooms; but Rose was nothing to the illuminated eyes of
Mrs. Follingsbee compared with the portly form of Mrs. Van Astrachan
entering beside her, and spreading over her the wings of motherly
protection. That much-desired matron, serene in her point lace and
diamonds, beamed around her with an innocent kindliness, shedding
respectability wherever she moved, as a certain Russian prince was said
to shed diamonds.

[Illustration: “Rose, entering on Harry Endicott’s arm.”]

“Why, that is Mrs. Van Astrachan!”

“You don’t tell me so! Is it possible?”

“Which?” “Where is she?” “How in the world did she get here?” were
the whispered remarks that followed her wherever she moved; and Mrs.
Follingsbee, looking after her, could hardly suppress an exulting _Te
Deum_. It was done, and couldn’t be undone.

Mrs. Van Astrachan might not appear again at a _salon_ of hers for
a year; but that could not do away the patent fact, witnessed by so
many eyes, that she had been there once. Just as a modern newspaper
or magazine wants only one article of a celebrated author to announce
him as among their stated contributors for all time, and to flavor
every subsequent issue of the journal with expectancy, so Mrs.
Follingsbee exulted in the idea that this one evening would flavor all
her receptions for the winter, whether the good lady’s diamonds ever
appeared there again or not. In her secret heart, she always had the
perception, when striving to climb up on this kind of ladder, that the
time might come when she should be found out; and she well knew the
absolute and uncomprehending horror with which that good lady would
regard the French principles and French practice of which Charlie
Ferrola and Co. were the expositors and exemplars.

This was what Charlie Ferrola meant when he said that the Van
Astrachans were obtuse. They never could be brought to the niceties of
moral perspective which show one exactly where to find the vanishing
point for every duty.

Be that as it may, there, at any rate, she was, safe and sound;
surrounded by people whom she had never met before, and receiving
introductions to the right and left with the utmost graciousness. The
arrangements for the evening had been made at the tea-table of the Van
Astrachans with an innocent and trustful simplicity.

“You know, dear,” said Mrs. Van Astrachan to Rose, “that I never like
to stay long away from papa” (so the worthy lady called her husband);
“and so, if it’s just the same to you, you shall let me have the
carriage come for me early, and then you and Harry shall be left free
to see it out. I know young folks must be young,” she said, with a
comfortable laugh. “There was a time, dear, when my waist was not
bigger than yours, that I used to dance all night with the best of
them; but I’ve got bravely over that now.”

[Illustration: THE VAN ASTRACHANS.]

“Yes, Rose,” said Mr. Van Astrachan, “you mayn’t believe it, but ma
there was the spryest dancer of any of the girls. You are pretty nice
to look at, but you don’t quite come up to what she was in those days.
I tell you, I wish you could have seen her,” said the good man, warming
to his subject. “Why, I’ve seen the time when every fellow on the floor
was after her.”

“Papa,” says Mrs. Van Astrachan, reprovingly, “I wouldn’t say such
things if I were you.”

“Yes, I would,” said Rose. “Do tell us, Mr. Van Astrachan.”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Mr. Van Astrachan: “you ought to have seen
her in a red dress she used to wear.”

“Oh, come, papa! what nonsense! Rose, I never wore a red dress in my
life; it was a pink silk; but you know men never do know the names for
colors.”

“Well, at any rate,” said Mr. Van Astrachan, hardily, “pink or red, no
matter; but I’ll tell you, she took all before her that evening. There
were Stuyvesants and Van Rennselaers and Livingstons, and all sorts of
grand fellows, in her train; but, somehow, I cut ’em out. There is no
such dancing nowadays as there was when wife and I were young. I’ve
been caught once or twice in one of their parties; and I don’t call
it dancing. I call it draggle-tailing. They don’t take any steps, and
there is no spirit in it.”

“Well,” said Rose, “I know we moderns are very much to be pitied. Papa
always tells me the same story about mamma, and the days when he was
young. But, dear Mrs. Van Astrachan, I hope you won’t stay a moment,
on my account, after you get tired. I suppose if you are just seen with
me there in the beginning of the evening, it will matronize me enough;
and then I have engaged to dance the ‘German’ with Mr. Endicott, and I
believe they keep that up till nobody knows when. But I am determined
to see the whole through.”

“Yes, yes! see it all through,” said Mr. Van Astrachan. “Young people
must be young. It’s all right enough, and you won’t miss my Polly after
you get fairly into it near so much as I shall. I’ll sit up for her
till twelve o’clock, and read my paper.”

Rose was at first, to say the truth, bewildered and surprised by the
perfect labyrinth of fairy-land which Charlie Ferrola’s artistic
imagination had created in the Follingsbee mansion.

Initiated people, who had travelled in Europe, said it put them in
mind of the “Jardin Mabille;” and those who had not were reminded of
some of the wonders of “The Black Crook.” There were apartments turned
into bowers and grottoes, where the gas-light shimmered behind veils
of falling water, and through pendant leaves of all sorts of strange
water-plants of tropical regions. There were all those wonderful
leaf-plants of every weird device of color, which have been conjured
up by tricks of modern gardening, as Rappacini is said to have created
his strange garden in Padua. There were beds of hyacinths and crocuses
and tulips, made to appear like living gems by the jets of gas-light
which came up among them in glass flowers of the same form. Far away
in recesses were sofas of soft green velvet turf, overshadowed by
trailing vines, and illuminated with moonlight-softness by hidden
alabaster lamps. The air was heavy with the perfume of flowers, and the
sound of music and dancing from the ballroom came to these recesses
softened by distance.

The Follingsbee mansion occupied a whole square of the city; and
these enchanted bowers were created by temporary enlargements of the
conservatory covering the ground of the garden. With money, and the
Croton Water-works, and all the New-York greenhouses at disposal,
nothing was impossible.

There was in this reception no vulgar rush or crush or jam. The
apartments opened were so extensive, and the attractions in so many
different directions, that there did not appear to be a crowd anywhere.

There was no general table set, with the usual liabilities of rush and
crush; but four or five well-kept rooms, fragrant with flowers and
sparkling with silver and crystal, were ready at any hour to minister
to the guest whatever delicacy or dainty he or she might demand; and
light-footed waiters circulated with noiseless obsequiousness through
all the rooms, proffering dainties on silver trays.

Mrs. Van Astrachan and Rose at first found themselves walking
everywhere, with a fresh and lively interest. It was something quite
out of the line of the good lady’s previous experience, and so
different from any thing she had ever seen before, as to keep her in a
state of placid astonishment. Rose, on the other hand, was delighted
and excited; the more so that she could not help perceiving that she
herself amid all these objects of beauty was followed by the admiring
glances of many eyes.

It is not to be supposed that a girl so handsome as Rose comes to her
twentieth year without having the pretty secret made known to her
in more ways than one, or that thus made known it is any thing but
agreeable; but, on the present occasion, there was a buzz of inquiry
and a crowd of applicants about her; and her dancing-list seemed in
a fair way to be soon filled up for the evening, Harry telling her
laughingly that he would let her off from every thing but the “German;”
but that she might consider her engagement with him as a standing one
whenever troubled with an application which for any reason she did not
wish to accept.

Harry assumed towards Rose that air of brotherly guardianship which a
young man who piques himself on having seen a good deal of the world
likes to take with a pretty girl who knows less of it. Besides, he
rather valued himself on having brought to the reception the most
brilliant girl of the evening.

Our friend Lillie, however, was in her own way as entrancingly
beautiful this evening as the most perfect mortal flesh and blood
could be made; and Harry went back to her when Rose went off with her
partners as a moth flies to a candle, not with any express intention of
burning his wings, but simply because he likes to be dazzled, and likes
the bitter excitement. He felt now that he had power over her,—a bad, a
dangerous power he knew, with what of conscience was left in him; but
he thought, “Let her take her own risk.” And so, many busy gossips saw
the handsome young man, his great dark eyes kindled with an evil light,
whirling in dizzy mazes with this cloud of flossy mist; out of which
looked up to him an impassioned woman’s face, and eyes that said what
those eyes had no right to say.

There are times, in such scenes of bewilderment, when women are as
truly out of their own control by nervous excitement as if they were
intoxicated; and Lillie’s looks and words and actions towards Harry
were as open a declaration of her feelings as if she had spoken them
aloud to every one present.

The scandals about them were confirmed in the eyes of every one that
looked on; for there were plenty of people present in whose view of
things the worst possible interpretation was the most probable one.

Rose was in the way, during the course of the evening, of hearing
remarks of the most disagreeable and startling nature with regard to
the relations of Harry and Lillie to each other. They filled her with a
sort of horror, as if she had come to an unwholesome place; while she
indignantly repelled them from her thoughts, as every uncontaminated
woman will the first suspicion of the purity of a sister woman. In
Rose’s view it was monstrous and impossible. Yet when she stood at
one time in a group to see them waltzing, she started, and felt a
cold shudder, as a certain instinctive conviction of something not
right forced itself on her. She closed her eyes, and wished herself
away; wished that she had not let Mrs. Van Astrachan go home without
her; wished that somebody would speak to Lillie and caution her; felt
an indignant rising of her heart against Harry, and was provoked at
herself that she was engaged to him for the “German.”

She turned away; and, taking the arm of the gentleman with her,
complained of the heat as oppressive, and they sauntered off together
into the bowery region beyond.

“Oh, now! where can I have left my fan?” she said, suddenly stopping.

“Let me go back and get it for you,” said he of the whiskers who
attended her. It was one of the dancing young men of New York, and it
is no particular matter what his name was.

“Thank you,” said Rose: “I believe I left it on the sofa in the yellow
drawing-room.” He was gone in a moment.

Rose wandered on a little way, through the labyrinth of flowers and
shadowy trees and fountains, and sat down on an artificial rock where
she fell into a deep reverie. Rising to go back, she missed her way,
and became quite lost, and went on uneasily, conscious that she had
committed a rudeness in not waiting for her attendant.

At this moment she looked through a distant alcove of shrubbery,
and saw Harry and Lillie standing together,—she with both hands
laid upon his arm, looking up to him and speaking rapidly with an
imploring accent. She saw him, with an angry frown, push Lillie from
him so rudely that she almost fell backward, and sat down with her
handkerchief to her eyes; he came forward hurriedly, and met the eyes
of Rose fixed upon him.

[Illustration: “She saw him, with an angry frown, push Lillie from
him.”]

“Mr. Endicott,” she said, “I have to ask a favor of you. Will you be so
good as to excuse me from the ‘German’ to-night, and order my carriage?”

“Why, Miss Ferguson, what is the matter?” he said: “what has come over
you? I hope I have not had the misfortune to do any thing to displease
you?”

Without replying to this, Rose answered, “I feel very unwell. My head
is aching violently, and I cannot go through the rest of the evening. I
must go home at once.” She spoke it in a decided tone that admitted of
no question.

Without answer, Harry Endicott gave her his arm, accompanied her
through the final leave-takings, went with her to the carriage, put her
in, and sprang in after her.

Rose sank back on her seat, and remained perfectly silent; and Harry,
after a few remarks of his had failed to elicit a reply, rode by her
side equally silent through the streets homeward.

He had Mr. Van Astrachan’s latch-key; and, when the carriage stopped,
he helped Rose to alight, and went up the steps of the house.

“Miss Ferguson,” he said abruptly, “I have something I want to say to
you.”

“Not now, not to-night,” said Rose, hurriedly. “I am too tired; and it
is too late.”

“To-morrow then,” he said: “I shall call when you will have had time to
be rested. Good-night!”



CHAPTER XXII.

_THE SPIDER-WEB BROKEN._


HARRY did not go back, to lead the “German,” as he had been engaged to
do. In fact, in his last apologies to Mrs. Follingsbee, he had excused
himself on account of his partner’s sudden indisposition,—a thing which
made no small buzz and commotion; though the missing gap, like all gaps
great and little in human society, soon found somebody to step into it:
and the dance went on just as gayly as if they had been there.

Meanwhile, there were in this good city of New York a couple of
sleepless individuals, revolving many things uneasily during the
night-watches, or at least that portion of the night-watches that
remained after they reached home,—to wit, Mr. Harry Endicott and Miss
Rose Ferguson.

What had taken place in that little scene between Lillie and Harry,
the termination of which was seen by Rose? We are not going to give
a minute description. The public has already been circumstantially
instructed by such edifying books as “Cometh up as a Flower,” and
others of a like turn, in what manner and in what terms married women
can abdicate the dignity of their sex, and degrade themselves so far
as to offer their whole life, and their whole selves, to some reluctant
man, with too much remaining conscience or prudence to accept the
sacrifice.

It was from some such wild, passionate utterances of Lillie that Harry
felt a recoil of mingled conscience, fear, and that disgust which man
feels when she, whom God made to be sought, degrades herself to seek.
There is no edification and no propriety in highly colored and minute
drawing of such scenes of temptation and degradation, though they
are the stock and staple of some French novels, and more disgusting
English ones made on their model. Harry felt in his own conscience
that he had been acting a most unworthy part, that no advances on the
part of Lillie could excuse his conduct; and his thoughts went back
somewhat regretfully to the days long ago, when she was a fair, pretty,
innocent girl, and he had loved her honestly and truly. Unperceived
by himself, the character of Rose was exerting a powerful influence
over him; and, when he met that look of pain and astonishment which he
had seen in her large blue eyes the night before, it seemed to awaken
many things within him. It is astonishing how blindly people sometimes
go on as to the character of their own conduct, till suddenly, like a
torch in a dark place, the light of another person’s opinion is thrown
in upon them, and they begin to judge themselves under the quickening
influence of another person’s moral magnetism. Then, indeed, it often
happens that the graves give up their dead, and that there is a sort
of interior resurrection and judgment.

Harry did not seem to be consciously thinking of Rose, and yet the
undertone of all that night’s uneasiness was a something that had
been roused and quickened in him by his acquaintance with her. How he
loathed himself for the last few weeks of his life! How he loathed
that hot, lurid, murky atmosphere of flirtation and passion and French
sentimentality in which he had been living!—atmosphere as hard to draw
healthy breath in as the odor of wilting tuberoses the day after a
party.

Harry valued Rose’s good opinion as he had never valued it before;
and, as he thought of her in his restless tossings, she seemed to him
something as pure, as wholesome, and strong as the air of his native
New-England hills, as the sweet-brier and sweet-fern he used to love
to gather when he was a boy. She seemed of a piece with all the good
old ways of New England,—its household virtues, its conscientious sense
of right, its exact moral boundaries; and he felt somehow as if she
belonged to that healthy portion of his life which he now looked back
upon with something of regret.

Then, what would she think of him? They had been friends, he said to
himself; they had passed over those boundaries of teasing unreality
where most young gentlemen and young ladies are content to hold
converse with each other, and had talked together reasonably and
seriously, saying in some hours what they really thought and felt.
And Rose had impressed him at times by her silence and reticence in
certain connections, and on certain subjects, with a sense of something
hidden and veiled,—a reserved force that he longed still further to
penetrate. But now, he said to himself, he must have fallen in her
opinion. Why was she so cold, so almost haughty, in her treatment of
him the night before? He felt in the atmosphere around her, and in the
touch of her hand, that she was quivering like a galvanic battery with
the suppressed force of some powerful emotion; and his own conscience
dimly interpreted to him what it might be.

To say the truth, Rose was terribly aroused. And there was a great deal
in her to be aroused, for she had a strong nature; and the whole force
of womanhood in her had never received such a shock.

Whatever may be scoffingly said of the readiness of women to pull one
another down, it is certain that the highest class of them have the
feminine _esprit de corps_ immensely strong. The humiliation of another
woman seems to them their own humiliation; and man’s lordly contempt
for another woman seems like contempt of themselves.

The deepest feeling roused in Rose by the scenes which she saw last
night was concern for the honor of womanhood; and her indignation at
first did not strike where we are told woman’s indignation does, on
the woman, but on the man. Loving John Seymour as a brother from her
childhood, feeling in the intimacy in which they had grown up as if
their families had been one, the thoughts that had been forced upon
her of his wife the night before had struck to her heart with the
weight of a terrible affliction. She judged Lillie as a pure woman
generally judges another,—out of herself,—and could not and would
not believe that the gross and base construction which had been put
upon her conduct was the true one. She looked upon her as led astray
by inordinate vanity, and the hopeless levity of an undeveloped,
unreflecting habit of mind. She was indignant with Harry for the part
that he had taken in the affair, and indignant and vexed with herself
for the degree of freedom and intimacy which she had been suffering
to grow up between him and herself. Her first impulse was to break it
off altogether, and have nothing more to say to or do with him. She
felt as if she would like to take the short course which young girls
sometimes take out of the first serious mortification or trouble in
their life, and run away from it altogether. She would have liked to
have packed her trunk, taken her seat on board the cars, and gone home
to Springdale the next day, and forgotten all about the whole of it;
but then, what should she say to Mrs. Van Astrachan? what account could
she give for the sudden breaking up of her visit?

Then, there was Harry going to call on her the next day! What ought
she to say to him? On the whole, it was a delicate matter for a young
girl of twenty to manage alone. How she longed to have the counsel
of her sister or her mother! She thought of Mrs. Van Astrachan; but
then, again, she did not wish to disturb that good lady’s pleasant,
confidential relations with Harry, and tell tales of him out of school:
so, on the whole, she had a restless and uncomfortable night of it.

Mrs. Van Astrachan expressed her surprise at seeing Rose take her place
at the breakfast-table the next morning. “Dear me!” she said, “I was
just telling Jane to have some breakfast kept for you. I had no idea of
seeing you down at this time.”

“But,” said Rose, “I gave out entirely, and came away only an hour
after you did. The fact is, we country girls can’t stand this sort of
thing. I had such a terrible headache, and felt so tired and exhausted,
that I got Mr. Endicott to bring me away before the ‘German.’”

“Bless me!” said Mr. Van Astrachan; “why, you’re not at all up to
snuff! Why, Polly, you and I used to stick it out till daylight! didn’t
we?”

“Well, you see, Mr. Van Astrachan, I hadn’t anybody like you to stick
it out with,” said Rose. “Perhaps that made the difference.”

“Oh, well, now, I am sure there’s our Harry! I am sure a girl must be
difficult, if he doesn’t suit her for a beau,” said the good gentleman.

“Oh, Mr. Endicott is all well enough!” said Rose; “only, you observe,
not precisely to me what you were to the lady you call Polly,—that’s
all.”

“Ha, ha!” laughed Mr. Van Astrachan. “Well, to be sure, that does make
a difference; but Harry’s a nice fellow, nice fellow, Miss Rose: not
many fellows like him, as I think.”

“Yes, indeed,” chimed in Mrs. Van Astrachan. “I haven’t a son in the
world that I think more of than I do of Harry; he has such a good
heart.”

Now, the fact was, this eulogistic strain that the worthy couple were
very prone to fall into in speaking of Harry to Rose was this morning
most especially annoying to her; and she turned the subject at once, by
chattering so fluently, and with such minute details of description,
about the arrangements of the rooms and the flowers and the lamps and
the fountains and the cascades, and all the fairy-land wonders of the
Follingsbee party, that the good pair found themselves constrained to
be listeners during the rest of the time devoted to the morning meal.

It will be found that good young ladies, while of course they have all
the innocence of the dove, do display upon emergencies a considerable
share of the wisdom of the serpent. And on this same mother wit and
wisdom, Rose called internally, when that day, about eleven o’clock,
she was summoned to the library, to give Harry his audience.

Truth to say, she was in a state of excited womanhood vastly becoming
to her general appearance, and entered the library with flushed cheeks
and head erect, like one prepared to stand for herself and for her sex.

Harry, however, wore a mortified, semi-penitential air, that, on
the first glance, rather mollified her. Still, however, she was not
sufficiently clement to give him the least assistance in opening the
conversation, by the suggestions of any of those nice little oily
nothings with which ladies, when in a gracious mood, can smooth the
path for a difficult confession.

She sat very quietly, with her hands before her, while Harry walked
tumultuously up and down the room.

“Miss Ferguson,” he said at last, abruptly, “I know you are thinking
ill of me.”

Miss Ferguson did not reply.

“I had hoped,” he said, “that there had been a little something more
than mere acquaintance between us. I had hoped you looked upon me as a
friend.”

“I did, Mr. Endicott,” said Rose.

“And you do not now?”

“I cannot say that,” she said, after a pause; “but, Mr. Endicott, if we
are friends, you must give me the liberty to speak plainly.”

“That’s exactly what I want you to do!” he said impetuously; “that is
just what I wish.”

“Allow me to ask, then, if you are an early friend, and family
connection of Mrs. John Seymour?”

“I was an early friend, and am somewhat of a family connection.”

“That is, I understand there has been a ground in your past history for
you to be on a footing of a certain family intimacy with Mrs. Seymour;
in that case, Mr. Endicott, I think you ought to have considered
yourself the guardian of her honor and reputation, and not allowed her
to be compromised on your account.”

The blood flushed into Harry’s face; and he stood abashed and silent.
Rose went on,—

“I was shocked, I was astonished, last night, because I could not help
overhearing the most disagreeable, the most painful remarks on you and
her,—remarks most unjust, I am quite sure, but for which I fear you
have given too much reason!”

“Miss Ferguson,” said Harry, stopping as he walked up and down, “I
confess I have been wrong and done wrong; but, if you knew all, you
might see how I have been led into it. That woman has been the evil
fate of my life. Years ago, when we were both young, I loved her as
honestly as man could love a woman; and she professed to love me in
return. But I was poor; and she would not marry me. She sent me off,
yet she would not let me forget her. She would always write to me just
enough to keep up hope and interest; and she knew for years that all my
object in striving for fortune was to win her. At last, when a lucky
stroke made me suddenly rich, and I came home to seek her, I found her
married,—married, as she owns, without love,—married for wealth and
ambition. I don’t justify myself,—I don’t pretend to; but when she met
me with her old smiles and her old charms, and told me she loved me
still, it roused the very devil in me. I wanted revenge. I wanted to
humble her, and make her suffer all she had made me; and I didn’t care
what came of it.”

Harry spoke, trembling with emotion; and Rose felt almost terrified
with the storm she had raised.

“O Mr. Endicott!” she said, “was this worthy of you? was there nothing
better, higher, more manly than this poor revenge? You men are
stronger than we: you have the world in your hands; you have a thousand
resources where we have only one. And you ought to be stronger and
nobler according to your advantages; you ought to rise superior to the
temptations that beset a poor, weak, ill-educated woman, whom everybody
has been flattering from her cradle, and whom you, I dare say, have
helped to flatter, turning her head with compliments, like all the rest
of them. Come, now, is not there something in that?”

“Well, I suppose,” said Harry, “that when Lillie and I were girl and
boy together, I did flatter her, sincerely that is. Her beauty made a
fool of me; and I helped make a fool of her.”

“And I dare say,” said Rose, “you told her that all she was made for
was to be charming, and encouraged her to live the life of a butterfly
or canary-bird. Did you ever try to strengthen her principles, to
educate her mind, to make her strong? On the contrary, haven’t you been
bowing down and adoring her for being weak? It seems to me that Lillie
is exactly the kind of woman that you men educate, by the way you look
on women, and the way you treat them.”

Harry sat in silence, ruminating.

“Now,” said Rose, “it seems to me it’s the most cowardly and unmanly
thing in the world for men, with every advantage in their hands, with
all the strength that their kind of education gives them, with all
their opportunities,—a thousand to our one,—to hunt down these poor
little silly women, whom society keeps stunted and dwarfed for their
special amusement.”

“Miss Ferguson, you are very severe,” said Harry, his face flushing.

“Well,” said Rose, “you have this advantage, Mr. Endicott: you know, if
I am, the world will not be. Everybody will take your part; everybody
will smile on you, and condemn her. That is generous, is it not? I
think, after all, Noah Claypole isn’t so very uncommon a picture of the
way that your lordly sex turn round and cast all the blame on ours.
You will never make me believe in a protracted flirtation between a
gentleman and lady, where at least half the blame does not lie on
his lordship’s side. I always said that a woman had no need to have
offers made her by a man she could not love, if she conducted herself
properly; and I think the same is true in regard to men. But then, as I
said before, you have the world on your side; nine persons out of ten
see no possible harm in a man’s taking every advantage of a woman, if
she will let him.”

“But I care more for the opinion of the tenth person than of the nine,”
said Harry; “I care more for what you think than any of them. Your
words are severe; but I think they are just.”

“O Mr. Endicott!” said Rose, “live for something higher than for what
I think,—than for what any one thinks. Think how many glorious chances
there are for a noble career for a young man with your fortune, with
your leisure, with your influence! is it for you to waste life in this
unworthy way? If I had your chances, I would try to do something worth
doing.”

Rose’s face kindled with enthusiasm; and Harry looked at her with
admiration.

“Tell me what I ought to do!” he said.

“I cannot tell you,” said Rose; “but where there is a will there is
a way: and, if you have the will, you will find the way. But, first,
you must try and repair the mischief you have done to Lillie. By your
own account of the matter, you have been encouraging and keeping up a
sort of silly, romantic excitement in her. It is worse than silly; it
is sinful. It is trifling with her best interests in this life and the
life to come. And I think you must know that, if you had treated her
like an honest, plain-spoken brother or cousin, without any trumpery of
gallantry or sentiment, things would have never got to be as they are.
You could have prevented all this; and you can put an end to it now.”

“Honestly, I will try,” said Harry. “I will begin, by confessing my
faults like a good boy, and take the blame on myself where it belongs,
and try to make Lillie see things like a good girl. But she is in bad
surroundings; and, if I were her husband, I wouldn’t let her stay there
another day. There are no morals in that circle; it’s all a perfect
crush of decaying garbage.”

“I think,” said Rose, “that, if this thing goes no farther, it will
gradually die out even in that circle; and, in the better circles of
New York, I trust it will not be heard of. Mrs. Van Astrachan and I
will appear publicly with Lillie; and if she is seen with us, and at
this house, it will be sufficient to contradict a dozen slanders.
She has the noblest, kindest husband,—one of the best men and truest
gentlemen I ever knew.”

“I pity him then,” said Harry.

“He is to be pitied,” said Rose; “but his work is before him. This
woman, such as she is, with all her faults, he has taken for better or
for worse; and all true friends and good people, both his and hers,
should help both sides to make the best of it.”

“I should say,” said Harry, “that there is in this no best side.”

“I think you do Lillie injustice,” said Rose. “There is, and must be,
good in every one; and gradually the good in him will overcome the evil
in her.”

“Let us hope so,” said Harry. “And now, Miss Ferguson, may I hope that
you won’t quite cross my name out of your good book? You’ll be friends
with me, won’t you?”

“Oh, certainly!” said Rose, with a frank smile.

“Well, let’s shake hands on that,” said Harry, rising to go.

Rose gave him her hand, and the two parted in all amity.



CHAPTER XXIII.

_COMMON-SENSE ARGUMENTS._


HARRY went straightway from the interview to call upon Lillie, and
had a conversation with her; in which he conducted himself like a
sober, discreet, and rational man. It was one of those daylight,
matter-of-fact kinds of talks, with no nonsense about them, in which
things are called by their right names. He confessed his own sins, and
took upon his own shoulders the blame that properly belonged there;
and, having thus cleared his conscience, took occasion to give Lillie a
deal of grandfatherly advice, of a very sedative tendency.

They had both been very silly, he said; and the next step to being
silly very often was to be wicked. For his part, he thought she ought
to be thankful for so good a husband; and, for his own part, he should
lose no time in trying to find a good wife, who would help him to be
a good man, and do something worth doing in the world. He had given
people occasion to say ill-natured things about her; and he was sorry
for it. But, if they stopped being imprudent, the world would in time
stop talking. He hoped, some of these days, to bring his wife down to
see her, and to make the acquaintance of her husband, whom he knew to
be a capital fellow, and one that she ought to be proud of.

Thus, by the intervention of good angels, the little paper-nautilus
bark of Lillie’s fortunes was prevented from going down in the great
ugly maelstrom, on the verge of which it had been so heedlessly sailing.

Harry was not slow in pushing the advantage of his treaty of friendship
with Rose to its utmost limits; and, being a young gentleman of parts
and proficiency, he made rapid progress.

The interview of course immediately bred the necessity for at least a
dozen more; for he had to explain this thing, and qualify that, and,
on reflection, would find by the next day that the explanation and
qualification required a still further elucidation. Rose also, after
the first conversation was over, was troubled at her own boldness, and
at the things that she in her state of excitement had said; and so was
only too glad to accord interviews and explanations as often as sought,
and, on the whole, was in the most favorable state towards her penitent.

Hence came many calls, and many conferences with Rose in the library,
to Mrs. Van Astrachan’s great satisfaction, and concerning which Mr.
Van Astrachan had many suppressed chuckles and knowing winks at Polly.

“Now, pa, don’t you say a word,” said Mrs. Van Astrachan.

“Oh, no, Polly! catch me! I see a great deal, but I say nothing,” said
the good gentleman, with a jocular quiver of his portly person. “I
don’t say any thing,—oh, no! by no manner of means.”

Neither at present did Harry; neither do we.



CHAPTER XXIV.

_SENTIMENT v. SENSIBILITY._


THE poet has feelingly sung the condition of

    “The banquet hall deserted,
     Whose lights are fled, and garlands dead,” &c.,

and so we need not cast the daylight of minute description on the
Follingsbee mansion.

Charlie Ferrola, however, was summoned away at early daylight, just
as the last of the revellers were dispersing, by a hurried messenger
from his wife; and, a few moments after he entered his house, he
was standing beside his dying baby,—the little fellow whom we have
seen brought down on Mrs. Ferrola’s arm, to greet the call of Mrs.
Follingsbee.

It is an awful thing for people of the flimsy, vain, pain-shunning,
pleasure-seeking character of Charlie Ferrola, to be taken at times,
as such people will be, in the grip of an inexorable power, and held
face to face with the sternest, the most awful, the most frightful
realities of life. Charlie Ferrola was one of those whose softness and
pitifulness, like that of sentimentalists generally, was only one form
of intense selfishness. The sight of suffering pained him; and his
first impulse was to get out of the way of it. Suffering that he did
not see was nothing to him; and, if his wife or children were in any
trouble, he would have liked very well to have known nothing about it.

But here he was, by the bedside of this little creature, dying in the
agonies of slow suffocation, rolling up its dark, imploring eyes, and
lifting its poor little helpless hands; and Charlie Ferrola broke out
into the most violent and extravagant demonstrations of grief.

The pale, firm little woman, who had watched all night, and in whose
tranquil face a light as if from heaven was beaming, had to assume the
care of him, in addition to that of her dying child. He was another
helpless burden on her hands.

There came a day when the house was filled with white flowers, and
people came and went, and holy words were spoken; and the fairest
flower of all was carried out, to return to the house no more.

“That woman is a most unnatural and peculiar woman!” said Mrs.
Follingsbee, who had been most active and patronizing in sending
flowers, and attending to the scenic arrangements of the funeral. “It
is just what I always said: she is a perfect statue; she’s no kind of
feeling. There was Charlie, poor fellow! so sick that he had to go to
bed, perfectly overcome, and have somebody to sit up with him; and
there was that woman never shed a tear,—went round attending to every
thing, just like a piece of clock-work. Well, I suppose people are
happier for being made so; people that have no sensibility are better
fitted to get through the world. But, gracious me! I can’t understand
such people. There she stood at the grave, looking so calm, when
Charlie was sobbing so that he could hardly hold himself up. Well, it
really wasn’t respectable. I think, at least, I would keep my veil
down, and keep my handkerchief up. Poor Charlie! he came to me at last;
and I gave way. I was completely broken down, I must confess. Poor
fellow! he told me there was no conceiving his misery. That baby was
the very idol of his soul; all his hopes of life were centred in it.
He really felt tempted to rebel at Providence. He said that he really
could not talk with his wife on the subject. He could not enter into
her submission at all; it seemed to him like a want of feeling. He said
of course it wasn’t her fault that she was made one way and he another.”

In fact, Mr. Charlie Ferrola took to the pink satin boudoir with a
more languishing persistency than ever, requiring to be stayed with
flagons, and comforted with apples, and receiving sentimental calls
of condolence from fair admirers, made aware of the intense poignancy
of his grief. A lovely poem, called “My Withered Blossom,” which
appeared in a fashionable magazine shortly after, was the out-come of
this experience, and increased the fashionable sympathy to the highest
degree.

Honest Mrs. Van Astrachan, however, though not acquainted with Mrs.
Ferrola, went to the funeral with Rose; and the next day her carriage
was seen at Mrs. Ferrola’s door.

“You poor little darling!” she said, as she came up and took Mrs.
Ferrola in her arms. “You must let me come, and not mind me; for I know
all about it. I lost the dearest little baby once; and I have never
forgotten it. There! there, darling!” she said, as the little woman
broke into sobs in her arms. “Yes, yes; do cry! it will do your little
heart good.”

There are people who, wherever they move, freeze the hearts of those
they touch, and chill all demonstration of feeling; and there are warm
natures, that unlock every fountain, and bid every feeling gush forth.
The reader has seen these two types in this story.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Wife,” said Mr. Van Astrachan, coming to Mrs. V. confidentially a day
or two after, “I wonder if you remember any of your French. What is a
_liaison_?”

“Really, dear,” said Mrs. Van Astrachan, whose reading of late years
had been mostly confined to such memoirs as that of Mrs. Isabella
Graham, Doddridge’s “Rise and Progress,” and Baxter’s “Saint’s Rest,”
“it’s a great while since I read any French. What do you want to know
for?”

“Well, there’s Ben Stuyvesant was saying this morning, in Wall Street,
that there’s a great deal of talk about that Mrs. Follingsbee and that
young fellow whose baby’s funeral you went to. Ben says there’s a
_liaison_ between her and him. I didn’t ask him what ’twas; but it’s
something or other with a French name that makes talk, and I don’t
think it’s respectable! I’m sorry that you and Rose went to her party;
but then that can’t be helped now. I’m afraid this Mrs. Follingsbee is
no sort of a woman, after all.”

“But, pa, I’ve been to call on Mrs. Ferrola, poor little afflicted
thing!” said Mrs. Van Astrachan. “I couldn’t help it! You know how we
felt when little Willie died.”

“Oh, certainly, Polly! call on the poor woman by all means, and do all
you can to comfort her; but, from all I can find out, that handsome
jackanapes of a husband of hers is just the poorest trash going. They
say this Follingsbee woman half supports him. The time was in New York
when such doings wouldn’t be allowed; and I don’t think calling things
by French names makes them a bit better. So you just be careful, and
steer as clear of her as you can.”

“I will, pa, just as clear as I can; but you know Rose is a friend of
Mrs. John Seymour; and Mrs. Seymour is visiting at Mrs. Follingsbee’s.”

“Her husband oughtn’t to let her stay there another day,” said Mr.
Van Astrachan. “It’s as much as any woman’s reputation is worth to be
staying with her. To think of that fellow being dancing and capering at
that Jezebel’s house the night his baby was dying!”

“Oh, but, pa, he didn’t know it.”

“Know it? he ought to have known it! What business has a man to get
a woman with a lot of babies round her, and then go capering off?
’Twasn’t the way I did, Polly, you know, when our babies were young. I
was always on the spot there, ready to take the baby, and walk up and
down with it nights, so that you might get your sleep; and I always had
it my side of the bed half the night. I’d like to have seen myself out
at a ball, and you sitting up with a sick baby! I tell you, that if I
caught any of my boys up to such tricks, I’d cut them out of my will,
and settle the money on their wives;—that’s what I would!”

“Well, pa, I shall try and do all in my power for poor Mrs. Ferrola,”
said Mrs. Van Astrachan; “and you may be quite sure I won’t take
another step towards Mrs. Follingsbee’s acquaintance.”

“It’s a pity,” said Mr. Van Astrachan, “that somebody couldn’t put it
into Mr. John Seymour’s head to send for his wife home.

“I don’t see, for my part, what respectable women want to be
gallivanting and high-flying on their own separate account for, away
from their husbands! Goods that are sold shouldn’t go back to the
shop-windows,” said the good gentleman, all whose views of life were of
the most old-fashioned, domestic kind.

“Well, dear, we don’t want to talk to Rose about any of this scandal,”
said his wife.

“No, no; it would be a pity to put any thing bad into a nice girl’s
head,” said Mr. Van Astrachan. “You might caution her in a general way,
you know; tell her, for instance, that I’ve heard of things that make
me feel you ought to draw off. Why can’t some bird of the air tell
that little Seymour woman’s husband to get her home?”

The little Seymour woman’s husband, though not warned by any particular
bird of the air, was not backward in taking steps for the recall of his
wife, as shall hereafter appear.



CHAPTER XXV.

_WEDDING BELLS._


SOME weeks had passed in Springdale while these affairs had been going
on in New York. The time for the marriage of Grace had been set; and
she had gone to Boston to attend to that preparatory shopping which
even the most sensible of the sex discover to be indispensable on such
occasions.

Grace inclined, in the centre of her soul, to Bostonian rather than
New-York preferences. She had the innocent impression that a classical
severity and a rigid reticence of taste pervaded even the rebellious
department of feminine millinery in the city of the Pilgrims,—an idea
which we rather think young Boston would laugh down as an exploded
superstition, young Boston’s leading idea at the present hour being
apparently to outdo New York in New York’s imitation of Paris.

In fact, Grace found it very difficult to find a milliner who, if left
to her own devices, would not befeather and beflower her past all
self-recognition, giving to her that generally betousled and fly-away
air which comes straight from the _demi-monde_ of Paris.

We apprehend that the recent storms of tribulation which have beat
upon those fairy islands of fashion may scatter this frail and fanciful
population, and send them by shiploads on missions of civilization to
our shores; in which case, the bustle and animation and the brilliant
display on the old turnpike, spoken of familiarly as the “broad road,”
will be somewhat increased.

Grace however managed, by the exercise of a good individual taste,
to come out of these shopping conflicts in good order,—a handsome,
well-dressed, charming woman, with everybody’s best wishes for, and
sympathy in, her happiness.

Lillie was summoned home by urgent messages from her husband, calling
her back to take her share in wedding festivities.

She left willingly; for the fact is that her last conversation with her
cousin Harry had made the situation as uncomfortable to her as if he
had unceremoniously deluged her with a pailful of cold water.

There is a chilly, disagreeable kind of article, called common sense,
which is of all things most repulsive and antipathetical to all petted
creatures whose life has consisted in flattery. It is the kind of talk
which sisters are very apt to hear from brothers, and daughters from
fathers and mothers, when fathers and mothers do their duty by them;
which sets the world before them as it is, and not as it is painted by
flatterers. Those women who prefer the society of gentlemen, and who
have the faculty of bewitching their senses, never are in the way of
hearing from this cold matter-of-fact region; for them it really does
not exist. Every phrase that meets their ear is polished and softened,
guarded and delicately turned, till there is not a particle of homely
truth left in it. They pass their time in a world of illusions; they
demand these illusions of all who approach them, as the sole condition
of peace and favor. All gentlemen, by a sort of instinct, recognize the
woman who lives by flattery, and give her her portion of meat in due
season; and thus some poor women are hopelessly buried, as suicides
used to be in Scotland, under a mountain of rubbish, to which each
passer-by adds one stone. It is only by some extraordinary power of
circumstances that a man can be found to invade the sovereignty of a
pretty woman with any disagreeable tidings; or, as Junius says, “to
instruct the throne in the language of truth.” Harry was brought up
to this point only by such a concurrence of circumstances. He was in
love with another woman,—a ready cause for disenchantment. He was in
some sort a family connection; and he saw Lillie’s conduct at last,
therefore, through the plain, unvarnished medium of common sense.
Moreover, he felt a little pinched in his own conscience by the view
which Rose seemed to take of his part in the matter, and, manlike, was
strengthened in doing his duty by being a little galled and annoyed
at the woman whose charms had tempted him into this dilemma. So he
talked to Lillie like a brother; or, in other words, made himself
disagreeably explicit,—showed her her sins, and told her her duties
as a married woman. The charming fair ones who sentimentally desire
gentlemen to regard them as sisters do not bargain for any of this
sort of brotherly plainness; and yet they might do it with great
advantage. A brother, who is not a brother, stationed near the ear of
a fair friend, is commonly very careful not to compromise his position
by telling unpleasant truths; but, on the present occasion, Harry made
a literal use of the brevet of brotherhood which Lillie had bestowed
on him, and talked to her as the generality of _real_ brothers talk
to their sisters, using great plainness of speech. He withered all
her poor little trumpery array of hothouse flowers of sentiment, by
treating them as so much garbage, as all men know they are. He set
before her the gravity and dignity of marriage, and her duties to her
husband. Last, and most unkind of all, he professed his admiration of
Rose Ferguson, his unworthiness of her, and his determination to win
her by a nobler and better life; and then showed himself to be a stupid
blunderer by exhorting Lillie to make Rose her model, and seek to
imitate her virtues.

Poor Lillie! the world looked dismal and dreary enough to her. She
shrunk within herself. Every thing was withered and disenchanted. All
her poor little stock of romance seemed to her as disgusting as the
withered flowers and crumpled finery and half-melted ice-cream the
morning after a ball.

In this state, when she got a warm, true letter from John, who always
grew tender and affectionate when she was long away, couched in those
terms of admiration and affection that were soothing to her ear, she
really longed to go back to him. She shrunk from the dreary plainness
of truth, and longed for flattery and petting and caresses once
more; and she wrote to John an overflowingly tender letter, full of
longings, which brought him at once to her side, the most delighted of
men. When Lillie cried in his arms, and told him that she found New
York perfectly hateful; when she declaimed on the heartlessness of
fashionable life, and longed to go with him to their quiet home,—she
was tolerably in earnest; and John was perfectly enchanted.

Poor John! Was he a muff, a spoon? We think not. We understand well
that there is not a _woman_ among our readers who has the slightest
patience with Lillie, and that the most of them are half out of
patience with John for his enduring tenderness towards her.

But men were born and organized by nature to be the protectors of
women; and, generally speaking, the stronger and more thoroughly
manly a man is, the more he has of what phrenologists call the “pet
organ,”—the disposition which makes him the charmed servant of what is
weak and dependent. John had a great share of this quality. He was made
to be a protector. He loved to protect; he loved every thing that was
helpless and weak,—young animals, young children, and delicate women.

He was a romantic adorer of womanhood, as a sort of divine mystery,—a
never-ending poem; and when his wife was long enough away from him to
give scope for imagination to work, when she no longer annoyed him with
the friction of the sharp little edges of her cold and selfish nature,
he was able to see her once more in the ideal light of first love.
After all, she was his wife; and in that one word, to a good man, is
every thing holy and sacred. He longed to believe in her and trust her
wholly; and now that Grace was going from him, to belong to another,
Lillie was more than ever his dependence.

On the whole, if we must admit that John was weak, he was weak where
strong and noble natures may most gracefully be so,—weak through
disinterestedness, faith, and the disposition to make the best of the
wife he had chosen.

And so Lillie came home; and there was festivity and rejoicing. Grace
found herself floated into matrimony on a tide bringing gifts and
tokens of remembrance from everybody that had ever known her; for all
were delighted with this opportunity of testifying a sense of her
worth, and every hand was ready to help ring her wedding bells.



CHAPTER XXVI.

_MOTHERHOOD._


IT is supposed by some that to become a mother is of itself a healing
and saving dispensation; that of course the reign of selfishness
ends, and the reign of better things begins, with the commencement of
maternity.

But old things do not pass away and all things become new by any such
rapid process of conversion. A whole life spent in self-seeking and
self-pleasing is no preparation for the most august and austere of
woman’s sufferings and duties; and it is not to be wondered at if the
untrained, untaught, and self-indulgent shrink from this ordeal, as
Lillie did.

The next spring, while the gables of the new cottage on Elm Street were
looking picturesquely through the blossoming cherry-trees, and the
smoke was curling up from the chimneys where Grace and her husband were
cosily settled down together, there came to John’s house another little
Lillie.

The little creature came in terror and trembling. For the mother had
trifled fearfully with the great laws of her being before its birth;
and the very shadow of death hung over her at the time the little new
life began.

Lillie’s mother, now a widow, was sent for, and by this event installed
as a fixture in her daughter’s dwelling; and for weeks the sympathies
of all the neighborhood were concentrated upon the sufferer. Flowers
and fruits were left daily at the door. Every one was forward in
offering those kindly attentions which spring up so gracefully in
rural neighborhoods. Everybody was interested for her. She was little
and pretty and suffering; and people even forgot to blame her for the
levities that had made her present trial more severe. As to John, he
watched over her day and night with anxious assiduity, forgetting every
fault and foible. She was now more than the wife of his youth; she was
the mother of his child, enthroned and glorified in his eyes by the
wonderful and mysterious experiences which had given this new little
treasure to their dwelling.

To say the truth, Lillie was too sick and suffering for sentiment. It
requires a certain amount of bodily strength and soundness to feel
emotions of love; and, for a long time, the little Lillie had to be
banished from the mother’s apartment, as she lay weary in her darkened
room, with only a consciousness of a varied succession of disagreeables
and discomforts. Her general impression about herself was, that she
was a much abused and most unfortunate woman; and that all that could
ever be done by the utmost devotion of everybody in the house was
insufficient to make up for such trials as had come upon her.

A nursing mother was found for the little Lillie in the person of a
goodly Irish woman, fair, fat, and loving; and the real mother had none
of those awakening influences, from the resting of the little head
in her bosom, and the pressure of the little helpless fingers, which
magnetize into existence the blessed power of love.

She had wasted in years of fashionable folly, and in a life led only
for excitement and self-gratification, all the womanly power, all the
capability of motherly giving and motherly loving that are the glory
of womanhood. Kathleen, the white-armed, the gentle-bosomed, had all
the simple pleasures, the tendernesses, the poetry of motherhood; while
poor, faded, fretful Lillie had all the prose—the sad, hard, weary
prose—of sickness and pain, unglorified by love.

John did not well know what to do with himself in Lillie’s darkened
room; where it seemed to him he was always in the way, always doing
something wrong; where his feet always seemed too large and heavy, and
his voice too loud; and where he was sure, in his anxious desire to
be still and gentle, to upset something, or bring about some general
catastrophe, and to go out feeling more like a criminal than ever.

The mother and the nurse, stationed there like a pair of chief
mourners, spoke in tones which experienced feminine experts seem to
keep for occasions like these, and which, as Hawthorne has said, give
an effect as if the voice had been dyed black. It was a comfort and
relief to pass from the funeral gloom to the little pink-ruffled
chamber among the cherry-trees, where the birds were singing and the
summer breezes blowing, and the pretty Kathleen was crooning her Irish
songs, and invoking the holy virgin and all the saints to bless the
“darlin’” baby.

[Illustration: “An’ it’s a blessin’ they brings wid ’em, sir.”]

“An’ it’s a blessin’ they brings wid ’em to a house, sir; the angels
comes down wid ’em. We can’t see ’em, sir; but, bless the darlin’, she
can. And she smiles in her sleep when she sees ’em.”

Rose and Grace came often to this bower with kisses and gifts and
offerings, like a pair of nice fairy godmothers. They hung over the
pretty little waxen miracle as she opened her great blue eyes with a
silent, mysterious wonder; but, alas! all these delicious moments, this
artless love of the new baby life, was not for the mother. She was not
strong enough to enjoy it. Its cries made her nervous; and so she kept
the uncheered solitude of her room without the blessing of the little
angel.

People may mourn in lugubrious phrase about the Irish blood in our
country. For our own part, we think the rich, tender, motherly nature
of the Irish girl an element a thousand times more hopeful in our
population than the faded, washed-out indifferentism of fashionable
women, who have danced and flirted away all their womanly attributes,
till there is neither warmth nor richness nor maternal fulness left
in them,—mere paper-dolls, without milk in their bosoms or blood in
their veins. Give us rich, tender, warm-hearted Bridgets and Kathleens,
whose instincts teach them the real poetry of motherhood; who can love
unto death, and bear trials and pains cheerfully for the joy that is
set before them. We are not afraid for the republican citizens that
such mothers will bear to us. They are the ones that will come to high
places in our land, and that will possess the earth by right of the
strongest.

Motherhood, to the woman who has lived only to be petted, and to be
herself the centre of all things, is a virtual dethronement. Something
weaker, fairer, more delicate than herself comes,—something for her to
serve and to care for more than herself.

It would sometimes seem as if motherhood were a lovely artifice of
the great Father, to wean the heart from selfishness by a peaceful
and gradual process. The babe is self in another form. It is so
interwoven and identified with the mother’s life, that she passes by
almost insensible gradations from herself to it; and day by day the
distinctive love of self wanes as the child-love waxes, filling the
heart with a thousand new springs of tenderness.

But that this benignant transformation of nature may be perfected, it
must be wrought out in Nature’s own way. Any artificial arrangement
that takes the child away from the mother interrupts that wonderful
system of contrivances whereby the mother’s nature and being shade off
into that of the child, and her heart enlarges to a new and heavenly
power of loving.

When Lillie was sufficiently recovered to be fond of any thing,
she found in her lovely baby only a new toy,—a source of pride and
pleasure, and a charming occasion for the display of new devices of
millinery. But she found Newport indispensable that summer to the
re-establishment of her strength. “And really,” she said, “the baby
would be so much better off quietly at home with mamma and Kathleen.
The fact is,” she said, “she quite disregards me. She cries after
Kathleen if I take her; so that it’s quite provoking.”

And so Lillie, free and unencumbered, had her gay season at Newport
with the Follingsbees, and the Simpkinses, and the Tompkinses, and
all the rest of the nice people, who have nothing to do but enjoy
themselves; and everybody flattered her by being incredulous that one
so young and charming could possibly be a mother.



CHAPTER XXVII.

_CHECKMATE._


IF ever our readers have observed two chess-players, both ardent,
skilful, determined, who have been carrying on noiselessly the moves
of a game, they will understand the full significance of this decisive
term.

Up to this point, there is hope, there is energy, there is enthusiasm;
the pieces are marshalled and managed with good courage. At last,
perhaps in an unexpected moment, one, two, three adverse moves follow
each other, and the decisive words, _check-mate_, are uttered.

This is a symbol of what often goes on in the game of life.

Here is a man going on, indefinitely, conscious in his own heart that
he is not happy in his domestic relations. There is a want of union
between him and his wife. She is not the woman that meets his wants
or his desires; and in the intercourse of life they constantly cross
and annoy each other. But still he does not allow himself to look the
matter fully in the face. He goes on and on, hoping that to-morrow
will bring something better than to-day,—hoping that this thing, or
that thing or the other thing will bring a change, and that in some
indefinite future all will round and fashion itself to his desires.
It is very slowly that a man awakens from the illusions of his first
love. It is very unwillingly that he ever comes to the final conclusion
that he has made _there_ the mistake of a whole lifetime, and that the
woman to whom he gave his whole heart not only is not the woman that he
supposed her to be, but never in any future time, nor by any change of
circumstances, will become that woman,—that the difficulty is radical
and final and hopeless.

In “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” we read that the poor man, Christian,
tried to persuade his wife to go with him on the pilgrimage to the
celestial city; but that finally he had to make up his mind to go
alone without her. Such is the lot of the man who is brought to the
conclusion, positively and definitely, that his wife is always to be
a hinderance, and never a help to him, in any upward aspiration; that
whatever he does that is needful and right and true must be done, not
by her influence, but in spite of it; that, if he has to swim against
the hard, upward current of the river of life, he must do so with her
hanging on his arm, and holding him back, and that he cannot influence
and cannot control her.

Such hours of disclosure to a man are among the terrible hidden
tragedies of life,—tragedies such as are never acted on the stage. Such
a time of disclosure came to John the year after Grace’s marriage; and
it came in this way:—

The Spindlewood property had long been critically situated. Sundry
financial changes which were going on in the country had depreciated
its profits, and affected it unfavorably. All now depended upon the
permanency of one commercial house. John had been passing through an
interval of great anxiety. He could not tell Lillie his trouble. He
had been for months past nervously watching all the in-comings and
out-goings of his family, arranged on a scale of reckless expenditure,
which he felt entirely powerless to control. Lillie’s wishes were
importunate. She was nervous and hysterical, wholly incapable of
listening to reason; and the least attempt to bring her to change any
of her arrangements, or to restrict any of her pleasures, brought tears
and faintings and distresses and scenes of domestic confusion which he
shrank from. He often tried to set before her the possibility that they
might be obliged, for a time at least, to live in a different manner;
but she always resisted every such supposition as so frightful, so
dreadful, that he was utterly discouraged, and put off and off, hoping
that the evil day never might arrive.

But it did come at last. One morning, when he received by mail the
tidings of the failure of the great house of Clapham & Co., he knew
that the time had come when the thing could no longer be staved off. He
was an indorser to a large amount on the paper of this house; and the
crisis was inevitable.

It was inevitable also that he must acquaint Lillie with the state of
his circumstances; for she was going on with large arrangements and
calculations for a Newport campaign, and sending the usual orders to
New York, to her milliner and dressmaker, for her summer outfit. It
was a cruel thing for him to be obliged to interrupt all this; for
she seemed perfectly cheerful and happy in it, as she always was when
preparing to go on a pleasure-seeking expedition. But it could not be.
All this luxury and indulgence must be cut off at a stroke. He must
tell her that she could not go to Newport; that there was no money for
new dresses or new finery; that they should probably be obliged to move
out of their elegant house, and take a smaller one, and practise for
some time a rigid economy.

John came into Lillie’s elegant apartments, which glittered like a
tulip-bed with many colored sashes and ribbons, with sheeny silks and
misty laces, laid out in order to be surveyed before packing.

“Gracious me, John! what on earth is the matter with you to-day? How
perfectly awful and solemn you do look!”

“I have had bad news, this morning, Lillie, which I must tell you.”

“Oh, dear me, John! what is the matter? Nobody is dead, I hope!”

“No, Lillie; but I am afraid you will have to give up your Newport
journey.”

“Gracious, goodness, John! what for?”

“To say the truth, Lillie, I cannot afford it.”

“Can’t afford it? Why not? Why, John, what is the matter?”

“Well, Lillie, just read this letter!”

Lillie took it, and read it with her hands trembling.

“Well, dear me, John! I don’t see any thing in this letter. If they
have failed, I don’t see what that is to you!”

“But, Lillie, I am indorser for them.”

“How very silly of you, John! What made you indorse for them? Now that
is too bad; it just makes me perfectly miserable to think of such
things. I know _I_ should not have done so; but I don’t see why you
need pay it. It is their business, anyhow.”

“But, Lillie, I shall have to pay it. It is a matter of honor and
honesty to do it; because I engaged to do it.”

“Well, I don’t see why that should be! It isn’t your debt; it is their
debt: and why need you do it? I am sure Dick Follingsbee said that
there were ways in which people could put their property out of their
hands when they got caught in such scrapes as this. Dick knows just how
to manage. He told me of plenty of people that had done that, who were
living splendidly, and who were received everywhere; and people thought
just as much of them.”

“O Lillie, Lillie! my child,” said John; “you don’t know any thing of
what you are talking about! That would be dishonorable, and wholly out
of the question. No, Lillie dear, the fact is,” he said, with a great
gulp, and a deep sigh,—“the fact is, I have failed; but I am going to
fail honestly. If I have nothing else left, I will have my honor and
my conscience. But we shall have to give up this house, and move into
a smaller one. Every thing will have to be given up to the creditors
to settle the business. And then, when all is arranged, we must try
to live economically some way; and perhaps we can make it up again.
But you see, dear, there can be no more of this kind of expenses at
present,” he said, pointing to the dresses and jewelry on the bed.

“Well, John, I am sure I had rather die!” said Lillie, gathering
herself into a little white heap, and tumbling into the middle of the
bed. “I am sure if we have got to rub and scrub and starve so, I had
rather die and done with it; and I hope I shall.”

John crossed his arms, and looked gloomily out of the window.

“Perhaps you had better,” he said. “I am sure I should be glad to.”

“Yes, I dare say!” said Lillie; “that is all you care for me. Now there
is Dick Follingsbee, he would be taking care of his wife. Why, he has
failed three or four times, and always come out richer than he was
before!”

“He is a swindler and a rascal!” said John; “that is what he is.”

“I don’t care if he is,” said Lillie, sobbing. “His wife has good
times, and goes into the very first society in New York. People don’t
care, so long as you are rich, what you do. Well, I am sure I can’t do
any thing about it. I don’t know how to live without money,—that’s a
fact! and I can’t learn. I suppose you would be glad to see me rubbing
around in old calico dresses, wouldn’t you? and keeping only one girl,
and going into the kitchen, like Miss Dotty Peabody? I think I see
myself! And all just for one of your Quixotic notions, when you might
just as well keep all your money as not. That is what it is to marry
a reformer! I never have had any peace of my life on account of your
conscience, always something or other turning up that you can’t act
like anybody else. I should think, at least, you might have contrived
to settle this place on me and poor little Lillie, that we might have a
house to put our heads in.”

“Lillie, Lillie,” said John, “this is too much! Don’t you think that
_I_ suffer at all?”

“I don’t see that you do,” said Lillie, sobbing. “I dare say you are
glad of it; it is just like you. Oh, dear, I wish I had never been
married!”

“I _certainly_ do,” said John, fervently.

“I suppose so. You see, it is nothing to you men; you don’t care any
thing about these things. If you can get a musty old corner and your
books, you are perfectly satisfied; and you don’t know when things are
pretty, and when they are not: and so you can talk grand about your
honor and your conscience and all that. I suppose the carriages and
horses have got to be sold too?”

“Certainly, Lillie,” said John, hardening his heart and his tone.

“Well, well,” she said, “I wish you would go now and send ma to me.
I don’t want to talk about it any more. My head aches as if it would
split. Poor ma! She little thought when I married you that it was going
to come to this.”

John walked out of the room gloomily enough. He had received this
morning his _check-mate_. All illusion was at an end. The woman that
he had loved and idolized and caressed and petted and indulged, in
whom he had been daily and hourly disappointed since he was married,
but of whom he still hoped and hoped, he now felt was of a nature not
only unlike, but opposed to his own. He felt that he could neither love
nor respect her further. And yet she was his wife, and the mother of
his daughter, and the only queen of his household; and he had solemnly
promised at God’s altar that “forsaking all others, he would keep only
unto her, so long as they both should live, for better, for worse,”
John muttered to himself,—“for better, for worse. This is the worse;
and oh, it is dreadful!”

In all John’s hours of sorrow and trouble, the instinctive feeling of
his heart was to go back to the memory of his mother; and the nearest
to his mother was his sister Grace. In this hour of his blind sorrow,
he walked directly over to the little cottage on Elm Street, which
Grace and her husband had made a perfectly ideal home.

When he came into the parlor, Grace and Rose were sitting together with
an open letter lying between them. It was evident that some crisis of
tender confidence had passed between them; for the tears were hardly
dry on Rose’s cheeks. Yet it was not painful, whatever it was; for her
face was radiant with smiles, and John thought he had never seen her
look so lovely. At this moment the truth of her beautiful and lovely
womanhood, her sweetness and nobleness of nature, came over him, in
bitter contrast with the scene he had just passed through, and the
woman he had left.

“What do you think, John?” said Grace; “we have some congratulations
here to give! Rose is engaged to Harry Endicott.”

“Indeed!” said John, “I wish her joy.”

“But what is the matter, John?” said both women, looking up, and seeing
something unusual in his face.

“Oh, trouble!” said John,—“trouble upon us all. Gracie and Rose, the
Spindlewood Mills have failed.”

“Is it possible?” was the exclamation of both.

“Yes, indeed!” said John; “you see, the thing has been running very
close for the last six months; and the manufacturing business has been
looking darker and darker. But still we could have stood it if the
house of Clapham & Co. had stood; but they have gone to smash, Gracie.
I had a letter this morning, telling me of it.”

Both women stood a moment as if aghast; for the Ferguson property was
equally involved.

“Poor papa!” said Rose; “this will come hard on him.”

“I know it,” said John, bitterly. “It is more for others that I feel
than for myself,—for all that are involved must suffer with me.”

“But, after all, John dear,” said Rose, “don’t feel so about us at any
rate. We shall do very well. People that fail honorably always come
right side up at last; and, John, how good it is to think, whatever you
lose, you cannot lose your best treasure,—your true noble heart, and
your true friends. I feel this minute that we shall all know each other
better, and be more precious to each other for this very trouble.”

John looked at her through his tears.

“Dear Rose,” he said, “you are an angel; and from my soul I
congratulate the man that has got _you_. He that has you would be rich,
if he lost the whole world.”

“You are too good to me, all of you,” said Rose. “But now, John, about
that bad news—let me break it to papa and mamma; I think I can do it
best. I know when they feel brightest in the day; and I don’t want it
to come on them suddenly: but I can put it in the very best way. How
fortunate that I am just engaged to Harry! Harry is a perfect prince
in generosity. You don’t know what a good heart he has; and it happens
so fortunately that we have him to lean on just now. Oh, I’m sure we
shall find a way out of these troubles, never fear.” And Rose took the
letter, and left John and Grace together.

“O Gracie, Gracie!” said John, throwing himself down on the old chintz
sofa, and burying his face in his hands, “what a woman there is! O
Gracie! I wish I was dead! Life is played out with me. I haven’t the
least desire to live. I can’t get a step farther.”

“O John, John! don’t talk so!” said Grace, stooping over him. “Why, you
will recover from this! You are young and strong. It will be settled;
and you can work your way up again.”

“It is not the money, Grace; I could let that go. It is that I have
nothing to live for,—nobody and nothing. My wife, Gracie! she is worse
than nothing,—worse, oh! infinitely worse than nothing! She is a chain
and a shackle. She is my obstacle. She tortures me and hinders me every
way and everywhere. There will never be a home for me where she is;
and, because she is there, no other woman can make a home for me. Oh, I
wish she would go away, and stay away! I would not care if I never saw
her face again.”

[Illustration: “O Gracie! I wish I was dead!”]

There was something shocking and terrible to Grace about this
outpouring. It was dreadful to her to be the recipient of such a
confidence, to hear these words spoken, and to more than suspect their
truth. She was quite silent for a few moments, as he still lay with his
face down, buried in the sofa-pillow.

Then she went to her writing-desk, took out a little ivory miniature of
their mother, came and sat down by him, and laid her hand on his head.

“John,” she said, “look at this.”

He raised his head, took it from her hand, and looked at it. Soon she
saw the tears dropping over it.

“John,” she said, “let me say to you now what I think our mother would
have said. The great object of life is not happiness; and, when we
have lost our own personal happiness, we have not lost all that life
is worth living for. No, John, the very best of life often lies beyond
that. When we have learned to let ourselves go, then we may find that
there is a better, a nobler, and a truer life for us.”

“I _have_ given up,” said John in a husky voice. “I have lost _all_.”

“Yes,” replied Grace, steadily, “I know perfectly well that there
is very little hope of personal and individual happiness for you in
your marriage for years to come. Instead of a companion, a friend,
and a helper, you have a moral invalid to take care of. But, John, if
Lillie had been stricken with blindness, or insanity, or paralysis,
you would not have shrunk from your duty to her; and, because the
blindness and paralysis are moral, you will not shrink from it, will
you? You sacrifice all your property to pay an indorsement for a debt
that is not yours; and why do you do it? Because society rests on
every man’s faithfulness to his engagements. John, if you stand by a
business engagement with this faithfulness, how much more should you
stand by that great engagement which concerns all other families and
the stability of all society. Lillie is your wife. You were free to
choose; and you chose her. She is the mother of your child; and, John,
what that daughter is to be depends very much on the steadiness with
which you fulfil your duties to the mother. I know that Lillie is a
most undeveloped and uncongenial person; I know how little you have in
common: but your duties are the same as if she were the best and the
most congenial of wives. It is every man’s duty to make the best of his
marriage.”

“But, Gracie,” said John, “is there any thing to be made of her?”

“You will never make me believe, John, that there are any human beings
absolutely without the capability of good. They may be very dark, and
very slow to learn, and very far from it; but steady patience and love
and well-doing will at last tell upon any one.”

“But, Gracie, if you could have heard how utterly without principle she
is: urging me to put my property out of my hands dishonestly, to keep
her in luxury!”

“Well, John, you must have patience with her. Consider that she has
been unfortunate in her associates. Consider that she has been a petted
child all her life, and that you have helped to pet her. Consider
how much your sex always do to weaken the moral sense of women, by
liking and admiring them for being weak and foolish and inconsequent,
so long as it is pretty and does not come in your way. I do not mean
you in particular, John; but I mean that the general course of society
releases pretty women from any sense of obligation to be constant in
duty, or brave in meeting emergencies. You yourself have encouraged
Lillie to live very much like a little humming-bird.”

“Well, I thought,” said John, “that she would in time develop into
something better.”

“Well, there lies your mistake; you expected too much. The work of
years is not to be undone in a moment; and you must take into account
that this is Lillie’s first adversity. You may as well make up your
mind not to expect her to be reasonable. It seems to me that we can
make up our minds to bear any thing that we know must come; and you
may as well make up yours, that, for a long time, you will have to
carry Lillie as a burden. But then, you must think that she is your
daughter’s mother, and that it is very important for the child that she
should respect and honor her mother. You must treat her with respect
and honor, even in her weaknesses. We all must. We all must help
Lillie as we can to bear this trial, and sympathize with her in it,
unreasonable as she may seem; because, after all, John, it is a real
trial to her.”

“I cannot see, for my part,” said John, “that she loves any thing.”

“The power of loving may be undeveloped in her, John; but it will
come, perhaps, later in life. At all events take this comfort to
yourself,—that, when you are doing your duty by your wife, when you
are holding her in her place in the family, and teaching her child to
respect and honor her, you are putting her in God’s school of love.
If we contend with and fly from our duties, simply because they gall
us and burden us, we go against every thing; but if we take them up
bravely, then every thing goes with us. God and good angels and good
men and all good influences are working with us when we are working for
the right. And in this way, John, you may come to happiness; or, if you
do not come to personal happiness, you may come to something higher
and better. You know that you think it nobler to be an honest man than
a rich man; and I am sure that you will think it better to be a good
man than to be a happy one. Now, dear John, it is not I that say these
things, I think; but it seems to me it is what our mother would say, if
she should speak to you from where she is. And then, dear brother, it
will all be over soon, this life-battle; and the only thing is, to come
out victorious.”

“Gracie, you are right,” said John, rising up: “I see it myself. I will
brace up to my duty. Couldn’t you try and pacify Lillie a little, poor
girl? I suppose I have been rough with her.”

“Oh, yes, John, I will go up and talk with Lillie, and condole with
her; and perhaps we shall bring her round. And then when my husband
comes home next week, we’ll have a family palaver, and he will find
some ways and means of setting this business straight, that it won’t
be so bad as it looks now. There may be arrangements made when the
creditors come together. My impression is that, whenever people find a
man really determined to arrange a matter of this kind honorably, they
are all disposed to help him; so don’t be cast down about the business.
As for Lillie’s discontent, treat it as you would the crying of your
little daughter for its sugar-plums, and do not expect any thing more
of her just now than there is.”

       *       *       *       *       *

We have brought our story up to this point. We informed our readers in
the beginning that it was not a novel, but a story with a moral; and,
as people pick all sorts of strange morals out of stories, we intend to
put conspicuously into our story exactly what the moral of it is.

Well, then, it has been very surprising to us to see in these our times
that some people, who really at heart have the interest of women upon
their minds, have been so short-sighted and reckless as to clamor for
an easy dissolution of the marriage-contract, as a means of righting
their wrongs. Is it possible that they do not see that this is a
liberty which, once granted, would always tell against the weaker sex?
If the woman who finds that she has made a mistake, and married a man
unkind or uncongenial, may, on the discovery of it, leave him and seek
her fortune with another, so also may a man. And what will become of
women like Lillie, when the first gilding begins to wear off, if the
man who has taken one of them shall be at liberty to cast her off
and seek another? Have we not enough now of miserable, broken-winged
butterflies, that sink down, down, down into the mud of the street?
But are women-reformers going to clamor for having every woman turned
out helpless, when the man who has married her, and made her a mother,
discovers that she has not the power to interest him, and to help his
higher spiritual development? It was because woman is helpless and
weak, and because Christ was her great Protector, that he made the law
of marriage irrevocable. “Whosoever putteth away his wife causeth her
to commit adultery.” If the sacredness of the marriage-contract did not
hold, if the Church and all good men and all good women did not uphold
it with their might and main, it is easy to see where the career of
many women like Lillie would end. Men have the power to reflect before
the choice is made; and that is the only proper time for reflection.
But, when once marriage is made and consummated, it should be as fixed
a fact as the laws of nature. And they who suffer under its stringency
should suffer as those who endure for the public good. “He that
sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not, he shall enter into the
tabernacle of the Lord.”



CHAPTER XXVIII.

_AFTER THE STORM._


THE painful and unfortunate crises of life often arise and darken
like a thunder-storm, and seem for the moment perfectly terrific and
overwhelming; but wait a little, and the cloud sweeps by, and the
earth, which seemed about to be torn to pieces and destroyed, comes
out as good as new. Not a bird is dead; not a flower killed: and the
sun shines just as he did before. So it was with John’s financial
trouble. When it came to be investigated and looked into, it proved
much less terrible than had been feared. It was not utter ruin. The
high character which John bore for honor and probity, the general
respect which was felt for him by all to whom he stood indebted, led to
an arrangement by which the whole business was put into his hands, and
time given him to work it through. His brother-in-law came to his aid,
advancing money, and entering into the business with him. Our friend
Harry Endicott was only too happy to prove his devotion to Rose by
offers of financial assistance.

In short, there seemed every reason to hope that, after a period of
somewhat close sailing, the property might be brought into clear water
again, and go on even better than before.

To say the truth, too, John was really relieved by that terrible burst
of confidence in his sister. It is a curious fact, that giving full
expression to bitterness of feeling or indignation against one we
love seems to be such a relief, that it always brings a revulsion of
kindliness. John never loved his sister so much as when he heard her
plead his wife’s cause with him; for, though in some bitter, impatient
hour a man may feel, which John did, as if he would be glad to sunder
all ties, and tear himself away from an uncongenial wife, yet a good
man never can forget the woman that once he loved, and who is the
mother of his children. Those sweet, sacred visions and illusions of
first love will return again and again, even after disenchantment; and
the better and the purer the man is, the more sacred is the appeal to
him of woman’s weakness. Because he is strong, and she is weak, he
feels that it would be unmanly to desert her; and, if there ever was
any thing for which John thanked his sister, it was when she went over
and spent hours with his wife, patiently listening to her complainings,
and soothing her as if she had been a petted child. All the circle of
friends, in a like manner, bore with her for his sake.

Thanks to the intervention of Grace’s husband and of Harry, John was
not put to the trial and humiliation of being obliged to sell the
family place, although constrained to live in it under a system of more
rigid economy. Lillie’s mother, although quite a commonplace woman as
a companion, had been an economist in her day; she had known how to
make the most of straitened circumstances, and, being put to it, could
do it again.

To be sure, there was an end of Newport gayeties; for Lillie vowed
and declared that she would not go to Newport and take cheap board,
and live without a carriage. She didn’t want the Follingsbees and the
Tompkinses and the Simpkinses talking about her, and saying that they
had failed. Her mother worked like a servant for her in smartening her
up, and tidying her old dresses, of which one would think that she had
a stock to last for many years. And thus, with everybody sympathizing
with her, and everybody helping her, Lillie subsided into enacting the
part of a patient, persecuted saint. She was touchingly resigned, and
wore an air of pleasing melancholy. John had asked her pardon for all
the hasty words he said to her in the terrible interview; and she had
forgiven him with edifying meekness. “Of course,” she remarked to her
mother, “she knew he would be sorry for the way he had spoken to her;
and she was very glad that he had the grace to confess it.”

So life went on and on with John. He never forgot his sister’s words,
but received them into his heart as a message from his mother in
heaven. From that time, no one could have judged by any word, look, or
action of his that his wife was not what she had always been to him.

Meanwhile Rose was happily married, and settled down in the Ferguson
place; where her husband and she formed one family with her parents. It
was a pleasant, cosey, social, friendly neighborhood. After all, John
found that his cross was not so very heavy to carry, when once he had
made up his mind that it must be borne. By never expecting much, he
was never disappointed. Having made up his mind that he was to serve
and to give without receiving, he did it, and began to find pleasure
in it. By and by, the little Lillie, growing up by her mother’s side,
began to be a compensation for all he had suffered. The little creature
inherited her mother’s beauty, the dazzling delicacy of her complexion,
the abundance of her golden hair; but there had been given to her also
her father’s magnanimous and generous nature. Lillie was a selfish,
exacting mother; and such women often succeed in teaching to their
children patience and self-denial. As soon as the little creature could
walk, she was her father’s constant play-fellow and companion. He took
her with him everywhere. He was never weary of talking with her and
playing with her; and gradually he relieved the mother of all care of
her early training. When, in time, two others were added to the nursery
troop, Lillie became a perfect model of a gracious, motherly, little
older sister.

Did all this patience and devotion of the husband at last awaken any
thing like love in the wife? Lillie was not naturally rich in emotion.
Under the best education and development, she would have been rather
wanting in the loving power; and the whole course of her education had
been directed to suppress what little she had, and to concentrate all
her feelings upon herself.

The factitious and unnatural life she had lived so many years had
seriously undermined the stamina of her constitution; and, after
the birth of her third child, her health failed altogether. Lillie
thus became in time a chronic invalid, exacting, querulous, full of
troubles and wants which tasked the patience of all around her. During
all these trying years, her husband’s faithfulness never faltered.
As he gradually retrieved his circumstances, she was first in every
calculation. Because he knew that here lay his greatest temptation,
here he most rigidly performed his duty. Nothing that money could give
to soften the weariness of sickness was withheld; and John was for
hours and hours, whenever he could spare the time, himself a personal,
assiduous, unwearied attendant in the sick-room.



CHAPTER XXIX.

_THE NEW LILLIE._

[Illustration]


WE have but one scene more before our story closes. It is night now in
Lillie’s sick-room; and her mother is anxiously arranging the drapery,
to keep the fire-light from her eyes, stepping noiselessly about the
room. She lies there behind the curtains, on her pillow,—the wreck and
remnant only of what was once so beautiful. During all these years,
when the interests and pleasures have been slowly dropping, leaf by
leaf, and passing away like fading flowers, Lillie has learned to do
much thinking. It sometimes seems to take a stab, a thrust, a wound,
to open in some hearts the capacity of deep feeling and deep thought.
There are things taught by suffering that can be taught in no other
way. By suffering sometimes is wrought out in a person the power of
loving, and of appreciating love. During the first year, Lillie had
often seemed to herself in a sort of wild, chaotic state. The coming
in of a strange new spiritual life was something so inexplicable to
her that it agitated and distressed her; and sometimes, when she
appeared more petulant and fretful than usual, it was only the stir
and vibration on her weak nerves of new feelings, which she wanted the
power to express. These emotions at first were painful to her. She
felt weak, miserable, and good for nothing. It seemed to her that her
whole life had been a wretched cheat, and that she had ill repaid the
devotion of her husband. At first these thoughts only made her bitter
and angry; and she contended against them. But, as she sank from day
to day, and grew weaker and weaker, she grew more gentle; and a better
spirit seemed to enter into her.

On this evening that we speak of, she had made up her mind that she
would try and tell her husband some of the things that were passing in
her mind.

“Tell John I want to see him,” she said to her mother. “I wish he would
come and sit with me.”

This was a summons for which John invariably left every thing. He laid
down his book as the word was brought to him, and soon was treading
noiselessly at her bedside.

“Well, Lillie dear,” he said, “how are you?”

She put out her little wasted hand; “John dear,” she said, “sit down; I
have something that I want to say to you. I have been thinking, John,
that this can’t last much longer.”

“What can’t last, Lillie?” said John, trying to speak cheerfully.

“I mean, John, that I am going to leave you soon, for good and all; and
I should not think you would be sorry either.”

“Oh, come, come, my girl, it won’t do to talk so!” said John, patting
her hand. “You must not be blue.”

“And so, John,” said Lillie, going on without noticing this
interruption, “I wanted just to tell you, before I got any weaker, that
I know and feel just how patient and noble and good you have always
been to me.”

“O Lillie darling!” said John, “why shouldn’t I be? Poor little girl,
how much you have suffered!”

“Well, now, John, I know perfectly well that I have never been the
wife that I ought to be to you. You know it too; so don’t try to say
anything about it. I was never the woman to have made you happy; and
it was not fair in me to marry you. I have lived a dreadfully worldly,
selfish life. And now, John, I am come to the end. You dear good man,
your trials with me are almost over; but I want you to know that you
really have succeeded. John, I do love you now with all my heart,
though I did not love you when I married you. And, John, I do feel
that God will take pity on me, poor and good for nothing as I am, just
because I see how patient and kind you have always been to me when I
have been so very provoking. You see it has made me think how good God
must be,—because, dear, we know that he is better than the best of us.”

“O Lillie, Lillie!” said John, leaning over her, and taking her in his
arms, “do live, I want you to live. Don’t leave me now, now that you
really love me!”

“Oh, no, John! it is best as it is,—I think I should not have strength
to be _very_ good, if I were to get well; and you would still have your
little cross to carry. No, dear, it is all right. And, John, you will
have the best of me in our Lillie. She looks like me: but, John, she
has your good heart; and she will be more to you than I could be. She
is just as sweet and unselfish as I _was_ selfish. I don’t think I am
quite so bad now; and I think, if I lived, I should try to be a great
deal better.”

“O Lillie! I cannot bear to part with you! I never have ceased to love
you; and I never have loved any other woman.”

“I know that, John. Oh! how much truer and better you are than I have
been! But I like to think that you love me,—I like to think that you
will be sorry when I am gone, bad as I am, or _was_; for I insist on it
that I am a little better than I was. You remember that story of Undine
you read me one day? It seems as if most of my life I have been like
Undine before her soul came into her. But this last year I have felt
the coming in of a soul. It has troubled me; it has come with a strange
kind of pain. I have never suffered so much. But it has done me good—it
has made me feel that I have an immortal soul, and that you and I,
John, shall meet in some better place hereafter.—And there you will be
rewarded for all your goodness to me.”

As John sat there, and held the little frail hand, his thoughts went
back to the time when the wild impulse of his heart had been to break
away from this woman, and never see her face again; and he gave thanks
to God, who had led him in a better way.

      .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

And so, at last, passed away the little story of Lillie’s life. But
in the home which she has left now grows another Lillie, fairer and
sweeter than she,—the tender confidant, the trusted friend of her
father. And often, when he lays his hand on her golden head, he says,
“Dear child, how like your mother you look!”

Of all that was painful in that experience, nothing now remains. John
thinks of her only as he thought of her in the fair illusion of first
love,—the dearest and most sacred of all illusions.

The Lillie who guides his household, and is so motherly to the younger
children; who shares every thought of his heart; who enters into every
feeling and sympathy,—she is the pure reward of his faithfulness and
constancy. She is a sacred and saintly Lillie, springing out of the sod
where he laid her mother, forgetting all her faults for ever.

[Illustration]

    Cambridge: Press of John Wilson and Son.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 47, “embroided” changed to “embroidered” (embroidered under-linen)

Page 79, “wo ld” changed to “world” (do it for the world)

Page 203, “spirt” changed to “spirit” (little spirit of gayety)

Page 223, “Syndenham” changed to “Sydenham” (with which Walter Sydenham
was)





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