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Title: Charlemont; Or, The Pride of the Village. a Tale of Kentucky
Author: Simms, William Gilmore
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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CHARLEMONT;

OR,

THE PRIDE OF THE VILLAGE

A TALE OF KENTUCKY.

BY W. GILMORE SIMMS,


[Illustration: no caption, but contains the word Charlemont. Two men are
riding a horse and a woman stands nearby.]



   “Nor will I be secure.
    In any confidence of mine own strength,
    For such security is oft the mother
    Of negligence, and that, the occasion
    Of unremedy’d ruin.”

            Microcosmus--THO. NABBES.



TO THE HON. JAMES HALL, OF CINCINNATI:

AS ONE OF THE ABLEST OF OUR LITERARY PIONEERS A GENUINE REPRESENTATIVE
OF THE GREAT WEST;

WHOSE WRITINGS EQUALLY ILLUSTRATE HER HISTORY AND GENIUS:

this story of “CHARLEMONT,” and its Sequel “BEAUCHAMPE” are respectfully
inscribed by

THEIR AUTHOR



ADVERTISEMENT



The domestic legend which follows, is founded upon actual events of
comparatively recent occurrence in the state of Kentucky. However
strange the facts may appear in the sequel--however in conflict with
what are usually supposed to be the sensibilities and characteristics
of woman--they are yet unquestionably true; most of them having been
conclusively established, by the best testimony, before a court
of justice. Very terrible, indeed, was the tragedy to which they
conducted--one that startled the whole country when it took place, and
the mournful interest of which will long be remembered. More on this
subject need not be mentioned here. The narrative, it is hoped, will
satisfy all the curiosity of the reader. It has been very carefully
prepared from and according to the evidence; the art of the romancer
being held in close subjection to the historical authorities. I have
furnished only the necessary details which would fill such blanks in
the story as are of domestic character; taking care that these should
accord, in all cases, with the despotic facts. In respect to these,
I have seldom appealed to invention. It is in the delineation and
development of character, only, that I have made free to furnish scenes,
such as appeared to me calculated to perfect the portraits, and the
better to reconcile the reader to real occurrences, which, in their
original nakedness, however unquestionably true, might incur the risk of
being thought improbabilities.

The reflections which will be most likely to arise from the perusal of
such a history, lead us to a consideration of the social characteristics
of the time and region, and to a consideration of the facility with
which access to society is afforded by the manners and habits of our
forest population. It is in all newly-settled countries, as among the
rustic population of most nations, that the absence of the compensative
resources of wealth leads to a singular and unreserved freedom among
the people. In this way, society endeavors to find equivalents for those
means of enjoyment which a wealthy people may procure from travel, from
luxury, from the arts, and the thousand comforts of a well-provided
homestead. The population of a frontier country, lacking such resources,
scattered over a large territory, and meeting infrequently, feel the
lack of social intercourse; and this lack tends to break down most
of the barriers which a strict convention usually establishes for
the protection, not only of sex and caste, but of its own tastes and
prejudices. Lacking the resources of superior wealth, population, and
civilization, the frontier people are naturally required to throw the
doors open as widely as possible, in order to obtain that intercourse
with their fellows which is, perhaps, the first great craving of
humanity. As a matter of necessity, there is little discrimination
exercised in the admission of their guests. A specious outside,
agreeable manners, cleverness and good humor, will soon make their way
into confidence, without requiring other guaranties for the moral of the
stranger. The people are naturally frank and hospitable; for the simple
reason that these qualities of character are essential for procuring
them that intercourse which they crave. The habits are accessible, the
restraints few, the sympathies are genial, active, easily aroused, and
very confiding. It follows, naturally, that they are frequently wronged
and outraged, and just as naturally that their resentments are keen,
eager, and vindictive. The self-esteem, if not watchful, is revengeful;
and society sanctions promptly the fierce redress--that wild justice of
revenge--which punishes without appeal to law, with its own right hand,
the treacherous guest who has abused the unsuspecting confidence which
welcomed him to a seat upon the sacred hearth. In this brief portrait
of the morale of society, upon our frontiers, you will find the materiel
from which this story has been drawn, and its justification, as a
correct delineation of border life in one of its more settled phases in
the new states. The social description of Charlemont exhibits,
perhaps, a THIRD advance in our forest civilization, from the original
settlement.

It is not less the characteristic of these regions to exhibit the
passions and the talents of the people in equal and wonderful saliency.
We are accordingly struck with two classes of social facts, which do not
often arrest the attention in old communities. We see, for example, the
most singular combination of simplicity and sagacity in the same person;
simplicity in conventional respects, and sagacity in all that affects
the absolute and real in life, nature and the human sensibilities. The
rude man, easily imposed upon, in his faith, fierce as an outlaw in
his conflicts with men, will be yet exquisitely alive to the nicest
consciousness of woman; will as delicately appreciate her instincts and
sensibilities, as if love and poetry had been his only tutors from the
first, and had mainly addressed their labors to this one object of the
higher heart, education; and in due degree with the tenderness with
which he will regard the sex, will be the vindictive ferocity with
which--even though no kinsman--he will pursue the offender who has dared
to outrage them in the case of any individual. In due degree as his
faith is easy will his revenges be extreme. In due degree as he is slow
to suspect the wrong-doer, will be the tenacity of his pursuit when
the offender requires punishment. He seems to throw wide his heart and
habitation, but you must beware how you trespass upon the securities of
either.

The other is a mental characteristic which leads to frequent surprises
among strangers from the distant cities. It consists in the wonderful
inequality between his mental and social development. The same person
who will be regarded as a boor in good society, will yet exhibit
a rapidity and profundity of thought and intelligence--a depth and
soundness of judgment--an acuteness in discrimination--a logical
accuracy, and critical analysis, such as mere good society rarely shows,
and such as books almost as rarely teach. There will be a deficiency
of refinement, taste, art--all that the polished world values so
highly--and which it seems to cherish and encourage to the partial
repudiation of the more essential properties of intellect. However
surprising this characteristic may appear, it may yet be easily
accounted for by the very simplicity of a training which results in
great directness and force of character--a frank heartiness of aim and
object--a truthfulness of object which suffers the thoughts to turn
neither to the right hand nor to the left, but to press forward
decisively to the one object--a determined will, and a restless
instinct--which, conscious of the deficiencies of wealth and position,
is yet perpetually seeking to supply them from the resources within its
reach. These characteristics will be found illustrated in the present
legend, an object which it somewhat contemplates, apart from the mere
story with which they are interwoven.

A few words more in respect to our heroine, Margaret Cooper. It is our
hope and belief, that she will be found a real character by most of our
readers. She is drawn from the life, and with a severe regard to the
absolute features of the original. In these days of “strong-minded
women,” even more certainly than when the portrait was first taken, the
identity of the sketch with its original will be sure of recognition.
Her character and career will illustrate most of the mistakes which are
made by that ambitious class, among the gentler sex, who are now seeking
so earnestly to pass out from that province of humiliation to which the
sex has been circumscribed from the first moment of recorded history.
What she will gain by the motion, if successful, might very well be left
to time, were it not that the proposed change in her condition threatens
fatally some of her own and the best securities of humanity. We may
admit, and cheerfully do so, that she might, with propriety, be allowed
some additional legal privileges of a domestic sort. But the great
object of attainment, which is the more serious need of the sex--her
own more full development as a responsible being--seems mainly to depend
upon herself, and upon self-education. The great first duty of woman
is in her becoming the mother of men; and this duty implies her proper
capacity for the education and training of the young. To fit her
properly for this duty, her education should become more elevated, and
more severe in degree with its elevation. But the argument is one of too
grave, too intricate, and excursive a character, to be attempted here.
It belongs to a very different connection. It is enough, in this place,
to say that Margaret Cooper possesses just the sort of endowment to
make a woman anxious to pass the guardian boundaries which hedge in her
sex--her danger corresponds with her desires. Her securities, with
such endowments, and such a nature, can only be found in a strict and
appropriate education, such as woman seldom receives anywhere, and less,
perhaps, in this country than in any other. To train fully the
feminine mind, without in any degree impairing her susceptibilities and
sensibilities, seems at once the necessity and the difficulty of the
subject. Her very influence over man lies in her sensibilities. It will
be to her a perilous fall from pride of place, and power, when, goaded
by an insane ambition, in the extreme development of her mere intellect,
she shall forfeit a single one of these securities of her sex.



CHAPTER I.

THE SCENE.



The stormy and rugged winds of March were overblown--the first fresh
smiling days of April had come at last--the days of sunshine and shower,
of fitful breezes, the breath of blossoms, and the newly-awakened song
of birds. Spring was there in all the green and glory of her youth, and
the bosom of Kentucky heaved with the prolific burden of the season. She
had come, and her messengers were everywhere, and everywhere busy. The
birds bore her gladsome tidings to

    “Alley green,
    Dingle or bushy dell of each wild wood,
    And every bosky bourn from side to side--”

nor were the lately-trodden and seared grasses of the forests left
unnoted; and the humbled flower of the wayside sprang up at her summons.
Like some loyal and devoted people, gathered to hail the approach of a
long-exiled and well-beloved sovereign, they crowded upon the path over
which she came, and yielded themselves with gladness at her feet. The
mingled songs and sounds of their rejoicing might be heard, and far-off
murmurs of gratulation, rising from the distant hollows, or coming
faintly over the hill-tops, in accents not the lees pleasing because
they were the less distinct. That lovely presence which makes every land
blossom, and every living thing rejoice, met, in the happy region in
which we meet her now, a double tribute of honor and rejoicing.

The “dark and bloody ground,” by which mournful epithets Kentucky was
originally known to the Anglo-American, was dark and bloody no longer.
The savage had disappeared from its green forests for ever, and no
longer profaned with slaughter, and his unholy whoop of death, its broad
and beautiful abodes. A newer race had succeeded; and the wilderness,
fulfilling the better destinies of earth, had begun to blossom like the
rose. Conquest had fenced in its sterile borders with a wall of fearless
men, and peace slept everywhere in security among its green recesses.
Stirring industry--the perpetual conqueror--made the woods resound with
the echoes of his biting axe and ringing hammer. Smiling villages rose
in cheerful white, in place of the crumbling and smoky cabins of
the hunter. High and becoming purposes of social life and thoughtful
enterprise superseded that eating and painful decay, which has
terminated in the annihilation of the red man; and which, among every
people, must always result from their refusal to exercise, according
to the decree of experience, no less than Providence, their limbs and
sinews in tasks of well-directed and continual labor.

A great nation urging on a sleepless war against sloth and feebleness,
is one of the noblest of human spectacles. This warfare was rapidly
and hourly changing the monotony and dreary aspects of rock and forest.
Under the creative hands of art, temples of magnificence rose where the
pines had fallen. Long and lovely vistas were opened through the dark
and hitherto impervious thickets. The city sprang up beside the river,
while hamlets, filled with active hope and cheerful industry, crowded
upon the verdant hill-side, and clustered among innumerable valleys
Grace began to seek out the homes of toil, and taste supplied their
decorations. A purer form of religion hallowed the forest-homes of the
red-man, while expelling for ever the rude divinities of his worship;
and throughout the land, an advent of moral loveliness seemed
approaching, not less grateful to the affections and the mind, than
was the beauty of the infant April, to the eye and the heart of the
wanderer.

But something was still wanting to complete the harmonies of nature, in
the scene upon which we are about to enter. Though the savage had for
ever departed from its limits, the blessings of a perfect civilization
were not yet secured to the new and flourishing regions of Kentucky.
Its morals were still in that fermenting condition which invariably
distinguishes the settlement of every new country by a various and
foreign people. At the distant period of which we write, the population
of Kentucky had not yet become sufficiently stationary to have made
their domestic gods secure, or to have fixed the proper lines and limits
regulating social intercourse and attaching precise standards to human
conduct. The habits and passions of the first settlers--those fearless
pioneers who had struggled foot to foot with the Indian, and lived in
a kindred state of barbarity with him, had not yet ceased to have
influence over the numerous race which followed them. That moral amalgam
which we call society, and which recognises a mutual and perfectly equal
condition of dependence, and a common necessity, as the great cementing
principles of the human family, had not yet taken place; and it was
still too much the custom, in that otherwise lovely region, for the wild
man to revenge his own wrong, and the strong man to commit a greater
with impunity. The repose of social order was not yet secured to the
great mass, covering with its wing, as with a sky that never knew a
cloud, the sweet homes and secure possessions of the unwarlike. The
fierce robber sometimes smote the peaceful traveler upon the highway,
and the wily assassin of reputation, within the limits of the city
barrier, not unfrequently plucked the sweetest rose that ever adorned
the virgin bosom of innocence, and triumphed, without censure, in the
unhallowed spoliation.

But sometimes there came an avenger;--and the highway robber fell before
the unexpected patriot; and the virgin was avenged by the yet beardless
hero, for the wrong of her cruel seducer. The story which we have to
tell, is of times and of actions such as these. It is a melancholy
narrative--the more melancholy as it is most certainly true. It will not
be told in vain, if the crime which it describes in proper colors, and
the vengeance by which it was followed, and which it equally records,
shall secure the innocent from harm, and discourage the incipient
wrongdoer from his base designs.



CHAPTER II.

THE TRAVELLERS.



Let the traveller stand with us on the top of this rugged eminence, and
look down upon the scene below. Around us, the hills gather in groups
on every side, a family cluster, each of which wears the same general
likeness to that on which we stand, yet there is no monotony in their
aspect. The axe has not yet deprived them of a single tree, and they
rise up, covered with the honored growth of a thousand summers. But they
seem not half so venerable. They wear, in this invigorating season,
all the green, fresh features of youth and spring. The leaves cover the
rugged Limbs which sustain them, with so much ease and grace, as if for
the first time they were so green and glossy, and as if the impression
should be made more certain and complete, the gusty wind of March has
scattered abroad and borne afar, all the yellow garments of the
vanished winter. The wild flowers begin to flaunt their blue and crimson
draperies about us, as if conscious that they are borne upon the bosom
of undecaying beauty; and the spot so marked and hallowed by each
charming variety of bud and blossom, would seem to have been a selected
dwelling for the queenly Spring herself.

Man, mindful of those tastes and sensibilities which in great part
constitute his claim to superiority over the brute, has not been
indifferent to the beauties of the place. In the winding hollows of
these hills, beginning at our feet, you see the first signs of as lovely
a little hamlet as ever promised peace to the weary and the discontent.
This is the village of Charlemont.

A dozen snug and smiling cottages seem to have been dropped in this
natural cup, as if by a spell of magic. They appear, each of them, to
fill a fitted place--not equally distant from, but equally near each
other. Though distinguished, each by an individual feature, there is
yet no great dissimilarity among them. All are small, and none of
them distinguished by architectural pretension. They are now quite as
flourishing as when first built, and their number has had no increase
since the village was first settled. Speculation has not made it
populous and prosperous, by destroying its repose, stifling its
charities, and abridging the sedate habits and comforts of its people.
The houses, though constructed after the fashion of the country, of
heavy and ill-squared logs, roughly hewn, and hastily thrown together,
perhaps by unpractised hands, are yet made cheerful by that tidy
industry which is always sure to make them comfortable also. Trim hedges
that run beside slender white palings, surround and separate them from
each other. Sometimes, as you see, festoons of graceful flowers, and
waving blossoms, distinguish one dwelling from the rest, declaring its
possession of some fair tenant, whose hand and fancy have kept equal
progress with habitual industry; at the same time, some of them appear
entirely without the little garden of flowers and vegetables, which
glimmers and glitters in the rear or front of the greater number.

Such was Charlemont, at the date of our narrative. But the traveller
would vainly look, now, to find the place as we describe it. The garden
is no longer green with fruits and flowers--the festoons no longer grace
the lowly portals--the white palings are down and blackening in the
gloomy mould--the roofs have fallen, and silence dwells lonely among
the ruins,--the only inhabitant of the place. It has no longer a human
occupant.

“Something ails it now--the spot is cursed.”

Why this fate has fallen upon so sweet an abiding place--why the
villagers should have deserted a spot, so quiet and so beautiful--it
does not fall within our present purpose to inquire. It was most
probably abandoned--not because of the unfruitfulness of the soil, or
the unhealthiness of the climate--for but few places on the bosom of
the earth, may be found either more fertile, more beautiful, or
more healthful--but in compliance with that feverish restlessness of
mood--that sleepless discontent of temper, which, perhaps, more than
any other quality, is the moral failing in the character of the
Anglo-American. The roving desires of his ancestor, which brought him
across the waters, have been transmitted without diminution--nay, with
large increase--to the son. The creatures of a new condition of things,
and new necessities, our people will follow out their destiny. The
restless energies which distinguish them, are, perhaps, the contemplated
characteristics which Providence has assigned them, in order that they
may the more effectually and soon, bring into the use and occupation of
a yet mightier people, the wilderness of that new world in which their
fortunes have been cast. Generation is but the pioneer of generation,
and the children of millions, more gigantic and powerful than ourselves,
shall yet smile to behold, how feeble was the stroke made by our axe
upon the towering trees of their inheritance.

It was probably because of this characteristic of our people, that
Charlemont came in time to be deserted. The inhabitants were one day
surprised with tidings of more attractive regions in yet deeper forests,
and grew dissatisfied with their beautiful and secluded valley. Such
is the ready access to the American mind, in its excitable state, of
novelty and sudden impulse, that there needs but few suggestions to
persuade the forester to draw stakes, and remove his tents, where the
signs seem to be more numerous of sweeter waters and more prolific
fields. For a time, change has the power which nature does not often
exercise; and under its freshness, the waters DO seem sweeter, and the
stores of the wilderness, the wild-honey and the locust, DO seem more
abundant to the lip and eye.

Where our cottagers went, and under what delusion, are utterly unknown
to us; nor is it important to our narrative that we should inquire. Our
knowledge of them is only desirable, while they were in the flourishing
condition in which they have been seen. It is our trust that the
novelty which seduced them from their homes, did not fail them in its
promises--that they may never have found, in all their wanderings, a
less lovely abiding-place, than that which they abandoned. But change
has its bitter, as well as its sweet, and the fear is strong that the
cottagers of Charlemont, in the weary hours, when life’s winter
is approaching, will still and vainly sigh after the once-despised
enjoyments of their deserted hamlet.

It was toward the close of one of those bright, tearful days in
April, of which we have briefly spoken, when a couple of travellers on
horseback, ascended the last hill looking down upon Charlemont. One of
these travellers had passed the middle period of life; the other was,
perhaps, just about to enter upon its heavy responsibilities, and more
active duties. The first wore the countenance of one who had borne many
sorrows, and borne them with that resignation, which, while it proves
the wisdom of the sufferer, is at the same time, calculated to increase
his benevolence. The expression of his eye, was full of kindness and
benignity, while that of his mouth, with equal force, was indicative
of a melancholy, as constant as it was gentle and unobtrusive. A feeble
smile played over his lips while he spoke, that increased the sadness
which it softened; as the faint glimmer of the evening sunlight, upon
the yellow leaves of autumn, heightens the solemn tones in the rich
coloring of the still decaying forest.

The face of his companion, in many of its features, was in direct
contrast with his own. It was well formed, and, to the casual glance,
seemed no less handsome than intellectual. There was much in it to win
the regard of the young and superficial. An eye that sparkled with fire,
a mouth that glowed with animation--cheeks warmly colored, and a contour
full of vivacity, seemed to denote properties of mind and heart equally
valuable and attractive. Still, a keen observer would have found
something sinister, in the upward glancing of the eye, at intervals,
from the half-closed lids; and, at such moments, there was a curling
contempt upon the lips, which seemed to denote a cynical and sarcastic
turn of mind. A restless movement of the same features seemed equally
significant of caprice of character, and a flexibility of moral; while
the chin narrowed too suddenly and became too sharp at the extremity, to
persuade a thorough physiognomist, that the owner could be either very
noble in his aims, or very generous in his sentiments. But as these
outward tokens can not well be considered authority in the work of
judgment, let events, which speak for themselves, determine the true
character of our travellers.

They had reached the table land of the heights which looked down upon
Charlemont, at a moment when the beauty of the scene could scarcely fail
to impress itself upon the most indifferent observer. The elder of the
travellers, who happened to be in advance, was immediately arrested by
it; and, staying the progress of his horse, with hand lifted above
his eye, looked around him with a delight which expressed itself in an
abrupt ejaculation, and brought his companion to his side. The sun had
just reached that point in his descent, which enabled him to level a
shaft of rosy light from the pinnacle of the opposite hill, into the
valley below, where it rested among the roofs of two of the cottages,
which arose directly in its path. The occupants of these two cottages
had come forth, as it were, in answer to the summons; and old and young,
to the number of ten or a dozen persons, had met, in the winding pathway
between, which led through the valley, and in front of every cottage
which it contained. The elder of the cottagers sat upon the huge trunk
of a tree, which had been felled beside the road, for the greater
convenience of the traveller; and with eyes turned in the direction of
the hill on which the sunlight had sunk and appeared to slumber, seemed
to enjoy the vision with no less pleasure than our senior traveller.
Two tall damsels of sixteen, accompanied by a young man something older,
were strolling off in the direction of the woods; while five or six
chubby girls and boys were making the echoes leap and dance along the
hills, in the clamorous delight which they felt in their innocent but
stirring exercises. The whole scene was warmed with the equal brightness
of the natural and the human sun. Beauty was in the sky, and its
semblance, at least, was on the earth. God was in the heavens, and in
his presence could there be other than peace and harmony among men!

“How beautiful!” exclaimed the elder of our travellers--“could
anything be more so! How pure, how peaceful! See, Warham, how soft, how
spirit-like, that light lies along the hill-side, and how distinct, yet
how delicate, is the train which glides from it down the valley, even
to the white dwellings at its bottom, from which it seems to shrink and
tremble as if half conscious of intrusion. And yet the picture below
is kindred with it. That, now, is a scene that I delight in--it is a
constant picture in my mind. There is peace in that valley, if there
be peace anywhere on earth. The old men sit before the door, and
contemplate with mingled feelings of pride and pleasure, the vigorous
growth of their children. They behold in them their own immortality,
even upon earth. The young will preserve their memories, and transmit
their names to other children yet unborn; and how must such a reflection
reconcile them to their own time of departure, not unfitly shown in the
last smiles of that sunlight, which they are so soon about to lose. Like
him, they look with benevolence and love upon the world from which they
will soon depart.”

“Take my word for it, uncle, they will postpone their departure to the
last possible moment, and, so far from looking with smiles upon what
they are about to leave for ever, they will leave it with very great
reluctance, and in monstrous bad humor. As for regarding their children
with any such notions as those you dwell upon with such poetical
raptures, they will infinitely prefer transmitting for themselves their
names and qualities to the very end of the chapter. Ask any one of them
the question now, and he will tell you that an immortality, each, in his
own wig-wam, and with his weight of years and infirmity upon him, would
satisfy all his expectations. If they look at the vigor of their young,
it is to recollect that they themselves once were so, and to repine at
the recollection. Take my word for it, there is not a dad among them,
that does not envy his own son the excellence of his limbs, and the long
time of exercise and enjoyment which they seemingly assure him.”

“Impossible!” exclaimed the elder of the two travellers. “Impossible! I
should be sorry to think as you do. But you, Warham, can not understand
these things. You are an habitual unbeliever--the most unfortunate of
all mankind.”

“The most fortunate, rather. I have but few burdens of credulity to
carry. The stars be blessed, my articles of faith are neither very many
nor very cumbrous. I should be sorry if my clients were so few.”

“I should be sorry, Warham, if I had so little feeling as yourself.”

“And I should be still more sorry, uncle, if I had half so much. Why,
sir, yours is in such excess, that you continually mistake the joys
and sorrows of other people for your own. You laugh and weep with them
alternately; and, until all’s done and over, you never seem to discover
that the business was none of yours;--that you had none of the pleasure
which made you laugh, and might have been spared all the unnecessary
suffering which moved your tears. ‘Pon my soul, sir, you pass a most
unprofitable life.”

“You mistake, Warham, I have shared both; and my profits have been
equally great from both sources. My susceptibility has been an exceeding
great gain to me, and has quickened all my senses. There is a joy of
grief, you know, according to Ossian.”

“Nay, if you quote Ossian, uncle. I give you up. I don’t believe in
Ossian, and his raving stuff always sickens me.”

“I sometimes think, Warham,” said the uncle, good naturedly, “that
Providence has denied you some of the more human faculties. Nay, I fear
that you are partially deficient in some of the senses. Do you see that
sunlight to which I point--there, on the hill-side, a sort of rosy haze,
which seems to me eminently beautiful?”

“Yes, sir; and, if you will suffer me, I will get out of its reach as
quickly as possible. I have been half blinded by it ever since you found
it so beautiful. Sunlight is, I think, of very little importance to
professional men, unless as a substitute for candles, and then it should
come over the left shoulder, if you would not have it endanger the
sight. Nay, I will go farther, and confess that it is better than
candlelight, and certainly far less expensive. Shall we go forward,
sir?”

“Warham,” said the uncle, with increasing gravity, “I should be sorry to
believe that a habit of speech so irreverential, springs from anything
but an ambition for saying smart things, and strange things, which are
not always smart. It would give me great pain to think that you were
devoid of any of those sensibilities which soften the hearts of other
men, and lead them to generous impulses.”

“Nay, be not harsh, uncle. You should know me better. I trust my
sensibilities, and senses too, may be sufficient for all proper
purposes, when the proper time comes for their employment; but I can’t
flame up at every sunbeam, and grow enthusiastic in the contemplation of
Bill Johnson’s cottage, and Richard Higgins’s hedgerow. A turnip-patch
never yet could waken my enthusiasm, and I do believe, sir--I confess it
with some shame and a slight misgiving, lest my admissions should give
you pain--that my fancy has never been half so greatly enkindled by
Carthula, of the bending spear, or Morven of the winds, as by the sedate
and homely aspect of an ordinary dish of eggs and bacon, hot from the
flaming frying-pan of some worthy housewife.”

The uncle simply looked upon the speaker, but without answering. He was
probably quite too much accustomed to his modes of thought and speech to
be so much surprised as annoyed by what he said. Perhaps, too, his own
benevolence of spirit interfered to save the nephew from that harsher
rebuke which his judgment might yet have very well disposed him to
bestow.

Following the course of the latter in silence, he descended into the
valley, and soon made his way among the sweet little cottages at
its foot. An interchange of courtsies between the travellers and the
villagers whose presence had given occasion to some portion of the
previous dialogue, in which the manner of the younger traveller was
civil, and that of the elder kind; and the two continued on their
journey, though not without being compelled to refuse sundry
invitations, given with true patriarchal hospitality, to remain among
the quiet abodes through which they passed.

As cottage after cottage unfolded itself to their eyes, along the
winding avenue, the proprietors appeared at door and window, and, with
the simple freedoms of rural life, welcomed the strangers with a
smile, a nod, and sometimes, when sufficiently nigh, a friendly word
of salutation, but without having the effect of arresting their onward
progress. Yet many a backward glance was sent by the elder of the
travellers, whose eyes, beaming with satisfaction, sufficiently declared
the delight which he received from the contemplation of so many of the
mingled graces of physical and moral nature. His loitering steps drew
from his young companion an occasional remark, which, to ears less
benevolent and unsuspecting than than those of the senior, might have
been deemed a sarcasm; and more than once the lips of the nephew had
curled with contemptuous smiles, as he watched the yearning glances of
his uncle on each side of the avenue, as they wended slowly through it.

At the end of the village, and at the foot of the opposite hills, they
encountered a group of young people of both sexes, whose bursts of
merriment were suddenly restrained as they emerged unexpectedly into
sight. The girls had been sitting upon the grassy mead, with the young
men before them; but they started to their feet at the sound of strange
steps, and the look of strange faces. Charlemont, it must be remembered,
was not in the thoroughfare of common travel. If visited at all by
strangers, it was most usually by those only who came with a single
purpose. Nothing, therefore could have been more calculated to surprise
a community so insulated, than that they should attract, but not arrest
the traveller. The natural surprise which the young people felt, when
unexpectedly encountered in their rustic sports, was naturally increased
by this unusual circumstance, and they looked after the departing forms
of the wayfarers with a wonder and curiosity that kept them for some
time silent. The elder of the two, meanwhile--one of whose habits of
mind was always to give instantaneous utterance to the feeling which was
upper-most--dilated, without heeding the sneers of his nephew, upon the
apparent happiness which they witnessed.

“Here, you see, Warham, is a pleasure which the great city never
knows:--the free intercourse of the sexes in all those natural exercises
which give health to the body, grace to the movement, and vivacity to
the manners.”

“The health will do well enough,” replied the skeptic, “but save me from
the grace of Hob and Hinney; and as for their manners--did I hear you
correctly, uncle, when you spoke of their manners?”

“Surely, you did. I have always regarded the natural manners which
belong to the life of the forester, as being infinitely more noble, as
well as more graceful, than those of the citizen. Where did you ever
see a tradesman whose bearing was not mean compared with that of the
hunter?”

“Ay, but these are no hunters, and scarcely foresters. I see not a
single Nimrod among the lads; and as for the lasses, even your eyes,
indulgent as they usually are, will scarcely venture to insist that I
shall behold one nymph among them worthy to tie the shoe-latchets of
Diana. The manners of the hunter are those of an elastic savage; but
these lads shear sheep, raise hogs for the slaughter-pen, and seldom
perform a nobler feat than felling a bullock. They have none of the
elasticity which, coupled with strength, makes the grace of the man;
and they walk as if perpetually in the faith that their corn-rows and
potatoe-hills were between their legs.”

“Did you note the young woman in the crimson body Warham? Was she not
majestically made?”

“It struck me she would weigh against any two of the company.”

“She is rather heavy, I grant you, but her carriage, Warham!”

“Would carry weight--nothing more.”

“There was one little girl, just rising into womanhood:--you must admit
that she had a very lovely face, and her form--”

“My dear uncle, what is it that you will not desire me to believe? You
are sadly given to proselytism, and take infinite pains to compel me
to see with eyes that never do their owner so much wrong, as when
they reject the aid of spectacles. How much would Charlemont and its
inhabitants differ to your sight, were you only to take your green
spectacles from the shagreen case in which they do no duty. But if you
are resolved, in order to seem youthful, to let your age go unprovided
with the means of seeing as youth would see, at least suffer me to enjoy
the natural privileges of twenty-five. When, like you, my hairs whiten,
and my eyes grow feeble, ten to one, I shall think with you that every
third woodman is an Apollo, and every other peasant-girl is a Venus,
whom--”

The words of the speaker ceased--cut short by the sudden appearance of a
form and face, the beauty and dignity of which silenced the skeptic, and
made him doubtful, for the moment, whether he had not in reality reached
that period of confused and confounding vision, which, as he alleged to
be the case with his uncle, loses all power of discrimination. A maiden
stood before him--tall, erect, majestic--beautiful after no ordinary
standard of beauty. She was a brunette, with large dark eyes, which,
though bright, seemed dark with excess of bright--and had a depth of
expression which thrilled instantly through the bosom of the spectator.
A single glance did she bestow upon the travellers, while she
acknowledged, by a slight courtesy, the respectful bow which they made
her. They drew up their horses as with mutual instinct, but she passed
them quickly, courtesying a second time as she did so, and, in another
moment a turn of the road concealed her from the eyes of the travellers.

“What say you to that, Warham?” demanded the senior exultingly.

“A Diana, in truth; but, uncle, we find her not among the rest. SHE is
none of your cottagers. SHE is of another world and element. She is no
Charlemonter.”

And, as he spoke, the younger traveller looked back with straining eyes
to catch another glance of the vanished object, but in vain.

“You deserve never to see a lovely woman again, Warham, for your
skepticism.”

“But I will have a second look at her, uncle, though the skies fall,”
 answered the young man, as, wheeling his horse round, he deliberately
galloped back to the bend in the avenue, by which she had been hidden
from his view.

He had scarcely reached the desired point, when he suddenly recoiled
to find the object of his pursuit standing motionless just beyond, with
eyes averted to the backward path--her glance consequently encountering
his own, the very moment when he discovered her. A deep crimson, visible
even where he stood, suffused her cheeks when she beheld him; and
without acknowledging the second bow which the traveller made, she
somewhat haughtily averted her head with a suddenness which shook her
long and raven tresses entirely free of the net-work which confined
them.

“A proud gipsy!” muttered the youth as he rode back to his uncle--“just
such a spirit as I should like to tame.” He took especial care, however,
that this sentiment did not reach the ears of his senior.

“Well?” said the latter, inquiringly, at his approach.

“I am right after all, uncle:--the wench is no better than the rest. A
heavy bulk that seemed dignified only because she is too fat for levity.
She walks like a blind plough-horse in a broken pasture, up and down,
over and over; with a gait as rigid and deliberate as if she trod
among the hot cinders, and had corns on all her toes. She took us so by
surprise that if we had not thought her beautiful we must have thought
her ugly, and the chances are equal, that, on a second meeting, we shall
both think her so. I shall, I’m certain, and you must, provided you give
your eyes the benefit, and your nose the burden of your green specs.”

“Impossible! I can scarce believe it, Warham,” replied the senior. “I
thought her very beautiful.”

“I shall never rely on your judgment again;--nay, uncle, I am almost
inclined to suspect your taste.”

“Well, let them be beautiful or ugly, still I should think the same of
the beauty of this village.”

“While the sun shines it may be tolerable; but, uncle, in wet bad
weather--it must become a mere pond, it lies so completely in the hollow
of the hills.”

“There is reason in that, Warham.”

“And yet, even as a pond, it would have its advantages--it would be
famous for duck-raising.”

“Pshaw! you are worse than a Mahometan.”

“Something of a just comparison, uncle, though scarcely aimed,” said
the other; “like Mahomet, you know, I doubt the possession of souls by
women.”

“Yet if these of Charlemont have not souls, they have no small share of
happiness on earth. I never heard more happy laughter from human lips
than from theirs. They must be happy.”

“I doubt that also,” was the reply. “See you not, uncle, that to nine or
ten women there are but three lads? Where the disproportion is so great
among the sexes, and where it is so unfavorable to the weaker, women
never can be happy. Their whole lives will be lives of turmoil,
jealousy, and pulling of caps. Nay, eyes shall not be secure under such
circumstances; and Nan’s fingers shall be in Doll’s hair, and Doll’s
claws in Nanny’s cheeks, whenever it shall so happen, that Tom Jenkins
shall incline to Nan, or John Dobbins to Doll. Such a disparity between
the sexes is one of the most fruitful causes of domestic war.”

“Warham, where do you think to go when you die?”

“Where there shall be no great inequality in the population. Believe me,
uncle, though I am sometimes disposed to think with Mahomet, and deny
the possession of souls to the sex, I also incline to believe, with
other more charitable teachers--however difficult it may be to reconcile
the two philosophies--that there will be no lack of them in either
world.”

“Hush, hush, Warham,” was the mild rebuke of the senior; “you go too
far--you are irreverent. As for this maiden, I still think her
very beautiful--of a high and noble kind of beauty. My eyes may be
bad;--indeed I am willing to admit they are none of the best; but I feel
certain that they cannot so far deceive me, when we consider how nigh we
were to her.”

“The matter deserves inquiry, uncle, if it were only to satisfy
your faith;--suppose we ride back, both of us, and see for
ourselves--closely, and with the aid of the green spectacles? Not that
I care to see farther--not that I have any doubts--but I wish you to
be convinced in this case, if only to make you sensible of the frequent
injustice to which your indulgence of judgment, subjects the critical
fastidiousness of mine. What say you; shall we wheel about?”

“Why, you are mad, surely. It is now sunset, and we have a good eight
miles before we get to Holme’s Station.”

“But we can sleep in Charlemont to-night. A night in this earthly
Eden--”

“And run the risk of losing our company? Oh, no, most worthy nephew.
They will start at dawn to-morrow.”

“We can soon come up with ‘em.”

“Perhaps not, and the risk is considerable. Travelling to the
Mississippi is no such small matter at any time, and, in these times
it is only with a multitude, that there is safety. The murder of old
Whiteford, is a sufficient warning not to go alone with more gold than
lead in one’s pocket. We are two, it is true, but better ten than two.
You are a brave fellow enough, Warham, I doubt not; but a shot will
dispose of you, and after that I should be an easy victim. I could wink
and hold out my iron as well as the best of you, but I prefer to escape
the necessity. Let us mend our pace. We are burning daylight.”

The nephew, with an air of some impatience, which, however, escaped the
eyes of the senior, sent his horse forward by a sharp application of his
spur, though looking back the while, with a glance of reluctance, which
strongly disagreed with the sentiments which he expressed. Indeed,
with both the travellers, the impression made by the little village
of Charlemont was such that the subject seemed nowise displeasing to
either, and furnished the chief staple of conversation between them,
as they rode the remaining eight miles of their journey. The old man’s
heart had been subdued and won by the sweet air of peace which seemed to
overspread and hallow the soft landscape, and the smiling cottages which
made it human. The laughing maidens with their bright eyes and cheering
accents, gave vivacity to its milder charms. We have heard from the lips
of the younger traveller, that these attractions had failed to captivate
his fancy. We may believe of this as we please. It is very probable that
he had, in considerable part, spoken nothing but the truth. He was too
much of a mocker;--one of those worldlings who derive their pleasures
from circumstances of higher conventional attraction. He had no feeling
for natural romance. His PENCHANT, was decidedly for the artificial
existence of city life; and the sneers which he had been heard
to express at the humble joys of rustic life, its tastes, and
characteristics, were, in truth, only such as he really felt. But, even
in his case, there was an evident disposition to know something more of
Charlemont. He was really willing to return. He renewed the same subject
of conversation, when it happened to flag, with obvious eagerness;
and, though his language was still studiedly disparaging, a more deeply
penetrating judgment than that of his uncle, would have seen that the
little village, slightly as he professed to esteem it, was yet an object
of thought and interest in his eyes. Of the sources of this new interest
time must inform us.

“Well, well, Warham,” at length exclaimed the uncle, in a tone that
seemed meant to close the discussion of a topic which his nephew now
appeared mischievously bent to thrust upon him, “you will return to
Kentucky in the fall. Take Charlemont in your route. Stop a week there.
It will do you no harm. Possibly you may procure some clients--may,
indeed, include it in your tour of practice--at all events, you will not
be unprofitably employed if you come to see the village and the people
with MY eyes, which, I doubt not, you will in time.”

“In time, perhaps, I may. It is well that you do not insist upon any
hurried convictions. Were I at your years uncle mine,” continued the
other irreverently, “I should no doubt see with your eyes, and possibly
feel with your desires. Then, no doubt, I shall acquire a taste for
warmingpans and nightcaps--shall look for landscapes rather than
lands--shall see nothing but innocence among the young, and resignation
and religion among the old; and fancy, in every aged pair of bumpkins
that I see, a Darby and Joan, with perpetual peace at their fireside,
though they may both happen to lie there drunk on apple-brandy. Between
caudle-cups and ‘John Anderson, my Jo-John,’ it is my hope to pass the
evening of my days with a tolerable grace, and leave behind me some
comely representatives, who shall take up the burden of the ditty where
I leave off. On this head be sure you shall have no cause to complain of
me. I shall be no Malthusian, as you certainly have shown yourself. It
is the strangest thing to me, uncle, that, with all your SPOKEN rapture
for the sex, you should never have thought of securing for yourself at
least one among the crowd which you so indiscriminately admire. Surely,
a gentleman of your personal attractions--attractions which seem
resolute to cling to you to the last--could not have found much
difficulty in procuring the damsel he desired! And when, too, your
enthusiasm for the sex is known, one would think it only necessary that
you should fling your handkerchief, to have it greedily grappled by
the fairest of the herd. How is it, uncle--how have you escaped from
them--from yourself?”

“Pshaw, Warham, you are a fool!” exclaimed the senior, riding forward
with increasing speed. The words were spoken good naturedly, but the
youth had touched a spot, scarcely yet thoroughly scarred over, in the
old man’s bosom; and memories, not less painful because they had been
bidden so long, were instantly wakened into fresh and cruel activity.

It will not diminish the offence of the nephew in the mind of the
reader, when he is told that the youth was not ignorant of the
particular tenderness of his relative in this respect. The gentle nature
of the latter, alone, rescued him from the well-merited reproach of
suffering his habitual levity of mood to prevail in reference to one
whom even he himself was disposed to honor. But few words passed
between the two, ere they reached the place of appointment. The careless
reference of the youth had made the thoughts of the senior active at
the expense of his observation. His eyes were now turned inward; and the
landscape, and the evening sun, which streamed over and hallowed it with
a tender beauty to the last, was as completely hidden from his vision,
as if a veil had been drawn above his sight. The retrospect, indeed,
is ever the old man’s landscape; and perhaps, even had he not been so
unkindly driven back to its survey, our aged traveller would have been
reminded of the past in the momently-deepening shadows which the evening
gathered around his path. Twilight is the cherished season for sad
memories, even as the midnight is supposed to be that of guilty ghosts;
and nothing, surely, can be more fitting than that the shadows of former
hopes should revisit us in those hours when the face of nature itself
seems darkening into gloom.

It was night before the wayfarers reached the appointed baiting place.
There they found their company--a sort of little caravan, such as is
frequent in the history of western emigration--already assembled, and
the supper awaiting them. Let us leave them to its enjoyment, and return
once more to the village of Charlemont.



CHAPTER III

THE STRONG-MINDED WOMAN.



The young maiden last met by our travellers, and whose appearance had
so favorably impressed them, had not been altogether uninfluenced by
the encounter. Her spirit was of a musing and perhaps somewhat moody
character, and the little adventure related in our last chapter, had
awakened in her mind a train of vague and purposeless thought, from
which she did not strive to disengage herself. She ceased to pursue the
direct path back to Charlemont, the moment she had persuaded herself
that the strangers had continued on their way; and turning from the
beaten track, she strolled aside, following the route of a brooklet, the
windings of which, as it led her forward, were completely hidden from
the intrusive glance of any casual wayfarer. The prattle of the little
stream as it wound upon its sleepless journey, contributed still more to
strengthen the musings of those vagrant fancies that filled the maiden’s
thoughts.

She sat down upon the prostrate trunk of a tree, and surrendered herself
for a while to their control. Her thoughts were probably of a kind
which, to a certain extent, are commended to every maiden. Among them,
perpetually rose an image of the bold and handsome stranger, whose
impudence, in turning back in pursuit of her, was somewhat qualified by
the complimentary curiosity which such conduct manifested. Predominant
even over this image, however, was the conviction of isolation which
she felt where she was, and the still more painful conviction, that
the future was without promise. Such thoughts and apprehensions may
be natural enough to all young persons of active, earnest nature, not
permitted to perform; but in the bosom of Margaret Cooper they were
particularly so. Her mind was of a masculine and commanding character,
and was ill-satisfied with her position and prospect in Charlemont. A
quiet, obscure village, such as that we have described, held forth no
promise for a spirit so proud, impatient, and ambitious as hers. She
knew the whole extent of knowledge which it contained, and all its
acquisitions and resources--she had sounded its depths, and traced all
its shallows. The young women kept no pace with her own progress--they
were good, silly girls enough--a chattering, playful set, whom small
sports could easily satisfy, and who seemed to have no care, and scarce
a hope, beyond the hilly limits of their homestead; and as for the young
men--they were only suited to the girls, such as they were, and could
never meet the demand of such an intellect as hers.

This lofty self-estimate, which was in some sense just, necessarily gave
a tone to her language and a coloring to all her thoughts, such as
good sense and amiability should equally strive to suppress and
conceal--unless, as in the case of Margaret Cooper, the individual
herself was without due consciousness of their presence. It had the
effect of discouraging and driving from her side many a good-natured
damsel, who would have loved to condole with her, and might have been
a pleasant companion. The young women regarded her with some dislike in
consequence of her self-imposed isolation--and the young men with some
apprehension. Her very knowledge of books, which infinitely surpassed
that of all her sex within the limits of Charlemont, was also an object
of some alarm. It had been her fortune, whether well or ill may be a
question, to inherit from her father a collection, not well chosen,
upon which her mind had preyed with an appetite as insatiate as it
was undiscriminating. They had taught her many things, but among these
neither wisdom nor patience was included;--and one of the worst lessons
which she had learned, and which they had contributed in some respects
to teach, was discontent with her condition--a discontent which
saddened, if it did not embitter, her present life, while it left the
aspects of the future painfully doubtful, even to her own eye.

She was fatherless, and had been already taught some of those rude
lessons which painfully teach dependence; but such lessons, which
to most others would have brought submission, only provoked her to
resistance. Her natural impetuosity of disposition, strengthened by
her mother’s idolatrous indulgence, increased the haughtiness of her
character; and when, to these influences, we add that her surviving
parent was poor, and suffered from privations which were unfelt by many
of their neighbors, it may be easily conceived that a temper and mind
such as we have described those of Margaret Cooper--ardent, commanding,
and impatient, hourly found occasion, even in the secluded village where
she dwelt, for the exercise of moods equally adverse to propriety and
happiness. Isolated from the world by circumstances, she doubly exiled
herself from its social indulgences, by the tyrannical sway of a
superior will, strengthened and stimulated by an excitable and ever
feverish blood; and, as we find her now, wandering sad and sternly by
the brookside, afar from the sports and humbler sources of happiness,
which gentler moods left open to the rest, so might she customarily be
found, at all hours, when it was not absolutely due to appearances that
she should be seen among the crowds.

We will not now seek to pursue her musings and trace them out to their
conclusions, nor will it be necessary that we should do more
than indicate their character. That they were sad and solemn as
usual--perhaps humbling--may be gathered from the fact that a big tear
might have been seen, long gathering in her eye;--the next moment she
brushed off the intruder with an impatience of gesture, that plainly
showed how much her proud spirit resented any such intrusion. The tear
dispersed the images which had filled her contemplative mood, and rising
from her sylvan seat, she prepared to move forward, when a voice calling
at some little distance, drew her attention. Giving a hasty glance
in the direction of the sound, she beheld a young man making his way
through the woods, and approaching her with rapid footsteps. His evident
desire to reach her, did not, however, prompt her to any pause in her
own progress; but, as if satisfied with the single glance which she gave
him, and indifferent utterly to his object, she continued on her way,
nor stopped for an instant, nor again looked back, until his salutation,
immediately behind her, compelled her attention and answer.

“Margaret--Miss Cooper!” said the speaker, who was a young rustic,
probably twenty or twenty-one years of age, of tall, good person,
a handsome face, which was smooth, though of dark complexion, and
lightened by an eye of more than ordinary size and intelligence. His
tones were those of one whose sensibilities were fine and active, and
it would not have called for much keen observation to have seen that his
manner, in approaching and addressing the maiden, was marked with some
little trepidation. She, on the contrary, seemed too familiar with
his homage, or too well satisfied of his inferiority, to deign much
attention to his advances. She answered his salutation coldly, and was
preparing to move forward, when his words again called for her reluctant
notice.

“I have looked for you, Margaret, full an hour. Mother sent me after you
to beg that you will come there this evening. Old Jenks has come up from
the river, and brought a store of fine things--there’s a fiddle for
Ned, and Jason Lightner has a flute, and I--I have a small lot of books,
Margaret, that I think will please you.”

“I thank you, William Hinkley, and thank your mother, but I can not come
this evening.”

“But why not, Margaret?--your mother’s coming--she promised for you too,
but I thought you might not get home soon enough to see her, and so I
came out to seek you.”

“I am very sorry you took so much trouble, William, for I cannot come
this evening.”

“But why not, Margaret? You have no other promise to go elsewhere have
you?”

“None,” was the indifferent reply.

“Then--but, perhaps, you are not well, Margaret?”

“I am quite well, I thank you, William Hinkley, but I don’t feel like
going out this evening. I am not in the humor.”

Already, in the little village of Charlemont, Margaret Cooper was one
of the few who were permitted to indulge in humors, and William Hinkley
learned the reason assigned for her refusal, with an expression of
regret and disappointment, if not of reproach. An estoppel, which
would have been so conclusive in the case of a city courtier, was not
sufficient, however, to satisfy the more frank and direct rustic, and
he proceeded with some new suggestions, in the hope to change her
determination.

“But you’ll be so lonesome at home, Margaret, when your mother’s with
us. She’ll be gone before you can get back, and--”

“I’m never lonesome, William, at least I’m never so well content or so
happy as when I’m alone,” was the self-satisfactory reply.

“But that’s so strange, Margaret. It’s so strange that you should be
different from everybody else. I often wonder at it, Margaret; for I
know none of the other girls but love to be where there’s a fiddle, and
where there’s pleasant company. It’s so pleasant to be where everybody’s
pleased; and then, Margaret, where one can talk so well as you, and of
so many subjects, it’s a greater wonder still that you should not like
to be among the rest.”

“I do not, however, William,” was the answer in more softened tones.
There was something in this speech of her lover, that found its way
through the only accessible avenues of her nature. It was a truth, which
she often repeated to herself with congratulatory pride, that she had
few feelings or desires in common with the crowd.

“It is my misfortune,” she continued, “to care very little for the
pastimes you speak of; and as for the company, I’ve no doubt it will
be very pleasant for those who go, but to me it will afford very little
pleasure. Your mother must therefore excuse me, William:--I should be a
very dull person among the rest.”

“She will be so very sorry, Margaret--and Ned, whose new fiddle has just
come, and Jason Lightner, with his flute. They all spoke of you and
look for you above all, to hear them this evening. They will be so
disappointed.”

William Hinkley spoke nothing of his own disappointment, but it was
visible enough in his blank countenance, and sufficiently audible in the
undisguised faltering of his accents.

“I do not think they will be so much disappointed, William Hinkley.
They have no reason to be, as they have no right to look for me in
particular. I have very little acquaintance with the young men you speak
of.”

“Why, Margaret, they live alongside of you--and I’m sure you’ve met them
a thousand times in company,” was the response of the youth, uttered
in tones more earnest than any he had yet employed in the dialogue, and
with something of surprise in his accents.

“Perhaps so; but that makes them no intimates of mine, William Hinkley.
They may be very good young men, and, indeed, so far as I know, they
really are; but that makes no difference. We find our acquaintances and
our intimates among those who are congenial, who somewhat resemble us in
spirit, feeling, and understanding.”

“Ah, Margaret!” said her rustic companion with a sigh, which amply
testified to the humility of his own self-estimate, and of the decline
of his hope which came with it--“ah, Margaret, if that be the rule,
where are you going to find friends and intimates in Charlemont?”

“Where!” was the single word spoken by the haughty maiden, as her eye
wandered off to the cold tops of the distant hills along which the
latest rays of falling sunlight, faint and failing, as they fell,
imparted a hue, which though bright, still as it failed to warm, left an
expression of October sadness to the scene, that fitly harmonized with
the chilling mood under which she had spoken throughout the interview.

“I don’t think, Margaret,” continued the lover, finding courage as he
continued, “that such a rule is a good one. I know it can’t be a good
one for happiness. There’s many a person that never will meet his or her
match in this world, in learning and understanding--and if they won’t
look on other persons with kindness, because they are not altogether
equal to them, why there’s a chance that they’ll always be solitary and
sad. It’s a real blessing, I believe, to have great sense, but I don’t
see, that because one has great sense, that one should not think well
and kindly of those who have little, provided they be good, and are
willing to be friendly. Now, a good heart seems to be the very best
thing that nature can give us; and I know, Margaret, that there’s no
two better hearts in all Charlemont--perhaps in all the world, though I
won’t say that--than cousin Ned Hinkley, and Jason Lightner, and--”

“I don’t deny their merits and their virtues, and their goodness of
heart, William Hinkley,” was the answer of the maiden--“I only say
that the possession of these qualities gives them no right to claim my
sympathies or affection. These claims are only founded upon congeniality
of character and mind, and without this congeniality, there can be no
proper, no lasting intimacy between persons. They no doubt, will find
friends between whom and themselves, this congeniality exists. I, on the
other hand, must be permitted to find mine, after my own ideas, and as I
best can. But if I do not--the want of them gives me no great concern. I
find company enough, and friends enough, even in these woods, to satisfy
the desires of my heart at present; I am not anxious to extend my
acquaintance or increase the number of my intimates.”

William Hinkley, who had become somewhat warmed by the argument, could
have pursued the discussion somewhat further; but the tones and manner
of his companion, to say nothing of her words, counselled him to
forbear. Still, he was not disposed altogether to give up his attempts
to secure her presence for the evening party.

“But if you don’t come for the company, Margaret, recollect the music.
Even if Ned Hinkley was a perfect fool, which he is not, and Jason
Lightner were no better,--nobody can say that they are not good
musicians. Old Squire Bee says there’s not in all Kentucky a better
violinist than Ned, and Jason’s flute is the sweetest sound that ear
ever listened to along these hills. If you don’t care anything for the
players, Margaret, I’m sure you can’t be indifferent to their music; and
I know they are anything but indifferent to what you may think about
it. They will play ten times as well if you are there; and I’m sure,
Margaret, I shall be the last”--here the tone of the speaker’s voice
audibly faltered--“I shall be the very last to think it sweet if you are
not there.”

But the words and faltering accents of the lover equally failed in
subduing the inflexible, perverse mood of the haughty maiden. Her cold
denial was repeated; and with looks that did not fail to speak the
disappointment of William Hinkley, he attended her back to the village.
Their progress was marked by coldness on the one hand, and decided
sadness on the other. The conversation was carried on in monosyllables
only, on the part of Margaret, while timidity and a painful hesitancy
marked the language of her attendant. But a single passage may be
remembered of all that was said between the two, ere they separated at
the door of the widow Cooper.

“Did you see the two strangers, Margaret, that passed through Charlemont
this afternoon?”

The cheeks of the maiden became instantly flushed, and the rapid
utterance of her reply in the affirmative, denoted an emotion which the
jealous instincts of the lover readily perceived. A cold chill, on the
instant, pervaded the veins of the youth; and that night he did not
hear, any more than Margaret Cooper, the music of his friends. He was
present all the time and he answered their inquiries as usual; but his
thoughts were very far distant, and somehow or other, they perpetually
mingled up the image of the young traveller, whom he too had seen, with
that of the proud woman, whom he was not yet sure that he unprofitably
worshipped.



CHAPTER IV.

SIMPLICITY AND THE SERPENT.



The mirth and music of Charlemont were enjoyed by others, but not by
Margaret Cooper. The resolution not to share in the pleasures of the
young around her, which she showed to her rustic lover, was a resolution
firmly persevered in throughout the long summer which followed. Her
wayward mood shut out from her contemplation the only sunshine of the
place; and her heart, brooding over the remote, if not the impossible,
denied itself those joys which were equally available and nigh. Her
lonesome walks became longer in the forests, and later each evening grew
the hour of her return to the village. Her solitude daily increased, as
the youth, who really loved her with all the ardency of a first passion,
and who regarded her at the same time with no little veneration for
those superior gifts of mind and education which, it was the general
conviction in Charlemont, that she possessed, became, at length,
discouraged in a pursuit which hitherto had found nothing but coldness
and repulse. Not that he ceased to love--nay, he did not cease entirely
to hope. What lover ever did? He fondly ascribed to the object of his
affections a waywardness of humor, which he fancied would pass away
after a season, and leave her mind to the influence of a more sober
and wholesome judgment. Perhaps, too, like many other youth in like
circumstances, he did not always see or feel the caprice of which he was
the victim. But for this fortunate blindness, many a fair damsel would
lose her conquest quite as suddenly as it was made.

But the summer passed away, and the forest put on the sere and sombre
robes of autumn, and yet no visible change--none at least more favorable
to the wishes of William Hinkley--took place in the character and
conduct of the maiden. Her mind, on the contrary, seemed to take
something of its hue from the cold sad tones of the forest. The serious
depth of expression in her dark eyes seemed to deepen yet more, and
become yet more concentrated--their glance acquired a yet keener
intentness--an inflexibility of direction--which suffered them seldom
to turn aside from those moody contemplations, which had made her, for
a long time, infinitely prefer to gaze upon the rocks, and woods, and
waters, than upon the warm and wooing features of humanity.

At distance the youth watched and sometimes followed her, and when, with
occasional boldness, he would draw nigh to her secret wanderings, a cold
fear filled his heart, and he shrunk back with all the doubt and dread
of some guilty trespasser. But his doubt, and we may add, his dread
also, was soon to cease entirely, in the complete conviction of his
hopelessness. The day and the fate were approaching, in the person of
one, to whom a natural instinct had already taught him to look with
apprehension, and whose very first appearance had inspired him with
antipathy.

What a strange prescience, in some respects, has the devoted and
watchful heart that loves! William Hinkley, had seen but for a single
instant, the face of that young traveller, who has already been
introduced to us, and that instant was enough to awaken his
dislike--nay, more, his hostility. Yet no villager in Charlemont but
would have told you, that, of all the village, William Hinkley was
the most gentle, the most generous--the very last to be moved by bad
passions, by jealousy or hate.

The youth whom we have seen going down with his uncle to the great
valley of the Mississippi, was now upon his return. He was now
unaccompanied by the benignant senior with whom we first made his
acquaintance. He had simply attended the old bachelor, from whom he had
considerable expectations, to his plantation, in requital of the spring
visit which the latter had paid to his relatives in Kentucky; and having
spent the summer in the southwest, was about to resume his residence,
and the profession of the law, in that state. We have seen that, however
he might have succeeded in disguising his true feelings from his uncle,
he was not unmoved by the encounter with Margaret Cooper, on the edge
of the village. He now remembered the casual suggestion of the senior,
which concluded their discussion on the subject of her beauty; and he
resolved to go aside from his direct path, and take Charlemont in the
route of his return. Not that he himself needed a second glance to
convince him of that loveliness which, in his wilfulness, he yet denied.
He was free to acknowledge to himself that Margaret Cooper was one of
the noblest and most impressive beauties he had ever seen. The very
scorn that spoke in all her features, the imperious fires that kindled
in her eyes, were better calculated than any more gentle expressions, to
impose upon one who was apt to be skeptical on the subject of ordinary
beauties. The confidence and consciousness of superiority, which too
plainly spoke out in the features of Margaret, seemed to deny to his
mind the privilege of doubting or discussing her charms--a privilege
upon which no one could have been more apt to insist than himself. This
seeming denial, while it suggested to him ideas of novelty, provoked
his curiosity and kindled his pride. The haughty glance with which she
encountered his second approach, aroused his vanity, and a latent desire
arose in his heart, to overcome one who had shown herself so premature
in her defiance. We will not venture to assert that the young traveller
had formed any very deliberate designs of conquest, but, it may be
said, as well here as elsewhere, that his self-esteem was great; and
accustomed to easy conquests among the sex, in the region where he
dwelt, it was only necessary to inflame his vanity, to stimulate him to
the exercise of all his arts.

It was about noon, on one of those bright, balmy days, early in October,
when “the bridal of the earth and sky,” in the language of the good
old Herbert, is going on--when, the summer heats subdued, there is
yet nothing either cold, or repulsive in the atmosphere; and the soft
breathing from the southwest has just power enough to stir the flowers
and disperse their scents; that our young traveller was joined in
his progress towards Charlemont, by a person mounted like himself and
pursuing a similar direction.

At the first glance the youth distinguished him as one of the homely
forest preachers of the methodist persuasion, who are the chief agents
and pioneers of religion in most of the western woods. His plain,
unstudied garments all of black, rigid and unfashionable; his pale,
demure features, and the general humility of his air and gesture, left
our young skeptic little reason to doubt of this; and when the other
expressed his satisfaction at meeting with a companion at last, after a
long and weary ride without one, the tone of his expressions, the use of
biblical phraseology, and the monotonous solemnity of his tones, reduced
the doubts of the youth to absolute certainty. At first, with the
habitual levity of the young and skeptical, he congratulated himself
upon an encounter which promised to afford him a good subject for
quizzing; but a moment’s reflection counselled him to a more worldly
policy, and he restrained his natural impulse in order that he might
first sound the depths of the preacher, and learn in what respect he
might be made subservient to his own purposes. He had already learned
from the latter that he was on his way to Charlemont, of which place he
seemed to have some knowledge; and the youth, in an instant, conceived
the possibility of making him useful in procuring for himself a
favorable introduction to the place. With this thought, he assumed the
grave aspect and deliberate enunciation of his companion, expressed
himself equally gratified to meet with a person who, if he did not much
mistake, was a divine, and concluded his address by the utterance of one
of those pious commonplaces which are of sufficiently easy acquisition,
and which at once secured him the unscrupulous confidence of his
companion.

“Truly, it gladdens me, sir,” said the holy man in reply, “to meet with
one, as a fellow-traveller in these lonesome ways, who hath a knowledge
of God’s grace and the blessings which he daily sheddeth, even as the
falling of the dews, upon a benighted land. It is my lot, and I repine
not that such it is, to be for ever a wayfarer, in the desert where
there are but few fountains to refresh the spirit. When I say desert,
young gentleman, I speak not in the literal language of the world,
for truly it were a most sinful denial of God’s bounty were I to say,
looking round upon the mighty forests through which I pass, and upon the
rich soil over which I travel, that my way lies not through a country
covered, thrice covered, with the best worldly bounties of the Lord. But
it is a moral desert which my speech would signify. The soul of man is
here lacking the blessed fountains of the truth--the mind of man here
lacketh the holy and joy-shedding lights of the spirit; and it rejoiceth
me, therefore, when I meet with one, like thyself, in whose language I
find a proof that thou hast neither heard the word with idle ears, nor
treasured it in thy memory with unapplying mind. May I ask of thee, my
young friend, who thou art, and by what name I shall call thee?--not for
the satisfaction of an idle curiosity, to know either thy profession
or thy private concerns, but that I may the better speak to thee in
our conference hereafter, Thou hast rightly conjectured as to my
calling--and my own name, which is one unknown to most even in these
forests, is John Cross--I come of a family in North Carolina, which
still abide in that state, by the waters of the river Haw. Perhaps, if
thou hast ever travelled in those parts, thou hast happened upon some of
my kindred, which are very numerous.”

“I have never, reverend sir, travelled in those parts,” said the youth,
with commendable gravity, “but I have heard of the Cross family, which I
believe, as you say, to be very numerous--both male and female.”

“Yea, I have brothers and sisters an equal number; I have aunts and
uncles a store, and it has been the blessing of God so to multiply and
increase every member thereof, that each of my brothers, in turn, hath
a goodly flock, in testimony of his favors. I, alone, of all my kindred,
have neither wife nor child, and I seem as one set apart for other ties,
and other purposes.”

“Ah, sir,” returned the other, quickly, and with a slyness of expression
which escaped the direct and unsuspecting mind of the preacher, “but if
you are denied the blessings which are theirs, you have your part in the
great family of the world. If you have neither wife nor child of your
own loins, yet, I trust, you have an abiding interest in the wives and
children of all other men.”

“I were but an unworthy teacher of the blessed word, had I not,” was the
simple answer. “Verily, all that I teach are my children; there is not
one crying to me for help, to whom I do not hasten with the speed of a
father flying to bring succor to his young. I trust in God, that I have
not made a difference between them; that I heed not one to the forfeit
or suffering of the other; and for this impartial spirit toward the
flock intrusted to my charge, do I pray, as well as for the needful
strength of body and soul, through which my duties are to be done. But
thou hast not yet spoken thy name, or my ears have failed to receive
it.”

There was some little hesitation on the part of the youth before he
answered this second application; and a less unheeding observer than his
fellow-traveller, might have noticed an increasing warmth of hue upon
his cheek, while he was uttering his reply:--

“I am called Alfred Stevens,” he replied at length, the color increasing
upon his cheek even after the words were spoken. But they were spoken.
The falsehood was registered against him beyond recall, though, of
course, without startling the doubts or suspicions of his companion.

“Alfred Stevens; there are many Stevenses: I have known several and
sundry. There is a worthy family of that name by the waters of the Dan.”

“You will find them, I suspect, from Dan to Beersheba,” responded the
youth with a resumption of his former levity.

“Truly, it may be so. The name is of good repute. But what is thy
calling, Alfred Stevens? Methinks at thy age thou shouldst have one.”

“So I have, reverend sir,” replied the other; “my calling heretofore has
been that of the law. But it likes me not, and I think soon to give it
up.”

“Thou wilt take to some other then. What other hast thou chosen; or art
thou like those unhappy youths, by far too many in our blessed country,
whom fortune hath hurt by her gifts, and beguiled into idleness and
sloth?”

“Nay, not so, reverend sir; the gifts of fortune have been somewhat
sparing in my case, and I am even now conferring with my own thoughts
whether or not to take to school-keeping. Nay, perhaps, I should incline
to something better, if I could succeed in persuading myself of my own
worthiness in a vocation which, more than all others, demands a pure
mind with a becoming zeal. The law consorts not with my desires--it
teaches selfishness, rather than self-denial; and I have already found
that some of its duties demand the blindness and the silence of that
best teacher from within, the watchful and unsleeping conscience.”

“Thou hast said rightly, Alfred Stevens; I have long thought that the
profession of the law hardeneth the heart, and blindeth the conscience.
Thou wilt do well to leave it, as a craft that leads to sin, and makes
the exercise of sin a duty; and if, as I rightly understand thee, thou
lookest to the gospel as that higher vocation for which thy spirit
yearneth, then would I say to thee, arise, and gird up thy loins;
advance and falter not;--the field is open, and though the victory
brings thee no worldly profit, and but little worldly honor, yet the
reward is eternal, and the interest thereof, unlike the money which thou
puttest out to usury in the hands of men, never fails to be paid, at the
very hour of its due, from the unfailing treasury of Heaven. Verily, I
rejoice, Alfred Stevens, that I have met with thee to-day. I had feared
that the day had been lost to that goodly labor, to which all my days
have been given for seventeen years, come the first sabbath in the next
November. But what thou hast said, awakens hope in my soul that such
will not be the case. Let not my counsels fail thee, Alfred;--let thy
zeal warm; let thy spirit work within thee, and thy words kindle, in the
service of the Lord. How it will rejoice me to see thee taking up
the scrip and the staff and setting forth for the wildernesses of the
Mississippi, of Arkansas, and Texas, far beyond;--bringing the wild man
of the frontier, and the red savage, into the blessed fold and constant
company of the Lord Jesus, to whom all praise!”

“It were indeed a glorious service,” responded the young stranger--whom
we shall proceed, hereafter, to designate by the name by which he
has called himself. He spoke musingly, and with a gravity that was
singularly inflexible--“it were indeed a glorious service. Let me see,
there were thousands of miles to traverse before one might reach the
lower Arkansas; and I reckon, Mr. Cross, the roads are mighty bad after
you pass the Mississippi--nay, even in the Mississippi, through a part
of which territory I have gone only this last summer, there is a sad
want of causeways, and the bridges are exceedingly out of repair. There
is one section of near a hundred miles, which lies between the bluffs
of Ashibiloxi, and the far creek of Catahoula, that was a shame and
reproach to the country and the people thereof. What, then, must be
the condition of the Texas territory, beyond? and, if I err not, the
Cumanchees are a race rather given to destroy than to build up. The
chance is that the traveller in their country might have to swim his
horse over most of the watercourses, and where he found a bridge, it
were perhaps a perilous risk to cross it. Even then he might ride fifty
miles a day, before he should see the smokes which would be a sign of
supper that night.”

“The greater the glory--the greater the glory, Alfred Stevens. The toil
and the peril, the pain and the privation, in a good cause, increase
the merit of the performance in the eyes of the Lord. What matters the
roads and the bridges, the length of the way, or the sometimes lack of
those comforts of the flesh, which are craved only at the expense of the
spirit, and to the great delay of our day of conquest. These wants are
the infirmities of the human, which dissipate and disappear, the more
few they become, and the less pressing in their complaint. Shake thyself
loose from them, Alfred Stevens, and thy way henceforth is perfect
freedom.”

“Alas! this is my very weakness, Mr. Cross:--it was because of these
very infirmities, that I had doubt of my own worthiness to take up the
better vocation which is yet my desire. I am sadly given to hunger and
thirst toward noon and evening; and the travel of a long day makes me so
weary at night, that I should say but a hurried grace before meal, and
make an even more hurried supper after it. Nay, I have not yet been able
to divest myself of a habit which I acquired in my boyhood; and I need
at times, throughout the day, a mouthful of something stronger than mere
animal food, to sustain the fainting and feeble flesh and keep my frame
from utter exhaustion. I dare not go upon the road, even for the brief
journey of a single day, without providing myself beforehand with a
supply of a certain beverage, such as is even now contained within this
vessel, and which is infallible against sinking of the the spirits,
faintings of the frame, disordered nerves, and even against flatulence
and indigestion. If, at any time, thou shouldst suffer from one or
the other of these infirmities, Mr. Cross, be sure there is no better
medicine for their cure than this.”

The speaker drew from his bosom a little flask, such as is sufficiently
well known to most western travellers, which he held on high, and which,
to the unsuspecting eyes of the preacher, contained a couple of gills or
more of a liquid of very innocent complexion.

“Verily, Alfred Stevens, I do myself suffer from some of the weaknesses
of which thou hast spoken. The sinking of the spirits, and the faintness
of the frame, are but too often the enemies that keep me back from the
plough when I would thereto set my hand; and that same flatulence--”

“A most frequent disorder in a region where greens and collards form the
largest dishes on the tables of the people,” interrupted Stevens, but
without changing a muscle of his countenance.

“I do believe as thou say’st, Alfred Stevens, that the disorder comes in
great part from that cause, though, still, I have my doubts if it be not
a sort of wind-melancholy, to which people, who preach aloud are greatly
subject. It is in my case almost always associated with a sort of
hoarseness, and the nerves of my frame twitch grievously at the same
periods. If this medicine of thine be sovereign against so cruel an
affliction, I would crave of thee such knowledge as would enable me to
get a large supply of it, that I may overcome a weakness, which, as I
tell thee, oftentimes impairs my ministry, and sometimes makes me wholly
incapable of fervent preaching. Let me smell of it, I pray thee.”

“Nay, taste of it, sir--it is just about the time when I find it
beneficial to partake of it, as a medicine for my own weakness, and
I doubt not, it will have a powerful effect also upon you. A single
draught has been found to relieve the worst case of flatulence and
colic.”

“From colic too, I am also a great sufferer,” said the preacher as he
took the flask in his hand, and proceeded to draw the stopper.

“That is also the child of collards,” said Stevens, as he watched with
a quiet and unmoved countenance the proceedings of his simple companion,
who finding some difficulty in drawing the cork, handed it back to the
youth. The latter, more practised, was more successful, and now returned
the open bottle to the preacher.

“Take from it first, the dose which relieves thee, Alfred Stevens,
that I may know how much will avail in my own case;” and he watched
curiously, while Stevens, applying the flask to his lips, drew from it
a draught, which, in western experience of benefits, would have been
accounted a very moderate potion. This done, he handed it back to his
companion, who, about to follow his example, asked him:--

“And by what name, Alfred Stevens, do they call this medicine, the
goodly effect of which thou holdst to be so great?”

Stevens did not immediately reply--not until the preacher had applied
the bottle to his mouth, and he could see by the distension of his
throat, that he had imbibed a taste, at least, of the highly-lauded
medicine. The utterance then, of the single word--“Brandy”--was
productive of an effect no less ludicrous in the sight of the youth,
than it was distressing to the mind of his worthy companion. The
descending liquor was ejected with desperate effort from the throat
which it had fairly entered--the flask flung from his hands--and with
choking and gurgling accents, startling eyes, and reddening visage, John
Cross turned full upon his fellow-traveller, vainly trying to repeat,
with the accompanying horror of expression which he felt, the single
spellword, which had produced an effect so powerful.

“Bran--bran--brandy!--Alfred Stevens!--thou hast given me poison--the
soul’s poison--the devil’s liquor--liquor distilled in the vessels of
eternal sin. Wherefore hast thou done this? Dost thou not know”--

“Know--know what, Mr. Cross?” replied Stevens, with all the astonishment
which he could possibly throw into his air, as he descended from his
horse with all haste to recover his flask, and save its remaining
contents from loss.

“Call me not mister--call me plain John Cross,” replied the preacher--in
the midst of a second fit of choking, the result of his vain effort to
disgorge that portion of the pernicious liquid which had irretrievably
descended into his bowels. With a surprise admirably affected, Stevens
approached him.

“My dear sir--what troubles you?--what can be the matter? What have I
done? What is it you fear?”

“That infernal draught--that liquor--I have swallowed of it a mouthful.
I feel it in me. The sin be upon thy head, Alfred Stevens--why did you
not tell me, before I drank, that it was the soul’s poison?--the poison
that slays more than the sword or the pestilence;--the liquor of the
devil, distilled in the vessels of sin--and sent among men for the
destruction of the soul! I feel it now within me, and it burns--it burns
like the fires of damnation. Is there no water nigh that I may quench
my thirst?--Show me, Alfred Stevens, show me where the cool waters lie,
that I may put out these raging flames.”

“There is a branch, if I mistake not, just above us on the road--I think
I see it glistening among the leaves. Let us ride toward it, sir, and it
will relieve you.”

“Ah, Alfred Stevens, why have you served me thus? Why did you not tell
me?”

Repeated groans accompanied this apostrophe, and marked every step in
the progress of the preacher to the little rivulet which trickled across
the road. John Cross, descended with the rapidity of one whose hope
hangs upon a minute, and dreads its loss, as equal to the loss of life.
He straddled the stream and thrust his lips into the water, drawing up
a quantity sufficient, in the estimation of Stevens, to have effectually
neutralized the entire contents of his flask.

“Blessed water! Blessed water! Holiest beverage! Thou art the creation
of the Lord, and, next to the waters of eternal life, his best gift to
undiscerning man. I drink of thee, and I am faint no longer. I rise up,
strong and refreshed! Ah, my young friend, Alfred Stevens, I trust thou
didst not mean me harm in giving me that poisonous liquor?”

“Far from it, sir, I rather thought to do you a great benefit.”

“How couldst thou think to do me benefit by proffering such poison to my
lips? nay, wherefore dost thou thyself carry it with thee, and why dost
thou drink of it, as if it were something not hurtful as well to the
body as the soul? Take my counsel, I pray thee, Alfred Stevens, and cast
it behind thee for ever. Look not after it when thou dost so, with an
eye of regret lest thou forfeit the merit of thy self-denial. If thou
wouldst pursue the higher vocation of the brethren, thou must seek for
the needful strength from a better and purer spirit. But what unhappy
teacher could have persuaded thee to an indulgence which the good men of
all the churches agree to regard as so deadly?”

“Nay, Mr. Cross--”

“John Cross, I pray thee; do I not call thee Alfred Stevens?--Mr. is a
speech of worldly fashion, and becomes not one who should put the world
and its fashions behind him.”

Stevens found it more difficult to comply with this one requisition of
the preacher, than to pursue a long game of artful and complex scheming.
He evaded the difficulty by dropping the name entirely.

“You are too severe upon brandy, and upon those who use it. Nay, I am
not sure, but you do injustice to those who make it. So far from its
manufacturers being such as you call them, we have unquestionable proof
that they are very worthy people of a distant but a Christian country;
and surely you will not deny that we should find a medicine for our
hurts, and a remedy for our complaints, in a liquor which, perhaps, it
might be sinful to use as an ordinary beverage. Doctors, who have the
care of human life, and whose business and desire it is to preserve it,
nevertheless do sometimes administer poisons to their patients, which
poisons, though deadly at other times, will, in certain diseases and
certain conditions of disease, prove of only and great good.”

“Impossible! I believe it not! I believe not in the good of brandy. It
is hurtful--it is deadly. It has slain its thousands and its tens of
thousands--it is worse than the sword and the summer pestilence. Many a
man have I known to perish from strong drink. In my own parts, upon the
river Haw, in North Carolina state, I have known many. Nay, wherefore
should I spare the truth, Alfred Stevens?--the very father of my own
life, Ezekiel Cross, perished miserably from this burning water of sin.
I will not hear thee speak of it again; and if thou wouldst have me
think of thee with favor, as one hopeful of the service of the brethren,
cast the accursed beverage of Satan from thy hands.”

The youth, without a word, deliberately emptied the contents of his
vessel upon the sands, and the garrulous lips of the preacher poured
forth as great a flood of speech in congratulation, as he had hitherto
bestowed in homily. The good, unsuspecting man, did not perceive that
the liquor thus thrown away, was very small in quantity, and that his
companion, when the flask was emptied, quietly restored it to his bosom.
John Cross had obtained a seeming victory, and did not care to examine
its details.



CHAPTER V.

THE SERPENT IN THE GARDEN.



The concession made by Stevens, and which had produced an effect so
gratifying upon his companion, was one that involved no sacrifices.
The animal appetite of the young lawyer was, in truth, comparatively
speaking, indifferent to the commodity which he discarded; and even
had it been otherwise, still he was one of those selfish, cool and
calculating persons, who seem by nature to be perfectly able to subdue
the claims of the blood, with great ease, whenever any human or social
policy would appear to render it advisable. The greatest concession
which he made in the transaction, was in his so readily subscribing to
that false logic of the day, which reasons against the use of the gifts
of Providence, because a diseased moral, and a failing education, among
men, sometimes result in their abuse.

The imperfections of a mode of reasoning so utterly illogical, were
as obvious to the mind of the young lawyer as to anybody else; and
the compliance which he exhibited to a requisition which his own sense
readily assured him was as foolish as it was presumptuous, was as
degrading to his moral character from the hypocrisy which it declared,
as it was happy in reference to the small policy by which he had been
governed. The unsuspecting preacher did not perceive the scornful sneer
which curled his lips and flashed his eyes, by which his own vanity
still asserted itself through the whole proceeding; or he would not have
been so sure that the mantle of grace which he deemed to have surely
fallen upon the shoulders of his companion, was sufficiently large and
sound, to cover the multitude of sins which it yet enabled the wearer,
so far, to conceal. Regarding him with all the favor which one is apt to
feel for the person whom he has plucked as a brand from the burning, the
soul of John Cross warmed to the young sinner; and it required no great
effort of the wily Stevens to win from him the history, not only of all
its own secrets and secret hopes--for these were of but small value in
the eyes of the worldling--but of all those matters which belonged to
the little village to which they were trending, and the unwritten lives
of every dweller in that happy community.

With all the adroit and circumspect art of the lawyer, sifting the
testimony of the unconscious witness, and worming from his custody those
minor details which seem to the uninitiated so perfectly unimportant to
the great matter immediately in hand--Stevens now propounded his direct
inquiry, and now dropped his seemingly unconsidered insinuation, by
which he drew from the preacher as much as he cared to know of the
rustic lads and lasses of Charlemont. It does not concern our narrative
to render the details thus unfolded to the stranger. And we will content
ourselves, as did the younger of the travellers, who placed himself with
hearty good will at the disposal of the holy man.

“You shall find for me a place of lodging, Mr. Cross, while it shall
suit me to stay in Charlemont. You have a knowledge of the people, and
of the world, which I possess not; and it will be better that I should
give myself up to your guidance. I know that you will not bring me to
the dwelling of persons not in good repute; and, perhaps, I need not
remind you that my worldly means are small--I must be at little charge
wherever I stop.”

“Ah, Brother Stevens, worldly goods and worldly wealth are no more
needed in Charlemont, than they are necessary to the service of the
blessed Redeemer. With an empty scrip is thy service blest;--God
sees the pure heart through the threadbare garment. I have friends in
Charlemont who will be too happy to receive thee in the name of the
Lord, without money and without price.”

The pride of Stevens, which had not shrunk from hypocrisy and falsehood,
yet recoiled at a suggestion which involved the idea of his pecuniary
dependence upon strangers, and he replied accordingly; though he still
disguised his objections under the precious appearance of a becoming
moral scruple.

“It will not become me, Mr. Cross, to burden the brethren of the church
for that hospitality which is only due to brethren.”

“But thou art in the way of grace--the light is shining upon thee--the
door is open, and already the voice of the Bridegroom is calling from
within. Thou wilt become a burning and a shining light--and the brethren
of the church will rejoice to hail thee among its chosen. Shall they
hold back their hand when thou art even on the threshold?”

“But, Mr. Cross--”

“Call me not Mr., I pray thee. Call me plain John Cross, if it please
thee not yet to apply to me that sweeter term of loving kindness which
the flock of God are happy to use in speech one to another. If thou wilt
call me Brother Cross, my heart shall acknowledge the bonds between us,
and my tongue shall make answer to thine, in like fashion. Oh, Alfred
Stevens, may the light shine soon upon thine eyes, that thou may’st know
for a truth how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in the
peace of of the Lord, and according to his law. I will, with God’s
grace, bring thee to this perfect knowledge, for I see the way clear
because of the humility which thou hast already shown, and thy yielding
to the counsels of the teacher. As for what thou sayest about charges to
the brethren, let that give thee no concern. Thou shalt lodge with old
Brother Hinkley, who is the pattern of good things and of, holiness
in Charlemont. His house is more like unto the tent of the patriarch
pitched upon the plain, than the house of the dweller among the cities.
No lock fastens its doors against the stranger; and the heart of the
aged man is even more open than the doorway of his dwelling. He standeth
in the entrance like one looking out for him that cometh, and his first
word to the messenger of God, is ‘welcome!’ Thou shalt soon see the
truth of what I say to thee, for even now do we look down upon his house
in the very midst of the village.”

If the scruples of Stevens still continued to urge him against
accepting the hospitality of the old patriarch of whom he had received
a description at once just and agreeable, the recollection of the
village-maiden whom he had gone aside from his direct path of travel,
and made some even greater departures from the truth, to see, determined
him at length to waive them; particularly when he ascertained from his
fellow-traveller that he knew of nobody in Charlemont who accommodated
strangers for money.

Stevens was one of those persons who watch the progress of events, and
he resolved, with a mental reservation--that seems strange enough in the
case of one who had shown so little reluctance to say and do the thing
which he could not maintain or defend--to avail himself of some means
for requiting, to the uttermost farthing, the landlord, to whose
hospitality he might be indebted during his stay in Charlemont.

Such are the contradictions of character which hourly detect and
describe the mere worldling--the man lacking in all principle, but that
which is subservient to his selfish policy. To accept money or money’s
worth from a stranger, seemed mean and humbling to one, who did not
hesitate, in the promotion of a scheme, which, had treachery for its
object, to clothe himself in the garments of deception, and to make
his appearance with a lie festering upon his lips. That evening, Alfred
Stevens became, with his worthier companion, an inmate of the happy
dwelling of William Hinkley, the elder--a venerable, white-headed
father, whose whole life had made him worthy of a far higher eulogium
than that which John Cross had pronounced upon him.

The delight of the family to see their reverend teacher was heartfelt
and unreserved. A vigorous gripe of the hand, by the elder dragged him
into the house, and a sentence of unusual length, from his better half,
assured him of that welcome which the blunter action of her venerable
husband had already sufficiently declared. Nor was the young adventurer
who accompanied the preacher, suffered to remain long unconsidered. When
John Cross had told them who he was, or rather when he had declared
his spiritual hopes in him--which he did with wonderful unction, in a
breath--the reception of old Hinkley, which had been hospitable enough
before, became warm and benignant; and Brother Stevens already became
the word of salutation, whenever the old people desired to distinguish
their younger guest.

Brother Stevens, it may be said here, found no difficulty in maintaining
the character he had assumed. He had, in high degree, the great art
of the selfish man, and could, when his game required it, subdue with
little effort, those emotions and impulses, which the frank and ardent
spirit must speak out or die. He went into the house of the hospitable
old man, and into the village of Charlemont, as if he had gone into the
camp of an enemy. He was, indeed, a spy, seeking to discover, not the
poverty, but the richness of the land. His mind, therefore, was like one
who has clothed himself in armor, placed himself in waiting for the foe,
and set all his sentinels on the watch. His caution measured every word
ere it was spoken, every look ere it was shown, every movement ere he
suffered his limbs to make it. The muscles of his face, were each put
under curb and chain--the smiles of the lip and the glances of the eyes,
were all subdued to precision, and permitted to go forth, only under
special guard and restriction. In tone, look, and manner, he strove as
nearly as he might to resemble the worthy but simple-minded man, who had
so readily found a worthy adherent and pupil in him; and his efforts
at deception might be held to be sufficiently successful, if the frank
confiding faith of the aged heads of the Hinkley family be the fitting
test of his experiment.

With them he was soon perfectly at home--his own carriage seemed to them
wondrously becoming, and the approbation of John Cross was of itself
conclusive. The preacher was the oracle of the family, all of whom were
only too happy of his favor not to make large efforts to be pleased
with those he brought; and in a little while, sitting about the friendly
fireside, the whole party had become as sociable as if they had been
“hail fellow! well met,” a thousand years. Two young girls, children
of a relative, and nieces of the venerable elder, had already perched
themselves upon the knee of the stranger, and strove at moments over his
neck and shoulder, without heeding the occasional sugary reproof of
Dame Hinkley, which bade them “let Brother Stevens be;” and, already had
Brother Stevens himself, ventured upon the use of sundry grave saws
from the holy volume, the fruit of early reading and a retentive memory,
which not a little helped to maintain his novel pretensions in the mind
of the brethren, and the worthy teacher, John Cross himself. All things
promised a long duration to a friendship suddenly begun; when William
Hinkley, the younger, a youth already introduced to the reader, made his
appearance within the happy circle. He wore a different aspect from all
the rest as he recognised in the person of Brother Stevens, the handsome
stranger, his antipathy to whom, at a first glance, months before,
seemed almost to have the character of a warning instinct. A nearer
glance did not serve to lessen his hostility.

Our traveller was to the eye of a lover, one, indeed, who promised
dangerous rivalship, and an intrepid air of confidence which, even his
assumed character could not enable him to disguise from the searching
eyes of jealousy, contributed to strengthen the dislike of the youth
for a person who seemed so perfectly sure of his ground. Still, William
Hinkley behaved as a civil and well-bred youth might be expected
to behave. He did not suffer his antipathy to put on the aspect of
rudeness; he was grave and cold, but respectful; and though he did
not “be-brother” the stranger, he yet studiously subdued his tones to
mildness, when it became necessary, in the course of the evening meal,
that he should address him. Few words, however, were exchanged between
the parties. If Hinkley beheld an enemy to his heart’s hopes in Stevens,
the latter was sufficiently well-read in the human heart to discover
quite as soon, that the rustic was prepared to see in himself any
character but that of a friend. The unwillingness with which Hinkley
heard his suggestions--the absence of all freedom and ease in his
deportment, toward himself, so different from the manner of the youth
when speaking or listening to all other persons; the occasional gleam
of jealous inquiry and doubt within his eye, and the utter lack of all
enthusiasm and warmth in his tones while he spoke to him, satisfied
Stevens, that he, of all the household of his hospitable entertainers,
if not actually suspicious of his true character, was the one whose
suspicions were those most easily to be awakened, and who of all others,
needed most to be guarded against. It will not increase our estimate
of the wisdom of the stranger, to learn that, with this conviction, he
should yet arrogate to himself a tone of superiority, while speaking in
hearing of the youth.

This was shown in a manner that was particularly galling to a
high-spirited youth, and one whose prejudices were already awakened
against the speaker. It was that of a paternal and patronizing senior,
whose very gentleness and benignity of look and accent, seem to arise
from a full conviction of the vast difference which exists between
himself and his hearer. An indignity like this, which can not be
resented, is one which the young mind feels always most anxious to
resent. The very difficulties in the way of doing so, stimulates the
desire. Such was the feeling of William Hinkley. With such a feeling it
may be conjectured that opportunity was not long wanting, or might soon
be made, for giving utterance to the suppressed fires of anger which
were struggling in his heart. Days and weeks may elapse, but the
antipathy will declare itself at last. It would be easier to lock up the
mountain torrent after the breath of the tornado has torn away its rocky
seals, than to stifle in the heart that hates, because of its love, the
fierce fury which these united passions enkindle within it.

In the first hour of their first interview, William Hinkley and Alfred
Stevens felt that they were mutual foes. In that little space of time,
the former had but one thought, which, though it changed its aspect with
each progressive moment, never for an instant changed its character. He
panted with the hope of redressing himself for wrongs which he could not
name; for injuries and indignities which he knew not how to describe.
Stevens had neither done nor said anything which might be construed into
an offence. And yet, nobody knew better than Stevens that he had been
offensive. The worthy John Cross, in the simplicity of his nature, never
dreamed of this, but, on the contrary, when our adventurer dilated
in the fatherly manner already adverted to, be looked upon himself as
particularly favored of Heaven, in falling upon a youth, as a pupil, of
such unctuous moral delivery.

“Surely,” he mused internally, “this is a becoming instrument which I
have found, for the prosecution of the good work. He will bear the word
like one sent forth to conquer. He will bind and loose with a strong
hand. He will work wondrous things!”

Not unlike these were the calculations of old Hinkley, as he hearkened
to the reverend reasonings and the solemn commonplaces of the stranger.
Stevens, like most recent converts, was the most uncompromising enemy of
those sins from which he professed to have achieved with difficulty his
own narrow escape; and finding, from the attentive ear of his audience,
that he had made a favorable impression, he proceeded to manufacture for
them his religious experience; an art which his general information, and
knowledge of the world enabled him to perform without much difficulty.

But the puritan declamation which pleased all the rest, disgusted young
Hinkley, and increased his dislike for the declaimer. There was too much
of the worldling in the looks, dress, air, and manner of Stevens, to
satisfy the rustic of his sincerity. Something of his doubts had their
source, without question, in the antipathy which he had formed against
him; but William Hinkley was not without keen, quick, observing, and
justly discriminating faculties, and much of his conclusions were the
due consequence of a correct estimate of the peculiarities which we have
named. Stevens, he perceived, declared his experiences of religion,
with the air of one who expects the congratulations of his audience.
The humility which thinks only of the acquisition itself, as the very
perfection of human conquest, was wanting equally to his language and
deportment. The very details which he gave, were ostentatious; and the
gracious smiles which covered his lips as he concluded, were those of
the self-complacent person, who feels that he has just been saying
those good things, which, of necessity, must command the applause of his
hearers.

A decent pause of half an hour after the supper was finished, which was
spent by the jealous youth in utter silence, and he then rose abruptly
and hurried from the apartment, leaving the field entirely to his
opponent. He proceeded to the house of his neighbor and cousin, Ned
Hinkley, but without any hope of receiving comfort from his communion.
Ned was a lively, thoughtless, light-hearted son of the soil, who was
very slow to understand sorrows of any kind; and least of all, those
which lie in the fancy of a dreaming and a doubtful lover. At this
moment, when the possession of a new violin absorbed all his thoughts,
his mind was particularly obtuse on the subject of sentimental
grievances, and the almost voluptuous delight which filled his eyes
when William entered his chamber, entirely prevented him from seeing the
heavy shadow which overhung the brows of the latter.

“What, back again, William? Why, you’re as changeable as the last
suit of a green lizard. When I asked you to stop, and hear me play
‘Cross-possum,’ and ‘Criss-cross,’ off you went without giving me a
civil answer. I’ve a mind now to put up the fiddle and send your ears
to bed supperless. How would you like that, old fellow? but I’ll be
good-natured. You shall have it, though you don’t deserve it; she’s
in prime tune, and the tones--only hear that, Bill--there. Isn’t she
delicious?”

And as the inconsiderate cousin poured out his warmest eulogy of the
favorite instrument, his right hand flourished the bow in air, in a
style that would have cheered the heart of Jean Crapaud himself, and
then brought it over the cat-gut in a grand crash, that sounded as
harshly in the ears of his morbid visitor, as if the two worlds had
suddenly come together with steam-engine velocity. He clapped his hands
upon the invaded organs, and with something like horror in his voice,
cried out his expostulations.

“For heaven’s sake, Ned, don’t stun a body with your noise.”

“Noise! Did you say noise, Bill Hinkley--noise?”

“Yes, noise,” answered the other with some peevishness in his accents.
The violinist looked at him incredulously, while he suffered the point
of the fiddle-bow to sink on a line with the floor; then, after a
moment’s pause, he approached his companion, wearing in his face the
while, an appearance of the most grave inquiry, and when sufficiently
nigh, he suddenly brought the bow over the strings of the instrument,
immediately in William’s ears, with a sharp and emphatic movement,
producing an effect to which the former annoying crash, might well
have been thought a very gentle effusion. This was followed by an
uncontrollable burst of laughter from the merry lips of the musician.

“There--that’s what I call a noise, Bill. Sweet Sall CAN make a noise
when I worry her into it; she’s just like other women in that respect;
she’ll be sure to squall out if you don’t touch her just in the right
quarter. But the first time she did NOT go amiss, and as for stunning
you--but what’s the matter? Where’s the wind now?”

“Nothing--only I don’t want to be deafened with such a clatter.”

“Something’s wrong, Bill, I know it. You look now for all the world like
a bottle of sour son, with the cork out, and ready to boil over. As
for Sall making a noise the first time, that’s all a notion, and a very
strange one. She was as sweet-spoken then as she was when you left
me before supper. The last time, I confess, I made her squall out on
purpose. But what of that? you are not the man to get angry with a
little fun!”

“No, I’m not angry with you, Ned--I am not angry with anybody; but just
now, I would rather not hear the fiddle. Put it up.”

“There!” said the other good-naturedly, as he placed the favorite
instrument in its immemorial case in the corner. “There; and now Bill,
untie the pack, and let’s see the sort of wolf-cubs you’ve got to carry;
for there’s no two horns to a wild bull, if something hasn’t gored you
to-night.”

“You’re mistaken, Ned--quite mistaken--quite!”

“Deuse a bit! I know you too well, Bill Hinkley, so it’s no use to hush
up now. Out with it, and don’t be sparing, and if there’s any harm to
come, I’m here, just as ready to risk a cracked crown for you, as if the
trouble was my own. I’d rather fiddle than fight, it’s true; but when
there’s any need for it, you know I can do one just as well as the
other; and can go to it with just as much good humor. So show us the
quarrel.”

“There’s no quarrel. Ned,” said the other, softened by the frank and
ready feeling which his companion showed; “but I’m very foolish in some
things, and don’t know how it is. I’m not apt to take dislikes, but
there’s a man come to our house with John Cross, this evening, that I
somehow dislike very much.”

“A man! What’s he like? Anything like Joe Richards? That was a fellow
that I hated mightily. I never longed to lick any man but Joe Richards,
and him I longed to lick three times, though you know I never got at him
more than twice. It’s a great pity he got drowned, for I owe him a third
licking, and don’t feel altogether right, since I know no sort of way to
pay it. But if this man’s anything like Joe, it may be just the same if
I give it to HIM. Now--”

“He’s nothing like Richards,” said the other. “He’s a taller and
better-looking man.”

“If he’s nothing like Joe, what do you want to lick him for?” said the
single-minded musician, with a surprise in his manner, which was mingled
with something like rebuke.

“I have expressed no such wish, Ned; you are too hasty; and if I did
wish to whip him, I don’t think I should trouble you or any man to
help me. If I could not do it myself, I should give it up as a bad job,
without calling in assistants.”

“Oh, you’re a spunky follow--a real colt for hard riding,” retorted the
other with a good-natured mock in his tones and looks; “but if you don’t
want to lick the fellow, how comes it you dislike him? It seems to me
if a chap behaved so as to make me dislike him, it wouldn’t be an easy
matter to keep my hands off him. I’d teach him how to put me into a bad
humor, or I’d never touch violin again.”

“This man’s a parson, I believe.”

“A parson--that’s a difficulty. It is not altogether right to lick
parsons, because they’re not counted fighting people. But there’s a
mighty many on ‘em that licking would help. No wonder you dislike the
fellow, though if he comes with John Cross, he shouldn’t be altogether
so bad. Now, John Cross IS a good man. He’s good, and he’s good-humored.
He don’t try to set people’s teeth on edge against all the pleasant
things of this world, and he can laugh, and talk, and sing, like other
people. Many’s the time he’s asked me, of his own mouth, to play the
violin; and I’ve seen his little eyes caper again, when sweet Sall
talked out her funniest. If it was not so late, I’d go over now and give
him a reel or two, and then I could take a look at this strange chap,
that’s set your grinders against each other.”

The fiddler looked earnestly at the instrument in the corner, his
features plainly denoting his anxiety to resume the occupation which his
friends coming had so inopportunely interrupted. William Hinkley saw the
looks of his cousin, and divined the cause.

“You shall play for me, Ned,” he remarked; “you shall give me that old
highland-reel that you learned from Scotch Geordie. It will put me out
of my bad humor, I think, and we can go to bed quietly. I’ve come to
sleep with you to-night.”

“You’re a good fellow, Bill; I knew that you couldn’t stand it long, if
Sweet Sall kept a still tongue in her head. That reel’s the very thing
to drive away bad humors, though there’s another that I learnt from John
Blodget, the boat-man, that sounds to me the merriest and comicalest
thing in the world. It goes--,” and here the fiddle was put in
requisition to produce the required sounds: and having got carte
blanche, our enthusiastic performer, without weariness, went through
his whole collection, without once perceiving that his comical and
merry tunes had entirely failed to change the grave, and even gloomy
expression which still mantled the face of his companion. It was only
when in his exhaustion he set down the instrument, that he became
conscious of William Hinkley’s continued discomposure.

“Why, Bill, the trouble has given you a bigger bite than I thought for.
What words did you have with the preacher?”

“None: I don’t know that he is a preacher. He speaks only as if he was
trying to become one.”

“What, you hadn’t any difference--no quarrel?”

“None.”

“And it’s only to-night that you’ve seen him for the first time?”

A flush passed over the grave features of William Hinkley as he heard
this question, and it was with a hesitating manner and faltering
accents, that he contrived to tell his cousin of the brief glimpse which
he had of the same stranger several months before, on that occasion,
when, in the emotion of Margaret Cooper, replying to a similar question,
he first felt the incipient seed of jealousy planted within his bosom.
But this latter incident he forbore to reveal to the inquirer; and Ned
Hinkley, though certainly endowed by nature with sufficient skill
to draw forth the very soul of music from the instrument on which he
played, had no similar power upon the secret soul of the person whom he
partially examined.

“But ‘tis very strange how you should take offence at a man you’ve seen
so little; though I have heard before this of people taking dislikes
at other people the first moment they set eyes on ‘em. Now, I’m not a
person of that sort, unless it was in the case of Joe Richards; and him
I took a sort of grudge at from the first beginning. But even then there
was a sort of reason for it; for, at the beginning, when Joe came down
upon us here in Charlemont, he was for riding over people’s necks,
without so much as asking, ‘by your leave.’ He had a way about him that
vexed me, though we did not change a word.”

“And it’s that very way that this person has that I don’t like,” said
William Hinkley. “He talks as if he made you, and when you talk, he
smiles as if he thought you were the very worst work that ever went out
of his hands. Then, if he has to say anything, be it ever so trifling,
he says it just as if he was telling you that the world was to come to
an end the day after to-morrow.”

“Just the same with Joe Richards. I never could get at him but twice;
though I give him then a mighty smart hammering; and if he hadn’t got
under the broadhorn and got drowned;--but this fellow?”

“You’ll see him at church to-morrow. I shouldn’t wonder if he preaches;
for John Cross was at him about it before I came away. What’s worse, the
old man’s been asking him to live with us.”

“What, here in Charlemont?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll be sure to lick him then, if he’s anything like Joe Richards. But
what’s to make him live in Charlemont? Is he to be a preacher for us?”

“Perhaps so, but I couldn’t understand all, for I came in while they
were at it, and left home before they were done. I’m sure if he stays
there I shall not. I shall leave home, for I really dislike to meet
him.”

“You shall stay with me, Bill, and we’ll have Sall at all hours,” was
the hearty speech of the cousin, as he threw his arms around the neck
of his morose companion, and dragged him gently toward the adjoining
apartment, which formed his chamber. “To-morrow,” he continued, “as you
say, we’ll see this chap, and if he’s anything like Joe Richards--” The
doubled fist of the speaker, and his threatening visage, completed the
sentence with which this present conference and chapter may very well
conclude.



CHAPTER VI.

THE TOAD ON THE ALTAR.



The next day was the sabbath. John Cross had timed his arrival at
the village with a due reference to his duties, and after a minute
calculation of days and distances, so that his spiritual manna might be
distributed in equal proportions among his hungering flock. His arrival
made itself felt accordingly, not simply in Charlemont, but throughout
the surrounding country for a circuit of ten miles or more. There was a
large and hopeful gathering of all sorts and sexes, white and black, old
and young. Charlemont had a very pretty little church of its own; but
one, and that, with more true Christianity than is found commonly in
this world of pretence and little tolerance, was open to preachers of
all denominations. The word of God, among these simple folks, was quite
too important to make them scruple at receiving it from the lips of
either Geneva, Rome, or Canterbury. The church stood out among the hills
at a little distance from, but in sight of the village; a small, neat
Grecian-like temple, glimmering white and saintlike through solemn
visaged groves, and gaudy green foliage. The old trees about it were all
kept neatly trimmed, the brush pruned away and cleared up, and a smooth
sweet sward, lawn-like, surrounded it, such as children love to skip and
scramble over, and older children rest at length upon, in pairs, talking
over their sweet silly affections.

Surrounded by an admiring crowd, each of whom had his respectful
salutation, we see our friend John Cross toward noon approaching the
sacred dwelling. Truly he was the most simple, fraternal of all God’s
creatures. He had a good word for this, an affectionate inquiry for
that, a benevolent smile, and a kind pressure of the hand for all.
He was a man to do good, for everybody saw that he thought for others
before himself, and sincerity and earnestness constitute, with the
necessary degree of talent, the grand secrets for making successful
teachers in every department.

Though a simple, unsophisticated, unsuspecting creature, John Cross
was a man of very excellent natural endowments. He chose for his text
a passage of the Scriptures which admitted of a direct practical
application to the concerns of the people, their daily wants, their
pressing interests, moral, human, and social. He was thus enabled to
preach a discourse which sent home many of his congregation much wiser
than they came, if only in reference to their homely duties of farmstead
and family. John Cross was none of those sorry and self-constituted
representatives of our eternal interests, who deluge us with a vain,
worthless declamation, proving that virtue is a very good thing,
religion a very commendable virtue, and a liberal contribution to the
church-box at the close of the sermon one of the most decided proofs
that we have this virtue in perfection. Nay, it is somewhat doubtful,
indeed, if he ever once alluded to the state of his own scrip and the
treasury of the church. His faith, sincere, spontaneous, ardent, left
him in very little doubt that the Lord will provide, for is he not
called “Jehovah-Jireh?”--and his faith was strengthened and confirmed
by the experience of his whole life. But then John Cross had few
wants--few, almost none! In this respect he resembled the first
apostles. The necessities of life once cared for, never was mortal man
more thoroughly independent of the world. He was not one of those fine
preachers who, dealing out counsels of self-denial, in grave saws and
solemn maxims, with wondrous grim visage and a most slow, lugubrious
shaking of the head--are yet always religiously careful to secure the
warmest seat by the fireside, and the best buttered bun on table.
He taught no doctrine which he did not practise; and as for
consideration--that test at once of the religionist and the
gentleman--he was as humbly solicitous of the claims and feelings of
others, as the lovely and lowly child to whom reverence has been well
taught as the true beginning, equally of politeness and religion.

Before going into church he urged his protege, Stevens, to consent to
share in the ceremonies of the service as a layman; but there was still
some saving virtue in the young man, which made him resolute in refusing
to do so. Perhaps, his refusal was dictated by a policy like that which
had governed him so far already; which made him reluctant to commit
himself to a degree which might increase very much the hazards of
detection. He feared, indeed, the restraints which the unequivocal
adoption of the profession would impose upon him, fettering somewhat
the freedom of his intercourse with the young of both sexes, and,
consequently, opposing an almost insurmountable barrier to the
prevailing object which had brought him to the village. Whatever may
have been the feelings or motives which governed him, they, at least,
saved him from an act which would have grievously aggravated his already
large offence against truth and propriety. He declined, in language of
the old hypocrisy. He did not feel justified in taking up the cross--he
felt that he was not yet worthy; and, among the members of a church,
which takes largely into account the momentary impulses and impressions
of the professor, the plea was considered a sufficiently legitimate one.

But though Stevens forbore to commit himself openly in the cause which
he professed a desire to espouse, he was yet sufficiently heedful to
maintain all those externals of devotion which a serious believer would
be apt to exhibit. He could be a good actor of a part, and in this lay
his best talent. He had that saving wisdom of the worldling, which is
too often estimated beyond its worth, called cunning; and the frequent
successes of which produces that worst of all the diseases that ever
impaired the value of true greatness--conceit. Alfred Stevens fancied
that he could do everything, and this fancy produced in him the
appearance of a courage which his moral nature never possessed. He had
the audacity which results from presumption, not the wholesome strength
which comes from the conscious possession of a right purpose. But a
truce to our metaphysics.

Never did saint wear the aspect of such supernatural devotion. He knelt
with the first, groaned audibly at intervals, and when his face became
visible, his eyes were strained in upward glances, so that the spectator
could behold little more in their orbs than a sea of white.

“Oh! what a blessed young man!” said Mrs. Quackenbosh.

“How I wish it was he that was to preach for us to-day,” responded that
gem from the antique, Miss Polly Entwistle, who had joined every church
in Kentucky in turn, without having been made a spouse in either.

“How handsome he is!” simpered Miss Julia Evergreen--a damsel of
seventeen, upon whom the bilious eyes of Miss Entwistle were cast with
such an expression as the devil is said to put on when suddenly soused
in holy water.

“Handsome is that handsome does!” was the commentary of a venerable
cormorant to whom Brother Cross had always appeared the special and
accepted agent of heaven.

“I wish Brother Cross would get him to pray only. I wonder if he
believes in the new-light doctrine?” purred one of the ancient tabbies
of the conventicle.

“The new light is but the old darkness, Sister Widgeon,” responded an
old farmer of sixty four, who had divided his time so equally between
the plough and the prayer-book, that his body had grown as crooked as
the one, while his mind was bewildered with as many doctrines as ever
worried all sense out of the other.

We shall not suffer these to divert us, any more than Stevens permitted
their speculations upon his person and religion to affect his devotion.
He looked neither to the right nor to the left while entering the
church, or engaging in the ceremonies. No errant glances were permitted
to betray to the audience a mind wandering from the obvious duties
before it; and yet Alfred Stevens knew just as well that every eye in
the congregation was fixed upon him, as that he was himself there; and
among those eyes, his own keen glance had already discovered those of
that one for whom all these labors of hypocrisy were undertaken.

Margaret Cooper sat on the opposite side of the church, but the line
of vision was uninterrupted between them, and when--though very
unfrequently--Stevens suffered his gaze to rest upon her form, it was
with a sudden look of pleased abstraction, as if, in spite of himself,
his mind was irresistibly drawn away from all recollection, of its
immediate duties.

If a word is sufficient for the wise, a look answers an equal purpose
with the vain. Margaret Cooper left the church that morning with a
pleased conviction that the handsome stranger had already paid his
devotion to her charms. There was yet another passion to be gratified.
The restless ambition of her foolish heart whispered to her momently,
that if her person had done so much, what might she not hope to achieve
when the treasures of her mind were known. She had long since made the
comparison of her own intellect with that of every other maiden in the
village, and she flattered herself that before many days, the young
stranger should make it too. Her vain heart was rapidly preparing to
smooth the path of the enemy and make his conquests easy.

But it was not the women only, by whom the deportment of Alfred Stevens
was so closely watched. The eyes of suspicion and jealousy were upon
him. The two young men whose interview formed the conclusion of our last
chapter, scanned his conduct and carriage with sufficient keenness of
scrutiny.

“I’ll tell you what, Bill Hinkley,” said his cousin, “this fellow, to my
thinking, is a very great rascal.”

“What makes you think so?” demanded the former, with slow, dissatisfied
accents; “he seems to pray very earnestly.”

“That’s the very reason I think him a rascal. His praying seems to me
very unnatural. Here, he’s a perfect stranger in the place, yet he never
shows any curiosity to see the people. He never once looks around him.
He walks to the church with his eye cast upon the ground, and sometimes
he squints to this side and sometimes to that, but he seems to do it
slyly, and seems to take pains that nobody should see him doing, it.
All this might answer for an old man, who--believes that everything is
vanity--as, indeed, everything must seem to old people; but to a young
fellow, full of blood, who eats well, drinks well, sleeps well, and
should naturally have a hankering after a young girl, all this is
against nature. Now, what’s against nature is wrong, and there’s wrong
at the bottom of it. Youth is the time to laugh, dance, sing, play on
the violin, and always have a sweetheart when it can find one. If you
can’t get a beauty take a brown; and if Mary won’t smile, Susan will.
But always have a sweetheart; always be ready for fun and frolic;
that’s the way for the young, and when they don’t take these ways, it’s
unnatural--there’s something wrong about it, and I’m suspicious of THAT
person. Now, I just have this notion of the young stranger. He’s after
no good. I reckon he’s like a hundred others; too lazy to go to work,
he goes to preaching, and learns in the first sermon to beg hard for the
missionaries. I’ll lick him, Bill, to a certainty, if he gives me the
littlest end of an opportunity.”

“Pshaw, Ned, don’t think of such a thing. You are quite too fond of
licking people.”

“Deuse a bit. It does ‘em good. Look you, this chap is monstrous like
Joe Richards. I’ll have to lick him on that account.”

“You’re mad, Ned; talk of whipping a preacher.”

“He’s no preacher yet,” said the other, “but if I lick him he may become
one.”

“No matter, he’s never offended you.”

“Ay, but he will. I see it in the fellow’s looks. I never was mistaken
in a fellow’s looks in all my life.”

“Wait till he does offend you then.”

“Well, I’m willing to do that, for I know the time will come. I’m always
sure, when I first see a man, to know whether I’ll have to flog him or
not. There’s a something that tells me so. Isn’t that very singular,
Bill?”

“No! you form a prejudice against a man, fancy that you ought to whip
him, and then never rest till you’ve done so. You’ll find your match
some day.”

“What! you think some other chap will fancy he ought to whip me?
Well--maybe so. But this ain’t the fellow to do that.”

“He’s a stout man, and I reckon strong. Besides, Ned, he’s very
handsome.”

“Handsome! Lord, Bill, what a taste you have? How can a man be called
handsome that never altogether opens his eyes, except when he turns up
the whites until you’d think he’d never be able to get the balls back to
their proper place? Then, what a chin he has--as sharp as a pitchfork,
and who but a girl child would fancy a man with his hair combed sleek
like a woman’s on each side of his ears, with big whiskers at the
same time that looks for all the world like the brush of a seven years
running fox, Handsome! If my pup ‘Dragon’ was only half so much like a
beast, I’d plump him into the horsepond!”

It is probable that Ned Hinkley did not altogether think of the stranger
as he expressed himself. But he saw how deep a hold his appearance had
taken, in an adverse way, upon the mind and feelings of his relative and
friend, and his rude, but well-meant endeavors were intended to console
his companion, after his own fashion, by the exhibition of a certain
degree of sympathy.

His efforts, however well intended, did not produce any serious effect.
William Hinkley, though he forbore the subject, and every expression
which might indicate either soreness or apprehension, was still the
victim of that presentiment which had touched him on the very first
appearance of the stranger. He felt more than ever apprehensive on the
score of his misplaced affections. While his cousin had been watching
the stranger, HIS eyes had been fixed upon those of Margaret Cooper, and
his fears were increased and strengthened, as he perceived that she was
quite too much absorbed in other thoughts and objects to behold for an
instant the close espionage which he maintained upon her person. His
heart sunk within him, as he beheld how bold was her look, and how
undisguised the admiration which it expressed for the handsome stranger.

“You will go home with me, William?” said the cousin, The other
hesitated.

“I think,” said he, after a moment’s pause, “I should rather go to my
own home. It is a sort of weakness to let a stranger drive a man off
from his own family, and though I somehow dislike this person’s looks,
and am very sorry that John Cross brought him to our house, yet I
shouldn’t let a prejudice which seems to have no good foundation take
such possession of my mind. I will go home, Ned, and see--perhaps I may
come to like the stranger more when I know him better.”

“You’ll never like him. I see it in the fellow’s eye; but just as you
please about going nome. You’re right in one thing--never to give up
your own dunghill, so long as you can get room on it for a fair fling
with your enemy. Besides, you can see better, by going home, what the
chap’s after. I don’t see why he should come here to learn to preach. We
can’t support a preacher. We don’t want one. He could just as well have
learned his business, where he came from.”

With these words the cousins separated.

“Now,” said Ned Hinkley as he took his own way homeward, in a deeper
fit of abstraction than was altogether usual with him, “now will Bill
Hinkley beat about the bush without bouncing through it, until it’s
too late to do anything. He’s mealy-mouthed with the woman, and
mealy-mouthed with the man, and mealy-mouthed with everybody.--quite
too soft-hearted and too easy to get on. Here’s a stranger nobody
knows, just like some crow from another corn-field, that’ll pick up
his provisions from under his very nose, and he doing nothing to hinder
until there’s no use in trying. If I don’t push in and help him, he’ll
not help himself. As for Margaret Cooper, dang it, I’ll court her for
him myself. If he’s afraid to pop the question, I ain’t; though I’ll
have to be mighty careful about the words I use, or she’ll be thinking
I come on my own hook; and that would be a mighty scary sort of business
all round the house. Then this stranger. If anybody can look through
a stranger here in Charlemont, I reckon I’m that man. I suspect him
already. I think he’s after no good with his great religioning; and I’ll
tie such a pair of eyes to his heels, that his understanding will never
be entirely out of my sight. I’ll find him out if anybody can. But I
won’t lick him till I do. That wouldn’t be altogether right, considering
he’s to be a parson, though I doubt he’ll never make one.”

And thus, with a head filled with cares of a fashion altogether new, the
sturdy young Kentuckian moved homeward with a degree of abstraction in
his countenance which was not among the smallest wonders of the day and
place in the estimation of his friends and neighbors.

Meanwhile, the work of mischief was in full progress. Everybody
knows the degree of familiarity which exists among all classes in a
country-village, particularly when the parties are brought together
under the social and stimulating influences of religion. It was natural
that the pastor, long known and well beloved, should be surrounded by
his flock as he descended from the pulpit. The old ladies always have
a saving interest in his presence, and they pave the way for the young
ones. Alfred Stevens, as the protege of John Cross, naturally attended
his footsteps, and was introduced by him to the little congregation,
which had mostly remained to do honor to the preacher. Of these, not
last, nor least, was the widow Cooper; and, unreluctant by her side,
though in silence, and not without a degree of emotion, which she yet
was able to conceal, stood her fair but proud-hearted daughter.

Margaret, alas! Margaret stood there with a heart more proud, yet more
humble, than ever. Proud in the consciousness of a new conquest--humble
in the feeling that this conquest had not been made, but at the expense
of some portion of her own independence. Hitherto, her suitors had
awakened no other feeling in her heart but vanity. Now, she felt no
longer able to sail on, “imperial arbitress,” smiling at woes which she
could inflict, but never share. That instinct, which, in the heart of
young Hinkley had produced fear, if not antipathy, had been as active in
her case, though with a very different result. The first glimpse which
she had of the handsome stranger, months before, had impressed her with
a singular emotion; and now that he was returned, she could not divest
herself of the thought that his return was a consequence of that one
glimpse.

With a keener judgment than belonged to her neighbors, she too had some
suspicions that religion was scarcely the prevailing motive which
had brought the youth back to their little village; for how could she
reconcile with his present demure gravity and devout profession, the
daring which he had shown in riding back to behold her a second
time? That such had been his motive she divined by her own feeling of
curiosity, and the instincts of vanity were prompt enough to believe
that this was motive sufficient to bring him back once more, and under
the guise of a character, which would the readiest secure an easy
entrance to society. Pleased with the fancy that she herself was
the object sought, she did not perceive how enormous was the sort of
deception which the stranger had employed to attain the end desired.
With all her intellect she had not the wisdom to suspect that he who
could so readily practise so bold an hypocrisy, was capable of the worst
performances; and when their names were mentioned, and his eyes were
permitted to meet and mingle their glances with hers, she was conscious
of nothing farther than a fluttering sentiment of pleasure, which was
amply declared to the stranger, in the flash of animation which spoke
openly in her countenance; eye speaking to lip and cheek, and these, in
turn, responding with a kindred sentiment to the already tell-tale eye.

William Hinkley, from a little distance, beheld this meeting. He had
lingered with the curiosity which belongs to the natural apprehension
of the lover. He saw them approach--nay, fancied he beheld the mutual
expression of their sympathizing eyes, and he turned away, and hurried
homeward, with the feeling of a heart already overborne, and defrauded
in all its hopes and expectations. The flowers were threatened with
blight in his Eden: but he did not conjecture, poor fellow, that a
serpent had indeed entered it!



CHAPTER VII.

THE GOOD YOUNG MAN IN MEDITATION.



Perhaps, it may be assumed, with tolerable safety, that no first villany
is ever entirely deliberate. There is something in events to give
it direction--something to egg it on--to point out time, place, and
opportunity. Of course, it is to be understood that the actor is one,
in the first place, wanting in the moral sense. What we simply mean
to affirm is, that the particular, single act, is, in few instances,
deliberately meditated from the beginning. We very much incline to
think that some one event, which we ordinarily refer to the chapter
of accidents, has first set the mind to work upon schemes, which would
otherwise, perhaps, never be thought of at all. Thus, we find persons
who continue very good people, as the world goes, until middle age, or
even seniority; then, suddenly breaking out into some enormous
offence against decency and society, which startles the whole pious
neighborhood. Folks start up, with outstretched hands and staring eyes,
and cry aloud:--

“Lord bless us, who would have thought so good a man could be so bad!”

He, poor devil, never fancied it himself, till he became so, and it was
quite too late to alter his arrangements. Perhaps his neighbors may
have had some share in making him so. Pious persons are very frequently
reduced to these straits by having the temptation forced too much
upon them. Flesh and blood can not always withstand the provocation of
earthly delicacies, even where the spirit is a tolerably stout one; and
of the inadequacy of the mind, always to contend with the inclinations
of the flesh, have we not a caution in that injunction of Holy Book
which warns us to fly from temptation? But lame people can not fly, and
he is most certainly lame who halts upon mere feet of circumstances.
Such people are always in danger.

Now, Alfred Stevens, properly brought up, from the beginning, at some
theological seminary, would have been--though in moral respects pretty
much the same person--yet in the eye of the world a far less criminal
man. Not that his desires would have been a jot more innocent, but they
would have taken a different direction. Instead of the recklessness of
course, such as seems to have distinguished the conduct of our present
subject--instead of his loose indulgences--his smart, licentious
speeches--the sheep’s-eye glances, right and left, which he was but
too prone to bestow, without prudence or precaution, whenever he walked
among the fair sisters--he, the said Alfred, would have taken counsel
of a more worldly policy, which is yet popularly considered a more pious
one. He would have kept his eyes from wandering to and fro; he would
have held his blood in subjection. Patient as a fox on a long scent in
autumn, he would have kept himself lean and circumspect, until, through
the help of lugubrious prayer and lantern visage, he could have beguiled
into matrimony some one feminine member of the flock--not always
fair--whose worldly goods would have sufficed in full atonement for all
those circumspect, self-imposed restraints, which we find usually so
well rewarded. But Alfred Stevens was not a man of this pious temper.
It is evident, from his present course, that he had some inkling of the
MODUS OPERANDI; but all his knowledge fell short of that saving
wisdom which would have defrauded the social world of one of its moral
earthquakes, and possibly deprived the survivors of the present moral
story--for moral it is, though our hero is not exactly so.

It would be doing our subject and our theory equal injustice if we were
to suppose that he had any fixed purpose, known to himself, when he
borrowed the professional garment, and began to talk with the worthy
John Cross in the language of theology, and with the tongue of a
hypocrite. He designed to visit Charlemont--that was all--as he had
really been impressed by the commanding figure and noble expression of
beauty of that young damsel whom he had encountered by the roadside.
Even this impression, however, would have been suffered to escape from
his mind, had it not been so perfectly convenient to revisit the spot,
on his return to his usual place of residence. During the summer,
Charlemont and its rustic attractions had been the frequent subject of
a conversation, running into discussion, between himself and the amiable
old man, his uncle. The latter repeatedly urged upon his nephew to
make the visit; fondly conceiving that a nearer acquaintance with
the pleasant spot which had so won upon his own affections, would be
productive of a like effect upon his nephew. Alas, how little did he
know the mischief he was doing!

In the very idleness of mood--with just that degree of curiosity which
prompts one to turn about and look a second time--Alfred Stevens resumed
the route which included Charlemont. But the devil had, by this time,
found his way into the meditations of the youth, and lay lurking,
unknown to himself, perhaps, at the bottom of this same curiosity. The
look of pride and defiance which Margaret Cooper had betrayed, when the
bold youth rode back to steal a second glance at her matchless person,
was equivalent to an equally bold challenge; and his vanity hastily
picked up the gauntlet which hers had thrown down. He wished to see
the damsel again--to see if she WAS so beautiful--if she did, indeed,
possess that intellectual strength and vivacity which flashed out
so suddenly and with so much splendor from beneath her long, dark
eye-lashes!

In this mood he met with John Cross; and the simplicity of that worthy
creature offered another challenge, not less provoking than the former,
to the levity and love of mischief which also actively predominated in
the bosom of the youth. Fond of a malicious sort of fun, and ever on the
look-out for subjects of quizzing, it was in compliance with a purely
habitual movement of his mind that he conjured up that false, glozing
story of his religious inclinations, which had so easily imposed upon
the unsuspecting preacher. Never was proceeding less premeditated, or
so completely the result of an after-thought, than this; and now that it
had proved so perfectly successful--now that he found himself admitted
into the very heart of the little village, and into the bosoms of the
people--he began, for the first time, to feel the awkwardness of the
situation in which he had placed himself, and the responsibilities,
if not dangers, to which it subjected him. To play the part of a mere
preacher--to talk glibly, and with proper unction, in the stereotype
phraseology of the profession--was no difficult matter to a clever young
lawyer of the West, having a due share of the gift of gab, and almost as
profoundly familiar with scripture quotation as Henry Clay himself. But
there was something awkward in the idea of detection, and he was not
unaware of those summary dangers which are likely to follow, in those
wild frontier regions, from the discovery of so doubtful a personage
as “Bro’ Wolf” in the clothing of a more innocent animal. Chief-Justice
Lynch is a sacred authority in those parts; and, in such a case as his,
Alfred Stevens did not doubt that the church itself would feel it only
becoming to provide another sort of garment for the offender, which,
whether pleasant or not, would at least be likely to stick more closely,
and prove less comfortably warm.

But, once in, there was no help but to play out the game as it had been
begun. Villagers are seldom very sagacious people, and elegant strangers
are quite too much esteemed among them to make them very particular in
knowing the whys and wherefores about them--whence they come, what they
do, and whither they propose to go. Stevens had only to preserve his
countenance and a due degree of caution, and the rest was easy. He had
no reason to suppose himself an object of suspicion to anybody; and
should he become so, nothing was more easy than to take his departure
with sufficient promptness, and without unnecessarily soliciting the
prayers of the church in behalf of the hurried traveller! At all events,
he could lose nothing by the visit: perhaps something might be gained.

What was that something? Behold him in his chamber, preparing to ask and
to answer this question for himself. The sabbath-day is finally over. He
has been almost the lion of the day. We say almost, for the worthy John
Cross could not easily be deprived, by any rivalry, of the loyal regards
of his old parishioners. But, though the latter had most friends, the
stranger, Alfred Stevens, had had most followers. All were anxious to
know him--the young, in particular, maidens and men; and the grave old
dames would have given their last remaining teeth, bone or waxen, to
have heard him discourse. There was so much sense and solemnity in
his profound, devout looks! he has been made known to them all; he has
shaken hands with many. But he has exchanged the speech of sympathy and
feeling with but one only--and that one!--

Of her he thinks in his chamber--his quiet, snug, little chamber--a mere
closet, looking out upon a long garden-slip, in which he sees, without
much heeding them, long lanes of culinary cabbage, and tracts of other
growing and decaying vegetation, in which his interest is quite too
small to make it needful that he should even ask its separate names. His
chin rests upon his hands with an air of meditation; and gradually his
thoughts rise up in soliloquy, which is suffered to invade no ear but
ours:--

“Well! who’d have thought it? a parson!--devilish good indeed! How it
will tell at Murkey’s! What a metamorphose! if it don’t stagger ‘em,
nothing will! It’s the best thing I’ve done yet! I shall have to do it
over a hundred times, and must get up a sermon or two beforehand, and
swear that I preached them--and, egad! I may have to do it yet before
I’m done--ha! ha! ha!”

The laughter was a quiet chuckle, not to be heard by vulgar ears; it
subsided in the gorges of his throat. The idea of really getting up a
sermon tickled him. He muttered over texts, all that he could remember;
and proceeded to turn over the phrases for an introduction, such
as, unctuous with good things in high degree, he fancied would be
particularly commendable to his unsuspecting hearers. Alfred Stevens had
no small talent for imitation, he derived a quiet sort of pleasure, on
the present occasion, from its indulgence.

“I should have made a famous parson, and, if all trades fail, may yet.
But, now that I am here, what’s to come of it? It’s not so hard to put
on a long face, and prose in scripture dialect; but, cui bono? Let me
see--hem! The girl is pretty, devilish pretty--with such an eye, and
looks so! There’s soul in the wench--life--and a passion that speaks out
in every glance and movement. A very Cressid, with a cross of Corinne!
Should she be like her of Troy? At all events, it can do no harm to see
what she’s made of!

“But I must manage warily. I have something to lose in the business.
Frankfort is but fifty miles from Charlemont--fifty miles--and there’s
Ellisland, but fourteen. Fourteen!--an easy afternoon ride. That way it
must be done. Ellisland shall be my post-town. I can gallop there in
an afternoon, drop and receive my letters, and be back by a round-about
which shall effectually baffle inquiry. A week or two will be enough.
I shall see, by that time, what can be done with her; though still,
cautiously, Parson Stevens!--cautiously.”

The farther cogitations of Stevens were subordinate to these, but of the
same family complexion. They were such as to keep him wakeful. The Bible
which had been placed upon his table, by the considerate providence of
his hostess, lay there unopened; though, more than once, he lifted the
cover of the sacred volume, letting it fall again suddenly, as if with a
shrinking consciousness that such thoughts as at that moment filled his
mind were scarcely consistent with the employment, in any degree, of
such a companion. Finally, he undressed and went to bed. The hour had
become very late.

“Good young man,” muttered worthy Mrs. Hinkley to her drowsy spouse, in
the apartment below, as she heard the movements of her guest-“good young
man, he’s just now going to bed. He’s been studying all this while. I
reckon Brother Cross has been sound this hour.”

The light from Stevens’s window glimmered out over the cabbage-garden,
and was seen by many an ancient dame as she prepared for her own
slumbers.

“Good young man,” said they all with one accord. “I reckon he’s at the
Bible now. Oh! he’ll be a blessed laborer in the vineyard, I promise
you, when Brother Cross is taken.”

“If it were not for the cursed bore of keeping up the farce beyond
the possibility of keeping up the fun, such a rig as this would be
incomparably pleasant; but”--yawning--“that’s the devil! I get monstrous
tired of a joke that needs dry nursing!”

Such were the last muttered words of Parson Stevens before he
yielded himself up to his slumbers. Good young man--charitable old
ladies--gullible enough, if not charitable! But the professions need
such people, and we must not quarrel with them!



CHAPTER VIII.

PAROCHIAL PERFORMANCES.



The poor, conceited blackguards of this ungracious earth have a fancy
that there must be huge confusion and a mighty bobbery in nature,
corresponding with that which is for ever going on in their own little
spheres. If we have a toothache, we look for a change of weather; our
rheumatism is a sure sign that God has made his arrangements to give
us a slapping rain; and, should the white bull or the brown heifer die,
look out for hail, or thunderstorm, at least, as a forerunner of the
event. Nothing less can possibly console or satisfy us for such a most
unaccountable, not to say unnatural and unwarrantable, a dispensation.
The poets have ministered largely to this vanity on the part of mankind.
Shakspere is constantly at it, and Ben Jonson, and all the dramatists.
Not a butcher, in the whole long line of the butchering Caesars, from
Augustus down, but, according to them, died in a sort of gloom glory,
resulting from the explosion of innumerable stars and rockets, and the
apparitions of as many comets! “Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire,”
 invariably announce the coming stroke of fate; and five or seven moons
of a night have suddenly arisen to warn some miserable sublunarian
that orders had been issued that there should be no moon for him that
quarter, or, in military and more precise phrase, that he should have
no “quarters” during that moon. Even our venerable and stern old puritan
saint, Milton--he who was blessed with the blindness of his earthly
eye, that he should be more perfectly enabled to contemplate the Deity
within--has given way to this superstition when he subjects universal
nature to an earthquake because Adam’s wife followed the counsels of the
snake.

A pretty condition of things it would be, if stars, suns, and systems,
were to shoot madly from their spheres on such occasions! Well might the
devil laugh if such were the case! How he would chuckle to behold globes
and seas, and empires, fall into such irreverend antics because some
poor earthling, be he kingling or common sodling, goes into desuetude,
either by the operation of natural laws, or the sharp application of
steel or shot! Verily, it makes precious little difference to the Great
Reaper, by what process we finally become harvested. He is sure of us,
though no graves gape, no stars fall, no comets rush out, like young
colts from their stables, flinging their tails into the faces of
the more sober and pacific brotherhood of lights. But, denied the
satisfaction of chuckling at such sights as these, his satanic majesty
chuckles not the less at the human vanity which looks for them. Nay, he
himself is very likely to suggest this vanity. It is one of his forms of
temptation--one of his manoeuvres; and we take leave, by way of warning,
to hint to those worthy people, who judge of to-morrow’s providence
by the corns of their great toe, or their periodical lumbago, or the
shooting of their warts, or the pricking of their palms, that it is in
truth the devil which is at the bottom of all this, and that the Deity
has nothing to do in the business. It is the devil instilling his
vanities into the human heart, in that form which he thinks least likely
to prove offensive, or rouse suspicion. The devil is most active in
your affairs, Mrs. Thompson, the moment you imagine that there must be
a revolution on your account in the universal laws of nature. At such a
moment your best policy will be to have blood let, take physic, and go
with all diligence to your prayers.

There was no sort of warning on the part of the natural to the moral
world, on the day when Alfred Stevens set forth with the worthy John
Cross, to visit the flock of the latter. There was not a lovelier
morning in the whole calendar. The sun was alone in heaven, without a
cloud; and on earth, the people in and about Charlemont, having been to
church only the day before, necessarily made their appearance everywhere
with petticoats and pantaloons tolerably clean and unrumpled. Cabbages
had not yet been frost-bitten. Autumn had dressed up her children in the
garments of beauty, preparatory to their funeral. There was a good crop
of grain that year, and hogs were brisk, and cattle lively, and all
“looking-up,” in the language of the prices current. This was long
before the time when Mr. M---- made his famous gammon speeches; but the
people had a presentiment of what was coming, and to crown the eventful
anticipations of the season, there was quite a freshet in Salt river.
The signs were all and everywhere favorable. Speculation was beginning
to chink his money-bags; three hundred new banks, as many railways, were
about to be established; old things were about to fleet and disappear;
all things were becoming new; and the serpent entered Charlemont, and
made his way among the people thereof, without any signs of combustion,
or overthrow, or earthquake.

Everybody has some tolerable idea of what the visitation of a parson is,
to the members of his flock. In the big cities he comes one day, and
the quarterly collector the next. He sits down with the “gude wife” in
a corner to themselves, and he speaks to her in precisely the same
low tones which cunning lovers are apt to use. If he knows any one art
better than another, it is that of finding his way to the affections of
the female part of his flock. A subdued tone of voice betrays a certain
deference for the party addressed. The lady is pleased with such a
preliminary. She is flattered again by the pains he takes in behalf of
her eternal interests; she is pretty sure he takes no such pains with
any of her neighbors. It is a sign that he thinks her soul the most
becoming little soul in the flock, and when he goes away, she looks
after him and sighs, and thinks him the most blessed soul of a parson.
The next week she is the first to get up a subscription which she heads
with her own name in connection with a sum realized by stinting her
son of his gingerbread money, in order to make this excellent parson
a life-member of the “Zion African Bible and Missionary Society, for
disseminating the Word among the Heathen.” The same fifty dollars so
appropriated, would have provided fuel for a month to the starving poor
of her own parish.

But Brother Cross gets no such windfalls. It is probable that he never
heard of such a thing, and that if he did, he would unhesitatingly cry
out, “Humbug,” at the first intimation of it. Besides, his voice was
not capable of that modulation which a young lover, or a city parson can
give it. Accustomed to cry aloud and spare not, he usually spoke as if
there were some marrow in his bones, and some vigor in his wind-bags.
When he came to see the good wife of his congregation, he gave her
a hearty shake of the hand, congratulated her as he found her at her
spinning-wheel; spoke with a hearty approbation, if he saw that her
children were civil and cleanly; if otherwise, he blazed out with proper
boldness, by telling her that all her praying and groaning, would
avail nothing for her soul’s safety, so long as Jackey’s breeches were
unclean; and that the mother of a rude and dirty child, was as sure
of damnation, as if she never prayed at all. He had no scruples about
speaking the truth. He never looked about him for the gentle, easy
phrases, by which to distinguish the conduct which he was compelled to
condemn. He knew not only that the truth must be spoken, and be spoken
by him, if by anybody, but that there is no language too strong--perhaps
none quite strong enough--for the utterance of the truth. But it must
not be supposed, that John Cross was in any respect an intolerant, or
sour man. He was no hypocrite, and did not, therefore, need to clothe
his features in the vinegar costume of that numerous class. His limbs
were put into no such rigid fetters as too often denote the unnatural
restraints which such persons have imposed upon their inner minds. He
could laugh and sing with the merriest, and though he did not absolutely
shake a leg himself, yet none rejoiced more than he, when Ned Hinkley’s
fiddle summoned the village to this primitive exercise.

“Now, Alfred Stevens,” said he, the breakfast being over, “what say’st
thou to a visit with me among my people. Some of them know thee already;
they will all be rejoiced to see thee. I will show thee how they live,
and if thou shouldst continue to feel within thee, the growing of that
good seed whose quickening thou hast declared to me, it will be well
that thou shouldst begin early to practise the calling which may so
shortly become thine own. Here mightest thou live a space, toiling in
thy spiritual studies, until the brethren should deem thee ripe for thy
office; meanwhile, thy knowledge of the people with whom thou livest,
and their knowledge of thee, would be matter of equal comfort and
consolation, I trust, to thee as to them.”

Alfred Stevens expressed himself pleased with the arrangement. Indeed,
he desired nothing else.

“But shall we see all of them?” he demanded. The arch-hypocrite began
to fear that his curiosity would be compelled to pay a heavy penalty to
dullness.

“The flock is small,” said John Cross. “A day will suffice, but I shall
remain three days in Charlemont, and some I will see to-day, and some
to-morrow, and some on the day after, which is Wednesday.”

“Taken in moderate doses,” murmured Stevens to himself, “one may stand
it.”

He declared himself in readiness, and the twain set forth. The outward
behavior of Stevens was very exemplary. He had that morning contrived to
alter his costume in some respects to suit the situation of affairs. For
example, he had adopted that slavish affectation which seems to insist
that a preacher of God should always wear a white cravat, so constructed
and worn as to hide the tips of his shirt collar. If they wore none,
they would look infinitely more noble, and we may add, never suffer from
bronchitis. In his deportment, Stevens was quite as sanctified as heart
could wish. He spoke always deliberately, and with great unction. If he
had to say “cheese and mousetrap,” he would look very solemn, shake his
head with great gravity and slowness, and then deliberately and equally
emphasizing every syllable, would roll forth the enormous sentence
with all the conscious dignity of an ancient oracle. That “cheese and
mousetrap,” so spoken, acquired in the ears of the hearer, a degree of
importance and signification, which it confounded them to think they had
never perceived before in the same felicitous collocation of syllables.
John Cross was not without his vanities. Who is? Vanity is quite as
natural as any other of our endowments. It is a guaranty for amiability.
A vain man is always a conciliatory one. He is kind to others, because
the approbation of others is a strong desire in his mind. Accordingly,
even vanity is not wholly evil. It has its uses.

John Cross had his share, and Alfred Stevens soon discovered that he
ministered to it in no small degree. The good old preacher took to
himself the credit of having effected his conversion, so far as it had
gone. It was his hand that had plucked the brand from the burning. He
spoke freely of his protege, as well before his face as behind his back.
In his presence he dwelt upon the holy importance of his calling; to
others he dilated upon the importance of securing for the church a young
man of so much talent, yet of so much devotion: qualities not always
united, it would seem, among the churchlings of modern times.

Alfred Stevens seemed to promise great honor to his teacher. That
cunning which is the wisdom of the worldling, and which he possessed
in a very surprising degree, enabled him to adopt a course of conduct,
look, and remark, which amply satisfied the exactions of the scrupulous,
and secured the unhesitating confidence of those who were of a more
yielding nature. He soon caught the phraseology of his companion, and
avoiding his intensity, was less likely to offend his hearers. His
manner was better subdued to the social tone of ordinary life, his voice
lacked the sharp twang of the backwoods man; and, unlike John Cross, he
was able to modulate it to those undertones, which, as we have
before intimated, are so agreeable from the lips of young lovers and
fashionable preachers. At all events, John Cross himself, was something
more than satisfied with his pupil, and took considerable pains to show
him off. He was a sort of living and speaking monument of the good man’s
religious prowess.

It does not need that we should follow the two into all the abodes which
they were compelled to visit. The reader would scarcely conceal his
yawns though Stevens did. Enough, that a very unctuous business was made
of it that morning. Many an old lady was refreshed with the spiritual
beverage bestowed in sufficient quantity to last for another quarter;
while many a young one rejoiced in the countenance of so promising a
shepherd as appeared under the name of Alfred Stevens. But the latter
thought of the one damsel only. He said many pleasant things to those
whom he did see; but his mind ran only upon one. He began to apprehend
that she might be among the flock who were destined to wait for the
second or last day’s visitation; when, to his great relief, John Cross
called his attention to the dwelling of the widow Cooper, to whom they
were fast approaching.

Stevens remarked that the dwelling had very much the appearance of
poverty--he did not fail to perceive that it lacked the flower-garden
in front which distinguished the greater number of the cottages in
Charlemont; and there was an appearance of coldness and loneliness about
its externals which impressed itself very strongly upon his thoughts,
and seemed to speak unfavorably for the taste of the inmates. One is
apt to associate the love of flowers with sweetness and gentleness of
disposition, and such a passion would seem as natural, as it certainly
would be becoming, to a young lady of taste and sensibility. But the
sign is a very doubtful one. Taste and gentleness may satisfy themselves
with other objects. A passion for books is very apt to exclude a very
active passion for flowers, and it will be found, I suspect, that these
persons who are most remarkable for the cultivation of flowers are least
sensible to the charms of letters. It seems monstrous, indeed, that a
human being should expend hours and days in the nursing and tendance of
such stupid beauties as plants and flowers, when earth is filled with
so many lovelier objects that come to us commended by the superior
sympathies which belong to humanity. Our cities are filled with the
sweetest orphans--flowers destined to be immortal; angels in form, that
might be angels in spirit--that must be, whether for good or evil--whom
we never cultivate--whom we suffer to escape our tendance, and leave to
the most pitiable ignorance, and the most wretched emergencies of want.
The life that is wasted upon dahlias, must, prima facie, be the life
of one heartless and insensible, and most probably, brutish in a high
degree.

But Alfred Stevens had very little time for further reflection. They
were at the door of the cottage. Never did the widow Cooper receive
her parson in more tidy trim, and with an expression of less qualified
delight. She brought forth the best chair, brushed the deerskin-seat
with her apron, and having adjusted the old man to her own satisfaction
as well as his, she prepared to do a like office for the young one.
Having seated them fairly, and smoothed her apron, and gone through the
usual preliminaries, and placed herself a little aloof, on a third seat,
and rubbed her hands, and struggled into a brief pause in her brisk
action, she allowed her tongue to do the office for which her whole soul
was impatient.

“Oh, Brother Cross, what a searching sermon you gave us yesterday. You
stirred the hearts of everybody, I warrant you, as you stirred up
mine. We’ve been a needing it for a precious long time, I tell you; and
there’s no knowing what more’s a wanting to make us sensible to the evil
that’s in us. I know from myself what it is, and I guess from the doings
of others. We’re none of us perfect, that’s certain; but it’s no harm
to say that some’s more and some’s not so perfect as others. There’s a
difference in sin, Brother Cross, I’m a thinking, and I’d like you to
explain why, and what’s the difference. One won’t have so much, and one
will have more; one will take a longer spell of preaching, and half
the quantity will be a dose to work another out clean, entire. I’m not
boastful for myself, Brother Cross, but I do say, I’d give up in despair
if I thought it took half so much to do me, as it would take for a
person like that Mrs. Thackeray.”

“Sister Cooper,” said brother Cross, rebukingly, “beware of the
temptation to vain-glory. Be not like the Pharisee, disdainful of the
publican. To be too well pleased with one’s self is to be displeasing to
the Lord.”

“Oh, Brother Cross, don’t be thinking that I’m over and above satisfied
with the goodness that’s in me. I know I’m not so good. I have a great
deal of evil; but then it seems to me there’s a difference in good and
a difference in evil. One has most of one and one has most of another.
None of us have much good, and all of us have a great deal of sin. God
help me, for I need his help--I have my own share; but as for that Mrs.
Thackeray, she’s as full of wickedness as an an egg’s full of meat.”

“It is not the part of Christianity, Sister Cooper,” said John Cross
mildly, “to look into our neighbors’ accounts and make comparisons
between their doings and our own. We can only do so at great risk of
making a false reckoning. Besides, Sister Cooper, it is business enough
on our hands, if we see to our own short-comings. As for Mrs. Thackeray,
I have no doubt she’s no better than the rest of us, and we are all, as
you said before, children of suffering, and prone to sin as certain as
that the sparks fly upward. We must only watch and pray without ceasing,
particularly that we may not deceive ourselves with the most dangerous
sin of being too sure of our own works. The good deeds that we boast
of so much in our earthly day will shrivel and shrink up at the last
account to so small a size that the best of us, through shame and
confusion, will be only too ready to call upon the rocks and hills to
cover us. We are very weak and foolish all, Sister Cooper. We can’t
believe ourselves too weak, or too mean, or too sinful. To believe this
with all our hearts, and to try to be better with all our strength, is
the true labor of religion. God send it to us, in all its sweetness and
perfection, so that we may fight the good fight without ceasing.”

“But if you could only hear of the doings of Mrs. Thackeray, Brother
Cross, you’d see how needful it would be to put forth all your strength
to bring her back to the right path.”

“The Lord will know. None of us can hide our evil from the eyes of the
Lord. I will strive with our sister, when I seek her, which will be
this very noon, but it is of yourself, Sister Cooper, and your daughter
Margaret, that I would speak. Where is she that I see her not?”

This was the question that made our quasi hierophant look up with a
far greater degree of interest than he had felt in the long and random
twattle to which he had been compelled to listen. Where was she--that
fair daughter? He was impatient for the answer. But he was not long
detained in suspense. Next to her neighbors there was no subject of
whom the mother so loved to speak as the daughter, and the daughter’s
excellences.

“Ah! she is up-stairs, at her books, as usual. She does so love them
books, Brother Cross, I’m afraid it’ll do harm to her health. She cares
for nothing half so well. Morning, noon, and night, all the same, you
find her poring over them; and even when she goes out to ramble, she
must have a book, and she wants no other company. For my part I can’t
see what she finds in them to love so; for except to put a body to sleep
I never could see the use they were to any person yet.”

“Books are of two kinds,” said Brother Cross gravely. “They are useful
or hurtful. The useful kinds are good, the hurtful kinds are bad. The
Holy Bible is the first book, and the only book, as I reckon it will be
the book that’ll live longest. The ‘Life of Whitefield’ is a good book,
and I can recommend the sermons of that good man, Brother Peter Cummins,
that preached when I was a lad, all along through the back parts of
North Carolina, into South Carolina and Georgia. I can’t say that
he came as far back into the west as these parts; but he was a most
faithful shepherd. There was a book of his sermons printed for the
benefit of his widow and children. He died, like that blessed man, John
Rogers, that we see in the primer-books, leaving a wife with eleven
children and one at the breast. His sermons are very precious reading.
One of them in particular, on the Grace of God, is a very falling of
manna in the wilderness. It freshens the soul, and throws light upon the
dark places in the wilderness. Ah! if only such books are printed, what
a precious world for poor souls it would be. But they print a great many
bad books now-a-days.”

The natural love of mischief which prevailed in the bosom of Alfred
Stevens now prompted him to take part in the conversation at this happy
moment. The opportunity was a tempting one.

“The printers,” said he, “are generally very bad men. They call
themselves devils, and take young lads and bring them up to their
business under that name!”

The old lady threw up her hands, and John Cross, to whom this
intelligence was wholly new, inquired with a sort of awe-struck
gravity--

“Can this be true, Alfred Stevens? Is this possible?”

“The fact, sir. They go by no other name among themselves; and you may
suppose, if they are not ashamed of the name, they are not unwilling
to perform the doings of the devil. Indeed, they are busy doing his
business from morning to night--and night to morning. They don’t stop
for the sabbath. They work on Sunday the same as any other day, and if
they take any rest at all it is on Saturday, which would show them to be
a kind of Jews.”

“Good Lord deliver us!” ejaculated the widow.

“Where, O! where?” exclaimed the Brother Cross with similar earnestness.
The game was too pleasant for Alfred Stevens. He pursued it.

“In such cities,” he continued, “as New York and Philadelphia, thousands
of these persons are kept in constant employ sending forth those books
of falsehood and folly which fill the hearts of the young with vain
imaginings, and mislead the footsteps of the unwary. In one of these
establishments, four persons preside, who are considered brothers; but
they are brothers in sin only, and are by some supposed to be no other.
They have called themselves after the names of saints and holy men; even
the names of the thrice blessed apostles, John and James, have been in
this fashion abused; but if it be true that the spirits of evil may even
in our day as of old embody themselves in mortal shape for the better
enthralling and destruction of mankind, then should I prefer to believe
that these persons were no other than the evil demons who ruled in
Ashdod and Assyria. Such is their perseverance in evil--such their busy
industry, which keeps a thousand authors (which is but another name for
priests and prophets) constantly at work to frame cunning falsehoods and
curious devices, and winning fancies, which when printed and made into
books, turn the heads of the young and unwary, and blind the soul to the
wrath which is to come.”

The uplifted hands of the widow Cooper still attested her wonder.

“Lord save us!” she exclaimed, “I should not think it strange if Sister
Thackeray had some of these very books. Do ask, Brother Cross, when
you go to see her. She speaks much of books, and I see her reading them
whenever I look in at the back window.”

John Cross did not seem to give any heed to the remark of the old woman.
There was a theological point involved in one of the remarks of Alfred
Stevens which he evidently regarded as of the first importance.

“What you say, Alfred Stevens, is very new and very strange to me, and I
should think from what I already know of the evil which is sometimes put
in printed books, that there was indeed a spirit of malice at work in
this way, to help the progress and the conquests of Satan among our
blind and feeble race. But I am not prepared to believe that God has
left it to Satan to devise so fearful a scheme for prosecuting his evil
designs as that of making the demons of Ashdod and Assyria take the
names of mortal men, while teeming to follow mortal occupations. It
would be fearful tidings for our poor race were this so. But if so, is
it not seen that there is a difference in the shapes of these persons.
If either of these brothers who blasphemously call themselves John and
James, after the manner of the apostles, shall be in very truth and
certainty that Dagon of the Philistines whom Jehovah smote before his
altar, will he not be made fishlike from the waist downward, and will
this not be seen by his followers and some of the thousands whom
he daily perverts to his evil purposes and so leads to eternal
destruction?”

“It may be that it is permitted to such a demon to put on what shape he
thinks proper,” replied Stevens; “but even if it is not, yet this would
not be the subject of any difference--it would scarcely prevent the
prosecution of this evil purpose. You are to remember, Mr. Cross--”

“John Cross--plain John Cross, Alfred Stevens,” was the interruption of
the preacher.

“You are to remember,” Stevens resumed, “that when the heart is full
of sin, the eyes are full of blindness. The people who believe in these
evil beings are incapable of seeing their deformities.”

“That is true--a sad truth.”

“And, again,” continued Stevens, “there are devices of mere mortal art,
by which the deformities and defects of an individual may be concealed.
One of these brothers, I am told, is never to be seen except seated in
one position at the same desk, and this desk is so constructed, as
to hide his lower limbs in great part, while still enabling him to
prosecute his nefarious work.”

“It’s clear enough, Brother Cross,” exclaimed the widow Cooper, now
thoroughly convinced--“it’s clear enough that there’s something that he
wants to hide. Lord help us! but these things are terrible.”

“To the weak and the wicked, Sister Cooper, they are, as you say,
terrible, and hence the need that we should have our lamps trimmed and
lighted, for the same light which brings us to the sight of the Holy of
Holies, shows us the shape of hatefuless, the black and crouching form
of Satan, with nothing to conceal his deformity. Brother Stevens has
well said that when the heart is full of sin, the eyes are full of
blindness; and so we may say that when the heart is full of godliness,
the eyes are full of seeing. You can not blind them with devilish arts.
You can not delude them as to the true forms of Satan, let him take any
shape The eye of godliness sees clean through the mask of sin, as the
light of the sun pierces the thickest cloud, and brings day after the
darkest night.”

“Oh! what a blessed thing to hear you say so.”

“More blessed to believe, Sister Cooper, and believing, to pray with all
your heart for this same eye of godliness. But we should not only
pray but work. Working for God is the best sort of prayer. We must do
something in his behalf: and this reminds me, Sister Cooper, that if
there is so much evil spread abroad in these books, we should look
heedfully into the character of such as fall into the hands of the young
and the unmindful of our flock.”

“That is very true; that is just what I was thinking of, Brother Cross.
You can not look too close, I’m thinking into such books as you’ll find
at the house of Widow Thackeray. I can give a pretty ‘cute guess where
she gets all that sort of talk, that seems so natural at the end of her
tongue.”

“Verily, I will speak with Sister Thackeray on this subject,” responded
the pastor--“but your own books, Sister Cooper, and those of your
daughter Margaret--if it is convenient, I should prefer to examine them
now while I am here.”

“What! Margaret’s books! examine Margaret’s books!”

“Even so, while I am present and while Brother Stevens is here, also, to
give me his helping counsel in the way of judgment.”

“Why, bless us, Brother Cross, you don’t suppose that my daughter
Margaret would keep any but the properest books? she’s too sensible, I
can tell you, for that. She’s no books but the best; none, I’ll warrant
you, like them you’ll find at Widow Thackeray’s. She’s not to be put off
with bad books. She goes through ‘em with a glance of the eye. Ah! she’s
too smart to be caught by the contrivances of those devils, though in
place of four brothers there was four thousand of ‘em. No, no! let her
alone for that--she’s a match for the best of ‘em.”

“But as Brother Stevens said,” continued John Cross, “where sin gets
into the heart, the eye is blinded to the truth. Now--”

“Her eye’s not blinded, Brother Cross, I can tell you. They can’t cheat
her with their books. She has none but the very best. I’ll answer for
them. None of them ever did me any harm; and I reckon none of them’ll
ever hurt her. But I’m mistaken, if you don’t have a real burning when
you get to Mrs. Thackeray’s.”

“But, Sister Cooper--” commenced the preacher.

“Yes, Brother Cross,” replied the dame.

“Books, as I said before, are of two kinds.”

“Yes, I know--good and bad--I only wonder there’s no indifferent ones
among ‘em,” replied the lady.

“They should be examined for the benefit of the young and ignorant.”

“Oh, yes, and for more besides, for Mrs. Thackeray’s not young, that’s
clear enough; and I know there’s a good many things that she’s not
ignorant of. She’s precious knowing about many things that don’t do her
much good; and if the books could unlearn her, I’d say for one let her
keep ‘em. But as for looking at Margaret’s books--why, Brother Cross,
you surely know Margaret?”

The preacher answered meekly, but negatively.

“Ain’t she about the smartest girl you ever met with?” continued the
mother.

“God has certainly blessed her with many gifts,” was the reply, “but
where the trust is great, the responsibility is great also.”

“Don’t she know it?”

“I trust she does, Sister Cooper.”

“You may trust every bit of it. She’s got the smartness, the same as it
is in books--”

“But the gift of talents, Sister Cooper, is a dangerous gift.”

“I don’t see, Brother Cross, how good things that come from God can be
dangerous things.”

“If I could see the books, Sister Cooper;--I say not that they are
evil--”

John Cross began in tones that denoted something like despair; certainly
dissatisfaction was in them, when Alfred Stevens, who had long since
tired of what was going on, heard a light footfall behind him. He turned
his eyes and beheld the fair maiden, herself, the propriety of whose
reading was under discussion, standing in the doorway. It appeared that
she had gathered from what had reached her ears, some knowledge of what
was going on, for a smile of ineffable scorn curled her classic and
nobly-chiselled mouth, while her brow was the index to a very haughty
volume. In turning, Alfred Stevens betrayed to her the playful smile
upon his own lips--their eyes met, and that single glance established a
certain understanding between them.

Her coming did not avail to stifle the subject of discussion. John Cross
was too resolute in the prosecution of his supposed duty, to give up the
cause he had once undertaken. He had all the inveteracy of the stout
old puritan. The usual introduction over and he resumed, though he now
addressed himself to the daughter rather than the mother. She scarcely
heard him to the end.

“The books were my father’s, Mr. Cross; they are valuable to me on
that account. They are dear to me on their own. They are almost my only
companions, and though I believe you would find nothing in them which
might be held detrimental, yet I must confess, if there were, I should
be sorry to be made acquainted with the fact. I have not yet discovered
it myself, and should be loath to have it shown by another.”

“But you will let me see them, Margaret?”

“Yes, sir, whenever you please. I can have no objection to that, but if
by seeing them you only desire an opportunity to say what I shall read
and what not, I can only tell you that your labor will be taken in vain.
Indeed, the evil is already done. I have not a volume which I have not
read repeatedly.”

It is needless to add that Brother Cross was compelled to forego his
book examination at the widow Cooper’s, though strongly recommended
there to press it at Widow Thackeray’s. Alfred Stevens was a mute
observer during the interview, which did not last very long after the
appearance of Margaret. He was confirmed in all his previous impressions
of her beauty, nor did the brevity of the conference prevent him from
perceiving her intense self-esteem, which under certain influences of
temperament is only another name for vanity. Besides they had
exchanged glances which were volumes, rendering unnecessary much future
explanation. She had seen that he was secretly laughing at the simple
preacher, and that was a source of sympathy between them. She was very
much in the habit of doing the same thing. He, on the other hand, was
very well satisfied that the daughter of such a mother must be perverse
and vain; and he was moralist enough to know that there is no heart so
accessible to the tempter as the proud and wilful heart. But few words
had passed between them, but those were expressive, and they both
parted, with the firm conviction that they must necessarily meet again.



CHAPTER IX.

HOW THE TOAD GRINS UPON THE ALTAR.



Shall we go the rounds with our pastor? Shall we look in upon him at
Mrs. Thackeray’s, while, obeying the suggestion of the widow Cooper, he
purges her library of twenty volumes, casting out the devils and setting
up the true gods? It is scarcely necessary. Enough to know that,
under his expurgatorial finger, our beloved and bosom friend, William
Shakspere, was the first to suffer. Plays! The one word was enough.
Some lying histories were permitted to escape. The name of history saved
them! Robinson Crusoe was preserved as a true narrative; and Swift’s
Tale of a Tub escaped, as it was assumed (there being no time to read
any of the books, and in this respect John Cross showed himself much
more of a professional critic than he conjectured) to be a treatise
on one branch of the cooperage business, and so, important to domestic
mechanics in a new country. The reader will remember the manner in which
the library of the knight of La Mancha was disposed of. He would err,
however, if he supposed that John Cross dismissed the books from the
window, or did anything farther than simply to open the eyes of Mrs.
Thackeray to the bad quality of some of the company she kept. That
sagacious lady did not think it worth while to dispute the ipse dixit of
a teacher so single-minded, if not sagacious. She bowed respectfully
to all his suggestions, promised no longer to bestow her smiles on the
undeserving--a promise of no small importance when it is remembered
that, at thirty-three, Mrs. Thackeray was for the first time a
widow--and that night she might have been seen laughing heartily with
Mesdames Ford and Quickly at the amorous pertinacity of the baffled
knight of Eastcheap.

Under the paternal wing of John Cross, Alfred Stevens obtained the
desired entree into the bosom of the flock. He was everywhere admitted
with gladness--everywhere welcomed as to a home; and the unsophisticated
old teacher by whose agency this was effected, congratulated his
congregation and himself, on leaving the village, that he had left in it
a person so full of grace, and one who, with the blessing of God, was
so likely to bring about the birth of grace in others. The good old man
bestowed long and repeated counsels upon his neophyte. The course of
study which he prescribed was very simple. The Bible was the Alpha and
the Omega--it was the essential whole. It would be well to read other
books if they could be had--Clarke and Wesley were, of course, spoken
of--but they could be done without. The word of God was in the one
volume, and it needed no help from commentators to win its way and
suffice the hungering and thirsting soul.

“If you could lay hands upon the book of sermons written by Brother
Peter Cummins, which his wife had printed, I’m thinking it would serve,
next to God’s own blessed word, to put you in the right way. It’s been
a great helping to me, Alfred Stevens, that same book of sermons; and,
I reckon it’s because it’s so good a book that it’s not printed now.
I don’t see it much about. But I’ll get you one if I can, and bring
or send it to you, soon enough to help you to the wisdom that you’re a
seeking after. If it only wakes the spirit in you as it did in me--if
it only stirs you up with the spirit of divine love--you’ll find it easy
enough to understand the teachings of the holy volume. All things become
clear in that blessed light. By its help you read, and by its working
you inwardly digest all the needful learning. The Lord be with you,
Alfred Stevens, and bring to perfect ripening your present undertaking.”

“Amen!” was the solemn response of the hypocrite, but we need not say
what an irreverent and unholy thought lay at the bottom of his mind in
making this ejaculation.

Before the departure of John Cross, the latter had made terms with
Squire Hinkley for the board and lodging of Brother Stevens and his
horse. Hinkley would have preferred taking nothing, considering the
praiseworthy purpose of the supposed theological student; but Stevens
shrunk from receiving such an obligation with a feeling of pride, which
yet had no scruples at practising so wretched an imposture. He insisted
upon making compensation, or upon leaving the house; and, not to incur
this risk, Hinkley consented to receive a weekly sum in payment; but the
charge was considerably smaller, as we may suppose, than it would
have been had the lodger simply appeared as an inoffensive traveller,
practising no fraud and making no professions of religion.

Having effected all these arrangements, to his own satisfaction and
seemingly that of all others, John Cross departed once more into the
wilderness on his single-hearted ministry of love. A sturdy and an
honest worker was he in the tabernacle, with a right mind if not a very
wise one; and doing more good in his generation, and after the fashion
of his strength, than is often permitted to the stall-fed doctors of his
vocation.

The reader will suppose that the old man has been already gone some
seven days. Meanwhile, the young student has fairly made himself at
home in Charlemont. He has a snug room, entirely to himself, at Squire
Hinkley’s, and, by the excellent care of the worthy dame, it is provided
with the best bedding and the finest furniture. Her own hands sweep it
clean, morning and night, for the incipient parson; she makes up the
bed, and, in customary phrase, puts it in all respects to rights. His
wants are anticipated, his slightest suggestion met with the most prompt
consideration; and John Cross himself, humble and unexacting as he was,
might have felt some little twinges of mortal envy could he have
known that his protege promised to become a much greater favorite than
himself.

This, indeed, seemed very likely to be the case. A good young man in the
sight of the ladies is always a more attractive person than a good old
man. Dame Hinkley, though no longer young herself, remembered that she
had been so, and preserved all her sympathies, in consequence, for
young people. She thought Alfred Stevens so handsome, and he smiled so
sweetly, and he spoke so genty, and, in short, so great had been his
progress in the affections of his hostess in the brief space of a single
week, that we are constrained to confess ourselves rejoiced that she
herself was an old woman, as well on her own account as on that of her
worthy spouse.

Her good man was very well satisfied, whether from confidence or
indifference, that such should be the case. Her attentions to the young
stranger probably diverted them from himself. But not so with William
Hinkley--the son. We have already had some glimpses of the character
of this young man. We may now add that the short week’s residence of
Stevens in Charlemont had increased the soreness at his heart. In that
week he had seen fairly established that intimacy between his rival
and the lady of his love which seemed to give the death-blow to any
pretensions of his. He had seen them meet; had seen them go forth
together; beheld their mutual eyes, and, turning his own inward, saw
how deeply his heart was concerned in the probable sympathies of theirs.
Then, to turn to his own habitation, and to behold THAT, mother and all,
devoted to the same absolute stranger; to pass unheeded in the presence
of those whom he best loved--over whom natural ties gave him inalienable
rights; to feel himself put aside for one only known of yesterday; to
look with yearning, and meet eyes only of disregard and indifference!
Such being the suggestions of his jealous and suffering nature, it
is surely no matter of wonder that the youth grew melancholy and
abstracted.

Our adventurer was snugly seated in the little but select chamber which
had been given him in the house of Squire Hinkley. A table, neatly
spread with a cotton cover, stood before him: a travelling-portfolio
was opened beneath his hand, with a broad sheet of paper, already well
written over, and waiting nothing but his signature, and perhaps the
postscript. He was absorbed unusually in his cogitations, and nibbled
into bits the feathery end of the gray goosequill of which he had been
making such excellent use. While he meditates, unseeing, we will use the
liberty of an old acquaintance to scan the letter--for such it is--which
he has been writing. Perhaps we shall gather from it some matters which
it may concern us yet to know:--

“Dear Barnabas: The strangest adventure--positively the very
strangest--that ever happened to a son of Murkey’s, will keep me
from the embraces of the brethren a few weeks longer. I am benighted,
bewildered, taken with art-magic, transmuted, TRANSMOGRIFIED, not
myself nor yet another, but, as they say in Mississippi, ‘a sort
of betweenity.’ Fancy me suddenly become a convert to the bluest
presbyterianism, as our late excellent brother Woodford became, when he
found that he could not get Moll Parkinson on any other terms--and your
guess will not be very far from the true one. I am suddenly touched with
conviction. I have seen a light on my way from Tarsus. The scales have
fallen from my eyes. I have seen the wickedness of my ways, and yours
too, you dog; and, having resolved on my own repentance, I am taking
lessons which shall enable me to effect yours. Precious deal of salt
will it need for that! Salt river will fall, while its value rises. But
the glory of the thing--think of that, my boy! What a triumph it will
be to revolutionize Murkey’s!--to turnout the drinkers and smokers, and
money-changers; to say, ‘Hem! my brethren, let us pay no more taxes to
sin in this place!’ There shall be no more cakes and ale. Ginger shall
have no heat i’ the mouth there; and, in place of smoking meats and
tobacco, give you nothing but smoking methodism! Won’t that be a sight
and a triumph which shall stir the dry bones in our valley--ay, and
bones not so dry? There shall be a quaking of the flesh in sundry
places. Flam will perish in the first fit of consternation; and if Joe
Burke’s sides do not run into sop and jelly, through the mere humor of
the thing, then prophecy is out of its element quite.

“Seriously, you dog, I have become a theological student! Don’t you see
proofs of my progress in my unctuous phraseology. I was taken suddenly
upon the highway--a brand plucked from the burning--and to be stuck up
on high, still lighted, however, as a sort of lantern and lighthouse to
other wayfarers--wandering rogues like yourself, who need some better
lights than your own if it only be to show you how to sin decently. I am
professedly a convert to the true faith, though which that is, I think,
has not well been determined among you at Murkey’s, or, indeed, anywhere
else. I believe the vox populi, vox Dei, still comprises the only
wholesome decision which has yet been made on the subject. The popular
vote here declares it to be methodism; with you it is baptism or
presbyterianism--which? I am a flexible student, however, and when I meet
you again at Murkey’s, shall be prepared to concur with the majority.

“But, in sober fact, I am a professor--actually recognised by my
neighbors as one of the elect--set apart to be and do mighty things.
How I came so, will call for a long story, which I defer to another
occasion. Enough to tell you that an accidental rencontre with a silly
old preacher (whose gullet I filled with raw brandy, which I recommended
to him, under another name, as a sovereign remedy against flatulence,
and which nearly strangled him he took such a premeditated swallow),
brought me into one of the loveliest little villages in all this western
country, and there I saw many things--among others--a woman!--

“A woman!--that one word, you dog, will explain the mystery--will
show you why I am thus transmuted, TRANSMOGRIFIED, and in ‘a state of
betweenity.’ Nothing less, I assure you, could make me disguise myself
after the present fashion; wear the sanctimonious and sour phiz which
the common law of modern religion prescribes, and keep me much longer
from the pleasanter communion of such glorious imps, as I suppose, are,
even now, beginning to gather in the dingy smoke-room of our sovereign
Murkey. But this woman, you will ask. Ay, ay, but you shall have no
answer yet. It shall be enough for you that she is a queen of Sheba,
after her own fashion. A proud, imperious, passionate creature--tall,
really beautiful--and so majestic! You should see the flashing of her
eyes to know what sort of a thing is moral lightning. Her face kindles
up in an instant. She is an intensifier, and like most such, cursedly
smart. Young too--scarce eighteen, I think; queer too--almost tyrannical
at times--but full of blood, of unregulated passions, moody, capricious,
and, of course, easy game, if the sportsman knows anything of the habits
of the bird. She is a country-girl, but no hoyden. Her intensity of
character, her pride and great self-esteem, have made her a solitary.
Unsophisticated in some respects, she is yet not to be surprised. In
solitude, and a taste for it, she has acquired a sort of moral composure
which makes her secure against surprise. I am really taken with the
girl, and COULD love her, I tell you--nay, do love her--so long as love
can keep himself--out of a state of bondage! I do not think, at this
moment, that I shall violate any of the laws of the conventicle, like
small-witted Brother Woodford; though, so far as the woman is concerned,
I should leave it without argument to the free vote of all the Lads of
Fancy that ever gather round Murkey’s round table, if my justification
for turning traitor, would not prove immeasurably more complete than
his.

“So! so! There are bones enough for you to crunch, you professional
bandog. I had not meant to tell you half so much. There is some danger
that one may lose his game altogether, if he suffers his nose to point
unnecessarily to the cover where it lies. I know what keen scents are
in the club, some of which would be on my track in no time if they knew
where to find me; but I shall baffle you, you villains. My post-town is
fifty miles from the place where I pursue my theological studies; you
are too wise to attempt a wild-goose chase. You may smack your chaps,
Barney, with envy; bite them too if you please, and it will only whet
my own sense of pleasure to fancy your confusion, and your hopeless
denunciations in the club. I shall be back in time for term--meanwhile
get the papers in readiness. Write to me at the post-town of Ellisland,
and remember to address me as Alfred Stevens--nay, perhaps, you may even
say, ‘Rev. Alfred Stevens,’ it will grace the externals of the document
with a more unctuous aspect, and secure the recipient a more wholesome
degree of respect. Send all my letters to this town under envelope with
this direction. I wrote you twice from Somerville. Did I tell you that
old Hunks has been deused liberal? I can laugh at the small terms,
yet go to Murkey’s and shine through the smoke with the best of you. I
solicit the prayers of the Round Table.

“Faithfully, yours, &c.”

So far our profligate had written to his brother profligate, when a tap
was heard at the entrance of his chamber. Thrusting the written papers
into his portfolio, he rose, and opening the door discovered his hostess
at the entrance.

“I came, Brother Stevens,” said the old lady, “if you not too busy in
your studies, to have a little talk with you, and to get your counsel
upon a subject that a little distresses me. But you look as if you were
busy now--”

“Not too busy, Mrs. Hinkley, to oblige you in this or in any other
respect,” replied the guest with suitable suavity of expression--“shall
I attend you down stairs.”

“Oh! no! it won’t need,” said she. “I’ll take a seat with you awhile. We
shall be less liable to interruption here.”

Stevens scarcely repressed his smile, but the seniority of the old lady
made her proceedings very innocent, however much they might have
been adverse to the rules. He threw wide the door, and without more
hesitation she followed him at once into the chamber.



CHAPTER X.

THE MOTHER’S GRIEFS.



The business upon which Mrs. Hinkley sought the chamber of her guest was
a very simple one, and easily expressed. Not that she expressed it in
few words. That is scarcely possible at any time with an ancient lady.
But the long story which she told, when compressed into intelligible
form, related to her son William. She had some maternal fears on his
account. The lad was a decided melancholic. His appetite was bad; his
looks were thin and unhappy; he lacked the usual spirit of youth; he
lacked his own usual spirit. What was the cause of the change which had
come over him so suddenly, she could not divine. Her anxiety was for
the remedy. She had consulted Brother Cross on the subject before he
departed; but that good man, after a brief examination of the patient,
had freely admitted his inability to say what was the matter with him,
and what was proper for his cure. To the object of this solicitude
himself, he had given much good counsel, concluding finally with a
recommendation to read devoutly certain chapters in Job and Isaiah.
It appears that William Hinkley submitted to all this scrutiny with
exemplary fortitude, but gave no satisfactory answers to any of the
questions asked him. He had no complaints, he denied any suffering;
and expressed himself annoyed at the inquisition into his thoughts and
feelings. This annoyance had been expressed, however, with the subdued
tones and language of one habitually gentle and modest. Whenever he was
approached on the subject, as the good old lady assured her guest, he
shook off his questioners with no little haste, and took to the woods
for the rest of the day. “That day,” said she, “you needn’t look for
William Hinkley to his dinner.”

Stevens had been struck with the deportment of this youth, which had
seemed to him haughty and repulsive; and, as he fancied, characterized
by some sentiment of hostility for himself. He was surprised therefore
to learn from the old lady that the lad was remarkable for his
gentleness.

“How long has he been in this way, Mrs. Hinkley?” he asked with some
curiosity.

“Well now, Brother Stevens, I can’t tell you. It’s been growing on him
for some time. I reckon it’s a matter of more than four months since I
first seen it; but it’s only been a few weeks that I have spoken to him.
Brother Cross spoke to him only Monday of last week. My old man don’t
seem to see so much of it; but I know there’s a great change in him now
from what there used to be. A mother’s eye sees a great way farther into
the hearts of her children, Brother Stevens, than any other persons; and
I can see plainly that William is no more the same boy--no! nor nothing
like it--that he once was. Why, once, he was all life, and good humor;
could dance and sing with the merriest among them; and was always so
good and kind, and loved to do whatever would please a body; and was
always with somebody, or other, making merry, and planning the prettiest
sports. Now, he don’t sing, nor dance, nor play; when you see him, you
‘most always see him alone. He goes by himself into the woods, and he’ll
be going over the hills all day, nobody with him, and never seeming to
care about his food, and what’s more strange, never looking at the books
that he used to be so fond of.”

“He has been fond of books, then--had he many?”

“Oh, yes, a whole drawer of them, and he used to get them besides from
the schoolmaster, Mr. Calvert, a very good man that lives about half a
mile from the village, and has a world of books. But now he neither gets
books from other people nor reads what he’s got. I’m dubious, Brother
Stevens, that he’s read too much for his own good. Something’s not right
here, I’m a thinking.”

The good old lady touched her head with her finger and in this manner
indicated her conjecture as to the seat of her son’s disease. Stevens
answered her encouragingly.

“I scarcely think, Mrs. Hinkley, that it can be anything so bad. The
young man is at that age when a change naturally takes place in the
mind and habits. He wants to go into the world, I suspect. He’s probably
tired of doing nothing. What is to be his business? It’s high time that
such a youth should have made a choice.”

“That’s true, Brother Stevens, but he’s been the apple to our eyes,
and we haven’t been willing that he should take up any business that
would--carry him away from us. He’s done a little farming about the
country, but that took him away, and latterly he’s kept pretty much at
home, going over his books and studying, now one and now another, just
as Mr. Calvert gave them to him.”

“What studies did he pursue?”

“Well, I can’t tell you. He was a good time at Latin, and then he wants
to be a lawyer;--”

“A lawyer!”

“Yes, he had a great notion to be a lawyer and was at his books pretty
hard for a good year, constant, day by day, until, as I said before,
about four months ago, when I saw that he was growing thin, and that he
had put down the books altogether, and had the change come over him just
as I told you. You see how thin he is now. You’d scarce believe him to
be the same person if you’d seen him then. Why his cheeks were as full
and as red as roses, and his eye was always shining and laughing, and
he had the liveliest step, and between him and Ned Hinkley, his cousin,
what with flute and fiddle, they kept the house in a constant uproar,
and we were all so happy. Now, it isn’t once a month that we hear the
sound of the fiddle in the house. He never sings, and he never dances,
and he never plays, and what little he lets us see of him, is always so
sad and so spiritless that I feel heartsick whenever I look upon him.
Oh! Brother Stevens, if you could only find out what’s the matter, and
tell us what to do, it would be the most blessed kindness, and I’d never
forget it, or forget you, to my dying day.”

“Whatever I can do, Mrs. Hinkley, shall surely be done. I will see and
speak with your son.”

“Oh! do--that’s a dear good sir. I’m sure if you only talk to him and
advise him it will do him good.”

“Without being so sure, ma’am, I will certainly try to please you.
Though I think you see the matter with too serious eyes. Such changes
are natural enough to young people, and to old ones too. But what may be
your son’s age.”

“Nineteen last April.”

“Quite a man for his years, Mrs. Hinkley.”

“Isn’t he?”

“He will do you credit yet.”

“Ah! if I could believe so. But you’ll speak to him, Brother Stevens?
You’ll try and bring all to rights?”

“Rely upon me to do what I can;--to do my best.”

“Well, that’s as much as any man can do, and I’m sure I’ll be so
happy--we shall all be so much indebted to you.”

“Do not speak of it, my dear madam,” said Stevens, bowing with profound
deference as the old lady took her departure. She went off with light
heart, having great faith in the powers of the holy man, and an equal
faith in his sincerity.

“What a bore!” he muttered as he closed the door behind her. “This is
one of the penalties, I suppose, which I must pay for my privileges. I
shall be called upon to reform the morals and manners, and look into the
petty cares of every chuckle-headed boor and boor’s brat for ten miles
round. See why boys reject their mush, and why the girls dislike to
listen to the exhortations of a mamma, who requires them to leave undone
what she has done herself--and with sufficient reason too, if her own
experience be not wholly profitless. Well, I must submit. There are
advantages, however; I shall have other pupils to tutor, and it shall
go hard with me if all the grapes prove sour where the vines are so
various.”

The student of divinity, after these conclusions, prepared to make his
toilet. Very few of these students, in their extreme solicitude for the
well being of the inner man, show themselves wholly regardless of their
externals. Even mourning, it appears, requires to be disposed by a
fashionable costumer. Though the garments to which the necessities of
travel limited Brother Stevens were not various, they were yet select.
The good young man had an affection for his person, which was such
certainly as to deserve his care. On this occasion he was more than
usually particular. He did not scruple to discard the white cravat.
For this he substituted a handkerchief which had the prettiest sprig
of lilac, on a ground of the most delicate lemon color. He consulted
complexions, and his mirror determined him in favor of this pattern.
Brother Stevens would not have worn it had he been summoned, in his
new vocation, to preach or pray at the conventicle; nor would he have
dreamed of anything but a black stock had his business been to address
the democracy from the top of a cider-barrel. His habits, under such
necessities, would have been made to correspond with the principles
with which such a situation more distinctly called for.

But the thoughts of our worthy brother ran upon other objects. He was
thinking of Margaret Cooper. He was about to pay that damsel a visit.
His progress, we may suppose, had not been inconsiderable when we are
told that his present visit was one of previous arrangement. They were
about to go forth on a ramble together--the woods were so wild
and lovely--the rocks surrounding Charlemont were so very
picturesque;--there was the quietest tarn, a sort of basin in the bosom
of the hills at a little distance, which she was to show him; and
there was the sweetest stream in the world, that meandered in the
neighborhood; and Brother Stevens so loved the picturesque--lakes
embosomed in hills, and streams stealing through unbroken forests, and
all so much the more devotedly, when he had such a companion as Margaret
Cooper.

And Margaret Cooper!--she the wild, the impassioned. A dreamer--a
muse--filled with ambitious thoughts--proud, vain, aspiring after the
vague, the unfathomable! What was her joy, now that she could speak her
whole soul, with all its passionate fullness, to understanding ears!
Stevens and herself had already spoken together. Her books had been his
books. The glowing passages which she loved to repeat, were also the
favorite passages in his memory. Over the burning and thrilling strains
of Byron, the tender and spiritual of Shelley, the graceful and soft of
Campbell, she loved to linger. They filled her thoughts. They made her
thoughts. She felt that her true utterance lay in their language; and
this language, until now, had fallen dead and without fruit upon the
dull ears of her companions in Charlemont. What was their fiddling and
festivity to her! What their tedious recreations by hillside or
stream, when she had to depress her speech to the base levels of their
unimaginative souls! The loveliness of nature itself, unrepresented
by the glowing hues of poetry, grew tame, if not offensive; and when
challenged to its contemplation by those to whom the muse was nothing,
the fancy of the true observer grew chilled and heavy, and the scenes of
beauty seemed prostituted in their glance.

We have all felt this. Nothing can more annoy the soul of taste or
sensibility than to behold its favorite scene and subject fail in
awakening others to that emotion which it has inspired in ourselves.
We turn away in haste, lest the object of our worship should become
degraded by a longer survey. Enthusiasm recoils at a denial of sympathy;
and all the worth of our companion, in a thousand other respects, fails
to reconcile us to his coldness and indifference.

That Alfred Stevens had taste and talent--that he was well read in the
volumes which had been her favorite study, Margaret Cooper needed no
long time to discover. She soon ascribed to him qualities and tastes
which were beyond his nature. Deceived by his tact, she believed in his
enthusiasm. He soon discovered HER tastes; and she found equally soon
that HIS were like her own. After this discovery, she gave him credit
for other and more important possessions; and little dreamed that,
while he responded to her glowing sentiments with others equally
glowing--avowed the same love for the same authors, and concurred with
her in the preference of the same passages--his feelings were as little
susceptible of sympathy with hers as would have been those of the cold
demon Mephistopheles! While her eye was flashing, her cheek flushed, her
breast heaving with the burning thoughts and strains of the master to
whom her beautiful lips were giving utterance, he was simply sensible
to HER beauty--to its strange, wild charms--and meditating thoughts
from which the soul of true poetry recoils with the last feelings of
aversion. Even the passion which he felt while he surveyed her, foreign
as it was to those legitimate emotions which her ambition and her genius
would equally have tended to inspire in any justly-minded nature,
might well be considered frigid--regarded as the result of deliberate
artifice--the true offspring of an habitual and base indulgence.

It was to meet this unsophisticated, impassioned, and confiding girl,
that Alfred Stevens bestowed such particular pains on his costume. He
felt its deficiencies, and, accordingly, the necessity of making the
most of it; for, though he perfectly well knew that such a woman as
Margaret Cooper would have been the very last to regard the mere garment
in which a congenial nature is arrayed, yet he also well knew that the
costume is not less indicative of the tastes than the wealth of the
wearer. You will see thousands of persons, men and women, richly
dressed, and but one will be WELL dressed: that one, most generally,
will be the individual who is perhaps of all others possessed of
the least resources for dress, other than those which dwell in the
well-arranged mind, the well-disposing taste, and the happy, crowning
fancy.

His tasks of the toilet were at length ended, and he was preparing to
go forth. He was about to leave the chamber, had already placed his hand
upon the latch of the door, when he heard the voice of his hostess, on
the stairway, in seeming expostulation with her son. He was about to
forbear his purpose of departure as the parties had retired, when,
remembering the solicitude of the lady, and thinking it would show that
zest in her service which he really could not entertain, he determined
at once to to join the young man, and begin with him that certain degree
of intimacy without which it could scarcely be supposed that he could
broach the subject of his personal affairs. He felt somewhat the
awkwardness of this assumed duty, but then he recollected his vocation;
he knew the paramount influence of the clergy upon all classes of
persons in the West, and, with the conscious superiority derived
from greater years and better education, he felt himself fortified
in undertaking the paternal office which the fond, foolish mother had
confided to his hands. Accordingly, descending the stairs briskly, he
joined the two at the entrance of the dwelling. The son was already on
the outside; the mother stood in the doorway: and, as Stevens appeared
and drew nigh, William Hinkley bowed, and turned away as if to withdraw.

“If you have no objections, Mr. Hinkley,” said Stevens, “I will join
you. You seem to be about to go my way.”

The young man paused with an air of reluctance, muttered something
which was not altogether intelligible, but which Stevens construed into
assent, and the two set forth together--the good old matron giving a
glance of gratitude to the benevolent young student which her son did
not fail to note, while, at the same time, a sentence which evidently
conveyed some motherly rebuke, was addressed to his already-irritated
ears.



CHAPTER XI.

WRESTLING.



Alfred Stevens, as he walked behind his young companion, observed him
with a more deliberate survey than he had yet taken. Hitherto, the young
man had challenged but little of his scrutiny. He had simply noted him
for a tall youth, yet in the green, who appeared of a sulky, retiring
nature, and whose looks had seemed to him on one or more occasions
to manifest something like distaste for himself. The complacency of
Stevens, however, was too well grounded to be much disturbed by such an
exhibition. Perhaps, indeed, he would have derived a malicious sort of
satisfaction in making a presumptuous lad feel his inferiority. He
had just that smallness of spirit which would find its triumph in the
success of such a performance.

He now observed that the youth was well formed, tall, not
ungraceful--with features of singular intelligence, though subdued to
the verge of sadness. His face was pale and thin, his eyes were a little
sunken, and his air, expression, and general outside, denoted a youth of
keen sensibilities, who had suffered some disappointment.

In making this examination, Alfred Stevens was not awakened to any
generous purposes. He designed, in reality, nothing more than to
acquit himself of the duty he had undertaken with the smallest possible
exertion. His own mind was one of that mediocre character which the
heart never informs. His scrutiny, therefore, though it enabled him to
perceive that the young man had qualities of worth, was not such as to
prompt any real curiosity to examine further. A really superior mind
would have been moved to look into these resources; and, without other
motive than that of bringing a young, laboring, and ardent soul out of
the meshes of a new and bewildering thought or situation, would have
addressed himself to the task with that degree of solicitous earnestness
which disarms prejudice and invites and wins confidence. But, with his
first impression, that the whole business was a “bore,” our benevolent
young teacher determined on getting through with it with the least
possible effort. He saw that the youth carried a book under his arm, the
externals of which, so uniform and discouraging as they appear in every
legal library, could not well be questioned as belonging to some such
venerable receptacle of barbarous phrase and rigid authority. The
circumstance afforded him an occasion to begin a conversation,
the opening of which, with all his coolness, was a subject of some
awkwardness.

“You seem a student like myself, Mr. Hinkley, and, if I mistake not from
the appearance of your book, you are taking up the profession which I am
about to lay down.”

“This is a law-book, sir,” said Hinkley, in accents which were rather
meek than cold; “it is Blackstone.”

“Ah! I thought as much. Have you been long a student?”

“I may scarcely consider myself one yet. I have read, sir, rather than
studied.”

“A good distinction, not often made. But, do you incline to law
seriously?”

“Yes, sir--I know no occupation to which I so much incline.”

“The law is a very arduous profession. It requires a rare union of
industry, talent, and knowledge of mankind to be a good lawyer.”

“I should think so, sir.”

“Few succeed where thousands fail. Young men are very apt to mistake
inclination for ability; and to be a poor lawyer--”

“Is to be worse than poor--is to be despicable!” replied Hinkley with a
half-smile, as he interrupted a speech which might have been construed
into a very contemptuous commentary on his own pretensions. It would
seem that the young man had so understood it. He continued thus:--

“It may be so with me, sir. It is not improbable that I deceive myself,
and confound inclination with ability.”

“Oh, pardon me, my dear young friend,” said Stevens patronizingly;
“but I do not say so. I utter a mere generality. Of course, I can know
nothing on the subject of your abilities. I should be glad to know.
I should like to converse with you. But the law is very arduous, very
exacting. It requires a good mind, and it requires the whole of it.
There is no such thing as being a good lawyer from merely reading law.
You can’t bolt it as we do food in this country. We must chew upon it.
It must be well digested. You seem to have the right notion on this
subject. I should judge so from two things: the distinction which
you made between the reader and the student; and the fact that your
appearance is that of the student. I am afraid, my young friend, that
you overwork yourself. You look thin, and pale, and unhappy. You should
be careful that your passion for study is not indulged in at the peril
of your health.”

The frame of the young man seemed to be suddenly agitated. His face was
flushed, and a keen, quick, flash of anger seemed to lighten in his eyes
as he looked up to the paternal counsellor and replied:--

“I thank you, sir, for your interest, but it is premature. I am not
conscious that my health suffers from this or any other cause.”

“Nay, my young friend, do not deceive yourself. You perhaps underrate
your own industry. It is very difficult matter to decide how much we can
do and how much we ought to do, in the way of study. No mere thinking
can determine this matter for us. It can only be decided by being able
to see what others do and can endure. In a little country village like
this, one can not easily determine; and the difficulty may be increased
somewhat by one’s own conviction, of the immense deal that one has to
learn. If you were to spend a year in some tolerably large community.
Perhaps you meditate some such plan?”.

“I do not, sir,” was the cold reply.

“Indeed; and have you no desire that way?”

“None!”

“Very strange! at your time of life the natural desire is to go into the
great world. Even the student fancies he can learn better there than he
can anywhere else--and so he can.”

“Indeed, sir: if I may be so bold to ask, why, with this opinion, have
you left the great city to bury yourself in a miserable village like
Charlemont?”

The question was so quickly put, and with so much apparent keenness,
that Stevens found the tables suddenly reversed. But he was in nowise
discomposed. He answered promptly.

“You forget,” he said, “that I was speaking of very young men, of an
ambitious temper, who were seeking to become lawyers. The student of
divinity may very well be supposed to be one who would withdraw himself
from the scene of ambition, strifes, vanities, and tumultuous passions.”

“You speak, sir, as if there were a material difference in our years?”
 said Hinkley inquiringly.

“Perhaps it is less than in our experience, my young friend,” was the
answer of the other, betraying that quiet sense of superiority which
would have been felt more gallingly by Hinkley had he been of a less
modest nature. Still, it had the effect of arousing some of the animal
in his blood, and he responded in a sentence which was not entirely
without its sneer, though it probably passed without penetrating such a
buff of self-esteem as guarded the sensibilities of our adventurer.

“You are fortunate sir, if, at your time of life, you have succeeded
in withdrawing your thoughts and feelings, with your person, from such
scenes of ambition as you speak of. But I fancy the passions dwell with
us in the country as well as with the wiser people in the town; and I am
not sure that there is any pursuit much more free from their intrusion
than that of the law.”

“Your remark exhibits penetration, Mr. Hinkley. I should not be
surprised if you have chosen your profession properly. Still, I should
counsel you not to overwork yourself. Bear with me, sir; I feel an
interest in your behalf, and I must think you do so. Allow me to be
something of a judge in this matter. You are aware, sir, that I too have
been a lawyer.”

The youth bowed stiffly.

“If I can lend you any assistance in your studies, I will do so. Let me
arrange them for you, and portion out your time. I know something about
that, and will save you from injuring your health. On this point you
evidently need instruction. You are doing yourself hurt. Your appearance
is matter of distress and apprehension to your parents.”

“To my parents, sir?”

“Your mother, I mean! She spoke to me about you this very morning. She
is distressed at some unaccountable changes which have taken place in
your manners, your health, your personal appearance. Of course I can say
nothing on the subject of the past, or of these changes; but I may be
permitted to say that your present looks do not betoken health, and I
have supposed this to be on account of your studies. I promised your
good mother to confer with you, and counsel you, and if I can be of any
help--“’

“You are very good, sir!”

The young man spoke bitterly. His gorge was rising. It was not easy to
suppress his vexation with his mother, and the indignation which he
felt at the supercilious approaches of the agent whom she had employed.
Besides, his mind, not less than his feelings, was rising in vigor in
due degree with the pressure put upon it.

“You are very good, sir, and I am very much obliged to you. I could have
wished, however, that my mother had not given you this trouble, sir. She
certainly must have been thinking of Mr. John Cross. She could scarcely
have hoped that any good could have resulted to me, from the counsel of
one who is so little older than myself.”

This speech made our adventurer elevate his eyebrows. He absolutely
stopped short to look upon the speaker. William Hinkley stopped short
also. His eye encountered that of Stevens with an expression as full of
defiance as firmness. His cheeks glowed with the generous indignation
which filled his veins.

“This fellow has something in him after all,” was the involuntary
reflection that rose to the other’s mind. The effect was, however,
not very beneficial to his own manner. Instead of having the effect of
impressing upon Stevens the necessity of working cautiously, the show
of defiance which he saw tended to provoke and annoy him. The youth had
displayed so much propriety in his anger, had been so moderate as
well as firm, and had uttered his answer with so much dignity and
correctness, that he felt himself rebuked. To be encountered by an
unsophisticated boy, and foiled, though but for an instant--slightly
estimated, though but by a youth, and him too, a mere rustic--was
mortifying to the self-esteem that rather precipitately hurried to
resent it.

“You take it seriously, Mr. Hinkley. But surely an offer of service
need not be mistaken. As for the trifling difference which may be in
our years, that is perhaps nothing to the difference which may be in our
experience, our knowledge of the world, our opportunities and studies.”

“Surely, sir; all these MAY be, but at all events we are not bound to
assume their existence until it is shown.”

“Oh, you are likely to prove an adept in the law, Mr. Hinkley.”

“I trust, sir, that your progress may be as great in the church.”

“Ha!--do I understand you? There is war between us then?” said Stevens,
watching the animated and speaking countenance of William Hinkley with
increasing curiosity.

“Ay, sir--there is!” was the spirited reply of the youth. “Let it be
war; I am the better pleased, sir, that you are the first to proclaim
it.”

“Very good,” said Stevens, “be it so, if you will. At all events you can
have no objection to say why it should be so.”

“Do you ask, sir?”

“Surely; for I can not guess.”

“You are less sagacious, then, than I had fancied you. You, scarce
older than myself--a stranger among us--come to me in the language of a
father, or a master, and without asking what I have of feeling, or
what I lack of sense, undertake deliberately to wound the one, while
insolently presuming to inform the other.”

“At the request of your own mother!”

“Pshaw! what man of sense or honesty would urge such a plea. Years, and
long intimacy, and wisdom admitted to be superior, could alone justify
the presumption.”

The cheeks of Stevens became scalding hot.

“Young man!” he exclaimed, “there is something more than this!”

“What! would it need more were our positions reversed?” demanded Hinkley
with a promptness that surprised himself.

“Perhaps not! would you provoke me to personal violence?”

“Ha! might I hope for that? surely you forget that you are a churchman?”

Stevens paused awhile before he answered. His eyes looked vacantly
around him. By this time they had left the more thickly-settled parts of
the village considerably behind them. But a few more dwellings lay along
the path on which they were approaching. On the left, a gorge opened in
the hills by which the valley was dotted, which seemed a pathway, and
did indeed lead to one or more dwellings which were out of sight in the
opposite valley. The region to which this pathway led was very secluded,
and the eye of Stevens surveyed it for a few moments in silence. The
words of Hinkley unquestionably conveyed a challenge. According to the
practice of the country, AS A LAWYER, he would have been bound to have
taken it as such. A moment was required for reflection. His former and
present position caused a conflict in his mind. The last sentence of
Hinkley, and a sudden glimpse which he just then caught of the residence
of Margaret Cooper, determined his answer.

“I thank you, young man, for reminding me of my duties. You had nearly
provoked the old passions and old practices into revival. I forgive
you--you misunderstand me clearly. I know not how I have offended you,
for my only purpose was to serve your mother and yourself. I may have
done this unwisely. I will not attempt to prove that I have not. At all
events, assured of my own motives, I leave you to yourself. You will
probably ere long feel the injustice you have done me!”

He continued on his way, leaving William Hinkley almost rooted to the
spot. The poor youth was actually stunned, not by what was said to him,
but by the sudden consciousness of his own vehemence. He had expressed
himself with a boldness and an energy of which neither himself nor his
friend, until now, would have thought him capable. A moment’s pause in
the provocation, and the feelings which had goaded him on were taken
with a revulsion quite as sudden. As he knew not well what he had said,
so he fancied he had said everything precisely as the passionate thought
had suggested it in his own mind. Already he began to blame himself--to
feel that he had done wrong--that there had been nothing in the conduct
or manner of Stevens, however unpleasant, to justify his own violence;
and that the true secret of his anger was to be found in that
instinctive hostility which he had felt for his rival from the first.
The more he mused, the more he became humbled by his thoughts; and when
he recollected the avowed profession of Stevens his shame increased. He
felt how shocking it was to intimate to a sworn non-combatant the idea
of a personal conflict. To what point of self-abasement his thoughts
would have carried him, may only be conjectured; he might have hurried
forward to overtake his antagonist with the distinct purpose of making
the most ample apology; nay, more, such was the distinct thought which
was now pressing upon his mind, when he was saved from this humiliation
by perceiving that Stevens had already reached, and was about to enter
the dwelling of Margaret Cooper. With this sight, every thought and
feeling gave place to that of baffled love, and disappointed affection.
With a bitter groan he turned up the gorge, and soon shut himself from
sight of the now hateful habitation.



CHAPTER XII.

THE MASTER AND HIS PUPILS.



The course of the young rustic was pursued for half a mile further till
he came to a little cottage of which the eye could take no cognizance
from any part of the village. It was embowelled in a glen of its own--a
mere cup of the slightly-rising hills, and so encircled by foliage that
it needed a very near approach of the stranger before he became aware of
its existence. The structure was very small, a sort of square box with
a cap upon it, and consisted of two rooms only on a ground floor, with a
little lean-to or shed-room in the rear, intended for a kitchen. As
you drew nigh and passed through the thick fringe of wood by which
its approach was guarded, the space opened before you, and you found
yourself in a sort of amphitheatre, of which the cottage was the centre.
A few trees dotted this area, large and massive trees, and seemingly
preserved for purposes of shade only. It was the quietest spot in the
world, and inspired just that sort of feeling in the contemplative
stranger which would be awakened by a ramble among the roofless ruins of
the ancient abbey. It was a home for contemplation--in which one might
easily forget the busy world without, and deliver himself up, without an
effort, to the sweetly sad musings of the anchorite.

The place was occupied, however. A human heart beat within the humble
shed, and there was a spirit, sheltered by its quiet, that mused many
high thoughts, and dreamed in equal congratulation and self-reproach, of
that busy world from which it was an exile. The visit of William Hinkley
was not paid to the solitude. A venerable man, of large frame, and
benignant aspect, sat beneath an aged tree, paternal in its appearance
like himself. This person might be between fifty and sixty years of age.
His hair, though very thick and vigorous, was as white as driven snow.
But there were few wrinkles on his face, and his complexion was the
clear red and white of a healthy and sanguine temperament. His brow was
large and lofty. It had many more wrinkles than his face. There were two
large horizontal seams upon it that denoted the exercise of a very
busy thought. But the expression of his eye was that of the most
unembarrassed benevolence and peace. It was subdued and sometimes sad,
but then it had the sweetest, playfullest twinkle in the world.
His mouth, which was small and beautifully formed, wore a similar
expression. In short he was what we would call a handsome old gentleman,
whose appearance did not offend taste, and whose kind looks invited
confidence. Nor would we mistake his character.

This person was the Mr. Calvert, the schoolmaster of the village, of
whom Mrs. Hinkley spoke to Alfred Stevens in discussing the condition of
her son. His tasks were over for the day. The light-hearted rabble whom
he taught, released from his dominion which was not severe, were, by
this time, scampering over the hills, as far from their usual place
of restraint as the moderate strength of their legs could carry them.
Though let loose, boys are not apt to feel their liberty in its prime
and freshness, immediately in the neighborhood of the schoolhouse.
The old gentleman left to himself, sat out in the open air, beneath
a massive oak, the paternal stretching of whose venerable arms not
unfrequently led to the employment of the shade below for carrying on
the operations of the schoolhouse. There, squat on their haunches, the
sturdy boys--germs of the finest peasantry in the world--surrounded
their teacher in a group quite as pleasing as picturesque. The sway of
the old man was paternal. His rod was rather a figurative than a real
existence; and when driven to the use of the birch, the good man,
consulting more tastes than one, employed the switch from the peach or
some other odorous tree or shrub, in order to reconcile the lad, as
well as he could, to the extraordinary application. He was one of those
considerate persons, who disguise pills in gold-leaf, and if compelled,
as a judge, to hang a gentleman, would decree that a rope of silk should
carry out the painful requisitions of the laws.

Seated beneath his tree, in nearly the same spot and position in which
he had dismissed his pupils, William Calvert pored over the pages of
a volume as huge of size as it was musty of appearance. It was that
pleasant book--quite as much romance as history--the “Knights of
Malta,” by our venerable father, Monsieur L’Abbe Vertot. Its dull, dim,
yellow-looking pages--how yellow, dim, and dull-looking in comparison
with more youthful works--had yet a life and soul which it is not easy
to find in many of these latter. Its high wrought and elaborate pictures
of strife, and toil, and bloodshed, grew vividly before the old man’s
eyes; and then, to help the illusion, were there not the portraits--mark
me--the veritable portraits, engraved on copper, with all their titles,
badges, and insignia, done to the life, of all those brave, grand, and
famous masters of the order, by whom the deeds were enacted which
he read, and who stared out upon his eyes, at every epoch, in full
confirmation of the veracious narrative? No wonder that the old man
became heedless of external objects. No wonder he forgot the noise of
the retiring urchins, and the toils of the day, as, for the twentieth
time, he glowed in the brave recital of the famous siege--the baffled
fury of the Turk--the unshaken constancy and unremitted valor of the few
but fearless defenders. The blood in his cheek might be seen hastening
to and fro in accordance with the events of which he read. His eye
was glowing--his pulse beating, and he half started from his seat, as,
hearing a slight footstep, he turned to encounter the respectful homage
of his former pupil, still his friend, our young acquaintance, William
Hinkley.

The old man laid down his book upon the grass, extended his hand to his
visiter, and leaning back against the tree, surrendered himself to a
quiet chuckle in which there was the hesitancy of a little shame.

“You surprised me, William,” he said; “when I read old Vertot, and
such books, I feel myself a boy again. You must have seen my emotion.
I really had got so warm, that I was about to start up and look for
the weapons of war; and had you but come a moment later, you might
have suffered an assault. As it was, I took you for a Turk--Solyman
himself--and was beginning to ask myself whether I should attack you
tooth and nail, having no other weapons, or propose terms of
peace. Considering the severe losses which you--I mean his Turkish
highness--had sustained, I fancied that you would not be disinclined to
an arrangement just at this moment. But this very notion, at the same
time, led me to the conclusion that I might end the struggle for ever by
another blow. A moment later, my boy, and you might have been compelled
to endure it for the Turk.”

The youth smiled sadly as he replied: “I must borrow that book from
you, sir, some of these days. I have often thought to do so, but I am
afraid.”

“Afraid of what, William?”

“That it will turn my head, sir, and make me dislike more difficult
studies.”

“It is a reasonable fear, my son; but there is no danger of this sort,
if we will only take heed of one rule, and that is, to take such books
as we take sweetmeats--in very small quantities at a time, and never to
interfere with the main repast. I suspect that light reading--or reading
which we usually call light, but which, as it concerns the fate of man
in his most serious relations, his hopes, his affections, his heart,
nay, his very people and nation--is scarcely less important than any
other. I suspect that this sort of reading would be of great service
to the student, by relieving the solemnity of more tedious and exacting
studies, if taken sparingly and at allotted hours. The student usually
finds a recreation of some kind. I would make books of this description
his recreation. Many a thick-headed and sour parent has forced his son
into a beer-shop, into the tastes for tobacco and consequently brandy,
simply from denying him amusements which equally warm the blood and
elevate the imagination. Studies which merely inform the head are very
apt to endanger the heart. This is the reproach usually urged against
the class of persons whom we call thorough lawyers. Their intense
devotion to that narrow sphere of law which leaves out jury-pleading, is
very apt to endanger the existence of feeling and imagination. The mere
analysis of external principles begets a degree of moral indifference to
all things else, which really impairs the intellect by depriving it
of its highest sources of stimulus. Mathematicians suffer in the same
way--become mere machines, and forfeit, in their concern for figures,
all the social and most of the human characteristics. The mind is always
enfeebled by any pursuit so single and absorbing in its aims as to leave
out of exercise any of the moral faculties. That course of study is the
only one to make a truly great man, which compels the mind to do all
things of which it is capable.”

“But how do you reconcile this, sir, with the opinion, so generally
entertained, that no one man can serve two masters? Law, like the muse,
is a jealous mistress. She is said to suffer no lachesse to escape with
impunity.”

“You mistake me. While I counsel one to go out of his profession for
relief and recreation, I still counsel but the one pursuit. Men fail in
their professions, not because they daily assign an hour to amusement,
but because they halt in a perpetual struggle between some two leading
objects. For example, nothing is more frequent in our country than to
combine law and politics. Nothing is more apt to ruin the lawyer.”

“Very true, sir. I now understand you. But I should think the great
difficulty would be, in resorting to such pleasant books as this of
Vertot for relief and recreation, that you could not cast him off when
you please. The intoxication would continue even after the draught has
been swallowed, and would thus interfere with the hours devoted to other
employments.”

“There is reason in that, William, and that, indeed, is the grand
difficulty. But to show that a good scheme has its difficulties is not
an argument for abandoning it.”

“By no means, sir.”

“The same individual whom Vertot might intoxicate, would most probably
be intoxicated by more dangerous stimulants. Everything, however,
depends upon the habits of self-control which a man has acquired in his
boyhood. The habit of self-control is the only habit which makes mental
power truly effective. The man who can not compel himself to do or to
forbear, can never be much of a student. Students, if you observe, are
generally dogged men--inflexible, plodding, persevering--among lawyers,
those men whom you always find at their offices, and seldom see anywhere
else. They own that mental habit which we call self-control, which
supplies the deficiency in numerous instances of real talent. It is a
power, and a mighty power, particularly in this country, where children
are seldom taught it, and consequently grow up to be a sort of moral
vanes that move with every change of wind, and never fix until they do
so with their own rust. He who learns this power in boyhood will be very
sure to master all his companions.”

The darker expression of sadness passed over the countenance of the
ingenuous youth.

“I am afraid,” said he, “that I shall never acquire this habit.”

“Why so? In your very fear I see a hope.”

“Alas! sir, I feel my own instability of character. I feel myself the
victim of a thousand plans and purposes, which change as soon and as
often as they are made. I am afraid, sir, I shall be nothing!”

“Do not despond, my son,” said the old man sympathizingly. “Your fear is
natural to your age and temperament. Most young men at your time of life
feel numerous yearnings--the struggle of various qualities of mind,
each striving in newly-born activity, and striving adversely. Your
unhappiness arises from the refusal of these qualities to act together.
When they learn to co-operate, all will be easy. Your strifes will be
subdued; there will be a calm like that upon the sea when the storms
subside.”

“Ah! but when will that be? A long time yet. It seems to me that the
storm rather increases than subsides.”

“It may seem so to you now, and yet, when the strife is greatest, the
favorable change is at hand. It needs but one thing to make all the
conflicting qualities of one’s mind cooperate.”

“What is that one thing, sir?”

“An object! As yet, you have none.”

“None, sir!”

“None--or rather many--which is pretty much the same thing as having
none.”

“I am not sure, sir--but it seems to me, sir, that I have an object.”

“Indeed, William! are you sure?”

“I think so, sir.”

“Well, name it.”

“I have ambition, sir.”

“Ah! that is a passion, not an object. Does your ambition point in one
direction? Unless it does, it is objectless.”

The youth was silent. The old man proceeded:--

“I am disposed to be severe with you, my son. There is no surer sign of
feebleness than in the constant beginnings and the never performings
of a mind. Know thyself, is the first lesson to learn. Is it not very
childish to talk of having ambition, without knowing what to do with it?
If we have ambition, it is given to us to work with. You come to me,
and declare this ambition! We confer together. Your ambition seeks for
utterance. You ask, ‘What sort of utterance will suit an ambition such
as mine?’ To answer this question, we ask, ‘What are your qualities?’
Did you think, William, that I disparaged yours when I recommended the
law to you as a profession?”

“No, sir! oh, no! Perhaps you overrated them. I am afraid so--I think
so.”

“No, William, unfortunately, you do not think about it. If you would
suffer yourself to think, you would speak a different language.”

“I can not think--I am too miserable to think!” exclaimed the youth in a
burst of passion. The old man looked surprised. He gazed with a serious
anxiety into the youth’s face, and then addressed him:--

“Where have you been, William, for the last three weeks? In all that
time I have not seen you.”

A warm blush suffused the cheeks of the pupil. He did not immediately
answer.

“Ask ME!” exclaimed a voice from behind them, which they both instantly
recognised as that of Ned Hinkley, the cousin of William. He had
approached them, in the earnestness of their interview, without having
disturbed them. The bold youth was habited in a rough woodman’s dress.
He wore a round jacket of homespun, and in his hand he carried a
couple of fishing-rods, which, with certain other implements, betrayed
sufficiently the object of his present pursuit.

“Ask me!” said he. “I can tell you what he’s been about better than
anybody else.”

“Well, Ned,” said the old man, “what has it been? I am afraid it is your
fiddle that keeps him from his Blackstone.”

“My fiddle, indeed! If he would listen to my fiddle when she speaks
out, he’d be wiser and better for it. Look at him, Mr. Calvert, and say
whether it’s book or fiddle that’s likely to make him as lean as a March
pickerel in the short space of three months. Only look at him, I say.”

“Truly, William, I had not observed it before, but, as Ned says, you do
look thin, and you tell me you are unhappy. Hard study might make you
thin, but can not make you unhappy. What is it?”

The more volatile and freespoken cousin answered for him.

“He’s been shot, gran’pa, since you saw him last.”

“Shot?”

“Yes, shot!--He THINKS mortally. I think not. A flesh wound to my
thinking, that a few months more will cure.”

“You have some joke at bottom, Edward,” said the old man gravely.

“Joke, sir! It’s a tough joke that cudgels a plump lad into a lean one
in a single season.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean to use your own language, gran’pa. Among the lessons I got from
you when you undertook to fill our heads with wisdom by applications of
smartness to a very different place--among the books we sometimes read
from was one of Master Ovid.”

“Ha! ha! I see what you’re after. I understand the shooting. So you
think that the blind boy has hit William, eh?”

“A flesh wound as I tell you; but he thinks the bolt is in his heart.
I’m sure it can and will be plucked out, and no death will follow.”

“Well! who’s the maiden from whose eyes the arrow was barbed?”

“Margaret Cooper.”

“Ah! indeed!” said the old man gravely.

“Do not heed him,” exclaimed William Hinkley; but the blush upon his
cheeks, still increasing, spoke a different language.

“I would rather not heed him, William. The passions of persons so young
as yourself are seldom of a permanent character. The attractions which
win the boy seldom compensate the man. There is time enough for this,
ten years hence, and love then will be far more rational.”

“Ah, lud!--wait ten years at twenty. I can believe a great deal in the
doctrine of young men’s folly, but I can’t go that. I’m in love myself.”

“You!”

“Yes! I!--I’m hit too--and if you don’t like it, why did you teach us
Ovid and the rest? As for rational love, that’s a new sort of thing that
we never heard about before. Love was never expected to be rational.
He’s known the contrary. I’ve heard so ever since I was knee-high to
the great picture of your Cupid that you showed us in your famous Dutch
edition of Apuleius. The young unmarried men feel that it’s irrational;
the old married people tell us so in a grunt that proves the truth of
what they say. But that don’t alter the case. It’s a sort of natural
madness that makes one attack in every person’s lifetime. I don’t
believe in repeated attacks. Some are bit worse than others; and some
think themselves bit, and are mistaken. That’s the case with William,
and it’s that that keeps him from your law-books and my fiddle. That
makes him thin. He has a notion of Margaret Cooper, and she has none
of him; and love that’s all of one side is neither real nor rational. I
don’t believe it.”

William Hinkley muttered something angrily in the ears of the speaker.

“Well, well!” said the impetuous cousin, “I don’t want to make you
vexed, and still less do I come here to talk such politics with you.
What do you say to tickling a trout this afternoon? That’s what I come
for.”

“It’s too cool,” said the old man.

“Not a bit. There’s a wind from the south, and a cast of cloud
is constantly growing between us and the sun. I think we shall do
something--something better than talking about love, and law, where
nobody’s agreed. You, gran’pa, won’t take the love; Bill Hinkley can’t
stomach the law, and the trout alone can bring about a reconciliation.
Come, gran’pa, I’m resolved on getting your supper to-night, and you
must go and see me do it.”

“On one condition only, Ned.”

“What’s that, gran’pa?”

“That you both sup with me.”

“Done for myself. What say you, Bill?”

The youth gave a sad assent, and the rattling youth proceeded:--

“The best cure of grief is eating. Love is a sort of pleasant grief.
Many a case of affliction have I seen mended by a beefsteak. Fish is
better. Get a lover to eat, rouse up his appetites, and, to the
same extent, you lessen his affections. Hot suppers keep down the
sensibilities; and, gran’pa, after ours, to-night, you shall have the
fiddle. If I don’t make her speak to you to-night, my name’s Brag, and
you need never again believe me.”

And the good-humored youth, gathering up his canes, led the way to the
hills, slowly followed by his two less elastic companions.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE HISTORY OF A FAILURE.



The route, which conducted them--over a range of gently-ascending hills,
through groves tolerably thick, an uncleared woodland tract comprising
every variety of pleasant foliage, at length brought them to a lonely
tarn or lake, about a mile in circumference, nestled and crouching in
the hollow of the hills, which, in some places sloped gently down to
its margin, at others hung abruptly over its deep and pensive waters.
A thick fringe of shrubs, water-grasses, and wild flowers, girdled its
edges, and gave a dark and mysterious expression to its face. There were
many beaten tracks, narrow paths for individual wayfarers on foot, which
conducted down to favorite fishing-spots. These were found chiefly on
those sides of the lake where the rocks were precipitous. Perched on a
jutting eminence, and half shrouded in the bushes which clothed it,
the silent fisherman took his place, while his fly was made to kiss the
water in capricious evolutions, such as the experienced angler knows how
to employ to beguile the wary victim from close cove, or gloomy hollow,
or from beneath those decaying trunks of overthrown trees which have
given his brood a shelter from immemorial time.

To one of these selected spots, Ned Hinkley proceeded, leaving his
companions above, where, in shade themselves, and lying at ease upon the
smooth turf, they could watch his successes, and at the same time enjoy
the coup d’oeil, which was singularly beautiful, afforded by the whole
surrounding expanse. The tarn, like the dark mysterious dwelling of an
Undine, was spread out before them with the smoothness of glass, though
untransparent, and shining beneath their eyes like a vast basin of
the richest jet. A thousand pretty changes along the upland slopes, or
abrupt hills which hemmed it in, gave it a singular aspect of variety
which is seldom afforded by any scene very remarkable for its stillness
and seclusion. Opposite to the rock on which Ned Hinkley was already
crouching, the hill-slope to the lake was singularly unbroken, and so
gradual was the ascent from the margin, that one was scarcely conscious
of his upward movement, until looking behind him, he saw how far below
lay the waters which he had lately left.

The pathway, which had been often trodden, was very distinctly marked
to the eyes of our two friends on the opposite elevation, and they could
also perceive where the same footpath extended on either hand a few
yards from the lake, so as to enable the wanderer to prolong his
rambles, on either side, until reaching the foot of the abrupt masses
of rock which distinguished the opposite margin of the basin. To ascend
these, on that side, was a work of toil, which none but the lover of the
picturesque is often found willing to encounter. Above, even to the
eyes of our friends, though they occupied an eminence, the skies seemed
circumscribed to the circumference of the lake and the hills by which it
was surrounded; and the appearance of the whole region, therefore, was
that of a complete amphitheatre, the lake being the floor, the hills
the mighty pillars, and the roof, the blue, bright, fretted canopy of
heaven.

“I have missed you, my son, for some time past, and the beauty of the
picture reminds me of what your seeming neglect has made me lose. When
I was a young man I would have preferred to visit such a spot as this
alone. But the sense of desolation presses heavily upon an old man under
any circumstances; and he seeks for the company of the young, as if to
freshen, with sympathy and memory, the cheerlessness and decay which
attends all his own thoughts and fancies. To come alone into the woods,
even though the scene I look on be as fair as this, makes me moody and
awakens gloomy imaginations; and since you have been so long absent, I
have taken to my books again, and given up the woods. Ah! books, alone,
never desert us; never prove unfaithful; never chide us; never mock us,
as even these woods do, with the memory of baffled hopes, and dreams of
youth, gone, never to return again.

“I trust, my dear sir, you do not think me ungrateful. I have not
wilfully neglected you. More than once I set out to visit you; but my
heart was so full--I was so very unhappy--that I had not the spirit for
it. I felt that I should not be any company for you, and feared that I
would only affect you with some of my own dullness.”

“Nay, that should be no fear with you, my dear boy, for you should know
that the very sorrows of youth, as they awaken the sympathies of age,
provide it with the means of excitement. It is the misfortune of age
that its interest is slow to kindle. Whatever excites the pulse, if not
violently, is beneficial to the heart of the old man. But these sorrows
of yours, my son--do you not call them by too strong a name? I suspect
they are nothing more than the discontents, the vague yearnings of
the young and ardent nature, such as prompt enterprise and lead to
nobleness. If you had them not, you would think of little else than how
to squat with your cousin there, seeking to entrap your dinner; nay, not
so much--you would think only of the modes of cooking and the delight of
eating the fish, and shrink from the toil of taking it. Do not deceive
yourself. This sorrow which distresses you is possibly a beneficial
sorrow. It is the hope which is in you to be something--to DO
something--for this DOING is after all, and before all, the great object
of living. The hope of the heart is always a discontent--most generally
a wholesome discontent--sometimes a noble discontent leading to
nobleness. It is to be satisfied rather than nursed. You must do what it
requires.”

“I know not what it requires.”

“Your DOING then must be confined at present to finding out what that
is.”

“Alas! sir, it seems to me as if I could no more THINK than I can DO”

“Very likely;--that is the case at present; and there are several
reasons for this feebleness. The energies which have not yet been
tasked, do not know well how to begin. You have been a favored boy. Your
wants have been well provided for. Your parents have loved you only too
much.”

“Too much! Why, even now, I am met with cold looks and reproachful
words, on account of this stranger, of whom nobody knows anything.”

“Even so: suppose that to be the case, my son; still it does not alter
the truth of what I say. You can not imagine that your parents prefer
this stranger to yourself, unless you imagine them to have undergone
a very sudden change of character. They have always treated you
tenderly--too tenderly.”

“Too tenderly, sir?”

“Yes, William, too tenderly. Their tenderness has enfeebled you, and
that is the reason you know not in what way to begin to dissipate your
doubts, and apply your energies. If they reproach you, that is because
they have some interest in you, and a right in you, which constitutes
their interest. If they treat the stranger civilly, it is because he is
a stranger.”

“Ay, sir, but what if they give this stranger authority to question and
to counsel me? Is not this a cruel indignity?”

“Softly, William, softly! There is something at the bottom of this which
I do not see, and which perhaps you do not see. If your parents employ a
stranger to counsel you, it proves that something in your conduct leads
them to think that you need counsel.”

“That may be, sir; but why not give it themselves? why employ a person
of whom nobody knows anything?”

“I infer from your tone, my son, rather than your words, that you have
some dislike to this stranger.

“No, sir--” was the beginning of the young man’s reply, but he stopped
short with a guilty consciousness. A warm blush overspread his cheek,
and he remained silent. The old man, without seeming to perceive the
momentary interruption, or the confusion which followed it, proceeded in
his commentary.

“There should be nothing, surely, to anger you in good counsel, spoken
even by a stranger, my son; and even where the counsel be not good, if
the motive be so, it requires our gratitude though it may not receive
our adoption.”

“I don’t know, sir, but it seems to me very strange, and is very
humiliating, that I should be required to submit to the instructions of
one of whom we know nothing, and who is scarcely older than myself.”

“It may be mortifying to your self-esteem, my son, but self-esteem,
when too active, is compelled constantly to suffer this sort of
mortification. It may be that one man shall not be older in actual years
than another, yet be able to teach that other. Merely living, days and
weeks and months, constitutes no right to wisdom: it is the crowding
events and experience--the indefatigable industry--the living actively
and well--that supply us with the materials for knowing and teaching. In
comparison with millions of your own age, who have lived among men, and
shared in their strifes and troubles, you would find yourself as feeble
a child as ever yet needed the helping hand of counsel and guardianship;
and this brings me back to what I said before. Your parents have treated
you too tenderly. They have done everything for you. You have done
nothing for yourself. They provide for your wants, hearken to your
complaints, nurture you in sickness, with a diseasing fondness, and so
render you incapable. Hence it is, that, in the toils of manhood, you do
not know how to begin. You lack courage and perseverance.”

“Courage and perseverance!” was the surprised exclamation of the youth.

“Precisely, and lest I should offend you, my son, I must acknowledge to
you beforehand, that this very deficiency was my own.”

“Yours, sir? I can not think it. What! lack courage?”

“Exactly so!”

“Why, sir--did I not see you myself, when everybody else looked on
with trembling and with terror, throw yourself in the way of Drummond’s
horses and save the poor boy from being dashed to pieces? There was
surely no lack of courage there!”

“No! in that sense, my son, I labor under no deficiency. But this sort
of courage is of the meanest kind. It is the courage of impulse, not
of steadfastness. Hear me, William. You have more than once allowed the
expression of a wonder to escape you, why a man, having such a passion
for books and study, and with the appearance of mental resources, such
as I am supposed to possess, should be content, retiring from the great
city, to set up his habitation in this remote and obscure region. My
chosen profession was the law; I was no unfaithful student. True, I had
no parents to lament my wanderings and failures; but I did not wander. I
studied closely, with a degree of diligence which seemed to surprise all
my companions. I was ambitious--intensely ambitious. My head ran upon
the strifes of the forum, its exciting contests of mind and soul--its
troubles, its triumphs. This was my leading thought--it was my only
passion. The boy-frenzies for women, which are prompted less by
sentiment or judgment, than by feverish blood, troubled me little.
Law was my mistress--took up all my time--absorbed all my devotion. I
believe that I was a good lawyer--no pettifogger--the merely drilled
creature who toils for his license, and toils for ever after solely for
his petty gains, in the miserably petty arts of making gains for others,
and eluding the snares set for his own feet by kindred spirits. As
far as the teaching of this country could afford me the means and
opportunity, I endeavored to procure a knowledge of universal law--its
sources--its true objects--its just principles--its legitimate dicta.
Mere authorities never satisfied me, unless, passing behind the black
gowns, I could follow up the reasoning to the first fountains--the small
original truths, the nicely discriminated requisitions of immutable
justice--the clearly-defined and inevitable wants of a superior and
prosperous society. Everything that could illustrate law as well as
fortify it; every collateral aid, in the shape of history or moral
truth, I gathered together, even as the dragoon whose chief agent is his
sabre, yet takes care to provide himself with pistols, that may finish
what the other weapon has begun. Nor did I content myself with the mere
acquisition of the necessary knowledge. Knowing how much depends
upon voice, manner and fluency, in obtaining success before a jury, I
addressed myself to these particulars with equal industry. My voice,
even now, has a compass which your unexercised lungs, though quite as
good originally as mine, would fail entirely to contend with. I do not
deceive myself, as I certainly do not seek to deceive you, when I say,
that I acquired the happiest mastery over my person.”

“Ah! sir--we see that now--that must have been the case!” said the youth
interrupting him. The other continued, sadly smiling as he heard the
eulogy which the youth meant to speak, the utterance of which was
obviously from the heart.

“My voice was taught by various exercises to be slow or rapid, soft
or strong, harsh or musical, by the most sudden, yet unnoticeable
transitions. I practised all the arts, which are recommended by
elocutionists for this purpose, I rumbled my eloquence standing on
the seashore, up to my middle in the breakers. I ran, roaring up steep
hills--I stretched myself at length by the side of meandering brooks,
or in slumberous forests of pine, and sought, by the merest whispers, to
express myself with distinctness and melody. But there was something yet
more requisite than these, and this was language. My labors to obtain
all the arts of utterance did not seem less successful. I could dilate
with singular fluency, with classical propriety, and great natural
vigor of expression. I studied directness of expression by a frequent
intercourse with men of business, and examined, with the nicest urgency,
the particular characteristics of those of my own profession who were
most remarkable for their plain, forcible speaking. I say nothing of my
studies of such great masters in discourse and philosophy, as Milton,
Shakspere, Homer, Lord Bacon, and the great English divines. As a model
of pure English the Bible was a daily study of two hours; and from this
noble well of vernacular eloquence, I gathered--so I fancied--no small
portion of its quaint expressive vigor, its stern emphasis, its golden
and choice phrases of illustration. Never did a young lawyer go into the
forum more thoroughly clad in proof, or with a better armory as well for
defence as attack.”

“You did not fail, sir?” exclaimed the youth with a painful expression
of eager anxiety upon his countenance.

“I did fail--fail altogether! In the first effort to speak, I fainted,
and was carried lifeless from the court-room.”

The old man covered his face with his hands, for a few moments, to
conceal the expression of pain and mortification which memory continued
to renew in utter despite of time. The young man’s hand rested
affectionately on his shoulder. A few moments sufficed to enable the
former to renew his narrative.

“I was stunned but not crushed by this event. I knew my own resources.
I recollected a similar anecdote of Sheridan; of his first attempt and
wretched failure. I, too, felt that ‘I had it in me,’ and though I did
not express, I made the same resolution, that ‘I would bring it out.’
But Sheridan and myself failed from different causes, though I did not
understand this at that time. He had a degree of hardihood which I had
not; and he utterly lacked my sensibilities. The very intenseness of my
ambition; the extent of my expectation; the elevated estimate which I
had made of my own profession; of its exactions; and, again, of what was
expected from me; were all so many obstacles to my success. I did not
so esteem them, then; and after renewing my studies in private, my
exercises of expression and manner, and going through a harder course of
drilling, I repeated the attempt to suffer a repetition of the failure.
I did not again faint, but I was speechless. I not only lost the power
of utterance, but I lost the corresponding faculty of sight. My eyes
were completely dazed and confounded. The objects of sight around me
were as crowded and confused as the far, dim ranges of figures, tribes
upon tribes, and legions upon legions, which struggle in obscurity and
distance, in any one of the begrimed and blurred pictures of Martin’s
Pandemonium. My second failure was a more enfeebling disaster than
the first. The first procured me the sympathy of my audience, the last
exposed me to its ridicule.”

Again the old man paused. By this time, the youth had got one of his
arms about the neck of the speaker, and had taken one of his hands
within his grasp.

“Yours is a generous nature, William,” said Mr. Calvert, “and I have not
said to you, until to-day, how grateful your boyish sympathies have been
to me from the first day when you became my pupil. It is my knowledge of
these sympathies, and a desire to reward them, that prompts me to tell
a story which still brings its pains to memory, and which would be
given to no other ears than your own. I see that you are eager for the
rest--for the wretched sequel.”

“Oh, no! sir--do not tell me any more of it if it brings you pain. I
confess I should like to know all, but--”

“You shall have it all, my son. My purpose would not be answered unless
I finished the narrative. You will gather from it, very possibly, the
moral which I could not. You will comprehend something better, the
woful distinction between courage of the blood and courage of the brain;
between the mere recklessness of brute impulse, and the steady valor of
the soul--that valor, which, though it trembles, marches forward to the
attack--recovers from its fainting, to retrieve its defeat; and glows
with self-indignation because it has suffered the moment of victory to
pass, without employing itself to secure the boon!--

“Shame, and a natural desire to retrieve myself, operated to make
me renew my efforts. I need not go through the processes by which I
endeavored to acquire the necessary degree of hardihood. In vain did
I recall the fact that my competitors were notoriously persons far
inferior to me in knowledge of the topics; far inferior in the capacity
to analyze them; rude and coarse in expression; unfamiliar with the
language--mere delvers and diggers in a science in which I secretly felt
that I should be a master. In vain did I recall to mind the fact that
I knew the community before which I was likely to speak; I knew its
deficiencies; knew the inferiority of its idols, and could and should
have no sort of fear of its criticism. But it was myself that I feared.
I had mistaken the true censor. It was my own standards of judgment that
distressed and made me tremble. It was what I expected of myself--what
I thought should be expected of me--that made my weak soul recoil in
terror from the conviction that I must fail in its endeavor to reach the
point which my ambitious soul strove to attain. The fear, in such cases,
produced the very disaster, from the anticipated dread of which it had
arisen. I again failed--failed egregiously--failed utterly and for
ever! I never again attempted the fearful trial. I gave up the contest,
yielded the field to my inferiors, better-nerved, though inferior,
and, with all my learning, all my eloquence, my voice, my manner;
my resources of study, thought, and utterance, fled from sight--fled
here--to bury myself in the wilderness, and descend to the less
ambitious, but less dangerous vocation of schooling--I trust, to better
uses--the minds of others. I had done nothing with my own.”

“Oh, sir, do not say so. Though you may have failed in one department of
human performance, you have succeeded in others. You have lost none
of the knowledge which you then acquired. You possess all the gifts of
eloquence, of manner, of voice, of education, of thought.”

“But of what use, my son? Remember, we do not toil for these possessions
to lock them up--to content ourselves, as the miserable miser, with
the consciousness that we possess a treasure known to ourselves
only--useless to all others as to ourselves! Learning, like love, like
money, derives its true value from its circulation.”

“And you circulate yours, my dear sir. What do we not owe you in
Charlemont? What do I not owe you, over all?”

“Love, my son--love only. Pay me that. Do not desert me in my old age.
Do not leave me utterly alone!”

“I will not, sir--I never thought to do so.”

“But,” said the old man, “to resume. Why did I fail is still the
question. Because I had not been taught those lessons of steady
endurance in my youth which would have strengthened me against failure,
and enable me finally to triumph. There is a rich significance in what
we hear of the Spartan boy, who never betrayed his uneasiness or agony
though the fox was tearing out his bowels. There is a sort of moral
roughening which boys should be made to endure from the beginning, if
the hope is ever entertained, to mature their minds to intellectual
manhood. Our American Indians prescribe the same laws, and in their
practice, very much resemble the ancient Spartans. To bear fatigue, and
starvation, and injury--exposure, wet, privation, blows--but never to
complain. Nothing betrays so decidedly the lack of moral courage as the
voice of complaint. It is properly the language of woman. It must not be
your language. Do you understand me, William?”

“In part, sir, but I do not see how I could have helped being what I
am.”

“Perhaps not, because few have control of their own education. Your
parents have been too tender of you. They have not lessoned you in
that proper hardihood which leads to performance. That task is before
yourself, and you have shrunk from the first lessons.”

“How, sir?”

“Instead of clinging to your Blackstone, you have allowed yourself to be
seduced from its pages, by such attractions as usually delude boys.
The eye and lip of a pretty woman--a bright eye and a rosy cheek, have
diverted you from your duties.”

“But do our duties deny us the indulgence of proper sensibilities?”

“Certainly not--PROPER sensibilities, on the contrary, prescribe our
duties.”

“But love, sir--is not love a proper sensibility?”

“In its place, it is. But you are a boy only. Do you suppose that it
was ever intended that you should entertain this passion before you had
learned the art of providing your own food? Not so; and the proof of
this is to be found in the fact that the loves of boyhood are never of
a permanent character. No such passion can promote happiness if it is
indulged before the character of the parties is formed. I now tell you
that in five years from this time you will probably forget Miss Cooper.”

“Never! never!”

“Well, well--I go farther in my prophecy. Allow me to suppose you
successful in your suit, which I fancy can never be the case--”

“Why, sir, why?”

“Because she is not the girl for you; or rather, she does not think you
the man for her!”

“But why do you think so, sir?”

“Because I know you both. There are circumstances of discrepancy between
you which will prevent it, and even were you to be successful in your
suit, which I am very sure will never be the case, you would be the most
miserably-matched couple under the sun.”

“Oh, sir, do not say so--do not. I can not think so, sir.”

“You WILL not think so, I am certain. I am equally certain from what I
know of you both, that you are secure from any such danger. It is not my
object to pursue this reference, but let me ask you, William, looking at
things in the most favorable light, has Margaret Cooper ever given you
any encouragement?”

“I can not say that she has, sir, but--”

“Nay, has she not positively discouraged you? Does she not avoid
you--treat you coldly when you meet--say little, and that little of a
kind to denote--I will not say dislike--but pride, rather than love?”

The young man said nothing. The old one proceeded:--

“You are silent, and I am answered. I have long watched your intercourse
with this damsel, and loving you as my own son, I have watched it with
pain. She is not for you, William. She loves you not. I am sure of it.
I can not mistake the signs. She seeks other qualities than such as you
possess. She seeks meretricious qualities, and yours are substantial.
She seeks the pomps of mind, rather than its subdued performances. She
sees not, and can not see, your worth; and whenever you propose to her,
your suit will be rejected. You have not done so yet?”

“No, sir--but I had hoped--”

“I am no enemy, believe me, William, when I implore you to discard your
hope in that quarter. It will do you no hurt. Your heart will suffer
no detriment, but be as whole and vigorous a few years hence--perhaps
months--as if it had never suffered any disappointment.”

“I wish I could think so, sir.”

“And you would not wish that you could think so, if you were not already
persuaded that your first wish is hopeless.”

“But I am not hopeless, sir.”

“Your cause is. But, promise me that you will not press your suit at
present.”

The young man was silent.

“You hesitate.”

“I dare not promise.”

“Ah, you are a foolish boy. Do you not see the rock on which you are
about to split. You have never learned how to submit. This lesson of
submission was that which made the Spartan boy famous. Here, you persist
in your purpose, though your own secret convictions, as well as your
friend’s counsel, tell you that you strive against hope. You could
not patiently submit to the counsel of this stranger, though he came
directly from your parents, armed with authority to examine and to
counsel.”

“Submit to him! I would sooner perish!” exclaimed the indignant youth.

“You will perish unless you learn this one lesson. But where now is your
ambition, and what does it aim at?”

The youth was silent.

“The idea of an ambitious youth, at twenty, giving up book and candle,
leaving his studies, and abandoning himself to despair, because his
sweetheart won’t be his sweetheart any longer, gives us a very queer
idea of the sort of ambition which works in his breast.”

“Don’t, sir, don’t, I pray you, speak any more in this manner.”

“Nay, but, William, ask yourself. Is it not a queer idea?”

“Spare me, sir, if you love me.”

“I do love you, and to show you that I do, I now recommend to you to
propose to Margaret Cooper.”

“What, sir, you do not think it utterly hopeless then?”

“Yes, I do.”

“And you would have me expose myself to rejection?”

“Exactly so!”

“Really, sir, I do not understand you.”

“Well, I will explain. Nothing short of rejection will possibly cure you
of this malady; and it is of the last importance to your future career,
that you should be freed as soon as possible from this sickly condition
of thought and feeling--a condition in which your mind will do nothing,
and in which your best days will be wasted. Blackstone can only hope to
be taken up when you have done with her.”

“Stay, sir--that is she below.”

“Who?”

“Margaret----”

“Who is with her?”

“The stranger--this man, Stevens.”

“Ha! your counsellor, that would be? Ah! William, you did not tell me
all.”



CHAPTER XIV.

THE ENTHUSIAST.



The cheeks of the youth glowed. He felt how much he had suppressed in
his conference with his venerable counsellor. Mr. Calvert did not press
the topic, and the two remained silent, looking down, from the shaded
spot where they lay, upon the progress of Margaret Cooper and her
present attendant, Stevens. The eminence on which they rested was
sufficiently lofty, as we have seen, to enable them, though themselves
almost concealed from sight, to take in the entire scene, not only below
but around them; and the old man, sharing now in the interest of his
young companion, surveyed the progress of the new-comers with a keen
sense of curiosity which, for a time, kept him silent. The emotions of
William Hinkley were such as to deprive him of all desire for speech;
and each, accordingly, found sufficient employment in brooding over his
own awakened fancies. Even had they spoken in the ordinary tone of their
voices, the sounds could not have reached the persons approaching on the
opposite side. They drew nigh, evidently unconscious that the scene was
occupied by any other than themselves. Ned Hinkley was half-shrouded in
the shrubbery that environed the jutting crag upon which his form
was crouched, and they were not yet sufficiently nigh to the tarn to
perceive his projecting rod, and the gaudy fly which he kept skipping
about upon the surface. The walk which they pursued was an ancient
Indian footpath, which had without doubt conducted the red warriors,
a thousand times before, to a spot of seclusion and refreshment after
their long day’s conflict on the “DARK AND BLOODY GROUND.” It was narrow
and very winding, and had been made so in order to lessen the fatigue of
an ascent which, though gradual enough, was yet considerable, and
would have produced great weariness, finally, had the pathway been more
direct.

The circuitousness of this route, which lay clear enough before the
eyes of our two friends upon the eminence--crawling, as it did, up the
woodland slopes with the sinuous course of a serpent--was yet visible to
Ned Hinkley, on his lowlier perch, only at its starting-point, upon
the very margin of the lake. He, accordingly, saw as little of the
approaching persons as they had seen of him. They advanced slowly, and
seemed to be mutually interested in their subject of conversation. The
action of Stevens was animated; The air and attitude of Margaret Cooper
was that of interest and attention. It was with something little short
of agony that William Hinkley beheld them pause upon occasion, and
confront each other as if the topic was of a nature to arrest the feet
and demand the whole fixed attention of the hearer.

It will be conjectured that Alfred Stevens had pressed his opportunities
with no little industry. Enough has been shown to account for the
readiness of that reception which Margaret Cooper was prepared to give
him. Her intelligence was keen, quick, and penetrating. She discovered
at a glance, not his hypocrisy, but that his religious enthusiasm was
not of a sort to become very tyrannical. The air of mischief which was
expressed upon his face when the venerable John Cross proposed to purge
her library of its obnoxious contents, commended him to her as a sort of
ally; and the sympathy with herself, which such a conjecture promised,
made her forgetful of the disingenuousness of his conduct if her
suspicions were true. But there were some other particulars which, in
her mind, tended to dissipate the distance between them. She recognised
the individual. She remembered the bold, dashing youth, who, a few
months before, had encountered her on the edge of the village, and,
after they had parted, had ridden back to the spot where she still
loitered, for a second look. To that very spot had she conducted him on
their ramble that afternoon.

“Do you know this place, Mr. Stevens?” she demanded with an arch smile,
sufficiently good-humored to convince the adventurer that, if she had
any suspicions, they were not of a nature to endanger his hopes.

“Do I not!” he said, with an air of EMPRESSMENT which caused her to look
down.

“I thought I recollected you,” she said, a moment after.

“Ah! may I hope that I did not then offend you with my impertinence? But
the truth is, I was so struck--pardon me if I say it--with the singular
and striking difference between the group of damsels I had seen and THE
ONE--the surprise was so great--the pleasure so unlooked for--that--”

The eye of Margaret Cooper brightened, her cheek glowed, and her form
rose somewhat proudly. The arch-hypocrite paused judiciously, and she
spoke:--

“Nay, nay, Mr. Stevens, these fine speeches do not pass current. You
would make the same upon occasion to any one of the said group of
damsels, were you to be her escort.”

“But I would scarcely ride back for a second look,” he responded, in a
subdued tone of voice, while looking with sad expressiveness into her
eyes. These were cast down upon the instant, and the color upon her
cheeks was heightened.

“Come,” said she, making an effort, “there is nothing here to interest
us.”

“Except memory,” he replied; “I shall never forget the spot.”

She hurried forward, and he joined her. She had received the impression
which he intended to convey, without declaring as much--namely, that his
return to Charlemont had been prompted by that one glimpse which he had
then had of her person. Still, that nothing should be left in doubt, he
proceeded to confirm the impression by other suggestions:--

“You promise to show me a scene of strange beauty, but your whole
village is beautiful, Miss Cooper. I remember how forcibly it struck me
as I gained the ascent of the opposite hills coming in from the east.
It was late in the day, the sun was almost setting, and his faintest
but loveliest beams fell upon the cottages in the valley, and lay with a
strange, quiet beauty among the grass-plats, and the flower-ranges, and
upon the neat, white palings.”

“It is beautiful,” she said with a sigh, “but its beauty does not
content me. It is too much beauty; it is too soft; for, though it has
its rocks and huge trees, yet it lacks wildness and sublimity. The rocks
are not sufficiently abrupt, the steeps not sufficiently great; there
are no chasms, no waterfalls--only purling brooks and quiet walks.”

“I have felt this already,” he replied; “but there is yet a deficiency
which you have not expressed, Miss Cooper.”

“What is that?” she demanded.

“It is the moral want. You have no life here; and that which would least
content me would be this very repose--the absence of provocation--the
strife--the triumph! These, I take it, are the deficiencies which
you really feel when you speak of the want of crag, and chasm, and
waterfall.”

“You, too, are ambitious, then!” she said quickly; “but how do you
reconcile this feeling with your profession?”

She looked up, and caught his eye tenderly fixed upon her.

“Ah!” said he, “Miss Cooper, there are some situations in which we find
it easy to reconcile all discrepancies.”

If the language lacked explicitness, the look did not. He proceeded:--

“If I mistake not, Miss Cooper, you will be the last one to blame me
for not having stifled my ambition, even at the calls of duty and
profession.”

“Blame you, sir? Far from it. I should think you very unfortunate
indeed, if you could succeed in stifling ambition at any calls, nor do I
exactly see how duty should require it.”

“If I pursue the profession of the divine?” he answered hesitatingly.

“Yes--perhaps--but that is not certain?” There was some timidity in the
utterance of this inquiry. He evaded it.

“I know not yet what I shall be,” he replied with an air of
self-reproach; “I fear I have too much of this fiery ardor which we call
ambition to settle down into the passive character of the preacher.”

“Oh, do not, do not!” she exclaimed impetuously; then, as if conscious
of the impropriety, she stopped short in the sentence, while increasing
her forward pace.

“What!” said he, “you think that would effectually stifle it?”

“Would it not--does it not in most men?”

“Perhaps; but this depends upon the individual. Churchmen have a great
power--the greatest in any country.”

“Over babes and sucklings!” she said scornfully.

“And, through these; over the hearts of men and women.”

“But these, too, are babes and sucklings--people to be scared by
shadows--the victims of their own miserable fears and superstitions!”

“Nevertheless, these confer power. Where there is power, there is room
for ambition. You recollect that churchmen have put their feet upon the
necks of princes.”

“Yes, but that was when there was one church only in Christendom. It was
a monopoly, and consequently a tyranny. Now there are a thousand, always
in conflict, and serving very happily to keep each other from mischief.
They no longer put their feet on princes’ necks, though I believe that
the princes are no better off for this forbearance--there are others who
do. But only fancy that this time was again, and think of the comical
figure our worthy brother John Cross would make, mounting from such a
noble horse-block!”

The idea was sufficiently pleasant to make Stevens laugh.

“I am afraid I shall have greater trouble in converting you, Miss
Cooper, than any other of the flock in Charlemont. I doubt that your
heart is stubborn--that you are an insensible!”

“I insensible!” she exclaimed, and with such a look! The expression of
sarcasm had passed, as with the rapidity of a lightning-flash, from her
beautiful lips; and a silent tear rose, tremulous and large, with the
same instantaneous emotion, beneath her long, dark eyelashes. She
said nothing more, but, with eyes cast down, went forward. Stevens
was startled with the suddenness of these transitions. They proved,
at least, how completely her mind was at the control of her blood.
Hitherto, he had never met with a creature so liberally endowed by
nature, who was, at the same time, so perfectly unsophisticated.
The subject was gratifying as a study alone, even if it conferred no
pleasure, and awakened no hopes.

“Do not mistake me,” he exclaimed, hurrying after, “I had no purpose to
impute to you any other insensibility except to that of the holy truths
of religion.”

She looked up and smiled archly. There was another transition from cloud
to sunlight.

“What! are you so doubtful of your own ministry?”

“In your case, I am.”

“Why?”

“You will force me to betake myself to studies more severe than any I
have yet attempted.”

She was flattered but she uttered a natural disclaimer.

“No, no! I am presumptuous. I trust you will teach me. Begin--do not
hesitate--I will listen.”

“To move you I must not come in the garments of methodism. That faith
will never be yours.”

“What faith shall it be?”

“That of Catholicism. I must come armed with authority. I must carry
the sword and keys of St. Peter. I must be sustained by all the pomps of
that church of pomps and triumphs. My divine mission must speak through
signs and symbols, through stately stole, pontifical ornaments, the
tiara of religious state on the day of its most solemn ceremonial; and
with these I must bring the word of power, born equally of intellect and
soul, and my utterance must be in the language of divinest poesy!”

“Ah! you mistake! That last will be enough. Speak to me in poesy--let
me hear that--and you will subdue me, I believe, to any faith that you
teach. For I can not but believe the faith that is endowed with the
faculty of poetic utterance.”

“In truth it is a divine utterance--perhaps the only divine utterance.
Would I had it for your sake.”

“Oh! you must have it. I fancy I see it in some things that you have
said. You read poetry, I am sure--I am sure you love it.”

“I do! I know not anything that I love half so well.”

“Then you write it?” she asked eagerly.

“No! the gift has been denied me.”

She looked at him with eyes of regret.

“How unfortunate,” she said.

“Doubly so, as the deficiency seems to disappoint you.”

She did not seem to heed the flattery of this remark, nor did she
appear to note the expression of face with which it was accompanied. Her
feelings took the ascendency. She spoke out her uncommissioned thoughts
and fancies musingly, as if without the knowledge of her will.

“I fancy that I could kneel down and worship the poet, and feel no
shame, no humility. It is the only voice that enchants me--that leads
me out from myself; that carries me where it pleases and finds for me
companions in the solitude; songs in the storm; affections in the barren
desert! Even here, it brings me friends and fellowships. How voiceless
would be all these woods to me had it no voice speaking to, and in,
my soul. Hoping nothing, and performing nothing here, it is my only
consolation. It reconciles me to this wretched spot. It makes endurance
tolerable. If it were not for this companionship--if I heard not this
voice in my sorrows, soothing my desolation, I could freely die!--die
here, beside this rock, without making a struggle to go forward, even to
reach the stream that flows quietly beyond!”

She had stopped in her progress while this stream of enthusiasm poured
from her lips. Her action was suited to her utterance. Unaccustomed
to restraint--nay, accustomed only to pour herself forth to woods, and
trees, and waters, she was scarcely conscious of the presence of any
other companion, yet she looked even while she spoke, in the eyes of
Stevens. He gazed on her with glances of unconcealed admiration. The
unsophisticated nature which led her to express that enthusiasm which
a state of conventional existence prompts us, through fear of ridicule,
industriously to conceal, struck him with the sense of a new pleasure.
The novelty alone had its charm; but there were other sources of
delight. The natural grace and dignity of the enthusiastic girl,
adapting to such words the appropriate action, gave to her beauty,
which was now in its first bloom, all the glow which is derived from
intellectual inspiration. Her whole person spoke. All was vital,
spiritual, expressive, animated; and when the last word lingered on her
lips, Stevens could scarcely repress the impulse which prompted him to
clasp her in his embrace.

“Margaret!” he exclaimed--“Miss Cooper!--you are yourself a poet!”

“No, no!” she murmured, rather than spoke;--“would I were!--a dreamer
only--a self-deluded dreamer.”

“You can not deceive me!” he continued, “I see it in your eyes, your
action; I hear it in your words. I can not be deceived. You are a
poet--you will, and must be one!”

“And if I were!” she said mournfully, “of what avail would it be here?
What heart in this wilderness would be touched by song of mine? Whose
ear could I soothe in this cold and sterile hamlet? Where would be the
temple--who the worshippers--even were the priestess all that her vanity
would believe, or her prayers and toils might make her? No, no! I am
no poet; and if I were, better that the flame should go out--vanish
altogether in the smoke of its own delusions--than burn with a feeble
light, unseen, untrimmed, unhonored--perhaps, beheld with the scornful
eye of vulgar and unappreciating ignorance!”

“Such is not your destiny, Margaret Cooper,” replied Stevens, using
the freedom of address, perhaps unconsciously, which the familiarity of
country life is sometimes found to tolerate. “Such is not your destiny,
Margaret. The flame will not go out--it will be loved and worshipped!”

“Ah! never! what is here to justify such a hope--such a dream?”

“Nothing HERE; but it was not of Charlemont I spoke. The destiny which
has endowed you with genius will not leave it to be extinguished here.
There will come a worshipper, Margaret. There will come one, equally
capable to honor the priestess and to conduct her to befitting altars.
This is not your home, though it may have been your place of trial
and novitiate. Here, without the restraint of cold, oppressive, social
forms, your genius has ripened--your enthusiasm has been kindled into
proper glow--your heart, and mind, and imagination, have kept equal pace
to an equal maturity! Perhaps this was fortunate. Had you grown up in
more polished and worldly circles, you would have been compelled to
subdue the feelings and fancies which now make your ordinary language
the language of a muse.”

“Oh! speak not so, I implore you. I am afraid you mock me.”

“No! on my soul, I do not. I think all that I say. More than that, I
feel it, Margaret. Trust to me--confide in me--make me your friend!
Believe me, I am not altogether what I seem.”

An arch smile once more possessed her eyes.

“Ah! I could guess that! But sit you here. Here is a flower--a
beautiful, small flower, with a dark blue eye. See it--how humbly it
hides amid the grass. It is the last flower if the season. I know not
its name. I am no botanist; but it is beautiful without a name, and it
is the last flower of the season. Sit down on this rock, and I will sing
you Moore’s beautiful song, ‘’Tis the last of its kindred.’”

“Nay, sing me something of your own, Margaret.”

“No, no! Don’t speak of me, and mine, in the same breath with Moore.
You will make me repent of having seen you. Sit down and be content with
Moore, or go without your song altogether.”

He obeyed her, and the romantic and enthusiastic girl, seating herself
upon a fragment of rock beside the path, sang the delicate and sweet
verses of the Irish poet, with a natural felicity of execution, which
amply compensated for the absence of those Italian arts, which so
frequently elevate the music at the expense of the sentiment. Stevens
looked and listened, and half forgot himself in the breathlessness of
his attention--his eye fastened with a gaze of absolute devotion on her
features, until, having finished her song, she detected the expression
of his face, and started, with blushing cheeks, to her feet.

“Oh! sweet!” he murmured as he offered to take her hand, but she darted
forward, and following her, he found himself a few moments after,
standing by her side, and looking down upon one of the loveliest lakes
that ever slept in the embrace of jealous hills.



CHAPTER XV.

A CATASTROPHE.



“You disparage these scenes,” said Stevens, after several moments had
been given to the survey of that before him, “and yet you have drawn
your inspiration from them--the fresh food which stimulates poetry and
strengthens enthusiasm. Here you learned to be contemplative; and here,
in solitude, was your genius nursed. Do not be ungrateful, Margaret--you
owe to these very scenes all that you are, and all that you may become.”

“Stay! before I answer. Do you see yon bird?”

“Where?”

“In the west--there!” she pointed with her fingers, catching his
wrist unconsciously, at the same time, with the other hand, as if more
certainly to direct his gaze.

“I see it--what bird is it?”

“An eagle! See how it soars and swings; effortless, as if supported by
some external power!”

“Indeed--it seems small for an eagle.”

“It is one nevertheless! There are thousands of them that roost among
the hills in that quarter. I know the place thoroughly. The heights are
the greatest that we have in the surrounding country. The distance from
this spot is about five miles. He, no doubt, has some fish, or bird now
within his talons, with which to feed his young. He will feed them, and
they will grow strong, and will finally use their own wings. Shall he
continue to feed them after that? Must they never seek their own food?”

“Surely they must.”

“If these solitudes have nursed me, must they continue to nurse me
always? Must I never use the wings to which they have given vigor? Must
I never employ the sight to which they have imparted vigilance? Must I
never go forth, and strive and soar, and make air, and earth, and sea,
tributary to my wing and eye? Alas! I am a woman!--and her name is
weakness! You tell me of what I am, and of what I may become. But what
am I? I mock myself too often with this question to believe all your
fine speeches. And what may I become? Alas! who can tell me that? I know
my strength, but I also know my weakness. I feel the burning thoughts
of my brain; I feel the yearning impulses in my heart; but they bring
nothing--they promise nothing--I feel the pang of constant denial. I
feel that I can be nothing!”

“Say not so, Margaret--think not so, I beseech you. With your genius,
your enthusiasm--your powers of expression--there is nothing, becoming
in your sex, and worthy of it, which you may not be.”

“You can not deceive me! It might be so, if this were Italy; there,
where the very peasant burns with passion, and breathes his feeblest
and meanest thoughts and desires in song. But here, they already call
me mad! They look on me as one doomed to Bedlam. They avoid me with
sentiments and looks of distrust, if not of fear; and when I am looking
into the cloud, striving to pierce, with dilating eye its wild yellow
flashing centres, they draw their flaxen-headed infants to their
breasts, and mutter their thanks to God, that he has not, in a fit of
wrath, made them to resemble me! If, forgetful of earth, and trees,
and the human stocks around me, I pour forth the language of the great
song-masters, they grin at my insanity--they hold me incapable of
reason, and declare their ideas of what that is, by asking who
knows most of the dairy, the cabbage-patch, the spinning-wheel, the
darning-needle--who can best wash Polly’s or Patty’s face and comb its
head--can chop up sausage-meat the finest--make the lightest paste, and
more economically dispense the sugar in serving up the tea! and these
are what is expected of woman! These duties of the meanest slave! From
her mind nothing is expected. Her enthusiasm terrifies, her energy
offends, and if her taste is ever challenged, it is to the figures upon
a quilt or in a flower-garden, where the passion seems to be to make
flowers grow in stars, and hearts, and crescents. What has woman to
expect where such are the laws; where such are the expectations from
her? What am I to hope? I, who seem to be set apart--to feel nothing
like the rest--to live in a different world--to dream of foreign
things--to burn with a hope which to them is frenzy, and speak a
language which they neither understand nor like! What can I be, in such
a world? Nothing, nothing! I do not deceive myself. I can never hope to
be anything.”

Her enthusiasm hurried her forward. In spite of himself, Stevens was
impressed. He ceased to think of his evil purposes in the superior
thoughts which her wild, unregulated energy inspired. He scarcely
wondered, indeed--if it were true--that her neighbors fancied
her insane. The indignation of a powerful mind denied--denied
justice--baffled in its aims--conscious of the importance of all
its struggles against binding and blinding circumstances--is akin to
insanity!--is apt to express itself in the defiant tones of a fierce and
feverish frenzy.

“Margaret,” said he, as she paused and waited for him, “you are not
right in everything. You forget that your lonely little village of
Charlemont, is not only not the world, but that it is not even an
American world. America is not Italy, I grant you, nor likely soon to
become so; but if you fancy there are not cities even in our country,
where genius such as yours would be felt and worshipped, you are
mistaken.”

“Do you believe there are such?” she demanded incredulously.

“I KNOW there are!”

“No! no! I know better. You can not deceive me. It can not be so. I know
the sort of genius which is popular in those cities. It is the gentleman
and lady genius. Look at their verses for example. I can show you
thousands of such things that come to us here, from all quarters of the
Union--verses written by nice people--people of small tastes and petty
invention, who would not venture upon the utterance of a noble
feeling, or a bold sentiment of originality, for fear of startling the
fashionable nerves with the strong words which such a novelty would
require. Consider, in the first place, how conclusive it is of the
feeblest sort of genius that these people should employ themselves,
from morning to night, in spinning their small strains, scraps of verse,
song, and sonnet, and invariably on such subjects of commonplace, as can
not admit of originality, and do not therefore task reflection. Not
an infant dies or is born, but is made the subject of verse; nay, its
smiles and tears are put on record; its hobby-horse, and its infant
ideas as they begin to bud and breathe aloud. Then comes the eternal
strain about summer blooms and spring flowers; autumn’s melancholy and
winter’s storms, until one sickens of the intolerable monotony. Such
are the things that your great cities demand. Such things content
them. Speak the fearless and always strange language of originality and
strength, and you confound and terrify them.”

“But, Margaret, these things are held at precisely the same value in the
big cities as they are held by you here in Charlemont. The intelligent
people smile--they do not applaud. If they encourage at all it is by
silence.”

“No! no! that you might say, if, unhappily, public opinion did not
express itself. The same magazines which bring us the verses bring us
the criticism.”

“That is to say, the editor puffs his contributors, and disparages those
who are not. Look at the rival journal and you will find these denounced
and another set praised and beplastered.”

“Ah! and what would be my hope, my safety, in communities which tolerate
these things; in which the number of just and sensible people is so
small that they dare not speak, or can not influence those who have
better courage? Where would be my triumphs? I, who would no more
subscribe to the petty tyranny of conventional law, than to that baser
despotism which is wielded by a mercenary editor, in the absence of a
stern justice in the popular mind. Here I may pine to death--there, my
heart would burst with its own convulsions.”

“No! Margaret, no! It is because they have not the genius, that such
small birds are let to sing. Let them but hear the true minstrel--let
them but know that there is a muse, and how soon would the senseless
twitter which they now tolerate be hushed in undisturbing silence.
In the absence of better birds they bear with what they have. In the
absence of the true muse they build no temple--they throng not to hear.
Nay, even now, already, they look to the west for the minstrel and the
muse--to these very woods. There is a tacit and universal feeling in the
Atlantic country, that leads them to look with expectation to the Great
West, for the genius whose song is to give us fame. ‘When?’ is the
difficult--the only question. Ah! might I but say to them--‘now’--the
muse is already here!”

He took her hand--she did not withhold it; but her look was subdued--the
fires had left her eyes--her whole frame trembled with the recoil of
those feelings--the relaxation of those nerves--the tension of which we
have endeavored feebly to display. Her cheek was no longer flushed but
pale; her lips trembled--her voice was low and faint--only a broken and
imperfect murmur; and her glance was cast upon the ground.

“You!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, I! Have I not said I am not altogether what I seem? Ah! I may not
yet say more. But I am not without power, Margaret, in other and more
powerful regions. I too have had my triumphs; I too can boast that the
minds of other men hang for judgment upon the utterance of mine.”

She looked upward to his glance with a stranger expression of timidity
than her features had before exhibited. The form of Stevens had
insensibly risen in seeming elevation as he spoke, and the expression of
his face was that of a more human pride. He continued:--

“My voice is one of authority in circles where yours would be one of
equal attraction and command. I can not promise you an Italian devotion,
Margaret; our people, though sufficiently enthusiastic, are too sensible
to ridicule to let the heart and blood speak out with such freedom as
they use in the warmer regions of the South: but the homage will be more
intellectual, more steady, and the fame more enduring. You must let your
song be heard--you must give me the sweet privilege of making it known
to ears whose very listening is fame.”

“Ah!” she said, “what you say makes me feel how foolishly I have spoken.
What is my song? what have I done? what am I? what have I to hope?
I have done nothing--I am nothing! I have suffered, like a child, a
miserable vanity to delude me, and I have poured into the ears of a
stranger those ravings which I have hitherto uttered to the hills and
forests. You laugh at me now--you must.”

The paleness on her cheek was succeeded by the deepest flush of crimson.
She withdrew her hand from his grasp.

“Laugh at you, Margaret! You have awakened my wonder. Struck with you
when we first met--”

“Nay, no more of that, but let us follow these windings; they lead us to
the tarn. It is the prettiest Indian path, and my favorite spot. Here
I ramble morning and eve, and try to forget those vain imaginings and
foolish strivings of thought which I have just inflicted upon you. The
habit proved too much for my prudence, and I spoke as if you were not
present. Possibly, had you not spoken in reply, I should have continued
until now.”

“Why did I speak?”

“Ah! it is better. I wish you had spoken sooner. But follow me quickly.
The sunlight is now falling in a particular line which gives us the
loveliest effect, shooting its rays through certain fissures of the
rock, and making a perfect arrow-path along the water. You would fancy
that Apollo had just dismissed a golden shaft from his quiver, so direct
is the levelled light along the surface of the lake.”

Speaking thus, they came in sight of the party on the opposite hills,
as we have already shown--without, however, perceiving them in turn. It
will be conjectured without difficulty that, with a nature so full of
impulse, so excitable, as that of Margaret Cooper--particularly in the
company of an adroit man like Stevens, whose purpose was to encourage
her in that language and feeling of egotism which, while it was the most
grateful exercise to herself, was that which most effectually served to
blind her to his designs--her action was always animated, expressively
adapting itself, not only to the words she uttered, but, even when she
did not speak, to the feelings by which she was governed. It was the art
of Stevens to say little except by suggestives. A single word, or
brief sentence, from his lips, judiciously applied to her sentiments or
situation, readily excited her to speech; and this utterance necessarily
brought with it the secret of her soul, the desire of her heart, nay,
the very shape of the delusion which possessed it. The wily libertine,
deliberate as the demon to which we have likened him, could provoke the
warmth which he did not share--could stimulate the eloquence which
he would not feel--could coldly, like some Mephistopheles of science,
subject the golden-winged bird or butterfly to the torturous process of
examination, with a pin thrust through its vitals, and gravely dilate
on its properties, its rich plumage, and elaborate finish of detail,
without giving heed to those writhings which declared its agonies. It is
not meant to be understood that Stevens found no pleasure himself in the
display of that wild, unschooled imagination which was the prevailing
quality in the mind of Margaret Cooper. He was a man of education and
taste. He could be pleased as an amateur; but he wanted the moral to be
touched, and to sympathize with a being so gifted and so feeble--so high
aiming, yet so liable to fall.

The ardor of Margaret Cooper, and the profound devotion which it was
the policy of Stevens to display, necessarily established their
acquaintance, in a very short time, on the closest footing of
familiarity. With a nature such as hers, all that is wanted is
sympathy--all that she craves is sympathy--and, to win this, no toil is
too great, no sufferance too severe; alas, how frequently do we see that
no penalty is too discouraging! But the confiding spirit never looks for
penalties, and seldom dreams of deceit.

What, then, were the emotions of William Hinkley as he beheld the
cordiality which distinguished the manner of Margaret Cooper as she
approached the edge of the lake with her companion? In the space of a
single week, this stranger had made greater progress in her acquaintance
than HE had been able to make in a period of years. The problem which
distressed him was beyond his power to solve. His heart was very full;
the moisture was already in his eyes; and when he beheld the animated
gestures of the maid--when he saw her turn to her companion, and
meet his gaze without shrinking, while her own was fixed in gratified
contemplation--he scarcely restrained himself from jumping to his feet.
The old man saw his emotion.

“William,” he said, “did I understand you that this young stranger was a
preacher?”

“No, sir, but he seeks to be one. He is studying for the ministry, under
Brother Cross.”

“Brother Cross is a good man, and is scarcely likely to have anything to
do with any other than good men. I suppose he knows everything about the
stranger?”

William Hinkley narrated all that was known on the subject in the
village. In the innocence of his heart, Brother Cross had described
Alfred Stevens as a monument of his own powers of conversion. Under
God, he had been a blessed instrument for plucking this brand from
the burning. A modified account of the brandy-flask accompanied the
narrative. Whether it was that Mr. Calvert, who had been a man of the
world, saw something in the story itself, and in the ludicrousness of
the event, which awakened his suspicions, or whether the carriage of
Alfred Stevens, as he walked with Margaret Cooper, was rather that of a
young gallant than a young student in theology, may admit of question;
but it was very certain that the suspicions of the old gentleman were
somewhat awakened.

Believing himself to be alone with his fair companion, Alfred Stevens
was not as scrupulous of the rigidity of manner which, if not actually
prescribed to persons occupying his professional position, is certainly
expected from them; and, by a thousand little acts of gallantry, he
proved himself much more at home as a courtier and a ladies’ man than as
one filled with the overflow of divine grace, and thoughtful of nothing
less than the serious earnest of his own soul. His hand was promptly
extended to assist the progress of his fair companion--a service which
was singularly unnecessary in the case of one to whom daily rambles,
over hill and through forest, had imparted a most unfeminine degree
of vigor. Now he broke the branch away from before her path; and now,
stooping suddenly, he gathered for her the pale flower of autumn.

These little acts of courtesy, so natural to the gentleman, were
anything but natural to one suddenly impressed with the ascetical temper
of methodism. Highly becoming in both instances, they were yet strangely
at variance with the straight-laced practices of the thoroughgoing
Wesleyan, who sometimes fancies that the condition of souls is so
desperate as to leave no time for good manners. Mr. Calvert had no
fault to find with Stevens’s civility, but there was certainly an
inconsistency between his deportment now, and those characteristics
which were to be predicated of the manner and mode of his very recent
conversion. Besides, there was the story of the brandy-flask, in which
Calvert saw much less of honor either to John Cross or his neophyte. But
the old man did not express his doubts to his young friend, and they
sat together, watching, in a silence only occasionally broken by a
monosyllable, the progress of the unconscious couple below.

Meanwhile, our fisherman, occupying his lonely perch just above the
stream, had been plying his vocation with all the silent diligence of
one to the manner born. Once busy with his angle, and his world equally
of thought and observation became confined to the stream before his
eyes, and the victim before his imagination. Scarcely seen by his
companions on the heights above, he had succeeded in taking several very
fine fish; and had his liberality been limited to the supper-table of
his venerable friend Calvert, he would long before have given himself
respite, and temporary immunity to the rest of the finny tribe remaining
in the tarn. But Ned Hinkley thought of all his neighbors, not omitting
the two rival widows, Mesdames Cooper and Thackeray.

Something too, there was in the sport, which, on the present occasion,
beguiled him rather longer than his wont. More than once had his eye
detected, from the advantageous and jutting rock where he lay concealed,
just above the water, the dark outlines of a fish, one of the largest he
had ever seen in the lake, whose brown sides, and occasionally flashing
fins, excited his imagination and offered a challenge to his skill,
which provoked him into something like a feeling of personal hostility.

The fish moved slowly to and fro, not often in sight, but at such
regularly-recurring periods as to keep up the exciting desire which his
very first appearance had awakened in the mind of his enemy.

To Ned Hinkley he was the beau-ideal of the trout genius. He was
certainly the hermit-trout of the tarn. Such coolness, such strength,
such size, such an outline, and then such sagacity. That trout was
a triton among his brethren. A sort of Dr. Johnson among fishes. Ned
Hinkley could imagine--for on such subjects his imagination kindled--how
like an oracle must be the words of such a trout, to his brethren,
gathering in council in their deep-down hole--or driven by a shower
under the cypress log--or in any other situation in which an oracle
would be apt to say, looking around him with fierceness mingled
with contempt, “Let no dog bark.” Ned Hinkley could also fancy the
contemplations of such a trout as he witnessed the efforts made to
beguile him out of the water.

“Not to be caught by a fly like that, my lad!” and precisely as if
the trout had spoken what was certainly whispered in his own mind, the
fisherman silently changed his gilded, glittering figure on his hook for
one of browner plumage--one of the autumn tribe of flies which stoop to
the water from the overhanging trees, and glide off for twenty paces in
the stream, to dart up again to the trees, in as many seconds, if not
swallowed by some watchful fisher-trout, like the one then before the
eyes of our companion.

Though his fancy had become excited, Ned Hinkley was not impatient.
With a cautious hand he conducted the fly down the stream with the
flickering, fidgety motion which the real insect would have employed.
The keen-nosed trout turned with the movements of the fly, but
philosophically kept aloof. Now he might be seen to sink, now to rise,
now he glided close under the rock where the angler reclined, and, even
in the very deep waters which were there, which were consequently very
dark, so great was the size of the animal, that its brown outline was
yet to be seen, with its slightly-waving tail, and at moments the flash
of its glittering eye, as, inclining on its side, it glanced cunningly
upward through the water.

Again did Ned Hinkley consult his resources. Fly after fly was taken
from his box, and suffered to glide upon the stream. The wary fish did
not fail to bestow some degree of attention upon each, but his regards
were too deliberate for the success of the angler, and he had almost
began to despair, when he observed a slight quivering movement in the
object of pursuit which usually prepares the good sportsman to expect
his prey. The fins were laid aback. The motion of the fish became
steady; a slight vibration of the tail only was visible; and in another
moment he darted, and was hooked.

Then came the struggle. Ned Hinkley had never met with a more formidable
prey. The reel was freely given, but the strain was great upon shaft and
line. There was no such thing as contending. The trout had his way, and
went down and off, though it might have been observed that the fisherman
took good care to baffle his efforts to retreat in the direction of the
old log which had harbored him, and the tangling alders, which might
have been his safest places of retreat. The fish carried a long stretch
of line, but the hook was still in his jaws, and this little annoyance
soon led him upon other courses. The line became relaxed, and with this
sign, Ned Hinkley began to amuse himself in tiring his victim.

This required skill and promptness rather than strength. The
hermit-trout was led to and fro by a judicious turn of wrist or elbow.
His efforts had subsided to a few spasmodic struggles--an occasional
struggle ending with a shiver, and then he was brought to the surface.
This was followed by a last great convulsive effort, when his tail
churned the water into a little circle of foam, which disappeared the
moment his struggles were over. But a few seconds more were necessary to
lift the prey into sight of all the parties near to the lake. They had
seen some of the struggle, and had imagined the rest. Neither Margaret
Cooper nor Stevens had suspected the presence of the fisherman until
drawn to the spot by this trial of strength.

“What a prodigious fish!” exclaimed Stevens; “can we go to the spot?”

“Oh! easily--up the rocks on the left there is a path. I know it well.
I have traversed it often. Will you go? The view is very fine from that
quarter.”

“Surely: but who is the fisherman?”

“Ned Hinkley, the nephew of the gentleman with whom you stay. He is
a hunter, fisherman, musician--everything. A lively, simple, but
well-meaning young person. It is something strange that his cousin
William Hinkley is not with him. They are usually inseparable.”

And with these words she led the way for her companion following the
edge of the lake until reaching the point where the rocks seemed to form
barriers to their further progress, but which her agility and energy had
long since enabled her to overcome.

“A bold damsel!” said Calvert, as he viewed her progress. “She certainly
does not intend to clamber over that range of precipices. She will peril
her life.”

“No!” said William Hinkley; “she has done it often to my great terror. I
have been with her more than once over the spot myself. She seems to me
to have no fear, and to delight in the most dangerous places.”

“But her companion! If he’s not a more active man than he seems he will
hardly succeed so well.”

William was silent, his eye watching with the keenest interest the
progress of the two. In a few moments he started to his feet with some
appearance of surprise.

“What’s the matter?” demanded Calvert.

“She does not seem as if she wished to ascend the rocks, but she’s
aiming to keep along the ledges that overhang the stream, so as to get
where Ned is. That can hardly be done by the surest-footed, and most
active. Many of the rocks are loose. The ledge is very narrow, and even
where there is room for the feet there are such projections above as
leave no room for the body. I will halloo to her, and tell her of the
danger.”

“If you halloo, you will increase the danger--you will alarm her,” said
the old man.

“It will be best to stop her now, in season, when she can go back. Stay
for me, sir, I can run along on the heights so as to overlook them, and
can then warn without alarming.”

“Do so, my son, and hasten, for she seems bent on going forward. The
preacher follows but slowly, and she stops for him. Away!”

The youth darted along the hill, pursuing something of a table-line
which belonged to the equal elevation of the range of rock on which he
stood. The rock was formed of successive and shelving ledges, at such
intervals, however, as to make it no easy task--certainly no safe
one--to drop from one to the other. The perch of Ned Hinkley, was a
projection from the lowest of these ledges, running brokenly along the
margin of the basin until lost in the forest slope over which Margaret
Cooper had led her companion.

If it was a task to try the best vigor and agility--to say nothing of
courage--of the ablest mountaineer, to ascend the abrupt ledges from
below, aiming at the highest point of elevation. The attempt was still
more startling to follow the lower ledges, some of which hung, loosened
and tottering, just above the deepest parts of the lake. Yet, with that
intrepidity which marked her character, this was the very task which
Margaret Cooper had proposed to herself. William Hinkley had justly said
that she did not seem to know fear; and when Stevens with the natural
sense of caution which belongs to one to whom such performances are
unusual, suggested to her that such a pathway seemed very dangerous--

“Dangerous!” she exclaimed, standing upon the merest pinnacle of a
loosened fragment which rested on the very margin of the stream.

“Did you never perceive that there was a loveliness in danger which you
scarcely felt to be half so great in any other object or situation. I
love the dangerous. It seems to lift my soul, to make my heart bound
with joy and the wildest delight. I know nothing so delightful as storm
and thunder. I look, and see the tall trees shivering and going down
with a roar, and feel that I could sing--sing aloud--and believe that
there are voices, like mine, then singing through all the tempest. But
there is no danger here. I have clambered up these ledges repeatedly--up
to the very top. Here, you see, we have an even pathway along the edge.
We have nothing to do but to set the foot down firmly.”

But Stevens was not so sure, and his opinion on the beauties of the
dangerous did not chime exactly with hers. Still, he did not lack for
courage, and his pride did not suffer him to yield in a contest with a
female. He gazed on her with increasing wonder. If he saw no loveliness
in danger--he saw no little loveliness just then in her; and she might
be said to personify danger to his eyes. Her tall, symmetrical, and
commanding figure, perched on the trembling pinnacle of rock which
sustained her, was as firm and erect as if she stood on the securest
spot of land.

Nor was her position that of simple security and firmness. The grace of
her attitude, her extended and gently waving arm as she spoke, denoted
a confidence which could only have arisen from a perfect unconsciousness
of danger. Her swan-like neck, with the face slightly turned back to
him; the bright flashing eyes, and the smile of equal pride and dignity
on her exquisitely-chiselled mouth;--all formed a picture for the
artist’s study, which almost served to divert the thoughts of Stevens
from the feeling of danger which he expressed.

While he gazed, he heard a voice calling in tones of warning from above;
and, at the sound, he perceived a change in the expression of Margaret
Cooper’s face, from confidence and pride, to scorn and contempt. At the
same time she darted forward from rock to rock, with a sort of defying
haste, which made him tremble for her safety, and left him incapable to
follow. The call was repeated; and Stevens looked up, and recognised the
person of the youth whom he had counselled that morning with such bad
success.

If the progress of Margaret Cooper appeared dangerous in his sight, that
of the young man was evidently more so. He was leaping, with the cool
indifference of one who valued his life not a pin’s fee, from ledge to
ledge, down the long steppes which separated the several reaches of the
rock formation. The space between was very considerable, the descent
abrupt; the youth had no steadying pole to assist him, but flying
rather than leaping, was now beheld in air, and in the next moment stood
balancing himself with difficulty, but with success, and without seeming
apprehension, on the pinnacle of rock below him. In this way he was
approaching the lower ledge along which Margaret Cooper was hurrying as
rapidly as fearlessly, and calling to her as he came, implored her to
forbear a progress which was so full of danger.

Stevens fancied he had no reason to love the youth, but he could not
help admiring and envying his equal boldness and agility; the
muscular ease with which he flung himself from point to point, and his
sure-footed descent upon the crags and fragments which trembled and
tottered beneath the sudden and unaccustomed burden. Charitably wishing
that, amid all his agility he might yet make a false step, and find an
unexpected and rather cold bath in the lake below, Stevens now turned
his eyes upon Margaret Cooper.

She did not answer the counsels of William Hinkley--certainly did not
heed them: and, but for the increased impatience of her manner might be
supposed not to have heard them. The space between herself and Stevens
had increased meanwhile, and looking back, she waited for his approach.
She stood on a heavy mass which jutted above the lake, and not six feet
from the water. Her right foot was upon the stone, sustaining the
whole weight of her person. Her left was advanced and lifted to another
fragment which lay beyond. As she looked back she met the eyes of
Stevens. Just then he saw the large fragment yield beneath her feet. She
seemed suddenly conscious of it in the same moment, and sprung rapidly
on that to which her left foot was already advanced. The impetus of
this movement, sent the rock over which she had left. This disturbed
the balance of that to which she had risen, and while the breath of the
stranger hung suspended in the utterance of the meditated warning, the
catastrophe had taken place. The stone shrank from beneath her, and,
sinking with it, in another moment, she was hidden from sight in the
still, deep waters of the lake.



CHAPTER XVI.

SOUSING A GURNET.



The disappearance of Margaret Cooper was succeeded by a shriek from
above--a single shriek--a cry of terror and despair; and in the same
instant the form of William Hinkley might have been seen cleaving
the air, with the boldness of a bird, secure always of his wing, and
descending into the lake as nearly as it was possible for him to come,
to the spot where she had sunk. Our cooler fisherman looked up to the
abrupt eminence, just above his own head, from which his devoted cousin
had sprung.

“By gemini!” he exclaimed with an air of serious apprehension, “if
William Hinkley hasn’t knocked his life out by that plunge he’s more
lucky than I think him. It’s well the lake’s deep enough in this quarter
else he’d have tried the strength of hard head against harder rock
below. But there’s no time for such nice calculations! We can all
swim--that’s a comfort.”

Thus speaking, he followed the example of his cousin, though more
quietly, plunging off from his lowlier perch, and cleaving the water,
headforemost, with as little commotion as a sullen stone would make
sent directly downward to the deep. By this time, however, our former
companion, Stevens, had done the same thing. Stevens was no coward, but
he had no enthusiasm. He obeyed few impulses. His proceedings were all
the result of calculation. He could swim as well as his neighbors. He
had no apprehensions on that score; but he disliked cold water; and
there was an involuntary shrug of the shoulder and shiver of the limbs
before he committed himself to the water, which he did with all the
deliberation of the cat, who, longing for fish, is yet unwilling to
wet her own feet. His deliberation, and the nearness of his position to
Margaret Cooper, were so far favorable to his design that he succeeded
in finding her first. It must be understood that the events, which
we have taken so much time to tell, occupied but a few seconds in the
performance. Stevens was in the water quite as quickly as Ned Hinkley,
and only not so soon as his more devoted and desperate cousin. If it was
an advantage to him to come first in contact with the form of Margaret
Cooper, it had nearly proved fatal to him also. In the moment when he
encountered her, her outstretched and grasping arms, encircled his neck.
They rose together, but he was nearly strangled, and but for the timely
interposition of the two cousins, they must probably have both perished.

It was the fortune of our fisherman to relieve the maiden, whom he bore
to the opposite shore with a coolness, a skill and spirit, which enabled
him to save himself from her desperate but unconscious struggles,
while supporting her with a degree of ease and strength which had
been acquired while teaching some dozen of the village urchins how to
practise an art in which he himself was reckoned a great proficient.

It was fortunate for Stevens that the charities of William Hinkley were
more active and indulgent than his own, since, without the timely succor
and aid which he afforded, that devout young gentleman would have been
made to discontinue his studies very suddenly and have furnished a
summary conclusion to this veracious narrative--a consummation which, if
it be as devoutly wished by the reader as by the writer, will be a much
greater source of annoyance to our publisher than it has proved already.
Never had poor mortal been compelled to drink, at one time, a greater
quantity of that celestial beverage, which the Reverend Mr. Pierpont
insists is the only liquor drunk at the hotels of heaven. We should be
sorry to misrepresent that very gentle gentleman, but we believe that
this is substantially his idea. It was unfortunate for Stevens that,
previously to this, he had never been accustomed to drink much of this
beverage in its original strength anywhere. He had been too much in the
habit of diluting it; and being very temperate always in his enjoyment
of the creature comforts, he had never taken it, even when thus diluted,
except in very moderate quantities.

In consequence of his former abstemiousness, the quantity which he now
swallowed nearly strangled him. He was about to take his last draught
with many wry faces, when the timely arms of the two cousins, by no very
sparing application of force withdrew him from the grasp of the damsel;
and without very well understanding the process, or any particulars of
his extrication, he found himself stretched upon the banks over which he
had lately wandered, never dreaming of any such catastrophe; discharging
from his stomach by no effort of his own, a large quantity of foreign
ingredients--the ordinary effect, we are given to understand, of every
inordinate indulgence in strong waters.

Our excellent old friend, Mr. Calvert, was soon upon the spot, and
while Ned Hinkley was despatched to the village for assistance, he took
himself the charge of recovering the unconscious maiden. Half-forgetting
his hostility, William Hinkley undertook the same good service to
Stevens, who really seemed to need succor much more than his fair
companion. While William Hinkley busied himself by rolling, friction,
fanning, and other practices, employed in such cases, to bring his
patient back to life, he could not forbear an occasional glance to the
spot where, at a little distance, lay the object of his affections.

Her face was toward him, as she lay upon her side. Her head was
supported on the lap of the old man. Her long hair hung dishevelled, of
a more glossy black now when filled with water. Her eyes were shut, and
the dark fringes of their lids lay like a pencil-streak across the pale,
prominent orbs which they served to bind together. The glow of indignant
pride with which she was wont to receive his approaches had all
disappeared in the mortal struggle for life through which she had lately
gone; and pure, as seemingly free from every passion, her pale beauties
appeared to his doating eye the very perfection of human loveliness. Her
breast now heaved convulsively--deep sighs poured their way through
her parted lips. Her eyes alternately opened upon but shut against the
light, and, finally, the exertions of the old man were rewarded as
the golden gleam of expression began to relight and re-illumine those
features which seemed never to be without it.

She recovered her consciousness, started up, made an effort to rise,
but, reeling with inability, sunk down again into the paternal grasp of
the old man.

“Mr. Calvert!” she murmured.

“You are safe, my daughter,” said the old man.

“But how did it happen?--where am I?”

“By the lake.”

“Ah! I remember. I was drowning. I felt it all--the choking--the
struggle--the water in my ears and eyes! It was a dreadful feeling. How
did I come here? Who saved me?”

“Ned Hinkley brought you to land, but he was helped by his cousin
William, who assisted the stranger.”

“The stranger? ah! yes, I remember: but where is he?”

She looked around wildly and anxiously, and beholding William Hinkley
at a little distance, busy with the still unconscious form of Stevens,
a quick, fearful shudder passed over her frame. She almost crouched into
the old man’s arms as she asked, in husky accents--

“He is not dead--he lives?”

“I hope so. He breathes.”

She waited for no more, but, starting to her feet, she staggered to the
spot where Stevens lay. The old man would have prevented her.

“You are feeble; you will do yourself harm. Better, if you are able to
walk, hurry homeward with me, when you can change your clothes.”

“Would you have me ungrateful?” she exclaimed; “shall I neglect him when
he risked his life for me?”

There was a consciousness in her mind that it was not all gratitude
which moved her, for the deathly paleness of her cheek was now succeeded
by a warm blush which denoted a yet stronger and warmer emotion. The
keen eyes of William Hinkley understood the meaning of this significant
but unsyllabling mode of utterance, and his eyes spoke the reproach to
hers which his lips left unsaid:--

“Ah! did I not risk my life too, to prevent--to save? When would she
feel such an interest in me? when would she look thus were my life at
stake?”

“He will not be neglected,” said the old man, gently endeavoring
to restrain her. Perhaps she would not have given much heed to the
interruption, for hers was the strength of an unfettered will, one
accustomed to have way, but that, at this moment, the eyes of Stevens
unclosed and met her own. His consciousness had returned, and, under the
increasing expression in his looks, she sunk back, and permitted the old
man to lead her along the homeward path. More than once she looked back,
but, with the assurance of Mr. Calvert that there was no more danger to
be apprehended, she continued to advance; the worthy old man, as they
went, seeking to divert her mind, by pleasant and choice anecdotes of
which his memory had abundant stores, from dwelling upon the unpleasant
and exciting event which had just taken place.

Margaret Cooper, whose habits previously had kept her from much intimacy
with the village sage, was insensibly taken by his gentleness, the
purity of his taste, the choiceness of his expression, the extent of his
resources. She wondered how a mind so full should have remained unknown
to her so long--committing the error, very common to persons of strong
will and determined self-esteem, of assuming that she should, as a
matter of inevitable necessity, have known everything and everybody of
which the knowledge is at all desirable.

In pleasant discourse he beguiled her progress, until Ned Hinkley was
met returning with horses--the pathway did not admit of a vehicle, and
the village had none less cumbrous than cart and wagon--on one of which
she mounted, refusing all support or assistance; and when, Mr. Calvert
insisted upon walking beside her, she grasped the bough of a tree, broke
off a switch, and, giving an arch but good-natured smile and nod to the
old man, laid it smartly over the horse’s flank, and in a few moments
was out of sight.

“The girl is smart,” said Calvert, as he followed her retreating form
with his eye--“too smart! She speaks well--has evidently read. No
wonder that William loves her; but she will never do for him. She has
no humility. Pride is the demon in her heart. Pride will overthrow her.
These woods spoil her. Solitude is the natural nurse of self-esteem,
particularly where it is strong at first, and is coupled with anything
like talent. Better for such a one if sickness, and strife, and
suffering, had taken her at the cradle, and nursed her with the milk
of self-denial, which is the only humility worth having. And yet, why
should I speak of her, when the sting remains in my own soul--when I yet
feel the pang of my feebleness and self-reproach? Alas! I should school
none. The voice speaks to me ever, ‘Old man, to thy prayers! Thy own
knees are yet stubborn as thy neck!’”

Leaving him to the becoming abasement of that delusive self-comfort
which ministers to our vain-glory, and which this good old man had so
happily succeeded in rebuking, we will return to the spot where we left
our other parties. Ned Hinkley had already joined them. With his horse
he had providently brought a suit of his own clothes for the stranger,
which, though made of homespun, and not of the most modern fashion,
were yet warm and comfortable, and as Stevens was compelled to think,
infinitely preferable to the chilly and dripping garments which he wore.
A few moments, in the cover of the woods, sufficed the neophyte to
make the alteration; while the two cousins, to whom the exigencies of
forester and fisherman life were more familiar prepared to walk the
water out of their own habits, by giving rapid circulation to their
blood and limbs. While their preparations were in progress, however, Ned
Hinkley could not deny himself the pleasure of discoursing at length on
the subject of the late disaster.

“Stranger,” he said, “I must tell you that you’ve had a souse in as fine
a fishing-pond as you’ll meet with from here to Salt river. I reckon,
now, that while you were in, you never thought for a moment of the noble
trout that inhabit it.”

“I certainly did not,” said the other.

“There, now! I could have sworn it. That a man should go with his eyes
open into a country without ever asking what sort of folks lived there!
Isn’t it monstrous?”

“It certainly seems like a neglect of the first duty of a traveller,”
 said Stevens good-humoredly; “let me not show myself heedless of
another. Let me thank you, gentlemen, for saving my life. I believe I
owe it to one or both of you.”

“To him, not to me,” said Ned Hinkley, pointing to his cousin. William
was at a little distance, looking sullenly upon the two with eyes which,
if dark and moody, seemed to denote a thought which was anywhere else
but in the scene around him.

“He saved you, and I saved the woman. I wouldn’t have a woman drowned in
this lake for all the houses in Charlemont.”

“Ah! why?”

“‘Twould spoil it for fishing for ever.”

“Why would a woman do this more than a man?”

“For a very good reason, my friend. Because the ghost of a woman talks,
and a man’s don’t, they say. The ghost of a man says what it wants to
say with its eyes; a woman’s with her tongue. You know there’s nothing
scares fish so much as one’s talking.”

“I have heard so. But is it so clear that there is such a difference
between ghosts? How is it known that the female does all the talking?”

“Oh, that’s beyond dispute. There’s a case that we all know about--all
here in Charlemont--the case of Joe Barney’s millpond. Barney lost
one of his children and one of his negroes in the pond--drowned as
a judgment, they say, for fishing a Sunday. That didn’t make any
difference with the fish: you could catch them there just the same as
before. But when old Mrs. Prey fell in, crossing the dam, the case was
altered. You might sit there for hours and days, night and day, and bob
till you were weary; devil a bite after that! Now, what could make the
difference but the tongue? Mother Frey had a tongue of her own, I tell
you. ‘Twas going when she fell in, and I reckon’s been going ever
since. She was a sulphury, spiteful body, to be sure, and some said she
poisoned the fish if she didn’t scare them. To my thinking, ‘twas the
tongue.”

Stevens had been something seduced from his gravity by the blunt humor
and unexpected manner of Ned Hinkley; besides, having been served, if
not saved, by his hands, something, perhaps, of attention was due to
what he had to say; but he recollected the assumed character which he
had to maintain--something doubtful, too, if he had not already impaired
it in the sight and hearing of those who had come so opportunely but
so unexpectedly to his relief, He recovered his composure and dignity;
forbore to smile at the story which might otherwise have provoked not
only smile but corresponding answer; and, by the sudden coolness of
his manner, tended to confirm in Ned Hinkley’s bosom the half-formed
hostility which the cause of his cousin had originally taught him to
feel.

“I’ll lick the conceit out of him yet!” he muttered, as Stevens, turning
away, ascended to the spot where William Hinkley stood.

“I owe you thanks, Mr. Hinkley,” he began.

The young man interrupted him.

“You owe me nothing, sir,” he answered hastily, and prepared to turn
away.

“You have saved my life, sir.”

“I should have saved your dog’s life, sir, in the same situation. I have
done but an act of duty.”

“But, Mr. Hinkley--”

“Your horse is ready for you, sir,” said the young man, turning off
abruptly, and darting up the sides of the hill, remote from the pathway,
and burying himself in the contiguous forests.

“Strange!” exclaimed the neophyte--“this is very strange!”

“Not so strange, stranger, as that I should stand your groom, without
being brought up to such a business for any man. Here’s your nag, sir.”

“I thank you--I would not willingly trespass,” he replied, as he
relieved our angler from his grasp upon the bridle.

“You’re welcome without the thanks, stranger. I reckon you know the
route you come. Up hill, follow the track to the top, take the left turn
to the valley, then you’ll see the houses, and can follow your own nose
or your nag’s. Either’s straight enough to carry you to his rack. You’ll
find your clothes at your boarding-house about the time that you’ll get
there.”

“Nay, sir, I already owe you much. Let them not trouble you. I will take
them myself.”

“No, no, stranger!” was the reply of our fisherman, as he stooped down
and busied himself in making the garments into a compact bundle; “I’m
not the man to leave off without doing the thing I begin to do. I
sometimes do more than I bargain for--sometimes lick a man soundly when
I set out only to tweak his nose; but I make it a sort of Christian law
never to do less. You may reckon to find your clothes home by the time
you get there. There’s your road.”

“A regular pair of cubs!” muttered the horseman, as he ascended the
hill.

“To purse up his mouth as if I was giving him root-drink, when I was
telling him about Mother Frey’s spoiling the fish! Let him take care--he
may get the vinegar next time, and not the fish!”

And, with these characteristic commentaries, the parties separated for
the time.



CHAPTER XVII.

PHILOSOPHY OP FIGHTING.



“You’re not a fighter, Bill Hinkley, and that’s about the worst fault
that I can find against you.”

Such was the beginning of a dialogue between the cousins some three days
after the affair which was narrated in our last chapter. The two young
men were at the house of the speaker, or rather at his mother’s house;
where, a favorite and only son, he had almost supreme dominion. He was
putting his violin in tune, and the sentences were spoken at intervals
with the discordant scraps of sound which were necessarily elicited by
this unavoidable musical operation. These sounds might be said to form a
running accompaniment for the dialogue, and, considering the sombre mood
of the person addressed, they were, perhaps, far more congenial than any
more euphonious strains would have been.

“Not a fighter!” said the other; “why, what do you mean?”

“Why, just what I say--you are not a fighter. You love reading, and
fiddling, and fishing sometimes, and sometimes dancing, and hunting, and
swimming; but I’m pretty certain you don’t love fighting. You needn’t
contradict, Bill--I’ve been thinking the matter over; and I’m sure of
it. I recollect every battle or scrape you ever were in, from the time
we went to old Chandler’s, and I tell you, you’re not a fighter--you
don’t love fighting!”

This was concluded with a tremendous scrape over the strings, which
seemed to say as well as scrape could speak--“There can be no mistake on
the subject--I’ve said it.”

“If I knew exactly what you were driving at,” said the other, “perhaps
I might answer you. I never pretended to be a fighter; and as for loving
it, as I love eating, drinking, books, fiddling, and dancing, why that
needs no answer. Of course I do not, and I don’t know who does.”

“There it is. I told you. I knew it. You’d sooner do almost anything
than fight.”

“If you mean that I would submit to insult,” said the more peaceable
cousin, with some displeasure in his tones and countenance, “sooner than
resent it, you are very much mistaken. It wouldn’t be advisable even for
you to try the experiment.”

“Poh, poh, Bill, you know for that matter that it wouldn’t take much
trying. I’d lick you as easily now as I did when we were boys together.”

“We are boys no longer,” said the other gravely.

“I’m as much a boy as ever, so far as the licking capacity calls for
boyhood. I’ve pretty much the same spirit now that I had then, and ten
times the same strength and activity. But don’t look so blue. I’m not
going to try my strength and spirit and activity on you. And don’t
suppose, Bill Hinkley, that I mean to say you’re anything of a coward,
or that you’d submit to any open insult; but still I do say, you’re not
only not fond of fighting, but you’re just not as much inclined that way
as you should be.”

“Indeed! what more would you have? Do you not say that I would not
submit to insult?--that I show the proper degree of courage in such
cases?”

“Not the PROPER degree. That’s the very question. You’re not quick
enough. You wait for the first blow. You don’t step out to meet the
enemy. You look for him to come to you.”

“Surely! I look upon fighting as brutal--to be waited for, not
sought--to be resorted to only in compliance with necessity--to be
avoided to the last!”

“No such thing--all a mistake. Fighting and the desire to get on the
shoulders of our neighbors is a natural passion. We see that every day.
The biggest boy licks the one just below him, he whips the next, and
so down, and there’s not one that don’t lick somebody and don’t stand
licked himself--for the master licks the biggest. The desire to fight
and flog is natural, and this being the case, it stands to reason that
we must lick our neighbor or he’ll be sure to lick us.”

“Pshaw! you speak like a boy yet. This is schoolhouse philosophy.”

“And very good philosophy too. I’m thinking the schoolhouse and the
play-ground is pretty much a sort of world to itself. It’s no bad show
of what the world without is; and one of its first lessons and that
which I think the truest, is the necessity of having a trial of strength
with every new-comer; until we learn where he’s to stand in the ranks,
number one or number nothing. You see there just the same passions,
though, perhaps, on a small scale, that we afterward find to act upon
the big world of manhood. There, we fight for gingerbread, for marbles,
top and ball; not unfrequently because we venture to look at our
neighbor’s sweetheart; and sometimes, quite as often, for the love of
the thing and to know where the spirit and the sinew are. Well, isn’t
that just what the big world does after us? As men, we fight for bigger
playthings, for pounds, where before we fought for pence--for gold where
before we fought for coppers--for command of a country instead of a
schoolyard; for our wives instead of sweethearts, and through sheer
deviltry and the love of the thing, when there’s nothing else to fight
about, just the same as we did in boyhood.”

“But even were you to prove, and I to admit, that it is so, just as you
say, that would not prove the practice to be a jot more proper, or a jot
less brutal.”

“Begging your pardon, Bill, it proves it to be right and proper, and
accordingly, if brutal, a becoming brutality. If this is the natural
disposition of boys and men, don’t you see that this schoolboy licking
and fighting is a necessary part of one’s moral education? It learns one
to use his strength, his limbs and sinews, as he may be compelled to use
them, in self-defence, in every future day of his life. You know very
well what follows a boy at school who doesn’t show himself ready to bung
up his neighbor’s eye the moment he sees it at a cross-twinkle. He gets
his own bunged up. Well, it’s just the same thing when he gets to be
a man. If you have a dispute with your enemy, I don’t say that you
shouldn’t reason with him, but I do say that your reasoning will have
very little effect upon him unless he sees that you are able and willing
to write it in black and blue upon his sheepskin. And what better way
could you find to show him THAT, unless by giving him word and blow, the
blow first, as being the most impressive argument?”

“You must have been dreaming of these subjects last night.” said the
grave cousin--“you seem to have them unusually well cut and dried.”

“I haven’t been dreaming about it, Bill, but I confess I’ve been
thinking about it very seriously all night, and considering all the
arguments that I thought you would make use of against it. I haven’t
quite done with my discussion, which I took up entirely for your
benefit.”

“Indeed! you are quite philanthropic before breakfast; but let us hear
you?”

“You talk of the brutality of fighting--now in what does that brutality
consist? Is it not in breaking noses, kicking shins, bunging up eyes,
and making one’s neighbor feel uncomfortable in thigh, and back, and
arms, and face, and skin, and indeed, everywhere, where a big fist or a
cowhide shoe may plant a buffet or a bruise?”

“Quite a definition, Ned.”

“I’m glad you think so: for if it’s brutal in the boy to do so to his
schoolmate, is it less so for the schoolmaster to do the same thing to
the boy that’s under his charge? He bruises my skin, makes my thighs,
and arms, and back, and legs, and face, and hands, ache, and if my
definition be a correct one, he is quite as brutal as the boys who do
the same thing to one another.”

“He does it because the boys deserve it, and in order to make them
obedient and active.”

“And when did a boy not deserve a flogging when he gets licked by his
companion?” demanded the other triumphantly--“and don’t the licking make
him obedient, and don’t the kicking make him active? By gemini, I’ve
seen more activity from one chap’s legs under the quick application of
another’s feet, than I think anything else could produce, unless it were
feet made expressly for such a purpose and worked by a steam-engine.
That might make them move something faster, but I reckon there would be
no need in such a case of any such improvement.”

“What are you driving at, Ned Hinkley? This is by far the longest
argument, I think, that you’ve ever undertaken. You must be moved by
some very serious considerations.”

“I am, and you’ll see what I’m driving at after a little while. I’m not
fond of arguing, you know, but I look upon the fighting principle as a
matter to be known and believed in, and I wish to make clear to you my
reasons for believing in it myself. You don’t suppose I’d put down the
fiddle for a talk at any time if the subject was not a serious one?”

“Give way--you have the line.”

“About the brutality of fighting then, there’s another thing to be
said. Fighting produces good feeling--that is to say supposing one party
fairly to have licked another.”

“Indeed--that’s new.”

“And true too, Bill Hinkley. It cures the sulks. It lets off steam.
It’s like a thunderstorm that comes once in a while, and drives away the
clouds, and clears the skies until all’s blue again.”

“Black and blue.”

“No! what was black becomes blue. Chaps that have been growling at each
other for weeks and months lose their bad blood--”

“From the nostrils!”

“Yes, from the nostrils. It’s a sort of natural channel, and runs freely
from that quarter. The one crows and the other runs and there’s an end
of the scrape and the sulks. The weaker chap, feeling his weakness,
ceases to be impudent; the stronger, having his power acknowledged,
becomes the protector of the weak. Each party falls into his place, and
so far from the licking producing bad feeling it produces good feeling
and good humor; and I conclude that one half of the trouble in the
world, the squabbles between man and man, woman and woman, boy and
boy--nay, between rival nations--is simply because your false and
foolish notions of brutality and philanthropy keep them from coming
to the scratch as soon as they should. They hang off, growling and
grumbling, and blackguarding, and blaspheming, when, if they would only
take hold, and come to an earnest grapple, the odds would soon show
themselves--broken heads and noses would follow--the bad blood would
run, and as soon as each party found his level, the one being finally
on his back, peace would ensue, and there would be good humor for ever
after, or at least until the blood thickened again. I think there’s
reason in my notion. I was thinking it over half the night. I’ve thought
of it oftentimes before. I’ve never yet seen the argument that’s strong
enough to tumble it.”

“Your views are certainly novel, Ned, if not sound. You will excuse
me if I do not undertake to dispute them this morning. I give in,
therefore, and you may congratulate yourself upon having gained a
triumph if not a convert?”

“Stop, stop, William Hinkley: you don’t suppose I’ve done all this
talking only to make a convert or to gain a triumph?”

“Why, that’s your object in fighting, why not in arguing?”

“Well, that’s the object of most persons when they dispute, I know; but
it is not mine. I wish to make a practical application of my doctrine.”

“Indeed! who do you mean to fight now?”

“It’s not for me to fight, it’s for you.”

“Me!”

“Yes; you have the preference by rights, though if you don’t--and I’m
rather sorry to think, as I told you at the start, that the only fault
I had to find with you is that you’re not a fighter--I must take your
place and settle the difference.”

William Hinkley turned upon the speaker. The latter had laid down the
violin, having, in the course of the argument, broken all its strings;
and he stood now, unjacketed, and still in the chamber, where the two
young men had been sleeping, almost in the attitude of one about to
grapple with an antagonist. The serious face of him whose voice had been
for war--his startling position--the unwonted eagerness of his eye,
and the ludicrous importance which he attached to the strange principle
which he had been asserting--conquered for a moment the graver mood
of his love-sick companion, and he laughed outright at his pugnacious
cousin. The latter seemed a little offended.

“It’s well you can laugh at such things, Bill Hinkley, but I can’t.
There was a time when every mother’s son in Kentucky was a man, and
could stand up to his rack with the best. If he couldn’t keep the top
place, he went a peg lower; but he made out to keep the place for which
he was intended. Then, if a man disliked his neighbor he crossed over to
him and said so, and they went at it like men, and as soon as the pout
was over they shook hands, and stood side by side, and shoulder to
shoulder, like true friends, in every danger, and never did fellows
fight better against Indians and British than the same two men, that had
lapped muscles, and rolled in the grain together till you couldn’t say
whose was whose, and which was which, till the best man jumped up, and
shook himself, and gave the word to crow. After that it was all peace
and good humor, and they drank and danced together, and it didn’t lessen
a man in his sweetheart’s eyes, though he was licked, if he could say
he had stood up like a man, and was downed after a good hug, because he
couldn’t help it. Now, there’s precious little of that. The chap that
dislikes his fellow, hasn’t the soul to say it out, but he goes aside
and sneers and snickers, and he whispers things that breed slanders,
and scandals, and bad blood, until there’s no trusting anybody; and
everything is full of hate and enmity--but then it’s so peaceful!
Peaceful, indeed! as if there was any peace where there is no
confidence, and no love, and no good feeling either for one thing or
another.”

“Really, Ned, it seems to me you’re indignant without any occasion. I am
tempted to laugh at you again.”

“No, don’t. You’d better not.”

“Ha! ha! ha! I can not help it, Ned; so don’t buffet me. You forced me
into many a fight when I was a boy, for which I had no stomach; I trust
you will not pummel me yourself because the world has grown so hatefully
pacific. Tell me, in plain terms, who I am to fight now.”

“Who! who but Stevens?--this fellow Stevens. He’s your enemy, you
say--comes between you and your sweetheart--between you and your own
mother--seems to look down upon you--speaks to you as if he was wiser,
and better, and superior in every way--makes you sad and sulky to your
best friends--you growl and grumble at him--you hate him--you fear
him--”

“Fear him!”

“Yes, yes, I say fear him, for it’s a sort of fear to skulk off from
your mother’s house to avoid seeing him--”

“What, Ned, do you tell me that--do you begrudge me a place with you
here, my bed, my breakfast?”

“Begrudge! dang it, William Hinkley, don’t tell me that, unless you want
me to lay heavy hand on your shoulder!”--and the tears gushed into
the rough fellow’s eyes as he spoke these words, and he turned off to
conceal them.

“I don’t mean to vex you, Ned, but why tell me that I skulk--that I fear
this man?”

“Begrudge!” muttered the other.

“Nay, forgive me; I didn’t mean it. I was hasty when I said so; but
you also said things to provoke me. Do you suppose that I fear this man
Stevens?”

“Why don’t you lick him then, or let him lick you, and bring the
matter to an ending? Find out who’s the best man, and put an end to
the growling and the groaning. As it now stands you’re not the same
person--you’re not fit company for any man. You scarcely talk, you
listen to nobody. You won’t fish, you won’t hunt: you’re sulky yourself
and you make other people so!”

“I’m afraid, Ned, it wouldn’t much help the matter even if I were to
chastise the stranger.”

“It would cure him of his impudence. It would make him know how to
treat you; and if the rest of your grievance comes from Margaret Cooper,
there’s a way to end that too.”

“How! you wouldn’t have me fight her?” said William Hinkley, with an
effort to smile.

“Why, we may call it fighting,” said the advocate for such wholesale
pugnacity, “since it calls for quite as much courage sometimes to face
one woman as it does to face three men. But what I mean that you should
do with her is to up and at her. Put the downright question like a man
‘will you?’ or ‘won’t you?’ and no more beating about the bush. If she
says ‘no!’ there’s no more to be said, and if I was you after that, I’d
let Stevens have her or the d--l himself, since I’m of the notion that
no woman is fit for me if she thinks me not fit for her. Such a woman
can’t be worth having, and after that I wouldn’t take her as a gracious
gift were she to be made twice as beautiful. The track’s before you,
William Hinkley. Bring the stranger to the hug, and Margaret Cooper too,
if she’ll let you. But, at all events, get over the grunting and the
growling, the sulky looks, and the sour moods. They don’t become a man
who’s got a man’s heart, and the sinews of a man.”

William Hinkley leaned against the fireplace with his head resting upon
his hand. The other approached him.

“I don’t mean to say anything, Bill, or even to look anything, that’ll
do you hurt. I’m for bringing your trouble to a short cut. I’ve told
you what I think right and reasonable, and for no other man in Kentucky
would I have taken the pains to think out this matter as I have done.
But you or I must lick Stevens.”

“You forget, Ned. Your eagerness carries you astray. Would you beat a
man who offers no resistance?”

“Surely not.”

“Stevens is a non-combatant. If you were to slap John Cross on one cheek
he’d turn you the other. He’d never strike you back.”

“John Cross and Stevens are two persons. I tell you the stranger WILL
fight. I’m sure of it. I’ve seen it in his looks and actions.”

“Do you think so?”

“I do; I’m sure of it. But you must recollect besides, that John
Cross is a preacher, already sworn in, as I may say. Stevens is only a
beginner. Besides, John Cross is an old man; Stevens, a young one. John
Cross don’t care a straw about all the pretty girls in the country. He
works in the business of souls, not beauties, and it’s very clear that
Stevens not only loves a pretty girl, but that he’s over head and heels
in love with your Margaret--”

“Say no more. If he will fight, Ned Hinkley, he shall fight!”

“Bravo, Bill--that’s all that I was arguing for--that’s all that I want.
But you must make at Margaret Cooper also.”

“Ah! Ned, there I confess my fears.”

“Why, what are you afraid of?”

“Rejection!”

“Is that worse than this suspense--this anxiety--this looking out from
morning till night for the sunshine, and this constant apprehension
of the clouds--this knowing not what to be about--this sulking--this
sadding--this growling--this grunting--this muling--this moping--this
eternal vinegar-face and ditchwater-spirit?”

“I don’t know, Ned, but I confess my weakness--my want of courage in
this respect!”

“Psho! the bark’s worse always than the bite. The fear worse than the
danger! Suspense is the very d--l! Did you ever hear of the Scotch
parson’s charity? He prayed that God might suspend Napoleon over the
very jaws of hell--but ‘Oh, Lord!’ said he, ‘dinna let him fa’ in!’ To
my mind, mortal lips never uttered a more malignant prayer!”



CHAPTER XVIII.

TRAILING THE FOX.



This dialogue was broken by a summons to the breakfast-table. We have
already intimated that while the hateful person of Stevens was an inmate
of his own house, William Hinkley remained, the better portion of his
time, at that of his cousin. It was not merely that Stevens was hateful
to his sight, but such was the devotion of his father and mother to that
adventurer, that the young man passed with little notice from either,
or if he incurred their attention at all, it was only to receive their
rebuke. He had not been able to disguise from them his dislike to
Stevens. This dislike showed itself in many ways--in coldness, distance,
silence--a reluctance to accord the necessary civilities, and in very
unequivocal glances of hostility from the eyes of the jealous young
villager.

Such offences against good-breeding were considered by them as so many
offences against God himself, shown to one who was about to profess
his ministry; and being prepared to see in Brother Stevens an object of
worth and veneration only, they lacked necessarily all that keenness
of discrimination which might have helped somewhat to qualify the
improprieties of which they believed their son to be guilty. Of his
causes of jealousy they had no suspicion, and they shared none of his
antipathies. He was subject to the daily lecture from the old man, and
the nightly exhortation and expostulation of the old woman. The latter
did her spiriting gently. The former roared and thundered. The mother
implored and kissed--the father denounced and threatened. The one,
amidst the faults of her you which she reproved, could see his virtues;
she could also see that he was suffering--she knew not why--as well as
sinning; the other could only see an insolent, disobedient boy who was
taking airs upon himself, flying in the face of his parents, and doomed
to perish like the sons of Eli, unless by proving himself a better
manager than Eli, he addressed himself in time to the breaking in of
the unruly spirit whose offences promised to be so heinous. It was
not merely from the hateful sight of his rival, or the monotonous
expostulation of his mother, that the poor youth fled; it was sometimes
to escape the heavily chastening hand of his bigoted father.

These things worked keenly and constantly in the mind of William
Hinkley. They acquired additional powers of ferment from the coldness of
Margaret Cooper, and from the goadings of his cousin. Naturally one of
the gentlest of creatures, the young man was not deficient in spirit.
What seemed to his more rude and elastic relative a token of imbecility,
was nothing more than the softening influence of his reflective and
mental over his physical powers. These, under the excitement of his
blood were necessarily made subject to his animal impulses, and when he
left the house that morning, with his Blackstone under his arm, on
his way to the peaceful cottage of old Calvert, where he pursued his
studies, his mind was in a perfect state of chaos. Of the chapter which
he had striven to compass the previous night, in which the rights of
persons are discussed with the usual clearness of style, but the usual
one-sidedness of judgment of that smooth old monarchist, William Hinkley
scarcely remembered a solitary syllable. He had read only with his eyes.
His mind had kept no pace with his proceedings, and though he strove as
he went along to recall the heads of topics, the points and principles
of what he had been reading, his efforts at reflection, by insensible
but sudden transitions, invariably concluded with some image of strife
and commotion, in which he was one of the parties and Alfred Stevens
another; the beautiful, proud face of Margaret Cooper being always
unaccountably present, and seeming to countenance, with its scornful
smiles, the spirit of strife which operated upon the combatants.

This mood had the most decided effect upon his appearance; and the
good old man, Calvert, whose attention had been already drawn to the
condition of distress and suffering which he manifested, was now more
than ever struck with the seemingly sudden increase of this expression
upon his face. It was Saturday--the saturnalia of schoolboys--and a day
of rest to the venerable teacher. He was seated before his door, under
the shadows of his paternal oak, once more forgetting the baffled aims
and profitless toils of his own youthful ambition, in the fascinating
pages of that historical romancer the stout Abbe Vertot. But a glance at
the youth soon withdrew his mind from this contemplation, and the sombre
pages of the present opened upon his eye, and the doubtful ones of the
future became, on the instant, those which he most desired to peruse.

The study of the young is always a study of the past with the old. They
seem, in such a contemplation, to live over the records of memory. They
feel as one just returning from a long and weary journey, who encounters
another, freshly starting to traverse the same weary but inviting track.
Something in the character of William Hinkley, which seemed to resemble
his own, made this feeling yet more active in the mind of Mr. Calvert;
and his earnest desire was to help the youth forward on the path which,
he soon perceived, it was destined that the other should finally take.
He was not satisfied with the indecision of character which the youth
displayed. But how could he blame it harshly? It was in this very
respect that his own character had failed, and though he felt that all
his counsels were to be addressed to this point, yet he knew not where;
or in what manner, to begin. The volume of Blackstone which the youth
carried suggested to him a course, however. He bade the young man bring
out a chair, and taking the book in his hand, he proceeded to examine
him upon parts of the volume which he professed to have been reading.

This examination, as it had the effect of compelling the mind of the
student to contract itself to a single subject of thought, necessarily
had the further effect of clearing it somewhat from the chaos of clouds
which had been brooding over it, obscuring the light, and defeating
the warmth of the intellectual sun behind them; and if the examination
proved the youth to have been very little of a student, or one who had
been reading with a vacant mind, it also proved that the original powers
of his intellect were vigorous and various--that he had an analytical
capacity of considerable compass; was bold in opinion, ingenious in
solution, and with a tendency to metaphysical speculation, which,
modified by the active wants and duties of a large city-practice, would
have made him a subtle lawyer, and a very logical debater. But the blush
kept heightening on the youth’s cheeks as the examination proceeded. He
had answered, but he felt all the while how much his answer had sprung
from his own conjectures and how little from his authorities. The
examination convinced him that the book had been so much waste-paper
under his thumb. When it was ended the old man closed the volume, laid
it on the sward beside him, and looked, with a mingled expression of
interest and commiseration, on his face. William Hinkley noted this
expression, and spoke, with a degree of mortification in look and
accent, which he did not attempt to hide:--

“I am afraid, sir, you will make nothing of me. I can make nothing of
myself. I am almost inclined to give up in despair. I will be nothing--I
can be nothing. I feared as much from the beginning, sir. You only waste
your time on me.”

“You speak too fast, William--you let your blood mingle too much with
your thoughts. Let me ask you one question. How long will you be content
to live as you do now--seeking nothing--performing nothing--being
nothing?”

The youth was silent.

“I, you see, am nothing,” continued the old man--“nay, do not interrupt
me. You will tell me, as you have already told me, that I am much, and
have done much, here in Charlemont. But, for all that I am, and have
done here, I need not have gone beyond my accidence. My time has been
wasted; my labors, considered as means to ends, were unnecessary; I have
toiled without the expected profits of toil; I have drawn water in a
sieve. It is not pleasant for me to recall these things, much less to
speak of them; but it is for your good that I told you my story. You
have, as I had, certain defects of character--not the same exactly, but
of the same family complexion. To be something, you must be resolved.
You must devote yourself, heart and mind, with all your soul and with
all your strength, to the business you have undertaken. Shut your
windows against the sunshine, your ears to the song of birds, your heart
against the fascinations of beauty; and if you never think of the last
until you are thirty, you will be then a better judge of beauty, a truer
lover, a better husband, a more certain candidate for happiness. Let
me assure you that, of the hundred men that take wives before they are
thirty, there is scarcely one who, in his secret soul, does not repent
it--scarcely one who does not look back with yearning to the days when
he was free.”

There was a pause. The young man became very much agitated. He rose from
his chair, walked apart for a few moments, and then, returning, resumed
his seat by the old man.

“I believe you are right, sir--nay, I know you are; but I can not be
at once--I can not promise--to be all that you wish. If Margaret Cooper
would consent, I would marry her to-morrow.”

The old man shook his head, but remained silent. The young one
proceeded:--

“One thing I will say, however: I will take to my studies after this
week, whatever befalls, with the hearty resolution which you recommend.
I will try to shut out the sunshine and the song. I will endeavor to
devote soul and strength, and heart and mind, to the task before me. I
KNOW that I can master these studies--I think I can”--he continued,
more modestly, modifying the positive assertion--“and I know that it is
equally my interest and duty to do so. I thank you sir, very much for
what you have told me. Believe me, it has not fallen upon heedless or
disrespectful ears.”

The old man pressed his hand.

“I know THAT, my son, and I rejoice to think that, having given me these
assurances, you will strive hard to make them good.”

“I will, sir!” replied William, taking up his cap to depart.

“But whither are you going now?”

The youth blushed as he replied frankly:--

“To the widow Cooper’s. I’m going to see Margaret.”

“Well, well!” said the old man, as the youth disappeared, “if it must be
done, the sooner it’s over the better. But there’s another moth to the
flame. Fortunately, he will be singed only; but she!--what is left
for her--so proud, yet so confiding--so confident of strength, yet so
artless? But it is useless to look beyond, and very dismal.”

And the speaker once more took up Vertot, and was soon lost amid the
glories of the knights of St. John. His studies were interrupted by the
sudden and boisterous salutation of Ned Hinkley:--

“Well, gran’pa, hard at the big book as usual? No end to the fun of
fighting, eh? I confess, if ever I get to love reading, it’ll be in some
such book as that. But reading’s not natural to me, though you made me
do enough of it while you had me. Bill was the boy for the books, and
I for the hooks. By-the-way, talking of hooks, how did those trout eat?
Fine, eh? I haven’t seen you since the day of our ducking.”

“No, Ned, and I’ve been looking for you. Where have you been?”

“Working, working! Everything’s been going wrong. Lines snapped,
fiddle-strings cracked, hooks missing, gun rusty, and Bill Hinkley so
sulky, that his frown made a shadow on the wall as large and ugly as a
buffalo’s. But where is he? I came to find him here.”

While he was speaking, the lively youth squatted down, and deliberately
took his seat on the favorite volume which Mr. Calvert had laid upon the
sward at his approach.

“Take the chair, Ned,” said the old man, with a smaller degree of
kindness in his tone than was habitual with him. “Take the chair.
Books are sacred things--to be worshipped and studied, not employed as
footstools.”

“Why, what’s the hurt, gran’pa?” demanded the young man, though he rose
and did as he was bidden. “If ‘twas a fiddle, now, there would be some
danger of a crash, but a big book like that seems naturally made to sit
upon.”

The old man answered him mildly:--

“I have learned to venerate books, Ned, and can no more bear to see
them abused than I could bear to be abused myself. It seems to me like
treating their writers and their subjects with scorn. If you were to
contemplate the venerable heads of the old knights with my eyes and
feelings, you would see why I wish to guard them from everything like
disrespect.”

“Well, I beg their pardon--a thousand pardons! I meant no offence,
gran’pa--and can’t help thinking that it’s all a notion of yours, your
reverencing such old Turks and Spaniards that have been dead a thousand
years. They were very good people, no doubt, but I’m thinking they’ve
served their turn; and I see no more harm in squatting upon their
histories than in walking over their graves, which, if I were in their
country of Jericho--that was where they lived, gran’pa, wa’n’t it?--I
should be very apt to do without asking leave, I tell you.”

Ned Hinkley purposely perverted his geography and history. There was a
spice of mischief in his composition, and he grinned good-naturedly as
he watched the increasing gravity upon the old man’s face.

“Come, come, gran’pa, don’t be angry. You know my fun is a sort of
fizz--there’s nothing but a flash--nothing to hurt--no shotting. But
where’s Bill Hinkley, gran’pa?”

“Gone to the widow Cooper’s, to see Margaret.”

“Ah! well, I’m glad he’s made a beginning. But I’d much rather he’d have
seen the other first.”

“What other do you mean?” demanded the old man; but the speaker, though
sufficiently random and reckless in what he said, saw the impolicy
of allowing the purpose of his cousin in regard to Stevens to be
understood. He contrived to throw the inquirer off.

“Gran’pa, do you know there’s something in this fellow Stevens that
don’t altogether please me? I’m not satisfied with him.”

“Ah, indeed! what do you see to find fault with?”

“Well, you see, he comes here pretending to study. Now, in the first
place, why should he come here to study? why didn’t he stay at home with
his friends and parents?”

“Perhaps he had neither. Perhaps he had no home. You might as well ask
me why I came here, and settled down, where I was not born--where I had
neither friends nor parents.”

“Oh, no, but you told us why,” said the other. “You gave us a reason for
what you did.”

“And why may not the stranger give a reason too?”

“He don’t, though.”

“Perhaps he will when you get intimate with him. I see nothing in
this to be dissatisfied with. I had not thought you so suspicious, Ned
Hinkley--so little charitable.”

“Charity begins at home, gran’pa. But there’s more in this matter.
This man comes here to study to be a parson. How does he study? Can you
guess?”

“I really can not.”

“By dressing spruce as a buck--curling his hair backward over his ears
something like a girl’s, and going out, morning, noon, and night, to see
Margaret Cooper.”

“As there is no good reason to suppose that a student of divinity
is entirely without the affections of humanity, I still see nothing
inconsistent with his profession in this conduct.”

“But how can he study?”

“Ah! it may be inconsistent with his studies though not with his
profession. It is human without being altogether proper. You see that
your cousin neglects his studies in the same manner. I presume that the
stranger also loves Miss Cooper.”

“But he has no such right as Bill Hinkley.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Why, Bill is a native here, has been loving her for the last
year or more. His right certainly ought to be much greater than that of
a man whom nobody knows--who may be the man in the moon for anything we
know to the contrary--just dropped in upon us, nobody knows how, to do
nobody knows what.”

“All that may be very true, Ned, and yet his right to seek Miss Cooper
may be just as good as that of yourself or mine. You forget that it all
depends upon the young lady herself whether either of them is to have a
right at all in her concerns.”

“Well, that’s a subject we needn’t dispute about, gran’pa, when there’s
other things. Now, isn’t it strange that this stranger should ride off
once a week with his valise on his saddle, just as if he was starting on
a journey--should be gone half a day--then come back with his nag all
in a foam, and after that you should see him in some new cravat, or
waistcoat, or pantaloons, just as if he had gone home and got a change?”

“And does he do that?” inquired Mr. Calvert, with some show of
curiosity.

“That he does, and he always takes the same direction; and it seems--so
Aunt Sarah herself says, though she thinks him a small sort of divinity
on earth--that the day before, he’s busy writing letters, and, according
to her account, pretty long letters too. Well, nobody sees that he ever
gets any letters in return. He never asks at the post-office, so Jacob
Zandts himself tells me, and that’s strange enough, too, if so be he has
any friends or relations anywhere else.”

Mr. Calvert listened with interest to these and other particulars which
his young companion had gathered respecting the habits of the stranger;
and he concurred with his informant in the opinion that there was
something in his proceedings which was curious and perhaps mysterious.
Still, he did not think it advisable to encourage the prying and
suspicious disposition of the youth, and spoke to this effect in the
reply which finally dismissed the subject. Ned Hinkley was silenced not
satisfied.

“There’s something wrong about it,” he muttered to himself on leaving
the old man, “and, by dickens! I’ll get to the bottom of it, or there’s
no taste in Salt-river. The fellow’s a rascal; I feel it if I don’t know
it, and if Bill Hinkley don’t pay him off, I must. One or t’other must
do it, that’s certain.”

With these reflections, which seemed to him to be no less moral than
social, the young man took his way back to the village, laboring with
all the incoherence of unaccustomed thought, to strike out some process
by which to find a solution for those mysteries which were supposed to
characterize the conduct of the stranger. He had just turned out of
the gorge leading from Calvert’s house into the settlement, when he
encountered the person to whom his meditations were given, on horseback;
and going at a moderate gallop along the high-road to the country.
Stevens bowed to him and drew up for speech as he drew nigh. At first
Ned Hinkley appeared disposed to avoid him, but moved by a sudden
notion, he stopped and suffered himself to speak with something more of
civility than he had hitherto shown to the same suspected personage.

“Why, you’re not going to travel, Parson Stevens,” said he--“you’re not
going to leave us, are you?”

“No, sir--I only wish to give myself and horse a stretch of a few miles
for the sake of health. Too much stable, they say, makes a saucy nag.”

“So it does, and I may say, a saucy man too. But seeing you with your
valise, I thought you were off for good.”

Stevens said something about his being so accustomed to ride with the
valise that he carried it without thinking.

“I scarcely knew I had it on!”

“That’s a lie all round,” said Ned Hinkley to himself as the other rode
off. “Now, if I was mounted, I’d ride after him and see where he goes
and what he’s after. What’s to hinder? It’s but a step to the stable,
and but five minutes to the saddle. Dang it, but I’ll take trail this
time if I never did before.”



CHAPTER XIX.

THE DOOM.



With this determination our suspicious youth made rapid progress in
getting out his horse. A few minutes saw him mounted, and putting
some of his resolution into his heels, he sent the animal forward at a
killing start, under the keen infliction of the spur. He had marked with
his eye the general course which Stevens had taken up the hills, and
having a nag of equal speed and bottom, did not scruple, in the great
desire which he felt, to ascertain the secret of the stranger, to make
him display the qualities of both from the very jump. Stevens had been
riding with a free rein, but in consequence of these energetic measures
on the part of Hinkley, the latter soon succeeded in overhauling him.
Still he had already gone a space of five miles, and this, too, in
one direction. He looked back when he found himself pursued, and his
countenance very clearly expressed the chagrin which he felt. This
he strove, but with very indifferent success, to hide from the keen
searching eyes of his pursuer. He drew up to wait his coming, and there
was a dash of bitterness in his tones as he expressed his “gratification
at finding a companion where he least expected one.”

“And perhaps, parson, when you didn’t altogether wish for one,” was the
reply of the reckless fellow. “The truth is, I know I’m not the sort of
company that a wise, sensible, learned, and pious young gentleman would
like to keep, out the truth is what you said about taking a stretch, man
and beast, seemed to me to be just about as wise a thing for me and
my beast also. We’ve been lying by so long that I was getting a little
stiff in my joints, and Flipflap, my nag here, was getting stiff in his
neck, as they say was the case with the Jews in old times, so I took
your idea and put after you, thinking that you’d agree with me that bad
company’s far better than none.”

There was a mixture of simplicity and archness in the manner of the
speaker that put Stevens somewhat at fault; but he saw that it wouldn’t
do to show the dudgeon which he really felt; and smoothing his quills
with as little obvious effort as possible, he expressed his pleasure at
the coming of his companion. While doing so, he wheeled his horse about,
and signified a determination to return.

“What! so soon? Why, Lord bless you, Flipflap has scarcely got in motion
yet. If such a stir will do for your nag ‘twont do for him.”

But Stevens doggedly kept his horse’s head along the back track, though
the animal himself exhibited no small restlessness and a disposition to
go forward.

“Well, really, Parson Stevens, I take it as unkind that you turn back
almost the very moment I join you. I seem to have scared ride out of you
if not out of your creature; but do as you please. I’ll ride on, now I’m
out. I don’t want to force myself on any man for company.”

Stevens disclaimed any feeling of this sort, but declared he had ridden
quite as far as he intended; and while he hesitated, Hinkley cut the
matter short by putting spurs to his steed, and going out of sight in a
moment.

“What can the cur mean?” demanded Stevens of himself, the moment after
they had separated. “Can he have any suspicions? Ha! I must be watchful!
At all events, there’s no going forward to-day. I must put it off for
next week; and meanwhile have all my eyes about me. The fellow seems to
have as much cunning as simplicity. He is disposed too, to be insolent
I marked his manner at the lake, as well as that of his bull-headed
cousin; but that sousing put anger out of me, and then, again, ‘twill
scarcely do in these good days for such holy men as myself to take up
cudgels. I must bear it for awhile as quietly as possible. It will not
be long. She at least is suspicionless. Never did creature so
happily delude herself. Yet what a judgment in some things! What keen
discrimination! What a wild, governless imagination! She would be a
prize, if it were only to exhibit. How she would startle the dull,
insipid, tea-table simperers on our Helicon--nay, with what scorn she
would traverse the Helicon itself. The devil is that she would have a
will in spite of her keeper. Such an animal is never tamed. There could
be no prescribing to her the time when she should roar--no teaching her
to fawn and fondle, and not to rend. Soul, and eye, and tongue, would
speak under the one impulse, in the exciting moment; and when Mrs.
Singalongohnay was squeaking out her eternal requiems--her new versions
of the Psalms and Scriptures--her blank verse elegiacs--oh! how
blank!--beginning, ‘Night was upon the hills,’--or ‘The evening veil
hung low,’ or, ‘It slept,’--or after some other equally threatening form
and fashion--I can fancy how the bright eye of Margaret would gleam with
scorn; and while the Pollies and Dollies, the Patties and Jennies, the
Corydons and Jemmy Jesamies, all round were throwing up hands and eyes
in a sort of rapture, how she would look, with what equal surprise and
contempt, doubting her own ears, and sickening at the stuff and the
strange sycophancy which induced it. And should good old Singalongohnay,
with a natural and patronizing visage, approach, and venture to talk to
her about poetry, with that assured smile of self-excellence which such
a venerable authority naturally employs, how she would turn upon the
dame and exclaim--‘What! do you call that poetry?’ What a concussion
would follow. How the simperers would sheer off; the tea that night
might as well be made of aqua-fortis. Ha! ha! I can fancy the scene
before me. Nothing could be more rich. I must give her a glimpse of such
a scene. It will be a very good mode of operation. Her pride and vanity
will do the rest. I have only to intimate the future sway--the exclusive
sovereignty which would follow--the overthrow of the ancient idols, and
the setting up of a true divinity in herself. But shall it be so, Master
Stevens? Verily, that will be seen hereafter. Enough, if the delusion
takes. If I can delude the woman through the muse, I am satisfied. The
muse after that may dispose of the woman as she pleases.”

Such was a portion of the soliloquy of the libertine as he rode slowly
back to Charlemont. His further musings we need not pursue at present.
It is enough to say that they were of the same family character. He
returned to his room as soon as he reached his lodging-house, and
drawing from his pocket a bundle of letters which he had intended
putting in the postoffice at Ellisland, he carefully locked them up in
his portable writing-desk which he kept at the bottom of his valise.
When the devout Mrs. Hinkley tapped at his door to summon him to dinner,
the meritorious young man was to be seen, seated at his table, with the
massive Bible of the family conspicuously open before him. Good young
man! never did he invoke a blessing on the meats with more holy unction
than on that very day.

Meanwhile, let us resume our progress with William Hinkley, and inquire
in what manner his wooing sped with the woman whom he so unwisely loved.
We have seen him leaving the cottage of Mr. Calvert with the avowed
purpose of seeking a final answer. A purpose from which the old man did
not seek to dissuade him, though he readily conceived its fruitlessness.
It was with no composed spirit that the young rustic felt himself
approaching the house of Mrs. Cooper. More than once he hesitated
and even halted. But a feeling of shame, and the efforts of returning
manliness re-resolved him, and he hurried with an unwonted rapidity of
movement toward the dwelling, as if he distrusted his own power, unless
he did so, to conclude the labor he had begun.

He gathered some courage when he found that Margaret was from home. She
had gone on her usual rambles. Mrs. Cooper pointed out the course which
she had taken, and the young man set off in pursuit. The walks of the
maiden were of course well known to a lover so devoted. He had sought
and followed her a thousand times, and the general direction which she
had gone, once known, his progress was as direct as his discoveries were
certain. The heart of the youth, dilated with better hopes as he felt
himself traversing the old familiar paths. It seemed to him that the
fates could scarcely be adverse in a region which had always been so
friendly. Often had he escorted her along this very route, when their
spirits better harmonized--when, more of the girl struggling into
womanhood, the mind of Margaret Cooper, ignorant of its own resources
and unconscious of its maturer desires, was more gentle, and could
rejoice in that companionship for which she now betrayed so little
desire. The sheltered paths and well-known trees, even the little
clumps of shrubbery that filled up the intervals, were too pleasant and
familiar to his eye not to seem favorable to his progress, and with a
hope that had no foundation, save in the warm and descriptive colors of
a young heart’s fancy, William Hinkley pursued the route which led him
to one of the most lovely and love-haunted glades in all Kentucky.

So sweet a hush never hallowed the sabbath rest of any forest. The very
murmur of a drowsy zephyr among the leaves was of slumberous tendency;
and silence prevailed, with the least possible exertion of her
authority, over the long narrow dell through which the maiden had gone
wandering. At the foot of a long slope, to which his eye was conducted
by a natural and lovely vista, the youth beheld the object of his
search, sitting, motionless, with her back toward him. The reach of
light was bounded by her figure which was seated on the decaying trunk
of a fallen tree. She was deeply wrapped in thought, for she did not
observe his approach, and when his voice reached her ears, and she
started and looked round, her eyes were full of tears. These she hastily
brushed away, and met the young man with a degree of composure which
well might have put the blush upon his cheek, for the want of it.

“In tears!--weeping, Margaret?” was the first address of the lover who
necessarily felt shocked at what he saw.

“They were secret tears, sir--not meant for other eyes,” was the
reproachful reply.

“Ah, Margaret! but why should you have secret tears, when you might have
sympathy--why should you have tears at all? You have no sorrows.”

“Sympathy!” was the exclamation of the maiden, while a scornful smile
gleamed from her eyes; “whose sympathy, I pray?”

The young man hesitated to answer. The expression of her eye discouraged
him. He dreaded lest, in offering his sympathies, he should extort from
her lips a more direct intimation of that scorn which he feared. He
chose a middle course.

“But that you should have sorrows, Margaret, seems very strange to me.
You are young and hearty; endowed beyond most of your sex, and with
a beauty which can not be too much admired. Your mother is hearty and
happy, and for years you have had no loss of relations to deplore. I see
not why you should have sorrows.”

“It is very likely, William Hinkley, that you do not see. The ordinary
sorrows of mankind arise from the loss of wives and cattle, children and
property. There are sorrows of another kind; sorrows of the soul; the
consciousness of denial; of strife--strife to be continued--strife
without victory--baffled hopes--defeated aims and energies. These are
sorrows which are not often computed in the general account. It is
highly probable that none of them afflict you. You have your parents,
and very good people they are. You yourself are no doubt a very good
young man--so everybody says--and you have health and strength.
Besides, you have property, much more, I am told, than falls to the lot
ordinarily of young people in this country. These are reasons why you
should not feel any sorrow; but were all these mine and a great deal
more, I’m afraid it would not make me any more contented. You, perhaps,
will not understand this, William Hinkley, but I assure you that such,
nevertheless is my perfect conviction.”

“Yes, I can, and do understand it, Margaret,” said the young man, with
flushed cheek and a very tremulous voice, as he listened to language
which, though not intended to be contemptuous, was yet distinctly
colored by that scornful estimate which the maiden had long since made
of the young man’s abilities. In this respect she had done injustice to
his mind, which had been kept in subjection and deprived of its ordinary
strength and courage, by the enfeebling fondness of his heart.

“Yes, Margaret,” he continued, “I can and do understand it, and I too
have my sorrows of this very sort. Do not smile, Margaret, but hear me
patiently, and believe, that, whatever may be the error which I commit,
I have no purpose to offend you in what I say or do. Perhaps, we are
both of us quite too young to speak of the sorrows which arise from
defeated hopes, or baffled energies, or denial of our rights and claims.
The yearnings and apprehensions which we are apt to feel of this sort
are not to be counted as sorrows, or confounded with them. I had a
conversation on this very subject only a few days ago, with old Mr.
Calvert, and this was his very opinion.”

The frankness with which William Hinkley declared the source of his
opinions, though creditable to his sincerity, was scarcely politic--it
served to confirm Margaret Cooper in the humble estimate which she had
formed of the speaker.

“Mr. Calvert,” said she, “is a very sensible old man, but neither he
nor you can enter into the heart of another and say what shall, or what
shall not be its source of trouble. It is enough, William Hinkley, that
I have my cares--at least I fancy that I have them--and though I am
very grateful for your sympathies, I do not know that they can do me any
good, and, though I thank you, I must yet decline them.”

“Oh, do not say so, Margaret--dear Margaret--it is to proffer them that
I seek you now. You know how long I have sought you, and loved you: you
can not know how dear you are to my eyes, how necessary to my happiness!
Do not repulse me--do not speak quickly. What I am, and what I have, is
yours. We have grown up together; I have known no other hope, no other
love, but that for you. Look not upon me with that scornful glance--hear
me--I implore you--on my knee, dear Margaret. I implore you as for
life--for something more dear than life--that which will make life
precious--which may make it valuable. Be mine, dear Margaret--”

“Rise, William Hinkley, and do not forget yourself!” was the stern,
almost deliberate answer of the maiden.

“Do not, I pray you, do not speak in those tones, dear Margaret--do not
look on me with those eyes. Remember before you speak, that the dearest
hope of a devoted heart hangs upon your lips.”

“And what have you seen in me, or what does your vain conceit behold in
yourself, William Hinkley, to make you entertain a hope?”

“The meanest creature has it.”

“Aye, but only of creatures like itself.”

“Margaret!” exclaimed the lover starting to his feet.

“Ay, sir, I say it. If the meanest creature has its hope, it relates to
a creature like itself--endowed with its own nature and fed with like
sympathies. But you--what should make you hope of me? Have I not long
avoided you, discouraged you? I would have spared you the pain of this
moment by escaping it myself. You haunt my steps--you pursue me--you
annoy me with attentions which I dare not receive for fear of
encouraging you, and in spite of all this, which everybody in the
village must have seen but yourself, you still press yourself upon me.”

“Margaret Cooper, be not so proud!”

“I am what I am! I know that I am proud--vain, perhaps, and having
little to justify either pride or vanity; but to you, William Hinkley,
as an act of justice, I must speak what I feel--what is the truth. I am
sorry, from my very soul, that you love me, for I can have no feeling
for you in return. I do not dislike you, but you have so oppressed me
that I would prefer not to see you. We have no feelings in common. You
can give me no sympathies. My soul, my heart, my hope--every desire of
my mind, every impulse of my heart, leads me away from you--from
all that you can give--from all that you can relish. To you it would
suffice, if all your life could be spent here in Charlemont--to me it
would be death to think that any such doom hung over me. From this one
sentiment judge of the rest, and know, for good and all, that I can
never feel for you other than I feel now. I can not love you, nor can
the knowledge that you love me, give me any but a feeling of pain and
mortification.”

William Hinkley had risen to his feet. His form had put on an unusual
erectness. His eye had gradually become composed; and now it wore an
expression of firmness almost amounting to defiance. He heard her with
only an occasional quiver of the muscles about his mouth. The flush of
shame and pride was still red upon his cheek When she had finished,
he spoke to her in tones of more dignity than had hitherto marked his
speech.

“Margaret Cooper, you have at least chosen the plainest language to
declare a cruel truth.”

The cheek of the girl became suddenly flushed.

“Do you suppose,” she said, “that I found pleasure in giving you pain?
No! William Hinkley, I am sorry for you! But this truth, which you call
cruel, was shown to you repeatedly before. Any man but yourself would
have seen it, and saved me the pain of its frequent repetition. You
alone refused to understand, until it was rendered cruel. It was only by
the plainest language that you could be made to believe a truth that you
either would not or could not otherwise be persuaded to hear. If cold
looks, reserved answers, and a determined rejection of all familiarity
could have availed, you would never have heard from my lips a solitary
word which could have brought you mortification. You would have seen my
feelings in my conduct, and would have spared your own that pain, which
I religiously strove to save them.”

“I have, indeed, been blind and deaf,” said the young man; “but you have
opened my eyes and ears, Margaret, so that I am fully cured of these
infirmities. If your purpose, in this plain mode of speech, be such as
you have declared it, then I must thank you; though it is very much as
one would thank the dagger that puts him out of his pain by putting him
out of life.”

There was so much of subdued feeling in this address--the more intense
in its effect, from the obvious restraint put upon it, that the heart of
the maiden was touched. The dignified bearing of the young man, also--so
different from that which marked his deportment hitherto--was not
without its effect.

“I assure you, William Hinkley, that such alone was my motive for what
else would seem a most wanton harshness. I would not be harsh to you or
to anybody; and with my firm rejection of your proffer, I give you my
regrets that you ever made it. It gives me no pleasure that you should
make it. If I am vain, my vanity is not flattered or quickened by a
tribute which I can not accept; and if you never had my sympathy before,
William Hinkley, I freely give it now. Once more I tell you, I am sorry,
from the bottom of my heart, that you ever felt for me a passion which I
can not requite, and that you did not stifle it from the beginning; as,
Heaven knows, my bearing toward you, for a whole year, seemed to me to
convey sufficient warning.”

“It should have done so! I can now very easily understand it, Margaret.
Indeed, Mr. Calvert and others told me the same thing. But as I have
said, I was blind and deaf. Once more, I thank you, Margaret--it is a
bitter medicine which you have given me, but I trust a wholesome one.”

He caught her hand and pressed it in his own. She did not resist or
withdraw it, and, after the retention of an instant only, he released
it, and was about to turn away. A big tear was gathering in his eye,
and he strove to conceal it. Margaret averted her head, and was about to
move forward in an opposite direction, when the voice of the young man
arrested her:--

“Stay, but a few moments more, Margaret. Perhaps we shall never meet
again--certainly not in a conference like this. I may have no other
opportunity to say that which, in justice to you, should be spoken. Will
you listen to me, patiently?”

“Speak boldly, William Hinkley. It was the subject of which you spoke
heretofore which I shrunk from rather than the speaker.”

“I know not,” said he, “whether the subject of which I propose to speak
now will be any more agreeable than that of which we have spoken. At
all events, my purpose is your good, and I shall speak unreservedly. You
have refused the prayer of one heart, Margaret, which, if unworthy of
yours, was yet honestly and fervently devoted to it. Let me warn you to
look well when you do choose, lest you fall into the snares of one,
who with more talent may be less devoted, and with more claims to
admiration, may be far less honest in his purpose.”

“What mean you, sir?” she demanded hurriedly, with an increasing glow
upon her face.

“This stranger--this man, Stevens!”

“What of him? What do you know of the stranger that you should give me
this warning?”

“What does anybody know of him? Whence does he come--whither would he
go? What brings him here to this lonely village?--”

A proud smile which curled the lips of Margaret Cooper arrested the
speech of the youth. It seemed to say, very distinctly, that she, at
least, could very well conjecture what brought the stranger so far from
the travelled haunts.

“Ha! do you then know, Margaret?”

“And if I did not, William Hinkley, these base insinuations against
the man, of whom, knowing nothing, you would still convey the worst
imputations, would never move my mind a hair’s breadth from its proper
balance. Go, sir--you have your answer. I need not your counsel. I
should be sorry to receive it from such a source. Failing in your own
attempt, you would seek to fill my mind with calumnious impressions
in order to prejudice the prospects of another. For shame! for shame,
William Hinkley. I had not thought this of you. But go! go! go, at once,
lest I learn to loathe as well as despise you. I thought you simple and
foolish, but honorable and generous. I was mistaken even in this. Go,
sir, your slanderous insinuations have no effect upon me, and as
for Alfred Stevens, you are as far below him in nobleness and honest
purpose, as you are in every quality of taste and intellect.”

Her face was the very breathing image of idealized scorn and beauty as
she uttered these stinging words. Her nostrils were dilated, her eyes
flashing fire, her lips slightly protruded and parted, her hand waving
him off. The young man gazed upon her with wild looks equally expressive
of anger and agony. His form fairly writhed beneath his emotions; but he
found strength enough gaspingly to exclaim:--

“And even this I forgive you, Margaret.”

“Go! go!” she answered; “you know not what you say, or what you are. Go!
go!”

And turning away, she moved slowly up the long avenue before her, till,
by a sudden turn of the path she was hidden from the sight. Then, when
his eye could no longer follow her form, the agony of his soul burst
forth in a single groan, and staggering, he fell forward upon the sward,
hopeless, reckless, in a wretched condition of self-abandonment and
despair.



CHAPTER XX.

BLOWS--A CRISIS.



But this mood lasted not long. Youth, pride, anger, asserted themselves
before the lapse of many minutes. Darker feelings got possession of his
mind. He rose to his feet. If love was baffled, was there not revenge?
Then came the recollection of his cousin’s counsel. Should this artful
stranger triumph in everything? Margaret Cooper had scarcely disguised
the interest which she felt in him. Nay, had not that exulting glance
of the eye declared that she, at least, knew what was the purpose
of Stevens in seeking the secluded village? His own wrongs were
also present to his mind. This usurper had possessed himself of the
affections of all he loved--of all of whose love he had till then
felt himself secure--all but the good old schoolmaster, and the sturdy
schoolmate and cousin. And how soon might he deprive him even of these?
That was a new fear! So rapid had been the stranger’s progress--so
adroitly had he insinuated himself into this Eden of the
wilderness--bringing discontent and suffering in his train--that the
now thoroughly-miserable youth began to fancy that nothing could be safe
from his influence. In a short time his garden would all be overrun, and
his loveliest plants would wither.

Was there no remedy for this? There was! and traversing the solemn
recesses of that wood, he meditated the various modes by which the
redress of wrong, and slight and indignity, were to be sought. He
brooded over images of strife, and dark and savage ideas of power
rioting over its victim, with entirely new feelings--feelings new at
least to him. We have not succeeded in doing him justice, nor in our own
design, if we have failed to show that he was naturally gentle of
heart, rigidly conscientious, a lover of justice for its own sake, and
solicitously sensitive on the subject of another’s feelings. But the
sense of suffering will blind the best judgment, and the feeling of
injury will arouse and irritate the gentlest nature. Besides, William
Hinkley, though meek and conscientious, had not passed through his
youth, in the beautiful but wild border country in which he lived,
without having been informed, and somewhat influenced, by those
characteristic ideas of the modes and manner in which personal wrongs
were to be redressed.

Perhaps, had his cousin said nothing to him on this subject, his
feelings would have had very much the same tendency and general
direction which they were taking now. A dark and somewhat pleasurable
anxiety to be in conflict with his rival--a deadly conflict--a close,
hard death-struggle--was now the predominant feeling in his mind;--but
the feeling was not ALTOGETHER a pleasurable one. It had its pains and
humiliations, also. Not that he had any fears--any dread of the issue.
Of the issue he never thought. But it disturbed the long and peaceful
order of his life. It conflicted with the subdued tastes of the student.
It was at war with that gentle calm of atmosphere, which letters diffuse
around the bower of the muse.

In the conflict of his thoughts and feelings, the judgment of the youth
was impaired. He forgot his prudence. In fact, he knew not what he did.
He entered the dwelling of his father, and passed into the dining-room,
at that solemn moment when the grace before meat was yet in course of
utterance by our worthy Brother Stevens. Hitherto, old Mr. Hinkley had
religiously exacted that, whenever any of the household failed to be
present in season, this ceremony should never be disturbed. They were
required, hat in hand, to remain at the entrance, until the benediction
had been implored; and, only after the audible utterance of the word
“Amen,” to approach the cloth.

We have shown little of old Hinkley. It has not been necessary. The
reader has seen enough, however, to understand that, in religious
matters--at least in the forms and externals of religion--he was a rigid
disciplinarian. Upon grace before and after meat he always insisted. His
own prayers of this sort might have been unctuous, but they were never
short; and the meats were very apt to grow cold, while the impatience
of his hearers grew warm, before he finished. But through respect to the
profession, he waived his own peculiar privilege in behalf of Brother
Stevens; and this holy brother was in the middle of his entreaty, when
William Hinkley appeared at the door. He paused for an instant without
taking off his hat. Perhaps had his father been engaged in his office,
William would have forborne, as usual, however long the grace, and have
patiently waited without, hat off, until it had reached the legitimate
conclusion. But he had no such veneration for Stevens; and without
scruple he dashed, rather hastily, into the apartment, and flinging his
hat upon a chair, strode at once to the table.

The old man did not once raise his eyes until the prayer was over. He
would not have done so had the house been on fire. But at the close, he
looked up at his son with a brow of thunder. The cloud was of serious
and very unusual blackness. He had for some time been dissatisfied with
his son. He had seen that the youth entertained some aversion for his
guest. Besides, he had learned from his worthy consort, that, in an
endeavor of Brother Stevens to bestow good counsel upon the youth, he
had been repulsed with as little respect as ceremony. There was one
thing that the stern old man had not seen, and could not see; and that
was the altered appearance of the lad. As he knew of no reason why he
should be unhappy, so he failed to perceive in his appearance any of the
signs of unhappiness. He saw nothing but the violation of his laws, and
that sort of self-esteem which produces fanaticism, is always the most
rigid in the enforcement of its own ordinances. Already he regarded the
youth as in a state of rebellion and for such an offence his feeling was
very much that of the ancient puritan. No one more insists upon duty,
than he who has attained authority by flinging off the fetters of
obedience. Your toughest sinner usually makes the sourest saint.

“And is this the way, William Hinkley, that you show respect to God? Do
you despise the blessing which Brother Stevens asks upon the food which
sustains us?”

“I presume, sir, that God has already blessed all the food which he
bestows upon man. I do not think that any prayer of Brother Stevens can
render it more blessed.”

“Ha! you do not, do you? Please to rise from this table.”

“Nay, sir--” began Stevens.

“Rise, sir,” continued the old man, laying down knife and fork, and
confronting the offender with that dogged look of determination which in
a coarse nature is the sure sign of moral inflexibility.

“Forgive him, sir, this time,” said Stevens; “I entreat you to forgive
him. The young man knows not what he does.”

“I will make him know,” continued the other.

“Plead not for me, sir,” said William Hinkley, glaring upon Stevens
with something of that expression which in western parlance is called
wolfish, “I scorn and spurn your interference.”

“William, William, my dear son, do not speak so--do not make your father
angry.”

“Will you leave the table, sir, or not?” demanded the father, his words
being spoken very slowly, through his teeth, and with the effort of one
who seeks to conceal the growing agitation. The eyes of the mother fell
upon the youth full of tears and entreaty. His fine countenance betrayed
the conflicting emotions of his soul. There was grief, and anger,
despair and defiance; the consciousness of being wrong, and the more
painful consciousness of suffering wrong. He half started from his
chair, again resumed it, and gazing upon Stevens with the hate and agony
which he felt, seemed to be entirely forgetful of the words and presence
of the father. The old man deliberately rose from the table and left the
room. The mother now started up in an agony of fear.

“Run, my son--leave the room before your father comes back. Speak to
him, Brother Stevens, and tell him of the danger.”

“Do not call upon him, mother, if you would not have me defy you also.
If YOUR words will not avail with me, be sure that his can not.”

“What mean you, my son? You surely have no cause to be angry with
Brother Stevens.”

“No cause! no cause!--but it matters not! BROTHER Stevens knows that I
have cause. He has heard my defiance--he knows my scorn and hate, and he
shall feel them!”

“William, my son, how--”

The steps of the father, approaching through the passageway, diverted
her mind to a new terror. She knew the vindictive and harsh nature of
the old man; and apprehensions for her son superseded the feeling of
anger which his language had provoked.

“Oh, my son, be submissive, or fly. Jump out of the window, and leave
Brother Stevens and me to pacify him. We will do all we can.”

The unlucky allusion to Brother Stevens only increased the young man’s
obstinacy.

“I ask you not, mother. I wish you to do nothing, and to say nothing.
Here I will remain. I will not fly. It will be for my father and mother
to say whether they will expel their only son from their home, to make
room for a stranger.”

“It shall not be said that I have been the cause of this,” said Stevens,
rising with dignity from his chair; “I will leave your house, Mrs.
Hinkley, only regretting that I should be the innocent cause of any
misunderstanding or discontent among its members. I know not exactly
what can be the meaning of your son’s conduct. I have never offended
him; but, as my presence does offend him, I will withdraw myself--”

“You shall not!” exclaimed old Hinkley, who re-entered the room at this
moment, and had heard the last words of the speaker. “You shall not
leave the house. Had I fifty sons, and they were all to behave in the
manner of this viper, they should all leave it before you should stir
from the threshold.”

The old man brought with him a cowskin; and the maternal apprehensions
of his wife, who knew his severe and determined disposition, were now
awakened to such a degree as to overcome the feeling of deference, if
not fear, with which the authority of her liege lord had always inspired
her.

“Mr. Hinkley, you won’t strike William with that whip--you must not--you
shall not!” and, speaking thus, she started up and threw herself in the
old man’s way. He put her aside with no measured movement of his arm,
and approached the side of the table where the young man sat.

“Run, William, run, if you love me!” cried the terrified mother.

“I will not run!” was the answer of the youth, who rose from his seat,
however, at the same moment and confronted his father.

“Do not strike me, father! I warn you--do not strike me. I may be wrong,
but I have suffered wrong. I did not mean, and do not mean, to offend
you. Let that content you, but do not strike me.”

The answer was a blow. The whip descended once, and but once, upon the
shoulders of the young man. His whole frame was in a convulsion.
His eyes dilated with the anguish of his soul; his features worked
spasmodically. There was a moment’s hesitation. The arm that smote him
was again uplifted--the cruel and degrading instrument of punishment a
second time about to descend; when, with the strength of youth, and the
determination of manhood, the son grasped the arm of the father, and
without any more than the degree of violence necessary to effect his
object, he tore the weapon from the uplifted hand.

“I can not strike YOU.’” he exclaimed, addressing the old man. “That
blow has lost you your son--for ever! The shame and the dishonor shall
rest on other shoulders. They are better deserved here, and here I place
them!”

With these words, he smote Stevens over the shoulders, once, twice,
thrice, before the latter could close with him, or the father interfere
to arrest the attempt. Stevens sprang upon him, but the more athletic
countryman flung him off, and still maintained his weapon. The father
added his efforts to those of Stevens; but he shook himself free from
both, and, by this time, the mother had contrived to place herself
between the parties. William Hinkley then flung the whip from the
window, and moved toward the door. In passing Stevens, he muttered a few
words:--

“If there is any skin beneath the cloak of the parson, I trust I have
reached it.”

“Enough!” said the other, in the same low tone. “You shall have your
wish.”

The youth looked back once, with tearful eyes, upon his mother; and
making no other answer but a glance more full of sorrow than anger to
the furious flood of denunciation which the old man continued to pour
forth, he proceeded slowly from the apartment and the dwelling.



CHAPTER XXI.

CHALLENGE.



The whole scene passed in very few minutes. No time was given for
reflection, and each of the parties obeyed his natural or habitual
impulses. Old Hinkley, except when at prayers, was a man of few words.
He was much more prompt at deeds than words--a proof of which has
already been shown; but the good mother was not so patient, and made a
freer use of the feminine weapon than we have been willing to inflict
upon our readers. Though she heartily disapproved of her son’s conduct
toward Stevens, and regarded it as one of the most unaccountable
wonders, the offender was still her son. She never once forgot, or
could forget, that. But the rage of the old man was unappeasable. The
indignity to his guest, and that guest of a calling so sacred, was past
all forgiveness, as it was past all his powers of language fitly to
describe. He swore to pursue the offender with his wrath to the end of
the world, to cut him off equally from his fortune and forgiveness; and
when Brother Stevens, endeavoring to maintain the pacific and forgiving
character which his profession required, uttered some commonplace
pleading in the youth’s behalf, he silenced him by saying that, “were he
on the bed of death, and were the offender then to present himself,
the last prayer that he should make to Heaven would be for sufficient
strength to rise up and complete the punishment which he had then
begun.”

As for Stevens, though he professed a more charitable spirit, his
feelings were quite as hostile, and much more deadly. He was not without
that conventional courage which makes one, in certain states of society,
prompt enough to place himself in the fields of the duello. To this
condition of preparedness it has hitherto been the training of the West
that every man, at all solicitous of public life, must eventually come.
As a student of divinity, it was not a necessity with Alfred Stevens.
Nay, it was essential to the character which he professed that he should
eschew such a mode of arbitrament. But he reasoned on this subject, as
well with reference to past habits as to future responsibilities. His
present profession being simply a ruse d’amour (and, as he already began
to perceive, a harmless one in the eyes of the beauty whom he sought,
and whose intense feelings and unregulated mind did not suffer her to
perceive the serious defects of a character which should attempt so
impious a fraud), he was beginning to be somewhat indifferent to its
preservation; and, with the decline of his caution in this respect,
arose the natural inquiry as to what would be expected of him in his
former relations to society. Should it ever be known hereafter, at
a time when he stood before the people as a candidate for some high
political trust, that he had tamely submitted to the infliction of a
cowskin, the revelation would be fatal to all his hopes of ambition,
and conclusive against all his social pretensions. In short, so far as
society was concerned, it would be his social death.

These considerations were felt in their fullest force. Indeed, their
force can not well be conceived by the citizen of any community where
the sense of individual responsibility is less rigid and exacting. They
naturally outweighed all others in the mind of Alfred Stevens; and,
though no fire-eater, he not only resolved on fighting with Hinkley,
but, smarting under the strokes of the cowskin--heavily laid on as they
had been--his resolution was equally firm that, in the conflict, they
should not separate until blood was drawn. Of course, there were some
difficulties to be overcome in bringing about the meeting, but, where
the parties are willing, most difficulties are surmounted with tolerable
ease. This being the case at present, it followed that both minds were
busy at the same moment in devising the when, the how, and the where, of
the encounter.

William Hinkley went from the house of his father to that of his cousin;
but the latter had not yet returned from that ride which he had taken
in order to discover the course usually pursued by Stevens. Here he
sat down to dinner, but the sister of Ned Hinkley observed that he ate
little, and fancied he was sick. That he should come to dine with his
cousin was too frequent a matter to occasion question or surprise. This
lady was older than her brother by some seven years. She was a widow,
with an only child, a girl. The child was a prattling, smiling,
good-natured thing, about seven years old, who was never so happy
as when on Cousin William’s knee. Poor William, indeed, was quite a
favorite at every house in the village except that of Margaret Cooper,
and, as he sometimes used bitterly to add, his own. On this occasion,
however, the child was rendered unhappy by the seeming indifference of
Cousin William. The heart of the young man was too full of grief, and
his mind of anxiety, to suffer him to bestow the usual caresses upon
her; and when, putting her down, he passed into the chamber of Ned
Hinkley, the little thing went off to her mother, to complain of the
neglect she had undergone.

“Cousin William don’t love Susan any more, mamma,” was the burden of her
complaint.

“Why do you say so, Susan?”

“He don’t kiss me, mamma; he don’t keep me in his lap. He don’t say
good things to me, and call me his little sweetheart. I’m afraid Cousin
William’s got some other sweetheart. He don’t love Susan.”

It was while the little prattler was pouring forth her infantile sorrows
in her mother’s ear, that the voice of William Hinkley was heard,
calling her name from the chamber.

“There, he’s calling you now, Susan. Run to him and kiss him, and see
what he wants. I’m sure he loves you just as much as ever. He’s got no
other sweetheart.”

“I’ll run, mamma--that I will. I’m so glad! I hope he loves me!” and the
little innocent scampered away to the chamber. Her artless tongue, as
she approached, enabled him to perceive what had been her grievances.

“Do you call me to love me, and to kiss me, Cousin William, and to make
me your sweetheart again?”

“Yes, Susan, you shall be my only sweetheart. I will kiss nobody but
you.”

“You’ll forget--you will--you’ll put me out of your lap, and go away
shaking your head, and looking so!--” and here the observant little
creature attempted a childish imitation of the sad action and the
strange, moody gestures with which he had put her down when he was
retiring from the room--gestures and looks which the less quick eyes of
her mother had failed utterly to perceive.

“No, no!” said he, with a sad smile; “no, Susan. I’ll keep you in my lap
for an hour whenever I come, and you shall be my sweetheart always.”

“Your LITTLE sweetheart, your LITTLE Susan, Cousin William.”

“Yes, my dear little Susan, my dearest little sweetheart Susan.”

And he kissed the child fondly while he spoke, and patted her rosy
cheeks with a degree of tenderness which his sad and wandering thoughts
did not materially diminish.

“But now, Susan,” said he, “if I am to be your sweetheart, and to love
you always, you must do all that I bid you. You must go where I send
you.”

“Don’t I, Cousin William? When you send me to Gran’pa Calvert, don’t I
go and bring you books, and didn’t I always run, and come back soon, and
never play by the way?”

“You’re a dear Susan,” said he; “and I want you to carry a paper for me
now. Do you see this little paper? What is it?”

“A note--don’t I know?”

“Well, you must carry this note for me to uncle’s, but you mustn’t give
it to uncle, nor to aunty, nor to anybody but the young man that lives
there--young Mr. Stevens.”

“Parson Stevens,” said the little thing, correcting him.

“Ay, ay, Parson Stevens, if you please. You must give it to him, and him
only; and he will give you a paper to bring back to me. Will you go now,
Susan?”

“Yes, I’ll go: but, Cousin William, are you going to shoot the little
guns? Don’t shoot them till I come back, will you?”

The child pointed to a pair of pistols which lay upon the table where
William Hinkley had penned the billet. A flush of consciousness passed
over the young man’s cheek. It seemed to him as if the little innocent’s
inquiry had taken the aspect of an accusation. He promised and dismissed
her, and, when she had disappeared, proceeded to put the pistols in some
condition for use. In that time and region, duels were not often fought
with those costly and powerful weapons, the pistols of rifle bore
and sight. The rifle, or the ordinary horseman’s pistol, answered the
purposes of hate. The former instrument, in the hands of the Kentuckian,
was a deadly weapon always; and, in the grasp of a firm hand, and under
the direction of a practised eye, the latter, at ten paces, was scarcely
less so. This being the case, but few refinements were necessary to
bring about the most fatal issues of enmity; and the instruments which
William Hinkley was preparing for the field were such as would produce
a smile on the lips of more civilized combatants. They were of the
coarsest kind of holster-pistols, and had probably seen service in the
Revolution. The stocks were rickety, the barrels thin, the bore almost
large enough for grape, and really such as would receive and disgorge
a three-ounce bullet with little straining or reluctance. They had been
the property of his own grandfather, and their value for use was perhaps
rather heightened than diminished by the degree of veneration which, in
the family, was attached to their history.

William Hinkley soon put them in the most efficient order. He was not
a practised hand, but an American forester is a good shot almost by
instinct; he naturally cleaves to a gun, and without instruction learns
its use. William, however, did not think much of what he could hit, at
what distance, and under what circumstances. Nothing, perhaps, could
better show the confidence in himself and weapon than the inattention
which the native-born woodman usually exhibits to these points. Let his
weapon be such as he can rely upon, and his cause of quarrel such as
can justify his anger, and the rest seems easy, and gives him little
annoyance. This was now the case with our rustic. He never, for a
moment, thought of practising. He had shot repeatedly, and knew what he
could do. His simple object was to bring his enemy to the field, and to
meet him there. Accordingly, when he had loaded both pistols, which he
did with equal care, and with a liberal allowance of lead and powder, he
carefully put them away without offering to test his own skill or their
capacities. On this subject, his indifference would have appeared, to a
regular duellist, the very extreme of obtuseness.

His little courier conveyed his billet to Stevens in due season. As she
had been instructed, she gave it into the hands of Stevens only; but,
when she delivered it, old Hinkley was present, and she named the person
by whom it was sent.

“My son! what does he say?” demanded the old man, half-suspecting the
purport of the billet.

“Ah!” exclaimed Stevens, with the readiness of a practised actor, “there
is some hope, I am glad to tell you, Mr. Hinkley, of his coming to his
senses. He declares his wish to atone, and invites me to see him. I have
no doubt that he wishes me to mediate for him.”

“I will never forgive him while I have breath!” cried the old man,
leaving the room. “Tell him that!”

“Wait a moment, my pretty one,” said Stevens, as he was about retiring
to his chamber, “till I can write an answer.”

The billet of Hinkley he again read. We may do so likewise. It was to
the following effect:--

“Sir: If I understood your last assurance on leaving you this day, I am
to believe that the stroke of my whip has made its proper impression on
your soul--that you are willing to use the ordinary means of ordinary
persons, to avenge an indignity which was not CONFINED TO YOUR CLOTH.
If so, meet me at the lake with whatever weapons you choose to bring. I
will be there, provided with pistols for both, at any hour from three to
six. I shall proceed to the spot as soon as I receive your answer.

“W. H.”

“Short and sharp!” exclaimed Stevens as he read the billet. “‘Who would
have thought that the YOUNG man had so much blood in him!’ Well, we
will not balk your desire, Master Hinkley. We will meet you, in verity,
though it may compel me to throw up my present hand and call for other
cards. N’importe: there is no other course.”

While soliloquizing, he penned his answer, which was brief and to the
purpose:--

“I will meet you as soon as I can steal off without provoking suspicion.
I have pistols which I will bring with me.

“A. S.”

“There, my little damsel,” said he, re-entering the dining-room, and
putting the sealed paper into the hands of the child, “carry that to Mr.
Hinkley, and tell him I will come and speak with him as he begs me. But
the note will tell him.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So----”

Mrs. Hinkley entered the room at this moment. Her husband had apprized
her of the communication which her son had made, and the disposition
to atonement and repentance which he had expressed. She was anxious to
confirm this good disposition, to have her son brought back within the
fold, restored to her own affections and the favor of his father. The
latter, it is true, had signified his determined hostility, even while
conveying his intelligence; but the mother was sanguine--when was a
mother otherwise?--that all things would come right which related to her
only child. She now came to implore the efforts of Stevens; to entreat,
that, like a good Christian, he would not suffer the shocking stripes
which her son, in his madness, had inflicted upon him to outweigh his
charity, to get the better of his blessed principles, and make him war
upon the atoning spirit which had so lately, and so suddenly wakened
up in the bosom of the unruly boy. She did not endeavor to qualify the
offence of which her son had been guilty. She was far from underrating
the indignity to which Stevens had been subjected; but the offender
was her son--her only son--in spite of all his faults, follies, and
imperfections, the apple of her eye--the only being for whom she cared
to live!

Ah! the love of a mother!--what a holy thing! sadly wanting in
judgment--frequently misleading, perverting, nay, dooming the object
which it loves; but, nevertheless, most pure; least selfish; truest;
most devoted!

And the tears gushed from the old woman’s eyes as she caught the hand
of Stevens in her own, and kissed it--kissed HIS hand--could William
Hinkley have seen THAT, how it would have rankled, how he would have
writhed! She kissed the hands of that wily hypocrite, bedewing them with
her tears, as if he were some benign and blessing saint; and not because
he had shown any merits or practised any virtues, but simply because
of certain professions which he had made, and in which she had perfect
faith because of the professions, and not because of any previous
knowledge which she had of the professor. Truly, it behooves a rogue
monstrous much to know what garment it is best to wear; the question is
equally important to rogue and dandy.

Stevens made a thousand assurances in the most Christian spirit--we can
not say that he gave her tear for tear--promised to do his best to bring
back the prodigal son to her embrace, and the better to effect this
object, put his pistols under his belt! Within the hour he was on his
way to the place of meeting.



CHAPTER XXII.

FOOT TO FOOT.



William Hinkley was all impatience until, his little messenger returned,
which she did with a speed which might deserve commendation in the
case of our professional Mercuries--stage-drivers and mail contractors,
hight! He did not withhold it from the little maid, but taking her in
his arms, and kissing her fondly, he despatched her to her mother, while
he wrapped up his pistols and concealing them in the folds of his coat,
hurried from the house with the anxious haste of one who is going to
seek his prey. He felt somewhat like that broad-winged eagle which
broods on the projecting pinnacle of yonder rocky peak in waiting for
the sea-hawk who is stooping far below him, watching when the sun’s rays
shall glisten from the uprising fins of his favorite fish. But it was
not a selfish desire to secure the prey which the terror of the other
might cause him to drop. It was simply to punish the prowler. Poor
William could not exactly tell indeed why he wished to shoot Alfred
Stevens; but his cause of hostility was not less cogent because it had
no name. The thousand little details which induce our prejudices in
regard to persons, are, singly, worth no one’s thought, and would
possibly provoke the contempt of all; but like the myriad threads which
secured the huge frame of Gulliver in his descent upon Lilliput, they
are, when united, able to bind the biggest giant of us all.

The prejudices of William Hinkley, though very natural in such a case
as his, seemed to him very much like instincts. It seemed to him, if
he once reasoned on the matter, that, as he had good cause to hate the
intruder, so there must be justification for shooting him. Were this
not so, the policy of hating would be very questionable, and surely very
unprofitable. It would be a great waste of a very laudable quantity
of feeling--something like omitting one’s bullet in discharging one’s
piece--a profligacy only justifiable in a feu de joie after victory,
where the bullets have already done all necessary mischief, and will
warrant a small subsequent waste of the more harmless material.

Without designing any such child’s play, our rustic hero, properly
equipped with his antique pistols, well charged, close rammed,
three-ounce bullets, or nearabouts, in each, stood, breathing fire but
without cooling, on the edge of the lake, perched on an eminence and
looking out for the coming enemy. He was playing an unwonted character,
but he felt as if it were quite familiar to him. He had none of that
nice feeling which, without impugning courage, is natural enough to
inexperience in such cases. The muzzles of the pistols did not appear
to him particularly large. He never once thought of his own ribs being
traversed by his three-ounce messengers. He had no misgivings on the
subject of his future digestion. He only thought of that blow from his
father’s hand--that keen shaft from the lips of Margaret Cooper--that
desolation which had fallen upon his soul from the scorn of both; and
the vengeance which it was in his power to inflict upon the fortunate
interloper to whose arts he ascribed all his misfortunes! and with these
thoughts his fury and impatience increased, and he ascended the highest
hill to look out for his foe; descended, in the next moment, to the edge
of the lake, the better to prepare for the meeting.

In this state of excitement the meekness had departed from his
countenance; an entire change of expression had taken place: he stood
up, erect, bold, eagle-eyed, with the look of one newly made a man by
the form of indomitable will, and feeling, for the first time, man’s
terrible commission to destroy. In a moment, with the acquisition of
new moods, he had acquired a new aspect. Hitherto, he had been tame,
seemingly devoid of spirit--you have not forgotten the reproaches of
his cousin, which actually conveyed an imputation against his
manliness?--shrinking, with a feeling of shyness akin to mauvaise honte,
and almost submitting to injustice, to avoid the charge of ill-nature.
The change that we have described in his soul, had made itself
singularly apparent in his looks. They were full of a grim
determination. Had he gazed upon his features, in the glassy surface of
the lake beside him, he had probably recoiled from their expression.

We have seen Mrs. Hinkley sending Stevens forth for the purpose of
recalling her son to his senses, receiving his repentance, and bringing
him once more home into the bosom of his flock. We have not forgotten
the brace of arguments with which he provided himself in order to bring
about this charitable determination. Stevens was a shot. He could snuff
his candle at ten paces, sever his bamboo, divide the fingers of the
hand with separate bullets without grazing the skin--nay, more, as
was said in the euphuistic phraseology of his admirers, send his ball
between soul and body without impairing the integrity of either.

But men may do much shooting at candle or bamboo, who would do precious
little while another is about to shoot at them. There is a world of
difference between looking in a bull’s-eye, and looking in the eye of
man. A pistol, too, looks far less innocent, regarded through the medium
of a yawning muzzle, than the rounded and neatly-polished butt. The huge
mouth seems to dilate as you look upon it. You already begin to fancy
you behold the leaden mass--the three-ounce bullet--issuing from its
stronghold, like a relentless baron of the middle ages, going forth
under his grim archway, seeking only whom he may devour. The sight is
apt to diminish the influence of skill. Nerves are necessary to such
sportsmen, and nerves become singularly untrue when frowned upon through
such a medium.

Under this view of the case, we are not so sure that the excellence
of aim for which Alfred Stevens has been so much lauded, will make the
difference very material between the parties; and now that he is fairly
roused, there is a look of the human devil about William Hinkley, that
makes him promise to be dangerous. Nay, the very pistols that he wields,
those clumsy, rusty, big-mouthed ante-revolutionary machines, which
his stout grandsire carried at Camden and Eutaw, have a look of service
about them--a grim, veteran-like aspect, that makes them quite as
perilous to face as to handle. If they burst they will blow on all
sides. There will be fragments enough for friend and foe; and even
though Stevens may not apprehend so much from the aim of his antagonist,
something of deference is due to the possibility of such a concussion,
as will make up all his deficiencies of skill.

But they have not yet met, though Stevens, with praiseworthy
Christianity, is on his way to keep his engagements, as well to mother
as to son. He has his own pistols--not made for this purpose--but a
substantial pair of traveller’s babes--big of mouth, long of throat,
thick of jaw, keen of sight, quick of speech, strong of wind, and
weighty of argument. They are rifled bores also, and, in the hands of
the owner, have done clever things at bottle and sapling. Stevens would
prefer to have the legitimate things, but these babes are trustworthy;
and he has no reason to suppose that the young rustic whom he goes
to meet can produce anything more efficient. He had no idea of those
ancient bull-pups, those solemn ante-revolutionary barkers, which our
grandsire used upon harder heads than his, at Camden and the Eutaws. He
is scarcely so confident in his own weapons when his eye rests on the
rusty tools of his enemy.

But it was not destined that this fight should take place without
witnesses. In spite of all the precautions of the parties, and they were
honest in taking them, our little village had its inklings of what was
going on. There were certain signs of commotion and explosion which made
themselves understood. Our little maid, Susan Hinkley, was the first,
very innocently, to furnish a clue to the mystery. She had complained
to her mother that Cousin William had not shot the little guns for her
according to his promise.

“But, perhaps, he didn’t want to shoot them, Susan.”

“Yes, mamma, he put them in his pockets. He’s carried them to shoot; and
he promised to shoot them for me as soon as I carried the note.”

“And to whom did you carry the note, Susan?” asked the mother.

“To the young parson, at Uncle William’s.”

The mother had not been unobservant of the degree of hostility which her
brother, as well as cousin, entertained for Stevens. They had both
very freely expressed their dislike in her presence. Some of their
conferences had been overheard and were now recalled, in which
this expression of dislike had taken the form of threats, vague and
purposeless, seemingly, at the time; but which now, taken in connection
with what she gathered from the lips of the child, seemed of portentous
interest. Then, when she understood that Stevens had sent a note
in reply--and that both notes were sealed, the quick, feminine mind
instantly jumped to the right conclusion.

“They are surely going to fight. Get my bonnet, Susan, I must run to
Uncle William’s, and tell him while there’s time. Which way did Cousin
William go?”

The child could tell her nothing but that he had taken to the hills.

“That brother Ned shouldn’t be here now! Though I don’t see the good of
his being here. He’d only make matters worse. Run, Susan--run over to
Gran’pa Calvert, and tell him to come and stop them from fighting,
while I hurry to Uncle William’s. Lord save us!--and let me get there in
time.”

The widow had a great deal more to say, but this was quite enough to
bewilder the little girl. Nevertheless, she get forth to convey the
mysterious message to Grand’pa Calvert, though the good mother never
once reflected that this message was of the sort which assumes the party
addressed to be already in possession of the principal facts. While she
took one route the mother pursued another, and the two arrived at their
respective places at about the same time. Stevens had already left
old Hinkley’s when the widow got there, and the consternation of Mrs.
Hinkley was complete. The old man was sent for to the fields, and came
in only to declare that some such persuasion had filled his own mind
when first the billet of his son had been received. But the suspicion of
the father was of a much harsher sort than that of the widow Hinkley.
In her sight it was a duel only--bad enough as a duel--but still only a
duel, where the parties incurring equal risks, had equal rights. But
the conception of the affair, as it occurred to old Hinkley, was very
different.

“Base serpent!” he exclaimed--“he has sent for the good young man only
to murder him. He implores him to come to him, in an artful writing,
pretending to be sorely sorrowful and full of repentance; and he
prepares the weapon of murder to slay him when he comes. Was there ever
creature so base!--but I will hunt him out. God give me strength, and
grant that I may find him in season.”

Thus saying, the old man seized his crab-stick, a knotty club, that had
been seasoned in a thousand smokes, and toughened by the use of twenty
years. His wife caught up her bonnet and hurried with the widow Hinkley
in his train. Meanwhile, by cross-examining the child, Mr. Calvert
formed some plausible conjectures of what was on foot, and by the time
that the formidable procession had reached his neighborhood he was
prepared to join it. Events thickened with the increasing numbers. New
facts came in to the aid of old ones partially understood. The widow
Thackeray, looking from her window, as young and handsome widows are
very much in the habit of doing, had seen William Hinkley going by
toward the hill, with a very rapid stride and a countenance very much
agitated; and an hour afterward she had seen Brother Stevens following
on the same route--good young man!--with the most heavenly and benignant
smile upon his countenance--the very personification of the cherub and
the seraph, commissioned to subdue the fiend.

“Here is some of your treachery, Mr. Calvert. You have spoiled this
boy of mine; turning his head with law studies; and making him
disobedient--giving him counsel and encouragement against his
father--and filling his mind with evil things. It is all your doing,
and your books. And now he’s turned out a bloody murderer, a papist
murderer, with your Roman catholic doctrines.”

“I am no Roman catholic, Mr. Hinkley,” was the mild reply--“and as for
William becoming a murderer, I think that improbable. I have a better
opinion of your son than you have.”

“He’s an ungrateful cub--a varmint of the wilderness--to strike the good
young man in my own presence--to strike him with a cowskin--what do you
think of that, sir? answer me that, if you please.”

“Did William Hinkley do this?” demanded the old teacher earnestly.

“Ay, that he did, did he!”

“I can hardly understand it. There must have been some grievous
provocation?”

“Yes; it was a grievous provocation, indeed, to have to wait for grace
before meat.”

“Was that all? can it be possible!”

The mother of the offender supplied the hiatus in the story--and Calvert
was somewhat relieved. Though he did not pretend to justify the assault
of the youth, he readily saw how he had been maddened by the treatment
of his father. He saw that the latter was in a high pitch of religious
fury--his prodigious self-esteem taking part with it, naturally enough,
against a son, who, until this instance, had never risen in defiance
against either. Expostulation and argument were equally vain with him;
and ceasing the attempt at persuasion, Calvert hurried on with the rest,
being equally anxious to arrest the meditated violence, whether that
contemplated the murderous assassination which the father declared, or
the less heinous proceeding of the duel which he suspected.

There was one thing which made him tremble for his own confidence in
William Hinkley’s propriety of course. It was the difficulty which he
had with the rest, in believing that the young student of divinity would
fight a duel. This doubt, he felt, must be that, of his pupil also:
whether the latter had any reason to suppose that Stevens would depart
from the principles of his profession, and waive the securities which
it afforded, he had of course, no means for conjecturing; but his
confidence in William induced him to believe that some such impression
upon his mind had led him to the measure of sending a challenge, which,
otherwise, addressed to a theologian, would have been a shameless
mockery.

There was a long running fire, by way of conversation and commentary,
which was of course maintained by these toiling pedestrians, cheering
the way as they went; but though it made old Hinkley peccant and wrathy,
and exercised the vernacular of the rest to very liberal extent, we do
not care to distress the reader with it. It may have been very fine or
not. It is enough to say that the general tenor of opinion run heavily
against our unhappy rustic, and in favor of the good young man, Stevens.
Mrs. Thackeray, the widow, to whom Stevens had paid two visits or
more since he had been in the village, and who had her own reasons for
doubting that Margaret Cooper had really obtained any advantages in
the general struggle to find favor in the sight of this handsome man of
God--was loud in her eulogy upon the latter, and equally unsparing in
her denunciations of the village lad who meditated so foul a crime
as the extinguishing so blessed a light. Her denunciations at length
aroused all the mother in Mrs. Hinkley’s breast, and the two dames
had it, hot and heavy, until, as the parties approached the lake, old
Hinkley, with a manner all his own, enjoined the most profound silence,
and hushed, without settling the dispute.

Meanwhile, the combatants had met. William Hinkley, having ascended the
tallest perch among the hills, beheld his enemy approaching at a natural
pace and at a short distance. He descended rapidly to meet him and the
parties joined at the foot of the woodland path leading down to the
lake, where, but a few days before, we beheld Stevens and Margaret
Cooper. Stevens was somewhat surprised to note the singular and imposing
change which a day, almost an hour, had wrought in the looks and bearing
of the young rustic. His good, and rather elevated command of language,
had struck him previously as very remarkable, but this had been
explained by his introduction to Mr. Calvert, who, as his teacher, he
soon found was very well able to make him what he was. It was the high
bearing, the courteous defiance, the superior consciousness of strength
and character, which now spoke in the tone and manner of the youth. A
choice military school, for years, could scarcely have brought about
a more decided expression of that subdued heroism, which makes mere
manliness a matter of chivalry, and dignifies brute anger and blind
hostility into something like a sentiment. Under the prompting of a
good head, a generous temper, and the goodness of a highly-roused, but
legitimate state of feeling, William Hinkley wore the very appearance
of that nobleness, pride, ease, firmness, and courtesy, which, in the
conventional world, it is so difficult, yet held to be so important,
to impress upon the champion when ready for the field. A genuine son of
thunder would have rejoiced in his deportment, and though a sneering,
jealous and disparaging temper, Alfred Stevens could not conceal from
himself the conviction that there was stuff in the young man which it
needed nothing but trial and rough attrition to bring out.

William Hinkley bowed at his approach, and pointed to a close footpath
leading to the rocks on the opposite shore.

“There, sir, we shall be more secret. There is a narrow grove above,
just suited to our purpose. Will it please you to proceed thither?”

“As YOU please, Mr. Hinkley,” was the reply; “I have no disposition to
balk your particular desires. But the sight of this lake reminds me that
I owe you my life?”

“I had thought, sir, that the indignity which I put upon you, would
cancel all such memories,” was the stern reply.

The cheek of Stevens became crimson--his eye flashed--he felt the
sarcasm--but something was due to his position, and he was cool enough
to make a concession to circumstances. He answered with tolerable
calmness, though not without considerable effort.

“It has cancelled the OBLIGATION, sir, if not the memory! I certainly
can owe you nothing for a life which you have attempted to disgrace--”

“Which I have disgraced!” said the other, interrupting him.

“You are right, sir. How far, however, you have shown your manhood
in putting an indignity upon one whose profession implies peace, and
denounces war, you are as well prepared to answer as myself.”

“The cloth seems to be of precious thickness!” was the answer of
Hinkley, with a smile of bitter and scornful sarcasm.

“If you mean to convoy the idea that I do not feel the shame of the
blow, and am not determined on avenging it, young man, you are in error.
You will find that I am not less determined because I am most cool. I
have come out deliberately for the purpose of meeting you. My purpose in
reminding you of my profession was simply to undeceive you. It appears
to me not impossible that the knowledge of it has made you somewhat
bolder than you otherwise might have been.”

“What mean you?” was the stern demand of Hinkley, uttered in very
startling accents.

“To tell you that I have not always been a non-combatant, that I am
scarcely one now, and that, in the other schools, in which I have been
taught, the use of the pistol was an early lesson. You have probably
fancied that such was not the case, and that my profession--”

“Come, sir--will you follow this path?” said Hinkley, interrupting him
impatiently.

“All in good time, sir, when you have heard me out,” was the cool reply.
“Now, sir,” he continued, “were you to have known that it would be no
hard task for me to mark any button on your vest, at any distance--that
I have often notched a smaller mark, and that I am prepared to do
so again, it might be that your prudence would have tempered your
courage--”

“I regret for your sake,” said Hinkley, again interrupting him with a
sarcasm, “that I have not brought with me the weapon with which MY marks
are made. You seem to have forgotten that I too have some skill in
my poor way. One would think, sir, that the memory would not fail of
retaining what I suspect will be impressed upon the skin for some time
longer.”

“You are evidently bent on fighting, Mr. Hinkley, and I must gratify
you!”

“If you please, sir.”

“But, before doing so, I should like to know in what way I have provoked
such a feeling of hostility in your mind? I have not sought to do so.
I have on the contrary, striven to show you my friendship, in part
requital of the kindness shown me by your parents.”

“Do not speak of them, if you please.”

“Ay, but I must. It was at the instance of your worthy mother that I
sought you and strove to confer with you on, the cause of your evident
unhappiness.”

“You were the cause.”

“I?”

“Yes--you! Did I not tell you then that I hated you; and did you not
accept my defiance?”

“Yes; but when you saved my life!--”

“It was to spurn you--to put stripes upon you. I tell you, Alfred
Stevens, I loathe you with the loathing one feels for a reptile, whose
cunning is as detestable as his sting is deadly. I loathe you from
instinct. I felt this dislike and distrust for you from the first moment
that I saw you. I know not how, or why, or in what manner, you are a
villain, but I feel you to be one! I am convinced of it as thoroughly as
if I knew it. You have wormed yourself into the bosom of my family. You
have expelled me from the affections of my parents; and not content
with this, you have stolen to the heart of the woman to whom my life was
devoted, to have me driven thence also. Can I do less than hate you? Can
I desire less than your destruction? Say, having heard so much, whether
you will make it necessary that I should again lay my whip over your
shoulders.”

The face of Stevens became livid as he listened to this fierce and
bitter speech. His eye watched that of the speaker with the glare of
the tiger, as if noteful only of the moment when to spring. His frame
trembled. His lip quivered with the struggling rage. All his feeling of
self-superiority vanished when he listened to language of so unequivocal
a character--language which so truly denounced, without defining, his
villany. He felt, that if the instinct of the other was indeed so keen
and quick, then was the combat necessary, and the death of the rustic
essential, perhaps, to his own safety. William Hinkley met his glance
with a like fire. There was no shrinking of his heart or muscles. Nay,
unlike his enemy, he felt a strange thrill of pleasure in his veins as
he saw the effect which his language had produced on the other.

“Lead the way!” said Stevens; “the sooner you are satisfied the better.”

“You are very courteous, and I thank you,” replied Hinkley, with a
subdued but sarcastic smile, “you will pardon me for the seeming slight,
in taking precedence of one so superior; but the case requires it. You
will please to follow. I will show you my back no longer than it seems
necessary.”

“Lead on, sir--lead on.”



CHAPTER XXIII.

UNEXPECTED ISSUES.



William Hinkley ascended the narrow path leading to the hills with an
alacrity of heart which somewhat surprised himself. The apprehensions of
danger, if he felt any, were not of a kind to distress or annoy him, and
were more than balanced by the conviction that he had brought his enemy
within his level. That feeling of power is indeed a very consolatory
one. It satisfies the ambitious heart, though death preys upon his
household, one by one; though suffering fevers his sleep; though the
hopes of his affection wither; though the loves and ties of his youth
decay and vanish. It makes him careless of the sunshine, and heedless of
the storm. It deadens his ear to the song of birds, it blinds his eye to
the seduction of flowers. It makes him fly from friendship and rush on
hate. It compensates for all sorts of loneliness, and it produces them.
It is a princely despotism; which, while it robs its slave of freedom,
covers him with other gifts which he learns to value more; which,
binding him in fetters, makes him believe that they are sceptres and
symbols before which all things become what he desires them. His speech
is changed, his very nature perverted, but he acquires an “open sesame”
 by their loss, and the loss seems to his imagination an exceeding gain.
We will not say that William Hinkley was altogether satisfied with HIS
bargain, but in the moment when he stood confronting his enemy on the
bald rock, with a deadly weapon in each hand--when he felt that he stood
foot to foot in equal conflict with his foe, one whom he had dragged
down from his pride of place, and had compelled to the fearful issue
which made his arrogance quail--in that moment, if he did not forget, he
did not so much feel, that he had lost family and friends, parents
and love; and if he felt, it was only to induce that keener feeling of
revenge in which even the affections are apt to be swallowed up.

Stevens looked in the eye of the young man and saw that he was
dangerous. He looked upon the ante-revolutionary pistols, and saw that
they were dangerous too, in a double sense.

“Here are pistols,” he said, “better suited to our purpose. You can
sound them and take your choice.”

“These,” said Hinkley, doggedly, “are as well suited as any. If you
will, you can take your choice of mine; but if you think yours superior,
use them. These are good enough for me.”

“But this is out of all usage,” said Stevens.

“What matters it, Mr. Stevens? If you are satisfied that yours are the
best, the advantage is with you. If you doubt that mine can kill, try
them. I have a faith in these pistols which will content me; but we will
take one of each, if that will please you better, and use which we think
proper.”

Stevens expressed himself better pleased to keep his own.

“Suit yourself as to distance,” said Hinkley, with all the coolness of
an unmixed salamander. His opponent stepped off ten paces with great
deliberation, and William Hinkley, moving toward a fragment of the rock
upon which he had placed his “revolutions” for the better inspection of
his opponent, possessed himself of the veterans and prepared to take the
station which had been assigned him.

“Who shall give the word?” demanded Stevens.

“You may!” was the cool rejoinder.

“If I do, I kill you,” said the other.

“I have no fear, Mr. Stevens,” answered William Hinkley with a degree of
phlegm which almost led Stevens to fancy he had to deal with a regular
Trojan--“I have no fear,” he continued, “and if you fancy you can
frighten me by this sort of bragging you have very much mistaken your
man. Shoot when you please, word or no word.”

William Hinkley stood with his back to the woods, his face toward the
lake which spread itself, smooth and calm at a little distance. He
did not perceive that his position was a disadvantageous one. The tree
behind, and that beside him, rendered his body a most conspicuous mark;
while his opponent, standing with his back to the uncovered rocks ranged
with no other objects of any prominence. Had he even been sufficiently
practised in the arts of the duello, he would most probably have been
utterly regardless of these things. They would not have influenced
his firmness in the slightest degree. His course was quite as much the
result of desperation as philosophy. He felt himself an outcast as
well from home as from love, and it mattered to him very little, in the
morbid excitement of his present mind, whether he fell by the hand
of his rival, or lived to pine out a wearisome existence, lonely and
uninspired, a gloomy exile in the bitter world. He waited, it may be
said, with some impatience for the fire of his antagonist. Once he saw
the pistol of Stevens uplifted. He had one in each hand. His own hung
beside him. He waited for the shot of the enemy as a signal when to lift
and use his own weapon. But instead of this he was surprised to see
him drop the muzzle of his weapon, and with some celerity and no small
degree of slight of hand, thrust the two pistols under his coat-skirts.
A buz reached his ears a moment after--the hum of voices--some rustling
in the bushes, which signified confusion in the approach of strangers.
He did not wish to look round as he preferred keeping his eye on his
antagonist.

“Shoot!” he exclaimed--“quickly, before we are interrupted.”

Before he could receive any answer there was a rush behind him--he heard
his father’s voice, sudden, and in a high degree of fury, mingled with
that of his mother and Mr. Calvert, as if in expostulation. From the
latter the words distinctly reached his ears, warning him to beware.
Such, also, was the purport of his mother’s cry. Before he could turn
and guard against the unseen danger, he received a blow upon his head,
the only thing of which he was conscious for some time. He staggered and
fell forward. He felt himself stunned, fancied he was shot, and sunk to
the ground in an utter state of insensibility.

The blow came from his father’s crab-stick. It was so utterly unexpected
by the parties who had attended old Hinkley to the place of meeting,
that no efforts were made to prevent it. But the mother of the victim
rushed in in time to defeat the second blow, which the father prepared
to inflict, in the moment when his son was falling from the effects of
the first. Grasping the coat skirts of her spouse, she pulled him back
with no scrupulous hand, and effectually baffled his designs by bringing
him down, though in an opposite direction, to the same level with the
youth. Old Hinkley did not bite the dust, but the latter part of his
skull most effectually butted it; and had not his head been quite as
tough as his crab-stick, the hurt might have been quite as severe as
that which the latter had inflicted on the son.

The latter lay as perfectly quiet as if all had been over with him. So
much so, that the impression became very general that such was the
case. Under this impression the heart of the mother spoke out in mingled
screams of lamentation and reproach. She threw herself down by the side
of the youth and vainly attempted to stop the blood which was streaming
from a deep gash on his skull. While engaged in this work, her apron and
handkerchief being both employed for this purpose, she poured forth a
torrent of wrath and denunciation against her spouse. She now forgot all
the offences of the boy, and even Alfred Stevens came in for his share
of the anger with which she visited the offence and the offender.

“Shame! shame! you bloody-minded man,” she cried, “to slaughter your own
son--your only son--to come behind him and knock him down with a club as
if he had been an inhuman ox! You are no husband of mine. He sha’n’t own
you for a father. If I had the pick, I’d choose a thousand fathers for
him, from here to Massassippi, sooner than you. He’s only too good and
too handsome to be son of yours. And for what should you strike him? For
a stranger--a man we never saw before. Shame on you! You are a brute, a
monster, William Hinkley, and I’m done with you for ever.

“My poor, poor boy! Look up, my son. Look up, William. Open your eyes.
It’s your own dear mother that speaks to you. O my God! you’ve killed
him--he will not open his eyes. He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead!”

And truly it seemed so, for the youth gave no sign of consciousness. She
threw herself in a screaming agony upon his body, and gave herself up to
the unmeasured despair, which, if a weakness, is at least a sacred
one in the case of a mother mourning her only son. Old Hinkley was not
without his alarms--nay, not altogether without his compunctions. But
he was one of that round head genus whose self-esteem is too much at all
times for fear, or shame, or sensibility. Without seeking to assist
the lad, and ascertain what was his real condition, he sought only to
justify himself for what he had done by repeating the real and supposed
offences of the youth. He addressed himself in this labor chiefly to Mr.
Calvert, who, with quite as much suffering as any of the rest, had more
consideration, and was now busied in the endeavor to stanch the blood
and cleanse the wound of the victim.

“He’s only got what he deserved,” exclaimed the sullen, stubborn father.

“Do not speak so, Mr. Hinkley,” replied Calvert, with a sternness which
was unusual with him; “your son may have got his death.”

“And he deserves it!” responded the other doggedly.

“And if he has,” continued Calvert, “you are a murderer--a cold-blooded
murderer--and as such will merit and will meet the halter.”

The face of the old man grew livid--his lips whitened with rage; and he
approached Calvert, his whole frame quivering with fury, and, shaking
his hand threateningly, exclaimed:--

“Do you dare to speak to me in this manner, you miserable, white-headed
pedagogue--do you dare?”

“Dare!” retorted Calvert, rising to his feet with a look of majesty
which, in an instant, awed the insolence of the offender. Never had he
been faced by such defiance, so fearlessly and nobly expressed.

“Dare!--Look on me, and ask yourself whether I dare or not. Approach me
but a step nigher, and even my love for your unfortunate and much-abused
but well-minded son will not protect you. I would chastise you, with all
my years upon me, in spite of my white head. Yours, if this boy should
die, will never become white, or will become so suddenly, as your
soul will wither, with its own self-torture, within you. Begone!--keep
back--do not approach me, and, above all, do not approach me with
uplifted hand, or, by Heaven, I will fell you to the earth as surely
as you felled this boy! You have roused a feeling within me, William
Hinkley, which has slept for years. Do not provoke it too far. Beware in
season. You have acted the brute and the coward to your son--you could
do so with impunity to him--to me you can not.”

There was something in this speech, from one whom old Hinkley was
accustomed to look upon as a dreaming bookworm, which goaded the
tyrannical father into irrepressible fury; and, grinding his teeth,
without a moment’s hesitation he advanced, and was actually about to lay
the crab-stick over the shoulders of the speaker: but the latter was as
prompt as he was fearless. Before Hinkley could conceive his intention,
he had leaped over the still unconscious person of William, and,
flinging the old man round with a sudden jerk, had grasped and wrested
the stick from his hands with a degree of activity and strength which
confounded all the bystanders, and the subject of his sudden exercise of
manhood no less than the rest.

“Were you treated justly,” said Calvert, regarding him with a look of
the loftiest indignation, “you should yourself receive a taste of the
cudgel you are so free to use on others. Let your feebleness, old man,
be a warning to your arrogance.”

With these words, he flung the crab-stick into the lake, old Hinkley
regarding him with looks in which it was difficult to say whether
mortification or fury had preponderance.

“Go,” he continued--“your son lives; but it is God’s mercy, and none of
yours, which has spared his life. You will live, I hope, to repent
of your cruelty and injustice to him; to repent of having shown a
preference to a stranger, so blind as that which has moved you to
attempt the life of one of the most gentle lads in the whole country.”

“And did he not come here to murder the stranger? did we not find him
even now with pistol ready to murder Brother Stevens? See the pistols
now in his hands--my father’s pistols. We came not a minute too soon.
But for my blow, he had been a murderer.”

Such was the justification which old Hinkley now offered for what he had
done.

“I am no advocate for duelling,” said Calvert, “but I believe that your
son came with the stranger for this purpose, and not to murder him.”

“No, no! do you not see that Brother Stevens has no pistols? Did we not
see him trying to escape--walking off--walking almost over the rocks to
get out of the way?”

Calvert comprehended the matter much more clearly.

“Speak, sir!” he said to Stevens, “did you not come prepared to defend
yourself?”

“You see me as I am,” said Stevens, showing his empty hands.

Calvert looked at him with searching eye.

“I understand you, sir,” he said, with an expression not to be mistaken;
“I understand you now. THIS LAD I KNOW. HE COULD NOT BE A MURDERER. HE
COULD NOT TAKE ANY MAN AT ADVANTAGE. If you do not know the fact, Mr.
Stevens, I can assure you that your life was perfectly secure from his
weapon, so long as his remained equally unendangered. The sight of that
lake, from which he rescued you but a few days ago, should sufficiently
have persuaded you of this.”

Stevens muttered something, the purport of which was, that “he did not
believe the young man intended to murder him.”

“Did he not send you a challenge?”

“No!” said old Hinkley; “he sent him a begging note, promising atonement
and repentance.”

“Will you let me see that note?” said Calvert, addressing Stevens.

“I have it not--I destroyed it,” said Stevens with some haste. Calvert
said no more, but he looked plainly enough his suspicions. He now gave
his attention to William Hinkley, whose mother, while this scene was
in progress, had been occupied, as Calvert had begun, in stanching the
blood, and trimming with her scissors, which were fortunately at her
girdle, the hair from the wound. The son, meanwhile, had wakened to
consciousness. He had been stunned but not severely injured by the blow,
and, with the promptitude of a border-dame, Mrs. Hinkley, hurrying to
a pine-tree, had gathered enough of its resin, which, spread upon a
fragment of her cotton apron, and applied to the hurt, proved a very
fair substitute for adhesive plaster. The youth rose to his feet, still
retaining the pistols in his grasp. His looks were heavy from the stupor
which still continued, but kindled into instant intelligence when he
caught sight of Stevens and his father.

“Go home, sir!” said the latter, waving his hand in the prescribed
direction.

“Never!” was the reply of the young man, firmly expressed; “never, sir,
if I never have a home!”

“You shall always have a home, William, while I have one,” said Mr.
Calvert.

“What! you encourage my son in rebellion? you teach him to fly in the
face of his father?” shouted the old man.

“No, sir; I only offer him a shelter from tyranny, a place of refuge
from persecution. When you learn the duties and the feelings of a
father, it will be time enough to assert the rights of one. I do not
think him safe in your house against your vindictiveness and brutality.
He is, however, of full age, and can determine for himself.”

“He is not of age, and will not be till July.”

“It matters not. He is more near the years of discretion than his
father; and, judging him to be in some danger in your house, as a man
and as a magistrate I offer him the protection of mine. Come home with
me, William.”

“Let him go, if he pleases--go to the d--l! He who honors not
his father, says the Scriptures--what says the passage, Brother
Stevens--does it not say that he who honors not his father is in danger
of hell-fire?”

“Not exactly, I believe,” said the other.

“Matters not, matters not!--the meaning is very much the same.”

“Oh, my son,” said the mother, clinging to his neck, “will you, indeed,
desert me? can you leave me in my old age? I have none, none but you!
You know how I have loved--you know I will always love you.”

“And I love you, mother--and love him too, though he treats me as an
outcast--I will always love you, but I will never more enter my father’s
dwelling. He has degraded me with his whip--he has attempted my life
with his bludgeon. I forgive him, but will never expose myself again
to his cruelties or indignities. You will always find me a son, and a
dutiful one, in all other respects.”

He turned away with Mr. Calvert, and slowly proceeded down the pathway
by which he had approached the eminence. He gave Stevens a significant
look as he passed him, and lifted one of the pistols which he still
carried in his hands, in a manner to make evident his meaning. The other
smiled and turned off with the group, who proceeded by the route along
the hills, but the last words of the mother, subdued by sobs, still came
to the ears of the youth:--

“Oh, my son, come home! come home!”

“No! no! I have no home--no home, mother!” muttered the young man, as
if he thought the half-stifled response could reach the ears of the
complaining woman.

“No home! no hope!” he continued--“I am desolate.”

“Not so, my son. God is our home; God is our companion; our strength,
our preserver! Living and loving, manfully striving and working out our
toils for deliverance, we are neither homeless, nor hopeless; neither
strengthless, nor fatherless; wanting neither in substance nor
companion. This is a sharp lesson, perhaps, but a necessary one. It will
give you that courage, of the great value of which I spoke to you but a
few days ago. Come with me to my home; it shall be yours until you can
find a better.”

“I thank you--oh! how much I thank you. It may be all as you pay, but I
feel very, very miserable.”



CHAPTER XXIV.

EXILE.



The artist in the moral world must be very careful not to suffer his
nice sense of retributive justice, to get so much the better of his
judgment, as an artist, as to make him forgetful of human probabilities,
and the superior duty of preparing the mind of the young reader by
sterling examples of patience and protracted reward, to bear up manfully
against injustice, and not to despond because his rewards are slow. It
would be very easy for an author to make everybody good, or, if any were
bad, to dismiss them, out of hand, to purgatory and places even worse.
But it would be a thankless toil to read the writings of such an author.
His characters would fail in vraisemblance, and his incidents would lack
in interest. The world is a sort of vast moral lazar-house, in which
most have sores, either of greater or less degree of virulence. Some are
nurses, and doctors, and guardians; and these are necessarily free from
the diseases to which they minister. Some, though not many, are entirely
incurable; many labor for years in pain, and when dismissed, still
hobble along feebly, bearing the proofs of their trials in ugly seams
and blotches, contracted limbs, and pale, haggard features. Others get
off with a shorter and less severe probation. None are free from taint,
and those who are the most free, are not always the greatest favorites
with fortune.

We are speaking of the moral world, good reader. We simply borrow an
illustration from the physical. Our interest in one another is very much
derived from our knowledge of each other’s infirmities; and it may be
remarked, passingly, that this interest is productive of very excellent
philosophical temper, since it enables us to bear the worst misfortunes
of our best friends with the most amazing fortitude. It is a frequent
error with the reader of a book--losing sight of these facts--to expect
that justice will always be done on the instant. He will suffer no delay
in the book, though he sees that this delay of justice is one of the
most decided of all the moral certainties whether in life or law. He
does not wish to see the person in whom the author makes him interested,
perish in youth--die of broken heart or more rapid disaster; and if he
could be permitted to interfere, the bullet or the knife of the assassin
would be arrested at the proper moment and always turned against the
bosom of the wrong-doer.

This is a very commendable state of feeling, and whenever it occurs, it
clearly shows that the author is going right in his vocation. It proves
him to be a HUMAN author, which is something better than being a mere,
dry, moral one. But he would neither be a human nor a moral author were
he to comply with the desires of such gentle readers, and, to satisfy
their sympathies, arrest the progress of events. The fates must have
their way, in the book as in the lazar-house; and the persons of his
drama must endure their sores and sufferings with what philosophy they
may, until, under the hands of that great physician, fortune, they
receive an honorable discharge or otherwise.

Were it with him, our young friend, William Hinkley, who is really a
clever fellow, should not only be received to favor with all parties,
but such should never have fallen from favor in the minds of any. His
father should become soon repentant, and having convicted Stevens of
his falsehood and hypocrisy, he should be rewarded with the hand of the
woman to whom his young heart is so devoted. Such, perhaps, would be the
universal wish with our readers; but would this be fortunate for William
Hinkley? Our venerable friend and his, Mr. Calvert, has a very different
opinion. He says:--

“This young man is not only a worthy young man, but he is one, naturally
of very vigorous intellect. He is of earnest, impassioned temperament,
full of enthusiasm and imagination; fitted for work--great work--public
work--head work--the noblest kind of work. He will be a great
lawyer--perhaps a great statesman--if he addresses himself at once,
manfully, to his tasks; but he will not address himself to these tasks
while he pursues the rusting and mind-destroying life of a country
village. Give him the object of his present desire and you deprive him
of all motive for exertion. Give him the woman he seeks and you probably
deprive him even of the degree of quiet which the country village
affords. He would forfeit happiness without finding strength. Force him
to the use of his tools and he builds himself fame and fortune.”

Calvert was really not sorry that William Hinkley’s treatment had been
so harsh. He sympathized, it is true, in his sufferings, but he was not
blind to their probable advantages; and he positively rejoiced in his
rejection by Margaret Cooper.

It was some four or five days after the events with which our last
chapter was closed, that the old man and his young friend were to be
seen sitting together, under the shade of the venerable tree where we
have met them before. They had conferred together seriously, and finally
with agreeing minds, on the several topics which have been adverted to
in the preceding paragraph. William Hinkley had become convinced that it
was equally the policy of his mind and heart to leave Charlemont. He was
not so well satisfied, however, as was the case with Mr. Calvert, that
the loss of Margaret Cooper was his exceeding gain. When did young lover
come to such a conclusion? Not, certainly, while he was young. But when
was young lover wise? Though a discontent, William Hinkley was not,
however, soured nor despairing from the denial of his hopes. He had
resources of thought and spirit never tested before, of the possession
of which he, himself, knew nothing. They were to be brought into use and
made valuable only by these very denials; by the baffling of his hope;
by the provocation of his strength.

His resolution grew rapidly in consequence of his disappointments.
He was now prepared to meet the wishes of his venerable and wise
preceptor--to grapple stoutly with the masters of the law; and, keeping
his heart in restraint, if not absolute abeyance, to do that justice
to his head, which, according to the opinion of Mr. Calvert, it
well-deserved if hitherto it had not demanded it. But to pursue his
studies as well as his practice, he was to leave Charlemont. How was
this to be done--where was he to go--by what means? A horse, saddle, and
bridle--a few books and the ante-revolutionary pistols of his grandsire,
which recent circumstances seemed to have endeared to him, were all his
available property. His poverty was an estoppel, at the outset, to his
own reflections; and thinking of this difficulty he turned with a blank
visage to his friend.

The old man seemed to enter into and imagine his thoughts. He did not
wait to be reminded, by the halting speech of the youth, of the one
subject from which the latter shrunk to speak.

“The next thing, my son,” said he, “is the necessary means. Happily, in
the case of one so prudent and temperate as yourself, you will not need
much. Food and clothing, and a small sum, annually, for contingencies,
will be your chief expense; and this, I am fortunately able to provide.
I am not a rich man, my son; but economy and temperance, with industry,
have given me enough, and to spare. It is long since I had resolved that
all I have should be yours; and I had laid aside small sums from time to
time, intending them for an occasion like the present, which I felt
sure would at length arrive. I am rejoiced that my foresight should have
begun in time, since it enables me to meet the necessity promptly,
and to interpose myself at the moment when you most need counsel and
assistance.”

“Oh, my friend, my kind generous friend, how it shames me for my own
father to hear you speak thus!”

The youth caught the hands of his benefactor, and the hot tears fell
from his eyes upon them, while he fervently bent to kiss them.

“Your father is a good but rough man, William, who will come to his
senses in good time. Men of his education--governed as he is by the
mistake which so commonly confounds God with his self-constituted
representative, religion with its professor--will err, and can not be
reasoned out of their errors. It is the unceasing operation of time
which can alone teach them a knowledge of the truth. You must not think
too hardly of your father, who does not love you the less because he
fancies you are his particular property, with whom he may do what he
pleases. As for what I have done, and am disposed to do for you, let
that not become burdensome to your gratitude. In some respects you have
been a son to me, and I send you from me with the same reluctance
which a father would feel in the like circumstances. You have been my
companion, you have helped to cheer my solitude; and I have learned to
look on the progress of your mind with the interest of the philosopher
who pursues a favorite experiment. In educating you, I have attempted an
experiment which I should be sorry to see fail. I do not think now that
it will fail. I think you will do yourself and me ample justice. If I
have had my doubts, they were of your courage, not your talent. If
you have a weakness, it is because of a deficiency of self-esteem--a
tendency to self-disparagement. A little more actual struggle with the
world, and an utter withdrawal from those helps and hands which in a
youth’s own home are very apt to be constantly employed to keep him from
falling, and to save him from the consequences of his fall, and I do not
despair of seeing you acquire that necessary moral hardihood which will
enable you to think freely, and to make your mind give a fair utterance
to the properties which are in it. When this is done, I have every hope
of you. You will rise to eminence in your profession. I know, my son,
that you will do me honor.”

“Ah, sir, I am afraid you overrate my abilities. I have no consciousness
of any such resources as you suppose me to possess.”

“It is here that your deficiency speaks out. Be bold, my son--be bold,
bolder, boldest. I would not have you presumptuous, but there is a
courage, short of presumption, which is only a just confidence in one’s
energies and moral determination. This you will soon form, if, looking
around you and into the performances of others, you see how easy they
are, and how far inferior they are to your own ideas of what excellence
should be. Do not look into yourself for your standards. I have perhaps
erred in making these too high. Look out from yourself--look into
others--analyze the properties of others; and, in attempting, seek only
to meet the exigencies of the occasion, without asking what a great mind
might effect beyond it. Your heart will fail you always if your beau
ideal is for ever present to your mind.”

“I will try, sir. My tasks are before me, and I know it is full time
that I should discard my boyhood. I will go to work with industry, and
will endeavor not to disappoint your confidence; but I must confess,
sir, I have very little in myself.”

“If you will work seriously, William, my faith is in this very humility.
A man knowing his own weakness, and working to be strong, can not fail.
He must achieve something more than he strives for.”

“You make me strong as I hear you, sir. But I have one request to make,
sir. I have a favor to ask, sir, which will make me almost happy if you
grant it--which will at least reconcile me to receive your favors, and
to feel them less oppressively.”

“What is that, William? You know, my son, there are few things which I
could refuse you.”

“It is that _I_ MAY BE YOUR SON; that I may call you father, and bear
henceforward your name. If you adopt me, rear me, teach me, provide me
with the means of education and life, and do for me what a father should
have done, you are substantially more than my father to me. Let me bear,
your name. I shall be proud of it, sir. I will not disgrace it--nay,
more, it will strengthen me in my desire to do it and myself honor. When
I hear it spoken, it will remind me of my equal obligations to you and
to myself.”

“But this, my son, is a wrong done to your own father.”

“Alas! he will not feel it such.”

The old man shook his head.

“You speak now with a feeling of anger, William. The treatment of your
father rankles in your mind.”

“No, sir, no! I freely forgive him. I have no reference to him in the
prayer I make. My purpose is simply what I declare. Your name will
remind me of your counsels, will increase my obligation to pursue them,
will strengthen me in my determination, will be to me a fond monitor in
your place. Oh, sir, do not deny me! You have shown me the affections of
a father--let me, I entreat you, bear the name of your son!”

The youth flung his arms about the old man’s neck, and wept with a gush
of fondness which the venerable sire could not withstand. He was deeply
touched: his lips quivered; his eyes thrilled and throbbed. In vain did
he strive to resist the impulse. He gave him tear for tear.

“My son, you have unmanned me.”

“Ah, my father, I can not regret, since, in doing so, I have
strengthened my own manhood.”

“If it have this effect, William, I shall not regret my own weakness.
There is a bird, you are aware, of which it is fabled that it nourishes
its young by the blood of its own bosom, which it wounds for this
purpose. Believe me, my dear boy, I am not unwilling to be this bird for
your sake. If to feel for you as the fondest of fathers can give me the
rights of one, then are you most certainly my son--my son!”

Long, and fond, and sweet, was their embrace. For a full hour, but few
words, and those of a mournful tenderness, were exchanged between the
parties. But the scene and the struggle were drawing nigh their close.
This was the day when they were to separate. It had been arranged that
William Hinkley, or as he now calls himself, William Calvert, was to
go into the world. The old man had recalled for his sake, many of the
memories and associations of his youth. He had revived that period--in
his case one of equal bitterness and pleasure--when, a youth like him he
was about to send forth, he had been the ardent student in a profession
whose honors he had so sadly failed to reap. In this profession he was
then fortunate in having many sterling friends. Some of these were still
so. In withdrawing from society, he had not withdrawn from all commerce
with a select and sacred few; and to the friendly counsel and protection
of these he now deputed the paternal trusts which had been just so
solemnly surrendered to himself. There were long and earnest appeals
written to many noble associates--men who had won great names by dint of
honorable struggle in those fields into which the feebler temper of Mr.
Calvert did not permit him to penetrate. Some of these letters bore for
their superscriptions such names as the Clays, the Crittendens, and the
Metcalfs--the strong men, not merely of Kentucky, but of the Union.
The good old man sighed as he read them over, separately, to his young
companion.

“Once I stood with them, and like them--not the meanest among them--nay,
beloved by them as an associate, and recognised as a competitor. But
they are here--strong, high, glorious, in the eye of the nation--and I
am nothing--a poor white-headed pedagogue in the obscurest regions
of Kentucky. Oh, my son, remember this, and be strong! Beware of that
weakness, the offspring of a miserable vanity, which, claiming too much
for itself, can bestow nothing upon others. Strive only to meet the
exigency, and you will do more--you will pass beyond it. Ask not what
your fame requires--the poor fame of a solitary man struggling like an
atom in the bosom of the great struggling world--ask only what is due
to the task which you have assumed, and labor to do that. This is
the simple, small secret, but be sure it is the one which is of more
importance than all beside.”

The departure of William Hinkley from his native village was kept a
profound secret from all persons except his adopted father and his bosom
friend and cousin, Fisherman Ned. We have lost sight of this young man
for several pages, and, in justice equally to the reader and himself, it
is necessary that we should hurriedly retrace our progress, at least so
far as concerns his. We left him, if we remember, having driven Alfred
Stevens from his purpose, riding on alone, really with no other aim than
to give circulation to his limbs and fancies. His ride, if we are to
believe his random but significant words, and his very knowing looks,
was not without its results. He had certainly made some discoveries--at
least he thought and said so; but, in truth, we believe these amounted
to nothing more than some plausible conjectures as to the route which
Alfred Stevens was in the habit of pursuing, on those excursions, in
which the neighbors were disposed to think that there was something
very mysterious. He certainly had jumped to the conclusion that, on such
occasions, the journey of Stevens was prolonged to Ellisland; and, as
such a ride was too long for one of mere pleasure and exercise, the next
conclusion was, that such a journey had always some business in it.

Now, a business that calls for so much secrecy, in a young student of
theology, was certainly one that could have very little relation to the
church. So far as Ned Hinkley knew anything of the Decalogue it could
not well relate to that. There was nothing in St. Paul that required
him to travel post to Ellisland; though a voyage to Tarsus might be
justified by the authority of that apostle; and the whole proceeding,
therefore, appeared to be a mystery in which gospelling had very little
to do. Very naturally, having arrived at this conclusion, Ned Hinkley
jumped to another. If the saints have nothing to do with this journey
of Alfred Stevens, the sinners must have. It meant mischief--it was a
device of Satan; and the matter seemed so clearly made out to his own
mind, that he returned home with the further conviction, which was
equally natural and far more easily arrived at, that he was now bound
by religion, as he had previously been impelled by instinct, to give
Stevens “a regular licking the very first chance that offered.” Still,
though determined on this measure, he was not unmindful of the necessity
of making other discoveries; and he returned to Charlemont with a
countenance big with importance and almost black with mystery.

But the events which had taken place in his absence, and which we have
already related, almost put his own peculiar purposes out of his mind.
That William Hinkley should have cowskinned Stevens would have been much
more gratifying to him could he have been present; and he was almost
disposed to join with the rest in their outcry against this sacrilegious
proceeding, for the simple reason, that it somewhat anticipated his own
rigorous intentions to the same effect. He was not less dissatisfied
with the next attempt for two reasons.

“You might have known, Bill, that a parson won’t fight with pistols. You
might have persuaded him to fist or cudgel, to a fair up and down, hand
over, fight! That’s not so criminal, they think. I heard once of Brother
John Cross, himself trying a cudgel bout with another parson down
in Mississippi, because he took the same text out of his mouth, and
preached it over the very same day, with contrary reason. Everybody said
that John Cross served him right, and nobody blamed either. But they
would have done so if pistols had been used. You can’t expect parsons
or students of religion to fight with firearms. Swords, now, they think
justifiable, for St. Peter used them; but we read nowhere in Old or New
Testament of their using guns, pistols, or rifles.”

“But he consented to fight, and brought his own pistols, Ned?”

“Why, then, didn’t you fight? That’s the next thing I blame you
for--that, when you were both ready, and had the puppies in your hands,
you should have stood looking at each other without taking a crack. By
jingo, had there been fifty fathers and mothers in the bush, I’d have
had a crack at him. No, I blame you, William--I can’t help it. You
didn’t do right. Oh! if you had only waited for me, and let me have
fixed it, how finely we would have managed. What then, if your father
had burst in, it was only shifting the barkers from your hands to mine.
I’d have banged at him, though John Cross himself, and all his flock,
stood by and kneed it to prevent me. They might have prayed to all
eternity without stopping me, I tell you.”

William Hinkley muttered something about the more impressive sort of
procedure which his father had resorted to, and a little soreness about
the parietal bones just at that moment giving a quick impatient air to
his manner, had the effect of putting an end to all further discussion
of this topic. Fisherman Ned concluded with a brief assurance, meant
as consolation, that, when he took up the cudgels, his cousin need make
himself perfectly easy with the conviction that he would balance both
accounts very effectually. He had previously exhorted William to renew
the attempt, though with different weapons, to bring his enemy into the
field; but against this attempt Mr. Calvert had already impressively
enjoined him; exacting from him a promise that he would not seek
Stevens, and would simply abide any call for satisfaction which the
latter might make. The worthy old man was well assured that in Stevens’s
situation there was very little likelihood of a summons to the field
from him.

Still, William Hinkley did not deem it becoming in him to leave the
ground for several days, even after his preparations for departure were
complete. He loitered in the neighborhood, showed himself frequently
to his enemy, and, on some of these occasions, was subjected to the
mortification of beholding the latter on his way to the house of
Margaret Cooper, with whom, a few moments after, he might be seen in
lonely rambles by the lake-side and in the wood. William had conquered
his hopes from this quarter, but he vainly endeavored to suppress his
pangs.

At length the morning came for his departure. He had seen his mother for
the last time the night before. They had met at the house of the widow
Hinkley, between which and that of Calvert, his time had been chiefly
spent, since the day of his affair with Stevens. His determination to
depart was carefully concealed from his mother. He dreaded to hear
her entreaties, and he doubted his own strength to endure them. His
deportment, however, was sufficiently fond and tender, full of pain and
passion, to have convinced her, had she been at all suspicious of the
truth, of the design he meditated. But, as it was, it simply satisfied
her affections; and the fond “good night” with which he addressed her
ears at parting, was followed by a gush of tears which shocked the more
sturdy courage of his cousin, and aroused the suspicions of the widow.

“William Hinkley,” she said after the mother had gone home--“you must be
thinking to leave Charlemont. I’m sure of it--I know it.”

“If you do, say nothing, dear cousin; it will do no good--it can not
prevent me now, and will only make our parting more painful.”

“Oh, don’t fear me,” said the widow--“I shan’t speak of it, till it’s
known to everybody, for I think you right to go and do just as Gran’pa
Calvert tells you; but you needn’t have made it such a secret with me.
I’ve always been too much of your friend to say a word.”

“Alas!” said the youth mournfully, “until lately, dear cousin, I fancied
that I had no friends--do not blame me, therefore, if I still sometimes
act as if I had none.”

“You have many friends, William, already--I’m sure you will find many
more wherever you go; abler friends if not fonder ones, than you leave
behind you.”

The youth threw his arms round the widow’s neck and kissed her tenderly.
Her words sounded in his ears like some melodious prophecy.

“Say no more, cousin,” he exclaimed with sudden enthusiasm; “I am so
well pleased to believe what you promise me of the future, that I am
willing to believe all. God bless you. I will never forget you.”

The parting with Calvert was more touching in reality, but with fewer of
the external signs of feeling. A few words, a single embrace and squeeze
of the hand, and they separated; the old man hiding himself and his
feelings in the dimness of his secluded abode, while his adopted son,
with whom Ned Hinkley rode a brief distance on his way, struck spurs
into his steed, as if to lose, in the rapid motion of the animal, the
slow, sad feelings which were pressing heavily upon his heart. He had
left Charlemont for ever. He had left it under circumstances of doubt,
and despondency--stung by injustice, and baffled in the first ardent
hopes of his youthful mind. “The world was all before him, where to
choose.” Let us not doubt that the benignant Providence is still his
guide.



CHAPTER XXV.

CONQUEST.



The progress of events and our story necessarily brings as back to
Charlemont. We shall lose sight of William Hinkley, henceforth Calvert,
for some time; and here, par parenthese, let us say to our readers
that this story being drawn from veritable life, will lack some of that
compactness and close fitness of parts which make our novels too
much resemble the course of a common law case. Instead of having our
characters always at hand, at the proper moment, to do the business of
the artist, like so many puppets, each working on a convenient wire, and
waiting to be whistled in upon the scene, we shall find them sometimes
absent, as we do in real life when their presence is most seriously
desired, and when the reader would perhaps prefer that they should come
in, to meet or make emergencies. Some are gone whom we should rather
see; some present, whose absence, in the language of the Irishman, would
be the best company they could give us; and some, not forthcoming, like
the spirits of Owen Glendower, even when most stoutly called for. The
vast deeps of human progress do not release their tenants at the beck
and call of ordinary magicians, and we, who endeavor to describe events
as we find them, must be content to take them and persons, too, only
when they are willing. Were we writing the dramatic romance, we should
be required to keep William Hinkley always at hand, as a convenient foil
to Alfred Stevens. He should watch his progress; pursue his sinuosities
of course; trace him out in all his ill-favored purposes, and be
ready, at the first act--having, like the falcon, by frequent and
constantly-ascending gyrations, reached the point of command--to pounce
down upon the fated quarry, and end the story and the strife together.
But ours is a social narrative, where people come and go without much
regard to the unities, and without asking leave of the manager. William
Hinkley, too, is a mere man and no hero. He has no time to spare, and he
is conscious that he has already wasted too much. He has work to do and
is gone to do it. Let it console the reader, in his absence, to know
that he WILL do it--that his promise is a good one--and that we have
already been shown, in the dim perspective of the future, glimpses of
his course which compensate him for his mishaps, and gladden the heart
of his adopted father, by confirming its prophecies and hopes.

The same fates which deny that he should realize the first fancies of
his boyhood, are, in the end, perhaps, not a jot kinder to others whom
they now rather seem to favor. His absence did not stop the social
machine of Charlemont from travelling on very much as before. There was
a shadow over his mother’s heart, and his disappearance rather aroused
some misgiving and self-reproachful sensations in that of his father.
Mr. Calvert, too, had his touch of hypochondria in consequence of his
increased loneliness, and Ned Hinkley’s fighting monomania underwent
startling increase; but, with the rest, the wheel went on without much
sensible difference. The truth is, that, however mortifying the truth
may be, the best of us makes but a very small sensation in his absence.
Death is a longer absence, in which our friends either forget us, or
recollect our vices. Our virtues are best acknowledged when we are
standing nigh and ready to enforce them. Like the argumentative
eloquence of the Eighth Harry, they are never effectual until the
halberdiers clinch their rivets forcibly.

It does not necessarily impugn the benevolence or wisdom of Providence
to show that crime is successful for a season in its purposes. Vice may
prevail, and victims perish, without necessarily disparaging the career,
or impeding the progress of virtue. To show that innocence may fall,
is sometimes to strengthen innocence, so that it may stand against
all assailants. To show vice, even in its moments of success, is not
necessarily to show that such success is desirable. Far from it! As none
of us can look very deeply into the future, so it happens that the boon
for which we pray sometimes turns out to be our bane; while the hardship
and suffering, whose approach we deprecate in sackcloth and ashes, may
come with healing on their wings, and afford us a dearer blessing
than any ever yet depicted in the loom of a sanguine and brilliant
imagination.

We are, after all, humbling as this fact may be to our clamorous vanity,
only so many agents and instruments, blind, and scuffling vainly in our
blindness, in the perpetual law of progress. As a soul never dies, so it
is never useless or unemployed. The Deity is no more profligate in the
matter of souls than he is in that of seeds. They pass, by periodical
transitions, from body to body; perhaps from sphere to sphere; and as
the performance of their trusts have been praiseworthy or censurable,
so will be the character of their trusts in future. He who has shown
himself worthy of confidence in one state, will probably acquire a
corresponding increase of responsibility in another. He who has betrayed
his trusts or impaired them, will share less of the privileges of the
great moral credit system.

In all these transitions, however, work is to be done. The fact that
there is a trust, implies duty and performance; and the practice of
virtue is nothing more than the performance of this work to the best of
our abilities. Well, we do not do our work. We fail in our trusts. We
abuse tuem. Such a man as Alfred Stevens abuses them. Such a woman as
Margaret Cooper fails in them. What then? Do we destroy the slave who
fails in his duty, or chasten him, and give him inferior trusts? Do you
suppose that the Deity is more profligate in souls than in seeds--that
he creates and sends forth millions of new souls, annually, in place of
those which have gone astray? Hardly so! He is too good an economist for
that. We learn this from all the analogies. As a soul can not perish,
so it never remains unemployed. It still works, though its labors may be
confined to a treadmill.

The mere novel-reader may regard all this as so much unnecessary
digression. But let him not deceive himself. It would be the most
humiliating and painful thought, indeed, could we believe that the
genius which informs and delights us--which guides the bark of state
through a thousand storms and dangers to its port of safety--which
conquers and commands--which sings in melodies that make melodies
in human hearts for thousands of succeeding years--is suddenly to be
suspended--to have no more employment--to do no more work--guide no more
states--make no more melodies! Nay, the pang would be scarcely less to
believe that a fair intellect like that of Alfred Stevens, or a wild,
irregular genius, like that of Margaret Cooper--because of its erring,
either through perversity or blindness, is wholly to become defunct,
so far as employment is concerned--that they are to be deprived of all
privilege of working up to the lost places--regaining the squandered
talents--atoning, by industry and humble desire, the errors and
deficiencies of the past! We rather believe that heaven is a world where
the labors are more elevated, the necessities less degrading; that it
is no more permanent than what we esteem present life; nay, that it is
destined to other transitions; that we may still ascend, on and on,
and that each heaven has its higher heaven yet. We believe that our
immortality is from the beginning; that time is only a periodical step
in eternity----that transition is the true meaning of life--and death
nothing more than a sign of progress. It may be an upward or a downward
progress, but it is not a toilsome march to a mere sleep. Lavish as is
the bounty of God, and boundless as are his resources, there is
nothing of him that we do know which can justify the idea of such utter
profligacy of material.

We transgress. Our business is with the present doings of our dramatis
persons and not with the future employment of their souls. Still, we
believe, the doctrine which we teach not only to be more rational, but
absolutely more moral than the conjectures on this subject which are
in ordinary use. More rational as relates to the characteristics of the
Deity, and more moral as it affects the conduct and the purposes of
man himself. There is something grand beyond all things else, in the
conception of this eternal progress of the individual nature; its
passage from condition to condition; sphere to sphere; life to life;
always busy, working for the mighty Master; falling and sinking to mere
menial toils, or achieving and rising to more noble trusts; but, at all
events, still working in some way in the great world-plantation, and
under the direct eye of the sovereign World-Planter. The torture of
souls on the one hand, and the singing of psalms on the other, may
be doctrines infinitely more orthodox; but, to our mind, they seem
immeasurably inferior in grandeur, in propriety, in noble conception of
the appointments of the creature, and the wondrous and lovely designs of
the benignant Father.

The defeat of such a soul as that of Margaret Cooper can surely be a
temporary defeat only. It will regain strength, it must rise in the
future, it must recover the lost ground, and reassert the empire whose
sway it has unwillingly abandoned; for it is not through will,
wholly, by which we lose the moral eminence. Something is due to human
weaknesses; to the blindness in which a noble spirit is sometimes
suffered to grow into stature; disproportioned stature--that, reaching
to heaven, is yet shaken down and overthrown by the merest breath of
storm that sweeps suddenly beneath its skies. The very hopelessness of
Margaret Cooper’s ambition, which led her to misanthropy, was the source
of an ever-fertile and upspringing confidence. Thus it was that the
favoring opinions which Alfred Stevens expressed--a favoring opinion
expressed by one whom she soon discovered was well able to form
one--accompanied by an assurance that the dream of fame which her wild
imagination had formed should certainly be realized, gave him a large
power over her confidence. Her passion was sway--the sway of mind over
mind--of genius over sympathy--of the syren Genius over the subject
Love. It was this passion which had made her proud, which had filled
her mind with visions, and yielded to her a world by itself, and like
no other, filled with all forms of worship and attraction; chivalrous
faith, unflagging zeal, generous confidence, pure spirits, and the most
unquestioning loyalty! Ignorant of the world which she had not seen, and
of those movements of human passion which she had really never felt, she
naturally regarded Alfred Stevens as one of the noble representatives
of that imaginary empire which her genius continually brought before her
eyes. She saw in him the embodiment of that faith in her intellect which
it was the first and last hope of her intellect to inspire; and seeing
thus, it will be easy to believe that her full heart, which, hitherto,
had poured itself forth on rocks, and trees, and solitary places,
forgetful of all prudence--a lesson which she had never learned--and
rejoicing in the sympathy of a being like herself, now gushed forth
with all the volume of its impatient fullness. The adroit art of her
companion led her for ever into herself; she was continually summoned to
pour forth the treasures of her mind and soul; and, toiling in the same
sort of egoisme in which her life heretofore had been consumed, she
was necessarily diverted from all doubts or apprehensions of the occult
purposes of him who had thus beguiled her over the long frequented
paths. As the great secret of success with the mere worldling, is to pry
into the secret of his neighbor while carefully concealing his own, so
it is the great misfortune of enthusiasm to be soon blinded to a purpose
which its own ardent nature neither allows it to suspect nor penetrate.
Enthusiasm is a thing of utter confidence; it has no suspicion; it sets
no watch on other hearts; it is too constantly employed in pouring forth
the treasures of its own. It is easy, therefore, to deceive and betray
it, to beguile it into confidence, and turn all its revelations against
itself. How far the frequency of this usage in the world makes it
honorable, is a question which we need not discuss on this occasion.

Alfred Stevens had now been for some weeks in the village of Charlemont,
where, in the meantime, he had become an object of constantly-increasing
interest. The men shrank from him with a feeling of inferiority; the
women--the young ones being understood--shrank from him also, but
with that natural art of the sex which invites pursuit, and strives
to conquer even in flight. But it was soon evident enough that Stevens
bestowed his best regards solely upon Margaret Cooper. If he sought
the rest, it was simply in compliance with those seeming duties of his
ostensible profession which were necessary to maintain appearances.
Whether he loved Margaret Cooper or not, he soon found a pleasure in
her society which he sought for in no other quarter of the village. The
days, in spite of the strife with William Hinkley, flew by with equal
pleasantness and rapidity to both. The unsophisticated mind of
Margaret Cooper left her sensible to few restraints upon their ordinary
intercourse; and, indeed, if she did know or regard them for an instant,
it was only to consider them as necessary restraints for the protection
of the ignorant and feeble of her sex--a class in which she never once
thought to include herself. Her attachment to Alfred Stevens, though
it first arose from the pleasure which her mind derived from its
intercourse with his, and not from any of those nice and curious
sympathies of temperament and taste which are supposed to constitute the
essence and comprise the secret of love, was yet sufficient to blind her
judgment to the risks of feeling, if nothing more, which were likely to
arise from their hourly-increasing intimacy; and she wandered with
him into the devious woods, and they walked by moonlight among
the solemn-shaded hills, and the unconscious girl had no sort of
apprehension that the spells of an enslaving passion were rapidly
passing over her soul.

How should she apprehend such spells? how break them? For the first time
in her life had she found intellectual sympathy--the only moral response
which her heart longed to hear. For the first time had she encountered
a mind which could do justice to, and correspond on anything like equal
terms with, her own. How could she think that evil would ensue from
an acquisition which yielded her the only communion which she had ever
craved Her confidence in herself, in her own strength, and her ignorance
of her own passions, were sufficient to render her feelings secure; and
then she was too well satisfied of the superiority and nobleness of his.
But, in truth, she never thought upon the subject. Her mind dwelt
only on the divine forms and images of poetry. The ideal world had
superseded, not only the dangers, but the very aspect, of the real.
Under the magic action of her fancy, she had come to dwell

   “With those gay creatures of the element
    That in the colors of the rainbow live,
    And play i’ the plighted clouds”--

she had come to speak only in the one language, and of the one topic;
and, believing now that she had an auditor equally able to comprehend
and willing to sympathize with her cravings, she gave free scope to
the utterance of her fancies, and to the headlong impulse of that
imagination which had never felt the curb.

The young heart, not yet chilled by the world’s denials, will readily
comprehend the beguiling influence of the dreaming and enthusiastic
nature of some dear spirit, in whose faith it has full confidence, and
whose tastes are kindred with its own. How sweet the luxury of moonlight
in commerce with such a congenial spirit! how heavenly the occasional
breath of the sweet southwest! how gentle and soothing fond the whispers
of night--the twirling progress of sad-shining stars--the gentle sway of
winds among the tree-tops--the plaintive moan of billows, as they gather
and disperse themselves along the shores! To speak of these delights;
to walk hand-in-hand along the gray sands by the seaside, and whisper in
murmuring tones, that seem to gather sympathies from those of ocean;
to guide the eye of the beloved associate to the sudden object; to
challenge the kindred fancy which comments upon our own; to remember
together, and repeat, the happy verse of inspired poets, speaking of
the scene, and to the awakened heart which feels it; and, more, to pour
forth one’s own inspirations in the language of tenderness and song, and
awaken in the heart of our companion the rapture to which our own
has given speech--these, which are subjects of mock and scorn to the
worldling, are substantial though not enduring joys to the young and
ardent nature.

In this communion, with all her pride, strength, and confidence,
Margaret Cooper was the merest child. Without a feeling of guile, she
was dreaming of the greatness which her ambition craved, and telling her
dreams, with all the artless freedom of the child who has some golden
fancy of the future, which it seeks to have confirmed by the lips
of experience. The wily Stevens led her on, gave stimulus to her
enthusiasm, made her dreams become reasonable in her eyes, and laughed
at them in his secret heart. She sung at his suggestion, and sang her
own verses with all that natural tremor which even the most self-assured
poet feels on such an occasion.

“Beautiful!” the arch-hypocrite would exclaim, as if unconscious
of utterance; “beautiful!” and his hand would possess itself of the
trembling fingers of hers. “But beautiful as it is, Margaret, I am
sure that it is nothing to what you could do under more auspicious
circumstances.”

“Ah! if there were ears to hear, if there were hearts to feel, and eyes
to weep, I feel, I know, what might be done. No, no! this is nothing.
This is the work of a child.”

“Nay, Margaret, if the work of a child, it is that of a child of
genius.”

“Ah! do not flatter me, Alfred Stevens, do not deceive me. I am too
willing to believe you, for it is so dear a feeling to think that I
too am a poet. Yet, at the first, I had not the smallest notion of this
kind: I neither knew what poetry was, nor felt the desire to be a poet.
Yet I yearned with strange feelings, which uttered themselves in that
form ere I had seen books or read the verses of others. It was an
instinct that led me as it would. I sometimes fear that I have been
foolish in obeying it; for oh, what has it brought me? What am I? what
are my joys? I am lonely even with my companions. I share not the sports
and feel not the things which delight my sex. Their dances and frolics
give me no pleasure. I have no sympathy with them or their cares. I
go apart--I am here on the hills, or deep in the forests--sad, lonely,
scarcely knowing what I am, and what I desire.”

“You are not alone, nor are your pleasures less acute than theirs. If
they laugh, their laughter ends in sleep. If you are sad, you lose not
the slightest faculty of perception or sensibility, but rather gain them
in consequence. Laughter and tears are signs neither of happiness nor
grief, and as frequently result from absolute indifference as from any
active emotion. If you are absent from them, you have better company.
You can summon spirits to your communion, Margaret; noble thoughts
attend you; eyes that cheer, lips that assure you, and whispers, from
unknown attendants, that bid you be of good heart, for the good time is
coming. Ah! Margaret, believe me when I tell you that time is at hand.
Such a genius as yours, such a spirit, can not always be buried in these
woods.”

It was in such artful language as this that the arch-hypocrite flattered
and beguiled her. They were wandering along the edge of the streamlet to
which we have more than once conducted the footsteps of the reader. The
sun was about setting. The autumn air was mild with a gentle breathing
from the south. The woods were still and meek as the slumbers of an
infant. The quiet of the scene harmonized with the temper of their
thoughts and feelings. They sat upon a fragment of the rock. Margaret
was silent, but her eyes were glistening bright--not with hope only,
but with that first glimmering consciousness of a warmer feeling, which
gives a purple light to hope, and makes the heart tremble, for the first
time, with its own expectations. It did not escape Alfred Stevens that,
for the first time, her eye sank beneath his glance; for the first time
there was a slight flush upon her cheek. He was careful not to startle
and alarm the consciousness which these signs indicated. The first
feeling which the young heart has of its dependence upon another is one
little short of terror; it is a feeling which wakens up suspicion, and
puts all the senses upon the watch. To appear to perceive this emotion
is to make it circumspect; to disarm it, one must wear the aspect of
unconsciousness. The wily Stevens, practised in the game, and master of
the nature of the unsuspecting girl, betrayed in his looks none of the
intelligence which he felt. If he uttered himself in the language of
admiration, it was that admiration which would be natural to a profound
adorer of literature and all its professors. His words were those of the
amateur:--

“I can not understand, Margaret, how you have studied--how you have
learned so much--your books are few--you have had no masters. I never
met in my life with so remarkable an instance of unassisted endeavor.”

“My books were hero in the woods--among these old rocks. My teacher was
solitude. Ah! there is no teacher like one’s own heart. My instinct made
me feel my deficiencies--my deficiencies taught me contemplation--and
from contemplation came thoughts and cravings, and you know, when the
consciousness of our lack is greatest, then, even the dumb man finds a
voice. I found my voice in consequence of my wants. My language you see
is that of complaint only.”

“And a sweet and noble language it is, Margaret; but it is not in poetry
alone that your utterance is so distinct and beautiful--you sing too
with a taste as well as power which would prove that contemplation was
as happy in bringing about perfection in the one as in the other art.
Do sing me, Margaret, that little ditty which you sang here the other
night?”

His hand gently detained and pressed hers as he urged the request.

“I would rather not sing to-night,” she replied, “I do not feel as if I
could, and I trust altogether to feeling. I will sing for you some other
time when you do not ask, and, perhaps would prefer not to hear me.”

“To hear you at all, Margaret, is music to my ears.”

She was silent, and her fingers made a slight movement to detach
themselves from his.

“No, Margaret, do not withdraw them! Let me detain them
thus--longer--for ever! My admiration of you has been too deeply felt
not to have been too clearly shown, Your genius is too dear to me now to
suffer me to lose it. Margaret--dear Margaret!”

She spoke not--her breathing became quick and hard.

“You do not speak, let me hope that you are not angry with me?”

“No, no!” she whispered faintly. He continued with more boldness, and
while he spoke, his arm encircled her waist.

“A blessed chance brought me to your village. I saw you and returned.
I chose a disguise in which I might study you, and see how far the
treasures of your mind confirmed the noble promise of your face. They
have done more. Like him who finds the precious ore among the mountains,
I can not part with you so found. I must tear you from the soil. I must
bear you with me. You must be mine, Margaret--you must go with me where
the world will see, and envy me my prize.”

He pressed her to his bosom. She struggled slightly.

“Do not, do not, Alfred Stevens, do not press me--do not keep me. You
think too much of me. I am no treasure--alas! this is all deception. You
can not--can not desire it?”

“Do I not! Ah! Margaret, what else do I desire now? Do you think me only
what I appear in Charlemont?”

“No! no!”

“I have the power of a name, Margaret, in my profession--among a
numerous people--and that power is growing into wealth and sway. I am
feared and honored, loved by some, almost worshipped by others; and what
has led me from this sway, to linger among these hills--to waste hours
so precious to ambition--to risk the influence which I had already
secured--what, but a higher impulse--a dearer prospect--a treasure,
Margaret, of equal beauty and genius.”

Her face was hidden upon his bosom. He felt the beating of her heart
against his hand.

“If you have a genius for song, Margaret Cooper, I, too, am not without
my boast. In my profession, men speak of my eloquence as that of a
genius which has few equals, and no superior.”

“I know it--it must be so!”

“Move me not to boast, dear Margaret; it is in your ears only that I
do so--and only to assure you that, in listening to my love, you do not
yield to one utterly obscure, and wanting in claims, which, as yours
must be finally, are already held to be established and worthy of the
best admiration of the intelligent and wise. Do you hear me, Margaret?”

“I do, I do! It must be as you say. But of love I have thought nothing.
No, no! I know not, Alfred Stevens, if I love or not--if I can love.”

“You mistake, Margaret. It is in the heart that the head finds its
inspiration. Mere intellect makes not genius. All the intellect in the
world would fail of this divine consummation. It is from the fountains
of feeling that poetry drinks her inspiration. It is at the altars of
love that the genius of song first bends in adoration. You have loved,
Margaret, from the first moment when you sung. It did not alter the case
that there was no object of sight. The image was in your mind--in your
hope. One sometimes goes through life without ever meeting the human
counterpart of this ideal; and the language of such a heart will be that
of chagrin--distaste of life--misanthropy, and a general scorn of his
own nature. Such, I trust, is not your destiny. No, Margaret, that is
impossible. I take your doubt as my answer, and unless your own lips
undeceive me, dearest Margaret, I will believe that your love is willing
to requite my own.”

She was actually sobbing on his breast. With an effort she struggled
into utterance.

“My heart is so full, my feelings are so strange--oh! Alfred Stevens, I
never fancied I could be so weak.”

“So weak--to love! surely, Margaret, you mistake the word. It is in
loving only that the heart finds its strength. Love is the heart’s
sole business; and not to exercise it in its duties is to impair its
faculties, and deprive it equally of its pleasures and its tasks. Oh,
I will teach you of the uses of this little heart of yours, dear
Margaret--ay, till it grow big with its own capacity to teach. We will
inform each other, every hour, of some new impulses and objects. Our
dreams, our hopes, our fears, and our desires, ah! Margaret--what a
study of love will these afford us. Nor to love only. Ah! dearest, when
your muse shall have its audience, its numerous watching eyes and eager
ears, then shall you discover how much richer will be the strain from
your lips once informed by the gushing fullness of this throbbing
heart.”

She murmured fondly in his embrace, “Ah! I ask no other eyes and ears
than yours.”

In the glow of a new and overpowering emotion, such indeed was her
feeling. He gathered her up closer in his arms. He pressed his lips upon
the rich ripe beauties of hers, as some hungering bee, darting upon the
yet unrifled flower which it first finds in the shadows of the forest,
clings to, and riots on, the luscious loveliness, as if appetite could
only be sated in its exhaustion. She struggled and freed herself from
his embrace: but, returning home that evening her eye was cast upon the
ground; her step was set down hesitatingly; there was a tremor in her
heart; a timid expression in her face and manner! These were proofs of
the discovery which she then seems to have made for the first time, that
there is a power stronger than mere human will--a power that controls
genius; that mocks at fame; feels not the lack of fortune, and is
independent of the loss of friends! She now first knew her weakness. She
had felt the strength of love! Ah! the best of us may quail, whatever
his hardihood, in the day when love asserts HIS strength and goes forth
to victory.

Margaret Cooper sought her chamber, threw herself on the bed, and turned
her face in the pillow to hide the burning blushes which, with every
movement of thought and memory, seemed to increase upon her cheek. Yet,
while she blushed and even wept, her heart throbbed and trembled with
the birth of a new emotion of joy. Ah! how sweet is our first
secret pleasure--shared by one other only--sweet to that other as to
ourself--so precious to him also. To be carried into our chamber--to be
set up ostentatiously--there, where none but ourselves may see--to be
an object of our constant tendance, careful idolatry, keen suspicion,
delighted worship!

Ah! but if the other makes it no idol--his toy only--what shall
follow this desecration of the sacred thing! What but shame, remorse,
humiliation, perhaps death!--alas! for Margaret Cooper, the love which
had so suddenly grown into a precious divinity with her, was no divinity
with him. He is no believer. He has no faith in such things, but like
the trader in religion, he can preach deftly the good doctrines which he
can not feel and is slow to practise.



CHAPTER XXVI.

FALL.



We should speak unprofitably and with little prospect of being
understood, did our readers require to be told, that there is a certain
impatient and gnawing restlessness in the heart of love, which keeps it
for ever feverish and anxious. Where this passion is associated with a
warm, enthusiastic genius, owning the poetic temperament, the anxiety
is proportionatly greater. The ideal of the mind is a sort of classical
image of perfect loveliness, chaste, sweet, commanding, but, how cold!
But love gives life to this image, even as the warm rays of the sun
falling upon the sullen lips of the Memnon, compel its utterance in
music. It not only looks beauty--it breathes it. It is not only the
aspect of the Apollo, it is the god himself; his full lyre strung, his
golden bow quivering at his back with the majesty of his motion; and his
lips parting with the song which shall make the ravished spheres stoop,
and gather round to listen.

Hitherto Margaret Cooper had been a girl of strong will; will nursed
in solitude, and by the wrong-headed indulgence of a vain and foolish
mother. She was conscious of that bounding, bursting soul of genius
which possessed her bosom; that strange, moody, and capricious god;
pent-up, denied, crying evermore for utterance, with a breath more
painful to endure, because of the suppression. This consciousness, with
the feeling of denial which attended it, had cast a gloomy intensity
over her features not less than her mind. The belief that she was
possessed of treasures which were unvalued--that she had powers which
were never to be exercised--that with a song such as might startle an
empire, she was yet doomed to a silent and senseless auditory of rocks
and trees; this belief had brought with it a moody arrogance of temper
which had made itself felt by all around her. In one hour this mood had
departed. Ambition and love became united for a common purpose; for the
object of the latter, was also the profound admirer of the former.

The anxious restlessness which her newly-acquired sensations occasioned
in her bosom, was not diminished by a renewal of those tender interviews
with her lover, which we have endeavored, though so faultily, already to
describe. Evening after evening found them together; the wily hypocrite
still stimulating, by his glozing artifices, the ruling passion for
fame, which, in her bosom, was only temporarily subservient to
love, while he drank his precious reward from her warm, lovely, and
still-blushing lips and cheeks. The very isolation in which she had
previously dwelt in Charlemont, rendered the society of Stevens still
more dear to her heart. She was no longer alone--no longer unknown--not
now unappreciated in that respect in which hitherto she felt her great
denial. “Here is one--himself a genius--who can do justice to mine.”

The young poet who finds an auditor, where he has never had one before,
may be likened to a blind man suddenly put in possession of his sight.
He sees sun and moon and stars, the forms of beauty, the images of
grace; and his soul grows intoxicated with the wonders of its new
empire. What does he owe to him who puts him in possession of these
treasures? who has given him his sight? Love, devotion, all that his
full heart has to pay of homage and affection.

Such was very much the relation which Margaret Cooper bore to Alfred
Stevens; and when, by his professions of love, he left the shows of his
admiration no longer doubtful, she was at once and entirely his. She was
no longer the self-willed, imperious damsel, full of defiance, dreaming
of admiration only, scornful of the inferior, and challenging the
regards of equals. She was now a timid, trembling girl--a dependant,
such as the devoted heart must ever be, waiting for the sign to speak,
looking eagerly for the smile to reward her sweetest utterance. If now
she walked with Stevens, she no longer led the way; she hung a little
backward, though she grasped his arm--nay, even when her hand was
covered with a gentle pressure in the folds of his. If she sung, she did
not venture to meet his eyes, which she FELT must be upon hers, and now
it was no longer her desire that the village damsels should behold them
as they went forth together on their rambles. She no longer met their
cunning and significant smiles with confidence and pride, but with
faltering looks, and with cheeks covered with blushes. Great, indeed,
was the change which had come over that once proud spirit--change
surprising to all, but as natural as any other of the thousand changes
which are produced in the progress of moments by the arch-magician,
Love. Heretofore, her song had disdained the ordinary topics of the
youthful ballad-monger. She had uttered her apostrophes to the eagle,
soaring through the black, billowy masses of the coming thunder-storm;
to the lonely but lofty rock, lonely in its loftiness, which no foot
travelled but her own; to the silent glooms of the forest--to the
majesty of white-bearded and majestic trees. The dove and the zephyr
now shared her song, and a deep sigh commonly closed it. She was changed
from what she was. The affections had suddenly bounded into being,
trampling the petty vanities underfoot; and those first lessons of
humility which are taught by love, had subdued a spirit which, hitherto,
had never known control.

Alfred Stevens soon perceived how complete was his victory. He soon
saw the extent of that sudden change which had come over her character.
Hitherto, she had been the orator. When they stood together by the
lake-side, or upon the rock, it was her finger which had pointed out the
objects for contemplation; it was her voice whose eloquence had charmed
the ear, dilating upon the beauties or the wonders which they surveyed.
She was now no longer eloquent in words. But she looked a deeper
eloquence by far than any words could embody. He was now the speaker;
and regarding him through the favoring media of kindled affections, it
seemed to her ear, that there was no eloquence so sweet as his. He spoke
briefly of the natural beauties by which they were surrounded.

“Trees, rocks, the valley and the hill, all realms of solitude and
shade, inspire enthusiasm and ardor in the imaginative spirit. They are
beneficial for this purpose. For the training of a great poet they are
necessary. They have the effect of lifting the mind to the contemplation
of vastness, depth, height, profundity. This produces an intensity of
mood--the natural result of any association between our own feelings and
such objects as are lofty and noble in the external world. The feelings
and passions as they are influenced by the petty play of society,
which diffuses their power and breaks their lights into little, become
concentrated on the noble and the grand. Serious earnestness of nature
becomes habitual--the heart flings itself into all the subjects of its
interest--it trifles with none--all its labors become sacred in its
eyes, and the latest object of study and analysis is that which is
always most important. The effect of this training in youth on the
poetic mind, is to the last degree beneficial; since, without a degree
of seriousness amounting to intensity--without a hearty faith in the
importance of what is to be done--without a passionate fullness of
soul which drives one to his task--there will be no truthfulness, no
eloquence, no concentrated thought and permanent achievement. With, you,
dear Margaret, such has already been the effect. You shrink from the
ordinary enjoyments of society. Their bald chat distresses you, as the
chatter of so many jays. You prefer the solitude which feeds the serious
mood which you love, and enables your imagination, unrepressed by
the presence of shallow witlings, to evoke its agents from storm and
shadow--from deep forest and lonesome lake--to minister to the cravings
of an excited heart, and a soaring and ambitious fancy.”

“Oh, how truly, Alfred, do you speak it,” she murmured as he closed.

“So far, so good; but, dear Margaret--there are other subjects of study
which are equally necessary for the great poet. The wild aspects of
nature are such as are of use in the first years of his probation. To
grow up in the woods and among the rocks, so that a hearty simplicity,
an earnest directness, with a constant habit of contemplation should be
permanently formed, is a first and necessary object. But it is in this
training as in every other. There are successive steps. There is a law
of progressive advance. You must not stop there. The greatest moral
study for the poet must follow. This is the study of man in society--in
the great world--where he puts on a thousand various aspects--far other
than those which are seen in the country--in correspondence with the
thousand shapes of fortune, necessity, or caprice, which attend him
there. Indeed, it may safely be said, that he never knows one half of
the responsibility of his tasks who toils without the presence of those
for whom he toils. It is in the neighborhood of man that we feel his and
our importance. It is while we are watching his strifes and struggles
that we see the awful importance of his destiny; and the great trusts of
self, and truth, and the future, which have been delivered to his hands.
Here you do not see man. You see certain shapes, which are employed in
raising hay, turnips, and potatoes; which eat and drink very much as man
does; but which, as they suffer to sleep and rest most of those latent
faculties, the exercise of which can alone establish the superiority of
the intellectual over the animal nature, so they have no more right
to the name of man than any other of those animals who eat as
industriously, and sleep as profoundly, as themselves. The contemplation
of the superior being, engaged in superior toils, awakens superior
faculties in the observer. He who sees nothing but the gathering of
turnips will think of nothing but turnips. As we enlarge the sphere
of our observation, the faculty of thought becomes expanded. You will
discover this wonderful change when you go into the world. Hitherto,
your inspirers have been these groves, these rocks, lakes, trees,
and silent places. But, when you sit amid crowds of bright-eyed,
full-minded, and admiring people; when you see the eyes of thousands
looking for the light to shine from yours; hanging, with a delight that
still hungers, on the words of truth and beauty which fall from your
lips--then, then only, dearest Margaret, will you discover the true
sources of inspiration and of fame.”

“Ah!” she murmured despondingly--“you daunt me when you speak of these
crowds--crowds of the intellectual and the wise. What should I be--how
would I appear among them?”

“As you appear to me, Margaret--their queen, their idol, their divinity,
not less a beauty than a muse?”

The raptures which Stevens expressed seemed to justify the embrace which
followed it; and it was some moments before she again spoke. When she
did the same subject was running in her mind.

“Ah! Alfred, still I fear!”

“Fear nothing, Margaret. It will be as I tell you--as I promise! If I
deceive you, I deceive myself. Is it not for the wife of my bosom that I
expect this homage?”

Her murmurs were unheard. They strolled on--still deeper into the
mazes of the forest, and the broad disk of the moon, suddenly gleaming,
yellow, through the tops of the trees, surprised them in their
wanderings.

“How beautiful!” he exclaimed. “Let us sit here, dearest Margaret.
The rock here is smooth and covered with the softest lichen. A perfect
carpet of it is at our feet, and the brooklet makes the sweetest
murmuring as it glides onward through the grove, telling all the while,
like some silly schoolgirl, where you may look for it. See the little
drops of moonlight falling here--and there in the small openings of the
forest, and lying upon the greensward like so many scattered bits of
silver. One might take it for fairy coin. And, do you note the soft
breeze that seems to rise with the moon as from some Cytherean isle,
breathing of love, love only--love never perishing!”

“Ah! were it so, Alfred!”

“Is it not, Margaret? If I could fancy that you would cease to love me
or I you--could I think that these dear joys were to end--but no! no!
let us not think of it. It is too sweet to believe, and the distrust
seems as unholy as it is unwholesome. That bright soft planet seems to
persuade to confidence as it inspires love. Do you not feel your heart
soften in the moonlight, Margaret? your eye glistens, dearest--and
your heart, I know, must be touched. It is--I feel its beating! What a
tumult, dear Margaret, is here!”

“Do not, do not!” she murmured, gently striving to disengage herself
from his grasp.

“No! no!--move not, dearest,” he replied in a subdued tone--a murmur
most like hers. “Are we not happy? Is there anything, dear Margaret,
which we could wish for?”

“Nothing! nothing!”

“Ah! what a blessed chance it was that brought me to these hills. I
never lived till now. I had my joys, Margaret--my triumphs! I freely
yield them to the past! I care for them no more! They are no longer joys
or triumphs! Yes, Margaret you have changed my heart within me. Even
fame which I so much worshipped is forgotten.”

“Say not that; oh, say not that!” she exclaimed, but still in subdued
accents.

“I must--it is too far true. I could give up the shout of applause--the
honor of popular favor--the voice of a people’s approbation--the shining
display and the golden honor--all, dear Margaret, sooner than part with
you.”

“But you need not give them up, Alfred.”

“Ah, dearest, but I have no soul for them now. You are alone my soul, my
saint--the one dear object, desire, and pride, and conquest.”

“Alas! and have you not conquered, Alfred?”

“Sweet! do I not say that I am content to forfeit all honors, triumphs,
applauses--all that was so dear to me before--and only in the fond
faith that I had conquered? You are mine--you tell me so with your dear
lips--I have you in my fond embrace--ah! do not talk to me again of
fame.”

“I were untrue to you as to myself, dear Alfred, did I not. No! with
your talents, to forego their uses--to deliver yourself up to love
wholly, were as criminal as it would be unwise.”

“You shall be my inspiration then, dear Margaret. These lips shall send
me to the forum--these eyes shall reward me with smiles when I return.
Your applause shall be to me a dearer triumph than all the clamors of
the populace.”

“Let us return home--it is late.”

“Not so!--and why should we go? What is sleep to us but loss? What the
dull hours, spent after the ordinary fashion, among ordinary people.
Could any scene be more beautiful than this--ah! can any feeling be more
sweet? Is it not so to you, dearest? tell me--nay, do not tell me--if
you love as I do, you can not leave me--not now--not thus--while such is
the beauty of earth and heaven--while such are the rich joys clustering
in our hearts. Nay, while, in that hallowing moonlight, I gaze upon thy
dark eyes, and streaming hair, thy fair, beautiful cheeks, and those
dear rosy lips!”

“Oh! Alfred, do not speak so--do not clasp me thus. Let us go. It is
late--very late, and what will they say?”

“Let them say! Are we not blessed? Can all their words take from us
these blessings--these sacred, sweet, moments--such joys, such delights?
Let them dream of such, with their dull souls if they can. No! no!
Margaret--we are one! and thus one, our world is as free from their
control as it is superior to their dreams and hopes. Here is our heaven,
Margaret--ah! how long shall it be ours! at what moment may we lose it,
by death, by storm, by what various mischance! What profligacy to fly
before the time! No! no! but a little while longer--but a little while!”

And there they lingered! He, fond, artful, persuasive; she, trembling
with the dangerous sweetness of wild, unbidden emotions. Ah! why did she
not go? Why was the strength withheld which would have carried out her
safer purpose? The moon rose until she hung in the zenith, seeming to
linger there in a sad, sweet watch, like themselves--the rivulet ran
along, still prattling through the groves; the breeze, which had been a
soft murmur among the trees at the first rising of the moon, now blew
a shrill whistle among the craggy hills; but they no longer heard the
prattle of the rivulet--even the louder strains of the breeze were
unnoticed, and it was only when they were about to depart, that poor
Margaret discovered that the moon had all the while been looking down
upon them.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE BIRTH OF THE AGONY.



It was now generally understood in Charlemont that Margaret Cooper had
made a conquest of the handsome stranger. We have omitted--as a matter
not congenial to our taste--the small by-play which had been carried on
by the other damsels of the village to effect the same object. There had
been setting of caps, without number, ay, and pulling them too, an the
truth were known among the fair Stellas and Clarissas, the Daphnes and
Dorises, of Charlemont, but, though Stevens was sufficiently considerate
of the claims of each, so far as politeness demanded it, and contrived
to say pleasant things, pour passer le temps, with all of them, it was
very soon apparent to the most sanguine, that the imperial beauties and
imperious mind of Margaret Cooper had secured the conquest for herself.

As a matter of course, the personal and intellectual attractions of
Stevens underwent no little disparagement as soon as this fact was
known. It was now universally understood that he was no such great
things, after all; and our fair friend the widow Thackeray, who was not
without her pretensions to wit and beauty, was bold enough to say that
Mr. Stevens was certainly too fat in the face, and she rather thought
him stupid. Such an opinion gave courage to the rest, and pert Miss
Bella Tompkins, a romp of first-rate excellence, had the audacity to say
that he squinted!--and this opinion was very natural, since neither of
his eyes had ever rested with satisfaction on her pouting charms.

It may be supposed that the discontent of the fair bevy, and its
unfavorable judgment of himself, did not reach the ears of Alfred
Stevens, and would scarcely have disturbed them if it did. Margaret
Cooper was more fortunate than himself in this respect. She could not
altogether be insensible to the random remarks which sour envy and
dark-eyed jealousy continued to let fall in her hearing; but her scorn
for the speakers, and her satisfaction with herself, secured her from
all annoyance from this cause. Such, at least, had been the case in the
first days of her conquest. Such was not exactly the case now. She had
no more scorn of others. She was no longer proud, no longer strong. Her
eyes no longer flashed with haughty defiance on the train which, though
envious, were yet compelled to follow. She could no longer speak in
those superior tones, the language equally of a proud intellect, and
a spirit whose sensibilities had neither been touched by love nor
enfeebled by anxiety and apprehension. A sad change had come over her
heart and all her features in the progress of a few days. Her courage
had departed. Her step was no longer firm; her eye no longer uplifted
like that of the mountain-eagle, to which, in the first darings of her
youthful muse, she had boldly likened herself. Her look was downcast,
her voice subdued; she was now not less timid than the feeblest damsel
of the village in that doubtful period of life when, passing from
childhood to girlhood, the virgin falters, as it were, with bashful
thoughts, upon the threshold of a new and perilous condition. The
intercourse of Margaret Cooper with her lover had had the most serious
effect upon her manners and her looks. But the change upon her spirit
was no less striking to all.

“I’m sure if I did love any man,” was the opinion of one of the damsels,
“I’d die sooner than show it to him, as she shows it to Alfred Stevens.
It’s a guess what he must think of it.”

“And no hard guess neither,” said another; “I reckon there’s no reason
why he should pick out Margaret Cooper except that he saw that it was no
such easy matter any where else.”

“Well! there can be no mistake about it with them; for now they’re
always together--and Betty, her own maid, thinks--but it’s better not to
say!”

And the prudent antique pursed up her mouth in a language that said
everything.

“What!--what does she say?” demanded a dozen voices.

“Well! I won’t tell you that. I won’t tell you all; but she does say,
among other things, that the sooner John Cross marries them, the better
for all parties.”

“Is it possible!”

“Can it be!”

“Bless me! but I always thought something wrong.”

“And Betty, her own maid, told you? Well, who should know, if she
don’t?”

“And this, too, after all her airs!”

“Her great smartness, her learning, and verse-making! I never knew any
good come from books yet.”

“And never will, Jane,” said another, with an equivocal expression,
with which Jane was made content; and, after a full half-hour’s
confabulation, in the primitive style, the parties separated--each,
in her way, to give as much circulation to Betty’s inuendoes as the
importance of the affair deserved.

Scandal travels along the highways, seen by all but the victim. Days and
nights passed; and in the solitude of lonely paths, by the hillside or
the rivulet, Margaret Cooper still wandered with her lover. She heard
not the poisonous breath which was already busy with her virgin fame.
She had no doubts, whatever might be the event, that the heart of Alfred
Stevens could leave her without that aliment which, in these blissful
moments, seemed to be her very breath of life. But she felt many fears,
many misgivings, she knew not why. A doubt, a cloud of anxiety, hung
brooding on the atmosphere. In a heart which is unsophisticated, the
consciousness, however vague, that all is not right, is enough to
produce this cloud; but, with the gradual progress of that heart to the
indulgence of the more active passions, this consciousness necessarily
increases and the conflict then begins between the invading passion and
the guardian principle. We have seen enough to know what must be
the result of such a conflict with a nature such as hers, under the
education which she had received. It did not end in the expulsion of her
lover. It did not end in the discontinuance of those long and frequent
rambles amid silence, and solitude, and shadow. She had not courage
for this; and the poor, vain mother, flattered with the idea that her
son-in-law would be a preacher, beheld nothing wrong in their nightly
wanderings, and suffered her daughter, in such saintly society, to go
forth without restraint or rebuke.

There was one person in the village who was not satisfied that Margaret
Cooper should fall a victim, either to the cunning of another, or to her
own passionate vanity. This was our old friend Calvert. He was rather,
inclined to be interested in the damsel, in spite of the ill treatment
of his protege, if it were only in consequence of the feelings with
which she had inspired him. It has been seen that, in the affair of the
duel, he was led to regard the stranger with an eye of suspicion. This
feeling had been further heightened by the statements of Ned Hinkley,
which, however loose and inconclusive, were yet of a kind to show that
there was some mystery about Stevens--that he desired concealment in
some respects--a fact very strongly inferred from his non-employment
of the village postoffice, and the supposition--taken for true--that he
employed that of some distant town. Ned Hinkley had almost arrived at
certainty in this respect; and some small particulars which seemed
to bear on this conviction, which he had recently gathered, taken
in connection with the village scandal in reference to the parties,
determined the old man to take some steps in the matter to forewarn
the maiden, or at least her mother, of the danger of yielding too much
confidence to one of whom so little was or could be known.

It was a pleasant afternoon, and Calvert was sitting beneath his
roof-tree, musing over this very matter, when he caught a glimpse of
the persons of whom he thought, ascending one of the distant hills,
apparently on their way to the lake. He rose up instantly, and, seizing
his staff, hurried off to see the mother of the damsel. The matter was
one of the nicest delicacy--not to be undertaken lightly--not to be
urged incautiously. Nothing, indeed, but a strong sense of duty could
have determined him upon a proceeding likely to appear invidious,
and which might be so readily construed, by a foolish woman, into an
impertinence. Though a man naturally of quick, warm feelings,
Calvert had been early taught to think cautiously--indeed, the modern
phrenologist would have said that, in the excess of this prudent organ
lay the grand weakness of his moral nature. This delayed him in the
contemplated performance much longer than his sense of its necessity
seemed to justify. Having now resolved, however, and secure in the
propriety of his object, he did not scruple any longer.

A few minutes sufficed to bring him to the cottage of the old lady, and
her voice in very friendly tenor commanded him to enter. Without useless
circumlocution, yet without bluntness, the old man broached the subject;
and, without urging any of the isolated facts of which he was possessed,
and by which his suspicions were awakened, he dwelt simply upon the
dangers which might result from such a degree of confidence as was given
to the stranger. The long, lonely rambles in the woods, by night as well
as day, were commented on, justly, but in an indulgent spirit; and the
risks of a young and unsuspecting maiden, under such circumstances, were
shown with sufficient distinctness for the comprehension of the mother,
had she been disposed to hear. But never was good old man, engaged in
the thankless office of bestowing good advice, so completely confounded
as he was by the sort of acknowledgments which his interference
obtained. A keen observer might have seen the gathering storm while
he was speaking; and, at every sentence, there was a low, running
commentary, bubbling up from the throat of the opinionated dame,
somewhat like rumbling thunder, which amply denoted the rising tempest.
It was a sort of religious effort which kept the old lady quiet till
Calvert had fairly reached a conclusion. Then, rising from her seat,
she approached him, smoothed back her apron, perked out her chin, and,
fixing her keen gray eyes firmly upon his own, with her nose elongated
to such a degree as almost to suggest the possibility of a pointed
collision between that member and the corresponding one of his own face,
she demanded--

“Have you done--have you got through?”

“Yes, Mrs. Cooper, this is all I came to say. It is the suggestion of
prudence--the caution of a friend--your daughter is young, very young,
and--”

“I thank you! I thank you! My daughter is young, very young; but she is
no fool, Mr. Calvert--let me tell you that! Margaret Cooper is no fool.
If you don’t know that, I do. I know her. She’s able to take care of
herself as well as the best of us.”

“I am glad you think so, Mrs. Cooper, but the best of us find it a
difficult matter to steer clear of danger, and error and misfortune;
and the wisest, my dear madam, are only too apt to fall when they place
their chief reliance on their wisdom.”

“Indeed! that’s a new doctrine to me, and I reckon to everybody else. If
it’s true, what’s the use of all your schooling, I want to know?”

“Precious little, Mrs. Cooper, if--”

“Ah! precious little; and let me tell you, Mr. Calvert, I think it’s
mighty strange that you should think Margaret Cooper in more need of
your advice, than Jane Colter, or Betsy Barnes, or Susan Mason, or
Rebecca Forbes, or even the widow Thackeray.”

“I should give the same advice to them under the same circumstances,
Mrs. Cooper.”

“Should you, indeed! Then I beg you will go and give it to them, for if
they are not in the same circumstances now, they’d give each of them an
eye to be so. Ay, wouldn’t they! Yes! don’t I know, Mr. Calvert,
that it’s all owing to envy that you come here talking about Brother
Stevens.”

“But I do not speak of Mr. Stevens, Mrs. Cooper; were it any other young
man with whom your daughter had such intimacy I should speak in the same
manner.”

“Would you, indeed? Tell that to the potatoes. Don’t I know better.
Don’t I know that if your favorite, that you made so much of--your
adopted son, Bill Hinkley--if he could have got her to look at him, they
might have walked all night and you’d never have said the first word.
He’d have given one eye for her, and so would every girl in the village
give an eye for Brother Stevens. I’m not so old but I know something.
But it won’t do. You can go to the widow Thackeray, Mr. Calvert. It’ll
do her good to tell her that it’s very dangerous for her to be thinking
about young men from morning to night. It’s true you can’t say anything
about the danger, for precious little danger she’s in; but, lord,
wouldn’t she jump to it if she had a chance. Let her alone for that.
You’d soon have cause enough to give her your good advice about the
danger, and much good would come of it. She’d wish, after all was said,
that the danger was only twice as big and twice as dangerous.”

Such was the conclusion of Mr. Calvert’s attempt to give good counsel.
It resulted as unprofitably in this as in most cases; but it had
not utterly fallen, like the wasted seed, in stony places. There was
something in it to impress itself upon the memory of Mrs. Cooper; and
she resolved that when her daughter came in, it should be the occasion
of an examination into her feelings and her relation to the worthy
brother, such as she had more than once before meditated to make.

But Margaret Cooper did not return till a comparatively late hour; and
the necessity of sitting up after her usual time of retiring, by making
the old lady irritable, had the effect of giving some additional force
to the suggestions of Mr. Calvert. When Margaret did return, she came
alone. Stevens had attended her only to the wicket. She did not expect
to find her mother still sitting up; and started, with an appearance of
disquiet, when she met her glance. The young girl was pale and haggard.
Her eye had a dilated, wild expression. Her step faltered; her voice was
scarcely distinct as she remarked timidly--

“Not yet abed, mother?”

“No! it’s a pretty time for you to keep me up.”

“But why did you sit up, mother? It’s not usual with you to do so.”

“No! but it’s high time for me to sit up, and be on the watch too, when
here’s the neighbors coming to warn me to do so--and telling me all
about your danger.”

“Ha! my danger--speak--what danger, mother?”

“Don’t you know what danger? Don’t you know?”

“Know!” The monosyllable subsided in a gasp. At that moment Margaret
Cooper could say no more.

“Well, I suppose you don’t know, and so I’ll tell you. Here’s been that
conceited, stupid old man, Calvert, to tell me how wrong it is for you
to go out by night walking with Brother Stevens; and hinting to me that
you don’t know how to take care of yourself with all your learning; and
how nobody knows anything about Brother Stevens; as if nobody was wise
for anything but himself. But I gave him as good as he brought, I’ll
warrant you. I sent him off with a flea in his ear!”

It was fortunate for the poor girl that the light, which was that of a
dipped candle, was burning in the corner of the chimney, and was too dim
to make her features visible. The ghastly tale which they told could not
have been utterly unread even by the obtuse and opinionated mind of the
vain mother. The hands of Margaret were involuntarily clasped in her
agony, and she felt very much like falling upon the floor; but, with
a strong effort, her nerves were braced to the right tension, and she
continued to endure, in a speechless terror, which was little short
of frenzy, the outpourings of her mother’s folly which was a frenzy of
another sort.

“I sent him off,” she repeated, “with a flea in his ear. I could see
what the old fool was driving after, and I as good as told him so. If it
had been his favorite, his adopted son, Bill Hinkley, it would have been
another guess-story--I reckon. Then you might have walked out where you
pleased together, at all hours, and no harm done, no danger; old Calvert
would have thought it the properest thing in the world. But no Bill
Hinkley for me. I’m for Brother Stevens, Margaret; only make sure of
him, my child--make sure of him.”

“No more of this, dear mother, I entreat you. Let us go to bed, and
think no more of it.”

“And why should we not think of it? I tell you, Margaret, YOU MUST THINK
OF IT! Brother Stevens soon will be a preacher, and a fine speck he will
be. There’ll be no parson like him in all west Kentucky. As for John
Cross, I reckon he won’t be able to hold a candle to him. Brother
Stevens is something to try for. You must play your cards nicely,
Margaret. Don’t let him see too soon that you like him. Beware of that!
But don’t draw off too suddenly as if you didn’t like him--that’s worse
still; for very few men like to see that they ain’t altogether pleasing
even at first sight to the lady that they like. There’s a medium in all
things, and you must just manage it, as if you wa’n’t thinking at all
about him, or love, or a husband, or anything; only take care always to
turn a quick ear to what he says, and seem to consider it always as if
‘twas worth your considering. And look round when he speaks, and smile
softly sometimes; and don’t be too full of learning and wisdom in what
you say, for I’ve found that men of sense love women best when they seem
to talk most like very young children--maybe because they think it’s a
sign of innocence. But I reckon, Margaret, you don’t want much teaching.
Only be sure and fix him; and don’t stop to think when he asks. Be
sure to have your answer ready, and you can’t say ‘yes’ too quickly
now-a-days, when the chances are so very few.”

The mother paused to take breath. Her very moral and maternal counsel
had fallen upon unheeding ears. But Margaret was sensible of the pause,
and was desirous of taking advantage of it. She rose from her chair,
with the view of retiring; but the good old dame, whose imagination had
been terribly excited by the delightful idea of having a preacher for
her son-in-law who was to take such precedence over all the leaders of
the other tribes, was not willing to abridge her eloquence.

“Why, you’re in a great hurry now, Margaret. Where was your hurry when
you were with Brother Stevens? Ah! you jade, can’t I guess--don’t I
know? There you were, you two, under the trees, looking at the moon, and
talking such sweet, foolish nonsense. I reckon, Margaret, ‘twould puzzle
you to tell what HE said, or what YOU said, I can guess he didn’t talk
much religion to you, heh? Ah! I know it all. It’s the old story. It’s
been so with all young people, and will be so till the end. Love is the
strangest thing, and it does listen to the strangest nonsense. Ain’t it
so, Margaret? I know nothing but love would ever dumbfounder you in this
way; why, child, have you lost your tongue? What’s the matter with you?”

“Oh, mother, let me retire now, I have such a headache.”

“Heartache, you mean.”

“Heartache it is,” replied the other desperately, with an air of
complete abandonment.

“Ah! well, it’s clear that he’s got the heartache quite as much as you,
for he almost lives with you now. But make him speak out, Margaret--get
him to say the word, and don’t let him be too free until he does. No
squeezing of hands, no kissing, no--”

“No more, no more, I entreat you, mother, if you would not--drive me
mad! Why do you speak to me thus--why counsel me in this manner? Leave
me alone, I pray you, let me retire--I must--I must sleep now!”

The mother was not unaccustomed to such passionate bursts of speech from
her daughter, and she ascribed the startling energy of her utterance
now, to an excited spirit in part, and partly to the headache of which
she complained.

“What! do you feel so bad, my child? Well, I won’t keep you up any
longer. I wouldn’t have kept you up so long, if I hadn’t been vexed by
that old fool, Calvert.”

“Mr. Calvert is a good man, mother.”

“Well, he may be--I don’t say a word against that,” replied the mother,
somewhat surprised at the mildly reproachful nature of that response
which her daughter had made, so different from her usual custom:--“he
may be very good, but I think he’s very meddlesome to come here talking
about Brother Stevens.”

“He meant well, mother.”

“Well or ill, it don’t matter. Do you be ready when Brother Stevens
says the word. He’ll say it before long. He’s mighty keen after you,
Margaret. I’ve seen it in his eyes; only you keep a little off, till he
begins to press and be anxious; and after that he can’t help himself.
He’ll be ready for any terms; and look you, when a man’s ready none
of your long bargains. Settle up at once. As for waiting till he gets
permission to preach, I wouldn’t think of it. A man can be made a
preacher or anything, at any time, but ‘tain’t so easy in these times,
for a young woman to be made a wife. It’s not every day that one can get
a husband, and such a husband! Look at Jane Colter, and Betsy Barnes,
and Rebecca Forbes, and Susan Mason; they’ll be green again, I reckon,
before the chance comes to them; ay, and the widow Thackeray--though
she’s had her day already. If ‘twas a short one she’s got no reason to
complain. She’ll learn how to value it before it begins again. But, go
to bed, my child, you oughtn’t to have a headache. No! no! you should
leave it to them that’s not so fortunate. They’ll have headaches and
heartaches enough, I warrant you, before they get such a man as Brother
Stevens.”

At last, Margaret Cooper found herself alone and in her chamber. With
unusual vigilance she locked and doublelocked the door. She then flung
herself upon the bed. Her face was buried in the clothes. A convulsion
of feeling shook her frame. But her eyes remained dry, and her cheeks
were burning. She rose at length and began to undress, but for this she
found herself unequal. She entered the couch and sat up in it--her
hands crossed upon her lap--her face wan, wild, the very picture of
hopelessness if not desperation! The words of her weak mother had
tortured her; but what was this agony to that which was occasioned by
her own thoughts.

“Oh God!” she exclaimed at length, “can it be real? Can it be true? Do
I wake? Is it no dream? Am I, am I what I dare not name to myself--and
dread to hear from any other? Alas! it is true--too true. That shade,
that wood!--oh, Alfred Stevens! Alfred Stevens! What have you done! To
what have you beguiled me!”



CHAPTER XXVIII

STRENGTH AFTER FALL.



That weary night no sleep came to the eyelids of the hapless Margaret
Cooper. The garrulous language of the mother had awakened far other
emotions in her bosom than those which she labored to inspire; and the
warning of Mr. Calvert, for the first time impressed upon herself
the terrible conviction that she was lost. In the wild intoxicating
pleasures of that new strange dream, she had been wofully unconscious
of the truth. So gradual had been the progress of passion, that it
had never alarmed or startled her. Besides, it had come to her under a
disguise afforded by the customary cravings of her soul. Her vanity
had been the medium by which her affections had been won, by which her
confidence had been beguiled, by which the guardian watchers of her
virtue had been laid to sleep.

What a long and dreadful night was that when Margaret Cooper was first
brought to feel the awful truth in its true impressiveness of wo. Alas!
how terribly do the pleasures of sin torture us. The worst human foe is
guilt. The severest censure the consciousness of wrong doing. Poverty
may be endured--nay is--and virtue still be secure; since the mind may
be made strong to endure the heaviest toil, yet cherish few desires;
the loss of kin may call for few regrets, if we feel that we have
religiously performed our duties toward them, and requited all their
proper claims upon us. Sickness and pain may even prove benefits and
blessings, if it shall so happen that we resign ourselves without
complaint, to the scourge of the chastener, and grow patient beneath his
stripes. But that self-rebuke of one’s own spirit from which we may
not fly--that remorseful and ever-vexing presence which haunts us,
and pursues with a wing even more fleet than that of fear--which tells
clamorously of what we had, and scornfully of what we have lost--lost
for ever! that is the demon from whom there is no escape, and beyond
whom there is no torture. Vainly would we strive with this relentless
enemy. Every blow aimed at its shadowy bosom recoils upon our own. In
the crowd, it takes the place of other forms and dogs us with suspicious
glances; in the solitude, it stalks boldly to our side, confronts us
with its audacious truths and terrible denunciations--leaves no moment
secure, waking or sleeping! It is the ghost of murdered virtue, brooding
over its grave in that most dark and dismal of all sepulchres, the human
heart. And if we cry aloud, as did Margaret Cooper, with vain prayer
for the recall of a single day, with what a yell of derisive mockery it
answers to our prayer.

The night was passed in the delusive effort of the mind to argue
itself into a state of fancied security. She endeavored to recall those
characteristics in Alfred Stevens, by which her confidence had been
beguiled. This task was not a difficult one in that early day of her
distress; before experience had yet come to confirm the apprehensions of
doubt--before the intoxicating dream of a first passion had yet begun
to stale upon her imagination. Her own elastic mind helped her in this
endeavor. Surely, she thought, where the mind is so noble and expansive,
where the feelings are so tender and devoted, the features so lofty and
impressive, the look so sweet, the language so delicate and refined,
there can be no falsehood.

“The devotion of such a man,” she erringly thought, “might well sanction
the weakness of a woman’s heart--might well persuade to the momentary
error which none will seek more readily to repair than himself. If he be
true to me, what indeed should I care for the scorn of others.”

Alas! for the credulous victim. This was the soul of her error. This
scorn of others--of the opinions of the world around her, is the saddest
error of which woman, who is the most dependant of all beings in the
moral world, can ever be guilty. But such philosophy did not now deceive
even the poor girl by whom it was uttered. It is a melancholy truth,
that, where there is no principle, the passions can not be relied on;
and the love of Alfred Stevens had hitherto shown itself in selfishness.
Margaret Cooper felt this, but she did not dare to believe it.

“No! no!” she muttered--“I will not doubt--I will not fear! He is too
noble, too generous, too fond! I could not be deceived.”

Her reliance was upon her previous judgment, not upon his principles.
Her self-esteem assisted to make this reference sufficient for the
purposes of consolation, and this was all that she desired in this first
moment of her doubt and apprehension.

“And if he be true--if he keep for ever the faith that his lips and
looks declare--then will I heed nothing of the shame and the sin. The
love of such a man is sufficient recompense for the loss of all
besides. What to me is the loss of society? what should I care for the
association and opinions of these in Charlemont? And elsewhere--he will
bear me hence where none can know. Ah! I fear not: he will be true.”

Her self-esteem was recovering considerably from its first overthrow.
Her mind was already preparing to do battle with those, the scorn
of whom she anticipated, and whose judgments she had always hitherto
despised. This was an easy task. She was yet to find that it was not the
only task. Her thoughts are those of many, in like situations, and it
is for this reason that we dwell upon them. Our purpose is, to show the
usual processes of self-deception.

Margaret Cooper, like a large class of persons of strong natural mind
and sanguine temper, was only too apt to confound the cause of virtue
with its sometimes uncouth, harsh and self-appointed professors. She
overlooked the fact that public opinion, though a moral object
against which woman dares not often offend, is yet no standard for
her government; that principles are determinable elsewhere; and that,
whatever the world may think of them, and whatever may be their seeming
unimportance under existing circumstances, are the only real moral
securities of earth. She might fly from Charlemont, either into a
greater world, or into a more complete solitude, but she would fly to
no greater certainties than she now possessed. Her securities were
still based upon the principles of Alfred Stevens, and of these she knew
nothing. She knew that he was a man of talent--of eloquence; alas
for her! she had felt it; of skill--she had been its victim; of rare
sweetness of utterance, of grace and beauty; and as she enumerated to
herself these his mental powers and personal charms, she felt, however
numerous the catalogue, that none of these afforded her the guaranty she
sought.

She arose the next day somewhat more composed, and with a face which
betrayed sleeplessness, but nothing worse. This she ascribed to the
headache with which she had retired. She had not slept an instant, and
she arose entirely unrefreshed. But the stimulating thoughts which had
kept her wakeful, furnished her with sufficient strength to appear as
usual in the household, and to go through her accustomed duties. But
it was with an impatience scarcely restrainable that she waited for the
approach of evening which would bring her lover. Him she felt it now
absolutely of the last necessity that she should see; that she should
once more go with him to those secret places, the very thought of which
inspired her with terror, and, laying bare her soul to his eyes, demand
of him the only restitution which he could make.

He came. Once more she descended the steps to meet him--Her mother
arrested her on the stairway. A cunning leer was in her eye, as she
looked into the woful, impassive eyes of her daughter. She grinned with
a sort of delight expressive of the conviction that the advice she had
given the night before was to be put in execution soon.

“Fix him, Margaret; he’s mighty eager for you. You’ve cut your
eye-tooth--be quick, and you’ll have a famous parson for a husband yet.”

The girl shrunk from the counsellor as if she had been a serpent. The
very counsel was enough to show her the humiliating attitude in which
she stood to all parties.

“Remember,” said the old woman, detaining her--“don’t be too willing at
first. Let him speak fairly out. A young maiden can’t be too backward,
until the man offers to make her a young wife!”

The last words went to her soul like an arrow.

“A young maiden!” she almost murmured aloud, as she descended the
steps--“O God! how lovely now, to my eyes, appears the loveliness of a
young maiden!”

She joined Stevens in silence, the mother watching them with the eyes
of a maternal hawk as they went forth together. They pursued a customary
route, and, passing through one of the gorges of the surrounding
hills, they soon lost sight of the village. When the forest-shadows had
gathered thickly around them, and the silence of the woods became felt,
Stevens approached more nearly, and, renewing a former liberty, put his
arm about her waist. She gently but firmly removed it, but neither of
them spoke a word. A dense copse appeared before them. Toward it he
would have led the way. But she resolutely turned aside, and, while a
shudder passed over her frame, exclaimed--

“Not there--not there!”

Breathlessly she spoke. He well enough understood her. They pursued an
opposite direction, and, in the shade of a wood which before they had
never traversed, they at length paused. Stevens, conducting her to the
trunk of a fallen tree, seated her, and placed himself beside her. Still
they were silent. There was a visible constraint upon both. The thoughts
and feelings of both were alike active--but very unlike in character.
With him, passion, reckless passion, was uppermost; selfish in all its
phases, and resolute on its own indulgence at every hazard. In her bosom
was regret if not remorse, mingled with doubts and hopes in pretty equal
proportion. Yet had she, even then, but little doubt of him. She accused
him of no practice. She fancied, foolish girl, that his error, like
her own, had been that of blind impulse, availing itself of a moment
of unguarded reason to take temporary possession of the citadel of
prudence. That he was calculating, cunning--that his snares had been
laid beforehand--she had not the least idea. But she was to grow wiser
in this and other respects in due season. How little did she then
conjecture the coldness and hardness of that base and selfish heart
which had so fanned the consuming flame in hers!

Her reserve and coolness were unusual. She had been the creature,
heretofore, of the most uncalculating impulse. The feeling was spoken,
the thought uttered, as soon as conceived. Now she was silent. He
expected her to speak--nay, he expected reproaches, and was prepared to
meet them. He had his answer for any reproaches which she might make.
But for that stony silence of her lips he was not prepared. The passive
grief which her countenance betrayed--so like despair--repelled and
annoyed him. Yet, wherefore had she come, if not to complain bitterly,
and, after exhaustion, be soothed at last? Such had been his usual
experience in all such cases. But the unsophisticated woman before
him had no language for such a situation as was hers. Her pride, her
ambition--the very intensity of all her moods--rendered the effort at
speech a mockery, and left her dumb.

“You are sad, Margaret--silent and very cold to me,” he said, at last
breaking the silence. His tones were subdued to a whisper, and how full
of entreating tenderness! She slowly raised her eyes from the ground,
and fixed them upon him. What a speech was in that one look! There was
no trace of excitement, scarcely of expression, in her face. There was
no flush upon her cheeks. She was pale as death. She was still silent.
Her eye alone had spoken; and from its searching but stony glance his
own fell in some confusion to the ground. There was a dreary pause,
which he at length broke:--

“You are still silent, Margaret--why do you not speak to me?”

“It is for you to speak, Alfred,” was her reply. It was full of
significance, understood but not FELT by her companion. What, indeed,
had she to say--what could she say--while he said nothing? She was
the victim. With him lay the means of rescue and preservation. She but
waited the decision of one whom, in her momentary madness, she had
made the arbiter of her destiny. Her reply confused him. He would have
preferred to listen to the ordinary language of reproach. Had she burst
forth into tears and lamentations--had she cried, “You have wronged
me--you must do me justice!”--he would have been better pleased than
with the stern, unsuggestive character that she assumed. To all this,
his old experience would have given him an easy answer. But to be driven
to condemn himself--to define his own doings with the name due to his
deserts--to declare his crime, and proffer the sufficient atonement--was
an unlooked-for necessity.

“You are displeased with me, Margaret.”

He dared not meet her glance while uttering this feeble and purposeless
remark. It was so short of all that he should have said--of all that
she expected--that her eyes glistened with a sudden expression of
indignation which was new to them in looking upon him. There was a
glittering sarcasm in her glance, which showed the intensity of her
feelings in the comment which they involuntarily made on the baldness
and poverty of his. Displeasure, indeed! That such an epithet should be
employed to describe the withering pang, the vulturous, gnawing torture
in her bosom--and that fiery fang which thought, like some winged
serpent, was momentarily darting into her brain!

“Displeased!” she exclaimed, in low, bitter tones, which she seemed
rather desirous to suppress--“no, no! sir--not displeased. I am
miserable, most miserable--anything but displeased. I am too wretched to
feel displeasure!”

“And to me you owe this wretchedness, dear Margaret--THAT--THAT is what
you would say. Is it not, Margaret? I have wronged--I have ruined you!
From me comes this misery! You hate, you would denounce me.”

He put his arm about her waist--he sank upon his knee beside her--his
eye, now that he had found words, could once more look courageously into
hers.

“Wronged--ruined!” she murmured, using a part of his words, and
repeating them as if she did not altogether realize their perfect sense.

“Ay, you would accuse me, Margaret,” he continued--“you would reproach
and denounce me--you hate me--I deserve it--I deserve it.”

She answered with some surprise:--

“No, Alfred Stevens, I do not accuse--I do not denounce you. I am
wretched--I am miserable. It is for you to say if I am wronged and
ruined. I am not what I was--I know THAT!--What I am--what I will be!--”

She paused! Her hands were clasped suddenly and violently--she looked to
heaven, and, for the first time, the tears, streamed from her eyes like
rain--a sudden, heavy shower, which was soon over.

“Ah, Margaret, you would have me accuse myself--and I do. The crime is
mine! I have done you this wrong---”

She interrupted him.

“No, Alfred Stevens, _I_ have done wrong! I FEEL that I have done wrong.
That I have been feeble and criminal, _I_ KNOW. I will not be so base as
to deny what I can not but feel. As for your crime, you know best what
it is. I know mine. I know that my passions are evil and presumptuous;
and though I blush to confess their force, it is yet due to the truth
that I should do so, though I sink into the earth with my shame. But
neither your self-reproaches nor my confession will acquit us. Is there
nothing, Alfred Stevens, that can be done? Must I fall before you, here,
amidst the woods which have witnessed my shame, and implore you to save
me? I do! Behold me! I am at your feet--my face is in the dust. Oh!
Alfred Stevens--when I called your eyes to watch, in the day of my
pride, the strong-winged eagle of our hills, did I look as now? Save
me from this shame! save me! For, though I have no reproaches, yet God
knows, when we looked on that eagle’s flight together, my soul had no
such taint as fills it now. Whatever were my faults, my follies, my
weaknesses, Heaven knows, I felt not, feared not this! a thought--a
dream of such a passion, then--never came to my bosom. From you it came!
You put it there! You woke up the slumbering emotion--you--but no!--I
will not accuse you! I will only implore you to save me! Can it be done?
can you do it--will you--will you not?”

“Rise, dearest Margaret--let me lift you!” She had thrown herself upon
the earth, and she clung to it.

“No, no! your words may lift me, Alfred Stevens, when your hands can
not. If you speak a hope, a promise of safety, it will need no other
help to make me rise! If you do not!--I would not wish to rise again.
Speak! let me hear, even as I am, what my doom shall be? The pride which
has made me fall shall be reconciled to my abasement.”

“Margaret, this despair is idle. There is no need for it. Do I not tell
you that there is no danger?”

“Why did you speak of ruin?” she demanded.

“I know not--the word escaped me. There is no ruin. I will save you. I
am yours--yours only. Believe me, I will do you right. I regard you as
sacredly my wife as if the rites of the church had so decreed it.”

“I dare not disbelieve you, Alfred! I have no hope else. Your words lift
me! Oh! Alfred Stevens, you did not mean the word, but how true it was;
what a wreck, what a ruin do I feel myself now--what a wreck have I
become!”

“A wreck, a ruin! no, Margaret, no! never were you more beautiful than
at this very moment. These large, sad eyes--these long, dark lashes seem
intended to bear the weight of tears. These cheeks are something paler
than their wont, but not less beautiful, and these lips--”

He would have pressed them with his own--he would have taken her into
his arms, but she repulsed him.

“No, no! Alfred--this must not be. I am yours. Let me prove to you that
I am firm enough to protect your rights from invasion.”

“But why so coy, dearest? Do you doubt me?”

“Heaven forbid!”

“Ah! but you do. Why do you shrink from me--why this coldness? If you
are mine, if these charms are mine, why not yield them to me? I fear,
Margaret, that you doubt me still?”

“I do not--dare not doubt you, Alfred Stevens. My life hangs upon this
faith.”

“Why so cold, then?”

“I am not cold. I love you--I will be your wife; and never was wife
more faithful, more devoted, than I will be to you; but, if you knew the
dreadful agony which I have felt, since that sad moment of my weakness,
you would forbear and pity me.”

“Hear me, Margaret; to-morrow is Saturday. John Cross is to be here in
the evening. He shall marry us on Sunday. Are you willing?”

“Oh, yes! thankful, happy! Ah! Alfred, why did I distrust you for an
instant?”

“Why, indeed! But you distrust me no longer--you have no more
misgivings?”

“No, none!”

“You will be no longer cold, no longer coy, dear Margaret--here in the
sweet evening, among these pleasant shades, love, alone, has supremacy.
Here, in the words of one of your favorites:--

   “‘Where transport and security entwine,
    Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
    And here thou art a god--’”

concluding this quotation, he would have taken her in his embrace--he
would have renewed those dangerous endearments which had already proved
so fatal; but she repulsed the offered tenderness, firmly, but with
gentleness.

“Margaret, you still doubt me,” he exclaimed reproachfully.

“No, Alfred, I doubt you not. I believe you. I have only been too ready
and willing to believe you. Ah! have you not had sufficient proof of
this? Leave me the consciousness of virtue--the feeling of strength
still to assert it, now that my eyes are open to my previous weakness.”

“But there is no reason to be so cold. Remember you are mine by every
tie of the heart--another day will make you wholly mine. Surely, there
is no need for this frigid bearing. No, no! you doubt--you do not
believe me, Margaret!”

“If I did not believe you, Alfred Stevens,” she answered gravely, “my
prayer would be for death, and I should find it. These woods which have
witnessed my fault should have witnessed my expiation. The homes which
have known me should know me no more.”

The solemnity of her manner rather impressed him, but having no real
regard for her, he was unwilling to be baffled in his true desires.

“If you doubt me not--if you have faith in me, Margaret, why this
solemnity, this reserve? Prove to me, by your looks, by your actions,
by the dear glances, the sweet murmurs, and the fond embrace, what these
cold assurances do not say.”

His hand rested on her neck. She gently raised and removed it.

“I have already proved to you my weakness. I will now prove my strength.
It is better so, Alfred. If I have won your love, let me now command
your esteem, or maintain what is left me of my own. Do not be angry with
me if I insist upon it. I am resolute now to be worthy of you and of
myself.”

“Ah! you call this love?” said he bitterly. “If you ever loved, indeed,
Margaret--”

“If I ever loved--and have I given you no proofs?” she exclaimed in a
burst of passion; “all the proofs that a woman can give, short of her
blood; and that, Alfred Stevens--that too, I was prepared to give, had
you not promptly assured me of your faith.”

She drew a small dagger from her sleeve, and bared it beneath his
glance.

“Think you I brought this without an object? No! Alfred Stevens--know me
better! I came here prepared to die, as well as a frail and erring
woman could be prepared. You disarmed the dagger. You subdued the
determination when you bid me live for you. In your faith, I am willing
to live. I believe you, and am resolved to make myself worthy of your
belief also. I have promised to be your wife, and here before Heaven, I
swear to be your faithful wife; but, until then, you shall presume in no
respect. Your lip shall not touch mine; your arms shall not embrace me;
you shall see, dear Alfred, that, with my eyes once opened fully upon my
own weakness, I have acquired the most certain strength.”

“Give me the dagger,” he said.

She hesitated.

“You doubt me still?”

“No, no!” she exclaimed, handing him the weapon--“no, no! I do not doubt
you--I dare not. Doubt you, Alfred?--that were death, even without the
dagger!”



CHAPTER XXIX

BULL-PUPS IN TRAINING.



Alfred Stevens was sufficiently familiar with the sex to perceive that
Margaret Cooper was resolved. There was that in her look and manner
which convinced him that she was not now to be overcome. There was no
effort or constraint in either her looks or language. The composure of
assured strength was there. The discovery of her weakness, which he
had so unexpectedly made, had rendered her vigilant. Suspecting
herself--which women are not apt to do--she became watchful, not only of
the approach of her lover, but of every emotion of her own soul; and
it was with a degree of chagrin which he could scarcely refrain from
showing, that he was compelled to forego, at least for the present, all
his usual arts of seduction.

Yet he knew not how to refrain. Never had Margaret Cooper seemed so
lovely in his eyes, so commanding, so eloquent with beauty, as now,
when remorse had touched her eyes with an unwonted shadow, and tears and
nightwatching had subdued the richer bloom upon her cheek. Proud still,
but pensive in her pride, she walked silently beside him, still brooding
over thoughts which she would not willingly admit were doubts, and
grasping every word of assurance that fell from his lips as if it had
been some additional security.

These assurances he still suffered to escape him, with sufficient
frequency and solemnity, to confirm that feeling of confidence which
his promise of marriage had inspired in her mind. There was a subdued
fondness in his voice, and an EMPRESSMENT in his manner, which was not
all practice. The character which Margaret Cooper had displayed in this
last interview--her equal firmness and fear--the noble elevation of
soul which, admitting her own errors, disdained to remind him of his--a
course which would have been the most ready of adoption among the weaker
and less generous of the sex--had touched him with a degree of respect
akin to admiration; and so strong was the impression made upon him of
her great natural superiority of mind to almost all the women he had
ever met, that, but for her one unhappy lapse, he had sought no other
wife. Had she been strong at first as she proved herself at last, this
had been inevitable.

When in his own chamber that night, he could not help recalling to his
memory the proud elevation of her character as it had appeared in that
interview. The recollection really gave him pain, since along with it
arose the memory also of that unfortunate frailty, which became more
prominent as a crime in connection with that intellectual merit which,
it is erroneously assumed, should have made it sure.

“But for that, Margaret Cooper, and this marriage were no vain promise.
But that forbids. No, no--no spousals for me: let John Cross and the
bride be ready or not, there shall be a party wanting to that contract!
And yet, what a woman to lose! what a woman to win! No tragedy queen
ever bore herself like that. Talk of Siddons, indeed! SHE would have
brought down the house in that sudden prostration--that passionate
appeal. She made even me tremble. I could have loved her for that, if
for that only. To make ME tremble! and with such a look, such an eye,
such a stern, sweet, fierce beauty! By Heavens! I know not how to
give her up. What a sensation she would make in Frankfort! Were she my
wife--but no, no! bait for gudgeons! I am not so great a fool as that.
She who is mine on my terms, is yours, sir, or yours--is anybody’s, when
the humor suits and the opportunity. I can not think of that. Yet, to
lose her is as little to be thought of. I must manage it. I must get
her off from this place. It need not be to Frankfort! Let me
see--there is--hum!--hum!--yes, a ride of a few miles--an afternoon
excursion--quite convenient, yet not too near. It must be managed;
but, at all events, I must evade this marriage--put it off for the
present--get some decent excuse. That’s easy enough, and for the rest,
why, time that softens all things, except man and woman, time will make
that easy too. To-morrow for Ellisland, and the rest after.”

Thus, resolving not to keep his vows to his unhappy victim, the criminal
was yet devising plans by which to continue his power over her. These
plans, yet immature in his own mind, at least unexpressed, need not be
analyzed here, and may be conjectured by the reader.

That night, Stevens busied himself in preparing letters. Of these he
wrote several. It will not further our progress to look over him as he
writes; and we prefer rather, in this place, to hurry on events which,
it may be the complaint of all parties, reader not omitted, have been
too long suffered to stagnate. But we trust not. Let us hurry Stevens
through Friday night--the night of that last interview.

Saturday morning, we observe that his appetite is unimpaired. He
discusses the breakfast at Hinkley’s as if he had never heard of
suffering. He has said an unctuous grace. Biscuits hot, of best Ohio
flour, are smoking on his plate. A golden-looking mass of best fresh
butter is made to assimilate its luscious qualities with those of the
drier and hotter substance. A copious bowl of milk, new from the dugs of
old Brindle, stands beside him, patiently waiting to be honored by his
unscrupulous but not unfastidious taste. The grace is said, and the
gravy follows. He has a religious regard for the goods and gifts of this
life. He eats heartily, and the thanks which follow, if not from the
bottom of the soul, were sufficiently earnest to have emanated from the
bottom of his stomach.

This over, he has a chat with his hosts. He discusses with old Hinkley
the merits of the new lights. What these new lights were, at that
period, we do not pretend to remember. Among sectarians, there are
periodical new lights which singularly tend to increase the moral
darkness. From these, after a while, they passed to the love festivals
or feasts--a pleasant practice of the methodist church, which is
supposed to be very promotive of many other good things besides love;
though we are constrained to say that Brother Stevens and Brother
Hinkley--who, it may be remarked, had very long and stubborn arguments,
frequently without discovering, till they reached the close, that they
were thoroughly agreed in every respect except in words--concurred in
the opinion that there was no portion of the church practice so highly
conducive to the amalgamation of soul with soul, and all souls with God,
as this very practice of love-feasts!

Being agreed on this and other subjects, Mr. Hinkley invited Brother
Stevens out to look at his turnips and potatoes; and when this delicate
inquiry was over, toward ten o’clock in the day, Brother Stevens
concluded that he must take a gallop; he was dyspeptic, felt queerish,
his studies were too close, his mind too busy with the great concerns
of salvation. These are enough to give one dyspepsia. Of course, the
hot rolls and mountains of volcanic butter--steam-ejecting--could have
produced no such evil effects upon a laborer in the vineyard. At all
events, a gallop was necessary, and the horse was brought. Brother
Hinkley and our matronly sister of the same name watched the progress of
the pious youth, as, spurring up the hills, he pursued the usual route,
taking at first the broad highway leading to the eastern country.

There were other eyes that watched the departure of Brother Stevens
with no less interest, but of another kind, than those of the venerable
couple. Our excellent friend Calvert started up on hearing the tread
of the horse, and, looking out from his porch, ascertained with some
eagerness of glance that the rider was Alfred Stevens.

Now, why was the interest of Calvert so much greater on this than on any
other previous occasion? We will tell you, gentle reader. He had been
roused at an early hour that morning by a visit from Ned Hinkley.

“Gran’pa,” was the reverent formula of our fisherman at beginning,
“to-day’s the day. I’m pretty certain that Stevens will be riding out
to-day, for he missed the last Saturday. I’ll take my chance for it,
therefore, and brush out ahead of him. I think I’ve got it pretty
straight now, the place that he goes to, and I’ll see if I can’t get
there soon enough to put myself in a comfortable fix, so as to see
what’s a-going on and what he goes after. Now, gran’pa, I’ll tell
you what I want from you--them pocket-pistols of your’n. Bill Hinkley
carried off grandad’s, and there’s none besides that I can lay hold on.”

“But, Ned, I’m afraid to lend them to you.”

“What ‘fraid of?”

“That you’ll use them.”

“To be sure I will, if there’s any need, gran’pa. What do I get them
for?”

“Ah, yes! but I fear you’ll find a necessity where there is none. You’ll
be thrusting your head into some fray in which you may lose your ears.”

“By Jupiter, no! No, gran’pa, I’ll wait for the necessity. I won’t look
for it. I’m going straight ahead this time, and to one object only. I
think Stevens is a rascal, and I’m bent to find him out. I’ve had no
disposition to lick anybody but him, ever since he drove Bill Hinkley
off--you and him together.”

“You’ll promise me, Ned?”

“Sure as a snag in the forehead of a Mississippi steamer. Depend upon
me.”

“But there must be no quarrelling with Stevens either, Ned.”

“Look you, gran’pa, if I’m to quarrel with Stevens or anybody else,
‘twouldn’t be your pistols in my pocket that would make me set on, and
‘twouldn’t be the want of ‘em that would make me stop. When it’s my cue
to fight, look you, I won’t need any prompter, in the shape of friend
or pistol. Now THAT speech is from one of your poets, pretty near, and
ought to convince you that you may as well lend the puppies and say no
more about it. If you don’t you’ll only compel me to carry my rifle, and
that’ll be something worse to an enemy, and something heavier for me.
Come, come, gran’pa, don’t be too scrupulous in your old age. YOUR
HAVING them is a sufficient excuse for MY HAVING them too. It shows that
they ought to be had.”

“You’re logic-chopping this morning, Ned--see that you don’t get to
man-chopping in the afternoon. You shall have the pistols, but do not
use them rashly. I have kept them simply for defence against invasion;
not for the purpose of quarrel, or revenge.”

“And you’ve kept them mighty well, gran’pa,” replied the young man, as
he contemplated with an eye of anxious admiration, the polish of the
steel barrels, the nice carving of the handles, and the fantastic but
graceful inlay of the silver-mounting and setting. The old man regarded
him with a smile.

“Yes, Ned, I’ve kept them well. They have never taken life, though they
have been repeatedly tried upon bull’s eye and tree-bark. If you will
promise me not to use them to-day, Ned, you shall have them.”

“Take ‘em back, gran’pa.”

“Why?”

“Why, I’d feel the meanest in the world to have a weapon, and not use it
when there’s a need to do so; and I’m half afraid that the temptation
of having such beautiful puppies for myself--twin-puppies, I may
say--having just the same look out of the eyes, and just the same spots
and marks, and, I reckon, just the same way of giving tongue--I’m half
afraid, I say, that to get to be the owner of them, might tempt me to
stand quiet and let a chap wink at me--maybe laugh outright--may be suck
in his breath, and give a phew-phew-whistle just while I’m passing! No!
no! gran’pa, take back your words, or take back your puppies. Won’t risk
to carry both. I’d sooner take Patsy Rifle, with all her weight, and no
terms at all.”

“Pshaw, Ned, you’re a fool.”

“That’s no news, gran’pa, to you or me. But it don’t alter the case. Put
up your puppies.”

“No, Ned; you shall have them on your own terms. Take ‘em as they are. I
give them to you.”

“And I may shoot anybody I please this afternoon, gran’pa?”

“Ay, ay, Ned--; anybody--”

Thus far the old man, when he stopped himself, changed his manner, which
was that of playful good-humor, to that of gravity, while his tones
underwent a corresponding change--

“But, Ned, my son, while I leave it to your discretion, I yet beg you
to proceed cautiously--seek no strife, avoid it--go not into the
crowd--keep from them where you see them drinking, and do not use
these or any weapons for any trifling provocation. Nothing but the last
necessity of self-preservation justifies the taking of life.”

“Gran’pa--thank you--you’ve touched me in the very midst of my
tender-place, by this handsome present. One of these puppies I’ll name
after you, and I’ll notch it on the butt. The other I’ll call Bill
Hinkley, and I won’t notch that. Yours, I’ll call my pacific puppy,
and I’ll use it only for peace-making purposes. The other I’ll call my
bull-pup, and him I’ll use for baiting and butting, and goring. But, as
you beg, I promise you I’ll keep ‘em both out of mischief as long as I
can. Be certain sure that it won’t be my having the pups that’ll make
me get into a skrimmage a bit the sooner; for I never was the man to ask
whether my dogs were at hand before I could say the word, ‘set-on!’ It’s
a sort of nature in a man that don’t stop to look after his weapons, but
naturally expects to find ‘em any how, when his blood’s up, and there’s
a necessity to do.”

This long speech and strong assurance of his pacific nature and
purposes, did not prevent the speaker from making, while he spoke,
certain dextrous uses of the instrument’s which were given into his
hands. Right and left were equally busy; one muzzle was addressed to the
candle upon the mantelpiece, the other pursued the ambulatory movements
of a great black spider upon the wall. The old man surveyed him with
an irrepressible smile. Suddenly interrupting himself the youth
exclaimed:--

“Are they loaded, gran’pa?”

He was answered in the negative.

“Because, if they were,” said he, “and that great black spider was
Brother Stevens, I’d show you in the twinkle of a musquito, how I’d put
a finish to his morning’s work. But I’d use the bull-pup, gran’pa--see,
this one--the pacific one I’d empty upon him with powder only, as a sort
of feu de joie--and then I’d set up the song--what’s it? ah! Te Deum. A
black spider always puts me in mind of a rascal.”



CHAPTER XXX.

THE FOX IN THE TRAP.



The youth barely stopped to swallow his breakfast, when he set off from
the village. He managed his movements with considerable caution; and,
fetching a circuit from an opposite quarter, after having ridden some
five miles out of his way, passed into the road which he suspected that
Stevens would pursue. We do not care to show the detailed processes by
which he arrived at this conclusion. The reader may take for granted
that he had heard from some way-side farmer, that a stranger rode by his
cottage once a week, wearing such and such breeches, and mounted upon a
nag of a certain color and with certain qualities. Enough to say, that
Ned Hinkley was tolerably certain of his route and man.

He sped on accordingly--did not once hesitate at turns, right or left,
forks and crossroads, but keeping an inflexible course, he placed
himself at such a point on the road as to leave it no longer doubtful,
should Stevens pass, of the place which usually brought him up. Here he
dismounted, hurried his horse, out of sight and hearing, into the
woods, and choosing a position for himself, with some nicety, along the
road-side, put himself in close cover, where, stretching his frame at
length, he commenced the difficult labor of cooling his impatience with
his cogitations.

But cogitating, with a fellow of his blood, rather whets impatience.
He was monstrous restiff. At his fishing pond, with a trout to hook,
he would have lain for hours, as patient as philosophy itself, and as
inflexible as the solid rock over which he brooded. But without an angle
at his hand, how could he keep quiet? Not by thinking, surely; and,
least of all, by thinking about that person for whom his hostility was
so active. Thinking of Stevens, by a natural association, reminded
him of the pistols which Calvert had given him. Nothing could be more
natural than to draw them from his bosom. Again and again he examined
them in fascinated contemplation. He had already charged them, and he
amused himself by thinking of the mischief he could do, by a single
touch upon the trigger, to a poor little wood-rat, that once or twice
ran along a decaying log some five steps from his feet. But his object
being secrecy, the rat brushed his whiskers in safety. Still he amused
himself by aiming at this and other objects, until suddenly reminded
of the very important difference which he had promised Calvert to make
between the pistols in his future use of them. With this recollection he
drew out his knife, and laid the weapons before him.

“This,” said he, after a careful examination, in which he fancied
he discovered some slight difference between them in the hang of the
trigger--“this shall be my bull-pup--this my peace-maker!”

The latter was marked accordingly with a “P,” carved rudely enough by
one whose hand was much more practised in slitting the weasand of a
buck, than in cutting out, with crayon, or Italian crow-quill, the
ungainly forms of the Roman alphabet. Ned Hinkley shook his head with
some misgiving when the work was done; as he could not but see that
he had somewhat impaired the beauty of the peacemaker’s butt by the
hang-dog looking initial which he had grafted upon it. But when he
recollected the subordinate uses to which this “puppy” was to be put,
and considered how unlikely, in his case, it would be exposed to
sight in comparison with its more masculine brother, he grew partially
reconciled to an evil which was now, indeed, irreparable.

It does not require that we should bother the reader with the numberless
thoughts and fancies which bothered our spy, in the three mortal
hours in which he kept his watch. Nothing but the hope that he should
ultimately be compensated to the utmost by a full discovery of all that
he sought to know, could possibly have sustained him during the trying
ordeal. At every new spasm of impatience which he felt, he drew up his
legs, shifted from one side to the other and growled out some small
thunder in the shape of a threat that “it would be only so much the
worse for him when the time came!” HIM--meaning Stevens.

At last Stevens came. He watched the progress of his enemy with keen
eyes; and, with his “bull-pup” in his hand, which a sort of instinct
made him keep in the direction of the highway, he followed his form upon
the road. When he was out of sight and hearing, the spy jumped to his
feet. The game, he felt, was secure now--in one respect at least.

“He’s for Ellisland. That was no bad guess then. He might have been for
Fergus, or Jonesboro’, or Debarre, but there’s no turn now in the clear
track to Ellisland. He’s there for certain.”

Ned Hinkley carefully restored his pistols to his bosom and buttoned up.
He was mounted in a few moments, and pressing slowly forward in pursuit.
He had his own plans which we will not attempt to fathom; but we fear we
shall be compelled to admit that he was not sufficiently a gentleman to
scruple at turning scout in a time of peace (though, with him, by
the way, and thus he justified, he is in pursuit of an enemy, and
consequently is at war), and dodging about, under cover, spying out
the secrets of the land, and not very fastidious in listening to
conversation that does not exactly concern him. We fear that there is
some such flaw in the character of Ned Hinkley, though, otherwise, a
good, hardy fellow--with a rough and tumble sort of good nature, which,
having bloodied your nose, would put a knife-handle down your back, and
apply a handful of cobwebs to the nasal extremity in order to arrest the
haemorrhage. We are sorry that there is such a defect in his character;
but we did not put it there. We should prefer that he should be
perfect--the reader will believe us--but there are grave lamentations
enough over the failures of humanity to render our homilies unnecessary.
Ned Hinkley was not a gentleman, and the only thing to be said in
his behalf, is, that he was modest enough to make pretensions to the
character. As he once said in a row the company muster:--

“I’m blackguard enough, on this occasion, to whip e’er a gentleman among
you!”

Without any dream of such a spectre at his heels to disturb his
imagination, Alfred Stevens was pursuing his way toward Ellisland, at
that easy travelling gait, which is the best for man and beast, vulgarly
called a “dog-trot.” Some very fine and fanciful people insist upon
calling it a “jog-trot.” We beg leave, in this place, to set them
right. Every trot is a jog, and so, for that matter, is every canter. A
dog-trot takes its name from the even motion of the smaller quadruped,
when it is seized with no particular mania, and is yet disposed to go
stubbornly forward. It is in more classical dialect, the festina lente
motion. It is regularly forward, and therefore fast--it never puts
the animal out of breath, and is therefore slow. Nobody ever saw a dog
practice this gait, with a tin canister at his tail, and a huddle of
schoolboys at his heels. No! it is THE travelling motion, considering
equally the health of all parties, and the necessity of getting on.

In this desire, Ned Hinkley pressed too closely on the heels of Stevens.
He once nearly overhauled him; and falling back, he subdued his
speed, to what, in the same semi-figurative language, he styled “the
puppy-trot.” Observing these respective gaits, Brother Stevens rode into
Ellisland at a moderately late dinner-hour, and the pursuer followed
at an unspeakable, but not great, distance behind him. We will,
henceforward, after a brief glance at Ellisland, confine ourselves more
particularly to the progress of Brother Stevens.

Ellisland was one of those little villages to which geographers scarcely
accord a place upon the maps. It is not honored with a dot in any map
that we have ever seen of Kentucky. But, for all this, it is a place!
Some day the name will be changed into Acarnania or Etolia, Epirus or
Scandinavia, and then be sure you shall hear of it. Already, the village
lawyers--there are two of them--have been discussing the propriety of
a change to something classical; and we do not doubt that, before
long, their stupidity will become infectious. Under these circumstances
Ellisland will catch a name that will stick. At present you would
probably never hear of the place, were it not necessary to our purposes
and those of Brother Stevens.

It has its tavern and blacksmith shop--its church--the meanest fabric in
the village--its postoffice and public well and trough. There is also a
rack pro bono publico, but as it is in front of the tavern, the owner
of that establishment has not wholly succeeded in convincing the people
that it was put there with simple reference to the public convenience.
The tavern-keeper is, politically, a quadrupled personage. He combines
the four offices of post-master, justice of the peace, town council, and
publican; and is considered a monstrous small person with all. The truth
is, reader--this aside--he has been democrat and whig, alternately,
every second year of his political life. His present politics, being
loco-foco, are in Ellisland considered contra bonos mores. It is hoped
that he will be dismissed from office, and a memorial to that effect is
in preparation; but the days of Harrison--“and Tyler too”--have not yet
come round, and Jerry Sunderland, who knows what his enemies are driving
at, whirls his coat-skirts, and snaps his fingers, in scorn of all their
machinations. He has a friend at Washington, who spoons in the
back parlor of the white-house--in other words, is a member o f the
kitchen-cabinet, of which, be it said, en passant, there never was a
president of the United States yet entirely without one--and--there
never will be! So much for politics and Ellisland.

There was some crowd in the village on the day of Brother Stevens’s
arrival. Saturday is a well known day in the western and southern
country for making a village gathering; and when Brother Stevens, having
hitched his horse at the public rack, pushed his way to the postoffice,
he had no small crowd to set aside. He had just deposited his letters,
received others in return, answered some ten or fifteen questions which
Jerry Sunderland, P. M., Q. U., N. P., M. C., publican and sinner--such
were all deservedly his titles--had thought it necessary to address to
him, when he was suddenly startled by a familiar tap upon the shoulder;
such a tap as leads the recipient to imagine that he is about to be
honored with the affectionate salutation of some John Doe or Richard
Roe of the law. Stevens turned with some feeling of annoyance, if not
misgiving, and met the arch, smiling, and very complacent visage of a
tall, slender young gentleman in black bushy whiskers and a green coat,
who seized him by the hand and shook it heartily, while a chuckling
half-suppressed laughter gurgling in his throat, for a moment, forbade
the attempt to speak. Stevens seemed disquieted and looked around him
suspiciously.

“What! you here, Ben?”

“Ay, you see me! You didn’t expect to see me, Warham---”

“Hush!” was the whispered word of Stevens, again looking round him in
trepidation.

“Oh! ay!” said the other with a sly chuckle, and also in a whisper, “Mr.
Stevens--Brother Stevens--hem! I did not think. How is your holiness
to-day?”

“Come aside,” muttered Stevens; and, taking the arm of the incautious
speaker, he led him away from the crowd and took the way out of the
village. Their meeting and departure did not occasion much, if any,
sensation. The visitors in the village were all too busy in discussing
the drink and doctrines, pretty equally distributed, of Jerry the
publican. But there was one eye that noted the meeting of the friends;
that beheld the concern and confusion of Stevens: that saw their
movements, and followed their departing steps.

“Take your horse--where is he?” demanded Stevens.

“Here, at hand; but what do you mean to do?”

“Nothing, but get out of hearing and sight; for your long tongue, Ben,
and significant face, would blab any secret, however deep.”

“Ah! did I not say that I would find you out? Did you get my last
letter?”

“Ay, I did: but I’m devilish sorry, Ben, that you’ve come. You’ll do
mischief. You have always been a mar-plot.”

“Never, never! You don’t know me.”

“Don’t I?--but get your horse, and let’s go into the woods, while we
talk over matters.”

“Why not leave the nags here?”

“For a very good reason. My course lies in that direction, so that I am
in my way; while yours, if your purpose be to go back to Frankfort, will
lie on the upper side. Neither of us need come back to the village.”

“And you think to shuffle me off so soon, do you?”

“What would you have me do?”

“Why, give us a peep at this beauty--this Altamira of yours--at least.”

“Impossible! Do not think of it, Ben; you’d spoil all. But, get the
horse. These billet-heads will suspect mischief if they see us talking
together, particularly when they behold your conceited action. This
political landlord will surmise that you are a second Aaron Burr, about
to beat up recruits to conquer California. Your big whiskers--what
an atrocious pair!--with your standing collar, will confirm the
impression.”

The two were soon mounted, and rode into the adjoining woods. They were
only a stone’s-throw from the village, when Stevens alighted, followed
by his companion. They hitched their horses to some swinging branches
of a sheltering tree, and, going aside a few paces beyond, seated
themselves upon the grass, as they fancied, in a place of perfect
security.

“And now, Ben, what in truth brings you here?” demanded Stevens, in
tones of voice and with a look which betrayed anything but satisfaction
with the visit.

“Curiosity, I tell you, and the legs of my horse.”

“Pshaw! you have some other motive.”

“No, ‘pon honor. I resolved to find you out--to see what you were
driving at, and where. I could only guess a part from your letter to
Barnabas, and that costive scrawl with which you honored me. Perhaps,
too--and give my friendship credit for the attempt--I came with some
hope to save you.”

“Save me--from what?”

“Why, wedlock--the accursed thing! The club is in terror lest you should
forget your vows. So glowing were your descriptions of your Cleopatra,
that we knew not what to make. We feared everything.”

“Why, Barnabas might have opened your eyes: he knew better.”

“You’re not married, then?”

“Pshaw! no.”

“Nor engaged?”

The other laughed as he replied:--

“Why, on that head, the least said the better. The roving commission
permits you to run up any flag that the occasion requires.”

“Ah, you sly dog!--and what success?”

“Come, come, Ben, you must not be so inquisitive. The game’s my own, you
know; and the rules of the club give me immunity from a fellow-member.”

“By Gad, I’ll resign! I must see this forest beauty.”

“Impossible!”

“Where’s she? How will you prevent?”

“By a very easy process. Do you know the bird that shrieks farthest from
her young ones when the fowler is at hand? I’ll follow her example.”

“I’ll follow you to the uttermost ends of the earth, Warham!”

“Hush! you forget! Am I not Brother Stevens? Ha! ha! ha! You are not
sufficiently reverent, brother. See you no divinity in my look and
bearing? Hark you, Ben, I’ve been a sort of small divinity in the eyes
of a whole flock for a month past!”

“You pray?”

“And preach!”

“Ha! ha! ha!--devilish good; but I must see you in order to believe. I
must, indeed, Brother Stevens. Why, man, think of it--success in this
enterprise will make you head of the fraternity--you will be declared
pope: but you must have witnesses!”

“So I think; and hark ye, Ben”--laying a finger on the arm of the
other--“I am successful!”

“What! you don’t say so! This queen, this princess of Egypt, Cleopatra,
Altamira--eh?”

“Is mine--soul and body--she is mine!”

“And is what you say? Come, come, you don’t mean that such a splendid
woman as you describe--such a genius, poet, painter, musician--beauty
too!--you don’t mean to say that--”

“I do, every bit of it.”

“‘Gad! what a fellow!--what a lucky dog! But you must let me see her,
Warham!”

“What! to spoil all--to blurt out the truth?--for, with every
disposition to fib, you lack the ability. No, no, Ben: when the game’s
up--when I’m tired of the sport, and feel the necessity of looking out
fresh viands--you shall then know all; I’ll give the clue into your own
hands, and you may follow it to your heart’s content. But not now!”

“But how will you get rid of me, mon ami, if my curiosity is stubborn?”

“Do as the kill-deer does--travel from the nest--go home with you,
rather than you should succeed in your impertinence, and have you
expelled from the club for thrusting your spoon into the dish of a
brother-member.”

“You’re a Turk, with no bowels of compassion. But, at all events,
you promise me the dish when you’re done with it? you give me the
preference?”

“I do!”

“Swear by Beelzebub and Mohammed; by Jupiter Ammon and Johannes
Secundus; by the ghost of Cardinal Bembo, and the gridiron of the
fraternity!”

“Ay, and by the virginity of Queen Elizabeth!”

“Simulacrum! no! no! no such oath for me! That’s swearing by the thing
that is not, was not--could not be! You shall swear by the oaths of
the club--you must be bound on the gridiron of the fraternity, before I
believe you. Swear!”

“You are as tenacious as the ghost of buried Denmark But you shall be
satisfied. I swear by the mystic gridiron of the fraternity, and by
the legs thereof, of which the images are Beelzebub, Mohammed, Johannes
Secundus, and so forth--nay, by that memorable volume, so revered in the
eyes of the club, the new edition of ‘The Basiad,’ of which who among us
has been the true exponent?--that profound mystery of sweets, fathomed
hourly, yet unfathomable still--for which the commentators, already
legions, are hourly becoming legions more;--by these, and by the
mysteries of the mirror that reflects not our own, but the image we
desire;--by these things--by all things that among the brotherhood are
held potent--I swear to--”

“Give me the preference in the favor of this princess; the clue to
find her when you have left her; and the assurance that you will get a
surfeit as soon as possible: swear!”

“Nay, nay! I swear not to that last! I shall hold on while appetite
holds, and make all efforts not to grow dyspeptic in a hurry. I’ll keep
my stomach for a dainty, be sure, as long as I can. I were no brother,
worthy of our order, if I did not.”

“Well, well--to the rest! Swear to the rest, and I am satisfied.”

“You go back, then, instanter?”

“What! this very day?”

“This hour!”

“The d---l! you don’t mean THAT, Warham?” returned the other in some
consternation.

“Ay, this very hour! You must swear to that. Your oath must precede
mine.”

“Ah! man, remember I only got here last night--long ride--hard-trotting
horse. We have not seen each other for months. I have a cursed sight to
tell you about the boys--girls too--love, law, logic, politics. Do you
know they talk of running you for the house?”

“All in good season, Ben; not now. No, no! you shall see me when you
least look for me, and there will be time enough for all these matters
then. They’ll keep. For the present, let me say to you that we must
part now within the hour. You must swear not to dog my steps, and I
will swear to give you carte blanche, and the first privileges at my
princess, when I leave her. This is my bargain. I make no other.”

“I’ve a great mind not to leave you,” said the other doggedly.

“And what will that resolution bring you, do you fancy? Do you suppose
I am to be tracked in such a manner? No, Ben! The effect will be to make
me set off for the east instantly, whether you go with me or not; and an
equally certain effect will be to make us cut loose for ever.”

“You’re a d---d hard colt to manage,” said the other moodily.

“I sha’n’t let myself be straddled by every horse-boy, I assure you.”

“Come, come, old fellow, that’s too much like horse-play. Don’t be angry
with me. I’ll accept your conditions.”

“Very good,” said Stevens; “if you did not, Ben, it would be no better
for you; for, otherwise, you should never even see my beauty!”

“Is she so very beautiful, old boy?”

“A queen, I tell you! a proud, high-spirited, wild beauty of the
mountains--a thing of fire and majesty--a glorious woman, full of song
and sentiment and ambition--a genius, I tell you--who can improvise
like Corinne, and, by the way, continually reminds one of that glorious
creature. In Italy, she would have been greater than Corinne.”

“And you’ve won her--and she loves you?”

“Ay--to doting! I found her a sort of eagle--soaring, striving--always
with an eye upon the hills, and fighting with the sunbeams. I have
subdued her. She is now like a timid fawn that trembles at the very
falling of a leaf in the forests. She pants with hope to see me, and
pants with tremulous delight when I come. Still, she shows every now
and then, a glimmering of that eagle spirit which she had at first. She
flashes up suddenly, but soon sinks again. Fancy a creature, an idolater
of fame before, suddenly made captive by love, and you have a vain,
partial image of my forest-princess.”

“What a lucky dog! You’ll marry her yet, old boy, in spite of all!”

“Pshaw! You are green to talk so.”

“You’ll be devilish loath to give her up; I’m afraid I’ll have to wait a
cursed long time.”

“No, not long! Do not despair. Easy won, easy valued.”

“And was she easily won?”

“Very! the game was a short one. She is a mere country-girl, you know,
but eighteen or thereabouts--suspecting nobody, and never dreaming that
she had a heart or passions at all. She thought only of her poetry and
her books. It was only necessary to work upon heart and passions while
talking of poetry and books, and they carried her out of her depth
before she could recover. She’s wiser now, Ben, I can assure you, and
will require more dexterity to keep than to conquer.”

“And she has no brother to worry a body--no d---d ugly Hobnail, who has
a fancy for her, and may make a window between the ribs of a gallant,
such as nature never intended, with the ounce-bullet of some d---d
old-fashioned seven-foot rifle--eh?”

“There was a silly chap, one Hinkley, who tried it on me--actually
challenged me, though I was playing parson, and there might have been
work for me but for his own bull-headed father, who came to my rescue,
beat the boy and drove him from the place. There is nobody else to give
me any annoyance, unless it be a sort of half-witted chap, a cousin of
the former--a sleepy dog that is never, I believe, entirely awake unless
when he’s trout-fishing. He has squinted at me, as if he could quarrel
if he dared, but the lad is dull--too dull to be very troublesome. You
might kiss his grandmother under his nose, and he would probably regard
it only as a compliment to her superior virtues, and would thank you
accordingly--”

A voice a little to the left interrupted the speaker.

“So he does, my brave parson, for his grandmother’s sake and his own,”
 were the words of the speaker. They turned in sudden amaze to the spot
whence the sounds issued. The bushes opening in this quarter, presented
to the astonished eyes of Brother Stevens, the perfect image of the
dull lad of whom he had been speaking. There was Ned Hinkley in proper
person--perfectly awake, yet not trout-fishing! A sarcastic grin was
upon his visage, and rolling his eyes with a malicious leer, he repeated
the words which had first interrupted the progress of the dialogue
between the friends.

“I thank you, Brother Stevens, for the compliment to my grandmother’s
virtues. I thank you, on her account as well as my own. I’m very
grateful, I assure you, very grateful, very!”



CHAPTER XXXI.

“ABSQUATULATING.”



Had a bolt suddenly flashed and thundered at the feet of the two
friends, falling from a clear sky in April, they could not have been
more astounded. They started, as with one impulse, in the same moment to
their feet.

“Keep quiet,” said the intruder; “don’t let me interrupt you in so
pleasant a conversation. I’d like to hear you out. I’m refreshed by it.
What you say is so very holy and sermon-like, that I’m like a new man
when I hear it. Sit down, Brother Stevens, and begin again; sit down,
Ben, my good fellow, and don’t look so scary! You look as if you had a
window in your ribs already!”

The intruder had not moved, though he had startled the conspirators. He
did not seem to share in their excitement. He was very coolly seated,
with his legs deliberately crossed, while his two hands parted the
bushes before him in order to display his visage--perhaps with the
modest design of showing to the stranger that his friend had grievously
misrepresented its expression. Certainly, no one could say that, at this
moment, it lacked anything of spirit or intelligence. Never were eyes
more keen--never were lips more emphatically made to denote sarcasm
and hostility. The whole face was alive with scorn, and hate, and
bitterness; and there was defiance enough in the glance to have put
wings to fifty bullets.

His coolness, the composure which his position and words manifested,
awakened the anger of Brother Stevens as soon as the first feeling of
surprise had passed away. He felt, in a moment, that the game was up
with him--that he could no longer play the hypocrite in Charlemont.
He must either keep his pledges to Margaret Cooper, without delay or
excuse, or he must abandon all other designs which his profligate heart
may have suggested in its cruel purposes against her peace.

“Scoundrel!” he exclaimed; “how came you here? What have you heard?”

“Good words, Brother Stevens. You forget, you are a parson.”

“Brain the rascal!” exclaimed the whiskered stranger, looking more
fierce than ever. The same idea seemed to prompt the actions of Stevens.
Both of them, at the same moment, advanced upon the intruder, with their
whips uplifted; but still Ned Hinkley did not rise. With his legs still
crossed, he kept his position, simply lifting from the sward beside him,
where they had been placed conveniently, his two “puppies.” One of these
he grasped in his right hand and presented as his enemies approached.

“This, gentlemen,” said he, “is my peace-maker. It says, ‘Keep your
distance.’ This is my bull-pup, or peace-breaker; it says, ‘Come on.’
Listen to which you please. It’s all the same to me. Both are ready to
answer you, and I can hardly keep ‘em from giving tongue. The bull-pup
longs to say something to you, Brother Stevens--the pacificator is
disposed to trim your whiskers, Brother Ben; and I say, for ‘em both,
come on, you black-hearted rascals, if you want to know whether a girl
of Charlemont can find a man of Charlemont to fight her battles. I’m man
enough, by the Eternal, for both of you!”

The effect of Hinkley’s speech was equally great upon himself and the
enemy. He sprang to his feet, ere the last sentence was concluded,
and they recoiled in something like indecent haste. The language of
determination was even more strongly expressed by the looks of the
rustic than by his language and action. They backed hurriedly at his
approach.

“What! won’t you stand?--won’t you answer to your villanies?--won’t you
fight? Pull out your barkers and blaze away, you small-souled scamps;
I long to have a crack at you--here and there--both at a time! Aint you
willing? I’m the sleepy trout-fisherman! Don’t you know me? You’ve waked
me up, my lads, and I sha’n’t sleep again in a hurry! As for you, Alfred
Stevens--you were ready to fight Bill Hinkley--here’s another of the
breed--won’t you fight him?”

“Yes--give me one of your pistols, if you dare, and take your stand,”
 said Stevens boldly.

“You’re a cunning chap--give you one of my puppies--a stick for my own
head--while this bush-whiskered chap cudgels me over from behind. No!
no! none of that! Besides, these pistols were a gift from a good man,
they sha’n’t be disgraced by the handling of a bad one. Get your own
weapons, Brother Stevens, and every man to his tree.”

“They are in Charlemont!”

“Well!--you’ll meet me there then?”

“Yes!” was the somewhat eager answer of Stevens, “I will meet you
there--to-morrow morning--”

“Sunday--no! no!”

“Monday, then; this evening, if we get home in season.”

“It’s a bargain then,” replied Hinkley, “though I can hardly keep from
giving you the teeth of the bull! As for big-whiskered Ben, there, I’d
like to let him taste my pacificator. I’d just like to brush up his
whiskers with gun-powder--they look to have been done up with bear’s
grease before, and have a mighty fine curl; but if I wouldn’t frizzle
them better than ever a speckled hen had her feathers frizzled, then
I don’t know the virtues of gun-powder. On Monday morning, Brother
Stevens!”

“Ay, ay! on Monday morning!”

Had Ned Hinkley been more a man of the world--had he not been a simple
backwoodsman, he would have seen, in the eagerness of Stevens to make
this arrangement, something, which would have rendered him suspicious
of his truth. The instantaneous thought of the arch-hypocrite, convinced
him that he could never return to Charlemont if this discovery was once
made there. His first impulse was to put it out of the power of
Ned Hinkley to convey the tidings. We do not say that he would have
deliberately murdered him; but, under such an impulse of rage and
disappointment as governed him in the first moments of detection, murder
has been often done. He would probably have beaten him into incapacity
with his whip--which had a heavy handle--had not the rustic been
sufficiently prepared. The pistols of Stevens were in his valise, but
he had no purpose of fighting, on equal terms, with a man who spoke with
the confidence of one who knew how to use his tools; and when the simple
fellow, assuming that he would return to Charlemont for his chattels,
offered him the meeting there, he eagerly caught at the suggestion as
affording himself and friend the means of final escape.

It was not merely the pistols of Hinkley of which he had a fear. But
he well knew how extreme would be the danger, should the rustic gather
together the people of Ellisland, with the story of his fraud, and the
cruel consequences to the beauty of Charlemont, by which the deception
had been followed. But the simple youth, ignorant of the language of
libertinism, had never once suspected the fatal lapse from virtue of
which Margaret Cooper had been guilty. He was too unfamiliar with the
annals and practices of such criminals, to gather this fact from
the equivocal words, and half-spoken sentences, and sly looks of the
confederates. Had he dreamed this--had it, for a moment, entered into
his conjecturings--that such had been the case, he would probably have
shot down the seducer without a word of warning. But that the crime was
other than prospective, he had not the smallest fancy; and this may
have been another reason why he took the chances of Stevens’s return to
Charlemont, and let him off at the moment.

“Even should he not return,” such may have been his reflection--“I have
prevented mischief at least. He will be able to do no harm. Margaret
Cooper shall be warned of her escape, and become humbler at least, if
not wiser in consequence. At all events, the eyes of Uncle Hinkley will
be opened, and poor Bill be restored to us again!”

“And now mount, you scamps,” said Hinkley, pressing upon the two with
presented pistols. “I’m eager to send big-whiskered Ben home to his
mother; and to see you, Brother Stevens, on your way back to Charlemont.
I can hardly keep hands off you till then; and it’s only to do so, that
I hurry you. If you stay, looking black, mouthing together, I can’t
stand it. I will have a crack at you. My peace-maker longs to brush up
them whiskers. My bull-pup is eager to take you, Brother Stevens, by the
muzzle! Mount you, as quick as you can, before I do mischief.”

Backing toward their horses, they yielded to the advancing muzzles,
which the instinct of fear made them loath to turn their backs upon.
Never were two hopeful projectors so suddenly abased--so completely
baffled. Hinkley, advancing with moderate pace, now thrust forward
one, and now the other pistol, accompanying the action with a specific
sentence corresponding to each, in manner and form as follows:--

“Back, parson--back, whiskers! Better turn, and look out for the roots,
as you go forward. There’s no seeing your way along the road by looking
down the throats of my puppies. If you want to be sure that they’ll
follow till you’re mounted, you have my word for it. No mistake, I tell
you. They’re too eager on scent, to lose sight of you in a hurry, and
they’re ready to give tongue at a moment’s warning. Take care not to
stumble, whiskers, or the pacificator ‘ll be into your brush.”

“I’ll pay you for this!” exclaimed Stevens, with a rage which was not
less really felt than judiciously expressed. “Wait till we meet!”

“Ay, ay! I’ll wait; but be in a hurry. Turn now, your nags are at your
backs. Turn and mount!”

In this way they reached the tree where their steeds were fastened.
Thus, with the muzzle of a pistol bearing close upon the body of
each--the click of the cock they had heard--the finger close to the
trigger they saw--they were made to mount--in momentary apprehension
that the backwoodsman, whose determined character was sufficiently seen
in his face, might yet change his resolve, and with wanton hand, riddle
their bodies with his bullets. It was only when they were mounted, that
they drew a breath of partial confidence.

“Now,” said Hinkley, “my lads, let there be few last words between you.
The sooner you’re off the better. As for you, Alfred Stevens, the sooner
you’re back in Charlemont the more daylight we’ll have to go upon. I’ll
be waiting you, I reckon, when you come.”

“Ay, and you may wait,” said Stevens, as the speaker turned off and
proceeded to the spot where his own horse was fastened.

“You won’t return, of course?” said his companion.

“No! I must now return with you, thanks to your interference. By
Heavens, Ben, I knew, at your coming, that you would do mischief; you
have been a marplot ever; and after this, I am half-resolved to forswear
your society for ever.”

“Nay, nay! do not say so, Warham. It was unfortunate, I grant you; but
how the devil should either of us guess that such a Turk as that was in
the bush?”

“Enough for the present,” said the other. “It is not now whether I
wish to ride with you or not. There is no choice. There is no return to
Charlemont.”

“And that’s the name of the place, is it?”

“Yes! yes! Much good may the knowledge of it do you.”

“How fortunate that this silly fellow concluded to let you off on such a
promise. What an ass!”

“Yes! but he may grow wiser! Put spurs to your jade, and let us see
what her heels are good for, for the next three hours. I do not yet feel
secure. The simpleton may grow wiser and change his mind.”

“He can scarcely do us harm now, if he does.”

“Indeed!” said Stevens--“you know nothing. There’s such a thing as hue
and cry, and its not unfrequently practised in these regions, when the
sheriff is not at hand and constables are scarce. Every man is then a
sheriff.”

“Well--but there’s no law-process against us!”

“You are a born simpleton, I think,” said Stevens, with little scruple.
He was too much mortified to be very heedful of the feelings of his
companion. “There needs no law in such a case, at least for the CAPTURE
of a supposed criminal; and, for that matter, they do not find it
necessary for his punishment either. Hark ye, Ben--there’s a farmhouse?”

“Yes, I see it!”

“Don’t you smell tar?--They’re running it now!”

“I think I do smell something like it. What of it?”

“Do you see that bed hanging from yon window?”

“Yes! of course I see it!”

“It is a feather-bed!”

“Well--what of that? Why tell me this stuff? Of course I can guess as
well as you that it’s a feather-bed, since I see a flock of geese in the
yard with their necks all bare.”

“Hark ye, then! There’s something more than this, which you may yet see!
Touch up your mare. If this fellow brings the mob at Ellisland upon us,
that tar will be run, and that feather-bed gutted, for our benefit. What
they took from the geese will be bestowed on us. Do you understand me?
Did you ever hear of a man whose coat was made of tar and feathers, and
furnished at the expense of the county?”

“Hush, for God’s sake, Warham! you make my blood run cold with your
hideous notions!”

“That fellow offered to frizzle your whiskers. These would anoint them
with tar, in which your bear’s oil would be of little use.”

“Ha! don’t you hear a noise?” demanded the whiskered companion, looking
behind him.

“I think I do,” replied the other musingly.

“A great noise!” continued Don Whiskerandos.

“Yes, it seems to me that it is a great noise.”

“Like people shouting?”

“Somewhat--yes, by my soul, that DOES sound something like a shout!”

“And there! Don’t stop to look and listen, Warham,” cried his companion;
“it’s no time for meditation. They’re coming! hark!--” and with a single
glance behind him--with eyes dilating with the novel apprehensions
of receiving a garment, unsolicited, bestowed by the bounty of the
county--he drove his spurs into the flanks of his mare, and went ahead
like an arrow. Stevens smiled in spite of his vexation.

“D--n him!” he muttered as he rode forward, “it’s some satisfaction, at
least, to scare the soul out of him!”



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE REVELATION.



Having seen his enemy fairly mounted, and under way, as he thought, for
Charlemont, Ned Hinkley returned to Ellisland for his own horse. Here
he did not suffer himself to linger, though, before he could succeed
in taking his departure, he was subjected to a very keen and searching
examination by the village publican and politician. Having undergone
this scrutiny with tolerable patience, if not to the entire satisfaction
of the examiner, he set forward at a free canter, determined that his
adversary should not be compelled to wait.

It was only while he rode that he began to fancy the possibility of the
other having taken a different course; but as, upon reflection, he saw
no other plan which he might have adopted--for lynching for suspected
offences was not yet a popular practice in and about Charlemont--he
contented himself with the reflection that he had done all that could
have been done; and if Alfred Stevens failed to keep his appointment,
he, at least, was one of the losers. He would necessarily lose the
chance of revenging an indignity, not to speak of the equally serious
loss of that enjoyment which a manly fight usually gave to Ned
Hinkley himself, and which, he accordingly assumed, must be an equal
gratification to all other persons. When he arrived at Charlemont, he
did not make his arrival known, but, repairing directly to the lake
among the hills, he hitched his horse, and prepared, with what patience
he could command, to await the coming of the enemy.

The reader is already prepared to believe that the worthy rustic waited
in vain. It was only with the coming on of night that he began to
consider himself outwitted. He scratched his head impatiently, not
without bringing away some shreds of the hair, jumped on his horse, and,
without making many allowances for the rough and hilly character of the
road, went off at a driving pace for the house of Uncle Hinkley. Here he
drew up only to ask if Brother Stevens had returned.

“No!”

“Then, dang it! he never will return. He’s a skunk, uncle--as great a
skunk as ever was in all Kentucky!”

“How! what!--what of Brother Stevens?” demanded the uncle, seconded by
John Cross, who had only some two hours arrived at the village, and now
appeared at the door. But Ned Hinkley was already off.

“He’s a skunk!--that’s all!”

His last words threw very little light over the mystery, and certainly
gave very little satisfaction to his hearers. The absence of Alfred
Stevens, at a time when John Cross was expected, had necessarily
occasioned some surprise; but, of course, no apprehensions were
entertained by either the worthy parson or the bigoted host that he
could be detained by any cause whatsoever which he could not fully
justify.

The next course of Ned Hinkley was for the cottage of Mr. Calvert. To
the old man he gave a copious detail of all his discoveries--not only
the heads of what he heard from the conspirators in the wood, but
something of the terms of the dialogue. The gravity of Calvert increased
as the other proceeded. He saw more deeply into the signification of
certain portions of this dialogue than did the narrator; and when the
latter, after having expressed his disappointment at the non-appearance
of Stevens on the field of combat, at least congratulated himself at
having driven him fairly from the ground, the other shook his head
mournfully.

“I am afraid it’s too late, my son.”

“Too late, gran’pa! How? Is it ever too late to send such a rascal
a-packing?”

“It may be for the safety of some, my son.”

“What! Margaret you mean? You think the poor fool of a girl’s too far
gone in love of him, do you?”

“If that were all, Ned--”

“Why, what more, eh? You don’t mean!--”

The apprehensions of the simple, unsuspecting fellow, for the first time
began to be awakened to the truth.

“I am afraid, my son, that this wretch has been in Charlemont too long.
From certain words that you have dropped, as coming from Stevens, in
speaking to his comrade, I should regard him as speaking the language of
triumph for successes already gained.”

“Oh, hardly! I didn’t think so. If I had only guessed that he meant such
a thing--though I can’t believe it--I’d ha’ dropped him without a word.
I’d have given him the pacificator as well as the peace-breaker. Oh, no!
I can’t think it--I can’t--I won’t! Margaret Cooper is not a girl to my
liking, but, Lord help us! she’s too beautiful and too smart to suffer
such a skunk, in so short a time, to get the whip-hand of her. No,
gran’pa, I can’t and won’t believe it!”

“Yet, Ned, these words which you have repeated convey some such fear to
my mind. It may be that the villain was only boasting to his companion.
There are scoundrels in this world who conceive of no higher subject
of boast than the successful deception and ruin of the artless and
confiding. I sincerely hope that this may be the case now--that it was
the mere brag of a profligate, to excite the admiration of his comrade.
But when you speak of the beauty and the smartness of this poor girl, as
of securities for virtue, you make a great mistake. Beauty is more apt
to be a betrayer than a protector; and as for her talent, that is seldom
a protection unless it be associated with humility. Hers was not. She
was most ignorant where she was most assured. She knew just enough to
congratulate herself that she was unlike her neighbors, and this is the
very temper of mind which is likely to cast down its possessor in shame.
I trust that she had a better guardian angel than either her beauty or
her talents. I sincerely hope that she is safe. At all events, let me
caution you not to hint the possibility of its being otherwise. We will
take for granted that Stevens is a baffled villain.”

“I only wish I had dropped him!”

“Better as it is.”

“What! even if the poor girl is--”

“Ay, even then!”

“Why, gran’pa, can it be possible YOU say so?”

“Yes, my son; I say so here, in moments of comparative calmness, and
in the absence of the villain. Perhaps, were he present, I should say
otherwise.”

“And DO otherwise! You’d shoot him, gran’pa, as soon as I.”

“Perhaps! I think it likely. But, put up your pistols, Ned. You have
nobody now to shoot. Put them up, and let us walk over to your
uncle’s at once. It is proper that he and John Cross should know these
particulars.”

Ned agreed to go, but not to put up his pistols.

“For, you see, gran’pa, this rascal may return. His friend may have kept
him in long talk. We may meet him coming into the village.”

“It is not likely; but come along. Give me that staff, my son, and your
arm on the other side. I feel that my eyes are no longer young.”

“You could shoot still, gran’pa?”

“Not well.”

“What, couldn’t you hit a chap like Stevens between the eyes at ten
paces? I’m sure I could do it, blindfolded, by a sort of instinct.”

And the youth, shutting his eyes, as if to try the experiment, drew
forth one of his pistols from his bosom, and began to direct its muzzle
around the room.

“There was a black spider THERE, gran’pa! I’m sure, taking him for
Stevens, I could cut his web for him.”

“You have cut that of Stevens himself, and his comb too, Ned.”

“Yes, yes--but what a fool I was not to make it his gills!”

By this time the old man had got on his spencer, and, with staff in
hand, declared himself in readiness. Ned Hinkley lowered his pistol with
reluctance. He was very anxious to try the weapon and his own aim, on
somebody or something. That black spider which lived so securely in the
domicil of Mr. Calvert would have stood no chance in any apartment of
the widow Hinkley. Even the “pacificator” would have been employed
for its extermination, if, for no other reason, because of the fancied
resemblance which it had always worn to Brother Stevens--a resemblance
which occurred to him, perhaps, in consequence of the supposed
similarity between the arts of the libertine and those for the
entrapping of his victims which distinguish the labors of the spider.

The two were soon arrived at old Hinkley’s, and the tale of Ned was
told; but, such was the bigotry of the hearers, without securing belief.

“So blessed a young man!” said the old lady.

“A brand from the burning!” exclaimed Brother Cross.

“It’s all an invention of Satan!” cried old Hinkley, “to prevent the
consummation of a goodly work.”

“We should not give our faith too readily to such devices of the enemy,
Friend Calvert,” said John Cross, paternally.

“I never saw anything in him that wasn’t perfectly saint-like,” said
Mrs. Hinkley. “He made the most heartfelt prayer, and the loveliest
blessing before meat! I think I hear him now--‘Lord, make us
thankful’--with his eyes shut up so sweetly, and with such a voice.”

“There are always some people, Brother Cross, to hate the saints of the
Lord and to slander them! They lie in wait like thieves of the night,
and roaring lions of the wilderness, seeking what they may devour.”

“Ah,” exclaimed Brother Cross, “how little do such know that they
devour themselves; for whoso destroyeth his best friend is a devourer of
himself.”

“The blindness of Satan is upon them, and they do his work.”

And thus--purr, purr, purr--they went on, to the end of the chapter.
Poor Ned Hinkley found the whole kennel was upon him. Not only did they
deny everything that could by possibility affect the fair fame of the
absent brother, but, from defending him, they passed, with an easy
transition, to the denunciation of those who were supposed to be his
defamers. In this the worthy old man Calvert came in for his share.

“All this comes of your supporting that worthless boy of mine in
defiance of my will,” said old Hinkley. “You hate Brother Stevens
because that boy hated him, and because I love him.”

“You are mistaken, Mr. Hinkley,” said Calvert, mildly. “I hate nobody;
at the same time I suffer no mere prejudices to delude me against sight
and reason.”

“Ah!” said Brother Cross, gently, “it’s that very reason, Brother
Calvert, that ruins you worldlings. You must not rely on human reason.
Build on faith, and you build on the Rock of Ages.”

“I propose to use reason only in worldly matters, Mr. Cross,” said the
other; “for which use, only, I believe it was given us. I employ it in
reference to a case of ordinary evidence, and I beg your regards now,
while I draw your attention to the use I make of it in the present
instance. Will you hear me without interruption?”

“Surely, Brother Calvert, but call me not Mr. Cross. I am not a Mister.
I am plain John Cross; by virtue of my business, a brother, if it so
please you to esteem me. Call me Brother Cross, or Brother John Cross,
or plain John Cross, either of these will be acceptable unto me.”

“We are all brothers, or should be,” said Calvert; “and it will not
need that there should be any misunderstanding between us on so small a
matter.”

“The matter is not small in the eye of the Lord,” said the preacher.
“Titles of vanity become not us, and offend in his hearing.”

The old teacher smiled, but proceeded.

“Now, Brother Cross, if you will hear me, I will proceed, according to
my reason, to dwell upon the proofs which are here presented to you, of
the worthlessness of this man, Alfred Stevens; and when you consider how
much the feelings and the safety of the daughters of your flock depend
upon the character of those moral and religious teachers to whom the
care of them is intrusted, you will see, I think, the necessity of
listening patiently, and determining without religious prejudice,
according to the truth and reason of the case.”

“I am prepared to listen patiently, Brother Calvert,” said John Cross,
clasping his hands together, setting his elbows down upon the table,
shutting his eyes, and turning his face fervently up to heaven. Old
Hinkley imitated this posture quite as nearly as he was able; while
Mrs. Hinkley, sitting between the two, maintained a constant to-and-fro
motion, first on one side, then on the other, as they severally spoke to
the occasion, with her head deferentially bowing, like a pendulum, and
with a motion almost as regular and methodical. The movements of her
nephew, Ned Hinkley, were also a somewhat pleasant study, after a
fashion of his own. Sitting in a corner, he amused himself by drawing
forth his “puppies,” and taking occasional aim at a candle or flowerpot;
and sometimes, with some irreverence, at the curved and rather
extravagant proboscis of his worthy uncle, which, cocked up in air, was
indeed something of a tempting object of sight to a person so satisfied
of his skill in shooting as the young rustic. The parties being thus
arranged in a fit attitude for listening, Mr. Calvert began somewhat
after the following fashion:--

“Our first knowledge of Alfred Stevens was obtained through Brother John
Cross.”

“And what better introduction would you have?” demanded old Hinkley.

“None,” said the other, “if Brother Cross knew anything about the
party he introduced. But it so happens, as we learn from Brother Cross
himself, that the first acquaintance he had with Stevens was made upon
the road, where Stevens played a trick upon him by giving him brandy to
drink.”

“No trick, Brother Calvert; the young man gave it me as a medicine, took
it as a medicine himself, and, when I bade him, threw away the accursed
beverage.”

“Ordinary men, governed by ordinary reason, Brother Cross, would say
that Stevens knew very well what he was giving you, and that it was a
trick.”

“But only think, Mr. Calvert,” said Mrs. Hinkley, lifting her hands
and eyes at the same moment, “the blessed young man threw away the evil
liquor the moment he was told to do so. What a sign of meekness was
that!”

“I will not dwell on this point,” was the reply of Calvert. “He comes
into our village and declares his purpose to adopt the profession of
the preacher, and proceeds to his studies under the direction of Brother
Cross.”

“And didn’t he study them?” demanded Mrs. Hinkley. “Wasn’t he, late and
early, at the blessed volume? I heard him at all hours above stairs.
Oh! how often was he on his bended knees in behalf of our sinful race,
ungrateful and misbelieving that we are!”

“I am afraid, madam,” said Calvert, “that his studies were scarcely so
profound as you think them. Indeed. I am at a loss to conceive how you
should blind your eyes to the fact that the greater part of his time was
spent among the young girls of the village.”

“And where is it denied,” exclaimed old Hinkley, “that the lambs of God
should sport together?”

“Do not speak in that language, I pray you, Mr. Hinkley,” said Calvert,
with something of pious horror in his look; “this young man was no lamb
of God, but, I fear, as you will find, a wolf in the fold. It is, I say,
very well known that he was constantly wandering, even till a late hour
of the night, with one of the village maidens.”

“Who was that one, Brother Calvert?” demanded John Cross.

“Margaret Cooper.”

“Hem!” said the preacher.

“Well, he quarrels with my young friend, the worthy son of Brother
Hinkley--”

“Do not speak of that ungrateful cub. Brother Stevens did not quarrel
with him. He quarrelled with Brother Stevens, and would have murdered
him, but that I put in in time to save.”

“Say not so, Mr. Hinkley. I have good reason to believe that Stevens
went forth especially to fight with William.”

“I would not believe it, if a prophet were to tell me it.”

“Nevertheless, I believe it. We found both of them placed at the usual
fighting-distance.”

“Ah! but where were Brother Stevens’s pistols?”

“In his pocket, I suppose.”

“He had none. He was at a distance from my ungrateful son, and flying
that he should not be murdered. The lamb under the hands of the butcher.
And would you believe it, Brother Cross, he had gone forth only to
counsel the unworthy boy--only to bring him back into the fold--gone
forth at his own prayer, as Brother Stevens declared to Betsy, just
before he went out.”

“I am of opinion that he deceived her and yourself.”

“Where were his pistols then?”

“He must have concealed them. He told Ned Hinkley, this very day, that
he had pistols, but that they were here.”

“Run up, Betsy, to Brother Stevens’s room and see.”

The old lady disappeared. Calvert proceeded.

“I can only repeat my opinion, founded upon the known pacific and
honorable character of William Hinkley, and certain circumstances in
the conduct of Stevens, that the two did go forth, under a previous
arrangement, to fight a duel. That they were prevented, and that Stevens
had no visible weapon, is unquestionably true. But I do not confine
myself to these circumstances. This young man writes a great many
letters, it is supposed to his friends, but never puts them in the
post here, but every Saturday rides off, as we afterward learn, to the
village of Ellisland, where he deposites them and receive others. This
is a curious circumstance, which alone should justify suspicion.

“The ways of God are intricate, Brother Calvert,” said John Cross, “and
we are not to suspect the truth which we can not understand.”

“But these are the ways of man, Brother Cross.”

“And the man of God is governed by the God which is in him. He obeys a
law which, perhaps, is ordered to be hidden from thy sight.”

“This doctrine certainly confers very extraordinary privileges upon the
man of God,” said Calvert, quietly, “and, perhaps, this is one reason
why the profession is so prolific of professors now-a-days; but
the point does not need discussion. Enough has been shown to awaken
suspicion and doubt in the case of any ordinary person; and I now come
to that portion of the affair which is sustained by the testimony of
Ned Hinkley, our young friend here, who, whatever his faults may be,
has been always regarded in Charlemont, as a lover and speaker of the
truth.”

“Ay, ay, so far as he knows what the truth is,” said old Hinkley,
scornfully.

“And I’m just as likely to know what the truth is as you, uncle!’,’
retorted the young man, rising and coming forward from his corner.

“Come, come,” he continued, “you’re not going to ride rough shod over
me as you did over Cousin Bill. I don’t care a snap of the finger, I can
tell you, for all your puffed cheeks and big bellied speeches. I don’t,
I tell you!” and suiting the action to the word, the sturdy fellow
snapped his fingers almost under the nose of his uncle, which was now
erected heavenward, with a more scornful pre-eminence than ever.
The sudden entrance of Mrs. Hinkley, from her search after Stevens’s
pistols, prevented any rough issue between these new parties, as it
seemed to tell in favor of Stevens. There were no pistols to be found.
The old lady did not add, indeed, that there was nothing of any kind to
be found belonging to the same worthy.

“There! That’s enough!” said old Hinkley.

“Did you find anything of Stevens’s, Mrs. Hinkley?” inquired Mr.
Calvert.

“Nothing, whatever.”

“Well, madam,” said Calvert, “your search, if it proves anything, proves
the story of Ned Hinkley conclusively. This man has carried off all his
chattels.”

John Cross looked down from heaven, and stared inquiringly at Mrs.
Hinkley.

“Is this true? Have you found nothing, Sister Betsy?”

“Nothing.”

“And Brother Stevens has not come back?”

“No!”

“And reason for it, enough,” said old Hinkley. “Didn’t you hear that Ned
Hinkley threatened to shoot him if he came back?”

“Look you, uncle,” said the person thus accused, “if you was anybody
else, and a little younger, I’d thrash you for that speech the same as
if it was a lie! I would.”

“Peace!” said Calvert, looking sternly at the youth. Having obtained
temporary silence, he was permitted at length to struggle through his
narrative, and to place, in their proper lights, all the particulars
which Ned Hinkley had obtained at Ellisland. When this was done the
discussion was renewed, and raged, with no little violence, for a full
hour. At length it ceased through the sheer exhaustion of the parties.
Calvert was the first to withdraw from it, as he soon discovered that
such was the bigotry of old Hinkley and his wife, and even of John Cross
himself, that nothing short of divine revelation could persuade them of
the guilt of one who had once made a religious profession.

Brother Cross, though struck with some of the details which Calvert
had given, was afterward prepared to regard them as rather trivial than
otherwise, and poor Ned was doomed to perceive that the conviction
was general in this holy family, that he had, by his violence, and the
terror which his pistols had inspired, driven away, in desperation,
the most meek and saintly of all possible young apostles. The youth was
nearly furious ere the evening and the discussion were over. It was very
evident to Calvert that nothing was needed, should Stevens come back,
but a bold front and a lying tongue, to maintain his position in the
estimation of the flock, until such time as the truth WOULD make itself
known--a thing which, eventually, always happens. That night Ned Hinkley
dreamed of nothing but of shooting Stevens and his comrade and of
thrashing his uncle. What did Margaret Cooper dream of?



CHAPTER XXXIII.

STORM AND CONVULSION.



What did Margaret Cooper dream of? Disappointment, misery, death. There
was a stern presentiment in her waking thoughts, sufficiently keen and
agonizing to inspire such dreadful apprehensions in her dreams. The
temperament which is sanguine, and which, in a lively mood, inspires
hope, is, at the same time, the source of those dark images of thought
and feeling, which appal it with the most terrifying forms of fear; and
when Saturday and Saturday night came and passed, and Alfred Stevens
did not appear, a lurking dread that would not be chidden or kept down,
continued to rise within her soul, which, without assuming any real form
or decisive speech, was yet suggestive of complete overthrow and ruin.

Her dreams were of this complexion. She felt herself abandoned. Nor
merely abandoned. She was a victim. In her desolation she had even lost
her pride. She could no longer meet the sneer with scorn. She could
no longer carry a lofty brow among the little circle, who, once having
envied, were now about to despise her. To the impatient spirit, once so
strong--so insolent in its strength--what a pang--what a humiliation
was here! In her dreams she saw the young maidens of the village stand
aloof, as she had once stood aloof from them:--she heard the
senseless titter of their laugh; and she had no courage to resent
the impertinence. Her courage was buried in her shame. No heart is so
cowardly as that which is conscious of guilt. Picture after picture of
this sort did her fancy present to her that night; and when she awoke
the next morning, the sadness of her soul had taken the color of a deep
and brooding misanthropy. Such had been the effect of her dreams. Her
resolution came only from despair; and resolution from such a source, we
well know, is usually only powerful against itself.

It is one proof of a religious instinct, and of a universal belief in a
controlling and benevolent Deity, that all men however abased, scornful
of divine and human law, invariably, in their moments of desperation,
call upon God. Their first appeal is, involuntarily, to him. The
outlaw, as the fatal bullet pierces his breast--the infidel, sinking
and struggling in the water--the cold stony heart of the murderer, the
miser, the assassin of reputation as of life--all cry out upon God in
the unexpected paroxysms of death. Let us hope that the instinct which
prompts this involuntary appeal for mercy, somewhat helps to secure its
blessings. It is thus also with one who, in the hey-day of the youthful
heart, has lived without thought or prayer--a tumultuous life of uproar
and riot--a long carnival of the passions--the warm blood suppressing
the cool thought, and making the reckless heart impatient of
consideration. Let the sudden emergency arise, with such a heart--let
the blood become stagnant with disease--and the involuntary appeal is
to that God, of whom before there was no thought. We turn to him as to a
father who is equally strong to help and glad to preserve us.

Margaret Cooper, in the ordinary phrase, had lived without God. Her
God was in her own heart, beheld by the lurid fires of an intense,
unmethodized ambition. Her own strength--or rather the persuasion of her
own strength--had been so great, that hitherto she had seen no necessity
for appealing to any other source of power. She might now well begin to
distrust that strength. She did so. Her desperation was not of that sort
utterly to shut out hope; and, while there is hope, there is yet a moral
assurance that the worst is not yet--perhaps not to be. But she was
humbled--not enough, perhaps--but enough to feel the necessity of
calling in her allies. She dropped by her bedside, in prayer, when
she arose that morning. We do not say that she prayed for forgiveness,
without reference to her future earthly desires. Few of us know how to
simplify our demands upon the Deity to this one. We pray that he may
assist us in this or that grand speculation: the planter for a great
crop; the banker for investments that give him fifty per cent.; the
lawyer for more copious fees; the parson for an increase of salary. How
few pray for mercy--forgiveness for the past--strength to sustain the
struggling conscience in the future! Poor Margaret was no wiser, no
better, than the rest of us. She prayed--silly woman!--that Alfred
Stevens might keep his engagement!

He did not! That day she was to be married! She had some reference to
this in making her toilet that morning. The garments which she put on
were all of white. A white rose gleamed palely from amid the raven hair
upon her brow. Beautiful was she, exceedingly. How beautiful! but alas!
the garb she wore--the pale, sweet flower on her forehead--they were
mockeries--the emblems of that purity of soul, that innocence of heart,
which were gone--gone for ever! She shuddered as she beheld the flower,
and meditated this thought. Silently she took the flower from her
forehead, and, as if it were precious as that lost jewel of which it
reminded her, she carefully placed it away in her toilet-case.

Yet her beauty was heightened rather than diminished. Margaret Cooper
was beautiful after no ordinary mould. Tall in stature, with a frame
rounded by the most natural proportions into symmetry, and so formed for
grace; with a power of muscle more than common among women, which, by
inducing activity, made her movements as easy as they were graceful;
with an eye bright like the morning-star, and with a depth of expression
darkly clear, like that of the same golden orb at night; with a face
exquisitely oval; a mouth of great sweetness; cheeks on which the
slightest dash of hue from the red, red rose in June, might be seen to
come and go under the slightest promptings of the active heart within;
a brow of great height and corresponding expansion; with a bust that
impressed you with a sense of the maternal strength which might
be harbored there, even as the swollen bud gives promises of the
full-bosomed luxuriance of the flower when it opens: add to these a
lofty carriage, a look where the quickened spirit seems ever ready for
utterance; a something of eager solemnity in her speech; and a play of
expression on her lips which, if the brow were less lofty and the eye
less keenly bright, might be a smile--and you have some idea of that
noble and lovely temple on which fires of lava had been raised by an
unholy hand; in which a secret worship is carried on which dreads the
light, shrinks from exposure, and trembles to be seen by the very Deity
whose favor it yet seeks in prayer and apprehension.

These beauties of person as we have essayed, though most feebly, to
describe them, were enhanced rather than lessened by that air of anxiety
by which they were now overcast. Her step was no longer free. It was
marked by an unwonted timidity. Her glance was no longer confident; and
when she looked round upon the faces of the young village-maidens, it
was seen that her lip trembled and moved, but no longer with scorn. If
the truth were told, she now envied the meanest of those maidens that
security which her lack of beauty had guarantied. She, the scorner of
all around her, now envied the innocence of the very meanest of her
companions.

Such was the natural effect of her unhappy experience upon her heart.
What would she not have given to be like one of them? She dared not take
her place, in the church, among them. It was a dread that kept her back.
Strange, wondrous power of innocence! The guilty girl felt that she
might be repulsed; that her frailty might make itself known--MUST make
itself known; and she would be driven with shame from that communion
with the pure to which she had no longer any claim! She sunk into one of
the humblest seats in the church, drawing her reluctant mother into the
lowly place beside her.

John Cross did not that day address himself to her case: but sin has
a family similitude among all its members. There is an unmistakeable
likeness, which runs through the connection. If the preacher speaks
fervently to one sin, he is very apt to goad, in some degree, all the
rest: and though Brother Cross had not the most distant idea of singling
out Margaret Cooper for his censure, yet there was a whispering devil at
her elbow that kept up a continual commentary upon what he said, filling
her ears with a direct application of every syllable to her own peculiar
instance.

“See you not,” said the demon, “that every eye is turned upon you? He
sees into your soul; he knows your secret. He declares it, as you hear,
aloud, with a voice of thunder, to all the congregation. Do you not
perceive that you sit alone; that everybody shrinks from your side; that
your miserable old mother alone sits with you; that the eyes of some
watch you with pity, but more with indignation? Look at the young
damsels--late your companions--they are your companions no longer! They
triumph in your shame. Their titter is only suppressed because of the
place in which they are. They ask: ‘Is this the maiden who was so wise,
so strong--who scorned us--scorned US, indeed!--and was not able to
baffle the serpent in his very first approaches?’ Ha! ha! How they
laugh! Well, indeed, they may. It is very laughable, Margaret--not less
laughable and amusing than strange!--that YOU should have fallen!--so
easily, so blindly--and not even to suspect what every one else was sure
of! O Margaret! Margaret! can it be true? Who will believe in your
wit now, your genius, your beauty? Smutched and smutted! Poor, weak,
degraded! If there is pity for you, Margaret, it is full of mockery too;
it is a pity that is full of bitterness. You should now cast yourself
down, and cover yourself with ashes, and cry, ‘Wo is me!’ and call upon
the rocks and the hills to cover you!”

Such was the voice in her soul, which to HER senses seemed like that of
some jibing demon at her elbow. Margaret tried to pray--to expel him by
prayer; but the object of his mockery had not been attained. She could
not surrender herself entirely to the chastener. She was scourged,
but not humbled; and the language of the demon provoked defiance, not
humility. Her proud spirit rose once more against the pressure put upon
it. Her bright, dazzling eye flashed in scorn upon the damsels whom she
now fancied to be actually tittering--scarcely able to suppress their
laughter--at her obvious disgrace. On John Cross she fixed her fearless
eye, like that of some fallen angel, still braving the chastener,
whom he can not contend with. A strange strength--for even sin has its
strength for a season--came to her relief in that moment of fiendish
mockery. The strength of an evil spirit was accorded her. Her heart once
more swelled with pride. Her soul once more insisted on its ascendency.
She felt, though she did not say:--

“Even as I am, overthrown, robbed of my treasure, I feel that I am
superior to these. I feel that I have strength against the future. If
they are pure and innocent, it is not because of their greater strength,
but their greater obscurity. If I am overthrown by the tempter, it was
because I was the more worthy object of overthrow. In their littleness
they live: if I am doomed to the shaft, at least it will be as the
eagle is doomed; it will be while soaring aloft--while aiming for the
sun--while grasping at the very bolt by which I am destroyed!”

Such was the consolation offered by the twin-demons of pride and vanity.
The latter finds its aliment in the heart which it too completely
occupies, even from those circumstances which, in other eyes, make its
disgrace and weakness. The sermon which had touched her sin had not
subdued it. Perhaps no sermon, no appeal, however powerful and touching,
could at that moment have had power over her. The paroxysm of her first
consciousness of ruin had not yet passed off. The condition of mind was
not yet reached in which an appeal could be felt.

As in the case of physical disease, so with that of the mind and heart,
there is a period when it is neither useful nor prudent to administer
the medicines which are yet most necessary to safety. The judicious
physician will wait for the moment when the frame is prepared--when the
pulse is somewhat subdued--before he tries the most powerful remedy. The
excitement of the wrong which she had suffered was still great in her
bosom. It was necessary that she should have repose. That excitement
was maintained by the expectation that Stevens would yet make his
appearance. Her eye, at intervals, wandered over the assembly in search
of him. The demon at her elbow understood her quest.

“He will not come,” it said; “you look in vain. The girls follow your
eyes; they behold your disappointment; they laugh at your credulity.
If he leads any to the altar, think you it will be one whom he could
command at pleasure without any such conditions--one who, in her wild
passions and disordered vanity, could so readily yield to his desires,
without demanding any corresponding sacrifices? Margaret, they laugh
now at those weaknesses of a mind which they once feared if not honored.
They wonder, now, that they could have been so deceived. If they do
not laugh aloud, Margaret, it is because they would spare your shame.
Indeed, indeed, they pity you!”

The head of the desperate, but still haughty woman, was now more proudly
uplifted, and her eyes shot forth yet fiercer fires of indignation.
What a conflict was going on in her bosom. Her cheeks glowed with the
strife--her breast heaved; with difficulty she maintained her seat
inflexibly, and continued, without other signs of discomposure, until
the service was concluded. Her step was more stately than ever as she
walked from church; and while her mother lingered behind to talk with
Brother Cross, and to exchange the sweetest speeches with the
widow Thackeray and others, she went on alone--seeing none, heeding
none--dreading to meet any face lest it should wear a smile and look the
language in which the demon at her side still dealt. HE still clung to
her, with the tenacity of a fiendish purpose. He mocked her with her
shame, goading her, with dart upon dart, of every sort of mockery. Truly
did he mutter in her ears:--

“Stevens has abandoned you. Never was child, before yourself, so silly
as to believe such a promise as he made you. Do you doubt?--do you still
hope? It is madness? Why came he not yesterday--last night--to-day? He
is gone. He has abandoned you. You are not only alone--you are lost!
lost for ever!”

The tidings of this unsolicited attendant were confirmed the next day,
by the unsuspecting John Cross. He came to visit Mrs. Cooper and her
daughter among the first of his parishioners. He had gathered from the
villagers already that Stevens had certainly favored Miss Cooper beyond
all the rest of the village damsels. Indeed, it was now generally
bruited that he was engaged to her in marriage. Though the worthy
preacher had very stoutly resisted the suggestions of Mr. Calvert, and
the story of Ned Hinkley, he was yet a little annoyed by them; and he
fancied that, if Stevens were, indeed, engaged to Margaret, she, or
perhaps the old lady, might relieve his anxiety by accounting for the
absence of his protege. The notion of Brother John was, that, having
resolved to marry the maiden, he had naturally gone home to apprize his
parents and to make the necessary preparations.

But this conjecture brought with it a new anxiety. It, now, for the
first time, seemed something strange that Stevens had never declared to
himself, or to anybody else who his parents were--what they were--where
they were--what business they pursued; or anything about them. Of his
friends, they knew as little. The simple old man had never thought of
these things, until the propriety of such inquiries was forced upon him
by the conviction that they would now be made in vain. The inability to
answer them, when it was necessary that an answer should be found, was
a commentary upon his imprudence which startled the good old man not
a little. But, in the confident hope that a solution of the difficulty
could be afforded by the sweetheart or the mother, he proceeded to her
cottage. Of course, Calvert, in his communication to him, had forborne
those darker conjectures which he could not help but entertain; and his
simple auditor, unconscious himself of any thought of evil, had never
himself formed any such suspicions.

Margaret Cooper was in her chamber when Brother Cross arrived. She had
lost that elasticity of temper which would have carried her out at
that period among the hills in long rambles, led by those wild, wooing
companions, which gambol along the paths of poetic contemplation. The
old man opened his stores of scandal to Mrs. Cooper with little or no
hesitation. He told her all that Calvert had said, all that Ned Hinkley
had fancied himself to have heard, and all the village tattle touching
the engagement supposed to exist between Stevens and her daughter.

“Of course, Sister Cooper,” said he, “I believe nothing of this sort
against the youth. I should be sorry to think it of one whom I plucked
as a brand from the burning. I hold Brother Stevens to be a wise young
man and a pious; and truly I fear, as indeed I learn, that there is in
the mind of Ned Hinkley a bitter dislike to the youth, because of some
quarrel which Brother Stevens is said to have had with William Hinkley.
This dislike hath made him conceive evil things of Brother Stevens
and to misunderstand and to pervert some conversation which he hath
overheard which Stevens hath had with his companion. Truly, indeed, I
think that Alfred Stevens is a worthy youth of whom we shall hear a good
account.”

“And I think so too, Brother Cross. Brother Stevens will be yet a
burning and a shining light in the church. There is a malice against
him; and I think I know the cause, Brother Cross.”

“Ah! this will be a light unto our footsteps, Sister Cooper.”

“Thou knowest, Brother Cross,” resumed the old lady in a subdued tone
but with a loftier elevation of eyebrows and head--“thou knowest the
great beauty of my daughter Margaret?”

“The maiden is comely, sister, comely among the maidens; but beauty is
grass. It is a flower which blooms at morning and is cut down in the
evening. It withereth on the stalk where it bloomed, until men turn from
it with sickening and with sorrow, remembering what it hath been. Be not
boastful of thy daughter’s beauty, Sister Cooper, it is the beauty of
goodness alone which dieth not.”

“But said I not, Brother Cross, of her wisdom, and her wit, as well
as her beauty?” replied the old lady with some little pique. “I was
forgetful of much, if I spoke only of the beauty of person which
Margaret Cooper surely possesseth, and which the eyes of blindness
itself might see.”

“Dross, dross all, Sister Cooper. The wit of man is a flash which
blindeth and maketh dark; and the wisdom of man is a vain thing. The one
crackleth like thorns beneath the pot--the other stifleth the heart and
keepeth down the soul from her true flight. I count the wit and wisdom
of thy daughter even as I count her beauty. She hath all, I think--as
they are known to and regarded by men. But all is nothing. Beauty hath a
day’s life like the butterfly; wit shineth like the sudden flash of the
lightning, leaving only the cloud behind it; and oh! for the vain wisdom
of man which makes him vain and unsteady--likely to falter--liable
to fall--rash in his judgment--erring in his aims--blind to his
duty--wilful in his weakness--insolent to his fellow--presumptuous in
the sight of God. Talk not to me of worldly wisdom. It is the foe to
prayer and meekness. The very fruit of the tree which brought sin and
death into the world. Thy daughter is fair to behold--very fair among
the maidens of our flock--none fairer, none so fair: God hath otherwise
blessed her with a bright mind and a quick intelligence; but I think not
that she is wise to salvation. No, no! she hath not yearned to the holy
places of the tabernacle, unless it be that Brother Stevens hath been
more blessed in his ministry than I!”

“And he hath!” exclaimed the mother. “I tell you, Brother John, the
heart of Margaret Cooper is no longer what it was. It is softened. The
toils of Brother Stevens have not been in vain. Blessed young man,
no wonder they hate and defame him. He hath had a power over Margaret
Cooper such as man never had before; and it is for this reason that Bill
Hinkley and Ned conspired against him, first to take his life, and then
to speak evil of his deeds. They beheld the beauty of my daughter, and
they looked on her with famishing eyes. She sent them a-packing, I tell
you. But this youth, Brother Stevens, found favor in her heart. They
beheld the two as they went forth together. Ah! Brother John, it is
the sweetest sight to behold two young, loving people walk forth in
amity--born, as it would seem, for each other; both so tall, and young,
and handsome; walking together with such smiles, as if there was no
sorrow in the world; as if there was nothing but flowers and sweetness
on the path; as if they could see nothing but one another; and as if
there were no enemies looking on. It did my heart good to see them,
Brother Cross; they always looked so happy with one another.”

“And you think, Sister Cooper, that Brother Stevens hath agreed to take
Margaret to wife?”

“She hath not told me this yet, but in truth, I think it hath very nigh
come to that.”

“Where is she?”

“In her chamber.”

“Call her hither, Sister Cooper; let us ask of her the truth.”

Margaret Cooper was summoned, and descended with slow steps and an
unwilling spirit to meet their visiter.

“Daughter,” said the good old man, taking her hand, and leading her to a
seat, “thou art, even as thy mother sayest, one of exceeding beauty. Few
damsels have ever met mine eyes with a beauty like to thine. No wonder
the young men look on thee with eyes of love; but let not the love of
youth betray thee. The love of God is the only love that is precious to
the heart of wisdom.”

Thus saying, the old man gazed on her with as much admiration as was
consistent with the natural coldness of his temperament, his years, and
his profession. His address, so different from usual, had a soothing
effect upon her. A sigh escaped her, but she said nothing. He then
proceeded to renew the history which had been given to him and which
he had already detailed to her mother. She heard him with patience, in
spite of all his interpolations from Scripture, his ejaculations, his
running commentary upon the narrative, and the numerous suggestive
topics which took him from episode to episode, until the story seemed
interminably mixed up in the digression.

But when he came to that portion which related to the adventure of
Ned Hinkley, to his espionage, the conference of Stevens with his
companion--then she started--then her breathing became suspended, then
quickened--then again suspended--and then, so rapid in its rush, that
her emotion became almost too much for her powers of suppression.

But she did suppress it, with a power, a resolution, not often
paralleled among men--still more seldom among women. After the first
spasmodic acknowledgment given by her surprise, she listened with
comparative calmness. She, alone, had the key to that conversation. She,
alone, knew its terrible signification. She knew that Ned Hinkley was
honest--was to be believed--that he was too simple, and too sincere, for
any such invention; and, sitting with hands clasped upon that chair--the
only attitude which expressed the intense emotion which she felt--she
gazed with unembarrassed eye upon the face of the speaker, while every
word which he spoke went like some keen, death-giving instrument into
her heart.

The whole dreadful history of the villany of Stevens, her irreparable
ruin--was now clearly intelligible. The mocking devil at her elbow had
spoken nothing but the truth. She was indeed the poor victim of a crafty
villain. In the day of her strength and glory she had fallen--fallen,
fallen, fallen!

“Why am I called to hear this?” she demanded with singular composure.

The old man and the mother explained in the same breath--that she might
reveal the degree of intercourse which had taken place between them,
and, if possible, account for the absence of her lover. That, in short,
she might refute the malice of enemies and establish the falsehood of
their suggestions.

“You wish to know if I believe this story of Ned Hinkley?”

“Even so, my daughter.”

“Then, I do!”

“Ha! what is it you say, Margaret?”

“The truth.”

“What?” demanded the preacher, “you can not surely mean that Brother
Stevens hath been a wolf in sheep’s clothing--that he hath been a
hypocrite.”

“Alas!” thought Margaret Cooper--“have I not been my own worst
enemy--did I not know him to be this from the first?”

Her secret reflection remained, however, unspoken. She answered the
demand of John Cross without a moment’s hesitation.

“I believe that Alfred Stevens is all that he is charged to be--a
hypocrite--a wolf in sheep’s clothing!--I see no reason to doubt the
story of Ned Hinkley. He is an honest youth.”

The old lady was in consternation. The preacher aghast and confounded.

“Tell me, Margaret,” said the former, “hath he not engaged himself to
you? Did he not promise--is he not sworn to be your husband?”

“I have already given you my belief. I see no reason to say anything
more. What more do you need? Is he not gone--fled--has he not failed--”

She paused abruptly, while a purple flush went over her face. She rose
to retire.

“Margaret!” exclaimed the mother.

“My daughter!” said John Cross.

“Speak out what you know--tell us all--”

“No! I will say no more. You know enough already. I tell you, I believe
Alfred Stevens to be a hypocrite and a villain. Is not that enough? What
is it to you whether he is so or not? What is it to me, at least? You
do not suppose that it is anything to me? Why should you? What should he
be? I tell you he is nothing to me--nothing--nothing--nothing! Villain
or hypocrite, or what not--he is no more to me than the earth on which
I tread. Let me hear no more about him, I pray you. I would not hear his
name! Are there not villains enough in the world, that you should think
and speak of one only?”

With these vehement words she left the room, and hurried to her chamber.
She stopped suddenly before the mirror.

“And is it thus!” she exclaimed--“and I am--”

The mother by this time had followed her into the room.

“What is the meaning of this, Margaret?--tell me!” cried the old woman
in the wildest agitation.

“What should it be, mother? Look at me!--in my eyes--do they not tell
you? Can you not read?”

“I see nothing--I do not understand you, Margaret.”

“Indeed! but you shall understand me! I thought my face would tell you
without my words. _I_ see it there, legible enough, to myself. Look
again!--spare me if you can--spare your own ears the necessity of
hearing me speak!”

“You terrify me, Margaret--I fear you are out of your mind.

“No! no! that need not be your fear; nor, were it true, would it be a
fear of mine. It might be something to hope--to pray for. It might
bring relief. Hear me, since you will not see. You ask me why I believe
Stevens to be a villain. I KNOW it.”

“Ha! how know it!”

“How! How should I know it? Well, I see that I must speak. Listen then.
You bade me seek and make a conquest of him, did you not? Do not deny
it, mother--you did.”

“Well, if I did?”

“I succeeded! Without trying, I succeeded! He declared to me his
love--he did!--he promised to marry me. He was to have married me
yesterday--to have met me in church and married me. John Cross was
to have performed the ceremony. Well! you saw me there--you saw me in
white--the dress of a bride!--Did he come? Did you see him there? Did
you see the ceremony performed?”

“No, surely not--you know without asking.”

“I know without asking!--surely I do!--but look you, mother--do you
think that conquests are to be made, hearts won, loves confessed,
pledges given, marriage-day fixed--do these things take place, as
matters of pure form? Is there no sensation--no agitation--no beating
and violence about the heart--in the blood--in the brain! I tell you
there is--a blinding violence, a wild, stormy, sensation--fondness,
forgetfulness, madness! I say, madness! madness! madness!”

“Oh, my daughter, what can all this mean? Speak calmly, be deliberate!”

“Calm! deliberate! What a monster if I could be! But I am not mad now.
I will tell you what it means. It means that, in taking captive Alfred
Stevens--in winning a lover--securing that pious young man--there was
some difficulty, some peril. Would you believe it?--there were some
privileges which he claimed. He took me in his arms. Ha! ha! He held me
panting to his breast. His mouth filled mine with kisses--”

“No more, do not say more, my child!”

“Ay, more! more! much more! I tell you--then came blindness and madness,
and I was dishonored--made a woman before I was made a wife! Ruined,
lost, abused, despised, abandoned! Ha! ha! ha! no marriage ceremony.
Though I went to the church. No bridegroom there, though he promised to
come. Preacher, church, bride, all present, yet no wedding. Ha! ha! ha!
How do I know!--Good reason for it, good reason--Ha! ha!--ah!”

The paroxysm, terminated in a convulsion. The unhappy girl fell to the
floor as if stricken in the forehead. The blood gushed from her mouth
and nostrils, and she lay insensible in the presence of the terrified
and miserable mother.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE FATES FIND THE DAGGER AND THE BOWL.



For a long time she lay without showing any signs of life. Her passions
rebelled against the restraint which her mind had endeavored to put upon
them. Their concentrated force breaking all bonds, so suddenly, was like
the terrific outburst of the boiling lava from the gorges of the frozen
mountain. Believing her dead, the mother rushed headlong into the
highway, rending the village with her screams. She was for the time
a perfect madwoman. The neighbors gathered to her assistance. That
much-abused woman, the widow Thackeray, was the first to come. Never was
woman’s tenderness more remarkable than hers--never was woman’s watch by
the bed of sickness and suffering--that watch which woman alone knows
so well how to keep--more rigidly maintained than by her! From the first
hour of that agony under which Margaret Cooper fell to earth insensible,
to the last moment in which her recovery was doubtful, that widow
Thackeray--whose passion for a husband had been described by Mrs. Cooper
as so very decided and evident--maintained her place by the sick bed of
the stricken girl with all the affection of a mother. Widow Thackeray
was a woman who could laugh merrily, but she could shed tears with
equal readiness. These were equally the signs of prompt feeling and nice
susceptibility; and the proud Margaret, and her invidious mother, were
both humbled by that spontaneous kindness for which, hitherto, they had
given the possessor so very little credit, and to which they were now
equally so greatly indebted.

Medical attendance was promptly secured. Charlemont had a very clever
physician of the old school. He combined as was requisite in the
forest region of our country, the distinct offices of the surgeon and
mediciner. He was tolerably skilful in both departments. He found
his patient in a condition of considerable peril. She had broken a
blood-vessel; and the nicest care and closest attendance were necessary
to her preservation. It will not need that we should go through the long
and weary details which followed to her final cure. Enough, that she did
recover. But for weeks her chance was doubtful. She lay for that space
of time, equally in the arms of life and death. For a long period, she
herself was unconscious of her situation.

When she came to know, the skill of her attendants derived very little
aid from her consciousness. Her mind was unfavorable to her cure; and
this, by the way, is a very important particular in the fortunes of the
sick. To despond, to have a weariness of life, to forbear hope as well
as exertion, is, a hundred to one, to determine against the skill of
the physician. Margaret Cooper felt a willingness to die. She felt her
overthrow in the keenest pangs of its shame; and, unhappily, the mother,
in her madness, had declared it.

The story of her fall--of the triumph of the serpent--was now the
village property, and of course put an end to all further doubts on the
score of the piety of Brother Stevens; though, by way of qualification
of his offence, old Hinkley insisted that it was the fault of the poor
damsel.

“She,” he said, “had tempted him--had thrown herself in his way--had
been brazen,” and all that, of which so much is commonly said in all
similar cases. We, who know the character of the parties, and have
traced events from the beginning, very well know how little of this
is true. Poor Margaret was a victim before she was well aware of those
passions which made her so. She was the victim not of lust but of
ambition. Never was woman more unsophisticated--less moved by unworthy
and sinister design. She had her weaknesses--her pride, her vanity; and
her passions, which were tremendous, worked upon through these, very
soon effected her undoing. But, for deliberate purpose of evil--of any
evil of which her own intellect was conscious--the angels were not more
innocent.

But mere innocence of evil design, in any one particular condition,
is not enough for security. We are not only to forbear evil; virtue
requires that we should be exercised for the purposes of good. She
lacked the moral strength which such exercises, constantly pursued,
would have assured her. She was a creature of impulse only, not of
reflection. Besides, she was ignorant of her particular weaknesses. She
was weak where she thought herself strong. This is always the error of
a person having a very decided will. The will is constantly mistaken
for the power. She could not humble herself, and in her own personal
capacities--capacities which had never before been subjected to any
ordeal-trial--she relied for the force which was to sustain her in every
situation. Fancy a confident country-girl--supreme in her own district
over the Hobs and Hinnies thereabouts--in conflict with the adroit man
of the world, and you have the whole history of Margaret Cooper, and
the secret of her misfortune. Let the girl have what natural talent you
please, and the case is by no means altered. She must fall if she
seeks or permits the conflict. She can only escape by flight. It is in
consideration of this human weakness, that we pray God, nightly, not to
suffer us to be exposed to temptation.

When the personal resources of her own experience and mind failed
Margaret Cooper, as at some time or other they must fail all who trust
only in them, she had no further reliance. She had never learned to draw
equal strength and consolation from the sweet counsels of the sacred
volume. Regarding the wild raving and the senseless insanity, which
are but too frequently the language of the vulgar preacher, as gross
ignorance and debasing folly, she committed the unhappy error of
confounding the preacher with his cause. She had never been taught to
make an habitual reference to religion; and her own experience of life,
had never forced upon her those sage reflections which would have shown
her that TRUE religion is the very all of life, and without it life has
nothing. The humility of the psalmist, which was the real source of all
the strength allotted to the monarch minstrel, was an unread lesson with
her; and never having been tutored to refer to God, and relying upon
her own proud mind and daring imagination, what wonder that these frail
reeds should pierce her side while giving way beneath her.

It was this very confidence in her own strength--this fearlessness
of danger (and we repeat the lesson here, emphatically, by way of
warning)--a confidence which the possession of a quick and powerful mind
naturally enough inspires--that effected her undoing. It was not by the
force of her affections that she fell. THE AFFECTIONS ARE NOT APT TO BE
STRONG IN A WOMAN WHOSE MIND LEADS HER OUT FROM HER SEX!

The seducer triumphed through the medium of her vanity. Her feeling of
self-assurance had been thus active from childhood, and conspicuous in
all her sports and employments. SHE HAD NEVER BEEN A CHILD HERSELF. SHE
LED ALWAYS IN THE PASTIMES OF HER PLAYMATES, MANY OF WHOM WERE OLDER
THAN HERSELF.

She had no fears when others trembled; and, if she did not, at any time,
so far transcend the bounds of filial duty as to defy the counsels of
her parents, it was certainly no less true that she never sought for,
and seldom seemed to need them. IT IS DANGEROUS WHEN THE WOMAN, THROUGH
SHEER CONFIDENCE IN HER OWN STRENGTH, VENTURES UPON THE VERGE OF
THE MORAL PRECIPICE. THEY VERY EXPERIMENTAL, WHERE THE PASSIONS ARE
CONCERNED, PROVES HER TO BE LOST.

Margaret Cooper, confident in her own footsteps, soon learned to despise
every sort of guardianship. The vanity of her mother had not only
counselled and stimulated her own, but was of that gross and silly
order, as to make itself offensive to the judgment of the girl herself.
This had the effect of losing her all the authority of a parent; and we
have already seen, in the few instances where this authority took the
shape of counsel, that its tendency was to evil rather than to good.

The arts of Alfred Stevens had, in reality, been very few. It was only
necessary that he should read the character of his victim. This, as an
experienced worldling--experienced in such a volume--he was soon very
able to do. He saw enough to discover, that, while Margaret Cooper was
endowed by nature with an extraordinary measure of intellect, she was
really weak because of its possession. In due proportion to the degree
of exercise to which she subjected her mere mind--making that busy and
restless--was the neglect of her sensibilities--those nice ANTENNAE OF
THE HEART.

“Whose instant touches, slightest pause,”

teach the approach of the smallest forms of danger, however inoffensive
their shapes, however unobtrusive their advance. When the sensibilities
are neglected and suffered to fall into disrepute, they grow idle first,
and finally obtuse! even as the limb which you forbear to exercise loses
its muscle, and withers into worthlessness.

When Alfred Stevens discovered this condition, his plan was simple
enough. He had only to stimulate her mind into bolder exercise--to
conduct it to topics of the utmost hardihood--to inspire that sort of
moral recklessness which some people call courage--which delights to
sport along the edge of the precipice, and to summon audacious spirits
from the great yawning gulfs which lie below. This practice is always
pursued at the expense of those guardian feelings which keep watch over
the virtues of the tender heart.

The analysis of subjects commonly forbidden to the sex, necessarily
tends to make dull those habitual sentinels over the female conduct.
These sentinels are instincts rather than principles. Education can take
them away, but does not often confer them. When, through the arts of
Alfred Stevens, Margaret Cooper was led to discuss, perhaps to despise,
those nice and seemingly purposeless barriers which society--having
the experience of ages for its authority--has wisely set up between the
sexes--she had already taken a large stride toward passing them. But of
this, which a judicious education would have taught her, she was wholly
ignorant. Her mind was too bold to be scrupulous; too adventurous to be
watchful; and if, at any moment, a pause in her progress permitted her
to think of the probable danger to her sex of such adventurous freedom,
she certainly never apprehended it in her own case. Such restraints she
conceived to be essential only for the protection of THE WEAK among
her sex. Her vanity led her to believe that she was strong; and the
approaches of the sapper were conducted with too much caution, with a
progress too stealthy and insensible, to startle the ear or attract the
eye of the unobservant, yet keen-eyed guardian of her citadel. An eagle
perched upon a rock, with wing outspread for flight, and an eye fixed
upon the rolling clouds through which it means to dart, is thus heedless
of the coiled serpent which lies beneath its feet.

The bold eye of Margaret Cooper was thus heedless. Gazing upon the sun,
she saw not the serpent at her feet. It was not because she slept: never
was eye brighter, more far-stretching; never was mind more busy, more
active, than that of the victim at the very moment when she fell. It was
because she watched the remote, not the near--the region in which there
was no enemy, nothing but glory--and neglected that post which is always
in danger. Her error is that of the general who expends his army upon
some distant province, leaving his chief city to the assault and sack of
the invader.

We have dwelt somewhat longer upon the moral causes which, in our story,
have produced such cruel results, than the mere story itself demands;
but no story is perfectly moral unless the author, with a wholesome
commentary, directs the attention of the reader to the true weaknesses
of his hero, to the point where his character fails; to the causes of
this failure, and the modes in which it may be repaired or prevented.
In this way alone may the details of life and society be properly welded
together into consistent doctrine, so that instruction may keep pace
with delight, and the heart and mind be informed without being conscious
of any of those tasks which accompany the lessons of experience.

To return now to our narrative.

Margaret Cooper lived! She might as well have died. This was HER
thought, at least. She prayed for death. Was it in mercy that her prayer
was denied? We shall see! Youth and a vigorous constitution successfully
resisted the attacks of the assailant. They finally obtained the
victory. After a weary spell of bondage and suffering, she recovered.
But she recovered only to the consciousness of a new affliction. All the
consequences of her fatal lapse from virtue have not yet been told. She
bore within her an indelible witness of her shame. She was destined to
be a mother without having been a wife!

This, to her mother at least, was a more terrible discovery than the
former. She literally cowered and crouched beneath it. It was the
WRITTEN shame, rather than the actual, which the old woman dreaded. She
had been so vain, so criminally vain, of her daughter--she had made
her so constantly the subject of her brag--that, unwitting of having
declared the whole melancholy truth, in the first moment of her madness,
she shrank, with an unspeakable horror, from the idea that the little
world in which she lived should become familiar with the whole cruel
history of her overthrow. She could scarcely believe it herself though
the daughter, with an anguish in her eyes that left little to be told,
had herself revealed the truth. Her pride as well as her life, was
linked with the pride and the beauty of her child. She had shared in
her constant triumphs over all around her; and overlooking, as a fond,
foolish mother is apt to do, all her faults of temper or of judgment,
she had learned to behold nothing but her superiority. And now to see
her fallen! a thing of scorn, which was lately a thing of beauty!--the
despised, which was lately the worshipped and the wondered at! No wonder
that her weak, vain heart was crushed and humbled, and her head bowed in
sorrow to the earth. She threw herself upon the floor, and wept bitter
and scalding tears.

The daughter had none. Without sob or sigh, she stooped down and
tenderly assisted the old woman to rise. Why had she no tears? She asked
herself this question, but in vain. Her external emotions promised
none. Indeed, she seemed to be without emotions. A weariness and general
indifference to all things was now the expression of her features.
But this was the deceitful aspect of the mountain, on whose breast
contemplation sits with silence, unconscious of the tossing flame which
within is secretly fusing the stubborn metal and the rock. Anger was in
her breast--feelings of hate mingled up with shame--scorn of herself,
scorn of all--feelings of defiance and terror, striving at mastery; and,
in one corner, a brooding image of despair, kept from the brink of the
precipice only by the entreaties of some fiercer principle of hate. She
felt life to be insupportable. Why did she live? This question came to
her repeatedly. The demon was again at work beside her.

“Die!” said he. “It is but a blow--a moment’s pang--the driving a needle
into an artery--the prick of a pin upon the heart. Die! it will save you
from exposure--the shame of bringing into the world an heir of shame!
What would you live for? The doors of love, and fame, even of society,
are shut against you for ever. What is life to you now? a long denial--a
protracted draught of bitterness--the feeling of a death-spasm
carried on through sleepless years; perhaps, under a curse of peculiar
bitterness, carried on even into age! Die! you can not be so base as to
wish for longer life!”

The arguments of the demon were imposing. His suggestions seemed to
promise the relief she sought. Hers seemed the particular case where the
prayer is justified which invokes the mountains and the rocks upon the
head of the guilty. But the rock refused to fall, the mountain to cover
her shame, and its exposure became daily more and more certain. Death
was the only mode of escape from the mountain of pain which seemed to
rest upon her heart. The means of self-destruction were easy. With
a spirit so impetuous as hers, to imagine was to determine. She did
determine. Yet, even while making so terrible a resolve, a singular calm
seemed to overspread her soul. She complained of nothing--wished for
nothing--sought for nothing--trembled at nothing. A dreadful lethargy,
which made the old mother declaim as against a singular proof of
hardihood, possessed her spirit. Little did the still-idolizing mother
conjecture how much that lethargy concealed!

The moment that Margaret Cooper conceived the idea of suicide, it
possessed all her mind. It became the one only thought. There were few
arguments against it, and these she rapidly dismissed or overcame. To
leave her mother in her old age was the first which offered itself; but
this became a small consideration when she reflected that the latter
could not, under any circumstances, require her assistance very long;
and to spare her the shame of public exposure was another consideration.
The evils of the act to herself were reduced with equal readiness to the
transition from one state to another by a small process, which, whether
by the name of stab or shot, was productive only of a momentary spasm;
for, though as fully persuaded of the soul’s immortality as the best
of us, the unhappy girl, like all young free-thinkers, had persuaded
herself that, in dying by her own hands, she was simply exercising a
discretionary power under the conviction that her act in doing so was
rendered by circumstances a judicious one. The arguments by which
she deceived herself are sufficiently commonplace, and too easy of
refutation, to render necessary any discussion of them here. Enough to
state the fact. She deliberately resolved upon the fatal deed which
was to end her life and agony together, and save her from that more
notorious exposure which must follow the birth of that child of sin whom
she deemed it no more than a charity to destroy.

There was an old pair of pistols in the house, which had been the
property of her father. She had often, with a boldness not common to the
sex, examined these pistols. They were of brass, well made, of English
manufacture, with common muzzles, and a groove for a sight instead of
the usual drop. They were not large, but, in a practised hand, were
good travelling-pistols, being capable of bringing down a man at twelve
paces, provided there was anything like deliberation in the holder.
Often and again had she handled these weapons, poising them and
addressing them at objects as she had seen her father do. On
one occasion she had been made to discharge them, under his own
instructions; she had done so without terror. She recalled these events.
She had seen the pistols loaded. She did not exactly know what quantity
of powder was necessary for a charge, but she was in no mood to
calculate the value of a thimbleful.

Availing herself of the temporary absence of her mother, she possessed
herself of these weapons. Along with them, in the same drawer, she found
a horn which still contained a certain quantity of powder. There were
bullets in the bag with the pistols which precisely fitted them. There,
too, was the mould--there were flints--the stock was sufficiently ample
for all her desires; and she surveyed the prize, in her own room, with
the look of one who congratulates himself in the conviction that he
holds in his hand the great medicine which is to cure his disease.
In her chamber she loaded the weapons, and, with such resignation as
belonged to her philosophy, she waited for the propitious moment when
she might complete the deed.



CHAPTER XXXV.

FOLDING THE ROBES ABOUT HER.



It was the sabbath and a very lovely day. The sun never shone more
brightly in the heavens; and as Margaret Cooper surveyed its mellow
orange light, lying, like some blessed spirit, at sleep upon the hills
around her, and reflected that she was about to behold it for the last
time, her sense of its exceeding beauty became more strong than ever.
Now that she was about to lose it for ever, it seemed more beautiful
than it had ever been before.

This is a natural effect, which the affections confer upon the objects
which delight and employ them. Even a temporary privation increases the
loveliness of the external nature. How we linger and look. That shade
seems so inviting; that old oak so venerable! That rock--how often have
we sat upon it, evening and morning, and mused strange, wild, sweet
fancies! It is an effort to tear one’s self away--it is almost like
tearing away from life itself; so many living affections feel the
rending and the straining--so many fibres that have their roots in the
heart, are torn and lacerated by the separation.

Poor Margaret! she looked from her window upon the bright and beautiful
world around her. Strange that sorrow should dwell in a world so bright
and beautiful! Stranger still, that, dwelling in such a world, it should
not dwell there by sufferance only and constraint! that it should have
such sway--such privilege. That it should invade every sanctuary and
leave no home secure. Ah! but the difference between mere sorrow and
guilt! Poor Margaret could not well understand that! If she could--but
no! She was yet to learn that the sorrows of the innocent have a healing
effect. That they produce a holy and ennobling strength, and a juster
appreciation of those evening shades of life which render the lights
valuable and make their uses pure. It is only guilt which finds life
loathsome. It is only guilt that sorrow weakens and enslaves. Virtue
grows strong beneath the pressure of her enemies, and with such a power
as was fabled of the king of Pontus, turns the most poisonous fruits of
earth into the most wholesome food.

But, even in the heart of Margaret Cooper, where the sense of the
beautiful was strong, the loveliness of the scene was felt. She drank
in, with strange satisfaction--a satisfaction to which she had long
been a stranger--its soft and inviting beauties. They did not lessen her
sense of suffering, perhaps, but they were not without their effect in
producing other moods, which, once taken in company with the darker ones
of the soul, may, in time, succeed in alleviating them. Never, indeed,
had the prospect been more calm and wooing. Silence, bending from the
hills, seemed to brood above the valley even as some mighty spirit,
at whose bidding strife was hushed, and peace became the acknowledged
divinity of all. The humming voices of trade and merriment were all
hushed in homage to the holy day; and if the fitful song of a truant
bird, that presumed beside the window of Margaret Cooper, did break the
silence of the scene, it certainly did not disturb its calm. The forest
minstrel sung in a neighboring tree, and she half listened to his lay.
The strain seemed to sympathize with her sadness. She thought upon her
own songs, which had been of such a proud spirit; and how strange and
startling seemed the idea that with her, song would soon cease for ever.
The song of the bird would be silent in her ears, and her own song! What
song would be hers? What strain would she take up? In what abode--before
what altars?

This train of thought, which was not entirely lost, however, was broken,
for the time, by a very natural circumstance. A troop of the village
damsels came in sight, on their way to church. She forgot the song of
birds, as her morbid spirit suggested to her the probable subject of
their meditations.

“They have seen me,” she muttered to herself as she hastily darted from
the window. “Ay, they exult. They point to me--me, the abandoned--the
desolate--soon to be the disgraced! But, no! no! that shall never
be. They shall never have that triumph, which is always so grateful a
subject of regale to the mean and envious!”

The voice of her mother from below disturbed these unhappy meditations.
The old lady was prepared for church, and was surprised to find that
Margaret had not made her toilet.

“What! don’t you mean to go, Margaret?”

“Not to-day, mother.”

“What, and the new preacher too, that takes the place of John Cross!
They say he makes a most heavenly prayer.”

But the inducement of the heavenly prayer of the new preacher was not
enough for Margaret. The very suggestion of a new preacher would have
been conclusive against her compliance. The good old lady was too eager
herself to get under way to waste much time in exhortation, and hurrying
off, she scarcely gave herself time to answer the inquiry of the widow
Thackeray, at her own door, after the daughter’s health.

“I will go in and see her,” said the lighthearted but truehearted woman.

“Do, do, ma’am---if you please! She’ll be glad to see you. I’ll hurry
on, as I see Mrs. Hinkley just ahead.”

The widow Thackeray looked after her with a smile, which was exchanged
for another of different character when she found herself in the chamber
of Margaret. She put her arms about the waist of the sufferer; kissed
her cheeks, and with the tenderest solicitude spoke of her health and
comfort. To her, alone, with the exception of her mother--according to
the belief of Margaret--her true situation had been made known.

“Alas!” said she, “how should I feel--how should I be! You should know.
I am as one cursed--doomed, hopeless of anything but death.”

“Ah! do not speak of death, Margaret,” said the other kindly. “We must
all die, I know, but that does not reconcile me any more to the thought.
It brings always a creeping horror through my veins. Think of life--talk
of life only.”

“They say that death is life.”

“So it is, I believe, Margaret; and now I think of it, dress yourself
and go to church where we may hear something on this subject to make us
wiser and better. Come, my dear--let us go to God.”

“I can not--not to-day, dear Mrs. Thackeray.”

“Ah, Margaret, why not? It is to the church, of all places, you should
now go.”

“What! to be stared at? To see the finger of scorn pointing at me
wherever I turn? To hear the whispered insinuation? To be conscious only
of sneer and sarcasm on every hand? No, no, dear Mrs. Thackeray, I can
not go for this. Feeling this, I should neither pray for myself, nor
find benefit from the prayers of others. Nay, THEY would not pray. They
would only mock.”

“Margaret, these thoughts are very sinful.”

“So they are, but I can not think of any better. They can not but be
sinful since they are mine.”

“But you are not wedded to sin, dearest. Such thoughts can give you no
pleasure. Come with me to church! Come and pray! Prayer will do you
good.”

“I would rather pray here. Let me remain. I will try to go out among the
hills when you are all engaged in church, and will pray there. Indeed I
must. I must pray then and pray there, if prayer is ever to do me good.”

“The church is the better place, Margaret. One prays better where one
sees that all are praying.”

“But when I KNOW that they are not praying! When I know that envy is in
their hearts, and malice, and jealousy and suspicion--that God is not in
their hearts, but their fellow; and not him with friendly and fond, but
with spiteful and deceitful thoughts!”

“Ah! Margaret, how can you know this? Judge not lest ye be judged.”

“It matters not, dear Mrs. Thackeray. God is here, or there. He will be
among the hills if anywhere. I will seek him there. If I can command my
thoughts anywhere, it will be in the woods alone. In the church I can
not. Those who hate me are there--and their looks of hate would only
move my scorn and defiance.”

“Margaret, you do our people wrong. You do yourself wrong. None hate
you--none will point to you, or think of your misfortune; and if they
did, it is only what you might expect, and what you must learn patiently
to bear, as a part of the punishment which God inflicts on sin. You must
submit, Margaret, to the shame as you have submitted to the sin. It is
by submission only that you can be made strong. The burden which you are
prepared to bear meekly, becomes light to the willing spirit. Come, dear
Margaret, I will keep with you, sit by you--show you, and all, that I
forget your sin and remember only your suffering.”

The good widow spoke with the kindest tones. She threw her arms around
the neck of the desolate one, and kissed her with the affection of a
sister. But the demon of pride was uppermost. She withstood entreaty and
embrace.

“I can not go with you. I thank you, truly thank you, dear Mrs.
Thackeray, but I can not go. I have neither the courage nor the
strength.”

“They will come--the courage and the strength--only try. God is watchful
to give us help the moment he sees that we really seek his assistance.
By prayer, Margaret--”

“I will pray, but I must pray alone. Among the hills I will pray. My
prayer will not be less acceptable offered among his hills. My voice
will not remain unheard, though no chorus swells its appeal.”

“Margaret, this is pride.”

“Perhaps!”

“Ah! go with me, and pray for humility.”

“My prayer would rather be for death.”

“Say not so, Margaret--this is impiety.”

“Ay, death!--the peace, the quiet of the grave--of a long sleep--an
endless sleep--where the vulture may no longer gnaw the heart, nor the
fire burn within the brain! For these I must pray.”

And, thus speaking, the unhappy woman smote her throbbing head with
violent hand.

“Shocking thought! But you do not believe in such a sleep? Surely,
Margaret, you believe in life eternal?”

“Would I did not!”

“O Margaret!--but you are sick; you are very feverish. Your eyeballs
glare like coals of fire; your face seems charged with blood. I am
afraid you are going to have another attack, like the last.”

“Be not afraid. I have no such fear.”

“I will sit with you, at least,” said the kind-hearted woman.

“Nay, that I must positively forbid, Mrs. Thackeray; I will not suffer
it. I will not sit with YOU. Go you to church. You will be late. Do not
waste your time on me. I mean to ramble among the hills this morning.
THAT, I think, will do me more good than anything else. There, I am
sure--there only--I will find peace.”

The worthy widow shook her head doubtfully.

“But I am sure of it,” said Margaret. “You will see. Peace, peace--the
repose of the heart--the slumber of the brain!--I shall find all there!”

Mrs. Thackeray, finding her inflexible, rose to depart, but with some
irresoluteness.

“If you would let me walk with you, Margaret--”

“No! no!--dear Mrs. Thackeray--I thank you very much; but, with a mood
such as mine, I shall be much better alone.”

“Well, if you are resolved--”

“I am resolved! never more so.”

These words were spoken in tones which might have startled a suspicious
mind. But the widow was none.

“God bless you!” she said, kissing her at parting. “I will see you when
I come from church.”

“Will you?” said Margaret, with a significant but sad smile. Then,
suddenly rising, she exclaimed:--

“Let me kiss you, dear Mrs. Thackeray, and thank you again, before you
go. You have been very kind to me, very kind, and you have my thanks and
gratitude.”

Mrs. Thackeray was touched by her manner. This was the first time
that the proud spirit of Margaret Cooper had ever offered such an
acknowledgment. It was one that the gentle and unremitting kindnesses
of the widow amply deserved. After renewing her promise to call on her
return from church, Mrs. Thackeray took her departure.

Margaret Cooper was once more alone. When she heard the outer door shut,
she then threw herself upon the bed, and gave way to the utterance of
those emotions which, long restrained, had rendered her mind a terrible
anarchy. A few tears, but very few, were wrung from her eyes; but she
groaned audibly, and a rapid succession of shivering-fits passed through
her frame, racking the whole nervous system, until she scarcely found
herself able to rise from the couch where she had thrown herself. A
strong, determined will alone moved her, and she rose, after a lapse of
half an hour, to the further prosecution of her purpose. Her temporary
weakness and suffering of frame had no effect upon her resolves. She
rather seemed to be strengthened in them. This strength enabled her to
sit down and dictate a letter to her mother, declaring her intention,
and justifying it by such arguments as were presented by the ingenious
demon who assists always in the councils of the erring heart.

She placed this letter in her bosom, that it might be found upon her
person. It was curious to observe, next, that she proceeded to tasks
which were scarcely in unison with the dreadful deed she meditated. She
put her chamber in nice order. Her books, of which she had a tolerably
handsome collection for a private library in our forest-country, she
arranged and properly classed upon their shelves. Then she made her
toilet with unusual care. It was for the last time. She gazed upon the
mirror, and beheld her own beauties with a shudder.

“Ah!” she thought, though she gave no expression to the thought, “to be
so beautiful, yet fail!”

It was a reflection to touch any heart with sorrow. Her dress was of
plain white; she wore no ornament--not even a riband. Her hair, which
was beautifully long and thick, was disposed in a clubbed mass upon her
head, very simply but with particular neatness; and, when all was done,
concealing the weapon of death beneath a shawl which she wrapped around
her, she left the house, and stole away unobserved along the hills, in
the seclusion and sacred silence of which she sought to avoid the evil
consequences of one crime by the commission of another far more heinous.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

SUSPENSE AND AGONY.



At the risk of seeming monotonous, we must repeat the reflection made
in our last chapter, that the things we are about to lose for ever seem
always more valuable in the moment of their loss. They acquire a newer
interest in our eyes at such a time, possibly under the direction of
some governing instinct which is intended to render us tenacious of
life to the very last. Privation teaches us much more effectually than
possession the value of all human enjoyments; and the moralist has more
than once drawn his sweetest portraits of liberty from the gloom and the
denials of a dungeon. How eloquent of freedom is he who yearns for it in
vain! How glowing is that passion which laments the lost!

To one dying, as we suppose few die, in the perfect possession of
their senses, how beautiful must seem the fading hues of the sunlight,
flickering along the walls of a chamber! how heavenly the brief glimpses
of the blue sky through the half-opened window! how charming the green
bit of foliage that swings against the pane! how cheering and unwontedly
sweet and balmy the soft, sudden gust of the sweet south, breathing up
from the flowers, and stirring the loose drapery around the couch! How
can we part with these without tears? how reflect, without horror, upon
the close coffin, the damp clod, the deep hollows of the earth in which
we are to be cabined? Oh, with what earnestness, at such a moment, must
the wholly conscious spirit pray for life! now greedily will he drink
the nauseous draught in the hope to secure its boon! how fondly will he
seize upon every chimera, whether of his own or of another’s fancy, in
order to gain a little respite--in order still to keep within the grasp
of mind and sight, these lovely agents of earth and its Master, which,
in our day of strength and exultation, we do not value at one half
their worth! And how full of dread and horror must be that first awful
conviction which assures him that the struggle is in vain--that the last
remedy is tried--that nothing is left him now but despair--despair and
death! Then it is that Christianity comes to his relief. If he believes,
he gains by his loss. Its godlike promise assures him then that the
things which his desires make dear, his faith has rendered immortal.

The truth of many of these reflections made their way into the mind of
Margaret Cooper, as she pursued the well-known path along the hills. She
observed the objects along the route more narrowly than ever. She was
taking that path for the last time. Her eyes would behold these objects
no more. How often had she pursued the same route with Alfred Stevens!
But then she had not seen these things; she had not observed these
thousand graces and beauties of form and shadow which now seemed to
crowd around, challenging her regard and demanding her sympathies.
Then she had seen nothing but him. The bitterness which this reflection
occasioned made her hurry her footsteps; but there was an involuntary
shudder that passed through her frame, when, in noting the strange
beauty of the path, she reflected that it would be trodden by her for
the last time. Her breathing became quickened by the reflection. She
pressed forward up the hills. The forests grew thick around her--deep,
dim, solemn, and inviting. The skies above looked down in little blessed
blue tufts, through the crowding tree-tops. The long vista of the woods
led her onward in wandering thoughts.

To fix these thoughts--to keep them from wandering! This was a
difficulty. Margaret Cooper strove to do so, but she could not.
Never did her mind seem such a perfect chaos--so full of confused and
confusing objects and images. Her whole life seemed to pass in review
before her. All her dreams of ambition, all the struggles of her genius!
Were these to be thrown away? Were these all to be wasted? Was her song
to be unheard? Was her passionate and proud soul to have no voice?
If death is terrible to man, it is terrible, not as a pang, but as an
oblivion; and to the soul of genius, oblivion is a soul-death, and its
thought is a source of tenfold terror.

“But of what avail were life to me now? Even should I live,” said the
wretched woman, “would it matter more to the ambition which I have had,
and to the soul which flames and fevers within me? Who would hearken to
the song of the degraded? Who, that heard the story of my shame, would
listen to the strains of my genius? Say that its utterance is even as
proud as my own vanity of heart would esteem it--say that no plaint like
mine had ever touched the ear or lifted the heart of humanity! Alas! of
what avail! The finger of scorn would be uplifted long before the voice
of applause. The sneer and sarcasm of the worldling would anticipate the
favoring judgment of the indulgent and the wise. Who would do justice to
my cause? Who listen? Alas! the voice of genius would be of little avail
speaking from the lips of the dishonored.

“To the talent which I have, and the ambition which still burns within
me, life then can bring nothing--no exercise--no fruition. Suppose,
then, that the talent is left to slumber--the ambition stifled till it
has no further longings! Will life yield anything to the mere creature
of society--to my youth--to my beauty--to my sense of delight--if still
there be any such sense left to me? Shall I be less the creature
of social scorn, because I have yielded my ambition--because I have
forborne the employment of those glorious gifts which Heaven in its
bounty has allotted me?

“Alas! no! am I not a woman, one of that frail, feeble sex, whose name
is weakness?--of whom, having no strength, man yet expects the proofs of
the most unyielding--of a firmness which he himself can not exercise--of
a power of self-denial and endurance of which he exhibits no example. If
I weep, he smiles at my weakness. If I stifle my tears, he denounces
my unnatural hardihood. If I am cold and unyielding, I am masculine and
neglected--if I am gentle and pliant, my confidence is abused and my
person dishonored. What can society, which is thus exacting, accord
to me, then, as a mere woman? What shame will it not thrust upon me--a
woman--and as I am?

“Life then promises me nothing. The talent which I have, lies within me
idle and without hope of use. The pure name of the woman is lost to me
for ever. Shame dogs my footsteps. Scorn points its finger. Life, and
all that it brings to others--love, friends, fame, fortune--which are
the soul of life--these are lost to me for ever. The moral death is here
already. The mere act of dying, is simply the end of a strife, and a
breathing and an agony. That is all!”

The day became overcast. A cloud obscured the sunlight. The blue tufts
of sky no longer looked downward through the openings of the trees.
The scene, dim and silent before, became unusually dark. The aspect
of nature seemed congenial with the meditated deed. She had reasoned
herself into its commission, and she reproached herself mentally with
her delay. Any self-suggestion of an infirmity of purpose, with a nature
such as hers, would have produced precipitation. She turned down a
slight gorge among the hills where the forest was more close. She knelt
beneath a tree and laid down her pistol at its foot.

She knelt--strange contradiction!--she knelt for the purposes of prayer.
But she could not pray. It would seem that she attributed this effort to
the sight of the pistols, and she put them behind her without changing
her position. The prayer, if she made any, was internal; and, at all
events it did not seem to be satisfactory. Yet, before it was ended, she
started with an expression of painful thought upon her face. The voice
of her reason had ceased its utterance. The voice of her conscience,
perhaps, had been unheard; but there was yet another voice to be heard
which was more potent than all.

It was the mother’s voice!

She placed her hand upon her side with a spasmodic effort. The
quickening of a new life within her, made that new voice effectual. She
threw herself on the ground and wept freely. For the first time she wept
freely. The tears were those of the mother. The true fountain of tears
had been touched. That first throb of the innocent pledge of guilty
passion subdued the fiend. She could have taken her own life, but dared
not lift the deadly weapon against that. The arm of the suicide--was
arrested. She groaned, she wept, bitterly and freely. She was at once
feebler and more strong. Feebler, as regarded her late resolution;
stronger as regarded the force of her affections, the sweet humanities,
not altogether subdued within her heart. The slight pulsation of that
infant in her womb had been more effectual than the voice of reason,
or conscience, or feminine dread. The maternal feeling is, perhaps, the
most imperious of all those which gather in the heart of woman.

Margaret Cooper, however, had not altogether resolved against the deed.
She only could not do it there and then. Her wretched determination
was not wholly surrendered, but it was touched, enfeebled; and with
the increasing powers of reflection, the impetuosity of the will became
naturally lessened. Those few glimpses along the roadside which had made
her sensible to the beauties she was about to lose, had prepared her
mind to act in counteraction of her impulse; and the event which had
brought into play the maternal instinct, naturally helped the cause of
reason in her soul.

Still, with the erring pride of youth she reproached herself with her
infirmity of purpose. She resolved to change her ground, as if the
instinct which had been awakened in one spot would not everywhere pursue
her. Time was gained, and in such cases, to gain time is everything.
Perhaps no suicide would ever take place if the individual would wait
ten minutes. The soul takes its color from the cloud, and changes its
moods as often. It is one of the best lessons to the young, to wait!
wait! wait! One of the surest signs of strength is where the individual
waits patiently and makes no complaint.

Margaret Cooper changed her ground. The spot was a wild one. A broken
ledge of rock was at her feet, and just below it ran a dark, narrow
winding footpath half-obscured by the undergrowth. Here she once more
proceeded to nerve her mind for the commission of the deed, but she had
not been there an instant when she was surprised to hear the sound of
voices.

This was unusual. Who could they be? The villagers were not apt to stray
from church-service whenever a preacher was to be found, and there was a
new one, and consequently a new attraction, that day, for the spiritual
hungry of Charlemont. The path below was seldom trodden except by
herself and an occasional sportsman. The idea that entered her mind was,
that her purpose had been suspected, and that she was pursued.

With this idea, she placed the pistol to her breast. She had already
cocked the weapon. Her finger was on the trigger. But the tones
of another voice reached her ears from below. They were those of a
woman--sweet, musical, and tender.

A new light broke in upon her mind. This was the language of love. And
who were these new lovers in Charlemont? Could it be that the voice of
the male speaker was that of Stevens? Something in the tone sounded like
it, Involuntarily, with this impression, the weapon was turned from her
own bosom, and addressed in the direction in which the persons below
were approaching. A sudden, joyous feeling touched her soul. The thought
to destroy the criminal by whom she had been destroyed was a source
of exultation. She felt that she could do it. Both pistols were in
her hand. The pathway was not more than twenty paces distant; and her
nerves, for the first time, braced to an unusual tension, trembled with
the new excitement in her soul.

The intruders continued to approach. Their voices became more distinct,
and Margaret Cooper was soon undeceived as to one of them being that
of Alfred Stevens. She was compelled to lie close, that she might not
betray her position and purpose. The male speaker was very urgent; the
voice seemed that of a stranger. That of the female was not so clearly
distinguishable, yet it seemed more familiar to the unintentional
listener.

Something of feminine curiosity now entered the bosom of Margaret
Cooper. Crouching where she was, she deposited the pistols at her
feet. She remained breathlessly, for the slightest movement would have
revealed her to the persons who were now just below. They passed close
beneath the place of her concealment, and she soon discovered that they
were lovers; and what their language was, even if she had not heard it,
might have been conjectured.

The girl was a very pretty brunette of Charlemont--a sweet, retiring
damsel of her own age, named Rivers--whom she knew only slightly. She
was a shy, gentle, unpresuming girl, whom, for this reason, perhaps,
Margaret had learned to look upon without dislike or scorn. Her
companion was a youth whom Margaret had known when a lad, but who had
been absent on the Mississippi for two years. His tall and masculine
but well-made and graceful person sufficiently accounted for, while it
justified, the taste of the maiden. He was a youth of fine, frank, manly
countenance. His garb was picturesque, that of a bold border-hunter,
with hunting-frock of yellow buckskin, and Indian leggings.

The girl looked up to him with an expression at once of eagerness and
timidity. Confidence and maiden bashfulness spoke equally in the delight
which glowed upon her features. The bright eyes and sun-burned features
of the youth were flushed with the feeling of happy triumph and assuring
love. The relation of the two was sufficiently evident from their looks,
even had they no other language.

What were the emotions of Margaret Cooper as she looked down upon this
pair? At first she thought, as will most persons: “Surely there is
nothing in nature so lovely as the union of two--fond, devoted hearts.
The picture is one equally of moral and physical beauty. The slight,
fragile, depending damsel, hanging in perfect confidence on the arm of
the manly, lofty, and exulting youth--looking up into his eyes in hope,
while he returns the gaze with pride and fondness! Unconscious of all
things but the love which to them is life and all things besides, they
move along the forest way and know not its solitude; they linger and
loiter along its protracted paths, and see not their length; they cling
together through the lengthened hours, and fancy they have lost no time;
they hear each other’s voices, and believe that life is all music and
delight.”

While Margaret Cooper looked down and heard the pleadings and promises
of the youth, and beheld the sweet emotions of his companion, engaged
in a pleasant struggle between her hopes and misgivings, she scarcely
restrained herself from rising where she was and crying aloud--like
another Cassandra, not to be believed: “Beware! beware!”

But the warning of Margaret Cooper would have been unnecessary. The girl
was not only free from danger, but she was superior to it. She had
the wholesome fear of doing wrong too strongly impressed upon her
by education--she had too little confidence in herself--was too well
assured of her own weakness--to suffer herself, even for a moment,
to depart, in either thought or deed, from those quiet but stern
proprieties of conduct which are among the best securities of the young.
While she looked in her lover’s face with confidence, and held his arm
with the grasp of one who is sure of a right to do so, there was an air
of childish simplicity in her manner which was wholly at variance with
wild passions and improper fancies. While the hunter maintained her on
his arm, and looked down into her eyes with love, his glance was yet as
respectful, as unexpressive of presumption, as her own. Had the eyes of
all Charlemont been looking on, they would have beheld nothing in the
conduct of either which could have incurred the censure of the most
becoming delicacy.

Keen was the emotion and bitter was the thought which worked in the mind
of Margaret Cooper. She looked on the deportment of that young maiden,
whose intellect at another day she would have despised, with envy and
regret. Truer thoughts and feelings came to her as she listened to the
innocent but fond dialogue between the unconscious pair. The hunter was
pursuing an erratic life of enterprise and industry, then very common
among the western youth. He had been down upon the Mississippi, seeking
his fortune in such adventures as make border-life in our country
something like the more civilized life of the middle ages. He had
returned after a long absence, to claim the bride whose affections he
had won long before he had departed.

Never had knight-errant been more true to his mistress. Her image had
been his talisman as well against danger from without, as against the
demon within. It had never left his mind, and he now returned for his
reward. He had returned to Charlemont just before the church service had
begun, and, being unprepared to go thither, had found no difficulty
in persuading his sweetheart to give the hour of morning service to
himself.

Mixed up with his professions of love was the story of his wanderings.
Never were adventures more interesting to any auditor. Never was auditor
more easily moved by the transitions of the tale from tears to smiles,
and from smiles again to tears. His risks and rewards; his defeats
and successes; his wild adventures by fell and flood--not perhaps so
perilous as those of Othello, but such as proved he had the soul to
encounter the worst in Othello’s experience, and maintain himself as
well--drew largely on the maiden’s wonder and delight, increased her
tenderness and tremors, and made her quite as devoted to her hero as
ever was Desdemona to her dusky chief. As they went from hearing below,
the manner in which the hunter concluded his narrative provided a
sufficient test for the faith of his companion.

“And now, Selina, you see all the risks and the dangers. There’s
work and perhaps trouble for you to go down with me along the Choctaw
borders. But if there’s work, I am the man to do my own share, and help
you out in yours; and, if there’s trouble, here’s the breast to stand it
first, and here’s the arm to drive it back, so that it’ll never trouble
yours. No danger shall come to you, so long as I can stand up between it
and you. If so be that you love me as you say, there’s one way to show
it: you’ll soon make up your mind to go with me. If you don’t, why--”

“But you know I do love you, John--” murmured the girl.

“Don’t I believe it? Well, if what you say means what it should, you’re
ready. Here’s my hand, and all that it’s good for. It can work for you
and fight for you, Selina, and it’s yours etarnally, with all that I
have.”

The hand of the girl was silently put into that of the speaker. The
tears were in her eyes; but, if she made any other answer, it was
unheard by Margaret Cooper. The rustic pair moved from sight even as
they spoke, and the desolate woman once more remained alone!



CHAPTER XXXVII.

SHAME AND DEATH--THE OATH.



Margaret Cooper was at length permitted to emerge from the place of her
concealment. The voices of the lovers were lost, as well as their forms,
in the wooded distance. Dreaming, like children as they were, of life
and happiness, they had wandered off, too happy to fancy for a moment
that the world contained, in its wide, vast bosom, one creature half so
wretched as she who hung above them, brooding, like some wild bird of
the cliff, over the storm which had robbed her of her richest plumage.

She sank back into the woods. She no longer had the heart to commit the
meditated crime. This purpose had left her mind. It had given place to
another, however, scarcely less criminal. We have seen her, under the
first impression that the stranger whose voice she heard was Alfred
Stevens, turning the muzzle of the pistol from her breast to the path on
which he was approaching. Though she discovered her error, and laid the
weapon down, the sudden suggestion of her mind, at that moment, gave a
new direction to her mood.

Why should she not seek to avenge her wrong? Was he to escape without
penalty? was she to be a quiescent victim? True, she was a woman,
destined it would seem to suffer--perhaps with a more than ordinary
share of that suffering which falls to her sex. But she had also a
peculiar strength--the strength of a man in some respects; and in her
bosom she now felt the sudden glow of one of his fiercest passions.
Revenge might be in her power. She might redress her wrong by her own
hand. It was a weapon of death which she grasped. In her grasp it might
be made a weapon of power. The suggestion seemed to be that of justice
only. It was one that filled her whole soul with a triumphant and a wild
enthusiasm.

“I shall not be stricken down without danger to mine enemy. For
THIS--this, at least--strength is allotted me. Let him tremble! In his
place of seeming security let him tremble! I shall pursue his steps. I
will find him out. There shall be a day of retribution! Alfred Stevens,
there is a power within me which tells me you are no longer safe!

“And why may I not secure this justice--this vengeance? Why? Because I
am a woman. Ha! We shall see. If I am a woman, I can be an enemy--and
such an enemy! An enemy not to be appeased, not to be overcome. War
always with my foe--war to the knife--war to the last!”

Such a nature as that of Margaret Cooper needed some such object to give
it the passionate employment without which it must recoil upon itself
and end either in suicide or madness. She brooded upon this new thought.
She found in it a grateful exercise. From the moment when she conceived
the idea of being the avenger of her own wrong, her spirit became more
elastic--she became less sensible to the possible opinions upon her
condition which might be entertained by others. She found consolation,
in retreating to this one thought, from all the rest. Of the
difficulties in the way of her design, it was not in her impetuous
character to think. She never once suspected that the name of Alfred
Stevens had been an assumed one. She never once asked how she was to
pursue and hunt him up. She thought of a male disguise for herself, it
is true; but of the means and modes of travel--in what direction to go,
and after what plan to conduct her pursuit, she had not the most distant
idea.

She addressed herself to her new design, however, in one respect, with
amazing perseverance. It diverted her from other and more oppressive
thoughts. Her pistols she carried secretly to a very distant wood, where
she concealed them in the hollow of a tree. To this wood she repaired
secretly and daily. Here she selected a tree as a mark. A small section
of the bark, which she tore away, at a given height, she learned to
regard as the breast of her seducer. This was the object of her aim.
Without any woman fears, she began her practice and continued it, day by
day, until, as we are told by one of the chroniclers of her melancholy
story, “she could place a ball with an accuracy, which, were it
universally equalled by modern duellists, would render duelling much
more fatal than it commonly is.”

In secret she procured gunpowder and lead, by arts so ingenious as to
baffle detection. At midnight when her mother slept she moulded her
bullets. Well might the thoughts and feelings which possessed her mind,
while engaged in this gloomy labor, have endowed every bullet with a
wizard spell to make it do its bidding truly. Bitter, indeed, were
the hours so appropriated; but they had their consolations. Dark and
terrible were the excited moods in which she retired from her toils to
that slumber which she could not always secure. And when it did come,
what were its images! The tree, the mark, the weapon, the deep, dim
forest, all the scenes and trials of the day, were renewed in her sleep.
A gloomy wood filled her eyes--a victim dabbled in blood lay before her;
and, more than once, her own fearful cry of vengeance and exultation
awakened her from those dreams of sleep, which strengthened her in the
terrible pursuit of the object which occasioned them.

Such thoughts and practices, continued with religious pertinacity, from
day to day, necessarily had their effect upon her appearance as well as
her character. Her beauty assumed a wilder aspect. Her eye shot forth a
supernatural fire. She never smiled. Her mouth was rigid and compressed
as if her heart was busy in an endless conflict. Her gloom, thus
nurtured by solitude and the continual presence of a brooding
imagination of revenge, darkened into something like ferocity. Her
utterance became brief and quick--her tones sharp, sudden, and piercing.
She had but one thought which never seemed to desert her, yet of this
thought no ear ever had cognizance. It was of the time when she should
exercise the skill which she had now acquired upon that destroyer of
herself, whom she now felt herself destined to destroy.

Of course we are describing a madness--one of those peculiar forms of
the disease which seems to have its origin in natural and justifiable
suggestions of reason. Not the less a madness for all that.

Succeeding in her practice at one distance, Margaret Cooper changed it.
From one point to another she constantly varied her practice, until her
aim grew certain at almost any distance within the ordinary influence of
the weapon. To strike her mark at thirty feet became, in a little while,
quite as easy as to do so at five; and, secure now of her weapon, her
next object--though there was no cessation of her practice--was how to
seek and where to find the victim.

In this new object she meditated to disguise herself in the apparel of
a man. She actually commenced the making up of the several garments
of one. This was also the secret labor of the midnight hour, when her
feeble-minded mother slept. She began to feel some of the difficulties
lying in the way of this pursuit, and her mind grew troubled to consider
them, without however, relaxing in its determination. That seemed a
settled matter.

While she brooded over this new feature of her purpose--as if
fortunately to arrest the mad design--her mother fell seriously sick,
and was for some time in danger. The duty of attending upon her, put a
temporary stop to her thoughts and exercises; though without having the
effect of expelling them from her mind.

But another event, upon her mother’s recovery, tended to produce a
considerable alteration in her thoughts. A new care filled her heart
and rendered her a different being, in several respects. She was soon
to become a mother. The sickness of soul which oppressed her under
this conviction, gave a new direction to her mood without lessening its
bitterness; and, in proportion as she found her vengeance delayed, so
was the gratification which it promised, a heightened desire in her
mind.

For the humiliating and trying event which was at hand, Margaret
Cooper prepared with a degree of silent firmness which denoted quite as
strongly the resignation of despair as any other feeling.

The child is born.

Margaret Cooper has at length become a mother. She has suffered the
agony, without being able to feel the compensating pride and pleasure
of one. It was the witness of her shame--could she receive it with any
assurances of love? It is doubtful if she did.

For some time after its birth, the hapless woman seemed to be
unconscious, or half-conscious only, of her charge. A stupor weighed
upon her senses. When she did awaken, and her eyes fell upon the
face and form of the infant with looks of recognition, one long, long
piercing shriek burst from her lips. She closed her eyes--she turned
away from the little unoffending, yet offensive object with a feeling of
horror.

Its features were those of Alfred Stevens. The likeness was indelible;
and this identity drew upon the child a share of that loathing hatred
with which she now remembered the guilty father.

It may very well be supposed that the innocent babe suffered under these
circumstances. The milk which it drew from the mother’s breast, was the
milk of bitterness, and it did not thrive. It imbibed gall instead of
nutriment. Day after day it pined in hopeless misery; and though
the wretched mother strove to supply its wants and soothe its little
sorrows, with a gradually increasing interest which overcame her first
loathing, there was yet that want of sweetest sympathy which nothing
merely physical could well supply.

Debility was succeeded by disease--fever preyed upon its little frame,
which was now reduced to a skeleton. One short month only had elapsed
from its birth, and it lay, in the silence of exhaustion upon the arm
of its mother. Its eyes, whence the flickering light was escaping fast,
looked up into hers, as she fancied, with an expression of reproach. She
felt, on the instant, the pang of the maternal conscience. She forgot
the unworthy father, as she thought of the neglectful mother. She bent
down, and, for the first time, imprinted on its little lips the maternal
kiss.

A smile seemed to glimmer on its tiny features; and, from that moment,
Margaret Cooper resolved to forget her injuries, for the time, at least,
in the consideration of her proper duties. But her resolution came too
late. Even while her nipple was within its boneless gums, a change
came over the innocent. She did not heed it. Her eyes and thoughts were
elsewhere; and thus she mused, gazing vacantly upon the wall of her
chamber until her mother entered the room. Mrs. Cooper gave but a single
glance at the infant when she saw that its little cares were over.

“Oh, Margaret!” she exclaimed, “the child is dead.”

The mother looked down with a start and shudder. A big tear fell from
her eyes upon the cold cheek of the innocent. She released it to her
mother, turned her face upon the couch, and uttered her thanks to Heaven
that had secured it--that had left her again free for that darker
purpose which had so long filled her mind.

“Better so,” she murmured to her mother. “It is at peace. It will
neither know its own nor its mother’s griefs. It is free from that shame
for which I must live!”

“Come now, Margaret, no more of that,” said the mother sharply. “There’s
no need of shame. There are other things to live for besides shame.”

“There are--there are!” exclaimed the daughter, with spasmodic energy.
“Were there not, I should, indeed, be desperate.”

“To be sure you would, my child. You have a great deal to live for yet;
and let a little time blow over, and when everything’s forgotten, you
will get as good a husband as any girl in the country.”

“For Heaven’s sake, mother, none of this?”

“But why not! Though you are looking a little bad just now--quite pale
and broken--yet it’s only because you have been so ill; and this nursing
of babies, and having ‘em too, is a sort of business to make any young
woman look bad; but in spite of all, there’s not a girl in the village,
no matter how fresh she may be looking, that can hold a candle to you.”

“For mercy, mother!--”

“Let me speak, I tell you! Don’t I know? You’re young, and you’ll get
over it. You will get all your beauty and good looks back, now that the
baby’s out of the way, and there’s no more nursing to be done. And what
with your beauty and your talents, Margaret--”

“Peace! mother! Peace--peace! You will drive me to madness if you
continue to speak thus.”

“Well, I’m sure there’s no knowing what to say to please you. I’m sure,
I only want to cheer you up, and to convince you that things are not so
bad as you think them now. The cloud will blow over soon, and everything
will be forgotten, and then, you see--”

The girl waved her hand impatiently.

“Death--death!” she exclaimed. “Oh! child of shame, and bitterness, and
wrath!” she murmured, kneeling down beside the infant, “thou art
the witness that I have no future but storm, and cloud, and wrath,
and--Vengeance!”

The last word was inaudible to her mother’s ears.

“It is an oath!” she cried; “an oath!” And her hands were uplifted in
solemn adjuration.

“Come--come, Margaret! none of this swearing. You frighten me with your
swearing. There’s nothing that you need to swear about! What’s done
can’t be helped now, by taking it so seriously. You must only be
patient, and give yourself time. Time’s the word for us now; after a
little while you’ll see the sky become brighter. It’s a bad business,
it’s true; but it needn’t break a body’s heart. How many young girls
I’ve known in my time, that’s been in the same fix. There was Janet
Bonner, and Emma Loring, and Mary Peters--I knew ‘em all, very well.
Well, they all made a slip once in their lives, and they never broke
their hearts about it, and didn’t look very pale and sad in the face
either; but they just kept quiet and behaved decent for awhile, and
every one of ‘em got good husbands. Janet Bonner, she married Dick
Pyatt, who came from Massachusetts, and kept the school down by
Clayton’s Meadow; Emma Loring married a baptist-preacher from Virginia,
named Stokes. I never saw him to know him; and as for Mary Peters, there
never was a girl that had a slip that was ever so fortunate, for she’s
been married no less than three times since, and as she’s a widow
again, there’s no telling what may happen to her yet. So don’t you be so
downcast. You’re chance is pretty nigh as good as ever, if you will only
hold up your head, and put the best face on it.”

“Oh! torture--torture! Mother, will you not be silent? Let the dead
speak to me only. I would hear but the voice of this one witness--”

And she communed only with the dead infant, sitting or kneeling beside
it. But the communion was not one of contrition or tears--not of
humility and repentance--not of self-reproach and a broken spirit. Pride
and other passions had summoned up deities and angels of terror and of
crime, before the eyes and thoughts of the wretched mourner, and the
demon who had watched with her and waited on her, and had haunted her
with taunt and bitter mockeries, night and day, was again busy with
terrible suggestions, which gradually grew to be divine laws to her
diseased imagination.

“Yes!” she exclaimed unconsciously.

“I hear! I obey! Yet speak again. Repeat the lesson. I must learn it
every syllable, so that I shall not mistake--so that I can not fail!”

“Who are you talking to, Margaret?” asked the mother anxiously.

“Do you not see them, where they go? There--through the doors; the open
windows--wrapped in shadows, with great wings at their shoulders, each
carrying a dart in his bony grasp.”

“Lord, have mercy! She’s losing her senses again!” and the mother
was about to rush from the apartment to seek assistance; but with
the action, the daughter suddenly arose, wearing a look of singular
calmness, and motioning to the child, she said:--

“Will you not dress it for the grave?”

“I’m going about it now. The poor lovely little creature. The innocent
little blossom. We must put it in white, Margaret--virgin white--and put
white flowers in its little hands and on its breast, and under its head.
Oh! it will look so sweet in its little coffin!”

“God! I should go mad with all this!” exclaimed the daughter, “were it
not for that work which is before me! I must be calm for that-calm
and stern! I must not hear--I must not think--not feel--lest I forget
myself, and the deed which I have to do. That oath--that oath! It is
sworn! It is registered in heaven, by the fatal angel of remorse, and
wrath, and vengeance!”

And again, a whisper at her ears repeated:--

“For this, Margaret, and for this only, must thou live”.

“I must! I will!” she muttered, as it were in reply, and her eye glared
upon the opened door, as she heard a voice and footsteps without; and
the thought smote her:--

“Should it be now! Come for the sacrifice! Ha!”



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE PALL UPON THE COFFIN.



The noise which arrested the attention of Margaret Cooper, and kindled
her features into an expression of wild and fiery ferocity, was of
innocent origin. The widow Thackeray was the intruder. Her kindness,
sympathy, and unwearied attentions, so utterly in conflict with the
estimates hitherto made of her heart and character, by Mrs Cooper, had,
in some degree, disarmed the censures of that excellent mother, if they
had not wholly changed her sentiments. She professed to be very grateful
to Thackeray’s attentions, and, without making any profession, Margaret
certainly showed her that she felt them. She now only pointed the widow
to the corpse of the child, in that one action telling to the other all
that was yet unknown. Then she seated herself composedly, folded her
hands, and, beside the corpse, forgot its presence, forgot the presence
of all--heard no voice, save that of the assiduous demon whom nothing
could expel from her companionship.

“Poor little thing!” murmured the widow Thackeray, as she proceeded to
assist Mrs. Cooper in decking it for the grave.

The duty was finally done. Its burial was appointed for the morrow.

A village funeral is necessarily an event of some importance. The lack
of excitements in small communities, in vests even sorrow and grief and
death with a peculiar interest in the eyes of curiosity. On the present
occasion, all the villagers attended. The funeral itself might have
sufficed to collect them with few exceptions; but now there was a
more eager influence still, working upon the gossippy moods of the
population. To see Margaret Cooper in her affliction--to see that
haughty spirit humbled and made ashamed--was, we fear, a motive, in the
minds of many, much stronger than the ostensible occasion might have
awakened. Had Margaret been a fashionable woman, in a great city, she
might have disappointed the vulgar desire, by keeping to her chamber.
Nay, even according to the free-and-easy standards prevailing at
Charlemont, she might have done the same thing, and incurred no
additional scandal.

It was, indeed, to the surprise of a great many, that she made her
appearance. It was still more a matter of surprise--nay, pious and
virgin horror--that she seemed to betray neither grief nor shame,
surrounded as she was by all whom she knew, and all, in particular,
whom, in the day of her pride, she had kept at a distance.

“What a brazen creature!” whispered Miss Jemima Parkinson, an
interesting spinster of thirty-six, to Miss Ellen Broadhurst, who was
only thirty-four; and Miss Ellen whispered back, in reply:--

“She hasn’t the slightest bit of shame!”

Interesting virgins! they had come to gloat over the spectacle of shame.
To behold the agonizing sense of degradation declare itself under the
finger-pointing scorn of those who, perhaps, were only innocent from
necessity, and virtuous because of the lack of the necessary attractions
in the eyes of lust.

But Margaret Cooper seemed quite as insensible to their presence as
to their scorn and her own shame. She, in truth, saw none of them.
She heard not their voices. She conjectured non (sic) nts. She had
anticipated all of them; and having, in consequence, reached a point
of intensity in her agony which could bear no addition, she had been
relieved only by a still more intense passion, by which the enfeebling
one, of mere society, stood rebuked and almost forgotten.

They little dreamed the terrible thoughts which were working, beneath
that stolid face, in that always eager-working brain. They never fancied
what a terrible demon now occupied that fiery heart which they supposed
was wholly surrendered to the consciousness of shame. Could they
have heard that voice of the fiend whispering in her ears, while they
whispered to one another--heard his terrible exhortations--heard her no
less terrible replies--they would have shrunk away in horror, and felt
fear rather than exultation.

Margaret Cooper was insensible to all that they could say or do. She
knew them well--knew what they would say, and feel, and do; but the very
extremity of her suffering had placed it out of their power any longer
to mortify or shame.

Some few of the villagers remained away. Ned Hinkley and his widowed
sister were absent from the house, though they occupied obscure places
in the church when the funeral-procession took place. An honorable
pity kept them from meeting the eyes of the poor shame-stricken but not
shame-showing woman.

And Margaret followed the little corpse to its quiet nook in the village
graveyard. In that simple region the procession was wholly on foot; and
she walked behind the coffin as firmly as if she knew not what it held.
There was a single shiver that passed over her frame, as the heavy clods
fell upon the coffin-lid--but that was all; and when her mother and the
widow Thackeray took each of them one of her arms, and led her away from
the grave, and home, she went quietly, calmly, it would seem, and with
as firm a step as ever!

“She has not a bit of feeling!” said Miss Jemima to Miss Ellen.

“That’s always the case with your very smart women,” was the reply.
“It’s all head with ‘em; there’s no heart. They can talk fine things
about death, and sorrow, and affliction, but it’s talk only. They don’t
feel what they say.”

Ned Hinkley had a juster notion of the state of the poor victim--of her
failings and her sensibilities, her equal strength and weakness.

“Now,” said he to his sister, “there’s a burning volcano in that woman’s
heart, that will tear her some day to pieces. For all that coldness, and
calmness, and stateliness, her brain is on fire, and her heart ready for
a convulsion. Her thoughts now, if she thinks at all, are all desperate.
She’s going through a very hell upon earth! When you think of her
pride--and she’s just as proud now as the devil himself--her misfortune
hasn’t let her down--only made her more fierce--you wonder that she lets
herself be seen; you wonder that she lives at all. I only wonder that
she hasn’t thrown herself from the rocks and into the lake. She’ll do it
yet, I’m a-thinking.

“And just so she always was. I knew her long ago. She once told me she
was afraid of nothing--would do as she pleased--she could dare anything!
From that moment I saw she wasn’t the girl for Bill Hinkley. I told
him so, but he was so crazy after her, he’d hear to nothing. A woman--a
young woman--a mere girl of fifteen--boasting that she can dare and do
things that would set any woman in a shiver! I tell you what, sis, the
woman that’s bolder than her sex is always in danger of falling from
the rocks. She gets such a conceit of her mind, that the devil is always
welcome. Her heart, after that, stands no sort of chance!

“Protect me, say I, from all that class of women that pride themselves
on their strongmindedness! They get insolent upon it. They think that
mind can do everything. They’re so vain, that they never can see the
danger, even when it’s yawning at their feet. A woman’s never safe
unless she’s scary of herself, and mistrusts herself, and never lets her
thoughts and fancies get from under a tight rein of prudence. For, after
all, the passions will have their way some day, and then what’s the
use of the mind? I tell you, sis, that the passions are born deaf--they
never listen to any argument.

“But I’m sorry for her--God knows I’m sorry for her! I’d give all
I’m worth to have a fair shot or clip at that rascal Stevens. Brother
Stevens! Ain’t it monstrous, now, that a sheep’s cover should be all
that’s sufficient to give the wolf freedom in the flock?--that you’ve
only to say, ‘This is a brother--a man of God’--and no proof is asked!
nobody questions! The blind, beastly, bigoted, blathering blockheads!
I feel very much like setting off straight, and licking John Hinkley,
though he’s my own uncle, within an inch of his life! He and John
Cross--the old fools who are so eager to impose their notions of
religion upon everybody, that anybody may impose upon them--they two
have destroyed this poor young creature. It’s at their door, in part,
this crime, and this ruin! I feel it in my heart to lick ‘em both out of
their breeches!

“Yet, as I’m a living sinner, they’ll stand up in the congregation, and
exhort about this poor girl’s misfortune, just as if they were not to
blame at all who brought the wolf into the farmyard! They’ll talk about
her sins, and not a word, to themselves or anybody else, about their own
stupidities! I feel it in my heart to lather both of them right away!”

The sister said little, and sorrowfully walked on in silence homeward,
listening to the fierce denunciations of Ned Hinkley. Ned was affected,
or, rather, he showed his sympathies, in a manner entirely his own. He
was so much for fight, that he totally forgot his fiddle that night, and
amused himself by putting his two “barking-pups” in order--getting
them ready, as he said, “in case he ever should get a crack at Brother
Stevens!”

The cares of the child’s burial over, and the crowd dispersed, the
cottage of the widow Cooper was once more abandoned to the cheerlessness
and wo (sic) within. Very dismal was the night of that day to the two,
the foolish mother and wretched daughter, as they sat brooding together,
in deep silence, by the light of a feeble candle. The mother rocked a
while in her easy-chair. The daughter, hands clasped in her lap, sat
watching the candlelight in almost idiotic vacancy of gaze. At length
she stood up and spoke--slowly, deliberately, and apparently in as calm
a mood as she had ever felt in all her life:--

“We must leave this place, mother. We must go hence--to-morrow if we
can.”

“Go?--leave this place? I want to know why! I’m sure we’re very
comfortable here. I can’t be going just when you please, and leaving all
my company and friends.”

“Friends!”

“Yes, friends! There’s the widow Thackeray--and there’s--”

“And how long is it since Mrs. Thackeray was such a dear friend,
mother?” asked the daughter, with ill-suppressed scorn.

“No matter how long: she’s a good friend now. She’s not so foolish
as she used to be. She’s grown good; she’s got religion; and I don’t
consider what she was. No!--I’m willing--”

“Pshaw, mother! tell me nothing of your friendships. You’ll find,
wherever you go, as many friends as you please, valued quite as much as
Mrs. Thackeray.”

“Well, I do say, Margaret, it’s very ungrateful of you to speak
so disrespectfully of Mrs. Thackeray, after all her kindness and
attention.”

“I do not speak disrespectfully of Mrs. Thackeray. I NEVER did speak ill
of her, even when it was your favorite practice to do so. I only speak
of your newly-acquired appreciation of her. But this is nothing to
the purpose. I repeat, mother, we can not remain here. I will depart,
whether you resolve to go or not. I can not, I will not, exist another
week in Charlemont.”

“And where would you go?”

“Back--back to that old farm, from which you brought me in evil hour!
It is poor, obscure, profitless, unsought, unseen: it will give me a
shelter--it may bring me peace. I must have solitude for a season; I
must sleep for months.”

“Sleep for months! La me, child, what a notion’s that!”

“No matter--thither let us go. I seem to see it, stretching out its
hands, and imploring us to come.”

“Bless me, Margaret! a farm stretching out its hands! Why, you’re in a
dream!”

“Don’t wake me, then! Better I should so dream! Thither I go. It is
fortunate that you have not been able to sell it. It is a mercy that it
still remains to us. It was my childhood’s home. Would it could again
receive me as a child! It will cover my head for a while, at least, and
that is something. We must leave this place. Here every thing offends
me--every spot, every face, every look, every gesture.”

“It’s impossible, Margaret!--”

“What! you suppose it an honorable distinction, do you, when the folks
here point to your daughter, and say--ha! ha!--listen what they say! It
is the language of compliment! They are doing me honor, with tongue and
finger! Repeat, mother; tell me what they say--for it evidently gives
you great pleasure.”

“O Margaret! Margaret!--”

“You understand, do you? Well, then, we go. We can not depart too soon.
If I stay here, I madden! And I must not madden. I have something which
needs be done--which must be done. It is an oath! an oath in heaven! The
child was a witness. She heard all--every syllable!”

“What all? what did you hear?”

“No matter! I’m sworn to be secret. But you shall hear in time. We have
no time for it now. It is a very long story. And we must now be packing.
Yes, we must go. _I_ must go, at least. Shall I go alone?”

“But you will not leave your mother, Margaret!”

“Father and mother--all will I leave, in obedience to that oath. Believe
me or not, mother--go with me or not--still I go. Perhaps it is better
that I should go alone.”

The strong will naturally swayed the feebler, as it had ever done
before. The mother submitted to an arrangement which she had not the
resolution to oppose. A few days were devoted to necessary arrangements,
and then they left Charlemont for ever. Margaret Cooper looked not once
behind them as they traversed the lonely hills looking down upon the
village--those very hills from which, at the opening of this story, the
treacherous Alfred Stevens and his simple uncle beheld the lovely little
settlement. She recognised the very spot, as they drove over it,
where Stevens first encountered her, and the busy demon, at her ears
whispered:--

“It was here! You remember!”

And she clinched her teeth firmly together, even though she shuddered
at her memories; and she renewed her oath to the demon, who, thereupon,
kept her company the rest of the journey, till she reached the ancient
and obscure farmstead in which she was born.

“She retired,” says the rude chronicle from which we have borrowed many
of the materials for this sombre history, “to a romantic little farm
in---, there to spend in seclusion, with her aged mother and a few
servants, the remainder of her days.”

Our simple chronicler takes too much for granted. Margaret Cooper
retired with no such purpose. She had purposes entirely at conflict with
any idea of repose or quiet. She thought nothing of the remainder of
her days. Her mother was not so aged but that she could still think, six
months afterward, of the reported marriage of the widow Thackeray with
repining, and with the feeling of one who thinks that she has suffered
neglect and injustice at the hands of the world. Touching the romance
of the ancient farmstead, we are more modestly content to describe it
as sterile, lonely, and unattractive; its obscurity offering, for the
present, its chief attractions to our desolate heroine, and the true
occasion for that deep disgust with which her amiable mother beheld it.

Our chronicle of Charlemont is ended. We have no further object or
interest within its precincts. William Hinkley is gone, no one knows
whither, followed by his adopted father, the retired lawyer, whose
sensibilities were fatal to his success. It was not long before Ned
Hinkley and his widowed sister found it their policy to depart
also, seeking superior objects in another county; and at this moment
Charlemont is an abandoned and deserted region. It seemed to decline
from the moment when the cruel catastrophe occurred which precipitated
Margaret Cooper from her pride of place. Beautiful as the village
appeared at the opening of our legend, it was doomed to as rapid a decay
as growth. “Something ails it now--the spot is cursed!”

But OUR history does not finally conclude with the fate of Charlemont.
That chronicle is required now to give place to another, in which we
propose to take up the sundered clues, and reunite them in a fresh
progress. We shall meet some of the old parties once more, in new
situations. We shall again meet with Margaret Cooper, in a new guise,
under other aspects, but still accompanied by her demon--still inspired
by her secret oath--still glowing with all the terrible memories of the
past--still laboring with unhallowed pride; and still destined for a
lark catastrophe. Our scene, however, lies in another region, to which
the reader, who has thus far kept pace with our progress, is entreated
still to accompany us. The chronicle of “CHARLEMONT” will find its
fitting sequel in that of “BEAUCHAMPE”--known proverbially as “THE
KENTUCKY TRAGEDY.”

END OF CHARLEMONT.





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