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Title: Harrington: A Story of True Love
Author: O'Connor, William Douglas
Language: English
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                               HARRINGTON:
                          A STORY OF TRUE LOVE.

              BY THE AUTHOR OF “WHAT CHEER,” “THE GHOST: A
                CHRISTMAS STORY,” “A TALE OF LYNN,” ETC.

        “Herein may be seen noble chivalrye, curtosye, humanyte,
       friendlyenesse, hardyenesse, love, friendshype, cowardyse,
         murder, hate, vertue and synne. Doo after the good, and
         leve the evyl, and it shall brynge you to good fame and
        renomme.”—SIR THOMAS MALORY: _Preface to Morte D’Arthur_.

                                 BOSTON:
                           THAYER & ELDRIDGE,
                      114 & 116 WASHINGTON STREET.
                                  1860.

       Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
                           THAYER & ELDRIDGE,
     In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court, of the District of
                             Massachusetts.

                       W. H. TINSON, Stereotyper.



I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO MY WIFE.



CONTENTS.


                                                        PAGE

       PROLOGUE,                                           7

      CHAPTER I.—THE REIGN OF TERROR,                     69

             II.—THE FENCING SCHOOL,                      81

            III.—QUARTE AND TIERCE,                       90

             IV.—MURIEL AND EMILY,                       116

              V.—LA BOSTONIENNE,                         127

             VI.—AN EPISODE OF THE REIGN OF TERROR,      138

            VII.—ROUX,                                   146

           VIII.—THE SHADOW OF THE HUNTER,               163

             IX.—SCHOLAR AND SOLDIER,                    173

              X.—CONVERSATION,                           181

             XI.—NORTH AND SOUTH,                        191

            XII.—STARTLING DEVELOPMENTS,                 210

           XIII.—THE FAIRY PRINCE,                       228

            XIV.—THE ANTI-SLAVERY CONVENTION,            240

             XV.—WAR AND PEACE,                          252

            XVI.—THE GLIMPSES OF THE MOON,               268

           XVII.—NOCTURNAL,                              276

          XVIII.—THE PRETTY PASS THINGS CAME TO,         290

            XIX.—THE ROAR OF ST. DOMINGO,                302

             XX.—EXPLANATIONS,                           316

            XXI.—THE BREAKING OF THE SPELL,              328

           XXII.—INTERSTITIAL,                           340

          XXIII.—THE BLOOMING OF THE LILY,               349

           XXIV.—THE BLOWING OF THE ROSE,                358

            XXV.—WITHERLEE,                              376

           XXVI.—A MAN OF RUINED BLOOD,                  402

          XXVII.—REVELATIONS,                            412

         XXVIII.—THE SABBATH MORNING,                    421

           XXIX.—HELL ON HEAVEN IMPINGING,               428

            XXX.—THE HEARTS OF CHEVALIERS,               443

           XXXI.—WRECK AND RUIN,                         453

          XXXII.—HERALD SHADOWS,                         467

         XXXIII.—THE OLD ACHAIAN HOUR,                   485

          XXXIV.—IN LIBERTY’S DEFENCE,                   502

           XXXV.—PALLIDA MORS,                           517

          XXXVI.—IO TRIUMPHE,                            534

       EPILOGUE,                                         549

           NOTE,                                         557



HARRINGTON.



PROLOGUE.


I.

As hot a day as ever blazed on the lowlands of Louisiana, blazed once in
mid-April on the plantation of Mr. Torwood Lafitte, parish of Avoyelles,
in the Red River region. Perhaps it was because the heat was so
unseasonable that it seemed as if never, not even in midsummer, had there
been so hot a day. One might have been pardoned for imagining that heat
not of this world. Mr. William Tassle, overseer to Lafitte, was a profane
man, but he might have been considered as only a profane poet aiming at
the vivid expression of a mystical dark truth, when, speaking of the day,
he said it was as hot as Hell.

It was the Sabbath, but an active fancy, brooding over the general
condition of man and nature on Mr. Lafitte’s plantation, might have
thought it rather the Devil’s Sabbath than the Sabbath of the Lord.
Through the vaporous atmosphere, simmering with the heat, swarming with
insect life, and reeking with the dense, sickly sweetness of tropic
plants and flowers, the fierce sun poured a flood of stagnant, yellow
light, which lay in a broad and brassy glare over the low landscape.
Veiled by the cruel radiance, rose afar in the west and north the Pine
Woods of Avoyelles, and in the southern distance the solemn masses of
gloom formed by the cotton-woods, live-oaks and cypresses of the Great
Pacondrie Swamp. The eye wandering backward from the depths of the
morass, saw the smouldering fire of the atmosphere envelop the enormous
trees, draped everywhere with long streamers of black moss, and kindle
the broad palmetto bottoms, and the multi-colored luxuriance of tropical
vegetation, which sprang into ranker life beneath the vivid and sullen
ray. The sluggish tide of the bayou basked with snaky gleams in the
quivering lustre; the red marl of the plantation where mules and negroes
were toiling painfully under the oaths and blows of the drivers and
overseer, darkly glowed in it; the bright, rank green of the lawn before
the mansion was aflare with it; and the mansion itself, with its rose and
jasmin vines drooping around the posts of the veranda, looked scorched to
a deeper brown in the hot, thick, yellow, intolerable glare.

Shadows that day were the demons of the landscape. Shadows of intense and
peculiar blackness, so compact that they seemed to have a substantial
being of their own, lurked in the yellow light around and beneath every
object. A dark fancy might have dreamed them a host of devils, disguised
as shadows, and mustered to prevent the escape of a soul from Hell.
Black with a strange blackness, shaped to an ugly goblin resemblance of
the thing they accompanied, they were scattered like a host of demon
sentries all over the scene, and had watch and ward of everything. The
gaunt, stilted bittern standing motionless near the water, had his black
goblin duplicate beneath him on the glistering clay. The mud-hued,
warty-hided, abominable alligator, as he raised himself on his short
legs, had his black, misshapen, shadow-caricature to lumber up with him
on the trodden mire, and it went with him as he took his lumpish plunge
into the foul bayou. Every plant or shrub had its scraggy imp of shadow
sprawling beneath it, and darting and dodging as if to catch it whenever
it moved. Every tree—cypress, live-oak, sycamore, cotton-wood, or gum,
all solemnly draped with black moss—had its scrawny phantom to toss and
flicker fantastically with the tangled motion of a hundred darting arms,
if the branches or their streamers swayed in the furnace-breath of the
light wind. Every fallen trunk, or log, or stump, or standing post had
its immovable, black sentinel shape of shadow projected beyond it, or
crouching by its side. Along the running fences on the plantation ran
black, spectral bars on the red marl. In the fields, among the new-sprung
corn, sown with the pain and sweat of slaves, a demon-crop of shadow
mocked with its ugly color and fantastic shape the green beauty of the
pennoned grain. The reeking mules, panting and straining, with drooping
heads, as they dragged the groaning ploughs through the soil of the
cotton fields, or pulled the clanking harrows over the furrowed rows,
had their monstrous jags of sooty shadow, like the malformed beasts of a
devil’s dream, jerking along with shapeless instruments beside them. The
black drudges, men and women, plodding and tottering in the sweltering
heat, behind the ploughs, beside the harrows, or dropping seed into
the drills, had hunched and ugly goblin dwarfs of shadow, vigilantly
dogging their footsteps, and bobbing and dodging with their more active
movements. The burly overseer on horseback had his horsed demon of lubber
shadow, which aped his every gesture and movement, ambling fantastically
with him hither and thither among the rows, and grotesquely motioning
into squirms of phantom glee the shadows of the writhing slaves on whom
his frequent whip-lash fell. Up around the planter’s mansion, shadows
as fantastical, as black and demoniacal as these, wavered or lay in the
fierce, yellow glow. And among them all there was none uglier or more
seemingly sentient than one within the room opening on the veranda—a
black, hellion shape which floated softly as in a pool of oil, on an
oblong square of sluggish sunshine shimmering on the floor, just behind
the chair of Mr. Lafitte.

Angry words had been uttered in that room within the last few
minutes—angry at least on the part of Madame Lafitte, who sat away from
the sunlight, opposite her husband, with a table laid with fruit and wine
between them. She was of the superbest type of southern beauty—and there
is no beauty more exquisite; but now her lovely olive face was dusky
white with fury and agony—its pallor heightened by contrast with her
intense black hair, which she wore in heavy tresses drooping almost to
the broad gold ornaments in her ears. Silent at present, she sat with her
white arms tightly clasped below her bosom, which convulsively rose and
fell beneath its muslin folds, and with dilated nostrils, and pale lips
curved with hate and grief, kept her dark eyes, lustrous with passion,
fixed on the evil visage of her husband.

“You are well named,” she broke forth again, her voice, a rich contralto,
trembling with vehemence; “but you are worse than your pirate namesake.
Worse than the worst of that Baratarian crew. Lafitte! Lafitte, indeed!
You are worse than he. Worse than Murrell. Worse than anybody. Devil that
you are!”

She paused again, speechless with fury. The tornado which many thought
the brassy flare upon the landscape portended, had its proper fulfillment
in the raging whirl of passions within her. Mr. Lafitte sat at ease,
slowly tilting his chair to and fro, the jewelled fingers of his brown
left hand clasped around the stem of a crystal goblet on the table, his
right hand carelessly thrust into a side pocket of his white coat, and
regarded her with a sardonic smile on his dark visage, while slipping to
and fro in the sluggish pool of light upon the floor, his shadow, like a
black familiar, moved with an oily motion behind him.

“Anything more, my angel?” he asked in a soft, smooth, courteous voice,
habitual with him: “any more epithets? Pray continue. Go on, light of my
life, go on. Indulge your own Lafitte—your pirate lover. He loves to hear
you.”

Maddened by his calm mockery, she did not reply, but kept her blazing
eyes fixed upon his face. A weaker man than Mr. Lafitte might have
shrunk from that gaze. But its burning fire was wasted on his eyes as
flame upon asbestos. Strange eyes had Mr. Lafitte—true tokens of the
nature which else his other features might have betrayed less surely.
His form was muscular and manly, and his face, though dark and sinister,
might have been justly called handsome, if only for the richness of its
brunette complexion. Dark, wavy auburn hair, which he wore long, and a
thick moustache of the same color, drooping over the mouth, conferred a
certain lordly grace upon the countenance. The nose, not finely cut, was
bold, aquiline, and deeply curved in the nostrils, and the line of the
jaw and chin was vigorous and masterful. In the full visage, suffused
with the dense and sultry glow of a highly vascular organization, tropic
passions basked in strong repose. But the motor passion of all was
evident in the eyes. Large eyes which at a yard’s distance might have
seemed grey, but nearer were tawny and flecked with minute blood-specks.
Steadfast, watchful, glossy, unwinking eyes—without depth, without
sympathy—obdurate, rapacious and cruel—they confirmed the expression
of the receding brow above them, which, broad and full, with a marked
depression down its centre, was thus divided into two lobes, and bore
resemblance to the forehead of the tiger. A physiognomist, looking at
that face, would have declared Mr. Lafitte a man organized for ferocity
as the beast he resembled is organized. A believer in the doctrine of
transmigration might have held that the spirit of a tiger dwelt in his
frame, and looked out of those tawny, blood-specked orbs.

It looked out of them now as with a feline playfulness he spoke his
smooth taunts, meanwhile swaying slowly to and fro in his chair, as
though balancing for a spring.

“Go on, my beautiful one,” he continued. “Favor me with more of those
choice similitudes. Choice? And yet—as a matter of taste, my angel,
purely as a matter of taste—that phrase—pirate, though bold and graphic,
I admit, might be artistically improved. Corsair, now. What do you think
of corsair? Is not corsair better, more poetical, more Byronesque? Yes,”
he went on reflectively, as though the proposed change were a matter
of vital seriousness, “yes, corsair is a finer word. Soul of my soul,
let it be corsair. Suffer Lafitte to be your Conrad; you shall be his
Zuleika. Have I ‘one virtue,’ my Zuleika? You will readily concede me the
‘thousand crimes,’ I know, but have I the ‘one virtue?’”

“Why,” she wailed passionately, taking no heed of his badinage; “why am
I treated thus! Why am I kept here on this hateful plantation, in this
remote parish, without life, without society, without pleasure of any
kind. Nothing but this routine of dull farm life. No faces but your
servants’ and your overseer’s around me. No company but these planters,
these planters’ wives, these planters’ daughters, these people that ride
over here sometimes, that I fatigue myself with visiting, that I care
nothing about, anyway. Bad enough to come here once a year for the hot
months—but three years, winter and summer, have I spent here. Three,
Lafitte. Not once have I been in New Orleans for three years. Not once
near the house where seven years of marriage with you were endurable
with friends, with society, with life, with pleasures, with things I
cared for, and which diverted me. Cut off from them all. You go when you
please. Weeks, months, you are away, and leave me here sick, mad, frantic
with ennui. Here, up the river, alone, what have I here to enjoy?”

“Here, my Josephine,” he replied, in an unruffled voice; “here, do you
ask? What have you here? Here you have books, novels, without end, music
in reams, your guitar, your piano, this elegant simplicity, this charming
country prospect, your own sweet thoughts, the pleasures of imagination,
the pleasures of memory, the pleasures—yes, even the pleasures of hope.
And then, too,” sinking his voice to a softer tone, while his smile
became a shade more sardonic and his eyes more cruel, “then, too, you
have me.”

“You,” she raved, her pallid face convulsed with the refluent fury, and
her eyes flashing. “You! Yes, I have you. Whom I hate, whom I loathe,
whom I abhor! Yes, I have you; you who torture me.”

“I who torture you?” interrupted Mr. Lafitte blandly. “And yet, my angel,
they say we are a model couple. They are never tired of talking of my
unvarying gallant courtesy to you. You, yourself, could not name this
moment in a court of law one word or action that would seem incompatible
with the tenderest affection for you.”

“I know it,” she moaned. “Yes, that is the misery of it. I am insulted,
I am profaned, I am outraged, I am tortured till I could go mad, or kill
myself; and it is all done—my God! I know not how. Done with smoothness
and calmness and courtesy; done with civility; done with sweet stabbing
words. Others could only see the sweetness; none but I can feel the
stabs. But they kill me daily, and you know it. Subtle and sweet is your
cruelty to me—cruel, cruel devil that you are! Cruel to me, cruel to your
slaves, cruel to everyone.”

“Cruel to my slaves, eh,” said Mr. Lafitte, tranquilly, his voice still
equable, his face still wearing its sardonic smile: “Cruel to you and
cruel to my slaves. Antony, for example.”

“Yes, Antony,” she replied, speaking in a calmer voice, as of one whose
sufferings, whatever they might be, were remote from her, or as nothing
to her own, “Antony is one. I saw the wretch just now, as I went down to
the cabins. There you have him bucked in this scorching heat, his head
bleeding where you and Tassle beat him with your whipstocks, and the
flies tormenting him. Is there another planter in the parish that would
treat that boy so? No wonder he ran away, like his brother before him. He
might as well be in Hell as on this plantation. They might all as well be
in Hell—as they are. Sweltering in the cotton-field, on a Sunday, too,
there they are, fifty miserable wretches—hark, now! Tassle is laying it
on to some of them. That is the howl of some of the wenches. Listen to
that!”

Softened by the distance, but heard distinctly in the sultry stillness,
came up from the cotton-fields a confusion of dismal screeches. Madame
Lafitte sullenly listened, till they wailed away, the planter meanwhile
calmly drinking his goblet of iced claret, and then filling the glass
again from a slender bottle standing in a cooler on the table.

“These are the sounds I have to listen to, day after day, and year after
year,” hoarsely murmured Madame Lafitte, her bosom heaving convulsively
above her clasped arms, and her eyes burning with dark fire in the pale
gloom of her face. “Every hour in the day they come from the field. All
through the evening from the gin-house. Day and night, night and day, the
yelling of those unhappy creatures is dinned into my ears. That is my
music.”

Mr. Lafitte, who had resumed his former attitude, and was still tilting
his chair, paused, with his eyes fixed upon his wife, and shook with
long, silent, devilish merriment, his black familiar wobbling meanwhile
in the pool beneath him. Then, in his softest, smoothest voice, he began
to curse and swear, if what was rather a flood of profane exclamations
may be so described. All names held sacred, grotesquely conjoined
with secular names and titles, and poured forth in fluent and rapid
succession, composed the outflow of a profanity inexpressibly awful, both
from its nature and from the smooth and serene tones in which it found
utterance. Madame Lafitte listened to him aghast, for she had never heard
this from his lips before, and a dim, blind foreboding that it portended
some horrible change in his attitude toward her, filled her soul. Ending
it presently in another spasm of chuckling merriment, as if what seemed a
mere depraved desire for blasphemy was satisfied, Mr. Lafitte took up the
conversation.

“It is positively delightful, Josephine,” he remarked, “to hear you
lamenting the trouncing of the dear negroes. But, not to dwell upon this
touching outbreak of philanthropy, permit me—for I feel refreshingly
wicked to-day—permit me to ask you, my angel, if you know what made me
marry you?”

She looked at him for a moment with a face of mingled wonder, scorn and
loathing.

“What made you marry me?” she repeated, “your love, I suppose—at least,
what you call love.”

“Indeed, no Josephine,” he coolly replied. “It was not love at all. What
makes a man keep a mistress? For that was it, and nothing more.”

At this atrocious declaration, Madame Lafitte, the very inmost temple of
her soul profaned and defiled, as it never had been till then, bowed her
head in an agony of shame.

“Yes, Josephine,” he continued, “that was it. You were a queen of a girl
when I first saw you. Young, innocent, gentle, enchanting, the most
beautiful woman then, as I think you are now, that I ever beheld, and
though your family was poor, you were accomplished as few of your sex
ever become. I wanted you for one of my mistresses, and I got you at the
little expense of a marriage ceremony. A strict moralist might say that,
at best, you were only my— ah, the coarse word! but in this country you
are called my wife. And, _apropos_, do you know what they call this union
of ours, contracted on my part from such a motive? They call it holy
matrimony.”

Mr. Lafitte, with a negrine _ptchih_, went off in a spasm of devilish
merriment, keeping his eyes fixed on the bowed and pallid face of the
woman opposite him.

“You were in love with young Raynal when I married you,” he continued,
“and you were bullied and badgered by your amiable family into wedlock
with me. Of that, however, I will not speak now. But suppose, Josephine,
that you wish a divorce. How are you going to get it? On what grounds?
Now _apropos_ of my mistresses: by the law of Louisiana, were you false
to me, I could get a divorce from you. By the same laws—oh, how I love
them!—you could only get that divorce from me if I kept my mistress
in your dwelling, or publicly and openly. Suppose you emigrated to
another State where they grant divorces on the ground of the husband’s
infidelity. Could you get a separation then? No. Why not? Because you
have no evidence, and I have taken good care that you can have none. Ha!
my dear, what do you think of your position?”

“My God, my God!” she moaned, “what have I done that I should be outraged
thus! How have I borne this life—how can I bear it! I tell you, Lafitte,”
she cried, raising her voice, hoarse with anger and agony, into a higher
key, and throwing out her arms with a furious gesture, “I tell you that
this life is Hell. I know now, what I wondered when I was a child—where
Hell is and what it looks like. It is here and it looks like this. This
is one of its chambers, and this one of its mansions. These walls, those
books, those pictures, this furniture, that fruit, that wine, they all
belong to it. Those are its flowers clambering around the windows—this
is its light and these are its shadows—this scorching heat is the heat
of it, that sun is the sun of it, these slaves swelter in it—I, a slave
like them, am tortured in it, and you are the fiend of it, hard, cruel,
sensual, heartless, pitiless devil that you are!”

Flinging her arms together again in a convulsive clasp on her bosom, her
frame shuddering, her breath coming and going in quick gasps through her
clenched teeth, which gleamed behind lips deadly white and tensely drawn,
she glared at him with fixed nostrils and flaming eyes, like a beautiful
maniac. Save that he had ceased his balancing, that his eyes were a shade
more tigerish, and that his form crouched slightly forward in his chair,
Mr. Lafitte was as cool and collected as ever, and his face wore the same
sardonic smile.

“Now Josephine,” he remarked in a tone more nonchalant, serene and soft
than before, if that could be, “let me close this delightful conversation
by a few brief observations on the value of opportunity. First, with
regard to the dear negroes. I am a rich, but I have my little desire to
be a _very_ rich planter. Therefore I lay plans for a large cotton crop,
on which, by the way, I have heavy bets pending. In order that I may have
the large crop, which means a great deal of money, and in order that I
may win my bets, which are considerable, I make the dear negroes work
furiously. But in order that they shall work with due ardor, and lest
that tender bond of fidelity and devotion to their master’s interests
which the good divines up north expatiate so eloquently upon—lest that
should not sufficiently inspire them, I get my excellent William Tassle
to stimulate them with a plantation whip, and I stimulate them myself
with another when I feel like it, which I often do. And they labor like
angels—dear me! how they do spring to it, to be sure! It is enchanting.
Indeed I get a great deal out of them. But in order that I may get a
great deal out of them, I must flog them up handsomely at their work, and
punish them profusely after their work if their work has not been what
the ardent soul of Lafitte could wish. Hence the cruelty, as you harshly
call it, my Josephine—hence the floggings, the paddlings, the buckings,
hence the howlings that annoy you, my angel, and which, by the way, I
really cannot help, since the black beasts will make a clamor—unless,
indeed, I could induce some of those cursedly ingenious Yankees to
invent me a patent anti-howling machine for their abominable throats.
Positively, it is an idea, and I must reflect upon it. But see now. In
doing all this, I only avail myself of my legal opportunities. Could I
do it if I had not my opportunities? Alas, no. Could I do it up North?
Alas, no. I should not have my opportunities. I should have to calculate,
and circumvent, and plot and scheme till my poor brain would be fatigued,
and then be bothered and baffled with strikes for higher wages, and ten
hour systems, and God knows what else. Now here, thanks to our good
Livingstone, who was really a fine jurist, I have a code which gives me
all the advantages and puts my black laborers completely and comfortably
under my thumb. They have no opportunities, and so they work without
wages and are well flogged into the bargain. I have my opportunities,
which I improve, and hence they work for me. Ha! it is charming! They get
their two plantation suits a year, their three and a half pounds of bacon
and their peck of meal apiece a week, which is not costly, and keeps them
in working order. They are up early and down late, and so profits accrue.
Hence the value of opportunities with regard to the dear negroes—my
little exactions of whom wound your sensibilities, my angelic Josephine.”

He paused to drink his claret slowly and refill his glass, keeping his
eyes fixed upon his wife, who sat secretly wondering what he meant by all
this devilish frankness.

“Now,” resumed the planter, “observe again the value of opportunities
in relation to yourself, _ma chère_. I marry you. Good. We live in much
elegance, to your soul’s delight, in New Orleans. Good again. But one
fine day I bring you up here, and here I keep you, where you don’t want
to stay. Why do you stay, then? Ah! the beautiful social system gives me
the opportunity to make you. Could you bring me up here? Oh, no. Could
you make me stay? Oh, no. The beautiful social system does not give you
that opportunity.”

“No,” she cried, “it gives me nothing.”

“And why?” he continued. “Is it because you are morally, mentally, or in
any way, my inferior? Oh, no. Why, then? Simply because you are a woman.
You are less than I by virtue of your sex, my angel. Ha! it is curious.
The beautiful social system makes you something like my slave, dear wife.
I bring my negroes here, and I bring you here. None of you want to come,
but you can’t help yourselves, and so come you do. But my negroes cannot
bring me here. No. Nor can you bring me here. No. Do my negroes run away?
I set Dunwoodie’s hounds after them, and run them down. Do you run away?
That dear old Mrs. Grundy sets her hounds after you, and runs you down.
Ah!”

He paused to drink a little claret, keeping his eyes fixed upon her face.

“Meanwhile,” he pursued, “I keep you in perpetual torment, as you say.
Try divorce. You have no cause in law, for I take care to give you
none. My little, delicate, subtle, intangible, polite aggravations—all
my skillful outrages and profanations of your soul and body, which
drive you mad, or kill you slowly like poison, are not recognized in
law. My courteous, maddening words and actions, which work, it is true,
the effect, and worse than the effect, of the most brutal physical
cruelty—they are all perfectly legal. It is doubtful whether they could
even be stated for the purposes of a divorce suit. They are so subtle, so
veiled in good nature, courtesy, kindness, legality, that if they were
stated, people probably would laugh at you, and think you dishonest or
deranged. At all events, though they slowly madden or murder you, they
constitute no breach of holy matrimony.”

“They do,” she cried. “I do not care what the law says; such matrimony as
I live in is not holy. It is”—

“Ah, no, dear Josephine,” he interrupted. “Decidedly you are wrong. Go
to court—swear that you hate me, loathe me, abhor me—swear that life is
insupportable with me, and plead for release, and the blessed old law
will tell you that you are living, and must live, in holy matrimony!
Go to any southern State—go to South Carolina, and state my refined
and delicate cruelty. Why, Judge Somebody or other, in the next State,
boasts that it is the unfading honor, as he calls it, of South Carolina,
that she never has granted a divorce for any cause whatever. Well, go
North—go to New York, for instance. Why, their great Panjandrum up there,
the ‘Tribune’ man—what’s his name—Greeley—he will tell you that you are
living, and must live, in holy matrimony. Bless him!” said Mr. Lafitte,
piously. “I love him. I love him well. I hate him for his Abolitionism: I
love him for his views on holy matrimony. I hate him because he tries to
weaken my power over my slaves: I love him because he tries to strengthen
my power over you, my angel. So do the rest of them. Go to any State you
like, and they will all tell you that you are living, and must live, in
holy matrimony. Every one, except that naughty, naughty Indiana. Ah, the
bad State! The wicked, wicked State, that says a discordant marriage is
hell, and saves people from it at the expense of holy matrimony! But you
couldn’t go there even with your complaint of cruelty, for you haven’t
a single witness—not one; and if you had, you wouldn’t go there, and
presently I’ll tell you why. Meanwhile, the result is, that there’s no
help for you anywhere. As for alleging any little infidelities on my
part, that is clearly absurd. Thanks to our good Edward Livingstone’s
code, you can get no testimony from the yellow girls, for slaves are not
witnesses, you know, in law; and as for getting any legal testimony on
that point, that I take care you can’t get, and your convictions are not
evidence, my angel. Then, too, observe how the beautiful social system
favors me. My little gaieties are reported, for instance, in New Orleans.
Well, society does not taboo me. Mrs. Grundy smiles blandly upon me
still. The men laugh, and say, ‘Ah, Lafitte, you gay dog!’ The women are
soft as cream, and sweet as sugar. Whereas you—suppose even a whisper
of that sort about you—even an idle rumor—ah, what a fine howl! You are
quite finished at once, my dear.”

He shrugged his shoulders, and elevated his eyebrows with a grimace of
mock pity, keeping his carnivorous eyes still fixed upon the raging
silence of her face.

“And now,” he went on, “why do I keep you here? Why do I torture you
daily? I answer—are you listening, my cherished one?—I answer that it
is my little vengeance. Harken, Josephine. You and that handsome young
Raynal were in love with each other when I first saw you. You were both
poor. Raynal has got rich since, but he was then poor as charity. I, on
the contrary, was wealthy, and your family wouldn’t let you marry Raynal,
but were anxious that you should marry me, for they wanted to make a rich
match for you. You liked me well enough then, for you only knew the best
side of me, which the ladies say is charming; but you did not love me.
I pressed my suit, however, and your family worried and drove you—poor
young girl of fifteen, that you were—till, unable—for I will be strictly
fair to you, Josephine—unable to resist longer, you yielded, and I got
you.”

“Yes, you got me with a lie,” she passionately cried. “Never would I have
yielded, had you and they not lied me into believing Raynal had abandoned
me and engaged himself to another.”

“Oh,” returned Mr. Lafitte, with a leer, “you have found that out, have
you? No matter. I got you, and you discovered your mistake in yielding as
time passed on. Then, the year before I brought you here, when you were
in much suffering—for I will be just to you, Josephine—you and Raynal had
a little correspondence. Ha! you thought I did not know it! But I found
it out. Your treacherous young Creole wench sold me your secret, and I
took copies of every letter you wrote before I let her carry them to
Raynal. I took copies also of his before they went to you. They are all
eloquent, and I love to read them. And they put you both in my power, my
lady!”

He saw that the blow struck home. She sat mute and still as marble, but
all expression had gone from her face; the fire had faded from her eyes;
her arms, still clasped on her bosom, were relaxed; and her bosom had
ceased to heave. The planter watched her with an infernal smile on his
dark visage.

“With those letters in my possession,” he continued, “you could not
seek release even in Indiana. For writing them, you have to be tortured
most exquisitely till you die, as before you wrote them, you had to be
tortured for having loved Raynal. And yet, Josephine, I believe you and
Raynal to be people of honor, and, though you loved, to have written
those letters with innocent hearts. You were in loveless suffering, and
you wanted the consolation a friend could give, and which Raynal gave.
See how justly I state it! I will go further—I will admit that the
letters are such as two friends might have written to each other. There
is really nothing wrong in them. But they are full of passages which are
too equivocal to be read in a court of law. There innocent words are made
to seem guilty. And those letters, without much twisting, would convict
you of conjugal infidelity, my beloved Josephine.”

He looked at her with fiendish enjoyment, but she sat still, and her face
did not change.

“Ah yes, _ma chère_!” he observed after a long pause, slowly beginning
his rocking again, and thus setting in motion the lurking shadow beneath
him—“you and that dear handsome young Raynal are certainly compromised.
Still there is one consolation for you, Josephine. Really a great
consolation. Namely, that you are reputably married. You have the
honorable position of a legal wife, my dear. Is it not consoling?”

He sat for a full minute sardonically smiling at her. She did not turn
away, nor did her face lose its blank immobility.

“That is your consolation, sweet wife,” he continued. “It is the— Hallo,
there! Tassle, is that you? Come in.”

He had the ear of a cat to have heard the steps of the overseer coming
up the grassy lawn. It was a full half minute before the heavy sluff of
boots was audible to an ordinary ear. Then came their lazy thud on the
veranda, and the overseer lounged in. A short, stocky, burly man, with
heavy, sallow, stolid features. He had a broad, straw hat set back on his
head, was dressed in coarse, light clothes, and was revolving tobacco in
his open mouth.

“Ha!” said Mr. Lafitte, “it is he. Good William Tassle. Faithful William
Tassle. Excellent William Tassle.”

The overseer, with his dull eye fixed on the planter, stopped chewing,
and closing his mouth, slowly smiled.

“It is hot, my Tassle,” blandly observed Mr. Lafitte.

“Hot as—beg pardon, madame”—said Mr. Tassle, checking himself in a torrid
comparison, with a rude gesture of deference to the planter’s wife, who
took no notice of his presence. “It singes a man’s nostrils to breathe
it, Mr. Lafitte.”

“Yes?” replied the planter, as if the fact were of great interest. “Then
how it must singe that Antony’s nostrils, William. That poor Antony. We
must have him up here. I must admonish him. Fetch him along, Tassle. And
Tassle”—the overseer, who was going, paused—“just bring that iron collar
that hangs in the gin-house. You know.”


II.

The overseer nodded, and chewing stolidly, lounged out into the yard,
where stood the kitchen, smoke-house, and other outbuildings, and going
on through the orchard, emerged upon a blinding space where a row of
white-washed cabins, with the gin-house hard by, glared in the hot light.
A few negro children, half naked, with a lean and sickly old hound, were
grouped in the shade of the gin-house. Near them, in the full blaze of
the sunlight, a negro man, in coarse plantation clothes of a dirty white,
sat on the ground in a squatting posture, feebly shaking his bare head,
to keep off the swarm of insects that tormented him. This was Antony.
He was bound in a peculiar manner—bucked, as the plantation slang has
it. The ankles were firmly lashed together—the knees drawn up to the
chest—the wrists also firmly pinioned and passed over the knees, and
between the elbow-joints and the knee-pits, a short stick was inserted,
thus holding movelessly in a bundle of agonizing cramp the limbs of the
victim. This infernal torture—practised by the tyrants of our marine
on their sailors—that class whose helplessness and wrongs most nearly
resemble those of slaves—practised also on wretched criminals by the
tyrants of our jails—Antony had endured from midnight till now, about two
o’clock in the afternoon.

Nine years Lafitte’s chattel, he had been badly used from time to time,
and, of late, dreadfully. He had learned to read and write a little
before he had come to the plantation, and a week before the present
time he had picked up a scrap of newspaper on which was a fragment of
one of those declamations about liberty, which southern politicians
are fools enough to be making on all opportunities, amidst a land of
slaves. The fragment had some swagger about the northern oppression of
the South, which Antony did not understand any more than anybody else;
but it rounded up with Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me Liberty or give
me Death!” which he understood very well; for from that moment Liberty
or Death was a phrase which spoke like a voice in his mind, urging him
to escape from his bondage. The next thing was to write a pass, make a
package addressed to the house of Lafitte Brothers, New Orleans, and with
this evidence of his assumed mission endeavor to reach that city, where
he meant to smuggle himself into the hold of some vessel northward bound.

Clad in an old suit of Mr. Tassle’s, which he had taken from the
gin-house, and boldly riding away the night before, on a mare borrowed
from Mr. Lafitte’s stables, he had been suddenly met on a turn of the
road—unaccountably met at midnight—by his master and the overseer, who
seized him and found his forged credentials upon him. At once, he had
been violently beaten over the head with their whip-stocks driven back
to the plantation, reclothed in his plantation suit, securely bound, and
left with horrid threats of torment on the morrow. The morrow had come,
and here he was in utter misery, half crazy, and more than half fancying
that he was in Hell.

Mr. William Tassle, his tobacco revolving slowly in his open mouth, stood
and stolidly surveyed him. A pitiable object, truly! His face was bruised
and swollen, and from wounds in his brow and cheek, made by the blows of
the whip-handles, a dull ooze of blood, thinned by his sweat, had spread
its stain over the whole countenance. Around the wounds buzzed and clung
greedy clusters of black flies, hardly driven off by the feeble motions
of his head, and returning every instant. His dark face, ashen grey and
flaccid under the crimson stain, and faint with suffering, wore a look of
dumb endurance; his eyelids drooped heavily over his downcast eyes; and
his breath came in short gasps through the bloody froth that had gathered
on his loose mouth. His wrists were cut with the tight cords that bound
them, and his hands were discolored and swollen, as were his ankles. Even
the overseer felt a sort of rude pity for him.

“Well, Ant’ny,” said Mr. Tassle, slowly, pausing and turning his head
aside to eject a vigorous squirt of tobacco juice, which lit upon a small
chip and deluged a fly thereon, throwing the insect into quivering spasms
of torture; “you’re in for it, you poor, mis’ble devil. Yer master’s
goin’ to admonish ye, so he says. Know what that means, don’t ye? It’s
all up with _you_, Ant’ny.”

The dumb, bruised face, with its blood-shot eyes, feebly turned up to his
for a moment, then drooped away.

“Come, now,” said Mr. Tassle, cutting the negro’s bonds with two strokes
of a jack-knife, “up with ye.”

Antony, suddenly released from his cramped posture, fell over; then made
a feeble effort to crawl up on his hands and knees, tottered, sank down,
and lay panting. Mr. Tassle started with alacrity for the gin-house,
the black piccaninnies scampering and tumbling over each other in their
scramble to get away, and the old hound sneaking after them. Presently he
came back with a bucket of water and a gourd. Antony raised himself and
drank from the gourd; then sat up, panting, but relieved.

“Strip,” said Mr. Tassle.

Antony tried, and was helped roughly by the overseer, who then dashed the
bucket of water over his naked body. It revived him, for he presently
began to wipe himself feebly with his trowsers. In the midst of this
operation, Mr. Tassle seized him, rolled him over from the wet ground to
a dry spot, and began to rub his arms and knees vigorously with his horny
hand, chewing and expectorating rapidly as he did so. Soon the arrested
circulation began to be restored, and Antony, getting his clothes on, was
able to walk up and down in a brisk, tottering walk, the calves of his
legs loosely shaking, and his legs trembling with exhaustion.

“That’ll do,” said Mr. Tassle, at length; “you’ll be ready for your
floggin’ right soon. Here, you dam cuss of a nigger, drink a swallow of
this. That’ll set you up.”

Antony took the proffered whisky-flask—Mr. Tassle’s pocket companion—and
gulped the liquor. It went to his poor, famished heart like fire, and
shot some vigor through his numbed veins.

“Damned if I aint a philanthroper,” growled Mr. Tassle. “Lettin’ a
hell-bent cuss of a sooty nigger drink my whisky. No matter. Have it out
o’ yer hide, Ant’ny, afore supper time. Now pick up yer feet for the
house. Yer master has to settle with yer.”

Antony went on to the house, Mr. Tassle following, and contemplatively
regarding, as he spat and chewed, the shaking calves of the negro’s legs,
which he had a chance to do, as the old trowsers, too short in the first
instance, were now split up the backs, nearly to the knees, and feebly
flapped as the slave tottered on. Antony himself, giddy with his long
exposure in the sun, and with the glow of the liquor he had drank, felt
his poor mind wander a little, and was conscious of nothing so much as
of the queer tattered shadow that bobbed around him, and which he half
fancied would trip him up if he were to try to run away now.

An indefinite sense, which fell upon him as he entered the house, and
slowly walked through the passage, that this guarding shadow had fallen
behind and left him, was succeeded by a sense as vague, that the shadow
he now saw lurking in the sunlight on the floor beneath his master’s
chair, was the same, and that it had gone on before when he came into
the passage, and would leap from that place and chase him were he to
flee. Dimly conscious of this fancy, he kept his hot eyes fixed upon the
shadow—conscious also of a dreadful sullen hatred rising in his heart,
and prompting him to spring upon his tyrant and strangle him, though he
died for it afterward. Beyond this, he was vaguely aware that Tassle had
put something that clanked on the table, and had gone; and that the
madame, as he would have called her, was present, sitting very still, and
apparently indifferent to him or anything that might happen to him.

Suddenly he heard the smooth and quiet voice of his master, seeming
nearer to him than it should have seemed.

“Well, Antony, so it appears that I have a learned nigger on my
plantation. Cousin to the learned pig, I suppose. Did you ever hear of
the learned pig, Antony?”

“Never did, Marster.”

“Indeed. Then you never heard what happened to him?”

“Never did hear, Marster.”

“Ah! Indeed! Well, he ran away, and was caught, and flogged, and bucked,
to begin with. Just like you, Antony. After which he was treated so that
he wished he was dead, Antony. Just as you are going to be, my learned
nigger. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Marster.”

In this colloquy, Mr. Lafitte’s voice was as smooth and tranquil as
though he were promising his servant pleasures instead of pains. Antony
had answered mechanically, in a voice as quiet and subdued as his
tyrant’s, with the slightest possible quaver in his husky tones.

“So you can read and write, Antony,” said the planter, after a pause.

“A little bit, Marster.”

“A little bit, eh? Yes. Come, now, let’s have a specimen. Here’s the
‘Picayune,’ with something that suits your case.” Mr. Lafitte took the
paper from the table as he spoke. “A little bit of abolition pleasantry
that your British friends fling at the South, and this booby editor
circulates. Here, read it out.”

Antony saw his master’s hand extending the paper to him, with the thumb
indicating a paragraph. Moving nearer, he mechanically took the paper.
The print swam dizzily before his eyes, as, with a halting voice, he
slowly read aloud what was, in fact, one of the most pungent anti-slavery
sarcasms of the day:

“‘From the—London—Morning Advertiser. One million dollars—reward.
Ran away—from—the—subscriber—on the 18th August—a likely—Magyar
fellow (Antony boggled terribly over ‘Magyar’ which he thought must
mean mulatto), named—Louis—Kossuth. He is—about—45—years old—5 feet—6
inches—high. Dark—complexion, marked—eyebrows, and—grey eyes.’”

“Not a bad description of you, Antony,” interpolated Mr. Lafitte. “Quite
like you, in fact. Go ahead.”

Antony stammered on, losing the place, and beginning lower down.

“‘Captains and—masters—of
vessels—are—particularly—cautioned—against—harboring—or—concealing—the
said—fugitive—on board—their ships—as the—full—penalty—of the
law—will—be—rigorously—enforced.’”

“You see, Antony,” again interrupted the planter. “You reckoned, I
suppose, on getting off in a ship, when your nice scheme got you to New
Orleans. Didn’t you, my nigger Kossuth? You’d be advertised though, and
caught, just like him. Go on.”

Unheeding this sally of Mr. Lafitte’s cheerful fancy, Antony went on,
losing the place again, and getting to the bottom of the paragraph.

“‘N.B.—If the—fellow—cannot—be taken—alive—I will pay—a—reward—of
(Antony boggled again over the ‘250,000 ducats’ named, and
called it twenty-five dollars), for his—scalp. Terms as—above.
Francis—Joseph—Emperor—of—Austria.’”

“Good,” said the planter. “Your scalp, you woolly-headed curse, wouldn’t
bring that in the market, or I’d have it off, and your hide with it. Lay
the paper down. You read atrociously.”

Antony laid the paper on the table, and without looking at his master,
fixed his blurred eyes on the floor again.

“You see,” continued the planter, “how runaways get served. You have
been told both by Tassle and myself that even if you got North you’d be
sent back. We’ve got a Fugitive Slave Law now for runaway niggers, and
back they come. You go to Philadelphia. That good Ingraham—that good
Judge Kane—that dear Judge Cadwallader—they send you back. You go to New
York. Lord! There everybody sends you back! You go to Boston. That dear
Ben Hallett grabs you. That good Sprague—that good Curtis—all these good
people grab you, as they grabbed that nigger Sims, and back you come. Yet
you try it, you foolish Antony. Your cursed brother got off from me nine
years ago, and so you think you’ll try it too. Fine fellows both of you.
He leaves Cayenne pepper in his tracks, which plays the devil with the
hounds, and off he gets. But you’ve had to smart for him. All you’ve got
since has been on his account. Now you’ll get something on your own. I’ll
teach you to steal my horse and make off for the river with your forged
pass and package. Do you see this?”

Lifting his dizzy eyes to the level of his master’s hand, Antony saw that
it held a heavy iron collar with a prong, on which he read in stamped
letters, LAFITTE BROTHERS, NEW ORLEANS.

“My brother had a nigger that wore this collar once,” said the smooth,
cruel voice, “and now you’ll wear it. If you ever get away again, which
I’ll take care you never will, people will know who you belong to, my
fine boy. Kneel down here.”

Antony felt the sullen hatred seethe up in his heart, and his brain
reeled.

“I won’t have that collar on me, Marster,” he huskily muttered. “You may
kill me, Marster, but I won’t have that collar on me.”

“You won’t, eh?” returned Mr. Lafitte, tranquilly. “Oh, well then, if you
won’t, you won’t. By the way,” he pursued, carelessly taking the paper
from the table, and fanning himself gently, “do you know how I knew you
were going to run away? I’ll tell you. I was standing near the gin-house
last night when you came there to steal Tassle’s old clothes, and I heard
you say to yourself—‘Now for liberty or death.’ Ah, ha, Antony, you
shouldn’t talk aloud! Tassle and I saw you go to the stable and take the
mare, and then we saddled and headed you off, my nigger. That’s the way
of it. Pick up that paper.”

Raising his eyes to his tyrant’s feet, Antony saw the folded paper there
where it had been dropped. Approaching, he painfully stooped to pick it
up, when he felt himself seized, thrown down upon his knees, and the
collar, which opened in the centre on a strong hinge, was around his
neck! He struggled to free himself, but he was held, and the collar
closed. In an instant a key of peculiar wards inserted in one of the
cusps of this devilish necklace, shot a bolt into the socket of the
other, and Mr. Lafitte, taking out the key, and putting it into his
pocket, quietly spat in the face of the man whose neck he had just
fettered, and spurning him violently with his foot, hurled him backward
from his knees with a dreadful shock over on the floor.

Stunned for a moment, Antony lay motionless on his side. He knew that
his master had risen, for as he turned his head, he saw the hideous
shadow dart suddenly from the pool, and vanish, as though it had entered
the planter. On his feet the next instant, with a dark cloud of blood
bellowing in his brain, he saw with bloodshot eyes, Lafitte standing
before him, with a calm, infernal smile on his visage, and all the tiger
in his tawny orbs. The next second Madame Lafitte swept, like a superb
ghost, between him and his revenge.

“Stay, Josephine,” yelled the planter, his voice no longer issuing smooth
and soft from the throat, but tearing up from his lungs in a loud, harsh
snarl—“remain here. This entertainment is for you. You object to the
howls of my black curs. I bring one here—into this room—whose howls shall
split your ears.”

She turned, as he spoke, on the threshold of the room, and advancing
toward him, paused. For one instant she stood, imperial in her beauty,
her magnificent form drawn to its full height, her haughty brow
corrugated, her eyes burning like bale-fires, her outraged blood flooding
her countenance with one vivid crimson glow. The next instant she strode
forward, and smote him a sounding buffet on the face. Then, without a
word, and with the step of an empress, she swept from the room.

Lafitte turned purple and livid in spots, and tottering back, fell into
his chair. Struck! By her! Before his slave! Glaring up, he met the
blood-shot eyes of Antony.

“Dog!” he yelled; “you are there, are you! Wash my spittle from your face
with this!”

For a second, Antony stood holding his breath, with the wine the
planter had dashed into his face, dripping from him, and steaming in
his nostrils. For a second afterward, he stood unwincing, the fragments
of the shattered goblet which followed, stinging his flesh. The next,
his whole being rose in a wild, red burst of lightning, and the throat
of Lafitte was in his right hand, his left crushing back the hand which
had struck at him with a bowie-knife as he sprung. With his right knee
set solid on the abdomen of the planter, pinning the writhing form to
the chair, he saw the devilish face beneath him redden in his gripe, and
deepen into horrible purple, and blacken into the visage of a fiend, with
bloody, starting eyeballs, and protruding tongue. Still keeping that iron
clutch of an aroused manhood on his tyrant’s throat, he heard the mad,
hoarse gurgle of his agony, and felt the struggling limbs relax and lose
their vigor beneath him. And then yielding to an impulse of compassion
his master never knew, and which rose louder than the bellowing voices of
his revenge, he unclasped his hold, and saw the body slide flaccid and
gasping to the floor.

Away, Antony! The bitter term of your bondage is over, and there is
nothing now but Liberty or Death for you! Death? Ay, Death in the land of
Liberty for the man who repays long years of outrage with one brave grip
on the throttle of his oppressor! Death, when the savage planters muster
to avenge their fellow, and drag you down to yon bayou, to shriek and
scorch your life away among the sappy fagots of the slow fire! Death like
this, or else by gnawing famine, or the beasts and reptiles of the swamp
whose beckoning horrors soon must close around you! Liberty or Death—and
Liberty a desperate chance, a thousand miles away.

He stood for an instant, panting, with a wild exultation pouring like
fire through his veins. Then snatching the heavy bowie-knife from the
floor, he sprang from the room, and leaped on the veranda just as the
overseer, who had come up again from the fields, had set one foot on the
steps to ascend. Flying against him full shock, he threw him backward
clear and clean off his feet, and saw his head bounce with a terrific
concussion on the grass as he sped on over the stunned body. He did not
pause, nor look behind, but flew with the rush of a race-horse for the
swamp. The light wind had risen, and the grain in the fields and the
scattered trees on either side, and in the skirting woods beyond, and
all the lurking shadows, waved, and tossed, and lifted under the sultry
vault, as he sped his desperate course, while the hot landscape rushed
to meet him, and ran whirling by, closing around and behind him, and
seeming to follow as he flew. Across the lawn, its grass and wildflowers
sliding dizzily beneath him—up with a flying leap across the fence, which
vanished below him—and down with a light shock on the red plantation
marl which rose to meet him, and reeled from under him as he bounded on.
Away, with frantic speed, over rows of cotton-plants, bruised beneath his
feet, and gliding from under him—away, with a wilder leap, as the loud
shouts of the slaves in full chorus struck his ear, and he saw them all,
men and women, with open mouths and upthrown arms, stand with the mules
and ploughs in the field on one side, and vanish from his flying glimpse
as he fled by. Away, with every nerve and sinew desperately strung—with
his pained heart knocking against his side—with his held breath bursting
from him in short gasps—with the sweat reeking and pouring down his body,
and dropping in big drops from his face, to be caught upon his clothes
in his speed—with the bright knife, as his last refuge, clutched in his
grasp—with the one thought of Liberty or Death burning in the whirl of
his brain. Past the plantation now, his feet thudding heavily on a hard,
black soil—on, with the swarming hum of innumerable insects, murmurously
swirling by—on, with the light and rapid current of the hot south wind
cool on the pain and fervor of his face, and swiftly purring in his
ears—on, over rushing grass and flowers, and stunted shrubs and butts
of trees—up again with a furious leap over a fence that sinks, and down
again with a heavy thump on ground that rises—on and away at headlong
speed over a field of monstrous stumps, scattering the light chips as
he flies—in now with a bound among the bright-green leaves of a thick
palmetto bottom, and on with a rush through the swish, swish, swish of
their loud and angry rustle, as he crashes forward to the still gleam of
the bayou. Now his feet swash heavily on a grassy turf that yields like
sponge, and water fills his shoes at every bound. Now the water deepens,
and he sinks above his ankles or midway to his knees, as he splashes
forward with headlong velocity, half-conscious and wholly careless in his
desperate exultation that black venomous water-snakes writhe up behind
him as he plunges through their pools. Now he bounds over a bank of black
mire, and swerves in his course as something like a dirty log changes
to an alligator, and lumbers swiftly toward him with yawning jaws. And
now splashing through the green slime of the margin, he bursts with a
plunge into the glistening waters of the bayou, and swims with vigorous
strokes, while the gaunt bittern on the bank beyond scrambles away with
squawking screams. Swimming till the water shoals, he flounders on again
through slime to mire, and over another bog of pools and water-plants and
spongy sod, till gaining the outskirts of the dense forest, and reaching
a patch of damp, black earth under an enormous cypress-tree, he slackens
his pace, stops suddenly, and throwing up his arms upon the trunk, drops
his head upon them, panting and blowing—and the first mile-heat of the
dreadful race for Liberty or Death is run!


III.

For a few minutes, exhausted with the terrible speed he had maintained,
Antony leaned upon his arms with closed eyes, his breath suffocating
him, his heart painfully throbbing, his limbs aching and trembling,
and the water dripping from his clothes and trickling away on the
black soil in small streams. The trees whispered over him as he panted
beneath them, and their mysterious murmurs were the only sounds, save
his own stertorous breathings, that were heard in the dead stillness.
Recovering his breath in a few minutes, he lifted his head and turned
around, letting his pained arms fall heavily by his side. He was no
longer oppressed with heat, for the plunge in the bayou had cooled him;
but his whole body ached not only with the exertions of the last few
minutes, but from the previous torture of the bucking, and already his
strength, heavily taxed by his long abstinence from food (for it was now
more than fifteen hours since he had eaten), and only sustained by the
intense excitement he had undergone, began to flag. His brain reeled and
whirled still, and his apprehension was confused and dull. Gradually he
began to be more sensible of the sore and swollen condition of his wrists
and ankles, of the smart of the wounds in his forehead, and the stinging
of the fragments of glass in his face. There was one sore spot in his
chest just beneath his shoulder, which for a few moments he was at a loss
to account for, till he suddenly remembered that his tyrant’s foot had
struck him there when he had kicked him over upon the floor. At the same
instant he felt the chafe of the iron collar on his neck, and raising his
hand suddenly, it struck against the blunt point of the prong. Gnashing
his teeth with rage as the scene in that room rose in his mind, he seized
the collar with both hands, and with a fierce imprecation, strove to rend
it asunder. But the lock remained firm, and convulsed with a bitter sense
of humiliation, as he thought of that accursed badge of his servitude
inexorably riveted to his neck, the miserable man burst into tears.

It was but a brief spasm, and summoning up new courage to his failing
heart as he remembered that his dreadful journey lay still before him,
he cast his eyes around into the swamp. Softened by the foliage of the
wilderness of gigantic trees, and duskily lighting the long streamers of
melancholy moss which greyed their green, the sultry sunlight, slanting
athwart the enormous trunks, and tinting with sullen brilliance the
scarlet, blue and yellow blossoms of parasitical plants which sprinkled
the boles and branches in thick-millioned profusion, glistered on the
muddy shallows of the morass, whose dismal level, broken here and there
by masses of shadow, and huge bulks of fallen timber, stretched far away,
like some abominable tarn of slush and suds, into vistas of horrid gloom.
Here and there, stranded on shoals of mire, or basking on pieces of
floodwood, alligators, great and small, sunned their barky hides; while
from every shallow pool, or wriggling around drifting logs or trunks of
fallen trees, the venomous moccasin-snakes, whose bite is certain death,
lifted their black devilish heads by scores, and made the loathsome marsh
more loathsome with their presence. Over the frightful quagmire brooded
an oppressive stillness, broken only by the mournful and evil whispering
of the trees, or by the faint wriggling plash of the water-serpents.
Thick, sickly odors of plants and flowers, blent with the stench of the
morass, burdened the stagnant air, through whose languid warmth chill
breaths crept from the dank and dense arcades of the forest. Vast,
malignant, desolate and monstrous, loomed in the eyes of the wretched
fugitive, the awful road to Liberty or Death.

His soul shrank from treading it. The fire had faded from his heart,
and in that moment death by his own hand, for he would not be captured,
seemed preferable to the terrors of the fen. Faint, weak, famished, weary
unto agony, his whole body one breathing ache, his spirit all unnerved
with the sense of his past and present misery, and nothing but despair
before him, how could he hope to go on and live. Yet he could not remain
here. Soon the hounds would be on his track—they would cross the bayou
he had swam, and strike his trail. He must plunge still further into the
swamp to distance them, or he must die here by the knife in his hand.

He turned and looked over the bayou far up the lowland to the plantation
a mile away. Suddenly he started, clutching the knife with a firm grasp,
his eyes flashing, his teeth and nostrils set, and his manhood once
again flooding his heart with fire. Figures near the mansion—figures on
horseback, guns, flashing in the sun, in their hands—one, two, three,
four, five, six—six mounted horsemen—and, lower down on the lawn, what
are those things running in circles? Hark! Far off a long, harsh, savage,
yelling bay. The hunt is afoot, and the hounds have struck the trail!
Away, Antony, for Liberty or Death!

Eyes flashing, teeth and nostrils set, every nerve and sinew valorously
strung, he turned with a leap, and rushed straight into the morass.
Before the headlong, desperate courage of his charge, the loathsome
tenants of the swamp gave way. Plunging from the floodwood, the
affrighted alligator trundled off, and the startled moccasins slipped and
writhed from his path at the noise of his coming. Hark, again! Nearer
than before the booming yell of the hounds. Speed, Antony! It is the
Sabbath of the Lord our God, and we hunt you down. What man shall there
be among us that shall have one slave, and if it fly into the morass on
the Sabbath day, shall he not set hounds upon it and hunt it down? Speed
on, dark chattel! The good Christians of St. Landry and Avoyelles are
spurring hard upon your trail, and in the land over which the memory of
Christ stretches like the sky, well-doing such as theirs is lawful on the
Sabbath as on every other day!

Splashing and swashing on over the slushy surface of the quagmire, now
sinking no deeper than the soles of his shoes, now plashing up to his
shins, now to his knees, now nearly to his thighs, now bounding upon logs
and fallen trunks, or rushing over masses of brushwood and briers, which
switched and stung his ankles, he could still hear, at brief intervals,
the savage yowling of the hounds. As yet there was no safety, for the
dogs could still scent his trail, here and there, on the shoals of mire
or clumps of bog over which he had passed. His hope was in reaching
deeper water, or arriving at some broad bayou which would effectually
impede their course. Goaded by his imminent peril, for he soon heard
the long yells much nearer, and knew that the cruel brutes were rapidly
gaining on him—he floundered frantically on, his heart leaping in his
throat at every howl, and the sweat gathering in cold drops on his face.
Soon, to his great joy, the foul lagoons began to deepen, the water
reaching more uniformly above his knees, and at length he came upon a
space through which he floundered for more than half an hour, sinking to
his thighs at every plunge, and knew by the confused and lessening clamor
of the dogs, that he was leaving them. He did not slacken his pace,
though the depth of the water made it still more difficult to travel,
till at last he entered a horrid grove of gloom, where the pyramidal
clumps from which shot up the straight, dark pillars of the cypresses,
were submerged in the inky flood, and sinking above his hips, he was
forced to move more slowly. Fiercely plunging on through the cold black
tarn, over a soft bottom of leaves and moss, which sank loathsomely
beneath his tread, like a subfluvial field of sponge, he heard again
the harsh yells of the dogs, and they now seemed nearer than before.
He strove, but vainly, to move on faster, and his fancy ran riot as he
thought of the hounds slopping on through the fen, and coming into sight
of him. Already, in his delirious fancy, he heard the wild and savage
yowls of that moment, and the exulting halloos of his pursuers. The
dogs would leap into the shallow ponds—they would swim faster than he
could wade—he would hear their savage panting close behind him—he would
turn and feel them flop upon him, and their sharp teeth crush into his
flesh—he would strike them with his bowie-knife—he would see the black
water redden with their blood—they would overbear him and drag him down
with yelling, and howling, and frantic splashing and struggling, while
the shouting planters would come riding through the swamp and seize him.
Lashed into frenzy by the anticipated drama, he brandished the knife,
with a hoarse cry, and staggering forward, suddenly sank to his arm-pits.
An instant of alarm, succeeded by wild joy, for the water had deepened,
and striking out, he swam. Clogged by his heavy shoes, now filled with
mud, and soaked to an added weight with water, it was hard swimming; but
his fear and fury gave him superhuman energy, and nerved with unnatural
vigor his weakened thews. He swam for a long time, with the solemn night
of the dense cypress dusking his form and shadowing the tarn. At length
the dreadful twilight of the grove began to lighten, and far beyond he
saw the sunlight illuminating the grey and green of the trees, and the
many colored parasites and flowers, and shining on the mud and water
of the marsh. Presently he struck bottom, and wading again for a long
distance, emerged at length into the sunlight, among the shallows and
mud-shoals, and rushed on as before, till at last, as the sun was near
its setting, he stood on the banks of an unknown river, which, whispering
sullenly past its margin of sedge and water-flowers, moved, with an
imperceptible motion, through the solemn and horrible wilderness of
forest.

He stood gazing across it with a haggard and mournful countenance. The
croak of frogs came faintly from its border, and mingled with the distant
quacking of crowds of mallard ducks from the opposite shore, the vague
hooting of owls in the swamp beyond, and the occasional plunge of an
alligator from the adjacent margin. Dreary and ominous sounds, which
yet hardly disturbed the stagnant stillness around him. The wind had
lulled, and no whisper came from the bearded trees, which stood like
boding shapes on every side. Hope was faint in the heart of the fugitive.
Relieved from the engrossment of the immediate peril, his spirit began to
come under the sole dominion of the brooding horrors around him, and as
he vainly pondered on the dark problem of his deliverance, Death seemed
ever gathering slowly toward him, and Liberty lessening in ever-growing
distance.

Liberty or Death. The historic phrase came to him again like a voice that
urged him forward. He paused only a little longer, to tear a strip from
his coarse shirt and tie the bowie-knife at the back of his neck to the
iron collar. Then tearing another strip, he pulled off his heavy brogans,
shook the mud out of them, and passing the strip through the eyelets, he
also secured them to the collar, one on each shoulder. So accoutred, he
braced himself anew for effort, and taking up a slender sapling from
the ground to beat the pools between him and the bayou—for he now feared
the moccasins—in a few moments he was in the water, steadily swimming
forward, with the sapling held in his teeth.

Gaining the opposite bank, he stopped on a patch of black mire, to put on
his shoes, and then went forward, beating the path before him. Dreadful
apprehensions of the beasts and reptiles which inhabited the swamp,
now crowded on his mind, while to add to his distress, the sunlight in
the forest spaces was stealing rapidly upward from the foliage of the
loftiest trees. Quickening his pace, he staggered on through the haunted
dusk of the tree-trunks, with the hooting of the swamp owls, the quacking
of innumerable ducks, the bellowing and plunging of alligators, the
screeching and screaming of strange, semi-tropic birds, the howling of
distant beasts, and the multitudinous croak of frogs, sounding on every
side around him.

He broke into a heavy run, came at length to a thinner part of the
forest, and presently emerged upon a vast open space of quagmire,
stretching two or three miles away, with scattered trees standing and
leaning in all directions in its broad expanse. Here he paused.

The sun had sunk behind the distant forest, tinging the misty sky far up
the zenith with lowering red, and suddenly, as by some fell enchantment,
the swamp had become a sullen slough of blood. Shadows of inky blackness
stretched athwart the red expanse, and the distorted trees that crossed
and intercrossed each other here and there, were giant eldritch shapes
of unimaginable things. Lank and hairy—all askew and bristling—clothed
as with fearful rags—with monstrous heads ahunch in unnatural places,
and shaggy jags of drooping beards, and dusky arms grotesquely forked
and twisted, and huge lengths of gaunt body that abruptly splayed and
sprawled in malformed feet—they loomed from the fen of murky gore against
the angry color of the sky, like some black congress of ambiguous mongrel
wizards whose spell was on the scene. All around beneath them, protruding
from the red lagoons, huge butts of logs, gnarled stumps, and black
knees of cypress, squatted and crouched like water-fiends. Through
the dusky air, laden with the damp smell of the swamp, frightful brown
bats whirled clacking to and fro in the red light like lesser demons on
the wing. From every side came hootings and croakings, screechings and
wailings, howlings and bellowings and sullen plunges, like the riotous
clamor of devils at some tremendous incantation. A sense of supernatural
horror pervaded all, and weighed upon the appalled heart of the trembling
fugitive.

He hesitated a few moments whether to cross this dreary expanse, or
strike off into the denser forest, but decided to go forward. Whipping a
pool before him which did not move, he was just setting his foot in it,
when the venomous face of a moccasin rose at him with a dark slapping
flash. He sprang back simultaneously, and saw the monster vanish, feeling
at the same time a sharp pang just above his ankle. He was bitten! All
was over!

Stooping slowly, with a wild terror shuddering through his veins, he
looked at the wounded limb. But no, there was no bite. The snake had
missed him. In his backward leap, he had struck his leg against the
upturned spike of a broken branch which lay behind him. The revulsion in
his spirit at this discovery was so great that he broke into a quaver of
hysterical laughter, which echoed dismally through the swamp, and woke
such an answering chorus of demoniacal hooting and screeching in the
adjacent boughs, that he was affrighted, and turning away from the open
space, he was about to rush into the forest on his flank, when he saw
with a leap of heart, two round glistening balls in the dark foliage of a
tree a few yards before him, and something long and dark crouching along
the bough. It was a panther! He wheeled at once with a bound, and fled
headlong into the red morass.

Recovering presently from his shock of alarm, he trudged along through
the inky water, quivering at every step lest he should feel the sting
of the moccasin, or the crunching gripe of the alligator. It was a long
journey across the open fen. The red light had faded from sky and water,
and the full moon, which had lain like a pallid shell in the heavens
when he left the forest behind him, had deepened into a lustrous orb of
silver, and glistened on the gray water, as he approached the solid sable
gloom of the thick-wooded wilderness.

An awful fancy had haunted his mind during his journey across the open
fen—quiet, but very awful. A strange man, with a single dog, had followed
him, at a considerable distance the whole way. A strange man, silent,
with a silent dog, and plodding just at that distance, without coming,
or trying to come, any nearer him. He knew that this was so, though he
did not dare to turn his head to see if it was so. He knew too just how
the man looked—a dark figure with a dark slouched hat, and the dog, also
dark, by his side, just a little behind him. Oh, God!

The fancy fell from him as he came under the black trees again.
Staggering on through thick darkness, broken only here and there by an
uncertain glimmer or a pale ray of moonlight, or the blue flicker of a
dancing and vanishing fen-light, he found the water still ankle or knee
deep, and the walking difficult and dangerous, with logs and fallen trees
and stumps and masses of bushes and briers, and with the deadly tenants
of the pools. The fen seemed alive with the latter, and all about him,
and in the branches overhead, there were such plungings and crashings,
and such a clamor of flutterings and hootings and screechings, that his
blood ran cold. He held his course, however, hoping to come upon some
dry spot in the great swamp where he could stop and consider what to do
to escape from this dreadful region. Rest he must have soon, for his
body was giving way with hunger and fatigue. He was drenched from head
to foot, and spite of the exertion of walking, he shivered with cold.
His vitals were weak and aching for want of food; his head was light
with sleeplessness; and insane fancies ran riot in his terror-goaded and
horror-laden mind. One was that his legs, which felt numb and seemed
heavier every time he lifted them, were slowly changing to iron, and that
he would soon be unable to raise them for their weight, and would be
obliged to stand there in the quagmire. Then in the glimmering darkness
the moccasins would rise from the pools and surround him in a circle.
They would gather in from all the swamp around, and pile on top of each
other, till they made a high, high writhing wall about him of devilish
serpent faces, swaying and bristling, and above them in the branches all
the panthers would gather, savagely grinning at him, and every one would
have the visage of Lafitte. Then all at once the writhing wall of snakes
would sway forward, and strike him with a million fangs, and rebound and
strike again with a regular and even motion, while his body would slowly
swell, and his shrieks would ring in the darkness, and the panthers would
look on with the face of his master, and laugh softly with the smooth
voice of his master. And the writhing wall would dilate and expand till
every snake was vaster than an anaconda, and the mass together would
fall away at every rebound to a horrible distance, and reach up to the
sky, and his body would swell at every million-fanged stroke till its
monstrous bloat filled the dark world, and his shrieks would rise and
resound through space, and the panthers and the tigers would dilate
with the rest, and look on with enormous faces like his master’s, and
their smooth laughter would grow louder and louder into smooth thunders
of laughter, and the bristling and the striking and the swelling and
the shrieking and the roaring mirth, would go on increasing forever and
forever.

“Lord God Almighty help me! I’m going crazy!”

The words burst from him suddenly, as he felt the horrible fancy rush
upon him with dreadful reality, and almost master him. All aghast with
a new terror at the foreign and incongruous effect of his own tones in
that haunted darkness, and amidst the unhuman voices around him, he was
utterly appalled and confounded the next instant at the frightful clamor
which rose with a simultaneous outburst, volleying tumultuously around
him on every side like the multitudinous rush and uproar of devils when
the silence of the magic circle has been broken and the enchanter is
to be torn to pieces. Whooping, hooting, screaming, wailing, yelling,
whirring, flapping, cackling, howling, bellowing and roaring—all rose
together in a long continued and reverberating whirl and brawl, filling
the darkness with a deafening din. Staggering madly forward, the
terrified fugitive broke into a blind and frantic run, feeling as in a
horrible dream, that the pools had changed to ground which was sloping
rapidly up to strike him in the face and stop him; till at last with a
sudden lightening of the darkness, something caught his feet and threw
him headlong, and with an awful sense that he was seized, and with the
hideous tintamar swirling downward like the gurgling roar of water in the
ears of a drowning man, he swooned away.


IV.

Slowly that sluggish sea of swoon gave up its dead, and life revived.
How long he had lain in that blank trance, he knew not. He felt that he
was lying on bare, damp ground, and that the moonlight was around him.
The din had sunk into confused and broken noises, sounding and echoing
distantly through the darker depths of the moonlit forest, and the air
around him was desolate and still. A clear, cold, remote stillness
filled his mind. Gradually a dim sense of the former terror, mixed with
consciousness of all he had passed through, and of the place he was in,
began to invade the silent vacancy, and crept upon him as from afar.
Shuddering slightly, with icy thrills crawling through his torpid blood,
he slowly raised himself to his knees, and looked around him. With a
vague relief, which was almost pleasure, he saw that he was kneeling
on dry ground—a low acclivity sloping from the morass, clothed with
giant trees, and barred with large spaces of grey moonlight and sable
shadow. Behind him was the tough cordage of a ground-vine, in which his
foot was still entangled. Disengaging the limb without rising from his
knees, he continued to gaze, gradually yielding to an overwhelming sense
of awe, as he took in more fully the dark and dreadful magnificence of
the forest which loomed before him, like the interior of some infernal
cathedral. Far away, through immense irregular vistas, diminishing in
interminable perspective, the ground stretched in vast mosaics of sable
and silver, bunched and ridged with low flowers and herbage and running
vines, all moveless and colorless in the rich pallor of the moonlight,
and in the solemn shadow, as though wrought in stone. Upborne on the
enormous clustered columns of the trees, every trunk rising sheer like
a massive shaft of rough ebony, darkly shining, and fretted and starred
with the gleaming leaves and flowers of parasitical vines—masses of
gloomy frondage, touched here and there with sullen glory, spread aloft
and interwove like the groined concave of some tremendous gothic roof,
while from the leaf-embossed and splendor-dappled arches, the long mosses
drooped heavily, like black innumerable banners, above the giant aisles.
The air was dank and chill, and laden with thick and stagnant odors
from the night-blowing flowers. Fire-flies flitted and glimmered with
crimson and emerald flames; fen-lights flickered and quivered bluely down
the arcades in the morass; and all around from the bordering quagmire,
and from the crypts and vaults of the shadows, the demon-voices of the
region, sounding from above and below, and rapidly swelling into full
choir, chanted in discordant chorus. Listening to their subterranean and
aërial stridor, which rose in wild accordance with the ghastly pomp,
the horrible and sombre grandeur of the scene, a dark imagination might
have dreamed that some hellish mass in celebration of the monstrous
crime against mankind which centered in this region, was pealing through
the vaulted aisles and arches of a church whose bishop was the enemy
of human souls. Here, to this dread cathedral, might gather in his
wide and wicked diocese—the millions callous to the woes and wrongs of
slaves—the myriads careless of all ills their fellows suffer, while their
own selfish strivings prosper, and wealth and sensual comforts thrive
around them. Peopling the vast and drear nocturnal solitudes, under the
moonlit arches, here they might come, while the screaming, hooting,
bellowing chant resounded, and kneel, a motley and innumerable concourse
of base powers, in fell communion. Statesmen who hold the great object of
government to be the protection of property in man, and wield the mighty
engine of the state for the oppression of the weak; placemen who suck on
office, deaf and blind to the interests of the poor; scurvy politicians,
intent on pelf and power, who plot and scheme for tyranny, and legislate
away the inalienable rights of men; Jesuit jurists, mocking at natural
law, who decree that black men have no rights that white men are bound to
respect; scholars, bastard to the blood of the learned and the brave, who
prate with learned ignorance of manifest destiny and inferior races, to
justify against all human instincts the cruel practice of the oppressor;
hide-bound priests, who would turn the hunted fugitive from their doors,
or consent that their brothers should go into slavery to save the Union;
traders and slavers, an innumerable throng, mad-ravening with never-sated
avarice, and furious against liberty and justice as lesseners of their
gains; these, and their rabblement of catch-poles, and jail-birds, and
kidnappers, and men-hunters, and slave-law commissioners—here they might
assemble to pray that their conspiracy against mankind might prosper, and
love and reverence for the soul die down in darkness, and man degrade
into the brute and fiend. Fit place and time, and fit surroundings for
such rites as these; fitter far than for the trembling murmurs of a
solitary slave, kneeling in the dreary moonlight, and pouring out the
forlorn agony of his spirit in prayer to the God of the poor.

Some dim association of the aspect of the forest with the cathedrals
he had seen many years before when he was a slave in New Orleans; some
dim sense that he was on his knees in the attitude of supplication,
had mixed with the overwhelming consciousness of his helplessness, his
wretchedness, and his danger, and impelled him to pray. Fervently,
in uncouth words and broken tones, he poured forth the mournful and
despairing litany of a soul haunted with horror, encompassed with perils,
and yearning for deliverance. The demoniac clamor of the forest rose
louder and louder as he went on, breaking his communion with God, till
at length, appalled by the unhallowed din, he ceased, and rising to his
feet, uncomforted and terrified, staggered weakly on his way.

He was very feeble now, and his strength was so nearly gone that he
tottered. His setting forward again was a mere mechanical action, but
it continued for some minutes before the dull thought came to him that
his movement was useless. In his agonizing desire for sleep, he tried to
climb a tree, where, lodged in a fork of the branches, he thought he
would be safer and more comfortable than on the ground; but even with the
advantage of the parasitical vine which covered its trunk, his strength
was not equal to the effort. He was in the last stages of exhaustion.

Sitting upon the ground, he resolved to keep awake till morning, when
there would be less danger of wild beasts, and he might dare to repose.
He sat for a long time shuddering with cold, and watching intently all
about him, lest some panther should spring upon him unawares. Once or
twice, with a start of terror, he caught himself nodding; and at length,
affrighted at the possible consequences of his dropping off into slumber,
he strove to occupy his mind by observing minutely the various details
of the scene before him. He had been busy at this for some time, when
he became suddenly and quietly perplexed with the feeling that there
was something he ought to take notice of, but was unable to remember or
define what it was. All the while he was vacantly gazing at the hole of a
gigantic cypress rising from a dense clump of dwarf palmettoes, slightly
silvered by a faint ray of moonlight, and from time to time he saw,
without receiving any impression therefrom, a dim vapor glide athwart the
palmetto leaves. Suddenly but quietly it came to him that what he ought
to have noticed was a peculiar odor, and startled a little, he strove to
shake the torpor from his mind, and think. What could it be? As suddenly
and quietly as before it came to him, and at the same moment his eye took
in the meaning of that curious mist gliding over the palmettoes. It was
the smell of smoke, and yonder was its source. Thoroughly roused now,
and vaguely alarmed, he scrambled up on his feet, with a little strength
returning to his body, and gazed in stupefaction at the misty ringlets
lazily stealing across the leaves. It certainly was smoke; he smelled
now very distinctly the dry scent of burning wood. Who could have a fire
in the heart of the swamp at this time of night? At first, superstitious
fancies rose in his mind, for the thought that any person could be here
with him was inconceivable. But gradually recovering self-possession, he
resolved, for he was naturally courageous, to go forward and solve the
mystery; and taking the knife from the back of his neck, he cautiously
approached the palmettoes, his blood thrilling, and his heart beating,
and all the forest resonant around him. Peering through the leaves, he
saw with amazement a pile of smouldering embers duskily glimmering in
front of a large hole in the trunk. The tree was hollow. A sort of fright
fell upon him, and he retreated; but recovering instantly, he again
advanced, and nerved to desperation, spoke in a voice faint both from
weakness and trepidation:

“Ho, there! Ho, you in there! You there, whoever you are!”

There was no answer, nor movement, but at the sound of his voice, a
tremendous uproar burst forth again in the forest. Desperate at this, he
again spoke in a louder tone:

“Ho, now, you in there! You just say who you are. I’m coming in now!”

No answer, but the uproar in the branches and from the swamp increased
like a tempest. Strung up now to his highest pitch, Antony clutched his
knife, and setting his teeth hard, plunged in through the hole.

It was densely dark within. The immense cypress was completely hollow,
as he could feel, for stretching out his arms he encountered nothing. He
began to grope about, but stopped suddenly, thinking it better to get a
light. Quite overcome by the strangeness of his discovery, and by the
novel circumstance of a fire being found smouldering before an empty
tree, he stooped down through the low entrance to the brands, and blowing
upon one till it flamed, withdrew himself again into the tree, and looked
around. Suddenly, with a hoarse gasp of horror, he tottered back, falling
from his squatting posture over upon the ground, and dropping the brand,
which at once went out, leaving him in utter darkness. In that instant
he had caught a glimpse, by the fitful flame, of a lank figure, duskily
clothed, lying on its back, with a mop of thick white hair, a leathern
face hideously grinning, and glassy eyes which had met his; and he felt
like one who had entered the lair of a fiend.

So paralyzed was he with affright, that instead of scrambling out of
the tree, he sat motionless, leaning back on his hands, with his blood
curdling, and cold thrills crawling under his hair. A wild fancy that
he would be instantly sprung upon by this thing, held him still and
breathless. But all remained silent and moveless, and at last, venturing
to stir, he got up on one knee, and pressed his hands on his heart to
stop its mad beating. By degrees his courage came back to him, or, at
least, his dreadful fear became blended with desperation. Then came wild
wonder at the horrible strangeness of that figure, and slowly this melted
into a savage and frenzied curiosity. Seizing the smoking brand from the
earth, he backed out through the hole (for he absolutely did not dare to
turn his back to the dread tenant of the cavern), and, once outside, blew
upon the stick till it reflamed. Waiting a moment till the light burned
strongly, he thrust it through the hole, and holding it above his head,
glared with starting eyes upon the face of the figure.

He saw in a moment that it was nothing unearthly—only the form of an
aged woman, and of his own race. Instantly it struck him that she was
a fugitive, probably a dweller in the swamp. Reëntering the tree, he
approached and held the blazing brand over her countenance. With a
terrible sensation of awe he saw that it was the countenance of the
dead. She lay on a couch of the forest moss, her gaunt figure decently
composed, with the hands crossed, as if she had known that she was dying.
She was apparently very old; the woolly hair was white; the black face
was deeply wrinkled, and much emaciated; the mouth was open, and had
fallen back, showing the white teeth, which were perfectly sound as
in her youth; and the glassy eyes were unclosed and fixed aslant with
that look which had so terrified the fugitive. He felt no terror now,
however, only awe; for with the discovery of the truth, the hideousness
of the face was gone. Bending down, he touched the cheek. It was still
tepid—almost warm; the life had not been long extinct, a fact of which
the smouldering brands of the fire she had kindled was another evidence.
Poring upon the features, a confused feeling gathered in his mind that
he had seen them before, and he strove to resolve it into certainty.
Suddenly, as the flickering of the burning brand he held brought out a
new expression on the dark, withered lineaments, it flashed upon him that
this was old Nancy. She had been a slave on Mellott’s plantation, near
Lafitte’s, and had disappeared five or six years before, after a terrible
whipping. They had hunted the swamp for her without avail, and it was
supposed that she had perished. Here she had lived, however, and here she
was now, all her earthly troubles over.

Turning away from the body in wild wonderment, the fugitive looked
around him. The space within the tree must have been at least six feet
in diameter. It had been hollowed out by time in the form of an upright
cone, the apex of which was at least a dozen feet above the ground.
The hole had probably been eaten out by a sort of dry rot, or perhaps
by insects, for the wooden walls were not damp, nor was the corrugated
floor. The only furniture was the couch of Spanish moss on which the body
lay, a block of wood fashioned for a seat out of the butt end of a log,
and a long paddle, bladed at both ends, which leaned upright against
the wall. Looking around further, Antony noticed some little niches cut
in the walls, with the handle of a hatchet sticking out of one of them.
On the blade was a parcel wrapped in cotton cloth, in which he found
three or four corn-cob pipes, a bundle of dried tobacco-leaf, bunches of
matches, and two or three knick-knacks of no great use. Evidently Nancy
had made occasional excursions from her hiding-place, for these things
must all have been borrowed from the race of the taskmasters. This was
still more evident as Antony pursued his observations. In another niche,
he found at least half a peck of corn done up in a cloth, and in a wooden
quart measure there was some more, parched. His hunger rose so suddenly
and fiercely at sight of the food that he at once crammed a handful
of the parched corn into his mouth, and with the measure in his hand,
continued to crunch, although his throat was so swollen with his long
fast that he could scarcely swallow. Continuing his search while he ate,
he found in a third niche an oblong tin pan and a gourd, but in the pan,
to his astonishment and delight, there was a dead opossum and a small
fish. They were both fresh—Nancy must have captured them that very day.
She had lived a woodman’s life in the heart of the morass, setting her
fishtraps on the bayou, and catching the smaller animals in the forest.
Forgetting to pursue his search further in the desire to appease his
ravening hunger, Antony only paused to lay one of the pieces of cotton
cloth over the face of the dead, and then set to work to rake the fire
into a bed of coals, and hastily dressing the meat with his bowie-knife,
broiled it, and ate with the eager voracity of a man half starved.

A mad repast, not given to appetite, but famine, and void of all
enjoyment. Not himself, but his hunger as a thing apart from himself,
was fed by those gross gobbets. Kneeling before the embers, in the dusky
glimmer, he hurried down the half-cooked food, tasting of smoke and
cinders, as to some wild wolf that gnawed his vitals. In the darkness
behind him lay the swart corpse, and the thought of it was a quiet horror
in his mind. Blent with that horror, and with his raging famine, was a
dull, stupefied sense of the chafe of the collar on his neck, the swollen
pains and weakness of his limbs, the steady suck of the sleeplessness in
his jaded brain, the tepid clinging of his wet clothes, the filthy smell
of the muck and slime that covered him, and all was mixed confusedly
with a dimmer apprehension of the smoky warmth of the cavern, the sullen
smoulder of the embers, and the resonance of the vast drear forest.

His meal ended, he still knelt in the murk contraction of all his
sensations and apprehensions, before the dull fire. The fierce gnawing at
his stomach had changed to an uneasy distention, as if something huge and
bloated lay dead within him. His horror of the corpse had grown stronger
even than the heavy weariness and frowsy misery of body and spirit,
and he now begun to consider what he should do with it. It ought to be
buried, he felt, but in his utter torpor of fatigue, he shrunk from the
labor of making it a grave.

Slowly his inertia yielded, and he set to work with the hatchet, chopping
out a burial-place in an oblong space near the tree between the
palmettoes, and scooping up the soft soil with his hands. It was a long
and painful task for his weak and sore body; but at length it was ended,
and bringing out the corpse, he laid it in the cavity, heaped the earth
over it, and left it to its rest.

The forest was still resounding with the unhuman noises when he entered
the cypress hollow again. He heard them dully, with torpid indifference.
The tree seemed strangely empty to him now. He sat for a moment on the
block, watching, with an utter prostration of heart, the dusky glimmer
faintly lighting the smoky gloom. Rising presently, he arranged the
embers so that they would outlast the night to keep away the wild beasts;
and then throwing himself upon the heap of moss where the corpse had
lain, he sank away in a dead slumber. Soon the hooting and flapping, the
screaming and the howling sunk away also, and the vast forest lay still
and weird and desolate in the pallor of the moon.


V.

He woke with the feeling that he had dropped off and slept a minute, but
at the same instant gazing with stiff and smarting eyes through the brown
dusk of the hollow, he was confused at seeing the palmetto leaves at the
entrance plainly visible, and of a deep, cool green. He knew now that
it was broad day, and that he had slept long. Raising himself suddenly,
a mass of cramping stitches wrenched his frame, and made him gasp with
pain. He remained for a minute supporting himself on his hands, and then
slowly and painfully arose. Refreshed in mind by his slumber, he was even
worse off in body than when he had lain down. His limbs were stiff, and
every joint and muscle ached. His wrists and ankles were much swollen
where the ropes of the bucking had cut them. He felt as if he had been
switched all over with nettles, from the stings and scratches of the
thorns and briers through which he had travelled. His face pained him
especially, the atoms of glass still smarting in the cuts, and all its
wounds and bruises sore and burning. Worse than all to his sense at that
moment were the weight and chafe of the accursed collar. His flesh was
raw with it. It hurt him so much that almost the first thing he did was
to tie one of the pieces of cotton cloth around his neck for the edge of
the iron to rest on. Relieved somewhat by this, he began to limp to and
fro, gasping and panting at every step with pain.

After a few minutes of this exercise, he felt a little easier, and
stopped walking to examine the paddle. It convinced him that Nancy must
have a boat somewhere, and the pilfered articles he had found in the
hollow confirmed his belief. To get away from the swamp was his fixed
purpose, and in that land of streams, if he could only find Nancy’s boat,
he might avoid the loathsome and dangerous journey across the morass.

Nancy’s boat, he thought, must be a periagua, and the question was,
where did she keep it. Crawling out of the tree to commence a search
for it, he saw it right at the base of the trunk under the palmettoes.
But Nancy’s periagua was a canoe! A canoe of buffalo hide on a frame of
slender wattles. Had she purloined it from the Indians in the Pine Woods
of Avoyelles, and had it been a present to them from some visiting tribe
from Texas or the Indian Territory? For all the boats Antony had ever
seen among them were periaguas. At all events here it was, and elated
with its discovery, the fugitive instantly brought forth the paddle, the
hatchet, the bowie-knife, the corn, the tin pan, and the matches, and
placed them in it. Going in again to see if there was anything else that
might serve him in his flight, he saw an end of dyed cotton cloth hanging
out from the couch of moss. With a pull out it came—an old blue cotton
gown. Turning over the moss, he uncovered an old blue flannel shirt, an
old pair of grey trowsers, a jean jacket torn up the back, a slipper and
one stocking. Rejoiced that Nancy’s purloinings had furnished him with a
change of clothes, he put the gown, shirt and trowsers into the canoe,
and lifting the latter, plunged out through the palmettoes into the
forest.

A thrill of alarm shot through him as he saw by the sunlight that it
was late in the afternoon. So accustomed had he been in the enforced
habits of plantation life to rise at daybreak, that on waking in the
hollow he naturally thought he had awakened at the usual morning hour.
He shuddered now with the consciousness that so much time had been lost,
when the dogs, guided by some professional expert at man-hunting, might
be coming straight toward him. That Lafitte would, in his burning lust
for vengeance, hunt the swamp for weeks to find him, he had no doubt, and
he must at once speed away.

He stood for a moment debating which direction to take, when looking down
he happened to see a spot where the earth had been harrowed by the claws
of some wild beast, and upon the scratches was the distinct imprint of
a naked foot. It came to him at once that this was a footmark Nancy had
made going up from the water, and he at once resolved to pursue a track,
in a bee-line from the heel of the print. Limping along painfully with
the canoe on his shoulders and cautiously, for by the sudden slipping
and rustling in the grass and herbage he knew that snakes were around
him, suddenly his heart and blood jumped, and he sprang backward with a
leap that shot a flood of wrenching pangs through his whole frame. He
had nearly stepped upon a rattlesnake which lay in a faint glimmer of
sunshine on a strip of thinly tufted earth. The sluggish reptile quivered
slightly throughout its mottled length, and lifting its head with venom
in its sparkling eyes and devilish yawning jaws, sounded its rattle and
swiftly slid from view. Antony shuddered, and the old dark fancy that he
was in Hell flickered through his mind. Trembling in spite of himself at
every buzzard that flew from his path, or small animal that crossed it,
and feeling that everything was watching him, and that the multitudinous
chatter of the birds that filled the forest was concerning him, he went
on his way. Soon he came to the pools, and beating the moccasins from his
path, arrived at a shoal of black mire, and a narrow bayou. A fallen tree
lay with its branches dipped in the stream, half way across; a rotten log
floated in the water; stumps and snags projected here and there; waifs
of moss, slivers of branches, broken boughs, leaves, flowers, and bits of
forest debris floated idly on the shining surface or among the shadows.

Hurriedly casting off his foul rags, the fugitive washed himself with the
old gown, and put on the shirt and trowsers. Then laying the canoe on the
water, where it lightly danced, he cautiously got in, grasped the paddle
in the middle, and plying the blades first on one side and then on the
other, shot slowly off with a beating heart up the dull stream.

Heading northward, the brown skiff yawed from right to left, and darted
with an uncertain forward motion, trembling beneath him like a living
thing that shared his agitation. Black banks of mud, pierced here and
there with alligator holes, swamp grass, and pools, and luxuriant clumps
and masses of strange many-colored flowering verdure, fallen trees and
trees leaning to their fall, and trees uptowering in leafy pride, and the
vine-enwreathed and flower-gemmed wilderness of massive trunks uplifting
their vast moss-bearded and leaf-laden branches, spread and loomed in
solemn and splendid confusion on either side as the boat lightly darted
on its sinuous course. Alligators swam through the bayou, or plunged from
floodwood, or raised themselves with brutal bellowings on the margin as
it glided on. Cranes and bitterns fled away from the banks squawking and
screaming; strange birds of gorgeous plumage flew rustling through the
branches; scarlet-gilled black buzzards rose and soared with broad and
steady wing; myriads of ducks and water-fowl of many kinds flapped and
swam away continually before it. Paddled steadily forward, now on one
side, now on the other, on sped the brown canoe, while the shadows grew
inkier on the sombre water, and again under the red reflection of the
sky, the dull bayou became a stream of blood.

Awed by the solemn desolation of the scene, the gloomy color of the
water, the gathering darkness of the wooded fen, the motions and the
voices all around; troubled at the thought of the long and perilous
distance that stretched between him and his far bourn of safety; yet
with a fearful joy and a sustaining hope within, the fugitive oared his
swift darting skiff at length into the river he had swam last the day
before. The red glow had died from sky and water, and the moon silvered
greyly the stream as he paddled on between the black forest on either
side. Heading his prow to the east, and plying his paddle vigorously, he
flew lightly up the stream. Voices of bird and beast called and answered
weirdly in the darkness of the black shores; trees towered and leaned in
ambiguous sable shapes over the dusky stream, and watched him as he shot
swiftly by; the solemn sky spread far above him like a doubtful thought,
half-boding, yet clearing slowly into deep-withdrawn tranquillity, in
the increasing lustre of the tawny moon. Overarched and palisaded by the
phantom sentience of the hour, his dark skiff, gliding and darting with
light tremors and waverings still held its way like a dumb intelligence
over the mysterious water.

Hours went on, and save the scattered hooting and screeching of owls in
the forest, and the occasional clacking of some vagrant bat whirling by,
the moonlit night was still. Only once the fugitive oared his canoe in
to the shore, where on a low projecting bluff under a great tree, he lit
a small fire, and hastily parching some corn in the pan, ate a hurried
meal. Then slaking the fire, he entered the canoe again, and paddled on.

An hour or two later he turned the skiff into a narrow bayou which
debouched into the stream, thus changing his course to the north. His
object was to gain the Red River, where he hoped to smuggle himself
on board some steamboat, and getting to New Orleans, escape from the
steamboat, and hide himself in the hold of some northern vessel. It was
his former plan, and he still clung to it with tenacity, bitterly aware
of its hazards and dangers, yet unable to think of a better. The bayou he
was now in was very narrow, hemmed in on either side by the forest and
the fen, and much obstructed by stumps, snags, fallen trees and lodgments
of logs. To steer his course through these in the uncertain darkness, for
the branches almost shut out the moonlight, was difficult, and several
times he was obliged to clamber on the fallen timber, and pull the canoe
over, or shove aside the huddled floodwood to clear a passage. But his
efforts brought him at length to a sluggish stream, which he judged to be
the Pacoudrie—the stream he had swam first in his escape the day before,
but at a point several miles below the Lafitte plantation. He was now
approaching dangerous ground, and his heart began to beat faster. Turning
his prow eastward again, he paddled down the stream, looking for another
debouching bayou. He soon came upon one, into which he turned, heading
north, and through which his passage was as dark and impeded as before.
He exerted himself to the utmost, and at last, heated and panting, he
saw that he was leaving the morass, and that the moonlit ground, thinly
scattered over with trees, and thickly covered with verdurous underwood,
was gradually rising on either side of him. The bayou, too, grew deeper
and less impeded, and presently he saw on his left, beyond a cluster of
huge trees, the grain of a plantation, and further up, a mansion with
outbuildings. Who lived there he did not know—he only knew that he was
again in the region of his enemies. Light thrills shot through his heated
blood, and the canoe yawed and trembled beneath him, as if conscious
of danger. Paddling forward, he saw before him in the clear moonlight,
for the trees on either side were thinly scattered now, a huge trunk
fallen sheer across the stream, sloping down obliquely, with its crown
of branches dipping in the water, and barring half the passage. From
the other side, crossing the first trunk, a leafless tree, withered or
blasted, had also fallen, and lay, dipped in the water, half way across,
with its broken boughs sticking upward like jagged spikes or horns.
Steering to the left of these, with the intention of shooting through
the space under the large trunk, he gave three or four vigorous strokes
of the paddle on either side of the skiff. The canoe darted forward,
quivering with the impetus of the strokes—stopped suddenly with a tearing
and griding shock, and yawed around, with the water welling up swiftly
through its bottom. Antony, who was kneeling on one knee, had just time
to spring up, catch at the trunk before him, and lift himself up on it.
When he turned, the rim of the canoe was settling in the water. It had
struck one of the jagged spikes just below the surface, which had ripped
its bottom, and it had gone down forever.

Sitting on the tree, stupefied at this unexpected accident, Antony
watched the circling ripples on the moonlit water where his boat had
sunk, and thought with bitter regret that he was now without a single
weapon to fight his way against any opposing white man, or to end his own
existence, should the odds be against him. His hatchet had sunk with the
boat, and his knife also. With a fierce imprecation, he rose, ran up the
trunk, sprang ashore, and pausing only to wrench off a branch, and strip
it of its leaves for a club to defend himself, rushed on through the
underwood.

Heading to the northeast, he gained the plantation, and running over
rows of corn and springing cotton-plant, pale in the paling moon, he
struck upon a fenced road lying between the plantation, with another road
diverging from it in the course he was travelling. Into the latter he
turned, but afraid to take the open path, he kept within the fences and
hedges skirting its side, ready if he saw anybody in the distance to hide
in the rows, or if anybody came upon him, to fight till he was killed.

Rushing on, haggard with apprehension and desperate resolution, with
his teeth set, his large nostrils dilated, and his glaring eyes roving
warily about him, he came to a plantation divided from the one he was on
by a hedge of the osage-orange, and with a similar hedge skirting the
road. To break through this would be difficult, so he took the road and
ran on, with the fresh wind of the coming morning blowing upon him, and
increasing his fear with the thought of the new dangers the daybreak
would bring. It was a large plantation, and it took him some time to
arrive at its terminus, at which a road diverged from the one on which
he was journeying. He reached this road, and there, clad in shabby light
clothes, and coming down the path, not three yards distant from him, was
a man!

Antony swung up his club, and stood with opened nostrils and glaring
eyes, his black face alive with fierce courage. The man halted, and
looked at him with a sullen scowl. In the blank pause all life seemed to
have died from the air, and the moon lay faded in a vacant, sky, ghast
and grey in the pale light of the morning. The man was a large, gaunt
fellow, with a harsh and sallow taciturn face, but to the dark, half
demented fancy of the fugitive, he dimly seemed a devil, and the place
was still vaguely Hell.

“See here, nigger,” he said, in a stern, strident voice, “yer a runaway.
There’s their name as owns yer on yer collar, and I know Lafitte
Brothers, New Orleans, want yer. I’m goin’ down in the first boat, and
yer comin’ with me, right away, and no fuss. What yo’ say, nigger?”

He drew a revolver from his breast, and held it idly, watching the
fugitive with a scowl. Sense flickered through the mind of Antony. Here
was a chance to get safely down the river—beyond, a chance to give his
captor the slip when he reached the city. He flung his club away.

“I’ll go with ye, Marster,” he said, sullenly.

The man put up his pistol.

“What’s yer name, boy?” he asked.

“Bill, Marster.”

“Bill, eh? You’re the Fugitive Slave Bill, I suppose,” said the man, with
a dull grin.

“Yes, Marster.”

“Well, Bill, I collect bills for a livin’, and I reckon I’ve collected
you, Bill. Hope I’ll collect something on yer, too. Come along.”

Antony followed him. Not a word further was said on either side.
Meanwhile, around them the pallor of the sky lightened into daybreak;
horns sounded over the plantations; the black gangs were coming forth
into the fields on every side; the birds darted and sang; the fragrant
wind blew freshly from the east, and the life of day began anew.

Weary, and sore, and aching, with insane fancies flitting through the
horrible lethargy which was creeping on his mind, Antony followed his
taciturn captor, and just as the rising sun shot a low, broad splendor
over the landscape, they came to a solitary landing-place, with a shanty
and a wood-pile, on the border of the wide, gleaming river.

It was all a dim, dread dream. In it came a huge monster, puffing, and
snorting, and clanking, vomiting clouds of black smoke, and lifting
and washing back the drifting trees and logs and refuse on the shining
surge. Then a dream of hurry and tumult, a great heaving mass, a swarm of
people, an air blind with light and heavy with smoke, a roar of voices
laughing, and talking, and hallooing, the clanging of a bell, piles of
cotton and goods of all sorts, the clank of engines, the wallowing of
water, ponderous snorting, and heaving, and surging, all mixed together
in inextricable confusion, and he who dreamed it vaguely knew that he was
sitting, like one drugged, on a heaving deck, with heaps of merchandise
around him. Gradually he sank away into a still heavier lethargy, in
which everything became even more dim and distant, and from thence he
slid into a blank and stupid sleep.

Once again the dream seemed to swim heavily into that death-like
slumber—a vague, spectral dream, in which some one gave him a hunch of
corn bread, which he ate slowly in a glimmering light, remotely conscious
of a dark figure standing near, of distant voices, a far-off snorting and
clanking, a shuddering motion beneath him, and formless bulks around him.
Presently it drowsily dissolved into darkness and silence.

Like one who dreams of awaking, he awoke again, and stupidly strove to
remember where he was and what had befallen him. In the dull gleam of a
hanging lantern, he saw masses of bales and boxes, casks and furniture,
and miscellaneous merchandise, lying in murky gloom. A few dark, uncouth
forms of sleeping men, heavily breathing, were strewn about in various
grotesque attitudes on the piles of cotton. In the stillness, he heard
the regular snort and clank of the engine, the rushing of the water, and
felt with a dull giddiness the floor rocking and swaying in long, regular
undulations.

Somehow, a minute afterward, he found himself out on the edge of the
deck, sick and dizzy, steadying himself against a heap of bales, and
looking out on a broad, dim river, rolling in mighty, languid surges
under a large, low, yellow moon. Logs and trees and masses of chaff
and refuse lifted blackly in the tawny light on the long swells. All
around the water fled by, churned into a mill-race of seething froth and
foam. Beyond was a huge steamboat; black smoke trailing from its double
funnels; fire flaring from them and from its escape-pipes; balls of light
gleaming from hanging lanterns here and there; light streaming out from
the rows of oblong windows, and from every hole and cranny; the strong
current beaten up into a flood of foam beneath its wheel; and the darks
and lights of an inverted phantom steamboat hung below it in the water.
Far away were low, black shores, with here and there a gaunt spectral
tree, and dull lights glimmering. He was on the mighty tide of a river
which ran through Hell.

Sick and dizzy, and with a horror on his mind, he staggered back with
the heavy drowse on all his faculties, through the tortuous lane of
cotton-bales, and sinking down on one of them, fell into his former
lethargy.

He did not sleep through the night, but lay in utter torpor, thinking
of nothing, fearing and hoping nothing, only vaguely conscious of where
he was, and of the forms around him. Overstrung for many years with the
unnatural toils of a slave, and still more tensely overstrung with the
terrible labors of his journey through the morass—overstrung both in
body and spirit, as few but slaves ever are—he had sunk back, now that
a season of relaxation had come, into lassitude as excessive as were
the fatigues and agitations of which it was the reaction. Safe for the
present, with no immediate stimulus to urge him into activity, he lay,
body and spirit, as in the sentient sleep of the tomb.

Toward morning he sank away again into a heavy, dreamless slumber. Once
during the day he dreamed that he was aroused by some one whom he did
not recognize, and bidden to come along and get something to eat. In his
dream he tried to shake the stupor from his bleared eyes, which even the
dim light among the bales pained, and to obey. But the drowse was heavy
upon him, and he could only mumble out that he didn’t want to eat, and
the dream instantly dissolved in oblivion. He was left undisturbed, for
his captor was not without pity for him, and saw that he was terribly
fatigued.

But late that night, when midnight was two hours gone, and the moon was
westering palely from the sky, the trump of Liberty or Death sounded
again in the ear of the fugitive, and his spirit arose from its tomb. A
hand shook him, a voice shouted in his ear that they were near the city,
and instantly springing to his feet, with fresh blood leaping through
his veins, with new pulses throbbing in his heart, and all his faculties
awake and alive, and armed with their utmost cunning, their fullest
courage, and their most desperate resolution, he followed his captor
out on deck. The boat was within a mile of the city, which lay beyond
a forest of masts and hulls, and scattered lights hung in the rigging,
or glimmering on the levee, dark and silent, with its roofs and spires
massed against the purple sky, and glittering in the moon. The night was
hot and still, and a heavy languor hung over the great breadth of regular
rolling swells. Ships lay at anchor all about the stream, lifting with
the lifting of the surge, and here and there a flat-boat with lights on
board, and the men plying their long sweeps, lazily steered its way on
the drift between the hulls. Antony watched the scene, with his heart
fiercely beating at the thought of the coming trial.

Meanwhile the boat, with her bell ringing, was slowly clanking and
snorting on through the foaming and brattling flood around her bows and
wheels, and the passengers were pouring forth, men, women and children,
on her decks. The fugitive stood silently by his captor, on the lower
forward deck, amidst the tumult and crowding of the risen multitude,
biding his time. The moment the boat touched the levee he was determined
to quietly slip aside from his companion and lose himself in the crowd.
To this end he stood a little to one side of him, watching his every
movement.

Suddenly the clatter of conversation and the trampling of feet were
stricken still by a wild yell, above which was heard the slow, impassive
snort and clank of the engine, and the brattling wash of the water. Then
burst forth a shrill clamor of cries and screams from the after deck,
followed by a trampling rush which threw all forward, as by a galvanic
shock, into mad confusion; then behind the pouring crowd, suddenly
lightened a red flare, followed by a tremendous volume of black smoke,
and at once, amidst terrific disorder, uprose a dreadful storm of yells
and screams from the horror-stricken multitude. The next instant the
uproar of voices was stifled in a multitudinous choking and gasping, as
the thick, poisonous smoke swept over the decks, and presently up shot a
sheeting burst of clear flame, with shrivelling ringlets of black vapor
writhing and vanishing away in it, lighting the ghastly pallor of the
hundreds of terrified faces, all turned one way, and throwing its lurid
glare on the churning froth and the lifting swells, and on the myriad
masts and spars and rigging of the surrounding vessels, which started
out suddenly in lines and bars of tawny splendor against a background of
gloom.

Even in that awful moment Antony did not lose sight of his captor. With
his whole soul fiercely bent on getting away from him, he saw him start
back and shout with terror. With his eye fixed upon him, he heard the
rapid jabber of a terrified man behind him shrieking out that a lantern
had fallen and broken, setting fire to a pool of turpentine which had
leaked from a barrel on the after deck, and the fire spreading at once
to the barrel, it had burst and flooded the boat with flame. Still
watching him, he heard the screamed order to reverse the engines, and
amidst howls and cries of anguish and despair, and cursing and praying,
and the heavy thump of men and women falling in swoon upon the deck, or
trampling and fighting over each other in their frantic desperation,
while the advancing flame leaped and writhed, crackling and bristling and
roaring furiously on—amidst all the horror and Bedlam confusion of that
minute—for it was but one—standing still, with his eye riveted on his
captor, he heard the ponderous clank, the long wash and wallow, and felt
the boat drift backward to gain the middle of the stream. That instant he
sprang backward, and rushing through the crowd, kicked off his shoes, and
leaped into the river.

He emerged presently from his plunge, amidst a shower of fiery cinders,
with the lifting surges all aglare around him, and struck boldly forward
for the levee, seeing at a glance the burning mass drift behind him,
and all the illuminated ships at the piers and in the stream suddenly
alive with shouting figures. Turning for an instant, and treading water,
he saw the boat clanking backward, with her black funnels rising from
a leaping and coiling mountain of smoke and flame, her passengers all
huddled forward in a dense, shrieking mass, black against the fiery glow,
and figures jumping into the water—which was already dotted with dark,
swimming forms, and looked like a turbulent sea of flame ignited from the
spectre of a burning boat below its surface. Among the swimming figures
there was, perhaps, not one but was his enemy—not one who would not
hale him back to the bondage from which he was struggling away. Turning
again, he swam on, heading against the ponderous current which would
bear him down past the city and out to sea. Boats were putting out in
all directions from ships in the stream, and from the shore, to pick up
the swimmers, many of whom were swimming in front of him, or clinging to
pieces of drift-wood or furniture. To avoid being picked up by any of the
boats was a necessary part of his task, for they, too, were manned by his
enemies. Reaching a large brig anchored in the stream, with a few sailors
standing on the bulwarks and in the rigging, watching the burning vessel,
he resolved to cling to its rudder a few moments to recover breath, and
as he approached it, looking up through the shadow, made luminous by the
wan light of the moon, and the reflected glare of the water, he read on
the stern, in white letters, the words, “SOLIMAN, BOSTON.” His heart
throbbed wildly, and clinging to the rudder under an overhanging boat,
he listened to the talking on the deck above him, and presently heard a
voice say:

“Devilish lucky we weren’t set afire, Jones, and we just ready to sail.”

Just ready to sail! He heard those words with his brain aflame. His
chance had come. Setting his knees to the slippery rudder, he began to
climb. It was hard work, for the helm was coated with sea-slime, but at
length he got his toes upon the slight projection of one of the iron
clamps that bound the wood together, and scrambling upward, laid hold of
the boat swinging astern, and softly clambering in, remained still, and
listened. He had not been discovered. The talking above him was still
going on, and presently he heard the tramp of the two men as they moved
away forward. Raising himself in the boat, he cautiously peered in at the
cabin window. A swinging lamp was burning within, and all was quiet. He
put in his head, looked around him for a moment, and then stealthily got
in. Going to the cabin door, he peered out on the deck. Everybody was at
the bows, standing on the bulwarks and in the rigging in the wild glare,
watching the steamboat, which was now one mass of leaping flame, half a
mile away up the river. Cries and screams and shouts were resounding from
the water in all directions. Looking at the deck, he saw that the hatch
nearest him was open, and nerved to desperation, and almost choking with
excitement, he went lightly forward, his bare feet making no sound, and,
unseen by any one, so intent was the general gaze on the conflagration,
stooped and dropped into the hold.

He fell on a cotton-bale, three or four feet from the top, and lay in the
thick darkness, reeking with sweat, and listening, with a wild jumping
in his throat, for any sound that might tell him his entrance had been
observed. He heard none. The talking went on above him, and it was all
about the burning steamboat. He knew that he must not remain where he
was, for there he could be seen, and in a moment he began to grope for a
hiding-place. He was in a sort of square well, formed by the cotton-bales
around him. Above them was a horizontal space under the deck, and
clambering out of the well, he wormed himself into this, a few feet
forward, and lay, panting and fatigued, hot, wet, hungry and thirsty,
half stifled by the foul and musty air of the hold, and by the smell of
the bilge, but safe for the present.

He lay in a sort of stupor, and gradually heard all sounds die away. For
a little while his mind was filled with strange recollections of the
passions and events of the last hour; then lying prone in the foul and
musty darkness, he lapsed into a sleep haunted with dreams, in which he
was again rushing through the swamp, which somehow changed into rolling
water on which a steamboat was burning, and he was holding up Madame
Lafitte, who suddenly turned and bit him on the hand. Starting up in the
thick darkness, he struck his head against the deck, and then remembering
where he was, lay still. The hatch had been closed. In the darkness
he heard light scampering and squealing, and felt the ship shuddering
beneath him.

He forgot his dream in the wild whirl of emotion with which he became
aware that the vessel was on her way. Presently he felt a sort of
pricking in his hand, and touching the spot, found that it was wet, and,
as he again heard the scampering and squealing, he knew that a rat had
bitten him. Startled a little at the new danger of being set upon by
these vermin, and suspicious of poison, he sucked the wound, resolving
to keep awake now as long as he could. He did not know how long he
had slept, but he could hear the incessant snort, snort, snort, of a
steamboat, with the long unbroken wash of the vessel, and knew that the
brig was in the tow of a steam-tug, and so not yet out of the river.

At length there was a change in the noises. Orders were shouted above,
heavy feet were rushing about, there was a bustle of pulling and hauling,
griding and flapping, thudding of ropes on deck, chanting of sailors,
amidst the receding snort of the steam-tug, and in the darkness, Antony
felt the vessel lean and roll and stagger with a sound of swiftly rushing
water, and knew that she was standing out to sea.

Who’ll send me back after all I’ve gone through? Who’ll be mean enough
to do it? That was his constant thought now, and it came in those words
to his mind. He knew the penalties imposed on any captain who took away
a fugitive in his vessel. He had thought of them before, but dimly; now
they came to him vividly, and he trembled. He was resolved to remain in
the hold as long as he could, but he knew the time would come when he
must leave his hiding-place, and face the captain. His plan was to tell
him all he had suffered, to show him his wounds and scars, to beg him
on his knees not to send him back to the Hell he had escaped from. Who
would do it? Who’ll send me back after all I’ve gone through? Who’ll be
mean enough to do it?

Soon the motion of the vessel threw him, already sickened by the horrible
smells and closeness of the hold, into agonies of sea-sickness, and he
lay on the bales vomiting violently, and feeling as if his soul were
rending his aching body asunder. By and by, he crawled down into the
well-like cavity under the hatch, where there was a little more room to
breathe in, and there he lay without food, without drink, almost without
air, for three days.

Days of sickness too loathsome to be described, too dreadful for
permitted language to convey. Days of utter prostration, of griping
pain, of wrenching convulsions, of horror indescribable, of tortured
death-in-life. Days when the ropy and putrid air was sucked into
the feeble lungs as if it were some strangling substance; when the
oppressed heart beat slowly with dull knocks as though it would burst
the bosom, and the bosom labored as though it were loaded down with
tons of iron. Days when sleep came down like a weight of lead upon the
brain, and struggled with infernal dreams, and was broken to fight off
an ever-returning swarm of rats—invisible vermin that swarmed over his
invisible body when it lay still, and were heard squeaking and pattering
off in the sightless darkness when he feebly flung about his limbs to
beat them away. Days whose mad, disgustful horror was desperately borne
for the hope of liberty, for the hatred of slavery—borne till he could
bear it no longer, and he resolved to beat upon the hatch and cry aloud
to let those above him know what a hell of agony raged beneath their feet.

How long he had been immured he did not know. Count time by anguish,
and it might have been centuries. Fearful of discovering himself till
he was too far from the land from which he had fled to be returned, he
had resolved to endure till endurance became impossible. For this he
had clung to life, for this he had silently borne the horrors of his
tomb, for this he had striven a hundred times against the desire to end
his imprisonment by shouting aloud to those above him. Now when heavy
torpor and gradual giddiness were stealing upon him, and the instinct of
his soul told him death was drawing near, he roused himself for the long
deferred effort.

The ship was staggering heavily, and he heard the trampling of feet on
the deck as, with dizzily reeling brain, he feebly and slowly crawled up
on his hands and knees. His strength was almost gone. An infant newly
born could have been hardly more helpless than he found himself. He
slowly lifted one hand to lay it on the bales beside him—lifted it a few
inches like something over which he had no command—and it fell heavily,
and losing his balance he tumbled down on his side. An awful feeling
stole across his mind that he had delayed too long—that his resolution
had outlived his physical powers. Turning over on his back, feebly
panting, slowly suffocating, he drew in his breath for a wild cry for
help. It rushed from him in a hoarse whistling whisper. His voice had
left him!

He lay still now, painfully breathing, but resigned to die.
Quietly—quietly—the fears and desires of the present, the hopes of the
future withdrew, and the vision of all his past floated softly through
his tranquil brain. It faded, and he lay rushing on a fast-rushing tide,
and dilated with a wonderful and mystic change. Power and beauty and joy
ineffable began to glow and spread divinely through his being with the
vague beauteous glimmer of a transcendant life afar. All fierce and dark
and sorrowful passions and emotions gone—all sense of pain and horror and
disgust fled forever—himself happier, greater, nobler than he had ever
dreamed—he lay swiftly drifting to the last repose.

What sound was it that jarred so dully on his failing ear? What sudden
light was it that fell upon him? What faces were those that looked on
him so strangely from above, and vanished with cries that brought down
darkness and silence on him once more?

O blue sky of the nineteenth century, what is this? O pale, fresh light
streaming into the noisome hold, what is this? O wonder-stricken, silent
faces, gazing aghast upon that swart and loathsome figure lying in the
shallow well, with an iron collar on its neck, what does this mean?

The men stood staring at the motionless body on the bales below them,
and then, lost in a trance of wonder, stared at each other. Their wild
amazement at the sight which met their eyes when they had unbattened the
hatch, had burst forth in one cry, and then left them still and dumb.
Presently there was a sound of heavy, hurrying feet, and the captain,
a short, powerfully-built man, came flying over the deck, with strong
excitement working in his sun-burnt face, reached the hold, looked in,
turned livid with rage, slapped his straw hat down on his head with both
hands, and rushed away cursing and raving like a madman. It was highly
natural. A commercial Christian of the nineteenth century breed, the
captain had been educated to think of nothing but his ship and trade, and
his special reflection was of the penalties that would ensue if it became
known that he had carried away a slave from New Orleans.

Recovering from their amazement, the sailors, with uncouth and profane
ejaculations of horror and pity, lifted the inanimate body of Antony,
disgusting even to their rude senses, and touching even to their rude
sensibilities, out of the hold. They had hardly laid it on deck when
the captain came rushing back again, shouting with oaths an order for
a look-out up aloft, with the hope of meeting some vessel bound for
the city he had left that would take the slave back. Then giving the
prostrate body a furious kick, he rushed away again, storming and
stamping and swearing.

At the direction of the mate, the sailors took the faintly-breathing body
of Antony forward to the galley, where the black cook busied himself in
reviving the fugitive. Half a dozen times a day the captain came to the
spot where the feeble man reclined, and glared at him without saying a
word. On the third day, Antony being then weak but able to stand and
talk, the captain demanded him to give an account of himself.

Feebly standing before him, with all the vigor gone from his emaciated
form, and with the deep marks of awful suffering graven on his wasted
lineaments, Antony told his story. As he finished, imploring the
captain in earnest and broken tones not to send him back, the mate, who
stood by, turned away with his mouth twitching, saying it was a damned
shame. The captain burst into a fit of passion, and stamped on the deck,
gesticulating with clenched hands.

“A damned shame, is it, Mr. Jones?” he roared, perfectly livid with rage.
“I should think it was! Rather! A blasted nigger to smuggle his ugly
carcass aboard my brig—what d’ye think they’ll say about it at Orleans,
and what’ll they do about it, Mr. Jones, and what’ll Atkins say when he
hears of it, Mr. Jones, and a load of cotton aboard from the very house
whose junior partner owns this dingy curse, Mr. Jones! Look at the name
of the house on his neck, man. Blast ye,” he howled, turning upon Antony,
and shaking both fists at him, “I’d send ye back, you beggar, if they
were to fry ye in your own black blood when they got ye! Send ye back? If
I don’t, may I be eternally”—

He finished the sentence by a gasp, and dashed both clenched fists into
the haggard and imploring face of the fugitive, who fell to the deck,
covered with blood. Shouting and cursing, the infuriated captain leaped
on him, and seizing him by the hair, beat his head against the planks;
then jumped to his feet, capering like a madman, and brandishing his
clenched fists. The mate stood looking away to the horizon, with a mute,
flushed face, and two or three of the sailors standing not far distant,
dumb witnesses of this brutal scene, glanced at each other with mutinous
brows. Striding off a dozen paces, the captain turned again, bringing
down his clenched fist with a slap into the palm of his hand, and
stamping with his right foot on the deck as he shouted:

“Keep a sharp look-out, Mr. Jones! The first vessel that heaves in sight
for New Orleans shall take him if it costs me a hundred dollars. And if
he gets to Boston, I’ll tie him hand and foot, and send him or fetch him
back the first chance, or my name’s not Bangham!”

He foamed off into the cabin. Who’ll send me back after all I’ve gone
through? Who’ll be mean enough to do it? Antony had received his answer.



CHAPTER I.

THE REIGN OF TERROR.


If, on or about the twenty-fifth of May, 1852, a fugitive from Southern
tyranny were to arrive in Boston, he would probably very soon discover
two things—first, that he must seek refuge with the people of his own
color, in the quarter vulgarly known as Nigger Hill; secondly, that
though they had once lived there in safety, neither he nor they could
live there in safety any more.

There were, at that period, about three thousand colored people, a large
proportion of them fugitives, residing in Boston, and the greater part
of them lived in the quarter above mentioned. It was on the slope of
Beacon Hill—one of the three hills which gave to the town its old name
of Trimount. On the crown of the hill towered the domed State House;
behind and around it rose, street on street descending, the dwellings of
the aristocracy; and behind them, a deep fringe of humble poverty, rose,
street on street, the dingy dwellings of the fugitives. There was a maxim
of statesmanship then current: “Take care of the rich, and the rich will
take care of the poor.” It had been acted upon. The rich had been taken
care of, and they had taken such care of these poor, that at that period
there was no safety for them, as for two years previous there had been
no safety for them in the city of Boston. Sidney’s Latin blazed in gold
on the walls of that State House: _Ense petit placidam sub libertate
quietem_—The State seeks by the sword the calm repose of liberty. But the
holy legend was dim, and not with the sword of Sidney, nor with the sword
of the Spirit, sought Boston the calm repose of liberty for the poor
fugitives who had fled from the meanest and the vilest tyranny that ever
blackened the world.

Yet it was the city of fugitives, and fugitives had laid its old
foundations down in pain and prayer. Winthrop and Dudley, Bellingham,
Leverett, Coddington, the star-sweet Lady Arabella, with their compeers,
men and women of true and gentle blood, and fugitives all, had reared it
from the wilderness. Fugitives who taught a tyrant that he had a joint in
his neck, had fled thither when the reborn tyranny again arose in their
own land. Fugitives dwelling there who remembered in their own sufferings
the sufferings of others, had helped frame the noble statute of 1641,
welcoming to State and city any strangers who might fly thither from the
tyranny or oppression of their persecutors. Fugitive hands—the hands of
the Huguenot Faneuil—had dowered it with the cradling Hall of Liberty
named with his name. Over it all, and through it all, and tincturing its
history in the very grain, was the tradition of the fugitive. Still, in
modern days, fugitives fled thither from the broken hopes, the baffled
efforts, the lost battles of continental freedom. German fugitives,
Italian fugitives, French fugitives, Irish fugitives, flying from their
persecutors, arrived there and nestled under the broad wing of the old
statute. At that period, too, the great Hungarian fugitive, Kossuth, had
come, with a host of other Hungarian fugitives at his back, and the town,
like the land, had roared and blazed in welcome. All these fugitives, of
whatever nation, were safe in Boston. No tyrant could molest them. But
the fugitives from the South—the black Americans, men and women, who had
fled thither for protection from a tyranny in no wise different from any
other, save in its sordid vileness and abominable excess of cruelty and
outrage—there was no safety for them.

They were, for the most part, humble people—their souls crushed and
bruised, as Plato says, with servile employments. Their lives had been
obstructed by slavery; slavery had nurtured in them some vices, had
dwarfed and crippled in them many virtues. They were, in the mass,
uncouth, grotesque, ungainly, repulsive to the eye; they were degraded,
imbruted, low, ignorant, weak and poor; and, therefore, the heart
of every gentleman should have leaped, like Burke’s sword from its
scabbard, to avenge even a look that threatened them with insult. Yet,
on the other hand, there were many among them too comely and noble to
need the defence the hearts of chevaliers fling around those to whom Man
and Nature have been unkind. “In the negro countenance,” says Charles
Lamb, “you will often meet with strong traits of benignity. I have felt
yearnings of tenderness toward some of these faces, or rather masks,
that have looked out kindly upon one in casual encounters in the streets
and highways. I love what Fuller beautifully calls—those ‘images of God
cut in ebony.’” The gentle Londoner could have said it all, and more, of
the negro faces one met in Boston, and he might have added a far prouder
word for the character that matched the faces. For all that is manliest
in manhood, all that is womanliest in womanhood, rose here and there,
with tropic energy, uncrushed by the load of past slavery and present
social wrong, among those people. Piety, rude and simple, it may be, yet
fervent and mighty as ever clasped with tears the Savior’s feet, or rose
through eternity to faint in the raptures of prayer before the throne of
Jehovah; love, none more loyal and tender, for the father, the mother,
the husband, the wife, the child, the home, the country; compassion,
quick and strong for mutual succor; flush-handed hospitality; courtesy
born not of art but nature; patience; cheerfulness; self-respect;
laborious industry; ambition to rise and to excel, despite of fettering
disabilities and thick-strewn obstacles; heroic bravery and endurance,
such as blanch the cheeks and shake the hearts of those who read or
hear the pains and perils negroes have dared for their own freedom, and
nobler still, the freedom of their fellows—these, and many other virtues,
bourgeoned and blossomed in the hearts and lives of the black fugitives.
For these people, whatever pro-slavery snobs and sciolists might say
of them, or however they might prate of their inferiority, were,
nevertheless, of worthy blood. Take as one sure proof of the negro’s
native elegance and gentility of soul, his love and talent for music.
The old genius of Africa which taught the lips of Memnon those weird
auroral tones which enchanted the valley of the Nile, still haunts the
broken souls of the race on this continent. America has no distinctive
music but her negro melodies. Listening to those merry rigadoon tunes,
wonderful for their jovial sweetness and facile celerity of movement, or
to those melancholy or mournful chants, ineffable in pathos, which thrill
the spirit with their wild, mysterious cadences, he would have little wit
who could deny the spiritual worth of the race whose fugitives at that
period found no safety in Boston.

No safety. None at all. Yet Boston had it to remember that one of the
first five martyrs of her freedom and of the freedom of America, was
a negro—Crispus Attucks. But Boston’s remembrance of that fact seemed
at that time to be almost confined to a certain literary slop-pail who
periodically emptied himself upon the fame of the hero whom John Hancock
and Samuel Adams had thought worthy of funeral honors. Boston had, for
many years, paid her debt of gratitude to Attucks by treating the men
and women of his race something after the fashion that Jews were treated
in the Middle Ages. They had their Ghetto at the west end of the town;
there they lived by sufferance, despised, rejected, borne down by a
social scorn which, to the noblest of them, was daily heartbreak, and
which the lowliest of them could not bear without pain. They had a narrow
range of humble employments and avocations, such as window-cleaning,
white-washing, boot-blacking, cab-driving, porterage, domestic service,
and the like; keeping a barber’s shop or an old clothes shop, was perhaps
the highest occupation open to them; and these they pursued faithfully
and industriously. They were shut out of the mechanic occupations; shut
out of commerce; shut out of the professions. They were excluded from
the omnibuses; excluded from the first-class cars; excluded from the
theatres unless the manager could make a place for them where seeing
or hearing was next to impossible; excluded from some of the churches
by express provision, and from most, if not all, of the others, by
tacit understanding; excluded from the common schools, and allotted
caste-schools where to learn anything was against nature; excluded from
the colleges; excluded from the decent dwellings; excluded from the
decent graveyards; excluded from almost everything. They were, however,
freely admitted to the gallows and the jail. But these, somehow or other,
saw less of them than of the race that despised them.

For all the years anterior to the period under notice, these people
had been, speaking in a general way, safe in Boston. There had, to be
sure, been occasional instances of private kidnapping, little known;
and there had been an abortive attempt to legally clutch into slavery
one negro, Latimer. Still, Boston cherished, sentimentally, at least,
free principles, and the New England traditions and laws, all favoring
liberty, had been strong enough in her borders to protect the fugitives.
Moreover, the caste prejudices against them had for twenty years or so
preceding been slowly breaking down. During that time, thanks to one
heroic saint, Emerson—thanks to one saintly hero, Garrison—the dawn of
a new era was broadening up the northern sky, and all things had begun
to come under the sovereignty of reason. Emerson had shed the new and
free disclosing light of a poet’s soul and a scholar’s mind on the great
problems of spiritual and secular life: straightway the primal soul
held session; the old decisions were unsettled; everything was to be
reëxamined; thought awoke; the breeze streamed; the sun shone; the Dutch
canal fled into a rushing river; all that was generous, all that was
thoughtful, all that was intrepid in New England uprose from lethargy;
and while he—

          — “with low tones that decide,
    And doubt and reverend use defied—
    With a look that solved the sphere,
    And stirred the devils everywhere—
    Gave his sentiment divine,”—

the contest of reason against authority and precedent began, and amidst
much theological mud-flinging and unable-editor jeering, continued from
year to year, awakening the distinctive intellectual life of America.
On the other hand, Garrison had impeached Slavery before the nation,
as the giant foe of civil and political liberty, democracy, society,
humanity, in a word, civilization; and amidst a roaring storm of rancor,
and the howls of slavers and traders, that tremendous trial also began,
and continued from year to year. At the outset, Boston merchants,
convulsed with sordid fear lest their southern trade should suffer by
this arraignment of the oligarchy, gathered in a mob to hang the gallant
citizen—had, in fact, the rope already around his neck, when the Mayor
put him in jail, as a dastardly way of saving him. At the outset, too,
the gentle Governor of Georgia issued an official proclamation offering
five thousand dollars reward for his assassination. Happy, free America!
But Garrison had in his heart all that made patriots and Puritans, and
amidst a tempest of persecution unequalled since the Dark Ages, dauntless
with pen and voice, he held his course against Slavery like the thunder
storm against the wind. To his aid gathered a little group of gentlemen
and gentlewomen, writers and orators of marked power. Abby Kelley, fair
and eloquent for liberty as ever the Greek Hypatia for science: Lydia
Maria Child, whose generous and exquisite literary genius all know: Mrs.
Chapman, her thought shining in a terse, crystalline diction, like gold
in a mountain stream: Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Carolinians, who knew
what Slavery was, and knew how to flash the heart’s light upon it: Beriah
Green, a master of the old ignited logic: Theodore Weld, a resplendent
and indomitable torrent of brave speech: Edmund Quincy, wit, humorist,
satirist, gentleman, with the best spirit of the days of Queen Anne in
his thought and style: Wendell Phillips, with a fiery glory of classic
oratory, strange, but for him, to the air of America: Burleigh, Francis
Jackson, in later years Theodore Parker, these, and a score of others
gathered around Garrison, sacrificing name and fame, genius, scholarship,
wealth, everything they had to sacrifice, to the heroic task of redeeming
their country from its shame and wo. Outside of this organization was
Channing, with words like morning: John Quincy Adams, too, during those
years, fought the battle of free speech in the halls of Congress:
Webster, also, poured the lightning and thunder of his mind against the
extension of slavery, though never, save in the abstract, against slavery
itself: the Whig party backed him; the men of the Liberty party, and in
later years the Free Soil party, came to the side issues of the war. But
these were not the Abolitionists proper; the Abolitionists were those who
stood with Garrison, and their work was with Slavery itself. Against it
they reared Alps of testimony and argument; they exposed it utterly; they
bent every energy to the task of rousing the nation to its annihilation.
Part of their task was the elevation of the fugitives in Boston, and it
was owing to their efforts that the caste prejudices were breaking down.
The comparative triumph of the present time, whose signal is that the
black child sits on equal terms in the Boston schools with the white,
was not then achieved, but still, at the period under notice, much had
been done. The cars were open to the negro, the omnibuses, the decent
dwellings, some mechanic occupations, some of the churches; and one or
two colored lawyers had been admitted to the Boston Bar. The theatres
still held out; the “respectable” churches, of course—spite of the black
bishops of the days of Paul and Augustine; commerce, also; the schools
and colleges, likewise; but the Abolitionists were battering on the wall,
and it was breaking, breaking, breaking slowly down.

Suddenly over these struggling tides of light and darkness swept the
black refluent surge of barbarism. In the year 1850, Congress passed the
Fugitive Slave Law. The great Humboldt justly called it “the Webster
law”—for with Webster against it, it either could not have passed, or
having passed, it never could have been executed. Webster hostile to
it, and the North would have risen around him as one man. But the time
had come for the Presidential candidates to make their game, and on the
seventh of March, 1850, Webster made his game. The draft of a speech for
freedom lying in his desk, he stood up in the Senate, spoke a speech for
slavery, which was at war with every other speech of his previous life,
and his game was made. He made it, played it, lost it, died, and lies
cursed with forgiveness, and buried in tears.

A cold, hard Southern tyrant, Mason of Virginia, created the black
statute; a sleek, pleasant Northern traitor, Fillmore of New York, then
sitting in the Presidential chair, unleashed it, and it burst forth in
mischief and ruin, upon the homes of the poor. Such a law! The fugitive
to be haled before a Commissioner; no Judge, no Jury; his former slavery
sworn to by any unknown claimant, he was to be sent into bondage; five
dollars to the Commissioner if he set him free, ten dollars if he made
him a slave. Six months imprisonment, and fifteen hundred dollars fine
to any person who gave a fugitive food to eat, water to drink, a room to
rest in. Happy, free America!

At first Boston was horrified at the law, and aghast at the course of
Webster. But the first shock over, Boston became filled with patriotic
ardor, and the black statute not only rose in favor, but slavery itself
became the theme of eulogy. It was about that period that an eminent
Philadelphia surgeon rushed one morning, with a glowing face, before
the college-class, and holding up a horrid mass before their astonished
eyes, screamed, in a voice trembling with passionate enthusiasm: “Oh,
gentlemen! gentlemen, what a _be-a-u_tiful cancer!” With an enthusiasm
not less rapturous than his, the Whig and Democratic politicians of that
period expatiated upon the charms of the obscene and filthy oligarchic
wen which hung from the neck of the South, and the black, accursed
conglomerated pustule of a Fugitive Slave Law, which inoculated from
it, now deformed the whole face of the North. Slavery was a perfectly
paradisaical and divine institution; agitation against it must cease:
the Fugitive Slave Law was instinct with the purest and noblest
patriotism—the fugitive men, women and children must be hunted down
by it with alacrity, or the South would dissolve the Union. To this
effect the beautiful emasculate eloquence of Everett moved forth in
balanced cadence; to this effect raved rancorous in Bedlam beauty, the
intervolved, inextricable, splendor-spotted snarl and coil of Choate’s
bewildering orations; to this effect, all up and down the land, for two
years, rolled Webster’s dark and orotund malignant thunder. Everywhere
in their train a host of blatherers and roarers spouted and bawled—stop
agitation—execute the Slave Law—save the Union! It was a period of
absolute insanity. The Union was not in the slightest danger—proof of
that, the stocks never fell. The South would no more have dared to
dissolve the Union than a man would dare to swim in the Maelstrom. But
the Southern insanity of tyranny demanded the North for its man-hunting
ground; the northern insanity of avarice yielded the demand to get
southern trade; between the slaver and trader, the politicians’ insanity
of power made its game; and the pretext for all was the salvation of the
Union. Millions of the people cried, “Save the Union!” A thousand presses
reëchoed the cry. An immense majority of the clergy echoed it again from
their pulpits. The things ministers said in defence of slavery and its
black statute were only less incredible than the manner in which they
were received. For instance, the Rev. Dr. Dewey, an eminent divine, was
reported to have declared in a public lecture that he would send his
own mother into slavery to save the Union; a storm of rebuke at once
burst upon him from the anti-slavery people, and this sentiment was not
considered satisfactory even by citizens of the highest respectability:
whereupon Dr. Dewey explained that he had not said he would send his own
mother into slavery to save the Union, but that he had said he would
consent that his own brother or his own son should go into slavery to
save the Union—and the citizens of the highest respectability considered
_this_ sentiment as highly satisfactory! So amidst such talk and such
applause as this, the pro-slavery furore pothered on, and the North was
incessantly urged to enforce the black statute as the price of safety
to the nation, and incessantly reminded of the priceless privileges the
Union secured to us. Perhaps it did—but not least prominent among them
was the priceless privilege of paying the debts of South Carolina, and
the other priceless privilege of hunting men and women on the soil of the
old patriots and Puritans.

Meanwhile the Reign of Terror had begun, and the hellhound of a law was
ravening on its victims. It raged chiefly in the great cities, and from
these the fugitives, their years of safety over, were flying by thousands
to the wild Canadian snows. But the Abolitionists were upon the law.
Upon it Theodore Parker dashed the bolted thunder of his speech. Upon it
burst the inextinguishable Greek fire of eloquence from the fortressed
soul of Wendell Phillips. Upon it, in a word, all the men and women, the
Britomarts and Tancreds of the glorious minority, hurtled like a storm
of swords. The Free Soilers, too, were up, and did gallant service.
Giddings, Seward, Wilson, Burlingame, Mann, Sewall, Chase, Sumner, all
the gentlemen and chevaliers of that league, were in the field. Charles
Sumner shook Faneuil Hall with words that beat with the blood of all
the ages. In New York, Beecher burst upon the monster with tempests of
generous flame, and the Hebraic speech of Cheever fought with the prowess
of the Maccabees. All over the North, in country towns and in some
city pulpits, there were valiant clergymen, whose souls went forth in
arms. The Free Soil presses everywhere, became catapults and mangonels,
showering a hail of invective and argument upon the law. But the monster,
panoplied in legal forms, and girt with a myriad of defenders, was hard
to kill. Beaten from some places, crippled sorely, it still lives, and
even at this hour, in New York, in Philadelphia, and in other cities,
drags down and devours its victims. At the period under notice, its power
was strong in Boston. Boston, in the branding phrase of Theodore Parker,
had gone for kidnapping. Her Webster, her city officers, her aristocracy,
her courts, her prominent newspapers, her traders and her rabble, were
all hostile to the unhappy fugitives. That law, however, was doing
the most powerful anti-slavery service ever done in America. But its
results—for it broke up the Whig party, sowed death in the bones of the
Democratic party, sent Charles Sumner to Congress, made the Republicans a
power in the land, and taught the people a detestation of slavery which
they had never known before—its results were not then fully deposited,
or at least clearly seen; they were still operant to their end; and all
noble hearts were bowed in sickening sorrow, for it seemed as if liberty,
humanity, civilization, all, were going down forever.

It was, then, this hell-dog of a law that had made it no longer safe
for the fugitives in Boston. And who is he who shall undertake to paint
the agony of those men and women? He must dip his pencil in the hues of
earthquake and eclipse who aims to do it. Their years of security were
over. The first news of the passage of the law drove scores of them to
Canada, and day by day they were flying. Numbers of their people had
already been taken from other cities into slavery, when the first slave
case, that of Shadrach, occurred in Boston. Ten or twelve gallant black
men burst into the court-room, and took Shadrach from his foes. Boston
howled. Soon another fugitive, Sims, was dragged before the Commissioner.
No rescue for him; the court-house was ringed with chains, under which
the Chief Justice of Massachusetts, and other Judges, crawled to their
seats; the cutlasses and bludgeons of the Government begirt the captive,
and fifteen hundred Boston gentlemen offered to put muskets to their
shoulders, if desired, to insure his being taken into bondage. “The
Fifteen Hundred Scoundrels,” Wendell Phillips christened this brigade of
wretches, praying that bankruptcy might sit on the ledger of every one
of them. Nine days the Abolitionists and Free-Soilers fought the case,
impeded the Jedburgh justice—the bitter mockery of that infamous trial;
then Sims was environed with cutlasses and pistols, marched, at early
dawn, to the vessel a Boston merchant volunteered for his rendition,
and sent into slavery. The only news of him after that, was that he had
been scourged to death at Savannah. His capture and murder completed
the ghastly alarm of the Boston fugitives. From that hour they lived
in an atmosphere of unimaginable fear and gloom. Frequent reports that
kidnappers were in town, harried many of them off to join the thirty
thousand fugitives who had fled from the tender mercies of America
to seek refuge in the bleak wilds or towns of Canada. Churches were
suspended; business arrested; families were broken up; wives and husbands
separated; fathers had to leave their sons; sons their fathers; parents
their children; for the peril was often immediate, and there was no time
for delay. At every fresh rumor that kidnappers were in town, the colored
people would hurry up from their occupations to their homes—some to fly,
aided by their richer brethren, or by the compassion of the anti-slavery
people—others to gather in the streets in excited discussion—and
others, with that desperate and splendid courage which is one of the
distinctive virtues of the negro, to fortify their dwellings, and prepare
for a death-grapple with their hunters. Thick-crowding cares and fears,
distress, alarm, foreboding, agony, few friends, a thousand foes, this
was their bitter portion.

Such, briefly and faintly sketched, was the state of affairs among these
poor people in the City of the Fugitive at that period. What wonder
men of heart desponded? It was not a despised Abolitionist, but an
Abolitionist whom none despise—the Lord of Civilization standing calm
above the ages, he whose spirit slowly wins the world from wrong; it was
Francis Bacon of Verulam who said that when Commerce dominates in the
State, the State is in its decline. Commerce dominated then. Science,
arts, laws, religion, morality, humanity, justice, liberty, the rights,
the hearts of mankind—all must give way to it. Rapacious and insolent, it
ruled and flourished over all.

Yet there were rays of hope and auguries of better days in Boston even
then, and the new was stirring in the old. Emerson was saturating the
intellectual life of the city, and through it the mind of America, with
the nobleness of his thought. Theodore Parker, gigantesque in learning,
courage, devotion to mankind, less a man than a Commonwealth of noble
powers, was in his pulpit, with a strong and growing hold on the minds
and hearts of the people. The Abolitionists were toiling terribly with
all their splendid might of conscience, their genius and their eloquence,
to rouse the North to a settlement with the Slave Oligarchy. The
Free-Soilers were indefatigably laboring to prevent the base and brutal
Democrats from crowding out free American labor from the Territories
and incoming States with the labor of Congo and Ashantee; and laboring
also to get the Government out of the control of the Slave Power. In a
word, Liberty was fighting her battle with Trade, and even the defeats of
Liberty are victories.

Add to all that a fair ray of hope and promise still lingered at that
period in the air of Boston, cast from a little society of Socialists,
under the leadership of William Henry Channing, which had been dissolved
about two years before. They had lit their torch from the old faith that
Human Life has its Science, discovering which we rear earth’s Golden
Age. It was the old idea of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras; it was the
dream of Campanella and More; it was the divine and deathless purpose of
Bacon, and the holy labor of Fourier. The Socialists in Boston had made
a limited but profound impression with it, which had outlasted their
dissolution. The light of the torch still lived when the torch itself was
extinguished; and amidst the sordor and selfishness and cruelty of the
period, it showed that the tradition and the promise of the Good Time
Coming were immortal.



CHAPTER II.

THE FENCING SCHOOL.


Among other things in Boston at that period there was a fencing school
and pistol gallery, kept by an old soldier of the First Empire, Monsieur
Hypolite Bagasse. The way to it was up a long, narrow boarded alley which
led out of Washington street, ran straight for about twenty steps, and
then with the natural disposition of every street, avenue, alley, lane
or court in Boston, made an effort to achieve the line of beauty and of
grace by slanting off to the left, in which bent it was followed by the
blind, brick walls, covered in one spot with a patch of theatre posters
on the left hand side of it, and by a large dingy old brick building,
preternaturally full of windows, on the right hand side of it. In this
building was the fencing school.

A large, long, dim, unfinished interior, lighted on one side only by
a row of windows looking on the alley, clap-boarded all around on the
other sides, and with rafters overhead. Cool and dry, with a faint acrid
smell of powder-smoke pervading its musty atmosphere. One section of the
oblong space, to the left of the door, unwindowed, and lying in complete
shadow. Three or four square wooden posts, down the long centre,
supporting the raftered ceiling. On the left hand, under the windows, the
pistol gallery—a fenced lane, with a target at one end, and a bench, with
arms and ammunition on it, at the other. Near this a wooden settee with
a tin can of cheap claret wine upon it. Opposite, hanging on the boarded
wall in the rear of the pistol bench, and in the range of two or three
of the windows, rows of foils and yellow buckskin fencing-gloves, black
wire masks for the face, leathern plastrons for the breast, and a few
single-sticks and blunt broadswords. No other furniture, save three or
four old chairs, scattered here and there about the room.

It was about half-past seven o’clock in the morning of the twenty-fifth
of May, and Monsieur Bagasse was waiting for pupils to arrive. John
Todd, a young fellow about fifteen or sixteen years of age, was at the
bench, absorbed in cleaning pistols. Monsieur Bagasse himself, slowly
shuffling up and down in front of the fencing implements, with a halt
in his step, occasioned by one leg being shorter than the other, was
absently smoking a short pipe, which he held to his mouth by the base of
the bowl. He was a figure fit for the pencil of Callot or Gavarni. Sixty
years old, but not looking more than a weather-beaten forty; of middling
stature, brawny, round-shouldered, slightly bow-legged, with large splay
feet, cased in shambling shoes, with an old cap on the back of his
head, and his coarse, black hair, dashed with grey, showing under the
crescent-shaped visor above his low, broad, corrugated forehead; with a
dilapidated, old-fashioned stock around his neck, a slate-colored worsted
jacket buttoned with horn buttons up to his throat, the sleeves of a red
flannel shirt showing at his wrists, and coarse, dark, baggy trowsers on
his lower limbs. His visage swarthy, ferruginous, picturesquely ugly, but
suave and kindly, with a constant expression of curious interrogation
upon it—an expression to which the ever upturned jaw contributed—to which
the mouth, shaded by a rusty black moustache, and always inquiringly
open, contributed—to which the eyes, one bleared and the other bright
as a darkly-glowing coal, and both surmounted by shaggy eyebrows,
contributed—and which had its contribution from the horn-rimmed goggles
worn half way down on the bold aquiline nose, above which the eyes
looked from the upturned face as though they were sighting at a mark
along a cannon. Wrinkles, of course—wrinkles, and seams and crowsfeet in
profusion; two noticeable fissures sloping deeply down the cheeks from
the big nostrils; and on the right cheek a dim red scar—the record of a
Frenchman’s last service to his Emperor at Waterloo. Add to all a general
association of tobacco, snuff, and garlic, and you have the idea of
Monsieur Bagasse.

A step on the stairs announcing the approach of a visitor, Monsieur
Bagasse halted, took his pipe from his mouth, and stood in a habitual
attitude, his arms hung stiffly, his palms turned outward, his big feet
also turned outward and visible from heel to toe, and his face sighting
with curious inquiry at the door. The door opening presently, in came a
young man of seven or eight and twenty, rather boyish-looking for his
years, modishly, though tastefully, attired, whose name was Fernando
Witherlee.

“Good morning, Monsieur Bagasse. How de do,” he said, touching his
moleskin hat with a kid-gloved finger, as, smiling constrainedly, and
cringing into a super-elegant bow, he came forward. “Whew! how you smell
of powder in here.”

“Ah! good morning, good morning, Miss’r Witterlee,” rejoined the old
Frenchman, politely, with a quick salute of the hand.

Privately, Monsieur Bagasse had a supreme contempt for his visitor.
Nobody could have guessed it, however, who saw the bland suavity on
his grotesque visage, as he curiously scanned the face before him. A
plump, smooth, colorless, bilious face, handsome in its general effect,
subtle, morbid, fastidious, supercilious, reticent; but with all its
traits masked in a cool assumption of impassibility. With thick, brown
hair gracefully arranged; handsome, expressive brown eyebrows; brown
eyes, with a restless glitter on them when they were in motion, and a
perfect opaqueness in them when they were still; lips which were rigid
in their contour, usually slightly parted, and which moved but little
in their speech. Primarily, the face of an epicurean and a dilettante; a
face, too, that bespoke cynicism, conceit, arrogance, and indescribable
capacity of aggravation and insult. Such was the face which Monsieur
Bagasse smilingly and suavely interrogated.

“Where are our friends this fine morning?” Witherlee asked, carelessly,
with an affected elegance of utterance, which was a cross between mincing
and drawling. “Not arrived yet? The lazy fellows! Perfect sloths, both of
them.”

“Lazee? Oh no! It is vair early yet,” returned Monsieur Bagasse. “Miss’r
Harrin’ton an’ Miss’r Wentwort’ are not lazee yet, Miss’r Witterly.”

“Oh, they’re up early enough, I know,” replied the other, “for I met them
an hour ago, idling along Temple street with some ladies.”

“Maybe zose ladee was zere sweetheart. Ah, Miss’r Witterly, pardon me,
it is not lazee for ze young men to promenade wis zere sweetheart—_sacre
bleu_, no!”

Witherlee laughed—a chuckling laugh, as though his throat was full of
turtle.

“I was struck with the contrast,” he remarked. “Wentworth was dressed
in his dandy artist rig—spruce as Beau Brummel, and Harrington wore
those superannuated old clothes, looking for all the world as if he had
just been let out of the watchhouse. Splendid girls they were with too.
Wentworth beside one of them was like a bizarre creature, of some sort
or other, walking with a princess, and Harrington like a strapping young
rag-picker along side of a queen.”

“Ah, zey is vair fine young zhentilmen,” tranquilly replied Monsieur
Bagasse. “Vair fine.”

Witherlee made no reply, but slightly elevated his handsome eyebrows in
expressive disparagement.

“You know zose ladee, Miss’r Witterly?” inquired the old Frenchman.

“Oh yes, very well. I walked along with them this morning. One is a Miss
Eastman—she lives in Temple street with her mother. Quite rich. The other
is a Miss Ames, who is visiting the Eastmans. Her family are all rich.
They live at Cambridge.”

“Vair fine ladee? Wis beautee—wis dollair, eh?”

“Oh yes, indeed. Very much sought after too, both of them. With crowds of
admirers, I assure you.”

“Ah, Miss’r Witterly, I am so glad for zat. It please me vair mush that
Miss’r Harrington and Miss’r Wentwort’ sall marry zose vair fine ladee.”

“Hoity, toity, my dear Monsieur Bagasse, what in the world are you
thinking of? Your pupils are not so lucky as that yet. Wentworth might
have a chance, for his father’s rich, and in good standing, though I
judge from the way things go on lately that Miss Ames cares precious
little for him. But Harrington—why he’s as poor as a church mouse, and
doesn’t move in good society at all. How Miss Eastman tolerates his
visits, _I_ can’t imagine. I suppose it’s her kindness though. Seems
to me Harrington must have a great deal of assurance to visit her at
all. As for marrying her, why it’s perfectly absurd! She’d as soon
marry a man out of the poor-house. Good gracious! look at the old coat
the fellow wears! Why the lady belongs to our first society—a su-pairb
person—perfectly dis-t-a-nguay.”

Monsieur Bagasse grinned broadly, possibly with rage, possibly at the
affected drawl with which Witherlee had pronounced the French word
_distingué_, and then growing grotesquely serious, burst forth in
orotund, hoarse, fluent tones, very politely, but with great earnestness.

“Pardon me, Miss’r Witterly,” he said, “but why is zat so odd zat ze vair
fine _distingué_ ladee sall lof Miss’r Harrin’ton? Ah, Miss’r Witterly,
you make one vair big mistake. You zink ze pretty girl all so fond of
ze dollair—ze rank—ze grand posetion, eh? Bah—no! I tell you, no. Ze
duch-ess—ze count-ess—ze great vair fine ladee—zey lof so offen ze wit,
ze brave heart, ze gallantree, ze goodness wis ze old coat over him.
_Ouf!_ Look now. Attend. Was I great vair fine ladee, what sall I do wis
myself? I tell you. I see Miss’r Harrington lof me, I make vair sure. Zen
I say—here, you brave, good man, so kind, so handsome, so gallant, so
like ze superb chevalier of ze old time—look—I lof you! I lof you wis
you old coat! I lof you old coat, too, for it covair you so long. Come—I
marry you—you take my fine house—my dollair—you take me—all, for evair
and evair. _Sacrebleu_, Miss’r Witterly, zat is what I say to Miss’r
Harrin’ton was I vair fine ladee.”

To this outburst, which was delivered with great vivacity and many
shrugs, grimaces, and odd gesticulations, Witherlee listened with
opaque eyes and parted lips, and an expression of perfect immobility
on his colorless, plump, morbid countenance. At the end, he lifted his
expressive eyebrows, slightly curled a contumelious nose, and curved a
supercilious lip, with an insolence at once so delicate and so intense,
that Monsieur Bagasse, with the most suave smile again on his uncouth
visage, felt a strong desire to deal him a thumping French kick under the
chin.

“I have no doubt, my dear Monsieur Bagasse,” was the rejoinder after a
pause, “that you would do as you say if you were the lady in question.
But you’re not, you know, which makes the difference. However, I won’t
discuss the point with you. Harrington is not quite so great a fool,
I hope, as to expect any such good fortune. As for Wentworth, if you
could have seen his face this morning when Emily—that is Miss Ames—gave
Harrington a bunch of violets, you would have thought that his hopes,
like his prospects, were rather down.”

“Eh, what was zat?” inquired the old Frenchman, curiously.

“Why you see,” replied Witherlee, with a spirting chuckle at the
remembrance, “after the walk we were in the parlor, and Miss Ames went
into the conservatory and came back with a little bunch of violets. She
was at a table in the further end of the room, dividing the violets into
two nosegays, and, just for a joke, I went over to her and whispered
that Wentworth would be delighted to receive a true-love posy from her.
I don’t know what made her color, but she did, and instantly tied up
all the flowers in one nosegay, with a piqued air, and went over to the
two fellows. You should have seen Wentworth’s mortified air when she
sailed past him, and gave them to Harrington. He walked across the room,
trying to look indifferent, but it was no go. Miss Eastman went out and
came back with another bunch of violets which she gave him with her most
gracious manner, but I guess she couldn’t console him for that rebuff. He
made his adieux to Miss Ames stiffly enough, though he was extra cordial
to Miss Eastman, at which Miss Ames looked colder than ever. Altogether,
for a little matter, it played the deuce with Wentworth everyway.”

“Pardon me, Miss’r Witterly—ex-cuse me, sir, please,” interposed Monsieur
Bagasse, with immense civility of manner, and deprecating grimaces:
“Zat was not well—_sacrebleu_, no. You make zat mischeef—ex-cuse
me—you vex zat ladee and you wound Miss’r Wentwort’ wis you littel gay
talk. Ah, you was not right—no indeed. You make maybe littel miff wis
zose young peeples—it grow, grow, grow evair so big maybe, and zey
nevair, nevair, come back togezzer. You duty sall be to make ze amende
honorable—ex-plain—yes indeed, Miss’r Witterly. You tell Miss’r Wentwort’
what you say—zen he know, zen it is again right.”

“Not at all,” replied the mischief-maker. “I don’t think so. I only made
a playful remark. If Miss Ames chose to act as she did, that is not my
affair. I said all I could to console Wentworth. I told him I was truly
sorry that Miss Ames had treated him so rudely—very sorry indeed.”

“_Mille tonnerre!_” exclaimed the Frenchman, grinning and grimacing
desperately: “you say zat to Miss’r Wentwort’!”

“Of course I said it,” coolly replied Witherlee. “What less could I say?
It didn’t console him much, though. He tried to look indifferent, thanked
me coolly enough, and remarked that it was of no consequence.”

Monsieur Bagasse gave a sort of snort, still grinning and grimacing.
The whole proceeding was quite in Fernando Witherlee’s style. A piece
of boyish malice, perpetrated with mischievously subtle talent—with an
expressiveness of manner which had injected the words and action with a
wicked meaning not purely their own; afterwards foolishly tattled of, and
defended with pig-headed perversity.

“I am very sorry the thing happened,” resumed Witherlee, in a cool,
sympathizing, soliloquizing tone, looking, meanwhile, at the wall with
his opaquest gaze. “And I’m still more sorry to notice that Wentworth and
Miss Ames are not so intimate as they were a short time ago. It really
seems as if they were becoming estranged. It’s odd to see how attentive
Wentworth is lately to Miss Eastman, though I’m sure he only cares for
her as a friend. Then Miss Ames, on the other hand, is very agreeable to
Harrington, which galls Wentworth, I know. ’Pon my word, I believe he
is getting jealous of Harrington, and I shouldn’t wonder if those two
fellows had a falling out presently. It’s dreadfully absurd of Wentworth,
for I’m sure that if Harrington cares for either of them, it’s Miss
Eastman.”

The case was pretty much as Witherlee had stated it, but the explanation
was, that he had been lifting his eyebrows and modulating his tones and
dropping his intangible innuendoes to Miss Ames with regard to Wentworth,
and the result was, that she had become filled with indeterminate
suspicion and distrust of her lover, and had almost alienated him from
her by her manner toward him.

“Miss’r Witterly, you are ze friend of zose young men,” placidly observed
Monsieur Bagasse. “See, now, suppose you tell Miss’r Wentwort’ zat he
sall not be jalous of Miss’r Harrin’ton—zat Miss’r Harrin’ton haf not lof
Mees Ame nevair. Zen you make zem fine young zhentilmen still good friend
of ze ozzer. You say zat now to Miss’r Wentwort’.”

“Dear me, no; that wouldn’t do at all,” was the reply. “It’s not my
business, you know, and I might only make trouble. Better let them
alone. It’ll all come right, I guess. Wentworth’s in no danger from our
negro-worshipping friend, and I guess the best policy in this case, like
the national policy in regard to Kossuth, will be non-intervention.”

“Neeger-worship friend? Who is zat you mean?” inquired Monsieur Bagasse,
with grotesque perplexity.

Witherlee laughed his turtle-husky chuckle.

“I was only joking,” he returned; “I meant Harrington. You know he’s a
furious Abolitionist.”

“Ah, Miss’r Witterly,” said the old Frenchman, with a deprecating shrug
and grimace, “zat is not good fon. Miss’r Harrin’ton is vair fine young
zhentilman. If he worsheep ze neeger, _pardieu_, Hypolite Bagasse
worsheep ze neeger wis him. Zat is only what you call ze attachment zoo
libertee. Ah, Miss’r Witterly, zat Miss’r Harrington, so kind, so strong,
so good, he is friend of ze neeger, of ze Iris’man, of ze Frenchman, of
ze poor fellow, of ze littel child, of ze small fly on ze window, of ze
vair old devail himself, of evairybody. See, now. Attend. I was seek—vair
seek wis fever in ze winter. Nobody come to me—of my pupeel not one. Zat
Miss’r Harrin’ton he come. He find John Todd, and inquire where I live,
and he come. He breeng ze doctor—he breeng Miss’r Wentwort’, he breeng
ze littel jellee, ze grape, all zem littel ting zat he say ze vair fine
ladee give him for ze poor old vair seek Bagasse. _Sacrebleu_, he nurse
me; he sit up wis me in ze night when my wife tire herself out wis me,
and go sleep; he get me well, and zen he go zoo ze pupeel and make ze
subscripsheon for zere old fencing-mastair. Feefty dollair—dam! it is
sub-lime! Ze wolf he cut off from ze door of Bagasse so queek as his dam
leg will trot! Zen Miss’r Harrin’ton he advise Madame Bagasse zoo keep ze
boarding-house. Ah! it is grand. She accept—ze boardair come—ze French,
ze Italian, ze German man zey board wis me. Hah! zat Miss’r Harrin’ton
he set me up on my leg, wis my heart big wis gratitude. You make mock of
zat old coat, Miss’r Witterly. Bah! He wear zat old coat zat so many poor
devail sall wear any coat at all. _Sacrebleu!_ was I ze great Nap-oleon,
I sall put ze grand cross of ze Legion—ze Legion d’Honneur—on ze breast
of zat old coat for evair.”

There was such emotion in the deep, hoarse rolling tones—such a dark glow
on the grotesque, brown, wrinkled visage—such fire in the one eye under
its shaggy eyebrow—such martial energy in the uncouth, shabby figure,
that Witherlee felt the danger of pursuing any further his detraction of
Harrington. At the same time, he felt an envious itching to continue it.
To hear anybody or anything praised, and not be roused to oppositiveness,
was not in the organization of Fernando Witherlee. A peculiarly
aggravating rejoinder was in his mind, and the temptation to utter it was
prodigious. While he hesitated between the temptation and the imminent
prospect of having a quarrel on his hands with Monsieur Bagasse, steps
and loud talking on the stairs, announcing the approach of pupils, at
once decided and relieved him, and he sauntered away to a chair, sinking
into which and tilting it back against the wall, he proceeded to select,
light and smoke a cigar.



CHAPTER III.

QUARTE AND TIERCE.


Monsieur Bagasse, meanwhile, resuming his equanimity, stood sighting
beyond the muzzle of an invisible cannon, as if the door was the mark,
looking very much like some slovenly, awkward old artilleryman, of an
uncouth pattern, and not at all like a fencing-master. The door flew open
presently with a bang, letting in two smart young men not yet out of
their teens, who swaggered forward with a very rakish, gasconading air.
Milk street clerks—Fisk and Palmer by name—snobbish in dress and rude in
manners.

“Bon swor, Monsoor,” said Palmer, loud and patronizing. This address,
couched in a purely domestic French, was intended both as an elegant
recognition of the nationality of Monsieur Bagasse, and as a way of
bidding him good morning. The old man, who with ready politeness had
silently saluted the new comers upon their entrance, surveyed the speaker
over the rims of his round goggles, with open mouth, and an odd smile on
his upturned visage.

“Ha, Miss’r Pammer,” he said with vivacity, “you zink ze day is gone, eh?”

Palmer, who was taking off his coat, stopped and stared.

“I don’t understand you, Monsoor,” he rejoined; “I’m going to take my
lesson.”

“Hah! Zat is well,” said the old man. “But you say, _bon soir_, Miss’r
Pammer. Zat is, good night. You intend _bon jour_; zat is, good day.”

Palmer, seeing the grotesque, good-natured face of the fencing-master
smiling at him, and beginning to comprehend what his domestic French
had meant, grinned rather foolishly, and turned off. His companion, who
stood in his shirtsleeves with a wire-mask already on his face, burst
into a rude guffaw at the blunder, and slapped him on the back with a
fencing-glove. It may be mentioned here that these young cubs, in process
of getting their taste for the wolf’s milk of trade, had come upon the
heady wine of Dumas’ “Three Guardsmen”—which admirable romance had so
intoxicated their ardent fancy with excited day-dreams of D’Artagnan and
Porthos, that, filled with the spirit of the sword, they had resolved
to take fencing-lessons of Monsieur Bagasse. This practical recognition
of the literary genius of the great French mulatto, was one incident in
their joint career. Another, not so creditable, was their participation
in a mob of clerks and salesmen, who not long before had brawled down an
orator of Dumas’ own color—Frederick Douglass—at the Thompson meeting in
Faneuil Hall. It is to be feared that the gallant Alexandre himself would
have fared no better at their hands, or their employers’ either, had he
ever been fool enough to leave the democratic streets of Paris, for the
color-phobic pavements of Boston.

Monsieur Bagasse put away his pipe and spectacles, shuffled across the
room to shut the door which the cubs had left open, and returning took
down a foil and glove to give the lesson. Fisk was buckling on Palmer’s
plastron, as the leathern breastplate is called, an operation rather
hindered by his sense of the supercilious smile with which Witherlee
regarded his efforts from his chair against the wall, as well as by the
circumstance of his having his face incased in the wire mask, and his
arms hampered by the heavy leather gloves which he was holding with his
elbows against his sides. While Monsieur Bagasse waited, standing in an
awkward drooping posture, with the foil in his gloved hand, a firm step
was heard bounding up the stairs, the door flew open, and, with a light,
springing tread, a young man, flushed and smiling, and so handsome that
any one would have turned to look at him, darted in, bringing with him a
warm gust of fragrance into the chill musty pallor of the room. An odd,
fond smile shot at once to the visage of the fencing-master.

“Ha, good monning, good monning, Missr Wentwort’,” he chirruped,
returning with a military salute the quick gesture of gay cordiality the
young man made on entering. “How you feel to-day?”

“Capital! most potent, grave and reverend seignior! My very noble and
approved good fencing-master, how are you? Hallo, Fernando,” his eye
catching sight of the equably-smoking Witherlee: “here you are again, old
fellow?”

“Just so, Heliogabalus,” coolly drawled the bilious-cynical youth from
his chair. “Say, Heliogabalus—do you know how to get that smell out of
your clothes? Bury ’em!”

There was a decided flavor of verjuice in the manner of Witherlee, as
he let fly this borrowed jest at the perfumed raiment of the other.
Wentworth, though he took it as a jest, could not help wincing a little
at it, and was made even more uncomfortable at the application to him of
the name of one of the most bestial of the Roman Emperors.

“Well, Fernando,” he returned with a smile, “if ever there was a prickly
cactus, you’re one. You’re a perfect Diogenes. Get a tub, Fernando, do.”

“Quarte and tierce, Heliogabalus,” responded the cool Fernando, with his
turtle-husky chuckle.

Wentworth turned away, and met the smiling look of admiration and
fondness on the upturned visage of the old man-at-arms. A handsome young
fellow, in the very flower of youth and May, elegantly dressed—who
could look at him without admiration and fondness? An artist—one could
have told that at the first glance. Long auburn locks curled in a thick
cluster under his dark Rubens hat, and around his florid cheeks. He had
a gay, electric, passionate face; bright blue eyes; a fair complexion;
red lips, shaded by a light brown moustache coquettishly curled up at the
ends, and quick to curve into a proud, brilliant smile. His figure was
compact, well-knit, shapely, of middle-height, and seeming taller than it
was by force of its gallant carriage. The quality of his face was in his
voice—so quick, lively, clear and ringing.

“Ah, Missr Wentwort’,” said the old man, in hoarse tones, which were yet
soft and facile, “you bring me back ever so far—you look so gay! You look
as I sall feel wis my young blood tirty, tirty-five years ago. We marsh
zen wis ze great Nap-oleon dis mont’, all so proud, so gallant, for zat
dam Waterloo. Hah! I feel zen jus’ like you. So young—so gay! Wis my
littel flower like zat at my bouton—ze flower zat ze pretty girl haf give
me. Jus’ so.”

He touched a nosegay of violets in the young man’s buttonhole with the
hilt of the foil as he spoke. Wentworth laughed lightly, taking out the
nosegay.

“Jupiter! Bagasse,” he cried, “you shall have the flowers for the sake
of the memory. What are you grinning at, Fernando!” This to Witherlee,
whose cynical grin changed into a cool lift of the eyebrows. “Now,
Bagasse,” resumed Wentworth, “I’ll give them to you since they remind you
of old times. Here, let me fix them in your jacket. There now—guard them
well against every foil. Violets, you know, Monsieur Bagasse! Worn in
remembrance of Corporal Violet—the great little corporal!”

The old man bowed low, with the violets on his breast. With the rush of
thrilling souvenirs which the pet name of the beloved Emperor revived, a
dark glow came to his rugged visage, and the one bright eye grew suddenly
dim, leaving the face blind. Wentworth saw that he was touched, and with
a quick regret that he had brought a tear to the old heart, turned away,
humming an air.

“But where’s Harrington, I wonder?” he burst out, whirling around again.
“He said he’d be here before me.”

“He will come pretty soon, I zink, Missr Wentwort’,” replied Monsieur
Bagasse. “You haf seen him dis morning?”

“Oh, yes. I found him, as usual, pegging away at the books, and we walked
out together. Afterward we went with him, Witherlee and I, to his room,
and then started out again to come here. He left us on the way, saying
he’d be here before us, and I left Witherlee on the way, saying I’d be
here before him. Two promises of pie-crust, those. I’ll bet a denier,
Fernando, that dog has something to do with his absence,” and the young
artist laughed.

“No doubt,” returned Witherlee, smoking, with a sarcastic smile. “Perhaps
he’s commencing his education—developing, on Kant’s principle, all the
perfection of which the doggish nature is capable.”

“Dog?” inquired Monsieur Bagasse, curiously.

“Oh, it’s a dog we passed this morning,” explained Wentworth; “a
miserable old vagabond white cur, with just about life enough in him to
crawl. Some Irish and negro boys were lugging the poor old devil along by
the ears and tail, and whacking him with sticks, as we came along, and
Harrington, of course, stopped to order them off.”

“Bright in Harrington,” put in Witherlee, with a sneer; “as if they
wouldn’t be at him again before we’d gone twenty yards!”

“Yes, by Jupiter, but before we had gone twenty yards, Fernando, you and
I went into the shop, you know, where you bought the cigars, and it was
there that Harrington said he had to go back to the house for something,
and made off with himself. It never occurred to me till now—but I’ll bet
a franc he went back to those boys!”

He burst into a peal of laughter at the idea.

“I’d give something to know what Harrington did with the old cur,” he
said in a moment.

“Took him off to the butcher’s perhaps, and sold him for sausages,”
suggested Witherlee.

“Ah, Missr Wentwort’,” said the old man, grotesquely serious, “you
friend, Missr Harrin’ton, is vair fine, vair mush humane, vair fine
zhentilman. I feel vair mush warm to him.”

“Rather too much of the Don Quixote order, though,” drawled Witherlee,
affectedly, giving the Spanish pronunciation to the ‘Don Quixote’ and
calling it Don Kehoty.

“O you be hanged, Fernando,” burst in Wentworth. “He’s no more like Don
Kehoty, as you call it, than you’re like Sancho Panza. He’s the grandest
fellow that ever lived, and makes me ashamed of myself every day of my
life. Hallo, I guess he’s coming.”

Witherlee, biliously pale with spite at the double injury of his
pronunciation of “Don Quixote” having been mimicked, and Harrington
having been so warmly praised, busied himself with adjusting the loosened
skin of his cigar, while Monsieur Bagasse and Wentworth turned to the
door, which voices and trampling feet were nearing. Presently the door
opened and a group of seven or eight poured in with a confusion of
salutations. Four or five of them were young mercantiloes, and instantly
swarmed around Fisk and Palmer, who were still fussing over the plastron.
One was a heavy, taciturn man—a Pennsylvania Dutchman—with blue, fishy
eyes, a sodden face and a yellow beard. His name was Whilt, and he kept a
wine-cellar, and boarded with Monsieur Bagasse. With him was another of
the fencing-master’s boarders—a tall, slender, handsome, swaggering young
man, half-soldier, half-coxcomb in his bearing, with bright dark eyes,
brilliant color, long black hair, well oiled and curled, and a long,
slim, black moustache, shaved into two sections, and clinging to his
upper lip, and curving around his moist, scarlet mouth, like two flaccid
leeches. He was fancifully clad in bright blue, tight-fitting trowsers,
a short, rakish coat, gay vest and neckerchief, wore his falling
collar open at the throat, and had a Kossuth hat, with a black plume,
set smartly on his head. This was Captain Vukovich, a young Hungarian
officer, who had come over in the train of Kossuth. Though it was only
eight o’clock, he and Whilt had a strong smell of Rhine wine about them,
which they diffused through the room upon entering.

“How are you, Whilt,” said Wentworth, carelessly nodding. “Captain, how
are you? I thought you had gone on to New York with Kossuth.”

Wentworth had the Kossuth furor, prevalent about that time, and saluted
Vukovich with a touch of enthusiasm.

“No,” responded the Hungarian, in a soft voice, conceitedly fingering
his moustache, and swaying on his shapely legs as he spoke. “No, I stays.
Se Gofernor go on, an’ I stays back. I sink to keep cigar shop in Bosson
pretty soon. So I stays. Goot tay, Mossieu Bagasse. How you feel?”

He begun to talk in French to the fencing-master, and Wentworth, full
of fiery sentiment for liberty and Hungary, moved away to the foils,
humming the Marseillaise. Presently, Palmer and Fisk were ready, and
Monsieur Bagasse, after much preliminary effort to get Palmer into strict
position, began to give him his lesson.

Both Witherlee and Wentworth were very sensitive to all forms of
artistic beauty, and they now saw, with strange pleasure, as they had
often seen before, the wonderful transformation of the fencing-master’s
awkward, sloven figure. Looking at him in his ordinary aspect, nobody
would ever have imagined that he was cut out for a pillar of the school
of arms. But now, as he threw himself into the noble attitude of the
exercise, every deformity seemed suddenly to have dropped from his face
and figure, and vanished. The head erect and proud—the lit face turned
square in rugged, grand repose, with the visor of the old cap looking
now like the raised visor of a helmet—the one eye firm and jewel-bright,
fixed on his adversary’s—the left arm thrown up and out behind in easy
balance—the body set in perfect poise on legs as strong as iron, as
flexible as steel—and the lithe foil gently playing from the extended
ease of his right arm over the stiff guard of his antagonist, like a
line of living light—so, with every trait and outline of his figure
blended into an indescribable ensemble, he stood, an image of martial
grace, superb and invincible. For one instant, the two young men drank
in with eager eyes the beauty of that military statue—the next, Palmer’s
blade lunged in swift and stiff—was parried wide aside with a light,
almost imperceptible, deft motion, and a flashing clash—and the figure
of Bagasse had changed into another statue of martial grandeur, the left
arm down aslope with the left leg, the body heaved forward on the bent
right knee, the right arm up and out in strong extension, and the foil,
a gleaming curve of steel, with its buttoned point on the breast of the
adversary.

Only a second, and while murmurs of applause ran round, the first
position was resumed.

“You see now, Miss’r Pammer,” politely said the fencing-master, breaking
the spell, “I hit you zen, be-cause you longe off you guard. Now see—I
show you how.”

He dropped his point, and explained to Palmer where he had done wrong,
showing him with his own foil the way the pass should have been made.
Palmer promised to remember, and the lesson went on.

Presently, while they were on guard, Palmer was wrong again—this time
in his position. Bagasse, smiling politely, lowered his point; whereat,
Palmer, with immense haste, lunged in, and triumphantly bent his foil on
the breast of the fencing-master, who, of course, made no effort to ward.
The young mercantiloes, delighted with this evidence of their friend’s
proficiency, set up a cry of bravo. Witherlee sneered to himself, and
Wentworth laughed and exchanged glances with the surprised Hungarian,
and the imperturbable Whilt. As for Monsieur Bagasse, he stood, with
upturned visage, smiling with grotesque placidity, then made a grimace,
and limping off to the claret-can, gulped a mouthful, and came hurrying
back. Palmer instantly threw himself on guard, thrilling with vanity, and
confident that he was getting ahead of his fencing-master.

“See, now, Missr Pammer,” said the old man, with great vivacity, smiling
good-naturedly as he spoke; “you parry, now—it is simple quarte and
tierce—vair, vair easy. Hey, now! Hey, now! Hey, now! Hey, now! Four.”

Quietly, at every exclamation, Monsieur Bagasse, without effort, bent
his foil almost double on the breast of his antagonist. Palmer could no
more parry the deft lunges than he could fly. Bagasse stood grinning
good-naturedly at him, and lowered his point. Palmer instantly made a
desperate lunge at the unguarded breast, and the same instant found that
his foil had flown out of his hand, and that the blade of Bagasse was
resting in a firm curve on his bosom.

All present, Palmer included, burst into a roar of laughter. All but the
master, who stood silent, with his curious, good-natured smile on his
upturned visage. It was quite plain to the pupil now, that he could not
touch Monsieur Bagasse on or off guard, unless the latter chose to let
him.

Suddenly, like a light magnetic shock, a silence fell upon the uproarious
mirth, as with a surprised and startled feeling, all present recognized
a new figure, serene in youthful majesty, standing quietly at a little
distance near them, in the full light of the windows. It was Harrington.
They all knew him, but somehow the unexpectedness of his appearance gave
him the momentary effect of a stranger. He was a young man of about
twenty-five, tall and stalwart, and of regnant and martial bearing. His
face, looking out from under a black slouched felt hat, was long and
bearded, singularly open and noble in its character, firm, calm-eyed,
straight-featured, broad-nostrilled, and masculine, but very pale. The
beard was light-brown, and the hair, chestnut in color, and darker than
the beard, curled closely, and was worn somewhat long. A loose, dark
sack, with large sleeves, buttoned with a single button at the throat,
showed the spread of his chest, and added to the commanding grace of his
figure. This was the coat which had been so opprobriously celebrated by
the esthetic Witherlee. It was an old coat certainly, but it was not
the less a well-chosen and graceful garment, and it is questionable
whether if it had hung in tatters, it would have diminished the effect
of a presence in contrast with which the others seemed common-place
and inferior. Witherlee himself, set in comparison with Harrington,
looked unmanly and contemptibly genteel. Whilt was nobody, Vukovich a
simpering fop, the mercantiloes simple snobs. Even the handsome and
gallant Wentworth seemed of a lower order beside him, and Bagasse, in his
uncouth and shabby grotesqueness, though not degraded by the contrast,
was so removed by his essential unlikeness, as to be out of comparison
altogether.

Wentworth was the first to recover from the momentary ghostly trance into
which they had all dropped on discovering Harrington in the room.

“Jupiter Tonans!” he exclaimed: “How—when—where—in what manner did you
arrive, Harrington!”

“Well,” returned Harrington in a sweet and cordial baritone voice,
affably saluting the company, “I didn’t exactly step out from behind
the air, though you all look as if you thought so. I came in just now
prosaically at the door—not stealthily either, for John Todd, there, both
heard and saw me. But you were all in such a tempest of merriment that no
one but Johnny noticed me. Come—go on with the fun. Tell me what it’s all
about, that I may laugh too.”

“O, I just disarmed Monsoor—that’s all,” said Palmer.

This quip, though slight, was sufficient to set the group off again in
a confusion of jests and laughter, in the midst of which Harrington
wandered over to the pistol bench, and began to chat with the young
fellow while the bout between Monsieur Bagasse and his pupil went on.
In a few minutes Monsieur Bagasse came over to the claret-can in that
region, drank, and took the opportunity to shake hands with Harrington,
and ask for his health.

“O by the way, Mr. Bagasse,” said Harrington, after due replication to
the old Frenchman’s polite inquiries, taking from his breast pocket as
he spoke, a bunch of violets inclosed in a funnel of stiff white paper,
“here’s a May gift for you. I thought of you and your Corporal Violet so
instantly when I got this bouquet, that I resolved to present it to you.
Hallo, though! you’ve got one already.”

He had just caught sight of the nosegay in the old slate-colored jacket.
Like his own, it was tied with a pink string. A comical look of surprise
came with a slight flush to his frank, pale face, and his eye glanced
quickly at the young artist who, he saw, was eagerly watching him from
the other side of the room. At the same instant he saw Witherlee looking
with opaque eyes over in his direction, very intent upon the iron vice
on the bench near by, and with a face entirely discharged of expression.
Harrington’s intelligence was almost clairvoyant, and he felt that
Witherlee was watching him and not the vice—felt also that Wentworth’s
gaze meant something connected with his present action. With the feeling,
which was as instantaneous as his glance had been, he caught sight of
the eye of the old Frenchman, roguishly twinkling at him. Harrington was
puzzled.

“Ah, ha, Missr Harrin’ton,” said Monsieur Bagasse in a bantering whisper,
“zere are two ladee zat gif ze vilet, an’ two zhentilmen zat gif ze vilet
too! Eh, now, zem zhentilmen sall not be so vair mush fond of zem ladee
zat zey gif away zere littel bouquet! Ha?”

“Two ladies!” exclaimed Harrington. “How do you know there are two? I
didn’t say so.”

Monsieur Bagasse was caught, and shrugged his humpy shoulders with an
odd grimace. A feeling of honor withheld him from saying how he came by
his information, since that would involve the exposure of the blabbing
Witherlee. Witherlee, meanwhile, fully conscious of the ridiculous
impropriety he had been guilty of, in tattling about his friends’ affairs
to any person, much less the old fencing-master, and momently expecting
to be subjected to the rage of Wentworth, and the rebuke of Harrington,
stood nervously dreading the reply of Bagasse, and looking pale in spite
of himself. Wentworth, for his part, taking a true-lover’s stand-point,
was considerably amazed to see Harrington, whom he thought the secret
lover of Miss Ames, so coolly bestowing her nosegay on the old Frenchman.
As for Harrington, he was divided between wonder at Wentworth, for having
not only given to the old Frenchman the flowers he had received from
Miss Eastman—whom he in turn thought Wentworth secretly loved—but having
also, as he naturally supposed, made the old Frenchman his confidant, at
least to the extent of telling him of the two ladies and of their gifts.
Fisk and Palmer were at it, quarte and tierce, with the foils. Meanwhile,
there was a game of quarte and tierce of another sort begun between four,
all against each other, and Monsieur Bagasse had just been buttoned.

Harrington smiled good-naturedly, and silently gave the violets to
the fencing-master, who took them and bowed without a word. Just then
Wentworth approached with a composed air, which was so evidently assumed
that Harrington began to laugh. Wentworth’s florid color had paled a
little, but he answered Harrington’s laugh with a constrained smile,
looking meanwhile in his face.

“Well, Harrington,” he said, with an unsuccessful attempt at
carelessness, “what the deuce is there in my giving Bagasse the violets,
to make you show your maxillary muscles and the teeth under, your beard
so delightedly? Hanged if I see anything to laugh at.”

The maxillary muscles, which were unusually developed in Harrington’s
cheeks, and always wrinkled them when he laughed, relaxed at this, but
his white, regular teeth still showed in a curious, half-sad, half-absent
smile, as he fixed his clear, broad gaze wistfully on the face of his
friend. Wentworth, nettled at the mystery of a look he could not fathom,
became peevish, and began to twirl his moustache, half smiling, half
irritated.

“Don’t be vexed, Wentworth,” said Harrington, throwing his long arm
affectionately around the latter’s shoulder, and moving away up the
room with him, while Bagasse shuffled off to his pupils. “I laughed
thoughtlessly—but, frankly, I was somewhat surprised to see that you had
given away the violets. That was all.”

“All!” exclaimed Wentworth. “And why shouldn’t I give them away? They
were mine, weren’t they? Why, you gave yours away too, didn’t you?”

“To be sure,” replied Harrington, with a bothered air, adding tranquilly,
“Emily gave them to me, and I gave them to Bagasse.”

“Well,” retorted Wentworth, “Muriel gave them to me and I gave them to
Bagasse also. What of it?”

Harrington, who could not see into this matter at all, was silent, and
stroked his beard with his hand, a habit of his when he was very much
puzzled.

“No matter—it’s a trifle,” he said lightly, after a pause. “Only,
Richard, to be very plain with you—I hope you’ll not think me
intrusive—well, I thought it was—odd—that you should have given away the
flowers Muriel gave you.”

He spoke these words with marked, but delicate significance—stammering
and hesitating a little in his speech, which was unusual with him. It
was the first allusion he had ever made to Wentworth’s supposed love for
Miss Eastman. Loving her himself, it was not made without a pang. If
Wentworth had been cool, he could not but have understood it. As it was,
it only put him in a rage.

“Well, if I ever heard the like of this!” he sputtered. “To be very plain
with me—what in thunder—blast it all, Harrington, what are you driving
at? Why, I was struck all of a heap at the oddity of your giving away
Emily’s nosegay, and here you turn upon me and tell me it’s odd—yes, odd,
that I should give away Muriel’s! What’s the difference, I’d like to
know? Now, just tell me!”

Harrington was silent, and again stroked his beard, wondering what sort
of cross-purposes they were playing at. Wentworth stood for a moment with
flushed face and passionate eyes, angry with Harrington for the first
time in his life, and then walked away in great exasperation.

Perplexed and amazed at this state of affairs, and grieved to think he
had, however unwittingly, angered his friend, Harrington stood looking
after him, irresolute whether to follow and attempt an explanation now,
or wait till his fume was over. Presently, he resolved to wait, and sadly
musing, began to pace to and fro at the upper end of the long room.

On his way down to the fencing-ground, Wentworth was met by Witherlee,
who had been watching the conference, and though he could not catch
a word, knew well enough by Wentworth’s excited tones then, and by
his flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes now, that there had been some
difference between the two.

“What’s the matter, Richard?” he asked, kindly.

“O nothing, nothing!” fretfully replied the vexed Wentworth, taking off
his Rubens hat, dashing back the thick curls from his handsome, sloping
forehead with a hasty hand, and passionately slapping on the hat again.

“I am very sorry, very. Harrington is really very aggravating sometimes,”
ventured the kind Fernando.

At any other time Wentworth would have resented this insidious speech, as
a slander upon the gentle Harrington. But now—

“He’s the most aggravating fellow I ever knew in my life,” was his hot
answer.

“Well, I wouldn’t go so far as that,” returned Fernando, with mild
moderation. “By no means. Harrington has fine qualities, you know. You
should remember that the best of us are apt to be a little forgetful when
our own personal interests, or wishes, or affections are involved.”

Blandly and kindly said, with just a shade of hesitating emphasis on
“personal” and “affections”—just a shade.

“What do you mean by that, Fernando?” asked Wentworth, almost choking,
and catching at the insidious hint, which the good Fernando had made
almost impalpable by throwing it out with the easy manner of one uttering
a mere generality.

“Mean?” he asked, with a delicate shade of bewilderment, “why nothing
particular, that I know of.”

But he smiled slightly and lifted his handsome eyebrows very slightly,
and then lapsed into an expression of soft compassion.

“Yes, I understand,” said Wentworth, walking away in passionate misery.

What particular meaning the good Fernando’s vague words and mysterious
looks expressed, nobody could have told. It was their especial beauty,
perhaps, that they really expressed nothing definite at all, and were
merely random spurs to the imagination of the listener, goading him on
the path he happened to be pursuing. Wentworth’s path at that moment was
the vague suspicion that Harrington was selfishly supplanting him in
his relation to Emily. It was a path out of which he had turned several
times, urged by his strong sense of Harrington’s perfect nobility, but
he was now in it again, and with the talented Fernando’s last bunch of
thorns insidiously tied to his galloping fancy, and stinging it on, he
was going at a headlong pace for mad jealousy and outright hostility, and
would soon be there.

Witherlee, meanwhile, highly gratified at the success of his insinuations
with Wentworth, was enjoying the young artist’s distress when he caught
sight of Harrington standing at the upper end of the room, and looking
at him. It was embarrassing, and he was about to avert his eyes, but at
that instant Harrington beckoned to him. He hesitated, and then with
considerable trepidation, for he did not know what was coming, he walked
up the room.

Harrington’s face was introverted and sad, and his eyes were fixed on
vacancy. Witherlee felt glad that the broad gaze did not rest on his
face, for he feared its inquest.

“Fernando,” said Harrington, calmly and kindly, though with evident
embarrassment, “I want to speak with you on a very delicate subject. You
have known Miss Eastman and Miss Ames a long time—much longer than I
have. You”—

Harrington paused for a moment. Witherlee’s heart beat an alarmed tattoo,
though his colorless face was perfectly impassible.

“Richard is in a strange state lately,” resumed Harrington, smiling
vaguely. “You must have noticed it, Fernando. Just now, he spoke to me
in a manner which I do not understand. Something frets him. Have you any
idea what it is?”

“Not the least, though I’ve noticed it,” returned the imperturbable
Fernando.

“Well, I haven’t either,” said Harrington. “But see here. You remember
what you said to me at my room about a week ago. Previous to that
conversation, it was my own fancy that Richard was very much attached
to Miss Ames. You surprised me very much when you told me you thought
his feeling was for—for Muriel. I never should have guessed it. You
astonished me still more by what you told me after that. But something
Richard said just now made me fancy that you may have been mistaken, and
I want to ask you if you are perfectly sure of what you saw.”

Harrington paused again, nervously twitching his beard with his large
shapely hand. Before Witherlee could reply, he went on again.

“Let me recall that conversation,” he said. “You sat in my arm-chair
smoking, and you were praising Muriel, which was pleasant for me to
hear. Presently, you remarked, ‘she’ll make Wentworth a superb wife,’
and then you quoted from Tennyson’s ‘Isabel’—‘the queen of marriage, a
most perfect wife.’ I was, I own, amazed. ‘Why, Wentworth?’ I asked. You
looked surprised, and said, ‘Why not Wentworth?’ Then you added—‘When
people love, don’t they marry?’ ‘Certainly,’ I returned, ‘but you are
mistaken, I think.’ ‘I think not,’ you replied, with a manner so cool and
positive, that I was, to be frank with you, a little annoyed. I was about
to drop the subject there, for it seemed to me hardly fair to canvass
such a matter, when you remarked, ‘In fact, I _know_ I’m not.’ I replied,
‘It is quite impossible that you should _know_ it, Fernando, though you
may have what seem to you strong reasons for believing it.’ You answered,
rather unkindly it appeared to me—‘Do you doubt my word?’ ‘Not at all,’ I
said. ‘How can you think so—it’s not a question of veracity at all, but
of judgment?’ ‘Well,’ said you, ‘I have proof—ocular proof—I wouldn’t say
it if you didn’t put me to it.’ And then you told me that you visited the
house the previous afternoon, and as you were entering the parlor, you
saw Richard and Muriel standing together at the other end of the room,
with their arms around each other, and saw them kiss each other. You drew
back instantly, you said, without having been perceived by them, and made
a clatter in the hall before you entered again. I could hardly forgive
you at the time for having told me what you saw, or myself for having
listened to you, for it was not a thing to be either told of or listened
to. But I grant it happened naturally enough in the heat of the moment,
and after all, I am glad to have known of an occurrence, the knowledge of
which may prevent misunderstanding and trouble.”

Harrington paused once more, with vague emotion struggling in his
features and his eyes fixed sadly on vacancy. The truth of the matter
was this: Witherlee had seen on the occasion referred to, two persons in
the attitude described, one of whom was Wentworth, and the other a young
lady who, at the first glance, he thought was Muriel, inasmuch as she
wore a lilac dress such as Muriel wore at times. He had, as he had said,
retreated instantly—quite astounded too, for he had made up his mind that
Emily was Wentworth’s sweetheart. But on entering again, he saw that he
had been mistaken, and that the lady with Wentworth was not Muriel, but
Emily. The illusion, however, made a strong impression on his fancy, and
his mind teemed with tempting imaginings of Wentworth and Muriel in the
Romeo and Juliet tableau. It was an easy step in his controversy with
Harrington, begun simply for aggravation and continued with an obstinate
desire to establish what he had so impudently assumed, to present his
fancy as a fact, and insist upon it. This was a fair specimen of one
of the good Fernando’s lies, which were rarely sheer inventions, but
generally had a basis of truth in them.

“Now, Fernando,” resumed Harrington, “I want to ask you whether it is
possible that you could have been mistaken? Are you absolutely sure that
it was Muriel you saw with Wentworth, and not Miss Ames?”

Fernando’s drowsy conscience awoke just enough to give him a lethargic
pinch, and dozed off again.

“I do not see, Harrington,” he replied with an injured air, “how I could
be mistaken. There was nobody else in the room but Wentworth and Muriel
when I first looked in. Emily was coming in through the conservatory door
at the end of the parlor as I entered, but she was not there before.”

This was an ingenious transposition of the fact. It was Muriel who came
in at the conservatory door, and not Emily. But Fernando had covered his
position famously. In the event of the truth coming out, he could swear
that in the confusion of the moment he had mistaken one lady for the
other, apologize profusely, and make the explanation seem plausible.

“It was certainly Muriel,” he resumed. “Still the affair may be
susceptible of a different interpretation. You must concede at least that
Muriel and Wentworth like each other very much, and they might kiss each
other and still be only friends.”

“No,” said Harrington, firmly—“that is not possible. That is not like
Muriel. I know her too well to suppose that for a moment. If she kissed
Wentworth, she loves him. I do not doubt you, Fernando. Their present
close intimacy with each other confirms your story, I own. But something
Richard said just now shook my belief—made me think, in fact, that you
were in error, and I wanted to be doubly sure that you were not. Let me
only say that I have a better motive for this inquiry than curiosity—and
now let all this be forgotten. Never mention it again, I beg of you, to
any person. Let it all pass forever.”

Witherlee’s conscience smote him terribly, and he felt maddened at his
meanness, as Harrington strode away. But he was fully committed to his
course, and to own his fault was impossible with him.

Wentworth, meanwhile, was standing apart with a gloomy face, listlessly
watching the fencing. His fancy was still galloping furiously with him
to the goal of the jealous lover, but it began to swerve from the track
in spite of him, as he saw Harrington coming down the room. Harrington’s
mere presence was a constant demand on every person for the best that was
in them; and before the conquering sweetness of his smile, Wentworth’s
jealous doubts and suspicions at once scattered and fled, and his nobler
feelings rushed forward. The tears filled his bright eyes as Harrington
came straight up to him and caught his hand. He tried to speak, but his
lips faltered.

“Richard, I ask your pardon,” said Harrington. “I am sorry to have
annoyed you; but it was entirely unintentional. I want to have a talk
with you, that we may understand each other better. Not now—another time.
In the meantime, let us be friends.”

Wentworth wrung his hand, wholly vanquished, and unable to say a word.

“Come,” said Harrington, gaily, with the muscles in his cheeks wrinkling
again, and his teeth gleaming in his beard, with a rich smile—“come, that
was only a zephyr. Let’s go fence.”

No more was said, and they went over to the fencing-ground, where Fisk
was being punched and poked and interjected at and admonished by Monsieur
Bagasse, to his utter bewilderment. In a few minutes, the master got
through with him, and set him and Palmer to practise against each other.
He then turned to Wentworth, who had taken off hat and coat, and was
chattering like a mercurial magpie, with his handsome face enveloped in a
mask.

“Come, now, Missr Wentwort’,” said Bagasse. “You pink zat ozzer vilet if
you can. _En garde._”

Wentworth laughed, and, crossing blades, they fell to. The young artist
fenced briskly and well, though somewhat rashly. Once he contrived to
touch the fencing-master on the arm, for which lucky stroke he got paid
with half a dozen in succession on his breast.

“Thunder!” he exclaimed as he got the last, “what’s the use of fencing
with you, Bagasse? Nobody can touch you, and you’re as light on your pins
as though you were twenty.”

The old man chuckled grimly, relapsing into his clumsiest and most
ungainly attitude.

“Light!” put in Witherlee. “I guess he is. His legs are made of
caout-chouc, I should think, judging by the way he can kick.”

“Oh, yes, I can keek,” returned Bagasse. “I haf my leg pretty su-ple.”

He turned toward the post against which Witherlee was leaning, and laid
his grimy finger on a notch a little above his own head. Witherlee stood
aside, and every eye followed the fencing-master. Suddenly, rising on
one foot, he dealt the notch a furious kick, amidst cries of “good” and
“bravo.” Sure enough, the leg had flown up to the mark, like a leg of
india-rubber.

“Ha!” he exclaimed, complacently, “you do zat, you young men. Try
now—evairy one.”

Wentworth tried first, kicked high, but did not come within a foot of the
mark. Whilt came next, stolid and taciturn, kicked, and tumbled over,
amidst general laughter. Vukovich lifted his shapely leg, kicked within
half a foot, and split his blue trowsers, at which he looked grieved, and
swore softly in Hungarian, while the rest laughed at him. Then came Fisk
and Palmer and the others, with poor success, and amidst much merriment.

In the quiet that followed, Whilt, who had been as dumb as a skull,
suddenly began to shake and whinny so with guttural mirth, that everybody
looked at him with surprise. It came out, after some inquiry, that he was
laughing at Vukovich for having torn his trowsers, an incident which had
just touched his sense of the ludicrous when everybody else had almost
forgotten it. Of course there was another obstreperous roar of merriment,
and Witherlee told Whilt he laughed too soon—he ought to have waited till
next week—with other sarcasms of the same nature, which the slow Dutchman
took into sober consideration.

“Come, Harrington,” said Wentworth, “you try.”

Harrington had stood apart, smiling amusedly, through all this clatter.

“Ah, Missr Harrin’ton, he can keek wis me,” exclaimed Bagasse. “He keek
sublime.”

Harrington laughed, and advancing, took up a bit of chalk from the floor,
and marked a line on the post, as much above his own head as the notch
had been above the fencing-master’s. Then poising a second, he threw up
his leg, and brought away chalk on his boot. There was a general burst of
acclamation.

“Ah, ha! it is grand—it is superb!” cried Monsieur Bagasse. “Missr
Harrin’ton, he can keek wis me, he can fence wis me, he can shoot wis
me, he can engage wis me in ze broadsword—ze single-steek, he can do
everysing so I can. It is his talent. _Sacrebleu!_ He is for-r-mi-dabble.”

Harrington laughed, with an expression and gesture of deprecation.

“How many men could you fight together, Monsoor?” asked Palmer.

“Me? I fight you all. Evairy one. Togezzer,” replied the Frenchman.

“Mawdoo!” ejaculated Palmer. “Isn’t he a trump!”

“Come, Bagasse, that will do for the marines,” said Wentworth. “You can’t
do it.”

“Ah,” replied the fencing-master, “you zink not? Bah! Come, I show you.”

In a minute he had seven or eight of them, Wentworth, Vukovich, Palmer
and Fisk included, masked and foiled. Then putting his back to the wall,
he directed them to set upon him. It was agreed that if he was touched
the contest was to end there. On the other hand, every combatant touched
was to withdraw.

“Pardoo! It is splendid!” exclaimed Palmer.

“Mawdoo! It is fine!” returned Fisk.

The domestically-pronounced French oaths which prefixed these
asseverations, were, of course, borrowed by Messrs. Fisk and Palmer from
the “Three Guardsmen,” and figured extensively on all possible occasions
in their general conversation.

“Come, Harrington, you too,” cried Wentworth.

“No, no—ex-cuse me—pardon,” interrupted Monsieur Bagasse, smiling,
grimacing and bowing all at once; “not Missr Harrin’ton. Zat will be too
mush—vair many too mush.”

Harrington colored slightly, and laughed. Monsieur Bagasse put on a mask,
threw himself on guard, and stood girt with antagonists, with his foil
playing like a pale gleam, menacing them all. Suddenly it darted—there
was a brisk clatter of parries—and Vukovich was touched. It was a
compliment to the skill of the gallant captain that Bagasse had got rid
of him thus early in the game, and he came off simpering, and stroking
his moustache complacently.

“He keel me fery queek, Meeser Haynton,” he observed to the young man,
who stood attentively watching the contest.

“Ah, Captain,” returned Harrington gaily, addressing him in French, “but
your ghost can fence better than most of us still.”

The captain’s vanity was evidently flattered by the compliment, for he
swelled a little with an air of increased complacency, though he made no
reply. Witherlee, who was standing behind him, a silent observer of the
sport, glanced at him with a bilious sneer. Meanwhile, amidst shouts and
laughter, and noisy appels and glizades, the young men were assailing
Bagasse, trying all sorts of feints and tricks to penetrate his guard.
Harrington watched him admiringly—so statue-still in the tumultuous
press, his awkwardness and shabbiness gone, the wire globe of the mask
giving a weird look to his head, his bent arm holding his assailants
at bay, and the pale gleam of the foil glancing nimbly all about the
arc of the ring. Presently the guarding foil whisked and rattled with a
confusion of brilliant coruscations, playing like elfin lightning all
around the semi-circle—the bent arm of the invincible figure at which
all were lunging, straightened and darted thrice, rapid as a flash—and
amidst mock groans and cries and laughter, Wentworth, Fisk, and Palmer
withdrew. They came away vociferously mirthful, and before they had
well got the masks off their flushed faces, the others were all touched
and followed them, leaving Monsieur Bagasse standing alone, erect and
martial, his one eye glowing like a coal in the proud grotesque smile of
his swarthy visage, his left arm akimbo, holding the mask on his hip, and
the victorious foil held aloft in his right hand, and quivering above his
head like a rod of wizard lustre.

There were loud bravos and clapping of hands. The next instant the statue
of military triumph dropped into the clumsy, sloven figure of Bagasse,
and hobbled off to the claret-can. He came hurrying back presently with
the foil and mask in one hand, and stood, the centre of a great smell
of garlic, grinning curiously at Fisk and Palmer, who, in an ecstasy
of excitement from their recent engagement, were playing they were
D’Artagnan and Porthos, and poking furiously at each other with all the
“Guardsmen” oaths and epigrams in full ventilation.

“Well, Missr Wentwort’, what you zink now?” he asked, triumphantly.

“What do I think? I think you could have let Harrington come on too, and
then have beaten us all,” was the gay reply.

“Ah, no,” returned Monsieur Bagasse, “not wis Missr Harrin’ton.”

“Come, Meeser Haynton,” said Vukovich; “you an’ Mossieu Bagasse. Oblise
me and dese sentilmen.”

At once there was a clamor of beseechings, to which the parties
addressed presently yielded. Witherlee, who hated to see Harrington
fence, because he fenced so well, quietly slipped away from the room.
Fisk and Palmer stopped, and gathered with the others around the
fencing-place. Meanwhile, Monsieur Bagasse took the violets from his
jacket and laid them away; then put on a plastron—an honor he had
not paid to any other of his pupils that day, and resumed his mask.
Harrington took off his coat and vest, and arrayed himself also in mask
and plastron.

They took their places, and after performing the beautiful elaborate
salute of the exercise, fell upon guard. Every eye was riveted on the
stalwart grace of Harrington as he crossed blades with his antagonist.
As for the French gladiator, excited by the coming contest with one who
could call into play all his powers, his attitude was superb, and his
transformation more complete than before.

The contest was begun by a feint, quick and light, on the part of the
fencing-master, and in a second it was pass and parry with a rapturous
flash and clash of steel. Presently the right foot of Bagasse beat
the floor with the loud rat-tat of the appel, and foot and arm and
body sprang forward with a terrific lunge. Harrington, immovable as a
pillar, met it with a swift twirl of the wrist, and the next second both
combatants were still, with their foils locked in a complete spiral from
hilt to point.

Disengaging presently, the combatants saluted amidst suppressed murmurs
of applause, crossed blades once more, and stood with each point seeking
an opening. In a moment or two, Bagasse feinted again, and lunged in
tierce. Harrington parried in seconde, letting his point fly up and his
arm extend in the parry, and pushing home, his foil became a curve with
the button resting on the bosom of the fencing-master.

It was the first hit, and everybody hurrahed. Presently the hurrah burst
forth again for Bagasse, who had hit Harrington. In less than five
minutes the combat grew almost as exciting as a duel with swords. To
follow the dazzling rapidity of the lunges and parries became impossible.
The gazers could only see a nimble play of rattling light between the
two—the lines of the foils lost in curves and gleams of brilliance—and
the gloved sword-arms of the antagonists flying like twirling and darting
shuttles above the clashing coruscations. The interest now centred in
the aspect and expression of the combatants. Bagasse, throwing his
whole fiery nature into the soul-entrancing action of the duel, was in
an ecstasy of martial joy, and lunged and parried with exulting shouts
and cries—a darting, swaying figure, terribly alert and alive, with the
spring and strength of a fury. Harrington, on the contrary, was silent
as death, impassible, elastic, swift—a regnant form of muscular grace
poised in superb aplomb, that fell to half its height in the long lunges,
and rose magnificent in the quick recoils. An atmosphere of fiery ether
seemed to envelop the combatants, spreading its glorious delirium through
the veins of the gazers, and kindling the delight of battle in their
eyes. But as the combat continued, the wild passion of the action became
so intense and real that the heroic glow began to pale and mingle with
a cold affright, and Wentworth, beginning to feel his agitation master
him, was on the point of shouting to Harrington to stop, when there was a
sharp snap, followed by sudden silence, and the combat was over. Bagasse
stood panting through his mask with a broken foil in his hand. Harrington
breathing audibly in long, regular breaths through his, remained in
attitude with his point lowered, like one awakened from a dream. The next
instant, Bagasse broke the silence with a wild shout, and throwing away
mask and foil, flung his arms around Harrington in a joyful embrace, and
bursting away, vented the remnant of his joy by dealing the high notch on
the post a kick that might have brought the roof down.

There was a ringing hurrah, followed by a burst of hearty laughter,
congratulations, and shaking of hands all round.

“But, by Jupiter,” cried Wentworth, “I’m glad its over, for, upon my
word, I began to get frightened. Blessed if I ever saw you two have such
a bout before! Bagasse, you old reprobate, I believe you were in earnest.”

He turned with a peal of laughter upon the old man, who stood exhaling
garlic, and wiping his hot face with a snuffy old red pocket
handkerchief. Bagasse grinned good-naturedly, gave his old moustache a
dab with the handkerchief, and thrusting out the latter with a joyful
gesture, replied:

“I was teepsy, Missr Wentwort’—daid-drunk wis ze joay of ze beautifool
en-countair. Hah! by dam! zat make me feel young.”

“I should think so, you blood-thirsty old rapier!” bawled Wentworth. “And
you,” he continued, turning upon Harrington, “you were in earnest, too, I
verily believe, and bent upon taking your fencing-master’s life. A nice
pair, both of you, for a peaceable young man like me to meet in a dark
alley going home late.”

Harrington, who was leaning against the wall, getting his wind, as the
saying goes, laughed without replying. His usual pallor had given place
to a faint pink, and his broad winged nostrils were lifting with his
deep breaths under his lighted eyes and white forehead, on which the
brown locks lay damp. Wentworth thought he had never seen him look more
princely.

“But no,” Wentworth rattled on, “I don’t believe it of you, Harrington.
For you’re what Kingsley calls a muscular Christian. As for Bagasse,
he’s a muscular pagan, who lives on raw meat, gunpowder and brandy, and
there’s nothing too bad for me to believe of him. Is there, Bagasse?”

He patted the old man on the shoulder as he said it, looking smilingly
in his face. Bagasse gazed with grotesque fondness at the handsome and
gallant countenance, as on that of a privileged pet, and continued to mop
his glowing visage.

“What’s the time, Richard?” asked Harrington, beginning to dress himself.

“Quarter of ten by all that’s good!” exclaimed the other, looking at
his watch. “Time for me to be at the studio, and you at the books. But
I won’t say that, for upon my word, Harrington, you study too hard. The
Pierian spring will be the death of you, young man.”

“O, no,” replied Harrington, laughing gaily. “I’m in good health. The
daily bout with the foils or broadswords balances the hours at the
books.”

“Nevertheless you look rather Hamletish in your pallor,” returned
Wentworth. “Though to be sure the pale prince was a special good hand
at the rapier, in which, as in other respects, you resemble him. ‘The
scholar, soldier, courtier’s eye, tongue, sword—the expectancy and rose
of the fair State’ of Massachusetts—that’s you, Harrington.”

“Seems to me, Richard, the quotation bung and the head of the soft-soap
barrel are both out together this morning,” bantered Harrington.

“‘I paint you in character,’” returned the mercurial Wentworth, with
another Shaksperean reminiscence. “Being a member of the Boston Mutual
Admiration Society, and this being Anniversary week, soft-soap is
perfectly in order. Therefore, I affirm that you are of the Hamlet order
plus Crichton, plus Raleigh, Sidney, Hatton, Blount, Southampton”—

“Shakspeare and Verulam,” jeered Harrington.

“Together with Shakspeare and Verulam. And now that I have made a
clean breast of it, and as you are dressed, suppose we depart. Young
Mephistopheles, _alias_ Witherlee, has gone already, I notice. Our
mercantile friends are off, too, and a proper rowing they’ll get for
being late at the store this morning. Oh, Bagasse, Bagasse! you’ve
much to answer for—corrupting the mercantile youth of this realm by
traitorously erecting a fencing-school! Apropos of fencing, it’s more
than a week since we’ve had a bout with our dear fairy prince. By
Jupiter! what a pleasure it is to see Muriel at the foils! I’m so glad
you persuaded her to learn”—

“Oh, you’re wrong there,” interrupted Harrington. “It was she persuaded
me to teach her. Muriel has a passion for liberal culture, and fencing is
part of her programme.”

“Isn’t she glorious!” cried Wentworth with enthusiasm. “A woman?—a young
goddess rather! By Jove! the best swimmer of all the girls last summer
at Gloucester. The best skater last winter on Jamaica pond. Climbed the
mountains in October with the best of us. Runs like Atalanta. Dances
like Terpsichore. Sings like a seraph. Talks in a voice like Israfel’s.
Studies almost as hard as you do, Harrington. And now she fences like an
angel. I declare she’s a perfect young Crichtona. And yet how womanly
withal! Not a touch of the masculine about her. Gay, free, strong,
sweet—oh, fairy prince, there’s none like you, none.”

Harrington listened to this ardent celebration of the charms of her
Wentworth called the fairy prince, in perfect silence and with a secret
astonishment in his pale, controlled countenance. He believed Wentworth
loved Muriel, but for the life of him he could not reconcile this lavish
panegyric with that belief. For love is reticent, and we let expressive
silence muse the sweetheart’s praise. How then could Wentworth thus
blazon his beloved? Harrington was puzzled.

“There’s a curious element of surprise in Muriel, too,” resumed
Wentworth, with a musing air. “She is so gentle, so reposeful and
graceful, that when she flashes out in these courageous physical
accomplishments I always feel a little astonished. Don’t you, Harrington?”

“Oh, no,” returned Harrington. “She has a rich, versatile, inclusive
nature. You know that this union of feminine gentleness and manly spirit
is not so uncommon. There was the Countess Emily Plater, for example,
the heroine of the Polish Revolution; yet with all her bravery, she was
peculiarly tender and gentle. There, again, was the Maid of Saragossa,
who fought for her country over the body of her lover; but Byron, who
saw her often at Madrid, says she was remarkable for her soft, feminine
beauty. Muriel is a woman of the same style, I suppose. Come, Richard,
let’s go.”

They saluted the old Frenchman, who stood with the Hungarian at the
pistol bench, and left the room.



CHAPTER IV.

MURIEL AND EMILY.


Temple street slopes steeply down Beacon Hill, an aristocratic street of
the aristocratic quarter.

In Temple street lived Muriel with her mother. Mrs. Eastman was a widow.
Her husband, a young scholar, primarily a lawyer, had died three years
after their marriage, when Muriel was but two years old. The effect of
his death on his wife was peculiar. Fitly named Serena, so gentle and
lovely was her nature, his death had not made her unhappy, but it had
breathed a deeper quiet into her gentleness, and her life had been, since
then, as calm as evening. She had been a poet—some of those exquisite
little anonymous lyrics, of which America produces so many, and which
float about through the press, scattering delight but winning no fame,
were hers. But his death had stilled her muse forever. It seemed to have
cloistered her spirit from the world. Never very fond of company, his
decease had made her in love with solitude, and she spent much of her
time in her own chamber, alone.

She was wealthy, having inherited from her husband a considerable
property. Muriel, too, was rich in her own right; Mr. Eastman’s brother,
who had a great affection for her, having died a bachelor four or five
years before, and left her a handsome fortune.

It was a large, sumptuously furnished house they lived in. Into its
library, the fresh spring light, which lay so palely in the long, musty,
powder-scented fencing-school, streamed that morning through crystal and
purple panes, and filled the perfumed air with a gold and violet glory.
The library was rich and dark in color, with walnut bookcases, deep-toned
walls, and violet-velvet furniture. Its prevailing sombrous hue seemed to
confine and intensify the cheerful radiance which filled it, like some
ethereal lustrous liquid in a cup of ebony, touching the dim gilding of
the picture-frames, the delicate ornaments here and there, and resting on
a distinctive feature of the apartment, a large parlor organ, of dark oak
and gold.

But the library’s chief ornament that morning was Muriel—as lovely a
blonde as ever grew to the gathered grace and vigor of twenty summers,
and with that pervading glimmer of natural elegance and fine courtly
breeding in her loveliness, which we express in the word debonair. She
was standing very still, rapt in deep musing, with an open volume of
Dante held in her left palm, and her white, nervous right hand resting
on the page. A lilac dress of some soft tissue, stirred only above the
light pulsations of her bosom, flowed in graceful folds, as she stood
with one arched foot advanced and partly visible at its margin, and
revealed the enchanting harmony of her tall and stately figure. The dress
came quite up to the neck, flowering over there in a charming ruffle
of lace, above which bloomed her exquisite countenance, virginal and
gracious as the morning, as dewy-sweet, as fresh, as spiritually pure.
The complexion, fair and clear as a pond-lily, was radiant with perfect
health. Color, faint as the dawn, tinted the oval cheeks, and the sweet,
curved mouth wore the hue of the wild-brier rose. The large grey eyes
were softened with a golden sheen. Amber hair, with a tint of gold in it,
parted over the serene and open brow, and rising from the head, as we see
it in the Greek statues, rippled down in wavy tresses around the delicate
ears, to gather behind in soft, thick loops of antique beauty. Noble and
debonair from head to foot, and all imparadised in charm, so on that
morning stood Muriel.

Who would have dreamed that the reverie in which she was absorbed was too
solemn to have grown upon her spirit from the mighty Tuscan page before
her? Who could have imagined, gazing upon her calm loveliness, that a
great and awful, though silent, struggle had shaken her heart? Yet it was
so. The event which can most convulse a woman’s life had come to her. She
loved Harrington, and it had dawned upon her that he loved her friend
Emily.

She had met it bravely. With that revelation her heart had risen to the
level of heroic story, and in the spiritual strife which makes life
tremble to its centre, she was the victor. She knew that the world lay
lonely and disenchanted before her, but she was calm. She knew that
life’s fairest hope was unaccomplished, life’s loveliest dream dissolved,
but she was strong. She saw afar the dark battalia of the coming years of
sadness, and her heart rose to meet them with the pulses of Marathon. It
was love’s crowning hour with her—the hour of sacrifice, renunciation,
the high soul’s rapture of martyrdom—the hour of bravery and sad,
generous joy.

But now the immediate strife in her spirit was over, and in the deeps
of her reverie, she saw, strangely distinct as in a dream, the phantom
face of Harrington smiling palely upon her from an illimitable distance.
It had never before been so vivid in her vision, nor had it ever come to
her with such a sense of being mystically far-removed. As she dreamed
upon it, its visionary remoteness seemed less a symbol of the distance
of unanswering love than of love immortal withdrawn by death to smile
upon her from the depths of Eternity. But it was Love, not Death, that
had divided them: he had receded from her to love her friend. She was
resigned that it should be so—happy still, though lonelier, that it was
so. Hers was the true love which gives and needs, but asks not; and
aspiring only to the happiness and good of the beloved one, willingly,
for that, resigns all that makes life most precious and finds a sad joy
in the sacrifice. It was her loss, but another’s gain. There was joy
still in the belief that he was happy in his love for her friend—in
the faith that she was worthy of that love—in the trust that the lofty
purposes for which spirits work on earth in wedded lives would be
achieved by them.

Calm, tender, solemn and regal flowed her reverie, haunted ever by
the phantom face that was never to be near her again—never to smile
henceforth in her dreams save at this visionary distance, which seemed to
her prescient spirit ever less and less the distance of unanswered love,
ever more and more the distance of love responding from the serene depths
of Eternity.

“Muriel!”

A hushed, wondering voice spoke her name. A figure stood before her at
a little distance. Voice and figure were alike remote and dim to her
tranced mind.

“Muriel! Good heavens! Muriel!”

It was Emily. She saw her standing before her, astonished—she herself
tranquil, clearly cognizant, and utterly unsurprised. A superb brunette,
attired in rich brown silk, with a brilliant scarlet scarf on her
shoulders, admirably contrasted with her dark hair, and the sunny gold
and rose of her complexion.

“Why, Muriel, you frightened me! I spoke, and yet you did not hear. What
a strange, still shine there is in your eyes! One would think you were a
somnambulist.”

The happy and noble face smiled at her as she spoke, and two bright
tears flowed upon it. A moment, and the book fell to the floor, and
embracing Emily, she kissed her crimson mouth, and fondly gazed into
her countenance. At the pressure of the soft bosom against her own, at
the touch of the fragrant and dewy lips, Emily’s spirit rose in fervent
affection, and in that moment her heart clasped Muriel like her arms.

“I was a dreamer, and not a somnambulist, dear Emily,” said Muriel. “I
was lost in a reverie, deeper than I have ever known, and it gave me the
peace of a holy thought.”

“What was the thought, dear Muriel?” asked Emily.

“One that you can appreciate, dear lover,” was the tender and gay reply.
“The thought that life is truliest life in the greatness and sweetness of
love.”

A refluent jealousy vainly strove at that moment to enter the heart of
Emily. The charm of her friend’s gracious countenance, and of her mellow
silver voice, was strong upon her. But the rich color came to her golden
face and over her broad, low brow to the roots of her hair, and her
lustrous brown eyes wandered into vacancy.

“Yes, Muriel,” she answered, after a moment’s hesitation, “I agree with
you. Life is truliest life in loving and being loved.”

“No, that is not agreeing with me,” said Muriel, with a frank smile.
“Life is sufficiently life in loving. To love is enough.—But come, dear
Emily, your chocolate voice shall not be used in discussion, but in
confession. We must talk this morning, for I fancy you have some little
grudge against me, and it is time for us to understand each other, like
good friends.”

Emily colored again, and the tears were very near her eyes. She loved
Muriel, yet could not help being jealous of her, believing, as she
did, that she was her rival for the love of Wentworth. But she laughed
lightly, dissembling her emotion, and asked:

“Why is my voice a chocolate voice, Muriel? That is an odd epithet.”

“A very good one, dear,” replied Muriel, laughing, and picking up the
Dante from the floor. “Your voice is a contralto. Sounds, you know, have
their analogical colors, as Madame de Staël knew when she said the sound
of the trumpet was crimson. Now the analogue of contralto is brown.
Chocolate, too, is brown. Hence your voice is chocolate.”

“Well done, Muriel! Come, now, that is really ingenious.”

Muriel laughed her clear and mellow silver laugh, and looked playfully at
Emily.

“Thank you for the compliment, _mignonne_. I shall make it over to the
gentleman from whom I stole the idea.”

“Stole? It’s not yours, then?”

“O yes! It’s mine, because I stole it.”

“And who from? Harrington?”

“Guess again, dear! But _n’importe_—no matter. Come and sit here with me.”

Muriel moved smilingly away to a couch of violet-velvet, and sinking upon
the cushioned seat, waved her hand to her friend. Emily stood unheeding,
in an attitude of sumptuous repose, with her rounded arms folded, a faint
smile on her face, and her lustrous and lambent eyes half-veiled by their
long lashes. The damask color was bright on her cheeks and on her parted
lips, and with every slow breath, her bosom slowly lifted and fell,
stirring the rich and heavy attar-of-rose odor which brooded slumberously
about her form.

“Thou gorgeous queen-rose of Ispahan, why dreamest thou?” said Muriel’s
voice of silver mockery. “Didst thou not hear me call? Come, I say!”

The beautiful brunette did not obey, but raised her proud patrician
head from its drooping curve, and vaguely sighed. Muriel rose, lightly
glided over to her, clasped her waist with both arms, and standing a
little on one side and bending forward—a fresh and full-grown lily—a
fair, gay woman, with the grace and glimmer of a bewitching child in her
womanhood—looked with a naive and radiant, half-mocking, half-serious
smile, into the face of her she had called the gorgeous queen-rose of
Ispahan. Presently she began to lead her to the couch. Emily held back,
but Muriel’s clasp tightened, and yielding to the firm, fairy strength
with which, though strong, she was unable to cope, Emily suffered herself
to be conducted to the seat.

“Ah, stayaway,” blithely said Muriel, sitting beside her, and playfully
shaking a finger at her in sportive reproach, “who is the stronger now?
You are fairly captured, and I hold you my prisoner until peace is
concluded.”

Emily, amused by this pleasantry, showed the pearls of her red mouth in a
brilliant laugh over her indolently folded arms.

“And if you could only fence,” continued Muriel, in the same tone as
before, “I would conquer a peace at the point of my rapier. Can’t I
persuade you to learn, for that especial purpose?”

“Indeed you can’t,” said Emily. “It’s not in the line of my
accomplishments, though you have included it in yours. Bless me! Muriel,
what will you be learning next? Dancing on the tight-rope, I suppose, or
standing on one toe on the back of a galloping horse, like a circus girl.”

“That would be fine, dear, wouldn’t it!” returned Muriel. “Decidedly,
I never thought of the tight-rope or the circus horse before. It is
really an idea! But let us cry truce to this nonsense, for indeed I have
something to say to you.”

Moving a little nearer to Emily as she spoke, her frolic manner vanished,
and her face grew sweetly serious.

“When you found me so entranced this morning,” she said, after a long
pause, “I was thinking of you, dear Emily—in part of you. You know how
much I love you. We grew up together from girlhood, and among all your
friends there is none whose happiness is more closely entwined in yours
than mine.”

Emily’s heart beat fast, and the moisture gathered in her down-dropped
eyes. She did not look up, but she felt that the clear eyes of Muriel
were fixed on her face.

“We have had many happy hours together, Emily,” murmured the low, sweet
voice; “and when you came here two weeks ago, on this visit, it seemed
that the happiest hours of all, both for you and me, were beginning.
Happiest for me because I thought that what makes life sweetest to us all
had come to you—here—in this house.”

There was another pause, in which Emily bowed her head, with an
inexpressible sense of passionate sorrow.

“And it has come to you, Emily,” continued Muriel. “You did not tell
me—you kept your heart’s secret closely—but I saw it—I felt it—though I
so strangely mistook its object. I did not think my intuition could so
mislead me, but it did. For I thought your feeling was for Richard and
his for you.”

Emily smiled serenely, but under the serene smile her wild grief raged.

“How could you think so, Muriel?” she lightly asked.

“I judged so from his manner toward you, and yours toward him,” replied
Muriel.

Emily laughed gaily.

“I cannot imagine,” she answered, “how you could think his attentions
meant anything more than the ordinary reckless gallantries it is his
nature to lavish on young women. And as for myself, I should indeed be
weak to love such a person as he.”

She said it with the most bland and tranquil indifference of voice and
manner—grief and scorn and the wild resentment of slighted love all
hidden and raging in her heart.

“Emily!” The silver voice was raised in mild reproach, and she felt the
nervous hands suddenly clasp her arm. “How can you speak so of Richard!
Indeed, you do him great injustice. I know him better than to think that
of him. Emily, you amaze me! Why, how can you imagine him such a person!”

Emily smiled blandly. She may well defend him, was her thought, for she
loves him. Calmly lifting her lustrous eyes, she saw Muriel’s wondering
face all suffused with generous color. Yes, she thought, it is her love
for him.

“Why Muriel,” she remarked quietly, “everybody knows he is a handsome
young flirt. It is his general reputation. His words, his looks, his
manner toward women are proof enough of it, I’m sure. Nobody thinks more
highly of him than Fernando, but even Fernando, spite of his friendship,
says it is the great fault of his character.”

Muriel laughed suddenly, then looked very grave.

“I’m afraid, Emily,” she said quickly, “that it is Fernando who has put
this strange and ridiculous idea into your head.”

“Not at all,” quietly responded Emily. “Fernando only corroborates my own
judgment. But if you cannot trust the opinion of a man’s intimate friends
and associates, what can you trust?”

“I would not trust Fernando’s opinion of anybody,” said Muriel.

“Why?” asked Emily, coolly.

“Why, dear? Because our good Fernando is nothing if not critical,”
piquantly answered Muriel.

“Do you think him false?” said Emily.

“Hum!” Muriel looked doubtful—then laughed. “To tell the truth,
_mignonne_, I think he is, on a small scale, the Iago of private life.”

“You are witty, Muriel, but you are not just,” was Emily’s cold reply.

Muriel was silent for a moment.

“Never mind,” she resumed. “We will not discuss Fernando. You will yet
think better of Richard, I am confident, but as you are not in love with
him, it’s no matter.”

As I am not in love with him! thought Emily. She could hardly keep from
shuddering with the flood of conflicting passion that shot through her.
The wild impulse to tell Muriel that she had cast her life upon him,
burst into her mind. What? Tell her that she loved him, and that he had
slighted her love; that he had won her heart from her; that once, in one
electric moment, his arms had enfolded her, his lips had pressed hers,
and then, his whim gratified, he had left unspoken the words her soul
panted to hear, and coldly alienated himself from her! Tell all this to
her, whom he was now wooing, and who loved him! Passionate pride arose,
and held the impulse down.

“Yes, I own that I was mistaken,” pursued Muriel, “strangely mistaken, in
dreaming that you and Richard were lovers. Still, there was love. It is
my joy to think that you love another dear friend of mine, and that he
loves you. And my joy is all the greater to feel that you are above our
social prejudices—that you are great enough to love one whose wealth is
in his manhood. You and Harrington”—

Emily turned quickly, her face calm, but all aglow with rich scarlet, and
lighted with an indefinable smile. Muriel, pale with love and sacrifice,
her clear voice trembling, and her eyes humid, stopped as she met that
singular look, and changed color.

“Forgive me, dear Emily,” she said quickly. “I would not speak of it—I
would not touch a subject cloistered even from me—but for one reason,
which I will tell you presently. But first let me say that I was again
surprised when I read in your mutual attentions for the last few
days—yours and Harrington’s—the tokens of your love. For I had thought
Harrington’s heart was not free—that he loved another. Now let me”—

“Who?” interrupted Emily. “Who did you think he loved? Tell me. I am
curious to know.”

“Nay, dear,” replied Muriel. “It would be unnecessary to tell that. Since
I was wrong, is it not better to let it go unmentioned? Surely it is.”

Perhaps Emily might have guessed who it was, had she looked then at
Muriel’s face. But her eyes were downcast, and she was vainly striving
to imagine who Muriel could mean. Then the remembrance of how constant
and reckless had been her recent attentions to Harrington, and, though
paid only to abate Wentworth’s supposed triumph by convincing him that
she cared nothing for him, how good a ground they afforded to Muriel for
her present belief, came into her mind, and she almost groaned. But what
would have been her grief had she dreamed of the effects of her conduct
on Muriel?

“Now, dear Emily,” resumed Muriel, “let me come at once to the only sad
thing in all this—in a word, to the reason which compels me to speak thus
frankly to you for the sake of our friendship, which I cannot bear to see
disturbed even for an hour. You know I have known John for a long time,
and that he is my best, my most cherished friend. I cannot tell you how
much he has been and is to me—with how many noble hours he is associated.
Since I have thought you loved him, I have been conscious—painfully
conscious—that your manner has not been what it once was to me—that you
have felt our communion—his and mine—as something that interfered with
your relation to him.”

Muriel paused, earnestly gazing in the face of her friend, to be certain
that she was not offending her. The hot color suffused Emily’s face, but
she was calm and even smiled. Yes, I am jealous of her, was her thought,
but it is because she loves Wentworth and he her. And she thinks I love
Harrington! Then came the impulse to undeceive Muriel in this regard.
Pride arose on one side, taunting her to confess that she had paid court
to a man she did not love. Shame arose on the other side, urging her to
conceal the thoughtless folly of having lured that man to love her. Both
together held the impulse down.

“Dear Emily,” pursued Muriel, in tender and pleading tones, “do not let
this be so. Do not think of me as your rival because I am your lover’s
friend. There cannot be in our relation—his and mine—anything to weaken
his faith to you. Oh, believe that, and let there be no discord between
you and me! There, I have said all. I might have waited till he or you
told me that you were lovers. But I could not bear to see you tortured
with the feeling that there was rivalry between us, or to see our
friendship in any way impaired. Forgive me for my haste—for my brusque
plain-speaking; and love me truly as I love you.”

Leaning over to her, as she ended, Muriel, the bright tears welling from
her eyes, embraced her tenderly. Emily, smiling wanly, her brain whirling
with affection, with self-scorn and passionate despair, clasped the
loving form to her breast, and held it there. In a few moments Muriel
disengaged herself, her happy and noble face radiant, but wet with tears,
smiled at Emily, and smiling, rose and glided from the room.



CHAPTER V.

LA BOSTONIENNE.


Emily covered her face with her hands, and for more than fifteen minutes
sat in silent stupor where Muriel had left her. At length she sprang up,
throwing her clenched hands from her in agony, and walked the library.
Her eyes were hotly lustrous, her damask cheeks vivid with heightened
color, her parted lips wore an unnatural bloom, and the flush of fever
deepened the sunny gold of her complexion. Slowly, with measured steps,
to and fro, up and down, she paced the room, with rustling robes, like a
doomed Sultana.

“Great Heaven!” she murmured, stopping suddenly in the centre of the
floor, and clasping her hands; “to know that it has come to this!
She thinks I love Harrington. How shall I undeceive her! How shall I
undeceive him! How extricate myself from this maze! O, for a friend, a
counsellor! Richard, Richard, how can you treat me so basely! To turn
from me—and in my very sight to turn from me to her! O, that I could die,
that I could die!”

Wringing her clasped hands, a wild heart-break in her face, she heard a
light step in the passage. The door opened, and Muriel reappeared, gay
and elegant as usual, and bending into a graceful courtesy, half playful,
half unconscious, as she came forward. As for Emily, no one could have
discovered a trace of emotion in her. At the sound of Muriel’s footsteps,
she had dissolved into a sumptuous beauty, with a rich, indolent smile on
her brilliant-colored face, her bare, rounded arms folded on her bosom,
and her figure in nonchalant and queenly repose.

“Ah, neglectful one,” said Muriel, shaking a finger at her, “to let your
moulding drop to pieces for lack of a little water! I told you yesterday
that you ought to wet the clay. Just now I looked into the studio, and
saw the poor Muriel almost crumbling. Thou naughty girl!”

“I declare I forgot it,” replied Emily. “I meant to water the bust
yesterday, and it slipped my mind. I will see to it presently.”

“If you don’t, I’ll never give you another sitting,” returned Muriel. “So
take notice.”

All sorts of studies and arts were pursued at the house in Temple street.
Muriel, amidst her botany, drawing, moulding, music, Latin, French,
German, Italian, miscellaneous reading, and her vigorous calisthenics,
had for a year past interpolated the art of fencing, which Harrington had
taught her, and which was at present her grand passion. Emily, who had
been absent at Chicago for the last ten months, had previously learned
from Wentworth and Muriel how to mould in clay, and upon her return,
urged on chiefly by him, had resumed this crowning accomplishment of
hers, and began to develop in it unusual talent. The bust referred to was
one of Muriel, which she had been working on. Lately, the check she had
received in her love for Wentworth, had sadly damped the ardor of her
passion for sculpture, and the bust had been neglected.

“Don’t let your belief in Wentworth’s flirtations interfere with your
pursuit of the fine arts, _mignonne_,” continued Muriel, gaily.

“Dear me, no!” languidly returned Emily. “His flirtations are nothing to
me.”

“Certainly not,” said Muriel, sportively patting her on the shoulder.
“And as you owe the bad boy a debt of gratitude for showing you how to
mould, be civil to him, I pray.”

“Civil? And am I not civil to him?” returned Emily, smiling with lazy
serenity.

“Ah, wicked one, no,” said Muriel, silverly murmuring the words into
Emily’s ear, as she stood behind her with her arms around her waist, and
her face looking jestingly over her shoulder. “Not a bit civil. Didn’t
I see that freak of the violets this morning! I know that hurt Richard’s
feelings. Not because you did not give them to him, but on account
of your manner, which was indescribably disdainful. I verily believe
Fernando had something to do with that transaction. What was it he said
to you at the table when I saw you color?”

“Oh, nothing,” replied Emily, blushing. “It was something he meant for a
joke, though I thought it rather impudent. To tell the truth, Muriel, I
did intend to share the violets between Harrington and Wentworth, when
Fernando observed to me that Wentworth would be delighted to receive a
true-love posy from me, or something of that sort. Now that provoked me,
and I knew Wentworth had put him up to say it, for I saw them whispering
and laughing together just before, and I”—

“My dear Emily,” said Muriel, in a beseeching tone, coming around in
front of the speaker, “how can you be so unreasonable as to jump to such
a conclusion?”

“Oh! I know he had something to do with it,” returned Emily, obstinately;
“so I just punished him by giving all the flowers to Harrington. I know
it piqued him, and I’m glad of it.”

Muriel sighed, and then laughed, feeling painfully the littleness of
this conduct, yet excusing Emily out of her sense of the provocation of
Witherlee.

“_N’importe_, Emily dear,” she said lightly, after a pause. “It matters
not. But I blame Fernando for it all. I am not unjust to him, for I
appreciate his power and talents, and very often find him agreeable
enough. But I do not like his carping and cavilling and the envious
spirit of him, and I cannot help thinking that he is untruthful, and
given to mischief-making. What he said to you was really impudent—and,
by the way, it was quite matched by the impudence of his joining us this
morning, uninvited, and so coolly walking into the house with us unasked.
If I had not been amused at it, I should have been indignant. It was a
cool proceeding, faith,—positively arctic.”

Muriel paused to laugh delightedly at the drollery of the recollection.

“However, let it all go,” she continued. “Only, Emily, beware of being
influenced by Fernando. That’s good counsel. For my part, if I catch
him at any of his tricks, we shall quarrel outright. I believe I never
quarrelled with anybody in my life, and perhaps the experience may be
refreshing. But come—business before pleasure. What are you going to do
to-day? I must go on a tour—will you come with me?”

“Where are you going?” asked Emily.

“First and foremost, I am on a Pardiggle excursion among two or three
families of my parish,” replied Muriel.

Dickens’ “Bleak House,” was coming out in serials at that period, and
Muriel, with the rest of the town, was full of it, and was particularly
delighted with Mrs. Pardiggle, to whom she jestingly likened herself when
she made visits of charity.

“The Pardiggle path will first lead me to poor Mrs. Roux,” continued
Muriel. “Mrs. Roux, in Southac street, the wife of the colored man who
was here the other day to white-wash the studio. She had another child
born a couple of months ago—did I tell you?—and we must take care of the
black babies as well as the white ones, you know, and the black mothers,
too, as well as the white mothers, most gorgeous honey-darling.”

Emily smiled at the pet name Muriel bestowed upon her, admiringly gazing
meanwhile at the fair face, half arch, half serious, which looked at her
over the lace ruffle.

“Poor Roux was very sick in March,” continued Muriel, “and has only got
to work again recently—so as times are hard with them, mother and I have
taken them under our wing.”

“How did you find them out, Muriel?” asked Emily.

“Oh, through Harrington,” answered her friend. “Harrington is the
general repository of the grievances and troubles of everybody he falls
in with, and when he can’t help, he tells us, and we help. We are a
Pardiggle society. He is the President, and mother and I are the Board of
Directors.”

“I have a mind to become a member,” said Emily, smilingly. “But where
next?”

“Next,” answered Muriel, “I am going to make a call on the Tenehans.
That’s an Irish family in North Russell street. Then there is Judith, the
sempstress, for whom I have some sewing. Let’s see—that’s all to-day, I
believe. Then I’m going to see Captain Greatheart.”

“Who’s that?” interrupted Emily.

“Mr. Parker, of course.”

“Mr. Parker? Pray what entitles a lawyer to that Bunyanesque”—

“A lawyer! Bless me, Emily, where are your five wits! It is _the_ Mr.
Parker I mean—Theodore Parker. And is he not a model Captain Greatheart?
The nineteenth century Apollyon has reason to know him in that character,
at all events. So too have the poor Christians and Christianas, for whom
he is guarding shield and smiting sword.”

Emily bowed her head in assenting abstraction.

“I’m going to see if he has in his library a book I want,” continued
Muriel. “Then, perhaps, I’ll go to the Athenæum, and refresh my
art-sense—no I won’t either, for I remember Fernando said he would be
there, and I can’t enjoy pictures with his everlasting cavilling in my
ears.”

“Fernando has exquisite tastes,” said Emily, musingly.

“Fernando has exquisite _dis_tastes,” returned Muriel, piquantly. “Which
I shall not enjoy this morning. So instead of the Athenæum, I’ll go to
the Anti-Slavery Convention at the Melodeon. Uncle Lemuel was here last
evening, you know, talking up Union-saving and the Fugitive Slave Law,
and Mr. Webster, and all that sort of thing, and I shan’t feel right
again till I hear the voices of the Good Old Cause from the platform of
the Garrisonians.”

“Well, Muriel, you are the most astonishing Bostonienne I know,” said
Emily, laughing. “I should just like to analyze your mélange. Let’s see
now. In the first place, you defy fashion, and insist on wearing dresses
that show your shape, when all the rest of us are swaddled in half a
dozen starched petticoats, and are pining in secret for the hoops of our
grandmothers to come into vogue again. You”—

“How many have you on, honey-bird? Come, ‘’fess,’ as Topsy says,”
demanded Muriel, mischievously.

“I? Oh, I’m moderate,” returned Emily. “I only wear six.”

Muriel put up her hands, orbed her mouth, and opened her large eyes in
mock horror.

“Goodness me!” said Emily, laughing and smoothing her bounteous skirts,
“Six is nothing. Why everybody wears seven. Eight and nine are not
uncommon. And there’s Bertha Appleby wears twelve.”

Muriel burst into low, silver laughter, in which she was joined by her
friend.

“To resume,” continued Emily when the mirth had subsided, “you won’t wear
low-necked dresses at parties. You don’t waltz. You don’t flirt. You
don’t care to be admired. You don’t run after the lions. You pay court to
all the taboo people, visit those who are voted out of good society, ask
them to visit you”—

“And cry ‘à bas la Madame Grundy,’” put in Muriel, with a free and frolic
toss of her arm.

“Yes, and cry, ‘down with Mrs. Grundy,’” continued Emily. “Then you
cultivate the most miscellaneous and outlandish set of characters—authors
and actors, and actresses, and reformers, and clergymen, and musicians
and comeouters and people respectable and disrespectable all meet here,
higgledy-piggledy, in the most heterogeneous mixture—the most chaotic”—

“O no, Emily dear, not chaotic,” interposed Muriel, “not chaotic but
cosmic. I accept them all as Nature accepts them all. Down with the
walls! That’s my principle. No castes—no factitious distinctions. Let
fine people of all sorts come together and learn to know each other.
Democracy forever!”

“Yes, indeed—but doesn’t good society get horrified at your doings!”
laughingly exclaimed Emily “Doesn’t the whole neighborhood hold up
its hands at you? Why, your aristocratic acquaintance look at you with
perfect horror.”

“Well,” rejoined Muriel, with nonchalant gaiety, “you know what Mercutio
says: ‘Their eyes were made to see and let them look.’”

“And then your studies,” ran on Emily. “Perfectly omnivorous. French,
German, Italian, Latin, music, drawing, painting, moulding, science,
poetry, history, oratory, philosophy, Shakspeare, Bacon, Dante, Plato,
Goethe, Swedenborg.”

“And Fourier,” interpolated Muriel. “I’ve added him to my list, you know,
and Uncle Lemuel says I ought to blush to own that I read him. The poor
man thinks Fourier had hoofs and horns and a harpoon tail.”

“Yes, I know,” rejoined Emily with a laugh. “He says such works loosen
the foundations of society and are fatal to the interests of morality,”
she added, mimicking Uncle Lemuel’s stock phrases, which he used in
common with a great many people of the highest respectability. “But to
resume, Muriel: there are your muscularities. You skate, you swim, you
climb mountains, you ride horseback, you walk ten miles on a stretch, you
saddle or harness your horse like a stableman, you catch up your horse’s
feet, and look at the shoes like a blacksmith, you dance, you row, you
lift weights, you swing by your hands, you walk on the parallel poles”—

“And fence,” suggested the amused listener. “Don’t forget the fencing!”

“Yes, and fence with Wentworth and Harrington, besides turning the studio
up-stairs into a gymnasium. Then you go on these tours, as you call them.
You have a regular parish of negroes and Irish people, and all sorts of
forlorn characters, on whom you shower food, and clothes, and books,
and goodness knows what else. And you go to theatres, circuses, operas,
lectures, picture-galleries, woman’s rights conventions, abolition
meetings, political gatherings of all sorts at Faneuil Hall, with the
most delectable impartiality. Then you used to attend church at William
Henry Channing’s, which our best society thought horrid.”

“And now Theodore Parker’s”—

“Yes, and now Theodore Parker’s, which they think worse still. And you
have harbored fugitive slaves in your house, and helped them off to
Canada. And you swallow Garrison and Parker Pillsbury”—

“And adore Wendell Phillips.”

“Yes, and adore Wendell Phillips. And subscribe for the ‘Commonwealth’
newspaper, which your uncle says ought to be put down”—

“And the ‘Liberator.’”

“Yes, and subscribe for Garrison’s ‘Liberator,’ which is your uncle’s
_bête noire_. In short, Muriel, I wonder how you keep your popularity.
I’m sure I couldn’t do all that you do, and have these cozy old citizens,
these formal and fashionable mammas, these mutton-chop whiskered,
English-mannered gentlemen, and Beacon street belladonnas, so fond of me
as they are of you. But then, I suppose they don’t know the extent of
your heresies.”

“My dear Emily,” returned Muriel, “please to remember that you’re from
the rural districts. You live at Cambridge half the year, and you’ve
been off there in Chicago for the last ten months, so you don’t know how
many Boston ladies do all, or nearly all, that I do. I’m not half such
an original as you imagine. But see here, bird of Paradise, time passes.
Are you going with me, or not? I’ll go anywhere, or do anything you like,
after the Pardiggle excursion is over. That must be attended to, anyway.”

Before Emily could reply, the door opened, and Mrs. Eastman came in.
A beautiful, fair-complexioned, gentle lady, of middle age, with
silver-grey hair falling in graceful tresses beside her face. As
beautiful in her waning day as Muriel in her matin prime.

“Not gone yet, dear,” she said, with a bright smile.

“Just going, mother.”

“Well the carriage is below, and here is little Charles come to say that
Mrs. Roux is rather poorly. And he says, dear, which I hope is not true,
that some of those dreadful men are in town.”

Muriel’s face grew grave, and she flew to the door.

“Charles!” she called. “Come up-stairs, Charles.”

“Yes, Miss Eas’man. Comin’ right up, Miss Eas’man,” chirruped a shrill,
smart voice, from below, followed by the softened bounce of feet on the
carpeted flight, coming up two stairs at a time.

“What is it?” asked the wondering Emily.

“The kidnappers,” returned Muriel. “Come in, Charles.”

A most astonishing fat negro boy entered, cap in hand, ducking and
bowing, with a scrape of his foot, and showing a saucy row of splendid
white teeth in the droll grin which expanded his big mouth and nostrils;
his great eyes meanwhile revolving rapidly around the library, and
momently vanishing in their whites with a facility curious to behold. His
face, surmounted by a mass of ashen-colored wool, parted on one side into
two great shocks, was exactly the shape of a huge d’Angouleme pear, the
great blobber cheeks making the forehead, which was respectably large,
seem small. His complexion was a clean, warm, dark grey. He was not tall
for his age, which was about ten years, but he was broad. Breadth was
the characteristic of his figure. His short arms were broad; his short
legs were broad; his body was broad; and he broadened his face at present
with a grin. He had big feet, clad in battered old shoes; and big hands,
which just now played with his cap. He wore a grey jacket thrown back
from his fat chest, which was covered with a blue and white small-striped
shirt; and his legs were incased in grey trowsers. Grey, in fact, was the
prevailing color of him all over. The face was intelligent, and full of
precocity, assurance, and supreme self-importance, with what people call
a little-old-man-look pervading it all, though this was only seen when he
was in his grave moods, and now was not visible.

“What is it, Charles?” anxiously asked Muriel.

“Please, Miss Eas’man,” he began, suddenly stopping his grin, and
looking preternaturally demure, with a portentous roll of his saucer
eyes, “please, Miss Eas’man, I jus’ run up here like a bob-tail nag for
to say—to wit, that Brudder Baby is fus’ rate; so is Josey; so is Tom;
so is I; so is father; and mar isn’t not nearly so well, an’ she feels
right bad lest father should be took off, an’ them kidnappers is in
town, an’ we’ll all be took off, jus’ so sure’s my name’s Tugmutton, Miss
Eas’man—yes, Miss Eas’man, there aint no sort of a chance for us anyway,
jus’ so sure as you’re born.”

Having delivered himself in shrill, fluent tones, to this effect, the
young imp grinned cheerfully, and stood rapidly twirling his cap on his
hand like a pin-wheel, and rolling his eyes at the three ladies. Muriel
looked at him with a still face, but Mrs. Eastman smiled, and Emily, who
had seen him once before, laughed amusedly.

“What an odd creature he is,” said the latter. “To think of his
preferring to be called by that droll name? Don’t you like to be called
Charles?” she asked, addressing the boy.

“Like it extrornerly, Miss Ames—never git done likin’ that name noways,
Miss Ames,” he asseverated, with great earnestness. “But you see, Miss
Ames, ’taint so familiar like as Tugmutton. Father calls me Tugmutton,
an’ mar, an’ Josey, an’ Tom, an’ everbody, since I was knee-high to a
toad, Miss Ames. Tugmutton’s my Christian name, Miss Ames, and Charles’s
my given name as Miss Eas’man give me, Miss Ames.”

“Look here, Charles,” said Muriel, suddenly, “are you sure the kidnappers
are in town?”

“Dead sure, Miss Eas’man—jus’ as sure as can be.”

“How do you know? Who told you?”

“Laws! Miss Eas’man! Why it’s in the newspaper!” blurted out the imp,
rolling up the whites of his eyes at her with a look of amazed reproach.

“O, no, Charles! It’s not in the newspaper, for I’ve read the papers this
morning,” said Muriel, smiling, and shaking her finger at him.

Tugmutton looked demure for a second, then smiled sheepishly, furtively
rolled his eyes one side at the wall, and fidgeted on his feet, and with
his cap and jacket.

“Laws, Miss Eas’man! it’s goin’ to be in the paper. Paper’ll be chock
full of it to-morrow.”

“O, I guess it’s not true,” said Muriel, slowly, with a relieved smile.
“It must be a false alarm, Charles.”

“My gosh, Miss Eas’man, I don’t believe there’s one word of truth in it,”
said Tugmutton, puckering out his great lips with an air of precocious
contempt, and whirling his cap on his hand. “Never _could_ make me
believe one word of that story. It’s jus’ nothin’ but a weak invention of
the enemy.”

The phrase, which Tugmutton had picked up from somebody, was so odd in
his childish mouth, and so oddly expressed, that Emily burst into a fit
of laughter, and threw herself into a chair, while both Mrs. Eastman and
Muriel smiled. Tugmutton grinned delightedly at the effect of his speech,
and then looked awfully demure and dignified.

“Anyhow,” he continued, “all them foolish colored folks are believin’
that story. Them folks has jus’ got no gumption, anyway. Talkin’ about
that story in the street, now—millions of them.”

“Are the colored people out in the street, Charles?” asked Mrs. Eastman.

“In the street? Laws, Missus Eas’man, Southac street’s full of ’em,”
returned Tugmutton.

“There may be something in it, after all, mother,” said Muriel. “I’ll go.”

“Bless me, Muriel, are you not afraid?” exclaimed Emily.

“Afraid! Not at all. What possible danger is there? Besides, I want to
see what’s going on. Come, let’s go.”

Emily rose and followed Muriel, who left the room for her bonnet.

“Come, Charles,” said Mrs. Eastman, moving to the door; “come
down-stairs, and I’ll give you something to eat. Little men like you are
always ready for pie.”

Tugmutton, with the prospect of pie in his delighted vision, flashed into
a huge grin, which displayed all his ivories, and lit his blobber-grey
face; and checking the impulse which prompted him to execute a shuffling
breakdown on the spot, he dodged out at the door after Mrs. Eastman.



CHAPTER VI.

AN EPISODE OF THE REIGN OF TERROR.


In a few minutes the two young ladies, cloaked and bonneted,
came out into the sunlit street, where stood the carriage, which
Patrick, the inside man, had brought up from Niles’s stables. Emily,
characteristically indifferent to the driver, swept in and took her
seat. Muriel, on the contrary, who was on friendly terms with everybody,
courteously bent her head to him as she passed. The driver took off his
hat to her, and stood waiting for orders.

“Wait a minute, please,” said Muriel.

Presently, Patrick, a grey-haired, decorous old Irishman, came out with a
basket, covered with a white cloth, which he deposited on the seat of the
carriage.

“Bless me, what’s that!” exclaimed Emily, laughing.

“Pardiggle tracts for the poor,” said Muriel, jestingly. “Patrick, tell
Charles to hurry.”

Patrick went in and soon returned with Tugmutton, who jumped down the
steps, and scrambled into the carriage. Tugmutton’s fat face was all
agrin and shining like satin-wood. The happy youth had devoured a whole
pie, and was in a state of supreme exhilaration. His repletion, however,
did not prevent him from ogling the basket by his side, and he would have
liked nothing better than to make his dessert on its contents.

Muriel gave the driver his directions, and the vehicle started off down
Temple and into Cambridge street to the corner of Garden. They were
turning up Garden street, when Tugmutton opened his great eyes, and said.

“Well now, I declare! If there ain’t Mr. Harrington!”

Muriel leaned forward, and caught sight of the noble soldier-figure of
Harrington striding up the street before them.

“Hullo! Mr. Harrington! I say!” screeched Tugmutton.

Harrington turned, with the sun on the martial lines of his face and
beard. He caught sight of the inmates of the carriage instantly, and
signaling to the driver to stop, he came down the street, to the side of
the carriage.

“What is it, John?” asked Muriel.

“Nothing,” he replied, smiling, and bending his head to Emily. “It’s a
false alarm, I find. But these poor people are very much excited, and I
was going up to quiet them.”

“Come in. We’re going to Roux’s,” said Muriel.

Harrington entered, sat in Tugmutton’s place, taking him on his knee, and
the carriage went on till it reached the corner of Southac street, where
it stopped.

“There’s considerable of a crowd here,” cried the driver.

They all looked out at the carriage window upon the squalid neighborhood.
Only a Dickens or a Victor Hugo could fitly describe the strange and
picturesque scene which met their eyes. Huddled together in excited
groups, or moving hither and thither in straggling masses, hundreds of
colored men and women, clad in every variety of costume, and lawless
and unhuman in aspect, swarmed over the street with a loud, dense
inarticulate confusion of voices, the bright sunlight bringing out
their motley forms and bronze faces in grotesque and vivid salience. So
uncouth and various were the costumes—coats and hats of extinct styles
and patterns, frowsy and shabby raiment of every fashion within the last
half century, intermingling with the many-colored gowns and head-dresses
of the girls and women—that but for the heavy-lipped, sombre faces, with
their flashing teeth and wild-rolling eyes, and the menacing gestures and
threatening hum of the multitude, it might have seemed some masquerading
mob, arrayed in the garments of the old clothes shops. Protruding from
every window in the dingy and dilapidated houses on either side of the
street, big clusters of heads, mostly those of women and children,
some with great shocks of wool, some bullet-shaped and closely shorn,
some wearing white mob caps and red and yellow bandanna kerchiefs,
were bobbing restlessly over the excited multitude below. Up and down
cellar-ways, and in and out of numerous alleys and yawning doors, uneasy
shoals were constantly pouring, passing from or mingling with the mongrel
and fantastic concourse in the street, which continually moved in the
sunlight with a hoarse, turbulent, swarming undertone, like the far-off
roar of insurrection.

A deep flush came to the broad-nostrilled face of Harrington as he gazed.

“What a sight for Boston in the nineteenth century!” he exclaimed.
“Vaunting her civilization while terror invades the refuge of her poor!”

Emily, deathly pale, leaned back in the carriage, and shuddered.

At that moment, a portion of the crowd, seeing the carriage, set up a
clamor of cries, and surged down toward it. Two or three stones were
thrown, which rattled on the pavement around the vehicle, and the horses
began to plunge and rear. Instantly Muriel flung open the carriage-door,
and springing into the street, calm and fearless, held up her hand.
Harrington quickly leaped out after her.

“Halloa, there!” he shouted, with a commanding voice, which, like
Muriel’s gesture, fell like magic upon the thoughtless assailants. He was
well known in the quarter, and the negroes recognizing a friend, set up a
cheer of welcome. Tugmutton meanwhile had pounced from the carriage upon
the boys that threw the stones, and assaulted them with a shower of cuffs
and kicks. He came back, presently, full of victory, his blobber cheeks
puffed out with rage and self-importance.

“Them miser’ble young niggers haven’t got no more gumption than just
nothin’ at all,” he spluttered. “Guess they’ll mind now, though. Gosh! I
lit on ’em like a duck on a June bug. When I fall afoul of ’em guess they
think it’s General Washington and the spirit of seventy-six. Miser’ble
young bloats!”

Harrington could not help smiling as he looked down on the fat imp, who
was delivering himself in these figurative terms, with an indescribable
swell and swagger. The horses were still pawing and trembling, and Muriel
went to their heads, and stood with one gloved hand grasping the reins,
and the other patting and stroking the cheeks and noses of the alarmed
animals. The driver, who sat on his box, white as a sheet, firmly holding
the reins, looked down admiringly on the fearless and graceful sunlit
figure, and the negroes standing around, stared with delighted awe.

Harrington, meanwhile, was at the carriage door, assuring Emily, who
protested that she was not afraid, as indeed she was not, for she was
naturally courageous. Presently Muriel came around to the carriage door,
her face bright and calm.

“Now,” she said, “I will go on to Roux’s. The carriage had better stand
here. Emily, will you come with us?”

“But you’re not going through that crowd, Muriel!” exclaimed Emily.

“Why certainly,” replied Muriel, laughing. “I wouldn’t miss the chance
for the world. Going through that crowd is part of my culture. Besides,
dear, the crowd won’t eat us.”

“I think I will stay here,” returned Emily. “I am not afraid, but this
scene is terribly painful to me, and I could hardly bear to go among the
poor people. Do you think this will drive some of them off to Canada,
Muriel?”

“I fear so,” replied Muriel, with a wistful glance at the concourse.

Emily colored, and her eyes filled with tears.

“Let me give something for them, Muriel,” she faltered, taking out her
porte-monnaie. “You may know some of them who want means, and if you do,
give them this.”

She held out a little roll of bills—fifty dollars. It was money she had
intended for shopping, and it was all she had with her.

“But, dear Emily,” said Muriel, looking at her with humid eyes, “I do not
know that I shall meet with any one who will need it.”

“No matter,” replied Emily; “take it with you in case you should. I wish
I could help them all.”

Muriel took the bills with a tender smile, and Harrington caught the
profuse hand, and looked fervently in the face of the giver. At that
look Emily cowered, for she thought it the look of love she had wickedly
evoked, and her soul quailed in grief and shame. Muriel, too, misread the
look, and her spirit rose in generous feeling at the token of a lover’s
happiness in his beloved one.

“Ah, thou noble one!” she said, with playful sweetness. “Thou rose of the
rose-garden! Well, it shall be as you say. Come, Charles; you can carry
the basket. John, you will stay here to keep Emily company.”

Before Emily could reply, Muriel moved away, followed by the triumphant
Tugmutton with the basket on his arm. Presently she was passing through
the parting concourse, bending her head in acknowledgment of the bows,
and curtseys, and doffing of hats which saluted her. The negro in his
lowest estate is a gentleman in his courtesy, superior in this to many a
white of high and low degree. The weight of social wrong had crushed out
or bruised down many an excellence in these humble people, but politeness
was one which society could not destroy in them. As Muriel went on
through the swarming hum, the clatter of voices would cease, the men and
women would step aside from the path, the hats would be taken from the
heads with a courteous recognition of her presence, which a snob might
not have the wits to honor, but which Philip Sidney’s pulse would surely
have quickened to behold. Low Irish, in their place, would have stood
stolidly and gazed. Low English would have shambled aside with clownish
loutishness. Low Americans would have stared and leered, and perhaps spat
tobacco-juice on her skirts as she passed them. The low negroes were
civil as Frenchmen.

In the heart of the grotesque and motley throng, Muriel came upon a black
man whom she knew—an erect and stalwart figure, straight as an Indian,
with a fine, masculine face, and the full swart negrine features. He was
standing in a doorway in his shirtsleeves. Instantly bowing low, and
taking off his felt hat when he saw her, he came forward in courteous
posture as she stopped. Muriel smiled graciously, and gave him her hand
as freely and firmly as she would have given it to her most aristocratic
friend. He took it reverentially, yet without bashfulness, while all the
black people around stared.

“Have you heard the news, Mr. Brown?” she asked.

“Yes, madam,” returned the negro, bowing low. “It’s sad news, too, madam.
As yet we don’t know which of us they’re after, but I was just going down
town to see the Vigilance Committee, and find out about it.”

“I am happy to tell you that it’s a false alarm,” replied Muriel,
smiling. “Mr. Harrington says so, so you can be at ease. Won’t you please
to spread the news among your people here, so that they may be relieved.”

The news was spread already, for she had no sooner said it, than it was
taken up and passed from lip to lip with joyful confusion. Presently it
reached the depths of the crowd, and instantly there was a straggling
shout, followed by a surge of the whole concourse toward the direction
from whence the information had proceeded.

“Stand back,” roared the negro in a tremendous voice. “There’s a lady
here. Don’t crowd the lady.”

Instantly the cry, “don’t crowd the lady,” was taken up, and the dense
masses surged back, every man turning upon his neighbor, and shouldering
him away in officious zeal, till there was a great bare space left around
Muriel and her companion, with a circular crowd around its border, and
further behind in the throng, negroes jumping up and down, to catch a
sight of “the lady.”

Muriel laughed, and at once the negroes in front laughed, and the laugh
spread till it became a universal, jovial guffaw, while some of the
lighter spirits threw themselves into grotesque contortions, and capered
and stamped up and down in extravagant glee. Presently a conviction came
to the crowd that they were at an unnecessary distance, and at once there
was a forward movement of the whole mass to within a yard of Muriel,
every one nervously ready to turn again upon his neighbor, and crowd
him off, at the slightest hint that they were too near, and some of them
looking anxiously at Tugmutton, who, taking upon himself very important
airs by virtue of his attendance upon Miss Eastman, stood holding the
basket, with his blobber cheeks and big lips puffed out in ludicrous
dignity, as wondering at their impudence.

“I trust, Mr. Brown,” continued Muriel, “that none of the poor people
will be frightened by this, into going to Canada.”

The negro looked sombrely into vacancy for a moment before answering. He
was one of the influential men of the quarter, and knew pretty much all
that went on there. Brave, faithful, generous himself, he added to his
good qualities that of keen sympathy for his people.

“I’m afeared, madam,” he said, “that this affair will scare off some of
them. I advise every one to stay that can, and fight it out. I don’t go
myself, and I wouldn’t give two cents for the chance of taking me, so
long as I have this.”

He opened his waistcoat as he spoke, showing a huge sheathed bowie-knife
in a side-pocket of the garment.

“I carry this, madam, night and day,” he continued. “Whenever they want
me, they’ll find me ready. But there’s a lot of folks here that ain’t up
to my way, and the poor cre’turs go. There’s two boardin’ with me now
that have about made up their minds to git away right off, and as they’re
bent on it, I shall have to help them all I can, though cash is rather
low with me just now. Then I’ve been told that old Pete Washington is
goin’, too, with his folks. Pete’s proper scared, and thinks he’s sent
for every time he hears kidnappers are in town. I haven’t heerd tell of
no more.”

He said it with a kind of mechanical sadness, fumbling slowly as he
spoke with the handle of the knife under his waistcoat, his eyes roving
absently, meanwhile, over the gaping faces of the motley crowd.

“Mr. Brown,” said Muriel, “here are fifty dollars, which I want you to
divide at your discretion among those that need means to get away. It
is from a lady who is sitting down there in my carriage. She wanted it
given for this purpose. If you need any more, come to my house at any
time. And if I can do anything, please to let me know, for I want to help
if I can.”

He took the money quietly, put his large black hand over his mouth, and
bowed low. Then throwing back his head and shoulders, and extending his
brawny arm with the bills in the hand, he suddenly fronted the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, with a grandiose manner, pouring his
tremendous bass into the concourse, “a lady in the carriage gives fifty
dollars to help the brethren that are leaving us for Canada. The lady
here has often helped us, and will help again. In my humble opinion,
they’re both of ’em God’s ladies, and”—

The great voice broke. Muriel, astonished by this unexpected outburst,
was yet so overcome by the electric passion of the negro’s speech and
manner, that she lost her self-possession, and knew not how to interpose.

“Three cheers,” screeched Tugmutton, at this juncture, thinking that some
cheering would be highly appropriate.

Three? They cheered till they reeled! Roar on roar went up in solid
volume, till the sky seemed to swoon above them. Muriel, disconcerted for
once in her life, turned to Brown, who stood grimly smiling, and begged
him to quiet them and get them to disperse. He put out his hand, and at
once the tumult immediately around them dropped, though broken shouting
still went on in the rear. Turning to the fat squab who had given the
word for this ovation, and played fugleman with cap and voice to it all,
Muriel silently beckoned him to follow, and hurriedly bowing and smiling
to the calm negro, went on.



CHAPTER VII.

ROUX.


She had not gone half a dozen paces, before some one came striding to her
side. It was Harrington, and she instantly put her arm in his, with a
gesture so sudden and joyous, that the young man thrilled.

“I am so glad you have come,” she said.

Emily had insisted on his leaving her, and attending upon Muriel,
Harrington remarked.

“But you are pale,” he pursued, looking into her face, which colored and
smiled under his kind and searching eyes.

“And now you are not pale,” he added, laughingly.

Muriel laughed silverly, and told the reason of her momentary agitation,
which amused Harrington vastly.

Presently they reached the dingy alley in which Roux lived. It was a
corner house, inhabited by several families. A flight of wooden steps led
up to the second story, in which Roux had two rooms.

Roux was a white-washer, window-cleaner, boot-black and what not by
occupation. He had come up from his little shop in Water street, down in
the heart of the city, at the rumor which Tugmutton had brought him, that
kidnappers were in town; for he was a fugitive, and since the passage of
the Fugitive Slave Law he had never felt safe in Boston, where he had
previously passed nearly nine secure years.

He was sitting on an old chair, in an attitude of deep dejection,
crooning to his babe, which he held in his arms, with his other two
children, a boy and girl, sitting on either knee. The baby was a pretty
little boy, with negrine features, clear saffron skin, and glittering
dark eyes. Josey, who sat on his right knee, was a slender, bright-eyed,
brown-skinned little girl, six years old. Tom, sitting on the other
knee, was like his sister, and four years of age. They were both pretty
children, neatly dressed in clothes which Muriel and her mother had
provided for them. Roux himself was a good-looking negro, athletic in
build, dark-complexioned, with short, woolly hair, and heavy eyebrows.
He was attired in an old sack coat and blue overalls, specked with
white-wash, for he had come up to the house in his working clothes.
The room in which he sat had received a touch of his art, as the
yellow-washed walls and white-washed ceiling testified. It was a poor,
low-browed apartment, but neat and clean, though pervaded by that frowsy
odor which one often scents in the dwellings of the poor. The floor was
bare. Three or four cheap colored prints hung in veneered frames on the
walls. There was a trundle bed in one corner for the children; a small
cooking-stove near the fireboard, with an immense deal of gawky funnel
zigzagging up to a hole in the wall near the ceiling; a small clock
ticking faintly on the mantelpiece, with some gaudy ornaments near it;
a table, and half a dozen old-fashioned, second-hand chairs. Behind
the family group was an open door, giving a view of another room, with
a rag-carpet on the floor, a bureau, and a bed, on which lay, in her
clothes, a mulatto woman, Roux’s wife.

Roux ceased his crooning as the broad-limbed, blobber-cheeked squab of a
Tugmutton threw open the door, grinning from ear to ear, and lumbered in
with the basket, which he deposited in the middle of the floor.

“You ain’t goin’ to be took back, father, this time,” bawled the cheerful
youth. “It’s a false alarm. Gosh! I knew it wasn’t nothin’ but a false
alarm. There ain’t no kidnappers in Boston, an’ never will be neither.”

“Tugmutton, what’s that?” demanded Roux, eyeing the basket.

The imp drew up his chunky figure with severe dignity, and rolled his
saucer eyes and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. At the same moment
Muriel’s courtly face and figure appeared at the door, with Harrington’s
countenance smiling over her shoulder. The poor room was suddenly adorned
by these fair, strong presences, and its frowsy air was sweetened and
softened with delicate fragrance. Roux’s children scrambled down at once
to run over to their smiling angel, who entered with affable and cordial
grace, and stooped to fondle and kiss the little ones, while Roux himself
rose, with the baby on his left arm, bowing confusedly, and smiling with
considerable pompousness of manner, as of one who thought himself highly
honored.

“How are you to-day, Mr. Roux,” said Harrington, coming over to the
delighted negro, and shaking hands with him. “And how is your wife? And
this little one,” he added, putting his large hand on the head of the
staring baby.

“All right, Mr. Harrington,” returned Roux. “Though the madam’s not as
well as she might be, sir,” he continued, in a grandiloquent tone. “She
got a sort of a shock, Mr. Harrington, when this news come, and went
right off into spasms. Clarindy’s awful scared lest some of these here
days old master should send for me, and I’m right skittish myself, sir,
in view of that catastrophe.”

Another person might have smiled at Roux’s half-anxious, half-pompous
tone, but Harrington looked at him with a kind and concerned face,
knowing how much real apprehension and distress his words covered.

“I am extremely sorry that your wife should have been alarmed,” said the
young man. “But it’s true, as Charles said, that this is a false report.”

“Yes, Mr. Roux,” added Muriel, coming forward from the children, and
giving him her hand, “it’s nothing but an idle rumor, so keep a good
heart.”

“Thank ye, Miss Eas’man, and I am extrornerly rejoiced at the reception
of this unlooked for intelligence,” returned Roux, bowing reverentially,
while his manner grew more pompous, and his language more grandiloquent.
“And the madam,” he continued, “will hear the glad tidings with great
joy, likewise, Miss Eas’man. I heerd the shoutin’ and hoorawin’ in the
street, though I wasn’t able to spekilate with any certainty as to its
cause, an’ with the chil’ren here, an’ Clarindy a-lyin’ on the bed,
feelin’ ruther weak, I found it on the whole, inexpedient to go out and
see what was a goin’ on.”

He addressed the last sentence of this speech to Harrington. Muriel
had gone into the other room, and was leaning over Mrs. Roux, speaking
in a low, soothing voice, with her hands on the sick woman’s head. The
children were prattling with each other, and Tugmutton was standing
apart, with his short arms akimbo, the hands spread on his hips, and an
expression of ineffable scorn on his fat, grey face, which was turned
toward Roux.

“Now, father,” said the squab, taking advantage of the pause, “ain’t you
ashamed? My gosh! I’m goin’ to blush at ye, father.”

“What’s the matter, Tugmutton,” asked Roux, with comical deprecation.

“What’s the matter? That’s a pretty question!” was the reproachful reply.
“There you stand, and never ask Mr. Harrington to take a chair. That’s
the matter. Do you call _that_ doin’ the honors of the establishment?”

Roux looked abashed, while Tugmutton, with his face puffed out, and his
eye sternly fixed upon the offending party, brought forward a chair,
dumped it down under Harrington’s coat-tails, and retreating a couple of
paces, put his arms akimbo again, still sternly regarding Roux.

The whole proceeding was so ineffably droll, that Harrington, sinking
into the chair, with a hand on each knee, laughed heartily, though
quietly, with his eyes fixed on the fat pigmy. Roux, who was very fond
of Tugmutton, and submitted meekly to all his odd humors, regarding him,
indeed, with an absurd mixture of puzzled curiosity and reverential awe,
such as the good-natured Welsh giant might have bestowed upon Jack the
Giant-killer, stood now, with the baby on his arm, uneasily eyeing his
chunky mentor, and smiling confusedly. Nothing could be more amusing
than the relation Tugmutton occupied toward him, and the rest of the
family. They were all under the domination of this small, fat chunk.
Tugmutton’s grand assumption of importance, and his authoritative airs,
conjoined with his genuine affection for them all, which took the form of
perpetual wardenship, had prevailed over the age and experience of both
Roux and his wife. He was so old-fashioned, so queer, so mysterious and
inconceivable a creature to them, that they looked upon him almost as a
superior being, and petted and humored him in all possible ways.

“Just look at you, now,” continued the irate fat boy. “Do you call _that_
the way to hold a baby? With his head hangin’ down, and every drop of
blood in his body runnin’ into it! My gosh! that child’ll never have one
speck of hair, father, an’ water on the brain, beside.”

Without feeling any apprehension of the capillary and hydrocephalous
catastrophe thus ominously predicted as the inevitable consequence of his
way of holding the baby, Roux glanced at the little one, whose head was
drooping back over his arm, and whose fat, yellow fists were contentedly
inserted in its mouth, and then gently shifted the position of the child,
so as to rest its head on his shoulder.

“Just you give me that baby, father,” blurted out the fat boy, starting
forward, and receiving in his short arms the infant which Roux readily
abandoned to his charge. “There’s nobody knows how to take care of
this poor child but me,” he indignantly continued, bearing off his
burden, and sitting down with it in a short chair near the wall. “Lord a
mercy! If it wasn’t for me, I don’t know what’d become of this family!
Chick-a-dee-dee—chick-a-dee-dee—honey—honey—pretty Brudder Baby,” he
chirruped, showing all his ivories in a jovial grin to the infant, and
dancing it up and down in his short arms.

“Tugmutton’s great on takin’ care of the chil’ren,” remarked Roux to
the smiling Harrington. “There aint no better boy than Tug nowhere, Mr.
Harrington. He helps Clarindy a mighty deal, an’ he’s a reel comfort, I
tell you.”

“Why, yes, Mr. Roux, so I see,” smilingly returned the young man. “And he
learns the lessons I give him, very well. I shouldn’t wonder if Charles
came to be a great man one of these days. He says he’s going to be a
lawyer like Robert Morris.”

Robert Morris was a colored man, who had fought his way up against
the prejudice of the many, and with the aid of a few, to an honorable
position, which he then held, at the Boston Bar.

“Tell you what, Mr. Harrington,” said the proud Tugmutton, “Danel Webster
won’t be nowhere when I come on the scene of action. I’ll make him stand
round. Fugitive Slave Law’s bound to go then, an’ all the kidnappers’ll
be hung right up.”

At that moment steps were heard, and Emily appeared at the door, coloring
with the novelty of her situation, and followed by a short, thick-set
man, in a straw hat, with his head bent sideways.

“Why, Emily!” exclaimed Harrington, starting up. “And with the Captain!
Miss Ames, Mr. Roux. Captain Fisher you know.”

The superb beauty curtseyed low, with a sweeping rustle of silks, and
Roux, fluttering at heart in the presence of the aristocratic lady,
bent himself as if he had a hinge in his back. Harrington handed Emily
a chair, into which she sank, smiling and nodding to the enchanted
Tugmutton, and Muriel came floating out from the inner room with her
natural urbane curtsey.

“Why, Emily!” she exclaimed, shutting the door behind her. “You too. Good
morning, Captain Fisher.”

“It’s my doin’s, Miss Eastman,” said the Captain, in a cheery voice,
looking at Muriel with his head on one side, and his hat on, as he shook
hands with her. “Comin’ along, I see Miss Ames in the hack, and she said
you was here; so I said, why not go too, and she took my extinded arm,
and up we come together.”

He held Muriel’s hand as he made this explanation, and dropping it when
he had concluded, stood looking intently at her, as though some reply
was expected. He was a short man, with a round face, yellow and rosy,
like a winter pippin; round, dark eyes, which never winked; a short nose,
shaped like a beak; and he had a way of bending his head sideways, and
looking at you like some odd bird. There was a general aspect of the
sea-faring man about him, and he had been for many years the skipper of
coasting vessels, in which occupation he had amassed some property. He
now lived in the same house with Harrington, for whom he had a great
affection, and did a little business in collecting rents for a number of
house-owners.

“I just came up to let the folks here know,” he continued, “that there’s
no sneakin’ soul-drivers come to Boston this time. I was told there was
some of a crowd here, but they’re all scattered now, and I met Brown,
who said he’d been informed ’twas a false alarm. No danger, I hope. The
Vigilance Committee keep a sharp look-out ahead, and we’re pretty sure to
know what’s goin’ on.”

In those dark days, when Boston had gone for kidnapping, there was
an organization, composed of the leading Abolitionists, with a few
anti-slavery people, young and old, who made it their business to keep
a watch for Southern man-hunters, to warn fugitives of their danger, to
assist them in their flight with money and arms, and in every practicable
way to baffle the kidnappers. This was known as the Vigilance Committee,
and its existence and efforts were among the few bright rays which lit
the dark insanity of Boston at that period. Captain Fisher was a member
of it, as was Harrington.

“I got here before you, Eldad,” said Harrington, smiling. “Charles came
to the house with the rumor, and I ran down town at once, and found there
was no truth in it.”

“Trust you for bein’ on hand, John,” returned the Captain. “You’re spry
as a topman. When Gabriel toots that horn of his, you’ll be the first one
up out o’ your grave.”

The Captain wandered over to Roux, and laying his hands on the negro’s
shoulders looked at him steadily with his head curved sideways, then
shook him gently to and fro, then got round to one side of him and took
another look, and then punched him with his forefinger in the ribs.

“Roux, how are you?” he chirruped in conclusion, as the negro squirmed
away from the fore-finger, good-naturedly smiling.

“Firs’-rate, Captain,” answered Roux. “Got scared though at that story.”

The Captain stood oblivious of his answer, looking at Tugmutton who,
swollen with pride, was exhibiting the baby to Emily. Roux became
absorbed in admiring awe at Tugmutton’s complacent familiarity with Miss
Ames. Tugmutton was in one of his lordliest moods, proud of his exclusive
aristocratic acquaintance, and conscious that Roux and the two children,
who stood timidly at a distance, were following him with reverent eyes.

“It’s a very pretty baby,” said Emily graciously, turning to Roux, who
hastened to smile and bow. “But, Mr. Roux, these three children do not
resemble Charles at all.”

“Different style of beauty,” remarked Tugmutton, with preternatural
gravity, rolling his great eyes up at Emily.

Emily laughed aloud at this oracular suggestion, and Harrington and
Muriel looked at each other and smiled, while the Captain fixedly
surveyed the squab with mute admiration.

“You know, dear,” said Muriel to Emily, “or rather you do not know, that
Charles is only an adopted child of Mr. and Mrs. Roux.”

“Oh!” returned Emily, suddenly enlightened, “that accounts for the
different style of beauty.”

“Yes, madam,” said Roux elaborately bowing, “that accounts for it.”

Emily smiled at the simplicity of the reply.

“And how did it happen that he got the name of Tugmutton, Mr. Roux?” she
inquired.

“Well, Madam,” replied Roux, quite seriously, “it was a sort of
accidental. When I firs’ got to Boston, Tug’s father and mother treated
me right handsome. I was ruther bad off, an’ they took me in till I got
somethin’ to do. They was very fat folks, both of ’em, an’ Tug was an
uncommon fat baby. Somehow his father and mother never could fix on a
name for him, so he growed along without none. Bimeby when he was three
year old, his father died, and bimeby when he was five, his mother died
likewise. I was married to Clarindy when that catastrophe happened, so
feelin’ right grateful to Ezek’el and Sally Pitts—that was Tug’s father
and mother’s name, madam—I took Tug in. That day we had a chunk of baked
mutton, wich you couldn’t bite, madam, it was so tough, an’ after dinner
we missed Tug all on a sudden. We got ruther skeered at not findin’ him,
an’ went lookin’ round the streets, but couldn’t git no news of him. Long
toward evenin’ we heerd a stir under the bed, an’ lookin’ under, there he
was tuggin’ away at that chunk of mutton, and there he’d hid himself all
the afternoon. I’m a miser’ble orphan, says he, the minute we sot eyes
on him, never leavin’ off tuggin’ at the meat. You’re a young Tugmutton,
an’ that’s what you are, says Clarindy. Then we larfed, and so after that
we got to callin’ him Tugmutton, an’ he took to that name astonishin’.
That’s the way of it, madam.”

Muriel and Harrington, who had heard this story before, listened to
it now smiling, while Emily and the Captain, vastly amused during its
repetition, laughed heartily as Roux ended. Tugmutton, meanwhile, sitting
in the low chair with the baby, grinned sheepishly at the revival of this
reminiscence of his miserable orphanage.

“Are you—that is, did you—escape from the South, Mr. Roux?” inquired
Emily, hesitatingly, after a pause.

“Yes, madam, I did,” replied Roux with another elaborate bow. “It
wouldn’t be well, madam, to have it mentioned roundabout, lest”—

“O never fear, Mr. Roux,” she rejoined hurriedly. “I wouldn’t speak of it
for the world.”

“In fact, madam, I believe I never told any one about it,” continued
Roux, falteringly, “with the especial exception of Mr. Harrington and
Miss Eastman. But I did git away from the southern country, way down in
Louzeana, nine years ago. And I’ve got a brother still there, madam,
leastways if he’s alive, wich is not certain, seein’ that he was with an
uncommon bad master, madam—in fact, one of the worst sort of masters,
madam.”

“Why didn’t he run away with you, Mr. Roux?” inquired Emily.

“He was ruther scared at the resks, madam,” replied Roux, “Says I,
Ant’ny—his name was Ant’ny, madam—Ant’ny, says I, Master Lafitte—Lafitte
was old Master’s name, madam—Master Lafitte’ll be the death of us,
Ant’ny. We’d better try to git away to that Boston we’ve heerd tell of.
Ant’ny, says I, I’ve got three pounds of kian, Ant’ny, says I”—

“Of what?” asked Emily.

“Of kian, madam—kian pepper, you know.”

“O, yes. Cayenne pepper.”

“Yes, madam. Wich we can leave on the track, Ant’ny, says I, and that’ll
throw off the hounds, I’m a thinkin’.”

“The hounds!” ejaculated Emily, knitting her brow with horror, and
looking at the still face of Muriel and then at Harrington.

“Certainly,” said the latter, tranquilly. “In this free and happy
country, they hunt men and women with hounds. When hounds fail, they try
Fugitive Slave Law Commissioners.”

“And were you hunted, Mr. Roux?” asked Emily, shuddering.

“Yes, madam,” replied the negro, naively. “Ant’ny was afeared to try it,
and then I thought I wouldn’t nuther, for he was my brother, and we’d
been brought up together on old Madam Roux’s estate in New Orleans, and
I was very fond of Ant’ny, madam. But next day, you see, madam, I was
feelin’ ruther sick, and fell short in the pickin’—cotton-pickin’, you
know. So when night come, Master Lafitte he flogged me awful, and then
hung me up in the gin-house—hung me up by the wrists, an’ left me to hang
overnight.”

Roux, hearing Captain Fisher muttering, paused. The Captain, with his
head very much on one side, was swearing awfully in a low undertone at
slavery and slaveholders in general. He usually contented himself with
such mild oaths as “by the great horn spoon”—as people who leave off
chewing tobacco supply its place with spruce gum. But as the spruce-gum
chewers sometimes backslide into tobacco again, so the Captain, when he
got excited, which was seldom, would backslide from his mild profanity
into such swearing as sailors, who swear with genius, know how to express
the passion of their souls withal.

“Bimeby, madam,” resumed Roux, still addressing Emily, who sat looking
at him with a flush of fiery indignation on her beautiful countenance,
“I sloshed about, an’ the rope broke an’ let me down. I jus’ got out of
that gin-house mighty quick, I tell you. Then I went down a piece to
the hollow stump, where I’d hid the kian an’ a carvin’ knife, which I’d
took one day from the kitchen. I got the kian an’ the knife, an’ put
off hot foot for the north. Jus’ about sunrise, I heerd Dan Belcher’s
hounds a-comin’ after me—two of ’em, yellin’ awful. I was proper skeered,
madam, but I jus’ made a hole in the paper of kian, an’ run on, holdin’
the paper low down on the trail, so’s to let the kian drop out along,
you know. Then when the kian was all gone, I got skeered, an’ I run on
a piece, an’ shinned up a live-oak ’way into the thick of the leaves,
an’ lay still. ’Fore long, I see the hounds comin’, an’ Dan Belcher an’
old Toler an’ Master Lafitte ridin’ after ’em. I got so skeered I like
to dropped, but I lay hush, an’ right soon I saw the dogs run up, an’
poke their noses into the kian. Ki-yi-yah,” cachinnated Roux, overcome
with the reminiscence, “you ought to have seen them dogs, madam. They
jus’ acted as if they’d got religion! They flopped down an’ rolled over,
yellin’ like mad, an’ rubbin’ their noses into the kian, an’ rollin’
agin, an’ hollerin’—hi! Never saw nothin’ out of camp-meetin’ act like
them cre’turs. ’Fore long up come old Master an’ Dan Belcher an’ Toler,
an’ looked at them dogs. I couldn’t hear a word they was sayin’, but
I spekilated they was wonderin’ what had got into them dogs. Then Dan
Belcher, he got down, an’ dragged off the hounds, an’ poked his nose into
the kian. Hi! I reckon he got a smell, for he jumped up rubbin’ his nose,
an’ stampin’ round awful.”

Tugmutton, with the baby in his arms, burst into a screech of eldritch
laughter, kicking up his feet from the low chair in which he sat, in
phrenetic glee. All the others were silent, with faces intent on Roux.

“Bimeby,” resumed the negro, “Dan Belcher he laid a hold of the dogs, an’
dragged them on a piece to find the trail with no kian on it. ’Twasn’t
no use, for the dogs didn’t do nothin’ but snuff an’ yell an’ roll over.
So’n about a half an hour, I reckon, they all went back, an’ I lay hush
in the tree all day. Along towards evenin’ I got down, an’ run on agin.
Bimeby I come plump on a man. ‘Where’s your pass?’ says he. ‘Here it is,’
says I, givin’ him a dig with the carvin’-knife. ‘Ugh,’ says he”—

Everybody burst into a peal of laughter at the nonchalant, matter-of-fact
simplicity with which Roux said this. Roux himself was rather amazed at
the interruption, and stood, faintly smiling, with his whitewash-stained
dark hand fumbling over his mouth, and his eyes uneasily roving over the
laughing company.

“Well done, Roux,” said Harrington, jumping up, and slapping the negro
on the shoulder. “‘Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem,’” he
continued, quoting the legend of the Massachusetts State-arms. “And you
sought the tranquil rest of freedom with a carving-knife.”

“Yes, quietem was the word, and you did quiet him,” chuckled the Captain,
punning upon the Latin. “Sic semper tyrannis, is another bit of that
lingo, an’ I guess old tyrannis _was_ rather sick when he got a touch of
Roux’s carving-knife. By the great horn-spoon, that’s the richest thing
I’ve heard lately!”

“But what did the man do then, Mr. Roux?” asked Emily.

“Ugh, says he, madam, and then he doubled himself up, an’ I run on,”
replied Roux, simply. “Bimeby I come to the Red River, and I swum over.
Then I run on agin, till I come to the Mississip, an’ hid in a wood-pile.
Long toward mornin’ a flat boat came up the river, and hitched. Then I
heerd the Captin say, says he, argufying with another man, and gittin’
mad with him, I’m Ohio, says he, and my men are Ohio, an’ we don’t care a
damn for slavery, says he. Tother man went off, an’ I run out, an’ says,
Captin, says I, I’ve run for my freedom, an’ won’t you take me with you,
I says. Step right aboard, says he, an’ I’m damned if I don’t wish I’d a
load more like you, says he.”

“Bravo,” cried Muriel, clapping her hands. “Good for Ohio!”

“Hooraw for Ohio!” piped Tugmutton, bouncing up, and flourishing the
baby. “Chick-a-dee-dee, Brudder Baby, pretty little birdy,” he added,
with a sudden change of key, wagging his bushy head and grinning blobber
cheeks over the complacent infant. “Send him right down to Ohio.
Kidnapper come to fetch Brudder Baby, won’t have no more chance than a
bob-tail horse in fly-time when he gits to Ohio.”

Alas! poor Tugmutton!—the dark days could come even to Ohio! Broad and
strong and generous the hearts of Ohio, mighty in noble impulse, mighty
in love and bravery, mighty in truth to liberty and tenderness to man.
But the rampart of Ohio hearts prevailed not in the black hour when
Margaret Garner, with the hell-dog statute and the hunters upon her,
sublimely slew her children to save from slavery the souls Ohio could not
save.

“And so you escaped, Mr. Roux,” said Emily.

“Yes, madam,” returned Roux, “the captain took me all the way up to
Cincinnati. Where are ye goin’ now, William, says he. Boston, says
I. Men, says he, let’s give him an Ohio lift. Wich meant takin’ up a
collection, madam,” explained Roux, bowing. “An’ the collection was
fifteen dollars and thirty-three cents, madam, together with a suit of
the captain’s clothes, an’ some vittles in a paper bag. Captain, says I,
my gratefulness will never fail. William, says he, just hold on to that
carving-knife, an’ don’t let yourself be taken. Captain, says I, if I
ever git to heaven, I’ll make the Lord acquainted with all you’ve done
for me. William, says he, don’t you never acquaint anybody but the Lord
with it, or I’m a gone coon. An’ now make tracks, says he. So I made
tracks, an’ come on safe to Boston.”

“Well, I declare!” exclaimed Emily, drawing a long breath, and looking
around her. “It makes my blood boil to think that men are treated so in
this country. And you never heard from your brother, Mr. Roux?”

“Never, madam. But I don’t think he’s alive. I’m afeared that Master
Lafitte would kill him to be revenged on me, and that makes me feel,
sometimes, as if I’d murdered my own brother.”

He said this in low, ghostly tones, with a sudden agony and horror
convulsing his dark face. It is impossible to describe the shock of awful
emotion which his words gave to Emily. There was a moment of solemn
silence, in which Roux stood faintly gasping, with his swart visage ashen
and distorted with overmastering anguish, and she, gazing on him with a
blanched countenance, felt as if her very soul would die with pity.

“Couldn’t he be bought?” she timidly stammered, at length, half feeling
that she was proposing an absurdity. “That is—I mean if he is—if he has
not—died.”

Roux despairingly shook his head.

“If I had the money, madam,” he hoarsely faltered, “I’d try to buy him.
But that’ll never be—never.”

“I’ll engage to furnish the money,” said Emily, vehemently, the generous
color flooding her face like fire. “I will,” she added, stamping her foot
as she sat. “If it costs me two thousand dollars, or twice two thousand,
it shall be done.”

A dead silence ensued, in which she gazed at their mute faces. It was the
brave New England scholar who did sweet service to liberty when the guns
of tyranny stormed on Rome—it was Margaret Fuller who once gave away all
her little property, five hundred dollars, to a poor exile, a stranger to
her, whose distresses had touched her heart. Born of such an impulse, and
kindred to that splendid generosity, was this act of Emily’s.

“Why do you all look so?” she continued. “I mean what I say.”

Harrington and Muriel, to whom she lifted her flushed face, were standing
near each other, Muriel’s face still, solemn, and turned toward the
window, Harrington’s noble countenance rigid, and bent upon the floor.
The Captain stood looking at Emily with his head bent on one side, and
his features all atwist. As for Roux, his black visage was wildly lighted
with hope, joy, awe, and startled amazement, while Tugmutton sat in the
low chair, with the baby in his arms, his mouth open, his huge eyes
staring, and the big shocks of wool on his head seeming bigger than ever
in his astonishment.

“It shall be done, I say,” declared Emily. “Harrington, I depend on you
to show me the way.”

Harrington looked blank—like one who did not know how to answer her; then
furtively glanced at Roux, and then at the floor.

“You are the soul of generosity, Miss Ames,” he said, after a pause,
smiling constrainedly. “I should be happy to help you. We will see what
can be done.”

Roux clasped his hands and bowed his head. In that instant, Harrington
flashed a lightning glance at Emily, so stern, so menacing, so agonized
in its look of warning and entreaty, that Emily was confounded. The next
second, Roux’s face was raised, and Harrington’s wore an expression of
such bland indifference, that Emily could hardly believe she had seen the
other.

“We will speak of this another time,” said Harrington. “At present, I
think I must go. Shall I see you to the carriage, ladies, or do you
remain longer?”

Roux threw himself on his knees, and bending, grovelled at Emily’s feet.
Then raising his black face, convulsed, and streaming with tears, he
faltered out the broken words of his gratitude.

“I’ll pray for ye, forever and ever, Miss Ames,” he said. “I’ll pray to
the Lord for ye, Miss Ames. And the blessing of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Ghost, be on ye, Miss Ames. I’ve had a good deal of
kindness, but there’s never been no kindness like yours, Miss Ames, an’ I
don’t want ye to give away all that money, madam, for it’s a mighty deal
of money, though it’s for my brother, Miss Ames, and I’d clean give my
life to see my poor brother, madam. And oh, if Master Lafitte will only
sell him, if he’s alive, madam, I’ll pray for him too, and for everybody,
forever and ever, amen, an’ for you more especial than anybody, for there
never was such kindness as yours to a poor, miser’ble, forsaken black
man—no, never, never.”

Uncouth words poured forth rapidly in a weak, broken voice, with sobs
and tears; but words that blanched the gold and roses of the face that
bent with swimming eyes over the bowed and weeping figure on the floor.
In the cold, succeeding silence, there was no sound but the dim sobs of
Roux. The Captain stood with his features screwed into a hard rigor,
gazing at the abject form beneath him. Harrington’s face was wan and
rigid, and fixed on vacancy. The two little ones, frightened and almost
crying, clung around the stupefied and staring Tugmutton, who sat holding
the baby, with the big whites of his eyes glaring at Roux from the ashy
pallor of his fat visage.

“Mr. Roux.”

At the gentle, silver tones of Muriel, at the firm touch of her hand
on his shoulder, the negro lifted up his bowed head from his breast,
and gazed with a haggard, beseeching face, all wet with tears, at the
benignant countenance that bent above him. For an instant only, and then
rising to his feet, ashamed of his emotion, yet unable to repress it
wholly, the poor fellow stood awkwardly wiping away his tears with his
rough sleeve, with his breast heaving, and the stertorous sobs still
breaking from him.

“It will all be well,” said Muriel, gently. “Do not grieve, Mr. Roux.”

“Yes, Miss Eas’man, I wont; indeed I wont grieve. But sometimes I git
desperate, Miss Eas’man,” he faltered. “’Pears sometimes as if everybody
was against us colored folks, Miss Eas’man.”

“Cheer up, Roux, we are all your friends here.”

It was the strong, sweet baritone of Harrington that sounded now. Roux
looked up, smiling mournfully, into the masculine, calm features, which
strangely comforted him.

“Yes, Roux, cheer up’s the word. ’Tan’t always goin’ to be slavery and
slaveholders in this free and happy country, mind that, my man.”

Thus the Captain, shaking a fore-finger at the negro, and then cheerfully
punching him in the ribs with it.

“An’ if I catch any kidnappers round this establishment, I’ll heave a
brick at him,” screeched Tugmutton, in a rage, glaring with rolling eyes
at everybody over the baby.

Emily, who had risen, and stood wiping her eyes with a cambric
handkerchief, burst into laughter, in which Muriel and Harrington
joined. Tugmutton looked awfully irate for an instant, and then grinned
sheepishly.

“Come, come,” said Muriel, “we must be going. Where’s the basket? Oh,
there it is on the floor. Mr. Roux,” she continued, stooping down to it,
and unpacking, “I won’t go in again to your wife—by the way, I hope our
talk has not disturbed her—but here are some baby-clothes which I wore
myself when I was a baby—old things which I found yesterday, but they’ll
do for the little boy. And here’s some nice beef and a pie, which my
mother had cooked expressly for your dinner to-day. And here’s my copy of
‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ which you told me you hadn’t read. When you and your
wife are done with it, Tugmutton, as you call him, can bring it up to the
house, with the plates and napkins.”

The famous Uncle Tom had recently issued from the Boston press, and
begun its illustrious journey through Christendom. Muriel handed the
two volumes to Roux, who took them timidly, with a low bow, immensely
gratified. The napkined meat and pie, she had already laid on the table,
with the package of baby-clothes.

“And that’s all,” said Muriel, arranging the remaining contents of the
basket under the fond eyes of Harrington. “The other things are for our
Irish cousins in North Russell Street. You, John, shall carry the basket
out to the carriage. Now let’s go.”

“Miss Eas’man,” said Roux, “I’m so much obliged”—

“Never mind, Mr. Roux,” interrupted Muriel, smiling gaily, “I see all
that. Good bye.”

She stooped to kiss the children, then with a curtsey, glided from the
room. Roux, timidly rubbing his hands one within another, bowed after
her, almost servile in his reverence. Tugmutton, severely dignified,
and swelling like the frog that tried to be an ox, with the proud
consciousness that something great had been done, and that it was all
due to him, stood in the centre of the floor, with the baby clasped
against his shoulder, and serenely waved his big paw in token of his
distinguished consideration. Emily smiled at him, and bowing to Roux,
swept with a rich rustle of silk after Muriel, followed by Harrington
with the basket. The Captain lingered to bounce up Tom and Josey once
apiece to the ceiling, and to poke Roux in the ribs with an anti-slavery
forefinger, and then, shaking his fist at the grinning Tugmutton,
departed also.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE SHADOW OF THE HUNTER.


Muriel and Emily were sitting on the back seat of the carriage as the
Captain came down Roux’s steps, nodding as he passed, and went down the
street alone.

“Driver, North Russell street, and walk the horses,” said Harrington,
leaping in on the front seat, beside the basket.

The carriage immediately set off as directed, and Harrington, leaning
forward, took Emily’s gloved hands in his, and looked fervently into
her beautiful face. Emily did not turn away this time, but forgetting
that she thought him her lover, in her perception of an expression which
recalled the look he had flashed at her in the room a few moments before,
gazed anxiously with a vague tremor into his countenance, in which the
winged nostrils were lifting.

“What is it, Harrington?” she faltered; “I’m afraid I have done something
wrong, though”—

“No, dear Emily,” interrupted Harrington; “nothing wrong. Only
unfortunate. You spoke from impulse; but it would have been better not to
have said what you did before Roux.”

“I understand,” she replied, hurriedly. “I have raised hopes which may
never be gratified. Heaven forgive me! O how thoughtless it was!”

Muriel put one arm around her, and looked into her face, with tender
sympathy.

“You will think me ostentatious,” faltered Emily, tears wetting her long
lashes; “but, Harrington, it is not so. The poor man’s distress touched
me so keenly, that I could not forbear saying what I did.”

“No, Emily,” warmly returned Harrington, “you mistake. I do not think
your offer was made in ostentation. Don’t think me insensible to the
splendid generosity that would give so large a sum to bring joy to the
home of a poor, despised negro, and he a stranger to you. It is not a
common heart that could enter into the depths of his sorrow, and so
promptly seek to relieve it. But, listen, Emily. Muriel and I have a
secret to tell you.”

He released her hands to take a wallet from his breast-pocket, from which
he drew a letter.

“God knows,” he resumed sadly, “it is at best a noble folly to give
away wealth, as you would do, to ransom one man from that dismal pit of
slavery when nearly four millions with as strong a claim on our hearts
must be left behind. And yet these individual cases come to us so like
special claims, that we cannot deny them. See now—in this noble folly
there was another heart before you. Yes, Emily, Muriel, too, was touched
to the ransom of Roux’s brother.”

“Muriel!” exclaimed Emily.

“We said nothing to Roux,” continued Harrington, “for the result
was doubtful. And we had to proceed with caution lest this Lafitte
should seek to capture him. I wrote a letter, which I had mailed from
Philadelphia. Here is the fiend’s answer, received two months ago. Don’t
read it unless you have strong nerves.”

Emily eagerly snatched the letter from Harrington, and looked at the
envelope. It was postmarked from Marksville, Louisiana, and directed to
John Harrington, Esquire, care of Joseph House, Esquire, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania.

“Jo House is a young literary friend of mine—an editor,” observed
Harrington. “I explained the matter to him, telling the reason for
secrecy, and got him to mail the letter for me, and transmit the answer.
And by the way,” he continued, “to give you an idea of the risk of
dealing with such a man as Lafitte, let me tell you that since this
letter was received, Lafitte has been up to Philadelphia, and called on
Jo for my address, desiring, he said, to enter into negotiation with me
for the sale of Antony.”

“Good Heavens!” exclaimed Emily, with sudden alarm, “I hope your friend
did not tell him where you were.”

Harrington laughed.

“Not a bit of it,” he replied. “What do you think Jo told him? He told
him with the utmost gravity that I resided in London. And when Lafitte
looked incredulous, the jolly young Bohemian produced a London Directory
he happened to have, and showed him my name among the Harringtons,
offering to copy the address for him.”

Emily laughed delightedly.

“That was a brilliant fib, I declare,” said she. “What did Lafitte say?”

“Jo wrote me that he looked as blank as a board, declined the offer, and
went away. I can imagine that Jo’s perfect soberness—for he’s an awfully
solemn-looking fellow—together with the circumstance of the London
Directory being in his possession, convinced Lafitte of the truth of the
statement, and I’ll be bound he thinks Roux is on the other side of the
Atlantic with my namesake.”

Harrington laughed, but his laugh ended in a deep and weary sigh. Emily
took the letter from the envelope, opened it, and began to read, while
Muriel looked with sad tranquillity out at the carriage windows. The
letter, read slowly in the swaying carriage, ran thus:

                                                LAFITTE PLANTATION,
                                  _Parish of Avoyelles, Louisiana._

    JOHN HARRINGTON, Esquire:

    MY DEAR SIR: Your letter (appropriately dated the 7th of
    March—a souvenir of dear Mr. Webster—bless him! I can’t think
    of that great speech without emotion—it was so noble) came to
    hand. In reply I beg to say that the dear Antony is alive and
    well, and, vicariously, sends his love and this little bunch of
    his wool to his beloved brother, whom you do not mention, but
    who is undoubtedly under your wing. So penetrated was the dear
    boy with a refluent sense of his brother’s beastly ingratitude
    in leaving me, his affectionate master, that he was really
    unwilling to part with the wool, which I finally tore with
    loving violence from his black pate, and send in his behalf to
    your charge for the wicked William. As for Antony, the dear
    boy loves me so much that no money could persuade him to leave
    me, and for my part, I am so fond of him, that millions would
    not induce me to part with him. Thus, my dear sir, you will
    perceive that Antony is not for sale at any price.

    I may add that dear Antony is a devout believer in the doctrine
    of vicarious atonement, and was so overcome with a new
    conviction of his brother’s wickedness in leaving me, that he
    insisted on being trussed up and receiving fifty lashes, which
    I administered with my own hand, of course with tears in my
    eyes. I am sure that if the depraved William could have heard
    dear Antony’s howls, he would have been stricken to the heart
    with a sense of his own unworthiness, and of the grandeur of
    this atoning love. To be frank with you, I am concerned lest
    Antony should carry his vicarious notions to the extent of
    demanding to be crucified for William’s sins. In which case, I
    should feel compelled to oblige him. It would be difficult to
    carry out this sublime design; but, at a pinch, I could send
    away my overseer, and ride with Antony into the swamp, where we
    could readily extemporize a Calvary.

    Give my love to Mr. Joseph House, _who does your Philadelphia
    mailing_, and believe me, dear sir,

                       Affectionately yours,

                                                   TORWOOD LAFITTE.

    _March 15th, 1852._

Emily turned white as marble over this insolent and horrible epistle,
and, with her lips colorless, looked at Harrington, who took the letter
from her hand.

“Charles Sumner has been in the Senate for six months, silent,” remarked
Harrington. “I have a mind to send him this letter.”

“Now, John,” said Muriel, smiling, “I won’t tolerate any reflections
on my neighbor. Every time I pass his house in Temple street, I think
that he has not gone to Washington for nothing. Wait a little, and you
shall hear the leap of the live thunder. In the meantime, as the knight
Durindarte said to the weeping queen Belerma, ‘patience, and shuffle the
cards.’”

“You are right, Muriel,” returned Harrington, with a faint smile, “we
talk of his silence now, but we shall yet talk of his speech. Yes, the
heart lives that shook Faneuil Hall for liberty, and we must not be
impatient. But sometimes I despond, for it seems the destiny of our best
men to lose power and purpose when they get into Congress.”

“No matter,” replied Muriel. “As King Pellinore said to Merlin, ‘God may
foredo well destiny.’”

Harrington bent his head abstractedly.

“But to return,” said he. “You observe, Emily, that the only result of
my letter was to bring torture upon poor Antony. In the letter was a
bunch of the poor fellow’s hair, which this moral idiot tore from his
head. You see, too, he flogged him in mere wantonness of cruelty. From
all Roux tells me of the character of this man, I fear that he will end
by killing Antony; and it is not too much to suppose, that with the
opportunities the slave system gives him, he may even do it in the manner
he suggests. Murders as dreadful take place on those obscure plantations,
as escaped slaves tell us. Just see the infernal nature of a system which
gives a fiend like this absolute, irresponsible control over his fellow
creatures! Here is this pirate, with a pirate’s name and a pirate’s
disposition; and the law of Louisiana, as of every Southern State in
the Union, entrusts to his care as many men and women as he may choose
to buy; and while it sanctions, by express statute, various degrees of
cruelty toward them, makes it impossible to hold him to account for the
most merciless torture and murder, by excluding the testimony of slaves.”

Emily listened, with a countenance deathly pale.

“I declare, Harrington,” she said, “when I read that letter I felt as if
the earth had cracked and shown me a glimpse of hell. Is it possible that
there can be such men as this? Are there many of them at the South?”

Harrington did not reply for a moment, and sat sadly looking into vacancy.

“It is not Southern nature,” he said, at length, “it is human nature.
It is human nature depraved by a tyranny, and licensed, practically
licensed, even in its wildest excesses, by a tyrant code. Read
Shakspeare; there you have in representative figures, the scientific
account of man. Here is Shakspeare’s Chiron, Demetrius, Iago, Cloten—a
moral monster with statutory power to hold slaves, and treat them at
his pleasure. But the blame is less with him than with the polity from
which he sprang—which organized him and reared him. Bating for their
life-long education in despotism, Southern men are no worse than Northern
men. Put the code of Louisiana over Massachusetts, and you shall have
the self-same results. Look at our Northern marine—that blot on our
democracy; how does the despotism of it work on our captains, even with
some sort of a legal check upon them? Read the criminal reports, or talk
with seamen, and learn how Northern captains can maltreat the men under
their command. No—human nature is no more incapable of degeneracy in
Massachusetts than in Louisiana. If people are better here, it is because
conditions are better.”

“Such men as this Lafitte are more to be pitied than blamed,” said
Muriel, gently. “I wish we were great enough to feel so.”

There was a moment’s silence, in which nothing was heard but the slow
rattle of the carriage-wheels over the paving-stones.

“You see, Emily,” said Harrington, sadly, breaking the pause, “that your
promise to Roux cannot be fulfilled. It is now our painful problem how to
destroy his new hope, without giving him the anguish of an explanation.
We are in a very difficult position.”

“Oh, if I had only known of this!” cried Emily, in bitter distress. “As
long as Roux expected nothing, he had only his ordinary pain. But I
have lifted the poor man to this height only to dash him into a pit of
despair.”

“Hush, dear Emily,” said Muriel, tenderly. “Do not reproach yourself.
You could not have imagined that an effort had been made to buy Roux’s
brother. So don’t feel badly about it. We will devise some means of
escape out of this dilemma. What I am most afraid of is, that Lafitte
may, after all, find out Harrington, and get on the track of Roux.”

“In which case,” said Harrington, tranquilly, “it would be a good idea to
take him to Southac street and show him Roux’s house.”

“Harrington!” exclaimed Emily, almost shrilly.

“Yes indeed it would,” said Harrington, quietly. “But before I showed him
the house, I would say two words to Elkanah Brown. I’ll engage that he
would hurry back to the pirate civilization that spawned him, resolved
never to set foot in Boston again. The negroes here would sound a roar in
his ears that he would remember to his dying day.”

“Good Heavens, Harrington,” cried Emily, “they would kill him!”

Harrington’s face was calm, but his blue eyes gleamed, and his broad
nostrils lifted with passionate emotion.

“And if I were an American patriot, pure and simple,” he replied, “I
would answer that it would be no matter if they did, and that Bunker Hill
is near enough to keep tyrannicide in countenance. You remember what
one of our leading Whigs said in convention many years ago—in the time,
when to be a Whig was not to be a Webster Whig, with a fine speech for
kidnapping. ‘Why, sir,’ foamed a slaveholder, ‘if your doctrines obtain,
our slaves would cut our throats for us.’ ‘And in God’s name,’ said our
Whig friend, tossing the words over his shoulder—‘in God’s name, why
shouldn’t they!’”

“Oh, Harrington, Harrington,” said Emily, shaking her head, “is this you?
I did not think John Harrington had the heart to hate any man—not even
Lafitte—much less kill him, or see him killed.”

“Nor has he,” said Muriel, quickly.

“You are right,” said Harrington, calmly; “at least so far as the hating
goes. It may be a defect in my organization, but I have never known what
it is to hate anybody. I hope I never may. As for killing men, or seeing
them killed, that is another matter. I believe that I could do both the
one and the other without a pang. This Lafitte—a man in whom there is not
one trait worthy to be called human—I could kill him or see him killed
without the least regret. It is not his death but his life that should be
regretted.”

“But, Harrington,” said Emily, “this is impossible. How could you beat a
man, much less kill him, without hating him?”

“Christ beat the money changers in the temple: Was that hate?” answered
Harrington.

Emily smiled vaguely.

“Well,” she continued, “that is ingenious—but not conclusive. Besides, to
beat men is not to kill them. You could hardly kill a man without hating
him.”

“Xenophon says Socrates shore down a soldier in the battle, and blessed
him as he died: Was that hate?” answered Harrington.

Emily colored slightly, and looked up smiling into the calm countenance
of the speaker.

“Death is not the worst fate that may befall a man,” continued
Harrington. “If to kill a man were to end his life, we might well hold
our hands. But the soul survives the blow that slays the body.”

“And to kill a man is only to shell him, Emily,” said Muriel with a smile.

“Mercy!” exclaimed Emily, laughing, “what a couple of Robespierres!”

“Seriously, now,” said Harrington, “I think Muriel is right. A killed man
is a shelled man, and not a dead man. ‘Where shall we bury you?’ asked
the friends around the dying Socrates. And the escaping soul replied,
‘Wherever you please, if you can catch me.’ But with regard to this
matter. If I believed in free will and moral responsibility, and all
the doctrines professedly accepted by the mass of my fellow-citizens,
I should hold that, on the principle of justice, we had a right to
terminate the life of a man who was willfully using it to the injury
of his fellow-creatures. For I agree with Lord Bacon that men without
goodness of nature are but a nobler kind of vermin. But, as I happen to
think that such men are the necessary product of an unscientific order of
society, and that society is responsible for them and their misdeeds, I
could only kill them at the cry of a terrible expediency, not to punish
them, but simply to arrest their mischief. At the same time I go with
Shakespeare, rather to ‘prevent the fiend’ than to kill the fiend. I
would not kill a rattlesnake lying harmlessly in the sun, simply because
he is a rattlesnake, and may bite to-morrow. But if he coils to strike, I
slay him, purely as a measure of safety, not in hate, not forgetting that
forces external to him organized him for malice and venom. So, too, with
the nobler vermin—the human reptiles. I do not hate them; I pity them.
I do not forget that they are a consequence, and not self-caused. But I
cannot let them flesh their fangs in the innocent, when the saving mercy
of a death-blow can rescue their blameless victims to lives of human use
and accomplishment. When such men as Lafitte come here to hunt the poor,
I baffle and drive them away if I can, and, as a last resort, I kill
them. That is not hate—it is love. It is stern love, but it is love. Wo
to the civilization that makes it necessary! Wo to the state that suffers
an injury to be done to the humblest man or woman, or leaves his or her
protection to the chance charity of the private citizen! And treble wo to
the government that gives despotic power to ruffians, and arms and guards
them in their crime against mankind with the prestige and forms of civil
law!”

Harrington ceased, and they all sat in silence with brooding faces.

“Well, I trust that this wretch may never trouble Boston,” said Emily, at
length, with a sigh.

“I trust not,” replied Harrington. “He is shrewd and subtle though, and I
have, I own, an anxious foreboding that he will come this way. I am sorry
I wrote that letter. You observed the underlined sentence in his reply,
didn’t you? It is curious that he should have so readily conjectured that
the letter was sent to Jo House to mail.”

“Very curious,” responded Emily.

“Here’s North Russell street,” said Harrington. “I’ll leave you, and rush
home, for I have my article to finish.”

“Harrington—whisper,” said Muriel, bending her face toward him with a
charming smile.

Harrington, who was just putting out his hand to unfasten the carriage
door, leaned forward, while Emily turned away. The young man felt, with a
delicious thrill, the balmy breath of Muriel on his cheek, and her soft
lips touch his ear, and the hot blood flew to his face before she had
spoken a word.

“John,” she whispered, “you write your article to make some money. Hush,
now! Let it go, and let me supply you—just for once now, pray do. Don’t
be proud and foolish, but let me make you a present, for I have plenty,
and come with us and have a day of recreation, for you are pale with work
and study—now, John.”

“Now, John,” was said aloud with arch reproach, for Harrington had drawn
back, flushed and laughing, with a gesture of negation.

“Not a bit of it,” he answered, gaily. “Did I ever?”

“No, you never did, bad young man that you are,” returned Muriel, aloud,
with a face of playful reproach. “But see here, John”—she bent forward
again to whisper, her face so sweetly pleading that it was hard to resist
giving the besought audience.

“I won’t—that’s flat,” said Harrington, laughing and blushing, and
putting out his hand to the hasp, for he felt that Muriel’s entreaty was
getting dangerous.

“Very well,” she said. “That’s settled. But come up to tea this
evening—come up early, if you can, and we’ll have a fencing lesson, and
then, after tea, we’ll go to the Convention, trusting our luck to hear
Wendell Phillips. How will that do?”

“Capital,” replied Harrington. “I’ll come.”

“And bring Wentworth with you.”

“Yes. Good bye. Good bye, Emily.”

Emily turned and nodded, with her face scarlet at the mention of
Wentworth’s name. She had been living in broader life for the last hour,
and now her heart was painfully sinking back to its private love and
sorrow.

Without stopping the carriage, Harrington opened the door, sprang out,
and walked for a moment between the wheels to refix the hasp, then
stepped back, touched his hat, and was gone.

Muriel turned and watched from the oval window in the back of the
carriage his martial figure as it strode up the street.

“There goes a chevalier,” she said, gaily, as she turned away.

“Yes,” replied Emily. “First in war, first in peace”—

“And first in the hearts of his countrywomen,” concluded Muriel.

They laughed merrily, and the carriage went on.



CHAPTER IX.

SCHOLAR AND SOLDIER.


Harrington lived in Chambers street, not far from where he had left the
carriage, and strode on over the pavement of Cambridge street to his
house, drawing in deep breaths of the delicious, cool, spring air, and
thinking with a rapt heart of Muriel.

It was a perfect day. The long thoroughfare sloping gently, and narrowing
away into distance, with its descending row of irregular, motley
buildings of brick and wood, and its lines of passengers, was fresh
and salient in the morning sunlight. Blown from the country, wafts of
woodland odors, balmy as the breath of Muriel, floated softly to his
sense. Flowing out of the west, the morning wind, light as the lips of
Muriel, touched his cheeks, and the young man’s heart and blood were full
of love and spring.

O, blessed magic of one little moment, which had repaired what hours
and days undid! Her breath had breathed upon his sense, her lips had
met his cheek, and therefore, all thought that she loved another, all
evidence that her soul was not in secret, firm alliance with his own, had
vanished in the flash of rapture which filled his being. And more—the
phantoms which surrounded him had vanished too. Born servant and soldier
of mankind, he was often made to feel how powerless he was in the great
social war of the many against the one; and at such times, to his spirit,
as to that of many a lover of men, came gloomy spectres from the world of
complicated wo and wrong. From the grim-grotesque, sad, turbulent scene
of the morning street; from the low room of the fugitive’s humbleness
and anguish, and the futile generosity of the patrician girl; from the
cloud on the horizon of his soul, where glimmered the image of the coming
hunter; from the whole dark consciousness of a social order leagued
against the poor and weak, the invading phantoms had poured like midnight
ghosts around him. But they were all gone, and again there was strength
and morning in his soul. The spring day was sweet and beautiful; perfume
and victory coursed through his veins; the noble face of his beloved
bloomed in his heart; her wild-rose mouth had touched him like the envoy
of a costly kiss; her fragrant breath had shot his blood with ecstasy;
and past and future melted into the rich passion of the present hour,
which had renewed his manhood and left him with the pulse and thews of a
Crusader.

Flushed and throbbing with the bliss of his thought of Muriel, he reached
his dwelling. It was an old, three-storied, quaintly-fashioned brick
house, with green blinds, windows and window-panes smaller than those of
modern date, and in the centre, up three stone steps, a door with a brass
knocker, and a brass plate below it, on which was engraved the name,
E. Z. FISHER. The house breathed in an air fragrant with lilacs, whose
clumped green and purple bloomed pleasantly over the top of a close board
fence, with a gate in it, which extended from the left hand side of the
tenement to the blind side-wall of the adjoining dwelling, and inclosed a
yard within which abutted from the main building a wing of two stories.
In this wing dwelt Harrington; the rest of the house was occupied by the
Captain and his family.

He opened the gate and entered the yard, which was in fact a small
garden. A planked footway led from the gate to the two wooden steps of
the door in the wing, and a similar footway crossed this, and crooked
around the side of the abutment. Lilac bushes were planted against the
fence and the blind wall of the dwelling on the left, and there were
shrubs and flowers on either side of the door, and around the wall of the
wing. It was a pleasant spot, full of fragrance and retiracy.

Without pausing, Harrington unlocked his door and entered his study. It
was a square room, cool and quiet, lit by two green-curtained front
windows which looked on the garden, and containing several hundred
volumes on shelves, row above row, on three sides of the apartment. In
the centre was a table loaded with books and papers, and an arm-chair.
Four or five choice engravings hung in spaces between the book-shelves,
and on one side, on a pedestal, was a noble bust of Lord Bacon. A set of
foils and masks hung across the mantel, and a huge pair of dumb-bells lay
on the floor in a corner. A carpet of green baize, an old sofa between
the windows, and a few chairs, completed the furniture of the room, whose
only other noticeable feature was a slanting step-ladder on one side,
leading up by a trap in the ceiling into Harrington’s bed-chamber.

Throwing himself into his arm-chair, the young scholar took from a
drawer, and pressed to his lips, a little bunch of withered herbs, which
Muriel had held in her hand one evening two or three weeks before, and
given him at parting. Their dry balsamic odor stole softly to his brain,
freighted with the thought of the white hand that gave them, and closing
his eyes, he abandoned himself to ecstatic dreams.

In a few minutes, a barrel-organ began to play outside his gate. It was a
peculiarly sweet instrument—some people in the region of Beacon Hill may
remember it as the one they used to follow from street to street on balmy
summer evenings, so loth were they to part with its melody. Harrington
was fond of all barrel-organs that were at all melodious—the poor man’s
opera, he used to call them, associating them with the delight they gave
to little children and the dwellers in poor houses, and always pleased
to have them bring Italy into the street, as some one has felicitously
phrased it. The organist, sure of his reward whenever his patron was
at home, came often to the house. On this occasion, Harrington had no
sooner heard the first notes, than he twisted up some change in paper,
and opening the door, tossed it over the gate. The instrument stopped in
the midst of the tune, and while the man was picking up the largesse,
Harrington opened his windows, and resumed his chair to enjoy the music.

A rich light gush of lilac fragrance which seemed to blend with the
brilliant melody of the polacca the organ played, poured in at the open
windows, and melted into his mood. He sat softly beating with his hand
the dance of the tune, with the debonair image of Muriel floating in
melody through his fancy. She came again, expressed in a tenderer mood,
as the music changed to a strain of yearning and dreamful sweetness,
like a poem of deep love. Then followed one of the negro melodies of the
day, a simple and mournful air, with notes of anguish, and still she was
present in his mind linked with a shadowy remembrance of the wrongs and
sorrows of the race to whose low estate her heart stooped so often to
help and console. Soul in soul, he moved with her through the rich and
melancholy maze of the succeeding music—a sombre and sumptuous Italian
romanza, crowded with slow passion and tumult, with notes that swelled
and poured athwart the central theme, like some dim innumerable host of
love and sorrow gathering and forming, and dividing again in baffled
and harmonious disorder. Air upon air came after, and sinking away, the
listener lost for awhile their melody and meaning, and only knew that
they were sweet and sad; till rising from reverie he heard the last of
a solemn and tender strain like some delicious psalm of death and life
immortal.

It ceased; there was a pause, and the world’s hopes and struggles surged
in upon his kindled spirit, as the organ rolled forth in golden sweetness
the martial and mournful andante of the Marseillaise. The French hymn
of liberty, whose sombre and fiery tonal morning burst once on the
birth-throes of Democracy, like the light of God upon the chaos of the
globe! He never heard it without emotion, and now it rushed into his
soul, dilating and expanding into vast orchestral harmonics. His eye
gleamed and bright color lit his face as he listened to the triumphal
terror and glory of the thrilling strain. On and on it swept in cadences
of tears and fire; down and down it darkened in weird and burning melody,
fraught with the passion of all human wrongs; and rising into the pealing
cry of the battle-summons, and flowing into the proud, heroic tones of
mournful rapture which seem to exult for the dead who die for man, it
melted away.

Harrington sat, flushed and throbbing, in the fragrant silence of the
room. The organ had ceased and gone, and he was alone. Gradually the
tumult of his spirit sank into golden calm, and with the charm of the
music still lingering in his mind, he put the faded herbs into the
drawer, and prepared to begin his tasks.

His unfinished article was the first thing to be attended to, and he got
it out and set to work upon it. The article, as Muriel had said, he was
writing for money, for Harrington’s means sometimes ran low. His mother
dying six years before, when he was nineteen, had left him her little
property, including this house. The house he rented to Captain Fisher,
and this rent, added to the interest of the money his mother had left
him, gave him a yearly income of about six hundred dollars. An economical
and selfish man might have got on well enough on these receipts; but
Harrington, though economical enough, was anything but selfish, and
between his own expenses and his pecuniary outlay for others, he
sometimes found himself in want of money. On these occasions he was wont
to interrupt his studies to write for certain periodicals till he wrote
himself into funds again. What he wrote sold well, and his pen was in
demand; but philosophy, Hegel said, has nothing to do with dollars, and
Harrington evidently thought scholarship had not either, for when he had
once filled the gap in his finances, back he went to his studies, and the
magazine editor did not live who could tempt him from them into another
contribution.

For he was a scholar born, and in this room he kept alive the traditions
which have made the name of Harrington dear to scholarship and man. It is
a shining name in literature and history, and bears the recorded honors
due to names linked with the memory of human pleasure or the cause of
human service. There was one Harrington in the days of the Eighth Henry—a
polished poet, who surpassed the verse of his time. There was another,
his child, the darling of Queen Elizabeth, a sprightly wit and poet, who
sunned his muse in the brightness of the bright Britannic days, wrought
well for belle-lettres and history, and gave his country her first
English version of the fan and fire of Ariosto. There was still another,
the Oxford scholar of a later age, of whom the chronicle records that he
was a prodigy in the common law, a person of excellent parts, honest in
dealing, and of good and generous nature. There was one more, loftier far
than these, whose mighty pulses beat for liberty and justice, the brave
Utopian of Sidney’s time, who aimed to lay the deep foundations of the
perfect and immortal state—James Harrington, the author of Oceana. And
among the rest, skilled or famed in law and science and poetry, there was
yet another, James Harrington’s true brother by a closer tie than that of
blood—the stout jurist of Vermont, who spoke the decision of her Supreme
Court on the demand of a slave claimant, decreeing that his title to a
man was not good till he could show a bill of sale from the Almighty God.
That was Judge Harrington, and by that decree he earned his right to a
statue from mankind.

Whatever was best and greatest in the works and days of the ancestral
Harringtons, seemed likely to be renewed and excelled by the young
scholar who bore their name. Primarily, he was a Baconist. There
stood the bust of Bacon on the pedestal in his library, and to him it
was the treasure of treasures. Wentworth used to say jestingly, that
Harrington was a heathen and worshipped an idol. For the idol, however,
Wentworth himself, with Muriel, was responsible. Harrington had been
sadly disappointed in not being able to find any bust of Verulam at the
statuary’s; so Wentworth and Muriel had collected the various portraits
of the great Chancellor, moulded from them a bust in clay, somewhat
larger than life, cast it in plaster, and one day Harrington, entering
his study, was astonished and enraptured at finding the bust there on
its pedestal. It was a magnificent success, and well embodied the noble
sagacity, the tender and gentle sweetness, the regal compassion and calm,
massive intellectuality, which appear in Bacon’s enormous brow and face
of princely majesty, as the painters of his time have pictured him.

Harrington now loved Bacon with tenfold ardor, and Harrington’s love for
Bacon was something wonderful. It was absolutely a personal attachment,
and there was no surer way to rouse him than to speak disparagingly of
Verulam. He put him above all authors or men. He spoke of him as the
flower of the human race. He resented any imputation on his fame, scouted
at the modern aspersions upon him of Lord Campbell, Macaulay and others,
as baseless and infamous slanders, and altered Pope’s epigrammatic line,
which he thought the seed-cone of the whole modern libel, to read “the
wisest, brightest, _noblest_ of mankind.” With a standing promise to
his friends to put the evidence together some day in demonstrable form,
having already, he said, begun to make notes to that end, he meanwhile
rested in the broad assertion that Bacon’s downfall was the work of the
conservatism of his time—that the conservators of social abuses had
smelt out his concealed democracy and socialism, trumped up the charge
of malfeasance in office against him, ruined and defamed him in his life
and flung the mire of a traditionary calumny on his tomb. It was another
of Harrington’s heresies that Bacon in the seventeenth century aimed to
do for the world what Fourier aimed to do in the nineteenth. This, he
insisted, was the key to his works and life—this the torch by which they
were to be read and interpreted. It was evident that Harrington had a
very pretty affair on his hands, should he ever venture to publish an
idea so heretical. The sin of connecting the world-honored Verulam with
the man whom modern society has endowed, as Muriel said, with hoofs and
horns and a harpoon tail, and of asserting that either or both had meant
to bring the kingdom of God upon the earth, would be only less than the
effort of both or either to so interfere with our highly respectable
institutions.

However this may be, Harrington’s heart was anchored on the idea, and
with this faith in him, he studied his Bacon, together with Montaigne and
Shakspeare, who, he thought, or seemed to think—for on this point he was
mysteriously non-committal—were in the interest of the Baconian design.
Possibly, he might yet come to different conclusions, for he was young;
and, like Sterne’s Pilgrim, had just begun his journey, and had much to
learn.

Meanwhile he pursued his studies, though with the full consciousness
that there was no accredited career open to him. To a man who held
unpopular convictions as he did; no more a Christian of the modern sort
than Christ was; no more a patriot of the modern sort than Sidney was;
no more a believer in the modern order of society than Bacon and Fourier
were; despising the Government as an engine of force and fraud; refusing
assent to the Constitution, and allegiance to the Union, because in his
view they legalized and fortified the crime and ruin of Slavery—to such
a man the church, the bar, the bench, the senate, the official station
of any kind were all closed. But Harrington had a solemn instinct at
his heart, that the time was coming when his country would rise against
slavery and social wrong and call upon her outlawed sons for their best
service. Against that day he prepared himself to do his part, whatever
it might prove to be. In his conception of it, the utter annihilation
of slavery was first in the programme. This involved the possibility of
civil war. It might come between the dark millions of the South and the
Government. It might come between the Government’s pro-slavery liegemen
and the freemen of the North. In either case, Harrington was pledged to
serve liberty, and that his service might be efficient, he had begun the
study of military science, and had the best text books, such as those of
Mahan, Kinsley, Thiroux and Knowlton, together with the chief standard
works relating to warfare, from the Commentaries of Cæsar to the volumes
of Durat-Lasalle. To this end also went his varied practice with Bagasse
in the school of arms, with rifle practice elsewhere. Hoping, too, that
the period of social reconstruction would come in his own time or follow
hard upon it, he was preparing to add his thought to bring it on, or
shape his thought to guide it when it should come, and to this end were
his scholastic labors. His shelves might have hinted as much. There were
the works of the masters of law and government, and of those who have
studied and schemed for society, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Cicero,
Justinian, Grotius, Burlamaqui, Vattel, Puffendorff, Henricius, Milton,
Sidney, Harrington, Pothier, Montaigne, Machiavelli, Bacon, Montesquieu,
Bentham, Burke, St. Simon, Fourier, Compte—legists, jurists, scholiasts,
works of practice and theory, statements of codes, and books that are
the seed of codes. With them works of exact science in all its branches,
and works of history, biography, poetry, travel and fiction, classic and
modern—for it was Harrington’s design to grasp the thought and life of
all the ages.

So toiled he. No dilettante litterateur; no student forgetful of his time
and kind, or gaining lore to fortify or gild oppression;—but kinsman to
the golden blood of the gallant scholars to whose graves the heart brings
its laurels and its tears. No scholar, either of the modern sort, which
stores the brain and saps the arm—but of the large Elizabethan type,
training his body in every manly exercise, training his mind in equal
skill and power. Such was the budding promise of Harrington.



CHAPTER X.

CONVERSATION.


In the young man’s kindled mood, composition was easy, and by two o’clock
his article was done.

He was leaning back in his chair, enjoying the consciousness of eighty
dollars earned, when the door opened, and in came the Captain, with
his head very much on one side, and an ominous gravity on his quaint
features. He did not remove his straw-hat, but stood surveying Harrington
with a critical eye, like a marine raven. A slow smile twinkled around
the young man’s bearded mouth, for he instantly divined what the Captain
had come for.

“Well, Eldad,” he said, “it’s the rent, I know. I see rent written in
every lineament of your ingenuous countenance. Come, sit down.”

The Captain slowly lifted his clenched fist and shook it at Harrington,
then lounged about, seated himself on the sofa under the windows, and
cocked up his eye at the trap in the ceiling.

“Could I smoke, John?” he asked, suddenly dropping his glance at the
young man.

“Certainly. Light up, and smoke away.”

Keeping his head on one side, and his round, bright eyes intent on the
smiling Harrington, the Captain produced a short pipe and a match from
the hollow of his left hand, and putting the pipe in one corner of his
mouth, lit the match on his sleeve, and igniting the tobacco, began to
blow a cloud.

“And why didn’t you come to dinner?” he blandly demanded, opening the war.

“Dinner! I declare I never thought of it till this minute,” exclaimed
Harrington, coloring a little.

“It was a brile to-day, John,” pursued the Captain, contemplatively,
smoking. “Briled steak, potatoes, spinach, with a top off of bread
puddin’ and coffee,” he continued, pensively enumerating the components
of the meal. “Together with bread and butter, and apple-sarce. Joel James
eat till he thought his jacket was buttoned. Hannah says, ‘I wonder where
John is?’ Sophrony answers, ‘he’s in his room, for I see him go in at
eleven o’clock.’ ‘Better call him,’ says John H. ‘Better not,’ says I,
‘or you’ll scatter some of his idees.’ So we didn’t.”

Harrington listened attentively to this account of the family colloquy on
his absence from the dinner-table. Joel James was the Captain’s son, a
sturdy schoolboy of ten. Sophronia was his daughter, a girl of fifteen.
John H. was the youngest son, named after Harrington. Hannah was the
Captain’s wife.

“John,” said the Captain, changing the subject, “two hundred and fifty’s
not enough. I’m goin’ to raise it to three hundred.”

“Good!” exclaimed Harrington, with a jovial air. “I knew it was the rent!
Eldad, this rent is our standing grievance. Well, I’m going to lower it
to two hundred.”

“In which event, I’m going to move, bag and baggage,” retorted the
Captain.

Harrington laughed aloud, and sat smiling at the Captain, whose quaint
features were screwed into a grin, and momently lit in little flashes of
red from the bowl of the pipe near his cheek.

“Eldad,” replied Harrington, “if I had my way, you should have the house
rent free.”

“Which I wunt,” said the Captain.

“Of course you won’t,” continued Harrington; “but, Eldad, you were
mother’s mainstay, and have been like a father to me since she died, and
it grates on my feelings to have you paying me money. Well, no matter.
Let it go. But I’ll be even with you one of these days.”

“Well,” returned the Captain, “it’s settled then?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Three hundred, you say.”

“O no, Eldad. Two fifty.”

“Three hundred.”

“Two fifty.”

“Three hundred dollars.”

“Two hundred and fifty dollars, Eldad. Not another stiver. I’m resolved
now.”

The Captain sighed, and smoked pensively.

“I lost a customer to-day, John,” he remarked, after a long pause.

“Indeed! Which induced you to increase your expenses, by raising the
rent,” bantered Harrington.

“Collected for him these six years back,” continued the Captain,
pensively. “Lem Atkins, you know.”

“Lemuel Atkins!” exclaimed Harrington, leaning forward. “Why that’s Mrs.
Eastman’s brother.”

“Certain. Cotton merchant on Long Wharf, and a black sheep he is too.
Webster Whig—pro-slavery up to the hub—reg’lar aristocrat every way. He
was one of the Fifteen Hundred Scoundrels, as Phillips called ’em. Ruther
guess all the bad that ever was in his sister and niece was drawn off
before they were born, and bottled up in him.”

“And how came you to lose him?” interrogated Harrington.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” replied the Captain. “You see, I’ve collected the
rents of eight of his houses for six years back—some of ’em went ruther
aginst my grain, too. Poor houses, scacely fit for human bein’s to live
in, two or three of ’em, and sech as no decent man would own or let out
to anybody. Howiver. He gave me the memorandums of three more about a
week ago. Mighty big rents Atkins gits for these dwellin’s, thinks I to
myself, as I entered them on my book. Spoon o’ horn! I niver guessed it
till I went down there yesterday, an’ found out what sort of houses them
are for which Atkins gits his big rents.”

“That’s fine in Atkins,” remarked Harrington. “Always talking about the
duty of citizens to obey the laws, right or wrong, and here he violates
the statute against letting houses for such purposes. But perhaps he
didn’t know who his tenants were.”

“_He_ know? Lord! he knew fast enough,” replied the Captain. “Laws? All
the laws he obeys are the laws that go for his money. There’s lots like
him. They go for every money law, from the Fugitive Slave Law upward, for
I ruther guess there ain’t no downward from the Fugitive Slave Law. Why,
there’s a Massachusetts law aginst over usury. Who don’t keep it? Who
lets out money for ten per cent., twenty per cent., any per cent. they
can git? Them very sort o’ men that’s always blatherin’ about obedience
to the laws, right or wrong. Ony when a man’s libaty’s consarned, and the
law goes for takin’ it away from him, then they’re awfully law-abidin’
citizens. By the great horn spoon! I’d just like to have the stringin’
up of them law-abiders with a copy of the Revised Statutes round their
necks!”

Harrington leaned back in his chair, with his hands clasped, and his brow
knitted.

“Well, as I was sayin’,” resumed the Captain, “I went into one of them
houses. ‘Young women,’ says I, leavin’, ‘you’d better repent, for the
kingdom of heaven’s at hand.’ I tell you I was mad when I found a similar
state o’ things in the tother two, and I just bounced out, and went right
down to Lem Atkins. ‘Mr. Atkins,’ says I, ‘you’d better employ your
former agent for them houses.’ ‘What’s the matter, Fisher,’ says he.
‘Matter is,’ says I, ‘that I guess you don’t know what sort o’ callin’
’s followed in them tenements.’ ‘It’s not my business, Mr. Fisher,’ says
he, ‘to busy myself with the occupation of my tenants. How dare you speak
to me in that manner.’ I looked him right in the eye. He swelled up like
a turkey-cock, but he didn’t look at me a second. ‘Mr. Atkins,’ says I,
‘no offince, but as I’ve got sons and a daughter, the occupation of your
tenants is a consarn o’ mine, and you must get another man to collect
them rents, for I wunt do it, an’ I pity the man that will.’ He turned
off to his desk. ‘Mr. Fisher,’ says he, ‘you wunt do any more collectin’
for me, so just send up your accounts, and we’ll be quits.’ ‘Very well,’
says I, and I left with his collectin’ off my hands for good.”

“Bravo, Eldad! That was done like a man!” cried Harrington.

“If it wasn’t for bringin’ disgrace on his sister and that splendid
daughter of hers,” said the Captain, rising, with his pipe in his
clenched hand, “I’d just let the thing be known around town, I would.
Say, John, she’s a beauty, though, ain’t she? John, she’s the ony lady I
know that’s good enough for you.”

Harrington colored deeply, in spite of himself.

“Well, the other one’s splendid, too,” said the Captain, as if in answer
to a private thought of the young man, scrutinizing his countenance
meanwhile, with his own head all awry. “Yes, she’s a regular clipper.
I never was so took aback by any human action as by that offer to buy
Roux’s brother. That was ginerosity such as we read of—ony it’s a pity
she didn’t know the harm she was doin’. Yes, she’s a glory, and that’s a
fact. Still, I wish it was tother one.”

“Why, Eldad,” said Harrington, laughing and fiery red, “you’re all at
sea. Surely you don’t think I’m in love with Miss Ames?”

The Captain looked hard at him.

“Well, so I’ve ben told, John,” he replied.

Harrington puckered up his mouth in wonder.

“Bless me, how people will talk!” he exclaimed. “Why there’s not a word
of truth in it. Of course I like Emily very much”—

“And she you,” interposed the Captain.

“And she me? I declare! I shall hear next that she is in love with me, I
suppose!” exclaimed Harrington.

“Well, so I’ve ben told,” coolly responded the Captain; “dead in love
with you.”

Harrington stared at him, but the color ebbed away from his countenance,
and a flood of dreadful confirmations overswept him. Her recent sudden
preference for his society, her lavish attentions to him, the fervent
and sumptuous fondness of her manner, rushed in new light upon his
consciousness. Purblind fool that I am, he thought; I mistook it all for
friendship, and it meant love! For a moment, poor Harrington felt as
guilty as though he had known and encouraged Emily’s passion for him. But
no, he thought, this is all a mistake; it cannot be.

“Eldad,” said he, “this is rather a serious matter; more serious than you
may imagine. Come, now, be frank with me. You say you’ve been told Miss
Ames is in love with me. Now who told you!”

The Captain, with his head all atwist, scanned him curiously, slowly
rubbing his chin, meanwhile, with the palm of his brown hand.

“Well, John,” he answered, slowly, “I was asked not to mention it.
Howiver, I guess I will. That young Witherlee told me.”

“Oh!” said Harrington.

“Yis, John,” continued the Captain. “I come in here one day about a week
ago, I guess, and found him sittin’ in your chair, smokin’ his cigar.
He said he was waitin’ for you, and we had a chat. In the course of the
conversation, he let that out. I ruther thought he was tryin’ to pump
somethin’ out of me on that subject, but I didn’t know nothin’, an’ if I
did, he wouldn’t have been the wiser, I guess.”

“What did he say?” asked Harrington.

“Well, not overmuch,” replied the Captain. “Seemed to know all about it,
howiver. Talked as if he was in your confidence. Asked when you were
goin’ to be married. Well, now, he didn’t exactly _say_ it, you know,
but he somehow gave me to understand that you were in love with Miss
Ames, an’ she likewise with you; an’ thought her family wouldn’t make no
objections. That was about all.”

Harrington, with a look of pain, reddened while the Captain was speaking,
and his nostrils quivered.

“I am shocked and grieved that Witherlee should talk in this way,” he
said, sadly. “I shall certainly call him to account for this.”

“John, you musn’t mention it,” said the Captain, anxiously. “He said
he thought I knew all about it, or he wouldn’t have alluded to it, and
he made me promise not to speak of it. It won’t do, John. Fact is, I
oughtn’t to have said a word.”

Harrington leaned his elbows on the table, and for a moment buried his
face in his hands. He had a clear glimpse into the method of the good
Fernando.

“Very well, Eldad,” he said, calmly, leaning back in his chair. “Let it
go, I won’t speak of it. But I assure you there’s not a word of truth
in this statement, so far as I’m concerned, and I hope there is not in
regard to Miss Ames!”

The Captain did not answer, but lounged away, and during the long silence
that followed, walked up and down with a ruminating air. At length he
stopped and fronted the young man, who was absorbed in musing.

“John,” said he, “to-day’s the day, you know.”

Harrington, knowing what he meant, bent his head, looking with
half-absent sadness into vacancy.

“Twelve years ago to-day, John, the good ship Contocook went down,”
continued the Captain, in a hushed voice, with a half-soliloquizing air.
“All the women an’ children saved. That was a comfort, John.”

Harrington again bowed his head silently. Every year, on the twenty-fifth
of May, he was accustomed to hear the Captain speak of this.

“And all the men saved, John,” continued the Captain. “That was another
comfort. All but one, John.”

The Captain paused, solemnly, and took off his hat.

“As good a seaman as ever trod the deck,” he resumed. “As fine a man
as ever breathed the breath of life. Captain John Harrington, aged
forty-two. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord!”

There was a long silence.

“And he died in the Lord, John,” continued the Captain. “I don’t know as
he ever got religion. But he died in the Lord.”

The Captain paused once more, muttering the last words below his breath.

“Yes, John,” he continued, “that’s the way he died. I’ve been thinkin’
of it all day. It’s been comin’ to me how that rollin’ iceberg tumbled
through the thick fog, in the dead of night, and struck the ship, and
stove in her bows. ‘Back from the boats,’ he shouts, catchin’ up the
hand-spike. ‘The first man that touches a boat I’ll brain. Women and
children first, men.’ ‘That’s the talk,’ sings out some of the sailors,
an’ them that was goin’ to take the boats fell away. ‘Now, then, the
women and children,’ says he. Over the side they went, one by one; he
standin’ by with the handspike. ‘Now the other passengers,’ says he. Over
they went too. ‘Now, men,’ he says, ‘there’s room in that boat for some
of ye, and the rest of us’ll go into the other. Over they went, likewise,
till only he and the black cook was left. ‘The boat’s full, captain,’
says John Timbs, the first mate, ‘but I guess she’ll hold another.’ ‘Jump
in doctor,’ says Captain Harrington to the darkey. ‘No,’ they hollered,
‘white men before niggers, captain, and we’ll have you.’ ‘I’ll stay,
captain,’ blubbers cook, ‘No you won’t,’ says he. ‘Men,’ he says, ‘it’s
a favor I ask. Don’t deny me, or you’ll never know peace. In with you,
doctor,’ an’ he slung the cook over the side. ‘Try now, captain,’ says
they, all beseechin’ together. An’ he let himself down by the rope till
he stood in the boat, an’ the sea begun to come over the gunnels. He was
up into the ship again in a minute. ‘It’s no use, men,’ says he, ‘push
off. Timbs,’ says he, ‘give my love to my wife and boy, if I never see
’em again. God bless ye, men.’ And then the ship lurched for’ard, an’
they pushed off, cryin’ like babes. Last thing they saw through the fog
was the captain flingin’ a hatch overboard, and jumpin’ after it. But
that sea was too cold for a man to be in long. Then when they lost sight
of him, they heard the wallow, an’ saw the lazy swells lift up round the
boat, an’ knew that the ship had gone down.”

The Captain paused, wiping away with his sleeve the salt tears which the
simple epic of a brave man’s death brought to his eyes.

“That was the story, and them was the last words Timbs brought home to
your mother, John,” he continued. “An’ that’s the way he died. Women and
children saved. That’s a comfort. An’ all the men saved, includin’ the
poor old moke of a doctor. That’s another comfort. But he died. An’,
somehow, I kinder feel that’s a comfort too, John. For he died in the
Lord.”

The light lay softly on the pale and kindled features of Harrington, and
the fragrance of the garden floated through his brain like incense.

“It was a manly way to leave the world,” he said. “Life is sweet to me
with the memory of such a father.”

“You think of him often, John,” murmured the Captain.

“Often, Eldad, often. Never as one dead. Always as one alive and well.”

The Captain moved his head up and down, two or three times, in token of
assent, and moved away to the door.

“Well, good bye, John,” he said, suddenly.

“Good bye, Eldad,” returned the young man, rising and following him to
the door.

The Captain departed, and Harrington, closing the door after him, folded
his arms, and began to pace to and fro in deep musing. The sweet and
solemn feeling which the anniversary of his father’s death brought him,
gradually melted away in feelings of sadness and pain, as the torturing
thought came into his mind, that in his free and frank friendship for
Emily he might have won her to love him. The more he reflected upon it,
the more terrible grew the confirmations. His conviction of a fortnight
before, that she and Wentworth were lovers—how could he have been so
deceived!

The spell of the magic moment that had filled his soul with morning, was
disenchanted now, and darkness gathered upon him. Darkness that was not
without light, for he again believed that Wentworth and Muriel loved each
other, and he felt a sorrowful and generous gladness in their happiness.
His heart yearned to Wentworth—yearned to make him rejoice with the
assurance that he was not his rival—yearned to them both in love and
blessing.

He paused in his walk, as through his joy for them struck the sharp pain
of the consciousness that the costly treasure of her love was not for him.

“Heart of my heart, soul of my soul,” he murmured fervently, “I love you,
though I lose you. All that is divine and human is dearer and lovelier
to me because I love you, though you are lost to me. Lost, lost to me
forever.”

His head sunk upon his breast, and his eyes closed. The lilac fragrance
floated in and reeled in a warm gust upon his throbbing brain. Some
silent spirit seemed near him in the sunlit room, and strange comfort
stole upon him like the bliss of a dream.

“Farewell, Muriel,” he murmured, his blue eyes unclosing, dimmed with a
mist of tears, “farewell, farewell. It is one hope the less, and life
calls me still.”

He sunk into his chair, and striving to banish her image from his mind,
began to think how he should deal with Emily. In a little while he
resolved that, however difficult and delicate to do, he must frankly tell
her of what he had heard, and let her know his true relation to her.

His conclusion made, he still sat musing, his spirit clouded with sadness
and anxiety. Suddenly he heard the gate fly open and slam to, and a
firm tread rush over the planked walk, then the door opening, in darted
Wentworth, flushed, electric, panting, furious with rage.



CHAPTER XI.

NORTH AND SOUTH.


The family of the Mr. Lemuel Atkins, of whom the Captain had spoken,
belonged to what is called Good Society; but let no one suppose that
they constituted a specimen of the Boston aristocracy, with its men,
too often, indeed, cold and careless in the interests of mankind, yet
always polished gentlemen in instinct and education, and with its women,
cultured and noble, patrician from brow to foot, and many, very many of
them, angels of compassion and succor to the weak and poor. The Atkinses
were only of a large and dominant moneyed class, vulgar mushrooms—no,
toadstools—who spring up thickly in the aristocratic quarter and call
themselves Good Society.

These fine people were expecting a guest to dinner that afternoon, who
would have been a skeleton at any possible banquet of Harrington’s, could
he have known that such a guest was in town. Mr. Atkins’s usual dinner
hour was two o’clock, but on this occasion it had been postponed to four,
while the merchant was showing the guest a few of the lions.

It was within an hour of the dinner-time, and the servants in the kitchen
were sweltering over the preparation of the meal in the hottest possible
hurry, and the greatest possible trepidation, lest anything should be
overdone or underdone, or in any way done wrong. For they had been duly
impressed with the magnitude of the occasion, and they were trembling
lest the magnitude of the occasion should be disgraced by their humble
efforts.

Meanwhile Good Society was filled with soft tremors in the drawing-room
above. He had not come yet, but he was coming. Anxious eyes glanced
occasionally out at the front windows on Mount Vernon street, to see
if he was approaching. Eager ears listened momently for the slightest
intimation of a pull at the bell-wire. Palpitating hearts leaped at every
footfall in the highly respectable street, and Good Society was in a
steady flutter of delicious expectation.

Good Society, then and there represented by Mrs. Atkins, Miss Atkins,
Miss Julia Atkins, Mr. Thomas Atkins, and Mr. Horatio Atkins; and
elsewhere represented by the highly respectable father of this highly
respectable family, Mr. Lemuel Atkins, was not so honored every day in
the week—by no means. Distinguished gentlemen had come there to dine with
us; Count Blomanosoff, when he was in Boston, had come there to dine with
us; Lord Hawbury and Lord Charles Chawles, when they were in Boston, had
come there to dine with us; and eminent clergymen, and able lawyers, and
distinguished senators, and even a Massachusetts Governor, had come there
to dine with us. But a rich Southern gentleman—oh! A child of the sunny
South—ah! A gallant and chivalrous son of Louisiana, who owns an immense
plantation, and nobody knows how many of his fellow creatures—decidedly;
it is the next thing to having Mr. Webster to dine with us.

The drawing-room in which the so highly honored family were assembled
in eager expectation, was a large oblong square, papered with purple
and gold-spotted paper, and full of gaudy furniture. There were two
chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, all gilt and glitter; gilt sconces,
with cut glass globes, on the walls; a profusion of gold-framed pictures
and engravings; large mirrors over the mantels and between the windows;
red velvet, and blue velvet, and green velvet arm-chairs and sofas, all
around; a huge piano; vases; ormolu tables; tables of sienna marble;
statuettes on brackets; a bust of Mr. Webster on a pedestal; divers
ornaments in all directions; a vivid, huge-figured Brussels carpet on the
floor; and yellow and purple curtains to the windows. Taste, not in its
dying agonies, but murdered outright and horribly stone dead, was the
prevailing sentiment of the entire apartment.

Judged by a rigorous artistic eye, the same estheticide was chargeable
upon the drawing-room’s occupants. They were all excessively _à-la-mode_
in their general appearance, and evidently of the highest respectability.
Mrs. Atkins, the mother—who sat languidly leaning in the corner of a
velvet sofa, with her cheek resting on her fingers—was a fair-haired,
waxen-faced lady of middle age, with pallid-blue eyes, a snub nose, a
rabbit mouth half open, and a receding chin. She was expensively arrayed
in full dress of changeable silk, with many flounces; wore a lace cap,
and had a general air of weak good-nature and dawdling insipidity,
enervating to behold. Miss Atkins, the eldest daughter, who occupied the
other end of the sofa, was a yellow-haired, waxen-faced young lady of at
least twenty-five; the living suggestion of what her mother had been at
her age; with a chin even more receding, a nose as snub, eyes as pallidly
blue, the same drooping rabbit mouth, and the same air of mild vapidity
and hopeless enervation. She was also expensively attired, in deep blue
satin, cut low in the neck, and fitting closely to her full and shapely
bosom. Julia, the younger daughter, was an ultra fashionable miss of
sweet sixteen; with a bold, saucy face, smooth dark hair, a short, broad
nose, hard, black eyes, a prude’s mouth, and a great length and breadth
of flat circular jaw. The two young men, who were standing like highly
respectable caryatides, at opposite corners of the mantel, were snobs
of the purest water, both in dress and manner. They were got up in the
English style; for, like some of the highly respectable Bostonians, they
cherished a noble passion for that sort of Anglicism caricatured by Mr.
Punch. Their black trowsers were of the tightest, on legs the slimmest;
their black dress coats were close in the body, large in the sleeves, and
small in the tail; their vests were very short, their collars high and
stiff, and each wore the Joinville neck-tie, a horizontal bar of silk
reaching from ear to ear, to the successful adjustment of which, as Punch
observed about that time, a man had to give his whole mind. Whatever
mind the two young Atkinses possessed, had evidently been wholly given,
for the neck-ties were alarmingly perfect, and constituted, in fact,
an incontestable triumph of mind over matter. In the solitude of their
aspiring souls, the young men worshipped the memory of Lord Hawbury
and Lord Charles Chawles, and moulded their whiskers after the style of
whiskerage patronized by those eminent nobles. It mattered not that the
vulgar rumor had crossed the Atlantic that Lord Hawbury, immediately on
his return to his ancestral acres, had been clapped into limbo by a low
British tradesman, on account of certain pounds, shillings and pence owed
by him the said Hawbury to him the said low tradesman. It mattered not
that the still vulgarer rumor had crossed the Atlantic that Lord Charles
Chawles, that bright, consummate flower of the British aristocracy, who
had deigned to honor our humble homes with his august presence, had got
into a row in a theatre just after his return to London—had, in the
coarse language of the London newspapers, which love to hawk at merit,
got drunk; cruelly insulted a poor ballet-dancer behind the scenes;
cruelly beat and trod upon the manager, who had ventured a remonstrance;
had thereupon been borne away, roaring and fighting, to the nearest
station-house, from whence he had emerged in the morning, to incur the
reprimand of a magistrate, and pay a brawler’s fine. What mattered such
reports as these? mere evidence of the rush and outbreak of a fiery
mind of general assault, as Horatio felicitously said, quoting from
Hamlet, when the rumor reached him. Whiskers were whiskers still, and
so Horatio trimmed the sandy crop which was his own, after the Hawbury
model. The result was a scraggy mutton-chop, depending big end down, in
tawny, straggling moss of hair from Horatio’s cheeks, and between these
manly hirsute ornaments loomed a bald, flat, tallowy, superficial face,
with an air of sullen emptiness upon it; with short brown hair, parted
behind, and on the side, and brushed forward around it; with a low,
broad forehead; dull, boiled blue eyes; a strong, short nose; a thin,
lineless, resolute mouth; and a great expanse of chin and jaw, bolder
than, but like, his younger sister’s. Mighty in whiskerage and hair, and
on the Lord Charles Chawles model, was Horatio’s brother Thomas. Hair,
tawny-brown in color, parted on the left, sloping up and off crescendo
to fall in a mass on the right side, and bunching off in a round, full
tuft of lesser quantity on the other side. This, as the lob-sided crown
of a puffy face, with the younger sister’s chin and jaw. Eyes, close
together, hard, black and insolent; short nose, a compromise between snub
and straight, with a lift in the nostrils, as if it snuffed offence;
mouth, a short, stern, small horseshoe curve, cusps down; and under this,
on the broad and long flat chin, a tawny short imperial, and over this,
curving down from the centre of the nose and rounding up the cheeks, in
a military pothook, the gallant whiskerage of Lord Charles Chawles. Over
the whole face an expression of sternly supercilious insolence, inspiring
to behold. A fine young man—two fine young men indeed; models of their
kind; full of the pride of caste and all its callousness. Destined to be
citizens of the highest respectability, when their wild oats—and they
were wild—were sown and come to the hard and selfish harvest. Already
they had begun, and begun well. Furnished with their father’s money,
they had their club, their boon-companions, their mistresses, their fast
horses, and drank and drove and gamed and revelled in a manner hardly
outdone by Lord Hawbury and Lord Charles Chawles themselves. They were,
moreover, stanch young Whigs—Union men, Constitution men, Law and Order
men, Fugitive Slave Law men, sound on the goose in every conceivable
particular. Proof of their devotion to their country, they had only
the Saturday before, foregone their customary drive on the Cambridge
road, foregone their supper and wine at Porter’s, and stayed in town to
hear Mr. Webster at Faneuil Hall, and even now, Thomas, the younger and
more ardent spirit, was a little hoarse from cheering on that memorable
occasion. Proof again of their devotion to their country, which always
meant in one form or another the Southern-Slavery part of their country,
here they were, nobly sacrificing their customary drive, to muster with
the rest of the family and greet the ardent son of the sunny South, the
gallant and chivalrous Southern gentleman then expected, and not yet come.

He was coming, though, for while this interesting group, properly stilted
for the occasion, were waiting and chatting, a strenuous pull at the
bell-wire was heard, with the answering jingle of the hall bell.

“That’s him, be Jove!” exclaimed Thomas, straightening up on his slim
legs, and adjusting the bows of his neck-tie, while he looked with
military sternness at the drawing-room door.

Horatio, who, with the laudable desire to add brilliancy, as was his wont
on company days, to the dinner-table conversation, had been diligently
storing his memory with the quaint sayings of Charles Lamb—for Charles
Lamb is quite the _ton_ with the young Boston aristocracy, as Alexander
Pope is with the old—laid the book, which he had brought down to study
till the last minute, on the mantel behind a large vase, and with a
glance into the mirror behind him to see that his neck-tie was all right,
assumed a dignified and graceful attitude, with his left thumb inserted
in his vest pocket, and his head turned solemnly toward the door. Mrs.
Atkins, without moving, cast a glance along her flounces, and made sure
in her mind that she was seated so as to be able to rise gracefully when
the guest appeared. Her eldest daughter, with a little soft palpitation
at heart, for the guest might be a bachelor or a widower, and she was
ready to fall in love with any child of the sunny South, or son of the
icy North, who had money and social position, also cast an eye at her
ample skirts, and a mind’s eye at her capabilities for rising. The other
daughter, Julia, started bolt upright in her chair, and with her hard,
black eyes fixed on the door as though she would look through the panels,
listened intently.

Presently they heard Michael shuffling along through the hall, and then
the hall door opening.

“Is Mr. Atkins in?” demanded a resonant, loud voice, which was heard in
the drawing-room.

A moment’s silence, and Michael’s reply inaudible.

“Will he be in soon?”

Another silence, and Michael’s reply again inaudible.

“Well, I’ll wait for him.”

Michael was heard this time, explaining in a thin key that Mr. Atkins had
company, and wouldn’t wish to see him.

“Can’t help that,” was the bluff answer, followed by heavy feet stamping
into the hall, and the dump of a heavy body flinging itself on one of
the hall chairs. “It’s a matter of business, and he won’t thank you if I
don’t see him. Mind that, my man.”

“Humbug!” blurted out Horatio, taking up his book again. “It’s not him.”

“O fiddlestick!” was the elegant exclamation of Julia, in a pet, “he’s
not coming at all.”

“Hush, my child,” said her mamma in a soft, drawling voice, “don’t be
impatient. Show your breeding, my child, show your breeding.”

“Well, be Jove, I’d like to know who _that_ is!” exclaimed Thomas, with
some vehemence; “coming into the house like the sheriff, be Jove.”

Michael meanwhile, having probably stood still for a minute, was now
heard shutting the hall door, and presently came into the drawing-room,
and closing the door behind him, gave an account of the dialogue.

“Who is the man, Mike?” demanded Thomas in the imperative mood. “What
does he look like?”

Michael replied that he looked like a sailor, though he was not dressed
in sailor’s clothes.

“O it’s some of father’s people from the wharf,” said Horatio. “Better
show him up into the library, and not have him sitting there like a
scare-crow.”

“Yes, Michael, show him up into the library,” said Mrs. Atkins, “and tell
him Mr. Atkins will be in soon. If it’s business, your father will want
to see him, for he always sees people that come on business,” she added,
in a lower tone, as Michael slid out of the room.

They were quiet again for a minute, while the heavy boots of the visitor
were heard thumping up over the carpeted stairs into distance.

“Be Jove!” said Thomas, with a fierce air, “that chap goes up like one
of Dan Rice’s elephants, be Jove! Now then, where’s our Southern friend?
That’s the next question.”

“Mamma,” said Miss Atkins, in a soft, debilitated voice, with a slight
lisp, “do you know if he’s married?”

“No, Caroline, I don’t know,” replied Mrs. Atkins, languidly. “But
I think he’s not, or he would have brought his wife with him. These
Southern gentlemen are so gallant, you know, and they always bring their
wives with them.”

“Ecod, Carry,” blurted Thomas, while Caroline was taking the flattering
unction of her mother’s astonishing answer to her soul—“if he’s got a
wife already, it’s all up with your chance, me girl. Our Southern friends
are the deuce and all among the women, but Louisiana ain’t Turkey, you
know.”

“Now, Tom, I should be ashamed,” exclaimed Julia, bridling. “One would
think you were never brought up in good society, and I should be ashamed,
I should.”

“Oh, you cork up, Jule,” was the fine youth’s exquisite reply. “You girls
allow yourselves too much tongue, be Jove!”

“Hush, Julia,” interposed Mrs. Atkins, with soft authority, stopping the
young lady’s angry retort. “Silence, this instant. You musn’t speak to
your brother that way. It’s low, my child—very low, and you must show
your breeding.”

Julia was silent, but glared spitefully at Thomas. It is noticeable that
Mrs. Atkins never reproved her boys. Her girls she kept a check-rein upon
constantly.

“Mamma,” continued Caroline, perfectly unmoved by her brother’s late
remarks, “does he own a very large plantation, and how many negroes has
he, mamma?”

“Indeed, I can’t tell you, Caroline,” replied Mrs. Atkins, blandly.
“I think he must have a great many of the horrid creatures, for those
Southern gentlemen all have a great many, and numbers of the ungrateful
things run away, which was the reason why the Fugitive Slave Bill was
passed, you know.”

“Yes, and I wish the South would just march up back here on Nigger Hill,
and lug off the whole pack of them, men, women, and children, for they’re
a disgrace to the neighborhood, and it’s a burning shame to have them
staying away from their masters,” growled Horatio, looking up from the
gentle and human pages of Charles Lamb.

“All I know about him,” resumed Mrs. Atkins, continuing her notice of the
expected guest, “is what your father said in the note he sent up to the
house. Namely, that he belongs to a great cotton-house in New Orleans,
with which your father deals largely, and that he owns a plantation, and
that he is a splendid fellow, and a real Southern gentleman, and one of
the chivalry, and all that, and that we must have an excellent dinner,
and treat him with true Northern hospitality, and so forth. All which
you saw in the note, and really I don’t know any more about him. But of
course he is a perfect gentleman, for all the Southern gentlemen are
perfect gentlemen, and they are as gallant and chivalrous as gentlemen
can be, and as _distingué_ as—as Count Blomanosoff, and I’m sure nothing
could be more _distingué_ than Count Blomanosoff, you know.”

To compare anybody to the horrent-whiskered Russ who had dined with the
Atkinses on his way to Washington, was the highest compliment Mrs. Atkins
could pay. Count Blomanosoff was the god of her idolatry.

“Dear me, I wish he would come!” exclaimed Julia, fidgeting in her chair.

As if in response to her wish, and before her mother could again entreat
her to show her breeding, the door-bell rang.

“Here he is, be Jove!” cried Thomas, amidst a general flutter and
movement.

Anxious silence succeeded, while Michael was shuffling to the door.
Presently, the noise of entering feet, a full, decisive voice saying
something, and a soft, smooth, courteous voice answering; then, after a
moment’s pause, the drawing-room door swung open, and behind the sturdy
form of Mr. Lemuel Atkins, the enraptured ladies saw the rich brunette
complexion, the long waven hair and thick moustache, and the lordly
figure of their Southern guest.

At the first glance they were enchanted. So handsome, so gallant, so
chivalrous! Mrs. Atkins rose with a sweeping rustle of flounces, and
stepped forward; and there was a general rustle of rising and moving as
the two entered.

“Here we are,” cried Mr. Atkins, in his rotund, energetic voice, striding
in as he spoke, with a smile on his hard visage, and stepping aside to
pause and turn with an extended hand toward his guest. “Mr. Lafitte,
I have the honor to present you to my wife. My love, Mr. Lafitte, of
Louisiana.”

Mrs. Atkins curtseyed low as she slid forward with outstretched hand, her
waxen face slightly colored, and wreathed with smiles.

“I am most happy to see you, Mr. Lafitte,” she softly murmured, “and I am
delighted to welcome you to Boston.”

“Madam, I am charmed with the honor you do me,” courteously returned the
Southerner, bowing low with her hand in his, and serenely smiling.

“And this is my eldest daughter, sir,” continued the merchant. “Caroline,
Mr. Lafitte.”

Caroline looked very pretty, as with a fluttering heart, and a faint
sea-shell pink on her cheeks and lips, she wafted herself forward, and
dawdled down into a low curtsey, with a languishing glance at the rich
brunette visage of the Southerner. Mr. Lafitte glided up to her, bowing,
pressed her hand in his, and cast into her eyes a momentary ardent look,
which threw Caroline into feeble ecstasy.

“I am enchanted to meet you, Miss Atkins,” said Mr. Lafitte, in a low,
smooth voice, sweeter than music to her ear.

Caroline was so overcome with rapture, that she could only color,
curtsey, cast another languishing glance at her adorer, and withdraw a
pace or two, while her father introduced Julia. Then came Horatio’s turn,
and then Thomas’s. Horatio did it in the aristocratic Hawbury style—a
solemn face, a stiff bend of the back, the thumb of the left hand in his
vest pocket, and his right hand clasping Mr. Lafitte’s fingers. Thomas
came the Lord Charles Chawles—head up, shoulders back, coat-tail jutting
out in the bow, legs wide, hand slowly wagging Mr. Lafitte’s, horse-shoe
mouth agrin, and voice remarking, “Mr. Lafitte, yours—glad to meet you,
sir; be Jove, I am!” To which Mr. Lafitte replied, that he was always
proud to make a gentleman’s acquaintance, especially yours, Mr. Atkins,
on this happy occasion.

The introductions successfully over, Mr. Lafitte was invited to take a
seat near the hostess, and the rest of the company settled into their
respective chairs, Mr. Atkins surveying them all with an air of proud
and smiling gratification. He was a strong, sturdily-built man, of
good presence, dressed in black, with a purple velvet vest, crossed
by a short and thick gold chain. On his little finger he wore a heavy
gold seal-ring, with a red stone. His face was more like Horatio’s
and Julia’s than any of the others, but much finer and stronger than
either’s, for Mr. Atkins’s boyhood was cast in the robust life of a
country town, and he had fought his way up to wealth and social position
in Boston, battling with the forces of trade, and hewing out for himself
the character of a self-made man. The black, hard eyes of his younger
daughter, and the short, bold nose and large round jaw of her and the
sons, were stronglier seen in him than in them. He was smooth-shaven,
wore his hair short, and had the blanched, resolute color of a man whose
days had been strenuously devoted to money-making. Usually his face was
decisive and stern, though now it was relaxed into a proud and gratified
smile, as he surveyed his guest and family circle.

“Charming weather you’re having in Boston, madam,” remarked Mr. Lafitte,
addressing his hostess. “Cooler though than when I left Louisiana three
weeks ago. We had some of the hottest days there in April that I ever
knew. It was positively like midsummer.”

“Ah, Mr. Lafitte,” sighed Mrs. Atkins, “our climate must seem cold to
you, who have come so lately from the sunny South. Is this your first
visit to Boston?”

“Yes, madam, it is the first time I ever had the pleasure of visiting
your beautiful city,” courteously replied the Southerner. “I was sorry
not to be able to get here in time to hear Mr. Webster, who spoke, they
tell me, in your Faneuil Hall, last Saturday. Dear Webster! I positively
love him as if he were my brother. He is doing such a good work for our
common country.”

“Oh, isn’t he splendid!” lisped Miss Atkins, with a languishing air. “So
statesmanlike! We were all there to hear him, Mr. Lafitte. Oh, it was
beautiful!”

“I can well imagine that, Miss Atkins,” replied Mr. Lafitte, smiling
blandly at her; “and it was really patriotic in you to lend the grace
and beauty of your presence, ladies, to ornament such an occasion. Dear
Webster is giving abolition fanaticism its death-blow. By the way,
speaking of fanaticism, Mr. Atkins pointed out two of your notorieties to
me in the street to-day—Garrison and Wendell Phillips.”

“Horrid wretches!” murmured Mrs. Atkins, in a die-away tone.

“Be Jove!” blurted Thomas, “I’d just like to put an ounce of lead into
them two. I would, be Jove!”

“Very patriotic,” said Mr. Lafitte, with a courteous inclination of his
head toward the speaker, “and spoken in the true Southern spirit.”

“Those two men ought to be hung,” said Horatio, solemnly, emulous of
Southern approbation. “They make me think of that anecdote of Charles
Lamb, Mr. Lafitte. You remember, sir, a stranger called on Lamb at the
West Indy House. ‘Are you Mr. Lamb?’ said he. ‘Well,’ said Charles,
feeling the grey whisker on his cheek, ‘I think I’m old enough to be a
sheep.’ Now, Garrison and Wendell Phillips,” continued Horatio, making
the exquisitely felicitous application, “they’re old enough to be sheep,
and I go for making them dead mutton.”

“Ha, ha, capital!” exclaimed Mr. Atkins, with a mild bellow, looking
around on the company, with a smiling, open mouth of satisfaction in his
son’s wit.

“Very good, be Jove!” said Thomas, with a grin.

Mrs. Atkins feebly clapped her hands, and said, “good, good,” and
Caroline giggled, and softly murmured, “Oh, Horatio, you’re so funny!”

What a set of damned boobies! thought Mr. Lafitte; then aloud: “Yes,
that’s a capital story, and your application of it, Mr. Horatio, is one
of the best things I’ve heard. But I was surprised to see that Garrison
is quite a mild, benevolent-looking man. We think of him down South, you
know, as a red-faced brawler, and I was struck with the contrast between
the original and the fancy portrait. Phillips, too, surprised me still
more, for he has the air of a high-bred gentleman. I’ll tell you who he
reminded me of. You are aware, ladies, that the Mobilians are famous for
their polished grace and high breeding. Now, the flower of them all is
Tom Lafourcade. In fact his elegance and dignity of manner and bearing
are town-talk down there. Well, if you’ll believe me, Phillips, though
he has a graver and less pronounced air, actually reminded me of Tom
Lafourcade.”

“Dear me! how surprising,” softly exclaimed Mrs. Atkins.

“Why, yes, madam, very,” returned Mr. Lafitte. “It was really odd to come
North and have the arch abolition fanatic remind one of princely Tom
Lafourcade, of Mobile.”

“Oh, he’s very handsome,” lisped Caroline, pensively. “But so fanatical.”

“I tell you, Mr. Lafitte, it’s an awful pity about Phillips,” broke in
Mr. Atkins. “He’s very much of a gentleman, a splendid orator, full of
ability every way, and belongs to one of our most respectable families.
Why, I heard Choate say once that if he’d stuck to the bar, he’d have
been the first lawyer in America. Yes, sir. And there’s no doubt that if
he was in our party he’d be second to no man in the country, unless it
was Webster. But he’s thrown himself away—positively sacrificed all his
influence and wasted his talents by joining that abolition crew.”

“In short, Nicodemused himself into nothing, as Charles Lamb says,”
observed Horatio.

“Nicodemused?” interrogated Mr. Lafitte. “Might I ask the meaning of that
phrase, sir? I am so dull, and I confess my unacquaintance with Lamb.”

It is not Charles Lamb, but another humorist, who, alluding to the
obstructive influence of an ugly name upon its owner’s career, and giving
parents a quaint hint for the christening, remarks, “don’t Nicodemus
a boy into nothing.” Horatio, who only remembered the phrase for its
oddity, and as usual with his quotations, lugged it into his remarks,
without much thought of its relevancy, utterly forgetting the context and
the meaning, was considerably disconcerted by Mr. Lafitte’s question, and
reddened slightly.

“Nicodemused, Mr. Lafitte?” he stammered. “Why, you know, sir,” he
continued, as a happy means of extrication from his difficulty, suggested
itself—“you know that the Bible says Nicodemus went to Christ.”

“Oh, yes, I see. And lost his influence by so doing,” blandly answered
Mr. Lafitte, with a furtive smile which nobody noticed. “Yes, yes.
That’s very clear. Very happily said, sir, and I’m much obliged to you
for enlightening my stupidity. So Phillips has Nicodemused himself into
nothing?”

“Indeed he has, sir,” replied Mr. Atkins. “Just thrown away his talents,
and misused his eloquence in denouncing the Compromise Measures, and Mr.
Webster, and Slavery, and all the best interests of his country.”

“Be Jove, he’s a fool, that’s what he is,” remarked Thomas, caressing his
military whiskerage.

“He’s worse, Tom,” replied his father; “he’s a traitor, and ought to be
indicted for treason.”

“Does he move in good society here, Mr. Atkins?” blandly asked Mr.
Lafitte.

“He! Why, sir, he’s a rank Disunionist!” exclaimed the merchant. “A
Disunionist received into good society! My dear sir, what are you
thinking of!”

“Pardon me,” politely returned the Southerner, with a courteous
inclination of his head, and cherishing in secret, a malicious desire to
corner his host, though he must tell a lie to do it—“pardon me, I did
not know. You are aware that I am a Disunionist myself. The difference
I apprehend to be this: Phillips is for a Dissolution of the Union for
the sake of liberty; I am for a dissolution of the Union for the sake
of slavery. I state it frankly, for I wish to plainly present the fact
that we are both Disunionists, though for different reasons. Now am I to
infer that the fact of my Disunion sentiments would exclude me from good
society here? For I have letters to some of your leading citizens, and
it would indeed be awkward were I to present them where I should not be
welcome.”

“No, sir, no indeed, sir,” replied the merchant with sonorous emphasis.
“That is a different case altogether, sir. Entirely different. We honor
the spirit of Southern gentlemen in defence of their property, sir, and
our first society is always open to them, Mr. Lafitte.”

“You Southern gentleman are so chivalrous!” said Mrs. Atkins, with
languid playfulness.

“So ardent!” lisped Caroline, with a languishing glance at the Southerner.

“Indeed, ladies, you overwhelm me,” returned Mr. Lafitte, gallantly;
“and I am glad to perceive the true state of the case, Mr. Atkins. It
is curious, however, if we look at it from one point of view, that Mr.
Phillips, who, as you say, is very much of a gentleman, one of your most
talented men, and belonging to one of your most respectable families—it
is curious that he should be sent to Coventry by your first society for
his Disunion, and we received so handsomely for ours. But then, he is
for liberty, and we are for slavery, which, as you happily observed,
makes an important difference. Yes, I see the distinction, and it is both
broad and just. An admirable distinction, indeed, and one that does your
society great credit.”

Mr. Lafitte said all this so courteously—with such flattering and affable
sincerity of voice and manner—that his listeners had not the slightest
apprehension of the terrific sarcasm which lurked in his words. They took
it all as an elaborate compliment, and sat smiling and simpering at him,
each after his or her respective fashion. The damned, mean, contemptible,
servile curs—tabooing their own Disunionists, and ducking and smiling
to ours!—was Mr. Lafitte’s irreverent mental reflection, as, softly
fingering his moustache, with the most affable of smiles lighting his
rich brunette complexion, he equably surveyed them—floods of contemptuous
disgust meanwhile raging delightedly in his lordly bosom.

“Oh, Mr. Atkins,” said the lady of the house, “I almost forgot to tell
you that a—a person called to see you, and is up-stairs in the library.”

“A person. Who is he? I can’t see persons now. Send up word that I’m
engaged,” returned the merchant, somewhat brusquely.

“Michael thought he was a sailor,” drawled Mrs. Atkins, in her fal-lal
voice; “and he said he’d come on business of importance, and that you’d
want to see him.”

“Oh, business. That’s another affair,” returned her husband, rising and
looking at his watch. “Business before pleasure always. You’ll excuse me
a few moments, Mr. Lafitte. I’ll be right down.”

“Certainly, sir, certainly,” said the Southerner, blandly bowing.

Mr. Atkins at once left the drawing-room and went up-stairs into the
library. The visitor, a short, strongly-built man, with a sunburnt face,
who was slowly walking up and down, with his hands in his pockets, came
toward him as he entered.

“Why, Captain Bangham! You? How are you?” exclaimed the merchant,
smiling, and shaking hands with him.

“All right, Mr. Atkins. How are you, sir?”

“Capital. And so the Soliman’s in.”

“Yes, sir. Came up this morning. I’ve been waiting at the office pretty
much all day”—

“Indeed. I’m sorry, captain. But, for a wonder, Lafitte came to town, and
I’ve been showing him round.”

Captain Bangham started, and slapped his hips with his hands.

“Lafitte in town!” he burst out. “Which one of ’em?”

“Lafitte the younger. Torwood, you know,” returned the merchant, taking
an easy chair.

“The hell he is!” ejaculated the profane captain, reddening, and
thrusting both hands into his pocket. “You don’t mean to say he’s
down-stairs now?”

“Why Bangham, what in the world’s the matter with you, man?” said the
surprised merchant, staring at him. “Down stairs? Of course he’s down
stairs. Come to dine with us.”

“Well, I’m damned!” vociferated the excited captain. “If this ain’t
horrid.”

He stamped off, with his hands in his pocket, while Mr. Atkins stared at
him, as if he thought the man had gone mad.

“Captain Bangham,” said the merchant, slowly, “will you be so good as
to tell me what you mean by this extraordinary ebullition. What’s the
matter? Isn’t the Soliman all right? Has the cargo”—

“The matter’s just this, Mr. Atkins,” broke in the sailor, coming toward
him, and flinging himself into a chair. “Soliman, cargo, and all is
right. There’s nothing the matter with them”—

“Then what _is_ the matter?” demanded the merchant, angrily.

“The matter’s this, Mr. Atkins,” roared Bangham, pounding his knees with
his clenched hands. “When we were three days out we found a blasted
nigger, half smothered in the hold. And that nigger belongs to Torwood
Lafitte, and you’ve got him down-stairs to dine with you. Yes, sir, I’ve
got the nigger tied up aboard the brig this minute, and you’ve got his
master.”

Mr. Atkins turned white, and sat looking at the sailor with rigid lips.

“Yes, sir. That’s the matter,” continued Bangham. “And matter enough,
too, Mr. Atkins. Just think of what Lafitte’ll say if he hears that his
nigger got off on your brig. Just think of the row there’ll be in Orleans
if it gets out. They’ll seize me for it, if the brig ever touches the
levee again, Mr. Atkins.”

“She’ll touch the levee again with that scoundrel on board of her,”
shouted the merchant, with an oath, thrusting his thumbs into the
arm-holes of his vest, and swelling proudly. “They shall know in New
Orleans that we’re law-abiding citizens, Bangham. Back he shall go, and
it will redound to the credit of the house when it’s known that we sent
him back promptly. I’m glad you came to tell me this, Bangham. Just keep
it quiet. He shall go back just as soon as the Soliman can get ready for
the return voyage.”

“All right, sir,” replied the sailor. “But, Mr. Atkins, we’ve got him
here now in Boston Bay, and how are we going to take him back without
going to law about it? Hadn’t Lafitte better bring him before a
Commissioner, and have a certificate made out”—

“No,” interrupted the merchant, with strenuous emphasis. “I’ll have it
said in New Orleans that a Boston merchant can show his devotion to the
interests of the South without any ridiculous formalities. It’ll strike
them well, Bangham, and raise our credit there. Besides, if we go before
the Commissioner, those infernal Abolitionists will have another long
fuss about it, as they had about Sims, and who knows but that they’ll
rescue him as they did Shadrach. No, I’ll make sure work of it. If the
black villain were to escape, the effect on my trade would be as bad in
New Orleans as if I hadn’t done my best to return him, and I won’t have
my trade injured. Business before everything. I’m not going to have the
delay of the law, nor the risks either, in this matter. So just hold on
to the black reprobate, Bangham, till we can return him.”

“It’s rather risky, Mr. Atkins,” demurred the sailor. “You know it’s
illegal, sir, to take off the man without due process of law, and if the
Grand Jury gets hold of it, they’ll be apt to indict you for kidnapping.”

“Indict _me_?” returned the merchant. “Ho, ho, Bangham,” he laughed,
“you’re verdant, my man. There’s not a Grand Jury would ever find a
bill against me for that, Bangham. Why, bless your soul, Bangham, the
Grand Jury’s made up of our most respectable citizens—property holders
every man of them—Fugitive Slave Law men to the backbone—and do you
think they’d indict me for an act in the very spirit of the Compromise
Measures, and for the best interests of our Southern commerce? Oh, no,
Bangham! There’s not one of them that wouldn’t wink at it—not one. No
fear about the Grand Jury, captain, not the least in the world. But you
haven’t told me how this black wretch got aboard.”

“And I’ll be hanged if I know, Mr. Atkins,” replied the sailor, with
another thump on his knees. “All I know is, that when we were three days
out we unbattened one of the hatches to get an axe that had been left in
there accidentally, and there was the black beast, almost dead. Lord, how
he smelt! It was horrid. And he looked like the very devil himself. Had
an iron collar on his neck, with the name of Lafitte Brothers engraved on
it. He escaped from the Red River, lived in a swamp with the snakes and
alligators, got down the river somehow, and had a horrid time all round.
Didn’t seem to know, or else he wouldn’t tell, how he got aboard the
brig. Fact is, the black pig’s not more than half-witted now, with all
he’s gone through.”

“Badly treated?” inquired Mr. Atkins, placidly.

“Oh, yes, treated bad enough,” carelessly replied the sailor. “Lafitte’s
a high-binder with his niggers, I reckon. This chap’s all covered with
scars and marks, and accordin’ to his story, and that’s true enough, I
don’t doubt, there’s not a worse treated nigger in the whole South than
he was. He wouldn’t have run off, I guess, if he hadn’t been desperate
with bad usage. I expect Lafitte’ll be the death of him when he gets him
again.”

“That’s his lookout,” said the merchant, calmly. “If Lafitte chooses to
maltreat his own property, there’s no one the loser by it but himself.”

At this moment Michael appeared at the library door with the announcement
that dinner was served. The merchant rose, and Bangham took his straw hat
from the table and rose also.

“I’ll see you to-morrow, captain,” said Mr. Atkins. “In the meantime,
keep that fellow in limbo, and we’ll arrange for his return.”

“All right, Mr. Atkins,” returned the sailor, lounging out of the room,
with a relieved mind.

Mr. Atkins followed him down-stairs to the hall-door, and then turned
into the drawing-room, with a smiling countenance.

“Now, Mr. Lafitte,” said this manly, humane, high-souled, law-abiding,
patriotic American Christian and flower of mercantile morality,
addressing the gallant and chivalrous son of the sunny South, “now, if
you please, we will go out to dinner.”

“Shall I have the honor?” said Mr. Lafitte, rising and offering his arm,
with a bow, to the hostess.

She took the offered arm, and they swept out together, the brave and
the fair. Bouquet de Caroline streamed in their wake, as Miss Atkins,
leaning on the arm of her highly respectable papa, wafted on after
them. Millefleurs and pomatum lent their sweetness to the desert air
of the drawing-room, as the gallant Horatio escorted out the lovely
Julia. Following up the rear, in martial state, and redolent of musk and
marrowfat, came haughty Thomas, caressing the whiskerage of Lord Charles
Chawles, and sniffing the rich odor of the dinner from afar.

Meanwhile, low Antony, brother of Roux, bought chattel of Lafitte,
foodless, filthy, helpless, friendless, despised and accursed, lay
bound in the dark and noisome hold of a Boston vessel—a negro with no
rights that a white man is bound to respect—with no rights that a Boston
merchant might not, and would not, take away, all for the good of party
and of trade—a good which, as every thoughtful patriot and Christian will
allow, is the chief good of existence.



CHAPTER XII.

STARTLING DEVELOPMENTS.


Harrington lifted his calm eyebrows with some wonder at the furious
entrance of his friend, and sat regarding him with a firm mouth and
steadfast eyes. Wentworth, out of breath with the speed of his course,
and the tumult of his emotions, had flung his hat across the room, and
himself upon the sofa, and sat panting, with his handsome face flushed,
and his bright auburn curls damp with perspiration.

“Well, Richard, what’s the matter?” said Harrington, calmly. “Has the sky
fallen?”

“Harrington, see here,” panted Wentworth, “Johnny’s just been up to the
studio.”

“Johnny? Who’s Johnny?” interrupted Harrington.

“Oh, pshaw! Bagasse’s boy, you know. John Todd,” fumed Wentworth,
stopping to wipe his brow with a white handkerchief.

“Well. Is that any reason for your running yourself into a pleurisy?”
bantered Harrington.

“By George!” exclaimed the young artist, “it’s a reason for my running
Fernando Witherlee into something else, and that’s a broken neck, I’m
thinking. Cursed rascal!”

“What’s Witherlee been up to now?” inquired Harrington, with sudden
interest.

“Impudence,” replied Wentworth. “Impudence unparalleled. Listen,
Harrington. John Todd says Witherlee came into the fencing-school this
morning, and had the atrocious impudence—the abominable—the infernal”—

Wentworth stopped, gasping with rage.

“O Muse of adjectives, descend!” jocosely cried Harrington, lifting his
hand in mock-heroic invocation, with his cheeks wrinkled in a rich smile.

Wentworth, thus prayed for, began to laugh, even in the midst of his fury.

“Well, Harrington,” said he, “I know it’s foolish to get excited about
it, but upon my word, Witherlee behaves scandalously. Do you know that he
has been telling Bagasse a long rigmarole about Muriel and Emily, and you
and me. Bagasse! Now just think of it! Think of his talking of two ladies
like those, and in such a connection, and to Bagasse! Yes, of all persons
in the world, to Bagasse!”

Harrington’s color changed and his face puckered with amazement, while he
nervously grasped the arms of his chair.

“Is Witherlee possessed!” he ejaculated. “Why, I never heard of such
conduct. So boyish, so foolish, such an outrage against the fitness of
things”—

“And so infamously impudent,” put in Wentworth. “It’s the impudence that
strikes me.”

“Certainly. It’s impudent, too, and I don’t wonder you were moved,”
murmured Harrington, slowly, with an absorbed air.

“Moved!” snapped Wentworth. “By Jupiter, I am moved to give him a sound
horse-whipping, and he’ll get it, or my name’s not what it is. Why, look
at it, Harrington. In the first place, Emily’s a particular friend of
his. Now, wouldn’t you think that the commonest respect for her would
have prevented him from bandying her name about in conversation with
anybody, much less old Bagasse?”

“Eureka! I have it,” exclaimed Harrington, bursting from his abstraction.
“That accounts for Bagasse’s remark about the two ladies that gave the
violets.”

“What do you mean?” inquired Wentworth.

Harrington recounted what the fencing-master had said that morning.

“You see, Richard,” he added, “that set me wondering; for how did Bagasse
know that ladies had given us the violets? How did he know but that I
had gathered them from my own yard? Then, when I saw your nosegay in his
button-hole, I thought you must have told him, and I was astonished to
think that you should choose the old veteran for a confidant.”

“By Jupiter, Harrington, you didn’t think I would do such a thing,”
exclaimed Wentworth, reproachfully.

“My dear Wentworth, it was absurd in me, and I beg your pardon,” returned
Harrington. “Certainly, it was not like you; but then, somebody must have
told him, and how could I imagine it was Witherlee?”

Wentworth sat silent, thinking with mounting rage of Witherlee’s remarks
to the fencing-master. If he had been cool and thoughtful, he might
have at least suspected, from the sample he had of the good Fernando’s
nature, that he was at the bottom of Emily’s alienation from himself.
But Wentworth’s vivid temper only threw gleams and flashes on things,
and what he saw, he saw in salient points, without observing their
connections and relations.

“By George, I’ll break his neck!” he foamed, stamping his foot on the
floor.

“Now, Richard, keep cool,” said Harrington. “You can depend that Fernando
has been making mischief all round, and let us just track it out. In the
first place, let’s hear Johnny’s report of what he said.”

“Lord! I can’t tell you! it’s gone from me,” fumed Wentworth, running his
hands through his curls, as if in search of it. “Let’s see. In the first
place, he had some snob criticisms on your coat; which, he thinks, is not
genteel enough to entitle you to Muriel’s friendship.”

“Oh, indeed,” said Harrington, with grand good-nature. “Well, that’s a
trifle, anyway.”

“He said,” continued Wentworth, “that you looked like a beggarman, who
had been in the watch-house all night.”

“Complimentary,” jeered Harrington.

“Wondered how you had the assurance to visit Miss Eastman at all, when
your social position was so much beneath hers,” pursued Wentworth; “and
thought it was very kind in her to permit you.”

Harrington burst into a peal of hearty laughter.

“Positively,” he said, “this is comic. The only tragic thing about it is,
that all this time, Fernando has been pretending that he was the best of
friends to me.”

“I tell you, Harrington,” replied Wentworth, “that fellow’s a perfect
snake in the grass. The next thing was to pitch into my personal
appearance.”

“Yours!” exclaimed Harrington, laughingly. “Why, Richard, you’re the pink
of fashion. You’re D’Orsay and Raphael Sanzio, in one.”

Wentworth smiled faintly; too angry at Witherlee to be much amused.

“Nevertheless,” he continued, “Witherlee poked his gibes at me,
too—something about the Anti-Slavery Bazaar. Do they sell clothes there?”

“Not exactly,” replied Harrington, laughing.

“Then, I’m hanged if I know what he meant by that,” said Wentworth.

“Well, probably he said you looked bizarre; and Johnny, not knowing the
word, mistook it for its fellow in sound,” remarked Harrington.

“That’s it I’ll bet,” burst out Wentworth, reddening. “Bizarre! The
cursed snob! He wants me to cut my hair off, I suppose, and wear a
stove-pipe hat instead of my Rubens. I’ll see him hanged first.”

“Well, go on Richard,” said Harrington. “All this is unimportant.”

“Then,” continued the young artist, fidgeting in his seat like a man who
had to deal with an awkward subject, and looking very fixedly at the
opposite wall, with his face redder than before, “then he proceeded to
give Bagasse a sketch of us two with Cupid’s arrows stuck in our bleeding
hearts—a regular Saint Valentine picture. O bother, I won’t report the
stuff! It makes me crawl.”

“Oh, go on, Richard, go on,” urged Harrington.

“No, I won’t. Let it go. Come, Harrington, let’s drop it. Upon my word, I
can’t repeat it, and I won’t,” said Wentworth.

Harrington saw that it was no use to urge him, and was silent. The fact
was, Wentworth did not like to have Harrington think of him as the lover
of Emily, and Witherlee’s portraiture of him as such was too faithful for
exhibition. No man likes to confess that he has been jilted by a woman,
as Wentworth thought he had been by Emily, and to say that he had been
reputed her lover by Witherlee was certainly an approximation at least to
such a confession.

“Very well,” remarked Harrington after a pause, “if you don’t care to
talk about it, let it go. Now, Richard, I want you to leave this matter
to me. There’s more in it, I’m convinced, than appears, and if you make
a quarrel with Fernando we shall never know the whole of it. Just keep
cool, say nothing to him of what you have heard, and let me track the fox
through all his doublings. Will you promise?”

Wentworth hesitated, but his own suspicions were roused, and he felt the
good sense of Harrington’s proposal.

“I agree, Harrington,” he said at length. “Yes, I promise, and I’ll keep
dark.”

“Good,” replied Harrington. “I declare, Richard, I can’t help feeling, in
view of the serious grandeur of life, that all this is pitifully petty.
These pigmy broils and imbroglios seem all the more trivial in contrast
with such scenes and passions as I have been in to-day. I wish we could
live only in the larger life, unvexed by this buzz and fribble.”

“What has happened to-day, Harrington?” asked Wentworth.

Harrington told him briefly of the scene in Southac street, omitting to
mention what passed in Roux’s house, lest it should lead to questions
verging upon the secret which Emily now shared with Muriel, himself and
Captain Fisher.

“I wish I could feel interested as you do in these political affairs,”
said Wentworth, lightly, when Harrington had concluded. “Somehow, I can’t
though. Of course, I’m for liberty in my own quiet way, and I pity the
poor darkeys and all that, but then it doesn’t come home to me at all.
I’m an artist in the grain, I suppose, and art-life and matters connected
with it, leave me no interest for other matters.”

“Ah, Richard,” replied Harrington, “you must outlive these notions. Art
cannot thrive sequestered from life. It may live in the cell, but it will
narrow and spire, and it can only branch and broaden into Shakspearean
greatness when planted among the ways and walks of men. No man can be a
great painter, sculptor, composer, poet, whose heart is not deeply and
warmly engaged in the life of his own time. It is the lack of interest
and participation in human affairs which makes our modern artists mere
imitators and colorists, and so much of modern art weak and pallid—a mere
watery reflection of old models and forms of beauty.”

“Come, now, that’s heresy?” said Wentworth, laughing. “Talk of poets—look
at Shakspeare. What interest did he take in human affairs? He kept the
Globe Theatre, studied his part by day, played it at night, and wrote
his dramas between whiles. That’s the way his years were occupied. What
participation had he in Elizabethan politics? What in the life of his own
time? Why, Ulrici says, in substance, that Shakspeare didn’t care enough
about the politics of his age to have his mind even colored by them.
The critics agree that a more thorough aristocrat or conservative never
breathed. Jupiter! according to the critics, he was a perfect despiser of
the common people, and a man utterly without patriotism and philanthropy.
Your Verulam there, now,” pursued Wentworth, looking at the statue, “was
patriot and philanthrope. He toiled for his country and wrought for ‘the
relief of the human estate,’ as he phrases it. But the most powerful
microscope couldn’t detect anything of that sort in William.”

Harrington laughed amusedly.

“Now, look here, Richard,” he replied. “In the first place, I flatly
deny that there is contempt for any sort of people, common or uncommon,
in the Shakspearean pages. But let that pass, for what I am going
to say will cover it fully. I want to call your attention to the
distinctive peculiarity—the uniqueness—of the Shakspearean creations.
In the Shakspearean mind you have an unexampled union of the subtlest
observation and the profoundest reason. This author observed far more
closely than even Thackeray, and philosophized far more greatly than even
Plato. But this is not all. He constructed a series of works which show
the principles of human action as they lie in the nature of man, and
all the complex operation of the human passions. And more, he created a
number of figures, which are not characters, but types. That is the grand
distinctive Shakspearean peculiarity. Nobody has done that but he. The
Don Quixote of Cervantes is a great figure, but it is not Shakspearean.
The Greek Prometheus, the German Mephistopheles are immense allegorical
creations, but they are not Shakspearean. He alone has made figures which
are types—representative men and women standing for classes. In a word,
he alone has given us in a series of models or images, the Science of
Human Nature. This it is that makes him solitary, as the power with which
it is done makes him supreme, in literature.”

“I understand,” said Wentworth, “and I agree; but I don’t see what you’re
driving at, mine ancient.”

“Wait a minute, and you shall see,” returned Harrington. “Bacon wanted
this very thing done. Nothing that you can do for the elevation of the
world, he says substantially, is of any value, unless this is done. The
radical defect in all science is, he says, that it has not been done, and
he rates Aristotle sharply for not doing it. He wants a work which will
give us the Science of Man, as he is, in order that we may make him what
he ought to be—a work, he says, which is to contain the descriptions of
the several characters and tempers of men’s natures and dispositions to
the end that the precepts concerning the culture and cure of the mind
may be concluded upon—a work which is also to contain examples in moral
and civil life. This is what Bacon wanted done, and the author of the
Shakspeare Drama did it. Bacon’s requirement is fulfilled exactly in the
Shakspeare Drama. Even our critics have got hold of the idea that the
Science of Human Nature which Bacon wanted is in the Shakspeare Drama,
and the purpose which Bacon intended such a work to accomplish, is in
daily process of accomplishment through the agency of those plays. And
what is more, Bacon wanted that work to be in the form of poetry—the
Georgics of the Mind, he calls it, with a reminiscence of Virgil. The
poets, he says elsewhere, are the best doctors of this knowledge;
and again, for the expression of such a purpose, reason is not so
perspicuous, nor examples so apt, as the dramatic or poetic presentation.
Very good. Bacon wanted it in poetry, and in poetry you have it.”

Wentworth looked at Harrington steadily, with so curious an amazement on
his countenance, that Harrington smiled.

“Now, Richard, observe,” he pursued. “The Shakspeare Drama contains
the Science of Man. A Science of Man cannot be formed accidentally, or
by the mere spontaneity of genius; it involves design. The author of
the Shakspeare Drama knew, therefore, what he was about; and the fact
that his figures have the peculiarity of being types, sufficiently
proves it. Now, science is preparatory to art, and a Science of Man is
a preparation for an Art of Human Life. This makes of your ‘aristocrat’
and ‘conservative’ Shakspeare a Socialist of the most daring order—the
largest innovator the world has ever known.”

“By Jupiter!” exclaimed Wentworth, “it’s precious odd that nobody has
noticed all this before.”

“So it is, Richard,” returned Harrington, smiling good-naturedly at
him. “About as odd as that Ulrici should have said that Shakspeare took
no heed of the politics of his time, when Lear, Coriolanus, and Julius
Cæsar are occupied, under the dramatic cover, and in the very face of
the military despotism of the age, with the broadest sort of political
discussion. About as odd as that you should think Shakspeare had no
patriotism, when the historical dramas so overflow with passionate love
for England that London theatres, at this day, rise and roar to it when
Phelps or Macready gives it voice from the stage.”

“Well,” said Wentworth, reddening and laughing, “I spoke too fast, no
doubt. Besides, there’s Brutus—a splendid type of the pure country-lover.
But the philanthropy—where’s that?”

“So the man who drew up the Science of Human Nature, subtle, vast, exact,
complete, the inevitable preliminary to the relief of the human estate
that Bacon schemed for, had no philanthropy,” bantered Harrington.

“That’s you exactly!” burst out Wentworth, coloring again, and laughing.
“Thunder, Harrington! that’s the way you hook in a fellow. Of course,
since I’ve accepted your first proposition, the rest follows. Well, at
all events, you may show philanthropy as the genius of the plan, but I’m
hanged if you can name a character that has it in the plays.”

“Can’t I, then?” retorted Harrington, good-humoredly. “What do you
think of Lear? Whose heart folds in poor Tom, the social outcast from
the lowest sinks of the Elizabethan wretchedness? Who hurls forth that
terrible invocation for the ‘superfluous and lust-dieted man that
slaves Heaven’s ordinance—that will not see because he does not feel?’
Who prays for the ‘poor naked wretches that bide the peltings of the
pitiless storm,’ and dwells so eloquently on ‘their houseless heads
and unfed sides, their looped and windowed raggedness.’ Who is it, the
impersonation of cold and callous conservatism, that is made, as Burke
says, to ‘attend to the neglected and remember the forgotten,’ and comes
face to face with houseless poverty and want to exclaim, ‘Oh, I have
ta’en too little care of this?’ Who demands that the rich and fortunate
shall expose themselves to ‘feel what wretches feel,’ in order that their
superfluities may be shared with them, and justice be more the law of
social life? And if this is not philanthropy, what is it?”

“Say no more, Harrington, I cave,” replied Wentworth, gaily.

“It is true,” pursued Harrington, “that the Shakspeare Drama has
no figure of a philanthropist like Howard, no more than it has of a
religious saint like Xavier or Monica. But I do not think that such
portraitures would consist with the author’s design, which, however vast,
is still special, having for its end the culture and cure of the human
mind, and, as I have said, the reconstruction of society. Ah, but the
true philanthropist, the true saint of that Drama is its author! No need
to add such a figure to his pages when he himself stands there added to
them by our thought, an image of the noblest love that ever strove and
suffered for mankind.”

They both sat in silence for a few moments, lost in musing.

“It is strange,” said Wentworth, at length. “All we know about Shakspeare
personally, is in conflict with what you have said—though I admit that
his works sustain your view. He seems to have lived a very common-place
and vulgar sort of a life. Certainly, his biography does not show that he
had large sympathies and designs for man, and it is indisputable that he
did not participate in the loftier life of his age.”

“I look at it in this way,” replied Harrington. “Set aside the evidence
we might collect from his writings, and consider only what must
inevitably have followed from the nature of his intellect. The complex
catholicity—the massive breadth—in a word, the universality of his
mind, inevitably involves a corresponding vastness of interest and
participation in the public affairs of his time, and all the varieties
of its thought and life. Isolation from public life may coexist, and
be perfectly compatible, with intensity of genius—with universality,
never. Moreover, to be worldly wise, as the plays show their author
to have been, a man must follow the rule Bacon insists upon as
indispensable—namely, to ally contemplation with action. Deny such a man
experience, and you cannot get from him the lessons of experience, as
you get them from this author. Isolate such a man from affairs, and his
genius spreads aloft into the vast air of the abstract, and you never
get in his writings the voices of the street, the camp, the court, the
cabinet—in a word, the voices of concrete practical life, as you do in
the Shakspeare Drama. Take for example, the man nearest Shakspeare, the
many-sided Goethe: the corollary to his many-sidedness is the fact that
he was a man of the world, a scientifician, courtier, statesman. So with
the author of the Drama. He must have been immersed in public life. He
must have held office. He must have administered the affairs of State.
It was the inevitable result of his genius, and it was the condition on
which the manifestations of that genius depended. Denied public life, and
either his development would have been arrested, or he would have become
a vast dreamer or abstractionist.”

“Upon my word, Harrington,” said Wentworth, “that’s an astonishing thing
for you to say!”

“It’s the truth, nevertheless,” replied Harrington, smiling.

“But the facts of Shakspeare’s life are against you,” rejoined Wentworth.

“Well, you must reconcile them as you can,” said Harrington. “Meanwhile,
there is the indestructible truth. All history, all facts, all reason
testify to it. It is so.”

“But look here, Harrington,” said the amazed Wentworth. “On the one hand,
you infer that a man of Shakspeare’s genius must have been a statesman.
On the other hand, is the plain fact that Shakspeare was nothing of the
sort. Now, therefore, we must at once conclude that your inference is
wrong.”

“Not necessarily,” replied Harrington.

“Not necessarily?” Wentworth laughed, and fixed his eyes with a puzzled
look upon the floor. “Well, I don’t see how you can escape from so
obvious a conclusion. Now, let me state it again. In the first place, who
wrote the plays?”

Receiving no answer, Wentworth looked up, and saw Harrington gazing with
rapt affection on the noble bust of Verulam. For a moment the young
artist held his breath in utter stupefaction; then a deep flush burned
upon his face, and he laughed immoderately. Harrington colored, but took
his friend’s merriment, as he took everything, good-naturedly, and sat
smiling at him.

“Bravo!” cried Wentworth, at length. “Another sacrifice to the idol! Now,
Harrington, I can’t swallow the idea, that the idol wrote Shakspeare’s
plays, but, for goodness’ sake do publish it! It will make such a jolly
row. By Jupiter! what fun it will be to see all the steady old ink-pots
fizzing into vitriol bottles, and foaming over on to your idea! Do
publish it.”

“One of these days, Richard,” said Harrington, gently. “But I don’t think
Verulam alone wrote the plays. He had help from others—and some of them
came from a lower order of mind than his. But in all the great plays
his intellect and design are visible. However, let it pass, and in the
meantime, say nothing about it to any one, for till it can come with
solid proof, it will meet with no favor from the Jedburgh justice of a
world that hangs your thought first, and tries it afterward. But for your
own sake, I wish you could believe that this great poet could not have
been the poet he was, if he had not been concerned in everything that
concerns mankind. Especially must he have cherished the idea of political
liberty, for without that, poet or artist can be but little.”

“Upon my word, Harrington,” said Wentworth, “I shouldn’t be much
astonished if you were to assert that the author of Shakspeare’s plays,
as you call him, would be, if he was alive, a Garrisonian Abolitionist.”

“Well,” replied Harrington, laughing in his beard, “you know Montaigne
says a man’s books are his children, and I’m sure this author’s children
don’t vote with the Webster Whigs or go union-saving or kidnapping with
either Whigs or Democrats. And as for Shakspeare being a Garrisonian,
it’s quite clear to my perverted sense, that the man who makes his
patriot, Brutus, cry aloud, as the first demand of political justice,
‘Liberty, Freedom, and Enfranchisement,’ would not, at any rate, if he
were with us, be found in Mr. Ben Hallett’s party.”

Wentworth, touched at the idea of Shakspeare and Ben Hallett being by any
chance thrown together, laughed immoderately, while Harrington, highly
amused at his mirth, sat and smiled at him.

“Harrington,” said Wentworth, recovering from his merriment, “you almost
tempt me to extend my studio among the sons of men.”

“That’s where the great artists extended theirs,” replied Harrington.
“Raphael, Giotto, Cellini, Angelo, all those superb artists, were
politicians, country-lovers, friends and comrades of their kind. Their
human sympathies gave their genius its pulse of life. You young artists
ought to blush when you think of Michael Angelo.”

“Well, Michael was a trump,” returned Wentworth, gaily.

“A trump?” repeated Harrington. “I wish he was a trump that could sound
some of you fellows into life. Yes, there was a man behind the artist
in Michael, and his works are cryptic with his humanity. By the way,
Richard, how comes on the ‘Death of Attucks?’”

The “Death of Attucks” was a picture which Wentworth, instigated by
Harrington, had begun to paint in illustration of the picturesque scene
on that wild March night of the early Revolution, when a black man flung
himself on the bayonets for a country which enslaves his race, and has
scribes to defile his memory.

“Well,” replied Wentworth, with a look of momentary sadness, “I haven’t
painted much lately—so the picture stands. O me,” he sighed, “I see
intellectually the truth of all you say about the relation of liberty to
art, but somehow I don’t get kindled.”

“Look here, Richard,” said Harrington, “you ought to hear Wendell
Phillips.”

“So I ought,” answered Wentworth, “and I mean to sometime.”

“You must,” replied Harrington. “He will show you the ideal beauty of
anti-slavery. Many a young man has found his eloquence the golden door
to a life for liberty. Now Muriel has planned to go to the Convention
to-night, and you are to go with us, and I hope you will hear him.

“Who are going?” asked Wentworth.

“We four,” replied Harrington.

“You three,” responded Wentworth; “I won’t go.”

“Oh, but you must,” replied Harrington. “I promised to bring you there to
tea, and my word is at stake.”

Wentworth was silent, and sat with his eyes fixed on the floor, and his
face reluctant and uneasy. Harrington watched him, and felt that there
was some reason connected with either Muriel or Emily for his desire to
avoid going to Temple street that evening. Suddenly the story Witherlee
had told him about Wentworth and Muriel flashed into his memory, and with
it came the sharp suspicion that Witherlee had lied. Could it be, after
all, that Wentworth and Emily were lovers? Harrington’s heart trembled,
and he determined to question Wentworth on the spot.

“Richard,” said he, “why are you averse to going up to Temple street this
evening? Is it on account of anything in this talk of Fernando’s which
John Todd told you?”

“Oh, no,” replied Wentworth, coloring. “I don’t care—I’ll go since you
desire it.”

“Richard,” said Harrington, after an awkward pause, “pardon my rudeness,
but I want to ask you a frank question, and I have a reason for asking
it. Are you in—well, have you, as Witherlee said, one of Cupid’s arrows
in your bleeding heart?”

Harrington tossed out the question gaily, but with a flushed face, and
his heart beating. As for Wentworth he was scarlet to the roots of his
hair, and with his eyes fixed on the floor, toyed with his moustache in
great confusion.

“Oh, that wasn’t Witherlee’s phrase,” he stammered evasively. “That was
my way of reporting what he said.”

“Well,” returned Harrington, “but is it true or not?”

Wentworth was silent for a moment.

“Suppose it is true. What then?” was his answer.

“It is true, then?” faltered Harrington.

Wentworth was still for a moment, then nodded affirmatively.

“Good!” exclaimed Harrington. “Richard, I give you joy. But now tell
me—pardon my inquisitiveness—tell me which is the one?”

Wentworth felt himself in a corner, and with his face hot as fire, and
his heart throbbing furiously, cast desperately about for some evasive
answer.

“Is it Emily?” said Harrington hastily, in a voice which he could not
keep from trembling.

Wentworth instantly took the tone as evidence of Harrington’s love for
Miss Ames, and with a bitter feeling filling his heart as the sense of
the injury she had done him, swept over him, he became self-possessed and
cold.

“Emily!” he repeated, affecting surprise and looking at Harrington’s
flushed face with desperate placidity, while a faint smile curved his
proud lip. “Indeed, Harrington, none of Emily’s lovers have a rival in
me.”

The answer was at once a taunt and an evasion, but to Harrington it
seemed decisive, and spoken in plain good-faith. It fell upon him like a
death-blow, but his heart, mailed in magnanimity, rose from under it, and
he forced himself to smile, lest Wentworth should be pained by perceiving
that it gave him pain. As yet, Wentworth had not the least idea that his
friend loved Muriel. And, as yet, he did not perceive that he had just
given Harrington to understand that he himself was her lover.

So, thought Harrington, Witherlee told the truth after all, and I was not
mistaken.

“Richard,” he cried, springing from his seat, and crossing over to
Wentworth, who instantly rose, startled by his sudden movement, as
well as by the strange emotion which struggled with a smile in his lit
face. “Richard, I give you joy. I do with all my heart and soul. You
should have told me before, that I might sooner have been happy in your
happiness. But I am glad to know it now—from your own lips, for I knew
it, or all but knew it, before. My love and blessing on you both forever!”

All this poured forth impetuously, his hands grasping Wentworth’s,
his features convulsed and smiling, his kind eyes shining through
tears. An awful feeling swept down, like an avalanche, on Wentworth.
Petrified with the suddenness of the revelation, he not only saw that
he had inadvertently confessed himself Muriel’s lover, but he saw that
Harrington loved her! He strove to speak, but his lips refused their
office, and no form of words came to his whirling mind. Harrington saw
his pallor and agitation, and mistaking them for the signs of a young
lover’s emotion at being thus brusquely congratulated, wrung his hands
once more, and turned away. Wentworth, too much overwhelmed to even
think, sank down upon his seat, and leaning his arm on the back of the
sofa, covered his hot eyes with his hand.

At that moment a low, piteous whine was heard in the yard. Harrington
started and colored and went out instantly.

Wentworth, meanwhile, hearing the noise, and aware of his friend’s exit,
took no heed of either, but sat trying to compose his mind to think of
the new complication in which he found himself.

Presently the deep sense of Harrington’s splendid magnanimity in so
joyfully giving up the woman he loved, rose upon him in contrast with
his own passionate envy and jealousy when he thought him the lover of
Emily, and with the tears springing to his eyes, he felt as if he were
the meanest man that ever breathed. To go and fling his arms around
Harrington, ask his forgiveness, and explain the whole matter, was his
first impulse. Then came the consideration that in doing this, he must
own that he loved Emily, for had he not said that he was in love with
one? and he must own that she had played the coquette with him, and left
him with a wounded heart. He could not do it. Pride forbade it. But what
should he do? He could not leave Harrington in error, and such an error!
Yet how explain that loving one of the two, he did not love Muriel, nor
yet Emily. Altogether, Wentworth was in a dilemma!

Vainly revolving the matter for a few moments, he finally came to the
desperate resolution so say nothing at present, but wait until he could
be alone, and then think what course he could pursue to extricate himself
from this embroilment.

The clear remembrance came to his mind how sedulously Emily had been
wooing Harrington of late. Acquitting him now of all knowledge or blame
in this respect, his censure gathered into a fiercer focus on her. It
was plain that, having played the heartless coquette with him, she was
trying the same game on his friend. A regular Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
he thought, remembering the haughty beauty dowered with manly scorn in
Tennyson’s poem. Fiery rage at Emily contended in his soul with fiery
love for her. Gnashing his teeth with fury, scorning himself that he
could love her and she so false and base, scorning himself that he
could hate her when he so loved her, he walked up and down the room for
a minute or two; then suddenly, with a violent effort, grew cool, and
picking up his hat from the floor, went out into the yard.

He did not see Harrington at first, but stepping around the corner of
the house, he caught sight of him, and all his passionate agitation
faded away in surprise as he became aware of his friend’s occupation.
Harrington was stooping down in an angle of the garden near a large
square box set on end, rubbing away with a gloved hand at the back of an
old, weak, white dog, the same Wentworth had seen tormented in the street
that morning. Actually, thought Wentworth, he went back to take that
forsaken brute home with him!

“What in thunder are you doing, Harrington?” he exclaimed, approaching
the scene of his friend’s operations.

Harrington started, and turned his glowing face with a half ashamed smile
upon Wentworth, then continued to rub the dog’s back.

“I couldn’t leave the poor old fellow in such a plight, Richard,” he
remarked, in an apologetic tone, “so, you see, I took him in.”

“Why, he’s got the mange,” said Wentworth, eying the animal with a face
of mingled disgust and curiosity.

“That’s not his fault,” returned Harrington, coolly, dipping his gloved
hand into a box of what appeared to be powdered sulphur, sprinkling a
handful on the dog’s back, and rubbing it in.

The dog, meanwhile, lying on the ground, was devouring with feeble
content a plateful of broken victuals which the young man had procured
from the house. He was a miserable, weak, red-eyed, flaccid-jawed,
dirty-white old mastiff, and, as the young artist had observed, he had
the mange. As ugly, forlorn-looking and worthless a cur in his life as
that dead dog which, the old Mohammedan apologue says, the Jewish mob
derided in the streets of Jerusalem, when a tall stranger of grave and
sweet aspect drew near, and paused to cast a look of compassion on the
object of their derision. “Is it not a miracle of ugliness!” jeered
the crowd. “But see,” said the stranger, “pearls are not equal to the
whiteness of his teeth!” And then, says the Mohammedan story, the people
knew that the stranger was the great prophet Jesus, for none but he would
look upon a dead dog with the beauty-seeing eye of love.

“Poor old fellow,” soliloquized Harrington, “I quite forgot I had him,
till he whined for his dinner.”

“How confoundedly dirty he is,” observed Wentworth.

“Dirty? Oh, no—that’s his color,” said Harrington, naively. “He’s not
dirty now, for I washed him.”

“The deuce you did!” replied Wentworth, laughing. “Upon my word,
Harrington, you’re a regular Brahmin. Though it’s mighty good in you to
take so much trouble for a brute like that. Faith, I’d have left him to
his fate.”

“Oh, well,” replied Harrington, tranquilly, scanning the dog’s back,
to see if any diseased spot had escaped him, “the poor old thing has
something to do in this world, or he wouldn’t have been sent, and he has
a right here, seeing that he does no harm. There, I guess that’ll do, and
he’ll be comfortable till I get back.”

He took off his glove, patted the old dog on the head, and spoke to him.
The animal, who had finished his dinner, feebly wagged his tail, and
licked the kind hand, then looked up with bleared red eyes into the face
of his protector, still wagging his tail.

“Good,” said Harrington; “see how grateful he is! Come, Wentworth, it’s
time for us to go,” he continued, rising to his feet. “It’s after four
o’clock, and I promised to be there early.”

Stooping again, he lifted the dog into the packing-case on some old rags
of carpeting, put a pan of water near him, laid the tin box of sulphur
and the glove on top, and turned away to the house.

“What a good fellow Harrington is,” muttered Wentworth, following him.
“To think of his rescuing that old brute from the boys, and taking as
much care of him as if he was Scott’s Maida! I wonder that I, who admire
such things so much, never think of doing such things.”

He got into the room just as Harrington was disappearing up the flight of
steps into the room above, whither he went to wash his hands and brush
his clothes. In a few minutes he descended again, closed the windows, put
on his slouched hat, and they set off together arm in arm.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE FAIRY PRINCE.


They arrived in a few minutes at the house in Temple street, and were let
in by Patrick. Wentworth had been complaining that something was hurting
his foot, and sat down in the hall to take off his boot and see what was
the matter, while Harrington went up-stairs into the library.

The jewel of the rich room was Muriel, and Muriel lay on a velvet couch,
asleep. The young man noiselessly approached her, and stood tenderly
watching her beauty in its repose. She lay in a glimmer of light from
the western window, and the faint radiance lit her dreamful face, whose
beauty was like a hymn of immortal joy. The draped arms lay restfully
along her form, with the white hands lightly clasped together, and the
expression of the figure was repose. Gazing at her with heavenly sadness,
the lover saw her countenance gleam with an evanescent smile, and the
lips murmured a word. It was “Richard.” A quick pang shot to his heart,
and at the same instant Muriel started and awoke.

“John!” she exclaimed, coloring and smiling as she sprang up from her
light sleep and gave him her hands, “you here! When did you come?”

“Just come,” he replied, holding her hands, and smiling into her face.
“Why, Muriel, you looked like the Sleeping Beauty of the fairy tale.”

“Oh, John! And you like the fairy prince that woke the Sleeping Beauty
up!” returned Muriel, gaily.

“That’s a compliment, I suppose,” said Harrington.

“Compliment for compliment,” said she.

“Oh, but mine was the truth,” he replied.

“And so was mine,” she answered. “So it’s arranged that I am the Sleeping
Beauty awakened, and you the fairy prince that awakened me, and now
I shall have to follow you through all the world, as she did him in
Tennyson’s poem.”

Harrington’s color rose, and he dropped her hands. Muriel blushed too,
for she felt that what she had said in thoughtless play had carried some
deeper sense to him than she had intended.

“Pardon me, John,” she murmured, “I did not mean to offend you.”

“You offend me!” exclaimed Harrington, in astonishment. “You, Muriel!
Indeed, no.”

“Then why did you color?” she asked archly, reassured.

“I? Oh—no matter. I was thinking of something.”

“Of what? Come now. Be frank, John. I desire—I command”—

Harrington looked confused for a moment. An impulse came to him.

“It is you who must tell me, Muriel,” he said in a low voice.

“I? What shall I tell you, John. I will tell you anything you ask.”

“Tell me then of the fairy prince who awakened you indeed, and whom
you are to follow through all the world. Tell me of him, that I may
congratulate you and him together.”

Muriel gazed at him in wonder. If he had not spoken with such sweet
seriousness, she would have thought he was jesting.

“You said you would tell me anything I asked,” said Harrington, gravely.
“Tell me this, then.”

“I will, John,” she replied slowly. “I will tell you of him—when I find
him. Not till then.”

She turned away, musing. It was Harrington’s turn now to look at her with
wonder. What did she mean? He had never seen any tokens of duplicity in
her, but what was this?

Just then in came Wentworth, smiling. Harrington saw her face light as
she went toward him, and wondered if she had understood what he had said
to her. That’s it, he thought; she could not have understood me.

“Ha, Muriel. Good afternoon,” burst out Wentworth in his airy way.
“Excuse me for not coming up at once, but I was ransacking my boot. And
see what I found. A damson stone. Take it, Harrington, and be happy.”

“Come, no nonsense, Richard,” said Muriel. “Let’s go up to the studio,
and fence.”

Wentworth darted at her, and she nimbly dodged him, flashed out of the
room and flew up-stairs, laughing, followed by the young artist on the
run. She vanished into the studio before he could come up with her, and
Wentworth turned to wait for his friend, who was leisurely ascending the
stairs.

“Lightfoot cannot outrun Atalanta,” said Harrington.

“Exactly so,” returned Wentworth.

They went up and into the studio, as it was called, together. It was a
large, square, sunlit room, the floor covered with a thick, hard carpet,
and it had two windows looking to the west, with boxes on the sills,
filled with heliotrope and mignionette, which filled the air with their
rich and delicate fragrance. Muriel’s table, with a small easel, cases
of water-colors, and bristol-board, drawing paper, tinted sketches,
and other artistic paraphernalia, stood near one of the windows. Not
far from the other was a moulding stand, on which stood Emily’s bust
of her friend, with a box of clay on the floor near it. The walls were
a warm grey, and ornamented with three or four of Jullien’s crayons,
some plaster medallions and bas-reliefs, and a set of hanging-shelves
filled with books. Parallel-bars on one side of the room, a pair of large
dumb-bells on the floor, several iron weights, with rings for lifting
them, near by, and a set of gilded foils and masks on the wall, gave the
studio something of the air of a gymnasium. A small piano, with books
of music upon it, a low sofa, and a few plain arm-chairs, completed the
furniture of the apartment.

The young men had sat talking a few minutes, waiting for Muriel, when
Mrs. Eastman and Emily came in, and they rose again to make their
salutations. Emily was in her most sumptuous mood, and smiled serenely as
she entered and curtseyed down into a chair. Mrs. Eastman gave her hand
to the young men, whom she loved as much as if they were her own sons,
and standing near Harrington, with her arm in his, affectionately asked
for his health.

“You are looking pale, John,” she said, with motherly solicitude. “Too
much study I’m afraid.”

“Not at all, mother,” said Harrington, gaily—he always called Mrs.
Eastman “mother.” “Celestial pale, the student’s proper hue, you know;
and spite of my paleness, I’m strong and well.”

“Nevertheless, I wish you had some of Richard’s roses,” she said
playfully.

“My roses, indeed!” rattled Wentworth. “Why, Mrs. Eastman, I’m so much
in love with Harrington’s intellectual pallor that I’m thinking of
trying some of Jules Hauel’s lily-white cosmetic to get my face of the
same tint. For what is—hurrah! Here comes the fairy prince!” he cried,
breaking off, as the door of a chamber adjoining the studio opened, and a
beautiful and brilliant figure came forward into the room.

It was Muriel, transformed by the vivid and gorgeous dress of a fairy
prince—such a dress as the artists of fairy books give to Percinet or
Valentine; and in it she was courtly and noble as Shakspeare’s Rosalind,
when Rosalind wore “man’s apparel” in the gay greenwood of Arden. A year
before when she had resolved to take fencing lessons of Harrington,
she had devised this dress, and with a woman’s natural disposition to
ornamentation, and with her own special wish to throw festal grace and
the hues of romance even on her hours of exercise, she had brought to the
fashioning of her attire all the richness of her lavish fancy. To wear
anything that was ugly even at her gymnastics, or to make her exercise
a sober business and not a poetic pleasure, was quite impossible for
Muriel. She must clothe her muscularities with beauty, as Harmodius
wreathed his sword with myrtle. So she gilded her foils and masks,
and fashioned her garb in fairy magnificence. The dress was a cymar
of vivid crimson silk, loosely belted at the waist, and adorned with
broidered arabesques of gold. The bodice, cut loose to the form, with
large sleeves, ruffled with lace at the wrists, had a frilled ruffle of
lace emerging from the bosom, and rising in a sort of fraise around the
neck, in exquisite keeping with the refined beauty of the countenance
which bloomed above it. A little crimson cap, with a thick, swailing,
white plume, rested lightly on the head, and the glorious amber hair
was arranged to lie on the back of the neck like the locks of a page.
The skirt of the dress, also of crimson silk, broidered with golden
arabesques, and deeply bordered with heavy, gold fringe, fell in graceful
folds, ending just above the knee, and white silk hose, with crimson
satin slippers, completed the poetic and splendid costume. Never had
Muriel appeared more fascinating than in this attire, which showed the
full perfection of a form, straight, supple, tall and strong, whose every
rounded outline was elegance, and whose free strength was harmonized in
grace and beauty.

“By Jupiter!” cried Wentworth, “I never see Muriel in that costume,
without thinking that the long skirts are a tremendous shame. There’s a
figure for you!”

“Yes, but please remember,” said Emily, “that there are some of us women
who are not endowed with such fine forms as Muriel.”

“Oh, I’m pretty well,” said Muriel, with a light laugh. “But it’s mainly
due to my life-long muscular exercise, Emily.”

“Indeed, Muriel,” replied Emily, “nature must have contributed largely in
the first instance, to a form like yours.”

“Thanks for compliments,” said Muriel gaily, doffing her plumed cap and
bowing.

“You’re inclined to underrate muscular exercise, Emily,” said Harrington,
laughing.

“Well, perhaps so, John,” she replied, with a slow smile.

“And yet,” he pursued, “I’m not sure, that to make women a race of
gymnasts, wouldn’t be one of the surest ways of securing their social
enfranchisement.”

“Why, John,” returned Emily, laughing, “do you want to make us athletic
enough to get our rights by the strong hand?”

“Oh, no,” he rejoined, amusedly. “But men could not help respecting
women, if women were on a grander scale, and justice might be born of
that respect. And, to make women all they latently are, gymnastics are
a very important instrument. I am inclined to think physical training
the foundation of all noble culture. You get from it health, strength,
beauty of form, grace of carriage, dexterity of movement and action, a
very potent safeguard against all diseases, mental vigor, cheerfulness,
courage, self-reliance, a spirit that nourishes and promotes
self-respect, independence, generosity, moral purity, heroic desires,
large sympathies; in fact, all the virtues. I do not say that gymnastics
bestow the great intellectualities and moralities; but they encourage,
develop, and sustain them. You know what Dr. Johnson said—‘a sick person
is a scoundrel;’ and I think a pretty large sermon might be preached from
that text, in these days. At all events, I am quite sure that you will
see grander and more womanly women, and an increase of social happiness,
when a vigorous muscular training is made part of women’s culture.”

“Bravo!” cried Muriel. “I feel inspired. The foils, Harrington—the foils!”

Harrington-who had been admiring while he spoke, the free, beautiful
figure—started and went to the wall to take the weapons down.

“First, some exercise to get the muscles in order,” said Muriel.

She threw down her cap, and bounding forward, with the light strong
spring of a bayadere, to the parallel bars, put her hands on the poles,
and leaped up between them. Then, with a succession of springs, she
traversed the whole length, leaping along the bars on her hands; then,
back again to the centre, where she swung to and fro for an instant; and,
as she rose again, vaulted over and alighted in the middle of the room,
tossing the air into perfume.

“Bravo!” cried Wentworth. “That’s religion, as Emerson says.”

“Emerson!” chided Mrs. Eastman, amusedly. “Emerson never said any such
thing.”

“More shame for him,” retorted Wentworth, gaily. “Kingsley says so, at
any rate.”

“Kingsley!” she replied, in the same amused, chiding tone.

“Yes, _ma mère_,” asserted Wentworth. “That’s what Kingsley calls
muscular Christianity, and I’m going in for some of it.”

He bounded forward to the bars just as Muriel was running up to them
again. She stopped and stood a little one side, watching him as he swung
and leaped forward.

“You don’t do it half as well as Muriel,” said Mrs. Eastman, very truly.

“Take care now, Richard, that’s dangerous,” cried Muriel in a warning
voice, as Wentworth was swinging, preparatory to vaulting over.

Wentworth laughed recklessly, and flung himself over the bars. Muriel’s
warning was not without reason, for as he came over, his foot struck the
pole, and, with a cry from Emily which proved her interest in him, he
pitched head downward. Muriel sprang on the instant, caught him with all
her strength, and set him on his feet. Wentworth reddened, and looked
dazed.

“Careless boy,” she chided, playfully giving him a light cuff on the ear,
“you came nigh breaking your neck.”

“That he did,” exclaimed Harrington; and “indeed he did,” exclaimed the
others in chorus.

“Saved by a fairy prince,” cried Wentworth in a mock-tragic tone. “By
Jupiter, Muriel, but you’re as strong as you’re quick. I wonder how many
young ladies there are in the world that could catch a fellow when he’s
tumbling over neck and heels to destruction. Well, I guess I won’t try
that again. Thank you, dear fairy prince.”

He put her hand gallantly to his lips as he said the last words.

“I declare,” cried Emily, laughing, “what would society say if it could
behold these operations! I can’t help thinking how our minister at
Cambridge, and all my Episcopal friends would stare at you, Muriel.”

“Yes, flower of the world,” replied Muriel, “we should be awfully
scandalized, no doubt. But there’s virtue in our games, nevertheless, for
health is there, and health is a virtue that beckons the others on. The
fencing, however, is the perfection of exercise.”

“Why is that so superior?” asked Emily.

“Because it develops bodily strength and activity more harmoniously than
any other,” replied Muriel. “So Roland says.”

“Roland?” inquired Emily.

“Yes. Roland is the author of the best modern work on fencing,” answered
Muriel. “Stay, I’ll read you what he says.”

She went to the book-shelves, and returned with the volume—Roland’s
“Theory and Practice of Fencing.”

“Here it is,” she observed, finding the page. “Listen: ‘Perhaps there is
no exercise whatever more calculated for these purposes (developing and
cultivating bodily strength and activity) than fencing. Riding, walking,
sparring, wrestling, running, and pitching the bar are all of them
certainly highly beneficial, but beyond all question there is no single
exercise which combines so many advantages as fencing. By it the muscles
of every part of the body are brought into play; it expands the chest
and occasions an equal distribution of the blood and other circulating
fluids through the whole system. More than one case has fallen under
the author’s own observation, in which affections of the lungs, and a
tendency to consumption have been entirely removed by occasional practice
with the foil; and he can state, upon the highest medical authority, that
since the institution of the School of Arms at Geneva, scrofula, which
was long lamentably prevalent there, had been gradually disappearing.’”

Just then a tap was heard at the door. Muriel dropped the book, and made
one nimble spring through the entrance into her chamber, while Harrington
went to the door. It was Patrick come to say that Mr. Witherlee was
down-stairs.

“Tell him we’re engaged, Patrick, and ask him to excuse us,” rang the
silver voice of Muriel through the half open entrance of her room.

Patrick departed, and as the door closed, Muriel emerged, laughing, from
her hiding-place.

“That was a stroke of policy,” she said. “If Fernando were to see me in
this costume, it would be town talk to-morrow, and in the papers the day
after. Fernando’s mind is a perfect colander—all that gets into it runs
out of it.”

She was more than ever like a fairy prince the next instant as she stood
with the light bright foil in her gloved hand, and her face covered
by the gilt mask, over which waved a thick crimson plume. Harrington,
similarly arrayed, save for the plume, with the golden wires envisoring
his features, advanced toward her.

“You have not forgotten your plastron, have you?” he said.

“No: it’s under the dress,” she replied.

Firm and true as he, she struck guard, and the foils crossed with a clash.

“By George! this is delicious,” exclaimed Wentworth, in perfect rapture.

And so it was, for Muriel was like some unimagined fairy chevalier as she
stood in the beautiful attitude of the exercise, the rich crimson lights
of her dress glowing, and its golden ornaments tremulously flashing in
the sun-ray, and the sumptuous radiance resting on the proud and elegant
flowing curves of her figure. Lithe, superb and strong, an image of
health and grace, a form of lyric beauty, she might have stood in her
armed posture for the spirit of the foil.

Emily had crossed over to the piano, and sitting behind it with her eyes
fixed upon the combatants, began to play a low drumming strain of Bacchic
fury in the pause preluding the game. Fierce, monotonous and dreamful,
a congeries of bass tones swarming grumly from the keys, with low minor
notes faintly chirping at intervals between, it suddenly rang up, pierced
with one sharp tingling treble, like a cry, as with a loud clash of the
foils, the agile and vivid figure of Muriel darted forward in a superb
lunge. Harrington uttered a low ejaculation, for the thrust had nearly
reached him, and he had parried in the compass of a ring. Muriel stood
on guard again, her gold and crimson tremulously glowing and flashing in
the sun, and her bright plume dancing, while the dark and furious music,
swarming and drumming loudly from the bass keys, sunk away into the low,
monotonous and dreamful strain, with the chirping notes still fluttering
and sounding in. It did not rise again, but ran sombrely swarming on,
as Harrington reached in his long arm in a quick and quiet lunge, which
was deftly parried with only a faint clink of the foils, and then, with
another splendid flash of glitter and color, Muriel sprang, lunging
nimbly home, and clash on clash, with a rapturous clamor of steel, came
pass and parry on either side, while the hurrying music rose and rang in
whirling riot, like a wild, tumultuous race of Mænads, with heavy bars of
thunderous sound striking through the loud, triumphant swarming fury of
the melody. Clash and flash, amidst the strumming whirl and anvil blows
of the melodious choral, flew the bright foils, and stamp and tramp,
advancing and retreating, sinking and rising, low to the lunge, and high
to the parry, swayed and darted the lords of the fairy duel—Muriel’s
crimson feather tossing and dancing in time to the gathering and racing
of the music, like a delirious sprite of combat.

Suddenly—snap—jingle—the contest ceased, and the music flittered off
into a light and brilliant strain, like the tinkling laughter of elves.
Harrington stood with a dazed air, looking at the fragment of the foil he
held, the rest of which lay on the floor. Muriel broke into a merry peal
of laughter, in which Wentworth and her mother joined, while Emily, still
playing, smiled indolently over the piano.

“Plague!” exclaimed Harrington. “That’s the second foil I’ve seen broken
to-day. They make these things miserably bad.”

“It’s the last pair we have, so that ends our fun for this day,” cried
Muriel, taking the gilt mask from her bright, flushed face. “Serves me
right for not always having half a dozen sets on hand, a thing I’ll do in
future.”

“By Jupiter!” exclaimed Wentworth, while Muriel crossed to hang up her
mask and foil, “that was tall fencing, while it lasted, anyhow. I’m sorry
the foil’s broken, Muriel, for I wanted to fence with the fairy prince
myself.”

“You ought to learn, Emily,” said Mrs. Eastman. “Then you and Richard
could match John and Muriel.”

Emily stopped playing, and glanced at Wentworth with a slight curl of her
lip, which did not escape the young artist.

“Indeed, Mrs. Eastman,” she said, “it’s not in my line, and I should make
a poor figure at it, I know.”

“But it’s as beautiful as dancing,” said Mrs. Eastman.

“And a great deal more womanly than waltzing,” put in Wentworth,
interrupting, to have his fling at Emily, who was very fond of the waltz.

Emily reddened, and fixed her lustrous eyes on Wentworth, hurt and
angered by his remark.

“Come, come,” interposed Muriel, gaily, “I won’t have Emily badgered into
doing anything it is not her genius to do. Fencing is not in her line, as
she says; but music, dear Emily,” she added, putting her arms around her
friend, “music _is_ in your line, and charmingly you played for us. Your
improvisation inspired our battle, and I should fence twice as well if I
always had you to play for me.”

“Faith, Emily, there’s something in that, I believe,” remarked
Harrington. “But you fence wonderfully, Muriel, for one who has had only
a year’s practice.”

“Are you sure you don’t spare her, Harrington?” said Emily, slily.

“Spare her? Indeed I don’t. I’d scorn to do such a thing!” answered
Harrington, with animation.

“That’s right, John,” said Muriel in a tone of gay gratitude; “it’s
always a shame for a woman to be treated like a weak sister, and
there’s a subtle assumption of our inferiority in the consideration
we women get from men in this polite age, which does not please me at
all. No effeminate culture for me! What I know or do, I will know or do
thoroughly and vigorously, or not at all.”

“Bravo, Muriel!” said Mrs. Eastman, rising, “so your father would say,
if he were with us. There’s no reason, he used to observe, why girls
shouldn’t be as vigorously trained as boys, and even supposing woman’s
sphere to be purely and simply that of a wife and mother, said he, she
ought, on the most ultra conservative principles, to have every power and
faculty fully developed that she may fitly educate her children.”

“Good! Woman’s rights doctrine, that,” said Wentworth, playfully.
“Muriel, do you vote?” he added, with a quizzical air.

“Yes,” answered Muriel, so naively, that Wentworth was taken aback. “Do
you want to know how? Every election day, Patrick comes to ask me how
he shall vote, and I tell him, and he votes. That is my ballot, for my
judgment casts it. But what do you think of the good sense of a community
that allowing me capable of instructing a man how to vote, will not allow
that I am capable of voting myself? What do you think of the good sense
of a country that denies to a cultured woman a right which it accords to
the uncultured man who opens her street door?”

“Well,” returned Wentworth, laughing, “we are not all such fools, Muriel,
as to think the arrangement you criticise right and proper.”

“Come, children,” said Mrs. Eastman, after a pause, “since the play is
over, let us adjourn to the library.”

And she departed, followed by the others. Harrington, seeing Muriel
linger, half-absently, paused near her. Becoming aware that he was
looking at her, she looked up from her musing, with a quiet smile.

“Well, fairy prince,” he said, lightly.

“Ah,” she replied, with pensive playfulness, “you recognize the fairy
prince in me, then, do you? And that is the fairy prince I am to follow
through all the world.”

She had approached him as she spoke, and while he looked at her with an
inquiring face, seeking to fathom the riddle of her speech, she passed
close by him, with a light waft of delicate perfume, and vanished into
her chamber.

He stood for a moment, lost in a sense of some unravelled mystery
lurking in her words and manner, and then suddenly turned and went
down-stairs.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE ANTI-SLAVERY CONVENTION.


Transformed again in lace and lilac from a fairy prince to a fairy
princess, Muriel joined her friends in the library. Music and blithe talk
filled up the hours till tea-time, and after tea they prepared to go to
the Convention. Mrs. Eastman had declined accompanying them, and they set
out together through the moonlit dusk, Harrington escorting Emily, and
Wentworth Muriel.

“Why, how cold it has grown!” exclaimed Emily, surprised at the strange
chillness of the air, as she and Harrington walked up the shadowy street.

“Yes, indeed,” replied Harrington, “and the wind has changed to the
north, I verily believe. After this warm, delicious day, too! But no New
Englander has a right to be surprised at the freaks of the climate.”

Engaged in conversation, they did not notice, as Wentworth and Muriel
behind them did, when they were passing under the walled plateau, on
which loomed in the dim moonlight the domed bulk of the State House,
two young men who went by considerably intoxicated. The young men were
Horatio and Thomas Atkins, who had been drinking juleps in honor of
Southern institutions with Mr. Lafitte at the Tremont House, whither
they had escorted him after dinner. Thomas had taken so many juleps
that his hat was acock, his whiskerage fiercer than ever, and his gait
a swaggering stagger, while Horatio was in that state of solemn and
stubborn tipsiness in which a man is upon his honor to walk straight.
Muriel sighed as she passed them, and all the way across the broad
Common, its trees and sward dimly lighted by the moon, and chill in the
fresher breath of the keen breeze, while she conversed with Wentworth,
her thoughts rested with vague uneasiness on her uncle and his graceless
sons. It was altogether the most unpleasant topic that ever entered her
mind, and it was especially so on account of her mother. Mrs. Eastman
felt her brother’s general course, particularly his political course,
to be a family disgrace. All the old New England traditions, laws, and
habitudes had been at least passively for liberty up to the insane year
of 1850; and to have her kinsman one of the new brawlers for slavery
and kidnapping was a sore reflection for the gentle lady. She had never
recovered from the wound he had given her spirit, by enrolling himself
as one of the Fifteen Hundred Scoundrels. And on this point, at least,
Muriel felt as strongly as she did, particularly since the report had
arrived that Sims had been scourged to death at Savannah.

The noise of life thickened around the party as they passed down Winter
street into Washington street, the main avenue of Boston. The street was
processional, grotesque, and gay under the moon. Vehicles of all sorts
dashed and rattled over the pavement, and passengers were bustling and
swarming along the irregular vista of lighted shop windows, under the
dark, motley buildings covered with their multitude of golden-lettered
signs.

Passing up the crowded thoroughfare, they arrived presently at the
Melodeon, where the Anti-Slavery Convention was holding its evening
session. It was a hall rented most frequently for concerts and
exhibitions of one sort or another, but memorable in history as the
church of Theodore Parker. There, on every Sabbath, he shook the hearts
of thousands with the sacred and heroic eloquence of those sermons which
have passed to shine in pulpit literature with the strong splendors of
Taylor and Latimer, and a nobleness and courage all their own.

The hall was full as the party entered, and some one was speaking from
the platform. They paused, looking over the dense concourse for seats,
and seeing none, were about to try their chance in the gallery above,
when a party of five left theirs in the centre of the hall, and going
down the aisle at once, they took the vacant places. Harrington had
passed in first, and leaning over to Muriel, said in a whisper:

“Did you see your uncle as we came in?”

“Yes,” she replied. “Who was that with him, that looked at you so
strangely?”

Harrington turned his head and gazed up to the back of the hall, where
Mr. Atkins was sitting, scornfully listening to the speaker. By his side
he saw a dark, handsome face, with a moustache, and the face was intently
watching him. With a vague thrill he turned again to Muriel.

“I don’t know him,” he whispered.

“It is strange,” she whispered in reply. “I saw by Mr. Atkins’s manner
that he was telling that person who we were, and I know by the slight
start the stranger gave, and the look he cast at you, that my uncle had
mentioned your name, and that the stranger had some interest in you.”

Nothing more was said, but Harrington felt disturbed even to
apprehension, though he could not have told why. In a minute or two,
looking around again, he saw the stranger still watching him, and saw
his eye wander away with a sinister smile. Turning his face resolutely
to the platform, Harrington, with another mysterious tremor, tried to
recollect if he had ever seen that face before, and unable to recall it,
he dismissed it from his thoughts with a strong effort of will, and set
himself to listen to the speaker.

Just then, the speaker ended, and sat down, amidst a rushing rustle
of the audience, and some slight applause. There was a minute’s
intermission, during which Harrington’s eye swept over the multitude,
seated in rows around him, and filling the gallery, which extended in a
horse-shoe curve around the walls of the oblong hall. Both sexes were
about equally represented in the concourse, which was dotted here and
there with the dark faces of negroes. The platform was occupied by a
number of the anti-slavery leaders, men and women. The chairman, who was
leaning from his seat in hasty conference with two or three persons, was
the gallant Francis Jackson, a wealthy citizen, who, when the “gentlemen”
of Boston had broken up an anti-slavery meeting of women, fifteen years
before, opened his house to the outcasts, at the imminent peril of having
it razed by the mob. But he was resolved to defend free speech, and in
this cause, said he, “let my walls fall if they must: they will appear
of little value after their owner shall have been whipped into silence.”
Such was the Roman deed, the Roman word, of Francis Jackson. Near him
sat Garrison. The light of the chandelier shone full on the bald head
and high-featured, dauntless face of the grand Puritan—a face in which
blended the austere gentleness of Brewster with the stern integrity and
solemn enthusiasm of Vane. Not far distant was the antique and noble
countenance of Burleigh, with its long beard and lengths of ringlets
giving it the character of some of the heads mediæval painters have
imagined for Jesus. An orator he, whose massive and definite logic ran
burning with Miltonian sweep, and could burst, when he so chose, in an
iron hail of Miltonian invective. By his side, Harrington saw the domed
brow and Socratic features of the mighty Theodore, with the lips curling
in some rich stroke of whispered wit, which brought a momentary smile to
the face of Burleigh. Behind them was the rugged and salient visage of
Parker Pillsbury, a man whose speech rode like the Pounder of Bivar, and
smote with a flail. Before Harrington’s eye had wandered from him, the
chairman rose, announcing a name which was lost in the sudden pour of
applause that swept up from the front, and spread from rank to rank with
loud cheers, and then at once the whole concourse burst into a surging
and tossing uproar of acclamation, as a beautiful patrician figure,
dressed in black, came forward on the lighted platform.

It was Wendell Phillips—the flower of the anti-slavery chivalry. Memory
recalls the words in which Robertus Monachus describes the leader of
the twelfth century Crusaders, Godfrey of Bouillon: “He was beautiful
in countenance,” says the chronicler, “tall in stature, agreeable in
his discourse, admirable in his morals, and at the same time so gentle,
that he seemed better fitted for the monk than the knight; but when
his enemies appeared before him, and the combat approached, his soul
became filled with mighty daring; like a lion, he feared not for his
person—and what shield, what buckler, could resist the fall of his
sword?” So might one describe the great Abolitionist. But a poetic heart
would take from that rich old world Past a more lustrous figure than
even Godfrey to stand as his representative. In England they call Lord
Derby the Rupert of debate; and far more aptly might Wendell Phillips
be termed the Tancred of liberty. In his personal appearance, as in the
attitude of his life, the nature of his thought, and the style of his
rhetoric, there was that which recalled the image of the loveliest of
the antique chevaliers. As he stood on that brilliant platform, while
the enthusiastic applause swelled and tossed in a tempest of sound and
stir—one foot advanced, his hands lightly clasped behind him, his head
curved a little to one side, the light bringing out in definite relief a
face and form in strange contrast with every other around him, and whose
statuesque repose seemed heightened by the tumultuous commotion of the
audience—he impressed the eye like a piece of exquisite sculpture when
seen among the alien shapes of men. A tall-browed, oval head of severe
and singular grace; long, clear-cut, Roman features; a keen and penetrant
eye; around the firm mouth a glimmer of feminine sweetness; the face
harmonized with an expression of golden urbanity; and in the whole aspect
the polished ease of the gentleman blended with the lofty bearing of
the Paladin. And a Paladin he was—a star of oratoric tournament, proved
so by many a hard-fought argument in the chivalrous fields of liberty,
where his eloquence, that fiery sword wrought of Justice and Beauty, as
his friend Parker has called it, flashed and rang on the armor of the
vile, and brought new courage to the war. None listened to the bright and
terrible music of his speech unmoved; no bitterest conservative could
hear it without owning its magic. Robbed of his just due of fame by the
unpopularity of the cause he championed, even his foes could whisper that
he was the greatest orator in America—even the scholars of the Boston
“Courier”, the representative pro-slavery organ in that latitude, and the
deadly enemy of the Abolitionists, could call him, with strange warmth,
the Cicero of anti-slavery.

The applause sunk down, and an expectant, breathless hush succeeded.
Slowly his lips curved apart, and the clear, persuasive silver of his
voice flowed into words. It was a simple and ordinary sentence, and yet
what a fascination it had! It was not a sentence—it was something bright
that flew into the souls of his audience; and as it flew, the magnetic
glance of his eye seemed to follow it, and every one was captive. His
address was at once exposition and criticism. The condition of the
nation, the aggressions of the slave oligarchy, the recent plunder of
Mexico for the extension of slavery, the servility of the pulpit, the
pro-slavery scheming of Northern merchants and manufacturers—these
were his themes, and how he treated them! He was not in his loftiest
lyric mood that night, and his speech only rose now and then from its
tone of exquisite impressive colloquy into the long, imperial sweep of
the oration; but still, as Thomas Davis said of Curran, his words went
forth in robes of light with swords. Shapes of severest crystal grace
that moved to Dorian music, an armed battalia, a bright procession, the
splendid phrases trooped, with strength to strike and skill to guard
for liberty and justice. What language—so finely chosen, so apt, terse,
limpid, electrical! What logic—proof-mail of gold and steel around his
thought, or a smiting weapon of celestial temper! Now came some metaphor
so analogically related to the theme that it flashed on the mind like a
subtle argument. And now a sentence shining upon the imagination with
the beauty of an antique frieze. Here was an expression that memory
would wear like a gem-cameo forever. And here some jewel of classic
story re-cut more purely, or some historic picture that glowed sharp,
definite, in lines and hues of life, upon the eye of the mind. Now it was
the scimitar-glance of wit shearing the floating film of some intangible
popular delusion, or lie. Now some homely illustration borrowed from
the street, the shop, the farm, yet suddenly interpenetrated with as
strange a poetic grace as though it had dropped from the lips of Tully
two thousand years ago. Or here again invective, rising above some gloomy
wrong, and smiting bright, like the diamond sword of Dante’s black-stoled
angel. Rhetoric, yet not the artificial, decorative rhetoric of the
schools, but an organic growth of the man. Art, but art that seemed like
nature, for it was the art that nature makes. One felt, and truly felt,
in listening to the orator, that this was his natural normal speech.
It was beautiful, it was ornate, it was artistic, but it was of the
heart, it was of the life; and everywhere it was the stern, the solemn
voice of conscience, of honor, of virtue—everywhere it was terrible and
sacred with radiant pity for the poor and weak, flaming scorn for the
traitor and the oppressor, burning love for liberty and justice. But who
is he that shall so much as hint description of the classic grace, the
delicate fiery power of the speeches of Wendell Phillips to the men of
Boston? The golden bees that clustered at the lips of baby Plato, must
swarm again from old Hymettus to the cradle of the child unborn who shall
essay to tell the magic of that eloquence. Say that in an age and land
of muck-rakes it was the speech of a gentleman—say that in its tones
were heard the ancestral voices from the blocks and battle-fields of
liberty—say that it touched with heavenly ardor and lifted to nobler life
all uncorrupted hearts, and was light to the blind, and conscience to the
base, and to the caitiff whatever he could know of shame; so leave it to
worthier and more abundant praise, and to the future.

The applause which had burst forth again and again during the speech,
now swelled into a tempest of acclamation as the orator withdrew. Muriel
still kept her lit face fixed on the platform, and Emily, kindled into
ardent color, leaned back with a sigh. Wentworth, meanwhile, flushed with
delight, was splitting his gloves to ribbons with vehement applause, when
looking around, his eye fell upon Harrington, and stopping in the midst
of his furore, he stared at him, amazed. Harrington’s strong face was
white, his brow knitted, and his nostrils tensely drawn.

“What’s the matter, John?” cried Wentworth, alarmed, and raising his
voice to be heard amidst the cheering.

Muriel and Emily both looked at him suddenly, and the young man
recovering, smiled like one sick at heart, and rose. They thought him
ill, and unheeding the announcement of the next speaker, they left
their seats and went from the hall, Muriel and Harrington noticing, as
they passed up the aisle, that the seats occupied by Mr. Atkins and the
stranger were vacant.

In the vestibule, Harrington paused with Emily on his arm.

“Muriel,” he said, “I want to speak with you a moment.”

She left Wentworth instantly, and came to him, with a face of inquiry.

“Muriel,” he said, in a low, clear voice, taking her hands in his, and
looking into her eyes, “I feel a dreadful foreboding. It struck upon me
just now who that man is we saw with your uncle.”

“Who is it?” she said, quickly.

“Lafitte! I know it is he. I feel it in my soul,” he replied.

For a moment she looked at him vacantly, with parted lips and dilated
eyes.

“Hurry,” she cried, breaking from him; “hurry home. Come, Wentworth.
Oh, it’s nothing,” she said, with a vanishing smile, as she caught the
astonished eyes of the young artist. “Ask me no questions, Richard. You
shall know hereafter.”

And putting her arm in his, they went off rapidly together, followed by
Harrington and Emily.

On the way, Harrington told Emily of his conjecture, and they excitedly
discussed the matter till they arrived with the other two at the door of
the house.

“Now, Emily and Richard,” said Muriel, “you go in. John and I are going
to walk further. And, Emily,” she whispered, “tell mother I shall bring
home five people to stop all night. Remember. Come, John;” and taking his
arm, they went up Temple street together.

“Well, by Jupiter!” exclaimed the mystified Wentworth, “this is decidedly
odd! What does it mean, Emily?”

“I cannot tell you,” replied Emily, coldly. “Will you please ring?”

Wentworth, bitterly recalled to her attitude toward him by this frigid
reticence, rang the bell, and the door opening presently, they went in.

In the meantime, Muriel and Harrington went up the street together, he
vaguely thrilling with the electric energy of her manner. She was silent
for a few moments.

“John,” she said, suddenly, “I respect an intuition like this of yours,
and I think you are right. Roux is in danger. Now this man only arrived
to-day.”

“How do you know, Muriel,” he interrupted.

“Thus,” she replied. “On the way home from Mr. Parker’s, Emily and I
overtook little Julia Atkins, and she said that a gentleman from New
Orleans had come to town, to-day, and was to dine with them. I did not
ask her anything on the subject, for the conceit of the child’s manner
was not agreeable, and I changed the subject. But that was the gentleman
from New Orleans, I am confident. No doubt, Uncle Lemuel and he thought
it would be amusing to visit an Anti-Slavery Convention.”

“Yes, and the next thing a warrant will be out for Roux, and we shall
have another fugitive slave-case in Boston,” said Harrington. “But I
shall stop that by taking Roux home to my house, and sitting with him
with loaded pistols till the hunt is abandoned.”

“Bravo, John,” cried Muriel. “But that will never do. Mr. Atkins told
that man your name, I know, and you are likely to have an early visit
from him. It will not do to have Roux at your house. Roux must be hid
where they will never think of searching for him.”

“True,” he replied. “But, by the way, Muriel, where are we going now?”

“Have you just thought to ask?” she answered, gaily. “Oh, John! But we
are going to bring five people home to my house.”

“Muriel!” He started as he spoke. The tears sprung to his eyes, as
looking into her noble face, he met its proud and laughing gaze.

“We are going to Southac street, you know,” she said, “and we shall bring
home Roux and his wife, Charles, and the two children. That’s five. The
baby we don’t count,” she playfully added.

Harrington was speechless with emotion.

“In Temple street they will be safe for the present,” she continued.
“Then we can decide on the next step. I think Roux must remove to
Worcester, for whatever they may do in Boston, I believe they will never
take a fugitive from Worcester. There’s good blood yet in the heart of
the Commonwealth, the heart of which, moreover, is the heart of Wentworth
Higginson.”

Wentworth Higginson was, at that period, the gallant minister of the Free
Church at Worcester, a man with the Revolutionary soul of fire, and the
incarnate nucleus of that glorious public spirit which is still prompt to
defend a man against the kidnappers in the heart of the old Commonwealth.

“Meanwhile,” pursued Muriel, “I’ll take care of poor Roux.”

“Oh, Muriel!” said Harrington, fervently, “there is no nobleness, no
tenderness, like yours.”

In the wan moonlight he saw her color under his impassioned gaze. She
did not reply for a moment, but turning her face away, she laid her hand
upon his arm, and its almost imperceptible tremor sent a mystical, sweet
agitation through his being.

“It is nothing but a duty,” she replied, presently, in a gentle voice. “A
clear and simple duty. Life opens plainlier to me every day, and I see
that I have wealth and strength and youth, that I may succor and protect
the poor!”

No more was said, but tranced in thoughts and feelings too sacred and
deep for words, they moved in silence through the dim and solitary
streets, vaguely lit by the wan lustre of the moon. There were lights in
the houses as they passed, for it was not yet ten o’clock, but save a few
boys, white and negro, fantastically playing in some of the streets, and
half-dispirited in their nocturnal games by the strange bleakness of the
air, they hardly met a person.

Lights glimmered dimly in the windows of Southac street, but Roux’s
windows were in darkness. Some negro boys, sitting on the wooden steps
of his abode, made way for them, and ascending they entered the open
outer door, and tapped at the panels of his room. No answer. They tapped
louder. No answer still. Harrington, oddly remembering the strenuous
snoring of Tugmutton on the nights in March when Roux was sick, and he
had watched with him, put his ear to the door and listened for those
tokens of the fat boy’s slumbers. But no sound reached him.

“Pray Heaven nothing has happened,” said Muriel. “Let us try the other
door.”

Harrington turned to the opposite side of the passage, and knocked
loudly. There was an instant stir within, and presently the door opened,
and a strange little wizened colored man, not more than four feet
high, with a pair of tin-rimmed spectacles on his shrunken nose, and a
long coat reaching nearly to his heels, appeared, with a copy of the
“Commonwealth” newspaper in his left hand, and in the other a tallow
candle stuck in a bottle which he held above his head. Harrington had
seen him before, though he had forgotten his name.

“Good evening, sir. Can you tell me where Mr. Roux is this evening?”
asked Harrington.

The little man stood still for a moment, gazing past them at nothing, and
looking like some fantastic little corpse, set bolt upright.

“Good evening, Mr. Harrington. Good evening, Mrs. Harrington,” he said,
at length, in a voice like the squeak of a mouse. Then he paused. Muriel
smiled faintly at the oddity of being called Mrs. Harrington, and though
the wizened creature was not looking at her, he seemed to see the smile,
for he smiled also in a slow, fantastic, frozen way.

“Willum Roux’s been took off,” he at length squeaked in a deliberate tone.

Harrington and Muriel started violently, and holding each other, looked
at the speaker.

“Took off!” gasped Harrington. “What do you mean?”

The little man made another long pause, then squeaked like an
incantation, “Ophelee!”

A large fat mulatto woman with a red kerchief tied round her head, came
from within, rubbing her eyes. Ophelia had evidently been asleep, but
she nodded her head, bright and wide awake, when she saw the visitors.

“What has become of Roux?” said Harrington, looking at her with his pale,
startled face.

“Oh, they’s all been took off to Cambridge,” she replied quickly,
towering in good-natured bulk above her elvish husband, who stood like
one magnetized. “Clarindy Roux’s married sister lives thar, Mr. Har’nton,
an’ her old man come in with his wagon and took’m all out thar this
afternoon. They’s to be fotched back to-morrow at dinner-time, so Tug
says.”

“Thank you,” said Harrington. “Good evening;” and “good evening,” said
Muriel; both too much agitated with the sudden relief that swept over
them, to say another word.

“Laws bless you; good evening,” said Ophelia; and “good evening, Mr.
Harrington—good evening, Mrs. Harrington,” squeaked the strange little
creature, still standing in the same attitude, as Muriel and Harrington
departed.

“Well,” said Muriel, with a deep-drawn breath, and then a laugh, as they
gained the street; “that was as good a fright as I ever got in my life.”

“A fright, indeed,” he returned. “I felt as if I should swoon!”

They walked on in silence for a few moments.

“What a singular little kobold that is,” she said, as they went into the
street.

“Very,” replied Harrington. “He’s a tailor, and a great Free-Soiler, as
you may imagine by the newspaper he had. Now, Muriel, it seems the Rouxs
are fortunately away for the night. So they’re safe for the present.”

“Yes,” she returned, gaily; “and my word is forfeit, for where are my
five captives! _N’importe._ I’ll have them to-morrow.”

“To-morrow, at noon, we’ll come here together,” said Harrington.

“Agreed,” she replied. “Punctually, at one o’clock, we’ll be here; and,
like two fairy princes, carry off the Ogre’s victim.”

They fell from this into a strain of talk, half-gay, half-serious; and,
satisfied that affairs were in a good state at present, returned rapidly
to the house.



CHAPTER XV.

WAR AND PEACE.


After the incidents of the evening, it was not a little discomposing to
behold, as they did, upon entering the parlor, Mrs. Atkins, Miss Atkins
and Julia, together with Fernando Witherlee. The Atkins family had been
there for a couple of hours, making a family call. Muriel was a favorite
with them, as with everybody, and they saluted her affectionately; she
responding with her usual affability. Harrington, too, was politely
favored; though Mrs. Atkins (who had been a poor country girl once) and
her daughters, also, had their misgivings as to his being of sufficient
respectability to deserve the civilities due only to Good Society. But,
despite this consideration, no woman could resist the sweet manhood of
young Harrington; and so he received from these ladies as much politeness
as though he moved, with mutton-chop whiskers and modish clothes, in
fashionable circles—which was unfair.

While Muriel was privately explaining matters to her mother, Harrington
joined in the conversation, in which all participated, save Wentworth,
who was unusually quiet, and sat a little apart, with a cold and reserved
air, the result of his feelings for Emily. The conversation, which had
been on topics more or less commonplace, and had hovered frequently
about, and several times fairly settled on, the charms and graces of Mr.
Lafitte, dipped again to that enrapturing theme, by the will of Mrs.
Atkins. Miss Atkins, by the way, though still a devotee of the chivalrous
son of the sunny South, had suffered some slight abatement of her
rapture; having learned, by chance, that Mr. Lafitte was already married.

“Oh, Mr. Harrington,” continued Mrs. Atkins, after much eulogium of the
Southern gentleman who had done us the honor of dining with us to-day,
“if you could only meet Mr. Lafitte, you would have such different ideas
of the Southern gentlemen.”

“Indeed, madam,” replied Harrington, courteously, “I should be sorry
to have my ideas of Southern gentlemen changed, for I credit them with
many fine and high qualities. Don’t think that I imagine Northerners and
Southerners in the absolute colors of good and evil—black and white; all
the white on our side, and all the black on theirs.”

“Oh, no, of course not,” responded Mrs. Atkins in her fal-lal manner;
“but I thought you were so anti-slavery, Mr. Harrington.”

“I certainly am anti-slavery, madam,” good-naturedly said Harrington,
“and if I were living in Hancock’s time, I should be on the same
principles anti-George the Third. But I hope I should not any the less
pay due regard to the Tory gentlemen of that era. As far as their Toryism
went, I should of course be their foe, and in like manner I am hostile to
the gentlemen of this day who are tyrants.”

“But, Mr. Harrington,” said Julia, pertly, “you don’t like Mr. Webster,
and I know you don’t, do you? Now do tell me, Mr. Harrington, why you
don’t like Mr. Webster.”

Witherlee smiled furtively at Miss Julia’s immature gabble, and lifted
his eyebrows in a faint sneer.

“Because, Miss Julia,” replied Harrington simply, with a gentle
impressiveness of voice and manner which brought a new sensation to the
poor child’s mind, and made her color, “because Mr. Webster helped to
pass a law which has made a great many poor people very unhappy. You
yourself wouldn’t like a man who made innocent people suffer, would you?”

“Oh, no, of course not,” stammered Julia, while Witherlee smiled
maliciously, enjoying her confusion.

“Dear me! but they’re only negroes, Mr. Harrington,” feebly remarked Mrs.
Atkins, in a deprecating tone.

“But, Mrs. Atkins, negroes have feelings,” said Emily.

“Oh, well, dear,” responded Mrs. Atkins, “but their feelings are not the
same as ours, you know. That is, they haven’t fine feelings.”

“You remember the case that was lately reported in the newspapers, Mrs.
Atkins,” said Harrington. “The rumor came that the kidnappers were in
town with a warrant for a colored man, and his wife fell down dead with
alarm when she heard it. I think you must allow that poor woman had
feelings, and it is hard to deny that Mr. Webster was responsible for her
murder. I saw those poor colored people in Southac street to-day, in wild
distress and alarm at the report that a slave-hunter was in town, and no
one who sees such things, and realizes them, can like Mr. Webster.”

“O Mr. Harrington, indeed I can’t agree with you,” returned Mrs. Atkins
with feeble excitement. “These things are unpleasant, I admit, but
Mr. Webster is a great statesman, you know—oh, there never was such a
statesman as Mr. Webster! He’s perfectly splendid, and I’m sure if he was
to have all the negroes in the country killed—the horrid creatures!—I’m
sure I would like him just as much as ever. Indeed I would, and so would
Mr. Atkins. O if you’d only heard Mr. Webster at Faneuil Hall last
Saturday, I know you’d have been converted. He didn’t say a word about
politics, and he was so majestic, and so venerable and so—so pleasant—oh,
it was beautiful!”

And Mrs. Atkins fanned herself in a feeble fluster of admiration for Mr.
Webster, whose speech, by the way, had been very decrepit, rambling, and
dull, with only a touch here and there of the true Websterian massive
power and energy.

“Well, Mrs. Atkins,” said Witherlee in his cool, polite, provoking way,
“for my part, I don’t understand how you can admire Mr. Webster’s private
life, I’m sure.”

This change in the venue, as the lawyers say, and this impudent
assumption that Mrs. Atkins had been admiring Mr. Webster’s private life,
were both highly characteristic of the good Fernando. His remark was
not prompted by even the pale esthetic anti-slavery, which he sometimes
indulged in, but by the simple desire to say something which he knew
would aggravate the lady. And Mrs. Atkins was aggravated, for she colored
and fanned herself nervously.

“I don’t know what you refer to, Mr. Witherlee,” she remarked, pettishly.

“Why, you know what Mr. Webster’s habits are, Mrs. Atkins,” said
Fernando, lifting his eyebrows with an air of painful regret, in which
there was also a bilious sneer. “You are aware of his excessive fondness
for old Otard. And then his relations to women”—

“I don’t care,” interrupted Mrs. Atkins, bridling with faint excitement.
“I don’t care at all, and I think that God gave Mr. Webster some faults
to remind us that he is mortal.”

This was smart for Mrs. Atkins, and Witherlee, somewhat nonplused, turned
pale with spite, and lifted his eyebrows, and shrugged his shoulders
with a manner that was equivalent to saying—Oh, if you talk in that way,
Mrs. Atkins, there’s no use in wasting words upon you. His manner would
have been ineffably maddening to most men, but women are less easily
transported beyond control, and Mrs. Atkins, conscious that she had the
advantage of Mr. Witherlee in her reply, fanned herself equably and took
no notice of his insulting gesture.

“For my part,” said Harrington, gravely offended by Witherlee’s remarks,
“I deprecate any reflections upon Mr. Webster’s private life. It seems to
me that our concern is with his public acts, and not with his personal
habits.”

“Oh, you’re a gentleman, Mr. Harrington,” said Mrs. Atkins, in a tone
that implied that Mr. Witherlee was not.

Witherlee looked at Mrs. Atkins with parted lips, and still, opaque eyes,
white with spleen, but perfectly cool.

“Now, fellow-citizens, what’s the row?” blithely said Muriel, approaching
the circle with her mother.

“Oh, cousin Muriel!” exclaimed Julia, “how can you talk in that way. It’s
so low!”

“So it is, dear,” archly replied Muriel, “shockingly low, and you must be
warned by my example.”

Julia looked a little foolish, and smiled.

“We were discussing, Mr. Webster,” said Fernando, tranquilly.

“Oh, Mr. Webster,” said Muriel; “I used to admire him very much when I
was a girl.”

“It’s a pity you don’t now, Muriel,” said Mrs. Atkins, “for he deserves
to be admired, I’m sure.”

“Yes, aunt, but I never recovered from a shock he gave me in my ‘sallet
days, when I was green in judgment,’” replied Muriel.

“A shock? Dear me! I can’t imagine Mr. Webster shocking anybody,” drawled
Caroline, with weak surprise.

“Nevertheless,” said Muriel, “Mr. Webster shocked me, like a torpedo
fish, and I’ll tell you how. There was a grand party, at which he was
present. Mother and I were there, and I, who was a girl of fourteen, had
no eyes for anybody but Mr. Webster. My great desire was to hear him
say something, for I thought anything he said would be remarkable, and
worth putting in an album, so I followed him whenever he went through the
crowded drawing-rooms, with my ears wide open, eagerly listening for the
golden sentence. But Mr. Webster was in a very silent humor, and wandered
about without speaking to anybody. By and by he went up-stairs to the
supper room, and I followed him, in reverent admiration and expectancy.
He approached the supper-table, bowed solemnly to some ladies near by,
took a fork, and began to eat from a dish of pickled oysters. After he
had eaten three or four, he paused, with an oyster on his fork, turned
his great head slowly and majestically to the ladies, and opened his
lips. The golden sentence was coming, and I listened breathlessly. Now
what do you think he said?”

“Well, what?” inquired Harrington, after a hushed pause.

“Said he, in his deep, grum, orotund, bass voice, like the low rolling of
distant summer thunder, ‘What nice little oysters these are!’”

Every one burst into hearty laughter, as Muriel mimicked the tones of the
Websterian ejaculation.

“That was my reward for so long waiting,” she continued, when the
laughter had subsided. “That was my golden sentence, which, of course,
never went from the tablets of memory to the album. It was an immense
shock to know that great statesmen said such things as common people
say.”

“And you heard nothing else?” said Wentworth, vastly amused at the
anecdote.

“Not another word. He devoured the oyster, and wandered down-stairs
again, leaving with me the ponderous sprat which the flavor of the
mollusc had conjured from the ocean depths of his mighty mind.”

They began to laugh again, when a ring at the door-bell was heard.

“That’s papa!” cried Julia.

Papa it was—come for his family. He came in presently, robust and
decisive, purseproud, as usual, and smiling, made his salutations with a
certain rude courtesy, and took a chair.

“Well, young ladies,” he burst out presently, “so you went to hear
Phillips harangue this evening.”

“Yes, uncle,” returned Muriel, sportively, “we had you to keep us in
countenance you know.”

“Indeed! Well, I’m sorry if my example incited you. Lafitte, our Southern
visitor, thought it would be amusing to hear some of the fanatical
blather, and so I took him along, and, just by chance, he got a dose of
Phillips.”

“I hope the dose did him good, Lemuel, and you also,” said Mrs. Eastman,
with some spirit.

“Oh, I don’t deny Phillips’s power, Serena,” replied the merchant,
carelessly. “It’s all very fine, and if he were in the Whig party, he’d
be a man of mark. It’s a pity, as I always say, to see such wonderful
ability wasted.”

“How did Mr. Lafitte enjoy it, sir?” asked Emily, blandly.

“Oh, he—well, I was rather amused at the way he took it,” responded Mr.
Atkins, laughing. “It quite upset him, and in his hot, Southern way, he
said Phillips ought to be shot. In fact, I thought Lafitte was rather
thin-skinned about it, though, to be sure, Phillips’s words are enough to
try a saint. Anyhow, Lafitte felt ’em rankle.”

“He must certainly, to have had so murderous a spirit aroused in him,”
remarked Mrs. Eastman.

“Murderous? Upon my word, Serena,” replied the merchant, bluffly, “I
think his spirit was not unworthy of a man of high tone, and I shouldn’t
blame him at all if he had pistolled your orator on the spot.”

“Like the assassin who bludgeoned Otis in Revolutionary times,” remarked
Witherlee, blandly aggravating.

“Oh, you young men are all tainted with fanaticism,” returned Mr. Atkins,
reddening. “When you’re older you’ll know better. I’m always sorry to
see young men of talent, like Mr. Harrington here, misled by Phillips’s
eloquent abstractions. But live and learn, live and learn.”

“I hope, Mr. Atkins, I shall not live to learn distrust in the
statesmanship that reprobates slavery,” said Harrington, urbanely.

“Statesmanship!” contemptuously exclaimed the merchant. “Do you call
such incendiary measures as Phillips and Parker advise, statesmanship?
Sedition and treason! I declare, Mr. Harrington—and I say this coolly,
in sober earnest—that if any one were to shoot down Phillips and Parker
in the street, and I were summoned as a Grand Juror to pass upon the
act, I would refuse to indict him on the ground that it was justifiable
homicide. Yes, sir, justifiable homicide. I have said it a hundred times,
and I now say it again. What do you think of that, Mr. Harrington?”

Harrington met the insulting exultation of the merchant’s gaze, with a
look quiet and firm.

“Since you ask me what I think of it, Mr. Atkins,” he replied,
tranquilly, “you must permit me to say that I think it atrocious.”

“And so do I,” said Mrs. Eastman, crimson with indignation. “And you
ought to blush, Lemuel, to say that you would give legality to a
ferocious murder.”

“Ought I?” replied the merchant, coolly. “Well, I don’t, Serena. In such
a case, killing’s no murder. Murder, indeed! Ha! men like those to dare
to wage war on the institutions of their country!”

“What institutions do they wage war upon, Mr. Atkins?” asked Wentworth,
civilly.

“Well, sir, slavery for one,” excitedly returned the merchant. “An
institution expressly sanctioned by the Constitution, and on the
protection of which the safety of this Union depends, Mr. Wentworth.
An institution, sir, which no statesman would think of assailing for a
moment. Where can you point to one statesman, worthy of the name, from
Webster back to Burke, or as far back as you like to go, that has ever
assailed a great politico-economical institution like slavery? You’re a
scholar, I’m told, Mr. Harrington; now just answer me that question.”

“Mr. Atkins, I am surprised beyond measure that you should ask me such
a question,” calmly replied Harrington. “The real difficulty would be
to name any statesman of the first eminence that has ever defended
slavery. You mention Burke and Webster. Why, sir, the whole record of
Mr. Webster’s life up to 1850, is against slavery. It is only eight
years ago since he stood up in Faneuil Hall, and said—I quote his very
words, for I have been lately reading them—‘What,’ said he, ‘when all
the civilized world is opposed to slavery; when morality denounces it;
when Christianity denounces it; when everything respected, everything
good, bears one united witness against it, is it for America—America, the
land of Washington, the model republic of the world—is it for America to
come to its assistance, and to insist that the maintenance of slavery is
necessary to the support of her institutions!’ Those are Daniel Webster’s
very words, sir, and yet you ask when he ever assailed slavery!”

“Good! good!” cried Mrs. Eastman, amidst a general murmur of satisfaction
from all but the Atkinses. Mr. Atkins sat dumb, wincing under the
crushing blow of the quotation. Their new-born zeal for slavery and
kidnapping gave the Boston merchants of that period terribly short
memories.

“Faneuil Hall, crowded with Whig merchants, answered those words with
six-and-twenty cheers. Have you forgotten them, Mr. Atkins?” said
Harrington. “Now the cheers are all for slavery. Now, in defiance of your
own statesman’s declaration, you assert slavery to be necessary to the
maintenance of your Union. And now, because Phillips and Parker wage war
upon slavery, as Webster did then, you would justify their murder.”

Still dumb, with his strong lip nervously twitching, the merchant sat,
whelmed in utter confusion.

“You mentioned Burke, Mr. Atkins,” continued Harrington, “and since you
have mentioned him, let me ask if you have forgotten his speech to the
electors of Bristol? Listen to the words of the greatest statesman since
Bacon—for they, too, are fresh in my memory. ‘I have no idea,’ said
Edmund Burke—‘I have no idea of a liberty unconnected with honesty and
justice. Nor do I believe that any good constitutions of government or of
freedom can find it necessary for their security to doom any part of the
people to a permanent slavery. Such a constitution of freedom, if such
can be, is in effect no more than another name for the tyranny of the
strongest faction.’ Those are the words of Burke, sir. If you doubt, Mrs.
Eastman will get the volume from the library, and you shall read them for
yourself.”

“No consequence, Mr. Harrington, no consequence,” returned the merchant,
abruptly rising. “We will not discuss the matter further, sir. Come, Mrs.
Atkins, it is time for us to go home.”

“O dear me,” drawled Mrs. Atkins, leaving her seat, “you gentlemen are so
fond of these horrid politics. Come, children, come.”

They all rose, with a flutter and rustle of movement. Presently, while
the Atkins ladies, cloaked and bonneted, were moving toward the door,
Harrington approached Mr. Atkins, who had gone into the entry for his hat
and returned, and now stood, cold, harsh and moody, apart from the rest
of the company.

“I trust, Mr. Atkins,” said the young man, with grave courtesy, “that you
are not offended by my plain speaking on these matters, or at least that
you will not understand me to intend any disrespect to you personally.”

The merchant glared at him with a sullen and insolent smile.

“Mr. Harrington,” he hissed hoarsely, bending his face close to the young
man’s, “such sentiments as yours find favor with my sister and niece. It
is politic in you to adopt them, and so curry favor with the one that you
may mend your poverty by a rich marriage with the other.”

And with these brutal words, the merchant threw back his head, glaring
at the young man with open mouth, and a frightful smile on his blanched
visage, which was at that moment the visage of a demon. Harrington met
that glare with a look of such majestic severity, such a stern glory of
anger lighting his calm eyes and brow, that the merchant’s face fell,
and he slunk a pace away. The company had left the parlor, and were
talking in the hall, as Mr. Atkins had made his reply, but Mrs. Eastman,
who was standing nearest the parlor door, had heard it all, and before
Harrington could make any rejoinder, if any he intended, she came quickly
in, shutting the door behind her, her silver tresses trembling and her
beautiful face flushed with haughty and indignant emotion.

“Permit me to tell you, Lemuel Atkins,” said she, confronting her
brother, and speaking in a proud and steady voice, “that the sentiments
which you have not the wit to controvert, nor the manhood to entertain,
were held by Mr. Harrington before we had the honor of his friendship,
and let me further say to you that while the choice of my daughter’s
heart, be he rich or poor, shall be my choice also, I should esteem it
the best hour of my life which gave me assurance that she would wed a
man worthier of her than any man I know, and dear to me as my own son!
Take that home with you, sir, and do us the honor to believe that in this
house we value gentlemen for what they are, and not for what they own.”

He shrank from the serene and haughty magnetism of her manner, and
cowering under her rebuke, slunk away to the door without a word, and
went into the hall. Harrington stood like one thunder-struck, the slow
thrill her words gave him running through his veins, while she swept
across the room to close the door the merchant had left ajar, and turning
again, came quickly toward him, her beautiful face pale and wet with
calmly-flowing tears.

“Tell me, John,” she said, seizing his hands, and speaking in low, rapid
tones, tremulous with emotion—“this pitiful insult moved me to anger, and
in my anger I have spoken the true thought of my heart—tell me that so
dear a hope is not so vain. Oh, confide in me as in your own mother, for
no mother could love you more tenderly than I do.”

In the spiritual passion of the moment, all cold prudence, all reticence,
melted, and fell away. He clasped her in his arms, and with sweet and
sorrowful emotion, kissed her fair brow and silver hair.

“I love her, my mother,” he murmured, sadly smiling—“I love her, but the
love I once thought mine, is not for me.”

“You love her—you love Muriel, and she does not love you! I do not
believe it—I cannot. John, at my age women are not easily deceived—they
do not mistake the tokens of love. Take care that you are sure of what
you say”—

“I am sure, mother, I am sure,” he interrupted, in a low voice. “Her
accepted lover told me of his happiness to-day. Do not ask me his name.
They themselves will tell you. Hush!”

The hall-door was heard closing, and the voices talking gaily in the
hall. She looked at him wonderingly for an instant, then quickly pressed
her lips to his drooping forehead, and glided from his arms to the
back-door of the parlor, out of which she passed up to her chamber, as
the others came in.

Witherlee had departed as the escort of Miss Julia, his natural impudence
perfectly ignoring the rebuff he had received from her mother.

“Where’s Mrs. Eastman?” said Emily.

“She went out as you came in,” replied Harrington.

“John,” said Muriel, coming up to him, and playfully shaking her finger.
“You quite discomfited poor Uncle Lemuel, and he went off as cross as a
bear.”

“What a memory Harrington has!” laughed Wentworth. “To think that he
gave him Burke and Webster plump! That was a double-barrelled shot, by
Jupiter!”

“Oh, it was capital,” chimed in Emily.

“Faith,” said Harrington, “it was simply lucky. I happened to have been
reading the speeches lately, and so had the passages by heart. But I
wonder at Mr. Atkins making such an absurd assertion.”

“Oh, he remembers nothing previous to 1850,” said Muriel. “These people
are perfectly wild with their Webster and Fugitive Slave Law mania,
and they repeat certain phrases until their organs of intelligence are
ossified, as Goethe says. Come, Emily, let us have some music.”

“Yes, do, Emily,” said Wentworth, half absently, and forgetting for a
moment, as was frequent with him, the state of affairs between him and
Miss Ames.

Emily looked at him with cool serenity, as if she thought his request
impertinent. Wentworth, recalled to himself, was maddened by the look and
all it brought him, and turning to conceal his anger, wandered away to
the piano, humming an air.

“Come, Emily, we must go home, for it’s getting late,” said Harrington;
“so sing us that sweet song of Körner’s—the ‘Good Night’ song—to sooth us
to dreams.”

Emily smiled with superb languor, and half-reluctant, for she was not in
a songful mood, swept over to the piano, looking steadily as she advanced
at Wentworth, who was leaning carelessly against the instrument, and
regarding her with stern eyes.

“I believe,” said she, listlessly, as she sunk upon the music-stool, and
with a parting glance of cold hauteur dropped her eyes from the steady
gaze of Wentworth, “I believe that the piano is out of tune.”

“Do you know why, Miss Ames?” asked Wentworth suddenly, in a voice at
once so quiet and so marked that both Muriel and Harrington looked at him.

“Because,” he said with bitter and terrible significance, a scowl
darkening his features—“because it has been played upon!”

Muriel and Harrington started with a low exclamation, and glanced first
at Wentworth, and then at Emily, with mute amazement. A smile arose on
Wentworth’s face, and mingled with his scowl, as he slowly walked away.
Emily rose from her seat, and gazed after him, her form dilated to its
full height, her bosom heaving, and her face and neck suffused with an
indignant scarlet glow. Turning, Wentworth looked haughtily at her for
a moment, and then, utterly reckless, with heart and brain on fire,
laughed a bitter and scornful laugh, and moved toward the parlor door.
Emily’s lip quivered, her color faded to pallor, and bursting into a
passionate flood of tears, she covered her face with her hands, and swept
by the other door from the room.

Muriel and Harrington had stood transfixed with astonishment up to this
moment, but as they saw both Emily and Wentworth leave the parlor, they
recovered with a start.

“Stay, Wentworth,” cried Harrington, rushing to the door, and “Emily,
Emily,” cried Muriel, flying after her friend.

But Harrington reached the hall, just as the front door slammed at the
heels of Wentworth, and tearing it open, he beheld him running up the
street like a madman, while Muriel, bounding up-stairs after Emily, saw
her vanish into her chamber, and heard the lock of her door click behind
her.

Both returned to the parlor at the same moment, and advancing toward
each other, pale, agitated, and almost petrified with wonder at the
lightning-like suddenness and inexplicable character of this incident,
gazed into each other’s faces. The affair was like a flash on a dark
landscape, giving a vague glimpse of some mysterious form there, and
vanishing before its nature was revealed.

“Good Heavens, John! what does this mean?” exclaimed Muriel, breaking the
lonely stillness of the lighted parlor.

“I do not know,” he murmured, vacantly gazing at her. “Is Richard mad?”

She put her hands to her bosom to repress its throbbings, and sank into a
large chair near her. Both were silent for some minutes, each trying to
think, with a whirling brain, what this could possibly mean.

“What a singular day this has been!” murmured Harrington at length, as
behind this last incident the tableau of its many-passioned hours rose in
his mind.

“Singular, indeed!” replied Muriel, in a low voice, “and how singularly
and sadly it ends!”

“Not so,” he replied with sweet gravity. “Let it end in our good night,
which is always happy with affection and peace. We will dismiss this
scene, Muriel. To-morrow we can think more clearly, and we will know its
meaning. Meanwhile, good night.”

She rose from her seat, and they came toward each other with outstretched
hands. It was strange, but for the first time in all their long
acquaintance, their hands passed each other, his arms encircled her, and
hers rested on his, with her hands upon his shoulders. A trance seemed to
glide upon them. The lighted room was very still; the sad wind sighed in
the hush around the dwelling; and gazing into each other’s faces, with a
vague thrill remotely stirring in the peace of their spirits, they stood
motionless, as in a dream.

Thus for a little while, which seemed long, lasted their communion.
Earthly cares and hopes forgotten, earthly strifes removed and dim, and
the sorrow of their hopeless love so chastened and sanctified in the
nobleness of mutual sacrifice that it knew no touch of pain.

A long, mysterious sigh of the night-wind breathed around the dwelling,
and stole into the peace of their minds. Harrington smiled, and his heart
rose in benediction as he silently laid his hands upon the fair and
sacred head of his beloved.

“The night deepens on, Muriel, and we must part,” he gently murmured.

“Yes, we must part,” she answered, in a low tone, “and our parting
to-night seems like a type of the greater parting.”

“To me the same,” he murmured, in a rapt voice. “Never before has it
seemed so like parting forever. I might feel thus when passing through
the dusks of death, with the dream of all earth’s sweet and vanished
hours fading in visions of the life to come.”

There was a long pause, in which the cadence of his words seemed to
linger like the ghost of music on the air.

“But we shall meet there,” she said. “We who have passed so many holy
and poetic hours here—we shall meet there. The earthly ‘good-night’ is
but the prelude to ‘good-morning.’ So shall the last farewell of earth
prelude the heavenly greeting.”

“Yes, we shall meet there,” he murmured. “Have we not met there
already—friends, true and loving, dwellers in Heaven’s happy star!
Who shall gainsay the alchemist who wrote that ‘Heaven hath in it this
scene of earth.’ The true life is there, and our existence here is but
a fleeting hour of absence from our heavenly home. Yes, we shall meet
there, reclothed with the divine memory, and keeping the memory of all we
wrought and were on earth, that earth might fulfill the large purposes of
God—meet there, old friends, true and loving, changed, and yet the same.”

Again there was a pause of trancing silence, filled with the floating
ghost of visionary music, keeping the sweet tradition of his words, and
telling to the soul what music tells. Again around the lonely dwelling
swelled the wind’s mysterious eolian sigh, rising in inarticulate wild
prophecies, and wailing sombrely away.

“Good night, good night,” he softly murmured, with a movement of
departure.

“Good night,” she answered, in a low and fervent voice, “friend, true and
loving, good night.”

A sense of heavenly tenderness rose trembling in their souls, and with
meeting lips they were clasped in each other’s arms. Oh, solemn ecstasy
of prayer and peace! Oh, mystic passion of a veiled true love!

Was it a dream? She was alone. Standing in the solitary room, her brow
bent upon her hand, the dim sweetness of the vision in her mind, she
floated away in vague, delicious reverie. Soft light fled pulsing through
her spirit; a sacred and passionless perfume floated in her brain; a
celestial tenderness tranced her soul. He loved another; his love for her
was the love of friend for friend—no more; but she was happier, holier,
nobler to have inspired such love, and stronger than ever to resign him
now, and to live her life alone. So thinking, like one lost in a blissful
dream, she glided away to her pillow.

Was it a dream? How strangely sweet and vague! He was wandering
noiselessly down the shadowy street in the wan moonlight, with the cold
air blowing on his cheek, as void of coldness as though he had been
a phantom, and not a man. When had he left her—how? but his thoughts
recalled only the peaceful passion of that moment, and between the
lighted room and the moonlit street, there was a blank chasm. Dear
moment, never to come again, dear magic flower that bloomed in the sad
garden of his love, never to be renewed, yet sweetening life and life’s
submissive sacrifice forever. Dear friend, true friend and sweet, whose
clasp, whose sacred kiss—the first, the last—gave tokens of no earthly
love, but rich memorials and previsions of the love that makes the hills
of heaven more fair! So ran the voiceless music of his thought, while
memory kept the phantom form of the beloved one in visioned light and
odor. To-morrow he would meet her, and the day after, and on for many a
day through months and years to come, but never again on the height of
the ideal and intimate communion where their spirits had met and said
farewell. Years hence, and she a happy wife and mother, how softly this
hour would glide from the innermost holiest cloister of memory, and lend
a more pensive and tender grace to her beauty, and shed a finer and
more ethereal essence on her happiness! Consecrating her forever, its
consecration would rest on his own life, pledging him more firmly to
lofty and generous effort, and sanctifying all low toils and struggles as
with the presence of an angel.

Softly, and without noise, he entered his dark and silent house. A
moment, and he had lit his shaded lamp, and conscious of the sleepless
vigil in his mind, he opened the volume which held for him the rich lore
of Verulam, his unfailing pleasure, and the comfort of his saddest hours,
and sat down to read the night away. Within all was still. Without, the
wind swept drearily through the wan and shadowy street around the silent
dwelling, the lilac odors had died, and the pale moonlight shone with the
blue glimmer of swords.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE GLIMPSES OF THE MOON.


The gibbous moon hung midway down the zenith over the vast and sleeping
city, a lob of spectral light in the cold, blue heavens, over a fantastic
brood of dreams. Daniel Webster’s liegemen and victims slept, and Black
Dan himself, liegeman and victim to a darker power than he, slept also;
but the liegemen and victims of Dan Cupid had a more uncertain chance of
slumber, and four among them at least had wakeful eyes that night as the
moon was going down.

As the moon was going down, its pale gleam fell upon the pallid face
and disordered form of Wentworth. He had risen from his bed, and was
sitting, half dressed, at his open chamber window, in an upper story of
his father’s house on Tremont street, and brooding mournfully on the
misshapen planet, which hung like a huge, bulging drop of watery lustre
above the roofs beyond the Common trees. His bed, all tossed and tumbled,
glimmered in white confusion behind him, and faint rays of moonlight
touched the lines of the gilt frames upon the walls, the books upon their
shelves, the ghostly busts and statuettes around the chamber, and the
dark, goblin shapes of the disarranged furniture. Within the chamber all
was dusk disorder, and a dusk disorder was within the clouded mind and
aching heart of its tenant.

Passion had spent its fury; the frenzy and the fever of his heart were
allayed; and something like the wan tranquillity of the night had
succeeded. It was all over; the play was played; she had lured him on to
love her; she had trampled on his love; he had repaid her with one bitter
burst of scorn; he had struck her heartless pride with insult into tears;
it was done; he would never see her more.

It was done, but was it well done? The calm, rebuking image of Harrington
rose in his mind. Him, too, she was deceiving, or seeking to deceive—but
he—would he have answered her so? Oh, idiot that I am, he thought; he
would have shamed her even in her triumph by his silence, his compassion,
his forgiveness, and made her feel how poor a thing she was; while I have
shown her that my wound burns and rankles that she may exult over it, and
given her the advantage by an insult which will only bring her sympathy
and me shame!

Convulsed for a moment by the turbulent rush of fury that whirled through
him, he suddenly controlled himself with a strong effort, and leaning his
burning head upon his hands, thought on. How would her wiles prosper on
Harrington? Ha! it was joy to think that she would be baffled there! She
does not know that he loves Muriel; she will not know it; she will spin
her seductive web; she will try every charm, and fail, and fail—and know
not why she fails! For he loves Muriel—yes, he loves Muriel. But that
thought brought another to the mind of Wentworth. In vivid contrast with
his own mean and little jealousy of his friend when he thought him his
rival for the love of Emily, came Harrington’s selfless generosity to
him whom he thought his rival for the love of Muriel. This, too, had led
Harrington to attach himself in all their walks and meetings to Emily—he
had stood aside, he had waived his claim to the contest for Muriel’s
love, he had left the field clear and open, with every advantage to him.
Brought to the full consciousness of this lofty magnanimity, alive now
to his own selfish selfness, hot tears, wrung from him in the agony of
his self-abasement, welled from his eyes. But this could be atoned for.
To-morrow, yes, to-morrow, he would see Harrington—he would tell him
all—he would confess his fault, and ask for pardon. This wrong could be
undone—so easily; a little sacrifice of pride—that was all; but Emily—her
wrong to him could never be undone—never, oh, never! A ruined heart, a
ruined life, love scorned, self-respect crushed; oh, Emily, Emily, his
wild thought wailed, loved, idolized, adored still, despite your cruel
baseness, your heartless wrong, your life-long injury to me, how can I
forget you, how can I forgive you, how can I blot out your image from my
life, how be again as in the days of youth and love and hope now gone
forever and forever!

Weak, shaken, convulsed with passionate despair, he bowed his head upon
his nerveless arms, weeping bitterly in silence, as the moon was going
down.

As the moon was going down, its pale light shone into the haunted shadow
of a chamber, and on the lovely pallid face and sumptuous form of Emily,
dimly projected in the perfumed dusk against the velvet of a cushioned
chair, in which she lay reclining like a young empress doomed to die upon
the morrow morn. Her eyes were closed; her head rested back almost in
profile upon the velvet; and the pale and sculptural features, relieved
by the unbound blackness of her hair, were like a dream of death. The
white night-robe had fallen away, and clearly outlined against the
glorious length of ebon tresses which sloped in thick profusion down
behind her, bloomed the polished ivory of one peerless shoulder, melting
within the crumpled tissue of the loose sleeve which covered her drooping
arm. Still, but for the slow heaving of her bosom, she lay in pallid
loveliness—a maiden queen of passional love, love-lorn, discrowned,
abandoned and brought low.

She had been warned of this—too late, too late for her own peace—and the
warning had come true. How delicately, how gently, yet how clearly, had
Witherlee warned her to beware of Wentworth’s insidious honey tongue.
Kind friend, wise friend, whom they think treacherous and subtle, you
were loyal and true to me. But your warning came too late, for I had
already given my heart, my life, my peace to him. Had you but spoken
earlier, had you but warned me in time—but now, too late, too late, cast
off, betrayed, undone! a handsome gallant’s sport, his theme for mockery
and insult—come Death, best other friend, best friend of all to me, best
friend and only friend to me! take me from life to God, for all that made
existence sweet is ended!

So ran the silent passion of her thought, with silent-flowing tears. The
solemn night was still around her vigil, and the hush of the chamber was
like the hush of the tomb. They sleep, she thought, they sleep in peace,
while I watch here uncomforted. She sleeps, my noble-hearted Muriel—she
who, misled by my proud, spleenful folly, thinks I have given my heart
to Harrington. And he! oh, how can he forgive me when I tell him—but he
will—that noble nature cannot scorn me; he will understand and pity and
pardon. Let me only tell him frankly—let me atone for all my wrong by
humbling myself before him; let me crave his compassion and forgiveness,
and so be fitter to go from earth to my Savior’s rest. To-morrow I will
depart from hence, and before I go I will see Harrington and Muriel, and
make my peace with them. I who was jealous of her, even her, my sweet,
deep-hearted Muriel; I will own it, I will ask her forgiveness. Punished,
justly punished, for my wrong to them both, let me be forgiven by them,
and then let me go away to die.

So ran the deep contrition of her thought, with mournful-running tears.
Sorrowfully weeping, she turned her beautiful and haggard face to the
table near her, and took from thence a single faded rose. It had been
large and fresh in full-blown crimson beauty, when he had given it
to her, a little week ago. Pledge of a love then in its seeming hour
of radiant victory, it was the withered token of a love all dead and
disenchanted now. Weeping, she pressed it to her lips; she kissed it
with gentle and passionate kisses. The sweet, dry odor of the soft
petals stole to her brain, with the mournful memory of the vanished and
delicious hour when the rose bloomed fresh in the lover’s giving hand,
and his tender and gallant face was the rose of all the world to her.
Dear rose, she murmured, memorial of hours when life was ecstasy, and
heaven itself seemed cold and far—you are all that is left me now! I will
keep you, I will love you, while life lasts, and when I die, they shall
put you in my bosom, under the shroud, and lay us together in the grave.
Gift of him I loved—of him I love forever—oh, Richard, Richard, you have
wronged me, but I do not scorn you—you have killed me, but I do not hate
you; I love you now; I love you, I forgive you, I bless you—with my last
breath I shall forgive, and love and bless you!

Murmuring the words, in an ecstasy of passionate fervor, her voice
trembling, and the tears streaming from her eyes, she pressed the flower
with both hands to her lips, and swooning slowly back upon the cushions,
she lay motionless, a shape of glorious pallid beauty, sculptured upon
the odorous dusk, as the moon was going down.

As the moon was going down, its pale ray streaming aslant the drooping
misty veils that fell in parted festoons from a golden ring above
the pure and cloud-like couch of Muriel, threw a tender glory on her
Madonna face, sweet in its waven fall of shadowy tresses. She rested,
half-reclined upon her side against the broad bank of her pillows, in
the soft suffusion of gloomy bloom which insphered her couch from the
darkness of the chamber. Her beautiful white arms flowing from an open
sleeve, which left them bare nearly to the shoulders, lay along her form
upon the silvery grey of the coverlet, and her eyes shone like dim, rich
gems. Alone and sleepless, in the still seclusion of her chamber, the
phantoms of her many-peopled life thronged her spirit, and the drama of
the day lived anew. All the persons she had known from her childhood
upward—faces, too, that she had seen and forgotten—came floating in
a strange air of dreams upon her vague and pensive musing. All that
had passed since morning—the places where she had been, the people
she had met, their shapes, their colors, their manners and gestures;
what had been said, what had been done—came in spectral retrospection,
singularly minute and circumstantial; and now and then, some face, some
glimpse of a passing form, some room or fragment of sunlit street, half
surprised her by softly appearing to the inner visual sense, with the
jut and hues and vivid reality of actual life. Amidst the profuse and
teeming phantasmagoria of her thought, came often the strong face of
her uncle—with the surly scowl she had last seen upon it, melting into
an ominous smile she had never seen, which strangely altered it to the
sinister face of the negro-holder. And with this—sometimes preceding
it, sometimes following it, and mysteriously connected with it, almost
as fantastically as in a dream—came the agonized and imploring dark
face of Roux, which somehow seemed changed, and not his so entirely,
but that it suggested a likeness to some other face which she could not
recall. Following these—recurring again and again, a hundred times, and
linked with the inexplicable incident of the evening—came Wentworth,
pale, and bitterly laughing, passing, with half-turned, scornful head,
through one door; and Emily, melting from haughty scarlet into pallor
and tears, and sweeping away, with her face bowed in her hands, through
the other. Because it has been played upon—because it has been played
upon. The words came with every return of these two figures—came wearily
and strangely; darkly significant, yet wholly meaningless, and leaving
her in quiet wonder as to what lurked beneath them. In all this spectral
picturing, the form of Harrington was absent; and, though several times,
conscious of the vivid life of her mind that night, she strove to bring
him before her, she could not succeed. But again and again the thought
of his love for Emily and of hers for him, came to her, never impressing
her so singularly as now. The strange reticence of his demeanor to Emily,
courteous, frank, kind and loving, it is true, but yet so unlike the
abandonment she might have looked for in a lover; the curious attentions
of Emily to him, her lustrous looks into his face, her fond, close
leaning on his arm, her form bending so near him, her restless desire to
isolate herself with him even when she and Wentworth were present, her
low tones and whisperings, and smiles, tokens of love, and yet somehow
vaguely unloverlike; all came to her vividly, and like an ordinary page
in a book which yet contained a lurking riddle that distracted the mind
from the ostensible reading. Then their strange reserve. Emily had never
intimated aught of her love to her, save in the conversation which she
herself had instituted to charm down her lover-like jealousy, and the
admission then was rather tacit than direct. And Harrington, too—he
had never breathed a word, or given the remotest hint of his love to
her—not even to her, his adored and trusted friend. Why this secrecy?
What imaginable reason had they for this close conspiracy of reserve? She
could not guess. She could not even invent a plausible supposition to
account for it. In the candid and vivid temper of her mind that night,
she felt that the mystery of their relation and conduct would be fathomed
by her, could she but keep it before her thoughts; but in vain, for
as she held it, it would drop away, and be lost in the phantasmagoric
population which crowded and faded upon her, and then appear again, and
again be lost; and so crowding and fading, and coming again, in quiet
and spectral complication, with a vague sense of mystery, and monition
and shadowy warning, all mingling indefinitely together, and leaving
no result in her mind, her phantom host of useless reminiscence poured
ceaselessly around her, as the moon was going down.

As the moon was going down its sad ray, filtering between a tunnelled
lane of roofs and walls across the garden gate of Harrington, touched
his drooping forehead, as he sat near his open window, breathing the
refreshing coolness of the night air. His night-lamp left the lower part
of the room in dusky shadow, but threw a steady radiance on the open
volume from which he had risen when he could no longer abstract his
mind to the rich pages. He was thinking of his own future—how he should
arrange his life for the human service. The dream of love was dissolved;
henceforth it could never agitate his heart; now he was wholly and only
mankind’s. She had receded from him into the farthest distance of memory.
He thought of her as of one whom he had known and loved many, many years
ago. Now she was gone, and he was alone, and for him there was only the
clouded present and the unknown future.

Rising from his seat, he paced the room. A strange and solemn heaviness
weighed upon him, and he yearned for the morrow. With the sense of the
night, the deep hush of the air, the shadowy quiet of the room, the
brooding sentience of the ghostly hour, was mingled a vague, dark,
unimaginable portent which hung like lead upon his soul. Pausing in his
silent walk, he leaned his head upon his hand, alone in the vast, haunted
solitude of his being, and longing to be at rest. Musing on and on, a
fleeting gleam of peace, like a ray shining through clouds over a waste
of midnight desolation, stole upon his hour of lonely weakness, as across
his mind floated the image of Muriel sleeping—her lily face composed to
rest in its nimbus of bright hair, and sweet with happy dreams. So had
he seen her in her light slumber that day. It came into his mind as he
mused—how she had leaped up from her graceful rest, with what ethereal
summer lightning of a smile on her awakened face, with what delicious
laughter and what gay replies. Her words—‘you are the fairy prince that
awakened me, and now I am to follow you through all the world.’

He looked up with a throbbing brain. The dream of love was dissolved;
henceforth it could never agitate his heart: now he was wholly and only
mankind’s—Oh, mockery of mockeries!

In the dead stillness there was the sense of mighty pulses madly beating,
and the air was flame. All his being rose like the torrent surge and
thunder of a heaven-drowning sea, and for one fierce instant the world
of life quivered through and through with agony. He gazed before him
with tense and burning eyes. A faint radiance cast from the funnel of
his lamp, lit the kingly-fronted statue of Verulam on its pedestal. The
light lay lucid on the vast and sovereign brow, melting into fainter
light below, and the face was as the face of a god rapt in the white
peace of Eternity. It grew upon the convulsing storm of his passion with
a diffusive calm. Slowly, as he brooded upon the august countenance,
tranquil in massive majesty, its sweet serenity, its passionless and
regal peace sank upon him: a sad and gentle inflowing tide of feeling
lifted him above his agitations, till at length, with clasped hands and
bowed head, and all the tempest of his spirit dying down in streaming
tears, he rose into communion with the man whose life on earth began new
ages.

No words breathed from his lips, no thoughts came to his mind, but in
the ideal presence of the soul he loved, raptures of solemn comfort
arose within him, and he became composed. A load seemed to lift from his
spirit, and turning away, relieved and exalted, he sank into his former
seat, and sat in tranquil musing as the moon was going down.



CHAPTER XVII.

NOCTURNAL.


Gradually a desire to be out in the spiritual solitude of the night came
upon him. He rose from his seat, closed the window, took his hat from the
wall, and setting the night-lamp in the open chimney, turned it down to a
faint glimmer, and left the room, locking the door behind him.

A feeble growl reminded him of the dog, and he delayed a moment to go to
the kennel of the animal. The creature knew him, and lazily yawning as he
approached, pawed feebly in its nest in the packing case, and wagged its
tail. Patting it on the head, and murmuring a kind word or two, he turned
from it, and abstractedly wandered out at the gate, and away from the
house, with his head bent upon his breast, and his arms behind him.

It was the dead of night, and the shadowy streets, wanly lighted by
the setting moon, were intensely still. The air was bleak and cold,
but the wind, which had been stirring before midnight, had gone down.
On that memorable night, as he afterward remembered, he was in such a
condition of mental abstraction, that he took no note of the course his
steps pursued, nor did he once lift his head to look around him. The
strangeness of the moon as he crossed the streets where it was visible,
would have roused him to observation, had he chanced to look at it. But
he did not, and meeting no person, not even a watchman, and unmindful of
the route he took, he wandered mechanically on.

What thoughts engaged him, if any, he never could recall. It seemed to
him, however, that his mind must have been in blank vacancy, uncrossed
by any shadow of mentality. Yet he was remotely sensible of the echoes
of his footfalls in the solitary streets and of his passage under the
overshadowing bulks of the dark houses. Remotely sensible, too, that
there was moonlight, that the air was ghast and cold, and that he was
loitering on, alone, with his head sunk upon his breast, and his hands
clasped behind him.

He knew, too, when he had reached Washington street, though he did not
look up, but he felt, as it were, the character of the street, and was
dimly aware of the great multitude of signs that covered the buildings.
He was conscious of wandering up the deserted thoroughfare for some
distance, then of returning, still in the same absent mood, of crossing
several moonlit spaces formed by the intersecting streets, of passing the
grey, towering spire of the Old South Church, and of turning up School
street. In all this route, he did not meet a single person, or once
arouse even for a moment from his intense abstraction.

But as he turned up School street on the left hand side, the solemn and
funereal clang from the Old South steeple startled him from his lethargy,
striking with gloomy clangor the hour of two. He stopped, listening to
the sombre and heavy blare of the great bell as it tolled the hour, and
then died away in ghostly and aërial reverberations. Hearkening till the
last faint dinning of the swarming tones seemed to fail into soundless
vibratory waves, he waited till these too failed, and the awful silence
of the night again descended brooding on the air. Two. The hour when
spirits, as some wild seer avers, have power to enter from without, and
walk the earth till dawn. Looking up, as the fancy crossed his mind, he
saw the street, a lonely vista darkling in blue and melancholy gloom, so
strangely litten, so unearthly in its whole appearance, that a sudden and
silent diffusion of awe spread softly through his being, and held him
still.

Had he been brought there blindfolded, and the bandage removed, he would
scarcely have known where he was, so changed was the street from its
familiar aspect. The gibbous moon, a huge, misshapen mass of watery light
hanging low in the dead, dark blue, poured a flood of wan, metallic
brilliance down one side of the vista, bringing out its architectural
features in vivid lustre and ebon blackness, while the structures on the
side on which he stood, loomed dark and sharp in deep shadow. So lone,
so ghast, so supernaturally still, so changed in the weird and frigid
glitter, so desolate and splendid in the melancholy light, the haggard
darkness, the mournful and marble silence, that the gazer might have
dreamed he stood in the demon-city of the Hebrew story, where foot of man
hath seldom trod, and the evil night broods eternal.

Tranced with wondering awe, he moved slowly up the pavement, gazing upon
the solemn palaces of ebony and silver, with his imagination darkly
stirred. Beyond him lay a garden space, breaking the line of the vista,
with two chestnut-trees in front on the pavement, whose thick cones
of foliage seemed sculptured in metal, and were dimly silvered by the
moon. Further on rose the square belfry and high-windowed wall of the
Stone Chapel, with its flank gleaming, and its panes glittering in the
wan lustre. As his glance rested on this, he saw a gaunt and spectral
figure emerge from a shadowed angle, and move slowly, with a strange,
uncertain motion, along the base of the chapel wall, with the unearthly
light upon its shapeless outlines, and its long, black shadow distinct
upon the gleaming pavement. Now creeping on, now halting and appearing
to waver, strange in movement, strange and alien in form, it intensified
the ghastly and desolate solitude with its presence, and seemed like some
lone vagrant fiend slinking abroad from his lair, in the pallor of the
waning moon.

Vaguely attracted by the strangeness of its shape and movements, which
had something unusual about them he could not define, Harrington kept his
eyes fixed upon it, as he moved on. The figure halted and wavered in its
shambling walk as he drew nigh, and finally stood still, looking toward
him. A secret tremor stirred his blood, for the nearer he approached
the figure, the more inexplicable was the gauntness and shapelessness
of its outlines. He was still some twenty or thirty yards distant from
it, and without well knowing why he did so, for he had no intention of
accosting it, he slowly crossed the street, and walked as slowly forward.
As he drew nearer, a vague disgust mingled with the faint tremor of his
veins, for a horrible and poisonous smell, which grew stronger as he
approached, burdened the cold air. What dreadful outcast is this? he
thought. Suddenly he stood still, aghast, petrified, filled with an icy
affright mixed with unutterable loathing, and his eyes riveted to the
awful shape before him. He was within a couple of yards of it, and as
it stood trembling in the weird brilliance of the moon, it seemed some
terrific scare-crow risen from Hell.

It was the figure of a man, but save for the wild, dark face that glared
at him, the long, gaunt hands, like claws, that hung by its side, the
thin legs half bare, and gaunt, splay bare feet on which it stood
trembling, it seemed liker some monstrous rag. A loathsome and abominable
stench exhaled from it. Its clothes were a dark shirt and trowsers,
which hung in jagged tatters on its wasted skeleton frame. Wound round
and round its neck in a thick sug, which gave it that appearance of
shapelessness he had first noticed, was what seemed an old blanket. Above
this glared a face of livid swarth, lit by the gloomy moon, the cheek
bones protruding, the cheeks horribly sunken, the mouth fallen away from
the white teeth, the eyes hollow and staring, the whole face that of some
appalling mummy, burst from the leathern sleep of its Egyptian tomb, and
endowed with horrid life to make night hideous.

The blood of Harrington seemed turned to ice as he gazed, and his hair
rose.

“In the name of God,” he gasped, “what manner of man are you?”

The figure did not answer, but stared at him and trembled.

Harrington’s heart was stout, and conquering at once his affright and the
sickening disgust which the stench gave him, he made one stride nearer to
the figure.

“Who are you? Where did you come from?” he demanded.

The figure made no answer, but still stared rigidly at him, and trembled.

Harrington closely scanned the ghastly and hideous face, but could not
determine anything concerning it. In the wan light of the moon, its
horrible emaciation and livid duskiness of hue, together with the
terrific expression the fallen mouth and exposed teeth gave it, made it
seem like the face of a ghoul.

“Where do you live? Have you no home?” asked Harrington, shuddering.

“No, Marster.”

If a corpse could speak, its voice might be the weak and hollow quaver in
which the outcast made this answer. An awful feeling rose in the heart of
Harrington, for he knew by the accent of the ghastly stranger that he was
a negro, and the title he had bestowed upon him indicated that he was a
runaway slave.

“Where do you come from? Where have you been?” he asked quickly.

The outcast trembled violently throughout his lank frame, and his jaws
chattered.

“Oh, Marster, don’t ask me,” he answered in his weak, hollow voice. “I’ve
been in hell, Marster, and I’ve got away. I’ve been in hell, Marster,
sure. Don’t send me back, now don’t. Have a little mercy, Marster, and
let me go.”

So awful were the words in that lone hour; so awful the hollow and
sepulchral voice that uttered them; so awful the motion of the face which
writhed in speaking, as though in some rending agony; so awful and so
dreadful the black skeleton gauntness, the monstrous raggedness, the
Druidic filth of the trembling figure, with its swathed neck showing
like some enormous circle of wen, and the poisonous stench sickening the
whole night with its exhalations, that Harrington instinctively recoiled.
Up from the lowest abysses of social wretchedness they swarmed into his
mind;—the degraded of every low condition and degree—the neglected, the
forgotten, the forlorn, the scum and dregs and ordure of mankind—the
thieves, the beggars, the tatterdemalion sots and prostitutes and
stabbers—the bloated, brutal, malformed nightmare monsters of a Humanity
transformed to shapes more fearful than the foulest beasts;—up from the
dark and fetid dens of the filthiest quarter of the city—up from the
sinks and stews of the Black Sea—a wild and grisly company—they swarmed
upon him. In all their misery, no misery like this—in all their number,
no shape to pair with this. Below the lowest abyss of their wretchedness,
yawned a lower, new-come from which, in the haggard pallor of the moon,
stood a figure from whose ghastly and abominable Pariah shape the foulest
and the vilest of them all would have shrunk away. Below the lowest hell
wherein, in sunless crime and vice, their ruined natures were immerged,
lay, as in the Inferno of Dante, a hell still lower—the hell decreed
by avarice for innocent men, new-risen from which, all loathly foul,
all awful with long suffering, stood the dark fugitive, afraid to tell
his name, afraid to say from whence he had come, afraid to stand in the
presence of his fellow, as though he were some frightful felon dreading
the vengeance of mankind!

Gasping and shuddering through all his frame, Harrington gazed at him.

“O my country!” he murmured, “that such a thing as this should be! That
such a wrong as this should be wrought by you!”

The fugitive seemed to hear some fragment of his words, for he spoke
instantly.

“Marster,” he said, “you’ll be a friend to me, won’t you? I’ve gone
through a good deal to git away, Marster. I have, indeed, and I’ve got so
fur now, you won’t send me back. Oh, Marster, don’t send me back!”

He tried to kneel to him on the pavement. The tears sprang to
Harrington’s eyes, and conquering his disgust, he strode forward, caught
the foul form, and raised it to its feet. The fugitive shrank a little at
his touch, and stood trembling.

“You poor fellow,” sorrowfully said Harrington, “don’t be afraid of me. I
won’t harm you. No, I won’t send you back. And if you’ll trust in me, you
shall be safe and no one shall lay a hand upon you. But it’s not safe for
you to be out here in the street. Come with me, and I’ll give you a place
to sleep, and food to eat, and take care of you.”

The fugitive hesitated a moment, still trembling.

“Marster, I’ll trust in you,” he said at length. “I’ll trust in you,
Marster, and I’ll go along with you, if you won’t send me back.”

“I promise you, before God, that you shall be safe with me,” said
Harrington, solemnly. “Come.”

He grasped, as he spoke, the thin arm of the trembling fugitive, and
so assisting him, they moved slowly away together in silence, across
Tremont street, and up the slope of Beacon street, with the light of the
sinking moon in their faces. The fugitive was very weak, and tottered
as he walked, despite the support the arm of his protector gave him.
An overmastering pity, mixed with sombre sadness, filled the heart
of Harrington as he felt the tottering motion, and heard the faint,
stertorous panting of the miserable creature beside him. The slow pace
at which they moved, combined with the nauseating odor of the rags which
covered the fugitive, was an added trial to him, but he saw there was no
help for it, and was patient.

Somewhat apprehensive about meeting a watchman, and not liking to be
interrogated with a companion whom it was prudence to hide as much
as possible, Harrington took the least public route he could under
the circumstances. As they turned into Somerset street, the fugitive
faltered, stopped, and began to cough. A terrible cough, weak, hoarse,
incessant, which shook his whole frame. It ended at last, and with a
faint groan of exhaustion, he sat down on a doorstep, panting, and
breathing hard.

Shaken with pity, and doubly anxious lest the noise should attract some
wandering night-policeman, Harrington stood over him, impatient to resume
the journey.

“Do you feel better now?” he said, gently. “We must get on as fast as we
can.”

“Oh, Marster,” gasped the fugitive, slowly and painfully rising. “I feel
as if I couldn’t go no further. I’m so powerful weak, Marster.”

He tottered as he spoke; and Harrington, thinking he was going to
fall, hastily, and somewhat awkwardly, threw up his arms to catch him,
and struck his hand against something hard. Confused and startled, he
withdrew his hand to rub it, wondering what could have hurt it. He
thought it had come in contact with the sug around the fugitive’s neck;
but, as that was clearly only a wrappage of cloth, and as the fugitive’s
head was bent at the time, he fancied he might have struck his hand
against the man’s teeth.

“Did I hurt you?” he asked, hastily. “Did I hit your teeth?”

“No, Marster,” replied the fugitive, fumbling with the folds around his
throat.

“Why do you wear that blanket so?” asked Harrington.

“Felt cold, Marster.”

He said no more, but stood feebly handling the wrappage, and trembling.
Harrington thought it strange that he should thus guard his throat, when
his body was so bare, yet admitted to himself that perhaps the cloth
could not have been better disposed for comfort, and thinking no more of
it, he again grasped the fugitive’s arm, and drew him on. They moved as
slowly as before over the dark slope of Somerset street, under the shadow
of the dwellings. Presently, the fugitive stopped again, and began to
cough. This time Harrington formed a desperate resolution.

What was it? There are people who think they love mankind. But among the
natural barriers that divide us from our fellows, there is none more
impassable than a loathly uncleanliness. How many of the lovers of men
could so have conquered nature as to clasp that leprous form in their
arms? How many could have borne the test of their love which such an
act would impose? For this was the test that proved the mighty heart of
Harrington, and this was his resolution.

“Listen to me, friend,” he said, when the cough had subsided. “It will
never do for us to get on as slowly as this, for we have some distance to
go. Now you keep still, for I’m going to carry you.”

He quickly took off his coat and vest as he spoke—for he did not wish
to spoil them by contact with the filthy body of the fugitive—rolled
them up in a close bundle, which he secured with his neckerchief; then
without permitting himself to feel the strong repugnance which the
foulness of the poor creature’s apparel inspired, he flung his strong
arms around him, and lifting him across his breast, with his head above
his shoulder, deaf to his feeble remonstrance, set off at a rapid stride.
The remonstrance ceased presently, and Harrington, hardly feeling the
weight of his burden, strode at a masterly pace over the dark slope of
Somerset street, turned into Allston, from thence into Derne, crossed
Hancock to Myrtle, wheeled into Belknap, kept the grand stride down the
hill to Cambridge street, crossed into Chambers, and set his load down at
the garden gate.

A little heated by his exertion, he opened the gate with one hand,
rubbing his shoulder with the other, and with a nod of his head invited
the fugitive to enter, wondering meanwhile what it was about the man’s
neck that had pressed so hard against his shoulder all the way. Something
as hard as iron, and several times he had even felt a point, like a
muffled spike, press upon his flesh, through the folds of his blanket.
There was something mysterious under those folds, he thought, as he
unlocked his door, and he was curious to know what it could be.

Congratulating himself that he had been so lucky as not to meet a
single person during his nocturnal march, he held the door open till
the fugitive had entered, and then closing and locking it, he took
the glimmering lamp from the chimney, set it on the table, and turned
up the flame. The fugitive stood, shaking on his gaunt legs, with his
eyes wildly revolving upon the rows of books all around him, and ever
returning to rest for a moment on the bust of Lord Bacon on its pedestal.
Poor Tom in Lear—that wild figure plucked up from the low gulfs of the
Elizabethan wretchedness, and set in Shakspearean light forever—was
tame compared to the lank and ghastly figure of the lorn wanderer from
slavery. Less unearthly in the light which fell upon his visage from
the funnel of the lamp, than in the weird rays of the moon, he was not
less hideously pitiable. His face, which was naturally quite dark, was
terribly emaciated, with the skull almost visible through its wasted
features, or, at least, suggested by the prominence of the teeth and
forehead, the projection of the cheek-bones, the hollow pits of the
cheeks, and the cavernousness of the eyes, which were ridged with heavy
eyebrows. Harrington took in his aspect with one firm glance, and mindful
of his weakness, brought him a chair, and made him sit down; then opened
the windows, to let the fresh air relieve the smell of his rags in the
close room.

Going up his ladder the next minute, he lit a lamp above, and turned on
the water into his bath-tub. He came down presently, bare to the waist,
the light gleaming on his muscular arms and massive chest, and stood
fronting the fugitive with his watch in his hand, his head bent toward
him on the kingly and beautiful slope of his white shoulders.

“Now, friend,” said he, with naive gravity, “you must be washed. In five
minutes the bath-tub will be full, so take off those things, and I’ll
give you some other clothes.”

“Yes, Marster, I’m in need of bein’ washed. I ain’t fit to be in this
nice house,” quavered the fugitive abjectly, rising feebly as he spoke.

Harrington, without replying, watched him curiously as he fumbled at the
blanket on his neck, and saw that he was loth to remove it.

“O Marster, Marster,” he groaned, “I’m afeard to let you see it. But,
Marster, you’ll be friendly to me, and you won’t send me back, Marster?”

“Come, come, poor fellow, you know you’re safe with me,” said Harrington,
kindly, all alive meanwhile with curiosity. “Come, off with it.”

The negro still fumbling at the blanket, without undoing it, and sighing
piteously, Harrington laid his watch on the table, and stepping forward,
unwound the wrappage from his neck, fold after fold, pulled it off, and
disclosed an iron collar with a prong, and the letters distinct upon
it—LAFITTE BROTHERS, NEW ORLEANS.

He did not start, nor stagger back, but stood, like a statue struck by
thunder, glaring at the collar with parted lips and starting eyes, a
pallor like death upon his countenance, and a strong shudder quivering
through his bare chest and arms, while the negro cowered with a
hideous-piteous imploring face, his form crouching, and his hands clasped
before him. In the dead silence, nothing was heard but the loud running
of the water in the room overhead, and the faint gasping breath of the
fugitive.

“God Almighty!” shouted Harrington, “what is this?”

The fugitive did not answer, but stood faintly gasping. The next instant
Harrington started, with a strong muscular convulsion of his frame, and
strode a pace forward.

“Who put that collar on your neck!” he demanded with awful anger.

“Marster Lafitte put it on, Marster.”

“Master Lafitte? which one? That says Lafitte Brothers,” cried
Harrington, pointing with outstretched arm and finger straight at the
name.

“Marster Torwood Lafitte put it on, Marster,” quavered the fugitive,
affrighted at Harrington’s manner.

Harrington’s outstretched arm sank slowly, and dropped by his side. A
deep and burning flush mounted to his face, and clenching his hands, he
thundered a tremendous oath. Such an oath as Washington swore when Lee
chafed him in his legions. Such an oath as had never before passed the
calm lips of Harrington, but it burst from his heart’s core.

He stood in silence for a moment, the flush dying from his face, and his
anger settling down from that explosion into calm.

“Who are you? what’s your name?” he demanded.

“Antony, Marster.”

Harrington was past surprise, but his brain whirled, and blankness
gathered upon it. For a minute, he stood vacantly staring at the
fugitive. Then, recovering from his stupefaction, he sighed vaguely, and
wiped away the perspiration from his face with the palm of his hand.
Glancing presently at his watch, he saw that the five minutes had not
expired, and going to a drawer, he produced a bunch of keys.

“We’ll have that collar off,” said he, approaching the fugitive.

Key after key was tried, but none fitted. Throwing down the bunch,
Harrington looked at the watch, and went up-stairs to stop the water. He
came back presently, took the shade from the lamp, and holding the light
to the collar, inspected its make carefully. He saw that it opened on a
hinge behind, and was secured by a lock before. Putting the lamp on the
table, he reflected for a moment.

“Lie down on the floor,” he said, presently.

The fugitive obeyed, with as much alacrity as his feebleness permitted.
He already had the most entire and perfect confidence in his protector.

Bending over him, Harrington turned him on his side. Then taking up the
poker, he inserted it between the neck of the fugitive and the under side
of the collar, and putting his foot on this for a purchase, thus holding
the collar firmly to the floor, he seized the upper side near the lock
with both hands.

“Now lie still,” he said. “I don’t know whether I’m strong enough to
break the lock, but, by mankind!” he shouted, “I’ll try!”

Slowly, the muscles in Harrington’s arms straightened, his bent leg grew
firm as iron, the arms became two stiff, white corded bars, the muscles
in his back and shoulders tensely trembled, the blood mounted to his
face and body, and in the midst of the slow, tremendous strain, there
was a faint clicking gride, a sudden snap, a screaking wrench, and one
half the collar rose on its rusty hinge in his hands. The deed was done!
Harrington stood up, and stepped back, exercising his arms, while the
bought thrall of Lafitte scrambled erect, ghastlily grinning, and stood
surveying the accursed necklace, which lay open as his neck had abandoned
it, with the bent poker lying on its inner surface.

“To-morrow,” said Harrington, quietly, “you are to tell me all about
this. Now undress yourself.”

“Yes, Marster,” and the fugitive, with a sort of ghastly joyfulness,
hastily divested himself of his foul rags, which Harrington at once threw
into the yard.

An awful sight was that black skeleton of a body. As it lankly straddled
across the room, and up the ladder, following Harrington, Holbein might
have taken it as Death come for the Scholar—a grimmer and grislier figure
than any in the Dance Macaber. Few men would have borne to abide even for
a moment in the same room with it. The very dog in the yard, himself the
Pariah of brutes, would have bayed at it and shrunk into his kennel.

Our free and happy country had been at work upon that form. North and
South had wrought together to bring it to perfection. The old scars
which covered it, the horny wheals of many a scourging, the thick ring
of callosed flesh left by the iron collar around its neck—these were
the special tool-marks of the South. The recent cuts and bruises, the
swollen contusions left by fist and boot upon it, the raw, blue sores,
the general offence and stench it had contracted in the noisome pit of
a vessel’s noisome hold—these showed the tooling of the North. That
ghastly gauntness, that lank emaciation, that livid swarth, those signs
and tokens of ferocious abuse, of cold and hunger and sickness and
privation—our free and happy country had done it all!

Servant and soldier of mankind, thy menial task of love is set, thy work
is here! Purge the pollution from this wasted body, and with thy own
hand, tender and skillful as a woman’s, bind up these wounds, anoint
and dress these sores! For him, the lowest and the loathliest of thy
brethren, are these mean toils—the meanest man can do for man. Thy free
and happy country would say thou doest ill; and “ill” the snickering
whinny and brute scoff from the jaws of her slavers and traders; and
“ill” her hell-dog statute dragging thee to the jail and fine for helping
the lorn wanderer. Thou call’st the spirit of the ages by another name
than ours—thou call’st it Verulam, we call it Christ. Oh, man beloved of
Christ and Verulam, thou doest well!

An hour passed on and the solemn task was done. His matted hair cut off,
his body clean, his wounds dressed, the fugitive, clad in a shirt and
drawers of Harrington’s, a world too large for his wasted frame, was
placed by the young scholar in his bed, and sitting there was fed with
biscuit, and wine and water—the only food and drink accessible then. The
repast ended, Harrington washed himself, put on clean clothes, arranged
the room, and then turned to go down. The fugitive lay weakly sobbing.

“Good night, Antony,” said Harrington, gravely, standing with the lamp
in his hand, its light shining on his beautiful and bearded countenance.

Suddenly, before he could be stopped, the fugitive scrambled from the
bed, and flinging himself at Harrington’s feet, embraced them with his
thin wrists and huge hands, and laid his head upon them.

“The Lord Jesus bless you, Marster,” he sobbed in a broken and sepulchral
voice, “Oh, Marster, the Lord Jesus bless you, for there’s not no such
Marster as you, Marster, nowhere—Oh Marster”—

Harrington stopped him by suddenly starting away to lay down the lamp,
and returning, lifted him to his feet and got him into bed again.

“I know all you feel, Antony,” he said, pulling the clothes over him;
“but you musn’t talk to-night, poor fellow. Now go to sleep, and have a
long rest, and to-morrow or the next day, we’ll talk. Good night.”

“Good night, Marster,” sobbed the submissive negro.

Harrington took from a nail on the wall, an old camlet cloak which had
been his father’s, and seizing the lamp, went down.

The first thing was to take the collar from the floor, and put it in
a drawer; then untying his bundled coat and vest, he shook them out,
and hung them up; then opening the door and windows, for the taint of
the foul rags was still in the room, he went into the yard, and stood
breathing the cool, pure air, and gazing, with a sense of boding at his
heart, upon the thick hordes of stars. The night seemed all wild and
alive. Something sinister and evil pervaded the atmosphere, and the dark
blue spread like an astrologic scroll bright with burning cyphers and
diagrams of doom.

Returning to the house with a mind ill at ease, he closed the door and
shutters, leaving the windows open. Then taking a revolver from its
case in a drawer, he drew the charges, and reloaded the weapon. It was
altogether unlikely that the hunters would come to his dwelling; still
there was nothing like being ready; and Harrington with his Baconian
faith that men without natural good were but a nobler sort of vermin, was
quite resolved both to “prevent the fiend and to kill vermin,” as the
Shakspearean phrase has it, if they crept near the hiding-place of the
fugitive.

His pistol loaded, he laid it on the table, and sat a few minutes
thinking of the strangeness of his night’s adventure. How awful and
marvellous it all was! The brother of Roux, whom he had tried to ransom,
in his keeping—Roux himself in danger—Lafitte in the city, and master of
the secret of his locality! The air seemed thick with peril.

Rising presently, he put the lamp in the fire-place, and turned it low;
then taking the cushion of his chair for a pillow, he wrapped himself
in the camlet cloak, and lay down on the sofa. A few moments’ dazed
reflection on the events of the night, and fatigued by his labors, he
dropped away into dreamless slumber.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE PRETTY PASS THINGS CAME TO.


As an iceberg sinks dissolved into the waters of the Southern ocean, so
sank the cold, blue night into the golden crystal of a warm, delicious
day. Again beneath the hiving roofs of the great city, awoke the complex,
many-actioned, myriad-thoughted swarm of life, and again through the
grotesque and picturesque crooked streets poured the motley varieties
of civic existence, with the municipal clash and rattle, the scurry of
driving feet, the blab of many voices, the incessant buzzing roar. The
traders went to their trade; the merchants to their stores and wharves;
the mechanics to their labor; the little ones to their schools; the
women to their household tasks; the lawyers to their courts; the clergy
to their conventions; the anti-slavery people to their debate; the dark
children of the race of Attucks to their humble toils, and the phantoms
of the Reign of Terror with them.

In the fencing-school, Monsieur Bagasse fenced with his pupils, pausing
with curious eyes, and chin levelled at the door whenever a new footstep
was heard upon the stairs, and wondering why Wentworth and Harrington,
who had seldom failed before, did not arrive. Captain Vukovich, too,
with thoughts intent on the cigar-shop he was going to open, and bent on
consulting the young men with regard to the best situation, and perhaps
invoking a little material aid, waited for them, meditatively stroking
his thin moustache, and wandering up and down the fencing-school. But
they both waited in vain, for the young men did not appear.

Harrington meanwhile, up after four hours’ sleep, was closeted with
Captain Fisher, telling him his night’s adventure, the astounded Captain
swearing tobacco at every pause in the narrative, with his head all
askew, like a marine raven who had been taught nothing but imprecations
on slavery and slaveholders.

Wentworth, exhausted by his night of suffering, had gone down to his
studio, and lay there asleep on a sofa, pale and haggard, in the
dim-pictured, shadowy room. Among the paintings and sketches around
the chamber, was one canvas with its face turned to the wall. It was
the unfinished portrait of Emily. On the easel, illumined by the pale
slanting light from the single unshaded window, was the canvas which
held, sketched in in dead colors, the Death of Attucks. Vaguely through
its confused gloom, loomed one dark figure with arm uplifted in menace
and defiance.

Emily had appeared at the breakfast-table, calm and pale, with dark
circles around the dimmed lustre of her eyes. To Mrs. Eastman’s anxious
inquiries, she had simply pleaded indisposition, and after the meal, at
which Muriel alone, paler than usual, was chatty and gay, she had retired
to her room to collect her thoughts for the coming hour of confession and
departure.

Muriel, sinking from her assumed gaiety into sobriety, went to market
near by in Mount Vernon street, returned in a few minutes, and, sitting
alone in the library, resolutely shut out all thought for the present
regarding the mysterious complication of affairs, and resumed the studies
she had begun before breakfast, bent on pursuing them till Harrington
came to go with her to Southac street.

In the mean time things had come to a pretty pass in the private
counting-room of Mr. Atkins’s office on Long Wharf.

“Yes, sir, things have come to a pretty pass when such an infernal rascal
undertakes to let a black beggar loose from aboard my brig,” foamed
Captain Bangham, red with passion, and pounding the desk with his fist.

The merchant sat in an arm-chair near the desk, looking at the captain,
with iron-clenched jaws, his eyes sparkling with rage in his set blanched
face.

“If I ever heard of such a thing in all my life, Bangham!” he exclaimed,
slapping both arms of his chair with his palms, and glaring all around
the little mahogany-furnished office. “But where were you when this was
done?”

“I, sir? Asleep in the cabin, Mr. Atkins. Never knew a thing about it,
sir, till this morning. Just for special safety I didn’t have the brig
hauled up to the dock yesterday, but let her lay in the stream. ‘Jones,
says I, have you seen the nigger this morning?’ ‘No I haven’t, says he,
cool as you please. ‘I guess I’ll take a look at him,’ says I, and so
I took a biscuit and a can of water, and toted down to the hole where
I had the nasty devil tied up, and begod, he was gone! I tumbled up on
deck: ‘Jones,’ I shouted, ‘where’s the nigger?’ ‘I don’t know where he
is now,’ says he, lazy as a ship in the doldrums. ‘All I know is,’ says
he, ‘that I rowed him ashore about midnight, and told him to put for it.’
By ⸺” gasped Captain Bangham, with a frightful oath, “I was so mad that
I couldn’t say a word. I just ran into the cabin, and when I came out,
Jones wasn’t to be seen.—Hallo, there he is now!” cried the captain,
starting to his feet and pointing out of the window to a tall figure
lounging along the wharf, and looking at the shipping.

The merchant jumped from his chair, threw up the window, and shouted,
“Here, you, Jones! Come in here.”

The figure looked up nonchalantly, and lounged across the street toward
the office.

“He’s coming,” said the merchant, purple with excitement, and sinking
back into his chair.

They waited in silence, and presently the tall figure of the mate was
seen in the outer office, through the glass door, lounging toward them.
He opened the door in a minute, and came in carelessly, chewing slowly,
and nodding once to Mr. Atkins. A tall man, dressed sailor-fashion, in a
blue shirt and pea-jacket, with a straw hat set negligently on his head,
and a grave, inscrutable, sunburnt face, with straight manly features and
dull blue eyes.

“Mr. Jones,” said the merchant, his face a deeper purple, but his voice
constrained to the calm of settled rage, “this is a fine liberty you have
taken. I want to know what you mean by it?”

“What do you refer to, Mr. Atkins?” returned the mate, stolidly.

“What do I refer to, sir? you know what I refer to. I refer to your
taking that man from my brig,” roared the merchant.

“Mr. Atkins,” replied the mate, phlegmatically, “Bangham, there, was
going to take that poor devil back to Orleans. You don’t mean to tell me
that you meant he should do it?”

“Yes, sir, I _did_ mean he should do it,” the merchant vociferated.

“Then you’re a damned scoundrel,” said the mate, with the utmost
composure.

Captain Bangham gave a long whistle, and sat mute with stupefaction. Mr.
Atkins turned perfectly livid, and stared at the mate with his mouth
pursed into an oval hole, perfectly aghast at this insolence, and almost
wondering whether he had heard aright.

“You infernal rascal,” he howled, springing to his feet the next instant,
purple with rage, “do you dare to apply such an epithet to _me_? _You_—to
_me_?”

“To you?” thundered the seaman, in a voice that made Mr. Atkins drop
into his chair as if he was shot. “To you? And who are you? You damned
lubberly, purse-proud aristocrat, do you want me to take you by the heels
and throw you out of that window? Call me that name again, and I’ll do
it as soon as I’d eat. _You_, indeed? You’re the Lord High Brown, aint
you? You’re the Lord Knows Who, you blasted old money-grubber, aint you!
_You_, indeed!”

In all his life, Mr. Atkins had never been so spoken to. He sat in a
sort of horror, gazing with open mouth and glassy eyes at the sturdy
face of the seaman, on which a brown flush had burned out, and the firm,
lit eyes of which held him spell-bound. Bangham, too—horror-stricken,
wonder-stricken, thunder-stricken—sat staring at Jones for a minute, then
burst into a short, rattling laugh, and jumping to his feet, cried, “Oh,
he’s mad, he’s mad, he’s mad, he’s got a calenture, he’s got a calenture,
he’s mad as a March hare,” capering and hopping and prancing, meanwhile,
in his narrow confine, as if he would jump out of his skin.

“You, too, Bangham,” said the mate, making a step toward him, with a
menacing gesture, at which the captain stopped capering, and shrank,
while Mr. Atkins slightly started in his chair, “you just clap a stopper
on that ugly mug of yours, and stop your monkey capers, or you’ll have
me afoul of you. I haven’t forgot your didoes with the men aboard the
Soliman. Just you say another word now, and I’ll put in a complaint
that’ll lay you by the heels in the State Prison, where you ought to have
been long ago, you ugly pirate, you!”

The captain evidently winced under this threat, which Mr. Jones delivered
with ominous gravity, slowly shaking, meanwhile, his clenched fist at him.

“And now look here, you brace of bloody buccaneers,” continued the
irreverent seaman, “short words are best words with such as you. I untied
that poor old moke of a nigger last night, and rowed him ashore. What are
ye going to do about it?”

Evidently a question hard to answer. Merchant and captain, stupefied and
staring, gave him no reply.

“Hark you, now, Atkins,” he went on. “We found that man half dead in the
hold when we were three days out—a sight to make one’s flesh crawl. The
bloody old pirate he’d run away from, had put a spiked collar on his
neck, just as if he was a brute, with no soul to be saved. I’m an old
sea-dog—I am; and I’ve seen men ill treated in my time, but I’m damned
if I ever seen a man ill-treated like that God-forsaken nigger. He’d run
away, and no blame to him for running away. He’d been livin’ in swamps
with snakes and alligators, and if he hadn’t no right to his freedom,
he’d earned one fifty times over, and it’s my opinion that a man who goes
through what he did has more right to his freedom than two beggars like
you, who never done the first thing to deserve it. Mind that now, both of
ye!”

The mate paused a moment, hitching up his trowsers, and rolling his
tobacco from one side of his twitching mouth to the other, and then, with
his face flushed, and his blue eye gleaming savagely, went on.

“What’s the first thing that brute there did to him? Kicked him, and
he lyin’ half dead. Then in a day or two, when the poor devil got his
tongue, he told how he’d got away, and the sort of pirate he’d got away
from. God! when we all a’most blubbered like babes, what did that curse
there do? Knocked the man down, and beat his head on the deck, till we
felt like mutiny and murder, every man of us! And then when we’d got the
poor devil below, sorter comfortable, down comes Bangham, and hauls him
off to stick him into a nasty hole under hatches, and there he kep’ him
the whole passage, half-starved, among the rats and cockroaches. Scarce
a day of his life aboard, that he didn’t go down and kick and maul him.
He couldn’t keep his hands off him—no, he couldn’t. When I took the man
ashore in the dead o’ night, he was nothin’ but a bundle o’ bones and
nasty rags, and he made me so sick, I couldn’t touch him. That’s the
state he was in. Now, then, look here.”

The mate paused again for a moment, turning his quid, with his face
working, and laying the fingers of his right hand in the palm of his
left, began again in a voice gruff and grum.

“That infernal buccaneer, Bangham,” he said, “was bent on takin’ the poor
devil back to Orleans, after all he’d gone through to get away. Well,
he’s a brute, and we don’t expect nothin’ of brutes like him. But you’re
a Boston merchant, Atkins, and callin’ yourself a Christian man, you put
in your oar in this dirty business, and was goin’ to help Bangham. You
thought I was goin’ to stand by and see you do it. No!” he thundered,
with a tremendous slap of his right hand on the palm of his left, which
made both the merchant and the captain start, “no! I wasn’t goin’ to
stand by and see you do it! I’m an old sea-dog and my heart is tough and
hard, but I’m damned if it’s hard enough to stand by when such a sin as
that’s afoot, and never lend a hand to stop it. I took that man out of
your clutches, you brace of pirates, and I set him adrift! You think
I’m afraid to own it? No, I’m not, begod! I did it. Ephraim Jones is my
name, and I come from Barnstable. There’s where I come from. I’m a Yankee
sailor, and, so help me God, I could never see the bunting of my country
flying at the truck again, if I let you two bloody Algerine thieves carry
off that man to his murder. That’s all I’ve got to say. Take the law of
me now, if you like. I won’t skulk. You’ll find me when you look for me.
And if James Flatfoot don’t have his harpoon into both of you one of
these days, then there’s no God, that’s all!”

Turning on his heel with this valediction, which consigned the merchant
and the captain’s future beyond the grave to the Devil, who, under the
name of James Flatfoot, occupies a prominent place in marine theology,
Mr. Jones carelessly lounged out of the private room, leaving the glass
door open, and with a nonchalant glance at the three or four startled
clerks and book-keepers who sat and stood at their desks wondering what
had been going on within, for they had only caught confused scraps of the
stormy colloquy, he went down stairs, with a load off his mind which had
been gathering there during the whole voyage of the Soliman.

For a moment after his departure, Mr. Atkins sat mute and still, feeling
like one in a horrid dream. Roused presently by a deep-drawn breath from
Captain Bangham, he wheeled his chair around to the desk, and taking out
his white handkerchief, wiped away the cold sweat which had started out
on his face and forehead.

“What are we going to do now, Mr. Atkins?” said the captain.

“I don’t know, Bangham,” replied the merchant in a voice like the faint
voice of a sick man. “I should like to have that scoundrel arrested. Such
insolence I never heard in all my life. My God! what are we coming to in
this country when a low fellow like that can presume to talk so to a man
of my standing!”

He murmured these words feebly, and again wiping his face, sat with his
eyes glassy and his jaw working.

“Mr. Atkins,” said Bangham, after a pause, “this black curse has got off,
but he must be somewhere in the city. If I should happen to meet him
about town anywhere”—

“Just seize him,” cried the merchant, with a start. “Lay hands upon
him at once, and carry him aboard the vessel. You can say, if anybody
interferes, that he is a thief, and that you’re taking him to the
police-office.”

“I’ll do it,” exclaimed the captain, with an oath. “I’ll hang around
Nigger Hill, where he’s likely to be, and if I meet him, off he’ll go.
It’ll be horrid if we don’t find him, and they should happen to hear of
it down in Orleans.”

“Indeed it will, Bangham,” replied the merchant. “Though, of course,
we could explain it satisfactorily. Still, there’s the trouble of the
explanation, and it would be far better if we could return the rascal.
That would settle the whole thing at once.”

“By the way, have you told Lafitte anything about this?” inquired the
captain, anxiously.

“God bless me, no!” replied Mr. Atkins, hurriedly. “Lafitte musn’t know
anything about this. We must keep it from him.”

“What is it you must keep from me, my dear friends?” said a smooth,
courteous voice.

They both started, and turned around. There stood Mr. Lafitte, smiling a
bland sardonic smile. So still—so cool—so unruffled. It almost seemed as
if he had outgrown upon them from the air. But he had come softly through
the outer office, and stood just within the glass door, which Jones had
left open.

“Better not keep anything from me, my dear friends,” blandly continued
the Southerner, smiling stilly down upon their blank and ghast faces.
“Because I am the very devil for finding out things that are kept from
me. Besides, frankness is a virtue—a positive virtue.”

He closed the glass door behind him, and entering, took a chair, and
removed his Panama hat, smiling stilly all the while, with his tawny,
blood-specked, glossy eyes slowly and almost imperceptibly roving from
one to the other.

“Lafitte,” gasped the merchant, feeling as if he was about to faint,
“don’t blame me. I meant it for the best.”

“Blame you, my friend!” returned the Southerner, smoothly, with an air of
tender reproach which was atrocious; “blame you! Could I be so cruel? Ah,
no! Bangham, my love, how are you? It is long since I have seen you. The
last time I saw you, my Bangham, was at the St. Charles Hotel—and oh, my
friend, how drunk you were! But you are not drunk to-day, dear captain.
Ah, no! To-day we can appeal from Philip Bangham drunk to Philip Bangham
sober. Let us then appeal to you to tell us what is the mystery.”

The captain reddened under this address, and looking exceedingly
nonplused, fidgeted with his necktie as if it choked him.

“Lafitte, don’t joke,” said Mr. Atkins, nervously. “Don’t, I beg of you.
I feel ill already, and you disturb me. Listen. Here is the trouble. One
of your slaves was found in Bangham’s vessel when he was three days out,
and came on here to Boston. We kept him bound in the hold, intending to
have him sent back to you, and last night the infernal scoundrel of a
mate let him go, and we’ve lost him.”

“And you were going to keep this from me, were you?” said Mr. Lafitte,
blandly, all the tiger seeming to condense into his glossy, tawny orbs,
while his smile remained serene and still. “Really, my dear Atkins, you
were not frank.”

“Oh, my God!” exclaimed the merchant, “don’t talk so! What was the use of
disturbing you? We were going to institute a search for the negro, and
have him returned to you as quickly and quietly as possible.”

“Good friend! good Atkins!” said the Southerner, with gentle approval.
“So considerate of you. I really hope you may find the runaway, for if
you shouldn’t, and it gets noised on the Levee, your house will suffer.
Of course, I wouldn’t mention it myself, but these things always get out.
The sailors, you know! Very indiscreet those sailors—ah, very, very!”

“Depend on my doing everything I can, Lafitte,” hurriedly replied the
merchant, uncertain whether the Southerner’s words held a menace or no.
“We will ransack the city. Suppose you get a warrant out for him—how will
that do?”

“No,” answered Mr. Lafitte, blandly. “I should prefer not. Since you lost
him, you ought in justice to find him. If you don’t succeed, we may try
the police. But, apropos, you do not tell me the boy’s name.”

“He called himself Antony,” replied Bangham.

They almost shuddered to see the silent change that came to the rich
brunette visage of the Southerner. His complexion became purple and livid
in spots, his nostrils dilated, his eyes were steady orbs of cruel gloss,
with the blood-specks distinct upon their tawn. Slowly swaying in his
chair for a moment, he stopped in this movement, and spoke.

“It is Antony, is it?” he said, in a low, smooth voice. “Gentlemen, I
urge you to find that slave of mine. He is a wretch whom I wish to see
once more. When you told me you had a boy of mine, I thought it must
be one of my brother’s, who ran away the week before I left. I did not
imagine it was Antony, for I thought he was done for in the swamp.”

“Where, Mr. Lafitte?” asked the merchant.

“In the swamp,” repeated Lafitte. “That scoundrel, Mr. Atkins, flew upon
me, and left me for dead on the floor of my house. Then he ran for the
swamp, half-killing my overseer on the way. We roused the neighbors and
hunted for him three days and part of a fourth, and at last finding his
clothes near a bayou, we concluded he was food for alligators. Though why
we should find his clothes, and not him, was a mystery to me. And so he
got to Boston, after all. Now where do you expect to find him, gentlemen?”

“Well, Mr. Lafitte, I don’t exactly know,” returned the merchant,
dubiously; “but Bangham here will look round Nigger Hill, a quarter where
the colored people herd together. The best way would be to get out a
search warrant, and put the matter in the hands of the city marshal.”

“Listen to me, Atkins,” said the Southerner. “I’ve got a clue. Several
months ago I received a letter offering to purchase this fellow. Now,
eight or nine years ago his brother William ran away from me, and it was
clear to me, when I received this letter, that whoever sent it knew where
William was, and was probably put up to it by him.”

“Well, who did send it?” demanded Mr. Atkins.

“That letter,” pursued Lafitte, “was postmarked from Philadelphia, and
the answer was to be sent to a Mr. Joseph House, who, it seems, was to
act as agent in the matter. I called on House, and was told by him that
the person who wrote the letter lived in London. In fact, he showed
me the person’s name and address in a London Directory, and he was so
serious about it, that I swear I was thrown off the track. But I had my
misgivings afterward, and the more I thought of it the stronger they
grew. Mr. Atkins, that letter was signed John Harrington.”

“John Harrington!” exclaimed the merchant, starting and scowling. “You
don’t mean to say”—

“Mr. Atkins,” interrupted Lafitte, “when you told me that fellow’s name
who came into the Abolition meeting last night with your lovely niece, it
flashed upon me at once that he was the man that wrote the letter.”

“Upon my word,” said the merchant, “this is odd. But this Harrington’s
poor as poverty. How should he be buying your negro?”

Mr. Lafitte shrugged his shoulders.

“Who knows?” he returned. “Perhaps the dear William has earned the cash,
and wants to treat himself to a bit of black brother in his old age.
Perhaps,” he added, with a sly, sardonic smile, “your lovely niece wants
to do a little philanthropy for him. She’s rich, you told me. Your
Boston ladies are so fond of the philanthropy business, you know. And
Harrington’s sweet upon her, isn’t he? Who knows but that he has put
her up to it. He looks just like one of those noble fools we read of.
Now, what will you wager he doesn’t know this dear William, and hasn’t
been touched by the sorrows of that black angel? Atkins, keep your eye
on Harrington to find William, and finding William, perhaps you’ll find
Antony.”

“Upon my word, Lafitte, you’re the very devil,” cried the merchant, with
a harsh laugh, looking at the visage of the Southerner, which was lit
with an infernal smile.

“That’s your clue,” said the latter. “Just follow it, and you’ll find I’m
right.”

“But how am I to follow it?” returned the merchant, “There’s any quantity
of black Williams in Boston, probably, and who knows what name your man
goes by now?”

“Egad,” replied Mr. Lafitte, his face darkening, “I didn’t think of that.”

“Had your man William any other name?” asked the merchant.

“Name?” scoffed the Southerner. “The black cattle change their names with
their masters. This fellow would be called by mine, if he was called
anything but William. I bought him and his brother with a lot of others
off the estate of old Madame Roux.”

“Roux? Hold on!” exclaimed Atkins. “Roux? By George, that’s the name of
the colored man Serena—that’s my sister—recommended to us, and we got him
to do some white-washing and window-cleaning this spring!”

“Your sister?” interrogated Lafitte.

“Yes, my sister, Mrs. Eastman. She’s the mother of the young lady you saw
last night.”

Mr. Lafitte leaned back in his chair, and shook with long, silent
merriment, outward token of the raging floods of devilish joy which
swelled within him.

“There you have it, dear Atkins,” he chuckled, at length. “There you have
it. Follow up Roux, my boy, follow up Roux. Set Bangham to look after
the dear William. My own Bangham. Whom I love,” and Mr. Lafitte ogled the
captain in a manner which would have been purely ridiculous if it had not
been superlatively infernal.

Bangham reddened, and looked foolish and uncomfortable under these
affectionate regards.

“I guess I’ll go out and see to the cargo,” he said, rising. “The
stevedores are unlading, you know, Mr. Atkins.”

“That’s right, Bangham,” returned the merchant. “Come back soon, and
we’ll make arrangements for this other matter.”

“_Au revoir_, Bangham. God bless you,” cried the Southerner, after the
departing captain. “And now, Atkins,” he continued, drawing up his chair,
“let’s have a talk about business, and get that off our minds, before we
follow up that dear William and that dear Antony.”



CHAPTER XIX.

THE ROAR OF ST. DOMINGO.


Captain Bangham, with a mortal aversion to Lafitte, hovered about the
outside of the glass door, and left the office several times, before the
talk on business was concluded. In those beatific days Cotton was King,
and His Majesty’s concerns required a great deal of mercantile, as well
as political, attention.

It was about eleven o’clock when, the talk on business concluded, Mr.
Lafitte strolled up State street, with the intention of dropping in at
Parker’s to lunch. If anything had been needed to complete his elation,
the warm and beautiful blue day which shone upon the crowded city, would
have done it. Like Sir Ralph the Rover, in Southey’s poem, his heart was
joyful to excess; and equally true was it that like that Rover, this
Rover’s mirth was wickedness. He felt, as he himself would have expressed
it, refreshingly wicked.

Lunch over, and a drink taken, Mr. Lafitte thought it would be pleasant
diversion to visit that Nigger Hill he had heard so much about, and see
how the colored brethren were lodged. Enchanted with the idea, he engaged
a carriage, and lighting a cigar, got in, and told the driver where to
carry him.

The carriage set off, and Mr. Lafitte, lolling back on the cushions,
smoked placidly, and indolently gazed out of the window at the
passengers. Presently, instead of passengers to gaze at, there were the
elegant aristocratic dwellings in the streets on Beacon Hill, and soon
after there were the dingy houses of the negro quarter.

His cigar smoked out, Mr. Lafitte enjoyed whatever there was to enjoy in
the prospect the carriage window afforded. It was pretty near dinner-time
in that region, and most of the people were indoors. A few colored men
and women stood at some of the thresholds or looked out at the windows,
and colored urchins were playing in the streets. The carriage driving
slowly, Belknap street, South Russell street, Butolph street, Garden
street, Centre street, May street, Grove street, and all the streets
of the quarter, passed in successive review under the interested and
inspecting eyes of the gallant Southerner.

In Grove street, a fancy came upon him to walk a few steps and note the
effect from the pavement. Stopping the carriage, he got out, and bidding
the driver wait there for him, he walked on, and turned the corner into
Southac street.

Walking slowly, and contemplatively twirling his moustache, while he
softly hummed an air, he gazed with a roving eye at the squalid and
sunlit houses of mingled brick and wood which stood in the vertical light
on either side of the street. There were few people about, fewer even
than he had seen in the streets he had passed through, and beginning to
find it a bore, he was turning to go back to the carriage, when his eye
chanced to rest on the closed window of a house obliquely opposite to
him, and stopping in the midst of his humming, his hand fell from his
moustache, and he stood still.

There, behind the closed window of the second story, absently gazing out
straight before him, stood William Roux! Mr. Lafitte knew him at the
first glance, and an infernal joy bathed his heart. Afraid the next
instant that he would be seen, he drew back into a narrow alley near by,
still gazing up at the window. But he had no reason for apprehension, for
the negro was apparently lost in reverie, and stood with his hands in his
pockets, looking straight before him.

The entire abstraction of Roux’s manner suggested to Mr. Lafitte that
there was no other person up there in the room, and a demoniac idea
leaped at once into the brain of the slaveholder and took possession of
him. Here was the carriage within fifty paces just round the corner. What
was to prevent him from quietly walking up into that room, taking Roux
by the arm, and quickly marching him off to it? It flashed into his mind
just how Roux would behave. The submissive, docile negro, so different
from that sullen, fiery Antony, overcome with fright he would never
think of struggling, and with the old servile habit of instant obedience
falling again upon him, cowed by the stern mandate, paralyzed by the
strong grasp, thunder-stricken by the unexpected appearance of his old
master, he would just march along without a word. Quickly he would walk
him, cram him into the carriage, pull down the curtains, and drive away
like fury. Ha! the moment when he should have him safe, rushed upon his
brain like fire. One bold stroke—now for it!

Emerging from the alley, he quickly crossed the street, and mounted the
wooden steps which he saw led up to Roux’s room. The door was ajar, and
pausing for one moment to listen, with torrents of hellish exultation
pouring through his being, he recognized by the silence that Roux was
alone. Softly pushing open the door, which floated inward without a
sound, he saw his victim standing with his back to him at the window, and
crossing the floor on noiseless tiptoe, he tapped him on the shoulder.

Roux turned with a start, and with his black face flaring into ashen
fright, he would have fallen to the floor, but Lafitte caught him by the
throat with both hands, and upheld him.

“Not one word, you dog!” he hissed, glaring into his bulging eyes. “I
have you! Stand!”

He released his throat, and Roux stood with a terrific look of agony on
his visage, which seemed at once to have grown thin and grey.

“Oh, Master Lafitte!” he gasped in a horrified whisper, his whole frame
shaking as if he had the palsy.

“Silence, cur!” hissed the slaveholder, grasping his arm like a vice.
“Come with me! Not a word—not a sign—or I’ll dash your brains out.”

Roux, though not a strong nature, was no coward, and under ordinary
circumstances, he would have fought to the death for his liberty. But
this horrible phantom that had risen upon him! It was not a man—it was
Fate—it was the anaconda, and he crushed in the vast and muscular gripe
of its folds! The deadening ether of utter horror fell upon him, and
passive as one falling from a precipice, with the iron clutch of his
master on his arm he moved with him to the door.

At the first step, there was a bounce in the entry, and Tugmutton
appeared on the threshold. In less than a second, the blobber-cheeked
guffaw-grin of glee fell from the fat face of the broad-limbed Puck into
a shock-haired white-eyed stare of goblin terror, and with a shrill yell
he vanished. His chattering screech outside was heard by Lafitte just
as he got within a yard of the door with his victim, and at the same
instant, there was a bound, and Harrington bursting into the room like a
thunderbolt, dashed the slaveholder with a crash against the wall.

Roux tottered back and fell prone in a dead swoon. Pale as marble,
dilated, regnant, terrible, eyes and nostrils open, Harrington stood over
his prostrate body, his front turned in war upon his foe, while Muriel,
brave and radiant, sprang like flame into the room by his side.

“Spawn of hell!” howled the Southerner, “you die!”

With the hoarse snarl of a tiger, he came rushing at Harrington,
bowie-knife in hand. Muriel would have leaped between her lover and
the weapon, but Harrington held her back with his left arm, and stood
fronting his enemy with terrible and dauntless eyes, which stopped the
infuriated wretch in midcourse like a rampart of swords. Lafitte was
brave as a brute is brave, but the Bengal tiger will not spring against a
man when his godhood is in his eyes, and arrested by the regal prowess
of that bright and fearless gaze, the livid fiend stood all acrouch, the
knife gleaming in his hand, his wild-beast orbs drained of their bloody
fire, and his breath breaking in gasping snarls on the silence. The
next instant he slunk back shivering, and stood with the knife in his
nerveless grasp, conquered!

Harrington dropped his arm, which had lain like a bar across the bosom of
Muriel, and advanced upon the cowering wretch before him.

“Listen!” said he, in a voice like bronze, deep, solemn and awful.
“Listen to those murmurs in the street! Hark!”

In the dead hush, there was a noise like a coming sea, pierced with
shrill sounds like the distant screams of the curlew.

“Man!” thundered Harrington, “you came here to rob your fellow of all God
gave him! You dared to risk your life among these plundered and trampled
poor—despoiled and outraged daily by you and such as you! Are you ready
to die?”

Silent, amidst the ominous gathering murmurs and inarticulate shrill
sounds, the slaveholder stood, with his livid, ghastly, sweat-bedabbled
face turned toward Harrington’s. Suddenly the surging ocean swelled and
tossed in wild confusion, and sinking into a pouring rush of running
feet, rose again in a savage and appalling roar.

“Hark to the coming of your doom!” cried Harrington, his voice pealing
up amidst the din, and his arms uplifted like a prophet of ruin. “Hark
to the hoarse blood-roar! Hark to the roar of St. Domingo! They come,
the people you have trodden upon, they come to tear you limb from limb!
In five minutes your head will roll in that street—your body be trampled
into bloody mire!”

“My God!” shrieked the trembling wretch, “am I to die here like a rat!
Let me go—let me fight my way through the hounds!”

Brandishing the knife, he rushed with forlorn bravery for the door.

“Back!” thundered Harrington. “That way leads to certain death!”

He sprang upon him as he spoke, wrested the knife from his hand, and
hurling it across the room, flung him back to the wall. The wretched man
covered his face with his hands!

“They come! they are here!” cried Harrington.

He sprang to the open door, and stood on the threshold, while amidst a
tumbling sea of shouts and yells, came a tumultuous rush of feet on the
wooden stairs.

“Save me, save me,” wailed the miserable creature, rushing forward, and
flinging himself on his knees with clasped hands at the feet of Muriel.

“Up, up,” she cried, “quick, quick, and stay here.”

She dragged him up on his feet as she spoke, and hurrying him into the
inner room, closed the door upon him, and flew with the courage of an
angel to the side of Harrington, just as the dense and raving mob of
negroes poured headlong into the passage-way.

He stood on the threshold, resolute and tranquil, knowing well that
his own life was in imminent danger at that moment, as well as the
slaveholder’s. Muriel stood by him, as calm and brave in that terrible
crisis as he. Arrested in their fury by these strong, still presences,
the sullen-browed and heavy-lipped grotesque throng hung lowering and
swaying for the rush of the next instant. In their front stood the tall
and muscular form of Elkanah Brown, with his knife in his hand.

“Mr. Brown,” said Harrington, with magnetic dignity, “come here.”

The stalwart negro stepped forward, with a face of fearful fierceness,
amidst a deep hush in front, while shouts and murmurs still rose behind.

“Mr. Brown,” said Harrington, in the same tone, “I want to speak with you
a moment in this room, and I want you to ask our friends to remain where
they are till you come out to them.”

The negro hesitated for a moment, fiercely glaring at Harrington. Then,
his glance falling on the sweet and solemn face of Muriel, grew gentler;
and slowly turning, with a limber-hipped, insouciant movement, he waved
his hand to his fellows.

“Just wait here till I come out,” he said with a commanding air; then
turning again, he entered the room, amidst a wild swarming of voices, and
Harrington, closing the door, bolted it and faced him.

“Is William Roux dead?” asked Brown, glancing gloomily at the prostrate
body.

“No, he is unharmed—he has only fainted,” said Harrington.

“Where’s that soul-driving hound of a kidnapper?” roared the negro,
gnashing his teeth, and rolling his fierce and torrid eyes around the
room. “The boy said he was in here. Where’ve you hid him? Let me at him,
till I cut his heart out!”

“Listen to me, Brown,” said Harrington, in a solemn and majestic voice,
fronting the roused passion of the negro with his soul divinely splendid
in his eyes. “You are a brave man and the son of the brave. Your father
fought in the black corps with Jackson, at New Orleans. Face to face with
the foe, in honorable war. You yourself, walked from slavery in Louisiana
to freedom in Massachusetts, knife in hand, through a land of enemies.
You slew the hounds that followed you. You struck dead the armed hunters
that opposed you. Man to man, in honorable war, with the odds against
you, you proved yourself a brave man. Is it for you to stain the bravery
of your manhood now, with the blood of a murder?”

Half-subdued by the electric majesty of Harrington’s bearing, for the
speech had poured from him as by inspiration, and he stood masterful and
dauntless, the centre of magnetic forces such as darted from Rienzi to
quell the tempest fury of old Rome; gratified, too, by the just tribute
to his prowess which the young man had paid him, and with his nobler
nature dimly rising through the black and bloody seethe of vengeance, the
negro remained for a moment in silence, with an irresolute and startled
air, while the shouts and murmurs swelled and tossed like a rising sea of
sound around the dwelling.

“Murder, Mr. Harrington?” he faltered.

“Yes, murder,” replied Harrington. “This base wretch lies here, helpless
and at your mercy. To kill him, and you a thousand to one, is murder. You
who never slew a man save in fair fight, will you slaughter him and the
helpless in your hands? Think! When this hour of passion is over, will
you feel proud that this miserable wretch was butchered by you in his
helplessness? Think!”

The negro stood glaring at Harrington with parted lips, and sombre and
torrid eyes.

“He took the risk himself!” he answered sullenly, with mounting rage.
“The soul-driving hound dared to come here where we live, and try to drag
off one of us. What right has he to mercy? Look at that man there, scared
into a dead faint! He did it”—

“He did worse!” cried Harrington, with stern energy: “he enslaved a
hundred of your people! He heaped on them every wrong and outrage worse
than death. They were in his power, and he never spared them. Now the
power is yours. How will you use it? As basely as he did? Will you
degrade yourself by following his example? Will you lower yourself to the
level of a brute that has not manhood enough for mercy?”

The negro stood touched, but irresolute. Harrington saw that the crisis
had come, and that a feather either way would turn the scale. A desperate
inspiration came to him, and with a bound he tore open the door of the
inner room, and dragged Lafitte front to front with the negro.

“Look at him!” he cried. “Helpless, miserable, merciless wretch, I cast
him on your mercy! Show him what it is to be a man. Teach him the lesson
that he never learned—how the brave can spare; and let him crawl home
with the shame upon him that he owes his life to the compassion of the
people he would destroy!”

The words swept from Harrington’s lips like a storm. An awful moment of
silence succeeded, disturbed only by the roaring clamor of voices that
surged around the dwelling. In that moment, the slaveholder, believing
that his hour had come, stood crouching and ahunch, stupefied with
terror, his hands clasped, his dead eyes staring on the visage of the
negro, his hair bedrenched and limp around his livid, sweat-bedabbled
face, his dark moustache hanging dank above his fallen jaw, his breath
coming and going in short, thick gasps, and his whole frame shaken like
an aspen. Muriel, calm, but still and pallid as a statue, stood gazing
on him with a white sparkle in her ashen eyes. The negro, dilated to his
full height, like a man in the presence of a wild beast, glared upon him
for an instant with a look of frightful ferocity, and then his expression
changing to contemptuous pity, he burst into a short, scornful guffaw.

“You damned soul-driving tyrant,” he bellowed at him, “I could split your
heart with this knife if you wasn’t too mis’ably mean for me to look at.”

And with this address, and another short, scornful guffaw, he turned
away, snorting with contempt, and sheathed his bowie-knife under his
waistcoat.

Muriel started from her stillness, and with something of her usual frank
and cordial air, advanced and held out her hand to him. The negro,
suddenly disturbed, as though just conscious of her presence, took the
offered hand, half ashamedly, and bowed low.

“Excuse my language, Miss Eastman,” he said, “but I kind o’ forgot you
were in here. Now, Mr. Harrington,” he said, hurriedly turning from her
with a look of trouble, “I don’t know how we’ll get this curse out of
here. I’m afeard the folks’ll fly at him when they see him. The women
folks’ll be the worst to manage. Hold on there!” he shouted, going to the
door, which was straining with the outside pressure, and resounding with
kicks and blows, “I’ll be out in a minute. The women folks, you see,” he
resumed, “they’ll have red pepper to throw, just as like as not. It’ll be
skittish business, I tell you.”

Harrington lifted Roux, who was recovering from his swoon, from the
floor, carried him into the other room, laid him on the bed, and returned.

“Listen, Brown,” he said, quickly. “It’s a hard matter, but you must use
all your influence to keep the people still. Unless you can persuade them
to disperse, there’s only one thing to be done. You and I must take him
between us, and go through the crowd.”

Lafitte seemed to catch what was going on, and abjectly slinking near
Harrington, gasped out that he had a carriage waiting for him round
the corner, if they could only get him to that. Harrington instantly
communicated this information to Brown.

“Mr. Brown,” said Muriel, “suppose you let in twenty or thirty of the men
outside for a body-guard. Then we can take him in the centre. How will
that do?”

“That’s a good idea,” replied Brown. “Mr. Harrington, come and help me to
stand the rush.”

He moved to the door accompanied by Harrington.

“Hallo, there!” roared Brown. “Stand back. I’m going to open the door.”

There was a sudden retrograde rush, with a swarming clamor of voices, and
sliding back the bolt, Brown flung the door open, and with Harrington by
his side, sprang upon the threshold.

“Back, now!” he shouted. “See here, I want some of you in here. Come in
as I call you. The rest wait.”

With his eye roving over the crowd, he called about thirty names in
succession, the men passing in between him and Harrington, as they were
summoned. Toward the end of the roll-call, Tugmutton appeared, and darted
into the room between the legs of Harrington, who tried to stop him.

“Now, then, gentlemen,” said Brown, in his grandiose way, addressing the
gaping crowd of negroes and mulattoes outside, “you wait there, and we’ll
be out soon.”

With that, he and Harrington withdrew, bolting the door again. The first
thing Harrington saw, was the infuriated Tugmutton lightly prancing
around the wincing and crouching slaveholder, and punching and butting
him without mercy, and in perfect silence. Nothing could have more
completely indicated Lafitte’s utter prostration of spirit than his
submission to the pummelling he was receiving. Muriel was in the inner
room, bending over Roux, and the body of negroes, all grinning, were
the only witnesses, besides Harrington and Brown, of this extraordinary
transaction.

“Hallo there, Charles!” cried Harrington, “stop that!”

Tugmutton, who had just lifted his short, knurly leg for a kick, which
would have been like the kick of a Shetland pony, let his foot fall,
and stood, his broad limbs all dispread, and his blobber-cheeks puffed
out with rage under his shocks of wool. Harrington’s eye was on him, or
he would have given the enemy of his race a parting thump of one sort or
another; but as it was, he slunk off in the sulks to the adjoining room.

“See here, gentlemen,” said Brown, addressing the motley group of
negroes, who now stood fierce and open-mouthed, rolling their eyes upon
the slaveholder, “I’ve got something to say to you. There’s a lady here,
and what you’ve got to do is to behave like gentlemen.”

There was instantly great confusion of elaborate ducking and bowing to
the lady, Muriel having come from the inner room as Brown spoke. She
acknowledged their grotesque and extravagant politeness by smiling and
curtseying, which set them all going again with the added grace of much
good-natured grinning, and some spruce strutting on the part of the
younger men, especially the mulattoes. One could not help noticing, as
part of the general effect, the contrast between this facile affability
and anxious desire to please, and the uncouth and outlandish figures of
these courtiers, every one of whom had something singular and nondescript
about his apparel or bearing.

“Now gentlemen,” pursued Brown, after an embarrassed pause, in which
he kept moving his hand over his mouth as one in doubt what to say
next, “the reason I’ve asked you in here is because I’ve most especial
confidence in you. Fact is, gentlemen, we shall all get into trouble and
have the police down on us, unless we get that man there off safe. That’s
got to be done, gentlemen, and you’ve got to do it. What you’ve got to
do, gentlemen, is to form in a hollow square, and put him in the middle
of you, and walk him off handsome, to a carriage round the corner.”

They all stood staring open-mouthed with eyes revolving wildly at
the speaker. Lafitte, coming to his senses again, was in an agony of
apprehension, while both Muriel and Harrington stood with throbbing
hearts.

“Deacon Massey,” said Brown with some pomposity of manner, “what’s your
opinion as to whether this thing can be done?”

Deacon Massey, an elderly colored man of pragmatical aspect, with two
bunches of white wool protruding from under an old cap which he wore
on the back of his head, and with a general flavor of antiquity in his
shabby garments, instantly assumed an air of the profoundest deliberation.

“It my ’pinion, Brother Brown,” he said, with a very important air, after
a long pause, “that this thing can be done if these yer brethren’ll put
their trust in the Lord and stick together.”

There was an instant burst of declarations from the entire group that
they would trust the Lord and stick together, and do the thing in first
rate style.

“All right, gentlemen,” said Brown. “Now form.”

Amidst much bustle, Harrington directing, and Brown hustling them into
place, a hollow square was formed in the centre of the room.

“I will take Mr. Lafitte by one arm,” said Muriel, “and you Mr. Brown,
will take the other. Mr. Harrington will follow behind.”

Harrington looked grave. “You run great danger, Muriel?” he murmured. “I
think you’d better stay here.”

“No,” whispered Muriel, “with a woman on his arm, his risk will be
lessened. We must omit nothing that will protect him. Don’t fear for me.
I’m not afraid.”

“Miss Eastman,” said Brown, approaching with a bow, “you’re the bravest
lady I’ve ever seen by long odds. You can’t be beat, Miss Eastman.”

“Thank you, Mr. Brown,” she said with a curtsey, almost gay. “Now, sir,”
she added gravely, turning to the shuddering Lafitte, “collect yourself,
keep your head down, and don’t look around you.”

She picked his hat up from the floor, and put it on him. He tried to bow
with something of his usual courtesy, but was too much agitated to do so.
Taking him firmly by the left arm, she led him into the centre of the
square, which closed around them with locked arms. The awful moment was
approaching.

“Now, gentlemen,” said Brown, firmly, “mind you stick together. Don’t
march till I give the word.”

He went to the door and unbolting it, threw it open.

“Gentlemen,” he roared, in a tremendous voice, “this affair is settled.
We’re going to escort this man away from the neighborhood. Fall back, all
of you, and clear the way.”

He advanced upon them with waving arms.

There was an instant’s hesitation, and then, with a sudden movement, they
receded tumultuously, and poured down the wooden steps amidst a chorus of
shouts and cries, which was taken up below, and swelled into a ponderous
uproar.

Returning hastily to the room, Brown entered the hollow square, and
grasped Lafitte by the right arm. Harrington followed him and took his
place behind, and the square closed.

“Forward, march!”

As the words burst from the mouth of the negro, they marched from the
room, only breaking their order to get through the doorways. The moment
they appeared on the steps, the whole wild, tossing, sunlit multitude
sent up an appalling and tremendous howling roar. Lafitte almost fainted,
but encouraged by Muriel, he rallied, and keeping his head on his breast,
without looking at the crowd, he was got down the steps, and the next
instant the little phalanx, joining together with locked arms, plunged
into the living sea, which closed around them amidst an awful din.

They turned up the sidewalk, stepping quickly, with the mob parting
before them, and following on their left flank and behind them, and the
tossing and roaring multitude in the middle of the street crowding them
hard, and at times driving them to the wall of houses on their left.
Amidst the uproarious clamor, Brown’s voice pealed incessantly, calling
on those before him to clear the way, and to those on his left to stand
back. As Muriel had foreseen, her presence was an invaluable aid, for
at the sight of the beautiful, calm lady, the foremost of the flanking
multitude would crowd back upon those behind them, and driven forward
again, would again crowd and struggle backward. Soon, too, the imitative
faculty had its way, and the phalanx deepened by the accession of other
negroes who locked arms with it, till it filled the sidewalk to the
kerb-stone, which in turn opposed a slight barrier to the dense press
of the multitude. But the passage through the stifling crush was still
arduous, and the heat and foul odors made it more so. Awful, too, were
the howls and cries and imprecations which greeted every glimpse of the
Southerner. At that moment, Lafitte would have willingly given everything
he was worth in the world to be out of the danger which menaced him.

The height of the ordeal was when they reached Grove street, where they
had to cross to the carriage, with the multitude on each side of them. It
was but a short distance, but the phalanx, struggling and swaying in the
dense and roaring press, had to literally tear its way through. There was
already hustling and pushing, with angry words flying, and Harrington saw
that presently it would come to blows, when all would be lost. Bending
forward, he shouted in Brown’s ear to take the lead and endeavor to clear
the way. The negro instantly dropped Lafitte’s arm, which Harrington
seized, and gaining the van of the phalanx, he burst upon the crowd with
all the strength of his body and the thunder of his voice. They surged
back for an instant, leaving a clear space in front.

“Quick step! forward!” pealed the trumpet tones of Harrington.

The phalanx made a desperate rush, Brown flying in the van, and in an
instant the carriage was gained. Quick as thought Lafitte was forced into
it, and Harrington and Muriel sprang in beside him. The crowd poured
around with a clamor of shouts and cries, and while the horses, with
the frightened driver at their heads, reared and plunged, the carriage
itself, seized by the crowd, began to sway as if it would be overthrown.
Lafitte fainted dead away.

“Quick!” vociferated Brown to the driver. “Mount the box, and drive like
mad!”

The driver scrambled to his seat, and lashed the horses, while the negro
sprang inside. Away they rattled at a furious pace, with the howling
multitude surging along on either side and behind them. Muriel and
Harrington, flushed and bathed with perspiration, sat, with disordered
dresses, holding up the inanimate form of the slaveholder, while Brown,
in a reek of sweat, busied himself with beating off the hands that
clutched momently at the carriage door. Along Grove street into May, and
from thence up West Centre into Myrtle, the frightened horses tore like a
whirlwind; but before they reached Myrtle, the clamor was receding, and
the crowd had thinned and fallen behind, unable to keep up with them, but
still following in the distance.

“We’re safe!” cried Harrington, joyfully.

“Faith, yes,” returned Muriel, gaily, her golden eyes glowing in the
faint pink flush of her face, “but it was warm work while it lasted.”



CHAPTER XX.

EXPLANATIONS.


For a few moments they all were silent.

“Mr. Brown,” said Muriel, breaking the pause, “we owe you the most
cordial thanks. You have saved this man’s life.”

“I’m afeard, Miss Eastman, that his life’s not worth saving,” returned
the negro, in an exhausted voice, wiping away, with his shirt-sleeve,
as he spoke, the streaming moisture which shone on his swart visage.
“He’s in a fit, aint he, Mr. Harrington?” he added, glancing at the
slaveholder, who sat, flaccid and inanimate, between the young man and
Muriel.

“No, he has only fainted,” replied Harrington. “We must revive him.”

He removed the Southerner’s hat, took off his neckcloth, and opened his
shirt, to give him air, while Muriel busied herself with fanning him,
using his hat for that purpose. She had dropped her fan and parasol on
the steps at the time when Tugmutton had screamed to them what was going
on in Roux’s room.

“I should just like to know the rights of this matter, Mr. Harrington,”
said Brown, “for I’ve got no clar understandin’ of it, any way. The fust
thing I knew, I heerd a hollerin’ in the street, and I caught a sight
of that boy of Roux’s tearin’ like mad from house to house, bawlin’
somethin’ or other, and the folks comin’ out and runnin’ in all sorts
of ways, shoutin’, till the street filled with ’em. I stood a minute,
and then I run down to Tug. ‘Hullo, you young devil,’ says I, ‘what’s to
pay.’ ‘There’s a kidnapper luggin’ off father,’ he bawls, and off he goes
like a shot, hollerin’ that into the houses, and dodgin’ about like a
Ingy rubber ball. I sung out, ‘come on, men,’ and I put for Roux’s, knife
in hand, lickedy split. That’s all I know.”

“Well, I hardly know more myself,” replied Harrington. “Miss Eastman, and
I were going up to see Roux. We met the boy, who ran up the steps before
us, and as we were ascending, he came flying back screaming that there
was a kidnapper in there carrying off his father, and vanished past us. I
didn’t know what to make of it, but I rushed up and in, and sure enough
there was this person, whom I had seen last night at the Convention,
grasping Roux’s arm, and leading him to the door. I flew at him, and
dashed him to the wall. Then came the noise in the street, and the people
poured into the house.”

“Who is this man anyway?” said the negro.

“He is named Lafitte, and he was formerly Roux’s master,” replied
Harrington.

The negro threw back his head, and laughed, showing his splendid teeth
and pink gums.

“Well, if this don’t beat all!” he exclaimed. “You don’t mean to tell me
that he thought he could carry off Roux alone right out of the midst of
us? Why, the man’s crazy!”

“Well, it looks insane enough,” said Harrington, “and what put such a
foolhardy idea into his head, I can’t imagine. And yet, Brown, reckless
and crazy as this attempt seems, do you know that I think it would have
been successful? You should have seen Roux. The man was perfectly
helpless with fright. He looked fascinated, like a bird in the jaws of a
snake. I verily believe that he would have walked without the slightest
resistance to the carriage, and have been taken back into slavery without
our ever knowing what had become of him.”

“I swear,” cried Brown, “I didn’t think Bill Roux was such a coward.”

“Coward? I don’t think he is,” returned Harrington. “Just think of the
awful and unexpected shock it must have been to suddenly find this man in
the room with him!”

Lafitte, at this moment, showed signs of returning consciousness, and
the conversation ceased. The carriage, having arrived at Mount Vernon
street, was now going at a more moderate pace, the crowd having, in the
various turns it had made, lost the track of it. If it had been going on
a straight road, those negroes would have followed it till they dropped
down.

Shuddering, as he returned to life, the ghastly Southerner, so unlike the
smiling and sardonic gentleman of an hour before, looked around him, and
his glance falling upon Brown, he cowered.

“You are in safety, sir,” said Muriel, gently.

He smiled, or tried to smile, sicklily, and his lips moved in the
endeavor to speak, but no sound came from them.

“Where shall we take you, Mr. Lafitte?” said Harrington, after a pause.

After two or three ineffectual efforts, Lafitte contrived to whisper
that he was stopping at the Tremont House. Harrington gave the order
to the driver, and in a few minutes they arrived at the hotel. By that
time Lafitte had recovered, and Harrington assisted him to button up his
shirt and vest, resume his neckcloth, and get himself into something like
decent trim.

Leaning on Harrington’s arm, he got from the carriage, and stood, weak
and ghastly, on the sidewalk. The flurried driver, pointing to his
horses, which stood reeking, and covered with froth and pasty foam,
remarked that “if them animals ain’t blown, it’s nobody’s fault—that’s
all.” Mr. Lafitte gave him a handful of gold and silver, and appeased,
he retired with profuse thanks.

“And now, look here,” said Brown, fronting the slaveholder. “I don’t want
to say nothin’ ugly to a man in your state, but I’ll give you my advice.
You’ve had a taste of Southac street to-day, and if you ain’t dead, it’s
just because this gentleman begged your life of me. You just leave this
city now as quick as convenient, for if any of our folks fall afoul of
you, you’ll get knifed as sure as you’re born. That’s my advice to you.
Just you follow it, and bear in mind that you can’t carry on here as you
do way down in Louzeana.”

“That is good advice, Mr. Lafitte,” said Harrington, “and Mr. Brown here
means well by you in giving it. After what has passed, you must not
remain in Boston.”

Harrington spoke with ominous earnestness, and Mr. Lafitte was evidently
impressed by him. He stood, looking weak and sick, while these remarks
were made to him, with his eyes cast down.

“I’ll go,” he faltered, “I certainly will. I am indebted to you, Mr.
Harrington, for your protection—much indebted, sir. And to this lady
also.”

“You are far more indebted to Mr. Brown,” said Muriel. “Without his
friendly aid, we could have done nothing for you.”

Mr. Lafitte was silent. Even in his humiliation, his rank and insolent
Southern arrogance would not suffer him to make any acknowledgments to a
negro, though it was a negro who had preserved him.

“Mr. Harrington,” he said after a pause, “I drew my knife on you to-day,
and you made a generous return for the injury I tried to do you. Indeed,
sir, I am aware that you saved my life.”

Harrington’s blue eyes flashed fire, and his nostrils lifted.

“Listen to me, sir,” he said, with stern solemnity. “The life you live is
not human. Nothing is human that forgets the kindness man owes to man.
To-day I have helped to save you, for I do not hate you, and I wish you
no harm; but understand that a life like yours has small claims on my
heart, and I call it love and mercy to kill you when you attack the weak
and poor. Go now from this city, and never come here again to lay your
hand on one man in it. I do not seek your life; I would guard it if I
could; but while I am tender of you personally, I bid you remember that
the issues between tyrants and freemen are the broad issues of life and
death. Once I have saved you—twice I will not. Go in peace—but come here
again on such an errand, and I will slay you with my own hand, for, by
the Eternal God, never while I live, shall you nor any one make Boston a
hunting-ground for men!”

Lafitte, with his ghastly visage bowed, shook like a leaf while
Harrington, with a white face and flaming eyes, and with stem
determination in every tone, uttered an admonition which rose to the
dignity of the great issue between Liberty and Slavery.

“I regret to say this to you in your present condition,” said the young
man, after a pause, “but it is necessary that you should hear it, and
understand it well. Now I will help you in.”

Leaving Muriel on the sidewalk for a minute, he gravely assisted Lafitte
up the steps of the hotel, and left him.

“Now, dear fellow-soldier,” he said, returning, “we must go back and
carry off Roux.”

“Decidedly, yes,” replied Muriel, taking his arm, “for when the wolf gets
well, he may have a hankering for the lamb. Come with us, Mr. Brown.”

They took another carriage which was standing there, and drove back to
Southac street.

It may be said here, that Harrington had left Antony, soundly sleeping,
in the care of Captain Fisher, who sat with the door bolted, and the
pistol by him, keeping watch and ward, while the young man fulfilled his
appointment with Muriel. Arriving an hour earlier than that assigned,
Harrington had astonished her and her mother with the wild tale of his
nocturnal adventure. That the brother of Roux should have arrived in
Boston at this juncture, and that the young man, of all persons on earth,
should have come upon him, were coincidences almost too marvellous for
conception, and the two ladies dwelt upon them with speechless wonder.

Not less marvellous to Harrington and Muriel, was their fortunate arrival
at Roux’s house in the critical moment of his dreadful peril. Three
minutes later, and the negro would have been a lost man.

Reaching Southac street again, they found Roux weak and haggard with the
terrible shock he had received. He was sitting in a chair near the stove
as they entered. Tugmutton was frying potatoes in a spider, accompanying
his operations with sage reflections on the recent incident, mingled with
lofty reproofs to Roux for not having “squashed in,” as he phrased it,
the head of the slaveholder, together with pompous comments on his own
promptness and courage in having first roused the neighborhood, and then
assaulted the kidnapper. On this last feat, the fat squab dwelt proudly,
as the crown of the whole transaction, and Roux meekly listening, with
great admiration, looked upon Tugmutton as more than ever a superior
being.

Tugmutton, a little apprehensive lest Harrington should not take the
same view of the crowning feat, fried the potatoes in discreet silence,
while he and Muriel questioned Roux. It appeared that Roux’s wife and the
children had been invited to remain a week in Cambridge, at the house of
the brother-in-law, who was a well-to-do colored man, Roux himself having
come into town, with Tugmutton, to attend to his business. It was at once
decided that Roux should take up his abode for the present at Temple
street, and that Harrington should write to his family, stating where he
was, and the reason for this step. Tugmutton, who was to keep his father
company, was to be dispatched with the letter.

This settled, the fire was slaked, and locking the door behind them,
they all descended to the carriage. Tugmutton, having objected to so
speedy a departure, on the ground that the fried potatoes would be
sacrificed, which he regarded as a serious breach of the domestic economy
of the establishment, had been prevailed upon to compromise the matter
by bestowing those edibles, together with the remnant of the meat and
whatever bread there was in the house, on big Ophelia and her elvish
husband in the room opposite. “You know, Charles,” Muriel had gaily
observed to him, “that these are the days of the Compromise Measures, and
you must be in fashion.” Touched by this appeal to his statesmanship, the
fat Puck had made the donation with the air of one giving away a million
of money, and the donation having been graciously received, he had, by
way of prudence, loftily added a bouncing fib, to the effect that he and
Roux were going out to stay some time at his uncle’s country-seat in
Cambridge.

Two or three policemen had arrived in Southac street, just after the exit
of the Southerner. They had prudently abstained from interfering with
the excited crowd; but the crowd had dispersed, and few of their number
remained in the street as the carriage came for Roux and drove away again.

Arrived at Temple street, Roux was installed in an upper chamber; books
and pictures were left him to while away his days of imprisonment, and
Harrington and Muriel withdrew to the library, to consult with Mrs.
Eastman as to what was to be done with Antony.

It was finally decided that the news of his brother’s arrival should be
broken to Roux the next morning, and then, that Antony, too, should be
conveyed to the house and shut up with Roux. It was also resolved that
all of them should take up their future abiding place in Worcester, as
soon as it should be judged safe to remove them; for, with such a man as
Lafitte alive, they could no more go at large in safety in Boston, at
that period, than Italian patriots could in Naples, among the sbirri of
Bomba.

The council over, Mrs. Eastman retired to send up some dinner to Roux,
and Harrington, meanwhile, dashed off the letter for Tugmutton to carry
to Cambridge.

“Good!” said Muriel, reading what he had written. Harrington rose.

“I must leave you,” said he, taking up his hat.

“Oh, but stay and dine with us,” she pleaded.

“Indeed, I can’t,” he replied. “I must go and relieve the Captain, who is
watching over Antony, and wondering what has become of me.”

“True,” she answered. “And I must go make my toilette, for I am in a
state. But, John, when shall I see you again? You know we have this
matter of Emily and Wentworth to look into.”

“I declare I forgot it. This business quite drove it from my mind,”
exclaimed Harrington, quickly. “What have you heard?”

“Not a word,” she answered. “Emily appeared at breakfast with the story
of a sleepless night in her poor lack-lustre eyes. I said nothing, for
I had no chance, and since then she has kept herself locked up in her
chamber. There is something passing strange in this. Have you seen
Wentworth?”

“No, Muriel. It is the first day I have not seen him for I know not how
long. I should have gone in search of him to get at the bottom of this
matter, but for my strange adventure last night. And Emily—I declare I
must see Emily, for I have something to say to her.”

“About this, John?”

“No.” Harrington colored. “About something else.”

Muriel smiled faintly, thinking this the desire of a lover’s heart.

“Well, John,” she said, “let me tell her you are here.”

Harrington hesitated, thinking whether he ought to keep the Captain
on duty longer. On the other hand, he felt the need of an immediate
understanding with Emily. With this mingled a sense of how painful and
embarrassing an interview it would be. Would this time be well chosen for
it, when Emily was already in sorrow? No. He concluded that he must wait.

Muriel, while he deliberated, had moved slowly to the door, awaiting his
decision, and seeing that he seemed unable to make up his mind, resolved
to decide for him.

“I’ll call her,” she said, vanishing from the room, just as Harrington
had made his conclusion.

Harrington sprang forward to stop her, stumbled over a stool, and nearly
fell, and when he reached the entry Muriel was not to be seen.

“Good!” he muttered, with some chagrin. “It seems the Fates have decided
that the explanation is to ensue now.”

He threw down his hat, and tried to think what he should say. As usual in
such cases he could think of nothing.

“A pretty plight I’m in to see anybody,” he muttered, glancing at his
dust-covered garments, and conscious that a bath would improve him.

Suddenly, long before he had expected her, the door opened, and Emily,
pale as marble, with her eyes swollen with weeping, came into the library
with a movement so unlike in its rapidity, her usual sumptuous and slow
stateliness, that Harrington was startled. She came straight up to him
with outstretched hands, her lips parted, the tears flowing from her
eyes, and so agonized and desperate a look on her face, that it shocked
him.

“John,” she gasped, seizing his hands convulsively, “hear me! Muriel told
me you wanted to see me, but it is I that want to see you—to talk with
you—to ask your compassion and forgiveness.”

“Emily!—what!—forgiveness!—my forgiveness!”—

She broke in upon his stammered words, wildly, almost fiercely.

“Hush? do not speak! Let me speak,” she cried. “Let me atone for my
baseness to you by my self-degradation—my confession—my repentance”—

“Emily—Emily—silence!” cried Harrington, shocked beyond expression! “I
cannot hear you speak of yourself so. Baseness? In you? Never! All the
world would not make me believe it—you yourself”—

“John! hear me! hear me!” she wailed, her face agonized, and the wild
tears streaming—“hear me, I implore you! I have deceived you. I have
beguiled you. I have misled you—I have made you think I love you”—

“No, Emily, you have not. You have won my affection, but it is the
affection of a brother who will be a brother to you forever. You have
made me think you love me, but with the love of a friend and sister. No
more.”

She dropped his hands, and receding a pace, looked at him with a hushed
face, on which the tears lay wet, but ceased to flow. The solemn and fond
avowal sank like dew on the burning passion of her brain. For a full
minute she looked at him.

“Harrington!” she said slowly, in a deep still voice from which the
tremor had gone. “Is it possible! Can this be so! My whole attitude
to you—my court to you—my words, my looks, my actions—all that misled
others—that made them think I loved you—that deceived them utterly.”

“They never deceived me, Emily. I looked upon them only as the tokens of
your friendship, of your sisterly regard. No more.”

She gazed at him in wondering awe. Suddenly a wild light broke upon her
face, and she clasped her hands.

“Oh, man without vanity!” she passionately cried, “simple, honorable
heart—nature unspotted by the world, and knowing nothing base—how am I
worthy to live in your presence! The arts that would have flattered the
self-love of the moths that flutter round me, were powerless on you, and
untempted, unelated, unsuspecting, you took my treacherous homage as only
the token of the love of a sister and a friend!”

The words trembled away in a rapture of fervor. Ceasing, her head sank
upon her bosom, and her face was wet with a solemn rain of tears. Moved
beyond speech, and sadly understanding all, Harrington stood with his
flushed face mute, a sweet thrill melting through his frame, and his eyes
were dim.

“It is over,” she sorrowfully faltered. “The worst is over. There is more
to be said—much more, but I cannot say it now. Not now—not now.”

She stood in deep dejection, her head bowed, her hands clasped and
drooping, and her eyelids almost closed.

“I am very humble,” she slowly murmured, in a voice like the dropping
of tears. “I stand in the Valley of Humiliation, and the Valley of the
Shadow, lies before me. Alone, I enter it—forsaken—alone.”

He heard the words, mournful as the sound of a funeral bell, and he
strove to speak, but could not shape his lips to language that did not
seem to profane the sanctity of her sorrow. Silently he held out his arms
to her.

“O my brother!” She glided near, and laid her head upon his breast, and
her voice was weak and low. “Let me rest here a little. Do not speak to
me. I am very weary. Let me rest here a little while—let me dream of my
childhood—of the old sweet days that are gone—a little while before I go.”

He had put his arms silently and tenderly around her, and she leaned upon
his breast with closed eyes, pale and still. No sound broke the hush. A
sad peace filled the air, and the slow minutes ebbed away.

“Where am I?” she raised her head slightly, then let it sink again upon
his bosom. “I am here—still here. I was gliding away—away. It was very
comforting and sweet. I am better now. I think I must have slept a
little. I feel so refreshed and light. Thank you, my brother, for this
rest and strength. Now I must go. Kiss me, Harrington.”

She turned her pale mouth up to his as she whispered the words. Vaguely
surprised at the strangeness of her request, and deeply touched by its
dreamful and childlike innocence, he bent his head and kissed her. Her
lips were not fevered, but cool and dewy, like the lips of a child.
Wondering at this, he was about to unclasp his arms to release her, when
her eyes closed and her head sank again upon his breast. Holding her so,
with his gaze turned far away to the blue sky beyond the windows of the
room, he heard her breathe gently, and looking at her face, he saw that
a light dew had started out upon it, and that she was asleep. He knew
at once that this strange sleep was magnetic, and that its blessed rain
of healing would fall deep and long on the arid trouble of her brain.
Grateful that so sweet an influence had been shed upon her through him,
he held her for a few moments, and then gently lifting her in his arms,
he laid her on a couch. The sumptuous pride and passion of her womanhood
seemed to have fallen from her, and pale, with her long dark eyelash
sleeping on her cheek, she lay in thrilling and exquisite marble beauty,
slumbering with the restful innocence of childhood.

He was about to ring and ask for Mrs. Eastman; then reflecting that she
might be in the parlor, he chose rather to go down to her on his way out
from the house, but stepping on tiptoe to the door for this purpose,
he saw Muriel clad in a white wrapper, just ascending to her chamber,
and beckoned to her. She came instantly, all lily-fair from her bath,
with her bright hair rippling back from a face serious with inquiry,
and gazed with some astonishment on the reposing form of Emily. Briefly
explaining to her in a whisper the nature of the sleep in which Emily
lay, and advising that she should be covered, and left there to slumber
undisturbed, Harrington softly quitted the room, promising to return as
soon as he could, and tell Muriel more.

“But John,” murmured Muriel, in the corridor, “do give me a little
information about this before you go. You say she fell asleep leaning on
your breast, and that nature was overcome with suffering. What was her
trouble? Surely what Wentworth said to her could not have affected her so
terribly.”

“Muriel,” said Harrington, gently, after a pause, “this is a secret, but
it is one, I think, you ought to know. Briefly, then—Emily imagined that
she had won my heart from me, and was stricken with generous grief to
think that she had no love but a sister’s to give me in return. It was
easy to rectify her painful error, and I have done so.”

Muriel stood gazing at him, as if she had turned to stone.

“Good-bye,” said Harrington, after an awkward pause.

She slowly bent her head in reply, and stood motionless, with her lips
parted in wonder, as he went down-stairs and out at the front door.

“Yes,” he murmured, as he strode off down the street, “and she loves
Wentworth. That is her heartbreak—that is why she paid her desperate and
reckless court to me. Oh, Muriel, I would not have you know it for the
world!”



CHAPTER XXI.

THE BREAKING OF THE SPELL.


Recalled to herself by the shutting of the street door, Muriel started
from her trance, and flew upstairs into her chamber. Falling on her knees
by her bedside, she covered her eyes with her hands, and buried her face
in the coverlet, floods of dazzling light pouring upon her brain.

“I see it all!” she cried, springing to her feet, and throwing up
her hands, her face radiant, and a smile breaking upon it like March
splendors from the wild clouds; “I see it all now! Wentworth and she are
lovers. Oh, let me not die with joy!”

Her luminous face upturned, her arms upthrown, she flew across the room,
stopped suddenly, and covering her eyes with her hands, stood still,
light, perfume, and victory rushing upon her soul and mantling through
her veins.

“Yes, I see it all!” she cried, flinging her hands from her eyes, and
clasping them before her, “they love—they love. It is a lover’s quarrel.
To vex Wentworth, she paid court to Harrington. It was on Richard’s
account that she was jealous of me. And that is why Richard was so
devoted to me—yes, to vex her. And I who patronized him, that she and
Harrington might be together—ah, that made Harrington think I loved
Richard. I see it—I see it! That is what he meant when he asked me to
tell him who my fairy prince was! Oh, noble heart, you hid your pain—you
sacrificed your love—you tried to be happy in the happiness you dreamed
for me! And I, who made you suffer—I, who could be so misled, as to
think, even for an instant, that you loved another—Oh, blind, blind!”

Her eyes swam, and her beautiful head drooping like a flower, she stood
motionless, her fallen hands clasped before her, thinking, thinking,
thinking of it all. Swiftly, as in the fairy tale at the touch of the
prince’s wand the tangled floss unravelled, and all the colors lay
assorted, so in her musing the whole tangle of misapprehension and
illusion unwound and fell into orderly and candid form.

“Ah, Richard, you scamp!” she gaily soliloquized, half to herself and
half aloud, “you shall make amends for this! But you, too, must have
suffered. Now what could have made them quarrel? Let’s consider. What
have I ever seen Richard do to Emily? Nothing but look cold, and glum,
and piqued. All that was clearly in response to her manner. Then that
ugly speech he made—but that was the finale. Stand aside, Richard, my
friend. Now, Emily. What have I seen Emily do to Richard? Let me see.
Why nothing either for a commencement of the trouble. My observations
began in the middle of it all. Stay—there was that little affair of
the violets for a sample. But that was in the middle, too. And that
was due to our sweet friend Fernando. Oho!” she cried, opening her
eyes with a comical air, “I have an idea! Wait, wait, now, my little
idea, till I put a pin in you! Let’s see. With one subtle speech, one
artful tone, one delicate lift of those expressive eyebrows, one curious
non-significant, all-significant, anything-significant look, this clever
Witherlee contrives to put it into my simple Emily’s head to slight and
wound her lover. That was a delicious proceeding, and I saw it in all
its indescribable beauty. That was a sample of Fernando’s method. That
was one of his fine touches. Still that is but one. But suppose he has
been playing this sort of game with Emily from the first? So gently,
so delicately, so skillfully poisoning her mind against Wentworth. Her
intimate friend—so close with her, so confidential—ah, ha! my daughter
of Eve, has the serpent been at your ear, too! Oh, my poor Eveling, has
he been putting you up to this mischief? Good! I’ll engage that we shall
find Witherlee at the bottom of the whole imbroglio when all is known.”

And Muriel, ineffably delighted at her own sagacity, her nimble mind
having glanced from point to point to this conclusion, threw back her
charming head, and gave way to a rivulet of low, delicious laughter.

“Shame on me to laugh about it,” she resumed, looking very grave. “It has
cost too much suffering to laugh about. And yet,” she ran on, rippling
again into golden laughter, “I can’t help it. I’m so happy! And it
is such a pleasure to have found the track of the fox that stole the
grapes! Well, Fernando! you’re a nice young man! And oh, Cupid, Cupid,
you weren’t painted with the bandaged eyes for nothing, you rogue! But,
bless me, here am I chattering to myself, and Emily to be covered, dinner
nearly ready, and I not dressed.”

She broke off to hasten to a bureau, from a lower drawer of which she
took a grey silk coverlet to lay over Emily, and went swiftly from the
room.

Emily was sleeping deeply, with a faint color in her pallid and lovely
face. Bending over her, Muriel covered her with the quilt, and kissing
her forehead softly as a spirit, darkened the room, and left her. Then
going down to her mother, and warning her not to disturb the sleeper, she
hurried up to her chamber, and finished dressing herself just as Bridget,
a comely little Irish girl who waited at table when they dined alone,
came up to summon her to dinner.

Charmingly attired in a robe of black silk, with an open corsage of snowy
lace, and looking more radiantly fair than ever, Muriel came down to
dinner, and during the meal entertained her mother with a circumstantial
account of her noon adventure. The story, of course, made a sensation, as
the popular phrase goes; but as far as Muriel was concerned, Mrs. Eastman
listened without shuddering or chiding. She had such perfect confidence
in her daughter’s ability to take care of herself, and such a conviction
that everything she did befitted her—for, like Shakspeare’s Cleopatra,
Muriel shed the artistic grace of her nature on all her actions, and
compelled them to become her ornaments—that she heard the part she
had played in the wild scene not only without discomposure, but with
considerable pride and admiration, thinking at the same time how proud
Mr. Eastman would have been of the way his child had borne herself. As he
would, for his wishes for Muriel were well expressed in the noble lines
of Ben Jonson, of which he was very fond:

    “I meant the day-star should not brighter ride,
      Nor shed like influence from his lucent seat:
    I meant she should be courteous, facile, sweet,
      Free from that solemn vice of greatness, pride!
    I meant each softest virtue there should meet,
      Fit in that softer bosom to abide:
    Only a learned and a manly soul
      I purposed her, that should with even powers
    The rock, the spindle, and the shears control
      Of Destiny; and spin her own free hours.”

A piquant incident occurred while they yet lingered at dessert. The
chief result, perhaps, of Muriel’s narration, was to lend an added
blazon, in Mrs. Eastman’s mind, to the character of Harrington; and,
by the way, she still firmly believed—his declaration to the contrary
notwithstanding—that her daughter loved him.

“I often think,” she observed, during the conversation, “how superior
John is to all other men I know. The other day I met him in the street,
and my first impression was of his superiority in contrast to those
around him.”

“Yes, that strikes one certainly,” returned Muriel, with a nonchalant air.

“Ah, there is none like him, none!” said Mrs. Eastman. “I wish I had the
rewarding of him.”

Muriel laughed.

“Virtue is its own reward you know, mamma,” she said, playfully. “But
what other reward would you give him?”

“You!” quickly said Mrs. Eastman, smiling and coloring.

Muriel looked at her with a twinkling mouth and a demure face.

“You do not mean to say, mamma,” she replied, “that you would choose
Harrington from the crowd of my adorers for my husband.”

“Indeed,” said Mrs. Eastman, with some warmth, “if I had the choosing,
Harrington should be your husband to-morrow.”

Muriel now looked at her with an indescribable air of bewitching gaiety.

“To-morrow, mamma? So soon?” she said, jestingly.

Mrs. Eastman looked confused, like one who has been betrayed into saying
a foolish thing, and blushing deeply, began to laugh.

“Well,” she replied, with an air of raillery, “the day after to-morrow.”

“The day after to-morrow,” repeated Muriel, her countenance beaming with
gracious fun. “Well, my dear mamma, I will reflect upon it, and if I
decide to oblige you by marrying Harrington the day after to-morrow, I
will let you know.”

Mrs. Eastman laughed at this pleasantry, and thinking Muriel was evading
the subject, said no more, but rose from the dinner-table with her.
Their relation as mother and daughter also involved, as is not always
the case, the relation of courteous friendship, and this was the nearest
approach Mrs. Eastman had ever made to penetrate within the veil of any
reservation of Muriel’s.

Immediately after dinner, Muriel wrote a note to Wentworth, bidding him
come to the house instantly. This she dispatched by Patrick, bidding
him find the young artist, if possible, and give it into his own hand;
and Patrick, who would have gone through fire and flood for his young
mistress, promised to find Wentworth if he was to be found, and started
off on his errand.

It was about four o’clock when Wentworth arrived. He was shown up into
the studio, where Muriel was waiting for him. Pale and wan, and grave
even to coldness, he was the handsome and gallant Wentworth still; a man
to be loved at first sight by women and by men, even now, when a storm
had blown upon his May.

He bowed coldly and constrainedly to Muriel as he entered, though he was
struck by her exceeding beauty as she glided forward with her natural
affable smile and curtsey to greet him. But Wentworth was sick of all
the world at that moment, and affecting not to see Muriel’s outstretched
hand, he looked aside and reached her a chair.

“What is it you wished to see me for, Muriel?” he said, half coldly, half
carelessly, drawing up another chair for himself.

“Richard?” Her voice carried a soft rebuke, though it was gentle and low.
“Not glad to see me, your friend, your sister, Richard.”

He kept his gaze fixed upon the floor, but his lip quivered, and the
faded colors of the carpet suddenly swam. The next instant he felt her
arms around him, and blind with tears, he let his forehead sink upon her
shoulder.

“Forgive me, Muriel,” he faltered, in a moment, lifting his face to hers,
and wanly smiling through his tears. “Indeed I love you, but my heart is
half broken, and I am weary of the world.”

“Ah, Richard,” she said, with tender gaiety, “there is a fairy prince
here who mends broken hearts, and makes the world-weary glad again.”

Her arms fell from him, and as they fell, he caught her hand and pressed
it to his lips.

“Your magic is strong, dear fairy prince,” he said, with sad playfulness,
“but there are spells no magic can unbind. Come—let us speak of other
things.”

“Good!” said Muriel, sinking into the chair, while Wentworth also seated
himself—“and since we must speak of other things, let us speak of
Witherlee.”

Wentworth reddened instantly.

“And he _is_ a thing!” was his scornful answer. “I abhor him.”

“Abhor the good Fernando!” she exclaimed, with a jesting face. “Why
Richard, I am astonished at you! Abhor so talented a young gentleman!”

“Talented!” scoffed Wentworth. “What has he a talent for?”

“A talent for poisoning, dear skeptic,” she replied, lightly. “A splendid
talent for poisoning. No poisoner of the Middle Ages was ever more
skillful.”

Wentworth looked confused.

“Poisoning? What do you mean?” he murmured.

“Only those old poisoners wrought on life,” she pursued, “while he, you
know, works on character, minds, hearts. They could add a deadly perfume
to a harmless rose. He, now, can do the same with an innocent bunch of
violets.”

Wentworth looked at her silently, with a strange feeling rising within
him.

“Confess, Richard,” she went on, “that you scented something deadly to
your love after he had dropped a word over those violets!”

“I understand you,” he replied, slowly, “he said something which
prevented Emily from giving me the violets.”

“And that wounded you sorely,” she remarked.

“I confess it did,” he answered. “It was a very trifling thing, to be
sure, but at that time it meant a great deal, and to be frank with you,
Muriel, I was hurt. No matter,” he added, “there were other things for
which he was not responsible, which hurt me far more. I cannot now be
hurt again.”

“But consider,” said Muriel, quietly. “If that morning Emily had given
you the flowers, the gift would have gone far to reconcile you to her.
Would it not?”

“It would,” cried Wentworth, vehemently. “One little act of kindness from
her to me at that time, would have made me forget all her former slights,
and try to win her to me again. But, Muriel, why dwell on this? It was
her intention to trifle with me from the first. Come, I must not talk of
her. Let it all go. It amounts to nothing.”

“It amounts to just this,” she replied, coolly. “That Mr. Witherlee was
interested in your affairs to the extent of making fresh dissension
between you and Emily, and that he widened a breach already made. Now
do you imagine his interest extended no further than that moment? But,
Richard, tell me frankly, how did your difference with Emily arise!”

“Muriel,” he replied solemnly, “as Heaven is my witness, I do not know.
I never did anything to cause it. I left her here one afternoon, and I
was happy, for though I thought she loved me before, I was never sure
of it till then, when we met in the first embrace, the first kiss, and
the last, she ever gave me. Witherlee appeared at the parlor door, and
retreated again for a minute or so. Then you came into the parlor from
the conservatory, and he entered at the same moment. You will recollect
that afternoon—you brought in a bunch of flowers, and as he came in
you held out the bouquet to him, which he took from your hand. Do you
remember?”

Muriel nodded.

“Well,” continued Wentworth, “I felt a little abashed at Witherlee’s
entrance, for I thought he had seen us, and in fact, it was so awkward
for me, that I took my leave in a few minutes.”

“And that evening—I remember it well”—interrupted Muriel, “he and Emily
talked together in a corner the whole time, while mother and I were busy
with a roomful of guests.”

“Did they!” said Wentworth, coldly, seeing nothing in the circumstance
worthy of notice. “Well, Muriel,” he continued, after a moment’s
consideration, “I called the next morning to see Emily, happy as I could
be, and full of love for her, and she met me with such chilling hauteur
that I was frozen. It was like an ice-bath. I felt piqued and hurt, and
though I thought it only a passing freak, I could not help being cool
to her. Indeed, her manner prevented anything but coolness. I thought,
however, it would pass over. But the next day it was the same, and the
next and the next. I am proud, Muriel, and I was innocent of any fault.
Could I do less, and keep my self-respect, than remain cool to a lady who
was treating me so? Meanwhile, I saw her attentions to Harrington, and
I made up my mind that she had trifled with me for her amusement. So it
went on, till last night when she heaped contumely on me, and I repaid
her with the speech you heard. There. I did not mean to speak of this,
but you have led me on. Now I am quits with her.”

There was a moment’s silence, and then Wentworth resumed:

“In all this, Muriel, I did, as far as she was concerned, only one wrong
thing. When I saw her wooing Harrington, to show her that I could bear
her injury, and to spoil her triumph, I was very attentive to you. I
knew you would not mistake my assiduities for love, and I knew it would
pique her. I ask your pardon. It was wrong. I did another and a greater
wrong to Harrington, and I have sought him in vain to-day, to beg his
forgiveness. I thought he loved Emily, and I was meanly envious and
jealous of him—I was cold and reserved to him—I treated him with hauteur,
which I saw he could not understand, and”—

“How did Harrington act to you when you treated him with hauteur?”
interrupted Muriel, quickly.

“Like the man he is!” replied Wentworth, with impetuous fervor. “Like
the nature too noble for this world! Great, grand heart, he shamed me
even in my very treason to him with his unaltered kindness. He came
to me frankly, unrepelled by my attitude to him, he came with a look,
a word, a generous hand, and he conquered me. My envy and my jealousy
arose again, and were wasted on him. I could not alienate him from me.
He overlooked—he forgave all. Let me only see him again, let me ask his
compassion and his pardon, and then let me go away, and hide my shame in
Italy, for I am not worthy to live on the same soil with him—I am not
worthy to be his friend.”

Two bright tears flowed calmly down the face of Muriel, and her smile was
sweet and proud for her lover.

“Ah, Richard,” she said, gently, “had you treated Emily’s hauteur as
Harrington treated yours, you, too, might have conquered her. It was not
true love to answer her slights with coldness and silence.”

“Perhaps, so, Muriel,” he answered with averted eyes, feeling her rebuke.
“Perhaps I might. But no. It was not her nature. She meant to play upon
me. No matter. Let it pass. And as for Witherlee, I hate him. Chiefly
because I believe his insidious words set me against Harrington.”

“Ah,” said Muriel, coolly, almost carelessly, “he set you against
Harrington, did he?”

“He did,” replied Wentworth.

“And yet you loved Harrington,” she continued, “you loved him truly. But
Witherlee could set you against him.”

“He could,” faltered Wentworth. “I own it to my shame, but he could.”

“And now, Richard,” she said, gravely, “answer me this. Would Emily be
more to blame for having been set against you by Witherlee, than you were
to blame for having been set against Harrington by him?”

Wentworth looked at her, and colored.

“No,” he faltered. “I could not blame her if her feeling against me arose
from anything said by Witherlee. But what right have I to suppose that he
has said anything against me?”

“Richard Wentworth,” she cried, starting from her chair, and her face
lit, and her voice rang clear and free, “never dare to condemn Emily till
you know that this is not so. Never condemn any person on any evidence
till you have given that person a hearing. Here is a man who goes about,
dropping the hint, the innuendo, the shrug, the hum, the ha, the meaning
look, for aught I know the downright wicked lie, all the poisons used by
calumny, and while you know him to be on terms of intimacy with Emily,
you venture to suppose that he is guiltless of having poisoned her mind
against you. Permit me to say that you venture to suppose too much. I
would not condemn even him unheard, but what we know, though it is not
enough for proof, is quite enough to create a presumption. You have found
him fomenting strife between you and Harrington; you know him to have
widened the breach between you and Emily. These things show him no friend
of yours. And between the evening of your happy parting with Emily and
the morning of coldness and alienation, he spent several hours conversing
with her. Ominous link, Richard! Find out what it means. Do not assume
that she meant to trifle with you. I know better. I know Emily Ames
better than you do, and I know that a woman more honorable and loyal in
her love never breathed. Go, Richard Wentworth! imitate the magnanimity
of Harrington and never let me have it to say that the manliness of your
friend was more than that you showed to the woman that you love!”

Wentworth rose from his chair, his color flashing and failing, an awful
sense of the justice of Muriel’s speech mingling with an awful suspicion
of Witherlee, and his love for Emily rushing like a torrent on his heart.

“Muriel,” he faltered, “you are right. I have been rash. What shall I do?
Oh, if after all I have wronged Emily—if she loves me”—

“Richard,” said Muriel, solemnly, “I know she loves you. I have been
blind till to-day, but now I see. No sleep came to your poor Emily’s
eyes last night, and all day she has been in agony. A little while ago,
Harrington was here, and he has soothed her to rest. She lies now asleep
in the library. Come with me, and I will leave you to sit by her. Her
wakening eyes must rest first on you, and you must make your peace with
her. But you must not awaken her. Promise me you will sit patiently by
her till she wakes—promise!”

Wentworth pressed Muriel’s hand to his lips, and lifting his blanched
face, streaming with tears, to hers, faltered—

“I promise.”

“Oh, my brother,” she fondly said, affectionately encircling his shoulder
with her arm, “all will be well with you now. Said I not that the fairy
prince dwelt here? Behold, he gives you back to life and love! Come.”

Smiling with her happy and noble smile into his face, she led him forth
with her arm in his and downstairs to the library door.

“Remember your promise,” she whispered. “Now go in.”

He entered softly, softly closed the door behind him, and stood in the
dim room with a beating heart. For a moment, he only saw the books in
their cases, the sumptuous furniture, the glimmer of the frames upon
the walls, the rich, dark color of the room. Stealing to the window, he
parted the curtains to let in a little light, and turning, in the faint
ray he saw on the low couch, the pale face of his beloved, with the long
dark eyelash sleeping on her cheek, and her black hair fallen in a thick,
soft tress along the exquisite and melancholy beauty of her countenance.
Still, peaceful, void of scorn or pride, lovely and mournful in her
marble repose! The tears streamed from his eyes, and gliding near her he
knelt by her side, forgetting, forgiving all, and resolved, though she
woke upon him in anger, with hate, with contempt, to answer her only with
blessings, and love her till his pulses were still forever.

The hours passed by. The room grew dark, and going to the window, he put
aside the curtains, and let in the twilight. That twilight was yet early,
for the sun had but just set, and the grey light again lit the sleeping
face of Emily. As he watched it, he saw the color rise to it—the sunny
gold and rose, the bright carnation of the curved lips, behind which
glimmered the dim pearls. With his heart wildly throbbing, he kept his
eyes fixed upon her countenance. Presently, a faint smile stole upon it,
and she murmured softly—“he gave me that rose.” A thrill surged through
him. He remembered the rose he had given her in the sunrise of their
love, and knew that she was dreaming of it and of him. Gazing upon her
face, he heard her faint regular breathing pause in a long respiration
like a sigh, her form moved slightly under the silken coverlet, and
tossing out her beautiful bare arms, they fell along her form, and she
lay still. The next moment, her large and lustrous eyes unclosed slowly,
and met his. She did not start, but the eyes gradually brightened, and
the color rose upon her face and lips in rich suffusion. He did not
move—he did not speak—he knelt beside her, gazing into her face, with his
heart throbbing, and a still flush in his brain.

“It is a dream,” she murmured. “A dream of my love.”

He did not speak, but his arms softly stole around her, and hers enfolded
him at first so lightly that he scarcely felt them. Lightly and softly at
first, till suddenly with a double cry they were clasped together, and
the disenchanted Fairyland of love burst and streamed in music and light
and odor around them.

“Richard! Is it you?”

Holding him from her, with all her strength, her face impassioned, her
eyes like stars, she gazed upon him, with her fervent cry still ringing
in the twilight air.

“It is I. Forgive me, Emily. I love you.”

She impetuously drew him to her, and locked in each other’s arms, they
were still.

The fairy prince had triumphed, and Witherlee’s work was quite undone!



CHAPTER XXII.

INTERSTITIAL.


That evening, visitor after visitor called, and the parlor was full of
talk and music and laughter. Amidst her company, Muriel felt a lonely
longing for the face of Harrington. He sometimes dropped in late, for a
little while, and this evening, as ten o’clock approached and the guests
began to depart, she half-hoped he would come. But he did not, and tired
with her last night’s vigil, as with the fatigues of the day, she went to
rest as soon as the last visitor had said good night.

The next day came bright and beautiful, and Harrington not appearing as
he commonly did, Muriel went out to take her early morning walk alone.
While she was out, he arrived and at once went up to the chamber where
Roux was confined.

It was not more than six o’clock, but Roux was up and dressed. He sat
in a chair, and Tugmutton, squatted on a stool by his side, was reading
aloud to him from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tugmutton’s reading was a treat to
hear. It was, when the text was at all serious, what is called at the
theatres, spouting, and spouting of the most grandiloquent order, at
that. Accompanied, also, by much and varied action of his big paw, and
interspersed not only with explanations and comments of his own, but
whenever he came to anything that particularly pleased him, with chirrups
and guffaws of goblin laughter, and bobbings and waggings of his big
head and blobber cheeks over the page, the effect was, to say the least
of it, peculiar. On the present occasion, the fat Puck happened to have
arrived at a chapter highly congenial to his special views on the Slavery
Question—to wit: that wherein George Harris and his fellow runaways
fight the hunters of men; and Roux was at some trouble to detach the
sense of the narrative from the luxurious overgrowth of dissertation,
interpolation, exclamation, cachinnation, and general outward limbs
and flourishes wherewith Tugmutton was embellishing it. Having got to
the point where Phineas topples the slave-hunter down the rocks, the
delighted squab leaned back and gave vent to an uproarious guffaw, and
in the midst of this, while Roux, with a faint and curious smile on his
simple, dark face, was listening, Harrington’s knock was heard at the
entrance.

Tugmutton instantly grew sober, and sat staring with his great white eyes
at the door, as Roux crossed to open it.

“Good morning, Mr. Roux,” said Harrington, entering, and shaking hands
with him. “How are you?”

“Firs’rate, thank ye, Mr. Harrington,” replied the smiling Roux, bowing
humbly, and shutting the door again.

The intuitive Tugmutton, instantly gathering from Harrington’s slightly
distraught air, that something was the matter, remained perfectly
motionless, squatting on his low stool with the book in his hands, and
staring open-mouthed at him, with a look of preternatural curiosity on
his fat face.

“Sit down, Roux,” said Harrington, dropping into a chair without noticing
the boy, and gazing absently around the room.

Roux resumed his chair, and with his hand fumbling over his mouth as was
usual with him, rolled his eyes timidly about the room.

“Roux, I’ve got news to tell you,” faltered Harrington, smiling. “Good
news. What would be the best news you could hear?”

Roux smiled faintly, and still fumbling around his mouth with his hand,
while his eyes continued to wander, he appeared to hesitate.

“Well, Mr. Harrington,” he said, after a pause, “I ruther feel oncertain
as to what to say. It would be the most uncommonest best news, if I heerd
that my brother Ant’ny was to git away. But I’m afeard that’s not likely,
Mr. Harrington.”

Roux’s eyes kept wandering, and Harrington looking hard at the opposite
wall, smiled furtively. The next instant both he and Roux were startled
by a sudden screech of eldritch mirth, and by the apparition of Tugmutton
pitching forward on his hands, and slapping over in a somerset as quick
as light, coming up clean on his feet with a sober-staring face, and a
low “Hoo!” They both stared at him, Harrington with a stir in his blood,
for he had not seen the squab, and he was completely startled by his
appearance in this astonishing gymnastic.

“Hi!” exclaimed Tugmutton, standing legs dispread, just as he had landed
from his flip-flap, and pointing at Harrington with his thumb, while
a jovial grin slowly spread over his fat visage. “Hi! That nigger has
arroven! My gosh! Mr. Harrington, I smell a rat as if I was nothin’ but
nose! Hooraw! Three cheers! Likewise a horse larf! O sing you niggers,
sing!” and chanting this line in a shrill voice, Tugmutton stopped to fly
into a furious double-shuffle and breakdown, with his shock head bobbing
like mad.

“Hallo, you, Tug, now,” quavered Roux, looking frightened. “Just you
ricollect where you are now, Tug, in this nice house. What’s the matter
with you, and what you goin’ off in that way for now? I don’t see what
you mean by sech actions, noways.”

Tugmutton stopped in his dance at the sound of Roux’s voice, and with his
short arms akimbo on his ribs, and his short, broad legs dispread, glared
up at him with a look of supreme indignation.

“My gosh, father!” he exclaimed, “if you ain’t stupid now! Why jus’ you
look at them liniments of Mr. Harrington!” and he pointed with his thumb
at Harrington’s face, which was wrinkled into an amused smile. “Now,
what’s there father, jus’ as plain as print?”

Tugmutton ended with a snort, and ineffably disgusted at Roux’s
unintelligence, dumped down on his stool, and looked at Harrington. Roux
meanwhile gazed at the young man with a timid and imploring expression.

“Charles is right, Mr. Roux,” said Harrington, cheerfully, while
Tugmutton relapsed into a jovial grin of satisfaction, showing all his
ivories, and wagging his bushy head delightedly.

“But now, Mr. Roux,” continued Harrington, “I want you to keep cool. The
good news is that your brother is free. Don’t let it overcome you. Be
cool.”

“I will, Mr. Harrington,” stammered Roux, terribly agitated, “I will be
cool. I won’t let it overcome me.”

“That’s right—don’t,” replied Harrington, with an affectation of phlegm.
“By the way, how is your wife? How does she bear the letter I sent her?”

“Oh, she’s pretty well, Mr. Harrington, and she says she thinks I’ll be
safe here,” said Roux, trembling all over.

Harrington led him on to talk of other subjects, diverting his mind as
much as possible from the matter in hand, and in a few minutes got him
tranquil again.

“Now, Mr. Roux,” he said, “Antony is free as I told you, and I want you
to prepare yourself to see him soon.”

“Yes, Mr. Harrington, I will,” said Roux with a wondering face. “Did Miss
Ames buy him, Mr. Harrington?”

“Oh no,” returned Harrington, “how could she when it was only a day or
two since she knew of him? Antony ran away. I have him at my house.”

Roux sprang to his feet, wild with joy.

“Let me go to see him, Mr. Harrington,” he cried.

“No,” said Harrington, rising and gently pressing Roux into his chair
again. “You are not safe out of this room. I will bring him here to stay
with you. Keep cool, Roux, and be patient. You must expect to see Antony
very thin, for he has been sick. But he will soon recover. Now I must go,
and to-night when it is dark, I will bring him here. Good bye. Keep up a
good heart. He will soon be with you.”

“Oh, I knew it from the very fust,” complacently remarked Tugmutton,
taking his leg on his knee, and lolling back a little with the most
indifferent air in the world, “I ain’t astonished. My gosh! no, you can’t
astonish me. I’m above it.”

“That’s because you have a great mind, Charles,” said Harrington,
jestingly. “Now just use your talents in cheering up your father—that’s a
good boy.”

“I’ll do it, Mr. Harrington,” replied the cheerful youth, jumping up to
let Harrington out, with his pear-face shining gleefully. “I’ll cheer him
up so that nobody’ll ever know him again. Good bye, Mr. Harrington. Call
again.”

Nodding pleasantly, Harrington departed, while Tugmutton waved his big
paw with a lofty air, like a king dismissing his prime-minister after a
cabinet council, and closed the door after him.

In the passage below, Harrington met Mrs. Eastman, and mentioned that he
intended to bring Antony there that evening after dark.

“Of course,” he added, “there is no danger of the servants mentioning
that there are colored men in the house. It would not do to have it
gossiped about.”

“No, indeed,” returned Mrs. Eastman, smiling. “They have all, except
little Bridget, been with us for years, and are like part of the family.
Not the least danger of them. You know, John, we have had fugitives here
several times before.

“Yes, I know that,” he replied, laughing.

After a minute’s further conversation, he departed, and went home to
breakfast, without having asked for Emily, or seen Muriel. To tell the
truth, a feeling of trepidation—a sense of some gathering mystery which
made his heart tremble—had grown upon Harrington since he had left Emily
the day before, and he shrank in spirit from meeting her or Muriel. He
felt darkly that something of import, closely affecting him, remained
undisclosed in the mutual relations of himself and his friends. The words
of Wentworth—“because it has been played upon”—rang in his memory like a
bell. Undoubtedly, Harrington would have unriddled the mystery almost as
quickly as Muriel had done, but the blundering avowal of Wentworth that
he was Muriel’s betrothed, stood in the way of his sight, and baffled him.

Restless; ill at ease; unwilling to think upon the subject, which yet
persisted in invading his mind; and in that state of nervous incertitude,
in which mysterious agitations and sudden tinglings of the blood
incessantly visit the frame, it was a positive relief to Harrington to
get away from himself, among the cheerful, familiar faces around the
Captain’s table. The family were assembled in the dining-room, which
opened off the kitchen. A pleasant, old-fashioned room, looking on the
street, and furnished with plain, old-fashioned, homely furniture.
Curtains of white dimity to the windows; a semi-circular stand, holding
rows of flower-pots, at one of them, from which the smell of geraniums
and roses was shed throughout the apartment; the floor covered with a
woven rag-carpet of soberly gay colors; a bureau, spread with white
linen at one side, with the miniature model of a ship full-rigged, upon
it; straight-backed mahogany chairs, with horsehair seats; two rocking
chairs, with white tidies on their backs; a looking-glass between the
windows, and on the opposite wall, on either side of the mantel, two
portraits, fearfully bad, of the Captain and his wife. The Captain,
however, regarded these works of art with complacent satisfaction,
and held them as chief among his household treasures. The wandering
country artist who had executed them, had represented the Captain as a
dark-eyed, rosy-cheeked, staring, marine Adonis, preternaturally blooming
in complexion, attired in an indigo blue coat with brass buttons, a
buff waistcoat, and a frilled shirt-front, and grasping a spy-glass in
one hand and a quadrant in the other. To match this artistic triumph,
Mrs. Fisher appeared with sky-blue eyes, lily-white complexion, pink
cheeks and lips, an azure dress with a huge broach, and a gold chain and
pencil-case, on which the artist had spent his finest genius and his
brightest chrome. To trace a resemblance between the portrait, and the
kind, quiet, pale-eyed, colorless little woman in a gauze cap, who sat at
the head of the breakfast-table, would have been more difficult than to
establish a similar likeness between the other portrait and the Captain.
But the Captain was happy in the belief that the portraits were gems of
truth and art, and as he himself was accustomed to observe on various
occasions, putting it as a profoundly philosophical conclusion, “What’s
the odds, so as you’re happy!”

A chorus of greetings welcomed Harrington, as he came in and took his
seat at the breakfast table.

“We began to think you warn’t comin’, John,” remarked Mrs. Fisher,
pouring out his coffee.

“I hurried home as quick as I could, Hannah,” replied the young man.
“Well, Sophy, you look as bright as gold this morning. The jewellers
would put you in a box of pink cotton.”

Sophronia, a plump and pretty little miss, with blue eyes, a charming
little snub nose, and a dimple in her chin, smiled coquettishly at this
compliment, and glanced at the smiling face of the speaker.

“My!” she exclaimed, saucily, “how smart you are, John! I wish I could
say such pretty things to you.”

“Well, try,” jested Harrington. “Compliment me on this beard which you
admire so much.”

“Beard indeed!” said Sophy, tossing her head, with a playful pout of her
ripe cherry lips, “I don’t admire it at all. The girls ought to set their
faces against it.”

“Maybe they do, Sophy,” returned Harrington, with sly significance.

Sophy was caught, and tossed her head, coloring and smiling, while the
Captain, with his mouth full of bread and butter, burst into a roar of
laughter, in which Mrs. Fisher, John H., and Joel James joined, the
latter beating the table with the haft of his knife.

“That’s all very well for you to say,” said Sophy, with another fling of
her head, and pout of her lip.

“And that’s all very well for the girls to do,” bantered Harrington,
whereat the merriment burst forth again.

“Gracious! There’s no use in me talking. You’re as smart as a steel trap,
John,” she answered.

Joel James, a bluff and burly rosy-cheeked boy, with his father’s
features and his mother’s blue eyes, interrupted this play of repartee,
to say, with his mouth full of breakfast, that his kite wouldn’t fly
nohow.

“She pitches about like as if she was crazy, John,” he grumbled, munching
between the words.

“That’s because she hasn’t bob enough. We’ll fix that,” returned
Harrington, as much interested in the boy’s grievance as if it was an
affair of State.

“And I can’t make my peg-top spin, John,” complained John H., looking
dolefully at Harrington with his soft black eyes and chubby countenance.

“Can’t? Well, after breakfast I’ll show you how,” said Harrington,
good-naturedly. “The kite shall fly and the top shall spin, as sure as
the world goes round. By the way, Eldad, how’s our friend out yonder? I
haven’t seen him this morning.”

The Captain glanced out at the open window looking into the yard, before
replying.

“He’s up, eating his breakfast,”, he answered. “I’ve locked your door,
and the garden gate too, and here’s the keys,” he added, pointing to them
by the side of his plate.

“Poor forsaken critter!” murmured Hannah compassionately. “It just made
my heart ache to see him when I went up there yesterday. He looked so
awful lean and sick.”

“He looks a great deal better this mornin’,” remarked the Captain. “The
sleep’s done him a heap of good. It’s astonishin’ how much those colored
folks can bear. You wunt know that chap in about a week, he’ll have
fatted up so. I’ve dressed him out, John, in some of my old clothes, and
made him look quite decent.”

“That’s right, Eldad,” said Harrington. “I’ll make it up to you.”

The Captain laid down his knife, and with his head all askew, looked at
Harrington.

“You’ll make it up to me, John?” he remarked, blandly, with a great
disposition to swear. “By the spoon of horn, I’d like to catch you at it!
The best suit of clothes I’ve got in the house wouldn’t be too good for a
man that’s gone through what he has—leastways, if they was fit for him,
which they ain’t; and I’m not goin’ to be paid for my Christian duty,
young man.”

“I ask your pardon, Eldad,” returned Harrington. “I spoke hastily, and
didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

“Of course you didn’t,” grumbled the Captain, mollified. “It’s only
just your plaguy openhandedness that wunt let nobody go to expense but
yourself.”

“By the way, Eldad,” hurriedly replied the young man, steering off the
conversation from the approaching commendations, “I’m going to take him
off to-night. He’ll be safer there.”

“All right. So he will,” rejoined the Captain, curtly. “That is, if he’s
safe anywhere in Massachusetts now. It’s ebb-tide with us this year with
a vengeance. If the people haven’t had enough of conservative legislation
to sicken ’em this term of the General Court, they never will have. The
doin’s of the Legislature have been shameful. Half a dozen righteous
measures that passed the Senate, those black sheep in the House have
defeated.

“Yes,” returned Harrington. “The Personal Liberty Bill is lost—the bill
to protect the property of married women is lost, too—the bill”—

“Anyhow, we’ve got the Maine Law,” interrupted the Captain, triumphantly.

“And that’s tyranny, pure and simple,” said Harrington. “Sorry to differ,
Eldad. I respect the temperance people, and I would go for a law that
would shut up every dram-shop in Massachusetts; but this Maine Law is
a downright violation of the doctrines of civil liberty, and I can’t
sacrifice liberty to temperance or anything else.”

Whereupon there was discussion, in which the Captain got the worst of it;
and rising, at last, with his head all awry, and his features atwist,
took his pipe from the mantel-piece, preparatory to a smoke in the yard.
Harrington rose also.

“Why, John,” said Mrs. Fisher, “you’ve made no breakfast at all.”

“Oh yes, Hannah,” he returned, cheerily. “Plenty. Now, Joel and John, the
kite and the top.”

The boys scrambled off to fetch the playthings, while Harrington went
to his own apartments. The kite and the top put in order, Captain
Fisher volunteered to mount guard over Antony if Harrington wanted to
go out; and availing himself of this offer, the young man posted off to
the fencing-school, and after an hour’s vigorous exercise, returned.
Wentworth had called in his absence, and had left word that he was going
out of town for the day, but wanted to see Harrington for something
special to-morrow. Disturbed at this message—he knew not why—and feeling
his strange trepidation stronger than ever, Harrington, who, like Goethe,
always sought relief from cares and troubles in intense application
to his books, immured himself for a long day’s study, dreading to see
Wentworth, dreading to see Emily, dreading, above all, to see Muriel, and
yet he knew not why.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE BLOOMING OF THE LILY.


Muriel, in the meantime, had returned from her walk, and had a tender and
happy hour with Emily. Emily was glorious that morning in her beauty, for
the Valley of Humiliation had burst and flamed into roses of life and
love, and the Valley of the Shadow lay far withdrawn in radiance upon
the verge of life. There were soft showers still in the summer of her
sky, but those were tears of contrite gratitude to Muriel. There were
mellow thunders rolling in the summer of her sky, but those were words
of rich anger and scorn for Witherlee. Muriel had guessed aright. The
good Fernando had poisoned Emily’s mind against Wentworth, and the deed
was done on the evening he had spent with her after her parting with
her lover. It would not have appeared at all surprising to a Court of
Love that Emily, in blaming Wentworth for his supposed desertion of her,
never imputed that desertion to her treatment of him. Quite overlooking
her own conduct, she had taken his as proof of Witherlee’s assertions
regarding him. But now the films had dropped from her eyes, and in her
talk with Wentworth the night before, which had lasted late and long, she
had awakened to the perception of the game that had been played upon
her by the good Fernando. How she raved at him! But Muriel laughed her
angers down as they rose, till what might have been sheeting bursts were
only momentary jets of flame. For Muriel was optimist and socialist, and,
referring the faults of people to mal-organization, mis-education, and
the play of adverse influences upon them, her golden charity spread even
over Witherlee.

Breakfast came, and after breakfast Wentworth. Another tender and happy
hour between the three, in which Wentworth made some revelations, poured
out his soul in affection and gratitude to his dear fairy prince, as he
called her, and lightened his scorn upon the good Fernando. Then Muriel
having, in turn, toned down his meteor wrath, he and Emily set off
together to Cambridge to announce their engagement to her parents, who
were friends of his family, and very fond of him. They were to return the
following day, and Emily was to continue her stay with Muriel.

A little while after they left, Mrs. Eastman went out to spend that day
and night at a relative’s in Milton, a few miles from Boston, and Muriel
was left alone.

No work that day for Muriel; no study, no visiting, no occupation of
any kind. She summoned Patrick, and bade him deny her to every one that
called, and then shut herself up in the library to pass the day alone.

And all the long bright day—the sweet and beautiful deep-breathing sacred
day—while the soft and opulent effulgence of the sun flooded the chamber
with a mist of violet and gold, she lay at rest, or glided to and fro,
lovely as some incarnate angel from a more ethereal star than ours, and
with a mystic change upon her loveliness. For the summer of her life had
come to her, and all its virginal and dewy lilies were in bloom. Summer
languors filled her; Eden tremors melted through her; and floating in
light and perfume through the tender-litten land of reverie and dreams,
she heard the impassioned melodies of Paradise. A more bewildering grace
had fallen around her form, and every negligent and flowing curve, veiled
in the soft and snowy drapery of the robe she wore, seemed rounded to a
contour more nobly and magically fair. Faint with excess of happiness,
dreaming upon the sweet and secret purpose of her heart, and musing in a
dim oblivion of tenderness on all that had been, and was, and was to be,
while ever on and on the lilies of her love grew glowing into magic roses
of red hymeneal joy—so passed the cloistered day, and evening fell.

She rose from the couch on which she had sat, half reclining. The sunset
light lay within the library, and rested on the luxuriant symmetry of
her figure, as she stood with her hands crossed upon her bosom and her
exalted face upturned.

“You were right, my Emily,” she fervently murmured, “life is indeed life
in the greatness and sweetness of love, but life is truliest life in
loving and being beloved. And yet had I asked love, could I have felt
this stainless flame of joy! Sweet, sweet when the two souls give the
mutual undemanding love—sweet, sweet as the sweetness of Paradise! Oh, I
am happy, happy!”

She clasped her hands in a calm transport of joy, and with her head bowed
upon her bosom, like a flower drooping with its wealth of bloom, she
remained still and silent for a little while.

“Ah, lovers who sadden without love, I think of you,” she said again,
lifting a gay and radiant face, and speaking with tender playfulness.
“For you, poor lovers, you who bear love’s cross, and may not wear love’s
crown—for you I pray! Oh, doleful company, would that I could make you
happy, too!”

Laughing a little to herself, she let her clasped hands fall, and with a
slow, harmonious movement, glided, musing, from the room.

She went up-stairs to the studio, and sitting by her desk, wrote these
lines to Harrington.

    “Flos equitum!—flower of chevaliers! Be sure to come this
    evening. A matter of the greatest importance, so do not fail.
    This is a vermilion edict. Hear and obey!

                                                           MURIEL.”

“Good!” said she, laughing softly, as she folded the note. “A piebald
epistle truly. But, like Mercutio’s wound, it is enough. And now for
some dinner, for no beautifulest poet, as Carlyle says, but must dine,
and lovers are subject to the same condition. Indeed, I think love gives
one an appetite, for I am quite famished.”

Gaily talking to herself in this way, she went down-stairs, dispatched
Patrick with the note, and sat down to her solitary dinner, which she had
ordered to be served at this hour.

It was well that she had written to Harrington, for the young scholar,
his mysterious trepidation increasing as the hour drew near when he was
to convey Antony to Temple street, had decided, when the note reached
him, to send Captain Fisher with the fugitive instead. Of course he
revoked his decision, when he read the missive, and quaking at heart, and
wondering what the “matter of the greatest importance” could be, he set
out about half-past eight o’clock, with Antony.

He had previously told the poor man that he knew his brother, and was
going to take him to him that evening, and Antony was lost between utter
astonishment and delighted expectation. To his simple mind, this strong,
beautiful, friendly, masterful Harrington, who lived in a house full of
books, who treated him as he had never dreamed even of being treated
by a white man, and who completed his wonderful benefactions by taking
him to see his brother, was little less than a god. Regarding him with
actually servile reverence, Antony thought he knew everything and could
do anything, and that he was the greatest man in the world.

Arrived at the house, they were let in by Patrick, who, though he had
been forewarned of the arrival of another colored man that evening,
looked a little frightened as he caught a glimpse under the hall-light of
the black cheek-bones and ghastly, hollow eyes of the fugitive. Nothing
more could be seen of his face, for Harrington had taken the precaution
to muffle it almost to the eyes, and the black felt hat which the
fugitive wore, he had bade him keep on till he saw his brother. Assisting
his charge, who was still weak, up into the library, Harrington left
him sitting there in the dark room, lighted only by the moon, and went
up-stairs to announce his arrival to Roux. Returning in a few minutes,
he conducted the trembling fugitive up to the door of the room where
Roux was, which was ajar, and bidding him push it open, and enter, he
retreated.

On the stairs he heard, with a thrill, the rush, the cry, of that
meeting, followed by the shrill laughter and hilarious breakdown of
Tugmutton. He did not pause, but ran lightly down into the library,
and flinging himself into a corner of a cushioned couch, he covered
his burning eyes with his hand, and sat still, his heart swelling with
compassionate emotion. Harrington had none of those imperfect sympathies
of which Charles Lamb speaks with such gentle humor; and the meeting,
after so many years of separation, of those two poor black, uncomely
brothers of a despised race, touched his heart as much as if they had
been the most beautiful and elegant people in the world.

Recovering in a few moments, he looked up, and the former feeling of
mingled anxiety and trepidation flowed back upon his heart. Patrick had
said Miss Eastman wished him ushered into the library, but had he not
mistaken his instructions?—for the library was unlighted. Still there
was light enough for conversation, for the curtains were withdrawn, and
the pale moonlight streamed into the apartment. He watched it for a few
minutes wanly glimmering on the glass cases, filled with books, which
lined the chamber; on the dim busts of bronze which stood above them; the
pictures on the walls; the statuettes of metal and marble on brackets and
pedestals; the various ornaments here and there; the dark shapes of the
rich furniture, all softly salient in the dim light and vague shadows of
the perfumed air. Gradually his mind lost its interest in the phantasmal
effects before him, and feeling weary and sad at heart, he leaned his
elbow on the arm of the couch, and covering his closed eyes with his
hand, sat without moving for a long time.

How still the room was! Dropping his hand from his eyes, as a ghostly
sense of its intense stillness crossed his mind, he saw, with a sudden
thrill of surprise, the figure of Muriel in the moonlight before him. She
stood serene and motionless, with a certain grave majesty of mien which
awed him—her beautiful bare arms lightly laid one upon another, and her
white robe falling softly around the perfect outlines of her tall and
stately form. The moonlight rested on the shadowy amber of her hair, and
on her face, grave and sweet, from which her dimly shining eyes looked
calmly upon him. A little surprised at the suddenness of her appearance,
as by her mystic beauty he sat for a moment gazing at her.

“Do not rise,” she said, quietly, as he made a movement to leave his
seat. “Remain where you are. I have sent for you this evening, John, to
converse with you on a matter of moment to both of us.”

Her voice had never seemed so serenely sweet as now. It thrilled him like
the low tones of some exquisite musical instrument. But wondering what
she could mean, and filled with strange wonder at her manner, he sat
breathlessly gazing at her.

“What is it, Muriel?” he said at length, in a hushed voice.

“It is this, John,” she replied, still remaining motionless. “You have
not seen Wentworth since I saw you last?”

“I have not, Muriel.”

“Nor Emily?”

“No.”

“I thought not,” she said, after a pause. “John, I talked with Wentworth
this morning, and he told me of a conversation that passed recently
between Mr. Witherlee and your master-at-arms—Monsieur Bagasse.
Wentworth, for certain reasons which he will explain to you to-morrow,
told you only a portion of that conversation as it was reported to him.
There is a part which I want to tell you now.”

Harrington, who thought when she mentioned that she had spoken with
Wentworth, that she was about to tell him the meaning of the strange
speech the young artist had flung at Emily, looked at her, utterly
puzzled to know what possible importance could attach to the conversation
between Bagasse and Witherlee.

“The part I want to tell you, relates to you, John,” she continued. “Mr.
Witherlee had led the fencing-master to suppose that you loved a lady
whom he described as wealthy, of high social position, and much personal
beauty.”

“Oh, yes,” interrupted Harrington, quietly. “I heard that Witherlee has
represented me as Emily’s lover.”

“No,” said Muriel, serenely, “it was not Emily he mentioned. It was
another lady.”

Harrington’s heart leaped convulsively, and, even in the shadow where he
sat, Muriel saw the color rush to his face.

“Monsieur Bagasse,” she continued, “expressed his satisfaction that you
were to marry so fine a lady, whereat Witherlee told him he was mistaken,
that the lady would as soon marry a man out of the poorhouse, and that it
was very odd that he should think a lady who belonged, as he said, to our
first society, would wed a man who wears such a plain coat as you do.”

Harrington, astonished beyond measure, sat in silence, wondering what
object Muriel could have in telling him this, all his being, meanwhile,
one burning flush of grief and pain.

“To which,” pursued Muriel, “Monsieur Bagasse replied in his French
_patois_ to this effect: ‘Why is it odd that a rich and beautiful lady
should love Mr. Harrington. Is it odd because he wears an old coat?
Ah, Mr. Witherlee, there are duchesses that love the old coat because
it covers the nobility of heart they also love! Listen,’ said Monsieur
Bagasse, ‘to what I would do if I were a beautiful, rich lady, and knew
that Mr. Harrington loved me. I would say—you good, gallant, noble man,
so like the knightly gentlemen of the heroic time, I know that you love
me, and I love you for all you are. I love you with your old coat—I love
your old coat because it has covered you. Take me to your heart—take me
to your life—share my home, my wealth—I am yours forever! That,’ said
Monsieur Bagasse, John, ‘that is what I would say to Mr. Harrington if I
were a beautiful, rich lady, and knew that he loved me.’”

Her voice, in saying all this, was so even, so low and clear and sweet,
so calm and unimpassioned, and she stood so motionless in her mystic
beauty, with her arms serenely laid upon each other, that Harrington,
sadly listening, and gazing at her seraphic face and gem-like eyes, as
she bloomed before him in the tender moonlight, had no sense of the
climax to which her soul was rushing, no hint of the meaning which her
recital concealed. But suddenly a thrill stirred his pulses, for she
stepped a pace forward, and her arms fell.

“Hear me, my Paladin,” she said, and her voice rose into fuller melody,
and a proud and glorious smile kindled her features—“your Frenchman’s
speech was the voice of a manly heart, and the lady of whom Witherlee
spoke, responds to its every word. Knowing that you love her, and hoping
she is worthy of a love like yours, she has said—you, in whose frame beat
the pulses of gentlemen and chevaliers—you, in whose soul the spirit
of the antique chivalry lives anew—take me, for I love you, and I have
loved you long. Take me to your heart—take me to your life—for I am yours
forever!”

He sprang to his feet, and stood in the moonlight, dilated, his eyes
resplendent, and his features still and pallid as the features of the
dead. Her arms were stretched toward him, and with all his being yearning
to her, he could scarcely restrain the impulse that bade him whirl every
consideration to the winds, and clasp her to his heart. But no: there
was some mystery here to be made plain; he must be sure that some sudden
passion had not made her forgetful of her plighted faith to another; he
must not wrong his friend. The thought quelled the tumult of his spirit,
and held his struggling heart as a giant holds a giant.

“Oh, I read you well,” she exclaimed, her arms sinking slowly, while
she still looked at him with her proud and glorious smile. “My soul is
clairvoyant to-night, and I read you well. Love is strong, but it is
chained by honor. You think me the betrothed of Wentworth. Ah, no! Emily
is the betrothed of Wentworth, and when he told you otherwise, it was his
hasty blunder—no more. John!” she faltered, and her voice grew sweet and
low—“you asked me once to tell you of the fairy prince I was to follow
through all the world, and I told you I would tell you of him when I
found him. I have found him—here!”

The word rang from her lips in a fervent and adoring cry, and she was
in his arms. One wild, delirious instant, and then the tumult of his
joy mounted to his brain, and spread into the stillness of a blissful
dream. O solemn ecstasy of prayer and peace! O mystic passion of true
love unveiled! The moonlight rested on the noble beauty of their forms,
with the dark and rich phantasmal room around them. They saw it not—they
knew not where they were. Tranced in the temple of the night, they stood,
silent, motionless, filled with ethereal light, as if a rosy star had
burst within their being, filled with an all-pervading, holy tenderness.
Ended now the strange delusion—the restlessness and pain, the hopeless
yearning, the generous grief, the alternate hope and doubt and fleeting
joy, the sad renunciation, the selfless and submissive sacrifice, were
ended; they had passed away like clouds, and the sweet heavens of love
remained.

Slowly her head drooped back, and clinging to him yet, her noble face,
tranquil and wet with tears, gazed fondly into his.

“Beloved Muriel,” he said, and his deep voice was tremulous and low, “I
came here sad and dark, and you have filled me with light and life and
joy. What am I that I should invoke a love like yours—what am I that it
should descend to me so rich in blessing?”

“Not so, not so,” she fervently replied. “It is I that am bold, for I
have chosen you for my beloved from all living men I know. But I love
you. Oh, should I not love you—for you made life sweet to me, you taught
me to make life noble! Dear friend so long—my husband now—still help me
to make life noble, for I could not love you so much if I did not love
the world you live for more. Come; we have much to talk of. Sit here by
me.”

She sank upon the couch near by, and he took a seat by her side. Silent
a little while before their talk began, they sat folded in each other’s
arms, the hour of wonder sinking slowly like a subsiding sea, and the
moonlight resting peacefully upon them.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE BLOWING OF THE ROSE.


Day, ethereal and splendid, burst up the wide horizon like a hymn,
and filled the sacred morning with light and love and joy. A morning
ruled by a celestial sun—a morning blue and golden, and throbbing with
immortality. To breathe was happiness. To drink the cool aërial wine of
the clear, sweet atmosphere, was in itself rapture. In all the lustrous
azure there was no cloud, and the heavenly day seemed set apart and
consecrate to love.

Its glorious ray streamed through the crystal and purple panes of the
rich library, and filled the perfumed air with floating lights of violet
and gold. The chamber, decked and fragrant with a profusion of delicate
and dewy blush roses, and swimming in the sumptuous colored radiance, had
bloomed into a hymeneal bower. But more than all its adornments, was the
youthful beauty of Emily and Wentworth. They sat by each other, her hand
clasped in his, talking in gay, fond voices, and the sun never shone on
lovers more joyous and handsome than they. His face, lit by the blue,
sparkling eyes and the proud, brilliant smile, with the thick cluster of
auburn locks carelessly curling on the passionate sloping brow and around
the florid cheeks, was turned to hers; while she, magnificent in her
Spanish beauty, her damask cheeks glowing through the clear gold of her
complexion, and heightened by the darkness of her hair, gazed at him with
lustrous eyes, the pearls of her curved carnation mouth half shown in her
slow and indolent ambrosial smile. So sat they in the gold and violet
glory of the room—a sight to make an anchorite forswear his weeds, and
pray the saints to send him youth and love.

A bounding step was heard upon the stairs, and Emily turned, while
Wentworth looked toward the door. It opened presently, and the martial
figure of Harrington appeared. The color flashed upon the face of the
superb brunette, and springing to her feet, she ran to him. Then, with
her arms around him, she turned to Wentworth with a flushed and laughing
face, and—

“Are you jealous, Richard, are you jealous?” she cried, with riant gaiety.

“Jealous? Jupiter Pluvius!” shouted Wentworth, bounding to his feet, and
rushing over to Harrington.

Clasping him with an embrace of steel, Harrington bent his head, and
kissed him on each cheek, then pushed him from him, with his hands upon
his shoulders.

“That is the kiss of France,” he gaily cried. “That is the kiss of the
Paris that I love. And here,” he added, grasping Wentworth’s hand, “here
is the hand of the Old England and the New—the hand of love and faith and
the oaken heart. Yours, Richard, now and always.”

Wringing the generous hand, his face convulsed, and his lip quivering,
Wentworth gazed at his friend with humid eyes. A moment, and two bright
tears rolled down his cheeks, and his head fell.

“Ah, John,” he faltered, “I do not deserve the hand, nor the heart that
gives it. I treated you basely, and you”—

“Hush, Richard! Not a word of that. I know it all,” said Harrington,
putting his right arm around Wentworth, and drawing him to his breast.
“You, too, Emily,” and his left arm encircled her.

There was a moment of silence, deep and sweet as prayer. Standing so,
with his beautiful and regal bearded face bent down to them, he gazed
upon their features, solemn in that moment with the fervor of their love
for him.

“Dear Emily—dear Richard,” he said, in his strong melodious voice, “we
will not cloud the joy of this sacred day with any word of what has
passed forever. Let us not look upon it with one regret. Let us think
of it rather with gratitude and blessing; for it has bound us together
closer than we were before. See, I had but two friends; and now, I, who
have no brother or sister of my own, have found a sister and a brother
in you. That is worth the mutual pain—that repays it all. Behold, a new
heaven and a new earth have come to us, and the former things are passed
away.”

His voice ceased, and the silence came like a benediction. In a moment,
his arms fell, and he turned from them. There was a pause, in which
Wentworth and Emily wandered to the windows, wiping their eyes.

“Ah, me,” presently sighed Wentworth, breaking into his volatile laugh,
“as I always say, I feel as if I’d got religion. In fact, I’ve got
religion several times the last few days.”

“So have I,” cried Emily, dropping her handkerchief from her eyes, and
laughing merrily. “John!” she exclaimed, turning quickly, and sweeping,
with a rustle of silks, toward Harrington—“now, Richard, don’t be
jealous!” she archly said in passing—“John, you restored me to life. I
was dying with my long vigil of suffering when you held me in your arms.
You lulled me to that sweet sleep, and when I awoke it was to happiness.
You gave me back my life, and Muriel gave me back my love. How can I ever
thank and love you enough for all you did for me? How can I ever repay
you? But I owe you one thing—the kiss you gave me. Oh, I was like an
unloved, weary child, dying for affection that hour when I asked you to
kiss me. See—I owe you that kiss, and I give it to you.”

Wentworth, touched by the simple and tender fervor of her voice, and by
the child-like affection of her action, turned away, filled with emotion.

“Good, now!” he exclaimed, in a moment, wheeling around, and playfully
assuming an injured air. “Just keep that up all day, will you! Continue!
I’m placid. I can stand any amount of laceration. Don’t stop for me. I’ll
bear it.”

They laughed gaily, and came toward him, arm in arm.

“Well, you’re a handsome couple anyway,” pursued the mercurial Wentworth,
surveying them with an air of bland admiration—genuine admiration, too,
mixed with his affectation of it. “As for Emily, she’s just what Muriel
calls her—the gorgeous queen-rose of Ispahan. But you, Harrington—what
have you been doing to yourself? I never saw you look so finely in my
life. Walter Raleigh—the beautiful and tall Sir Walter—must have looked
like you, though I don’t believe he looked so well.”

Emily, leaning on Harrington’s arm, looked up into his face, and saw that
what Wentworth said was true. A change had fallen upon the masculine
bearded countenance—a fine rapture lit its regular features—a faint color
lessened its pallor, and the pure blue eyes swam in brilliance.

“Indeed, Richard, you are right,” said Emily. “He looks as beautiful as
the sun-god.”

“Exactly. ‘Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself’”—

“Oh, come now,” interrupted Harrington, blushing. “Is this a meeting of
the Mutual Admiration Society? You pair of gross flatterers! Praising
my personal pulchritude to my face in this way! But do I look well? No
wonder. Last night I slept the sleep of the blessed, and to-day I am
happy. You know why. Ah! and you haven’t given me joy yet! Yes, and I,
too, haven’t given you joy.”

“We know why? Given you joy? Why, what do you mean, John?” cried Emily.

“Hasn’t Muriel told you?” said Harrington.

“No,” cried Emily, breathlessly; but Wentworth saw what was coming, and a
slow flush crept over his illumined face.

“Muriel and I plighted troth last night,” said Harrington, simply.

Wentworth flew across the room with a shout, and with the utmost
deliberation began to dance. Emily dropped Harrington’s arm, stood for a
moment pale, with her hands to her bosom, glowed into bright color again,
and burst into tears.

“Oh, John!” she cried, springing back a pace, and seizing his hands, with
a smile flashing splendid through the glittering rain on her impassioned
face. “Oh, I am so happy! Joy, joy to you! I never dreamed of it—never!
Joy, joy, joy!”

She wrung his hands in an ecstasy of delight, while Wentworth, breaking
from his dance, came flying across the room, and over a chair that stood
in his way, and clutching away the right hand from Emily, shook it as if
he meant to shake it off, his face flushed and his lip quivering, and his
congratulations breaking from his lips like wildfire.

“Everlasting cornucopias of happiness poured out upon you both for
countless quadrillions of never-dying eternities!” he hallooed. “By the
Capitolian Jove, John, but I’m too glad to say a syllable. Don’t ask me
to give you joy, for there’s not enough words in the beggarly English
language for me to do it with! Oh, thunder! if this is not the tip-top
crown and summit of it all, then I’m a Dutchman!”

He burst away, panting, and hurling himself at full length upon a couch,
burst into a ringing peal of jubilant laughter.

“Oh, Lord! I shall die!” he gasped, ceasing, and fanning himself with his
hand. “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Harrington, faint with mirth, sat down, and Emily, also laughing
furiously, scurried over to Wentworth, and shook him till he laughed
again, and shook him till, aching with laughter, he implored her to stop.

“Well, Emily,” exclaimed Harrington, as she relinquished her hold of her
lover, “I declare I never saw you romp before, and I did not think you
could.”

“’Pon my word, she’s as bad as Muriel,” cried Wentworth, with a comical
look of mock anxiety. “I’m afraid her aristocratic morals are getting
corrupted by the company she keeps in this house.”

“Well, John,” said Emily, a little flushed and panting with her
exertions, and laughing in short fits as she spoke, “I believe you are
right. Romping is, if not new to me, very unusual. But to-day I am so
happy, I hardly know what I am doing. This glad news takes me out of
myself completely. Oh, I am so rejoiced! And to think that Muriel never
told me! Cunning fox! But I’ll be even with her for it. I see now why she
has decked the room with such a wilderness of roses. She is going to make
it a fete day in honor of her engagement.”

“Why, yes,” said Harrington, starting up. “I didn’t notice all these
exquisite flowers before, but I suppose that _is_ the reason why she has
filled the library with them.”

“You suppose,” said Emily. “Why, don’t you know?”

“Not I,” replied Harrington, laughing. “Muriel asked me to come and spend
the day with her, and only said she was going to give me an agreeable
surprise. She wouldn’t tell me what the agreeable surprise was, but I
suppose this is it. How exquisite and sweet they are,” he murmured,
bending over a shallow vase of Parian, filled with the roses, and
inhaling their delicate fragrance.

“When are you to be married, John?” asked Emily.

“I declare I don’t know,” said he naively. “I never thought of asking
Muriel.”

“Never thought—well, that’s a good one!” exclaimed Wentworth. “Why,
almost the first thing I asked Emily after our betrothal was”—

“Now, Richard,” cried Emily, scampering up to him with a laugh, and
sealing his mouth with her hand.

Wentworth struggled to get free, and succeeding in a minute, seized her
hands, and held them, she, in turn, endeavoring to get them upon his
mouth again.

“Hear me, for I will speak!” he declaimed, with serio-comic dignity. “The
first thing I asked Emily, John, was—when are we to be married?”

“And what did she say?” inquired Harrington, amusedly.

“She said October, John,” replied Emily, laughing. “He shan’t tell you.
I’ll tell you myself. Yes, John, we are to be married in October. See my
betrothal ring. Is it not beautiful?”

He took the fair hand in his, and looked at the exquisite opal, whose
soft, clouded flames of iridescent color shone on her finger.

“Beautiful,” he assented, pressing the hand to his lips. “I pray for
your life-long happiness, dear Emily. Yours and Richard’s. And may I be
present at your wedding?”

“Indeed you must,” she answered. “It would be but half a wedding if you
were not there.”

“My sentiments,” cried Wentworth. “Without you, John, our wedding would
be a fiasco. But it is to be a grand affair. In open church, crowds of
guests, Emily in full bridal array, with a small army of bridesmaids,
and I in gorgeous toggery, with a retinue of grooms which will astonish
your Spartan simplicity. Oh, I tell you, we shall blow out in splendid
hymeneal flower, amidst overpowering magnificence!”

“Hear the absurd fellow!” exclaimed Emily, smiling at Harrington, who
stood listening half-amusedly, half-pensively, as the gay Richard ran
on. “Only listen to him. But it is true, John—we are to have a splendid
wedding.”

“I am glad to hear it,” he replied. “You are both splendid, and it
is natural and proper for you to put forth splendid rays on such an
occasion.”

“Nevertheless, I’ll bet you won’t find Harrington and Muriel flashing out
like us, Emily,” cried Wentworth, showing his fine teeth in a brilliant
laugh. “I wouldn’t be afraid to wager that you’ll see that young man
married in his ordinary clothes, without a rag of a white kid glove, or
an ornament of any kind whatever, or wedding cake, or cards, or guests,
or anything.”

“Why, Richard, I don’t know,” said Harrington, smiling good-naturedly.
“If Muriel were to wish the usual parade I would agree of course. But
you are right—my choice would be as little external show as possible.
Such simple rites would be more grateful to me than any pomp or display.
Marriage to me is so private and spiritual a sacrament that it seems a
sort of profanation to make it public—or surround it with factitious
embellishments. These flowers for example, this sweet, rich room, Muriel
lovely, and clothed as befits her loveliness, I in this plain coat, not
very new, but well-fitting and graceful, Mrs. Eastman and you two loving
friends here—what more could I desire to decorate my wedding? And less
than this—yes, nothing of this—Muriel and I alone in some quiet room, or
under the blue sky, or the forest trees, pledging ourselves to each other
in spirit and in truth—this of itself would be enough, and would make the
most imperial bridals seem gaudy and theatrical.”

“Then you object to our fine fashionable wedding, John,” said Emily,
playfully.

“Oh no—not object,” returned Harrington, coloring, with an embarrassed
air. “Have I said too much? Have I cast any personal reflections? I hope
not, for I did not mean to. I only meant to say that the ideal nobleness
and beauty of marriage are not very well expressed by the usual modish
and artificial ceremonials and decorations. The thing itself is holy and
poetic. Let the rites and adornments be holy and poetic too. That is all.”

Emily turned away, musing, and Wentworth twirled his gay moustache with
an abstracted air.

“But where’s Muriel, I wonder?” said Harrington, after a pause.

“Here she is—no, it’s our dear mamma,” exclaimed Wentworth.

“Your mamma it is, children,” said Mrs. Eastman, coming into the room,
silver-gay, with her bonnet on. “I have just returned from Milton, and
heard your voices, or rather John’s voice, as I came up-stairs. But,
bless me, where did all these flowers come from? Why, the library is
turned into fairy-land!”

“Ah, mamma,” said Emily, “we are all in fairy-land to-day, and the
fairy-prince has done it, with the help of this fairy chevalier,” and she
bent her head toward Harrington.

“Why, what has happened to you, children?” asked Mrs. Eastman, laughing
softly, as she removed her bonnet.

“Now, mamma,” said Wentworth, fronting her with Emily on his arm, “I’m
going to surprise you. Prepare to be surprised.”

“Well, I’m ready,” said Mrs. Eastman, gaily.

“Emily and I are to be married in October,” said Wentworth, suddenly.

“My dear children, I am more glad to hear this than I can say,” fondly
replied Mrs. Eastman, kissing both of them. “But, children, you don’t
surprise me at all,” she added, with smiling equability. “I saw that you
were lovers some time since, and was expecting this.”

Mrs. Eastman might have also said that she saw they had quarrelled, and
knew what was the matter with Emily during her night and day of sorrow,
but she was discreet and did not.

“There!” exclaimed Wentworth, with a grimace, “there’s my surprise now?
Mamma, you’re a witch, and there’s no keeping anything from you!”

“Stop, Richard!” cried Emily. “Let John try his hand at a surprise.”

Mrs. Eastman was well named Serena, she was so sweetly calm, but the
color rose to her face, and she trembled, as Harrington came toward her
with outstretched arms.

“Mother,” he fervently said, holding her in his embrace, “you have your
wish. I was mistaken. Last night, Muriel and I”—

Her eyes filled, and without a word she flew from his arms and out of the
room. Harrington covered his humid eyes with his hand, and stood still.
Wentworth and Emily moved silently away, with hushed faces.

It was but a moment, and she came back with a swift, free step, her calm
face lighted between its silver tresses, the tears upon her cheeks, and
put her arms around him.

“Hush!” she whispered. “Do not speak to me. Let me dream of this. I am
too happy.”

His arms had enfolded her, and with his eyes closed, and his lips pressed
to her beautiful silver hair, while her face lay upon his bosom, they
stood still.

“Yes,” she murmured, after a long pause, looking up with a still and
radiant face into his noble countenance, “yes, I have my wish, and I am
happy.”

She placed her arm in his, and moved with him across the library.

“Well, mamma,” said Emily, with her ambrosial smile, “We did surprise
you, after all.”

“Yes and no, dear Emily,” replied Mrs. Eastman, fondly looking at
Harrington. “Yes and no. It was the evening star of my life; a cloud
obscured it, but I still had faith that my evening star was there.”

There was a pause, filled by the pensive memory of her voice. Suddenly
Wentworth and Emily uttered a low exclamation, and Mrs. Eastman and
Harrington turned, started, and stood still. It was Muriel, but Muriel
transfigured in resplendent beauty. A robe of rich, ethereal vivid
crimson, at once soft and glowing, like the color of the rose, cut low,
and encircling the shoulders by only a narrow gathered band, spread
loosely around her bosom, and descending in many light folds, expressed
her perfect form, and heightened the dazzling fairness of her complexion.
Color faint as the hues of the blush roses whose ecstatic odors filled
the room, bloomed on her cheeks and lips; her amber hair, encircled by
a slender fillet of myrtle, bright green, small leaved, and terminating
on either side with a rose, drooped low in rippling tresses around
her radiant and hymn-like face; and her mouth rosy-pale against its
milk-white teeth, was parted in an enchanting smile. Gliding forward,
with her noble harmony of movement, the floating gold and violet glory
that filled the chamber resting on her beauteous face and figure, and her
sumptuous drapery falling around her faultless limbs, she seemed some
wondrous vision of incarnate joy. So sacred, so transcendent was her
bewildering loveliness, that they gazed upon her with strange awe, as in
the presence of her in her immortality.

Harrington looked at her, rapt, and passion-pale; then with a thrill of
melting tenderness, as if his soul was dissolving in his frame, he closed
his giddy eyes and bowed his head upon his clasped hands.

“Harrington, my beloved!”

He started at the deep eolian music of her voice, and holding her in his
arms, gazed with an impassioned face into her clear lambent eyes.

“Ah, Muriel, Muriel!” he fervently murmured, “I tremble lest you make
life too sweet for me. Oh, dear friends,” he cried, “you can bear to see
the dance, for you hear the music! Look at her; is she not beautiful?”

A low murmur of admiration ran from lip to lip, and Emily, breaking from
her trance, embraced Muriel and kissed her fervently. Then her mother,
with tender and pathetic words of endearment, folded her to her heart.

“Oh, my daughter,” she said, gently and mournfully, “what would I give if
your father could see you now! He who hung over your cradle so often in
your infancy, and called you so fondly his glorious little child, what
would I give if he could see you now in your glorious womanhood!”

“Dear mother, he sees me,” answered Muriel, her face lit with a celestial
smile, and her clear eyes upturned. “In this the best and brightest hour
of my life, he sees me! He is alive and well, and he sees me!”

In the solemn pause which followed, while they stood with dim eyes and
heads bowed, it seemed as if some silent spirit stood among them in the
rich glory of the room.

The thrilling feeling slowly died away like failing music, and timidly
looking up, Wentworth saw the eyes of Muriel sink from their celestial
height and rest kindly and lovingly on him.

“Come to me, Richard,” she said. “You alone have not spoken to me—you
alone have not expressed your joy.”

“Muriel,” he answered, moving near her, with a timid and tardy step, “if
so bad a boy as I am”—

“Bad? oh, no! You are not a bad boy,” she said with tender playfulness,
caressing him as she spoke. “You are my own dear brother Richard,
gallant, and fond, and true. Could I love you if you were not? Could I
kiss you thus, and thus, and thus, with magic kisses three?” she said,
kissing him each time as she said the word, and smiling at him with
bewitching gaiety. “Ah! I am very happy this morning! That is the reason
you all admire me so. See: my joy has burst into its fullest flower, and
this is its color and its symbol.”

Smiling upon them, she laid her hand on her gorgeous crimson robe.

“I see,” said Emily, “Madame de Staël said the color of the trumpet-sound
was crimson, and the sound of the golden trumpet is the sound of joy. Oh,
Muriel, I never saw you dressed so admirably. You are splendid as the
sun!”

“Yes, and mark you now,” said Wentworth, gaily, “there is another symbol
here. This is the color of the dress of the fairy prince. Ah, it is the
same dress, too, if you only knew it. The fairy prince wove a spell
of weird, gave one touch of the magic wand, and lo! the crimson cymar
changed into a crimson robe, and the fairy prince stands before you
transformed into a fairy princess!”

“Bravo, Richard!” said Harrington, “that is ingenious, now.”

“And then,” continued Wentworth, “the gold embroidery on the cymar melted
into gold lustre, and passed into Muriel’s eyes. See how golden her eyes
are this morning. Their clear grey looks through a transparent sheen of
gold.”

“They are golden with love, then,” said Muriel, laughingly, “for the
cymar is up-stairs, with all its embroidery intact. It is Harrington who
is the fairy prince, and I am the Sleeping Beauty whom he waked from her
sleep of twenty years, and now I am to follow him through all the world.
But come, John, I promised you an agreeable surprise this morning, you
know.”

“Well, and have you not given it to me?” said Harrington, smiling at her.
“This beautiful room, all bedecked with roses, and then yourself in your
miraculous beauty—why, I am in receipt of two agreeable surprises!”

“Ah, John,” she replied, with enchanting gaiety, “but I have a third more
wonderful than those.”

“What is it?” asked Harrington, amusedly.

“I’ll tell you,” she answered. “Friends, attention! My dear mother, do
you remember the little conversation we had at dinner the day before
yesterday?”

“Perfectly,” replied Mrs. Eastman, coloring slightly, and looking at her
charming daughter with some wonder.

“Well, my dear mother,” returned Muriel, with bewitching playfulness, “I
reflected seriously all day yesterday on what you said, and I decided to
oblige you. John, come here to me.”

Harrington, curious to know what was meant by this preface, approached,
and stood before her with a sweetly smiling countenance. Slowly her
beautiful white arms stole around him, clasped him lightly, and drew him
to her. It seemed in that moment as if, in the noble features upturned
to his, all the versatile expressions of which they were capable darted
magically together in a bewildering and harmonious play, like the soft
floating and intermingling of evanescent, tender rainbow hues on a clear
and delicate air. But slowly through their indecisive enchantment broke
a dazzling smile, a fairy tremor lifted her fine nostril, the color
bloomed deeplier on her cheeks and lips, and her eyes glowed.

“John!” said she, in a clear, melodious voice, “this is our marriage
morn.”

A splendid scarlet flamed on the face of Harrington, and with a start he
clasped her to his breast, gazing into her face with eyes like wondering
stars. Mrs. Eastman, ineffably astonished, but more ineffably amused,
that Muriel had taken her at her word, sank into a chair, with her
countenance flushed, and burst into low laughter; while Emily, with the
rich color suffusing her features and her eyes and mouth orbed in wonder,
pressed her folded hands to her bosom; and Wentworth stared vacantly,
with his face as red as fire.

“This the morning of our marriage!” exclaimed Harrington. “This!”

“This it is, John,” she replied, gaily, “and this is my third agreeable
surprise. How do you like it?”

Harrington, with a sudden motion, bent his head and kissed her.

“Muriel, Muriel!” he laughingly cried, “you are indeed a fairy princess!
You touch the moment, and it bursts into the unexpected miracle-flower of
joy.”

“Now by all the gods at once!” exclaimed the volatile Wentworth, and
bounding up with three distinct pigeon-wings into the air, he came down
again erect and gallant, and burst into a peal of mellow laughter.

“Well I declare!” ejaculated Emily. “Of all the splendid freaks I ever
heard of, this is the most splendid. To be married this morning! But
who’s to marry you? where’s the minister?”

“Oh, he’s coming,” returned Muriel, smiling. “I wrote a note to Mr.
Parker this morning, and he is to be here at ten.”

“Good!” exclaimed Harrington. “If I am to have any minister to marry me,
let it be Mr. Parker. It will be an added consecration.”

“I knew you would think so,” replied Muriel.

“To be sure,” he answered. “He would consider me a heathen, looking at me
theologically, but that’s no matter.”

Muriel looked at his smiling countenance, and shook her finger at him.

“Oh, you Verulamian heretic!” she exclaimed, gaily.

“Well, Muriel,” laughed Emily, “I’m sure you’re very obliging to have
even Mr. Parker. With your invincible hostility to Madame la Grundy, it
is positively a remarkable concession.”

“Ah, dear Emily,” replied Muriel, smiling tenderly, “can the words of
a clergyman make more holy the union of lovers, who love in spirit and
in truth! Were Mr. Parker not in the world, and were we in Pennsylvania
to-day, and not in Massachusetts, I would rather choose to stand up with
John before our friends, avowing our love in the sweet and beautiful old
simple Quaker fashion, and sparing every other rite beside. To have the
spiritual marriage publicly recognized would be enough. But then,” she
added, with gentle gaiety, “on this point, Mrs. Grundy has the law on her
side, so I curtsey and submit, hoping to atone for the submission by a
long series of flagrant rebellions, against which there is no statute!
For while it is both proper and necessary, as things stand, that Mrs.
Grundy should be obeyed, it is also proper and necessary as things stand,
that the dear old woman should be defied. So there’s a paradox for you!”

“Bravo!” cried Wentworth. “Centripetality and centrifugality for ever!”

“Exactly so,” replied Muriel, with a frolic curtsey. “Now, mother, there
you sit without saying a word, and you haven’t told me yet whether you
are going to lend the light of your countenance to my extraordinary
proceedings.”

“Of course I am, dear,” cried Mrs. Eastman, starting up to kiss her
bewitching daughter, while they all rippled off into lively talk and the
hilarity of the immortals.

“Come,” said Muriel in a few moments, “let us have music till Mr. Parker
comes. Gluck and Mendelssohn and the divine Mozart and Beethoven, shall
speak for us to-day. Color and fragrance, and dancing, and silence can
express deep joy, but music expresses it as nothing else can, and to-day
is the flower of my existence.”

She moved as she spoke to the organ, and the gorgeous tones of golden
bronze rolled forth in sunset clouds of heavenly harmony, with her seraph
voice singing sweet among them. Pass, hour of noble raptures, hour of the
spirit, hour of celestial love and hope and joy, pass, fitting prelude
for his coming—the valiant soul and tender, now blest among the blessed,
whose disenchanted dust lies in the holy soil of Florence, and lends one
hallowed memory more to the land of Dante’s grave!

It was like a sacred dream in which he came—the mighty, the well-beloved,
the lion-hearted Theodore; he of the domed brow, the Socratic features,
resolute and tender, and stern at times with the long battle he waged for
Christian liberty; he of the beautiful and dove-like eyes whose clear
sweetness the roaring hatred of his foes could never stain or change. It
was like a sacred dream in which they heard the noble language of his
charge inspiring them to lives of holiest and highest humanhood, and then
while the dream deepened into an interval of unutterable calm, and a
stiller glory seemed to swim, a more celestial fragrance seemed to flow,
upon the quiet of the room, the pledges of the nuptials were spoken, and
his voice arose in tender and fervent supplication to the Heavenly Father
of the world—Father and Mother, too—Father of Love and Freedom and all
that makes the world more fair—Lover of lovers, and Lover of the world He
made—that the eternal spring-time of His Presence might rest upon their
wedded lives, greenness and strength and beauty to them forevermore.

It was still a sacred dream, when he had gone. But the very air seemed to
tremble with an ecstasy of painful happiness, and Muriel, pale with a joy
which was insupportable, because voiceless, glided to the organ.

Softly again upon the glory of the air, drifted the molten bronze of
the rich music and her clear soprano, sweet and low, arose and blended
with the heavenly anthem. Sweet and low as the mother’s cradle hymn,
and tender as the remembered songs of childhood, it floated on above
the mellow murmur of the instrumental flow; and rising like a thrilling
gush of perfume into more celestial melody, it rose again in rapturous
ascension, intermingled with the surging and dilating swell of the
organ-tones, and rang in pealing hallelujahs, draining the soul of every
earthly thought and feeling, and lifting it pale and throbbing on the
burning wings of seraphs into the light and odor of the Life Divine. Then
sinking slowly, voice and music failed upon the palpitating air, failed
from the spirits throbbing with the blended sweetness, and the room was
still.

She rose from the organ with her face inspired, and turned to be folded
in the arms of Harrington.

“Ah, Muriel,” he fervently murmured, “your songs are more than ‘the
benediction that follows after prayer!’”

She did not answer, but stood silently in his embrace, with her face bent
upon his breast. Lifting it to his at length, she looked upon him with
glowing eyes.

“We are married,” she said. “Do you realize it?”

“Hardly,” he replied. “But it is true. We are one. One in love for
liberty.”

“One in love for liberty,” she echoed. “One in love for all mankind.”

They stood in silence for a few moments. Then turning with their arms
around each other, they saw Emily and Wentworth sitting together in deep
abstraction.

“Well, Richard and Emily, what are you thinking of?” Muriel playfully
demanded.

“I was thinking,” returned Wentworth more gravely than was usual with
him, “that is before your singing, Muriel, lifted me out of my mind,
as it always does—I was thinking what a man Mr. Parker is. How great
and noble—how beautiful were his words and manner. Ah, that was a true
marriage service!”

“And so was I,” cried Emily, who had been weeping a little. “I was
thinking the same thing. I shall never hear our own minister with comfort
again.”

“Oh, flower of Episcopalians, are you turning Parkerite?” gaily exclaimed
Muriel.

“I declare I believe I am,” sighed Emily, so dolefully that Wentworth
began to laugh, and she herself followed his example.

“Come,” cried Wentworth, starting to his feet, “this won’t do. Here are
John and Muriel married. Do you realize that fact, Emily?”

“Yes, I do,” she answered, bounding up, and rushing over to the lovers to
pour out the joy of her heart upon them.

Mrs. Eastman and Wentworth followed, and in a moment the room rang with
gay talk and frolic hilarity.

“And just take notice,” cried Wentworth, amidst the affluent fun, “take
notice that Harrington has his wish. He was wishing, Muriel, or rather in
a little discussion we had as to the proper mode of doing the marriage
ceremony up golden brown, he was observing that to be married in this
room, just as he is, with never a ghost of a kid glove on him, or any
wedding embellishments, and nobody present but us, would be the height of
his ambition. So you see, his Spartan soul is gratified!”

“So it is!” laughed Harrington. “I had forgotten it amidst the
excitement; but that is what I said, and you, dear fairy princess, have
gratified me.”

“Hold on now,” burst in the mercurial Wentworth, interrupting Muriel
in the gay reply she was about to make. “Hold on! An idea strikes me.
To wit, that nobody has called this lady by her new name. Sweet Muriel
Eastman, _vale, vale, vale_. Adieu forevermore! Vanish, flower of
spinsters, vanish into the fragrant twilight of memory. Mrs. Harrington,
appear! All hail, Mrs. Harrington!”

“Bravo!” exclaimed Emily, clapping her hands, and undulating backward
into a low curtsey. “All hail, Mrs. Harrington!”

Muriel, still clasping her husband, looked at them in their mirth with a
pensive smile.

“I had forgotten it,” she said gently, and almost dreamfully, “for I feel
like Muriel Eastman, still, with unmerged individuality.”

“And Muriel Eastman you shall be,” laughingly said Harrington; “and with
unmerged individuality, too.”

“Nay,” said Muriel, with tender gaiety. “My new, sweet name, John—Muriel
Harrington. I accept it. At least to the world I will be Muriel
Harrington, and you shall think of me, and call me Muriel Eastman, still.”

“As I will ever,” responded Harrington.

“Bravo!” cried Wentworth. “An amicable adjustment of a serious
difficulty. And now, what next?”

“Next, music,” laughingly said Emily, moving to the organ.

Her rich contralto voice rose with the instrumental surge into a trumpet
pæan, and so, amidst music and laughter, and many-colored festal talk,
the golden banquet of the day passed by, and as they stood together at
the single western window of the library, the evening overspread them
with a sky of deepest azure, filled with vast clouds of purple and amber
flame, like the wings of seraphim.

Slowly the burning magnificence of the celestial pageant faded from the
sky, and the enchanted twilight came with soft and odorous southwind
breathings. All the long evening, in the dim bloom of moonlight, too
faint to veil the brightness of the stars, the long wafts of balmy odor
hung swaying with the airy poise of spirits around the dwelling, rising
in low whisperings, and slowly swooning away in sweetness. Gradually the
sounds of life died away, the moon sank low, the shadows slept within
the street, and the silence was unbroken save by the passionate whispers
of the fragrant wind. Ear above the dark roofs, the bright stars were
throbbing in the divine blue gloom, and over the vast night brooded the
infinite presence of the triune Love and Life and Joy.



CHAPTER XXV.

WITHERLEE.


The next day the announcement of the marriage appeared in the newspapers,
and falling soft as a rose-leaf on the tail of that great Chicken Little,
Society, Society ran round clucking as if the sky had fallen. Great was
the sensation—especially among the score or so of lovers who for a long
time had been vainly endeavoring to get sufficiently intimate with Muriel
to make their love manifest, and whose fate was now sealed.

Not having been invited to the wedding, Society expected the cards to
arrive inviting it to the conventional reception. But Society hearing
presently, through some intimate friends of the family, that Muriel and
her husband had decided to dispense with conventionalities, took it
kindly, as just what might have been expected of that lady, and began to
pour in a stream of congratulatory callers at the house in Temple street.
Among the callers, the startled and enraged Atkinses were missing, which
was melancholy. Amidst the family wrath, Horatio kept contemptuously
cool, remarking, like the fine young American he was, that a social
mesalliance always brought its own punishment, as she (Muriel) would find
to her sorrow; while Thomas, on all occasions, when the subject of the
marriage came up in conversation, observed, that that’s what comes of
letting girls have too much head, be Jove!

Great was the sensation the next morning when Muriel and Harrington
appeared at Captain Fisher’s, announcing their espousals, and great was
the joy, and immense the satisfaction.

Greater than all or anything was the large and lustrous happiness of the
wedded lovers. The deep change that had come upon their lives gave them a
new and statelier beauty. So might have looked the beautiful and tall Sir
Walter, and so the fair Elizabeth Throgmorton, his bright Elizabethan
flower of wifely womanhood, in their happiest hour of wedded love.

At home in Temple street the day after their wedding, in the new and
fresh enjoyment of a marriage whose perfect nobleness might have
gladdened the pure soul of Swedenborg, they laid their little plans for
the future. It was first agreed that Harrington should permit himself a
vacation, free from the toil of study, in this the golden crescent of
their eternal honeymoon. It was next resolved that Harrington should keep
his house in Chambers street, and live there when he so chose. Both he
and Muriel thought that married people are too intimate with each other,
see too much of each other, push too far and frequently into the sacred
privacy which Nature sets around the individual soul, and so lose the
charm of freshness which is at once the crowning delight and most potent
safeguard of love. If, in married life, they thought, familiarity does
not breed contempt, it commonly breeds a sort of humdrum unappreciating
indifference which makes the wedded lovers seem less beautiful and noble
to each other than in the matin prime of their early passion. And as
Muriel and Harrington designed to be lovers forevermore, they resolved
to maintain the relations which make love ever magical and ever new.
Counting himself fortunate, therefore, that he had a house of his own to
retire to in those golden-valleyed intervals which Nature prescribes to
checquer and enhance the tender and holy beauty of the mountain land of
love, and sadly wishing that his fortune might be shared by all, as it
might in a nobler order of society, Harrington agreed with Muriel, and
she with him, to use their new freedom of intercourse wisely, he spending
his studious days as heretofore in his own house, she passing her happy
life as in her maidenhood in hers, both coming together whenever their
souls drew, or their duties bade, freely, attractively, in mutual
ministration and communion, living for each other and for the world’s
great family of souls.

The next thing that came under discussion was a proposition from Muriel
to settle half her fortune on her husband, which Harrington would not
listen to on any condition. It was finally compromised, amidst much
gaiety, by his agreeing to let no want of his go untold, and to always
accept from her whatever money he needed, instead of interrupting his
studies with compositions to supply his deficiencies. Which bargain
Muriel closed with a frolic threat of banishment from her presence if she
ever discovered him infringing the terms of the compact, until he made
atonement by accepting a double sum for his disobedience.

Other matters talked of, and the business conference ended, they were
sitting together in the library, when Wentworth arrived, handsome as
usual, and full of gay greetings. Presently Emily came in from a shopping
excursion, and sat with them.

“And why is Raffaello out of his studio this morning?” she said, in a gay
tone, to Wentworth.

“Well,” he returned, “fact is, I couldn’t paint for thinking of our
recent blind-man’s buff game. Now, look here, friends, let’s have a grand
confession. Here we are together, and what I want to know is this: How
is it that we four people, of tolerably good wits, contrived in our love
affairs to be so mistaken in regard to each other? Grant Witherlee’s
share in the matter, and our own duplicity—that is, yours and mine, Emily
dear—but after all, is it not singular that we didn’t see through it?”

They sat pensively smiling, with their eyes bent upon the floor, while
he, smiling also, with his brilliant teeth displayed, looked at them.

“Just think,” he continued. “Just think of the slightness of the evidence
which set every Jack of us against his true Jill, and every Jill against
her true Jack. Such evidence wouldn’t have misled us if any other
matter but love was involved. How is this? Now, Emily, perhaps it’s not
wonderful that you should have thought that I loved Muriel, for who
wouldn’t love her? but how could you for a moment imagine that she—so
manifestly my superior every way, so evidently made for a nobler man than
I am—could possibly love me?”

“I don’t know,” naively replied Emily, while Muriel and Harrington,
coloring at the compliment Wentworth so frankly paid them, laughed
amusedly. “It was very foolish in me, I’m sure, and it seems like a
strange dream.”

“Good,” continued Wentworth. “The next question is, how could I imagine
that Harrington, with his heaven-fated wife before his eyes, could
possibly love my Emily? And that I don’t know either, and can’t explain,
except on the theory that I’m a complete fool, which I’m not.”

They all laughed merrily, Wentworth louder than any.

“And you, Muriel,” he pursued. “How could you imagine for a moment that
Harrington loved anybody but you? Both of you in constant communion, in
the fullest, and broadest, and closest sympathy with each other, how
could you think that he loved Emily better than you?”

“Why, Richard,” returned Muriel, with bewitching gaiety, “since this is
the hour of confession, let me confess that I don’t know.”

Wentworth laughed uproariously, and the rest joined him in his mirth.

“Well, Harrington,” he continued, in a minute, “you now. It’s not
singular, of course, that you should have thought I loved Muriel; but in
the name of all the gods at once, how could you think that she loved me?
Where was your insight, Harrington?”

“Well, Richard,” said Harrington, jocosely, “this whole matter may be
solved on the theory that we are not the wisest people in the world.”

“No, John, that won’t do,” returned Wentworth, “we’re not the wisest, but
we’re wise enough not to be made fools of in anything but a love affair.”

“Well then, let us concede our wisdom,” replied Harrington, in the same
jocose vein, “and solve the whole riddle with that deep maxim of my
beloved Verulam, ‘Love is the folly of the wise.’”

“Good! I rest there,” said Wentworth, laughing. “Yes, my Lord Bacon,
you’re right, love is the folly of the wise.”

“But it is the highest wisdom, too,” observed Muriel.

“Of course,” replied Harrington. “Verulam would be the last to gainsay
that. I understand him to only mean that the mortal reason most exempt
from the clouds of the other passions, is subject to the obscurations
of this. It is one side of his tribute to the potency of love, and all
human experience justifies it. Particularly ours,” he jestingly added.

At this moment a tap was heard at the library door. It was Patrick, who,
all in smiles for the new-married couple, announced that Mr. Witherlee
was in the parlor below.

“Jupiter!” exclaimed Wentworth. “Let’s have him up here, and give him a
rowing.”

“Yes, do,” said Emily nervously. “Let’s hear what he has to say for
himself.”

Muriel looked dubiously at Harrington.

“I really think,” said Harrington, in answer to her look, “that Fernando
ought to have a lesson on the danger and folly of such detraction and
mischief-making as he practises. It would be salutary.”

“Well then—but, Richard, you must promise me that you won’t get angry at
Mr. Witherlee—that you’ll talk to him calmly,” said Muriel.

“Oh, indeed I will!” declared Wentworth, rubbing his hands gleefully, and
all alive with eagerness. “Only have him up here. I promise sacredly that
I’ll be as gentle as a sucking dove.”

“And you, Emily, you must engage to be calm,” said Muriel.

“Oh, I’ll be calm. I despise him too much to be anything but calm,”
returned Emily with an air of indolent scorn.

“Very well. Patrick, show Mr. Witherlee up here,” said Muriel.

Patrick bowed, and departed.

“Now for a scene!” cried the gleeful Wentworth. “His impudence won’t get
him out of this scrape.”

“Take care, Richard,” remarked Harrington, “for in my opinion you’ll find
it difficult to convict him of any misconduct.”

“We’ll see!” exclaimed Wentworth with a confident air.

Presently the door opened, and the good Fernando came in, bowing low with
an almost cringe in his courtesy, and smiling with his usual constrained
smile of elegance. He was very fashionably dressed, and looked, as he
commonly did, handsome.

“Good morning,” he said with courteous _empressement_, as he came bowing
forward. “All together, as usual.”

“Yes, all together,” said Harrington, good-naturedly, giving him his hand
as he spoke, and taking no notice of the covert sneer which lurked rather
in the tone of his last remark than in the words.

Muriel also gave him her hand, Wentworth his rather distantly, though he
smiled, and Emily bent her head with a sumptuous negative politeness,
without rising from her chair.

In a minute or so, the good Fernando was seated, and gazing at them with
opaque glittering eyes which restlessly flickered and seemed not so much
to look at them, as toward them. He began to feel, magnetically, that
there was something mysterious and menacing in their manner, and his
plump, colorless, morbid face grew marble-cool and immobile, with the
lips a little parted and rigid, as the lips usually are when there is an
attempt at the concealment of emotion or purpose.

“Well, Fernando, have you heard the news,” said Wentworth, alluding to
Harrington and Muriel’s marriage.

“No,” drawled Witherlee, with a face discharged of all expression. “What
is it?”

“Haven’t you seen the papers this morning?” said Wentworth.

“No; I rose rather late this morning,” was the equable answer, “and
didn’t breakfast at home. I went down to Parker’s and had a lunch with a
bottle of Sotairne, and it never occurred to me to glance at the paper.
What is the news?”

Wentworth paused a moment, conscious that Witherlee had not heard of the
marriage, and filled with an amused disgust, especially at the affected
drawl with which the young fop had pronounced the word Sauterne, and
generally at his ostentatious and unnecessary mention of his epicurean
breakfast.

“The news is,” replied Wentworth, changing his intention, “that Emily and
I are engaged to be married in October.”

Witherlee looked at him for a moment with his eyes more opaque, his lips
more rigid, his face more expressionless than before, and slightly
lifted his handsome eyebrows; then smiled with immense cordiality.

“I am _very_ glad to hear it,” he exclaimed, with tender _empressement_,
“very glad indeed. But you surprise me. I hadn’t the remotest idea that
such a thing would happen”—

“And you didn’t mean it should, if you could help it,” interrupted Emily,
with bland tranquillity.

Witherlee looked at her with an astonishment so admirably counterfeited,
that she almost thought it genuine, and her heart faltered in its
purpose. Wentworth, with a strong disposition to laugh, bit his lip,
and looked at the floor. Muriel wore an air of sunny laziness, and
Harrington, sitting a little apart, kept his searching blue eyes fixed
intently on Witherlee’s countenance, unnoticed by him.

“Why, Emily,” said Fernando, slowly, after a long pause, “what do you
mean! If I could help it? Why how could I hinder it, even if I wished to?
How could I be supposed to know anything about it?”

“You knew Richard and I loved each other,” stammered Emily, losing her
self-possession as she thought how intangible was all her evidence
against her colloquist. “You knew it, and you tried to prejudice me
against him.”

“I knew it?” repeated Fernando. “Miss Ames, you must pardon me for saying
it—but you are very unjust to me.” And he assumed an injured air, which
was really touching. “It is utterly impossible that I could have known
it, for neither you nor Wentworth, nor anybody, ever told me. As for
prejudicing him, I do not know what you refer to—but if you mean our
conversation one evening more than a week ago, you must permit me to
observe that that is only a proof that I knew nothing whatever of this
matter. For if I had, is it likely that I would be so foolish as to
injure myself in your good opinion by saying anything against a man you
loved? Even if I were ungenerous enough to do so, would I be so unwise? I
am sorry, very sorry that you can think so meanly of my good sense, not
to speak of anything higher.”

He said it all so mildly, so sadly, with such an injured air, that
Emily was confounded, and felt unable to deny the apparent justice of
his plausible plea. Yet a desperate sense that he had tampered with her
feelings, and maligned her lover, still lingered in her mind.

“It may be as you say, Fernando,” she faltered, “but at any rate, you
know that you made remarks affecting Richard’s character, which could not
but make me think hardly of him.”

“What did I say?” inquired Fernando, lifting his eyebrows in utter
astonishment.

Emily, at that moment, could not for the life of her recall a single
disparaging sentence. All the delicate poisoned phrases which had
interspersed his lavish praise of Wentworth, were as invisible to the eye
of her mind, as would be the deadly fragrance of some exquisite poisonous
flower.

“Did I not speak of Mr. Wentworth in the warmest terms?” he demanded.
“Did I not pay the warmest tributes to his character and talents?”

“I admit that you did,” replied Emily, painfully coloring; “but you,
nevertheless, contrived to throw a shadow on his constancy and purity as
a lover, and what could have been worse to me who loved him?”

“I contrived!” exclaimed Fernando, lifting his head with an air of proud
and disdainful injured innocence, which Harrington and Muriel alone saw
was theatrically assumed and overdone. “I contrived! Miss Ames, I might
answer this charge with simple silence, and conscious of its untruth,
might bear it as a gentlemen should bear all injuries, with forgiveness.
But, since you were so unfortunate as to receive a wrong impression from
remarks which were made only in candor, and which were not intended to
injure any one, let me say this: Did you not yourself ask me to tell you
candidly what I thought of Mr. Wentworth?”

“I own I did,” replied poor Emily, wishing she had not said a word, and
sorry that she had so rashly blamed the good Fernando for what was, she
thought, her own fault after all.

“And when you asked me that, in the mutual confidence of friendship,”
pursued Witherlee, “can you blame me for having answered you with the
candor you requested?”

Emily, with the tears very near her eyes, and her face glowing, was
silent.

“If I had imagined what your feelings for Mr. Wentworth were,” continued
Witherlee, with touching mildness, “I would never have uttered anything
but praise of him, though you asked it ever so much. But I never even
suspected that. As for throwing a shadow on Mr. Wentworth’s constancy, I
never did it. I simply said, believing it to be true, and I’m very sorry
if it’s not true, that he had had a great many love affairs, and fell in
love easily, and got out of it lightly, and so forth; but I’m sure that’s
nothing uncommon with a handsome young man whom all the young ladies are
after, and no blame to anybody.”

Wentworth colored up to the roots of his hair at the latter part of this
speech, which the good Fernando delivered with a nonchalant, jocose air,
very different from the wicked significance of manner with which, in
speaking the words he avowed, and others of the same nature, he had given
Emily to understand that her lover was a gay Lothario.

“You’re mistaken, Fernando,” stammered Wentworth, “if you think I ever
fell seriously in love with any woman, and outlived it. I’ve had my fancy
touched by a number of pretty girls, it is true, and I’ve been uncommonly
amiable to them, no doubt, but they always disappointed me when I came to
know them a little, and there never was any heart-injury done anywhere.”

“I never supposed or said there was,” replied Fernando, coolly. “It is
Emily’s misfortune to have exaggerated the simple meaning of what I did
say, and what you, Richard, have confirmed. As for throwing any suspicion
on Wentworth’s moral character, Emily, I do not know what you can mean,
and I must ask you to explain, for this is the most serious part of the
whole misapprehension.”

“You made no charge of that nature against Richard,” said Emily terribly
embarrassed, “but you told me of that young lady’s betrayal—I forget her
name—by young Whittemore, and dwelt on the insidiousness of his addresses
to women in such a way, that I thought you were thinking of Richard, or
withholding something similar you knew of him, and—Oh, I have acted like
a fool!” she passionately exclaimed, dashing away the tears which sprang
to her eyes.

Witherlee saw his triumph with an exulting heart, while his face was,
save for a little dejection, perfectly immobile.

“I am very, very sorry,” he remarked in a slow, kind voice. “It is
unaccountable to me that you should connect my narration, which was
simply true, with Mr. Wentworth. I never heard of anything so singular.”

“Let it go, Fernando,” said Emily, “and do forgive”—

“What is the young lady’s name of whom you speak in connection with Mr.
Whittemore, Fernando?” interrupted Muriel, with an air of phlegm which
she had caught from Harrington, who occasionally wore it. Muriel put the
question, at once because she wanted to know, and because she was anxious
to save Emily from the disgrace of asking Witherlee’s forgiveness, when,
as she saw, he had only adroitly juggled away his subtle slanders.

“Why it’s Susan Hollingsworth,” returned Witherlee, “you know her.”

“That pretty Susan Hollingsworth!” exclaimed Muriel. “To be sure I know
her. But I hadn’t heard of this. How strange that I had not!”

“It is, certainly,” replied Witherlee, lifting his eyebrows, “for it’s
town talk, and Miss Hollingsworth’s position in society is perfectly
ruined. She’s taboo forever. I was at a party last night at Mrs.
Binghampton’s and you should have heard the way the ladies cut her up.
It was a treat to hear it”—and Witherlee laughed with his turtle-husky
chuckle. “That young Mr. Mill undertook to defend her, and it was
perfectly ludicrous to see the scrape he got himself into. Miss Bean
wanted to know instantly if he was going to come out in favor of
Mormonism, and Mill was completely dumb-foundered, and covered with
disgrace in a moment.” And again Witherlee laughed with his turtle-husky
chuckle.

“Have you seen Susan lately?” asked Muriel, abstractedly, with a face of
sadness.

“No, I haven’t called there since I heard of this affair,” replied
Witherlee with a sort of stolid importance. “The Hollingsworths have been
sent to Coventry, and no decent person visits them.”

Muriel colored, but very slightly, and only for a moment.

“_I_ shall visit them,” she said, quietly, “and I would have visited them
before if I had heard of this. What is more, Susan is as good a girl as
ever breathed, and I shall make it a point to invite her to come and
spend a month at my house.”

Witherlee looked perfectly immobile, but secretly stung by the rebuke
Muriel’s words conveyed to him, he felt the necessity of defending his
attitude toward the Hollingsworths.

“I should be glad to still visit Miss Hollingsworth, if I could
conscientiously,” he said, with an air of cold and lofty virtue. “But
when a young lady lets herself be led astray by an _ignis fatuus_ light,
from the paths of Christian morality”—

The generous color flashed to the calm face of Muriel, and her golden
eyes glowed on him so suddenly that he stopped in the middle of his
sentence.

“Fernando Witherlee,” said she, in a slow and steady voice, and with a
dignity that abashed even him, “if there is anything that could make me
despise a fellow-creature, it would be such a speech as you have just
made. _Ignis fatuus_ light! I answer you with Robert Burns, and I accept
it in a profounder sense than he did, that even the light that leads
astray is light from Heaven. Christian morality! Who was the friend
even of the Magdalen?—who was the friend and companion of publicans and
sinners—the taboo men and women of old Jerusalem? Oh, shame upon you! A
poor girl loving with the whole fervor of the sacred nature God gave her,
guilty, at the most, only of a too absolute confidence in the traitor she
had cast her heart upon, deceived now and abandoned, and suffering not
only from her own private anguish, the greatest a human heart can know,
but from the insolent and infamous scorn of society—and it is at such
a time that you can have the soul to avoid her! And worse—you can tell
the cruel treatment she receives from her sex and laugh. Those graceless
women—but I may well spare my indignation at the inhuman way women
treat any of their number who have fallen from what they call virtue.
Shut out by the impudent assumptions of mankind from public life—shut
out from that experience which widens the understanding, and thus, as
the statesman said, corrects the heart—theirs may well be twilight
judgments! Well may they have constricted minds and narrow souls, with
life’s best culture denied them! Treated as vassals, theirs are vassals’
vices. But you—a man! And society! Society whose mutual voice should peal
consolation and encouragement to this poor forlorn one, howling her off
into social exile, and, were she poor, to a life of shame—howling her
self-respect, her very womanhood out of her. Oh, what can I say of such
a society! No matter. You can do as you think best; but I, for one, will
never taboo Susan Hollingsworth, and she shall visit me if I can persuade
her”

Wincing secretly under this rebuke, which Muriel uttered calmly, but
with impressive energy, Witherlee sat in silence, with his opaque eyes
fixed on vacancy, and his handsome eyebrows lifted very high. Harrington,
without taking his gaze from him, expressed his gratification at what
Muriel had said by laying his large hand over hers, as it rested on
the arm of her chair. Emily sat with a dazed look, and her lover was
biting his lip all through the episode, to suppress any signs of the
satisfaction he felt at Witherlee’s discomfiture.

“My sentiments exactly, Muriel,” said Wentworth. “But now, Fernando,
to resume. You appear to have cleared yourself of any blame in the
construction Emily put upon your words, and so far so good. But there are
some other things I want to talk with you about.”

“Proceed,” said Witherlee, coolly. “Though I really think Emily ought to
be permitted to make the apologies she was about to make to me for so
grievous an injury to my feelings as I have sustained.”

It is utterly impossible to describe the exquisite titillation of insult
which, despite his subdued manner, these words of Witherlee conveyed.
Wentworth reddened like fire instantly, and was only checked in a
tremendous retort by a glance from the quiet eye of Muriel. But poor
Emily, filled with contrition, started and colored, and was about to pour
forth a profuse apology, when—

“Pardon me, Fernando,” broke in the calm, deep voice of Harrington, “but
let me suggest that Miss Ames’ apologies will be in better place when
you are entirely clear from the accusations connected with her, which
Wentworth has to bring against you.”

Witherlee turned very pale, though he showed no other signs of emotion,
and fixed his impassible eyes on Harrington’s, but unable, with all his
stone opacity of outlook, to sustain their broad blue gaze, he carelessly
lifted his eyebrows and looked away. Emily, meanwhile, having noticed
Harrington’s determined face, suddenly felt a suspicion that all was not
so clear with Fernando as it seemed, and resolved to say nothing till she
saw the end.

“What I have to say, Fernando, is this,” began Wentworth, having choked
down his rage into smiling calm. “It seems to me that on one occasion, at
least, you did make mischief, if you’ll excuse the word, between Emily
and me. You said something that prevented Emily from giving me a bunch of
violets last Tuesday morning.”

“I did not,” returned Witherlee, coolly. “I simply made a playful remark
to Emily—the most innocent remark imaginable—which I’m perfectly willing
to repeat now.”

“Nevertheless,” said Wentworth, “your innocent remark, or the manner in
which you made it, incensed Emily against me.”

“Am I to blame for her misapprehensions, Richard?” mildly asked Fernando.
“You are aware now that Emily was in an unusually sensitive state of
mind at that time. You see how she mistook the sense of other things I
said, and yet you yourself have admitted that I am blameless in respect
to those. Why, then, may she not have mistaken the sense of the playful
remark I made about the flowers, and if so, why do you hold me to an
account for it?”

Wentworth could not get over this. He was fairly checked in the very
outset. The devil take it, he said to himself, I believe that Emily and I
have been to blame after all!

“I was as much astonished as you were, Richard, at Emily’s conduct about
the violets,” continued Fernando. “But I never imagined till this moment,
that she was influenced by my remark. How could I? I thought she was rude
to you, and I felt sorry. You must remember that I expressed my friendly
regret to you at the time. Surely, I wouldn’t have done that, if I had
instigated her to offend you.”

“Well, well,” said Wentworth, hastily, “I pass that. I own that Emily was
in a mood to misunderstand things; but see here. There were things you
said to me in the fencing-school that morning which, to my shame, made me
think unkindly of Harrington. Now”—

“Pardon me, Richard,” interrupted Witherlee, with an air of great
concern, “but this is the unkindest thing yet, and I do not understand
what has got into you people’s minds this morning. Now, what in the world
did I ever say to you against Harrington? Just tell me candidly—were not
you at that time incensed with Harrington for something or other—I don’t
know what?”

“I own I was,” replied Wentworth, twirling his moustache and blushing.

“Very well. And did I ever express anything more than sympathy with you
in your irritation?” demanded Witherlee.

“Well, I admit,” replied Wentworth, “that what you said was in the
form of sympathy with me. But then it led me to think more hardly of
Harrington than I would have done.”

Witherlee laughed as if his throat was full of turtle at this.

“You’ll excuse me for laughing, Wentworth,” he remarked, “but this is
exceedingly absurd. Here were you in a state of nervous resentment at
Harrington, and because your fiery temper took my kindly-meant attempts
at consolation as fresh fuel, you blame me! Now I put it to you, as a
reasonable man, was I to blame because you wrong-headedly twisted my
consolations against your friend?”

Wentworth colored deeply, and did not answer. The deuce take it, he
thought: I am making myself ridiculous in all this: the fact is, I was in
such a miserably jealous and irritable state, that, as he says, I turned
everything topsy-turvy.

“Ah, me!” sighed Witherlee, sadly lifting his eyebrows, as one who thus
expressed that this was the fate of friendship, loyalty, virtue of all
sorts, in this wicked, wicked, wicked world.

“Well, Fernando,” said Wentworth, “I’m truly sorry—but stay, there’s
another thing, and that’s not so easily explained. John Todd told me of a
talk you had with Bagasse that same morning, about us four.”

Wentworth paused to look at Witherlee, expecting to see him start and
change color at this. Nothing of the sort. Witherlee’s eyebrows were up,
and his eyes were their opaquest, and his face was perfectly discharged
of all expression. But in his soul was the first shock of alarm, for
he had not counted on his conversation with Bagasse being reported to
Wentworth.

“Well,” said he, imperturbably, “what did John Todd say? You will first
allow me to observe that it is not very creditable in him to have played
the eavesdropper on a private conversation. And you will pardon me for
remarking, Richard, that had I been in your place, my sense of honor
would not have permitted me to listen to any gossip from him.”

Wentworth blushed deeply. Gallant, honorable fellow that he was, he
half-mistrusted that he had not done right in letting John Todd make his
report, and what Witherlee said, certainly seemed in the most punctilious
spirit of chivalry. Witherlee, meanwhile, satisfied with having dealt
Wentworth’s case a telling blow at the outset, rested in injured
innocence, nervously impatient in spirit at the same time, to have the
worst over with.

“I won’t excuse myself, Fernando,” said Wentworth, hurriedly. “But here
is what the boy told me. In the first place, you mentioned the names of
these two ladies to Bagasse. Now, that was not decorous”—

“Why not?” demanded Witherlee. “Just consider that what I said to Bagasse
was in the confidence of familiar friendship, and the proof is, that
Bagasse himself never spread it abroad—only that sneak of a boy.”

“Familiar friendship with Bagasse!” exclaimed Wentworth, amazed. “I did
not imagine you would be so intimate with the old fellow.”

“And why not?” demanded Witherlee, with an air of noble disdain. “A
gallant old soldier of the Empire—a brave old Frenchman, who wears
the cross of the Legion! Do you think I’m such a snob as to shun his
friendship because he’s poor and plebeian, and all that? Indeed, no!
Bagasse and I,” he added, lying desperately, “are on very intimate terms,
and I therefore felt justified in talking freely to him—which I wouldn’t
have done if I had noticed the presence of that reptile of a boy.”

“Well,” said Wentworth, beginning to despair, “but that does not excuse
your making fun of my dress, or of”—

“It’s not true,” interrupted Witherlee. “I simply said, jestingly, that
you looked bizarre with your long curls and your Rubens hat, and so you
do. But it was harmless joking enough, I’m sure.”

“I don’t think, at anyrate, it was harmless joking for you to jeer
at Harrington’s coat, and say he looked like a ragpicker,” remarked
Wentworth.

“Well, if I ever heard of such malice and misrepresentation as that
little serpent has been guilty of!” exclaimed Fernando, with virtuous
indignation. “I never said anything of the sort. I simply remarked that
Emily looked all the more gorgeous in contrast to the plain attire
of Harrington, which was the simple truth. And as for the rest, my
remark was that if she was dressed like a ragpicker, she would still be
beautiful. Upon my word, I will chastise that boy the next time I see
him!”

Wentworth looked perfectly confounded as Witherlee, with an air of
indisputable veracity, told these bold lies.

“By Jupiter!” he exclaimed, “Johnny must have mistaken what you said,
Fernando, with a vengeance! Well—but see here, you certainly gave
Bagasse to understand that Harrington and I were in love with Muriel
and Emily. Since you are a friend of his, I won’t blame you for what
you say you said in confidence; but still that doesn’t excuse you for
saying contemptuously that Muriel would as soon marry a man out of the
alms-house as Harrington, and scornfully calling attention, as you did
in that connection, to Harrington’s apparel. You must have said that,
for Johnny told me circumstantially what Bagasse said in reply, and he
seemed to remember that better than what you had said. And by the way,
your representing that John and I were these ladies’ lovers, doesn’t
square with your assertion just now to Emily, that you had no idea of
any feeling between her and me. By Jupiter, Fernando!” cried Wentworth
at this point, elated to think that he had really caught Witherlee in a
contradiction, “you can’t make that square!”

“Mr. Wentworth,” replied Fernando with dignified severity, “you go too
far when you impugn my veracity, and you are perfectly reckless in your
assertions. I told Emily that I had no idea there was any feeling between
you two, and I told her the truth.”

“Who did you think I had a feeling for?” demanded Wentworth.

“Since you force me to say, I thought it was Muriel—and Harrington can
bear me witness,” said Witherlee, severely.

“Yes,” said Harrington, laconically. “Fernando told me so.”

“Now, then!” exclaimed Witherlee, triumphantly, “where doesn’t it square?”

Wentworth looked completely flabbergasted, as the sailors say, and
colored painfully.

“As for the rest,” pursued Witherlee, “it is just one tissue of
misstatements. I never told Bagasse you and Harrington were in love with
these ladies. On the contrary, when he got the notion into his head,
I scouted it, as your own statement shows, for I did not wish him to
believe what, though I supposed it, I did not absolutely _know_ was the
case. It is true that in endeavoring to convey to Bagasse that there
was no foundation for his belief, I did say, rather splenetically,
for his pertinacity irritated me, that it was just as likely Muriel
would wed a man out of the poor-house as Harrington. But I protest
against the construction of those words which would make it seem that I
compared Harrington to a pauper, or insulted him in any way. I was only
endeavoring to indicate the distance between his social position and
Muriel’s. You must bear in mind that I was talking to an illiterate man
and a foreigner, and I only adapted my language to his illiteracy and to
his imperfect knowledge of English, and used coarser terms than I would
to a different person, which explains my use of that phrase, and the
allusion to Harrington’s plain coat. All I meant, and all I would have
said to a person of culture, was that Muriel would not marry beneath her
station.”

“You were right, Fernando,” said Muriel, coldly. “I never would, and
Harrington knows it.”

“So I thought,” complacently replied Witherlee, thinking, oddly enough,
that she concurred with him. “I knew that you and Harrington were only
friends.”

“But this Bagasse, I am told, thought it would not be beneath me to
marry Harrington,” remarked Muriel, with an air of contemptuous hauteur
which Witherlee had never seen her wear before, and which surprised him.
Whew! he thought, Harrington is catching it now for his presumption with
a vengeance! I wouldn’t sit there, and have that said to my face, for
anything.

“Why yes,” he replied, glancing at Harrington, who sat with his face
buried in his hand, and what was visible of it so red that Witherlee
thought he was smitten with agonizing shame, as he was, but it was for
Witherlee. “Yes, Bagasse went into a fit of eloquence about it, and told
what he would do if he was ‘vair fine ladee,’ and thought Harrington
loved him.” And Witherlee laughed turtle-husky at the reminiscence,
without any more regard for Harrington’s feelings than if he were a post.

“Well, Wentworth, are you satisfied?” asked Muriel, quietly.

Wentworth, who had gone off into deep abstraction, and lost the
conversation between Muriel and Witherlee (which would have convulsed
him, and which had sorely tried Emily’s power to suppress her mirth),
started and colored.

“Why, yes,” he replied, “I am bound to own that Fernando’s explanation
puts a different look upon the matter, though I think he did wrong
to speak to Bagasse in such terms of Harrington, and I think he owes
Harrington an apology for language at the best too ungentlemanly—I must
say it, Fernando—to be passed over in silence. There is no excuse for it.
It was shameful.”

“Do you really think so, Richard?” said Muriel, with such a contemptuous
tone and expression that Wentworth turned red, and stared at her,
wondering what she could mean; while Emily moved away to the window, and
hid herself behind a curtain, that she might give some vent to her agony
of mirth.

“Well, Fernando,” said Muriel, after a pause, “what do you think about
making Mr. Harrington an apology?”

Witherlee, emboldened to intense insolence by his monstrously silly
supposition that Muriel was showering contempt on her lover, curved a
supercilious lip and curled a contumelious nose to that extent, that the
fiery Wentworth positively ached to knock him down.

“I do not think about it at all,” drawled the good Fernando.

“Very well,” said Muriel, holding Wentworth with her eye. “Now, Fernando,
since we are explaining things, let me ask you how you came to say that
you saw Wentworth and I one afternoon more than a week ago, folded in
each other’s arms in the parlor, and kissing each other?”

Muriel’s tactics were capital. By diverting his mind from the main
subject of conversation, she had thrown him completely off his guard, and
then suddenly sprung this question upon him. Fernando positively changed
color, and then turned deadly pale. If a bomb-shell had quietly fallen
into his lap, with the fuze just fizzing into the powder, he could not
have been much more astounded.

There was a pause, in which Emily came gliding back to her seat, all
alive with curiosity at this unexpected turn in affairs, while Wentworth
stared blankly, and Harrington sat with his face buried in his hand,
watching Witherlee, as the marine phrase has it, out of the tail of his
eye.

“Well, Fernando, you turn red, and then you turn pale,” remarked Muriel,
quietly. “What do those two colors mean?”

“They mean astonishment,” said Witherlee, recovering his self-possession
instantly, and looking at her with his most brazen face, conscious that
the tug of war had come, and with an antagonist of another sort than
Wentworth or Emily.

Oho, thought Muriel, surveying his admirably dissimulated face. I wonder
if I’m going to lose this move. Let’s see.

“You don’t mean to deny that I did see you in such a position with
Wentworth?” said Witherlee.

“Most assuredly,” was Muriel’s quiet reply.

“Most inevitably,” said Wentworth, like an Irish echo.

“Why, this is perfectly unaccountable,” murmured Witherlee, with superbly
acted astonishment. “I certainly did see you both, as I told Mr.
Harrington in a rash moment, which I can never too much regret. I was
entering the parlor when I saw you, and drew back instantly. I came in
again in a minute, and Emily had just entered the room, through the door
leading from the conservatory.”

“It can’t be,” said Muriel.

“Can’t possibly be,” said the Irish echo, ineffably delighted at
Witherlee’s fix.

“But how could I be mistaken,” persisted Witherlee. “There you evidently
were, both of you, in that position. You, Muriel, had on the lilac dress
you so often wear. It was the first thing I saw, and I knew you by it
instantly.”

“Utterly impossible,” said Muriel.

“Tee-totally impossible,” said the gleeful echo.

Witherlee was silent, and gazed at them with admirable dubiety, wishing
in his heart that they would only say more, for with these brief denials,
he found it difficult to gracefully gain the point he was driving at.

“It was I you saw, Fernando; I had on a lilac dress that evening,” said
the innocent Emily, blushing.

Muriel winced, for her game was weakened by this avowal, which had
brought up the point Fernando was waiting for, and which she did not mean
he should have. Fernando, meanwhile, was delighted, for he saw his clear
way out.

“You had on a lilac dress that evening!” he said, with an air of
surprise, to Emily. “Well, I declare I didn’t notice it. But how does
that alter the matter? Oh, I see!” he exclaimed, his face lighting.
“It was the lilac dress misled me, for you wore your lilac dress that
evening, Muriel. That’s it. My eye caught sight of the dress, and
I mistook you for Emily, and retreated before my eye could rectify
the error. What an unlucky blunder! I’m very, very sorry. But in the
confusion of the moment, I was naturally deceived. Well, well! Muriel, I
humbly beg your pardon, not only for having mentioned what I thought I
saw to Mr. Harrington—but you won’t blame me for that, for it foolishly
came out in the heat of conversation—but for this unfortunate mistake of
mine. It was natural, under the circumstances, but it is not the less
humiliating. Say that you forgive me, now, do!”

“Oh, well, Fernando,” she replied, nonchalantly laughing, “I must,
of course, give weight to your plea of its naturalness under the
circumstances. Still, you perceive it was a rather awkward blunder, and
it ought to make you more careful for the future.”

“Indeed, it will—I’ll be very careful not to make such a mistake again,”
said Fernando, laughing turtle, and quite exhilarated by his lucky escape.

“That’s right,” said Muriel, gaily. “For such a mistake, Fernando,
might break up our long acquaintance. At all events,” she pursued, with
a laugh, “it might prevent your being honored with such a theatrical
reception as I gave you that evening.”

“Theatrical?” said he, smiling; “what do you mean?”

“Why, don’t you remember,” she lightly responded, “how suddenly I struck
an attitude, and held out the bunch of flowers to you?”

“Yes, indeed,” replied the jocund Witherlee. “I had forgotten it, but I
remember it now. Just as I came in at one door, and you”—

He paused blankly, but he was in the trap, and there was no escape now.

“And I came in at the other,” continued Muriel, finishing his sentence.

He gazed at her, pale, with opaquest eyes; she at him, with clear eyes
aglow, and a solemn look upon her countenance. Wentworth and Emily stared
at both of them, not comprehending the point at all.

“And now, Fernando,” said Muriel, calmly, “the question for you to answer
is—How could you think you saw me with Wentworth, when you saw me come in
from the conservatory, holding out the bunch of flowers to you?”

A posing question! There was a long pause, in which Witherlee kept his
rigid face fixed upon her. Then, unable to bear her clear gaze, he meanly
trembled, and his head fell.

“Ah!” said Wentworth, in a low voice, “catch the first! A decided catch.
Fernando, my boy, we have you in a pure and simple lie.”

At this terrible speech, Witherlee lifted his livid and rigid face
with a forlorn attempt at dignity, but he could not sustain it. His
glittering and unsteady eyes flickered away from the open and gallant
countenance of Wentworth; from Emily, gazing at him with lustrous scorn;
from Muriel, looking at him with solemn pity; from Harrington, sitting
with his head bowed in his hand, and fell. He could not bear to look at
them. Mischief-makers, like other criminals, usually mix folly with their
crime, and in the commission of their wickedness, commonly leave the clue
to its discovery. Thus had Witherlee done. And now he was found out. To
tattle and lie and slander was nothing to him; but to be discovered, was
death.

“Fernando,” said Emily, with indignant composure, “this wicked falsehood
you have told makes it impossible to believe a word you have said. I do
not now credit a single syllable of your explanation—not one.”

At the sound of her voice, Witherlee seemed to recover a little
self-possession, for he turned quickly to her, though his unsteady eyes
did not rest upon her face.

“You have no right to say that,” he replied in a querulous and tremulous
voice, “no right whatever. I am willing to own my fault, but it is not
fair to argue from one fault to another. I have told you the truth, and
you saw its reasonableness, and acquitted me of blame. It is not fair to
take it back, not at all fair.”

He rose to his feet with a look of received injury, which even then
touched Emily, and made her hesitate in her verdict. But at that moment
Harrington left his chair, and came toward him with tears flowing from
his eyes. Witherlee cowered at the sight of this solemn and compassionate
emotion, and his head fell. In that moment he remembered the hard and
cruel insult he had so lately flung upon the man before him, and he
trembled in an agony of shame.

“Fernando,” said Harrington, calmly and tenderly, “I pity you from the
bottom of my heart. I could almost die with pity for you. Do not, I beg
of you, do not degrade your soul by persisting in what you know to be
falsehoods. You know you are not telling Emily the truth now, and you
know there is not a word of truth in all you have told her.”

“I do not see what right you have to say that, Harrington,” faltered
Witherlee.

“Fernando!” exclaimed Harrington, solemnly, “Alas, alas! you poor fellow,
I do not blame you! there is some virtue still in this forlorn attempt
to clothe the nakedness of your falsehood in the semblance of truth. But
it is useless, and it only does your nature a more grievous harm. Do you
not see that you have already confessed all? You have admitted that you
knew it was Emily and Wentworth you saw together. You knew, therefore,
that they were lovers. How can you say then, that in your conversation
with Emily that very evening, you did not know of their feeling for each
other? How can you say that you did not know your terrible dispraise of
Wentworth, so artfully clothed in praise, would shock and grieve the
woman who loved him? How can you say you did not know your story of
Susan Hollingsworth would throw its shadow on the thoughts with which
you had filled Emily? How can you say you thought your aggravating word
a week later over the violets, was harmless? Ah, Fernando! how could
you so coldly and cruelly drop this subtle poison into the hearts of
two lovers? You gave Richard and Emily hours of terrible suffering. You
nearly alienated them from each other—you almost murdered their love. How
could you do it? You knew they loved each other—you knew I loved Muriel;
and yet you wantonly saddened my heart by virtually telling me that
Wentworth and Muriel were betrothed. At the same time when you knew that
Emily loved Wentworth, you gave Captain Fisher to understand that she
was engaged to me. Fernando, you are entirely discovered. Your talk with
Bagasse is just as transparent, and just as disgraceful to your better
nature, as all the rest. Alas, alas! I can only pity you!”

The deep voice was gentle, and tears still flowed from the calm eyes.
Emily sat with her handkerchief to her face, touched by the majestic
sorrow of Harrington into compassion, and weeping silently. Muriel had
covered her eyes with her hand. Wentworth stood with folded arms, his
face pale, and fixed on Witherlee. Witherlee, completely unmasked even to
himself, stood with bowed head, livid and trembling, and there was a long
pause.

“Harrington,” faltered the poor rogue, in a weak, querulous voice, “I am
very sorry—I am indeed. I know I’ve done wrong—very wrong, and I’m sorry.
I feel very miserable. I haven’t a friend in the world now, and I know I
don’t deserve to have. But I hope you’ll forgive me, Harrington, though I
did you harm. I didn’t quite mean”—

His faltering voice broke, and apparently unconscious of any but the
presence of the young man before him, he sunk his head a little lower,
and stood trembling.

“Forgive you!” exclaimed Harrington, in a voice so sudden and sonorous
that Witherlee started, and fell a pace away. “Fernando, give me your
hand!”

Tremblingly, as Harrington strode straight up to him, with a frank
outstretched arm, Witherlee put his nerveless hand in his, looked up for
an instant into the masculine and noble face, dropped his head and burst
into tears.

A surge of emotion overswept them all, and for a minute there was no
sound but the thick sobs of Witherlee.

“Fernando,” said Harrington, solemnly, clasping his hand, and putting his
arm tenderly around him, “let the past be with the past, and live nobler
for the future. See: your repentance cancels all, and lifts you into
better life. You are not friendless—not forsaken. We are your friends,
all of us, and we will stand by you. Forgive you? I do with all my soul,
fully, heartily, cordially.”

“And I, too, Fernando,” cried Muriel, bounding up, and gliding swiftly
toward him, with humid eyes and outstretched hand. “Well I may, for
you did me the greatest service ever done to me, and I owe you much
gratitude.”

“I don’t understand,” faltered poor Witherlee, trembling all over, and
smiling, with an effort, a thin, gelid, arctic smile through his abject
tears, as he tremulously shook her hand.

“You introduced me, three years ago, to Harrington,” she smilingly
replied, “and now he is my husband. We were married yesterday.”

Fernando stopped trembling, and lifted his handsome eyebrows a hair’s
breadth, with something of his old manner, then fell a-trembling again,
and tried to smile.

“I am very glad to hear this,” he wanly faltered, “very glad indeed. I
wish you much happiness. If you’ll please to excuse me, I’ll—I’ll take my
leave.”

He bowed with the ghost of his former affected elegance of manner, and
gelidly smiling, backed toward the door.

“Hold on, Fernando,” exclaimed Wentworth, flying over to him. “Tip us
your flipper, my boy. There isn’t a speck of me that’s not friendly
to you—not a speck. Come and see me as often as you can—that’s a good
fellow.”

And Wentworth, smiling, shook his hand up and down with great cordiality,
as he rattled off this address.

“And I, Fernando,” said Emily, with her slow, ambrosial smile, sweeping
over to him as she spoke, and also taking his hand, “I am more your
friend than I have ever been. I felt terribly at what you said, but I
don’t now, so let it all go. Come to see me soon, won’t you?”

“Thank you. You are both very kind,” faltered Witherlee.

“Let us see you as often as you can, Fernando,” said Harrington, shaking
hands with him.

“Yes, do, Fernando,” said Muriel, also giving him her hand. “Let us
forget all this, and when we next meet, let it be happily.”

He bowed, with his face full of forlorn emotion, and backing to the door,
bowed himself out of the room. They stood in silence. Presently they
heard the shutting of the street-door. He was gone.

“Good!” exclaimed Wentworth, with a deep respiration. “Fernando’s cured
for life!”

“I believe he is,” murmured Muriel. “But he almost missed his salvation,
poor fellow!”

“That he did,” replied Wentworth. “He got clear of Emily, and he got
clear of me. I never saw anything like it. But you nailed him, Muriel,
and Harrington finished him.”

“Ah, me!” said Harrington, with a deep sigh, “it was an awful lesson to
give a fellow-being. But it was for his good. Yes, he will be a better
man for the future.”

Emily sat in silence, wiping the fast-springing tears from her eyes.

“I wonder how he will look when we next see him,” said Wentworth,
musingly. “And I wonder how soon he will call here after this”—

“Nay,” interrupted Muriel, her drooping hands clasped before her, and her
head bowed in pensive reverie, “he will never call here again.”

She was right. He never did—but once.



CHAPTER XXVI.

A MAN OF RUINED BLOOD.


Where was Mr. Lafitte all this time? Had he returned to the sunny South,
and to that particular part of its sunniness in which sweltered his
negroes at their miserable toil?

Mr. Lafitte had not. He was still in the city, at the Tremont House, and
for the last three days he had kept his room, sick and shattered with the
terrible shock he had received, and raging like a devil in his impotent
fury. That he should owe his life to the man he hated was bad enough;
but to a woman, and worse still, to a negro—oh, to his rank and insolent
pride this was the humiliation of humiliations! It had not come to him
at first, but several hours after Harrington had left him, when he began
to recover from the paralysis of spirit in which he lay, it outgrew upon
him, and increased in intensity, till he raved in a phrenetic agony of
infernal shame and rage.

In this delightful mood he had continued for three days. Exhausted on the
night of the third by the violence of his frenzy, he had slept heavily,
and awakened late on the morning of the fourth, calmer in spirit, and
though, still somewhat weak, stronger and in better health than he had
been. The Atkinses, father and sons, had called severally three times,
during his illness, but he had left orders that he would see nobody, and
they had not been admitted to his presence.

Up now and dressed, his breakfast eaten, two juleps imbibed and a cigar
finished, he began to feel more like himself, and look more like the
handsome brunette devil he usually was. A little less rich in color, to
be sure, but still sufficiently so for good appearance’s sake; and as he
walked up and down the plainly-furnished chamber, in the space between
his bed and the window, he even felt something of his usual fiendish
jocundity revive sullenly within him.

Three letters had arrived for him during his illness. He had not even
looked at them, but let them lie unopened on the table where the
servant had laid them. Now, however, when his mind was able to attend
to their contents, he paused in his walk as his eye rested on them, and
approaching the table, took them up, and gazed at their superscriptions
and post-marks.

“That’s from my brother,” he muttered, “and that also, and
this—‘Mobile—forwarded’—who can this be from?”

He tore it open, and ran his eye over the contents.

“Oh, pshaw!” he snarled, flinging it down. “Business. Business be cursed!
I’m in no mood for business. Let’s see what Joseph has to say for
himself. Which is the first—Oh, this is it.”

He opened the letter, deliberately smoothed it out, and caressing his
moustache with one hand, while he held the sheet in the other, began to
read with a face that flushed into a horrid and tigerish smile as he read
on. This was the letter:

                                                  NEW ORLEANS, La.,
                                                  _May 20th, 1852_.

    DEAR TORWOOD:

    There’s been the devil to pay up on your plantation, and no
    mistake, and poor Tassle has gone the way of all flesh. On the
    15th, Tassle lashed that mulatto wench Sally three or four
    times for falling down in the rows—the yellow beast pretending
    of course that she was sick, as they always do. Precious
    little work, at all events, was got out of her that day, and
    when night came, Tassle staked her down for a good flogging.
    That black Jim of yours, her husband, tried to beg her off
    the flogging, but Tassle wasn’t to be wheedled out of it, and
    struck Jim, so they tell me, across the face with the whip.
    Whereupon, Jim flew at him with an axe, and in a second it was
    all up with poor Tassle. The boy actually cut him to pieces,
    and then ran for the swamp. The planters were roused, however,
    got out the dogs, hunted him down, and in less than no time, I
    may say, a fire was lit by the bayou, and the black scoundrel
    trussed up and burned alive, screeching like mad, with all the
    niggers looking on. They’ll profit by the example, I reckon,
    and learn that it won’t do to murder a white man—the cursed
    brutes.

    I am hurrying up to fix business, so that I can go; up river,
    and attend to the plantation for you, till you get back. But
    you’d better hurry home as quick as you can, for it’s a busy
    season with us here, and I can’t well be away.

                       In haste, your aff.,

                                                    JOSEPH LAFITTE.

    P.S. By the way, the wench Sally gave birth to a fine
    piccaninny, a boy, that night—somewhat prematurely, I’m told.
    So you see there’s no small loss without some great gain. As
    for Tassle, he’s no loss at all, for you can easily replace
    him, and I’ve got my eye on a capital overseer for you.

                                                              J. L.

The smile on the sardonic visage of Mr. Lafitte expanded more and more
tigerish, and as he came to the end of the letter, he burst into a
smooth, soft roar of merriment, while floods of devilish delight raged
within him.

“And so William Tassle’s food for worms,” he soliloquized, shaking
with internal laughter. “Poor Tassle, that’s the end of you. And Jim’s
roasted. Good! I hope they made the fire slow. Infernal scoundrel! I wish
I’d been there to hear him screech the soul out of him. That’s the way to
keep the black devils under. God! if it wasn’t for a good fire round some
of them when they lift their hands against us, I believe that they’d be
up in insurrection, and give us St. Domingo. But that they never can do
while the Union lasts. Ah, the glorious Union! Rise on us if you dare, my
black angels, and see the short work the muskets of the Union will make
with you. Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable! That’s
the ticket for you, my black cherubs!”

And again Mr. Lafitte burst into raging laughter.

“Ah, me, ah me!” he sighed, subsiding. “I feel refreshingly wicked
to-day, spite of all. This news has done me good. But let’s see what
Joseph has to say again,” he added, deliberately opening the other
letter, and smoothing it out as he had done the first, with a sardonic
smile on his brunette face.

Ah, Mr. Lafitte! What is this? As he began to read the color of his face
vanished, like the flame of a blown-out lamp, his complexion became
livid, with dark spots on its ghastliness, his eyes grew glassy, and his
jaw fell. He did not drop the letter, but read slowly and steadily on—and
this is what he read:

                                 LAFITTE PLANTATION, AVOYELLES, LA.
                                                   _May 23d, 1852._

    TORWOOD, come home for God’s sake as quick as you can. There’s
    worse news here than I wrote you on the 20th. Josephine has
    eloped with young Raynal. I’m sorry to tell you so abruptly,
    but I don’t know how to break it to you. This is evidently a
    preconcerted affair, for Raynal, you know, was retiring from
    business just about the time you left, and has since been
    turning all his property into money. Anyhow, they’re gone—gone
    to Italy—and they’re out of the country by this time.

    I’ve just arrived here, and I never was so horrified in my
    life as when I discovered this. I half suspected that there
    was something wrong when I heard that Raynal had been in the
    neighborhood, for I knew that he loved her before her marriage
    to you. But I didn’t get any idea of it till just now, when I
    came up to the house and inquiring for Josephine, was told by
    your cook that Raynal came there the night of Jim’s barbecue,
    and that she had left with him, taking only a single trunk with
    her. Which way they went, up river or down, nobody knows. But
    I went up-stairs into her chamber, and found a sheet of note
    paper lying on her writing-desk, addressed to you, on which
    was written just these words and no more: “Lafitte, I go away
    to-night to Italy, never to return.” That was every word.

    Torwood, I’m devilish sorry for you. I had no idea that
    Josephine would do such a thing as this, for everybody knows
    and says you’ve been a good husband to her, and down in Orleans
    you were talked of as a model couple, and your constant
    courtesy and kindness to her was in everybody’s mouth. Well,
    women are the devil, and no mistake.

    But come home as soon as you can. Nobody but me knows what
    has happened, and I think we can keep this matter private,
    and save you the disgrace. Of course her family must know it,
    but they’ll feel terribly cut up about it, and be willing to
    keep dark. I’ve spread it around that Raynal has taken her up
    North to you, so the wonder of her absence is explained. Then,
    perhaps, you can say that she died suddenly up North, and put
    on the bereaved dodge, and so cover it up for good.

    Anyhow, come right along, and we’ll consult together about it.

                    In great haste, your aff.,

                                                    JOSEPH LAFITTE.

He slowly laid the letter down, and stood still. Livid and spotted as a
corpse when decomposition has begun, his glassy orbs fixed on vacancy,
his jaw fallen and rigid, his whole form motionless. Thus for a full
minute. Then, his fallen jaw slowly lifted, his lips came together, and
a still and frightful smile glided upon his features.

“God!” he exclaimed, in a low, clear, distinct voice, “it’s over.
Josephine has escaped from holy matrimony.”

He said no more, but with the still and frightful smile upon his face,
stood motionless for some minutes. Slowly his color returned, his glossy,
blood-specked, tawny orbs outgrew again from the glassiness, and opening
his tiger mouth, he burst into a long fit of smooth, soft, sardonic
laughter.

“Yes,” he soliloquized, subsiding from his fiendish mirth into a fiendish
smile—“yes, indeed, Josephine has escaped from holy matrimony. Oh, what
a blow to the interests of morality! What a shock to the foundations
of society! What a rupture of the sacred bonds of wedlock! What a
profanation of the sacrament of marriage! And Joseph proposes to keep it
dark. Oh, Joseph, Joseph, how can you? As a good Christian, as a friend
of morality, and religion, and society, and, above all, holy matrimony,
could I do it? Ah, never, never! And Joseph wants to save me the
disgrace. The disgrace!”—and with a negrine _ptchih_, Mr. Lafitte went
off into a fit of chuckling merriment.

“No, indeed, Joseph,” he resumed, “we must spread it, and spread it
wide. We must get it into the papers, my beloved brother. We must get
it into the New Orleans papers, and the Western papers, and the New
York papers. Josephine must have the disgrace as my last love-touch,
and I must have the sympathy of the Friends of Virtue, sweet Joseph.
Oh, Lord!” and he chuckled, “what fun I shall have in my affliction
reading the homilies of the moral editors! Let’s see, how will they go…
Melancholy Case of Conjugal Infidelity… Yes, that’s pretty good… Free
Love Invading the Family Circle… And that’s magnificent… The Results of
Free Love Teachings… That’s magnificent, too. Let’s see… Another Base
Violation of the Marriage Tie… Shocking Case of Seduction, Elopement,
and Crime… Another Blow at the Foundations of Morality… Ruin of a Home
and a Husband… Oh, they’re all good—capital! Then the articles. Lord,
but won’t they be luscious! How I shall weep over the tender sympathy;
how I shall mourn, yet say, it is just, over the stern condemnation of
Josephine; what a moral glow I shall feel through all my being at the
severe rectitude and fidelity to the best interests of morality which
will pervade those high-toned editorials! Now let’s see. Let’s compose
an appropriate one. It must be a piece of ignorant, stupid, brutal,
sentimental twaddle, mal-apropos and blundering, and stuck full of stale
quotations, or it won’t be in style. Hold on now,” and in a declamatory
voice he went on as follows: “… We chronicle in another column a mournful
case of conjugal perfidy, of which a too tender and confiding husband is
the heart-broken victim. To what vortex are we rushing? Well may we say,
in the language of the immortal dramatist, that such a deed as this—

              —‘makes marriage vows
    As false as dicers’ oaths. Oh! such a deed
    As from the body of contraction plucks
    The very soul; and sweet religion makes
    A rhapsody of words! Rebellious hell,
    If thou canst mutine in a matron’s bones,
    To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,
    And melt in her own fire!’

Capital, capital!” roared Mr. Lafitte, with a spasm of chuckling
merriment, rubbing his hands gleefully, as he spoke, “that’s the stock
quotation, and doesn’t it come in gloriously! Rebellious hell in the
matron Josephine’s bones—Oh, upon my soul, but that’s decidedly neat!
Fire away, my boy… In this melancholy tragedy which has laid low the
Lares and Penates of a once happy home, and brought the severest
affliction on the fond and trusting heart of a highly respectable and
estimable citizen, we trace the pernicious influence of those detestable
and licentious doctrines which have become, alas! too prevalent
throughout the land. We allude of course to the doctrines of Free Love,
and let every man in his sober senses look upon this domestic tragedy,
the legitimate result of those vile teachings whose poison is spread
abroad through the very air, and ask what is to be the end, when such
tenets are openly disseminated? Here was a woman—we call her woman, but
every true woman’s heart will rise in just indignation to clutch away
the name from such a moral monster! a female fiend rather, who could
defile the inviolable sanctuary of wedded life, listen to the insidious
honeyed words of a base seducer, fly from the tender endearments of
home, ruthlessly abandon her fond and trusting husband and innocent
children—Oh, damn it,” broke in Mr. Lafitte, “that won’t do! I’ve got no
children. Ah, me! what a pity. It would be so pathetic if the children
could be in it—the dear, little innocent children! No matter: … abandon
her fond and trusting husband, with whom she had lived so many happy
years, and who had lavished on her his wealth, his good name, and all the
priceless riches of a generous and affectionate nature, surrounding her
with every comfort and ministering with the tenderest assiduity to her
lightest want—abandon all this, and depart with her paramour to a life of
shame on the voluptuous and luxurious shores of Italy. Ah, well may this
modern Messalina go to Italy!

    ‘’Tis the land of the East, ’tis the clime of the sun,
    Can he smile on the deeds that his children have done?’

… Capital!” again roared Mr. Lafitte, rubbing his gleeful hands, “Italy
the land of the East! That’s a regular blunderbuss of a quotation, and
therefore in exquisite keeping. Oh, upon my soul, that comes in finely!
But fire away, Lafitte, you delicious dog. Let’s see now… What makes
the criminality of this shameful woman’s conduct more inexcusable and
inexplicable is the fact that she had lived for years in the most perfect
harmony with her amiable and estimable husband, receiving from him the
most unvarying tenderness, and to the eye of every person most familiar
with their domestic life, evidently the happiest of the happy. We have
it from the most reliable sources that no cloud ever appeared to mar the
horizon of their home, and among their intimate friends, the courtesy and
almost uxorious tenderness of his demeanor toward her, was absolutely
proverbial. But why seek to trace the causes of this base and ungrateful
treachery? Alas! since Eve listened to the temptings of the serpent,
how many of the sex have sacrificed their conjugal Eden for the bleak
wilderness of illicit love! Frailty, thy name is woman!”…

Mr. Lafitte stopped, and with another _ptchih_, went off into a fit of
infernal merriment, wagging his head from side to side in the frenzy of
his glee.

“That’s the way they do it!” he exclaimed, resuming. “Lord, I ought to be
an editor! I was cut out for a high-pressure moral editor of the purest
water! The blasted idiots—that’s the way they roll it out whenever one of
these inexcusable and inexplicable cases of shameful criminality on the
woman’s side, and heavenly love and tenderness on the man’s side, or vice
versâ, come to their confounded eyes! The owls—the bats—the insufferable
fraternity of asses! Lord, Lord! how often I’ve laughed till I ached over
their moral gabble, thinking all the while of the sweet little hell the
women or the men they were pitching into had cut away from, and which
the witless ninnies hadn’t brains enough to fancy! And then their tender
sympathy to the bereaved one—hold on—let me fancy how they’ll touch me
off?… We proffer to the bereaved husband, in his sad affliction, our
tenderest sympathy, and may God who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,
give him strength to bear this terrible trial which has thus desolated
the sanctuary of his lonely and forsaken home … and so forth, and so
forth, and so forth. Yes, that’s the way they’ll pour the oil of healing
into my aching wounds! Oh, but it’ll be touching. And then society—what
sympathy I’ll have from society. I must be in New Orleans a few weeks to
enjoy my affliction. How melancholy I’ll look—how interesting! And all
the old ladies flocking around me with such doleful and tender faces,
and oh, Mr. Lafitte, we feel so sorry for you, and oh, Mr. Lafitte, we
read that beautiful article in the paper this morning, and it was so
sweet and so noble and so high-toned, and so this, that, and the other.
And the young ladies ogling me with melancholy eyes, and whispering to
each other, oh, isn’t he handsome, and oh, isn’t he interesting, and
oh, doesn’t he bear it beautifully, and how much did you say he was
worth?—and dying to become Mrs. Lafitte, number two, every fool of
them. And then the Friends of Virtue, men and women, young and old, in
solid column, pitching into Josephine, and scandalizing her sky-high,
and raking up everything she ever said or did, and twisting it against
her. Oh, but it will be sweet! Sweeter than to have Raynal’s blood on
my hands—the dog! Then when the grand hallali begins to die out, I’ll
apply for my divorce, and revive it all once more. Ah, delicious! And
then by and by, perhaps, I’ll marry again—some queen of a girl dead in
love with the rich Mr. Lafitte, the handsome Mr. Lafitte, the gentle and
courteous Mr. Lafitte, with the steel claw in the velvet paw. Ah! and if
Fatima isn’t docile, Bluebeard will take her into the Blue Chamber where
Josephine had a little private experience. Good, good! Lafitte, you gay
dog, you are positively witty!”

Wagging his wicked head to himself, he walked slowly up and down,
laughing softly and smoothly, with his face bent toward the carpet. He
stopped his walk in a minute or two, and the smile on his visage faded
slowly into a look of sullen and evil moodiness.

“The revenge is sweet,” he muttered, “but there is gall in it. She has
escaped from her hell with me, and she will be happy with Raynal. Yes,
there in that lovely Italy, far away from all the howls of the slandering
curs, she will be happy with Raynal. For he loves her, and they are both
young still, and she is beautiful, and will be fond and sweet, and he is
tender to women, and manly—bah! I hate him!”

He walked up and down in silence for a few minutes, with an evil and
moody face, and finally paused with his gloomy eyes fixed on vacancy.

“People will rave at them,” he muttered, “but what matter is it what
people will say! Fools! Look at it. What was she? The prey of my lust—the
victim of my cruelty. God! I will not lie to myself whoever else I
lie to! That is just what she was. I won her, a young, inexperienced,
innocent girl—she lived with me as she did, and they call it holy
matrimony. She flies now from lust and cruelty to love and tenderness,
and they call it adultery. Oh, world, world, world! Should I have been
what I am, if you had not been what you are! Damn you! you have ruined
me!—from my very cradle you have ruined me! I hate you—I despise you—I
have grown up hating and despising you—soured, and corrupted, and
depraved by you—and I shall be glad when this wretched candle of a life
goes out in the blackness of darkness forever. Well, well! Be happy,
Josephine, with your Raynal. I hate you both, and what I can do to harm
you I will.”

He sat down near the table, and leaned his head on his hand. As he did
so, a tap came to the door.

“Come in,” he snarled.

It was a servant, who said a gentleman wanted to see him.

“What’s his name? No matter. Show him up.”

With an uneasy, furtive glance at him, the man departed, and in two or
three minutes appeared again with Captain Bangham.

“Well, what do you want?” snarled Lafitte, the moment he appeared. “Have
you found that curse, Antony?”

The captain looked savage and sullen at this reception, and hated Lafitte
ten times worse than ever, while, at the same time, he was afraid of him.

“No, I haven’t found him,” he said, snappishly. “I’ve been two or three
times up where that Roux lives, and he’s not there, and nobody knows
where he is; and as for the other, I can’t get any clue to him.”

Mr. Lafitte rose from his chair, and with glossy, tigerish eyes, and a
ferocious face, advanced upon Bangham, who winced a little as he came, as
if he would like to run from the room but for the shame of it. Bullies
are not always cowards, but this bully was.

“Hark you, Bangham,” said Mr. Lafitte, in a low, smooth voice, “I’m going
home in the first train, and you may tell Atkins I’ve gone, for I shan’t
see him again. That Roux I don’t want, so let him alone. But you find
Antony for me, or look out. You’re in a fix, my captain, and you know it.
You can’t bring any evidence against the presumption of the law that you
willfully refused to return that slave. Where are your witnesses to the
contrary? Your mate has left Atkins’s employ—your sailors don’t go back
to New Orleans with you. You know the penalty for not bringing back a
slave you find on board your brig—from three to seven years in prison,
and the payment of the full value of the slave; and I’ll set that value
high, Bangham, you may depend. Let your brig touch the Levee again and he
not on board, and I’ll make you suffer to the full extent of my power,
and spread stories around which will ruin Atkins in New Orleans for good.
Mind what I say to you. Now go.”

At the haughty mandate of the Southerner, spoken with an outstretched
finger, as though he was ordering away his meanest slave, Bangham slunk
from the room without a word.

“Whelp,” snarled Lafitte, walking away from the door with a shrug of
contempt. “Yes, I’ll let Roux go. I owe so much to that good fool,
Harrington, I suppose. Curse me, if I don’t almost hate myself for liking
that fellow! There’s another happy pair. He and that bright creature will
be marrying presently, and going in for domestic felicity with a rush.
Blast them, I hope they’ll be miserable together through life, and I wish
I could make them so! Well—now to pack up and leave this cursed city for
home. I burn to get at my black cattle again, and ease my heart of its
hatred on them. I hate them and they hate me, and life is thick and sweet
with hate. Oh, but I’ll work, and flog, and torture them worse than ever
now! Thanks to the blessed laws of Louisiana, I can do it, as long as the
glorious Union lasts. Till these northern curs dissolve that, my rule
is secure, but when they do, if they ever do, ’ware Lafitte, ’ware my
Southern brethren, for the black worm will turn, and hey for St. Domingo!”



CHAPTER XXVII.

REVELATIONS.


Witherlee had not left the house in Temple street but a little while,
when a couple of ladies, intimate with the family, who had seen the
news of the marriage in the morning paper, called, on a visit of
congratulation. Presently more came, and up to one o’clock there was
a dropping shower of callers. Last of all arrived Miss Bean, a fat
and spectacled childish old maiden lady, with a prude’s face—the same
who, when poor Susan Hollingsworth was being flayed alive at Mrs.
Binghampton’s party, had brought ignominy on her defender, young Mr.
Mill, by inquiring if he was going to come out in favor of Mormonism.
Received graciously, and having found out all she could about Mr.
Harrington, and that the newly married couple were not going on a bridal
tour, and that there was to be no reception, but that everybody was
expected to call without formality, Miss Bean waddled off, and, as Muriel
expected she would do, never rested till she had gone the entire round
of her acquaintance, and spread the information she had received to the
remotest borders of society.

Left alone, Harrington and Muriel, accompanied by Wentworth and Emily,
went to call on the tabooed Hollingsworths, and returned in about an
hour in great satisfaction. None but Muriel, however, knew the sweetest
part of that visit; for poor Susan not appearing in the parlor, Muriel
had begged to see her, and at last had been admitted to the sad chamber
of her humiliation and anguish. And there, with all fond endearment,
and sweet, wise words of sympathy and counsel, Muriel had cheered and
comforted her, and prevailed on her to make the visit. It was not a deed
that the lofty rectitude of a Bean or a Binghampton could approve; but
alas, the beautiful blonde was not a Friend of Virtue!

That Susan was to make the visit, and that she was to come some time next
week, was all that anybody but Susan and Muriel knew, but that was enough
to set the party in a state of great gratification, and in that state
they arrived again at Temple street.

Wentworth had been prevailed upon to spend the day, and after dinner,
Harrington having said to him, “Richard, you are interested in Hungarian
fugitives, come with us and see some fugitives of another color,” they
had all gone up-stairs, Mrs. Eastman included, to listen to the story of
Antony.

It was a story till then untold to any of them, even to Harrington; for
in Antony’s weak health, and amidst the thick-crowding excitements and
interests of the four preceding days, time and opportunity had been
wanting. Now, however, they had come, and the story was told.

A touching and an awful story. The story of a man who had fled for
Liberty or Death through the malignant horrors of a Southern fen, with
the hounds and hunters of a pirate civilization on his trail, and who had
lain for weeks like years, in cold, and stench, and hunger, with rats and
vermin swarming over him, in the black and filthy antre of a Northern
vessel’s hold, with a Northern ruffian to maltreat him daily in his
wasting torture; earning thus, with pangs and fears that freemen never
know, his right to the freedom Nature gave him for his own.

A touching and an awful story, whose dread reality had a haggard,
haunting shadow, more dreadful than itself. For the man’s childish
imagination had been unnaturally wrought upon, and his tale involved
a flickering and ghostly sense that he had been in Hell, and that his
tormentors were not men but devils. He did not aver it, but it was
strangely and indefinably implied in his grotesque narration, and reached
the minds of his auditors. Was he wrong? He had suffered much; his reason
had been a little shaken by his awful experiences; his superstitious,
childish fancy had been insanely stirred. And yet—was he wrong?

As people emerging from some dark cavern into the glad light of day, so
from the room of the fugitive, came the five again into the cheerful
library. Muriel’s face was grave and dreamful; Harrington was sad and
silent; Mrs. Eastman wore a disturbed look; Emily seemed a little
frightened, and Wentworth was red with indignation.

They took their seats again without speaking, and for a minute or two
nothing was said.

“Well, Richard,” said Harrington, at length, “what do you think now of
Hungarian fugitives as objects of sympathy, compared with fugitives like
that up-stairs?”

“Oh bother Hungarian fugitives!” blurted Wentworth. “Here’s Hungarians,
as John Randolph said of the Greeks, at our very doors. After hearing
that man’s story, I can’t help losing my admiration for Kossuth. You
know he censured the editor Gyurman, his countryman, for writing against
slavery, and I thought once he was right; but, by Jupiter, a man who
knows anything about slavery, as I do now, and doesn’t become a red-hot
Abolitionist, has a stone in the place where his heart ought to be, or
I’m a Dutchman.”

“Well,” returned Harrington, laughing at Richard’s vehemence, “don’t go
too far the other way, dear Raffaello. We must feel for the Hungarians
too, you know. As for Kossuth, his only fault is, that he’s so much of a
patriot, that he’s willing to flatter American tyranny to serve Hungary.
It’s wrong and weak, but let us still aspire for Hungarian independence
as for American liberty.”

“I agree,” replied Wentworth. “But how did you come across this poor
fellow, Harrington?”

“I was out on a nocturnal ramble,” replied Harrington, “and I found him
in the street, just escaped from the brig, and took him home with me.”

“Yes, Richard,” said Mrs. Eastman, quickly; “but you don’t know all John
did for him. He”—

“Now, mother,” pleaded Harrington, coloring, “don’t mention that—please
don’t.”

“I’ll tell you, Richard, sometime when John is out of the way,” said
Muriel, archly confidential. “No objections, John! We’ll spare your
modesty, and satisfy Richard’s curiosity, and you are to know nothing
about it.”

“And my curiosity, too,” said Emily, laughing.

“And yours too,” replied Muriel.

“Well, I must say that that was very noble in John,” said Wentworth. “But
he’s always”—

“No nobler than you’re giving poor Vukovich house-room till he found
another friend in Bagasse,” broke in Harrington, laughing and coloring.

“Peuh!” said Wentworth, blushing. “How did you find that out? No
matter—he was only a Hungarian. But this poor fellow—oh, what an account
for a man to have to give of himself! It actually made my blood boil.”

“By the way,” said Harrington, “we must try and discover the name of
that captain, and have this piece of infamy properly made public. I
can’t help fancying that Antony is wrong about the name of the brig.
The brig Solomon. Isn’t Solomon an odd or unusual name for a vessel?
Solomon—Solomon. But still—I don’t know; she may be named for her owner.
I wonder who he is—for this rascality must have been known to him, and we
must hold him responsible to the public for it, too.”

Muriel, who was abstractedly thinking, suddenly started, then closed her
parted lips, and reflected again, with a painful color stealing over her
countenance.

“John,” said she in a low voice, “an idea occurs to me. You remember that
stevedore, Driscoll. Wasn’t it on a brig that he broke his leg?”

“Yes,” returned Harrington, wondering what she meant. “It was on one of
your uncle’s vessels.”

“And don’t you remember the name of that brig? It was the brig Soliman.”

Mrs. Eastman started violently, and turned pale, while the color came
like red fire to the face of Harrington.

“Heavens!” exclaimed the pale lady, clasping her hands. “Oh, I hope you
are wrong! I hope Lemuel has not been lending himself to such work as
this.”

“Wait a minute,” said Harrington, springing up and leaving the room.

He went up-stairs to the chamber of the fugitives. Roux and Antony were
sitting near each other, and Tugmutton was reading to them in his usual
grandiloquent way.

“Antony,” said Harrington, “what did you say the name of that brig was?”

The fugitive, still lean and haggard, but wonderfully improved in aspect,
stared at him with his hollow eyes and skull-like visage for a moment.

“Brig Solomon, Marster Harrington,” he replied, quickly.

“You say you read the name of the brig when you were in the water, before
you boarded her?”

“Yes, Marster.”

“Can you spell the name you read? Spell it for me.”

“Yes, Marster. S-o-l, sol, i, solo, m-a-n mon, Solomon.”

“You’re sure that was the way it was spelled.”

“Yes, Marster.”

“Very well,” and Harrington turned to go.

“But that’s not the way to spell Solomon,” bawled Tugmutton.

No more it’s not, thought Harrington, as he slowly went down-stairs—but
that’s the spelling. O Lemuel Atkins!

He entered the library with a face so grave that they all saw what he had
to tell.

“You are right, Muriel,” he said, sinking heavily into his chair. “It is
the Soliman.”

Mrs. Eastman burst into tears.

“My dear mother!” cried Muriel, flying to her side, and folding her in
her arms, while the astonished and agitated Emily also came to her.

“No matter,” said Mrs. Eastman, suddenly recovering, and gently pushing
them from her, while her pale face became severe. “It was but a moment’s
pain, and I am now filled with indignation. To think that Lemuel, my own
brother, would join in oppressing that poor creature—oh, I cannot bear
to think of it! I feel it as if it were my own sin. I am disgraced by
it. Every action of his, in his pro-slavery mania, rests on me like a
disgrace that I cannot bear. But this is the worst of all.”

“My dear mother,” said Harrington, approaching, and taking her hands in
his, “let it all go. Fortunately, Antony has escaped from their clutches,
and the worst is over. We will do nothing more about it, but let it rest
in silence. You cannot help your brother’s misconduct, and are not in any
way responsible for it, though I can well understand how it should grieve
you.”

“It ought to be made public, John,” she answered tremulously, with the
tears in her eyes, “and it would be for his good if he were taught, by
the indignation of at least a portion of the people, that such things
cannot be done with impunity. Heaven forgive me, if I fail in my duty,
but I cannot help shrinking from the public outcry, and he my own
brother.”

She covered her eyes with her hand, as Harrington sadly withdrew to his
chair.

“But, look here, now,” said Wentworth, “aren’t you all too fast? There
may be another brig Soliman, you know.”

“Perhaps,” replied Harrington; “but I fear not. It is unlikely, I think,
that two vessels of the same name would be in the New Orleans cotton
trade.”

“Who is this Driscoll, John?” asked Emily.

“Driscoll is a stevedore,” he replied, “who fell into the hold of the
Soliman, last winter, as they were unlading, and broke his leg. I heard
of the accident through Captain Fisher, who happened to be on the spot
and knew the man, and as he had a family who were thus deprived of their
means of support till he got well, I made bold to call on them, and
Muriel and Mrs. Eastman took care of the poor people till Driscoll got
well, and was able to work again. Of course, I recollected him, but the
name of the vessel on which he met with his accident, though I knew Mr.
Atkins was her owner, had slipped my mind.”

“Oh, John,” said Emily, impetuously, “how like you!”

“What? To forget the name?” said Harrington, innocently, misled by her
tone. “Indeed, no. I usually remember names very well”—

“’Psha! no,” replied Emily, laughing at his simplicity. “But to visit
the poor man, and have his family taken care of. You, a perfect stranger
to them all. Now, I should like to know who beside you would have felt
called upon to interest himself in such a matter?”

“Oh, pooh! A mere trifle,” said Harrington, reddening, and looking
extremely uncomfortable. “Hundreds of people would have done the same
thing. It was Mrs. Eastman and Muriel who did the real work in this case.
So, you see, there are more more willing hearts and hands than mine in
the world.”

“I wonder if my grand Lord Bacon, Baron Verulam, and Viscount St. Albans
would have interested himself in the plebeian Driscolls,” said Wentworth,
slily, aiming a hit at Harrington’s favorite.

“Indeed he would,” replied Harrington, with great animation. “It is
recorded of him that no case of distress ever came under his notice
without being promptly relieved. Verulam played Providence well, till the
bloat king, and the pack of Conservatives ruined him. Yes, till then, and
afterward, till he left the globe. Bacon was the Theodore Parker of his
time, plus the Verulamio-Shakspearean intellect—so don’t you say one word
in his dispraise, Master Wentworth, or you and I shall quarrel.”

Wentworth laughed at the gay threat, and said no more.

“_Revenons à nos moutons_—let us return to our Southdowns,” said Muriel,
playfully. “I had a talk with Roux, John, of which I was going to tell
you when our company came this morning, and I haven’t had a chance
since. The sum and substance of which is, that Roux is alive to his
danger in Boston, and consents to go to Worcester. So on Monday, John,
you must transport him and Antony there, find them a boarding-house, see
Mr. Higginson about them, and let them be looking out for a house and
occupation, while we arrange to send on the wife and children after them.
So there’s work laid out for you, my husband!”

“Bravo!” cried Harrington, joyfully. “I’ll attend to it.”

“In the meantime,” pursued Muriel, “we’ll put Roux on salary sufficient
to cover all expenses till he gets settled again. Then, there’s his shop
to be closed up, and his furniture to be removed, all which is on your
broad shoulders, my Atlas.”

“I’ll bear the load!” said Harrington, gaily.

“For it won’t do to have Roux burdened with it,” she continued, “lest in
his removing he should be removed.”

“See here. Can’t I help?” put in Wentworth. “I burn with ardor.”

“Oh, Raffaello!” bantered Muriel, with a gay and charming smile—“you?
Flower of painters, I fear me that you will not find such anti-slavery
service to your taste! However, we will see. Yes, Richard, seriously, you
shall help if you want to.”

“Good!” said Wentworth, laughingly. “What a nest of traitors to the
blessed old granny of a Government we are!”

“My faith!” said Muriel, with bewitching levity, “if they will have their
Fugitive Slave Law, they shall also have their traitors to balance. But
there was once a time,” she fervently added, “when a poor man could earn
his bread in the city which I love, with none to molest him or make him
afraid, and may that good time come again.”

“Amen!” cried Wentworth. “And, apropos, have any of you seen the papers
to-day? Have, you heard the great news?”

“I have not,” said Muriel.

“Nor I,” said Harrington. “What is it?”

“It came yesterday,” replied Wentworth, “but to-day’s paper has a fuller
account of it. Charles Sumner has announced in the Senate that he is
going to speak on the Fugitive Slave Law! Hurrah!”

“Io triumphe!” cried Muriel, flying from the room to get the paper,
amidst a general chorus of delight.

She came back presently with the “Commonwealth,” and read aloud Mr.
Sumner’s brief remarks on presenting the petition of the New England
Quakers for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law—remarks which were the
prelude to one of the ablest and noblest speeches ever heard in the
American Congress.

“Bravo!” cried Harrington, when she had finished. “Now we shall hear the
old New England voice!”

“By Jupiter, yes,” said Wentworth. “Charles Sumner’s going in. It’ll be
like a giant slinging up an elephant by the tail, and whacking the enemy
with it.”

They all laughed uproariously at this novel symbol of aggressive
eloquence.

“Come now,” said Wentworth, when the laughter had subsided, “this news
calls upon us to round up Saturday night with music. Sing, you pair of
seraphs, sing. Let’s have Theodore Körner’s ‘Battle-Hymn of the Berlin
Landsturm.’”

Muriel and Emily moved to the organ, and on the rich and passionate
clouds of Weber’s music, their noble voices stormed in melody. But as the
first exalting tones arose, Mrs. Eastman, sad and sick at heart, withdrew
to her chamber, to think with sorrow of her brother’s baseness, to think
and think and think, and weep alone.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE SABBATH MORNING.


The Sabbath dawned calm and peaceful and beautiful, and filled with
Sabbatic stillness. Such a Sabbath as would have waked the holy muse of
Donne or Herbert, of Keble or Heber, to celebrate its restful sanctity in
sacred song. But its sweetest hymn was the gracious face of Muriel, as
she sat at the organ in the library, singing in a low voice a psalm that
breathed from heaven into the soul of David three thousand years ago.

The spirit of the music lived in her countenance as she sang, and
lingered there when the tender and regal chant had failed. Too happy for
even music to express, she rose from the instrument, and rapt in heavenly
reverie, wandered to and fro about the room.

But a little while, however, for presently the bounding foot of
Harrington was heard upon the stairs, and he came in.

“Ah, truant!” she playfully exclaimed, gliding to his arms, and gazing up
into his smiling face, “where have you been. I woke this morning to find
myself a widow. Now give me the morning kiss of which I was defrauded.”

He folded her in his arms, and fondly kissed her again and again.

“I have been to my house,” he said, “and do you know why? To see
after my dog. Positively, I had almost forgotten the existence of that
delectable animal, and my conscience smote me this morning lest he should
have been neglected, which he has not been, for the boys have been his
guardians. So I stole from your side like a thief of the night. You were
sleeping so sweetly, and looked so beautiful in your sleep, that I did
not dare to disturb you. Strange feeling I had in leaving you—it was
almost like going never to return.”

“And I, too,” she replied, melting from her blushing smile into musing.
“I woke from a singular dream of you. I dreamed that I was going about
alone in the house and in the streets and among all sorts of people, and
you were at an immeasurable distance above me, looking at me constantly
from behind the air, as it were. The strangest thing was that I could
not see you, though at the same time I knew you were there just as if I
saw you. But we were separated. And yet I was not sad—indeed, the dream
was happy. Presently I unclosed my eyes, and for a moment,” she said,
laughing, “I really felt as if I were a widow, which I have no ambition
to be, I assure you.”

Harrington laughed gaily, and pressed his lips to her forehead.

“Dreams are strange,” he said, lightly. “But how exquisite you are this
morning! Every time I see you you look new. Stand back a pace, and let me
admire you!”

She danced back a couple of yards, and stood playfully regarding him,
with her beautiful and noble head bent a little on one side, while
his eyes dwelt on her delicately tinted features, and wandered over
the stately elegance of her form. She was robed that morning in pale
rose-colored silk, with lace corsage and lace open sleeves. About her
hung that indefinable and delicious patrician odor which we sometimes
perceive around the persons of fair women, and which touches the
imagination like the aroma of a poetic nobility of soul. A thrill fled
through the veins of Harrington as he gazed on her, and then his eyes
grew sad, and the smile on his face died slowly away.

“Ah, Muriel,” he said, in a low, rapt voice, “the beauty that my eyes
see in you is the token of the beauty my soul knows in you. How could I
bear to leave you! Once it was a joy to think of death, but now heaven
could not tempt me from earth with you.”

She came quickly to him, with an agitated face, and passionately clung to
him. He folded her to his breast, and felt, as his face drooped upon her
forehead, a vague sense, as of some luminous shadow resting on them. In
a moment, she lifted her face to his, serene, though the clear eyes were
dim, and gazed ardently into his countenance.

“Do not speak of leaving me, John,” she said. “It was my foolish dream
put that into your mind. Ah, we shall neither of us leave each other.
Life is before us, and love. Come, let us not dwell on this, but speak of
other things.”

“So be it,” he replied. “Well, what shall we do with ourselves to-day?”

“I don’t know,” she gaily answered, swinging around from his breast to
his side, and putting her arm about him, while he encircled her waist.
“Suppose we vary the general impiety of our proceedings by going to
church.”

“Agreed. To Mr. Parker’s, of course.”

“Most assuredly. There’s the breakfast bell.”

And, arm in arm, they descended to the breakfast-room.

Church-time came, with the aërial pealing of bells, and with it came
Wentworth, in gallant and perfumed attire, to convoy Emily to her
devotions. Emily, however, had decided to go with Harrington and Muriel,
and presently they all set out together, Mrs. Eastman, who had recovered
her serenity, accompanying them.

The streets were full of church-goers, some of them haply wending their
way to be regaled with exhortations to obey all laws, right or wrong,
especially the Fugitive Slave Law, and to consent, if need be, to have
their brothers go into slavery to save the Union. In that blissful
period, it was agreed, among all respectable people, that ministers
must not meddle with politics, unless they were pro-slavery politics,
which were considered perfectly orthodox, _doulos_ of Christ having
been ascertained to mean, not servant, but slave of Christ, and Paul
having been proved to have sent back Onesimus, not at all as a brother
beloved, but as a runaway Thomas Sims. The sedulous inculcation of
these soul-elevating views and this cheering exegesis of Scripture, was
understood to be in perfect harmony with the dictum that ministers musn’t
meddle with politics, and many ministers conducted themselves accordingly.

Debarred by their own hardness and frowardness of heart from the holy
solace of these ministrations, our little party held their perverse
way to the Melodeon. The choir was singing as they entered, and the
church was crowded as usual, for no minister in Boston gathered such
a concourse as the mighty Theodore. A little movable pulpit, on which
bloomed a vase of flowers, occupied the platform, and behind it, with
clasped hands, musing, sat he who shall heave his noble thought in
massive mountain-chains of strength and beauty never any more. Living,
his presence was the magic spell that evoked and commanded Freedom. Oh,
dying, was it less strong—less strong when he had died? Lo! he drew nigh
the shores of Italy, and she rose, in the red storm of Magenta, from the
bondage of ten centuries, free! He laid him down to sleep in the soil of
her Florence, and pale and radiant from her long agony, all disenchanted
of her doom, she stands above his dust, bastioned with hearts and swords,
free! Free, and free forever, and secure of ever-broadening freedom, for
the land can never rest in tyranny that holds within its bosom Parker’s
grave!

There are thousands who remember those Sabbaths in his presence; but who
shall paint them in hues that will not seem faint and unfaithful in the
light of memory? What words shall revive his image as he stood behind
the little pulpit—Socratic-featured, strong, earnest, reverend—the large
volume of old Scripture open before him, the tinted flowers blooming by
his side, the faces of thousands all mutely turned toward him, as once
toward Luther, Savonarola, Abelard? What words shall tell of the firm
eyes holding all those faces, the resolute features stirring, the orotund
and fervent deep voice sounding, as he read from the sacred pages,
lifting the verses into their fullest significance and life, and flooding
the soul with all that is loftiest and sweetest in the old saints and
prophets’ lore? Who shall bring back the hours when, as in that hour,
the deep voice rose in the tender and gorgeous prayer, filled with the
affluent sunshine, the flowers, the greenery, the wild-bird melodies,
the living glory of the spring, all music-rich with reverential thought
and feeling, all overflowed with gratitude and praise to the Giver, with
faith, and piety, and aspiration, all throbbing with immortal longings,
and raising the soul to the mystic’s vision of God, and kindling the
heart with the hero’s hope of the ideal future of man? A streaming
altar-flame, uprising rich with incense from hills and valleys lovely
in the blue day and pomps of spring-time, thronged with the saints and
saviors of all time, and echoing with the supplications and hosannas
of mankind, might be the symbol of that prayer. But what symbol shall
gather within it the strong and salient intellections of the following
sermon—its massive breadth and scope of statement, its valiant dealing
with the public sins and sinners of the time, its learning that swept
all history, its knowledge that swept all life, the broad illumination
of its eloquence, the prowess of its virtue, the sweetness of its piety?
A torch of burning splendor upheld by Greatheart, and flashing on his
brand and mail in the crash of combat with Apollyon—its blaze poured
strong and definite upon the open midnight landscape of our mortal life,
illumining the path of nobleness, lighting every danger, darting its ray
upon the secret pitfall, and into the ambush of the foe, and streaming
forward over all the perilous track to the gates of God—such might be the
visioned symbol of a speech which yet no symbol can describe. Closed now
in death that glorious eloquence, nor in a hundred years may such a bloom
unfold again; but the continents shall remember how in an evil time burst
forth its flower of flame, and its fragrance shall fill the world from
age to age.

Every high heart has felt the sense of renewal and reconsecration which
follows the words of a great pulpit orator; and with this sense strong
within them, the little party left the church when the service was ended.
On their way home, Wentworth stopped the others to announce that Emily
was to dine at his father’s house, and return to Temple street late in
the afternoon. A few moments passed in exchanging warm eulogiums on the
sermon, and then Mrs. Eastman, Muriel, and Harrington left the other two
and walked across the beautiful sunlit Common.

“Now, John,” said Muriel, gaily, “of course you have some criticism to
make on Mr. Parker.”

“I declare no,” he responded; “I haven’t the conscience to criticise
him. He makes one’s heart glow so with his manhood, that criticism must
be dumb. I pass his theology, everything in fact, I might differ on, and
rest only on his magnificent public service, and the inspiration of his
example.”

“Still,” she returned, “you would differ, if you could.”

“To be sure,” he replied, smilingly. “If I could criticise, I would
own to a divine dissatisfaction. For the sermon implied no theory that
adequately accounts for the scheme of things, as my own theory does,
at least to me. However, I won’t grumble. I have Emerson still for
my refuge. All the modern thinkers cramp me in a cell, more or less
spacious, but in Emerson, chiefly in his poems, I escape into the vast of
space and stars, and breathe blithely like the self-existent soul I am.”

“Oh, heretic!” she gaily exclaimed. “But I agree with all you say, and
especially about the poems. They are incomparably beyond all else the
Muse has vouchsafed to our American bards.”

“Now, John,” said Mrs. Eastman, “I should really like to know what your
theory of things is. Come, define your position.”

“My dear mother,” replied Harrington, laughing, “will it do to give it
voice? The tell-tale birds might hear me, and carry the news to the
orthodox, and then I should have a grand auto-da-fe, with all the great
wits and little wits dancing around me in my expiring agonies.”

“Oh, but John,” she banteringly answered, “this is the age and land of
free thought, you know.”

“Yes, indeed. Free thought meaning your freedom to think as the mass
of your fellow-citizens do. Go beyond that, and they’ll melt up Judas
Iscariot and Cæsar Borgia, and all the rascals, little and big, for
colors, as Allston’s Paint-King melted up the lady, and paint your
portrait in hues of earthquake and eclipse, as Shelley’s phrase has it.
Political liberty with us includes the right to wallop your own nigger,
and howl into Coventry, or hang to a tree, any humane person who objects.
Social liberty means the right to make you submit to the ordinances of
Mrs. Grundy, be they the prescriptions of a French tailor or milliner
in regard to your dress, or the fancies of some conclave of bigots in
regard to your actions, and if taste or conscience rises in revolt, Mrs.
Grundy raps them on the head with a stick, as Lear’s cockney did the eels
when she put them in the pie alive, and cries, ‘Down, wantons, down!’
Religious liberty involves the right to fling theological mud and fire on
the good name of anybody who ventures beyond the notions of clergymen,
and liberty in general means your privilege to say and do what moderate
and immoderate intellects concede you may. Socially speaking, the very
essential principle of liberty, toleration, is tucked away in Roger
Williams’ grave. The people of this country think they love liberty.
They don’t. They don’t know what liberty means. If they did they’d love
tyranny. It is my deliberate conviction that if the people of this
country understood what the doctrine of liberty involves and comprehends,
as it lies in the pages of the scholars who conceived it, they would deny
it utterly, and set up the despotism of the Middle Ages as their idol.”

Muriel laughed heartily at this outburst.

“Bravo, John!” she cried. “Methinks I hear you thundering that from the
rostrum into the startled hearts of your fellow-citizens.”

“Yes, amidst groans and hisses,” returned the smiling Harrington. “But I
should flash a bolder speech than that if I were to address the public.
That is weak rose-water compared to what I would say when I came to
recite the special instances of the civil or social abuses of which I
complain.”

“Heaven save the sinners from your sprinkling then if that is only
rose-water,” jested Muriel. “But here is mamma bursting with impatience
for your theory of the Universe.”

“My dear mother,” said Harrington, laughingly, “another time, when I can
collect my vagrant ideas, I will confide to you all I saw when I put
my eye to a chink of this mortal prison, and looked out on the True.
Meanwhile, you will find some slight hint of my notions in Goethe’s poem
of ‘The Festival.’”

“Which I shall read when I get home,” replied Mrs. Eastman.

And talking in this strain, they reached the house in Temple street.



CHAPTER XXIX.

HELL ON HEAVEN IMPINGING.


As Mr. Parker only preached in the forenoon, they did not go to church
again, but after dinner sat together all the afternoon in the library,
reading aloud, and talking, and supremely happy.

So the sweet and peaceful day wore slowly on to sunset, and as the
declining beams gilded the rich room, the trio sank, as if by mutual
consent, into a lapse of silence, and sat enjoying the luxury of the
happy hour, and glad in their own society. Mrs. Eastman reclined in a
fauteuil, her cheek pensively resting on her hand, and her serene, poetic
face musing between its graceful silver tresses on the lovers. The clouds
had melted from her mind, and she only thought with tranquil joy of the
beautiful change that had come so silently upon her daughter’s life,
sundering no tie and marring no relation, and her soul was filled with
gratitude to know that the love of her child was anchored on a heart so
noble.

Unconscious that she was the subject of such sweet reflection, Muriel
sat in reverie, and Harrington, sitting at a little distance, fondly
dreamed upon her vision-like beauty. So exquisite in her delicate clear
color, with the silken amber tresses rippling low around her cheeks, and
the perfection of her form tenderly told by the pale, rose-hued robe,
that she touched his imagination with a strange sense of faëry. He was
so happy, as he gazed on her, that he could scarcely believe in his
happiness. Mixed with his ethereal pleasure in her loveliness, was a dim
feeling as of one who had wedded a princess in his dream, and knew that
he dreamed, and would awaken soon to find himself unwedded and alone.
Strange—strange to think that this surpassing woman was his wife. But it
was true; it was indeed reality, and not a dream; it was indeed reality,
and it had flooded life with the tranquil ecstasy of heaven.

Gazing upon her in deep abstraction, he became aware that her sweet eyes
were fixed upon his face, and saw, by the suffusion on her countenance,
as of the rosy color of the morning, that she was conscious of his ardent
gaze. Confused a little at being thus detected in his admiration, he
started, blushing, and then laughed, as she archly shook her finger at
him.

“I caught you,” she said. “Now, John, what were you thinking of?”

“Of you, Muriel. Of our happiness. I am strangely happy to-night. Were
not you conscious, and you, mother, of a singular happiness as we all sat
here in silence together? The Sabbath peace of the evening was like the
peace of heaven.”

They did not answer, but bowed their heads in assent, and lulled by the
sweet influences of the hour, remained in silence. It was but a few
moments, and the sunset light died from the room; and as it faded away,
and the first grey of twilight filled the air, Muriel and Harrington both
rose, as if its departure was the dissolution of a spell that had held
them, and approached each other with loving faces and outstretched arms.

They were within a yard’s distance, when suddenly the door-bell rang
with such a violent and furious clanging clatter, that they stood still.
It was like the scream of a fury warning them asunder. The love-look
dropped from their faces, and their arms fell. Only a second’s pause,
and again the bell rang and rang and rang, clashing and clanging without
intermission, like the startling peal of an alarum from a chamber
where murder was being done, and the struggling victim had seized the
bell-rope. Utterly amazed at this frightful clamor, and wondering who
could be ringing in such a manner as this, they stood with a shock in
their blood, blankly gazing at each other. Suddenly they recovered, as
Mrs. Eastman flew past them with an indignant face, and flung open the
library door.

“Who dares”—

She stopped in the midst of her incensed exclamation, for at that moment
the hall-door was opened, and with a wild clatter of angry words from
Patrick below, something bounced in and up-stairs, and rushed panting to
fall before them.

It was Tugmutton. They gazed upon him in utter amazement. He fell prone,
then rose suddenly on his knees as if a spring in the floor had shot him
up, and knelt gasping and speechless before them, a fat open-mouthed face
of ashen fright glaring with white saucer-eyes upon them from its great
shocks of wool, and the two huge hands lifted like the paws of a begging
dog, in an agony of supplication. For a moment, they looked at him
astounded. Suddenly Harrington saw his cap lying on the floor—staggered
back with a reeling brain, dashed forward with a spring up to Roux’s
room, and flung open the door.

Roux was lying on the bed asleep, and did not waken. For an instant
Harrington’s eye swept the chamber, then became fixed. He heard the
voices down-stairs. He heard the regular breathings of the sleeping man.
He heard the dinning of his own brain. Then all seemed to grow still, and
with a dreadful feeling in his mind, he slowly turned and went down.

Tall, erect, terrible, white as death, he entered the library. They
gazed upon his face with draining eyes. He looked at them for a moment
in silence. The boy still knelt gasping and shuddering on the floor. But
they were motionless—motionless as marble.

“Mother,” His voice was clear and low. He paused. “Mother—collect
yourself. Be calm. Has he told you?”

There was silence, intense and awful. He did not look at his wife, but
he felt that she turned away. He looked only at the pallid face gazing at
him with parted lips and mute eyes between its silver tresses, as if it
had turned to stone. Suddenly her voice rang.

“He has not told me. Speak! I can bear anything but this.”

“Mother, the poor wanderer to whom you gave shelter is gone. He went out
with the boy. He has been kidnapped in the streets of Boston.”

She stood for a moment, ghastly, rigid, immovable. Suddenly a low cry
wailed from her lips and she fell. He sprang and caught her, lifted her
in his arms and bore her to a couch. Muriel glanced from the room. Flying
to the windows, he flung them open to let in the fresh air. Then, back to
the lady in her swoon, and kneeling beside her, his quick hands snapped
the silken strings of her bodice, unclasped her belt, and loosened her
clothes. The boy softly sank on his face, and lay gasping on the floor.

A light touch: Muriel, calm, self-possessed, pale, was beside him. He
took from her hands the glass of water, and sprinkled the pallid face,
while she drenched her handkerchief with cologne and bathed the still
brow and nostrils. The evening wind blew freshly into the room, and
gradually a quiver of life came to the marble features. Harrington
silently pointed to the loosened bodice, moved away, and stood with his
brow resting on his hand.

Minute after minute passed on and all was silent save the fainter
gaspings of the boy. Gradually, low rustling movements and faint murmurs,
mixed with the sweet and soothing whispers of Muriel, came to him from
the couch. He remained motionless, his mind blank and cold. In a minute
or two Muriel spoke to him.

“She has recovered, John.”

His hand fell from his brow as he heard her words, and lifting his white
face, he moved noiselessly across the room, closed the windows, and came
to the pale lady’s side.

“Mother,” he said, kneeling by her, and tenderly folding her in his arms,
“I would not have told you if I could have kept it from you.”

“Hush!” she murmured. “You did well. It was terrible, but I had to know
it. Come, I am ready now for the rest. Bring Charles here, and let me
know all. I will lie here and listen. Do not fear. I can bear everything
now.”

Rising to his feet, he crossed the room, lifted the boy from the floor
as lightly as though he were a baby, and held him face to face at arms’
length before him. The hapless Tugmutton, dangling broad-limbed and
big-footed between the strong supporting hands, stared with blobber
visage, ashen with fright and grief, and with mouth, eyes, and nostrils
wildly open, into the white face smiling into his, with a smile gentle
even in its ghastliness.

“Charles,” said Harrington, in a low, consoling voice, “don’t be
frightened, poor boy. See, I am not angry with you. I feel badly for what
has happened, but I am not angry with you, Charles.”

The miserable Tugmutton, inert in his suspension, opened his big mouth
wide, and burst into a roar of tears.

“My gosh! Mr. Harrington,” he howled, amidst his grief, “there aint a
more mis’able young nigger this side of Jordan than me. He’s took off,
and I’m the guilty party, Mr. Harrington, when I didn’t mean it. Oh, Lord
A’mighty, I can’t provide for that family never no more, and the man that
won’t provide for his family, is just wus than an infidel, and that’s
in the Holy Bible, Mr. Harrington, and father’s the victim of misplaced
confidence, and oh, my gosh, I wish I was in Canada, as sure as you’re
born.”

With which outburst, the wretched Tugmutton let his head droop on
the blue-striped shirt which covered his fat chest, and with his
grey-jacketed, short fat arms hanging over Harrington’s hands, and his
grey-trowsered, short broad legs dangling motionless, he sobbed as if
his big heart was breaking. Harrington, filled with compassion for his
uncouth sorrow, took him in his arms like an infant, and held him still,
not even smiling at the odd ideas and odd phrases which he had poured
forth, and which, even in that painful hour, might well have moved a
smile.

“Hush, Charles,” murmured the young man. “Don’t cry any more. Come, I
want you to tell us all that has happened. I want you to tell the whole
truth, and perhaps we can find Antony again.”

At this, Tugmutton started in his arms, and stopped crying instantly.

“Let me down, Mr. Harrington, let me down,” he excitedly vociferated,
wriggling like a conger eel from Harrington’s hold, and dumping upon the
floor. “My gosh! if you’ll on’y find that Antony, I’ll tell you every
word of the truth and the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help
you God.”

Harrington pushed a chair up to the couch for Muriel, and seating himself
in another, drew the boy near him, and at once, in rapid and excited
tones, Tugmutton began his confession, telling everything even to the
most irrelevant details.

It appeared from what he said that his empire over Roux had extended also
over Antony, and that the latter, completely subjugated by his grand
airs and assumption of superior knowledge, had in his simplicity come
to look upon him as one of the most powerful of his guardians. In this
mood, Tugmutton had regaled him with glowing accounts of the attractions
of the city, every inch of which, from Roxbury Line to Salutation Alley,
and further in all directions, was as familiar to the Bedouin feet of
the fat Puck as his own abode in Southac street. Especially had he dwelt
upon the glories of Boston Common, and that day he had expatiated upon
them till Antony, filled with wonderment, almost imagined the place some
unheard of Eden. Roux falling asleep in the afternoon, Tugmutton had
continued his ecstatic panegyric on the Common, and finally wound up by
proposing a short tour to that romantic region during the repose of his
father. After some demurring on the part of Antony, and considerable
domineering on that of Tugmutton, the former yielded, and they stole
softly down-stairs and out at the street door, while their hosts were in
the library. Reaching the Common, rich in the sunset light, and its malls
filled with gaily-dressed promenaders, the enchanted Antony wandered
with his pigmy guide across the inclosure, and emerged with him on the
Park street corner. There they stood on the pavement, while Tugmutton
descanted on the magnificence of the Park street church, with especial
reference to the height of the steeple, loftiness of spire being in his
view the chief end and crowning perfection of all church architecture.
As he was talking, a hack drove up and stood at a little distance from
them, and at the same time his eye fell upon a gentleman standing near
a side entrance of the church, and smilingly beckoning to him. A little
astonished at first, and then a little flattered at this affability, he
turned with a lofty and vain-glorious air to Antony, as much as to say,
you see the immense consideration paid me by the aristocracy, and bidding
him wait there a moment, crossed the street to the stranger, who, with
a smiling nod, retreated into the passage, which happened to be open.
Thither Tugmutton followed him. What the stranger said, his subsequent
fright drove out of his memory, and he could only recollect that he
held him lightly by the arm as he spoke to him; but in the midst of the
interview, happening to glance around, he saw a man rush, pushing Antony
before him, crowd him into the hack, and spring in after him, while the
vehicle rattled away down Winter street. Of course Tugmutton sprang to
follow, but the stranger seized him by the throat, and shook him so that
he could neither speak nor cry. Released presently, the wretched boy
rushed into the street, and after the carriage. But it was out of sight,
and running back to the church, the stranger was gone. Too much horrified
to make any outcry, Tugmutton had instantly run with all his speed back
to Temple street, where he had arrived as we have related.

All this, involving details which under ordinary circumstances he would
have suppressed as disgraceful to himself, but which he now frankly
disclosed in the full conviction that a knowledge of the entire truth
would enable Harrington to recapture Antony from the kidnappers,
Tugmutton poured forth in his own way to his pale and silent auditors,
and ending, sat eagerly staring first at one and then the other, as
wondering what was to be done now that he had told all.

“Charles,” said Harrington, “what kind of a looking man was it you saw
seize Antony?”

“My gosh! it was so quick that I scase got a sight of him, Mr.
Harrington,” returned Tugmutton, staring into the white face of his
questioner. “I on’y saw he had on a straw hat an’ a sorter light coat,
an’ was tanned consid’ble.”

“Tanned,” mused Harrington. “That must have been the captain of the
Soliman.”

He was right in his conviction. It was Bangham.

“I see how it was done,” he pursued. “They were together, and came on
Antony and Charles standing there. One hailed the carriage—probably some
passing hack—the other decoyed the boy away to prevent his outcries—and
the rest we know. O Boston, Boston! I loved you once—every stone in your
pavement was dear to me; but I sicken of you now, and I shall never walk
your streets with joy again! A poor, helpless, harmless man—a fugitive
from the worst tyranny that deforms the world—and in the streets of
this free city, in open daylight, on the Sabbath, with a crowd standing
around, he can be stolen, as a horse could not be stolen, and not one
person lifts a hand to prevent it, or asks why! Not one—not one!”

He covered his burning eyes with his hand, and sat still. The doleful boy
gazed piteously at the pale, mute faces of the two ladies, his fat, ashen
visage quivering with the feeling that he had done a mischief which not
even Harrington could undo.

“John.” It was Mrs. Eastman that spoke. “You have not asked who the man
was that decoyed Charles.”

He looked with mortal sadness into her agitated face.

“Need I ask, mother?” he drearily replied. “A gentleman. It was not
Lafitte, for him Charles knows. There is but one other person that wears
the attire of a gentleman who could be a party to this deed.”

The tears flowed on her face, and as they flowed she wiped them away.

“You are right,” she faltered. “It is the last, the worst disgrace I can
ever know. A brother of my own blood, the son of the mother that bore
me—and with his own hands, not preserving even the miserable decorum of
an agent, with his own hands he commits this crime. It almost kills me
to think of it.”

“John,” said Muriel, “listen to me.”

He started from his lethargy of sorrow, and gazed into her face. She was
pale, collected, calm; her eyes firm and clear, and her voice and manner
full of quiet energy.

“John,” she pursued, “we must not waste these hours. All is not lost yet.
We have the clues to this infamy in our hands. That man has no doubt been
taken on board the Soliman. You must at once procure a writ of habeas
corpus and get”—

She paused, arrested by the strange and ghastly smile that changed his
countenance.

“I have thought of it,” he said. “If it were not for this Fugitive Slave
Law, we might have a chance of success. But see—perjury would be nothing
to the men that could do this deed. When the writ is served on them,
they will swear that the man is not in their possession. Then a warrant
will be procured for his arrest, and after a pretended search, he will
be found, dragged before a commissioner, and sent into slavery. And if I
get a writ, who will I get to serve it? From the sheriff to the lowest
catchpoll is there one of them that can be depended upon to do his duty
in such a case? Justice is drugged with slavery. Law winks at kidnapping.”

She looked at him with a still face, touched for a moment by what he
said, then refluent to its purpose.

“It must be tried, nevertheless,” she said firmly. “You yourself, John,
can serve the writ, or accompany the officer.”

He gazed at her with eyes that filled with tears, as they wandered from
her countenance to her mother’s. Mrs. Eastman shrank and covered her face
with her hands. In an instant Muriel comprehended the deeper reason which
had made him hopeless of a rescue, and with a feeling as nearly like
despairing agony as her nature, organized for faith and hope and joy,
could feel, she sank back in her chair.

“Muriel,” said he, in a solemn voice, “I have thought of all, and I see
no way open to us. Under other circumstances, I would get the writ, and
though he probably could not be found, endeavor to save this man. But I
cannot take the first step without involving Lemuel Atkins. Can I do it?
Think how mother feels this already. Think how she would feel it then.
Think of the position we are in.”

“Tell me, John, tell me,” faltered Mrs. Eastman, weeping, “tell me what
I ought to do. Ought I to have this made public? What would you do if he
were your brother, as he is mine?”

“Mother,” said he, solemnly, “I cannot guide you. Were he my brother,
though it might break my heart to do it, I would never keep this wrong
secret and silent. But my conscience cannot give the law to yours.”

“I cannot do it,” she sobbed. “You will despise me, but I cannot bear to
think of the disgrace my consent would bring upon him.”

“Despise you?” he quickly answered. “Never. Your feeling is sacred to me.
I appreciate it. I respect it.”

“At least,” she cried, “give me time to think. Let me first go to him—let
me implore him to undo what he has done. He does not know that the man
was sheltered here. Oh, perhaps I can prevail with him. Think of the
shame it will be one day to his wife and children. When this slavery
madness ends, as it may soon, think of the awful shame his family will
feel if this act lives against him. How can I bear to have it brought on
them! At least for their sake let me try every other effort, and then if
I fail, perhaps”—

She faltered—her voice choked with emotion. She could not bring herself
to say, that perhaps she would consent to publish her brother’s shame,
and bring the fury of anti-slavery rebuke, and the scorn of the coming
years of freedom upon him.

They sat in silence thinking with hopeless sadness of the terrible cloud
that had rushed so suddenly upon their peaceful and happy day, and the
twilight began to darken around them. Mrs. Eastman rose.

“I will go at once to see him,” she said.

“Let me attend you,” said Harrington, rising.

“No, John. Thank you. I will go alone,” she replied, and left the room.

“You must stay here, Charles,” said Harrington, turning to Tugmutton. “On
no account must you go to your father after what has happened, until we
decide what to do.”

Tugmutton said nothing, but sat down on a low stool in a corner of the
room, and leaned against the wall in deep despondency.

“And what are we to do, Muriel?” murmured Harrington. “How are we to tell
Roux of this? It will kill him. Even now, perhaps he is wondering where
his brother is. Poor, poor man! Oh, misery, misery!”

He turned away and walked the dim library with an aching heart. Muriel,
silent, her mind in its fullest activity, was vainly striving to think
of some plan by which this sad stroke of fortune could be retrieved.
Presently, Harrington rang for lights, and Patrick came in and lighted
the chandelier, whose moony globes of ground glass filled the library
with mellow radiance.

Alone again, Harrington turned to Muriel; she rose from her seat, and
gliding swiftly toward him, clasped him in her arms. Holding her to him,
he gazed, sadly smiling, into her face, exquisite in its pale beauty.

“Beloved,” he murmured mournfully, “it is the first sorrow of our wedded
life.”

“The first,” she calmly answered. “But, oh, my husband, let us be
grateful that it is a sorrow that we feel for others, and not for
ourselves.”

The tears ran down his face, and he fondly bent his head and pressed his
lips to her forehead.

“We were so happy,” he faltered. “Never was my spirit lulled in so deep
and sweet a happiness as when this dreadful tidings rushed upon me.
Strange, strange to think this heavenly day should end thus, in this
blackness of darkness. It quite unmans me.”

Folded in each other’s arms, they remained for a little while in silence,
while his agitation gradually subsided into sorrowful calm.

“Do you remember, Muriel,” he resumed, “the description in the last
chapter of the Revelations of St. John, of the heavenly city where there
is no night, nor sun, nor moon, but the glory of God lightens it, and the
Lamb is the light thereof? And without, you remember, the Evangelist says
is the horrible abode of the wicked. You remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” she answered, gazing into his abstracted and sorrowing
face.

“When I was a boy,” he continued, “I used to have a dream, unspeakably
awful, derived, I think from my reading of that part of the Revelations.
In my dream, I was in heaven—a strangely beautiful dim land, filled with
a still, mystic glory. I cannot tell you the ineffable hush that pervaded
the happy region, and there I wandered tranced in an indescribable
tranquil ecstasy. But in this dream, which I frequently had, I always
came to a spot which seemed the confines of the place. The glory of the
region ran to a point there, in a shape like the apex of a triangle,
and on either side a railing of rich fretted gold separated it from the
region beyond. Suddenly, as I stood, a dreadful perception of the outer
region would overwhelm me. I saw a horrid realm of black and grisly
twilight, strangely mixed with black darkness—I heard the savage baying
of dogs, the confused jargon of unhuman blasphemies and demon laughter,
and the hideous faces of devils gnashed at me through the golden pales.
It is impossible to tell you the ghastly affright that suddenly struck
through my ecstasy when this came to me, nor can I say how fearfully it
was intensified by the contrast between the ecstatic stillness and glory
of the place, and the hideous and discordant sights and sounds beyond.
I always awoke in horror, drenched with perspiration, and afraid to be
alone in the darkness.”

“What a dreadful dream?” she murmured, shivering slightly, and clinging a
little closer to him.

“Yes,” he responded, his voice low, and his white face frigidly fixed on
vacancy. “Yes. It was like a spiritual symbol. And now it has come to me.”

His countenance suddenly grew livid and convulsed with writhing anguish,
and dark circles started out around his tear-filled eyes.

“It has come to me,” he gasped, tremulously, shaken with strong agony. “I
have wandered to the confines of my happy heaven of love, and through the
glory and the stillness, and through my sacred ecstasy, the grisly land
of slavery strikes upon me, with its jargonic blasphemies and revelries
of hate, the gnashing of its devils, and the baying of the dogs that hunt
men. It has come to me. The dream of my boyhood was its true symbol. A
dreadful dream of reality, and I wake from it in despair and agony and
horror.”

His low voice shuddered into silence, and convulsed through all his
frame, he tore himself from her, and covered his face with his hands.
Sad as she had never been before, she turned away and stood in her
wonted attitude, her clasped hands drooping before her, and her head
bent upon her bosom. Squatting on his stool in the corner of the room,
the horrified Tugmutton glared at them, with his white eyes bulging from
his blobber face under his great shocks of wool, like some lubber imp of
darkness risen to work them bane.

In a few moments Harrington’s hands fell heavily from his face, and agile
as lightning, Muriel flashed into his arms, and clung to him, with a
smile brilliant and tender as the morning on her impassioned features.

“Oh, my beloved!” she cried, “do not sink from yourself into despair—do
not lose the immortal in the mortal! Think of the briefness of this
life—think of the endless golden reaches of the life of which all our
earthly experience is but a moment. Heaven knows my sympathies are not
imperfect; I could die myself—ah, more, I could see you die—to save to
a life of human use this poor spirit, whom his fellow spirits, in their
incarnate madness, have dragged away from us to wreak their insanity of
hate upon. But it is greater pain than my death or yours, to see you
mourn his fate with a mourning that forgets the godhood within you. You
told me once the divine sentence of the alchemist—‘Heaven hath in it this
scene of earth.’ Oh, remember it now—think how brief, how fleeting is
this term of grief and wrong—think of the eternal heaven in which the
grief and wrong melt away forever, and be sustained and comforted!”

As at the harpings of the young shepherd of Israel, the dark spirit sank
from Saul, so at the clear, fervent music of her voice, the agony and
horror passed from him, and he grew calm. Fondly and sadly, with the
tears still wet upon his cheeks, he gazed into her exalted face, lit with
a smile of auroral tenderness.

“You are wise,” he said mournfully, “and I know that my sorrow is weak
and unworthy. I sink from my faith—I lose myself in this dark hour of
trouble. A poor, helpless, despised, rejected man, more forlorn and
wretched than the most loathed outcast—I found him in the friendless
streets, I took him to my home, I nourished his feeble life—and they have
clutched him from me, and dragged him back to outrage and torment and
murder. If it were the act of some solitary ruffian, I could bear it;
terrible as it is, I could bear it; but to think that society in all its
structure makes it possible for deeds like this to be done! Oh, sleep of
civilization! Justice, honor, compassion, love, have you gone from earth
forever! Is human brotherhood a Bedlam dream, vanishing from the mind of
man, and leaving him to the dark sanity of one life-long mutual murder!
Is this civil-suited swarm of sordid devils and furies the vanguard of
the new civilization that is to oversweep the world! Let me not think of
it—let my sick heart swoon from the misery of it! Oh, that I were dead
this night, if death could hide from me this tremendous shame! Better to
be dead than stand here, tied hand and foot, unable to lift a finger to
prevent the commission of this ghastly outrage. Better death than to live
poisoned to my heart’s core with the knowledge that society is one fell
league against the weak and poor.”

The words which had begun in sorrow, rose into low tempestuous agony and
ended in a tone of heart-broken desolate sadness which language cannot
tell. Muriel gazed at him mournfully, and the tears silently welled from
her eyes.

“My beloved,” she said in a tremulous voice, sadly smiling as she spoke,
“it grieves me more than all other grief, to see you overmastered thus.
What can I say to calm you? Alas! that I who love you so deeply, am
powerless to lift you from this dread sorrow!”

He looked at her with a spasm of self-control in his sad face, and seemed
to struggle into calm.

“Let me not grieve you,” he faltered. “See, it is over. It shall not
master me. There: I am strong again. For your sake I will crush it down.
I love you—I will not pain you. I will strive to forget it, and be again
as in our happy hours of love and peace before this”—

The faltering voice failed, and the mighty struggle to be calm again
wrought in his features.

“Courage, courage,” she cried, tenderly smiling upon him. “Courage! All
is not ended yet. At worst we can say, with King Francis, that everything
is lost but honor. But everything is not lost. We shall devise some
means to retrieve this stroke. Oh, my poor mother, if it were not for
your unlucky weakness, the victory would not be so difficult! We would
sound a blast in Master Lemuel’s ears that would bring down his ambition
for kidnapping like Jericho. But there’s no leaven of the Roman in poor
mother’s composition, and we are fatally hampered by her feeling.”

“Yes,” said Harrington, mournfully, “the necessity for keeping this
matter private is our ruin. I know not what to do, or which way to turn.”

“At all events,” she replied, “let us not despair. Nothing palsies one’s
faculties and energies like despair. Come, sit here by me, and let us
coolly review our position, and see what we can do.”

She sat down on the couch, and he took his seat by her side.



CHAPTER XXX.

THE HEARTS OF CHEVALIERS.


They were about to commence conversation, when footsteps and voices were
heard upon the stairs, and presently Emily and Wentworth, joyous and
smiling, came into the library.

“Here we are again!” cried Wentworth, in his hearty voice, flinging
his hat on the table, and running his hand through his clustering
curls. “Here we are, in the height of felicity. Hallo, who’s that?” he
exclaimed, catching sight of Tugmutton squatting in the corner. “Why, you
ineffable young goblin, what are you doing there?”

Emily, who was laying off her bonnet and shawl, turned quickly in
the direction he was apostrophizing, and laughed half-amusedly and
half-wonderingly at the doleful visage of the boy.

“Why, what’s the matter with you, Charles?” she inquired.

“Well put,” cried Wentworth. “He looks as if he had a bad attack of the
mulligrubs.”

“Now, Richard!” exclaimed Emily. “I do wish that you wouldn’t talk slang.
You artists are perfectly incorrigible in your use of slang.”

“All due to the artistic faculty, Emily dear,” he gaily returned. “Slang
is the picturesque of language, and we must talk picturesquely, or die.
But, conscience alive! Why, Harrington! And you, Muriel! What’s the
matter? You look as if you had a touch of the ebony lamb’s complaint too.”

“Don’t jest, Richard,” said Harrington. “We have had an awful experience
since we saw you.”

“Awful!” exclaimed Wentworth, turning pale. “Why, what’s happened?”

Emily came flying over to them, with her cheeks blanched, and her lips
parted in frightened inquiry.

“What is it?” she cried. “Is anything the matter with Mrs. Eastman?”

“No, Emily; she is well,” replied Harrington. “Richard, the Hungarian
fugitive is safe in the streets of Boston. No hound of Vienna can track
him here. But the American fugitive is not safe here from the Vienna of
the Union. The poor man, whose tale of suffering so moved you—he has been
kidnapped in the streets of our city this evening.”

“My God!” shouted Wentworth, stamping his foot on the floor, and turning
livid.

Emily burst into tears, and dropped into a chair.

“Kidnapped this evening!” pursued the young artist. “Why, you had him
here. How could this happen?”

“Listen, and I will tell you,” replied Harrington.

Wentworth and Emily drew up their chairs, and sat facing their friends.
There was a moment’s silence, and then in a few clear, direct words,
Harrington told them all.

Wentworth sat still and silent till he had finished, and then turned with
a face of wrath upon Tugmutton, who immediately began to cry.

“Hush, Richard!” exclaimed Harrington, stopping Wentworth in the furious
speech he was about to pour upon the miserable squab. “Don’t use one
word of reproach to him. Poor boy! He suffers enough as it is. See,” he
whispered, “it is a loving creature, and you have hurt his poor heart.
Now say something to soothe him.”

Wentworth choked down his rage, and sat still for an instant. Then,
forcing himself to smile, he rose, and went over to Tugmutton, who was
roaring in a muffled undertone of heart-broken grief.

“There, Tuggy, my boy, don’t cry,” he said soothingly, patting him on the
shoulder. “I’m sorry I looked at you so, but I didn’t mean anything.”

“My gosh, Mr. Wentworth, I feel as if the light of other days was fled,”
howled Tugmutton, reminiscent in his anguish of a line from the song he
had picked up somewhere.

Wentworth, mad as he was, felt a strong disposition to laugh.

“Never mind, Tuggy,” he said lightly. “Cheer up. It’ll be all right.”

“If I could on’y see Brudder Baby in my affliction,” sobbed Tugmutton,
“’pears to me, it would be a reviver. But I can’t, an’ I’m wus off than a
bob-tail horse in fly-time.”

“Cheer up, Charles,” said Harrington, “you shall see Brother Baby soon.
Don’t cry.”

“Yes, don’t cry, whatever you do,” said Wentworth, “for crying’s bad for
the liver. Here’s something to remember me by,” and he gave him a half
dollar.

Tugmutton, with a feeling that his liver was in immediate peril, and
touched by Wentworth’s munificence, took the money with a duck of his
head, and immediately knuckled away his tears with his big paws.

“The young devil,” muttered Wentworth, walking back to his chair. “Ought
to have a sound flogging for his mischief, instead of a half dollar; but
that’s Harrington all over, and he just makes a fool of me.”

“What are you saying to yourself, Richard?” asked Harrington, with a wan
smile.

“Nothing, nothing,” said Wentworth, hurriedly. “But now what’s to be done
with Roux?”

“I don’t know,” sadly responded Harrington; “when he hears of his
brother’s capture, I fear it will kill him or drive him crazy.”

“Oh, by Jupiter! but he musn’t hear of it,” replied Wentworth—“at least
not yet a while, till we see if this mischief can’t be remedied someway.
We may get hold of Antony again, you know, for he’s not out of Boston
yet. Meanwhile, you must go up and tell Roux that while he was asleep you
sent Antony off to Worcester.”

“No, Richard,” returned Harrington, “I can’t tell a lie. If I could, how
could I bear to go up, and look into that poor man’s face, and say that?
I can’t do it.”

“You can’t, eh?” returned Wentworth, reddening. “Then I can. Hark you,
Harrington: I may have told fibs in my life, but I can say, with Alfieri,
that I’m a man of as few lies as anybody. Still, when the time comes
for a bouncer, let it be a big one, I say, and handsomely done. In my
judgment, the time has come now, and up-stairs I’m going to do the deed.
After which, if I don’t grab Antony back again, even if I have to go
all the way to Louisiana to do it, then Emily Ames will never be Emily
Wentworth. So!”

And with his handsome face flushed and kindled, Wentworth walked out of
the library and up-stairs to Roux’s room.

“Where’s my brother Ant’ny,” cried Roux, with a wild face, the minute he
saw him. “I waked up, and he’s not here, and I’m afeard of my life for
him.”

“My dear Mr. Roux, don’t be at all alarmed, for Antony is perfectly
safe,” said Wentworth, blandly, with an air of the most perfect smiling
composure.

Roux put his dark hand over his mouth as was his wont, and looked at
Wentworth with a wistful dubiety, as wondering if he spoke the truth. But
there was truth in every lineament of Wentworth’s smiling countenance,
and Roux’s gaze wandered downward to the floor.

“I’ve been mighty skeered, Mr. Wentworth,” he said, timidly. “I was
afeard all wasn’t right somehow.”

“Perfectly right, Mr. Roux,” pursued Wentworth. “You know we were going
to send you up to Worcester on Monday or Tuesday. But we had a chance
this evening to send Antony on by private conveyance, and as we thought
that safer than the cars, we let him go. You were asleep, and as you were
to see him again so soon, we thought we wouldn’t waken you. Tugmutton’s
gone on with him, and to-morrow or next day, you are to follow. I thought
I’d just come up and tell you, lest you should be anxious.”

“I’m very much obleeged to you, Mr. Wentworth,” said Roux, smiling and
bowing, “and I feel mighty relieved to hear this, sir, for I begun to be
proper skeered.”

“Indeed?” said Wentworth, blandly, “I’m sorry. But it’s all right. Good
evening.”

“Good evening, Mr. Wentworth,” returned the joyful Roux, bending himself
double in response to the easy and graceful bow with which Wentworth took
leave.

They were all sitting in silence when he entered the library.

“There,” said he, seating himself with an air of grave satisfaction,
“I’ve told the biggest whopper I ever told in my life, and if you only
knew the virtuous glow and elevation of spirit I feel, you’d all go and
tell one apiece to get your souls in the same condition. I’ve saved poor
Roux from awful suffering, maybe death or madness, and I’d do it again if
it was necessary. I never told a thundering lie before, but now I’ve done
it, and done it well, and, when Sterne’s Accusing Angel bears it up to
Heaven’s Chancery, if the Recording Angel doesn’t drop the biggest tear
upon it his lachrymal glands can furnish, and blot it out forever, then
I trust the Lord will turn him out of office for not understanding his
duty, that’s all. I’m sorry if you blame me, Harrington, but there’s a
happy man up-stairs to balance my side of the ledger.”

“I am not your conscience, Richard,” said Harrington, simply. “There
are some truths that come from hell, and there are some lies that savor
of heaven. I believe such falsehoods as yours to be among the latter. I
sometimes almost wish I could tell them.”

The tears sprang to Richard’s eyes.

“Ah, Harrington,” said he, dejectedly, “it’s all very well for me to
talk, but I feel poorer in spirit, for having said, even at such an
urging, what was not true. You are a nobler man than I, for you would not
lie for the man you would die for. No matter,” he added, recklessly, “I
could not do otherwise.”

Harrington covered his eyes with his hand, and sat silent. Emily, in a
dazed condition, looked slowly from one to the other. But Muriel, after
a moment’s pause, rose from her seat, put her arms around Richard, and
kissed him.

“I kiss away the good sin, dear Raffaello,” she said, with sad
playfulness, caressing his curly head. “The brave and generous good sin.”

She stood by him a minute, with her hands resting on his head, and her
beautiful, exalted face upturned, then noiselessly glided to her seat,
and slowly sank down.

“Now, Harrington, what are we to do?” said Wentworth, drying the tears
from his eyes. “My good sin, as Muriel calls it, staves off Roux’s
trouble for a couple of days, but if we can’t get hold of Antony, it will
be terrible.”

“I have only one thought, and that is a forlorn one,” replied Harrington.
“I am waiting for Mrs. Eastman to return. If her brother does not consent
to liberate this man, or if she cannot bring herself to bear public
action on this matter, I shall go at once to my house, get my pistols,
and search the Soliman for Antony.”

At this astonishing declaration, which Harrington made very quietly, they
all stared. Even Muriel looked amazed. But Harrington, unconscious of
their wondering looks, sat in sad abstraction, brooding on his forlorn
determination.

“That will compromise no one but the captain of the brig,” he said
presently. “A writ of habeas corpus would involve Atkins, but a rescue of
this sort concerns only myself and that captain.”

“But, dear John,” said Emily, with a slight shiver, “there will be men on
board the vessel, and they will never permit this.”

Harrington’s broad nostrils quivered in the marble stillness of his face,
and his blue eyes gleamed.

“It will go hard with any men who step between me and my purpose
to-night,” he said, in a low, quiet voice, which made their blood thrill.
“The strength of ten is in me now, and I will cripple whoever undertakes
to oppose me. If they outnumber these naked hands, I have my pistols. I
will not be balked. If Antony is on board the Soliman, I will take him
away with me, or leave my body beside him. Gladly would I respect the
law and order of society, but it is the day of slavers and traders, and
civilization sleeps.”

“Yes,” impetuously cried Wentworth, “and when civilization sleeps, up,
gentlemen and chevaliers, for it is the hour of chivalry!”

Harrington looked calmly into his glowing and electric face.

“You say well, Richard,” he replied. “When civilization lies inert, and
the organized mass either helps or does not hinder the daily outrage to
humanity, it is time for every gentleman to take upon himself the vow
which bound the antique chevaliers to suffer no injustice, and to succor
the oppressed and helpless. That is the time to try what redress lies in
the individual arm. That is the hour of chivalry.”

There was a long pause, in which a subtle flame of enthusiasm, born from
the colloquy, beat in the veins of all but Harrington. In him there was
no enthusiasm, but cold and sad determination.

“But, John,” said Emily, at length, “you will not go on this desperate
adventure alone?”

“Yes. Alone,” he replied.

“You shall not!” she exclaimed, with flashing eyes and her lit face
aglow, stopping the fiery answer just bursting from the lips of
Wentworth. “Richard shall go with you, and I wish I had twenty lovers to
send on such an errand.”

Harrington looked at her with a faint color on his melancholy
countenance. As for Wentworth, he sank back in his chair, flushed and
throbbing with boundless pride in Emily.

“Emily,” said Harrington, “think! You yourself suggested the danger of
this expedition, and there is danger, for if we are opposed, it will be
by sailors, who are not slow to handle knives in a quarrel. Now think
coolly. It would be dreadful if Richard were brought home to you dead.”

She looked at him with a paling countenance, proud, though the tears
gathered in her lustrous eyes.

“If he died in trying to save a poor man from a life worse than the worst
death,” she answered with a quivering lip, “I would think of him as gone
to our Savior’s rest, and bear my sorrow like a joy till I died and found
him with God. Say no more, Harrington. He shall go with you.”

“That I will,” cried Wentworth, as springing to his feet, and leaping to
the large fauteuil in which sat Emily, he threw himself by her side, and
clasped her in his arms. “Ay, marry will I go, and wo to the nautical
mind that shall conceive the idea of assaulting me, after the speech I
have heard from you, Emily, for on that depraved and abandoned sailor
will I execute, with Berserker fury, all that Bagasse has taught me, and
I swear it by this kiss!”

And with a kiss on her carnation mouth, that brought the rich blood to
her face like fire, he sprang up gaily with an exulting countenance, and
flung himself into his chair.

“Bravo!” cried Muriel, with a flash of her usual gaiety, “Cupid and Mars
in arms! Richard,” she added more seriously, “you have my thanks. And
you, too, flower of Episcopalians, bright battle-rose of womankind. Yes,
John, you must take Richard with you.”

“I will, I will,” he impetuously cried. “Oh, why should I despond when
there are hearts like these! Would to God, that I could sow the world
with such as you, Emily; with such as you, Richard! Yes, Richard, you
shall go. And you, Muriel,” he added, sinking into mournful playfulness,
“you, too, give me leave of what may prove eternal absence from you.”

“Not eternal,” she answered, with a radiant smile; “not in the worst
event eternal. Go, then, and even were it eternal, still go!”

A vapor of fire mounted to his brain, and his heart beat thick and fast.
He did not reply, but sat motionless, with his eyes covered by his hand,
and all his being pulsing in solemn sweetness.

“Hark!” whispered Muriel, “she is coming. I hear her step on the stairs.”

Her ear must have been fine indeed, for listening they could hear nothing.

“No, I am not mistaken,” she said, seeing their incredulous faces. “Well
I know that soft, slow step. She is coming, and she has failed. Oh,
Lemuel Atkins, I pity you!”

There was a moment’s pause, and then the library door swung slowly open,
and with a face severe and ashen, and a decrepit step, Mrs. Eastman came
in. They all rose.

“I have seen him,” she said, in a low, frigid, desolate voice. “I
have told him everything. I have knelt to him in supplication.
Useless—useless. He refused me.”

“What did he say, mother?” murmured Muriel.

“Do not ask me,” she replied. “I am heart-sick. Ask me nothing. I told
him that it was in our house the man had found shelter. And he said he
was glad to hear it, for it was a guaranty that he would not be disturbed
in the execution of his purpose. He has a power of attorney from Lafitte,
he told me, to act as his agent in the matter, and if we presumed to
interfere further, he said, he would immediately bring the case before a
Commissioner, and have the man returned by law. That was all.”

They remained silent a little while, looking with pity on the frozen
desolation of her still and pallid features.

“Mother,” said Muriel, “what shall we do? Are you willing to let us act
publicly in this matter now?”

“Do not ask me,” she faltered! “Give me a little time to think. I am
going to my chamber. Don’t disturb me. I want to be alone. I will think,
and to-morrow I will let you know.”

They stood with bowed heads, touched by the solemn winter of her sorrow,
and she feebly glided from the room. Emily, after a moment’s hesitation,
followed her.

“Ah, me, I fear the case is hopeless,” sighed Muriel. “Everything depends
now on your success in finding Antony on board the Soliman.”

“Everything,” replied Harrington. “Yet, Muriel, on reflection, it is,
perhaps, as well that we should not seek a public redress. For if the
writ of habeas corpus failed in its execution, as it probably would, Mr.
Atkins would at once get out a warrant for Antony, and then he would be
lost, indeed. Yes, lost—but by the Eternal God!” he vehemently cried,
lifting his arms to heaven, “never should he, never shall any fugitive,
be taken from Boston without a desperate effort to prevent it. I have
seen one slave dragged hence, and that sent my brains to my hands. Never
while I live will I see another. The hour that sees the next man haled
before a Commissioner, will see me burst into their court-room, armed to
the teeth, and I will take him from them, if I have to do it through a
lane of corpses, or leave my body beside him. Then, if I live, let them
try me for treason, and if I die, let them put a traitor’s stone upon my
grave!”

His arms fell heavily, and he strode away toward the door.

“Think, Muriel,” he cried, turning suddenly, “think of the baseness of
this uncle of yours. To refuse his own sister the man her charity had
sheltered! If he had found refuge in the house of a stranger, I could
conceive it; but to take him from here! And she knelt to him. Knelt
to him in her agony, and he could deny her! Oh, avarice, avarice! His
wretched cotton-trade is affected, and to that he sacrifices the ties
of blood, the feelings of a sister, honor, pity, charity, manhood,
everything. Let me not think of it. Come, Richard, come; let us try our
fortune.”

At that moment Emily returned.

“I have prevailed upon Mrs. Eastman,” she said, “to sleep with me
to-night. I could not bear to think of her being alone in this
affliction.”

“Kind Emily,” said Muriel, fondly embracing her. “You anticipated me.
Alas! poor mother! But, come, Emily, say good bye to Richard, for he is
going.”

Emily ran to Wentworth’s arms, and kissed him.

“You’ll come back safe, I know,” she said, cheerfully.

“That I will,” he returned, with a gay laugh; “and wo to the man of the
tarry trowsers who interferes with my safe return.”

“Adieu, Muriel,” said Harrington, embracing and kissing her. “We will not
part forever,” he added, with a sad smile, “for I feel that I am to come
back again.”

“So do I,” she replied. “Good bye. We will wait tea for you, gentlemen.”

They departed, and Muriel and Emily sat down, under the eyes of the
silent Tugmutton, to await their return.

In two hours they came back disconsolate, for they had not found Antony.
They had found the Soliman lying at Long Wharf, and had boarded her.
Nobody happened to be in the vessel but a stupid sailor, half drunk,
who, when Harrington told him, very simply, that he came to look for
a man hidden on board, imagined that he was a policeman, and got him
a lantern. With this Harrington and Wentworth searched every hole and
corner of the vessel, but Antony was not there. In fact, Bangham had him
tied hand and foot, and stowed away in the back room of a low boozing
ken on Commercial street, whose landlord was a friend of the captain’s.
On leaving the vessel, the young men found the sailor lying in a sottish
sleep, and as they were certain that he would remember nothing on the
morrow of his visitors, they left him without buying his secrecy, as they
had intended, and returned with heavy hearts to Temple street.

“And so,” said Harrington, concluding his narration, “as there is nothing
more to be done till to-morrow, if then, let us try to forget it all as
much as we can. The Soliman sails on Tuesday night, the sailor told us.
I shall not abandon the hope of finding the man on board of her till she
has gone.”

He took a revolver from his breast pocket as he ended, and laid it on the
mantel, then wearily sat down.

“Come,” said Muriel, “let us go to tea. We shall all feel better for a
little refreshment. Come, Charles.”

Tugmutton, whose grief had not injured his appetite, which was not the
case with the others, bounced up nimbly, and followed them.

After tea, the doleful Puck was charged not to go near his father, and
was provided with a separate room. Slowly and sadly the evening deepened
on, till at last the hour of slumber spread its dove’s wings over all
their sorrows.



CHAPTER XXXI.

WRECK AND RUIN.


The next day arose in the dazzling effulgence of a fervid sun. It was the
thirty-first of May—the last day of spring—but the light and heat of June
filled the streets of the crowded city under a cloudless and resplendent
blue.

Anticipating a crowd of callers, Muriel, unwilling to see them with this
trouble on her mind, gave Patrick orders to admit no one but Wentworth
and Captain Fisher, Harrington having sent for the latter.

The Captain arrived about ten o’clock, and his features grew all atwist,
and his head all awry, the moment he laid eyes on Harrington. There is
no knowing the unimaginable screw he would have got himself into could
he have seen the ghastly face the young man had worn the evening before.
To-day Harrington was only intensely pallid, and his face was resolute,
stern, and calm. While the Captain yet stared at him, and before he could
express his astonishment, Harrington bade him sit down, and at once told
him the whole story.

The moment he had done, the Captain rose in awful wrath, and began to
swear. Such oaths! No spruce-gum imprecations then, but tobacco of every
conceivable brand, did the infuriated old seaman pour forth in a steady
stream. The army that swore terribly in Flanders, never swore worse than
he in his wrath. Lafitte, Atkins, Boston, Boston merchants, kidnappers,
slaveholders, and slavery in the abstract and in the concrete, did he
shower with curses. Never had the Captain such a backsliding before.
Harrington, who perhaps thought of Sterne’s Recording Angel, with his
disposition to blot out with tears the record of what Muriel called good
sins, let him rip away till, as the man in the play says, he got all the
bad stuff out of him, and tumbled into his seat exhausted with his rage.

The interview lasted about an hour, and without result. Harrington had
thought it best to let the Captain know what had happened, and did
not hope that he could suggest any action, as under the circumstances
he could not. Profoundly depressed with the knowledge that Mrs.
Eastman’s invincible feeling shut out even the forlorn hope of legal or
anti-slavery effort, the old man departed with a self-imposed promise to
remain all day on the wharf and watch the Soliman.

Mrs. Eastman’s feeling was indeed invincible. She said nothing, but as
they saw her moving about the house like a ghost, they understood from
her austere and ashen features that she could not bring her heart to
consent to her brother’s public dishonor, and her own related disgrace.
The family _esprit de corps_ was mighty in her.

Muriel, meanwhile, thinking that the true disgrace and dishonor would
be to have Antony sacrificed to any private feeling, however sacred,
was holding busy audience with her teeming brain, as to the duty of
disregarding her mother’s feeling, and resolutely taking matters into her
own hands. The chief consideration that withheld her decision now, was
that the captain of the Soliman might deny, when the writ was served on
him, that the man was in his possession, and that then, in the interim
of delay, Mr. Atkins would procure a regular warrant, which would be
fatal to Antony. Besides, she well knew that the moment the fugitive
was brought before a Commissioner, the dauntless Harrington, thoroughly
trained in the use of arms, and with the might of ten men in him, would
burst into the court-room like a thunderbolt of war, and slay every man
that stood between him and the rescue, or be himself slain. There was
good blood in the veins of young Muriel—the old red blood of the Achaian
women who sent their dear ones to Platea with the cry of “return with
your shields or upon them”—the old red blood of the New England women
who armed their husbands for Lexington; and strong in her faith of the
deathlessness of life, she did not shrink from the thought of his death
in such a cause; but still she preferred that every peaceful means of
obtaining the end should be employed before the last stern issue should
be made.

While she yet debated with herself, Wentworth arrived. A hasty council
was at once held between the three, and it was resolved that Harrington
should wait on Mr. Atkins, with a proposition to buy Antony at any price
within reason.

Accompanied by Wentworth, Harrington at once set out for Long Wharf. It
was then nearly noon, and the crowded streets through which they passed
were salient and swarming in the vertical splendor. A few minutes’ walk
brought them to the place of their destination, and Wentworth agreeing
to wait outside, wandered across the street to the shipping, while
Harrington turned in to the counting-room.

He paused a moment in the dusky ware-room opening on the street, and
surveyed its contents. Amongst other merchandise was visible a pile of
dirty cotton-bales, burst here and there with their fullness, and the
white staple bulging from the rents. The thick, musty, stifling smell of
cotton choked the air of the ware-room. It was the same smell that had
stifled the conscience of the merchant, the conscience of his fellows,
the conscience of the nation—yes, honor, duty, courage, compassion,
manhood, independence, all that was truly American.

Pausing only for a moment, Harrington went up-stairs into the office, and
glancing at the clerks by the desks, looked away and saw the merchant
sitting with his back to him in the little inner counting-room, and by
his side Driscoll, the stevedore. He at once passed forward, noticing, as
he entered the counting-room that Driscoll had a twenty-dollar gold piece
in his hand. Without thinking anything of this, Harrington nodded to the
stevedore, and bowed gravely to Mr. Atkins as the latter turned with a
sudden flush and a half scowl toward him.

“Mr. Atkins,” said the young man, courteously, “will you favor me with a
few minutes’ conversation with you?”

The merchant’s first impulse was to order him out of the office, but
Harrington’s manner was at once so courteous and so dignified that he
found it difficult to treat him with incivility.

“Driscoll,” said he, “just wait outside a few minutes. Now, Mr.
Harrington, what is it?”

Driscoll withdrew just outside of the open door, where he remained
standing, while Harrington took a chair beside the merchant, who turned
his obstinate, energetic face straight to the wall before him, and linked
his fingers, with the air of one who was resolved to hear patiently all
that could be said, and not be moved by anything.

“Mr. Atkins,” began Harrington, “I have called to see you about this
man Antony. I am aware that he escaped from New Orleans in one of your
vessels, and I fully appreciate the difficulties of the position in which
his escape has placed you. If it should happen to become known, it not
only injures the credit and character of your house in New Orleans, but
it renders your captain liable to imprisonment. Is it not so, Mr. Atkins?”

“It is, Mr. Harrington,” replied the merchant, somewhat disconcerted by
the gentle suavity of Harrington’s manner, and by his fair statement of
the matter, which were not what he had anticipated.

“On the other hand, Mr. Atkins,” pursued Harrington, “is the fact that
this negro escaped, as there is no reason to doubt, from a master of
unusual hardness, and only after being very cruelly treated. Furthermore,
he chanced to find shelter with your sister, who feels a deep sympathy
for his misfortunes, and would be very seriously injured both in health
and spirits if he were returned to the unhappy life from which he has
fled. Now I assume of course that you do not wish to unnecessarily
afflict this poor fellow, still less to grieve Mrs. Eastman. All that you
wish is to be rid of the unfortunate consequences which his escape is
likely to entail upon you in New Orleans. Is not that the case?”

Mr. Atkins stared at the wall with an uneasy look, and twiddled his
thumbs.

“Something of that sort, Mr. Harrington, something of that sort,” he
nervously replied.

“Exactly,” returned Harrington. “Now I take the liberty to suggest that
this matter can be readily arranged to the satisfaction of all parties,
and every unpleasant consequence be avoided. I am commissioned to say
that the value of this man, and even twice or three times his value, will
be paid to his owner. It will be easy for you to state this in a card in
the New Orleans papers, and also to state the circumstances under which
he got to Boston in your vessel. Everybody will see at once that you and
your captain were not at all responsible for his escape, and this frank
statement, conjoined with your avowed willingness to reimburse the owner
for his loss, will not only free you from all suspicion of complicity
in his flight, but will raise your credit as an honorable man in New
Orleans, and also with the conservative portion of the community at the
North. Besides, this compromise will spare your sister and niece the
real distress they will feel if the man is returned, and this I think
you will be willing to do if you can in justice to all other parties
concerned. This arrangement will not only cost you nothing, but benefit
you materially, besides satisfying every person involved in the matter.
Now, candidly, is not this a fair and reasonable proposition?”

Mr. Atkins fidgeted in his chair for a minute, unable to deny the force
of what Harrington had said.

“Well, Mr. Harrington,” he replied, “I admit that your plan is feasible
enough, and not unfair, certainly. But there is one difficulty in the
way. Mr. Lafitte is unwilling to lose this man. His value is not more
than twelve hundred dollars, but I am convinced that Mr. Lafitte would
not take five thousand for him.”

“Mr. Atkins, we will give him five thousand,” said Harrington.

“But I tell you he wouldn’t take it,” replied the merchant.

“Well, then, we will give him ten thousand,” said Harrington.

Mr. Atkins stared at him.

“Pshaw! Mr. Harrington, you surely wouldn’t be such a fool as to give
that sum for a worthless nigger,” he contemptuously answered.

Harrington’s blood grew hot, but externally he kept cool as ice.

“My dear sir,” he said, affably, “we will not mention the negro. It
is Mrs. Eastman who is concerned. Your niece will willingly give ten
thousand dollars out of her fortune to spare her mother’s feelings. And
surely you would not deny her the privilege of comforting her mother,
even were this a mere matter of prejudice.”

Mr. Atkins really felt cornered. He could not but see the various solid
advantages of this proposition. But Mr. Atkins had considerable of the
mule in his composition.

“Mr. Harrington,” said he, after an embarrassed pause, “suppose Lafitte
wouldn’t be willing to take even ten thousand.”

“My dear Mr. Atkins,” replied Harrington, laughing—alas! he found it
hard to laugh, poor gentleman—“do you not see that if Mr. Lafitte refuses
to take so extravagant a sum, he will only make himself ridiculous in the
eyes of the New Orleans people. Why, they will hoot at him! And besides,
they will extol your public spirit to the skies. It will give you a name
there no other merchant possesses. Just think of it! Why, Lafitte would
be forced to accept out of pure shame, even were he indifferent to the
advantage of having the round sum of ten thousand dollars.”

“I declare, sir, this is too preposterously absurd,” said the merchant,
growing red with vexation at being thus tempted out of his plan. “To
think of wasting so much money as that for such a purpose.”

“But, Mr. Atkins,” replied Harrington, “large as the sum is, what is it
compared with your sister’s peace of mind? If you only knew the dreadful
state of distress she is in, you would not think so. True her distress
may be nonsensical, but still as a practical man you will be willing to
allow that we must take human nature as we find it. Besides, we need
not give so large a sum. We only wish to give enough to repair matters,
and set you right with the New Orleans folks. Lafitte can appraise his
slave, and regard for public opinion will make him keep within reason.
Still we are ready to do anything rather than have you prejudiced in your
business, or your sister injured as, at her time of life, this matter
would injure her.”

“I don’t see why you should interest yourself so much in this affair, Mr.
Harrington,” grumbled the merchant.

“Pardon me, I am only an agent,” replied Harrington, with a sweet
civility which not even Atkins could resist. “I hope you will excuse
me if I have said anything to offend your sense of propriety, but I
only meant to suggest a way out of this unpleasant embroilment, which I
thought might not have occurred to you, and which I am sure will commend
itself to your judgment as a practical business man, and one who only
desires fair play to all parties. I trust there is no offence in this Mr.
Atkins.”

“Oh, no sir, no sir,” said the merchant hastily, with an awkward bow,
his jaw working meanwhile with his embarrassment at the deferential
politeness with which Harrington presented what he could not but admit
was an unexceptionable way of settling the whole matter. “No offence at
all, sir. But—well—what I—well the fact is, Mr. Harrington, you know my
political views, which of course you don’t agree with.”

“We will not differ about politics, sir,” replied Harrington with
gracious affability.

“No, of course not, of course not,” fidgeted Mr. Atkins. “But this is
the point: There has been too much tampering with slave property in this
country, sir, and I wanted to send that man back that Southern men might
see that we are devoted to their interests, and can promptly return their
property without putting them to the trouble of legal formalities.”

“My dear sir,” put in Harrington, “in what better way could you prove
your devotion to the interests of Southern men than by the plan I
mention? Consider how inferior the return of the man would be to the
magnificent offer to pay ten times his value, publicly made, and promptly
accomplished. The one would be the theme of limited complimentary
mention, but the other would be blazoned far and wide, and loud and long.
A Northern merchant willing to sacrifice ten thousand dollars even,
rather than loosen one bond of political or business fellowship between
the North and South! Why, it is impossible that you should not see the
superiority of this measure to accomplish the very end you have in view.”

Mr. Atkins thrust his hands into his pockets, and working his jaw
convulsively, struggled between the temptation to yield, and the
obstinate desire to carry out his original purpose. Harrington saw that
the crisis had come, and fearing to irritate the merchant into refusal by
his presence, he rose.

“Permit me to leave you to think of it,” he said courteously. “Just give
it candid consideration, solely as a business matter, and with regard to
your own interests and political feelings, and let me call again, if it
is not asking too much, at any time you may mention.”

It is perfectly impossible to describe the fine tact of bearing, the
sweet and winning courtesy and delicacy with which Harrington conducted
himself during this difficult interview. If Lemuel Atkins had not been
more stubborn than the unwedgeable and gnarled oak, he would have soon
opened to that subtle charm, and as it was, he began to open to it.

“Well, Mr. Harrington,” he said after a pause, “I’ll think of it, and you
can call in about—no you needn’t,” he cried, with a sudden revulsion,
turning red in the face with passion. “I’ll be damned if I’ll do it!
There. It’s cursed folly, and I won’t consent to it.”

Harrington’s trembling heart froze, but he did not yet abandon hope.

“Nay,” said he, gently, “I trust you will not decide hastily. I know
it may strike you unfavorably in one view of it, but if after careful
consideration you do not approve the course I mention, why then I will
submit to your maturer judgment. Only consider it calmly and candidly,
and I do not fear the result.”

“I won’t,” snarled the merchant. “I won’t consider it at all.”

“But Mr. Atkins”—

“I tell you I won’t. Come, bother me no more with it.”

“At least, sir, give one moment’s consideration to the suffering your
sister is in.”

“Oh, damn my sister! What do I care for her suffering. Let her suffer. I
tell you, I’ll send that black scoundrel back in spite of her and you,
and the whole pack of you,” he roared, purple with rage, and shaking his
fist at Harrington.

“Mr. Atkins,” said Harrington, with an impressive solemnity which cooled
the merchant even in the mad heat of his fury—“you know the nature of
Mr. Lafitte as well as I, for you have had dealings with him. I pray you
to consider that if you send that man back, you send him to his murder.
Murder by the most merciless torture, Mr. Atkins. Can you bear the
responsibility of that? Now think of it coolly.”

“I don’t care for his murder,” sullenly growled the merchant. “I’ll send
him, whether or no.”

Harrington saw that the case was hopeless.

“Mr. Atkins,” he said, with touching gentleness, “do not decide this
matter in anger. Pardon me, if I have said anything to offend you, and
pray think of this again.”

“I’ve heard enough,” returned Atkins. “Let me hear no more. You have my
final decision.”

“At least,” replied Harrington, mournfully, “think of the future. The day
may come when public opinion will change. The old New England opposition
to slavery may arise again even in Boston. Do not commit yourself by such
an act as this, so that a few years hence men may judge you harshly.
Think of what your children will say of you if you leave them a name
spotted with disgrace. Think of that.”

“It is a matter of perfect indifference to me what my children will
say of me,” coolly replied the merchant, with a yawn. “Hark you, Mr.
Harrington,” he cried, rising to his feet, and sternly facing the young
man. “I’ll just give you my idea of this slavery question, and one which
involves my whole action in this matter. When any nation concludes that
it is for the best interests and prosperity of the country to make men
slaves—I don’t care whether those slaves are white or black—no man nor
body of men, nor any other nation, has a right to interfere with, or
in any way prevent that nation’s making them slaves, and keeping them
in slavery. White or black, it makes no difference. This nation or any
other nation, it’s all the same. Statesmen have settled that—older heads
than yours or mine. That principle of national right has come up, as
a question of national right, before the sober, sound, conservative
statesmanship of the American Union, and that statesmanship has answered
it.”

“How has it answered it?” put in Harrington, quickly, fixing his stern
and searching eyes on the flushed face of the merchant.

“How has it answered it?” repeated Mr. Atkins, with a sarcastic air.
“Well, sir, how has it answered it?”

“It has answered it with the roar of Decatur’s guns under the walls of
Algiers!” thundered Harrington, with a look of fire.

Mr. Atkins, at this stunning demolition of his position, turned red, and
then pale, and then all sorts of colors, and finally sat down with a
working jaw, and a face of utter confusion.

“That is the way the sober, sound, conservative statesmanship of the
Union answered that question of national right,” sternly continued
Harrington. “It answered from the blazing muzzles of Decatur’s cannon,
that the nation that undertakes to hold innocent men in slavery is a
nation of pirates. By its own answer it stands condemned. Every State in
this Union, that holds innocent men in slavery, is an organized piracy.
The Union that sanctions the crime, and makes it possible, is another.
And you, Lemuel Atkins, trampling on your sister’s heart, in your
scoundrel zeal to thrust an innocent and wretched man into that pirate
hell from whence his own bravery freed him, you are the vilest, because
the meanest, pirate of them all. The most degraded slaveholder is white
beside such a wretch as you. Never let me hear again of Southern infamy.
You, a Northern merchant, kidnapping your brother—kidnapping a man whose
right it is to say with you, in his prayers to Heaven, ‘Our Father’—not
respecting even the miserable forms of pirate law in your infernal zeal
for wickedness—what wretch is there, however black, that does not whiten
into virtue beside you! Lafitte himself sees in you a depth of mean vice
to which his self-respect will not permit him to descend. God forgive me,
that I lowered myself to prune my speech, and curb my heart, and strain
my conscience, in the effort to win and bribe you from your ghastly
crime against mankind. Go on with it now. Blacken down into your pit of
iniquity. Wrench from the world of living men to which he yet clings,
the poor victim of your accursed avarice, and send him back as you and
your muck-rake tribe sent Sims, to shriek his life away under the bloody
scourge. So live your life, and gorging on your miserable gains till
you drop into your grave, may you never know the fate it is to feel the
curses of the poor!”

Gazing aghast, with glassy eyes, like one fascinated, into the white
and terrible countenance of Harrington, with a horrible, blind look on
his own visage, Atkins sat petrified under the low, magnetic voice in
which, like wind and rain and fire and hail, these words burst upon
him. A moment, and Harrington had gone; and rising to his feet, and
shaking all over as in an ague fit, with that horrible blind look upon
his furious face, and a mad-dog slaver gathering on his loose and livid
lips, his sick-man’s voice strained and gasped into speech, such as
might unnaturally tear its way in agonizing rage from the throat of one
organically dumb.

“B-y G-a-ud, I’d sa-end him ba-eck,” he drawled agasp, “e-ff I-i ha-ed
t-a be sa-ent t-a ha-ell!”

I would send him back if I had to be sent to hell. With these words,
which sounded as if they were torn from him, as the fabled mandrake was
said to be torn from the earth, with low shrieks and dripping blood; and
which seemed to cling as they were wrenched away, as the demon vegetable
was said to cling when dragged from the soil, he tottered backward, and
fell with a heavy slump into his chair. There he sat gasping, with his
face turned to the wall.

Driscoll had slunk away into the outer office as Harrington left the
counting-room, and the young man passed down into the street without
seeing him, and crossed to where Wentworth was standing. The young artist
gazed with a shocked expression into his colorless face as he approached
him.

“Heavens! Harrington, how white you are!” he murmured.

“I have failed, Richard,” returned Harrington in a deep and quiet voice.
“He has no heart, no reason even. Trade has eaten the one and the other
out of him. I made my plea as well as I could. I appealed to his mean
self-interest, so that even he felt the force of my appeal, and wavered.
But he refused me, and I flung upon him the bitterest words that ever
passed my lips, and left him.”

Wentworth looked in silence on the marble countenance, white in the
shadow of the slouched hat, with the vertical sunlight just touching the
beard below.

“I am glad, Harrington,” he said, after a pause, “that you flung bitter
words upon him.”

“No,” replied Harrington, mournfully, “do not be glad, for it cannot
gladden me. Yet I do not regret what I said to him, nor do I think
it were better unsaid. Let him pass. He lies, the saddest wreck I
know, stranded on the shores of my pity. Mal-organized, miseducated,
the imperfect infant taken from his cradle, and every imperfection
developed by the haphazard social culture, and all else undeveloped; you
have him at last, what he is—at once the product and the victim of a
half-barbarous state of society. Pity him. He might have been better had
he lived in a better day and among better men.”

“Well, no doubt,” musingly replied Wentworth. “Like Dr. Johnson’s
Scotchmen—caught young, something might have been made of him. In the
mean time, blast his eyes!”

They wandered on a few steps together. Suddenly Harrington stood still.

“There’s no use in the Captain watching the Soliman,” he said. “The man
is secreted somewhere, and will probably not be taken on board till the
vessel is ready to sail. Besides, it may awaken suspicion if anybody
should happen to know Eldad’s connection with me, and see him hanging
about the brig. Let’s go down to him.”

They turned and went down the wharf.

“What do you think of boarding the Soliman again?” asked Wentworth.

“Better not,” Harrington returned. “Antony is not there. It would only
put them on their guard. The sole chance now is the writ of habeas
corpus.”

“And how about Mrs. Eastman?” said Wentworth.

“We must disregard her,” Harrington replied. “She will thank us by and by
for doing so, especially if we succeed in saving poor Antony. The Soliman
does not sail till Tuesday night, so there is plenty of time. We will
return presently, see Muriel, and then I will at once procure the writ.
If I fail with it, the last thing is to search the Soliman as she is on
the point of leaving the wharf, opposition or no opposition.”

“Good,” exclaimed Wentworth, with a proud thrill.

They went on in silence, and presently reached the Soliman. The
stevedores were busy lading her, and all was activity on board and on
the wharf. Looking about, Harrington presently caught sight of Captain
Fisher on the opposite pavement, and at once went over to him. The two
joined Wentworth in a couple of minutes, and they all went up the wharf
together.

“Now, Captain,” said Harrington, as they walked on, “I am going on to
Temple street, and I will be at your house soon. Then you and I will go
together for the writ—so wait for me.”

“All right, John,” returned the Captain, who had been previously told by
Harrington that Mrs. Eastman was to be disregarded.

Half way up, the Captain stopped and fixed an admiring gaze on a pretty
little sail-boat, sloop-rigged, which lay alongside, and which belonged
to him.

“Pooty, aint she?” he remarked, ogling his property.

“Yes, indeed,” returned Harrington, “we’ve had many a pleasant sail in
her in the old days.”

He sighed vaguely, and they went on, up the busy wharf, and into the
noise and bustle of State street. It was the great mercantile street of
the city, the old street of solemn memories, the proud street of Sam
Adams and Paul Revere, the brave street of the Boston Massacre, the dark
street of the rendition of Sims. Over those stones once wet with the
sacramental blood of Attucks, under the solemn eye of the morning star,
the child of his race, surrounded by sabres, had gone to the vessel a
Boston merchant volunteered to take him to his murder. Side by side,
amidst the weeds and rubble of traffic, burst the black slaver flower and
bloomed the bright historic rose.

The merchants were thick on ’Change as the three companions came up the
street, and there was much lifting of hats and fluttering and swarming,
which for a moment they could not account for. But presently, as they
entered the crowd, they met a figure which explained that decorous
commotion, and involuntarily made them start and for a second pause.
It was Webster. Not, alas! the dark Hyperion, splendid in statued
majesty, of a younger day, when those stern lips thundered the speech of
freemen; but him grown old, his leonine and massive features austere
and sullen-grim, fire-scarred in swarthy grain with base ambition and
battered by the storms of state, yet kingly still in ruin, and with some
relic of their former sombre beauty. He lifted his hat to a gentleman
as they came up, and for an instant they gazed upon the rugged and
malignant grandeur of that imposing countenance, with its vast brow and
iron majesty of mouth, and its cavernous and torrid eyes. A moment, and
they had gone by. Wentworth looked awed, the Captain’s face was rigid and
atwist, and Harrington was blind with tears.

“To meet him at such an hour as this!” he gasped. “He who has done it
all! He with the seventh of March upon his face, and you and I and all
of us with its shadow on our lives. One speech for freedom then, and the
cloud of this anguish and dishonor would have passed away. That speech,
half-written in his desk, never spoken, but in its stead the speech
for slavery, which has made kidnapping a law. And he, fallen forever,
standing there amidst those muck-rake rogues, fallen from all he was,
fallen from all he might have been, sunk to herd among the thieves of
men! Oh, wreck of wrecks—grief of griefs—ashes and dust and ruin!”

Touched by the solemn passion of his sorrow, they did not speak, but went
on in brooding silence, regardless of the passing crowds around them. In
a few minutes they reached the head of State street, where the Captain
silently nodded and left them, and turning in the opposite direction,
they went on to Temple street.



CHAPTER XXXII.

HERALD SHADOWS.


It was about one o’clock when they arrived. After a hasty dinner, Muriel
withdrew to argue matters with her mother, while Harrington went into
the library, and Wentworth, who was suffering from the heat, started
for home to change his clothes, promising to meet his friend soon at the
house in Chambers street.

The conference with Mrs. Eastman lasted nearly an hour, failed of result
of course, and without telling her mother of her purpose, Muriel went
into the library, and gave her decision in favor of instant action.

Harrington immediately put his revolver in his pocket, and took, in
case of need, a hundred dollars in bills, which Muriel, with her usual
foresight, had drawn from the bank that morning. Then receiving her
fervent hopes for his success, he folded her in his arms and kissed her,
and sallied forth upon his mission.

He was resolute and calm, yet nervously alive with incertitudes and
apprehensions, which fled like strange shadows across his burning brain.
The day was still brilliant and sultry, but in the stainless blue of the
morning masses of bright wild clouds had gathered, and lay fantastically
changing from shape to shape in densely huddled concourse. He watched
them as he strode along, finding in their tottering transformations
and flaring brightness, as in the mutable shapes they assumed, some
weird expression of his own mood. Here they were unclimbable alps of
cloudy snow, upreared in a glittering mass of mountainous giddiness,
and toppling from their bases. There they stretched in a carded drift
of fierce white fire, smouldering in the resplendent blue, and consumed
by its own intensity. In one place they had heaped into the form of a
defying giant, impotently melting away in fantastic dissolution. In
another they were a long cohort of crouching lions looking out of their
manes. Below the zenith, before him, a solitary cloud shaped itself into
a vapory hydra; beyond, another wore the semblance of some mongrel dragon
of the air; and all were sphinxine, monstrous, dazzling, wonderful—a
phantasmagoric rack of intervolved chimeras.

With such a pageant bright and wild above his head, and with a feeling
corresponsive to it all within his mind, he strode on through the quiet
streets of the neighborhood, and arrived at his house in Chambers street.
For some reason or other, the Captain had not yet arrived, and, expecting
him presently, after a minute’s kindly chat with Hannah and Sophy, he
went into his own apartment.

The afternoon sun lay bright and cheerful within the room where he had
spent so many sweet and studious hours, but the first thing he saw
on entering, brought night and winter on his heart. Below the empty
pedestal, the bust of the beloved Verulam lay shattered to fragments on
the floor. His head sunk upon his breast, and he stood sadly gazing upon
the ruin. He did not grieve for the loss of the treasured statue; he did
not even remember to think how the accident could have occurred; all
considerations were lost in the feeling of mournful significance which
swept over his burning brain, as he brooded on the broken image of the
majestic Lord of Civilization.

A few moments he gazed upon the wreck with a face of marble; then,
suddenly, his features became convulsed, and his eyes filled with tears.

“It is well, it is well!” he cried, in a transport of passionate sorrow.
“Oh image, why should you stand there when the shamed land has lost
her breed of noble blood, and civilization sleeps, and tyranny darkens
back upon the world! Well may you lie shattered, for all that is human
and holy is shattered too. Why should I keep you in this base city,
where all that is noble rests in the grave, or lives a dying life in
the forlorn grapple with hell! Fade, fade, large memories of saints and
martyrs—drop, statues of heroes—melt, phantoms of old honor from the
pictured wall—away, and yield your places to the forms of clowns and
knaves! Come, you artists,” he raved, in passionate bitterness—“come, you
dilettante bastards—come, you anatomies, whom the ghost of Angelo mocks
and scorns—here is work for you. God! the serpentry and maggotry of Power
are all before you! Choose from them—choose from them—mould us statues of
slavers, paint us pictures of kidnappers, to fill the vacant places! Down
with the just and great—up with the small and vile!”

Quivering with the tempest of his agony, he tottered away, and flinging
himself into his chair, covered his face with his hands.

A few minutes trailed by in deep stillness. Gradually he became calm,
and his hands dropped from his white and sorrowful features.

“I waste my heart in grief,” he mournfully murmured. “It will pass, it
will pass. Oh, winter of Slavery you will pass, and the spring-time
of Freedom will emerge. It is but a season—only a season. Patience,
patience, patience.”

He sat for a little while, then rose, gathered up and laid out of sight
the fragments of the statue, bore the pedestal up-stairs, and returning
resumed his chair.

The minutes were wearing on in deep silence when a low knock came to the
door.

“Enter,” cried Harrington, looking up from his mournful musing.

The door opened and revealed the grotesque and sloven figure of Bagasse.
He had on an old swallow-tailed coat, and wore his usual dingy cap, with
the visor turned down, under which his swarthy, upturned face, with the
mustachioed, lion mouth open in a curious smile, and the nose adorned
with the horn-rimmed goggles, pointed with suave inquiry at Harrington,
while the hand performed a military salute.

“Why, Bagasse!” cried Harrington, smiling, and rising from his chair to
cross over and shake hands—“how are you? Come in. I’m glad to see you.”

“Ah, Missr Harrington,” returned the old soldier, entering and bowing low
with a quick motion, over the hand he grasped in his, “I am vair glad to
see you. I haf not see you for so long. Zen I fancee you are seek, and I
call zoo be vair sure zat it is not zat keep you from ze acadamee. How is
you helt? Br-r-r! _Sacrebleu!_ but you haf been seek, eh?” he cried, with
a sudden commiseration, expressed by a shrug of his shoulders, a lift of
his eyebrows, and a startled grimace of his features, as he noticed the
whiteness of Harrington’s countenance. “_Mon Dieu!_ you is vair pale wis
you eye circle wis ze dark color! O my fren’ Missr Harrington, was is ze
mattair wis you?”

A little moisture gathered in Harrington’s eyes at the pathetic anxiety
of the old man’s look and voice, but he smiled cheerfully, and shook his
head.

“No, Bagasse,” he replied, “I am not sick. I am as well as I have ever
been. Come, take a seat.”

Bagasse removed his cap, and sitting on the sofa, kept his upturned
visage pointed in dubious inquiry at Harrington, who had resumed his
chair.

“You know I have been married,” said Harrington smilingly.

“Marry! No! _Mon Dieu_, no! I haf not hear zat!” exclaimed Bagasse, with
a start, and his bright eye glowing from a flushed visage.

“Yes,” replied Harrington. “To that beautiful rich lady Mr. Witherlee
told you of.”

Bagasse turned the color of heated iron, partly with joy at this
intelligence, partly with wonder at Harrington’s knowledge of what had
passed between himself and Witherlee.

“By dam!” he exclaimed suddenly, “I am so glad I haf ze desire zoo dance
like ze vair devail! But how you know what zat pup Witterly—ex-cuse me,
Missr Harrington, but zat is vair bad young man—ah, vair bad!—how you
know what he say zoo me?”

“No matter, Bagasse,” returned Harrington, smiling, “we won’t talk of
that. But my wife heard of what you said to him—you remember?—what you
said you would tell me if you were her—and she said that to me. Yes, she
did.”

Bagasse, with his grotesque ferruginous face all aglow with a dozen
emotions, sprang up with a stamp which shook the room, dropped into his
seat again, and slapped his heart with his hand.

“Hah!” he hoarsely cried, “it is superb! By dam! I sall fly. My heart is
too big for his box. And zat beautifool, rich, vair, fine ladee say zat?
Sublime! She is great, she is grand, she is more zan ze great Empress
Josephine of ze great Nap-oleon. Ah, Hypolite Bagasse my frien’, you haf
ze biggest compliment I sall evair hear!”

“You must see my wife, Bagasse,” continued Harrington. “She feels very
grateful to you, first for defending me from poor Witherlee’s talk”—

“_Sacre!_” growled Bagasse, interrupting, “I catch zat pup Witterly in
my acadamee once more, and I break him in two pieces ovair my knee!”

“No,” said Harrington, gently, “for my sake, don’t touch him. He has been
punished enough already. Say that you won’t touch him, Bagasse.”

“Missr Harrington, I do evairysing you want,” replied the pacified
fencing-master. “You say let Witterly off, I let him off. I treat him wis
civilitee.”

“That’s right,” returned Harrington; “do. But as I was saying, my wife
feels especially grateful to you for having given her the charming idea
of making that speech to me, and she wants to see you, and know you, and
thank you herself. So the first opportunity I get, I am going to take you
to her house.”

Bagasse turned swarthy-red at this, and looked embarrassed.

“Pardon me, Missr Harrington—ex-cuse me, sir, please,” he said, with
suave shamefacedness, bowing low as he sat. “But it is too mush
honor—vair many too mush. You beautifool, vair, fine, ladee wife, she
is so high, she is so _distingué_, she is ze count-ess, ze duch-ess,
ze queen. She is so far up like ze beautifool sun. I am so low down
like ze paving-stone ze sun shine on. You zink now! I am ze poor old
fencing-mastair—ze man zat eat ze garleek and drink ze brandee-bottel—ze
ugly old devail Bagasse, so low down. Br-r-r-r! It is not propair zat I
make ze viseet zoo ze vair, fine, beautifool rich ladee-wife—I, zee poor
way low down child of ze people. _Sacrebleu_, no!”

“Oh, Bagasse, Bagasse,” said Harrington, in a tone of good natured
chiding, “fie upon you to talk in that way! Suppose my wife is the sun,
as you say. Well, the sun is a democrat. The sun shines as sweetly on
you as on the emperor. Now my wife is like the sun in that particular
at least. Ah, Bagasse, she, too, is a child of the people, and she
will be proud to know a man who could make the manly speech you made!
She is not a lady who respects coats and bank-stock, but heart, honor,
manhood. Come, now, you fancy her a bit of a Marie Antoinette. Not at
all, Bagasse. Think of that dear child of the people whom Frenchmen
love—Josephine. That is a better image of her. Don’t say a word—you shall
visit her, and then you’ll see how much at home she’ll make you feel.”

All which Harrington said in French that Bagasse might perfectly
understand him. The old man sat, with a touched face, looking at the
floor for some time after the young scholar had ceased to speak. Looking
up, at length, with an unsteady eye, he saw that the sad, introverted
expression had returned to the pallid features before him. In fact,
Harrington’s thoughts had dropped away to the trouble on his mind, and he
was wondering why the Captain did not come.

“Missr Harrington,” said Bagasse, in a voice, a little lower and hoarser
than usual, “you make me vair proud—you do me vair mush honor. But ah, my
joay haf mush melancolee wis him, for you look so pale, so bad. Ex-cuse
me, Missr Harrington—but was is ze mattair wis you? Why, you look so
white, so sorrowfool? Ah, tell you old Bagasse zat he may say ze leetel
word wis comfort in him! You marry ze beautifool, dear ladee wife—_mon
Dieu!_ zat sall make you so happy zan evairybody. Why zen you haf zat
face? Zat is not ze face for ze new husband—_sacrebleu_, no! Now why is
zat?”

Harrington paused a moment before replying, struggling to repress the
agitation he felt not only at the rude tenderness of the old Frenchman’s
words and manner, but at the aching sense it brought him of the grief
that had clouded his sweet and perfect happiness.

“Don’t ask me, Bagasse,” he faltered. “Kind old friend, I wish I could
tell you, but there are reasons”—

A low knock at the door made him break off in the midst of his sentence.

“No, don’t go,” he said to the fencing-master, who had moved to rise.
“Come in,” he cried.

The door opened slowly, and to the astonishment of Harrington, Driscoll
the stevedore entered. Harrington smiled vaguely, and bent his head with
an absent and wondering air in reply to the abashed and awkward bow the
Irishman made as he came in.

“Why, Mr. Driscoll,” he said, slowly, “I didn’t expect to see you,
though I’m glad you came. Take a chair. How are you?”

“Purty well, thank ye kindly, Mr. Harrington,” replied Driscoll, taking
off his old straw hat, and wiping his forehead with his coat sleeve,
without looking at the young man.

Harrington, wondering at his curious air of awkward bashfulness, and
beginning to feel a rising perturbation, as he remembered that he had
seen the man in Atkins’ office not long before, blankly stared at him. He
was a strong, thick-set, stooping man, dressed in coarse canvas trowsers,
all stained with pitch and dirt; a soiled red flannel shirt; and a short
frowsy old coat with large horn buttons. He had what is commonly called
a thoroughly Irish face—which means not the Irish face of Jeremy Taylor
or Edmund Burke, but the face of an Irish peasant after despotism,
political, social, and religious, has wrought on him and his ancestry
for a certain period, giving him some abjectness, some lawlessness, some
clownishness, some stupidity, some insensibility, an aspect of hard work
and poor fare and low condition, and degrading his forehead, clouding his
eye, lowering his nose, making his lips loose, his gums prominent, his
cheeks scrawny, his throat scraggy, and barbarizing the manhood of him
generally. Such, with the addition of tan and freckles got from labor
in the sun, and also the grime and sweat of that labor, was the visage
of Driscoll. The only other thing Harrington noticed about him was that
he kept his left hand tightly clenched while he wiped his face with the
rough sleeve of his right arm.

“Well,” continued Harrington, after a pause, “how goes it, Mr. Driscoll?
How is your wife? And the children? And how is the broken leg? Won’t you
sit down?”

“They’re all purty well, sur, thank ye kindly,” returned Driscoll,
ducking his head continuously as he spoke, and moving up to the table.
“And the leg’s sthrong as a post, glory be to God, sur. Sorra the word o’
lie in it, but it’s yerself that it’s owin’ to, and divil a leg I’d have
to stand on this minit widout you, Mr. Harrington.”

“Oh, well,” said Harrington, smiling; “I’m glad you’re over that
trouble. But you came up to tell me something, I suppose. Did—did Mr.
Atkins send you?”

“Deed he did not, sur,” replied Driscoll. “I kem up to make bowld to ask
ye something, Mr. Harrington, if ye wouldn’t think it an offince, sur,”
he added, with a furtive sidelook at Bagasse, who sat with an upturned
face of curious interrogation levelled at him.

“Certainly not,” replied Harrington. “No offence at all. Ask away. Never
mind my friend, there.”

“Bad scran to me if I wor to mind a frind o’ yours, sur,” returned
Driscoll, coming close up to the edge of the table, and looking uneasily
at Harrington. “It’s a quistion I’ll make bowld to ask ye, sur.”

“Well, ask on,” said Harrington, blankly gazing at him, with a mounting
color, and his heart beating painfully with a blind clairvoyant sense of
what was coming.

“Are ye,” confidentially asked the stevedore, with considerable burr on
the “are”—“are ye opposed, sur, to it’s bein’ done?”

Harrington started so violently, and turned so pale, that Bagasse sprang
to his feet, and Driscoll’s face grew stupid with surprise.

“To what being done?” gasped Harrington. “Speak quick. Tell me what you
mean?”

“Are ye opposed, sur, to ould Atkins sendin’ off the durty negur? That’s
what I mane,” said Driscoll.

“I am!” cried Harrington, with a lightning look at Bagasse, and a wish
that he was out of the room.

Driscoll looked at the table, and looking at it, slowly swung up his
clenched left fist like one pelting a pool, and hurled a twenty dollar
gold piece ringing on the cloth.

“Then I’m dommed if I’ll do it,” he exultingly howled, with a thump of
his fist on the money. “Hurroo for the bridge that carries us over, and
it’s you that wor the bridge of goold to me and the ould woman and the
childher in the black hour, Mr. Harrington. Ould Atkins and his money
to the divil, and bad scran to him and his for an ould robber, for I’m
dommed if I’ll do wan thing that ye are opposed to, sur. Arrah, bad look
to him, and may he niver know glory, for the black thafe o’ the world
that he is; but it’s yerself that dhressed him down thremindous this
blissed day, Mr. Harrington. Troth, but it’s the good blood that’s in the
Harringtons, and kings and imperors they wor in the ould country wanst,
and sorra the word o’ lie in it!”

With which highly apocryphal assertion, Driscoll’s excited outburst
ceased, and he fell to wiping his heated face, first with one coat-sleeve
and then with the other.

Harrington rose from his seat, white as death, his nostrils heaving and
his eyes aflame.

“Bagasse,” he said, “will you be kind enough to leave me”— He stopped,
touched by the look of tender sympathy on the grotesque face of the
fencing-master. “No,” he cried, “don’t go. Stay with me. You shall
know it—you shall know what it is that is killing me. But tell me,” he
pursued, speaking in French, “tell me, on the honor of a soldier, that
you will never breathe one word of this to any living being, for it is a
secret which must be kept close as the grave.”

Bagasse struck hands with him with passionate and martial energy.

“I swear it,” he hoarsely cried in French. “Let me know it, for I cannot
bear to see you suffer, and if I can help you, I will!”

“Good!” exclaimed Harrington. “Driscoll, attend to me. Where is that
negro?”

“They’ve got him, sur, in the cuddy of a boat down on Spectacle Island,”
replied the stevedore, frightened into conciseness by the stern voice and
flaming eyes of Harrington.

“Who are they that have him? Men employed by Atkins?”

“Yes, sur. Siven o’ thim, sur. It’s me that wor to be eight.”

“Seven men paid by Atkins. Who are they? Stevedores?”

“Stevedores and sailors, sur. Twinty dollars apiece they get for it,
sur.”

“What are they doing with him there?”

“Howlding on to him, sur, till the Soliman sails. She’s to heave to, and
take him on board, sur.”

“When does the Soliman sail?”

“To-morrow morning at break o’ day, sur.”

“To-morrow morning? No—you mean Tuesday night.”

“’Deed I don’t, sur. She sails to-morrow morning, if there’s a breath o’
wind.”

Harrington drew his breath. Lucky I found this out, he said to himself;
to-morrow I should have been too late.

“Driscoll,” he continued, “are those men armed?”

“They’ve got their knives, sur.”

“No pistols?”

“Sorra the wan, sur.”

“Do they stay in the boat all the time?”

“’Deed they don’t, sur. Wan or two o’ thim stays in her turn and turn
about, and the rist o’ thim plays cards in the little room o’ the house
on the island.”

“The house? Oh, it’s a hotel. Does the owner of the house know they have
a negro in the boat?”

“’Deed he don’t, sur. The negur’s tied hand and fut, and kep’ in the
cuddy.”

“What does the owner of the house think those men are there for?”

“I don’t know, sur. Captain Bangham paid him well for the room they have,
and he niver comes nigh thim at all.”

“How long were you there?”

“This morning early, I wint down with thim, sur.”

“How came you to be up in the city this noon?”

“I kem up, sur, with Captain Bangham. He wint down to the island in a
boat of his own, along wid us this morning early, and stayed wid us a
while, dhrinkin’ like a fish, till he got purty dhrunk. So I kem back wid
him to help him manage the boat lest he’d get dhrowned, sur.”

“How came you to come up with him, and not a sailor?”

“We dhrew lots for it, sur, and I was the wan.”

“And you were going down to the island again?”

“Yis, sur. I was goin’ in the first boat that wint down the harbor. I
wint in to ould Atkins to take the pay, for the others had got theirs,
and there wasn’t enough in his pocket for me when he paid thim, so he
tould me to come in whin I kem up from the island, and begorra, I tuk him
at his word.”

“Did Atkins pay those men himself?”

“Deed he did, sur. Early in the mornin’ when they wint down, he was
there, and paid thim.”

“This Captain Bangham is the captain of the Soliman, I suppose?”

“Yis, sur.”

“Where does the boat lie that has the negro on board?”

“At the wharf o’ the island, sur.”

“This room in which the men stay—where is it?”

“It’s in the outbuilding, sur. A little room nixt to the kitchen, low
down, wid the doore openin’ on the ground, an’ wan step for the stairs,
sur.”

“Good. Now, Driscoll, you are not going to help these men any more?”

“I’m dommed if I’ll do it, whin you’re opposed to me doin’ it, sur.
Troth, I heard ivery word ye said to the ould thafe, and says I to
meself, if I do wan thing that Mr. Harrington’s set aginst, and he the
gintleman that befrinded me and mine in the black throuble, may the divil
fly away wid me.”

“Driscoll, take that gold piece back to Mr. Atkins, and tell him you’ve
thought better of it. Don’t say another word to him but that. Have no
quarrel with him. Say that, put the money on his desk, and leave his
office. Do you understand?”

“Yis, sur. I’ll do it.”

“Good. You shall not lose by it. Take this from me.”

Harrington drew from his pocket the money he had received from Muriel,
and counted him out twenty-five dollars.

“Here, Driscoll,” he said, holding out the bills to him.

“Oh, begorra, Mr. Harrington, but I’ll niver take it from you. Plaise
don’t offer it to me.”

“Driscoll, I insist upon your taking it. You shall.”

He seized the stevedore’s hand, and put the money into it.

“There. Don’t thank me, but attend to what I say. Driscoll, that negro
is a poor laboring man like you. He has as good a right to his freedom
as you have. When you joined those men to keep him in that boat, you
were guilty of a great sin. Never do such a thing again! You say you are
grateful to me. Then be kind to negroes for my sake. Be kind to them for
your own sake. You are a poor man, and you ought to be kind to the poor.”

Driscoll looked abashed and touched. Perhaps the words moved him less
than the solemn and gentle voice which uttered them.

“Sorra the harm I’ll ever work wan o’ thim, sir,” he murmured. “Deed, I
didn’t know it was a sin.”

“And now, Driscoll,” pursued Harrington, “I have reasons for wishing this
matter kept secret, and I want you to swear to me that you will never
speak of this to any person whatever. Never tell anybody that you were in
that boat—that Mr. Atkins hired you—or that you came here and told me.
Never speak of this at all in any way.”

“I’ll swear it, sur. Deed I will.”

Harrington turned to his shelves, and took down a Douai Bible, its covers
blazoned with a golden cross.

“Driscoll,” said he, “you are a Catholic. Here is the Catholic Bible. It
is opposed to slavery. There have been great men of your church who hated
slavery. The Pope himself has cursed slavery. See, here is the cross of
your church on the cover. Take this book in your hands, and swear that
you will never speak to any person, man or woman, of what you have done,
of what passed between Mr. Atkins and you, of what has passed between us
here. Swear it.”

Driscoll reverently received the Bible in his hands, took the oath, and
kissed the cross.

“That is all,” said Harrington, receiving the Bible, and restoring it
to its place. “I am very grateful to you for having told me of this,
Driscoll. You have done me the greatest good that any man could do me.”

Driscoll stood in silence, awed and wonder-stricken at what had passed,
and subdued by the majestic gentleness of Harrington’s demeanor. In a
moment he took the gold piece from the table, and moved to the door.

“God save ye kindly, sur,” he faltered, ducking his head.

“Good bye, Driscoll. Shake hands.”

He awkwardly took the frank hand Harrington outstretched as he came over
to him, felt it grasp his own as never gentleman’s had grasped it before,
and with a wild and woful enthusiasm heaving within him, and repressed by
shame and awe, he turned away, and stole out at the door the young man
opened for him.

Harrington closed the door, and, all unmindful of Bagasse, turned away
with clasped hands, and a face of solemn ecstasy.

“Oh, bread cast upon the waters,” he murmured, “is it thus I find you
after many days? I helped him in his trouble, and he pays me back with
life!”

His head sunk upon his breast, and he stood with closed eyes, rapt and
still, his heart swelling with gratitude and thanksgiving.

Suddenly, from the barrel-organ in the street, a strain of martial music
arose and flowed in upon the dreaming silence. It was the thrilling tonal
glory of the Marseillaise. The thought of his heart came like flame to
the broad-nostrilled countenance of Harrington, and he stood with kindled
features and dilated form, while the proud and mournful music swept like
the march of an army around him. On and on in burning measure, rolled the
sad and conquering lilt of liberty, and darkening down in fire and tears,
voice of the passion of mankind, voice of the wrongs and woes that redden
earth while the good cause lies bleeding, the weird strain arose and rang
in the clear cry for the sword, and wailed in the mournful glory of those
final tones whose melody is like a hymn for the dead who die for Man.

Harrington rushed from the room. The Frenchman, left alone, stood with
a dark glow on his iron visage, and the red light of battle in his eye,
thinking of the old days of military ardor, the old wars in which he had
stormed on Europe, the old Paris folding in her bosom the ashes of the
Emperor, the old France he himself would never see again.

The flush of memory the music brought him was paling into sadness, when
Harrington returned from the street.

“I have paid him, and sent him away, Bagasse,” said the young man. “After
that air, I wanted to hear no more. Now sit down, and I will tell you the
meaning of all this.”

Bagasse took his seat on the sofa, and Harrington sitting beside him, in
a few words told him all.

“And now,” he joyfully said, in conclusion, “everything begins to
lighten, since I know where this poor Antony is to be found.”

“Ah, Missr Harrin’ton,” returned the old man, smilingly regarding him
over an upturned chin, “zat face you haf is now ze face of ze new
husband! Ze dear ladee wife will lof zat face so gay. Missr Harrin’ton,
you are ze most grand zhentilman I sall evair see. You feel kind for ze
vair old devail himself. You get white, you get ze dark round you eye for
zat neeger man so mush as he was you own self. Nobody, not ze white man,
not ze neeger man, not no man at all, feel so bad for you like you feel
for evairy ozzer man. Why is zat?”

Harrington’s maxillary muscles wrinkled, and his teeth flashed in
an amused laugh, while his face grew scarlet at this complimentary
recognition of the human kindness that was so mighty in him.

“Bagasse,” said he, “don’t praise me for having the feelings of a man.
If you could have seen the poor fellow when I found him in the street,
and if you could have heard his account of the life he had been living,
you would feel as badly as I did. But here’s Wentworth and the Captain at
last,” he added, catching sight of them from the window near him, as they
entered the garden gate.

They came in presently, and for a moment there was a confusion of
salutations. Then the Captain, having been introduced to Bagasse, turned
to Harrington.

“John,” said he, “I’m awful exercised about keepin’ you waitin’, but”—

“Never mind,” interrupted Harrington. “I shan’t try to get the habeas
corpus writ now. Let me tell you what’s happened.”

“By Jupiter!” cried Wentworth, reddening at the sight of Harrington’s
kindled face. “Antony’s got off! Good! Hurrah!”

“Hold on. Not so fast, Richard,” returned Harrington. “Antony’s not off
yet, but he’s going to be. Now listen.”

And in a few words he gave them an account of the interview with Driscoll.

“So Antony’s in the cuddy of a boat at Spectacle Island,” he added,
concluding. “And now, see here. Thank fortune Mrs. Eastman’s feelings
can be spared, Antony saved, and yet the whole affair be kept strictly
private. I shall wait, Captain, till the dead of night, when those
fellows will all be asleep, and I hope drunk—all except the one in the
boat—and then I shall run down in your craft, land, and capture the
captured.”

“Bravo!” shouted Wentworth. “By Jove! I shall laugh fit to kill when we
get hold of Antony.”

“We?” said Harrington, jestingly. “Why, are you going?”

“Am I going!” roared Wentworth. “Of course I am. Do you think I’d let you
go alone?”

Captain Fisher, who had been sitting in silence, with his winter pippin
face agrin, burst into hearty laughter.

“By the spoon of horn!” he exclaimed, “but this is a leetle the richest
idee I ever heern tell on. But, John, look a-here. Siven of them fellers,
you know. Sposin you find them in the boat all together, like Brown’s
cows, when he had but one? What’ll you do then?”

“It’s not likely,” replied Harrington. “Men love their ease too much to
be out in the night when it’s not necessary. For my own part, I think
Atkins has managed this matter like a fool. Two men would have answered
his purpose perfectly, and he puts eight there. I can’t imagine what he
was thinking of.”

Mr. Atkins was thinking of Harrington, if Harrington could but have known
it. The moment Mrs. Eastman had told him that Antony had been sheltered
in her house, a feeling had come to him that the young scholar, whose
dauntless temper he had some notion of, might possibly attempt a rescue,
and he took his measures accordingly. This accounted, too, for Antony not
being on board the Soliman.

“But look a-here, John,” pursued the Captain. “Satan’s niver onready to
play ye a trick, an’ there’s no countin’ on what’s likely with him. Now
sposin you find them siven fellers in the boat when you git down?”

“In that case,” replied Harrington, gravely, “there’s nothing for it
but a desperate fight. I shall tell them of the illegality of their
proceeding, and try to frighten them into giving up Antony. If they
refuse, I shall fall on them like a fury. Here’s Bagasse has been
training me for years, and I think I should do credit to his training
even with seven men.”

“Missr Harrin’ton,” said Bagasse, with a grimace, “you do me one favor.
No, _pardieu_, I take zat favor. Look. I go wis you. Zat is settle. Zen
if ze seven men wish zoo fight, zey sall fight wis you and me, and zey
find out, by dam, zat we is fourteen!”

“Bravo, you old Gascon!” cried Wentworth, slapping him on the shoulder.
“Let him go, Harrington. Don’t refuse.”

“But, Bagasse,” said Harrington, “you have a wife, and I can’t consent
that you should put your life in danger on my affair.”

“Chut! poo, poo!” answered the fencing-master. “Ex-cuse me, Missr
Harrin’ton, but zat is feedelstick! You haf ze beautifool, dear ladee
wife, and I take care of you for her. Good. Zat is well. Now I go wis
you.”

“Don’t deny him, Harrington,” pleaded Wentworth. “Come, let’s arrange the
rest of this matter. Where do we start from?”

“Long Wharf, at about twelve o’clock,” replied Harrington. “Whoever gets
to the boat first will wait for the rest. Then about landing. Faith, it
won’t do to land at Long Wharf, if any of us gets hurt. We shall have the
night police asking questions if they see one of us limp. Besides, the
less seen of Antony the better. We must land at South Boston, where it’s
lonely as a desert.”

“And walk over to the city!” asked Wentworth, with a laugh.

“No, we must have a carriage,” replied Harrington. “Now who’s going to
drive the carriage out and wait there with it? I can’t, for I must go in
the boat.”

“And I must go wis you,” said Bagasse.

“So must I,” added Wentworth.

“It’s me then,” said the Captain, getting all awry. “Now, that’s a pity,
for I want to be with you. And sposin there’s a fight. Then you’re one
able-bodied man the less.”

“See,” put in Bagasse. “I tell you. We get John Todd for to drive. You
pay him money. Zen he go. Zat John Todd lof money.”

“Bravo!” cried Wentworth. “That’s an idea. I’ll give Johnny ten dollars
for the job.”

“I hardly like to have another party in a matter so private,” demurred
Harrington.

“But he needn’t know anything about it,” said Wentworth. “He needn’t even
see Antony. When we land, I’ll go up and get the carriage, letting him
stay behind, put Antony in, drive up again, take Johnny on the box, drive
in town, set him down, and go on to Temple street.”

“Well,” said Harrington, “that may do. Now who’ll get the carriage? We
want a close carriage.”

“I’ll get it,” returned Wentworth. “I know a man who’ll let me have one.
I’ll attend to all that, and to engaging Johnny. Where shall we have the
carriage stand? Say Q street. Good. We’ll all go armed, of course.”

“Certainly,” replied Harrington, “I will take my revolver.”

“And I my pistols,” said Wentworth.

“I sall carree ze good cavalree sabre wis my pistol,” said Bagasse.

“And I’ll take that hickory stick of mine with the lead knob, and that’ll
give any feller a headache that wants one,” said the Captain, with his
head ominously askew.

“Good, everything’s settled,” said Harrington. “Now, gentlemen, to-night
at twelve. We shall get there by two at the latest, if there’s any breeze
at all, and probably at one. You’d better all meet here, and go down
together. I will meet you at the boat.”

“Agreed,” said Wentworth. “Now, Bagasse, you and I will go after Johnny.”

“And I home,” said Harrington. “I’ll meet you again at twelve.”

He lingered a few moments after they had gone, musing with a kindled and
exulting face, and then with a sudden yearning to pour out his gladness
to Muriel, he seized his hat and left the room. In the yard he happened
to think of the dog, and he went for a moment to the kennel. The animal
was lying on its side, apparently asleep, and Harrington was just about
to turn away, when he chanced to notice that its eyes were partly open.
Surprised a little, he bent down, and laid his hand on the animal. It did
not move. The old dog was dead.

He arose, and stood for a moment with a vacant and reeling brain; then
turned, and with a dazed feeling, went into the street and on his way.
The clouds were still bright and wild in the afternoon sky, and tottering
fantastically into ever mutable strange shapes, fierce, dazzling,
sphinxine, wonderful. He gazed at them for a little while as he strode
on, until oppressed by their instability, and with a dark sense that they
were like an untranslatable hieroglyphic of something that had been, or
was, or was to be, and that could not be defined, he turned his eyes
from them, his heart throbbing thick and fast, and his burning brain
giddy with a fullness of life which, like the clouds, seemed to reel in
dissolution, and yet, like them, did not dissolve away.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE OLD ACHAIAN HOUR.


A low and melancholy melody was dreaming from the organ through the
corridors, as Harrington entered the still and darkened dwelling. He was
about to ascend to the library, when the parlor door opened, and Mrs.
Eastman, severe and ashen, beckoned him, with a ghostly motion, to come
in. He entered at once. Closing the door behind him, and folding her in
his arms, he looked tenderly into her still and grief-worn face, while
the low music brooded above them in aërial and solemn lamentation.

“John,” she whispered, “where have you been? John, an awful feeling has
been with me since you left the house—a feeling that you are doing that
which I cannot bring my heart to have done—that you have already done it.”

She stopped to pore with a ghastly gaze into his countenance. In the
dead stillness, tranced into deeper stillness, as it seemed, by the low
creeping music, he came into rapport with the cold, dark terror that
froze her soul, and he felt his blood curdle and his hair stir.

“If you have done this,” she whispered in a tone that thrilled him,
“it will kill me. I cannot survive it. Tell me that you whom I love so
dearly—tell me that you have not been so cruel to me. Have you done it?”

“Mother,” he said sadly, “be at ease. I have not, and I never will.
But, oh! my mother, you who dread this disgrace and dishonor, think of
the disgrace and dishonor it would be if that wretched fugitive were
sacrificed by us! How can you bear to think of that?”

She shuddered and clung to him, wildly agitated, but smiling ghastlily
with the joy she felt at the assurance of her brother’s safety from
public obloquy; and still the low, lamenting strain above them dreamed
sombrely in hollow murmurs through the darkened air.

“I know it; it is terrible,” she whispered. “But it must be. Yes, it must
be. Hate me—despise me—never look at me again; but it must be so, and I
am glad—very glad. Glad in my grief; full of grief, but glad. I am weak,
I am degraded, but it is for his sake, for my brother’s sake. Oh, I bless
you, I bless you that you have spared him, and me through him; I bless
you. Hate me, despise me, if you must. But he is safe; the little child I
played with once is safe; my brother whose sins are many and grievous,
he is safe, and I am glad—I am glad!”

“Peace, peace, my mother! Let it go,” he cried. “Do not speak so to me.
Do not load yourself with reproach. Oh, I feel with you, and I am not
removed from you. There there—let it all be forgotten. Time will efface
these sad hours, and we will be happy again.”

She gently withdrew from his embrace, weeping, and turned away; and
gazing at her for a moment, full of mournful pity, he left the room, and
went slowly up-stairs, with the sad music deepening around him.

It stopped as he entered the room, and Muriel rose from the organ, and
came swiftly toward him, clad all in white, and noble in her beauty. He
clasped her in his arms as if he had not seen her for a year.

“Joy!” she cried, looking at him with brilliant eyes, and a faint color
mantling her face, “you come back to me with a changed look! You have
succeeded.”

“Not yet,” he replied, proudly smiling, “but we are going to succeed.
Come, let us sit together, and let me tell you what has occurred, and my
plan.”

They sat down, with their arms around each other, and he told her all,
and what he was going to do. She listened to the end in dreamful silence,
smiling faintly, and occasionally bending her graceful head in assent to
his designs.

“Now, what do you think?” he asked in conclusion. “How does the
enterprise strike you?”

“I like it,” she replied, half gaily. “It is bold, simple, and I think
you cannot fail of success. Go manfully then to the little battle for the
good cause, and come back with your shield, or upon it. My soul goes with
you.”

He folded her to his heart, proudly smiling.

“Dear friend, brave wife,” he said, fondly. “Thank heaven that we are
wedded for life’s duties and life’s ends! Oh, blessed love that has not
shut us in a private luxury, careless of liberty and justice and the
tears of man! Yes—I will go on this enterprise of mercy, and I feel I
shall succeed.”

They sat in fervent communion till the twilight fell. Emily came in as
it began to darken, and they had just finished telling her what was to be
done, and were charging her to say nothing of it to Mrs. Eastman, when
Wentworth arrived in great spirits.

“All right,” he cried, upon entering. “The deed is done, and I feel like
Benvenuto Cellini when he drew his rapier, and fought the whole gang of
the Pope’s soldiers, single-handed, pinking a couple of dozen of the
rascals. Ha! that was an artist for you! Oh, Benvenuto was a regular
brick, he was.”

“Now, Richard! Slang again,” chided Emily.

“Slang? I deny it,” returned Wentworth, impudently. “Now what did I say?”

“You said Cellini was a brick,” said Emily, laughing.

“So he was,” retorted Wentworth, gaily. “A regular brick. Call brick
slang? Why, it’s one of the finest epithets in the English language!
What other term could you use that is half as expressive? And what was
language made for but to express our ideas with adequacy, propriety, and
elegance? Oh, by Jupiter! but I’ll stick to brick like mortar!”

“So you have Johnny,” observed Harrington, laughing.

“Yes. He’s to start from the stable at about half-past twelve and drive
over to Q street to bring home a small fishing-party,” replied Wentworth,
with a satirical air. “A party that goes down the harbor to catch
black-fish.”

“I hope the party won’t catch a tartar,” said Emily, jestingly.

“Nor a cold,” added Muriel. “But there’s the tea-bell.”

They arose and went down to the tea-room, talking and laughing gaily.

After tea they returned for a short time to the library. Presently, Mrs.
Eastman, feeling unwell, left them, and retired for the night, attended
by Muriel, who, filled with compassion for her poor mother, went with her
to her chamber and stayed till she was asleep.

She was gone about half an hour, and returning to the lighted library at
the expiration of that time, found the three chatting together.

“Now, I am going to leave you two,” said Harrington, rising, and
addressing Wentworth and Emily. “Muriel, I feel weary with the
excitements of this day, and as I shall want all my freshness and vigor
for this adventure, I am going up-stairs to sleep an hour or two.
Richard, I’ll see you at the boat.”

“Good,” responded Wentworth. “Au revoir.”

Harrington bent his head smilingly to them both, and putting his arm
around Muriel’s waist, drew her with him from the room.

“Sleep will be twice sleep with you near me,” he tenderly murmured,
bending his face down to hers, as they went up the stairs together.

“Ah,” she said, with pensive playfulness, “I was afraid you were going to
leave me in exile while you slept, and I do not wish to be away from you
now.”

He did not answer, but clasped her a little closer to him, and they
ascended in silence to their chamber.

She silently lighted a sconce upon the wall, which shed through its
ground-glass globe a mellow moony light upon the pure and virginal room,
with its furniture of white and gold, and its cloudlike couch, overhung
with a drooping fall of filmy gauze. Then going to a closet, she took
from thence a slender crystal flask covered with golden arabesques, and
brought it to him.

“See,” she said, “My Greek friend, Kestor, made me a present of this
more than a year ago. It is Greek wine. Yes—the vine that gave us this
grew from the soil of the antique heroes. I have kept it for some great
occasion, and to-night before you go, you and I will drink it.”

Smiling, he took the flask from her hand and held it to the light,
looking at the clear rosy-golden glow of the fine liquid.

“It is beautiful,” he said. “Too beautiful to drink. One might fancy this
such wine as Leonidas and the Three Hundred drank at the last banquet
before they sallied from the immortal pass and fell upon the hosts of
Xerxes. It looks fit for the veins of heroes.”

“And heroes’ wives,” she playfully added, with a charming smile.
“Therefore, you and I will drink it, pledging the enterprise. But we must
have some glasses.”

She rang, and presently one of the maids came up, went, and returned
again with half a dozen small goblets on a tray.

“Well,” said Muriel, laughing as she looked at the tray, “with six
glasses we can drink pledges. Good. Now let us sleep.”

Turning the light low, she unbound her tresses, and lying down with him,
kissed his eyelids with soft and dewy kisses.

“Sleep sweetly, my beloved,” she murmured. “It is the fourth night. A
very little night, but the fifth night will be sweet and long, and full
of rest.”

He did not reply, but gently kissed her, and with their souls stilled
with ineffable tenderness they sank away together in a slumber, innocent
and sweet as that of childhood.

The room was dim around that tranquil rest, and the faint light softly
showed the forms of the reposing lovers. Locked in each other’s arms,
with the snowy films drooping from the golden ring in the ceiling in
long and flowing festoons around them, they lay like some fair picture
of immortal love and peace shadowed within the clear depths of a magic
mirror in a light of darkling dawn.

An hour melted slowly by, and during that hour, folded to her bosom, and
breathing the balm of her parted lips, the rest of Harrington was sweet
and deep. Then a strange dream outgrew upon his brain from the oblivion
of his slumber.

He was running cautiously along a vaulted archway of the rude Saxon
architecture, toward a flight of five or six stone steps, which led up
into the open air. It was in Saxon England, in some time of trouble, and
he was a young Saxon. He saw himself clothed in a short, brown tunic,
belted at the waist, and reaching nearly to the knees, which were bare,
and with leather buskins on his feet. As it often happens in dreams, he
both was that figure, and saw it. It was himself, but utterly unlike
himself both in aspect and character. The head was uncovered, save by
short, dark, curling hair; the face was youthful, unbearded, mild and
timid in expression, with the cheeks rather wan; and the figure was that
of a slight and strengthless stripling. A sense of general carnage was
in the air of the dream, and it seemed as if in that form, he was seeking
to escape from enemies. Too gentle and weak in nature to feel violent
fear, he had only a timorous and innocent apprehension of his danger;
and in this mood, running on to the steps, and ascending, suddenly the
opening of the archway filled with armed warriors, and as he shrank on
the point of turning to flee, their long axes fell upon him, and he was
slain.

He awoke instantly, not with a start, but by simply unclosing his eyes.
The dream was vivid, but not frightful, and waking without alarm, his
first and only thought was that it was a memory of an old avatar in which
he had lived on earth in a different organization than he had now, and
had been killed young. For a moment this feeling came clearly to him, and
then sensible of where he was, and of the sweet face breathing balm so
near his own, his eyelids closed with an irresistible drowsiness, and he
slept on.

His sleep was undisturbed for about half an hour when another strange
dream slid upon his mind. He was sitting up awake in a bed alone by
himself, and though the bed was in a room, it was yet, by some singular
ubiquity, which still was not incongruous or wonderful, on the sidewalk
of some unfamiliar street. Sitting upright in it in his night-clothes
in a broad, grey daylight, and looking over his shoulder, he saw far,
far away an illimitable waste of snow, out of which thousands upon
thousands of piteous and imploring negro faces looked toward him. He had
the feeling that these were the faces of the thirty thousand fugitives
who at that period had fled to Canada. While he gazed at them, he beheld
coming down the street on the pavement, a long procession of the Boston
merchants, all familiar to him, respectable and cosy citizens whom he
often saw about town, or on ’Change. They all wore their usual garb and
aspect, but as they passed by his bed they all changed, yet without
seeming to change, into medieval Jews, with long avaricious faces and
drooping beards and stooping shoulders, and eyes bent obliquely upon the
ground before them. Every hand clutched a money-bag, and every form wore
the conical hat and the long Jewish gaberdine of Shylock. So they passed
him, and when they had passed they were Boston merchants again, while the
rest coming on changed, yet did not seem to change, into money-greedy
Jews as they went by, and resumed their previous forms, though without
seeming to resume them, when they had reached a certain vague limit.
All this did not in the least surprise him, or seem extraordinary,
or unusual, but wearying at last of the interminable and monotonous
procession, he sighed and awoke.

Her dreaming face was still near him, and the cool balm of her breath
touched his sense with sweet and sad ecstasy. There was a moment of
unutterable weary sorrow, in which the bitter symbolism of his vision
lingered with him, and then, with a feeling of melancholy comfort, his
heavy eyelids drooped, and he slept again.

He had a consciousness that he had slept long, and with this in his mind,
his sleeping soul awoke in a third dream. He had left his body and was in
the air of the chamber. Spiritually light and poised, with the delicious
sense of being able to float upward at will, he was looking down upon the
couch, with the quiet room around him. He saw his body lying folded in
her arms, the face sleeping close to her own. He saw how that face looked
to others, and felt a dim wonder at its strangeness to his own eyes. His
gaze dwelt with calm and holy tenderness, undisturbed by any regret, upon
the beautiful and noble face of his beloved, sleeping in its shadowy
tresses, its curved lips slightly parted, and all its clear and graceful
lines composed in slumber. A thrill of silent blessing and farewell stole
softly through his being, and with the feeling that he must go, he slowly
floated backward through the wall, which made no more resistance than
air. A trance fell upon him as he passed through, and seemed to last,
though he had no sense of time, till he found himself alone in a rich
and holy garden. The strange flowers were thick and deep, and wonderful
in mystic beauty, and though of many rare and lovely colors, the still
and tender living glory that brooded on all, gave them something of the
rich pallor of flowers seen in some imaginary pearl and purple moonlight
stiller and fairer than melts from any moon of ours. Or rather, they
seemed pale with their own ecstasy of heavenly odor, for they filled
the soft, self-luminous air with a fragrance which dissolved through
all his being in ethereal and tranquil rapture. Filled with celestial
bliss, he wandered on through the purpureal glory of the garden, under
the holy shadow of strange trees, and amidst the myriad blowing clusters
of the flowers, while the songs of birds sounded in liquid melody around
him, and yet did not break the divine silence of the solemn Paradise.
And wandering on, he turned a curve of the path, and came upon the
gracious presence of the man he loved. He knew the majestic front, the
vast brow, the sweet and piercing eye of Verulam, and like a younger
brother yearning with affection, he drew nigh and laid his head upon his
breast. The arms gently enfolded him; the regal face bent over his with a
tender and benignant smile; and thrilling with the slow sweetness of an
unutterable ecstasy, he seemed to sink into the swoon of the soul, and
the vision was gone.

Her arms had fallen away from him in her slumber, and noiselessly rising
as he awoke, he sat on the edge of the couch, and leaned his damp brow on
his hand, his brain light and clear, his frame drenched in the renewing
dew of sleep, and throbbing with the remembered bliss of his dream, and
one still solemn thought distinct in his mind. He was to die! The meaning
of that dream was death! A slow thrill ran through his veins as he
thought of it. Yes, that was its meaning. He was to die!

He sat still for some minutes, with that thought in his mind. Gradually
the sweetness of the dream failed from him, merged in a ghostly sense
of the quietude around him. He looked up with a feeling of awe. The
dim lamplight faintly lit the pure and shadowy chamber. All was vague,
motionless, indefinite. Nothing seemed distinct or living, but that
strange and awful conviction, too strong for any doubt, that he was to
die.

Turning slowly, he gazed upon the face of Muriel. The last lingering
relic of the sweetness of his dream failed from him as he looked upon
her. His young wife. How could he bear to leave her! Four days of
heavenly joy with her—heavenly even in the sorrow that had lain upon the
last; four little days—the divine dawn of a long life of happiness—only
four, and this was to be the end! The golden gates of a beautiful
existence, affluent of use and influence and fame, just opened to him
with her, and now to close forever. To lay down all the deliciousness,
the joys, the hopes, the ambitions of life, for the happiness of two poor
negro brothers. For their poor trampled rights to abandon life—oh, above
all, to resign her! To die, and leave her on earth alone, her bursting
day-spring of happy and noble love quenched in the black and blotting
cloud of death. To die—to die and leave her.

Icy cold, yet with a burning brain, and slow thrills creeping through the
horror of his veins, he turned away, and sat still. Hark! In the silence
came the distant sound from a steeple striking the hour. He counted the
slow strokes. Eleven. He looked at his watch. It was eleven o’clock. In
one hour more he was to go.

He looked around the quiet room. Life never seemed to him so sweet as
then. In contrast to the stillness and seclusion, the peaceful comfort
and warm luxury of the restful chamber, came the vision of the bare and
open night upon the bleak waste of waters, and he in the lonely boat with
those rude men, thinking of the gentle being he had left behind him. A
sense as of one who shivers out under the winter stars, and turns to
the warm firelight and the cheerful faces of friends in the cosy glow
of home, came to him, and with it came temptation like a voice. Turn
from this purpose—turn to love and life! You have been staunch and true
in human kind