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Crawfords Consistency by By Henry James

 

WE were great friends, and it was natural that he should have let me know with all the promptness of his ardour that his happiness was complete. Ardour is here, perhaps, a misleading word, for Crawfords passion burned with a still and hidden flame; if he had written sonnets to his mistress's eyebrow, he had never declaimed them in public. But he was deeply in love; he had been full of tremulous hopes and fears, and his happiness, for several weeks, had hung by a hair——the extremely fine line that appeared to divide the yea and nay of the young lady's parents. The scale descended at last with their heavily-weighted consent in it, and Crawford gave himself up to tranquil bliss. He came to see me at my office——my name, on the little tin placard beneath my window, was garnished with an M. D., as vivid as new gilding could make it——long before that period of the morning at which my irrepressible buoyancy had succumbed to the teachings of experience (as it usually did about twelve o'clock), and resigned itself to believe that that particular day was not to be distinguished by the advent of the female form that haunted my dreams——the confiding old lady, namely, with a large account at the bank, and a mild, but expensive chronic malady. On that day I quite forgot the paucity of my patients and the vanity of my hopes in my enjoyment of Crawfords contagious felicity. If we had been less united in friendship, I might have envied him; but as it was, with my extreme admiration and affection for him, I felt for half an hour as if I were going to marry the lovely Elizabeth myself. I reflected after he had left me that I was very glad I was not, for lovely as Miss Ingram was, she had always inspired me with a vague mistrust. There was no harm in her, certainly; but there was nothing else either. I don't know to what I compared her to a blushing rose that had no odour, to a blooming peach that had no taste. All that nature had asked of her was to be the prettiest girl of her time, and this request she obeyed to the letter. But when, of a morning, she had opened wide her beautiful, candid eyes, and half parted her clear, pink lips, and gathered up her splendid golden tresses, her day, as far as her own opportunity was concerned, was at an end; she had put her house in order, and she could fold her arms. She did so invariably, and it was in this attitude that Crawford saw her and fell in love with her. I could heartily congratulate him, for the fact that a blooming statue would make no wife for me, did not in the least discredit his own choice. I was human and erratic; I had an uneven temper and a prosaic soul. I wished to get as much as I gave——to be the planet, in short, and not the satellite. But Crawford had really virtue enough for two——enough of vital fire, of intelligence and devotion. He could afford to marry an inanimate beauty, for he had the wisdom which would supply her shortcomings, and the generosity which would forgive them.

Crawford was a tall man, and not particularly well made. He had, however, what is called a gentlemanly figure, and he had a very fine head——the head of a man of books, a student, a philosopher, such as he really was. He had a dark colouring, thin, fine black hair, a very clear, lucid, dark grey eye, and features of a sort of softly vigorous outline. It was as if his face had been cast first in a rather rugged and irregular mould, and the image had then been lightly retouched, here and there, by some gentler, more feminine hand. His expression was singular; it was a look which I can best describe as a sort of intelligent innocence——the look of an absent-minded seraph. He knew, if you insisted upon it, about the corruptions of this base world; but, left to himself, he never thought of them. What he did think of; I can hardly tell you: of a great many things, often, in which I was not needed. Of this, long and well as I had known him, I was perfectly conscious. I had never got behind him, as it were; I had never walked all round him. He was reserved, as I am inclined to think that all first rate men are; not capriciously or consciously reserved, but reserved in spite of, and in the midst of, an extreme frankness. For most people he was a clear-visaged, scrupulously polite young man, who, in giving up business so suddenly, had done a thing which required a good deal of charitable explanation, and who was not expected to express any sentiments more personal than a literary opinion re-enforced by the name of some authority, as to whose titles and attributes much vagueness of knowledge was excusable. For me, his literary opinions were the lightest of his sentiments; his good manners, too, I am sure, cost him nothing. Bad manners are the result of irritability, and as Crawford was not irritable he found civility very easy. But if his urbanity was not victory over a morose disposition, it was at least the expression of a very agreeable character. He talked a great deal, though not volubly, stammering a little, and casting about him for his words. When you suggested one, he always accepted it thankfully,——though he sometimes brought in a little later the expression he had been looking for and which had since occurred to him. He had a great deal of gayety, and made jokes and enjoyed them laughing constantly, with a laugh that was not so much audible as visible. He was extremely deferential to old people, and among the fairer sex, his completest conquests, perhaps, were the ladies of sixty-five and seventy. He had also a great kindness for shabby people, if they were only shabby enough, and I remember seeing him, one summer afternoon, carrying a baby across a crowded part of Broadway, accompanied by its mother,——a bewildered pauper, lately arrived from Europe. Crawfords father had left him a very good property; his income, in New York, in those days, passed for a very easy one. Mr. Crawford was a cotton-broker, and on his son's leaving college, he took him into his business. But shortly after his fathers death he sold out his interest in the firm very quietly, and without asking any ones advice, because, as he told me, he hated buying and selling. There were other things, of course, in the world that he hated too, but this is the only thing of which I remember to have heard him say it. He had a large house, quite to himself (he had lost his mother early, and his brothers were dispersed) he filled it with books and scientific instruments, and passed most of his time in reading and in making awkward experiments. He had the tastes of a scholar, and he consumed a vast number of octavos; but in the way of the natural sciences, his curiosity was greater than his dexterity. I used to laugh at his experiments and, as a thrifty neophyte in medicine, to deprecate his lavish expenditure of precious drugs. Unburdened, independent, master of an all-sufficient fortune, and of the best education that the country could afford, good-looking, gallant, amiable, urbane——Crawford at seven and twenty might fairly be believed to have drawn the highest prizes in life. And, indeed, except that it was a pity he had not stuck to business, no man heard a word of disparagement either of his merit or of his felicity. On the other hand, too, he was not envied——envied at any rate with any degree of bitterness. We are told that though the world worships success, it hates successful people. Certainly it never hated Crawford. Perhaps he was not regarded in the light of a success, but rather of an ornament, of an agreeable gift to society. The world likes to be pleased, and there was something pleasing in Crawfords general physiognomy and position. They rested the eyes; they were a gratifying change. Perhaps we were even a little proud of having among us so harmonious an embodiment of the amenities of life.

In spite of his bookish tastes and habits, Crawford was not a recluse. I remember his once saying to me that there were some sacrifices that only a man of genius was justified in making to science, and he knew very well that he was not a man of genius. He was not, thank heaven; if he had been, he would have been a much more difficult companion. It was never apparent, indeed, that he was destined to make any great use of his acquisitions. Every one supposed, of course, that he would write something; but he never put pen to paper. He liked to bury his nose in books for the hours pleasure; he had no dangerous arrière pensée , and he was simply a very perfect specimen of a class which has fortunately always been numerous——the class of men who contribute to the advancement of learning by zealously opening their ears and religiously closing their lips. He was fond of society, and went out, as the phrase is, a great deal,——the mammas in especial, making him extremely welcome. What the daughters, in general, thought of him, I hardly know; I suspect that the younger ones often preferred worse men. Crawfords merits were rather thrown away upon little girls. To a considerable number of wise virgins, however, he must have been an object of high admiration, and if a good observer had been asked to pick out in the whole town, the most propitious victim to matrimony, he would certainly have designated my friend. There was nothing to be said against him there was not a shadow in the picture. He himself; indeed, pretended to be in no hurry to marry, and I heard him more than once declare, that he did not know what he should do with a wife, or what a wife would do with him. Of course we often talked of this matter, and I——upon whom the burden of bachelorhood sat heavy——used to say, that in his place, with money to keep a wife, I would change my condition on the morrow. Crawford gave a great many opposing reasons; of course the real one was that he was very happy as he was, and that the most circumspect marriage is always a risk.

“A man should only marry in self-defence,” he said, “as Luther——became Protestant. He should wait till he is driven to the wall.”

Some time passed and our Luther stood firm. I began to despair of ever seeing a pretty Mrs. Crawford offer me a white hand from my friends fireside, and I had to console myself with the reflection, that some of the finest persons of whom history makes mention, had been celibates, and that a desire to lead a single life is not necessarily a proof of a morose disposition.

“Oh, I give you up,” I said at last. “I hoped that if you did not many for your own sake, you would at least marry for mine. It would make your house so much pleasanter for me. But you have no heart! To avenge myself, I shall myself take a wife on the first opportunity. She shall be as pretty as a picture, and you shall never enter my doors.”

“No man should be accounted single till he is dead,” said Crawford. “I have been reading Stendhal lately, and learning the philosophy of the coup de foudre. It is not impossible that there is a coup de foudre waiting for me. All I can say is that it will be lightning from a clear sky.”

The lightning fell, in fact, a short time afterward. Crawford saw Miss Ingram, admired her, observed her, and loved her. The impression she produced upon him was indeed a sort of summing up of the impression she produced upon society at large. The circumstances of her education and those under which she made her first appearance in the world, were such as to place her beauty in extraordinary relief. She had been brought up more in the manner of an Italian princess of the middle ages——sequestered from conflicting claims of ward-ship than as the daughter of a plain American citizen. Up to her eighteenth year, it may be said, mortal eye had scarcely beheld her; she lived behind high walls and triple locks, through which an occasional rumour of her beauty made its way into the world. Mrs. Ingram was a second or third cousin of my mother, but the two ladies, between whom there reigned a scanty sympathy, had never made much of the kinship; I had inherited no claim to intimacy with the family, and Elizabeth was a perfect stranger to me. Her parents had, for economy, gone to live in the country——at Orange——and it was there, in a high-hedged old garden, that her childhood and youth were spent. The first definite mention of her loveliness came to me from old Dr. Beadle, who had been called to attend her in a slight illness. (The Ingrams were poor, but their daughter was their golden goose, and to secure the most expensive medical skill was but an act of common prudence.) Dr. Beadle had a high appreciation of a pretty patient; he, of course, kept it within bounds on the field of action, but he enjoyed expressing it afterward with the freedom of a profound anatomist, to a younger colleague. Elizabeth Ingram, according to this report, was perfect in every particular, and she was being kept in cotton in preparation for her debut in New York. He talked about her for a quarter of an hour, and concluded with an eloquent pinch of snuff; whereupon I remembered that she was, after a fashion, my cousin, and that pretty cousins are a source of felicity, in this hard world, which no man can afford to neglect. I took a holiday, jumped into the train, and arrived at Orange. There, in a pretty cottage, in a shaded parlour, I found a small, spare woman with a high forehead and a pointed chin, whom I immediately felt to be that Sabrina Ingram, in her occasional allusions to whom my poor mother had expended the very small supply of acerbity with which nature had intrusted her.

“I am told my cousin is extremely beautiful,” I said. “I should like so much to see her.”

The interview was not prolonged. Mrs. Ingram was frigidly polite; she answered that she was highly honoured by my curiosity, but that her daughter had gone to spend the day with a friend ten miles away. On my departure, as I turned to latch the garden gate behind me, I saw dimly through an upper window, the gleam of a golden head, and the orbits of two gazing eyes. I kissed my hand to the apparition, and agreed with Dr. Beadle that my cousin was a beauty. But if her image had been dim, that of her mother had been distinct,

They came up to New York the next winter, took a house, gave a great party, and presented the young girl to an astonished world. I succeeded in making little of our cousinship, for Mrs. Ingram did not approve of me, and she gave Elizabeth instructions in consequence. Elizabeth obeyed them, gave me the tips of her fingers, and answered me in monosyllables. Indifference was never more neatly expressed, and I wondered whether this was mere passive compliance, or whether the girl had put a grain of her own intelligence into it. She appeared to have no more intelligence than a snowy-fleeced lamb, but I fancied that she was, by instinct, a shrewd little politician. Nevertheless, I forgave her, for my last feeling about her was one of compassion. She might be as soft as swan's-down, I said; it could not be a pleasant thing to be her mother's daughter, all the same. Mrs. Ingram had black bands of hair, without a white thread, which descended only to the tops of her ears, and were there spread out very wide, and polished like metallic plates. She had small, conscious eyes, and the tall white forehead I have mentioned, which resembled a high gable beneath a steep roof. Her chin looked like her forehead reversed, and her lips were perpetually graced with a thin, false smile. I had seen how little it cost them to tell a categorical fib. Poor Mr. Ingram was a helpless colossus; an immense man with a small plump face, a huge back to his neck, and a pair of sloping shoulders. In talking to you, he generally looked across at his wife, and it was easy to see that he was mortally afraid of her.

For this lady's hesitation to bestow her daughters hand upon Crawford, there was a sufficiently good reason. He had money, but he had not money enough. It was a very comfortable match, but it was not a splendid one, and Mrs. Ingram, in putting the young girl forward, had primed herself with the highest expectations. The marriage was so good that it was a vast pity it was not a little better. If Crawford's income had only been twice as large again, Mrs. Ingram would have pushed Elizabeth into his arms, relaxed in some degree the consuming eagerness with which she viewed the social field, and settled down, possibly, to contentment and veracity. That was a bad year in the matrimonial market, for higher offers were not freely made. Elizabeth was greatly admired, but the ideal suitor did not present himself. I suspect that Mrs. Ingram's charms as a mother-in-law had been accurately gauged. Crawford pushed his suit, with low-toned devotion, and he was at last accepted with a good grace. There had been, I think, a certain amount of general indignation at his being kept waiting, and Mrs. Ingram was accused here and there, of not knowing a first-rate man when she saw one. “I never said she was honest,” a trenchant critic was heard to observe, “but at least I supposed she was clever.” Crawford was not afraid of her; he told me so distinctly. “I defy her to quarrel with me,” he said, “and I don't despair of making her like me.”

“Like you!” I answered. “That's easily done. The difficulty will be in your liking her.”

“Oh, I do better——I admire her,” he said. “She knows so perfectly what she wants. It's a rare quality. I shall have a very fine woman for my mother-in-law.”

Elizabeth's own preference bore down the scale in Crawford's favour a little, I think; how much I hardly know. She liked him, and thought her mother took little account of her likes (and the young girl was too well-behaved to expect it). Mrs. Ingram reflected probably that her pink and white complexion would last longer if she were married to a man she fancied. At any rate, as I have said, the engagement was at last announced, and Crawford came in person to tell me of it. I had never seen a happier-looking man; and his image, as I beheld it that morning, has lived in my memory all these years, as an embodiment of youthful confidence and deep security. He had said that the art of knowing what one wants was rare, but he apparently possessed it. He had got what he wanted, and the sense of possession was exquisite to him. I see again my shabby little consulting-room, with an oil-cloth on the floor, and a paper, representing seven hundred and forty times (I once counted them) a young woman with a pitcher on her head, on the walls; and in the midst of it I see Crawford standing upright, with his thumbs in the arm-holes of his waistcoat, his head thrown back, and his eyes as radiant as two planets.

“You are too odiously happy,” I said. “I should like to give you a dose of something to tone you down.”

“If you could give me a sleeping potion,” he answered, “I should be greatly obliged to you. Being engaged is all very well, but I want to be married. I should like to sleep through my engagement——to wake up and find myself a husband.”

“Is your wedding-day fixed?” I asked.

“The twenty-eighth of April——three months hence. I declined to leave the house last night before it was settled. I offered three weeks, but Elizabeth laughed me to scorn. She says it will take a month to make her wedding-dress. Mrs. Ingram has a list of reasons as long as your arm, and every one of them is excellent; that is the abomination of it. She has a genius for the practical. I mean to profit by it; I shall make her turn my mill-wheel for me. But meanwhile its an eternity!”

“Don't complain of good things lasting long,” said I. “Such eternities are always too short. I have always heard that the three months before marriage are the happiest time of life. I advise you to make the most of these.”

“Oh, I am happy, I don't deny it,” cried Crawford. “But I propose to be happier yet.” And he marched away with the step of a sun-god beginning his daily circuit.

He was happier yet, in the sense that with each succeeding week he became more convinced of the charms of Elizabeth Ingram, and more profoundly attuned to the harmonies of prospective matrimony. I, of course, saw little of him, for he was always in attendance upon his betrothed, at the dwelling of whose parents I was a rare visitor. Whenever I did see him, he seemed to have sunk another six inches further into the mystic depths. He formally swallowed his words when I recalled to him his former brave speeches about the single life.

“All I can say is,” he answered, “that I was an immeasurable donkey. Every argument that I formerly used in favour of not marrying, now seems to me to have an exactly opposite application. Every reason that used to seem to me so good for not taking a wife, now seems to me the best reason in the world for taking one. I not to marry, of all men on earth! Why, I am made on purpose for it, and if the thing did not exist, I should have invented it. In fact, I think I have invented some little improvements in the institution——of an extremely conservative kind——and when I put them into practice, you shall tell me what you think of them.”

This lasted several weeks. The day after Crawford told me of his engagement, I had gone to pay my respects to the two ladies, but they were not at home, and I wrote my compliments on a card. I did not repeat my visit until the engagement had become an old story——some three weeks before the date appointed for the marriage——I had then not seen Crawford in several days. I called in the evening, and was ushered into a small parlour reserved by Mrs. Ingram for familiar visitors. Here I found Crawfords mother-in-law that was to be, seated, with an air of great dignity, on a low chair, with her hands folded rigidly in her lap, and her chin making an acuter angle than ever. Before the fire stood Peter Ingram, with his hands under his coat-tails; as soon as I came in, he fixed his eyes upon his wife. She has either just been telling, or she is just about to tell, some particularly big fib, I said to myself. Then I expressed my regret at not having found my cousin at home upon my former visit, and hoped it was not too late to offer my felicitations upon Elizabeth's marriage.

For some moments, Mr. Ingram and his wife were silent; after which, Mrs. Ingram said with a little cough, “It is too late.”

“Really?” said I. “What has happened?”

“Had we better tell him, my dear?” asked Mr. Ingram.

“I didn't mean to receive any one,” said Mrs. Ingram. “It was a mistake your coming in.”

“I don't offer to go,” I answered, “because I suspect that you have some sorrow. I couldn't think of leaving you at such a moment.”

Mr. Ingram looked at me with huge amazement. I don't think he detected my irony, but he had a vague impression that I was measuring my wits with his wife. His ponderous attention acted upon me as an incentive, and I continued,

“Crawford has been behaving badly, I suspect?——Oh, the shabby fellow!”

“Oh, not exactly behaving,” said Mr. Ingram; “not exactly badly. We can't say that, my dear, eh?”

“It is proper the world should know it,” said Mrs. Ingram, addressing herself to me; “and as I suspect you are a great gossip, the best way to diffuse the information will be to intrust it to you.”

“Pray tell me,” I said bravely, “and you may depend upon it the world shall have an account of it.” By this time I knew what was coming. “Perhaps you hardly need tell me,” I went on. “I have guessed your news; it is indeed most shocking. Crawford has broken his engagement!”

Mrs. Ingram started up, surprised into self-betrayal. “Oh, really?” she cried, with a momentary flash of elation. But in an instant she perceived that I had spoken fantastically, and her elation flickered down into keen annoyance. But she faced the situation with characteristic firmness. “We have broken the engagement,” she said. “Elizabeth has broken it with our consent.”

“You have turned Crawford away?” I cried.

“We have requested him to consider everything at an end.”

“Poor Crawford!” I exclaimed with ardour. At this moment the door was thrown open, and Crawford in person stood on the threshold. He paused an instant, like a falcon hovering; then he darted forward at Mr. Ingram.

“In heavens name,” he cried, “what is the meaning of your letter?”

Mr. Ingram looked frightened and backed majestically away. “Really, sir,” he said; “I must beg you to desist from your threats.”

Crawford turned to Mrs. Ingram; he was intensely pale and profoundly agitated. “Please tell me,” he said, stepping toward her with clasped hands. “I don't understand——I can't take it this way. It's a thunderbolt!”

“We were in hopes you would have the kindness not to make a scene,” said Mrs. Ingram. “It is very painful for us, too, but we cannot discuss the matter. I was afraid you would come.”

“Afraid I would come!” cried Crawford. “Could you have believed I would not come? Where is Elizabeth?”

“You cannot see her!”

“I cannot see her?”

“It is impossible. It is her wish,” said Mrs. Ingram.

Crawford stood staring, his eyes distended with grief; and rage, and helpless wonder. I have never seen a man so thoroughly agitated, but I have also never seen a man exert such an effort at self-control. He sat down; and then, after a moment——"What have I done?” he asked.

Mr. Ingram walked away to the window, and stood closely examining the texture of the drawn curtains. “You have done nothing, my dear Mr. Crawford,” said Mrs. Ingram. “We accuse you of nothing. We are very reasonable; I'm sure you can't deny that, whatever you may say. Mr. Ingram explained everything in the letter. We have simply thought better of it. We have decided that we can't part with our child for the present. She is all we have, and she is so very young. We ought never to have consented. But you urged us so, and we were so good-natured. We must keep her with us.”

“Is that all you have to say?” asked Crawford.

“It seems to me it is quite enough,” said Mrs. Ingram.

Crawford leaned his head on his hands. “I must have done something without knowing it,” he said at last. “In heavens name tell me what it is, and I will do penance and make reparation to the uttermost limit.”

Mr. Ingram turned round, rolling his expressionless eyes in quest of virtuous inspiration. “We can't say that you have done anything; that would be going too far. But if you had, we would have forgiven you.”

“Where is Elizabeth?” Crawford again demanded.

“In her own apartment,” said Mrs. Ingram majestically.

“Will you please to send for her?”

“Really, sir, we must decline to expose our child to this painful scene.”

“Your tenderness should have begun farther back. Do you expect me to go away without seeing her?”

“We request that you will.”

Crawford turned to me. “Was such a request ever made before?” he asked, in a trembling voice.

“For your own sake,” said Mrs. Ingram, “go away without seeing her.”

“For my own sake? What do you mean?”

Mrs. Ingram, very pale, and with her thin lips looking like the blades of a pair of scissors, turned to her husband. “Mr. Ingram,” she said, “rescue me from this violence. Speak outdo your duty.”

Mr. Ingram advanced with the air and visage of the stage manager of a theatre, when he steps forward to announce that the favourite of the public will not be able to play. “Since you drive us so hard, sir, we must tell the painful truth. My poor child would rather have had nothing said about it. The truth is that she has mistaken the character of her affection for you. She has a high esteem for you, but she does not love you.”

Crawford stood silent, looking with formidable eyes from the father to the mother. “I must insist upon seeing Elizabeth,” he said at last.

Mrs. Ingram gave a toss of her head. “Remember it was your own demand!” she cried, and rustled stiffly out of the room.

We remained silent; Mr. Ingram sat slowly rubbing his knees, and Crawford, pacing up and down, eyed him askance with an intensely troubled frown, as one might eye a person just ascertained to be liable to some repulsive form of dementia. At the end of five minutes, Mrs. Ingram returned, clutching the arm of her daughter, whom she pushed into the room. Then followed the most extraordinary scene of which I have ever been witness.

Crawford strode toward the young girl, and seized her by both hands; she let him take them; and stood looking at him. “Is this horrible news true?” he cried. “What infernal machination is at the bottom of it?”

Elizabeth Ingram appeared neither more nor less composed than on most occasions; the pink and white of her cheeks was as pure as usual, her golden tresses were as artistically braided, and her eyes showed no traces of weeping. Her face was never expressive, and at this moment it indicated neither mortification nor defiance. She met her lovers eyes with the exquisite blue of her own pupils, and she looked as beautiful as an angel. “I am very sorry that we must separate,” she said. “But I have mistaken the nature of my affection for you. I have the highest esteem for you, but I do not love you.”

I listened to this, and the clear, just faintly trembling, child-like tone in which it was uttered, with absorbing wonder. Was the girl the most consummate of actresses, or had she, literally, no more sensibility than an expensive wax doll? I never discovered, and she has remained to this day, one of the unsolved mysteries of my experience. I incline to believe that she was, morally, absolutely nothing but the hollow reed through which her mother spoke, and that she was really no more cruel now than she had been kind before. But there was something monstrous in her quiet, flute-like utterance of Crawfords damnation.

“Do you say this from your own heart, or have you been instructed to say it? You use the same words your father has just used.”

“What can the poor child do better in her trouble than use her fathers words?” cried Mrs. Ingram.

“Elizabeth,” cried Crawford, “you don't love me?”

“No, Mr. Crawford.”

“Why did you ever say so?”

“I never said so.”

He stared at her in amazement, and then, after a little——"It is very true,” he exclaimed. “You never said so. It was only I who said so.”

“Good-bye!” said Elizabeth; and turning away, she glided out of the room.

“I hope you are satisfied, sir,” said Mrs. Ingram. “The poor child is before all things sincere.”

In calling this scene the most extraordinary that I ever beheld, I had particularly in mind the remarkable attitude of Crawford at this juncture. He effected a change of base, as it were, under the eyes of the enemy——he descended to the depths and rose to the surface again. Horrified, bewildered, outraged, fatally wounded at heart, he took the full measure of his loss, gauged its irreparableness, and, by an amazing effort of the will, while one could count fifty, superficially accepted the situation.

“I have understood nothing!” he said. “Good-night.”

He went away, and of course I went with him. Outside the house, in the darkness, he paused and looked around at me.

“What were you doing there?” he asked.

“I had come——rather late in the day——to pay a visit of congratulation. I rather missed it.”

“Do you understand——can you imagine?” He had taken his hat off; and he was pressing his hand to his head.

“They have backed out, simply!” I said. “The marriage had never satisfied their ambition——you were not rich enough. Perhaps they have heard of something better.”

He stood gazing, lost in thought. “They,” I had said; but he, of course, was thinking only of her; thinking with inexpressible bitterness. He made no allusion to her, and I never afterward heard him make one. I felt a great compassion for him, but knew not how to help him, nor hardly, even, what to say. It would have done me good to launch some objurgation against the precious little puppet, within doors, but this delicacy forbade. I felt that Crawfords silence covered a fathomless sense of injury; but the injury was terribly real, and I could think of no healing words. He was injured in his love and his pride, his hopes and his honour, his sense of justice and of decency.

“To treat me so!” he said at last, in a low tone. “Me! me!——are they blind——are they imbecile? Haven't they seen what I have been to them——what I was going to be?”

“Yes, they are blind brutes!” I cried. “Forget them——don't think of them again. They are not worth it.”

He turned away and, in the dark empty street, he leaned his arm on the iron railing that guarded a flight of steps, and dropped his head upon it. I left him standing so a few moments——I could just hear his sobs. Then I passed my arm into his own and walked home with him. Before I left him, he had recovered his outward composure.

After this, so far as one could see, he kept it uninterruptedly. I saw him the next day, and for several days afterward. He looked like a man who had had a heavy blow, and who had yet not been absolutely stunned. He neither raved nor lamented, nor descanted upon his wrong. He seemed to be trying to shuffle it away, to resume his old occupations, and to appeal to the good offices of the arch-healer, Time. He looked very ill——pale, preoccupied, heavy-eyed, but this was an inevitable tribute to his deep disappointment. He gave me no particular opportunity to make consoling speeches, and not being eloquent, I was more inclined to take one by force. Moral and sentimental platitudes always seemed to me particularly flat upon my own lips, and, addressed to Crawford, they would have been fatally so. Nevertheless, I once told him with some warmth, that he was giving signal proof of being a philosopher. He knew that people always end by getting over things, and he was showing himself able to traverse with a stride a great moral waste. He made no rejoinder at the moment, but an hour later, as we were separating, he told me, with some formalism, that he could not take credit for virtues he had not.

“I am not a philosopher,” he said; “on the contrary. And I am not getting over it.”

His misfortune excited great compassion among all his friends, and I imagine that this sentiment was expressed, in some cases, with well-meaning but injudicious frankness. The Ingrams were universally denounced, and whenever they appeared in public, at this time, were greeted with significant frigidity. Nothing could have better proved the friendly feeling, the really quite tender regard and admiration that were felt for Crawford, than the manner in which every one took up his cause. He knew it, and I heard him exclaim more than once with intense bitterness that he was that abject thing, an object of sympathy. Some people flattered themselves that they had made the town, socially speaking, too hot to hold Miss Elizabeth and her parents. The Ingram's anticipated by several weeks their projected departure for Newport——they had given out that they were to spend the summer there——and, quitting New York, quite left, like the gentleman in The School for Scandal, their reputations behind them.

I continued to observe Crawford with interest, and, although I did full justice to his wisdom and self-control, when the summer arrived I was ill at ease about him. He led exactly the life he had led before his engagement, and mingled with society neither more nor less. If he disliked to feel that pitying heads were being shaken over him, or voices lowered in tribute to his misadventure, he made at least no visible effort to ignore these manifestations, and he paid to the full the penalty of being interesting. But, on the other hand, he showed no disposition to drown his sorrow in violent pleasure, to deafen himself to its echoes. He never alluded to his disappointment, he discharged all the duties of politeness, and questioned people about their own tribulations or satisfactions as deferentially as if he had had no weight upon his heart. Nevertheless, I knew that his wound was rankling that he had received a dent, and that he would keep it. From this point onward, however, I do not pretend to understand his conduct. I only was witness of it, and I relate what I saw. I do not pretend to speak of his motives.

I had the prospect of leaving town for a couple of months——a friend and fellow-physician in the country having offered me his practice while he took a vacation. Before I went, I made a point of urging Crawford to seek a change of scene——to go abroad, to travel and distract himself.

“To distract myself from what?” he asked, with his usual clear smile.

“From the memory of the vile trick those people played you.”

“Do I look, do I behave as if I remembered it?” he demanded with sudden gravity.

“You behave very well, but I suspect that it is at the cost of a greater effort than it is wholesome for a man——quite unassisted——to make.”

“I shall stay where I am,” said Crawford, “and I shall behave as I have behaved to the end. I find the effort, so far as there is an effort, extremely wholesome.”

“Well, then,” said I, “I shall take great satisfaction in hearing that you have fallen in love again. I should be delighted to know that you were well married.”

He was silent a while, and then——"It is not impossible,” he said. But, before I left him, he laid his hand on my arm, and, after looking at me with great gravity for some time, declared that it would please him extremely that I should never again allude to his late engagement.

The night before I left town, I went to spend half an hour with him. It was the end of June, the weather was hot, and I proposed that instead of sitting indoors, we should take a stroll. In those days, there stood, in the centre of the city, a concert-garden, of a somewhat primitive structure, into which a few of the more adventurous representatives of the best society were occasionally seen——under stress of hot weather to penetrate. It had trees and arbours, and little fountains and small tables, at which ice-creams and juleps were, after hope deferred, dispensed. Its musical attractions fell much below the modern standard, and consisted of three old fiddlers playing stale waltzes, or an itinerant ballad-singer, vocalizing in a language perceived to be foreign, but not further identified, and accompanied by a young woman who performed upon the triangle, and collected tribute at the tables. Most of the frequenters of this establishment were people who wore their gentility lightly, or had none at all to wear; but in compensation (in the latter case), they were generally provided with a substantial sweetheart. We sat down among the rest, and had each a drink with a straw in it, while we listened to a cracked Italian tenor in a velvet jacket and ear-rings. At the end of half an hour, Crawford proposed we should withdraw, whereupon I busied myself with paying for our juleps. There was some delay in making change, during which, my attention wandered; it was some ten minutes before the waiter returned. When at last he restored me my dues, I said to Crawford that I was ready to depart. He was looking another way and did not hear me; I repeated my observation, and then he started a little, looked round, and said that he would like to remain longer. In a moment I perceived the apparent cause of his changing mind. I checked myself just in time from making a joke about it, and yet——as I did so——I said to myself that it was surely not a thing one could take seriously.

Two persons had within a few moments come to occupy a table near our own. One was a weak-eyed young man with a hat poised into artful crookedness upon a great deal of stiffly brushed and much-anointed straw-coloured hair, and a harmless scowl of defiance at the world in general from under certain bare visible eyebrows. The defiance was probably prompted by the consciousness of the attractions of the person who accompanied him. This was a woman, still young, and to a certain extent pretty, dressed in a manner which showed that she regarded a visit to a concert-garden as a thing to be taken seriously. Her beauty was of the robust order, her colouring high, her glance unshrinking, and her hands large and red. These last were encased in black lace mittens. She had a small dark eye, of a peculiarly piercing quality, set in her head as flatly as a button-hole in a piece of cotton cloth, and a lower lip which protruded beyond the upper one. She carried her head like a person who pretended to have something in it, and she from time to time surveyed the ample expanse of her corsage with a complacent sense of there being something in that too. She was a large woman, and, when standing upright, must have been much taller than her companion. She had a certain conscious dignity of demeanour, turned out her little finger as she ate her pink ice-cream, and said very little to the young man, who was evidently only her opportunity, and not her ideal. She looked about her, while she consumed her refreshment, with a hard, flat, idle stare, which was not that of an adventuress, but that of a person pretentiously and vulgarly respectable. Crawford, I saw, was observing her narrowly, but his observation was earnestly exercised, and she was not——at first, at least, aware of it. I wondered, nevertheless, why he was observing her. It was not his habit to stare at strange women, and the charms of this florid damsel were not such as to appeal to his fastidious taste.

“I see you are struck by our lovely neighbour,——I said. Have you ever seen her before?”

“Yes!” he presently answered. “In imagination!”

“One's imagination,” I answered, “would seem to be the last place in which to look for such a figure as that. She belongs to the most sordid reality.”

“She is very fine in her way,” said Crawford. “My image of her was vague; she is far more perfect. It is always interesting to see a supreme representation of any type, whether or no the type be one that we admire. That is the merit of our neighbour. She resumes a certain civilization; she is the last word——the flower.”

“The last word of coarseness, and the flower of commonness,” I interrupted. “Yes, she certainly has the merit of being unsurpassable, in her own line.”

“She is a very powerful specimen, he went on. She is complete.”

“What do you take her to be?”

Crawford did not answer for some time, and I suppose he was not heeding me. But at last he spoke. “She is the daughter of a woman who keeps a third-rate boarding-house in Lexington Avenue. She sits at the foot of the table and pours out bad coffee. She is considered a beauty, in the boarding-house. She makes out the bills for three weeks board, with week spelled weak. She has been engaged several times. That young man is one of the boarders, inclined to gallantry. He has invited her to come down here and have ice-cream, and she has consented, though she despises him. Her name is Matilda Jane. The height of her ambition is to be fashionable.”

“Where the deuce did you learn all this?” I asked. “I shouldn't wonder if it were true.”

“You may depend upon it that it is very near the truth. The boarding-house may be in the Eighth avenue, and the lady's name may be Araminta; but the general outline that I have given is correct.”

We sat awhile longer; Aramintor Matilda Jane finished her ice-cream, leaned back in her chair, and fanned herself with a newspaper, which her companion had drawn from his pocket, and she had folded for the purpose. She had by this time, I suppose, perceived Crawford's singular interest in her person, and she appeared inclined to allow him every facility for the gratification of it. She turned herself about, placed her head in attitudes, stroked her glossy tresses, crooked her large little finger more than ever, and gazed with sturdy coquetry at her incongruous admirer. I, who did not admire her, at last, for a second time, proposed an adjournment; but, to my surprise, Crawford simply put out his hand in farewell, and said that he himself would remain. I looked at him hard; it seemed to me that there was a spark of excitement in his eye which I had not seen for many weeks. I made some little joke which might have been taxed with coarseness; but he received it with perfect gravity, and dismissed me with an impatient gesture. I had not walked more than half a block away when I remembered some last word——it has now passed out of my mind——that I wished to say to my friend. It had, I suppose, some importance, for I walked back to repair my omission. I re-entered the garden and returned to the place where we had been sitting. It was vacant; Crawford had moved his chair, and was engaged in conversation with the young woman I have described. His back was turned to me and he was bending over, so that I could not see his face, and that I remained unseen by him. The lady herself was looking at him strangely; surprise, perplexity, pleasure, doubt as to whether fashionable manners required her to seem elated or offended at Crawfords overture, were mingled on her large, rosy face. Her companion appeared to have decided that his own dignity demanded of him grimly to ignore the intrusion; he had given his hat another cock, shouldered his stick like a musket, and fixed his eyes on the fiddlers. I stopped, embraced the group at a glance, and then quietly turned away and departed.

As a physician——as a physiologist——I had every excuse for taking what are called materialistic views of human conduct; but this little episode led me to make some reflections which, if they were not exactly melancholy, were at least tinged with the irony of the moralist. Men are all alike, I said, and the best is, at bottom, very little more delicate than the worst. If there was a man I should have called delicate, it had been Crawford; but he too was capable of seeking a vulgar compensation for an exquisite pain——he also was too weak to be faithful to a memory. Nevertheless I confess I was both amused and re-assured; a limit seemed set to the inward working of his resentment——he was going to take his trouble more easily and naturally. For the next few weeks I heard nothing from him; good friends as we were, we were poor correspondents, and as Crawford, moreover, had said about himself——What in the world had he to write about? I came back to town early in September, and on the evening after my return, called upon my friend. The servant who opened the door, and who showed me a new face, told me that Mr. Crawford had gone out an hour before. As I turned away from the house it suddenly occurred to me——I am quite unable to say why——that I might find him at the concert-garden to which we had gone together on the eve of my departure. The night was mild and beautiful, and——though I had not supposed that he had been in the interval a regular habitué of those tawdry bowers——a certain association of ideas directed my steps. I reached the garden and passed beneath the arch of paper lanterns which formed its glittering portal. The tables were all occupied, and I scanned the company in vain for Crawford's familiar face. Suddenly I perceived a countenance which, if less familiar, was, at least, vividly impressed upon my memory. The lady whom Crawford had ingeniously characterized as the daughter of the proprietress of a third-rate boarding-house was in possession of one of the tables where she was enthroned in assured pre-eminence. With a garland of flowers upon her bonnet, an azure scarf about her shoulders, and her hands flashing with splendid rings, she seemed a substantial proof that the Eighth avenue may, after all, be the road to fortune. As I stood observing her, her eyes met mine, and I saw that they were illumined with a sort of gross, good-humoured felicity. I instinctively connected Crawford with her transfiguration, and concluded that he was effectually reconciled to worldly joys. In a moment I saw that she recognized me; after a very brief hesitation she gave me a familiar nod. Upon this hint I approached her.

“You have seen me before,” she said. “You have not forgotten me.”

“It's impossible to forget you,” I answered, gallantly.

“It's a fact that no one ever does forget me?——I suppose I oughtn't to speak to you without being introduced. But wait a moment; there is a gentleman here who will introduce me. He has gone to get some cigars.” And she pointed to a gaily bedizened stall on the other side of the garden, before which, in the act of quitting it, his purchase made, I saw Crawford.

Presently he came up to us——he had evidently recognized me from afar. This had given him a few moments. But what, in such a case, were a few moments? He smiled frankly and heartily, and gave my hand an affectionate grasp. I saw, however, that in spite of his smile he was a little pale. He glanced toward the woman at the table, and then, in a clear, serene voice: “You have made acquaintance?” he said.

“Oh, I know him,” said the lady; “but I guess he don't know me! Introduce us.”

He mentioned my name, ceremoniously, as if he had been presenting me to a duchess. The woman leaned forward and took my hand in her heavily begemmed fingers. “How d'ye do, Doctor?” she said.

Then Crawford paused a moment, looking at me. My eyes rested on his, which, for an instant, were strange and fixed; they seemed to defy me to see anything in them that he wished me not to see. “Allow me to present you,” he said at last, in a tone I shall never forget——"allow me to present you to my wife.”

I stood staring at him; the woman still grasped my hand. She gave it a violent shake and broke into a loud laugh. “He don't believe it! There's my wedding-ring! And she thrust out the ample knuckles of her left hand.”

A hundred thoughts passed in a flash through my mind, and a dozen exclamations——tragical, ironical, farcical——rose to my lips. But I happily suppressed them all; I simply remained portentously silent, and seated myself mechanically in the chair which Crawford pushed toward me. His face was inscrutable, but in its urbane blankness I found a reflection of the glaring hideousness of his situation. He had committed a monstrous folly. As I sat there, for the next half-hour——it seemed an eternity——I was able to take its full measure. But I was able also to resolve to accept it, to respect it, and to side with poor Crawford, so far as I might, against the consequences of his deed. I remember of that half-hour little beyond a general, rapidly deepening sense of horror. The woman was in a talkative mood; I was the first of her husbands friends upon whom she had as yet been able to lay hands. She gave me much information——as to when they had been married (it was three weeks before), what she had had on, what her husband (she called him Mr. Crawford ) had given her, what she meant to do during the coming winter. “We are going to give a great ball,” she said, “the biggest ever seen in New York. It will open the winter, and I shall be introduced to all his friends. They will want to see me, dreadfully, and there will be sure to be a crowd. I don't know whether they will come twice, but they will come once, I'll engage.”

She complained of her husband refusing to take her on a wedding-tour——was ever a woman married like that before? “I'm not sure its a good marriage, without a wedding-tour,” she said. “I always thought that to be really man and wife, you had to go to Niagara, or Saratoga, or some such place. But he insists on sticking here in New York; he says he has his reasons. He gave me that to keep me here. And she made one of her rings twinkle.”

Crawford listened to this, smiling, unflinching, unwinking. Before we separated——to say something——I asked Mrs. Crawford if she liked music? The fiddlers were scraping away. She turned her empty glass upside down, and with a thump on the table——"I like that!” she cried. It was most horrible. We rose, and Crawford tenderly offered her his arm; I looked at him with a kind of awe.

I went to see him repeatedly, during the ensuing weeks, and did my best to behave as if nothing was altered. In himself, in fact, nothing was altered, and the really masterly manner in which he tacitly assumed that the change in his situation had been in a high degree for the better, might have furnished inspiration to my more bungling efforts. Never had incurably wounded pride forged itself a more consummately impenetrable mask; never had bravado achieved so triumphant an imitation of sincerity. In his wife's absence, Crawford never alluded to her; but, in her presence, he was an embodiment of deference and attentive civility. His habits underwent little change, and he was punctiliously faithful to his former pursuits. He studied——or at least he passed hours in his library. What he did——what he was——in solitude, heaven only knows; nothing, I am happy to say, ever revealed it to me. I never asked him a question about his wife; to feign a respectful interest in her would have been too monstrous a comedy. She herself, however, more than satisfied my curiosity, and treated me to a bold sketch of her life and adventures. Crawford had hit the nail on the head; she was veritably, at the time he made her acquaintance, residing at a boarding-house, not in the capacity of a boarder. She even told me the terms in which he had made his proposal. There had been no lovemaking, no nonsense, no flummery. “I have seven thousand dollars a year,” he had said——all of a sudden;— “will you please to become my wife? You shall have four thousand for your own use.” I have no desire to paint the poor woman who imparted to me these facts in blacker colours than she deserves; she was to be pitied certainly, for she had been lifted into a position in which her defects acquired a glaring intensity. She had made no overtures to Crawford; he had come and dragged her out of her friendly obscurity, and placed her unloveliness aloft upon the pedestal of his contrasted good-manners. She had simply taken what was offered her. But for all ones logic, nevertheless, she was a terrible creature. I tried to like her, I tried to find out her points. The best one seemed to be that her jewels and new dresses——her clothes were in atrocious taste——kept her, for the time, in loud good-humour. Might they never be wanting? I shuddered to think of what Crawford would find himself face to face with in case of their failing ;coarseness, vulgarity, ignorance, vanity, and, beneath all, something as hard and arid as dusty bricks. When I had left them, their union always seemed to me a monstrous fable, an evil dream; each time I saw them the miracle was freshly repeated.

People were still in a great measure in the country, and though it had begun to be rumoured about that Crawford had taken a very strange wife, there was for some weeks no adequate appreciation of her strangeness. This came, however, with the advance of the autumn and those beautiful October days when all the world was in the streets. Crawford came forth with his terrible bride upon his arm, took every day a long walk, and ran the gauntlet of society's surprise. On Sundays, he marched into church with his incongruous consort, led her up the long aisle to the accompaniment of the opening organ-peals, and handed her solemnly into her pew. Mrs. Crawfords idiosyncrasies were not of the latent and lurking order, and, in the view of her fellow-worshipers of her own sex, surveying her from a distance, were sufficiently summarized in the composition of her bonnets. Many persons probably remember with a good deal of vividness the great festival to which, early in the winter, Crawford convoked all his friends. Not a person invited was absent, for it was a case in which friendliness and curiosity went most comfortably, hand in hand. Every one wished well to Crawford and was anxious to show it, but when they said they wouldn't for the world seem to turn their backs upon the poor fellow, what people really meant was that they would not for the world miss seeing how Mrs. Crawford would behave. The party was very splendid and made an era in New York, in the art of entertainment. Mrs. Crawford behaved very well, and I think people were a good deal disappointed and scandalized at the decency of her demeanour. But she looked deplorably, it was universally agreed, and her native vulgarity came out in the strange bedizenment of her too exuberant person. By the time supper was served, moreover, every one had gleaned an anecdote about her bad grammar, and the low level of her conversation. On all sides, people were putting their heads together, in threes and fours, and tittering over each others stories. There is nothing like the bad manners of good society, and I, myself; acutely sensitive on Crawford's behalf; found it impossible, by the end of the evening, to endure the growing exhilaration of the assembly. The company had rendered its verdict; namely, that there were the vulgar people one could, at a pinch accept, and the vulgar people one couldn't, and that Mrs. Crawford belonged to the latter class. I was savage with every one who spoke to me. “Yes, she is as bad as you please,” I said; “but you are worse!” But I might have spared my resentment, for Crawford, himself; in the midst of all this, was simply sublime. He was the genius of hospitality in person; no one had ever seen him so careless, so free, so charming. When I went to bid him good-night, as I took him by the hand——"You will carry it through!” I said. He looked at me, smiling vaguely, and not showing in the least that he understood me. Then I felt how deeply he was attached to the part he had undertaken to play; he had sacrificed our old good-fellowship to it. Even to me, his oldest friend, he would not raise a comer of the mask.

Mrs. Ingram and Elizabeth were, of course, not at the ball; but they had come back from Newport, bringing an ardent suitor in their train. The event had amply justified Mrs. Ingram's circumspection; she had captured a young Southern planter, whose estates were fabled to cover three-eighths of the State of Alabama. Elizabeth was more beautiful than ever, and the marriage was being hurried forward. Several times, in public, to my knowledge, Elizabeth and her mother, found themselves face to face with Crawford and his wife. What Crawford must have felt when he looked from the exquisite creature he had lost to the full-blown dowdy he had gained, is a matter it is well but to glance at and pass——the more so, as my story approaches its close. One morning, in my consulting-room, I had been giving some advice to a little old gentleman who was as sound as a winter-pippin, but, who used to come and see me once a month to tell me that he felt a hair on his tongue, or, that he had dreamed of a blue-dog, and to ask to be put upon a diet in consequence. The basis of a diet, in his view, was a daily pint of port wine. He had retired from business, he belonged to a club, and he used to go about peddling gossip. His wares, like those of most peddlers, were cheap, and usually, for my prescription, I could purchase the whole contents of his tray. On this occasion, as he was leaving me, he remarked that he supposed I had heard the news about our friend Crawford. I said that I had heard nothing. What was the news?

“He has lost every penny of his fortune,” said my patient. “He is completely cleaned out.” And, then, in answer to my exclamation of dismay, he proceeded to inform me that the New Amsterdam Bank had suspended payment, and would certainly never resume it. All the world knew that Crawfords funds were at the disposal of the bank, and that two or three months before, when things were looking squally, he had come most generously to the rescue. The squall had come, it had proved a hurricane, the bank had capsized, and Crawfords money had gone to the bottom. “It's not a surprise to me,” said Mr. Niblett, “I suspected something a year ago. It's true, I am very sharp.”

“Do you think any one else suspected anything?” I asked.

“I dare say not; people are so easily humbugged. And, then, what could have looked better, above board, than the New Amsterdam?”

“Nevertheless, here and there,” I said, “an exceptionally sharp person may have been on the watch.”

“Unquestionably——though I am told that they are going on to-day, down town, as if no bank had ever broken before.”

“Do you know Mrs. Ingram?” I asked. “Thoroughly! She is exceptionally sharp, if that is what you mean.”

“Do you think it is possible that she foresaw this affair six months ago?”

“Very possible; she always has her nose in Wall street, and she knows more about stocks than the whole board of brokers.”

“Well,” said I, after a pause, “sharp as she is, I hope she will get nipped, yet!”

“Ah, said my old friend, you allude to Crawfords affairs? But you shouldn't be a better royalist than the king. He has forgiven her——he has consoled himself. But what will console him now? Is it true his wife was a washerwoman? Perhaps she will not be sorry to know a trade.”

I hoped with all my heart that Mr. Niblett's story was an exaggeration, and I repaired that evening to Crawford's house, to learn the real extent of his misfortune. He had seen me coming in, and he met me in the hail and drew me immediately into the library. He looked like a man who had been thrown by a vicious horse, but had picked himself up and resolved to go the rest of the way on foot.

“How bad is it?” I asked.

“I have about a thousand a year left. I shall get some work, and with careful economy we can live.”

At this moment I heard a loud voice screaming from the top of the stairs. “Will she help you?” I asked.

He hesitated a moment, and then——"No!” he said simply. Immediately, as a commentary upon his answer, the door was thrown open and Mrs. Crawford swept in. I saw in an instant that her good-humour was in permanent eclipse; flushed, dishevelled, inflamed, she was a perfect presentation of a vulgar fury. She advanced upon me with a truly formidable weight of wrath.

“Was it you that put him up to it?” she cried. “Was it you that put it into his head to marry me? I'm sure I never thought of him——he isn't the twentieth part of a man! I took him for his money——four thousand a year, clear; I never pretended it was for anything else. To-day, he comes and tells me that it was all a mistake——that we must get on as well as we can on twelve hundred. And he calls himself a gentleman——and so do you, I suppose! There are gentlemen in the States prison for less. I have been cheated, insulted and ruined; but I'm not a woman you can play that sort of game upon. The moneys mine, what is left of it, and he may go and get his fine friends to support him. There ain't a thing in the world he can do——except lie and cheat!”

Crawford, during this horrible explosion, stood with his eyes fixed upon the floor; and I felt that the peculiarly odious part of the scene was that his wife was literally in the right. She had been bitterly disappointed——she had been practically deceived. Crawford turned to me and put out his hand. “Good-bye,” he said. “I must forego the pleasure of receiving you any more in my own house.”

“I can't come again?” I exclaimed.

“I will take it as a favour that you should not.”

I withdrew with an insupportable sense of helplessness. In the house he was then occupying, he, of course, very soon ceased to live; but for some time I was in ignorance of whither he had betaken himself. He had forbidden me to come and see him, and he was too much occupied in accommodating himself to his change of fortune to find time for making visits. At last I disinterred him in one of the upper streets, near the East River, in a small house of which he occupied but a single floor. I disobeyed him and went in, and as his wife was apparently absent, he allowed me to remain. He had kept his books, or most of them, and arranged a sort of library. He looked ten years older, but he neither made nor suffered me to make, an allusion to himself. He had obtained a place as clerk at a wholesale chemists, and he received a salary of five hundred dollars. After this, I not infrequently saw him; we used often, on a Sunday, to take a long walk together. On our return we parted at his door; he never asked me to come in. He talked of his reading, of his scientific fancies, of public affairs, of our friends——of everything, except his own troubles. He suffered, of course, most of his purely formal social relations to die out; but if he appeared not to cling to his friends, neither did he seem to avoid them. I remember a clever old lady saying to me at this time, in allusion to her having met him somewhere——"I used always to think Mr. Crawford the most agreeable man in the world, but I think now he has even improved.” I One day——we had walked out into the country, and were sitting on a felled log by the roadside, to rest (for in those days New Yorkers could walk out into the country),I said to him that I had a piece of news to tell him. It was not pleasing, but it was interesting.

“I told you six weeks ago,” I said, “that Elizabeth Ingram had been seized with small-pox. She has recovered, and two or three people have seen her. Every ray of her beauty is gone. They say she is hideous.”

“I don't believe it!” he said, simply.

“The young man who was to marry her does,” I answered. “He has backed out he has given her up——he has posted back to Alabama.”

Crawford looked at me a moment, and then——"The idiot!” he exclaimed.

For myself, I felt the full bitterness of poor Elizabeth's lot; Mrs. Ingram had been “nipped,” as I had ventured to express it, in a grimmer fashion than I hoped. Several months afterward, I saw the young girl, shrouded in a thick veil, beneath which I could just distinguish her absolutely blasted face. On either side of her walked her father and mother, each of them showing a visage almost as blighted as her own.

I saw Crawford for a time, as I have said, with a certain frequency; but there began to occur long intervals, during which he plunged into inscrutable gloom. I supposed in a general way, that his wife's temper gave him plenty of occupation at home; but a painful incident——which I need not repeat——at last informed me how much. Mrs. Crawford, it appeared, drank deep; she had resorted to liquor to console herself for her disappointments. During her periods of revelry, her husband was obliged to be in constant attendance upon her, to keep her from exposing herself. She had done so to me, hideously, and it was so that I learned the reason of her husbands fitful absences. After this, I expressed to Crawford my amazement that he should continue to live with her.

“Its very simple,” he answered. “I have done her a great wrong, and I have forfeited the right to complain of any she may do to me.”

“In heaven's name,” I said, “make another fortune and pension her off.”

He shook his head. “I shall never make a fortune. My working-power is not of a high value.”

One day, not having seen him for several weeks, I went to his house. The door was opened by his wife, in curl-papers and a soiled dressing-gown. After what I can hardly call an exchange of greetings,——for she wasted no politeness upon me,——I asked for news of my friend.

“He's at the NewYork Hospital,” she said.

“What in the world has happened to him?”

“He has broken his leg, and he went there to be taken care of——as if he hadn't a comfortable home of his own! But he's a deep one; that's a hit at me!”

I immediately announced my intention of going to see him, but as I was turning away she stopped me, laying her hand on my arm. She looked at me hard, almost menacingly. “If he tells you,” she said, “that it was me that made him break his leg——that I came behind him, and pushed him down the steps of the back-yard, upon the flags, you needn't believe him. I could have done it; I'm strong enough and with a vigorous arm she gave a thump upon the door-post. It would have served him right, too. But its a lie!”

“He will not tell me,” I said. “But you have done so.”

Crawford was in bed, in one of the great, dreary wards of the hospital, looking as a man looks who has been laid up for three weeks with a compound fracture of the knee. I had seen no small amount of physical misery, but I had never seen anything so poignant as the sight of my once brilliant friend in such a place, from such a cause. I told him I would not ask him how his misfortune occurred: I knew! We talked awhile, and at last I said, “Of course you will not go back to her.”

He turned away his head, and at this moment, the nurse came and said that I had made the poor gentleman talk enough.

Of course he did go back to her——at the end of a very long convalescence. His leg was permanently injured; he was obliged to move about very slowly, and what he had called the value of his working-power was not thereby increased. This meant permanent poverty, and all the rest of it. It lasted ten years longer——until 185—, when Mrs. Crawford died of delirium tremens. I cannot say that this event restored his equanimity, for the excellent reason that to the eyes of the world——and my own most searching ones——he had never lost it.

 
 
 

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