After the Storm
by T. S. Arthur
CHAPTER I. THE
WAR OF THE
CHAPTER II. THE
CHAPTER III. THE
CLOUD AND THE
UNDER THE CLOUD.
CHAPTER V. THE
BURSTING OF THE
AFTER THE STORM.
CHAPTER VII. THE
THE FLIGHT AND
CHAPTER IX. THE
CHAPTER X. AFTER
CHAPTER XI. A
CHAPTER XII. IN
CHAPTER XIV. A
GONE FOR EVER!
YOUNG, BUT WISE.
CHAPTER XIX. THE
CHAPTER XX. THE
CHAPTER XXI. THE
BORN FOR EACH
LOVE NEVER DIES.
EFFECTS OF THE
AFTER THE STORM.
CHAPTER I. THE WAR OF THE ELEMENTS.
NO June day ever opened with a fairer promise. Not a single
cloud flecked the sky, and the sun coursed onward through the azure
sea until past meridian, without throwing to the earth a single
shadow. Then, low in the west, appeared something obscure and hazy,
blending the hill-tops with the horizon; an hour later, and three or
four small fleecy islands were seen, clearly outlined in the airy
ocean, and slowly ascending—avant-couriers of a coming storm.
Following these were mountain peaks, snow-capped and craggy, with
desolate valleys between. Then, over all this arctic panorama, fell a
sudden shadow. The white tops of the cloudy hills lost their clear,
gleaming outlines and their slumbrous stillness. The atmosphere was
in motion, and a white scud began to drive across the heavy, dark
masses of clouds that lay far back against the sky in mountain-like
How grandly now began the onward march of the tempest, which had
already invaded the sun's domain and shrouded his face in the smoke
of approaching battle. Dark and heavy it lay along more than half the
visible horizon, while its crown invaded the zenith.
As yet, all was silence and portentous gloom. Nature seemed to
pause and hold her breath in dread anticipation. Then came a muffled,
jarring sound, as of far distant artillery, which died away into an
oppressive stillness. Suddenly from zenith to horizon the cloud was
cut by a fiery stroke, an instant visible. Following this, a heavy
thunder-peal shook the solid earth, and rattled in booming echoes
along the hillsides and amid the cloudy caverns above.
At last the storm came down on the wind's strong pinions, swooping
fiercely to the earth, like an eagle to its prey. For one wild hour
it raged as if the angel of destruction were abroad.
At the window of a house standing picturesquely among the Hudson
Highlands, and looking down upon the river, stood a maiden and her
lover, gazing upon this wild war among the elements. Fear had pressed
her closely to his side, and he had drawn an arm around her in
assurance of safety.
Suddenly the maiden clasped her hands over her face, cried out and
shuddered. The lightning had shivered a tree upon which her gaze was
fixed, rending it as she could have rent a willow wand.
"God is in the storm," said the lover, bending to her ear. He spoke
reverently and in a voice that had in it no tremor of fear.
The maiden withdrew her hands from before her shut eyes, and
looking up into his face, answered in a voice which she strove to make
"Thank you, Hartley, for the words. Yes, God is present in the
storm, as in the sunshine."
"Look!" exclaimed the young man, suddenly, pointing to the river. A
boat had just come in sight. It contained a man and a woman. The
former was striving with a pair of oars to keep the boat right in the
eye of the wind; but while the maiden and her lover still gazed at
them, a wild gust swept down upon the water and drove their frail bark
under. There was no hope in their case; the floods had swallowed them,
and would not give up their living prey.
A moment afterward, and an elm, whose great arms had for nearly a
century spread themselves out in the sunshine tranquilly or battled
with the storms, fell crashing against the house, shaking it to the
The maiden drew back from the window, overcome with terror. These
shocks were too much for her nerves. But her lover restrained her,
saying, with a covert chiding in his voice,
"Stay, Irene! There is a wild delight in all this, and are you not
brave enough to share it with me?"
But she struggled to release herself from his arm, replying with a
shade of impatience—
"Let me go, Hartley! Let me go!"
The flexed arm was instantly relaxed, and the maiden was free. She
went back, hastily, from the window, and, sitting down on a sofa,
buried her face in her hands. The young man did not follow her, but
remained standing by the window, gazing out upon Nature in her strong
convulsion. It may, however, be doubted whether his mind took note of
the wild images that were pictured in his eyes. A cloud was in the
horizon of his mind, dimming its heavenly azure. And the maiden's sky
was shadowed also.
For two or three minutes the young man stood by the window, looking
out at the writhing trees and the rain pouring down an avalanche of
water, and then, with a movement that indicated a struggle and a
conquest, turned and walked toward the sofa on which the maiden still
sat with her face hidden from view. Sitting down beside her, he took
her hand. It lay passive in his. He pressed it gently; but she gave
back no returning pressure. There came a sharp, quick gleam of
lightning, followed by a crash that jarred the house. But Irene did
not start—we may question whether she even saw the one or heard the
other, except as something remote.
She did not stir.
The young man leaned closer, and said, in a tender voice—
Her hand moved in his—just moved—but did not return the pressure
of his own.
"Irene." And now his arm stole around her. She yielded, and,
turning, laid her head upon his shoulder.
There had been a little storm in the maiden's heart, consequent
upon the slight restraint ventured on by her lover when she drew back
from the window; and it was only now subsiding.
"I did not mean to offend you," said the young man, penitently.
"Who said that I was offended?" She looked up, with a smile that
only half obliterated the shadow. "I was frightened, Hartley. It is a
fearful storm!" And she glanced toward the window.
The lover accepted this affirmation, though he knew better in his
heart. He knew that his slight attempt at constraint had chafed her
naturally impatient spirit, and that it had taken her some time to
regain her lost self-control.
Without, the wild rush of winds was subsiding, the lightning
gleamed out less frequently, and the thunder rolled at a farther
distance. Then came that deep stillness of nature which follows in the
wake of the tempest, and in its hush the lovers stood again at the
window, looking out upon the wrecks that were strewn in its path. They
were silent, for on both hearts was a shadow, which had not rested
there when they first stood by the window, although the sky was then
more deeply veiled. So slight was the cause on which these shadows
depended that memory scarcely retained its impression. He was tender,
and she was yielding; and each tried to atone by loving acts for a
moment of willfulness.
The sun went down while yet the skirts of the storm were spread
over the western sky, and without a single glance at the ruins which
lightning, wind and rain had scattered over the earth's fair surface.
But he arose gloriously in the coming morning, and went upward in his
strength, consuming the vapors at a breath, and drinking up every
bright dewdrop that welcomed him with a quiver of joy. The branches
shook themselves in the gentle breezes his presence had called forth
to dally amid their foliage and sport with the flowers; and every
green thing put on a fresher beauty in delight at his return; while
from the bosom of the trees—from hedgerow and from meadow—went up
the melody of birds.
In the brightness of this morning, the lovers went out to look at
the storm-wrecks that lay scattered around. Here a tree had been
twisted off where the tough wood measured by feet instead of inches;
there stood the white and shivered trunk of another sylvan lord,
blasted in an instant by a lightning stroke; and there lay, prone
upon the ground, giant limbs, which, but the day before, spread
themselves abroad in proud defiance of the storm. Vines were torn
from their fastenings; flower-beds destroyed; choice shrubbery,
tended with care for years, shorn of its beauty. Even the solid earth
had been invaded by floods of water, which ploughed deep furrows along
its surface. And, saddest of all, two human lives had gone out while
the mad tempest raged in uncontrollable fury.
As the lover and maiden stood looking at the signs of violence so
thickly scattered around, the former said, in a cheerful tone—
"For all his wild, desolating power, the tempest is vassal to the
sun and dew. He may spread his sad trophies around in brief, blind
rage; but they soon obliterate all traces of his path, and make
beautiful what he has scarred with wounds or disfigured by the tramp
of his iron heel."
"Not so, my children," said the calm voice of the maiden's father,
to whose ears the remark had come. "Not so, my children. The sun and
dew never fully restore what the storm has broken and trampled upon.
They may hide disfiguring marks, and cover with new forms of life and
beauty the ruins which time can never restore. This is something, and
we may take the blessing thankfully, and try to forget what is lost,
or so changed as to be no longer desirable. Look at this fallen and
shattered elm, my children. Is there any hope for that in the dew, the
rain and sunshine? Can these build it up again, and spread out its
arms as of old, bringing back to me, as it has done daily, the image
of my early years? No, my children. After every storm are ruins which
can never be repaired. Is it not so with that lightning-stricken oak?
And what art can restore to its exquisite loveliness this statue of
Hope, thrown down by the ruthless hand of the unsparing tempest?
Moreover, is there human vitality in the sunshine and fructifying dew?
Can they put life into the dead?
"No—no—my children. And take the lesson to heart. Outward
tempests but typify and represent the fiercer tempests that too often
desolate the human soul. In either case something is lost that can
never be restored. Beware, then, of storms, for wreck and ruin follow
as surely as the passions rage."
CHAPTER II. THE LOVERS.
IRENE DELANCY was a girl of quick, strong feelings, and an
undisciplined will. Her mother died before she reached her tenth
year. From that time she was either at home under the care of
domestics, or within the scarcely more favorable surroundings of a
boarding-school. She grew up beautiful and accomplished, but
capricious and with a natural impatience of control, that unwise
reactions on the part of those who attempted to govern her in no
Hartley Emerson, as a boy, was self-willed and passionate, but
possessed many fine qualities. A weak mother yielded to his resolute
struggles to have his own way, and so he acquired, at an early age,
control over his own movements. He went to college, studied hard,
because he was ambitious, and graduated with honor. Law he chose as a
profession; and, in order to secure the highest advantages, entered
the office of a distinguished attorney in the city of New York, and
gave to its study the best efforts of a clear, acute and logical mind.
Self-reliant, proud, and in the habit of reaching his ends by the
nearest ways, he took his place at the bar with a promise of success
rarely exceeded. From his widowed mother, who died before he reached
his majority, Hartley Emerson inherited a moderate fortune with which
to begin the world. Few young men started forward on their
life-journey with so small a number of vices, or with so spotless a
moral character. The fine intellectual cast of his mind, and his
devotion to study, lifted him above the baser allurements of sense and
kept his garments pure.
Such were Irene Delancy and Hartley Emerson—lovers and betrothed
at the time we present them to our readers. They met, two years
before, at Saratoga, and drew together by a mutual attraction. She was
the first to whom his heart had bowed in homage; and until she looked
upon him her pulse had never beat quicker at sight of a manly form.
Mr. Edmund Delancy, a gentleman of some wealth and advanced in
years, saw no reason to interpose objections. The family of Emerson
occupied a social position equal with his own; and the young man's
character and habits were blameless. So far, the course of love ran
smooth; and only three months intervened until the wedding-day.
The closer relation into which the minds of the lovers came after
their betrothal and the removal of a degree of deference and
self-constraint, gave opportunity for the real character of each to
show itself. Irene could not always repress her willfulness and
impatience of another's control; nor her lover hold a firm hand on
quick-springing anger when anything checked his purpose. Pride and
adhesiveness of character, under such conditions of mind, were
dangerous foes to peace; and both were proud and tenacious.
The little break in the harmonious flow of their lives, noticed as
occurring while the tempest raged, was one of many such incidents;
and it was in consequence of Mr. Delancy's observation of these
unpromising features in their intercourse that he spoke with so much
earnestness about the irreparable ruin that followed in the wake of
At least once a week Emerson left the city, and his books and
cases, to spend a day with Irene in her tasteful home; and sometimes
he lingered there for two or three days at a time. It happened, almost
invariably, that some harsh notes jarred in the music of their lives
during these pleasant seasons, and left on both their hearts a
feeling of oppression, or, worse, a brooding sense of injustice. Then
there grew up between them an affected opposition and indifference,
and a kind of half-sportive, half-earnest wrangling about trifles,
which too often grew serious.
Mr. Delancy saw this with a feeling of regret, and often interposed
to restore some broken links in the chain of harmony.
"You must be more conciliating, Irene," he would often say to his
daughter. "Hartley is earnest and impulsive, and you should yield to
him gracefully, even when you do not always see and feel as he does.
This constant opposition and standing on your dignity about trifles
is fretting both of you, and bodes evil in the future."
"Would you have me assent if he said black was white?" she answered
to her father's remonstrance one day, balancing her little head
firmly and setting her lips together in a resolute way.
"It might be wiser to say nothing than to utter dissent, if, in so
doing, both were made unhappy," returned her father.
"And so let him think me a passive fool?" she asked.
"No; a prudent girl, shaming his unreasonableness by her
"I have read somewhere," said Irene, "that all men are self-willed
tyrants—the words do not apply to you, my father, and so there is an
exception to the rule." She smiled a tender smile as she looked into
the face of a parent who had ever been too indulgent. "But, from my
experience with a lover, I can well believe the sentiment based in
truth. Hartley must have me think just as he thinks, and do what he
wants me to do, or he gets ruffled. Now I don't expect, when I am
married, to sink into a mere nobody—to be my husband's echo and
shadow; and the quicker I can make Hartley comprehend this the better
will it be for both of us. A few rufflings of his feathers now will
teach him how to keep them smooth and glossy in the time to come."
"You are in error, my child," replied Mr. Delancy, speaking very
seriously. "Between those who love a cloud should never interpose;
and I pray you, Irene, as you value your peace and that of the man
who is about to become your husband, to be wise in the very
beginning, and dissolve with a smile of affection every vapor that
threatens a coming storm. Keep the sky always bright."
"I will do everything that I can, father, to keep the sky of our
lives always bright, except give up my own freedom of thought and
independence of action. A wife should not sink her individuality in
that of her husband, any more than a husband should sink his
individuality in that of his wife. They are two equals, and should be
content to remain equals. There is no love in subordination."
Mr. Delancy sighed deeply: "Is argument of any avail here? Can
words stir conviction in her mind?" He was silent for a time, and then
"Better, Irene, that you stop where you are, and go through life
alone, than venture upon marriage, in your state of feeling, with a
man like Hartley Emerson."
"Dear father, you are altogether too serious!" exclaimed the
warm-hearted girl, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him.
"Hartley and I love each other too well to be made very unhappy by
any little jar that takes place in the first reciprocal movement of
our lives. We shall soon come to understand each other, and then the
harmonies will be restored."
"The harmonies should never be lost, my child," returned Mr.
Delancy. "In that lies the danger. When the enemy gets into the
citadel, who can say that he will ever be dislodged? There is no
safety but in keeping him out."
"Still too serious, father," said Irene. "There is no danger to be
feared from any formidable enemy. All these are very little things."
"It is the little foxes that spoil the tender grapes, my daughter,"
Mr. Delancy replied; "and if the tender grapes are spoiled, what hope
is there in the time of vintage? Alas for us if in the later years the
wine of life shall fail!"
There was so sad a tone in her father's voice, and so sad an
expression on his face, that Irene was touched with a new feeling
toward him. She again put her arms around his neck and kissed him
"Do not fear for us," she replied. "These are only little summer
showers, that make the earth greener and the flowers more beautiful.
The sky is of a more heavenly azure when they pass away, and the sun
shines more gloriously than before."
But the father could not be satisfied, and answered—
"Beware of even summer showers, my darling. I have known fearful
ravages to follow in their path—seen many a goodly tree go down.
After every storm, though the sky may be clearer, the earth upon
which it fell has suffered some loss which is a loss for ever. Begin,
then, by conciliation and forbearance. Look past the external, which
may seem at times too exacting or imperative, and see only the true
heart pulsing beneath—the true, brave heart, that would give to every
muscle the strength of steel for your protection if danger threatened.
Can you not be satisfied with knowing that you are loved—deeply,
truly, tenderly? What more can a woman ask? Can you not wait until
this love puts on its rightly-adjusted exterior, as it assuredly will.
It is yet mingled with self-love, and its action modified by impulse
and habit. Wait—wait—wait, my daughter. Bear and forbear for a time,
as you value peace on earth and happiness in heaven."
"I will try, father, for your sake, to guard myself," she answered.
"No, no, Irene. Not for my sake, but for the sake of right,"
returned Mr. Delancy.
They were sitting in the vine-covered portico that looked down,
over a sloping lawn toward the river.
"There is Hartley now!" exclaimed Irene, as the form of her lover
came suddenly into view, moving forward along the road that
approached from the landing, and she sprung forward and went rapidly
down to meet him. There an ardent kiss, a twining of arms, warmly
spoken words and earnest gestures. Mr. Delancy looked at them as they
stood fondly together, and sighed. He could not help it, for he knew
there was trouble before them. After standing and talking for a short
time, they began moving toward the house, but paused at every few
paces—sometimes to admire a picturesque view—sometimes to listen one
to the other and respond to pleasant sentiments—and sometimes in fond
dispute. This was Mr. Delancy's reading of their actions and gestures,
as he sat looking at and observing them closely.
A little way from the path by which they were advancing toward the
house was a rustic arbor, so placed as to command a fine sweep of
river from one line of view and West Point from another. Irene paused
and made a motion of her hand toward this arbor, as if she wished to
go there; but Hartley looked to the house and plainly signified a wish
to go there first. At this Irene pulled him gently toward the arbor;
he resisted, and she drew upon his arm more resolutely, when, planting
his feet firmly, he stood like a rock. Still she urged and still he
declined going in that direction. It was play at first, but Mr.
Delancy saw that it was growing to be earnest. A few moments longer,
and he saw Irene separate from Hartley and move toward the arbor; at
the same time the young man came forward in the direction of the
house. Mr. Delancy, as he stepped from the portico to meet him,
noticed that his color was heightened and his eyes unusually bright.
"What's the matter with that self-willed girl of mine?" he asked,
as he took the hand of Emerson, affecting a lightness of tone that did
not correspond with his real feelings.
"Oh, nothing serious," the young man replied. "She's only in a
little pet because I wouldn't go with her to the arbor before I paid
my respects to you."
"She's a spoiled little puss," said the father, in a fond yet
serious way, "and you'll have to humor her a little at first,
Hartley. She never had the wise discipline of a mother, and so has
grown up unused to that salutary control which is so necessary for
young persons. But she has a warm, true heart and pure principles;
and these are the foundation-stones on which to build the temple of
"Don't fear but that it will be all right between us. I love her
too well to let any flitting humors affect me."
He stepped upon the portico as he spoke and sat down. Irene had
before this reached the arbor and taken a seat there. Mr. Delancy
could do no less than resume the chair from which he had arisen on
the young man's approach. In looking into Hartley's face he noticed a
resolute expression about his mouth. For nearly ten minutes they sat
and talked, Irene remaining alone in the arbor. Mr. Delancy then said,
in a pleasant off-handed way,
"Come, Hartley, you have punished her long enough. I don't like to
see you even play at disagreement."
He did not seem to notice the remark, but started a subject of
conversation that it was almost impossible to dismiss for the next
ten minutes. Then he stepped down from the portico, and was moving
leisurely toward the arbor when he perceived that Irene had already
left it and was returning by another path. So he came back and seated
himself again, to await her approach. But, instead of joining him, she
passed round the house and entered on the opposite side. For several
minutes he sat, expecting every instant to see her come out on the
portico, but she did not make her appearance.
It was early in the afternoon. Hartley, affecting not to notice the
absence of Irene, kept up an animated conversation with Mr. Delancy.
A whole hour went by, and still the young lady was absent. Suddenly
starting, up, at the end of this time, Hartley exclaimed—
"As I live, there comes the boat! and I must be in New York
"Stay," said Mr. Delancy, "until I call Irene."
"I can't linger for a moment, sir. It will take quick walking to
reach the landing by the time the boat is there." The young man spoke
hurriedly, shook hands with Mr. Delancy, and then sprung away, moving
at a rapid pace.
"What's the matter, father? Where is Hartley going?" exclaimed
Irene, coming out into the portico and grasping her father's arm. Her
face was pale and her lips trembled.
"He is going to New York," relied Mr. Delancy.
"To New York!" She looked almost frightened.
"Yes. The boat is coming, and he says that he must be in the city
Irene sat down, looking pale and troubled.
"Why have you remained away from Hartley ever since his arrival?"
asked Mr. Delancy, fixing his eyes upon Irene and evincing some
Irene did not answer, but her father saw the color coming back to
"I think, from his manner, that he was hurt by your singular
treatment. What possessed you to do so?"
"Because I was not pleased with him," said Irene. Her voice was now
"I wished him to go to the arbor."
"He was your guest, and, in simple courtesy, if there was no other
motive, you should have let his wishes govern your movements," Mr.
"He is always opposing me!" said Irene, giving way to a flood of
tears and weeping for a time bitterly.
"It is not at all unlikely, my daughter," replied Mr. Delancy,
after the tears began to flow less freely, "that Hartley is now saying
the same thing of you, and treasuring up bitter things in his heart. I
have no idea that any business calls him to New York to-night."
"Nor I. He takes this means to punish me," said Irene.
"Don't take that for granted. Your conduct has blinded him, and he
is acting now from blind impulse. Before he is half-way to New York
he will regret this hasty step as sincerely as I trust you are
already regretting its occasion."
Irene did not reply.
"I did not think," he resumed, "that my late earnest remonstrance
would have so soon received an illustration like this. But it may be
as well. Trifles light as air have many times proved the beginning of
life-longs separations between friends and lovers who possessed all
the substantial qualities for a life-long and happy companionship. Oh,
my daughter, beware! beware of these little beginnings of discord. How
easy would it have been for you to have yielded to Hartley's
wishes!—how hard will it to endure the pain that must now be
suffered! And remember that you do not suffer alone; your conduct has
made him an equal sufferer. He came up all the way from the city full
of sweet anticipations. It was for your sake that he came; and love
pictured you as embodying all attractions. But how has he found you?
Ah, my daughter, your caprice has wounded the heart that turned to you
for love. He came in joy, but goes back in sorrow."
Irene went up to her chamber, feeling sadder than she had ever felt
in her life; yet, mingling, with her sadness and self-reproaches,
were complaining thoughts of her lover. For a little half-playful
pettishness was she to be visited with a punishment like this? If be
had really loved her—so she queried—would be have flung himself
away after this hasty fashion? Pride came to her aid in the conflict
of feeling, and gave her self-control and endurance. At tea-time she
met her father, and surprised him with her calm, almost cheerful,
aspect. But his glance was too keen not to penetrate the disguise.
After tea, she sat reading—or at least affecting to read—in the
portico, until the evening shadows came down, and then she retired to
Not many hours of sleep brought forgetfulness of suffering through
the night that followed. Sometimes the unhappy girl heaped mountains
of reproaches upon her own head; and sometimes pride and indignation,
gaining rule in her heart, would whisper self-justification, and throw
the weight of responsibility upon her lover.
Her pale face and troubled eyes revealed too plainly, on the next
morning, the conflict through which she had passed.
"Write him a letter of apology or explanation," said Mr. Delancy.
But Irene was not in a state of mind for this. Pride came
whispering too many humiliating objections in her ear. Morning passed,
and in the early hours of the afternoon, when the New York boat
usually came up the river, she was out on the portico watching for its
appearance. Hope whispered that, repenting of his hasty return on the
day before, her lover was now hurrying back to meet her. At last the
white hull of the boat came gliding into view, and in less than half
an hour it was at the landing. Then it moved on its course again.
Almost to a second of time had Irene learned to calculate the minutes
it required for Hartley to make the distance between the landing and
the nearest point in the road where his form could meet her view. She
held her breath in eager expectation as that moment of time
approached. It came—it passed; the white spot in the road, where his
dark form first revealed itself, was touched by no obscuring shadow.
For more than ten minutes Irene sat motionless, gazing still toward
that point; then, sighing deeply, she arose and went up to her room,
from which she did not come down until summoned to join her father at
The next day passed as this had done, and so did the next. Hartley
neither came nor sent a message of any kind. The maiden's heart began
to fail. Grief and fear took the place of accusation and
self-reproach. What if he had left her for ever! The thought made her
heart shiver as if an icy wind had passed over it. Two or three times
she took up her pen to write him a few words and entreat him to come
back to her again. But she could form no sentences against which pride
did not come with strong objection; and so she suffered on, and made
A whole week at last intervened. Then the enduring heart began to
grow stronger to bear, and, in self-protection, to put on sterner
moods. Hers was not a spirit to yield weakly in any struggle. She was
formed for endurance, pride and self-reliance giving her strength
above common natures. But this did not really lessen her suffering,
for she was not only capable of deep affection, but really loved
Hartley almost as her own life; and the thought of losing him,
whenever it grew distinct, filled her with terrible anguish.
With pain her father saw the color leave her cheeks, her eyes grow
fixed and dreamy, and her lips shrink from their full outline.
"Write to Hartley," he said to her one day, after a week had
"Never!" was her quick, firm, almost sharply uttered response; "I
would die first!"
"But, my daughter—"
"Father," she interrupted him, two bright spots suddenly burning on
her cheeks, "don't, I pray you, urge me on this point. I have courage
enough to break, but I will not bend. I gave him no offence. What
right has he to assume that I was not engaged in domestic duties while
he sat talking with you? He said that he had an engagement in New
York. Very well; there was a sufficient reason for his sudden
departure; and I accept the reason. But why does he remain away? If
simply because I preferred a seat in the arbor to one in the portico,
why, the whole thing is so unmanly, that I can have no patience with
it. Write to him, and humor a whim like this! No, no—Irene Delancy is
not made of the right stuff. He went from me, and he must return
again. I cannot go to him. Maiden modesty and pride forbid. And so I
shall remain silent and passive, if my heart breaks."
It was in the afternoon, and they were sitting in the portico,
where, at this hour, Irene might have been found every day for the
past week. The boat from New York came in sight as she closed the
last sentence. She saw it—for her eyes were on the look-out—the
moment it turned the distant point of land that hid the river beyond.
Mr. Delancy also observed the boat. Its appearance was an incident of
sufficient importance, taking things as they were, to check the
conversation, which was far from being satisfactory on either side.
The figure of Irene was half buried in a deep cushioned chair,
which had been wheeled out upon the portico, and now her small,
slender form seemed to shrink farther back among the cushions, and she
sat as motionless as one asleep. Steadily onward came the boat,
throwing backward her dusky trail and lashing with her great revolving
wheels the quiet waters into foamy turbulence—onward, until the dark
crowd of human forms could be seen upon her decks; then, turning
sharply, she was lost to view behind a bank of forest trees. Ten
minutes more, and the shriek of escaping steam was heard as she
stopped her ponderous machinery at the landing.
From that time Irene almost held her breath, as so she counted the
moments that must elapse before Hartley could reach the point of view
in the road that led up from the river, should he have been a
passenger in the steamboat. The number was fully told, but it was
to-day as yesterday. There was no sign of his coming. And so the
eyelids, weary with vain expectation, drooped heavily over the
dimming eyes. But she had not stirred, nor shown a sign of feeling. A
little while she sat with her long lashes shading her pale cheeks;
then she slowly raised them and looked out toward the river again.
What a quick start she gave! Did her eyes deceive her? No, it was
Hartley, just in the spot she had looked to see him only a minute or
two before. But how slowly he moved, and with what a weary step! and,
even at this long distance, his face looked white against the wavy
masses of his dark-brown hair.
Irene started up with an exclamation, stood as if in doubt for a
moment, then, springing from the portico, she went flying to meet
him, as swiftly as if moving on winged feet. All the forces of her
ardent, impulsive nature were bearing her forward. There was no
remembrance of coldness or imagined wrong—pride did not even
struggle to lift its head—love conquered everything. The young man
stood still, from weariness or surprise, ere she reached him. As she
drew near, Irene saw that his face was not only pale, but thin and
"Oh, Hartley! dear Hartley!" came almost wildly from her lips, as
she flung her arms around his neck, and kissed him over and over
again, on lips, cheeks and brow, with an ardor and tenderness that no
maiden delicacy could restrain. "Have you been sick, or hurt? Why are
you so pale, darling?"
"I have been ill for a week—ever since I was last here," the young
man replied, speaking in a slow, tremulous voice.
"And I knew it not!" Tears were glittering in her eyes and pressing
out in great pearly beads from between the fringing lashes. "Why did
you not send for me, Hartley?"
And she laid her small hands upon each side of his face, as you
have seen a mother press the cheeks of her child, and looked up
tenderly into his love-beaming eyes.
"But come, dear," she added, removing her hands from his face and
drawing her arm within his—not to lean on, but to offer support. "My
father, who has, with me, suffered great anxiety on your account, is
waiting your arrival at the house."
Then, with slow steps, they moved along the upward sloping way,
crowding the moments with loving words.
And so the storm passed, and the sun came out again in the
firmament of their souls. But looked he down on no tempest-marks? Had
not the ruthless tread of passion marred the earth's fair surface?
Were no goodly trees uptorn, or clinging vines wrenched from their
support? Alas! was there ever a storm that did not leave some ruined
hope behind? ever a storm that did not strew the sea with wrecks or
mar the earth's fair beauty?
As when the pain of a crushed limb ceases there comes to the
sufferer a sense of delicious ease, so, after the storm had passed,
the lovers sat in the warm sunshine and dreamed of unclouded
happiness in the future. But in the week that Hartley spent with his
betrothed were revealed to their eyes, many times, desolate places
where flowers had been; and their hearts grew sad as they turned
their eyes away, and sighed for hopes departed, faith shaken, and
untroubled confidence in each other for the future before them, for
CHAPTER III. THE CLOUD AND THE SIGN.
IN alternate storm and sunshine their lives passed on, until
the appointed day arrived that was to see them bound, not by the
graceful true-lovers' knot, which either might untie, but by a chain
light as downy fetters if borne in mutual love, and galling as
ponderous iron links, if heart answered not heart and the chafing
spirit struggled to get free.
Hartley Emerson loved truly the beautiful, talented and
affectionate, but badly-disciplined, quick-tempered, self-willed girl
he had chosen for a wife; and Irene Delancy would have gone to prison
and to death for the sake of the man to whom she had yielded up the
rich treasures of her young heart. In both cases the great drawback to
happiness was the absence of self-discipline, self-denial and
self-conquest. They could overcome difficulties, brave danger, set the
world at defiance, if need be, for each other, and not a coward nerve
give way; but when pride and passion came between them, each was a
child in weakness and blind self-will. Unfortunately, persistence of
character was strong in both. They were of such stuff as martyrs were
made of in the fiery times of power and persecution.
A brighter, purer morning than that on which their marriage vows
were said the year had not given to the smiling earth. Clear and
softly blue as the eye of childhood bent the summer sky above them.
There was not a cloud in all the tranquil heavens to give suggestion
of dreary days to come or to wave a sign of warning. The blithe birds
sung their matins amid the branches that hung their leafy drapery
around and above Irene's windows, in seeming echoes to the songs love
was singing in her heart. Nature put on the loveliest attire in all
her ample wardrobe, and decked herself with coronals and wreaths of
flowers that loaded the air with sweetness.
"May your lives flow together like two pure streams that meet in
the same valley, and as bright a sky bend always over you as gives its
serene promise for to-day."
Thus spoke the minister as the ceremonials closed that wrought the
external bond of union between them. His words were uttered with
feeling and solemnity; for marriage, in his eyes, was no light thing.
He had seen too many sad hearts struggling in chains that only death
could break, ever to regard marriage with other than sober thoughts
that went questioning away into the future.
The "amen" of Mr. Delancy was not audibly spoken, but it was
deep-voiced in his heart.
There was to be a wedding-tour of a few weeks, and then the young
couple were to take possession of a new home in the city, Which Mr.
Emerson had prepared for his bride. The earliest boat that came up
from New York was to bears the party to Albany, Saratoga being the
first point of their destination.
After the closing of the marriage ceremony some two or three hours
passed before the time of departure came. The warm congratulations
were followed by a gay, festive scene, in which glad young hearts had
a merry-making time. How beautiful the bride looked! and how proudly
the gaze of her newly-installed husband turned ever and ever toward
her, move which way she would among her maidens, as if she were a
magnet to his eyes. He was standing in the portico that looked out
upon the distant river, about an hour after the wedding, talking with
one of the bridesmaids, when the latter, pointing to the sky, said,
"There comes your fate."
Emerson's eyes followed the direction of her finger.
"You speak in riddles," he replied, looking back into the maiden's
face. "What do you see?"
"A little white blemish on the deepening azure," was answered.
"There it lies, just over that stately horse-chestnut, whose branches
arch themselves into the outline of a great cathedral window."
"A scarcely perceptible cloud?"
"Yes, no bigger than a hand; and just below it is another."
"I see; and yet you still propound a riddle. What has that cloud to
do with my fate?"
"You know the old superstition connected with wedding-days?"
"That as the aspect of the day is, so will the wedded life be."
"Ours, then, is full of promise. There has been no fairer day than
this," said the young man.
"Yet many a day that opened as bright and cloudless has sobbed
itself away in tears."
"True; and it may be so again. But I am no believer in signs."
"Nor I," said the young lady, again laughing.
The bride came up at this moment and, hearing the remark of her
young husband, said, as she drew her arm within his—
"What about signs, Hartley?"
"Miss Carman has just reminded me of the superstition about
wedding-days, as typical of life."
"Oh yes, I remember," said Irene, smiling. "If the day opens clear,
then becomes cloudy, and goes out in storm, there will be happiness
in the beginning, but sorrow at the close; but if clouds and rain
herald its awakening, then pass over and leave the sky blue and
sunny, there will be trouble at first, but smiling peace as life
progresses and declines. Our sky is bright as heart could wish." And
the bride looked up into the deep blue ether.
Miss Carman laid one hand upon her arm and with the other pointed
lower down, almost upon the horizon's edge, saying, in a tone of mock
"As I said to Mr. Emerson, so I now say to you—There comes our
"You don't call that the herald of an approaching storm?"
"Weatherwise people say," answered the maiden, "that a sky without
a cloud is soon followed by stormy weather. Since morning until now
there has not a cloud been seen."'
"Weatherwise people and almanac-makers speak very oracularly, but
the day of auguries and signs is over," replied Irene.
"Philosophy," said Mr. Emerson, "is beginning to find reasons in
the nature of things for results that once seemed only accidental, yet
followed with remarkable certainty the same phenomena. It discovers a
relation of cause and effect where ignorance only recognizes some
power working in the dark."
"So you pass me over to the side of ignorance!" Irene spoke in a
tone that Hartley's ear recognized too well. His remark had touched
"Not by any means," he answered quickly, eager to do away the
impression. "Not by any means," he repeated. "The day of mere
auguries, omens and signs is over. Whatever natural phenomena appear
are dependent on natural causes, and men of science are beginning to
study the so-called superstitions of farmers and seamen, to find out,
if possible, the philosophical elucidation. Already a number of
curious results have followed investigation in this field."
Irene leaned on his arm still, but she did not respond. A little
cloud had come up and lay just upon the verge of her soul's horizon.
Her husband knew that it was there; and this knowledge caused a cloud
to dim also the clear azure of his mind. There was a singular
correspondence between their mental sky and the fair cerulean
Fearing to pursue the theme on which they were conversing, lest
some unwitting words might shadow still further the mind of Irene,
Emerson changed the subject, and was, to all appearance, successful
in dispelling the little cloud.
The hour came, at length, when the bridal party must leave. After a
tender, tearful partings with her father, Irene turned her steps away
from the home of her childhood into a new path, that would lead her
out into the world, where so many thousands upon thousands, who saw
only a way of velvet softness before them, have cut their tended feet
upon flinty rocks, even to the verve end of their tearful journey.
Tightly and long did Mr. Delancy hold his child to his heart, and when
his last kiss was given and his fervent "God give you a happy life, my
daughter!" said, he gazed after her departing form with eyes front
which manly firmness could not hold back the tears.
No one knew better than Mr. Delancy the perils that lay before his
daughter. That storms would darken her sky and desolate her heart, he
had too good reason to fear. His hope for her lay beyond the
summer-time of life, when, chastened by suffering and subdued by
experience, a tranquil autumn would crown her soul with blessings
that might have been earlier enjoyed. He was not superstitious, and
yet it was with a feeling of concern that he saw the white and golden
clouds gathering like enchanted land along the horizon, and piling
themselves up, one above another, as if in sport, building castles and
towers that soon dissolved, changing away into fantastic forms, in
which the eye could see no meaning; and when, at last, his ear caught
a far-distant sound that jarred the air, a sudden pain shot through
"On any other day but this!" he sighed to himself, turning from the
window at which he was standing and walking restlessly the floor for
several minutes, lost in a sad, dreamy reverie.
Like something instinct with life the stately steamer, quivering
with every stroke of her iron heart, swept along the gleaming river
on her upward passage, bearing to their destination her freight of
human souls. Among theme was our bridal party, which, as the day was
so clear and beautiful, was gathered upon the upper deck. As Irene's
eyes turned from the closing vision of her father's beautiful home,
where the first cycle of her life had recorded its golden hours, she
said, with a sigh, speaking to one of her companions—
"Farewell, Ivy Cliff! I shall return to you again, but not the same
being I was when I left your pleasant scenes this morning."
"A happier being I trust," replied Miss Carman, one of her
Rose Carman was a young friend, residing in the neighborhood of her
father, to whom Irene was tenderly attached.
"Something here says no." And Irene, bending toward Miss Carman,
pressed one of her hands against her bosom.
"The weakness of an hour like this," answered her friend with an
assuring smile. "It will pass away like the morning cloud and the
Mr. Emerson noticed the shade upon the face of his bride, and
drawing near to her, said, tenderly—
"I can forgive you a sigh for the past, Irene. Ivy Cliff is a
lovely spot, and your home has been all that a maiden's heart could
desire. It would be strange, indeed, if the chords that have so long
bound you there did not pull at your heart in parting."
Irene did not answer, but let her eyes turn backward with a pensive
almost longing glance toward the spot where lay hidden among the
distant trees the home of her early years. A deep shadow had suddenly
fallen upon her spirits. Whence it came she knew not and asked not;
but with the shadow was a dim foreboding of evil.
There was tact and delicacy enough in the companions of Irene to
lead them to withdraw observation and to withhold further remarks
until she could recover the self-possession she had lost. This came
back in a little while, when, with an effort, she put on the light,
easy manner so natural to her.
"Looking at the signs?" said one of the party, half an hour
afterward, as she saw the eyes of Irene ranging along the sky, where
clouds were now seen towering up in steep masses, like distant
"If I were a believer of signs," replied Irene, placing her arm
within that of the maiden who had addressed her, and drawing her
partly aside, "I might feel sober at this portent. But I am not.
Still, sign or no sign, I trust we are not going to have a storm. It
would greatly mar our pleasure."
But long ere the boat reached Albany, rain began to fall,
accompanied by lightning and thunder; and soon the clouds were
dissolving in a mimic deluge. Hour after hour, the wind and rain and
lightning held fierce revelry, and not until near the completion of
the voyage did the clouds hold back their watery treasures, and the
sunbeams force themselves through the storm's dark barriers,
When the stars came out that evening, studding the heavens with
light, there was no obscuring spot on all the o'erarching sky.
CHAPTER IV. UNDER THE CLOUD.
THE wedding party was to spend a week at Saratoga, and it
was now the third day since its arrival. The time had passed
pleasantly, or wearily, according to the state of mind or social
habits and resources of the individual. The bride, it was remarked by
some of the party, seemed dull; and Rose Carman, who knew her friend
better, perhaps, than any other individual in the company, and kept
her under close observation, was concerned to notice an occasional
curtness of manner toward her husband, that was evidently not
relished. Something had already transpired to jar the chords so
lately attuned to harmony.
After dinner a ride was proposed by one of the company. Emerson
responded favorably, but Irene was indifferent. He urged her, and she
gave an evidently reluctant consent. While the gentlemen went to make
arrangement for carriages, the ladies retired to their rooms. Miss
Carman accompanied the bride. She had noticed her manner, and felt
slightly troubled at her state of mind, knowing, as she did, her
impulsive character and blind self-will when excited by opposition.
"I don't want to ride to-day!" exclaimed Irene, throwing herself
into a chair as soon as she had entered her room; "and Hartley knows
that I do not."
Her cheeks burned and her eyes sparkled.
"If it will give him pleasure to ride out," said Rose, in a gentle
soothing manner, "you cannot but have the same feeling in
"I beg your pardon!" replied Irene, briskly. "If I don't want to
ride, no company can make the act agreeable. Why can't people learn
to leave others in freedom? If Hartley had shown the same
unwillingness to join this riding party that I manifested, do you
think I would have uttered a second word in favor of going? No. I am
provoked at his persistence."
"There, there, Irene!" said Miss Carman, drawing an arm tenderly
around the neck of her friend; "don't trust such sentences on your
lips. I can't bear to hear you talk so. It isn't my sweet friend
"You are a dear, good girl, Rose," replied Irene, smiling faintly,
"and I only wish that I had a portion of your calm, gentle spirit.
But I am as I am, and must act out if I act at all. I must be myself
"You can be as considerate of others as of yourself?" said Rose.
Irene looked at her companion inquiringly.
"I mean," added Rose, "that you can exercise the virtue of
self-denial in order to give pleasure to another—especially if that
other one be an object very dear to you. As in the present case,
seeing that your husband wants to join this riding party, you can,
for his sake, lay aside your indifference, and enter, with a hearty
good-will, into the proposed pastime."
"And why cannot he, seeing that I do not care to ride, deny himself
a little for my sake, and not drag me out against my will? Is all the
yielding and concession to be on my side? Must his will rule in
everything? I can tell you what it is, Rose, this will never suit me.
There will be open war between us before the honeymoon has waxed and
waned, if he goes on as he has begun."
"Hush! hush, Irene!" said her friend, in a tone of deprecation.
"The lightest sense of wrong gains undue magnitude the moment we begin
to complain. We see almost anything to be of greater importance when
from the obscurity of thought we bring it out into the daylight of
"It will be just as I say, and saying it will not make it any more
so," was Irene's almost sullen response to this. "I have my own ideas
of things and my own individuality, and neither of these do I mean to
abandon. If Hartley hasn't the good sense to let me have my own way in
what concerns myself, I will take my own way. As to the troubles that
may come afterward, I do not give them any weight in the argument. I
would die a martyr's deaths rather than become the passive creature of
"My dear friend, why will you talk so?" Rose spoke in a tone of
"Simply because I am in earnest. From the hour of our marriage I
have seen a disposition on the part of my husband to assume
control—to make his will the general law of our actions. It has not
exhibited itself in things of moment, but in trifles, showing that
the spirit was there. I say this to you, Rose, because we have been
like sisters, and I can tell you of my inmost thoughts. There is a
cloud already in the sky, and it threatens an approaching storm."
"Oh, my friend, why are you so blind, so weak, so self-deceived?
You are putting forth your hands to drag down the temple of happiness.
If it fall, it will crush you beneath a mass of ruins; and not you
only, but the one you have so lately pledged yourself before God and
his angels to love."
"And I do love him as deeply as ever man was loved. Oh that he knew
my heart! He would not then shatter his image there. He would not
trifle with a spirit formed for intense, yielding, passionate love,
but rigid as steel and cold as ice when its freedom is touched. He
should have known me better before linking his fate with mine."
One of her darker moods had come upon Irene, and she was beating
about in the blind obscurity of passion. As she began to give
utterance to complaining thoughts, new thoughts formed themselves,
and what was only vague feelings grew into ideas of wrong; and these,
when once spoken, assumed a magnitude unimagined before. In vain did
her friend strive with her. Argument, remonstrance, persuasion, only
seemed to bring greater obscurity and to excite a more bitter feeling
in her mind. And so, despairing of any good result, Rose withdrew, and
left her with her own unhappy thoughts.
Not long after Miss Carman retired, Emerson came in. At the sound
of his approaching footsteps, Irene had, with a strong effort,
composed herself and swept back the deeper shadows from her face.
"Not ready yet?" he said, in a pleasant, half-chiding way. "The
carriages will be at the door in ten minutes."
"I am not going to ride out," returned Irene, in a quiet, seemingly
indifferent tone of voice. Hartley mistook her manner for sport, and
"Oh yes you are, my little lady."
"No, I am not." There was no misapprehension now.
"Not going to ride out?" Hartley's brows contracted.
"No; I am not going to ride out to-day." Each word was distinctly
"I don't understand you, Irene."
"Are not my words plain enough?"
"Yes, they are too plain—so plain as to make them involve a
mystery. What do you mean by this sudden change of purpose?"
"I don't wish to ride out," said Irene, with assumed calmness of
manner; "and that being so, may I not have my will in the case?"
A red spot burned on Irene's cheeks and her eyes flashed.
"No," repeated her husband; "not after you have given up that will
"To you!" Irene started to her feet in instant passion. "And so I
am to be nobody, and you the lord and master. My will is to be
nothing, and yours the law of my life." Her lip curled in contemptuous
"You misunderstand me," said Hartley Emerson, speaking as calmly as
was possible in this sudden emergency. "I did not refer specially to
myself, but to all of our party, to whom you had given up your will
in a promise to ride out with them, and to whom, therefore, you were
"An easy evasion," retorted the excited bride, who had lost her
"Irene," the young man spoke sternly, "are those the right words
for your husband? An easy evasion!"
"I have said them."
"And you must unsay them."
Both had passed under the cloud which pride and passion had raised.
"Must! I thought you knew me better, Hartley." Irene grew suddenly
"If there is to be love between us, all barriers must be removed."
must to me, sir! I will not endure the word."
Hartley turned from her and walked the floor with rapid steps,
angry, grieved and in doubt as to what it were best for him to do.
The storm had broken on him without a sign of warning, and he was
wholly unprepared to meet it.
"Irene," he said, at length, pausing before her, "this conduct on
your part is wholly inexplicable. I cannot understand its meaning.
Will you explain yourself?"
"Certainly. I am always ready to give a reason for my conduct," she
replied, with cold dignity.
"Say on, then." Emerson spoke with equal coldness of manner.
"I did not wish to ride out, and said so in the beginning. That
ought to have been enough for you. But no—my wishes were nothing;
your will must be law."
"And that is all! the head and front of my offending!" said
Emerson, in a tone of surprise.
"It isn't so much the thing itself that I object to, as the spirit
in which it is done," said Irene.
"A spirit of overbearing self-will!' said Emerson.
"Yes, if you choose. That is what my soul revolts against. I gave
you my heart and my hand—my love and my confidence—not my freedom.
The last is a part of my being, and I will maintain it while I have
"Perverse girl! What insane spirit has got possession of your
mind?" exclaimed Emerson, chafed beyond endurance.
"Say on," retorted Irene; "I am prepared for this. I have seen,
from the hour of our marriage, that a time of strife would come; that
your will would seek to make itself ruler, and that I would not
submit. I did not expect the issue to come so soon. I trusted in your
love to spare me, at least, until I could be bidden from general
observation when I turned myself upon you and said, Thus far thou
mayest go, but no farther. But, come the struggle early or late—now
or in twenty years—I am prepared."
There came at this moment a rap at their door. Mr. Emerson opened
"Carriage is waiting," said a servant.
"Say that we will be down in a few minutes."
The door closed.
"Come, Irene," said Mr. Emerson.
"You spoke very confidently to the servant, and said we would be
down in a few minutes."
"There, there, Irene! Let this folly die; it has lived long enough.
Come! Make yourself ready with all speed—our party is delayed by
this prolonged absence."
"You think me trifling, and treat me as if I were a captious
child," said Irene, with chilling calmness; "but I am neither."
"Then you will not go?"
"I will not go." She said the words slowly and deliberately, and as
she spoke looked her husband steadily in the face. She was in
earnest, and he felt that further remonstrance would be in vain.
"You will repent of this," he replied, with enough of menace in his
voice to convey to her mind a great deal more than was in his
thoughts. And he turned from her and left the room. Going down
stairs, he found the riding-party waiting for their appearance.
"Where is Irene?" was asked by one and another, on seeing him
"She does not care to ride out this afternoon, and so I have
excused her," he replied. Miss Carman looked at him narrowly, and saw
that there was a shade of trouble on his countenance, which he could
not wholly conceal. She would have remained behind with Irene, but
that would have disappointed the friend who was to be her companion in
As the party was in couples, and as Mr. Emerson had made up his
mind to go without his young wife, he had to ride alone. The absence
of Irene was felt as a drawback to the pleasure of all the company.
Miss Carman, who understood the real cause of Irene's refusal to
ride, was so much troubled in her mind that she sat almost silent
during the two hours they were out. Mr. Emerson left the party after
they had been out for an hour, and returned to the hotel. His
excitement had cooled off, and he began to feel regret at the
unbending way in which he had met his bride's unhappy mood.
"Her over-sensitive mind has taken up a wrong impression," he said,
as he talked with himself; "and, instead of saying or doing anything
to increase that impression, I should, by word and act of kindness,
have done all in my power for its removal. Two wrongs never make a
right. Passion met by passion results not in peace. I should have
soothed and yielded, and so won her back to reason. As a man, I ought
to possess a cooler and more rationally balanced mind. She is a being
of feeling and impulse,—loving, ardent, proud, sensitive and
strong-willed. Knowing this, it was madness in me to chafe instead of
soothing her; to oppose, when gentle concession would have torn from
her eyes an illusive veil. Oh that I could learn wisdom in time! I was
in no ignorance as to her peculiar character. I knew her faults and
her weaknesses, as well as her nobler qualities; and it was for me to
stimulate the one and bear with the others. Duty, love, honor,
humanity, all pointed to this."
The longer Mr. Emerson's thoughts ran in this direction, the deeper
grew his feeling of self-condemnation, and the more tenderly yearned
his heart toward the young creature he had left alone with the
enemies of their peace nestling in her bosom and filling it with
passion and pain. After separating himself from his party, he drove
back toward the hotel at a speed that soon put his horses into a
CHAPTER V. THE BURSTING OF THE STORM.
MR. DELANCY was sitting in his library on the afternoon of
the fourth day since the wedding-party left Ivy Cliff, when the
entrance of some one caused him to turn toward the door.
"Irene!" he exclaimed, in a tone of anxiety and alarm, as he
started to his feet; for his daughter stood before him. Her face was
pale, her eyes fixed and sad, her dress in disorder.
"Irene, in Heaven's name, what has happened?"
"The worst," she answered, in a low, hoarse voice, not moving from
the spot where she first stood still.
"Speak plainly, my child. I cannot bear suspense."
"I have left my husband and returned to you!" was the firmly
"Oh, folly! oh, madness! What evil counselor has prevailed with
you, my unhappy child?" said Mr. Delancy, in a voice of anguish.
"I have counseled with no one but myself."
"Never a wise counselor—never a wise counselor! But why, why have
you taken this desperate step?"
"In self-protection," replied Irene.
"Sit down, my child. There!" and he led her to a seat. "Now let me
remove your bonnet and shawl. How wretched you look, poor, misguided
one! I could have laid you in the grave with less agony than I feel
in seeing you thus."
Her heart was touched at this, and tears fell over her face. In the
selfishness of her own sternly-borne trouble, she had forgotten the
sorrow she was bringing to her father's heart.
"Poor child! poor child!" sobbed the old man, as he sat down beside
Irene and drew her head against his breast. And so both wept together
for a time. After they had grown calm, Mr. Delancy said—
"Tell me, Irene, without disguise of any kind, the meaning of this
step which you have so hastily taken. Let me have the beginning,
progress and consummation of the sad misunderstanding."
While yet under the government of blind passion, ere her husband
returned from the drive which Irene had refused to take with him, she
had, acting from a sudden suggestion that came to her mind, left her
room and, taking the cars, passed down to Albany, where she remained
until morning at one of the hotels. In silence and loneliness she had,
during the almost sleepless night that followed, ample time for
reflection and repentance. And both came, with convictions of error
and deep regret for the unwise, almost disgraceful step she had taken,
involving not only suffering, but humiliating exposure of herself and
husband. But it was felt to be too late now to look back. Pride would
have laid upon her a positive interdiction, if other considerations
had not come in to push the question of return aside.
In the morning, without partaking of food, Irene left in the New
York boat, and passed down the river toward the home from which she
had gone forth, only a few days before, a happy bride—returning with
the cup, then full of the sweet wine of life, now brimming with the
bitterest potion that had ever touched her lips.
And so she had come back to her father's house. In all the hours of
mental anguish which had passed since her departure from Saratoga,
there had been an accusing spirit at her ear, and, resist as she
would, self-condemnation prevailed over attempted self-justification.
The cause of this unhappy rupture was so slight, the first provocation
so insignificant, that she felt the difficulty of making out her case
before her father. As to the world, pride counseled silence.
With but little concealment or extenuation of her own conduct,
Irene told the story of her disagreement with Hartley.
"And that was all!" exclaimed Mr. (sic) Delancey, in amazement,
when she ended her narrative.
"All, but enough!" she answered, with a resolute manner.
Mr. Delancy arose and walked the floor in silence for more than ten
minutes, during which time Irene neither spoke nor moved.
"Oh, misery!" ejaculated the father, at length, lifting his hands
above his head and then bringing them down with a gesture of despair.
Irene started up and moved to his side.
"Dear father!" She spoke tenderly, laying her hands upon him; but
he pushed her away, saying—
"Wretched girl! you have laid upon my old head a burden of disgrace
and wretchedness that you have no power to remove."
"Father! father!" She clung to him, but he pushed her away. His
manner was like that of one suddenly bereft of reason. She clung
still, but he resolutely tore himself from her, when she fell
exhausted and fainting upon the floor.
Alarm now took the place of other emotions, and Mr. Delancy was
endeavoring to lift the insensible body, when a quick, heavy tread in
the portico caused him to look up, just as Hartley Emerson pushed open
one of the French windows and entered the library. He had a wild,
anxious, half-frightened look. Mr. Delancy let the body fall from his
almost paralyzed arms and staggered to a chair, while Emerson sprung
forward, catching up the fainting form of his young bride and bearing
it to a sofa.
"How long has she been in this way?" asked the young man, in a tone
"She fainted this moment," replied Mr. Delancy.
"How long has she been here?"
"Not half an hour," was answered; and as Mr. Delancy spoke he
reached for the bell and jerked it two or three times violently. The
waiter, startled by the loud, prolonged sound, came hurriedly to the
"Send Margaret here, and then get a horse and ride over swiftly for
Dr. Edmundson. Tell him to come immediately."
The waiter stood for a moment or two, looking in a half-terrified
way upon the white, deathly face of Irene, and then fled from the
apartment. No grass grew beneath his horse's feet as he held him to
his utmost speed for the distance of two miles, which lay between Ivy
Cliff and the doctor's residence.
Margaret, startled by the hurried, half-incoherent summons of the
waiter, came flying into the library. The moment her eyes rested upon
Irene, who still insensible upon the sofa, she screamed out, in
"Oh, she's dead! she's dead!" and stood still as if suddenly
paralyzed; then, wringing her hands, she broke out in a wild, sobbing
"My poor, poor child! Oh, she is dead, dead!"
"No, Margaret," said Mr. Delancy, as calmly as he could speak, "she
is not dead; it is only a fainting fit. Bring some water, quickly."
Water was brought and dashed into the face of Irene; but there came
no sign of returning consciousness.
"Hadn't you better take her up to her room, Mr. Emerson?" suggested
"Yes," he replied; and, lifting the insensible form of his bride in
his arms, the unhappy man bore her to her chamber. Then, sitting down
beside the bed upon which he had placed her, he kissed her pale cheeks
and, laying his face to hers, sobbed and moaned, in the abandonment of
his grief, like a distressed child weeping in despair for some lost
"Come," said Margaret, who was an old family domestic, drawing
Hartley from the bedside, "leave her alone with me for a little
And the husband and father retired from the room. When they
returned, at the call of Margaret, they found Irene in bed, her
white, unconscious face scarcely relieved against the snowy pillow on
which her head was resting.
"She is alive," said Margaret, in a low and excited voice; "I can
feel her heart beat."
"Thank God!" ejaculated Emerson, bending again over the motionless
form and gazing anxiously down upon the face of his bride.
But there was no utterance of thankfulness in the heart of Mr.
Delancy. For her to come back again to conscious life was, he felt,
but a return to wretchedness. If the true prayer of his heart could
have found voice, it would have been for death, and not for life.
In silence, fear and suspense they waited an hour before the doctor
arrived. Little change in Irene took place during that time, except
that her respiration became clearer and the pulsations of her heart
distinct and regular. The application of warm stimulants was
immediately ordered, and their good effects soon became apparent.
"All will come right in a little while," said Dr. Edmundson,
encouragingly. "It seems to be only a fainting fit of unusual
Hartley drew Mr. Delancy aside.
"It will be best that I should be alone with her when she
recovers," said he.
"You may be right in that," said Mr. Delancy, after a moment's
"I am sure that I am," was returned.
"You think she will recover soon?" said Mr. Delancy, approaching
"Yes, at any moment. She is breathing deeper, and her heart beats
with a fuller impulse."
"Let us, retire, then;" and he drew the doctor from the apartment.
Pausing at the door, he called to Margaret in a half whisper. She
went out also, Emerson alone remaining.
Taking his place by the bedside, he waited, in trembling anxiety,
for the moment when her eyes should open and recognize him. At last
there came a quivering of the eyelids and a motion about the
sleeper's lips. Emerson bent over and took one of her hands in his.
"Irene!" He called her name in a voice of the tenderest affection.
The sound seemed to penetrate to the region of consciousness, for her
lips moved with a murmur of inarticulate words. He kissed her, and
There was a sudden lighting up of her face.
"Irene, love! darling!" The voice of Emerson was burdened with
"Oh, Hartley!" she exclaimed, opening her eyes and looking with a
kind of glad bewilderment into his face. Then, half rising and
drawing her arms around his neck, she hid her face on his bosom,
"Thank God that it is only a dream!"
"Yes, thank God!" replied her husband, as he kissed her in a kind
of wild fervor; "and may such dreams never come again."
She lay very still for some moments. Thought and memory were
beginning to act feebly. The response of her husband had in it
something that set her to questioning. But there was one thing that
made her feel happy: the sound of his loving voice was in her ears;
and all the while she felt his hand moving, with a soft, caressing
touch, over her cheek and temple.
"Dear Irene!" he murmured in her ears; and then her hand tightened
And thus she remained until conscious life regained its full
activity. Then the trial came.
Suddenly lifting herself from the bosom of her husband, Irene gave
a hurried glance around the well-known chamber, then turned and looked
with a strange, fearful questioning glance into his face:
"Where am I? What does this mean?"
"It means," replied Emerson, "that the dream, thank God! is over,
and that my dear wife is awake again."
He placed his arms again around her and drew her to his heart,
almost smothering her, as he did so, with kisses.
She lay passive for a little while; then, disengaging herself, she
"I feel weak and bewildered; let me lie down."
She closed her eyes as Emerson placed her back on the pillow, a sad
expression covering her still pallid face. Sitting down beside her,
he took her hand and held it with a firm pressure. She did not
attempt to withdraw it. He kissed her, and a warmer flush came over
"Dear Irene!" His hand pressed tightly upon hers, and she returned
"Shall I call your father? He is very anxious about you."
"Not yet." And she caught slightly her breath, as if feeling were
growing too strong for her.
"Let it be as a dream, Hartley." Irene lifted herself up and looked
calmly, but with a very sad expression on her countenance, into her
"Between us two, Irene, even as a dream from which both have
awakened," he replied.
She closed her eyes and sunk back upon the pillow.
Mr. Emerson then went to the door and spoke to Mr. Delancy. On a
brief consultation it was thought best for Dr. Edmundson not to see
her again. A knowledge of the fact that he had been called in might
give occasion for more disturbing thoughts than were already pressing
upon her mind. And so, after giving some general directions as to the
avoidance of all things likely to excite her mind unpleasantly, the
Mr. Delancy saw his daughter alone. The interview was long and
earnest. On his part was the fullest disapproval of her conduct and
the most solemnly spoken admonitions and warnings. She confessed her
error, without any attempt at excuse or palliation, and promised a
wiser conduct in the future.
"There is not one husband in five," said the father, "who would
have forgiven an act like this, placing him, as it does, in such a
false and humiliating position before the world. He loves you with too
deep and true a love, my child, for girlish trifling like this. And
let me warn you of the danger you incur of turning against you the
spirit of such a man. I have studied his character closely, and I see
in it an element of firmness that, if it once sets itself, will be as
inflexible as iron. If you repeat acts of this kind, the day must come
when forbearance will cease; and then, in turning from you, it will be
never to turn back again. Harden him against you once, and it will be
for all time."
Irene wept bitterly at this strong representation, and trembled at
thought of the danger she had escaped.
To her husband, when she was alone with him again, she confessed
her fault, and prayed him to let the memory of it pass from his mind
for ever. On his part was the fullest denial of any purpose whatever,
in the late misunderstanding, to bend her to his will. He assured her
that if he had dreamed of any serious objection on her part to the
ride, he would not have urged it for a moment. It involved no
promised pleasure to him apart from pleasure to her; and it was
because he believed that she would enjoy the drive that he had urged
her to make one of the party.
All this was well, as far as it could go. But repentance and mutual
forgiveness did not restore everything to the old condition—did not
obliterate that one sad page in their history, and leave them free to
make a new and better record. If the folly had been in private, the
effort at forgiving and forgetting would have been attended with fewer
annoying considerations. But it was committed in public, and under
circumstances calculated to attract attention and occasion invidious
remark. And then, how were they to meet the different members of the
wedding-party, which they had so suddenly thrown into consternation?
On the next day the anxious members of this party made their
appearance at Ivy Cliff, not having, up to this time, received any
intelligence of the fugitive bride. Mr. Delancy did not attempt to
excuse to them the unjustifiable conduct of his daughter, beyond the
admission that she must have been temporarily deranged. Something was
said about resuming the bridal tour, but Mr. Delancy said, "No; the
quiet of Ivy Cliff will yield more pleasure than the excitement of
And all felt this to be true.
CHAPTER VI. AFTER THE STORM.
AFTER the storm. Alas! that there should be a wreck-strewn
shore so soon! That within three days of the bridal morning a tempest
should have raged, scattering on the wind sweet blossoms which had
just opened to the sunshine, tearing away the clinging vines of love,
and leaving marks of desolation which no dew and sunshine could ever
It was not a blessed honeymoon to them. How could it be, after what
had passed? Both were hurt and mortified; and while there was mutual
forgiveness and great tenderness and fond concessions, one toward the
other, there was a sober, (sic) thoughful state of mind, not favorable
Mr. Delancy hoped the lesson—a very severe one—might prove the
guarantee of future peace. It had, without doubt, awakened Irene's
mind to sober thoughts—and closer self-examination than usual. She
was convicted in her own heart of folly, the memory of which could
never return to her without a sense of pain.
At the end of three weeks from the day of their marriage, Mr. and
Mrs. Emerson went down to the city to take possession of their new
home. On the eve of their departure from Ivy Cliff, Mr. Delancy had a
long conference with his daughter, in which he conjured her, by all
things sacred, to guard herself against that blindness of passion
which had already produced such unhappy consequences. She repeated,
with many tears, her good resolutions for the future, and showed great
sorrow and contrition for the past.
"It may come out right," said the old man to himself; as he sat
alone, with a pressure of foreboding on his mind, looking into the
dim future, on the day of their departure for New York. His only and
beloved child had gone forth to return no more, unless in sorrow or
wretchedness. "It may come out right, but my heart has sad
There was a troubled suspense of nearly a week, when the first
letter came from Irene to her father. He broke the seal with unsteady
hands, fearing to let his eyes fall upon the opening page.
"My dear, dear father! I am a happy young wife."
"Thank God!" exclaimed the old man aloud, letting the hand fall
that held Irene's letter. It was some moments before he could read
farther; then he drank in, with almost childish eagerness, every
sentence of the long letter.
"Yes, yes, it may come out right," said Mr. Delancy; "it may come
out right." He uttered the words, so often on his lips, with more
confidence than usual. The letter strongly urged him to make her a
visit, if it was only for a day or two.
"You know, dear father," she wrote, "that most of your time is to
be spent with us—all your winters, certainly; and we want you to
begin the new arrangement as soon as possible."
Mr. Delancy sighed over the passage. He had not set his heart on
this arrangement. It might have been a pleasant thing for him to
anticipate; but there was not the hopeful basis for anticipation
which a mind like his required.
Not love alone prompted Mr. Delancy to make an early visit to New
York; a feeling of anxiety to know how it really was with the young
couple acted quite as strongly in the line of incentive. And so he
went down to the city and passed nearly a week there. Both Irene and
her husband knew that he was observing them closely all the while,
and a consciousness of this put them under some constraint.
Everything passed harmoniously, and Mr. Delancy returned with the
half-hopeful, half-doubting words on his lips, so often and often
"Yes, yes, it may come out right."
But it was not coming out altogether right. Even while the old man
was under her roof, Irene had a brief season of self-willed reaction
against her husband, consequent on some unguarded word or act, which
she felt to be a trespass on her freedom. To save appearances while
Mr. Delancy was with them, Hartley yielded and tendered conciliation,
all the while that his spirit chafed sorely.
The departure of Mr. Delancy for Ivy Cliff was the signal for both
Irene and her husband to lay aside a portion of the restraint which
each had borne with a certain restlessness that longed for a time of
freedom. On the very day that he left Irene showed so much that
seemed to her husband like perverseness of will that he was seriously
offended, and spoke an unguarded word that was as fire to stubble—a
word that was repented of as soon as spoken, but which pride would not
permit him to recall. It took nearly a week of suffering to discipline
the mind of Mr. Emerson to the point of conciliation. On the part of
Irene there was not the thought of yielding. Her will, supported by
pride, was as rigid as iron. Reason had no power over her. She felt,
rather than thought.
Thus far, both as lover and husband, in all their alienations,
Hartley had been the first to yield; and it was so now. He was
strong-willed and persistent; but cooler reason helped him back into
the right way, and he had, thus far, found it quicker than Irene. Not
that he suffered less or repented sooner. Irene's suffering was far
deeper, but she was blinder and more self-determined.
Again the sun of peace smiled down upon them, but, as before, on
something shorn of its strength or beauty.
"I will be more guarded," said Hartley to himself. "Knowing her
weakness, why should I not protect her against everything that wounds
her sensitive nature? Love concedes, is long suffering and full of
patience. I love Irene—words cannot tell how deeply. Then why should
I not, for her sake, bear and forbear? Why should I think of myself
and grow fretted because she does not yield as readily as I could
desire to my wishes?"
So Emerson talked with himself and resolved. But who does not know
the feebleness of resolution when opposed to temperament and
confirmed habits of mind? How weak is mere human strength! Alas! how
few, depending on that alone, are ever able to bear up steadily, for
any length of time, against the tide of passion!
Off his guard in less than twenty-four hours after resolving thus
with himself, the young husband spoke in captious disapproval of
something which Irene had done or proposed to do, and the consequence
was the assumption on her part of a cold, reserved and dignified
manner, which hurt and annoyed him beyond measure. Pride led him to
treat her in the same way; and so for days they met in silence or
formal courtesy, all the while suffering a degree of wretchedness
almost impossible to be endured, and all the while, which was worst of
all, writing on their hearts bitter things against each other.
To Emerson, as before, the better state first returned, and the
sunshine of his countenance drove the shadows from hers. Then for a
season they were loving, thoughtful, forbearing and happy. But the
clouds came back again, and storms marred the beauty of their lives.
All this was sad—very sad. There were good and noble qualities in
the hearts of both. They were not narrow-minded and selfish, like so
many of your placid, accommodating, calculating people, but generous
in their feelings and broad in their sympathies. They had ideals of
life that went reaching out far beyond themselves. Yes, it was sad to
see two such hearts beating against and bruising each other, instead
of taking the same pulsation. But there seemed to be no help for them.
Irene's jealous guardianship of her freedom, her quick temper, pride
and self-will made the position of her husband so difficult that it
was almost impossible for him to avoid giving offence.
The summer and fall passed away without any serious rupture between
the sensitive couple, although there had been seasons of great
unhappiness to both. Irene had been up to Ivy Cliff many times to
visit her father, and now she was, beginning to urge his removal to
the city for the winter; but Mr. Delancy, who had never given his
full promise to this arrangement, felt less and less inclined to
leave his old home as the season advanced. Almost from boyhood he had
lived there, and his habits were formed for rural instead of city
He pictured the close streets, with their rows of houses, that left
for the eye only narrow patches of ethereal blue, and contrasted this
with the broad winter landscape, which for him had always spread
itself out with a beauty rivaled by no other season, and his heart
The brief December days were on them, and Irene grew more urgent.
"Come, dear father," she wrote. "I think of you, sitting all alone
at Ivy Cliff, during these long evenings, and grow sad at heart in
sympathy with your loneliness. Come at once. Why linger a week or
even a day longer? We have been all in all to each other these many
years, and ought not to be separated now."
But Mr. Delancy was not ready to exchange the pure air and
widespreading scenery of the Highlands for a city residence, even in
the desolate winter, and so wrote back doubtingly. Irene and her
husband then came up to add the persuasion of their presence at Ivy
Cliff. It did not avail, however. The old man was too deeply wedded
to his home.
"I should be miserable in New York," he replied to their earnest
entreaties; "and it would not add to your happiness to see me going
about with a sober, discontented face, or to be reminded every little
while that if you had left me to my winter's hibernation I would have
been a contented instead of a dissatisfied old man. No, no, my
children; Ivy Cliff is the best place for me. You shall come up and
spend Christmas here, and we will have a gay season."
There was no further use in argument. Mr. Delancy would have his
way; and he was right.
Irene and her husband went back to the city, with a promise to
spend Christmas at the old homestead.
Two weeks passed. It was the twentieth of December. Without
previous intimation, Irene came up alone to Ivy Cliff, startling her
father by coming in suddenly upon him one dreary afternoon, just as
the leaden sky began to scatter down the winter's first offering of
"My daughter!" he exclaimed, so surprised that he could not move
from where he was sitting.
"Dear father!" she answered with a loving smile, throwing her arms
around his neck and kissing him.
"Where is Hartley?" asked the old man, looking past Irene toward
the door through which she had just entered.
"Oh, I left him in New York," she replied.
"In New York! Have you come alone?"
"Yes. Christmas is only five days off, you know, and I am here to
help you prepare for it. Of course, Hartley cannot leave his
She spoke in an excited, almost gay tone of voice. Mr. Delancy
looked at her earnestly. Unpleasant doubts flitted through his mind.
"When will your husband come up?" he inquired.
"At Christmas," she answered, without hesitation.
"Why didn't you write, love?" asked Mr. Delancy. "You have taken me
by surprise, and set my nerves in a flutter."
"I only thought about it last evening. One of my sudden
And she laughed a low, fluttering laugh. It might have been an
error, but her father had a fancy that it did not come from her
"I will run up stairs and put off my things," she said, moving
"Did you bring a trunk?"
"Oh yes; it is at the landing. Will you send for it?"
And Irene went, with quick steps, from the apartment, and ran up to
the chamber she still called her own. On the way she met Margaret.
"Miss Irene!" exclaimed the latter, pausing and lifting her hands
in astonishment. "Why, where did you come from?"
"Just arrived in the boat. Have come to help you get ready for
"Please goodness, how you frightened me!" said the warm-hearted
domestic, who had been in the family ever since Irene was a child,
and was strongly attached to her. "How's Mr. Emerson?"
"Oh, he's well, thank you, Margaret."
"Well now, child, you did set me all into a fluster. I thought
maybe you'd got into one of your tantrums, and come off and left your
"Why, Margaret!" A crimson flush mantled the face of Irene.
"You must excuse me, child, but just that came into my head,"
replied Margaret. "You're very downright and determined sometimes;
and there isn't anything hardly that you wouldn't do if the spirit
was on you. I'm glad it's all right. Dear me! dear me!"
"Oh, I'm not quite so bad as you all make me out," said Irene,
"I don't think you are bad," answered Margaret, in kind
deprecation, yet with a freedom of speech warranted by her years and
attachment to Irene. "But you go off in such strange ways—get so
wrong-headed sometimes—that there's no counting on you."
Then, growing more serious, she added—
"The fact is, Miss Irene, you keep me feeling kind of uneasy all
the time. I dreamed about you last night, and maybe that has helped to
put me into a fluster now."
"Dreamed about me!" said Irene, with a degree of interest in her
"Yes. But don't stand here, Miss Irene; come over to your room."
"What kind of a dream had you, Margaret?" asked the young wife, as
she sat down on the side of the bed where, pillowed in sleep, she had
dreamed so many of girlhood's pleasant dreams.
"I was dreaming all night about you," replied Margaret, looking
"And you saw me in trouble?"
"Oh dear, yes; in nothing but trouble. I thought once that I saw
you in a great room full of wild beasts. They were chained or in
cages; but you would keep going close up to the bars of the cages, or
near enough for the chained animals to spring upon you. And that
wasn't all. You put the end of your little parasol in between the
bars, and a fierce tiger struck at you with his great cat-like paw,
tearing the flesh from your arm. Then I saw you in a little boat, down
on the river. You had put up a sail, and was going out all alone. I
saw the boat move off from the shore just as plainly as I see you now.
I stood and watched until you were in the middle of the river. Then I
thought Mr. Emerson was standing by me, and that we both saw a great
monster—a whale, or something else—chasing after your boat. Mr.
Emerson was in great distress, and said, 'I told her not to go, but
she is so self-willed.' And then he jumped into a boat and, taking
the oars, went gliding out after you as swiftly as the wind. I never
saw mortal arm make a boat fly as he did that little skiff. And I saw
him strike the monster with his oar just as his huge jaws were opened
to devour you. Dear! dear; but I was frightened, and woke up all in a
"Before he had saved me?" said Irene, taking a deep breath.
"Yes; but I don't think there was any chance of saving there, and I
was glad that I waked up when I did."
"What else did you dream?" asked Irene.
"Oh, I can't tell you all I dreamed. Once I saw you fall from the
high rock just above West Point and go dashing down into the river.
Then I saw you chased by a mad bull."
"And no one came to my rescue?"
"Oh yes, there was more than one who tried to save you. First, your
father ran in between you and the bull; but he dashed over him. Then
I saw Mr. Emerson rushing up with a pitchfork, and he got before the
mad animal and pointed the sharp prongs at his eyes; but the bull
tore down on him and tossed him away up into the air. I awoke as I
saw him falling on the sharp-pointed horns that were held up to catch
"Well, Margaret, you certainly had a night of horrors," said Irene,
in a sober way.
"Indeed, miss, and I had; such a night as I don't wish to have
"And your dreaming was all about me?"
"And I was always in trouble or danger?"
"Yes, always; and it was mostly your own fault, too. And that
reminds me of what the minister told us in his sermon last Sunday. He
said that there were a great many kinds of trouble in this world—some
coming from the outside and some coming from the inside; that the
outside troubles, which we couldn't help, were generally easiest to be
borne; while the inside troubles, which we might have prevented, were
the bitterest things in life, because there was remorse as well as
suffering. I understood very well what he meant."
"I am afraid," said Irene, speaking partly to herself, "that most
of my troubles come from the inside."
"I'm afraid they do," spoke out the frank domestic.
"Indeed, miss, and I do think so. If you'd only get right
here"—laying her hand upon her breast—"somebody beside yourself
would be a great deal happier. There now, child, I've said it; and
you needn't go to getting angry with me."
"They are often our best friends who use the plainest speech," said
Irene. "No, Margaret, I am not going to be angry with one whom I know
to be true-hearted."
"Not truer-hearted than your husband, Miss Irene; nor half so
"Why did you say that?" Margaret started at the tone of voice in
which this interrogation was made.
"Because I think so," she answered naively.
Irene looked at her for some moments with a penetrating gaze, and
then said, with an affected carelessness of tone—
"Your preacher and your dreams have made you quite a moralist."
"They have not taken from my heart any of the love it has felt for
you," said Margaret, tears coming into her eyes.
"I know that, Margaret. You were always too kind and indulgent, and
I always too wayward and unreasonable. But I am getting years on my
side, and shall not always be a foolish girl."
Snow had now begun to fall thickly, and the late December day was
waning toward the early twilight. Margaret went down stairs and left
Irene alone in her chamber, where she remained until nearly tea-time
before joining her father.
Mr. Delancy did not altogether feel satisfied in his mind about
this unheralded visit from his daughter, with whose wayward moods he
was too familiar. It might be all as she said, but there were
intrusive misgivings that troubled him.
At tea-time she took her old place at the table in such an easy,
natural way, and looked so pleased and happy, that her father was
satisfied. He asked about her husband, and she talked of him without
"What day is Hartley coming up?" he inquired.
"I hope to see him on the day before Christmas," returned Irene.
There was a falling in her voice that, to the ears of Mr. Delancy,
betrayed a feeling of doubt.
"He will not, surely, put it off later," said the father.
"I don't know," said Irene. "He may be prevented from leaving early
enough to reach here before Christmas morning. If there should be a
cold snap, and the river freeze up, it will make the journey
difficult and attended with delay."
"I think the winter has set in;" and Mr. Delancy turned his ear
toward the window, against which the snow and hail were beating with
violence. "It's a pity Hartley didn't come up with you."
A sober hue came over the face of Irene. This did not escape the
notice of her father; but it was natural that she should feel sober
in thinking of her husband as likely to be kept from her by the
storm. That such were her thoughts her words made evident, for she
said, glancing toward the window—
"If there should be a deep snow, and the boats stop running, how
can Hartley reach here in time?"
On the next morning the sun rose bright and warm for the season.
Several inches of snow had fallen, giving to the landscape a wintry
whiteness, but the wind was coming in from the south, genial as
spring. Before night half the snowy covering was gone.
"We had our fears for nothing," said Mr. Delancy, on the second
day, which was as mild as the preceding one. "All things promise well.
I saw the boats go down as usual; so the river is open still."
Irene did not reply. Mr. Delancy looked at her curiously, but her
face was partly turned away and he did not get its true expression.
The twenty-fourth came. No letter had been received by Irene, nor
had she written to New York since her arrival at Ivy Cliff.
"Isn't it singular that you don't get a letter from Hartley?" said
Irene had been sitting silent for some time when her father made
"He is very busy," she said, in reply.
"That's no excuse. A man is never too busy to write to his absent
"I haven't expected a letter, and so am not disappointed. But he's
on his way, no doubt. How soon will the boat arrive?"
"Between two and three o'clock."
"And it's now ten."
The hours passed on, and the time of arrival came. The windows of
Irene's chamber looked toward the river, and she was standing at one
of them alone when the boat came in sight. Her face was almost
colorless, and contracted by an expression of deep anxiety. She
remained on her feet for the half hour that intervened before the
boat could reach the landing. It was not the first time that she had
watched there, in the excitement of doubt and fear, for the same form
her eyes were now straining themselves to see.
The shrill sound of escaping steam ceased to quiver on the air, and
in a few minutes the boat shot forward into view and went gliding up
the river. Irene scarcely breathed, as she stood, with colorless
face, parted lips and eager eyes, looking down the road that led to
the landing. But she looked in vain; the form of her husband did not
appear—and it was Christmas Eve!
What did it mean?
CHAPTER VII. THE LETTER.
YES, what did it mean? Christmas Eve, and Hartley still
Twilight was falling when Irene came down from her room and joined
her father in the library. Mr. Delancy looked into her face narrowly
as she entered. The dim light of the closing day was not strong
enough to give him its true expression; but he was not deceived as to
its troubled aspect.
"And so Hartley will not be here to-day," he said, in a tone that
expressed both disappointment and concern.
"No. I looked for him confidently. It is strange."
There was a constraint, a forced calmness in Irene's voice that did
not escape her father's notice.
"I hope he is not sick," said Mr. Delancy.
"Oh no." Irene spoke with a sudden earnestness; then, with failing
"He should have been here to-day."
She sat down near the open grate, shading her face with a
hand-screen, and remained silent and abstracted for some time.
"There is scarcely a possibility of his arrival to-night," said Mr.
Delancy. He could not get his thoughts away from the fact of his
"He will not be here to-night," replied Irene, a cold dead level in
her voice, that Mr. Delancy well understood to be only a blind thrown
up to conceal her deeply-disturbed feelings.
"Do you expect him to-morrow, my daughter?" asked Mr. Delancy, a
few moments afterward, speaking as if from a sudden thought or a
sudden purpose. There was a meaning in his tones that showed his mind
to be in a state not prepared to brook evasion.
"I do," was the unhesitating answer; and she turned and looked
calmly at her father, whose eyes rested with a fixed, inquiring gaze
upon her countenance. But half her face was lit by a reflection from
the glowing grate, while half lay in shadow. His reading, therefore
was not clear.
If Irene had shown surprise at the question, her father would have
felt better satisfied. He meant it as a probe; but if a tender spot
was reached, she had the self-control not to give a sign of pain. At
the tea-table Irene rallied her spirits and talked lightly to her
father; it was only by an effort that he could respond with even
Complaining of a headache, Irene retired, soon after tea, to her
room, and did not come down again during the evening.
The next day was Christmas. It rose clear and mild as a day in
October. When Irene came down to breakfast, her pale, almost haggard,
face showed too plainly that she had passed a night of sleeplessness
and suffering. She said, "A merry Christmas," to her father, on
meeting him, but there was no heart in the words. It was almost
impossible to disguise the pain that almost stifled respiration.
Neither of them did more than make a feint at eating. As Mr. Delancy
arose from the table, he said to Irene—
"I would like to see you in the library, my daughter."
She followed him passively, closing the door behind her as she
"Sit down. There." And Mr. Delancy placed a chair for her, a little
way from the grate.
Irene dropped into the chair like one who moved by another's
"Now, daughter," said Mr. Delancy, taking a chair, and drawing it
in front of the one in which she was seated, "I am going to ask a
plain question, and I want a direct answer."
Irene rallied herself on the instant.
"Did you leave New York with the knowledge and consent of your
The blood mounted to her face and stained it a deep crimson:
"I left without his knowledge. Consent I never ask."
The old proud spirit was in her tones.
"I feared as much," replied Mr. Delancy, his voice falling. "Then
you do not expect Hartley to-day?"
"I expected him yesterday. He may be here to-day. I am almost sure
he will come."
"Does he know you are here?"
"Why did you leave without his knowledge?"
"To punish him."
"I have answered without evasion. It was to punish him."
"I do not remember in the marriage vows you took upon yourselves
anything relating to punishments," said Mr. Delancy. "There were
explicit things said of love and duty, but I do not recall a sentence
that referred to the right of one party to punish the other."
Mr. Delancy paused for a few moments, but there was no reply to
this rather novel and unexpected view of the case.
"Did you by anything in the rite acquire authority to punish your
husband when his conduct didn't just suit your fancy?"
Mr. Delancy pressed the question.
"It is idle, father," said Irene, with some sharpness of tone, "to
make an issue like this. It does not touch the case. Away back of
marriage contracts lie individual rights, which are never
surrendered. The right of self-protection is one of these; and if
retaliation is needed as a guarantee of future peace, then the right
to punish is included in the right of self-protection."
"A peace gained through coercion of any kind is not worth having.
It is but the semblance of peace—is war in bonds," replied Mr.
Delancy. "The moment two married partners begin the work of coercion
and punishment, that moment love begins to fail. If love gives not to
their hearts a common beat, no other power is strong enough to do the
work. Irene, I did hope that the painful experiences already passed
through would have made you wiser. It seems not, however. It seems
that self-will, passion and a spirit of retaliation are to govern your
actions, instead of patience and love. Well, my child, if you go on
sowing this seed in your garden now, in the spring-time of life, you
must not murmur when autumn gives you a harvest of thorns and
thistles. If you sow tares in your field, you must not expect to find
corn there when you put in your sickle to reap. You can take back your
morning salutation. It is not a 'merry Christmas' to you or to me; and
I think we are both done with merry Christmases."
The tone in which this word was uttered was almost a cry of pain.
"It is even so, my child—even so," replied Mr. Delancy, in a voice
of irrepressible sadness. "You have left your husband a second time.
It is not every man who would forgive the first offence; not one in
twenty who would pardon the second. You are in great peril, Irene.
This storm that you have conjured up may drive you to hopeless
shipwreck. You need not expect Hartley to-day. He will not come. I
have studied his character well, and know that he will not pass this
conduct over lightly."
Even while this was said a servant, who had been over to the
village, brought in a letter and handed it to Mr. Delancy, who,
recognizing in the superscription the handwriting of his daughter's
husband, broke the seal hurriedly. The letter was in these words:
"MY DEAR SIR: As your daughter has left me, no doubt with the
purpose of finally abandoning the effort to live in that harmony so
essential to happiness in married life, I shall be glad if you will
choose some judicious friend to represent her in consultation with a
friend whom I will select, with a view to the arrangement of a
separation, as favorable to her in its provisions as it can possibly
be made. In view of the peculiarity of our temperaments, we made a
great error in this experiment. My hope was that love would be
counselor to us both; that the law of mutual forbearance would have
rule. But we are both too impulsive, too self-willed, too
undisciplined. I do not pretend to throw all the blame on Irene. We
are as flint and steel. But she has taken the responsibility of
separation, and I am left without alternative. May God lighten the
burden of pain her heart will have to bear in the ordeal through
which she has elected to pass.
Your unhappy son,
Mr. Delancy's hand shook so violently before he had finished
reading that the paper rattled in the air. On finishing the last
sentence he passed it, without a word, to his daughter. It was some
moments before the strong agitation produced by the sight of this
letter, and its effect upon her father, could be subdued enough to
enable her to read a line.
"What does it mean, father? I don't understand it," she said, in a
hoarse, deep whisper, and with pale, quivering lips.
"It means," said Mr. Delancy, "that your husband has taken you at
"At my word! What word?"
"You have left the home he provided for you, I believe?"
Her eyes stood out staringly.
"Let me read the letter for you." And he took it from her hand.
After reading it aloud and slowly, he said—
"That is plain talk, Irene. I do not think any one can
misunderstand it. You have, in his view, left him finally, and he now
asks me to name a judicious friend to meet his friend, and arrange a
basis of separation as favorable to you in its provisions as it can
possibly be made."
"A separation, father! Oh no, he cannot mean that!" And she pressed
her hands strongly against her temples.
"Yes, my daughter, that is the simple meaning."
"Oh no, no, no! He never meant that."
"You left him?"
"But not in that way; not in earnest. It was only in fitful
anger—half sport, half serious."
"Then, in Heaven's name, sit down and write him so, and that
without the delay of an instant. He has put another meaning on your
conduct. He believes that you have abandoned him."
"Abandoned him! Madness!" And Irene, who had risen from her chair,
commenced moving about the room in a wild, irresolute kind of way,
something like an actress under tragic excitement.
"This is meant to punish me!" she said, stopping suddenly, and
speaking in a voice slightly touched with indignation. "I understand
it all, and see it as a great outrage. Hartley knows as well I do
that I left as much in sport as in earnest. But this is carrying the
joke too far. To write such a letter to you! Why didn't he write to
me? Why didn't he ask me to appoint a friend to represent me in the
"He understood himself and the case entirely," replied Mr. Delancy.
"Believing that you had abandoned him—"
"He didn't believe any such thing!" exclaimed Irene, in strong
"You are deceiving yourself, my daughter. His letter is calm and
deliberate. It was not written, as you can see by the date, until
yesterday. He has taken time to let passion cool. Three days were
permitted to elapse, that you might be heard from in case any change
of purpose occurred. But you remained silent. You abandoned him."
"Oh, father, why will you talk in this way? I tell you that Hartley
is only doing this to punish me; that he has no more thought of an
actual separation than he has of dying."
"Admit this to be so, which I only do in the argument," said Mr.
Delancy, "and what better aspect does it present?"
"The better aspect of sport as compared with earnest," replied
"At which both will continue to play until earnest is reached—and
a worse earnest than the present. Take the case as you will, and it is
one of the saddest and least hopeful that I have seen."
Irene did not reply.
"You must elect some course of action, and that with the least
possible delay," said Mr. Delancy. "This letter requires an immediate
answer. Go to your room and, in communion with God and your own heart,
come to some quick decision upon the subject."
Irene turned away without speaking and left her father alone in the
CHAPTER VIII. THE FLIGHT AND THE
WE will not speak of the cause that led to this serious
rupture between Mr. and Mrs. Emerson. It was light as vanity—an airy
nothing in itself—a spark that would have gone out on a baby's cheek
without leaving a sign of its existence. On the day that Irene left
the home of her husband he had parted from her silent, moody and with
ill-concealed anger. Hard words, reproaches and accusations had passed
between them on the night previous; and both felt unusually disturbed.
The cause of all this, as we have said, was light as vanity. During
the day Mr. Emerson, who was always first to come to his senses, saw
the folly of what had occurred, and when he turned his face homeward,
after three o'clock, it was with the purpose of ending the unhappy
state by recalling a word to which he had given thoughtless utterance.
The moment our young husband came to this sensible conclusion his
heart beat with a freer motion and his spirits rose again into a
region of tranquillity. He felt the old tenderness toward his wife
returning, dwelt on her beauty, accomplishments, virtues and high
mental endowments with a glow of pride, and called her defects of
character light in comparison.
"If I were more a man, and less a child of feeling and impulse," he
said to himself, "I would be more worthy to hold the place of husband
to a woman like Irene. She has strong peculiarities—who has not
peculiarities? Am I free from them? She is no ordinary woman, and must
not be trammeled by ordinary tame routine. She has quick impulses;
therefore, if I love her, should I not guard them, lest they leap from
her feebly restraining hand in the wrong direction? She is sensitive
to control; why, then, let her see the hand that must lead her,
sometimes, aside from the way she would walk through the promptings of
her own will? Do I not know that she loves me? And is she not dear to
me as my own life? What folly to strive with each other! What madness
to let angry feelings shadow for an instant our lives!"
It was in this state of mind that Emerson returned home. There were
a few misgivings in his heart as he entered, for he was not sure as
to the kind of reception Irene would offer his overtures for peace;
but there was no failing of his purpose to sue for peace and obtain
it. With a quick step he passed through the hall, and, after glancing
into the parlors to see if his wife were there, went up stairs with
two or three light bounds. A hurried glance through the chambers
showed him that they had no occupant. He was turning to leave them,
when a letter, placed upright on a bureau, attracted his attention. He
caught it up. It was addressed to him in the well-known hand of his
wife. He opened it and read:
"I leave for Ivy Cliff to-day. IRENE."
Two or three times Emerson read the line—"I leave for Ivy Cliff
to-day"—and looked at the signature, before its meaning came fully
into his thought.
"Gone to Ivy Cliff!" he said, at last, in a low, hoarse voice.
"Gone, and without a word of intimation or explanation! Gone, and in
the heat of anger! Has it come to this, and so soon! God help us!"
And the unhappy man sunk into a chair, heart-stricken and weak as a
For nearly the whole of the night that followed he walked the floor
of his room, and the next day found him in a feverish condition of
both mind and body. Not once did the thought of following his wife to
Ivy Cliff, if it came into his mind, rest there for a moment. She had
gone home to her father with only an announcement of the fact. He
would wait some intimation of her further purpose; but, if they met
again, she must come back to him. This was his first, spontaneous
conclusion; and it was not questioned in his thought, nor did he waver
from it an instant. She must come back of her own free will, if she
came back at all.
It was on the twentieth day of December that Irene left New York.
Not until the twenty-second could a letter from her reach Hartley,
if, on reflection or after conference with her father, she desired to
make a communication. But the twenty-second came and departed without
a word from the absent one. So did the twenty-third. By this time
Hartley had grown very calm, self-adjusted and resolute. He had gone
over and over again the history of their lives since marriage bound
them together, and in this history he could see nothing hopeful as
bearing on the future. He was never certain of Irene. Things said and
done in moments of thoughtlessness or excitement, and not meant to
hurt or offend, were constantly disturbing their peace. It was clouds,
and rain, and fitful sunshine all the while. There were no long
seasons of serene delight.
"Why," he said to himself, "seek to prolong this effort to blend
into one two lives that seem hopelessly antagonistic. Better stand as
far apart as the antipodes than live in perpetual strife. If I should
go to Irene, and, through concession or entreaty, win her back again,
what guarantee would I have for the future? None, none whatever.
Sooner or later we must be driven asunder by the violence of our
ungovernable passions, never to draw again together. We are apart now,
and it is well. I shall not take the first step toward a
Hartley Emerson was a young man of cool purpose and strong will.
For all that, he was quick-tempered and undisciplined. It was from the
possession of these qualities that he was steadily advancing in his
profession, and securing a practice at the bar which promised to give
him a high position in the future. Persistence was another element of
his character. If he adopted any course of conduct, it was a difficult
thing to turn him aside. When he laid his hand upon the plough, he was
of those who rarely look back. Unfortunate qualities these for a
crisis in life such as now existed.
On the morning of the twenty-fourth of December, no word having
come from his wife, Emerson coolly penned the letter to Mr. Delancy
which is given in the preceding chapter, and mailed it so that it
would reach him on Christmas day. He was in earnest—sternly in
earnest—as Mr. Delancy, on reading his letter, felt him to be. The
honeymoon flight was one thing; this abandonment of a husband's home,
another thing. Emerson gave to them a different weight and quality. Of
the first act he could never think without a burning cheek—a sense of
mortification—a pang of wounded pride; and long ere this he had made
up his mind that if Irene ever left him again, it would be for ever,
so far as perpetuity depended on his action in the case. He would
never follow her nor seek to win her back.
Yes, he was in earnest. He had made his mind up for the worst, and
was acting with a desperate coolness only faintly imagined by Irene
on receipt of his letter to her father. Mr. Delancy, who understood
Emerson's character better, was not deceived. He took the
communication in its literal meaning, and felt appalled at the ruin
Emerson passed the whole of Christmas day alone in his house. At
meal-times he went to the table and forced himself to partake lightly
of food, in order to blind the servants, whose curiosity in regard to
the absence of Mrs. Emerson was, of course, all on the alert. After
taking tea he went out.
His purpose was to call upon a friend in whom he had great
confidence, and confide to him the unhappy state of his affairs. For
an hour he walked the streets in debate on the propriety of this
course. Unable, however, to see the matter clearly, he returned home
with the secret of his domestic trouble still locked in his own
It was past eight o'clock when he entered his dwelling. A light was
burning in one of the parlors, and he stepped into the room. After
walking for two or three times the length of the apartment, Mr.
Emerson threw himself on a sofa, a deep sigh escaping his lips as he
did so. At the same moment he heard a step in the passage, and the
rustling of a woman's garments, which caused him to start again to
his feet. In moving his eyes met the form of Irene, who advanced
toward him, and throwing her arms around his neck, sobbed,
"Dear husband! can you, will you forgive my childish folly?"
His first impulse was to push her away, and he, even grasped her
arms and attempted to draw them from his neck. She perceived this,
and clung to him more eagerly.
"Dear Hartley!" she said, "will you not speak to me ?"
"Irene!" His voice was cold and deep, and as he pronounced her name
he withdrew himself from her embrace. At this she grew calm and
stepped a pace back from him.
"Irene, we are not children," he said, in the same cold, deep
voice, the tones of which were even and measured. "That time is past.
Nor foolish young lovers, who fall out and make up again twice or
thrice in a fortnight; but man and wife, with the world and its sober
realities before us."
"Oh, Hartley," exclaimed Irene, as he paused; "don't talk to me in
this way! Don't look at me so! It will kill me. I have done wrong. I
have acted like foolish child. But I am penitent. It was half in
sport that I went away, and I was so sure of seeing you at Ivy Cliff
yesterday that I told father you were coming."
"Irene, sit down." And Emerson took the hand of his wife and led
her to a sofa. Then, after closing the parlor door, he drew a chair
and seated himself directly in front of her. There was a coldness and
self-possession about him, that chilled Irene.
"It is a serious thing," he said, looking steadily in her face,
"for a wife to leave, in anger, her husband's house for that of her
She tried to make some reply and moved her lips in attempted
utterance, but the organs of speech refused to perform their office.
"You left me once before in anger, and I went after you. But it was
clearly understood with myself then that if you repeated the act it
would be final in all that appertained to me; that unless you
returned, it would be a lifelong separation. You have repeated
the act; and, knowing your pride and tenacity of will, I did not
anticipate your return. And so I was looking the sad, stern future in
the face as steadily as possible, and preparing to meet it as a man
conscious of right should be prepared to meet whatever trouble lies in
store for him. I went out this evening, after passing the Christmas
day alone, with the purpose of consulting an old and discreet friend
as to the wisest course of action. But the thing was too painful to
speak of yet. So I came back—and you are here!"
She looked at him steadily while he spoke, her face white as
marble, and her colorless lips drawn back from her teeth.
"Irene," he continued, "it is folly for us to keep on in the way we
have been going. I am wearied out, and you cannot be happy in a
relation that is for ever reminding you that your own will and
thought are no longer sole arbiters of action; that there is another
will and another thought that must at times be consulted, and even
obeyed. I am a man, and a husband; you a woman, and a wife,—we are
equal as to rights and duties—equal in the eyes of God; but to the
man and husband appertains a certain precedence in action; consent,
co-operation and approval, if he be a thoughtful and judicious man,
appertaining to the wife."
As Emerson spoke thus, he noticed a sign of returning warmth in her
pale face, and a dim, distant flash in her eyes. Her proud spirit did
not accept this view of their relation to each other. He went on:
"If a wife has no confidence in her husband's manly judgment, if
she cannot even respect him, then the case is altered. She must be
understanding and will to herself; must lead both him and herself if
he be weak enough to consent. But the relation is not a true one; and
marriage, under this condition of things, is only a semblance."
"And that is your doctrine?" said Irene. There was a shade of
surprise in her voice that lingered huskily in her throat.
"That is my doctrine," was Emerson's firmly spoken answer.
Irene sighed heavily. Both were silent for some moments. At length
Irene said, lifting her hands and bringing them down with an action
"In bonds! in bonds!"
"No, no!" Her husband replied quickly and earnestly. "Not in bonds,
but in true freedom, if you will—the freedom of reciprocal action."
"Like bat and ball," she answered, with bitterness in her tones.
"No, like heart and lungs," he returned, calmly. "Irene! dear wife!
Why misunderstand me? I have no wish to rule, and you know I have
never sought to place you in bonds. I have had only one desire, and
that is to be your husband in the highest and truest sense. But, I am
a man—you a woman. There are two wills and two understandings that
must act in the same direction. Now, in the nature of things, the mind
of one must, helped by the mind of the other to see right, take, as a
general thing, the initiative where action is concerned. Unless this
be so, constant collisions will occur. And this takes us back to the
question that lies at the basis of all order and happiness—which of
the two minds shall lead?"
"A man and his wife are equal," said Irene, firmly. The strong
individuality of her character was asserting its claims even in this
hour of severe mental pain.
"Equal in the eyes of God, as I have said before, but where action
is concerned one must take precedence of the other, for, it cannot
be, seeing that their office and duties are different, that their
judgment in the general affairs of life can be equally clear. A man's
work takes him out into the world, and throws him into sharp collision
with other men. He learns, as a consequence, to think carefully and
with deliberation, and to decide with caution, knowing that action,
based on erroneous conclusions, may ruin his prospects in an hour.
Thus, like the oak, which, grows up exposed to all elemental changes,
his judgment gains strength, while his perceptions, constantly
trained, acquire clearness. But a woman's duties lie almost wholly
within this region of strife and action, and she remains, for the most
part, in a tranquil atmosphere. Allowing nothing for a radical
difference in mental constitution, this difference of training must
give a difference of mental power. The man's judgment in affairs
generally must be superior to the woman's, and she must acquiesce in
its decisions or there can be no right union in marriage."
"Must lose herself in him," said Irene, coldly. "Become a cypher, a
slave. That will not suit me, Hartley!" And she looked at him with
firmly compressed mouth and steady eyes.
It came to his lips to reply, "Then you had better return to your
father," but he caught the words back ere they leaped forth into
sound, and, rising, walked the floor for the space of more than five
minutes, Irene not stirring from the sofa. Pausing at length, he said
in a voice which had lost its steadiness:
"You had better go up to your room, Irene. We are not in a
condition to help each other now."
Mrs. Emerson did not answer, but, rising, left the parlor and went
as her husband had suggested. He stood still, listening, until the
sound of her steps and the rustle of her garments had died away into
silence, when he commenced slowly walking the parlor floor with his
head bent down, and continued thus, as if he had forgotten time and
place, for over an hour. Then, awakened to consciousness by a sense
of dizziness and exhaustion, he laid himself upon a sofa, and,
shutting his eyes, tried to arrest the current of his troubled
thoughts and sink into sleep and forgetfulness.
CHAPTER IX. THE RECONCILIATION.
FOR such a reception the young wife was wholly unprepared.
Suddenly her husband had put on a new character and assumed a right
of control against which her sensitive pride and native love of
freedom arose in strong rebellion. That she had done wrong in going
away she acknowledged to herself, and had acknowledged to him. But he
had met confession in a spirit so different from what was anticipated,
and showed an aspect so cold, stern, and exacting, that she was
bewildered. She did not, however, mistake the meaning of his language.
It was plain that she understood the man's position to be one of
dictation and control: we use the stronger aspect in which it was
presented to her mind. As to submission, it was not in all her
thoughts. Wrung to agony as her heart was, and appalled as she
looked, trembling and shrinking into the future, she did not yield a
moment to weakness.
Midnight found Irene alone in her chamber. She had flung herself
upon a bed when she came up from the parlor, and fallen asleep after
an hour of fruitless beating about in her mind. Awaking from a maze
of troubled dreams, she started up and gazed, half fearfully, around
the dimly-lighted room.
"Where am I?" she asked herself. Some moments elapsed before the
painful events of the past few days began to reveal themselves to her
"And where is Hartley?" This question followed as soon as all grew
clear. Sleep had tranquilized her state, and restored a measure of
just perception. Stepping from the bed, she went from the room and
passed silently down stairs. A light still burned in the parlor where
she had left her husband some hours before, and streamed out through
the partly opened door. She stood for some moments, listening, but
there was no sound of life within. A sudden fear crept into her heart.
Her hand shook as she laid it upon the door and pressed it open.
Stepping within, she glanced around with a frightened air.
On the sofa lay Hartley, with his face toward the light. It was wan
and troubled, and the brows were contracted as if from intense pain.
For some moments Irene stood looking at him; but his eyes were shut
and he lay perfectly still. She drew nearer and bent down over him.
He was sleeping, but his breath came so faintly, and there was so
little motion of his chest, that the thought flashed through her with
an electric thrill that he might be dying! Only by a strong effort of
self-control did she repress a cry of fear, or keep back her hands
from clasping his neck. In what a strong tide did love rush back upon
her soul! Her heart overflowed with tenderness, was oppressed with
"Oh, Hartley, my husband, my dear husband!" she cried out, love,
fear, grief and anguish blending wildly in her voice, as she caught
him in her arms and awoke him with a rain of tears and kisses.
"Irene! Love! Darling! What ails you? Where are we?" were the
confusedly uttered sentences of Mr. Emerson, as he started from the
sofa and, holding his young wife from him, looked into her weeping
"Call me again 'love' and 'darling,' and I care not where we are!"
she answered, in tones of passionate entreaty. "Oh, Hartley, my dear,
dear husband! A desert island, with you, would be a paradise; a
paradise, without you, a weary desert! Say the words again. Call me
'darling!'" And she let her head fall upon his bosom.
"God bless you!" he said, laying his hand upon her head. He was
awake and clearly conscious of place and position. His voice was
distinct, but tremulous and solemn. "God bless you, Irene, my wife!"
"And make me worthy of your love," she responded faintly.
"Mutually worthy of each other," said he. "Wiser—better—more
patient and forbearing. Oh, Irene," and his voice grew deep and
tender, "why may we not be to each other all that our hearts desire?"
"We can—we must—we will!" she answered, lifting her hidden face
from his bosom and turning it up fondly to his. "God helping me, I
will be to you a better wife in the future."
"And I a more patient, loving, and forbearing husband," he replied.
"Oh that our hearts might beat together as one heart!"
For a little while Irene continued to gaze into her husband's
countenance with looks of the tenderest love, and then hid her face
on his bosom again.
And thus were they again reconciled.
CHAPTER X. AFTER THE STORM.
AFTER the storm. And they were reconciled. The clouds rolled
back; the sun came out again with his radiant smiles and genial
warmth. But was nothing broken? nothing lost? Did each flower in the
garden of love lift its head as bravely as before? In every storm of
passion something is lost. Anger is a blind fury, who tramples
ruthlessly on tenderest and holiest things. Alas for the ruin that
waits upon her footsteps!
The day that followed this night of reconciliation had many hours
of sober introversion of thought for both Emerson and his wife; hours
in which memory reproduced language, conduct and sentiments that
could not be dwelt upon without painful misgivings for the future.
They understood each other too well to make light account of things
said and done, even in anger.
In going over, as Irene did many times, the language used by her
husband on the night before, touching their relation as man and wife,
and his prerogative, she felt the old spirit of revolt arising. She
tried to let her thought fall into his rational presentation of the
question involving precedence, and even said to herself that he was
right; but pride was strong, and kept lifting itself in her mind. She
saw, most clearly, the hardest aspect of the case. It was, in her
view, command and obedience. And she knew that submission was, for
On the part of Emerson, the day's sober thought left his mind in no
more hopeful condition than that of his wife. The pain suffered in
consequence of her temporary flight from home, though lessened by her
return, had not subsided. A portion of confidence in her was lost. He
felt that he had no guarantee for the future; that at any moment, in
the heat of passion, she might leave him again. He remembered, too
distinctly, her words on the night before, when he tried to make her
comprehend his view of the relation between man and wife—"That will
not suit me, Hartley." And he felt that she was in earnest; that she
would resist every effort he might make to lead and control as a man
in certain things, just as she had done from the beginning.
In matrimonial quarrels you cannot kiss and make up again, as
children do, forgetting all the stormy past in the sunshiny present.
And this was painfully clear to both Hartley and Irene, as she, alone
in her chamber, and he, alone in his office, pondered, on that day of
reconciliation, the past and the future. Yet each resolved to be more
forbearing and less exacting; to be emulous of concession, rather than
exaction; to let love, uniting with reason, hold pride and self-will
in close submission.
Their meeting, on Hartley's return home, at his usual late hour in
the afternoon, was tender, but not full of the joyous warmth of
feeling that often showed itself. Their hearts were not light enough
for ecstasy. But they were marked in their attentions to each other,
emulous of affectionate words and actions, yielding and considerate.
And yet this mutual, almost formal, recognition of a recent state of
painful antagonism left on each mind a feeling of embarrassment,
checked words and sentences ere they came to utterance, and threw
amid their pleasant talks many intermittent pauses.
Often through the day had Mr. Emerson, as he dwelt on the unhappy
relation existing between himself and his wife, made up his mind to
renew the subject of their true position to each other, as briefly
touched upon in their meeting of the night before, and as often
changed his purpose, in fear of another rupture. Yet to him it seemed
of the first importance that this matter, as a basis of future peace,
should be settled between them, and settled at once. If he held one
view and she another, and both were sensitive, quick-tempered and
tenacious of individual freedom, fierce antagonism might occur at any
moment. He had come home inclined to the affirmative side of the
question, and many times during the evening it was on his lips to
introduce the subject. But he was so sure that it would prove a theme
of sharp discussion, that he had not the courage to risk the
There was peace again after this conflict, but it was not, by any
means, a hopeful peace. It had no well-considered basis. The causes
which had produced a struggle were still in existence, and liable to
become active, by provocation, at any moment. No change had taken
place in the characters, dispositions, temperaments or general views
of life in either of the parties. Strife had ceased between them only
in consequence of the pain it involved. A deep conviction of this fact
so sobered the mind of Mr. Emerson, and altered, in consequence, his
manner toward Irene, that she felt its reserve and coldness as a
rebuke that chilled the warmth of her tender impulses.
And this manner did not greatly change as the days and weeks moved
onward. Memory kept too vividly in the mind of Emerson that one act,
and the danger of its repetition on some sudden provocation. He could
not feel safe and at ease with his temple of peace built close to a
slumbering volcano, which was liable at any moment to blaze forth and
bury its fair proportions in lava and ashes.
Irene did not comprehend her husband's state of mind. She felt
painfully the change in his manner, but failed in reaching the true
cause. Sometimes she attributed his coldness to resentment; sometimes
to defect of love; and sometimes to a settled determination on his
part to inflict punishment. Sometimes she spent hours alone, weeping
over these sad ruins of her peace, and sometimes, in a spirit of
revolt, she laid down for herself a line of conduct intended to react
against her husband. But something in his calm, kind, self-reliant
manner, when she looked into his face, broke down her purpose. She was
afraid of throwing herself against a rock which, while standing
immovable, might bruise her tender limbs or extinguish life in the
CHAPTER XI. A NEW ACQUAINTANCE.
BOTH Emerson and his wife came up from this experience
changed in themselves and toward each other. A few days had matured
them beyond what might have been looked for in as many years. Life
suddenly put on more sober hues, and the future laid off its smiles
and beckonings onward to greener fields and mountain-heights of
felicity. There was a certain air of manly self-confidence, a firmer,
more deliberate way of expressing himself on all subjects, and an
evidence of mental clearness and strength, which gave to Irene the
impression of power and superiority not wholly agreeable to her
self-love, yet awakening emotions of pride in her husband when she
contrasted him with other men. As a man among men, he was, as he had
ever been, her beau ideal; but as a husband, she felt a daily
increasing spirit of resistance and antagonism, and it required
constant watchfulness over herself to prevent this feeling from
exhibiting itself in act.
On the part of Emerson, the more he thought about this subject of
the husband's relative duties and prerogatives—thought as a man and
as a lawyer—the more strongly did he feel about it, and the more
tenacious of his assumed rights did he become. Matters which seemed
in the beginning of such light importance as scarcely to attract his
attention, now loomed up before him as things of moment. Thus, if he
spoke of their doing some particular thing in a certain way, and
Irene suggested a different way, instead of yielding to her view, he
would insist upon his own. If she tried to show him a reason why her
way was best, he would give no weight to her argument or
representation. On the other hand, it is but just to say that he
rarely opposed her independent suggestions or interfered with her
freedom; and if she had been as considerate toward him, the danger of
trouble would have been lessened.
It is the little foxes that spoil the tender grapes, and so it is
the little reactions of two spirits against each other that spoil the
tender blossoms of love and destroy the promised vintage. Steadily,
day by day, and week by week, were these light reactions marring the
happiness of our undisciplined young friends, and destroying in them
germ after germ, and bud after bud, which, if left to growth and
development, would have brought forth ripe, luscious fruit in the
later summer of their lives. Trifles, light as air were noticed, and
their importance magnified. Words, looks, actions, insignificant in
themselves, were made to represent states of will or antagonism which
really had no existence.
Unhappily for their peace, Irene had a brooding disposition. She
held in her memory utterances and actions forgotten by her husband,
and, by dwelling upon, magnified and gave them an importance to which
they were not entitled. Still more unhappily for their peace, Irene
met about this time, and became attached to, a lady of fine
intellectual attainments and fascinating manners, who was an
extremist in opinion on the subject of sexual equality. She was
married, but to a man greatly her inferior, though possessing some
literary talent, which he managed to turn to better account than she
did her finer powers. He had been attracted by her brilliant
qualities, and in approaching her scorched his wings, and ever after
lay at her feet. She had no very high respect for him, but found a
husband on many accounts a convenient thing, and so held on to the
appendage. If he had been man enough to remain silent on the themes
she was so fond of discussing on all occasions, people of common
sense and common perception would have respected him for what he was
worth. But he gloried in his bondage, and rattled his chains as
gleefully as if he were discoursing sweet music. What she announced
oracularly, he attempted to demonstrate by bald and feeble arguments.
He was the false understanding to her perverted will.
The name of this lady was Mrs. Talbot. Irene met her soon after her
marriage and removal to New York, and was charmed with her from the
beginning. Mr. Emerson, on the contrary, liked neither her nor her
sentiments, and considered her a dangerous friend for his wife. He
expressed himself freely in regard to her at the commencement of the
intimacy; but Irene took her part so warmly, and used such strong
language in her favor, that Emerson deemed it wisest not to create
new sentiments in her favor out of opposition to himself.
Within a week from that memorable Christmas day on which Irene came
back from Ivy Cliff, Mrs. Talbot, who had taken a fancy to the
spirited, independent, undisciplined wife of Emerson, called in to
see her new friend. Irene received her cordially. She was, in fact,
of all her acquaintances, the one she most desired to meet.
"I'm right glad you thought of making me a call," said Mrs.
Emerson, as they sat down together. "I've felt as dull all the morning
as an anchorite."
"You dull!" Mrs. Talbot affected surprise, as she glanced round the
tasteful room in which they were sitting. "What is there to cloud
your mind? With such a home and such a husband as you possess life
ought to be one long, bright holiday."
"Good things in their way," replied Mrs. Emerson. "But not
She said this in a kind of thoughtless deference to Mrs. Talbot's
known views on the subject of homes and husbands, which she had not
hesitated to call women's prisons and women's jailers.
"Indeed! And have you made that discovery?"
Mrs. Talbot laughed a low, gurgling sort of laugh, leaning, at the
same time, in a confidential kind of way, closer to Mrs. Emerson.
"It is no discovery," said Mrs. Emerson. "The fact is self-evident.
There is much that a woman needs for happiness beside a home and a
"Right, my young friend, right!" Mrs. Talbot's manner grew earnest.
"No truer words were ever spoken. Yes—yes—a woman needs a great
deal more than these to fill the measure of her happiness; and it is
through the attempt to restrict and limit her to such poor
substitutes for a world-wide range and freedom that she has been so
dwarfed in mental stature, and made the unhappy creature and slave of
man's hard ambition and indomitable love of power. There were Amazons
of old—as the early Greeks knew to their cost—strong, self-reliant,
courageous women, who acknowledged no human superiority. Is the
Amazonian spirit dead in the earth? Not so! It is alive, and clothing
itself with will, power and persistence. Already it is grasping the
rein, and the mettled steed stands impatient to feel the rider's
impulse in the saddle. The cycle of woman's degradation and
humiliation is completed. A new era in the world's social history has
dawned for her, and the mountain-tops are golden with the coming day."
Irene listened with delight and even enthusiasm to these
sentiments, uttered with ardor and eloquence.
"It is not woman's fault, taking her in the aggregate, that she is
so weak in body and mind, and such a passive slave to man's will,"
continued Mrs. Talbot. "In the retrocession of races toward barbarism
mere muscle, in which alone man is superior to woman, prevailed.
Physical strength set itself up as master. Might made right. And so
unhappy woman was degraded below man, and held to the earth, until
nearly all independent life has been crushed out of her. As
civilization has lifted nation after nation out of the dark depths of
barbarism, the condition of woman physically has been improved. For
the sake of his children, if from no better motive, man has come to
treat his wife with a more considerate kindness. If she is still but
the hewer of his wood and the drawer of his water, he has, in many
cases, elevated her to the position of dictatress in these humble
affairs. He allows her 'help!' But, mentally and socially, he
continues to degrade her. In law she is scarcely recognized, except as
a criminal. She is punished if she does wrong, but has no legal
protection in her rights as an independent human being. She is only
man's shadow. The public opinion that affects her is made by him. The
earliest literature of a country is man's expression; and in this
man's view of woman is always apparent. The sentiment is repeated
generation after generation, and age after age, until the barbarous
idea comes down, scarcely questioned, to the days of high
civilization, culture and refinement.
"Here, my young friend, you have the simple story of woman's
degradation in this age of the world. Now, so long as she submits,
man will hold her in fetters. Power and dominion are sweet. If a man
cannot govern a state, he will be content to govern a household—but
govern he will, if he can find anywhere submissive subjects."
"He is born a tyrant; that I have always felt," said Mrs. Emerson.
"You see it in a family of sisters and brothers. The boys always
attempt to rule their sisters, and if the latter do not submit, then
comes discord and contention."
"I have seen this, in hundreds of instances," replied Mrs. Talbot.
"It was fully illustrated in my own case. I had two brothers, who
undertook to exercise their love of domineering on me. But they did
not find a passive subject—no, not by any means. I was never
obedient to their will, for I had one of my own. We made the house
often a bedlam for our poor mother; but I never gave way—no, not for
an instant, come what might. I had different stuff in me from that of
common girls, and in time the boys were glad to let me alone."
"Are your brothers living?" asked Mrs. Emerson.
"Yes. One resides in New York, and the other in Boston. One is a
merchant, the other a physician."
"How was it as you grew older?"
"About the same. They are like nearly all men—despisers of woman's
Irene sighed, and, letting her eyes fall to the floor, sat lost in
thought for some moments. The suggestions of her friend were not
producing agreeable states of mind.
"They reject the doctrine of an equality in the sexes?" said Mrs.
"Of course. All men do that," replied Mrs. Talbot.
"Your husband among the rest?"
"Talbot? Oh, he's well enough in his way!" The lady spoke lightly,
tossing her head in a manner that involved both indifference and
contempt. "I never take him into account when discussing these
matters. That point was settled between us long and long ago. We jog
on without trouble. Talbot thinks as I do about the women—or
pretends that he does, which is all the same."
"A rare exception to the general run of husbands," said Irene,
thinking at the same time how immeasurably superior Mr. Emerson was
to this weakling, and despising him in her heart for submitting to be
ruled by a woman. Thus nature and true perception spoke in her, even
while she was seeking to blind herself by false reasonings.
"Yes, he's a rare exception; and it's well for us both that it is
so. If he were like your husband, for instance, one of us would have
been before the legislature for a divorce within twelve months of our
"Like my husband! What do you mean?" Mrs. Emerson drew herself up,
with half real and half affected surprise.
"Oh, he's one of your men who have positive qualities about
them—strong in intellect and will."
Irene felt pleased with the compliment bestowed upon her husband.
"But wrong in his ideas of woman."
"How do you know?" asked Irene.
"How do I know? As I know all men with whom I come in contact. I
"And you have probed my husband?"
"And do not regard him as sound on this subject?"
"No sounder than other men of his class. He regards woman as man's
"I think you state the case too strongly," said Mrs. Emerson, a red
spot burning on her cheek. "He thinks them mentally different."
"Of course he does."
"But not different as to superiority and inferiority," replied
"Mere hair-splitting, my child. If they are mentally different, one
must be more highly organized than the other, and of course,
superior. Mr. Emerson thinks a man's rational powers stronger than a
woman's, and that, therefore, he must direct in affairs generally,
and she follow his lead. I know; I've talked with and drawn him out
on this subject."
Mrs. Emerson sighed again faintly, while her eyes dropped from the
face of her visitor and sunk to the floor. A shadow was falling on
her spirit—a weight coming down with a gradually increasing pressure
upon her heart. She remembered the night of her return from Ivy Cliff
and the language then used by her husband on this very subject, which
was mainly in agreement with the range of opinions attributed to him
by Mrs. Talbot.
"Marriage, to a spirited woman," she remarked, in a pensive
undertone, "is a doubtful experiment."
"Always," returned her friend. "As woman stands now in the estimate
of man, her chances for happiness are almost wholly on the side of
old-maidism. Still, freedom is the price of struggle and combat; and
woman will first have to show, in actual strife, that she is the
equal of her present lord."
"Then you would turn every home into a battlefield?" said Mrs.
"Every home in which there is a tyrant and an oppressor," was the
prompt answer. "Many fair lands, in all ages, have been trampled down
ruthlessly by the iron feet of war; and that were better, as the price
of freedom, than slavery."
Irene sighed again, and was again silent.
"What," she asked, "if the oppressor is so much stronger than the
oppressed that successful resistance is impossible? that with every
struggle the links of the chain that binds her sink deeper into her
"Every age and every land have seen noble martyrs in the cause of
freedom. It is better to die for liberty than live an ignoble slave,"
answered the tempter.
"And I will die a free woman." This Irene said in her heart.
CHAPTER XII. IN BONDS.
SENTIMENTS like these, coming to Irene as they did while she
was yet chafing under a recent collision with her husband, and while
the question of submission was yet an open one, were near proving a
quick-match to a slumbering mine in her spirit, and had not her
husband been in a more passive state than usual, there might have
been an explosion which would have driven them asunder with such
terrific force that reunion must have been next to impossible.
It would have been well if their effects had died with the passing
away of that immediate danger. But as we think so we incline to act.
Our sentiments are our governors; and of all imperious tyrants, false
sentiments are the most ruthless. The beautiful, the true, the good
they trample out of the heart with a fiery malignity that knows no
touch of pity; for the false is the bitter enemy of the true and makes
with it no terms of amity.
The coldness which had followed their reconciliation might have
gradually given way before the warmth of genuine love, if Irene had
been left to the counsels of her own heart; if there had been no
enemy to her peace, like Mrs. Talbot, to throw in wild, vague
thoughts of oppression and freedom among the half-developed opinions
which were forming in her mind. As it was, a jealous scrutiny of
words and actions took the place of that tender confidence which was
coming back to Irene's heart, and she became watchfully on the alert;
not, as she might have been, lovingly ministrant.
Only a few days were permitted to elapse after the call of this
unsafe friend before Irene returned the visit, and spent two hours
with her, conning over the subject of woman's rights and woman's
wrongs. Mrs. Talbot introduced her to writers on the vexed question,
who had touched the theme with argument, sarcasm, invective and bold,
brilliant, specious generalities; read to her from their books;
commented on their deductions, and uttered sentiments on the subject
of reform and resistance as radical as the most extreme.
"We must agitate—we must act—we must do good deeds of valor and
self-sacrifice for our sex," she said, in her enthusiastic way.
"Every woman, whether of high or low condition, of humble powers or
vigorous intellect, has a duty to perform, and she is false to the
honor and rights of her sex if she do not array herself on the side
of freedom. You have great responsibilities resting upon you, my
young friend. I say it soberly, even solemnly. Responsibilities which
may not be disregarded without evil consequences to yourself and
others. You are young, clear-thoughted and resolute—have will,
purpose and endurance. You are married to a young man destined, I
think, to make his mark in the world; but, as I have said before, a
false education has given him erroneous ideas on this great and
important subject. Now what is your duty?"
The lady paused as if for an answer.
"What is your duty, my dear young friend?" she repeated.
"I will answer for you," she continued. "Your duty is to be true to
yourself and to your sisters in bonds."
I in bonds!" Mrs. Talbot touched her to the
"Are you a free woman?" The inquiry was calmly made.
Irene started to the floor and moved across the room, then turned
and came back again. Her cheeks burned and her eyes flashed. She
stood before Mrs. Talbot and looked at her steadily.
"The question has disturbed you?" said the lady.
"It has," was the brief answer.
"Why should it disturb you?"
Irene did not answer.
"I can tell you."
"You are in bonds, and feel the fetters."
"It is so, my poor child, and you know it as well as I do. From the
beginning of our acquaintance I have seen this; and more than once,
in our various conversations, you have admitted the fact."
Irene let her thoughts run back through the sentiments and opinions
which she had permitted herself to utter in the presence of her
friend, to see if she had so fully betrayed herself. She could not
recall the distinct language, but it was plain that Mrs. Talbot had
her secret, and therefore reserve on the subject was useless.
"Well," she said, after standing for some time before Mrs. Talbot,
"if I am in bonds, it is not because I do not worship freedom."
"I know that," was the quickly-spoken answer. "And it is because I
wish to see you a free woman that I point to your bonds. Now is the
time to break them—now, before years have increased their
strength—now, before habit has made tyranny a part of your husband's
nature. He is your ruler, because the social sentiment is in favor of
manly domination. There is hope for you now, and now only. You must
begin the work of reaction while both are young. Let your husband
understand, from this time, that you are his equal. It may go a little
hard at first. He will, without doubt, hold on to the reins, for power
is sweet; but if there be true love for you in his heart, he will
yield in the struggle, and make you his companion and equal, as you
should be. If his love be not genuine, why—"
She checked herself. It might be going a step too far with her
young friend to utter the thought that was coming to her lips. Irene
did not question her as to what more she was about to say. There was
stimulus enough in the words already spoken. She felt all the
strength of her nature rising into opposition.
"Yes, I will be free," she said in her heart. "I will be his equal,
not his slave."
"It may cost you some pain in the beginning," resumed the tempter.
"I am not afraid of pain," said Irene.
"A brave heart spoke there. I wish we had more on our side with the
stuff you are made of. There would be hope of a speedier reform than
is now promised."
"Heaven send the reform right early! It cannot come a day too
soon." Irene spoke with rising ardor.
"It will be our own fault," said Mrs. Talbot, "if we longer bow our
necks to the yoke or move obedient to our task-masters. Let us lay
the axe to the very root of this evil and hew it down."
"Even if we are crushed by the tree in falling," responded Irene,
in the spirit of a martyr.
From this interview our wrong-directed young friend went home with
more clearly defined purposes touching her conduct toward her husband
than she had hitherto entertained. She saw him in a new aspect, and in
a character more definitely outlined. He loomed up in more colossal
proportions, and put on sterner features. All disguises were thrown
away, and he stood forth, not a loving husband, but the tyrant of her
home. Weak, jealous, passion-tost child! how this strong, self-willed,
false woman of the world had bewildered her thoughts, and pushed her
forth into an arena of strife, where she could only beat about
blindly, and hurt herself and others, yet accomplish no good.
From her interview with Mrs. Talbot, Irene went home, bearing more
distinct ideas of resistance in her mind. In this great crisis of her
life she felt that she needed just such a friend, who could give
direction to her striving spirit, and clothe for her in thoughts the
native impulses that she knew only as a love of freedom. She believed
now that she understood herself better than before, and comprehended
more clearly her duties and responsibilities.
It was in this mood of mind that she met her husband when he
returned in the afternoon from his office. Happily for them, he was
in a quiet, non-resistant state, and in a special good-humor with
himself and the world. Professional matters had shaped themselves to
his wishes, and left his mind at peace. Irene had, in consequence,
everything pretty much her own way. Hartley did not fail to notice a
certain sharpness of manner about her, and a certain spiciness of
sentiment when the subject of their intermittent talks verged on
themes relating to women; but he felt no inclination whatever for
argument or opposition, and so her arrows struck a polished shield,
and went gracefully and harmlessly aside.
"Shall we go and have a merry laugh with Matthews to-night?" said
Hartley, as they sat at the tea-table. "I feel just in the humor."
"No, I thank you," replied Irene, curtly. "I don't incline to the
laughing mood, just now."
"Laughing is contagious," suggested Hartley.
"I shall not take the infection to-night." And she balanced her
little head with the perpendicularity of a plumb-line.
"Can't I persuade you?" He was in a real good-humor, and smiled as
he said this.
"No, sir. You may waive both argument and persuasion. I am in
"And when a woman is in earnest you might as well essay to move the
Pillars of Hercules."
"You might as well in my case," answered Irene, without any
softening of tone or features.
"Then I shall not attempt, after a hard day's work, a task so
difficult. I am in a mood for rest and quiet," said the young
"Perhaps," he resumed, after a little pause, "you may feel somewhat
musical. There is to be a vocal and instrumental concert to-night.
What say you to going there? I think I could enjoy some good singing,
Irene closed her lips firmly, and shook her head.
"Not musically inclined this evening?"
"No," she replied.
"Got a regular stay-at-home feeling?"
"Enough," said Hartley, with unshadowed good-humor, "we will stay
And he sung a snatch of the familiar song—"There's no place like
home," rising, as he did so, from the table, and offering Irene his
arm. She could do no less than accept the courtesy, and so they went
up to their cozy sitting-room arm-in-arm—he chatty, and she almost
"What's the matter, petty?" he asked, in a fond way, after trying
for some time, but in vain, to draw her out into pleasant
conversation. "Ain't you well to-night?"
Now, so far as her bodily state was concerned, Irene never felt
better in her life. So she could not plead indisposition.
"I feel well," she replied, glancing up into her husband's face in
a cold, embarrassed kind of way.
"Then your looks belie your condition—that's all. If it isn't the
body, it must be the mind. What's gone wrong, darling?"
The tenderness in Hartley's tones was genuine, and the heart of
Irene leaped to his voice with a responsive throe. But was he not her
master and tyrant? How that thought chilled the sweet impulse!
"Nothing wrong," she answered, with a sadness of tone which she was
unable to conceal. "But I feel dull, and cannot help it."
"You should have gone with me to laugh with Matthews. He would have
shaken all these cobwebs from your brain. Come! it is not yet too
But the rebel spirit was in her heart; and to have acceded to he
husband's wishes would have been to submit herself to control.
"You must excuse me," she replied. "I feel as if home were the
better place for me to-night."
An impatient answer was on her tongue; but she checked its
utterance, and spoke from a better spirit.
Not even as a lover had Hartley shown more considerate tenderness
than marked all his conduct toward Irene this evening. His mind was
in a clear-seeing region, and his feelings tranquil. The sphere of
her antagonism failed to reach him. He did not understand the meaning
of her opposition to his wishes, and so pride, self-love and self-will
remained quiescent. How peacefully unconscious was he of the fact that
his feet were standing over a mine, and that a single spark of passion
struck from him would have sprung that mine in fierce explosion! He
read to Irene from a volume which he knew to be a favorite; talked to
her about Ivy Cliff and her father; suggested an early visit to the
pleasant old river home; and thus charmed away the evil spirits which
had found a lodgment in her bosom.
But how different it might have been!
CHAPTER XIII. THE REFORMERS.
SOCIAL theories that favor our passions, peculiarities,
defects of character or weaknesses are readily adopted, and, with
minds of an ardent temper, often become hobbies. There is a class of
persons who are never content with riding their own hobbies; they must
have others mount with them. All the world is going wrong because it
moves past them—trotting, pacing or galloping, as it may be, upon
its own hobbies. And so they try to arrest this movement or that, or,
gathering a company of aimless people, they galvanize them with their
own wild purposes, and start them forth into the world on Quixotic
These persons are never content to wait for the slow changes that
are included in all orderly developments. Because a thing seems right
to them in the abstract, it must be done now. They cannot wait for old
things to pass away, as preliminary to the inauguration of what is
"If I had the power," we have heard one of this class say, "evil
and sorrow and pain should cease from the earth in a moment." And in
saying this the thought was not concealed that God had this power,
but failed to exercise it. With them no questions of expediency, no
regard for time-endowed prejudices, no weak spirit of waiting, no
looking for the fullness of time could have any influence. What they
willed to be done must be done now; and they were impatient and angry
at every one who stood in their way or opposed their theories.
In most cases, you will find these "reformers," as they generally
style themselves, governed more by a love of ruling and influencing
others than by a spirit of humanity. They are one-sided people, and
can only see one side of a subject in clear light. It matters little
to them what is destroyed, so that they can build. If they possess
the gift of language, either as writers or talkers—have wit,
brilliancy and sarcasm—they make disciples of the less gifted, and
influence larger or smaller circles of men and women. Flattered by
this homage to their talents, they grow more ardent in the cause
which they have espoused, and see, or affect to see, little else of
any importance in the world. They do some good and much harm. Good,
in drawing general attention to social evils that need
reforming—evil, in causing weak people to forget common duties in
their ambition to set the world right.
There is always danger in breaking suddenly away from the regular
progression of things and taking the lead in some new and
antagonistic movement. Such things must and will be; but they who set
up for social reformers must be men and women of pure hearts, clear
minds and the broadest human sympathies. They must be lovers of their
kind, not lovers of themselves; brave as patriots, not as soldiers of
fortune who seek for booty and renown.
Not many of these true reformers—all honor to them!—are found
among the noisy coteries that infest the land and turn so many
foolish people away from real duties.
One of the dangers attendant on association with the class to which
we refer lies in the fact that they draw around them certain
free-thinking, sensual personages, of no very stable morality, who
are ready for anything that gives excitement to their morbid
conditions of mind. Social disasters, of the saddest kind, are
constantly occurring through this cause. Men and women become at
first unsettled in their opinions, then unsettled in their conduct,
and finally throw off all virtuous restraint.
Mrs. Talbot, the new friend of Mrs. Emerson, belonged to the better
sort of reformers in one respect. She was a pure-minded woman; but
this did not keep her out of the circle of those who were of freer
thought and action. Being an extremist on the subject of woman's
social position, she met and assimilated with others on the basis of
a common sentiment. This threw her in contact with many from whom she
would have shrunk with instinctive aversion had she known their true
quality. Still, the evil to her was a gradual wearing away, by the
power of steady attrition, of old, true, conservative ideas in regard
to the binding force of marriage. There was always a great deal said
on this subject, in a light way, by persons for whose opinions on
other subjects she had the highest respect, and this had its
influence. Insensibly her views and feelings changed, until she found
herself, in some cases, the advocate of sentiments that once would
have been rejected with instinctive repugnance.
This was the woman who was about acquiring a strong influence over
the undisciplined, self-willed and too self-reliant young wife of
Hartley Emerson; and this was the class of personages among whom her
dangerous friend was about introducing her. At the house of Mrs.
Talbot, where Irene became a frequent visitor, she met a great many
brilliant, talented and fascinating people, of whom she often spoke
to her husband, for she was too independent to have any concealments.
She knew that he did no like Mrs. Talbot, but this rather inclined her
to a favorable estimation, and really led to a more frequent
intercourse than would otherwise have been the case.
Once a week Mrs. Talbot held a kind of conversazione, at which
brilliant people and people with hobbies met to hear themselves talk.
Mr. and Mrs. Emerson had a standing invitation to be present at these
reunions, and, as Irene wished to go, her husband saw it best not to
interpose obstacles. Besides, as he knew that she went to Mrs.
Talbot's often in the day-time, and met a good many people there, he
wished to see for himself who they were, and judge for himself as to
their quality. Of the men who frequented the parlors of Mrs. Talbot,
the larger number had some prefix to their names, as Professor,
Doctor, Major, or Colonel. Most of the ladies were of a decidedly
literary turn—some had written books, some were magazine
contributors, one was a physician, and one a public lecturer. Nothing
against them in all this, but much to their honor if their talents and
acquirements were used for the common good.
The themes of conversation at these weekly gatherings were varied,
but social relations and social reform were in most cases the leading
topics. Two or three evenings at Mrs. Talbot's were enough to satisfy
Mr. Emerson that the people who met there were not of a character to
exercise a good influence upon his wife. But how was he to keep her
from associations that evidently presented strong attractions? Direct
opposition he feared to make, for the experience of a few months had
been sufficient to show him that she would resist all attempts on his
part to exercise a controlling influence.
He tried at first to keep her away by feigning slight
indisposition, or weariness, or disinclination to go out, and so lead
her to exercise some self-denial for his sake. But her mind was too
firmly bent on going to be turned so easily from its purpose; she did
not consider trifles like these of sufficient importance to interfere
with the pleasures of an evening at one of Mrs. Talbot's
conversaziones. Mr. Emerson felt hurt at his wife's plain disregard
of his comfort and wishes, and said within himself, with bitterness
of feeling, that she was heartless.
One day, at dinner-time, he said to her—
"I shall not be able to go to Mrs. Talbot's to-night."
"Why?" Irene looked at her husband in surprise, and with a shade of
disappointment on her countenance.
"I have business of importance with a gentleman who resides in
Brooklyn, and have promised to meet him at his house this evening."
"You might call for me on your return," said Irene.
"The time of my return will be uncertain. I cannot now tell how
late I may be detained in Brooklyn."
"I'm sorry." And Irene bent down her eyes in a thoughtful way. "I
promised Mrs. Talbot to be there to-night," she added.
"Mrs. Talbot will excuse you when she knows why you were absent."
"I don't know about that," said Irene.
"She must be a very unreasonable woman," remarked Emerson.
"That doesn't follow. You could take me there, and Mrs. Talbot find
me an escort home."
"Who?" Emerson knit his brows and glanced sharply at his wife. The
suggestion struck him unpleasantly.
"Major Willard, for instance;" and she smiled in a half-amused,
"You cannot be in earnest, surely?" said Emerson.
"Why not?" queried his wife, looking at her husband with calm,
"You would not, in the first place, be present there, unaccompanied
by your husband; and, in the second place, I hardly think my wife
would be seen in the street, at night, on the arm of Major Willard."
Mr. Emerson spoke like a man who was in earnest.
"Do you know anything wrong of Major Willard?" asked Irene.
"I know nothing about him, right or wrong," was replied. "But, if I
have any skill in reading men, he is very far from being a fine
"Why, Hartley! You have let some prejudice come in to warp your
"No. I have mixed some with men, and, though my opportunity for
observation has not been large, I have met two or three of your Major
Willards. They are polished and attractive on the surface, but
unprincipled and corrupt."
"I cannot believe this of Major Willard," said Irene.
"It might be safer for you to believe it," replied Hartley.
"Safer! I don't understand you! You talk in riddles? How safer?"
Irene showed some irritation.
"Safer as to your good name," replied her husband.
"My good name is in my own keeping" said the young wife, proudly.
"Then, for Heaven's sake, remain its safe custodian," replied
Emerson. "Don't let even the shadow of a man like Major Willard fall
"I am sorry to see you so prejudiced," said Irene, coldly; "and
sorry, still further, that you have so poor an opinion of your wife."
"You misapprehend me," returned Hartley. "I am neither prejudiced
nor suspicious. But seeing danger in your way, as a prudent man I
lift a voice of warning. I am out in the world more than you are, and
see more of its worst side. My profession naturally opens to me doors
of observation that are shut to many. I see the inside of character,
where others look only upon the fair outside."
"And so learn to be suspicious of everybody," said Irene.
"No; only to read indices that to many others are unintelligible."
"I must learn to read them also."
"It would be well if your sex and place in the world gave the right
opportunity," replied Hartley.
"Truly said. And that touches the main question. Women, immured as
they now are, and never suffered to go out into the world unless
guarded by husband, brother or discreet managing friend, will
continue as weak and undiscriminating as the great mass of them now
are. But, so far as I am concerned, this system is destined to
change. I must be permitted a larger liberty, and opportunities for
independent observation. I wish to read character for myself, and
make up my own mind in regard to the people I meet."
"I am only sorry," rejoined her husband, "that your first effort at
reading character and making up independent opinions in regard to men
and principles had not found scope in another direction. I am afraid
that, in trying to get close enough to the people you meet at Mrs.
Talbot's for accurate observation, you will draw so near to dangerous
fires as to scorch your garments."
"Complimentary to Mrs. Talbot!"
"The remark simply gives you my estimate of some of her favored
"And complimentary to your wife," added Irene.
"My wife," said Hartley, in a serious voice, "is, like myself,
young and inexperienced, and should be particularly cautious in regard
to all new acquaintances—men or women—particularly if they be some
years her senior, and particularly if they show any marked desire to
cultivate her acquaintance. People with a large worldly experience,
like most of those we have met at Mrs. Talbot's, take you and I at
disadvantage. They read us through at a single sitting, while it may
take us months, even years, to penetrate the disguises they know so
well how to assume."
"Nearly all of which, touching the pleasant people we meet at Mrs.
Talbot's, is assumed," replied Irene, not at all moved by her
"You may learn to your sorrow, when the knowledge comes too late,"
he responded, "that even more than I have assumed is true."
"I am not in fear of the sorrow," was answered lightly.
As Irene, against all argument, persuasion and remonstrance on the
part of her husband, persisted in her determination to go to Mrs.
Talbot's, he engaged a carriage to take her there and to call for her
at eleven o'clock.
"Come away alone," he said, with impressive earnestness, as he
parted from her. "Don't let any courteous offer induce you to accept
an attendant when you return home."
CHAPTER XIV. A STARTLING EXPERIENCE.
MRS. EMERSON did not feel altogether comfortable in mind as
she rode away from her door alone. She was going unattended by her
husband, and against his warmly-spoken remonstrance, to pass an
evening with people of whom she knew but little, and against whom he
had strong prejudices.
"It were better to have remained at home," she said to herself more
than once before her arrival at Mrs. Talbot's. The marked attentions
she received, as well from Mrs. Talbot as from several of her guests,
soon brought her spirits up to the old elevation. Among those who
seemed most attracted by her was Major Willard, to whom reference has
already been made.
"Where is your husband?" was almost his first inquiry on meeting
her. "I do not see him in the room."
"He had to meet a gentleman on business over in Brooklyn this
evening," replied Irene.
"Ah, business!" said the major, with a shrug, a movement of the
eyebrows and a motion in the corners of his mouth which were not
intelligible signs to Mrs. Emerson. That they meant something more
than he was prepared to utter in words, she was satisfied, but
whether of favorable or unfavorable import touching her absent
husband, she could not tell. The impression on her mind was not
agreeable, and she could not help remembering what Hartley had said
about the major.
"I notice," remarked the latter, "that we have several ladies here
who come usually without their husbands. Gentlemen are not always
attracted by the feast of reason and the flow of soul. They require
something more substantial. Oysters and terrapin are nearer to their
"Not more to my husband's fancy," replied Mrs. Emerson, in a tone
of vindication, as well as rebuke at such freedom of speech.
"Beg your pardon a thousand times, madam!" returned Major Willard,
"if I have even seemed to speak lightly of one who holds the honored
position of your husband. Nothing could have been farther from my
thought. I was only trifling."
Mrs. Emerson smiled her forgiveness, and the major became more
polite and attentive than before. But his attentions were not wholly
agreeable. Something in the expression of his eyes as he looked at
her produced an unpleasant repulsion. She was constantly remembering
some of the cautions spoken by Hartley in reference to this man, and
she wished scores of times that he would turn his attentions to some
one else. But the major seemed to have no eyes for any other lady in
In spite of the innate repulsion to which we have referred, Mrs.
Emerson was flattered by the polished major's devotion of himself
almost wholly to her during the evening, and she could do no less in
return than make herself as agreeable as possible.
At eleven o'clock she had notice that her carriage was at the door.
The major was by, and heard the communication. So, when she came down
from the dressing-room, he was waiting for her in the hall, ready
cloaked and gloved.
"No, Major Willard, I thank you," she said, on his making a
movement to accompany her. She spoke very positively.
"I cannot see you go home unattended." And the major bowed with
"Oh no," said Mrs. Talbot. "You must not leave my house alone.
Major, I shall expect you to attend my young friend."
It was in vain that Mrs. Emerson objected and remonstrated, the
gallant major would listen to nothing; and so, perforce, she had to
yield. After handing her into the carriage, he spoke a word or two in
an undertone to the driver, and then entering, took his place by her
Mrs. Emerson felt strangely uncomfortable and embarrassed, and
shrunk as far from her companion as the narrow space they occupied
would permit; while he, it seemed to her, approached as she receded.
There was a different tone in his voice when he spoke as the carriage
moved away from any she had noticed heretofore. He drew his face near
to hers in speaking, but the rattling of the wheels made hearing
difficult. He had, during the evening, referred to a star actress then
occupying public attention, of whom some scandalous things had been
said, and declared his belief in her innocence. To Mrs. Emerson's
surprise—almost disgust—his first remark after they were seated in
the carriage was about this actress. Irene did not respond to his
"Did you ever meet her in private circles?" he next inquired.
"No, sir," she answered, coldly.
"I have had that pleasure," said Major Willard.
There was no responsive word.
"She is a most fascinating woman," continued the major. "That
Juno-like beauty which so distinguishes her on the stage scarcely
shows itself in the drawing-room. On the stage she is queenly—in
private, soft, voluptuous and winning as a houri. I don't wonder that
she has crowds of admirers."
The major's face was close to that of his companion, who felt a
wild sense of repugnance, so strong as to be almost suffocating. The
carriage bounded as the wheels struck an inequality in the street,
throwing them together with a slight concussion. The major laid his
hand upon that of Mrs. Emerson, as if to support her. But she
instantly withdrew the hand he had presumed to touch. He attempted
the same familiarity again, but she placed both hands beyond the
possibility of accidental or designed contact with his, and shrank
still closer into the corner of the carriage, while her heart
fluttered and a tremor ran through her frame.
Major Willard spoke again of the actress, but Mrs. Emerson made no
"Where are we going?" she asked, after the lapse of some ten
minutes, glancing from the window and seeing, instead of the tall
rows of stately houses which lined the streets along the whole
distance between Mrs. Talbot's residence and her own house,
"The driver knows his route, I presume," was answered.
"This is not the way, I am sure," said Mrs. Emerson, a slight
quiver of alarm in her voice.
"Our drivers know the shortest cuts," replied the major, "and these
do not always lead through the most attractive quarters of the town."
Mrs. Emerson shrunk back again in her seat and was silent. Her
heart was throbbing with a vague fear. Suddenly the carriage stopped
and the driver alighted.
"This is not my home," said Mrs. Emerson, as the driver opened the
door, and the major stepped out upon the pavement.
"Oh, yes. This is No. 240 L——street. Yes, ma'am," added the
driver, "this is the number that the gentleman told me."
"What gentleman?" asked Mrs. Emerson.
"This gentleman, if you please, ma'am."
"Drive me home instantly, or this may cost you dear!" said Mrs.
Emerson, in as stern a voice as surprise and fear would permit her to
"Madam—" Major Willard commenced speaking.
"Silence, sir! Shut the door, driver, and take me home instantly!"
The major made a movement as if he were about to enter the
carriage, when Mrs. Emerson said, in a low, steady, threatening
"At your peril, remain outside! Driver, shut the door. If you
permit that man to enter, my husband will hold you to a strict
"Stand back!" exclaimed the driver, in a resolute voice.
But the major was not to be put off in this way. He did not move
from the open door of the carriage. In the next moment the driver's
vigorous arm had hurled him across the pavement. The door was shut,
the box mounted and the carriage whirled away, before the astonished
man could rise, half stunned, from the place where he fell. A few
low, bitter, impotent curses fell from his lips, and then he walked
slowly away, muttering threats of vengeance.
It was nearly twelve o'clock when Irene reached home.
"You are late," said her husband, as she came in.
"Yes," she replied, "later than I intended."
"What's the matter?" he inquired, looking at her narrowly.
"Why do you ask?" She tried to put on an air of indifference.
"You look pale and your voice is disturbed."
"The driver went through parts of the town in returning that made
me feel nervous, as I thought of my lonely and unprotected situation."
"Why did he do that?"
"It wasn't to make the way shorter, for the directest route would
have brought me home ten minutes ago. I declare! The fellow's conduct
made me right nervous. I thought a dozen improbable things."
"It is the last time I will employ him," said Hartley. "How dare he
go a single block away from a direct course, at this late hour?" He
spoke with rising indignation.
At first, Irene resolved to inform her husband of Major Willard's
conduct, but it will be seen by this conversation that she had
changed her mind, at least for the present. Two or three things
caused her to hesitate until she could turn the matter over in her
thoughts more carefully. Pride had its influence. She did not care to
admit that she had been in error and Hartley right as to Major
Willard. But there was a more sober aspect of the case. Hartley was
excitable, brave and strong-willed. She feared the consequences that
might follow if he were informed of Major Willard's outrageous
conduct. A personal collision she saw to be almost inevitable in this
event. Mortifying publicity, if not the shedding of blood, would
So, for the present at least, she resolved to keep her own secret,
and evaded the close queries of her husband, who was considerably
disturbed by the alleged conduct of the driver.
One good result followed this rather startling experience. Irene
said no more about attending the conversaziones of Mrs. Talbot. She
did not care to meet Major Willard again, and as he was a regular
visitor at Mrs. Talbot's, she couldn't go there without encountering
him. Her absence on the next social evening was remarked by her new
friend, who called on her the next day.
"I didn't see you last night," said the agreeable Mrs. Talbot.
"No, I remained at home," replied Mrs. Emerson, the smile with
which she had received her friend fading partly away.
"Not indisposed, I hope?"
"But your husband was! Talk it right out, my pretty one!" said Mrs.
Talbot, in a gay, bantering tone. "Indisposed in mind. He don't like
the class of people one meets at my house. Men of his stamp never
It was on the lips of Mrs. Emerson to say that there might be
ground for his dislike of some who were met there. But she repressed
even a remote reference to an affair that, for the gravest of reasons,
she still desired to keep as her own secret. So she merely answered—
"The indisposition of mind was on my part."
"On your part? Oh dear! That alters the case. And, pray, what
occasioned this indisposition? Not a previous mental surfeit, I
"Oh no. I never get a surfeit in good company. But people's states
vary, as you are aware. I had a stay-at-home feeling last night, and
"Very prettily said, my dear. I understand you entirely, and like
your frank, outspoken way. This is always best with friends. I desire
all of mine to enjoy the largest liberty—to come and see me when they
feel like it, and to stay away when they don't feel like coming. We
had a delightful time. Major Willard was there. He's a charming man!
Several times through the evening he asked for you. I really think
your absence worried him. Now, don't blush! A handsome, accomplished
man may admire a handsome and accomplished woman, without anything
wrong being involved. Because one has a husband, is she not to be
spoken to or admired by other men? Nonsense! That is the world's weak
prudery, or rather the common social sentiment based on man's tyranny
As Mrs. Talbot ran on in this strain, Mrs. Emerson had time to
reflect and school her exterior. Toward Major Willard her feelings
were those of disgust and detestation. The utterance of his name
shocked her womanly delicacy, but when it was coupled with a
sentiment of admiration for her, and an intimation of the probable
existence of something reciprocal on her part, it was with difficulty
that she could restrain a burst of indignant feeling. But her strong
will helped her, and she gave no intelligible sign of what was really
passing in her thoughts. The subject being altogether disagreeable,
she changed it as soon as possible.
In this interview with Mrs. Talbot a new impression in regard to
her was made on the mind of Mrs. Emerson. Something impure seemed to
pervade the mental atmosphere with which she was surrounded, and
there seemed to be things involved in what she said that shadowed a
latitude in morals wholly outside of Christian duty. When they
separated, much of the enthusiasm which Irene had felt for this
specious, unsafe acquaintance was gone, and her power over her was in
the same measure lessened.
CHAPTER XV. CAPTIVATED AGAIN.
BUT it is not so easily escaping from a woman like Mrs.
Talbot, when an acquaintanceship is once formed. In less than a week
she called again, and this time in company with another lady, a Mrs.
Lloyd, whom she introduced as a very dear friend. Mrs. Lloyd was a
tall, spare woman, with an intellectual face, bright, restless,
penetrating eyes, a clear musical voice, subdued, but winning
manners. She was a little past thirty, though sickness of body or
mind had stolen the bloom of early womanhood, and carried her
forward, apparently, to the verge of forty. Mrs. Emerson had never
before heard of this lady. But half an hour's conversation completely
captivated her. Mrs. Lloyd had traveled through Europe, and spoke in a
familiar way of the celebrated personages whom she had met
abroad,—talked of art, music and architecture, literature, artists
and literary men—displayed such high culture and easy acquaintance
with themes quite above the range usually met with among ordinary
people, that Mrs. Emerson felt really flattered with the compliment of
"My good friend, Mrs. Talbot," said Mrs. Lloyd, during their
conversation, "has spoken of you so warmly that I could do no less
than make overtures for an acquaintance, which I trust may prove
agreeable. I anticipated the pleasure of seeing you at her house last
week, but was disappointed."
"The interview of to-day," remarked Mrs. Talbot, coming in
adroitly, "will only make pleasanter your meeting on to-morrow night."
"At your house?" said Mrs. Lloyd.
"Yes." And Mrs. Talbot threw a winning smile upon Mrs. Emerson.
"You will be there?"
"I think not," was replied.
"Oh, but you must come, my dear Mrs. Emerson! We cannot do without
"I have promised my husband to go out with him."
"Your husband!" The voice of Mrs. Talbot betrayed too plainly her
contempt of husbands.
"Yes, my husband." Mrs. Emerson let her voice dwell with meaning on
The other ladies looked at each other for a moment or two with
meaning glances; then Mrs. Talbot remarked, in a quiet way, but with
a little pleasantry in her voice, as if she were not right clear in
regard to her young friend's state of feeling,
"Oh dear! these husbands are dreadfully in the way, sometimes!
Haven't you found it so, Mrs. Lloyd?"
The eyes of Mrs. Emerson were turned instantly to the face of her
new acquaintance. She saw a slight change of expression in her pale
face that took something from its agreeable aspect. And yet Mrs.
Lloyd smiled as she answered, in a way meant to be pleasant,
"They are very good in their place."
"The trouble," remarked Mrs. Talbot, in reply, "is to make them
keep their place."
"At our feet." Mrs. Emerson laughed as she said this.
"No," answered Mrs. Lloyd—"at our sides, as equals."
"And beyond that," said Mrs. Talbot, "we want them to give us as
much freedom in the world as they take for themselves. They come in
and go out when they please, and submit to no questioning on our
part. Very well; I don't object; only I claim the same right for
myself. 'I will ask my husband.' Don't you hear this said every day?
Pah! I'm always tempted to cut the acquaintance of a woman when I
hear these words from her lips. Does a man, when a friend asks him to
do anything or go anywhere, say, 'I'll ask my wife?' Not he. A lady
who comes occasionally to our weekly reunions, but whose husband is
too much of a man to put himself down to the level of our set, is
permitted the enjoyment of an evening with us, now and then, on one
"Condition!" There was a throb of indignant feeling in the voice of
"Yes, on condition that no male visitor at my house shall accompany
her home. A carriage is sent for her precisely at ten o'clock, when
she must leave, and alone."
"Humiliating!" ejaculated Mrs. Lloyd.
"Isn't it? I can scarcely have patience with her. Major Willard
has, at my instance, several times made an effort to accompany her,
and once actually entered her carriage. But the lady commanded him to
retire, or she would leave the carriage herself. Of course, when she
took that position, the gallant major had to leave the field."
"Such a restriction would scarce have suited my fancy," said Mrs.
"Nor mine. What do you think of that?" And Mrs. Talbot looked into
the face of Mrs. Emerson, whose color had risen beyond its usual
"Circumstances alter cases," replied the latter, crushing out all
feeling from her voice and letting it fall into a dead level of
"But circumstances don't alter facts, my dear. There are the hard
facts of restrictions and conditions, made by a man, and applied to
his equal, a woman. Does she say to him, You can't go to your club
unless you return alone in your carriage, and leave the club-house
precisely at ten o'clock? Oh no. He would laugh in her face, or,
perhaps, consult the family physician touching her sanity."
This mode of putting the question rather bewildered the mind of our
young wife, and she dropped her eyes from those of Mrs. Talbot and
sat looking upon the floor in silence.
"Can't you get your husband to release you from this engagement of
which you have spoken?" asked Mrs. Lloyd. "I should like above all
things to meet you to-morrow evening."
Mrs. Emerson smiled as she answered,
"Husbands have rights, young know, as well as wives. We must
consult their pleasure sometimes, as well as our own."
"Certainly—certainly." Mrs. Lloyd spoke with visible impatience.
"I promised to go with my husband to-morrow night," said Mrs.
Emerson; "and, much as I may desire to meet you at Mrs. Talbot's, I
am not at liberty to go there."
"In bonds! Ah me! Poor wives!" sighed Mrs. Talbot, in affected
pity. "Not at liberty! The admission which comes to us from all
She laughed in her gurgling, hollow way as she said this.
"Not bound to my husband, but to my word of promise," replied Mrs.
Emerson, as pleasantly as her disturbed feelings would permit her to
speak. The ladies were pressing her a little too closely, and she
both saw and felt this. They were stepping beyond the bounds of
reason and delicacy.
Mrs. Lloyd saw the state of mind which had been produced, and at
once changed the subject.
"May I flatter myself with the prospect of having this call
returned?" she said, handing Mrs. Emerson her card as she was about
"It will give me great pleasure to know you better, and you may
look to seeing me right early," was the bland reply. And yet Mrs.
Emerson was not really attracted by this woman, but, on the contrary,
repelled. There was something in her keen, searching eyes, which
seemed to be looking right into the thoughts, that gave her a feeling
"Thank you. The favor will be all on my side," said Mrs. Lloyd, as
she held the hand of Mrs. Emerson and gave it a warm pressure.
The visit of these ladies did not leave the mind of Irene in a very
satisfactory state. Some things that were said she rejected, while
other things lingered and occasioned suggestions which were not
favorable to her husband. While she had no wish to be present at Mrs.
Talbot's on account of Major Willard, she was annoyed by the thought
that Hartley's fixing on the next evening for her to go out with him
was to prevent her attendance at the weekly conversazione.
Irene did not mention to her husband the fact that she bad received
a visit from Mrs. Talbot, in company with a pleasant stranger, Mrs.
Lloyd. It would have been far better for her if she had done so. Many
times it was on her lips to mention the call, but as often she kept
silent, one or the other of two considerations having influence.
Hartley did not like Mrs. Talbot, and therefore the mention of her
name, and the fact of her calling, would not be pleasant theme. The
other consideration had reference to a woman's independence.
"He doesn't tell me of every man he meets through the day, and why
should I feel under obligation to speak of every lady who calls?" So
she thought. "As to Mrs. Lloyd, he would have a hundred prying
question's to ask, as if I we not competent to judge of the character
of my own friends and acquaintances?"
Within a week the call of Mrs. Lloyd was reciprocated by Mrs.
Emerson; not in consequence of feeling drawn toward that lady, but
she had promised to return the friendly visit, and must keep her
word. She found her domiciliated in a fashionable boarding-house, and
was received in the common parlor, in which were two or three ladies
and a gentleman, besides Mrs. Lloyd. The greeting she received was
warm, almost affectionate. In spite of the prejudice that was creeping
into her mind in consequence of an unfavorable first impression, Mrs.
Emerson was flattered by her reception, and before the termination of
her visit she was satisfied that she had not, in the beginning, formed
a right estimate of this really fascinating woman.
"I hope to see you right soon," she said, as she bade Mrs. Lloyd
good-morning. "It will not be my fault if we do not soon know each
"Nor mine either," replied Mrs. Lloyd. "I think I shall find you
just after my own heart."
The voice of Mrs. Lloyd was a little raised as she said this, and
Mrs. Emerson noticed that a gentleman who was in the parlor when she
entered, but to whom she had not been introduced, turned and looked
at her with a steady, curious gaze, which struck her at the time as
being on the verge of impertinence.
Only two or three days passed before Mrs. Lloyd returned this
visit. Irene found her more interesting than ever. She had seen a
great deal of society, and had met, according to her own story, with
most of the distinguished men and women of the country, about whom she
talked in a very agreeable manner. She described their personal
appearance, habits, peculiarities and manners, and related pleasant
anecdotes about them. On authors and books she was entirely at home.
But there was an undercurrent of feeling in all she said that a
wiser and more experienced woman than Irene would have noted. It was
not a feeling of admiration for moral, but for intellectual, beauty.
She could dissect a character with wonderful skill, but always passed
the quality of goodness as not taken into account. In her view this
quality did not seem to be a positive element.
When Mrs. Lloyd went away, she left the mind of Irene stimulated,
restless and fluttering with vague fancies. She felt envious of her
new friend's accomplishments, and ambitious to move in as wide a
sphere as she had compassed. The visit was returned at an early
period, and, as before, Mrs. Emerson met Mrs. Lloyd in the public
parlor of her boarding-house. The same gentleman whose manner had a
little annoyed her was present, and she noticed several times, on
glancing toward him, that his eyes were fixed upon her, and with an
expression that she did not understand.
After this, the two ladies met every day or two, and sometimes
walked Broadway together. The only information that Mrs. Emerson had
in regard to her attractive friend she received from Mrs. Talbot.
According to her statement, she was a widow whose married life had
not been a happy one. The husband, like most husbands, was an
overbearing tyrant, and the wife, having a spirit of her own,
resisted his authority. Trouble was the consequence, and Mrs. Talbot
thought, though she was not certain, that a separation took place
before Mr. Lloyd's death. She had a moderate income, which came from
her husband's estate, on which she lived in a kind of idle
independence. So she had plenty of time to read, visit and enjoy
herself in the ways her fancy or inclination might prompt.
CHAPTER XVI. WEARY OF CONSTRAINT.
TIME moved on, and Mrs. Emerson's intimate city friends were
those to whom she had been introduced, directly or indirectly, through
Mrs. Talbot. Of these, the one who had most influence over her was
Mrs. Lloyd, and that influence was not of the right kind. Singularly
enough, it so happened that Mr. Emerson never let this lady at his
house, though she spent hours there every week; and, more singular
still, Irene had never spoken about her to her husband. She had often
been on the point of doing so, but an impression that Hartley would
take up an unreasonable prejudice against her kept the name of this
friend back from her lips.
Months now succeeded each other without the occurrence of events
marked by special interest. Mr. Emerson grew more absorbed in his
profession as cases multiplied on his hands, and Irene, interested in
her circle of bright-minded, independent-thoughted women, found the
days and weeks gliding on pleasantly enough. But habits of estimating
things a little differently from the common sentiment, and views of
life not by any means consonant with those prevailing among the larger
numbers of her sex, were gradually taking root.
Young, inexperienced, self-willed and active in mind, Mrs. Emerson
had most unfortunately been introduced among a class of persons whose
influence upon her could not fail to be hurtful. Their conversation
was mainly of art, literature, social progress and development; the
drama, music, public sentiment on leading topics of the day; the
advancement of liberal ideas, the necessity of a larger liberty and a
wider sphere of action for woman, and the equality of the sexes. All
well enough, all to be commended when viewed in their just relation to
other themes and interests, but actually pernicious when separated
from the homely and useful things of daily life, and made so to
overshadow these as to warp them into comparative insignificance. Here
lay the evil. It was this elevation of her ideas above the region of
use and duty into the mere æsthetic and reformatory that was hurtful
to one like Irene—that is, in fact, hurtful to any woman, for it is
always hurtful to take away from the mind its interest in common
life—the life, we mean, of daily useful work.
Work! We know the word has not a pleasant sound to many ears, that
it seems to include degradation, and a kind of social slavery, and
lies away down in a region to which your fine, cultivated,
intellectual woman cannot descend without, in her view, soiling her
garments. But for all this, it is alone in daily useful work of mind
or hands, work in which service and benefits to others are involved,
that a woman (or a man) gains any true perfection of character. And
this work must be her own, must lie within the sphere of her own
relations to others, and she must engage in it from a sense of duty
that takes its promptings from her own consciousness of right. No
other woman can judge of her relation to this work, and she who dares
to interfere or turn her aside should be considered an enemy—not a
No wonder, if this be true, that we have so many women of taste,
cultivation, and often brilliant intellectual powers, blazing about
like comets or shooting stars in our social firmament. They attract
admiring attention, excite our wonder, give us themes for
conversation and criticism; but as guides and indicators while we
sail over the dangerous sea of life, what are they in comparison with
some humble star of the sixth magnitude that ever keeps its true place
in the heavens, shining on with its small but steady ray, a perpetual
blessing? And so the patient, thoughtful, loving wife and mother,
doing her daily work for human souls and bodies, though her
intellectual powers be humble, and her taste but poorly cultivated,
fills more honorably her sphere than any of her more brilliant
sisters, who cast off what they consider the shackles by which custom
and tyranny have bound them down to mere home duties and the drudgery
of household care. If down into these they would bring their superior
powers, their cultivated tastes, their larger knowledge, how quickly
would some desert homes in our land put on refreshing greenness, and
desolate gardens blossom like the rose! We should have, instead of
vast imaginary Utopias in the future, model homes in the present, the
light and beauty of which, shining abroad, would give higher types of
social life for common emulation.
Ah, if the Genius of Social Reform would only take her stand
centrally! If she would make the regeneration of homes the great
achievement of our day, then would she indeed come with promise and
blessing. But, alas! she is so far vagrant in her habits—a
fortune-telling gipsy, not a true, loving, useful woman.
Unhappily for Mrs. Emerson, it was the weird-eyed, fortune-telling
gipsy whose Delphic utterances had bewildered her mind.
The reconciliation which followed the Christmas-time troubles of
Irene and her husband had given both more prudent self-control. They
guarded themselves with a care that threw around the manner of each a
certain reserve which was often felt by the other as coldness. To both
this was, in a degree, painful. There was tender love in their hearts,
but it was overshadowed by self-will and false ideas of independence
on the one side, and by a brooding spirit of accusation and
unaccustomed restraint on the other. Many times, each day of their
lives, did words and sentiments, just about to be uttered by Hartley
Emerson, die unspoken, lest in them something might appear which would
stir the quick feelings of Irene into antagonism.
There was no guarantee of happiness in such a state of things.
Mutual forbearance existed, not from self-discipline and tender love,
but from fear of consequences. They were burnt children, and dreaded,
as well they might, the fire.
With little change in their relations to each other, and few events
worthy of notice, a year went by. Mr. Delancy came down to New York
several times during this period, spending a few days at each visit,
while Irene went frequently to Ivy Cliff, and stayed there,
occasionally, as long as two or three weeks. Hartley always came up
from the city while Irene was at her father's, but never stayed
longer than a single day, business requiring him to be at his office
or in court. Mr. Delancy never saw them together without closely
observing their manner, tone of speaking and language. Both, he could
see, were maturing rapidly. Irene had changed most. There was a style
of thinking, a familiarity with popular themes and a womanly
confidence in her expression of opinions that at times surprised him.
With her views on some subjects his own mind was far from being in
agreement, and they often had warm arguments. Occasionally, when her
husband was at Ivy Cliff a difference of sentiment would arise between
them. Mr. Delancy noticed, when this was the case, that Irene always
pressed her view with ardor, and that her husband, after a brief but
pleasant combat, retired from the field. He also noticed that in most
cases, after this giving up of the contest by Hartley, he was more
than usually quiet and seemed to be pondering things not wholly
Mr. Delancy was gratified to see that there was no jarring between
them. But he failed not at the same time to notice something else
that gave him uneasiness. The warmth of feeling, the tenderness, the
lover-like ardor which displayed itself in the beginning, no longer
existed. They did not even show that fondness for each other which is
so beautiful a trait in young married partners. And yet he could trace
no signs of alienation. The truth was, the action of their lives had
been inharmonious. Deep down in their hearts there was no defect of
love. But this love was compelled to hide itself away; and so, for the
most part, it lay concealed from even their own consciousness.
During the second year of their married life there came a change of
state in both Irene and her husband. They had each grown weary of
constraint when together. It was irksome to be always on guard, lest
some word, tone or act should be misunderstood. In consequence, old
collisions were renewed, and Hartley often grew impatient and even
contemptuous toward his wife, when she ventured to speak of social
progress, woman's rights, or any of the kindred themes in which she
still took a warm interest. Angry retort usually followed on these
occasions, and periods of coldness ensued, the effect of which was to
produce states of alienation.
If a babe had come to soften the heart of Irene, to turn thought
and feeling in a new direction, to awaken a mother's love with all its
holy tenderness, how different would all have been!—different with
her, and different with him. There would then have been an object on
which both could centre interest and affection, and thus draw
lovingly together again, and feel, as in the beginning, heart beating
to heart in sweet accordings. They would have learned their
love-lessons over again, and understood their meanings better. Alas
that the angels of infancy found no place in their dwelling!
With no central attraction at home, her thoughts stimulated by
association with a class of intellectual, restless women, who were
wandering on life's broad desert in search of green places and
refreshing springs, each day's journey bearing them farther and
farther away from landscapes of perpetual verdure, Irene grew more
and more interested in subjects that lay for the most part entirely
out of the range of her husband's sympathies; while he was becoming
more deeply absorbed in a profession that required close application
of thought, intellectual force and clearness, and cold, practical
modes of looking at all questions that came up for consideration. The
consequence was that they were, in all their common interests, modes
of thinking and habits of regarding the affairs of life, steadily
receding from each other. Their evenings were now less frequently
spent together. If home had been a pleasant place to him, Mr. Emerson
would have usually remained at home after the day's duties were over;
or, if he went abroad, it would have been usually in company with his
wife. But home was getting to be dull, if not positively disagreeable.
If a conversation was started, it soon involved disagreement in
sentiment, and then came argument, and perhaps ungentle words,
followed by silence and a mutual writing down in the mind of bitter
things. If there was no conversation, Irene buried herself in a
book—some absorbing novel, usually of the heroic school.
Naturally, under this state of things, Mr. Emerson, who was social
in disposition, sought companionship elsewhere, and with his own sex.
Brought into contact with men of different tastes, feelings and habits
of thinking, he gradually selected a few as intimate friends, and, in
association with these, formed, as his wife was doing, a social point
of interest outside of his home; thus widening still further the space
The home duties involved in housekeeping, indifferently as they had
always been discharged by Irene, were now becoming more and more
distasteful to her. This daily care about mere eating and drinking
seemed unworthy of a woman who had noble aspirations, such as burned
in her breast. That was work for women-drudges who had no higher
ambition; "and Heaven knows," she would often say to herself, "there
are enough and to spare of these."
"What's the use of keeping up an establishment like this just for
two people?" she would often remark to her husband; and he would
"For the sake of having a home into which one may retire and shut
out the world."
Irene would sometimes suggest the lighter expense of boarding.
"If it cost twice as much I would prefer to live in my own house,"
was the invariable answer.
"But see what a burden of care it lays on my shoulders."
Now Hartley could only with difficulty repress a word of impatient
rebuke when this argument was used. He thought of his own daily
devotion to business, prolonged often into the night, when an
important case was on hand, and mentally charged his wife with a
selfish love of ease. On the other hand, it seemed to Irene that her
husband was selfish in wishing her to bear the burdens of
housekeeping just for his pleasure or convenience, when they might
live as comfortably in a hotel or boarding-house.
On this subject Hartley would not enter into a discussion. "It's no
use talking, Irene," he would say, when she grew in earnest. "You
cannot tempt me to give up my home. It includes many things that with
me are essential to comfort. I detest boarding-houses; they are only
places for sojourning, not living."
As agreement on this subject was out of the question, Irene did not
usually urge considerations in favor of abandoning their pleasant
CHAPTER XVII. GONE FOR EVER!
ONE evening—it was nearly three years from the date of
their marriage—Hartley Emerson and his wife were sitting opposite to
each other at the centre-table, in the evening. She had a book in her
hand and he held a newspaper before his face, but his eyes were not
on the printed columns. He had spoken only a few words since he came
in, and his wife noticed that he had the manner of one whose mind is
in doubt or perplexity.
Letting the newspaper fall upon the table at length, Hartley looked
over at his wife and said, in a quiet tone,
"Irene, did you ever meet a lady by the name of Mrs. Lloyd?"
The color mounted to the face of Mrs. Emerson as she replied,
"Yes, I have met her often."
"I have known her intimately for the past two years."
Emerson started to his feet and looked for some moments steadily at
his wife, his countenance expressing the profoundest astonishment.
"And never once mentioned to me her name! Has she ever called
"As often as two or three times a week."
Mrs. Emerson, bewildered at first by her husband's manner of
interrogating her, now recovered her self-possession, and, rising,
looked steadily at him across the table.
"I am wholly at a loss to understand you," she now said, calmly.
"Have you ever visited that person at her boarding-house?" demanded
"I have, often."
"And walked Broadway with her?"
"Good heavens! can it be possible!" exclaimed the excited man.
"Pray, sir," said Irene, "who is Mrs. Lloyd?"
"An infamous woman!" was answered passionately.
"That is false!" said Irene, her eyes flashing as she spoke. "I
don't care who says so, I pronounce the words false!"
Hartley stood still and gazed at his wife for some moments without
speaking; then he sat down at the table from which he had arisen and,
shading his face with his hands, remained motionless for a long time.
He seemed like a man utterly confounded.
"Did you ever hear of Jane Beaufort?" he asked at length, looking
up at his wife.
"Oh yes; everybody has heard of her."
"Would you visit Jane Beaufort?"
"Yes, if I believed her innocent of what the world charges against
"You are aware, then, that Mrs. Lloyd and Jane Beaufort are the
"No, sir, I am not aware of any such thing."
"It is true."
"I do not believe it. Mrs. Lloyd I have known intimately for over
two years, and can verify her character."
"I am sorry for you, then, for a viler character it would be
difficult to find outside the haunts of infamy," said Emerson.
Contempt and anger were suddenly blended in his manner.
"I cannot hear one to whom I am warmly attached thus assailed. You
must not speak in that style of my friends, Hartley Emerson!"
"Your friends!" There was a look of intense scorn on his face.
"Precious friends, if she represent them, truly! Major Willard is
The face of Irene turned deadly pale at the mention of this name.
Emerson bent eagerly toward his wife.
"And is that true, also?"
"What? Speak out, sir!" Irene caught her breath, and grasped the
rein of self-control which had dropped, a moment, from her hands.
"It is said that Major Willard bears you company, at times, in your
rides home from evening calls upon your precious friends."
"And you believe the story?"
"I didn't believe it," said Hartley, but in a tone that showed
"But have changed your mind?"
"If you say it is not true—that Major Willard never entered your
carriage—I will take your word in opposition to the whole world's
But Irene could not answer. Major Willard, as the reader knows, had
ridden with her at night, and alone. But once, and only once. A few
times since then she had encountered, but never deigned to recognize,
him. In her pure heart the man was held in utter detestation.
Now was the time for a full explanation; but pride was
aroused—strong, stubborn pride. She knew herself to stand triple
mailed in innocency—to be free from weakness or taint; and the
thought that a mean, base suspicion had entered the mind of her
husband aroused her indignation and put a seal upon her lips as to
all explanatory utterances.
"Then I am to believe the worst?" said Hartley, seeing that his
wife did not answer. "The worst, and of you!"
The tone in which this was said, as well as the words themselves,
sent a strong throb to the heart of Irene. "The worst, and of you!"
This from her husband! and involving far more in tone and manner than
in uttered language. "Then I am to believe the worst!" She turned the
sentences over in her mind. Pride, wounded self-love, a smothered
sense of indignation, blind anger, began to gather their gloomy forces
in her mind. "The worst, and of you!" How the echoes of these words
came back in constant repetition! "The worst, and of you!"
"How often has Major Willard ridden with you at night?" asked
Hartley, in a cold, resolute way.
"And did you always come directly home?"
Hartley Emerson was looking steadily into the face of his wife,
from which he saw the color fall away until it became of an ashen hue.
"You do not care to answer. Well, silence is significative," said
the husband, closing his lips firmly. There was a blending of anger,
perplexity, pain, sorrow and scorn in his face, all of which Irene
read distinctly as she fixed her eyes steadily upon him. He tried to
gaze back until her eyes should sink beneath his steady look, but the
effort was lost; for not a single instant did they waver.
He was about turning away, when she arrested the movement by
"Go on, Hartley Emerson! Speak of all that is in your mind. You
have now an opportunity that may never come again."
There was a dead level in her voice that a little puzzled her
"It is for you to speak," he answered. "I have put my
Unhappily, there was a shade of imperiousness in his voice.
"I never answer insulting interrogatories; not even from the man
who calls himself my husband," replied Irene, haughtily.
"It may be best for you to answer," said Hartley. There was just
the shadow of menace in his tones.
"Best!" The lip of Irene curled slightly. "On whose account, pray?"
"Best for each of us. Whatever affects one injuriously must affect
"Humph! So we are equals!" Irene tossed her head impatiently, and
laughed a short, mocking laugh.
"Nothing of that, if you please!" was the husband's impatient
retort. The sudden change in his wife's manner threw him off his
"Nothing of what?" demanded Irene.
"Of that weak, silly nonsense. We have graver matters in hand for
"Ah?" She threw up her eyebrows, then contracted them again with an
"Irene," said Mr. Emerson, his voice falling into a calm but severe
tone, "all this is but weakness and folly. I have heard things
touching your good name—"
"And believe them," broke in Irene, with angry impatience.
"I have said nothing as to belief or disbelief. The fact is grave
"And you have illustrated your faith in the slander—beautifully,
"Generously, as a man who knew his wife. Ah, well!" This last
ejaculation was made almost lightly, but it involved great bitterness
"Do not speak any longer after this fashion," said Hartley, with
considerable irritation of manner; "it doesn't suit my present
temper. I want something in a very different spirit. The matter is of
too serious import. So pray lay aside your trifling. I came to you as
I had a right to come, and made inquiries touching your associations
when not in my company. Your answers are not satisfactory, but tend
rather to con—"
"Sir!" Irene interrupted him in a stern, deep voice, which came so
suddenly that the word remained unspoken. Then, raising her finger in
a warning manner, she said with menace,
For some moments they stood looking at each other, more like two
animals at bay than husband and wife.
"Touching my associations when not in your company?" said Irene at
length, repeating his language slowly.
"Yes," answered the husband.
"Touching, my associations? Well, Mr. Emerson—so far, I say well."
She was collected in manner and her voice steady. "But what touching
your associations when not in my company?"
The very novelty of this interrogation caused Emerson to start and
"Ha!" The blood leaped to the forehead of Irene, and her eyes,
dilating suddenly, almost glared upon the face of her husband.
"Well, sir?" Irene drew her slender form to its utmost
height. There was an impatient, demanding tone in her voice. "Speak!"
she added, without change of manner. "What touching your
associations when not in my company? As a wife, I have some
interest in this matter. Away from home often until the brief hours,
have I no right to put the question—where and with whom? It would
seem so if we are equal. But if I am the slave and dependant—the
creature of your will and pleasure—why, that alters the case!"
"Have you done?"
Emerson was recovering from his surprise, but not gaining clear
sight or prudent self-possession.
"You have not answered," said Irene, looking coldly, but with
glittering eyes, into his face. "Come! If there is to be a mutual
relation of acts and associations outside of this our home, let us
begin. Sit down, Hartley, and compose yourself. You are the man, and
claim precedence. I yield the prerogative. So let me have your
confession. After you have ended I will give as faithful a narrative
as if on my death-bed. What more can you ask? There now, lead the
This coolness, which but thinly veiled a contemptuous air,
irritated Hartley almost beyond the bounds of decent self-control.
"Bravely carried off! Well acted!" he retorted with a sneer.
"You do not accept the proposal," said Irene, growing a little
sterner of aspect. "Very well. I scarcely hoped that you would meet
me on this even ground. Why should I have hoped it? Were the
antecedents encouraging? No! But I am sorry. Ah, well! Husbands are
free to go and come at their own sweet will—to associate with
anybody and everybody. But wives—oh dear!"
She tossed her head in a wild, scornful way, as if on the verge of
being swept from her feet by some whirlwind of passion.
"And so," said her husband, after a long silence, "you do not
choose to answer my questions as to Major Willard?"
That was unwisely pressed. In her heart of hearts Irene loathed
this man. His name was an offence to her. Never, since the night he
had forced himself into her carriage, had she even looked into his
face. If he appeared in the room where she happened to be, she did not
permit her eyes to rest upon his detested countenance. If he drew
near to her, she did not seem to notice his presence. If he spoke to
her, as he had ventured several times to do, she paid no regard to
him whatever. So far as any response or manifestation of feeling on
her part was concerned, it was as if his voice had not reached her
ears. The very thought of this man was a foul thing in her mind. No
wonder that the repeated reference by her husband was felt as a
"If you dare to mention that name again in connection with mine,"
she said, turning almost fiercely upon him, "I will—"
She caught the words and held them back in the silence of her
wildly reeling thoughts.
Emerson was cool, but not sane. It was madness to press his excited
young wife now. Had he lost sense and discrimination? Could he not
see, in her strong, womanly indignation, the signs of innocence?
Fool! fool! to thrust sharply at her now!
"My father!" came in a sudden gush of strong feeling from the lips
of Irene, as the thought of him whose name was thus ejaculated came
into her mind. She struck her hands together, and stood like one in
wild bewilderment. "My father!" she added, almost mournfully; "oh,
that I had never left you!"
"It would have been better for you and better for me." No, he was
not sane, else would no such words have fallen from his lips.
Irene, with a slight start and a slight change in the expression of
her countenance, looked up at her husband:
"You think so?" Emerson was a little surprised at the way in which
Irene put this interrogation. He looked for a different reply.
"I have said it," was his cold answer.
"Well." She said no more, but looked down and sat thinking for the
space of more than a minute.
"I will go back to Ivy Cliff." She looked up, with something
strange in the expression of her face. It was a blank, unfeeling,
almost unmeaning expression.
"Well." It was Emerson's only response.
"Well; and that is all?" Her tones were so chilling that they came
over the spirit of her husband like the low waves of an icy wind.
"No, that is not all." What evil spirit was blinding his
perceptions? What evil influence pressing him on to the brink of
"Say on." How strangely cold and calm she remained! "Say on," she
repeated. Was there none to warn him of danger?
"If you go a third time to your father—" He paused.
"Well?" There was not a quiver in her low, clear, icy tone.
"You must do it with your eyes open, and in full view of the
"What are the consequences?"
Beware, rash man! Put a seal on your lips! Do not let the thought
so sternly held find even a shadow of utterance!
"Speak, Hartley Emerson. What are the consequences?"
"You cannot return!" It was said without a quiver of feeling.
"Well." She looked at him with an unchanged countenance, steadily,
"I have said the words, Irene; and they are no idle utterances.
Twice you have left me, but you cannot do it a third time and leave a
way open between us. Go, then, if you will; but, if we part here, it
must be for ever!"
The eyes of Irene dropped slowly. There was a slight change in the
expression of her face. Her hands moved one within the other
For ever! The words are rarely uttered without leaving on the mind
a shade of thought. For ever! They brought more than a simple shadow
to the mind of Irene. A sudden darkness fell upon her soul, and for a
little while she groped about like one who had lost her way. But her
husband's threat of consequences, his cold, imperious manner, his
assumed superiority, all acted as sharp spurs to pride, and she stood
up, strong again, in full mental stature, with every power of her
being in full force for action and endurance.
"I go." There was no sign of weakness in her voice. She had raised
her eyes from the floor and turned them full upon her husband. Her
face was not so pale as it had been a little while before. Warmth had
come back to the delicate skin, flushing it with beauty. She did not
stand before him an impersonation of anger, dislike or rebellion.
There was not a repulsive attitude or expression; no flashing of the
eyes, nor even the cold, diamond glitter seen a little while before.
Slowly turning away, she left the room; but, to her husband, she
seemed still standing there, a lovely vision. There had fallen, in
that instant of time, a sunbeam which fixed the image upon his memory
in imperishable colors. What though he parted company here with the
vital form, that effigy would be, through all time, his inseparable
"Gone!" Hartley Emerson held his breath as the word came into
mental utterance. There was a motion of regret in his heart; a wish
that he had not spoken quite so sternly—that he had kept back a part
of the hard saying. But it was too late now. He could not, after all
that had just passed between them—after she had refused to answer his
questions touching Major Willard—make any concessions. Come what
would, there was to be no retracing of steps now.
"And it may be as well," said he, rallying himself, "that we part
here. Our experiment has proved a sad failure. We grow colder and
more repellant each day, instead of drawing closer together and
becoming more lovingly assimilated. It is not good—this life—for
either of us. We struggle in our bonds and hurt each other. Better
apart! better apart! Moreover"—his face darkened—"she has fallen
into dangerous companionship, and will not be advised or governed. I
have heard her name fall lightly from lips that cannot utter a
woman's name without leaving it soiled. She is pure now—pure as
snow. I have not a shadow of suspicion, though I pressed her close.
But this contact is bad; she is breathing an impure atmosphere; she
is assorting with some who are sensual and evil-minded, though she
will not believe the truth. Mrs. Lloyd! Gracious heavens! My wife the
intimate companion of that woman! Seen with her in Broadway! A
constant visitor at my house! This, and I knew it not!"
Emerson grew deeply agitated as he rehearsed these things. It was
after midnight when he retired. He did not go to his wife's
apartment, but passed to a room in the story above that in which he
Day was abroad when Emerson awoke the next morning, and the sun
shining from an angle that showed him to be nearly two hours above
the horizon. It was late for Mr. Emerson. Rising hurriedly, and in
some confusion of thought, he went down stairs. His mind, as the
events of the last evening began to adjust themselves, felt an
increasing sense of oppression. How was he to meet Irene? or was he
to meet her again? Had she relented? Had a night of sober reflection
wrought any change? Would she take the step he had warned her as a
With such questions crowding upon him, Hartley Emerson went down
stairs. In passing their chamber-door he saw that it stood wide open,
and that Irene was not there. He descended to the parlors and to the
sitting-room, but did not find her. The bell announced breakfast; he
might find her at the table. No—she was not at her usual place when
the morning meal was served.
"Where is Mrs. Emerson?" he asked of the waiter.
"I have not seen her," was replied.
Mr. Emerson turned away and went up to their chambers. His
footsteps had a desolate, echoing sound to his ears, as he bent his
way thither. He looked through the front and then through the back
chamber, and even called, faintly, the name of his wife. But all was
still as death. Now a small envelope caught his eye, resting on a
casket in which Irene had kept her jewelry. He lifted it, and saw his
name inscribed thereon. The handwriting was not strange. He broke the
seal and read these few words:
"I have gone. IRENE."
The narrow piece of tinted paper on which this was written dropped
from his nerveless fingers, and he stood for some moments still as if
death-stricken, and rigid as stone.
"Well," he said audibly, at length, stepping across the floor, "and
so the end has come!"
He moved to the full length of the chamber and then stood
still—turned, in a little while, and walked slowly back across the
floor—stood still again, his face bent down, his lips closely shut,
his finger-ends gripped into the palms.
"Gone!" He tried to shake himself free of the partial stupor which
had fallen upon him. "Gone!" he repeated. "And so this calamity is
upon us! She has dared the fatal leap! has spoken the irrevocable
decree! God help us both, for both have need of help; I and she, but
she most. God help her to bear the burden she has lifted to her weak
shoulders; she will find it a match for her strength. I shall go into
the world and bury myself in its cares and duties—shall find, at
least, in the long days a compensation in work—earnest, absorbing,
exciting work. But she? Poor Irene! The days and nights will be to her
equally desolate. Poor Irene! Poor Irene!"
CHAPTER XVIII. YOUNG, BUT WISE.
THE night had passed wearily for Mr. Delancy, broken by
fitful dreams, in which the image of his daughter was always
present—dreams that he could trace to no thoughts or impressions of
the day before; and he arose unrefreshed, and with a vague sense of
trouble in his heart, lying there like a weight which no involuntary
deep inspirations would lessen or remove. No June day ever opened in
fresher beauty than did this one, just four years since the actors in
our drama came smiling before us, in the flush of youth and hope and
confidence in the far-off future. The warmth of early summer had sent
the nourishing sap to every delicate twig and softly expanding leaf
until, full foliaged, the trees around Ivy Cliff stood in kingly
attire, lifting themselves up grandly in the sunlight which flooded
their gently-waving tops in waves of golden glory. The air was soft
and of crystal clearness; and the lungs drank it in as if the draught
were ethereal nectar.
On such a morning in June, after a night of broken and unrefreshing
sleep, Mr. Delancy walked forth, with that strange pressure on his
heart which he had been vainly endeavoring to push aside since the
singing birds awoke him, in the faint auroral dawn, with their joyous
welcome to the coming day. He drew in long draughts of the delicious
air; expanded his chest; moved briskly through the garden; threw his
arms about to hurry the sluggish flow of blood in his veins; looked
with constrained admiration on the splendid landscape that stretched
far and near in the sweep of his vision; but all to no purpose. The
hand still lay heavy upon his heart; he could not get it removed.
Returning to the house, feeling more uncomfortable for this
fruitless effort to rise above what he tried to call an unhealthy
depression of spirits consequent on some morbid state of the body,
Mr. Delancy was entering the library, when a fresh young face greeted
him with light and smiles.
"Good-morning, Rose," said the old gentleman, as his face
brightened in the glow of the young girl's happy countenance. "I am
glad to see you;" and he took her hand and held it tightly.
"Good-morning, Mr. Delancy. When did you hear from Irene?"
"Ten days ago."
"She was well?"
"Oh yes. Sit down, Rose; there." And Mr. Delancy drew a chair
before the sofa for his young visitor, and took a seat facing her.
"I haven't had a letter from her in six months," said Rose, a sober
hue falling on her countenance.
"I don't think she is quite thoughtful enough of her old friends."
"And too thoughtful, it may be, of new ones," replied Mr. Delancy,
his voice a little depressed from the cheerful tone in which he had
welcomed his young visitor.
"These new friends are not always the best friends, Mr. Delancy."
"No, Rose. For my part, I wouldn't give one old friend, whose heart
I had proved, for a dozen untried new ones."
"Nor I, Mr. Delancy. I love Irene. I have always loved her. You
know we were children together."
"Yes, dear, I know all that; and I'm not pleased with her for
treating you with so much neglect, and all for a set of—"
Mr. Delancy checked himself.
"Irene," said Miss Carman, whom the reader will remember as one of
Mrs. Emerson's bridemaids, "has been a little unfortunate in her New
York friends. I'm afraid of these strong-minded women, as they are
called, among whom she has fallen."
"I detest them!" replied Mr. Delancy, with suddenly aroused
feelings. "They have done my child more harm than they will ever do
good in the world by way of atonement. She is not my daughter of
"I found her greatly changed at our last meeting," said Rose. "Full
of vague plans of reforms and social reorganizations, and impatient
of opposition, or even mild argument, against her favorite ideas."
"She has lost her way," sighed the old man, in a low, sad voice,
"and I'm afraid it will take her a long, long time to get back again
to the old true paths, and that the road will be through deep
suffering. I dreamed about her all night, Rose, and the shadow of my
dreams is upon me still. It is foolish, I know, but I cannot get my
heart again into the sunlight."
And Rose had been dreaming troubled dreams of her old friend, also;
and it was because of the pressure that lay upon her feelings that
she had come over to Ivy Cliff this morning to ask if Mr. Delancy had
heard from Irene. She did not, however, speak of this, for she saw
that he was in an unhappy state on account of his daughter.
"Dreams are but shadows," she said, forcing a smile to her lips and
"Yes—yes." The old man responded with an abstracted air. "Yes;
they are only shadows. But, my dear, was there ever a shadow without a
"Not in the outside world of nature. Dreams are unreal things—the
fantastic images of a brain where reason sleeps."
"There have been dreams that came as warnings, Rose."
"And a thousand, for every one of these, that signified nothing."
"True. But I cannot rise out of these shadows. They lie too heavily
on my spirit. You must bear with me, Rose. Thank you for coming over
to see me; but I cannot make your visit a pleasant one, and you must
leave me when you grow weary of the old man's company."
"Don't talk so, Mr. Delancy. I'm glad I came over. I meant this
only for a call; but as you are in such poor spirits I must stay a
while and cheer you up."
"You are a good girl," said Mr. Delancy, taking the hand of Rose,
"and I am vexed that Irene should neglect you for the false friends
who are leading her mind astray. But never mind, dear; she will see
her error one of these days, and learn to prize true hearts."
"Is she going to spend much of her time at Ivy Cliff this summer?"
"She is coming up in July to stay three or four weeks."
"Ah? I'm pleased to hear you say so. I shall then revive old-time
memories in her heart."
"God grant that it may be so!" Rose half started at the solemn tone
in which Mr. Delancy spoke. What could be the meaning of his
strangely troubled manner? Was anything seriously wrong with Irene?
She remembered the confusion into which her impulsive conduct had
thrown the wedding-party; and there was a vague rumor afloat that
Irene had left her husband a few months afterward and returned to Ivy
Cliff. But she had always discredited this rumor. Of her life in New
York she knew but little as to particulars. That it was not making of
her a truer, better, happier woman, nor a truer, better, happier wife,
observation had long ago told her.
"There is a broad foundation of good principles in her character,"
said Miss Carman, "and this gives occasion for hope in the future.
She will not go far astray, with her wily enticers, who have only
stimulated and given direction, for a time, to her undisciplined
impulses. You know how impatient she has always been under
control—how restively her spirit has chafed itself when a
restraining hand was laid upon her. But there are real things in life
of too serious import to be set aside for idle fancies, such as her
new friends have dignified with imposing names—real things, that take
hold upon the solid earth like anchors, and hold the vessel firm amid
wildly rushing currents."
"Yes, Rose, I know all that," replied Mr. Delancy. "I have hope in
the future of Irene; but I shudder in heart to think of the rough,
thorny, desolate ways through which she may have to pass with
bleeding feet before she reaches that serene future. Ah! if I could
save my child from the pain she seems resolute on plucking down and
wearing in her heart!"
"Your dreams have made you gloomy, Mr. Delancy," said Rose, forcing
a smile to her sweet young face. "Come now, let us be more hopeful.
Irene has a good husband. A little too much like her in some things,
but growing manlier and broader in mental grasp, if I have read him
aright. He understands Irene, and, what is more, loves her deeply. I
have watched them closely."
"So have I." The voice of Mr. Delancy was not so hopeful as that of
"Still looking on the darker side." She smiled again.
"Ah, Rose, my wise young friend," said Mr. Delancy, "to whom I
speak my thoughts with a freedom that surprises even myself, a
father's eyes read many signs that have no meaning for others."
"And many read them, through fond suspicion, wrong," replied Rose.
"Well—yes—that may be." He spoke in partial abstraction, yet
"I must look through your garden," said the young lady, rising;
"you know how I love flowers."
"Not much yet to hold your admiration," replied Mr. Delancy, rising
also. "June gives us wide green carpets and magnificent draperies of
the same deep color, but her red and golden broideries are few; it is
the hand of July that throws them in with rich profusion."
"But June flowers are sweetest and dearest—tender nurslings of the
summer, first-born of her love," said Rose, as they stepped out into
the portico. "It may be that the eye gets sated with beauty, as
nature grows lavish of her gifts; but the first white and red petals
that unfold themselves have a more delicate perfume—seem made of
purer elements and more wonderful in perfection—than their later
sisters. Is it not so?"
"If it only appears so it is all the same as if real," replied Mr.
"It is real to you. What more could you have? Not more enjoyment of
summer's gifts of beauty and sweetness."
"No; perhaps not."
Rose let her eyes fall to the ground, and remained silent.
"Things are real to us as we see them; not always as they are,"
said Mr. Delancy.
"And this is true of life?"
"Yes, child. It is in life that we create for ourselves real things
out of what to some are airy nothings. Real things, against which we
often bruise or maim ourselves, while to others they are as
intangible as shadows."
"I never thought of that," said Rose.
"It is true."
"Yes, I see it. Imaginary evils we thus make real things, and hurt
ourselves by contact, as, maybe, you have done this morning, Mr.
"Yes—yes. And false ideas of things which are unrealities in the
abstract—for only what is true has actual substance—become real to
the perverted understanding. Ah, child, there are strange
contradictions and deep problems in life for each of us to solve."
"But, God helping us, we may always reach the true solution," said
Rose Carman, lifting a bright, confident face to that of her
"That was spoken well, my child," returned Mr. Delancy, with a new
life in his voice; "and without Him we can never be certain of our
"Never—never." There was a tender, trusting solemnity in the voice
"Young, but wise," said Mr. Delancy.
"No! Young, but not wise. I cannot see the way plain before me for
a single week, Mr. Delancy. For a week? No, not for a day!"
"Who does?" asked the old man.
"None. There are many who walk onward with erect heads and
confident bearing. They are sure of their way, and smile if one
whisper a caution as to the ground upon which they step so fearlessly.
But they soon get astray or into pitfalls. God keeping and guiding us,
Rose, we may find our way safely through this world. But we will soon
lose ourselves if we trust in our own wisdom."
Thus they talked—that old man and gentle-hearted girl—as they
moved about the garden-walks, every new flower, or leaf, or opening
bud they paused to admire or examine, suggesting themes for wiser
words than usually pass between one so old and one so young. At Mr.
Delancy's earnest request, Rose stayed to dinner, the waiting-man
being tent to her father's, not far distant, to take word that she
would not be at home until in the afternoon.
CHAPTER XIX. THE SHIPWRECKED LIFE.
OFTEN, during that morning, did the name of Irene come to
their lips, for the thought of her was all the while present to both.
"You must win her heart back again, Rose," said Mr. Delancy. "I
will lure her to Ivy Cliff often this summer, and keep her here as
long as possible each time. You will then be much together." They had
risen from the dinner-table and were entering the library.
"Things rarely come out as we plan them," answered Rose. "But I
love Irene truly, and will make my own place in her heart again, if
she will give me the key of entrance."
"You must find the key, Rose."
Miss Carman smiled.
"I said if she would give it to me."
"She does not carry the key that opens the door for you," replied
Mr. Delancy. "If you do not know where it lies, search for it in the
secret places of your own mind, and it will be found, God helping
Mr. Delancy looked at her significantly.
"God helping me," she answered, with a reverent sinking of her
voice, "I will find the key."
"Who is that?" said Mr. Delancy, in a tone of surprise, turning his
face to the window.
Rose followed his eyes, but no one was visible.
"I saw, or thought I saw, a lady cross the portico this moment."
Both stood still, listening and expectant.
"It might have been fancy," said Mr. Delancy, drawing a deep
Rose stepped to one of the library windows, and throwing it up,
looked out upon the portico.
"There is no one," she remarked, coming back into the room.
"Could I have been so mistaken?"
Mr. Delancy looked bewildered.
Seeing that the impression was so strong on his mind, Miss Carman
went out into the hall, and glanced from there into the parlor and
"No one came in, Mr. Delancy," she said, on returning to the
"A mere impression," remarked the old man, soberly. "Well, these
impressions are often very singular. My face was partly turned to the
window, so that I saw out, but not so distinctly as if both eyes had
been in the range of vision. The form of a woman came to my sight as
distinctly as if the presence had been real—the form of a woman going
swiftly past the window."
"Did you recognize the form?"
It was some time before Mr. Delancy replied.
"Yes." He looked anxious.
"You thought of Irene?"
"We have talked and thought of Irene so much to-day," said Rose,
"that your thought of her has made you present to her mind with more
than usual distinctness. Her thought of you has been more intent in
consequence, and this has drawn her nearer. You saw her by an inward,
not by an outward, vision. She is now present with you in spirit,
though her body be many miles distant. These things often happen. They
startle us by their strangeness, but are as much dependent on laws of
the mind as bodily nearness is dependent on the laws of matter."
"You think so?" Mr. Delancy looked at his young companion
"Yes, I think so."
The old man shook his head. "Ingenious, but not satisfactory."
"You will admit," said Rose, "that as to our minds we may be
present in any part of the world, and in an instant of time, though
our bodies move not."
"Our thought may be," replied Mr. Delancy. "Or, in better words,
the eyes of our minds may be; for it is the eyes that see objects,"
"Well; say the eyes of our minds, then."
"We cannot see objects in London, for instance, with our bodily
eyes unless our bodies be in London?" resumed Rose.
"Of course not."
"Nor with our mental eyes, unless our spirits be there."
Mr. Delancy looked down thoughtfully.
"It must be true, then, that our thought of any one brings us
present to that individual, and that such presence is often
"That is pushing the argument too far."
"I think not. Has it not often happened that suddenly the thought
of an absent one came into your mind, and that you saw him or her for
a moment or two almost as distinctly as if in bodily presence before
"Yes. That has many times been the case."
"And you had not been thinking of that person, nor had there been
any incident as a reminder?"
"I believe not."
"My explanation is, that this person from some cause had been led
to think of you intently, and so came to you in spirit. There was
actual presence, and you saw each other with the eyes of your minds."
"But, my wise reasoner," said Mr. Delancy, "it was the bodily
form—with face, eyes, hands, feet and material garments—that was
seen, not the spirit. If our spirits have eyes that see, why they can
only see spiritual things."
"Has not a spirit a face, and hands, and feet?" asked Rose, with a
confidence that caused the old man to look at her almost wonderingly.
"Not a face, and hands, and feet like these of mine," he answered.
"Yes, like them," she replied, "but of spiritual substance."
"Spiritual substance! That is a novel term. This is substance." And
Mr. Delancy grasped the arm of a chair.
"No, that is material and unsubstantial," she calmly replied; "it
is subject to change and decay. A hundred years from now and there may
be no visible sign that it had ever been. But the soul is
imperishable and immortal; the only thing about man that is really
substantial. And now," she added, "for the faces of our spirits. What
gives to our natural faces their form, beauty and expression? Is it
not the soul-face within? Remove that by death, and all life, thought
and feeling are gone from the stolid effigy. And so you see, Mr.
Delancy, that our minds must be formed of spiritual substance, and
that our bodies are but the outward material clothing which the soul
puts on for action and use in this world of nature."
"Why, you are a young philosopher!" exclaimed Mr. Delancy, looking
in wonder at his fair companion.
"No," she answered, with simplicity, "I talk with my father about
these things, and it all seems very plain to me. I cannot see how any
one can question what appears to me so plain. That the mind is
substantial we see from this fact alone—it retains impressions
longer than the body."
"You think so?"
"Take an instance," said Rose. "A boy is punished unjustly by a
passionate teacher, who uses taunting words as well as smarting
blows. Now the pain of these blows is gone in less than an hour, but
the word-strokes received on his spirit hurt him, maybe, to the end
of his mortal life. Is it not so? And if so, why? There must be
substance to hold impressions so long."
"You silence, if you do not fully convince," replied Mr. Delancy.
"I must dream over what you have said. And so your explanation is,
that my thought of Irene has turned her thought to me, and thus we
became really present?"
"And that I saw her just now by an inner, and not by an outer,
"But why was the appearance an outward manifestation, so to speak?"
"Sight is in the mind, even natural sight. The eye does not go out
to a tree, but the image of the tree comes to the eye, and thence is
presented, in a wonderful and mysterious way, to the mind, which
takes note of its form. The appearance is, that the soul looks out at
the tree; but the fact is, the image of the tree comes to the brain,
and is there seen. Now the brain may be impressed, and respond by
natural vision, from an internal as well as from an external
communication. We see this in cases of visual aberrations, the
instances of which given in books, and clearly authenticated, are
innumerable. Things are distinctly seen in a room which have no
existence in nature; and the illusion is so perfect that it seems
impossible for eyes to be mistaken."
"Well, well, child," said Mr. Delancy, "this is curious, and a
little bewildering. Perhaps it is all just as you say about Irene;
but I feel very heavy here;" and he laid his hand on his breast and
At this moment the library door was pushed gently open, and the
form of a woman stood in the presence of Mr. Delancy and Rose. She was
dressed in a dark silk, but had on neither bonnet nor shawl. Both
started; Mr. Delancy raised his hands and bent forward, gazing at her
eagerly, his lips apart. The face of the woman was pale and haggard,
yet familiar as the face of an old friend; but in it was something so
strange and unnatural that for a moment or two it was not recognized.
"Father!" It was Irene. She advanced quietly and held but her hand.
"My daughter!" He caught the extended hand and kissed her, but she
showed no emotion.
"Rose, dear, I am glad to see you." There was truth in the dead
level tone with which "I am glad to see you" was spoken, and Rose,
who perceived this, took her hand and kissed her. Both hands and lips
"What's the matter, Irene? Have you been sick?" asked Mr. Delancy,
in a choking voice.
"No, father, I'm very well." You would never have recognized that
voice as the voice of Irene.
"No, child, you are not well. What ails you? Why are you here in so
strange a way and looking so strangely?"
"Do I look strangely?" There was a feeble effort to awaken a smile,
which only gave her face a ghastly expression.
"Is Hartley with you?"
"No." Her voice was fuller and more emphatic as she uttered this
word. She tried to look steadily at her father, but her eyes moved
aside from the range of his vision.
For a little while there was a troubled silence with all. Rose had
placed an arm around the waist of Irene and drawn her to the sofa, on
which they were now sitting; Mr. Delancy stood before them. Gradually
the cold, almost blank, expression of Irene's face changed and the old
look came back.
"My daughter," said Mr. Delancy.
"Father"—Irene interrupted him—"I know what you are going to say.
My sudden, unannounced appearance, at this time, needs explanation. I
am glad dear Rose is here—my old, true friend"—and she leaned
against Miss Carman—"I can trust her."
The arm of Rose tightened around the waist of Irene.
"Father"—the voice of Irene fell to a deep, solemn tone; there was
no emphasis on one word more than on another; all was a dead level;
yet the meaning was as full and the involved purpose as fixed as if
her voice had run through the whole range of passionate
intonation—"Father, I have come back to Ivy Cliff and to you, after
having suffered shipwreck on the voyage of life. I went out rich, as
I supposed, in heart-treasures; I come back poor. My gold was dross,
and the sea has swallowed up even that miserable substitute for
wealth. Hartley and I never truly loved each other, and the
experiment of living together as husband and wife has proved a
failure. We have not been happy; no, not from the beginning. We have
not even been tolerant or forbearing toward each other. A steady
alienation has been in progress day by day, week by week, and month
by month, until no remedy is left but separation. That has been, at
length, applied, and here I am! It is the third time that I have left
him, and to both of us the act is final. He will not seek me, and I
shall not return."
There had come a slight flush to the countenance of Irene before
she commenced speaking, but this retired again, and she looked deathly
pale. No one answered her—only the arm of Rose tightened like a cord
around the waist of her unhappy friend.
"Father," and now her voice fluttered a little, "for your sake I am
most afflicted. I am strong enough to bear my fate—but you!"
There was a little sob—a strong suppression of feeling—and
"Oh, Irene! my child! my child!" The old man covered his face with
his hands, sobbed, and shook like a fluttering leaf. "I cannot bear
this! It is too much for me!" and he staggered backward. Irene sprung
forward and caught him in her arms. He would have fallen, but for
this, to the floor. She stood clasping and kissing him wildly, until
Rose came forward and led them both to the sofa.
Mr. Delancy did not rally from this shock. He leaned heavily
against his daughter, and she felt a low tremor in his frame.
"Father!" She spoke tenderly, with her lips to his ear. "Dear
But he did not reply.
"It is my life-discipline, father," she said; "I will be happier
and better, no doubt, in the end for this severe trial. Dear father,
do not let what is inevitable so break down your heart. You are my
strong, brave, good father, and I shall need now more than ever, your
sustaining arm. There was no help for this. It had to come, sooner or
later. It is over now. The first bitterness is past. Let us be
thankful for that, and gather up our strength for the future. Dear
father! Speak to me!"
Mr. Delancy tried to rally himself, but he was too much broken down
by the shock. He said a few words, in which there was scarcely any
connection of ideas, and then, getting up from the sofa, walked about
the room, turning one of his hands within the other in a distressed
"Oh dear, dear, dear!" he murmured to himself, in a feeble manner.
"I have dreaded this, and prayed that it might not be. Such
wretchedness and disgrace! Such wretchedness and disgrace! Had they
no patience with each other—no forbearance—no love, that it must
come to this? Dear! dear! dear! Poor child!"
Irene, with her white, wretched face, sat looking at him for some
time, as he moved about, a picture of helpless misery; then, going to
him again, she drew an arm around his neck and tried to comfort him.
But there was no comfort in her words. What could she say to
reach with a healing power the wound from which his very life-blood
"Don't talk! don't talk!" he said, pushing Irene away, with slight
impatience of manner. "I am heart-broken. Words are nothing!"
"Mr. Delancy," said Rose, now coming to his side, and laying a hand
upon his arm, "you must not speak so to Irene. This is not like you."
There was a calmness of utterance and a firmness of manner which
had their right effect.
"How have I spoken, Rose, dear? What have I said?" Mr. Delancy
stopped and looked at Miss Carman in a rebuked, confused way, laying
his hand upon his forehead at the same time.
"Not from yourself," answered Rose.
"Not from myself!" He repeated her words, as if his thoughts were
still in a maze. "Ah, child, this is dreadful!" he added. "I am not
myself! Poor Irene! Poor daughter! Poor father!"
And the old man lost himself again.
A look of fear now shadowed darkly the face of Irene, and she
glanced anxiously from her father's countenance to that of Rose. She
did not read in the face of her young friend much that gave assurance
"Mr. Delancy," said Rose, with great earnestness of manner, "Irene
is in sore trouble. She has come to a great crisis in her life. You
are older and wiser than she is, and must counsel and sustain her. Be
calm, dear sir—calm, clear-seeing, wise and considerate, as you have
"Calm—clear-seeing—wise." Mr. Delancy repeated the words, as if
endeavoring to grasp the rein of thought and get possession of
"Wise to counsel and strong to sustain," said Rose. "You must not
fail us now."
"Thank you, my sweet young monitor," replied Mr. Delancy, partially
recovering himself; "it was the weakness of a moment. Irene," and he
looked toward his daughter, "leave me with my own thoughts for a
little while. Take her, Rose, to her own room, and God give you power
to speak words of consolation; I have none."
Rose drew her arm within that of Irene, and said, "Come." But Irene
lingered, looking tenderly and anxiously at her father.
"Go, my love." Mr. Delancy waved his hand.
"Father! dear father!" She moved a step toward him, while Rose held
"I cannot help myself, father. The die is cast. Oh bear up with me!
I will be to you a better daughter than I have ever been. My life
shall be devoted to your happiness. In that I will find a
compensation. All is not lost—all is not ruined. My heart is as pure
as when I left you three years ago. I come back bleeding from my
life-battle it is true, but not in mortal peril—wounded, but not unto
death—cast down, but not destroyed."
All the muscles of Mr. Delancy's face quivered with suppressed
feeling as he stood looking at his daughter, who, as she uttered the
words, "cast down, but not destroyed," flung herself in wild
abandonment on his breast.
CHAPTER XX. THE PALSIED HEART.
THE shock to Mr. Delancy was a fearful one, coming as it did
on a troubled, foreboding state of mind; and reason lost for a little
while her firm grasp on the rein of government. If the old man could
have seen a ray of hope in the case it would have been different. But
from the manner and language of his daughter it was plain that the
dreaded evil had found them; and the certainty of this falling
suddenly, struck him as with a heavy blow.
For several days he was like one who had been stunned. All that
afternoon on which his daughter returned to Ivy Cliff he moved about
in a bewildered way, and by his questions and remarks showed an
incoherence of thought that filled the heart of Irene with alarm.
On the next morning, when she met him at the breakfast-table, he
smiled on her in his old affectionate way. As she kissed him, she
"I hope you slept well last night, father?"
A slight change was visible in his face.
"I slept soundly enough," he replied, "but my dreams were not
Then he looked at her with a slight closing of the brows and a
questioning look in his eyes.
They sat down, Irene taking her old place at the table. As she
poured out her father's coffee, he said, smiling,
"It is pleasant to have you sitting there, daughter."
Irene was troubled by this old manner of her father. Could he have
forgotten why she was there?
"Yes, it is pleasant," he replied, and then his eye dropped in a
"I think, sometimes, that your attractive New York friends have
made you neglectful of your lonely old father. You don't come to see
him as often as you did a year ago."
Mr. Delancy said this with simple earnestness.
"They shall not keep me from you any more, dear father," replied
Irene, meeting his humor, yet heart-appalled at the same time with
this evidence that his mind was wandering from the truth.
"I don't think them safe friends," added Mr. Delancy, with
"Perhaps not," replied Irene.
"Ah! I'm glad to hear you say so. Now, you have one true, safe
friend. I wish you loved her better than you do."
"What is her name?"
"Rose Carman," said Mr. Delancy, with a slight hesitation of
manner, as if he feared repulsion on the part of his daughter.
"I love Rose, dearly; she is the best of girls; and I know her to
be a true friend," replied Irene.
"Spoken like my own daughter!" said the old man with a brightening
countenance. "You must not neglect her any more. Why, she told me you
hadn't written to her in six months. Now, that isn't right. Never go
past old, true friends for the sake of new, and maybe false ones.
No—no. Rose is hurt; you must write to her often—every week."
Irene could not answer. Her heart was beating wildly. What could
this mean? Had reason fled? But she struggled hard to preserve a calm
"Will Hartley be up to-day?"
Irene tried to say "No," but could not find utterance.
Mr. Delancy looked at her curiously, and now in a slightly troubled
way. Then he let his eyes fall, and sat holding his cup like one who
was turning perplexed thoughts in his mind.
"You are not well this morning, father," said Irene, speaking only
because silence was too oppressive for endurance.
"I don't know; perhaps I'm not very well; and Mr. Delancy looked
across the table at his daughter very earnestly. "I had bad dreams
all last night, and they seem to have got mixed up in my thoughts
with real things. How is it? When did you come up from New York?
Don't smile at me. But really I can't think."
"I came yesterday," said Irene, as calmly as she could speak.
"Yesterday!" He looked at her with a quickly changing face.
"Yes, father, I came up yesterday."
"And Rose was here?"
Mr. Delancy's eyes fell again, and he sat very still.
"Hartley will not be here to-day?"
Mr. Delancy did not look up as he asked this question.
"I think not."
A sigh quivered on the old man's lips.
"Nor the day after that?"
"He did not say when he was coming," replied Irene, evasively.
"Did not say when? Did not say when?" Mr. Delancy repeated the
sentence two or three times, evidently trying all the while to recall
something which had faded from his memory.
"Don't worry yourself about Hartley," said Irene, forcing herself
to pronounce a name that seemed like fire on her lips. "Isn't it
enough that I am here?"
"No, it is not enough." And her father put his hand to his forehead
and looked upward in an earnest, searching manner.
What could Irene say? What could she do? The mind of her father was
groping about in the dark, and she was every moment in dread lest he
should discover the truth and get farther astray from the shock.
No food was taken by either Mr. Delancy or his daughter. The former
grew more entangled in his thoughts, and finally arose from the
table, saying, in a half-apologetic way,
"I don't know what ails me this morning."
"Where are you going?" asked Irene, rising at the same time.
"Nowhere in particular. The air is close here—I'll sit a while in
the portico," he answered, and throwing open one of the windows he
stepped outside. Irene followed him.
"How beautiful!" said Mr. Delancy, as he sat down and turned his
eyes upon the attractive landscape. Irene did not trust her voice in
"Now go in and finish your breakfast, child. I feel better; I don't
know what came over me." He added the last sentence in an undertone.
Irene returned into the house, but not to resume her place at the
table. Her mind was in an agony of dread. She had reached the
dining-room, and was about to ring for a servant, when she heard her
name called by her father. Running back quickly to the portico, she
found him standing in the attitude of one who had been suddenly
startled; his face all alive with question and suspense.
"Oh, yes! yes! I thought you were here this moment! And so it's all
true?" he said, in a quick, troubled way.
"True? What is true, father?" asked Irene, as she paused before
"True, what you told me yesterday."
She did not answer.
"You have left your husband?" He looked soberly into her face.
"I have, father." She thought it best to use no evasion.
He groaned, sat down in the chair from which he had arisen, and let
his head fall upon his bosom.
"Father!" Irene kneeled before him and clasped his hands. "Father!
He laid a hand on her head, and smoothed her hair in a caressing
"Poor child! poor daughter!" he said, in a fond, pitying voice,
"don't take it so to heart. Your old father loves you still."
She could not stay the wild rush of feeling that was overmastering
her. Passionate sobs heaved her breast, and tears came raining from
"Now, don't, Irene! Don't take on so, daughter! I love you still,
and we will be happy here, as in other days."
"Yes, father," said Irene, holding down her head and calming her
voice, "we will be happy here, as in the dear old time. Oh we will be
very happy together. I won't leave you any more."
"I wish you had never left me," he answered, mournfully; "I was
always afraid of this—always afraid. But don't let it break your
heart; I'm all the same; nothing will ever turn me against you. I
hope he hasn't been very unkind to you?" His voice grew a little
"We wont say anything against him," replied Irene, trying to
understand exactly her father's state of mind and accommodate herself
thereto. "Forgive and forget is the wisest rule always."
"Yes, dear, that's it. Forgive and forget—forgive and forget.
There's nothing like it in this world. I'm glad to hear you talk so."
The mind of Mr. Delancy did not again wander from the truth. But
the shock received when it first came upon him with stunning force had
taken away his keen perception of the calamity. He was sad, troubled
and restless, and talked a great deal about the unhappy position of
his daughter—sometimes in a way that indicated much incoherence of
thought. To this state succeeded one of almost total silence, and he
would sit for hours, if not aroused from reverie and inaction by his
daughter, in apparent dreamy listlessness. His conversation, when he
did talk on any subject, showed, however, that his mind had regained
its old clearness.
On the third day after Irene's arrival at Ivy Cliff, her trunks
came up from New York. She had packed them on the night before leaving
her husband's house, and marked them with her name and that of her
father's residence. No letter or message accompanied them. She did
not expect nor desire any communication, and was not therefore
disappointed, but rather relieved from what would have only proved a
cause of disturbance. All angry feelings toward her husband had
subsided; but no tender impulses moved in her heart, nor did the
feeblest thought of reconciliation breathe over the surface of her
mind. She had been in bonds; now the fetters were cast off, and she
loved freedom too well to bend her neck again to the yoke.
No tender impulses moved, we have said, in her heart, for it lay
like a palsied thing, dead in her bosom—dead, we mean, so far as the
wife was concerned. It was not so palsied on that fatal evening when
the last strife with her husband closed. But in the agony that
followed there came, in mercy, a cold paralysis; and now toward
Hartley Emerson her feelings were as calm as the surface of a frozen
And how was it with the deserted husband? Stern and unyielding
also. The past year had been marked by so little of mutual tenderness,
there had been so few passages of love between them—green spots in
the desert of their lives—that memory brought hardly a relic from
the past over which the heart could brood. For the sake of worldly
appearances, Emerson most regretted the unhappy event. Next, his
trouble was for Irene and her father, but most for Irene.
"Willful, wayward one!" he said many, many times. "You, of all,
will suffer most. No woman can take a step like this without drinking
of pain to the bitterest dregs. If you can hide the anguish, well. But
I fear the trial will be too hard for you—the burden too heavy.
Poor, mistaken one!"
For a month the household arrangements of Mr. Emerson continued as
when Irene left him. He did not intermit for a day or an hour his
business duties, and came home regularly at his usual times—always,
it must be said, with a feeble expectation of meeting his wife in her
old places; we do not say desire, but simply expectation. If she had
returned, well. He would not have repulsed, nor would he have received
her with strong indications of pleasure. But a month went by, and she
did not return nor send him any word. Beyond the brief "I have gone,"
there had come from her no sign.
Two months elapsed, and then Mr. Emerson dismissed the servants and
shut up the house, but he neither removed nor sold the furniture;
that remained as it was for nearly a year, when he ordered a sale by
auction and closed the establishment.
Hartley Emerson, under the influence of business and domestic
trouble, matured rapidly, and became grave, silent and reflective
beyond men of his years. Companionable he was by nature, and during
the last year that Irene was with him, failing to receive social
sympathy at home, he had joined a club of young men, whose
association was based on a declared ambition for literary excellence.
From this club he withdrew himself; it did not meet the wants of his
higher nature, but offered much that stimulated the grosser appetites
and passions. Now he gave himself up to earnest self-improvement, and
found in the higher and wider range of thought which came as the
result a partial compensation for what he had lost. But he was not
happy; far, very far from it. And there were seasons when the past
came back upon him in such a flood that all the barriers of
indifference which he had raised for self-protection were swept away,
and he had to build them up again in sadness of spirit. So the time
wore on with him, and troubled life-experiences were doing their work
upon his character.
CHAPTER XXI. THE IRREVOCABLE DECREE.
IT is two years since the day of separation between Irene
and her husband. Just two years. And she is sitting in the portico at
Ivy Cliff with her father, looking down upon the river that lies
gleaming in sunshine—not thinking of the river, however, nor of
anything in nature.
They are silent and still—very still, as if sleep had locked their
senses. He is thin and wasted as from long sickness, and she looks
older by ten years. There is no fine bloom on her cheeks, from which
the fullness of youth has departed.
It is a warm June day, the softest, balmiest, brightest day the
year has given. The air comes laden with delicate odors and thrilling
with bird melodies, and, turn the eye as it will, there is a feast of
Yet, the odors are not perceived, nor the music heard, nor the
beauty seen by that musing old man and his silent daughter. Their
thoughts are not in the present, but far back in the unhappy past,
the memories of which, awakened by the scene and season, have come
flowing in a strong tide upon them.
Two years! They have left the prints of their heavy feet upon the
life of Irene, and the deep marks will never be wholly obliterated.
She were less than human if this were not so. Two years! Yet, not
once in that long, heart-aching time had she for a single moment
looked backward in weakness. Sternly holding to her act as right, she
strengthened herself in suffering, and bore her pain as if it were a
decree of fate. There was no anger in her heart, nor anything of
hardness toward her husband. But there was no love, nor tender
yearning for conjunction—at least, nothing recognized as such in her
Not since the days Irene left the house of her husband had she
heard from him directly; and only two or three times indirectly. She
had never visited the city since her flight therefrom, and all her
pleasant and strongly influencing associations there were, in
consequence, at an end. Once her very dear friend Mrs. Talbot came up
to sympathize with and strengthen her in the fiery trial through which
she was passing. She found Irene's truer friend, Rosa Carman, with
her; and Rose did not leave them alone for a moment at a time. All
sentiments that she regarded as hurtful to Irene in her present state
of mind she met with her calm, conclusive mode of reasoning, that took
away the specious force of the sophist's dogmas. But her influence was
chiefly used in the repression of unprofitable themes, and the
introduction of such as tended to tranquilize the feelings, and turn
the thoughts of her friend away from the trouble that was lying upon
her soul like a suffocating nightmare. Mrs. Talbot was not pleased
with her visit, and did not come again. But she wrote several times.
The tone of her letters was not, however, pleasant to Irene, who was
disturbed by it, and more bewildered than enlightened by the
sentiments that were announced with oracular vagueness. These letters
were read to Miss Carman, on whom Irene was beginning to lean with
increasing confidence. Rose did not fail to expose their weakness or
fallacy in such clear light that Irene, though she tried to shut her
eyes against the truth presented by Rose, could not help seeing it.
Her replies were not, under these circumstances, very satisfactory,
for she was unable to speak in a free, assenting, confiding spirit.
The consequence was natural. Mrs. Talbot ceased to write, and Irene
did not regret the broken correspondence. Once Mrs. Lloyd wrote. When
Irene broke the seal and let her eyes rest upon the signature, a
shudder of repulsion ran through her frame, and the letter dropped
from her hands to the floor. As if possessed by a spirit whose
influence over her she could not control, she caught up the unread
sheet and threw it into the fire. As the flames seized upon and
consumed it, she drew a long breath and murmured,
"So perish the memory of our acquaintance!"
Almost a dead letter of suffering had been those two years. There
are no events to record, and but little progress to state. Yes, there
had been a dead level of suffering—a palsied condition of heart and
mind; a period of almost sluggish endurance, in which pride and an
indomitable will gave strength to bear.
Mr. Delancy and his daughter were sitting, as we have seen, on that
sweet June day, in silent abstraction of thought, when the
serving-man, who had been to the village, stepped into the portico
and handed Irene a letter. The sight of it caused her heart to leap
and the blood to crimson suddenly her face. It was not an ordinary
letter—one in such a shape had never come to her hand before.
"What is that?" asked her father, coming back as it were to life.
"I don't know," she answered, with an effort to appear indifferent.
Mr. Delancy looked at his daughter with a perplexed manner, and
then let his eyes fall upon the legal envelope in her hand, on which a
large red seal was impressed.
Rising in a quiet way, Irene left the portico with slow steps; but
no sooner was she beyond her father's observation than she moved
toward her chamber with winged feet.
"Bless me, Miss Irene!" exclaimed Margaret, who met her on the
stairs, "what has happened?"
But Irene swept by her without a response, and, entering her room,
shut the door and locked it. Margaret stood a moment irresolute, and
then, going back to her young lady's chamber, knocked for admission.
There was no answer to her summons, and she knocked again.
"Who is it?"
She hardly knew the voice.
"It is Margaret. Can't I come in?"
"Not now," was answered.
"What's the matter, Miss Irene?"
"Nothing, Margaret. I wish to be alone now."
"Something has happened, though, or you'd never look just like
that," said Margaret to herself, as she went slowly down stairs. "Oh
dear, dear! Poor child! there's nothing but trouble for her in this
It was some minutes before Irene found courage to break the
imposing seal and look at the communication within. She guessed at the
contents, and was not wrong. They informed her, in legal phrase, that
her husband had filed an application for a divorce on the ground of
desertion, and gave notice that any resistance to this application
must be on file on or before a certain date.
The only visible sign of feeling that responded to this
announcement was a deadly paleness and a slight, nervous crushing of
the paper in her hands. Moveless as a thing inanimate, she sat with
fixed, dreamy eyes for a long, long time.
A divorce! She had looked for this daily for more than a year, and
often wondered at her husband's tardiness. Had she desired it? Ah,
that is the probing question. Had she desired an act of law to push
them fully asunder—to make the separation plenary in all respects?
No. She did not really wish for the irrevocable sundering decree.
Since her return to her father's house, the whole life of Irene had
been marked by great circumspection. The trial through which she had
passed was enough to sober her mind and turn her thoughts in some new
directions; and this result had followed. Pride, self-will and
impatience of control found no longer any spur to reactive life, and
so her interest in woman's rights, social reforms and all their
concomitants died away, for lack of a personal bearing. At first
there had been warm arguments with Miss Carman on these subjects, but
these grew gradually less earnest, and were finally avoided by both,
as not only unprofitable, but distasteful. Gradually this wise and
true friend had quickened in the mind of Irene an interest in things
out of herself. There are in every neighborhood objects to awaken our
sympathies, if we will only look at and think of them. "The poor ye
have always with you." Not the physically poor only, but, in larger
numbers, the mentally and spiritually poor. The hands of no one need
lie idle a moment for lack of work, for it is no vague form of speech
to say that the harvest is great and the laborers few.
There were ripe harvest-fields around Ivy Cliff, though Irene had
not observed the golden grain bending its head for the sickle until
Rose led her feet in the right direction. Not many of the naturally
poor were around them, yet some required even bodily
ministrations—children, the sick and the aged. The destitution that
most prevailed was of the mind; and this is the saddest form of
poverty. Mental hunger! how it exhausts the soul and debases its
heaven-born faculties, sinking it into a gross corporeal sphere, that
is only a little removed from the animal! To feed the hungry and
clothe the naked mean a great deal more than the bestowal of food and
raiment; yes, a great deal more; and we have done but a small part of
Christian duty—have obeyed only in the letter—when we supply merely
the bread that perishes.
Rose Carman had been wisely instructed, and she was an apt scholar.
Now, from a learner she became a teacher, and in the suffering Irene
found one ready to accept the higher truths that governed her life,
and to act with her in giving them a real ultimation. So, in the two
years which had woven their web of new experiences for the heart of
Irene, she had been drawn almost imperceptibly by Rose into fields of
labor where the work that left her hands was, she saw, good work, and
must endure for ever. What peace it often brought to her striving
spirit, when, but for the sustaining and protecting power of good
deeds, she would have been swept out upon the waves of turbulent
passion—tossed and beaten there until her exhausted heart sunk down
amid the waters, and lay dead for a while at the bottom of her great
sea of trouble!
It was better—oh, how much better!—when she laid her head at
night on her lonely pillow, to have in memory the face of a poor sick
woman, which had changed from suffering to peace as she talked to her
of higher things than the body's needs, and bore her mind up into a
region of tranquil thought, than to be left with no image to dwell
upon but an image of her own shattered hopes. Yes, this was far
better; and by the power of such memories the unhappy one had many
peaceful seasons and nights of sweet repose.
All around Ivy Cliff, Irene and Rose were known as ministrant
spirits to the poor and humble. The father of Rose was a man of
wealth, and she had his entire sympathy and encouragement. Irene had
no regular duties at home, Margaret being housekeeper and directress
in all departments. So there was nothing to hinder the free course of
her will as to the employment of time. With all her pride of
independence, the ease with which Mrs. Talbot drew Irene in one
direction, and now Miss Carman in another, showed how easily she
might be influenced when off her guard. This is true in most cases of
your very self-willed people, and the reason why so many of them get
astray. Only conceal the hand that leads them, and you may often take
them where you will. Ah, if Hartley Emerson had been wise enough,
prudent enough and loving enough to have influenced aright the fine
young spirit he was seeking to make one with his own, how different
would the result have been!
In the region round about, our two young friends came in time to be
known as the "Sisters of Charity." It was not said of them mockingly,
nor in gay depreciation, nor in mean ill-nature, but in expression of
a common sentiment, that recognized their high, self-imposed mission.
Thus it had been with Irene since her return to the old home at Ivy
CHAPTER XXII. STRUCK DOWN.
YES, Irene had looked for this—looked for it daily for now
more than a year. Still it came upon her with a shock that sent a
strange, wild shudder through all her being. A divorce! She was less
prepared for it than she had ever been.
What was beyond? Ah! that touched a chord which gave a thrill of
pain. What was beyond? A new alliance, of course. Legal disabilities
removed, Hartley Emerson would take upon himself new marriage vows.
Could she say, "Yea, and amen" to this? No, alas! no. There was a
feeling of intense, irrepressible anguish away down in heart-regions
that lay far beyond the lead-line of prior consciousness. What did it
mean? She asked herself the question with a fainting spirit. Had she
not known herself? Were old states of tenderness, which she had
believed crushed out and dead along ago, hidden away in secret places
of her heart, and kept there safe from harm?
No wonder she sat pale and still, crumpling nervously that fatal
document which had startled her with a new revelation of herself.
There was love in her heart still, and she knew it not. For a long
time she sat like one in a dream.
"God help me!" she said at length, looking around her in a wild,
bewildered manner. "What does all this mean?"
There came at this moment a gentle tap at her door. She knew whose
soft hand had given the sound.
"Irene," exclaimed Rose Carman, as she took the hand of her friend
and looked into her changed countenance, "what ails you?"
Irene turned her face partly away to get control of its expression.
"Sit down, Rose," she said, as soon as she could trust herself to
They sat down together, Rose troubled and wondering. Irene then
handed her friend the notice which she had received. Miss Carman read
it, but made no remark for some time.
"It has disturbed you," she said at length, seeing that Irene
"Yes, more than I could have believed," answered Irene. Her voice
had lost its familiar tones.
"You have expected this?"
"I thought you were prepared for it."
"And I am," replied Irene, speaking with more firmness of manner.
"Expectation grows so nervous, sometimes, that when the event comes
it falls upon us with a painful shock. This is my case now. I would
have felt it less severely if it had occurred six months ago."
"What will you do?" asked Rose.
"What can I do?"
"Resist the application, if you will."
"But I will not," answered Irene, firmly. "He signifies his wishes
in the case, and those wishes must determine everything. I will
"And let the divorce issue by default of answer?"
There was a faintness of tone which Rose could not help remarking.
"Yes," Irene added, "he desires this complete separation, and I can
have nothing to say in opposition. I left him, and have remained ever
since a stranger to his home and heart. We are nothing to each other,
and yet are bound together by the strongest of bonds. Why should he
not wish to be released from these bonds? And if he desires it, I have
nothing to say. We are divorced in fact—why then retain the form?"
"There may be a question of the fact," said Rose.
"Yes; I understand you. We have discussed that point fully. Your
view may be right, but I do not see it clearly. I will at least
retain passive. The responsibility shall rest with him."
No life or color came back to the face of Irene. She looked as cold
as marble; not cold without feeling, but with intense feeling
recorded as in a piece of sculpture.
There were deeds of kindness and mercy set down in the purposes of
our young friend, and it was to go forth and perform them that Rose
had called for Irene this morning. But only one Sister of Charity
went to the field that day, and only one for many days afterward.
Irene could not recover from the shock of this legal notice. It
found her less prepared than she had been at any time during the last
two years of separation. Her life at Ivy Cliff had not been favorable
to a spirit of antagonism and accusation, nor favorable to a
self-approving judgment of herself when the past came up, as it often
came, strive as she would to cover it as with a veil. She had grown in
this night of suffering, less self-willed and blindly impulsive. Some
scales had dropped from her eyes, and she saw clearer. Yet no
repentance for that one act of her life, which involved a series of
consequences beyond the reach of conjecture, had found a place in her
heart. There was no looking back from this—no sober questioning as to
the right or necessity which had been involved. There had been one
great mistake—so she decided the case—and that was the marriage.
From this fatal error all subsequent evil was born.
Months of waiting and expectation followed, and then came a decree
annulling the marriage.
"It is well," was the simple response of Irene when notice of the
fact reached her.
Not even to Rose Carman did she reveal a thought that took shape in
her mind, nor betray a single emotion that trembled in her heart. If
there had been less appearance of indifference—less avoidance of the
subject—her friends would have felt more comfortable as to her state
of mind. The unnatural repose of, exterior was to them significant of
a strife within which she wished to conceal from all eyes.
About this time her true, loving friend, Miss Carman, married.
Irene did not stand as one of the bridesmaids at the ceremony. Rose
gently hinted her wishes in the case, but Irene shrunk from the
position, and her feeling was respected. The husband of Rose was a
merchant, residing in New York, named Everet. After a short bridal
tour she went to her new home in the city. Mr. Everet was five or six
years her senior, and a man worthy to be her life-companion. No sudden
attachment had grown up between them. For years they had been in the
habit of meeting, and in this time the character of each had been
clearly read by the other. When Mr. Everet asked the maiden's hand,
it, was yielded without a sign of hesitation.
The removal of Rose from the neighborhood of Ivy Cliff greatly
disturbed the even-going tenor of Irene's life. It withdrew also a
prop on which she had leaned often in times of weakness, which would
recur very heavily.
"How can I live without you?" she said in tears, as she sat alone
with the new-made bride on the eve of her departure; "you have been
everything to me, Rose—strength in weakness; light, when all around
was cold and dark; a guide when I had lost my way. God bless and make
you happy, darling! And he will. Hearts like yours create happiness
wherever they go."
"My new home will only be a few hours' distant," replied Rose; "I
shall see you there often."
Irene sighed. She had been to the city only a few times since that
sad day of separation from her husband. Could she return again and
enter one of its bright social circles? Her heart said no. But love
drew her too strongly. In less than a month after Rose became the
mistress of a stately mansion, Irene was her guest. This was just six
years from the time when she set up her home there, a proud and happy
young wife. Alas! that hearth was desolate, "its bright fire quenched
It was best for Irene thus to get back again into a wider social
sphere—to make some new friends, and those of a class that such a
woman as Mrs. Everet would naturally draw around her. Three years of
suffering, and the effort to lead a life of self-denial and active
interest in others, had wrought in Irene a great change. The old,
flashing ardor of manner was gone. If she grew animated in
conversation, as she often did from temperament, her face would light
up beautifully, but it did not show the radiance of old times.
Thought, more than feeling, gave its living play to her countenance.
All who met her were attracted; as her history was known, observation
naturally took the form of close scrutiny. People wished to find the
angular and repellant sides of her character in order to see how far
she might be to blame. But they were not able to discover them. On the
subjects of woman's rights, domestic tyranny, sexual equality and all
kindred themes she was guarded in speech. She never introduced them
herself, and said but little when they formed the staple of
Even if, in three years of intimate, almost daily, association with
Rose, she had not learned to think in some new directions on these
bewildering questions, certain womanly instincts must have set a seal
upon her lips. Not for all the world would she, to a stranger—no, nor
to any new friend—utter a sentiment that could in the least degree
give color to the thought that she wished to throw even the faintest
shadow of blame on Hartley Emerson. Not that she was ready to take
blame to herself, or give the impression that fault rested by her
door. No. The subject was sacred to herself, and she asked no sympathy
and granted no confidences. There were those who sought to draw her
out, who watched her face and words with keen intentness when certain
themes were discussed. But they were unable to reach the penetralia of
her heart. There was a chamber of record there into which no one could
enter but herself.
Since the separation of Irene from her husband, Mr. Delancy had
shown signs of rapid failure. His heart was bound up in his daughter,
who, with all her captious self-will and impulsiveness, loved him with
a tenderness and fervor that never knew change or eclipse. To see her
make shipwreck of life's dearest hopes—to know that her name was
spoken by hundreds in reprobation—to look daily on her quiet,
changing, suffering face, was more than his fond heart could bear. It
broke him down. This fact, more perhaps, than her own sad experiences,
tended to sober the mind of Irene, and leave it almost passive under
the right influences of her wise young friend.
After the removal of Rose from the neighborhood of Ivy Cliff, the
health of Mr. Delancy failed still more rapidly, and in a few months
the brief visits of Irene to her friend in New York had to be
intermitted. She could no longer venture to leave her father, even
under the care of their faithful Margaret. A sad winter for Irene
succeeded. Mr. Delancy drooped about until after Christmas, in a
weary, listless way, taking little interest in anything, and bearing
both physical and mental consciousness as a burden it would be
pleasant to lay down. Early in January he had to give up and go to
bed; and now the truth of his condition startled the mind of Irene
and filled her with alarm. By slow, insidious encroachments, that
dangerous enemy, typhoid fever, had gained a lodgment in the very
citadel of life, and boldly revealed itself, defying the healer's
art. For weeks the dim light of mortal existence burned with a low,
wavering flame, that any sudden breath of air might extinguish; then
it grew steady again, increased, and sent a few brighter rays into
the darkness which had gathered around Ivy Cliff.
Spring found Mr. Delancy strong enough to sit, propped up with
pillows, by the window of his chamber, and look out upon the
newly-mantled trees, the green fields, and the bright river flashing
in the sunshine. The heart of Irene took courage again. The cloud
which had lain upon it all winter like a funereal pall dissolved, and
went floating away and wasting itself in dim expanses.
Alas, that all this sweet promise was but a mockery of hope! A
sudden cold, how taken it was almost impossible to tell—for Irene
guarded her father as tenderly as if he were a new-born
infant—disturbed life's delicate equipoise, and the scale turned
fatally the wrong way.
Poor Irene! She had only staggered under former blows—this one
struck her down. Had life anything to offer now? "Nothing! nothing!"
she said in her heart, and prayed that she might die and be at rest
with her father.
Months of stupor followed this great sorrow; then her heart began
to beat again with some interest in life. There was one friend, almost
her only friend—for she now repelled nearly every one who approached
her—who never failed in hopeful, comforting, stimulating words and
offices, who visited her frequently in her recluse life at Ivy Cliff,
and sought with untiring assiduity to win her once more away from its
dead seclusion. And she was at last successful. In the winter after
Mr. Delancy's death, Irene, after much earnest persuasion, consented
to pass a few weeks in the city with Mrs. Everet. This gained, her
friend was certain of all the rest.
CHAPTER XXIII. THE HAUNTED VISION.
GRADUALLY the mind of Irene attained clearness of perception
as to duty, and a firmness of will that led her to act in obedience to
what reason and religion taught her was right. The leading idea which
Mrs. Everet endeavored to keep before her was this: that no happiness
is possible, except in some work that removes self-consciousness and
fills our minds with an interest in the well-being of others. While
Rose was at Ivy Cliff, Irene acted with her, and was sustained by her
love and companionship. After her marriage and removal to New York,
Irene was left to stand alone, and this tried her strength. It was
feeble. The sickness and death of her father drew her back again into
herself, and for a time extinguished all interest in what was on the
outside. To awaken a new and higher life was the aim of her friend,
and she never wearied in her generous efforts. During this winter
plans were matured for active usefulness in the old spheres, and Mrs.
Everet promised to pass as much time in the next summer with her
father as possible, so as to act with Irene in the development of
The first warm days of summer found Irene back again in her home at
Ivy Cliff. Her visit in New York had been prolonged far beyond the
limit assigned to it in the beginning, but Rose would not consent to
an earlier return. This winter of daily life with Mrs. Everet, in the
unreserved intercourse of home, was of great use to Irene. Affliction
had mellowed all the harder portions of her disposition, which the
trouble and experiences of the past few years could not reach with
their softening influences. There was good soil in her mind, well
prepared, and the sower failed not in the work of scattering good seed
upon it with a liberal hand—seed that felt soon a quickening life and
swelled in the delight of coming germination.
It is not our purpose to record the history of Irene during the
years of her discipline at Ivy Cliff, where she lived, nun-like, for
the larger part of her time. She had useful work there, and in its
faithful performance peace came to her troubled soul. Three or four
times every year she paid a visit to Rose, and spent on each occasion
from one to three or four weeks. It could not but happen that in these
visits congenial friendship would be made, and tender remembrances go
back with her into the seclusion of her country home, to remain as
sweet companions in her hours of loneliness.
It was something remarkable that, during the six or seven years
which followed Irene's separation from her husband, she had never
seen him. He was still a resident of New York, and well known as a
rapidly advancing member of the bar. Occasionally his name met her
eyes in the newspapers, as connected with some important suit; but,
beyond this, his life was to her a dead letter. He might be married
again, for all she knew to the contrary. But she never dwelt on that
thought; its intrusion always disturbed her, and that profoundly.
And how was it with Hartley Emerson? Had he again tried the
experiment which once so signally failed? No; he had not ventured
upon the sea whose depths held the richest vessel he had freighted in
life. Visions of loveliness had floated before him, and he had been
lured by them, a few times, out of his beaten path. But he carried in
his memory a picture that, when his eyes turned inward, held their
gaze so fixedly that all other images grew dim or unlovely. And so,
with a sigh, he would turn again to the old way and move on as before.
But the past was irrevocable. "And shall I," he began to say to
himself, "for this one great error of my youth—this blind
mistake—pass a desolate and fruitless life?"
Oftener and oftener the question was repeated in his thoughts,
until it found answer in an emphatic No! Then he looked around with a
new interest, and went more into society. Soon one fair face came more
frequently before the eyes of his mind than any other face. He saw it
as he sat in his law-office, saw it on the page of his book as he read
in the evening, lying over the printed words and hiding from his
thoughts their meaning; saw it in dreams. The face haunted him. How
long was this since that fatal night of discord and separation? Ten
years. So long? Yes, so long. Ten weary years had made their record
upon his book of life and upon hers. Ten weary years! The discipline
of this time had not worked on either any moral deterioration. Both
were yet sound to the core, and both were building up characters based
on the broad foundations of virtue.
Steadily that face grew into a more living distinctness, haunting
his daily thoughts and nightly visions. Then new life-pulses began to
throb in his heart; new emotions to tremble over its long calm
surface; new warmth to flow, spring-like, into the indurated soil.
This face, which had begun thus to dwell with him, was the face of a
maiden, beautiful to look upon. He had met her often during a year,
and from the beginning of their acquaintance she had interested him.
If he erred not, the interest was mutual. prom all points of view he
now commenced studying her character. Having made one mistake, he was
fearful and guarded. Better go on a lonely man to the end of life than
again have his love-freighted bark buried in mid-ocean.
At last, Emerson was satisfied. He had found the sweet being whose
life could blend in eternal oneness with his own; and it only
remained for him to say to her in words what she had read as plainly
as written language in his eyes. So far as she was concerned, no
impediment existed. We will not say that she was ripe enough in soul
to wed with this man, who had passed through experiences of a kind
that always develop the character broadly and deeply. No, for such
was not the case. She was too young and inexperienced to understand
him; too narrow in her range of thought; too much a child. But
something in her beautiful, innocent, sweet young face had won his
heart; and in the weakness of passion, not in the manly strength of a
deep love, he had bowed down to a shrine at which he could never
worship and be satisfied.
But even strong men are weak in woman's toils, and Hartley Emerson
was a captive.
There was to be a pleasure-party on one of the steamers that cut
the bright waters of the fair Hudson, and Emerson and the maiden,
whose face was now his daily companion, were to be of the number. He
felt that the time had come for him to speak if he meant to speak at
all—to say what was in his thought, or turn aside and let another
woo and win the lovely being imagination had already pictured as the
sweet companion of his future home. The night that preceded this
excursion was a sleepless one for Hartley Emerson. Questions and
doubts, scarcely defined in his thoughts before, pressed themselves
upon him and demanded a solution. The past came up with a vividness
not experienced for years. In states of
semi-consciousness—half-sleeping, half-waking—there returned to him
such life-like realizations of events long ago recorded in his memory,
and covered over with the dust of time, that he started from them to
full wakefulness, with a heart throbbing in wild tumult. Once there
was presented so vivid a picture of Irene that for some moments he was
unable to satisfy himself that all these ten years of loneliness were
not a dream. He saw her as she stood before him on that
ever-to-be-remembered night and said, "I go!" Let us turn back
and read the record of her appearance as he saw her then and now:
"She had raised her eyes from the floor, and turned them full upon
her husband. Her face was not so pale. Warmth had come back to the
delicate skin, flushing it with beauty. She did not stand before him
an impersonation of anger, dislike or rebellion. There was not a
repulsively attitude or expression. No flashing of the eyes, nor even
the cold, diamond glitter seen a little while before. Slowly turning
away, she left the room. But to her husband she seemed still standing
there, a lovely vision. There had fallen, in that instant of time, a
sunbeam, which fixed the image upon his memory in imperishable
Emerson groaned as he fell back upon his pillow and shut his eyes.
What would he not then have given for one full draught of Lethe's
Morning came at last, its bright beams dispersing the shadows of
night; and with it came back the warmth of his new passion and his
purpose on that day, if the opportunity came, to end all doubt, by
offering the maiden his hand—we do not say heart, for of that he was
not the full possessor.
The day opened charmingly, and the pleasure-party were on the wing
betimes. Emerson felt a sense of exhilaration as the steamer passed
out from her moorings and glided with easy grace along the city
front. He stood upon her deck with a maiden's hand resting on his
arm, the touch of which, though light as the pressure of a flower,
was felt with strange distinctness. The shadows of the night, which
had brooded so darkly over his spirit, were gone, and only a dim
remembrance of the gloom remained. Onward the steamer glided,
sweeping by the crowded line of buildings and moving grandly along,
through palisades of rock on one side and picturesque landscapes on
the other, until bolder scenery stretched away and mountain barriers
raised themselves against the blue horizon.
There was a large number of passengers on board, scattered over the
decks or lingering in the cabins, as inclination prompted. The
observer of faces and character had field enough for study; but
Hartley Emerson was not inclined to read in the book of character on
this occasion. One subject occupied his thoughts to the exclusion of
all others. There had come a period that was full of interest and
fraught with momentous consequences which must extend through all of
his after years. He saw little but the maiden at his side—thought of
little but his purpose to ask her to walk with him, a soul-companion,
in the journey of life.
During the first hour there was a constant moving to and fro and
the taking up of new positions by the passengers—a hum and buzz of
conversation—laughing—exclamations—gay talk and enthusiasm. Then a
quieter tone prevailed. Solitary individuals took places of
observation; groups seated themselves in pleasant circles to chat,
and couples drew away into cabins or retired places, or continued the
Among the latter were Emerson and his companion. Purposely he had
drawn the fair girl away from their party, in order to get the
opportunity he desired. He did not mean to startle her with an abrupt
proposal here, in the very eye of observation, but to advance toward
the object by slow approaches, marking well the effect of his words,
and receding the moment he saw that, in beginning to comprehend him,
her mind showed repulsion or marked disturbance.
Thus it was with them when the boat entered the Highlands and swept
onward with wind-like speed. They were in one of the gorgeously
furnished cabins, sitting together on a sofa. There had been earnest
talk, but on some subject of taste. Gradually Emerson changed the
theme and began approaching the one nearest to his heart. Slight
embarrassment followed; his voice took on a different tone; it was
lower, tenderer, more deliberate and impressive. He leaned closer,
and the maiden did not retire; she understood him, and was waiting
the pleasure of his speech with heart-throbbings that seemed as if
they must be audible in his ears as well as her own.
The time had come. Everything was propitious. The words that would
have sealed his fate and hers were on his lips, when, looking up, he
knew not why, but under an impulse of the moment, he met two calm
eyes resting upon him with an expression that sent the blood leaping
back to his heart. Two calm eyes and a pale, calm face were before
him for a moment; then they vanished in the crowd. But he knew them,
though ten years lay between the last vision and this.
The words that were on his lips died unspoken. He could not have
uttered them if life or death hung on the issue. No—no—no. A dead
"Are you ill?" asked his companion, looking at him anxiously.
"No, oh no," he replied, trying to rally himself.
"But you are ill, Mr. Emerson. How pale your face is!"
"It will pass off in a moment." He spoke with an effort to appear
self-possessed. "Let us go on deck," he added, rising. "There are a
great many people in the cabin, and the atmosphere is oppressive."
A dead weight fell upon the maiden's heart as she arose and went on
deck by the side of Mr. Emerson. She had noticed his sudden pause and
glance across the cabin at the instant she was holding her breath for
his next words, but did not observe the object, a sight of which had
wrought on him so remarkable a change. They walked nearly the entire
length of the boat, after getting on deck, before Mr. Emerson spoke.
He then remarked on the boldness of the scenery and pointed out
interesting localities, but in so absent and preoccupied a way that
his companion listened without replying. In a little while he managed
to get into the neighborhood of three or four of their party, with
whom he left her, and, moving away, took a position on the upper deck
just over the gangway from which the landings were made. Here he
remained until the boat came to at a pier on which his feet had
stepped lightly many, many times. Ivy Cliff was only a little way
distant, hidden from view by a belt of forest trees. The ponderous
machinery stood still, the plunging wheels stopped their muffled roar,
and in the brooding silence that followed three or four persons
stepped on the plank which had been thrown out and passed to the
shore. A single form alone fixed the eyes of Hartley Emerson. He would
have known it on the instant among a thousand. It was that of Irene.
Her step was slow, like one abstracted in mind or like one in feeble
health. After gaining the landing, she stood still and turned toward
the boat, when their eyes met again—met, and held each other, by a
spell which neither had power to break. The fastenings were thrown
off, the engineer rung his bell; there was a clatter of machinery, a
rush of waters and the boat glanced onward. Then Irene started like
one suddenly aroused from sleep and walked rapidly away.
And thus they met for the first time after a separation of ten
CHAPTER XXIV. THE MINISTERING ANGEL.
A CLATTER of machinery, a rush of waters, and the boat
glanced onward but still Hartley Emerson stood motionless and
statue-like, his eyes fixed upon the shore, until the swiftly-gliding
vessel bore him away, and the object which had held his vision by a
kind of fascination was concealed from view.
"An angel, if there ever was one on this side of heaven!" said a
voice close to his ear. Emerson gave a start and turned quickly. A
man plainly dressed stood beside him. He was of middle age, and had a
mild, grave, thoughtful countenance.
"Of whom do you speak?" asked Emerson, not able entirely to veil
"Of the lady we saw go ashore at the landing just now. She turned
and looked at us. You could not help noticing her."
"Who is she?" asked Emerson, and then held his breath awaiting the
answer. The question was almost involuntary, yet prompted by a
suddenly awakened desire to bear the world's testimony regard to
"You don't know her, then?" remarked the stranger.
"I asked who she was." Emerson intended to say this firmly, but his
voice was unsteady. "Let us sit down," he added, looking around, and
then leading the way to where some unoccupied chairs were standing.
By the time they were seated he had gained the mastery over himself.
"You don't know her, then?" said the man, repeating his words. "She
is well known about these parts, I can assure you. Why, that was old
Mr. Delancy's daughter. Did you never hear of her?"
"What about her?" was asked.
"Well, in the first place, she was married some ten or twelve years
ago to a lawyer down in New York; and, in the second place, they
didn't live very happily together—why, I never heard. I don't
believe it was her fault, for she's the sweetest, kindest, gentlest
lady it has ever been my good fortune to meet. Some people around Ivy
Cliff call her the 'Angel,' and the word has meaning in it as applied
to her. She left her husband, and he got a divorce, but didn't charge
anything wrong against her. That, I suppose, was more than he dared to
do, for a snow-flake is not purer."
"You have lived in the neighborhood?" said Emerson, keeping his
face a little averted.
"Oh yes, sir. I have lived about here pretty much all my life."
"Then you knew Miss Delancy before she was married?"
"No, sir; I can't say that I knew much about her before that time.
I used to see her now and then as she rode about the neighborhood. She
was a gay, wild girl, sir. But that unhappy marriage made a great
change in her. I cannot forget the first time I saw her after she
came back to her father's. She seemed to me older by many years than
when I last saw her, and looked like one just recovered from a long
and serious illness. The brightness had passed from her face, the
fire from her eyes, the spring from her footsteps. I believe she left
her husband of her own accord, but I never knew that she made any
complaint against him. Of course, people were very curious to know why
she had abandoned him. But her lips must have been sealed, for only a
little vague talk went floating around. I never heard a breath of
wrong charged against him as coming from her."
Emerson's face was turned still more away from his companion, his
eyes bent down and his brows firmly knit. He did not ask farther, but
the man was on a theme that interested him, and so continued.
"For most of the time since her return to Ivy Cliff the life of
Miss Delancy has been given to Christian charities. The death of her
father was a heavy stroke. It took the life out of her for a while.
Since her recovery from that shock she has been constantly active
among us in good deeds. Poor sick women know the touch of her gentle
hand and the music of her voice. She has brought sunlight into many
wintry homes, and kindled again on hearths long desolate the fires of
loving kindness. There must have been some lack of true appreciation
on the part of her husband, sir. Bitter fountains do not send forth
sweet waters like these. Don't you think so?"
"How should I know?" replied Emerson, a little coldly. The question
was sprung upon him so suddenly that his answer was given in
confusion of thought.
"We all have our opinions, sir," said the man, "and this seems a
plain case. I've heard said that her husband was a hot-headed,
self-willed, ill-regulated young fellow, no more fit to get married
than to be President. That he didn't understand the woman—or, maybe,
I should say child—whom he took for his wife is very certain, or he
never would have treated her in the way he did!"
"How did he treat her?" asked Mr. Emerson.
"As to that," replied his talkative companion, "we don't know
anything certain. But we shall not go far wrong in guessing that it
was neither wise nor considerate. In fact, he must have outraged her
"This, I presume, is the common impression about Ivy Cliff?"
"No," said the man; "I've heard him well spoken of. The fact is,
people are puzzled about the matter. We can't just understand it.
But, I'm all on her side."
"I wonder she has not married again?" said Emerson. "There are
plenty of men who would be glad to wed so perfect a being as you
represent her to be."
"She marry!" There was indignation and surprise in the man's voice.
"Yes; why not?"
"Sir, she is a Christian woman!"
"I can believe that, after hearing your testimony in regard to
her," said Emerson. But he still kept his face so much turned aside
that its expression could not be seen.
"And reads her Bible."
"As we all should."
"And, what is more, believes in it," said the man emphatically.
"Don't all Christian people believe in the Bible?" asked Mr.
"I suppose so, after a fashion; and a very queer fashion it is,
"How does this lady of whom you speak believe in it differently
from some others?"
"In this, that it means what it says on the subject of divorce."
"Oh, I understand. You think that if she were to marry again it
would be in the face of conscientious scruples?"
Mr. Emerson was about asking another question when one of the party
to which he belonged joined him, and so the strange interview closed.
He bowed to the man with whom he had been conversing, and then passed
to another part of the boat.
With slow steps, that were unsteady from sudden weakness, Irene
moved along the road that led to her home. After reaching the grounds
of Ivy Cliff she turned aside into a small summer-house, and sat down
at one of the windows that looked out upon the river as it stretched
upward in its gleaming way. The boat she bad just left was already far
distant, but it fixed her eyes, and they saw no other object until it
passed from view around a wooded point of land. And still she sat
motionless, looking at the spot where it had vanished from her sight.
"Miss Irene!" exclaimed Margaret, the faithful old domestic, who
still bore rule at the homestead, breaking in upon her reverie, "what
in the world are you doing here? I expected you up to-day, and when
the boat stopped at the landing and you didn't come, I was uneasy and
couldn't rest. Why child, what is the matter? You're sick!"
"Oh no, Margaret, I'm well enough," said Irene, trying to smile
indifferently. And she arose and left the summer-house.
Kind, observant old Margaret was far from being satisfied, however.
She saw that Irene was not as when she departed for the city a week
before. If she were not sick in body, she was troubled in her mind,
for her countenance was so changed that she could not look upon it
without feeling a pang in her heart.
"I'm sure you're sick, Miss Irene," she said as they entered the
house. "Now, what is the matter? What can I do or get for you? Let me
send over for Dr. Edmondson?"
"No, no, my good Margaret, don't think of such a thing," replied
Irene. "I'm not sick."
"Something's the matter with you, child," persisted Margaret.
"Nothing that won't cure itself," said Irene, trying to speak
cheerfully. "I'll go up to my room for a little while."
And she turned away from her kind-hearted domestic. On entering her
chamber Irene locked the door in order to be safe from intrusion, for
she knew that Margaret would not let half an hour pass without coming
up to ask how she was. Sitting down by the window, she looked out upon
the river, along whose smooth surface had passed the vessel in which,
a little while before, she met the man once called by the name of
husband—met him and looked into his face for the first time in ten
long years! The meeting had disturbed her profoundly. In the cabin of
that vessel she had seen him by the side of a fair young girl in
earnest conversation; and she had watched with a strange, fluttering
interest the play of his features. What was he saying to that fair
young girl that she listened with such a breathless, waiting air?
Suddenly he turned toward her, their eyes met and were spell-bound for
moments. What did she read in his eyes in those brief moments? What
did he read in hers? Both questions pressed themselves upon her
thoughts as she retreated among the crowd of passengers, and then hid
herself from the chance of another meeting until the boat reached the
landing at Ivy Cliff. Why did she pause on the shore, and turn to look
upon the crowded decks? She knew not. The act was involuntary. Again
their eyes met—met and held each other until the receding vessel
placed dim distance between them.
In less than half an hour Margaret's hand was on the door, but she
could not enter. Irene had not moved from her place at the window in
all that time.
"Is that you, Margaret?" she called, starting from her abstraction.
"Do you want anything, Miss Irene?"
"No, thank you, Margaret."
She answered in as cheerful a tone as she could assume, and the
kind old waiting-woman retired.
From that time every one noted a change in Irene. But none knew, or
even guessed, its cause or meaning. Not even to her friend, Mrs.
Everet, did she speak of her meeting with Hartley Emerson. Her face
did not light up as before, and her eyes seemed always as if looking
inward or gazing dreamily upon something afar off. Yet in good deeds
she failed not. If her own heart was heavier, she made other hearts
lighter by her presence.
And still the years went on in their steady revolutions—one, two,
three, four, five more years, and in all that time the parted ones
did not meet again.
CHAPTER XXV. BORN FOR EACH OTHER.
I SAW Mr. Emerson yesterday," said Mrs. Everet. She was
sitting with Irene in her own house in New York.
"Did you?" Irene spoke evenly and quietly, but did not turn her
face toward Mrs. Everet.
"Yes. I saw him at my husband's store. Mr. Everet has engaged him
to conduct an important suit, in which many thousands of dollars are
"How does be look?" inquired Irene, without showing any feelings
but still keeping her face turned from Mrs Everet.
"Well, I should say, though rather too much frosted for a man of
"Gray, do you mean?" Irene manifested some surprise.
"Yes; his hair and beard are quite sprinkled with time's white
"He is only forty," remarked Irene.
"I should say fifty, judging from his appearance."
"Only forty." And a faint sigh breathed on the lips of Irene. She
did not look around at her friend but sat very still, with her face
turned partly away. Mrs. Everet looked at her closely, to read, if
possible, what was passing in her mind. But the countenance of Irene
was too much hidden. Her attitude, however, indicated intentness of
thought, though not disturbing thought.
"Rose," she said at length, "I grow less at peace with myself as
the years move onward."
"You speak from some passing state of mind," suggested Mrs. Everet.
"No; from a gradually forming permanent state. Ten years ago I
looked back upon the past in a stern, self-sustaining, martyr-spirit.
Five years ago all things wore a different aspect. I began to have
misgivings; I could not so clearly make out my case. New thoughts on
the subject—and not very welcome ones—began to intrude. I was
self-convicted of wrong; yes, Rose, of a great and an irreparable
wrong. I shut my eyes; I tried to look in other directions; but the
truth, once seen, could not pass from the range of mental vision. I
have never told you that I saw Mr. Emerson five years ago. The effect
of that meeting was such that I could not speak of it, even to you. We
met on one of the river steamboats—met and looked into each other's
eyes for just a moment. It may only be a fancy of mine, but I have
thought sometimes that, but for this seemingly accidental meeting, he
would have married again."
"Why do you think so?" asked Mrs. Everet.
Irene did not answer for some moments. She hardly dared venture to
put what she had seen in words. It was something that she felt more
like hiding even from her own consciousness, if that were possible.
But, having ventured so far, she could not well hold back. So she
replied, keeping her voice into as dead a level as it was possible to
"He was sitting in earnest conversation with a young lady, and from
the expression of her face, which I could see, the subject on which
he was speaking was evidently one in which more than her thought was
interested. I felt at the time that he was on the verge of a new
life-experiment—was about venturing upon a sea on which he had once
made shipwreck. Suddenly he turned half around and looked at me
before I had time to withdraw my eyes—looked at me with a strange,
surprised, startled look. In another moment a form came between us;
when it passed I was lost from his gaze in the crowd of passengers. I
have puzzled myself a great many times over that fact of his turning
his eyes, as if from some hidden impulse, just to the spot where I was
sitting. There are no accidents—as I have often heard you say—in the
common acceptation of the term; therefore this was no accident."
"It was a providence," said Rose.
"And to what end?" asked Irene.
Mrs. Everet shook her head.
"I will not even presume to conjecture."
Irene sighed, and then sat lost in thought. Recovering herself, she
"Since that time I have been growing less and less satisfied with
that brief, troubled portion of my life which closed so disastrously.
I forgot how much the happiness of another was involved. A blind,
willful girl, struggling in imaginary bonds, I thought only of myself,
and madly rent apart the ties which death only should have sundered.
For five years, Rose, I have carried in my heart the expression which
looked out upon me from the eyes of Mr. Emerson at that brief meeting.
Its meaning was not then, nor is it now, clear. I have never set
myself to the work of interpretation, and believe the task would be
fruitless. But whenever it is recalled I am affected with a tender
sadness. And so his head is already frosted, Rose?"
"Though in years he has reached only manhood's ripened state. How I
have marred his life! Better, far better, would it have been for him
if I had been the bride of Death on my wedding-day!"
A shadow of pain darkened her face.
"No," replied Mrs. Everet; "it is better for both you and him that
you were not the bride of Death. There are deeper things hidden in
the events of life than our reason can fathom. We die when it is best
for ourselves and best for others that we should die—never before.
And the fact that we live is in itself conclusive that we are yet
needed in the world by all who can be affected by our mortal
"Gray hairs at forty!" This seemed to haunt the mind of Irene.
"It may be constitutional," suggested Mrs. Everet; "some heads
begin to whiten at thirty."
But the tone expressed no conviction.
"How was his face?" asked Irene.
"Grave and thoughtful. At least so it appeared to me."
"At forty." It was all Irene said.
Mrs. Everet might have suggested that a man of his legal position
would naturally be grave and thoughtful, but she did not.
"It struck me," said Mrs. Everet, "as a true, pure, manly face. It
was intellectual and refined; delicate, yet firm about the mouth and
expansive in the upper portions. The hair curled softly away from his
white temples and forehead."
"Worthy of a better fate!" sighed Irene. "And it is I who have
marred his whole life! How blind is selfish passion! Ah, my friend,
the years do not bring peace to my soul. There have been times when
to know that he had sought refuge from a lonely life in marriage
would have been a relief to me. Were this the case, the thought of
his isolation, of his imperfect life, would not be for ever rebuking
me. But now, while no less severely rebuked by this thought, I feel
glad that he has not ventured upon an act no clear sanction for which
is found in the Divine law. He could not, I feel, have remained so
true and pure a man as I trust he is this day. God help him to hold
on, faithful to his highest intuitions, even unto the end."
Mrs. Everet looked at Irene wonderingly as she spoke. She had never
before thus unveiled her thoughts.
"He struck me," was her reply, "as a man who had passed through
years of discipline and gained the mastery of himself."
"I trust that it may be so," Irene answered, rather as if speaking
to herself than to another.
"As I grow older," she added, after a long pause, now looking with
calm eyes upon her friend, "and life-experiences correct my judgment
and chasten my feelings, I see all things in a new aspect. I
understand my own heart better—its needs, capacities and yearnings;
and self-knowledge is the key by which we unlock the mystery of other
souls. So a deeper self-acquaintance enables me to look deeper into
the hearts of all around me. I erred in marrying Mr. Emerson. We were
both too hasty, self-willed and tenacious of rights and opinions to
come together in a union so sacred and so intimate. But, after I had
become his wife, after I had taken upon myself such holy vows, it was
my duty to stand fast. I could not abandon my place and be innocent
before God and man. And I am not innocent, Rose."
The face of Irene was strongly agitated for some moments; but she
recovered herself and went on:
"I am speaking of things that have hitherto been secrets of my own
heart. I could not bring them out even for you to look at, my
dearest, truest, best of friends. Now it seems as if I could not bear
the weight of my heavy thoughts alone; as if, in admitting you beyond
the veil, I might find strength to suffer, if not ease from pain.
There is no such thing as living our lives over again and correcting
their great errors. The past is an irrevocable fact. Ah, if conscience
would sleep, if struggles for a better life would make atonement for
wrong—then, as our years progress, we might lapse into tranquil
states. But gradually clearing vision increases the magnitude of a
fault like mine, for its fatal consequences are seen in broader light.
There is a thought which has haunted me for a year past like a
spectre. It comes to me unbidden; sometimes to disturb the quiet of my
lonely evenings, sometimes in the silent night-watches to banish sleep
from my pillow; sometimes to place silence on my lips as I sit among
cherished friends. I never imagined that I would put this thought in
words for any mortal ear; yet it is coming to my lips now, and I feel
impelled to go on. You believe that there are, as you call them
'conjugal partners,' or men and women born for each other, who, in a
true marriage of souls, shall become eternally one. They do not always
meet in this life; nay, for the sake of that discipline which leads to
purification, may form other and uncongenial ties in the world, and
live unhappily; but in heaven they will draw together by a
divinely-implanted attraction, and be there united for ever. I have
felt that something like this must be true; that every soul must have
its counterpart. The thought which has so haunted me is, that Hartley
Emerson and unhappy I were born for each other."
She paused and looked with a half-startled air upon Mrs. Everet to
mark the effect of this revelation. But Rose made no response and
showed no surprise, however she might have been affected by the
singular admission of her friend.
"It has been all in vain," continued Irene "that I have pushed the
thought aside—called it absurd, insane, impossible—back it would
come and take its old place. And, stranger still, out of facts that I
educed to prove its fallacy would come corroborative suggestions. I
think it is well for my peace of mind that I have not been in the way
of hearing about him or of seeing him. Since we parted it has been as
if a dark curtain had fallen between us; and, so far as I am
concerned, that curtain has been lifted up but once or twice, and
then only for a moment of time. So all my thoughts of him are joined
to the past. Away back in that sweet time when the heart of girlhood
first thrills with the passion of love are some memories that haunt
my soul like dreams from Elysium. He was, in my eyes, the
impersonation of all that was lovely and excellent; his presence made
my sense of happiness complete; his voice touched my ears as the
blending of all rich harmonies. But there fell upon him a shadow;
there came hard discords in the music which had entranced my soul; the
fine gold was dimmed. Then came that period of mad strife, of blind
antagonism, in which we hurt each other by rough contact. Finally, we
were driven far asunder, and, instead of revolving together around a
common centre, each has moved in a separate orbit. For years that dark
period of pain has held the former period of brightness in eclipse;
but of late gleams from that better time have made their way down to
the present. Gradually the shadows are giving away. The first state is
coming to be felt more and more as the true state—as that in best
agreement with what we are in relation to each other. It was the evil
in us that met in such fatal antagonism—not the good; it was
something that we must put off if we would rise from natural and
selfish life into spiritual and heavenly life. It was our selfishness
and passion that drove us asunder. Thus it is, dear Rose, that my
thoughts have been wandering about in the maze of life that entangles
me. In my isolation I have time enough for mental inversion—for
self-exploration—for idle fancies, if you will. And so I have lifted
the veil for you; uncovered my inner life; taken you into the
sanctuary over whose threshold no foot but my own had ever passed."
There was too much in all this for Mrs. Everet to venture upon any
reply that involved suggestion or advice. It was from a desire to
look deeper into the heart of her friend that she had spoken of her
meeting with Mr. Emerson. The glance she obtained revealed far more
than her imagination had ever reached.
CHAPTER XXVI. LOVE NEVER DIES.
THE brief meeting with Mrs. Everet had stirred the memory of
old times in the heart of Mr. Emerson. With a vividness unknown for
years, Ivy Cliff and the sweetness of many life-passages there came
back to him, and set heart-pulses that he had deemed stilled for ever
beating in tumultuous waves. When the business of the day was over he
sat down in the silence of his chamber and turned his eyes inward. He
pushed aside intervening year after year, until the long-ago past was,
to his consciousness, almost as real as the living present. What he
saw moved him deeply. He grew restless, then showed disturbance of
manner. There was an effort to turn away from the haunting fascination
of this long-buried, but now exhumed period; but the dust and scoria
were removed, and it lifted, like another Pompeii, its desolate walls
and silent chambers in the clear noon-rays of the present.
After a long but fruitless effort to bury the past again, to let
the years close over it as the waves close over a treasure-laden ship,
Mr. Emerson gave himself up to its thronging memories and let them
bear him whither they would.
In this state of mind he unlocked one of the drawers in a secretary
and took therefrom a small box or casket. Placing this on a table, he
sat down and looked at it for some minutes, as if in doubt whether it
were best for him to go further in this direction. Whether satisfied
or not, he presently laid his fingers upon the lid of the casket and
slowly opened it. It contained only a morocco case. He touched this as
if it were something precious and sacred. For some moments after it
was removed he sat holding it in his hand and looking at the dark,
blank surface, as a long-expected letter is sometimes held before the
seal is broken and the contents devoured with impatient eagerness. At
last his finger pressed the spring on which it had been resting, and
he looked upon a young, sweet face, whose eyes gazed back into his
with a living tenderness. In a little while his hand so trembled, and
his eyes grew so dim, that the face was veiled from his sight. Closing
the miniature, but still retaining it in his hand, he leaned back in
his chair and remained motionless, with shut eyes, for a long time;
then he looked at the fair young face again, conning over every
feature and expression, until sad memories came in and veiled it again
"Folly! weakness!" he said at last, pushing the picture from him
and making a feeble effort to get back his manly self-possession. "The
past is gone for ever. The page on which its sad history is written
was closed long ago, and the book is sealed. Why unclasp the volume
and search for that dark record again?"
Yet, even as he said this, his hand reached out for the miniature,
and his eyes were on it ere the closing words had parted from his
"Poor Irene!" he murmured, as he gazed on her pictured face. "You
had a pure, tender, loving heart—" then, suddenly shutting the
miniature, with a sharp click of the spring, he tossed it from him
upon the table and said,
"This is folly! folly! folly!" and, leaning back in his chair, he
shut his eyes and sat for a long time with his brows sternly knitted
together and his lips tightly compressed. Rising, at length, he
restored the miniature to its casket, and the casket to its place in
the drawer. A servant came to the door at this moment, bringing the
compliments of a lady friend, who asked him, if not engaged, to favor
her with his company on that evening, as she had a visitor, just
arrived, to whom she wished to introduce him. He liked the lady, who
was the wife of a legal friend, very well; but he was not always so
well pleased with her lady friends, of whom she had a large circle.
The fact was, she considered him too fine a man to go through life
companionless, and did not hesitate to use every art in her power to
draw him into an entangling alliance. He saw this, and was often more
amused than annoyed by her finesse.
It was on his lips to send word that he was engaged, but a regard
for truth would not let him make this excuse; so, after a little
hesitation and debate, he answered that he would present himself
during the evening. The lady's visitor was a widow of about thirty
years of age—rich, educated, accomplished and personally attractive.
She was from Boston, and connected with one of the most distinguished
families in Massachusetts, whose line of ancestry ran back among the
nobles of England. In conversation this lady showed herself to be
rarely gifted, and there was a charm about her manners that was
irresistible. Mr. Emerson, who had been steadily during the past five
years growing less and less attracted by the fine women he met in
society, found himself unusually interested in Mrs. Eager.
"I knew you would like her," said his lady friend, as Mr. Emerson
was about retiring at eleven o'clock.
"You take your conclusion for granted," he answered, smiling. "Did
I say that I liked her?"
"We ladies have eyes," was the laughing rejoinder. "Of course you
like her. She's going to spend three or four days with me. You'll
drop in to-morrow evening. Now don't pretend that you have an
engagement. Come; I want you to know her better. I think her
Mr. Emerson did not promise positively, but said that he might look
in during the evening.
For a new acquaintance, Mrs. Eager had attracted him strongly; and
his thoughtful friend was not disappointed in her expectation of
seeing him at her house on the succeeding night. Mrs. Eager, to whom
the lady she was visiting had spoken of Mr. Emerson in terms of
almost extravagant eulogy, was exceedingly well pleased with him, and
much gratified at meeting him again, A second interview gave both an
opportunity for closer observation, and when they parted it was with
pleasant thoughts of each other lingering in their minds. During the
time that Mrs. Eager remained in New York, which was prolonged for a
week beyond the period originally fixed, Mr. Emerson saw her almost
every day, and became her voluntary escort in visiting points of local
interest. The more he saw of her the more he was charmed with her
character. She seemed in his eyes the most attractive woman he had
ever met. Still, there was something about her that did not wholly
satisfy him, though what it was did not come into perception.
Five years had passed since any serious thought of marriage had
troubled the mind of Mr. Emerson. After his meeting with Irene he had
felt that another union in this world was not for him—that he had no
right to exchange vows of eternal fidelity with any other woman. She
had remained unwedded, and would so remain, he felt, to the end of her
life. The legal contract between them was dissolved; but, since his
brief talk with the stranger on the boat, he had not felt so clear as
to the higher law obligations which were upon them. And so he had
settled it in his mind to bear life's burdens alone.
But Mrs. Eager had crossed his way, and filled, in many respects,
his ideal of a woman. There was a charm about her that won him
against all resistance.
"Don't let this opportunity pass," said his interested lady friend,
as the day of Mrs. Eager's departure drew nigh. "She is a woman in a
thousand, and will make one of the best of wives. Think, too, of her
social position, her wealth and her large cultivation. An opportunity
like this is never presented more than once in a lifetime."
"You speak," replied Mr. Emerson, "as if I had only to say the word
and this fair prize would drop into my arms."
"She will have to be wooed if she is won. Were this not the case
she would not be worth having," said the lady. "But my word for it, if
you turn wooer the winning will not be hard. If I have not erred in
my observation, you are about mutually interested. There now, my
cautious sir, if you do not get handsomely provided for, it will be
no fault of mine."
In two days from this time Mrs. Eager was to return to Boston.
"You must take her to see those new paintings at the rooms of the
Society Library to-morrow. I heard her express a desire to examine
them before returning to Boston. Connoisseurs are in ecstasies over
three or four of the pictures, and, as Mrs. Eager is something of an
enthusiast in matters of art, your favor in this will give her no
"I shall be most happy to attend her," replied Mr. Emerson. "Give
her my compliments, and say that, if agreeable to herself, I will
call for her at twelve to-morrow."
"No verbal compliments and messages," replied the lady; "that isn't
just the way."
"How then? Must I call upon her and deliver my message? That might
not be convenient to me nor agreeable to her."
"Oh!" ejaculated the lady, with affected impatience, "you men are
so stupid at times! You know how to write?"
"Ah! yes, I comprehend you now."
"Very well. Send your compliments and your message in a note; and
let it be daintily worded; not in heavy phrases, like a legal
"A very princess in feminine diplomacy!" said Mr. Emerson to
himself, as he turned from the lady and took his way homeward. "So I
must pen a note."
Now this proved a more difficult matter than he had at first
thought. He sat down to the task immediately on returning to his
room. On a small sheet of tinted note-paper he wrote a few words, but
they did not please him, and the page was thrown into the fire. He
tried again, but with no better success—again and again; but still,
as he looked at the brief sentences, they seemed to express too much
or too little. Unable to pen the note to his satisfaction, he pushed,
at last, his writing materials aside, saying,
"My head will be clearer and cooler in the morning."
It was drawing on to midnight, and Mr. Emerson had not yet retired.
His thoughts were too busy for sleep. Many things were crowding into
his mind—questions, doubts, misgivings—scenes from the past and
imaginations of the future. And amid them all came in now and then,
just for a moment, as he had seen it five years before, the pale,
still face of Irene.
Wearied in the conflict, tired nature at last gave way, and Mr.
Emerson fell asleep in his chair.
Two hours of deep slumber tranquilized his spirit. He awoke from
this, put off his clothing and laid his head on his pillow. It was
late in the morning when he arose. He had no difficulty now in
penning a note to Mrs. Eager. It was the work of a moment, and
satisfactory to him in the first effort.
At twelve he called with a carriage for the lady, whom he found all
ready to accompany him, and in the best possible state of mind. Her
smile, as he presented himself, was absolutely fascinating; and her
voice seemed like a freshly-tuned instrument, every tone was so rich
in musical vibration, and all the tones came chorded to his ear.
There were not many visitors at the exhibition rooms—a score,
perhaps—but they were art-lovers, gazing in rapt attention or
talking in hushed whispers. They moved about noiselessly here and
there, seeming scarcely conscious that others were present. Gradually
the number increased, until within an hour after they entered it was
more than doubled. Still, the presence of art subdued all into silence
or subdued utterances.
Emerson was charmed with his companion's appreciative admiration of
many pictures. She was familiar with art-terms and special points of
interest, and pointed out beauties and harmonies that to him were
dead letters without an interpreter. They came, at last, to a small
but wonderfully effective picture, which contained a single figure,
that of a man sitting by a table in a room which presented the
appearance of a library. He held a letter in his hand—a old letter;
the artist had made this plain—but was not reading. He had been
reading; but the words, proving conjurors, had summoned the dead past
before him, and he was now looking far away, with sad, dreamy eyes,
into the long ago. A casket stood open. Time letter had evidently been
taken from this repository. There was a miniature; a bracelet of
auburn hair; a ring and a chain of gold lying on the table. Mr.
Emerson turned to the catalogue and read,
"WITH THE BURIED PAST."
And below this title the brief sentiment—
"Love never dies."
A deep, involuntary sigh came through his lips and stirred the
pulseless air around him. Then, like an echo, there came to his ears
an answering sigh, and, turning, he looked into the face of Irene!
She had entered the rooms a little while before, and in passing from
picture to picture had reached this one a few moments after Mr.
Emerson. She had not observed him, and was just beginning to feel its
meaning, when the sigh that attested its power over him reached her
ears and awakened an answering sigh. For several moments their eyes
were fixed in a gaze which neither had power to withdraw. The face of
Irene had grown thinner, paler and more shadowy—if we may use that
term to express something not of the earth, earthy—than it was when
he looked upon it five years before. But her eyes were darker in
contrast with her colorless face, and had a deeper tone of feeling.
They did not speak nor pass a sign of recognition. But the instant
their eyes withdrew from each other Irene turned from the picture and
left the rooms.
When Mr. Emerson looked back into the face of his companion, its
charm was gone. Beside that of the fading countenance, so still and
nun-like, upon which he had gazed a moment before, it looked coarse
and worldly. When she spoke, her tones no longer came in chords of
music to his ears, but jarred upon his feelings. He grew silent;
cold, abstracted. The lady noted the change, and tried to rally him;
but her efforts were vain. He moved by her side like an automaton,
and listened to her comments on the pictures they paused to examine
in such evident absent-mindedness that she became annoyed, and
proposed returning home. Mr. Emerson made no objection, and they left
the quiet picture-gallery for the turbulence of Broadway. The ride
home was a silent one, and they separated in mutual embarrassment, Mr.
Emerson going back to his rooms instead of to his office, and sitting
down in loneliness there, with a shuddering sense of thankfulness at
his heart for the danger he had just escaped.
"What a blind spell was on me!" he said, as he gazed away down into
his soul—far, far deeper than any tone or look from Mrs. Eager had
penetrated—and saw needs, states and yearnings there which must be
filled or there could be no completeness of life. And now the still,
pale face of Irene stood out distinctly; and her deep, weird,
yearning eyes looked into his with a fixed intentness that stirred
his heart to its profoundest depths.
Mr. Emerson was absent from his office all that day. But on the
next morning he was at his post, and it would have taken a close
observer to have detected any change in his usually quiet face. But
there was a change in the man—a great change. He had gone down deeper
into his heart than he had ever gone before, and understood himself
better. There was little danger of his ever being tempted again in
CHAPTER XXVII. EFFECTS OF THE STORM.
IT was more than a week before Mr. Emerson called again upon
the lady friend who had shown so strong a desire to procure him a
wife. He expected her to introduce the name of Mrs. Eager, and came
prepared to talk in a way that would for ever close the subject of
marriage between them. The lady expressed surprise at not having seen
him for so long a time, and then introduced the subject nearest her
"What was the matter with you and Mrs. Eager?" she asked, her face
Mr. Emerson shook his head, and said, "Nothing," with not a shadow
of concern in his voice.
"Nothing? Think again. I could hardly have been deceived."
"Why do you ask? Did the lady charge anything ungallant against
Mr. Emerson was unmoved.
"Oh no, no! She scarcely mentioned your name after her return from
viewing the pictures. But she was not in so bright a humor as when
she went out, and was dull up to the hour of her departure for
Boston. I'm afraid you offended her in some way—unconsciously on
your part, of course."
"No, I think not," said Mr. Emerson. "She would be sensitive in the
extreme if offended by any word or act of mine."
"Well, letting that all pass, Mr. Emerson, what do you think of
"That she is an attractive and highly accomplished woman."
"And the one who reaches your ideal of a wife?"
"No, ma'am," was the unhesitating answer, and made in so emphatic a
tone that there was no mistaking his sincerity. There was a change in
his countenance and manner. He looked unusually serious.
The lady tried to rally him, but he had come in too sober a state
of mind for pleasant trifling on this subject, of all others.
"My kind, good friend," he said, "I owe you many thanks for the
interest you have taken in me, and for your efforts to get me a
companion. But I do not intend to marry."
"So you have said—"
"Pardon me for interrupting you." Mr. Emerson checked the light
speech that was on her tongue. "I am going to say to you some things
that have never passed my lips before. You will understand me; this I
know, or I would not let a sentence come into utterance. And I know
more, that you will not make light of what to me is sacred."
The lady was sobered in a moment.
"To make light of what to you is sacred would be impossible," she
"I believe it, and therefore I am going to speak of things that are
to me the saddest of my life, and yet are coming to involve the
holiest sentiments. I have more than one reason for desiring now to
let another look below the quiet surface; and I will lift the veil
for your eyes alone. You know that I was married nearly twenty years
ago, and that my wife separated herself from me in less than three
years after our union; and you also know that the separation was made
permanent by a divorce. This is all that you or any other one knows,
so far as I have made communication on the subject; and I have reason
to believe that she who was my wife has been as reserved in the matter
"The simple facts in the case are these: We were both young and
undisciplined, both quick-tempered, self-willed, and very much
inclined to have things our own way. She was an only child, and so
was I. Each had been spoiled by long self-indulgence. So, when we
came together in marriage, the action of our lives, instead of taking
a common pulsation, was inharmonious. For a few years we strove
together blindly in our bonds, and then broke madly asunder. I think
we were about equally in fault; but if there was a preponderance of
blame, it rested on my side, for, as a man, I should have kept a
cooler head and shown greater forbearance. But the time for blame has
long since passed. It is with the stern, irrevocable facts that we are
"So bitter had been our experience, and so painful the shock of
separation, that I think a great many years must have passed before
repentance came into either heart—before a feeling of regret that we
had not held fast to our marriage vows was born. How it was with me
you may infer from the fact that, after the lapse of two years, I
deliberately asked for and obtained a divorce on the ground of
desertion. But doubt as to the propriety of this step stirred
uneasily in my mind for the first time when I held the decree in my
hand; and I have never felt wholly satisfied with myself since. There
should be something deeper than incompatibility of temper to warrant a
divorce. The parties should correct what is wrong in themselves, and
thus come into harmony. There is no excuse for pride, passion and
self-will. The law of God does not make these justifiable causes of
divorce, and neither should the law of man. A purer woman than my wife
never lived; and she had elements of character that promised a rare
development. I was proud of her. Ah, if I had been wiser and more
patient! If I had endeavored to lead, instead of assuming the manly
prerogative! But I was young, and blind, and willful!
"Fifteen years have passed since the day we parted, and each has
remained single. If we had not separated, we might now be living in a
true heart-union; for I believe, strange as it may sound to you, that
we were made for each other—that, when the false and evil of our
lives are put off, the elements of conjunction will appear. We have
made for ourselves of this world a dreary waste, when, if we had
overcome the evil of our hearts, our paths would have been through
green and fragrant places. It may be happier for us in the next; and
it will be. I am a better man, I think, for the discipline through
which I have passed, and she is a better woman."
Mr. Emerson paused.
"She? Have you seen her?" the lady asked.
"Twice since we parted, and then only for a moment. Suddenly each
time we met, and looked into each other's eyes for a single instant;
then, as if a curtain had dropped suddenly between us, we were
separated. But the impression of her face remained as vivid and
permanent as a sun-picture. She lives, for most of her time, secluded
at Ivy Cliff, her home on the Hudson; and her life is passed there, I
hear, in doing good. And, if good deeds, from right ends, write their
history on the human face, then her countenance bears the record of
tenderest charities. It was pale when I last saw it—pale, but
spiritual—I can use no other word; and I felt a sudden panic at the
thought that she was growing into a life so pure and heavenly that I
must stand afar off as unworthy. It had sometimes come into my thought
that we were approaching each other, as both put off, more and more,
the evil which had driven us apart and held us so long asunder. But
this illusion our last brief meeting dispelled. She has passed me on
the road of self-discipline and self-abnegation, and is journeying far
ahead. And now I can but follow through life at a distance.
"So much, and no more, my friend. I drop the veil over my heart.
You will understand me better hereafter. I shall not marry. That legal
divorce is invalid. I could not perjure my soul by vows of fidelity
toward another. Patiently and earnestly will I do my allotted work
here. My better hopes lie all in the heavenly future.
"And now, my friend, we will understand each other better. You have
looked deeper into my thoughts and experiences than any other human
being. Let the revelation be sacred to yourself. The knowledge you
possess may enable you to do me justice sometimes, and sometimes to
save me from an intrusion of themes that cannot but touch me
unpleasantly. There was a charm about Mrs. Eager that, striking me
suddenly, for a little while bewildered my fancy. She is a woman of
rare endowments, and I do not regret the introduction and passing
influence she exercised over me. It was a dream from which the
awakening was certain. Suddenly the illusion vanished, as I saw her
beside my lost Irene. The one was of the earth, earthy—the other of
heaven, heavenly; and as I looked back into her brilliant face,
radiant with thought and feeling, I felt a low, creeping shudder, as
if just freed from the spell of a siren. I cannot be enthralled
again, even for a moment."
Back again into his world's work Mr. Emerson returned after this
brief, exciting episode, and found in its performance from high and
honorable motives that calmly sustaining power which comes only as
the reward of duties faithfully done.
CHAPTER XXVIII. AFTER THE STORM.
AFTER the storm! How long the treasure remained buried in
deep waters! How long the earth showed unsightly furrows and barren
places! For nearly twenty years there had been warm sunshine, and no
failure of the dews nor the early and latter rain. But grass had not
grown nor flowers blossomed in the path of that desolating tempest.
Nearly twenty years! If the history of these two lives during that
long period could be faithfully written, it would flood the soul with
Four years later than the time when we last presented Irene to the
reader we introduce her again. That meeting in the picture-gallery
had disturbed profoundly the quiet pulses of her life. She did not
observe Mr. Emerson's companion. The picture alone had attracted her
attention; and she had just began to feel its meaning when an audible
sigh reached her ears. The answering sigh was involuntary. Then they
looked into each other's faces again—only for an instant—but with
what a volume of mutual revelations!
It was four years subsequent to this time that Irene, after a brief
visit in New York to her friend, Mrs. Everet, returned to her rural
home. Mrs. Everet was to follow on the next day, and spend a few
weeks with her father. It was yet in the early summer, and there were
not many passengers on the-boat. As was usual, Irene provided herself
with a volume, and soon after going on board took a retired place in
one of the cabins and buried herself in its pages. For over three
hours she remained completely absorbed in what she was reading. Then
her mind began to wander and dwell on themes that made the even pulses
of her heart beat to a quicker measure; yet still her eyes remained
fixed on the book she held in her hand. At length she became aware
that some one was near her, by the falling of a shadow on the page she
was trying to read. Lifting her head, she met the eyes of Hartley
Emerson. He was standing close to her, his hand resting on the back of
a chair, which he now drew nearly in front of her.
"Irene," he said, in a low, quiet voice, "I am glad to meet you
again in this world." And he reached out his hand as he spoke.
For a moment Irene sat very still, but she did not take her eyes
from Mr. Emerson's face; then she extended her hand and let it lie in
his. He did not fail to notice that it had a low tremor.
Thus received, he sat down.
"Nearly twenty years have passed, Irene, since a word or sign has
passed between us."
Her lips moved, but there was no utterance.
"Why should we not, at least, be friends?"
Her lips moved again, but no words trembled on the air.
"Friends, that may meet now and then, and feel kindly one toward
His voice was still event in tone—very even, but very distinct and
At first Irene's face had grown pale, but now a warm flush was
"If you desire it, Hartley," she answered, in a voice that trembled
in the beginning, but grew firm ere the sentence closed, "it is not
for me to say, 'No.' As for kind feelings, they are yours
always—always. The bitterness passed from my heart long ago."
"And from mine," said Mr. Emerson.
They were silent for a few moments, and each showed embarrassment.
"Nearly twenty years! That is a long, long time, Irene." His voice
showed signs of weakness.
"Yes, it is a long time." It was a mere echo of his words, yet full
"Twenty years!" he repeated. "There has been full time for
reflection, and, it may be, for repentance. Time for growing wiser
Irene's eyelids drooped until the long lashes lay in a dark fringed
line on her pale cheeks. When she lifted them they were wet.
"Yes, Hartley," she answered with much feeling, "there has been,
indeed, time for reflection and repentance. It is no light thing to
shadow the whole life of a human being."
"As I have shadowed yours."
"No, no," she answered quickly, "I did not mean that; as I have
She could not veil the tender interest that was in her eyes; would
not, perhaps, if it had been in her power.
At this moment a bell rang out clear and loud. Irene started and
glanced from the window; then, rising quickly, she said—
"We are at the landing."
There was a hurried passage from cabin to deck, a troubled
confusion of thought, a brief period of waiting, and then Irene stood
on the shore and Hartley Emerson on the receding vessel. In a few
hours miles of space lay between them.
"Irene, darling," said Mrs. Everet, as they met at Ivy Cliff on the
next day, "how charming you look! This pure, sweet, bracing air has
beautified you like a cosmetic. Your cheeks are warm and your eyes
are full of light. It gives me gladness of heart to see in your face
something of the old look that faded from it years ago."
Irene drew her arm around her friend and kissed her lovingly.
"Come and sit down here in the library. I have something to tell
you," she answered, "that will make your heart beat quicker, as it
"I have met him," she said, as they sat down and looked again into
each other's faces.
"He who was my husband. Met him face to face; touched his hand;
listened to his voice; almost felt his heart beat against mine. Oh,
Rose darling, it has sent the blood bounding in new life through my
veins. He was on the boat yesterday, and came to me as I sat reading.
We talked together for a few minutes, when our landing was reached,
and we parted. But in those few minutes my poor heart had more
happiness than it has known for twenty years. We are at peace. He
asked why we might not be as friends who could meet now and then, and
feel kindly toward each other? God bless him for the words! After a
long, long night of tears, the sweet morning has broken!"
And Irene laid her head down against Rose, hiding her face and
weeping from excess of joy.
"What a pure, true, manly face he has!" she continued, looking up
with swimming eyes. "How full it is of thought and feeling! You
called him my husband just now, Rose. My husband!" The light went
back from her face. "Not for time, but—" and she glanced upward,
with eyes full of hope—"for the everlasting ages! Oh is it not a
great gain to have met here in forgiveness of the past—to have
looked kindly into each other's faces—to have spoken words that
What could Rose say to all this? Irene had carried her out of her
depth. The even tenor of her life-experiences gave no deep sea-line
that could sound these waters. And so she sat silent, bewildered and
Margaret came to the library, and, opening the door, looked in.
There was a surprised expression on her face.
"What is it?" Irene asked.
"A gentleman has called, Miss Irene."
"Yes, miss; and wants to see you."
"Did he send his name?"
"Do you know him, Margaret?"
"I can't say, miss, for certain, but—" she stopped.
"But what, Margaret?"
"It may be just my thought, miss; but he looks for all the world as
if he might be—"
She paused again.
"I can't say it, Miss Irene, no how, and I won't. But the gentleman
asked for you. What shall I tell him?"
"That I will see him in a moment," answered Irene.
The face of Irene, which flushed at first, now became pale as
ashes. A wild hope trembled in her heart.
"Excuse me for a few minutes," she said to Mrs. Everet, and,
rising, left the room.
It was as Irene had supposed. On entering the parlor, a gentleman
advanced to meet her, and she stood face to face with Hartley
"Irene," he said, extending his hand.
"Hartley," fell in an irrepressible throb from her lips as she put
her hand in his.
"I could not return to New York without seeing you again," said Mr.
Emerson, as he stood holding the hand of Irene. "We met so briefly,
and were thrown apart again so suddenly, that some things I meant to
say were left unspoken."
He led her to a seat and sat down beside her, still looking
intently in her face. Irene was far from being as calm as when they
sat together the day before. A world of new hopes had sprung up in her
heart since then. She had lain half asleep and half awake nearly all
night, in a kind of delicious dream, from which the morning awoke her
with a cold chill of reality. She had dreamed again since the sun had
risen; and now the dream was changing into the actual.
"Have I done wrong in this, Irene?" he asked.
And she answered,
"No, it is a pleasure to meet you, Hartley."
She had passed through years of self-discipline, and the power
acquired during this time came to her aid. And so she was able to
answer with womanly dignity. It was a pleasure to meet him there, and
she said so.
"There are some things in the past, Irene," said Mr. Emerson, "of
which I must speak, now that I can do so. There are confessions that
I wish to make. Will you hear me?"
"Better," answered Irene, "let the dead past bury its dead."
"I do not seek to justify myself, but you, Irene."
"You cannot alter the estimate I have made of my own conduct," she
replied. "A bitter stream does not flow from a sweet fountain. That
dead, dark, hopeless past! Let it sleep if it will!"
"And what, then, of the future?" asked Mr. Emerson.
"Of the future!" The question startled her. She looked at him with
a glance of eager inquiry.
"Yes, of the future, Irene. Shall it be as the past? or have we
both come up purified from the fire? Has it consumed the dross, and
left only the fine gold? I can believe it in your case, and hope that
it is so in mine. But this I do know, Irene: after suffering and trial
have done their work of abrasion, and I get down to the pure metal of
my heart, I find that your image is fixed there in the imperishable
substance. I did not hope to meet you again in this world as now—to
look into your face, to hold your hand, to listen to your voice as I
have done this day—but I have felt that God was fitting us through
earthly trial, for a heavenly union. We shall be one hereafter, dear
Irene—one and for ever!"
The strong man broke down. His voice fell into low sobs—tears
blinded his vision. He groped about for the hand of Irene, found it,
and held it wildly to his lips.
Was it for a loving woman to hold back coldly now? No, no, no! That
"My husband!" she said, tenderly and reverently, as she placed her
saintly lips on his forehead.
There was a touching ceremonial at Ivy Cliff on the next day—one
never to be forgotten by the few who were witnesses. A white-haired
minister—the same who, more than twenty years before, had said to
Hartley Emerson and Irene Delancy, "May your lives flow together like
two pure streams that meet in the same valley,"—again joined their
hands and called them "husband and wife." The long, dreary,
tempestuous night had passed away, and the morning arisen in
brightness and beauty.