by Augusta Jane Evans Wilson
CHAPTER III. THE
CHAPTER V. IRENE
IS SENT AWAY
MASTER AND PUPIL
CHAPTER VII. NEW
CHAPTER VIII. A
CHAPTER IX. AN
CHAPTER XII. A
CHAPTER XIV. THE
CLOSE OF THE
CHAPTER XV. AT
CHAPTER XVI. THE
CHAPTER XVIII. A
CHAPTER XX. A
CHAPTER XXI. THE
CHAPTER XXIX. A
CHAPTER XXX. THE
IN THE HOSPITAL
CHAPTER I. RUSSELL AUBREY
The town-clock was on the last stroke of twelve, the solitary candle
measured but two inches from its socket, and as the summer wind rushed
through the half-closed shutters, the melted tallow dripped slowly into
the brightly-burnished brazen candlestick. The flickering light fell
upon the pages of a ledger, and flashed fitfully in the face of the
accountant, as he bent over his work. Sixteen years growth had given
him unusual height and remarkable breadth of chest, and it was
difficult to realize that the stature of manhood had been attained by a
mere boy in years. A grey suit (evidently home-made), of rather coarse
texture, bespoke poverty; and, owing to the oppressive heat of the
atmosphere, the coat was thrown partially off. He wore no vest, and the
loosely-tied black ribbon suffered the snowy white collar to fall away
from the throat and expose its well-turned outline. The head was large,
but faultlessly proportioned, and the thick black hair, cut short and
clinging to the temples, added to its massiveness. The lofty forehead,
white and smooth, the somewhat heavy brows matching the hue of the
hair, the straight, finely-formed nose with its delicate but clearly
defined nostril, the full firm lips unshaded by moustache, combined to
render the face one of uncommon beauty. Yet, as he sat absorbed by his
figures, there was nothing prepossessing or winning in his appearance,
for though you could not carp at the moulding of his features, you
involuntarily shrank from the prematurely grave, nay, austere
expression which seemed habitual to them. He looked just what he was,
youthful in years, but old in trials and labours, and to one who
analysed his countenance, the conviction was inevitable that his will
was gigantic, his ambition unbounded, his intellect wonderfully acute
Russell, do you know it is midnight?
He frowned, and answered without looking up
How much longer will you sit up?
Till I finish my work.
The speaker stood on the threshold, leaning against the door facing,
and, after waiting a few moments, softly crossed the room and put her
hand on the back of his chair. She was two years his junior, and though
evidently the victim of recent and severe illness, even in her
feebleness she was singularly like him. Her presence seemed to annoy
him, for he turned round and said hastily: Electra, go to bed. I told
you good-night three hours ago.
She stood still, but silent.
What do you want?
He wrote on for some ten minutes longer, then closed the ledger and
put it aside. The candle had burned low; he took a fresh one from the
drawer of the table, and, after lighting it, drew a Latin dictionary
near to him, opened a worn copy of Horace, and began to study. Quiet as
his own shadow stood the fragile girl behind his chair, but as she
watched him a heavy sigh escaped her.
If I thought I should be weak and sickly all my life I would rather
die at once, and burden you and auntie no longer.
Electra, who told you that you burdened me?
Oh, Russell! don't I know how hard you have to work; and how
difficult it is for you to get even bread and clothes? Don't I see how
auntie labours day after day, and month after month? You are good and
kind, but does that prevent my feeling the truth, that you are working
for me too? If I could only help you in some way. She knelt down by
his chair and leaned her head on his knee, holding his hands between
Electra, you do help me; all day long when I am at the store your
face haunts, strengthens me; I feel that I am striving to give you
comforts, and when at night you meet me at the gate, I am repaid for
all I have done. You must put this idea out of your head, little one;
it is altogether a mistake. Do you hear what I say? Get up, and go to
sleep like a good child, or you will have another wretched headache
to-morrow, and can't bring me my lunch.
He lifted her from the floor, and kissed her hastily. She raised her
arms as if to wind them about his neck, but his grave face gave her no
encouragement, and turning away she retired to her room, with hot tears
rolling over her cheeks. Russell had scarcely read half a dozen lines
after his cousin's departure when a soft hand swept back the locks of
hair on his forehead, and wiped away the heavy drops that moistened
My son, you promised me you would not sit up late to-night.
Well, mother, I have almost finished. Remember the nights are very
short now, and twelve o'clock comes early.
The better reason that you should not be up so late. My son, I am
afraid you will ruin your health by this unremitting application.
Whylook at me. I am as strong as an athlete of old. He shook his
limbs and smiled, proud of his great physical strength.
True, Russell; but, robust as you are, you cannot stand such toil
without detriment. Put up your books.
Not yet; I have more laid out, and you know I invariably finish all
I set apart to do. But, mother, your hand is hot; you are not well. He
raised the thin hand, and pressed it to his lips.
A mere headache, nothing more. Mr. Clark was here to-day; he is
very impatient about the rent. I told him we were doing all we could,
and thought that by September we should be able to pay the whole. He
knew she watched him, and answered with a forced smile. Yes, he came
to the store this morning. I told him we had been very unfortunate this
year, that sickness had forced us to incur more expense than usual.
However, I drew fifty dollars, and paid him all I could. True, I
anticipated my dues, but Mr. Watson gave me permission. So for the
present you need not worry about rent.
What is the amount of that grocery bill you would not let me see
My dear mother, do not trouble yourself with these little matters;
the grocery bill will very soon be paid. I have arranged with Mr. Hill
to keep his books at night, and therefore, you may be easy. Trust all
to me, mother; only take care of your dear self, and I ask no more.
Oh, Russell! my son, my dear son!
She had drawn a chair near him, and now laid her head on his
shoulder, while tears dropped on his hand. He had not seen her so
unnerved for years, and as he looked down on her grief-stained, yet
resigned face, his countenance underwent a marvellous change; and,
folding his arms about her, he kissed her pale, thin cheek repeatedly.
Mother, it is not like you to repine in this way; you who have
suffered and endured so much must not despond when, after a long,
starless night, the day begins to dawn.
I fear 'it dawns in clouds, and heralds only storms.' For myself I
care not, but for you, Russellmy pride, my only hope, my brave boy?
it is for you that I suffer. I have been thinking to-night that this is
a doomed place for you, and that if we could only save money enough to
go to California, you might take the position you merit; for there none
would know of the blight which fell upon you; none could look on your
brow and dream it seemed sullied. Here you have such bitter prejudice
to combat; such gross injustice heaped upon you.
He lifted his mother's head from his bosom, and rose, with a
haughty, defiant smile on his lip.
Not so; I will stay here, and live down their hate. Mark me,
mother, I will live it down, so surely as I am Russell Aubrey, the
despised son of a ! Go to California! not I! not I! In this state
will I work and conquer; here, right here, I will plant my feet upon
the necks of those that now strive to grind me to the dust. I swore it
over my father's coffin!
Hush, Russell, you must subdue your fierce temper; you must! you
must! Remember it was this ungovernable rage which brought disgrace
upon your young, innocent head. Oh! it grieves me, my son, to see how
bitter you have grown. Once you were gentle and forgiving; now scorn
and defiance rule you.
I am not fierce, I am not in a rage. If I should meet the judge and
jury who doomed my father to the gallows, I think I would serve them if
they needed aid. But I am proud; I inherited my nature; I writhe, yes,
mother, writhe under the treatment I constantly receive.
We have trouble enough, my son, without dwelling upon what is past
and irremediable. So long as you seem cheerful I am content. I know
that God will not lay more on me than I can bear; 'As my day so shall
my strength be.' Thy will be done, oh! my God.
There was a brief pause, and Russell Aubrey passed his hand over his
eyes, and dashed off a tear. His mother watched him, and said
Have you noticed that my eyes are rapidly growing worse?
Yes, mother, I have been anxious for some weeks.
You know it all then?
I shall not murmur; I have become resigned at last; though for many
weeks I have wrestled for strength, for patience. It was so exceedingly
bitter to know that the time drew near when I should see you no more;
to feel that I should stretch out my hands to you, and lean on you, and
yet look no longer on the dear face of my child, my boy, my all. But my
prayers were heard; the sting has passed away, and I am resigned. I am
glad that we have spoken of it; now my mind is calmer, and I can sleep.
Good night, my son.
She pressed the customary good night kiss on his lips, and left him.
He closed the dictionary, leaned his elbow on the table, and rested his
head on his hand. His piercing black eyes were fixed gloomily on the
floor, and now and then his broad chest heaved as dark and painful
thoughts crowded up.
Mrs. Aubrey was the only daughter of wealthy and ambitious parents,
who refused to sanction her marriage with the object of her choice; and
threatened to disinherit her if she persisted in her obstinate course.
Mr. Aubrey was poor, but honest, highly cultivated and, in every sense
of that much abused word, a gentleman. His poverty was not to be
forgiven, however, and when the daughter left her father's roof, and
wedded the man whom her parents detested, she was banished for ever
from a home of affluence, and found that she had indeed forfeited her
fortune. For this she was prepared, and bore it bravely; but ere long
severer trials came upon her. Unfortunately, her husband's temper was
fierce and ungovernable; and pecuniary embarrassments rarely have the
effect of sweetening such. He removed to an inland town, and embarked
in mercantile pursuits; but misfortune followed him, and reverses came
thick and fast. One miserable day, when from early morning everything
had gone wrong, an importunate creditor, of wealth and great influence
in the community, chafed at Mr. Aubrey's tardiness in repaying some
trifling sum, proceeded to taunt and insult him most unwisely. Stung to
madness, the wretched man resented the insults; a struggle ensued, and
at its close Mr. Aubrey stood over the corpse of the creditor. There
was no mode of escape, and the arm of the law consigned him to prison.
During the tedious weeks that elapsed before the trial his devoted wife
strove to cheer and encourage him. Russell was about eleven years of
age, and, boy though he was, realized most fully the horrors of his
parent's situation. The days of his trial came at last; but the accused
had surrendered himself to the demon Rage, had taken the life of a
fellow creature; what could legal skill accomplish? The affair produced
great and continued excitement; the murdered man had been exceedingly
popular, and the sympathies of the citizens were enlisted in behalf of
his family. Although clearly a case of manslaughter only, to the
astonishment of the counsel on both sides, the cry of blood for
blood, went out from that crowded court-room, and in defiance of
precedent, Mr. Aubrey was unjustly sentenced to be hanged. When the
verdict was known, Russell placed his insensible mother on a couch from
which it seemed probable she would never rise. But there is an
astonishing amount of endurance in even a feeble woman's frame, and
after a time she went about her house once more, doing her duty to her
child and learning to suffer and grow strong. Fate had ordained,
however, that Russell's father should not die upon the gallows; and
soon after the verdict was pronounced, when all Mrs. Aubrey's efforts
to procure a pardon had proved unavailing, the proud and desperate man,
in the solitude of his cell, with no eye but Jehovah's to witness the
awful deed, took his own life with the aid of a lancet. Such was the
legacy of shame which Russell inherited; was it any marvel that at
sixteen that boy had lived ages of sorrow? Mrs. Aubrey found her
husband's financial affairs so involved that she relinquished the hope
of retaining the little she possessed, and retired to a small cottage
on the outskirts of the town, where she endeavoured to support herself
and the two dependent on her by taking in sewing. Electra Grey was the
orphan child of Mr. Aubrey's only sister, who, dying in poverty,
bequeathed the infant to her brother. He had loved her as well as his
own Russell, and his wife, who cradled her in her arms and taught her
to walk by clinging to her finger, would almost as soon have parted
with her son as the little Electra. For five years the widow had toiled
by midnight lamps to feed these two; now oppressed nature rebelled, the
long over-taxed eyes refused to perform their office; filmy cataracts
stole over them, veiling their sadness and their unshed
tearsblindness was creeping on. At his father's death Russell was
forced to quit school, and with some difficulty he succeeded in
obtaining a situation in a large dry-goods store, where his labours
were onerous in the extreme, and his wages a mere pittance. Though
Russell's employer, Mr. Watson, shrank from committing a gross wrong,
and prided himself on his scrupulous honesty, his narrow mind and
penurious habits strangled every generous impulse, and, without being
absolutely cruel or unprincipled, he contrived to gall the boy's proud
spirit and render his position one of almost purgatorial severity. His
eldest son was just Russell's age, had been sent to various schools
from his infancy, was indolent, self-indulgent, and thoroughly
dissipated. Having been a second time expelled from school for most
disgraceful misdemeanours, he lounged away his time about the store, or
passed it still more disreputably with reckless companions.
The daily contrast presented by Cecil and Russell irritated the
father, and hence his settled dislike of the latter. The faithful
discharge of duty on the part of the clerk afforded no plausible
occasion for invective; he felt that he was narrowly watched, and
resolved to give no ground for fault-finding; yet during the long
summer days, when the intense heat prevented customers from thronging
the store, and there was nothing to be done, when Russell, knowing that
the books were written up and the counters free from goods, took his
Latin grammar and improved every leisure half-hour, he was not ignorant
of the fact that an angry scowl darkened his employer's visage, and
understood why he was constantly interrupted to perform most
unnecessary labours. What the day denied him he reclaimed from night,
and succeeded in acquiring a tolerable knowledge of Greek, besides
reading several Latin books. Finding that his small salary was
inadequate, now that his mother's failing sight prevented her from
accomplishing the usual amount of sewing, he solicited and obtained
permission to keep an additional set of books for the grocer who
furnished his family with provisions, though by this arrangement few
hours remained for necessary sleep. The protracted illness and death of
an aged and faithful servant, together with Electra's tedious sickness,
bringing the extra expense of medical aid, had prevented the prompt
payment of rent due for the three-roomed cottage, and Russell was
compelled to ask for a portion of his salary in advance. His mother
little dreamed of the struggle which took place in his heart ere he
could force himself to make the request, and he carefully concealed
from her the fact that at the moment of receiving the money, he laid in
Mr. Watson's hands, by way of pawn, the only article of any value which
he possessedthe watch his father had always worn, and which the
coroner took from the vest pocket of the dead, dabbled with blood. The
gold chain had been sold long before, and the son wore it attached to a
simple black ribbon. His employer received the watch, locked it in the
iron safe, and Russell fastened a small weight to the ribbon, and kept
it around his neck that his mother might not suspect the truth. It
chanced that Cecil stood near at the time; he saw the watch deposited
in the safe, whistled a tune, fingered his own gold repeater, and
walked away. Such was Russell Aubrey's history; such his situation at
the beginning of his seventeenth year.
CHAPTER II. IRENE'S FRIENDSHIP
Irene, your father will be displeased if he sees you in that
Pray, what is wrong about me now? You seem to glory in finding
fault. What is the matter with my 'plight' as you call it?
You know very well your father can't bear to see you carrying your
own satchel and basket to school. He ordered Martha to take them every
morning and evening, but she says you will not let her carry them. It
is just sheer obstinacy in you.
There it is again! because I don't choose to be petted like a baby,
or made a wax doll of, it is set down to obstinacy, as if I had the
temper of a heathen. See here, Aunt Margaret, I am tired of having
Martha tramping eternally at my heels as though I were a two-year-old
child. There is no reason in her walking after me when I am strong
enough to carry my own books, and I don't intend she shall do it any
Irene Huntingdon stood on the marble steps of her palatial home, and
talked with the maiden aunt who governed her father's household. The
girl was about fourteen, tall for her age, straight, finely-formed,
slender. The broad straw hat shaded but by no means concealed her
features, and as she looked up at her aunt the sunshine fell upon a
face of extraordinary beauty, such as is rarely seen, save in the
idealized heads of the old masters. Her eyes were strangely,
marvellously beautiful; they were larger than usual, and of that rare
shade of purplish blue which borders the white velvet petals of a
clematis. When the eyes were uplifted, as on this occasion, long,
curling lashes of the bronze hue of her hair rested against her brow.
Save the scarlet lines which marked her lips, her face was of that
clear colourlessness which can be likened only to the purest ivory.
Though there was an utter absence of the rosy hue of health, the
transparency of the complexion seemed characteristic of her type, and
precluded all thought of disease. Miss Margaret muttered something
inaudible in reply to her last remark, and Irene walked on to school.
Her father's residence was about a mile from the town, but the winding
road rendered the walk somewhat longer; and on one side of this road
stood the small house occupied by Mrs. Aubrey. As Irene approached it
she saw Electra Grey coming from the opposite direction, and at the
cottage gate they met. Both paused: Irene held out her hand cordially
Good morning. I have not seen you for a fortnight. I thought you
were coming to school again as soon as you were strong enough?
No; I am not going back to school.
Because auntie can't afford to send me any longer. You know her
eyes are growing worse every day, and she is not able to take in sewing
as she used to do. I am sorry; but it can't be helped.
How do you know it can't be helped? Russell told me he thought she
had cataracts on her eyes, and they can be removed.
Perhaps so, if we had the means of consulting that celebrated
physician in New Orleans. Money removes a great many things, Irie, but
unfortunately we haven't it.
The trip would not cost much; suppose you speak to Russell about
Much or little it will require more than we can possibly spare.
Everything is so high, we can barely live as it is. But I must go in;
my aunt is waiting for me.
They shook hands and Irene walked on. Soon the brick walls of the
academy rose grim and uninviting, and taking her place at the desk she
applied herself to her books. When school was dismissed in the
afternoon, instead of returning home as usual, she walked down the
principal street, entered Mr. Watson's store, and put her books on the
counter. It happened that the proprietor stood near the front door, and
he came forward instantly to wait upon her.
Ah, Miss Irene! happy to see you. What shall I have the pleasure of
Russell Aubrey, if you please.
The merchant stared, and she added
I want some kid gauntlets, but Russell can get them for me.
The young clerk stood at the desk in the rear of the store, with his
back toward the counter; and Mr Watson called out
Here, Aubrey, some kid gauntlets for this young lady.
He laid down his pen, and taking a box of gloves from the shelves,
placed it on the counter before her. He had not noticed her
particularly, and when she pushed back her hat and looked up at him he
Good evening, Miss Huntingdon. What number do you wish?
Perhaps it was from the heat of the day, or from stooping over his
desk, or perhaps it was from something else, but his cheek was flushed,
and gradually it grew pale again.
Russell, I want to speak to you about Electra. She ought to be at
school, you know.
But she says your mother can't afford the expense.
Just now she cannot; next year things will be better.
What is the tuition for her?
Five dollars a month.
Is that all?
He selected a delicate fawn-coloured pair of gloves and laid them
before her, while a faint smile passed over his face.
Russell, has anything happened?
What do you mean?
What is troubling you so?
Nothing more than usual. Do those gloves suit you?
Yes, they will fit me, I believe. She looked at him very intently.
He met her gaze steadily, and for an instant his face brightened;
then she said abruptly
Your mother's eyes are worse.
Yes, much worse.
Have you consulted Dr. Arnold about them?
He says he can do nothing for her.
How much would it cost to take her to New Orleans and have that
celebrated oculist examine them?
More than we can afford just now; at least two hundred dollars.
Oh, Russell! that is not much. Would not Mr. Watson lend you that
I shall not ask him.
Not even to restore your mother's sight?
Not to buy my own life. Besides, the experiment is a doubtful one.
Still it is worth making.
Yes, under different circumstances it certainly would be.
Have you talked to Mr. Campbell about it?
No, because it is useless to discuss the matter.
It would be dangerous to go to New Orleans now, I suppose?
October or November would be better.
Again she looked at him very earnestly, then stretched out her
Good-bye, Russell. I wish I could do something to help you, to make
you less sorrowful.
He held the slight waxen fingers, and his mouth trembled as he
Thank you, Miss Huntingdon. I am not sorrowful, but my path in life
is not quite so flowery as yours.
I wish you would not call me 'Miss Huntingdon' in that stiff,
far-off way, as if we were not friends. Or maybe it is a hint that you
desire me to address you as Mr. Aubrey. It sounds strange, unnatural,
to say anything but Russell.
She gathered up her books, took the gloves, and went slowly
homeward, and Russell returned to his desk with a light in his eyes
which, for the remainder of the day, nothing could quench. As Irene
ascended the long hill on which Mr. Huntingdon's residence stood, she
saw her father's buggy at the door, and as she approached the steps, he
came out, drawing on his gloves.
You are late, Irene. What kept you?
I have been shopping a little. Are you going to ride? Take me with
Going to dine at Mr. Carter's.
Why, the sun is almost down now. What time will you come home? I
want to ask you something.
Not till long after you are asleep.
The night passed very slowly; Irene looked at the clock again and
again. Finally the house became quiet, and at last the crush of wheels
on the gravel-walk announced her father's return. He came into the
library for a cigar, and, without noticing her, drew his chair to the
open window. She approached and put her hand on his shoulder.
Irene! what is the matter, child?
Nothing sir; only I want to ask you something.
Well, Queen, what is it?
He drew her tenderly to his knee, and passed his hand over her
Leonard Huntingdon was forty years old; tall, spare, with an erect
and martial carriage. He had been trained at West Point, and perhaps
early education contributed somewhat to the air of unbending
haughtiness which many found repulsive. His black hair was slightly
sprinkled with grey, and his features were still decidedly handsome,
though the expression of mouth and eyes was, ordinarily, by no means
winning. Irene was his only child; her mother had died during her
infancy, and on this beautiful idol he lavished all the tenderness of
which his nature was capable. His tastes were cultivated, his house was
elegant and complete, and furnished magnificently; every luxury that
money could yield him he possessed, yet there were times when he seemed
moody and cynical, and no one could surmise the cause of his gloom. The
girl looked up at him fearing no denial.
Father, I wish, please, you would give me two hundred dollars.
What would you do with it, Queen?
I do not want it for myself; I should like to have that much to
enable a poor woman to recover her sight. She has cataracts on her
eyes, and there is a physician in New Orleans who can relieve her.
Father, won't you give me the money?
He took the cigar from his lips, shook off the ashes, and asked
What is the woman's name? Has she no husband to take care of her?
Mrs. Aubrey; she
The cigar fell from his fingers, he put her from his knee, and rose
instantly. His swarthy cheek glowed, and she wondered at the expression
of his eyes, so different from anything she had ever seen there before.
Who gave you permission to visit that house?
No permission was necessary. I go there because I love her and
Electra, and because I like Russell. Why shouldn't I go there, sir? Is
Irene, mark me. You are to visit that house no more in future; keep
away from the whole family. I will have no such association. Never let
me hear their names again. Go to bed.
Give me one good reason, and I will obey you.
Reason! My will, my command, is sufficient reason. What do you mean
by catechising me in this way? Implicit obedience is your duty.
The calm, holy eyes looked wonderingly into his; and as he marked
the startled expression of the girl's pure face his own eyes drooped.
Father, has Mrs. Aubrey ever injured you?
If she has not, you are very unjust to her; if she has, remember
she is a woman, bowed down with many sorrows, and it is unmanly to
hoard up old differences. Father, please give me that money.
I will bury my last dollar in the Red Sea first! Now are you
She put her hands over her eyes, as if to shut out some painful
vision; and he saw the slight form shudder. In perfect silence she took
her books and went up to her room. Mr. Huntingdon reseated himself as
the door closed behind her, and the lamplight showed a sinister smile
writhing over his dark features. He sat there, staring out into the
starry night, and seeing by the shimmer of the setting moon only the
graceful form and lovely face of Amy Aubrey, as she had appeared to him
in other days. Could he forget the hour when she wrenched her cold
fingers from his clasp, and, in defiance of her father's wishes, vowed
she would never be his wife? No; revenge was sweet, very sweet; his
heart had swelled with exultation when the verdict of death upon the
gallows was pronounced upon the husband of her choice; and now, her
poverty, her humiliation, her blindness gave him deep, unutterable joy.
The history of the past was a sealed volume to his daughter, but she
was now for the first time conscious that her father regarded the widow
and her son with unconquerable hatred; and with strange, foreboding
dread she looked into the future, knowing that forgiveness was no part
of his nature; that insult or injury was never forgotten.
CHAPTER III. THE MISSING WATCH
Whether the general rule of implicit obedience to parental
injunction admitted of no exceptions, was a problem which Irene readily
solved; and on Saturday, as soon as her father and cousin had started
to the plantation (twenty-five miles distant), she put on her hat, and
walked to town. Wholly absorbed in philanthropic schemes, she hurried
along the sidewalk, ran up a flight of steps, and knocked at a door, on
which was written in large gilt letters Dr. Arnold.
Ah, Beauty! come in. Sit down, and tell me what brought you to town
He was probably a man of fifty; gruff in appearance, and
unmistakably a bachelor. His thick hair was grizzled, so was the heavy
beard; and the shaggy grey eyebrows slowly unbent, as he took his
visitor's little hands and looked kindly down into her grave face. From
her infancy he had petted and fondled her and she stood as little in
awe of him as of Paragon.
Doctor, are you busy this morning?
I am never too busy to attend to you, little one. What is it?
Of course you know that Mrs. Aubrey is almost blind.
Of course I do, having been her physician.
Those cataracts can be removed, however.
Perhaps they can, and perhaps they can't.
But the probabilities are that a good oculist can relieve her.
I rather think so.
Two hundred dollars would defray all the expenses of a trip to New
Orleans for this purpose, but she is too poor to afford it.
Decidedly too poor.
His grey eyes twinkled promisingly, but he would not anticipate her.
Dr. Arnold, don't you think you could spare that small sum without
Really! is that what you trudged into town for?
Yes. I have not the necessary amount at my disposal just now, and I
came to ask you to lend it to me.
Do you want the money now?
Yes, if you please; but before you give it to me I ought to tell
you that I want the matter kept secret. No one is to know anything
about itnot even my father.
She looked so unembarrassed that for a moment he felt puzzled.
I knew Mrs. Aubrey before her marriage. He bent forward to watch
the effect of his words, but if she really knew or suspected aught of
the past there was not the slightest intimation of it. Putting back her
hair, she looked up and answered
That should increase your willingness to aid her in her
Hold out your hand; fifty, one hundred, a hundred and fifty, two
hundred. There, will that do?
Thank you! thank you. You will not need it soon, I hope?
Not until you are ready to pay me.
Dr. Arnold, you have given me a great deal of pleasuremore than I
can express. I
Don't try to express it, Queen. You have given me infinitely more,
I assure you.
Her splendid eyes were lifted toward him, and with some sudden
impulse she touched her lips to the hand he had placed on her shoulder.
Something like a tremor crossed the doctor's habitually stern mouth as
he looked at the marvellous beauty of the girl's countenance, and he
kissed her slender fingers as reverently as though he touched something
Irene, shall I take you home in my buggy?
No, thank you, I would rather walk. Oh! Doctor, I am so much
obliged to you.
In answer to Irene's knock, Electra opened the cottage door, and
ushered her into the small room which served as both kitchen and
dining-room. Everything was scrupulously neat, not a spot on the bare
polished floor, not a speck to dim the purity of the snowy dimity
curtains, and on the table in the centre stood a vase filled with fresh
fragrant flowers. In a low chair before the open window sat the widow
knitting a blue and white nubia. She glanced round as Irene entered.
Who is it, Electra?
Miss Irene, aunt.
Sit down, Miss Irene; how are you to-day?
Mrs. Aubrey, I am sorry to hear your eyes are no better.
Thank you for your kind sympathy. My sight grows more dim every
You shan't suffer much longer; these veils shall be taken off. Here
is the money to enable you to go to New Orleans and consult that
physician. As soon as the weather turns cooler you must start.
Miss Irene, I cannot tax your generosity so heavily; I have no
claim on your goodness. Indeed I
Mrs. Aubrey, don't you think it is your duty to recover your sight
Yes, if I could command the means.
You have the means; you must employ them. There, I will not take
back the money; it is yours.
Don't refuse it, auntie, you will wound Irie, pleaded Electra.
There was silence for a few seconds; then Mrs. Aubrey took the hands
from her face and said,Irene, I will accept your generous offer. If
my sight is restored, I can repay you some day; if not, I am not too
proud to be under this great obligation to you. Oh, Irene! I can't tell
you how much I thank you; my heart is too full for words. She threw
her arm round the girl's waist and strained her to her bosom, and the
hot tears fell fast on the waves of golden hair. A moment after, Irene
threw a tiny envelope into Electra's lap, and without another word
glided out of the room. The orphan broke the seal, and as she opened a
sheet of note-paper a ten-dollar bill slipped out.
Electra, come to school Monday. The enclosed will pay your tuition
for two months longer. Please don't hesitate to accept it if you really
Your friend IRENE.
Thinking of the group she had just left, Irene approached the gate
and saw that Russell stood holding it open for her to pass. Looking up
she stopped, for the expression of his face frightened and pained her.
Russell, what is the matter? oh! tell me.
I have been injured and insulted. Just now I doubt all people and
all things, even the justice and mercy of God.
Russell, 'shall not the righteous Judge of all the earth do
Shall the rich and the unprincipled eternally trample upon the poor
and the unfortunate?
Who has injured you?
A meek-looking man who passes for a Christian, who turns pale at
the sound of a violin, who exhorts to missionary labours, and talks
often about widows and orphans. Such a man, knowing the circumstances
that surround me, my poverty, my mother's affliction, on bare and most
unwarrantable suspicion turns me out of my situation as clerk, and
endeavours to brand my name with infamy. To-day I stand disgraced in
the eyes of the community, thanks to the vile slanders of that pillar
of the church, Jacob Watson. I could bear it myself, but my mother! my
noble, patient, suffering mother! I must go in, and add a yet heavier
burden to those already crushing out her life. Pleasant tidings, these
I bring her; that her son is disgraced, branded as a rogue!
There was no moisture in the keen eye, no tremor in the metallic
ring of his voice, no relaxation of the curled lip.
Can't you prove your innocence? Was it money?
No, it was a watch, which I gave up as security for drawing a
portion of my salary in advance. It was locked up in the iron safe;
this morning it was missing, and they accuse me of having stolen it.
He took off his hat as if it oppressed him, and tossed back his
What will you do, Russell?
I don't know yet.
Oh! if I could only help you.
She clasped her hands over her heart, and for the first time since
her infancy tears rushed down her cheeks. It was painful to see that
quiet girl so moved, and Russell hastily took the folded hands in his,
and bent his face close to hers.
Irene, the only comfort I have is that you are my friend. Don't let
them influence you against me. No matter what you may hear, believe in
me. Oh! Irene, Irene! believe in me always!
He held her hands in a clasp so tight that it pained her, then
suddenly dropped them and left her.
Mrs. Aubrey recognized the step and looked round in surprise.
Electra, I certainly hear Russell coming.
He drew near and touched her cheek with his lips, saying tenderly
How is my mother?
Russell, what brings you home so early?
That is rather a cold welcome, mother, but I am not astonished. Can
you bear to hear something unpleasant? Here, put your hands in mine;
now listen to me. You know I drew fifty dollars of my salary in
advance, to pay Clark. At that time I gave my watch to Mr. Watson by
way of pawn, he seemed so reluctant to let me have the money; you
understand, mother, why I did not mention it at the time. He locked it
up in the iron safe, to which no one has access except him and myself.
Late yesterday I locked the safe as usual, but do not remember whether
the watch was still there or not; this morning Mr. Watson missed it; we
searched safe, desk, store, could find it nowhere, nor the
twenty-dollar gold piece deposited at the same time. No other money was
missing, though the safe contained nearly a thousand dollars. The end
of it all is that I am accused as the thief, and expelled in disgrace
A low, plaintive cry escaped the widow's lips, and her head sank
heavily on the boy's shoulder. Passing his arm fondly around her, he
kissed her white face, and continued in the same hushed, passionless
tone, like one speaking under his breath, and stilling some devouring
Mother, I need not assure you of my innocence. You know that I
never could be guilty of what is imputed to me; but, not having it in
my power to prove my innocence, I shall have to suffer the disgrace for
a season. Only for a season, I trust, mother, for in time the truth
must be discovered. I have been turned out of my situation, and, though
they have no proof of my guilt, they will try to brand me with the
For a few moments deep silence reigned in the little kitchen, and
only the Infinite eye pierced the heart of the long-tried sufferer.
When she raised her head from the boy's bosom, the face, though
tear-stained, was serene, and, pressing her lips twice to his, she said
'Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is
to try you; as though some strange thing happened unto you. For whom
the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he
receiveth.' I will wait patiently, my son, hoping for proofs which
shall convince the world of your innocence. I wish I could take the
whole burden on my shoulders, and relieve you, my dear boy.
You have, mother; it ceases to crush me, now that you are yourself
once more. He spoke with difficulty, however, as if something stifled
him, and, rising hastily, poured out and drank a glass of water.
And now, Russell, sit down and let me tell you a little that is
pleasant and sunshiny. There is still a bright spot left to look upon.
Stealing her hand into his, the mother informed him of all that had
occurred during Irene's visit, and concluded by laying the money in his
Electra sat opposite, watching the change that came over the face
she loved best on earth. Her large, eager midnight eyes noted the quick
flush and glad light which overspread his features; the deep joy that
kindled in his tortured soul; and unconsciously she clutched her
fingers till the nails grew purple, as though striving to strangle some
hideous object thrusting itself before her. Her breathing became
laboured and painful, her gaze more concentrated and searching, and
when her cousin exclaimed: Oh, mother! she is an angel! I have always
known it. She is unlike everybody else! Electra's heart seemed to
stand still; and from that moment a sombre curtain fell between the
girl's eyes and God's sunshine. She rose, and a silent yet terrible
struggle took place in her passionate soul. Justice and jealousy
wrestled briefly; she would be just though every star fell from her
sky, and with a quick uncertain step she reached Russell, thrust
Irene's note into his fingers, and fled into solitude. An hour later,
Russell knocked at the door of an office, which bore on a square tin
plate these words, Robert Campbell, Attorney at Law. The door was
partially closed, and as he entered an elderly man looked up from a
desk, covered with loose papers and open volumes, from which he was
evidently making extracts. The thin hair hung over his forehead as if
restless fingers had ploughed carelessly through it, and, as he kept
one finger on a half-copied paragraph, the cold blue eye said very
plainly, This is a busy time with me; despatch your errand at once.
Good morning, Mr. Campbell; are you particularly engaged?
How-d'ye-do, Aubrey. I am generally engaged; confoundedly busy this
morning. What do you want?
His pen resumed its work, but he turned his head as if to listen.
I will call again when you are at leisure, said Russell, turning
That will benext monthnext year; in fine, postponing your visit
indefinitely. Sit downsomewherewellclear those books into a
corner, and let's hear your business. I am at your service for ten
He put his pen behind his ear, crossed his arms on the desk, and
I came here to ask whether you wished to employ anyone in your
And what the deuce do you suppose I want with an office lad like
yourself? I tried that experiment to my perfect satisfaction a few
months ago. Is that all?
That is all, sir.
The boy rose, but the bitter look that crossed his face as he
glanced at the well-filled book-shelves arrested the lawyer's
attention, and he added
Why did you leave Watson, young man? It is a bad plan to change
about in this style.
I was expelled from my situation on a foul and most unjust
Let's hear the whole business; sit down.
Without hesitation he narrated all the circumstances, once or twice
pausing to still the tempest of passion that flashed from his eyes.
While he spoke, Mr. Campbell's keen eyes searched him from head to
foot, and at the conclusion he said
I see fate has thumped none of your original obstinacy out of you.
Aubrey, suppose I shut my eyes to the watch transaction, and take you
into my office?
If so, I shall do my duty faithfully. But you said you did not need
anyone here, and though I am anxious to find work, I do not expect or
desire to be taken in from charity. I intend to earn my wages, sir, and
from your own account I should judge you had very little use for an
Humph! a bountiful share of pride along with prodigious obstinacy.
Though I am a lawyer, I told you the truth; I have no earthly use for
such assistants as I have been plagued with for several years. In the
main, office-boys are a nuisance, comparable only to the locusts of
Egypt; I washed my hands of the whole tribe months since. But if I
could only get an intelligent, ambitious, honourable, trustworthy young
man, he would be a help to me. I had despaired of finding such, but, on
the whole, I rather like you; believe you can suit me exactly if you
will, and I am disposed to give you a trial. Sit down here and copy
this paragraph; let me see what sort of hieroglyphics I shall have to
decipher if I make you my copyist.
Russell silently complied, and after a careful examination it seemed
the chirography was satisfactory.
Aubrey, you and I can work peaceably together; I value your
candour, I like your resolution. Come to me on Monday, and in the
matter of salary you shall find me liberal enough. I think you told me
you had a cousin as well as your mother to support; I shall not forget
it. Now, good morning, and leave me unless you desire to accumulate
work for yourself.
CHAPTER IV. ELECTRA'S DISCOVERY
From early childhood Irene had experienced a sensation of
loneliness. Doubtless the loss of her mother enhanced this feeling, but
the peculiarity of her mental organization would have necessitated it
even under happier auspices. Miss Margaret considered her a strange
little thing, and rarely interfered with her plans in any respect,
while her father seemed to take it for granted that she required no
looking after. He knew that her beauty was extraordinary; he was proud
of the fact; and having provided her with a good music master, and sent
her to the best school in the county, he left her to employ her leisure
as inclination prompted. Occasionally her will conflicted with his, and
more than once he found it impossible to make her yield assent to his
wishes. To the outward observances of obedience and respect she
submitted, but whenever these differences occurred, he felt that in the
end she was unconquered. Inconsistent as it may appear, though fretted
for the time by her firmness, he loved her the more for her
wilfulness, as he termed it; and despotic and exacting though he
certainly was in many respects, he stood somewhat in awe of his
pure-hearted, calm-eyed child. His ward and nephew, Hugh Seymour, had
resided with him for several years, and it was well known that Mr.
Huntingdon had pledged his daughter's hand to his sister's son. Irene
had never been officially apprised of her destiny, but surmised very
accurately the true state of the case. Between the two cousins there
existed not the slightest congeniality of taste or disposition; not a
sympathetic link save the tie of relationship. On her part there was a
moderate share of cousinly affection; on his, as much love and
tenderness as his selfish nature was capable of feeling. They rarely
quarrelled as most children do, for when (as frequently happened) he
flew into a rage and tried to tyrannize, she scorned to retort in any
way and generally locked him out of the library. What she thought of
her father's intentions concerning herself, no one knew; she never
alluded to the subject, and if in a frolicsome mood Hugh broached it,
she invariably cut the discussion short. When he went to college in a
distant state, she felt infinitely relieved, and during his vacations
secluded herself as much as possible. Yet the girl's heart was warm and
clinging; she loved her father devotedly, and loved most intensely
Electra Grey, whom she had first met at school. They were nearly the
same age, classmates, and firm friends. As totally different in
character as appearance was Electra Grey. Rather smaller and much
thinner than Irene, with shining, purplish black hair, large, sad,
searching black eyes, from which there was no escape, a pale olive
complexion, and full crimson lips that rarely smiled. Electra was a
dreamer, richly gifted; dissatisfied because she could never attain
that unreal world which her busy brain kept constantly before her.
Electra's love of drawing had early displayed itself; first, in
strange, weird figures on her slate, then in her copy-book, on every
slip of paper which she could lay her hands upon; and, finally, for
want of more suitable material, she scrawled all over the walls of the
little bedroom, to the great horror of her aunt, who spread a coat of
whitewash over the child's frescos, and begged her to be guilty of no
such conduct in future, as Mr. Clark might, with great justice, sue for
damages. In utter humiliation, Electra retreated to the garden, and
here, after a shower had left the sandy walks white and smooth, she
would sharpen a bit of pine, and draw figures and faces of all
conceivable and inconceivable shapes. Chancing to find her thus engaged
one Sunday afternoon, Russell supplied her with a package of
drawing-paper, and pencils. So long as these lasted she was perfectly
happy, but unluckily their straitened circumstances admitted of no such
expenditure, and before many weeks she was again without materials. She
would not tell Russell that she had exhausted his package, and passed
sleepless nights trying to devise some method by which she could aid
herself. It was positive torture for her to sit in school and see the
drawing-master go round, giving lessons on this side and that, skipping
over her every time, because her aunt could not afford the extra three
dollars. Amid all these yearnings and aspirations she turned constantly
to Russell, with a worshipping love that knew no bounds. She loved her
meek affectionate aunt as well as most natures love their mothers, and
did all in her power to lighten her labours, but her affection for
Russell bordered on adoration. In a character so exacting and
passionate as hers there is necessarily much of jealousy, and thus it
came to pass that, on the day of Irene's visit to the cottage, the
horrible suspicion took possession of her that he loved Irene better
than herself. True, she was very young, but childish hearts feel as
keenly as those of matured years; and Electra endured more agony during
that day than in all her past life. Had Irene been other than she was,
in every respect, she would probably have hated her cordially; as
matters stood, she buried the suspicion deep in her own heart, and kept
as much out of everybody's way as possible. Days and weeks passed very
wearily; she busied herself with her text-books, and when the lessons
had been recited, drew all over the marginshere a hand, there an
entire arm, now and then a face, sad-eyed as Fate.
Mrs. Aubrey's eyes became so blurred that finally she could not
leave the house without having some one to guide her, and, as cold
weather had now arrived, preparations were made for her journey. Mr.
Hill, who was going to New Orleans, kindly offered to take charge of
her, and the day of departure was fixed. Electra packed the little
trunk, saw it deposited on the top of the stage in the dawn of an
October morning, saw her aunt comfortably seated beside Mr. Hill, and
in another moment all had vanished. In the afternoon of that day, on
returning from school, Electra went to the bureau, and, unlocking a
drawer, took out a small paper box. It contained a miniature of her
father, set in a handsome gold frame. She knew it had been her mother's
most valued trinket; her aunt had carefully kept it for her, and as
often as the temptation assailed her she had resisted; but now the
longing for money triumphed over every other feeling. Having touched
the spring, she took a knife and cautiously removed the bit of ivory
beneath the glass, then deposited the two last in the box, put the gold
frame in her pocket, and went out to a jewellery store. As several
persons had preceded her, she leaned against the counter, and, while
waiting, watched with some curiosity the movements of one of the
goldsmiths, who, with a glass over one eye, was engaged in repairing
watches. Some had been taken from the cases, others were untouched; and
as her eyes passed swiftly over the latter, they were suddenly riveted
to a massive gold one lying somewhat apart. A half-smothered
exclamation caused the workman to turn round and look at her, but in an
instant she calmed herself; and thinking it a mere outbreak of
impatience, he resumed his employment. Just then one of the proprietors
approached, and said politely, I am sorry we have kept you waiting,
miss. What can I do for you?
What is this worth?
She laid the locket down on the counter, and looked up with eyes
that sparkled very joyously he thought. He examined it a moment, and
said rather dryly
Well, how do I know, in the first place, that it belongs to you?
Jewellers have to be very particular about what they buy.
She crimsoned, and drew herself proudly away from the counter, then
smiled and held out her hand for the locket.
It is mine; it held my father's miniature, but I took it out
because I want a paint-box, and thought I could sell this case for
enough to buy one. It was my mother's once; here are her initials on
the back, H. G.Harriet Grey. But of course you don't know whether I
am telling the truth; I will bring my cousin with me, he can prove it.
Sir, are you so particular about everything you buy?
We try to be.
Again her eyes sparkled; she bowed, and left the store.
Once in the street, she hurried to Mr. Campbell's office, ran up the
steps, and rapped loudly at the door.
Come in! thundered the lawyer.
She stopped on the threshold, glanced round, and said timidly
I want to see Russell, if you please.
Russell is at the post-office. Have you any particular spite at my
door, that you belabour it in that style? or do you suppose I am as
deaf as a gatepost?
I beg your pardon; I did not mean to startle you, sir. I was not
thinking of either you or your door.
She sprang down the steps to wait on the sidewalk for her cousin,
and met him at the entrance.
Oh, Russell! I have found your watch.
A ray of light seemed to leap from his eyes as he seized her hand.
At Mr. Brown's jewellery store.
He went up the stairway, delivered the letters, and came back
accompanied by Mr. Campbell.
This is my cousin, Electra Grey, Mr. Campbell.
So I inferred from the unceremonious assault she made on my door
just now. However, shake hands, little lady; it seems there is some
reason for your haste. Let's hear about this precious watch business.
She simply told what she had seen. Presently Russell said
But how did you happen there, Electra?
Your good angel, sent me, I suppose; and, she added in a whisper,
I will tell you some other time.
On re-entering the store, she walked at once to the workman's
corner, and pointed out the watch.
Yes, it is mine. I would know it among a thousand.
How can you identify it, Aubrey?
He immediately gave the number, and name of the manufacturer, and
described the interior tracery, not omitting the quantity of jewels.
Mr. Campbell turned to the proprietor (the same gentleman with whom
Electra had conversed), and briefly recapitulated the circumstances
which had occurred in connection with the watch. Mr. Brown listened
attentively, then requested Russell to point out the particular one
that resembled his. He did so, and on examination, the number, date,
name, and all the marks corresponded so exactly that no doubt remained
on the jeweller's mind.
Young man, this watch was sold for ninety dollars by a man named
Rufus Turner, who lives in New Orleans, No. 240 street. I will
write to him at once, and find out, if possible, how it came into his
possession. I rather think he had some horses here for sale.
Did he wear green glasses, inquired Russell of the young man who
had purchased the watch.
Yes, and had one arm in a sling.
I saw such a man here about the time my watch was missing.
After some directions from Mr. Campbell concerning the proper course
to be pursued, Electra drew out her locket, saying
Now, Russell, is not this locket mine?
Yes; but where is the miniature? What are you going to do with it?
The miniature is at home, but I want to sell the frame, and Mr.
Brown does not know but that it is another watch case.
If it is necessary, I will swear that it belongs lawfully to you;
but what do you want to sell it for? I should think you would prize it
too highly to be willing to part with it.
I do prize the miniature, and would not part with it for any
consideration; but I want something far more than a gold case to keep
Tell me what you want, and I will get it for you, whispered her
NoI am going to sell this frame.
And I am going to buy it from you, said the kind-hearted merchant,
taking it from her hand and weighing it.
Russell and Mr. Campbell left the store, and soon after Mr. Brown
paid Electra several dollars for the locket.
In half an hour she had purchased a small box of paints, a supply of
drawing-paper and pencils, and returned home, happier and prouder than
many an empress, whose jewels have equalled those of the Begums of
Oude. She had cleared Russell's character, and her hands were pressed
over her heart to still its rapturous throbbing. Many days elapsed
before Mr. Turner's answer arrived. He stated that he had won the watch
from Cecil Watson, at a horse-race, where both were betting; and proved
the correctness of his assertion by reference to several persons who
were present, and who resided in the town. Russell had suspected Cecil
from the moment of its disappearance, and now provided with both letter
and watch, and accompanied by Mr. Brown, he repaired to Mr. Watson's
store. Russell had been insulted, his nature was stern, and now he
exulted in the power of disgracing the son of the man who had wronged
him. There was no flush on his face, but a cold, triumphant glitter in
his eyes as he approached his former employer, and laid watch and
letter before him.
What business have you here? growled the merchant, trembling
before the expression of the boy's countenance.
My business is to clear my character which you have slandered, and
to fix the disgrace you intended for me on your own son. I bring you
the proofs of his, not my villainy.
Come into the back-room; I will see Brown another time, said
Watson, growing paler each moment.
No, sir; you were not so secret in your dealings with me. Here,
where you insulted me, you shall hear the whole truth. Read that. I
suppose the twenty-dollar gold piece followed the watch.
The unfortunate father perused the letter slowly, and smothered a
groan. Russell watched him with a keen joy which he might have blushed
to acknowledge had he analysed his feelings. Writhing under his
impaling eye, Mr. Watson said
Have you applied to the witnesses referred to?
Yes; they are ready to swear that they saw Cecil bet Turner the
You did not tell them the circumstances, did you?
There was an awkward silence, broken by Mr. Watson.
If I retract all that I have said against you, and avow your
innocence, will it satisfy you? Will you be silent about Cecil?
No! rose peremptorily to Russell's lips, but he checked it; and
the patient teaching of years, his mother's precepts, and his mother's
prayers brought forth their first fruitgolden charity.
You merit no forbearance at my hands, and I came here intending to
show you none; but, on reflection, I will not follow your example.
Clear my name before the public, and I leave the whole affair with you.
Afraid to trust himself, he turned away and joined Mr. Campbell in
In the afternoon of the same day came a letter from Mr. Hill
containing sad news. The oculist had operated on Mrs. Aubrey's eyes,
but violent inflammation had ensued; he had done all that scientific
skill could prompt, but feared she would be hopelessly blind. At the
close of the letter Mr. Hill stated that he would bring her home the
following week. One November evening, just before dark, while Russell
was cutting wood for the kitchen-fire, the stage stopped at the
cottage-gate, and he hurried forward to receive his mother in his arms.
It was a melancholy reunion; for a moment the poor sufferer's fortitude
forsook her, and she wept. But his caresses soothed her, and she
followed Electra into the house while he brought in the trunk. When
shawl and bonnet had been removed, and Electra placed her in the
rocking-chair, the light fell on face and figure, and the cousins
started at the change that had taken place. She was so ghastly pale, so
very much reduced. She told them all that had occurred during the
tedious weeks of absence; how much she regretted having gone since the
trip proved so unsuccessful, how much more she deplored the affliction
on their account than her own; and then from that hour no allusion was
ever made to it.
CHAPTER V. IRENE IS SENT AWAY
Weeks and months slipped away, and total darkness came down on the
widow. She groped with some difficulty from room to room, and Electra
was compelled to remain at home and watch over her. Russell had become
a great favourite with his crusty employer, and, when the labours of
the office were ended, brought home such books as he needed, and spent
his evenings in study. His powers of application and endurance were
extraordinary, and his progress was in the same ratio. As he became
more and more absorbed in these pursuits his reserve and taciturnity
increased. His employer was particularly impressed by the fact that he
never volunteered a remark on any subject, and rarely opened his lips
except to ask some necessary information in connection with his
business. He comprehended Russell's character, and quietly facilitated
his progress. There was no sycophancy on the part of the young man, no
patronage on that of the employer.
One afternoon Irene tapped lightly at the cottage-door, and entered
the kitchen. Mrs. Aubrey sat in a low chair close to the fireplace,
engaged in knitting; her smooth, neat calico dress and spotless linen
collar told that careful hands tended her, and the soft auburn hair
brushed over her temples showed broad bands of grey as the evening sun
shone on it. She turned her brown, sightless eyes toward the door, and
asked in a low voice
Who is it?
It is only me, Mrs. Aubrey.
Irene bent down, laid her two hands on the widow's, and kissed her
I am glad to hear your voice, Irene; it has been a long time since
you were here.
Yes, a good many weeks, I know, but I could not come.
Are you well? Your hands and face are cold.
Yes, thank you, very well. I am always cold, I believe. Hugh says I
am. Here are some flowers from the greenhouse. I brought them because
they are so fragrant; and here, too, are a few oranges from the same
place. Hush! don't thank me, if you please. I wish I could come here
oftener. I always feel better after being with you.
Mrs. Aubrey had finished her knitting, and sat with her hands folded
in her lap, the meek face more than usually serene, the sightless eyes
directed toward her visitor. Sunshine reflected the bare boards under
the window, flashed on the tin vessels ranged on the shelves, and
lingered like a halo around Irene's head. Electra had been drawing at
the table in the middle of the room, and now sat leaning on her hand
watching the two at the fire. Presently Irene approached and began to
examine the drawings, which were fragmentary, except one or two heads,
and a sketch taken from the bank opposite the Falls. After some moments
passed in looking over them, Irene addressed the quiet little figure.
Have you been to Mr. Clifton's studio?
No; who is he?
An artist from New York. His health is poor, and he is spending the
winter south. Haven't you heard of him? Everybody is having portraits
taken. He is painting mine nowfather would make me sit again, though
he has a likeness which was painted four years ago. I am going down
to-morrow for my last sitting, and should like very much for you to go
with me. Perhaps Mr. Clifton can give you some valuable hints. Will you
With great pleasure.
Then I will call for you a little before ten o'clock. Here are some
crayons I bought for you a week ago. Good-bye.
The following day Miss Margaret accompanied her to the studio. As
the carriage approached the cottage-gate, Irene directed the driver to
For what? asked her aunt.
Electra Grey is going with me; I promised to call for her. She has
an extraordinary talent for drawing, and I want to introduce her to Mr.
Clifton. Open the door, Andrew.
Irene, are you deranged? Your father never would forgive you if he
knew you associated with those people. I can't think of allowing that
girl to enter this carriage. Drive on. I must really speak to Leonard
about your obstinacy in visiting at that
Stop, Andrew! If you don't choose to ride with Electra, Aunt
Margaret, you may go on alone, for either she shall ride or I will walk
Andrew opened the door, and she was stepping out, when Electra
appeared in the walk and immediately joined her. Miss Margaret was
thoroughly aroused and indignant, but thought it best to submit for the
time, and when Irene introduced her friend she took no notice of her
whatever, except by drawing herself up in one corner and lowering her
veil. The girls talked during the remainder of the ride, and when they
reached Mr. Clifton's door ran up the steps together, totally unmindful
of the august lady's ill humour.
The artist was standing before an easel which held Irene's
unfinished portrait, and as he turned to greet his visitors, Electra
saw that, though thin and pale, his face was one of rare beauty and
benevolence. His brown, curling hair hung loosely about his shoulders,
and an uncommonly long beard of the same silky texture descended almost
to his waist. He shook hands with Irene, and looked inquiringly at her
Mr. Clifton, this is Miss Electra Grey, whose drawings I mentioned
to you last week. I wish, if you please, you would examine some of them
when you have leisure.
Electra looked for an instant into his large, clear grey eyes as he
took her drawings and said he would be glad to assist her, and knew
that henceforth the tangled path would be smoothed and widened. She
stood at the back of his chair during the hour's sitting, and with
peculiar interest watched the strokes of his brush as the portrait grew
under his practised hand. When Irene rose, the orphan moved away and
began to scrutinize the numerous pictures scattered about the room. A
great joy filled her heart and illumined her face, and she waited for
the words of encouragement that she felt assured would be spoken. The
artist looked over her sketches slowly, carefully, and his eye went
back to her brilliant countenance as if to read there answers to
ciphers which perplexed him. But yet more baffling cryptography met him
in the deep, flashing, appealing eyes, on the crimson, quivering lips,
on the low, full brow, with its widely separated black arches.
Evidently the face possessed far more attraction than the drawings, and
he made her sit down beside him, and passed his hand over her head and
temples, as a professed phrenologist might preparatory to rendering a
Your sketches are very rough, very crude, but they also display
great power of thought, some of them singular beauty of conception; and
I see from your countenance that you are dissatisfied because the
execution falls so far short of the conception. Let me talk to you
candidly; you have uncommon talent, but the most exalted genius cannot
dispense with laborious study. Think well of all this.
I have thought of it; I am willing to work any number of years; I
have decided, and I am not to be frightened from my purpose. I am poor,
I can barely buy the necessary materials, much less the books, but I
will be an artist yet. I have decided, sir; it is no new whim; it has
been a bright dream to me all my life, and I am determined to realize
Amen; so let it be, then. I shall remain here some weeks longer;
come to me every day at ten o'clock, and I will instruct you. You shall
have such books as you need, and with perseverance you have nothing to
He went into the adjoining room, and returned with a small volume.
As he gave it to her, with some directions concerning the contents, she
caught his hand to her lips, saying hastily
My guardian angel certainly brought you here to spend the winter.
Oh, sir! I will prove my gratitude for your goodness by showing that I
am not unworthy of it. I thank you from the very depths of my glad
As she released his hand and left the studio he found two bright
drops on his fingers, drops called forth by the most intense joy she
had ever known. Having some commission from her aunt, she did not
re-enter the carriage, and, after thanking Irene for her kindness,
The ride home was very silent. Miss Margaret sat stiff and icy,
looking quite insulted, while her niece was too much engrossed by other
reflections to notice her. The latter spent the remainder of the
morning in writing to Hugh and correcting her French exercises, and
when summoned to dinner she entered the room expecting a storm. A
glance sufficed to show her that Miss Margaret had not yet spoken to
her father, though it was evident from her countenance that she was
about to make what she considered an important revelation. The meal
passed, however, without any allusion to the subject, and, knowing what
she had to expect, Irene immediately withdrew to the library to give
her aunt an opportunity of unburdening her mind. The struggle must come
some time, and she longed to have it over as soon as possible. She
threw up the sash, seated herself on the broad cedar window-sill, and
began to work out a sum in Algebra. Nearly a half-hour passed; the
slamming of the dining-room door was like the first line of foam,
curling and whitening the sea when the tempest sweeps forward; her
father stamped into the library, and the storm broke over her.
Irene! didn't I positively order you to keep away from that Aubrey
family? What do you mean by setting me at defiance in this way, you
wilful, spoiled, hard-headed piece? Do you suppose I intend to put up
with your obstinacy all my life, and let you walk roughshod over me and
my commands? You have queened it long enough, my lady. If I don't rein
you up, you will turn your aunt and me out of the house next, and
invite that precious Aubrey crew to take possession. Your confounded
stubbornness will ruin you yet. You deserve a good whipping, miss; I
can hardly keep my hands off of you.
He did not; rough hands seized her shoulder, jerked her from the
window-sill, and shook her violently. Down fell book, slate, and pencil
with a crash; down swept the heavy hair, blinding her. She put it back,
folded her hands behind her as if for support, and, looking up at him,
said in a low, steady, yet grieved tone
I am very sorry you are angry with me, father.
Devilish sorry, I dare say! Don't be hypocritical! Didn't I tell
you to keep away from those people? Don't stand there like a block of
stone; answer me!
Yes, sir; but I did not promise to do so. I am not hypocritical,
You did not promise, indeed! What do I care for promises? It was
your duty to obey me.
I don't think it was, father, when you refused to give me any
reason for avoiding Mrs. Aubrey or her family. They are unfortunate but
honourable people; and, being very poor and afflicted, I felt sorry for
them. I can't see how my going there occasionally harms you or me, or
anybody else. I know very well that you dislike them, but you never
told me why, and I cannot imagine any good reason for it. Father, if I
love them why should not I associate with them?
Because I say you shan't! you tormenting, headstrong little imp!
My father, that is no reason.
Reason! I will put you where you will have no occasion for reasons.
Oh! I can match you, you perverse little wretch! I am going to send you
to a boarding-school, do you hear that? send you where you will have no
Aubreys to abet your obstinacy and disobedience, where that temper of
yours can be curbed. How will you relish getting up before day,
kindling your own fire, if you have any, making your own bed, and
living on bread and water? I will take you to New York, and keep you
there till you are grown and learn common sense. Now get out of my
With a stamp of rage he pointed to the door. Hitherto she had stood
quite still, but now an expression of anguish passed swiftly over her
face, and she put out her hands appealingly
Father! my father! don't send me away. Please let me stay at home.
Not if I live long enough to take you. Just as certainly as the sun
shines in heaven you will go as soon as your clothes can be made. Your
aunt will have you ready in a week. Don't open your mouth to me! I
don't want to hear another word from you. Take yourself off.
She picked up her slate and book, and left the room.
The week which succeeded was wretched to the girl, for her father's
surveillance prevented her from visiting the cottage, even to say
adieu to its inmates; and no alternative presented itself but to leave
for them (in the hands of Nellie, her devoted nurse) a note containing
a few parting words and assurances of unfading friendship and
remembrance. The day of departure dawned rainy, gloomy, and the wind
sobbed and wailed down the avenue as Irene stood at her window, looking
out on the lawn where her life had been passed. The breakfast-bell
summoned her away, and, a half-hour after, she saw the lofty columns of
the old house fade from view, and knew that many months, perhaps years,
must elapse before the ancestral trees of the long avenue would wave
again over the head of their young mistress. Her father sat beside her,
moody and silent, and, when the brick wall and arched iron gate
vanished from her sight, she sank back in one corner, and, covering her
face with her hands, smothered a groan and fought desperately with her
CHAPTER VI. MASTER AND PUPIL
Day after day Electra toiled over her work. The rapidity of her
progress astonished Mr. Clifton. He questioned her concerning the
processes she employed in some of her curious combinations, but the
fragmentary, abstracted nature of her conversation during the hours of
instruction gave him little satisfactory information. His interest in
her increased, until finally it became absorbing, and he gave her all
the time she could spare from home. The eagerness with which she
listened to his directions, the facility with which she applied his
rules, fully repaid him; and from day to day he postponed his return to
the North, reluctant to leave his indefatigable pupil. Now and then the
time of departure was fixed, but ere it arrived he wavered and
Electra knew that his stay had been prolonged beyond his original
intention, and she dreaded the hour when she should be deprived of his
aid and advice. Though their acquaintance had been so short, a
strangely strong feeling had grown up in her heart toward him; a
feeling of clinging tenderness, blended with earnest and undying
gratitude. She knew that he understood her character and appreciated
her struggles, and it soothed her fierce, proud heart, in some degree
to receive from him those tokens of constant remembrance which she so
yearned to have from Russell. She felt, too, that she was not regarded
as a stranger by the artist; she could see his sad eyes brighten at her
entrance, and detect the tremor in his hand and voice when he spoke of
going home. His health had improved, and the heat of summer had come;
why did he linger? His evenings were often spent at the cottage, and
even Mrs. Aubrey learned to smile at the sound of his step.
One morning, as Electra finished her lesson and rose to go, he said
slowly, as if watching the effect of his words
This is the last hour I can give you. In two days I return to New
York. Letters of importance came this morning; I have waited here too
Are you in earnest this time?
I am; it is absolutely necessary that I should return home.
Mr. Clifton, what shall I do without you?
Suppose you had never seen me?
Then I should not have had to lose you. Oh, sir! I need you very
Electra, child, you will conquer your difficulties without
assistance from anyone. You have nothing to fear.
Yes, I know I shall conquer at last, but the way would be so much
easier if you were only with me. I shall miss you more than I can tell
He passed his hand over his short shining hair, and mused for a
moment as if laying conflicting emotions in the balance. She heard his
deep, laboured breathing, and saw the working of the muscles in his
pale face; when he spoke his voice was husky
You are right; you need me, and I want you always with me; we must
not be parted. Electra, I say we shall not. Come to me, put your hands
in minepromise me that you will be my child, my pupil. I will take
you to my mother, and we need never be separated. You require aid, such
as cannot be had here; in New York you shall have all that you want.
Will you come with me?
He held her hands in a vice-like grasp, and looked pleadingly into
her astonished countenance. A mist gathered before her, and she closed
Electra, will you come?
She raised her bloodless face, stamped with stern resolve, and ere
the words were pronounced he read his answer in the defiant gleam of
her eyes, in the hard, curved lines of the mouth.
Mr. Clifton, I cannot go with you just now, for at present I
cannot, ought not, to leave my aunt. Helpless as she is, it would be
cruel, ungrateful to desert her; but things cannot continue this way
much longer, and I promise you that as soon as I can I will go to you.
I want to be with you; I want somebody to care for me, and I know you
will be a kind friend to me always. Most gratefully will I accept your
generous offer as soon as I feel that I can do so.
He stooped and touched her forehead with his lips.
My dear Electra, you are right to remain with her, but when she
needs you no more I shall expect you to come to me in New York.
Meantime, I shall write to you frequently, and supply you with such
books and materials as you require. My pupil, I long to have you in my
own home. Remember, no matter what happens, you have promised yourself
I shall not forget; but he saw her shudder.
Shall I speak to your aunt about this matter before I go?
No, it would only distress her; leave it all with me. It is late,
and I must go. Good-bye, sir.
He promised to see her again before his departure, and she walked
home with her head bowed and a sharp continual pain gnawing at her
In the calm, peaceful years of ordinary childhood the soul matures
slowly; but a volcanic nature like Electra's, subjected to galling
trials, rapidly hardens, and answers every stroke with the metallic
ring of age. Keen susceptibility to joy or pain taught her early that
less impressive characters are years in learning, and it was lamentably
true that while yet a mere girl, she suffered as acutely as a woman.
Russell knew that a change had come over his cousin, but was too
constantly engaged, too entirely absorbed by his studies, to ask or
analyse the cause. She never watched at the gate for him now, never
sprang with outstretched arms to meet him, never hung over the back of
his chair and caressed his hands as formerly. When not waiting upon her
aunt, she was as intent upon her books as he, and though invariably
kind and unselfish in her conduct toward him, she was evidently
constrained in his presence. As the summer wore on, Mrs. Aubrey's
health failed rapidly, and she was confined to her couch. One morning
when Mr. Campbell, the pastor, had spent some time in the sick-room
praying with the sufferer and administering the sacrament of the Lord's
Supper, Electra followed him to the door, leaving Russell with his
mother. The gentle pastor took her hand kindly, and looked at her with
You think my aunt is worse?
Yes, my child. I think that very soon she will be with her God. She
will scarcely survive till night
She turned abruptly from him and threw herself down across the foot
of the bed, burying her face in her arms. Russell sat with his mother's
hands in his, while she turned her brown eyes toward him, and exhorted
him to commit himself and his future to the hands of a merciful God.
Electra was not forgotten; she advised her to go to a cousin of her
mother, residing in Virginia. Long before she had written to this lady,
informing her of her own feebleness and of the girl's helpless
condition; and a kind answer had been returned, cordially inviting the
orphan to share her home, to become an inmate of her house. Russell
could take her to these relatives as soon as possible. To all this no
reply was made, and, a few moments later, when Russell kissed her
tenderly and raised her pillow, she said faintly
If I could look upon your face once more, my son, it would not be
hard to die. Let me see you in heaven, my dear, dear boy. These were
the last words, and soon after a stupor fell upon her. Hour after hour
passed; Mrs. Campbell came and sat beside the bed, and the three
remained silent, now and then lifting bowed heads to look at the
sleeper. The autumn day died slowly as the widow, and when the clock
dirged out the sunset hour Russell rose, and, putting back the window
curtains, stooped and laid his face close to his mother's. No pulsation
stirred the folds over the heart, or the soft bands of hair on the
blue-veined temples; the still mouth had breathed its last sigh, and
the meek brown eyes had opened in eternity.
The day bore her away on its wings, and as Russell touched the icy
cheek a despairing cry rolled through the silent cottage
Oh, mother! my own precious dead mother!
Falling on his knees, he laid his head on her pillow, and when kind
friendly hands bore her into the adjoining room, he knelt there still,
unconscious of what passed, knowing only that the keenest of many blows
had fallen, that the last and bitterest vial of sorrows had been
At the window stood Electra, pressing her face against the frame,
looking out into the moaning, struggling night, striving to read the
mystic characters dimly traced on the ash-grey hurrying clouds as the
reckless winds parted their wan folds. She shrank away from the window,
and approached her cousin.
Oh, Russell! say something to me, or I shall die.
It was the last wail she ever suffered to escape her in his
presence. He raised his head and put his hand on her forehead, but the
trembling lips refused their office, and as she looked up at him tears
rolled slowly down and fell on her cheek. She would have given worlds
to mingle her tears with his, but no moisture came to her burning eyes;
and there these two, soon to separate, passed the remaining hours of
that long wretched night of watching. The stormy day lifted her pale,
mournful face at last, and with it came the dreary patter and sobbing
of autumn rain, making it doubly harrowing to commit the precious form
to its long, last resting-place. Electra stood up beside her cousin and
folded her arms together.
Russell, I am not going to that cousin in Virginia. I could owe my
bread and clothes to you, but not to her. She has children, and I do
not intend to live on her charity. I know you, and I must part; the
sooner the better. I would not be willing to burden you a day longer. I
am going to fit myself to work profitably. Mr. Clifton offered me a
home in his house, said his mother was lonely, and would be rejoiced to
have me; that letter which I received last week contained one from her,
also urging me to come; and, Russell, I am going to New York to study
with him as long as I need instruction. I did not tell aunt of this,
because I knew it would grieve her to think that I would be thrown with
strangers; and having fully determined to take this step, thought it
best not to distress her by any allusion to it. You know it is my own
affair, and I can decide it better than anyone else.
So you prefer utter strangers to your relatives and friends?
Ties of blood are not the strongest; strangers step in to aid where
relatives sometimes stand aloof, and watch a fatal struggle. Remember
Irene; who is nearer to you, she or your grandfather? Such a friend Mr.
Clifton is to me, and go to him I will at all hazards. Drop the
subject, if you please.
He looked at her an instant, then turned once more to his mother's
face, and his cousin left them together.
The day was so inclement that only Mr. and Mrs. Campbell and
Russell's employer attended the funeral. These few followed the gentle
sleeper, and laid her down to rest till the star of eternity dawns; and
the storm chanted a long, thrilling requiem as the wet mound rose above
The kind-hearted pastor and his wife urged the orphans to remove to
their house for a few days at least, until the future could be mapped;
but they preferred to meet and battle at once with the spectre which
they knew stood waiting in the desolate cottage. At midnight a heavy
sleep fell on Russell, who had thrown himself upon his mother's couch;
and, softly spreading a shawl over him, Electra sat down by the dying
fire on the kitchen hearth, and looked her future in the face. A few
days sufficed to prepare for her journey; and a gentleman from New
York, who had met her cousin in Mr. Campbell's office, consented to
take charge of her, and commit her to Mr. Clifton's hands. The scanty
furniture was sent to an auction-room, and a piece of board nailed to
the gatepost announced that the cottage was for rent. Russell decided
to take his meals at a boarding-house, and occupy a small room over the
office, which Mr. Campbell had placed at his disposal. On the same day,
the cousins bade adieu to the only spot they had called home for many
years; and as Russell locked the door and joined Electra, his
melancholy face expressed, far better than words could have done, the
pain it cost him to quit the house where his idolized mother had lived,
suffered and died. Mr. Colton was waiting for Electra at the hotel,
whither the stage had been driven for passengers; and as she drew near
and saw her trunk among others piled on top, she stopped and grasped
Russell's hand between both hers. A livid paleness settled on her face,
while her wild black eyes fastened on his features. She might never see
him again; he was far dearer to her than her life; how could she bear
to leave him, to put hundreds of miles between that face and her own?
An icy hand clutched her heart as she gazed into his deep, sad,
beautiful eyes. His feeling for her was a steady, serene affection,
such as brothers have for dear young sisters, and to give her up now
filled him with genuine, earnest sorrow.
Electra, it is very hard to tell you good-bye. You are all I have
left, and I shall be desolate indeed when you are away. But the
separation will not be long, I trust; in a few years we shall be able
to have another home; and where my home is, yours must always be. Write
to me often, and believe that I shall do all that a brother could for
you. Mr. Colton is waiting; good-bye, darling.
He bent down to kiss her, and the strained, tortured look that
greeted him he never forgot. She put her arms around his neck, and
clung to him like a shivering weed driven by rough winds against a
stone wall. He removed her clasping arms, and led her to Mr. Colton;
but as the latter offered to assist her into the stage, she drew back,
that Russell might perform that office. While he almost lifted her to a
seat, her fingers refused to release his, and he was forced to
disengage them. Other passengers entered, and the door was closed.
Russell stood near the window, and said gently, pitying her suffering
Electra, won't you say good-bye?
She leaned out till her cheek touched his, and in a hoarse tone
uttered the fluttering words
Oh, Russell, Russell! good-bye! May God have mercy on me!
CHAPTER VII. NEW FRIENDS
As tall tyrannous weeds and rank unshorn grass close over and crush
out slender, pure, odorous flowerets on a hill-side, so the defects of
Irene's character swiftly strengthened and developed in the new
atmosphere in which she found herself. The school was on an extensive
scale, thoroughly fashionable, and thither pupils were sent from every
section of the United States. As regarded educational advantages, the
institution was unexceptionable; the professors were considered
unsurpassed in their several departments, and every provision was made
for thorough tuition. But what a Babel reigned outside of the
recitation room! One hundred and forty girls to spend their recesses in
envy, ridicule, malice, and detraction. Anxious to shake off the
loneliness which so heavily oppressed her, Irene at first mingled
freely among her companions; but she soon became disgusted with the
conduct and opinions of the majority, and endeavoured to find quiet in
her own room. Early in winter a new pupil, a day scholar, joined her
class; she resided in New York, and very soon a strong friendship
sprang up between them. Louisa Young was about Irene's age, very
pretty, very gentle, and winning in her manners. She was the daughter
of an affluent merchant, and was blessed in the possession of parents
who strove to rear their children as Christian parents should. Louisa's
attachment was very warm and lasting, and ere long she insisted that
her friend should visit her. Weary of the school, the latter gladly
availed herself of the invitation, and one Friday afternoon she
accompanied Louisa home. The mansion was almost palatial, and as Irene
entered the splendidly-furnished parlours her own Southern home rose
vividly before her.
Mother, this is Miss Huntingdon.
Mrs. Young received her cordially, and as she held the gloved hand,
and kindly expressed her pleasure at meeting her daughter's friend, the
girl's heart gave a quick bound of joy.
Come upstairs and put away your bonnet.
In Louisa's beautiful room the two sat talking of various things
till the tea-bell rang. Mr. Young's greeting was scarcely less friendly
than his wife's, and as they seated themselves at the table, the
stranger felt at home for the first time in New York.
Where is brother? asked Louisa, glancing at the vacant seat
opposite her own.
He has not come home yet; I wonder what keeps him? There he is now,
in the hall, answered the mother.
A moment after, he entered and took his seat. He was tall, rather
handsome, and looked about thirty. His sister presented her friend, and
with a hasty bow he fastened his eyes on her face. Probably he was
unconscious of the steadiness of his gaze, but Irene became restless
under his fixed, earnest eye, and perceiving her embarrassment, Mrs.
Harvey, where have you been? Dr. Melville called here for you at
four o'clock; said you had made some engagement with him.
Yes, mother; we have been visiting together this afternoon.
Withdrawing his eyes, he seemed to fall into a reverie and took no
part in the conversation that ensued. As the party adjourned to the
sitting-room, he paused on the rug, and leaned his elbow on the mantel.
Louisa lingered and drew near. He passed his arm around her shoulders,
and looked affectionately down at her.
Go to your friend, and when you are at a loss for conversation,
bring her to my study to see those sketches of Palmyra and Baalbec.
He passed on to his work, and she to the sitting-room. He read
industriously for some time, occasionally pausing to annotate; and once
or twice he raised his head and listened. A light tap at the door was
followed by the entrance of the two girls. Irene came very reluctantly,
fearful of intruding; but he rose, and placed a chair for her close to
his own, assuring her that he was glad to see her there. Louisa found
the portfolio, and, bringing it to the table, began to exhibit its
treasures. The two leaned over it, and as Irene sat resting her cheek
on her hand, the beauty of her face and figure was clearly revealed.
Harvey remained silent, watching the changing expression of the
visitor's countenance; and once he put out his hand to touch the hair
floating over the back and arms of her chair. Gradually his still heart
stirred, his brow flushed, and a new light burned in the deep clear
He told her of his visit to the old world, of its mournful ruins,
its decaying glories; of the lessons he learned there; the sad but
precious memories he brought back, and as he talked time passed
unheededshe forgot her embarrassment, they were strangers no longer.
The clock struck ten; Louisa rose at once.
Thank you, Harvey, for giving us so much of your time. Father and
mother will be waiting for you.
Yes, I will join you at once.
She led the way back to the sitting-room, and a few moments after,
to Irene's great surprise, the student came in, and sitting down before
the table, opened the Bible and read a chapter. Then all knelt and he
prayed. There was a strange spell on the visitor; in all this there was
something so unexpected. It was the first time she had ever knelt
around the family altar, and, as she rose, that sitting-room seemed
suddenly converted into a temple of worship. Mutual good nights were
exchanged, and as Irene turned toward the young minister, he held out
his hand. She gave him hers, and he pressed it gently, saying
I trust this is the first of many pleasant evenings which we shall
Thank you, sir. I hope so too, for I have not been so happy since I
He smiled, and she walked on.
Louisa, how came your brother to be a minister? asked Irene, when
they had reached their apartment.
When he was a boy he said he intended to preach, and father never
dissuaded him. Harvey is a singular manso silent, so equable, so cold
in his manner, and yet he has a warm heart. He has declined two calls
since his ordination; Dr. Melville's health is very poor, and Harvey
frequently fills his pulpit. I know you will like him when you know him
well; everybody loves Harvey.
The inclemency of the weather confined the girls to the house the
following day. Harvey was absent at breakfast, and at dinner the chair
opposite Irene's was still vacant. The afternoon wore away, and at dusk
Louisa opened the piano and began to play Thalberg's Home, Sweet
Somebody took a seat near Irene, and though the room was dim, she
knew the tall form and the touch of his hand.
Good evening, Miss Irene; we have had a gloomy day. How have you
and Louisa spent it?
Not very profitably, I dare say, though it has not appeared at all
gloomy to me. Have you been out in the snow?
Yes, my work has been sad. I buried a mother and child this
afternoon, and have just come from a house of orphanage and grief. It
is a difficult matter to realize how many aching hearts there are in
this great city. Our mahogany doors shut out the wail that hourly goes
up to God from the thousand sufferers in our midst.
As he talked she lifted her beautiful eyes and looked steadily at
him, and he thought that, of all the lovely things he had ever seen,
that face was the most peerless. She drew closer to him, and said
You do not seem to me a very happy man.
There you mistake me. I presume there are few happier persons.
Countenance is not a faithful index, then; you look so exceedingly
Do you suppose that gravity of face is incompatible with sunshine
in the heart?
He smiled encouragingly as he spoke, and without a moment's thought
she laid her delicate hand in his.
Mr. Young, I want somebody to advise me. Very often I am at a loss
about my duty, and, having no one to consult, either do nothing at all
or that which I should not. If it will not trouble you too much, I
should like to bring my difficulties to you sometimes, and get you to
direct me. If you will only talk frankly to me, as you do to Louisa,
oh, I will be very grateful!
Have you no brother?
I am an only child.
You would like a brother, however?
Yes, sir, above all things.
Take care; you express yourself strongly. If you can fancy me for a
brother, consider me such.
When Monday morning came, and she was obliged to return to school,
Irene reluctantly bade farewell to the new friends. She knew that, in
conformity to the unalterable regulations of Crim Tartary, she could
only leave the institution once a month, and the prospect of this long
interval between her visits was by no means cheering. Harvey assisted
her into the carriage.
I shall send some books in a day or two, and, if you are troubled
about anything before I see you again write me a note by Louisa. I
would call to see you occasionally if you were boarding anywhere else.
Good morning, Miss Irene. Do not forget that I am your brother so long
as you stay in New York, or need one.
The books were not forgotten; they arrived the ensuing week, and his
selection satisfied her that he perfectly understood what kind of aid
she required. At the close of the next month, instead of accompanying
Louisa home, Irene was suffering with severe cold, and too much
indisposed to quit the house. This was a grievous disappointment, but
she bore it bravely, and went on with her studies. What a dreary
isolation in the midst of numbers of her own age! It was a thraldom
that galled her, and more than once she implored her father's
permission to return home. His replies were positive denials, and after
a time she ceased to expect release, until the prescribed course should
be ended. Thus another month dragged itself away. On Friday morning
Louisa was absent. Irene felt anxious and distressed. Perhaps she was
ill; something must have happened. As the day pupils were dismissed she
started back to her own room, heart-sick because of this second
disappointment. A few minutes after a servant knocked at the door and
informed her that a gentleman wished to see her in the parlour.
CHAPTER VIII. A DISCOVERY
I am so glad to see you, Mr. Young. Louisa is not sick, I hope?
I came for you in Louisa's place; she is not well enough to quit
her room. Did you suppose that I intended leaving you here for another
I was rather afraid you had forgotten me; the prospect was gloomy
ten minutes ago. It seems a long time since I was with you.
She stood close to him, looking gladly into his face, unconscious of
the effect of her words.
You sent me no note all this time; why not?
I was afraid of troubling you; and, besides, I would rather tell
you what I want you to know.
Miss Irene, the carriage is at the door. I am a patient man, and
can wait half an hour if you have any preparation to make.
In much less time she joined him, equipped for the ride, and took
her place beside him in the carriage. As they reached his father's
door, and he assisted her out, she saw him look at her very
It is time that you had a little fresh air. You are not quite
yourself. Louisa is in her room; run up to her.
She found her friend suffering with sore throat, and was startled at
the appearance of her flushed cheeks. Mrs. Young sat beside her, and
after most cordial greetings the latter resigned her seat and left
them, enjoining upon her daughter the necessity of remaining quiet.
Mother was almost afraid for you to come, but I teased and coaxed
for permission; told her that even if I had the scarlet fever you had
already had it, and would run no risk. Harvey says it is not scarlet
fever at all, and he persuaded mother to let him go after you. He
always has things his own way, though he brings it about so quietly
that nobody would even suspect him of being self-willed. Harvey is a
good friend of yours, Irene.
I am glad to hear it; he is certainly very kind to me. But
recollect you are not to talk much; let me talk to you.
The following morning found Louisa much better, and Irene and the
mother spent the day in her room. Late in the afternoon the minister
came in and talked to his sister for some moments, then turned to his
Mother, I am going to take this visitor of yours down to the
library; Louisa has monopolized her long enough. Come, Miss Irene, you
shall join them again at tea.
He led the way, and she followed very willingly. Placing her in a
chair before the fire, he drew another to the rug; and seating himself,
said just as if speaking to Louisa
What have you been doing these two months? What is it that clouds
your face, my little sister?
Ah, sir! I am so weary of that school. You don't know what a relief
it is to come here.
It is rather natural that you should feel home-sick. It is a fierce
ordeal for a child like you to be thrust so far from home.
I am not home-sick now, I believe. I have in some degree become
accustomed to the separation from my father; but I am growing so
different from what I used to be; so different from what I expected. It
grieves me to know that I am changing for the worse; but, somehow, I
can't help it. I make good resolutions in the morning before I leave my
room, and by noon I manage to break all of them. The girls try me and I
lose my patience. When I am at home nothing of this kind ever troubles
Miss Irene, yours is not a clinging, dependent disposition; if I
have rightly understood your character, you have never been accustomed
to lean upon others. After relying on yourself so long, why yield to
mistrust now? With years should grow the power, the determination, to
do the work you find laid out for you.
It is precisely because I know how very poorly I have managed
myself thus far that I have no confidence in my own powers for future
emergencies. Either I have lived alone too long, or else not long
enough; I rather think the last. If they had only suffered me to act as
I wished, I should have been so much better at home. Oh, sir, I am not
the girl I was eight months ago. I knew how it would be when they sent
Some portentous cloud seems lowering over your future. What is it?
You ought to be a gleeful girl, full of happy hopes.
She sank farther back in her chair to escape his searching gaze and
drooped her face lower.
Yes, yes; I know I ought, but people can't always shut their eyes.
Shut their eyes to what?
Various coming troubles, Mr. Young.
His lip curled slightly, and, replacing the book on the table, he
said, as if speaking rather to himself than to her
The heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth not
intermeddle with his joy.
You are not a stranger, sir.
I see you are disposed to consider me such. I thought I was your
brother. But no matter; after a time all will be well.
She looked puzzled; and, as the tea-bell summoned them, he merely
I do not wonder. You are a shy child; but you will soon learn to
understand me; you will come to me with all your sorrows.
During the remainder of this visit she saw him no more. Louisa
recovered rapidly, and when she asked for her brother on Sabbath
evening, Mrs. Young said he was to preach twice that day. Monday
morning arrived, and Irene returned to school with a heavy heart
fearing that she had wounded him; but a few days after, Louisa brought
her a book and brief note of kind words. One Saturday morning she sat
quite alone in her small room; the week had been specially painful,
and, wearied in soul, the girl laid her head down on her folded arms,
and thought of her home in the far South. A loud rap startled her from
this painful reverie, and ere she could utter the stereotyped come
in, Louisa sprang to her side.
I have come for you, Irene; have obtained permission from Dr.
for you to accompany us to the Academy of Design. Put on your
bonnet; Harvey is waiting in the reception room. We shall have a
Ah, Louisa! you are all very kind to recollect me so constantly. It
will give me great pleasure to go.
When they joined the minister, Irene fancied he received her coldly,
and as they walked on he took no part in the conversation. The annual
exhibition had just opened; the rooms were thronged with visitors, and
the hushed tones swelled to a monotonous hum. Some stood in groups,
expatiating eagerly on certain pictures; others occupied the seats and
leisurely scanned now the paintings, now the crowd. Furnished with a
catalogue, the girls moved slowly on, while Mr. Young pointed out the
prominent beauties or defects of the works exhibited. They made the
circuit of the room, and began a second tour, when their attention was
attracted by a girl who stood in one corner, with her hands clasped
behind her. She was gazing very intently on an Ecce-Homo, and, though
her face was turned toward the wall, the posture bespoke most unusual
interest. Irene looked at her an instant, and held her breath; she had
seen only one other head which resembled thatshe knew the purplish
waving hair, and gliding up to her she exclaimed
Electra! Electra Grey!
The orphan turned, and they were locked in a tight embrace.
Oh, Irie! I am so glad to see you. I have been here so long, and
looked for you so often, that I had almost despaired. Whenever I walk
down Broadway, whenever I go out anywhere, I look at every face, peep
into every bonnet, hoping to find you. Oh! I am so glad. Do come and
see me soonsoon. I must go nowI promised.
Where do you live? I will go home with you now.
I am not going home immediately. Mr. Clifton's house is No. 85,
West Street. Come this afternoon.
With a long, warm pressure of hands they parted, and Irene stood
looking after the graceful figure till it glided out of sight.
In the name of wonder, who is that? You two have been the 'observed
of all observers,' ejaculated the impulsive Louisa.
That is my old schoolmate and friend of whom I once spoke to you. I
had no idea that she was in New York. She is a poor orphan.
Are you ready to return home? This episode has evidently driven
pictures out of your head for to-day, said Mr. Young, who had
endeavoured to screen her from observation.
Yes, quite ready to go, though I have enjoyed the morning very much
indeed, thanks to your kindness.
Soon after they reached home, Louisa was called into the parlour to
see a young friend, and as Mrs. Young was absent, Irene found it rather
lonely upstairs. She thought of a new volume of travels which she had
noticed on the hall-table as they entered, and started down to get it.
About half-way of the flight of steps she caught her foot in the
carpeting, where one of the rods chanced to be loose, and despite her
efforts to grasp the railing fell to the floor of the hall, crushing
one arm under her. The library-door was thrown open instantly, and the
minister came out. She lay motionless, and he bent over her.
Irene! where are you hurt? Speak to me.
He raised her in his arms and placed her on the sofa in the
sitting-room. The motion produced great pain, and she groaned and shut
her eyes. A crystal vase containing some exquisite perfume stood on his
mother's work-table, and, pouring a portion of its contents in his
palm, he bathed her forehead. Acute suffering distorted her features,
and his face grew pallid as her own while he watched her. Taking her
hand, he repeated
Irene, my darling! tell me how you are hurt?
She looked at him, and said with some difficulty
My ankle pains me very much, and I believe my arm is broken. I
can't move it.
Thank God you are not killed.
He kissed her, then turned away and despatched a servant for a
physician. He summoned Louisa, and inquired fruitlessly for his mother;
no one knew whither she had gone; it would not do to wait for her. He
stood by the sofa and prepared the necessary bandages, while his sister
could only cry over and caress the sufferer. When the physician came
the white dimpled arm was bared; and he discovered that the bone was
broken. The setting was extremely painful, but she lay with closed eyes
and firmly compressed lips, uttering no sound, giving no token of the
torture, save in the wrinkling of her forehead. They bound the arm
tightly, and then the doctor said the ankle was badly strained and
swollen, but there was, luckily, no fracture. He gave minute directions
to the minister and withdrew, praising the patient's remarkable
fortitude. Louisa would talk, and her brother sent her off to prepare a
room for her friend.
I think I had better go back to the Institution, Mr. Young. It will
be a long time before I can walk again, and I wish you would have me
carried back. Dr. will be uneasy, and will prefer my returning, as
father left me in his charge. She tried to rise, but sank back on the
Hush! hush! You will stay where you are, little cripple; I am only
thankful you happened to be here.
He smoothed the folds of her hair from her temples, and for the
first time played with the curls he had so often before been tempted to
touch. She looked so slight, so childish, with her head nestled against
the pillow, that he forgot she was almost sixteen, forgot everything
but the beauty of her pale face, and bent over her with an expression
of the tenderest love. She was suffering too much to notice his
countenance, and only felt that he was very kind and gentle. Mrs. Young
came in very soon, and heard with the deepest solicitude of what had
occurred. Irene again requested to be taken to the school, fearing that
she would cause too much trouble during her long confinement to the
house. But Mrs. Young stopped her arguments with kisses, and would
listen to no such arrangements; she would trust to no one but herself
to nurse the bruised Southern lily. Having seen that all was in
readiness, she insisted on carrying her guest to the room adjoining
Louisa's, and opening into her own. Mr. Young had gone to Boston the
day before, and, turning to her son, she said
Harvey, as your father is away, you must take Irene upstairs; I am
not strong enough. Be careful that you do not hurt her.
She led the way, and, bending down, he whispered
My little sister, put this uninjured arm around my neck, therenow
I shall carry you as easily as if you were in a cradle.
He held her firmly, and as he bore her up the steps the white face
lay on his bosom, and the golden hair floated against his cheek. If she
had looked at him then, she would have seen more than he intended that
anyone should know: for, young and free from vanity though she was, it
was impossible to mistake the expression of the eyes riveted upon her.
Mrs. Young wrote immediately to Mr. Huntingdon, and explained the
circumstances which had made his daughter her guest for some weeks at
least, assuring him that he need indulge no apprehension whatever on
her account, as she would nurse her as tenderly as a mother could.
Stupefied by the opiate, Irene took little notice of what passed,
except when roused by the pain consequent upon dressing the ankle.
Louisa went to school as usual, but her mother rarely left their guest;
and after Mr. Young's return he treated her with all the affectionate
consideration of a parent. Several days after the occurrence of the
accident Irene turned toward the minister, who stood talking to his
Your constant kindness emboldens me to ask a favour of you, which I
think you will scarcely deny me. I am very anxious to see the friend
whom I so unexpectedly met at the Academy of Design. Here is a card
containing her address; will you spare me the time to bring her here
to-day? I shall be very much obliged to you.
Very well. I will go after her as soon as I have fulfilled a
previous engagement. What is her name?
Electra Grey. Did you notice her face?
Yes; but why do you ask?
Because I think she resembles your mother.
She resembles far more an old portrait hanging in my room. I
remarked it as soon as I saw her.
He seemed lost in thought, and immediately after left the room. An
hour later, Irene's listening ear detected the opening and closing of
the hall door.
There is Electra on the steps; I hear her voice. Will you please
open the door?
Mrs. Young laid down her work and rose to comply, but Harvey ushered
the stranger in and then retired.
The lady of the house looked at the new-comer, and a startled
expression came instantly into her countenance. She made a step forward
and paused irresolute.
Mrs. Young, allow me to introduce my friend, Miss Electra Grey.
Electra bowed, and Mrs. Young exclaimed
Grey! Grey! Electra Grey; and so like Robert? Oh! it must be so.
Child, who are you? Where are your parents?
She approached and put her hand on the girl's shoulders, while a
hopeful light kindled in her eyes.
I am an orphan, madam, from the South. My father died before my
birth, my mother immediately after.
Was your father's name Robert? Where was he from?
His name was Enoch R. Gray. I don't know what his middle name was.
He came originally from Pennsylvania, I believe.
Oh! I knew that I could not be mistaken! My brother's child!
She threw her arms around the astonished girl, and strained her to
There must be some mistake, madam. I never heard that I had
relatives in New York.
Oh! child! call me aunt! I am your father's sister. We called him
by his middle name, Robert, and for eighteen years have heard nothing
of him. Sit down here, and let me tell you the circumstances. Your
father was the youngest of three children, and in his youth gave us
great distress by his wildness; he ran away from college and went to
sea. After an absence of three years he returned, almost a wreck of his
former self. My mother had died during his long voyage to the South Sea
Islands, and father, who believed him to have been the remote cause of
her death (for her health failed soon after he left), upbraided him
most harshly and unwisely. His reproaches drove poor Robert to
desperation, and without giving us any clue, he left home as suddenly
as before. Whither he went we never knew. Father was so incensed that
he entirely disinherited him; but at his death, when the estate was
divided, my brother William and I decided that we would take only what
we considered our proportion, and we set apart one-third for Robert. We
advertised for several years, and could hear nothing of him; and at the
end of the fifth year, William divided that remaining third. Oh, my
dear child! I am so glad to find you out. But where have you been all
this time? Where did Robert die?
She held the orphan's hand, and made no attempt to conceal the tears
that rolled over her cheeks. Electra gave her a detailed account of her
life from the time when she was taken to her uncle, Mr. Aubrey, at the
age of four months, till the death of her aunt and her removal to New
And Robert's child has been in want, while we knew not of her
existence! Oh, Electra! you shall have no more sorrow that we can
shield you from. I loved your father very devotedly, and I shall love
his orphan quite as dearly. Come to me, let me be your mother. Let me
repair the wrong of bygone years.
She folded her arms around the graceful young form and sobbed aloud,
while Irene found it difficult to repress her own tears of sympathy and
joy that her friend had found such relatives. Of the three, Electra was
calmest. Though glad to meet with her father's family, she knew better
than they that this circumstance could make little alteration in her
life, and therefore, when Mrs. Young had left the room to acquaint her
husband and son with the discovery she had made, Electra sat down
beside her friend's sofa just as she would have done two hours before.
I am so glad for your sake that you are to come and live here.
Until you know them all as well as I do, you cannot properly appreciate
your good fortune, said Irene, raising herself on her elbow.
Yes, I am very glad to meet my aunt, returned Electra, evasively,
and then she added earnestly
I don't know that I ought to talk about things that should have
been buried before you were born. But you probably know something of
what happened. We found out after you left why you were so suddenly
sent off to boarding-school; and you can have no idea how much my poor
aunt was distressed at the thought of having caused your banishment.
Irene, your father hated her, and of course you know it; but do you
No; I never could imagine any adequate cause.
Well, I can tell you. Before Aunt Amy's marriage your father loved
her, and to please her parents she accepted him. She was miserable,
because she was very much attached to my uncle, and asked Mr.
Huntingdon to release her from the engagement. He declined, and finding
that her parents sided with him she left home and married against their
wishes. They adopted a distant relative and never gave her a cent. Your
father never forgave her. He had great influence with the governor, and
she went to him and entreated him to aid her in procuring a pardon for
her husband. He repulsed her cruelly, and used his influence against my
uncle. She afterwards saw a letter which he wrote to the governor,
urging him to withhold a pardon. Now you have the key to his hatred;
now you understand why he wrote you nothing concerning us. Not even
Aunt Amy's coffin could shut in his hate. Irene, I must go home now,
for they will wonder what has become of me. I will see you again soon.
She was detained by her aunt, and presented to the remainder of the
family, and it was arranged that Mr. and Mrs. Young should visit her
the ensuing day. While they talked over the tea-table of the
newly-found, Harvey went slowly upstairs and knocked at Irene's door.
Louisa was chattering delightedly about her cousin, and, sending her
down to her tea, he took her seat beside the sofa. Irene lay with her
fingers over her eyes, and he said gently
You see that I am wiser than you, Irene. I knew that it would do
you no good to have company. Next time be advised.
It was not Electra that harmed me.
Then you admit that you have been harmed?
No; I am low-spirited to-night; I believe that is all.
He opened the Rambler, of which she was particularly fond,
and began to read. For a while she listened, and in her interest forgot
her forebodings, but after a time her long silky lashes swept her
cheeks, and she slept. The minister laid down the volume and watched
the pure girlish face; noted all its witching loveliness, and thought
of the homage which it would win her in coming years. He knew as he sat
watching her slumber that he loved her above everything on earth; that
she wielded a power none had ever possessed beforethat his heart was
indissolubly linked with hers. He had wrestled with this infatuation,
had stationed himself on the platform of common sense, and railed at
and ridiculed this piece of folly. His clear, cool reason gave solemn
verdict against the fiercely-throbbing heart, but not one pulsation had
been restrained. As he sat looking down at her, a mighty barrier rose
between them. His future had long been determinedduty called him to
the rude huts of the far West; thither pointed the finger of destiny,
and thither, at all hazards, he would go. He thought that he had
habituated himself to sacrifices, but the spirit of self-abnegation was
scarcely equal to this trial. Reason taught him that the
tenderly-nurtured child of Southern climes would never suit him for a
companion in the pioneer life which he had marked out. He folded his
arms tightly over his chest, and resolved to go promptly.
The gaslight flashed on Irene's hair as it hung over the side of the
sofa; he stooped, and pressed his lips to the floating curls, and went
down to the library, smiling grimly at his own folly. Without delay he
wrote two letters, and was dating a third, when his mother came in.
Placing a chair for her, he laid down his pen.
I am glad to see you, mother; I want to have a talk with you.
About what, Harvey?an anxious look settled on her face.
About my leaving you, and going West. I have decided to start next
Oh, my son! how can you bring such grief upon me? Surely there is
work enough for you to do here, without your tearing yourself from us.
Yes, mother, work enough, but hands enough also, without mine.
These are the sunny slopes of the vineyard, and labourers crowd to till
them; but there are cold, shadowy, barren nooks and corners, that
equally demand cultivation. There the lines have fallen to me, and
there I go to my work. I have delayed my departure too long already.
Oh, Harvey! have you fully determined on this step?
Yes, my dear mother, fully determined to go.
It is very hard for me to give up my only son. I can't say that I
will reconcile myself to this separation; but you are old enough to
decide your own future; and I suppose I ought not to urge you. For
months I have opposed your resolution; now I will not longer
remonstrate. Oh, Harvey! it makes my heart ache to part with you. If
you were married I should be better satisfied; but to think of you in
your loneliness! She laid her head on his shoulder, and wept.
The minister compressed his lips firmly an instant, then replied
I always told you that I should never marry. I shall be too
constantly occupied to sit down and feel lonely. Now, mother, I must
finish my letters, if you please, for they should go by the earliest
CHAPTER IX. AN ORPHAN'S PROTECTORS
The artist stood at the window watching for his pupil's return; it
was the late afternoon hour, which they were wont to spend in reading,
and her absence annoyed him. As he rested carelessly against the
window, his graceful form was displayed to great advantage, and the
long brown hair dropped about a classical face of almost feminine
beauty. The delicacy of his features was enhanced by the extreme pallor
of his complexion, and it was apparent that close application to his
profession had made sad inroads on a constitution never very robust. A
certain listlessness of manner, a sort of lazy-grace seemed
characteristic; but when his pupil came in and laid aside her bonnet,
the expression of ennui vanished, and he threw himself on a sofa
looking infinitely relieved. She drew near, and without hesitation
acquainted him with the discovery of her relatives in New York. He
listened in painful surprise, and, ere she had concluded, sprang up. I
understand! they will want to take you; will urge you to share their
home of wealth. But, Electra, you won't leave me; surely you won't
He put his hands on her shoulders, and she knew from his quick,
irregular breathing that the thought of separation greatly distressed
My aunt has not explicitly invited me to reside with her, though I
inferred from her manner that she confidently expected me to do so.
Irene also spoke of it as a settled matter.
You will not allow me to persuade you? Oh, child! tell me at once
you will never leave me.
Mr. Clifton, we must part some day; I cannot always live here, you
know. Before very long I must go out and earn my bread.
Never! while I live. When I offered you a home, I expected it to be
a permanent one. I intended to adopt you. Here, if you choose, you may
work and earn a reputation; but away from me, among strangers, never.
Electra, you forget, you gave yourself to me once.
She looked into his eyes, and, with a woman's quick perception, read
all the truth.
In an instant her countenance changed painfully; she stooped,
touched his hand with her lips, and exclaimed
Thank you, a thousand times, my friend, my father! for your
interest in, and your unvarying, unparalleled kindness to me. All the
gratitude and affection which a child could give to a parent I shall
always cherish toward you. Since it annoys you, we will say no more
about the future; let the years take care of themselves as they come.
Will you promise me positively that you will not go to your aunt?
Yes; I have never seriously entertained the thought.
She escaped from his hands, and lighting the gas, applied herself to
her books for the next hour.
If Irene found the restraint of boarding-school irksome, the
separation from Russell was well-nigh intolerable to Electra. At first
she had seemed plunged in lethargy; but after a time this mood gave
place to restless, unceasing activity. Like one trying to flee from
something painful, she rushed daily to her work, and regretted when the
hours of darkness consigned her to reflection. Mrs. Clifton was quite
aged, and though uniformly gentle and affectionate toward the orphan,
there was no common ground of congeniality on which they could meet. To
a proud, exacting nature like Electra's, Mr. Clifton's constant
manifestations of love and sympathy were very soothing. Writhing under
the consciousness of her cousin's indifference, she turned eagerly to
receive the tokens of affection showered upon her. She knew that his
happiness centred in her, and vainly fancied that she could feed her
hungry heart with his adoration. But by degrees she realized that these
husks would not satisfy her; and a singular sensation of mingled
gratitude and impatience arose whenever he caressed her.
Mrs. Clifton was a rigid Roman Catholic, her son a free-thinker, in
the broadest significance of the term, if one might judge from the
selections that adorned his library shelves. But deep in his soul was
the germination of a mystical creed, which gradually unfolded itself to
It was late at night when Electra retired to her room, and sat down
to collect her thoughts after the unexpected occurrences of the day.
More than one discovery had been made since the sunrise, which she
awoke so early to study. She had found relatives, and an opportunity of
living luxuriously; but, in the midst of this beautiful bouquet
of surprises, a serpent's head peered out at her. Mr. Clifton loved
her; not as a teacher his pupil, not as guardian loves ward, not as
parent loves child. Perhaps he had not intended that she should know it
so soon, but his eyes had betrayed the secret. She saw perfectly how
matters stood. This, then, had prompted him from the first, to render
her assistance; he had resolved to make her his wife; nothing less
would content him. She twisted her white fingers in her hair, and gazed
vacantly down on the carpet, and gradually the rich crimson blood sank
out of her face. She held his life in the hollow of her hand, and this
she well knew; death hung over him like the sword of Damocles; she had
been told that any violent agitation or grief would bring on the
hemorrhage which he so much dreaded, and although he seemed stronger
and better than usual, the insidious nature of his disease gave her
little hope that he would ever be robust. To feign ignorance of his
real feelings for her, would prove but a temporary stratagem; the time
must inevitably come, before long, when he would put aside this veil,
and set the truth before her. How should she meet ithow should she
evade him? Accept the home which Mrs. Young would offer her, and leave
him to suffer briefly, to sink swiftly into the tomb? No; her father's
family had cast him most unjustly off, withholding his patrimony; and
now she scorned to receive one cent of the money which his father was
unwilling that he should enjoy. Beside, who loved her as well as Henry
Clifton? She owed more to him than to any living being; it would be the
part of an ingrate to leave him; it was cowardly to shrink from
repaying the debt. But the thought of being his wife froze her blood,
and heavy drops gathered on her brow as she endeavoured to reflect upon
A feeling of unconquerable repulsion sprang up in her heart,
nerving, steeling her against his affection. With a strange,
instantaneous reaction she thought with loathing of his words of
endearment. How could she endure them in future, yet how reject without
wounding him? One, and only one path of escape presented itselfa path
of measureless joy. She lifted her hands, and murmured
Russell! Russell! save me from this!
When Mr. and Mrs. Young visited the studio the following day and
urged the orphan's removal to their house, she gently but resolutely
declined their generous offer, expressing an affectionate gratitude
toward her teacher, and a determination not to leave him, at least for
the present. Mrs. Young was much distressed, and adduced every argument
of which she was mistress, but her niece remained firm; and finding
their entreaties fruitless, Mr. Young said that he would immediately
take the necessary steps to secure Robert Grey's portion of the estate
to his daughter. Electra sat with her hand nestled in her aunt's, but
when this matter was alluded to she rose, and said proudly
No, sir; let the estate remain just as it is. I will never accept
one cent. My grandfather on his deathbed excluded my father from any
portion of it, and since he willed it so, even so it shall be. I have
no legal claim to a dollar, and I will never receive one from your
generosity. It was the will of the dead that you and my Uncle William
should inherit the whole, and as far as I am concerned, have it you
shall. I am poor, I know; so were my parents. Poverty they bequeathed
as my birthright, and even as they lived without aid from my
grandfather, so will I. It is very noble and generous in you, after the
expiration of nearly twenty years, to be willing to divide with the
orphan of the outcast; but I will not, cannot, allow you to do so. I
fully appreciate and most cordially thank you both for your goodness;
but I am young and strong, and I expect to earn my living. Mr. Clifton
and his mother want me to remain in his house until I finish my
studies, and I gratefully accept his kind offer. Nay, aunt! don't let
it trouble you so. I shall visit you very frequently.
She has all of Robert's fierce obstinacy. I see it in her eyes,
hear it ringing in the tones of her voice. Take care, child; it ruined
your father, said Mrs. Young sorrowfully.
You should remember, Electra, that an orphan girl needs a
protector. Such I would fain prove myself.
As Mr. Young spoke, he took one of her hands and drew her to him.
She turned quickly and laid the other on the artist's arm.
I have one here, sir, a protector as true and kind as my own father
She understood the flash of his eyes and his proud smile as he
assured her relatives that he would guard her from harm and want so
long as he lived, or as she remained under his care. She knew he
regarded this as a tacit sealing of the old compact, and she had no
inclination to undeceive him at this juncture.
Urging her to visit them as often as possible, and extending the
invitation to Mr. Clifton, the Youngs withdrew, evidently much
disappointed, and as the door closed behind them, Electra felt that the
circle of doom was narrowing around her. Mr. Clifton approached her,
but, averting her head, she lifted the damask curtain that divided the
parlour from the studio, and effected her retreat, dreading to meet his
glanceputting off the evil day as long as possibletrying to trample
the serpent that trailed after her from that hour.
CHAPTER X. IRENE'S COUSIN
You are better to-day, mother tells me.
Yes, thank you, my foot is much better. You have not been up to see
me for two days.
Irene sat in an easy chair by the open window, and the minister took
a seat near her.
I have not forgotten you in the interim, however.
As he spoke he laid a bouquet of choice flowers in her lap. She bent
over them with eager delight, and held out one hand, saying
Oh, thank you. How very kind you are! These remind me of the
greenhouse at home. They are the most beautiful I have seen in New
Irene, you look sober to-day. Come, cheer up. I don't want to carry
that grave expression away with me. I want to remember your face as I
first saw it, unshadowed.
What do you mean? Are you going to leave home?
Yes; to-morrow I bid farewell to New York for a long time, I am
going to the West to take charge of a church.
Oh, Mr. Young! surely you are not in earnest? You cannot intend to
separate yourself from your family.
She dropped her flowers, and leaned forward.
Yes, I have had it in contemplation for more than a year, and,
recently, I have decided to remove at once.
He saw the great sorrow written in her countenance, the quick
flutter of her lip, the large drops that dimmed the violet eyes and
gathered on the long golden lashes, and far sweeter than the Eolian
harps was the broken voice
What shall I do without you? Who will encourage and advise me when
She leaned her forehead on her hands, and a tear slid down and
rested on her chin. The sun was setting, and the crimson light flooding
the room, bathed her with glory, spreading a halo around her. He held
his breath and gazed upon the drooping figure and bewitching face; and,
in after years, when his dark hair had grown silvery grey, he
remembered the lovely sun-lit vision that so entranced him, leaving an
indelible image on heart and brain. He gently removed the hands, and
holding them in his, said, in the measured, low tone so indicative of
Irene, my friend, you attach too much importance to the aid which I
might render you. You know your duty, and I feel assured will not
require to be reminded of it. Henceforth our paths diverge widely. I go
to a distant section of our land, there to do my Father's work; and,
ere long, having completed the prescribed course, you will return to
your Southern home and take the position assigned you in society. Thus,
in all human probability, we shall meet no more, for
Oh, sir! don't say that; you will come back to visit your family,
and then I shall see you.
That is scarcely probable; but we will not discuss it now. There
is, however, a channel of communication for separated friends, and of
this we must avail ourselves. I shall write to you from Western wilds,
and letters from you will most pleasantly ripple the monotonous life I
expect to lead.
Can't you stay longer and talk to me? said Irene, as he rose.
No; I promised to address the Street Sabbath-school children
to-night, and must look over my notes before I go.
There was no unsteadiness in his tone, no trace of emotion, as he
stood up before her. Irene was deeply moved, and when she essayed to
thank him, found it impossible to pronounce her words. Tears were
gliding down her cheeks; he put back the hair, and taking the face
softly in his palms, looked long and earnestly at its fascinating
beauty. The great, glistening blue eyes gazed into his, and the silky
lashes and rich scarlet lips trembled. He felt the hot blood surging
like a lava-tide in his veins, and his heart rising in fierce rebellion
at the stern interdict which he saw fit to lay upon it; but no token of
all this came to the cool, calm surface.
Good-bye, Irene. May God bless you, my dear little friend!
He drew the face close to his own as though he would have kissed
her, but forbore, and merely raising her hands to his lips turned and
left the room. Verily, greater is he that ruleth his own spirit than
he that taketh a city. He left before breakfast the ensuing morning,
bearing his secret with him, having given no intimation, by word or
look, of the struggle which his resolution cost him. Once his mother
had fancied that he felt more than a friendly interest in their guest,
but the absolute repose of his countenance and grave serenity of his
manner during the last week of his stay dispersed all her suspicions.
From a luxurious home, fond friends, and the girlish face he loved
better than his life, the minister went forth to his distant post,
offering in sacrifice to God, upon the altar of duty, his throbbing
heart and hopes of earthly happiness.
A cloud of sadness settled on the household after his departure, and
scarcely less than Louisa's was Irene's silent grief. The confinement
grew doubly irksome when his voice and step had passed from the
threshold, and she looked forward impatiently to her release. The
sprain proved more serious than she at first imagined, and the summer
vacation set in before she was able to walk with ease. Mr. Huntingdon
had been apprised of her long absence from school, and one day, when
she was cautiously trying her strength, he arrived, without having
given premonition of his visit. As he took her in his arms and marked
the alteration in her thin face, the listlessness of her manner, the
sorrowful gravity of her countenance, his fears were fully aroused,
and, holding her to his heart, he exclaimed
My daughter! my beauty! I must take you out of New York.
Yes, father, take me home; do take me home. She clasped her arms
round his neck and nestled her face close to his.
Not yet, queen. We will go to the Catskill, to Lake George, to
Niagara. A few weeks' travel will invigorate you. I have written to
Hugh to meet us at Montreal; he is with a gay party, and you shall have
a royal time. A pretty piece of business truly, that you can't amuse
yourself in any other way than by breaking half the bones in your
Thus the summer programme was determined without any reference to
the wishes of the one most concerned, and, knowing her father's
disposition, she silently acquiesced. After much persuasion, Mr.
Huntingdon prevailed on Louisa's parents to allow her to accompany
them. The mother consented very reluctantly, and on the appointed day
the party set off for Saratoga. The change was eminently beneficial,
and before they reached Canada Irene seemed perfectly restored. But her
father was not satisfied. Her unwonted taciturnity annoyed and puzzled
him; he knew that beneath the calm surface some strong undercurrent
rolled swiftly, and he racked his brain to discover what had rendered
her so reserved. Louisa's joyous, elastic spirits probably heightened
the effect of her companion's gravity, and the contrast daily presented
could not fail to arrest Mr. Huntingdon's attention. On arriving at
Montreal the girls were left for a few moments in the parlour of the
hotel, while Mr. Huntingdon went to register their names. Irene and
Louisa stood by the window looking out into the street, when a happy,
ringing voice exclaimed
Here you are, at last, Irie! I caught a glimpse of your curls as
you passed the dining-room door.
She turned to meet her cousin and held out her hand.
Does your majesty suppose I shall be satisfied with the tip of your
fingers? Pshaw, Irie! I will have my kiss.
He threw his arm round her shoulder, drew down the shielding hands,
and kissed her twice.
Oh, Hugh, behave yourself! Miss Louisa Young, my cousin, Hugh
He bowed, and shook hands with the stranger, then seized his
cousin's fingers and fixed his fine eyes affectionately upon her.
It seems an age since I saw you, Irie. Come, sit down and let me
look at you; how stately you have grown, to be sure! More like a queen
than ever; absolutely two inches taller since you entered
boarding-school. Irie, I am so glad to see you again! He snatched up a
handful of curls and drew them across his lips, careless of what Louisa
Thank you, Hugh. I am quite as glad to see you.
Oh, humbug! I know better. You would rather see Paragon any day,
ten to one. I will kill that dog yet, and shoot Erebus, too; see if I
don't! then maybe you can think of somebody else. When you are glad you
show it in your eyes, and now they are as still as violets under
icicles. I think you might love me a little, at least as much as a
Hush! I do love you, but I don't choose to tell it to everybody in
Mr. Huntingdon's entrance diverted the conversation, and Irene was
glad to escape to her own room.
Your cousin seems to be very fond of you, observed Louisa, as she
upbraided her hair.
He is very impulsive and demonstrative, that is all.
How handsome he is!
Do you think so, really? Take care, Louisa! I will tell him, and,
by way of crushing his vanity, add 'de gustibus, etc., etc., etc.
How old is he?
In his twentieth year.
From that time the cousins were thrown constantly together; wherever
they went Hugh took charge of Irene, while Mr. Huntingdon gave his
attention to Louisa. But the eagle eye was upon his daughter's
movements; he watched her countenance, weighed her words, tried to
probe her heart. Week after week he found nothing tangible. Hugh was
gay, careless; Irene, equable, but reserved. Finally they turned their
faces homeward, and in October found themselves once more in New York.
Mr. Huntingdon prepared to return South and Hugh to sail for Europe,
while Irene remained at the hotel until the morning of her cousin's
A private parlour adjoined the room she occupied, and here he came
to say farewell. She knew that he had already had a long conversation
with her father, and as he threw himself on the sofa and seized one of
her hands, she instinctively shrank from him.
Irene, here is my miniature. I wanted you to ask for it, but I see
that you won't do it. I know very well that you will not value it
one-thousandth part as much as I do your likeness here on my
watch-chain; but perhaps it will remind you of me sometimes. How I
shall want to see you before I come home! You know you belong to me.
Uncle gave you to me, and when I come back from Europe we will be
married. We are both very young, I know; but it has been settled so
long. Irie, my beauty, I wish you would love me more; you are so cold.
Won't you try?
He leaned down to kiss her, but she turned her face hastily away and
No, I can't love you other than as my cousin; I would not, if I
could. I do not think it would be right, and I won't promise to try.
Father has no right to give me to you, or to anybody else. I tell you
now I belong to myself, and only I can give myself away. Hugh, I don't
consider this settled at all. You might as well know the truth at once;
I have some voice in the matter.
Mr. Huntingdon had evidently prepared him for something of this kind
on her part, and, though his face flushed angrily, he took no notice of
I shall write to you frequently, and I hope that you will be
punctual in replying. Irie, give me your left hand just a minute; wear
this ring till I come back, to remind you that you have a cousin across
He tried to force the flashing jewel on her slender finger, but she
resisted, and rose, struggling to withdraw her hand.
No, no, Hugh! I can't; I won't. I know very well what that ring
means, and I cannot accept it. Release my hand; I tell you I won't wear
Come, Hugh; you have not a moment to spare; the carriage is
waiting. Mr. Huntingdon threw open the door, having heard every word
that had passed. Hugh dropped the ring in his vest-pocket and rose.
Well, Irie, I suppose I must bid you farewell. Two or three years
will change you, my dearest little cousin. Good-bye; think of me now
and then, and learn to love me by the time I come home.
She suffered him to take both her hands and kiss her tenderly, for
her father stood there, and she could not refuse; but the touch of his
lips burned her long after he was gone. She put on her bonnet, and,
when her father returned from the steamer, they entered the carriage
which was to convey her to the dreary, dreaded school. As they rolled
along Broadway, Mr. Huntingdon coolly took her hand and placed Hugh's
ring upon it, saying authoritatively
Hugh told me you refused to accept his parting gift, and seemed
much hurt about it. There is no reason why you should not wear it, and
in future I do not wish to see you without it. Remember this, my
Father, it is wrong for me to wear it, unless I expected to
I understand the whole matter perfectly. Now, Irene, let me hear no
more about it. I wish you would learn that it is a child's duty to obey
her parent. No more words, if you please, on the subject.
She felt that this was not the hour for resistance, and wisely
forbore; but he saw rebellion written in the calm, fixed eye, and read
it in the curved lines of the full upper lip. She had entreated him to
take her home, and only the night before renewed her pleadings. But his
refusal was positive, and now she went back to the hated school without
a visible token of regret. She saw her trunks consigned to the porter,
listened to a brief conversation between Dr. and her father, and
after a hasty embrace and half-dozen words, watched the tall, soldierly
form re-enter the carriage. Then she went slowly up the broad stairway
to her cell-like room, and with dry eyes unpacked her clothes, locked
up the ring in her jewellery-box, and prepared to resume her studies.
CHAPTER XI. ANXIETY
It was late October; a feeble flame flickered in the grate; on the
rug crouched an English spaniel, creeping closer as the heat died out
and the waning light of day gradually receded, leaving the room dusky,
save where a slanting line of yellow quivered down from the roof and
gilt the folds of black silk. At one of the windows stood Electra, half
concealed by the heavy green and gold drapery, one dimpled hand
clinging to the curtains, the other pressed against the panes, as she
watched the forms hurrying along the street below.
For three weeks she had received no letter from Russell; he was
remarkably punctual, and this long, unprecedented interval filled her,
at first, with vague uneasiness, which grew finally into horrible
foreboding. For ten days she had stood at this hour, at the same
window, waiting for Mr. Clifton's return from the post-office. Ten
times the words No letter had fallen, like the voice of doom, on her
throbbing heart. On this eleventh day suspense reached its acme, and
time seemed to have locked its wheels to lengthen her torture. At last
an omnibus stopped, and Mr. Clifton stepped out, with a bundle of
papers under his arm. Closer pressed the pallid face against the glass;
firmer grew the grasp of the icy fingers on the brocatel; she had no
strength to meet him. He closed the door, hung up his hat, and looked
into the studio; no fire in the grate, no light in the
gas-globeseverything cold and dark save the reflection on that front
I am here.
She stood motionless a moment; but the brick walls opposite, the
trees, the lamp-posts spun around, like maple leaves in an autumn gale.
My owlet! why don't you have a light and some fire?
He stumbled toward her, and put his hand on her shoulder; but she
shrank away, and, lighting the gas, rang for coal.
There is something terrible the matter; Russell is either ill or
dead. I must go to him.
Just, then the door-bell rang sharply; she supposed it was some
brother-artist coming to spend an hour, and turned to go.
Wait a minute; I want to He paused, for at that instant she
heard a voice which, even amid the din of Shinar, would have been
unmistakable to her, and breaking from him, she sprang to the threshold
and met her cousin.
Oh, Russell! I thought you had forgotten me.
What put such a ridiculous thought into your head? My last letter
must have prepared you to expect me.
What letter? I have had none for three weeks.
One in which I mentioned Mr. Campbell's foreign appointment, and
the position of secretary which he tendered me. Electra, let me speak
to Mr. Clifton.
As he advanced and greeted the artist, she heard a quick, snapping
sound, and saw the beautiful Bohemian glass paper-cutter her guardian
had been using lying shivered to atoms on the rug. The fluted handle
was crushed in his fingers, and drops of blood oozed over the left
hand. Ere she could allude to it, he thrust his hand into his pocket
and desired Russell to be seated.
This is a pleasure totally unexpected. What is the appointment of
which you spoke?
Mr. Campbell has been appointed Minister to , and sails next
week. I am surprised that you have not heard of it from the public
journals; many of them have spoken of it, and warmly commended the
selection. I accompany him in the capacity of secretary and shall,
meanwhile, prosecute my studies under his direction.
The grey, glittering eyes of the artist sought those of his pupil,
and for an instant hers quailed; but, rallying, she looked fully,
steadfastly at him, resolved to play out the game, scorning to bare her
heart to his scrutiny. She had fancied that Russell's affection had
prompted this visit; now it was apparent that he came to New York to
take a steamernot to see her; to put the stormy Atlantic between
New York certainly agrees with you, Electra; you have grown and
improved very much since you came North. I never saw such colour in
your cheeks before; I can scarcely believe that you are the same
fragile child I put into the stage one year ago. This reconciles me to
having given you up to Mr. Clifton; he is a better guardian than I
could have been. But tell me something more about these new relatives
you spoke of having found here.
Mr. Clifton left the room, and the two sat side by side for an hour
talking of the gloomy past, the flitting present the uncertain future.
Leaning back in his chair, with his eyes fixed on the grate Russell
There is now nothing to impede my successful career; obstacles are
rapidly melting away; every day brings me nearer the goal I long since
set before me. In two years at farthest, perhaps earlier, I shall
return and begin the practice of law. Once admitted, I ask no more.
Then, and not till then, I hope to save you from the necessity of
labour; in the interim, Mr. Clifton will prove a noble and generous
friend; and believe me, my cousin, the thought of leaving you so long
is the only thing which will mar the pleasure of my European sojourn.
The words were kind enough, but the tone was indifferent, and the
countenance showed her that their approaching separation disquieted him
little. She thought of the sleepless nights and wretched days she had
passed waiting for a letter from that tall, reserved, cold cousin, and
her features relaxed in a derisive smile at the folly of her
all-absorbing love. Raising his eyes accidentally he caught the smile,
wondered what there was to call it forth in the plans which he had just
laid before her, and, meeting his glance of surprise, she said,
Are you not going to see Irene before you sail?
His cheek flushed as he rose, straightened himself, and answered
A strange question, truly, from one who knows me as well as you do.
Call to see a girl whose father sent her from home solely to prevent
her from associating with my family! Through what sort of metamorphosis
do you suppose that I have passed, that every spark of self-respect has
been crushed out of me?
Her father's tyranny and selfishness can never nullify her noble
and affectionate remembrance of Aunt Amy in the hour of her need.
And when I am able to repay her every cent we owe her, then, and
not till then, I wish to see her. Things shall change: mens cujusque
is est quisque; and the day will come when Mr. Huntingdon may not
think it degrading for his daughter to acknowledge my acquaintance on
A brief silence ensued, Russell drew on his gloves, and finally
Dr. Arnold told me she had suffered very much from a fall.
Yes; for a long time she was confined to her room.
Has she recovered entirely?
Entirely. She grows more beautiful day by day.
Perhaps he wished to hear more concerning her, but she would not
gratify him, and, soon after, he took up his hat.
Mr. Clifton has a spare room, Russell; why can't you stay with us
while you are in New York?
Thank you; but Mr. Campbell will expect me at the hotel. I shall be
needed, too, as he has many letters to write. I will see you to-morrow,
and indeed every day while I remain in the city.
Then pay your visits in the morning, for I want to take your
portrait with my own hands. Give me a sitting as early as possible.
Very well; look for me to-morrow. Good night.
The week that followed was one of strangely mingled sorrows and
joys; in after years it served as a prominent landmark to which she
looked back and dated sad changes in her heart. Irene remained ignorant
of Russell's presence in the city, and at last the day dawned on which
the vessel was to sail. At the breakfast table Mr. Clifton noticed the
colourlessness of his pupil's face, but kindly abstained from any
allusion to it. He saw that, contrary to habit, she drank a cup of
coffee, and, arresting her arm as she requested his mother to give her
a second, he said gently
My dear child, where did you suddenly find such Turkish tastes? I
thought you disliked coffee?
I take it now as medicine. My head aches horribly.
Then let me prescribe for you. We will go down to the steamer with
Russell, and afterward take a long drive to Greenwood, if you like.
He said he would call here at ten o'clock to bid us farewell.
N'importe. The carriage will be ready, and we will accompany
At the appointed hour they repaired to the vessel, and, looking at
its huge sides, Electra coveted even a deck passage; envied the meanest
who hurried about, making all things ready for departure. The last bell
rang; people crowded down on the planks; Russell hastened back to the
carriage, and took the nerveless, gloved hand.
I will write as early as possible. Don't be uneasy about me; no
accident has ever happened on this line. I am glad I leave you with
such a friend as Mr. Clifton. Good-bye, cousin; it will not be very
long before we meet again.
He kissed the passive lips, shook hands with the artist, and sprang
on board just as the planks were withdrawn. The vessel moved
majestically on its way; friends on shore waved handkerchiefs to
friends departing, and hands were kissed and hats lifted, and then the
crowd slowly dispersedfor steamers sail every week, and people become
accustomed to the spectacle.
Are you ready to go now? asked Mr. Clifton.
Yes, ready, quite readyfor Greenwood.
She spoke in a tone which had lost its liquid music, and with a
wintry smile that fled over the ashy face, lending the features no
light, no warmth.
He tried to divert her mind by calling attention to various things
of interest, but the utter exhaustion of her position and the
monosyllabic character of her replies soon discouraged him. Both felt
relieved when the carriage stopped before the studio, and as he led her
up the steps, he said affectionately
I am afraid my prescription has not cured your head.
No, sir; but I thank you most sincerely for the kind effort you
have made to relieve me. I shall be better to-morrow. Good-bye till
Stay, my child. Come into the studio, and let me read something
light and pleasant to you.
Not for the universe! The sight of a book would give me brain
fever, I verily believe.
She tried unavailingly to shake off his hand.
Why do you shrink from me, my pupil?
Because I am sick, weary; and you watch me so that I get restless
and nervous. Do let me go! I want to sleep.
An impatient stamp emphasized the words, and, as he relaxed his
clasp of her fingers, she hastened to her room, and locked the door to
prevent all intrusion. Taking off her bonnet, she drew the heavy shawl
closely around her shoulders and threw herself across the foot of the
bed, burying her face in her hands, lest the bare walls should prove
witnesses of her agony. Six hours later she lay there still with pale
fingers pressed to burning, dry eyelids.
CHAPTER XII. A SACRIFICE
Once more the labours of a twelvemonth had been exhibited at the
Academy of Designsome to be classed among things that were not born
to die; others to fall into nameless graves. Mr. Clifton was
represented by an exquisite OEnone, and on the same wall, in a massive
oval frame, hung the first finished production of his pupil. For months
after Russell's departure she sat before her easel, slowly filling up
the outline sketched while his eyes watched her. Application sometimes
trenches so closely upon genius as to be mistaken for it in its
results, and where both are happily blended, the bud of Art expands in
immortal perfection. Electra spared no toil, and so it came to pass
that the faultless head of her idol excited intense and universal
admiration. In the catalogue it was briefly mentioned as No. 17a
portrait; first effort of a young female artist. Connoisseurs,
who had committed themselves by extravagant praise, sneered at the
announcement of the catalogue, and, after a few inquiries, blandly
asserted that no tyro could have produced it; that the master had
wrought out its perfection, and generously allowed the pupil to
monopolize the encomiums. In vain Mr. Clifton disclaimed the merit, and
asserted that he had never touched the canvas; that she had jealously
refused to let him aid her. Incredulous smiles and unmistakable motions
of the head were the sole results of his expostulation. Electra was
indignant at the injustice meted out to her, and, as might have been
expected, rebelled against the verdict. Some weeks after the close of
the exhibition, the OEnone was purchased and the portrait sent home.
Electra placed it on the easel once more, and stood before it in rapt
contemplation. Coldness, silence, neglect, all were forgotten when she
looked into the deep, beautiful eyes, and upon the broad, bold,
She had not the faintest hope that he would ever cherish a tenderer
feeling for her; but love is a plant of strange growth. A curious
plant, truly, and one which will not bear transplanting, as many a
luckless experiment has proved. To-day, as Electra looked upon her
labours, the coils of Time seemed to fall away; the vista of Eternity
opened before her, peopled with two forms, which on earth walked widely
separate paths, and over her features stole a serene, lifted
expression, as if, after painful scaling, she had risen above the
cloud-region and caught the first rays of perpetual sunshine.
Mr. Clifton had watched her for some moments with lowering brow and
jealous hatred of the picture. Approaching, he looked over her
shoulder, and said
Electra, I must speak to you; hear me. You hug a phantom to your
heart; Russell does not and will not love you, other than as his
The blood deserted her face, leaving a greyish pallor, but the eyes
sought his steadily, and the rippling voice lost none of its rich
Except as his cousin, I do not expect Russell to love me.
Oh child! you deceive yourself; this is a hope that you cling to
with mad tenacity.
She wrung her hand from his, and drew her figure to its utmost
No; you must hear me now. I have a right to question youthe right
of my long, silent, faithful love. You may deny it, but that matters
little; be still, and listen. Did you suppose that I was simply a
generous man when I offered to guard and aid youwhen I took you to my
house, placed you in my mother's care, and lavished affection upon you?
If so, put away the hallucination. Consider me no longer your friend,
look at me as I am, a jealous and selfishly exacting man, who stands
before you to-day and tells you he loves you. Oh, Electra! From the
morning when you first showed me your sketches, you have been more than
my life to me. Every hope I have centred in you. I have not deceived
myself; I knew that you loved Russell. When he came here, I saw that
the old fascination still kept its hold upon you, but I saw, too, what
you saw quite as plainlythat in Russell Aubrey's heart there is room
for nothing but ambition. I knew how you suffered, and I believed it
was the death-struggle of your love. But, instead, I find you, day by
day, before that easeloblivious of me, of everything but the features
you cling to so insanely. Do you wonder that I hate that portrait? Do
you wonder that I am growing desperate? If he loved you in return, I
could bear it better; but as it is, I am tortured beyond all endurance.
I have spent nearly three years in trying to gain your heart; all other
aims have faded before this one absorbing love. To-day I lay it at your
feet, and ask if I have not earned some reward. Oh, Electra! have you
A scarlet spot burned on his pale cheeks, and the mild liquid grey
eyes sparkled like stars.
He stretched out his hand, but she drew back a step.
God forgive me! but I have no such love for you.
A ghastly smile broke over his face, and, after a moment, the snowy
handkerchief he passed across his lips was stained with ruby streaks.
I know that, and I know the reason. But, once more, I ask you to
give me your hand. Electra, dearest, do not, I pray you, refuse me
this. Oh, child! give me your hand, and in time you will learn to love
He seized her fingers, and stooped his head till the silky brown
beard mingled with her raven locks.
Mr. Clifton, to marry without love would be a grievous sin; I dare
not. We would hate each other. Life would be a curse to both, and death
a welcome release. Could you endure a wife who accepted your hand from
gratitude and pity? Oh! such a relationship would be horrible beyond
all degree. I shudder at the thought.
But you would learn to love me.
But you cannot take Russell's place. None can come between him and
Electra Grey, you are unwomanly in your unsought love.
Unwomanly! If so, made such by your unmanliness. Unwomanly! Were
you more manly, I had never shocked your maudlin sentiments of
And this is my reward for all the tenderness I have lavished on
you. When I stooped to beg your hand, to be repulsed with scorn and
loathing. To spend three years in faithful effort to win your heart,
and reap contempt, hatred.
Staggering back, he sank into his arm-chair and closed his eyes a
moment, then continued
I would not have troubled you long, Electra. It was because I knew
that my life must be short at best, that I urged you to gild the brief
period with the light of your love. I would not have bound you always
to me; and when I asked your hand a few minutes since, I knew that
death would soon sever the tie and set you free. Let this suffice to
palliate my 'unmanly' pleading. I have but one request to make of you
now, and, weak as it may seem, I beg of you not to deny me. You are
preparing to leave my house; this I know; I see it in your face, and
the thought is harrowing to me. Electra, remain under my roof while I
live; let me see you every day, here, in my house. If not as my wife,
stay as my friend, my pupil, my child. I little thought I could ever
condescend to ask this of anyone; but the dread of separation bows me
down. Oh, child, I will not claim you long.
She stood up before him with the portrait in her arms, resolved then
and there to leave him for ever. But the ghastly pallor of his face,
the scarlet thread oozing over his lips and saturating the handkerchief
with which he strove to staunch it, told her that the request was
preferred on no idle pretext. In swift review, his kindness,
generosity, and unwavering affection passed before her, and the mingled
accents of remorse and compassion whispered: Pay your debt of
gratitude by sacrificing your heart. If you can make him happy, you owe
it to him.
Softly she took his hand, and said in a low, thrilling tone
Mr. Clifton, I was passionate and hasty, and said some unkind
things which I would fain recall, and for which I beg your pardon, I
thank you for the honour you would have conferred on me, and for the
unmerited love you offered me. Unless it were in my power to return
that love, it would be sinful to give you my hand; but, since you
desire it so earnestly, I will promise to stay by your side, to do what
I can to make you happy; to prove by my devotion that I am not
insensible to all your kindness, that I am very grateful for the
affection you have given me. I come and offer you this, as a poor
return for all that I owe you; it is the most my conscience will permit
me to tender. My friend, my master, will you accept it and forgive the
pain and sorrow I have caused you?
He felt her tears falling on his fingers, and, for a moment, neither
spoke; then he drew the hands to his lips and kissed them tenderly.
Thank you, Electra. I know it is a sacrifice on your part, but I am
selfish enough to accept it. Heaven bless you, my pupil.
In future we will not allude to this day of triallet it be
forgotten; 'let the dead past bury its dead.' I will have no
resurrected phantoms. And now, sir, you must not allow this slight
hemorrhage to depress you. In a few days you will be stronger, quite
able to examine and find fault with my work. Shall I send a note to Dr.
Le Roy, asking him to call and see you this evening?
He has just left me. Say nothing of the hemorrhage to mother; it
would only distress her.
He released her hands, and, stooping over his pillow, she smoothed
the disordered hair, and for the first time pressed her lips to his
Thus she bowed her neck to the yoke, and, with a fixed, unalterable
will, entered on the long dreary ministry to which she felt that duty
CHAPTER XIII. WARNINGS
With the characteristic fitfulness of consumption, Mr. Clifton
rallied, and, for a time, seemed almost restored; but at the approach
of winter the cough increased, and dangerous symptoms returned. Several
months after the rejection of his suit, to which no allusion had ever
been made, Electra sat before her easel, absorbed in work, while the
master slowly walked up and down the studio, wrapped in a warm plaid
shawl. Occasionally he paused and looked over her shoulder, then
resumed his pace, offering no comment. It was not an unusual occurrence
for them to pass entire mornings together without exchanging a word,
and to-day the silence had lasted more than an hour. A prolonged fit of
coughing finally arrested her attention, and, glancing up, she met his
This is unpropitious weather for you, Mr. Clifton.
Yes, this winter offers a dreary prospect.
Resting her chin in her hands she raised her eyes, and said
Why do you not follow the doctor's advice? A winter South might
He drew near, and, leaning his folded arms on the top of the easel,
looked down into her face.
There is only one condition upon which I could consent to go; that
is in your hands. Will you accompany me?
She understood it all in an instant, saw the new form in which the
trial presented itself, and her soul sickened.
Mr. Clifton, if I were your sister, or your child, I would gladly
go; but as your pupil, I cannot.
As Electra Grey, certainly not; but as Electra Clifton you could
Electra Grey will be carved on my tombstone.
Then you decide my fate. I remain, and wait the slow approach of
No, before just Heaven! I take no such responsibility, nor shall
you thrust it on me. You are a man, and must decide your destiny for
yourself; I am a poor girl, having no claim upon, no power over you. It
is your duty to preserve the life which God gave you, in the way
prescribed by your physician, and I have no voice in the matter. It is
your duty to go South, and it will be both weak and wicked to remain
here under existing circumstances.
My life is centred in you; it is worthless, nay, a burden,
separated from you.
Your life should be centred in something nobler, better; in your
duty, in your profession. It is suicidal to fold your hands listlessly,
and look to me as you do.
All these things have I tried, and I am weary of the hollowness,
weary of life, and the world. So long as I have your face here, I care
not to cross my own threshold till friendly hands bear me out to my
quiet resting-place under the willows of Greenwood. Electra, my
darling, think me weak if you will, but bear with me a little longer,
and then this, my shadow, shall flit from your young heart, leaving not
even a memory to haunt you. Be patient! I will soon pass away to
another, a more peaceful, blessed sphere.
A melancholy smile lighted his fair waxen features, as waning,
sickly sunshine in an autumn evening flickers over sculptured marble in
a silent churchyard.
How she compassioned his great weakness, as he wiped away the
moisture which, even on that cold day, glistened on his forehead.
Oh! I beseech you to go to Cuba. Go, and get strong once more.
Nothing will ever help me now. Sunny skies and soft breezes bring
no healing for me. I want to die here, in my home, where your hands
will be about me; not among strangers in Cuba or Italy.
He turned to the fire, and springing up, she left the room. The
solemn silence of the house oppressed her; she put on her thickest
wrappings, and took the street leading to the nearest park. A
steel-grey sky, with slowly-trailing clouds, looked down on her, and
the keen, chilly wind wafted a fine snow-powder in her face as she
pressed against it. The trees were bare, and the sere grass grew hoary
as the first snow-flakes of the season came down softly and
shroud-like. The walks were deserted, save where a hurrying form
crossed from street to street, homeward bound; and Electra passed
slowly along, absorbed in thoughts colder than the frosting that
gathered on shawl and bonnet. The face and figure of the painter glided
spectrally before her at every step, and a mighty temptation followed
at its heels. Why not strangle her heart? Why not marry him and bear
his name, if, thereby, she could make his few remaining months of
existence happy, and, by accompanying him South, prolong his life even
for a few weeks? She shuddered at the suggestion, it would be such a
Faster fell the snow-flakes, cresting the waves of her hair like
foam, and setting her teeth firmly, as if thereby locking the door
against all compassionating compunctions. Electra left the park and
turned into a cross-street, on which was situated an establishment
where bouquets were kept for sale. The assortment was meagre at that
late hour, but she selected a tiny bunch of delicate, fragrant,
hot-house blossoms, and, shielding them with her shawl, hastened home.
The studio was brilliant with gas-glare and warm with the breath of
anthracite, but an aspect of dreariness, silence, and sorrow
predominated. On the edge of the low scroll-sculptured mantel,
supported at each corner by caryatides, perched a large tame grey owl,
with clipped wings folded, and wide, solemn, oracular eyes fastened on
the countenance of its beloved master.
With swift, noiseless steps Electra came to the red grate, and,
after a moment, drew an ottoman close to the easy chair. Perhaps its
occupant slept; perchance he wandered, with closed eyes, far down among
the sombre, dank crypts of memory. She laid her cool fingers on his
hand, and held the bouquet before him.
My dear sir, here are your flowers; they are not as pretty as
usual, but sweet enough to atone for lack of beauty.
He fingered them caressingly, laid them against his hollow cheeks,
and hid his lips among their fragrant petals, but the starry eyes were
fixed on the features of the pupil.
It is bitter weather out; did you brave it for these? Thank you,
but don't expose yourself so in future. Two invalids in a house are
quite enough. You are snow-crowned, little one; do you know it? The
frosting gleams right, royally on that black hair of yours. Nay, child,
don't brush it off; like all lovely things it fades rapidly, melts away
like the dreams that flutter around a boy in the witchery of a long,
still, sunny summer day.
His thin hand nestled in her shining hair, and she submitted to the
touch in silence.
He regarded her with an expression of sorrowful tenderness, and his
hand trembled as he placed it upon her head. I know not what is to
become of you. Oh, Electra! if you would only be warned in time.
The warmth of the room had vermilioned her cheeks, and the long
black lashes failed to veil in any degree the flash of the eyes she
raised to his face. Removing the hand from her head, she took it in
both hers, and a cold, dauntless smile wreathed her lips.
Be easy on my account. I am not afraid of my future. Why should I
be? God built an arsenal in every soul before he launched it on the
stormy sea of Time, and the key to mine is Will! What woman has done,
woman may do; a glorious sisterhood of artists beckon me on; what
Elizabeth Cheron, Sibylla Merian, Angelica Kauffman, Elizabeth Le Brun,
Felicie Fauveau, and Rosa Bonheur have achieved, I also will
accomplish, or die in the effort. These travelled no royal road to
immortality, but rugged, thorny paths; and who shall stay my feet? Afar
off gleams my resting-place, but ambition scourges me unflaggingly on.
Do not worry about my future; I will take care of it, and of myself.
And when, after years of toil, you win fame, even fame enough to
satisfy your large expectations, what then? Whither will you look for
I will grapple fame to my empty heart, as women do other idols.
It will freeze you, my dear child.
At all events, I will risk it. Thank God! whatever other faults I
confess to, there is no taint of cowardice in my soul.
She rose, and stood a moment on the rug, looking into the red
network of coals, then turned to leave him, saying
I must go to your mother now, and presently I will bring your tea.
You need not trouble. I can go to the dining-room to-night.
It is no trouble; it gives me great pleasure to do something for
your comfort; and I know you always enjoy your supper more when you
have it here.
As she closed the door, he pressed his face against the morocco
lining and groaned unconsciously, and large glittering tears, creeping
from beneath the trembling lashes, hid themselves in the curling brown
To see that Mrs. Clifton's supper suited her, and then to read aloud
to her for half an hour from the worn family Bible, was part of the
daily routine which Electra permitted nothing to interrupt. On this
occasion she found the old lady seated, as usual, before the fire, her
crutches leaning against the chair, and her favourite cat curled on the
carpet at her feet. Most tenderly did the aged cripple love her son's
protégée, and the wrinkled, sallow face lighted up with a smile of
pleasure at her entrance.
I thought it was about time for you to come to me. Sit down, dear,
and touch the bell for Kate. How is Harry?
No stronger, I am afraid. You know this is very bad weather for
Yes; when he came up to-day I thought he looked more feeble than I
had ever seen him; and as I sit here and listen to his hollow cough,
every sound seems a stab at my heart. She rocked herself to and fro
for a moment, and added mournfully
Ah, child! it is so hard to see my youngest boy going down to the
grave before me. The last of five, I hoped he would survive me; but
consumption is a terrible thing; it took my husband first, then, in
quick succession, my other children, and now Harry, my darling, my
youngest, is the last prey.
Anxious to divert her mind, Electra adroitly changed the
conversation, and, when she rose to say good night, some time after,
had the satisfaction of knowing that the old lady had fallen asleep. In
was in vain that she arranged several tempting dishes on the table
beside the painter, and coaxed him to partake of them; he received but
a cup of tea from her hand, and motioned the remainder away. As the
servant removed the tray, he looked up at his pupil, and said
Please wheel the lounge nearer to the grate; I am too tired to sit
She complied at once, shook up the pillow, and, as he laid his head
upon it, she spread his heavy plaid shawl over him.
Now, sir, what shall I read this evening?
'Arcana Coelestia,' if you please.
She took up the volume, and began at the place he designated; and as
she read on and on, her rich flexible voice rose and fell upon the air
like waves of melody. One of her hands chanced to hang over the arm of
the chair, and as she sat near the lounge, thin hot fingers twined
about it, drew it caressingly to the pillow, and held it tightly. Her
first impulse was to withdraw it, and an expression of annoyance
crossed her features; but, on second thought, she suffered her fingers
to rest passively in his. Now and then, as she turned a leaf, she met
his luminous eyes fastened upon her; but after a time the quick
breathing attracted her attention, and, looking down, she saw that he,
too, was sleeping. She closed the book and remained quiet, fearful of
disturbing him; and as she studied the weary, fevered face, noting the
march of disease, the sorrowful drooping of the mouth, so indicative of
grievous disappointment, a new and holy tenderness awoke in her heart.
It was a feeling analogous to that of a mother for a suffering child,
who can be soothed only by her presence and caressesan affection not
unfrequently kindled in haughty natures by the entire dependence of a
weaker one. Blended with this was a remorseful consciousness of the
coldness with which she had persistently rejected, repulsed every
manifestation of his devoted love; and, winding her fingers through his
long hair, she vowed an atonement for the past in increased gentleness
for the remainder of his waning life. As she bent over him, wearing her
compassion in her face, he opened his eyes and looked at her.
How long have I slept?
Nearly an hour. How do you feel since your nap?
He made no reply, and she put her hand on his forehead. The
countenance lighted, and he said slowly
Ah! yes, press your cool soft little palm on my brow. It seems to
still the throbbing of my temples.
It is late, Mr. Clifton, and I must leave you. William looked in, a
few minutes since, to say that the fire burned in your room, but I
would not wake you. I will send him to you. Good night.
She leaned down voluntarily and kissed him, and, with a quick
movement, he folded her to his heart an instant, then released her,
God bless you, Electra, and reward you for your patient endurance.
Good night, my precious child.
She went to her room, all unconscious of the burst of emotion which
shook the feeble frame of the painter, long after she had laid her head
on her pillow in the sound slumber of healthful youth.
CHAPTER XIV. THE CLOSE OF THE VIGIL
The year that ensued proved a valuable school of patience, and
taught the young artist a gentleness of tone and quietude of manner at
variance with the natural impetuosity of her character. Irksome beyond
degree was the discipline to which she subjected herself, but, with a
fixedness of purpose that knew no wavering, she walked through the
daily dreary routine, keeping her eyes upon the end that slowly but
unmistakably approached. In mid-summer Mr. Clifton removed, for a few
weeks, to the Catskill, and occasionally he rallied for a few hours,
with a tenacity of strength almost miraculous. During the still sunny
afternoons hosts of gay visitors, summer tourists, often paused in
their excursions to watch the emaciated form of the painter leaning on
the arm of his beautiful pupil, or reclining on a lichen-carpeted knoll
while she sketched the surrounding scenery. Increased feebleness
prevented Mrs. Clifton from joining in these outdoor jaunts, and early
in September, when it became apparent that her mind was rapidly sinking
into imbecility, they returned to the city. Memory seemed to have
deserted its throne; she knew neither her son nor Electra, and the last
spark of intelligence manifested itself in a semi-recognition of her
favourite cat, which sprang to welcome her back as friendly hands bore
her to the chamber she was to quit no more till death released the
crushed spirit. A letter was found on the atelier mantel,
directed to Electra in familiar characters, which she had not seen for
months. Very quietly she put it in her pocket, and in the solitude of
her room broke the seal; found that Russell had returned during her
absence, had spent a morning in the studio looking over her work, and
had gone South to establish himself in his native town. Ah! the
grievous, grievous disappointment. A bitter cry rolled from her lips,
and the hands wrung each other despairingly; but an hour later she
stood beside the artist with unruffled brow and a serene mouth, that
bore no surface-token of the sorrow gnawing at her heart. Winter came
on earlier than usual, with unwonted severity; and, week after week,
Electra went continually from one sufferer to another, striving to
alleviate pain, and to kindle a stray beam of sunshine in the darkened
mansion. Unremitted vigil set its pale, infallible signet on her face,
but Mr. Clifton either could not or would not see the painful
alteration in her appearance; and when Mrs. Young remonstrated with her
niece upon the ruinous effects of this tedious confinement to the
house, she only answered steadily: I will nurse him so long as I have
strength left to creep from one room to another.
During Christmas week he grew alarmingly worse, and Dr. Le Roy
counted the waning life by hours; but on New Year's eve he declared
himself almost well, and insisted on being carried to the studio. The
whim was humoured, and wrapped in his silken robe de chambre, he
was seated in his large cushioned chair, smiling to find himself once
more in the midst of his treasures. Turning back the velvet cuff from
his attenuated wrist, he lifted his flushed face toward the nurse, and
said eagerly: Uncover my easel; make William draw it close to me; I
have been idle long enough. Give me my palette; I want to retouch the
forehead of my hero. It needs a high light.
You are not strong enough to work. Wait till to-morrow.
To-morrow! to-morrow! You have told me that fifty times. Wheel up
the easel, I say. The spell is upon me, and work I will.
It was the ruling passion strong in death, and Electra acquiesced,
arranging the colours on the palette as he directed, and selecting the
brushes he required. Resting his feet upon the cross-beam, he leaned
forward and gazed earnestly upon his masterpiece, the darling design
which had haunted his brain for years. Theta he called this piece of
canvas, which was a large square painting representing, in the
foreground, the death of Socrates. The details of the picture were
finished with pre-Raphaelite precision and minutenessthe sweep and
folds of drapery about the couch, the emptied hemlock cupbut the
central figure of the Martyr lacked something, and to these last
touches Mr. Clifton essayed to address himself. Slowly, feebly, the
transparent hand wandered over the canvas, and Electra heard with alarm
the laboured breath that came panting from his parted lips. She saw the
unnatural sparkle in his sunken eyes almost die out, then leap up
again, like smouldering embers swept by a sudden gust, and in the clear
strong voice of other years, he repeated to himself the very words of
Plato's Phædo: For I have heard that it is right to die with good
omens. Be quiet, therefore, and bear up.
Leaning back to note the effect of his touches, a shiver ran through
his frame, the brush fell from his tremulous fingers, and he lay
motionless and exhausted.
Folding his hands like a helpless, tired child, he raised his eyes
to hers and said brokenly
I bequeath it to you; finish my work. You understand meyou know
what is lacking; finish my 'Theta' and tell the world I died at work
upon it. Oh! for a fraction of my old strength! One hour more to
complete my Socrates! Just one hour! I would ask no more.
She gave him a powerful cordial which the physician had left, and
having arranged the pillows on the lounge, drew it close to the easel,
and prevailed on him to lie down.
A servant was dispatched for Dr. Le Roy, but returned to say that a
dangerous case detained him elsewhere.
Mr. Clifton, would you like to have your mother brought downstairs
and placed beside you for a while?
No; I want nobody but you. Sit down here close to me, and keep
She lowered the heavy curtains, shaded the gas-globe, and, placing a
bunch of sweet violets on his pillow, sat down at his side. His
favourite spaniel nestled at her feet, and occasionally threw up his
head and gazed wistfully at his master. Thus two hours passed, and as
she rose to administer the medicine he waved it off, saying
Give me no more of it. I won't be drugged in my last hours. I won't
have my intellect clouded by opiates. Throw it into the fire, and let
Oh, sir! can I do nothing for you?
Sit still. Do not leave me, I beg of you. He drew her back to the
seat, and after a short silence said slowly
Electra, are you afraid of death?
Do you know that I am dying?
I have seen you as ill several times before.
You are a brave, strong-hearted child; glazed eyes and stiffened
limbs will not frighten you. I have but few hours to live; put your
hand in mine, and promise me that you will sit here till my soul quits
its clay prison. Will you watch with me the death of the year? Are you
afraid to stay with me, and see me die?
She would not trust herself to speak, but laid her hand in his and
clasped it firmly. He smiled, and added
Will you promise to call no one? I want no eyes but yours to watch
me as I die. Let there be only you and me.
For some moments he lay motionless, but the intensity of his gaze
made her restless, and she shaded her face.
Electra, my darling, your martyrdom draws to a close. I have been
merciless in my exactions, I know; you are worn to a shadow, and your
face is sharp and haggard; but you will forgive me all, when the
willows of Greenwood trail their boughs across my headstone. You have
been faithful and uncomplaining; you have been to me a light, a joy,
and a glory! God bless you, my pupil. In my vest-pocket is the key of
my writing-desk. There you will find my will; take charge of it, and
put it in Le Roy's hands as soon as possible. Give me some water.
She held the glass to his lips, and, as he sank back, a bright smile
played over his face.
Ah, child! it is such a comfort to have you hereyou are so
inexpressibly dear to me.
She took his thin hands in hers, and hot tears fell upon them. An
intolerable weight crushed her heart, a half-defined, horrible dread,
and she asked, falteringly
Are you willing to die? Is your soul at peace with God? Have you
any fear of Eternity?
None, my child, none.
Would you like to have Mr. Bailey come and pray for you?
I want no one now but you.
A long silence ensued, broken only by the heavily drawn breath of
the sufferer. Two hours elapsed and there by the couch sat the
motionless watcher, noting the indescribable but unmistakable change
creeping on. The feeble, threadlike pulse fluttered irregularly, but
the breathing became easy and low as a babe's, and occasionally a
gentle sigh heaved the chest. She knew that the end was at hand, and a
strained, frightened expression came into her large eyes as she glanced
nervously round the room, and met the solemn, fascinating eyes of Munin
the owl, staring at her from the low mantel. She caught her breath, and
the deep silence was broken by the metallic tongue that dirged out
twelve. The last stroke of the bronze hammer echoed drearily; the old
year lay stark and cold on its bier; Munin flapped his dusky wings with
a long, sepulchral, blood-curdling hoot, and the dying man opened his
dim, failing eyes, and fixed them for the last time on his pupil.
Electra, my darling.
My dear master, I am here.
She lifted his head to her bosom, nestled her fingers into his cold
palm, and leaned her cheek against his brow. Pressing his face close to
hers, the grey eyes closed, and a smile throned itself on the parted
lips. A slight tremor shook the limbs, a soft shuddering breath swept
across the watcher's face, and the golden bowl was shivered, the
silver cord was loosed.
The vigil was over, the burden was lifted from her shoulders, the
weary ministry here ended; and shrouding her face in her arms, the
lonely woman wept bitterly.
CHAPTER XV. AT HOME AGAIN
Four years had wrought material changes in the town of W; new
streets had been opened, new buildings erected, new forms trod the
side-walks, new faces looked out of shop-windows, and flashing
equipages, and new shafts of granite and marble stood in the cemetery
to tell of many who had been gathered to their forefathers. If
important revolutions had been effected in her early home, not less
decided and apparent was the change which had taken place in the
heiress of Huntingdon Hill; and having been eyed, questioned,
scrutinized by the best families, and laid in the social scale, it was
found a difficult matter to determine her weight as accurately as
seemed desirable. In common parlance, her education was
finished,she was regularly and unmistakably out. Having lost her
aunt two years before her return, the duties of hostess devolved upon
her, and she dispensed the hospitalities of her home with an easy,
though stately elegance, surprising in one so inexperienced.
It chanced that Dr. Arnold was absent for some weeks after her
arrival, and no sooner had he returned than he sought his quondam
protégé. Entering unannounced, he paused suddenly as he caught sight of
her standing before the fire, with Paragon at her feet. She lifted her
head and came to meet him, holding out both hands, with a warm, bright
Oh, Dr. Arnold! I am so glad to see you once more. It was neither
friendly nor hospitable to go off just as I came home, after long years
of absence. I am very glad to see you.
He held her hands and gazed at her like one in a dream of mingled
pain and pleasure, and when he spoke his voice was unsteady.
You cannot possibly be as glad to see me as I am to have you back.
But I can't realize that this is, indeed, you, my petthe Irene I
parted with rather more than four years ago. Oh, child! what a
marvellous, what a glorious beauty you have grown to be!
Take care; you will spoil her, Arnold. Don't you know, you old
cynic, that women can't stand such flattery as yours? laughed Mr.
I am glad you like me, Doctor; I am glad you think I have improved;
and since you think so, I am obliged to you for expressing your opinion
of me so kindly. I wish I could return your compliments, but my
conscience vetoes any such proceeding. You look jadedoverworked. What
is the reason that you have grown so grey and haggard? We will enter
into a compact to renew the old life; you shall treat me exactly as you
used to do, and I shall come to you as formerly, and interrupt labours
that seem too heavy. Sit down and talk to me. I want to hear your
voice; it is pleasant to my ears, makes music in my heart, calls up the
bygone. You have adopted a stick in my absence; I don't like the
innovation; it hurts me to think that you need it. I must take care of
you, I see, and persuade you to relinquish it entirely.
Arnold, I verily believe she was more anxious to see you than
everybody else in Wexcept old Nellie, her nurse.
She did not contradict him, and the three sat conversing for more
than an hour; then other visitors came in, and she withdrew to the
parlour. The doctor had examined her closely all the while; had noted
every word, action, expression; and a troubled, abstracted look came
into his face when she left them.
Huntingdon, what is it? What is it?
What is what? I don't understand you.
What has so changed that child? I want to know what ails her?
Nothing, that I know of. You know that she was always rather
Yes, but it was a different sort of singularity. She is too still,
and white, and cold, and stately. I told you it was a wretched piece of
business to send a nature like hers, so different from everybody
else's, off among utter strangers; to shut up that queer, free untamed
thing in a boarding-school for four years, with hundreds of miles
between her and the few things she loved. She required very peculiar
and skilful treatment, and, instead, you put her off where she
petrified! I knew it would never answer, and I told you so. You wanted
to break her obstinacy, did you? She comes back marble. I tell you now
I know her better than you do, though you are her father, and you may
as well give up at once that chronic hallucination of 'ruling,
conquering her.' She is like steelcold, firm, brittle; she will
break; snap asunder; but bend!never! never! Huntingdon, I love that
child; I have a right to love her; she has been very dear to me from
her babyhood, and it would go hard with me to know that any sorrow
darkened her life. Don't allow your old plans and views to influence
you now. Let Irene be happy in her own way. Did you ever see a
contented-looking eagle in a gilt cage? Did you ever know a leopardess
kept in a paddock, and taught to forget her native jungles?
Mr. Huntingdon moved uneasily, pondering the unpalatable advice.
You certainly don't mean to say that she has inherited? He
crushed back the words; could he crush the apprehension, too?
I mean to say that, if she were my child, I would be guided by her,
instead of striving to cut her character to fit the totally different
pattern of my own.
He put on his hat, thrust his hands into his pockets, stood for some
seconds frowning so heavily that the shaggy eyebrows met and partially
concealed the cavernous eyes, then nodded to the master of the house,
and sought his buggy. From that day Irene was conscious of a keener and
more constant scrutiny on her father's parta ceaseless
surveillance, silent, but rigidthat soon grew intolerable. No
matter how she employed her time, or whither she went, he seemed
thoroughly cognizant of the details of her life; and where she least
expected interruption or dictation, his hand, firm though gentle,
pointed the way, and his voice calmly but inflexibly directed. Her
affection had been in no degree alienated by their long separation,
and, through its sway, she submitted for a time; but Huntingdon blood
ill-brooked restraint, and, ere long, hers became feverish,
necessitating release. As in all tyrannical natures, his exactions grew
upon her compliance. She was allowed no margin for the exercise of
judgment or inclination; her associates were selected, thrust upon her;
her occupations decided without reference to her wishes. From the
heartless, frivolous routine marked out, she shrank in disgust; and,
painful as was the alternative, she prepared for the clash which soon
From verbal differences she habitually abstained; opinions which she
knew to be disagreeable to him she carefully avoided giving expression
to in his presence; and while always studiously thoughtful of his
comfort, she preserved a respectful deportment, allowing herself no
hasty or defiant words. Fond of pomp and ceremony, and imbued with
certain aristocratic notions, which an ample fortune had always
permitted him to indulge, Mr. Huntingdon entertained company in
princely style, and whenever an opportunity offered. His dinners,
suppers, and card-parties were known far and wide, and Huntingdon Hall
became proverbial for hospitality throughout the State. Strangers were
fêted, and it was a rare occurrence for father and daughter to dine
quietly together. Fortunately for Irene, the servants were admirably
trained; and though this round of company imposed a weight of
responsibilities oppressive to one so inexperienced, she applied
herself diligently to domestic economy, and soon became familiarized
with its details. Her father had been very anxious to provide her with
a skilful housekeeper, to relieve her of the care and tedious minutiæ
of such matters; but she refused to accept one, avowing her belief that
it was the imperative duty of every woman to superintend and inspect
the management of her domestic affairs. Consequently, from the first
week of her return, she made it a rule to spend an hour after breakfast
in her dining-room pantry, determining and arranging the details of the
The situation of the house commanded an extensive and beautiful
prospect, and the ancient trees that overshadowed it imparted a
venerable and imposing aspect. The building was of brick, overcast to
represent granite, and along three sides ran a wide gallery, supported
by lofty circular pillars, crowned with unusually heavy capitals. The
main body consisted of two stories, with a hall in the centre, and
three rooms on either side; while two long single-storied wings
stretched out right and left, one a billiard-room, the other a
A broad easy flight of white marble steps led up to the
richly-carved front door, with its massive silver knocker bearing the
name of Huntingdon in old-fashioned Italian characters; and in the
arched niches, on either side of this door, stood two statues, brought
from Europe by Mr. Huntingdon's father, and supposed to represent
certain Roman penates.
The grounds in front, embracing several acres, were enclosed by a
brick wall, and at the foot of the hill, at the entrance of the long
avenue of elms, stood a tall, arched iron gate. A smoothly-shaven
terrace of Bermuda grass ran round the house, and the broad
carriage-way swept up to a mound opposite the door, surmounted by the
bronze figure of a crouching dog. Such was Irene's homestately and
elegantkept so thoroughly repaired that, in its cheerfulness, its age
The society of Wwas considered remarkably fine. There was quite
an aggregation of wealth and refinement; gentlemen, whose plantations
were situated in adjacent counties, resided here, with their families;
some, who spent their winters on the seaboard, resorted here for the
summer; its bar was said to possess more talent than any other in the
State; its schools claimed to be unsurpassed; it boasted of a
concert-hall, a lyceum, a handsome court-house, a commodious well-built
jail, and half a dozen as fine churches as any country town could
desire. I would fain avoid the term, if possible, but no synonym
existsWwas, indisputably, an aristocratic place.
Thus, after more than four years' absence, the summers of which had
been spent in travel among the beautiful mountain scenery of the North,
the young heiress returned to the home of her childhood.
For several months after her return she patiently, hopefully,
faithfully studied the dispositions of the members of various families
with whom she foresaw that she would be thrown, by her father's wishes,
into intimate relationship, and satisfied herself that, among all
these, there was not one, save Dr. Arnold, whose counsel, assistance,
or sympathy she felt any inclination to claim. In fine, Wwas not in
any respect peculiar, or, as a community, specially afflicted with
heartlessness, frivolity, brainlessness, or mammonism; the average was
fair, reputable, in all respects. But, incontrovertibly, the girl who
came to spend her life among these people was totally dissimilar in
criteria of action, thought, and feeling. To the stereotyped
conventional standard of fashionable life she had never yielded
allegiance; and now stood a social free-thinker. For a season she
allowed herself to be whirled on by the current of dinners, parties,
and picnics; but soon her sedate, contemplative temperament revolted
from the irksome round, and gradually she outlined and pursued a
different course, giving to her gay companions just what courtesy
required, no more.
Hugh had prolonged his stay in Europe beyond the period originally
designated, and, instead of arriving in time to accompany his uncle and
cousin home, he did not sail for some months after their return. At
length, however, letters were received announcing his presence in New
York, and fixing the day when his relatives might expect him.
CHAPTER XVI. THE LOAN REPAID
The carriage had been dispatched to the depôt, a servant stood at
the end of the avenue waiting to throw open the gate, Mr. Huntingdon
walked up and down the wide colonnade, and Irene sat before the fire in
her own room, holding in one palm the flashing betrothal ring which she
had been forced to wear since her return from New York. The few years
of partial peace had passed; she knew that the hour drew near when the
long-dreaded struggle must begin, and, hopeless of averting it, quietly
waited for the storm to break. Dropping the ring in her jewellery-box,
she turned the key, and just then her father's voice rang through the
Irene! the carriage is coming up the avenue.
She went slowly downstairs, followed by Paragon, and joined her
father at the door. His searching look discovered nothing in the serene
face; the carriage stopped, and he hastened to meet his nephew.
Come at last, eh! Welcome home, my dear boy.
The young man turned from his uncle, sprang up the steps, then
paused, and the cousins looked at each other.
Well, Hugh! I am very glad to see you once more.
She held out her hands, and he saw at a glance that her fingers were
unfettered. Seizing them warmly, he bent forward; but she drew back
coldly, and he exclaimed
Irene! I claim a warmer welcome.
She made a haughty, repellent gesture, and moved forward a few
steps, to greet the stranger who accompanied him.
My daughter, this is your uncle, Eric Mitchell, who has not seen
you since you were a baby.
The party entered the house, and, seated beside him, Irene gazed
with mingled emotions of pain and pleasure upon her mother's only
brother. He was about thirty, but looked older from life-long
suffering; had used crutches from the time he was five years of age,
having been hopelessly crippled by a fall during his infancy. His
features were sharp, his cheeks wore the sallow hue of habitual
ill-health, and his fine grey eyes were somewhat sunken. Resting his
crutches against the sofa, he leaned back, and looked long and
earnestly at his niece. Very dimly he remembered a fair, flaxen-haired
baby whom the nurse had held out to be kissed when he was sent to
Philadelphia to be treated for his lameness; soon after he heard of his
sister's death, and then his tutor took him to Europe, to command the
best medical advice of the old world.
From the faint recollection which I have of your mother, I think
you strongly resemble her, he said at last in a fond, gentle tone.
I don't know about that, Eric. She is far more of a Huntingdon than
a Mitchell. She has many of the traits of your family, but in
appearance she certainly belongs to my side of the house. She very
often reminds me of Hugh's mother.
Conversation turned upon the misfortune of the cripple; he spoke
freely of the unsuccessful experiments made by eminent physicians, of
the hopelessness of his case; and Irene was particularly impressed by
the calmness and patience with which he seemed to have resigned himself
to this great affliction. She felt irresistibly drawn toward him,
careless of passing hours and of Hugh's ill-concealed impatience of
manner. As they rose from the tea-table her cousin said laughingly
I protest against monopoly. I have not been able to say three words
to my lady-cousin.
I yield the floor from necessity. My long journey has unfitted me
for this evening, and I must bid you all an early good night.
Can I do anything for you, uncle?
No, thank you, Irene; I have a servant who thoroughly understands
taking care of me. Go talk to Hugh, who has been wishing me among the
He shook hands with her, smiled kindly, and Mr. Huntingdon assisted
him to his room.
Irene, come into the library and let me have a cigar.
How tenacious your bad habits are, Hugh.
Smoking belongs to no such category. My habits are certainly quite
as tenacious as my cousin's antipathies.
He selected a cigar, lighted it, and drawing a chair near hers,
threw himself into it with an expression of great satisfaction. It is
delightful to get back home, and see you again, Irene. I felt some
regret at quitting Paris, but the sight of your face more than
She was looking very earnestly at him, noting the alteration in his
appearance, and for a moment his eyes drooped before hers. She saw that
the years had been spent, not in study, but in a giddy round of
pleasure and dissipation; yet the bright, frank, genial expression of
boyhood still lingered, and she could not deny that he had grown up a
very handsome man.
Irene, I had a right to expect a warmer welcome than you deigned to
Hugh, remember that we have ceased to be children. When you learn
to regard me simply as your cousin, and are satisfied with a cousin's
welcome, then, and not until then, shall you receive it. Let childish
whims pass with the years that have separated us; rake up no germs of
contention to mar this first evening of your return. Be reasonable, and
now tell me how you have employed yourself since we parted; what have
you seen? what have you gleaned?
Insensibly he found himself drawn into a narration of his course of
life. She listened with apparent interest, making occasional
good-humoured comments, and bringing him back to the subject whenever
he attempted a detour toward the topic so extremely distasteful to her.
The clock struck eleven; she rose and said
I beg your pardon, Hugh, for keeping you up so late. I ought to
have known that you were fatigued by railroad travel, and required
sleep. You know the way to your room; it is the same you occupied
before you went to college. Good night; I hope you will rest well.
She held out her hand carelessly; he took it eagerly, and holding it
up to the light said, in a disappointed tone
Irene, where is my ring? Why are you not wearing it?
It is in my jewellery-box. As I gave you my reasons for not wearing
it, when you offered it to me, it is not necessary to repeat them now.
Good night, Hugh; go dream of something more agreeable than our old
childish quarrels. She withdrew her fingers and left him.
A week passed, varied by few incidents of interest; the new-comers
became thoroughly domesticatedthe old routine was re-established.
Hugh seemed gay and carelesshunting, visiting, renewing boyish
acquaintances, and whiling away the time as inclination prompted. He
had had a long conversation with his uncle, and the result was that,
for the present, no allusion was made to the future. In Irene's
presence the subject was temporarily tabooed. She knew that the project
was not relinquished, was only veiled till a convenient season, and,
giving to the momentary lull its full value, she acquiesced, finding in
Eric's society enjoyment and resources altogether unexpected.
Instinctively they seemed to comprehend each other's character, and
while both were taciturn and undemonstrative, a warm affection sprang
up between them.
On Sunday morning, as the family group sat around the
breakfast-table waiting for Hugh, who lingered, as usual, over his
second cup of chocolate, Mr. Mitchell suddenly laid down the fork with
which he had been describing a series of geometrical figures on the
fine damask, and said, I met a young man in Brussels who interested me
extremely, and in connexion with whom I venture the prediction that, if
he lives, he will occupy a conspicuous position in the affairs of his
country. He is, or was, secretary of Mr. Campbell, our minister to
, and they were both on a visit to Brussels when I met them. His
name is Aubrey, and he told me that he lived here. His talents are of
the first order; his ambition unbounded, I should judge; and his
patient, laborious application certainly surpasses anything I have ever
seen. It happened that a friend of mine, from London, was prosecuting
certain researches among the MS. archives at Brussels, and here,
immersed in study, he says he found the secretary, who completely
distanced him in his investigations, and then, with unexpected
generosity, placed his notes at my friend's disposal. His industry is
almost incredible. Conversing with Campbell concerning him, I learned
that he was a protégé of the minister, who spoke of his future in
singularly sanguine terms. He left him some time since to embark in the
practice of law. Do you know him, Huntingdon?
No, sir! but I know that his father was sentenced to the gallows,
and only saved himself from it by cutting his miserable throat, and
cheating the law.
The master of the house thrust back his chair violently, crushing
one of Paragon's innocent paws as he crouched on the carpet, and
overturning a glass which shivered into a dozen fragments at his feet.
Looking at his watch, he said, as if wishing to cut the conversation
short: Irene, if you intend to go to church to-day, it is time that
you had your bonnet on. Hugh, what will you do with yourself? Go with
Eric and your cousin!
No, I rather think I shall stay at home with you. After European
cathedrals, our American churches seem excessively plain. Irene went
to her room, pondering the conversation. She thought it remarkable
that, as long as she had been at home, she had never seen Russell, even
on the street.
Unlocking her writing-desk, she took out a tiny note which had
accompanied a check for two hundred dollars, and had reached her a few
months before she left boarding school. The firm, round, manly hand ran
With gratitude beyond all expression for the favour conferred on my
mother and myself, some years since, I now return to Miss Huntingdon
the money which I have ever regarded as a friendly loan. Hoping that
the future will afford me some opportunity of proving my appreciation
of her great kindness,
I remain, most respectfully,
Her obliged friend,
NEW YORK, September 5th.
She was conscious of a feeling of regret that the money had been
returned; it was pleasant to reflect on the fact that she had laid him
under obligation; now it all seemed cancelled. She relocked the desk,
and, drawing on her gloves, joined her uncle at the carriage. Arriving
at church later than was her wont, she found the family pew occupied by
strangers, and crossed the aisle to share a friend's, but at that
instant a tall form rose in Mr. Campbell's long-vacant pew, stepped
into the aisle, and held open the door. She drew back to suffer her
uncle to limp in and lay aside his crutches, saw him give his hand to
the stranger, and, sweeping her veil aside as she entered, she saw
Russell quietly resume his seat at the end of the pew.
Startled beyond measure, she looked at him intently, and almost
wondered that she recognized him, he had changed so materially since
the day on which she stood with him before his mother's gate. Meantime
the service commenced, she gave her hymn-book to her uncle, and at the
same moment Russell found the place, and handed her one of two which
lay near him. As she received it their eyes met, and she held out her
hand. He took it, she felt, his fingers tremble as they dropped hers,
and then both faces bent over the books. When they knelt side by side,
and the heavy folds of her elegant dress swept against him, it seemed a
feverish dream to her; she could not realize that, at last, they had
met again, and her heart beat so fiercely that she pressed her hand
upon it, dreading lest he should hear its loud pulsations.
The discourse was ended, the diapason of the organ swelled through
the lofty church, priestly hands hovered like white doves over the
congregation, dismissing all with blessing. Once more Irene swept back
the rich lace veil, fully exposing her face; once more her eyes looked
into those of the man who politely held the pew door open; both bowed
with stately grace, and she walked down the aisle. She heard Russell
talking to her uncle just behind her, heard the inquiries concerning
his health, the expression of pleasure at meeting again, the hope which
Eric uttered that he should see him frequently during his stay in
W. Without even a glance over her shoulder, she proceeded to the
carriage, where her uncle soon joined her.
She met his searching gaze calmly, and as they now neared the house
he forbore any further allusion to the subject which he shrewdly
suspected engaged her thoughts quite as fully as his own.
CHAPTER XVII. IRENE MEETS RUSSELL
Surely, Uncle Eric, there is room enough in this large, airy house
of ours to accommodate my mother's brother! I thought it was fully
settled that you were to reside with us. There is no good reason why
you should not. Obviously, we have a better claim upon you than anybody
else; why doom yourself to the loneliness of a separate household?
Reconsider the matter.
Irene, I want a house of my own, to which I can feel privileged to
invite such guests, such companions as I deem congenial, irrespective
of the fiats of would-be social autocrats, and the social ostracism of
She was silent a moment, but met his keen look without the slightest
embarrassment, and yet when she spoke he knew, from her eyes and voice,
that she fully comprehended his meaning.
Of course, it is a matter which you must determine for yourself.
You are the best judge of what conduces to your happiness; but I am
sorry, very sorry, Uncle Eric, that, in order to promote it, you feel
it necessary to remove from our domestic circle. I shall miss you
He looked pained, puzzled, and irresolute; but she smiled, and swept
her fingers over the bars of her bird-cage, toying with its
Have you any engagement for this morning?
None, sir. What can I do for you?
If you feel disposed, I shall be glad to have you accompany me to
town; I want your assistance in selecting a set of china for my new
home. Will you go?
A shadow drifted over the colourless tranquil face, as she said
Uncle Eric, is it utterly useless for me to attempt to persuade you
to relinquish this project, and remain with us?
Utterly useless, my dear child.
I will get my bonnet, and join you at the carriage.
Very near the cottage formerly occupied by Mrs. Aubrey stood a small
brick house, partially concealed by poplar and sycamore trees, and
surrounded by a neat, well-arranged flower-garden. This was the place
selected and purchased by the cripple for his future home. Mr.
Huntingdon had opposed the whole proceeding, and invited his
brother-in-law to reside with him; but beneath the cordial surface the
guest felt that other sentiments rolled deep and strong. He had little
in common with his sister's husband, and only a warm and increasing
affection for his niece now induced him to settle in W. Some
necessary repairs had been made, some requisite arrangements completed
regarding servants, and to-day the finishing touches were given to the
snug little bachelor establishment. When it was apparent that no
arguments would avail to alter the decision, Irene ceased to speak of
it, and busied herself in various undertakings to promote her uncle's
comfort. She made pretty white curtains for his library windows,
knitted bright-coloured worsted lamp-mats, and hemmed and marked the
contents of the linen-closet. The dining-room pantry she took under her
special charge, and at the expiration of ten days, when the master took
formal possession, she accompanied him, and enjoyed the pleased
surprise with which he received her donation of cakes, preserves,
ketchups, pickles, etc., etc., neatly stowed away on the spotless
What do those large square boxes in the hall contain?
Books which I gathered in Europe and selected in New York; among
them many rare old volumes, which you have never seen. Come down next
Monday, and help me to number and shelve them; afterward, we will read
them together. Lay aside your bonnet, and spend the evening with me.
No, I must go back; Hugh sent me word that he would bring company
He took her hand, and drew her close to his chair, saying gently
Ah, Irene! I wish I could keep you always. You would be happier
here, in this little unpretending home of mine, than presiding as
mistress over that great palatial house on the hill yonder.
He kissed her fingers tenderly, and, taking her basket she left him
alone in his new home.
A few weeks passed without incident; Hugh went to New Orleans to
visit friends, and Mr. Huntingdon was frequently absent at the
One day he expressed the desire that Judge Harris's family should
dine with him, and added several gentlemen, to make the party merry.
Irene promptly issued the invitations, suppressing the reluctance which
filled her heart; for the young people were not favourites, and she
dreaded Charlie's set speeches and admiring glances, not less than his
mother's endless disquisitions on fashion and the pedigree of all the
best families of W and its vicinage. Grace had grown up very
pretty, highly accomplished, even-tempered, gentle-hearted, but full of
her mother's fashionable notions, and, withal, rather weak and
frivolous. She and Irene were constantly thrown into each other's
society, but no warmth of feeling existed on either side. Grace could
not comprehend her companion's character, and Irene wearied of her gay,
heedless chit-chat. As the latter anticipated, the day proved very
tiresome; the usual complement of music was contributed by Grace, the
expected quantity of flattering nothings gracefully uttered by her
brother, the customary amount of execrable puns handed around the
circle for patronage and Irene gave the signal for dinner. Mr.
Huntingdon prided himself on his fine wines, and, after the decanters
had circulated freely, the gentlemen grew garrulous as market-women.
Irene was gravely discussing the tariff question with Mr. Herbert
Blackwell (whom Mrs. Harris pronounced the most promising young lawyer
of her acquaintance), and politely listening to his stereotyped
reasoning, when a scrap of conversation at the opposite end of the
table, attracted her attention.
Huntingdon, my dear fellow, I tell you I never made a mistake in my
life, when reading people's minds; and if Aubrey has not the finest
legal intellect in W, I will throw up my judgeship. You have seen
Campbell, I suppose? He returned last week, and, by the way, I
half-expected to meet him to-day; well, I was talking to him about
Aubrey, and he laughed his droll, chuckling laugh, snapped his bony
fingers in my face; and said
'Aye! aye, Harris, let him alone; hands off! and I will wager my
new office against your old one that he steps into your honour's
shoes.' Now you know perfectly well that Campbell has no more
enthusiasm than a brick wall, or a roll of red tape; but he is as proud
of the young man as if he were his son. Do you know that he has taken
him into partnership?
Pshaw! he will never commit such a faux pas.
But he has; I read the notice in this morning's paper. Pass the
Madeira. The fact is, we must not allow our old prejudices to make us
unjust. I know Aubrey has struggled hard; he had much to contend
With head slightly inclined, and eyes fixed on Mr. Blackwell's face,
Irene had heard all that passed, and as the gentleman paused in his
harangue to drain his glass, she rose and led the way to the parlours.
The gentlemen adjourned to the smoking-room, and in a short time Mrs.
Harris ordered her carriage, pleading an engagement with Grace's
mantua-maker as an excuse for leaving so early. With a feeling of
infinite relief the hostess accompanied them to the door, saw the
carriage descend the avenue, and, desiring one of the servants to have
Erebus saddled at once, she went to her room and changed the rich
dinner-dress for her riding-habit. As she sprang into the saddle, and
gathered up the reins, her father called from the open window, whence
issued curling wreaths of blue smoke
Where now, Irene?
I am going to ride; it threatened rain this morning, and I was
afraid to venture.
He said something, but without hearing she rode off, and was soon
out of sight, leaving the town to the left, and taking the rocky road
leading up the hill-side to the cemetery gate. Dismounting she fastened
the reins to one of the iron spikes, and, gathering the folds of her
habit over her arm, carried her flowers to the family burying-ground.
It was a large square lot, enclosed by a handsome railing and tall
gate, bearing the name of Huntingdon in silver letters. As she
approached, she was surprised to find a low brick wall and beautiful
new marble monument close to her father's lot, and occupying a space
which had been filled with grass and weeds a few weeks previous.
As she passed the new lot the gate swung open, and Russell stood
Good evening, Miss Huntingdon.
Good evening, Mr. Aubrey.
The name sounded strange and harsh as she uttered it, and
involuntarily she paused and held out her hand. He accepted it; for an
instant the cold fingers lay in his warm palm, and as she withdrew them
he said, in the rich mellow voice which she had heard in the church
Allow me to show you my mother's monument.
He held the gate open, and she entered and stood at his side. The
monument was beautiful in its severe simplicitya pure faultless
shaft, crowned with a delicately chiselled wreath of poppy leaves, and
bearing these words in gilt letters: Sacred to the memory of my
mother, Amy Aubrey. Just below, in black characters, Resurgam
; and underneath the whole, on a finely fluted scroll, the inscription
of St. Gilgen. After a silence of some moments Russell pointed to the
singular and solemn words, and said, as if speaking rather to himself
than to her
I want to say always, with Paul Flemming, 'I will be strong,' and
therefore I placed here the inscription which proved an evangel to him,
that when I come to my mother's grave I may be strengthened, not
melted, by the thronging of bitter memories.
She looked up as he spoke, and the melancholy splendour of the deep
eyes stirred her heart as nothing had ever done before.
I have a few flowers left; let me lay them as an affectionate
tribute, an 'in memoriam' on your mother's tombfor the olden
time, the cottage days, are as fresh in my recollection as in yours.
She held out a woodland bouquet which she had previously gathered;
he took it, and strewed the blossoms along the broad base of the shaft,
reserving only a small cluster of the rosy china cups. Both were
silent; but as she turned to go, a sudden gust blew her hat from her
head, the loosened comb fell upon the grass, and down came the heavy
masses of hair. She twisted them hastily into a coil, fastened them
securely, and received her hat from him, with a cool
Thank you, sir. When did you hear from Electra?
They walked on to the cemetery gate, and he answered
I have heard nothing for some weeks. Have you any message? I am
going to New York in a few days to try to persuade her to return to
I doubt the success of your mission; Whas little to tempt an
artist like your cousin. Be kind enough to tender her my love, and best
wishes for the realization of her artistic dreams.
They had reached the gate where Erebus waited, when Russell took off
You have a long walk to town, said Irene, as Russell arranged her
I shall not find it long. It is a fine piece of road, and the stars
will be up to light it.
He held out his hand to assist her; she sprang easily to the saddle,
then leaned toward him, every statue-like curve and moulding of her
proud ivory face stamping themselves on his recollection as she spoke.
Be so good as to hand me my glove; I dropped it at your feet as I
mounted. Thank you. Good evening, Mr. Aubrey; take my best wishes on
your journey and its mission.
Good-bye, Miss Huntingdon. He raised his hat, and, as she wheeled
off, the magnetic handsome face followed, haunted her. Erebus was
impatient, out of humour, and flew up the next steep hill as if he,
too, were haunted.
On through gathering gloom dashed horse and rider, over the little
gurgling stream, through the gate, up the dark, rayless avenue to the
doorstep. The billiard-room was a blaze of light, and the cheerful
sound of mingled voices came out at the open window, to tell that the
gentlemen had not yet finished their game. Pausing in the hall, Irene
listened an instant to distinguish the voices, then ascended the long
easy staircase. The lamp threw a mellow radiance on the steps, and as
she reached the landing Hugh caught her in his arms, and kissed her
warmly. Startled by his unexpected appearance, she recoiled a step or
two and asked, rather haughtily
When did you get home?
Only a few moments after you left the house. Do change your dress
quickly, and come down. I have a thousand things to say.
She waited to hear no more, but disengaged herself and went to her
When she went down she met her father at the dining room door.
Come, Queen; we are waiting for you.
He looked at her fondly, took her hand, and drew her to the table;
and, in after years, she recalled this occasion with mournful pleasure
as the last on which he had ever given her his pet name.
CHAPTER XVIII. A REFUSAL
Come out on the colonnade; the air is delicious. As he spoke, Hugh
drew his cousin's arm through his, and led the way from the tea-table.
Irene, how long do you intend to keep me in painful suspense?
I am not aware that I have in any degree kept you in suspense.
You shall not evade me; I have been patient, and the time has come
when we must talk of our future. Irene, dearest, be generous, and tell
me when will you give me, irrevocably, this hand which has been
promised to me from your infancy?
He took the hand and carried it to his lips, but she forcibly
withdrew it, and, disengaging her arm, said emphatically
Never, Hugh. Never.
How can you trifle with me, Irene? If you could realize how
impatient I am for the happy day when I shall call you my wife, you
would be serious, and fix an early period for our marriage.
Hugh, why will you affect to misconceive my meaning? I am serious;
I have pondered, long and well, a matter involving your life-long
happiness and mine, and I tell you, most solemnly, that I will never be
Oh, Irene! your promise! your sacred promise!
I never gave it! On the contrary, I have never failed to show you
that my whole nature rebelled against the most unnatural relation
forced upon me.
My dear Irene, have you, then, no love for me? I have hoped and
believed that you hid your love behind your cold mask of proud silence.
You must, you do love me, my beautiful cousin!
You do not believe your own words; you are obliged to know better.
I love you as my cousin, love you somewhat as I love Uncle Eric, love
you as the sole young relative left to me, as the only companion of my
lonely childhood; but other love than this I never had, never can have
for you. Hugh, my cousin, look fearlessly at the unvarnished truth;
neither you nor I have one spark of that affection which alone can
Indeed, you wrong me, my worshipped cousin. You are dearer to me
than anything else on earth. I have loved you, and you only, from my
boyhood; you have been a lovely idol from earliest recollection.
You are mistaken, most entirely mistaken; I am not to be deceived,
neither can you hoodwink yourself. You like me, you love me, in the
same quiet way that I love you; you admire me, perhaps, more than
anyone you chance to know just now; you are partial to my beauty, and,
from long habit, have come to regard me as your property, much in the
same light as that in which you look upon your costly diamond buttons,
or your high-spirited horses, or rare imported pointers. Hugh, I abhor
sham! and I tell you now that I never will be a party to that which
others have arranged without my consent.
Ah! I see how matters stand. Having disposed of your heart, and
lavished your love elsewhere, you shrink from fulfilling the sacred
obligations that make you mine. I little dreamed that you were so
susceptible, else I had not left you feeling so secure. My uncle has
not proved the faithful guardian I believed him when I entrusted my
treasure, my affianced bride to his care.
Bitter disappointment flashed in his face and quivered in his voice,
rendering him reckless of consequences. But though he gazed fiercely at
her as he uttered the taunt, it produced not the faintest visible
Confess who stands between your heart and mine. I have a right to
ask; I will know.
You forget yourself, my cousin. Your right is obviously a debatable
question; we will waive it, if you please. I have told you already, and
now I repeat it for the last time, I will not go with you to the altar,
because neither of us has proper affection for the other to warrant
such a union; because it would be an infamous pecuniary contract,
revolting to every true soul. Hugh, cherish no animosity against me; I
merit none. Because we cannot be more, shall we be less than friends?
She turned to leave him, but he caught her dress, and exclaimed,
with more tenderness than he had ever manifested before
Oh, Irene! do not reject me utterly! I cannot relinquish you. Give
me one more year to prove my loveto win yours. If your proud heart is
still your own, may I not hope to obtain it by
No, Hugh! no. As well hope to inspire affection in yonder mute
marble guardians. Forgive me if I pain you, but I must be candid at
every hazard. She pointed to the statues near the door, and went
through the greenhouse to the library, thence to the observatory,
expecting, ere long, to be joined by her father. Gradually the house
became quiet, and, oppressed with the painful sense of coming trouble,
she sought her own room just as the clock struck twelve. Pausing to
count the strokes, she saw a light gleaming through the keyhole of her
father's door, opposite her own, and heard the sound of low but earnest
conversation mingled with the restless tramp of pacing feet. She was
powerfully tempted to cross the passage, knock, and have the ordeal
ended then and there; but second thought whispered, To-morrow will
soon be here; be patient. She entered her room, and, wearied by the
events of the day, fell asleep, dreaming of the new lot in the
cemetery, and the lonely, joyless man who haunted it.
As she adjusted her riding-habit the following morning, and suffered
Andrew to arrange her stirrup, the latter said good-humouredly
So, Mas' Hugh got the start of you? It isn't often he beats you.
What do you mean?
He started a while ago, and, if he drives as he generally does, he
will get to his plantation in time for dinner.
Did father go, too?
No, ma'am; only Mas' Hugh in his own buggy.
Returning from her ride, she stood a moment on the front step,
looking down the avenue. The Bermuda terrace blazed in the sunlight
like a jewelled coronal, the billowy sea of foliage, crested by dewy
drops, flashed and dripped as the soft air stirred the ancient trees,
the hedges were all alive with birds and butterflies, the rich aroma of
brilliant and countless flowers, the graceful curl of smoke wreathing
up from the valley beyond, the measured musical tinkle of bells as the
cows slowly descended the distant hills, and, over all, like God's
mantling mercy, a summer sky.
Involuntarily she stretched out her arms to the bending heavens and
her lips moved, but no sound escaped to tell what petition went forth
to the All-Father. She went to her room, changed her dress, and joined
her father at the breakfast-table. Half-concealed behind his paper, he
took no notice of her quiet good morning, seeming absorbed in an
editorial. The silent meal ended, he said, as they left the table
I want to see you in the library.
She followed him without comment; he locked the door, threw open the
blinds, and drew two chairs to the window, seating himself immediately
in front of her. For a moment he eyed her earnestly, as if measuring
her strength; and she saw the peculiar sparkle in his falcon eye,
which, like the first lurid flash in a darkened sky, betokened
Irene, I was very much astonished to learn the result of an
interview between Hugh and yourself; I can scarcely believe that you
were in earnest, and feel disposed to attribute your foolish words to
some trifling motive of girlish coquetry or momentary pique. You have
long been perfectly well aware that you and your cousin were destined
for each other; that I solemnly promised the marriage should take place
as soon as you were of age; that all my plans and hopes for you centred
in this one engagement. I have not pressed the matter on your attention
of late, because I knew you had sense enough to appreciate your
position, and because I believed you would be guided by my wishes in
this important affair. You are no longer a child; I treat you as a
reasonable woman, and now I tell you candidly it is the one wish of my
heart to see you Hugh's wife.
Father, my happiness will not be promoted by this marriage, and if
you are actuated solely by this motive, allow me to remain just as I
am. I should be most miserable as Hugh's wife; most utterly miserable.
Father, my own feelings stand an everlasting barrier to our union.
I do not love Hugh, andI must tell you, sir, that I think it wrong
for cousins to marry.
You talk like a silly child; I thought you had more sense. Your
objections I have listened to; they are imaginary and trifling; and I
ask you, as a father has a right to ask his child, to waive these
ridiculous notions, and grant the only request I have ever made of you.
Tell me, my daughter, that you will consent to accept your cousin, and
thereby make me happy.
He stooped and kissed her forehead, watching her countenance
Oh, father! do not ask this of me! Anything else! anything else.
Answer me, my darling child; give me your promise.
His hold was painful, and an angry pant mingled with the pleading
tones. She raised her head and said slowly
My father, I cannot.
He threw her hand from him, and sprang up.
Ingrate! do you mean to say that you will not fulfil a sacred
engagement?that you will break an oath given to the dead.
I do not hold myself bound by the oaths of another, though he were
twice my father. I am responsible for no acts but my own. I, only, can
give myself away. Why should you wish to force this marriage on me?
Father, do you think that a woman has no voice in a matter involving
her happiness for life?
Oh! I suspected that your cursed obstinacy would meet me here, as
well as elsewhere in your life. You have been a source of trouble and
sorrow from your birth; but the time has come to end all this. You know
that I never menace idly, and if you refuse to hear reason, I will
utterly disinherit you, though you are my only child. Ponder it well.
You have been raised in luxury, and taught to believe yourself one of
the wealthiest heiresses in the state; contrast your present position,
your elegant home, your fastidious tastes gratified to the utmost;
contrast all this, I say, with povertyimagine yourself left in the
world without one cent! Think of it! think of it! My wealth is my own,
mark you, and I will give it to whom I please, irrespective of all
claims of custom. Now the alternative is fully before you, and on your
own head be the consequences. Will you accede to my wishes, as any
dutiful child should, or will you deliberately incur my everlasting
displeasure? Will you marry Hugh?
Father, I will not marry Hugh, so help me, God!.
Silence fell between them for several moments; something in that
fixed, calm face of his child awed him, but it was temporary and, with
a bitter laugh, he exclaimed
Oh, very well! Your poverty be upon your own head in coming years,
when the grave closes over me. At my death every cent of my property
passes to Hugh, and with it my name, and between you and me, as an
impassable gulf, lies my everlasting displeasure. Understand that,
though we live here in one house, as father and child, I do not, and
will not, forgive you. You have defied me; now eat the bitter fruit of
I have no desire to question the disposition of your wealth; if you
prefer to give it to my cousin, I am willing, perfectly willing. I
enjoy wealth as well as most people do, I suppose; but poverty does not
frighten me half so much as a loveless marriage. Give Hugh your
fortune, if you wish, but, father! father! let there be no estrangement
between you and me. I can bear everything but your displeasure; I dread
nothing so much as the loss of your love. Oh, father! forgive a
disappointment which my conscience would not permit me to avert.
Forgive the pain which, God knows, I would not have caused you if I
could have avoided it without compromising principle. Oh, my father! my
father! let not dollars and cents stand between you and your only
child. I ask nothing now but your love.
She drew nearer, but he waved her off, and said with a sneering
Away with all such cant! I gave you the choice, and you made your
selection with your eyes fully open. Accept poverty as your doom, and
with it my eternal displeasure. I intend to make you suffer for your
obstinacy. You shall find, to your sorrow, that I am not to be trifled
with, or my name is not Leonard Huntingdon. Now go your own way, and
find what a thorny path you have made for yourself.
He pointed to the door as he had done years before, when the
boarding-school decree went forth, and without remonstrance she left
him, and sat down on the steps of the greenhouse. Soon after, the sound
of his buggy wheels told her that he had gone to town, and, leaning her
cheek on her hand, she recalled the painful conversation from first to
last. That he meant all he had threatened, and more, she did not
question for an instant, and, thinking of her future, she felt sick at
heart. But with the shame and sorrow came also a thrill of joy; she had
burst the fetters: she was free. Wounded affection bled freely, but
brain and conscience exulted in the result.
CHAPTER XIX. RUSSELL VISITS ELECTRA
The patient work of twelve months drew to a close; the study of
years bore its first fruit; the last delicate yet quivering touch was
given; Electra threw down palette and brush, and, stepping back,
surveyed the canvas. The Exhibition would open within two days, and
this was to be her contribution. A sad-eyed Cassandra, with pallid,
prescient, woe-struck featuresan over-mastering face, wherein the
flickering light of divination struggled feebly with the human horror
of the To-Come, whose hideous mysteries were known only to the royal
prophetess. In mute and stern despair it looked out from the canvas, a
curious anomalous thingcut adrift from human help, bereft of aid from
heavenyet, in its doomed isolation, scorning to ask the sympathy
which its extraordinary loveliness extorted from all who saw it. The
artist's pride in this, her first finished creation, might well be
pardoned, for she was fully conscious that the cloud-region of a
painful novitiate lay far beneath her; that henceforth she would never
miss the pressure of long-coveted chaplets from her brow; that she
should bask in the warm, fructifying rays of public favour; and
measureless exultation flashed in her beautiful eyes.
The door opened, and Russell came into the studio. She was not
expecting him; his sudden appearance gave her no time to adjust the
chilling mask of pride, and all her uncontrolled affection found
eloquent language in the joyful face.
Russell! my own dear Russell!
He drew his arm around her and kissed her flushed cheek, and each
looked at the other, wondering at the changes which years had wrought.
Electra, you have certainly improved more than anyone I ever knew.
You look the impersonation of perfect health; it is needless to ask how
you are. And again his lips touched the beaming face pressed against
his shoulder. Her arms stole tremblingly around his neck, past
indifference was forgotten in the joy of his presence.
Sit down, and let me look at you. You have grown so tall and
commanding that I am half afraid of my own cousin. You are less like
Aunt Amy than formerly.
Allow me to look at your painting first, for it will soon be too
dark to examine it. This is the Cassandra of which you wrote me.
He stood before it for some moments in silence, and she watched him
with breathless eagernessfor his opinion was of more value to her
than that of all the dilettanti and connoisseurs who
would soon inspect it. Gradually his dark cold face kindled, and she
had her reward.
It is a masterly creation; a thing of wonderful and imperishable
beauty; it is a great successas such the world will receive itand
hundreds will proclaim your triumph. I am proud of it, and doubly proud
He held out his hand, and, as she put her fingers in his, her head
drooped, and hot tears blinded her. Praise from the lips she loved best
stirred her womanly heart as the applause of the public could never do.
Come, sit down, Electra, and tell me something of your life, since
the death of your friend, Mr. Clifton.
Did you receive my last letter, giving an account of Mrs. Clifton's
Yes; just as I stepped upon the platform of the cars it was handed
to me. I had heard nothing from you for so long, that I thought it was
time to look after you.
You had started, then, before you knew that I was going to Europe?
He could not understand the instantaneous change which came over her
countenancethe illumination, followed as suddenly by a smile, half
compassionate, half bitter. She pressed one hand to her heart, and
Mrs. Clifton never seemed to realize her son's death, though, after
paralysis took place, and she became speechless, I thought she
recovered her memory in some degree. She survived him just four months,
and, doubtless, was saved much grief by her unconsciousness of what had
occurred. Poor old lady! she suffered little for a year past, and died,
I hope, without pain. I have the consolation of knowing that I did all
that could be done to promote her comfort. Russell, I would not live
here for any consideration; nothing but a sense of duty has detained me
this long. I promised him that I would not forsake his mother. But you
can have no adequate conception of the feeling of desolation which
comes over me when I sit here during the long evenings. He seems
watching me from picture-frames and pedestals; his face, his pleading,
patient, wan face, haunts me perpetually. And yet I tried to make him
happy; God knows I did my duty.
She sprang up and paced the room for some moments, with her hands
behind her, and tears glittering on her cheeks. Pausing at last on the
rug, she pointed to a large square object, closely shrouded and added
Yonder stands his last picture, unfinished. The day he died he put
a few feeble strokes upon it, and bequeathed the completion of the task
to me. For several years he worked occasionally on it, but much remains
to be done. It is the 'Death of Socrates.' I have not even looked at it
since that night; I do not intend to touch it until after I visit
Italy; I doubt whether my hand will ever be steady enough to give the
last strokes. Oh, Russell! the olden time, the cottage days, seem far,
far off to me now!
Leaning against the mantelpiece, she dropped her head on her hand,
but when he approached and stood at the opposite corner, he saw that
the tears had dried.
Neither of us has had a sunny life, Electra; both have had numerous
obstacles to contend with; both have very bitter memories. Originally
there was a certain parallelism in our characters, but with our growth
grew the divergence. You have preserved the nobler part of your nature
better than I; for my years I am far older than you; none of the
brightness of my boyhood seems to linger about me. Contact with the
world is an indurating process; I really did not know how hard I had
grown, until I felt my heart soften at sight of you. I need you to keep
the kindly charities and gentle amenities of life before me, and,
therefore, I have come for you. But for my poverty I never would have
given you up so long; I felt that it would be for your advantage, in
more than one respect to remain with Mr. Clifton until I had acquired
my profession. I knew that you would enjoy privileges here which I
could not give you in my straitened circumstances. Things have changed;
Mr. Campbell has admitted me to partnership; my success I consider an
established fact. Give up, for a season, this projected tour of Europe;
wait till I can go with youtill I can take you; go back to Wwith
me. You can continue your art studies, if you wish it; you can
prosecute them there as well as here. You are ambitious, Electra; so am
I; let us work together.
She raised her head and looked up at the powerful,
nobly-proportioned form, the grand, kingly face, calm and colourless,
the large, searching black eyes, within whose baffling depths lay all
the mysteries of mesmerism, and a spasm of pain seized her own
features. She shaded her brow, and answered
No, Russell; I could not entertain that thought an instant.
Are you too proud to accept a home from me?
Not too proud, exactly; but, as long as I have health, I mean to
make a support. I will not burden you.
Full value received for benefit rendered is not charity; come to
W, share my future, and what fortune I may find assigned me. I have
bought the cottage, and intend to build a handsome house there some
day, where you and Mr. Campbell and I can live peacefully. You shall
twine your æsthetic fancies all about it, to make it picturesque enough
to suit your fastidious artistic taste. Come and save me from what you
consider my worse than vandalian proclivities. I came here simply and
solely in the hope of prevailing on you to return with me. I make this
request, not because I think it will be expected of me, but for more
selfish reasonsbecause it is a matter resting very near my heart.
Oh, Russell! you tempt me.
I wish to do so. My blood beats in your veins; you are the only
relative I value, and were you indeed my sister, I should scarcely love
you more. With all a brother's interest, why should I not claim a
brother's right to keep you with me, at least until you find your
Pylades, and give him a higher claim before God and man? Electra, were
I your brother, you would require no persuasion; why hesitate now?
She clasped her hands behind her, as if for support in some fiery
ordeal, and, gathering up her strength, spoke rapidly, like one who
fears that resolution will fail before some necessary sentence is
You are very kind and generous, Russell, and for all that you have
offered me I thank you from the depth of a full heart. The
consciousness of your continued interest and affection is inexpressibly
precious; but my disposition is too much like your own to suffer me to
sit down in idleness, while there is so much to be done in the world.
I, too, want to earn a noble reputation, which will survive long after
I have been gathered to my fathers; I want to accomplish some work,
looking upon which, my fellow-creatures will proclaim: 'That woman has
not lived in vain; the world is better and happier because she came and
laboured in it.' I want my name carved, not on monumental marble only,
but upon the living, throbbing heart of my age!stamped indelibly on
the generation in which my lot is cast. Perhaps I am too sanguine of
success; a grievous disappointment may await all my ambitious hopes,
but failure will come from want of genius, not lack of persevering
patient toil. Upon the threshold of my career, facing the loneliness of
coming years, I resign that hope with which, like a golden thread, most
women embroider their future. I dedicate myself, my life, unreservedly
You believe that you will be happier among the marble and canvas of
Italy than in Wwith me?
Yes; I shall be better satisfied there. All my life it has gleamed
afar off, a glorious land of promise to my eager, longing spirit. From
childhood I have cherished the hope of reaching it, and the fruition is
near at hand. Italy! bright Alma Mater of the art to which I consecrate
my years. Do you wonder that, like a lonely child, I stretch, out my
arms toward it? Yet my stay there will be but for a season. I go to
complete my studies, to make myself a more perfect instrument for my
noble work, and then I shall come homecome, not to New York, but to
my own dear native South, to W, that I may labour under the shadow
of its lofty pines, and within hearing of its murmuring riverdearer
to me than classic Arno, or immortal Tiber. I wrote you that Mr.
Clifton had left me a legacy, which, judiciously invested, will defray
my expenses in Europe, where living is cheaper than in this country.
Mr. Young has taken charge of the money for me, and has kindly offered
to attend to my remittances. Aunt Ruth's friends, the Richardsons,
consented to wait for me until after the opening of the Exhibition of
the Academy of Design, and one week from to-morrow we expect to sail.
What do you know of the family?
Nothing, except that the lady, who is an old friend of my aunt, is
threatened with consumption, and has been advised to spend a year or
two in Florence. Aunt Ruth took me to see her the other day; she seems
intelligent and agreeable, and I daresay I shall find her kind and
Since such is the programme you have marked out, I trust that no
disappointments await you, and that all your bright dreams may be
realized. But if it should prove otherwise, and you grow weary of your
art, sick of isolation, and satiated with Italy, remember that I shall
welcome you home and gladly share with you all that I possess. You are
embarking in an experiment which thousands have tried before you, and
wrecked happiness upon; but I have no right to control your future, and
certainly no desire to discourage you. At all events, I hope our
separation will be brief.
A short silence followed, broken at last by Electra, who watched him
keenly as she spoke
Tell me something about Irene. Of course, in a small town like
W, you must see her frequently.
By no means. I think I have seen her but three times since her
childhoodonce riding with her father, then accidentally at church,
and again a few evenings before I left, at the graveyard, where she was
dressing a tombstone with flowers. There we exchanged a few words for
the first time, and this reminds me that I am bearer of a message yet
undelivered. She inquired after you, and desired me to tender you her
love and best wishes.
I have her here in crayons; tell me what you think of the
She took down a portfolio and selected the head of her quondam
playmate, holding it under the gaslight, and still scrutinizing her
cousin's countenance. He took it, and looked gravely, earnestly, at the
It scarcely does her justice; I doubt whether any portrait ever
will. Beside, the expression of her face has changed materially since
this was sketched. There is a harder outline now about her mouth, less
of dreaminess in the eyes, more of cold hauteur in the whole
face. If you desire it, I can in one line of Tennyson photograph her
proud beauty, as I saw her mounted on her favourite horse, the week
that I left home
'Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null!'
He laid the drawing back in the open portfolio, crossed the room,
and took up his hat.
Where are you going, Russell? Can't you spend the evening with me
at Aunt Ruth's?
No, thank you; I must go. There is to be a great political meeting
at Tammany Hall to-night, and I am particularly anxious to attend.
What! are you, too, engaged in watching the fermentation of the
Yes, I am most deeply interested; no true lover of his country can
fail to be so at this juncture.
How long will you be in New York?
Since I cannot persuade you to return with me, my stay here will be
shortened. One of our courts meets soon, and though Mr. Campbell will
be there to attend to the cases, I want, if possible, to be present. I
shall return day after to-morrow. And now good night; I will see you
early in the morning.
The door closed behind him, and she remained standing for some time
just as he left her. Slowly the folded hands shrank from each other,
and dropped nerveless to her side; the bright glow in her cheeks, the
dash of crimson on her lips, faded from both; the whole face relaxed
into an expression of hopeless agony.
CHAPTER XX. A CANDIDATE FOR THE
Don't you know that even granite millstones finally grind
themselves into impalpable powder? You give yourself no rest, Aubrey,
and human machinery wears rapidly. Simply for this reason, I sent for
you to come and take a cup of tea with me.
I have been too much engaged of late to spare an evening to merely
social claims. A man whose life rests at his feet to be lifted to some
fitting pedestal, has little leisure for the luxury of friendly
The two were in Eric Mitchell's pleasant library. Russell sat in an
arm-chair, and the master of the house reclined on a lounge drawn near
the hearth. The mellow glow of the lamp, the flash and crackle of the
fire, the careless, lazy posture of the invalid, all betokened quiet
comfort, save the dark fixed face, and erect, restless figure of the
But, Aubrey, you have not asked my opinion of your speech.
I was not aware that you heard it.
Of course not, but I read it; and let me tell you, it was a great
speech, a masterly argument, that will make a lasting impression upon
the people. It has greatly changed the vote of this county already.
You mistake appearances; the seed fell in good soil, but party
spirit came, as fowls of the air, and devoured it.
At any rate, it produced a profound impression on public opinion,
and startled some of our political patriarchs.
No, a mere transitory effect; they have folded their arms and gone
to sleep again. I am, of course, gratified by your favourable
appreciation of my effort, but I differ with you as to its result. The
surging waves of Northern faction and fanaticism already break
ominously against our time-honoured constitutional dykes, and if the
South would strengthen her bulwarks, there is no time to be slept or
As he spoke, Russell's eye fell upon a large oval vase on the
mantelpiece filled with rare exotics, whose graceful tendrils were
tastefully disposed into a perfumed fringe. Rising, he looked carefully
at the brilliant hues, and said, as he bent to inhale their fragrance
Where did you grow such flowers at this season?
Irene brings them almost every day from the greenhouse on the hill.
She takes a peculiar pleasure in arranging them in my vases. I think
she stood a half-hour yesterday twining and bending those stems the way
she wanted them to hang. They are so brittle that I snap the blossoms
off, but in her hands they seem pliable enough.
Russell withdrew the fingers which had wandered caressingly amid the
delicate leaves, and, reseating himself, took a book from his pocket.
He drew his chair nearer the lamp and began to read aloud. Nearly a
half-hour passed thus, when the library door was opened hastily, and
Irene came in, dressed magnificently in party costume. She stood a
moment, irresolute and surprised, with her eyes fixed on Russell's,
then both bowed silently, and she came to the fire.
How are you, Uncle Eric? You look flushed, feverish. She laid her
cold, pearly hand on his forehead, and stood at his side.
Tolerably comfortable, thanks to Mr. Aubrey, who has made me almost
forget my headache. You will be fashionably late at the party
Yes! as usual; but for a better reason than because I wish to be
fashionable. I wanted to know how you were, and as father was not quite
ready, I came in advance, and sent the carriage back for him and Hugh.
I was not aware that you were in Mr. Aubrey's hands for the evening.
You were reading, I believe. Pardon my intrusion, and do not let me
She stood still a moment, listening.
Good night, Uncle Eric; the carriage is coming. I believe I should
know the tramp of those horses amid a regiment of cavalry.
Why need you hurry off? Let your father come in.
I will spare him that trouble. Good night, Mr. Aubrey.
She turned to leave the room, but, in gathering her cloak around
her, dropped her fan. Russell stooped to pick it up, and, as he
restored it, their hands met. His brow flushed, but not even the pale
pearly glow of a sea-shell crept to her cheek. Again she raised her
eyes to his, and a haughty, dazzling smile flashed over her face as she
inclined her head.
Thank you, sir.
There was a brief silence, broken by Eric, when the sound of the
carriage had died away.
Irene is the only perfectly beautiful woman I ever saw; and yet,
Aubrey, it makes me sad to watch her countenance.
Whenever I see her I cannot avoid recalling an old Scandinavian
myth; she realizes so fully my ideal Iduna, standing at the portals of
Valhalla, offering apples of immortality.
He returned at once to his book and read several pages, occasionally
pausing to call attention to some special passage; finally he rose, and
took his hat.
It is early yet, Aubrey; don't go.
Thank you; I must fulfil another engagement.
A word before you leave; will you be a candidate for the
Yes; I was waited upon by a committee to-day, and my name will be
announced to-morrow. Good night.
Slowly he walked back to town, and once upon the main street, took a
new pair of gloves from his pocket, fitted them carefully, and directed
his steps to the elegant residence, whose approach was well-nigh
blocked up with carriages. This was the second time that he had been
invited by the Hendersons, and he had almost determined to decline as
formerly, but something in Irene's chill manner changed his resolution.
He knew, from various circumstances, that the social edict against him
was being revoked in fashionable circles; that because he had risen
without its permission, aid, or countenance, and in defiance of its
sneers, the world was beginning to court him. A gloomy scowl sat on his
stern lips as he mounted the steps of the mansion from which his meek
and suffering mother had borne bundles of plain work, or delicate
masses of embroidery, for the mother and daughter who passed her in the
street with a supercilious stare. Beau-monde suddenly awoke to
the recollection that, after all, Mrs. Aubrey belonged to one of the
wealthiest and first families in the state. At first Russell had
proudly repelled all overtures, but gradually he was possessed by a
desire to rule in the very circle which had so long excluded his
family. Most fully he appreciated his position and the motives which
actuated the social autocrats of W; he was no longer the poor
disgraced clerk, but the talented young lawyer, and prospective heir of
Mr. Campbell's wealth. Bitterly, bitterly came memories of early trial,
and now the haughtiness of Irene's manner stung him as nothing else
could possibly have done. He was at a loss to comprehend this change in
one who had dared so much in order to assist his family, and proud
defiance arose in his heart. It was ten o'clock, the fête was at its
height; the sound of music, the shimmer of jewels and rustle of costly
silks mingled with the hum of conversation, and the tread of dancing
feet as Russell deposited hat and overcoat in the dressing-room and
entered the blazing parlours. The quadrille had just ended, and gay
groups chattered in the centre of the room; among these, Maria
Henderson, leaning on Hugh's arm, and Grace Harris, who had been
dancing with Louis Henderson. As Russell crossed the floor to speak to
the host and hostess, all eyes turned upon him, and a sudden hush fell
on the merry dancers.
Coaxed at last within the pale of civilization! how did you
contrive it, Louis? asked Maria.
Oh! he declined when I invited him; but I believe father saw him
afterward and renewed the request. Do observe him talking to mother; he
is as polished as if he had spent his life at court.
He is a man whom I never fancied; but that two hours' speech of his
was certainly the finest effort I ever listened to. Cæsar's ambition
was moderate in comparison with Aubrey's; and, somehow, even against my
will, I can't help admiring him, he is so coolly independent, said
Hugh, eyeing him curiously.
I heard father say that the Democrats intend to send him to the
legislature next term, and the opposition are bothered to match him
fully. By the way, they speak of Mr. Huntingdon for their candidate.
But here comes your hero, Miss Maria. As he spoke, Charlie Harris drew
back a few steps, and suffered Russell to speak to the young lady of
the house. Irene stood not far off, talking to the Governor of the
state, who chanced to be on a brief visit to W, and quite near her,
Judge Harris and her father were in earnest conversation. Astonished at
the sudden apparition, her eyes followed him as he bowed to the member
of the central group; and as she heard the deep, rich voice above the
buzz of small talk she waited to see if he would notice her. Soon
Governor Ggave her his arm for a promenade, and she found herself,
ere long, very near Maria, who was approaching with Russell. He was
saying something, at which she laughed delightedly; just then his eye
fell on Irene; there was no token of recognition on the part of either;
but the Governor, in passing, put out his hand to shake Russell's, and
asked for Mr. Campbell. Again and again they met during the ensuing
hour, but no greeting was exchanged; then he disappeared. As Irene
leaned against the window-frame in the crowded supper-room, she heard
Charlie Harris gaily bantering Maria on the events of the evening.
What have you done with Aubrey? I will challenge him before
to-morrow morning, for cutting me out of my schottische with his prosy
Oh! he left a half-hour ago; excused himself to mother, on the plea
of starting off to court at daybreak. He is perfectly fascinating;
don't you think so, Grace? Such eyes and lips; and such a forehead!
Once more in his own room at the quiet boarding-house, Russell
lighted the gas-burner over a small desk, and sat down to a mass of
papers. The apartment was cold; the fire had long since died out; the
hearth looked ashy and desolate. The measured tones of the watchman on
the town-tower recalled him, finally, from his work; he took off his
watch and wound it up. It wanted but three hours to dawn, but he heeded
it not; the sight of the massive old watch brought vividly back the
boyish days of sorrow, and he sat thinking of that morning of shame,
when Irene came close to him, nestling her soft little hand in his, and
from some long-silent, dark, chill chamber of memory leaped sweet,
silvery, childish echoes
Oh, Russell! if I could only help you!
Since his return from Europe he had accustomed himself to think of
her as Hugh's wife; but he found it daily more difficult to realize
that she could willingly give her hand to her heedless, self-indulgent
cousin; and now the alteration in her manner toward him perplexed and
grieved him. Did she suspect the truth, and fear that he might presume
on her charity in bygone years? To his proud spirit this was a
suggestion singularly insulting, and he had resolved to show her in
future that he claimed not even a nod of recognition. Instead of
avoiding her, as formerly, he would seek occasions to exhibit an
indifference which he little thought that her womanly heart would
rightly interpret. He had found it more difficult than he supposed to
keep his attention chained to Maria's and Grace's gay nonsense; to
prevent his eyes from wandering to the face whose image was enshrined
in his lonely heart, and now, with complex feelings of tenderness and
angry defiance, he sought his pillow for a short respite before the
journey that waited but for daylight.
For a few weeks all Wwas astir with interest in the impending
election: newspaper columns teemed with caustic articles, and
Huntingdon and Aubrey clubs vilified each other with the usual acrimony
of such occasions. Mr. Campbell's influence was extensive, but the
Huntingdon supporters were powerful, and the result seemed doubtful
until the week previous to the election, when Russell, who had as yet
taken no active part, accepted the challenge of his opponent to a
public discussion. The meeting was held in front of the court-house,
the massive stone steps serving as a temporary rostrum. The night was
dark and cloudy, but huge bonfires, blazing barrels of pitch, threw a
lurid glare over the broad street, now converted into a surging sea of
Surrounded by a committee of select friends, Mr. Huntingdon sat,
confident of success; and when the hiss of rockets ceased, he came
forward, and addressed the assembly in an hour's speech. As a warm and
rather prominent politician, he was habituated to the task, and bursts
of applause from his own party frequently attested the effect of his
easy, graceful style, and pungent irony. Blinded by personal hate, and
hurried on by the excitement of the hour, he neglected the cautious
policy which had hitherto been observed, and finally launched into a
fierce philippic against his antagonistholding up for derision the
melancholy fate of his father, and sneeringly denouncing the audacious
pretensions of a political neophyte.
Groans and hisses greeted this unexpected peroration, and many of
his own friends bit their lips, and bent their brows in angry surprise,
as he took his seat amid an uproar which would have been respectable
even in the days of the builders of Babel. Russell was sitting on the
upper step, with his head leaning on his hand, and his eyes fixed on
the mass of upturned, eager faces, listening patiently to the lengthy
address, expecting just what he was destined to hear. At the mention of
his family misfortunes he lifted his head, rose, and advancing a few
steps, took off his hat, and stood confronting the speaker in full view
of the excited crowd. And there the red light, flaring over his
features, showed a calm, stern, self-reliant man, who felt that he had
nothing to blush for in the past or to dread in future. When the tirade
ended, when the tumult ceased and silence fell upon the audience, he
turned and fixed his deep, glowing eyes full on the face of his
opponent for one moment, smiling haughtily; then, as Mr. Huntingdon
quailed before his withering gaze, he crossed his arms over his chest,
and addressed the meeting.
He came, he said, to discuss questions of grave import to the State,
not the pedigree or antecedents of his antagonist, with which, he
supposed, the public had no concern. Briefly he stated the issues
dividing the people of the State; warned the opposition of the probable
results of their policy, if triumphant; and, with resistless eloquence,
pleaded for a firm maintenance of the principles of his own party. He
was, he averred, no alarmist, but he proclaimed that the people slept
upon the thin heaving crust of a volcano, which would inevitably soon
burst forth; and the period was rapidly approaching when the Southern
States, unless united and on the alert, would lie bound at the feet of
an insolent and rapacious Northern faction. He demanded that, through
the legislatures, the States should appeal to Congress for certain
restrictions and guarantees, which, if denied, would justify extreme
measures on the part of the people. The man's marvellous magnetism was
never more triumphantly attested; the mass, who had listened in
profound silence to every syllable which had passed his lips, now
vented their enthusiasm in prolonged and vociferous applause.
As he descended the steps and disappeared amid the shouts of the
crowd, Judge Harris turned to Mr. Huntingdon and said, with
You have lost your election by your confounded imprudence.
The judge walked off, pondering a heavy bet which he had relative to
By sunrise on the day of the election the roads leading to town were
crowded with voters making their way to the polls. The drinking-saloons
were full to overflowing; the side-walks thronged with reeling groups
as the day advanced. Because the Huntingdon side bribed freely, the
Aubrey partisans felt that they must, from necessity, follow the
disgraceful precedent. Not a lady showed her face upon the street;
drinking, wrangling, fighting was the order of the day. Windows were
smashed, buggies overturned, and the police exercised to the utmost.
Accompanied by a few friends, Mr. Huntingdon rode from poll to poll,
encouraging his supporters, and drawing heavily upon his purse, while
Russell remained quietly in his office, well assured of the result. At
five o'clock, when the town polls closed, Russell's votes showed a
majority of two hundred and forty-four. Couriers came in constantly
from country precincts, with equally favourable accounts, and at ten
o'clock it was ascertained, beyond doubt, that he was elected. Irene
and her uncle rode down to learn the truth, and, not knowing where to
find Mr. Huntingdon, stopped the carriage at the corner of the main
street, and waited a few moments. Very soon a rocket whizzed through
the air, a band of music struck up before Russell's office, and a
number of his adherents insisted that he should show himself on the
balcony. A crowd immediately collected opposite, cheering the
successful candidate, and calling for a speech. He came out, and, in a
few happy, dignified words, thanked them for the honour conferred, and
pledged himself to guard most faithfully the interests committed to his
keeping. After the noisy constituents had retired, he stood talking to
some friends, when he chanced to recognize the fiery horses across the
street. The carriage-top was thrown back, and by the neighbouring
gaslight he saw Irene's white face turned toward him, then the horses
sprang off. Mr. Campbell noticed, without understanding, the sudden
start, and bitter though triumphant smile that crossed his face in the
midst of pleasant gratulations.
Go home, Andrew. I know now what I came to learn.
Irene sank back and folded her mantle closer around her.
Don't you think, Irene, that Aubrey deserves to succeed?
Her dreary tone disconcerted him, and he offered no further comment,
little suspecting that her hands were pressed hard against her heart,
and that her voiceless sorrow, was: Henceforth we must be still more
estranged; a wider gulf, from this night, divides us.
CHAPTER XXI. THE MINISTER'S LOVE
Two years rolled on, stained with the tears of many, ringing with
the songs and laughter of a fortunate few. The witchery of Southern
spring again enveloped W, and Irene stood on the lawn surveying the
greenery of the outdoor world that surrounded her.
In this woman's sad but intensely calm countenance, a joyless life
found silent history. She felt that her life was passing rapidly,
unimproved, and aimless; she knew that her years, instead of being
fragrant with the mellow fruitage of good deeds, were tedious and
joyless, and that the gaunt, numbing hand of ennui was closing upon
her. The elasticity of spirits, the buoyancy of youth had given place
to a species of stoical mute apathy; a mental and moral paralysis was
stealing over her.
The slamming of the ponderous iron gate attracted her attention, and
she saw a carriage ascending the avenue. As it reached a point opposite
to the spot where she stood it halted, the door was thrown open, and a
gentleman stepped out and approached her. The form was not familiar,
and the straw hat partially veiled the features, but he paused before
her, and said, with a genial smile
Don't you know me?
Oh, Harvey! My brother! My great guardian angel!
A glad light kindled in her face, and she stretched out her hands
with the eagerness of a delighted child. Time had pressed heavily upon
him; wrinkles were conspicuous about the corners of his eyes and mouth,
and the black hair had become a steely grey.
Holding her hands, he drew her nearer to him, scrutinized her
features, and a look of keen sorrow crossed his own as he said, almost
I feared as much! I feared as much! The shadow has spread.
You kept Punic faith with me, sir; you promised to write and
failed. I sent you one letter, but it was never answered.
Through no fault of mine, Irene; I never received it, believe me.
True, I expected to write to you frequently when I parted with you, but
subsequently determined that it would be best not to do so. Attribute
my silence, however, to every other cause than want of remembrance.
God only knows how I have wanted, how I have needed you, to guide
and strengthen me.
She raised the two hands that still held hers, and bowed her
forehead upon them.
For some moments silence reigned; then, standing before him, Irene
said, with touching pathos
My friend, I am so desolate! so lonely! I am drifting down the
current of life aimless, hopeless, useless! What shall I do with my
future? I believe I am slowly petrifying; I neither suffer nor enjoy as
formerly; my feelings are deadened; I am growing callous, indifferent
to everything. I am fast losing sympathy for the sorrows of others,
swallowed up in self, oblivious of the noble aspirations of promise.
Once more I ask you, what shall I do with my life?
Give it to God.
Ah! there is neither grace nor virtue in necessity. He will not
accept the worthless thing thrown at His feet, as a dernier ressort. Once it was my choice, but the pure, clear-eyed faith of my childhood
shook hands with me when you left me in New York.
For a short while he struggled with himself, striving to overcome
the unconquerable impulse which suddenly prompted him, and his face
grew pallid as hers as he walked hastily across the smooth grass and
came back to her. Her countenance was lifted toward the neighbouring
hill, her thoughts evidently far away, when he paused before her, and
Irene, my beloved! give yourself to me. Go with me into God's
vineyard; let us work together, and consecrate our lives to His
The mesmeric eyes gazed into his, full of wonder, and the rich ruby
tint fled from her lips as she pondered his words in unfeigned
astonishment, and shaking her regal head; answered slowly
Harvey, I am not worthy. I want your counsel, not your pity.
Pity! you mistake me. If you have been ignorant so long, know now
that I have loved you from the evening you first sat in my study
looking over my foreign sketches. You were then a child, but I was a
man, and I knew all that you had so suddenly become to me. Because of
this great disparity in years, and because I dared not hope that one so
tenderly nurtured could ever brave the hardships of my projected life,
I determined to quit New York earlier than I had anticipated, and to
bury a foolish memory in the trackless forests of the far West. I ought
to have known the fallacy of my expectation; I have proved it since.
Your face followed me; your eyes met mine at every turn; your
glittering hair swept on every breeze that touched my cheek. Irene, you
are young, and singularly beautiful, and I am a grey-haired man, much,
much older than yourself; but, if you live a thousand years, you will
never find such affection as I offer you now. There is nothing on earth
which would make me so happy as the possession of your love. You are
the only woman I have ever seen whom I even wish to call my wifethe
only woman who, I felt, could lend new charm to life, and make my quiet
hearth happier by her presence. Irene, will you share my future? Can
you give me what I ask?
The temptation was powerfulthe future he held out enticing indeed.
The strong, holy, manly love, the noble heart and head to guide her,
the firm, tender hand to support her, the constant, congenial, and
delightful companionshipall this passed swiftly through her mind;
but, crushing all in its grasp, came the memory of one whom she rarely
met, but who held undisputed sway over her proud heart.
Drawing close to the minister, she laid her hands on his shoulder,
and, looking reverently up into his fine face, said, in her peculiarly
sweet, clear voice
The knowledge of your priceless, unmerited love makes me proud
beyond degree; but I would not mock you by the miserable and only
return I could make youthe affection of a devoted sister. That I do
not love you as you wish is my great misfortune; for I appreciate most
fully the noble privilege you have tendered me. I trust that the pain I
may give you now will soon pass away, and that, in time, you will
forget one who is utterly undeserving of the honour you have conferred
on her to-day. Oh, Harvey! do not, I beg of you, let one thought of me
ever disquiet your noble, generous heart.
A shiver crept over her still face, and she dropped her pale
forehead. She felt two tears fall upon her hair, and in silence he bent
down and kissed her softly, tenderly, as one kisses a sleeping babe.
Oh, Harvey! do not let it grieve you, dear friend!
He smiled sadly, as if not daring to trust himself in words; then,
after a moment, laying his hands upon her head, in the baptism of a
deathless love, he gently and solemnly blessed her. When his fingers
were removed she raised her eyes, but he had gone; she saw only the
retreating form through the green arches of the grand old avenue.
CHAPTER XXII. COUSINLYNO MORE
Says D'Alembert: The industry of men is now so far exhausted in
canvassing for places, that none is left for fulfilling the duties of
them; and the history of our government furnishes a melancholy
parallel. The regular quadrennial storm had swept over the nation;
caucuses had been held and platforms fiercely fought for, to be kicked
away, plank by plank, when they no longer served as scaffolding by
which to climb to office. Buchanan was elected, but destined to
exemplify, during his administration, the truth of Tacitus' words: He
was regarded as greater than a private man whilst he remained in
privacy, and would have been deemed worthy of governing if he had never
governed. The heat of the canvass cooled, people settled down once
more to a condition of lethargic indifferencebought and sold, sowed
and reaped, as usuallittle realizing that the temporary lull, the
perfect calm, was treacherous as the glassy green expanse of waters
which, it is said, sometimes covers the location of the all-destroying
maelstrom of Moskoe. Having taken an active and prominent part in the
presidential campaign, and made frequent speeches, Russell found
himself again opposed by Mr. Huntingdon, who was equally indefatigable
during the exciting contest. The old feud received, if possible,
additional acrimony, and there were no bounds to the maledictions
heaped upon the young and imperturbable legislator by his virulent
antagonist. Many predicted a duel or a street encounter; but weeks
passed, and though, in casual meetings, Mr. Huntingdon's glare of hate
was always answered by a mocking smile of cold disdain, the cloud
floated off without breaking into bloody showers.
Mr. Mitchell's health had failed so rapidly as winter approached,
that Dr. Arnold persuaded him to try the efficacy of a sea-voyage, and
he had accordingly sailed from New Orleans in a vessel bound for Genoa.
Irene begged the privilege of accompanying him, but her father
peremptorily refused; and she saw her uncle depart, and superintended
the closing of his house, with silent sorrow, and the feeling of one
who knows that the night is deepening around her.
Late in the afternoon of Christmas Day Irene went into the
greenhouse to gather a bouquet for an invalid friend in town, and had
almost accomplished her errand when the crash and whir of wheels drew
her to the window that looked out on the lawn. Her father had gone to
the plantation early that morning, and she had scarcely time to
conjecture whom the visitor would prove, when Hugh's loud voice rang
through the house, and, soon after, he came clattering in, with the end
of his pantaloons tucked into his boots, and his whip trailing along in
true boyish fashion. As he threw down his hat, scattering the petals of
a snowy camellia, and drew near his cousin, she saw that his face was
deeply flushed, and his eyes somewhat bloodshot.
Hugh! what are you doing here? Father expected you to overtake him
at Crescent Bend; you said last night that you would start by five
Merry Christmas, my beauty! I have come for my Christmas gift. Give
it to me, like the queen you are.
He stooped as if to kiss her, but she shrank back instantly, and
You ought not to make promises which you have no idea of keeping;
father will be annoyed, and wonder very much what has happened. He was
anxious that you should go with him.
Oh! confound the plantation! I wish it would sink! Of all other
days none but Christmas will suit him to tramp down there through mud
and mire. The fact is, I did not go to sleep till four o'clock, and
nobody ought to be unchristian enough to expect me to wake up in an
hour. You may be quiet, though, for I am on my way now to that paradise
of black mud. I only stopped to get a glimpse of you, my Sappho! my
Corinna! so don't homilize, I pray you.
Better wait till daylight, Hugh; you know the state of the roads
and condition of the bridges. It will be safer, and an economy of time,
to defer it till morning, since you have made it so late.
No; I must go to-night, for I have an engagement to ride with Maria
Henderson, and I can't get back in time if I wait till to-morrow
morning. I want to start back day after to-morrow. As for time,
Wildfire will make it the better for the darkness, he is as much afraid
of night and shadows as if he had a conscience, and had maltreated it,
master-like. I shall convince him that all Tam O'Shanter's witches are
in full pursuit, and his matchless heels his only salvation.
A shade of apprehension settled on her face, and, placing the
bouquet in a basket, she turned to her cousin, saying
Indeed, you cannot be insane enough to drive that horse such a
night as this weather threatens. If go you will, in the face of a
coming rain, leave Wildfire here, and drive one of the carriage-horses
instead. I shall be uneasy if you start with that vicious, unmanageable
incarnation of lightning. Let me ring the bell and direct Andrew to
make the change.
She stepped into the parlour adjoining, and laid her fingers on the
bell-cord, but he snatched up the hand and kissed it several times.
No! I'll be hanged if I don't drive my own pearl of Arabia! I can
manage him well enough; and, beside, what do you care whether he breaks
my neck or not? Without compunction you broke my heart, which is much
the greater catastrophe.
Come into the library; you don't know what you are saying.
She drew him into the room, where a warm fire burned cheerfully, and
made him sit down.
Where did you go last night when you left here? Tell me.
To Harry Neal's; a party of us were invited there to drink egg-nog,
and, of course, found something stronger afterward. Then we had a game
or so of poker, and , the grand finale is that I have had a deuced
headache all day. Ah, my sweet saint! how shocked you are, to be sure!
Now, don't lecture, or I shall be off like a flash.
Without answering, she rang the bell and quietly looped back the
heavy crimson curtains.
What is that for? Have you sent for John or old Nellie to carry me
upstairs, like other bad boys sent to bed in disgrace without even the
cold comfort of supper?
Hush, Hugh! hush.
Turning to John, who opened the door and looked in, she said
Tell William to make some strong coffee as soon as possible. Mas'
Hugh has a headache, and wants some before he leaves.
Thank you, my angel! my unapproachable Peri! Ugh! how cold it is.
Pardon me, but I really must warm my feet.
He threw them carelessly on the fender of the grate.
Shall I get you a pair of slippers?
Could not afford the luxury; positively have not the time to
With a prolonged yawn he laid his head back and closed his eyes. An
expression of disgust was discernible in his companion's countenance,
but it passed like the shadow of a summer cloud, and she sat down at
the opposite side of the fireplace, with her eyes bent upon the hearth,
and the long silky lashes sweeping her cheeks. A silence of some
minutes ensued; finally she exclaimed
Here comes your coffee. Put the waiter on the table, John, and tell
Andrew to take Mas' Hugh's buggy.
Do nothing of the kind! but send somebody to open that everlasting
gate, which would not have disgraced ancient Thebes. Are you classical,
John? Be off, and see about it; I must start in five minutes.
Hugh, be reasonable for once in your life; you are not in a proper
condition to drive that horse. For my sake, at least, be persuaded to
wait till morning. Will you not remain, to oblige me?
Oh, hang my condition! I tell you I must and I will go, if all the
stars fall and judgment day overtakes me on the road. What splendid
coffee you always have! The most fastidious of bashaws could not find
it in his Moorish heart to complain.
He put on his hat, buttoned his costly fur coat, and, flourishing
his whip, came close to his cousin.
Good-bye, beauty. I hate to leave you; upon my word I do; but duty
before pleasure, my heavenly-eyed monitress. I have not had my
Christmas present yet, and have it I will.
On one condition, Hugh; that you drive cautiously and moderately,
instead of thundering down hills and over bridges like some express
train behind time. Will you promise?
To be sure I will! everything in the world; and am ready to swear
it, if you are sceptical.
Well, then, good-bye, Hugh, and take care of yourself.
She allowed him to press his hot lips to hers, and, accompanying him
to the door, saw him jump into the frail open-topped buggy. Wildfire
plunged and sprang off in his usual style, and, with a crack of the
whip and wave of his hat, Hugh was fairly started.
Seven hours later Irene sat alone at the library table, absorbed in
writing an article on Laplace's Nebular Theory for the scientific
journal to which she occasionally contributed over the signature of
Sabæan. Gradually her thoughts wandered from the completed task to
other themes of scarcely less interest. The week previous she had
accompanied Hugh to an operatic concert given by the Parodi troupe, and
had been astonished to find Russell seated on the bench in front of
her. He so rarely showed himself on such occasions that his appearance
elicited some comment. They had met frequently since the evening at Mr.
Mitchell's, but he pertinaciously avoided recognizing her; and, on this
particular night, though he came during an interlude to speak to Grace
Harris, who sat on the same row of seats with Irene, he never once
directed his eyes toward the latter. This studied neglect, she felt
assured, was not the result of the bitter animosity existing between
her father and himself; and though it puzzled her for a while, she
began finally to suspect the true nature of his feelings, and, with
woman's rarely erring instincts, laid her finger on the real motive
which prompted him. The report of his engagement to Grace had reached
her some days before, and now it recurred to her mind like a haunting
spectre. She did not believe for an instant that he was attached to the
pretty, joyous girl whom rumour gave him; but she was well aware that
he was ambitious of high social position, and feared that he might
possibly, from selfish, ignoble reasons, seek an alliance with Judge
Harris' only daughter, knowing that the family was one of the
wealthiest and most aristocratic in the State. Life had seemed dreary
enough before; but, with this apprehension added, it appeared
insupportable, and she was conscious of a degree of wretchedness never
dreamed of or realized heretofore. Not even a sigh escaped her; she was
one of a few women who permit no external evidences of suffering, but
lock it securely in their own proud hearts. The painful reverie might,
perhaps, have lasted till the pallid dawn looked in with tearful eyes
at the window, but Paragon, who was sleeping on the rug at her feet,
started up and growled. She raised her head and listened, but only the
ticking of the clock was audible, and the wailing of the wind through
the leafless poplars.
Down, Paragon! hush, sir!
She patted his head soothingly, and he sank back a few seconds in
quiet, then sprang up with a loud bark. This time she heard an
indistinct sound of steps in the hall, and thought: Nellie sees my
light through the window, and is coming to coax me upstairs. Something
stumbled near the threshold, a hand struck the knob as if in hunting
for it, the door opened softly, and, muffled in his heavy cloak,
holding his hat in one hand, Russell Aubrey stood in the room. Neither
spoke, but he looked at her with such mournful earnestness, such eager
yet grieved compassion, that she read some terrible disaster in his
eyes. The years of estrangement, all that had passed since their
childhood, was forgotten; studied conventionalities fell away at the
sight of him standing there, for the first time, in her home. She
crossed the room with a quick, uncertain step, and put out her hands
toward himvague, horrible apprehension blanching the beautiful lips,
which asked shiveringly
What is it, Russell? What is it?
He took the cold little hands tremblingly in his, and endeavoured to
draw her back to the hearth, but she repeated
What has happened? Is it father, or Hugh?
Your father is well, I believe; I passed him on the road yesterday.
Sit down, Miss Huntingdon; you look pale and faint.
Her fingers closed tightly over his; he saw an ashen hue settle on
her face, and in an unnaturally calm low tone, she asked
Is Hugh dead? Oh, my God! why don't you speak, Russell?
He did not suffer much; his death was too sudden.
Her face had such a stony look that he would have passed his arm
around her, but could not disengage his hand; she seemed to cling to it
as if for strength.
Won't you let me carry you to your room, or call a servant? You are
not able to stand.
She neither heeded nor heard him.
Was it that horse; or how was it?
One of the bridges had been swept away by the freshet, and, in
trying to cross, he missed the ford. The horse must have been
frightened and unmanageable, the buggy was overturned in the creek, and
your cousin, stunned by the fall, drowned instantly; life was just
extinct when I reached him.
Something like a moan escaped her as she listened.
Was anything done?
We tried every means of resuscitation, but they were entirely
She relaxed her clasp of his fingers, and moved toward the door.
Where are you going, Miss Huntingdon? Indeed, you must sit down.
Russell, you have brought him home; where is he?
Without waiting for an answer, she walked down the hall, and paused
suddenly at the sight of the still form resting on a grey
travelling-blanket, with a lantern at its head, and an elderly man, a
stranger, sitting near, keeping watch. Russell came to her side, and,
drawing his arm around her, made her lean upon him. He felt the long,
long lingering shudder which shook the elegant, queenly figure; then
she slipped down beside the rigid sleeper, and smoothed back from the
fair brow the dripping, curling, auburn hair.
Hugh, my cousin! my playmate! Snatched away in an hour from the
life you loved so well. Ah! the curse of our house has fallen upon you.
It is but the beginning of the end. Only two of us are left, and we,
too, shall soon be caught up to join you.
She kissed the icy lips which a few hours ago had pressed hers so
warmly, and, rising, walked up and down the long hall. Russell once
more approached her.
Are you entirely alone?
Yes, except the servants. Oh, Russell! how am I to break this to my
father? He loves that boy better than everything else; infinitely
better than he ever loved me. How shall I tell him that Hugh is
A messenger has already gone to inform him of what has happened,
and this distressing task will not be yours. Herbert Blackwell and I
were riding together, on our return from T, when we reached the
ford where the disaster occurred. Finding that all our efforts to
resuscitate were useless, he turned back, and went to your father's
plantation to break the sad intelligence to him.
His soothing, tender tone touched some chord deep in her strange
nature, and unshed tears gathered for the first time in her eyes.
As you have no friend near enough to call upon at present, I will,
if you desire it, wake the servants, remain, and do all that is
necessary until morning.
If you please, Russell; I shall thank you very much.
As her glance fell upon her cousin's gleaming face, her lip
fluttered, and she turned away and sat down on one of the sofas in the
parlour, dropping her face in her hands. A little while after, the
light of a candle streamed in, and Russell came with a cushion from the
library lounge, and his warm cloak. He wrapped the latter carefully
about the drooping form, and would have placed her head on the silken
pillow; but she silently resisted without looking up, and he left her.
It was a vigil which she never forgot.
The fire had died out entirely, the curtains were drawn back to let
in the day; on the library table the startling glare of white linen
showed the outlines of the cold young sleeper, and Russell slowly paced
the floor, his arms crossed, as was their habit, and his powerful form
unweariedly erect. She stood by the table half-irresolute, then folded
down the sheet, and exposed the handsome, untroubled face. She studied
it long and quietly, and with no burst of emotion laid her flowers
against his cheek and mouth, and scattered the geraniums over his
I begged him not to start yesterday, and he answered that he would
go, if the stars fell and judgment day overtook him. Sometimes we are
prophets unawares. His star has sethis day has risen! Have mercy on
his soul! oh, my God!
The voice was low and even, but wonderfully sweet, and in the solemn
morning light her face showed itself grey and bloodless; no stain of
colour on the still lips, only the blue cord standing out between the
brow, sure signs of a deep distress which found no vent. Russell felt a
crushing weight lifted from his heart; he saw that she had loved her
cousin cousinlyno more; and his face flushed when she looked across
the table at him, with grateful but indescribably melancholy eyes,
which had never been closed during that night of horror.
I must now relieve you, Russell, from your friendly watch. Few
would have acted as you have done, and for all your generous kindness
to poor Hugh I thank you most earnestly as well for my father as
myself. The day may come, perhaps, when I shall be able to prove my
gratitude, and the sincerity of my friendship, which has never wavered
since we were children together. Until that day, farewell Russell; but
believe that I rejoice to hear of your successes.
She held out her hand, and as he took it in his, which trembled
violently, he felt, even then, that there was no quiver in the
icy-white fingers, and that his name rippled over her lips as calmly as
that of the dead had done just before. She endured his long, searching
gaze, like any other Niobe, and he dropped the little pearly hand and
quitted the room. At ten o'clock Mr. Huntingdon returned, and, with his
hat drawn over his eyes, went straight to the library. He kissed the
face of the dead passionately and his sob and violent burst of sorrow
told his child of his arrival. She lifted her rigid face, and extended
her arms pleadingly.
Father! father! here, at least, you will forgive me!
He turned from her sternly, and answered, with bitter emphasis
I will not! But for you, he would have been different, and
this would never have happened.
Father, I have asked for love and pardon for the last time.
She bent down and kissed her cousin, and, with a hard, bitter
expression in her countenance, went up to her own room, locking out
Paragon and old Nellie, who followed cautiously at her heels.
CHAPTER XXIII. THE FEVER
It was a cold afternoon in November
And Autumn, laying here and there
A fiery finger on the leaves,
had kindled her forest conflagration. Golden maples and amber-hued
cherries, crimson dog-woods and scarlet oaks shook out their
flame-foliage and waved their glowing boughs, all dashed and speckled,
flecked and rimmed with orange and blood, ghastly green, and tawny
brown. The smoky atmosphere, which had hung all day in purple folds
around the distant hills, took a golden haze as the sun sank rapidly;
and to Irene's gaze river and woodland, hill-side and valley, were
brimmed with that weird light which never was on sea or land. Her
almost Brahminical love of nature had grown with her years, but a
holier element mingled with her adoration now; she looked beyond the
material veil of beauty, and bowed reverently before the indwelling
Spiritual Presence. Since Hugh's death, nearly a year before, she had
become a recluse, availing herself of her mourning dress to decline all
social engagements, and during these months a narrow path opened before
her feet, she became a member of the church which she had attended from
infancy, and her hands closed firmly over her life-work.
Sorrow and want hung out their signs among the poor of W, and
here, silently, but methodically, she had become, not a ministering
angel certainly, but a generous benefactress, a noble, sympathetic
frienda counsellor whose strong good sense rendered her advice and
guidance valuable indeed. By a system of rigid economy she was enabled
to set apart a small portion of money, which she gave judiciously,
superintending its investment; kind, hopeful words she scattered like
sunshine over every threshold; and here and there, where she detected
smouldering aspiration, or incipient appreciation of learning, she
fanned the spark with some suitable volume from her own library, which,
in more than one instance, became the germ, the spring of joy for
ever. Frequently her father threw obstacles in her way, sneering all
the while at her sanctimonious freaks. Sometimes she affected not to
notice the impediments, sometimes frankly acknowledged their magnitude
and climbed right over them, on to her work. Among the factory
operatives she found the greatest need of ameliorating touches of every
kind. Improvident, illiterate, in some cases, almost brutalized, she
occasionally found herself puzzled as to the proper plan to pursue; but
her womanly heart, like the hidden jewelled levers of a watch, guided
the womanly hands unerringly.
This evening, as she approached the row of low white-washed houses,
a crowd of children swarmed out, as usual, to stare at her. She rode up
to a doorstep where a boy of some fourteen years sat sunning himself,
with an open book on his knee and a pair of crutches beside him. At
sight of her a bright smile broke over his sickly face and he tried to
Good evening, Philip; don't get up. How are you to-day?
Better, I thank you, ma'am; but very stiff yet.
The stiffness will pass off gradually, I hope. I see you have not
finished your book yet; how do you like it?
Oh! I could bear to be a cripple always, if I had plenty like it to
You need not be a cripple; but there are plenty more, just as good
and better, which you shall have in time. Do you think you could hold
my horse for me a little while? I can't find a suitable place to tie
him. He is gentle enough if you will only hold the reins.
Certainly, ma'am; I shall be glad to hold him as long as you like.
She dismounted, and passed into the adjoining house. Sick-rooms,
where poverty stands grim and gaunt on the hearth, are rarely enticing,
and to this dreary class belonged the room where Bessie Davis had
suffered for months, watching the sands of life run low, and the shadow
of death growing longer across the threshold day by day. The dust and
lint of the cotton-room had choked the springs of life, and on her
hollow cheeks glowed the autograph of consumption. She stretched out
her wasted hand, and said
Ah, Miss Irene! I heard your voice outside, and it was pleasant to
my ears as the sound of the bell when work-hours are over. I am always
glad to see your face, but this evening I was longing for you, hoping
and praying that you would come. I am in trouble.
About what, Mrs. Davis? Nothing serious, I hope; tell me.
I don't know how serious it is going to be. Johnnie is sick in the
next room, taken yesterday; and about noon to-day Susan had to knock
off work and come home. Hester is the only one left, and you know she
is but a baby to work. I don't like to complain of my lot, God knows,
but it seems hard if we are all to be taken down.
I hope they will not be sick long. What is the matter with
Dear knows! I am sure I don't; he complains of the headache and has
fever, and Susan here seems ailing the same way. She is as stupid as
can besleeps all the time. My children have had measles and
whooping-cough, and chicken-pox and scarlet fever, and I can't imagine
what they are trying to catch now. I hear that there is a deal of
sickness showing itself in the Row.
Have you sent for the doctor? asked Irene, walking around to the
other side of the bed, and examining Susan's pulse.
Yes, I sent Hester; but she said he told her he was too busy to
Why did you not apply to some other physician?
Because Dr. Brandon has always attended me, and, as I sent for him
first, I didn't know whether any other doctor would like to come. You
know some of them have very curious notions about their dignity.
And sometimes, while they pause to discuss etiquette, humanity
suffers. Susan, let me see your tongue. Who else is sick in the Row,
Three of Tom Brown's children, two of Dick Spencer's, and Lucy
Hall, and Mary Moorhead. Miss Irene, will you be good enough to give me
a drink of water. Hester has gone to try to find some wood, and I can't
reach the pitcher.
I brought you some jelly; would you like a little now, or shall I
put it away in the closet?
Thank you; I will save it for my Johnnie, he is so fond of sweet
things; and, poor child! he sees 'em so seldom nowadays.
There is enough for you and Johnnie too. Eat this, while I look
after him, and see whether he ought to have any this evening.
She placed a saucer filled with the tempting amber-hued delicacy on
the little pine table beside the bed, and went into the next room. The
boy, who looked about seven or eight years old, lay on a pallet in one
corner, restless and fretful, his cheeks burning, and his large brown
eyes sparkling with fever.
Johnnie, boy! what is the matter? Tell me what hurts you.
My head aches so badly, and tears came to the beautiful childish
It feels hot. Would you like to have it bathed in cold water?
If you please, ma'am. I have been calling Hettie, and she won't
Because she has gone out. Let me see if I can't do it just as well
She hunted about the room for a cloth, but, finding nothing
suitable, took her cambric handkerchief, and, after laving his forehead
gently for ten or fifteen minutes, laid the wet folds upon it, and
Doesn't that feel pleasant?
Ever so nice, ma'amif I had some to drink.
She put the dripping gourd to his parched lips, and, after shaking
up his pillow and straightening the covering of his pallet, she
promised to see him again soon, and returned to his mother.
How does he appear to be, Miss Irene? I had him moved out of this
room because he said my coughing hurt his head, and his continual
fretting worried me. I am so weak now, God help me! and she covered
her eyes with one hand.
He has some fever, Mrs. Davis, but not more than Susan. I will ask
Dr. Arnold to come and see them this evening. This change in the
weather is very well calculated to make sickness. Are you entirely out
Very nearly, ma'am; a few sticks left.
When Hester comes, keep her at home. I will send you some wood. And
now, how are you?
My cough is not quite so bad; the pectoral holds it a little in
check; but I had another hemorrhage last night, and I am growing weaker
every day. Oh, Miss Irene! what will become of my poor little children
when I am gone? That is such an agonizing thought. She sobbed as she
Do not let that grieve you now. I promise you that your children
shall be taken care of. I will send a servant down to stay here
to-night, and perhaps some of the women in the Row will be willing to
come in occasionally and help Hester till Susan gets able to cook. I
left two loaves of bread in the closet, and will send more in the
morning, which Hester can toast. I shall go by town, and send Dr.
I would rather have Dr. Brandon, if you please.
I have always heard that Dr. Arnold was so gruff and unfeeling,
that I am afraid of him. I hate to be snapped up when I ask a
That is a great mistake, Mrs. Davis. People do him injustice. He
has one of the kindest, warmest hearts I ever knew, though sometimes he
is rather abrupt in his manner. If you prefer it, however, I will see
your doctor. Good-bye; I will come again to-morrow.
As she took her bridle from Philip's hand, the boy looked up at her
with an expression bordering on adoration.
Thank you, Philip; how did he behave?
Not very well; but he is beautiful enough to make up for his
That is bad doctrine; beauty never should excuse bad behaviour. Is
your mother at home?
When she comes, ask her I say please to step in now and then, and
overlook things for Mrs. Davis; Susan is sick. Philip, if it is not
asking too much of you, Johnnie would like to have you sit by him till
his little sister comes home, and wet that cloth which I left on his
head. Will you?
Indeed, I will; I am very glad you told me. Certainly I will.
I thought so. Don't talk to him; let him sleep if he will.
She went first to a woodyard on the river, and left an order for a
cord of wood to be sent immediately to No. 13, Factory Row; then took
the street leading to Doctor Brandon's office. A servant sat on the
step whistling merrily; and, in answer to her questions, he informed
her that his master had just left town, to be absent two days. She rode
on for a few squares, doubling her veil in the hope of shrouding her
features, and stopped once more in front of the door where stood Dr.
Cyrus, is the doctor in his office?
Yes, Miss Irene.
Hold my horse for me.
She gathered the folds of her riding-habit over her arm, and went
upstairs. Leaning far back in his chair, with his feet on the fender of
the grate, sat Dr. Arnold, watching the blue smoke of his meerschaum
curl lazily in faint wreaths over his head; and as she entered, a look
of pleasant surprise came instantly into his cold, clear eyes.
Bless me! Irene; I am glad to see you. It is many a day since you
have shown your face here; sit down. Now, then, what is to pay? You are
in trouble, of course; you never think of me except when you are. Has
old Nellie treated herself to another spell of rheumatism, or Paragon
broke his leg, or smallpox broke out anywhere; or, worse than all, have
the hawks taken to catching your pigeons?
None of these catastrophes has overtaken me; but I come, as usual,
to ask a favour. If you please, I want you to go up to the Factory Row
this evening. Mrs. Davis, No. 13, has two children very sick, I am
afraid. I don't like the appearance of their tongues.
Humph! what do you know about tongues, I should like to be
How to use my own, sir, at least, when there is a necessity for it.
They are what you medical savans call typhoid tongues; and from
what I heard to-day, I am afraid there will be a distressing amount of
sickness among the operatives. Of course you will go, sir?
How do you know that so well? Perhaps I will and perhaps I won't.
Nobody ever looks after me, or cares about the condition of my health;
I don't see why I must adopt the whole human race. See here, my child!
do not let me hear of you at the Row again soon; it is no place for
you, my lily. Ten to one it is some low, miserable typhus fever showing
itself, and I will take care of your precious pets only on condition
that you keep away, so that I shall not be haunted with the dread of
having you, also, on my hands. If I lay eyes on you at the Row, I swear
I will write to Leonard to chain you up at home. Do you hear?
I shall come every day; I promise you that.
Oh! you are ambitious of martyrdom? But typhus fever is not the
style, Queen. There is neither éclat nor glory in such a death.
A sad smile curved her mouth, as she answered slowly
That is problematical, Doctor. But it is getting late, and I wish,
if you please, you would go at once to the Row.
Stop! if any good is accomplished among those semi-savages up
yonder, who is to have the credit? Tell me that.
God shall have the thanks; you all the credit as the worthy
instrument, and I as much of the gratification as I can steal from you.
Are you satisfied with your wages, my honoured Shylock? Good night.
Humph! it is strange what a hold that queer motherless child took
upon my heart in her babyhood, and it tightens as she grows older.
He shook the ashes from his pipe, put it away behind the clock, and
went down to his buggy. Before breakfast the following morning, while
Irene was in the poultry-yard feeding her chickens and pigeons,
pheasants and peafowls, she received a note from Dr. Arnold containing
these few scrawling words:
If you do not feel quite ready for the day of judgment, avoid the
Row as you would the plagues of Egypt. I found no less than six
developed cases of rank typhus.
She put the note in her pocket, and, while the pigeons fluttered and
perched on her shoulders and arms, cooing and pecking at her fingers,
she stood musingcalculating the chances of contagion and death if she
persisted. Raising her eyes to the calm blue sky, the perplexed look
passed from her countenance, and, fully decided regarding her course,
she went in to breakfast. Mr. Huntingdon was going to a neighbouring
county with Judge Peterson, to transact some business connected with
Hugh's estate, and, as the buggy came to the door, he asked,
What did Cyrus want?
He came to bring me a note from the doctor, concerning some sick
people whom I asked him to see.
Oh! John, put my overcoat in the buggy. Come, Judge; I am ready.
As he made no inquiry about the sick, she volunteered no
explanation, and he bade her good-bye with manifest cold indifference.
She could not avoid congratulating herself that, since he must take
this journey soon, he had selected the present occasion to be absent,
for she was well aware that he would violently oppose her wishes in the
matter of the Row. When Dr. Arnold met her late in the afternoon of the
same day, at little Johnnie's side, his surprise and chagrin found
vent, first in a series of oaths, then, scowling at her like some
thunder-cloud with the electricity expended, he said
Do you consider me a stark idiot, or a shallow quack?
Neither, sir, I assure you.
Then, if I know anything about my business, I wrote you the truth
this morning, and you treat my advice with cool contempt. You vex me
beyond all endurance! Do you want to throw yourself into the jaws of
You forget, Doctor: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that he
lay down his life for his friends.'
She slipped her hand into his, and looked up, smiling and calm, into
his harsh, swarthy face.
My child, you made a mistake; your life belongs to me, for I saved
it in your infancy. I cradled you in my arms, lest death should snatch
you. I have a better right to you than anybody else in this world. I
don't want to see you die; I wish to go first.
I know what I owe you, Doctor; but I am not going to die, and you
have scolded me enough for one time. Do make peace.
Remember, I warned you, and you would not heed.
From that hour she kept faithful vigil in No. 13, passing
continually from one bedside to another. Susan's attack proved
comparatively light, and she was soon pronounced convalescent; but
little Johnnie was desperately ill, and for several nights Irene sat at
his pillow, fearing that every hour would be his last. While his
delirium was at its height, Hester was taken violently, and on the
morning when Irene felt that her labour was not in vain, and that the
boy would get well, his little sister, whom she had nursed quite as
assiduously, grew rapidly worse, and died at noon. As is frequently
observed in such diseases, this increased in virulence with every new
case. It spread with astonishing celerity through the Row, baffling the
efforts of the best physicians in W; and finally, the day after
Hester's death, as Irene sat trying to comfort the poor mother, a
neighbour came in exclaiming
Oh, Miss Irene! Philip Martin is down too. He caught the fever from
his mother, and his father says won't you please come over?
She went promptly, though so wearied she could scarcely stand, and
took a seat by the bed where tossed the poor boy in whom she had taken
such an interest.
You must go home, Miss Huntingdon; you are worn out. His father can
watch him till his mother gets stronger, said Dr. Brandon, who was
fully acquainted with the unremitting attendance at the next house.
No, I must stay with Philip; perhaps he will know me when he
A hope doomed to disappointment, for he raved for four days and
nights, calling frantically for the serene, sad woman who sat at his
pillow, bending over him and laying her cold hand on his scorched brow.
On the fifth day, being free from fever and utterly prostrated, he
seemed sinking rapidly; but she kept her fingers on his pulse, and,
without waiting for the doctor's advice, administered powerful
stimulants. So passed two hours of painful anxiety; then Philip opened
his eyes languidly, and looked at her.
Philip, do you know me?
She sank back as if some strong supporting hand had suddenly been
withdrawn from her; and observing that she looked ghastly, Mr. Martin
hastily brought her a glass of water. Just then Dr. Brandon entered,
and examined his patient with evident surprise.
What have you done to him, Miss Huntingdon?
Since daylight I have been giving him ammonia and brandy; his pulse
was so feeble and thready, I thought he needed it, and was afraid to
wait for you.
Right! and you saved his life by it. I could not get here any
earlier, and if you had delayed it until I came, it would probably have
been too late. You may call him your patient after this.
She waited no longer, but staggered to the door; and Andrew, seeing
how faint she was, came to meet her, and led her to the carriage. The
ten days of watching had told upon her; and when she reached home, and
Nellie brought her wrapper and unlaced her shoes, she fell back on her
lounge in a heavy, deathlike sleep. Mr. Huntingdon had been expected
two days before, but failed to arrive at the time designated; and
having her fears fully aroused, Nellie despatched a messenger for Dr.
CHAPTER XXIV. IRENE'S ILLNESS
Do you see any change, Hiram?
None for the better.
Mr. Huntingdon dropped his head upon his hand again, and Dr. Arnold
resumed his slow walk up and down the carpet. The blue damask curtains
had been looped back from the western window, and the broad band of
yellow belting in the sky threw a mellow light over the bed where lay
the unconscious heiress of the grand old Hill. Fever rouged the
polished cheeks usually pure as alabaster, and touched the parted lips
with deeper scarlet, lending a brilliant and almost unearthly beauty to
the sculptured features. Her hair, partially escaping from confinement,
straggled in crumpled rings and folds across the pillow, a mass of
golden netting; and the sparkling eyes wandered from one object to
another, as if in anxious search. The disease had assumed a different
type, and instead of raving paroxysms, her illness was characterized by
a silent, wakeful unconsciousness, while opiates produced only the
effect of increasing her restlessness. A week had passed thus, during
which time she had recognized no one; and though numerous lady friends
came to offer assistance, all were refused permission to see her. Mr.
Huntingdon was utterly ignorant of the duties of a nurse; and though he
haunted the room like an unlifting shadow, Dr. Arnold and Nellie took
entire charge of the patient. The former was unremitting in his care,
sitting beside the pillow through the long winter nights, and snatching
a few hours' sleep during the day. Watching her now, as he walked to
and fro, he noticed that her eyes followed him earnestly, and he paused
at the bedside and leaned over her.
Irene, what do you want? Does my walking annoy you?
Won't you shut your eyes, my darling, and try to sleep?
The deep, brilliant eyes only looked into his with mocking
intentness. He put his fingers on the lids and pressed them gently
down, but she struggled, and turned away her face. Her hands crept
constantly along the snowy quilt as if seeking for something, and
taking them both, he folded them in his and pressed them to his lips,
while tears, which he did not attempt to restrain, fell over them.
You don't think she is any worse, do you? asked the father,
I don't know anything, except that she can't lie this way much
His harsh voice faltered and his stern mouth trembled. He laid the
hands back, went to the window and stood there till the room grew dusky
and the lamp was brought in. As Nellie closed the door after her, the
doctor came to the hearth, and said sharply
I would not be in your place for John Jacob Astor's fortune.
What do you mean by that?
I mean that, if you have any conscience left, you must suffer the
pains of purgatory for the manner in which you have persecuted that
In all that I have ever done I have looked only to her good, to her
ultimate happiness. I know that she
Hush, Leonard! hush! You are no more fit to be a father than I am
to be a saint! You have tyrannized and fretted her poor innocent soul
nearly out of her ever since she was big enough to crawl. Why the
dl could not you let the child have a little peace? There are
ninety-nine chances to one that she has come to her rest at last. You
will feel pleasantly when you see her in her shroud.
His hard face worked painfully, and tears glided down the wrinkled
cheek and hid themselves in his grey beard. Mr. Huntingdon was much
agitated, but an angry flush crossed his brow as he answered hastily,
I am the best judge of my family matters. You are unjust and
severe. Of course I love my child better than anybody else.
Heaven preserve her from such love as you have lavished on her! She
is very dear to me. I understand her character; you either cannot or
will not. She is the only thing in this world that I do really love. My
pet, my violet-eyed darling!
He shaded his face and swallowed a sob, and for some moments neither
spoke. After a while the doctor buttoned up his coat and took his hat.
I am going down to my office to get a different prescription. I
will be back soon.
Contrary to his phlegmatic habit, the doctor had taken counsel of
his fears until he was completely unnerved, and he went home more than
usually surly and snappish. As he entered his office, Russell advanced
to meet him from the window whence, for nearly an hour, he had been
watching for his arrival.
Good evening, doctor.
What do you want?
How is Miss Huntingdon?
What is Miss Huntingdon to you?
She was one of my mother's best friends, though only a little girl
at the time.
And you love her for your mother's sake, I suppose? Truly filial.
How is she to-night? Rumours are so unreliable, that I came to you
to find out the truth.
She is going to die, I am afraid.
A sudden pallor overspread Russell's face, but he sat erect and
motionless, and, fastening his keen eyes upon him, the doctor added
She is about to be transplanted to a better world, if there is such
a place. She is too good and pure for this cursed, pestiferous earth.
Is the case so utterly hopeless? I cannot, I will not, believe it!
came indistinctly from the young man's bloodless lips.
I tell you I know better! She stands on a hair stretched across her
grave. If I don't succeed to-night in making her sleep (which I have
been trying to accomplish for two days), she can't possibly live. And
what is that whole confounded crew of factory savages in comparison
with her precious life?
Is it true that her illness is attributable to nursing those
Yes. Dl take the Row! I wish the river would swallow it up.
If I could only see her! exclaimed Russell, and an expression of
such intense agony settled on his features, usually so inflexible, that
his companion was startled and astonished. The doctor regarded him a
moment with perplexity and compassion mingled in his own face; then
light broke upon him, and, rising, he laid his hand heavily on
Where are you going, Aubrey?
Back to my office.
Is there any message which you would like for me to deliver to her,
if she should recover consciousness? You may trust me, young man.
Thank you; I have no message to send. I merely called to ask after
her. I trust she will yet recover. Good night.
He walked on rapidly till he reached the door of his office. The gas
was burning brightly over his desk, and red tape and legal-cap beckoned
him in; but fathomless blue eyes, calm as mid-ocean, looked up at him,
and, without entering, he turned, and went through the cold and
darkness to the cemetery, to his mother's tomb. She had been his
comfort in boyish sorrows, and habit was strong; he went to her grave
for it still.
When Russell left him, Dr. Arnold carefully weighed out the powder
and rode back to the Hill. He could perceive no change, unless it were
a heightening of the carmine on cheeks and lips, and an increased
twitching of the fingers, which hunted so pertinaciously about the
That everlasting picking, picking at everything is such an awful
bad sign! said poor Nellie, who was crying bitterly at the foot of the
bed; and she covered her face with her apron to shut out the sight.
You 'pick' yourself off to bed, Nellie! I don't want you snubbing
and groaning around day and night.
I am afraid to leave her a minute. I am afraid when my poor baby
shuts her eyes she will never open 'em again till she opens 'em in
Oh, go along to sleep! you eternal old stupid. I will wake you up,
I tell you, if she gets worse.
He mixed one of the powders and stooped down.
IreneIrene, take this for me, won't you, dear?
She gave no intimation of having heard him till he placed the
wineglass to her mouth and raised her head tenderly; then she swallowed
the contents mechanically. At the expiration of an hour he repeated the
dose, and at ten o'clock, while he sat watching her intently, he saw
the eyelids begin to droop, the long, silky lashes quivered and touched
her cheeks. When he listened to her breathing, and knew that at last
she slept, his grey head sank on his chest, and he murmured, inaudibly,
Thank God! Patient as a woman, he kept his place at her side, fearing
to move lest he should wake her; the dreary hours of night wore away;
morning came, gloriously bright, and still she slept. The flush had
faded, leaving her wan as death, and the little hands were now at rest.
She looked like the figures which all have seen on cenotaphs, and
anxiously and often the doctor felt the slow pulse, that seemed weary
of its mission. He kept the room quiet, and maintained his faithful
watch, refusing to leave her for a moment. Twelve o'clock rolled round,
and it appeared, indeed, as if Nellie's prognostication would prove
true, the sleeper was so motionless. At three o'clock the doctor
counted the pulse, and, reassured, threw his head back against the
velvet lining of the chair, and shut his aching eyes. Before five
minutes had elapsed, he heard a faint, sweet voice say, Paragon.
Springing to his feet, he saw her put out her hand to pat the head of
her favourite, who could not be kept out of the room, and howled so
intolerably when they chained him, that they were forced to set him
free. Now he stood with his paws on the pillow and his face close to
hers whining with delight. Tears of joy almost blinded the doctor as he
pushed Paragon aside, and said eagerly
Irene, one dog is as good as another! You know Paragon, do you know
CertainlyI know you, Doctor.
God bless you, beauty! You haven't known me for a week.
I am so thirstyplease give me some water.
He lifted her head, and she drank eagerly, till he checked her.
Therewe haven't all turned hydropathists since you were taken
sick. Nellie! I say, Nellie! you witch of Endor! bring some wine-whey
here. Irene, how do you feel, child?
Very tired and feeble, sir. My head is confused. Where is father?
Here I am, my daughter.
He bent down with trembling lips and kissed her, for the first time
since the day of their estrangement, nearly three years before. She put
her arms feebly around his neck, and as he held her to his heart, she
felt a tear drop on her forehead.
Father, have you forgiven me?
He either could not or would not answer, but kissed her again
warmly; and, as he disengaged her arms and left the room, she felt
assured that at last she had been forgiven. She took the whey silently,
and, after some moments, said
Doctor, have you been sitting by me a long time?
I rather think I have!losing my sleep for nearly ten days, you
unconscionable young heathen.
Have I been so ill as to require that? I have a dim recollection of
going on a long journey, and of your being by my side all the way.
Well, I hope you travelled to your entire satisfaction, and found
what, you wantedfor you were feeling about as if hunting for
something, the whole time. Oh! I am so thankful that you know me once
more. Child, you have cost me a deal of sorrow. Now be quiet, and go to
sleep again; at least, don't talk to Nellie or Paragon. I shall take a
nap on the sofa in the library.
She regained her strength very slowly, and many days elapsed before
she was able to leave her room. One bright sunny morning she sat before
the open window, looking down on the lawn where the pigeons flashed in
and out of the hedges, and now and then glancing at the bouquet of
choice hot-house flowers in the vase beside her. In her lap lay a
letter just received from Harvey Younga letter full of fond
remembrance, grave counsel, and gentle encouragementand the unbent
lines about her mouth showed that her mind was troubled.
The doctor came in and drew up a chair.
I should like to know who gave you leave to ride yesterday?
Father thought that I was well enough, and the carriage was close
and warm. I hope, sir, that I shall not be on your hands much longer.
What did I tell you? Next time don't be so hard-headed when you are
advised by older and wiser persons. I trust you are quite satisfied
with the result of your eleemosynary performances at the Row.
Far from it, Doctor. I am fully acclimated now, and have nothing to
fear in future. I am very sorry, sir, that I caused you all so much
trouble and anxiety; I did not believe that I should take the fever. If
Philip had not been so ill, I should have come out safely; but I
suppose my uneasiness about him unnerved me in some wayfor, when I
saw that he would get well, all my strength left me in an instant. How
is he, sir?
Oh! the young dog is as well as ever. Comes to my office every day
to ask after his blessed Lady Bountiful.
Leaning forward carelessly, but so as to command a full view of her
face, he added,
You stirred up quite an excitement in town, and introduced me
generally to society. People who never inflicted themselves on me
before thought it was incumbent on them to hang around my door to make
inquiries concerning my fair patient. One night I found even that
statue of bronze and steel, Russell Aubrey, waiting at my office to
find out whether you really intended translation.
A change certainly passed swiftly over her countenance; but it was
inexplicable, indescribablean anomalous lightening of the eye and
darkening of the brow. Before he could analyse it, her features resumed
their wonted serenity, and he found her voice unfluttered.
I was not aware that I had so many friends; it is a pleasant
discovery, and almost compensates for the pain of illness. Take care,
Doctor! You are tilting my flowers out of their vase.
Confound the flowers, Queen! They are always in the way. It is a
great pity there is such Theban-brother affection between your father
and Aubrey. He has an amount of fine feeling hid away under that dark,
Jesuitical, non-committal face of his. He has not forgotten your
interest in his mother, and when I told him that I thought you had
determined to take your departure from this world, he seemed really
hurt about it. I always liked the boy, but I think he is a heretic in
The doctor had scarcely taken his departure when Nellie's turbaned
head showed itself at the door.
That factory-boy, Philip, is downstairs; he brought back a book,
and wants to see you. He seems in trouble; but you don't feel like
being bothered to-day, do you?
Did he ask to see me?
Not exactly; but showed very plainly he wanted to see you.
Let him come up.
As, he entered, she rose and held out her hand.
Good morning, Philip; I am glad you are well enough to be out
He looked at her reverently, and, as he noticed the change her
illness had wrought, his lips quivered and his eyes filled.
Oh, Miss Irene! I am so glad you are better. I prayed for you all
the time while you were so very ill.
Thank you. Sit down, and tell me about the sick.
They are all better, I believe, ma'am, except Mrs. Davis. She was
wishing yesterday that she could see you again.
I shall go there in a day or two. You are walking pretty well
without your crutches. Have you resumed your work.
I shall begin again to-morrow.
It need not interfere with your studies. The nights are very long
now, and you can accomplish a great deal if you feel disposed to do so.
I think it possible I can obtain a situation for your father as
carpenter on a plantation in the country, if he will promise to abstain
from drinking. I have heard that he was a very good mechanic, and in
the country he would not meet with such constant temptation. Do you
suppose that he will be willing to leave town?
Oh, yes, ma'am! I think so. If you please, Miss Irene, I should be
so glad if you would talk to him, and persuade him to take the pledge
before he starts. I believe he would join the Temperance society if you
asked him to do it. Oh! then I should have some heart to work.
You and your mother must try to influence him and in a few days I
will talk to him. In the meantime I will see about the situation, which
is a very desirable one. Brighter days will soon come, I trust.
He took his cap from the carpet, rose, and looked at her with
Oh, Miss Irene! I wish I could tell you all I feel. I thank you
more than I can ever express, and so does mother.
You have finished your book, I see; don't you want another? Nellie
will show you the library, and on the lower book-shelf, on the
right-hand side of the door, you will find a large volume in leather
binding'Plutarch.' Take it with you, and read it carefully. Good-bye.
I shall come down to the Row to-morrow or next day.
CHAPTER XXV. RECONCILED
Well, Irene, what is your decision about the party at Mrs.
I will go with you, father, if it is a matter of so much interest
to you, though, as I told you yesterday, I should prefer declining the
invitation as far as I am concerned.
It is full time for you to go into society again. You have moped at
home long enough.
'Moped' is scarcely the right word, father.
It matters little what you call it, the fact is the same. You have
shut yourself in till you have grown to look like a totally different
woman. Indeed, Irene, I won't permit it any longer; you must come out
into the world once more. I am, sick of your black looks; let me see
you in colours to-night.
Will not pure white content you, father?
No, I am tired of it. Wear something bright.
I have a favour to ask at your hands, father, will you give me that
large beautiful vacant lot with the old willow tree, on the corner of
Pine Street and Huntingdon Avenue, opposite the court-house?
Upon my word! I must say you are very modest in your request! What
the deuce do you want with it?
I know that I am asking a good deal, sir; but I want it as a site
for an orphan asylum. Will you give it to me?
No! I'll be hanged if I do! Are you going entirely deranged? What
business have you with asylums, I should like to know? Put all of that
ridiculous stuff out of your head. Here is something for which I sent
to Europe. Eric selected it in Paris, and it arrived yesterday. Wear it
He drew a velvet case from his pocket and laid it before her.
Touching the spring, the lid flew open, and on the blue satin lining
lay the blazing coils of a magnificent diamond necklace and bracelets.
How beautiful! how splendidly beautiful!
She bent over the flashing mass in silent admiration for some time,
examining the delicate setting, then looked up at her father.
What did they cost?
Why do you want to know that?
I am pardonably curious on the subject.
Well, then, I was silly enough to give seven thousand dollars for
And what was the value of that lot I asked for?
Five thousand dollars.
Father, these diamonds are the finest I ever saw. They are superbly
beautiful; a queen might be proud of them, and I thank you most
earnestly for such a gorgeous present; but if you will not be offended,
I will be candid with youI would a thousand times rather have the lot
than the jewels.
The expression of blank astonishment with which these words were
received would have been ludicrous but for the ominous thickening of
She laid her fingers on his arm, but he shook off the touch, and,
scowling sullenly, snatched the velvet case from her hand.
He went to town, and she met him no more till she was attired for
the party. Standing before the mirror in her own room she arranged the
flowers in her hair, and, when the leaves were disposed to suit her
fastidious taste, she took up a pearl set which he had given her years
before, intending to wear it. But just then raising her eyes, she saw
her father's image reflected in the glass. Without turning she put up
her arms, and, laying her head back on his shoulder, said eagerly
My dear, dear father, do let us be reconciled.
Clouds and moodiness melted from his handsome features as he bent
over her an instant, kissing her fondly; then his hands passed swiftly
over her neck, an icy shower fell upon it, and she was clothed with
My beautiful child, wear your diamonds as a seal of peace. I can't
let you have the Pine Street lotI want it for a different purpose;
but I will give you three acres on the edge of town, near the depôt,
for your asylum whim. It is a better location every way for your
Thank you, father. Oh! thank you more than words can express.
She turned her lips to one of the hands still lingering on her
Irene, look at yourself. Diana of Ephesus! what a blaze of glory!
Two days before the marriage of Charles Harris and Maria Henderson
had been celebrated with considerable pomp, and the party to-night was
given in honour of the event by Mrs. Churchill, a widowed sister of
Judge Harris. She had spent several years in Paris superintending the
education of a daughter, whom she had recently brought home to reside
near her uncle, and dazzle all Wwith her accomplishments.
At ten o'clock there stood beneath the gas-lights in her elegant
parlour a human fleshy antithesis, upon which all eyes were
rivetedSalome Churchilla dark imperious beauty, of the Cleopatra
type, with very full crimson lips, passionate or pouting as occasion
demanded; brilliant black eyes that, like August days, burned dewless
and unclouded, a steady blaze; thick, shining, black hair elaborately
curled, and a rich tropical complexion, clear and glowing as the warm
blood that pulsed through her rounded graceful form. She wore a fleecy
fabric, topaz-coloured, with black lace trimmings; yellow roses gemmed
her hair, and topaz and ruby ornaments clasped her throat and arms. An
Eastern queen she looked, exacting universal homage, and full of fiery
jealousy whenever her eyes fell upon one who stood just opposite.
Irene's dress was an airy blue tulle, flounced to the waist, and
without trimming, save the violet and clematis clusters. Never had her
rare beauty been more resplendentmore dazzlingly chilly; it seemed
the glitter of an arctic ice-berg lit by some low midnight sun, and
turn whither she would fascinated groups followed her steps. Salome's
reputation as a brilliant belle had become extended since
Irene's long seclusion, yet to-night, on the reappearance of the
latter, it was apparent to even the most obtuse that she had resumed
her swaythe matchless cynosure of that social system. Fully conscious
of the intense admiration she excited, she moved slowly from room to
room, smiling once or twice when she met her father's proud look of
fond triumph fixed upon her.
Leaning against the window to rest, while Charles Harris went in
search of a glass of water, she heard Aubrey's name pronounced by some
one on the gallery.
Well, the very latest report is that, after all, Aubrey never
fancied Grace Harris, as the quidnuncs assertednever addressed her,
or anybody elsebut is now, sure enough, about to bear off belle
Salome, the new prize, right in the face of twenty rivals. I should
really like to hear of something which that man could not do, if he set
himself to work in earnest. I wonder whether it ever occurs to him that
he once stood behind Jacob Watson's counter?
But Aubrey is not here to-night. Does not affect parties, I
Rarely shows himself. But you mistake: he came in not twenty
minutes ago; and you should have seen what I sawthe rare-ripe red
deepen on Salome's cheeks when he spoke to her.
Irene moved away from the window, and soon after was about to
accompany Charlie to the hall, when a Mr. Bainbridge came up and
claimed her hand for the cotillion forming in the next room. As they
took their places on the floor, she saw that Salome and Russell would
Irene moved mechanically through the airy mazes of the dance,
straining her ear to catch the mellow voice which uttered such
graceful, fascinating nothings to Salome. Several times in the course
of the cotillion Russell's hand clasped her, but even then he avoided
looking at her, and seemed engrossed in conversation with his gay
partner. Once Irene looked up steadily, and as she noted the expression
with which he regarded his companion she wondered no longer at the
rumour she had heard, and acknowledged to herself that they were,
indeed, a handsome couple.
The dance ended; Irene declined to dance again. She looked about for
Dr. Arnold, but he had disappeared; her father was deep in a game of
euchre; and as she crossed the hall she was surprised to see Philip
leaning against the door-facing, and peering curiously into the
Philip, what are you doing here?
Oh, Miss Irene! I have been hunting for you ever so long. Mrs.
Davis is dying, and Susan sent me after you. I went to your house two
hours ago, and they said you were here. Will you come, ma'am!
Of course. Philip, find Andrew and the carriage, and I will meet
you at the side door in five minutes.
She went to the dressing-room, asked for pencil and paper, and wrote
a few lines, which she directed the servant to hand immediately to her
fatherfound her shawl, and stole down to the side door. She saw the
dim outline of a form sitting on the step, in the shadow of clustering
vines, and asked
Is that you, Philip? I am ready.
The figure rose, came forward into the light, hat in hand, and both
Pardon me, Mr. Aubrey. I mistook you in the darkness for another.
Here Philip ran up the steps.
Miss Irene, Andrew says he can't get to the side gate for the
carriages. He is at the front entrance.
Can I assist you, Miss Huntingdon?
I thank you; no.
May I ask if you are ill?
Not in the leastbut I am suddenly called away.
She passed him, and accompanied Philip to the carriage. A few
minutes' rapid driving brought them to the Row, and, directing Andrew
to return and wait for her father, Irene entered the low small chamber,
where a human soul was pluming itself for its final flight home. The
dying woman knew her even then in the fierce throes of dissolution, and
the sunken eyes beamed as she bent over the pillow.
God bless you! I knew you would come. My childrenwhat will become
of them? Will you take care of them? Tell me quick.
Put your mind at rest, Mrs. Davis. I will see that your children
are well cared for in every respect.
Promise me! gasped the poor sufferer, clutching the jewelled arm.
I do promise you most solemnly that I will watch over them
constantly. They shall never want so long as I live. Will you not
believe me, and calm yourself?
A ghastly smile trembled over the distorted features, and she bowed
her head in assent.
Mrs. Davis, don't you feel that you will soon be at rest with God?
YesI am going home happyhappy.
She closed her eyes and whispered
Making a great effort to crush her own feelings, Irene sang the
simple but touching words of Home Again, and though her voice
faltered now and then, she sang it throughknowing, from the
expression of the sufferer's face, that the spirit was passing to its
A passionate burst of sorrow from Johnnie followed the discovery of
the melancholy truth, and rising from the floor Irene seated herself on
a chair, taking the child on her lap, and soothing his violent grief.
Too young to realize his loss, he was easily comforted, and after a
time grew quiet. She directed Susan to take him into the next room and
put him on his pallet; and when she had exchanged a few words with
Philip's mother about the disposition of the rigid sleeper, she turned
to quit the apartment, and saw Russell standing on the threshold. Had
the dead mother suddenly stepped before her she would scarcely have
been more astonished and startled.
He extended one hand, and hastily taking hers, drew her to the door
of the narrow, dark hall, where the newly-risen moon shone in.
Come out of this charnel-house into the pure air once more. Do not
shrink backtrust yourself with me this once at least. The brick
walls of the factory rose a hundred yards off, in full view of the Row,
and leading her along the river bank he placed her on one of the
massive stone steps of the building.
What brought you here to-night, Mr. Aubrey?
An unpardonable curiosity concerning your sudden departurean
unconquerable desire to speak to you once more. I came here
overmastered by an irresistible desire to see you alone, to look at
you, to tell you what I have almost sworn should never pass my
lipswhat you may consider unmanly weaknessnay, insanity, on my
part. We are face to face at last, man and woman, with the golden bars
of conventionality and worldly distinction snapped asunder. I am no
longer the man whom society would fain flatter, in atonement for past
injustice; and I choose to forget for the time, that you are the
daughter of my bitterest deadly foemy persistent persecutor. I
remember nothing now but the crowned days of our childhood, the rosy
dawn of my manhood, where your golden head shone my Morning Star. I
hurl away all barriers and remember only the one dream of my lifemy
deathless, unwavering love for you. Oh, Irene! Irene! why have you
locked that rigid cold face of yours against me? In the hallowed days
of old you nestled your dear hands into mine, and pressed your curls
against my cheek, and gave me comfort in your pure, warm, girlish
affection; how can you snatch your frozen fingers from mine now, as
though my touch were contamination? Be yourself once moregive me one
drop from the old overflowing fountain. I am a lonely man; and my
proud, bitter heart hungers for one of your gentle words, one of your
sweet, priceless smiles. Irene, look at me! Give it to me?
He sat down on the step at her feet, and raised his dark magnetic
face, glowing with the love which had so long burned undimmed, his
lofty full forehead wearing a strange flush.
She dared not meet his eye, and drooped her head on her palms,
shrinking from the scorching furnace of trial, whose red jaws yawned to
receive her. He waited a moment, and his low mellow voice rose to a
Irene, you are kind and merciful to the poor wretches in the Row.
Povertynay, crime, does not frighten away your compassion for them!
Why are you hard and cruelly haughty only to me?
You do not need my sympathy, Mr. Aubrey, and congratulations on
your great success would not come gracefully from my lips. Most
unfortunate obstacles long since rendered all intercourse between us
impossible still; my feeling for you has undergone no change. I am, I
assure you, still your friend.
It cost her a powerful effort to utter these words, and her voice
took a metallic tone utterly foreign to it. Her heart writhed, bled and
moaned in the grip of her steely purpose, but she endured all
calmlyrelaxing not one jot of her bitter resolution.
My friend? Mockery! God defend me from such henceforth. Irene, you
loved me oncenay, don't deny it! You need not blush for the early
folly, which, it seems, you have interred so deeply; and though you
scorn to meet me even as an equal, I know, I feel, that I am worthy of
your lovethat I comprehend your strange nature as no one else ever
willthat, had such a privilege been accorded me, I could have kindled
your heart, and made you supremely happy. Cursed barriers have divided
us always; fate denied me my right. I have suffered many things; but
does it not argue, at least, in favour of my love, that it has survived
all the trials to which your father's hate had subjected me? To-night I
could forgive him all! all! if I knew that he had not so successfully
hardened, closed your heart against me. My soul is full of bitterness
which would move you, if one trait of your girlish nature remained. But
you are not my Irene! The world's queen, the dazzling idol of the
ball-room, is not my blue-eyed, angelic Irene of old! I will intrude
upon you no longer. Try at least not to despise me for my folly; I will
crush it; and if you deign to remember me at all in future, think of a
man who laughs at his own idiocy, and strives to forget that he ever
believed there lived one woman who would be true to her own heart, even
though the heavens fell and the world passed away!
He rose partially, but her hand fell quickly upon his shoulder, and
the bowed face lifted itself, stainless as starry jasmines bathed in
Mr. Aubrey, you are too severe upon yourself, and very unjust to
me. The circumstances which conspired to alienate us were far beyond my
control; I regret them as sincerely as you possibly can, but as
unavailably. If I have individually occasioned you sorrow or
disappointment, God knows it was no fault of mine! We stand on the
opposite shores of a dark, bridgeless gulf; but before we turn away to
be henceforth strangers, I stretch out my hand to you in friendly
farewelldeeply regretting the pain which I may have innocently caused
you, and asking your forgiveness. Mr. Aubrey, remember me as I was, not
as I am. Good-bye, my friend. May God bless you in coming years, and
crown your life with the happiness you merit, is the earnest prayer of
The rare blue cord on her brow told how fiercely the lava-flood
surged under its icy bands, and the blanched lip matched her cheek in
colourlessness; save these tokens of anguish, no other was visible.
Russell drew down the hand from his shoulder, and folded it in both
Irene, are we to walk different paths henceforthutter strangers?
Is such your will?
Such is the necessity, which must be as apparent to you as to me.
Do not doubt my friendship, Mr. Aubrey; but doubt the propriety of my
parading it before the world.
He bent his cheek down on her cold hand, then raised it to his lips
once, twicelaid it back on her lap, and taking his hat, walked away
For some time she remained just as Russell had left her; then the
white arms and dry eyes were raised to the midnight sky.
My God! my God! strengthen me in my desolation!
She put back the folds of hair that, damp with dew, clung to her
gleaming temples, and recrossing the wide road or street, approached
the chamber of death.
Irene met at the door Dr. Arnold's buggy.
Irene, are you ready to go home?
Yes. Mrs. Davis is dead.
As I was leaving Mrs. Churchill's, your father told me where you
were, and I thought I would come after you. Put on your shawl and jump
in. You are in a pretty plight, truly, to stand over a deathbed!
'Vanity of vanities! all is vanity!' Here, let me wrap that gauze cloud
around your head. Now then!
The top of the buggy had been lowered, and as they rode homeward she
leaned her head back, turning her face to the sickly moonlight.
They went into the house, and as he filled and lighted his pipe, his
cavernous eyes ran curiously over her.
How you have blazed to-night! Your diamonds are superb.
Go to sleep at once, child. You look as if you had seen a ghost.
What has knotted up your forehead in that style?
I have looked upon a melancholy death to-night, and have seen two
helpless children orphaned. Come and see me soon; I want to consult you
about an orphan asylum for which father has given me a lot. Good night,
sir; I am very much obliged to you for your kindness in bringing me
home. Nobody else is half so considerate and thoughtful.
In her own room she took off the jewels, withered violets and moist
tulleand drawing on her dressing-gown, went up to the
observatory, and sat down on the threshold of one of the glass doors
Think of a man who laughs at his own idiocy, and strives to forget
that he ever believed there lived one woman who would be true to her
own heart, though the heavens fell and the world passed away!
These words of scorn were the burning shares over which her bare
feet trod, and his bitter accents wailed up and down her lonely heart.
Through the remainder of that cloudless night she wrestled silently. At
last, when the sky flushed rosily, like an opal smitten with light, and
holy Resignationthe blessing born only of great trial like hersshed
its heavenly chrism over the worn and weary, bruised and bleeding
spirit, she gathered up the mangled hopes that might have gladdened,
and gilded, and glorified her earthly career, and pressing the ruins to
her heart, laid herself meekly down, offering all upon the God-built
altar of Filial Obedience.
... early morning, when the air
Was delicate with some last starry touch,
she opened the door of her father's room and approached the bed. The
noise wakened him, and raising himself on his elbow, he looked
wonderingly at her.
What is the matter, Irene? You look as if you had not closed your
Father, you took me in your arms last night, and kissed me as you
have not done before for years. Oh, father! my father! do not cast me
off again! Whom have I in the world but you? By the memory of my
sainted mother I askI claim your love!
You are a strange girl, Irene; I never did understand you. But I
don't want to drive you from me, if you prefer to live here single.
There shall be peace between us, my dear daughter.
He leaned forward, and laid his hand caressingly on her head, as she
knelt at his bedside, pleading with uplifted arms.
CHAPTER XXVI. CIVIL WAR
The treacherous four year's lull was broken at last by the mutter of
the storm which was so soon to sweep over the nation, prostrating all
interests, and bearing desolation to almost every hearthstone in our
once happy, smiling land of constitutional freedom. Aubrey was deeply
impressed with the vital consequences of the impending election; and as
the conviction forced itself upon his mind that, through the
demoralization of the Northern wing of Democracy, Lincoln would be
elected, he endeavoured to prepare the masses for that final separation
which he foresaw was inevitable. Lincoln was elected. Abolitionism, so
long adroitly cloaked, was triumphantly clad in robes of
stateshameless now, and hideous, and while the North looked upon the
loathsome face of its political Mokanna, the South prepared for
No surer indication of the purpose of the Southern people could have
been furnished, than the temper in which the news was received. No
noisy outbursts, expending resolve in empty wordsno surface
excitementbut a stern calm gloom, set lips, heavy bent brows,
appropriate in men who realized that they had a revolution on their
hands; not indignation meetings, with fruitless resolutionsthat they
stood as body-guard for the liberty of the Republic, and would preserve
the trust at all hazards. It would seem that, for a time at least,
party animosities would have been crushed; but bitter differences
sprang up at the very threshold on the modus operandi of
Southern release from Yankee-Egyptic bondage. Separate State action
or co-operation divided the people, many of whom were earnestly
impressed by the necessity and expediency of deliberate, concerted,
simultaneous action on the part of all the Southern States, while
others vehemently advocated this latter course solely because the
former plan was advanced and supported by their old opponents. In this
new issue, as if fate persistently fanned the flame of hate between Mr.
Huntingdon and Russell Aubrey, they were again opposed as candidates
for the State Convention.
Wwas once more convulsed, and strenuous efforts were made by
both sides. Russell was indefatigable in his labours for prompt,
immediate State action, proclaiming his belief that co-operation was
impracticable before secession; and it was now that his researches in
the dusty regions of statistics came admirably into play, as he built
up his arguments on solid foundations of indisputable calculation.
The contest was close and heated, and resulted somewhat singularly
in the election of a mixed tickettwo Secessionists being returned,
and one Co-operationist, Mr. Huntingdon, owing to personal popularity.
While the entire South was girding for the contest, South Carolina,
ever the avant courier in the march of freedom, seceded; and if
doubt had existed before, it vanished now from every mindfor all felt
that the gallant State must be sustained. Soon after, Russell and Mr.
Huntingdon stood face to face on the floor of their own State
convention, and wrestled desperately. The latter headed the opposition,
and so contumacious did it prove, that for some days the fate of the
State lay in dangerous equilibrium. Finally, the vigilance of the
Secessionists prevailed, and, late in the afternoon of a winter day,
the ordinance was signed.
Electricity flashed the decree to every portion of the State, and
the thunder of artillery and blaze of countless illuminations told that
the people gratefully and joyfully accepted the verdict. Wwas
vociferous; and as Irene gazed from the colonnade on the distant but
brilliant rows of lights flaming along the streets, she regretted that
respect for her father's feelings kept the windows of her own home dark
The 12th and 13th of April were days of unexampled excitement
throughout the Southern States. The discharge of the first gun from
Fort Moultrie crushed the last lingering vestiges of Unionism, and
welded the entire Confederacy in one huge homogeneous mass of stubborn
resistance to despotism. With the explosion of the first shell aimed by
General Beauregard against Fort Sumter burst the frail painted bubble
of Reconstruction, which had danced alluringly upon the dark, surging
billows of revolution. Wwas almost wild with anxiety; and in the
afternoon of the second day of the bombardment, as Irene watched the
avenue, she saw her father driving rapidly homeward. Descending the
steps, she met him at the buggy.
Beauregard has taken Sumter. Anderson surrendered unconditionally.
No lives lost.
They sat down on the steps, and a moment after the roar of guns
shook the atmosphere, and cheer after cheer went up the evening sky.
Act I, of a long and bloody civil war, said Mr. Huntingdon
gravely. To-day I have come to a determination which will doubtless
He paused, and eyed her a moment.
No, father; I am not surprised that you have determined to do your
How, Irene? What do you suppose that it is?
To use Nelson's words, the Confederacy 'expects that every man will
do his duty'; and you are going into the army.
Who told you that?
My own heart, father; which tells me what I should do were I in
Well, I have written to Montgomery, to Clapham, to tender my
services. We were at West Point together; I served under him at
Contreras and Chapultepec, and he will no doubt press matters through
promptly. The fact is, I could not possibly stay at home now. My blood
has been at boiling heat since yesterday morning, when I read
Beauregard's first dispatch.
Did you specify any branch of the service?
Yes; told him I preferred artillery. What is the matter? Your lips
are as white as cotton. By the way what shall I do with you? It won't
do to leave you here all alone.
Why not, father? Home is certainly the proper place for me, if you
cannot take me with you.
What! with nobody but the servants?
They will take better care of me than anybody else. Nellie, and
Andrew, and John are the only guardians I want in your absence. They
have watched over me all my life, and they will do it to the end. Give
yourself no trouble, sir, on my account.
I suppose your Uncle Eric will be home before long; he can stay
here till I come backortill the troubles are over. In the meantime,
you could be with the Harrises, or Hendersons, or Mrs. Churchill.
No, sir; I can stay here, which is infinitely preferable on many
accounts. I will, with your permission, invite Mrs. Campbell to shut up
the parsonage in her husband's absence, and remain with me till Uncle
Eric returns. I have no doubt that she will be glad to make the change.
Do you approve the plan?
Yes. That arrangement will answer for the present, and Arnold will
be here to take care of you.
At the close of a week a telegraphic dispatch was received,
informing Mr. Huntingdon of his appointment as major in the provisional
army of the Confederacy and containing an order to report immediately
Having completed his arrangements, and ordered the carriage to be in
readiness at daylight next morning to convey him to the depôt, he bade
her good night much as usual, and retired to his own room.
But thought was too busy to admit of sleep. He turned restlessly on
his pillow, rose, and smoked a second cigar, and returned, to find
himself more wakeful than ever. The clock downstairs in the library
struck one; his door opened softly, and, by the dim moonlight
struggling through the window, he saw Irene glide to his bedside.
Why don't you go to sleep, Irene?
Because I can't. I am too miserable.
Her voice was dry, but broken, faltering.
Father, the future is dark and uncertain; and I feel that I want an
assurance of your entire reconciliation and affection before you go. I
came here to say to you that I deeply regret all the unfortunate
circumstances of my life which caused you to treat me so coldly for a
seasonthat if in anything I have ever seemed obstinate or undutiful,
it was not because I failed in love for you, but from an unhappy
difference of opinion as to my duty under very trying circumstances.
Father, my heart ached very bitterly under your estrangementthe very
memory is unutterably painful. I want your full, free forgiveness now,
for all the trouble I have ever occasioned you. Oh, father! give it to
He drew her close to him, and kissed her twice.
You have my forgiveness, my daughterthough I must tell you that
your treatment of poor Hugh has been a continual source of sorrow and
keen disappointment to me. I never can forget your disobedience in that
matter. I do not believe you will ever be happy, you have such a
strange disposition; but since you took matters so completely in your
own hands, you have only yourself to reproach. Irene, I very often
wonder whether you have any heartfor it seems to me that if you have,
it would have been won by the devotion which has been lavished on you
more than once. You are the only woman I ever knew who appeared utterly
incapable of love; and I sometimes wonder what will become of you when
I am dead.
God will protect me. I look continually to His guardianship. I
won't keep you awake any longer, as you have a tedious journey before
you. Good night, my dear father.
She kissed him tenderly and left him, closing the door softly behind
A spectral crescent moon flickered in the sky, and stars still
burned in the violet East, when the carriage drove to the door, and
Irene followed her father to the steps.
Even in that dim, uncertain grey light he could see that her face
was rigid and haggard, and tears filled his cold, brilliant eyes as he
folded her to his heart.
Good-bye, Beauty. Cheer up, my brave child! and look on the bright
side. After all, I may come back a brigadier-general, and make you one
of my staff-officers! You shall be my adjutant, and light up my office
with your golden head. Take care of yourself till Eric comes, and write
to me often. Good-bye, my dear, my darling daughter.
She trembled convulsively, pressing her lips repeatedly to his.
Oh, may God bless you, my father, and bring you safely back to me!
He unwound her arms, put her gently aside, and stepped into the
William, the cook, who was to accompany him, stood sobbing near the
door, and now advancing, grasped her hand.
Good-bye, Miss Irene. May the Lord protect you all till we come
William, I look to you to take care of father, and let me know at
once if anything happens.
I will, Miss Irene. I promise you I will take good care of master,
and telegraph you if he is hurt.
He wrung her hand, the carriage rolled rapidly away, and the
sorrow-stricken, tearless woman sat down on the steps and dropped her
head in her hands.
CHAPTER XXVII. HOSPITAL STORES
To those who reside at the convulsed throbbing heart of a great
revolution, a lifetime seems compressed into the compass of days and
weeks; and men and women are conscious of growing prematurely old while
watching the rushing, thundering tramp of events, portentous with the
fate of nations. W presented the appearance of a military camp,
rather than the peaceful manufacturing town of yore. Every vacant lot
was converted into a parade-groundand the dash of cavalry, the low,
sullen rumbling of artillery, and the slow, steady tread of infantry,
echoed through its wide, handsome streets. Flag-staffs were erected
from public buildings, private residences, and at the most frequent
corners, and from these floated banners of all sizes, tossing proudly
to the balmy breeze the new-born ensign of freedomaround which
clustered the hopes of a people who felt that upon them, and them only,
now devolved the sacred duty of proving to the world the capacity of a
nation for self-government.
Wgave her young men liberally; company after company was
equipped, furnished with ample funds by the munificence of citizens who
remained, and sent forward to Virginia, to make their breasts a shield
for the proud old Mother of Presidents. The battle of Bethel was
regarded as part of an overture to the opera of Blood, yclept
Subjugation, and people watched in silence for the crimson curtain to
rise on the banks of the Potomac. Russell Aubrey had succeeded in
raising a fine full company for the war, as contra-distinguished from
twelve-months volunteers; and to properly drill and discipline it, he
bent all the energy of his character. It was made the nucleus of a new
regiment; recruits gathered rapidly, and when the regiment organized,
preparatory to starting for Virginia, he was elected colonel, with
Herbert Blackwell for lieutenant-colonel, and Charles Harris was
appointed adjutant. They were temporarily encamped on the common
between the railroad depôt and Mr. Huntingdon's residence, and from the
observatory or colonnade Irene could look down on the gleaming tents
and the flag-staff that stood before the officers' quarters.
Reveille startled her at dawn, and tattoo regularly warned
her of the shortness of summer nights. As the fiery carriage-horses
would not brook the sight of the encampment, she discarded them for a
time, and when compelled to leave home rode Erebus at no slight risk of
her lifefor he evinced the greatest repugnance to the sound of drum
One afternoon she went over to the Row, and thence to the factory. A
new company had been named in honour of her father; uniforms and
haversacks were to be furnished, and Mr. Huntingdon had entrusted her
with the commission. Selecting the cloth and accomplishing her errand,
she returned by way of the orphan asylum, whose brick walls were
rapidly rising under her supervision. One of the workmen took her
horse, and she went over the building, talking to the principal
mechanic about some additional closets which she desired to have
inserted. Dr. Arnold chanced to be passing, but saw Erebus at the gate,
stopped, and came in.
I was just going up the Hill to see you, Queenglad I am saved the
trouble. Here, sit down a minute; I will clear the shavings away. When
did you hear from Leonard?
I had a letter yesterday. He was well, and on outpost duty near
Well, I shall join him very soon.
I say I shall join him very soon; don't you believe it? Why
shouldn't I serve my country as well as younger men? The fact is, I am
going as surgeon of Aubrey's regiment.
She looked at him, betraying neither surprise nor regret.
When will you leave W?
Day after to-morrow morning; can't get transportation any sooner.
Aubrey has received orders to report at once to General Beauregard.
Child, have you been sick?
No, sir. I am glad you are going with the regiment; very glad.
Every good surgeon in the Confederacy should hasten to the front line
of our armies. Since you leave home, I am particularly glad that you
are going to Manassas, where you can be near father.
He mused a moment, watching her furtively.
I suppose you have heard of the performance for to-morrow?
No, sir. To what do you allude?
The daughter of Herodias is preparing to dance.
I don't understand you, Doctor.
Oh, don't you, indeed? Well, then, she intends to present a
splendid regimental flag with her own brown hands; and as Aubrey is to
receive it, the regiment will march to Mrs. Churchill's, where the
speeches will be delivered. Will you attend?
Scarcely, I presume, as I am not invited. I knew that Salome was
having an elegant flag made, but was not aware that to-morrow was
appointed for the ceremony of presentation. When will you come to see
me? I want you to take a parcel to father for me; and then I want to
have a long talk.
I know what the long talk amounts to. I am coming, of course, after
the flag ceremonies, where I am expected. At one o'clock I will be at
the Hillperhaps earlier. Where now?
I must go by Mrs. Baker's, to see about giving out some sewing for
the 'Huntingdon Rifles.' I can't do it all at home, and several
families here require work. I shall expect you at one o'clockshall
have lunch ready for you. By the way, Doctor, is there anything I can
do for you in the sewing line? It would give me genuine pleasure to
make something for you, if you will only tell me what you need. Think
over your wants.
She had caught up her reins, but paused, looking at him. He averted
his head quickly.
I will tell you to-morrow. Good evening.
As she went homeward a shadow fell upon her facea shadow darker
than that cast by the black plume in her riding-hatand once or twice
her lips writhed from their ordinary curves of beauty. Nearing the
encampment she lowered her veil, but saw that dress parade had been
dismissed, and as she shook the reins and Erebus quickened his gallop,
she found herself face to face with the colonel, who had just mounted
his horse and was riding toward town. She looked at him and bowed; but,
in passing, he kept his eyes fixed on the road before him, and in the
duskiness his face seemed colder and more inflexible than ever. Such
had been the manner of their occasional meetings since the interview at
the factory, and she was not surprised that this, her first greeting,
was disregarded. The public believed that an engagement existed between
him and Salome, and the attentions heaped upon him by the family of the
latter certainly gave colour to the report. But Irene was not deceived;
she had learned to understand his nature, and knew that his bitterness
of feeling and studied avoidance of herself betokened that the old
affection had not been crushed. Struggling with the dictates of her
heart, and a sense of the respect due to her father's feelings, she
passed a sleepless night in pacing the gallery of the observatory. It
was a vigil of almost intolerable perplexity and anguish. Under all its
painful aspects she patiently weighed the matter, and at sunrise next
morning, throwing open the blinds of her room, she drew her rosewood
desk to the window, and wrote these words
Before you leave Wallow me to see you for a few moments. If
your departure is positively fixed for to-morrow, come to me this
afternoon, at any hour which may be most convenient.
As the regiment prepared to march to Mrs. Churchill's residence, the
note was received from Andrew's hands. Returning his sword to its
scabbard, the colonel read the paper twice, three timesa heavy frown
gathered on his forehead, his swarthy cheek fired, and, thrusting the
note into his pocket, he turned toward his regiment, saying hastily to
You need not wait. No answer is expected.
At the breakfast-table Irene opened a hasty missive from Salome,
inviting her to be present at the presentation of the flag, and begging
a few choice flowers for the occasion. Smiling quietly, she filled the
accompanying basket with some of the rarest treasures of the
greenhouse, added a bowl of raspberries which the gardener had just
brought in, and sent all, with a brief line excusing herself from
The morning was spent in writing to her father, preparing a parcel
for him, and in superintending the making of a large quantity of
blackberry jelly and cordial for the use of the hospitals.
About noon Dr. Arnold came, and found her engaged in sealing up a
number of the jars, all neatly labelled. The day was warm; she had
pushed back her hair from her brow, as she bent over her work; the full
sleeves were pinned up above the elbow, and she wore a white
check-muslin apron to protect her dress from the resin and beeswax.
In the name of Medea and her Colchian cauldron! what are you about,
Fixing a box of hospital stores for you to take with you. I have
finished, sir. Let me wash my hands, and I will give you some lunch in
No; I lunched with the Israelites. Salome was brilliant as a
Brazilian fire-fly, and presented her banner quite gracefully. Aubrey
looked splendid in his uniform; was superbly happy in his
speechalways is. Madam did the honours inimitably, and, in finegive
me that fan on the tableeverything was decidedly comme il faut. You were expected, and you ought to have gone; it looked spiteful to
stay away. I should absolutely like to see you subjected to 212°
Fahrenheit, in order to mark the result. Here I am almost suffocating
with the heat, which would be respectable in Soudan, and you sit there
bolt upright, looking as cool as a west wind in March. Beauty, you
should get yourself patented as a social refrigerator, 'Warranted proof
against the dog-days.' What rigmarole do you want me to repeat to
I wish, if you please, when you get to Manassa, that you would
persuade father to allow me to come, at least, as far as Richmond. You
have some influence with him; will you use it in my favour?
You are better off at home; you could possibly do no good.
Still I want to go. Remember, my father is all I have in this
And what have you elsewhere, Irene?
My mother, my Saviour, and my God.
Are you, then, so very anxious to go to Virginia? he repeated,
after a pause.
I am. I want to be near father.
Well, I will see what I can do with him. If I fail, recollect that
he is not proverbial for pliability. Look hereare you nervous? Your
fingers twitch, and so do your eyelids, occasionally, and your pulse is
twenty beats too quick.
I believe I am rather nervous to-day.
I did not sleep last night; that is one cause, I suppose.
And the reason why you did not sleep? Be honest with me.
My thoughts, sir, were very painful. Do you wonder at it in the
present state of the country?
Irene, answer me one question, dear child: what does the future
contain for you? What hope have you?what do you live for?
I have much to be grateful formuch that makes me happy, and I
hope to do some good in the world while I live. I want to be usefulto
feel that I have gladdened some hearts, strengthened some desponding
spirits, carried balm to some hearth-stones, shed some happiness on the
paths of those who walk near me through life.
Have you, then, fully resolved to remain single?
Why do you ask me that, Dr. Arnold?
Because you are dear to me, Queen; and I should like to see you
happily married before I am laid in my grave.
You will never see it. Be sure I shall live and die Irene
What has induced you to doom yourself to a
Ask me no more, Doctor. If I am content with my lot, who else has
the right to question?
He looked into that fair chiselled face, and wondered whether she
could be truly content; and the purity and peace in her deep, calm
eyes baffled him sorely. She rose, and laid her hand on his shoulder.
Dr. Arnold, promise me that if there is a battle, and father should
be hurt, you will telegraph me at once. Do not hesitatelet me know
the truth immediately. Will you?
And now, sir, what can I make or have made for you which will
conduce to your comfort?
Have you any old linen left about the house that could be useful
among the wounded?
I have sent off a good deal, but have some left. In what form do
you want it? As lint, or bandages?
Neither; pack it just as it is, and send it on by express. I can't
carry the world on my shoulders.
Write to the overseer's wife to sow all the mustard-seed she can
lay her hands on, and save all the sage she can. And, Irene, be sure to
send me every drop of honey you can spare. That is all, I believe. If I
think of anything else, I will write you.
He stooped, kissed her forehead, and hurried out to his buggy.
CHAPTER XXVIII. A CONFESSION
The summer day was near its death when Colonel Aubrey rode up the
stately avenue, whose cool green arches were slowly filling with
shadows. Fastening his spirited horse to the iron post, he ascended the
marble steps, and John received his card, and ushered him into the
front parlour. The next moment Irene stood at the door; he turned his
head, and they were face to face once more.
Never had her extraordinary beauty so stirred his heart; a faint
flush tinged his cheek, but he bowed frigidly, and haughtily his words
broke the silence.
You sent for me, Miss Huntingdon, and I obeyed your command.
Nothing less would have brought me to your presence.
She crossed the room and stood before him, holding out both hands,
while her scarlet lips fluttered perceptibly. Instead of receiving the
hands he drew back a step, and crossed his arms proudly over his chest.
She raised her fascinating eyes to his, folded her palms together, and,
pressing them to her heart, said, slowly and distinctly
I heard that you were ordered to Virginia, to the post of danger;
and knowing to what risks you will be exposed, I wished to see you at
least once more in this world. Perhaps the step I am taking may be
condemned by some as a deviation from the delicacy of my sexI trust I
am not wanting in proper appreciation of what is due to my own
self-respectbut the feelings which I have crushed back so long now
demand utterance. Russell, I have determined to break the seal of many
years' silenceto roll away the stone from the sepulchreto tell you
all. I feel that you and I must understand each other before we part
for all time, and, therefore, I sent for you.
She paused, drooping her head, unable to meet his searching, steady
black eyes riveted upon hers; and, drawing his tall athletic figure to
its utmost height, he asked defiantly
You sent for me through compassionate compunctions,
thenintending, at the close, to be magnanimous, and, in lieu of
disdain, tell me that you pity me?
Pity you? No, Russell; I do not pity you.
It is well. I neither deserve nor desire it.
What motive do you suppose prompted me to send for you on the eve
of your departure?
I am utterly at a loss to conjecture. I once thought you too
generous to wish to inflict pain unnecessarily on any one; but God
knows this interview is inexpressibly painful to me.
A numbing suspicion crossed her mind, blanching lip and cheek to the
hue of death, and hardening her into the old statue-like expression.
Had he, indeed, ceased to love her? Had Salome finally won her place in
his heart? He saw, without comprehending, the instantaneous change
which swept over her features, and regarded her with mingled impatience
If such be the truth, Colonel Aubrey, the interview is ended.
He bowed, and turned partially away, but paused irresolute, chained
by that electrical pale face, which no man, woman, or child ever looked
at without emotion.
Before we part, probably for ever, I should like to know why you
sent for me.
Do you remember that, one year ago to-night, we sat on the steps of
the factory, and you told me of the feeling you had cherished for me
from your boyhood?
It was a meeting too fraught with pain and mortification to be soon
I believe you thought me cold, heartless, and unfeeling then?
There was no room to doubt it. Your haughty coldness carried its
Because I knew that such was the harsh opinion you had entertained
for twelve months, I sought this opportunity to relieve myself of an
unjust imputation. If peace had been preserved, and you had always
remained quietly here, I should never have undeceived youfor the same
imperative reasons, the same stern necessity, which kept me silent on
the night to which I allude, would have sealed my lips through life.
But all things are changed; you are going into the very jaws of death,
with what result no human foresight can predict; and now, after long
suffering, I feel that I have earned and may claim the right to speak
to you of that which I have always expected to bury with me in my
Again her crowned head bowed itself.
Past bitterness and wounded pride were instantly forgotten; hope
kindled in his dark, stern face, a beauty that rarely dwelt there, and,
throwing down his hat, he stepped forward and took her folded hands in
his strong grasp.
Irene, do you intend me to understandare you willing that I shall
believe that, after all, I have an interest in your heartthat I am
more to you than you ever before deigned to let me know? If it, indeed,
be so, oh! give me the unmistakable assurance.
Her lips moved; he stooped his haughty head to catch the low
You said that night: 'I could forgive your father all! all if I
knew that he had not so successfully hardened, closed your heart
against me.' Forgive him, Russell. You never can know all that you have
been to me from my childhood. Only God, who sees my heart, knows what
suffering our long alienation has cost me.
An instant he wavered, his strong frame quivered, and then he caught
her exultingly in his arms, resting her head upon his bosom, leaning
his swarthy hot cheek on hers, cold and transparent as alabaster.
At last I realize the one dream of my life! I hold you to my heart,
acknowledged all my own! Who shall dare dispute the right your lips
have given me? Hatred is powerless now; none shall come between me and
my own. O Irene! my beautiful darling! not all my ambitious hopes, not
all the future holds, not time, nor eternity, could purchase the proud,
inexpressible joy of this assurance.
Instead of cherishing your affection for me, you struggled against
it with all the energy of your character. I have seen, for some time,
that you were striving to crush it outto forget me entirely.
I do not deny it; and certainly you ought not to blame me. You kept
me at a distance with your chilling, yet graceful, fascinating
hauteur. I had nothing to hopeeverything to suffer. I diligently
set to work to expel you utterly from my thoughts; and I tell you
candidly, I endeavoured to love another, who was brilliant, and witty,
and universally admired. But her fitful, stormy, exacting temperament
was too much like my own to suit me. I tried faithfully to become
attached to her, intending to make her my wife, but I failed signally.
My heart clung stubbornly to its old worship; my restless, fiery spirit
could find no repose, no happiness, save in the purity, the profound
marvellous calm of your nature. You became the synonym of peace, rest;
and, because you gave me no friendly word or glance, locking your
passionless face against me, I grew savage toward you. Did you believe
that I would marry Salome?
No! I had faith that, despite your angry efforts, your heart would
be true to me.
Why did you inflict so much pain on us both, when a word would have
explained all? When the assurance you have given me to-day would have
sweetened the past years of trial?
Because I knew it would not have that effect. A belief of my
indifference steeled you against menerved you to endurance. But a
knowledge of the truth would have increased your acrimony of feeling
toward him whom you regarded as the chief obstacle, and this, at all
hazards, I was resolved to avoid. Because I realized so fully the
necessity of estrangement, I should never have acquainted you with my
own feelings had I not known that a long, and perhaps final, separation
now stretches before us. In the painful course which duty imposed on
me, I have striven to promote your ultimate happiness, rather than my
Irene, how can you persuade yourself that it is your duty to obey
an unjust and tyrannical decree, which sacrifices the happiness of two
to the unreasonable vindictiveness of one?
Russell, do not urge me; it is useless. Spare me the pain of
repeated refusals, and be satisfied with what I have given you. Believe
that my heart is, and ever will be, yours entirely, though my hand you
can never claim. I know what I owe my father, and I will pay to the
last iota; and I know as well what I owe myself, and, therefore, I
shall live true to my first and only love, and die Irene Huntingdon.
More than this you have no right to askI no right to grant. Be
patient, Russell; be generous.
Do you intend to send me from you? To meet me henceforth as a
Circumstances, which I cannot control, make it necessary.
At least you will let me hear from you sometimes? You will give me
the privilege of writing to you?
Impossible, Russell; do not ask that of me.
Oh, Irene! you are cruel! Why withhold that melancholy comfort from
Simply for the reason that it would unavoidably prove a source of
pain to both. I judge you by myself. I want neither your usefulness in
life nor mine impaired by continual weak repining. If your life is
spared I shall anxiously watch your career, rejoicing in all your
honours, and your noble use of the talents which God gave you for the
benefit of your race and the advancement of truth.
I am not as noble as you think me; my ambition is not as unselfish
as you suppose. Under your influence other aims and motives might
You mistake your nature. Your intellect and temperament stamp you
one of the few who receive little impression from extraneous
influences; and it is because of this stern, obstinate individuality of
character that I hope an extended sphere of usefulness for you, if you
survive this war. Our country will demand your services, and I shall be
proud and happy in the knowledge that you are faithfully and
conscientiously discharging the duties of a statesman.
He shook his head sadly, placing his palm under her chin, and
tenderly raising the face, in order to scan it fully.
Irene, give me a likeness of yourself as you stand now; or, if you
prefer it, have a smaller one photographed to-morrow from that portrait
on the wall, and send it to me by express. I shall be detained in
Richmond several days, and it will reach me safely. Do not, I beg of
you, refuse me this. It is the only consolation I can have, and God
knows it is little enough! Oh, Irene, think of my loneliness, and grant
this last request!
His large brilliant eyes were full of tears, the first she had ever
seen dim their light, and, moved by the grief which so transformed his
lineaments she answered hastily
Of course, if you desire it so earnestly, though it were much
better that you had nothing to remind you of me.
Will you have it taken to-morrow?
She covered her face with her hands for some seconds, as if striving
to overcome some impulse; then, turning quickly to him, she wound her
arms about his neck, and drew his face down to hers.
Oh, Russell! Russell! I want your promise that you will so live and
govern yourself that, if your soul is summoned from the battlefield,
you can confront Eternity without a single apprehension. If you must
yield up your life for freedom, I want the assurance that you have gone
to your final home at peace with God; that you wait there for me; and
that, when my work is done, and I, too, lay my weary head to rest, we
shall meet soul to soul, and spend a blessed eternity together, where
strife and separation are unknown.
His black locks lay upon her forehead as he struggled for composure,
and, after a moment, he answered solemnly
I will try, my darling.
She put into his hand the Bible, which she had carefully marked and
which bore on the blank leaf, in her handwriting, Colonel Russell
Aubrey, with the life-long prayers of his best friend.
The shadow fled from her countenance, which grew radiant as some
fleecy vapour suddenly smitten with a blaze of sunlight, and clearer
and sweeter than chiming bells her voice rang through the room.
Thank God for that promise! I shall lean my heart upon it till the
last pulsations are stilled in my coffin. And now I will keep you no
longer from your regiment. I know that you have many duties there to
claim your time. Turn your face toward the window; I want to look at
it, to be able to keep its expression always before me.
She put up her waxen hand, brushed the hair from his pale, dome-like
brow, and gazed earnestly at the noble features, which even the most
fastidious could find no cause to carp at.
Of old, when Eurystheus threatened Athens, Macaria, in order to
save the city and the land from invasion and subjugation, willingly
devoted herself a sacrifice upon the altar of the gods. Ah, Russell!
that were an easy task, in comparison with the offering I am called
upon to make. I cannot, like Macaria, by self-immolation, redeem my
countryfrom that great privilege I am debarredbut I yield up more
than she ever possessed. I give my all on earthmy father and
yourselfto our beloved and suffering country. My God! accept the
sacrifice, and crown the South a sovereign, independent nation!
She smothered a moan, and her head sank on his shoulder; but lifting
it instantly, with her fathomless affection beaming in her face, she
To the mercy and guidance of Almighty God I commit you, dear
Russell, trusting all things in His hands. May He shield you from
suffering, strengthen you in the hour of trial, and reunite us
eternally in His kingdom, is, and ever shall be, my constant prayer.
Good-bye, Russell. Do your duty nobly; win deathless glory on the
battlefield in defence of our sacred cause; and remember that your
laurels will be very precious to my lonely heart.
He watched the wonderful loveliness of face and form, till his pride
was utterly melted, and, sinking on his knees, he threw one arm around
her waist exclaiming
O Irene, you have conquered! With God's grace I will so spend the
residue of my life as to merit your love, and the hope of reunion
beyond the grave.
She laid her hand lightly on his bowed head as he knelt beside her,
and, in a voice that knew no faltering, breathed out a fervent prayer,
full of pathos and sublime faithinvoking blessings upon
himlife-long guardianship, and final salvation through Christ. The
petition ended, she rose, smiling through the mist that gathered over
her eyes, and he said
I now ask something which I feel that you will not refuse me.
Electra will probably soon come home, and she may be left alone in the
world. Will you sometimes go to her for my sake, and give her your
I will, Russell, for her sake, as well as for yours. She shall be
the only sister I have ever known.
She drew his hand to her lips, but he caught it away, and pressed a
last kiss upon them.
Good-bye, my own darling! my life angel!
She heard his step across the hall; a moment after, the tramp of his
horse, as he galloped down the avenue, and she knew that the one happy
hour of her life had passedthat the rent sepulchre of silence must be
Pressing her hand over her desolate heart, she murmured sadly
Thy will, not mine, O Father! Give me strength to do my work;
enable me to be faithful even to the bitter end.
CHAPTER XXIX. A DYING MESSAGE
In July, 1861, when the North, blinded by avarice and hate, rang
with the cry of On to Richmond, our Confederate Army of the Potomac
was divided between Manassa and Winchester, watching at both points the
glittering coils of the Union boa-constrictor, which writhed in its
efforts to crush the last sanctuary of freedom. The stringency evinced
along the Federal lines prevented the transmission of dispatches by the
Secessionists of Maryland, and for a time Generals Beauregard and
Johnston were kept in ignorance of the movements of the enemy.
Patterson hung dark and lowering around Winchester, threatening daily
descent; while the main column of the grand army under McDowell
proceeded from Washington, confident in the expectation of overwhelming
the small army stationed at Manassa. The friends of liberty who were
compelled to remain in the desecrated old capital appreciated the
urgent necessity of acquainting General Beauregard with the designs of
McDowell, and the arch-apostate, Scott; but all channels of egress
seemed sealed; all roads leading across the Potomac were vigilantly
guarded, to keep the great secret safely; and painful apprehensions
were indulged for the fate of the Confederate army. But the Promethean
spark of patriotic devotion burned in the hearts of Secession women;
and, resolved to dare all things in a cause so holy, a young lady of
Washington, strong in heroic faith, offered to encounter any perils,
and pledged her life to give General Beauregard the necessary
information. Carefully concealing a letter in the twist of her
luxuriant hair, which would escape detection even should she be
searched, she disguised herself effectually, and, under the mask of a
market-woman, drove a cart through Washington, across the Potomac, and
deceived the guard by selling vegetables and milk as she proceeded.
Once beyond Federal lines, and in friendly neighbourhood, it was but a
few minutes' work to off ye lendings, and secure a horse and
riding-habit. With a courage and rapidity which must ever command the
admiration of a brave people she rode at hard gallop that burning July
afternoon to Fairfax Court-house, and telegraphed to General
Beauregard, then at Manassa's Junction, the intelligence she had risked
so much to convey. Availing himself promptly of the facts, he flashed
them along electric wires to Richmond, and to General Johnston; and
thus, through womanly devotion, a timely junction of the two armies was
effected, ere McDowell's banners flouted the skies of Bull Run.
The artillery duel of the 18th of July ended disastrously for the
advance guard of the Federalsa temporary check was given.
A pure Sabbath morning kindled on the distant hill-tops, wearing
heavenly credentials of rest and sanctity on its pearly
foreheadcredentials which the passions of mankind could not pause to
recognize; and with the golden glow of summer sunshine came the tramp
of infantry, the clatter of cavalry, the sullen growl of artillery.
Major Huntingdon had been temporarily assigned to a regiment of
infantry after leaving Richmond, and was posted on the right of General
Beauregard's lines, commanding one of the lower fords. Two miles higher
up the stream, in a different brigade, Colonel Aubrey's regiment
guarded another of the numerous crossings. As the day advanced, and the
continual roar of cannon toward Stone-Bridge and Sudley's ford
indicated that the demonstrations on McLean's, Blackford's and
Mitchell's fords were mere feints to hold our right and centre, the
truth flashed on General Beauregard that the main column was hurled
against Evans' little band on the extreme left. Hour after hour passed,
and the thunder deepened on the Warrenton road; then the General
learned, with unutterable chagrin, that his order for an advance on
Centreville had miscarried, that a brilliant plan had been frustrated,
and that new combinations and dispositions must now be resorted to. The
regiment to which Major Huntingdon was attached was ordered to the
support of the left wing, and reached the distant position in an almost
incredibly short time, while two regiments of the brigade to which
Colonel Aubrey belonged were sent forward to the same point as a
Like incarnations of victory, Beauregard and Johnston swept to the
front where the conflict was most deadly; everywhere, at sight of them,
our thin ranks dashed forward, and were mowed down by the fire of
Rickett's and Griffin's batteries, which crowned the position they were
so eager to regain. At half-past two o'clock the awful contest was at
its height; the rattle of musketry, the ceaseless whistle of rifle
balls, the deafening boom of artillery, the hurtling hail of shot, the
explosion of shell, dense volumes of smoke shrouding the combatants,
and clouds of dust boiling up on all sides, lent unutterable horror to
a scene which, to cold, dispassionate observers, might have seemed
sublime. As the vastly superior numbers of the Federals forced our
stubborn bands to give back slowly, an order came from General
Beauregard for the right of his line, except the reserves, to advance,
and recover the long and desperately disputed plateau. With a shout,
the shattered lines sprang upon the foe and forced them temporarily
back. Major Huntingdon's horse was shot under him; he disengaged
himself and marched on foot, waving his sword and uttering words of
encouragement. He had proceeded but a few yards when a grape-shot
entered his side, tearing its way through his body, and he fell where
the dead lay thickest. For a time the enemy retired, but heavy
reinforcements pressed in, and they returned, reoccupying the old
ground. Not a moment was to be lost; General Beauregard ordered forward
his reserves for a second effort, and with magnificent effect, led the
charge in person. Then Russell Aubrey first came actively upon the
field. At the word of command he dashed forward with his splendid
regiment, and, high above all, towered his powerful form, with the long
black plume of his hat drifting upon the wind as he led his admiring
As he pressed on, with thin nostril dilated, and eyes that burned
like those of a tiger seizing his prey, he saw, just in his path,
leaning on his elbow, covered with blood, and smeared with dust, the
crushed, withering form of his bitterest enemy. His horse's hoofs were
almost upon him; he reined him back an instant, and glared down at his
old foe. It was only for an instant, and as Major Huntingdon looked on
the stalwart figure and at the advancing regiment, life-long hatred and
jealousy were forgottenpatriotism throttled all the past in her
grasphe feebly threw up his hand, cheered faintly, and, with his eyes
on Russell's, smiled grimly, saying, with evident difficulty
Beat them back, Aubrey! Give them the bayonet.
The shock was awfulbeggaring language. On, on they swept, while
ceaseless cheers mingled with the cannonade; the ground was recovered,
to be captured no more. The Federals were driven back across the
turnpike, and now dark masses of reinforcements debouched on the plain,
and marched toward our left. Was it Grouchy or Blucher? Some moments of
painful suspense ensued, while General Beauregard strained his eyes to
decipher the advancing banner. Red and white and blue, certainly; but
was it the ensign of Despotism or of Liberty? Nearer and nearer came
the rushing column, and lo! upon the breeze streamed, triumphant as the
Labarum of Constantine, the Stars and Bars. Kirby Smith and ElzeyGod
be praised! The day was won, and Victory nestled proudly among the
folds of our new-born banner. One more charge along our whole line, and
the hireling hordes of oppression fled panic-stricken. Russell had
received a painful wound from a minnie ball, which entered his shoulder
and ranged down toward the elbow, but he maintained his position, and
led his regiment a mile in the pursuit. When it became evident that the
retreat was a complete rout, he resigned the command to
Lieutenant-Colonel Blackwell, and rode back to the battlefield.
Picking his way to avoid trampling the dead, Russell saw Major
Huntingdon at a little distance, trying to drag himself toward a
neighbouring tree. The memory of his injuries crowded upon the memory
of all that he had endured and lost through that man's prejudicethe
sorrow that might have been averted from his blind motherand his
vindictive spirit rebelled at the thought of rendering him aid. But as
he paused and struggled against his better nature, Irene's holy face,
as he saw it last, lifted in prayer for him, rose, angel-like, above
all that mass of death and horrors. The sufferer was Irene's father;
she was hundreds of miles away. Russell set his lips firmly, and,
riding up to the prostrate figure, dismounted. Exhausted by his
efforts, Major Huntingdon had fallen back in the dust, and an
expression of intolerable agony distorted his features as Russell
stooped over him, and asked in a voice meant to be gentle
Can I do anything for you? Could you sit up, if I placed you on my
The wounded man scowled as he recognized the voice and face, and
turned his head partially away, muttering
What brought you here?
There has never been any love between us, Major Huntingdon; but we
are fighting in the same cause for the first time in our lives. You are
badly wounded, and, as a fellow-soldier, I should be glad to relieve
your sufferings, if possible. Once more, for humanity's sake, I ask,
can you ride my horse to the rear, if I assist you to mount?
No. But, for God's sake, give me some water!
Russell knelt, raised the head, and unbuckling his canteen, put it
to his lips, using his own wounded arm with some difficulty. Half of
the contents was eagerly swallowed, and the remainder Russell poured
slowly on the gaping, ghastly wound in his side. The proud man eyed
him, steadily till the last cool drop was exhausted, and said
You owe me no kindness, Aubrey. I hate you, and you know it. But
you have heaped coals of fire on my head. You are more generous than I
thought you. Thank you, Aubrey; lay me under that tree yonder, and let
I will try to find a surgeon. Who belongs to your regiment?
Somebody whom I never saw till last week. I won't have him hacking
about me. Leave me in peace.
Do you know anything of your servant? I saw him as I came on the
Poor William! he followed me so closely that he was shot through
the head. He is lying three hundred yards to the left, yonder. Poor
fellow! he was faithful to the last.
A tear dimmed the master's eagle eye as he muttered, rather than
spoke, these words.
Then I will find Dr. Arnold at once, and send him to you.
It was no easy matter, on that crowded, confused Aceldama, and the
afternoon was well-nigh spent before Russell, faint and weary, descried
Dr. Arnold busily using his instruments in a group of wounded. He rode
up, and, having procured a drink of water and refilled his canteen,
approached the surgeon.
Doctor, where is your horse? I want you.
Ho, Cyrus! bring him up. What is the matter, Aubrey? You are hurt.
Nothing serious, I think. But Major Huntingdon is desperately
woundedmortally, I am afraid. See what you can do for him.
You must be mistaken! I have asked repeatedly for Leonard, and they
told me he was in hot pursuit, and unhurt. I hope to Heaven you are
Impossible; I tell you I lifted him out of a pool of his own blood.
Come; I will show you the way.
At a hard gallop they crossed the intervening woods, and, without
difficulty, Russell found the spot where the mangled form lay still. He
had swooned, with his face turned up to the sky, and the ghastliness of
death had settled on his strongly marked, handsome features.
God pity Irene! said the doctor, as he bent down and examined the
horrid wound, striving to press the red lips together.
The pain caused from handling him roused the brave spirit to
consciousness, and opening his eyes he looked around wonderingly.
Well, Hiram! it is all over with me, old fellow.
I hope not, Leonard; can't you turn a little, and let me feel for
It is of no use; I am torn all to pieces. Take me out of this dirt,
on the fresh grass somewhere.
I must first extract the ball. Aubrey, can you help me raise him a
Administering some chloroform, he soon succeeded in taking out the
ball, and, with Russell's assistance, passed a bandage round the body.
There is no chance for me, Hiram; I know that. I have few minutes
to live. Some water.
Russell put a cup to his white lips, and calling in the assistance
of Cyrus, who had followed his master, they carried him several yards
farther, and made him comfortable, while orders were despatched for an
A horrible convulsion seized him at this moment, and so intense was
the agony that a groan burst through his set teeth, and he struggled to
rise. Russell knelt down and rested the haughty head against his
shoulder, wiping off the cold drops that beaded the pallid brow. After
a little while, lifting his eyes to the face bending over him, Major
Huntingdon gazed into the melancholy black eyes, and said, almost in a
I little thought I should ever owe you thanks. Aubrey, forgive me
all my hate; you can afford to do so now. I am not a brute; I know
magnanimity when I see it. Perhaps I was wrong to visit Amy's sins on
you; but I could not forgive her. Aubrey, it was natural that I should
hate Amy's son.
Again the spasm shook his lacerated frame, and twenty minutes after
his fierce, relentless spirit was released from torture; the proud,
ambitious, dauntless man was with his God.
Dr. Arnold closed the eyes with trembling fingers, and covered his
face with his hands to hide the tears that he could not repress.
For some moments silence reigned; then Dr. Arnold said suddenly
Come in, and let me see your arm. Your sleeve is full of blood.
An examination discovered a painful flesh-woundthe minnie ball
having glanced from the shoulder and passed out through the upper part
of the arm. In removing the coat to dress the wound, the doctor
Here is a bullet-hole in the breast, which must have just missed
your heart! Was it a spent ball?
A peculiar smile disclosed Russell's faultless teeth an instant, but
he merely took the coat, laid it over his uninjured arm, and answered
Don't trouble yourself about spent ballsfinish your job. I must
look after my wounded.
As soon as the bandages were adjusted he walked away and took from
the inside pocket of the coat a heavy square morocco case containing
Irene's ambrotype. When the coat was buttoned as on that day, it rested
over his heart; and during the second desperate charge of General
Beauregard's lines, Russell felt a sudden thump, and, above all the
roar of that scene of carnage, heard the shivering of the glass which
covered the likeness. The morocco was torn and indented, but the ball
was turned aside harmless, and now, as he touched the spring, the
fragments of glass fell at his feet. It was evident that his towering
form had rendered him a conspicuous target; some accurate marksman had
aimed at his heart, and the ambrotype-case had preserved his life. With
a countenance pale from physical suffering, but beaming with triumphant
joy for the Nation's first great victory, he went out among the dead
and dying, striving to relieve the wounded, and to find the members of
his own command.
But all of intolerable torture centred not there, awful as was the
scene. Throughout the length and breadth of the Confederacy telegraphic
despatches told that the battle was raging; and an army of women spent
that 21st upon their knees, in agonizing prayer for husbands and sons
who wrestled for their birthright on the far-off field of blood.
The people of Wwere subjected to painful suspense as hour after
hour crept by, and a dense crowd collected in front of the telegraph
office, whence floated an ominous red flag. Andrew waited on horseback
to carry to Irene the latest intelligence, and during the entire
afternoon she paced the colonnade, with her eyes fixed on the winding
road. At half-past five o'clock the solemn stillness of the sultry day
was suddenly broken by a wild, prolonged shout from the town; cheer
after cheer was caught up by the hills, echoed among the purple
valleys, and finally lost in the roar of the river. Andrew galloped up
the avenue with an extra, yet damp from the printing-press, containing
the joyful tidings that McDowell's army had been completely routed, and
was being pursued toward Alexandria. Meagre was the accountour
heroes, Bee and Bartow, had fallen. No other details were given, but
the premonition, Heavy loss on our side, sent a thrill of horror to
every womanly heart, dreading to learn the price of victory. Irene's
white face flashed as she read the despatch, and raising her hands,
Oh, thank God! thank God!
Shall I go back to the office?
Yes; I shall certainly get a despatch from father some time
to-night. Go back and wait for it. Tell Mr. Rogers, the operator, what
you came for, and ask him I say please to let you have it as soon as it
arrives. And, Andrew, bring me any other news that may come before my
As the night advanced, her face grew haggard, and the wan lips
fluttered ceaselessly. Russell she regarded as already dead to her in
this world, but for her father she wrestled desperately in spirit. Mrs.
Campbell joined her, uttering hopeful, encouraging words, and Nellie
came out, with a cup of tea on a waiter.
Please drink your tea, just to please me, Queen. I can't bear to
look at you. In all your life I never saw you worry so. Do sit down and
rest; you have walked fifty miles since morning.
Take it away, Nellie. I don't want it.
But, child, it will be time enough to fret when you know Mas'
Leonard is hurt. Don't run to meet trouble; it will face you soon
enough. If you won't take the tea, for pity's sake let me get you a
glass of wine.
No; I tell you I can't swallow anything. If you want to help me,
pray for father.
She resumed her walk, with her eyes strained in the direction of the
Thus passed three more miserable hours; then the clang of the iron
gate at the foot of the avenue fell on her aching ear; the tramp of
horses' hoofs and roll of wheels came up the gravelled walk.
The carriage stopped; Judge Harris and his wife came up the steps,
followed slowly by Andrew, whose hat was slouched over his eyes. As
they approached Irene put out her hands wistfully.
We have won a glorious victory, Irene, but many of our noble
soldiers are wounded. I knew you would be anxious, and we came
Is my father killed!
Your father was wounded. He led a splendid charge.
Wounded! No! he is killed! Andrew, tell me the truthis father
The faithful negro could no longer repress his grief, and sobbed
convulsively, unable to reply.
Oh, my God! I knew it! she gasped.
The gleaming arms were thrown up despairingly, and a low, dreary cry
wailed through the stately old mansion as the orphan turned her eyes
upon Nellie and Andrewthe devoted two who had petted her from
Judge Harris led her into the library, and his weeping wife
endeavoured to offer consolation, but she stood rigid and tearless,
holding out her hand for the despatch. Finally they gave it to her and
CHARLES T. HARRIS
Huntingdon was desperately wounded at three o'clock to-day, in
making a charge. He died two hours ago. I was with him. The body leaves
to-morrow for W.
The paper fell from her fingers; with a dry sob she turned from
them, and threw herself on the sofa, with her face of woe to the wall.
So passed the night.
CHAPTER XXX. THE BLOCKADE RUNNER
I intend to trust you with important despatches, Miss Greyfor I
have great confidence in female ingenuity, as well as female heroism.
The meekest of women are miniature Granvelles; nature made you a race
of schemers. Pardon me if I ask, how you propose to conceal the
despatches? It is no easy matter now to run the blockade of a Southern
port, especially on the Gulf; and you must guard against being picked
up by the Philistines.
I am fully aware of all the risk attending my trip; but if you will
give me the papers, prepared as I directed in my note from Paris, I
will pledge my life that they shall reach Richmond safely. If I am
captured and carried North, I have friends who will assist me in
procuring a passport to the South, and little delay will occur. If I am
searched, I can bid them defiance. Give me the despatches, and I will
show you how I intend to take them.
Electra opened her trunk, took out a large portfolio, and selected
from the drawings one in crayon representing the heads of Michael
Angelo's Fates. Spreading it out, face downward, on the table, she laid
the closely-written tissue paper of despatches smoothly on the back of
the thin pasteboard; then fitted a square piece of oil-silk on the
tissue missive, and having, with a small brush, coated the silk with
paste, covered the whole with a piece of thick drawing paper, the edges
of which were carefully glued to those of the pasteboard. Taking a hot
iron from the grate, she passed it repeatedly over the paper, till all
was smooth and dry; then in the centre wrote with a pencil: Michael
Angelo's Fates, in the Pitti Palace. Copied May 8th, 1861. From
a list of figures in a small note-book she added the dimensions of the
picture, and underneath all, a line from Euripides.
Her eyes sparkled as she bent over her work, and at length, lifting
it for inspection, she exclaimed triumphantly
There, sir! I can baffle even the Paris detective, much more the
lynx-eyed emissaries of Lincoln, Seward &Co. Are you satisfied? Examine
it with your own hands.
Perfectly satisfied, my dear young lady. But suppose they should
seize your trunk? Confiscation is the cry all over the North.
Finding nothing suspicious or 'contraband' about me, except my
Southern birth and sympathies, they would scarcely take possession of
the necessary tools of my profession. I have no fear, sir; the paper is
fated to reach its destination.
Are your other despatches sealed up pictorially?
She laughed heartily.
Of course not. We women are too shrewd to hazard all upon one die.
Wellwell! You see that we trust important data to your cunning
fingers. You leave London to-morrow for Southampton; will arrive just
in time for the steamer. Good-bye, Miss Grey. When I get back to the
Confederacy, I shall certainly find you out. I want you to paint the
portraits of my wife and children. From the enviable reputation you
have already acquired I am proud to claim you for my countrywoman. God
bless you, and lead you safely home. Good-bye, Mr. Mitchell. Take care
of her and let me hear from you on your arrival.
From the hour when tidings of the fall of Sumter reached Europe,
Electra had resolved to cut short the studies which she had pursued so
vigorously since her removal to Florence, and return to the South. But
the tide of travel set toward, not from European shores, and it was not
until after repeated attempts to find some one homeward-bound, that she
learned of Eric Mitchell's presence in Paris, and his intention of soon
returning to W. She wrote at once, requesting his permission to
place herself under his care. It was cordially accorded; and, bidding
adieu to Italy, she joined him without delay, despite the pleadings of
Mr., Mrs. Young, and Louisa, who had recently arrived at Florence, and
sincerely mourned a separation under such painful circumstances.
Eric was detained in Paris by a severe attack of the old disease,
but finally reached Londonwhence, having completed their
arrangements, they set off for Southampton, and took passage in the
Trent, which was destined subsequently to play a prominent part in
the tangled rôle of Diplomacy, and to furnish the most utterly
humiliating of many chapters of the pusillanimity, sycophancy, and
degradation of the Federal government.
The voyage proved pleasant and prosperous; and, once at Havana, Eric
anxiously sought an opportunity of testing the vaunted efficiency of
the blockade. Unfortunately, two steamers had started the week
previous, one to New Orleans, the other to Charleston; only sailing
vessels were to be found, and about the movements of these,
impenetrable mystery seemed wrapped. On the afternoon of the third day
after their arrival, Eric, wearied with the morning's fruitless
inquiry, was resting on the sofa at the hotel, while Electra watched
the tide of passers-by, when Willis, Eric's servant, came in quickly,
and walked up to the sofa.
Master, Captain Wright is here. I asked him to come and see you,
and he is waiting downstairs.
Yes, sir; the captain you liked so much at Smyrnathe one who gave
you that pipe, sir.
Oh, I remember! Yesyes; and he is here? Well, show him up.
Master, from the way he watches the clouds, I believe he is about
to run out. Maybe he can take us?
Willis is invaluable to you, Mr. Mitchell, said Electra, as the
negro left the room.
He is indeed. He is eyes, ears, crutches, everything to me, and
never forgets anything or anybody. He has travelled over half the world
with mecould desert me, and be free at any moment he felt inclined to
do sobut is as faithful now as the day on which I first left home
Ah, Captain! this is an unexpected pleasure. I am heartily glad to
see you. Miss GreyCaptain Wright. Take a seat.
The captain looked about thirty, possibly older; wore a grey suit
and broad straw hat, and, when the latter was tossed on the floor,
showed a handsome, frank, beaming face, with large, clear, smiling blue
eyes, whose steady light nothing human could dim. His glossy
reddish-brown hair was thrust back from a forehead white and smooth as
a woman's, but the lower portion of the face was effectually bronzed by
exposure to the vicissitudes of climate and weather; and Electra
noticed a peculiar nervous restlessness of manner, as though he were
habitually on the watch.
I am astonished to see you in Havana, Mitchell. Where did you come
Just from Paris, where bad health drove me, after I bade you
good-bye at Smyrna. Have you a vessel here, captain?
Of course I have! Don't you suppose that I would be in the army if
I could not serve my country better by carrying in arms and ammunition?
I have already made two successful trips with my schoonerran in,
despite the blockaders. I am negotiating for a steamer, but until I can
get one ready I intend to sail on.
When did you arrive here last?
About ten days ago. They chased me for nearly fifteen miles, but I
stole out of sight before morning.
When do you expect to leave here?
The captain darted a swift, searching glance at Electra, rose and
closed the door, saying, with a light laugh
Take care, man! You are not exactly deer-hunting or crab-catching
in a free country! Mind that, and talk softly. I am watched here; the
Federal agents all know me, and there are several Federal vessels in
port. When do I expect to leave? Well, to-night, if the weather
thickens up, as I think it will, and there is evident sign of a storm.
Most sailors wait for fair weather; we blockade runners for foul.
Oh, Captain! do take us with you! said Electra eagerly.
What! In a rickety schooner, in the teeth of a gale? Besides, Miss,
I am taking a cargo of powder this trip, and if I am hard pressed I
shall blow up vessel and all, rather than suffer it to fall into Yankee
clutches. You would not relish going up to heaven after the fashion of
a rocket, would you?
I am willing, sir, to risk everything you threaten, rather than
wait here indefinitely.
Can't you take us, WrightMiss Grey, Willis, and myself? We are
very impatient to get home.
But I have no accommodation for passengers.
But I suppose, sir, we could contrive to live a few days without
eating at a regular table. I will take some cheese and crackers and
fruit along in a basket, if that will ease your mind. Do waive your
scruples, and consent to take charge of us.
I add my prayers to hers. Wright, do take us. We shall not mind
privations or inconvenience.
Well, then, understand distinctly that, if anything happens, you
are not to blame me. If the young lady gets sea-sick, or freckled, or
sunburnt, or starved to death, or blown up, or drowned, or, worse than
all, if the Yankee thieves by the wayside take her as a prize, it will
be no fault of mine whatever, and I tell you now I shall not lay it on
Wright, to what part are you bound?
Ah! that is more than I can tell you. The winds must decide it. I
can't try the Carolinas again this trip; they are watching for me too
closely there. New Orleans is rather a longer run than I care to make,
and I shall keep my eyes on Apalachicola and Mobile.
What object have you in starting to-night, particularly in the face
of a gale?
Again the captain's eyes swept round the room, to guard against any
doors that might be ajar.
As I told you before, I am watched here. The Federals have a
distinguished regard for me, and I have to elude suspicion, as well as
run well, when I do get out. Two hours ago a Federal armed steamer
which has been coaling here, weighed anchor, and has probably left the
harbour, to cruise between this place and Key West. As they passed, one
of the crew yelled out to me that they would wait outside, and catch me
certainly this time; that I had made my last jaunt to Dixie, etc. I
have carefully put out the impression that I need some repairs, which
cannot be finished this week; and have told one or two confidentially
that I could not leave until the arrival of a certain cargo from Nassau
which is due to-morrow. That Puritanical craft which started off at
noon does not expect me for several days, and to-night I shall rub my
fingers and sail out right in her wake. Ha! ha! how they will howl!
What gnashing of teeth there will be, when they hear of me in a
Confederate port! And now about your baggage. Have everything ready; I
will show Willis the right wharf, and at dark he must bring the trunks
down; I will be on the watch, and send a boat ashore. About sunset you
and Miss Grey can come aboard, as if for a mere visit. I must go and
make what little preparation I can for your comfort.
Nothing occurred to frustrate the plan; Eric and Electra were
cordially received, and at dusk Willis and the baggage arrived
punctually. The schooner was lying some distance from the wharf, all
sails down, and apparently contemplating no movement. With darkness
came a brisk, stiffening wind, and clouds shutting out even dim
starlight. At ten o'clock, all things being in readiness, the captain
went on deck; very soon after the glimmering lights of the city, then
the frowning walls of Moro, were left behind, and the Dixie took
her way silently and swiftly seaward.
About two o'clock, being unable to sleep, from the rocking of the
vessel, Electra, knowing that Eric was still on deck, crept up the
steps in the darkness, for the lights had been extinguished. The
captain was passing, but paused, saying in a whisper
Is that you, Miss Grey? Come this way and I will show you
He grasped her hand, led her to the bow, where Eric was sitting on a
coil of rope, and, pointing straightforward, added in the same
Look right aheadyou see a light? The Philistines are upon us!
Look well, and you will see a dark, irregular, moving mass; that is the
steamer of which I told you. They have found out at last that there is
going to be all sorts of a gale, and as they can't ride it like my
snug, dainty little egg-shell, they are putting back with all possible
speed. Twenty minutes ago they were bearing down on me; now you see
that they will pass to our left. What a pity they don't know their
Do you think that they will not see you?
Certainly! with sails down, and lights out, there is nothing to be
seen on such a night as this. There! don't you hear her paddles?
No. I hear nothing but the roar of the wind and water.
Ah! that is because your ears are not trained like mine. Great
Neptune! how she labours already! Now! be silent.
On came the steamer, which Electra's untrained eyes, almost blinded
by spray, could barely discern; and her heart beat like a muffled drum
as it drew nearer and nearer. Once she heard a low, chuckling laugh of
satisfaction escape the captain; then, with startling distinctness, the
ringing of a bell was borne from the steamer's deck.
Four bellstwo o'clock. How chagrined they will be to-morrow, when
they find out they passed me without paying their respects! whispered
Gradually the vessel receded, the dark mass grew indistinct, the
light flickered, and was soon lost to view, and the sound of the
labouring machinery was drowned in the roar of the waves.
Before he went back on deck, the captain made a comfortable place
for her on the sofa in the little cabin. The storm increased until it
blew a perfect hurricane, and the schooner rolled and creaked, now and
then shivering in every timber. It was utterly impossible to sleep, and
Eric, who was suffering from a headache, passed a miserable night. In
the white sickly dawn the captain looked in again, and Electra thought
that no ray of sunshine could be more radiant or cheering than his
joyous, noble face.
About noon the fury of the gale subsided, the sun looked out through
rifts in the scudding clouds, and toward night fields of quiet blue
were once more visible. By next morning the weather had cleared up,
with a brisk westerly wind; but the sea still rolled heavily; and Eric,
unable to bear the motion, kept below, loth to trust himself on his
feet. Electra strove to while away the tedious time by reading aloud to
him; but many a yearning look was cast toward the deck, and finally she
left him with a few books, and ran up to the open air.
On the afternoon of the third day after leaving Havana the captain
Well, Miss Grey, I shall place you on Confederate soil to-morrow,
Then you are going to Mobile?
Yes; I shall try hard to get in there early in the morning. You
will know your fate before many hours.
Do you regard this trial as particularly hazardous?
Of course; the blockading squadrons grow more efficient and expert
every day, and some danger necessarily attends every trial. Mobile
ought to be pretty well guarded by this time.
The wind was favourable, and the schooner ploughed its way swiftly
through the autumn night. The captain did not close his eyes; and just
about daylight Electra and Eric, aroused by a sudden running to and
fro, rose, and simultaneously made their appearance on deck.
What is the matter, Wright?
Matter! why, look ahead, my dear fellow, and see where we are.
Yonder is Sand Island lighthouse, and a little to the right is Fort
Morgan. But the fleet to the left is hardly six miles off, and it will
be a tight race if I get in.
There was but a glimmering light, rimming the East, where two or
three stars burned with indescribable brilliance and beauty, and in the
grey haze and wreaths of mist which curled over the white-capped waves,
Electra could distinguish nothing. The air was chill, and she said,
with a slight shiver
I can't see any lighthouse.
There is, of course, no light there, these war-times; but you see
that tall, white tower, don't you? There, look through my glass. That
low dark object yonder is the outline of the fort; you will see it more
distinctly after a little. Now, look right where my finger points; that
is the flag-staff. Look up overheadI have hoisted our flag, and
pretty soon it will be a target for those dogs.
Ha! Mitchell! Hutchinson! they see us! There is some movement among
them. They are getting ready to cut us off this side of the Swash
channel! We shall see.
He had crowded on all sail, and the little vessel dashed through the
light fog as if conscious of her danger, and resolved to sustain
herself gallantly. Day broke fully, sea and sky took the rich orange
tint which only autumn mornings give, and in this glow a Federal
frigate and sloop slipped from their moorings, and bore down
threateningly on the graceful bounding schooner.
But for the fog, which puzzled me about three o'clock, I should
have run by unseen, and they would never have known it till I was safe
in Navy cove. We will beat them, though, as it is, by about twenty
minutes. An hour ago I was afraid I should have to beach her. Are you
getting frightened, Miss Grey?
Oh, no! I would not have missed this for any consideration. How
rapidly the Federal vessels move! They are gaining on us.
Her curling hair, damp with mist, clustered around her forehead; she
had wrapped a scarlet crape shawl about her shoulders, and stood with
her red lips apart and trembling, watched the exciting race.
Look at the frigate!
There was a flash at her bow, a curl of white smoke rolled up, then
a heavy roar, and a thirty-two pounder round shot fell about a hundred
yards to the right of the vessel.
A yell of defiance rent the air from the crew of the Dixie
hats were wavedand, snatching off her shawl, Electra shook its
bright folds to the stiffening breeze, while her hot cheeks matched
them in depth of colour.
Another and another shot was fired in quick succession, and so
accurate had they become, that the last whizzed through the rigging,
cutting one of the small ropes.
Humph! they are getting saucy, said the captain looking up coolly,
when the yells of his crew ceased for a moment; and, with a humorous
twinkle in his fine eyes, he added
Better go below, Miss Grey; they might clip one of your curls next
time. The Vandals see you, I dare say, and your red flag stings their
Yankee pride a little.
Do you suppose they can distinguish me?
Certainly. Through my glass I can see the gunners at work, and of
course they see you. Should not be surprised if they aimed specially at
you. That is the style of New England chivalry.
Whizwhiz; both sloop and frigate were firing now in good earnest,
and one shell exploded a few yards from the side of the little vessel,
tossing the foam and water over the group on deck.
The boom of a columbiad from the fort shook the air like thunder,
and gave to the blockaders the unmistakable assurance, Thus far, and
The schooner strained on its way; a few shot fell behind, and soon,
under the frowning bastions of the fort, whence the Confederate banner
floated so proudly on the balmy Gulf breeze, spreading its free folds
like an ægis, the gallant little vessel passed up the channel, and came
to anchor in Mobile Bay, amid the shouts of crew and garrison, and
welcomed by a salute of five guns.
CHAPTER XXXI. RESULTS OF SECESSION
Immediately after her arrival in Mobile, Electra prepared to forward
her despatches by Captain Wright, whose business called him to Richmond
before his return to Cuba; and an examination of them proved that the
expedient resorted to was perfectly successful. By moistening the edges
of the drawing-paper, the tissue missive was drawn out uninjured, and,
to Eric's surprise, she removed the carefully-stitched blue silk which
lined the tops of her travelling gauntlets, and extracted similar
despatches, all of which were at once transmitted to the seat of
government. While waiting for a boat, they heard the painful tidings of
Major Huntingdon's death, which increased Eric's impatience to reach
W. The remainder of the journey was sad, and four days after
leaving the Gulf City the lights of Wand roar of the Falls
simultaneously greeted the spent travellers. Having telegraphed of his
safe arrival, the carriage was waiting at the depôt, and Andrew handed
to Electra a note from his mistress, requesting her to come at once to
her house instead of going to the hotel. Eric added earnest persuasion,
and with some reluctance the artist finally consented. They were
prepared for the silent, solemn aspect of the house, and for the
mourning dress of the orphan, but not for the profound calm, the
melancholy, tearless composure with which she received them. Mental and
physical suffering had sadly changed her. The oval face was thinner,
and her form had lost its roundness, but the countenance retained its
singular loveliness, and the mesmeric splendour of the large eyes
seemed enhanced. Of her father she did not speak, but gave her uncle a
written statement of all the facts which she had been able to gather
concerning the circumstances of his death; and thus a tacit compact was
formed; to make no reference to the painful subject.
As she accompanied Electra to the room prepared for her, on the
night of her arrival, the latter asked, with ill-concealed emotion
Irene, can you tell me anything about Russell? I am very anxious to
hear something of him.
Irene placed the silver lamp on the table, and standing in its glow,
He was wounded in the arm at Manassa, but retains command of his
regiment, and is doing very well. Dr. Arnold is the regimental surgeon,
and in one of his letters to me he mentioned that your cousin's wound
was not serious.
I am going to him immediately.
Unfortunately, you will not be allowed to do so. The wounded were
removed to Richmond as promptly as possible, but your cousin remained
at Manassa, where ladies are not permitted.
Then I will write to him to meet me in Richmond.
Irene made no reply, and, watching her all the while, Electra
When did you see him last? How did he look?
The day before he started to Richmond. He was very well, I believe,
but looked harassed and paler than usual. He is so robust, however,
that I think you need entertain no apprehension concerning his health.
The inflexible features, the low, clear, firm voice were puzzling,
and Electra's brow thickened and darkened as she thought
Her father is dead now; there is no obstacle remaining. She must
love him, and yet she gives no sign of interest.
Two days later, they sat together before one of the parlour windows.
Electra was engaged in tearing off and rolling bandages, while Irene
slowly scraped lint from a quantity of old linen, which filled a basket
at her side. Neither had spoken for some time; the sadness of their
occupation called up gloomy thoughts; but finally Electra laid down a
roll of cloth, and, interlacing her slight fingers, said
Irene, the women of the South must exercise an important influence
in determining our national destiny; and because I felt this so fully,
I hurried home to share the perils, and privations, and trials of my
countrywomen. It is not my privilege to enter the army, and wield a
sword or musket; but I am going to true womanly workinto the crowded
hospitals, to watch faithfully over sick and wounded.
I approve your plan, think it your duty, and wish that I could
start to Richmond with you to-morrowfor I believe that in this way we
may save valuable lives. You should, as you have said, go on at once;
you have nothing to keep you; your work is waiting for you there. But
my position is different; I have many things to arrange here before I
can join you. I want to see the looms at work on the plantation; and am
going down next week with Uncle Eric, to consult with the overseer
about several changes which I desire made concerning the negroes. When
all this is accomplished, I too shall come into the hospitals.
About what time may I expect you?
Not until you see me; but at the earliest practicable day.
Your uncle objects very strenuously to such a plan, does he not?
He will acquiesce at the proper time. Take care! you are making
your bandages too wide.
A long dark vista stretches before the Confederacy. I cannot, like
many persons, feel sanguine of a speedy termination of the war.
Yesa vista lined with the bloody graves of her best sons; but
beyond glimmers FreedomIndependence.
But do you still cling to a belief in the possibility of Republican
forms of Government? This is a question which constantly disquiets me.
My faith in that possibility is unshaken. We shall yet teach the
world that self-government is feasible.
But in Europe, where the subject is eagerly canvassed, the
impression obtains that, in the great fundamental principle of our
government, will be found the germ of its dissolution. This war is
waged to establish the right of Secession, and the doctrine that 'all
just governments rest on the consent of the governed.' With such a
precedent, it would be worse than stultification to object to the
secession of any State or States now constituting the Confederacy, who
at a future day may choose to withdraw from the present compact.
Granting our independence, which Europe regards as a foregone
conclusion, what assurance have you (say they, gloating, in
anticipation over the prospect) that, so soon as the common dangers of
war, which for a time cemented you so closely, are over, entire
disintegration will not ensue, and all your boasts end in some dozen
anarchical pseudo-republics, like those of South America and Mexico?
That is an evil which our legislators must guard against by timely
provision. We are now, thank God! a thoroughly homogeneous people, with
no antagonistic systems of labour necessitating conflicting interests.
As States, we are completely identified in commerce and agriculture,
and no differences need arise. Purified from all connection with the
North, and with no vestige of the mischievous element of New England
Puritanism, we can be a prosperous and noble people.
Electra had finished the bandages, and was walking slowly before the
windows, and, without looking up from the lint, which she was tying
into small packages, Irene said
Electra, my friend, are you sure that you realize your personal
responsibility? Your profession will give, you vast influence in
forming public taste and I hope much from its judicious use. Be careful
that you select only the highest, purest types to offer to your
countrymen and women, when Peace enables us to turn our attention to
the great work of building up a noble school of Southern Art. We want
no feeble, sickly sentimentality, nor yet the sombre austerity which
seems to pervade your mind, judging from the works you have shown me.
A slight quiver crossed the mobile features of the artist as she bit
her full lip, and asked
What would you pronounce the distinguishing characteristic of my
works? I saw, yesterday, that you were not fully satisfied.
A morbid melancholy, which you seem to have fostered tenderly
instead of crushing vigorously. A disposition to dwell upon the stern
and gloomy aspects of the physical world, and to intensify and
reproduce abnormal and unhappy phases of character. Your breezy,
sunshiny, joyous moods you have kept under lock and key while in your
I admit the truth of your criticism, and I have struggled against
the spirit which hovers with clouding wings over all that I do; but the
shadow has not liftedGod knows whether it ever will. You have
finished your work; come to my room for a few minutes.
They went upstairs together; and as Electra unlocked and bent over a
large square trunk, her companion noticed a peculiar curl about the
lines of the mouth, and a heavy scowl on the broad brow.
I want to show you the only bright, shining face I ever painted.
She unwrapped an oval portrait, placed it on the mantelpiece, and,
stepping back, fixed her gaze on Irene. She saw a tremor cross the
quiet mouth, and for some seconds the sad eyes dwelt upon the picture
as if fascinated.
It must have been a magnificent portrait of your cousin, years ago;
but he has changed materially since it was painted. He looks much
older, sterner, now.
Irene, I value this portrait above everything else save the
original; and, as I may be called to pass through various perils, I
want you to take care of it for me until I come back to W. It is a
precious trust, which I would be willing to leave in no hands but
You forget that, before long, I, too, shall go to Virginia.
Then pack it away carefully among your old family pictures, where
it will be secure. I left my large and best paintings in Italy, with
Aunt Ruth, who promised to preserve and send them to me as soon as the
blockade should be raised.
What are Mr. Young's views concerning this war?
He utterly abhors the party who inaugurated it, and the principles
upon which it is waged. Says he will not return to America at least for
the present; and as soon as he can convert his property into money,
intends to move to the South. He opposed and regretted Secession until
he saw the spirit of the Lincoln dynasty, and from that time he
acknowledged that all hope of Union or reconstruction was lost. Have
you heard anything from Harvey since the troubles began?
It is more than a year since I received a line from him. He was
then still in the West, but made no allusion to the condition of the
Irene, I hope to see Russell soon. You were once dear friends; have
you any message for himany word of kind remembrance?
One of Irene's hands glided to her side, but she answered
He knows that he always has my best wishes; but will expect no
On the following day Electra started to Richmond, taking with her a
large supply of hospital stores, which the ladies of Whad
Eric had proposed to his niece the expediency of selling the Hill,
and becoming an inmate of his snug, tasteful, bachelor home; but she
firmly refused to consent to this plan: said that she would spend her
life in the house of her birth; and it was finally arranged that her
uncle should reserve such of the furniture as he valued particularly,
and offer the residue for sale, with the pretty cottage, to which he
was warmly attached. During the remainder of autumn Irene was
constantly engaged in superintending work for the soldiers, in
providing for several poor families in whom she was much interested,
and in frequent visits to the plantation, where she found more than
enough to occupy her mind; and Eric often wondered at the admirable
system and punctuality she displayedat the grave composure with which
she discharged her daily duties, and the invariable reticence she
observed with regard to her past life.
CHAPTER XXXII. WOMANLY USEFULNESS
Did you ring, Mas' Eric?
Yes. Has Irene come home?
Not yet, sir.
Bring some more wood.
Owing to the scarcity of coal, the grate had been removed, and
massive brass andirons substituted. John piled them with oak wood,
swept the hearth, and retired. After a time, the door opened and the
mistress came in.
Irene! you must be nearly frozen. What kept you out so late?
I had more than usual to attend to at the Asylum this afternoon.
What was the matter?
We have a new matron, and I was particularly anxious that she
should start right in one or two respects. I waited, too, in order to
see the children at supper, and satisfy myself about the cooking.
How many orphans are there in the Asylum?
Thirty-four. I admitted two this eveningchildren of one of our
soldiers, who died from a wound received at Leesburg.
Poor little things! I am afraid you will find numbers of similar
instances before this war is at an end.
We will try to find room for all such cases. The building will
accommodate one hundred.
You must be very cold; I will make John bring you a glass of wine.
No, sir; I do not need it. My shawl was thick and warm.
She turned her head slightly, and raised her eyes.
Did you receive a letter which I sent to your room?
Yes, sir. It was from Dr. Arnold.
He has established himself in Richmond.
Yes, sir; his recent attack of rheumatism unfitted him for service
in the field.
I had a letter from Colonel Aubrey to-day. He wants to buy my
She made no comment, and her eyes drooped again to the perusal of
the strange shapes which danced and flickered on the burnished
What use do you suppose he had for it?
I cannot imagine, unless he intends it as a home for Electra.
What a witch you are at guessing; that is exactly it. He says, in
this letter, that he may not survive the war, and wishes to have the
assurance that his cousin is comfortably provided for, before he goes
into another battle. His offer is liberal, and I shall accept it.
Well, I am glad she will own itfor I have often heard her speak
of those old poplar trees in the front yard. She has always admired the
At this juncture the tea-bell summoned them to the dining-room, and
she allowed her uncle no opportunity of renewing the conversation. When
the meal was concluded, and they had returned to the library, Irene
drew her table and basket near the lamp, and resumed her knitting. The
invalid frowned, and asked impatiently
Can't you buy as many of those coarse things as you want, without
toiling night and day?
In the first place, I do not toil; knitting is purely mechanical,
very easy, and I like it. In the second place, I cannot buy them, and
our men need them when they are standing on guard. It is cold work
holding a musket in the open air, such weather as this.
He looked annoyed, and dived deeper among his cushions.
Don't you feel as well as usual this evening, Uncle Eric?
Oh! I am well enoughbut I hate the everlasting motion of those
She rolled up the glove, put it in her basket, and rose.
Shall I read to you? Or, how would you like a game of chess?
I do not expect you to humour my whims. Above all things, my child,
I dread the thought of becoming troublesome to you.
You can never be that, Uncle Eric; and I shall always be glad if
you will tell me how I can make your time pass more pleasantly. I know
this house must seem gloomy enough at best. Let us try a game of chess;
we have not played since you came from Europe.
She brought the board, and they sat down to the most quiet and
absorbing of all games. Both played well, and when Eric was finally
vanquished, he was surprised to find, from the hands of the clock, that
the game had lasted nearly two hours. As she carefully replaced the
ivory combatants in their box, Irene said
Uncle, you know that I have long desired and intended to go to
Richmond, but various circumstances combined to keep me at home. I felt
that I had duties here which must first be discharged; now the time has
come when I can accomplish my long-cherished plan. Dr. Arnold has taken
charge of the hospital in Richmond which was established with the money
we sent from Wfor the relief of our regiments. Mrs. Campbell is
about to be installed as matron, and I have to-day decided to join
them. In his letter received this afternoon he orders me not to come,
but I know that he will give me a ward when he finds me at his elbow. I
am aware that you have always opposed this project, but I hope, sir,
that you will waive your objections, and go on with me next week.
It is a strange and unreasonable freak, which, I must say, I do not
approve of. There are plenty of nurses to be hired, who have more
experience, and are every way far more suitable for such positions.
Uncle, the men in our armies are not hired to fight our battles;
and the least the women of the land can do is to nurse them when sick
She laid her hand gently on his whitening hair, and added
Do not oppose me, Uncle Eric. I want your sanction in all that I
do. There are only two of us left; go with me as my adviserprotector.
I could not be happy if you were not with me.
His eyes filled instantly, and drawing her close to him, he
My dear Irene! there is nothing I would not do to make you happy.
Happy I fear you never will be. Ah! don't smile and contradict me; I
know the difference between happiness and resignation. Patience,
uncomplaining endurance, never yet stole the garments of joy. I will go
with you to Virginia, or anywhere else that you wish.
Thank you, Uncle Eric. I will try to make you forget the comforts
of home, and give you no reason to regret that you sacrificed your
wishes and judgment to mine. I must not keep you up any later.
The army of the Potomac had fallen back to Yorktown when Irene
reached Richmond; and the preparations which were being made for the
reception of the wounded gave melancholy premonition of impending
Dr. Arnold had been entrusted with the supervision of several
hospitals, but gave special attention to one established with the funds
contributed by the citizens of W, and thither Irene repaired on the
day of her arrival.
In reply to her inquiries, she was directed to a small room, and
found the physician seated at a table examining a bundle of papers. He
saw only a form darkening the doorway, and, without looking up, called
Well, what is it? What do you want?
A word of welcome.
He sprang to his feet instantly, holding out both hands.
Dear child! Queen! God bless you! How are you? Pale as a cloud, and
thin as a shadow. Sit down here by me. Where is Eric?
He was much fatigued, and I left him at the hotel.
You have been ill a long time, Irene, and have kept it from me.
That was not right; you should have been honest in your letters. A
pretty figure you will cut nursing sick folks! Work in my sight,
indeed! If you say work to me again, I will clap you into a lunatic
asylum and keep you there till the war is over. Turn your face to the
I am well enough in body; it is my mind only that is ill at ease;
my heart only that is sicksorely sick. Here I shall find employment,
and, I trust, partial forgetfulness. Put me to work at once; that will
be my best medicine.
And you really missed me, Queen?
Yes, inexpressibly; I felt my need of you continually. You must
know how I cling to you now.
Again he drew her little hands to his granite mouth, and seemed to
muse for a moment.
Doctor, how is Electra?
Very wellthat is, as well as such an anomalous, volcanic, torrid
character ought to be. At first she puzzled me (and that is an insult I
find it hard to forgive), but finally I found the clue. She is
indefatigable and astonishingly faithful as a nurse; does all her duty,
and more, which is saying a good dealfor I am a hard taskmaster.
Aren't you afraid that I will work you more unmercifully than a Yankee
factory-child, or a Cornwall miner? See here, Queen; what do you
suppose brought Electra to Richmond?
A desire to render some service to the sick and suffering, and also
to be comparatively near her cousin.
Precisely; only the last should be first, and the first last.
Russell is a perverse, ungrateful dog.
As he expected, she glanced up at him, but refrained from comment.
Yes, Irenehe is a soulless scamp. Here is his cousin entirely
devoted to him, loving him above everything else in this world, and yet
he has not even paid her a visit, except in passing through to Yorktown
with his command. He might be a happy man if he would but open his eyes
and see what is as plain as the nose on my facewhich, you must admit,
requires no microscope. She is a gifted woman, and would suit him
exactlyeven better than my salamander, Salome.
A startled, incredulous expression came into Irene's large eyes, and
gradually a look of keen pain settled on her features.
Aha! did that idea never occur to you before?
Never, sir; and you must be mistaken.
Why, child? The fact is patent. You women profess to be so
quick-witted, too, in such mattersI am amazed at your obtuseness. She
It is scarcely strange that she should; she has no other relatives
near her, and it is natural that she should love her cousin.
I tell you I know what I say! she will never love anybody else as
she loves Aubrey. Besides, what is it to you whether he marries her or
I feel attached to her, and want to see her happy.
As Russell's wife?
No, sir. The marriage of cousins was always revolting to me.
She did not flinch from his glittering grey eye, and her grieved
Is she here? Can I see her?
She is not in this building, but I will inform her of your arrival.
I have become much interested in her. She is a brilliant, erratic
creature, and has a soul! which cannot safely be predicated of all the
sex nowadays. Where are you going?
Back to Uncle Eric. Will you put me in the same hospital with
Electra and Mrs. Campbell?
I will put you in a strait-jacket! I promise you that.
Electra was agreeably surprised at the unusual warmth with which
Irene received her some hours later, but little suspected why the lips
lingered in their pressure of hers, or understood the wistful
tenderness of the eyes which dwelt so fondly on her face. The icy wall
of reserve had suddenly melted, as if in the breath of an August noon,
and dripped silently down among things long past. Russell's name was
casually mentioned more than once, and Electra fell asleep that night
wholly unconscious that the torn and crumpled pages of her heart had
been thoroughly perused by the woman from whom she was most anxious to
conceal the truth.
Having engaged a suite of rooms near the hospital, a few days
sufficed for preliminary arrangements, and Irene was installed in a
ward of the building to which she had requested Dr. Arnold to appoint
Thus, by different, by devious thorny paths, two sorrowing women
emerged upon the broad highway of Duty, and, clasping hands, pressed
forward to the divinely appointed goalWomanly Usefulness.
Only those who have faithfully ministered in a hospital can fully
appreciate the onerous nature of the burdens thus assumedcan realize
the crushing anxiety, the sleepless apprehension, the ceaseless tension
of brain and nerve, the gnawing, intolerable sickness and aching of
heart over sufferings which no human skill can assuage; and the silent
blistering tears which are shed over corpses of men whose families
kneel in far distant homes, praying God's mercy on dear ones lying at
that moment stark and cold on hospital cots with strangers' hands about
the loved limbs.
Day by day, week after week, those tireless women-watchers walked
the painful round from patient to patient, administering food and
medicine to diseased bodies, and words of hope and encouragement to
souls, who shrank not from the glare and roar and carnage of battle,
but shivered and cowered before the daring images which deathless
memory called from the peaceful, happy Past. It was not wonderful that
the home-sick sufferers regarded them with emotions which trenched on
adoration, or that often, when the pale thin faces lighted with a smile
of joy at their approach, Irene and Electra felt that they had a
CHAPTER XXXIII. IN THE HOSPITAL
It was a long, low, rather narrow room, lined with rows of cots,
which stretched on either side to the door, now left open to admit free
circulation of air. A muffled clock ticked on the mantelpiece. Two
soldiers, who had been permitted to visit their sick comrades,
slumbered heavily, one with head drooped on his chest, the other with
chair tilted against the window-facing, and dark-bearded face thrown
back. The quivering flame of the candle gleamed fitfully along the line
of featuressome youthful, almost childish; others bearing the impress
of accumulated years; some crimsoned with fever, others wan and
glistening with the dew of exhaustion; here a forehead bent and
lowering, as in fancy the sleeper lived over the clash and shock of
battle; and there a tremulous smile, lighting the stern manly mouth, as
the dreamer heard again the welcome bay of watchdog on the doorstep at
home, and saw once more the loved forms of wife and children springing
joyfully from the cheery fireside to meet his outstretched arms. A few
tossed restlessly, and frequent incoherent mutterings wandered,
waif-like up and down the room, sometimes rousing Andrew, who once or
twice lifted his head to listen, and then sank back to slumber.
Before a small pine table, where stood numerous vials, Irene drew
her chair, and, leaning forward, opened her pocket-Bible, and rested
her head on her hand.
A wounded boy started up, twirling one arm, as if in the act of
cheering, and then fell back, groaning with pain which the violent
effort cost him.
Irene stooped over him, and softly unbuttoning his shirt-collar,
removed the hot, bloody cloths from his lacerated shoulder, and
replaced them with fresh folds of linen, cold and dripping. She poured
out a glass of water, and lifted his head, but he frowned, and
I won't have it in a tumbler. Mother, make Harry bring me a
gourdful fresh from the spring. I say, send Buddie for some.
She humoured the whim, walked out of the room, and paused in the
passage. As she did so, a dark form glided unperceived into a dim
corner, and when she re-entered the room with the gourd of water the
figure passed through the hall-door out into the night.
Here is your gourd, Willie, fresh and cold.
He swallowed the draught eagerly, and his handsome face wore a
touching expression as he smiled and whispered
Hush! Jessie is singing under the old magnolia down by the spring.
Listen! 'Fairy Belle!' We used to sing that in camp; but nobody sings
like Jessie. So sweet! so sweet!
He set his teeth hard and shuddered violently, and taking his
fingers in hers she found them clenched.
Here I am, Miss Irene.
Go upstairs and ask the doctor to come here.
The surgeon came promptly.
I am afraid he is going into convulsions. What shall I do for him?
Yes; just what I have been trying to guard against. I fear nothing
will do any good; but you might try that mixture which acted like a
charm on Leavans.
Here is the bottle. How much shall I give?
A spoonful every half-hour while the convulsions last, if he can
swallow it; it can't possibly do any harm, and may ease his suffering.
Poor fellow! may the vengeance of a righteous God seek out his
murderer! I would stay here with you, Miss Huntingdon, if I could
render any service. As it is, I am more needed upstairs.
The paroxysms were short, but so severe that occasionally she
required Andrew's assistance to hold the sufferer on his cot, and as
they grew less frequent, she saw that his strength failed rapidly.
Finally he fell into a troubled sleep, with one hand clutching her arm.
Nearly an hour passed thus, and the nurse knelt softly beside her
charge, and prayed long and fervently that the soul of the young martyr
might find its home with God, and that his far-off mourning mother
might be strengthened to bear this heavy burden of woe.
As she knelt with her face upturned, a soft, warm palm was laid upon
her forehead, and a low, sweet, manly voice pronounced in benediction
May the Lord bless you, Irene, and abundantly answer all your
She rose quickly, and put out her disengaged hand.
Oh, Harvey, dear friend! Thank God, I have found you once more.
He lifted the candle and held it near her face, scanning the
sculptured features, then stooped and kissed her white cheek.
I felt that I could not be mistaken. I heard our soldiers blessing
a pale woman in black, with large eyes bluer than summer skies, and
hair that shone like rays of a setting sun; and I knew the silent,
gentle, tireless watcher, before they told me her name. For many years
I have prayed that you might become an instrument of good to your
fellow-creatures, and to-night I rejoice to find you, at last, an
Where have you been this long time, Harvey? And how is it that you
wear a Confederate uniform?
I am chaplain in a Texas regiment, and have been with the army from
the beginning of these days of blood. At first it was a painful step
for me; my affections, my associations, the hallowed reminiscences of
my boyhood, all linked my heart with New York. My relatives and friends
were there, and I knew not how many of them I might meet among the
war-wolves that hung in hungry herds along the borders of the South.
Moreover, I loved and revered the Unionhad been taught to regard it
as the synonym of national prosperity. Secession I opposed and
regretted at the time as unwise; but to the dogma of consolidated
government I could yield no obedience; and when every sacred
constitutional barrier had been swept away by Lincolnwhen the
habeas corpus was abolished, and freedom of speech and press
deniedwhen the Washington conclave essayed to coerce freemen, to
'crush Secession' through the agency of the sword and cannonthen I
swore allegiance to the 'Seven States' where all of republican liberty
remained. Henceforth my home is with the South; my hopes and destiny
hers; her sorrows and struggles mine.
His white, scholarly hands were sunburnt now; his bronzed
complexion, and long, untrimmed hair and beard gave a grim, grizzled
aspect to the noble face; and the worn and faded uniform showed an
acquaintance with the positive hardships and exposure of an active
I expected nothing less from you, my brother. You were dear to me
before; but, ah, Harvey! how much dearer now in these dark days of
trial, which you have voluntarily chosen to share, with a young, brave,
His eyes dwelt upon her face as she looked gladly at him, and over
her waving hair his hands passed tenderly, as they had done long years
before, when she was an invalid in his father's house.
You have found your work, and learned contentment in usefulness.
Irene, the peaceful look of your childhood has come back to your face.
With my face pressed against the window-pane, I have been watching you
for more than an hourever since Colonel Aubrey came outand I know
all the sadness of the circumstances that surround you; how painful it
is for you to see those men die.
Colonel Aubrey? He has not been here.
Yes; I passed him on the steps; we rode up together from camp. He
came on special business, and returns at daylight; but I shall remain
several days, and hope to be with you as much as the nature of your
engagements will permit. Aubrey is from W; you know him, of
Yes, I know him.
He saw a shade of regret drift over her countenance, and added
I have many things to say to you, and much to learn concerning your
past; but this is not the time or place for such interchange of thought
and feeling. To-morrow we will talk; to-night I could not repress my
impatience to see you, though but for a few moments.
She drew a chair near young Walton, the wounded boy, and seating
When independence is obtained, and white-robed Peace spreads her
stainless hands in blessing over us, let history proclaim, and let our
people reverently remember, that to the uncomplaining fortitude and
sublime devotion of the private soldiers of the Confederacy, not less
than to the genius of our generals and the heroism of our subordinate
officers, we are indebted for Freedom.
She laid her head close to the boy's mouth to listen to his low
breathing, and the minister saw her tears fall on his pillow and gleam
on his auburn locks. The delirium seemed to have given place to the
dreamless sleep of exhaustion, and folding one of her hands around his
fingers, with the other she softly stroked the silky hair from his
fair, smooth forehead.
Irene, will my presence here aid or comfort you? If so I will
remain till morning.
No; you can do no good. It is midnight now, and you must be wearied
with your long ride. You cannot help me here, but to-morrow I shall
want you to go with me to the cemetery. I wish his family to have the
sad consolation of knowing that a minister knelt at his grave, when we
laid the young patriot in his last resting-place. Good-bye, my brother,
till then. Electra is in the next room; will you go in and speak to
No; I will see her early in the morning.
He left her to keep alone her solemn vigil; and through the
remaining hours of that starry June night she stirred not from the
narrow cotkept her fingers on the sufferer's fleeting pulse, her eyes
on his whitening face. About three o'clock he moaned, struggled
slightly, and looked intently at her. She gave him some brandy, and
found that he swallowed with great difficulty.
Slowly a half-hour rolled away; Irene could barely feel the faint
pulsation at Willie Walton's wrist, and as she put her ear to his lips,
a long, last shuddering sigh escaped himthe battle of life was ended.
Willie's Relief had come. The young sentinel passed to his Eternal
The picket's off duty for ever.
Tears dropped on the still face as the nurse cut several locks of
curling hair that clustered round the boyish temples, and took from the
motionless heart the loved picture which had been so often and so
tenderly kissed in the fitful light of camp-fires. Irene covered the
noble head, the fair, handsome features, with her handkerchief, and,
waking Andrew, pointed to the bodyleft her own ward, and entered one
beyond the passage.
It was smaller, but similar in arrangement to the room where she had
passed the night. A candle was sputtering in its socket, and the cold,
misty, white dawn stared in at the eastern window upon rows of cots and
unquiet, muttering sleepers. There, in the centre of the room, with her
head bowed on the table, sat, or rather leaned, Electra, slumbering
soundly, with her scarlet shawl gathered about her shouldersher watch
grasped in one hand, and the other holding a volume open at
Irene lifted the black curls that partially veiled the flushed neck,
Electra, wake up! I am going home.
Is it light yet, out of doors? Ah, yesI see! I have been asleep
exactly fifteen minutesgave the last dose of medicine at four
o'clock. How is the boy? I am almost afraid to ask.
Dead. Willie lived till daylight.
Oh! how sad! how discouraging! I went to your door twice and looked
in, but once you were praying, and the last time you had your face down
on Willie's pillow, and as I could do nothing, I came back. Dr.
Whitmore told me he would die, and it only made me suffer to look at
what I could not relieve. I am thankful my cases are all doing well;
that new prescription has acted magically on Mr. Hadley yonder, who has
pneumonia. Just feel his skinsoft and pleasant as a child's.
I have some directions to leave with Martha, about giving quinine
before the doctor comes down, and then I shall go home. Are you ready?
Yes. I have a singular feeling about my temples, and an oppression
when I talkshouldn't wonder if I have caught cold.
Electra, did you see Harvey last night?
No. Where did he come from?
He is chaplain in a regiment near Richmond, and said he would see
us both this morning. Was Russell here last night?
Russell? No. Why do you ask? Is he in the city? Have you seen him?
She rose quickly, laid her hand on Irene's, and looked searchingly
I have not seen him, but your cousin Harvey mentioned that Colonel
Aubrey came up with him, on some very important errand, and had but a
few hours to remain. I will get my shawl and join you in five minutes.
Electra, you must stay at home and rest for a day or two; you are
feverish, and worn out with constant watching.
CHAPTER XXXIV. MORTALLY WOUNDED
It is a mercy that she is delirious; otherwise her unavoidable
excitement and anxiety would probably prove fatal. She is very ill, of
course; but, with careful nursing, I think you have little to
apprehend. Above all things, Irene, suffer nobody to bolt into that
room with the newskeep her as quiet as possible. I have perfect
confidence in Whitmore's skill; he will do all that I could, though I
would not leave her if I did not feel it my duty to hurry to the
battlefield. Queen, you look weary; but it is not strange, after all
that you have passed through.
Doctor, when will you start?
In twenty minutes.
Has any intelligence been received this morning?
Nothing but confirmation of last night's news. Hill holds
Mechanicsville, and the enemy have fallen back in the direction of
Powhite Swamp. A general advance will be made all along our lines
to-day, and I must be off. What is the matter? Surely you are not
FrightenedDr. Arnold? No. I have no fears about the safety of
Richmond; defeat is not written in Lee's lexicon; but I shudder in view
of the precious human hecatombs to be immolated on yonder hills before
McClellan is driven back. No doubt of victory disquiets me, but the
thought of its awful price.
She paused, and her whole face quivered as she laid her clasped
hands on his arm.
Wellwhat is it? Dear child, what moves you so?
Doctor, promise me that if Colonel Aubrey is mortally wounded you
will send instantly for me. I must see him once more.
Her head went down on her hands, and she trembled as white asters do
in an early autumn gale. Compassionately the old man drew one arm
After all, then, you do care for himdespite your life-long
reserve and apparent indifference? I have suspected as much, several
times, but that imperturbable sphinx-face of yours always baffled me.
My child, you need not droop your head; he is worthy of your love; he
is the only man I know whom I would gladly see you marry. Irene, look
uptell medid Leonard know this? Conscious of your affection for
Aubrey, did he doom you to your lonely lot?
No. My father died in ignorance of what would have pained and
mortified him beyond measure. Knowing him as well as you do, can you
suppose that I would ever have allowed him to suspect the truth? I
realized my duty and fulfilled it; that is the only consolation I have
left. It never caused him one throb of regret, or furnished food for
bitter reflection; and the debt of respect I owe to his memory shall be
as faithfully discharged. If Colonel Aubrey lives to enjoy the
independence for which he is fightingif he should be spared to become
a useful, valued member of societyone of the pure and able statesmen
whom his country will require when these dark days of strife are ended,
I can be content, though separated from him, and watching his brilliant
career afar off. But if he must give his life for that which he holds
dearer still, I ask the privilege of seeing him again, of being with
him in his last moments. This consolation the brave spirit of my father
would not withhold from me, were communion allowed between living and
dead; this none can have the right to deny me.
I promise that you shall know all as early as possible. If you
receive no tidings, believe that he is uninjured. As yet, his regiment
has not moved forward, but I know not how soon it may. Heaven preserve
you! my precious child.
He pressed a kiss on the drooped head, and left her to resume her
watch in the darkened room where Electra had been ill with
typhoid-fever for nearly three weeks. It was thought that she
contracted the disease in the crowded hospital; and when delirium
ensued, Irene temporarily relinquished her ward to other nurses, and
remained at the boarding-house, in attendance on her friend. It was a
season of unexampled anxiety, yet all was singularly quiet in the
beleaguered city. Throughout the Confederacy hushed expectancy reigned.
Gallant Vicksburg's batteries barred the Mississippi; Beauregard and
Price, lion-hearted idols of the West, held the Federal army in Corinth
at bay; Stonewall Jacksonsynonym of victoryafter sweeping like a
whirlwind through the Valley, and scattering the columns that
stealthily crept southward, had arrived at Richmond at the appointed
time. A greater than Serrurier, at a grander than Castiglone, he gave
the signal to begin; and as a sheet of flame flashed along the sombre
forests of Chickahominy, the nation held its breath, and watched the
brilliant Seven Days' conflict, which converted twenty-six miles of
swamp and forest into a vast necropolis.
During Friday the wounded came slowly in, and at four in the
afternoon the roar of artillery told that the Battle of Gaines Mill was
raging: that the enemy were fighting desperately, behind entrenchments
which none but Confederate soldiers could successfully have assaulted.
Until eight at night the houses trembled at every report of cannon, and
then McClellan's grand army, crippled and bleeding, dragged itself
away, under cover of darkness, to the south bank of the Chickahominy.
Saturday saw a temporary lull in the iron storm; but the wounded
continued to arrive, and the devoted women of the city rose from their
knees to minister to the needs of these numerous sufferers. Sunday
found our troops feeling about the swamps for the retreating foe; and
once more, late in the afternoon, distant thunder resounded from the
severely contested field of Savage's Station, whence the enemy again
On Sabbath morning Irene learned that Russell's command had joined
in the pursuit; and during that day and night, as the conflict drifted
farther southward, and details became necessarily more meagre, her
anxiety increased. Continually her lips moved in prayer, as she glided
from Electra's silent room to aid in dressing the wounds of those who
had been disabled for further participation in the strife; and, as
Monday passed without the receipt of tidings from Dr. Arnold, she
indulged in the hope that Russell would escape uninjured. During
Tuesday morning Electra seemed to have recovered her consciousness, but
in the afternoon she relapsed into incoherent muttering of Cuyp,
Correggio, Titian's Bella, and my best great picture left in
Irene was sitting at her bedside, rolling bandages, when the sudden,
far-distant, dull boom of cannon, followed by the quick rattling of the
window-panes, gave intimation that the long contest was fiercely
renewed. A courier had arrived from Malvern Mill with intelligence that
here the enemy's forces were very strongly posted, were making
desperate resistance; and though no doubt of the result was
entertained, human nature groaned over the carnage.
At ten o'clock, having given a potion, and renewed the folds of wet
linen on Electra's head, Irene stole back to the window, and, turning
the shutters, looked down the street. Here and there an anxious group
huddled on the corners, with ears strained to catch every sound, and,
while she watched, a horseman clattered at a hard gallop over the
paving-stones, reined up at the door of the boarding-house, swung
himself to the sidewalk, and an instant after the sharp clang of the
bell rang startlingly through the still mansion.
Oh, my God! it has come at last!
Irene groaned, and leaned heavily against the window-facing, and
quick steps came up the stairway. Martha entered, and held out a slip
Miss Irene, Cyrus has just brought this.
Her mistress' icy fingers clutched it, and she read
Come at once. Aubrey is badly wounded. Cyrus will show the way.
You are going to faint, Miss Irene! Drink some of this cordial.
No. Tell Andrew to go after the carriage as quick as possible, and
have it brought here immediately; and ask Uncle Eric to come to my room
Irene went to her own apartment, which adjoined Electra's, put on
her bonnet and veil, and, though the night was warm, wrapped a shawl
Mr. Mitchell entered soon after, and started at sight of his niece's
Irene, what does this mean? Where are you going at this hour?
To the battlefield!to Malvern Hill. Colonel Aubrey is mortally
wounded, and I must see him. Will you go with me? Oh, Uncle Eric! if
you have any mercy in your soul ask me no questions now! only go with
Of course, my dear child, I will go with you, if it is possible to
procure a carriage of any kind. I will see
I have had one engaged for three days. Martha, stay with Electra
till I come back; leave her on no account. If you notice any change,
send for Dr. Whitmore. Here is my watch; count her pulse carefully, and
as long as it is over one hundred, give her, every two hours, a
spoonful of the medicine in that square vial on the table. I trust to
you, Martha, to take care of her. If she should be rational, and ask
for me, tell her nothing about the battles, and say I have gone to see
a sick man, and will be back soon. Come, Uncle Eric.
They entered the close carriage which she had ordered reserved for
her, and she called Cyrus to the door.
Did you see Colonel Aubrey after he was wounded?
I only had a glimpse of him, as they brought him in. Miss Irene, he
was shot in the breast.
You know the way; ride outside; and, Cyrus, drive as fast as
By the glimmer of the carriage lamps she could see the wagons going
to and fro, some filled with empty coffins, some with mangled
sufferers. Now and then weary, spent soldiers sat on the roadside, or
struggled on toward the city which they had saved, with their arms in
slings, or hands bound up, or bloody bandages across their stern faces.
After another hour, when the increasing number of men showed proximity
to the scene of danger, Cyrus turned away from the beaten track, and
soon the flash of lights and the hum of voices told that they were near
the place of destination. The carriage stopped, and Cyrus came to the
We are at the lines, and I can't drive any nearer. If you will
wait, I will go and find master.
The delay seemed intolerably long, and for the first time an audible
moan escaped Irene just as Cyrus came back accompanied by a muffled
Irene, my child.
She leaned out till her face nearly touched Dr. Arnold's.
Only tell me that he is alive, and I can bear all else.
He is alive, and sleeping just now. Can you control yourself if I
take you to him?
Yes; you need not fear that I will disturb him. Let me go to him.
He gave her his arm, and led her through the drizzling rain for some
distanceavoiding, as much as possible, the groups of wounded, where
surgeons were at their sad work. Finally, before a small tent, he
paused, and whispered
Nerve yourself, dear child.
Is there no hope?
She swept aside her long mourning veil, and gazed imploringly into
Tears filled his eyes, and hastily averting his head, he raised the
curtain of the tent and drew her inside.
A candle burned dimly in one corner, and there, on a pallet of
straw, over which a blanket had been thrown, lay the powerful form of
the dauntless leader, whose deeds of desperate daring had so
electrified his worshipping command but a few hours before. The noble
head was pillowed on a knapsack; one hand pressed his heart, while the
other drooped nerveless at his side, and the breast of his coat was
saturated with blood, which at intervals oozed through the bandages and
dripped upon the straw. The tent was silent as a cemetery, and not a
sound passed Irene's white, fixed lips as she bent down and looked upon
the loved face, strangely beautiful in its pallid repose. The shadowy
wings of the bitter bygone hovered no longer over the features,
darkening their chiselled perfection; a tranquil half-smile parted the
lips, and unbent the lines between the finely-arched black brows.
Sinking softly on the floor of the tent, Irene rested her chin on
her folded hands, and calmly watched the deep sleep. So passed
three-quarters of an hour; then, as Dr. Arnold cautiously put his
fingers on the pulse, the sufferer opened his eyes.
Irene was partially in the shade, but as she leaned forward, a
sudden, bewildered smile lighted his countenance; he started up, and
extended one arm.
Irene! My darling! Do I dream, or are you indeed with me?
I have come to nurse you, Russell; but if you do not calm yourself,
the doctor will send me away.
She took the outstretched hand in both of hers, and pressed her lips
repeatedly upon it.
Come close to me. I am helpless now, and cannot go to you.
She seated herself on the edge of the straw, laid her shawl in her
lap, and lifting his head, rested it on the soft woollen folds. Dr.
Arnold removed the warm cloth soaked with blood, placed a cold,
dripping towel on the gaping wound, and after tightening the bandages
to check the hæmorrhage, passed out of the tent, leaving the two alone.
Oh, Irene! this is a joy I never hoped for. I went at night to the
hospital in Richmond just to get a glimpse of youto feast my eyes
with another sight of your dear, dear face! I watched you ministering
like an angel to sick and wounded soldiers, and I envied them the touch
of your handthe sound of your voice. I little expected to die in your
arms. This reconciles me to my fate; this compensates for all.
Her fingers tenderly smoothed the black locks that clung to his
temples, and bending down she kissed his forehead. His uninjured arm
stole up around her neck, drew her face to his, and his lips pressed
hers again and again.
Dear Russell, you must be quiet, or you will exhaust yourself. Try
to sleepit will refresh, strengthen you.
Nothing will strengthen me. I have but a short time to live; shall
I sleep away the opportunity of my last earthly communion with you, my
life-long idol! Oh, Irene! my beautiful treasure! This proof of your
love sweetens death itself. There have been hours (ever since we parted
a year ago) when I reproached you for the sorrow and pain you sternly
meted out to me, and to yourself. When I said bitterly, if she
loved as she should, she would level all barriersshe would lay her
hands in mineglorify my name by taking it as my wife, and thus defy
and cancel the past. I was selfish in my love; I wanted you in my home;
I longed for the soft touch of your fingers, for your proud, dazzling
smile of welcome when the day's work was ended; for the privilege of
drawing you to my heart, and listening to your whispered words of
encouragement and fond congratulation in my successes. I knew that this
could never be; that your veneration for your father's memory would
separate us in future, as in the past; that my pleadings would not
shake your unfortunate and erroneous resolution; and it was hard to
give up the dearest hope that ever brightened a lonely man's life. Now
I know, I feel that your love is strong, deathless as my own, though
long locked deep in your heart. I know it by the anguish in your face,
by the quiver of your mouth, by your presence in this place of horrors.
God comfort and bless you, my own darling!my brave, patient, faithful
He smiled triumphantly, and drew her hand caressingly across his
Russell, it is useless now to dwell upon our sorrowful past; what
suffering our separation has cost me, none but my God can ever know. To
His hands I commit my destiny, and 'He doeth all things well.' In a
little while you will leave me, and thenoh! then, I shall be utterly
desolate indeed! But I can bear lonelinessI can walk my dreary
earthly path uncomplainingly, I can give you up for the sake of my
country, if I have the blessed assurance that you have only hastened
home before me, waiting for me therethat, saved through Christ, we
shall soon meet in Heaven, and spend Eternity together. Oh, Russell!
can you give me this consolation, without which my future will be dark
indeed? Have you kept your promise, to live so that you could at last
meet the eyes of your God in peace?
I have. I have struggled against the faults of my character; I have
earnestly endeavoured to crush the vindictive feelings of my heart; and
I have conscientiously tried to do my duty to my fellow-creatures, to
my command, and my country. I have read the Bible you gave me; and,
dearest, in praying for you, I have learned to pray for myself. Through
Jesus, I have a sure hope of happiness beyond the grave. There, though
separated in life, you and I shall be united by death. Oh, Irene! but
for your earnest piety this precious anticipation might never have been
mine. But for you I would have forgotten my mother's precepts and my
mother's prayers. Through your influence I shall soon join her, where
the fierce waves of earthly trial can lash my proud soul no more.
Thank God! Oh, Russell! this takes away the intolerable bitterness
of parting; this will support me in coming years. I can brave all
things in future.
She saw that a paroxysm of pain had seized him. His brow wrinkled,
and he bit his lips hard, to suppress a groan. Just at this moment Dr.
Arnold re-entered, and immediately after gave him another potion of
Aubrey, you must be quiet, if you would not shorten your life.
He silently endured his sufferings for some moments, and raising his
eyes again to Irene's said, in a tone of exhaustion
It is selfish for me to make you witness my torture; but I could
not bear to have you leave me. There is something I want to say while I
have strength left. How is Electra?
Partially delirious still, but the doctor thinks she will recover.
What shall I tell her for you?
That I loved and remembered her in my dying hour. Kiss her for me,
and tell her I fell where the dead lay thickest, in a desperate charge
on the enemy's batteriesthat none can claim a nobler, prouder death
than minethat the name of Aubrey is once more glorifiedbaptized
with my blood upon the battlefield. Irene, she is alone in the world;
watch over her and love her, for my sake. Doctor, give me some water.
As the hæmorrhage increased despite their efforts to stanch it, he
became rapidly weaker, and soon after, with one hand locked in Irene's,
he fell asleep.
She sat motionless, supporting his head, uttering no sound, keeping
her eyes fixed on his upturned countenance. Dr. Arnold went noiselessly
in and out, on various errands of mercy; occasionally anxious,
weather-beaten soldiers softly lifted the curtain of the tent, gazed
sadly, fondly, on the prostrate figure of the beloved commander, and
turned away silently, with tears trickling down their bronzed faces.
Slowly the night waned, and the shrill tones of reveille told
that another day had risen before the murky sky brightened. Hundreds,
who had sprung up at that call twenty-four hours ago, now lay
stiffening in their gore, sleeping their last sleep, where neither the
sound of fife and drum, nor the battle-cry of comrades, would ever
rouse them from their final rest before Malvern Hillover which winds
wailed a requiem, and trailing, dripping clouds settled like a pall.
The bustle and stir of camp increased as preparations were made to
follow the foe, who had again taken up the line of retreat; but within
the tent unbroken silence reigned. It was apparent that Russell was
sinking fast, and at eight o'clock he awoke, looked uneasily around
him, and said feebly
What is going on in front?
McClellan has evacuated Malvern Hill, and is in full retreat toward
his gunboats, answered the doctor.
Then there will be no more fighting. My shattered regiment will
rest for a season. Poor fellows! they did their duty nobly yesterday.
He lifted his eyes toward heaven, and for some moments his lips
moved inaudibly in prayer. Gradually a tranquil expression settled on
his features, and as his eyes closed again he murmured faintly
Irenedarlingraise me a little.
They lifted him, and rested his head against her shoulder.
I am here, Russell; my arms are around you.
She laid her cheek on his, and listened to catch the words, but none
came. The lips parted once, and a soft, fluttering breath swept across
them. Dr. Arnold put his hand over the heartno pulsation greeted him;
and, turning away, the old man covered his face with his handkerchief.
Russell, speak to me once more.
There was no sound, no motion. She knew that the soldier's spirit
had soared to the shores of Everlasting Peace, and that not until she
joined him there would the loved tones again make music in her heart.
She tightened her arms around the still form, and nestled her cheek
closer to his, now growing cold. No burst of grief escaped her, to tell
of agony and despair.
* * * * *
Electra's speedy convalescence repaid the care bestowed upon her,
and one afternoon, ten days after quiet had again settled around the
Confederate capital, she insisted on being allowed to sit up later than
usual, protesting that she would no longer be regarded as an invalid.
Irene, stand in the light where I can see you fully. How worn and
weary you look! I suspect I am regaining my health at the expense of
No; I am as well in body as I could desire. But no doubt my anxiety
has left its traces on my countenance.
She leaned over Electra's chair, and stroked back the artist's
I wish you would let me see the papers. My eyes are strong enough
now, and I want to know exactly what has taken place everywhere during
my sickness. It seems to me impossible that General Lee's army can face
McClellan's much longer without bringing on a battle, and I am so
anxious about Russell. If he should be hurt, of course, I must go to
him. It is very strange that he has not written. Are you sure no
letters came for me?
There are no letters, I am sure; but I have a message for you. I
have seen him once since you were taken sick.
Ah! what is it? He heard that I was ill, and came to see me, I
suppose. When was he here?
Irene bent down and kissed her companion tremulously, saying
He desired me to kiss you for him. Electra, I have not told you
before because I feared the effect upon you in your weak state; but
there have been desperate battles around Richmond during your illness,
and the Federals have been defeateddriven back to James river.
Was Russell wounded? YesI understand it all now! Where is he? Oh!
tell me that I may go to him.
She sprang up, but a deathlike pallor overspread her face and she
tottered to the open window.
Irene followed the thin figure, and, putting her arms about her,
made her lean against her.
He was wounded on the last day, and I went to see him; you were
Let me go at once! I will not disturb him; I will control myself!
Only let me see him to-day!
Electra, you cannot see him. He has gone to his God; but in his
dying hour he spoke of you fondly, sent love, and
The form reeled, drooped, shivered, and fell back insensible in
So heavy was the swoon, that it seemed as if her spirit had fled to
join her cousin's in endless union; but at length consciousness
returned, and with it came the woeful realization of her loss. A long,
low wail rose and fell upon the air, like the cry from lips of feeble,
suffering, helpless children, and her head sank upon the shoulder of
the sad-faced nurse, whose grief could find no expression in sobs, or
moans, or tears.
Dead! dead! and I shall see his dear face no more! Oh! why did you
not let me die, too? What is my wretched life worth now? One grave
might have held us both! My noble, peerless Russell! the light of my
solitary life! O God! be merciful! take me with my idol! Take me now!
Very tenderly and caressingly Irene endeavoured to soothe
herdetailed the circumstances of her cousin's death, and pointed her
despairing soul to a final reunion.
But no rift appeared in the artist's black sky of sorrow; she had
not yet learned that, in drawing near the hand that holds the rod, the
blow is lightened, and she bitterly demanded of her Maker to be
released from the burden of life.
CHAPTER XXXV. THE SANCTIFIED
DEVOTION AND FULL WORK
The sunlight of a warm spring day flashed through the open window,
and made golden arabesque tracery on the walls, and portraits of the
parlour at Huntingdon Hill. The costly crimson damask curtains had long
since been cut into shirts for the soldiers, and transported to the
army of Tennessee, and air and sunshine entered unimpeded. Electra sat
before her canvas in this room, absorbed in the design which now
engaged every thought. The witchery of her profession had woven its
spell about her, banishing for a time the spectral past.
The extension of the Conscription statute had, several months
before, deprived Irene of a valued and trusty overseer; and to satisfy
herself concerning the character of his successor, and the condition of
affairs at home, she and her uncle had returned to W, bringing
Electra with them.
Irene was with Electra in the parlour.
What progress are you making, Electra?
Very little. I shall not hurry myself; I intend that the execution
shall be equal to my idealand that ideal entirely worthy of the
theme. I want to lay my 'Modern Macaria,' as the first offering
of Southern art, upon my country's altar, as a nucleus around which
nobler and grander pictures, from the hands of my countrymen and women,
Electra, in order to effect this 'consummation devoutly to be
wished,' it is necessary that the primary branches of Art should be
popularized, and thrown open to the masses; and in order to open for
them new avenues of support, I have determined to establish in Wa
School of Design for Womensimilar in plan, though more extensive,
than that founded some years ago by Mrs. Peter of Philadelphia. The
upper portion of the building will be arranged for drawing classes,
wood-engraving, and the various branches of Design; and the lower,
corresponding in size and general appearance, I intend for a
circulating library for our county. Over that School of Design I want
you to preside; your talents, your education, your devotion to your Art
fit you peculiarly for the position. The salary shall be such as to
compensate you for your services; and, when calmer days dawn upon us,
we may be able to secure some very valuable lecturers among our
gentlemen-artists. I have a large lot on the corner of Pine Street and
Huntingdon Avenue, opposite the court-house, which will be a fine
location for it, and I wish to appropriate it to this purpose. While
you are adorning the interior of the building, the walls of which are
to contain frescoes of some of the most impressive scenes of our
Revolution, I will embellish the grounds in front, and make them my
special charge. I understand the cultivation of flowers, though the
gift of painting them is denied me. Yesterday I sold my diamonds for a
much larger amount than I supposed they would command, and this sum,
added to other funds now at my disposal, will enable me to accomplish
the scheme. Dr. Arnold and Uncle Eric cordially approve my plan, will
aid me very liberally, and as soon as tranquillity is restored I shall
succeed in erecting the building without applying to any one else for
assistance. When your picture is finished, I wish you to make me a copy
to be hung up in our School of Design, that the students may be
constantly reminded of the debt of gratitude we owe our armies.
The canvas, which she leaned forward to inspect more closely,
contained an allegorical design representing, in the foreground, two
female figures. One stern, yet noble-featured, crowned with
starstriumph and exultation flashing in the luminous eyes.
Independence, crimson-mantled, grasping the Confederate Banner of the
Cross, whose victorious folds streamed above a captured battery, where
a Federal flag trailed in the dust. At her side stood white-robed,
angelic Peace with one hand over the touch-hole of the cannon against
which she leaned, and the other extended in benediction. Vividly the
faces contrastedone all athrob with national pride, beaming with
brilliant destiny; the other wonderfully serene and holy. In the
distance, gleaming in the evening light which streamed from the West,
tents dotted a hill-side; and, intermediate between Peace and the
glittering tents, stretched a torn, stained battlefield, over which the
roar and rush of conflict had just swept, leaving mangled heaps of dead
in attestation of its fury.
How many months do you suppose it will require to complete it?
asked Irene, whose interest in the picture was scarcely inferior to
that of its creator.
If I work steadily upon it, I can soon finish it; but if I go with
you to a Tennessee hospital, I must, of course, leave it here until the
war ends. After all, Irene, the joy of success does not equal that
which attends the patient working. Perhaps it is because 'anticipation
is the purest part of pleasure.' I love my work; no man or woman ever
loved it better; and yet there is a painful feeling of isolation, of
loneliness, which steals over me sometimes, and chills all my
enthusiasm. It is so mournful to know that, when the labour is ended,
and a new chaplet encircles my brow, I shall have no one but you to
whom I can turn for sympathy in my triumph. If I feel this so keenly
now, how shall I bear it when the glow of life fades into sober
twilight shadows, and age creeps upon me?
She threw down her brush and palette, and, turning towards her
companion, leaned her purplish head against her.
Electra, it is very true that single women have trials for which a
thoughtless, happy world has little sympathy. But lonely lives are not
necessarily joyless; they should be, of all others, most useful.
Remember that the woman who dares to live alone, and be sneered at,
is braver, and nobler, and better than she who escapes both in a
loveless marriage. It is true that you and I are very lonely, and yet
our future holds much that is bright. You have the profession you love
so well, and our new School of Design to engage your thoughts; and I a
thousand claims on my time and attention. I have Uncle Eric to take
care of and to love, and Dr. Arnold, who is growing quite infirm, has
promised me that, as soon as he can be spared from the hospitals, he
will make his home with us. When this storm of war has spent itself,
your uncle's family will return from Europe and reside here with you.
Harvey, too, will come to Wto livewill probably take charge of
Mr. Campbell's churchand we shall have the pleasure and benefit of
his constant counsel. If I could see you a member of that church I
should be better satisfiedand you would be happier.
I would join to-morrow, if thereby I could acquire your sublime
faith, and strength, and resignation. Oh, Irene! my friend and
comforter! I want to live differently in future. Once I was wedded to
life and my Artpre-eminence in my profession, fame, was all that I
cared to attain; now I desire to spend my remaining years so that I may
meet Russell beyond the grave. His death broke the ties that bound me
to this world; I live now in hope of reunion in God's eternal kingdom.
I have been selfish, and careless, and complaining; but, oh! I want to
do my whole duty henceforth. Irene, my calm, sweet, patient guide,
teach me to be more like you.
Electra, take Christ for your model, instead of an erring human
being like yourself, constantly falling short of her own duty. With
Harvey to direct us, we ought to accomplish a world of good, here in
sight of Russell's grave.
The eyes of the artist went back to the stainless robes and seraphic
face of her pictured Peace in the loved Modern Macaria, and, as she
resumed her work, her brow cleared, the countenance kindled as in days
of yore, bitter memories hushed their moans and fell asleep at the
wizard touch of her profession, and the stormy, stricken soul found
balm and rest in Heaven-appointed Labour.
Standing at the back of Electra's chair, with one hand resting on
her shoulder, Irene raised her holy violet eyes, and looked through the
window toward the cemetery, where glittered a tall marble shaft which
the citizens of Whad erected over the last quiet resting-place of
Russell Aubrey. Sands of Time were drifting stealthily around the
crumbling idols of the morning of life, levelling and tenderly
shrouding the Past, but sorrow left its softening shadow on the
orphan's countenance, and laid its chastening finger about the lips
which meekly murmured: Thy will be done. The rays of the setting sun
gilded her mourning dress, gleamed in the white roses that breathed
their perfume in her rippling hair, and lingered like a benediction on
the placid pure face of the lonely woman who had survived every earthly
hope; and who, calmly fronting her Altars of Sacrifice, here dedicated
herself anew to the hallowed work of promoting the happiness and
gladdening the paths of all who journeyed with her down the chequered
aisles of Time.
Printed in Great Britain by Butler &Tanner, Frome and