Malbone: An Oldport Romance
by Thomas Wentworth Higginson
I. AN ARRIVAL.
II. PLACE AUX
III. A DRIVE ON
IV. AUNT JANE
V. A MULTIVALVE
VIII. TALKING IT
XII. A NEW
XIV. THE NEMESIS
XV. ACROSS THE
XVI. ON THE
XX. AUNT JANE TO
XXI. A STORM.
XXII. OUT OF THE
"What is Nature unless there is an eventful human life passing
Many joys and many sorrows are the lights and shadows in which
she shows most beautiful."—THOREAU, MS. Diary.
AS one wanders along this southwestern promontory of the Isle of
Peace, and looks down upon the green translucent water which forever
bathes the marble slopes of the Pirates' Cave, it is natural to think
of the ten wrecks with which the past winter has strewn this shore.
Though almost all trace of their presence is already gone, yet their
mere memory lends to these cliffs a human interest. Where a stranded
vessel lies, thither all steps converge, so long as one plank remains
upon another. There centres the emotion. All else is but the setting,
and the eye sweeps with indifference the line of unpeopled rocks.
They are barren, till the imagination has tenanted them with
possibilities of danger and dismay. The ocean provides the scenery
and properties of a perpetual tragedy, but the interest arrives with
the performers. Till then the shores remain vacant, like the great
conventional armchairs of the French drama, that wait for Rachel to
come and die.
Yet as I ride along this fashionable avenue in August, and watch
the procession of the young and fair,—as I look at stately houses,
from each of which has gone forth almost within my memory a funeral or
a bride,—then every thoroughfare of human life becomes in fancy but
an ocean shore, with its ripples and its wrecks. One learns, in
growing older, that no fiction can be so strange nor appear so
improbable as would the simple truth; and that doubtless even
Shakespeare did but timidly transcribe a few of the deeds and passions
he had personally known. For no man of middle age can dare trust
himself to portray life in its full intensity, as he has studied or
shared it; he must resolutely set aside as indescribable the things
most worth describing, and must expect to be charged with
exaggeration, even when he tells the rest.
I. AN ARRIVAL.
IT was one of the changing days of our Oldport midsummer. In the
morning it had rained in rather a dismal way, and Aunt Jane had said
she should put it in her diary. It was a very serious thing for the
elements when they got into Aunt Jane's diary. By noon the sun came
out as clear and sultry as if there had never been a cloud, the
northeast wind died away, the bay was motionless, the first locust of
the summer shrilled from the elms, and the robins seemed to be serving
up butterflies hot for their insatiable second brood, while nothing
seemed desirable for a human luncheon except ice-cream and fans. In
the afternoon the southwest wind came up the bay, with its line of
dark-blue ripple and its delicious coolness; while the hue of the
water grew more and more intense, till we seemed to be living in the
heart of a sapphire.
The household sat beneath the large western doorway of the old
Maxwell House,—he rear door, which looks on the water. The house
had just been reoccupied by my Aunt Jane, whose great-grandfather had
built it, though it had for several generations been out of the
family. I know no finer specimen of those large colonial dwellings in
which the genius of Sir Christopher Wren bequeathed traditions of
stateliness to our democratic days. Its central hall has a carved
archway; most of the rooms have painted tiles and are wainscoted to
the ceiling; the sashes are red-cedar, the great staircase mahogany;
there are pilasters with delicate Corinthian capitals; there are
cherubs' heads and wings that go astray and lose themselves in closets
and behind glass doors; there are curling acanthus-leaves that cluster
over shelves and ledges, and there are those graceful shell-patterns
which one often sees on old furniture, but rarely in houses. The high
front door still retains its Ionic cornice; and the western entrance,
looking on the bay, is surmounted by carved fruit and flowers, and is
crowned, as is the roof, with that pineapple in whose symbolic wealth
the rich merchants of the last century delighted.
Like most of the statelier houses in that region of Oldport, this
abode had its rumors of a ghost and of secret chambers. The ghost had
never been properly lionized nor laid, for Aunt Jane, the neatest of
housekeepers, had discouraged all silly explorations, had at once
required all barred windows to be opened, all superfluous partitions
to be taken down, and several highly eligible dark-closets to be
nailed up. If there was anything she hated, it was nooks and odd
corners. Yet there had been times that year, when the household would
have been glad to find a few more such hiding-places; for during the
first few weeks the house had been crammed with guests so closely
that the very mice had been ill-accommodated and obliged to sit up all
night, which had caused them much discomfort and many audible
But this first tumult had passed away; and now there remained only
the various nephews and nieces of the house, including a due
proportion of small children. Two final guests were to arrive that
day, bringing the latest breath of Europe on their wings,—Philip
Malbone, Hope's betrothed; and little Emilia, Hope's half-sister.
None of the family had seen Emilia since her wandering mother had
taken her abroad, a fascinating spoiled child of four, and they were
all eager to see in how many ways the succeeding twelve years had
completed or corrected the spoiling. As for Philip, he had been
spoiled, as Aunt Jane declared, from the day of his birth, by the
joint effort of all friends and neighbors. Everybody had conspired to
carry on the process except Aunt Jane herself, who directed toward him
one of her honest, steady, immovable dislikes, which may be said to
have dated back to the time when his father and mother were married,
some years before he personally entered on the scene.
The New York steamer, detained by the heavy fog of the night
before, now came in unwonted daylight up the bay. At the first
glimpse, Harry and the boys pushed off in the row-boat; for, as one
of the children said, anybody who had been to Venice would naturally
wish to come to the very house in a gondola. In another half-hour
there was a great entanglement of embraces at the water-side, for the
guests had landed.
Malbone's self-poised easy grace was the same as ever; his
chestnut-brown eyes were as winning, his features as handsome; his
complexion, too clearly pink for a man, had a sea bronze upon it: he
was the same Philip who had left home, though with some added lines of
care. But in the brilliant little fairy beside him all looked in vain
for the Emilia they remembered as a child. Her eyes were more
beautiful than ever,—the darkest violet eyes, that grew luminous with
thought and almost black with sorrow. Her gypsy taste, as everybody
used to call it, still showed itself in the scarlet and dark blue of
her dress; but the clouded gypsy tint had gone from her cheek, and in
its place shone a deep carnation, so hard and brilliant that it
appeared to be enamelled on the surface, yet so firm and deep-dyed
that it seemed as if not even death could ever blanch it. There is a
kind of beauty that seems made to be painted on ivory, and such was
hers. Only the microscopic pencil of a miniature-painter could
portray those slender eyebrows, that arched caressingly over the
beautiful eyes,—or the silky hair of darkest chestnut that crept in a
wavy line along the temples, as if longing to meet the brows,—or
those unequalled lashes! "Unnecessarily long," Aunt Jane afterwards
pronounced them; while Kate had to admit that they did indeed give
Emilia an overdressed look at breakfast, and that she ought to have a
less showy set to match her morning costume.
But what was most irresistible about Emilia,—that which we all
noticed in this interview, and which haunted us all
thenceforward,—was a certain wild, entangled look she wore, as of
some untamed out-door thing, and a kind of pathetic lost sweetness in
her voice, which made her at once and forever a heroine of romance
with the children. Yet she scarcely seemed to heed their existence,
and only submitted to the kisses of Hope and Kate as if that were a
part of the price of coming home, and she must pay it.
Had she been alone, there might have been an awkward pause; for if
you expect a cousin, and there alights a butterfly of the tropics,
what hospitality can you offer? But no sense of embarrassment ever
came near Malbone, especially with the children to swarm over him and
claim him for their own. Moreover, little Helen got in the first
remark in the way of serious conversation.
"Let me tell him something!" said the child. "Philip! that doll
of mine that you used to know, only think! she was sick and died last
summer, and went into the rag-bag. And the other split down the back,
so there was an end of her."
Polar ice would have been thawed by this reopening of
communication. Philip soon had the little maid on his shoulder,—the
natural throne of all children,—and they went in together to greet
Aunt Jane was the head of the house,—a lady who had spent more
than fifty years in educating her brains and battling with her
ailments. She had received from her parents a considerable
inheritance in the way of whims, and had nursed it up into a handsome
fortune. Being one of the most impulsive of human beings, she was
naturally one of the most entertaining; and behind all her
eccentricities there was a fund of the soundest sense and the
tenderest affection. She had seen much and varied society, had been
greatly admired in her youth, but had chosen to remain unmarried.
Obliged by her physical condition to make herself the first object,
she was saved from utter selfishness by sympathies as democratic as
her personal habits were exclusive. Unexpected and commonly fantastic
in her doings, often dismayed by small difficulties, but never by
large ones, she sagaciously administered the affairs of all those
around her,—planned their dinners and their marriages, fought out
their bargains and their feuds.
She hated everything irresolute or vague; people might play at
cat's-cradle or study Spinoza, just as they pleased; but, whatever
they did, they must give their minds to it. She kept house from an
easy-chair, and ruled her dependants with severity tempered by wit,
and by the very sweetest voice in which reproof was ever uttered. She
never praised them, but if they did anything particularly well,
rebuked them retrospectively, asking why they had never done it well
before? But she treated them munificently, made all manner of plans
for their comfort, and they all thought her the wisest and wittiest
of the human race. So did the youths and maidens of her large circle;
they all came to see her, and she counselled, admired, scolded, and
petted them all. She had the gayest spirits, and an unerring eye for
the ludicrous, and she spoke her mind with absolute plainness to all
comers. Her intuitions were instantaneous as lightning, and, like
that, struck very often in the wrong place. She was thus extremely
unreasonable and altogether charming.
Such was the lady whom Emilia and Malbone went up to greet,—the
one shyly, the other with an easy assurance, such as she always
disliked. Emilia submitted to another kiss, while Philip pressed Aunt
Jane's hand, as he pressed all women's, and they sat down.
"Now begin to tell your adventures," said Kate. "People always
tell their adventures till tea is ready."
"Who can have any adventures left," said Philip, "after such
letters as I wrote you all?"
"Of which we got precisely one!" said Kate. "That made it such an
event, after we had wondered in what part of the globe you might be
looking for the post-office! It was like finding a letter in a bottle,
or disentangling a person from the Dark Ages."
"I was at Neuchatel two months; but I had no adventures. I lodged
with a good Pasteur, who taught me geology and German."
"That is suspicious," said Kate. "Had he a daughter passing
"Indeed he had."
"And you taught her English? That is what these beguiling youths
always do in novels."
"What was her name?"
"What a pretty name! How old was she?"
"She was six."
"O Philip!" cried Kate; "but I might have known it. Did she love
you very much?"
Hope looked up, her eyes full of mild reproach at the possibility
of doubting any child's love for Philip. He had been her betrothed
for more than a year, during which time she had habitually seen him
wooing every child he had met as if it were a woman,—which, for
Philip, was saying a great deal. Happily they had in common the one
trait of perfect amiability, and she knew no more how to be jealous
than he to be constant.
"Lili was easily won," he said. "Other things being equal, people
of six prefer that man who is tallest."
"Philip is not so very tall," said the eldest of the boys, who was
listening eagerly, and growing rapidly.
"No," said Philip, meekly. "But then the Pasteur was short, and
his brother was a dwarf."
"When Lili found that she could reach the ceiling from Mr.
Malbone's shoulder," said Emilia, "she asked no more."
"Then you knew the pastor's family also, my child," said Aunt
Jane, looking at her kindly and a little keenly.
"I was allowed to go there sometimes," she began, timidly.
"To meet her American Cousin," interrupted Philip. "I got some
relaxation in the rules of the school. But, Aunt Jane, you have told
us nothing about your health."
"There is nothing to tell," she answered. "I should like, if it
were convenient, to be a little better. But in this life, if one can
walk across the floor, and not be an idiot, it is something. That is
all I aim at."
"Isn't it rather tiresome?" said Emilia, as the elder lady
happened to look at her.
"Not at all," said Aunt Jane, composedly. "I naturally fall back
into happiness, when left to myself."
"So you have returned to the house of your fathers," said Philip.
"I hope you like it."
"It is commonplace in one respect," said Aunt Jane. "General
Washington once slept here."
"Oh!" said Philip. "It is one of that class of houses?"
"Yes," said she. "There is not a village in America that has not
half a dozen of them, not counting those where he only breakfasted.
Did ever man sleep like that man? What else could he ever have done?
Who governed, I wonder, while he was asleep? How he must have
travelled! The swiftest horse could scarcely have carried him from one
of these houses to another."
"I never was attached to the memory of Washington," meditated
Philip; "but I always thought it was the pear-tree. It must have been
that he was such a very unsettled person."
"He certainly was not what is called a domestic character," said
"I suppose you are, Miss Maxwell," said Philip. "Do you often go
"Sometimes, to drive," said Aunt Jane. "Yesterday I went shopping
with Kate, and sat in the carriage while she bought under-sleeves
enough for a centipede. It is always so with that child. People talk
about the trouble of getting a daughter ready to be married; but it is
like being married once a month to live with her."
"I wonder that you take her to drive with you," suggested Philip,
"It is a great deal worse to drive without her," said the
impetuous lady. "She is the only person who lets me enjoy things, and
now I cannot enjoy them in her absence. Yesterday I drove alone over
the three beaches, and left her at home with a dress-maker. Never did
I see so many lines of surf; but they only seemed to me like some of
Kate's ball-dresses, with the prevailing flounces, six deep. I was so
enraged that she was not there, I wished to cover my face with my
handkerchief. By the third beach I was ready for the madhouse."
"Is Oldport a pleasant place to live in?" asked Emilia, eagerly.
"It is amusing in the summer," said Aunt Jane, "though the society
is nothing but a pack of visiting-cards. In winter it is too dull for
young people, and only suits quiet old women like me, who merely live
here to keep the Ten Commandments and darn their stockings."
Meantime the children were aiming at Emilia, whose butterfly looks
amazed and charmed them, but who evidently did not know what to do
with their eager affection.
"I know about you," said little Helen; "I know what you said when
you were little."
"Did I say anything?" asked Emilia, carelessly.
"Yes," replied the child, and began to repeat the oft-told
domestic tradition in an accurate way, as if it were a school lesson.
"Once you had been naughty, and your papa thought it his duty to slap
you, and you cried; and he told you in French, because he always spoke
French with you, that he did not punish you for his own pleasure. Then
you stopped crying, and asked, 'Pour le plaisir de qui alors?' That
means 'For whose pleasure then?' Hope said it was a droll question
for a little girl to ask."
"I do not think it was Emilia who asked that remarkable question,
little girl," said Kate.
"I dare say it was," said Emilia; "I have been asking it all my
life." Her eyes grew very moist, what with fatigue and excitement.
But just then, as is apt to happen in this world, they were all
suddenly recalled from tears to tea, and the children smothered their
curiosity in strawberries and cream.
They sat again beside the western door, after tea. The young moon
came from a cloud and dropped a broad path of glory upon the bay; a
black yacht glided noiselessly in, and anchored amid this tract of
splendor. The shadow of its masts was on the luminous surface, while
their reflection lay at a different angle, and seemed to penetrate far
below. Then the departing steamer went flashing across this bright
realm with gorgeous lustre; its red and green lights were doubled in
the paler waves, its four reflected chimneys chased each other among
the reflected masts. This jewelled wonder passing, a single
fishing-boat drifted silently by, with its one dark sail; and then
the moon and the anchored yacht were left alone.
Presently some of the luggage came from the wharf. Malbone brought
out presents for everybody; then all the family went to Europe in
photographs, and with some reluctance came back to America for bed.
II. PLACE AUX DAMES!
IN every town there is one young maiden who is the universal
favorite, who belongs to all sets and is made an exception to all
family feuds, who is the confidante of all girls and the adopted
sister of all young men, up to the time when they respectively offer
themselves to her, and again after they are rejected. This post was
filled in Oldport, in those days, by my cousin Kate.
Born into the world with many other gifts, this last and least
definable gift of popularity was added to complete them all. Nobody
criticised her, nobody was jealous of her, her very rivals lent her
their new music and their lovers; and her own discarded wooers always
sought her to be a bridesmaid when they married somebody else.
She was one of those persons who seem to have come into the world
well-dressed. There was an atmosphere of elegance around her, like a
costume; every attitude implied a presence-chamber or a ball-room. The
girls complained that in private theatricals no combination of
disguises could reduce Kate to the ranks, nor give her the "make-up"
of a waiting-maid. Yet as her father was a New York merchant of the
precarious or spasmodic description, she had been used from childhood
to the wildest fluctuations of wardrobe;—a year of Paris
dresses,—then another year spent in making over ancient finery, that
never looked like either finery or antiquity when it came from her
magic hands. Without a particle of vanity or fear, secure in health
and good-nature and invariable prettiness, she cared little whether
the appointed means of grace were ancient silk or modern muslin. In
her periods of poverty, she made no secret of the necessary devices;
the other girls, of course, guessed them, but her lovers never did,
because she always told them. There was one particular tarlatan dress
of hers which was a sort of local institution. It was known to all
her companions, like the State House. There was a report that she had
first worn it at her christening; the report originated with herself.
The young men knew that she was going to the party if she could turn
that pink tarlatan once more; but they had only the vaguest impression
what a tarlatan was, and cared little on which side it was worn, so
long as Kate was inside.
During these epochs of privation her life, in respect to dress,
was a perpetual Christmas-tree of second-hand gifts. Wealthy aunts
supplied her with cast-off shoes of all sizes, from two and a half up
to five, and she used them all. She was reported to have worn one
straw hat through five changes of fashion. It was averred that, when
square crowns were in vogue, she flattened it over a tin pan, and
that, when round crowns returned, she bent it on the bedpost. There
was such a charm in her way of adapting these treasures, that the
other girls liked to test her with new problems in the way of
millinery and dress-making; millionnaire friends implored her to trim
their hats, and lent her their own things in order to learn how to
wear them. This applied especially to certain rich cousins, shy and
studious girls, who adored her, and to whom society only ceased to be
alarming when the brilliant Kate took them under her wing, and
graciously accepted a few of their newest feathers. Well might they
acquiesce, for she stood by them superbly, and her most favored
partners found no way to her hand so sure as to dance systematically
through that staid sisterhood. Dear, sunshiny, gracious, generous
Kate!—who has ever done justice to the charm given to this grave old
world by the presence of one free-hearted and joyous girl?
At the time now to be described, however, Kate's purse was well
filled; and if she wore only second-best finery, it was because she
had lent her very best to somebody else. All that her doting father
asked was to pay for her dresses, and to see her wear them; and if her
friends wore a part of them, it only made necessary a larger wardrobe,
and more varied and pleasurable shopping. She was as good a manager in
wealth as in poverty, wasted nothing, took exquisite care of
everything, and saved faithfully for some one else all that was not
needed for her own pretty person.
Pretty she was throughout, from the parting of her jet-black hair
to the high instep of her slender foot; a glancing, brilliant,
brunette beauty, with the piquant charm of perpetual spirits, and the
equipoise of a perfectly healthy nature. She was altogether graceful,
yet she had not the fresh, free grace of her cousin
Hope, who was lithe and strong as a hawthorne spray: Kate's was
the narrower grace of culture grown hereditary, an in-door elegance
that was born in her, and of which dancing-school was but the natural
development. You could not picture Hope to your mind in one position
more than in another; she had an endless variety of easy motion. When
you thought of Kate, you remembered precisely how she sat, how she
stood, and how she walked. That was all, and it was always the same.
But is not that enough? We do not ask of Mary Stuart's portrait that
it should represent her in more than one attitude, and why should a
living beauty need more than two or three?
Kate was betrothed to her cousin Harry, Hope's brother, and,
though she was barely twenty, they had seemed to appertain to each
other for a time so long that the memory of man or maiden aunt ran not
to the contrary. She always declared, indeed, that they were born
married, and that their wedding-day would seem like a silver wedding.
Harry was quiet, unobtrusive, and manly. He might seem commonplace at
first beside the brilliant Kate and his more gifted sister; but
thorough manhood is never commonplace, and he was a person to whom one
could anchor. His strong, steadfast physique was the type of his whole
nature; when he came into the room, you felt as if a good many people
had been added to the company. He made steady progress in his
profession of the law, through sheer worth; he never dazzled, but he
led. His type was pure Saxon, with short, curling hair, blue eyes, and
thin, fair skin, to which the color readily mounted. Up to a certain
point he was imperturbably patient and amiable, but, when overtaxed,
was fiery and impetuous for a single instant, and no more. It seemed
as if a sudden flash of anger went over him, like the flash that
glides along the glutinous stem of the fraxinella, when you touch it
with a candle; the next moment it had utterly vanished, and was
forgotten as if it had never been.
Kate's love for her lover was one of those healthy and assured
ties that often outlast the ardors of more passionate natures. For
other temperaments it might have been inadequate; but theirs matched
perfectly, and it was all sufficient for them. If there was within
Kate's range a more heroic and ardent emotion than that inspired by
Harry, it was put forth toward Hope. This was her idolatry; she
always said that it was fortunate Hope was Hal's sister, or she should
have felt it her duty to give them to each other, and not die till the
wedding was accomplished. Harry shared this adoration to quite a
reasonable extent, for a brother; but his admiration for Philip
Malbone was one that Kate did not quite share. Harry's quieter mood
had been dazzled from childhood by Philip, who had always been a
privileged guest in the household. Kate's clear, penetrating, buoyant
nature had divined Phil's weaknesses, and had sometimes laughed at
them, even from her childhood; though she did not dislike him, for she
did not dislike anybody. But Harry was magnetized by him very much as
women were; believed him true, because he was tender, and called him
only fastidious where Kate called him lazy.
Kate was spending that summer with her aunt Jane, whose especial
pet and pride she was. Hope was spending there the summer vacation of
a Normal School in which she had just become a teacher. Her father had
shared in the family ups and downs, but had finally stayed down, while
the rest had remained up. Fortunately, his elder children were
indifferent to this, and indeed rather preferred it; it was a
tradition that Hope had expressed the wish, when a child, that her
father might lose his property, so that she could become a teacher. As
for Harry, he infinitely preferred the drudgery of a law office to
that of a gentleman of leisure; and as for their step-mother, it
turned out, when she was left a widow, that she had secured for
herself and Emilia whatever property remained, so that she suffered
only the delightful need of living in Europe for economy.
The elder brother and sister had alike that fine physical vigor
which New England is now developing, just in time to save it from
decay. Hope was of Saxon type, though a shade less blonde than her
brother; she was a little taller, and of more commanding presence,
with a peculiarly noble carriage of the shoulders. Her brow was
sometimes criticised as being a little too full for a woman; but her
nose was straight, her mouth and teeth beautiful, and her profile
almost perfect. Her complexion had lost by out-door life something of
its delicacy, but had gained a freshness and firmness that no sunlight
could impair. She had that wealth of hair which young girls find the
most enviable point of beauty in each other. Hers reached below her
knees, when loosened, or else lay coiled, in munificent braids of
gold, full of sparkling lights and contrasted shadows, upon her
Her eyes were much darker than her hair, and had a way of opening
naively and suddenly, with a perfectly infantine expression, as if she
at that moment saw the sunlight for the first time. Her long lashes
were somewhat like Emilia's, and she had the same deeply curved
eyebrows; in no other point was there a shade of resemblance between
the half-sisters. As compared with Kate, Hope showed a more abundant
physical life; there was more blood in her; she had ampler outlines,
and health more absolutely unvaried, for she had yet to know the
experience of a day's illness. Kate seemed born to tread upon a
Brussels carpet, and Hope on the softer luxury of the forest floor.
Out of doors her vigor became a sort of ecstasy, and she walked the
earth with a jubilee of the senses, such as Browning attributes to his
This inexhaustible freshness of physical organization seemed to
open the windows of her soul, and make for her a new heaven and earth
every day. It gave also a peculiar and almost embarrassing directness
to her mental processes, and suggested in them a sort of final and
absolute value, as if truth had for the first time found a perfectly
translucent medium. It was not so much that she said rare things, but
her very silence was eloquent, and there was a great deal of it. Her
girlhood had in it a certain dignity as of a virgin priestess or
sibyl. Yet her hearty sympathies and her healthy energy made her at
home in daily life, and in a democratic society. To Kate, for
instance, she was a necessity of existence, like light or air. Kate's
nature was limited; part of her graceful equipoise was narrowness.
Hope was capable of far more self-abandonment to a controlling
emotion, and, if she ever erred, would err more widely, for it would
be because the whole power of her conscience was misdirected. "Once
let her take wrong for right," said Aunt Jane, "and stop her if you
can; these born saints give a great deal more trouble than children of
this world, like my Kate." Yet in daily life Hope yielded to her
cousin nine times out of ten; but the tenth time was the key to the
situation. Hope loved Kate devotedly; but Kate believed in her as the
hunted fugitive believes in the north star.
To these maidens, thus united, came Emilia home from Europe. The
father of Harry and Hope had been lured into a second marriage with
Emilia's mother, a charming and unscrupulous woman, born with an
American body and a French soul. She having once won him to Paris,
held him there life-long, and kept her step-children at a safe
distance. She arranged that, even after her own death, her daughter
should still remain abroad for education; nor was Emilia ordered back
until she brought down some scandal by a romantic attempt to elope
from boarding-school with a Swiss servant. It was by weaning her
heart from this man that Philip Malbone had earned the thanks of the
whole household during his hasty flight through Europe. He possessed
some skill in withdrawing the female heart from an undesirable
attachment, though it was apt to be done by substituting another. It
was fortunate that, in this case, no fears could be entertained. Since
his engagement Philip had not permitted himself so much as a
flirtation; he and Hope were to be married soon; he loved and admired
her heartily, and had an indifference to her want of fortune that was
quite amazing, when we consider that he had a fortune of his own.
III. A DRIVE ON THE AVENUE.
OLDPORT AVENUE is a place where a great many carriages may be seen
driving so slowly that they might almost be photographed without
halting, and where their occupants already wear the dismal expression
which befits that process. In these fine vehicles, following each
other in an endless file, one sees such faces as used to be exhibited
in ball-rooms during the performance of quadrilles, before round
dances came in,—faces marked by the renunciation of all human joy.
Sometimes a faint suspicion suggests itself on the Avenue, that these
torpid countenances might be roused to life, in case some horse should
run away. But that one chance never occurs; the riders may not yet
be toned down into perfect breeding, but the horses are. I do not
know what could ever break the gloom of this joyless procession, were
it not that youth and beauty are always in fashion, and one sometimes
meets an exceptional barouche full of boys and girls, who could
absolutely be no happier if they were a thousand miles away from the
best society. And such a joyous company were our four youths and
maidens when they went to drive that day, Emilia being left at home to
rest after the fatigues of the voyage.
"What beautiful horses!" was Hope's first exclamation. "What grave
people!" was her second.
"What though in solemn silence all
Roll round —"
"Hope is thinking," said Harry, "whether 'in reason's ear they all
"How COULD you know that?" said she, opening her eyes.
"One thing always strikes me," said Kate. "The sentence of
stupefaction does not seem to be enforced till after five-and-twenty.
That young lady we just met looked quite lively and juvenile last
year, I remember, and now she has graduated into a dowager."
"Like little Helen's kitten," said Philip. "She justly remarks
that, since I saw it last, it is all spoiled into a great big cat."
"Those must be snobs," said Harry, as a carriage with unusually
gorgeous liveries rolled by.
"I suppose so," said Malbone, indifferently. "In Oldport we call
all new-comers snobs, you know, till they have invited us to their
grand ball. Then we go to it, and afterwards speak well of them, and
only abuse their wine."
"How do you know them for new-comers?" asked Hope, looking after
"By their improperly intelligent expression," returned Phil. "They
look around them as you do, my child, with the air of wide-awake
curiosity which marks the American traveller. That is out of place
here. The Avenue abhors everything but a vacuum."
"I never can find out," continued Hope, "how people recognize each
other here. They do not look at each other, unless they know each
other: and how are they to know if they know, unless they look first?"
"It seems an embarrassment," said Malbone. "But it is supposed
that fashion perforates the eyelids and looks through. If you
attempt it in any other way, you are lost. Newly arrived people look
about them, and, the more new wealth they have, the more they gaze.
The men are uneasy behind their recently educated mustaches, and the
women hold their parasols with trembling hands. It takes two years to
learn to drive on the Avenue. Come again next summer, and you will
see in those same carriages faces of remote superciliousness, that
suggest generations of gout and ancestors."
"What a pity one feels," said Harry, "for these people who still
suffer from lingering modesty, and need a master to teach them to be
"They learn it soon enough," said Kate. "Philip is right. Fashion
lies in the eye. People fix their own position by the way they don't
look at you."
"There is a certain indifference of manner," philosophized
Malbone, "before which ingenuous youth is crushed. I may know that a
man can hardly read or write, and that his father was a ragpicker till
one day he picked up bank-notes for a million. No matter. If he does
not take the trouble to look at me, I must look reverentially at him."
"Here is somebody who will look at Hope," cried Kate, suddenly.
A carriage passed, bearing a young lady with fair hair, and a
keen, bright look, talking eagerly to a small and quiet youth beside
Her face brightened still more as she caught the eye of Hope,
whose face lighted up in return, and who then sank back with a sort
of sigh of relief, as if she had at last seen somebody she cared for.
The lady waved an un-gloved hand, and drove by.
"Who is that?" asked Philip, eagerly. He was used to knowing
"Hope's pet," said Kate, "and she who pets Hope, Lady Antwerp."
"Is it possible?" said Malbone. "That young creature? I fancied
her ladyship in spectacles, with little side curls. Men speak of her
with such dismay."
"Of course," said Kate, "she asks them sensible questions."
"That is bad," admitted Philip. "Nothing exasperates fashionable
Americans like a really intelligent foreigner. They feel as Sydney
Smith says the English clergy felt about Elizabeth Fry; she disturbs
their repose, and gives rise to distressing comparisons,—they long to
burn her alive. It is not their notion of a countess."
"I am sure it was not mine," said Hope; "I can hardly remember
that she is one; I only know that I like her, she is so simple and
intelligent. She might be a girl from a Normal School."
"It is because you are just that," said Kate, "that she likes you.
She came here supposing that we had all been at such schools. Then she
complained of us,—us girls in what we call good society, I
mean,—because, as she more than hinted, we did not seem to know
"Some of the mothers were angry," said Hope. "But Aunt Jane told
her that it was perfectly true, and that her ladyship had not yet seen
the best-educated girls in America, who were generally the daughters
of old ministers and well-to-do shopkeepers in small New England
towns, Aunt Jane said."
"Yes," said Kate, "she said that the best of those girls went to
High Schools and Normal Schools, and learned things thoroughly, you
know; but that we were only taught at boarding-schools and by
governesses, and came out at eighteen, and what could we know? Then
came Hope, who had been at those schools, and was the child of refined
people too, and Lady Antwerp was perfectly satisfied."
"Especially," said Hope, "when Aunt Jane told her that, after all,
schools did not do very much good, for if people were born stupid they
only became more tiresome by schooling. She said that she had
forgotten all she learned at school except the boundaries of ancient
Aunt Jane's fearless sayings always passed current among her
nieces; and they drove on, Hope not being lowered in Philip's
estimation, nor raised in her own, by being the pet of a passing
Who would not be charmed (he thought to himself) by this noble
girl, who walks the earth fresh and strong as a Greek goddess, pure
as Diana, stately as Juno? She belongs to the unspoiled womanhood of
another age, and is wasted among these dolls and butterflies.
He looked at her. She sat erect and graceful, unable to droop
into the debility of fashionable reclining,—her breezy hair lifted a
little by the soft wind, her face flushed, her full brown eyes looking
eagerly about, her mouth smiling happily. To be with those she loved
best, and to be driving over the beautiful earth! She was so happy
that no mob of fashionables could have lessened her enjoyment, or made
her for a moment conscious that anybody looked at her. The brilliant
equipages which they met each moment were not wholly uninteresting
even to her, for her affections went forth to some of the riders and
to all the horses. She was as well contented at that moment, on the
glittering Avenue, as if they had all been riding home through country
lanes, and in constant peril of being jolted out among the
Her face brightened yet more as they met a carriage containing a
graceful lady dressed with that exquisiteness of taste that charms
both man and woman, even if no man can analyze and no woman rival its
effect. She had a perfectly high-bred look, and an eye that in an
instant would calculate one's ancestors as far back as Nebuchadnezzar,
and bow to them all together. She smiled good-naturedly on Hope, and
kissed her hand to Kate.
"So, Hope," said Philip, "you are bent on teaching music to Mrs.
"Indeed I am!" said Hope, eagerly. "O Philip, I shall enjoy it
so! I do not care so very much about her, but she has dear little
girls. And you know I am a born drudge. I have not been working hard
enough to enjoy an entire vacation, but I shall be so very happy here
if I can have some real work for an hour or two every other day."
"Hope," said Philip, gravely, "look steadily at these people whom
we are meeting, and reflect. Should you like to have them say, 'There
goes Mrs. Meredith's music teacher'?"
"Why not?" said Hope, with surprise. "The children are young, and
it is not very presumptuous. I ought to know enough for that."
Malbone looked at Kate, who smiled with delight, and put her hand
on that of Hope. Indeed, she kept it there so long that one or two
passing ladies stopped their salutations in mid career, and actually
looked after them in amazement at their attitude, as who should say,
"What a very mixed society!"
So they drove on,—meeting four-in-hands, and tandems, and
donkey-carts, and a goat-cart, and basket-wagons driven by pretty
girls, with uncomfortable youths in or out of livery behind. They met,
had they but known it, many who were aiming at notoriety, and some who
had it; many who looked contented with their lot, and some who
actually were so. They met some who put on courtesy and grace with
their kid gloves, and laid away those virtues in their glove-boxes
afterwards; while to others the mere consciousness of kid gloves
brought uneasiness, redness of the face, and a general impression of
being all made of hands. They met the four white horses of an
ex-harness-maker, and the superb harnesses of an ex-horse-dealer.
Behind these came the gayest and most plebeian equipage of all, a
party of journeymen carpenters returning from their work in a
four-horse wagon. Their only fit compeers were an Italian
opera-troupe, who were chatting and gesticulating on the piazza of the
great hotel, and planning, amid jest and laughter, their future
campaigns. Their work seemed like play, while the play around them
seemed like work. Indeed, most people on the Avenue seemed to be happy
in inverse ratio to their income list.
As our youths and maidens passed the hotel, a group of French
naval officers strolled forth, some of whom had a good deal of
inexplicable gold lace dangling in festoons from their
shoulders,—"topsail halyards" the American midshipmen called them.
Philip looked hard at one of these gentlemen.
"I have seen that young fellow before," said he, "or his twin
brother. But who can swear to the personal identity of a Frenchman?"
IV. AUNT JANE DEFINES HER POSITION.
THE next morning had that luminous morning haze, not quite dense
enough to be called a fog, which is often so lovely in Oldport. It
was perfectly still; the tide swelled and swelled till it touched the
edge of the green lawn behind the house, and seemed ready to submerge
the slender pier; the water looked at first like glass, till closer
gaze revealed long sinuous undulations, as if from unseen water-snakes
beneath. A few rags of storm-cloud lay over the half-seen hills beyond
the bay, and behind them came little mutterings of thunder, now here,
now there, as if some wild creature were roaming up and down,
dissatisfied, in the shelter of the clouds. The pale haze extended
into the foreground, and half veiled the schooners that lay at anchor
with their sails up. It was sultry, and there was something in the
atmosphere that at once threatened and soothed. Sometimes a few drops
dimpled the water and then ceased; the muttering creature in the sky
moved northward and grew still. It was a day when every one would be
tempted to go out rowing, but when only lovers would go. Philip and
Kate and Harry, meanwhile, awaited their opportunity to go in and
visit Aunt Jane. This was a thing that never could be done till near
noon, because that dear lady was very deliberate in her morning
habits, and always averred that she had never seen the sun rise except
in a panorama. She hated to be hurried in dressing, too; for she was
accustomed to say that she must have leisure to understand herself,
and this was clearly an affair of time.
But she was never more charming than when, after dressing and
breakfasting in seclusion, and then vigilantly watching her
handmaiden through the necessary dustings and arrangements, she sat
at last, with her affairs in order, to await events. Every day she
expected something entirely new to happen, and was never disappointed.
For she herself always happened, if nothing else did; she could no
more repeat herself than the sunrise can; and the liveliest visitor
always carried away something fresher and more remarkable than he
Her book that morning had displeased her, and she was boiling with
indignation against its author.
"I am reading a book so dry," she said, "it makes me cough. No
wonder there was a drought last summer. It was printed then.
Worcester's Geography seems in my memory as fascinating as
Shakespeare, when I look back upon it from this book. How can a man
write such a thing and live?"
"Perhaps he lived by writing it," said Kate.
"Perhaps it was the best he could do," added the more literal
"It certainly was not the best he could do, for he might have
died,—died instead of dried. O, I should like to prick that man
with something sharp, and see if sawdust did not run out of him! Kate,
ask the bookseller to let me know if he ever really dies, and then
life may seem fresh again."
"What is it?" asked Kate.
"Somebody's memoirs," said Aunt Jane. "Was there no man left
worth writing about, that they should make a biography about this
one? It is like a life of Napoleon with all the battles left out. They
are conceited enough to put his age in the upper corner of each page
too, as if anybody cared how old he was."
"Such pretty covers!" said Kate. "It is too bad."
"Yes," said Aunt Jane. "I mean to send them back and have new
leaves put in. These are so wretched, there is not a teakettle in the
land so insignificant that it would boil over them. Don't let us talk
any more about it. Have Philip and Hope gone out upon the water?"
"Yes, dear," said Kate. "Did Ruth tell you?"
"When did that aimless infant ever tell anything?"
"Then how did you know it?"
"If I waited for knowledge till that sweet-tempered parrot chose
to tell me," Aunt Jane went on, "I should be even more foolish than I
"Then how did you know?"
"Of course I heard the boat hauled down, and of course I knew that
none but lovers would go out just before a thunder-storm. Then you and
Harry came in, and I knew it was the others."
"Aunt Jane," said Kate, "you divine everything: what a brain you
"Brain! it is nothing but a collection of shreds, like a little
girl's work-basket,—a scrap of blue silk and a bit of white muslin."
"Now she is fishing for compliments," said Kate, "and she shall
have one. She was very sweet and good to Philip last night."
"I know it," said Aunt Jane, with a groan. "I waked in the night
and thought about it. I was awake a great deal last night. I have
heard cocks crowing all my life, but I never knew what that creature
could accomplish before. So I lay and thought how good and forgiving I
was; it was quite distressing."
"Remorse?" said Kate.
"Yes, indeed. I hate to be a saint all the time. There ought to
be vacations. Instead of suffering from a bad conscience, I suffer
from a good one."
"It was no merit of yours, aunt," put in Harry. "Who was ever
more agreeable and lovable than Malbone last night?"
"Lovable!" burst out Aunt Jane, who never could be managed or
manipulated by anybody but Kate, and who often rebelled against
Harry's blunt assertions. "Of course he is lovable, and that is why
I dislike him. His father was so before him. That is the worst of
it. I never in my life saw any harm done by a villain; I wish I could.
All the mischief in this world is done by lovable people. Thank
Heaven, nobody ever dared to call me lovable!"
"I should like to see any one dare call you anything else,—you
dear, old, soft-hearted darling!" interposed Kate.
"But, aunt," persisted Harry, "if you only knew what the mass of
young men are—"
"Don't I?" interrupted the impetuous lady. "What is there that is
not known to any woman who has common sense, and eyes enough to look
out of a window?"
"If you only knew," Harry went on, "how superior Phil Malbone is,
in his whole tone, to any fellow of my acquaintance."
"Lord help the rest!" she answered. "Philip has a sort of
refinement instead of principles, and a heart instead of a
conscience,—just heart enough to keep himself happy and everybody
"Do you mean to say," asked the obstinate Hal, "that there is no
difference between refinement and coarseness?"
"Yes, there is," she said.
"Well, which is best?"
"Coarseness is safer by a great deal," said Aunt Jane, "in the
hands of a man like Philip. What harm can that swearing coachman do,
I should like to know, in the street yonder? To be sure it is very
unpleasant, and I wonder they let people swear so, except, perhaps, in
waste places outside the town; but that is his way of expressing
himself, and he only frightens people, after all."
"Which Philip does not," said Hal.
"Exactly. That is the danger. He frightens nobody, not even
himself, when he ought to wear a label round his neck marked
'Dangerous,' such as they have at other places where it is slippery
and brittle. When he is here, I keep saying to myself, 'Too smooth,
"Aunt Jane," said Harry, gravely, "I know Malbone very well, and I
never knew any man whom it was more unjust to call a hypocrite."
"Did I say he was a hypocrite?" she cried. "He is worse than that;
at least, more really dangerous. It is these high-strung
sentimentalists who do all the mischief; who play on their own lovely
emotions, forsooth, till they wear out those fine fiddlestrings, and
then have nothing left but the flesh and the D. Don't tell me!"
"Do stop, auntie," interposed Kate, quite alarmed, "you are really
worse than a coachman. You are growing very profane indeed."
"I have a much harder time than any coachman, Kate," retorted the
injured lady. "Nobody tries to stop him, and you are always hushing
"Hushing you up, darling?" said Kate. "When we only spoil you by
praising and quoting everything you say."
"Only when it amuses you," said Aunt Jane. "So long as I sit and
cry my eyes out over a book, you all love me, and when I talk
nonsense, you are ready to encourage it; but when I begin to utter a
little sense, you all want to silence me, or else run out of the room!
Yesterday I read about a newspaper somewhere, called the 'Daily
Evening Voice'; I wish you would allow me a daily morning voice."
"Do not interfere, Kate," said Hal. "Aunt Jane and I only wish to
understand each other."
"I am sure we don't," said Aunt Jane; "I have no desire to
understand you, and you never will understand me till you comprehend
"Let us agree on one thing," Harry said. "Surely, aunt, you know
how he loves Hope?"
Aunt Jane approached a degree nearer the equator, and said,
gently, "I fear I do."
"Yes, fear. That is just what troubles me. I know precisely how
he loves her. Il se laisse aimer. Philip likes to be petted, as much
as any cat, and, while he will purr, Hope is happy. Very few men
accept idolatry with any degree of grace, but he unfortunately does."
"Unfortunately?" remonstrated Hal, as far as ever from being
satisfied. "This is really too bad. You never will do him any
"Ah?" said Aunt Jane, chilling again, "I thought I did. I observe
he is very much afraid of me, and there seems to be no other reason."
"The real trouble is," said Harry, after a pause, "that you doubt
"What do you call constancy?" said she. "Kissing a woman's
picture ten years after a man has broken her heart? Philip Malbone
has that kind of constancy, and so had his father before him."
This was too much for Harry, who was making for the door in
indignation, when little Ruth came in with Aunt Jane's luncheon, and
that lady was soon absorbed in the hopeless task of keeping her
handmaiden's pretty blue and white gingham sleeve out of the
V. A MULTIVALVE HEART.
PHILIP MALBONE had that perfectly sunny temperament which is
peculiarly captivating among Americans, because it is so rare. He
liked everybody and everybody liked him; he had a thousand ways of
affording pleasure, and he received it in the giving. He had a
personal beauty, which, strange to say, was recognized by both
sexes,—for handsome men must often consent to be mildly hated by
their own. He had travelled much, and had mingled in very varied
society; he had a moderate fortune, no vices, no ambition, and no
capacity of ennui.
He was fastidious and over-critical, it might be, in his theories,
but in practice he was easily suited and never vexed.
He liked travelling, and he liked staying at home; he was so
continually occupied as to give an apparent activity to all his life,
and yet he was never too busy to be interrupted, especially if the
intruder were a woman or a child. He liked to be with people of his
own age, whatever their condition; he also liked old people because
they were old, and children because they were young. In travelling by
rail, he would woo crying babies out of their mothers' arms, and still
them; it was always his back that Irishwomen thumped, to ask if they
must get out at the next station; and he might be seen handing out
decrepit paupers, as if they were of royal blood and bore concealed
sceptres in their old umbrellas. Exquisitely nice in his personal
habits, he had the practical democracy of a good-natured young prince;
he had never yet seen a human being who awed him, nor one whom he had
the slightest wish to awe. His courtesy, had, therefore, that
comprehensiveness which we call republican, though it was really the
least republican thing about him. All felt its attraction; there was
really no one who disliked him, except Aunt Jane; and even she
admitted that he was the only person who knew how to cut her
That cheerful English premier who thought that any man ought to
find happiness enough in walking London streets and looking at the
lobsters in the fish-markets, was not more easily satisfied than
Malbone. He liked to observe the groups of boys fishing at the
wharves, or to hear the chat of their fathers about coral-reefs and
penguins' eggs; or to sketch the fisher's little daughter awaiting her
father at night on some deserted and crumbling wharf, his blue
pea-jacket over her fair ring-leted head, and a great cat standing by
with tail uplifted, her sole protector. He liked the luxurious
indolence of yachting, and he liked as well to float in his wherry
among the fleet of fishing schooners getting under way after a three
days' storm, each vessel slipping out in turn from the closely packed
crowd, and spreading its white wings for flight. He liked to watch the
groups of negro boys and girls strolling by the window at evening, and
strumming on the banjo,—the only vestige of tropical life that haunts
our busy Northern zone. But he liked just as well to note the ways of
well-dressed girls and boys at croquet parties, or to sit at the club
window and hear the gossip. He was a jewel of a listener, and was not
easily bored even when Philadelphians talked about families, or New
Yorkers about bargains, or Bostonians about books. A man who has not
one absorbing aim can get a great many miscellaneous things into each
twenty-four hours; and there was not a day in which Philip did not
make himself agreeable and useful to many people, receive many
confidences, and give much good-humored advice about matters of which
he knew nothing. His friends' children ran after him in the street,
and he knew the pet theories and wines of elderly gentlemen. He said
that he won their hearts by remembering every occurrence in their
lives except their birthdays.
It was, perhaps, no drawback on the popularity of Philip Malbone
that he had been for some ten years reproached as a systematic flirt
by all women with whom he did not happen at the moment to be flirting.
The reproach was unjust; he had never done anything systematically in
his life; it was his temperament that flirted, not his will. He simply
had that most perilous of all seductive natures, in which the seducer
is himself seduced. With a personal refinement that almost amounted
to purity, he was constantly drifting into loves more profoundly
perilous than if they had belonged to a grosser man. Almost all women
loved him, because he loved almost all; he never had to assume an
ardor, for he always felt it. His heart was multivalve; he could love
a dozen at once in various modes and gradations, press a dozen hands
in a day, gaze into a dozen pair of eyes with unfeigned tenderness;
while the last pair wept for him, he was looking into the next. In
truth, he loved to explore those sweet depths; humanity is the highest
thing to investigate, he said, and the proper study of mankind is
woman. Woman needs to be studied while under the influence of emotion;
let us therefore have the emotions. This was the reason he gave to
himself; but this refined Mormonism of the heart was not based on
reason, but on temperament and habit. In such matters logic is only
for the by-standers.
His very generosity harmed him, as all our good qualities may harm
us when linked with bad ones; he had so many excuses for doing
kindnesses to his friends, it was hard to quarrel with him if he did
them too tenderly. He was no more capable of unkindness than of
constancy; and so strongly did he fix the allegiance of those who
loved him, that the women to whom he had caused most anguish would
still defend him when accused; would have crossed the continent, if
needed, to nurse him in illness, and would have rained rivers of tears
on his grave. To do him justice, he would have done almost as much for
them,—for any of them. He could torture a devoted heart, but only
through a sort of half-wilful unconsciousness; he could not bear to
see tears shed in his presence, nor to let his imagination dwell very
much on those which flowed in his absence. When he had once loved a
woman, or even fancied that he loved her, he built for her a shrine
that was never dismantled, and in which a very little faint incense
would sometimes be found burning for years after; he never quite
ceased to feel a languid thrill at the mention of her name; he would
make even for a past love the most generous sacrifices of time,
convenience, truth perhaps,—everything, in short, but the present
love. To those who had given him all that an undivided heart can give
he would deny nothing but an undivided heart in return. The
misfortune was that this was the only thing they cared to possess.
This abundant and spontaneous feeling gave him an air of
earnestness, without which he could not have charmed any woman, and,
least of all, one like Hope. No woman really loves a trifler; she
must at least convince herself that he who trifles with others is
serious with her. Philip was never quite serious and never quite
otherwise; he never deliberately got up a passion, for it was never
needful; he simply found an object for his emotions, opened their
valves, and then watched their flow. To love a charming woman in her
presence is no test of genuine passion; let us know how much you long
for her in absence. This longing had never yet seriously troubled
Malbone, provided there was another charming person within an easy
If it was sometimes forced upon him that all this ended in anguish
to some of these various charmers, first or last, then there was
always in reserve the pleasure of repentance. He was very winning and
generous in his repentances, and he enjoyed them so much they were
often repeated. He did not pass for a weak person, and he was not
exactly weak; but he spent his life in putting away temptations with
one hand and pulling them back with the other. There was for him
something piquant in being thus neither innocent nor guilty, but
always on some delicious middle ground. He loved dearly to skate on
thin ice,—that was the trouble,—especially where he fancied the
water to be just within his depth. Unluckily the sea of life deepens
Malbone had known Hope from her childhood, as he had known her
cousins, but their love dated from their meetings beside the sickbed
of his mother, over whom he had watched with unstinted devotion for
weary months. She had been very fond of the young girl, and her last
earthly act was to place Hope's hand in Philip's. Long before this
final consecration, Hope had won his heart more thoroughly, he
fancied, than any woman he had ever seen. The secret of this crowning
charm was, perhaps, that she was a new sensation. He had prided
himself on his knowledge of her sex, and yet here was a wholly new
species. He was acquainted with the women of society, and with the
women who only wished to be in society. But here was one who was in
the chrysalis, and had never been a grub, and had no wish to be a
butterfly, and what should he make of her? He was like a student of
insects who had never seen a bee. Never had he known a young girl who
cared for the things which this maiden sought, or who was not dazzled
by things to which Hope seemed perfectly indifferent. She was not a
devotee, she was not a prude; people seemed to amuse and interest her;
she liked them, she declared, as much as she liked books. But this
very way of putting the thing seemed like inverting the accustomed
order of affairs in the polite world, and was of itself a novelty.
Of course he had previously taken his turn for a while among
Kate's admirers; but it was when she was very young, and, moreover,
it was hard to get up anything like a tender and confidential relation
with that frank maiden; she never would have accepted Philip Malbone
for herself, and she was by no means satisfied with his betrothal to
her best beloved. But that Hope loved him ardently there was no doubt,
however it might be explained. Perhaps it was some law of opposites,
and she needed some one of lighter nature than her own. As her
resolute purpose charmed him, so she may have found a certain
fascination in the airy way in which he took hold on life; he was so
full of thought and intelligence; possessing infinite leisure, and yet
incapable of ennui; ready to oblige every one, and doing so many kind
acts at so little personal sacrifice; always easy, graceful, lovable,
and kind. In her just indignation at those who called him heartless,
she forgot to notice that his heart was not deep. He was interested in
all her pursuits, could aid her in all her studies, suggest schemes
for her benevolent desires, and could then make others work for her,
and even work himself. People usually loved Philip, even while they
criticised him; but Hope loved him first, and then could not criticise
him at all.
Nature seems always planning to equalize characters, and to
protect our friends from growing too perfect for our deserts. Love,
for instance, is apt to strengthen the weak, and yet sometimes weakens
the strong. Under its influence Hope sometimes appeared at
disadvantage. Had the object of her love been indifferent, the result
might have been otherwise, but her ample nature apparently needed to
contract itself a little, to find room within Philip's heart. Not that
in his presence she became vain or petty or jealous; that would have
been impossible. She only grew credulous and absorbed and blind. A
kind of gentle obstinacy, too, developed itself in her nature, and
all suggestion of defects in him fell off from her as from a marble
image of Faith. If he said or did anything, there was no appeal; that
was settled, let us pass to something else.
I almost blush to admit that Aunt Jane—of whom it could by no
means be asserted that she was a saintly lady, but only a very
charming one—rather rejoiced in this transformation.
"I like it better, my dear," she said, with her usual frankness,
to Kate. "Hope was altogether too heavenly for my style. When she
first came here, I secretly thought I never should care anything about
her. She seemed nothing but a little moral tale. I thought she would
not last me five minutes. But now she is growing quite human and
ridiculous about that Philip, and I think I may find her very
VI. "SOME LOVER'S CLEAR DAY."
"HOPE!" said Philip Malbone, as they sailed together in a little
boat the next morning, "I have come back to you from months of
bewildered dreaming. I have been wandering,—no matter where. I need
you. You cannot tell how much I need you."
"I can estimate it," she answered, gently, "by my need of you."
"Not at all," said Philip, gazing in her trustful face. "Any one
whom you loved would adore you, could he be by your side. You need
nothing. It is I who need you."
"Why?" she asked, simply.
"Because," he said, "I am capable of behaving very much like a
fool. Hope, I am not worthy of you; why do you love me? why do you
"I do not know how I learned to love you," said Hope. "It is a
blessing that was given to me. But I learned to trust you in your
"Ay," said Philip, sadly, "there, at least, I did my full duty."
"As few would have done it," said Hope, firmly,—"very few. Such
prolonged self-sacrifice must strengthen a man for life."
"Not always," said Philip, uneasily. "Too much of that sort of
thing may hurt one, I fancy, as well as too little. He may come to
imagine that the balance of virtue is in his favor, and that he may
grant himself a little indulgence to make up for lost time. That sort
of recoil is a little dangerous, as I sometimes feel, do you know?"
"And you show it," said Hope, ardently, "by fresh sacrifices! How
much trouble you have taken about Emilia! Some time, when you are
willing, you shall tell me all about it. You always seemed to me a
magician, but I did not think that even you could restore her to sense
and wisdom so soon."
Malbone was just then very busy putting the boat about; but when
he had it on the other tack, he said, "How do you like her?"
"Philip," said Hope, her eyes filling with tears, "I wonder if you
have the slightest conception how my heart is fixed on that child. She
has always been a sort of dream to me, and the difficulty of getting
any letters from her has only added to the excitement. Now that she is
here, my whole heart yearns toward her. Yet, when I look into her
eyes, a sort of blank hopelessness comes over me. They seem like the
eyes of some untamable creature whose language I shall never learn.
Philip, you are older and wiser than I, and have shown already that
you understand her. Tell me what I can do to make her love me?"
"Tell me how any one could help it?" said Malbone, looking fondly
on the sweet, pleading face before him.
"I am beginning to fear that it can be helped," she said. Her
thoughts were still with Emilia.
"Perhaps it can," said Phil, "if you sit so far away from people.
Here we are alone on the bay. Come and sit by me, Hope."
She had been sitting amidships, but she came aft at once, and
nestled by him as he sat holding the tiller. She put her face
against his knee, like a tired child, and shut her eyes; her hair was
lifted by the summer breeze; a scent of roses came from her; the mere
contact of anything so fresh and pure was a delight. He put his arm
around her, and all the first ardor of passion came back to him again;
he remembered how he had longed to win this Diana, and how thoroughly
she was won.
"It is you who do me good," said she. "O Philip, sail as slowly
as you can." But he only sailed farther, instead of more slowly,
gliding in and out among the rocky islands in the light north wind,
which, for a wonder, lasted all that day,—dappling the bare hills of
the Isle of Shadows with a shifting beauty. The tide was in and
brimming, the fishing-boats were busy, white gulls soared and
clattered round them, and heavy cormorants flapped away as they neared
the rocks. Beneath the boat the soft multitudinous jellyfishes waved
their fringed pendants, or glittered with tremulous gold along their
pink, translucent sides. Long lines and streaks of paler blue lay
smoothly along the enamelled surface, the low, amethystine hills lay
couched beyond them, and little clouds stretched themselves in lazy
length above the beautiful expanse. They reached the ruined fort at
last, and Philip, surrendering Hope to others, was himself besieged by
a joyous group.
As you stand upon the crumbling parapet of old Fort Louis, you
feel yourself poised in middle air; the sea-birds soar and swoop
around you, the white surf lashes the rocks far below, the white
vessels come and go, the water is around you on all sides but one, and
spreads its pale blue beauty up the lovely bay, or, in deeper tints,
southward towards the horizon line. I know of no ruin in America which
nature has so resumed; it seems a part of the living rock; you cannot
imagine it away.
It is a single round, low tower, shaped like the tomb of Cacilia
Metella. But its stately position makes it rank with the vast
sisterhood of wave-washed strongholds; it might be King Arthur's
Cornish Tyntagel; it might be "the teocallis tower" of Tuloom. As you
gaze down from its height, all things that float upon the ocean seem
equalized. Look at the crowded life on yonder frigate, coming in
full-sailed before the steady sea-breeze. To furl that heavy canvas, a
hundred men cluster like bees upon the yards, yet to us upon this
height it is all but a plaything for the eyes, and we turn with equal
interest from that thronged floating citadel to some lonely boy in his
Yonder there sail to the ocean, beating wearily to windward, a few
slow vessels. Inward come jubilant white schooners, wing-and-wing.
There are fishing-smacks towing their boats behind them like a family
of children; and there are slender yachts that bear only their own
light burden. Once from this height I saw the whole yacht squadron
round Point Judith, and glide in like a flock of land-bound sea-birds;
and above them, yet more snowy and with softer curves, pressed onward
the white squadrons of the sky.
Within, the tower is full of debris, now disintegrated into one
solid mass, and covered with vegetation. You can lie on the
blossoming clover, where the bees hum and the crickets chirp around
you, and can look through the arch which frames its own fair picture.
In the foreground lies the steep slope overgrown with bayberry and
gay with thistle blooms; then the little winding cove with its
bordering cliffs; and the rough pastures with their grazing sheep
beyond. Or, ascending the parapet, you can look across the bay to the
men making hay picturesquely on far-off lawns, or to the cannon on the
outer works of Fort Adams, looking like vast black insects that have
crawled forth to die.
Here our young people spent the day; some sketched, some played
croquet, some bathed in rocky inlets where the kingfisher screamed
above them, some rowed to little craggy isles for wild roses, some
fished, and then were taught by the boatmen to cook their fish in
novel island ways. The morning grew more and more cloudless, and then
in the afternoon a fog came and went again, marching by with its white
armies, soon met and annihilated by a rainbow.
The conversation that day was very gay and incoherent,—little
fragments of all manner of things; science, sentiment, everything:
"Like a distracted dictionary," Kate said. At last this lively
maiden got Philip away from the rest, and began to cross-question him.
"Tell me," she said, "about Emilia's Swiss lover. She shuddered
when she spoke of him. Was he so very bad?"
"Not at all," was the answer. "You had false impressions of him.
He was a handsome, manly fellow, a little over-sentimental. He had
travelled, and had been a merchant's clerk in Paris and London. Then
he came back, and became a boatman on the lake, some said, for love of
"Did she love him?"
"Passionately, as she thought."
"Did he love her much?"
"I suppose so."
"Then why did she stop loving him?"
"She does not hate him?"
"No," said Kate, "that is what surprises me. Lovers hate, or
those who have been lovers. She is only indifferent. Philip, she
had wound silk upon a torn piece of his carte-de-visite, and did not
know it till I showed it to her. Even then she did not care."
"Such is woman!" said Philip.
"Nonsense," said Kate. "She had seen somebody whom she loved
better, and she still loves that somebody. Who was it? She had not
been introduced into society. Were there any superior men among her
teachers? She is just the girl to fall in love with her teacher, at
least in Europe, where they are the only men one sees."
"There were some very superior men among them," said Philip.
"Professor Schirmer has a European reputation; he wears blue
spectacles and a maroon wig."
"Do not talk so," said Kate. "I tell you, Emilia is not
changeable, like you, sir. She is passionate and constant. She would
have married that man or died for him. You may think that your sage
counsels restrained her, but they did not; it was that she loved some
one else. Tell me honestly. Do you not know that there is somebody in
Europe whom she loves to distraction?"
"I do not know it," said Philip.
"Of course you do not KNOW it," returned the questioner. "Do you
not think it?"
"I have no reason to believe it."
"That has nothing to do with it," said Kate. "Things that we
believe without any reason have a great deal more weight with us. Do
you not believe it?"
"No," said Philip, point-blank.
"It is very strange," mused Kate. "Of course you do not know much
about it. She may have misled you, but I am sure that neither you nor
any one else could have cured her of a passion, especially an
unreasonable one, without putting another in its place. If you did it
without that, you are a magician, as Hope once called you. Philip, I
am afraid of you."
"There we sympathize," said Phil. "I am sometimes afraid of
myself, but I discover within half an hour what a very commonplace
land harmless person I am."
Meantime Emilia found herself beside her sister, who was
sketching. After watching Hope for a time in silence, she began to
"Tell me what you have been doing in all these years," she said.
"O, I have been at school," said Hope. "First I went through the
High School; then I stayed out of school a year, and studied Greek and
German with my uncle, and music with my aunt, who plays uncommonly
well. Then I persuaded them to let me go to the Normal School for two
years, and learn to be a teacher."
"A teacher!" said Emilia, with surprise. "Is it necessary that
you should be a teacher?"
"Very necessary," replied Hope. "I must have something to do, you
know, after I leave school."
"To do?" said the other. "Cannot you go to parties?"
"Not all the time," said her sister.
"Well," said Emilia, "in the mean time you can go to drive, or
make calls, or stay at home and make pretty little things to wear, as
other girls do."
"I can find time for that too, little sister, when I need them.
But I love children, you know, and I like to teach interesting
studies. I have splendid health, and I enjoy it all. I like it as
you love dancing, my child, only I like dancing too, so I have a
greater variety of enjoyments."
"But shall you not sometimes find it very hard?" said Emilia.
"That is why I shall like it," was the answer.
"What a girl you are!" exclaimed the younger sister. "You know
everything and can do everything."
"A very short everything," interposed Hope.
"Kate says," continued Emilia, "that you speak French as well as I
do, and I dare say you dance a great deal better; and those are the
only things I know."
"If we both had French partners, dear," replied the elder maiden,
"they would soon find the difference in both respects. My dancing came
by nature, I believe, and I learned French as a child, by talking with
my old uncle, who was half a Parisian. I believe I have a good accent,
but I have so little practice that I have no command of the language
compared to yours. In a week or two we can both try our skill, as
there is to be a ball for the officers of the French corvette yonder,"
and Hope pointed to the heavy spars, the dark canvas, and the high
quarter-deck which made the "Jean Hoche" seem as if she had floated
out of the days of Nelson.
The calm day waned, the sun drooped to his setting amid a few
golden bars and pencilled lines of light. Ere they were ready for
departure, the tide had ebbed, and, in getting the boats to a
practicable landing-place, Malbone was delayed behind the others. As
he at length brought his boat to the rock, Hope sat upon the ruined
fort, far above him, and sang. Her noble contralto voice echoed among
the cliffs down to the smooth water; the sun went down behind her, and
still she sat stately and noble, her white dress looking more and more
spirit-like against the golden sky; and still the song rang on,—
"Never a scornful word should grieve thee, I'd smile on thee,
sweet, as the angels do; Sweet as thy smile on me shone ever,
Douglas, Douglas, tender and true."
All sacredness and sweetness, all that was pure and brave and
truthful, seemed to rest in her. And when the song ceased at his
summons, and she came down to meet him,—glowing, beautiful,
appealing, tender,—then all meaner spells vanished, if such had ever
haunted him, and he was hers alone.
Later that evening, after the household had separated, Hope went
into the empty drawing-room for a light. Philip, after a moment's
hesitation, followed her, and paused in the doorway. She stood, a
white-robed figure, holding the lighted candle; behind her rose the
arched alcove, whose quaint cherubs looked down on her; she seemed to
have stepped forth, the awakened image of a saint. Looking up, she
saw his eager glance; then she colored, trembled, and put the candle
down. He came to her, took her hand and kissed it, then put his hand
upon her brow and gazed into her face, then kissed her lips. She
quietly yielded, but her color came and went, and her lips moved as if
to speak. For a moment he saw her only, thought only of her.
Then, even while he gazed into her eyes, a flood of other memories
surged over him, and his own eyes grew dim. His head swam, the lips
he had just kissed appeared to fade away, and something of darker,
richer beauty seemed to burn through those fair features; he looked
through those gentle eyes into orbs more radiant, and it was as if a
countenance of eager passion obliterated that fair head, and spoke
with substituted lips, "Behold your love." There was a thrill of
infinite ecstasy in the work his imagination did; he gave it rein,
then suddenly drew it in and looked at Hope. Her touch brought pain
for an instant, as she laid her hand upon him, but he bore it. Then
some influence of calmness came; there swept by him a flood of
earlier, serener memories; he sat down in the window-seat beside her,
and when she put her face beside his, and her soft hair touched his
cheek, and he inhaled the rose-odor that always clung round her, every
atom of his manhood stood up to drive away the intruding presence, and
he again belonged to her alone.
When he went to his chamber that night, he drew from his pocket a
little note in a girlish hand, which he lighted in the candle, and put
upon the open hearth to burn. With what a cruel, tinkling rustle the
pages flamed and twisted and opened, as if the fire read them, and
collapsed again as if in agonizing effort to hold their secret even in
death! The closely folded paper refused to burn, it went out again and
again; while each time Philip Malbone examined it ere relighting,
with a sort of vague curiosity, to see how much passion had already
vanished out of existence, and how much yet survived. For each of
these inspections he had to brush aside the calcined portion of the
letter, once so warm and beautiful with love, but changed to something
that seemed to him a semblance of his own heart just then,—black,
trivial, and empty.
Then he took from a little folded paper a long tress of dark
silken hair, and, without trusting himself to kiss it, held it firmly
in the candle. It crisped and sparkled, and sent out a pungent odor,
then turned and writhed between his fingers, like a living thing in
pain. What part of us has earthly immortality but our hair? It dies
not with death. When all else of human beauty has decayed beyond
corruption into the more agonizing irrecov-erableness of dust, the
hair is still fresh and beautiful, defying annihilation, and restoring
to the powerless heart the full association of the living image.
These shrinking hairs, they feared not death, but they seemed to fear
Malbone. Nothing but the hand of man could destroy what he was
destroying; but his hand shrank not, and it was done.
VII. AN INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION.
AT the celebrated Oldport ball for the French officers, the merit
of each maiden was estimated by the number of foreigners with whom she
could talk at once, for there were more gentlemen than ladies, and not
more than half the ladies spoke French. Here Emilia was in her glory;
the ice being once broken, officers were to her but like so many
school-girls, and she rattled away to the admiral and the fleet
captain and two or three lieutenants at once, while others hovered
behind the circle of her immediate adorers, to pick up the stray
shafts of what passed for wit. Other girls again drove two-in-hand,
at the most, in the way of conversation; while those least gifted
could only encounter one small Frenchman in some safe corner, and
converse chiefly by smiles and signs.
On the whole, the evening opened gayly. Newly arrived Frenchmen
are apt to be so unused to the familiar society of unmarried girls,
that the most innocent share in it has for them the zest of forbidden
fruit, and the most blameless intercourse seems almost a bonne
fortune. Most of these officers were from the lower ranks of French
society, but they all had that good-breeding which their race wears
with such ease, and can unhappily put off with the same.
The admiral and the fleet captain were soon turned over to Hope,
who spoke French as she did English, with quiet grace. She found them
agreeable companions, while Emilia drifted among the elder midshipmen,
who were dazzling in gold lace if not in intellect. Kate fell to the
share of a vehement little surgeon, who danced her out of breath.
Harry officiated as interpreter between the governor of the State and
a lively young ensign, who yearned for the society of dignitaries. The
governor was quite aware that he himself could not speak French; the
Frenchman was quite unaware that he himself could not speak English;
but with Harry's aid they plunged boldly into conversation. Their talk
happened to fall on steam-engines, English, French, American; their
comparative cost, comparative power, comparative cost per horse
power,—until Harry, who was not very strong upon the steam-engine in
his own tongue, and was quite helpless on that point in any other, got
a good deal astray among the numerals, and implanted some rather wild
statistics in the mind of each. The young Frenchman was far more
definite, when requested by the governor to state in English the
precise number of men engaged on board the corvette. With the
accuracy of his nation, he beamingly replied, "Seeshun-dredtousand."
As is apt to be the case in Oldport, other European nationalities
beside the French were represented, though the most marked foreign
accent was of course to be found among Americans just returned. There
were European diplomatists who spoke English perfectly; there were
travellers who spoke no English at all; and as usual each guest sought
to practise himself in the tongue he knew least. There was the usual
eagerness among the fashionable vulgar to make acquaintance with
anything that combined broken English and a title; and two minutes
after a Russian prince had seated himself comfortably on a sofa beside
Kate, he was vehemently tapped on the shoulder by Mrs. Courtenay Brash
with the endearing summons: "Why! Prince, I didn't see as you was
here. Do you set comfortable where you be? Come over to this window,
and tell all you know!"
The prince might have felt that his summons was abrupt, but knew
not that it was ungrammatical, and so was led away in triumph. He had
been but a month or two in this country, and so spoke our language no
more correctly than Mrs. Brash, but only with more grace. There was no
great harm in Mrs. Brash; like most loquacious people, she was
kind-hearted, with a tendency to corpulence and good works. She was
also afflicted with a high color, and a chronic eruption of diamonds.
Her husband had an eye for them, having begun life as a jeweller's
apprentice, and having developed sufficient sharpness of vision in
other directions to become a millionnaire, and a Congressman, and to
let his wife do as she pleased.
What goes forth from the lips may vary in dialect, but wine and
oysters speak the universal language. The supper-table brought our
party together, and they compared notes.
"Parties are very confusing," philosophized Hope,—"especially
when waiters and partners dress so much alike. Just now I saw an
ill-looking man elbowing his way up to Mrs. Meredith, and I thought he
was bringing her something on a plate. Instead of that, it was his
hand he held out, and she put hers into it; and I was told that he was
one of the leaders of society. There are very few gentlemen here whom
I could positively tell from the waiters by their faces, and yet Harry
says the fast set are not here."
"Talk of the angels!" said Philip. "There come the Inglesides."
Through the door of the supper-room they saw entering the
drawing-room one of those pretty, fair-haired women who grow older up
to twenty-five and then remain unchanged till sixty. She was dressed
in the loveliest pale blue silk, very low in the neck, and she seemed
to smile on all with her white teeth and her white shoulders. This
was Mrs. Ingleside. With her came her daughter Blanche, a pretty
blonde, whose bearing seemed at first as innocent and pastoral as her
name. Her dress was of spotless white, what there was of it; and her
skin was so snowy, you could hardly tell where the dress ended. Her
complexion was exquisite, her eyes of the softest blue; at
twenty-three she did not look more than seventeen; and yet there was
such a contrast between these virginal traits, and the worn,
faithless, hopeless expression, that she looked, as Philip said, like
a depraved lamb. Does it show the higher nature of woman, that, while
"fast young men" are content to look like well-dressed stable boys and
billiard-markers, one may observe that girls of the corresponding type
are apt to addict themselves to white and rosebuds, and pose
themselves for falling angels?
Mrs. Ingleside was a stray widow (from New Orleans via Paris),
into whose antecedents it was best not to inquire too closely. After
many ups and downs, she was at present up. It was difficult to state
with certainty what bad deed she had ever done, or what good deed.
She simply lived by her wits, and perhaps by some want of that
article in her male friends. Her house was a sort of gentlemanly
clubhouse, where the presence of two women offered a shade less
restraint than if there had been men alone. She was amiable and
unscrupulous, went regularly to church, and needed only money to be
the most respectable and fastidious of women. It was always rather a
mystery who paid for her charming little dinners; indeed, several
things in her demeanor were questionable, but as the questions were
never answered, no harm was done, and everybody invited her because
everybody else did. Had she committed some graceful forgery tomorrow,
or some mild murder the next day, nobody would have been surprised,
and all her intimate friends would have said it was what they had
Meantime the entertainment went on.
"I shall not have scalloped oysters in heaven," lamented Kate, as
she finished with healthy appetite her first instalment.
"Are you sure you shall not?" said the sympathetic Hope, who would
have eagerly followed Kate into Paradise with a supply of whatever she
"I suppose you will, darling," responded Kate, "but what will you
care? It seems hard that those who are bad enough to long for them
should not be good enough to earn them."
At this moment Blanche Ingleside and her train swept into the
supper-room; the girls cleared a passage, their attendant youths
collected chairs. Blanche tilted hers slightly against a wall,
professed utter exhaustion, and demanded a fresh bottle of champagne
in a voice that showed no signs of weakness. Presently a sheepish
youth drew near the noisy circle.
"Here comes that Talbot van Alsted," said Blanche, bursting at
last into a loud whisper. "What a goose he is, to be sure! Dear
baby, it promised its mother it wouldn't drink wine for two months.
Let's all drink with him. Talbot, my boy, just in time! Fill your
glass. Stosst an!"
And Blanche and her attendant spirits in white muslin thronged
around the weak boy, saw him charged with the three glasses that were
all his head could stand, and sent him reeling home to his mother.
Then they looked round for fresh worlds to conquer.
"There are the Maxwells!" said Miss Ingleside, without lowering
her voice. "Who is that party in the high-necked dress? Is she the
schoolmistress? Why do they have such people here? Society is getting
so common, there is no bearing it. That Emily who is with her is too
good for that slow set. She's the school-girl we heard of at Nice, or
somewhere; she wanted to elope with somebody, and Phil Malbone stopped
her, worse luck. She will be for eloping with us, before long."
Emilia colored scarlet, and gave a furtive glance at Hope, half of
shame, half of triumph. Hope looked at Blanche with surprise, made a
movement forward, but was restrained by the crowd, while the noisy
damsel broke out in a different direction.
"How fiendishly hot it is here, though! Jones junior, put your
elbow through that window! This champagne is boiling. What a
tiresome time we shall have to-morrow, when the Frenchmen are gone!
Ah, Count, there you are at last! Ready for the German? Come for me?
Just primed and up to anything, and so I tell you!"
But as Count Posen, kissing his hand to her, squeezed his way
through the crowd with Hal, to be presented to Hope, there came over
Blanche's young face such a mingled look of hatred and weariness and
chagrin, that even her unobserving friends saw it, and asked with
tender commiseration what was up.
The dancing recommenced. There was the usual array of partners,
distributed by mysterious discrepancies, like soldiers' uniforms, so
that all the tall drew short, and all the short had tall. There were
the timid couples, who danced with trembling knees and eyes cast over
their shoulders; the feeble couples, who meandered aimlessly and got
tangled in corners; the rash couples, who tore breathlessly through
the rooms and brought up at last against the large white waistcoat of
the violon-cello. There was the professional lady-killer, too supreme
and indolent to dance, but sitting amid an admiring bevy of fair
women, where he reared his head of raven curls, and pulled ceaselessly
his black mustache. And there were certain young girls who, having
astonished the community for a month by the lowness of their dresses,
now brought to bear their only remaining art, and struck everybody
dumb by appearing clothed. All these came and went and came again, and
had their day or their night, and danced until the robust Hope went
home exhausted and left her more fragile cousins to dance on till
morning. Indeed, it was no easy thing for them to tear themselves
away; Kate was always in demand; Philip knew everybody, and had that
latest aroma of Paris which the soul of fashion covets; Harry had the
tried endurance which befits brothers and lovers at balls; while
Emilia's foreign court held out till morning, and one handsome young
midshipman, in special, kept revolving back to her after each long
orbit of separation, like a gold-laced comet.
The young people lingered extravagantly late at that ball, for the
corvette was to sail next day, and the girls were willing to make the
most of it. As they came to the outer door, the dawn was inexpressibly
beautiful,—deep rose melting into saffron, beneath a tremulous
morning star. With a sudden impulse, they agreed to walk home, the
fresh air seemed so delicious. Philip and Emilia went first,
outstripping the others.
Passing the Jewish cemetery, Kate and Harry paused a moment. The
sky was almost cloudless, the air was full of a thousand scents and
songs, the rose-tints in the sky were deepening, the star paling,
while a few vague clouds went wandering upward, and dreamed themselves
"There is a grave in that cemetery," said Kate, gently, "where
lovers should always be sitting. It lies behind that tall monument;
I cannot see it for the blossoming boughs. There were two young
cousins who loved each other from childhood, but were separated,
because Jews do not allow such unions. Neither of them was ever
married; and they lived to be very old, the one in New Orleans, the
other at the North. In their last illnesses each dreamed of walking
in the fields with the other, as in their early days; and the
telegraphic despatches that told their deaths crossed each other on
the way. That is his monument, and her grave was made behind it; there
was no room for a stone."
Kate moved a step or two, that she might see the graves. The
branches opened clear. What living lovers had met there, at this
strange hour, above the dust of lovers dead? She saw with amazement,
and walked on quickly that Harry might not also see.
It was Emilia who sat beside the grave, her dark hair drooping and
dishevelled, her carnation cheek still brilliant after the night's
excitement; and he who sat at her feet, grasping her hand in both of
his, while his lips poured out passionate words to which she eagerly
listened, was Philip Malbone.
Here, upon the soil of a new nation, lay a spot whose associations
seemed already as old as time could make them,—the last footprint of
a tribe now vanished from this island forever,—the resting-place of a
race whose very funerals would soon be no more. Each April the robins
built their nests around these crumbling stones, each May they reared
their broods, each June the clover blossomed, each July the wild
strawberries grew cool and red; all around was youth and life and
ecstasy, and yet the stones bore inscriptions in an unknown language,
and the very graves seemed dead.
And lovelier than all the youth of Nature, little Emilia sat there
in the early light, her girlish existence gliding into that drama of
passion which is older than the buried nations, older than time, than
death, than all things save life and God.
VIII. TALKING IT OVER.
AUNT JANE was eager to hear about the ball, and called everybody
into her breakfast-parlor the next morning. She was still hesitating
about her bill of fare.
"I wish somebody would invent a new animal," she burst forth. "How
those sheep bleated last night! I know it was an expression of shame
for providing such tiresome food."
"You must not be so carnally minded, dear," said Kate. "You must
be very good and grateful, and not care for your breakfast. Somebody
says that mutton chops with wit are a great deal better than turtle
"A very foolish somebody," pronounced Aunt Jane. "I have had a
great deal of wit in my life, and very little turtle. Dear child, do
not excite me with impossible suggestions. There are dropped eggs, I
might have those. They look so beautifully, if it only were not
necessary to eat them. Yes, I will certainly have dropped eggs. I
think Ruth could drop them; she drops everything else."
"Poor little Ruth!" said Kate. "Not yet grown up!"
"She will never grow up," said Aunt Jane, "but she thinks she is a
woman; she even thinks she has a lover. O that in early life I had
provided myself with a pair of twins from some asylum; then I should
have had some one to wait on me."
"Perhaps they would have been married too," said Kate.
"They should never have been married," retorted Aunt Jane. "They
should have signed a paper at five years old to do no such thing.
Yesterday I told a lady that I was enraged that a servant should
presume to have a heart, and the woman took it seriously and began to
argue with me. To think of living in a town where one person could be
so idiotic! Such a town ought to be extinguished from the universe."
"Auntie!" said Kate, sternly, "you must grow more charitable."
"Must I?" said Aunt Jane; "it will not be at all becoming. I have
thought about it; often have I weighed it in my mind whether to be
monotonously lovely; but I have always thrust it away. It must make
life so tedious. It is too late for me to change,—at least, anything
about me but my countenance, and that changes the wrong way. Yet I
feel so young and fresh; I look in my glass every morning to see if I
have not a new face, but it never comes. I am not what is called
well-favored. In fact, I am not favored at all. Tell me about the
"What shall I tell?" said Kate.
"Tell me what people were there," said Aunt Jane, "and how they
were dressed; who were the happiest and who the most miserable. I
think I would rather hear about the most miserable,—at least, till I
have my breakfast."
"The most miserable person I saw," said Kate, "was Mrs. Meredith.
It was very amusing to hear her and Hope talk at cross-purposes. You
know her daughter Helen is in Paris, and the mother seemed very sad
about her. A lady was asking if something or other were true; 'Too
true,' said Mrs. Meredith; 'with every opportunity she has had no real
success. It was not the poor child's fault. She was properly
presented; but as yet she has had no success at all.'
"Hope looked up, full of sympathy. She thought Helen must be some
disappointed school-teacher, and felt an interest in her immediately.
'Will there not be another examination?' she asked. 'What an odd
phrase,' said Mrs. Meredith, looking rather disdainfully at Hope.
'No, I suppose we must give it up, if that is what you mean. The only
remaining chance is in the skating. I had particular attention paid
to Helen's skating on that very account. How happy shall I be, if my
foresight is rewarded!'
"Hope thought this meant physical education, to be sure, and
fancied that handsome Helen Meredith opening a school for
calisthenics in Paris! Luckily she did not say anything. Then the
other lady said, solemnly, 'My dear Mrs. Meredith, it is too true. No
one can tell how things will turn out in society. How often do we see
girls who were not looked at in America, and yet have a great success
in Paris; then other girls go out who were here very much admired, and
they have no success at all.'
"Hope understood it all then, but she took it very calmly. I was
so indignant, I could hardly help speaking. I wanted to say that it
was outrageous. The idea of American mothers training their children
for exhibition before what everybody calls the most corrupt court in
Europe! Then if they can catch the eye of the Emperor or the Empress
by their faces or their paces, that is called success!"
"Good Americans when they die go to Paris," said Philip, "so says
the oracle. Naughty Americans try it prematurely, and go while they
are alive. Then Paris casts them out, and when they come back, their
French disrepute is their stock in trade."
"I think," said the cheerful Hope, "that it is not quite so bad."
Hope always thought things not so bad. She went on. "I was very dull
not to know what Mrs. Meredith was talking about. Helen Meredith is a
warm-hearted, generous girl, and will not go far wrong, though her
mother is not as wise as she is well-bred. But Kate forgets that the
few hundred people one sees here or at Paris do not represent the
nation, after all."
"The most influential part of it," said Emilia.
"Are you sure, dear?" said her sister. "I do not think they
influence it half so much as a great many people who are too busy to
go to either place. I always remember those hundred girls at the
Normal School, and that they were not at all like Mrs. Meredith, nor
would they care to be like her, any more than she would wish to be
"They have not had the same advantages," said Emilia.
"Nor the same disadvantages," said Hope. "Some of them are not so
well bred, and none of them speak French so well, for she speaks
exquisitely. But in all that belongs to real training of the mind,
they seem to me superior, and that is why I think they will have more
"None of them are rich, though, I suppose," said Emilia, "nor of
very nice families, or they would not be teachers. So they will not be
so prominent in society."
"But they may yet become very prominent in society," said
Hope,—"they or their pupils or their children. At any rate, it is as
certain that the noblest lives will have most influence in the end, as
that two and two make four."
"Is that certain?" said Philip. "Perhaps there are worlds where
two and two do not make just that desirable amount."
"I trust there are," said Aunt Jane. "Perhaps I was intended to
be born in one of them, and that is why my housekeeping accounts never
Here hope was called away, and Emilia saucily murmured, "Sour
"Not a bit of it!" cried Kate, indignantly. "Hope might have
anything in society she wishes, if she would only give up some of her
own plans, and let me choose her dresses, and her rich uncles pay for
them. Count Posen told me, only yesterday, that there was not a girl
in Oldport with such an air as hers."
"Not Kate herself?" said Emilia, slyly.
"I?" said Kate. "What am I? A silly chit of a thing, with about
a dozen ideas in my head, nearly every one of which was planted there
by Hope. I like the nonsense of the world very well as it is, and
without her I should have cared for nothing else. Count Posen asked me
the other day, which country produced on the whole the most womanly
women, France or America. He is one of the few foreigners who expect
a rational answer. So I told him that I knew very little of
Frenchwomen personally, but that I had read French novels ever since I
was born, and there was not a woman worthy to be compared with Hope
in any of them, except Consuelo, and even she told lies."
"Do not begin upon Hope," said Aunt Jane. "It is the only subject
on which Kate can be tedious. Tell me about the dresses. Were people
over-dressed or under-dressed?"
"Under-dressed," said Phil. "Miss Ingleside had a half-inch strip
of muslin over her shoulder."
Here Philip followed Hope out of the room, and Emilia presently
"Tell on!" said Aunt Jane. "How did Philip enjoy himself?"
"He is easily amused, you know," said Kate. "He likes to observe
people, and to shoot folly as it flies."
"It does not fly," retorted the elder lady. "I wish it did. You
can shoot it sitting, at least where Philip is."
"Auntie," said Kate, "tell me truly your objection to Philip. I
think you did not like his parents. Had he not a good mother?"
"She was good," said Aunt Jane, reluctantly, "but it was that kind
of goodness which is quite offensive."
"And did you know his father well?"
"Know him!" exclaimed Aunt Jane. "I should think I did. I have
sat up all night to hate him."
"That was very wrong," said Kate, decisively. "You do not mean
that. You only mean that you did not admire him very much."
"I never admired a dozen people in my life, Kate. I once made a
list of them. There were six women, three men, and a Newfoundland
"What happened?" said Kate. "The Is-raelites died after Pharaoh,
or somebody, numbered them. Did anything happen to yours?"
"It was worse with mine," said Aunt Jane. "I grew tired of some
and others I forgot, till at last there was nobody left but the dog,
and he died."
"Was Philip's father one of them?"
"Tell me about him," said Kate, firmly.
"Ruth," said the elder lady, as her young handmaiden passed the
door with her wonted demureness, "come here; no, get me a glass of
water. Kate! I shall die of that girl. She does some idiotic thing,
and then she looks in here with that contented, beaming look. There is
an air of baseless happiness about her that drives me nearly frantic."
"Never mind about that," persisted Kate. "Tell me about Philip's
father. What was the matter with him?"
"My dear," Aunt Jane at last answered,—with that fearful
moderation to which she usually resorted when even her stock of
superlatives was exhausted,—"he belonged to a family for whom truth
possessed even less than the usual attractions."
This neat epitaph implied the erection of a final tombstone over
the whole race, and Kate asked no more.
Meantime Malbone sat at the western door with Harry, and was
running on with one of his tirades, half jest, half earnest, against
"In America," he said, "everything which does not tend to money is
thought to be wasted, as our Quaker neighbor thinks the children's
croquet-ground wasted, because it is not a potato field."
"Not just!" cried Harry. "Nowhere is there more respect for those
who give their lives to intellectual pursuits."
"What are intellectual pursuits?" said Philip. "Editing daily
newspapers? Teaching arithmetic to children? I see no others
"Science and literature," answered Harry.
"Who cares for literature in America," said Philip, "after a man
rises three inches above the newspaper level? Nobody reads Thoreau;
only an insignificant fraction read Emerson, or even Hawthorne. The
majority of people have hardly even heard their names. What
inducement has a writer? Nobody has any weight in America who is not
in Congress, and nobody gets into Congress without the necessity of
bribing or button-holing men whom he despises."
"But you do not care for public life?" said Harry.
"No," said Malbone, "therefore this does not trouble me, but it
troubles you. I am content. My digestion is good. I can always
amuse myself. Why are you not satisfied?"
"Because you are not," said Harry. "You are dissatisfied with
men, and so you care chiefly to amuse yourself with women and
"I dare say," said Malbone, carelessly. "They are usually less
ungraceful and talk better grammar."
"But American life does not mean grace nor grammar. We are all
living for the future. Rough work now, and the graces by and by."
"That is what we Americans always say," retorted Philip.
"Everything is in the future. What guaranty have we for that future?
I see none. We make no progress towards the higher arts, except in
greater quantities of mediocrity. We sell larger editions of poor
books. Our artists fill larger frames and travel farther for
materials; but a ten-inch canvas would tell all they have to say."
"The wrong point of view," said Hal. "If you begin with high art,
you begin at the wrong end. The first essential for any nation is to
put the mass of the people above the reach of want. We are all
usefully employed, if we contribute to that."
"So is the cook usefully employed while preparing dinner," said
Philip. "Nevertheless, I do not wish to live in the kitchen."
"Yet you always admire your own country," said Harry, "so long as
you are in Europe."
"No doubt," said Philip. "I do not object to the kitchen at that
distance. And to tell the truth, America looks well from Europe. No
culture, no art seems so noble as this far-off spectacle of a
self-governing people. The enthusiasm lasts till one's return. Then
there seems nothing here but to work hard and keep out of mischief."
"That is something," said Harry.
"A good deal in America," said Phil. "We talk about the
immorality of older countries. Did you ever notice that no class of
men are so apt to take to drinking as highly cultivated Americans? It
is a very demoralizing position, when one's tastes outgrow one's
surroundings. Positively, I think a man is more excusable for coveting
his neighbor's wife in America than in Europe, because there is so
little else to covet."
"Malbone!" said Hal, "what has got into you? Do you know what
things you are saying?"
"Perfectly," was the unconcerned reply. "I am not arguing; I am
only testifying. I know that in Paris, for instance, I myself have no
temptations. Art and history are so delightful, I absolutely do not
care for the society even of women; but here, where there is nothing
to do, one must have some stimulus, and for me, who hate drinking,
they are, at least, a more refined excitement."
"More dangerous," said Hal. "Infinitely more dangerous, in the
morbid way in which you look at life. What have these sickly fancies
to do with the career that opens to every brave man in a great
"They have everything to do with it, and there are many for whom
there is no career. As the nation develops, it must produce men of
high culture. Now there is no place for them except as bookkeepers or
pedagogues or newspaper reporters. Meantime the incessant
unintellectual activity is only a sublime bore to those who stand
"Then why stand aside?" persisted the downright Harry.
"I have no place in it but a lounging-place," said Malbone. "I do
not wish to chop blocks with a razor. I envy those men, born mere
Americans, with no ambition in life but to 'swing a railroad' as they
say at the West. Every morning I hope to wake up like them in the
fear of God and the love of money."
"You may as well stop," said Harry, coloring a little. "Malbone,
you used to be my ideal man in my boyhood, but"—
"I am glad we have got beyond that," interrupted the other,
cheerily, "I am only an idler in the land. Meanwhile, I have my
little interests,—read, write, sketch—"
"Flirt?" put in Hal, with growing displeasure.
"Not now," said Phil, patting his shoulder, with imperturbable
good-nature. "Our beloved has cured me of that. He who has won the
pearl dives no more."
"Do not let us speak of Hope," said Harry. "Everything that you
have been asserting Hope's daily life disproves."
"That may be," answered Malbone, heartily. "But, Hal, I never
flirted; I always despised it. It was always a grande passion with
me, or what I took for such. I loved to be loved, I suppose; and
there was always something new and fascinating to be explored in a
human heart, that is, a woman's."
"Some new temple to profane?" asked Hal severely.
"Never!" said Philip. "I never profaned it. If I deceived, I
shared the deception, at least for a time; and, as for sensuality, I
had none in me."
"Did you have nothing worse? Rousseau ends where Tom Jones
"My temperament saved me," said Philip. "A woman is not a woman
to me, without personal refinement."
"Just what Rousseau said," replied Harry.
"I acted upon it," answered Malbone. "No one dislikes Blanche
Ingleside and her demi monde more than I."
"You ought not," was the retort. "You help to bring other girls
to her level."
"Whom?" said Malbone, startled.
"Emilia?" repeated the other, coloring crimson. "I, who have
warned her against Blanche's society."
"And have left her no other resource," said Harry, coloring still
more. "Malbone, you have gained (unconsciously of course) too much
power over that girl, and the only effect of it is, to keep her in
perpetual excitement. So she seeks Blanche, as she would any other
strong stimulant. Hope does not seem to have discovered this, but Kate
has, and I have."
Hope came in, and Harry went out. The next day he came to Philip
and apologized most warmly for his unjust and inconsiderate words.
Malbone, always generous, bade him think no more about it, and Harry
for that day reverted strongly to his first faith. "So noble, so
high-toned," he said to Kate. Indeed, a man never appears more
magnanimous than in forgiving a friend who has told him the truth.
IX. DANGEROUS WAYS.
IT was true enough what Harry had said. Philip Malbone's was that
perilous Rousseau-like temperament, neither sincere enough for safety,
nor false enough to alarm; the winning tenderness that thrills and
softens at the mere neighborhood of a woman, and fascinates by its
reality those whom no hypocrisy can deceive. It was a nature half
amiable, half voluptuous, that disarmed others, seeming itself
unarmed. He was never wholly ennobled by passion, for it never
touched him deeply enough; and, on the other hand, he was not hardened
by the habitual attitude of passion, for he was never really
insincere. Sometimes it seemed as if nothing stood between him and
utter profligacy but a little indolence, a little kindness, and a
good deal of caution.
"There seems no such thing as serious repentance in me," he had
once said to Kate, two years before, when she had upbraided him with
some desperate flirtation which had looked as if he would carry it as
far as gentlemen did under King Charles II. "How does remorse begin?"
"Where you are beginning," said Kate.
"I do not perceive that," he answered. "My conscience seems,
after all, to be only a form of good-nature. I like to be stirred by
emotion, I suppose, and I like to study character. But I can always
stop when it is evident that I shall cause pain to somebody. Is there
any other motive?"
"In other words," said she, "you apply the match, and then turn
your back on the burning house."
Philip colored. "How unjust you are! Of course, we all like to
play with fire, but I always put it out before it can spread. Do you
think I have no feeling?"
Kate stopped there, I suppose. Even she always stopped soon, if
she undertook to interfere with Malbone. This charming Alcibiades
always convinced them, after the wrestling was over, that he had not
The only exception to this was in the case of Aunt Jane. If she
had anything in common with Philip,—and there was a certain element
of ingenuous unconsciousness in which they were not so far unlike,—it
only placed them in the more complete antagonism. Perhaps if two
beings were in absolutely no respect alike, they never could meet even
for purposes of hostility; there must be some common ground from which
the aversion may proceed. Moreover, in this case Aunt Jane utterly
disbelieved in Malbone because she had reason to disbelieve in his
father, and the better she knew the son the more she disliked the
Philip was apt to be very heedless of such aversions,—indeed, he
had few to heed,—but it was apparent that Aunt Jane was the only
person with whom he was not quite at ease. Still, the solicitude did
not trouble him very much, for he instinctively knew that it was not
his particular actions which vexed her, so much as his very
temperament and atmosphere,—things not to be changed. So he usually
went his way; and if he sometimes felt one of her sharp retorts, could
laugh it off that day and sleep it off before the next morning.
For you may be sure that Philip was very little troubled by
inconvenient memories. He never had to affect forgetfulness of
anything. The past slid from him so easily, he forgot even to try to
forget. He liked to quote from Emerson, "What have I to do with
repentance?" "What have my yesterday's errors," he would say, "to do
with the life of to-day?"
"Everything," interrupted Aunt Jane, "for you will repeat them
to-day, if you can."
"Not at all," persisted he, accepting as conversation what she
meant as a stab. "I may, indeed, commit greater errors,"—here she
grimly nodded, as if she had no doubt of it,—"but never just the
same. To-day must take thought for itself."
"I wish it would," she said, gently, and then went on with her own
thoughts while he was silent. Presently she broke out again in her
"Depend upon it," she said, "there is very little direct
retribution in this world."
Phil looked up, quite pleased at her indorsing one of his favorite
views. She looked, as she always did, indignant at having said
anything to please him.
"Yes," said she, "it is the indirect retribution that crushes.
I've seen enough of that, God knows. Kate, give me my thimble."
Malbone had that smooth elasticity of surface which made even Aunt
Jane's strong fingers slip from him as they might from a fish, or from
the soft, gelatinous stem of the water-target. Even in this case he
only laughed good-naturedly, and went out, whistling like a
mocking-bird, to call the children round him.
Toward the more wayward and impulsive Emilia the good lady was far
more merciful. With all Aunt Jane's formidable keenness, she was a
little apt to be disarmed by youth and beauty, and had no very stern
retributions except for those past middle age. Emilia especially
charmed her while she repelled. There was no getting beyond a certain
point with this strange girl, any more than with Philip; but her
depths tantalized, while his apparent shallows were only vexatious.
Emilia was usually sweet, winning, cordial, and seemed ready to glide
into one's heart as softly as she glided into the room; she liked to
please, and found it very easy. Yet she left the impression that this
smooth and delicate loveliness went but an inch beyond the surface,
like the soft, thin foam that enamels yonder tract of ocean, belongs
to it, is a part of it, yet is, after all, but a bequest of tempests,
and covers only a dark abyss of crossing currents and desolate tangles
of rootless kelp. Everybody was drawn to her, yet not a soul took any
comfort in her. Her very voice had in it a despairing sweetness, that
seemed far in advance of her actual history; it was an anticipated
miserere, a perpetual dirge, where nothing had yet gone down. So Aunt
Jane, who was wont to be perfectly decisive in her treatment of every
human being, was fluctuating and inconsistent with Emilia. She could
not help being fascinated by the motherless child, and yet scorned
herself for even the doubting love she gave.
"Only think, auntie," said Kate, "how you kissed Emilia,
"Of course I did," she remorsefully owned. "I have kissed her a
great many times too often. I never will kiss her again. There is
nothing but sorrow to be found in loving her, and her heart is no
larger than her feet. Today she was not even pretty! If it were not
for her voice, I think I should never wish to see her again."
But when that soft, pleading voice came once more, and Emilia
asked perhaps for luncheon, in tones fit for Ophelia, Aunt Jane
instantly yielded. One might as well have tried to enforce
indignation against the Babes in the Wood.
This perpetual mute appeal was further strengthened by a peculiar
physical habit in Emilia, which first alarmed the household, but soon
ceased to inspire terror. She fainted very easily, and had attacks at
long intervals akin to faintness, and lasting for several hours. The
physicians pronounced them cataleptic in their nature, saying that
they brought no danger, and that she would certainly outgrow them.
They were sometimes produced by fatigue, sometimes by excitement, but
they brought no agitation with them, nor any development of abnormal
powers. They simply wrapped her in a profound repose, from which no
effort could rouse her, till the trance passed by. Her eyes
gradually closed, her voice died away, and all movement ceased, save
that her eyelids sometimes trembled without opening, and sweet
evanescent expressions chased each other across her face,—the shadows
of thoughts unseen. For a time she seemed to distinguish the touch of
different persons by preference or pain; but soon even this sign of
recognition vanished, and the household could only wait and watch,
while she sank into deeper and yet deeper repose.
There was something inexpressibly sweet, appealing, and touching
in this impenetrable slumber, when it was at its deepest. She looked
so young, so delicate, so lovely; it was as if she had entered into a
shrine, and some sacred curtain had been dropped to shield her from
all the cares and perplexities of life. She lived, she breathed, and
yet all the storms of life could but beat against her powerless, as
the waves beat on the shore. Safe in this beautiful semblance of
death,—her pulse a little accelerated, her rich color only softened,
her eyelids drooping, her exquisite mouth curved into the sweetness
it had lacked in waking,—she lay unconscious and supreme, the
temporary monarch of the household, entranced upon her throne. A few
hours having passed, she suddenly waked, and was a self-willed,
passionate girl once more. When she spoke, it was with a voice wholly
natural; she had no recollection of what had happened, and no
curiosity to learn.
IT had been a lovely summer day, with a tinge of autumnal coolness
toward nightfall, ending in what Aunt Jane called a "quince-jelly
sunset." Kate and Emilia sat upon the Blue Rocks, earnestly talking.
"Promise, Emilia!" said Kate.
Emilia said nothing.
"Remember," continued Kate, "he is Hope's betrothed. Promise,
Emilia looked into Kate's face and saw it flushed with a generous
eagerness, that called forth an answering look in her. She tried to
speak, and the words died into silence. There was a pause, while each
watched the other.
When one soul is grappling with another for life, such silence may
last an instant too long; and Kate soon felt her grasp slipping.
Momentarily the spell relaxed. Other thoughts swelled up, and
Emilia's eyes began to wander; delicious memories stole in, of walks
through blossoming paths with Malbone,—of lingering steps,
half-stifled words and sentences left unfinished;—then, alas! of
passionate caresses,—other blossoming paths that only showed the way
to sin, but had never quite led her there, she fancied. There was so
much to tell, more than could ever be explained or justified. Moment
by moment, farther and farther strayed the wandering thoughts, and
when the poor child looked in Kate's face again, the mist between
them seemed to have grown wide and dense, as if neither eyes nor words
nor hands could ever meet again. When she spoke it was to say
something evasive and unimportant, and her voice was as one from the
In truth, Philip had given Emilia his heart to play with at
Neuchatel, that he might beguile her from an attachment they had all
regretted. The device succeeded. The toy once in her hand, the
passionate girl had kept it, had clung to him with all her might; he
could not shake her off. Nor was this the worst, for to his dismay he
found himself responding to her love with a self-abandonment of ardor
for which all former loves had been but a cool preparation. He had
not intended this; it seemed hardly his fault: his intentions had
been good, or at least not bad. This piquant and wonderful fruit of
nature, this girlish soul, he had merely touched it and it was his.
Its mere fragrance was intoxicating. Good God! what should he do with
No clear answer coming, he had drifted on with that terrible
facility for which years of self-indulged emotion had prepared him.
Each step, while it was intended to be the last, only made some other
last step needful.
He had begun wrong, for he had concealed his engagement, fancying
that he could secure a stronger influence over this young girl without
the knowledge. He had come to her simply as a friend of her
Transatlantic kindred; and she, who was always rather indifferent to
them, asked no questions, nor made the discovery till too late. Then,
indeed, she had burst upon him with an impetuous despair that had
alarmed him. He feared, not that she would do herself any violence,
for she had a childish dread of death, but that she would show some
desperate animosity toward Hope, whenever they should meet. After a
long struggle, he had touched, not her sense of justice, for she had
none, but her love for him; he had aroused her tenderness and her
Without his actual assurance, she yet believed that he would
release himself in some way from his betrothal, and love only her.
Malbone had fortunately great control over Emilia when near her,
and could thus keep the sight of this stormy passion from the pure and
unconscious Hope. But a new distress opened before him, from the time
when he again touched Hope's hand. The close intercourse of the voyage
had given him for the time almost a surfeit of the hot-house
atmosphere of Emilia's love. The first contact of Hope's cool, smooth
fingers, the soft light of her clear eyes, the breezy grace of her
motions, the rose-odors that clung around her, brought back all his
early passion. Apart from this voluptuousness of the heart into which
he had fallen, Malbone's was a simple and unspoiled nature; he had no
vices, and had always won popularity too easily to be obliged to stoop
for it; so all that was noblest in him paid allegiance to Hope. From
the moment they again met, his wayward heart reverted to her. He had
been in a dream, he said to himself; he would conquer it and be only
hers; he would go away with her into the forests and green fields she
loved, or he would share in the life of usefulness for which she
yearned. But then, what was he to do with this little waif from the
heart's tropics,—once tampered with, in an hour of mad dalliance,
and now adhering in-separably to his life? Supposing him ready to
separate from her, could she be detached from him?
Kate's anxieties, when she at last hinted them to Malbone, only
sent him further into revery. "How is it," he asked himself, "that
when I only sought to love and be loved, I have thus entangled myself
in the fate of others? How is one's heart to be governed? Is there
any such governing? Mlle. Clairon complained that, so soon as she
became seriously attached to any one, she was sure to meet somebody
else whom she liked better. Have human hearts," he said, "or at least,
has my heart, no more stability than this?"
It did not help the matter when Emilia went to stay awhile with
Mrs. Meredith. The event came about in this way. Hope and Kate had
been to a dinner-party, and were as usual reciting their experiences
to Aunt Jane.
"Was it pleasant?" said that sympathetic lady.
"It was one of those dreadfully dark dining-rooms," said Hope,
seating herself at the open window.
"Why do they make them look so like tombs?" said Kate.
"Because," said her aunt, "most Americans pass from them to the
tomb, after eating such indigestible things. There is a wish for a
"Aunt Jane," said Hope, "Mrs. Meredith asks to have a little visit
from Emilia. Do you think she had better go?"
"Mrs. Meredith?" asked Aunt Jane. "Is that woman alive yet?"
"Why, auntie!" said Kate. "We were talking about her only a week
"Perhaps so," conceded Aunt Jane, reluctantly. "But it seems to
me she has great length of days!"
"How very improperly you are talking, dear!" said Kate. "She is
not more than forty, and you are—"
"Fifty-four," interrupted the other.
"Then she has not seen nearly so many days as you."
"But they are such long days! That is what I must have meant. One
of her days is as long as three of mine. She is so tiresome!"
"She does not tire you very often," said Kate.
"She comes once a year," said Aunt Jane. "And then it is not to
see me. She comes out of respect to the memory of my great-aunt, with
whom Talleyrand fell in love, when he was in America, before Mrs.
Meredith was born. Yes, Emilia may as well go."
So Emilia went. To provide her with companionship, Mrs. Meredith
kindly had Blanche Ingleside to stay there also. Blanche stayed at
different houses a good deal. To do her justice, she was very good
company, when put upon her best behavior, and beyond the reach of her
demure mamma. She was always in spirits, often good-natured, and kept
everything in lively motion, you may be sure. She found it not
unpleasant, in rich houses, to escape some of those little domestic
parsimonies which the world saw not in her own; and to secure this
felicity she could sometimes lay great restraints upon herself, for as
much as twenty-four hours. She seemed a little out of place,
certainly, amid the precise proprieties of Mrs. Meredith's
establishment. But Blanche and her mother still held their place in
society, and it was nothing to Mrs. Meredith who came to her doors,
but only from what other doors they came.
She would have liked to see all "the best houses" connected by
secret galleries or underground passages, of which she and a few
others should hold the keys. A guest properly presented could then go
the rounds of all unerringly, leaving his card at each, while improper
acquaintances in vain howled for admission at the outer wall. For the
rest, her ideal of social happiness was a series of perfectly ordered
entertainments, at each of which there should be precisely the same
guests, the same topics, the same supper, and the same ennui.
XI. DESCENSUS AVERNI.
MALBONE stood one morning on the pier behind the house. A two
days' fog was dispersing. The southwest breeze rippled the deep blue
water; sailboats, blue, red, and green, were darting about like
white-winged butterflies; sloops passed and repassed, cutting the air
with the white and slender points of their gaff-topsails. The
liberated sunbeams spread and penetrated everywhere, and even came up
to play (reflected from the water) beneath the shadowy, overhanging
counters of dark vessels. Beyond, the atmosphere was still busy in
rolling away its vapors, brushing the last gray fringes from the low
hills, and leaving over them only the thinnest aerial veil. Farther
down the bay, the pale tower of the crumbling fort was now shrouded,
now revealed, then hung with floating lines of vapor as with banners.
Hope came down on the pier to Malbone, who was looking at the
boats. He saw with surprise that her calm brow was a little clouded,
her lips compressed, and her eyes full of tears.
"Philip," she said, abruptly, "do you love me?"
"Do you doubt it?" said he, smiling, a little uneasily.
Fixing her eyes upon him, she said, more seriously: "There is a
more important question, Philip. Tell me truly, do you care about
He started at the words, and looked eagerly in her face for an
explanation. Her expression only showed the most anxious solicitude.
For one moment the wild impulse came up in his mind to put an
entire trust in this truthful woman, and tell her all. Then the habit
of concealment came back to him, the dull hopelessness of a divided
duty, and the impossibility of explanations. How could he justify
himself to her when he did not really know himself? So he merely said,
"She is your sister," he added, in an explanatory tone, after a
pause; and despised himself for the subterfuge. It is amazing how
long a man may be false in action before he ceases to shrink from
being false in words.
"Philip," said the unsuspecting Hope, "I knew that you cared about
her. I have seen you look at her with so much affection; and then
again I have seen you look cold and almost stern. She notices it, I am
sure she does, this changeableness. But this is not why I ask the
question. I think you must have seen something else that I have been
observing, and if you care about her, even for my sake, it is enough."
Here Philip started, and felt relieved.
"You must be her friend," continued Hope, eagerly. "She has
changed her whole manner and habits very fast. Blanche Ingleside and
that set seem to have wholly controlled her, and there is something
reckless in all her ways. You are the only person who can help her."
"I do not know how," said Hope, almost impatiently. "You know
how. You have wonderful influence. You saved her before, and will do
it again. I put her in your hands."
"What can I do for her?" asked he, with a strange mingling of
terror and delight.
"Everything," said she. "If she has your society, she will not
care for those people, so much her inferiors in character. Devote
yourself to her for a time."
"And leave you?" said Philip, hesitatingly.
"Anything, anything," said she. "If I do not see you for a month,
I can bear it. Only promise me two things. First, that you will go
to her this very day. She dines with Mrs. Ingleside."
"Then," said Hope, with saddened tones, "you must not say it was I
who sent you. Indeed you must not. That would spoil all. Let her
think that your own impulse leads you, and then she will yield. I know
Emilia enough for that."
Malbone paused, half in ecstasy, half in dismay. Were all the
events of life combining to ruin or to save him? This young girl,
whom he so passionately loved, was she to be thrust back into his
arms, and was he to be told to clasp her and be silent? And that by
Hope, and in the name of duty?
It seemed a strange position, even for him who was so eager for
fresh experiences and difficult combinations. At Hope's appeal he was
to risk Hope's peace forever; he was to make her sweet sisterly
affection its own executioner. In obedience to her love he must revive
Emilia's. The tender intercourse which he had been trying to renounce
as a crime must be rebaptized as a duty. Was ever a man placed, he
thought, in a position so inextricable, so disastrous? What could he
offer Emilia? How could he explain to her his position? He could not
even tell her that it was at Hope's command he sought her.
He who is summoned to rescue a drowning man, knowing that he
himself may go down with that inevitable clutch around his neck, is
placed in some such situation as Philip's. Yet Hope had appealed to
him so simply, had trusted him so nobly! Suppose that, by any
self-control, or wisdom, or unexpected aid of Heaven, he could serve
both her and Emilia, was it not his duty? What if it should prove that
he was right in loving them both, and had only erred when he cursed
himself for tampering with their destinies? Perhaps, after all, the
Divine Love had been guiding him, and at some appointed signal all
these complications were to be cleared, and he and his various loves
were somehow to be ingeniously provided for, and all be made happy
He really grew quite tender and devout over these meditations.
Phil was not a conceited fellow, by any means, but he had been so
often told by women that their love for him had been a blessing to
their souls, that he quite acquiesced in being a providential agent in
that particular direction. Considered as a form of self-sacrifice, it
was not without its pleasures.
Malbone drove that afternoon to Mrs. Ingleside's charming abode,
whither a few ladies were wont to resort, and a great many gentlemen.
He timed his call between the hours of dining and driving, and made
sure that Emilia had not yet emerged. Two or three equipages beside
his own were in waiting at the gate, and gay voices resounded from the
house. A servant received him at the door, and taking him for a tardy
guest, ushered him at once into the dining-room. He was indifferent to
this, for he had been too often sought as a guest by Mrs. Ingleside
to stand on any ceremony beneath her roof.
That fair hostess, in all the beauty of her shoulders, rose to
greet him, from a table where six or eight guests yet lingered over
flowers and wine. The gentlemen were smoking, and some of the ladies
were trying to look at ease with cigarettes. Malbone knew the whole
company, and greeted them with his accustomed ease. He would not have
been embarrassed if they had been the Forty Thieves. Some of them,
indeed, were not so far removed from that fabled band, only it was
their fortunes, instead of themselves, that lay in the jars of oil.
"You find us all here," said Mrs. Ingleside, sweetly. "We will
wait till the gentlemen finish their cigars, before driving."
"Count me in, please," said Blanche, in her usual vein of
frankness. "Unless mamma wishes me to conclude my weed on the Avenue.
It would be fun, though. Fancy the dismay of the Frenchmen and the
"And old Lambert," said one of the other girls, delightedly.
"Yes," said Blanche. "The elderly party from the rural districts,
who talks to us about the domestic virtues of the wife of his youth."
"Thinks women should cruise with a broom at their mast-heads, like
Admiral somebody in England," said another damsel, who was rolling a
cigarette for a midshipman.
"You see we do not follow the English style," said the smooth
hostess to Philip. "Ladies retiring after dinner! After all, it is
a coarse practice. You agree with me, Mr. Malbone?"
"Speak your mind," said Blanche, coolly. "Don't say yes if you'd
rather not. Because we find a thing a bore, you've no call to say so."
"I always say," continued the matron, "that the presence of woman
is needed as a refining influence."
Malbone looked round for the refining influences. Blanche was
tilted back in her chair, with one foot on the rung of the chair
before her, resuming a loud-toned discourse with Count Posen as to his
projected work on American society. She was trying to extort a promise
that she should appear in its pages, which, as we all remember, she
did. One of her attendant nymphs sat leaning her elbows on the table,
"talking horse" with a gentleman who had an undoubted professional
claim to a knowledge of that commodity. Another, having finished her
manufactured cigarette, was making the grinning midshipman open his
lips wider and wider to receive it. Mrs. Ingleside was talking in her
mincing way with a Jew broker, whose English was as imperfect as his
morals, and who needed nothing to make him a millionnaire but a turn
of bad luck for somebody else. Half the men in the room would have
felt quite ill at ease in any circle of refined women, but there was
not one who did not feel perfectly unembarrassed around Mrs.
"Upon my word," thought Malbone, "I never fancied the English
after-dinner practice, any more than did Napoleon. But if this goes
on, it is the gentlemen who ought to withdraw. Cannot somebody lead
the way to the drawing-room, and leave the ladies to finish their
Till now he had hardly dared to look at Emilia. He saw with a
thrill of love that she was the one person in the room who appeared
out of place or ill at ease. She did not glance at him, but held her
cigarette in silence and refused to light it. She had boasted to him
once of having learned to smoke at school.
"What's the matter, Emmy?" suddenly exclaimed Blanche. "Are you
under a cloud, that you don't blow one?"
"Blanche, Blanche," said her mother, in sweet reproof. "Mr.
Malbone, what shall I do with this wild girl? Such a light way of
talking! But I can assure you that she is really very fond of the
society of intellectual, superior men. I often tell her that they
are, after all, her most congenial associates. More so than the young
"You'd better believe it," said the unabashed damsel. "Take notice
that whenever I go to a dinner-party I look round for a clergyman to
drink wine with."
"Incorrigible!" said the caressing mother. "Mr. Malbone would
hardly imagine you had been bred in a Christian land."
"I have, though," retorted Blanche. "My esteemed parent always
accustomed me to give up something during Lent,—champagne, or the
New York Herald, or something."
The young men roared, and, had time and cosmetics made it
possible, Mrs. Ingleside would have blushed becomingly. After all,
the daughter was the better of the two. Her bluntness was refreshing
beside the mother's suavity; she had a certain generosity, too, and in
a case of real destitution would have lent her best ear-rings to a
By this time Malbone had edged himself to Emilia's side. "Will you
drive with me?" he murmured in an undertone.
She nodded slightly, abruptly, and he withdrew again.
"It seems barbarous," said he aloud, "to break up the party. But I
must claim my promised drive with Miss Emilia."
Blanche looked up, for once amazed, having heard a different
programme arranged. Count Posen looked up also. But he thought he
must have misunderstood Emilia's acceptance of his previous offer to
drive her; and as he prided himself even more on his English than on
his gallantry, he said no more. It was no great matter. Young Jones's
dog-cart was at the door, and always opened eagerly its arms to
anybody with a title.
XII. A NEW ENGAGEMENT.
TEN days later Philip came into Aunt Jane's parlor, looking
excited and gloomy, with a letter in his hand. He put it down on her
table without its envelope,—a thing that always particularly annoyed
her. A letter without its envelope, she was wont to say, was like a
man without a face, or a key without a string,—something incomplete,
preposterous. As usual, however, he strode across her prejudices, and
said, "I have something to tell you. It is a fact."
"Is it?" said Aunt Jane, curtly. "That is refreshing in these
"A good beginning," said Kate. "Go on. You have prepared us for
"You will think it so," said Malbone. "Emilia is engaged to Mr.
John Lambert." And he went out of the room.
"Good Heavens!" said Aunt Jane, taking off her spectacles. "What a
man! He is ugly enough to frighten the neighboring crows. His face
looks as if it had fallen together out of chaos, and the features had
come where it had pleased Fate. There is a look of industrious
nothingness about him, such as busy dogs have. I know the whole
family. They used to bake our bread."
"I suppose they are good and sensible," said Kate.
"Like boiled potatoes, my dear," was the response,—"wholesome but
"Is he of that sort?" asked Kate.
"No," said her aunt; "not uninteresting, but ungracious. But I
like an ungracious man better than one like Philip, who hangs over
young girls like a soft-hearted avalanche. This Lambert will govern
Emilia, which is what she needs."
"She will never love him," said Kate, "which is the one thing she
needs. There is nothing that could not be done with Emilia by any
person with whom she was in love; and nothing can ever be done with
her by anybody else. No good will ever come of this, and I hope she
will never marry him."
With this unusual burst, Kate retreated to Hope. Hope took the
news more patiently than any one, but with deep solicitude. A
worldly marriage seemed the natural result of the Ingleside
influence, but it had not occurred to anybody that it would come so
soon. It had not seemed Emilia's peculiar temptation; and yet nobody
could suppose that she looked at John Lambert through any glamour of
Mr. John Lambert was a millionnaire, a politician, and a widower.
The late Mrs. Lambert had been a specimen of that cheerful
hopelessness of temperament that one finds abundantly developed among
the middle-aged women of country towns. She enjoyed her daily murders
in the newspapers, and wept profusely at the funerals of strangers.
On every occasion, however felicitous, she offered her condolences in
a feeble voice, that seemed to have been washed a great many times and
to have faded. But she was a good manager, a devoted wife, and was
more cheerful at home than elsewhere, for she had there plenty of
trials to exercise her eloquence, and not enough joy to make it her
duty to be doleful. At last her poor, meek, fatiguing voice faded out
altogether, and her husband mourned her as heartily as she would have
bemoaned the demise of the most insignificant neighbor. After her
death, being left childless, he had nothing to do but to make money,
and he naturally made it. Having taken his primary financial education
in New England, he graduated at that great business university,
Chicago, and then entered on the public practice of wealth in New
Aunt Jane had perhaps done injustice to the personal appearance of
Mr. John Lambert. His features were irregular, but not insignificant,
and there was a certain air of slow command about him, which made some
persons call him handsome. He was heavily built, with a large,
well-shaped head, light whiskers tinged with gray, and a sort of dusty
complexion. His face was full of little curved wrinkles, as if it were
a slate just ruled for sums in long division, and his small blue eyes
winked anxiously a dozen different ways, as if they were doing the
sums. He seemed to bristle with memorandum-books, and kept drawing
them from every pocket, to put something down. He was slow of speech,
and his very heaviness of look added to the impression of reserved
power about the man.
All his career in life had been a solid progress, and his boldest
speculations seemed securer than the legitimate business of less
potent financiers. Beginning business life by peddling gingerbread on
a railway train, he had developed such a genius for railway management
as some men show for chess or for virtue; and his accumulating
property had the momentum of a planet.
He had read a good deal at odd times, and had seen a great deal of
men. His private morals were unstained, he was equable and amiable,
had strong good sense, and never got beyond his depth. He had
travelled in Europe and brought home many statistics, some new
thoughts, and a few good pictures selected by his friends. He spent
his money liberally for the things needful to his position, owned a
yacht, bred trotting-horses, and had founded a theological school. He
submitted to these and other social observances from a vague sense of
duty as an American citizen; his real interest lay in business and in
politics. Yet he conducted these two vocations on principles
diametrically opposite. In business he was more honest than the
average; in politics he had no conception of honesty, for he could see
no difference between a politician and any other merchandise. He
always succeeded in business, for he thoroughly understood its
principles; in politics he always failed in the end, for he recognized
no principles at all. In business he was active, resolute, and seldom
deceived; in politics he was equally active, but was apt to be
irresolute, and was deceived every day of his life. In both cases it
was not so much from love of power that he labored, as from the
excitement of the game. The larger the scale the better he liked it; a
large railroad operation, a large tract of real estate, a big and
noisy statesman,—these investments he found irresistible.
On which of his two sets of principles he would manage a wife
remained to be proved. It is the misfortune of what are called
self-made men in America, that, though early accustomed to the
society of men of the world, they often remain utterly unacquainted
with women of the world, until those charming perils are at last
sprung upon them in full force, at New York or Washington. John
Lambert at forty was as absolutely ignorant of the qualities and
habits of a cultivated woman as of the details of her toilet. The
plain domesticity of his departed wife he had understood and prized;
he remembered her household ways as he did her black alpaca dress;
indeed, except for that item of apparel, she was not so unlike
himself. In later years he had seen the women of society; he had heard
them talk; he had heard men talk about them, wittily or wickedly, at
the clubs; he had perceived that a good many of them wished to marry
him, and yet, after all, he knew no more of them than of the rearing
of humming-birds or orchids,—dainty, tropical things which he allowed
his gardener to raise, he keeping his hands off, and only paying the
bills. Whether there was in existence a class of women who were both
useful and refined,—any intermediate type between the butterfly and
the drudge,—was a question which he had sometimes asked himself,
without having the materials to construct a reply.
With imagination thus touched and heart unfilled, this man had
been bewitched from the very first moment by Emilia. He kept it to
himself, and heard in silence the criticisms made at the club-windows.
To those perpetual jokes about marriage, which are showered with such
graceful courtesy about the path of widowers, he had no reply; or at
most would only admit that he needed some elegant woman to preside
over his establishment, and that he had better take her young, as
having habits less fixed. But in his secret soul he treasured every
tone of this girl's voice, every glance of her eye, and would have
kept in a casket of gold and diamonds the little fragrant glove she
once let fall. He envied the penniless and brainless boys, who, with
ready gallantry, pushed by him to escort her to her carriage; and he
lay awake at night to form into words the answer he ought to have
made, when she threw at him some careless phrase, and gave him the
opportunity to blunder.
And she, meanwhile, unconscious of his passion, went by him in her
beauty, and caught him in the net she never threw. Emilia was always
piquant, because she was indifferent; she had never made an effort in
her life, and she had no respect for persons. She was capable of
marrying for money, perhaps, but the sacrifice must all be completed
in a single vow. She would not tutor nor control herself for the
purpose. Hand and heart must be duly transferred, she supposed,
whenever the time was up; but till then she must be free.
This with her was not art, but necessity; yet the most
accomplished art could have devised nothing so effectual to hold her
lover. His strong sense had always protected him from the tricks of
matchmaking mammas and their guileless maids. Had Emilia made one
effort to please him, once concealed a dislike, once affected a
preference, the spell might have been broken. Had she been his slave,
he might have become a very unyielding or a very heedless despot.
Making him her slave, she kept him at the very height of bliss. This
king of railways and purchaser of statesmen, this man who made or
wrecked the fortunes of others by his whim, was absolutely governed by
a reckless, passionate, inexperienced, ignorant girl.
And this passion was made all the stronger by being a good deal
confined to his own breast. Somehow it was very hard for him to talk
sentiment to Emilia; he instinctively saw she disliked it, and indeed
he liked her for not approving the stiff phrases which were all he
could command. Nor could he find any relief of mind in talking with
others about her. It enraged him to be clapped on the back and
congratulated by his compeers; and he stopped their coarse jokes,
often rudely enough. As for the young men at the club, he could not
bear to hear them mention his darling's name, however courteously. He
knew well enough that for them the betrothal had neither dignity nor
purity; that they held it to be as much a matter of bargain and sale
as their worst amours. He would far rather have talked to the
theological professors whose salaries he paid, for he saw that they
had a sort of grave, formal tradition of the sacredness of marriage.
And he had a right to claim that to him it was sacred, at least as
yet; all the ideal side of his nature was suddenly developed; he
walked in a dream; he even read Tennyson.
Sometimes he talked a little to his future brother-in-law,
Harry,—assuming, as lovers are wont, that brothers see sisters on
their ideal side. This was quite true of Harry and Hope, but not at
all true as regarded Emilia. She seemed to him simply a beautiful and
ungoverned girl whom he could not respect, and whom he therefore found
it very hard to idealize. Therefore he heard with a sort of sadness
the outpourings of generous devotion from John Lambert.
"I don't know how it is, Henry," the merchant would gravely say,
"I can't get rightly used to it, that I feel so strange. Honestly,
now, I feel as if I was beginning life over again. It ain't a selfish
feeling, so I know there's some good in it. I used to be selfish
enough, but I ain't so to her. You may not think it, but if it would
make her happy, I believe I could lie down and let her carriage roll
over me. By ——-, I would build her a palace to live in, and keep the
lodge at the gate myself, just to see her pass by. That is, if she was
to live in it alone by herself. I couldn't stand sharing her. It must
be me or nobody."
Probably there was no male acquaintance of the parties, however
hardened, to whom these fine flights would have seemed more utterly
preposterous than to the immediate friend and prospective bridesmaid,
Miss Blanche Ingleside. To that young lady, trained sedulously by a
devoted mother, life was really a serious thing. It meant the full
rigor of the marriage market, tempered only by dancing and new
dresses. There was a stern sense of duty beneath all her robing and
disrobing; she conscientiously did what was expected of her, and took
her little amusements meanwhile. It was supposed that most of the
purchasers in the market preferred slang and bare shoulders, and so
she favored them with plenty of both. It was merely the law of supply
and demand. Had John Lambert once hinted that he would accept her in
decent black, she would have gone to the next ball as a Sister of
Charity; but where was the need of it, when she and her mother both
knew that, had she appeared as the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, she
would not have won him? So her only resource was a cheerful
acquiescence in Emilia's luck, and a judicious propitiation of the
"I wouldn't mind playing Virtue Rewarded myself, young woman,"
said Blanche, "at such a scale of prices. I would do it even to so
slow an audience as old Lambert. But you see, it isn't my line. Don't
forget your humble friends when you come into your property, that's
all." Then the tender coterie of innocents entered on some
preliminary consideration of wedding-dresses.
When Emilia came home, she dismissed the whole matter lightly as a
settled thing, evaded all talk with Aunt Jane, and coolly said to Kate
that she had no objection to Mr. Lambert, and might as well marry him
as anybody else.
"I am not like you and Hal, you know," said she. "I have no fancy
for love in a cottage. I never look well in anything that is not
costly. I have not a taste that does not imply a fortune. What is the
use of love? One marries for love, and is unhappy ever after. One
marries for money, and perhaps gets love after all. I dare say Mr.
Lambert loves me, though I do not see why he should."
"I fear he does," said Kate, almost severely.
"Fear?" said Emilia.
"Yes," said Kate. "It is an unequal bargain, where one side does
all the loving."
"Don't be troubled," said Emilia. "I dare say he will not love me
long. Nobody ever did!" And her eyes filled with tears which she
dashed away angrily, as she ran up to her room.
It was harder yet for her to talk with Hope, but she did it, and
that in a very serious mood. She had never been so open with her
"Aunt Jane once told me," she said, "that my only safety was in
marrying a good man. Now I am engaged to one."
"Do you love him, Emilia?" asked Hope, gravely.
"Not much," said Emilia, honestly. "But perhaps I shall, by and
"Emilia," cried Hope, "there is no such thing as happiness in a
marriage without love."
"Mine is not without love," the girl answered. "He loves me. It
frightens me to see how much he loves me. I can have the devotion of a
lifetime, if I will. Perhaps it is hard to receive it in such a way,
but I can have it. Do you blame me very much?"
Hope hesitated. "I cannot blame you so much, my child," she said,
"as if I thought it were money for which you cared. It seems to me
that there must be something beside that, and yet—"
"O Hope, how I thank you," interrupted Emilia. "It is not money.
You know I do not care about money, except just to buy my clothes and
things. At least, I do not care about so much as he has,—more than a
million dollars, only think! Perhaps they said two million. Is it
wrong for me to marry him, just because he has that?"
"Not if you love him."
"I do not exactly love him, but O Hope, I cannot tell you about
it. I am not so frivolous as you think. I want to do my duty. I want
to make you happy too: you have been so sweet to me."
"Did you think it would make me happy to have you married?" asked
Hope, surprised, and kissing again and again the young, sad face. And
the two girls went upstairs together, brought for the moment into more
sisterly nearness by the very thing that had seemed likely to set them
XIII. DREAMING DREAMS.
SO short was the period between Emilia's betrothal and her
marriage, that Aunt Jane's sufferings over trousseau and visits did
not last long. Mr. Lambert's society was the worst thing to bear.
"He makes such long calls!" she said, despairingly. "He should
bring an almanac with him to know when the days go by."
"But Harry and Philip are here all the time," said Kate, the
"Harry is quiet, and Philip keeps out of the way lately," she
answered. "But I always thought lovers the most inconvenient thing
about a house. They are more troublesome than the mice, and all those
people who live in the wainscot; for though the lovers make less
noise, yet you have to see them."
"A necessary evil, dear," said Kate, with much philosophy.
"I am not sure," said the complainant. "They might be excluded in
the deed of a house, or by the terms of the lease. The next house I
take, I shall say to the owner, 'Have you a good well of water on the
premises? Are you troubled with rats or lovers?' That will settle
It was true, what Aunt Jane said about Malbone. He had changed
his habits a good deal. While the girls were desperately busy about
the dresses, he beguiled Harry to the club, and sat on the piazza,
talking sentiment and sarcasm, regardless of hearers.
"When we are young," he would say, "we are all idealists in love.
Every imaginative boy has such a passion, while his intellect is crude
and his senses indifferent. It is the height of bliss. All other
pleasures are not worth its pains. With older men this ecstasy of the
imagination is rare; it is the senses that clutch or reason which
"Is that an improvement?" asked some juvenile listener.
"No!" said Philip, strongly. "Reason is cold and sensuality
hateful; a man of any feeling must feed his imagination; there must
be a woman of whom he can dream."
"That is," put in some more critical auditor, "whom he can love as
a woman loves a man."
"For want of the experience of such a passion," Malbone went on,
unheeding, "nobody comprehends Petrarch. Philosophers and sensualists
all refuse to believe that his dream of Laura went on, even when he
had a mistress and a child. Why not? Every one must have something to
which his dreams can cling, amid the degradations of actual life, and
this tie is more real than the degradation; and if he holds to the
tie, it will one day save him."
"What is the need of the degradation?" put in the clear-headed
"None, except in weakness," said Philip. "A stronger nature may
escape it. Good God! do I not know how Petrarch must have felt? What
sorrow life brings! Suppose a man hopelessly separated from one whom
he passionately loves. Then, as he looks up at the starry sky,
something says to him: 'You can bear all these agonies of privation,
loss of life, loss of love,—what are they? If the tie between you is
what you thought, neither life nor death, neither folly nor sin, can
keep her forever from you.' Would that one could always feel so! But
I am weak. Then comes impulse, it thirsts for some immediate
gratification; I yield, and plunge into any happiness since I cannot
obtain her. Then comes quiet again, with the stars, and I bitterly
reproach myself for needing anything more than that stainless ideal.
And so, I fancy, did Petrarch."
Philip was getting into a dangerous mood with his sentimentalism.
No lawful passion can ever be so bewildering or ecstatic as an
unlawful one. For that which is right has all the powers of the
universe on its side, and can afford to wait; but the wrong, having
all those vast forces against it, must hurry to its fulfilment,
reserve nothing, concentrate all its ecstasies upon to-day. Malbone,
greedy of emotion, was drinking to the dregs a passion that could have
Sympathetic persons are apt to assume that every refined emotion
must be ennobling. This is not true of men like Malbone, voluptuaries
of the heart. He ordinarily got up a passion very much as Lord
Russell got up an appetite,—he, of Spence's Anecdotes, who went out
hunting for that sole purpose, and left the chase when the sensation
came. Malbone did not leave his more spiritual chase so soon,—it made
him too happy. Sometimes, indeed, when he had thus caught his emotion,
it caught him in return, and for a few moments made him almost
unhappy. This he liked best of all; he nursed the delicious pain,
knowing that it would die out soon enough, there was no need of
hurrying it to a close. At least, there had never been need for such
Except for his genius for keeping his own counsel, every
acquaintance of Malbone's would have divined the meaning of these
reveries. As it was, he was called whimsical and sentimental, but he
was a man of sufficiently assured position to have whims of his own,
and could even treat himself to an emotion or so, if he saw fit.
Besides, he talked well to anybody on anything, and was admitted to
exhibit, for a man of literary tastes, a good deal of sense. If he had
engaged himself to a handsome schoolmistress, it was his fancy, and he
could afford it. Moreover she was well connected, and had an air.
And what more natural than that he should stand at the club-window
and watch, when his young half-sister (that was to be) drove by with
John Lambert? So every afternoon he saw them pass in a vehicle of
lofty description, with two wretched appendages in dark blue
broadcloth, who sat with their backs turned to their masters, kept
their arms folded, and nearly rolled off at every corner. Hope would
have dreaded the close neighborhood of those Irish ears; she would
rather have ridden even in an omnibus, could she and Philip have taken
all the seats. But then Hope seldom cared to drive on the Avenue at
all, except as a means of reaching the ocean, whereas with most
people it appears the appointed means to escape from that spectacle.
And as for the footmen, there was nothing in the conversation worth
their hearing or repeating; and their presence was a relief to Emilia,
for who knew but Mr. Lambert himself might end in growing sentimental?
Yet she did not find him always equally tedious. Their drives had
some variety. For instance, he sometimes gave her some lovely present
before they set forth, and she could feel that, if his lips did not
yield diamonds and rubies, his pockets did. Sometimes he conversed
about money and investments, which she rather liked; this was his
strong and commanding point; he explained things quite clearly, and
they found, with mutual surprise, that she also had a shrewd little
brain for those matters, if she would but take the trouble to think
about them. Sometimes he insisted on being tender, and even this was
not so bad as she expected, at least for a few minutes at a time; she
rather enjoyed having her hand pressed so seriously, and his studied
phrases amused her. It was only when he wished the conversation to be
brilliant and intellectual, that he became intolerable; then she must
entertain him, must get up little repartees, must tell him lively
anecdotes, which he swallowed as a dog bolts a morsel, being at once
ready for the next. He never made a comment, of course, but at the
height of his enjoyment he gave a quick, short, stupid laugh, that so
jarred upon her ears, she would have liked to be struck deaf rather
than hear it again.
At these times she thought of Malbone, how gifted he was, how
inexhaustible, how agreeable, with a faculty for happiness that would
have been almost provoking had it not been contagious. Then she looked
from her airy perch and smiled at him at the club-window, where he
stood in the most negligent of attitudes, and with every faculty
strained in observation. A moment and she was gone.
Then all was gone, and a mob of queens might have blocked the way,
without his caring to discuss their genealogies, even with old General
Le Breton, who had spent his best (or his worst) years abroad, and was
supposed to have been confidential adviser to most of the crowned
heads of Europe.
For the first time in his life Malbone found himself in the grasp
of a passion too strong to be delightful. For the first time his own
heart frightened him. He had sometimes feared that it was growing
harder, but now he discovered that it was not hard enough.
He knew it was not merely mercenary motives that had made Emilia
accept John Lambert; but what troubled him was a vague knowledge that
it was not mere pique. He was used to dealing with pique in women,
and had found it the most manageable of weaknesses. It was an element
of spasmodic conscience than he saw here, and it troubled him.
Something told him that she had said to herself: "I will be
married, and thus do my duty to Hope. Other girls marry persons whom
they do not love, and it helps them to forget. Perhaps it will help
me. This is a good man, they say, and I think he loves me."
"Think?" John Lambert had adored her when she had passed by him
without looking at him; and now when the thought came over him that
she would be his wife, he became stupid with bliss. And as latterly he
had thought of little else, he remained more or less stupid all the
To a man like Malbone, self-indulgent rather than selfish, this
poor, blind semblance of a moral purpose in Emilia was a great
embarrassment. It is a terrible thing for a lover when he detects
conscience amidst the armory of weapons used against him, and faces
the fact that he must blunt a woman's principles to win her heart.
Philip was rather accustomed to evade conscience, but he never liked
to look it in the face and defy it.
Yet if the thought of Hope at this time came over him, it came as
a constraint, and he disliked it as such; and the more generous and
beautiful she was, the greater the constraint. He cursed himself that
he had allowed himself to be swayed back to her, and so had lost
Emilia forever. And thus he drifted on, not knowing what he wished
for, but knowing extremely well what he feared.
XIV. THE NEMESIS OF PASSION.
MALBONE was a person of such ready, emotional nature, and such
easy expression, that it was not hard for Hope to hide from herself
the gradual ebbing of his love. Whenever he was fresh and full of
spirits, he had enough to overflow upon her and every one. But when
other thoughts and cares were weighing on him, he could not share
them, nor could he at such times, out of the narrowing channel of his
own life, furnish more than a few scanty drops for her.
At these times he watched with torturing fluctuations the signs of
solicitude in Hope, the timid withdrawing of her fingers, the
questioning of her eyes, the weary drooping of her whole expression.
Often he cursed himself as a wretch for paining that pure and noble
heart. Yet there were moments when a vague inexpressible delight stole
in; a glimmering of shame-faced pleasure as he pondered on this
visible dawning of distrust; a sudden taste of freedom in being no
longer fettered by her confidence. By degrees he led himself, still
half ashamed, to the dream that she might yet be somehow weaned from
him, and leave his conscience free. By constantly building upon this
thought, and putting aside all others, he made room upon the waste of
his life for a house of cards, glittering, unsubstantial,
lofty,—until there came some sudden breath that swept it away; and
then he began on it again.
In one of those moments of more familiar faith which still
alternated with these cold, sad intervals, she asked him with some
sudden impulse, how he should feel if she loved another? She said it,
as if guided by an instinct, to sound the depth of his love for her.
Starting with amazement, he looked at her, and then, divining her
feeling, he only replied by an expression of reproach, and by kissing
her hands with an habitual tenderness that had grown easy to him,—and
they were such lovely hands! But his heart told him that no spent
swimmer ever transferred more eagerly to another's arms some precious
burden beneath which he was consciously sinking, than he would yield
her up to any one whom she would consent to love, and who could be
trusted with the treasure. Until that ecstasy of release should come,
he would do his duty,—yes, his duty.
When these flushed hopes grew pale, as they soon did, he could at
least play with the wan fancies that took their place. Hour after
hour, while she lavished upon him the sweetness of her devotion, he
was half consciously shaping with his tongue some word of terrible
revealing that should divide them like a spell, if spoken, and then
recalling it before it left his lips. Daily and hourly he felt the
last agony of a weak and passionate nature,—to dream of one woman in
She, too, watched him with an ever-increasing instinct of danger,
studied with a chilly terror the workings of his face, weighed and
reweighed his words in absence, agonized herself with new and ever new
suspicions; and then, when these had accumulated beyond endurance,
seized them convulsively and threw them all away. Then, coming back
to him with a great overwhelming ardor of affection, she poured upon
him more and more in proportion as he gave her less.
Sometimes in these moments of renewed affection he half gave words
to his remorse, accused himself before her of unnamed wrong, and
besought her to help him return to his better self. These were the
most dangerous moments of all, for such appeals made tenderness and
patience appear a duty; she must put away her doubts as sins, and hold
him to her; she must refuse to see his signs of faltering faith, or
treat them as mere symptoms of ill health. Should not a wife cling the
closer to her husband in proportion as he seemed alienated through the
wanderings of disease? And was not this her position? So she said
within herself, and meanwhile it was not hard to penetrate her
changing thoughts, at least for so keen an observer as Aunt Jane.
Hope, at length, almost ceased to speak of Malbone, and revealed her
grief by this evasion, as the robin reveals her nest by flitting from
Yet there were times when he really tried to force himself into a
revival of this calmer emotion. He studied Hope's beauty with his
eyes, he pondered on all her nobleness. He wished to bring his whole
heart back to her—or at least wished that he wished it. But hearts
that have educated themselves into faithlessness must sooner or later
share the suffering they give. Love will be avenged on them. Nothing
could have now recalled this epicure in passion, except, possibly, a
little withholding or semi-coquetry on Hope's part, and this was
utterly impossible for her. Absolute directness was a part of her
nature; she could die, but not manouvre.
It actually diminished Hope's hold on Philip, that she had at this
time the whole field to herself. Emilia had gone for a few weeks to
the mountains, with the household of which she was a guest. An ideal
and unreasonable passion is strongest in absence, when the dream is
all pure dream, and safe from the discrepancies of daily life. When
the two girls were together, Emilia often showed herself so plainly
Hope's inferior, that it jarred on Philip's fine perceptions. But in
Emilia's absence the spell of temperament, or whatever else brought
them together, resumed its sway unchecked; she became one great
magnet of attraction, and all the currents of the universe appeared
to flow from the direction where her eyes were shining. When she was
out of sight, he needed to make no allowance for her defects, to
reproach himself with no overt acts of disloyalty to Hope, to
recognize no criticisms of his own intellect or conscience. He could
resign himself to his reveries, and pursue them into new subtleties
day by day.
There was Mrs. Meredith's house, too, where they had been so
happy. And now the blinds were pitilessly closed, all but one where
the Venetian slats had slipped, and stood half open as if some dainty
fingers held them, and some lovely eyes looked through. He gazed so
long and so often on that silent house,—by day, when the scorching
sunshine searched its pores as if to purge away every haunting
association, or by night, when the mantle of darkness hung tenderly
above it, and seemed to collect the dear remembrances again,—that his
fancy by degrees grew morbid, and its pictures unreal. "It is
impossible," he one day thought to himself, "that she should have
lived in that room so long, sat in that window, dreamed on that couch,
reflected herself in that mirror, breathed that air, without somehow
detaching invisible fibres of her being, delicate films of herself,
that must gradually, she being gone, draw together into a separate
individuality an image not quite bodiless, that replaces her in her
absence, as the holy Theocrite was replaced by the angel. If there are
ghosts of the dead, why not ghosts of the living also?" This lover's
fancy so pleased him that he brought to bear upon it the whole force
of his imagination, and it grew stronger day by day. To him,
thenceforth, the house was haunted, and all its floating traces of
herself visible or invisible,—from the ribbon that he saw entangled
in the window-blind to every intangible and fancied atom she had
imparted to the atmosphere,—came at last to organize themselves into
one phantom shape for him and looked out, a wraith of Emilia, through
those relentless blinds. As the vision grew more vivid, he saw the dim
figure moving through the house, wan, restless, tender, lingering
where they had lingered, haunting every nook where they had been happy
once. In the windy moanings of the silent night he could put his ear
at the keyhole, and could fancy that he heard the wild signals of her
love and despair.
XV. ACROSS THE BAY.
THE children, as has been said, were all devoted to Malbone, and
this was, in a certain degree, to his credit. But it is a mistake to
call children good judges of character, except in one direction,
namely, their own. They understand it, up to the level of their own
stature; they know who loves them, but not who loves virtue. Many a
sinner has a great affection for children, and no child will ever
detect the sins of such a friend; because, toward them, the sins do
The children, therefore, all loved Philip, and yet they turned
with delight, when out-door pleasures were in hand, to the strong and
adroit Harry. Philip inclined to the daintier exercises, fencing,
billiards, riding; but Harry's vigorous physique enjoyed hard work. He
taught all the household to swim, for instance. Jenny, aged five, a
sturdy, deep-chested little thing, seemed as amphibious as himself.
She could already swim alone, but she liked to keep close to him, as
all young animals do to their elders in the water, not seeming to
need actual support, but stronger for the contact. Her favorite
position, however, was on his back, where she triumphantly clung,
grasping his bathing-dress with one hand, swinging herself to and fro,
dipping her head beneath the water, singing and shouting, easily
shifting her position when he wished to vary his, and floating by him
like a little fish, when he was tired of supporting her. It was pretty
to see the child in her one little crimson garment, her face flushed
with delight, her fair hair glistening from the water, and the waves
rippling and dancing round her buoyant form. As Harry swam farther and
farther out, his head was hidden from view by her small person, and
she might have passed for a red seabird rocking on the gentle waves.
It was one of the regular delights of the household to see them
Kate came in to Aunt Jane's room, one August morning, to say that
they were going to the water-side. How differently people may enter a
room! Hope always came in as the summer breeze comes, quiet, strong,
soft, fragrant, resistless. Emilia never seemed to come in at all; you
looked up, and she had somehow drifted where she stood, pleading,
evasive, lovely. This was especially the case where one person was
awaiting her alone; with two she was more fearless, with a dozen she
was buoyant, and with a hundred she forgot herself utterly and was a
spirit of irresistible delight.
But Kate entered any room, whether nursery or kitchen, as if it
were the private boudoir of a princess and she the favorite maid of
honor. Thus it was she came that morning to Aunt Jane.
"We are going down to see the bathers, dear," said Kate. "Shall
you miss me?"
"I miss you every minute," said her aunt, decisively. "But I
shall do very well. I have delightful times here by myself. What a
ridiculous man it was who said that it was impossible to imagine a
woman's laughing at her own comic fancies. I sit and laugh at my own
nonsense very often."
"It is a shame to waste it," said Kate.
"It is a blessing that any of it is disposed of while you are not
here," said Aunt Jane. "You have quite enough of it."
"We never have enough," said Kate. "And we never can make you
repeat any of yesterday's."
"Of course not," said Aunt Jane. "Nonsense must have the dew on
it, or it is good for nothing."
"So you are really happiest alone?"
"Not so happy as when you are with me,—you or Hope. I like to
have Hope with me now; she does me good. Really, I do not care for
anybody else. Sometimes I think if I could always have four or five
young kittens by me, in a champagne-basket, with a nurse to watch
them, I should be happier. But perhaps not; they would grow up so
"Then I will leave you alone without compunction," said Kate.
"I am not alone," said Aunt Jane; "I have my man in the boat to
watch through the window. What a singular being he is! I think he
spends hours in that boat, and what he does I can't conceive. There it
is, quietly anchored, and there is he in it. I never saw anybody but
myself who could get up so much industry out of nothing. He has all
his housework there, a broom and a duster, and I dare say he has a
cooking-stove and a gridiron. He sits a little while, then he stoops
down, then he goes to the other end. Sometimes he goes ashore in that
absurd little tub, with a stick that he twirls at one end."
"That is called sculling," interrupted Kate.
"Sculling! I suppose he runs for a baked potato. Then he goes
back. He is Robinson Crusoe on an island that never keeps still a
single instant. It is all he has, and he never looks away, and never
wants anything more. So I have him to watch. Think of living so near
a beaver or a water-rat with clothes on! Good-by. Leave the door ajar,
it is so warm."
And Kate went down to the landing. It was near the "baptismal
shore," where every Sunday the young people used to watch the
immersions; they liked to see the crowd of spectators, the eager
friends, the dripping convert, the serene young minister, the old men
and girls who burst forth in song as the new disciple rose from the
waves. It was the weekly festival in that region, and the sunshine
and the ripples made it gladdening, not gloomy. Every other day in the
week the children of the fishermen waded waist-deep in the water, and
played at baptism.
Near this shore stood the family bathing-house; and the girls came
down to sit in its shadow and watch the swimming. It was late in
August, and on the first of September Emilia was to be married.
Nothing looked cool, that day, but the bay and those who were
going into it. Out came Hope from the bathing-house, in a new
bathing-dress of dark blue, which was evidently what the others had
come forth to behold.
"Hope, what an imposter you are!" cried Kate instantly. "You
declined all my proffers of aid in cutting that dress, and now see
how it fits you! You never looked so beautifully in your life. There
is not such another bathing-dress in Oldport, nor such a figure to
And she put both her arms round that supple, stately waist, that
might have belonged to a Greek goddess, or to some queen in the
The party watched the swimmers as they struck out over the clear
expanse. It was high noon; the fishing-boats were all off, but a few
pleasure-boats swung different ways at their moorings, in the perfect
calm. The white light-house stood reflected opposite, at the end of
its long pier; a few vessels lay at anchor, with their sails up to
dry, but with that deserted look which coasters in port are wont to
wear. A few fishes dimpled the still surface, and as the three swam
out farther and farther, their merry voices still sounded close at
hand. Suddenly they all clapped their hands and called; then pointed
forward to the light-house, across the narrow harbor.
"They are going to swim across," said Kate. "What creatures they
are! Hope and little Jenny have always begged for it, and now Harry
thinks it is so still a day they can safely venture. It is more than
half a mile. See! he has called that boy in a boat, and he will keep
near them. They have swum farther than that along the shore."
So the others went away with no fears.
Hope said afterwards that she never swam with such delight as on
that day. The water seemed to be peculiarly thin and clear, she said,
as well as tranquil, and to retain its usual buoyancy without its
density. It gave a delicious sense of freedom; she seemed to swim in
air, and felt singularly secure. For the first time she felt what she
had always wished to experience,—that swimming was as natural as
walking, and might be indefinitely prolonged. Her strength seemed
limitless, she struck out more and more strongly; she splashed and
played with little Jenny, when the child began to grow weary of the
long motion. A fisherman's boy in a boat rowed slowly along by their
Nine tenths of the distance had been accomplished, when the little
girl grew quite impatient, and Hope bade Harry swim on before her, and
land his charge. Light and buoyant as the child was, her tightened
clasp had begun to tell on him.
"It tires you, Hal, to bear that weight so long, and you know I
have nothing to carry. You must see that I am not in the least
tired, only a little dazzled by the sun. Here, Charley, give me your
hat, and then row on with Mr. Harry." She put on the boy's torn straw
hat, and they yielded to her wish. People almost always yielded to
Hope's wishes when she expressed them,—it was so very seldom.
Somehow the remaining distance seemed very great, as Hope saw them
glide away, leaving her in the water alone, her feet unsupported by
any firm element, the bright and pitiless sky arching far above her,
and her head burning with more heat than she had liked to own. She was
conscious of her full strength, and swam more vigorously than ever;
but her head was hot and her ears rang, and she felt chilly vibrations
passing up and down her sides, that were like, she fancied, the
innumerable fringing oars of the little jelly-fishes she had so often
watched. Her body felt almost unnaturally strong, and she took
powerful strokes; but it seemed as if her heart went out into them
and left a vacant cavity within. More and more her life seemed
boiling up into her head; queer fancies came to her, as, for instance,
that she was an inverted thermometer with the mercury all ascending
into a bulb at the top. She shook her head and the fancy cleared away,
and then others came.
She began to grow seriously anxious, but the distance was
diminishing; Harry was almost at the steps with the child, and the
boy had rowed his skiff round the breakwater out of sight; a young
fisherman leaned over the railing with his back to her, watching the
lobster-catchers on the other side. She was almost in; it was only a
slight dizziness, yet she could not see the light-house. Concentrating
all her efforts, she shut her eyes and swam on, her arms still
unaccountably vigorous, though the rest of her body seemed losing
itself in languor. The sound in her ear had grown to a roar, as of
many mill-wheels. It seemed a long distance that she thus swam with
her eyes closed. Then she half opened her eyes, and the breakwater
seemed all in motion, with tier above tier of eager faces looking down
on her. In an instant there was a sharp splash close beside her, and
she felt herself grasped and drawn downwards, with a whirl of
something just above her, and then all consciousness went out as
suddenly as when ether brings at last to a patient, after the roaring
and the tumult in his brain, its blessed foretaste of the
deliciousness of death.
When Hope came again to consciousness, she found herself
approaching her own pier in a sail-boat, with several very wet
gentlemen around her, and little Jenny nestled close to her, crying
as profusely as if her pretty scarlet bathing-dress were being wrung
out through her eyes. Hope asked no questions, and hardly felt the
impulse to inquire what had happened. The truth was, that in the
temporary dizziness produced by her prolonged swim, she had found
herself in the track of a steamboat that was passing the pier,
unobserved by her brother. A young man, leaping from the dock, had
caught her in his arms, and had dived with her below the
paddle-wheels, just as they came upon her. It was a daring act, but
nothing else could have saved her. When they came to the surface,
they had been picked up by Aunt Jane's Robinson Crusoe, who had at
last unmoored his pilot-boat and was rounding the light-house for the
She and the child were soon landed, and given over to the ladies.
Due attention was paid to her young rescuer, whose dripping garments
seemed for the moment as glorious as a blood-stained flag. He seemed a
simple, frank young fellow of French or German origin, but speaking
English remarkably well; he was not high-bred, by any means, but had
apparently the culture of an average German of the middle class. Harry
fancied that he had seen him before, and at last traced back the
impression of his features to the ball for the French officers. It
turned out, on inquiry, that he had a brother in the service, and on
board the corvette; but he himself was a commercial agent, now in
America with a view to business, though he had made several voyages as
mate of a vessel, and would not object to some such berth as that. He
promised to return and receive the thanks of the family, read with
interest the name on Harry's card, seemed about to ask a question, but
forbore, and took his leave amid the general confusion, without even
giving his address. When sought next day, he was not to be found, and
to the children he at once became as much a creature of romance as the
sea-serpent or the Flying Dutchman.
Even Hope's strong constitution felt the shock of this adventure.
She was confined to her room for a week or two, but begged that there
might be no postponement of the wedding, which, therefore, took place
without her. Her illness gave excuse for a privacy that was welcome to
all but the bridesmaids, and suited Malbone best of all.
XVI. ON THE STAIRS.
AUGUST drew toward its close, and guests departed from the
"What a short little thing summer is," meditated Aunt Jane, "and
butterflies are caterpillars most of the time after all. How quiet it
seems. The wrens whisper in their box above the window, and there has
not been a blast from the peacock for a week. He seems ashamed of the
summer shortness of his tail. He keeps glancing at it over his
shoulder to see if it is not looking better than yesterday, while the
staring eyes of the old tail are in the bushes all about."
"Poor, dear little thing!" said coaxing Katie. "Is she tired of
autumn, before it is begun?"
"I am never tired of anything," said Aunt Jane, "except my maid
Ruth, and I should not be tired of her, if it had pleased Heaven to
endow her with sufficient strength of mind to sew on a button. Life is
very rich to me. There is always something new in every season; though
to be sure I cannot think what novelty there is just now, except a
choice variety of spiders. There is a theory that spiders kill flies.
But I never miss a fly, and there does not seem to be any natural
scourge divinely appointed to kill spiders, except Ruth. Even she
does it so feebly, that I see them come back and hang on their webs
and make faces at her. I suppose they are faces; I do not understand
their anatomy, but it must be a very unpleasant one."
"You are not quite satisfied with life, today, dear," said Kate;
"I fear your book did not end to your satisfaction."
"It did end, though," said the lady, "and that is something. What
is there in life so difficult as to stop a book?" If I wrote one, it
would be as long as ten 'Sir Charles Grandisons,' and then I never
should end it, because I should die. And there would be nobody left to
read it, because each reader would have been dead long before."
"But the book amused you!" interrupted Kate. "I know it did."
"It was so absurd that I laughed till I cried; and it makes no
difference whether you cry laughing or cry crying; it is equally bad
when your glasses come off. Never mind. Whom did you see on the
"O, we saw Philip on horseback. He rides so beautifully; he seems
one with his horse."
"I am glad of it," interposed his aunt. "The riders are generally
so inferior to them."
"We saw Mr. and Mrs. Lambert, too. Emilia stopped and asked after
you, and sent you her love, auntie."
"Love!" cried Aunt Jane. "She always does that. She has sent me
love enough to rear a whole family on,—more than I ever felt for
anybody in all my days. But she does not really love any one."
"I hope she will love her husband," said Kate, rather seriously.
"Mark my words, Kate!" said her aunt. "Nothing but unhappiness
will ever come of that marriage. How can two people be happy who
have absolutely nothing in common?"
"But no two people have just the same tastes," said Kate, "except
Harry and myself. It is not expected. It would be absurd for two
people to be divorced, because the one preferred white bread and the
"They would be divorced very soon," said Aunt Jane, "for the one
who ate brown bread would not live long."
"But it is possible that he might live, auntie, in spite of your
prediction. And perhaps people may be happy, even if you and I do not
"Nobody ever thinks I see anything," said Aunt Jane, in some
dejection. "You think I am nothing in the world but a sort of old
oyster, making amusement for people, and having no more to do with
real life than oysters have."
"No, dearest!" cried Kate. "You have a great deal to do with all
our lives. You are a dear old insidious sapper-and-miner, looking at
first very inoffensive, and then working your way into our affections,
and spoiling us with coaxing. How you behave about children, for
"How?" said the other meekly. "As well as I can."
"But you pretend that you dislike them."
"But I do dislike them. How can anybody help it? Hear them
swearing at this moment, boys of five, paddling in the water there!
Talk about the murder of the innocents! There are so few innocents to
be murdered! If I only had a gun and could shoot!"
"You may not like those particular boys," said Kate, "but you like
good, well-behaved children, very much."
"It takes so many to take care of them! People drive by here,
with carriages so large that two of the largest horses can hardly
draw them, and all full of those little beings. They have a sort of
roof, too, and seem to expect to be out in all weathers."
"If you had a family of children, perhaps you would find such a
travelling caravan very convenient," said Kate.
"If I had such a family," said her aunt, "I would have a separate
governess and guardian for each, very moral persons. They should come
when each child was two, and stay till it was twenty. The children
should all live apart, in order not to quarrel, and should meet once
or twice a day and bow to each other. I think that each should learn a
different language, so as not to converse, and then, perhaps, they
would not get each other into mischief."
"I am sure, auntie," said Kate, "you have missed our small nephews
and nieces ever since their visit ended. How still the house has
"I do not know," was the answer. "I hear a great many noises
about the house. Somebody comes in late at night. Perhaps it is
Philip; but he comes very softly in, wipes his feet very gently, like
a clean thief, and goes up stairs."
"O auntie!" said Kate, "you know you have got over all such
"They are not fancies," said Aunt Jane. "Things do happen in
houses! Did I not look under the bed for a thief during fifteen
years, and find one at last? Why should I not be allowed to hear
"But, dear Aunt Jane," said Kate, "you never told me this before."
"No," said she. "I was beginning to tell you the other day, but
Ruth was just bringing in my handkerchiefs, and she had used so much
bluing, they looked as if they had been washed in heaven, so that it
was too outrageous, and I forgot everything else."
"But do you really hear anything?"
"Yes," said her aunt. "Ruth declares she hears noises in those
closets that I had nailed up, you know; but that is nothing; of
course she does. Rats. What I hear at night is the creaking of
stairs, when I know that nobody ought to be stirring. If you observe,
you will hear it too. At least, I should think you would, only that
somehow everything always seems to stop, when it is necessary to prove
that I am foolish."
The girls had no especial engagement that evening, and so got into
a great excitement on the stairway over Aunt Jane's solicitudes. They
convinced themselves that they heard all sorts of things,—footfalls
on successive steps, the creak of a plank, the brushing of an arm
against a wall, the jar of some suspended object that was stirred in
passing. Once they heard something fall on the floor, and roll from
step to step; and yet they themselves stood on the stairway, and
nothing passed. Then for some time there was silence, but they would
have persisted in their observations, had not Philip come in from
Mrs. Meredith's in the midst of it, so that the whole thing turned
into a frolic, and they sat on the stairs and told ghost stories half
THE next evening Kate and Philip went to a ball. As Hope was
passing through the hall late in the evening, she heard a sudden,
sharp cry somewhere in the upper regions, that sounded, she thought,
like a woman's voice. She stopped to hear, but there was silence. It
seemed to come from the direction of Malbone's room, which was in the
third story. Again came the cry, more gently, ending in a sort of
sobbing monologue. Gliding rapidly up stairs in the dark, she paused
at Philip's deserted room, but the door was locked, and there was
profound stillness. She then descended, and pausing at the great
landing, heard other steps descending also. Retreating to the end of
the hall, she hastily lighted a candle, when the steps ceased. With
her accustomed nerve, wishing to explore the thing thoroughly, she put
out the light and kept still. As she expected, the footsteps presently
recommenced, descending stealthily, but drawing no nearer, and seeming
rather like sounds from an adjoining house, heard through a
party-wall. This was impossible, as the house stood alone. Flushed
with excitement, she relighted the hall candles, and, taking one of
them, searched the whole entry and stairway, going down even to the
large, old-fashioned cellar.
Looking about her in this unfamiliar region, her eye fell on a
door that seemed to open into the wall; she had noticed a similar
door on the story above,—one of the closet doors that had been nailed
up by Aunt Jane's order. As she looked, however, a chill breath blew
in from another direction, extinguishing her lamp. This air came from
the outer door of the cellar, and she had just time to withdraw into a
corner before a man's steps approached, passing close by her.
Even Hope's strong nerves had begun to yield, and a cold shudder
went through her. Not daring to move, she pressed herself against the
wall, and her heart seemed to stop as the unseen stranger passed.
Instead of his ascending where she had come down, as she had expected,
she heard him grope his way toward the door she had seen in the wall.
There he seemed to find a stairway, and when his steps were thus
turned from her, she was seized by a sudden impulse and followed him,
groping her way as she could. She remembered that the girls had
talked of secret stairways in that house, though she had no conception
whither they could lead, unless to some of the shut-up closets.
She steadily followed, treading cautiously upon each creaking
step. The stairway was very narrow, and formed a regular spiral as in
a turret. The darkness and the curving motion confused her brain, and
it was impossible to tell how high in the house she was, except when
once she put her hand upon what was evidently a door, and moreover saw
through its cracks the lamp she had left burning in the upper hall.
This glimpse of reality reassured her. She had begun to discover
where she was. The doors which Aunt Jane had closed gave access, not
to mere closets, but to a spiral stairway, which evidently went from
top to bottom of the house, and was known to some one else beside
Relieved of that slight shudder at the supernatural which
sometimes affects the healthiest nerves, Hope paused to consider. To
alarm the neighborhood was her first thought. A slight murmuring from
above dispelled it; she must first reconnoitre a few steps farther. As
she ascended a little way, a gleam shone upon her, and down the damp
stairway came a fragrant odor, as from some perfumed chamber. Then a
door was shut and reopened. Eager beyond expression, she followed on.
Another step, and she stood at the door of Malbone's apartment.
The room was brilliant with light; the doors and windows were
heavily draped. Fruit and flowers and wine were on the table. On the
sofa lay Emilia in a gay ball-dress, sunk in one of her motionless
trances, while Malbone, pale with terror, was deluging her brows with
the water he had just brought from the well below.
Hope stopped a moment and leaned against the door, as her eyes met
Malbone's. Then she made her way to a chair, and leaning on the back
of it, which she fingered convulsively, looked with bewildered eyes
and compressed lips from the one to the other. Malbone tried to speak,
but failed; tried again, and brought forth only a whisper that broke
into clearer speech as the words went on. "No use to explain," he
said. "Lambert is in New York. Mrs. Meredith is expecting
her—to-night after the ball. What can we do?"
Hope covered her face as he spoke; she could bear anything better
than to have him say "we," as if no gulf had opened between them. She
sank slowly on her knees behind her chair, keeping it as a sort of
screen between herself and these two people,—the counterfeits, they
seemed, of her lover and her sister. If the roof in falling to crush
them had crushed her also, she could scarcely have seemed more rigid
or more powerless. It passed, and the next moment she was on her feet
again, capable of action.
"She must be taken," she said very clearly, but in a lower tone
than usual, "to my chamber." Then pointing to the candles, she said,
more huskily, "We must not be seen. Put them out." Every syllable
seemed to exhaust her. But as Philip obeyed her words, he saw her
move suddenly and stand by Emilia's side.
She put out both arms as if to lift the young girl, and carry her
"You cannot," said Philip, putting her gently aside, while she
shrank from his touch. Then he took Emilia in his arms and bore her
to the door, Hope preceding.
Motioning him to pause a moment, she turned the lock softly, and
looked out into the dark entry. All was still. She went out, and he
followed with his motionless burden. They walked stealthily, like
guilty things, yet every slight motion seemed to ring in their ears.
It was chilly, and Hope shivered. Through the great open window on
the stairway a white fog peered in at them, and the distant
fog-whistle came faintly through; it seemed as if the very atmosphere
were condensing about them, to isolate the house in which such deeds
were done. The clock struck twelve, and it seemed as if it struck a
When they reached Hope's door, she turned and put out her arms for
Emilia, as for a child. Every expression had now gone from Hope's
face but a sort of stony calmness, which put her infinitely farther
from Malbone than had the momentary struggle. As he gave the girlish
form into arms that shook and trembled beneath its weight, he caught a
glimpse in the pier-glass of their two white faces, and then, looking
down, saw the rose-tints yet lingering on Emilia's cheek. She, the
source of all this woe, looked the only representative of innocence
between two guilty things.
How white and pure and maidenly looked Hope's little room,—such a
home of peace, he thought, till its door suddenly opened to admit all
this passion and despair! There was a great sheaf of cardinal flowers
on the table, and their petals were drooping, as if reluctant to look
on him. Scheffer's Christus Consolator was upon the walls, and the
benign figure seemed to spread wider its arms of mercy, to take in a
few sad hearts more.
Hope bore Emilia into the light and purity and warmth, while
Malbone was shut out into the darkness and the chill. The only two
things to which he clung on earth, the two women between whom his
unsteady heart had vibrated, and both whose lives had been tortured by
its vacillation, went away from his sight together, the one victim
bearing the other victim in her arms. Never any more while he lived
would either of them be his again; and had Dante known it for his last
glimpse of things immortal when the two lovers floated away from him
in their sad embrace, he would have had no such sense of utter
banishment as had Malbone then.
XVIII. HOPE'S VIGIL.
HAD Emilia chosen out of life's whole armory of weapons the means
of disarming Hope, she could have found nothing so effectual as nature
had supplied in her unconsciousness. Helplessness conquers. There was
a quality in Emilia which would have always produced something very
like antagonism in Hope, had she not been her sister. Had the
ungoverned girl now been able to utter one word of reproach, had her
eyes flashed one look of defiance, had her hand made one triumphant or
angry gesture, perhaps all Hope's outraged womanhood would have
coldly nerved itself against her. But it was another thing to see
those soft eyes closed, those delicate hands powerless, those pleading
lips sealed; to see her extended in graceful helplessness, while all
the concentrated drama of emotion revolved around her unheeded, as
around Cordelia dead. In what realms was that child's mind seeking
comfort; through what thin air of dreams did that restless heart beat
its pinions; in what other sphere did that untamed nature wander,
while shame and sorrow waited for its awakening in this?
Hope knelt upon the floor, still too much strained and bewildered
for tears or even prayer, a little way from Emilia. Once having laid
down the unconscious form, it seemed for a moment as if she could no
more touch it than she could lay her hand amid flames. A gap of miles,
of centuries, of solar systems, seemed to separate these two young
girls, alone within the same chamber, with the same stern secret to
keep, and so near that the hem of their garments almost touched each
other on the soft carpet. Hope felt a terrible hardness closing over
her heart. What right had this cruel creature, with her fatal
witcheries, to come between two persons who might have been so wholly
happy? What sorrow would be saved, what shame, perhaps, be averted,
should those sweet beguiling eyes never open, and that perfidious
voice never deceive any more? Why tend the life of one who would
leave the whole world happier, purer, freer, if she were dead?
In a tumult of thought, Hope went and sat half-unconsciously by
the window. There was nothing to be seen except the steady beacon of
the light-house and a pale-green glimmer, like an earthly star, from
an anchored vessel. The night wind came softly in, soothing her with
a touch like a mother's, in its grateful coolness. The air seemed full
of half-vibrations, sub-noises, that crowded it as completely as do
the insect sounds of midsummer; yet she could only distinguish the
ripple beneath her feet, and the rote on the distant beach, and the
busy wash of waters against every shore and islet of the bay. The
mist was thick around her, but she knew that above it hung the
sleepless stars, and the fancy came over her that perhaps the whole
vast interval, from ocean up to sky, might be densely filled with the
disembodied souls of her departed human kindred, waiting to see how
she would endure that path of grief in which their steps had gone
before. "It may be from this influence," she vaguely mused within
herself, "that the ocean derives its endless song of sorrow. Perhaps
we shall know the meaning when we understand that of the stars, and of
our own sad lives."
She rose again and went to the bedside. It all seemed like a
dream, and she was able to look at Emilia's existence and at her own
and at all else, as if it were a great way off; as we watch the stars
and know that no speculations of ours can reach those who there live
or die untouched. Here beside her lay one who was dead, yet living, in
her temporary trance, and to what would she wake, when it should end?
This young creature had been sent into the world so fresh, so
beautiful, so richly gifted; everything about her physical
organization was so delicate and lovely; she had seemed like
heliotrope, like a tube-rose in her purity and her passion (who was it
said, "No heart is pure that is not passionate"?); and here was the
end! Nothing external could have placed her where she was, no
violence, no outrage, no evil of another's doing, could have reached
her real life without her own consent; and now what kind of existence,
what career, what possibility of happiness remained? Why could not
God in his mercy take her, and give her to his holiest angels for
schooling, ere it was yet too late?
Hope went and sat by the window once more. Her thoughts still
clung heavily around one thought, as the white fog clung round the
house. Where should she see any light? What opening for extrication,
unless, indeed, Emilia should die? There could be no harm in that
thought, for she knew it was not to be, and that the swoon would not
last much longer. Who could devise anything? No one. There was
nothing. Almost always in perplexities there is some thread by
resolutely holding to which one escapes at last. Here there was none.
There could probably be no concealment, certainly no explanation. In a
few days John Lambert would return, and then the storm must break. He
was probably a stern, jealous man, whose very dulness, once aroused,
would be more formidable than if he had possessed keener perceptions.
Still her thoughts did not dwell on Philip. He was simply a part
of that dull mass of pain that beset her and made her feel, as she had
felt when drowning, that her heart had left her breast and nothing but
will remained. She felt now, as then, the capacity to act with more
than her accustomed resolution, though all that was within her seemed
boiling up into her brain. As for Philip, all seemed a mere negation;
there was a vacuum where his place had been. At most the thought of
him came to her as some strange, vague thrill of added torture,
penetrating her soul and then passing; just as ever and anon there
came the sound of the fog-whistle on Brenton's Reef, miles away,
piercing the dull air with its shrill and desolate wail, then dying
What a hopeless cloud lay upon them all forever,—upon Kate, upon
Harry, upon their whole house! Then there was John Lambert; how could
they keep it from him? how could they tell him? Who could predict what
he would say? Would he take the worst and coarsest view of his young
wife's mad action or the mildest? Would he be strong or weak; and what
would be weakness, and what strength, in a position so strange? Would
he put Emilia from him, send her out in the world desolate, her soul
stained but by one wrong passion, yet with her reputation blighted as
if there were no good in her? Could he be asked to shield and protect
her, or what would become of her? She was legally a wife, and could
only be separated from him through convicted shame.
Then, if separated, she could only marry Philip. Hope nerved
herself to think of that, and it cost less effort than she expected.
There seemed a numbness on that side, instead of pain. But
granting that he loved Emilia ever so deeply, was he a man to
surrender his life and his ease and his fair name, in a hopeless
effort to remove the ban that the world would place on her. Hope knew
he would not; knew that even the simple-hearted and straightforward
Harry would be far more capable of such heroism than the sentimental
Malbone. Here the pang suddenly struck her; she was not so numb,
As the leaves beside the window drooped motionless in the dank
air, so her mind drooped into a settled depression. She pitied
herself,—that lowest ebb of melancholy self-consciousness. She went
back to Emilia, and, seating herself, studied every line of the girl's
face, the soft texture of her hair, the veining of her eyelids. They
were so lovely, she felt a sort of physical impulse to kiss them, as
if they belonged to some utter stranger, whom she might be nursing in
a hospital. Emilia looked as innocent as when Hope had tended her in
the cradle. What is there, Hope thought, in sleep, in trance, and in
death, that removes all harsh or disturbing impressions, and leaves
only the most delicate and purest traits? Does the mind wander, and
does an angel keep its place? Or is there really no sin but in
thought, and are our sleeping thoughts incapable of sin? Perhaps even
when we dream of doing wrong, the dream comes in a shape so lovely and
misleading that we never recognize it for evil, and it makes no stain.
Are our lives ever so pure as our dreams?
This thought somehow smote across her conscience, always so
strong, and stirred it into a kind of spasm of introspection. "How
selfish have I, too, been!" she thought. "I saw only what I wished to
see, did only what I preferred. Loving Philip" (for the sudden
self-reproach left her free to think of him), "I could not see that I
was separating him from one whom he might perhaps have truly loved.
If he made me blind, may he not easily have bewildered her, and have
been himself bewildered? How I tried to force myself upon him, too!
Ungenerous, unwomanly! What am I, that I should judge another?"
She threw herself on her knees at the bedside.
Still Emilia slept, but now she stirred her head in the slightest
possible way, so that a single tress of silken hair slipped from its
companions, and lay across her face. It was a faint sign that the
trance was waning; the slight pressure disturbed her nerves, and her
lips trembled once or twice, as if to relieve themselves of the soft
annoyance. Hope watched her in a vague, distant way, took note of the
minutest motion, yet as if some vast weight hung upon her own limbs
and made all interference impossible. Still there was a fascination of
sympathy in dwelling on that atom of discomfort, that tiny suffering,
which she alone could remove. The very vastness of this tragedy that
hung about the house made it an inexpressible relief to her to turn
and concentrate her thoughts for a moment on this slight distress, so
Strange, by what slender threads our lives are knitted to each
other! Here was one who had taken Hope's whole existence in her
hands, crushed it, and thrown it away. Hope had soberly said to
herself, just before, that death would be better than life for her
young sister. Yet now it moved her beyond endurance to see that fair
form troubled, even while unconscious, by a feather's weight of pain;
and all the lifelong habit of tenderness resumed in a moment its sway.
She approached her fingers to the offending tress, very slowly,
half withholding them at the very last, as if the touch would burn
her. She was almost surprised that it did not. She looked to see if
it did not hurt Emilia. But it now seemed as if the slumbering girl
enjoyed the caressing contact of the smooth fingers, and turned her
head, almost imperceptibly, to meet them. This was more than Hope
could bear. It was as if that slight motion were a puncture to relieve
her overburdened heart; a thousand thoughts swept over her,—of their
father, of her sister's childhood, of her years of absent expectation;
she thought how young the girl was, how fascinating, how passionate,
how tempted; all this swept across her in a great wave of nervous
reaction, and when Emilia returned to consciousness, she was lying in
her sister's arms, her face bathed in Hope's tears.
XIX. DE PROFUNDIS.
THIS was the history of Emilia's concealed visits to Malbone.
One week after her marriage, in a crisis of agony, Emilia took up
her pen, dipped it in fire, and wrote thus to him:—
"Philip Malbone, why did nobody ever tell me what marriage is
where there is no love? This man who calls himself my husband is no
worse, I suppose, than other men. It is only for being what is called
by that name that I abhor him. Good God! what am I to do? It was not
for money that I married him,—that you know very well; I cared no
more for his money than for himself. I thought it was the only way to
save Hope. She has been very good to me, and perhaps I should love
her, if I could love anybody. Now I have done what will only make more
misery, for I cannot bear it. Philip, I am alone in this wide world,
except for you. Tell me what to do. I will haunt you till you die,
unless you tell me. Answer this, or I will write again."
Terrified by this letter, absolutely powerless to guide the life
with which he had so desperately entangled himself, Philip let one day
pass without answering, and that evening he found Emilia at his door,
she having glided unnoticed up the main stairway. She was so excited,
it was equally dangerous to send her away or to admit her, and he drew
her in, darkening the windows and locking the door. On the whole, it
was not so bad as he expected; at least, there was less violence and
more despair. She covered her face with her hands, and writhed in
anguish, when she said that she had utterly degraded herself by this
loveless marriage. She scarcely mentioned her husband. She made no
complaint of him, and even spoke of him as generous. It seemed as if
this made it worse, and as if she would be happier if she could expend
herself in hating him. She spoke of him rather as a mere witness to
some shame for which she herself was responsible; bearing him no
malice, but tortured by the thought that he should exist.
Then she turned on Malbone. "Philip, why did you ever interfere
with my life? I should have been very happy with Antoine if you had
let me marry him, for I never should have known what it was to love
you. Oh! I wish he were here now, even he,—any one who loved me
truly, and whom I could love only a little. I would go away with such
a person anywhere, and never trouble you and Hope any more. What
shall I do? Philip, you might tell me what to do. Once you told me
always to come to you."
"What can you do?" he asked gloomily, in return.
"I cannot imagine," she said, with a desolate look, more pitiable
than passion, on her young face. "I wish to save Hope, and to save
my—to save Mr. Lambert. Philip, you do not love me. I do not call it
love. There is no passion in your veins; it is only a sort of
sympathetic selfishness. Hope is infinitely better than you are, and
I believe she is more capable of loving. I began by hating her, but if
she loves you as I think she does, she has treated me more generously
than ever one woman treated another. For she could not look at me and
not know that I loved you. I did love you. O Philip, tell me what to
Such beauty in anguish, the thrill of the possession of such love,
the possibility of soothing by tenderness the wild mood which he could
not meet by counsel,—it would have taken a stronger or less
sympathetic nature than Malbone's to endure all this. It swept him
away; this revival of passion was irresistible. When her pent-up
feeling was once uttered, she turned to his love as a fancied
salvation. It was a terrible remedy. She had never looked more
beautiful, and yet she seemed to have grown old at once; her very
caresses appeared to burn. She lingered and lingered, and still he
kept her there; and when it was no longer possible for her to go
without disturbing the house, he led her to a secret spiral stairway,
which went from attic to cellar of that stately old mansion, and which
opened by one or more doors on each landing, as his keen eye had
found out. Descending this, he went forth with her into the dark and
silent night. The mist hung around the house; the wet leaves fluttered
and fell upon their cheeks; the water lapped desolately against the
pier. Philip found a carriage and sent her back to Mrs. Meredith's,
where she was staying during the brief absence of John Lambert.
These concealed meetings, once begun, became an absorbing
excitement. She came several times, staying half an hour, an hour,
two hours. They were together long enough for suffering, never long
enough for soothing. It was a poor substitute for happiness. Each
time she came, Malbone wished that she might never go or never return.
His warier nature was feverish with solicitude and with self-reproach;
he liked the excitement of slight risks, but this was far too intense,
the vibrations too extreme. She, on the other hand, rode triumphant
over waves of passion which cowed him. He dared not exclude her; he
dared not continue to admit her; he dared not free himself; he could
not be happy. The privacy of the concealed stairway saved them from
outward dangers, but not from inward fears. Their interviews were
first blissful, then anxious, then sad, then stormy. It was at the end
of such a storm that Emilia had passed into one of those deathly calms
which belonged to her physical temperament; and it was under these
circumstances that Hope had followed Philip to the door.
XX. AUNT JANE TO THE RESCUE.
THE thing that saves us from insanity during great grief is that
there is usually something to do, and the mind composes itself to the
mechanical task of adjusting the details. Hope dared not look forward
an inch into the future; that way madness lay. Fortunately, it was
plain what must come first,—to keep the whole thing within their own
walls, and therefore to make some explanation to Mrs. Meredith, whose
servants had doubtless been kept up all night awaiting Emilia.
Profoundly perplexed what to say or not to say to her, Hope longed
with her whole soul for an adviser. Harry and Kate were both away, and
besides, she shrank from darkening their young lives as hers had been
darkened. She resolved to seek counsel in the one person who most
thoroughly distrusted Emilia,—Aunt Jane.
This lady was in a particularly happy mood that day. Emilia, who
did all kinds of fine needle-work exquisitely, had just embroidered
for Aunt Jane some pillow-cases. The original suggestion came from
Hope, but it never cost Emilia anything to keep a secret, and she had
presented the gift very sweetly, as if it were a thought of her own.
Aunt Jane, who with all her penetration as to facts was often very
guileless as to motives, was thoroughly touched by the humility and
"All last night," she said, "I kept waking up, and thinking about
Christian charity and my pillow-cases."
It was, therefore, a very favorable day for Hope's consultation,
though it was nearly noon before her aunt was visible, perhaps because
it took so long to make up her bed with the new adornments.
Hope said frankly to Aunt Jane that there were some circumstances
about which she should rather not be questioned, but that Emilia had
come there the previous night from the ball, had been seized with one
of her peculiar attacks, and had stayed all night. Aunt Jane kept her
eyes steadily fixed on Hope's sad face, and, when the tale was ended,
drew her down and kissed her lips.
"Now tell me, dear," she said; "what comes first?"
"The first thing is," said Hope, "to have Emilia's absence
explained to Mrs. Meredith in some such way that she will think no
more of it, and not talk about it."
"Certainly," said Aunt Jane. "There is but one way to do that. I
will call on her myself."
"You, auntie?" said Hope.
"Yes, I," said her aunt. "I have owed her a call for five years.
It is the only thing that will excite her so much as to put all else
out of her head."
"O auntie!" said Hope, greatly relieved, "if you only would! But
ought you really to go out? It is almost raining."
"I shall go," said Aunt Jane, decisively, "if it rains little
"But will not Mrs. Meredith wonder—?" began Hope.
"That is one advantage," interrupted her aunt, "of being an absurd
old woman. Nobody ever wonders at anything I do, or else it is that
they never stop wondering."
She sent Ruth erelong to order the horses. Hope collected her
various wrappers, and Ruth, returning, got her mistress into a state
"If I might say one thing more," Hope whispered.
"Certainly," said her aunt. "Ruth, go to my chamber, and get me a
"What kind of a pin, ma'am?" asked that meek handmaiden, from the
"What a question!" said her indignant mistress. "Any kind. The
common pin of North America. Now, Hope?" as the door closed.
"I think it better, auntie," said Hope, "that Philip should not
stay here longer at present. You can truly say that the house is
"I have just had a note from him," said Aunt Jane severely. "He
has gone to lodge at the hotel. What next?"
"Aunt Jane," said Hope, looking her full in the face, "I have not
the slightest idea what to do next."
("The next thing for me," thought her aunt, "is to have a little
plain speech with that misguided child upstairs.")
"I can see no way out," pursued Hope.
"Darling!" said Aunt Jane, with a voice full of womanly sweetness,
"there is always a way out, or else the world would have stopped long
ago. Perhaps it would have been better if it had stopped, but you see
it has not. All we can do is, to live on and try our best."
She bade Hope leave Emilia to her, and furthermore stipulated that
Hope should go to her pupils as usual, that afternoon, as it was their
last lesson. The young girl shrank from the effort, but the elder lady
was inflexible. She had her own purpose in it. Hope once out of the
way, Aunt Jane could deal with Emilia.
No human being, when met face to face with Aunt Jane, had ever
failed to yield up to her the whole truth she sought. Emilia was on
that day no exception. She was prostrate, languid, humble, denied
nothing, was ready to concede every point but one. Never, while she
lived, would she dwell beneath John Lambert's roof again. She had
left it impulsively, she admitted, scarce knowing what she did. But
she would never return there to live. She would go once more and see
that all was in order for Mr. Lambert, both in the house and on board
the yacht, where they were to have taken up their abode for a time.
There were new servants in the house, a new captain on the yacht; she
would trust Mr. Lambert's comfort to none of them; she would do her
full duty. Duty! the more utterly she felt herself to be gliding away
from him forever, the more pains she was ready to lavish in doing
these nothings well. About every insignificant article he owned she
seemed to feel the most scrupulous and wife-like responsibility; while
she yet knew that all she had was to him nothing, compared with the
possession of herself; and it was the thought of this last ownership
that drove her to despair.
Sweet and plaintive as the child's face was, it had a glimmer of
wildness and a hunted look, that baffled Aunt Jane a little, and
compelled her to temporize. She consented that Emilia should go to
her own house, on condition that she would not see Philip,—which was
readily and even eagerly promised,—and that Hope should spend the
night with Emilia, which proposal was ardently accepted.
It occurred to Aunt Jane that nothing better could happen than for
John Lambert, on returning, to find his wife at home; and to secure
this result, if possible, she telegraphed to him to come at once.
Meantime Hope gave her inevitable music-lesson, so absorbed in her
own thoughts that it was all as mechanical as the metronome. As she
came out upon the Avenue for the walk home, she saw a group of people
from a gardener's house, who had collected beside a muddy crossing,
where a team of cart-horses had refused to stir. Presently they
sprang forward with a great jerk, and a little Irish child was thrown
beneath the wheel. Hope sprang forward to grasp the child, and the
wheel struck her also; but she escaped with a dress torn and smeared,
while the cart passed over the little girl's arm, breaking it in two
places. She screamed and then grew faint, as Hope lifted her. The
mother received the burden with a wail of anguish; the other
Irishwomen pressed around her with the dense and suffocating sympathy
of their nation. Hope bade one and another run for a physician, but
nobody stirred. There was no surgical aid within a mile or more. Hope
looked round in despair, then glanced at her own disordered garments.
"As sure as you live!" shouted a well-known voice from a carriage
which had stopped behind them. "If that isn't Hope what's-her-name,
wish I may never! Here's a lark! Let me come there!" And the speaker
pushed through the crowd.
"Miss Ingleside," said Hope, decisively, "this child's arm is
broken. There is nobody to go for a physician. Except for the
condition I am in, I would ask you to take me there at once in your
carriage; but as it is—"
"As it is, I must ask you, hey?" said Blanche, finishing the
sentence. "Of course. No mistake. Sans dire. Jones, junior, this
lady will join us. Don't look so scared, man. Are you anxious about
your cushions or your reputation?"
The youth simpered and disclaimed.
"Jump in, then, Miss Maxwell. Never mind the expense. It's only
the family carriage;—surname and arms of Jones. Lucky there are no
parents to the fore. Put my shawl over you, so."
"O Blanche!" said Hope, "what injustice—"
"I've done myself?" said the volatile damsel. "Not a doubt of it.
That's my style, you know. But I have some sense; I know who's who.
Now, Jones, junior, make your man handle the ribbons. I've always had
a grudge against that ordinance about fast driving, and now's our
And the sacred "ordinance," with all other proprieties, was left
in ruins that day. They tore along the Avenue with unexplained and
most inexplicable speed, Hope being concealed by riding backward, and
by a large shawl, and Blanche and her admirer receiving the full
indignation of every chaste and venerable eye. Those who had tolerated
all this girl's previous improprieties were obliged to admit that the
line must be drawn somewhere. She at once lost several good
invitations and a matrimonial offer, since Jones, junior, was swept
away by his parents to be wedded without delay to a consumptive
heiress who had long pined for his whiskers; and Count Posen, in his
Souvenirs, was severer on Blanche's one good deed than on the worst
of her follies.
A few years after, when Blanche, then the fearless wife of a
regular-army officer, was helping Hope in the hospitals at Norfolk,
she would stop to shout with delight over the reminiscence of that
stately Jones equipage in mad career, amid the barking of dogs and the
groaning of dowagers. "After all, Hope," she would say, "the fastest
thing I ever did was under your orders."
XXI. A STORM.
THE members of the household were all at the window about noon,
next day, watching the rise of a storm. A murky wing of cloud,
shaped like a hawk's, hung over the low western hills across the bay.
Then the hawk became an eagle, and the eagle a gigantic phantom, that
hovered over half the visible sky. Beneath it, a little scud of vapor,
moved by some cross-current of air, raced rapidly against the wind,
just above the horizon, like smoke from a battle-field.
As the cloud ascended, the water grew rapidly blacker, and in half
an hour broke into jets of white foam, all over its surface, with an
angry look. Meantime a white film of fog spread down the bay from the
northward. The wind hauled from southwest to northwest, so suddenly
and strongly that all the anchored boats seemed to have swung round
instantaneously, without visible process. The instant the wind
shifted, the rain broke forth, filling the air in a moment with its
volume, and cutting so sharply that it seemed like hail, though no
hailstones reached the ground. At the same time there rose upon the
water a dense white film, which seemed to grow together from a hundred
different directions, and was made partly of rain, and partly of the
blown edges of the spray. There was but a glimpse of this; for in a
few moments it was impossible to see two rods; but when the first gust
was over, the water showed itself again, the jets of spray all beaten
down, and regular waves, of dull lead-color, breaking higher on the
shore. All the depth of blackness had left the sky, and there
remained only an obscure and ominous gray, through which the
lightning flashed white, not red. Boats came driving in from the
mouth of the bay with a rag of sail up; the men got them moored with
difficulty, and when they sculled ashore in the skiffs, a dozen
comrades stood ready to grasp and haul them in. Others launched skiffs
in sheltered places, and pulled out bareheaded to bail out their
fishing-boats and keep them from swamping at their moorings.
The shore was thronged with men in oilskin clothes and by women
with shawls over their heads. Aunt Jane, who always felt responsible
for whatever went on in the elements, sat in-doors with one lid
closed, wincing at every flash, and watching the universe with the air
of a coachman guiding six wild horses.
Just after the storm had passed its height, two veritable wild
horses were reined up at the door, and Philip burst in, his usual
"Emilia is out sailing!" he exclaimed,—"alone with Lambert's
boatman, in this gale. They say she was bound for Narragansett."
"Impossible!" cried Hope, turning pale. "I left her not three
hours ago." Then she remembered that Emilia had spoken of going on
board the yacht, to superintend some arrangements, but had said no
more about it, when she opposed it.
"Harry!" said Aunt Jane, quickly, from her chair by the window,
"see that fisherman. He has just come ashore and is telling
something. Ask him."
The fisherman had indeed seen Lambert's boat, which was well
known. Something seemed to be the matter with the sail, but before
the storm struck her, it had been hauled down. They must have taken
in water enough, as it was. He had himself been obliged to bail out
three times, running in from the reef.
"Was there any landing which they could reach?" Harry asked.
There was none,—but the light-ship lay right in their track, and
if they had good luck, they might get aboard of her.
"The boatman?" said Philip, anxiously,—"Mr. Lambert's boatman; is
he a good sailor?"
"Don't know," was the reply. "Stranger here. Dutchman,
Frenchman, Portegee, or some kind of a foreigner."
"Seems to understand himself in a boat," said another.
"Mr. Malbone knows him," said a third. "The same that dove with
the young woman under the steamboat paddles."
"Good grit," said the first.
"That's so," was the answer. "But grit don't teach a man the
All agreed to this axiom; but as there was so strong a probability
that the voyagers had reached the light-ship, there seemed less cause
The next question was, whether it was possible to follow them. All
agreed that it would be foolish for any boat to attempt it, till the
wind had blown itself out, which might be within half an hour. After
that, some predicted a calm, some a fog, some a renewal of the storm;
there was the usual variety of opinions. At any rate, there might
perhaps be an interval during which they could go out, if the
gentlemen did not mind a wet jacket.
Within the half-hour came indeed an interval of calm, and a light
shone behind the clouds from the west. It faded soon into a gray fog,
with puffs of wind from the southwest again. When the young men went
out with the boatmen, the water had grown more quiet, save where angry
little gusts ruffled it. But these gusts made it necessary to carry a
double reef, and they made but little progress against wind and tide.
A dark-gray fog, broken by frequent wind-flaws, makes the ugliest
of all days on the water. A still, pale fog is soothing; it lulls
nature to a kind of repose. But a windy fog with occasional sunbeams
and sudden films of metallic blue breaking the leaden water,—this
carries an impression of something weird and treacherous in the
universe, and suggests caution.
As the boat floated on, every sight and sound appeared strange.
The music from the fort came sudden and startling through the
vaporous eddies. A tall white schooner rose instantaneously near
them, like a light-house. They could see the steam of the factory
floating low, seeking some outlet between cloud and water. As they
drifted past a wharf, the great black piles of coal hung high and
gloomy; then a stray sunbeam brought out their peacock colors; then
came the fog again, driving hurriedly by, as if impatient to go
somewhere and enraged at the obstacle. It seemed to have a vast
inorganic life of its own, a volition and a whim. It drew itself
across the horizon like a curtain; then advanced in trampling armies
up the bay; then marched in masses northward; then suddenly grew thin,
and showed great spaces of sunlight; then drifted across the low
islands, like long tufts of wool; then rolled itself away toward the
horizon; then closed in again, pitiless and gray.
Suddenly something vast towered amid the mist above them. It was
the French war-ship returned to her anchorage once more, and seeming
in that dim atmosphere to be something spectral and strange that had
taken form out of the elements. The muzzles of great guns rose tier
above tier, along her side; great boats hung one above another, on
successive pairs of davits, at her stern. So high was her hull, that
the topmost boat and the topmost gun appeared to be suspended in
middle air; and yet this was but the beginning of her altitude. Above
these were the heavy masts, seen dimly through the mist; between these
were spread eight dark lines of sailors' clothes, which, with the
massive yards above, looked like part of some ponderous framework
built to reach the sky. This prolongation of the whole dark mass
toward the heavens had a portentous look to those who gazed from
below; and when the denser fog sometimes furled itself away from the
topgallant masts, hitherto invisible, and showed them rising loftier
yet, and the tricolor at the mizzen-mast-head looking down as if from
the zenith, then they all seemed to appertain to something of more
than human workmanship; a hundred wild tales of phantom vessels came
up to the imagination, and it was as if that one gigantic structure
were expanding to fill all space from sky to sea.
They were swept past it; the fog closed in; it was necessary to
land near the Fort, and proceed on foot. They walked across the rough
peninsula, while the mist began to disperse again, and they were
buoyant with expectation. As they toiled onward, the fog suddenly met
them at the turn of a lane where it had awaited them, like an enemy.
As they passed into those gray and impalpable arms, the whole world
They walked toward the sound of the sea. As they approached it,
the dull hue that lay upon it resembled that of the leaden sky. The
two elements could hardly be distinguished except as the white
outlines of the successive breakers were lifted through the fog. The
lines of surf appeared constantly to multiply upon the beach, and yet,
on counting them, there were never any more. Sometimes, in the
distance, masses of foam rose up like a wall where the horizon ought
to be; and, as the coming waves took form out of the unseen, it seemed
as if no phantom were too vast or shapeless to come rolling in upon
their dusky shoulders.
Presently a frail gleam of something like the ghost of dead
sunshine made them look toward the west. Above the dim roofs of
Castle Hill mansion-house, the sinking sun showed luridly through two
rifts of cloud, and then the swift motion of the nearer vapor veiled
both sun and cloud, and banished them into almost equal remoteness.
Leaving the beach on their right, and passing the high rocks of
the Pirate's Cave, they presently descended to the water's edge once
more. The cliffs rose to a distorted height in the dimness; sprays of
withered grass nodded along the edge, like Ossian's spectres. Light
seemed to be vanishing from the universe, leaving them alone with the
sea. And when a solitary loon uttered his wild cry, and rising, sped
away into the distance, it was as if life were following light into an
equal annihilation. That sense of vague terror, with which the ocean
sometimes controls the fancy, began to lay its grasp on them. They
remembered that Emilia, in speaking once of her intense shrinking from
death, had said that the sea was the only thing from which she would
not fear to meet it.
Fog exaggerates both for eye and ear; it is always a
sounding-board for the billows; and in this case, as often happens,
the roar did not appear to proceed from the waves themselves, but from
some source in the unseen horizon, as if the spectators were shut
within a beleaguered fortress, and this thundering noise came from an
impetuous enemy outside. Ever and anon there was a distinct crash of
heavier sound, as if some special barricade had at length been beaten
in, and the garrison must look to their inner defences.
The tide was unusually high, and scarcely receded with the ebb,
though the surf increased; the waves came in with constant rush and
wail, and with an ominous rattle of pebbles on the little beaches,
beneath the powerful suction of the undertow; and there were more and
more of those muffled throbs along the shore which tell of coming
danger as plainly as minute-guns. With these came mingled that yet
more inexplicable humming which one hears at intervals in such times,
like strains of music caught and tangled in the currents of stormy
air,—strains which were perhaps the filmy thread on which tales of
sirens and mermaids were first strung, and in which, at this time,
they would fain recognize the voice of Emilia.
XXII. OUT OF THE DEPTHS.
AS the night closed in, the wind rose steadily, still blowing from
the southwest. In Brenton's kitchen they found a group round a great
fire of driftwood; some of these were fishermen who had with
difficulty made a landing on the beach, and who confirmed the accounts
already given. The boat had been seen sailing for the Narragansett
shore, and when the squall came, the boatman had lowered and reefed
the sail, and stood for the light-ship. They must be on board of her,
"There are safe there?" asked Philip, eagerly.
"Only place where they would be safe, then," said the spokesman.
"Unless the light-ship parts," said an old fellow.
"Parts!" said the other. "Sixty fathom of two-inch chain, and old
Joe talks about parting."
"Foolish, of course," said Philip; "but it's a dangerous shore."
"That's so," was the answer. "Never saw so many lines of reef
show outside, neither."
"There's an old saying on this shore," said Joe:—
"When Price's Neck goes to Brenton's Reef,
Body and soul will come to grief.
But when Brenton's Reef comes to Price's Neck,
Soul and body are both a wreck."
"What does it mean?" asked Harry.
"It only means," said somebody, "that when you see it white all
the way out from the Neck to the Reef, you can't take the inside
"But what does the last half mean?" persisted Harry.
"Don't know as I know," said the veteran, and relapsed into
silence, in which all joined him, while the wind howled and whistled
outside, and the barred windows shook.
Weary and restless with vain waiting, they looked from the doorway
at the weather. The door went back with a slam, and the gust swooped
down on them with that special blast that always seems to linger just
outside on such nights, ready for the first head that shows itself.
They closed the door upon the flickering fire and the uncouth shadows
within, and went forth into the night. At first the solid blackness
seemed to lay a weight on their foreheads. There was absolutely
nothing to be seen but the two lights of the light-ship, glaring from
the dark sea like a wolf's eyes from a cavern. They looked nearer and
brighter than in ordinary nights, and appeared to the excited senses
of the young men to dance strangely on the waves, and to be always
opposite to them, as they moved along the shore with the wind almost
at their backs.
"What did that old fellow mean?" said Malbone in Harry's ear, as
they came to a protected place and could hear each other, "by talking
of Brenton's Reef coming to Price's Neck."
"Some sailor's doggerel," said Harry, indifferently. "Here is
Price's Neck before us, and yonder is Brenton's Reef."
"Where?" said Philip, looking round bewildered.
The lights had gone, as if the wolf, weary of watching, had
suddenly closed his eyes, and slumbered in his cave.
Harry trembled and shivered. In Heaven's name, what could this
Suddenly a sheet of lightning came, so white and intense, it sent
its light all the way out to the horizon and exhibited far-off
vessels, that reeled and tossed and looked as if wandering without a
guide. But this was not so startling as what it showed in the
There drifted heavily upon the waves, within full view from the
shore, moving parallel to it, yet gradually approaching, an uncouth
shape that seemed a vessel and yet not a vessel; two stunted masts
projected above, and below there could be read, in dark letters that
apparently swayed and trembled in the wan lightning, as the thing
Philip, leaning against a rock, gazed into the darkness where the
apparition had been; even Harry felt a thrill of half-superstitious
wonder, and listened half mechanically to a rough sailor's voice at
"God! old Joe was right. There's one wreck that is bound to make
many. The light-ship has parted."
"Drifting ashore," said Harry, his accustomed clearness of head
coming back at a flash. "Where will she strike?"
"Price's Neck," said the sailor.
Harry turned to Philip and spoke to him, shouting in his ear the
explanation. Malbone's lips moved mechanically, but he said nothing.
Passively, he let Harry take him by the arm, and lead him on.
Following the sailor, they rounded a projecting point, and found
themselves a little sheltered from the wind. Not knowing the region,
they stumbled about among the rocks, and scarcely knew when they
neared the surf, except when a wave came swashing round their very
feet. Pausing at the end of a cove, they stood beside their conductor,
and their eyes, now grown accustomed, could make out vaguely the
outlines of the waves.
The throat of the cove was so shoal and narrow, and the mass of
the waves so great, that they reared their heads enormously, just
outside, and spending their strength there, left a lower level within
the cove. Yet sometimes a series of great billows would come straight
on, heading directly for the entrance, and then the surface of the
water within was seen to swell suddenly upward as if by a terrible
inward magic of its own; it rose and rose, as if it would ingulf
everything; then as rapidly sank, and again presented a mere quiet
vestibule before the excluded waves.
They saw in glimpses, as the lightning flashed, the shingly beach,
covered with a mass of creamy foam, all tremulous and fluctuating in
the wind; and this foam was constantly torn away by the gale in great
shreds, that whirled by them as if the very fragments of the ocean
were fleeing from it in terror, to take refuge in the less frightful
element of air.
Still the wild waves reared their heads, like savage, crested
animals, now white, now black, looking in from the entrance of the
cove. And now there silently drifted upon them something higher,
vaster, darker than themselves,—the doomed vessel. It was strange
how slowly and steadily she swept in,—for her broken chain-cable
dragged, as it afterwards proved, and kept her stern-on to the
shore,—and they could sometimes hear amid the tumult a groan that
seemed to come from the very heart of the earth, as she painfully drew
her keel over hidden reefs. Over five of these (as was afterwards
found) she had already drifted, and she rose and fell more than once
on the high waves at the very mouth of the cove, like a wild bird
hovering ere it pounces.
Then there came one of those great confluences of waves described
already, which, lifting her bodily upward, higher and higher and
higher, suddenly rushed with her into the basin, filling it like an
opened dry-dock, crashing and roaring round the vessel and upon the
rocks, then sweeping out again and leaving her lodged, still stately
and steady, at the centre of the cove.
They could hear from the crew a mingled sound, that came as a
shout of excitement from some and a shriek of despair from others.
The vivid lightning revealed for a moment those on shipboard to those
on shore; and blinding as it was, it lasted long enough to show
figures gesticulating and pointing. The old sailor, Mitchell, tried to
build a fire among the rocks nearest the vessel, but it was
impossible, because of the wind. This was a disappointment, for the
light would have taken away half the danger, and more than half the
terror. Though the cove was more quiet than the ocean, yet it was
fearful enough, even there. The vessel might hold together till
morning, but who could tell? It was almost certain that those on board
would try to land, and there was nothing to do but to await the
effort. The men from the farmhouse had meanwhile come down with ropes.
It was simply impossible to judge with any accuracy of the
distance of the ship. One of these new-comers, who declared that she
was lodged very near, went to a point of rocks, and shouted to those
on board to heave him a rope. The tempest suppressed his voice, as it
had put out the fire. But perhaps the lightning had showed him to the
dark figures on the stern; for when the next flash came, they saw a
rope flung, which fell short. The real distance was more than a
Then there was a long interval of darkness. The moment the next
flash came they saw a figure let down by a rope from the stern of the
vessel, while the hungry waves reared like wolves to seize it.
Everybody crowded down to the nearest rocks, looking this way and that
for a head to appear. They pressed eagerly in every direction where a
bit of plank or a barrel-head floated; they fancied faint cries here
and there, and went aimlessly to and fro. A new effort, after half a
dozen failures, sent a blaze mounting up fitfully among the rocks,
startling all with the sudden change its blessed splendor made. Then
a shrill shout from one of the watchers summoned all to a cleft in the
cove, half shaded from the firelight, where there came rolling in
amidst the surf, more dead than alive, the body of a man. He was the
young foreigner, John Lambert's boatman. He bore still around him the
rope that was to save the rest.
How pale and eager their faces looked as they bent above him! But
the eagerness was all gone from his, and only the pallor left. While
the fishermen got the tackle rigged, such as it was, to complete the
communication with the vessel, the young men worked upon the boatman,
and soon had him restored to consciousness. He was able to explain
that the ship had been severely strained, and that all on board
believed she would go to pieces before morning. No one would risk
being the first to take the water, and he had at last volunteered, as
being the best swimmer, on condition that Emilia should be next sent,
when the communication was established.
Two ropes were then hauled on board the vessel, a larger and a
smaller. By the flickering firelight and the rarer flashes of
lightning (the rain now falling in torrents) they saw a hammock slung
to the larger rope; a woman's form was swathed in it; and the smaller
rope being made fast to this, they found by pulling that she could be
drawn towards the shore. Those on board steadied the hammock as it was
lowered from the ship, but the waves seemed maddened by this effort to
escape their might, and they leaped up at her again and again. The
rope dropped beneath her weight, and all that could be done from shore
was to haul her in as fast as possible, to abbreviate the period of
buffeting and suffocation. As she neared the rocks she could be kept
more safe from the water; faster and faster she was drawn in;
sometimes there came some hitch and stoppage, but by steady patience
it was overcome.
She was so near the rocks that hands were already stretched to
grasp her, when there came one of the great surging waves that
sometimes filled the basin. It gave a terrible lurch to the stranded
vessel hitherto so erect; the larger rope snapped instantly; the
guiding rope was twitched from the hands that held it; and the canvas
that held Emilia was caught and swept away like a shred of foam, and
lost amid the whiteness of the seething froth below. Fifteen minutes
after, the hammock came ashore empty, the lashings having parted.
The cold daybreak was just opening, though the wind still blew
keenly, when they found the body of Emilia. It was swathed in a roll
of sea-weed, lying in the edge of the surf, on a broad, flat rock near
where the young boatman had come ashore. The face was not disfigured;
the clothing was only torn a little, and tangled closely round her;
but the life was gone.
It was Philip who first saw her; and he stood beside her for a
moment motionless, stunned into an aspect of tranquility. This, then,
was the end. All his ready sympathy, his wooing tenderness, his
winning compliances, his self-indulgent softness, his perilous
amiability, his reluctance to give pain or to see sorrow,—all had
ended in this. For once, he must force even his accommodating and
evasive nature to meet the plain, blank truth. Now all his
characteristics appeared changed by the encounter; it was Harry who
was ready, thoughtful, attentive,—while Philip, who usually had all
these traits, was paralyzed among his dreams. Could he have fancied
such a scene beforehand, he would have vowed that no hand but his
should touch the breathless form of Emilia. As it was, he
instinctively made way for the quick gathering of the others, as if
almost any one else had a better right to be there.
The storm had blown itself out by sunrise; the wind had shifted,
beating down the waves; it seemed as if everything in nature were
exhausted. The very tide had ebbed away. The light-ship rested
between the rocks, helpless, still at the mercy of the returning
waves, and yet still upright and with that stately look of unconscious
pleading which all shipwrecked vessels wear. it is wonderfully like
the look I have seen in the face of some dead soldier, on whom war had
done its worst. Every line of a ship is so built for motion, every
part, while afloat, seems so full of life and so answering to the
human life it bears, that this paralysis of shipwreck touches the
imagination as if the motionless thing had once been animated by a
And not far from the vessel, in a chamber of the seaside
farm-house, lay the tenderer and fairer wreck of Emilia. Her storms
and her passions were ended. The censure of the world, the anguish of
friends, the clinging arms of love, were nothing now to her. Again the
soft shelter of unconsciousness had clasped her in; but this time the
trance was longer and the faintness was unto death.
From the moment of her drifting ashore, it was the young boatman
who had assumed the right to care for her and to direct everything.
Philip seemed stunned; Harry was his usual clear-headed and efficient
self; but to his honest eyes much revealed itself in a little while;
and when Hope arrived in the early morning, he said to her, "This
boatman, who once saved your life, is Emilia's Swiss lover, Antoine
"More than lover," said the young Swiss, overhearing. "She was my
wife before God, when you took her from me. In my country, a
betrothal is as sacred as a marriage. Then came that man, he filled
her heart with illusions, and took her away in my absence. When my
brother was here in the corvette, he found her for me. Then I came for
her; I saved her sister; then I saw the name on the card and would not
give my own. I became her servant. She saw me in the yacht, only
once; she knew me; she was afraid. Then she said, 'Perhaps I still
love you,—a little; I do not know; I am in despair; take me from this
home I hate.' We sailed that day in the small boat for
Narragansett,—I know not where. She hardly looked up or spoke; but
for me, I cared for nothing since she was with me. When the storm
came, she was frightened, and said, 'It is a retribution.' I said,
'You shall never go back.' She never did. Here she is. You cannot
take her from me."
Once on board the light-ship, she had been assigned the captain's
state-room, while Antoine watched at the door. She seemed to shrink
from him whenever he went to speak to her, he owned, but she answered
kindly and gently, begging to be left alone. When at last the vessel
parted her moorings, he persuaded Emilia to come on deck and be lashed
to the mast, where she sat without complaint.
Who can fathom the thoughts of that bewildered child, as she sat
amid the spray and the howling of the blast, while the doomed vessel
drifted on with her to the shore? Did all the error and sorrow of her
life pass distinctly before her? Or did the roar of the surf lull her
into quiet, like the unconscious kindness of wild creatures that toss
and bewilder their prey into unconsciousness ere they harm it? None
can tell. Death answers no questions; it only makes them needless.
The morning brought to the scene John Lambert, just arrived by
land from New York.
The passion of John Lambert for his wife was of that kind which
ennobles while it lasts, but which rarely outlasts marriage. A man of
such uncongenial mould will love an enchanting woman with a mad,
absorbing passion, where self-sacrifice is so mingled with selfishness
that the two emotions seem one; he will hungrily yearn to possess her,
to call her by his own name, to hold her in his arms, to kill any one
else who claims her. But when she is once his wife, and his arms hold
a body without a soul,—no soul at least for him,—then her image is
almost inevitably profaned, and the passion which began too high for
earth ends far too low for heaven. Let now death change that form to
marble, and instantly it resumes its virgin holiness; though the
presence of life did not sanctify, its departure does. It is only the
true lover to whom the breathing form is as sacred as the breathless.
That ideality of nature which love had developed in this man, and
which had already drooped a little during his brief period of
marriage, was born again by the side of death. While Philip wandered
off silent and lonely with his grief, John Lambert knelt by the
beautiful remains, talking inarticulately, his eyes streaming with
unchecked tears. Again was Emilia, in her marble paleness, the calm
centre of a tragedy she herself had caused. The wild, ungoverned
child was the image of peace; it was the stolid and prosperous man who
was in the storm. It was not till Hope came that there was any change.
Then his prostrate nature sought hers, as the needle leaps to the
iron; the first touch of her hand, the sight of her kiss upon
Emilia's forehead, made him strong. It was the thorough subjection of
a worldly man to the higher organization of a noble woman, and
thenceforth it never varied. In later years, after he had foolishly
sought, as men will, to win her to a nearer tie, there was no moment
when she had not full control over his time, his energies, and his
After it was all ended, Hope told him everything that had
happened; but in that wild moment of his despair she told him
nothing. Only she and Harry knew the story of the young Swiss; and
now that Emilia was gone, her early lover had no wish to speak of her
to any but these two, or to linger long where she had been doubly lost
to him, by marriage and by death. The world, with all its prying
curiosity, usually misses the key to the very incidents about which it
asks most questions; and of the many who gossiped or mourned
concerning Emilia, none knew the tragic complication which her death
alone could have solved. The breaking of Hope's engagement to Philip
was attributed to every cause but the true one. And when the storm of
the great Rebellion broke over the land, its vast calamity absorbed
all minor griefs.
THANK God! it is not within the power of one man's errors to
blight the promise of a life like that of Hope. It is but a feeble
destiny that is wrecked by passion, when it should be ennobled. Aunt
Jane and Kate watched Hope closely during her years of probation, for
although she fancied herself to be keeping her own counsel, yet her
career lay in broad light for them. She was like yonder sailboat,
which floats conspicuous by night amid the path of moonbeams, and
which yet seems to its own voyagers to be remote and unseen upon a
waste of waves.
Why should I linger over the details of her life, after the width
of ocean lay between her and Malbone, and a manhood of self-denying
usefulness had begun to show that even he could learn something by
life's retributions? We know what she was, and it is of secondary
importance where she went or what she did. Kindle the light of the
light-house, and it has nothing to do, except to shine. There is for
it no wrong direction. There is no need to ask, "How? Over which
especial track of distant water must my light go forth, to find the
wandering vessel to be guided in?" It simply shines. Somewhere there
is a ship that needs it, or if not, the light does its duty. So did
We must leave her here. Yet I cannot bear to think of her as
passing through earthly life without tasting its deepest bliss,
without the last pure ecstasy of human love, without the kisses of
her own children on her lips, their waxen fingers on her bosom.
And yet again, is this life so long? May it not be better to wait
until its little day is done, and the summer night of old age has
yielded to a new morning, before attaining that acme of joy? Are there
enough successive grades of bliss for all eternity, if so much be
consummated here? Must all novels end with an earthly marriage, and
nothing be left for heaven?
Perhaps, for such as Hope, this life is given to show what
happiness might be, and they await some other sphere for its
fulfilment. The greater part of the human race live out their mortal
years without attaining more than a far-off glimpse of the very
highest joy. Were this life all, its very happiness were sadness. If,
as I doubt not, there be another sphere, then that which is
unfulfilled in this must yet find completion, nothing omitted, nothing
denied. And though a thousand oracles should pronounce this thought an
idle dream, neither Hope nor I would believe them.
It was a radiant morning of last February when I walked across the
low hills to the scene of the wreck. Leaving the road before reaching
the Fort, I struck across the wild moss-country, full of boulders and
footpaths and stunted cedars and sullen ponds. I crossed the height of
land, where the ruined lookout stands like the remains of a Druidical
temple, and then went down toward the ocean. Banks and ridges of snow
lay here and there among the fields, and the white lines of distant
capes seemed but drifts running seaward. The ocean was gloriously
alive,—the blackest blue, with white caps on every wave; the shore
was all snowy, and the gulls were flying back and forth in crowds; you
could not tell whether they were the white waves coming ashore, or
bits of snow going to sea. A single fragment of ship-timber, black
with time and weeds, and crusty with barnacles, heaved to and fro in
the edge of the surf, and two fishermen's children, a boy and girl,
tilted upon it as it moved, clung with the semblance of terror to each
other, and played at shipwreck.
The rocks were dark with moisture, steaming in the sun. Great
sheets of ice, white masks of departing winter, clung to every
projecting cliff, or slid with crash and shiver into the surge.
Icicles dropped their slow and reverberating tears upon the rock
where Emilia once lay breathless; and it seemed as if their cold,
chaste drops were sent to cleanse from her memory each scarlet stain,
and leave it virginal and pure.