by Robert Timsol
THEORY AND PRACTICE.
JOHN B. ALDEN, PUBLISHER.
THE PROVIDENT BOOK COMPANY.
I. WISDOM IN THE
II. WORSE YET.
IV. A WILFUL
IX. AT NEWPORT.
X. ON THE
XIV. OVER TWO
XX. APOLOGY FOR
XXI. JANE TO THE
XXII. AN ORDEAL.
XXIII. PLAN OF
XXIV. TO WAYBACK
XXV. A WILD
XXXIII. A FAMILY
PERSONS ABOUT TO
I. WISDOM IN THE WOODS.
I had seen and heard little of Hartman since our college days. There
he was counted a youth of eminent promise: after that I knew that he
had traveled, written something or other, and practised lawor
professed it, and not too eagerly: then he had disappeared. Last May I
stumbled on him in a secluded region where I had gone to fish and rest,
after a year of too close attention to business. We came face to face
in the woods, stared at each other, and then our hands met in the old
grip. He took me home with him, to a comfortable enough bachelor
establishment, and we made a nightor more than an eveningof it. He
did not seem curious, but I was.
What have you been doing with yourself! I began; withdrawing from
To some extent, he said. You can't do that entirely, you know.
The world is in you as well as around you, unluckily. It is too much
with us, as the poet observed. Do you remember the time you had in
class over that sonnet?
Pass that, I said. I've given up poetry. (I should have thought
that impossible, he put in, in his nasty nagging fashion; but I took
no notice.) Where have you been all the time?
Here, mostly. It's not much of a place, but that is its merit.
He was getting too deep now, as he often did of old; so I said, But
it's so far away.
That's its other merit. You always had a direct and ingenuous mind,
Bob. Here you've hit both bull's-eyes in two shots.
None of your chaff, said I. Who do you practice your wits on, up
My dogs. And there are some hens in the neighborhood, and a few
small farmers. Or if my bosom cries too loudly to be eased of its
perilous stuff, I can chaff myself, which is more profitable.
You were always too clever for me. What else do you do?
As the Baroness used to say in The Danicheffs, in our days
of vanity, 'Do you think that is much of a compliment?' I read, and
fish, and climb, and ride several hobbies, and meditate on Man, on
Nature, and on Human Fate.
What's the good of that? I was growing impatient of all this
Well, not much, perhaps, said he. For you, very little indeed.
But intrinsically it is about as profitable as more popular
Now look here, Hartman, I said. You're a better man any day than
Ior you were. But here you are, hidden in the backwoods with owls
(one of them was making a horrid noise outside), and nothing to show.
Now I've got a wife
And seven children, he interposed.
No, only three. But I have a good business, and a house on the
avenue, and a decent social position, and I'm making money. And I don't
like to see you throw yourself away like this.
Old man, said Hartman, we are just of an age, and you would pass
for five years the elder. Your hair is getting gray, and thin on top.
You look fagged. And you owned to me that you came here to pick up.
He had me there a little. Yes, I've been working hard. But I'm in
the swim. I do as others do. I help to make the wheels go round. I
thought I had him there; but you never can count on Hartman, except for
an answer of some kind.
Wouldn't they go round without your help? And why should they go
around, anyway? It might be a variety to have them stop. What's the
good of it?
I stared at him; but his eye looked more rational than his talk
sounded. The good of it is that I am in things generally, while you
Exactly so. I am out, while you are in. As to things generally, I
prefer to be with the outs. It is a matter of taste, no doubt.
Well, you are beyond me. But I brought myself in merely as an
examplenot that I set up to be much of thator an illustration, say.
I want to know about you. It may have been foolish, but somehow I felt
the old affection coming back as we talked. What does it all mean,
He looked at me. Do you really want to know, Bob?
Of course I do. Do you suppose I've forgotten the larks we used to
have, and the scrapes you got me out of, and how you coached me through
that exam, in Calculus? It's long ago, Jim; but I took it rather hard,
the way you dropped me.
He began to look as he used to: he wasn't a selfish fellow in those
days. I never meant to be hard on you, Bob, nor supposed you'd take it
so: and I doubt if you did, though you think so at this moment. It was
part of a system; and systems are poor things, though we can't do
without them. I'll tell you how it was.
Wait till I fill up.Now go ahead.
You don't smoke as you used to, Bob. Does the Madam object?
She doesn't like tobacco about the house, of course. And I'm not
sure it's good for me.
Ah. Sorry to be leading you astray. There is no one to interfere
with my little vices. Well, Bob, I got tired of it. Not that that alone
would matter: one could stand being bored in a good cause. But I
couldn't see that it was a good cause.
Would you mind explaining? said I. What cause?
Helping to make the wheels go round. Being in the swim. Doing as
others do. Trying to make a little money and a little name, and
following the fashions of a carnal-minded generation. I could see no
point to it, Bob; the game never seemed worth the candle.
And so you came out in the woods, like what's his namethat
Concord fellow. Do you find this any better?
Negatively. I am not so much a part of the things I despise. The
pomps and vanities are conspicuous chiefly by their absence. It is a
simpler life, comparatively laudable for there being less of it.
And don't you get bored, out here? A week or so of it is well
enough in a way; but take it the year round, I should think you'd find
it worse than civilization.
I get bored, of course: that is incidental to life, and chronic
with one who has looked beneath the surface and sifted values. But it's
not so oppressive as in town. There are no shams here, to speak of.
Having no business and no society, we don't pretend to be very
different from what we are.
O, if you come to that, the women still improve on nature, and the
street has its little tricks and methods; but you could keep out of
them. You were in the law.
It's all the same, Bob. The law now is worked much more as a
business than as a science. Look at Jones, and Brown, and Jenkins: they
are getting on, I hear. I don't want to get on in that way.
But you might have taken the scientific side of it. With your head
piece, and your high and mighty notions, there was a field for you.
So is theology a field, or physic, or Greek roots, or
chiropodyfor him, who believes in them. I was not able to see that
one line of thought has a right to crowd out all the rest, or to sink
my whole soul in a profession. That's what they want of you nowto
make a little clearing, and put up palings all round it, and see things
outside only through the chinks of your blessed fence. Be a narrow
specialist: know one thing, and care for nothing else. I suppose you
can do that with oil.
I thought there was some uncalled-for bitterness in this; but the
poor fellow can't be contented, with his lonesome and aimless life.
We're not talking about me, Jim. You're the topic. Stick to your text,
and preach away: my soul is not so immersed in oil that I can't listen.
But I don't blame you for going back on the law; a beast of a business,
I always thought it. Why didn't you go for a Professorship?
My poor friend, you were at college four years, and
graduatedwithout honors, it is true. Don't you remember how little we
cared for the Profs. and their eminent attainments? We took it for
granted that it was all right, and they understood what they were at;
but it was a grind, to them and to us. If a man was an enthusiast for
his branch, we rather laughed at him; or if his name was well up, we
were willing to be proud of himat a distanceas an honor to Alma
Mater; but we kicked all the same, if he tried to put extra work on us.
It was all fashion, routine, tradition. The student mind doesn't begin
to look into things for itself till about the senior year, and then
it's full of what lies ahead, in the great world outsidepoor
innocents! With those of us who had anything in us, it took most of the
time to knock the nonsense out.And then if a man wants a chair, he
must take it in a western concern, where he'll be expected to lead in
prayer-meeting, and to have no views of geology that conflict with the
Well then, why not go on with literature? That was in your line:
you might have made a good thing of it.
Yes, by 'unremitting application,' much the same as at law, and
taking it seriously as a profession, I might in time possibly have made
five hundred a year off the magazines, and won an humble place among
our seven hundred rising authors. What's the good of that, when one is
not a transcendent genius, destined for posterity? The crowd seems to
be thickest just there: too many books, too many writers, and by far
too many anxious aspirants. Why should I swell the number? The
community was not especially pining to hear what I might have to say;
and I did not pine so much as some to be heard.
I fear you lacked ambition, Harty. You would have made a pretty
good preacher; but I suppose you weren't sanctified enough.
Thanks: scarcely. I prefer to retain some vestiges of self-respect.
That will do for the youths on the beneficiary list, who are taken in
and done for from infancy, to whom it is an object to get a free
education and into a gentlemanly profession. That's the kind they
mostly make parsons of now, I hear. My boy, to do anything really in
that line, a man ought to have notions different from minerather. Why
don't you advise me to set up a kindergarten? That would suit as well
as chronicling ecclesiastical small beer. Cudgel your brains, and start
something more plausible.
This did not surprise me at all; but my suggestion-box was getting
low. Then I made a rally. How about the philanthropic dodge? Robinson
is on the Associated Charities in town. I saw in the paper that he made
a speech the other night.
If he does nothing better than speech-making, he might as well drop
it. There might be something in benevolent efforts, if one had just the
temperament and talents for them. But as it is, I fear most of it is
humbug; mutual admiration, seeing your name in the paper, and all that.
And how they get imposed on! How they pauperize and debauch those they
try to raise! It's a law of nature, Bob, that every tub must stand on
its own bottom: you can't reform a man from without. Natural selection
will have its way: the shiftless and the lazy must go to the wall. If
you could kill them off, now, that might do some good. The class that
needs help is not like usnot that we are anything to brag of: they've
not had our chance. It's very well to say, give 'em a chance; but
that's no use unless they take it, which they won't. 'Who would be
free, themselves must strike the blow.' If they wouldn't, you are bound
to respect their right of choice. Your drunken ruffian will keep on
breaking the furniture, till another like him breaks his skull. His
wife, the washerwoman with six small children, will continue getting
more and making things worse. This part of it at least ought to be
regulated by law: but that would be a restriction of personal liberty,
which is the idol of this age, and not without reason. We're between
two millstones, and I see no way out.
How would you like politics? The gentleman is supposed to have an
opening there now.
A doubtful and difficult one. If it had come in my time I might
have tried it. But it would be uphill work, a sort of Sisyphus affair:
you may get the stone to the top, but the chances are against it. And
which party is one to join, when he sees nothing in either but selfish
greed and stale traditions? Viewed as a missionary field, Bob, it's
just like the ministry: you are weighed down with a lot of dead
conventions which you must pretend to believe have life and juice in
them yet. Before you can do anything you must be a partisan, and that
requires a mediæval state of mind. Mine, unluckily if you like, is
modern. It wouldn't go, Bob. Try again, if you have more on your list.
Well, there's pure Science: you wouldn't care for the applied, I
know. But you used to like beetles and things. Truth for Truth's sake
is a fine motto, now?
Yes, if they lived by it. There was Bumpus, old Chlorum's favorite
studentin the laboratory, you remember. The old man died, and Bumpus
stole all his discoveries, and published them as his own; made quite a
pretty reputation, and is one of our leading chemists. You know how the
books on Astronomy are made? A man finds out a thing or two for
himself, cribs the rest from other books, changes the wording, and
brings it all out with a blare of trumpets as original research. Those
methods are approved, or at least tolerated, in the best scientific
circles, and other folks don't know the difference. O, I belong to a
few societies yet, and once in an age go to their meetings, when I get
tired up here.
So the outside world still has charms, eh? Have to go back to it
now and then, to keep alive, do you?
Yes, when I need to be reconciled to solitude; much as you go to
hear Ingersoll when your orthodoxy wants confirming, or Dr. Deadcreed
if your liberalism is to be stirred up. Let us spice the insipid dish
with some small variety. The lesser evil needs the greater for its
Look here, Harty; this sounds like pure perverseness; opposition
for its own sake, you know. I believe your money has been the ruin of
you. It's not an original remark, but if you'd had nothing you'd have
done something; gone into business like the rest of us, and made your
Of course, if I had been obliged to; but I should have loved it
none the better. Poor Bayard Taylor said a man could serve God and
mammon both, but only by hating the mammon which he served from sheer
necessity. Say I got my living by a certain craft, would that make the
craft noble? 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians,' because we sell her
images! Why should I desire to supply the confiding public with shoes,
or sugar, or sealing-wax? Plenty of others can do that better, and find
it more amusing, than I should.
If it's amusement you're after, most men find it in Society. You're
not too old for that yet.
Blind guide, I have been there. So long ago, you say, that I've
forgotten what it's like? Not quite. Last winter I had to attend an
execution: couldn't get out of it, you know. My cousin married a
Washington belle, and I had to be there a week, and take it all in. Ah
well, this is a threadbare theme; but I could understand how men
fifteen hundred years ago fled from Alexandrian ball-rooms to Nitrian
deserts. The emptiness of itthe eternal simper, the godless and
harrowing routine! If a man has brains or a soul about him, what can he
do with them in such a crowd? Better leave them at home with his
pocket-book, or he might lose themless suddenly, but more certainly,
I fancy. No, the clubs are not much better; I don't care for horse-talk
or the price of shares. See human nature? not in its best clothesand
you may read that remark either way you like. Why man, you can get all
this in Punch and the novels, with far less fatigue, and lay
them down when you have had enough. An hour on Broadway sickens me for
the wild-flowers, the brooks, the free breeze or the mountain side.
He was getting violent now, and I thought I had better calm him
down. Oho! the rhyme and reason of a rural life, is it? Soothing
effect of Nature on a world-worn bosom, and all that? So you do believe
in something, after all?
I told you it was but a choice of evils, and this is the less.
Nature has neither heart nor conscience, and she sets us a bad example.
She has no continuity, no reliableness, no self-control. I can see none
of the fabled sublimity in a storm; only the pettishness of a spoiled
child, or of an angry man bent on breaking things. The sunset is better
to look at, but it has no more moral meaning than a peep-show. Yet this
is a return to primitive conditions, in a way. I can throw off here the
peddler's pack of artificialities that Vanity Fair imposes, and carry
only the inevitable burden of manhood. The air is less poisonous to
body and mind than in the cities. The groves were God's first temples,
and may be the last.
See here, Hartman. Suppose people in general were to take up with
these cheerful notions of yours, and go away from each other and out in
the backwoodswhat then?
It might be the best thing they could do. But don't be alarmed,
Bob: I am not a Nihilist agent. Preserve your faith in the Oil Exchange
and the general order. I speak only for myself, and I'm not proselyting
to any great extent. We'll have a week's fishing, and then I'll send
you back to your wife in good shape. Or if you find yourself getting
demoralized, you can skip earlier, either home or to a place further up
that I'll tell you of, where the few inhabitants are as harmless as
your youngest baby.
But I was not to be bluffed off in this way. Jim, I said, there
is something behind all this. Was it that girl you met at Newport and
afterwards in Naples? You told me once
Never mind the girl, he said. You are a married man, and I an old
bachelor. Leave girls to those who have use for them. If we are to get
any trout to-morrow, it's time we turned in. And if you won't stay,
I'll go with you to the tavern and knock up old Hodge: he's been asleep
these four hours. I thought he had talked enough for one night, so I
said no more, but got back to bed.
II. WORSE YET.
Hartman had asked me to stay with him, but there is no use of
overloading friendship, and I like to be my own master as well as he
does. I might get tired of him, or he of me; and it's not well to be
chained to your best friend for a solid week. Not that I am afraid of
Hartman; he is not a lunatic, only a monomaniac; but I can cheer him up
better when I have a good line of retreat open. He took me next morning
to some superior pools, where the trout were fat and fierce; but I had
not my usual skill. The truth is, Jim was on my mind; and after missing
several big fish and taking a good deal of his chaff, I begged
offsaid I had letters to writeand so got to the tavern in time for
dinner, which they have at the pagan hour of half-past eleven. Then I
set to work thinking. I am not quite so dull as I may seem, but Hartman
always had the ascendancy at college, and last night I fell into the
old way of playing chorus to his high tragedy. This will not do, and I
must assert myself. He was much the better student of course, but I
have knocked about and seen more of the world than he has, shut up in
these woods like a toad in a tree. He is too good a sort to go to seed
with his confounded whimseys; so I determined to take a different tone
with him. And I wrote to my wife about it: Mabel is a competent woman,
and sometimes has very good ideas where mine failthough of course I
seldom let her see that. That evening I took him in hand.
Jim, I said, I've been thinkingabout you.
Ah, said he. Large results may be expected from such unusual
exertion. Impart them by all means.
James Hartman, you are lazy, and selfish, and unprincipled.
Yes? said he, in an inquiring tone. That is your thesis. Prove
I went on. A man should be doing something: you are doing nothing.
A man should have a stake in the community. What have you got? Three
dogs and an old cow. A man should be in connection and sympathy with
the great tides of life. Here you are with nobody but yokels to talk
to, and the pulse of the region about two to the minute.
Twin brother of my soul, companion of the palmy days of youth,
methinksas they say in the wild and wondrous Westyou hit me where I
live. But none of these things move me. I am lost in admiration of your
oratory: really, Bob, I didn't think it was in you. But you said all
this, in simpler language, last night.
I saw I had overshot the mark: when he takes that tone, you are
nowhere. Jim, I said, let's be serious. Begin where we left off,
then. Granted that you don't care for making money, and the ends most
of us are after. By character and fortune you are above the usual
selfish motives. Still you are a man, a member of the community: you
have duties to your fellows. Let the nobler motives come in. Do
something to make the world happier, wiser, better. You have the power,
if you had the will. Are not private talents a public trust? You used
to berate the hogs of Epicurus' sty. It seems to me you've fallen back
on mere self-indulgence. Your life here is a huge egoism. Cut loose
from these withering notions: there is a better side to things than the
one you see. Come back to the world, and be a man again.
His eye was very bright nownot that it was ever dullbut I could
not quite make out what it meant; perhaps mere curiosity. Robert, he
said, I should believe that somebody had been coaching you, but
there's no one in range who could do it except myself. It's not like
you to have brought books along; and you've not had time to hear from
home. What put you up to this?
Hartman, I said, look me in the eye and see whether I mean what I
say. Go back with me next week. Make your home at my house till you can
look round. I'll introduce you to some men who are not shamsand
women, if you like. I know a few who have souls and consciences, though
they do go to parties. I'll help you all I'm worth. You can make a new
start. Something went wrong before. Better luck this time.
Bob, said he, I'll take your word for it. Deeply touched by such
unexpected and undeserved considerationno, I won't chaff. You're not
half a bad lot. But, my dear boy, you see the thing from your
standpoint; mine is different. I'll try to explain. But what would you
have me do?
Whatever is best for you. Anything, so you get an object in life.
Do you remember what De Senancour says, in Obermann?
Not I. Put it in your own English, please: no French morals in
What is there to be done that is worth doing? It seems to me that
everything is overdone. I go into a town, big or little: ten stores
where one is needed. How do all these poor creatures live? Do you see
anything noble in this petty struggle for existence? I can't. I serve
my kind best by getting out of their way: that makes one less in the
I shouldn't expect you to sell tape or taffy, Jim. You could deal
in a higher line of goods, and do it in your own way.
They don't want my goods, Bob, and I can't do it in my own way. I
have triednot much, but enough to see. There is no market for my
wares: and I'm not sure they are worth marketingor that any man's
are. Truth as I see it is the last article to be in demand.
As you think you see it just now, very likely. Your eye is
jaundiced, and sees all things yellow. Get well, and you can find a
market. Fit your mind to the facts, and receive a true impression.
Exactly what I have doneso far as any impression is true. That's
the point I've been waiting for you to come to. 'The Universe is
change, and Life is opinion.' As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he;
and as he thinks of things outside himself, so are they to him. One can
do no more than use his eyes and brains, and then rule himself by what
he sees. I have looked at matters more carefully and dispassionately
than some do, and seen a little deeper into them: the prospect is not
edifying, Bob. I am prejudiced, you say? No, I have cast aside
prejudice. Most of you are misled by the love of life: you want to give
a favorable account of your own belongings, and the wish is father to
the thought: so you blink what is before you, and won't own the truth.
Perhaps you are wise in your way: you gain such bliss as is in
ignorance. Keep it if you can: I have no desire to disturb it.
Jim, mayn't there be a little conceit of superior wisdom here?
Very possibly: as the lamented Bedott observed, we are all poor
creatures. 'I do not speak as one that is exempt:' doubtless I have my
full share of infirmity.
Then why not take the benefit of it, with the rest of us? There's a
better as well as a worse side. Take things as they are, and make the
best of them.
I do. The best is the least, and I get away from things as much as
possible. To minimize life is to make the best of it.
Now you're at it again; begging the question, and dodging the
argumentyou'd say, summing it up, I suppose. I tell you, it's all
mental, and your mind's diseased. You think you're injured by the
scheme of things. Well, change your opinion, and the injury is gone.
Didn't one of your old philosophers say something like that?
He didn't give it quite the application you do, Bob. How can I
change an opinion that is based accurately on facts? I don't make the
facts: if I did, my opinion of myself would be yet worse than it is. I
have a brainsuch as it isand a conscience: I can keep them clean
and awake, even on Crusoe's island. Nothing better than that, my boy.
'What is the good of man? Rectitude of will, and to understand the
appearances of things.'
Well, Hartman, if you had two or three kids, as I have, you'd see
things differently. They would give you an interest in life.
A tragically solemn one, no doubt. That responsibility at least
can't be forced on a man. He can let his part of the curse die out with
Jim, you are selfish. You were made to gladden some woman's
eye and fill her heart. You were the strongest man of the nine, and the
best oar in the crew. We all envied your looks, and there's more of
them now. You could outshine all the gilded youth I know, and hold your
own with the best. I remember a girl that thought so, a dozen years
ago. Somewhere a woman is waiting for you to come and claim her. Why
will you rob her and the world? This wilful waste is selfish
wickedness, that's what it is.
Think so if you must: it's a free country. But you sugar the pill
too much. Who misses meor what if some few did for a while? They've
forgotten me long ago. I tell you, I served society by deserting it.
It's all very well now, Jim, while your youth and strength last.
But after you turn forty, or fifty say, these woods and whims will lose
their charm; you'll get bored as you've never been yet. The emptiness
and dreariness that you theorize about will become stern realities:
you'll pine, when it's too late, for human affection and some hold on
life. My lad, you are storing up for yourself a sad old age.
I thought I had him at last. His surface lightness was all gone: he
looked intent and solemn. No doubt of it, Bob; not the least in life.
I am human, and the worst is yet to come. But do you think me such a
cad as to go back on my principles in search of so poor a shadow as
happiness? Shall I, in base hope of easing my own burden, throw it on
somebody else who but for me might go through existence lightly? Should
I call sentient beings out of the blessed gulf of nothingness, that
they may pay a duty to my weakness by and by, and curse me in their
hearts? That would be somewhat too high a price to pay for broth when I
am toothless, and the coddling comforts of one who has lived too long.
I am not thin-skinned, but his tone shocked me. Dear boy, I said,
they wouldn't look at it in that light. They would be your wife and
Yes, he said, still savagely, they would be my wife and
childrensupposing your unsupposable case. Grant that my notions are
as false and monstrous as you think them: a pleasant lot for my wife,
wouldn't it, to be in constant contact with them? And my children would
have my blood in themthe taint of eccentricity, perhaps of madness:
O, I've seen it in your eye. Others would think so toomost, no doubt.
No, Bob; better let it die out with me.
Jim, you make me tired. I'll go back to the tavern. I was
disappointed, and he saw it.
Don't make yourself wretched about me, old man. Let this thing
goyou can't mend it. Follow your own doctrine, and take what you
find. We have the May weather, good legs, and our tackle, and the
brooks are full of trout. I kill nothing bigger than fish, but if you
want a change I'll show you where you can have a chance for deer. And
for the evenings, there are other topics besides ourselvesor rather
myself. You can tell me about your children; they are likely to be
healthier than mine would be. Good night, my boy: sound sleep, and no
dreams of me.
After that I found it best to do as Hartman had said. The sport was
good, but I failed to enjoy it. I suppose I was a fool, for each of us
makes or mars his own life, and it is no use moping over your
neighbor's blunders; but I could not get that poor devil out of my
mind. He talks as well on one subject as on another: it was I, not he,
had brought him under discussion; but the evenings dragged. Then came a
letter from home: the distance is considerable, and the mails slow.
Dear Robert, my wife wrote, I am glad to know you are so
comfortable. Keep your flannels on, and change your clothing when you
have been in the wet. The children are well: Herbert fell over the
banisters yesterday, but fortunately without injury. Bring your friend
Mr. H. back with you; he seems to be presentable, and evidently all he
needs is a little cheering feminine society. [Hum: feminine society
puts a higher estimate on its own powers than I do, then.] Clarice has
returned. You know how enterprising she is, not to say wilful, and how
fond she is of you. She has taken a fancy to try your retreat, and
learn to catch trout. [She has, eh? Well, let's get on with this.]
Jane will go with her, of course: they start on Thursday. Secure rooms
for them, and have a vehicle to meet them.
Here was a nice situation. To make Mabel easy about me, I had
enlarged too much on the accommodations here; they are a long way from
what she supposes. I called the landlord. Hodge, here are two ladies
coming from the city. Where can you put them?
Wall, I d'no, Square. Ain't much used to city gals. Hope they don't
bring no sarrytogys. There ain't nothin but your room, an mine, an old
Poll's, and the gerrit. Me and you might go out in the hayloft like, or
sleep on the pyazzer if the nights is warm.
While he was maundering on, the whole truth flashed upon me. Why
can't I see things at once, like Hartman? If I had his sharpness, and
he my slow common sense, there would be two men fit for this world's
useswhich neither of us appears to be, as the case stands. I had
rashly said too much about Jim and his attractions. Mabel is a born
manager and matchmakercan't endure to see an eligible man uncaught.
She has put the girls up to this game: 'cheering feminine society,'
indeed! My sister Jane is a sensible woman enough, and not much younger
than I; but Clarice is a beauty with six years' experience, and
irresistible, some think. 'Enterprising'well, I should say so:
cheeky, you might call it. Women do take such stunning liberties
nowadays. My wife would reprove me for slang; but weaker words fail to
express the fact, and my feelings about it. I might stand these girls
coming up here after meClarice is a sort of eighth cousin of Mabel's
and looks on me as a brother. But Jimno. She must be pining for more
worlds to conquer, and it would just suit her book to bring a romantic
hermit to her feet. I should like well enough to see her try it, when I
was not responsible, but not under present circumstances. Great Cæsar!
Jim will think I have put up this job on him, and never forgive me: nor
would I, in his place. This field is getting too thick with
missionaries.Hodge, it won't do. Harness your old nag, and drive me
to the station. I must telegraph. And while I'm there, I may as well
put for home. We can catch the night train if you hurry.
Wall, Square, I don't cotton to suddint changes: like to move when
I git a good ready. Ye put a man off his base, Darn.
I checked his incipient profanity. My friend, whether you like it
or not is in this case immaterial. I'll pay you for the time I meant to
stay, and all you like for the fifteen miles. But be quick, now.
While he was hunting strings for his broken buckboard, I threw my
traps together, and scratched a line to Jim: called home by sudden
press of business, I saidand so it was, in a way. It is a long ride,
but I had enough to think of. At the depot I wired, Hold the girls. I
am coming back. As I straightened up from this exercise, there was the
old sinner grinning malignantly over my shoulder. Hodge, I said, not
a word about the ladies to Mr. Hartman, mind, and I gave him an extra
dollar. This was another mistake, I suppose.
Never you mind, Square: tain't me as goes back on my friends. What
could the old fool be thinking of? I would have given him some more
cautions, but the train came, and I was off.
You may imagine the reception at home. I tried to take a high hand,
but what can a man do against three women? I really think, Robert,
said Mabel, that since the girls had set their hearts on this
excursion, you might have indulged them. The conceit of men! cried
Clarice; what had our coming to do with Mr. Hartman? Is he lord of the
manor, that no one may trespass on his demesne? Jane too turned on me.
It was not very kind of you, brother, to prefer a mere acquaintance
above your own sister, and suspect her motives in order to save his
peace, forsooth! I knew it was humbug; but I had to eat no end of
humble pie, all the same. You may believe me or notif you are a
family man you will, without difficultybut I had to get those women
apart, and explain things to them one at a time, before I could have
peace in the house. My own flesh and blood were soon mollified; but
Clarice has not forgiven me yet. I have been on my knees to her, so to
speakmost men do it, and she expects itbut it is of no use. My
dear Clarice, said I, you know I would do anything in the world for
you. Yes, said she contemptuously, I've just had experience of it.
But you don't know Hartman. Then why couldn't you let me know him?
But it wouldn't have done, under these circumstances. HeI.
Unhappy man, she said, with her tragedy queen air, is it possible
you imagined that you were a better judge of the proprieties than I?
And that's the way it goes. I am coming to believe Hartman was right
about the fate of philanthropic efforts, at least.
In the midst of all this came a note from Jim himself. Dear Bob, I
enclose something which Hodge says you left behind. [O thrice-accursed
idiot, did I leave Mabel's letter lying around loose?] Of course I
have not looked into it, but I fear he has. [You may bet on that: the
only chance was that he could not read her fine Italian hand.] He says
one of your children fell down stairs: I trust the results were not
serious. Sorry you left in such haste, and hindered the ladies from
coming. Hodge's quarters are not palatial, but you could bunk with me,
as I at first proposed; and since they were willing to rough it, we
would have managed somehow. You could surely rely on my humble aid
toward making their sojourn in the wilderness endurable. And per
contra, a little cheering feminine society might have assisted your
benevolent efforts toward my reclamation. Was it not selfish to leave
me thus unconsoled and unconverted?
Well, the business is done now, with neatness and dispatch. That
beast Hodge has told Jim all he knew or suspected, even to that fatal
phrase of my wife's: so there's an end of his faith in me, and of any
chance I might have had to set him straight. That was a fortnight ago,
and I have not the face to answer him. When I have any more doctrinaire
anchorites to convert, I shall not call a family council. But alas,
IV. A WILFUL PRINCESS.
I was wrong about Hartman after all. He has written me again, and
this is what he says:
Do you want to confirm the heretical opinions you argued against so
manfully? You had revived my faith in friendship, Bob: I believed, and
would like still to believe, that one man can be true and kind to
another. And perhaps in general you had stirred and shaken me up more
than you knew. Socrates outranks Pyrrho, and I am open to conviction.
Possibly I have been too sweeping; I don't wish to dogmatize. It may be
that I have lived alone too long, shut up in a narrow space, where
light could enter only through my perversely colored glasses. At any
rate, your coming was like opening a door and letting in a wholesome
breeze. Have I offended you? I thought I was past asking favors from my
kind: but do let me hear from you.
Of course I had to answer that, and worse, to show it to the girls.
Some men, now, would keep it to themselves, and preserve their dignity;
but such is not my style. Let them crow over me if they must.
They did. Well, Robert, said Mabel, you see now how absurdly
mistaken you were. Perhaps hereafter you will allow us to manage our
own affairs, and not complicate them with your bungling masculine
attempts at superior wisdom. I am glad to know, brother, said Jane,
that your friend is a gentleman, incapable of the base suspicions you
would have attributed to him. You did your best to prevent our knowing
him and carrying out your ideas for his improvement: now we shall be
able to meet him cordially, and try to cheer him a little. But probably
he is not at all as dark as you have painted him.
Clarice would say nothing: she was in one of her high and mighty
moods. Her soul is like a star, and sits up aloft; sometimes it
twinkles, but more generally it does not. I often want to tell her that
she is a creature too bright and good to come to breakfast like other
folks; but somehow she has a way of keeping people at a distance, and
even of repressing my pleasantries. We call her the Princess: She has
to be approached with bated breath, and you must whisper your
compliments if you want to fire them off at her; rear them as gently as
a sucking child, in factand then they are very seldom appreciated.
Clarice, I said, I want to get Hartman down here. Do treat him
kindly, please; won't you, now?
She looked at me with her Juno air. Why should I treat him kindly?
O well, I won't say for my sake, because you wouldn't care for
that. But the poor devil has lived in the woods so long.
He might have been well enough in his woods; but why should you
bring your poor devils into civilized society, and expect me to bear
with their gaucheries, in addition to your own?
There it is: she'll not forgive me in a year for upsetting her fine
plan of going up there to beard the hermit in his den. She rarely takes
these fancies, I must own; and when she does, she is not accustomed to
be balked of them. As it has turned out, I might as well have let her
have her way that time; there was no harm in it. Princess, haven't you
trampled on me enough? I was wrong, and I'm very sorry: what more can a
man say? But Hartman had no hand in that.
Yes, that is clear now, no thanks to you. Small merit in confessing
after you are proved guilty.
Well, you are pretty hard on a fellow. But you needn't punish
Hartman for my fault. Thrash me all you like, but give him a chance. I
give you my word of honor, Clarice, he is a finished gentleman, and
very different from me. You needn't fear awkwardness in him. I knew you
would like him.
How do you know what I would like? If this Mr. Hartman wants
to see a little of the world, I have no desire to prevent his being
reclaimed from barbarism. Mabel and Jane can do that, without my aid.
To tell you the truth, Robert, I don't care to meet the man, after the
disgusting complications which you have introduced.
I groanedI couldn't help it. Princess, please God, I will never
interfere with you again. You shall be safe from any meddling of mine.
If you will kindly say what you want, and say it slow, so that my
limited faculties can take it in, I will try to act accordingly. But,
if I may make so bold as to inquire, what are you up to now?
I shall go away. O, you need not feel so badly about it, Bob: I am
not tied to you and Mabel. I was in the South all winter, you know, and
only returned while you were at your fishing. I have a dozen
invitations for the summer: I think I will join Constance.
Not if I can help it, you won't. This is your natural home,
Clarice, and you shall not be driven from it. Nobody shall enter here
who is not acceptable to you: if anything about the house don't suit
you, name it and it shall be corrected. You know Jane and Mabel worship
you; so do the children, if you count them. I'll not have Hartman; or I
can entertain him at the club while you are all at Newport.
That will be hospitality indeed. Would you desert your friend for
I would not desert you for all the friends under the canopy. You
have always ruled the house when you deigned to be in it, and you
always will. I may be low in your books, but it does not follow that
you are not high in mine. We can't do without you, Princess; you must
stay. Name your price, and I'll pay it if it breaks me.
Very well then; I will remain, and meet your Mr. Hartman. But one
thing must be distinctly understood: there must be no more crossing of
my will. I must be absolutely free and unhampered, to plan and carry
out what I see fit. I may possibly be wrong at times; but you will not
know when, and it is not for you to judge. No more interference or
opposition, remember. Do the terms suit you?
O Lord, yes. I'll have a throne set up in the drawing-room, and
everybody shall approach you Siamese fashion. And perhaps I had better
come to you to see if my tie is right before dinner, and to practice
what I shall say when we have company.
It might improve you. But Mabel should be competent to attend to
those trifles. On one point I must instruct you, though. I shall
doubtless do things that appear to you strange, perverse,
incomprehensible. In such cases it will be best for you to walk by
faith. No meddling nor espionage, mind.
Clarice, you don't think me capable of playing the spy on you?
Not that exactly, but you sometimes indulge in little tricks and
stratagems: you like to think that you hoodwink your wifenot that it
ever succeedsin small unimportant matters. Mabel and Jane may endure
your attempts, if they like; but don't try them on me. They would never
deceive me for a moment, of course; but I can't waste time in
explaining that to you in detail. Besides, your fancied success would
unsettle your mind, and so tend to disturb the domestic equilibrium.
Good heavens, Clarice! would I lie to you?
No: you dare not. But let me have no subterfuges, no concealments,
and no criticisms. What I may do you cannot expect to understand, nor
is it necessary that you should.
Well, thought has been hitherto supposed to be free. When I see you
at those little games of which you are to enjoy a monopoly, can't I
have an opinion of them?
O yes. The opinion will be of small value, but your poor mind must
be amused and occupied somehow, I suppose. But you will be carrying
your opinions about the house, and introducing an element of confusion.
If you could keep your own counsel, nowbut that is hopeless.
When you are operating on Hartman, for instance, it might confuse
the programme if I were to say anything to him, eh?
When I take Mr. Hartman up, it will be very much better for his
welfare and yours for you to leave him in my hands.
O, he would rather be left there, no doubt, though they grind him
to powder. But what the deuce am I to do? If I mayn't talk to anybody
else, can't I come to you with my opinionsin odd moments, when your
serene highness has nothing better on hand?
You may bring your valuable ideas to me, and I will hear them, when
I have leisure and inclination. Yes, that will be best. But no
concealments, mind. When you think you know anything that affects me,
come to me with it at once: otherwise you will be blurting it out to
somebody else. You promise?
I swear, by all my hopes of your royal favor. Anything else? I
mean, has your majesty any further commands? You'll have to give me
audience about three times a day, you know, to keep me in mind of all
these rules, or I'll be safe to forget some of them.
You had better try to remember. I'll keep an eye on you. And now do
you want any more, or have you learnt your lesson?
I'll trust so. Henceforth I shall not call my soul my own. The
humblest of your slaves craves permission to kiss the royal hand. I
say, Clarice, you won't be rough on poor Hartman, will you? He's had
hard lines: you could easily break him to pieces, what is left of him.
If there is so little left of him, there would be small credit in
breaking him to pieces, as you elegantly express it. I shall probably
let him alone.
Scarcely. There is a good deal left of him yet: he is as handsome a
fellow, and as fine a fellow, as you'd be apt to find. You're tired of
the regulation article, dancing man and such, that you meet every
night: I don't wonder. This is something out of the common. He needs a
little looking after, too. I wish now I had let you get at him in May,
as you proposed.
Robert, if you fling that odious and vulgar figment of your debased
imagination at me again, I will go away and never come back. You make
me sick of the man's name. If you ever breathe a hint of this
disgusting slander to him I will never forgive either of you, nor speak
God forbid, Princess dear. Don't you know that your good name is as
sacred to me as Mabel's? Wasn't I to come to you with notions that I
couldn't put in words to anybody else?
Let them have some shadow of reason and decency about them, then.
Cannot a girl plan a rural excursion, in company with your sister and
under your escort, without being accused of designs on a strange man
who chances to be in the neighborhood? You try my patience sorely,
Robert. I wonder how Mabel can endure you.
Well, he that is down can't fall any lower, as it says in Pilgrim's
Progress. Walk over me some more, and then maybe you'll feel better.
What the dThere, I'm at it again. Clarice, it might improve me if you
would mix a little kindness with your corrections; handle me as if you
loved me, like the old fisherman with his worms, you know. It
discourages a fellow to get all kicks and no kisses.
Robert, look me in the eye and swear to purge your mind of that
vile thought, and never to admit another that dishonors me.
O, I swear it. Bring me the Thirty-nine Articles and the
Westminster Catechism and the Ten Tables, and I'll subscribe to all of
'em. I'll think anything you tell me to: I signed my soul away an hour
ago. Here I saw that I had gone too far, and she was really angry.
She's right; I must learn to check my confounded tongue, if I am to
keep on any terms with the Princess. So I changed my tune, just in
time. Don't go, Clarice. Honestly, I beg your pardon; upon my soul, I
do. Your word is all the evidence I want of any fact under heaven, of
course. Princess dear, I've been fond of you since you were a baby, and
it has grown with your growthit has, really. I'll prove it some day:
you wait and see. Forgive me this once, won't you? Don't speak, if you
are tired, but just give me your hand, as they did in the Old
Testament, in token of forgiveness.
She gave it. I am not good at descriptions, but a man might go
barefoot and fasting for a week, and be paid by touching such a hand as
that. The queer thing is that I've known Clarice for over twenty
yearsI told you she had been in society for sixand practically
lived with her most of that time, and yet she grows more surprising
every day. It seems to be generally supposed that familiarity breeds
contempt in such cases; that sisters, and wives, and the like, get to
be an old story to the men who belong to them. Clarice is not that
kind: possibly I am not. To be sure, she is neither my wife nor any
blood relation; but I don't see that that makes any difference. They
took out a patent for her up above, and reserved all rights, with no
power of duplication. She might care for me a little more; but then I
don't suppose I've ever given her any reason to. I am well enough in my
way, but I'm not such an original and striking specimen of my 'sect' as
she is of hersnot by a long shot. She was exhausted now, and that is
how I got a chance to put in all this wisdom just here. I might talk to
Mabel for a week, and it would produce no effect: but a little thing
upsets the Princess, her organization is so delicate and sensitive. She
is all alive and on fire, or else languid and disdainful: she can't
take life easily, as people of coarser grain do, like me. Her brain
weighs too much and works too hard; that uses her up. I don't doubt she
has a heart to match; but it has never yet waked up to any great
extent, so far as I have seen or heard. No matter; people will care for
you all the same, Beauty, whether you care for them or not. Don't fancy
that I am the only onefar from it: but I have the luck to be her
adopted brother from infancy, and to have access to her when others
have not. She is not always kindvery seldom, in fact, up to date: but
it is a privilege to look at her, and any treatment from her is good
enough for me. She used to tyrannize over me in this way when she was
ten and I twenty, and so it will be, no doubt, to the end of the
chapter. Outside, I sometimes take on a man-of-the-world air, and fancy
that I can think of you lightly, my Princessthat is the correct
society tone, and it does not pay to display the finer feelings of our
nature to the general world: but when I come under the spell of your
presence, I know that that is all humbug, and that you are Fair Inez of
the ballad, God bless you. You and Hartman ought to get on together: it
might be a good thing for you bothhim especially. Mabel and Jane are
women too, but they are as devoted to you as I am, according to their
lights, and more jealous for you: jealousy seems to be no part of me,
luckily. Well, between us we ought to be able to keep all harm from
you, if you will let us.
Of course I didn't say all this out loud, but only thought it. Then
she opened her eyes and yawned a little.
Have I been asleep, Bob? I must have been: you tired me so. O yes,
I know you think a good deal of me: that is an old story. Well,
Only about poor Hartman, dear: you didn't promise yet.
Well, when he comes I will look him over and see what is to be done
with him. I must go upstairs and dress now. And with this I had to be
This conversation occurred of a Sunday afternoon, when Mabel and
Jane had gone to Church, and taken Herbert with them: the infants were
out for an airing with their nurse. Fortunately there was a long
missionary sermon, and a big collection, to which I must send five
dollars extra: the occasion was worth that much to me. As the Princess
left the room, they came in. They looked at her, then at me. What have
you been doing to Clarice, Robert?
Only preparing her to receive Hartman.
Preparing her! you great goose, what does she want with your
preparation? You'll only prejudice her against him, and spoil any
chances he might have. Let her alone, do. Haven't you made mischief
enough between them already?
That is all they know about it. Churchgoing sometimes fails to bring
the female mind into a proper frame. But you see they are ready to
scratch out even my eyes at the thought that I have been rubbing her
down the wrong way. No matter: I know what I know, and they need not
try to make me believe that these things will go right without proper
We usually go to Newport for the summer. As Mrs. Fishhawk says, the
bathing is so fine, and the cliffs are such a safe place for children
to play. Not that we care so much for the society: the Princess has
seen the vanity of that and been bored with it, and the rest of us are
very domestic people. After much persuasion through the mail, Hartman
agreed to join us there: I was to pick him up in New York and take him
down. A night or two before this, Clarice took me out on the aforesaid
cliffs, which afford a fine walk in the moonlight with the right kind
of company, but somewhat dangerous if you get spoony and forget to look
where you are going. The Princess, it is needless to say, never commits
this folly: she always has her wits about her, and wits of a high order
they are, as not a few men have found to their cost, myself
included,many and many a time. She opened the ball.
Robert, do you remember our compact?
I'm not likely to forget it. Your words are my law, more sacred and
peremptory than the Ten Commandments, or those of the old codger who
wrote 'em in blood because his ink had given out. As a servant looks to
the hand of his mistress, so am I to watch your dark blue eye for
direction and approval. Deign to cast a sweet smile, however faint, in
this direction occasionally: it won't cost you much, and will encourage
me. If the devotion of a lifetime
Yes, I know all that: at least you've said it often enough. Now you
will have an opportunity to put it in practice. Drop generalities, and
come to business.
My heart's queen, I am all attention. Speak, and thy slave obeys.
Bid me leap from yon beetling crag into the billows' angry roar
Will you stop that, or shall I go into the house? We are not
rehearsing private theatricals now.
Ah, indeed? I thought we might be. I expect to see some next week.
You will see my place at table vacant if you don't keep quiet, and
listen to what I have to say. I can join Constance yet. You talk about
your affection for me and anxiety to serve me, and when I want
something definite of you, you go off into the Byronic, or the
Platonic, or what you would perhaps call the humorous: it is not easy
to discriminate them. Once for all, will you do as I bid you, or not?
When the Princess wants to bring a man to book, he has to come
there, and stay there till he sees a favorable opening for a break:
there was none such just now. So I called in the white-winged coursers
of my too exuberant fancy, locked them up in the barn, begged the
lady's pardon as usual, and composed myself into an attitude of
respectful and devout attention, as if I were in church. It was not
long after dinner: I wanted to have some more fun, but that did not
seem to be just the time and place for it. My preceptress eyed me
sternly, and waxed anew the thread of her discourse.
I told you that my actions might appear strange to your ignorance.
I will tell you now what my plan is, so far as is necessary for your
guidance: then perhaps you will have sense enough not to go gaping
about, but to fall into line and do what is required of you. I have
determined to see very little of this Mr. Hartman
O now, Clarice! After you promised! I relied on you
Be still, stupid, and hear me out. I shall see but little of him at
first. You have made such an ado about the man, I am disposed to be
interested in him, for your sake. There, that will do; let my hand
be.I was merely pressing it a little, I assure you, to testify my
gratitude for this unusual consideration: I don't know when she ever
owned to doing a thing for my sake before. For your sake first, you
great baby, and then, if he is worth it, for his own. But at the start,
as I told you, I must look him over; and that I can do best at a little
And then you mean to take him in and do for him? You can, of
course; but, Princess dear, be mercifulfor my sake first, and then,
if he is worth it, for his own. Don't grind him up too fine: leave
pieces of him big enough to be recognized and collected by his weeping
Robert, you really ought to try to restrain your native coarseness.
What can a man like you know of the motives and intentions of a woman
like me? Poor child, if I were to put them before you in the plainest
terms the facts and the dictionary allow, you could not understand
As a quartz-crusher the Princess could have won fame and fortune. I
hope she may not pulverize Hartman as effectually as she does me: he
might not take it so kindly. To eliminate the metaphor, she is a master
at the wholesome process of taking a man down: not that I don't often
deserve it, or that it is not good for me. In fact, I've given her
occasion, from her youth up, to get her hand in; and admiration of her
skill binds up the wounds, so to speak, with which my whole moral
nature is scarred at least sixteen deep. In case you should not follow
my imaginative style, let me say in simpler language that I am used to
it; but another man might not understand it. I consumed some more
humble piethese desserts occur frequently in the symposia of our
conversationsand she resumed.
So I will leave him to Jane at first. She will be very sisterly and
gracious, and will make the first stages of his return to the world
easy and pleasant. This may last two days, or two weeks.
O, don't overdo it. He talked of staying but a week or ten days.
Dear Robert, you are so innocent. He will stay as long as I want
What, whether you notice him or not?
Of course. Are you six years old? Have you never seen me in action
Body of Venus and soul of Sappho, I give it up. Of course you can
do anything you like, but I never realized that you could do it without
seeming to take a hand in the game. I strew ashes on my head like
what's-his-name, and sit down in the dust at your feet. Forgive a
penitent devotee for forming such lame and inadequate conceptions of
your power. But what part do you want me to dress for in this improving
Your part is very simple. Of course I must be occupied. I should
hardly shine as a wall-flower.
You would shine anywhere. If you were a violet by an old stone, you
couldn't be half or a quarter hidden from the eye. But the supposition
is impossible. If you were free, no other girl in the room would have a
That is very passable, though not wholly new. You are improving,
Bob. If you would give your mind to it, I could mould you into
tolerable manners yet.Well, I might get plenty of men from the houses
around. But they are tiresomestaler than you, my Robert, though I see
less of themand I can't take the same liberties with them I do with
you. You are to belong to me as long as I may want you.
That is not new at all, Princess. It has been so for years.
Everybody about the house knows that, even the servantsand all our
Yes, of course. But I am to make special use of my property for the
next few days. You will have to be in constant attendance. You ought to
enjoy the prospect, and the reality when it comes.
I do; I shall: bet your boots on that. O confound it, I've got my
lines mixed already.
Rather. If you startle the audience with such a speech as that,
what will Mr. Hartman think? You must put on your prettiest behavior,
Bob. Make a desperate effort, and try to keep it upfor my sake, now.
For your sake I can be Bayard and Crichton and Brummell and all
those dudes rolled into one. I'll order some new clothes when I go
down. And you will have to be very gracious to me, you know.
Am I not gracious enough now, pet? How is this for a rehearsal?
Beyond my wildest dreams, Empress. When you treat me thus for an
hour, I can bear your ill usage for a year.
There will be no ill usage at present, if you behave. Now don't
forget, and spoil the play. Understand, you are to pair off with me, as
Mr. Hartman with Jane. Mabel is mostly occupied with the children; we
will all look after her, of course. And there will be mixing and change
of partners, but not much. You must watch, and obey my slightest
hintthe turn of an eyelid, the flutter of a fan. I'll teach you all
I know a lot of it already: when it comes to watching you, I am a
dabster. I'll behave as if I was at school to Plato and Confucius, and
in training to succeed them both. Do you know, Princess, if you were to
treat a stranger for half a day as you are treating me now, he would
want to die for you?
He might die for want of me before the day was over, if he grew
lackadaisical over his wants. All men are not so chivalrous as you, my
poor Robert. You may have to do that sort of dying before long. You
must be ready to be dropped when the time comes to change the figures.
No growling or moping, mind: you must submit sweetly, and take your
place in the background with Jane, while the rest of the play goes on.
I know: I've been there before. I can find consolation in seeing
you carry the leading part. One set of men passes away, and another set
comes on; but the Princess goes on conquering, regardless of the moans
of her victims as they writhe on the bloody battlefield. O, I'm used to
being shoved aside, and feeding on my woes in silent patience. The
flowret fades when day is done, and so does every mother's son Who
thinks his course is just begun, And knows not that his race is
runHow does it go on, Clarice? I forget the rest of it.
It is a pity you didn't forget the whole of it. I would if I were
you, and quickly, lest you horrify some one else with it. You are too
big to pose as a flowret, Bob.
Polestar of my faith, see here. I'll have to be around with
Hartman, smoking and so on, nights, after you and the rest have turned
in, and often in the daylight. You and Jane can't attend to his case in
person all the time, you know, and I'm his host. What shall I say about
Anything you like. Praise me to the skies, of course. That will be
in keeping with your part as my cavalier; and he will see how things
are between uson your side, I mean. Tell him about my few faults, if
you can bring yourself to mention them. Yes, you must; they will set
off my many virtues. Be perfectly natural about it: you have known and
cherished me from infancy, and so forth. Not a word, of course, about
our compact, and these rehearsals, and my coaching youO you great
booby, were you capable of blurting that out? If you do, you'll spoil
all, and I'll never forgive you. Remember now: you profess to dread my
anger, and you have reason; you've felt it before. If you want me ever
to trust you again, keep to yourself what is between us; regard it as
sacred. O, I know you profess to look at all that belongs to me in that
light; but show your faith by your works. Swear it to me now.
I swore. That is a ceremony which has to be gone through rather
frequently with the Princess, and somehow I don't mind it. But how the
deuce is one to remember all these rules and regulations? I'll have to
get Clarice to write them out for me, by chapter and verse, with big
headings; then I'll get the thing printed, and carry it about with me,
and study it nights and mornings. But Mabel might find it in my
clothes: she is welcome to my secrets, but this is not mine. I might
have it printed in cipher; but then I should be sure to lose the key.
O, confound it all, I'll have to chance it: I'll be sure to slip up
somewhere, and then there'll be a row. Well, why borrow trouble? Let's
gather the flowers while we may: only there are none just here, and it
is too dark to find them. Then a thought suddenly struck me: why not
head off the difficulty by improving my position beforehand? Princess
dearest, do you like me better than you used to, or is this only part
of the play, the excitement of practicing for a newcomer? Tell me,
pleasethere's a dear.
We were near the house now, and she darted away from me. If you
tells me no questions, I asks you no lies, she sang gaily as she ran
in. O shades of Juliet and Cleopatra, what a woman that isor what an
idiot I am: I can't be sure which till I get an outside opinion. I'd
give odds that within a fortnight Hartman will be far gone. It will be
life or death for him, poor old man. But he's nigh dead now, inwardly
speaking, and so has not much to lose. Anyway, he'll see that a world
with Clarice in it is not as blank and chilly as he thinks it nownot
by several thousand degrees. I fancy his thermometer will begin to go
up pretty soon. He needs shaking up and turning inside out and upside
downa general ventilating, in fact, and I rather think Miss Elliston
will administer it to him.
I was mighty glad that Clarice felt this way about Hartman's coming;
she has not waked up so, or come down from her Olympian clouds of
indifference, in a long time. But still I thought it best to go around
and make some more preparations. When I have a secret to carry, it
oppresses my frank and open nature more than you would think; and I
find that I can conceal it best by inquiring concerning the matter of
it of persons who know nothing about it. Naturally I began with the
head of the house. That is myself, I suppose, nominally; but every
decent man allows his wife to fill the position, and get what comfort
she can out of it.
Mabel, I said, I hope that Hartman will enjoy himself here.
You told us he was not given to enjoying himself; on the contrary,
quite the reverse. No doubt he will take us as he finds us. He will
hardly want to go out to dinner every day, and meet the Vanderdeck's
and the foreign princess.
But, Mabel, I trust you are all prepared to meet him in the right
What absurd questions you ask, Robert. You talk as if he were a
bishop, come to convert us: I thought we were to convert him. I hope I
do not need to be instructed how to receive my husband's friends. And
Jane is ready to take an interest in him: she can be very nice, you
And Clarice: will she do her part?
Nobody knows what Clarice will do on any occasion. She would be
more apt to do what you wish if you would not trouble her about Mr.
Hartman. We are not three little maids from school, to be taught our
manners. Why can you not learn that matters would move just as well,
yes, and better, without your continual interference, dear? Your
blunders only complicate them, and disturb the harmony.
Now that is a nice way for the wife of one's bosom to talk, isn't
it? How often, O how often, would I remove the clouds of care from her
placid brow, and smooth her path through life by graceful persiflage
and appropriate witticisms: but she does not seem to appreciate them. I
fear she must have had some Scottish ancestors. Sometimes I think she
does not appreciate me. It is a cold world; a cold, heartless,
unfeeling, unresponsive world, in which the sensitive spirit may fly
around promiscuously like Noah's dove, and have to stay out in a low
temperature. Wisely and beneficently is it arranged that Virtue should
be her own reward, since she gets no other. I will try Jane next.
My dear sister, you know I go to town to-night, and expect to bring
Hartman back. You will receive him kindly, for my sake, will you not?
Jane is a little prim at times, and I have to arrange my sentences
carefully, when I am with her.
I will do that, of course: why so many words about it? Have you not
been preparing me, and all of us, for this visit, for the last month?
We know what is right, Robert: your behavior is the only
But Clarice, sister? She is always so doubtful, as Mabel says; so
capricious, so haughty, so unapproachable. You have great influence
with her. Dear Jane, can you not persuade her to treat my poor friend
Now, brother, why will you be such an unconscionable humbug? We all
know that you are in her confidence, when any one is. What were you two
talking about all last evening? Hatching some plot, no doubt. But it
was not intended to be practiced on menot on her part; that is your
unauthorized addition to her text. And the maiden assumed the part of
Pallas, and gazed at me with severity, as if she would read my inmost
soul. But she can't beat Clarice at that. See here, young lady, you are
too sharp; you are getting dangerously near the truth. I came near
saying this out, but did not. Instead I took an injured tone.
You are a pretty sister, Jane, to go about suspecting me this way,
and accusing me of intrigue and hypocrisy, and all kinds of
black-hearted wickedness. What would I want to deceive you for? You
know we all have to consider Clarice, and humor her: she is an orphan,
and we are her nearest friends. She amuses herself with me sometimes,
for want of another man at hand, and then throws me aside when the fit
O yes, we all know that, of course. Well, brother, you can go to
town with an easy mind. Leave Mr. Hartman to Clarice and me; when she
is not in the humor to attend to him, I will.
Now how does Jane come to know so much? Has the Princess been taking
her into the plan too, as well as me? That I don't believe. Clarice
would expect Jane to take her cue by intuition, and not bother to coach
her as she has me: perhaps she can trust Jane farther. That must be it:
one woman can see into another's mind where a man couldn't. I must put
a mark on that for future reference. They do beat us at some minor
points. Well, I didn't exactly get the best of that encounter: it seems
to me I owe Jane one, which I must try and remember to pay.
Hartman arrived on schedule time, and was duly taken home with me.
Old man, I said, welcome back to the amenities of life; to the
tender charities of man and woman; to the ties, too long neglected,
which bind your being to the world's glad heart. You are the prodigal
returning from sowing his wild oats in the backwoods: the fatted calf
shall be killed for you, in moderation, as per contract, and the home
brewed ale drawn mild. We are quiet people, and live mostly by
ourselves: that will suit your book. The giddy crowd, in its frivolous
pursuit of amusement and fashion, surges by in the immediate vicinity,
and old Ocean, in his storm-tost fury, dashes his restless waves upon
our good back door, or adjacent thereto. But we give small heed to
either one of them. The sea views and feminine costumes are supposed to
be of the highest order, and there is polo at stated intervals, if you
care for such; but these vanities have little to do with the calm
current of our daily life. You will shortly have in front of you a
christian family, united in bonds of long-tried affection and
confidence. The earthly paradise, James, must be sought in the peaceful
bosom of one's Home. After tossing on the angry billows of Water
Street, how sweet to return to this haven of rest! And you too,
world-worn and weary man of woes, shall receive attention. The furrows
of care shall be smoothed out of your manly brow: gentle hands will
bind up your woundseven the one you got from that girl a dozen years
ago, if it isn't healed yet. The shadows of gloomy and soul-debasing
Theory will flit away from your bewildered brain, and in this healthful
atmosphere your spirit will regain its long-lost tone, and embrace once
more the ethereal images of Hope and Joy and Faith. Probably you will
yet find some one to love in this wide world of sorrow; anyway, we hope
to send you forth clothed and in your right mind.
I hope I'm properly clothed now, or will be with what I've got in
my trunk; and I need to be in my right mind to take in all this
eloquence. I was mistaken about you, Bob; you should have been a
preacher. The only drawback is, you don't stick to one key long enough:
these sudden changes in your woodnotes wild might confuse a
The church lacks vivacity and sense of humor, Jim: she's all for a
dull monotone. Old Fuller is dead: his mantle descended on me, but they
don't appreciate that style nowadays. To return to our topic, and deal
with the duty that lies nearest. In an humble and pottering way, we are
a happy family, James. We envy not the rich and great: seek elsewhere
their gilded saloons, and tinsel trappings of pride; but you will find
things pretty comfortable. I regret to say we'll have to do our smoking
out of doors; but it is generally warm enough for that. If we are noted
for anything, it is for modest contentment, unassuming virtue, and
cheerful candorjust as you see them in me. Each face reflects the
genuine emotions and guileless innocence of the heart connected
therewith; more than that, they reflect one another, as in a glass. You
can look at Mabel, and see all that is passing in my capacious bosom.
We share each other's woes, each other's burdens bear, and if we don't
drop the sympathizing tear frequently, it is because there is very
seldom any call for it. We have no secrets from one another: limpid and
pure flows the confidential streambut it flows no further than the
fence. You can say what you like to any of us, and it will not go out
of the houseunless the servants overhear it; you'll have to look out
for that, of course.
See here, Bob; judging by you, I had no idea I was coming among
such apostolic manners, or I'd have taken a course of À Kempis. Are
there any prayer-meetings near by, where I can go to freshen up?
Within a mile or two, no doubt. Jane can tell you about them; she
can lend you a prayer-book, anyway. But I was not meaning to discourage
you: they will make allowances. My wife is an exemplary woman; if you
want to get on with her, you'll have to take an interest in Herbert's
bruises when he falls over the banisters. He is the only one of the
children who will trouble you much; the others are small yet, happily.
My sister is a pattern of propriety, but of rather an inquiring mind,
and sympathetic if you take her the right way: she can talk with you
about philosophy and science and your dried-up old doxies. Not that she
knows anything about Schopenhauer, and Darwin, and Diogenes, of course;
but she's heard their names, and she'll pretend to be postedyou know
how women are. And when you need a mental tonicthe companionship of a
robust intellect, the stimulus of wide acquaintance with the great
world of men and things, a manly comprehension of any difficulties that
you may meet, or sound and wise advice how to steer your way through
the pitfalls and intricacies of the female characterin such cases,
which will no doubt often arise, you have only to come to me. I know
all about these matters, of which you have had no experience. I'll be
at home as much as possible while you are there, and I'll stand by you,
Thanks, awfullyas I believe they say where we are going. Yes, you
will be an invaluable mentor, Bob. Well, I'll try not to disgrace you.
It is late: let us turn in.
This important conversation took place on the boat. You see, when I
was with Hartman in May, he took the lead; but in my own house, or on
the way to it, I like to be cock of the walk. Besides, as I had
prepared the women for his coming, so now it was necessary to prepare
his mind to meet them. In my picture of our domestic felicity, I may
have laid on some tints too heavily, as about our mutual confidence.
But he will soon see how that is. You may notice that I said nothing
about the Princess. There was a deep design in that omission. When the
orb of day in all his glory bursts from his liquid bed upon the
astonished gaze of some lonely wanderer on the Andes, or the Alps,or
our own Rockies, say,the spectacle is all the more effective if the
wanderer was not expecting anything of the kind; didn't suppose it was
time yet, or, still better, didn't know there was any sun. That is the
way Jim will feel when he sees Clarice. If he has forgotten about her
wanting to go up there in the woods in May, O. K.; that will meet her
views, and he'll be reminded of her existence soon enough.
This is one of those delicate ideas which might not occur to the
male mind unassisted: in fact, left to my native nothingness, I should
probably have enlarged on her charms most of the evening. But she laid
special stress on this point, that I was to say as little as possible
about her beforehand, and fortunately I remembered it. Hartman thinks
he is going to have a safe and easy time with me and two highly
respectable ladies of sedate minds and settled habits. Sleep on,
deluded James, while I finish my cigar here on deck: dream of the
forest and the trout brooks, and your neighbor Hodge and your old
tomcat. By to-morrow night your mental horizon will be enlarged, and
when you return to your castle in the wilderness there will be some new
sensations tugging at your vitals. It will be a change for you, old
man, and you needed one. Well, I've given you enough to think of for
now, and you'll get more before you are a week older. I hope he will
come through it right: it is like taking one's friend to the surgeon to
undergo an operation, when he doesn't know that anything ails him or is
going to be done. Poor old Jim, I wouldn't have put up such a job on
you if I didn't believe it was for your good. I am not a pessimist like
you: I believe in God and the Princess.
The drive from the wharf is too long: I often think that the older
part of the town ought to be submerged, or removed to one of the
adjacent islands. We met the family at breakfast, and I said, Ladies,
you see before you a wild man of the woods, brought hither to be
subdued and civilized by your gentle ministrations. By the way, Mabel,
there was a corner in oil yesterday. I made fourteen thousand, and
Simpkins went under; so you can have that new gown now. They paid no
attention whatever to these pleasantries. Clarice was not there, or the
sparkling fount of humor would have flowed less freely.
Hartman has very good manners when he chooses, and in my house he
would naturally choose; so he got on well enough. The children took to
him at once, and he seemed to take to them. After breakfast I led him
out for a walk, to show him the points of interest. Several very
creditable cottages have been put up since he was here last: in fact,
this is quite a growing place, for the country. As we went back he
suddenly said, Bob, who is this Clarice that your sister mentioned at
the table? Fancy name, isn't it?
O no, I said as indifferently as I could. He ought not to go
springing her on me in that way: it makes a man nervous. She's an
orphan; a sort of cousin of Mrs. T. Got no brothers or sisters, and all
that sort of thing; so we look after her a good deal. Sometimes she's
with us, sometimes she's not. Was south all winter: got back while I
was up there with you.
Now what the deuce did I say that for? It'll brush up his rusty
mental machinery, and help him to recall what she wants forgotten. Just
so; of course.
Yes, I remember. She thought of joining you with Miss Jane. I wish
you had let them come.
Well, you see, you don't know what these girls are used to; I do.
There were no fit quarters for them at Hodge's. I had gone and written
my wife a lot of rot, pretending his place was much better than it is.
With your usual unassuming virtue and cheerful candor; yes. We have
no secrets from one another: the limpid stream of confidence flows
unchecked and unpolluted. Just so. But see here, you old hypocrite, if
there is another young woman in the family, you ought to have told me
about her last night, when you were preparing my mind, you know, and
pretending to explain the whole domestic situation.Great heavens,
We had turned a corner, and come plump on the house; and there on
the piazza, two rods away, sat a rare and radiant maiden, playing cat's
cradle with my eldest son and heir. I can't tell you how she was
dressed; but she was a phantom of delight when thus she broke upon our
sight; a lovely apparition, sent to be Jim Hartman's blandishment. At
least so it seemed, for he stood there and stared like a noble savage.
As when the lightning descends on the giant oak in its primeval
solitudebut I must stop this; she is too near, though she pretends
not to see us yet. So I whispered in low and warning tones:
Brace up, Jim. She's not the one you met here twelve years ago, who
jilted you at Naples: this one wasn't out of her Fourth Reader then.
Don't get them mixed, or be deceived by a chance resemblance. I
thought it was better to lay his embarrassment on that old affair, you
see. But that was all nonsense: he never saw anybody like Clarice
beforehow should he?
Confound you, Bob, he muttered between his teeth, so you've been
practising your openhearted innocence on me. Get on with it now, and
finish it up.
He pulled himself together, and I went through the introduction with
due decorum; then I got away as soon as I could. You see, I was
unmanned by the spectacle of so much young emotion, and somewhat
exhausted by my own recent exertions. I found a cool corner in the
library; and presently Jane had to come in. What is the matter with
you, Robert? Why do you sit there grinning like an idiot? Perhaps a
smile of benevolence had overspread my striking countenance; and that's
the way she distorts it. I could not tell her what pleased me, so I
said I had been reading a comic paper. You write your own comic
papers, I suspect; and bad enough they are. If you go on at this rate,
you will end by editing the Texas Siftings. Do try to be decent,
brother, while you have a guest in the house. I suppose she thinks
that is a crushing rebuke, now. I said I would try, and told her she
had better join Clarice and Hartman, who would probably be tired of
each other by this time. Here again I have played into the Princess'
hands. She doesn't want Jim to see too much of her at first, but to get
used to the blinding glare by degrees, and take his physic in small
doses, until he can bear it in larger. At least I hope so: if I've made
a mistake and spoiled the procession, I'll learn it soon enough. But
Jane wouldn't go unless it was right: that's the good of being a woman.
You don't catch me interrupting them, or going near the Princess when
she has any of her procedures on foot, unless I am called.
IX. AT NEWPORT.
I could not tell you all that occurred that week; but it went
exactly as Clarice intended and had foretold. She was gracious and
equable and gentle, a model young lady of the social-domestic type; but
Hartman did not see much of her. I on my part was kept steadily
occupied, what with boats, and horses, and parasols, and fans, and
wools, and wide hats, and more things than you could think of. It was,
Robert, come out on the cliffs, or Robert, get my garden gloves,
please; they are in the sitting-room, or somewhere else; or Robert,
take me to town; I must telegraph to Constance; or Bob dear, would
you mind running over to Miss Bliffson's, and telling her that I can't
go to the Society this afternoon; and on your way back, stop at the
milliner's and see if my hat is done. I usually attended to these
commissions promptly; when you have women about, your generous heart
will rejoice to protect and indulge their helplessness. They are the
clinging vine, you are the sturdy oak; and then, as I said, Clarice is
an orphan. Hartman at first showed an inclination to relieve me of the
lighter part of these useful avocations, such as taking her about over
the rocks and in the bay; but she very quietly, and without the least
discourtesy, made him understand that no foreigners need apply for that
situation. Other men were coming after her every day, but she avoided
them or sent them to the right about: she can do that in a way to make
you feel that you have received a favor. She kept reminding me that it
was my business to wait on her: if these things were paid for in cash,
I should want high wages, for the duties are far from light. But I can
stand it: within the bosom of Robert T. glows a spark of warm and pure
philanthropy. When I see my fellow-creatures in need, and this good
right arm refuses to extend its friendly aid, may my hand cleave to the
roof of my mouthO well, you know what I mean. I used to retire to my
meagre and philosophic cot-bedstead with aching limbs and an approving
conscience: I never was worked so hard before. Some of these errands
were perfectly needless, I knew. She can't want to get me out of the
way for an hour or two, for I am never in the way; nor simply to
show what she can do, for that is an old story, familiar to all
concerned. Doubtless she has some high moral end in view; perhaps to
teach Hartman what are the true relations of man and woman, and how the
nobler animal can be trained to be a helpmeet and boy-of-all-work to
the weaker. Whether this will suit his views I doubt; but she knows
what she is about. It is mine not to question why, mine not to make
reply, mine simply to go on doing what my hand finds to doof which
there is quite enough at present. Meanwhile, everybody else is having a
nice easy time, while I am laboring like six dray-horses for the
general good. Hartman sits about with Jane, and they seem to be getting
on finely. Mabel also appears to enjoy his society. Sometimes she looks
at me and at Clarice, and then at Jim, in a way which might indicate a
notion that things are too much mixed, and that the Princess ought to
be giving her attention to Hartman's case. I think so too, but it is
not for me to suggest it. I feel like asking Mrs. T. what all these
complications mean, and why she does not straighten them out: she is
Clarice's relative and hostess, and head of the house when I am away.
But it will straighten itself pretty soon now, and a new tangle will
begin for the predestined victim. Wild man of the woods, your hour will
soon strike, and the grim executioner in the black mask will prepare to
take your head off. You will see a hand not clearly visible to the
outside worlda very beautiful hand it is too, as I ought to
knowthat will beckon you to your doom: you will hear a voice whose
silvery music will drown all fears, all scruples, all world-sick
longings for your woman-hating moods, all memories of your lost Lenore
of long ago, and tell you that resistance and delay are vain. What the
details of the process may be, and whether joy or woe will tip the
scales for one who takes things as seriously as you do, I cannot tell;
but it is coming, and it is coming presently. You may not like it: you
are not used to it as I am; but you cannot help yourself. Farewell to
the old life, the old delusions, the old fancied knowledge: you will
find yourself a small boy in primary school, beginning the world anew.
You think you are locked up in steel, defended by your indifference,
your disgust, your unbelief in Life. These glittering generalities will
fall into dust before the wand of a magician who has some eminently
particular business with you. You have sounded the depths, and found
them shallow; you have tested values, and they are less than nothing,
and vanity; you have emptied the pincushion, and only bran is there. My
skeptical friend, a sharp needle is there yet, and it will prick your
finger: there are depths that you know nothing about, and heights too,
it may be: there are thrills of life that will go through all your
veins, and show you that you are not as near dead as you supposed. You
were but a boy when that girl gave you your quietus, as you imagined;
you are a man now, with more in you than you fancy, and another girl
may bring you to life. Still in your ashes live their ancient fires,
and I'm mistaken if they don't start a superior blaze before long.
Well, well, I hope it will make a man of you.
X. ON THE CLIFFS.
I was betrayed into the above apostrophe by the violence of my
sympathies; but the lucid and graphic sentences which precede this
moralizing ably sum up the situation during the first week of Hartman's
visit. A good deal of wisdom was in circulation: I said some things
myself which deserve to be remembered, and the others occasionally
dropt a remark which showed how the ball was moving. You will want the
chief of these outpourings in order of time, as landmarks in this
Clarice took me apart the first day and began to cross-examine me:
that is, she told me to go outside and wait for her, and by the time
she came it was dusk. Why is it that the garish day seems to freeze our
finer emotions, and reduce us to the monotonous level of a dull cold
practicality? It is under the calm light of moon and stars that soul
speaks to soul, and we gain those subtler experiences, those deeper
views of our own nature and that of our nearest and dearest, which so
far transcend the plodding sciences of the laboratory, the useless
learning of the pedant, and the empty wisdom of the children of this
Come, Robert, wake up; don't sit mooning there like a calf. Make
Report? said I, thus rudely startled from a train of thought which
might have borne rich fruit for coming generations. What about?
What about? You forget yourself. Whose employ are you in?
Well, on Water Street I am supposed to be carrying on business for
myself, and at home I am the envied husband and father of a happy and
admiring family. Clarice, I was meditating on subjects of much moment;
and the duties of hospitality claim my valuable time. Did you wish to
speak to me particularly?
None of your nonsense, now. What did you talk about last night on
All sorts of things. My conversation is always improving. I
explained to Jim that his reëntrance on society could not be made under
fairer auspices; that models of deportment and of all the virtues would
be about him on every hand; that a pure atmosphere of love and peace
pervaded this modest mansion; that joy was unconfined; that we could
lay our weary heads on each other's bosoms in the repose of perfect
trust, knowing that not a thought entered any one of them which the
angels above might not look into with satisfaction, and
You talk too much about bosoms, Robert: it is not in good taste.
What did you say about me?
Divil a word, bedad. Wasn't that right? Didn't you tell me to keep
dark, and not mention you?
Not unnecessarily. But didn't he ask?
He'd forgotten all about you. Now, Princess, don't be offended;
there was next to nothing to forget, you know. It's not as if he had
ever seen you, or really heard anything about you. O, I'll talk you up
to him whenever you say so; to-night, if you like. But I thought his
forgetting was what you wanted. Didn't I manage it well? Do own that
now, please. Let those cerulean orbs shed one ray of gentle light upon
the path of a weary wayfareryes, that's better. Have I merited your
approval, Serene Highness?
You've done very wellfor you. But was it necessary to tell so
many lies, Bob?
Now that is not in good taste, if I am a judgeto put such
ugly names upon the graceful fancies with which I decorate the plain,
rude facts of everyday life. What are we without Imagination, that
glorious gift which causes the desert to rejoice and blossom like your
little flower-bed in the back yard at home? You know, Clarice, that my
mind is a deep clear well of Truth, and my lips merely the bucket that
draws it up. Where will you get candor and veracity, those priceless
pearls, if not from me?
Robert, you have fallen into this way of practising your little
tricks and deceptions on everybody. O, I know you mean no harm; it is
merely for your own amusement. But Mabel and Jane don't quite
Couldn't you explain it to them, Clarice? Some people have no sense
of humor. I can't well go around saying, This is a joke; please take it
in the spirit in which it is offered.
O, it does no great harm: they are very seldom deceived, and
perhaps they will learn to make allowances for you by and by. But you
may be tempted to try your games on me: if I ever catch you at
thatRemember, I am not to be trifled with.
Perish the thought, and perish the caitiff base who would harbor
it. Princess, you are sharper than I. Do you think I would be fool
enough to try any tricks on you, when I should be found out at once?
People generally find you out at once, but that doesn't seem to
stop you. How can I tell whether I can trust you? I don't believe you
know yourself when you are seriousif you ever are.
There is one subject on which I am seriousdeeply so, and always.
Clarice, when I die, if you will see that the autopsy is properly
performed, you will find your initials, as the poet says, neatly
engraven on my blighted heart.
Robert, sometimes I fear you have incipient softening of the
And if I have, is not that a reason why I should be watched and
guarded tenderlywhy loving arms should enfold my tottering frame, and
sweet smiles cheer my declining path, and a strong firm brain like
yours support my failing intellect? Clarice, be gentle with me. I am an
orphan like yourself; soon, if you read the future aright, to be laid
beneath the cold clods of the valley. When I am sleeping under the
daisies in the lonely churchyard, you will say to yourself, He was my
friend, my more than brother: he loved me with a loyal and
self-oblivious devotion. And then, in those sad hours of vain
remembrance, every unkind word that you have spoken, all the coldness
and cruelty which have pierced my patient breast, will return to
torture yours. Be warned in time, Clarice, and make it easy for me
while you have the chance.
Robert, if you have a talent, it is for shirking a subject you are
afraid of. When you go off like this, I know you are hiding something
from me. What is it this time?
I saw things were getting serious. She was bound to get it out of
me, and I might as well give in. Princess, I will confess, and throw
myself on your mercy. Strike, but hear me. It won't pay you to be cross
now, for you've got to be with me till you conclude to take Hartman up;
we can't be quarrelling all the time, you know. He asked me about you
this morning; Jane had spoken of you at breakfast. I put him off with
general remarks about your being down south last winter, and the like
of that; then suddenly my brain slippedit is softening, you
seeand I said you had come back when I was in the woods with him.
That started him, and he recalled your notion of going up there.
You are sure you didn't mention it yourself? What did he say?
Merely that he wished I had let you and Jane come. He likes Jane.
Upon my honor now, he had no suspicion of anything.
You goose, how often have I told you there was nothing to suspect?
But men are so coarse. Well, is that all? What else are you trying to
On my soul, Princess, that's all. I explained it all right, and he
was commencing to berate me for not preparing him to meet you as well
as the others, when we suddenly came on you, and you struck him deaf
and dumb and blind. He swore at me under his breath just before I
introduced him. Here my feelings overcame me again.
Well, there's no harm done. But you really must be more careful,
Bob. Try and make your poor mind work better while it lasts; don't
forget my instructions again, and when you have made a blunder, tell me
at once. You are so light, so devoted to your frivolous amusements; you
seem to be drifting into second childhood, thirty years too soon. If
you had an object, now, a serious purpose in life: if you really cared
for anythingeven for me!
She cuts me when she talks like that. Clarice, my regard for you is
so undemonstrative that you fail to appreciate its depth. If I were to
make a fuss over it, now, and use a lot of endearing epithets and big
professions, perhaps you would believe me. Some time you will know
whether I care for you or not; whether I've got anything in me, and am
capable of acting like a man. You wait and see. But I wish I knew what
you are going to do with poor Jim.
Some time you will know: you wait and see. You can go and comfort
him now. Good night, poor Bob.
I went and comforted him. Well, old man, I said with a cheerful
air, how do you get on?
Robert, said he, do you suppose I would have come here if I had
known what an atrocious humbug you are? Do you imagine for a moment
that my relatives, if I had any, would have subjected my innocence to
such insidious guardianship? Have you brought me here to destroy my
faith, and pollute my morals, and poison my young life with the
spectacle of your turpitude?
You're improving already, Jim. When I saw you last you hadn't any
faith, nor much morals; your youth was away back in the past, and your
strength was dried up like railroad doughnuts; you were ready to fall
with the first leaves of autumn. Well, since you are here, you can stay
till you see how you like us. What do you think of Clarice?
She has given me no basis on which to think of her, beyond her
looks; they rather take one's breath away. You beast, what do you mean
by springing a face like that on me without warning, after all your
humbugging talk last night, pretending to post me on every one I was to
meet? And I say, do you always stand guard over her when anybody comes
Well, you see, you were so overcome by the first sight of her this
morning, that it seemed no more than fair to let you recover your
breath, as you say, and get used to her by degrees. But, James, this is
unseemly levity on your part. What have we to do with girls? Let us
leave them to the baser spirits who have use for them. The world's a
bubble, and the life of man of no account at all. We have tried it, and
it is empty; hark, it sounds. Vain pomp and glory of it all, we hate
ye. Ye tinsel gauds, ye base embroideries, ye female fripperies, have
but our scorn. What are flashing eyes, and tossing ringlets, and rosy
lips, and jewelled fingers, to minds like ours? Let us go off to the
Nitrian desert, Jim, away from this eternal simper, this harrowing
You must have been reading up lately, my boy. I left all that in
the woods, Bob, and came down here in good faith for a change of air,
prepared to learn anything you might have to teach me. If you've got
any more traps and masked batteries, let them loose on me; practice on
me to your heart's content. You've undertaken to convert me, and I'm
here to give you a chance: a fine old apostle you are. But I don't
quite understand Miss Elliston's position here, Bob.
Her position here, or anywhere else, is that she does about as she
pleases, and makes everybody else do it too, as you will see before
your hair is gray, my learned friend. As I may have told you, we are
her nearest relatives: she is an orphan.
Parents been dead long?
About seventeen years. What's that got to do with it?
O, not much; don't be so suspicious. Do you think I'm trying to
play some trick on you, after your model? How should I, a helpless
stranger in a strange land, betrayed by the friend in whom I trusted?
I'm an orphan myself too. So that Miss Elliston is in a measure
dependent on your kindness?
O, don't fancy that she's a poor relation, or anything of that
sort. She's got more cash than she wants, and loads of friends: had
twenty invitations for the summer. If you don't behave to suit her,
she's liable to go off any day to Bar Harbor, or Saratoga, or the
Yosemite, or Kamtchatka.
Very good of her, to stay here with you, then.
Well, Mabel is deeply attached to her; so is Jane, and the children
of course. Her parents and mine were close friends in the
countrywhere I came from, you know. She and I were brought up
together; that is, she wasI was mostly brought up before her
appearance on this mundane sphere. We used to play in the haymow, and
fall from the apple trees together, and all that. O, Clarice is quite a
sister to mea pretty good sister too, all things considered.
And you are quite a brother to her, as I see. Strange, that it
never occurred to mention her, when you were describing the various
members of your family. Does her mind match her personal attractions?
She's got as good a head as you have, old man, or any other male
specimen I've struck. I myself meet her on almost equal terms. O, hang
that; I don't either. This is no subject for profane jesting. Talk
about the inferiority of women! If the moralists and stump-speakers had
one like her at home, they'd change their tune. But there are no more
You speak warmly, Bob. To Clarice every virtue under heaven.
Beautiful, brilliant, accomplished, amiable; you are a happy man to
have such an annex to your householdeven if she wasn't worth naming
at the start.
Amiablewho said she was amiable? Leave that to commonplace women
and plain everyday fellows like me. You can't expect that of her sort,
Jim. She can be very nice when she pleases. I suppose she has a heart;
it has never waked up yet. When it does, it will be a big one. We don't
expect the plebeian virtues of her.
She has a conscience, I hope? If not, it might be better to go
away, and stay away. You ought not to keep dangerous compounds about
the house, Bob.
She won't explodethough others may. A conscience? I think so. She
couldn't do a mean thing. She keeps a promise: she has more sense of
justice than most women. But you can't apply ordinary rules to her. She
is of the blood royal: the Princess, we call her. Can't you see, Jim?
You are man enough to take her measure, so far as any one can.
I see her outside; it is worth coming here to see, if I were an
artist or an æsthete. She has deigned to show me no more as yet.
It is all of a piece: the rest matches that, as you will see in
time. There is but one Clarice.
Bob, you are different from last night. I believe you are telling
the truth now.
She sobers you. When you have been with her, when you think of her,
it is as if you were in churchonly a good deal more so.
Very convenient and edifying, to have such a private chapel in
one's house. Bob, in this mood I can trust you. Tell me one thing: why
did you never mention her to me?
She doesn't wish me to talk of her to strangers.
And now the prohibition is removed?
You are not a stranger now. She knows you, and you have seen her.
Well, you are loyal. Does she appreciate such fidelity?
We are very good friends. From childhood we have been more together
than most brothers and sisters. More or less, I have always been to her
as I am now. She is used to me. I do not ask too much of her. Don't
fancy that I am in her confidence, or any one: she has a royal reserve.
See here, Jim; I am making you one of the family.
I understand. I must ask you one thing: why did you bring me here,
to expose me to all this?
You needed a change, Jim, as you half owned just now; almost any
change would be for the better. I wanted you to see the world again:
there is in it nothing fairer or richer than Clarice.
You go on as if she were a saint; and yet you say she's not.
You can answer that yourself, Jim. She's far from it: you and I are
not saint-worshippers. But she has it in her to be a saint, if her
attention and her latent force were turned that way. She can be
anything, or do anything. She hasn't found her life yet. She bides her
time, and I wait with her. Her wings will sprout some day. I like her
well enough as she is.
Evidently. Do you know, old man, that you are talking very freely?
Am I the first? or do you suppose I would say all this to any
chance comer? You opened your soul to me in May, as far as you knew it:
you are welcome to see into mine now.
There is a difference. I cared for nothing, and believed in
nothing; so my soul was worth little. Yours is that of a prosperous and
Externals are not the measure of the soul, Jim, nor yet creeds. I
know a gentleman when I see him, and so do you. Your soul will get its
food yet, and assume its full stature; you've been trying to starve it
partly, that's all.
Do you talk this way to your Princess, Bob?
No. She is younger than we: why should I bore her? You and I are on
equal terms: she and I are not.
This humility is very chivalric, but I don't quite understand it in
You can't: you've been so long unused to women, and you never knew
one like her. If you had, it would have been too early; what does a boy
of twenty know of himself, or of the girls he thinks he is in love
with, or of the true relations that should exist between him and them?
Call it quixotic if you like; I don't mind. Any gentleman, that is, any
spiritual man, has it in him to be a Quixote. When you come to know
Clarice, you will understand.
Do you call yourself and me spiritual men, Bob?
Yes; why not? Spirituality does not depend on the opinions one
chances to hold, but on the view he takes of his own part in Life, and
on the inherent nature of his soul. We are not worshippers of mammon,
or fashion, or any of the idols of the tribe. I live in the world, and
you out of it; but that makes little difference. You were in danger of
becoming a dogmatist, but you are too much of a man for that. We both
live to learn, and we can spend ourselves on an adequate object when we
Bob, if you don't talk to her like this, she doesn't know you as I
No human being knows another exactly as a third does. We strike
fire at different pointswhen we do at all, which is seldomand show
different sides of ourselves to such few as can see at all. She does
not care especially for me: why should she? But she has great
penetrationmore than you have, far more than I. She sees my follies
and faults as you don't; she is a sort of a confessor. At present she
is a Sunday-school teacher, and I am her class.
What do you talk of, all the time?
It's not all the time, by any means. That is as she pleases; just
now it may be a good deal. By and by it may be your turn: then you'll
know some things you don't now. There is nothing I say to her which the
world might not overhear, if the world could understand it; and nothing
that I can repeat. Jim, I am done: we are up very late.
Two things I must say yet, or ask, old man. You would stand by this
girl against the world; and yet you have charged yourself with me. It
may be idle to formulate remote and improbable contingencies, but it is
in our line. Would you take her part against me, and be my enemyyou
who are my only friend?
I would stand by her against the world, assuredly. I would stand by
you against all the world but her, I think. You two might quarrel, but
neither of you would be wrong: I know you both, and you don't know each
other. So I take the risk; it is none. When that time comes, neither of
you will find me wanting.
I believe it. The other thing is thisforgive me if I go too far.
Do you know what even intelligent and charitable people would say of
all this? That it was very queer, very mixed, very dubious.
They are not our judges, nor we theirs. What would they say of your
theories, and your way of life? To be sure, these concern yourself
alone. So is this inwardly my affair; it binds, it holds no other. Must
a man live in the woods, to form his own ethical code? Here too one may
keep clean hands and a pure heart, and do his own thinking. Life is
very queer, very mixed, very dubious; I take it as it comes. O, I see
truth here and there in your notions of it, though it has done well by
me. If I find in it something unique and precious, shall I thrust that
aside, because the statutes have not provided for such a case? But one
thing I can reject, so that for me it is not: the baser element. Gross
selfishness and vulgar passions are no more in my scheme than in yours:
if their suggestions were to rise, it would be easy to disown them. The
human beasts who let their lower nature rule, the animals who care for
themselves and call it caring for another, are not of our society. O
yes, in common things one must get and keep his ownthe body must have
its food; but one's private temple is kept for worship, and owns a
different law. It is not always, nor often, that one can build his
shrine on earth, and enter it every day: when a man has that
exceptional privilege, he must and may keep his standards high enough
to fit. You understand?
I do: I am learning. I knew all this in theory, but supposed it
ended there. And your Princess, you think is of our society?
No root of nobleness is lacking in her; when the season comes, the
plants will spring and the garden bloom. But we cannot expect to
understand her fully; she is of finer clay than we.
One thing more, and then I will let you go. There is more of you
than I thought, my boy. In May I knew you had a heart; but one who
heard you in the woods would have set you down just for a kindly,
practical man of the world. Last night, and most of the time to-day,
you were the trifler, the incorrigible jester. Why do you belie
yourself so and hide your inmost self from all but me?
Because I've got to convert you, old man. It is a poor instrument
that has but a single string; and David's harp of solemn sound would
bore me as much as it would other folks, if I tried to play on it all
the time. How many people would sit out this talk of ours, or read it
if we put it in print? Taken all in all, the light fantastic measure
suits me much better. To see all sides, we must take all tones. The
varying moods within fit the varying facts without; to get at truth we
must give each its turn. But in the main it is best to take Life
lightly. Your error was that you were too serious about it: it's not
worth that. Most things are chiefly fit to laugh at. The highgrand
style will do once in a way: we've worked it too hard now. Let's come
down to earth. I wanted to show you that I could do the legitimate
drama as well as you, and yet wear a tall hat and dress for dinner.
That's all very well, Bob, but I can discriminate between your
seriousness and your farce. Perhaps it is well to mix them, or to take
them as they are mixed for us. You may be right in that; I'll think it
over. Yes, I can see now that Heraclitus overdoes it, and that I used
to. Well, my lad, you are a queer professor of ethics; but I'm not sure
you've brought me to the wrong school.
The next day Clarice took me off as usual. Well, have you made any
Not one. You have nothing to reproach me with this time, Czarina.
You kept Mr. Hartman up dreadfully late. What were you talking
about so long?
O, he is prepared to find you wonderful, and to come to time
whenever you want him. I told him your wings weren't grown yet: you
were the Sleeping Beauty in the Enchanted Palace; the hour and the man
hadn't arrived. You dwelt in maiden meditation, and the rest of it.
You did not cheapen me, surely, Robert?
God forbid: do I hold you cheap, that I should rate you so to
others? He may tell you every word I said, when you begin to turn him
inside out; there was none of it that you or I need be ashamed of. He
knows, both by his own observation and from my clear and impressive
narrative, that you are remote and inaccessiblethe edelweiss growing
high up in its solitude, where only the daring and the elect can find
That is very neat. Did it take you three hours to tell him that? I
heard you come in as it struck two.
Too bad to disturb your slumbers, Princess: we will take our boots
off outside, next time. Naturally you were the most important topic we
could discuss; but I also explained his advantages in being thrown so
much into my own society. O, he is getting on. He said
I don't want to know what he said. The man is here, and I can
seeand hear, when I choosefor myself. Do you think I would tempt
you to violate what might be a confidence, Robert?
But if I repeat to you what I said, why not what he said?except
that his observations would not be so powerful and suggestive as mine,
of course. Otherwise I don't see the difference.
Now that is stupid, Bob. The difference is that you belong to me,
and he doesn'tas yet.
I can't tell you how she says these things. If I could put on paper
the tone, the toss of that lovely head, the smile, the sparkle of eyes
and lips, that go with what you might call these little audacities,
then you would know how they not only accent and punctuate the text,
but supply whole commentaries on it. If you get a notion that the
Princess is capable of boldness, or vulgar coquetry, or any of the
faults of her sex or of ours, you are away off the track, and my
engineering must have gone wrong. But I must stop this and get back to
One thing I must repeat, Princess. I got off a lot of wisdom for
Jim's benefit. You wouldn't think how wise it was; deep principles of
human nature, and rules for the conduct of life, and such. It did him
no end of good: and then he said that if I didn't talk to you that way,
you couldn't know me as well as he does.
He must know you remarkably well then. Just like a man's conceit.
Poor Bob, who should know you through and through if I don't?Why
don't you talk to me that way then, and improve me too?
As the Scotchwoman said when they asked her if she understood the
sermon, Wad I hae the presumption? When you catch me taking on airs and
trying to improve you, make a note of it. No, no, Princess dear; the
lecturing and improving between us had better remain where they are.
But, Robert, perhaps I would like to have you vary this continual
incense-burning with snatches of something else.
I dare say. Do you know, Clarice, sometimes I think I am an awful
fool about you.
That is what the doctors call a congenital infirmity, my dear. No
use lamenting over what you can't help. Worship me as much as you like;
it keeps you out of mischief. But you might change the tune now and
then, and give me some of your alleged wisdom.
Shall I becloud that pure and youthful brow with metaphysic fumes?
Should I soil your dainty muslins with the antique dust of folios, and
oil from the midnight lamp? You wait till you take up Hartman; perhaps
you can stand it from him. But if I were to hold forth to you in the
style he prefers, you would get sick of me in twenty minutes. Let it
suffice that my lonely vigils are spent in severe studies and profound
meditations, the fruit whereof, in a somewhat indirect and roundabout
way, may make smooth and safe the path that is traversed by your fairy
feet. In the expressive language of the poet, Be happy; tend thy
flowers; be tended by my blessing.
I know about your lonely vigils, Bob; they are spent on cigars, and
making up jokes to use next morning. But you are not as bad as usual
to-day. Do you know, I like you better when you are comparatively
Then let me be ever thus, my Queen! It is the solemnizing influence
of being so much with you. If you keep it up for another week, you'll
have to send me off to New York to get secularized. I say, Clarice, how
long do you mean to go on in this way? It's all very nice for me, but
how about Hartman? He's not frivolous; he takes Life in awful
earnest. What do you propose to do with him after you've got himI
should say, after the fatal dart has transfixed his manly form, and he
falls pierced and bleeding at your feet?
My dear child, let me tell you a pretty little tale. Once upon a
time there was a friend of mine, who thought a good deal of me, and of
whom I thought more than he knew, poor manenough to make you jealous,
Bob.Now who the devil was that, confound him? I never heard of him
before. It must have been that winter she spent in Boston, just after
she came out. That's over five years ago; he's probably dead or married
before this. Well, get on with your pretty little tale: not that I see
much prettiness about it.And when I would tease him to tell me some
secret, he would answer, in his own well-chosen language. Some day you
will know: you wait and see. By-by, baby!and away she dashed.
My tongue went too fast last night. Her heart is waking; her
wings are sprouting. She must be getting interested in Jim. The hour is
at hand, and the man: the horn at the castle-gate will soon be sounded,
and presto! the transformation scene. That will be a spectacle for gods
and men, now; but no tickets will be sold at the doorsadmittance only
by private card, and that to a very select few. I don't want any change
in you, Princess; but I suppose the angels would like to see the depths
in you that you haven't sounded, the fairer and wider chambers of your
soul opened to the light. God grant that light may need no darkness to
come before it, no storm-tossed, doubtful daybreak. If the change is
for your happiness, no matter about us. You are moving toward a land
where I cannot follow you; a land of mystery and wonder and awakening,
of new beauties and glories and perils, and possibilities unknown and
infinitea journey wherein you can have no guide but your own pure
instincts, no adviser but your own untried heart. God be with you, for
Jane and Mabel can do no more than I. We shall hear no word from you
till all be over, and then the Clarice of old will return to us no
more. Transfigured she may be and beatified, but not the one we knew
and loved so long. Little sister, all these years I have been at your
side or ready at your call, and now you will not call and I cannot come
to help you; for in these matters the heart knoweth its own bitterness,
and a stranger doth not intermeddle with its joy. May it be joy and not
the other! God be with them both, for it is a dangerous country where
they are going; a region of mists and pitfalls and morasses, where
closest friends may be rudely severed, and those whom Heaven hath
joined be put asunder by their own most innocent errorsand the finest
spirits run the heaviest risk. Ah well, if I were the Grand Duke of
Gerolstein, maybe things would be better managed in my dominions.
XIII. DOMESTIC CRITICISMS.
Hartman has made a first-rate impression here. It would please you
to see this stern ascetic, this despiser of Life and Humanity, with two
toddlers on his lap, and Herbert at his knee, all listening
open-mouthed to tales of the animal and vegetable kingdoms. The boy
thinks that one who lives in the woods must be a great hunter, and
clamors for bears and wildcats: Jane, in her usual unfeeling way,
insists that I put him up to this. But though I am a family manand
you could not easily find one more exemplaryI do not propose to drag
the nursery into the cold glare of public comment, or favor you with a
chapter on the Management of Children.
I would like to know why it is that women are so ready to take up
with any chance stranger who comes along, when they cannot see the true
greatness of their own nearest and dearest. Mabel pronounces Hartman a
perfect gentleman and a safe companion for me; as if it were I, not he,
that needed looking after. Jane seems to regard him as the rock which
withstands the tempest, the oak round which the vine may safely cling,
and that sort of thing. He is a good-looking fellow yet, and he has a
stalwart kind of bearing, adapted to deceive persons who do not know
him as well as I do. They would almost side with him against
Claricebut not quite: in their hearts, they think her perfect.
One evening we were all together in the parlor. The Princess had
gone somewhere with one of her numerous adorers, whom she had failed to
bluff off as she generally does: the young man was going to cast
himself into the sea, I believe, and I told her she had better let him
and be done with it, but she said he had a widowed mother and several
sisters, and ought to live long enough to leave them comfortably
provided for; so I let her go. I was trying to direct the conversation
into improving channels, but the frivolous female mind is too much for
Mr. Hartman, Jane began, we rely on you to exercise a good
influence upon Robert. He is so light-minded, and so deceitful.
Yes, Mabel added; no one can restrain him but Clarice, and she
cannot spend her whole time upon him, she has so much else to do.
See here, said I; this is a put-up job: I will have you all
indicted for conspiracy. Have you no proper respect for the head of the
We would like to, my spouse replied: we make every effort: but it
is so difficult! Mr. Hartman, he wants to manage every little matter,
particularly those which pertain exclusively to women, and which he
cannot understand at all.
Yes, said Jane; would you believe it, Mr. Hartman, he attempted
to instruct us as to the proper manner of receiving you! But that is
not the worst of it. He is utterly unable to keep a secretnot that
any one would entrust him with secrets of the least importance, of
course. And when he thinks he knows something that we do not know, he
goes about looking so solemn that even Herbert can detect him at once.
And in such cases he actually comes to us, and questions us about the
matter, with a view to throwing us off the scent, and keeping dark, as
he calls it. Did you ever hear of such absurdity?
Ladies and gentleman, I said with dignity, would you mind
excusing me for a few moments? I would like to retire to the rocks
outside, and swear a bit.
Robert! my wife cried, I am ashamed of you. What will Mr. Hartman
think of your morals? You see, they think Jim is a very correct young
O, I know him of old, he said. Never mind, Bob, I will stand by
you. Really, you are a little hard on him. He has improved; I assure
you he has. Why, he was quite a cub at college. Your softening
influences have done a great deal for him; everything, in fact.
It is very nice in you to say so, Mr. Hartman, and very polite, and
very loyal; but I know Robert. Clarice does him a little good: she
would do very much more, if he were not so stiff-necked. He thinks he
is a man, and we are only women.
Well, I asked, are you going to dispute that proposition? If so,
I will leave Hartman to argue it out with you.
Mr. Hartman, said Jane, he thinks he knows everything, and women
are inferior creatures. O, such a superior being as he is!
This is getting monotonous, I remarked. Suppose, for a change, we
abuse Clarice, as she is not here; that will be pleasanter all round,
and less unconventional. Now that girl does a great deal of harm,
turning the heads of so many foolish young men. She spends more on her
dress than you and I do together, Hartman. What an aim in life for a
rational being! Simply to look pretty, and produce an occasional piece
of perfectly idle and useless embroidery: tidies even, now and
thenjust think of it! Of all the
My wife stopped me here, and I was glad of it, for I really did not
know what to say next.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Robert. To speak in that way
of my cousin, and your own adopted sister! Don't believe a word of it,
Mr. Hartman. She is sweet girl, though reserved with strangers: I am
sorry you have seen so little of her. A high-minded, pure-hearted,
dear, sweet, lovely girl; she is, and you know it, Robert. Well,
perhaps I do; but there is no need of my saying so just now. Jane has
to put in her oar again, of course.
Yes, Mr. Hartman, and that is a sample of his hypocrisy. He thinks
as highly of Clarice as we do, and is almost as fond of her; and yet he
pretends to criticize her, just to draw away attention from his own
Well, let's drop Clarice then, and go on discussing the present
company, if you insist. We'll take them up one by one: I've had my
turn, and my native modesty shrinks from further praise. You see Mrs.
T., Hartman? She sits there looking so calm and placid, like a mother
in Israel; you would think her a model spouse. Yet no one knows what I
suffer. Mabel, I had not been with him ten minutes last May when he
noticed my premature baldness, and general fagged-out and jaded look;
and to hide the secrets of my prison-house, I had to pretend that I had
been working too hard in Water Street. You all know how painful
deception is to my candid nature; but I did it for your sake, Mabel.
When did I ever return aught but good for evil? Yet O, the curtain
lectures, the manifold ways in which the iron has entered into my soul!
But we brought Hartman here to reconcile him to civilized and domestic
life, and I will say no more. Now there is Jane. She naturally puts her
best foot foremost in company; you think she is all she seems: but I
could a tale unfold. Now mark my magnanimity: I won't do it. She is my
sister, and with all her faults I love her still. Well, if you are
tired you'd better go to bed: Hartman wants to smoke.
XIV. OVER TWO CIGARS.
When we got out under the pure breezes of heaven, Hartman turned to
me and said, So you call this reconciling me to domestic life, do
Well, I want you to see things as they are. They are not as bad as
your fancy used to paint them, or as a duller man might suppose from
recent appearances. Women haven't our sense of humor, Jim: their humble
efforts at jocosity are apt to be exaggerated, or flatgenerally both;
but they mean no harm.
Well, Bob, your preparations to instruct my ignorance are highly
successful. All this is as good as a play. You see you are found out,
old humbug; everybody sees through you. You can't delude any of us any
I don't quite see what you're driving at, my christian friend; but
I'm glad you like us, and I hope you'll like us better before you are
done with us. When he talks like this, I am content to see the hand of
Fate snatch at his scalp, as it will before long. Gibe on, ungrateful
mocker: retribution will soon overtake you in your mad career. Where
then will be your gibes, your quips, your quiddities? You'll want my
sympathy by and by, and I'll see about giving it.
You needn't be so much cast down, Bob. Perhaps you are building me
up better than you know. Your struggles with your womankind give a
flavor to what I used to suppose must be insipid. You are pretty well
satisfied with each other, or you wouldn't pretend to quarrel so. What
I saw of you before did something toward reconciling me to human nature
at large, and your quaint efforts at shrewdness and finesse set off
your real character. You might take in outsiders, but not me.
This is too much, my frienda blanked sight too much. Crushed to
earth by such unmerited compliments, I can only repeat my gratification
that we meet with your approval. You settle down, and you'll see how
insipid it is: then you'll be making some quaint efforts at shrewdness
and finesse yourself. Invite me then, and I'll get even with you, old
man. But I say, what did you mean about my being a cub at college?
Well, you were, you know. Barmaids and ballet-dancers, and that
sort of thing.
Confound you, Hartman, what do you go bringing them up for? There
was only one of each, or thereabouts, and they were generally old
enough to be my mothers. I was but a child, Jima guileless, merry,
high-hearted boy, and innocent as the lamb unshorn.
You were that, and the shearing did you a lot of good. O, you can
be easy; I'll not bring up the sins of your youth.
They were no sins, only follies. I had my early Pendennis stage, of
course, and invested every woman I met with the hues of imagination.
But Mabel and the girls might not understand that.
I don't think they would. Happily, it is not necessary they should
try to, since you have returned to the path of rectitude. Do you think
you belonged to Our Society in those days, Bob?
Yes, sir: I did, in embryo. I had it in me to develop into the
ornament of our species you behold at present. That's all a boy is good
for, anyway. He thinks he's somebody, but he isn't. He doesn't amount
to anything, except in the fond hopes of his anxious parents. He knows
nothing, and he can do nothing, except learn by his blunders; and some
of 'em can't do that. But if he has any stuff in him, he grows and
ripens with time, as you and I did. What bosh, to put the prime of life
at twenty-five. They ought to move it on a bit; about our age, now, a
man ought to be at his best.
I don't know, Bob. I was an egregious ass at twenty-five, and I'm
not sure I'm any better now.
Then there's hope of you, my boy. But one must go on getting
experience. You shut the door too soon and too tight, Jim.
When I had it open, such an infernal stench and dust came in, that
it seemed best to close it. But it's open again now, partly, and this
seems a healthier and cleaner atmosphere.
You'll come out all right, Jim; and when you do, you won't seem to
have been altogether wrong all these years. You've kept yourself
unspotted from the world, more than most of us; and when you come to
know a girl like Clarice, you'll want the most and best of you, to be
fit for her society. If only one could get the general ripening without
some of the dashed details of the process! She makes you wish you could
have been brought up in a bandbox, if only you could have come out of
it a man and not a mollycoddle.
Only 'men-maidens in their purity' are worthy to approach her, no
doubt. Apparently I am not. I'll have to be content with your account
of Miss Elliston's perfections, Robert. She seems to have no more use
for me than the Texans for the Sheriff. But I am doing very nicely,
thanks to your sister. I doubt if you appreciate Miss Jane, Bob. She
sees further into things than you do. She impresses me as a
sound-hearted woman, wise, kind, and gracious.
Yes, and so sisterly and appreciative. O yes, such a superior
person as she is! But see here, Jim; that's not what you're here for.
Jane is all very well in her way, but
He turned on me suddenly. What the deuce do you mean now?
By Jove, now I've done it: he's got me in a corner.You just wait
and see me get out of it. O well, Jim, I speak only by general
analogy, of course. I am not in the Princess's confidence, as I told
you. I might be if any one were, but nobody can see into her mind
further than she chooses to let them, and that is but a very little
way. It would be a fine sight, no doubt; but she has the reticence of
awell, of an angel probably; exceptionally delicate and sensitive
nature, and all that, you know. It's not her way to let a good thing go
by unnoticed, and she is quite able to appreciate you. Your time is not
up yet: you're likely to see more of her before you goat least, I
should suppose so.
Well, I am here to see things, as you say, and I may as well see
whatever is to be shown me. I am in your hands, old man; make as good a
job of it as you can before you send me back to the woods.
It is all very well for him to talk lightly on solemn subjects;
he'll change his tone by and by. I have prepared his mind now, as I
prepared the others before he came. Perhaps I ought to have done it
sooner; perhaps the Princess has been waiting for that. She'll know,
without my telling her; she'll see it in his eye.Nonsense, Robert T.;
your zeal outruns your discretion. What does she want of your help in a
thing like this? Anyway, he's ready to be operated on, and it seems
about time she began to put in her work.
XV. THE CATASTROPHE.
This miscellaneous entertainment, as I have remarked, lasted for
about a week: then suddenly the situation changed. I can't tell you how
it was done, though I was looking on all the time; but one evening I
found myself with Jane, and Hartman had gone off with the Princess. We
were all ready to play to her lead, no doubt; but it would have made no
difference if it had been otherwise: when she ordains a thing, that
thing is done, and without her taking any pains about it either, so far
as you can see. I think the predestined victim was pleased and
flattered to have the sacrificial chapter placed upon his head, so to
speak; he ought to have been, at any rate.
Jane, I said, what do you suppose Clarice is up to now?
Robert, said she, I thought I had given you a lesson about
practising your absurd hypocrisies on me. Who should know what her
plans are, if not you? If you really are not in her confidenceand it
would not be far, certainlysurely you know Clarice well enough not to
interfere. Let them alone, and keep quiet. That is the way they always
talk to me: I wish they would find something new to say.
Things went on in this fashion for another week or more. It was all
very quiet: there was really nothing to see. What they talked about I
don't know; when the rest of us were by, their conversation was not
notable. I can make more original and forcible remarks myself; in fact,
I do, every day. But I have no doubt she catechized and cross-examined
him in private. It is not Hartman's way to air his theories before
ladies, or to obtrude himself as a topic of discussion; but the
Princess, when she condescends to notice a man at all, likes to see a
good deal further into his soul than he ever gets to see into hers.
That is all right in this case; the doctor has to be acquainted with
the symptoms before he can cure the patient. When Hartman and I were
together at the end of the evenings and at odd hours, he had very
little to say: he seemed rather preöccupied and introspective. He is
another of your plaguedly reserved people, who when they have anything
on hand wrap it up in Egyptian darkness and Cimmerian gloom. That is
the correct thing in a womanin Clarice at least: in a man I don't
like it. My soul, now, is as open as the day, and when I have struck
any new ideas or discoveries, I would willingly stand on a
house-topif it were flatand proclaim them for the benefit of the
world. Even my uncompleted processes of thought are at the service of
any one who can appreciate them; but you can't expect everybody to be
like me. Most men are selfish, narrowly engrossed in their small
private concernsno generous public spirit about them. But then
Hartman is not used to this kind of thing, and I suppose it knocks the
wind out of him.
One evening I was by myself in the shrubbery; it was just dark, but
there was a tidy young moon. I wanted to smoke a pipe for a change, and
so had gone to the most secluded place I could find, for if Mabel were
to hear of this, Hartman might not get reconciled to domestic life. I
sat there, meditating on the uncertainty of human affairs: it would do
you more good than a little to know what thoughts passed through my
mind, but there is no time to go into that. Suddenly two forms came in
sight. One was of manly dignity, the other of willowy grace. His frame
towered like the noble oak on the hilltop, while hersbut we have had
the oak and the vine before, and worked them for all they are worth.
Perhaps I ought to have given you a more particular account of the
appearance of these two young persons: but you don't care to know their
exact height and fighting weight, the color of their hair and eyes, and
so forth; what you want is the stature and complexion of their souls.
They were a handsome pair, and whene'er they took their walks and
drives abroad like Dr. Watts, they attracted much attention. Just now
there was nobody but myself to admire them, and I was in ambush. They
strolled about in what there was of the moonlight, seeming much
absorbed, and I sat still in the shade, and put down my pipe: I
couldn't hear their talk, and didn't want to disturb them. Suddenly he
raised his voice: matters between them must have come to an interesting
stage. But, Clarice, if you care for me
He was too quick. The madness which urged him on can easily be
understood andexcept by the one concernedpardoned; but what devil
possessed her, who shall say? She drew herself up with superb scorn.
You are beginning at the wrong end, Sir. 'If I care for you!' Why
Very good, he said at once. I was mistaken. I beg your pardon
There was as little humility as possible in his look and tone. He
stood like a gladiatorand not a wounded one eitherwith his head
thrown back and his chest out. I could fancy, rather than see, the
flashing of his eyes.
The flashes were all on his side now; Clarice's brief exhibition of
fireworks seemed to be over, and she was drooping. Mr. Hartman, she
began, and could get no further.
In the act to go, he turned and faced her again.
Miss Elliston, my presumption was doubtless unpardonable; I shall
not know how to forgive myself. Do me the undeserved honor, if you can,
to forget itand me. I can only renew my apologies, and relieve you of
He bowed, and was gone. The proper thing for Clarice to do next was
to swoon or shriek; but I knew her too well to expect anything of that
sort. Nor did she tear her hair, or beat her breast, or offer to the
solitary spectator any performance worth noting. I thought it best to
keep remarkably quiet in my corner till she too had gone. In fact, I
staid there for an hour or two after, though I did not enjoy that pipe
at all; the tobacco was not right, or something. You see, after all the
lectures I had had, I did not want to spoil things by mixing myself up
with them; the situation looked picturesque enough without me in it.
When I went back to the house I found that Jim had caught the boat
and gone. He came to me, said Mabel, and told me that he had
overstaid his time and found it best to go to-night. He was very
friendly, but his tone did not encourage questioning or remonstrance.
His parting with Jane was almost affectionate, and he left kind regards
for you. But not a word for Clarice.
Great Jackson! what is the matter with them? I often use what my
wife considers profane language when I have something to hide.
It had its effect this time. Robert, be quiet. It is all right.
When there is anything for you to know, you shall know it.
She sometimes appears to mistake me for our eldest boy. But I was
glad to get off with the secret. Yes, there is something to know, my
lady, and I know it, though you don't. But I fear it is a long way from
XVI. FEMININE COUNSELS.
After this there was general gloom about the place, and I preferred
to spend much of the time in New York. But whenever I got there, this
confounded business would drive me back: Clarice might want me. Nobody
dared question her, till one day at lunch Herbert spoke up. Mamma, why
doesn't Mr. Hartman come back? Cousin Clarice, what have you done to
him? He was promptly suppressed, and the Princess froze his infant
veins with a stony stare, while Jane and I looked hard at our plates.
But later that day I came upon Clarice and the child together: he was
locked in her arms, and begging her not to cry. They did not see me,
and I retired in good order.
Within a week came a short note from Jim: apologies for leaving
without saying good-bye to me, appreciation of our kindness, regards to
my wife and sisterand not a word of Clarice. I took it to Mabel, of
Be very careful how you answer this now, Robert.
How will this do? 'Dear Jim, sorry you went off in such a hurry;
but after my performance in May I have no right to find fault. We all
miss you, I think: the house has grown dull. Herbert continues to fall
over the banisters, and at intervals over the rocks: at all hours, but
especially when laid up for repairs, he howls for you and bear-stories.
Our kindest regards. Keep us posted.' That's about it, eh?
Ye-es: you can't ask him to come back, and you can't mention
Clarice; so you can say no more, and I don't like you to say any less.
That is very wellfor you, Robert; though you need not be so unfeeling
about your own son.
It is well occasionally to consult your womankind in such cases,
because, though they may not know as much of the facts as you do, still
they can sometimes give you an inner light on points you would not have
thought of. Besides, it compliments and encourages them; whereas, if
you appeared to pay no regard to their opinions, they would naturally
feel neglected. A little judicious indirect flattery is of great use in
managing one's household. So I put on my best air of injured innocence.
Mabel, I wish you could tell me what is the matter. Here my guest
leaves my house suddenly, without a word of explanation. Herbert must
be right: what has Clarice done to him?
Robert, I told you that all was well; at least I trust it will be,
though it may not seem so now. The leaven is working; leave it to Time.
Above all, don't meddle; ask no questions; leave the matter to those
who understand it.
Now does she mean herself and Jane by that, or only Clarice and
Hartman? I wonder if she thinks that I think that she knows anything
about it. If she did, I should catch some sign of it. I tried my
Jane, don't fly at me now, please. I am in trouble.
So are we all, brother. Trouble not of our own makingmost of us.
Well then, what does all this secrecy mean? Has Clarice spoken to
you? What does Mabel know?
She knows no more than you and I, brother. Something has happened:
any one may suspect what it is, but Clarice will not tell. I love and
respect her too much to ask: so does Mabel; and so, I hope, do you.
Well, it's confounded hard lines, Jane, to have these things
happening in your own house, and such a mystery made of it. I had to
grumble to somebody, you see, if only to keep up appearances and help
hide my guilty secret; and then I was bored, and worse, with the
way things had gone.
You took that risk, Robert, when you brought them together here.
Did you expect that two such persons as they would agree easily and at
once? I think they love each other, or were in a way to it when this
occurred, whatever it was.
Well, I am awfully sorry. Clarice can take care of herself, I
suppose; but as for Hartman, he had load enough to carry before. I love
that man, Jane.
So do I, Robert.
Eh? O, the devil you do! This came out before I could stop it. It
did not please her.
Brother, you are simply scandalous. Will you never learn a decent
respect for womenyou with a wife of your own, and boys growing up?
Where have you been to acquire such ideas and such manners? You might
have lived in the woods instead of Mr. Hartman, and he might have been
bred in courts, compared with you.I mean, of course, that I am
interested in him, and sorry for him, as we all are. He is your friend,
and he has excellent qualities.
I was somewhat cast down by all this browbeating. Where shall a man
go for gentle sympathy and that sort of thing, if not to his own
sister? I suppose she thought of this, for she went on more kindly. I
would say nothing to Clarice if I were you. When she is ready, she will
To me, eh? What would she do that for? I put this in as part of
the narrative, but I am not proud of it. I had not quite recovered yet
from the effect of Jane's previous violence; and then my intellect is
not equal to all these feminine convolutions.
Brother, your head is not as good as your heart. Don't you
understand that in some cases a woman goes to a man, if there is one of
the right kind at hand, much as a man goes to a woman? You are a man,
and Mr. Hartman's nearest friend. After all her recent confidences with
you, or intimacy at any rateof course I don't know what she talked
with you about, so many hoursis it surprising that Clarice should
turn to you in her trouble, when she can bring herself to break silence
at all? When she is ready, she will speak to you, and to no one else.
Till she is ready, not all of us together, nor all the world, could
draw a word from her. Must I explain all this to you, as if you were
Herbert? And when she does speak, brother, I do hope that you will
listen with due respect and sympathy, and not disgust and repel her by
any more coarse ideas and base interpretations.
I paid no attention to these last remarks, which seemed to me wholly
unworthy of Jane. Strange, that one who at times displays so much
intelligence and even, as Hartman calls it, discernment, can in other
things be so unappreciative and almost low-minded. Coarse ideas,
indeed! Well, never mind that now: let me meditate on this prospect
which she has opened to my view. So Clarice is coming to me: she knows
I am her best friend after all. Little Clarice, how often have I
dandled her on my knee in the years that have gone by! Dear little
ClariceBOSH! What an infernal fool a man can make of himself over a
pretty woman in trouble! I am sometimes almost tempted to think that,
as she delicately hinted, there must be an uncommon soft spot in my
upper story. It is bad enough to show it when the girl is by; let me
preserve my balance till then. When she wants to talk to me, I will
hear what she has to say.
Sure enough about a week after this Clarice came to me as I was
smoking a surreptitious cigar on the rocks, away from the house, after
sundown. She came and sat down close by me, but I pretended not to
notice. Robert, said she. Well, said I. There is no use in meeting
them half way when they are willing to come the whole distance: mostly
you have to do it all yourself, and turn about is fair play.
Robert, are you angry with me?
I couldn't help looking at her now, and she shot one of her great
glances into my face. I melted right down, and so would you have done.
Clarice, you know I never could be angry with you five minutes
togethernor five seconds, if you chose to stop it. What have I got to
be angry about now?
Well, Bob, it wasn't your fault this time.
No, I trust not. Whose fault was it?
Mine, mine. Bob, will you be my friend? And she put her hand in
What have I ever been but your friend? Don't you do as you like
with meand with all of us? Clarice, you know it hurts me to see you
like this. And there's poor Hartman.
She pulled away from me. What has Mr. Hartman to do with it? Who
was talking of him?
Miss Elliston, I said with dignity, the First of April is past
some time ago. What do you want to be playing these games on me for?
O, don't 'Miss Elliston' me, Bob. Don't you understand women yet?
No, I'll be shot if I do; and I never expect to. That will do for
young beginners, who think they know everything. I've seen too much of
you to pretend to understand you. Why don't you speak out and come
straight to the point?
Why, you goose, that's not our nature. Speaking out and going
straight to the point will do for great clumsy things like you and Mr.
Well, I am a great clumsy thing, as you justly observe. It's very
pleasant to have you come to me like this, Princess, and I wish you
would do it oftener; it's mighty little I've seen of you of late. But
though it would meet my views to prolong this session indefinitely, I
suppose you want something of me, or you wouldn't be so sweet. It may
seem an improbable statement, but I would rather help you out of this
scrape than enjoy your society eventhat's saying a good deal, but
it's true. Yes, I'm fool enough for that.
I know you are, dear, she said, very low and sweetly. Now what was
it she knew? You can take that two ways. All the compliments I get are
so ambiguous. But this did not occur to me till afterwards. So I went
on with my usual manly simplicity.
Then you know there's no need of circumlocution and feminine wiles
when you want anything of me, Princess. You have but to speak, and, as
the Frenchman said, 'If it is possible, it shall be done: if it is
impossible, I can only regret that I can't do it.' What do you want me
to do now?
Nothing, Bob; nothing but to listen to me and be good.
I am listening, Clarice: I've been listening all this time. This
was not quite true, for I had done most of the talking; but then what I
said was not of much account. When I am with her I often talk just to
fill the gaps.
You can listen when I am ready to talk, and keep quiet till then. I
only want your sympathy.
You have it, Clarice; you have it most fully. Come rest on this
bosom, my own stricken dear
I don't want to rest on your bosom, Bob; your shoulder is big
enough. Have you got your best coat on?
Well, no; this is not the one I wore at dinner. But I will go to
the house and get my clawhammer if you wish.
No, no. I only want to cry a little.
You would be perfectly welcome to cry on my best coat every day of
the week, Princess, and I would get a new one as often as it might be
needed. I don't wish to make capital out of your grief, my dear; I
would rather never get a kind word from you than have you suffer. But
often it seems as if you didn't care for anybody, you are so high and
mighty and offish; and O doth not an hour like this make amends
Drop that, Bob. Don't try to be sentimental: you always get the
lines wrong. I've not been here an hour. O, were you joking? You are no
more in the humor for jokes than I am, and you know it. Do keep quiet.
I did: I 'dropped it.' Clarice will use slang at times, it is one of
her few faults. Where she learns it, I cannot conceive. It is
unfeminine, and out of keeping with her whole character; in any one
else I should call it vulgar. But I saw she did not wish to be
disturbed just then, so I said no more. Instead, I thought of my guilty
secrether secret. It weighs on me heavily; but I can't tell her what
I saw and heard. I don't know how she would take it; and I don't care
to be exploding any dynamite bombs about my own premises. The situation
is bad enough as it is; I'll not make it worse. Poor Clarice! poor
Hartman! And yet you can't meddle with such high-strung folks. By and
by she spoke.
Bob, do you know why I come to you, instead of to Jane or Mabel?
I was on the point of quoting Jane's valuable idea about my being a
man, but refrained.
I could not ask any woman for what you give me. And you are half a
woman, Bob; you are so patient and loyal. Nobody else would be that.
But Mabel and Jane love you too, dear. They would do anything for
Yes, but that is more on equal terms. I am so exacting; I want so
much, and give so little. I suppose I was born so; and you have spoiled
meall of you. O, I know I have treated you badly, Robert, often;
generally, in fact. I am proud and hateful, and you never resent it.
Only a man can be like thatto a woman: and very few men would be so.
You are not like other men, Bob: there is nobody like you. You are such
a useful domestic animal.
Perhaps I was getting unduly exalted when she let me down thus. I
wish Clarice at least would be less mixedmore continuous and
consistent, so to speakwhen she sets forth my virtues. But one must
take the Princess as he finds her, and be content with any crumbs of
approval she may drop. Sometimes I think I am a fool about her; but
when she talks as she does to-night, I know I am not. There may be more
amiable women, and plenty more even-tempered; but there is only one
Clarice. I may have made that remark before, but it will bear
repeating. It is not of me she is thinking all this time: how should it
be? O Hartman, Hartman, if you could know what I know, and see what is
Presently she spoke again. Robert, why don't you ask me what I have
done? I know you are dying of curiosity.
I can restrain my curiosity, rather than pry into your affairs,
dear. When you see fit, you will tell me. But if you wish it, I will
No, it would be of no use. I can't tell you now; perhaps never.
Robert, where did you learn to respect a woman so?
Jane says I will never learn it. But I do respect you, Princess.
That must have been when you had vexed her with some of your
blunders: you do make blunders, you know? But, Bob, do you know why I
This moved me so that I had to put myself on guard. She never said
so much as that before: it is not her way to talk about feelings or
profess much affection for anybody.
I suppose because we were brought up together, and you are used to
me. And, as you say, I am a useful domestic animal. If I can be useful
to you, I am proud and thankful. I think more of you than I could
easily say: it is very good of you to give me some small return.
It is because you have a heart, Robert. They may say what they
please of your head, but you have a great big heart.
Now was ever the superior male intellect thus disparaged? She must
have got this notion from Jane; but I can't quarrel with her now.
Men are great clumsy things, as you said, dear: we have not your
tact, nor your delicate roundabout methods. You are right, I do make
blunders; I feel my deficiencies when I am with you. But if my head,
such as it is, or my heart, or my hand, can ever serve you, they will
Suppose I were to leave you, and go out of your life?
You could not go out of my life, though you might go far away. I
should be sorry, but I have no right to hold you. But if you ever
wanted me, I should always be here.
Suppose I did something wrong and foolish?
I don't want to suppose that, but if I mustit would not be for me
to judge you, as you told me once. You might do something that did not
accurately represent your mind and character: since I know them, the
action would be merely a mistake, a transient incongruity. I don't
change easily: I have known you from your cradle. And if it was ever
possible for me to fail you, it is not possible after to-night.
You are very fond of Mr. Hartman, Robert. What if I quarreled with
him? Would you take my part against him?
I would take your part against the world, Clarice. But he is not of
the world. A sad and lonely man, burdened with an inverted conscience
and quixotic fancies that turn the waters into blood, who has come for
once out of his hermitage to catch a glimpse of the light that never
was on sea or land, and then to see it turn into darkness for him. I
fear he is sadder and lonelier now than when I brought him from the
woods: but I would stake my soul on his honor, as I would on yours. You
cannot force me into such a dilemma.
A heavenly glow was on her face now, as she looked long at the
stars, and then at me. Why are you eloquent only when you speak of
You say I have a heart, Clarice: it is eloquent when I think of
you. Shall a stranger be more sacred to me than my sister?and I don't
mean Jane. You would be sacred to a better man than I, dear, if he knew
you as I do: you may be so already, for what I can tell. He could
not mean to sin against you, Princess. If he seemed to fail in respect,
or courtesy, or anything that was your due, forgive him, and don't
banish him forever. I trusted that you would have enlightened and
converted and consoled him: he is worth it.
I longed to say more, but this was as far as I dared go. She sighed.
Perhaps I need to be converted and consoled myself. But that is
ungrateful; with such a comforter at hand I ought not to be miserable.
We never knew each other like this before, Robert. Why is it?
I don't know, Clariceor rather I do, of course. It takes the
moon, and stars, and a common trouble, to bring people together, even
when they see each other every day; and then concurring moods must
help. One stands in awe of you, Princess; I always shall. You only
tolerated me when you were happy: I was rough, and careless, and
stupid, and made bad jokes in the wrong places. I will try to do better
after this, so that you need not be repelled when you want me. Hartman,
now, is of finer mould than I: if you would let him come back
No more of that now, dear. Let us go in. The moon is going down: it
is getting cold and dark. So it was; and damp tooon my shoulder at
least. I am glad you had your old coat on, she said.
Mabel was alone in the parlor. Well, she began; then she saw our
faces, and modified her tone. The moonlight was very fine, I suppose?
You know you never will go out in the evening, said Clarice. It
is later than I thought. Don't scold Robert; he has been a dear good
boy. She kissed her, and went upstairs.
Mabel, said I, Clarice is in trouble. I had to say something,
and this was perfectly safe. You see, she had told me nothing, and so I
could say if asked. But I wasn't.
I know that, of course, Robert: I have seen it all along. She is a
dear girl, for all her flightiness. She will say nothing to me. I hope
it will come right. If you can help or comfort her, I shall be glad.
Then she too went to bed.
It is unusual for Mabel to be surprised into such candor. I got a
cigar, and went out on the porch to meditate. Jane thought that Clarice
would tell me things. Yes, I have got a lot of information. Let me see,
I am a useful domestic animal, and I have a big heart: that's about the
size of it. At this rate, I can soon write a Cyclopædia. Well, cold
facts are not all there is in life: there are some things the
Cyclopædias fail to tell us about. I don't regard the last few hours as
After this the Princess and I did not talk much: there seemed to be
no need of it. But she was a new and revised edition of the old
Clarice, wonderfully sweet, and gracious, and equable; and her look
when we met was like the benediction in answer to prayer, as Longfellow
says. I went about with a solemn feeling, as if I had just joined the
Church. What does a fellow want with slang, and pipes, and beer, and
cheating other fellows on the street, when he has such entertainments
at home? And yet it cuts me to the soul to look at her: I must
do something to bring them together. Pretty soon we went back to New
XVIII. AGAINST EARNESTNESS.
Jane, and even Mabel, have the idea that I am of light and shallow
nature; and sometimes I think they are right. It must be so; for your
profound and serious characters have a weakness for sorrow, and
luxuriate in woewhereas I object to trouble of any kind, and cannot
get used to it. The house has been like a rural cemetery for near two
months, and it simply bores me. Hartman now prefers to dwell among the
tombs: he has lived these ten years in a graveyard, so to speak, under
a canopy of funereal gloom, and he thrives on it. He and Clarice are
the most superior persons I know; and they have gone and got themselves
into a peck, or rather several bushels, of trouble, about nothing at
all. They must like it, or why should they do it? I doubt if I can ever
be educated up to that point. I have the rude and simple tastes of a
child: sunshine seems to me better than shade (except during the heated
term), and pleasure more desirable than pain. I like to be comfortable
myself, and to have every one else so. Imagine Mabel getting miffed at
me, or I at her, over some little two-penny affair of unadvised
expressions! She often says unkind things to me: if I took an earnest
view of life, and were full of deep thought and fine feeling, probably
I should have to take her criticisms to heart, and go away in a hurry
and never come back. I sometimes make blunders worse than that one of
Hartman's, and no harm worth mentioning ever comes of themthough I do
have to be careful with the Princess. No doubt I am frivolous and
superficial; but people of my sort appear to get along more easily, and
to make less trouble for themselves and others, than those whose
standards are so much higher. If I had the managing of this business, I
could set it right inside a weekor in two days, if Jim were not so
far away. It is merely to say to him, Your language was
unparliamentary. It is not etiquette to assume that a lady cares for
you when you have not asked her to. You have no right to resent her
resenting such unconventional behavior. You owe her an apology: go and
make it like a man, and withdraw the offensive epithet, term, phrase,
clause, or sentence, which ever it might be. Then I would say to her,
He meant no harm. How do you expect a member from Wayback to be posted
on all the usages of metropolitan society? You ought not to have come
down on him so hard. Let the man say he is sorry, and forgive him. You
were mainly to blame yourself; but seeing it is you, we'll pass that.
Then I would stand over them like the heavy father in the plays, and
say, You love each other. Take her, Jim: take him, Clarice. Bless you,
my children. That is the way it ought to be done, and that is the way
I would fix it if it concerned common every-day people like myself,
with no pretence to qualities higher than practicability and common
sensesupposing such people could have got into such a mess, which I
own is improbable. A method that would answer for them is not so easily
applied to these superfine specimens, who have taken such pains to
build themselves a private Purgatory, and keep it going on a limited
supply of fuel. They might resent intrusion on their agreeable demesne,
and put up a board with 'No Trespassing' on it; but then they ought to
keep the place fenced in better: as it is, the smoke and heat spread
too much. They might say, 'If we enjoy our misery, what right have the
rest of you to interfere?' Yes, but what right have they to rope in the
rest of us, who are not so addicted to the luxury of grief, and make us
miserable too? That's what it comes to. 'Each man's life is all men's
lesson,' and each woman's too. Now if our high-toned friends had kept
this particular part of their lives in manuscript, and not supplied us
with copies, but reserved it for spelling out in secret at their own
leisure, the case would be different. As it stands, this embroglio is a
lesson which I have got by heart and am tired of: I would like to set
it aside and turn to something more cheerful. Moreover, as the head of
a family I have duties in the matter, for it affects us all. I don't
mind so much about Jane: she thinks this is a XX. romance, which the
parties chiefly concerned are conducting in the most approved manner;
if she had one of her own, I suppose this would be her styleher idea
of how the thing should be done. It is not mine, however; far from
it. Shall I sit passive, and see the clouds of care growing heavier
about the wife of my bosom, and the furrows deepening in that once
marble brow? She looks two years older than she did two months ago, and
she owns it. I have three lovely children: how brief a space it is
since they played in the abandonment of infant glee! And now their
young existence, too, is darkened. Herbert no longer slides down the
banisters, with his former recklessness, but sits and looks wistfully
at Cousin Clarice. The change involves a saving in lint and arnica, but
a loss of muscular development. You see, we are all of the
sympatheticwhich is the expensivetemperament: we have not sense
enough to be content each with his or her own personal affairs, and let
the others arrange their private funerals at their own charge. There is
more truth than I thought in part of what I told Hartman, that night on
This thing must stop. I will have to ask the Princess if she wants
our humble abode to be a house of mourning much longer. We might
accommodate her in that respect for another month or two, but not
permanently. Lovers are so selfish: they don't care if they upset all
your domestic arrangements, and spoil your harmonies with the discord
of their sweet bells jangled. It ought not to be encouraged, nor yet
[Footnote 1: I was wholly mistaken in this, as will appear by the
next chapter. R. T.]
The summer has not done for any of us what it ought; quite the
reverse. Even I am not in my usual form, if Mabel and Jane are right.
They had let me alone for some time: last night they attacked me
togethera preconcerted movement, obviously.
Robert, you are pale, almost haggard. You need a change.
Why, said I, I've just had a changeor rather several of them.
We've been back only three weeks.
You need mountain air: the sea does not agree with you. And Newport
is not what it used to be.
It's a good deal more so, if you mean that; but I don't know that
its increased muchness has damaged my health to any great extent.
You prefer small, remote places, and their way of life; you know
you do. They are more of a change from town. You bought the house at
Newport for our sakes. I have often feared you were sacrificing
yourself to uswith your usual disinterestedness, dear.
Well, my usual disinterestedness is ready to be worked again, to
any reasonable extent, if you will say what you're after. But how can I
leave the business now?
O, the business! (It was Jane this time.) That is all very fine,
when you don't want to leave town. But I notice that the business never
interferes with any of your junketings. What are your clerks paid for?
Can't they attend to the business?
A fine idea you women have of business, and a fine success you'd
make of it. Jane, suppose you take charge in Water Street while I am
I don't doubt I could do it quite as well as you, after a little
practice. Why, brother, Mr. Pipeline understands it a great deal better
than you do. Our father, in his later years, trusted him entirely.
Yes, Robert, said Mabel, and how often you have assured me that
Mr. Pipeline was absolutely competent and reliable. When we were
married, and a hundred times since, you explained your carelessness and
indifference about the business by saying that all was right while old
Mr. Pipeline was there: he knew everything, and kept the whole force to
their work. It was that, you said, which enabled you to be so much more
about the house than most men could be, and so attentive and
satisfactory as a husband and father.
She had me there: who would expect a woman to remember things and
bring them up in this way, so long after? So I tried to turn it off.
O, well, he hasn't gone to Canada yet: the books seem straight, and
the returns are pretty fair. But it is well for the head of the firm to
look in occasionally, all the same.
You do look in occasionally, Robert: no one can accuse you of
neglecting that duty. Would I have married a man who neglected duty,
and allowed his business to go to ruin, and his family to come to want?
Your conscience may rest perfectly easy on that score, dear.
O, thank you: it does. I've not often allowed the state of the oil
market to interfere with sleep or appetite, or with my appreciation of
you and the children. Family duties first, my dear; what so sacred, so
primary, as the ties of Home? But such virtue is not always duly prized
there. I'm glad you do me justice.
I always have, Robert; always. Whatever Jane and others might say
about your levity and your untimely jests and so forth, I have steadily
maintained that you had a good heart.
There, Jane, do you hear that? Mabel knows, for she is in a
position to know.
Of course, brother, we are all aware of that. If you had not that
one redeeming trait, I should have left you long ago, even if I had had
to get married. You admire Artemus Ward: he had a giant mind, you
recollect, but not always about him. So with your good heart at times.
But we are wandering from the point. Mabel, you were showing him how he
could go away for a week or two without neglecting his important duties
Why yes, Robert. You have been here three weeks now, and I am sure
you have been at the store nearly every day. Indeed, when you were not
at home, or at the club, or somewhere about town, I doubt not you might
be found in Water Street a good part of the time.
Yes, I said with an air of virtuous complacency, I believe you
are right. I can't deny it, though it may help your side of the
Well then, you can surely be spared during a brief absence. And
when you return, you can continue to look in occasionally, as you say.
Perhaps I could, though it is not well to be too positive. Where do
you think I ought to go?
Well, you are fond of fishing and hunting. You might go up and
spend a week with Mr. Hartman. You found good sport there, you said.
O yes, there are trout enough, and deer not far off, he told me.
But I was there in May. And it is not very comfortable at Hodge's, if
But of course this time you would stay with Mr. Hartman. You
refused his invitation before, and it was hardly civil to such an old
He has a mere bachelor box, my dear, and I hardly like to thrust
myself on him.
Why, Robert, I am surprised at you. After Mr. Hartman spent a
fortnight with us at Newportand when he has written you twice, urging
you to come. Can't you see that the poor man is lonely, and really
Mabel, it would be all very well if it were like last Mayonly he
and I to be considered. But here is that blessed entanglement of his
with Claricequarrel, or love-making nipped in the bud, or whatever it
wasthat complicates matters. After all the lectures I've had from you
two, I don't want to complicate them any more, nor to meddle in her
affairs, nor appear to. Suppose I go up there, and he wants news of
her, and anything goes wrong, or it simply doesn't come right as you
expect; I'd have your reproaches to bear ever after, and perhaps those
of my own conscience. You're not sending me off simply for my health,
or for a little fishing. If I go to Hartman, the sport will not be the
main item on the programme; and that every one of us knows perfectly
well. So I don't move till I see my way straight.
Finding me thus unexpectedly firm, Jane looked at Mabel, and Mabel
looked at Jane, and there was a pause. You see, in this last
deliverance I had uttered my real mindor part of itand it naturally
My sister's share in the discussion had thus far been confined to
the few efforts at sarcasm duly credited to her abovelet no one say
that I am unjust to Jane. She had been watching me pretty closely, but
I hardly think she saw anything she was not meant to see. Now she came
to the front, looking very seriousas we all did, in fact.
Well, brother, some things are better understood than spokenfrom
our point of view. But if you insist on having all in plain words, and
playing, as you call it, with cards on the table
Just so, said I. You use your feminine tools: I use mine, which
are a man's. If I have to do this piece of work, it must be on my own
conditions and after my own fashion, with the least risk of
Robert, if this is affectation, you are a better actor than I
thought. But if you really know no more than we do
This was too much for Mabel. Now, Jane, you go too far. Robert
likes his little joke, but he knows when to be serious. Why do you
suspect him so?
Jane went on. Of course it is possible he may be no deeper in
Clarice's confidence than we: she is very reticent. You mean, brother,
that you will do nothing till she authorizes you?
Well, as I said, this is her affair. For you, or me, or anybody
else, to meddle in it without her direction, or permissionunless in
case of obvious extremitywould seem, by all rules alike ethical and
prudential, a delicate and doubtful proceeding, to say the least.
I suppose you are right there. Mabel, you may as well tell him.
Robert, don't think, from all this preamble, that it is of more
importance than it would otherwise seem. Perhaps we might as well have
told you at once; but we are only women, you know. Now at last we are
using your toolsthe tools you always use with such manly
consistencycandor and open speech. Tell him, Mabel.
Robert dear, Clarice told me to-day that you were looking badly;
she thought you needed a change. 'Is he not going off for his fall
fishing?' she said.
Is that all?
It is a good deal for her, said Jane. If you want more, ask her.
Are you less concerned for her happiness than we are? Must we arrange
all the preliminaries? Brother, if I could do anything, no fear
of consequences or reproaches should tie my hands: I would do what is
right, and take the chances. If I stood where you do, I would have this
matter settled, or know why it could not be. I would never sit idle,
and see two such lives spoiledand all our hearts broken. O, I know
you love them both. But you are so cautiousunnecessarily and absurdly
so at times, and wedded to useless diplomacy, when only the plain
speech you talk about is needed. You stand in awe of Clarice too much:
you may wait too long. Forgive me, Robert; but whatever she may say,
you must see Mr. Hartman before winter.
I could have embraced Jane, besides forgiving her slurs on me, which
may contain an element of truth. There is more in her than I have
supposed; and of course what she insists on is exactly what I have all
along meant to do. But it did not come in handy to say so at this
point. I'll think it over. You two had better go to bed: I must go out
Robert, said Mabel, don't go out to-night. You can smoke in the
No; I'll not take a base advantage of your present amiable mood.
But I tell you what it is; if you want to get Hartman here in cold
weather you must let us have a snuggery. He can't do without his
It was a fine night, and I wanted a walk as well as a smoke. I felt
gratified, for this thing had gone just as I desired. I am not quite so
impulsive as Jane, and I understand the difficulties as she does not;
but my plan has merely waited for events to give it definite shape and
make it feasible. Certainly I must see Hartman, and as he can't come
here, I must go there. But I wanted the women to suggest my going; that
divides the responsibility, and gives them a hand in the game. I would
have had to propose it myself within a week or so, if they had not
spoken. But the Princess knows what she is about, and what is fit and
proper. It may seem strange that she should speak to Mabel instead of
to me; but she will say what she has to say to me before I start. In
fact, I'll not start till she doeshow could I? It is her business I
am going on, with just enough of my own to give it a color. I'll write
to Jim at once, to ask when he wants me: the mails are slow up there,
and it may be a week before his answer comes. That will give me time to
get my instructions, and not be in any unseemly haste to seek them
either. So far, so good; but there is more to be done, and delicate
work too, such as will bear no scamping. It is the biggest contract you
ever undertook, R. T., and you must make a neat job of it.
XX. APOLOGY FOR LYING.
If you do not understand my waiting for Mabel and the girls to
prompt this move, and allowing them to urge it against my apparent
reluctance, I ascribe this failure on your part to lack of experience,
rather than to any deeper deficiency. Some men like to make a parade of
independence, and to door pretend to doeverything of themselves,
without consulting or considering their womankind. But such are not the
sort I choose my friends from; for I have been accustomed to regard
both brain and heart as desirable appurtenances to a man. There is
little Bruteling, at the club, who would like to be considered a man of
the worldbut I can't waste space or time on him. And I have met
family men evenbut I don't meet them more than once if I can help
itwho regard their wives and sisters as playthings, dolls,
upper-class servants, not to be trusted, taken into their confidence,
or treated with any real respect. Such heresies have no place under a
Christian civilization, which has exalted Woman to her true rank as the
equal and helpmeet of Man, the object of his tenderest affections and
most loyal services. It is in his domestic life that one's true
character is shown; and Home is not only the dearest place on earth to
me and to every one whose head is level, but the stage on which his
talents and qualities are best brought out.
You think that I don't practice what I preach; that I introduce
within those sacred precincts too much of play-acting and small
diplomacy, as Jane says; that even at this moment my thoughts and
intentions in a matter which concerns us all are imperfectly revealed
to my nearest and dearest? Ah, that is owing to the difference between
the sexes, and to the singular lines on which the Sex was constructed,
mentally speaking. I don't wish to criticize the Architect's plans, but
it seems to me I could suggest improvements which might have simplified
relations, and avoided much embarrassment. The difficulty is that
women, as a rule, can neither use nor appreciate Frankness. Just after
I was married, I thought it was only the fair thing to tell Mabel about
several girls I had been sweet on before I knew her. Would you believe
it, she burst into tears, and upbraided me with my brutality; and she
brings up that ill-advised disclosure against me to this day. I know
several ladies who will not lie, under ordinary circumstancesnot for
the mere pleasure of it, at least; Clarice, for instance, and Jane, I
believe; but not one who will tell the whole truth, or forgive you for
telling it. Well, well, we have to take them as they are, and make the
best of them: they have other redeeming traits, as Jane says of me. In
heaven these inequalities will be done away, and one can afford to
speak outat least I hope so. But meantime you can see how these
feminine peculiarities hamper a man, and check his natural candor, and
impose on him a wholly new, or at least a hugely modified, ethical
code. If I were to follow my original bent, which was uncommonly direct
and guileless, I should be in hot water all the time. It is this
struggle between nature andwell, I can hardly call it grace; let us
say necessity, or environmentwhich is making me bald, and fat, and
aging me so fast. You have seen, in the course of this narrative, what
scrapes I have gotten into by speaking before I stopped to think, and
blurting out the simple truth. I was once as honest as they are ever
madeand for practical and domestic uses nearly an idiot. I have been
obliged, actually forced, to deny myself the indulgence of a virtue,
and diligently to cultivate the opposite vice. The preachers don't know
everything: I could give them points. I don't say I have succeeded
remarkably, and the exercise has been deeply painful to me; but it was
absolutely essential, if I was to be fit for the family circle, and
able to do or get any good in this imperfect world. There is no escape,
unless you live in a hermitage like Hartman. You may have noticed that
my loved ones sometimes appear to treat me with less than absolute
respect and confidence: it is the result of this life-conflict, which
has left me with a character mixed, and in one respect wrecked. But
they would think much worse of me than they do if I told them the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, on all occasions.
Thus I mightand then again I might notgo to our poor Princess, and
say, Clarice, Mabel and Jane think I ought to see Hartman. I think so
too, and they report you as concurring in the verdict. This is
delicately put under cover of my health and the fall fishing; but we
all know that you and Jim want looking after more than I do, and that
bigger game than trout is to be caught. Tell me what you want me to say
to him and do with him, and I will start at once. Some women might
stand that, possibly, but not the ones I am used to: such would be
eminently the way not to attain my benevolent end. No, no; you can do
nothing in such cases without finesse, as Jim calls it, and strategy,
and tact, and management; and if you have not these gifts by nature,
you must acquire them, whatever they may cost. I still hold to my
principles; but I don't propose to run them into the ground. In
morality, as elsewhere, a little too much is apt to be worse than much
too little; and theory and practice are very different things, not to
be rashly confounded. You want to hold the right theories, and then to
live as near them as depraved mundane conditions will allow. The manly
weapons of which Jane spoke so scornfully last night are the right
oneswhen you can use them. In the case in hand, to tell all I know
would have been at any time, and would still be, impossible and
ruinous. Hartman is not so far out on some points: as he says, we did
not arrange the present scheme of things, and could not be proud of it
if we had.
You may say, and I could not deny, that my diplomacy, such as it is,
is not always employed for the benefit of women only. Hartman is a
luminous and transparent soultoo much so for his own good: why did I
practise occasionally on him? I can explain that best on general
In a world a majority of whose inhabitants are female,
demoralization has naturally extended far and wide, till strict
veracity has become unpractical. The first falsehood (after the
serpent's) must have been humiliating to him who uttered it, and a
fatal example to those who heard; but mankind soon grew used to the new
fashion. I pass over the rude barbarian ages, whose gross and
inartistic lying offers no claim to respectful and sympathetic
interest, and no excuse but the lame one of selfish depravity, common
to the race. But with the inroads of civilization Life became complex,
and Truth was found too simple and rigid to fit with all its varied
intricacies. That is, when Truth is simple. Don't you think my
baby beautiful? demands a fond parent. No, I don't: far from it.
That is the truth; but its naked and repulsive brutality demands to be
clothed with the garb of humane and graceful fiction. Prisoner at the
bar, are you guilty or not guilty? He is guilty, of course; but if he
says so, it is a dead give-away. In this case indeed the interests of
Truth are one with those of Society, though not of the prisoner; but
often it is different. The basis of ethics, our moralists say, is as
largely utilitarian as it is ideal. If so, is there any special
sacredness about cold facts, that they should get up on end and demand
to be published everywhere continually? Truth ought to be modest, and
not claim all the observances and honors, seeing there are so many
other deities whom we poor mortals are no less bound to worship. When
Grotius' wife lied to the policeman about her husband's whereabouts,
the lie was an act of piety, whereas truthtelling would have been
murderous infidelity. If the minions of the law were after me, would I
thank Mabel and Jane and Herbert for telling them which way I had gone?
There is no more aggravated nuisance than he who insists on exposing
all he knows at all times and placesas I used to do before I learned
these tricks. Look at poor Hartman, ejecting his honest backwoods
thought without asking whether it was a wise and decent offering to his
small but highly select audience; and see what trouble he has brought
on himself and all of us thereby.
This outspokenness is often mere self-indulgence. Take me, for
instance: to this day, in spite of all the lessons I have had, it is
far easier and pleasanter for me to tell the truth than not. People of
this temperament must learn to put a check on nature. Self-indulgence
is bad, all agree, and self-denial useful and necessary. This is the
way virtues clash and collide. I say, confound such a world. What is a
plain man to do in it? As the poet sings, the Summum Bonum
belongs in heaven, and you can't expect to get at it here, but must
simply do the best you can, which is generally not very good. And then,
as another poet puts it, very likely nobody will appreciate your
efforts, but you will get cuffed for them: we are punished for our
purest deeds, and so forth.But this is trenching on Hartman's
province. It is well that I should think all this out now: I can talk
it over with him before we get to business. He will want sympathy with
his notions about the depravity of things in general, and that will
smooth the way, and make him willing to open up on the specific woe
that lies nearest.
To return to our muttons. The guilt of duplicity has lain heavy on
my conscience for two months, but how can I help it? I don't so much
mind keeping what I know from Mabel and Jane, for it is not their
affair. But it is Clarice's affairmost eminently soand I had
promised solemnly to tell her at once when I knew or thought of
anything that concerned her. It was obviously impossible to keep my
promise in this casenot on my account, but on hers. It will not be
easy to tell even Jim that I overheard their last colloquy, and
witnessed the tragical parting scene: I'll have to watch my
opportunities, and spring that on him just at the right moment, when it
will have the best effect. Now any one who knows Clarice must see that
to tell her this would be to take the most awful risks, and probably to
destroy all chance of reconciling them; that is level to the meanest
apprehension, I judge. No sir: it can't be done till I have seen Jim,
and got things in train. Properly handled, the secretthat is, my
possession of it, which is a second secret, almost as weighty as the
original onemay be a tool to manage both these intractable subjects
with, and bring them to terms: in a fool's hands, and thrown about
promiscuously, it would be an infernal machine to blow us up. No: I'll
take whatever guilt there is, rather than hurt Clarice now and
hereafter. Do you want to know my opinion of a man who is always and
only thinking about keeping his hands clean and his conscience at
peace, so that he can't do a little lyingor it might be other
sinningon adequate occasion, to serve his friends or a good cause? I
think he is a cad, sira low-minded cad; and of such is not the
kingdom of heaven. It may not occur every day: it might not do to
insert in the text-books as a rule; but once in a while there may be
better businesses than saving one's soul and keeping one's conscience
void of offense.
I am arguing against my own nature in all this. In my heart I love
Truth above all things, and follow and serve her with a devotion that
is probably exaggerated. But I can't help seeing that there are two
kinds of her. When she is simple and obvious, she seems to reside in
bare facts, which we may easily respect too much, for what are they but
blackguard carnalities? Preraphaelitism in art, Realism in literature,
might be all very well if they would keep their placewhich is in the
kitchen. Some may want pots and pans, and scullions, and pigs' feet,
and ribs of beef described. I don't myself; but it is a free country,
and vivid and accurate portraiture of these delicacies may constitute
the main charm of literature for some readers, possibly. But Realism
wants to take its pots and pans into the parlor: it always overdoes
things. A daisy by the river's brim a yellow daisy was to him, and it
was nothing more. Well, what else should it be?But perhaps I have
not got that right. Pass on to our next head.
Truth is not always simpleby no means always. Often she is highly
complex, and as much mixed as I was just now; and then you don't know
where she is, or what she is, and it gets to be all guesswork. One
says, Here, and another says, There: the philosophers upset each
other's schemes in turn, the theologians hurl reciprocal
excommunications, the scientists of to-day laugh at those of last year.
If Pilate meant it this way, we owe him some sympathy and respect.
Speak the truth and shame the devil, they say. Bah! [I think this
expletive ought to be spelt Baa.] When you know what the truth
is, you are more likely to shame your friends, and become obnoxious and
ridiculous. And in most cases you don't know, and if you suppose you
do, you are mistaken. I have thought out a way of approximating Truth
on a large scale, and more nearly than most succeed in doing; but this
is a big topic, and I had better keep it to entertain Hartman with.
O yes; I was to explain why I sometimes use roundabout methods even
with him. If you tell all you know to everyone you meet, or disclose
your real character, it will generally be a waste of good material
which might better be economized. By the way, what is my real
character? How should I know? One sees one side of it, another another.
I see all that have turned up yet, but there may be many more, thus far
latent; and how am I to harmonize them all, and take the average of a
succession of phenomena? I am complex, like Truth.
But I must not interrupt myself any more. Let us fall back on the
utilitarian basis of ethics. You see, if I had talked like this to Jim
when we met last May, he would have put himself on guard and begun to
study me, whereas I wanted to draw him outas I did. I have no
objection to people studying me when I don't care to study them; but
when there is anything to be done for them you have got to understand
them first, and to this end it is best to appear simple and not
distract their minds from the contemplation and disclosure of their own
qualities: you can play on their vanity if your own does not stand in
the road. Hartman has a fine mind, but in his innocent rural way he
took for granted that I had stood still since we were together at
college. So I played to his lead, and pretended, for instance, to know
nothing about poetry; whereas, as you must have noticed, I am pretty
well read, and my memory is remarkably copious and accurate. (Clarice
did indeed say that I sometimes got the lines wrong; but what she meant
was that the passages I quoted in my well-meant efforts to console her
were of too gay a character for her melancholy mood.)
In this way I secured Jim's regard and confidence, which I am using
for his good: if I had put myself forward, and been anxious to impress
him with my importance, he might have looked on me with the cynical
indifference which is all the feeling he can afford to most people, and
I should never have got him out of the woods. So when I was taking him
to Newport, I said what it was desirable to say, and omitted what was
not: how else should a rational man talk? And that first night there, I
took the tone that he required, as a host is bound to do: sacred are
the duties of christian hospitality. Poor Jim is as good as a play; he
takes Life in such dead earnest, and expects his friends to be rampant
idealists too: so I mounted the high horse for once to gratify him. He
will never forget that, nor cease to respect me accordingly: he thinks
I was serious then, and joking at all other times. You and I of course
understand that Life is but a series of appearances; and if I seem to
contradict myself, to say one thing on one page and its opposite on the
next, I am only reporting the various phases assumed by facts without
and moods within. 'The shield is gold.' 'No, it is silver.' Well, shall
we fight about that? Probably it is both. A thing may be black in one
light, and white in another, for what I know. Of all fools the positive
philosophers seem to me the worst; and the most abject kind of conceit
is that of alleged consistency. Why will you insist on a definiteness
which has so little place in nature? The world is a chameleon, and you
and I are smaller copies of it.
I must try to explain all this to Hartman, and make him see that it
is time he took on another color. He has been down in the depths all
this while; now let him get up on the heights. But he would never do it
of himself, nor without the management of a more practical mind. If I
took things as he does, I should be tempted to say, You monumental
idiot, to fling a rash word at a girl as proud as Lucifer, and then to
take her hasty repartee as a final verdict from doomsday book! Happily
there is one person around with sense enough to see that both these
moon-struck babes are forgivable, and therefore capable of such bliss
as may be found in a world of which the best to be said is that we are
in very small measure responsible for it. They were both foolish, of
course; but what proportion does their joint offence bear to their
punishmentand ours? That is the Order of Thingsthis blessed and
[Footnote 2: The unwary reader may possibly need to be reminded that
R. T. is not to be taken too seriously, especially in this his Apology
XXI. JANE TO THE RESCUE.
It may seem unfeeling in me to indulge in dissertations like the
above at so critical a juncture: but they serve to fill the time while
I am waiting for marching orders. I have written to Jim, and that is
all I can do at present. Jane thinks differently: she ought to have
been a man, she is so fond of action. She got me in a corner to-day.
What have you done?
Done? what should I do?
Use a man's tools, that you are so fond of; plain speech, if no
more. Have you spoken to Clarice yet?
No: why should I speak to her? She spoke to Mabel, not to me.
Robert, are you ever sincere in anything? When I profess
affection for people, I am ready to serve them at their need.
So am I, and Clarice knows it. She is perfectly aware that I am
ready to do this thing, or any other thing within my power, for her at
any time. It is easy for her to say what she wants.
Brother, you are so stupid! Don't you know that it is
excessively difficult for her to allude, however remotely, to a matter
like this? Say what she wants, she would die first. Do you desire to
wait for that? She is not like the rest of us; and a woman is not like
a man. You could talk for a week, and turn your whole mind
inside out, with no fatigueexcept to your audience; but the faintest
reference to what I need not name would cost her a painful effort. I
told you it was a great thing for her to say what she did to Mabel.
That ought to have been enough for you.
How could it be enough? Do try to talk sense now, Jane. How can I
go off blindly on a fool's errandin her interest, but without
commission or instructions?
Ask her for them, then. It is ungenerous to put on her the burden
of opening the subject. She is doubtless waiting for you to speak, and
wondering at your slackness.
Hanged if I can understand that. How many times have you lectured
me about showing her proper respect, and restraining my native
coarseness, and what not; and now you want me to go to her like a
trooper or a grand inquisitor, and ask about the state of her feelings
toward Hartman. I can't do it, Jane. When you get into such a scrape, I
might try it, if you insistedthough it would go against me, as Sir
Lancelot said: then you could see how you liked it. Clarice wouldn't
like it at all; and she has deserved better things of me than that.
She has deserved better things of you than she is getting. I
thought you loved her as I do. So that was only one of your pretences?
I love her too well to harass her; to intrude upon her solitude
when she does not want me; to pry into her affairs without her consent,
and destroy what chance there is that she may call me when she is
She will never be ready, unless we, that are her first friends,
come to her aid against her own pride and shyness. You think me
intrusivea meddlesome old maid, prying into what does not concern me:
but, brother, she and Mr. Hartman were made for one another. They were
deeply interested, both of themI could see it plainly: it would have
been settled in a few days more, if that wretched misunderstanding had
not occurred. He may get over it; he is a man, though he did not
seem to be that kind. But sheshe is of the deep, and silent, and
constant type: she will nurse this hurt till it kills her. I love her,
Robert; she has nobody but us. She never knew a thing like this before;
it is her first experience. Other men to her were playthings, or bores;
she had no friend among them but you. You cannot fancy how hard it is
for her; harder far than for a younger girl. She is so helpless, for
all her prideher pride makes her more helpless to speak or act. If I
could only help her, now
And here, to my amazement, my stately sister broke down in a passion
of tears and sobs: I never knew her do such a thing before. I patted,
and petted, and soothed her, and did all that a man of humanity and
experience does in such cases. I shall apply for the title, Consoler of
Feminine Woes, since the business of the office comes to me. It will be
Mabel next, I suppose, and then this thing must stop, unless we begin
the round afresh. Clarice may naturally want to be comforted once or
twice more; but I hope soon to remove all further occasion for that.
Jane and I have not been like this since we were children.
There, there. Sister dear, I would knock any man down, and insult
any woman, who said of you what you just said of yourself. You are not
an old maid, and you might be a society leader if you cared for it:
plenty of women are who have more years and less looks and manners and
brains than you. You are as far as possible from a meddler: your fault
is that you keep too much to yourself. I am sure Clarice would be
touched and flattered by your interest in her: I should, if you took a
quarter as much in me. Do you know, I never saw you look so well, or do
yourself such credittill nowas night before last. My heart said
amen to every word you uttered, even when you were girding at me; for
you thought I deserved it, and in part I did. I will have no more
secrets from youexcept such as I have no right to impart. If you
will, we shall be friends now, and work together in this thing. You
always seemed to despise me, Jane; and it is tedious when the affection
is all on one side.
Yes: you used to have enough of that with Clarice.
She was feeling better now. As I may have said on some previous
occasion, a little judicious management will do great things for a
woman. I must keep this up if I can, and make appropriate responses to
all her remarks. I have been too hard on Jane in the past. After all,
the tie between brother and sister is a peculiar onefew more so; and,
except for the Princess, who is such only by adoption, each of us is
all the other has got in that line. Perhaps I ought to have thought of
Clarice appreciates my virtues better now, as I hope you will. But
I was going to tell you: I am of one mind and heart with you about
this, dear. I have always meant to see Hartman this fall, of course;
but it was better that the suggestion should come from Mabel, you see.
You do tangle things up so unnecessarily, Robert. Mabel would have
approved of anything you proposed, as a matter of course.
Well, my dear, I have no desire to be a dictator in the house, like
some men. You all have interests and rights to be respected, and I want
you to have your say.
We would have it more cheerfully if you would take yoursout
plainly, in a man's way, you know. Have you written Mr. Hartman?
Certainly: that same night, and asked if he wanted me next week.
That was simple enough. I'm not afraid of him.
I can't see why you should be so afraid of Clarice. You've known
her all her life, and she is only ten years younger than you. If she
were but seventeen, now, and a new acquaintance, I might understand it.
You must have it out with her, Robert. If I adopt her style,
perhaps you will do as I wish. Remember, we are to work together in
this thing, and you are of one mind and heart with me about it; so you
must let me direct you. Mind, now!
I stared: it was an imitation, gentle and subdued indeed, of the
Princess as she was in her days of glorynot so long ago,
alas!before the rains descended and the winds blew and the storm beat
upon her house of life: the tones were there, and a hint of the arch
looks. Where did Jane learn these tricks? And what has come over her? A
maiden, even of her years, is hardly warmed to life by a few
compliments and caresses from her own mother's son. Can Hartman have
waked her up too? She laughed in my face.
If our plot succeeds, you may be thrown on my society again; and as
you are going to be so affectionate, I must fill Clarice's place as
well as I can. Meantime, you had better let me guide you; indeed you
That may be; only don't drive me too hard, please. I'm not what I
once was: all these emotions are too many for me. Where do you propose
to guide me to?
To Clarice. Will you come now?
Scarcely: a nice reception we should get. This is not a case where
two are better far than one. And then it would be three presently,
which never answerswhen she is one of them. I would rather go alone,
and much rather not at all. Guide me somewhere else, sweet sister: or
you can go yourself, if you like. But I don't see why she should stand
on ceremony with me.
Not with you, but with her own hearta more recent acquaintance,
and much more formidable.
But that is there all the same, whether I go to her or she comes to
Yes, butcan't you see? She dislikes to take the initiative.
So do I. According to you, she has taken it already.
Yes, and once is enough. You are so slow, Robert: you require so
I know. But don't despair: Hartman says you have improved me a
heap, between you. You see, the cases are different. None of you are
the least afraid of meI should be sorry if you were. But I am afraid
of you: you are such superior beings. You know you are: you look on my
masculine dulness with contempt; and so do I. It is my deep and loyal
respect for a womanwhich you said I would never learn. Jane, you hurt
me then; you have hurt me often. I would have been fonder of
youshowed it more, I mean; but affection, repulsed, shrank into the
shell of indifference. Be kind, now, and I will do anything you say.
You see, I am getting on.
I wish you would get on toward the business in hand. A nice time
Clarice must have had with you. I can see now why she had to keep so
tight a rein on you, and to rule you by fear. Will you speak to her, or
will you not?
Of course I will, before I go. We can't hear from Jim for several
days yet. She will probably come to me before that. If not, I'll have
to go to her. Jane, there are some things that you don't understand,
and I can't explain.
Queer things they must be, then. I wonder that a man should be such
If you were a man, you wouldn't. I don't care to display my courage
at home, sister. You are harder than Clarice. You want me to be all
around the circle at once, and whatever I do, you find fault. My dear,
ever since you spoke, I have been hanging about, to give her a chance
to say what she wants. How can I stride up to her and shout, 'Here,
tell me what to say to your runaway lover'? She knows all about it, if
you don't. I'll wait to-morrow after breakfast; tell her so, if you
will. She has only to look at me, and I'll ask her, if she wishes. Then
you can scold me to your heart's content for making a mess of it, and
being rough and brutal and stupid. Jane, I am doing the best I can. If
I could put myself absolutely into your hands, and be but a voice and
body to your mind, it might be an improvement; but unhappily that is
not feasible at present. Will what I propose answer?
Perhaps: I will see. I may have been unjust to you, Robert: you are
different from most men, and not easy to understand: you like to let
part of you pass for the whole. Whether you are so easy to rule as you
pretend to be, I am not sure yet. Well, there is time to find out. If
you live by your professions, well and good. Kiss me, dear;
Since Jane has panned out in this unexpected way, I wish I could
tell her the Secret: she might give me some points. But that is
impossibleunthinkable, as they say at Concord. Clarice would never
forgive me: that would be bad, but not the worst. It would be disloyal
to herdistinctly so. That I've never been yet, and I'm too old to
begin now. There may be cases in which the end justifies the means, but
this is not one of them. No: I must dree this weird (if that is the
expression), and hoe this row, all by myself. If I had been bred in the
east, I should be tempted to say it was a contumelious responsibility.
The next time you want to get into difficulties with a lady, James
Hartman, you must do it on some other premises than mine.
XXII. AN ORDEAL.
Next morning I was nosing about in the library, pretending to be
looking for a book, when Clarice came to me and said, I don't think
what you want is here. Leave business this afternoon, and take me to
If she were to say, Leave business this year, and take me to
Europe, or to Madagascar, I should do it: she would have to arrange
the matter with Mabel, but that she could do without difficulty, I have
not the least doubt. It would be a loss to Water Street, and my
departure would be felt in business circles generally; but they would
have to stand it as they might. In this case, however, no heavy
sacrifice was involved: for a few hours, or days, or weeks, Pipeline,
as Mabel says, can conduct the old stand well enough. What it needs is
the feeling that a master mind presides over its destinies, though from
such a distance as Newport or the Wayback woods.
We agreed on an hourthat is, she told me to be at the door at
twoand I went down town, feeling relieved. It is much better for
Clarice to take the responsibility of opening communications, and I
wish she would conduct the whole interview, like a major-general with
his aid-de-camp or a master plumber sending out his apprentices to mend
the pipesleaving me only to take notes of instructions. But that is
too much to expect. It is a delicate task before me, and my talents for
such (according to the ladies), are not so eminent that I should be
anxious to overwork them. I can manage a man, and some women perhaps;
but to catechize and cross-examine her on a subject as to which pride,
and honor, and modesty lock a girl's lipsI don't see how I can do it,
even with her consent. I would rather smoke my pipe through a powder
mill than hurt you, my poor Princess: my clumsy fingers were never made
to play about your heartstrings.
I dropped in at Trinity on my way, and put up a prayer; it was that
she might make it easy for herself, and for me, though that is a minor
matterkeep the game in her own hands, and tell enough to serve her
ambassador's need, without his questioning.
She did not keep me waiting: she never had that vice. The change in
her is not for casual eyes to see. Outwardly, I have fallen off more
than she has; in fact, I have lost three pounds in these last two
months. Many a hat was raised, many an envious glance turned toward me,
as we spun up the avenue. The fellows at the club, and elsewhere, used
to pester me to introduce them, and I gratified them for a while, till
she told me she could not have all my acquaintances coming to call, and
made Mabel say I must leave off bringing men home to dinner. She never
was a coquette; but what is a girl so endowed to do? They would force
themselves on her, by dozens, by scores, by hundreds: they overflowed
the house and took up all her time; they crowded her life, until she
could stand it no longer and stopped it. That is why we live so quietly
of late: it is a great improvement. Now, they gaze on her from afar:
yet she never had difficulty with any of themtill August, alas. That
was my fault, for bringing in a wild man from the woods, who could not
be counted on or ruled like the rest, but would flop around in his
uncircumcised way and break things. I should never forgive myself for
that, if I did not hope to get matters rightand more so than they
ever were, for her.
For a time we drove on silently. Then of a sudden, without looking
at me, she said very quietly, Jane told me you wanted to see me,
O Lord, is this to be the shape of it after all? Well, what must be
must, and I will do my stint as a man may. Did she say nothing else?
That you were afraid to come to me. Have I been so harsh with you,
or so terrible of late? Her tone was half arch, half reproachful.
No, no; far from it. But you know how it is, Clarice. Your trouble
is ours, and I am a poor surgeon. How can I put a knife into the wound?
I wish it were mine, and mine only.
I have brought trouble on you all, brother. I ought to have gone
Never; do you think Mabel and Jane would allow that, any more than
I? We would all rather break our hearts together, if that need be, than
have you among strangers now: it would be worse for us, no less than
for you. When you are happy you may leave us; not till then.
I know. You love me, here, and bear with me, and for methough I
don't deserve it.
Don't say thatanything but that. My Princess deserves
everythingand by Jove, she shall have it. If I knew exactly what she
All this time we had to be smiling and bowing right and left. You
can't make pretty speeches under such circumstances, or do delicate
work. I had turned from the main drive, but it was only a little
Let us get out of this, Robert. There are too many people: we can't
We went by streets which you must know, if you are accustomed to
have this kind of business on hand. I trust you are not: a little of it
goes a long way. At last we got into a quieter, semi-rural region. Find
it out for yourself, if you can: I am not going to tell you the exact
spots made sacred by these confidences. Meantime I had been thinking
what to say, and it came out with a rush. It is a little easier when
you put the third person for the secondyes, that is a good idea.
If I were sure just what she wanted, she should have that thing, if
there is any power in the human will. But I am clumsy, and
thick-headed, and make blundersyou have often said so, Clarice, and
so has Jane, and even Mabel. She I speak of is of finer clay than
others. Her nature has its own laws, which I can understand only very
imperfectly. Yes, you know it is so: you have told me that too. O, she
need not mind me, nor consider me in the least. I am afraid only of
offending or hurting her: I only want to help and serve her, if I can.
If she could look on me just as a tool to be used, an instrument in
case she desired to produce certain soundsI wish I were more capable
of harmonyas a medium possibly. But she will not speakperhaps she
cannot. And how can I question her, as if from vulgar curiosity? What
right have I?
Her eyes were wet now, under her veil: I could see it, though nobody
else could; and we were on a country road.
Robert, you are the best and dearest man in the world.
Hardly that. But I am proud of your approval, and will try to earn
it. I have not earned it yet, you know.
Brother, you rate me too high, andand her you speak of. What if
she had what she wanted within reach, and rudely thrust it away?
But she did not do that, dear: she could not. I am sure it is there
yet, if she would deign to take it.
If that were certain, she would have others than herself to think
of. So long as it was or might be merely herself, what could she do?
I began to see light now. There are others; and though they
are of less consequence, her generous heart would not let them suffer.
Suppose to one of them this meant life or death, hope or despair, use
or uselessness. Suppose one not like most of us, but simple, sincere,
and noble, unversed in the world's ways and little loving them, with a
great heart early clouded and a strong mind warped thereby, had begun
to pin his faith to her I speak of, and in her eyes to see
reconciliation to earth and heaven; and then for one rash word, one
casual misconception such as comes between any of us, had fancied the
cup of promise snatched away, and in his misjudging innocence gone back
to his cave of gloom, thinking himself doomed to a state worse than
that from which he had been nearly rescued. Would she let him stay
I suppose she ought notif she could help it. It is well he has
better friends than she has proved. But I cannot talk of this: indeed I
cannot. It may be weak and foolish, but I cannot. You must do what you
have to do in your own way.No, I will not be such a coward, and so
basely ungrateful. O, I understand your position, Robert. You will have
to question me: I am sorry, but it is the only way. Ask what you
absolutely need to know for your own guidanceI know you will ask no
moreand I will try to answer.
I groaned; and then I could have choked myself. Must my despicable
selfishness add to her burdens? What are my feelings, my petty
reluctance, to her interests? Have I not set myself aside? Are you not
man enough, Robert T., to put a few civil queries to a lady, when she
has just given you express permission, and even directed you to do so?
The less you sneer at cads after this, the better.I was so long
making up my mind to it that the poor girl had to speak again.
I am very sorry, brother. It is too bad to burden you so. If I
could save you the trouble, I would, indeed. O, I appreciate your
motives, and your delicacy, and all your efforts to shield and spare
menever fancy that I did not, I have made more trouble than I am
worth. If I could only die, and end it all!
This, as you may imagine, put a speedy end to my shilly-shallying.
That would end it all, with a vengeance. Some other people of my
acquaintance would want to die then tooor before. Dearest Clarice,
don't talk so. Two things I can't bearyour lowering yourself like
this, and your exalting me. I am a hound: if I were half a man, I'd
have made it easier for you. It is only that I distrust my own ability,
my own penetration, my own judgment. I ought not to need any more
instructionsbut this business is so important, and I'm afraid of
making a mess of it.
Dear Robert, you lay too much stress on the opinion I pretended to
have of you, in days when I only half knew you and thought far too much
of myself and too little of others. I know better now. You have the
insight of sympathy: your heart will help your head. You will not need
to ask me many questions; you can read between the lines.
I will try. You need not answer in words when you don't want to:
just move your head a little, and let me see your eyes. You see, in
view of my stupidity, the less risks we take the better: I must have
some things down in black and white. Well then: you said something to
Mabel about my health, and the fall fishing?
Yes. You do need a change; I have had you on my conscience all this
while. It is all my doing; and you love me so. Her hand stole into
That is certainly so. Do you know where I would go if left to
myselfif these last months were blotted from the calendar?
Of course. Is it necessary to go through all these formalities?
I think so: forgive me, dear. I must not trust my intuitions too
far: they are not as fine as yours.You know what construction might
be put on my going there now?Not by the outside world; it has nothing
to do with this business, happily. But by any of us; and more
especially byahby him?
Her face was set now, her lips closed tight; but she nodded.
You have no word to send, I suppose?No, of course not: how could
you? Then if he asks, or if it is necessary to tell him about you, as
of course it will be, I am to say merely what I think, so that you are
nowise responsible?Yes, I see. But the main thing to do there is to
make observations, and bring my report to you?Certainly: he must put
himself on record before you do, if this is to go on. If? Of
course it will: it shall be all right, my dear child. Then it follows
that I can't bring him back with me?Why no: he must bide his time,
and fulfil his penance. That is all, I believe: the examinationor the
operation, I had nearly saidis over, and you have borne it well.
Thank you, Princess; and forgive me for troubling you. You won't hate
me, will you, for having to be so horrid, and making you go through all
this?Thank you again. Shall we turn homeward now?Yes, we'll be
there by dark.
She sat very still, and paler than I like to see her. As for me,
great beads of perspiration were on my forehead, though it was a cool
day. I drove as fast now as the law allows. At last she spoke, and her
voice trembled. Brother, how shockingly we have all misjudged you!
No, dear: you did not misjudge me at all. But you have been
educating me, and it is fit the best there is in me should come to the
front for your serviceif it never put its head up before, nor should
again. Wait till I come back: I've done nothing yet.
You have done everything. The rest will be easy for you, compared
By Jove, you are right there: I'm glad we're through this part of
it.One thing more; about Jane. She loves you as I do; she has been
berating me for indifference and slackness in the cause. O, she is a
trump: she was crying bitterly last night because she could do nothing
to help you, and because I was too lazy and cowardly to move; she has
egged me on to this. May I tell her what we have agreed on?
O yes, tell her anything you like, and Mabel too. I have made you
all such a poor return: any other woman in my place would have trusted
you long ago, and been the better for it. But I am so strangely made,
Robert: my lips are like a seal to my heart. Excuse me at dinner, won't
you? And promise me one thingthat always, after this, you will come
to me at once, without scruple, when you want me, on my account or on
your own. As if I could be reluctant to talk with you! Tell me when you
hear from him, and when you are going, andanything else. You won't
mind my silence, or wait for me to speak? And you must never be afraid
of me again.
XXIII. PLAN OF CAMPAIGN.
The Princess was seen no more that night, and I got away till dinner
time. Then I said that she was not coming down, and anxious looks were
exchanged, and dark ones cast on me. In return I winked at Jane, and
frowned severely on Herbert, who intercepted the signal and began to
grin. Mabel, who had seen it too, reproved me for setting the boy a bad
example; and thus a diversion was effected. While she was seeing after
the children, my sister carried me off to the library: I made her kiss
me before I would tell her anything.
Jane, you may scold me as much as you like after this, and I will
never say a cross word to you again. Hartman was right: he said you had
more penetration than any of us, and all sorts of virtues. O, you
needn't mind about blushing; we are alone. It's true, and I shall hold
you in honor accordingly.
Brother, I hope you have not spoiled your work with careless
handling. I always distrust you when you begin your fine speeches.
That was in the past, which we have put behind us: they come now
from the abundance of the heart. We are one, you know, and I am to tell
you everything. Jane, I've done exactly as you told me, and given you
all credit. She knows it was your move; and it's all right.
Then you found that your imagination had created, or greatly
magnified, the difficulties, and that your fears were unnecessary?
Far from it. It was a terrible job for both of us: the mere
recollection of it is harrowing. Clarice is laid up, and only my
superior physical strength and fortitude, with an hour's recuperation,
enabled me to face you all at table.
Then you must have been rough with her. Brother, how could you?
What did I tell you? You drive me, with all your sharp-pointed
feminine weapons, to a painful task, and then you blame me because you
fancy I've not discharged it as neatly as the angel Gabriel might. She
thinks I did, however. Was I rough with you last night? Is it my habit
to go around trampling on the finer feelings of our nature? In the hour
of woe, when your heartstrings are torn asunder, you will find me a
first-class comforter. I thought you knew that already.
I doubt if Clarice knows it, if you took this tone with her. Can
you never be serious, Robert?
Good heavens, Jane, what would you have? Have I not been serious
through two weary months, and eminently so all this afternoon? I had to
be. Let the overstrung bow be relaxed a little now. You remember the
Prime Minister, who after an exciting debate used to go home and play
with his children?
As exciting debates are usually conducted in the small hours, it
was cruel to disturb their infant slumbers. If you want to do that here
you will have to get Mabel's consent; it is out of my province. Best
play with your children before they go to bed.
Children of a larger growth will serve. Bear with me, sister. My
faculties have been sorely tasked: I am spent and weary
And you must have somebody to play with. Was that why you were so
fond of Clarice, because she sometimes humored you? She could hardly
serve your turn now: the poor child is in no jesting mood. Nor am I;
nor ought you to be.
Sister, you wrong me. It is my warmth of heart, my fraternal
affection, which you have so oft-repulsed. Mine is a poet's nature. You
stare, but it is so: it is only lately that I discovered the fact
myself. Like the elder Bulwer, I pine for appreciation, for sympathy
You will continue to pine if you go on like this. I never saw such
a man for beating about the bush and talking nonsense. What have you
accomplished?I don't want to pry into her secrets, or ask her to
share her confidences, but
Now, Jane, if you have any heart left, I will bring the tear of
contrition to your eye. I asked and obtained her permission to tell you
all I know, and all we have just arranged.
Don't be so long about it, then. What are the arrangements?
So I imparted them with but little modification or reservation; and
Mabel coming in presently, I went over the main outlines again. It is
not every man who could thus communicate state secrets to his family;
but mine never talk about home affairs to outsiders. One point is, they
do not attend the Sewing Society: if they did, I should feel less safe.
They approved in the main.
It hardly seems fair to Mr. Hartman, said Jane; but no doubt it's
as much as you can expect from her.
I should say it was: why, she is acting nobly. If it were any other
man, he should, and would, have all the making up to do, instead of
putting it on us. You see, youthat is, wedon't exactly know what
the quarrel was. He must have been in the wrong, of course.
O yes, because you are a man. Now suppose I, being a woman, say,
'She must have been in the wrong, of course.'
My dears, said Mabel, let us compromise. They are both human
beings; probably they were both in the wrong.
Happy thought, said I. We'll fix it that way: then they have only
to kiss and be friends. But still, the man is generally expected to
open the ball.
That is, said Jane, if all does not go smoothly from the start,
which can hardly be expected, poor Mr. Hartman is to be sacrificed.
I would not put it just that way; though he, or any man, ought to
be glad to be sacrificed for Clarice. She is naturally first with me,
as I should suppose she would be with youexcept that, as you
pertinently observe, you also are a woman. But never fear, Jane; I'll
attend to Hartman's case too. I hope to act as attorney for both
plaintiff and defendant, and speedily to reconcile their conflicting
interests. It is true I am on a prospecting tour: I have no retainer
from him yet. But I shall soon pocket that, and master his side of the
suit. O, I'll take him up tenderly, and handle with care.
Of course you will, Robert, said Mabel. If there is any quality
for which you are distinguished, it is the even-tempered justice of
your mind. You can argue on both sides of a case with equal fluency and
force, and that quite independent of your personal predilections.
Just so. But I fear Jane has not the same confidence in my fairness
and ability with you, my dear. You will have to talk to her privately,
and bring her to a proper frame of mind. She is my only and much loved
sister, and I can't go till she has faith in me.
It is you who are not in a proper frame of mind as to Mr. Hartman's
side of this affair, brother. A man has no sympathy, no charity, for
another man. You can be all tenderness, and consideration, and faith,
and loyalty, to a womanwhen she has Clarice's looks; but when it is
only an old friend who trusts you, you will laugh, and sneer, and amuse
yourself at his expense, and either delude him or hopelessly estrange
Did you ever hear the like? Yesterday, and the day before, she
insisted on my going; and now, when I am all on fire to go, she throws
cold water on my zeal, and
Here my wife interrupted me. Jane, it is you who show undue levity.
You forget that Clarice is my cousin; that is why Robert is so fond of
her, and espouses her cause so warmly. I think it is very good of him,
and very generous.
Now you have hit it: Jane, hide your diminished head. Mabel, if
Hartman can prove affinity with you, I will take just as much pains for
him as for Clarice. But, sister, you and I must be one. I tell you what
I will do: I will stay at home all next Sunday, and let you preach to
me: then, if you can't fill me to the nozzle with your views, whose
fault will it be? Or you might go along, as you wanted to in May. Then
you could personally superintend the campaign.
My only hope is that you will sober down before you get there. In
this mood you could do no good at all.
That's where you are mistaken. Jim expects me to brighten him up:
he is not wholly without a sense of humor. But if you think I am
going there for amusement, you are out again. I shall take Young's
Night Thoughts, and Hervey's Meditations among the Tombs, and a volume
or two of sermons, to read on the way, and get my mind attuned to the
atmosphere of the place. My jokes there will be solemn and elaborate
offerings, prompted solely by a humane sense of necessity. But, Jane,
you are in a minority of one. Clarice has confidence in me: you ask
her. And so has Mabel: haven't you, my love?
Yes, certainly. Why, Jane, Robert is the only person who can
possibly manage this affair, since you and I can't well go, and Clarice
does not like to speak out herself. We could not commit it to a
stranger, you know. Robert knew Mr. Hartman before any of us did; they
were old friends at college. He is the natural link between them, you
might say. If he will only remember not to laugh in the wrong places,
as he did that time we took him to church, when the minister thumped
his sermon off the pulpit, and not to tell the wrong stories, as he so
often does at table, and not to yawn when Mr. Hartman explains how
badly he has been feeling since he left us, he will do very well. You
can't expect him to take the same interest in Mr. Hartman as in
Clarice: would he care for us as he does, if we were men? Jane, he is
pointed out by Providence as the means of reconciling them. You must
see that he is to be trusted entirely. Under his supervision it will
all come right: I said so from the beginning.
After this, there seemed no need of further remarks. Mabel withdrew
early, and I went out to smoke. When I came back, I found Jane again in
Brother, tell me that you were only playing with me, and that you
are really in earnest about this matter, and will do your best to set
My dear sister, I will tell you anything you like, if you will only
believe me; what is the use, if you won't? Do you suppose I care less
for Clarice's happiness than you door for Jim's either? I wish you
would talk to her, and let her clarify your ideas. Faith, as you may
have heard in church, is a saving grace, and essential to peace of
mind. Within a month or two you will see whether I fail my friends or
not, and then perhaps you will learn to trust me. Jane, I believe in
you now, even if you don't believe in me; I would do almost anything to
please you. You want me to change my nature: I would do even that, but
it is so expensive, and then the new one might not fit as well as what
I have now. You are very exacting, but you can't quarrel with me,
because I will be no party to such proceedings.
Brother, it all rests with you. If you will bring them together, I
will never doubt you again.
No, my dear, I'll not hold you to that. You shall doubt me as often
as you like; but I will keep my promises all the same.
You see, I am trying new tactics with Jane now. Magnanimity, patient
forgiveness of injuries, disinterested and persistent affection, will
in time soften the most obdurate. After Clarice goes off, there will be
so few of us left that I can't afford to be on any but the best terms
with such as remain. And then my sister, when she is willing to do
herselfand mejustice, has some quite creditable traits.
XXIV. TO WAYBACK AGAIN.
I pass succeeding interviews, of which there were several. Poor
Clarice had little to say, but was quite willing to listen to any
suggestions of mine. What Jane unkindly calls beating about the bush is
necessary with a person of her sensitive organization. She seems to
feel that she has fallen from her old estate, and is not yet
established in a new one. I am satisfied that she never would have made
those admissions, slight as they are, and allowed me to go on this
secret embassy, if she had only herself to consider. For the first time
duty to others has come into collision with her pride, and shaken the
citadel of her reserve. Always hitherto she has had things and people
come to her; the exercise has been in keeping them off. To want, to
seek, to inviteto lift a finger, unless in the way of small and
graceful social managementthis is new to her, and she takes it hard.
The thing I have to do beyond all others is to preserve her dignity:
she knows I can be trusted for that, though Jane does not. I can't
blame Jane: she has never seen me conduct an affair like this, nor has
any one else, for the simple reason that I never had it to do till now.
I am only her brother: she has had experience of all my failings, and
is imperfectly acquainted with my resources. Mabel is more
satisfactory. She has not figured as much as some others in this
chronicle; connubial modesty prevents my making her prominent. But she
too possesses some very good traits; especially she has a way of
bringing forward and dwelling upon points which nobody else would think
of mentioning. She used to scold me sometimes, but that was chiefly
when she thought I was not treating Clarice well. She lays great stress
on ties of blood, and considers herself natural guardian and defender
to the Princess, whom she sometimes forgets that I knew for fifteen
years before I ever met her. Clarice talks little with her, and no more
with Jane: I really believe that her only confidenceswhich are not
much, if measured by wordshave been made to me. But they are very
fond of each other all the same. I suppose you can understand that much
affection can exist with little intimacy. The Princess was cast in her
own peculiar mould: I don't want to see many more like her, for they
would be poor imitations. None of us ever attempt to pry into her inner
lifeor to meddle with her outward life either; when she wants
anything of any of us, we are ready, and there it ends. She knows we
love her, and that is enough.
Hartman, now, is much less impenetrable; though I suppose he will
shut himself up like an oyster over the dubious pearl of his precious
secret, and give me no end of trouble to extract his contents. But I
possess a knife which is able to open his shell. He has answered my
letter promptly, and expects me presently. Does he think I am going up
there merely to fish and hunt, and hear him talk a lot of rubbish about
the Vanity of Life? Or does he scent my deeper motivesdiscern the
Ethiopian within the encompassing pale, as they say in Boston? If so,
he is apparently as willing to be operated on as he was before. At any
rate he is a gentleman, and knows how to respect a womanwhen he takes
time to think about it. This is a delicate business for him as well as
for the ladyand there is where the awkwardness comes in: from his
point of view he can't speak out, any more than she. Well, I'll turn
him inside out and manipulate him, if it takes the whole week. Happily
I don't have to consider him as I did Clarice; as Jane intimates, a man
can't expect to have his feelings spared in the process. What are a
man's feelings anyway, compared with a woman's? And what rights has he
as against hers? No: between man and man all that can be needed is
plain speech and manly franknessaided by a little diplomacy. I'll
break you to pieces, James H., if you are fractious; and I've got the
weapons to do it with. It is all for your good, and you'll bless me the
rest of your life. One thing must be understood: I can't have you
coming to my place and practising your wild backwoods manners on my
family, and then sneaking off in the night and evading responsibility.
The next time you come you will have to behave yourself, and to stay
till Somebody has had enough of you.
Mabel thinks I ought to enliven the account of my trip with
descriptions of scenery and the like. But a rock is a rock, and a field
is a field, and who wants to know whether a tree is elm or maple? I am
not a geological survey, and you can get mountains enough from
Craddock. Not that I am insensible to the beauties of Natureas I have
proved before now. How often have I sat upon an eminence, and
admiringly gazed at the departing luminary as he sank slowly to rest,
flooding hill and valley with tints which a painter might strive in
vain to reproduce! I would have to sit there some time to see it all,
for I have noticed that with us the Sunset proper does not begin till
after the Setting of the Sun is finished. And when the distant
mountains assumed a robe of royal purple, and 'the death-smile of the
dying day' lingered pathetically on the horizon, my thoughts would soar
to the Celestial City, and long to rest themselves upon its pavement of
liquid gold. I heard Dr. Chapin say these last words at the first
lecture I ever attended, and it struck my infant intelligence that they
ought to be preserved. And I too might be a poet if I lived in the
country, in constant communion with Nature, abandoning my soul to her
maternal caress. But alas, the stir, the scramble, the mad whirl of
city life, the debasing contact with low material minds, the daily
study of Prices Current, make even of me a muckworm. Still, I might
work up a brook or two after I get to the woods, or expatiate on a
seven-pound trout: my conscience forbids me to weigh them higher, for I
never saw any above three. And yet some men will talk familiarly of
ten-pounders!Or I might analyze the mediæval garments of Hodge and
his old Poll. As for the Wayback houses, they are like any other
habitations, only less of them, and few and far between: Jim's is the
best, and it is nothing to brag of. You can see much better buildings
any day on Broadway. The rural parts, as Lord Bacon observed, are but a
den of savage men. It is to see one of these, and resume the
interrupted process of civilizing him, that I am about starting on this
philanthropic journey, leaving my happy home and the advantages of a
metropolis. If the savage breast is open to ennobling influences, it
shall be soothed and charmed by the music of my discourse. What
loftier, more disinterested task than to reclaim the wanderer, and
guide the penitent in the way wherein he should go? I began this
soul-raising labor some time ago, but an unexpected hitch occurred in
the proceeding: there must be no more such now.
I found Hodge awaiting me at the station: he said that Hartman was
arranging the tackle for to-morrow. The fact is, it is one of Jim's
notions not to keep a horse, but to depend on Hodge for his
communications with the outside world; and another never to see the
railroad when he can help it.
Well, old man, I said as the effete steed began laboriously to get
in motion, how is your valuable health?
Pooty tollable. How's them gells o' yourn as wanted to foller ye up
here las' time?
The ladies are reasonably well, and will be flattered by your
inquiries. How is Mr. Hartman?
Wall, Square, I ain't none too satyfied 'bout him. He don't say
nothin to nobody, but he seems kinder low in his mind, like. Ever sence
you played that durn trick on me and him, he's ben someways diffurnt.
Look here, my aged friend; why should you accuse me of playing durn
tricks on people? To what circumstance do you allude?
I ain't alludin' to nothin; I says it out plain. If ye don't know,
Id'no as I'm called to tell ye. Me an' Hartman was gittin on fust rate,
till ye come and upsot us; we ain't used to bein upsot. So when our
commydations wan't good enough for ye an' yer gells, ye went and got
Hartman down thar in the city, or wharever 'twas. An' Id'no what ye
done to him thar, an' I spose it's no good to ask a feller like ye; but
he ain't ben the same man sence. That's how he is. He uster be
chipper, an' peart, an' clost frens with me; an' now he don't say
nothin. Ye can see fur yerself pooty durn soon.
And the native bestowed on me a malign glance. I trotted him out and
entertained myself with his paces (which were livelier than those of
his nag) for the next three hours. Those who like nature unadorned can
find it here. As a specimen of unbridled rancor Hodge deserves a prize.
I believe I have got to the bottom of his luminous intellectnot that
it was worth the labor, if one had anything else to do. Supposing
himself Jim's most intimate friend, he is jealous of me as a rival in
that capacity; and he has never forgiven the slight put on his
establishment in connection with the girls' proposed visit. I partly
appeased him by suggesting that he supply the shanty with a new
signboard labeled 'Palace Hotel.' Fortunately I don't have to put up
there this time.
Of course he told me a lot of lies. A casual eye could see no change
in the recluse: his head does not hang down on his breast, his locks
are not long and matted, his sighs do not resound through the primeval
forest and scare away the panthers. When you look closely at him, or
have been with him long enough, you can see that he is a little
thinner, a little older, a little less inclined to chaffas well he
may be. Chaffing is a bad habit anyway, and was his worst fault when I
was here before; so far, his woes have improved him. He met me
cordially enough, but with no wild demonstration: he seems no nearer
insanity than last May. He asked after Mabel, Jane, and the children,
but not after Clarice; nor did I mention her, of course. It was not a
very pleasant evening, for each of us was watching the other to see
what he would say. He knows as well as I do that the enemy has troops
in reserve: he is not so unsuspicious as he was. He did not ventilate
his theories to any great extent, nor did I see my way to expound my
great scheme for the Ascertainment of Truth: the ground ought to be in
good condition before you drop seed of such value upon it.
If I thought things would go on like this, I should begin to
grumble; but we shall probably get broken in to each other in a day or
two, and then I can thaw him out. We talked glittering generalities for
a whilethe weather, and the war prospects abroad, and the chances of
getting deer on the other side of a mountain not far awaylike any
commonplace boobies at a county fair. Then he proposed for next morning
a stream I had not seen, some distance off, which would necessitate a
start before daybreak: so I pretended to be tired from the journey, and
we turned in early.
XXV. A WILD BROOK.
Next day we went some miles along a lonely road, and then through
the fields of an abandoned farm. I don't wonder they abandoned it; I am
only sorry for the poor wretch who once cherished the delusive dream of
scratching a living there; when he died or went back to Canada, he
couldn't well be worse off. Nature had but partially reclaimed the
land, and we tramped through weeds and grass up to our middle; one
might as well be wading a fair-sized river. You have no idea of the dew
up here till you have tried it. After a while we struck into the woods,
and such woods you never sawat least I hope so for your sake. Rocks,
big and little, generally of the most unchristian shapesnot
picturesque, but sprawling; underbrush wherever it had a chance to
grow: you could scarcely find a foot of smooth ground. The worst of it
was the way the trees lay around loose. The region had not been burned
over, at least not for many years; but it did seem to have been cursed,
as if Adam's fall had been enacted there. The monarchs of the forest,
for countless generations, had indulged a depraved propensity to fall
also, and across each other in all possible directions. It was such an
abattis as I trust our men, in the war, never had to fight their way
through: here it was bad enough without anybody to shoot at you. I
would go rods out of my way to get around a great bowlder, and come
upon a conglomeration of big trees which had tumbled about till they
made a Virginia fence fifteen feet high. Climbing is all very well in
its way, but I don't like this kind. The queer thing was that they had
not the sense to decay and crumble; the wood was mostly sound enough to
be standing yet. I asked Hartman why they did not haul off all this
timber, and he said there was no place to haul it to, nor any way to
haul it, nor anybody to do the hauling; that fuel was cheap, and the
few inhabitants had plenty nearer home; and besides, that it was most
ornamental and useful where it wasit afforded exercise to the bodily
and spiritual muscles of any anglers from the city who might come that
way like me. You forget the characteristics of this region, which are
its advantages in my view. You can get turnpike roads, and teams, and
sawmills, nearer home. You come up here to be away from the busy
haunts, you know, and to see Nature in her native purity. This stream
that I am taking you to is very seldom visited.
I should think it would be, if this is the way to get to it, I
said, as I fell over a root and barked my nose and knees. What the
deuce did we come to such a blanked place for?
For trout: you said they were what you wanted. The less fishermen,
the more fish. This is the best brook in the county, because it is the
least accessible. I rarely come here myself: I've been saving it up
this year for you.
We went on, our progress marked by frequent delays and accidents;
that it was marked by no profanity was due merely to Jim's reticence
and to my exceptional manners and principles. After what seemed to me
about twenty milesthough he said it was only one and a halfof this
singularly forsaken country, he cried, Look out now, or you'll fall
in. Here is the brook.
It made noise enough to be heard a long way off, but I thought that
was something elsesome kobolds or other abnormal beings, probably,
working at their forges underground. The brook itself was well enough,
but it did not seem to belong there; you could not see it till you were
on the edge of it. I have fished a good many streams, and tramped
through all sorts of woods, but I never saw such a place as that
before, and I never want to again. We had left our rods at home;
high-toned anglers who carry fancy tackle through such regions leave it
along the painful way in small pieces. So we carried merely our
basketswhich were encumbrance enoughand what we had in our pockets.
You can cut a pole anywhere, and it does not want to be a long one
either: take your fly-book if you like, but worms are as good or
better. There was no use of wading: you would be more likely to scare
the fish so than by staying on the bank, where they could never see
you; the difficulty was to see far enough to throw in five feet of
line. It was a superior brookall but the getting to it, and, as I
afterwards found, away from it. If it could be removed from its
loathsome surroundings and put down in a decent country, I would go
there every year. I was going to say that some of the cascades were
forty feet high, till I remembered that trout cannot climb as far as
Don't lose your balance, said Jim; these fish are fierce. They
were, in the wilder parts. They would bite like mad, and then wriggle
and wrench themselves off the hook before you could get them up the
bank. I never saw or heard of such ferocity, except in the celebrated
scaly warrior which chased an equally famous fisherman all over an
Adirondack lake, jumped across his boat several times, and, if I
remember rightly, bit him on the nose. No such adventure fell to my lot
on this occasion, though I thought that some of them, when sufficiently
near my face, grinned at me as they parted company. Yet none of them
were over half a pound, and most of them much less. You can see that
this healthful pastime does not produce its usual demoralizing effect
on me. When we reached a flat piece of ground, the water would become
quiet and the manners of the fish more humane, so that they would come
out like chubs. I stood in one spot under a tree, and took twenty-nine
in succession. My sister, looking over these memoirs, suggests that
they probably were chubs; but Hartman, who was behind me then,
came up and saw them, so I have his evidence. He said it was a spawning
bed, and I ought to put the twenty-nine back. Who would have thought
him capable of such mean jealousy? But he cannot play his tricks on me.
About two P.M. he said we had better start.
Why, we don't want to reach home much before dark, said I.
No danger of it. It's much worse getting out of this than getting
in. You saw how much path there is: we can't go straight, and it's all
chance where we strike the fields. You'd better eat what you've got,
and drink all you can: there's no water between this and the road.
Didn't you take landmarks? Look at the mountains all round.
They are like the mountains about the Dark Tower Childe Roland came
to. I've been here twice before, and missed the way back both times.
Nobody ever got out of here without going a circuit to the right, and
taking his chances. The natives are afraid to come here: they say there
are ghoststhe ghosts of those who got lost of old, and were eaten by
bears. That's how we took so many trout. Look to your belt now, and the
straps of your basket. The last time I was here, the other fellow lost
his fish in the woods, and I made him go back and hunt them up: it was
near night before he found them, and his basket was not much heavier
than yours is now. If we should have to camp out, we can build a fire,
cook some of the fish, and probably avoid freezing: but we'd better try
to get out.
I thought so too, and supposed he was trying to scare me; but the
sun was nearly down when we saw the fields. We went four times too far,
through that beastly region of rocks and dead trees: I think our course
was mainly northwest by south-southeast. At last we got back to the
house, tired and hungry; but Jim's old housekeeper is a pretty good
cook for a native, and there is no better supper than trout that were
in the water the same day.
XXVI. AN INTRACTABLE PATIENT.
When we were settled down to our pipes, I said, Is this the way you
treat the friends of your youth, when they entrust life and limb to
I give 'em the best I've got: sorry if it doesn't suit. There's no
Delmonico's round the corner, here. What's the matter with you, old
O, it's not your housekeeping: that's all right. But why did you
lead me such a dance, and get me lost in that unconscionable doghole of
Did you ever take so many fish out of a brook in one day before?
No, of course you didn't. Well, that's why. I told you it would be a
rough expedition; but I thought you came here to rough it. You didn't
expect balls and a casino, did you? You were here last May.
Last May I saw nothing as bad as this to-day. You haven't been
playing it on me, I hope? Jim, have you got any grudge against me?
What should I have? You're deucedly suspicious and sensitivefar
more so than I was with you. I believe I let you play on me to your
heart's content, and never complaineddid I?
Jim, I don't like this. There's a change in you: Hodge said so, and
I didn't believe him. You're not the same man.
O, we all changefrom year to year, and from day to day. But I
ought never to have left these woods, Bob, and that's the truth. You
should have let me stay here as I was.
I meant it in all kindness, for your good, Jim. Surely you'll do me
the justice to acknowledge that.
No doubt. But your philanthropic experiments are apt to be damnably
expensive to the patient.
You couldn't be much worse than you were, according to your own
account. Any change ought to have been for the better.
That was your assumption. Do I strike you as being changed for the
Well, no, you don'tnot to put too fine a point upon it.
He certainly does not. His whole manner is altered. His former
gentleness has given way to rough harshness. You have seen how he
treats me. It may be his best, as he says; if so, his best is far from
good. His bitterness used to be, if I may say so, in the abstract, and
leveled against abstractions; now it seems to have a painfully concrete
character and aim. His estrangement from the scheme of things, or from
his kind at least, was purely intellectual, leaving his heart no more
affected than the heart usually is by brain-disorders; now it is moral.
He is like a man tormented by remorse, or regrets as savage. But I
think I know a cure for his complaint.
After a pause he said, I don't want to blame you, Bob, and I don't
propose to whine. Nor was it any great matter what came to me, wherever
it might come from. I thought I was done with the world, and had
nothing to fear from it, except being bored and disgusted. There was
only one thing I cared about, and that I supposed I could keep. I was
mistaken. It was my little ewe lamball I had; and they took it from
I thought your live stock was confined to dogs, and a cow, and the
tomcatby the way, I don't see him any more. I didn't know you went
into sheep. Was Tommy the ewe-lamb, and did the dogs play Nathan and
David with him?
This I said, thinking to cheer him up a bit; but he only scowled.
Really, I must remember Mabel's caution about telling the wrong stories
and laughing in the wrong places. Well, Jim, what was 'it' that you
valued so, and who were 'they' who took it away?
The prince of the power of the air; the spirit that walks in
darkness, and rules in the children thereof. The beautiful order of
things generally, and their incurable depravity. All these are one, and
the name doesn't matter. If you urged me to it, I might say that you
had played a very passable David to my Uriah.
WhoI? I'm not a sheep-stealer. What would I want to hurt you for?
Jim, you're joking, and it's a joke of doubtful taste.
Do I look like it? You might find a joke in this: you can
find them everywhere. I can't.
As I told you, you take Life too seriously. If you will be more
specific, and tell me what you have lost, perhaps I can help you to
Some losses are irrecoverable. You'd better let it alone, Bob;
you'd better have let me alone before, as I've said. You mean well
enough; but it's ill meddling with another man's life. You don't know
what responsibility you take, or what effect you may produce. I don't
say that it's the worst of all possible worlds, but it is such that
each of us had best go his own way, and keep clear of the others. When
one forgets that safe rule, and mixes with his kind, only harm seems to
come of it.
If that is so, I might better have staid at home now. Methinks your
written hand is different from your spoken. I mean
O yes, when I write I try to come out of myself and be decently
civil; and so I should to a chance visitor for five minutes, or an hour
maybe. But I can't keep it up all daynot to say for a week. You'll
have to see the facts, and bear with them. I don't want to be rough on
you; but I'm not myselfor not what I was before, or supposed myself
to be. It's all in the plan, no doubt; we are fulfilling the beneficent
intentions of Nature. Perhaps I'm breaking down, and the end is not so
far off as we thought. If so, so much the better: we'll escape that sad
old age you prophesied.
Now I am not lacking in humanity, but it does not afflict me as it
did six months ago to hear Jim go on in this way. I know what is the
matter with him now, and what he is driving at, though I must assume
ignorance for a while yet. The patient must tell his symptoms, and then
the doctor will give him the physic he needs, and proceed to make a new
man of him. That is what I am after now, and the good work must not be
spoiled by undue haste. So I put on a decorous air of sympathy, and
That's all bosh, you know. If anything is the matter with you
physically, I ought to hear about it; but I don't believe there is. As
for the mind, we are all subject to gloomy moods and periods of
depression; but they pass, Jimthey pass. You believed in friendship
before; hadn't you better tell me what you think ails you?
I can't talk about it, except in this roundabout way: what's the
use? Best keep to broad principles: the particular case only
illustrates the general law. I knew it of old: what business had I to
expose myself again? What would you do with a child who will keep on
playing about moving cars, or mill machinery? Let him fall under the
wheels, and rid the earth of an idiot.
O no: pull him out in time, and he'll learn better. Well, Jim, you
might at least tell me what hand I had in this catastrophe.
O, none, none whatever: how should you? You never laid any plots
for me, and used me for your mirth. You never devised an elaborately
concealed ambush, and smoothed it over till I was in the snare. That
would be foreign to your open and candid nature. It is very good fun to
practice on unsuspecting innocence; but you are far above that.
See here, Hartman: you talk as if my house were a den of iniquity.
If so, I was not aware of it till now. Your ill opinion has not thus
far been reciprocated. We entertain none but kind feelings toward you:
we all regretted your hasty departure. You were received as a friend,
and treated as such, I believe. My wife and sister often speak of you:
you could command their fullest sympathy in this, or any trouble, real
That I never doubted: I owe them nothing but pleasant memories, and
thankful good will.You need not stare at me so: I make no charges,
and imply none.Well, if you must have it, I can say that every member
of your family has my absolute respect,down to the twins; do you
understand? If I have any grudge, it is toward you alone.
It was plain that he forced himself to say thisor some of itas
if it were coming perilously near a name he could not utter. He is
having his bad time now, as I had mine last week. It is his own fault:
he has no need to be so censorious. He had to say what he did,
or there would be trouble: some things a man cannot stand, and my best
friend would be my friend no longer, if he ventured to reflect upon the
I'm glad to hear you say so: the difficulty is simple then, and
easily settled. You've got no pistols, of course, and I didn't bring
mine. I'll take your rifle, and you can borrow Hodge's old shotgun: if
it bursts, it won't be much lossonly you mustn't come too near me
with it. There's no danger of interference from the police up here, I
judge? But I say, what shall we do for a surgeon?
There you go again, turning everything into a jest. Can you never
be serious, man?
Try to say something original, James: that is stale. Jane asks me
that about six times a day, and Mabel frequently, andand the others.
I was serious with you just now, or nearly: had I been entirely so, I
might have knocked the top of your head off, and then they would have
blamed me at home. You see, they think you are more of a man than you
show yourself. To be serious all the time is the most serious mistake
one can make in life; and I want no worse example than you. When I go
back to town I shall write the Decline and Fall of an Alleged Seeker
after Truth, who missed it by taking things too seriously. You are too
stiff and narrow and rigid and dogmatic: you take one point of view and
stick to it like grim death. You can't get at Truth in that way.
I suppose you would stand on your head and look at it upside down,
and then turn a back somersault and view it from between your legs.
You express it inelegantly, but you have caught the idea. Truth is
not a half pound package done up in brown paper and permanently
deposited in one corner of the pantry shelf; she is big and various and
active. While you have your head fixed in the iron grip and are staring
at the sign 'Terms Cash,' she is off to the other side of the roomand
you don't make a good picture at all in that constrained attitude. Your
mind has got to be nimble and unbiassed if you want to overtake her,
because she is always changing: that is, she appears in new andto
youunexpected places. I gave you a hint of this in May, and another
last summer, but you seem to have forgotten it. O, I could sit here all
night and explain it to you, if you were in the right frame of mind.
No doubt: happily I am not. What has this to do with your defence
of buffoonery, and apotheosis of clowns and pantomimes?
A pantomime is a very good thing in its way. But that is your
illustration; I would rather say opera bouffe, which is probably the
truest copy of Lifeif we were limited to one kind. But we are not: I
tell you, we must have all sorts. There is tragedy in Life, and
comedythat more especially; a little of the other goes a long way.
But they are always mixednot kept apart, and one alone taken in large
and frequent doses, after your fashion. Shakespeare understood his
business pretty well; though, if I had been he, I would have put in
more of those light and graceful touches which hit us where we live,
and make the whole world kin.
Like the Dromios, or the Carriers in Henry Fourth.
Or the Gravediggers; they are more to your purpose. I want you to
see that Humor is the general solvent and reconciler, the key that
opens most locks: a feeling for it, well developed, would be money in
your pocket. Things don't go to suit you, and you think your powers of
the air are frowning, the universe a vault, and the canopy a funeral
pall: perhaps the powers are only laughing at you, and want you to
smile with them. If you could do that, it would let in light on your
darkness. Any situation, properly viewed, has its amusing elements: if
you ignore them, you fail to understand the whole. What did Heine say
about his irregular Latin nouns? That his knowledge of them, in many a
gloomy hour, supplied much inward consolation and delight. You ought to
read him more, Jim.
And Josh Billings, and Bill Nye. Well, that's enough of your wisdom
for to-night. We must arrange for to-morrow. Are you up to another
Not like to-day's. Let's take in some decent scenery along with the
There is a wild gorge ten miles off, with a brook in it. We can
take Hodge's mare, put up at a house, and work down the ravine. It's
not so bad as the last place, nor so good for fish. I agreed, and we
went to bed.
You may think I am humoring Hartman too much, and letting him shirk
the subject. But I have a weekmore if necessaryand I don't want to
be too hard on him. He'll thaw out by degrees: so long as he doesn't
blame Clarice, it is all right. He has got my idea about the way to
discover Truth now, and it will work in his brain, and soften him. I
know Jim: he never seems to take hold at first, but he comes round in
time. You just wait, and you will see whether I know what I am about.
XXVII. SCENERY IMPROVED.
The next day we drove to a farmhouse which had annexed some rather
decent fields for that region. On one side was tolerably level ground,
on the other a cut between two savage mountains. Down this we made our
way, taking presently the bed of a small brook: woodroad or footpath
never can be there. For a while there was room to walk on dry land:
soon the cliffs closed in upon us, on the right rising sheer, on the
left sloping, but steeper than I would want to climb. At first the
stream was very shallow and narrow, and the fish small and scarce; but
think of the creatures that must come there to drink at night! It was
the only watercourse for miles, Jim said. He pointed out the tracks of
a bear or two, and he thought of a panther; but it is not here I should
choose to huntyour game might have you at a disadvantage. He tried to
make me believe that even now some of these beasts might catch us; but
that was simply to discourage me from going after them, later on: Jim
does not like the chase. My jokes are in better taste: as he is
now, I believe the bears could beat him in manners. Near noon we found
a place to sit down, where we could see a little of the crags, and
proceeded to assimilate our frugal lunch.
Hartman, said I, I should think you would want to live up to your
scenery, as the ladies do to their blue china. Look at this majestic
cliff, whose scarred and aged front, frowning upon these lonesome trout
since the creation, has never been profaned by mortal foot.
Probably not. People very seldom come here, and when they do, they
wouldn't be fools enough to try to climb up. They couldn't do it, and
it wouldn't pay if they could.
Well, it is grand, anyway, and it ought to quicken your soul to
grand thoughts. In such a scene you ought to feel stirring within you
noble sympathies and resolves.
I can't see much grandeur in human nature, Bob, nor any in myself.
If you had thought yourself a gentleman, and suddenly awaked to the
fact that you were a cad and a scoundrel, you would be apt to change
your tune, and drop the high notes.
Oho, I thought, he is coming to the point. While I was meditating
how to utilize this confidence, a small piece of rock fell from above
upon the edge of my toes: if it had been a large piece, and fallen on
my head, you would have missed this moral tale. When I had expressed my
sentiments, he said, I can't insure you against accidents,any more
than you did me. If I had brought you here in spring, you might growl.
The rocks are loose then, and it is dangerous. A man was killed once
just below here, and his body never found till the year after. This
trivial occurrence seemed to turn his thoughts away from the important
topic, and I could not get him back to it.
It was a warm day for the season: once in a while it will be hotter
in these sylvan solitudes than it is in New York. While we were in the
brook we did not mind that, for we could drop every five minutes and
drink. I suppose I consumed some nine gallons of aqua pura
during the morning: you can do this with impunity, because there is no
ice in it, and the bacteria are of the most wholesome kind. But by and
by we finished with the gorge: then we had to go across a sort of
common, up hill. There was no water now, and it was hot. After more
trees, and a steeper ascent, Jim said, You'll get a view now. We came
out on an open place, with steep rocks beneath. Before us lay a
wilderness, with clearings here and there, and a background of
mountains. The forests were in their early November bloom; the country
looked one great flower. In the Alps or the Rockies they can give this
odds, and beat it easily, but it was pretty well for eastern
Americaand an occasion to be improved. Jim, if the crags don't
appeal to you, this might. If you don't feel up to moral grandeur, why
not go in for peace? Let your perturbed spirit catch the note of
harmony from this landscape, and drink in purity from this air.
That is all very fine, and you would make a pretty fair
exhorterwith practice. But natural theology is not in my line. These
hills look nicely now, but it will be different within a month. If I am
to learn peace from a fine day, what from a stormy one? Nature changes
for the worse like us, and with less shame: she has no regrets for the
past, no care to keep up appearances or make a show of consistency.
I fear you have been learning of Nature on her wrong side then.
Half confidences are in bad taste, Jim. What is it you keep hinting at?
It ought to be murder, from the airs you put on about it.
Leave that for to-night, when we have nothing better to attend to.
There is another brook here we ought to try.
We got back reasonably early, much less tired than the day before.
Now, I thought, for some progress. Well, Jim, you wanted to unfold
your tale to-night.
That is, you wanted to ask me about it. You can't do any good, and
I don't find speech a safety-valve: but I suppose it is my duty to
supply you with amusement. So get on, and say what is on your mind.
He takes this tone to conceal his morbid yearning to ease his bosom
of its perilous stuff: I will have his coil unwound pretty soon. If I
were not here, he would probably be whispering her name under the
solemn stars, and shouting it in tragic tones on the lonely
mountain-top; sighing it under the waterfalls, and expecting the trout
to echo it. He talks about fishing the home brook the first rainy day,
but he must have scared all the fish away from there with his
sentiment. I must remember to notice whether 'C. E.' is carved about
the forest. He will pretend to hold back; but I will get it out of
him.I made this pause long enough to let him prepare for the
examination on which depends his admission into the civil service, so
to speakhe will have to be more civil and serviceable than hitherto
if he is to pass it, and follow me back to townand indeed his whole
You say you have lost something valuable. All you had, you said it
was; but that is nonsense. You have health, and more money than you
want, and brains and education, of which you are making very poor use,
and friends, whom you are treating badly. I can't think what you have
lostunless it was your heart, perhaps. This I brought in in the way
of afterthought, as if it had suddenly occurred to me. He started, but
assumed a tone of cynical indifference.
My heart? Would I sit down and howl over that? What use have I for
a heart, any more than for a poodle? And if I had one, what does it
matter what may have become of it?
Strayed or stolen, probably. Such things have happened, especially
when persons of the opposite sex are about. They are apt to attach
themselves to poodles, and vice versa. But if you give me your honor
that a loss of heart is not the cause of these lamentations
Why will you press that point, Bob? What is done can't be undone,
and what is broken can't be mended.
And what is crooked can't be made straight, and what is wanting
can't be supplied; though these things are done every day and every
hour. Why any able-bodied lady of my acquaintance, even those at my own
house, limited as is their experience of the world's devious
waysJane, I mean, or Mabelcould tell you how.
Robert, I am too old for these follies.
James, you are the youngest man I ever knew. Any boy of eighteen
would be apt to know better how to manage such matters, andif you
will pardon the frankness you employ yourselfto exhibit more sense.
He stared a little, and I gave him time to recover. Then he took up
his parable, defensively falling back on the abstract, after his
Of course I have thought of these things, Bob, and the philosophy
of them, if they can be said to have any. They seem much like
everything else. Taking Life in its unfinancial aspects, men do things,
not because the particular things are worth doing, but as an apology
for the unwarranted liberty they take in being alive. 'I am: why am I?'
said the youth at prayer-meeting, and everybody gave it up. As an
effort toward answering his own conundrum, he entered the ministry.
Being alive, we have to make a pretense of doing something, which else
might better remain undone. That is why books are written, and
controversies waged; it explains most of our intellectual and moral
activities. So with society: time must be killed, and we go out for an
evening, though we are dreadfully bored and gain nothing at all. So, I
suppose, with what is called love. The emotional part of our nature,
which is the absurdest part of all, finds or fancies itself unemployed:
a void craves and aches in the breast, and the man, as an old farmer
once expressed it, is 'kinder lovesick for suthin he ain't got and
dunno what.' Almost any material of the other sex, if you allow a
little for taste and temperament, will fill the voidin a way, and for
a time at least. Darby marries Joan and is content, though any other
woman would have served his turn as well. With us of the finer feelings
and higher standards, the only difference is that we rant more and
sophisticate more, as belongs to our wider range. No one ever felt thus
beforebecause the feeling is new to us, and newer each time it comes:
so Festus protests to each successive mistress, perjuring himself in
all sincerity. Nor was any mistress ever so beautiful and divine as
this one, appointed to possess and be adored by us. All that is purely
a mental exercise: carry the illusion a little farther, and it might be
practised as well on a milliner's lay-figure. 'He that loves a coral
cheek or a ruby lip admires' is simply a red hot donkey, Bob. Nature
provides the imbecile desire, Propinquity furnishes an object at
random. Imagination does all the rest.
Just so, Jim. I am glad to find you again capable of such lucid and
exhaustive analysis. But how about what is called falling in
love, when the wild ass has not been craving to have his void filled up
at all, but is suddenly brought down unawares by an Amazonian arrow?
He was no less a donkey that he didn't know it, and it only comes
harder for him. The fool ought to have been better acquainted with his
own interior condition; then he might have eased his descent to his
royal thistle, secured his repast or gone without it, and got back to
his stable with a whole skin. Otherwise it is just the same. The heart
is an idiot baby, Robert: it feeds on pap and thinks it is guzzling
nectar on Olympus.
Exactly, James; exactly. As you say, it is our fertile fancy that
does it all. You and I can conjure up women far more charming than we
ever met on brick or carpet. If we only had the raw material and knew
how to work it up, we could beat these flesh and blood girls off the
field before breakfast. Their merits and attractions are mainly such as
we generously invest them with; and often they take a mean advantage of
I glanced at him sideways, and he flushed and winced. I would not
derogate from women, nor rate myself so high. I meant only that we
imaginewell, monstrous heaps of nonsense. For instance, we often
fancy that they care for us when they don'tand whose fault is that
but ours? There's a deal of rot talked about lords of creationwhen a
man isn't able to be lord of himself. O, women are very well in their
way: I've nothing against them. They are just as good as webetter,
very likely; and wiser, for they don't idealize us as we do them.
Yes, but this idealizing faculty is a very useful one to have. I
see you must have found a Blowsalinda on some of these hill
farms:why, man, you're as red as her father's beets. I congratulate
you, Jim: I do, heartily. As you say, the tender passion is merely a
spark struck by the flint of Opportunity on the steel of Desire; and
for the rest, you can enrich her practical native virtues with the
golden hues of your imagination. She'll suit you just as well as any of
these proud cityfied damselsafter you've sent her a term or two to
boarding school; and she'll be more content to stay up here than the
city girl would.
I paused to view my work, and was satisfied. The shadows of wrath
and disgust were chasing each other over my friend's intelligent
countenance. You see, I get so browbeaten at home that I must avenge
myself on somebody now and then; and of course, it has to be a man. And
then it is all for Jim's good, and he deserves all he is getting. So I
But seeing this is so, Jim, you ought to be content; and what means
all your wild talk of last night and this morning, as if you had
something on your conscience? You haven'tyou wouldn'tNo, you're not
that kind of a man. Well then, what in thunder have you been making all
this fuss about, and pitching into me for?
He suppressed something with a gulp: I think it was not an
expression of gratitude or affection. Confound you, Bob; one never
knows how to take you. In the name of Satan and all the devils, what
are you after now?
I'm not after anything in the name of the gentlemen you mention;
they are no friends of mine, nor objects of my regard. Put a better
name on it, and I'm after getting you to say what you mean, as we
agreedthough it seems to be hard work. Who's playing tricks upon
travellers, and misleading a confiding friend now? I never knew such a
man for beating about the bush, and talking nonsense. (I remembered
this apothegm of Jane's, which sounded well, and fitted in nicely just
He appeared to take himself to pieces, shake them well, and put them
together carefully, before he spoke. Perhaps my language was obscure,
or even enigmatical; but I thought you might understand. Forgive me if
I have been harsh, Bob, not to say uncivil: I have gone through a good
deal, until I hardly know myself. It is base enough for a man to be
thus at the mercy of mere externalsand I used to think I could
practice the Stoic doctrine! But to be human is to be a pitiable, and,
if you like, a despicable creature. I knew a case that may serve in a
way to explainnot to justifymy treatment of you. Say it was years
ago; the man met, in a friend's house, a lady who showed him the utmost
kindness. She was used to all deference, till she and every one
regarded it as her rightas it was. And heit's not pleasant to
tellhe ended by insulting her. I always understood how that fellow
never could bear to mention her name, nor to hear it; how any reminder
of her, or contact with the friends through whom he met her, would
upset him. He would get confused, and some of his self-reproaches would
fall on the wrong heads. I suppose you never knew how that could be,
I never was in exactly such a scrape as that; but I've been near
enough to imagine, and make allowances. Your friend must have thought a
good deal of the lady, in spite of his insulting her. He apologized, of
Certainly, and then took himself off, and kept out of her way ever
after. It was all he could do.
Just how did he insult her? It could hardly have been intentional.
O no. He had had misfortunes, or something of the kind, and she
took a humane interest in himtried to help him, no doubt. Women often
do such things, I believe; it is very creditable to them, but liable to
be dangerous in a case like this, for men are sometimes fools enough to
misinterpret it. Well, this particular beast took it into his wooden
head that she cared for himin a personal way, you know; andyou
wouldn't think a man could be such an infernal ape, would you?he told
He planned beforehand to tell her sothought that was the right
card to play, the proper way of wooing?
You make him worse than he was. It came out unawareshe was
surprised into it. The conversation took a certain turn, and he
misunderstood for a moment. That was all, and it was quite enough.
What did the lady do then?
She was naturally and properly indignant and contemptuous; made him
see his place. He took it, and took his departure.
Did it never enter your friend's wise head that he might have
mismanaged the affair in some other way than the one you mention; for
instance, in going off so speedily?
No other course was possible. Enough of this, Bob: he bore the
penalty of his offence.
Excuse me: it's a curious case, and as a student of human nature I
like to study such, and master all the facts. You say it never occurred
to him that the worst part of his offence might be his levanting in
such haste? that it might have been a more appropriate act of penitence
to wait a day, or five minutes, and give the lady a chance to forgive
How can you make such low suggestions? The man was not a scoundrel
at heart: at least he had always passed for a gentleman before, and
thought himself such.
For one who goes about insulting ladies, he was a singularly modest
youth. So he never thought afterwards that there might have been a
basis of fact for the fancy that made the trouble?
Drop the subject, will you? I brought it in merely as an
illustration, that you might see how a man can be affectedeven his
character changedby the recollection of such a blunder. It would
destroy his self-respect.
Naturally. But self-respect is too good a thing to lose forever,
and this illustration of yours may serve to pass the time till you are
ready to talk of your own affairs, which you say it somehow
illustrates. Did your friend never think that the girl might have led
him on, either seriously or for mere amusement? If she did, that would
be some excuse for him.
I tell you he was not that kind of a blackguard. All sorts of
thoughts will offer themselves to a man in such a state of mind, I
suppose; but he knew her too well to admit any that lowered her. O no,
he saw the fault was all his. At the moment he was bewildered, and
could not realize the sudden change, nor what he had done; so his
apology (if I remember that part of his story) may have been inadequate
in manner, however suitable in words. Apart from that, which could not
be mended afterwards, he did all he possibly could.
I beg to differ, Jim. I think this fellow did much worse than you
seem to realize. Stare as much as you like: if he is still a friend of
yours, I am sorry for him, as for one who has committed a most
outrageous blunder and a nearly unpardonable wrong. What right had he
to think of himself alone? You say the girl had shown goodness of
heart, and a real interest in him? Then suppose the interest went no
further than he thought: what business had he to burden her mind with a
broken friendship and the feeling that she had helped to spoil his
life? Or suppose the interest in him did go further. What do you and he
know about a woman's feelings?
He was pale now, and wild in the eyes. Your last supposition is
impossible. For the otheryou may possibly be right. He never thought
she would careor that he could do anything but what he did.
A nice lot he is then. If I were you, I would write to him
to-morrow and give him a lecturesupposing they are both alive and
free. And if this affair was anyway parallel to your own, of which you
won't talk, I hope it may be a lesson to youa warning, if you need
one. Do you suppose women, of the high-minded and superior sort, have
no hearts, no consciences, no sense of the duties of humanity? They
have a blanked sight more than you and your friend seem to have, I can
tell you. You'd better sleep on this, and wake with some enlarged
ideas. As you decline to tell me anything of yourself, and so I can't
help you there, I'm going to bed.
Next day Jim was haggard and restless, and wanted to potter about
the house. I took him to the largest stream in those parts, when our
rods came in play; and there he did some of the worst fishing I ever
sawworse than I did in May, when I had him on my mind. He has himself
on his mind now, and some one else too. He kept trying to talk, which
is impossible when you are wading. After he had lost a two-pounder and
fallen into a deep hole, I got out on the bank to avoid a place where
the water went down hill too fastsomething between rapids and a
cascade. He came and sat on a log by me, looking disconsolate.
Jim, I said, You're pretty wet. Perhaps you'd better go home and
write that letter.
I don't see my way yet. How can you be so positive?
Because I've heard the story before, and know more about it than
you do. I had a friend who was there at the time too. O, it caused some
talk, I can tell you. Did your hero suppose it would interest nobody
Yes, as I told you. Good heavens! You don't mean
O, no public talk; only the family, and people who knew the facts
and could be trusted. They were all sorry for him too; they thought he
was such an ass. You see a performance like his can't end where it
begins; it has consequences.
You say, 'for him too.' They couldn't be sorry for the ladywhy
You are pigheaded, Jim. What did I tell you last night? This thing
put its mark on her, in a way no man has a right to mark a woman
without her consent. See that trout jump, in the pool down yonder? I
must get him.
Wait a moment. What I told you about could not have been known
unless the lady told it; and she was not of that sort. I don't
Decidedly you don't. I can't waste a day like this on second-hand
gossip, Jim; as you said yesterday, the evening is the time for talk.
You go home and change your clothes and rest your brain. I know my way
here, and I want to fill my basket. I'll get back in time for supper.
Here, you can take these.
And so I sent him off. He is biddable and humble now, and will be
more so presently; in a kind of transition state, he is. He came back
in the afternoon, and sat on the bank while I pulled out the biggest
fish yet. I carried home the best basket we've had; not so many
specimens, but far finer ones, than from that Devil's Brook in the Land
Accursed. In fishing, as in other things, a good deal depends on your
state of mind.
That evening I dressed for dinner, as far as I could, like a
gentleman; not that any visitors were likely to drop in, but I thought
it due to the occasion. Jim, having plenty of leisure at command, and
noting my manoeuvres, did the same. He ate little, but I paid due
attention to the trout and claret, and took my time to it; though we do
not have a lot of courses and ceremony at meals up here, nor are such
necessary. Then we settled ourselves in easy chairs before the great
fireplace, where pine logs were roaring: the nights are cold now, and
this is one comfort of these out-of-the-way places, where fuel is
As soon as he had a chance, he began. There is some mystery about
this, Bob. You wouldn't answer my question this morning.
Now that I have dined, James, I'll answer any questions you
likeprovided they are such as may fitly be put to the father of a
family. So fire away.
First then, how do you come to know so much about this?
Because I was there. O, not eavesdropping, not as a spythat is
out of my line; but purely, and luckily as it proves, by accident. And
I told him all about it. I will not say that his jaw dropped, but his
facial apparatus elongated.
Then Clshe knows that you know?
Not a word. What do you take me for? How could I tell her?
Butthe others know?
Certainly not. You have the most extraordinary notions, Hartman. It
was her secret, not theirs. If you had been in my place, perhaps you
would have written to the papers, or told the story at family prayers.
Can't you see that it was impossible for me to let her know till I had
had it out with you?
And you have stood by me, knowing all thisyou are still my
Well, if I had had merely myself to consider, my natural loathing
and contempt for the beast, ape, idiot and scoundrel who was capable of
such conduct might have led me to extremities. O, I endorse all the
compliments you have paid yourself. But there is my interesting family;
the twins have quite a regard for you, and Herbert. And so has my wife;
she doesn't know you as well as I do. And my sistera superior person,
though too soft-hearted, whom I cherish with a deep fraternal
affectionshe has been besieging me with intercessions, and melting my
obduracy with her tears; and that for one who has made all this coil,
and whose qualities have been too well enumerated by himself.
I will try to be more deserving of her kindness, Bob: I told you
she was the right sort. But you said just now they did not know.
Only by surmise, and inference from your hasty departure, and
fromsubsequent developments. Women are not wholly fools, Jim: they
are just as good as we; perhaps better, and sometimes wiser. O, they
are very well in their way. Let us bear with them, James, and allow for
their redeeming traits.
Don't hit a man with his own words when he is down, Bob. Butthere
is Another, whom you've not mentioned.
So there is: you didn't mention her, either. Come to think of it,
there is another member of my household, whom we have overlooked in
this discussion, yet to whom I owe some sort of consideration.
Of course I know who is first with you: I am content to come in a
bad second. You haven'tI supposeany wordfrom Her?
What do you take her for? Ladies can't do that sort of thing. See
here, Hartman, don't get on that line again. She is used to due
His face fell. I know: I mean nothing else. What have you to say to
Say? Haven't I said enough? Confound you, it's your turn to say
I thought I had said a good deal. O, I am ready to make my
submission, if it will do any good. Imagine the rest, can't you? Don't
be playing your games on me now, Bob.
There was a tone of pathos in this: I took a good look at him, and
saw that he was doing the contrite as well as I could expect. He will
do it better without a middleman when he gets the chance; he'll hardly
lapse into the other style again soon. All I have to do is to secure
her position meanwhile.
Well, what comes next? I believe I am on the witness-stand now.
Tell me about Her, Bob.
She is changed. Of old, one never knew what to expect of her. Now
she is different. No stale customs about her, my boy.
'Nor custom stale her infinite variety,' I suppose you mean. Yes,
so I foundbut that was my own fault. Some might prefer your version.
But you don't imply
No, I don't. You must find out for yourself about that. I thought
you knew that she is chary of her confidences, and that none of us is
given to seeking them. She has mentioned your name once in all this
time, and then to say that you and I were great clumsy thingswhich is
true; measurably of me, of you most eminently.
What chance is there for me then? He was discouraged again. Jim is
so foolish; he gets exalted and depressed on the slightest provocation.
Perhaps I was like that once, but it was long ago.
Well, she knows I am here; do you suppose I would have come if she
objected? Make what you can out of that.You needn't make too much of
it either: go slow, now. You see she doesn't like to be thwarted in her
benevolent plans; and you were a wild man, to be reclaimed and
civilized. Instead of submitting like a decent savage, you broke loose
all at once, and left her to feel that she had done you harm instead of
good. You are the only fellow who ever gave her any trouble: I can't
see how you had the cheek to do it. Why, man, you have got to learn
manners if you want to associate with that kind. She could do better
than you any day; but a wilful woman must have her way, and a gentleman
usually lets her have it.Now there you go again. I didn't say what
her way might be in this case, did I? How should I know what she wants
of you? Probably just to smooth you down, and be friends, and see you
behave. The other supposition, as you said last night, is too wildly
impossible. You ought to be glad to meet her on any terms she may
choose to make, and thankful and proud to undergo any penance of her
imposing, after your conduct, and the annoyance it has caused her and
all of us. Most women, in her place, would let you stay in the woods
and eat your heart out. Perhaps she will yet; you needn't look so
pleased. All I know is that you owe her reparation. You ought to go on
your knees from here to the avenue, even if you have to come back on
You have gained in insight since August, Bob. You express my views
with accuracythough one can hardly talk of these matters to another
man. I always honored you for holding Her in such esteem. But
practically, what am I to do?
That is not easy to say, James: it can hardly be plain sailing. If
women were not more forgiving than we, bless their little hearts, you
would have no chance to do anything. And the finer grain they are of,
the more embarrassing it becomes; with her sort it is peculiarly
difficult. I know, from long and trying experience; I have to mind my
p's and q's, I tell you. If you had taken up with one of these farmers'
daughters, as you nearly led me to believe last nightthere's nothing
to get mad aboutit would have been much simpler and easier for you.
If it were that other man, I should say to him, Write to the lady, if
you think that safe: I don't advise it. But if you had a friend who
knew her well, and was a person of capacity and resource and great tact
and approved discretion, and willing to employ all these qualities in
O, I'll leave the affair in your hands: I don't see what else I can
do. I'm everlastingly obliged to you, of course.
Yes, I should think you would be; a nice mess you'd make of it by
yourself. You have no idea how this thing has weighed on my mind ever
since you left us at Newport; nor how awkward it is, even for me, to
approach a girl of her sensitive pride and highminded delicacy on such
a subject. But I'm ready to go on suffering in your cause, James, even
if it be for years.
I hope it won't take as long as that. Hurry it up, old man, now
you've got a start. Don't let the injury to Her and the weight on my
conscience go on accumulating. What you do, do quickly.
So you'd like me to rush off to-morrow? There's gratitude. No, sir;
I must think the matter over, and I may have to consult you about
details. Besides, they are all exercised about my health, and expect me
to make my week out. Your case is not a strong one, James; all depends
on the way it is put. I will not ruin it by indecent pressure or undue
haste. Leave it to me, and let sweet sleep revisit the weary head
whence she has fled so long. In simpler language, keep still and do as
I tell you, and don't bother.
I took pen and ink to my room, and indited a home epistle. It
informed Mabel that I was progressing toward recovery, and expected to
ship some large trout, carefully packed in ice; also that she was a
true prophet, and the other business in hand was moving just as she had
foretold. I enclosed a brief note to Clarice, which said simply, O. K.
Ever thine, and signed it with my initials and Jim's: and a cartoon
for Jane, which I sat up late to design and execute. It represented a
small lover, transfixed with a large arrow, prostrating himself before
a Haughty Damsel of High Degree. This work of art, with the subjoined
effusions, will keep up their spirits till I get home.
XXX. WASTED ADVICE.
I will not tell you what more we did that week, nor how many
wagonloads of big game we bagged when we sallied forth with guns to
make war upon the monarchs of the forest: perhaps their hides and horns
are on view in my library, and perhaps not. Nor will you expect any
more scenery of me, seeing how I have groaned and sweated to produce
the pen-pictures you have already enjoyed: I don't desire to advertise
Jim's retreat too much, and spoil its seclusion. He was impatient and
restive, but feeling much better than when I came, and ready to do
anything I wishedof course. But he wanted to talk all the time, and
ask questions: he kept me busy pacifying him, till I was tired.
Rational conversation on serious subjects is good, but to be thus
forever harping on small personal feelings and relations makes one
realize that Silence is Golden. Clarice never acts in that way: I wish
Jim would have some occasional flashes of taciturnity, like Macaulay.
The day before I left, while we were burying a calf I had shot by
mistake, he said, Bob, do you remember my asking you once, in a purely
suppositious way, what you would do if I were to quarrel withHer?
O yes. But the farmer that owned this late lamented beast ought to
be paid for it.
Never mind that. I'll attend to it after you're gone, and save your
feelings. Well, you said you'd stand by both of us.
Hang my feelings: do you suppose I expend feelings on a misguided
heifer? It got in the bushes where you said I might look for a deer,
and here's a ten on account; you can write me if it costs more. My
sympathies, James, are reserved for nobler animals when they make worse
Yes, as I have proved. You've kept your word; but you were pretty
rough on me.
Your conduct was pretty rough on all of us. I had to open your
eyes; and I don't want you to try those tricks again. If you do, I may
have to shoot you by mistake.
You would have been welcome to shoot me last week. Why did you
leave me so long in the dark, Bob?
O, the deuce! Were explanations due from our side? It's true you
need somebody to take care of you; but, you see, I have others to look
after, and so can't devote myself exclusively to you: you'd better get
a keeper. It was Jane who urged my coming up here. I always meant to,
but I couldn't till Clarice suggested it.
She suggested it, did she? You never told me that before.
I ought not to have told you now, if it makes you fly off the
handle in this way. She merely said to Mabel, no doubt in all
sincerity, that I looked badly and needed a change; she said nothing
about my coming here. She has a regard for me; whether you are anybody
in her eyes remains to be seen. Don't jump to conclusions, now. The
Princess is not a person to take liberties with, as I've learned by
I know it, Bob: one lesson is enough for me. I suppose it would
hardly do for me to go back with you?
Hardly. Personally I should be delighted, and so would some others;
butyou know as well as I do. I have got to feel somebody's pulse, and
proceed very gingerly. Possess your soul in what patience you can till
you hear from me. See here, Hartman; with your views, and your
well-grounded aversion to domestic and even social life, a little of
this sort of thing ought to go a long way. I should think you'd be
unwilling to risk contact with the world again. A child that will play
about the cars, you know, after it's once been run over
O, but you have opened my eyes to a sacred duty. Honor is above
self-preservation. I want to purge my conscience, you see.
Then do that and pause there. It was your vaulting ambition which
overleaped all bounds before. If you get into another row, you may have
to stay in it. I have full power of attorney, you say; well, I may have
to make all sorts of promises for you before I can get you leave to
return to duty, and you'll be expected to keep them. You don't know how
difficult that will be for your unbridled inexperience; you'll be
cabined, cribbed, confined within the dull limits of Propriety. It
would be much better for you to be content with a correspondence, if
you can get as far as that. You could expound your penitence and
changed views by mail, and have time to think what you were saying, and
get it in shape; whereas, if you plunge into the cold and heartless
world again, you'll probably get into more trouble, and I can't come up
here to set you straight againnot before next May. You were right,
James: there is nothing in common between you and the world. Why expose
yourself to its temptations, its dangers, its hollow and soul-wearying
forms? This atmosphere is so much purer; there is less of Vanity and
Woe up here. Stay where you are well off. Clarice can write a pretty
good letter when she chooses; I'll try to fix it that way for you. But
he would not accept this reasonable view, and insisted on my getting
permission for him to come down before Christmas, and as much sooner as
So nobody but he could drive me to the cars; he filled the fifteen
miles with charges and reminders. As the train moved off, he was waving
his hat, his face radiant with hope and pathetic with confidence. He
looks ten years younger than he did last week. A pretty fellow he is to
call himself a Pessimist.
XXXI. RESULTS REPORTED.
I reached home in the early evening. The servant told me at the door
that Mrs. T. was in attendance on Master Herbert, who had fallen over
the banisters and injured his nasal organ. I rushed upstairs: Mabel met
me with no demonstrations of grief or anxiety. I see by your face that
it is all rightas I always said it would be. Go to Clarice; she is in
the library. O, Herbert? He fell on his nose, of course; he always
does. It is not at all serious. The dear child has been feeling better
since we heard from you, and taking more exercise. Clarice has the
first right to your news.
I found her, and dropped on my knees. She looked at me, not so
sweetly as of late. Get up, Robert, I thought I had cured you of your
bad habit of untimely jesting.
You have. I realize the solemnity of the occasion, if you do not.
My name is Jamesno, that's not it. I am a representative, an envoy.
You see before you a banished man who has justly incurred his
sovereign's displeasure, and has repented day and night. This posture,
perhaps unseemly in the father of a family, expresses the other
fellow's state of mind. He's afraid to come himself, and so he sent
She looked at me again, and saw that I was serious. You see, these
delicate matters have to be managed delicately. I can't do the
unmitigated tragedy business as well as Hartman might, and yet I had to
meet the requirements of the situation, and the Princess' expectations,
which are always high. People who have their own affairs of this kind
to conduct might sometimes avoid painful failures by taking a leaf out
of my book, and mixing the difficult passages with a littlea very
littlechastened and judicious humor; then they would avoid overdoing
it, and sending the lady off disgusted.
Does he take all the blame?
Absolutely: he did from the first moment. He can't come here to say
so till he's allowed, and he can't get up till you give him a token of
She gave it: it was inexpensive to her, and soothing to the
penitentor would have been if he had been there to get it in person.
I took it simply on his account.
Keep still now, and let me think.
I kept still. The attitude of prayer, while well suited to the
lighter forms of ladies, is inconvenient to a man of my size, and
deeply distressing when I am obliged to maintain it for more than five
minutes; for that reason I don't go to church as much as I might. But I
had to keep quiet while she did her thinking. May it be recorded to my
credit! I would bear a good deal for Clarice, and sometimes I have to.
At last she finished her cogitations. O, get up, Robert; I forgot.
What else have you to tell me? But don't you want some supper?
I was as hungry as a bison, but that was a secondary consideration.
The supper can wait while I have your work to do. I'll tell you
anything you care to know: he wants to have no secrets from you. But it
has all been graphically summed up already. A famous orator of old told
a young fellow who went to him to learn how to speak a piece, 'Act it.'
That's what I've been doing the last half hour: I didn't think it would
take so long.
I rubbed my knees, which were still sore: the library carpet is
reasonably thick, but it was not built for devotional uses, I suppose
Hartman would be glad to stay down there all night if he had the
chance. But he'd be awkward about itinfernally awkward. You see, he
has had no practice in this kind of thing; he doesn't know your ways as
I do. I wonder if you will ever get him into as good training as you
I put in this light badinage to relieve any embarrassment she might
feelnot that she could show any such if she tried, but for what you
and I know even she might feel itand to let her get used to the
situation. But she did not seem to care for it. That's enough for now,
Robert. Go and get your supper. She said this in a weary tone. My
Princess dear, have I offended you? I meant it all right. Have I
done anything wrong, and made a mess of this as usual?
She gave me her hand. O no, Bob. But go now. I'll talk more to you
Now I thought I had done this up in the most superior style, and
that she would be pleased for once. But the ways of women are past
Jane awaited me in the dining-room with viands and an anxious brow,
and would scarcely let me appease the cravings of exhausted nature. She
sent the servant out, and ministered to my wants herself.
Brother, you look downcast. Have you returned with empty hands?
I have brought some of the finest trout you ever sawnot in mere
size perhaps, but in flavor, colors, and gaminess. You didn't expect me
to carry 'em on a string over my shoulder, did you? And I would have
brought some venison, but you don't care for it. You told me once that
their eyes were so pretty and plaintive, it was a shame to kill them. I
always try to please you, so I thought I would let them live.Yes,
thank you, I have brought back more health than I took away: I may be
able now to stand the fatigues of business till Thanksgiving.O,
Hartman? I couldn't bring him along, you know: where is your sense of
propriety? I advised him to stay up there where he is safe, and not
tempt the shafts and arrows any more. What, I 'haven't done anything
then, after all?' O, haven't I! Jane, you are worse than a serpent's
tooth: if Lear had been in my place, he would have talked about a
thankless sister. It has been a weary, toilsome, painful task, and few
men could have carried it through to so happy an end. And when I come
back hungering for sympathyI told you what my nature wasyou meet me
with cold words and suspicious looks. It is enough to make one weep,
and long for the silent grave. If it were Hartman, you would do the
weeping, no doubt. Yet that man, whom you thus unnaturally set above
your brotheryou have no idea of his harshness, his violence, his
embittered prejudice and obstinacy; nor of the patience and gentleness
and persuasive force with which I expelled the demons that possessed
him, and brought him to his right mind. O, he has had an overhauling;
he will take care how he does it again. But he is all right now.
I wonder at that, after his being in your hands for a week. Your
tender mercies were cruel, I fear. What does Clarice say to this? Is
She ought to be, but she says nothing at all; couldn't take in the
magnitude of my news at once, most likely. Yet I took pains to break it
to her delicately, and with light touches of humor, to relieve any
strain there might be.
Yes, soothed her nerves as with a nutmeg-grater, no doubt. You will
serenade her next with tin pans and fish-horns, and think that a
delicate attention. Brother, Clarice does not share your peculiar view
of humor, nor do I. Mabel tries to comprehend it and to catch your
tone, as is her melancholy duty; but it is hard work for her. Well,
what does Mr. Hartman say?Don't tell me anything that is private, or
belongs to Clarice alone.
O, you may hear most of it. He says all sorts of thingsanything
you like. You see he can't be trusted, or trust himself, any longer, so
I have full power to represent him.
That is definite, and convenient for you, whatever it may be to
others. Of course a man will promise anything when he has an object to
gain. I suppose you left him in the depths of despair and on a pinnacle
of ecstasy at once.
That is about it. Let us be thankful that you and I are well beyond
these follies.My dear, I wasn't alluding to your age; upon my honor I
wasn't. I only meant that your elevation of mind and dignity of
character lift you far above such idiotic transports, and give you a
right to despise weak creatures like Jim, and in some degree even
myself. No man is worthy of you, Jane: you know you never would look at
any of them. What did I tell you about your looks? Except Clarice, and
perhaps I ought to say Mabel, and a few on the cars, you are by far the
handsomest woman I've seen since I left home.
After your week among the belles of Wayback, that compliment seems
strained. O, I see: Clarice was not in the right mood just now, and
your tide of geniality rolled back upon itself, so that it has to break
loose on some one else: or you are to see her again to-morrow, and must
practice smooth things meantime to say then.Ah, it is both, is it?
Sister, you are an external conscienceexcept that you won't
approve when I have done the right thing, and done it well. You would
be invaluable to Jim. I doubt whether he and Clarice will get on; and
he thinks a heap of you. If he don't suit her on further inspection, or
makes any more blunders, you might take him in hand and make a man of
So as to keep him in reach as material for you? Robert, if you want
me to comfort you when Clarice is gone, you will have to make your
light humor much lighter yet, and let me select subjects for its
Now, nowdo you think I would offer you secondhand goods? If I had
known him then as I do to-day, I would have let her go off in June as
she proposed, and fixed it the other way. It would have saved no end of
And deprived you of a source of huge amusement, and an
unprecedented field for the display of your peculiar talents. Do you
think men and women are mere puppets for you to play with? You would
make but a poor tenth-rate Providencethough you may have succeeded in
this case. Tell me how you did it.
I showed him that he was all wrong. He knew that already, but
thought she didn't care. I told him she did.
Robert! You have not betrayed her? Is this your diplomacy?
Of course not: how you talk, Jane. I said her interest in him was
philanthropic, and he had behaved with brutal ingratitudelike a
charity patient in the hospital, or a bad boy at Sunday School; so he
ought to yearn to come backif she will kindly allowand give her a
chance to go on reforming him or not, just as she pleases. I admitted
the purely speculative possibility that it might be otherwiseof a
more personal and commonplace descriptionjust to encourage him a
little; but as he had said at the start that this chance was
practically nonexistent, I let him think so and dwelt on the other
view, which was new to him, and impressive. O, I preserved her dignity;
that was the first necessity. If he is cherishing any hopes of the
vulgar, everyday sort, he did not get them from me.
And did he believe all that? If so, I must have been mistaken in
He had to believe it. It was the simple truth: I merely arranged
the colors properly on his mental canvas. He thinks I am Solon and
Rhadamanthus and Nehemiah in one. How would you have done it perhaps,
when you had to hook your fish without letting him get the baitinduce
him to commit himself, and yet not commit her at all?
I don't know, brother. You could not have thrown her on his
generosity, of course; she would have killed herself and him and all of
us, rather than take happiness at such a priceand I can't blame her.
Yet she despises a subterfuge. I would not tell her the details if I
were you; she will not ask for them, nor want to hear them. It is a
queer world: when such things have to be donesacrificing your best
friend to insure his welfare, deceiving him in the interest of one who
abhors deceptionyour eccentricities may be of more use than I had
hitherto supposed possible.
I pretended to be deeply pained at this; but in my heart I knew it
was high praise, coming from Jane. She is not like Clarice; she asked
all manner of questions, and kept me answering them three mortal hours.
Fortunately Mabel has less curiosity, or I should not have got much
sleep that night, after all my ill-appreciated labors. But I don't
regret what I did for Hartman; he believes what you tell him.
Clarice was not at breakfast next day; but as I was going out, she
met me in the hall. Robert, can you come back at four?
At any hour you wish, Princess; or I will stay now.
No, that will be early enough. I will be in the library.
Now that is Clarice all over: she is herself again. No eagerness, no
petty curiosity, but a grand indifference, a statuesque calm, a
goddess-like withdrawal from the affairs and atmosphere of common
mortals. Indeed it is not she who will ask for details that any other
woman would burn to know: a single question as to the vital point, and
then what else have you to tell me? The rest might keep a day, a
week, a month. Her taste was always for large outlines, her mind has
breadth and grasp and comprehension; when she seemed to care for little
things, she was at play. In a matter like this, her secret thoughts are
the main element; what others may think or say or do need be noticed
only as contributing material for them to work with. What has vexed her
all this time has been that the sacrilege of events had put one factor
in the problem out of reach, beyond her control: she has been used to
having all she wanted of the earth, and deigning to want but little of
it and to value that little but lightly. Now that she cares for
something at last, and it is at her call again, she will weigh and
measure the situation, and all its aspects and possibilities, in the
silent council chamber of her soul, and the decision will go forth
before any one ventures to ask what it may be. Stay in your cave,
hermit of Wayback, and say your Ave Clarissa as patiently as you
can: when the edict calls you to court, your part will be cast for you,
and you will have nothing to do but say the lines. If you break bounds
again and stray from your proper posture before the throne, or put in
any more of your irreverent gags, I am done with you.
I have wrought your will, my Princess, and brought back your pretty
toy, for you to mend or break: you hardly mean to break it. Yet it is a
pity to see you descend to common uses, to ordering a house and taking
care of poor old Jim; you were born to shine apart in solitary state,
and have men gaze at you wistfully from far below. No man can rate more
highly than I the domestic relations, affections, virtues; but I don't
like to see you put yourself in the category of mere human beings, as
if marriage and a man were good enough for you. You will have your way,
now as always, and use me at your will: it is you who have the ordering
of this funeral, not I.
As she did not seem to like my style last night, I had better be
sober and plain this afternoon; sort of Quaker thee and thou, without
artistic embellishments. Yes, by Jove, I'll have to be, for there's the
guilty secret to be unloaded. There is no excuse for keeping it to
myself any longer, now Jim has it; sooner or later she must know that
I've known all along what was not meant for me, and it may as well be
done now, whatever the result. It will not please her, but I can't help
that. I will not break my word and keep a thing from her, except as
there is reason; to tell it can do no great harm now, unless to meand
that is a minor matter.
At the hour appointed I was on deck: no one ever interrupts the
Princess, and we were undisturbed. Robert, I had better hear your
report. Cut it short, please; give me a condensed outline merely.
What did I tell you? This was said with an air as if she were
discharging an unwelcome duty, so that I might not feel neglected. She
evidently resents the impertinence of circumstances in forcing her to
allow me to have a hand in her private matters: it will be as much as I
can expect if she forgives me for meddling. Obeying orders, I
endeavored to be brief and business-like.
He has had a bad time of it, Clarice. He was a changed man when I
got thererough and morose and unmanageable; kept hinting at some
mysterious crime he had committed. It was a day or two before I could
bring him to book, by methods on which I need not dwell. Detective work
is not a nice business; the means has to take its justification from
the end. He made his confession as if it were another's; said how
superior you were, and how basely he had repaid your condescension. He
thought that ended the affair, except for his lifelong remorse; hoped
he might die soon; impossible to be forgiven, or regarded by you in any
light but that of a loathsome objectregular stage part, you know, but
perfectly sincere: if you like innocence, he can supply a first-class
article. I put a head on him by saying his behavior had been much more
flagrant than he realized, and the worst part of it was interfering
with your plans and going off in such a hurry; that ladies like to be
consulted in such cases, and sometimes to administer divine
forgiveness, or at least punish the transgressor in their own way, and
not leave it all to him.You need not look at me like that, Princess.
I know nothing of your feelings, and told him so. Of course I
maintained your dignity: what else was I there for? And so, to do him
justice, did he, as far as he knows how. He is just where you like to
have themor would if you cared enough about them. After I had
enlightened him as to his duty, it was all simple. I gave him just
sufficient hopeof pardon, I meanto keep him alive, and turn his
despair to active penitence. The game is entirely in your hands now. He
was on fire to come back with me, or to write at once. I said he must
take no more liberties, but wait for permission. If I may venture a
suggestion, you might let me tell him to write you; then you can
graciously allow him to come when you are ready for him.
That I may call a succinct and lucid narrative. She listened to it
with clear eyes like Portia, as if she were a judge and had to hear
such cases every day. Now for questions: I bet odds there will not be
more than three, and those straight to the heart of my
discoursenothing irrelevant, or secondary, or sentimental.
Did he say what had been his offence?
Presumption. He insulted youthough of course he didn't mean
toand you very properly resented it and withered him with contempt.
He never understood, till I made him see it, that what he did next was
worse than this, as emphasizing the wrong and making itfor a
Her eyes were like judgment lightnings now, that might burn through
the darkness and bring out all hidden things. Luckily I had nothing to
hide; or rather I was about to make a clean breast of it.
How were you able to speak so positively?
That is what he asked me, and therein lay such power as I had to
master him; at least it was the chief weapon in my arsenal. I answer
you as I answered him: By knowing more about the matter than he did.
Princess, I have deceived you all along, and broken my promise to tell
you everything. I saw and overheard the quarrel. And then I told her
all about it.
She looked at me silently, with an expression I never saw before. I
turned away, as one turns from the sun in his strength. I was sitting
on a stool beside her, and I suppose my head went down. Suddenly a hand
was on my forehead, pushing it back. Robert, look at me. What was your
motive in keeping this from me?
O, the motives were mixed; they always are. There was my dread of
offending you; that was selfish. And more than that, I did not want to
hurt you, if it could be avoided. And most, I was not willing to
complicate the trouble, and all but certainly make it worse. It seemed
to me that you would be shocked, and disgusted, and enraged to know
that a third person had intruded on so private a scene, and surprised a
secret that belonged to you. Don't fancy that I was blaming you; that
was my rough guess at how any woman would feel, most of all you:
perhaps I was wrong. I thought that for you to know might widen the
breach, and destroy all chance of reconciliation. I had to think of
him, as well as of you. Not as well, no; not as muchyou know that;
but of him too. I could not tell you till I had told him, and made the
matter rightif you will have it so. You will not let it turn you
against him nowthis fact that I was there? It was not his fault: it
was an accident, and I am the only one to blame. I did the best I
could, after such lights as I had.
Still the great eyes kept burning into mine; but they did not hurt
so much as I had expected. Did you tell Mabel and Jane of this?
How could I? It was your secret. What do you take me for, Clarice?
I never breathed a word of it, of course, until I had it out with Jim a
week ago, and brought him to his senses: after that I thought you ought
to know. Mabel and Jane never dreamed that I knew anything beyond what
little you might have told me, or let me see.
Her arms were round my neck now. There was a minute or two of
silence: I really did not know what to say next. Then she looked up,
tears in her eyes, a tone I never could describe in her voice.
And you have done all this for me, Robert!
I made a feeble attempt to unloose her hands and draw myself up.
Don't talk that way, Clarice; it hurts me. You make too much of this;
it was a matter of course, and there is nothing new in it. I thought
you knew I was always ready to do anything I could for you: that is an
old story, as you used to say.
The effort at dignity was not successful, for her head drooped
again. Soon she raised it, a smile chasing the tears away.
You can triumph over Jane now. She used to say you never could keep
a secret. Did you enjoy keeping this one, Bob?
Not exactly. I will keep some more if you insist on it, but it
would be more enjoyable if they were of another sort. No more like
this, if it is the same to you.
You said you used this as a weapon to master him with. Why didn't
you use it on me? It might have been good for me to be mastered and
I had to laugh now. Jim can try that by and byif he dares. Other
men may overrule other women, perhaps; I know my place too well.
Clarice, it is not like you to talk nonsense. If I could have consulted
you about thishow to keep the secret, and what to do with itit
would have made things easier for me, but unhappily that was not
feasible. You don't mean it would have done good instead of harm if I
had told you earlier?
I doubt it. No, you were right. Brother, there is so much more of
you than any of us thought!
So Hartman has found. But I don't want to be unduly exalted. Love
is better than pride, and this trouble of yours has brought us all
closer together, I believe. There is only one thing to be done yet.
No; two at least. Robert, you deserve to know everything. I will
tell you what we were talking about that wretched day, so that you may
see what excuse there was for him, and how wrong I was. And then you
can tell Jane and Mabel.
I don't want to know, my dear, nor is there any need to tell them
anything. None of us desire to pry into your affairs, but only to see
them set right. It was plain that something led up to poor Jim's
blunder, and that is enough. You can tell Mabel and Jane what you like
before he comes back,though they won't ask it.I will overrule you
for once, as you insist. You want to put a force upon yourself for my
sake, and I will not have it; not another word of that. Butand in
this case I am not overruling, but only suggestingJim is waiting all
this time. May I tell him that he can write to you?
Not just yet. You have opened my eyes as well as his, Bob; you've
revealed so many masculine virtues that I must take them in by degrees.
You've been keeping yourself in the background and putting him forward,
as if I could be interested in one person only. Now let him wait a day
or two, while I think about you.
There may have been more of these exchanges, which I do not care to
repeat. What goes on in the domestic circle is essentially of a private
nature, too intimate and sacred to be whispered into the general ear.
There are persons who will violate these holy confidences, and tell you
what he said and she said when the doors were shut. I am not like them.
If I appear at times to break my own rule and treat you as a member of
the household, it is merely for your improvement, that you may see (as
I told Jim last summer) how things are arranged in a christian family:
and especially that, when any trouble of this kind invades your own
humble roof, you may know how to slay the lion and extract strength and
sweetness from his carcass, as I have done. Should these pages instruct
but a single brother, whether by nature or adoption, how to unwind his
sister's tangled affairs and bring them to a prosperous conclusion, I
shall not have penned them in vain.
XXXIII. A FAMILY CONCLAVE.
I had written to Hartman more than once since my return, telling him
to keep up his spirits and bide his time. Before long came the
permission to open a correspondence with a more important person than
I. What he wrote I know not; he is probably able to do that well
enough, whatever blunders he may commit when face to face. I have
reason to believe his outpouring was answered, with excessive brevity
but to the purpose, in the one word, 'Come.' In fact, the Princess
declined (and very properly) to expend a postage-stamp on him, or to
gratify him with an envelope of her own inditing, but told me to
enclose this minute but inflammatory document in non-explosive
wrappings of my own.
He was to arrive on a certain day in late November. The evening
previous, as we were sitting together, Claricewho generally prefers
her own society, and I can't blame herappeared, in our midst (if that
expression is allowable), with an aspect of grim determination. I rose
to give her a chair in the corner, but she sat down where she could see
us and we could look at her. We did so, anxiously expectant, for this
was a most unusual proceeding; and I inwardly resolved to make it
easier for her than she meant to have it. She began with the air of an
orator who reluctantly emerges from seclusion at his country's call,
constrained to deliver matter of pith and moment.
It is no news that you all have shown me kindness such as passes
She was not allowed to proceed without hindrance. Jane put forth an
interrupting hand, which the speaker seized and imprisoned in her own:
not that Clarice's is bigger than Jane's, but it possesses some
muscular force. Mabel opened her lips, and one of usI will not say
whichwas obliged to remind her that Miss Elliston had the floor.
It is not in me to be demonstrative, and I have seemed cold and
We knew you better than that, dear, came from both.
But I knew, I felt it all. Never did a girl without natural
But you can have a natural protector whenever you like, cried
Mabel. You might have had any number of them, for years past.
Well, with or without, no girl ever had, or could have had, more
faithful affection and delicate consideration shown her than I. I have
given you a great deal of trouble, and you never complained. I have
come between you and friends
My dear, Mabel interposed again, that is all right. Our friends
will come back. And she nodded and looked like a female Solomon, while
Jane whispered something and put her disengaged arm around the orator.
Don't interrupt me any more, please. You know it is not easy for me
to talk of these matters
That is so, said I. It is rarely we get a speech from Clarice on
any subject. Do keep quiet, all of you, and let the poor girl go on.
But now I must tell you something you have no idea of.
Here the female portion of the audience pricked up their ears, and I
began to be nervous. It is about Mr. Hartman's going away in August.
That was all my fault.
Don't you believe her, said I. He says it was all his fault.
Do be quiet, Robert. He is coming to-morrow, and justice must be
done him. I treated him very badly, and
She didn't, said I. Clarice, we don't want to be dragged into all
your private squabbles, but if you will tell this disreputable story
you have got to tell it straight. Jim says you merely showed a proper
spirit, and so you did.
Why, what do you know about it, Robert? cried Mabel and Jane
He was there, hidden in the bushes, like a villain in a cloak and
Here came a chorus of exclamations and reproaches, till one of us
had to say, You may as well give it up, Clarice. These women will
never let you go on; they don't know how to listen. If you were talking
only to me, now
Jane, you can never twit him again with not being able to keep a
secret; he kept this one sacredly for three months.
Of course he did, said Mabel: I always knew it.
Why, Robert, you told me, Clarice exclaimed, and O no, you
didn't, my dear, some one else put in, while Jane looked triumphant.
No, I didn't know this secret, of course, Mabel admitted: I only
meant that I always knew Robert could keep a secret, if it were of very
extraordinary importance, and if he were certain it would ruin
everything to let it out. Poor Robert, what a hard time you have had!
But how did he come to overhear your conversation? said Jane.
What business had he there?
It was all through his pipe. Mabel, you must never object to his
There now, Mabel, remarked another of the company, you wouldn't
believe that the pipe was good for my health, and now you see it has
preserved the whole family.
I don't see that, said the troublesome Jane: what was the use of
your being there intermeddling?
Jane, said one severely, if you will be still, you will probably
learn. How can you expect to hear anything when you keep on
interrupting Clarice like this?
I am coming to that now, Jane. What he thus saw and heard he most
patiently, and heroically, and from the noblest motives
Excuse me, ladies, said I. My pipe is not handy, but I must go
out and smoke a cigar. I want to see a man
Let the man smoke the cigar, and that will provide for both of
them. You will sit down, Robert, and hear me out; I am not to be
overruled this time.
It would give me the greatest pleasure to hear you out, my dear,
but you know your health is delicate, and you are not accustomed to
public speaking. This is the longest oration you ever made: Jane's
constant interruptions are trying, and you must be fatigued. If I were
you, I would rest now, and finish this up to-morrow.
Now isn't that exactly like him? cried the irrepressible Jane. He
is afraid of your exposures, as well he may be. Go on, Clarice, and
tell us what other iniquities he has committed, besides deceiving Mabel
and me about this, while he was questioning us all the time, and
pretending to impart all he knew.
He deceived me too. Yes, you may well stare; he kept this
absolutely to himself, till he could use it for his own deep purposes;
andshe blushed a littlethat is why things are as they are.
I saw she wanted to be helped out, so I said.
Yes, that is the cause of this thusness. You see, Mabel, what great
results may spring from a little pipe. Jane, you will have to admit
that I am the guardian angel and protecting genius of you all.
Well, Clarice, said Jane, I will own that my estimate of his
talents has risen lately; but then my confidence in his moral character
has fallen in the same degree. He does tell such dreadful falsehoods.
It is not quite as if he told them for love of them, simply for the
pleasure he takes in falsehood itself. You must allow for his motives.
Yes, said Mabel, his motives are always excellent, whatever his
words and actions may be. You remember the man in the Bible, who was
delivered to Satan for his soul's sake; and I have heard Robert himself
say that in ascending a mountain you often have to go down hill.
She means, I explained, that on the rare occasions when I employ
fiction, I do it purely in the interests of Truth. That goddess is
imperfectly provided with garmentsexcuse me for stating so scandalous
a fact, but it is so. Now this might have been well enough in Eden
before the fall, but it will not do now; so we have to make the poor
creature presentable, and pay her milliner's bills, which are often
high. It would have been far more congenial to my candid nature to tell
you all at once what I saw and heard that day in August; but such a
course might have been attended with unpleasant consequences. If you
will all forgive me, I will try not to do it again.
I do not see my way to forgive you, brother, said Jane with a
judicial air, unless Clarice does; and that appears doubtful. I will
be guided entirely by her.
I have managed my own affairs so well without help, that you will
naturally all wish to be guided by me. It is a good deal for me to do;
but since Robert's misconduct has done no great harm, and rather than
come between brother and sister, I willyes, I will forgive him. She
rose majestically, signed to me to do the same, and gave me both hands,
with the air of a sovereign conferring knighthood; we made an
impressive tableau. And since you are all so quiet at last, I may
finish my speech, and state the reason for this act of leniency. As Mr.
Hartman's conversion is to be completed this time without fail, it is
plainly necessary that he should find us a united family.
XXXIV. TO PERSONS ABOUT TO MARRY.
I would have liked to celebrate Jim's arrival by sundry pleasant and
appropriate remarks; but impressive warnings and entreaties had reached
me privately from three distinct quarters, urging me to efface myself
on this occasion, and keep in the background. I complied with these
suggestions, and there were no tumultuous rejoicings over the returning
prodigal. Mabel and Jane greeted him with unobtrusive warmth: Clarice
was rather stately and very calm; to look at her, you would have
thought this was an ordinary call. When they talk about my duplicity,
they mean that they want a monopoly of the article themselves. The
visitor flushed and trembled like a boy, till I felt sorry for him, and
would have offered him something to drink if they had given me a
chance. Women are so queer about such matters: instead of letting the
poor man go off with me, they pretended not to notice his confusion,
and talked about the weather and mountains and trout, as if he wanted
to discuss such frivolities. This soon got to be a bore, and I went to
the new smoking-room, inviting him to follow when he needed rational
conversation. He did not come at all, and I found afterwards that my
wife and sister had gone away presently, and left him alone with
Clariceand they such sticklers for Propriety.
I expected to have some fun watching this tender pair; but I was
disappointed. There never is anything sensational to see when the
Princess is in action: she carries an atmosphere of quietness about
with her, and imposes it on those who come within her circle. Hartman
broke rules and bounds once last summer, but he seems unlikely to do it
again. The rest of us kept out of the way as much we could, and gave
them scope. I said to Jane that we ought to get up a torchlight
procession, or a big dinner, or something, in Jim's honor, but she
scornfully told me to wait at least till the engagement was announced.
When he was with mewhich was little, for his time seemed to be much
occupied, and his weakness for tobacco nearly curedhe once or twice
attempted some drivel about disinterested friendship and undying
gratitude; but I stopped that. If there be one thing for which I
profess no sympathy, it is puling sentiment. He apparently did not care
to discuss the progress of his affair, which was a relief; it is a
dreadful nuisance to have to listen to lovers' talk, and I had enough
of that at Wayback, when I could not help myself. At our time of life a
man ought to be occupied with serious pursuits. But Jim is as if he had
been asleep in a cave for ten years, and waked up with his beard well
grown and a large stock of emotional aptitudes abnormally developed. I
suppose Clarice likes this kind of thing, but I wonder at her taste.
They had been at it a week or so when I stumbled upon them unawares
one day in the library. I tried to retreat, but they both called to me
Robert, said she, we have quarrelled again. That is, he has.
Yes, Bob, said Jim, and you'll have to straighten it out for us
as you did before.
This is too much, said I. You had better take the next train for
home, and by next May my health will need another change and I'll come
up and attend to your case.
This needs to be settled right away. Clarice wants to go to the
woods and live there the year round, and I can't permit such a
Robert, he wants to live in the world like other people, just for
my sake, and I can't permit such a sacrifice either.
You must both prepare to be sacrificed, my lambs. Each of you will
have to bear and forbear, and get used to the other's repulsive
selfishness and hidebound eccentricities, to forego the sweet privacy
and freedom of self-indulgence which have marked your innocent lives
hitherto. When the glamour of young romance has faded, when the bloom
is rubbed off the peach and the juice is crushed out of the strawberry,
there will remain only the hard reality of daily duty, which is
continual self-immolation. You are wise to commence practising this
virtue at once.
You must instruct us how to do it, Bob. It would be as you say, no
doubtwith herif she had to live at Wayback as she proposes. You
have been there enough to know that it is no place for her; tell her
so. She has confidence in you, and she won't believe me.
It would be as you say, Robertwith himif he had to live among
the constraints and shams which his soul abhors. You know it, and you
have great influence over him. Tell him so.
You are both right, and it is clear there is no place where you can
livetogether. James, she is a fragile flower; transplanted to your
sterile soil, she would soon wither and drop from the stalk. Clarice,
he is fastidious, critical, and intense; made a part of the things he
despises, the torturing contact with pomps and vanities would soon
strike his knell. My little dears, your paths were never meant to
unite, and the best thing you can do is to part in peace. James, this
is all imagination, and you know it; a milliner's lay-figure, or that
rural nymph at Wayback, would do just as well, and be much less
exacting and expensive. Clarice, you are pushing philanthropy too far:
the picturesqueness of this hermit, and his alleged romantic woes, have
misled you as to the nature of your interest in him. I don't think
matrimony would suit you at all: you had much better stay with us, whom
you can leave whenever you please. You could not do that so easily with
a husband, and you don't like divorce. My children, pause: you will
soon have had enough of each other, and then you can go your several
ways in peace.
See here, old man; it is too late for this kind of wisdom, after
all the pains you have taken to bring us together when we were parted
indeed. You ought to be proud of your work, and ready to give us your
Don't mind Robert, James. You must take him as you find him, and it
encourages him to go on if you seem to pay attention. All you need is
to give him timegenerally a great deal of it, to be sure. When you
have known him twenty years or so as I have, you will understand that
he usually has some tolerably good sense at the bottom of his mind,
underneath a mountain of foolishness; he would say it is like the beer
after he has blown the froth off.Get to the sense as soon as you can,
dear, for we can't well wait more than a month or two for it: we have
to make our plans.
I was going to say that you had better leave the engagement
unlimited as to time and say nothing about it, for then you can get
tired of one another at leisure, and part without embarrassment. But if
you are in such indecent haste, and seriously bent on ruin, I will
assist you over the precipice as gently as may be. You will have to
compromise, and humor each other a little. Go abroad for awhile, or to
Florida or the Pacific, till you feel less exclusive; then come back to
us. The house is big enough, and you can make your winter home here: we
can't let you have her on any other terms, Jim. You can enlarge your
place when the weather opens, and put in the spring and fall there:
some of us will come up, or I will anyway, after trout. Perhaps I'll
bring Jane: she wanted to catch some. It would not be safe for Herbert;
he is too fond of bears. If you find the whole summer there too much
bliss, as you will, you can divide with us at Newport. That is fair to
all parties, isn't it?
It will do nicely, for a rough sketch at least, and give us time to
think. But there is a more serious difficulty, as you will see. Robert,
he wants to give up his well-considered principles of so many years,
and just for mehowever he may deny it. Now I say he was mainly right.
Take Life in the large view, and it is not a grand or beautiful thing.
Have we any right to overlook the misery of millions, because a few of
us like each other and are outwardly comfortable? I will not have him
do so weak a thing as change his standards from no better reason
thanwell, that you went up to him for the fall fishing.
My dear Clarice, if you set up as a Pessimist apostle, you will
convert all the town, and that will never do.You hear her, Jim? A
wise man sometimes has to take his sentiments from a wiser woman. But
seriously, I am ashamed of you. Having used your eyes and brains long
ago and received a true impression, what right have you to cast it
away, and be misled by a narrow prejudice in behalf of Lifeor of some
particular section of it? If he that loves a coral cheek and a ruby lip
is but a redhot donkey, what shall we say of him who makes these his
weatherguage to test the universe by?
Well, Bob, perhaps I have received a new impression, which is truer
than the otherand deeper. As you told me last summer, a world with
Clarice in it is quite different from a world without her. Princessif
I may use his termBob thinks a good deal of you too; at least he used
to. You entered into his scheme of things as well as mine. Such is his
duplicity, perhaps you never suspected the fact.
That is strange, when he has taken such pains to get me off his
hands. I could hardly believe it of you, Robert, on any less authority;
it was an unworthy weakness, in such a philosopher. But really now, are
you going to uphold him in thisagainst me?
Far from it: you will make him think what you pleaseonly your own
opinion on this point, though so strongly held and stated, is somewhat
recent. Let us have a middle ground to start from, on which all parties
can meet, as in the other case. When things go to suit us, let us call
it a good world: when they don't, of course it is a bad one. O, we can
consider the suffering millions too; but then we ourselves are
somebody, and have our own point of view. So when you two look at each
other, and contemplate your own bliss, you will be optimists; and when
you read the suicides in the papers, and think of the Siberian exiles
and my labors in Water Street, it will be the other way. Why, I am
often a pessimist in the morning, and the reverse at night. It depends
on the impression you receive, as Jim says; and there are a good many
impressions, and not all alike. Often you can be betwixt and between.
Let us fix it that way: I am sure that ought to suit anybody.
Jim agreed that it would do very well, but Clarice seemed undecided.
It seems so frivolous to look at Life in this easy way, just because
wewell, are not unhappy, and not without friends. You never do
yourself justice, Robertor very rarely. If we have been favored
beyond others, we ought to be earnest and serious.
My dear, Time will check your frivolity, and mitigate the morbid
bitterness of Jim's gloomy contempt of lifeor vice versa. If I have
got you mixed up, I beg pardon: you have changed positions so, it
confuses me. But as we are to be earnest and serious, we should seek to
communicate our happiness to others. Hadn't I better call them in?
The lovers consented, and I called. Mabel and Jane came with eager
smiles and effusive congratulations. It is curious, the stress which
the feminine intellect lays on a mere point of time, or external event,
like the celebration of a union between two young people, or the first
statement that such a union is to be formed; whereas we all know that
the real event is mental, or at most resides in the clash and
concurrence of two minds, assisted by the bodies they inhabit. Our
friends had probably come to a sufficient understanding the night of
Jim's arrival, a week ago: in fact the thing was practically settled
when I brought back his submission, and even he must have had sense
enough to know it was when she wrote him that one word, 'Come.' So what
on earth is the use of making a fuss about it now? But I will not press
this view, which may be too rarefied and lofty for the vulgar mind.
There were kisses, and laughter, and tears I believebut not of the
Princess' sheddingjust as if something had really happened. I was
sorry for Jim, he looked so sheepish. Then he, or Clarice, or both of
them, to cover the awkwardness of the moment, began to extol my virtues
and servicesin which there was no sense at all; for suppose you have
done a good thing, you don't want to be everlastingly cackling about
it: the thing is done, let it stand on its own merits or demerits. To
stop this, I proposed a division of the honors. There is Herbert, who
is unhappily in bed now: he set the ball rolling. He was the only one
of us all who dared ask Clarice what she had done to you, Jim. And here
is Clarice herself, who discovered that my health was failing and
needed the air that blows over troutbrooks; give her a benefit. And
here is Jane, who urged me ondrove me, I may say. But for her, I
might never have had courage to beard you two dreadful people, and ask
you what you meant by such conduct.
Jane was receiving due attention, when Mabel spoke. You must not
overlook me, as if I had had no hand in it. I approved and encouraged
it from the start: you know I did. And when you went away, Mr. Hartman,
and they all felt so badly and thought you would never come back, I
always said it would be rightalways.