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Poor Richard by Henry James

 

PART I.

 

 

MISS WHITTAKER'S garden covered a couple of acres, behind and beside her house, and at it's farther extremity was bounded by a narrow meadow, which in turn was bordered by the old disused towing-path beside the river, at this point a slow and shallow stream. It's low flat banks were unadorned with rocks or trees, and a towing-path is not in itself a romantic promenade. Nevertheless, here sauntered bareheaded, on a certain spring evening, the mistress of the acres just mentioned and many more beside, in sentimental converse with an impassioned and beautiful youth.

She herself had been positively plain, but for the frequent recurrence of a magnificent broad smile, which imparted loveliness to her somewhat plebeian features, and (in another degree) for the elegance of her dress, which expressed one of the later stages of mourning, and was of that voluminous abundance proper to women who are massive in person, and rich besides. Her companions good looks, for very good they were, in spite of several defects, were set off by a shabby suit, as carelessly worn as it was inartistically cut. His manner, as he walked and talked, was that of a nervous, passionate man, wrought almost to desperation; while her own was that of a person self-composed to generous attention. A brief silence, however, had at last fallen upon them. Miss Whittaker strolled along quietly, looking at the slow-mounting moon, and the young man gazed on the ground, swinging his stick. Finally, with a heavy blow, he brought it to earth.

“O Gertrude!” he cried, “I despise myself.”

“That's very foolish,” said Gertrude.

“And, Gertrude, I adore you.”

“That's more foolish still,” said Gertrude, with her eyes still on the moon. And then, suddenly and somewhat impatiently transferring them to her companions face, “Richard,” she asked, “what do you mean when you say you adore me?”

“Mean? I mean that I love you.”

“Then, why don't you say what you mean?”

The young man looked at her a moment. “Will you give me leave,” he asked, “to say all that I mean?”

“Of course.” Then, as he remained silent, “I listen,” added Gertrude.

Yet he still said nothing, but went striking vehemently at the weeds by the water's edge, like one who may easily burst into tears of rage.

“Gertrude!” he suddenly exclaimed, “what more do you want than the assurance that I love you!”

“I want nothing more. That assurance is by itself delightful enough. You yourself seemed to wish to add something more.”

“Either you won't understand me,” cried Richard, “or”—-flagrantly vicious for twenty seconds—-"you can't!”

Miss Whittaker stopped and looked thoughtfully into his face. “In our position,” she said, “if it becomes you to sacrifice reflection to feeling, it becomes me to do the reverse. Listen to me, Richard. I do understand you, and better, I fancy, than you understand yourself.”

“O, of course!”

But she continued, heedless of his interruption. “I thought that, by leaving you to yourself awhile, your feelings might become clearer to you. But they seem to be growing only more confused. I have been so fortunate, or so unfortunate, I hardly know which,”—-and she smiled faintly,—-"as to please you. That's all very well, but you must not make too much of it. Nothing can make me happier than to please you, or to please any one. But here it must stop with you, as it stops with others.”

“It does not stop here with others.”

“I beg your pardon. You have no right to say that. It is partly out of justice to others that I speak to you as I am doing. I shall always be one of your best friends, but I shall never be more. It is best I should tell you this at once. I might trifle with you awhile and make you happy (since upon such a thing you are tempted to set your happiness) by allowing you to suppose that I had given you my heart; but the end would soon come, and then where should we be? You may in your disappointment call me heartless now,—-I freely give you leave to call me anything that may ease your mind,—-but what would you call me then? Friendship, Richard, is a heavenly cure for love. Here is mine, and she held out her hand.”

“No, I thank you,” said Richard, gloomily folding his arms. “I know my own feelings,” and he raised his voice. “Haven't I lived with them night and day for weeks and weeks? Great Heaven, Gertrude, this is no fancy. I'm not of that sort. My whole life has gone into my love. God has let me idle it away hitherto, only that I might begin it with you Dear Gertrude, hear me. I have the heart of a man. I know I'm not respectable, but I devoutly believe I'm lovable. It's true that I've neither worked, nor thought, nor studied, nor turned a penny. But, on the other hand, I've never cared for a woman before. I've waited for you. And now—-now, after all, I'm to sit down and be pleased! The Devil! Please other men, madam! Me you delight, you intoxicate.”

An honest flush rose to Gertrude's cheek. “So much the worse for you!” she cried with a bitter laugh. “So much the worse for both of us! But what is your point? Do you wish to marry me?”

Richard flinched a moment under this tacit proposition suddenly grown vocal; but not from want of heart. “Of course I do,” he said.

“Well, then, I only pity you the more for your consistency. I can only entreat you again to rest contented with my friendship. It's not such a bad substitute, Richard, as I understand it. What my love might be I don't know,—-I couldn't answer for that; but of my friendship I'm sure. We both have our duties in this matter, and I have resolved to take a liberal view of mine. I might lose patience with you, you know, and dismiss you,—-leave you alone with your dreams, and let you break your heart. But it's rather by seeing more of me than by seeing less, that your feelings will change.”

“Indeed! And yours?”

“I have no doubt they will change, too; not in kind, but in degree. The better I know you, I am sure, the better I shall like you. The better too you will like me. Don't turn your back upon me. I speak the truth. You will get to entertain a serious opinion of me,—-which I'm sure you haven't now, or you wouldn't talk of my intoxicating you. But you must be patient. It's a singular fact that it takes longer to like a woman than to love her. A sense of intoxication is a very poor feeling to marry upon. You wish, of course, to break with your idleness, and your bad habits,—-you see I am so thoroughly your friend that I'm not afraid of touching upon disagreeable facts, as I should be if I were your mistress. But you are so indolent, so irresolute, so undisciplined, so uneducated,”—-Gertrude spoke deliberately, and watched the effect of her words,—-"that you find a change of life very difficult. I propose, with your consent, to appoint myself your counsellor. Henceforth my house will be open to you as to my dearest friend. Come as often and stay as long as you please. Not in a few weeks, perhaps, nor even in a few months, but in God's good time, you will be a noble young man in working order,—-which I don't consider you now, and which I know you don't consider yourself. But I have a great opinion of your talents, (this was very shrewd of Gertrude,) and of your heart. If I turn out to have done you a service, you'll not want to marry me then.”

Richard had silently listened, with a deepening frown. “That's all very pretty,” he said; “but”—-and the reader will see that, in his earnestness, he was inclined to dispense with courtesy—-"it's rotten,—-rotten from beginning to end. What's the meaning of all that rigmarole about the inconsistency of friendship and love? Such talk is enough to drive one mad. Refuse me outright and send me to the Devil, if you must; but don't bemuddle your own brains at the same time. But one little word knocks it all to pieces: I want you for my wife. You make an awful mistake in treating me as a boy,—-an awful mistake. I am in working order. I have begun life in loving you. I have broken with drinking as effectually as if I hadn't touched a drop of liquor for twenty years. I hate it, I loathe it. I've drunk my last. No, Gertrude, I'm no longer a boy,—-you've cured me of that. Hang it, that's why I love you! Don't you see? Ah, Gertrude!”—-and his voice fell,—-"you re a great enchantress! You have no arts, you have no beauty even, (can't a lover deal with facts now?) but you are an enchantress without them. It's your nature. You are so divinely, damnably honest! That excellent speech just now was meant to smother my passion; but it has only inflamed it. You will say it was nothing but common sense. Very likely; but that is the very point. Your common sense captivates me. It's for that that I love you.”

He spoke with so relentless a calmness that Gertrude was sickened. Here she found herself weaker than he, while the happiness of both of them demanded that she should be stronger.

“Richard Clare,” she said, “you are unkind!” There was a tremor in her voice as she spoke; and as she ceased speaking, she burst into tears. A selfish sense of victory invaded the young mans breast. He threw his arm about her; but she shook it off. “You are a coward, sir!” she cried.

“Oho!” said Richard, flushing angrily.

“You go too far; you persist beyond decency.”

“You hate me now, I suppose,” said Richard, brutally, like one at bay.

Gertrude brushed away her tears. “No indeed,” she answered, sending him a dry, clear glance. “To hate you, I should have to have loved you. I pity you still.”

Richard looked at her a moment. “I don't feel tempted to return the feeling, Gertrude,” said he. “A woman with so much head as you needs no pity.”

“I have not head enough to read your sarcasm, sir; but I have heart enough to excuse it, and I mean to keep a good heart to the end. I mean to keep my temper, I mean to be just, I mean to be conclusive, and not to have to return to this matter. It's not for my pleasure, I would have you know, that I am so explicit. I have nerves as well as you. Listen, then. If I don't love you, Richard, in your way, I don't; and if I can't, I can't. We can't love by will. But with friendship, when it is once established, I believe the will and the reason may have a great deal to do. I will, therefore, put the whole of my mind into my friendship for you, and in that way we shall perhaps be even. Such a feeling—-as I shall naturally show it—-will, after all, not be very different from that other feeling you ask—-as I should naturally show it. Bravely to reconcile himself to such difference as there is, is no more than a man of honour ought to do. Do you understand me?”

“You have an admirable way of putting things. 'After all', and 'such difference as there is'! The difference is the difference of marriage and no marriage. I suppose you don't mean that you are willing to live with me without that ceremony?”

“You suppose correctly.”

“Then why do you falsify matters? A woman is either a man's wife, or she isn't.”

“Yes; and a woman is either a man's friend, or she isn't.”

“And you are mine, and I'm an ungrateful brute not to rest satisfied! That's what you mean. Heaven knows you re right,” and he paused a moment, with his eyes on the ground. “Don't despise me, Gertrude,” he resumed. “I'm not so ungrateful as I seem. I'm very much obliged to you for the pains you have taken. Of course I understand your not loving me. You'd be a grand fool if you did; and you re no fool, Gertrude.”

“No, I'm no fool, Richard. It's a great responsibility, it's dreadfully vulgar; but, on the whole, I'm rather glad.”

“So am I. I could hate you for it; but there is no doubt it's why I love you. If you were a fool, you might love me; but I shouldn't love you, and if I must choose, I prefer that.”

“Heaven has chosen for us. Ah, Richard,” pursued Gertrude, with admirable simplicity, “let us be good and obey Heaven, and we shall be sure to be happy,” and she held out her hand once more.

Richard took it and raised it to his lips. She felt their pressure and withdrew it.

“Now you must leave me,” she said. “Did you ride?”

“My horse is at the village.”

“You can go by the river, then. Good night.”

“Good night.”

The young man moved away in the gathering dusk, and Miss Whittaker stood for a moment looking after him.

To appreciate the importance of this conversation, the reader must know that Miss Gertrude Whittaker was a young woman of four-and-twenty, whose father, recently deceased, had left her alone in the world, with a great fortune, accumulated by various enterprises in that part of the State. He had appointed a distant and elderly kinswoman, by name Miss Pendexter, as his daughter's household companion; and an old friend of his own, known to combine shrewdness with integrity, as her financial adviser. Motherless, country-bred, and homely-featured, Gertrude on arriving at maturity had neither the tastes nor the manners of a fine lady. Of a robust and active make, with a warm heart, a cool head, and a very pretty talent for affairs, she was, in virtue both of her wealth and of her tact, one of the chief figures of the neighbourhood. These facts had forced her into a prominence which she made no attempt to elude, and in which she now felt thoroughly at home. She knew herself to be a power in the land; she knew that, present and absent, she was continually talked about as the rich Miss Whittaker; and although as modest as a woman need be, she was neither so timid nor so nervous as to wish to compromise with her inevitable distinctions. Her feelings were indeed, throughout, strong, rather than delicate; and yet there was in her whole nature, as the world had learned to look at it, a moderation, a temperance, a benevolence, an orderly freedom, which bespoke universal respect. She was impulsive, and yet discreet; economical, and yet generous; humorous, and yet serious; keenly discerning of human distinctions, and yet almost indiscriminately hospitable; with a prodigious fund of common sense beneath all; and yet beyond this,—-like the priest behind the king,—-and despite her broadly prosaic, and as it were secular tone, a certain latent suggestion of heroic possibilities, which he who had once become insensible of it (supposing him to be young and enthusiastic) would linger about her hoping to detect, as you might stand watchful of a florid and vigorous dahlia, which for an instant, in your passage, should have proved deliciously fragrant. It is upon the actual existence, in more minds than one, of a mystifying sense of this sweet and remote perfume, that our story is based.

Richard Clare and Miss Whittaker were old friends. They had in the first place gone democratically to the town school together as children; and then their divergent growth, as boy and girl, had acknowledged an elastic bond in a continued intimacy between Gertrude and Fanny Clare, Richard's sister, who, however, in the fullness of time had married, and had followed her husband to California. With her departure the old relations of habit between her brother and her friend had slackened, and gradually ceased. Richard had grown up a rebellious and troublesome boy, with a disposition combining stolid apathy and hot-headed impatience in equal proportions. Losing both of his parents before he was well out of his boyhood, he had found himself at the age of sixteen in possession actual, and as he supposed uncontested, of the paternal farm. It was not long, however, before those turned up who were disposed to question his immediate ability to manage it; the result of which was, that the farm was leased for five years, and that Richard was almost forcibly abducted by a maternal uncle, living on a farm of his own some three hundred miles away. Here our young man spent the remainder of his minority, ostensibly learning agriculture with his cousins, but actually learning nothing. He had very soon established, and had subsequently enjoyed without a days interval, the reputation of an ill-natured fool. He was dull, disobliging, brooding, lowering. Reading and shooting he liked a little, because they were solitary pastimes; but to common duties and pleasures he proved himself as incompetent as he was averse. It was possible to live with him only because he was at once too selfish and too simple for mischief. As soon as he came of age he resumed possession of the acres on which his boyhood had been passed, and toward which he gravitated under an instinct of mere local affection, rather than from any intelligent purpose. He avoided his neighbours, his fathers former associates; he rejected, nay, he violated, their counsel; he informed them that he wanted no help but what he paid for, and that he expected to work his farm for himself and by himself. In short, he proved himself to their satisfaction egregiously ungrateful, conceited, and arrogant. They were not slow to discover that his incapacity was as great as his conceit. In two years he had more than undone the work of the late lessee, which had been an improvement on that of the original owner. In the third year, it seemed to those who observed him that there was something so wanton in his errors as almost to impugn his sanity. He appeared to have accepted them himself, and to have given up all pretence of work. He went about silent and sullen, like a man who feels that he has a quarrel with fate. About this time it became generally known that he was often the worse for liquor; and he hereupon acquired the deplorable reputation of a man worse than unsociable, a man who drinks alone, although it was still doubtful whether this practice was the cause or the effect of his poor crops. About this time, too, he resumed acquaintance with Gertrude Whittaker. For many months after his return he had been held at his distance, together with most of his rural compeers, by the knowledge of her fathers bitter hostility to all possible suitors and fortune-hunters; and then, subsequently, by the illness preceding the old man's death; but when at last, on the expiration of her term of mourning, Miss Whittaker had opened to society her long blockaded ports, Richard had, to all the worlds amazement, been among the first to profit by this extension of the general privilege, and to cast anchor in the wide and peaceful waters of her friendship. He found himself at this moment, considerably to his surprise, in his twenty-fourth year, that is, a few months Gertrude's junior.

It was impossible that she should not have gathered from mere juxtaposition a vague impression of his evil repute and of his peculiar relation to his neighbours, and to his own affairs. Thanks to this impression, Richard found a very warm welcome,—-the welcome of compassion. Gertrude gave him a heavy arrear of news from his sister Fanny, with whom he had dropped correspondence, and, impelled by Fanny's complaints of his long silence, ventured upon a friendly admonition that he should go straight home and write a letter to California. Richard sat before her, gazing at her out of his dark eyes, and not only attempting no defence of his conduct, but rejoicing dumbly in the utter absence of any possible defence, as of an interruption to his companion's virtue. He wished that he might incontinently lay bare all his shortcomings to her delicious reproof. He carried away an extraordinary sense of general alleviation; and forthwith began a series of visits, which in the space of some ten weeks culminated in the interview with which our narrative opens. Painfully diffident in the company of most women, Richard had not from the first known what it was to be shy with Gertrude. As a man of the world finds it useful to refresh his social energies by an occasional tête-à-tête of an hour with himself, so Richard, with whom solitude was the rule, derived a certain austere satisfaction from an hours contact with Miss Whittaker's consoling good sense, her abundance, her decent duties and comforts. Gradually, however, from a salutary process, this became almost an æsthetic one. It was now pleasant to go to Gertrude, because he enjoyed the contagion of her own repose, because he witnessed her happiness without a sensation of envy,—-because he forgot his own entanglements and errors,—-because, finally, his soul slept away it's troubles beneath her varying glance, very much as his body had often slept away it's weariness in the shade of a changing willow. But the soul, like the body, will not sleep long without dreaming; and it will not dream often without wishing at last to tell it's dreams. Richard had one day ventured to impart his visions to Gertrude, and the revelation had apparently given her serious pain. The fact that Richard Clare (of all men in the world!) had somehow worked himself into an intimacy with Miss Whittaker very soon became public property among their neighbours; and in the hands of these good people, naturally enough, received an important addition in the inference that he was going to marry her. He was, of course, esteemed a very lucky fellow, and the prevalence of this impression was doubtless not without it's effect on the forbearance of certain long-suffering creditors. And even if she was not to marry him, it was further argued, she yet might lend him money; for it was assumed without question that the necessity of raising money was the mainspring of Richard's suit. It is needless to inform the reader that this assumption was—-to use a homely metaphor—-without a leg to stand upon. Our hero had faults enough, but to be mercenary was not one of them; nor was an excessive concern on the subject of his debts one of his virtues. As for Gertrude, wherever else her perception of her friends feelings may have been at fault, it was not at fault on this point. That he loved her as desperately as he declared, she indeed doubted; but it never occurred to her to question the purity of his affection. And so, on the other hand, it was strictly out of her heart's indifference that she rejected him, and not for the disparity of their fortunes. In accepting his very simple and natural overtures to friendship, in calling him Richard in remembrance of old days, and in submitting generally to the terms of their old relations, she had foreseen no sentimental catastrophe. She had viewed her friend from the first as an object of lively material concern. She had espoused his interests (like all good women, Gertrude was ever more or less of a partisan) because she loved his sister, and because she pitied himself. She would stand to him in loco sororis. The reader has seen that she had given herself a long days work.

It is not to he supposed that Richards sober retreat at the close of the walk by the river implied any instinct of resignation to the prospects which Gertrude had opened to him. It is explained rather by an intensity of purpose so deep as to fancy that it can dispense with bravado. This was not the end of his suit, but the beginning. He would not give in until he was positively beaten. It was all very well, he reflected, that Gertrude should reject him. Such a woman as she ought properly to be striven for, and there was something ridiculous in the idea that she should be easily won, whether by himself or by another. Richard was a slow thinker, but he thought more wisely than he talked; and he now took back all his angry boasts of accomplished self-mastery, and humbly surveyed the facts of the case. He was on the way to recovery, but he was by no means cured, and yet his very humility assured him that he was curable. He was no hero, but he was better than his life; he was no scholar, but in his own view at least he was no fool. He was good enough to be better; he was good enough not to sit by the hour soaking his slender brains in whiskey. And at the very least, if he was not worthy to possess Gertrude, he was yet worthy to strive to obtain her, and to live forevermore upon the glory of having been formally refused by the great Miss Whittaker. He would raise himself then to that level from which he could address her as an equal, from which he could borrow that authority of which he was now so shamefully bare. How he would do this, he was at a loss to determine. He was conscious of an immense fund of brute volition, but he cursed his barbarous ignorance, as he searched in vain for those high opposing forces the defeat of which might lend dignity to his struggle. He longed vaguely for some continuous muscular effort, at the end of which he should find himself face to face with his mistress. But as, instead of being a Pagan hero, with an enticing task-list of impossibilities, he was a plain New England farmer, with a bad conscience, and nature with him and not against him, as, after slaying his dragon, after breaking with liquor, his work was a simple operation in common sense,—-in view of these facts he found but little inspiration in his prospect. Nevertheless he fronted it bravely. He was not to obtain Gertrude by making a fortune, but by making himself a man, by learning to think. But as to learn to think is to learn to work, he would find some use for his muscle. He would keep sober and clear-headed; he would retrieve his land and pay his debts. Then let her refuse him if she could, or if she dared, he was won't occasionally to add.

Meanwhile Gertrude on her side sat quietly at home, revolving in her own fashion a dozen ideal schemes for her friends redemption and for the diversion of his enthusiasm. Not but that she meant rigorously to fulfil her part of the engagement to which she had invited him in that painful scene by the river. Yet whatever of that firmness, patience, and courtesy of which she possessed so large a stock she might still oppose to his importunities, she could not feel secure against repeated intrusion (for it was by this term that she was disposed to qualify all unsanctioned transgression of those final and immovable limits which she had set to her immense hospitality) without the knowledge of a partial change at least in Richards own attitude. Such a change could only be effected through some preparatory change in his life; and a change in his life could he brought about only by the introduction of some new influence. This influence, however, was very hard to find. However positively Gertrude had dwelt upon the practical virtue of her own friendship, she was now on further reflection led sadly to distrust the exclusive use of this instrument. He was welcome enough to that, but he needed something more. It suddenly occurred to her, one morning after Richard's image had been crossing and recrossing her mental vision for a couple of hours with wearisome pertinacity, that a world of good might accrue to him through the friendship of a person so unexceptionable as Captain Severn. There was no one, she declared within herself, who would not be better for knowing such a man. She would recommend Richard to his kindness, and him she would recommend to Richard's—-what? Here was the rub! Where was there common ground be between Richard and such a one as he? To request him to like Richard was easy; to ask Richard to like him was ridiculous. If Richard could only know him, the work were done; he couldn't choose but love him as a brother. But to bespeak Richard's respect for an object was to fill him straightway with aversion for it. Her young friend was so pitiable a creature himself, that it had never occurred to her to appeal to his sentiments of compassion. All the world seemed above him, and he was consequently at odds with all the world. If some worthy being could be found, even less favoured of nature and of fortune than himself, to such a one he might become attached by a useful sympathy. There was indeed nothing particularly enviable in Captain Severn's lot, and herein Richard might properly experience a fellow-feeling for him; but nevertheless he was apparently quite contented with it, and thus he was raised several degrees above Richard, who would be certain to find something aggressive in his equanimity. Still, for all this, Gertrude would bring them together. She had a high estimate of the Captain's generosity, and if Richard should wantonly fail to conform to the situation, the loss would be his own. It may be thought that in this enterprise Captain Severn was somewhat inconsiderately handled. But a generous woman will freely make a missionary of the man she loves. These words suggest the propriety of a short description of the person to whom they refer.

Edmund Severn was a man of eight-and-twenty, who, having for some time combated fortune and his own inclinations as a mathematical tutor in a second-rate country college, had, on the opening of the war, transferred his valour to a more heroic field. His regiment of volunteers, now at work before Richmond, had been raised in Miss Whittaker's district, and beneath her substantial encouragement. His soldiership, like his scholarship, was solid rather than brilliant. He was not destined to be heard of at home, nor to leave his regiment; but on many an important occasion in Virginia he had proved himself in a modest way an excellently useful man. Coming up early in the war with a severe wound, to be nursed by a married sister domiciled in Gertrude's neighbourhood, he was, like all his fellow-sufferers within a wide circuit, very soon honoured with a visit of anxious inquiry from Miss Whittaker, who was as yet known to him only by report, and who transmitted to him the warmest assurances of sympathy and interest, together with the liveliest offers of assistance; and, incidentally as it were to these, a copious selection from the products of her hot-house and store-room. Severn had taken the air for the first time in Gertrude's own great cushioned barouche, which she had sent to his door at an early stage of his convalescence, and which of course he had immediately made use of to pay his respects to his benefactress. He was confounded by the real humility with which, on this occasion, betwixt smiles and tears, she assured him that to be of service to such as him was for her a sacred privilege. Never, thought the Captain as he drove away, had he seen so much rustic breadth combined with so much womanly grace. Half a dozen visits during the ensuing month more than sufficed to convert him into what is called an admirer; but, as the weeks passed by, he felt that there were great obstacles to his ever ripening into a lover. Captain Severn was a serious man; he was conscientious, discreet, deliberate, unused to act without a definite purpose. Whatever might be the intermediate steps, it was necessary that the goal of an enterprise should have become an old story to him before he took the first steps. And, moreover, if the goal seemed a profitable or an honourable station, he was proof against the perils or the discomforts of the journey; while if, on the other hand, it offered no permanent repose, he generally found but little difficulty in resisting the incidental allurements. In pursuance of this habit, or rather in obedience to this principle, of carefully fixing his programme, he had asked himself whether he was prepared to face the logical results of a series of personal attentions to our heroine. Since he had determined a twelvemonth before not to marry until, by some means or another, he should have evoked a sufficient income, no great change had taken place in his fortunes. He was still a poor man and an unsettled one; he was still awaiting his real vocation. Moreover, while subject to the chances of war, he doubted his right to engage a woman's affections: he shrank in horror from the thought of making a widow. Miss Whittaker was one in five thousand. Before the luminous fact of her existence, his dim ideal of the desirable wife had faded into vapour. But should he allow this fact to invalidate all the stern precepts of his reason? He could no more afford to marry a rich woman than a poor one. When he should have earned a subsistence for two, then he would be free to marry whomsoever he might fancy,—-a beggar or an heiress. The truth is, that the Captain was a great deal too proud. It was his fault that he could not bring himself to forget the difference between his poverty and Gertrude's wealth. He would of course have resented the insinuation that the superior fortune of the woman he loved should really have force to prevent him from declaring his love; but there is no doubt that in the case before us this fact arrested his passion in it's origin. Severn had a most stoical aversion to being in debt. It is certain that, after all, he would have made a very graceful debtor to his mistress or his wife; but while a woman was as yet neither his mistress nor his wife, the idea of being beholden to her was essentially distasteful to him. It would have been a question with one who knew him, whether at this juncture this frigid instinct was destined to resist the warmth of Gertrude's charms, or whether it was destined gradually to melt away. There would have been no question, however, but that it could maintain itself only at the cost of great suffering to it's possessor. At this moment, then, Severn had made up his mind that Gertrude was not for him, and that it behoved him to be sternly vigilant both of his impulses and his impressions. That Miss Whittaker, with a hundred rational cares, was anything less than supremely oblivious of him, individually, it never occurred to him to suspect. The truth is, that Gertrude's private and personal emotions were entertained in a chamber of her heart so remote from the portals of speech that no sound of their revelry found it's way into the world. She constantly thought of her modest, soldierly, scholarly friend as of one whom a wise woman might find it very natural to love. But what was she to him? A local roadside figure,—-at the. very most a sort of millionaire Maud Muller,—-with whom it was pleasant for a lonely wayfarer to exchange a friendly “good morning.” Her duty was to fold her arms resignedly, to sit quietly on the sofa, and watch a great happiness sink below the horizon. With this impression on Gertrude's part it is not surprising that Severn was not wrenched out of himself. The prodigy was apparently to be wrought—-if wrought at all—-by her common, unbought sweetness. It is true that this was of a potency sufficient almost to work prodigies; but as yet it's effect upon Severn had been none other than it's effect upon all the world. It kept him in his kindliest humour. It kept him even in the humour of talking sentiment; but although, in the broad sunshine of her listening, his talk bloomed thick with field-flowers, he never invited her to pluck the least little daisy. It was with perfect honesty, therefore, that she had rebutted Richards insinuation that the Captain enjoyed any especial favour. He was as yet but another of the pensioners of her good-nature.

The result of Gertrude's meditations was, that she despatched a note to each of her two friends, requesting them to take tea with her on the following day. A couple of hours before tea-time she received a visit from one Major Luttrel, who was recruiting for a United States regiment at a large town ,some ten miles away, and who had ridden over in the afternoon, in accordance with a general invitation conveyed to him through an old lady who had bespoken Miss Whittaker's courtesy for him as a man of delightful manners and wonderful talents. Gertrude, on her venerable friends representations, had replied, with her wonted alacrity, that she would be very glad to see Major Luttrel, should he ever come that way, and then had thought no more about him until his card was brought to her as she was dressing for the evening. He found so much to say to her, that the interval passed very rapidly for both of them before the simultaneous entrance of Miss Pendexter and of Gertrude's guests. The two officers were already slightly known to each other, and Richard was accordingly presented to each of them. They eyed the distracted-looking young farmer with some curiosity. Richards was at all times a figure to attract attention; but now he was almost picturesque (so Severn thought at least) with his careless garments, his pale face, his dark mistrustful eyes, and his nervous movements. Major Luttrel, who struck Gertrude as at once very agreeable and the least bit in the world disagreeable, was, of course, invited to remain,—-which he straightway consented to do; and it soon became evident to Miss Whittaker that her little scheme was destined to miscarry. Richard practised a certain defiant silence, which, as she feared, gave him eventually a decidedly ridiculous air. His companions displayed toward their hostess that half-avowed effort to shine and to outshine natural to clever men who find themselves concurring to the entertainment of a young and agreeable woman. Richard sat by, wondering, in splenetic amazement, whether he was an ignorant boor, or whether they were only a brace of inflated snobs. He decided, correctly enough, in substance, for the former hypothesis. For it seemed to him that Gertrude's consummate accommodation (for as such he viewed it) of her tone and her manner to theirs added prodigiously (so his lovers instinct taught him) to her loveliness and dignity. How magnanimous an impulse on Richards part was this submission for his sweethearts sake to a fact damning to his own vanity, could have been determined only by one who knew the proportions of that vanity. He writhed and chafed under the polish of tone and the variety of allusion by which the two officers consigned him to insignificance; but he was soon lost in wonder at the mettlesome grace and vivacity with which Gertrude sustained her share of the conversation. For a moment it seemed to him that her tenderness for his equanimity (for should she not know his mind,—-she who had made it?) might reasonably have caused her to forego such an exhibition of her social accomplishments as would but remind him afresh of his own deficiencies; but the next moment he asked himself, with a great revulsion of feeling, whether he, a conscious suitor, should fear to know his mistress in her integrity. As he gulped down the sickening fact of his comparative, nay, his absolute ignorance of the great world represented by his rivals, he felt like anticipating it's consequences by a desperate sally into the very field of their conversation. To some such movement Gertrude was continually inviting him by her glances, her smiles, her questions, and her appealing silence. But poor Richard knew that, if he should attempt to talk, he would choke; and this assurance he imparted to his friend in a look piteously eloquent. He was conscious of a sensation of rage under which his heart was fast turning into a fiery furnace, destined to consume all his good resolutions. He could not answer for the future now. Suddenly, as tea was drawing to a close, he became aware that Captain Severn had lapsed into a silence very nearly as profound as his own, and that he was covertly watching the progress of a lively dialogue between Miss Whittaker and Major Luttrel. He had the singular experience of seeing his own feelings reflected in the Captain's face; that is, he discerned there an incipient jealousy. Severn too was in love!

On rising from table, Gertrude proposed an adjournment to the garden, where she was very fond of entertaining her friends at this hour. The sun had sunk behind a long line of hills, far beyond the opposite bank of the river, a portion of which was discernible through a gap in the intervening wood. The high-piled roof and chimney-stacks, the picturesquely crowded surface, of the old patched and renovated farm-house which served Gertrude as a villa, were ruddy with the declining rays. Our friend's long shadows were thrown over the short grass, Gertrude, having graciously anticipated the gentlemen's longing for their cigars, suggested a stroll toward the river. Before she knew it, she had accepted Major Luttrel's arm; and as Miss Pendexter preferred remaining at home, Severn and Richard found themselves lounging side by side at a short distance behind their hostess. Gertrude, who had marked the reserve which had suddenly fallen upon Captain Severn, and in her simplicity had referred it to some unwitting failure of attention on her own part, had hoped to repair her neglect by having him at her own side. She was in some degree consoled, however, by the sight of his happy juxtaposition with Richard. As for Richard, now that he was on his feet and in the open air, he found it easier to speak.

“Who is that man?” he asked, nodding toward the Major.

“Major Luttrel, of the—-the Artillery.”

“I don't like his face much,” said Richard.

“Don't you?” rejoined Severn, amused at his companions bluntness. “He's not handsome, but he looks like a soldier.”

“He looks like a rascal, I think,” said Richard.

Severn laughed outright, so that Gertrude glanced hack at him. “Dear me! I think you put it rather strongly. I should call it a very intelligent face.”

Richard was sorely perplexed. He had expected to find acceptance for his bitterest animadversions, and lo! here was the Captain fighting for his enemy. Such a man as that was no rival. So poor a hater could be but a poor lover. Nevertheless, a certain new-born mistrust of his old fashion of measuring human motives prevented him from adopting this conclusion as final. He would try another question.

“Do you know Miss Whittaker well?” he asked.

“Tolerably well. She was very kind to me when I was ill. Since then I've seen her some dozen times.”

“That's a way she has, being kind,” said Richard, with what he deemed considerable shrewdness. But as the Captain merely puffed his cigar responsively, he pursued, “What do you think of her face?”

“I like it very much,” said the Captain.

“She isn't beautiful,” said Richard, cunningly.

Severn was silent a moment, and then, just as Richard was about to dismiss him from his thoughts, as neither formidable nor satisfactory, he replied, with some emphasis, “You mean she isn't pretty. She is beautiful, I think, in spite of the irregularity of her face. It's a face not to be forgotten. She has no features, no colour, no lilies nor roses, no attitudes; but she has looks, expressions. Her face has character; and so has her figure. It has no style, as they call it; but that only belongs properly to a work of art, which Miss Whittaker's figure isn't, thank Heaven! She s as unconscious of it as Nature herself.”

Severn spoke Richards mind as well as his own. That “She isn't beautiful” had been an extempore version of the young man's most sacred dogma, namely, She is beautiful. The reader will remember that he had so translated it on a former occasion. Now, all that he felt was a sense of gratitude to the Captain for having put it so much more finely than he, the above being his choicest public expression of it. But the Captain's eyes, somewhat brightened by his short but fervid speech, were following Gertrude's slow steps. Richard saw that he could learn more from them than from any further oral declaration; for something in the mouth beneath them seemed to indicate that it had judged itself to have said enough, and it was obviously not the mouth of a simpleton. As he thus deferred with an unwonted courtesy to the Captains silence, and transferred his gaze sympathetically to Gertrude's shapely shoulders and to her listening ear, he gave utterance to a tell-tale sigh, a sigh which there was no mistaking. Severn looked about; it was now his turn to scrutinize. “Good Heavens!” he exclaimed, “that boy is in love with her!”

After the first shock of surprise, he accepted this fact with rational calmness. Why shouldn't he be in love with her? “Je le suis bien,” said the Captain; “or, rather, I'm not.” Could it be, Severn pursued, that he was a favourite? He was a mannerless young farmer; but it was plain that he had a soul of his own. He almost wished, indeed, that Richard might prove to be in Gertrude's good graces. But if he is, he reflected, why should he sigh? It is true that there is no arguing for lovers. I, who am out in the cold, take my comfort in whistling most impertinently. It may be that my friend here groans for very bliss. I confess, however, that he scarcely looks like a favoured swain.

And forthwith this faint-hearted gentleman felt a twinge of pity for Richard's obvious infelicity; and as he compared it with the elaborately defensive condition of his own affections, he felt a further pang of self-contempt. But it was easier to restore the equilibrium of his self-respect by an immediate cession of the field, than by contesting it against this woefully wounded knight. “Whether he wins her or not, he'll fight for her,” the Captain declared; and as he glanced at Major Luttrel, he felt that this was a sweet assurance. He had conceived a singular distrust of the Major.

They had now reached the water's edge, where Gertrude, having arrested her companion, had turned about, expectant of her other guests. As they came up, Severn saw, or thought that he saw (which is a very different thing), that her first look was at Richard. The admirer in his breast rose fratricidal for a moment against the quiet observer; but the next, it was pinioned again. “Amen,” said the Captain; “it's none of my business.”

At this moment, Richard was soaring most heroically. The end of his anguish had been a sudden intoxication. He surveyed the scene before him with a kindling fancy. Why should he stand tongue-tied in sullen mistrust of fortune, when all nature beckoned him into the field? There was the river-path where, a fortnight before, he had found an eloquence attested by Gertrude's tears. There was sweet Gertrude herself, whose hand he had kissed and whose waist he had clasped. Surely, he was master here! Before he knew it, he had begun to talk,—-rapidly, nervously, and almost defiantly. Major Luttrel having made an observation about the prettiness of the river, Richard entered upon a description of it's general course and it's superior beauty upon his own place, together with an enumeration of the fish which were to be found in it, and a story about a great overflow ten years before. He spoke in fair, coherent terms, but with singular intensity and vehemence, and with his head thrown back and his eyes on the opposite bank. At last he stopped, feeling that he had given proof of his manhood, and looked towards Gertrude, whose eyes he had been afraid to meet until he had seen his adventure to a close. But she was looking at Captain Severn, under the impression that Richard had secured his auditor. Severn was looking at Luttrel, and Luttrel at Miss Whittaker; and all were apparently so deep in observation that they had marked neither his speech nor his silence. “Truly,” thought the young man, “I'm well out of the circle!” But he was resolved to be patient still, which was assuredly, all things considered, a very brave resolve. Yet there was always something spasmodic and unnatural in Richards magnanimity. A touch in the wrong place would cause it to collapse. It was Gertrude's evil fortune to administer this touch at present. As the party turned about toward the house, Richard stepped to her side and offered her his arm, hoping in his heart—-so implicitly did he count upon her sympathy, so almost boyishly, filially, did he depend upon it—-for some covert token that his heroism, such as it was, had not been lost upon her.

But Gertrude, intensely preoccupied by the desire to repair her fancied injustice to the Captain, shook her head at him without even meeting his eye. “Thank you,” she said; “I want Captain Severn,” who forthwith approached.

Poor Richard felt his feet touch the ground again. He felt that he could have flung the Captain into the stream. Major Luttrel placed himself at Gertrude's other elbow, and Richard stood behind them, almost livid with spite, and half resolved to turn upon his heel and make his way home by the river. But it occurred to him that a more elaborate vengeance would be to follow the trio before him back to the lawn, and there make it a silent and scathing bow. Accordingly, when they reached the house, he stood aloof and bade Gertrude a grim good-night. He trembled with eagerness to see whether she would make an attempt to detain him. But Miss Whittaker, reading in his voice—-it had grown too dark to see his face at the distance at which he stood—-the story of some fancied affront, and unconsciously contrasting it, perhaps, with Severn's clear and unwarped accents, obeyed what she deemed a prompting of self-respect, and gave him, without her hand, a farewell as cold as his own. It is but fair to add, that, a couple of hours later, as she reviewed the incidents of the evening, she repented most generously of this little act of justice.

PART II.

 

RICHARD got through the following week he hardly knew how. He found occupation, to a much greater extent than he was actually aware of, in a sordid and yet heroic struggle with himself. For several months now, he had been leading, under Gertrude's inspiration, a strictly decent and sober life. So long as he was at comparative peace with Gertrude and with himself, such a life was more than easy; it was delightful. It produced a moral buoyancy infinitely more delicate and more constant than the gross exhilaration of his old habits. There was a kind of fascination in adding hour to hour, and day to day, in this record of his new-born austerity. Having abjured excesses, he practised temperance after the fashion of a novice: he raised it (or reduced it) to abstinence. He was like an unclean man who, having washed himself clean, remains in the water for the love of it. He wished to be religiously, superstitiously pure. This was easy, as we have said, so long as his goddess smiled, even though it were as a goddess indeed,—-as a creature unattainable. But when she frowned, and the heavens grew dark, Richards sole dependence was in his own will,—-as flimsy a trust for an upward scramble, one would have premised, as a tuft of grass on the face of a perpendicular cliff. Flimsy as it looked, however, it served him. It started and crumbled, but it held, if only by a single fibre. When Richard had cantered fifty yards away from Gertrude's gate in a fit of stupid rage, he suddenly pulled up his horse and gulped down his passion, and swore an oath, that, suffer what torments of feeling he might, he would not at least break the continuity of his gross physical soberness. It was enough to be drunk in mind; he would not be drunk in body. A singular, almost ridiculous feeling of antagonism to Gertrude lent force to this resolution. “No, madam,” he cried within himself, “I shall not fall back. Do your best! I shall keep straight.” We often out-weather great offences and afflictions through a certain healthy instinct of egotism. Richard went to bed that night as grim and sober as a Trappist monk; and his foremost impulse the next day was to plunge headlong into some physical labour which should not allow him a moments interval of idleness. He found no labour to his taste; but he spent the day so actively, in the mechanical annihilation of the successive hours, that Gertrude's image found no chance squarely to face him. He was engaged in the work of self-preservation,—-the most serious and absorbing work possible to man. Compared to the results here at stake, his passion for Gertrude seemed but a fiction. It is perhaps difficult to give a more lively impression of the vigour of this passion, of it's maturity and it's strength, than by simply stating that it discreetly held itself in abeyance until Richard had set at rest his doubts of that which lies nearer than all else to the heart of man,—-his doubts of the strength of his will. He answered these doubts by subjecting his resolution to a course of such cruel temptations as were likely either to shiver it to a myriad of pieces, or to season it perfectly to all the possible requirements of life. He took long rides over the country, passing within a stones throw of as many of the scattered wayside taverns as could be combined in a single circuit. As he drew near them he sometimes slackened his pace, as if he were about to dismount, pulled up his horse, gazed a moment, then, thrusting in his spurs, galloped away again like one pursued. At other times; in the late evening, when the window-panes were aglow with the ruddy light within, he would walk slowly by, looking at the stars, and, after maintaining this stoical pace for a couple of miles, would hurry home to his own lonely and black-windowed dwelling. Having successfully performed this feat a certain number of times, he found his love coming back to him, bereft in the interval of it's attendant jealousy. In obedience to it, he one morning leaped upon his horse and repaired to Gertrude's abode, with no definite notion of the terms in which he should introduce himself.

He had made himself comparatively sure of his will; but he was yet to acquire the mastery of his impulses. As he gave up his horse, according to his wont, to one of the men at the stable, he saw another steed stalled there which he recognized as Captain Severn's. “Steady, my boy,” he murmured to himself, as he would have done to a frightened horse. On his way across the broad court-yard toward the house, he encountered the Captain, who had just taken his leave. Richard gave him a generous salute (he could not trust himself to more), and Severn answered with what was at least a strictly just one. Richard observed, however, that he was very pale, and that he was pulling a rosebud to pieces as he walked; whereupon our young man quickened his step. Finding the parlour empty, he instinctively crossed over to a small room adjoining it, which Gertrude had converted into a modest conservatory; and as he did so, hardly knowing it, he lightened his heavy-shod tread. The glass door was open and Richard looked in. There stood Gertrude with her back to him, bending apart with her hands a couple of tall flowering plants, and looking through the glazed partition behind them. Advancing a step, and glancing over the young girl's shoulder, Richard had just time to see Severn mounting his horse at the stable door, before Gertrude, startled by his approach, turned hastily round. Her face was flushed hot, and her eyes brimming with tears.

“You!” she exclaimed, sharply.

Richards head swam. That single word was so charged with cordial impatience that it seemed the death-knell of his hope. He stepped inside the room and closed the door, keeping his hand on the knob.

“Gertrude,” he said, “you love that man!”

“Well, sir?”

“Do you confess it?” cried Richard.

“Confess it? Richard Clare, how dare you use such language? I'm in no humour for a scene. Let me pass.”

Gertrude was angry; but as for Richard, it may almost be said that he was mad. “One scene a day is enough, I suppose,” he cried. “What are these tears about? Wouldn't he have you? Did he refuse you, as you refused me? Poor Gertrude!”

Gertrude looked at him a moment with concentrated scorn. “You fool!” she said, for all answer. She pushed his hand from the latch, flung open the door, and moved rapidly away.

Left alone, Richard sank down on a sofa and covered his face with his hands. It burned them, but he sat motionless, repeating to himself, mechanically, as if to avert thought, “You fool! you fool!” At last he got up and made his way out.

It seemed to Gertrude, .for several hours after this scene, that she had at this juncture a strong case against Fortune. It is not our purpose to repeat the words which she had exchanged with Captain Severn. They had come within a single step of an éclaircissement, and when but another movement would have flooded their souls with light, some malignant influence had seized them by the throats. Had they too much pride?—-too little imagination? We must content ourselves with this hypothesis. Severn, then, had walked mechanically across the yard, saying to himself, “She belongs to another;” and adding, as he saw Richard, “and such another!” Gertrude had stood at her window, repeating, under her breath, “He belongs to himself, himself alone.” And as if this was not enough, when misconceived, slighted, wounded, she had faced about to her old, passionless, dutiful past, there on the path of retreat to this asylum Richard Clare had arisen to forewarn her that she should find no peace even at home. There was something in the violent impertinence of his appearance at this moment which gave her a. dreadful feeling that fate was against her. More than this. There entered into her emotions a certain minute particle of awe of the man whose passion was so uncompromising. She felt that it was out of place any longer to pity him. He was the slave of his passion; but his passion was strong. In her reaction against the splendid civility of Severn's silence, (the real antithesis of which would have been simply the perfect courtesy of explicit devotion,) she found herself touching with pleasure on the fact of Richard's brutality. He at least had ventured to insult her. He had loved her enough to forget himself. He had dared to make himself odious in her eyes, because he had cast away his sanity. What cared he for the impression he made? He cared only for the impression he received. The violence of this reaction, however, was the measure of it's duration. It was impossible that she should walk backward so fast without stumbling. Brought to her senses by this accident, she became aware that her judgment was missing. She smiled to herself as she reflected that it had been taking holiday for a whole afternoon. “Richard was right,” she said to herself. “I am no fool. I can't be a fool if I try. I'm too thoroughly my fathers daughter for that. I love that man, but I love myself better. Of course, then, I don't deserve to have him. If I loved him in a way to merit his love, I would sit down this moment and write him a note telling him that if he does not come back to me, I shall die. But I shall neither write the note nor die. I shall live and grow stout, and look after my chickens and my flowers and my colts, and thank the Lord in my old age that I have never done anything unwomanly. Well! I'm as He made me. Whether I can deceive others, I know not; but I certainly can't deceive myself. I'm quite as sharp as Gertrude Whittaker; and this it is that has kept me from making a fool of myself and writing to poor Richard the note that I wouldn't write to Captain Severn. I needed to fancy myself wronged. I suffer so little! I needed a sensation! So, shrewd Yankee that I am, I thought I would get one cheaply by taking up that unhappy boy! Heaven preserve me from the heroics, especially the economical heroics! The one heroic course possible, I decline. What, then, have I to complain of? Must I tear my hair because a man of taste has resisted my unspeakable charms? To be charming, you must be charmed yourself; or at least you must be able to be charmed; and that apparently I'm not. I didn't love him, or he would have known it. Love gets love, and no-love gets none.”

But at this point of her meditations Gertrude almost broke down. She felt that she was assigning herself but a dreary future. Never to be loved but by such a one as Richard Clare was a cheerless prospect; for it was identical with an eternal spinsterhood. “Am I, then, “ she exclaimed, “quite as passionately as a woman need do,—-am I, then, cut off from a woman's dearest joys? What blasphemous nonsense! One thing is plain: I am made to be a mother; the wife may take care of herself. I am made to be a wife the mistress may take care of herself. I am in the Lords hands,” added the poor girl, who, whether or no she could forget herself in an earthly love, had at all events this mark of a spontaneous nature, that she could forget herself in a heavenly one. But in the midst of her pious emotion, she was unable to subdue her conscience. It smote her heavily for her meditated falsity to Richard, for her miserable readiness to succumb to the strong temptation to seek a momentary resting-place in his gaping heart. She recoiled from this thought as from an act cruel and immoral. Was Richard's heart the place for her now, any more than it had been a month before? Was she to apply for comfort where she would not apply for counsel? Was she to drown her decent sorrows and regrets in a base, a dishonest, an extemporized passion? Having done the young man so bitter a wrong in intention, nothing would appease her magnanimous remorse (as time went on) but to repair it in fact. She went so far as keenly to regret the harsh words she had cast upon him in the conservatory. He had been insolent and unmannerly; but he had an excuse. Much should be forgiven him, for he loved much. Even now that Gertrude had imposed upon her feelings a sterner regimen than ever, she could not defend herself from a sweet and sentimental thrill—-a thrill in which, as we have intimated, there was something of a tremor at the recollection of his strident accents and his angry eyes. It was yet far from her heart to desire a renewal, however brief; of this exhibition. She wished simply to efface from the young mans morbid soul the impression of a real contempt; for she knew—-or she thought that she knew—-that against such an impression he was capable of taking the most fatal and inconsiderate comfort.

Before many mornings had passed, accordingly, she had a horse saddled, and, dispensing with attendance, she rode rapidly over to his farm. The house door and half the windows stood open; but no answer came to her repeated summons. She made her way to the rear of the house, to the barn-yard, thinly tenanted by a few common fowl, and across the yard to a road which skirted it's lower extremity and was accessible by an open gate. No human figure was in sight; nothing was visible in the hot stillness but the scattered and ripening crops, over which, in spite of her nervous solicitude, Miss Whittaker cast the glance of a connoisseur. A great uneasiness filled her mind as she measured the rich domain apparently deserted of it's young master, and reflected that she perhaps was the cause of it's abandonment. Ah, where was Richard? As she looked and listened in vain, her heart rose to her throat, and she felt herself on the point of calling all too wistfully upon his name. But her voice was stayed by the sound of a heavy rumble, as of cart-wheels, beyond a turn in the road. She touched up her horse and cantered along until she reached the turn. A great four-wheeled cart, laden with masses of newly broken stone, and drawn by four oxen, was slowly advancing towards her. Beside it, patiently cracking his whip and shouting monotonously, walked a young man in a slouched hat and a red shirt, with his trousers thrust into his dusty boots. It was Richard. As he saw Gertrude, he halted a moment, amazed, and then advanced, flicking the air with his whip. Gertrude's heart went out towards him in a silent Thank God! Her next reflection was that he had never looked so well. The truth is, that, in this rough adjustment, the native barbarian was duly represented. His face and neck were browned by a week in the fields, his eye was clear, his step seemed to have learned a certain manly dignity from it's attendance on the heavy bestial tramp. Gertrude, as he reached her side, pulled up her horse and held out her gloved fingers to his brown dusty hand. He took them, looked for a moment into her face, and for the second time raised them to his lips.

“Excuse my glove,” she said, with a little smile.

“Excuse mine,” he answered, exhibiting his sunburnt, work-stained hand.

“Richard,” said Gertrude, “you never had less need of excuse in your life. You never looked half so well.”

He fixed his eyes upon her a moment. “Why, you have forgiven me!” he exclaimed.

“Yes,” said Gertrude, “I have forgiven you,—-both you and myself. We both of us behaved very absurdly, but we both of us had reason. I wish you had come back.”

Richard looked about him, apparently at loss for a rejoinder. “I have been very busy,” he said, at last, with a simplicity of tone slightly studied. An odd sense of dramatic effect prompted him to say neither more nor less.

An equally delicate instinct forbade Gertrude to express all the joy which this assurance gave her. Excessive joy would have implied undue surprise; and it was a part of her plan frankly to expect the best things of her companion. “If you have been busy,” she said, “I congratulate you. What have you been doing?”

“O, a hundred things. I have been quarrying, and draining, and clearing, and I don't know what all. I thought the best thing was just to put my own hands to it. I am going to make a stone fence along the great lot on the hill there. Wallace is forever grumbling about his boundaries. I'll fix them once for all What are you laughing at?”

“I am laughing at certain foolish apprehensions that I have been indulging for a week past. You're wiser than I, Richard. I have no imagination.”

“Do you mean that I have? I haven't enough to guess what you do mean.”

“Why, do you suppose, have I come over this morning?”

“Because you thought I was sulking on account of your having called me a fool.”

“Sulking, or worse. What do I deserve for the wrong I have done you?”

“You have done me no wrong. You reasoned fairly enough. You are not obliged to know me better than I know myself. It's just like you to be ready to take back that bad word, and try to make yourself believe that it was unjust. But it was perfectly just, and therefore I have managed to bear it. I was a fool at that moment,—-a stupid, impudent fool. I don't know whether that man had been making love to you or not. But you had, I think, been feeling love for him,—-you looked it; I should have been less than a man, I should be unworthy of your—-your affection, if I had failed to see it. I did see it, I saw it as clearly as I see those oxen now; and yet I bounced in with my own ill-timed claims. To do so was to be a fool. To have been other than a fool would have been to have waited, to have backed out, to have bitten my tongue off before I spoke, to have done anything but what I did. I have no right to claim you, Gertrude, until I can woo you better than that. It was the most fortunate thing in the world that you spoke as you did: it was even kind. It saved me all the misery of groping about for a starting-point. Not to have spoken as you did would have been to fail of justice; and then, probably, I should have sulked, or, as you very considerately say, done worse. I had made a false move in the game, and the only thing to do was to repair it. But you were not obliged to know that I would so readily admit my move to have been false. Whenever I have made a fool of myself before, I have been for sticking it out, and trying to turn all mankind—-that is, you—-into a fool too, so that I shouldn't be an exception. But this time, I think, I had a kind of inspiration. I felt that my case was desperate. I felt that if I adopted my folly now I adopted it forever. The other day I met a man who had just come home from Europe, and who spent last summer in Switzerland. He was telling me about the mountain-climbing over there, how they get over the glaciers, and all that. He said that you sometimes came upon great slippery, steep, snow-covered slopes that end short off in a precipice, and that if you stumble or lose your footing as you cross them horizontally, why you go shooting down, and you're gone; that is, but for one little dodge. You have a long walking-pole with a sharp end, you know, and as you feel yourself sliding, it's as likely as not to be in a sitting posture, you just take this and ram it into the snow before you, and there you are, stopped. The thing is, of course, to drive it in far enough, so that it won't yield or break; and in any case it hurts infernally to come whizzing down upon this upright pole. But the interruption gives you time to pick yourself up. Well, so it was with me the other day. I stumbled and fell; I slipped, and was whizzing downward; but I just drove in my pole and pulled up short. It nearly tore me in two; but it saved my life.” Richard made this speech with one hand leaning on the neck of Gertrude's horse, and the other on his own side, and with his head slightly thrown back and his eyes on hers. She had sat quietly in her saddle, returning his gaze. He had spoken slowly and deliberately; but without hesitation and without heat. “This is not romance,” thought Gertrude, “it's reality.” And this feeling it was that dictated her reply, divesting it of romance so effectually as almost to make it sound trivial.

“It was fortunate you had a walking-pole,” she said.

“I shall never travel without one again.”

“Never, at least,” smiled Gertrude, “with a companion who has the bad habit of pushing you off the path.”

“O, you may push all you like,” said Richard. “I give you leave. But isn't this enough about myself?”

“That's as you think.”

“Well, it's all I have to say for the present, except that I am prodigiously glad to see you, and that of course you will stay awhile.”

“But you have your work to do.”

“Dear me, never you mind my work. I've earned my dinner this morning, if you have no objection; and I propose to share it with you. So we will go back to the house. He turned her horses head about, started up his oxen with his voice, and walked along beside her on the grassy roadside, with one hand in the horses mane, and the other swinging his whip.”

Before they reached the yard-gate, Gertrude had revolved his speech. “Enough about himself,” she said, silently echoing his words. “Yes, Heaven be praised, it is about himself. I am but a means in this matter, he himself, his own character, his own happiness, is the end.” Under this conviction it seemed to her that her part was appreciably simplified. Richard was learning wisdom and self-control, and to exercise his reason. Such was the suit that he was destined to gain. Her duty was as far as possible to remain passive, and not to interfere with the working of the gods who had selected her as the instrument of their prodigy. As they reached the gate, Richard made a trumpet of his hand; and sent a ringing summons into the fields; whereupon a farm-boy approached, and, with an undisguised stare of amazement at Gertrude, took charge of his masters team. Gertrude rode up to the door-step, where her host assisted her to dismount, and bade her go in and make herself at home, while he busied himself with the bestowal of her horse. She found that, in her absence, the old woman who administered her friend's household had reappeared, and had laid out the preparations for his mid-day meal. By the time he returned, with his face and head shining from a fresh ablution, and his shirt-sleeves decently concealed by a coat, Gertrude had apparently won the complete confidence of the good wife.

Gertrude doffed her hat, and tucked up her riding-skirt, and sat down to a tête-à-tête over Richards crumpled table-cloth. The young man played the host very soberly and naturally; and Gertrude hardly knew whether to augur from his perfect self-possession that her star was already on the wane, or that it had waxed into a steadfast and eternal sun. The solution of her doubts was not far to seek; Richard was absolutely at his ease in her presence. He had told her indeed that she intoxicated him; and truly, in those moments when she was compelled to oppose her dewy eloquence to his fervid importunities, her whole presence seemed to him to exhale a singularly potent sweetness. He had told her that she was an enchantress, and this assertion, too, had it's measure of truth. But her spell was a steady one; it sprang not from her beauty, her wit, her figure,—-it sprang from her character. When she found herself aroused to appeal or to resistance, Richards pulses were quickened to what he had called intoxication, not by her smiles, her gestures, her glances, or any accession of that material beauty which she did not possess, but by a generous sense of her virtues in action. In other words, Gertrude exercised the magnificent power of making her lover forget her face. Agreeably to this fact, his habitual feeling in her presence was one of deep repose,—-a sensation not unlike that which in the early afternoon, as he lounged in his orchard with a pipe, he derived from the sight of the hot and vaporous hills. He was innocent, then, of that delicious trouble which Gertrude's thoughts had touched upon as a not unnatural result of her visit, and which another woman's fancy would perhaps have dwelt upon as an indispensable proof of it's success. “Porphyro grew faint", the poet assures us, as he stood in Madeline's chamber on Saint Agnes' eve. But Richard did not in the least grow faint now that his mistress was actually filling his musty old room with her voice, her touch, her looks; that she was sitting in his unfrequented chairs, trailing her skirt over his faded carpet, casting her perverted image upon his mirror, and breaking his daily bread. He was not fluttered when he sat at her well-served table, and trod her muffled floors. Why, then, should he be fluttered now? Gertrude was herself in all places, and (once granted that she was at peace) to be at her side was to drink peace as fully in one place as in another.

Richard accordingly ate a great working-day dinner in Gertrude's despite, and she ate a small one for his sake. She asked questions moreover, and offered counsel with most sisterly freedom. She deplored the rents in his table-cloth, and the dismemberments of his furniture; and although by no means absurdly fastidious in the matter of household elegance, she could not but think that Richard would be a happier and a better man if he were a little more comfortable. She forbore, however, to criticise the poverty of his entourage, for she felt that the obvious answer was, that such a state of things was the penalty of his living alone; and it was desirable, under the circumstances, that this idea should remain implied.

When at last Gertrude began to bethink herself of going, Richard broke a long silence by the following question: “Gertrude, do you love that man Richard,” she answered, “I refused to tell you before, because you asked the question as a right. Of course you do so no longer. No. I do not love him. I have been near it,—-but I have missed it. And now good by.”

For a week after her visit, Richard worked as bravely and steadily as he had done before it. But one morning he woke up lifeless, morally speaking. His strength had suddenly left him. he had been straining his faith in himself to a prodigious tension, and the chord had suddenly snapped. In the hope that Gertrude's tender fingers might repair it, be rode over to her towards evening. On his way through the village, he found people gathered in knots, reading fresh copies of the Boston newspapers over each others shoulders, and learned that tidings had just come of a great battle in Virginia, which was also a great defeat. He procured a copy of the paper from a man who had read it out, and made haste to Gertrude's dwelling.

Gertrude received his story with those passionate imprecations and regrets which were then in fashion. Before long, Major Luttrel presented himself, and for half an hour there was no talk but about the battle. The talk, however, was chiefly between Gertrude and the Major, who found considerable ground for difference, she being a great radical and he a decided conservative. Richard sat by, listening apparently, but with the appearance of one to whom the matter of the discourse was of much less interest than the manner of those engaged in it. At last, when tea was announced, Gertrude told her friends, very frankly, that she would not invite them to remain,—-that her heart was too heavy with her country's woes, and with the thought of so great a butchery, to allow her to play the hostess,—-and that, in short, she was in the humour to be alone. Of course there was nothing for the gentlemen but to obey; but Richard went out cursing the law, under which, in the hour of his mistress's sorrow, his company was a burden and not a relief. He watched in vain, as he bade her farewell, for some little sign that she would fain have him stay, but that as she wished to get rid of his companion civility demanded that she should dismiss them both. No such sign was forthcoming, for the simple reason that Gertrude was sensible of no conflict between her desires. The men mounted their horses in silence, and rode slowly along the lane which led from Miss Whittaker's stables to the high-road. As they approached the top of the lane, they perceived in the twilight a mounted figure coming towards them. Richard's heart began to beat with an angry foreboding, which was confirmed as the rider drew near and disclosed Captain Severn's features. Major Luttrel and he, being bound in courtesy to a brief greeting, pulled up their horses; and as an attempt to pass them in narrow quarters would have been a greater incivility than even Richard was prepared to commit, he likewise halted.

“This is ugly news, isn't it?” said Severn. “It has determined me to go back to-morrow.”

“Go back where?” asked Richard.

“To my regiment.”

“Are you well enough?” asked Major Luttrel. “How is that wound?”

“It's so much better that I believe it can finish getting well down there as easily as here. Good by, Major. I hope we shall meet again.” And he shook hands with Major Luttrel. “Good by, Mr. Clare.” And, somewhat to Richards surprise, he stretched over and held out his hand to him.

Richard felt that it was tremulous, and, looking hard into his face, he thought it wore a certain unwonted look of excitement. And then his fancy coursed back to Gertrude, sitting where he had left her, in the sentimental twilight, alone with her heavy heart. With a word, he reflected, a single little word, a look, a motion, this happy-man whose hand I hold can heal her sorrows. “Oh!” cried Richard, “that by this hand I might hold him fast forever!”

It seemed to the Captain that Richards grasp was needlessly protracted and severe. “What a grip the poor fellow has!” he thought. “Good by,” he repeated aloud, disengaging himself.

“Good by,” said Richard. And then he added, he hardly knew why, “Are you going to bid good by to Miss Whittaker?”

“Yes. Isn't she at home?”

Whether Richard really paused or not before he answered, he never knew. There suddenly arose such a tumult in his bosom that it seemed to him several moments before he became conscious of his reply. But it is probable that to Severn it came only too soon.

“No,” said Richard; “she's not at home. We have just been calling.” As he spoke, he shot a glance at his companion, armed with defiance of his impending denial. But the Major just met his glance and then dropped his eyes. This slight motion was a horrible revelation. He had served the Major too.

“Ah? I'm sorry,” said Severn, slacking his rein,—-"I'm sorry.” And from his saddle he looked down toward the house more longingly and regretfully than he knew.

Richard felt himself turning from pale to consuming crimson. There was a simple sincerity in Severn's words which was almost irresistible. For a moment he felt like shouting out a loud denial of his falsehood: “She is there! she s alone and in tears, awaiting you. Go to her—-and be damned! But before he could gather his words into his throat, they were arrested by Major Luttrel's cool, clear voice, which in it's calmness seemed to cast scorn upon his weakness.

“Captain,” said the Major, “I shall be very happy to take charge of your farewell.”

“Thank you, Major. Pray do. Say how extremely sorry I was. Good by again.” And Captain Severn hastily turned his horse about, gave him his spurs, and galloped away, leaving his friends standing alone in the middle of the road. As the sound of his retreat expired, Richard, in spite of himself, drew a long breath. He sat motionless in the saddle, hanging his head.

“Mr. Clare,” said the Major, at last, “that was very cleverly done.”

Richard looked up. “I never told a lie before,” said he.

“Upon my soul, then, you did it uncommonly well. You did it so well I almost believed you. No wonder that Severn did.”

Richard was silent. Then suddenly he broke out, “In God's name, sir, why don't you call me a blackguard? I've done a beastly act!”

“O, come,” said the Major, “you needn't mind that, with me. We'll consider that said. I feel bound to let you know that I'm very, very much obliged to you. if you hadn't spoken, how do you know but that I might?”

“If you had, I would have given you the lie, square in your teeth.”

“Would you, indeed? It's very fortunate, then, I held my tongue. If you will have it so, I won't deny that your little improvisation sounded very ugly. I'm devilish glad I didn't make it, if you come to that.”

Richard felt his wit sharpened by a most unholy scorn, a scorn far greater for his companion than for himself. “I am glad to hear that it did sound ugly,” he said. To me, it seemed beautiful, holy, and just. For the space of a moment, it seemed absolutely right that I should say what I did. But you saw the lie in it's horrid nakedness, and yet you let it pass. You have no excuse.”

“I beg your pardon. You are immensely ingenious, but you are immensely wrong. Are you going to make out that I am the guilty party? Upon my word, you re a cool hand. I have an excuse. I have the excuse of being interested in Miss Whittaker's remaining unengaged.”

“So I suppose. But you don't love her. Otherwise—-”

Major Luttrel laid his hand on Richards bridle. “Mr. Clare,” said he, “I have no wish to talk metaphysics over this matter. You had better say no more. I know that your feelings are not of an enviable kind, and I am therefore prepared to be good-natured with you. But you must be civil yourself. You have done a shabby deed; you are ashamed of it, and you wish to shift the responsibility upon me, which is more shabby still. My advice is, that you behave like a man of spirit, and swallow your apprehensions. I trust that you are not going to make a fool of yourself by any apology or retraction in any quarter. As for it's having seemed holy and just to do what you did, that is mere bosh. A lie is a lie, and as such is often excusable. As anything else, as a thing beautiful, holy, or just, it's quite inexcusable. Yours was a lie to you, and a lie to me. It serves me, and I accept it. I suppose you understand me. I adopt it. You don't suppose it was because I was frightened by those big black eyes of yours that I held my tongue. As for my loving or not loving Miss Whittaker, I have no report to make to you about it. I will simply say that I intend, if possible, to marry her.”

“She'll not have you. She'll never marry a cold-blooded rascal.”

“I think she'll prefer him to a hot-blooded one. Do you want to pick a quarrel with me? Do you want to make me lose my temper? I shall refuse you that satisfaction. You have been a coward, and you want to frighten some one before you go to bed to make up for it. Strike me, and I'll strike you in self-defence, but I'm not going to mind your talk. Have you anything to say? No? Well, then, good evening.” And Major Luttrel started away.

It was with rage that Richard was dumb. Had he been but a cats-paw after all? Heaven forbid! He sat irresolute for an instant, and then turned suddenly and cantered back to Gertrude's gate. Here he stopped again; but after a short pause he went in over the gravel with a fast-beating heart. O, if Luttrel were but there to see him! For a moment he fancied he heard the sound of the Major's returning steps. If he would only come and find him at confession! It would be so easy to confess before him! He went along beside the house to the front, and stopped beneath the open drawing-room window.

“Gertrude!” he cried softly, from his saddle.

Gertrude immediately appeared. “You, Richard!” she exclaimed.

Her voice was neither harsh nor sweet; but her words and her intonation recalled vividly to Richard's mind the scene in the conservatory. He fancied them keenly expressive of disappointment. He was invaded by a mischievous conviction that she had been expecting Captain Severn, or that at the least she had mistaken his voice for the Captain's. The truth is that she had half fancied it might be,—-Richards call having been little more than a loud whisper. The young man sat looking up at her, silent.

“What do you want?” she asked. “Can I do anything for you?”

Richard was not destined to do his duty that evening. A certain infinitesimal dryness of tone on Gertrude's part was the inevitable result of her finding that that whispered summons came only from Richard. She was preoccupied. Captain Severn had told her a fortnight before, that, in case of news of a defeat, he should not await the expiration of his leave of absence to return. Such news had now come, and her inference was that her friend would immediately take his departure. She could not but suppose that he would come and bid her farewell, and what might not be the incidents, the results, of such a visit? To tell the whole truth, it was under the pressure of these reflections that, twenty minutes before, Gertrude had dismissed our two gentlemen. That this long story should be told in the dozen words with which she greeted Richard, will seem unnatural to the disinterested reader. But in those words, poor Richard, with a lovers clairvoyance, read it at a single glance. The same resentful impulse, the same sickening of the heart, that he had felt in the conservatory, took possession of him once more. To be witness of Severn's passion for Gertrude, that he could endure. To be witness of Gertrude's passion for Severn,—-against that obligation his reason rebelled.

“What is it you wish, Richard?” Gertrude repeated. “Have you forgotten anything?”

“Nothing! nothing!” cried the young man. “It's no matter!”

He gave a great pull at his bridle, and almost brought his horse back on his haunches, and then, wheeling him about on himself, he thrust in his spurs and galloped out of the gate.

On the highway he came upon Major Luttrel, who stood looking down the lane.

“I'm going to the Devil, sir!” cried Richard. “Give me your hand on it.”

Luttrel held out his hand. “My poor young man,” said he, you're out of your head. I'm sorry for you. You haven't been making a fool of yourself?”

“Yes, a damnable fool of myself!”

Luttrel breathed freely. “You'd better go home and go to bed,” he said. “You'll make yourself ill by going on at this rate.”

“I—-I'm afraid to go home,” said Richard, in a broken voice. “For Gods sake, come with me!”—-and the wretched fellow burst into tears. “I'm too bad for any company but yours,” he cried, in his sobs.

The Major winced, but he took pity. “Come, come,” said he, “we'll pull through. I'll go home with you.”

They rode off together. That night Richard went to bed miserably drunk; although Major Luttrel had left him at ten o'clock, adjuring him to drink no more. He awoke the next morning in a violent fever; and before evening the doctor, whom one of his hired men had brought to his bedside, had come and looked grave and pronounced him very ill.

PART III

 

IN COUNTRY districts, where life is quiet, incidents do duty as events; and accordingly Captain Severn's sudden departure for his regiment became very rapidly known among Gertrude's neighbours. She herself heard it from her coachman, who had heard it in the village, where the Captain had been seen to take the early train. She received the news calmly enough to outward appearance, but a great tumult rose and died in her breast. He had gone without a word of farewell! Perhaps he had not had time to call upon her. But bare civility would have dictated his dropping her a line of writing,—-he who must have read in her eyes the feeling which her lips refused to utter, and who had been the object of her tenderest courtesy. It was not often that Gertrude threw back into her friends' teeth their acceptance of the hospitality which it had been placed in her power to offer them; but if she now mutely reproached Captain Severn with ingratitude, it was because he had done more than slight her material gifts: he had slighted that constant moral force with which these gifts were accompanied, and of which they were but the rude and vulgar token. It is but natural to expect that our dearest friends will accredit us with our deepest feelings; and Gertrude had constituted Edmund Severn her dearest friend. She had not, indeed, asked his assent to this arrangement, but she had borne it out by a subtle devotion which she felt that she had a right to exact of him that he should repay,—-repay by letting her know that, whether it was lost on his heart or not, it was at least not lost to his senses,—-that, if he could not return it, he could at least remember it. She had given him the flower of her womanly tenderness, and, when his moment came, he had turned from her without a look. Gertrude shed no tears. It seemed to her that she had given her friend tears enough, and that to expend her soul in weeping would be to wrong herself. She would think no more of Edmund Severn. He should be as little to her for the future as she was to him.

It was very easy to make this resolution: to keep it, Gertrude found another matter. She could not think of the war, she could not talk with her neighbours of current events, she could not take up a newspaper, without reverting to her absent friend. She found herself constantly harassed with the apprehension that he had not allowed himself time really to recover, and that a fortnight's exposure would send him back to the hospital. At last it occurred to her that civility required that she should make a call upon Mrs. Martin, the Captain's sister; and a vague impression that this lady might be the depositary of some farewell message—-perhaps of a letter—-which she was awaiting her convenience to present, led her at once to undertake this social duty. The carriage which had been ordered for her projected visit was at the door, when, within a week after Severn's departure, Major Luttrel was announced. Gertrude, received him in her bonnet. His first care was to present Captain Severn's adieus, together with his regrets that he had not had time to discharge them in person. As Luttrel made his speech, he watched his companion narrowly, and was considerably reassured by the unflinching composure with which she listened to it. The turn he had given to Severn's message had been the fruit of much mischievous cogitation. It had seemed to him that, for his purposes, the assumption of a hasty, and as it were mechanical, allusion to Miss Whittaker, was more serviceable than the assumption of no allusion at all, which would have left a boundless void for the exercise of Gertrude's fancy. And he had reasoned well; for although he was tempted to infer from her calmness that his shot had fallen short of the mark, yet, in spite of her silent and almost smiling assent to his words, it had made but one bound to her heart. Before many minutes, she felt that those words had done her a world of good. “He had not had time!” Indeed, as she took to herself their full expression of perfect indifference, she felt that her hard, forced smile was broadening into the sign of a lively gratitude to the Major.

Major Luttrel had still another task to perform. He had spent half an hour on the preceding day at Richard's bedside, having ridden over to the farm, in ignorance of his illness, to see how matters stood with him. The reader will already have surmised that the Major was not pre-eminently a man of conscience: he will, therefore, be the less surprised and shocked to hear that the sight of the poor young man, prostrate, fevered, and delirious, and to all appearance rapidly growing worse, filled him with an emotion the reverse of creditable. In plain terms, he was very glad to find Richard a prisoner in bed. He had been racking his brains for a scheme to keep his young friend out of the way, and now, to his exceeding satisfaction, Nature had relieved him of this troublesome care. If Richard was condemned to typhoid fever, which his symptoms seemed to indicate, he would not, granting his recovery, be able to leave his room within a month. In a month, much might be done; nay, with energy, all might be done. The reader has been all but directly informed that the Major's present purpose was to secure Miss Whittaker's hand. He was poor, and he was ambitious, and he was, moreover, so well advanced in life—-being thirty-six years of age—-that he had no heart to think of building up his fortune by slow degrees. A man of good breeding, too, he had become sensible, as he approached middle age, of the many, advantages of a luxurious home. He had accordingly decided that a wealthy marriage would most easily unlock the gate to prosperity. A girl of a somewhat lighter calibre than Gertrude would have been the woman—-we cannot say of his heart; but, as he very generously argued, beggars can't be choosers. Gertrude was a woman with a mind of her own; but, on the whole, he was not afraid of her. He was abundantly prepared to do his duty. He had, of course, as became a man of sense, duly weighed his obstacles against his advantages; but an impartial scrutiny had found the latter heavier in the balance. The only serious difficulty in his path was the possibility that, on hearing of Richard's illness, Gertrude, with her confounded benevolence, would take a fancy to nurse him in person, and that, in the course of her ministrations, his delirious ramblings would force upon her mind the damning story of the deception practised upon Captain Severn. There was nothing for it but bravely to face this risk. As for that other fact, which many men of a feebler spirit would have deemed an invincible obstacle, Luttrel's masterly understanding had immediately converted it into the prime agent of success,—-the fact, namely, that Gertrude's heart was preoccupied. Such knowledge as he possessed of the relations between Miss Whittaker and his brother officer he had gained by his unaided observations and his silent deductions. These had been logical; for, on the whole, his knowledge was accurate. It was at least what he might have termed a good working knowledge. He had calculated on a passionate reactionary impulse on Gertrude's part, consequent on Severn's simulated offence. He knew that, in a generous woman, such an impulse, if left to itself, would not go very far. But on this point it was that his policy bore. He would not leave it to itself: he would take it gently into his hands, attenuate it, prolong it, economize it, and mould it into the clew to his own good-fortune. He thus counted much upon his skill and his tact; but he likewise placed a becoming degree of reliance upon his solid personal qualities, qualities too sober and too solid, perhaps, to be called charms, but thoroughly adapted to inspire confidence. The Major was not handsome in feature; he left that to younger men and to lighter women; but his ugliness was of a masculine, aristocratic, intelligent stamp. His figure, moreover, was good enough to compensate for the absence of a straight nose and a fine mouth and his general bearing offered a most pleasing combination of the gravity of the man of affairs and the versatility of the man of society.

In her sudden anxiety on Richard's behalf, Gertrude soon forgot her own immaterial woes. The carriage which was to have conveyed her to Mrs. Martin's was used for a more disinterested purpose. The Major, prompted by a strong faith in the salutary force of his own presence, having obtained her permission to accompany her, they set out for the farm, and soon found themselves in Richard's chamber. The young man was wrapped in a heavy sleep, from which it was judged imprudent to arouse him. Gertrude, sighing as she compared his thinly furnished room with her own elaborate apartments, drew up a mental list of essential luxuries which she would immediately send him. Not but that he had received, however, a sufficiency of homely care. The doctor was assiduous, and the old woman who nursed him was full of rough good-sense.

“He asks very often after you, Miss,” she said, addressing Gertrude, but with a sly glance at the Major. “But I think you d better not come too often. I'm afraid you'd excite him more than you'd quiet him.”

“I'm afraid you would, Miss Whittaker,” said the Major, who could have hugged the goodwife.

“Why should I excite him?” asked Gertrude, “I'm used to sick-rooms. I nursed my father for a year and a half.”

“O, it's very well for an old woman like me, but it's no place for a fine young lady like you,” said the nurse, looking at Gertrude's muslins and laces.

“I'm not so fine as to desert a friend in distress,” said Gertrude. “I shall come again, and if it makes the poor fellow worse to see me, I shall stay away. I am ready to do anything that will help him to get well.”

It had already occurred to her that, in his unnatural state, Richard might find her presence a source of irritation, and she was prepared to remain in the background. As she returned to her carriage, she caught herself reflecting with so much pleasure upon Major Luttrel's kindness in expending a couple of hours of his valuable time on so unprofitable an object as poor Richard, that, by way of intimating her satisfaction, she invited him to come home and dine with her.

After a short interval she paid Richard a second visit, in company with Miss Pendexter. He was a great deal worse; he lay emaciated, exhausted, and stupid. The issue was doubtful. Gertrude immediately pushed forward to M——, a larger town than her own, sought out a professional nurse, and arranged with him to relieve the old woman from the farm, who was worn out with her vigilance. For a fortnight, moreover, she received constant tidings from the young man's physician. During this fortnight, Major Luttrel was assiduous, and proportionately successful.

It may be said, to his credit, that he had by no means conducted his suit upon that narrow programme which he had drawn up at the outset. He very soon discovered that Gertrude's resentment—-if resentment there was—-was a substance utterly impalpable even to his most delicate tact, and he had accordingly set to work to woo her like an honest man, from day to day, from hour to hour, trusting so devoutly for success to momentary inspiration, that he felt his suit dignified by a certain flattering faux air of genuine passion. He occasionally reminded himself, however, that he might really be owing more to the subtle force of accidental contrast than Gertrude's lifelong reserve for it was certain she would not depart from it would ever allow him to measure.

It was as an honest man, then, a man of impulse and of action, that Gertrude had begun to like him. She was not slow to perceive whither his operations tended; and she was almost tempted at times to tell him frankly that she would spare him the intermediate steps, and meet him at the goal without further delay. It was not that she was prepared to love him, but she would make him an obedient wife. An immense weariness had somehow come upon her, and a sudden sense of loneliness. A vague suspicion that her money had done her an incurable wrong inspired her with a profound distaste for the care of it. She felt cruelly hedged out from human sympathy by her bristling possessions. “If I had had five hundred dollars a year,” she said in a frequent parenthesis, “I might have pleased him.” Hating her wealth, accordingly, and chilled by her isolation, the temptation was strong upon her to give herself up to that wise, brave gentleman who seemed to have adopted such a happy medium betwixt loving her for her money and fearing her for it. Would she not always stand between men who would represent the two extremes? She would anticipate security by an alliance with Major Luttrel.

One evening, on presenting himself, Luttrel read these thoughts so clearly in her eyes, that he made up his mind to speak. But his mind was burdened with a couple of facts, of which it was necessary that he should discharge it before it could enjoy the freedom of action which the occasion required. In the first place, then, he had been to see Richard Clare, and had found him suddenly and decidedly better. It was unbecoming, however, it was impossible, that he should allow Gertrude to linger over this pleasant announcement.

“I tell the good news first,” he said, gravely. “I have some very bad news, too, Miss Whittaker.”

Gertrude sent him a rapid glance. “Some one has been killed,” she said.

“Captain Severn has been shot, “ said the Major, “shot by a guerrilla.”

Gertrude was silent. No answer seemed possible to that uncompromising fact. She sat with her head on her hand, and her elbow on the table beside her, looking at the figures on the carpet. She uttered no words of commonplace regret; but she felt as little like giving way to serious grief. She had lost nothing, and, to the best of her knowledge, he had lost nothing. She had an old loss to mourn, a loss a month old, which she had mourned as she might. To give way to passion would have been but to impugn the solemnity of her past regrets. When she looked up at her companion, she was pale, but she was calm, yet with a calmness upon which a single glance of her eye directed him not inconsiderately to presume. She was aware that this glance betrayed her secret; but in view both of Severn's death and of the Majors attitude, such betrayal mattered less. Luttrel had prepared to act upon her hint, and to avert himself gently from the topic, when Gertrude, who had dropped her eyes again, raised them with a slight shudder. “I'm cold,” she said. “Will you shut that window beside you, Major? Or stay, suppose, you give me my shawl from the sofa.”

Luttrel brought the shawl, placed it on her shoulders, and sat down beside her. “These are cruel times,” he said, with studied simplicity. “I'm sure I hardly know what s to come of it all.”

“Yes, they are cruel times,” said Gertrude. “They make one feel cruel. They make one doubt of all he has learnt from his pastors and masters.”

“Yes, but they teach us something new also.”

“I'm sure I don't know,” said Gertrude, whose heart was so full of bitterness that she felt almost malignant. “They teach us how mean we are.”

“War is an infamy, Major, though it is your trade. It's very well for you, who look at it professionally, and for those who go and fight; but it's a miserable business for those who stay at home, and do the thinking and the sentimentalizing. It's a miserable business for women; it makes us more spiteful than ever.”

“Well, a little spite isn't a bad thing, in practice,” said the Major. “War is certainly an abomination, both at home and in the field. But as wars go, Miss Whittaker, our own is a very satisfactory one. It involves something. It won't leave us as it found us. We're in the midst of a revolution, and what's a revolution but a turning upside down? It makes sad work with our habits and theories and our traditions and convictions. But, on the other hand,” Luttrel pursued, warming to his task, “it leaves something untouched, which is better than these, I mean our feelings, Miss Whittaker.” And the Major paused until he had caught Gertrude's eyes, when, having engaged them with his own, he proceeded. “I think they are the stronger for the downfall of so much else, and, upon my soul, I think it's in them we ought to take refuge. Don't you think so?”

“Yes, if I understand you.”

“I mean our serious feelings, you know, not our tastes nor our passions. I don't advocate fiddling while Rome is burning. In fact it's only poor, unsatisfied devils that are tempted to fiddle. There is one feeling which is respectable and honourable, and even sacred, at all times and in all places, whatever they may be. It doesn't depend upon circumstance; but they upon it; and with it's help, I think, we are a match for any circumstances. I don't mean religion, Miss Whittaker,” added the Major, with a sober smile.

“If you don't mean religion,” said Gertrude, “I suppose you mean love. That's a very different thing.”

“Yes, a very different thing; so I've always thought, and so I'm glad to hear you say. Some people, you know, mix them up in the most extraordinary fashion. I don't fancy myself an especially religious man; in fact, I believe I'm rather otherwise. It's my nature. Half mankind are born so, or I suppose the affairs of this world wouldn't move. But I believe I'm a good lover, Miss Whittaker.”

“I hope for your own sake you are, Major Luttrel.”

“Thank you. Do you think now you could entertain the idea for the sake of any one else?”

Gertrude neither dropped her, eyes, nor shrugged her shoulders, nor blushed. If anything, indeed, she turned somewhat paler than before, as she sustained her companions gaze, and prepared to answer him as directly as she might.

“If I loved you, Major Luttrel,” she said, “I should value the idea for my own sake.”

The Major, too, blanched a little. “I put my question conditionally,” he answered, “and I have got, as I deserved, a conditional reply. I will speak plainly, then, Miss Whittaker. Do you value the fact for your own sake? It would be plainer still to say, Do you love me? but I confess I'm not brave enough for that. I will say, Can you? or I will even content myself with putting it in the conditional again, and asking you if you could; although, after all, I hardly know what the if understood can reasonably refer to. I'm not such a fool as to ask of any woman—-least of all of you—-to love me contingently. You can only answer for the present, and say yes or no. I shouldn't trouble you to say either, if I didn't conceive that I had given you time to make up your mind. It doesn't take forever to know James Luttrel. I'm not one of the great unfathomable ones. We've seen each other more or less intimately for a good many weeks; and as I'm conscious, Miss Whittaker, of having shown you my best, I take for granted that if you don't fancy me now, you won't a month hence, when you shall have seen my faults. Yes, Miss Whittaker, I can solemnly say,” continued the Major, with genuine feeling, “I have shown you my best, as every man is in honour bound to do who approaches a woman with those predispositions with which I have approached you. I have striven hard to please you,”—-and he paused. “I can only says I hope I have succeeded.”

“I should be very insensible, “ said Gertrude, “if all your kindness and your courtesy had been lost upon me.”

“In Heavens name, don't talk about courtesy,” cried the Major.

“I am deeply conscious of your devotion, and I am very much obliged to you for urging your claims so respectfully and considerately. I speak seriously, Major Luttrel,” pursued Gertrude. “There is a happy medium of expression, and you have taken it. Now it seems to me that there is a happy medium of affection, with which you might be content. Strictly, I don't love you. I question my heart, and it gives me that answer. The feeling that I have is not a feeling to work prodigies.”

“May it at least work the prodigy of allowing you to be my wife?”

“I don't think I shall over-estimate it's strength, if I say that it may. If you can respect a woman who gives you her hand in cold blood, you are welcome to mine.”

Luttrel moved his chair and took her hand. “Beggars can't be choosers,” said he, raising it to his moustache.

“O Major Luttrel, don't say that,” she answered. “I give you a great deal; but I keep a little,—-a little,” said Gertrude, hesitating, “which I suppose I shall give to God.”

“Well, I shall not be jealous,” said Luttrel.

“The rest I give to you, and in return I ask a great deal.”

“I shall give you all. You know I told you I'm not religious.”

“No, I don't want more than I give,” said Gertrude.

“But, pray,” asked Luttrel, with a delicate smile, “what am I to do with the difference?”

“You had better keep it for yourself. What I want is your protection, sir, and your advice, and your care. I want you to take me away from this place, even if you have to take me down to the army. I want to see the world under the shelter of your name. I shall give you a great deal of trouble. I'm a mere mass of possessions: what I am, is nothing to what I have. But ever since I began to grow up, what I am has been the slave of what I have. I am weary of my chains, and you must help me to carry them,” and Gertrude rose to her feet as if to inform the Major that his audience was at an end.

He still held her right hand.; she gave him the other. He stood looking down at her, an image of manly humility, while from his silent breast went out a brief thanksgiving to favouring fortune.

At the pressure of his hands, Gertrude felt her bosom heave. She burst into tears. “O, you must be very kind to me!” she cried, as he put his arm about her, and she dropped her head upon his shoulder.

When once Richard's health had taken a turn for the better, it began very rapidly to improve. “Until he is quite well,” Gertrude said, one day, to her accepted suitor, “I had rather he heard nothing of our engagement. He was once in love with me himself,” she added, very frankly. “Did you ever suspect it? But I hope he will have got better of that sad malady, too. Nevertheless, I shall expect nothing of his good judgment until he is quite strong; and as he may hear of my new intentions from other people, I propose that, for the present, we confide them to no one.”

“But if he asks me point-blank,” said the Major, “what shall I answer?”

“It's not likely he'll ask you. How should he suspect anything?”

“O,” said Luttrel, “Clare is one that suspects everything.”

“Tell him we're not engaged, then. A woman in my position may say what she pleases.”

It was agreed, however, that certain preparations for the marriage should meanwhile go forward in secret; and that the marriage itself should take place in August, as Luttrel expected to be ordered back into service in the autumn. At about this moment Gertrude was surprised to receive a short note from Richard, so feebly scrawled in pencil as to be barely legible. “Dear Gertrude,” it ran, “don't come to see me just yet. I'm not fit. You would hurt me, and vice versa. God bless you! R. CLARE.” Miss Whittaker explained his request, by the supposition that a report had come to him of Major Luttrel's late assiduities (which it was impossible should go unobserved); that, leaping at the worst, he had taken her engagement for granted; and that, under this impression, he could not trust himself to see her. She despatched him an answer, telling him that she would await his pleasure, and that, if the doctor would consent to his having letters, she would meanwhile occasionally write to him. “She will give me good advice,” thought Richard impatiently; and on this point, accordingly, she received no account of his wishes. Expecting to leave her house and close it on her marriage, she spent many hours in wandering sadly over the meadow-paths and through the woodlands which she had known from her childhood. She had thrown aside the last ensigns of filial regret, and now walked sad and splendid in the uncompromising colours of an affianced bride. It would have seemed to a stranger that, for a woman who had freely chosen a companion for life, she was amazingly spiritless and sombre. As she looked at her pale cheeks and heavy eyes in the mirror, she felt ashamed that she had no fairer countenance to offer to her destined lord. She had lost her single beauty, her smile; and she would make but a ghastly figure at the altar. “I ought to wear a calico dress and an apron,” she said to herself, “and not this glaring finery.” But she continued to wear her finery, and to lay out her money, and to perform all her old duties to the letter. After the lapse of what she deemed a sufficient interval, she went to see Mrs. Martin, and to listen dumbly to her narration of her brothers death, and to her simple eulogies.

Major Luttrel performed his part quite as bravely, and much more successfully. He observed neither too many things nor too few; he neither presumed upon his success, nor mistrusted it. Having on his side received no prohibition from Richard, he resumed his visits at the farm, trusting that, with the return of reason, his young friend might feel disposed to renew that anomalous alliance in which, on the hapless evening of Captain Severn's farewell, he had taken refuge against his despair. In the long, languid hours of his early convalescence, Richard had found time to survey his position, to summon back piece by piece the immediate past, and to frame a general scheme for the future. But more vividly than anything else, there had finally disengaged itself from his meditations a profound aversion to James Luttrel.

It was in this humour that the Major found him; and as he looked at the young mans gaunt shoulders, supported by pillows, at his face, so livid and aquiline, at his great dark eyes, luminous with triumphant life, it seemed to him that an invincible spirit had been sent from a better world to breathe confusion upon his hopes. If Richard hated the Major, the reader may guess whether the Major loved Richard. Luttrel was amazed at his first remark.

“I suppose you re engaged by this time,” Richard said, calmly enough.

“Not quite,” answered the Major. “There s a chance for you yet.”

To this Richard made no rejoinder. Then, suddenly, “Have you had any news of Captain Severn?” he asked.

For a moment the Major was perplexed at his question. He had assumed that the news of Severn's death had come to Richard's ears, and he had been half curious, half apprehensive as to it's effect. But an instants reflection now assured him that the young mans estrangement from his neighbours had kept him hitherto and might still keep him in ignorance of the truth. Hastily, therefore, and inconsiderately, the Major determined to confirm this ignorance. “No,” said he; “I've had no news. Severn and I are not on such terms as to correspond.”

The next time Luttrel came to the farm, he found the master sitting up in a great, cushioned, chintz-covered armchair which Gertrude had sent him the day before out of her own dressing-room.

“Are you engaged yet?” asked Richard.

There was a strain as if of defiance in his tone. The Major was irritated. “Yes,” said he, “we are engaged now.”

The young mans face betrayed no emotion.

“Are you reconciled to it?” asked Luttrel.

“Yes, practically I am.”

“What do you mean by practically? Explain yourself.”

“A man in my state can't explain himself. I mean that, however I feel about it, I shall accept Gertrude's marriage.”

“You re a wise man, my boy,” said the Major, kindly.

“I'm growing wise. I feel like Solomon on his throne in this chair. But I confess, sir, I don't see how she could have you.”

“Well, there s no accounting for tastes,” said the Major, good-humouredly.

“Ah, if it's been a matter of taste with her,” said Richard, “I have nothing to say.”

They came to no more express understanding than this with regard to the future. Richard continued to grow stronger daily, and to defer the renewal of his intercourse with Gertrude. A month before, he would have resented as a bitter insult the intimation that he would ever be so resigned to lose her as he now found himself. He would not see her for two reasons: first, because he felt that it would be or that at least in reason it ought to be a painful experience to look upon his old mistress with a coldly critical eye and secondly, because, justify to himself as he would his new-born indifference, he could not entirely cast away the suspicion that it was a last remnant of disease, and that, when he stood on his legs again in the presence of those exuberant landscapes with which he had long since established a sort of sensuous communion, he would feel, as with a great tumultuous rush, the return of his impetuous manhood and of his old capacity. When he had smoked a pipe in the outer sunshine, when he had settled himself once more to the long elastic bound of his mare, then he would see Gertrude. The reason of the change which had come upon him was that she had disappointed him, she whose magnanimity it had once seemed that his fancy was impotent to measure. She had accepted Major Luttrel, a man whom he despised; she had so mutilated her magnificent heart as to match it with his. The validity of his dislike to the Major, Richard did not trouble himself to examine. He accepted it as an unerring instinct; and, indeed, he might have asked himself, had he not sufficient proof? Moreover he laboured under the sense of a gratuitous wrong. He had suffered an immense torment of remorse to drive him into brutishness, and thence to the very gate of death, for an offence which he had deemed mortal, and which was after all but a phantasm of his impassioned conscience. What a fool he had been! a fool for his nervous fears, and a fool for his penitence. Marriage with Major Luttrel,—-such was the end of Gertrude's fancied anguish. Such, too, we hardly need add, was the end of that idea of reparation which had been so formidable to Luttrel. Richard had been generous; he would now be just.

Far from impeding his recovery, these reflections hastened it. One morning in the beginning of August, Gertrude received notice of Richard's presence. It was a still, sultry day, and Miss Whittaker, her habitual pallor deepened by the oppressive heat, was sitting alone in a white morning-dress, languidly fanning aside at once the droning flies and her equally importunate thoughts. She found Richard standing in the middle of the drawing-room, booted and spurred.

“Well, Richard,” she exclaimed, with some feeling, “you're at last willing to see me!”

As his eyes fell upon her, he started and stood almost paralysed, heeding neither her words nor her extended hand. It was not Gertrude he saw, but her ghost.

“In Heavens name what has happened to you?” he cried. “Have you been ill?”

Gertrude tried to smile in feigned surprise at his surprise; but her muscles relaxed. Richards words and looks reflected more vividly than any mirror the dejection of her person; and this, the misery of her soul. She felt herself growing faint. She staggered back to a sofa and sank down.

Then Richard felt as if the room were revolving about him, and as if his throat were choked with imprecations, as if his old erratic passion had again taken possession of him, like a mingled legion of devils and angels. It was through pity that his love returned. He went forward and dropped on his knees at Gertrude's feet. “Speak to me!” he cried, seizing her hands. “Are you unhappy? Is your heart broken? O Gertrude! what have you come to?”

Gertrude drew her hands from his grasp and rose to her feet. “Get up, Richard,” she said. “Don't talk so wildly. I'm not well. I'm very glad to see you. You look well.”

“I've got my strength again, and meanwhile you've been failing. You're unhappy, you're wretched! Don't say you re not, Gertrude it's as plain as day. You're breaking your heart.”

“The same old Richard!” said Gertrude, trying to smile again.

“Would that you were the same old Gertrude! Don't try to smile; you can't!”

“I shall!” said Gertrude, desperately. “I'm going to be married, you know.”

“Yes, I know. I don't congratulate you.”

“I have not counted upon that honour, Richard. I shall have to do without it.”

“You'll have to do without a great many things!” cried Richard, horrified by what seemed to him her blind self-immolation.

“I have all I ask,” said Gertrude.

“You haven't all I ask then! You haven't all your friends ask.”

“My friends are very kind, but I marry to suit myself.”

“You've not suited yourself!” retorted the young man. “You've suited—-God knows what!—-your pride, your despair, your resentment.” As he looked at her, the secret history of her weakness seemed to become plain to him, and he felt a mighty rage against the man who had taken a base advantage of it. “Gertrude!” he cried, “I entreat you to go back. It's not for my sake, “I'll give you up, I'll go a thousand miles away, and never look at you again. It's for your own. In the name of your happiness, break with that man! Don't fling yourself away. Buy him off, if you consider yourself bound. Give him your money. That's all he wants.”

As Gertrude listened, the blood came back to her face, and two flames into her eyes. She looked at Richard from head to foot. “You are not weak,” she said, “you are in your senses, you are well and strong; you shall tell me what you mean. You insult the best friend I have. Explain yourself! you insinuate foul things, speak them out!” Her eyes glanced toward the door, and Richard's followed them. Major Luttrel stood on the threshold.

“Come in, sir!” cried Richard. “Gertrude swears she'll believe no harm of you. Come and tell her that she's wrong! How can you keep on harassing a woman whom you've brought to this state? Think of what she was three months ago, and look at her now!”

Luttrel received this broadside without flinching. He had overheard Richard's voice from the entry, and he had steeled his heart for the encounter. He assumed the air of having been so amazed by the young man's first words as only to have heard his last; and he glanced at Gertrude mechanically as if to comply with them. “What's the matter?” he asked, going over to her, and taking her hand; “are you ill?” Gertrude let him have her hand, but she forbore to meet his eyes.

“Ill! of course she s ill!” cried Richard, passionately. “She's dying, she's consuming herself! I know I seem to be playing an odious part here, Gertrude, but, upon my soul, I can't help it. I look like a betrayer, an informer, a sneak, but I don't feel like one! Still, I'll leave you, if you say so.”

“Shall he go, Gertrude?” asked Luttrel, without looking at Richard.

“No. Let him stay and explain himself. He has accused you, let him prove his case.”

“I know what he is going to say,” said Luttrel. “It will place me in a bad light. Do you still wish to hear it?”

Gertrude drew her hand hastily out of Luttrel's. “Speak, Richard!” she cried, with a passionate gesture.

“I will speak,” said Richard. “I've done you a dreadful wrong, Gertrude. How great a wrong, I never knew until I saw you to-day so miserably altered. When I heard that you were to be married, I fancied that it was no wrong, and that my remorse had been wasted. But I understand it now; and he understands it, too, You once told me that you had ceased to love Captain Severn. It wasn't true. You never ceased to love him. You love him at this moment. If he were to get another wound in the next battle, how would you feel? How would you bear it?” And Richard paused for an instant with the force of his interrogation.

“For Gods sake,” cried Gertrude, “respect the dead!”

“The dead! Is he dead?”

Gertrude covered her face with her hands.

“You beast!” cried Luttrel.

Richard turned upon him savagely. “Shut your infernal mouth!” he roared. “You told me he was alive and well!”

Gertrude made a movement of speechless distress.

“You would have it, my dear,” said Luttrel, with a little bow.

Richard had turned pale, and began to tremble. “Excuse me, Gertrude,” he said, hoarsely, “I've been deceived. Poor, unhappy woman! Gertrude,” he continued, going nearer to her, and speaking in a whisper, “I killed him.”

Gertrude fell back from him, as he approached her, with a look of unutterable horror. “I and he,” said Richard, pointing at Luttrel.

Gertrude's eyes followed the direction of his gesture, and transferred their scorching disgust to her suitor. This was too much for Luttrel's courage. “You idiot!” she shouted at Richard, “speak out!”

“He loved you, though you believed he didn't,” said Richard. “I saw it the first time I looked at him. To every one but you it was as plain as day. Luttrel saw it too. But he was too modest, and he never fancied you cared for him. The night before he went back to the army, he came to bid you good by. If he had seen you, it would have been better for every one. You remember that evening, of course. We met him, Luttrel and I. He was all on fire,—-he meant to speak. I knew it, you knew it, Luttrel: it was in his fingers ends. I intercepted him. I turned him off,—-I lied to him and told him you were away. I was a coward, and I did neither more nor less than that. I knew you were waiting for him. It was stronger than my will,—-I believe I should do it again. Fate was against him, and he went off. I came back to tell you, but my damnable jealousy strangled me. I went home and drank myself into a fever. I've done you a wrong that I can never repair. I'd go hang myself if I thought it would help you.” Richard spoke slowly, softly, and explicitly, as if irresistible Justice in person had her hand upon his neck, and were forcing him down upon his knees. In the presence of Gertrude's dismay nothing seemed possible but perfect self-conviction. In Luttrel's attitude, as he stood with his head erect, his arms folded, and his cold grey eye fixed upon the distance, it struck him that there was something atrociously insolent; not insolent to him,—-for that he cared little enough,—-but insolent to Gertrude and to the dreadful solemnity of the hour. Richard sent the Major a look of the most aggressive contempt. “As for Major Luttrel,” he said, “he was but a passive spectator. No, Gertrude, by Heaven!” he burst out; “he was worse than I! I loved you, and he didn't!”

“Our friend is correct in his facts, Gertrude,” said Luttrel, quietly. “He is incorrect in his opinions. I was a passive spectator of his deception. He appeared to enjoy a certain authority with regard to your wishes, the source of which I respected both of you sufficiently never to question,—-and I accepted the act which he has described as an exercise of it. You will remember that you had sent us away on the ground that you were in no humour for company. To deny you, therefore, to another visitor, seemed to me rather officious, but still pardonable. You will consider that I was wholly ignorant of your relations to that visitor; that whatever you may have done for others, Gertrude, to me you never vouchsafed a word of information on the subject, and that Mr. Clare's words are a revelation to me. But I am bound to believe nothing that he says. I am bound to believe that I have injured you only when I hear it from your own lips.”

Richard made a movement as if to break out upon the Major; but Gertrude, who had been standing motionless with her eyes upon the ground, quickly raised them, and gave him a look of imperious prohibition. She had listened, and she had chosen. She turned to Luttrel. “Major Luttrel,” she said, “you have been an accessory in what has been for me a serious grief. It is my duty to tell you so. I mean, of course, a profoundly unwilling accessory. I pity you more than I can tell you. I think your position more pitiable than mine. It is true that I never made a confidant of you. I never made one of Richard. I had a secret, and he surprised it. You were less fortunate.” It might have seemed to a thoroughly dispassionate observer that in these last four words there was an infinitesimal touch of tragic irony. Gertrude paused a moment while Luttrel eyed her intently, and Richard, from a somewhat tardy instinct of delicacy, walked over to the bow-window. “This is the most painful moment of my life,” she resumed. “I hardly know where my duty lies. The only thing that is plain to me is, that I must ask you to release me from my engagement. I ask it most humbly, Major Luttrel,” Gertrude continued, with warmth in her words, and a chilling coldness in her voice, a coldness which it sickened her to feel there, but which she was unable to dispel. “I can't expect that you should give me up easily; I know that it's a great deal to ask, and she forced the chosen words out of her mouth I should thank you more than I can say if you would put some condition upon my release. You have done honourably by me, and I repay you with ingratitude. But I can't marry you.” Her voice began to melt. “I have been false from the beginning. I have no heart to give you. I should make you a despicable wife.”

The Major, too, had listened and chosen, and in this trying conjuncture he set the seal to his character as an accomplished man. He saw that Gertrude's movement was final, and he determined to respect the inscrutable mystery of her heart. He read in the glance of her eye and the tone of her voice that the perfect dignity had fallen from his character, that his integrity had lost it's bloom; but he also read her firm resolve never to admit this fact to her own mind, nor to declare it to the world, and he honoured her forbearance. His hopes, his ambitions, his visions, lay before him like a colossal heap of broken glass; but he would be as graceful as she was. She had divined him; but she had spared him. The Major was inspired.

“You have at least spoken to the point,” he said. “You leave no room for doubt or for hope. With the little light I have, I can't say I understand your feelings, but I yield to them religiously. I believe so thoroughly that you suffer from the thought of what you ask of me, that I will not increase your suffering by assuring you of my own. I care for nothing but your happiness. You have lost it, and I give you mine to replace it. And although it's a simple thing to say,” he added, “I must say simply that I thank you for your implicit faith in my integrity,”—-and he held out his hand. As she gave him hers, Gertrude felt utterly in the wrong; and she looked into his eyes with an expression so humble, so appealing, so grateful, that, after all, his exit may be called triumphant.

When he had gone, Richard turned from the window with an enormous sense of relief. He had heard Gertrude's speech, and he knew that perfect justice had not been done; but still there was enough to be thankful for. Yet now that his duty was accomplished, he was conscious of a sudden lassitude. Mechanically he looked at Gertrude, and almost mechanically he came towards her. She, on her side, looking at him as he walked slowly down the long room, his face indistinct against the deadened light of the white-draped windows behind him, marked the expression of his figure with another pang. “He has rescued me,” she said to herself; “but his passion has perished in the tumult. Richard,” she said aloud, uttering the first words of vague kindness that came into her mind, “I forgive you.”

Richard stopped. The idea had lost it's charm. “You're very kind,” he said, wearily. “You're far too kind. How do you know you forgive me? Wait and see.”

Gertrude looked at him as she had never looked before; but he saw nothing of it. He saw a sad, plain girl in a white dress, nervously handling her fan. He was thinking of himself. If he had been thinking of her, he would have read in her lingering, upward gaze, that he had won her; and if, so reading, he had opened his arms, Gertrude would have come to them. We trust the reader is not shocked. She neither hated him nor despised him, as she ought doubtless in consistency to have done. She felt that he was abundantly a man, and she loved him. Richard on his side felt humbly the same truth, and he began to respect himself. The past had closed abruptly behind him, and tardy Gertrude had been shut in. The future was dimly shaping itself without her image. So he did not open his arms.

“Good by,” he said, holding out his hand. “I may not see you again for a long time.”

Gertrude felt as if the world were deserting her. “Are you going away?” she asked, tremulously.

“I mean to sell out and pay my debts, and go to the war.”

She gave him her hand, and he silently shook it. There was no contending with the war, and she gave him up.

With their separation our story properly ends, and to say more would be to begin a new story. It is perhaps our duty, however, expressly to add, that Major Luttrel, in obedience to a logic of his own, abstained from revenge; and that, if time has not avenged him, it has at least rewarded him. General Luttrel, who lost an arm before the war was over, recently married Miss Van Winkel of Philadelphia, and seventy thousand a year. Richard engaged in the defence of his country, on a captain's commission, obtained with some difficulty. He saw a great deal of fighting, but he has no scars to show. The return of peace found him in his native place, without a home, and without resources. One of his first acts was to call dutifully and respectfully upon Miss Whittaker, who's circle of acquaintance had apparently become very much enlarged, and now included a vast number of gentlemen. Gertrude's manner was kindness itself, but a more studied kindness than before. She had lost much of her youth and her simplicity. Richard wondered whether she had pledged herself to spinsterhood, but, of course he didn't ask her. She inquired very particularly into his material prospects and intentions, and offered most urgently to lend him money, which he declined to borrow. When he left her, he took a long walk through her place and beside the river, and, wandering back to the days when he had yearned for her love, assured himself that no woman would ever again be to him what she had been. During his stay in this neighbourhood he found himself impelled to a species of submission to one of the old agricultural magnates whom he had insulted in his unregenerate days, and through whom he was glad to obtain some momentary employment. But his present position is very distasteful to him, and he is eager to try his fortunes in the West. As yet, however, he has lacked even the means to get as far as St. Louis. He drinks no more than is good for him. To speak of Gertrude's impressions of Richard would lead us quite too far. Shortly after his return she broke up her household, and came to the bold resolution (bold, that is, for a woman young, unmarried, and ignorant of manners in her own country) to spend some time in Europe. At our last accounts she was living in the ancient city of Florence. Her great wealth, of which she was wont to complain that it excluded her from human sympathy, now affords. her a most efficient protection. She passes among her fellow-countrymen abroad for a very independent, but a very happy woman; although, as she is by this time twenty-seven years of age, a little romance is occasionally invoked to account for her continued celibacy.