by By Henry James
SEPTEMBER was drawing to an end, and with it the honeymoon of two
young persons in whom I shall be glad to interest the reader. They had
stretched it out in sovereign contempt of the balance of the calendar.
That September hath thirty days is a truth known to the simplest child;
but our young lovers had given it at least forty. Nevertheless, they
were on the whole not sorry to have the overture play itself out, and
to see the curtain rise on the drama in which they had undertaken the
leading parts. Emma thought very often of the charming little house
which was awaiting her in town, and of the servants whom her dear
mother had promised to engage; and, indeed, for that matter, the young
wife let her imagination hover about the choice groceries with which
she expected to find her cupboards stocked through the same kind
agency. Moreover, she had left her wedding-gown at home—thinking it
silly to carry her finery into the country—and she felt a great
longing to refresh her memory as to the particular shade of a certain
lavender silk, and the exact length of a certain train. The reader will
see that Emma was a simple, unsophisticated person, and that her
married life was likely to he made up of small joys and vexations. She
was simple and gentle and pretty and young; she adored her husband. He,
too, had begun to feel that it was time they were married in earnest.
His thoughts wandered back to his counting-room and his vacant desk,
and to the possible contents of the letters which he had requested his
fellow-clerk to open in his absence. For David, too, was a simple,
natural fellow, and although he thought his wife the sweetest of human
creatures—or, indeed, for that very reason—he was unable to forget
that life is full of bitter inhuman necessities and perils which muster
in force about you when you stand idle. He was happy, in short, and he
felt it unfair that he should any longer have his happiness for
The two, therefore, had made up their trunks again, and ordered the
vehicle in time for the morrow's train. Twilight had come on, and Emma
sat at the window empty-handed, taking a silent farewell of the
landscape, which she felt that they had let into the secret of their
young love. They had sat in the shade of every tree, and watched the
sunset from the top of every rock.
David had gone to settle his account with the landlord, and to bid
good-by to the doctor, who had been of such service when Emma had
caught cold by sitting for three hours on the grass after a days rain.
Sitting alone was dull work. Emma crossed the threshold of the long
window, and went to the garden gate to look for her husband. The
doctors house was a mile away, close to the village. Seeing nothing of
David, she strolled along the road, bareheaded, in her shawl. It was a
lovely evening. As there was no one to say so to, Emma said so, with
some fervour, to herself; and to this she added a dozen more remarks,
equally original and eloquent—and equally sincere. That David was, ah!
so good, and that she ought to he so happy. That she would have a great
many cares, but that she would be orderly, and saving, and vigilant,
and that her house should be a sanctuary of modest elegance and good
taste; and, then, that she might be a mother.
When Emma reached this point, she ceased to meditate and to whisper
virtuous nothings to her conscience. She rejoiced; she walked more
slowly, and looked about at the dark hills, rising in soft undulations
against the luminous west, and listened to the long pulsations of sound
mounting from woods and hedges and the margins of pools. Her ears rang,
and her eyes filled with tears.
Meanwhile she had walked a half-mile, and as yet David was not in
sight. Her attention, however, was at this moment diverted from her
quest. To her right, on a level with the road, stretched a broad,
circular space, half meadow, half common, enclosed in the rear by a
wood. At some distance, close to the wood, stood a couple of tents,
such as are used by the vagrant Indians who sell baskets and articles
of bark. In front, close to the road, on a fallen log, sat a young
Indian woman, weaving a basket, with two children beside her. Emma
looked at her curiously as she drew near.
“Good evening,” said the woman, returning her glance with hard,
bright black eyes. “Don't you want to buy something?”
“What have you got to sell?” asked Emma, stopping.
“All sorts of things. Baskets, and pincushions, and fans.”
“I should like a basket well enough—a little one—if they're
“Oh, yes, they're pretty. you'll see.” And she said something to one
of the children, in her own dialect. He went off, in compliance, to the
While he was gone, Emma looked at the other child, and pronounced it
very handsome; but without touching it, for the little savage was in
the last degree unclean. The woman doggedly continued her work,
examining Emma's person from head to foot, and staring at her dress,
her hands, and her rings.
In a few moments the child came back with a number of baskets strung
together, followed by an old woman, apparently the mother of the first.
Emma looked over the baskets, selected a pretty one, and took out her
purse to pay for it. The price was a dollar, but Emma had nothing
smaller than a two-dollar note, and the woman professed herself unable
to give change.
“Give her the money,” said the old woman, “and, for the difference,
I'll tell your fortune.”
Emma looked at her, hesitating. She was a repulsive old squaw, with
sullen, black eyes, and her swarthy face hatched across with a myriad
The younger woman saw that Emma looked a little frightened, and said
something in her barbarous native gutturals to her companion. The
latter retorted, and the other burst out into a laugh.
“Give me your hand,” said the old woman, “and I'll tell your
fortune.” And, before Emma found time to resist, she came and took hold
of her left hand. She held it awhile, with the back upwards, looking at
it's fair surface, and at the diamonds on her third finger. Then,
turning up the palm, she began to mutter and grumble. Just as she was
about to speak, Emma saw her look half-defiantly at some one apparently
behind her. Turning about, she saw that her husband had come up
unperceived. She felt relieved. The woman had a horribly vicious look,
and she exhaled, moreover, a strong odour of whiskey. Of this David
immediately became sensible.
“What is she doing?” he asked of his wife.
“Don't you see. She's telling my fortune.”
“What has she told you.”
“Nothing yet. She seems to be waiting for it to come to her.”
The squaw looked at David cunningly, and David returned her gaze with
ill-concealed disgust. “She'll have to wait a long time,” he said to
his wife. “She has been drinking.”
He had lowered his voice, but the woman heard him. The other began to
laugh, and said something in her own tongue to her mother. The latter
still kept Emma's hand and remained silent.
“This your husband?” she said, at last, nodding at David.
Emma nodded assent. The woman again examined her hand. “Within the
year,” she said, “you'll he a mother.”
“That's wonderful news,” said David. “Is it to be a boy or a girl?”
The woman looked hard at David. “A girl,” she said. And then she
transferred her eyes to Emma's palm.
“Well, is that all?” said Emma.
“She'll be sick.”
“Very likely,” said David. “And we'll send for the doctor.”
“The doctor'll do no good.”
“Then we shall send for another,” said Emma, laughing—but not
without an effort.
“He'll do no good. She'll die.”
The young squaw began to laugh again. Emma drew her hand away, and
looked at her husband. He was a little pale, and Emma put her hand into
“We're very much obliged to you for the information,” said David. “At
what age is our little girl to die?”
“Oh, very young.”
“Oh, very young.” The old woman seemed indisposed to commit herself
further, and David led his wife away.
“Well,” said Emma, “she gave us a good dollar's worth.”
“I think,” said David, “she had been giving herself a good dollar's
worth. She was full of liquor.”
From this assurance Emma drew for twenty-four hours to come a good
deal of comfort. As for David, in the course of an hour he had quite
forgotten the prophecy.
The next day they went back to town. Emma found her house all that
she had desired, and her lavender silk not a shade too pale, nor her
train an inch too short. The winter came and went, and she was still a
very happy woman. The spring arrived, the summer drew near, and her
happiness increased. She became the mother of a little girl.
For some time after the child was born Emma was confined to her room.
She used to sit with the infant on her lap, nursing her, counting her
breathings, wondering whether she would be pretty. David was at his
place of business, with his head full of figures. A dozen times Emma
recurred to the old woman's prophecy, sometimes with a tremor,
sometimes with indifference, sometimes almost with defiance. Then, she
declared that it was silly to remember it. A tipsy old squaw—a likely
providence for her precious child. She was, perhaps, dead herself by
this time. Nevertheless, her prophecy was odd; she seemed so positive.
And the other woman laughed so disagreeably. Emma had not forgotten
that laugh. She might well laugh, with her own lusty little savages
The first day that Emma left her room, one evening, at dinner, she
couldn't help asking her husband whether he remembered the Indian
woman's prediction. David was taking a glass of wine. He nodded.
“You see it's half come true,” said Emma. “A little girl.”
“My dear,” said David, “one would think you believed it.”
“Of course she'll be sick,” said Emma. “We must expect that.”
“Do you think, my dear,” pursued David, “that it's a little girl
because that venerable person said so?”
“Why no, of course not. it's only a coincidence.”
“Well, then, if it's merely a coincidence, we may let it rest. If the
old woman's dictum was a real prediction, we may also let it rest. That
it has half come true lessens the chances for the other half.”
The reader may detect a flaw in David's logic; but it was quite good
enough for Emma. She lived upon it for a year, at the end of which it
was in a manner put to the test.
It were certainly incorrect to say that Emma guarded and cherished
her little girl any the more carefully by reason of the old woman's
assurance; her natural affection was by itself a guaranty of perfect
vigilance. But perfect vigilance is not infallible. When the child was
a twelvemonth old it fell grievously sick, and for a week it's little
life hung by a thread. During this time I am inclined to think that
Emma quite forgot the sad prediction suspended over the infant's head;
it is certain, at least, that she never spoke of it to her husband, and
that he made no attempt to remind her of it. Finally, after a hard
struggle, the little girl came out of the cruel embrace of disease,
panting and exhausted, but uninjured. Emma felt as if her child was
immortal, and as if henceforth, life would have no trials for her. It
was not till then that she thought once more of the prophecy of the
She was sitting on the sofa in her chamber, with the child lying
asleep in her lap, watching the faint glow of returning life in it's
poor little wasted cheeks. David came in from his day's labour and sat
down beside her.
“I wonder,” said Emma, “what our friend Magawisca—or whatever her
name is—would say to that.”
“She would feel desperately snubbed,” said David. “Wouldn't she,
little transcendent convalescent?” And he gently tickled the tip of his
little girl's nose with the end of his moustache. The baby softly
opened her eyes, and, vaguely conscious of her father, lifted her hand
and languidly clutched his nose. “Upon my soul,” said David, “she's
positively boisterous. There's life in the old dog yet.”
“Oh, David, how can you?” said Emma. But she sat watching her husband
and child with a placid, gleeful smile. Gradually, her smile grew the
least bit serious, and then vanished, though she still looked like the
happy woman that she was. The nurse came up from supper, and took
possession of the baby. Emma let it go, and remained sitting on the
sofa. When the nurse had gone into the adjoining room, she laid her
hand in one of her husband's.
“David,” she said, “I have a little secret.”
“I've no doubt,” said David, “that you have a dozen. You're the most
secretive, clandestine, shady sort of woman I ever came across.”
It is needless to say that this was merely David's exuberant humour;
for Emma was the most communicative, sympathetic soul in the world. She
practised, in a quiet way, a passionate devotion to her husband, and it
was a part of her religion to make him her confidant. She had, of
course, in strictness, very little to confide to him. But she confided
to him her little, in the hope that he would one day confide to her
what she was pleased to believe his abundance.
“It's not exactly a secret,” Emma pursued; “only I've kept it so long
that it almost seems like one. You'll think me very silly, David. I
couldn't bear to mention it so long as there was any chance of truth in
the talk of that horrible old squaw. But now, that it's disproved, it
seems absurd to keep it on my mind; not that I really ever felt it
there, but if I said nothing about it, it was for your sake. I'm sure
you'll not mind it; and if you don't, David, I'm sure I needn't.”
“My dear girl, what on earth is coming?” said David. “If you don't,
I'm sure I needn't!—you make a man's flesh crawl.”
“Why, it's another prophecy,” said Emma.
“Another prophecy? Lets have it, then, by all means.”
“But you don't mean, David, that you're going to believe it?”
“That depends. If it's to my advantage, of course I shall.”
“To your advantage! Oh, David!”
“My dear Emma, prophecies are not to sneered at. Look at this one
about the baby.”
“Look at the baby, I should say.”
“Exactly. Isn't she a girl? hasn't she been at death's door?”
“Yes; but the old woman made her go through.”
“Nay; you've no imagination. Of course, they pull off short of the
catastrophe; but they give you a good deal, by the way.”
“Well, my dear, since you're so determined to believe in them, I
should be sorry to prevent you. I make you a present of this one.”
“Was it a squaw, this time?”
“No, it was an old Italian—a woman who used to come on Saturday
mornings at school and sell us sugar-plums and trinkets. You see it was
ten years ago. Our teachers used to dislike her; but we let her into
the garden by a back-gate. She used to carry a little tray, like a
peddler. She had candy and cakes, and kid-gloves. One day, she offered
to tell our fortunes with cards. She spread out her cards on the top of
her tray, and half a dozen of us went through the ceremony. The rest
were afraid. I believe I was second. She told me a long rigmarole that
I have forgotten, but said nothing about lovers or husbands. That, of
course, was all we wanted to hear; and, though I was disappointed, I
was ashamed to ask any questions. To the girls who came after me, she
promised successively the most splendid marriages. I wondered whether I
was to be an old maid. The thought was horrible, and I determined to
try and conjure such a fate. 'But I?' I said, as she was going to put
up her cards; 'am I never to be married?' She looked at me, and then
looked over her cards again. I suppose she wished to make up for her
neglect. 'Ah, you, Miss,' she said—'you are better off than any of
them. You are to marry twice!' Now, my dear,” Emma added, “make the
most of that.” And she leaned her head on her husbands shoulder and
looked in his face, smiling.
But David smiled not at all. On the contrary, he looked grave.
Hereupon, Emma put by her smile, and looked grave, too. In fact, she
looked pained. She thought it positively unkind of David to take her
little story in such stiff fashion.
“It's very strange,” said David.
“It's very silly,” said Emma. “I'm sorry I told you, David.”
“I'm very glad. it's extremely curious. Listen, and you'll see—I,
too, have a secret, Emma.”
“Nay, I don't want to hear it,” said Emma.
“You shall hear it,” said the young man. “I never mentioned it
before, simply because I had forgotten it—utterly forgotten it. But
your story calls it back to my memory. I, too, once had my fortune
told. It was neither a squaw nor a gypsy. It was a young lady, in
company. I forget her name. I was less than twenty. It was at a party,
and she was telling people's fortunes. She had cards; she pretended to
have a gift. I don't know what I had been saying. I suppose that, as
boys of that age are fond of doing, I had been showing off my wit at
the expense of married life. I remember a young lady introducing me to
this person, and saying that here was a young man who declared he never
would marry. Was it true? She looked at her cards, and said that it was
completely false, and that I should marry twice. The company began to
laugh. I was mortified. Why don't you say three times? I said. Because,
answered the young lady, my cards say only twice.” David had got up
from the sofa, and stood before his wife. “Don't you think it's
curious?” he said.
“Curious enough. One would say you thought it something more.”
“You know,” continued David, “we can't both marry twice.”
“You know,” cried Emma. “Bravo, my dear. 'You know' is delightful.
Perhaps you would like me to withdraw and give you a chance.”
David looked at his wife, half surprised at the bitterness of her
words. He was apparently on the point of making some conciliatory
speech; but he seemed forcibly struck, afresh, with the singular
agreement of the two predictions. “Upon my soul!” he said, “it's
preternaturally odd!” He burst into a fit of laughter.
Emma put her hands to her face and sat silent. Then, after a few
moments: “For my part,” she said, “I think it's extremely
disagreeable!” Overcome by the effort to speak, she burst into tears.
Her husband again placed himself at her side. He still took the
humorous view of the case—on the whole, perhaps, indiscreetly. “Come,
Emma,” he said, “dry your tears, and consult your memory. Are you sure
you've never been married before?”
Emma shook off his caresses and got up. Then, suddenly turning
around, she said, with vehemence, “And you, sir?”
For an answer David laughed afresh; and then, looking at his wife a
moment, he rose and followed her. “Où diable la jalousie va-t-ellese
nicher?” he cried. He put his arm about her, she yielded, and he
kissed her. At this moment a little wail went up from the baby in the
neighbouring room. Emma hastened away.
Where, indeed, as David had asked, will jealousy stow herself away?
In what odd, unlikely corners will she turn up? She made herself a nest
in poor Emma's innocent heart, and, at her leisure, she lined and
feathered it. The little scene I have just described left neither
party, indeed, as it found them. David had kissed his wife and shown
the folly of her tears, but he had not taken back his story. For ten
years he hadn't thought of it; but, now that he had been reminded of
it, he was quite unable to dismiss it from his thoughts. It besieged
him, and harassed and distracted him; it thrust itself into his mind at
the most inopportune moments; it buzzed in his ears and danced among
the columns of figures in his great folio account books. Sometimes the
young lady's prediction conjoined itself with a prodigious array of
numerals, and roamed away from it's modest place among the units into
the hundreds of thousands. David read himself a million times a
husband. But, after all, as he reflected, the oddity was not in his
having been predestined, according to the young lady, to marry twice;
but in poor Emma having drawn exactly the same lot. It was a conflict
of oracles. It would be an interesting inquiry, although now, of
course, quite impracticable, to ascertain which of the two was more to
be trusted. For how under the sun could both have revealed the truth?
The utmost ingenuity was powerless to reconcile their mutual
incompatibility. Could either of the soothsayers have made her
statement in a figurative sense? It seemed to David that this was to
fancy them a grain too wise. The simplest solution—except not to think
of the matter at all, which he couldn't bring himself to
accomplish—was to fancy that each of the prophecies nullified the
other, and that when he became Emma's husband, their counterfeit
destinies had been put to confusion.
Emma found it quite impossible to take the matter so easily. She
pondered it night and day for a month. She admitted that the prospect
of a second marriage was, of necessity, unreal for one of them; but her
heart ached to discover for which of them it was real. She had laughed
at the folly of the Indian's threat; but she found it impossible to
laugh at the extraordinary coincidence of David's promised fate with
her own. That it was absurd and illogical made it only the more
painful. It filled her life with a horrible uncertainty. It seemed to
indicate that whether or no the silly gossip of a couple of juggler's
was, on either side, strictly fulfilled; yet there was some dark cloud
hanging over their marriage. Why should an honest young couple have
such strange things said of them? Why should they be called upon to
read such an illegible riddle? Emma repented bitterly of having told
her secret. And yet, too, she rejoiced; for it was a dreadful thought
that David, unprompted to reveal his own adventure should have kept
such a dreadful occurrence locked up in his breast, shedding, Heaven
knows what baleful influence, on her life and fortunes. Now she could
live it down; she could combat it, laugh at it. And David, too, could
do as much for the mysterious prognostic of his own extinction. Never
had Emma's fancy been so active. She placed the two faces of her
destiny in every conceivable light. At one moment, she imagined that
David might succumb to the pressure of his fancied destiny, and leave
her a widow, free to marry again; and at another that he would grow
enamoured of the thought of obeying his own oracle, and crush her to
death by the masculine vigour of his will. Then, again, she felt as if
her own will were strong, and as if she bore on her head the protecting
hand of fate. Love was much, assuredly, but fate was more. And here,
indeed, what was fate but love? As she had loved David, so she would
love another. She racked her poor little brain to conjure up this
future master of her life. But, to do her justice, it was quite in
vain. She could not forget David. Nevertheless, she felt guilty. And
then she thought of David, and wondered whether he was guilty,
tooâ€"whether he was dreaming of another woman.
In this way it was that Emma became jealous. That she was a very
silly girl I don't pretend to deny. I have expressly said that she was
a person of a very simple make; and in proportion to the force of her
old straightforward confidence in her husband, was that of her present
suspicion and vagaries.
From the moment that Emma became jealous, the household angel of
peace shook it's stainless wings and took a melancholy flight. Emma
immediately betrayed herself. She accused her husband of indifference,
and of preferring the society of other women. Once she told him that he
might, if he pleased. It was à propos of an evening party, to
which they had both been asked. During the afternoon, while David was
still at his business, the baby had been taken sick, and Emma had
written a note to say that they should not be able to come. When David
returned, she told him of her note, and he laughed and said that he
wondered whether their intended hostess would fancy that it was his
practice to hold the baby. For his part, he declared that he meant to
go; and at nine o'clock he appeared, dressed. Emma looked at him, pale
“After all,” she said, “you're right. Make the most of your time.”
These were horrible words, and, as was natural, they made a vast
breach between the husband and wife.
Once in awhile Emma felt an impulse to take her revenge, and look for
happiness in society, and in the sympathy and attention of agreeable
men. But she never went very far. Such happiness seemed but a troubled
repose, and the world at large had no reason to suspect that she was
not on the best of terms with her husband.
David, on his side, went much further. He was gradually transformed
from a quiet, home-keeping, affectionate fellow, into a nervous,
restless, querulous man of pleasure, a diner-out and a haunter of clubs
and theatres. From the moment that he detected their influence on his
life, he had been unable to make light of the two prophecies. Then one,
now the other, dominated his imagination, and, in either event, it was
impossible to live as he would have lived in ignorance. Sometimes, at
the thought of an early death, he was seized with a passionate
attachment to the world, and an irresistible desire to plunge into
worldly joys. At other moments, thinking of his wife's possible death,
and of her place being taken by another woman, he felt a fierce and
unnatural impatience of all further delay in the evolution of events.
He wished to annihilate the present. To live in expectation so acute
and so feverish was not to live. Poor David was occasionally tempted by
desperate expedients to kill time. Gradually the perpetual oscillation
from one phase of his destiny to the other, and the constant change
from passionate exaltation to equally morbid depression, induced a
state of chronic excitement, not far removed from insanity.
At about this moment he made the acquaintance of a young unmarried
woman whom I may call Julia—a very charming, superior person, of a
character to exert a healing, soothing influence upon his troubled
spirit. In the course of time, he told her the story of his domestic
revolution. At first, she was very much amused she laughed at him, and
called him superstitious, fantastic, and puerile. But he took her
levity so ill, that she changed her tactics, and humoured his delusion.
It seemed to her, however, that his case was serious, and that, if
some attempt were not made to arrest his growing alienation from his
wife, the happiness of both parties might depart forever. She believed
that the flimsy ghost of their mysterious future could be effectually
laid only by means of a reconciliation. She doubted that their love was
dead and gone. It was only dormant. If she might once awaken it, she
would retire with a light heart, and leave it lord of the house.
So, without informing David of her intention, Julia ventured to call
upon Emma, with whom she had no personal acquaintance. She hardly knew
what she should say; she would trust to the inspiration of the moment;
she merely wished to kindle a ray of light in the young wife's darkened
household. Emma, she fancied, was a simple, sensitive person; she would
be quickly moved by proffered kindness.
But, although she was unacquainted with Emma, the young wife had
considerable knowledge of Julia. She had had her pointed out to her in
public. Julia was handsome. Emma hated her. She thought of her as her
husband's temptress and evil genius. She assured herself that they were
longing for her death, so that they might marry. Perhaps he was already
her lover. Doubtless they would be glad to kill her. In this way it was
that, instead of finding a gentle, saddened, sensitive person, Julia
found a bitter, scornful woman, infuriated by a sense of insult and
injury. Julia's visit seemed to Emma the climax of insolence. She
refused to listen to her. Her courtesy, her gentleness, her attempt at
conciliation, struck her as a mockery and a snare. Finally, losing all
self-control, she called her a very hard name.
Then Julia, who had a high temper of her own, plucked up a spirit,
and struck a blow for her dignity—a blow, however, which unfortunately
rebounded on David. “I had steadily refused, Madam,” she said, “to
believe that you are a fool. But you quite persuade me.”
With these words she withdrew. But it mattered little to Emma whether
she remained or departed. She was conscious only of one thing, that
David had called her a fool to another woman. “A fool?” she cried.
“Truly I have been. But I shall be no longer.”
She immediately made her preparations for leaving her husbands house,
and when David came home he found her with her child and a servant on
the point of departure. She told him in a few words that she was going
to her mother's, that in his absence he had employed persons to insult
her in her own house, it was necessary that she should seek protection
in her family. David offered no resistance. He made no attempt to
resent her accusation. He was prepared for anything. It was fate.
Emma accordingly went to her mother's. She was supported in this
extraordinary step, and in the long months of seclusion which followed
it, by an exalted sense of her own comparative integrity and virtue.
She, at least, had been a faithful wife. She had endured, she had been
patient. Whatever her destiny might be, she had made no indecent
attempt to anticipate it. More than ever she devoted herself to her
little girl. The comparative repose and freedom of her life gave her
almost a feeling of happiness. She felt that deep satisfaction which
comes upon the spirit when it has purchased contentment fit the expense
of reputation. There was now, at least, no falsehood in her life. She
neither valued her marriage nor pretended to value it.
As for David, he saw little of any one but Julia. Julia, I have said,
was a woman of great merit and of perfect generosity. She very soon
ceased to resent the check she had received from Emma, and not
despairing, still, of seeing peace once more established in the young
man's household, she made it a matter of conscience to keep David by
her influence in as sane and unperverted a state of mind as
circumstances would allow. “She may hate me,” thought Julia, “but I'll
keep him for her.” Julia's, you see, in all this business was the only
David took his own view of their relations. “I shall certainly see
you as often as I wish,” he declared. “I shall take consolation where I
find it. She has her child—her mother. Does she begrudge me a friend?
She may thank her stars I don't take to drink or to play.”
For six months David saw nothing of his wife. Finally, one evening,
when he was at Julia's house, he received this note:
Your daughter died this morning, after several hours suffering. She
will be buried to-morrow morning. E.
David handed the note to Julia. “After all,” he said, “she was
“Who was right, my poor friend?” asked Julia.
“The old squaw. We cried out too soon.”
The next morning he went to the house of his mother-in-law. The
servant, recognizing him, ushered him into the room in which the
remains of his poor little girl lay, ready for burial. Near the
darkened window stood his mother-in-law, in conversation with a
gentleman—a certain Mr. Clark—whom David recognized as a favourite
clergyman of his wife, and whom he had never liked. The lady, on his
entrance, made him a very grand curtsy—if, indeed, that curtsy may be
said to come within the regulations which govern salutations of this
sort, in which the head is tossed up in proportion as the body is
depressed—and swept out of the room. David bowed to the clergyman, and
went and looked at the little remnant of mortality which had once been
his daughter. After a decent interval, Mr. Clark ventured to approach
“You have met with a great trial, sir,” said the clergyman.
David assented in silence.
“I suppose,” continued Mr. Clark, “it is sent, like all trials, to
remind us of our feeble and dependent condition—to purge us of pride
and stubbornness—to make us search our hearts and see whether we have
not by chance allowed the noisome weeds of folly to overwhelm and
suffocate the modest flower of wisdom.”
That Mr. Clark had deliberately prepared this speech, with a view to
the occasion, I should hesitate to affirm. Gentlemen of his profession
have these little parcels of sentiment ready to their hands. But he
was, of course, acquainted with Emma's estrangement from her husband
(although not with it's original motives), and, like a man of genuine
feeling, he imagined that under the softening action of a common
sorrow, their two hardened hearts might be made to melt and again to
flow into one. “The more we lose, my friend,” he pursued, “the more we
should cherish and value what is left.”
“You speak to very good purpose, sir,” said David; “but I,
unfortunately, have nothing left.”
At this moment the door opened, and Emma came in—pale, and clad in
black. She stopped, apparently unprepared to see her husband. But, on
David's turning toward her, she came forward.
David felt as if Heaven had sent an angel to give the lie to his last
words. His face flushed—first with shame, and then with joy. He put
out his arms. Emma halted an instant, struggling with her pride, and
looked at the clergyman. He raised his hand, with a pious sacramental
gesture, and she fell on her husband's neck.
The clergyman took hold of David's hand and pressed it; and,
although, as I have said, the young man had never been particularly
fond of Mr. Clark, he devoutly returned the pressure.
“Well,” said Julia, “a fortnight later—for in the interval Emma had
been brought to consent to her husband's maintaining his acquaintance
with this lady, and even herself to think her a very good sort of
person—“well, I don't see but that the terrible problem is at last
solved, and that you have each been married twice.”