Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page



A Problem 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 nothing.

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 pretty.”

“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 tents.

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 wrinkles.

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 his arm.

“We're very much obliged to you for the information,” said David. “At what age is our little girl to die?”

“Oh, very young.”

“How 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 beside her.

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 swarthy sibyl.

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 and indignant.

“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 wise head.

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 right.”

“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 him.

“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.”