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Eleanor's Career by Ita Aniol Prokop

 

I first met Eleanor Vachy at a boarding-school in the city of R——, where we soon became intimate friends. Eleanor was the result of a system. When but a few months old, and an orphan, she had been left to the care of her aunt, Miss Willmanson, a reformer, a progressionist, advanced both in life and opinions, who had spared nothing to make her niece an example to her sex. No pugilist ever believed more fully in training than did Miss Willmanson: she looked upon institutions of learning as forcing-houses, where nipping, budding and improving the natural growth was the constant occupation, and where the various branches of knowledge were cultivated, like cabbages, at so much a head. When Eleanor became, so to speak, her property, she seized with avidity the opportunity of submitting her principles to the test of experiment—of demonstrating to an incredulous world the power of education, and the vigor of the female mind and body when formed by proper discipline. The child was fed in accordance with the most recent discoveries in chemistry: she was taught to read after the latest improvement in primers; she was provided with mathematical toys and gymnastic exercises. Did she take a walk in summer, her attention was directed to botany; if she picked up a stone to make it skip over a passing brook, passages from the Medals of Creation or Thoughts on a Pebble were quoted; and when the stone went skimming over the surface of the calm pool, the theory of the ricochet was explained and the wonders of natural philosophy were dilated upon. Every sentence she spoke was made the text of a lesson, and the names of sages and philosophers became as familiar to her as those of Jack the Giant-killer and Blue Beard are to ordinary children.

Especially were the stories of distinguished women repeated by Miss Willmanson in glowing language, pointed out as precedents, and dwelt upon as worthy of emulation. "If their genius was great enough," she would remark, "to extort a recognition in times when only masculine pens wrote history, what could not the same ability do now?—now, when, strengthened by waiting, encouraged by ungrudging praise, and sure of having chroniclers of their own sex who will do them justice, a new era is dawning. The history of the world needs to be reseen from a woman's point of view, and rewritten by a woman's hand. Men have had the monopoly of making public opinion, and have distorted facts. What in a king they name policy, in a queen is called cruelty; what in a minister is diplomacy, in a favorite is deceit; what in a man is justice, in a woman is inhumanity; vigor is coarseness, generosity is weakness, sincerity becomes shallowness; and faults that are passed over lightly in the hero are sufficient to doom the heroine for all posterity."

The peculiar views of Eleanor's aunt did not prevent her from being an agreeable acquaintance. Although she believed in the intellectual capacity of woman, she did not look upon herself as a representative of the class: her admiration of her sex did not degenerate into self-laudation, and her enthusiasm was not tainted by egotism. Hers was not a strong-mindedness that showed itself in ungainly coiffures and tasteless attire. It was content with desiring and claiming for woman whatever is best, noblest and most lovely in mind and body. She would have given her life to further this end, but thought it mattered little if her name were forgotten in the bulletin that announced success to the cause.

Owing to her extreme reserve in talking of herself, it was very gradually that I gained this knowledge of Miss Willmanson's character; but many of her opinions were received at second hand from Eleanor, who admired her aunt greatly, and never tired of quoting her. It was she who told me that this talented lady was engaged upon a book the title of which was Footsteps of Women in All Ages. The aunt returned this admiration in no stinted measure, and her highest ambition seemed centred in her niece.

Eleanor was a tall, well-formed, unaffected girl, with a clear olive complexion; a slight rose-colored bloom on cheeks and lips; deep blue eyes, rather purple than blue, rather amethyst than purple, that looked every one candidly in the face; and hair reminding you of late twilight—a shade that, though dark, still bore traces of having once been light, even sunny.

As to her acquirements, however, what in the older lady was love of information, in the younger appeared to be what Pepys called a "curious curiosity." If she had been obliged to investigate a subject by constant labor, I doubt whether she would have stood the test. At school she was a parlor-boarder, attended outside lectures on the sciences, went to concerts and the opera, frequented museums, had small blank-books in which she took voluminous notes, and was constantly busy with some new scheme of improvement. In looking at her I often thought that could her aunt's dreams be realized, could her intellect ever approach the unusual symmetry and beauty of her face and form, it would indeed be an achievement. But was it likely that Nature, who is so grudging of her gifts, after having endowed her so highly physically would do as much for her mentally? "Aunt Will," as the girl called her, had none of these misgivings. This beautiful physique she believed to be the effect of her own foresight and care—of proper food and clothing, of training in the gymnasium, riding and walking. It was itself an earnest of the success of her plans, and made her confident for the future. One of the tenets of her faith was that Eleanor needed only to decide in what direction to exert herself, and that in any career success was certain. For this reason she gave her opportunities of every kind, that her choice might be unlimited.

In this, as in every other opinion, Eleanor agreed with her aunt, not through vanity, but through respect and habit. What she intended to become was the theme of long confidences between us when alone together, for the time which most other girls of her age devote to dreams of love and lovers was employed by her in speculations about her future profession. The artlessness of the girl in thus appropriating to herself the whole field of human wisdom would have been ludicrous had it not been so frank: it reminded you of a child reaching out its chubby hands to seize the moon.

In regard to love and marriage, Aunt Will was most resolute in speaking against them, and by precept and example she endeavored to influence her niece in the same direction. "It is a state which mentally unfits a woman for anything"—a dictum which was accepted by Eleanor without argument. It was understood that her life was to be devoted to being great, not to being loved. But Aunt Will refused to lend her help or advice in deciding what the career should be, believing that the prophetic fire would kindle itself without human help, and fearing that the least hint of what she desired might fetter a waking genius, though the girl often plaintively remarked, "I wish aunt would settle it for me."

The entire faith with which these two women looked forward to the future roused no little curiosity on my part as to the realization of their hopes. A year after our acquaintance began the ladies left R—— to travel abroad. Eleanor assured me solemnly that she should not return until she had won renown, that vision of so many young hearts on leaving home. "The great trouble is to decide what to do;" and here she sighed. "But Aunt Will says our work shapes itself without our knowing. Some morning we wake and find it ready for our hands, with no more doubt on the subject. I am waking."

"Meanwhile enjoying yourself."

"Why not?" she answered, smiling: "it is what aunt wishes me to do."

At first I had frequent letters from my friend, but the intervals between them became longer, as is usual when a new life replaces the old. In those which I received there was no allusion to the career, and I felt that inquiries on the subject would be indiscreet. If she were succeeding, I should hear of it soon enough; and if not, why should I give her pain? After a separation of about eighteen months, and a silence of six, one morning, on being sent for to the parlor, what was my surprise to find myself face to face with Eleanor Vachy, and the girl, prettier than ever, pressing warm kisses on my cheeks!

We had been talking on every conceivable topic for perhaps an hour, as only friends can talk, when I chanced to remark, "You intended to make a much longer stay when you left: I hope nothing disagreeable has happened to bring you home."

"Nothing disagreeable," she replied, looking slightly embarrassed. "I would have written about it, but thought I would rather tell you. I hope it won't alter your opinion of me when you hear it: I hope you won't think less of me;" and the color mounted swiftly in her cheeks as she gave me one deprecating glance out of her purple eyes, and then as quickly hid them under their long lashes.

"I will try to be impartial," I answered gravely, seeing that she was not in a humor to be laughed at. "I suppose it is in reference to your career?"

"Yes it is," she replied, looking attentively at the point of her boot; "and I fear aunt is disappointed, although she says nothing; and it is very possible that you will be disappointed also."

"If you have chosen anything reasonable," I remarked encouragingly, "I am sure your aunt will be satisfied: she is so unprejudiced, and you know she always declared that she would not influence you."

"She trusted me too much," sighing. "What I have preferred, you—maybe she—that is, many people—would think no career at all."

"Ah, indeed! Poetry?" (I knew that Aunt Will had no great opinion of most of the versifiers.)

She interlocked her fingers and gave them a slight twist, looked still more intently at the toe of her boot, and dropped ruefully one little word, "No."

"It is not the stage, surely?" looking at her perfect beauty with a sudden start.

"No, no! it is not that. You cannot guess. I may as well tell you. I will begin at the beginning, and you will see that I could not help it: that is—For Mercy's sake don't look at me as if I were a criminal, or I won't say another word!"

"Nonsense, Eleanor! I am not looking at you as if you were a criminal. Go on and tell me."

"It is too late now," she said hastily: "I have been here so long already. I will see you to-morrow."

"If you dare to go without making a full confession, I will never forgive you. Sit down: the sooner it is over the more composed you will feel. I have been so anxious to hear about it!"

"Well, if it must be. I know you will be disgusted. I have to begin when we left here."

"I have plenty of time to listen."

"You remember we started on the voyage by ourselves. At our first dinner on board aunt recognized an old friend, a Mrs. Kenderdine, who was also crossing, together with her son. That first dinner was our last for some time, for, though we tried to be as strong-minded as possible, in the end we were obliged to stay in our cabins. Having recovered sooner than aunt, one day I stumbled out as far as the companion-way, and was sitting there very disconsolately when Mr. Kenderdine, passing by, stopped to ask if he should assist me on deck. Of course I was only too glad to go. He had not been sick at all, and could walk about quite easily, which gave me a high opinion of his abilities. Later he brought me my dinner, with a glass of wine, of which he did not spill a drop, and by evening I found that with the aid of his arm I could promenade.

"That day was a sample of all until the voyage was over, for if I attempted to move alone I stumbled, rolled and behaved with a lack of dignity that was frightful; and yet, after getting a taste of fresh air, I could not bear to stay below. Somehow, it became understood that each morning Mr. Kenderdine might find me in the companion-way at a certain hour; and as aunt would not leave her state-room, and old Mrs. Kenderdine could not, we had nothing to do but to try and amuse each other; so we ended by becoming pretty well acquainted by the time we arrived at Queenstown.

"In England aunt was very busy. You used to think her a student here: I wish you could have seen her there. For six months she spent almost every hour of daylight in the library of the British Museum, where she had been introduced by a learned friend. Aunt Will has a wonderful admiration for Boadicea: she was also critically examining the history of Queen Henrietta and of Elizabeth. She thinks the latter did not do justice to her opportunities, and that her vanity was the mark of a feeble mind. You know aunt has no patience with vanity and—"

"But about yourself, Eleanor?"

"I am coming to that directly. Mrs. Kenderdine had gone abroad to get medical advice: as her health would permit her to take but little exercise, a morning drive, with receiving and paying visits (she is of an English family and well connected), was all she was capable of.

"It happened in this way that the only ones of our party fit for active duty were Fred—I mean Mr. Kenderdine—and myself. As we had formed the habit of amusing each other on the voyage, we still continued it. Aunt would join us when any historical site was to be visited; but there were many places that were not historical, but that were just as pleasant or as beautiful as if they had been, and to these we went together. We stayed in London until the season was over, and then started for Paris.

"You can form no idea how aunt reveled in the antiquities of Paris. If she went to the Musée Cluny in the morning, we might be sure we should see no more of her for that day at least. She absolutely took rooms at Versailles for two weeks that she might study up the locale of the Pompadour, whom she regards as a female Richelieu, and she also found a rich field of investigation in the lives of the French queens."

"And what were you doing all this time?"

"Oh! I had professors, French, Italian and German, for the languages, I visited the galleries, and aunt would read me her notes, so that I was gaining much information. You see, in a foreign country it is not the thing to sit in the house to study: you must go about as much as possible and use your eyes, which is an education in itself. That is what I was doing."

"About your career, I mean?"

"Don't be so impatient: I am about to tell you. We concluded to spend the winter in Rome, aunt and I: the Kenderdines remained in Paris. Aunt preceded me to Brussels about two weeks to explore the libraries there, as we were to make the Rhine tour before going to Italy. I should have accompanied her, but we were expecting a remittance from home that had not arrived, and I was obliged to wait for it. The day before I left Paris I was regretting that I had not been to Montmorency, and Mr. Kenderdine, who overheard me, proposed that as I did not mind fatigue we should go. By starting early in the morning we could make our 'last day,' as he called it, a fête. I consented, and we arranged to take the early train to Enghien, to breakfast there, ride through Montmorency to the Château de la Chasse, where we could have dinner, and return in time for the Belgian train in the evening. The next morning I was ready, my riding-skirt in a satchel, and off we went. The day was perfect, the air cool and delicious. We took the cars at the Gare du Nord, and in less than an hour we arrived at Enghien, ordered breakfast at a charming little hotel that overlooks the lake, and had it brought to us on the balcony, from whence we could listen to the band playing, and look at the beautiful villas that border the water, watch the invalids taking their constitutionals, and see the brightly-painted boats bobbing over the small waves. While waiting for the horses, Fred made me go to the springs and taste the water, which is horrid: then we mounted and cantered leisurely on to Montmorency, a hilly, desolate-looking place, although so much lauded by the Parisians: I suppose the beautiful forest in the vicinity is its attraction. The road for the next five or six miles was shaded by trees, and most of it was a soft turf on which the horses' hoofs rebounded noiselessly, with views of rolling country at intervals. The château had been a hunting-lodge two or three hundred years ago, but nothing remains of it now but a couple of towers, to which a modern country inn has been added, where excellent dinners may be had, as I can testify. It is a great place for the picnics and pleasure-parties of the natives, but foreigners seldom visit it. After we had wandered about for several hours, enjoying ourselves in that silly French way, with nothing but light hearts, fresh air, green grass and blue sky for all incitement thereto, I, in consideration of my evening journey, recommended our return. We had the horses brought round, and then my career commenced."

"Why, how?"

"You know that road from the château? No you don't, but I will tell you of it. The woods lie on one side, and an ivy-covered wall separates it from sloping fields on the other—the prettiest place on earth." ("Artistic," thought I: "she has decided on landscape-painting;" but I did not interrupt.) "It was just there that Mr. Kenderdine came to my side: he had dismounted to open the gate, and was leading his horse. He came to my side, and, looking up at me, said half seriously, half smiling, 'You are very happy to-day, Miss Eleanor: what will you do when I am not with you to ride and walk and talk to?'

"'I suppose I shall find some one in Rome who rides, walks and talks as well. They say the Campagna is lovely for riding.'

"'And perhaps some one who waltzes as well.'

"'Certainly: that is no great accomplishment. Like playing a hurdy-gurdy, if you turn round often enough you cannot fail to make a successful performance.'

"'There is one thing you will not find, Eleanor;' and he laid his hand on my wrist: 'that is, some one who loves you as well.'

"'Mr. Kenderdine, please get on your horse, and don't talk nonsense.'

"'I suppose I have as good a right to talk nonsense as any one, and I believe the fancy for doing so comes to all of us once in our lifetime.'

"'I admit your right to talk, and claim mine to refuse to listen;' so saying, I gave my horse a cut. The animal started, but Fred's hand was still on my bridle-wrist, and with a motion he checked the animal so violently that it reared, afterward coming down on the sod with a thud that almost unseated me.

"'I will talk, and you shall listen,' said Mr. Fred, looking dangerous.

"'So it appears,' I retorted, thoroughly provoked; 'but I hope you will oblige me by being as expeditious as possible, for I am very much afraid that I shall miss the train to-night.'

"He looked at me a moment as if to be sure he understood my meaning, then turned and sprang on his horse, at the same time remarking, 'You are right: I had better not detain you. I had forgotten your journey.'

"We cantered on in silence for about three miles. The flush of anger had slowly faded out of his face, when he commenced abruptly: 'Miss Vachy, I have no right to ask you what I intend asking, but I have always thought you had a kind heart, and perhaps you will answer my question. You may depend that the confidence you may place in me will be held sacred.' Then less quickly, 'Will you tell me, have you an understanding, or are you engaged, or do you care for any one else?'

"For a moment I thought of entering into an explanation—of telling him what my aunt expected of me, and what I intended doing—only I did not myself know what I intended doing; and it seemed absurd to begin such an account without being able to complete it. Besides, if he thought I cared for some one else, it would end the matter and save a world of argument; so I replied hesitatingly, 'I am sorry, Mr. Kenderdine, that I cannot answer your question, but—'

"'Enough: I understand.'

"Then our canter quickened into a gallop, and the gallop into a race. I am quite sure those horses never went at such a pace in their lives before. Fred seemed unconscious of the run we were making of it, unconscious of everything, urging his poor beast whenever it flagged, and fretting its mouth by alternately jerking and loosening the reins, until had it been anything but a livery hack it would have been frantic. Conversation was impossible, and I had nothing to sustain me during the ride but the satisfaction of feeling that I had done my duty."

"It don't seem to me that you are getting any nearer the end of your story."

"The darkest hour is that which precedes the dawn," said Eleanor, adding maliciously, "if you are tired I will tell you the rest to-morrow. Don't you see that I must bring you up to it gradually, so that the shock will not be too great?"

"But think of the suspense I am in."

"My dear, the first steps in any career are as important as the last; so curb your curiosity and listen. If you were telling it, you would not get on one bit faster."

"Perhaps not," I answered doubtfully: "however, continue."

"Thanks to our haste, we got to Paris early enough to allow me to rest and have supper. I had sent on my baggage by express, and had nothing to worry about Starting at seven, I should arrive next morning at Brussels. I can sleep famously in the cars, and I apprehended no difficulty. Fred, looking as black as a thundercloud, took me to the station, and was preposterous enough to ask me if I was not sorry I was going."

"And what did you say?"

"Say? Why, the truth—that I was glad; and then Mr. Thundercloud looked blacker than ever.

"I had several stations to pass before we reached Creil, where I was to change cars and take the express. I settled myself comfortably, so that I could look out of the window, and I whiled away the time by reviewing the whole of my acquaintance with Mr. Kenderdine. I was forced to admit that I had acted imprudently in not letting him know from the beginning what my life was to be, but I never thought it would matter to him. Then my conscience reproached me for the lie I had implied: I might have told him the truth, and spared him the mortification of believing that I preferred some one else. I knew, in thinking of it calmly, that it was not to avoid an argument that I had done it, but to make him feel as badly as possible, because I was angry at him for stopping my horse. It was mean in me, especially as that De Vezin was the person he would pitch on. You see, I had made a good deal of De Vezin while in Paris, but it was only to improve my French accent—a fact which poor Fred could not know.

"The train whizzed on. The night grew dark: I could scarcely distinguish objects outside the blurred window, but I still remained attentive to the voice of the conductor as he called out the names of the successive stations until—until I heard no more: I had fallen asleep.

"I suppose I slept profoundly for about half an hour, when I was suddenly awakened by a jerk: the cars had stopped. I was not aware I had been sleeping, but I had an undefined sense that something was wrong. I hastily opened the window and heard the name Liancourt shouted. There was no such stopping-place between Paris and Creil, for I had studied up my route before starting. The truth flashed upon me, and impulsively I left my car, rushed to the conductor, and asked, 'What place is this?'

"'Liancourt.'

"'And where is Creil?'

"'We have passed it. Did you want to go there?'

"'Of course I did. Why did you not call it?'

"'We did call it,' said he indignantly: 'you must have been asleep.'

"'No such thing,' I replied, for at the moment I did not think it could be possible.

"There was but little time for reflection. Should I go on to the next large town, or should I stay? If I went on, I should get to my destination in the middle of the night, and, knowing nothing of the place, might have great difficulty in finding lodgings. If I stayed, I might get a train back or a carriage, or even find here a hotel of some kind where they would accommodate me until morning. I decided to remain, and off went the cars.

"One of the ticket-agents came forward from the office—as I supposed to offer his services: there were but few people about, but all understood my situation. As I said, the man came forward and bowed: 'Your fare, if you please.'

"I handed him my ticket: he stood before me and repeated, 'Your fare, if you please.'

"'I have given you my ticket,' said I, looking at him inquiringly.

"'This one is not for Liancourt: it is for Creil.'

"'I was going to Creil, only the train brought me past.'

"'Exactly, and you will please pay for the extra distance,' said he politely.

"It was too much. I had the misfortune of being carried out of my way, and this exasperating clerk was coolly asking me to pay the company a premium for the result of the conductor's carelessness. It was one of those situations in which words fail to express the extent of your indignation. The fellow's audacity verged on the sublime. He stood there with the calmness of a hero. And what did I do? Why, I paid him. But I tell you truly that I have hated that whole railroad company with the blackest hatred ever since. That was not all. As soon as he received the provoking money—I wish it had been red hot—he turned on his heel and walked into his office.

"But it was not the time to indulge in resentment: I must act promptly. The people there when I arrived were fast dispersing. I addressed myself to a half-grown boy who was standing near me: 'When does the next train go to Paris?' I thought I had better return and start afresh in the morning.

"'The last has gone for to-night,' answered the lad.

"'Are you quite sure?'

"He gave his head a decisive jerk.

"'How far is this place from Creil?'

"'About five miles.'

"'Can I get a carriage to take me there?'

"'No.' This time he looked for corroboration to the group who had gathered round us, all of whom with one accord wagged their heads in the negative.

"'Is there a hotel here?'

"'No.'

"'Isn't it a town?'

"'No,' much intensified.

"I knew that there are many stations in France consisting of a single building located in the midst of fields: these places take their names from the nearest town (which may be several miles distant), and are marked on the maps by a black spot like a hyphen: many of them are served by an omnibus. I found, on further questioning, that this was one of the aforesaid black spots, minus the omnibus.

"'What is the nearest town?' I continued.

"'Liancourt is a little more than a mile off, but it is a village.'

"'Is there an inn there?'

"'I believe there is.'

"By this time most of my audience had satisfied their curiosity and departed, leaving only the boy, and an old man who attracted my attention. He held a lantern which illuminated a kindly, weatherbeaten face, looking like that of an old sailor. I discovered later that he had come from Normandy, and like most Normans had spent half his life on the waves. He seemed interested in my hapless plight: perhaps he would assist me.

"'I want to go back to Creil' (I knew I should find a hotel there): 'won't you come with me and show me the way with your lantern?'

"'Can't, mademoiselle: can't leave here.' He gave an indicative jerk of his head and thumb in a certain direction toward the railroad.

"'Why not?'

"'I am the night-watchman, and should lose my place if I left.'

"Then please point out the road: I shall have to return alone.'

"'Can't, mademoiselle: it is too dark. You would get lost.'

"I thought I could not get much more lost than I was at that moment, but did not say so. Just then a bright idea struck me: 'I will walk back on the railroad: I cannot fail to find my way.'

"The old man looked aghast at the proposition, and pointed to the long line of high thick hedge that bordered it on each side.

"'How could you leave the track if you did get to Creil? They are locked up there for the night. Besides, you would be crushed by passing trains, and you would be fined too, for it is against the law. Now,' he went on in that patronizing manner which, from its naïveté is so charming in the French peasant—'now, mademoiselle does not wish to die to-night, does she, and be also fined?'

"'No,' I replied dolefully, seeing my chances of shelter diminishing, 'but I shall certainly die if you will not help me to find a hotel.'

"'Wait,' he whispered—'wait a little until all the world is gone. It won't be five minutes until every one has departed and every light is out in the station; then—'

"I could not see how this was to improve my condition, but, having no choice, I waited patiently while he went and busied himself about his work. Presently he returned. Everything was silent, and pointing mysteriously to the waiting-room in the building, he said in a low voice, 'There is where you can stay till morning. They would not allow it if they knew, but no one will be the wiser. You can leave as soon as it is light, and to-night sleep on one of the sofas. That's where I sit at night, and I will give it up to you.'

"The idea was repugnant to me. I could not consent; it was too frightful; it was impossible. I hastened to say, 'It will not do—I cannot stay here: you must take me back. Do take me to Creil.'

"'Can't do it.'

"'Well, take me to the next town: there is an inn, and it is not far.'

"He wavered, and seeing my distress his good-nature conquered. 'I will go with you,' he answered, slowly shaking his head as if admonishing himself for being such a fool; 'but if they should find it out—'

"You may think it was unkind in me to let him run the risk of losing his place, but what was I to do? I could not submit to stay at the station like a vagabond, and I could not find my way alone. So, without allowing him time to change his mind, I set out. The road was bad and the night dark; the lantern threw a circle of light around us, but all beyond was impenetrable; still, the hope of shelter at the end made the walk agreeable to me. We stumbled along in silence, and by and by heard the barking of dogs that always heralds a night approach to a village. The first house that greeted my eyes had the welcome signboard swinging before it, and above its lintel a bush. It was a tiny place, but it was a refuge, and I felt quite cheerful as I requested the old tar to knock.

"He did so, and the sound echoed and re-echoed, but there was no response.

"'Again,' I said, and 'again,' and 'again,' with no better result. It was anything but encouraging.

"'They cannot hear, they are asleep: take up a stone and beat the door. You must awaken them.'

"He obediently picked up a stone, and there followed a noise like thunder. I should not have been surprised to see the wee house tilt over and lie down on its side under the force of the blows. Now a gruff voice called out, 'What do you want?'

"'Lodging.'

"'We have no room for any one: go away.'

"'Tell him I must stay,' And with the help of my prompting the old fellow put my case in the most persuasive light possible, but, although we talked and knocked with perseverance, the owner of the voice neither appeared, nor would he vouchsafe us another answer. One might have thought the house had been suddenly enchanted.

"'It is of no use—of no use whatever: they will not open,' finally said my exhausted companion.

"'Is there no other inn here?'

"'No: you will have to return.'

"'Then you must take me to Creil.'

"'That I can't do. I have been away too long already: there is a freight-train expected, and I must see that the track is clear. We must go back;' and he turned resolutely and led the way.

"Just as we left the village a gay party of peasant-girls passed us coming from a ball, laughing and chatting merrily with their beaus. I had an insane idea of accosting them, appealing to their pity, and asking them to keep me for the night, but fear lest they should refuse restrained me: I was too dejected to risk a second repulse. I have been able to realize the poetical things they tell us of the sensations of outcasts, of adventurers; and homeless wanderers ever since. The sight of this merry party made me feel more terribly alone; and the beaus—well, I confess I did wonder what Fred was doing at that moment. Then I thought of the horror of my aunt could she know where I was, and what she would think of the 'footsteps' her own niece was making just then, could she see her.

"When we arrived at the station my guide preceded me to the waiting-room, and I, completely worn out, meekly followed him.

"'This is much better than sleeping in the fields,' he remarked cheerily as we entered: 'shall I make you a fire?'

"'No, thank you, but let me go into the other room.' My reason for this was that its sofas and chairs had some pretensions to comfort, being 'first class.' He went to open the connecting door. It was locked.

"'This is the only room that is open: I am sorry. Wait a moment: I will bring something to make a pillow, and you can sleep like a top.' He went out, and returned with an old coat, which he folded for me, and which, after covering it with my handkerchief, made a tolerable resting-place for my head. My bed was a hard bench.

"'Now,' said my protector in a tone of much satisfaction—'now, you will be well. Voilà un bon gîte! Both these other doors are fastened, and this one you can lock after me. Very early I will come and take you part of the way back, and by daylight you can easily find the rest yourself. Bonne nuit, mademoiselle: dormez bien.' He went to the door, and taking the key from the outside put it inside. It would not turn. The lock had been made to work with two keys, and the other was absent.

"'I will tell you what I will do,' said my friend, not in the least discomfited: 'I will lock the door and take the key with me. I must go up the road about two miles on my beat, but you can feel quite safe: no one can get in while I am gone. There is another watchman on the road: he might come while I am away, and—and raise a row. It is best to lock you up.' He nodded his head with great complacency at his good management, and prepared to leave me. I could suggest nothing better. I was at the end of my resources, and had to accept my fate. It would be interesting to know what the Pompadour or Queen Elizabeth would have done under the circumstances, wouldn't it?

"It was with no pleasant feeling that I saw the door shut, heard the key turned, then withdrawn: the lantern glimmered for a moment through the window, and I was left in the darkness a prisoner. Thoroughly a prisoner, for none of the three doors had keys on my side, and the windows, with their tiny panes of ground glass, were high above the floor. Then, too, the old man had insisted on speaking in a whisper, and walked about on tiptoe. Who were those persons he evidently feared to waken? Persons near by, of course. Probably they carried the missing keys and could enter at any moment. And the other watchman? What if he should come, and, this being the room allotted to himself and companion, refuse to be barred out? Those other unknowns would be aroused by his knocking, and rush in to seek an explanation. If I were found there, should I be taken before the police as a vagabond? Or imagine a fire—a fire and no one knowing that I am here! A fire and no means of escape! My friends losing all trace of me, unable to ascertain how I came by my death! And such a horrible death! Four hours yet till dawn! What might not happen in four hours? The man himself might only have gone to seek an accomplice to murder me. He might have known that the key would not turn on the inside. But at last, in spite of myself, fatigue conquered fear and I slept.

"I cannot say how long I had been unconscious when I was awakened by hearing a key turning in the lock: the door cautiously opened, and a man entered and came toward the bench where I was lying. My drowsiness calmed me. I wondered quite placidly whether it was to be robbery or murder. What a paragraph it would make in the Moniteur next day! I would cheerfully give him my watch and purse if they would content him. I might call out and rouse the house, but most likely Brunhilda in my situation would have held a parley. A good precedent. I sat up to show that I was awake, and in doing so recognized my old man. Though nothing could look more threatening as he stealthily advanced, shading his light, taking pains to make no noise, I could not entirely mistrust the weatherbeaten face with its anxious, benevolent eyes that met mine.

"'Is it time to go?' I asked.

"'Not yet, but soon. I have just returned, and came in to know if you would have a fire: it is cold outside.'

"'No, never mind: I am doing well enough. I think I will take another nap.'

"'Very well: I shall be near for the rest of the night, so you need not be afraid.' And he left, carefully locking me in again.

"When he came for me the dawn was beginning to break; the morning star was shining in the sky; the earliest birds were twittering, and cocks answered each other from distance to distance; but not a human being was to be seen. We crossed ploughed fields and stubble to find the road, and I felt the truth of my guide's augury of the night before. Had I attempted to go alone I should have become bewildered, and ended by sleeping in the fields. It did strike me that if the man wished to rob me, now would be his chance, and at first I intentionally kept a little behind; but his innocent garrulity was such as to allay all suspicions, and we jogged on very amicably until, coming to two roads, he pointed out that which leads to Creil, and bade me good-bye.

"Had I had the giving of a medal of the Legion of Honor, I should have decorated him on the spot. I believe it repaid me for my annoyance to have found such ample goodness, such chivalry, such kindness, growing as it were by the wayside. It was as if the world had rolled back into the days of knight-errantry, when to rescue and protect distressed damsels ranked next to religious worship. Sure am I if my weatherbeaten old man had lived at that time, none would have been more renowned for gentle deeds: in this prosaic age he is but a watchman on a railroad. I was about to pour out my gratitude, when I remembered we were in the nineteenth century, and looking into his face, I fancied that something more substantial would be better. I drew out my purse. He was frankly delighted with what I gave him, saying only that it was too much, and we separated mutually pleased.

"I sauntered on, lingering by the way to avoid waiting at Creil; consequently, I was just able to procure my ticket and a paper of brioches at the buffet when the English train came in. As I stood at the door, knowing that as soon as it moved off the Belgian train was due, whom should I see get out but Fred! I thought he would re-enter in a moment, and placed myself so that he could not see me. I was mistaken. The train started, and mine puffed up: there he was still. In the crowd I hoped I should not be discovered, but as I stepped from the door his eyes met mine, and he rushed up to me with the exclamation, 'In the name of Heaven, how did you get here? Was there an accident? Are you hurt? What is the matter?'

"It was singular how his voice unnerved me: I could not say a word. The crowd carried us with them, and he helped me into a car, sitting by me and recommencing his questions. Then I stammered, 'You will be taken on if you do not get out: there is nothing wrong.'

"For answer he shut the door of the compartment, and said, 'I am going with you. Now tell me how you come to be here?'

"I do not know why I should have given way when all danger was over—I believe there is no parallel case in the life of any celebrated woman—but I suppose I was tired out. My anxiety and fright, a night spent on a hard board, the surprise of meeting Mr. Kenderdine,—whatever it was, I leaned back in the corner of the seat, took out my handkerchief, and cried harder than I had ever done in my life before. He was greatly alarmed, but, like a sensible man, waited until I became more composed, and when I was able to tell him, instead of blaming me or thinking I was stupid, he censured himself for not accompanying me.

"'I did mean to ask your permission to do so, Miss Eleanor,' he said slightly embarrassed, 'and I was prig enough to think you would allow it, but when you told me of your engagement I did not dare. After you left I had a dread that something might happen, and I could not rest satisfied until I had made up my mind to come on and see that you had arrived safely. I thought you would forgive me, as it is for the last time, and De Vezin need not be jealous, for he will have you for ever, while I—' Fred can be wonderfully pathetic.

"Then I made up my mind to undeceive him, as was my duty, you know. I told him very gently that he was under a false impression. I was not engaged: my aunt had educated me for a purpose, and we both had quite determined that I should never marry, but instead do something great in the world, though I had not yet decided what. I explained it to him fully, so that there should be no more mistakes about it. When I ended I did not venture to look at him for a long time, fearing to see him grieved at this irrevocable barrier; but when I did, what was my surprise to see his face beaming with joy! He began impetuously, 'If you had told me I was to be crowned at Brussels, it would not be better news. I was sure it was De Vezin who separated us. Now I can hope.'

"'You must not talk in that way if you do not want our friendship to cease: you offend me deeply. Can't you see that if you persist in this idea of yours, our pleasant acquaintance must end?' It was so frivolous in Fred, and I spoke very decidedly.

"'Not at all, Eleanor: it would only begin. Why should not our whole life be like this past year?'

"'You know it can't,' said I. 'Haven't I told you the reason?'

"'It will be no reason when De Vezin asks you,' said he suspiciously.

"'De Vezin is nothing to me.'

"'You carry a gage d'amour from him on your watch-chain at this very minute.'

"Now, wasn't that talk silly? De Vezin had brought me a two-centime piece one day because I said I had never seen one. and I put a hole in it and hung it to my chain. Fred to call that a gage d'amour!

"'Nonsense!' said I.

"'De Vezin thought the same when he saw it there. I took him for a fool, but I see he was right.'

"'Well, now you will see you were both fools,' said I angrily, and I twisted off the coin and threw it from the window.

"'Is only that preposterous notion in the way?' he asked, looking happy again and taking a seat by me.

"I told you how I cried on first entering the cars, and now—would you believe it?—I got terribly embarrassed. It seemed as if everything I did or said made matters worse. I was scarcely able to stammer, 'My aunt—'

"'I will speak to her. Let me put this on your finger until I can replace it by another:' and he slipped off his seal and leaned forward with an entreating look.

"I shook my head.

"'I won't ask you to promise anything: only wear it that I may not be forgotten in Rome.'

"'No, no, I cannot!' I exclaimed, clasping my hands. I suppose the action and tone were very exaggerated, for Mr. Kenderdine drew back, saying, 'I shall not force you to take it;' and then went to the other window, took a newspaper out of his pocket and pretended to read it, while I was angry and sorry and miserable, though why I should feel so much like crying at what had only amused me the day before I cannot understand. I suppose none of those wonderful ladies would have acted so, would they?

"But you are tired long ago, and you can easily imagine what comes after. See!" and she turned a ring on her finger until I could catch the shimmer of its stone. "That is how it ended; and though I did not accept it until the next spring in Rome, I shall always blame that night for the whole affair. When I asked Fred why he took the trouble to follow me after the double snubbing I had given him, he said 'I was worth it.' But since we are engaged he teases me shamefully—calls me doctor, hopes I intend to support him in comfort and ease, and says that it always was his ambition to be the husband of a strong-minded woman, and broadly hints about my experience in traveling being so useful to him. And aunt? When I first told her she looked so shocked and disappointed that I threw myself in her arms, saying I would not distress her for the world; that I would do anything she desired; that if she wished she might send Fred off, for I loved her best on earth. But after some minutes of deep thought she looked at me quizzically and replied, 'You know, dear, I always said you must choose your career for yourself.' Then seeing that I seemed hurt and ashamed, she kissed me and whispered, 'Love makes us selfish: my affection for you has grown stronger than my ambition. If you are happy, my Eleanor, I can wait patiently for the advancement of the rest of my sex.'"

Then Eleanor rose, and drawing her shawl round her preparatory to going, said shyly, "And what I came to tell you is, that the wedding will take place at Christmas."

ITA ANIOL PROKOP.