THE $30,000 BEQUEST

 and Other Stories

 

 by

 Mark Twain

 (Samuel L. Clemens)

 

 

Contents:

 The $30,000 Bequest

 A Dog's Tale

 Was It Heaven? Or Hell?

 A Cure for the Blues

 The Enemy Conquered; or, Love Triumphant

 The Californian's Tale

 A Helpless Situation

 A Telephonic Conversation

 Edward Mills and George Benton:  A Tale

 The Five Boons of Life

 The First Writing-machines

 Italian without a Master

 Italian with Grammar

 A Burlesque Biography

 How to Tell a Story

 General Washington's Negro Body-servant

 Wit Inspirations of the "Two-year-olds"

 An Entertaining Article

 A Letter to the Secretary of the Treasury

 Amended Obituaries

 A Monument to Adam

 A Humane Word from Satan

 Introduction to "The New Guide of the

   Conversation in Portuguese and English"

 Advice to Little Girls

 Post-mortem Poetry

 The Danger of Lying in Bed

 Portrait of King William III

 Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?

 Extracts from Adam's Diary

 Eve's Diary

 

 

 

 

THE $30,000 BEQUEST

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

 

Lakeside was a pleasant little town of five or six thousand inhabitants,

and a rather pretty one, too, as towns go in the Far West.  It had church

accommodations for thirty-five thousand, which is the way of the Far

West and the South, where everybody is religious, and where each of the

Protestant sects is represented and has a plant of its own.  Rank was

unknown in Lakeside--unconfessed, anyway; everybody knew everybody and

his dog, and a sociable friendliness was the prevailing atmosphere.

 

Saladin Foster was book-keeper in the principal store, and the only

high-salaried man of his profession in Lakeside.  He was thirty-five

years old, now; he had served that store for fourteen years;

he had begun in his marriage-week at four hundred dollars a year,

and had climbed steadily up, a hundred dollars a year, for four years;

from that time forth his wage had remained eight hundred--a handsome

figure indeed, and everybody conceded that he was worth it.

 

His wife, Electra, was a capable helpmeet, although--like himself

--a dreamer of dreams and a private dabbler in romance.  The first thing

she did, after her marriage--child as she was, aged only nineteen

--was to buy an acre of ground on the edge of the town, and pay

down the cash for it--twenty-five dollars, all her fortune.

Saladin had less, by fifteen.  She instituted a vegetable garden there,

got it farmed on shares by the nearest neighbor, and made it pay

her a hundred per cent.  a year.  Out of Saladin's first year's wage

she put thirty dollars in the savings-bank, sixty out of his second,

a hundred out of his third, a hundred and fifty out of his fourth.

His wage went to eight hundred a year, then, and meantime two children

had arrived and increased the expenses, but she banked two hundred

a year from the salary, nevertheless, thenceforth.  When she had been

married seven years she built and furnished a pretty and comfortable

two-thousand-dollar house in the midst of her garden-acre, paid

half of the money down and moved her family in.  Seven years later

she was out of debt and had several hundred dollars out earning

its living.

 

Earning it by the rise in landed estate; for she had long ago bought

another acre or two and sold the most of it at a profit to pleasant

people who were willing to build, and would be good neighbors and

furnish a general comradeship for herself and her growing family.

She had an independent income from safe investments of about a hundred

dollars a year; her children were growing in years and grace;

and she was a pleased and happy woman.  Happy in her husband, happy in

her children, and the husband and the children were happy in her.

It is at this point that this history begins.

 

The youngest girl, Clytemnestra--called Clytie for short

--was eleven; her sister, Gwendolen--called Gwen for short

--was thirteen; nice girls, and comely.  The names betray the latent

romance-tinge in the parental blood, the parents' names indicate

that the tinge was an inheritance.  It was an affectionate family,

hence all four of its members had pet names, Saladin's was a curious

and unsexing one--Sally; and so was Electra's--Aleck.  All day

long Sally was a good and diligent book-keeper and salesman;

all day long Aleck was a good and faithful mother and housewife,

and thoughtful and calculating business woman; but in the cozy

living-room at night they put the plodding world away, and lived in

another and a fairer, reading romances to each other, dreaming dreams,

comrading with kings and princes and stately lords and ladies in the

flash and stir and splendor of noble palaces and grim and ancient castles.

 

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

 

Now came great news!  Stunning news--joyous news, in fact.

It came from a neighboring state, where the family's only surviving

relative lived.  It was Sally's relative--a sort of vague and indefinite

uncle or second or third cousin by the name of Tilbury Foster,

seventy and a bachelor, reputed well off and corresponding sour

and crusty.  Sally had tried to make up to him once, by letter,

in a bygone time, and had not made that mistake again.  Tilbury now

wrote to Sally, saying he should shortly die, and should leave him

thirty thousand dollars, cash; not for love, but because money

had given him most of his troubles and exasperations, and he wished

to place it where there was good hope that it would continue its

malignant work.  The bequest would be found in his will, and would

be paid over.  PROVIDED, that Sally should be able to prove to the

executors that he had TAKEN NO NOTICE OF THE GIFT BY SPOKEN WORD OR

BY LETTER, HAD MADE NO INQUIRIES CONCERNING THE MORIBUND'S PROGRESS

TOWARD THE EVERLASTING TROPICS, AND HAD NOT ATTENDED THE FUNERAL.

 

As soon as Aleck had partially recovered from the tremendous

emotions created by the letter, she sent to the relative's habitat

and subscribed for the local paper.

 

Man and wife entered into a solemn compact, now, to never mention

the great news to any one while the relative lived, lest some

ignorant person carry the fact to the death-bed and distort it

and make it appear that they were disobediently thankful for

the bequest, and just the same as confessing it and publishing it,

right in the face of the prohibition.

 

For the rest of the day Sally made havoc and confusion with his books,

and Aleck could not keep her mind on her affairs, not even take up

a flower-pot or book or a stick of wood without forgetting what she

had intended to do with it.  For both were dreaming.

 

"Thir-ty thousand dollars!"

 

All day long the music of those inspiring words sang through

those people's heads.

 

From his marriage-day forth, Aleck's grip had been upon the purse,

and Sally had seldom known what it was to be privileged to squander

a dime on non-necessities.

 

"Thir-ty thousand dollars!" the song went on and on.  A vast sum,

an unthinkable sum!

 

All day long Aleck was absorbed in planning how to invest it,

Sally in planning how to spend it.

 

There was no romance-reading that night.  The children took

themselves away early, for their parents were silent, distraught,

and strangely unentertaining.  The good-night kisses might as well

have been impressed upon vacancy, for all the response they got;

the parents were not aware of the kisses, and the children had

been gone an hour before their absence was noticed.  Two pencils

had been busy during that hour--note-making; in the way of plans.

It was Sally who broke the stillness at last.  He said, with exultation:

 

"Ah, it'll be grand, Aleck!  Out of the first thousand we'll have

a horse and a buggy for summer, and a cutter and a skin lap-robe

for winter."

 

Aleck responded with decision and composure--

 

"Out of the CAPITAL?  Nothing of the kind.  Not if it was a million!"

 

Sally was deeply disappointed; the glow went out of his face.

 

"Oh, Aleck!" he said, reproachfully.  "We've always worked so hard

and been so scrimped:  and now that we are rich, it does seem--"

 

He did not finish, for he saw her eye soften; his supplication

had touched her.  She said, with gentle persuasiveness:

 

"We must not spend the capital, dear, it would not be wise.

Out of the income from it--"

 

"That will answer, that will answer, Aleck!  How dear and good you are!

There will be a noble income and if we can spend that--"

 

"Not ALL of it, dear, not all of it, but you can spend a part of it.

That is, a reasonable part.  But the whole of the capital

--every penny of it--must be put right to work, and kept at it.

You see the reasonableness of that, don't you?"

 

"Why, ye-s. Yes, of course.  But we'll have to wait so long.

Six months before the first interest falls due."

 

"Yes--maybe longer."

 

"Longer, Aleck?  Why?  Don't they pay half-yearly?"

 

"THAT kind of an investment--yes; but I sha'n't invest in that way."

 

"What way, then?"

 

"For big returns."

 

"Big.  That's good.  Go on, Aleck.  What is it?"

 

"Coal.  The new mines.  Cannel.  I mean to put in ten thousand.

Ground floor.  When we organize, we'll get three shares for one."

 

"By George, but it sounds good, Aleck!  Then the shares will be worth

--how much?  And when?"

 

"About a year.  They'll pay ten per cent.  half yearly, and be

worth thirty thousand.  I know all about it; the advertisement

is in the Cincinnati paper here."

 

"Land, thirty thousand for ten--in a year!  Let's jam in the whole

capital and pull out ninety!  I'll write and subscribe right now

--tomorrow it maybe too late."

 

He was flying to the writing-desk, but Aleck stopped him and put

him back in his chair.  She said:

 

"Don't lose your head so.  WE mustn't subscribe till we've got

the money; don't you know that?"

 

Sally's excitement went down a degree or two, but he was not

wholly appeased.

 

"Why, Aleck, we'll HAVE it, you know--and so soon, too.  He's probably

out of his troubles before this; it's a hundred to nothing he's

selecting his brimstone-shovel this very minute.  Now, I think--"

 

Aleck shuddered, and said:

 

"How CAN you, Sally!  Don't talk in that way, it is perfectly scandalous."

 

"Oh, well, make it a halo, if you like, _I_ don't care for his outfit,

I was only just talking.  Can't you let a person talk?"

 

"But why should you WANT to talk in that dreadful way?  How would

you like to have people talk so about YOU, and you not cold yet?"

 

"Not likely to be, for ONE while, I reckon, if my last act was

giving away money for the sake of doing somebody a harm with it.

But never mind about Tilbury, Aleck, let's talk about something worldly.

It does seem to me that that mine is the place for the whole thirty.

What's the objection?"

 

"All the eggs in one basket--that's the objection."

 

"All right, if you say so.  What about the other twenty?

What do you mean to do with that?"

 

"There is no hurry; I am going to look around before I do anything

with it."

 

"All right, if your mind's made up," signed Sally.  He was deep

in thought awhile, then he said:

 

"There'll be twenty thousand profit coming from the ten a year

from now.  We can spend that, can we, Aleck?"

 

Aleck shook her head.

 

"No, dear," she said, "it won't sell high till we've had the first

semi-annual dividend.  You can spend part of that."

 

"Shucks, only THAT--and a whole year to wait!  Confound it, I--"

 

"Oh, do be patient!  It might even be declared in three months

--it's quite within the possibilities."

 

"Oh, jolly! oh, thanks!" and Sally jumped up and kissed his wife

in gratitude.  "It'll be three thousand--three whole thousand!

how much of it can we spend, Aleck?  Make it liberal!--do, dear,

that's a good fellow."

 

Aleck was pleased; so pleased that she yielded to the pressure and

conceded a sum which her judgment told her was a foolish extravagance

--a thousand dollars.  Sally kissed her half a dozen times and even

in that way could not express all his joy and thankfulness.

This new access of gratitude and affection carried Aleck quite

beyond the bounds of prudence, and before she could restrain

herself she had made her darling another grant--a couple

of thousand out of the fifty or sixty which she meant to clear

within a year of the twenty which still remained of the bequest.

The happy tears sprang to Sally's eyes, and he said:

 

"Oh, I want to hug you!"  And he did it.  Then he got his

notes and sat down and began to check off, for first purchase,

the luxuries which he should earliest wish to secure.

"Horse--buggy--cutter--lap-robe--patent-leathers--dog--plug-hat

--church-pew--stem-winder--new teeth--SAY, Aleck!"

 

"Well?"

 

"Ciphering away, aren't you?  That's right.  Have you got the twenty

thousand invested yet?"

 

"No, there's no hurry about that; I must look around first,

and think."

 

"But you are ciphering; what's it about?"

 

"Why, I have to find work for the thirty thousand that comes out

of the coal, haven't I?"

 

"Scott, what a head!  I never thought of that.  How are you

getting along?  Where have you arrived?"

 

"Not very far--two years or three.  I've turned it over twice;

once in oil and once in wheat."

 

"Why, Aleck, it's splendid!  How does it aggregate?"

 

"I think--well, to be on the safe side, about a hundred and eighty

thousand clear, though it will probably be more."

 

"My! isn't it wonderful?  By gracious! luck has come our way at last,

after all the hard sledding, Aleck!"

 

"Well?"

 

"I'm going to cash in a whole three hundred on the missionaries

--what real right have we care for expenses!"

 

"You couldn't do a nobler thing, dear; and it's just like your

generous nature, you unselfish boy."

 

The praise made Sally poignantly happy, but he was fair and just

enough to say it was rightfully due to Aleck rather than to himself,

since but for her he should never have had the money.

 

Then they went up to bed, and in their delirium of bliss they forgot

and left the candle burning in the parlor.  They did not remember

until they were undressed; then Sally was for letting it burn;

he said they could afford it, if it was a thousand.  But Aleck went

down and put it out.

 

A good job, too; for on her way back she hit on a scheme that would

turn the hundred and eighty thousand into half a million before it

had had time to get cold.

 

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

 

The little newspaper which Aleck had subscribed for was a Thursday sheet;

it would make the trip of five hundred miles from Tilbury's village

and arrive on Saturday.  Tilbury's letter had started on Friday,

more than a day too late for the benefactor to die and get into

that week's issue, but in plenty of time to make connection for the

next output.  Thus the Fosters had to wait almost a complete week to

find out whether anything of a satisfactory nature had happened to him

or not.  It was a long, long week, and the strain was a heavy one.

The pair could hardly have borne it if their minds had not had the

relief of wholesome diversion.  We have seen that they had that.

The woman was piling up fortunes right along, the man was spending them

--spending all his wife would give him a chance at, at any rate.

 

At last the Saturday came, and the WEEKLY SAGAMORE arrived.

Mrs. Eversly Bennett was present.  She was the Presbyterian

parson's wife, and was working the Fosters for a charity.

Talk now died a sudden death--on the Foster side.  Mrs. Bennett

presently discovered that her hosts were not hearing a word she

was saying; so she got up, wondering and indignant, and went away.

The moment she was out of the house, Aleck eagerly tore the wrapper

from the paper, and her eyes and Sally's swept the columns for the

death-notices. Disappointment!  Tilbury was not anywhere mentioned.

Aleck was a Christian from the cradle, and duty and the force of

habit required her to go through the motions.  She pulled herself

together and said, with a pious two-per-cent. trade joyousness:

 

"Let us be humbly thankful that he has been spared; and--"

 

"Damn his treacherous hide, I wish--"

 

"Sally!  For shame!"

 

"I don't care!" retorted the angry man.  "It's the way YOU feel,

and if you weren't so immorally pious you'd be honest and say so."

 

Aleck said, with wounded dignity:

 

"I do not see how you can say such unkind and unjust things.

There is no such thing as immoral piety."

 

Sally felt a pang, but tried to conceal it under a shuffling attempt

to save his case by changing the form of it--as if changing the form

while retaining the juice could deceive the expert he was trying

to placate.  He said:

 

"I didn't mean so bad as that, Aleck; I didn't really mean

immoral piety, I only meant--meant--well, conventional piety,

you know; er--shop piety; the--the--why, YOU know what I mean.

Aleck--the--well, where you put up that plated article and play

it for solid, you know, without intending anything improper,

but just out of trade habit, ancient policy, petrified custom,

loyalty to--to--hang it, I can't find the right words, but YOU

know what I mean, Aleck, and that there isn't any harm in it.

I'll try again.  You see, it's this way.  If a person--"

 

"You have said quite enough," said Aleck, coldly; "let the subject

be dropped."

 

"I'M willing," fervently responded Sally, wiping the sweat from

his forehead and looking the thankfulness he had no words for.

Then, musingly, he apologized to himself.  "I certainly held threes

--I KNOW it--but I drew and didn't fill.  That's where I'm so often

weak in the game.  If I had stood pat--but I didn't. I never do.

I don't know enough."

 

Confessedly defeated, he was properly tame now and subdued.

Aleck forgave him with her eyes.

 

The grand interest, the supreme interest, came instantly to the

front again; nothing could keep it in the background many minutes

on a stretch.  The couple took up the puzzle of the absence

of Tilbury's death-notice. They discussed it every which way,

more or less hopefully, but they had to finish where they began,

and concede that the only really sane explanation of the absence

of the notice must be--and without doubt was--that Tilbury was

not dead.  There was something sad about it, something even a

little unfair, maybe, but there it was, and had to be put up with.

They were agreed as to that.  To Sally it seemed a strangely

inscrutable dispensation; more inscrutable than usual, he thought;

one of the most unnecessary inscrutable he could call to mind,

in fact--and said so, with some feeling; but if he was hoping

to draw Aleck he failed; she reserved her opinion, if she had one;

she had not the habit of taking injudicious risks in any market,

worldly or other.

 

The pair must wait for next week's paper--Tilbury had

evidently postponed.  That was their thought and their decision.

So they put the subject away and went about their affairs

again with as good heart as they could.

 

 

Now, if they had but known it, they had been wronging Tilbury

all the time.  Tilbury had kept faith, kept it to the letter;

he was dead, he had died to schedule.  He was dead more than four

days now and used to it; entirely dead, perfectly dead, as dead

as any other new person in the cemetery; dead in abundant time to get

into that week's SAGAMORE, too, and only shut out by an accident;

an accident which could not happen to a metropolitan journal,

but which happens easily to a poor little village rag like the SAGAMORE.

On this occasion, just as the editorial page was being locked up,

a gratis quart of strawberry ice-water arrived from Hostetter's

Ladies and Gents Ice-Cream Parlors, and the stickful of rather

chilly regret over Tilbury's translation got crowded out to make

room for the editor's frantic gratitude.

 

On its way to the standing-galley Tilbury's notice got pied.

Otherwise it would have gone into some future edition, for WEEKLY

SAGAMORES do not waste "live" matter, and in their galleys "live"

matter is immortal, unless a pi accident intervenes.  But a thing

that gets pied is dead, and for such there is no resurrection;

its chance of seeing print is gone, forever and ever.  And so,

let Tilbury like it or not, let him rave in his grave to his fill,

no matter--no mention of his death would ever see the light in the

WEEKLY SAGAMORE.

 

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

 

Five weeks drifted tediously along.  The SAGAMORE arrived regularly on

the Saturdays, but never once contained a mention of Tilbury Foster.

Sally's patience broke down at this point, and he said, resentfully:

 

"Damn his livers, he's immortal!"

 

Aleck give him a very severe rebuke, and added with icy solemnity:

 

"How would you feel if you were suddenly cut out just after such

an awful remark had escaped out of you?"

 

Without sufficient reflection Sally responded:

 

"I'd feel I was lucky I hadn't got caught with it IN me."

 

Pride had forced him to say something, and as he could not think

of any rational thing to say he flung that out.  Then he stole a base

--as he called it--that is, slipped from the presence, to keep from

being brayed in his wife's discussion-mortar.

 

Six months came and went.  The SAGAMORE was still silent about Tilbury.

Meantime, Sally had several times thrown out a feeler--that is,

a hint that he would like to know.  Aleck had ignored the hints.

Sally now resolved to brace up and risk a frontal attack.

So he squarely proposed to disguise himself and go to Tilbury's

village and surreptitiously find out as to the prospects.

Aleck put her foot on the dangerous project with energy and decision.

She said:

 

"What can you be thinking of?  You do keep my hands full!

You have to be watched all the time, like a little child, to keep

you from walking into the fire.  You'll stay right where you are!"

 

"Why, Aleck, I could do it and not be found out--I'm certain of it."

 

"Sally Foster, don't you know you would have to inquire around?"

 

"Of course, but what of it?  Nobody would suspect who I was."

 

"Oh, listen to the man!  Some day you've got to prove to the

executors that you never inquired.  What then?"

 

He had forgotten that detail.  He didn't reply; there wasn't

anything to say.  Aleck added:

 

"Now then, drop that notion out of your mind, and don't ever meddle

with it again.  Tilbury set that trap for you.  Don't you know it's

a trap?  He is on the watch, and fully expecting you to blunder

into it.  Well, he is going to be disappointed--at least while I

am on deck.  Sally!"

 

"Well?"

 

"As long as you live, if it's a hundred years, don't you ever make

an inquiry.  Promise!"

 

"All right," with a sigh and reluctantly.

 

Then Aleck softened and said:

 

"Don't be impatient.  We are prospering; we can wait; there is

no hurry.  Our small dead-certain income increases all the time;

and as to futures, I have not made a mistake yet--they are piling

up by the thousands and tens of thousands.  There is not another

family in the state with such prospects as ours.  Already we are

beginning to roll in eventual wealth.  You know that, don't you?"

 

"Yes, Aleck, it's certainly so."

 

"Then be grateful for what God is doing for us and stop worrying.

You do not believe we could have achieved these prodigious results

without His special help and guidance, do you?"

 

Hesitatingly, "N-no, I suppose not."  Then, with feeling

and admiration, "And yet, when it comes to judiciousness

in watering a stock or putting up a hand to skin Wall Street

I don't give in that YOU need any outside amateur help, if I do wish I--"

 

"Oh, DO shut up!  I know you do not mean any harm or any irreverence,

poor boy, but you can't seem to open your mouth without letting out

things to make a person shudder.  You keep me in constant dread.

For you and for all of us.  Once I had no fear of the thunder,

but now when I hear it I--"

 

Her voice broke, and she began to cry, and could not finish.

The sight of this smote Sally to the heart and he took her in his

arms and petted her and comforted her and promised better conduct,

and upbraided himself and remorsefully pleaded for forgiveness.

And he was in earnest, and sorry for what he had done and ready for any

sacrifice that could make up for it.

 

And so, in privacy, he thought long and deeply over the matter,

resolving to do what should seem best.  It was easy to PROMISE reform;

indeed he had already promised it.  But would that do any real good,

any permanent good?  No, it would be but temporary--he knew

his weakness, and confessed it to himself with sorrow--he could

not keep the promise.  Something surer and better must be devised;

and he devised it.  At cost of precious money which he had long

been saving up, shilling by shilling, he put a lightning-rod on

the house.

 

At a subsequent time he relapsed.

 

What miracles habit can do! and how quickly and how easily habits

are acquired--both trifling habits and habits which profoundly change us.

If by accident we wake at two in the morning a couple of nights

in succession, we have need to be uneasy, for another repetition can

turn the accident into a habit; and a month's dallying with whiskey

--but we all know these commonplace facts.

 

The castle-building habit, the day-dreaming habit--how it grows!

what a luxury it becomes; how we fly to its enchantments at every

idle moment, how we revel in them, steep our souls in them,

intoxicate ourselves with their beguiling fantasies--oh yes,

and how soon and how easily our dream life and our material life

become so intermingled and so fused together that we can't quite

tell which is which, any more.

 

By and by Aleck subscribed to a Chicago daily and for the WALL

STREET POINTER.  With an eye single to finance she studied these

as diligently all the week as she studied her Bible Sundays.

Sally was lost in admiration, to note with what swift and sure strides

her genius and judgment developed and expanded in the forecasting and

handling of the securities of both the material and spiritual markets.

He was proud of her nerve and daring in exploiting worldly stocks,

and just as proud of her conservative caution in working her

spiritual deals.  He noted that she never lost her head in either case;

that with a splendid courage she often went short on worldly futures,

but heedfully drew the line there--she was always long on the others.

Her policy was quite sane and simple, as she explained it to him:

what she put into earthly futures was for speculation, what she put

into spiritual futures was for investment; she was willing to go into

the one on a margin, and take chances, but in the case of the other,

"margin her no margins"--she wanted to cash in a hundred cents per

dollar's worth, and have the stock transferred on the books.

 

It took but a very few months to educate Aleck's imagination

and Sally's. Each day's training added something to the spread

and effectiveness of the two machines.  As a consequence, Aleck made

imaginary money much faster than at first she had dreamed of making it,

and Sally's competency in spending the overflow of it kept pace with

the strain put upon it, right along.  In the beginning, Aleck had

given the coal speculation a twelvemonth in which to materialize,

and had been loath to grant that this term might possibly be shortened

by nine months.  But that was the feeble work, the nursery work,

of a financial fancy that had had no teaching, no experience,

no practice.  These aids soon came, then that nine months vanished,

and the imaginary ten-thousand-dollar investment came marching

home with three hundred per cent.  profit on its back!

 

It was a great day for the pair of Fosters.  They were speechless

for joy.  Also speechless for another reason:  after much watching

of the market, Aleck had lately, with fear and trembling, made her

first flyer on a "margin," using the remaining twenty thousand of

the bequest in this risk.  In her mind's eye she had seen it climb,

point by point--always with a chance that the market would break

--until at last her anxieties were too great for further endurance

--she being new to the margin business and unhardened, as yet--and she

gave her imaginary broker an imaginary order by imaginary telegraph

to sell.  She said forty thousand dollars' profit was enough.

The sale was made on the very day that the coal venture had returned

with its rich freight.  As I have said, the couple were speechless.

they sat dazed and blissful that night, trying to realize that they were

actually worth a hundred thousand dollars in clean, imaginary cash.

Yet so it was.

 

It was the last time that ever Aleck was afraid of a margin;

at least afraid enough to let it break her sleep and pale her cheek

to the extent that this first experience in that line had done.

 

Indeed it was a memorable night.  Gradually the realization that they

were rich sank securely home into the souls of the pair, then they

began to place the money.  If we could have looked out through

the eyes of these dreamers, we should have seen their tidy little

wooden house disappear, and two-story brick with a cast-iron fence

in front of it take its place; we should have seen a three-globed

gas-chandelier grow down from the parlor ceiling; we should have seen

the homely rag carpet turn to noble Brussels, a dollar and a half

a yard; we should have seen the plebeian fireplace vanish away and

a recherche, big base-burner with isinglass windows take position

and spread awe around.  And we should have seen other things,

too; among them the buggy, the lap-robe, the stove-pipe hat, and so on.

 

From that time forth, although the daughters and the neighbors

saw only the same old wooden house there, it was a two-story

brick to Aleck and Sally and not a night went by that Aleck did

not worry about the imaginary gas-bills, and get for all comfort

Sally's reckless retort:  "What of it?  We can afford it."

 

Before the couple went to bed, that first night that they were rich,

they had decided that they must celebrate.  They must give a party

--that was the idea.  But how to explain it--to the daughters and

the neighbors?  They could not expose the fact that they were rich.

Sally was willing, even anxious, to do it; but Aleck kept her head

and would not allow it.  She said that although the money was as

good as in, it would be as well to wait until it was actually in.

On that policy she took her stand, and would not budge.

The great secret must be kept, she said--kept from the daughters and

everybody else.

 

The pair were puzzled.  They must celebrate, they were determined

to celebrate, but since the secret must be kept, what could

they celebrate?  No birthdays were due for three months.

Tilbury wasn't available, evidently he was going to live forever;

what the nation COULD they celebrate?  That was Sally's way

of putting it; and he was getting impatient, too, and harassed.

But at last he hit it--just by sheer inspiration, as it seemed to him

--and all their troubles were gone in a moment; they would celebrate

the Discovery of America.  A splendid idea!

 

Aleck was almost too proud of Sally for words--she said SHE never would

have thought of it.  But Sally, although he was bursting with delight

in the compliment and with wonder at himself, tried not to let on,

and said it wasn't really anything, anybody could have done it.

Whereat Aleck, with a prideful toss of her happy head, said:

 

"Oh, certainly!  Anybody could--oh, anybody!  Hosannah Dilkins,

for instance!  Or maybe Adelbert Peanut--oh, DEAR--yes!  Well, I'd like

to see them try it, that's all.  Dear-me-suz, if they could think

of the discovery of a forty-acre island it's more than _I_ believe

they could; and as for the whole continent, why, Sally Foster,

you know perfectly well it would strain the livers and lights

out of them and THEN they couldn't!"

 

The dear woman, she knew he had talent; and if affection made

her over-estimate the size of it a little, surely it was a sweet

and gentle crime, and forgivable for its source's sake.

 

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

 

The celebration went off well.  The friends were all present,

both the young and the old.  Among the young were Flossie and

Gracie Peanut and their brother Adelbert, who was a rising young

journeyman tinner, also Hosannah Dilkins, Jr., journeyman plasterer,

just out of his apprenticeship.  For many months Adelbert and Hosannah

had been showing interest in Gwendolen and Clytemnestra Foster,

and the parents of the girls had noticed this with private satisfaction.

But they suddenly realized now that that feeling had passed.

They recognized that the changed financial conditions had raised

up a social bar between their daughters and the young mechanics.

The daughters could now look higher--and must.  Yes, must.  They need

marry nothing below the grade of lawyer or merchant; poppa and momma

would take care of this; there must be no mesalliances.

 

However, these thinkings and projects of their were private,

and did not show on the surface, and therefore threw no shadow

upon the celebration.  What showed upon the surface was a serene

and lofty contentment and a dignity of carriage and gravity of

deportment which compelled the admiration and likewise the wonder

of the company.  All noticed it and all commented upon it, but none

was able to divine the secret of it.  It was a marvel and a mystery.

Three several persons remarked, without suspecting what clever

shots they were making:

 

"It's as if they'd come into property."

 

That was just it, indeed.

 

Most mothers would have taken hold of the matrimonial matter in the

old regulation way; they would have given the girls a talking to,

of a solemn sort and untactful--a lecture calculated to defeat its

own purpose, by producing tears and secret rebellion; and the said

mothers would have further damaged the business by requesting

the young mechanics to discontinue their attentions.  But this

mother was different.  She was practical.  She said nothing to any

of the young people concerned, nor to any one else except Sally.

He listened to her and understood; understood and admired.

He said:

 

"I get the idea.  Instead of finding fault with the samples on view,

thus hurting feelings and obstructing trade without occasion,

you merely offer a higher class of goods for the money, and leave

nature to take her course.  It's wisdom, Aleck, solid wisdom,

and sound as a nut.  Who's your fish?  Have you nominated him yet?"

 

No, she hadn't. They must look the market over--which they did.

To start with, they considered and discussed Brandish, rising young

lawyer, and Fulton, rising young dentist.  Sally must invite them

to dinner.  But not right away; there was no hurry, Aleck said.

Keep an eye on the pair, and wait; nothing would be lost by going

slowly in so important a matter.

 

It turned out that this was wisdom, too; for inside of three

weeks Aleck made a wonderful strike which swelled her imaginary

hundred thousand to four hundred thousand of the same quality.

She and Sally were in the clouds that evening.  For the first

time they introduced champagne at dinner.  Not real champagne,

but plenty real enough for the amount of imagination expended on it.

It was Sally that did it, and Aleck weakly submitted.  At bottom both

were troubled and ashamed, for he was a high-up Son of Temperance,

and at funerals wore an apron which no dog could look upon and retain

his reason and his opinion; and she was a W. C. T. U., with all that

that implies of boiler-iron virtue and unendurable holiness.  But there

is was; the pride of riches was beginning its disintegrating work.

They had lived to prove, once more, a sad truth which had been proven

many times before in the world:  that whereas principle is a great

and noble protection against showy and degrading vanities and vices,

poverty is worth six of it.  More than four hundred thousand

dollars to the good.  They took up the matrimonial matter again.

Neither the dentist nor the lawyer was mentioned; there was no occasion,

they were out of the running.  Disqualified.  They discussed the son

of the pork-packer and the son of the village banker.  But finally,

as in the previous case, they concluded to wait and think, and go

cautiously and sure.

 

Luck came their way again.  Aleck, ever watchful saw a great

and risky chance, and took a daring flyer.  A time of trembling,

of doubt, of awful uneasiness followed, for non-success meant absolute

ruin and nothing short of it.  Then came the result, and Aleck,

faint with joy, could hardly control her voice when she said:

 

"The suspense is over, Sally--and we are worth a cold million!"

 

Sally wept for gratitude, and said:

 

"Oh, Electra, jewel of women, darling of my heart, we are free

at last, we roll in wealth, we need never scrimp again.  It's a

case for Veuve Cliquot!" and he got out a pint of spruce-beer

and made sacrifice, he saying "Damn the expense," and she rebuking

him gently with reproachful but humid and happy eyes.

 

They shelved the pork-packer's son and the banker's son, and sat

down to consider the Governor's son and the son of the Congressman.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

 

It were a weariness to follow in detail the leaps and bounds the Foster

fictitious finances took from this time forth.  It was marvelous,

it was dizzying, it was dazzling.  Everything Aleck touched turned

to fairy gold, and heaped itself glittering toward the firmament.

Millions upon millions poured in, and still the mighty stream flowed

thundering along, still its vast volume increased.  Five millions

--ten millions--twenty--thirty--was there never to be an end?

 

Two years swept by in a splendid delirium, the intoxicated Fosters

scarcely noticing the flight of time.  They were now worth three hundred

million dollars; they were in every board of directors of every

prodigious combine in the country; and still as time drifted along,

the millions went on piling up, five at a time, ten at a time,

as fast as they could tally them off, almost.  The three hundred

double itself--then doubled again--and yet again--and yet once more.

 

Twenty-four hundred millions!

 

The business was getting a little confused.  It was necessary

to take an account of stock, and straighten it out.  The Fosters

knew it, they felt it, they realized that it was imperative;

but they also knew that to do it properly and perfectly the task

must be carried to a finish without a break when once it was begun.

A ten-hours' job; and where could THEY find ten leisure hours

in a bunch?  Sally was selling pins and sugar and calico all day

and every day; Aleck was cooking and washing dishes and sweeping

and making beds all day and every day, with none to help,

for the daughters were being saved up for high society.  The Fosters

knew there was one way to get the ten hours, and only one.

Both were ashamed to name it; each waited for the other to do it.

Finally Sally said:

 

"Somebody's got to give in.  It's up to me.  Consider that I've

named it--never mind pronouncing it out aloud."

 

Aleck colored, but was grateful.  Without further remark, they fell.

Fell, and--broke the Sabbath.  For that was their only free

ten-hour stretch.  It was but another step in the downward path.

Others would follow.  Vast wealth has temptations which fatally

and surely undermine the moral structure of persons not habituated

to its possession.

 

They pulled down the shades and broke the Sabbath.  With hard

and patient labor they overhauled their holdings and listed them.

And a long-drawn procession of formidable names it was!

Starting with the Railway Systems, Steamer Lines, Standard Oil,

Ocean Cables, Diluted Telegraph, and all the rest, and winding

up with Klondike, De Beers, Tammany Graft, and Shady Privileges

in the Post-office Department.

 

Twenty-four hundred millions, and all safely planted in Good Things,

gilt-edged and interest-bearing. Income, $120,000,000 a year.

Aleck fetched a long purr of soft delight, and said:

 

"Is it enough?"

 

"It is, Aleck."

 

"What shall we do?"

 

"Stand pat."

 

"Retire from business?"

 

"That's it."

 

"I am agreed.  The good work is finished; we will take a long rest

and enjoy the money."

 

"Good!  Aleck!"

 

"Yes, dear?"

 

"How much of the income can we spend?"

 

"The whole of it."

 

It seemed to her husband that a ton of chains fell from his limbs.

He did not say a word; he was happy beyond the power of speech.

 

After that, they broke the Sabbaths right along as fast as they

turned up.  It is the first wrong step that counts.  Every Sunday

they put in the whole day, after morning service, on inventions

--inventions of ways to spend the money.  They got to continuing this

delicious dissipation until past midnight; and at every seance Aleck

lavished millions upon great charities and religious enterprises,

and Sally lavished like sums upon matters to which (at first)

he gave definite names.  Only at first.  Later the names gradually

lost sharpness of outline, and eventually faded into "sundries,"

thus becoming entirely--but safely--undescriptive.  For Sally

was crumbling.  The placing of these millions added seriously

and most uncomfortably to the family expenses--in tallow candles.

For a while Aleck was worried.  Then, after a little, she ceased

to worry, for the occasion of it was gone.  She was pained,

she was grieved, she was ashamed; but she said nothing, and so became

an accessory.  Sally was taking candles; he was robbing the store.

It is ever thus.  Vast wealth, to the person unaccustomed to it,

is a bane; it eats into the flesh and bone of his morals.

When the Fosters were poor, they could have been trusted with

untold candles.  But now they--but let us not dwell upon it.

From candles to apples is but a step:  Sally got to taking apples;

then soap; then maple-sugar; then canned goods; then crockery.

How easy it is to go from bad to worse, when once we have started upon a

downward course!

 

Meantime, other effects had been milestoning the course of the Fosters'

splendid financial march.  The fictitious brick dwelling had

given place to an imaginary granite one with a checker-board

mansard roof; in time this one disappeared and gave place to a

still grander home--and so on and so on.  Mansion after mansion,

made of air, rose, higher, broader, finer, and each in its turn

vanished away; until now in these latter great days, our dreamers

were in fancy housed, in a distant region, in a sumptuous vast

palace which looked out from a leafy summit upon a noble prospect

of vale and river and receding hills steeped in tinted mists

--and all private, all the property of the dreamers; a palace swarming

with liveried servants, and populous with guests of fame and power,

hailing from all the world's capitals, foreign and domestic.

 

This palace was far, far away toward the rising sun, immeasurably remote,

astronomically remote, in Newport, Rhode Island, Holy Land

of High Society, ineffable Domain of the American Aristocracy.

As a rule they spent a part of every Sabbath--after morning service

--in this sumptuous home, the rest of it they spent in Europe,

or in dawdling around in their private yacht.  Six days of sordid

and plodding fact life at home on the ragged edge of Lakeside

and straitened means, the seventh in Fairlyand--such had been

their program and their habit.

 

In their sternly restricted fact life they remained as of old

--plodding, diligent, careful, practical, economical.  They stuck

loyally to the little Presbyterian Church, and labored faithfully

in its interests and stood by its high and tough doctrines with all

their mental and spiritual energies.  But in their dream life they

obeyed the invitations of their fancies, whatever they might be,

and howsoever the fancies might change.  Aleck's fancies were not

very capricious, and not frequent, but Sally's scattered a good deal.

Aleck, in her dream life, went over to the Episcopal camp, on account

of its large official titles; next she became High-church on account

of the candles and shows; and next she naturally changed to Rome,

where there were cardinals and more candles.  But these excursions

were a nothing to Sally's. His dream life was a glowing and continuous

and persistent excitement, and he kept every part of it fresh and

sparkling by frequent changes, the religious part along with the rest.

He worked his religions hard, and changed them with his shirt.

 

The liberal spendings of the Fosters upon their fancies began

early in their prosperities, and grew in prodigality step by step

with their advancing fortunes.  In time they became truly enormous.

Aleck built a university or two per Sunday; also a hospital or two;

also a Rowton hotel or so; also a batch of churches; now and then

a cathedral; and once, with untimely and ill-chosen playfulness,

Sally said, "It was a cold day when she didn't ship a cargo of

missionaries to persuade unreflecting Chinamen to trade off twenty-four

carat Confucianism for counterfeit Christianity."

 

This rude and unfeeling language hurt Aleck to the heart, and she

went from the presence crying.  That spectacle went to his own heart,

and in his pain and shame he would have given worlds to have

those unkind words back.  She had uttered no syllable of reproach

--and that cut him.  Not one suggestion that he look at his own record

--and she could have made, oh, so many, and such blistering ones!

Her generous silence brought a swift revenge, for it turned his

thoughts upon himself, it summoned before him a spectral procession,

a moving vision of his life as he had been leading it these past

few years of limitless prosperity, and as he sat there reviewing

it his cheeks burned and his soul was steeped in humiliation.

Look at her life--how fair it was, and tending ever upward; and look

at his own--how frivolous, how charged with mean vanities, how selfish,

how empty, how ignoble!  And its trend--never upward, but downward,

ever downward!

 

He instituted comparisons between her record and his own.  He had found

fault with her--so he mused--HE!  And what could he say for himself?

When she built her first church what was he doing?  Gathering other

blase multimillionaires into a Poker Club; defiling his own palace

with it; losing hundreds of thousands to it at every sitting,

and sillily vain of the admiring notoriety it made for him.

When she was building her first university, what was he doing?

Polluting himself with a gay and dissipated secret life in the

company of other fast bloods, multimillionaires in money and paupers

in character.  When she was building her first foundling asylum,

what was he doing?  Alas!  When she was projecting her noble Society

for the Purifying of the Sex, what was he doing?  Ah, what, indeed!

When she and the W. C. T. U. and the Woman with the Hatchet,

moving with resistless march, were sweeping the fatal bottle from

the land, what was he doing?  Getting drunk three times a day.

When she, builder of a hundred cathedrals, was being gratefully

welcomed and blest in papal Rome and decorated with the Golden Rose

which she had so honorably earned, what was he doing?  Breaking the

bank at Monte Carlo.

 

He stopped.  He could go no farther; he could not bear the rest.

He rose up, with a great resolution upon his lips:  this secret

life should be revealing, and confessed; no longer would he live

it clandestinely, he would go and tell her All.

 

And that is what he did.  He told her All; and wept upon

her bosom; wept, and moaned, and begged for her forgiveness.

It was a profound shock, and she staggered under the blow, but he

was her own, the core of her heart, the blessing of her eyes,

her all in all, she could deny him nothing, and she forgave him.

She felt that he could never again be quite to her what he had

been before; she knew that he could only repent, and not reform;

yet all morally defaced and decayed as he was, was he not her own,

her very own, the idol of her deathless worship?  She said she

was his serf, his slave, and she opened her yearning heart and took

him in.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

 

One Sunday afternoon some time after this they were sailing the

summer seas in their dream yacht, and reclining in lazy luxury under

the awning of the after-deck. There was silence, for each was busy

with his own thoughts.  These seasons of silence had insensibly

been growing more and more frequent of late; the old nearness and

cordiality were waning.  Sally's terrible revelation had done its work;

Aleck had tried hard to drive the memory of it out of her mind,

but it would not go, and the shame and bitterness of it were

poisoning her gracious dream life.  She could see now (on Sundays)

that her husband was becoming a bloated and repulsive Thing.

She could not close her eyes to this, and in these days she

no longer looked at him, Sundays, when she could help it.

 

But she--was she herself without blemish?  Alas, she knew she was not.

She was keeping a secret from him, she was acting dishonorably

toward him, and many a pang it was costing her.  SHE WAS BREAKING

THE COMPACT, AND CONCEALING IT FROM HIM.  Under strong temptation

she had gone into business again; she had risked their whole

fortune in a purchase of all the railway systems and coal and steel

companies in the country on a margin, and she was now trembling,

every Sabbath hour, lest through some chance word of hers he find

it out.  In her misery and remorse for this treachery she could

not keep her heart from going out to him in pity; she was filled

with compunctions to see him lying there, drunk and contented,

and ever suspecting.  Never suspecting--trusting her with a perfect

and pathetic trust, and she holding over him by a thread a possible

calamity of so devastating a--

 

"SAY--Aleck?"

 

The interrupting words brought her suddenly to herself.  She was

grateful to have that persecuting subject from her thoughts,

and she answered, with much of the old-time tenderness in her tone:

 

"Yes, dear."

 

"Do you know, Aleck, I think we are making a mistake--that is,

you are.  I mean about the marriage business."  He sat up, fat and

froggy and benevolent, like a bronze Buddha, and grew earnest.

"Consider--it's more than five years.  You've continued the same

policy from the start:  with every rise, always holding on for five

points higher.  Always when I think we are going to have some weddings,

you see a bigger thing ahead, and I undergo another disappointment.

_I_ think you are too hard to please.  Some day we'll get left.

First, we turned down the dentist and the lawyer.  That was all right

--it was sound.  Next, we turned down the banker's son and the

pork-butcher's heir--right again, and sound.  Next, we turned

down the Congressman's son and the Governor's--right as a trivet,

I confess it.  Next the Senator's son and the son of the Vice-President

of the United States--perfectly right, there's no permanency about

those little distinctions.  Then you went for the aristocracy;

and I thought we had struck oil at last--yes.  We would make

a plunge at the Four Hundred, and pull in some ancient lineage,

venerable, holy, ineffable, mellow with the antiquity of a hundred

and fifty years, disinfected of the ancestral odors of salt-cod

and pelts all of a century ago, and unsmirched by a day's work since,

and then! why, then the marriages, of course.  But no, along comes

a pair a real aristocrats from Europe, and straightway you throw over

the half-breeds. It was awfully discouraging, Aleck!  Since then,

what a procession!  You turned down the baronets for a pair

of barons; you turned down the barons for a pair of viscounts;

the viscounts for a pair of earls; the earls for a pair of marquises;

the marquises for a brace of dukes.  NOW, Aleck, cash in!

--you've played the limit.  You've got a job lot of four dukes

under the hammer; of four nationalities; all sound in the wind

and limb and pedigree, all bankrupt and in debt up to the ears.

They come high, but we can afford it.  Come, Aleck, don't delay

any longer, don't keep up the suspense:  take the whole lay-out,

and leave the girls to choose!"

 

Aleck had been smiling blandly and contentedly all through this

arraignment of her marriage policy, a pleasant light, as of triumph

with perhaps a nice surprise peeping out through it, rose in her eyes,

and she said, as calmly as she could:

 

"Sally, what would you say to--ROYALTY?"

 

Prodigious!  Poor man, it knocked him silly, and he fell over the

garboard-strake and barked his shin on the cat-heads. He was dizzy

for a moment, then he gathered himself up and limped over and sat

down by his wife and beamed his old-time admiration and affection

upon her in floods, out of his bleary eyes.

 

"By George!" he said, fervently, "Aleck, you ARE great--the greatest

woman in the whole earth!  I can't ever learn the whole size of you.

I can't ever learn the immeasurable deeps of you.  Here I've been

considering myself qualified to criticize your game.  _I!_ Why,

if I had stopped to think, I'd have known you had a lone hand up

your sleeve.  Now, dear heart, I'm all red-hot impatience--tell me

about it!"

 

The flattered and happy woman put her lips to his ear and whispered

a princely name.  It made him catch his breath, it lit his face

with exultation.

 

"Land!" he said, "it's a stunning catch!  He's got a gambling-hall,

and a graveyard, and a bishop, and a cathedral--all his very own.

And all gilt-edged five-hundred-per-cent. stock, every detail of it;

the tidiest little property in Europe.  and that graveyard

--it's the selectest in the world:  none but suicides admitted;

YES, sir, and the free-list suspended, too, ALL the time.

There isn't much land in the principality, but there's enough:

eight hundred acres in the graveyard and forty-two outside.

It's a SOVEREIGNTY--that's the main thing; LAND'S nothing.

There's plenty land, Sahara's drugged with it."

 

Aleck glowed; she was profoundly happy.  She said:

 

"Think of it, Sally--it is a family that has never married outside

the Royal and Imperial Houses of Europe:  our grandchildren will

sit upon thrones!"

 

"True as you live, Aleck--and bear scepters, too; and handle

them as naturally and nonchantly as I handle a yardstick.

it's a grand catch, Aleck.  He's corralled, is he?  Can't get away?

You didn't take him on a margin?"

 

"No. Trust me for that.  He's not a liability, he's an asset.

So is the other one."

 

"Who is it, Aleck?"

 

"His Royal Highness

Sigismund-Siegfriend-Lauenfeld-Dinkelspiel-Schwartzenberg

Blutwurst, Hereditary Grant Duke of Katzenyammer."

 

"No!  You can't mean it!"

 

"It's as true as I'm sitting here, I give you my word," she answered.

 

His cup was full, and he hugged her to his heart with rapture, saying:

 

"How wonderful it all seems, and how beautiful!  It's one of the

oldest and noblest of the three hundred and sixty-four ancient

German principalities, and one of the few that was allowed to

retain its royal estate when Bismarck got done trimming them.

I know that farm, I've been there.  It's got a rope-walk and a

candle-factory and an army.  Standing army.  Infantry and cavalry.

Three soldier and a horse.  Aleck, it's been a long wait, and full

of heartbreak and hope deferred, but God knows I am happy now.

Happy, and grateful to you, my own, who have done it all.

When is it to be?"

 

"Next Sunday."

 

"Good.  And we'll want to do these weddings up in the very regalest

style that's going.  It's properly due to the royal quality of the

parties of the first part.  Now as I understand it, there is only one

kind of marriage that is sacred to royalty, exclusive to royalty:

it's the morganatic."

 

"What do they call it that for, Sally?"

 

"I don't know; but anyway it's royal, and royal only."

 

"Then we will insist upon it.  More--I will compel it.

It is morganatic marriage or none."

 

"That settles it!" said Sally, rubbing his hands with delight.

"And it will be the very first in America.  Aleck, it will make

Newport sick."

 

Then they fell silent, and drifted away upon their dream wings

to the far regions of the earth to invite all the crowned heads

and their families and provide gratis transportation to them.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

 

During three days the couple walked upon air, with their heads in

the clouds.  They were but vaguely conscious of their surroundings;

they saw all things dimly, as through a veil; they were steeped

in dreams, often they did not hear when they were spoken to;

they often did not understand when they heard; they answered confusedly

or at random; Sally sold molasses by weight, sugar by the yard,

and furnished soap when asked for candles, and Aleck put the cat

in the wash and fed milk to the soiled linen.  Everybody was stunned

and amazed, and went about muttering, "What CAN be the matter

with the Fosters?"

 

Three days.  Then came events!  Things had taken a happy turn,

and for forty-eight hours Aleck's imaginary corner had been booming.

Up--up--still up!  Cost point was passed.  Still up--and up

--and up!  Cost point was passed.  STill up--and up--and up!

Five points above cost--then ten--fifteen--twenty!  Twenty points

cold profit on the vast venture, now, and Aleck's imaginary brokers

were shouting frantically by imaginary long-distance, "Sell! sell!

for Heaven's sake SELL!"

 

She broke the splendid news to Sally, and he, too, said,

"Sell! sell--oh, don't make a blunder, now, you own the earth!

--sell, sell!"  But she set her iron will and lashed it amidships,

and said she would hold on for five points more if she died for it.

 

It was a fatal resolve.  The very next day came the historic crash,

the record crash, the devastating crash, when the bottom fell out

of Wall Street, and the whole body of gilt-edged stocks dropped

ninety-five points in five hours, and the multimillionaire was seen

begging his bread in the Bowery.  Aleck sternly held her grip

and "put up" as long as she could, but at last there came a call

which she was powerless to meet, and her imaginary brokers sold

her out.  Then, and not till then, the man in her was vanished,

and the woman in her resumed sway.  She put her arms about her

husband's neck and wept, saying:

 

"I am to blame, do not forgive me, I cannot bear it.  We are paupers!

Paupers, and I am so miserable.  The weddings will never come off;

all that is past; we could not even buy the dentist, now."

 

A bitter reproach was on Sally's tongue:  "I BEGGED you to sell,

but you--" He did not say it; he had not the heart to add a hurt

to that broken and repentant spirit.  A nobler thought came to him

and he said:

 

"Bear up, my Aleck, all is not lost!  You really never invested

a penny of my uncle's bequest, but only its unmaterialized future;

what we have lost was only the incremented harvest from that future

by your incomparable financial judgment and sagacity.  Cheer up,

banish these griefs; we still have the thirty thousand untouched;

and with the experience which you have acquired, think what you will

be able to do with it in a couple years!  The marriages are not off,

they are only postponed."

 

These are blessed words.  Aleck saw how true they were, and their

influence was electric; her tears ceased to flow, and her great spirit

rose to its full stature again.  With flashing eye and grateful heart,

and with hand uplifted in pledge and prophecy, she said:

 

"Now and here I proclaim--"

 

But she was interrupted by a visitor.  It was the editor and proprietor

of the SAGAMORE.  He had happened into Lakeside to pay a duty-call upon

an obscure grandmother of his who was nearing the end of her pilgrimage,

and with the idea of combining business with grief he had looked up

the Fosters, who had been so absorbed in other things for the past

four years that they neglected to pay up their subscription.

Six dollars due.  No visitor could have been more welcome.  He would

know all about Uncle Tilbury and what his chances might be getting

to be, cemeterywards.  They could, of course, ask no questions,

for that would squelch the bequest, but they could nibble around on

the edge of the subject and hope for results.  The scheme did not work.

The obtuse editor did not know he was being nibbled at; but at last,

chance accomplished what art had failed in.  In illustration of something

under discussion which required the help of metaphor, the editor said:

 

"Land, it's a tough as Tilbury Foster!--as WE say."

 

It was sudden, and it made the Fosters jump.  The editor noticed,

and said, apologetically:

 

"No harm intended, I assure you.  It's just a saying; just a joke,

you know--nothing of it.  Relation of yours?"

 

Sally crowded his burning eagerness down, and answered with all

the indifference he could assume:

 

"I--well, not that I know of, but we've heard of him."  The editor

was thankful, and resumed his composure.  Sally added:  "Is he

--is he--well?"

 

"Is he WELL?  Why, bless you he's in Sheol these five years!"

 

The Fosters were trembling with grief, though it felt like joy.

Sally said, non-committally--and tentatively:

 

"Ah, well, such is life, and none can escape--not even the rich

are spared."

 

The editor laughed.

 

"If you are including Tilbury," said he, "it don't apply.

HE hadn't a cent; the town had to bury him."

 

The Fosters sat petrified for two minutes; petrified and cold.

Then, white-faced and weak-voiced, Sally asked:

 

"Is it true?  Do you KNOW it to be true?"

 

"Well, I should say!  I was one of the executors.  He hadn't

anything to leave but a wheelbarrow, and he left that to me.

It hadn't any wheel, and wasn't any good.  Still, it was something,

and so, to square up, I scribbled off a sort of a little obituarial

send-off for him, but it got crowded out."

 

The Fosters were not listening--their cup was full, it could

contain no more.  They sat with bowed heads, dead to all things

but the ache at their hearts.

 

An hour later.  Still they sat there, bowed, motionless, silent,

the visitor long ago gone, they unaware.

 

Then they stirred, and lifted their heads wearily, and gazed at each

other wistfully, dreamily, dazed; then presently began to twaddle

to each other in a wandering and childish way.  At intervals they

lapsed into silences, leaving a sentence unfinished, seemingly either

unaware of it or losing their way.  Sometimes, when they woke

out of these silences they had a dim and transient consciousness

that something had happened to their minds; then with a dumb

and yearning solicitude they would softly caress each other's

hands in mutual compassion and support, as if they would say:

"I am near you, I will not forsake you, we will bear it together;

somewhere there is release and forgetfulness, somewhere there

is a grave and peace; be patient, it will not be long."

 

They lived yet two years, in mental night, always brooding,

steeped in vague regrets and melancholy dreams, never speaking;

then release came to both on the same day.

 

Toward the end the darkness lifted from Sally's ruined mind

for a moment, and he said:

 

"Vast wealth, acquired by sudden and unwholesome means, is a snare.

It did us no good, transient were its feverish pleasures;

yet for its sake we threw away our sweet and simple and happy life

--let others take warning by us."

 

He lay silent awhile, with closed eyes; then as the chill of death

crept upward toward his heart, and consciousness was fading from

his brain, he muttered:

 

"Money had brought him misery, and he took his revenge upon us,

who had done him no harm.  He had his desire:  with base and cunning

calculation he left us but thirty thousand, knowing we would try

to increase it, and ruin our life and break our hearts.  Without added

expense he could have left us far above desire of increase, far above

the temptation to speculate, and a kinder soul would have done it;

but in him was no generous spirit, no pity, no--"

 

 

 

 

 

 

A DOG'S TALE

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

 

My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am

a Presbyterian.  This is what my mother told me, I do not know

these nice distinctions myself.  To me they are only fine large

words meaning nothing.  My mother had a fondness for such;

she liked to say them, and see other dogs look surprised and envious,

as wondering how she got so much education.  But, indeed, it was not

real education; it was only show:  she got the words by listening

in the dining-room and drawing-room when there was company,

and by going with the children to Sunday-school and listening there;

and whenever she heard a large word she said it over to herself

many times, and so was able to keep it until there was a dogmatic

gathering in the neighborhood, then she would get it off,

and surprise and distress them all, from pocket-pup to mastiff,

which rewarded her for all her trouble.  If there was a stranger

he was nearly sure to be suspicious, and when he got his breath

again he would ask her what it meant.  And she always told him.

He was never expecting this but thought he would catch her;

so when she told him, he was the one that looked ashamed,

whereas he had thought it was going to be she.  The others were

always waiting for this, and glad of it and proud of her, for they

knew what was going to happen, because they had had experience.

When she told the meaning of a big word they were all so taken up

with admiration that it never occurred to any dog to doubt if it

was the right one; and that was natural, because, for one thing,

she answered up so promptly that it seemed like a dictionary speaking,

and for another thing, where could they find out whether it was right

or not? for she was the only cultivated dog there was.  By and by,

when I was older, she brought home the word Unintellectual, one time,

and worked it pretty hard all the week at different gatherings,

making much unhappiness and despondency; and it was at this time

that I noticed that during that week she was asked for the meaning

at eight different assemblages, and flashed out a fresh definition

every time, which showed me that she had more presence of mind

than culture, though I said nothing, of course.  She had one word

which she always kept on hand, and ready, like a life-preserver,

a kind of emergency word to strap on when she was likely to get

washed overboard in a sudden way--that was the word Synonymous.

When she happened to fetch out a long word which had had its day

weeks before and its prepared meanings gone to her dump-pile,

if there was a stranger there of course it knocked him groggy for

a couple of minutes, then he would come to, and by that time she

would be away down wind on another tack, and not expecting anything;

so when he'd hail and ask her to cash in, I (the only dog on

the inside of her game) could see her canvas flicker a moment

--but only just a moment--then it would belly out taut and full,

and she would say, as calm as a summer's day, "It's synonymous

with supererogation," or some godless long reptile of a word

like that, and go placidly about and skim away on the next tack,

perfectly comfortable, you know, and leave that stranger looking

profane and embarrassed, and the initiated slatting the floor

with their tails in unison and their faces transfigured with a

holy joy.

 

And it was the same with phrases.  She would drag home a whole phrase,

if it had a grand sound, and play it six nights and two matinees,

and explain it a new way every time--which she had to, for all she

cared for was the phrase; she wasn't interested in what it meant,

and knew those dogs hadn't wit enough to catch her, anyway.

Yes, she was a daisy!  She got so she wasn't afraid of anything,

she had such confidence in the ignorance of those creatures.

She even brought anecdotes that she had heard the family and the

dinner-guests laugh and shout over; and as a rule she got the nub

of one chestnut hitched onto another chestnut, where, of course,

it didn't fit and hadn't any point; and when she delivered the nub

she fell over and rolled on the floor and laughed and barked

in the most insane way, while I could see that she was wondering

to herself why it didn't seem as funny as it did when she first

heard it.  But no harm was done; the others rolled and barked too,

privately ashamed of themselves for not seeing the point, and never

suspecting that the fault was not with them and there wasn't any

to see.

 

You can see by these things that she was of a rather vain and

frivolous character; still, she had virtues, and enough to make up,

I think.  She had a kind heart and gentle ways, and never harbored

resentments for injuries done her, but put them easily out of her

mind and forgot them; and she taught her children her kindly way,

and from her we learned also to be brave and prompt in time of danger,

and not to run away, but face the peril that threatened friend

or stranger, and help him the best we could without stopping to think

what the cost might be to us.  And she taught us not by words only,

but by example, and that is the best way and the surest and the

most lasting.  Why, the brave things she did, the splendid things! she

was just a soldier; and so modest about it--well, you couldn't help

admiring her, and you couldn't help imitating her; not even a King

Charles spaniel could remain entirely despicable in her society.

So, as you see, there was more to her than her education.

 

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

 

When I was well grown, at last, I was sold and taken away,

and I never saw her again.  She was broken-hearted, and so was I,

and we cried; but she comforted me as well as she could, and said

we were sent into this world for a wise and good purpose, and must

do our duties without repining, take our life as we might find it,

live it for the best good of others, and never mind about the results;

they were not our affair.  She said men who did like this would have

a noble and beautiful reward by and by in another world, and although

we animals would not go there, to do well and right without reward

would give to our brief lives a worthiness and dignity which in

itself would be a reward.  She had gathered these things from time

to time when she had gone to the Sunday-school with the children,

and had laid them up in her memory more carefully than she had done

with those other words and phrases; and she had studied them deeply,

for her good and ours.  One may see by this that she had a wise

and thoughtful head, for all there was so much lightness and vanity

in it.

 

So we said our farewells, and looked our last upon each other through

our tears; and the last thing she said--keeping it for the last

to make me remember it the better, I think--was, "In memory of me,

when there is a time of danger to another do not think of yourself,

think of your mother, and do as she would do."

 

Do you think I could forget that?  No.

 

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

 

It was such a charming home!--my new one; a fine great house,

with pictures, and delicate decorations, and rich furniture,

and no gloom anywhere, but all the wilderness of dainty colors lit up

with flooding sunshine; and the spacious grounds around it, and the

great garden--oh, greensward, and noble trees, and flowers, no end!

And I was the same as a member of the family; and they loved me,

and petted me, and did not give me a new name, but called me by my

old one that was dear to me because my mother had given it me

--Aileen Mavoureen.  She got it out of a song; and the Grays knew

that song, and said it was a beautiful name.

 

Mrs. Gray was thirty, and so sweet and so lovely, you cannot

imagine it; and Sadie was ten, and just like her mother, just a

darling slender little copy of her, with auburn tails down her back,

and short frocks; and the baby was a year old, and plump and dimpled,

and fond of me, and never could get enough of hauling on my tail,

and hugging me, and laughing out its innocent happiness; and Mr. Gray

was thirty-eight, and tall and slender and handsome, a little bald

in front, alert, quick in his movements, business-like, prompt,

decided, unsentimental, and with that kind of trim-chiseled face

that just seems to glint and sparkle with frosty intellectuality!

He was a renowned scientist.  I do not know what the word means,

but my mother would know how to use it and get effects.  She would

know how to depress a rat-terrier with it and make a lap-dog

look sorry he came.  But that is not the best one; the best one

was Laboratory.  My mother could organize a Trust on that one that

would skin the tax-collars off the whole herd.  The laboratory

was not a book, or a picture, or a place to wash your hands in,

as the college president's dog said--no, that is the lavatory;

the laboratory is quite different, and is filled with jars,

and bottles, and electrics, and wires, and strange machines;

and every week other scientists came there and sat in the place,

and used the machines, and discussed, and made what they called

experiments and discoveries; and often I came, too, and stood

around and listened, and tried to learn, for the sake of my mother,

and in loving memory of her, although it was a pain to me, as realizing

what she was losing out of her life and I gaining nothing at all;

for try as I might, I was never able to make anything out of it

at all.

 

Other times I lay on the floor in the mistress's work-room and slept,

she gently using me for a foot-stool, knowing it pleased me,

for it was a caress; other times I spent an hour in the nursery,

and got well tousled and made happy; other times I watched by the

crib there, when the baby was asleep and the nurse out for a few

minutes on the baby's affairs; other times I romped and raced

through the grounds and the garden with Sadie till we were tired out,

then slumbered on the grass in the shade of a tree while she read

her book; other times I went visiting among the neighbor dogs

--for there were some most pleasant ones not far away, and one very

handsome and courteous and graceful one, a curly-haired Irish

setter by the name of Robin Adair, who was a Presbyterian like me,

and belonged to the Scotch minister.

 

The servants in our house were all kind to me and were fond of me,

and so, as you see, mine was a pleasant life.  There could not be

a happier dog that I was, nor a gratefuler one.  I will say this

for myself, for it is only the truth:  I tried in all ways to do

well and right, and honor my mother's memory and her teachings,

and earn the happiness that had come to me, as best I could.

 

By and by came my little puppy, and then my cup was full, my happiness

was perfect.  It was the dearest little waddling thing, and so smooth

and soft and velvety, and had such cunning little awkward paws,

and such affectionate eyes, and such a sweet and innocent face;

and it made me so proud to see how the children and their mother

adored it, and fondled it, and exclaimed over every little wonderful

thing it did.  It did seem to me that life was just too lovely to--

 

Then came the winter.  One day I was standing a watch in the nursery.

That is to say, I was asleep on the bed.  The baby was asleep in

the crib, which was alongside the bed, on the side next the fireplace.

It was the kind of crib that has a lofty tent over it made of gauzy

stuff that you can see through.  The nurse was out, and we two

sleepers were alone.  A spark from the wood-fire was shot out, and it

lit on the slope of the tent.  I suppose a quiet interval followed,

then a scream from the baby awoke me, and there was that tent

flaming up toward the ceiling!  Before I could think, I sprang

to the floor in my fright, and in a second was half-way to the door;

but in the next half-second my mother's farewell was sounding

in my ears, and I was back on the bed again., I reached my head

through the flames and dragged the baby out by the waist-band,

and tugged it along, and we fell to the floor together in a cloud

of smoke; I snatched a new hold, and dragged the screaming little

creature along and out at the door and around the bend of the hall,

and was still tugging away, all excited and happy and proud,

when the master's voice shouted:

 

"Begone you cursed beast!" and I jumped to save myself; but he

was furiously quick, and chased me up, striking furiously at me

with his cane, I dodging this way and that, in terror, and at last a

strong blow fell upon my left foreleg, which made me shriek and fall,

for the moment, helpless; the cane went up for another blow,

but never descended, for the nurse's voice rang wildly out,

"The nursery's on fire!" and the master rushed away in that direction,

and my other bones were saved.

 

The pain was cruel, but, no matter, I must not lose any time;

he might come back at any moment; so I limped on three legs to the

other end of the hall, where there was a dark little stairway leading

up into a garret where old boxes and such things were kept, as I had

heard say, and where people seldom went.  I managed to climb up there,

then I searched my way through the dark among the piles of things,

and hid in the secretest place I could find.  It was foolish to be

afraid there, yet still I was; so afraid that I held in and hardly

even whimpered, though it would have been such a comfort to whimper,

because that eases the pain, you know.  But I could lick my leg,

and that did some good.

 

For half an hour there was a commotion downstairs, and shoutings,

and rushing footsteps, and then there was quiet again.  Quiet for

some minutes, and that was grateful to my spirit, for then my fears

began to go down; and fears are worse than pains--oh, much worse.

Then came a sound that froze me.  They were calling me--calling me

by name--hunting for me!

 

It was muffled by distance, but that could not take the terror out of it,

and it was the most dreadful sound to me that I had ever heard.

It went all about, everywhere, down there:  along the halls, through all

the rooms, in both stories, and in the basement and the cellar;

then outside, and farther and farther away--then back, and all

about the house again, and I thought it would never, never stop.

But at last it did, hours and hours after the vague twilight of

the garret had long ago been blotted out by black darkness.

 

Then in that blessed stillness my terrors fell little by little away,

and I was at peace and slept.  It was a good rest I had, but I woke

before the twilight had come again.  I was feeling fairly comfortable,

and I could think out a plan now.  I made a very good one;

which was, to creep down, all the way down the back stairs,

and hide behind the cellar door, and slip out and escape when the

iceman came at dawn, while he was inside filling the refrigerator;

then I would hide all day, and start on my journey when night came;

my journey to--well, anywhere where they would not know me and betray

me to the master.  I was feeling almost cheerful now; then suddenly

I thought:  Why, what would life be without my puppy!

 

That was despair.  There was no plan for me; I saw that;

I must say where I was; stay, and wait, and take what might come

--it was not my affair; that was what life is--my mother had said it.

Then--well, then the calling began again!  All my sorrows came back.

I said to myself, the master will never forgive.  I did not know

what I had done to make him so bitter and so unforgiving, yet I

judged it was something a dog could not understand, but which was

clear to a man and dreadful.

 

They called and called--days and nights, it seemed to me.

So long that the hunger and thirst near drove me mad, and I

recognized that I was getting very weak.  When you are this way you

sleep a great deal, and I did.  Once I woke in an awful fright

--it seemed to me that the calling was right there in the garret!

And so it was:  it was Sadie's voice, and she was crying; my name

was falling from her lips all broken, poor thing, and I could not

believe my ears for the joy of it when I heard her say:

 

"Come back to us--oh, come back to us, and forgive--it is all so sad

without our--"

 

I broke in with SUCH a grateful little yelp, and the next moment

Sadie was plunging and stumbling through the darkness and the lumber

and shouting for the family to hear, "She's found, she's found!"

 

 

The days that followed--well, they were wonderful.  The mother

and Sadie and the servants--why, they just seemed to worship me.

They couldn't seem to make me a bed that was fine enough;

and as for food, they couldn't be satisfied with anything but game

and delicacies that were out of season; and every day the friends

and neighbors flocked in to hear about my heroism--that was the

name they called it by, and it means agriculture.  I remember my

mother pulling it on a kennel once, and explaining it in that way,

but didn't say what agriculture was, except that it was synonymous

with intramural incandescence; and a dozen times a day Mrs. Gray

and Sadie would tell the tale to new-comers, and say I risked my life

to say the baby's, and both of us had burns to prove it, and then

the company would pass me around and pet me and exclaim about me,

and you could see the pride in the eyes of Sadie and her mother;

and when the people wanted to know what made me limp, they looked

ashamed and changed the subject, and sometimes when people hunted

them this way and that way with questions about it, it looked to me

as if they were going to cry.

 

And this was not all the glory; no, the master's friends came,

a whole twenty of the most distinguished people, and had me in

the laboratory, and discussed me as if I was a kind of discovery;

and some of them said it was wonderful in a dumb beast, the finest

exhibition of instinct they could call to mind; but the master said,

with vehemence, "It's far above instinct; it's REASON, and many a man,

privileged to be saved and go with you and me to a better world

by right of its possession, has less of it that this poor silly

quadruped that's foreordained to perish"; and then he laughed,

and said:  "Why, look at me--I'm a sarcasm! bless you, with all

my grand intelligence, the only think I inferred was that the dog

had gone mad and was destroying the child, whereas but for the

beast's intelligence--it's REASON, I tell you!--the child would

have perished!"

 

They disputed and disputed, and _I_ was the very center of subject

of it all, and I wished my mother could know that this grand honor

had come to me; it would have made her proud.

 

Then they discussed optics, as they called it, and whether a certain

injury to the brain would produce blindness or not, but they could

not agree about it, and said they must test it by experiment by and by;

and next they discussed plants, and that interested me, because in

the summer Sadie and I had planted seeds--I helped her dig the holes,

you know--and after days and days a little shrub or a flower came

up there, and it was a wonder how that could happen; but it did,

and I wished I could talk--I would have told those people about it

and shown then how much I knew, and been all alive with the subject;

but I didn't care for the optics; it was dull, and when they came back

to it again it bored me, and I went to sleep.

 

Pretty soon it was spring, and sunny and pleasant and lovely,

and the sweet mother and the children patted me and the puppy

good-by, and went away on a journey and a visit to their kin,

and the master wasn't any company for us, but we played together

and had good times, and the servants were kind and friendly,

so we got along quite happily and counted the days and waited

for the family.

 

And one day those men came again, and said, now for the test,

and they took the puppy to the laboratory, and I limped

three-leggedly along, too, feeling proud, for any attention shown

to the puppy was a pleasure to me, of course.  They discussed

and experimented, and then suddenly the puppy shrieked,

and they set him on the floor, and he went staggering around,

with his head all bloody, and the master clapped his hands and shouted:

 

"There, I've won--confess it!  He's a blind as a bat!"

 

And they all said:

 

"It's so--you've proved your theory, and suffering humanity owes

you a great debt from henceforth," and they crowded around him,

and wrung his hand cordially and thankfully, and praised him.

 

But I hardly saw or heard these things, for I ran at once to my

little darling, and snuggled close to it where it lay, and licked

the blood, and it put its head against mine, whimpering softly,

and I knew in my heart it was a comfort to it in its pain and

trouble to feel its mother's touch, though it could not see me.

Then it dropped down, presently, and its little velvet nose rested

upon the floor, and it was still, and did not move any more.

 

Soon the master stopped discussing a moment, and rang in the footman,

and said, "Bury it in the far corner of the garden," and then went

on with the discussion, and I trotted after the footman, very happy

and grateful, for I knew the puppy was out of its pain now, because it

was asleep.  We went far down the garden to the farthest end,

where the children and the nurse and the puppy and I used to play

in the summer in the shade of a great elm, and there the footman dug

a hole, and I saw he was going to plant the puppy, and I was glad,

because it would grow and come up a fine handsome dog, like Robin Adair,

and be a beautiful surprise for the family when they came home;

so I tried to help him dig, but my lame leg was no good, being stiff,

you know, and you have to have two, or it is no use.  When the

footman had finished and covered little Robin up, he patted my head,

and there were tears in his eyes, and he said:  "Poor little doggie,

you saved HIS child!"

 

I have watched two whole weeks, and he doesn't come up!  This last week

a fright has been stealing upon me.  I think there is something terrible

about this.  I do not know what it is, but the fear makes me sick,

and I cannot eat, though the servants bring me the best of food;

and they pet me so, and even come in the night, and cry, and say,

"Poor doggie--do give it up and come home; DON'T break our hearts!"

and all this terrifies me the more, and makes me sure something

has happened.  And I am so weak; since yesterday I cannot stand on my

feet anymore.  And within this hour the servants, looking toward the

sun where it was sinking out of sight and the night chill coming on,

said things I could not understand, but they carried something cold

to my heart.

 

"Those poor creatures!  They do not suspect.  They will come home

in the morning, and eagerly ask for the little doggie that did

the brave deed, and who of us will be strong enough to say the truth

to them:  'The humble little friend is gone where go the beasts

that perish.'"

 

 

 

 

 

 

WAS IT HEAVEN?  OR HELL?

 

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

 

"You told a LIE?"

 

"You confess it--you actually confess it--you told a lie!"

 

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

 

The family consisted of four persons:  Margaret Lester, widow,

aged thirty six; Helen Lester, her daughter, aged sixteen;

Mrs. Lester's maiden aunts, Hannah and Hester Gray, twins, aged

sixty-seven. Waking and sleeping, the three women spent their days

and night in adoring the young girl; in watching the movements

of her sweet spirit in the mirror of her face; in refreshing their

souls with the vision of her bloom and beauty; in listening to the

music of her voice; in gratefully recognizing how rich and fair

for them was the world with this presence in it; in shuddering

to think how desolate it would be with this light gone out of it.

 

By nature--and inside--the aged aunts were utterly dear and lovable

and good, but in the matter of morals and conduct their training

had been so uncompromisingly strict that it had made them

exteriorly austere, not to say stern.  Their influence was effective

in the house; so effective that the mother and the daughter

conformed to its moral and religious requirements cheerfully,

contentedly, happily, unquestionably.  To do this was become

second nature to them.  And so in this peaceful heaven there

were no clashings, no irritations, no fault-finding, no heart-burnings.

 

In it a lie had no place.  In it a lie was unthinkable.

In it speech was restricted to absolute truth, iron-bound truth,

implacable and uncompromising truth, let the resulting consequences

be what they might.  At last, one day, under stress of circumstances,

the darling of the house sullied her lips with a lie--and confessed it,

with tears and self-upbraidings. There are not any words that can paint

the consternation of the aunts.  It was as if the sky had crumpled

up and collapsed and the earth had tumbled to ruin with a crash.

They sat side by side, white and stern, gazing speechless upon

the culprit, who was on her knees before them with her face

buried first in one lap and then the other, moaning and sobbing,

and appealing for sympathy and forgiveness and getting no response,

humbly kissing the hand of the one, then of the other, only to see

it withdrawn as suffering defilement by those soiled lips.

 

Twice, at intervals, Aunt Hester said, in frozen amazement:

 

"You told a LIE?"

 

Twice, at intervals, Aunt Hannah followed with the muttered

and amazed ejaculation:

 

"You confess it--you actually confess it--you told a lie!"

 

It was all they could say.  The situation was new, unheard of,

incredible; they could not understand it, they did not know

how to take hold of it, it approximately paralyzed speech.

 

At length it was decided that the erring child must be taken to

her mother, who was ill, and who ought to know what had happened.

Helen begged, besought, implored that she might be spared this

further disgrace, and that her mother might be spared the grief

and pain of it; but this could not be:  duty required this sacrifice,

duty takes precedence of all things, nothing can absolve one from

a duty, with a duty no compromise is possible.

 

Helen still begged, and said the sin was her own, her mother had

had no hand in it--why must she be made to suffer for it?

 

But the aunts were obdurate in their righteousness, and said the

law that visited the sins of the parent upon the child was by all

right and reason reversible; and therefore it was but just that the

innocent mother of a sinning child should suffer her rightful share

of the grief and pain and shame which were the allotted wages of the sin.

 

The three moved toward the sick-room.

 

 

At this time the doctor was approaching the house.  He was still

a good distance away, however.  He was a good doctor and a good man,

and he had a good heart, but one had to know him a year to get

over hating him, two years to learn to endure him, three to learn

to like him, and four and five to learn to love him.  It was a slow

and trying education, but it paid.  He was of great stature; he had

a leonine head, a leonine face, a rough voice, and an eye which was

sometimes a pirate's and sometimes a woman's, according to the mood.

He knew nothing about etiquette, and cared nothing about it; in speech,

manner, carriage, and conduct he was the reverse of conventional.

He was frank, to the limit; he had opinions on all subjects; they were

always on tap and ready for delivery, and he cared not a farthing

whether his listener liked them or didn't. Whom he loved he loved,

and manifested it; whom he didn't love he hated, and published

it from the housetops.  In his young days he had been a sailor,

and the salt-airs of all the seas blew from him yet.  He was a sturdy

and loyal Christian, and believed he was the best one in the land,

and the only one whose Christianity was perfectly sound, healthy,

full-charged with common sense, and had no decayed places in it.

People who had an ax to grind, or people who for any reason wanted

wanted to get on the soft side of him, called him The Christian

--a phrase whose delicate flattery was music to his ears, and whose

capital T was such an enchanting and vivid object to him that he

could SEE it when it fell out of a person's mouth even in the dark.

Many who were fond of him stood on their consciences with both feet

and brazenly called him by that large title habitually, because it

was a pleasure to them to do anything that would please him;

and with eager and cordial malice his extensive and diligently

cultivated crop of enemies gilded it, beflowered it, expanded it

to "The ONLY Christian."  Of these two titles, the latter had

the wider currency; the enemy, being greatly in the majority,

attended to that.  Whatever the doctor believed, he believed with

all his heart, and would fight for it whenever he got the chance;

and if the intervals between chances grew to be irksomely wide,

he would invent ways of shortening them himself.  He was

severely conscientious, according to his rather independent lights,

and whatever he took to be a duty he performed, no matter whether

the judgment of the professional moralists agreed with his own

or not.  At sea, in his young days, he had used profanity freely,

but as soon as he was converted he made a rule, which he rigidly stuck

to ever afterward, never to use it except on the rarest occasions,

and then only when duty commanded.  He had been a hard drinker at sea,

but after his conversion he became a firm and outspoken teetotaler,

in order to be an example to the young, and from that time forth he

seldom drank; never, indeed, except when it seemed to him to be a duty

--a condition which sometimes occurred a couple of times a year, but never

as many as five times.

 

Necessarily, such a man is impressionable, impulsive, emotional.

This one was, and had no gift at hiding his feelings; or if he

had it he took no trouble to exercise it.  He carried his soul's

prevailing weather in his face, and when he entered a room

the parasols or the umbrellas went up--figuratively speaking

--according to the indications.  When the soft light was in his eye

it meant approval, and delivered a benediction; when he came with a

frown he lowered the temperature ten degrees.  He was a well-beloved

man in the house of his friends, but sometimes a dreaded one.

 

He had a deep affection for the Lester household and its several

members returned this feeling with interest.  They mourned over

his kind of Christianity, and he frankly scoffed at theirs;

but both parties went on loving each other just the same.

 

He was approaching the house--out of the distance; the aunts

and the culprit were moving toward the sick-chamber.

 

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

 

The three last named stood by the bed; the aunts austere,

the transgressor softly sobbing.  The mother turned her head

on the pillow; her tired eyes flamed up instantly with sympathy

and passionate mother-love when they fell upon her child,

and she opened the refuge and shelter of her arms.

 

"Wait!" said Aunt Hannah, and put out her hand and stayed the girl

from leaping into them.

 

"Helen," said the other aunt, impressively, "tell your mother all.

Purge your soul; leave nothing unconfessed."

 

Standing stricken and forlorn before her judges, the young girl

mourned her sorrowful tale through the end, then in a passion

of appeal cried out:

 

"Oh, mother, can't you forgive me? won't you forgive me?--I am

so desolate!"

 

"Forgive you, my darling?  Oh, come to my arms!--there, lay your head

upon my breast, and be at peace.  If you had told a thousand lies--"

 

There was a sound--a warning--the clearing of a throat.  The aunts

glanced up, and withered in their clothes--there stood the doctor,

his face a thunder-cloud. Mother and child knew nothing of

his presence; they lay locked together, heart to heart, steeped in

immeasurable content, dead to all things else.  The physician

stood many moments glaring and glooming upon the scene before him;

studying it, analyzing it, searching out its genesis; then he put

up his hand and beckoned to the aunts.  They came trembling to him,

and stood humbly before him and waited.  He bent down and whispered:

 

"Didn't I tell you this patient must be protected from all excitement?

What the hell have you been doing?  Clear out of the place!"

 

They obeyed.  Half an hour later he appeared in the parlor,

serene, cheery, clothed in sunshine, conducting Helen, with his

arm about her waist, petting her, and saying gentle and playful

things to her; and she also was her sunny and happy self again.

 

"Now, then;" he said, "good-by, dear.  Go to your room, and keep

away from your mother, and behave yourself.  But wait--put out

your tongue.  There, that will do--you're as sound as a nut!"

He patted her cheek and added, "Run along now; I want to talk

to these aunts."

 

She went from the presence.  His face clouded over again at once;

and as he sat down he said:

 

"You too have been doing a lot of damage--and maybe some good.

Some good, yes--such as it is.  That woman's disease is typhoid!

You've brought it to a show-up, I think, with your insanities,

and that's a service--such as it is.  I hadn't been able to determine

what it was before."

 

With one impulse the old ladies sprang to their feet, quaking with terror.

 

"Sit down!  What are you proposing to do?"

 

"Do?  We must fly to her.  We--"

 

"You'll do nothing of the kind; you've done enough harm for one day.

Do you want to squander all your capital of crimes and follies on a

single deal?  Sit down, I tell you.  I have arranged for her to sleep;

she needs it; if you disturb her without my orders, I'll brain you

--if you've got the materials for it."

 

They sat down, distressed and indignant, but obedient, under compulsion.

He proceeded:

 

"Now, then, I want this case explained.  THEY wanted to explain it

to me--as if there hadn't been emotion or excitement enough already.

You knew my orders; how did you dare to go in there and get up

that riot?"

 

Hester looked appealing at Hannah; Hannah returned a beseeching look

at Hester--neither wanted to dance to this unsympathetic orchestra.

The doctor came to their help.  He said:

 

"Begin, Hester."

 

Fingering at the fringes of her shawl, and with lowered eyes,

Hester said, timidly:

 

"We should not have disobeyed for any ordinary cause, but this

was vital.  This was a duty.  With a duty one has no choice;

one must put all lighter considerations aside and perform it.

We were obliged to arraign her before her mother.  She had told

a lie."

 

The doctor glowered upon the woman a moment, and seemed

to be trying to work up in his mind an understand of a wholly

incomprehensible proposition; then he stormed out:

 

"She told a lie!  DID she?  God bless my soul!  I tell a million a day!

And so does every doctor.  And so does everybody--including you

--for that matter.  And THAT was the important thing that authorized

you to venture to disobey my orders and imperil that woman's life!

Look here, Hester Gray, this is pure lunacy; that girl COULDN'T tell

a lie that was intended to injure a person.  The thing is impossible

--absolutely impossible.  You know it yourselves--both of you;

you know it perfectly well."

 

Hannah came to her sister's rescue:

 

"Hester didn't mean that it was that kind of a lie, and it wasn't.

But it was a lie."

 

"Well, upon my word, I never heard such nonsense!  Haven't you

got sense enough to discriminate between lies!  Don't you know

the difference between a lie that helps and a lie that hurts?"

 

"ALL lies are sinful," said Hannah, setting her lips together

like a vise; "all lies are forbidden."

 

The Only Christian fidgeted impatiently in his chair.  He went to attack

this proposition, but he did not quite know how or where to begin.

Finally he made a venture:

 

"Hester, wouldn't you tell a lie to shield a person from an undeserved

injury or shame?"

 

"No."

 

"Not even a friend?"

 

"No."

 

"Not even your dearest friend?"

 

"No. I would not."

 

The doctor struggled in silence awhile with this situation;

then he asked:

 

"Not even to save him from bitter pain and misery and grief?"

 

"No. Not even to save his life."

 

Another pause.  Then:

 

"Nor his soul?"

 

There was a hush--a silence which endured a measurable interval

--then Hester answered, in a low voice, but with decision:

 

"Nor his soul?"

 

No one spoke for a while; then the doctor said:

 

"Is it with you the same, Hannah?"

 

"Yes," she answered.

 

"I ask you both--why?"

 

"Because to tell such a lie, or any lie, is a sin, and could cost

us the loss of our own souls--WOULD, indeed, if we died without

time to repent."

 

"Strange . . . strange . . . it is past belief."  Then he

asked, roughly:  "Is such a soul as that WORTH saving?"

He rose up, mumbling and grumbling, and started for the door,

stumping vigorously along.  At the threshold he turned and rasped

out an admonition:  "Reform!  Drop this mean and sordid and selfish

devotion to the saving of your shabby little souls, and hunt up

something to do that's got some dignity to it!  RISK your souls! risk

them in good causes; then if you lose them, why should you care?  Reform!"

 

The good old gentlewomen sat paralyzed, pulverized, outraged, insulted,

and brooded in bitterness and indignation over these blasphemies.

They were hurt to the heart, poor old ladies, and said they could

never forgive these injuries.

 

"Reform!"

 

They kept repeating that word resentfully.  "Reform--and learn

to tell lies!"

 

Time slipped along, and in due course a change came over their spirits.

They had completed the human being's first duty--which is to think

about himself until he has exhausted the subject, then he is in a

condition to take up minor interests and think of other people.

This changes the complexion of his spirits--generally wholesomely.

The minds of the two old ladies reverted to their beloved niece

and the fearful disease which had smitten her; instantly they forgot

the hurts their self-love had received, and a passionate desire

rose in their hearts to go to the help of the sufferer and comfort

her with their love, and minister to her, and labor for her the best

they could with their weak hands, and joyfully and affectionately

wear out their poor old bodies in her dear service if only they might

have the privilege.

 

"And we shall have it!" said Hester, with the tears running

down her face.  "There are no nurses comparable to us, for there

are no others that will stand their watch by that bed till they

drop and die, and God knows we would do that."

 

"Amen," said Hannah, smiling approval and endorsement through the

mist of moisture that blurred her glasses.  "The doctor knows us,

and knows we will not disobey again; and he will call no others.

He will not dare!"

 

"Dare?" said Hester, with temper, and dashing the water from her eyes;

"he will dare anything--that Christian devil!  But it will do no

good for him to try it this time--but, laws!  Hannah! after all's

said and done, he is gifted and wise and good, and he would not

think of such a thing.  . . . It is surely time for one of us to go

to that room.  What is keeping him?  Why doesn't he come and say so?"

 

They caught the sound of his approaching step.  He entered, sat down,

and began to talk.

 

"Margaret is a sick woman," he said.  "She is still sleeping,

but she will wake presently; then one of you must go to her.

She will be worse before she is better.  Pretty soon a night-and-day

watch must be set.  How much of it can you two undertake?"

 

"All of it!" burst from both ladies at once.

 

The doctor's eyes flashed, and he said, with energy:

 

"You DO ring true, you brave old relics!  And you SHALL do all of

the nursing you can, for there's none to match you in that divine

office in this town; but you can't do all of it, and it would

be a crime to let you."  It was grand praise, golden praise,

coming from such a source, and it took nearly all the resentment

out of the aged twin's hearts.  "Your Tilly and my old Nancy shall

do the rest--good nurses both, white souls with black skins,

watchful, loving, tender--just perfect nurses!--and competent liars

from the cradle.  . . . Look you! keep a little watch on Helen;

she is sick, and is going to be sicker."

 

The ladies looked a little surprised, and not credulous; and Hester said:

 

"How is that?  It isn't an hour since you said she was as sound

as a nut."

 

The doctor answered, tranquilly:

 

"It was a lie."

 

The ladies turned upon him indignantly, and Hannah said:

 

"How can you make an odious confession like that, in so indifferent

a tone, when you know how we feel about all forms of--"

 

"Hush!  You are as ignorant as cats, both of you, and you don't know

what you are talking about.  You are like all the rest of the moral moles;

you lie from morning till night, but because you don't do it with

your mouths, but only with your lying eyes, your lying inflections,

your deceptively misplaced emphasis, and your misleading gestures,

you turn up your complacent noses and parade before God and

the world as saintly and unsmirched Truth-Speakers, in whose

cold-storage souls a lie would freeze to death if it got there!

Why will you humbug yourselves with that foolish notion that no

lie is a lie except a spoken one?  What is the difference between

lying with your eyes and lying with your mouth?  There is none;

and if you would reflect a moment you would see that it is so.

There isn't a human being that doesn't tell a gross of lies every day

of his life; and you--why, between you, you tell thirty thousand;

yet you flare up here in a lurid hypocritical horror because I

tell that child a benevolent and sinless lie to protect her from

her imagination, which would get to work and warm up her blood to a

fever in an hour, if I were disloyal enough to my duty to let it.

Which I should probably do if I were interested in saving my soul

by such disreputable means.

 

"Come, let us reason together.  Let us examine details.  When you

two were in the sick-room raising that riot, what would you have

done if you had known I was coming?"

 

"Well, what?"

 

"You would have slipped out and carried Helen with you--wouldn't you?"

 

The ladies were silent.

 

"What would be your object and intention?"

 

"Well, what?"

 

"To keep me from finding out your guilt; to beguile me to infer that

Margaret's excitement proceeded from some cause not known to you.

In a word, to tell me a lie--a silent lie.  Moreover, a possibly

harmful one."

 

The twins colored, but did not speak.

 

"You not only tell myriads of silent lies, but you tell lies

with your mouths--you two."

 

"THAT is not so!"

 

"It is so.  But only harmless ones.  You never dream of uttering

a harmful one.  Do you know that that is a concession--and a confession?"

 

"How do you mean?"

 

"It is an unconscious concession that harmless lies are not criminal;

it is a confession that you constantly MAKE that discrimination.

For instance, you declined old Mrs. Foster's invitation last week

to meet those odious Higbies at supper--in a polite note in which you

expressed regret and said you were very sorry you could not go.

It was a lie.  It was as unmitigated a lie as was ever uttered.

Deny it, Hester--with another lie."

 

Hester replied with a toss of her head.

 

"That will not do.  Answer.  Was it a lie, or wasn't it?"

 

The color stole into the cheeks of both women, and with a struggle

and an effort they got out their confession:

 

"It was a lie."

 

"Good--the reform is beginning; there is hope for you yet;

you will not tell a lie to save your dearest friend's soul, but you

will spew out one without a scruple to save yourself the discomfort

of telling an unpleasant truth."

 

He rose.  Hester, speaking for both, said; coldly:

 

"We have lied; we perceive it; it will occur no more.  To lie is

a sin.  We shall never tell another one of any kind whatsoever,

even lies of courtesy or benevolence, to save any one a pang

or a sorrow decreed for him by God."

 

"Ah, how soon you will fall!  In fact, you have fallen already;

for what you have just uttered is a lie.  Good-by. Reform!

One of you go to the sick-room now."

 

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

 

Twelve days later.

 

Mother and child were lingering in the grip of the hideous disease.

Of hope for either there was little.  The aged sisters looked white

and worn, but they would not give up their posts.  Their hearts

were breaking, poor old things, but their grit was steadfast

and indestructible.  All the twelve days the mother had pined for

the child, and the child for the mother, but both knew that the prayer

of these longings could not be granted.  When the mother was told

--on the first day--that her disease was typhoid, she was frightened,

and asked if there was danger that Helen could have contracted it the

day before, when she was in the sick-chamber on that confession visit.

Hester told her the doctor had poo-pooed the idea.  It troubled

Hester to say it, although it was true, for she had not believed

the doctor; but when she saw the mother's joy in the news, the pain

in her conscience lost something of its force--a result which made

her ashamed of the constructive deception which she had practiced,

though not ashamed enough to make her distinctly and definitely

wish she had refrained from it.  From that moment the sick woman

understood that her daughter must remain away, and she said she would

reconcile herself to the separation the best she could, for she

would rather suffer death than have her child's health imperiled.

That afternoon Helen had to take to her bed, ill.  She grew worse

during the night.  In the morning her mother asked after her:

 

"Is she well?"

 

Hester turned cold; she opened her lips, but the words refused to come.

The mother lay languidly looking, musing, waiting; suddenly she

turned white and gasped out:

 

"Oh, my God! what is it? is she sick?"

 

Then the poor aunt's tortured heart rose in rebellion, and words came:

 

"No--be comforted; she is well."

 

The sick woman put all her happy heart in her gratitude:

 

"Thank God for those dear words!  Kiss me.  How I worship you

for saying them!"

 

Hester told this incident to Hannah, who received it with

a rebuking look, and said, coldly:

 

"Sister, it was a lie."

 

Hester's lips trembled piteously; she choked down a sob, and said:

 

"Oh, Hannah, it was a sin, but I could not help it.  I could not

endure the fright and the misery that were in her face."

 

"No matter.  It was a lie.  God will hold you to account for it."

 

"Oh, I know it, I know it," cried Hester, wringing her hands,

"but even if it were now, I could not help it.  I know I should do

it again."

 

"Then take my place with Helen in the morning.  I will make

the report myself."

 

Hester clung to her sister, begging and imploring.

 

"Don't, Hannah, oh, don't--you will kill her."

 

"I will at least speak the truth."

 

In the morning she had a cruel report to bear to the mother,

and she braced herself for the trial.  When she returned from

her mission, Hester was waiting, pale and trembling, in the hall.

She whispered:

 

"Oh, how did she take it--that poor, desolate mother?"

 

Hannah's eyes were swimming in tears.  She said:

 

"God forgive me, I told her the child was well!"

 

Hester gathered her to her heart, with a grateful "God bless you, Hannah!"

and poured out her thankfulness in an inundation of worshiping praises.

 

After that, the two knew the limit of their strength, and accepted

their fate.  They surrendered humbly, and abandoned themselves to the

hard requirements of the situation.  Daily they told the morning lie,

and confessed their sin in prayer; not asking forgiveness, as not

being worthy of it, but only wishing to make record that they

realized their wickedness and were not desiring to hide it or excuse it.

 

Daily, as the fair young idol of the house sank lower and lower,

the sorrowful old aunts painted her glowing bloom and her fresh young

beauty to the wan mother, and winced under the stabs her ecstasies

of joy and gratitude gave them.

 

In the first days, while the child had strength to hold a pencil,

she wrote fond little love-notes to her mother, in which she concealed

her illness; and these the mother read and reread through happy

eyes wet with thankful tears, and kissed them over and over again,

and treasured them as precious things under her pillow.

 

Then came a day when the strength was gone from the hand, and the

mind wandered, and the tongue babbled pathetic incoherences.

this was a sore dilemma for the poor aunts.  There were no love-notes

for the mother.  They did not know what to do.  Hester began a

carefully studied and plausible explanation, but lost the track of it

and grew confused; suspicion began to show in the mother's face,

then alarm.  Hester saw it, recognized the imminence of the danger,

and descended to the emergency, pulling herself resolutely together

and plucking victor from the open jaws of defeat.  In a placid

and convincing voice she said:

 

"I thought it might distress you to know it, but Helen spent the night

at the Sloanes'. There was a little party there, and, although she

did not want to go, and you so sick, we persuaded her, she being

young and needing the innocent pastimes of youth, and we believing

you would approve.  Be sure she will write the moment she comes."

 

"How good you are, and how dear and thoughtful for us both!

Approve?  Why, I thank you with all my heart.  My poor little exile!

Tell her I want her to have every pleasure she can--I would not rob

her of one.  Only let her keep her health, that is all I ask.

Don't let that suffer; I could not bear it.  How thankful I am that she

escaped this infection--and what a narrow risk she ran, Aunt Hester!

Think of that lovely face all dulled and burned with fever.

I can't bear the thought of it.  Keep her health.  Keep her bloom!

I can see her now, the dainty creature--with the big, blue, earnest eyes;

and sweet, oh, so sweet and gentle and winning!  Is she as beautiful

as ever, dear Aunt Hester?"

 

"Oh, more beautiful and bright and charming than ever she was before,

if such a thing can be"--and Hester turned away and fumbled with

the medicine-bottles, to hide her shame and grief.

 

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

 

After a little, both aunts were laboring upon a difficult and baffling

work in Helen's chamber.  Patiently and earnestly, with their stiff

old fingers, they were trying to forge the required note.  They made

failure after failure, but they improved little by little all the time.

The pity of it all, the pathetic humor of it, there was none to see;

they themselves were unconscious of it.  Often their tears fell

upon the notes and spoiled them; sometimes a single misformed word

made a note risky which could have been ventured but for that;

but at last Hannah produced one whose script was a good enough

imitation of Helen's to pass any but a suspicious eye, and bountifully

enriched it with the petting phrases and loving nicknames that

had been familiar on the child's lips from her nursery days.

She carried it to the mother, who took it with avidity, and kissed it,

and fondled it, reading its precious words over and over again,

and dwelling with deep contentment upon its closing paragraph:

 

"Mousie darling, if I could only see you, and kiss your eyes,

and feel your arms about me!  I am so glad my practicing does not

disturb you.  Get well soon.  Everybody is good to me, but I am

so lonesome without you, dear mamma."

 

"The poor child, I know just how she feels.  She cannot be quite

happy without me; and I--oh, I live in the light of her eyes!

Tell her she must practice all she pleases; and, Aunt Hannah

--tell her I can't hear the piano this far, nor hear dear voice

when she sings:  God knows I wish I could.  No one knows how sweet

that voice is to me; and to think--some day it will be silent!

What are you crying for?"

 

"Only because--because--it was just a memory.  When I came away she

was singing, 'Loch Lomond.'  The pathos of it!  It always moves

me so when she sings that."

 

"And me, too.  How heartbreakingly beautiful it is when some youthful

sorrow is brooding in her breast and she sings it for the mystic

healing it brings.  . . . Aunt Hannah?"

 

"Dear Margaret?"

 

"I am very ill.  Sometimes it comes over me that I shall never hear

that dear voice again."

 

"Oh, don't--don't, Margaret!  I can't bear it!"

 

Margaret was moved and distressed, and said, gently:

 

"There--there--let me put my arms around you.

Don't cry.  There--put your cheek to mine.  Be comforted.

I wish to live.  I will live if I can.  Ah, what could she

do without me! . . . Does she often speak of me?--but I know she does."

 

"Oh, all the time--all the time!"

 

"My sweet child!  She wrote the note the moment she came home?"

 

"Yes--the first moment.  She would not wait to take off her things."

 

"I knew it.  It is her dear, impulsive, affectionate way.  I knew it

without asking, but I wanted to hear you say it.  The petted wife

knows she is loved, but she makes her husband tell her so every day,

just for the joy of hearing it.  . . . She used the pen this time.

That is better; the pencil-marks could rub out, and I should grieve

for that.  Did you suggest that she use the pen?"

 

"Y--no--she--it was her own idea."

 

The mother looked her pleasure, and said:

 

"I was hoping you would say that.  There was never such a dear

and thoughtful child! . . . Aunt Hannah?"

 

"Dear Margaret?"

 

"Go and tell her I think of her all the time, and worship her.

Why--you are crying again.  Don't be so worried about me, dear;

I think there is nothing to fear, yet."

 

The grieving messenger carried her message, and piously delivered

it to unheeding ears.  The girl babbled on unaware; looking up

at her with wondering and startled eyes flaming with fever,

eyes in which was no light of recognition:

 

"Are you--no, you are not my mother.  I want her--oh, I want her!

She was here a minute ago--I did not see her go.  Will she come? will

she come quickly? will she come now? . . . There are so many houses

. . . and they oppress me so . . . and everything whirls and turns

and whirls . . . oh, my head, my head!"--and so she wandered on

and on, in her pain, flitting from one torturing fancy to another,

and tossing her arms about in a weary and ceaseless persecution

of unrest.

 

Poor old Hannah wetted the parched lips and softly stroked the

hot brow, murmuring endearing and pitying words, and thanking

the Father of all that the mother was happy and did not know.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

 

Daily the child sank lower and steadily lower towards the grave,

and daily the sorrowing old watchers carried gilded tidings of her

radiant health and loveliness to the happy mother, whose pilgrimage

was also now nearing its end.  And daily they forged loving and cheery

notes in the child's hand, and stood by with remorseful consciences

and bleeding hearts, and wept to see the grateful mother devour

them and adore them and treasure them away as things beyond price,

because of their sweet source, and sacred because her child's hand

had touched them.

 

At last came that kindly friend who brings healing and peace to all.

The lights were burning low.  In the solemn hush which precedes the

dawn vague figures flitted soundless along the dim hall and gathered

silent and awed in Helen's chamber, and grouped themselves about

her bed, for a warning had gone forth, and they knew.  The dying

girl lay with closed lids, and unconscious, the drapery upon her

breast faintly rising and falling as her wasting life ebbed away.

At intervals a sigh or a muffled sob broke upon the stillness.

The same haunting thought was in all minds there:  the pity of

this death, the going out into the great darkness, and the mother

not here to help and hearten and bless.

 

Helen stirred; her hands began to grope wistfully about as if they

sought something--she had been blind some hours.  The end was come;

all knew it.  With a great sob Hester gathered her to her breast,

crying, "Oh, my child, my darling!"  A rapturous light broke in the

dying girl's face, for it was mercifully vouchsafed her to mistake

those sheltering arms for another's; and she went to her rest murmuring,

"Oh, mamma, I am so happy--I longed for you--now I can die."

 

 

Two hours later Hester made her report.  The mother asked:

 

"How is it with the child?"

 

"She is well."

 

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

 

A sheaf of white crape and black was hung upon the door of the house,

and there it swayed and rustled in the wind and whispered its tidings.

At noon the preparation of the dead was finished, and in the

coffin lay the fair young form, beautiful, and in the sweet face

a great peace.  Two mourners sat by it, grieving and worshipping

--Hannah and the black woman Tilly.  Hester came, and she was trembling,

for a great trouble was upon her spirit.  She said:

 

"She asks for a note."

 

Hannah's face blanched.  She had not thought of this; it had seemed

that that pathetic service was ended.  But she realized now that

that could not be.  For a little while the two women stood looking

into each other's face, with vacant eyes; then Hannah said:

 

"There is no way out of it--she must have it; she will suspect, else."

 

"And she would find out."

 

"Yes.  It would break her heart."  She looked at the dead face,

and her eyes filled.  "I will write it," she said.

 

Hester carried it.  The closing line said:

 

"Darling Mousie, dear sweet mother, we shall soon be together again.

Is not that good news?  And it is true; they all say it is true."

 

The mother mourned, saying:

 

"Poor child, how will she bear it when she knows?  I shall never see

her again in life.  It is hard, so hard.  She does not suspect?

You guard her from that?"

 

"She thinks you will soon be well."

 

"How good you are, and careful, dear Aunt Hester!  None goes near

herr who could carry the infection?"

 

"It would be a crime."

 

"But you SEE her?"

 

"With a distance between--yes."

 

"That is so good.  Others one could not trust; but you two guardian

angels--steel is not so true as you.  Others would be unfaithful;

and many would deceive, and lie."

 

Hester's eyes fell, and her poor old lips trembled.

 

"Let me kiss you for her, Aunt Hester; and when I am gone,

and the danger is past, place the kiss upon her dear lips some day,

and say her mother sent it, and all her mother's broken heart is

in it."

 

Within the hour, Hester, raining tears upon the dead face,

performed her pathetic mission.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

 

Another day dawned, and grew, and spread its sunshine in the earth.

Aunt Hannah brought comforting news to the failing mother, and a

happy note, which said again, "We have but a little time to wait,

darling mother, then we shall be together."

 

The deep note of a bell came moaning down the wind.

 

"Aunt Hannah, it is tolling.  Some poor soul is at rest.

As I shall be soon.  You will not let her forget me?"

 

"Oh, God knows she never will!"

 

"Do not you hear strange noises, Aunt Hannah?  It sounds like

the shuffling of many feet."

 

"We hoped you would not hear it, dear.  It is a little company

gathering, for--for Helen's sake, poor little prisoner.  There will

be music--and she loves it so.  We thought you would not mind."

 

"Mind?  Oh no, no--oh, give her everything her dear heart can desire.

How good you two are to her, and how good to me!  God bless you

both always!"

 

After a listening pause:

 

"How lovely!  It is her organ.  Is she playing it herself, do you think?"

Faint and rich and inspiring the chords floating to her ears on

the still air.  "Yes, it is her touch, dear heart, I recognize it.

They are singing.  Why--it is a hymn! and the sacredest of all,

the most touching, the most consoling.  . . . It seems to open

the gates of paradise to me.  . . . If I could die now.  . . ."

 

Faint and far the words rose out of the stillness:

 

 

Nearer, my God, to Thee,

 

Nearer to Thee,

 

E'en though it be a cross

 

That raiseth me.

 

 

With the closing of the hymn another soul passed to its rest,

and they that had been one in life were not sundered in death.

The sisters, mourning and rejoicing, said:

 

"How blessed it was that she never knew!"

 

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

 

At midnight they sat together, grieving, and the angel of the Lord

appeared in the midst transfigured with a radiance not of earth;

and speaking, said:

 

"For liars a place is appointed.  There they burn in the fires

of hell from everlasting unto everlasting.  Repent!"

 

The bereaved fell upon their knees before him and clasped their

hands and bowed their gray heads, adoring.  But their tongues

clove to the roof of their mouths, and they were dumb.

 

"Speak! that I may bear the message to the chancery of heaven

and bring again the decree from which there is no appeal."

 

Then they bowed their heads yet lower, and one said:

 

"Our sin is great, and we suffer shame; but only perfect and final

repentance can make us whole; and we are poor creatures who have learned

our human weakness, and we know that if we were in those hard straits

again our hearts would fail again, and we should sin as before.

The strong could prevail, and so be saved, but we are lost."

 

They lifted their heads in supplication.  The angel was gone.

While they marveled and wept he came again; and bending low,

he whispered the decree.

 

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

 

Was it Heaven?  Or Hell?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A CURE FOR THE BLUES

 

 

 

By courtesy of Mr. Cable I came into possession of a singular book

eight or ten years ago.  It is likely that mine is now the only copy

in existence.  Its title-page, unabbreviated, reads as follows:

 

"The Enemy Conquered; or, Love Triumphant.  By G. Ragsdale McClintock,

[1] author of 'An Address,' etc., delivered at Sunflower Hill,

South Carolina, and member of the Yale Law School.  New Haven:

published by T. H. Pease, 83 Chapel Street, 1845."

 

No one can take up this book and lay it down again unread.

Whoever reads one line of it is caught, is chained; he has become

the contented slave of its fascinations; and he will read and read,

devour and devour, and will not let it go out of his hand till it

is finished to the last line, though the house be on fire over

his head.  And after a first reading he will not throw it aside,

but will keep it by him, with his Shakespeare and his Homer,

and will take it up many and many a time, when the world is dark

and his spirits are low, and be straightway cheered and refreshed.

Yet this work has been allowed to lie wholly neglected, unmentioned,

and apparently unregretted, for nearly half a century.

 

The reader must not imagine that he is to find in it wisdom,

brilliancy, fertility of invention, ingenuity of construction,

excellence of form, purity of style, perfection of imagery,

truth to nature, clearness of statement, humanly possible situations,

humanly possible people, fluent narrative, connected sequence of events

--or philosophy, or logic, or sense.  No; the rich, deep, beguiling charm

of the book lies in the total and miraculous ABSENCE from it of all

these qualities--a charm which is completed and perfected by the

evident fact that the author, whose naive innocence easily and surely

wins our regard, and almost our worship, does not know that they

are absent, does not even suspect that they are absent.  When read

by the light of these helps to an understanding of the situation,

the book is delicious--profoundly and satisfyingly delicious.

 

I call it a book because the author calls it a book, I call it a work

because he calls it a work; but, in truth, it is merely a duodecimo

pamphlet of thirty-one pages.  It was written for fame and money,

as the author very frankly--yes, and very hopefully, too, poor fellow

--says in his preface.  The money never came--no penny of it ever came;

and how long, how pathetically long, the fame has been deferred

--forty-seven years!  He was young then, it would have been so much to

him then; but will he care for it now?

 

As time is measured in America, McClintock's epoch is antiquity.

In his long-vanished day the Southern author had a passion for

"eloquence"; it was his pet, his darling.  He would be eloquent,

or perish.  And he recognized only one kind of eloquence--the lurid,

the tempestuous, the volcanic.  He liked words--big words,

fine words, grand words, rumbling, thundering, reverberating words;

with sense attaching if it could be got in without marring the sound,

but not otherwise.  He loved to stand up before a dazed world,

and pour forth flame and smoke and lava and pumice-stone into

the skies, and work his subterranean thunders, and shake himself

with earthquakes, and stench himself with sulphur fumes.  If he

consumed his own fields and vineyards, that was a pity, yes; but he

would have his eruption at any cost.  Mr. McClintock's eloquence

--and he is always eloquent, his crater is always spouting--is of the

pattern common to his day, but he departs from the custom of the time

in one respect:  his brethren allowed sense to intrude when it did

not mar the sound, but he does not allow it to intrude at all.

For example, consider this figure, which he used in the village

"Address" referred to with such candid complacency in the title-page

above quoted--"like the topmost topaz of an ancient tower."

Please read it again; contemplate it; measure it; walk around it;

climb up it; try to get at an approximate realization of the size of it.

Is the fellow to that to be found in literature, ancient or modern,

foreign or domestic, living or dead, drunk or sober?  One notices

how fine and grand it sounds.  We know that if it was loftily uttered,

it got a noble burst of applause from the villagers; yet there isn't

a ray of sense in it, or meaning to it.

 

McClintock finished his education at Yale in 1843, and came to

Hartford on a visit that same year.  I have talked with men who at

that time talked with him, and felt of him, and knew he was real.

One needs to remember that fact and to keep fast hold of it;

it is the only way to keep McClintock's book from undermining one's

faith in McClintock's actuality.

 

As to the book.  The first four pages are devoted to an inflamed eulogy

of Woman--simply woman in general, or perhaps as an institution

--wherein, among other compliments to her details, he pays a unique

one to her voice.  He says it "fills the breast with fond alarms,

echoed by every rill."  It sounds well enough, but it is not true.

After the eulogy he takes up his real work and the novel begins.

It begins in the woods, near the village of Sunflower Hill.

 

 

Brightening clouds seemed to rise from the mist of the fair Chattahoochee,

to spread their beauty over the thick forest, to guide the hero whose

bosom beats with aspirations to conquer the enemy that would tarnish

his name, and to win back the admiration of his long-tried friend.

 

 

It seems a general remark, but it is not general; the hero mentioned

is the to-be hero of the book; and in this abrupt fashion,

and without name or description, he is shoveled into the tale.

"With aspirations to conquer the enemy that would tarnish his name"

is merely a phrase flung in for the sake of the sound--let it

not mislead the reader.  No one is trying to tarnish this person;

no one has thought of it.  The rest of the sentence is also merely

a phrase; the man has no friend as yet, and of course has had no

chance to try him, or win back his admiration, or disturb him in any

other way.

 

The hero climbs up over "Sawney's Mountain," and down the other side,

making for an old Indian "castle"--which becomes "the red man's hut"

in the next sentence; and when he gets there at last, he "surveys

with wonder and astonishment" the invisible structure, "which time

has buried in the dust, and thought to himself his happiness was

not yet complete."  One doesn't know why it wasn't, nor how near it

came to being complete, nor what was still wanting to round it up

and make it so.  Maybe it was the Indian; but the book does not say.

At this point we have an episode:

 

 

Beside the shore of the brook sat a young man, about eighteen or twenty,

who seemed to be reading some favorite book, and who had a remarkably

noble countenance--eyes which betrayed more than a common mind.

This of course made the youth a welcome guest, and gained him

friends in whatever condition of his life he might be placed.

The traveler observed that he was a well-built figure which showed

strength and grace in every movement.  He accordingly addressed

him in quite a gentlemanly manner, and inquired of him the way

to the village.  After he had received the desired information,

and was about taking his leave, the youth said, "Are you not

Major Elfonzo, the great musician [2]--the champion of a noble cause

--the modern Achilles, who gained so many victories in the Florida War?"

"I bear that name," said the Major, "and those titles,

trusting at the same time that the ministers of grace will carry

me triumphantly through all my laudable undertakings, and if,"

continued the Major, "you, sir, are the patronizer of noble deeds,

I should like to make you my confidant and learn your address."

The youth looked somewhat amazed, bowed low, mused for a moment,

and began:  "My name is Roswell.  I have been recently admitted

to the bar, and can only give a faint outline of my future success

in that honorable profession; but I trust, sir, like the Eagle, I shall

look down from the lofty rocks upon the dwellings of man, and shall

ever be ready to give you any assistance in my official capacity,

and whatever this muscular arm of mine can do, whenever it shall be

called from its buried GREATNESS."  The Major grasped him by the hand,

and exclaimed:  "O! thou exalted spirit of inspiration--thou flame

of burning prosperity, may the Heaven-directed blaze be the glare

of thy soul, and battle down every rampart that seems to impede

your progress!"

 

 

There is a strange sort of originality about McClintock;

he imitates other people's styles, but nobody can imitate his,

not even an idiot.  Other people can be windy, but McClintock blows

a gale; other people can blubber sentiment, but McClintock spews it;

other people can mishandle metaphors, but only McClintock knows

how to make a business of it.  McClintock is always McClintock,

he is always consistent, his style is always his own style.  He does

not make the mistake of being relevant on one page and irrelevant

on another; he is irrelevant on all of them.  He does not make

the mistake of being lucid in one place and obscure in another;

he is obscure all the time.  He does not make the mistake of slipping

in a name here and there that is out of character with his work;

he always uses names that exactly and fantastically fit his lunatics.

In the matter of undeviating consistency he stands alone in authorship.

It is this that makes his style unique, and entitles it to a name

of its own--McClintockian.  It is this that protects it from being

mistaken for anybody else's. Uncredited quotations from other writers

often leave a reader in doubt as to their authorship, but McClintock

is safe from that accident; an uncredited quotation from him would

always be recognizable.  When a boy nineteen years old, who had

just been admitted to the bar, says, "I trust, sir, like the Eagle,

I shall look down from lofty rocks upon the dwellings of man,"

we know who is speaking through that boy; we should recognize

that note anywhere.  There be myriads of instruments in this

world's literary orchestra, and a multitudinous confusion of sounds

that they make, wherein fiddles are drowned, and guitars smothered,

and one sort of drum mistaken for another sort; but whensoever the

brazen note of the McClintockian trombone breaks through that fog

of music, that note is recognizable, and about it there can be no blur

of doubt.

 

The novel now arrives at the point where the Major goes home to see

his father.  When McClintock wrote this interview he probably

believed it was pathetic.

 

 

The road which led to the town presented many attractions Elfonzo

had bid farewell to the youth of deep feeling, and was now wending

his way to the dreaming spot of his fondness.  The south winds

whistled through the woods, as the waters dashed against the banks,

as rapid fire in the pent furnace roars.  This brought him to

remember while alone, that he quietly left behind the hospitality

of a father's house, and gladly entered the world, with higher hopes

than are often realized.  But as he journeyed onward, he was mindful

of the advice of his father, who had often looked sadly on the ground,

when tears of cruelly deceived hope moistened his eyes.  Elfonzo had

been somewhat a dutiful son; yet fond of the amusements of life

--had been in distant lands--had enjoyed the pleasure of the world,

and had frequently returned to the scenes of his boyhood,

almost destitute of many of the comforts of life.  In this condition,

he would frequently say to his father, "Have I offended you,

that you look upon me as a stranger, and frown upon me with

stinging looks?  Will you not favor me with the sound of your voice?

If I have trampled upon your veneration, or have spread a humid veil

of darkness around your expectations, send me back into the world,

where no heart beats for me--where the foot of man had never yet trod;

but give me at least one kind word--allow me to come into the presence

sometimes of thy winter-worn locks."  "Forbid it, Heaven, that I

should be angry with thee," answered the father, "my son, and yet

I send thee back to the children of the world--to the cold charity

of the combat, and to a land of victory.  I read another destiny

in thy countenance--I learn thy inclinations from the flame that has

already kindled in my soul a strange sensation.  It will seek thee,

my dear ELFONZO, it will find thee--thou canst not escape that

lighted torch, which shall blot out from the remembrance of men

a long train of prophecies which they have foretold against thee.

I once thought not so.  Once, I was blind; but now the path of life

is plain before me, and my sight is clear; yet, Elfonzo, return to thy

worldly occupation--take again in thy hand that chord of sweet sounds

--struggle with the civilized world and with your own heart;

fly swiftly to the enchanted ground--let the night-OWL send forth

its screams from the stubborn oak--let the sea sport upon the beach,

and the stars sing together; but learn of these, Elfonzo, thy doom,

and thy hiding-place. Our most innocent as well as our most lawful

DESIRES must often be denied us, that we may learn to sacrifice them

to a Higher will."

 

Remembering such admonitions with gratitude, Elfonzo was immediately

urged by the recollection of his father's family to keep moving.

 

 

McClintock has a fine gift in the matter of surprises; but as a

rule they are not pleasant ones, they jar upon the feelings.

His closing sentence in the last quotation is of that sort.

It brings one down out of the tinted clouds in too sudden and collapsed

a fashion.  It incenses one against the author for a moment.

It makes the reader want to take him by this winter-worn locks,

and trample on his veneration, and deliver him over to the cold

charity of combat, and blot him out with his own lighted torch.

But the feeling does not last.  The master takes again in his hand that

concord of sweet sounds of his, and one is reconciled, pacified.

 

 

His steps became quicker and quicker--he hastened through the PINY woods,

dark as the forest was, and with joy he very soon reached the little

village of repose, in whose bosom rested the boldest chivalry.

His close attention to every important object--his modest questions

about whatever was new to him--his reverence for wise old age,

and his ardent desire to learn many of the fine arts, soon brought

him into respectable notice.

 

One mild winter day, as he walked along the streets toward the Academy,

which stood upon a small eminence, surrounded by native growth

--some venerable in its appearance, others young and prosperous

--all seemed inviting, and seemed to be the very place for learning as

well as for genius to spend its research beneath its spreading shades.

He entered its classic walls in the usual mode of southern manners.

 

 

The artfulness of this man!  None knows so well as he how to pique

the curiosity of the reader--and how to disappoint it.  He raises

the hope, here, that he is going to tell all about how one enters

a classic wall in the usual mode of Southern manners; but does he?

No; he smiles in his sleeve, and turns aside to other matters.

 

 

The principal of the Institution begged him to be seated and listen

to the recitations that were going on.  He accordingly obeyed

the request, and seemed to be much pleased.  After the school

was dismissed, and the young hearts regained their freedom,

with the songs of the evening, laughing at the anticipated pleasures

of a happy home, while others tittered at the actions of the past day,

he addressed the teacher in a tone that indicated a resolution

--with an undaunted mind.  He said he had determined to become

a student, if he could meet with his approbation.  "Sir," said he,

"I have spent much time in the world.  I have traveled among

the uncivilized inhabitants of America.  I have met with friends,

and combated with foes; but none of these gratify my ambition,

or decide what is to be my destiny.  I see the learned world

have an influence with the voice of the people themselves.

The despoilers of the remotest kingdoms of the earth refer their

differences to this class of persons.  This the illiterate and

inexperienced little dream of; and now if you will receive me as I am,

with these deficiencies--with all my misguided opinions, I will give

you my honor, sir, that I will never disgrace the Institution,

or those who have placed you in this honorable station."

The instructor, who had met with many disappointments, knew how to

feel for a stranger who had been thus turned upon the charities

of an unfeeling community.  He looked at him earnestly, and said:

"Be of good cheer--look forward, sir, to the high destination you

may attain.  Remember, the more elevated the mark at which you aim,

the more sure, the more glorious, the more magnificent the prize."

From wonder to wonder, his encouragement led the impatient listener.

A strange nature bloomed before him--giant streams promised

him success--gardens of hidden treasures opened to his view.

All this, so vividly described, seemed to gain a new witchery from his

glowing fancy.

 

 

It seems to me that this situation is new in romance.  I feel

sure it has not been attempted before.  Military celebrities have

been disguised and set at lowly occupations for dramatic effect,

but I think McClintock is the first to send one of them to school.

Thus, in this book, you pass from wonder to wonder, through gardens

of hidden treasure, where giant streams bloom before you,

and behind you, and all around, and you feel as happy, and groggy,

and satisfied with your quart of mixed metaphor aboard as you would

if it had been mixed in a sample-room and delivered from a jug.

 

Now we come upon some more McClintockian surprise--a sweetheart

who is sprung upon us without any preparation, along with a name

for her which is even a little more of a surprise than she herself is.

 

 

In 1842 he entered the class, and made rapid progress in the English

and Latin departments.  Indeed, he continued advancing with such

rapidity that he was like to become the first in his class,

and made such unexpected progress, and was so studious, that he had

almost forgotten the pictured saint of his affections.  The fresh

wreaths of the pine and cypress had waited anxiously to drop once

more the dews of Heaven upon the heads of those who had so often

poured forth the tender emotions of their souls under its boughs.

He was aware of the pleasure that he had seen there.  So one evening, as

he was returning from his reading, he concluded he would pay a visit

to this enchanting spot.  Little did he think of witnessing a shadow

of his former happiness, though no doubt he wished it might be so.

He continued sauntering by the roadside, meditating on the past.

The nearer he approached the spot, the more anxious he became.

At that moment a tall female figure flitted across his path, with a

bunch of roses in her hand; her countenance showed uncommon vivacity,

with a resolute spirit; her ivory teeth already appeared as she

smiled beautifully, promenading--while her ringlets of hair dangled

unconsciously around her snowy neck.  Nothing was wanting to complete

her beauty.  The tinge of the rose was in full bloom upon her cheek;

the charms of sensibility and tenderness were always her associates.

In Ambulinia's bosom dwelt a noble soul--one that never faded

--one that never was conquered.

 

 

Ambulinia!  It can hardly be matched in fiction.  The full name

is Ambulinia Valeer.  Marriage will presently round it out and

perfect it.  Then it will be Mrs. Ambulinia Valeer Elfonzo.

It takes the chromo.

 

 

Her heart yielded to no feeling but the love of Elfonzo, on whom

she gazed with intense delight, and to whom she felt herself

more closely bound, because he sought the hand of no other.

Elfonzo was roused from his apparent reverie.  His books no longer

were his inseparable companions--his thoughts arrayed themselves

to encourage him to the field of victory.  He endeavored to speak

to his supposed Ambulinia, but his speech appeared not in words.

No, his effort was a stream of fire, that kindled his soul into

a flame of admiration, and carried his senses away captive.

Ambulinia had disappeared, to make him more mindful of his duty.

As she walked speedily away through the piny woods, she calmly echoed:

"O!  Elfonzo, thou wilt now look from thy sunbeams.  Thou shalt

now walk in a new path--perhaps thy way leads through darkness;

but fear not, the stars foretell happiness."

 

 

To McClintock that jingling jumble of fine words meant something,

no doubt, or seemed to mean something; but it is useless for us to try

to divine what it was.  Ambulinia comes--we don't know whence nor why;

she mysteriously intimates--we don't know what; and then she goes

echoing away--we don't know whither; and down comes the curtain.

McClintock's art is subtle; McClintock's art is deep.

 

 

Not many days afterward, as surrounded by fragrant flowers she sat

one evening at twilight, to enjoy the cool breeze that whispered

notes of melody along the distant groves, the little birds perched

on every side, as if to watch the movements of their new visitor.

The bells were tolling, when Elfonzo silently stole along by the wild

wood flowers, holding in his hand his favorite instrument of music

--his eye continually searching for Ambulinia, who hardly seemed

to perceive him, as she played carelessly with the songsters

that hopped from branch to branch.  Nothing could be more striking

than the difference between the two.  Nature seemed to have given

the more tender soul to Elfonzo, and the stronger and more courageous

to Ambulinia.  A deep feeling spoke from the eyes of Elfonzo

--such a feeling as can only be expressed by those who are blessed

as admirers, and by those who are able to return the same with

sincerity of heart.  He was a few years older than Ambulinia:

she had turned a little into her seventeenth.  He had almost grown

up in the Cherokee country, with the same equal proportions as one

of the natives.  But little intimacy had existed between them until

the year forty-one--because the youth felt that the character of such

a lovely girl was too exalted to inspire any other feeling than

that of quiet reverence.  But as lovers will not always be insulted,

at all times and under all circumstances, by the frowns and cold

looks of crabbed old age, which should continually reflect dignity

upon those around, and treat the unfortunate as well as the fortunate

with a graceful mien, he continued to use diligence and perseverance.

All this lighted a spark in his heart that changed his whole character,

and like the unyielding Deity that follows the storm to check its

rage in the forest, he resolves for the first time to shake off

his embarrassment and return where he had before only worshiped.

 

 

At last we begin to get the Major's measure.  We are able to put

this and that casual fact together, and build the man up before

our eyes, and look at him.  And after we have got him built, we find

him worth the trouble.  By the above comparison between his age

and Ambulinia's, we guess the war-worn veteran to be twenty-two;

and the other facts stand thus:  he had grown up in the Cherokee

country with the same equal proportions as one of the natives

--how flowing and graceful the language, and yet how tantalizing

as to meaning!--he had been turned adrift by his father, to whom he

had been "somewhat of a dutiful son"; he wandered in distant lands;

came back frequently "to the scenes of his boyhood, almost destitute

of many of the comforts of life," in order to get into the presence

of his father's winter-worn locks, and spread a humid veil of

darkness around his expectations; but he was always promptly sent

back to the cold charity of the combat again; he learned to play

the fiddle, and made a name for himself in that line; he had dwelt

among the wild tribes; he had philosophized about the despoilers

of the kingdoms of the earth, and found out--the cunning creature

--that they refer their differences to the learned for settlement;

he had achieved a vast fame as a military chieftain, the Achilles

of the Florida campaigns, and then had got him a spelling-book

and started to school; he had fallen in love with Ambulinia Valeer

while she was teething, but had kept it to himself awhile, out of

the reverential awe which he felt for the child; but now at last,

like the unyielding Deity who follows the storm to check its rage in

the forest, he resolves to shake off his embarrassment, and to return

where before he had only worshiped.  The Major, indeed, has made up

his mind to rise up and shake his faculties together, and to see

if HE can't do that thing himself.  This is not clear.  But no matter

about that:  there stands the hero, compact and visible; and he is

no mean structure, considering that his creator had never structure,

considering that his creator had never created anything before,

and hadn't anything but rags and wind to build with this time.

It seems to me that no one can contemplate this odd creature, this quaint

and curious blatherskite, without admiring McClintock, or, at any rate,

loving him and feeling grateful to him; for McClintock made him,

he gave him to us; without McClintock we could not have had him,

and would now be poor.

 

But we must come to the feast again.  Here is a courtship scene, down

there in the romantic glades among the raccoons, alligators, and things,

that has merit, peculiar literary merit.  See how Achilles woos.

Dwell upon the second sentence (particularly the close of it) and the

beginning of the third.  Never mind the new personage, Leos, who is

intruded upon us unheralded and unexplained.  That is McClintock's way;

it is his habit; it is a part of his genius; he cannot help it;

he never interrupts the rush of his narrative to make introductions.

 

 

It could not escape Ambulinia's penetrating eye that he sought

an interview with her, which she as anxiously avoided, and assumed

a more distant calmness than before, seemingly to destroy all hope.

After many efforts and struggles with his own person, with timid

steps the Major approached the damsel, with the same caution

as he would have done in a field of battle.  "Lady Ambulinia,"

said he, trembling, "I have long desired a moment like this.

I dare not let it escape.  I fear the consequences; yet I hope

your indulgence will at least hear my petition.  Can you not

anticipate what I would say, and what I am about to express?

Will not you, like Minerva, who sprung from the brain of Jupiter,

release me from thy winding chains or cure me--" "Say no more,

Elfonzo," answered Ambulinia, with a serious look, raising her hand

as if she intended to swear eternal hatred against the whole world;

"another lady in my place would have perhaps answered your question

in bitter coldness.  I know not the little arts of my sex.

I care but little for the vanity of those who would chide me,

and am unwilling as well as ashamed to be guilty of anything

that would lead you to think 'all is not gold that glitters';

so be no rash in your resolution.  It is better to repent now,

than to do it in a more solemn hour.  Yes, I know what you would say.

I know you have a costly gift for me--the noblest that man can make

--YOUR HEART!  You should not offer it to one so unworthy.

Heaven, you know, has allowed my father's house to be made a house

of solitude, a home of silent obedience, which my parents say

is more to be admired than big names and high-sounding titles.

Notwithstanding all this, let me speak the emotions of an honest heart

--allow me to say in the fullness of my hopes that I anticipate

better days.  The bird may stretch its wings toward the sun,

which it can never reach; and flowers of the field appear to

ascend in the same direction, because they cannot do otherwise;

but man confides his complaints to the saints in whom he believes;

for in their abodes of light they know no more sorrow.  From your

confession and indicative looks, I must be that person; if so deceive

not yourself."

 

Elfonzo replied, "Pardon me, my dear madam, for my frankness.

I have loved you from my earliest days--everything grand and beautiful

hath borne the image of Ambulinia; while precipices on every hand

surrounded me, your GUARDIAN ANGEL stood and beckoned me away from

the deep abyss.  In every trial, in every misfortune, I have met

with your helping hand; yet I never dreamed or dared to cherish

thy love, till a voice impaired with age encouraged the cause,

and declared they who acquired thy favor should win a victory.

I saw how Leos worshiped thee.  I felt my own unworthiness.

I began to KNOW JEALOUSLY, a strong guest--indeed, in my bosom,

--yet I could see if I gained your admiration Leos was to be my rival.

I was aware that he had the influence of your parents, and the wealth

of a deceased relative, which is too often mistaken for permanent

and regular tranquillity; yet I have determined by your permission

to beg an interest in your prayers--to ask you to animate my drooping

spirits by your smiles and your winning looks; for if you but speak

I shall be conqueror, my enemies shall stagger like Olympus shakes.

And though earth and sea may tremble, and the charioteer of the sun

may forget his dashing steed, yet I am assured that it is only

to arm me with divine weapons which will enable me to complete my

long-tried intention."

 

"Return to yourself, Elfonzo," said Ambulinia, pleasantly:  "a dream

of vision has disturbed your intellect; you are above the atmosphere,

dwelling in the celestial regions; nothing is there that urges

or hinders, nothing that brings discord into our present litigation.

I entreat you to condescend a little, and be a man, and forget it all.

When Homer describes the battle of the gods and noble men fighting

with giants and dragons, they represent under this image our struggles

with the delusions of our passions.  You have exalted me, an unhappy girl,

to the skies; you have called me a saint, and portrayed in your

imagination an angel in human form.  Let her remain such to you,

let her continue to be as you have supposed, and be assured that she

will consider a share in your esteem as her highest treasure.

Think not that I would allure you from the path in which your

conscience leads you; for you know I respect the conscience of others,

as I would die for my own.  Elfonzo, if I am worthy of thy love,

let such conversation never again pass between us.  Go, seek a nobler

theme! we will seek it in the stream of time, as the sun set in

the Tigris."  As she spake these words she grasped the hand of Elfonzo,

saying at the same time--"Peace and prosperity attend you, my hero;

be up and doing!"  Closing her remarks with this expression,

she walked slowly away, leaving Elfonzo astonished and amazed.

He ventured not to follow or detain her.  Here he stood alone,

gazing at the stars; confounded as he was, here he stood.

 

 

Yes; there he stood.  There seems to be no doubt about that.

Nearly half of this delirious story has now been delivered to the reader.

It seems a pity to reduce the other half to a cold synopsis.

Pity! it is more than a pity, it is a crime; for to synopsize McClintock

is to reduce a sky-flushing conflagration to dull embers, it is to

reduce barbaric splendor to ragged poverty.  McClintock never wrote

a line that was not precious; he never wrote one that could be spared;

he never framed one from which a word could be removed without damage.

Every sentence that this master has produced may be likened to a

perfect set of teeth, white, uniform, beautiful.  If you pull one,

the charm is gone.

 

Still, it is now necessary to begin to pull, and to keep it up;

for lack of space requires us to synopsize.

 

We left Elfonzo standing there amazed.  At what, we do not know.

Not at the girl's speech.  No; we ourselves should have been

amazed at it, of course, for none of us has ever heard anything

resembling it; but Elfonzo was used to speeches made up of noise

and vacancy, and could listen to them with undaunted mind like

the "topmost topaz of an ancient tower"; he was used to making

them himself; he--but let it go, it cannot be guessed out; we shall

never know what it was that astonished him.  He stood there awhile;

then he said, "Alas! am I now Grief's disappointed son at last?"

He did not stop to examine his mind, and to try to find out what

he probably meant by that, because, for one reason, "a mixture

of ambition and greatness of soul moved upon his young heart,"

and started him for the village.  He resumed his bench in school,

"and reasonably progressed in his education."  His heart was heavy,

but he went into society, and sought surcease of sorrow in its

light distractions.  He made himself popular with his violin,

"which seemed to have a thousand chords--more symphonious than the

Muses of Apollo, and more enchanting than the ghost of the Hills."

This is obscure, but let it go.

 

During this interval Leos did some unencouraged courting, but at last,

"choked by his undertaking," he desisted.

 

Presently "Elfonzo again wends his way to the stately walls and

new-built village."  He goes to the house of his beloved; she opens

the door herself.  To my surprise--for Ambulinia's heart had still

seemed free at the time of their last interview--love beamed from the

girl's eyes.  One sees that Elfonzo was surprised, too; for when he caught

that light, "a halloo of smothered shouts ran through every vein."

A neat figure--a very neat figure, indeed!  Then he kissed her.

"The scene was overwhelming."  They went into the parlor.  The girl

said it was safe, for her parents were abed, and would never know.

Then we have this fine picture--flung upon the canvas with hardly

an effort, as you will notice.

 

 

Advancing toward him, she gave a bright display of her rosy neck,

and from her head the ambrosial locks breathed divine fragrance;

her robe hung waving to his view, while she stood like a goddess

confessed before him.

 

 

There is nothing of interest in the couple's interview.  Now at this

point the girl invites Elfonzo to a village show, where jealousy is

the motive of the play, for she wants to teach him a wholesome lesson,

if he is a jealous person.  But this is a sham, and pretty shallow.

McClintock merely wants a pretext to drag in a plagiarism of his upon

a scene or two in "Othello."

 

The lovers went to the play.  Elfonzo was one of the fiddlers.

He and Ambulinia must not been seen together, lest trouble follow with

the girl's malignant father; we are made to understand that clearly.

So the two sit together in the orchestra, in the midst of the musicians.

This does not seem to be good art.  In the first place, the girl would

be in the way, for orchestras are always packed closely together,

and there is no room to spare for people's girls; in the next place,

one cannot conceal a girl in an orchestra without everybody taking

notice of it.  There can be no doubt, it seems to me, that this is

bad art.

 

Leos is present.  Of course, one of the first things that catches

his eye is the maddening spectacle of Ambulinia "leaning upon

Elfonzo's chair."  This poor girl does not seem to understand even

the rudiments of concealment.  But she is "in her seventeenth,"

as the author phrases it, and that is her justification.

 

Leos meditates, constructs a plan--with personal violence as a basis,

of course.  It was their way down there.  It is a good plain plan,

without any imagination in it.  He will go out and stand at the

front door, and when these two come out he will "arrest Ambulinia

from the hands of the insolent Elfonzo," and thus make for himself

a "more prosperous field of immortality than ever was decreed

by Omnipotence, or ever pencil drew or artist imagined."  But, dear me,

while he is waiting there the couple climb out at the back window

and scurry home!  This is romantic enough, but there is a lack

of dignity in the situation.

 

At this point McClintock puts in the whole of his curious play

--which we skip.

 

Some correspondence follows now.  The bitter father and the

distressed lovers write the letters.  Elopements are attempted.

They are idiotically planned, and they fail.  Then we have several

pages of romantic powwow and confusion dignifying nothing.

Another elopement is planned; it is to take place on Sunday,

when everybody is at church.  But the "hero" cannot keep the secret;

he tells everybody.  Another author would have found another

instrument when he decided to defeat this elopement; but that is

not McClintock's way.  He uses the person that is nearest at hand.

 

The evasion failed, of course.  Ambulinia, in her flight,

takes refuge in a neighbor's house.  Her father drags her home.

The villagers gather, attracted by the racket.

 

 

Elfonzo was moved at this sight.  The people followed on to see

what was going to become of Ambulinia, while he, with downcast looks,

kept at a distance, until he saw them enter the abode of the father,

thrusting her, that was the sigh of his soul, out of his presence

into a solitary apartment, when she exclaimed, "Elfonzo!  Elfonzo! oh,

Elfonzo! where art thou, with all thy heroes? haste, oh! haste,

come thou to my relief.  Ride on the wings of the wind!  Turn thy

force loose like a tempest, and roll on thy army like a whirlwind,

over this mountain of trouble and confusion.  Oh friends! if any

pity me, let your last efforts throng upon the green hills,

and come to the relief of Ambulinia, who is guilty of nothing

but innocent love."  Elfonzo called out with a loud voice, "My God,

can I stand this! arouse up, I beseech you, and put an end to

this tyranny.  Come, my brave boys," said he, "are you ready to go

forth to your duty?"  They stood around him.  "Who," said he,

"will call us to arms?  Where are my thunderbolts of war?  Speak ye,

the first who will meet the foe!  Who will go forward with me

in this ocean of grievous temptation?  If there is one who desires

to go, let him come and shake hands upon the altar of devotion,

and swear that he will be a hero; yes, a Hector in a cause like this,

which calls aloud for a speedy remedy."  "Mine be the deed,"

said a young lawyer, "and mine alone; Venus alone shall quit her

station before I will forsake one jot or tittle of my promise to you;

what is death to me? what is all this warlike army, if it is not

to win a victory?  I love the sleep of the lover and the mighty;

nor would I give it over till the blood of my enemies should wreak

with that of my own.  But God forbid that our fame should soar

on the blood of the slumberer."  Mr. Valeer stands at his door

with the frown of a demon upon his brow, with his dangerous weapon

[3] ready to strike the first man who should enter his door.

"Who will arise and go forward through blood and carnage to the rescue

of my Ambulinia?" said Elfonzo.  "All," exclaimed the multitude;

and onward they went, with their implements of battle.  Others, of a

more timid nature, stood among the distant hills to see the result of

the contest.

 

 

It will hardly be believed that after all this thunder and lightning

not a drop of rain fell; but such is the fact.  Elfonzo and his

gang stood up and black-guarded Mr. Valeer with vigor all night,

getting their outlay back with interest; then in the early

morning the army and its general retired from the field,

leaving the victory with their solitary adversary and his crowbar.

This is the first time this has happened in romantic literature.

The invention is original.  Everything in this book is original;

there is nothing hackneyed about it anywhere.  Always, in other

romances, when you find the author leading up to a climax,

you know what is going to happen.  But in this book it is different;

the thing which seems inevitable and unavoidable never happens;

it is circumvented by the art of the author every time.

 

Another elopement was attempted.  It failed.

 

We have now arrived at the end.  But it is not exciting.

McClintock thinks it is; but it isn't. One day Elfonzo sent Ambulinia

another note--a note proposing elopement No. 16.  This time the plan

is admirable; admirable, sagacious, ingenious, imaginative, deep

--oh, everything, and perfectly easy.  One wonders why it was never

thought of before.  This is the scheme.  Ambulinia is to leave the

breakfast-table, ostensibly to "attend to the placing of those flowers,

which should have been done a week ago"--artificial ones, of course;

the others wouldn't keep so long--and then, instead of fixing

the flowers, she is to walk out to the grove, and go off with Elfonzo.

The invention of this plan overstrained the author that is plain,

for he straightway shows failing powers.  The details of the plan

are not many or elaborate.  The author shall state them himself

--this good soul, whose intentions are always better than his English:

 

 

"You walk carelessly toward the academy grove, where you will find

me with a lightning steed, elegantly equipped to bear you off

where we shall be joined in wedlock with the first connubial rights."

 

 

Last scene of all, which the author, now much enfeebled,

tries to smarten up and make acceptable to his spectacular heart

by introducing some new properties--silver bow, golden harp,

olive branch--things that can all come good in an elopement,

no doubt, yet are not to be compared to an umbrella for real

handiness and reliability in an excursion of that kind.

 

 

And away she ran to the sacred grove, surrounded with glittering pearls,

that indicated her coming.  Elfonzo hails her with his silver bow

and his golden harp.  They meet--Ambulinia's countenance brightens

--Elfonzo leads up the winged steed.  "Mount," said he, "ye true-hearted,

ye fearless soul--the day is ours."  She sprang upon the back

of the young thunderbolt, a brilliant star sparkles upon her head,

with one hand she grasps the reins, and with the other she holds

an olive branch.  "Lend thy aid, ye strong winds," they exclaimed,

"ye moon, ye sun, and all ye fair host of heaven, witness the

enemy conquered."  "Hold," said Elfonzo, "thy dashing steed."

"Ride on," said Ambulinia, "the voice of thunder is behind us."

And onward they went, with such rapidity that they very soon arrived

at Rural Retreat, where they dismounted, and were united with all

the solemnities that usually attended such divine operations.

 

 

There is but one Homer, there is but one Shakespeare, there is but

one McClintock--and his immortal book is before you.  Homer could

not have written this book, Shakespeare could not have written it,

I could not have done it myself.  There is nothing just like it

in the literature of any country or of any epoch.  It stands alone;

it is monumental.  It adds G. Ragsdale McClintock's to the sum of

the republic's imperishable names.

 

1.  The name here given is a substitute for the one actually

attached to the pamphlet.

 

2.  Further on it will be seen that he is a country expert

on the fiddle, and has a three-township fame.

 

3.  It is a crowbar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CURIOUS BOOK

 

 

Complete

 

 

 

[The foregoing review of the great work of G. Ragsdale McClintock is

liberally illuminated with sample extracts, but these cannot appease

the appetite.  Only the complete book, unabridged, can do that.

Therefore it is here printed.--M.T.]

 

 

 

THE ENEMY CONQUERED; OR, LOVE TRIUMPHANT

 

 

 

Sweet girl, thy smiles are full of charms,

 

Thy voice is sweeter still,

 

It fills the breast with fond alarms,

 

Echoed by every rill.

 

 

I begin this little work with an eulogy upon woman, who has ever

been distinguished for her perseverance, her constancy, and her

devoted attention to those upon whom she has been pleased to place

her AFFECTIONS.  Many have been the themes upon which writers and

public speakers have dwelt with intense and increasing interest.

Among these delightful themes stands that of woman, the balm

to all our sighs and disappointments, and the most pre-eminent

of all other topics.  Here the poet and orator have stood and gazed

with wonder and with admiration; they have dwelt upon her innocence,

the ornament of all her virtues.  First viewing her external charms,

such as set forth in her form and benevolent countenance, and then passing

to the deep hidden springs of loveliness and disinterested devotion.

In every clime, and in every age, she has been the pride of her NATION.

Her watchfulness is untiring; she who guarded the sepulcher was

the first to approach it, and the last to depart from its awful

yet sublime scene.  Even here, in this highly favored land,

we look to her for the security of our institutions, and for our

future greatness as a nation.  But, strange as it may appear,

woman's charms and virtues are but slightly appreciated by thousands.

Those who should raise the standard of female worth, and paint her

value with her virtues, in living colors, upon the banners that are

fanned by the zephyrs of heaven, and hand them down to posterity

as emblematical of a rich inheritance, do not properly estimate them.

 

Man is not sensible, at all times, of the nature and the emotions

which bear that name; he does not understand, he will not comprehend;

his intelligence has not expanded to that degree of glory which

drinks in the vast revolution of humanity, its end, its mighty

destination, and the causes which operated, and are still operating,

to produce a more elevated station, and the objects which energize

and enliven its consummation.  This he is a stranger to;

he is not aware that woman is the recipient of celestial love,

and that man is dependent upon her to perfect his character;

that without her, philosophically and truly speaking, the brightest

of his intelligence is but the coldness of a winter moon,

whose beams can produce no fruit, whose solar light is not its own,

but borrowed from the great dispenser of effulgent beauty.

We have no disposition in the world to flatter the fair sex,

we would raise them above those dastardly principles which only

exist in little souls, contracted hearts, and a distracted brain.

Often does she unfold herself in all her fascinating loveliness,

presenting the most captivating charms; yet we find man frequently

treats such purity of purpose with indifference.  Why does he do it?

Why does he baffle that which is inevitably the source of his

better days?  Is he so much of a stranger to those excellent qualities

as not to appreciate woman, as not to have respect to her dignity?

Since her art and beauty first captivated man, she has been his

delight and his comfort; she has shared alike in his misfortunes

and in his prosperity.

 

Whenever the billows of adversity and the tumultuous waves of trouble

beat high, her smiles subdue their fury.  Should the tear of sorrow

and the mournful sigh of grief interrupt the peace of his mind,

her voice removes them all, and she bends from her circle to encourage

him onward.  When darkness would obscure his mind, and a thick cloud

of gloom would bewilder its operations, her intelligent eye darts

a ray of streaming light into his heart.  Mighty and charming is that

disinterested devotion which she is ever ready to exercise toward man,

not waiting till the last moment of his danger, but seeks to relieve

him in his early afflictions.  It gushes forth from the expansive

fullness of a tender and devoted heart, where the noblest, the purest,

and the most elevated and refined feelings are matured and developed

in those may kind offices which invariably make her character.

 

In the room of sorrow and sickness, this unequaled characteristic

may always been seen, in the performance of the most charitable acts;

nothing that she can do to promote the happiness of him who she

claims to be her protector will be omitted; all is invigorated by

the animating sunbeams which awaken the heart to songs of gaiety.

Leaving this point, to notice another prominent consideration,

which is generally one of great moment and of vital importance.

Invariably she is firm and steady in all her pursuits and aims.

There is required a combination of forces and extreme opposition to

drive her from her position; she takes her stand, not to be moved by

the sound of Apollo's lyre or the curved bow of pleasure.

 

Firm and true to what she undertakes, and that which she requires

by her own aggrandizement, and regards as being within the strict rules

of propriety, she will remain stable and unflinching to the last.

A more genuine principle is not to be found in the most determined,

resolute heart of man.  For this she deserves to be held in the

highest commendation, for this she deserves the purest of all

other blessings, and for this she deserves the most laudable reward

of all others.  It is a noble characteristic and is worthy of imitation

of any age.  And when we look at it in one particular aspect,

it is still magnified, and grows brighter and brighter the more we

reflect upon its eternal duration.  What will she not do, when her

word as well as her affections and LOVE are pledged to her lover?

Everything that is dear to her on earth, all the hospitalities

of kind and loving parents, all the sincerity and loveliness

of sisters, and the benevolent devotion of brothers, who have

surrounded her with every comfort; she will forsake them all,

quit the harmony and sweet sound of the lute and the harp,

and throw herself upon the affections of some devoted admirer,

in whom she fondly hopes to find more than she has left behind,

which is not often realized by many.  Truth and virtue all combined!

How deserving our admiration and love!  Ah cruel would it be in man,

after she has thus manifested such an unshaken confidence in him,

and said by her determination to abandon all the endearments and

blandishments of home, to act a villainous part, and prove a traitor

in the revolution of his mission, and then turn Hector over the

innocent victim whom he swore to protect, in the presence of Heaven,

recorded by the pen of an angel.

 

Striking as this train may unfold itself in her character,

and as pre-eminent as it may stand among the fair display of her

other qualities, yet there is another, which struggles into existence,

and adds an additional luster to what she already possesses.

I mean that disposition in woman which enables her, in sorrow,

in grief, and in distress, to bear all with enduring patience.

This she has done, and can and will do, amid the din of war and

clash of arms.  Scenes and occurrences which, to every appearance,

are calculated to rend the heart with the profoundest emotions of trouble,

do not fetter that exalted principle imbued in her very nature.

It is true, her tender and feeling heart may often be moved (as she

is thus constituted), but she is not conquered, she has not given up

to the harlequin of disappointments, her energies have not become

clouded in the last movement of misfortune, but she is continually

invigorated by the archetype of her affections.  She may bury her face

in her hands, and let the tear of anguish roll, she may promenade

the delightful walks of some garden, decorated with all the flowers

of nature, or she may steal out along some gently rippling stream,

and there, as the silver waters uninterruptedly move forward,

shed her silent tears; they mingle with the waves, and take a last

farewell of their agitated home, to seek a peaceful dwelling among

the rolling floods; yet there is a voice rushing from her breast,

that proclaims VICTORY along the whole line and battlement of

her affections.  That voice is the voice of patience and resignation;

that voice is one that bears everything calmly and dispassionately,

amid the most distressing scenes; when the fates are arrayed against

her peace, and apparently plotting for her destruction, still she

is resigned.

 

Woman's affections are deep, consequently her troubles may be made

to sink deep.  Although you may not be able to mark the traces of her

grief and the furrowings of her anguish upon her winning countenance,

yet be assured they are nevertheless preying upon her inward person,

sapping the very foundation of that heart which alone was made

for the weal and not the woe of man.  The deep recesses of the soul

are fields for their operation.  But they are not destined simply

to take the regions of the heart for their dominion, they are not

satisfied merely with interrupting her better feelings; but after

a while you may see the blooming cheek beginning to droop and fade,

her intelligent eye no longer sparkles with the starry light of heaven,

her vibrating pulse long since changed its regular motion, and her

palpitating bosom beats once more for the midday of her glory.

Anxiety and care ultimately throw her into the arms of the haggard

and grim monster death.  But, oh, how patient, under every

pining influence!  Let us view the matter in bolder colors;

see her when the dearest object of her affections recklessly seeks

every bacchanalian pleasure, contents himself with the last rubbish

of creation.  With what solicitude she awaits his return!  Sleep fails

to perform its office--she weeps while the nocturnal shades of the

night triumph in the stillness.  Bending over some favorite book,

whilst the author throws before her mind the most beautiful imagery,

she startles at every sound.  The midnight silence is broken

by the solemn announcement of the return of another morning.

He is still absent; she listens for that voice which has so often

been greeted by the melodies of her own; but, alas! stern silence

is all that she receives for her vigilance.

 

Mark her unwearied watchfulness, as the night passes away.

At last, brutalized by the accursed thing, he staggers along

with rage, and, shivering with cold, he makes his appearance.

Not a murmur is heard from her lips.  On the contrary, she meets him

with a smile--she caresses him with tender arms, with all the gentleness

and softness of her sex.  Here, then, is seen her disposition,

beautifully arrayed.  Woman, thou art more to be admired than the spicy

gales of Arabia, and more sought for than the gold of Golconda.

We believe that Woman should associate freely with man, and we believe

that it is for the preservation of her rights.  She should become

acquainted with the metaphysical designs of those who condescended

to sing the siren song of flattery.  This, we think, should be

according to the unwritten law of decorum, which is stamped upon

every innocent heart.  The precepts of prudery are often steeped

in the guilt of contamination, which blasts the expectations of

better moments.  Truth, and beautiful dreams--loveliness, and delicacy

of character, with cherished affections of the ideal woman

--gentle hopes and aspirations, are enough to uphold her in the storms

of darkness, without the transferred colorings of a stained sufferer.

How often have we seen it in our public prints, that woman occupies

a false station in the world! and some have gone so far as to say it

was an unnatural one.  So long has she been regarded a weak creature,

by the rabble and illiterate--they have looked upon her as an

insufficient actress on the great stage of human life--a mere puppet,

to fill up the drama of human existence--a thoughtless, inactive being

--that she has too often come to the same conclusion herself, and has

sometimes forgotten her high destination, in the meridian of her glory.

We have but little sympathy or patience for those who treat her as

a mere Rosy Melindi--who are always fishing for pretty complements

--who are satisfied by the gossamer of Romance, and who can be

allured by the verbosity of high-flown words, rich in language,

but poor and barren in sentiment.  Beset, as she has been, by the

intellectual vulgar, the selfish, the designing, the cunning, the hidden,

and the artful--no wonder she has sometimes folded her wings in despair,

and forgotten her HEAVENLY mission in the delirium of imagination;

no wonder she searches out some wild desert, to find a peaceful home.

But this cannot always continue.  A new era is moving gently onward,

old things are rapidly passing away; old superstitions, old prejudices,

and old notions are now bidding farewell to their old associates

and companions, and giving way to one whose wings are plumed

with the light of heaven and tinged by the dews of the morning.

There is a remnant of blessedness that clings to her in spite of all

evil influence, there is enough of the Divine Master left to accomplish

the noblest work ever achieved under the canopy of the vaulted skies;

and that time is fast approaching, when the picture of the true

woman will shine from its frame of glory, to captivate, to win back,

to restore, and to call into being once more, THE OBJECT OF HER MISSION.

 

     Star of the brave! thy glory shed,

     O'er all the earth, thy army led--

     Bold meteor of immortal birth!

     Why come from Heaven to dwell on Earth?

 

Mighty and glorious are the days of youth; happy the moments

of the LOVER, mingled with smiles and tears of his devoted,

and long to be remembered are the achievements which he gains with a

palpitating heart and a trembling hand.  A bright and lovely dawn,

the harbinger of a fair and prosperous day, had arisen over the

beautiful little village of Cumming, which is surrounded by the

most romantic scenery in the Cherokee country.  Brightening clouds

seemed to rise from the mist of the fair Chattahoochee, to spread

their beauty over the the thick forest, to guide the hero whose

bosom beats with aspirations to conquer the enemy that would tarnish

his name, and to win back the admiration of his long-tried friend.

He endeavored to make his way through Sawney's Mountain, where many meet

to catch the gales that are continually blowing for the refreshment

of the stranger and the traveler.  Surrounded as he was by hills

on every side, naked rocks dared the efforts of his energies.

Soon the sky became overcast, the sun buried itself in the clouds,

and the fair day gave place to gloomy twilight, which lay heavily

on the Indian Plains.  He remembered an old Indian Castle,

that once stood at the foot of the mountain.  He thought if he could

make his way to this, he would rest contented for a short time.

The mountain air breathed fragrance--a rosy tinge rested on the glassy

waters that murmured at its base.  His resolution soon brought him

to the remains of the red man's hut:  he surveyed with wonder and

astonishment the decayed building, which time had buried in the dust,

and thought to himself, his happiness was not yet complete.

Beside the shore of the brook sat a young man, about eighteen or twenty,

who seemed to be reading some favorite book, and who had a remarkably

noble countenance--eyes which betrayed more than a common mind.

This of course made the youth a welcome guest, and gained him

friends in whatever condition of life he might be placed.

The traveler observed that he was a well-built figure, which showed

strength and grace in every movement.  He accordingly addressed

him in quite a gentlemanly manner, and inquired of him the way

to the village.  After he had received the desired information,

and was about taking his leave, the youth said, "Are you not

Major Elfonzo, the great musician--the champion of a noble cause

--the modern Achilles, who gained so many victories in the Florida War?"

"I bear that name," said the Major, "and those titles,

trusting at the same time that the ministers of grace will carry

me triumphantly through all my laudable undertakings, and if,"

continued the Major, "you, sir, are the patronizer of noble deeds,

I should like to make you my confidant and learn your address."

The youth looked somewhat amazed, bowed low, mused for a moment,

and began:  "My name is Roswell.  I have been recently admitted

to the bar, and can only give a faint outline of my future success

in that honorable profession; but I trust, sir, like the Eagle,

I shall look down from lofty rocks upon the dwellings of man, and shall

ever be ready to give you any assistance in my official capacity,

and whatever this muscular arm of mine can do, whenever it shall be

called from its buried GREATNESS."  The Major grasped him by the hand,

and exclaimed:  "O! thou exalted spirit of inspiration--thou flame

of burning prosperity, may the Heaven-directed blaze be the glare

of thy soul, and battle down every rampart that seems to impede

your progress!"

 

The road which led to the town presented many attractions.

Elfonzo had bid farewell to the youth of deep feeling, and was

not wending his way to the dreaming spot of his fondness.

The south winds whistled through the woods, as the waters dashed

against the banks, as rapid fire in the pent furnace roars.

This brought him to remember while alone, that he quietly left behind

the hospitality of a father's house, and gladly entered the world,

with higher hopes than are often realized.  But as he journeyed onward,

he was mindful of the advice of his father, who had often looked

sadly on the ground when tears of cruelly deceived hope moistened

his eye.  Elfonzo had been somewhat of a dutiful son; yet fond

of the amusements of life--had been in distant lands--had enjoyed

the pleasure of the world and had frequently returned to the scenes

of his boyhood, almost destitute of many of the comforts of life.

In this condition, he would frequently say to his father, "Have I

offended you, that you look upon me as a stranger, and frown upon

me with stinging looks?  Will you not favor me with the sound of

your voice?  If I have trampled upon your veneration, or have spread

a humid veil of darkness around your expectations, send me back into

the world where no heart beats for me--where the foot of man has

never yet trod; but give me at least one kind word--allow me to come

into the presence sometimes of thy winter-worn locks."  "Forbid it,

Heaven, that I should be angry with thee," answered the father,

"my son, and yet I send thee back to the children of the world

--to the cold charity of the combat, and to a land of victory.  I read

another destiny in thy countenance--I learn thy inclinations from

the flame that has already kindled in my soul a stranger sensation.

It will seek thee, my dear ELFONZO, it will find thee--thou canst

not escape that lighted torch, which shall blot out from the

remembrance of men a long train of prophecies which they have

foretold against thee.  I once thought not so.  Once, I was blind;

but now the path of life is plain before me, and my sight is clear;

yet Elfonzo, return to thy worldly occupation--take again in thy

hand that chord of sweet sounds--struggle with the civilized world,

and with your own heart; fly swiftly to the enchanted ground

--let the night-OWL send forth its screams from the stubborn oak

--let the sea sport upon the beach, and the stars sing together;

but learn of these, Elfonzo, thy doom, and thy hiding-place. Our most

innocent as well as our most lawful DESIRES must often be denied us,

that we may learn to sacrifice them to a Higher will."

 

Remembering such admonitions with gratitude, Elfonzo was immediately

urged by the recollection of his father's family to keep moving.

His steps became quicker and quicker--he hastened through the PINY woods,

dark as the forest was, and with joy he very soon reached the little

village or repose, in whose bosom rested the boldest chivalry.

His close attention to every important object--his modest questions

about whatever was new to him--his reverence for wise old age,

and his ardent desire to learn many of the fine arts, soon brought him

into respectable notice.

 

One mild winter day as he walked along the streets toward the Academy,

which stood upon a small eminence, surrounded by native growth

--some venerable in its appearance, others young and prosperous

--all seemed inviting, and seemed to be the very place for learning as

well as for genius to spend its research beneath its spreading shades.

He entered its classic walls in the usual mode of southern manners.

The principal of the Institution begged him to be seated and listen

to the recitations that were going on.  He accordingly obeyed

the request, and seemed to be much pleased.  After the school

was dismissed, and the young hearts regained their freedom,

with the songs of the evening, laughing at the anticipated pleasures

of a happy home, while others tittered at the actions of the past day,

he addressed the teacher in a tone that indicated a resolution

--with an undaunted mind.  He said he had determined to become

a student, if he could meet with his approbation.  "Sir," said he,

"I have spent much time in the world.  I have traveled among

the uncivilized inhabitants of America.  I have met with friends,

and combated with foes; but none of these gratify my ambition,

or decide what is to be my destiny.  I see the learned would

have an influence with the voice of the people themselves.

The despoilers of the remotest kingdoms of the earth refer their

differences to this class of persons.  This the illiterate and

inexperienced little dream of; and now if you will receive me as I am,

with these deficiencies--with all my misguided opinions, I will give

you my honor, sir, that I will never disgrace the Institution,

or those who have placed you in this honorable station."

The instructor, who had met with many disappointments, knew how to

feel for a stranger who had been thus turned upon the charities

of an unfeeling community.  He looked at him earnestly, and said:

"Be of good cheer--look forward, sir, to the high destination you

may attain.  Remember, the more elevated the mark at which you aim,

the more sure, the more glorious, the more magnificent the prize."

From wonder to wonder, his encouragement led the impatient listener.

A stranger nature bloomed before him--giant streams promised

him success--gardens of hidden treasures opened to his view.

All this, so vividly described, seemed to gain a new witchery from his

glowing fancy.

 

In 1842 he entered the class, and made rapid progress in the English

and Latin departments.  Indeed, he continued advancing with such

rapidity that he was like to become the first in his class,

and made such unexpected progress, and was so studious, that he had

almost forgotten the pictured saint of his affections.  The fresh

wreaths of the pine and cypress had waited anxiously to drop once

more the dews of Heavens upon the heads of those who had so often

poured forth the tender emotions of their souls under its boughs.

He was aware of the pleasure that he had seen there.  So one evening,

as he was returning from his reading, he concluded he would pay a visit

to this enchanting spot.  Little did he think of witnessing a shadow

of his former happiness, though no doubt he wished it might be so.

He continued sauntering by the roadside, meditating on the past.

The nearer he approached the spot, the more anxious he became.

At the moment a tall female figure flitted across his path, with a

bunch of roses in her hand; her countenance showed uncommon vivacity,

with a resolute spirit; her ivory teeth already appeared as she

smiled beautifully, promenading--while her ringlets of hair dangled

unconsciously around her snowy neck.  Nothing was wanting to complete

her beauty.  The tinge of the rose was in full bloom upon her cheek;

the charms of sensibility and tenderness were always her associates..

In Ambulinia's bosom dwelt a noble soul--one that never faded

--one that never was conquered.  Her heart yielded to no feeling

but the love of Elfonzo, on whom she gazed with intense delight,

and to whom she felt herself more closely bound, because he sought

the hand of no other.  Elfonzo was roused from his apparent reverie.

His books no longer were his inseparable companions--his thoughts

arrayed themselves to encourage him in the field of victory.

He endeavored to speak to his supposed Ambulinia, but his speech

appeared not in words.  No, his effort was a stream of fire,

that kindled his soul into a flame of admiration, and carried

his senses away captive.  Ambulinia had disappeared, to make him

more mindful of his duty.  As she walked speedily away through

the piny woods she calmly echoed:  "O!  Elfonzo, thou wilt

now look from thy sunbeams.  Thou shalt now walk in a new path

--perhaps thy way leads through darkness; but fear not, the stars

foretell happiness."

 

Not many days afterward, as surrounded by fragrant flowers she sat

one evening at twilight, to enjoy the cool breeze that whispered

notes of melody along the distant groves, the little birds perched

on every side, as if to watch the movements of their new visitor.

The bells were tolling when Elfonzo silently stole along by the wild

wood flowers, holding in his hand his favorite instrument of music

--his eye continually searching for Ambulinia, who hardly seemed

to perceive him, as she played carelessly with the songsters

that hopped from branch to branch.  Nothing could be more striking

than the difference between the two.  Nature seemed to have given

the more tender soul to Elfonzo, and the stronger and more courageous

to Ambulinia.  A deep feeling spoke from the eyes of Elfonzo

--such a feeling as can only be expressed by those who are blessed

as admirers, and by those who are able to return the same with

sincerity of heart.  He was a few years older than Ambulinia:

she had turned a little into her seventeenth.  He had almost grown

up in the Cherokee country, with the same equal proportions as one

of the natives.  But little intimacy had existed between them until

the year forty-one--because the youth felt that the character of such

a lovely girl was too exalted to inspire any other feeling than

that of quiet reverence.  But as lovers will not always be insulted,

at all times and under all circumstances, by the frowns and cold

looks of crabbed old age, which should continually reflect dignity

upon those around, and treat unfortunate as well as the fortunate

with a graceful mien, he continued to use diligence and perseverance.

All this lighted a spark in his heart that changed his whole character,

and like the unyielding Deity that follows the storm to check its

rage in the forest, he resolves for the first time to shake off

his embarrassment and return where he had before only worshiped.

 

It could not escape Ambulinia's penetrating eye that he sought

an interview with her, which she as anxiously avoided, and assumed

a more distant calmness than before, seemingly to destroy all hope.

After many efforts and struggles with his own person, with timid

steps the Major approached the damsel, with the same caution

as he would have done in a field of battle.  "Lady Ambulinia,"

said he, trembling, "I have long desired a moment like this.

I dare not let it escape.  I fear the consequences; yet I hope

your indulgence will at least hear my petition.  Can you not

anticipate what I would say, and what I am about to express?

Will not you, like Minerva, who sprung from the brain of Jupiter,

release me from thy winding chains or cure me--" "Say no more,

Elfonzo," answered Ambulinia, with a serious look, raising her hand

as if she intended to swear eternal hatred against the whole world;

"another lady in my place would have perhaps answered your question

in bitter coldness.  I know not the little arts of my sex.

I care but little for the vanity of those who would chide me,

and am unwilling as well as shamed to be guilty of anything

that would lead you to think 'all is not gold that glitters';

so be not rash in your resolution.  It is better to repent now than

to do it in a more solemn hour.  Yes, I know what you would say.

I know you have a costly gift for me--the noblest that man can make

--YOUR HEART! you should not offer it to one so unworthy.

Heaven, you know, has allowed my father's house to be made a house

of solitude, a home of silent obedience, which my parents say

is more to be admired than big names and high-sounding titles.

Notwithstanding all this, let me speak the emotions of an honest heart;

allow me to say in the fullness of my hopes that I anticipate

better days.  The bird may stretch its wings toward the sun,

which it can never reach; and flowers of the field appear to

ascend in the same direction, because they cannot do otherwise;

but man confides his complaints to the saints in whom he believes;

for in their abodes of light they know no more sorrow.  From your

confession and indicative looks, I must be that person; if so,

deceive not yourself."

 

Elfonzo replied, "Pardon me, my dear madam, for my frankness.

I have loved you from my earliest days; everything grand and beautiful

hath borne the image of Ambulinia; while precipices on every hand

surrounded me, your GUARDIAN ANGEL stood and beckoned me away from

the deep abyss.  In every trial, in every misfortune, I have met

with your helping hand; yet I never dreamed or dared to cherish

thy love till a voice impaired with age encouraged the cause,

and declared they who acquired thy favor should win a victory.

I saw how Leos worshipped thee.  I felt my own unworthiness.

I began to KNOW JEALOUSY--a strong guest, indeed, in my bosom

--yet I could see if I gained your admiration Leos was to be my rival.

I was aware that he had the influence of your parents, and the wealth

of a deceased relative, which is too often mistaken for permanent

and regular tranquillity; yet I have determined by your permission

to beg an interest in your prayers--to ask you to animate my dropping

spirits by your smiles and your winning looks; for if you but speak

I shall be conqueror, my enemies shall stagger like Olympus shakes.

And though earth and sea may tremble, and the charioteer of the sun

may forget his dashing steed, yet I am assured that it is only

to arm me with divine weapons which will enable me to complete my

long-tried intention."

 

"Return to your self, Elfonzo," said Ambulinia, pleasantly; "a dream

of vision has disturbed your intellect; you are above the atmosphere,

dwelling in the celestial regions; nothing is there that urges

or hinders, nothing that brings discord into our present litigation.

I entreat you to condescend a little, and be a man, and forget it all.

When Homer describes the battle of the gods and noble men fighting

with giants and dragons, they represent under this image our struggles

with the delusions of our passions.  You have exalted me, an unhappy girl,

to the skies; you have called me a saint, and portrayed in your

imagination an angel in human form.  Let her remain such to you,

let her continue to be as you have supposed, and be assured that she

will consider a share in your esteem as her highest treasure.

Think not that I would allure you from the path in which your

conscience leads you; for you know I respect the conscience of others,

as I would die for my own.  Elfonzo, if I am worthy of thy love,

let such conversation never again pass between us.  Go, seek a nobler

theme! we will seek it in the stream of time as the sun set in

the Tigris."  As she spake these words she grasped the hand of Elfonzo,

saying at the same time, "Peace and prosperity attend you, my hero:

be up and doing!"  Closing her remarks with this expression,

she walked slowly away, leaving Elfonzo astonished and amazed.

He ventured not to follow or detain her.  Here he stood alone,

gazing at the stars; confounded as he was, here he stood.  The rippling

stream rolled on at his feet.  Twilight had already begun to draw

her sable mantle over the earth, and now and then the fiery smoke

would ascend from the little town which lay spread out before him.

The citizens seemed to be full of life and good-humor; but poor Elfonzo

saw not a brilliant scene.  No; his future life stood before him,

stripped of the hopes that once adorned all his sanguine desires.

"Alas!" said he, "am I now Grief's disappointed son at last."

Ambulinia's image rose before his fancy.  A mixture of ambition

and greatness of soul moved upon his young heart, and encouraged

him to bear all his crosses with the patience of a Job,

notwithstanding he had to encounter with so many obstacles.

He still endeavored to prosecute his studies, and reasonable

progressed in his education.  Still, he was not content; there was

something yet to be done before his happiness was complete.

He would visit his friends and acquaintances.  They would invite him

to social parties, insisting that he should partake of the amusements

that were going on.  This he enjoyed tolerably well.  The ladies

and gentlemen were generally well pleased with the Major; as he

delighted all with his violin, which seemed to have a thousand chords

--more symphonious than the Muses of Apollo and more enchanting

than the ghost of the Hills.  He passed some days in the country.

During that time Leos had made many calls upon Ambulinia, who was

generally received with a great deal of courtesy by the family.

They thought him to be a young man worthy of attention, though he

had but little in his soul to attract the attention or even win

the affections of her whose graceful manners had almost made

him a slave to every bewitching look that fell from her eyes.

Leos made several attempts to tell her of his fair prospects

--how much he loved her, and how much it would add to his bliss if he

could but think she would be willing to share these blessings

with him; but, choked by his undertaking, he made himself more like an

inactive drone than he did like one who bowed at beauty's shrine.

 

Elfonzo again wends his way to the stately walls and new-built village.

He now determines to see the end of the prophesy which had been

foretold to him.  The clouds burst from his sight; he believes

if he can but see his Ambulinia, he can open to her view the bloody

altars that have been misrepresented to stigmatize his name.

He knows that her breast is transfixed with the sword of reason,

and ready at all times to detect the hidden villainy of her enemies.

He resolves to see her in her own home, with the consoling theme:

"'I can but perish if I go.'  Let the consequences be what they may,"

said he, "if I die, it shall be contending and struggling for my

own rights."

 

Night had almost overtaken him when he arrived in town.  Colonel Elder,

a noble-hearted, high-minded, and independent man, met him at

his door as usual, and seized him by the hand.  "Well, Elfonzo,"

said the Colonel, "how does the world use you in your efforts?"

"I have no objection to the world," said Elfonzo, "but the people

are rather singular in some of their opinions."  "Aye, well,"

said the Colonel, "you must remember that creation is made up of

many mysteries; just take things by the right handle; be always sure

you know which is the smooth side before you attempt your polish;

be reconciled to your fate, be it what it may; and never find fault

with your condition, unless your complaining will benefit it.

Perseverance is a principle that should be commendable in those who have

judgment to govern it.  I should never had been so successful in my

hunting excursions had I waited till the deer, by some magic dream,

had been drawn to the muzzle of the gun before I made an attempt to fire

at the game that dared my boldness in the wild forest.  The great

mystery in hunting seems to be--a good marksman, a resolute mind,

a fixed determination, and my world for it, you will never return

home without sounding your horn with the breath of a new victory.

And so with every other undertaking.  Be confident that your ammunition

is of the right kind--always pull your trigger with a steady hand,

and so soon as you perceive a calm, touch her off, and the spoils

are yours."

 

This filled him with redoubled vigor, and he set out with a stronger

anxiety than ever to the home of Ambulinia.  A few short steps soon

brought him to the door, half out of breath.  He rapped gently.

Ambulinia, who sat in the parlor alone, suspecting Elfonzo was near,

ventured to the door, opened it, and beheld the hero, who stood

in an humble attitude, bowed gracefully, and as they caught each

other's looks the light of peace beamed from the eyes of Ambulinia.

Elfonzo caught the expression; a halloo of smothered shouts ran

through every vein, and for the first time he dared to impress a kiss

upon her cheek.  The scene was overwhelming; had the temptation

been less animating, he would not have ventured to have acted

so contrary to the desired wish of his Ambulinia; but who could

have withstood the irrestistable temptation!  What society condemns

the practice but a cold, heartless, uncivilized people that know

nothing of the warm attachments of refined society?  Here the dead

was raised to his long-cherished hopes, and the lost was found.

Here all doubt and danger were buried in the vortex of oblivion;

sectional differences no longer disunited their opinions; like the freed

bird from the cage, sportive claps its rustling wings, wheels about

to heaven in a joyful strain, and raises its notes to the upper sky.

Ambulinia insisted upon Elfonzo to be seated, and give her a history

of his unnecessary absence; assuring him the family had retired,

consequently they would ever remain ignorant of his visit.

Advancing toward him, she gave a bright display of her rosy neck,

and from her head the ambrosial locks breathed divine fragrance;

her robe hung waving to his view, while she stood like a goddess

confessed before him.

 

"It does seem to me, my dear sir," said Ambulinia, "that you have

been gone an age.  Oh, the restless hours I have spent since I last

saw you, in yon beautiful grove.  There is where I trifled with your

feelings for the express purpose of trying your attachment for me.

I now find you are devoted; but ah!  I trust you live not unguarded

by the powers of Heaven.  Though oft did I refuse to join my hand

with thine, and as oft did I cruelly mock thy entreaties with

borrowed shapes:  yes, I feared to answer thee by terms, in words

sincere and undissembled.  O! could I pursue, and you have leisure

to hear the annals of my woes, the evening star would shut Heaven's

gates upon the impending day before my tale would be finished,

and this night would find me soliciting your forgiveness."

 

"Dismiss thy fears and thy doubts," replied Elfonzo.

 

"Look, O! look:  that angelic look of thine--bathe not thy visage

in tears; banish those floods that are gathering; let my confession

and my presence bring thee some relief."  "Then, indeed, I will

be cheerful," said Ambulinia, "and I think if we will go to the

exhibition this evening, we certainly will see something worthy

of our attention.  One of the most tragical scenes is to be acted

that has ever been witnessed, and one that every jealous-hearted person

should learn a lesson from.  It cannot fail to have a good effect,

as it will be performed by those who are young and vigorous,

and learned as well as enticing.  You are aware, Major Elfonzo, who are

to appear on the stage, and what the characters are to represent."

"I am acquainted with the circumstances," replied Elfonzo, "and as I

am to be one of the musicians upon that interesting occasion,

I should be much gratified if you would favor me with your company

during the hours of the exercises."

 

"What strange notions are in your mind?" inquired Ambulinia.

"Now I know you have something in view, and I desire you to tell

me why it is that you are so anxious that I should continue

with you while the exercises are going on; though if you think I

can add to your happiness and predilections, I have no particular

objection to acquiesce in your request.  Oh, I think I foresee,

now, what you anticipate."  "And will you have the goodness to tell

me what you think it will be?" inquired Elfonzo.  "By all means,"

answered Ambulinia; "a rival, sir, you would fancy in your own mind;

but let me say for you, fear not! fear not!  I will be one of the

last persons to disgrace my sex by thus encouraging every one who

may feel disposed to visit me, who may honor me with their graceful

bows and their choicest compliments.  It is true that young men too

often mistake civil politeness for the finer emotions of the heart,

which is tantamount to courtship; but, ah! how often are they deceived,

when they come to test the weight of sunbeams with those on whose

strength hangs the future happiness of an untried life."

 

The people were now rushing to the Academy with impatient anxiety;

the band of music was closely followed by the students; then the parents

and guardians; nothing interrupted the glow of spirits which ran

through every bosom, tinged with the songs of a Virgil and the tide

of a Homer.  Elfonzo and Ambulinia soon repaired to the scene,

and fortunately for them both the house was so crowded that they took

their seats together in the music department, which was not in view

of the auditory.  This fortuitous circumstances added more the bliss

of the Major than a thousand such exhibitions would have done.

He forgot that he was man; music had lost its charms for him;

whenever he attempted to carry his part, the string of the instrument

would break, the bow became stubborn, and refused to obey the loud

calls of the audience.  Here, he said, was the paradise of his home,

the long-sought-for opportunity; he felt as though he could

send a million supplications to the throne of Heaven for such

an exalted privilege.  Poor Leos, who was somewhere in the crowd,

looking as attentively as if he was searching for a needle in a haystack;

here is stood, wondering to himself why Ambulinia was not there.

"Where can she be?  Oh! if she was only here, how I could relish

the scene!  Elfonzo is certainly not in town; but what if he is?

I have got the wealth, if I have not the dignity, and I am sure that

the squire and his lady have always been particular friends of mine,

and I think with this assurance I shall be able to get upon the blind

side of the rest of the family and make the heaven-born Ambulinia

the mistress of all I possess."  Then, again, he would drop his head,

as if attempting to solve the most difficult problem in Euclid.

While he was thus conjecturing in his own mind, a very interesting

part of the exhibition was going on, which called the attention

of all present.  The curtains of the stage waved continually

by the repelled forces that were given to them, which caused

Leos to behold Ambulinia leaning upon the chair of Elfonzo.

Her lofty beauty, seen by the glimmering of the chandelier,

filled his heart with rapture, he knew not how to contain himself;

to go where they were would expose him to ridicule; to continue

where he was, with such an object before him, without being allowed

an explanation in that trying hour, would be to the great injury

of his mental as well as of his physical powers; and, in the name

of high heaven, what must he do?  Finally, he resolved to contain

himself as well as he conveniently could, until the scene was over,

and then he would plant himself at the door, to arrest Ambulinia from

the hands of the insolent Elfonzo, and thus make for himself a more

prosperous field of immortality than ever was decreed by Omnipotence,

or ever pencil drew or artist imagined.  Accordingly he made

himself sentinel, immediately after the performance of the evening

--retained his position apparently in defiance of all the world; he waited,

he gazed at every lady, his whole frame trembled; here he stood,

until everything like human shape had disappeared from the institution,

and he had done nothing; he had failed to accomplish that which he

so eagerly sought for.  Poor, unfortunate creature! he had not

the eyes of an Argus, or he might have seen his Juno and Elfonzo,

assisted by his friend Sigma, make their escape from the window,

and, with the rapidity of a race-horse, hurry through the blast of

the storm to the residence of her father, without being recognized.

He did not tarry long, but assured Ambulinia the endless chain

of their existence was more closely connected than ever, since he

had seen the virtuous, innocent, imploring, and the constant

Amelia murdered by the jealous-hearted Farcillo, the accursed of

the land.

 

The following is the tragical scene, which is only introduced

to show the subject-matter that enabled Elfonzo to come to such

a determinate resolution that nothing of the kind should ever

dispossess him of his true character, should he be so fortunate

as to succeed in his present undertaking.

 

Amelia was the wife of Farcillo, and a virtuous woman; Gracia,

a young lady, was her particular friend and confidant.  Farcillo grew

jealous of Amelia, murders her, finds out that he was deceived,

AND STABS HIMSELF.  Amelia appears alone, talking to herself.

 

A. Hail, ye solitary ruins of antiquity, ye sacred tombs and

silent walks! it is your aid I invoke; it is to you, my soul,

wrapt in deep mediating, pours forth its prayer.  Here I wander upon

the stage of mortality, since the world hath turned against me.

Those whom I believed to be my friends, alas! are now my enemies,

planting thorns in all my paths, poisoning all my pleasures,

and turning the past to pain.  What a lingering catalogue of sighs

and tears lies just before me, crowding my aching bosom with

the fleeting dream of humanity, which must shortly terminate.

And to what purpose will all this bustle of life, these agitations

and emotions of the heart have conduced, if it leave behind it

nothing of utility, if it leave no traces of improvement?  Can it

be that I am deceived in my conclusions?  No, I see that I have

nothing to hope for, but everything for fear, which tends to drive

me from the walks of time.

 

 

Oh! in this dead night, if loud winds arise,

 

To lash the surge and bluster in the skies,

 

May the west its furious rage display,

 

Toss me with storms in the watery way.

 

 

(Enter Gracia.)

 

 

G. Oh, Amelia, is it you, the object of grief, the daughter of opulence,

of wisdom and philosophy, that thus complaineth?  It cannot be you

are the child of misfortune, speaking of the monuments of former ages,

which were allotted not for the reflection of the distressed,

but for the fearless and bold.

 

A. Not the child of poverty, Gracia, or the heir of glory and peace,

but of fate.  Remember, I have wealth more than wit can number; I have

had power more than kings could emcompass; yet the world seems a desert;

all nature appears an afflictive spectacle of warring passions.

This blind fatality, that capriciously sports with the rules

and lives of mortals, tells me that the mountains will never again

send forth the water of their springs to my thirst.  Oh, that I

might be freed and set at liberty from wretchedness!  But I fear,

I fear this will never be.

 

G. Why, Amelia, this untimely grief?  What has caused the sorrows

that bespeak better and happier days, to those lavish out such

heaps of misery?  You are aware that your instructive lessons

embellish the mind with holy truths, by wedding its attention

to none but great and noble affections.

 

A. This, of course, is some consolation.  I will ever love my own

species with feelings of a fond recollection, and while I am

studying to advance the universal philanthropy, and the spotless

name of my own sex, I will try to build my own upon the pleasing

belief that I have accelerated the advancement of one who whispers

of departed confidence.

 

 

And I, like some poor peasant fated to reside

 

Remote from friends, in a forest wide.

 

Oh, see what woman's woes and human wants require,

 

Since that great day hath spread the seed of sinful fire.

 

 

G. Look up, thou poor disconsolate; you speak of quitting

earthly enjoyments.  Unfold thy bosom to a friend, who would be

willing to sacrifice every enjoyment for the restoration of the

dignity and gentleness of mind which used to grace your walks,

and which is so natural to yourself; not only that, but your

paths were strewed with flowers of every hue and of every order.

 

 

With verdant green the mountains glow,

 

For thee, for thee, the lilies grow;

 

Far stretched beneath the tented hills,

 

A fairer flower the valley fills.

 

 

A. Oh, would to Heaven I could give you a short narrative of my

former prospects for happiness, since you have acknowledged to be

an unchangeable confidant--the richest of all other blessings.

Oh, ye names forever glorious, ye celebrated scenes, ye renowned

spot of my hymeneal moments; how replete is your chart with

sublime reflections!  How many profound vows, decorated with

immaculate deeds, are written upon the surface of that precious

spot of earth where I yielded up my life of celibacy, bade youth

with all its beauties a final adieu, took a last farewell of the

laurels that had accompanied me up the hill of my juvenile career.

It was then I began to descend toward the valley of disappointment

and sorrow; it was then I cast my little bark upon a mysterious ocean

of wedlock, with him who then smiled and caressed me, but, alas! now

frowns with bitterness, and has grown jealous and cold toward me,

because the ring he gave me is misplaced or lost.  Oh, bear me,

ye flowers of memory, softly through the eventful history of

past times; and ye places that have witnessed the progression of man

in the circle of so many societies, and, of, aid my recollection,

while I endeavor to trace the vicissitudes of a life devoted

in endeavoring to comfort him that I claim as the object of my wishes.

 

 

Ah! ye mysterious men, of all the world, how few

 

Act just to Heaven and to your promise true!

 

But He who guides the stars with a watchful eye,

 

The deeds of men lay open without disguise;

 

Oh, this alone will avenge the wrongs I bear,

 

For all the oppressed are His peculiar care.

 

 

(F. makes a slight noise.)

 

 

A. Who is there--Farcillo?

 

G. Then I must gone.  Heaven protect you.  Oh, Amelia, farewell,

be of good cheer.

 

 

May you stand like Olympus' towers,

 

Against earth and all jealous powers!

 

May you, with loud shouts ascend on high

 

Swift as an eagle in the upper sky.

 

 

A. Why so cold and distant tonight, Farcillo?  Come, let us each

other greet, and forget all the past, and give security for the future.

 

F. Security! talk to me about giving security for the future