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After the Storm by T. S. Arthur

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Edited by Charles Aldarando (aldarondo@yahoo.com)

AFTER THE STORM.

BY T. S. ARTHUR.

PHILADELPHIA:

1868

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. THE WAR OF THE ELEMENTS.
CHAPTER II. THE LOVERS.
CHAPTER III. THE CLOUD AND THE SIGN.
CHAPTER IV. UNDER THE CLOUD.
CHAPTER V. THE BURSTING OF THE STORM.
CHAPTER VI. AFTER THE STORM.
CHAPTER VII. THE LETTER.
CHAPTER VIII. THE FLIGHT AND THE RETURN.
CHAPTER IX. THE RECONCILIATION.
CHAPTER X. AFTER THE STORM.
CHAPTER XI. A NEW ACQUAINTANCE.
CHAPTER XII. IN BONDS.
CHAPTER XIII. THE REFORMERS.
CHAPTER XIV. A STARTLING EXPERIENCE.
CHAPTER XV. CAPTIVATED AGAIN.
CHAPTER XVI. WEARY OF CONSTRAINT.
CHAPTER XVII. GONE FOR EVER!
CHAPTER XVIII. YOUNG, BUT WISE.
CHAPTER XIX. THE SHIPWRECKED LIFE.
CHAPTER XX. THE PALSIED HEART.
CHAPTER XXI. THE IRREVOCABLE DECREE.
CHAPTER XXII. STRUCK DOWN.
CHAPTER XXIII. THE HAUNTED VISION.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE MINISTERING ANGEL.
CHAPTER XXV. BORN FOR EACH OTHER.
CHAPTER XXVI. LOVE NEVER DIES.
CHAPTER XXVII. EFFECTS OF THE STORM.
CHAPTER XXVIII. AFTER THE STORM.

AFTER THE STORM.

CHAPTER I.

THE WAR OF THE ELEMENTS.

_NO_ June day ever opened with a fairer promise. Not a single cloud
flecked the sky, and the sun coursed onward through the azure sea
until past meridian, without throwing to the earth a single shadow.
Then, low in the west, appeared something obscure and hazy, blending
the hill-tops with the horizon; an hour later, and three or four
small fleecy islands were seen, clearly outlined in the airy ocean,
and slowly ascending--avant-couriers of a coming storm. Following
these were mountain peaks, snow-capped and craggy, with desolate
valleys between. Then, over all this arctic panorama, fell a sudden
shadow. The white tops of the cloudy hills lost their clear,
gleaming outlines and their slumbrous stillness. The atmosphere was
in motion, and a white scud began to drive across the heavy, dark
masses of clouds that lay far back against the sky in mountain-like
repose.

How grandly now began the onward march of the tempest, which had
already invaded the sun's domain and shrouded his face in the smoke
of approaching battle. Dark and heavy it lay along more than half
the visible horizon, while its crown invaded the zenith.

As yet, all was silence and portentous gloom. Nature seemed to pause
and hold her breath in dread anticipation. Then came a muffled,
jarring sound, as of far distant artillery, which died away into an
oppressive stillness. Suddenly from zenith to horizon the cloud was
cut by a fiery stroke, an instant visible. Following this, a heavy
thunder-peal shook the solid earth, and rattled in booming echoes
along the hillsides and amid the cloudy caverns above.

At last the storm came down on the wind's strong pinions, swooping
fiercely to the earth, like an eagle to its prey. For one wild hour
it raged as if the angel of destruction were abroad.

At the window of a house standing picturesquely among the Hudson
Highlands, and looking down upon the river, stood a maiden and her
lover, gazing upon this wild war among the elements. Fear had
pressed her closely to his side, and he had drawn an arm around her
in assurance of safety.

Suddenly the maiden clasped her hands over her face, cried out and
shuddered. The lightning had shivered a tree upon which her gaze was
fixed, rending it as she could have rent a willow wand.

"God is in the storm," said the lover, bending to her ear. He spoke
reverently and in a voice that had in it no tremor of fear.

The maiden withdrew her hands from before her shut eyes, and looking
up into his face, answered in a voice which she strove to make
steady:

"Thank you, Hartley, for the words. Yes, God is present in the
storm, as in the sunshine."

"Look!" exclaimed the young man, suddenly, pointing to the river. A
boat had just come in sight. It contained a man and a woman. The
former was striving with a pair of oars to keep the boat right in
the eye of the wind; but while the maiden and her lover still gazed
at them, a wild gust swept down upon the water and drove their frail
bark under. There was no hope in their case; the floods had
swallowed them, and would not give up their living prey.

A moment afterward, and an elm, whose great arms had for nearly a
century spread themselves out in the sunshine tranquilly or battled
with the storms, fell crashing against the house, shaking it to the
very foundations.

The maiden drew back from the window, overcome with terror. These
shocks were too much for her nerves. But her lover restrained her,
saying, with a covert chiding in his voice,

"Stay, Irene! There is a wild delight in all this, and are you not
brave enough to share it with me?"

But she struggled to release herself from his arm, replying with a
shade of impatience--

"Let me go, Hartley! Let me go!"

The flexed arm was instantly relaxed, and the maiden was free. She
went back, hastily, from the window, and, sitting down on a sofa,
buried her face in her hands. The young man did not follow her, but
remained standing by the window, gazing out upon Nature in her
strong convulsion. It may, however, be doubted whether his mind took
note of the wild images that were pictured in his eyes. A cloud was
in the horizon of his mind, dimming its heavenly azure. And the
maiden's sky was shadowed also.

For two or three minutes the young man stood by the window, looking
out at the writhing trees and the rain pouring down an avalanche of
water, and then, with a movement that indicated a struggle and a
conquest, turned and walked toward the sofa on which the maiden
still sat with her face hidden from view. Sitting down beside her,
he took her hand. It lay passive in his. He pressed it gently; but
she gave back no returning pressure. There came a sharp, quick gleam
of lightning, followed by a crash that jarred the house. But Irene
did not start--we may question whether she even saw the one or heard
the other, except as something remote.

"Irene!"

She did not stir.

The young man leaned closer, and said, in a tender voice--

"Irene--darling--"

Her hand moved in his--just moved--but did not return the pressure
of his own.

"Irene." And now his arm stole around her. She yielded, and,
turning, laid her head upon his shoulder.

There had been a little storm in the maiden's heart, consequent upon
the slight restraint ventured on by her lover when she drew back
from the window; and it was only now subsiding.

"I did not mean to offend you," said the young man, penitently.

"Who said that I was offended?" She looked up, with a smile that
only half obliterated the shadow. "I was frightened, Hartley. It is
a fearful storm!" And she glanced toward the window.

The lover accepted this affirmation, though he knew better in his
heart. He knew that his slight attempt at constraint had chafed her
naturally impatient spirit, and that it had taken her some time to
regain her lost self-control.

Without, the wild rush of winds was subsiding, the lightning gleamed
out less frequently, and the thunder rolled at a farther distance.
Then came that deep stillness of nature which follows in the wake of
the tempest, and in its hush the lovers stood again at the window,
looking out upon the wrecks that were strewn in its path. They were
silent, for on both hearts was a shadow, which had not rested there
when they first stood by the window, although the sky was then more
deeply veiled. So slight was the cause on which these shadows
depended that memory scarcely retained its impression. He was
tender, and she was yielding; and each tried to atone by loving acts
for a moment of willfulness.

The sun went down while yet the skirts of the storm were spread over
the western sky, and without a single glance at the ruins which
lightning, wind and rain had scattered over the earth's fair
surface. But he arose gloriously in the coming morning, and went
upward in his strength, consuming the vapors at a breath, and
drinking up every bright dewdrop that welcomed him with a quiver of
joy. The branches shook themselves in the gentle breezes his
presence had called forth to dally amid their foliage and sport with
the flowers; and every green thing put on a fresher beauty in
delight at his return; while from the bosom of the trees--from
hedgerow and from meadow--went up the melody of birds.

In the brightness of this morning, the lovers went out to look at
the storm-wrecks that lay scattered around. Here a tree had been
twisted off where the tough wood measured by feet instead of inches;
there stood the white and shivered trunk of another sylvan lord,
blasted in an instant by a lightning stroke; and there lay, prone
upon the ground, giant limbs, which, but the day before, spread
themselves abroad in proud defiance of the storm. Vines were torn
from their fastenings; flower-beds destroyed; choice shrubbery,
tended with care for years, shorn of its beauty. Even the solid
earth had been invaded by floods of water, which ploughed deep
furrows along its surface. And, saddest of all, two human lives had
gone out while the mad tempest raged in uncontrollable fury.

As the lover and maiden stood looking at the signs of violence so
thickly scattered around, the former said, in a cheerful tone--

"For all his wild, desolating power, the tempest is vassal to the
sun and dew. He may spread his sad trophies around in brief, blind
rage; but they soon obliterate all traces of his path, and make
beautiful what he has scarred with wounds or disfigured by the tramp
of his iron heel."

"Not so, my children," said the calm voice of the maiden's father,
to whose ears the remark had come. "Not so, my children. The sun and
dew never fully restore what the storm has broken and trampled upon.
They may hide disfiguring marks, and cover with new forms of life
and beauty the ruins which time can never restore. This is
something, and we may take the blessing thankfully, and try to
forget what is lost, or so changed as to be no longer desirable.
Look at this fallen and shattered elm, my children. Is there any
hope for that in the dew, the rain and sunshine? Can these build it
up again, and spread out its arms as of old, bringing back to me, as
it has done daily, the image of my early years? No, my children.
After every storm are ruins which can never be repaired. Is it not
so with that lightning-stricken oak? And what art can restore to its
exquisite loveliness this statue of Hope, thrown down by the
ruthless hand of the unsparing tempest? Moreover, is there human
vitality in the sunshine and fructifying dew? Can they put life into
the dead?

"No--no--my children. And take the lesson to heart. Outward tempests
but typify and represent the fiercer tempests that too often
desolate the human soul. In either case something is lost that can
never be restored. Beware, then, of storms, for wreck and ruin
follow as surely as the passions rage."

CHAPTER II.

THE LOVERS.

_IRENE DELANCY_ was a girl of quick, strong feelings, and an
undisciplined will. Her mother died before she reached her tenth
year. From that time she was either at home under the care of
domestics, or within the scarcely more favorable surroundings of a
boarding-school. She grew up beautiful and accomplished, but
capricious and with a natural impatience of control, that unwise
reactions on the part of those who attempted to govern her in no
degree tempered.

Hartley Emerson, as a boy, was self-willed and passionate, but
possessed many fine qualities. A weak mother yielded to his resolute
struggles to have his own way, and so he acquired, at an early age,
control over his own movements. He went to college, studied hard,
because he was ambitious, and graduated with honor. Law he chose as
a profession; and, in order to secure the highest advantages,
entered the office of a distinguished attorney in the city of New
York, and gave to its study the best efforts of a clear, acute and
logical mind. Self-reliant, proud, and in the habit of reaching his
ends by the nearest ways, he took his place at the bar with a
promise of success rarely exceeded. From his widowed mother, who
died before he reached his majority, Hartley Emerson inherited a
moderate fortune with which to begin the world. Few young men
started forward on their life-journey with so small a number of
vices, or with so spotless a moral character. The fine intellectual
cast of his mind, and his devotion to study, lifted him above the
baser allurements of sense and kept his garments pure.

Such were Irene Delancy and Hartley Emerson--lovers and betrothed at
the time we present them to our readers. They met, two years before,
at Saratoga, and drew together by a mutual attraction. She was the
first to whom his heart had bowed in homage; and until she looked
upon him her pulse had never beat quicker at sight of a manly form.

Mr. Edmund Delancy, a gentleman of some wealth and advanced in
years, saw no reason to interpose objections. The family of Emerson
occupied a social position equal with his own; and the young man's
character and habits were blameless. So far, the course of love ran
smooth; and only three months intervened until the wedding-day.

The closer relation into which the minds of the lovers came after
their betrothal and the removal of a degree of deference and
self-constraint, gave opportunity for the real character of each to
show itself. Irene could not always repress her willfulness and
impatience of another's control; nor her lover hold a firm hand on
quick-springing anger when anything checked his purpose. Pride and
adhesiveness of character, under such conditions of mind, were
dangerous foes to peace; and both were proud and tenacious.

The little break in the harmonious flow of their lives, noticed as
occurring while the tempest raged, was one of many such incidents;
and it was in consequence of Mr. Delancy's observation of these
unpromising features in their intercourse that he spoke with so much
earnestness about the irreparable ruin that followed in the wake of
storms.

At least once a week Emerson left the city, and his books and cases,
to spend a day with Irene in her tasteful home; and sometimes he
lingered there for two or three days at a time. It happened, almost
invariably, that some harsh notes jarred in the music of their lives
during these pleasant seasons, and left on both their hearts a
feeling of oppression, or, worse, a brooding sense of injustice.
Then there grew up between them an affected opposition and
indifference, and a kind of half-sportive, half-earnest wrangling
about trifles, which too often grew serious.

Mr. Delancy saw this with a feeling of regret, and often interposed
to restore some broken links in the chain of harmony.

"You must be more conciliating, Irene," he would often say to his
daughter. "Hartley is earnest and impulsive, and you should yield to
him gracefully, even when you do not always see and feel as he does.
This constant opposition and standing on your dignity about trifles
is fretting both of you, and bodes evil in the future."

"Would you have me assent if he said black was white?" she answered
to her father's remonstrance one day, balancing her little head
firmly and setting her lips together in a resolute way.

"It might be wiser to say nothing than to utter dissent, if, in so
doing, both were made unhappy," returned her father.

"And so let him think me a passive fool?" she asked.

"No; a prudent girl, shaming his unreasonableness by her
self-control."

"I have read somewhere," said Irene, "that all men are self-willed
tyrants--the words do not apply to you, my father, and so there is
an exception to the rule." She smiled a tender smile as she looked
into the face of a parent who had ever been too indulgent. "But,
from my experience with a lover, I can well believe the sentiment
based in truth. Hartley must have me think just as he thinks, and do
what he wants me to do, or he gets ruffled. Now I don't expect, when
I am married, to sink into a mere nobody--to be my husband's echo
and shadow; and the quicker I can make Hartley comprehend this the
better will it be for both of us. A few rufflings of his feathers
now will teach him how to keep them smooth and glossy in the time to
come."

"You are in error, my child," replied Mr. Delancy, speaking very
seriously. "Between those who love a cloud should never interpose;
and I pray you, Irene, as you value your peace and that of the man
who is about to become your husband, to be wise in the very
beginning, and dissolve with a smile of affection every vapor that
threatens a coming storm. Keep the sky always bright."

"I will do everything that I can, father, to keep the sky of our
lives always bright, except give up my own freedom of thought and
independence of action. A wife should not sink her individuality in
that of her husband, any more than a husband should sink his
individuality in that of his wife. They are two equals, and should
be content to remain equals. There is no love in subordination."

Mr. Delancy sighed deeply: "Is argument of any avail here? Can words
stir conviction in her mind?" He was silent for a time, and then
said--

"Better, Irene, that you stop where you are, and go through life
alone, than venture upon marriage, in your state of feeling, with a
man like Hartley Emerson."

"Dear father, you are altogether too serious!" exclaimed the
warm-hearted girl, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him.
"Hartley and I love each other too well to be made very unhappy by
any little jar that takes place in the first reciprocal movement of
our lives. We shall soon come to understand each other, and then the
harmonies will be restored."

"The harmonies should never be lost, my child," returned Mr.
Delancy. "In that lies the danger. When the enemy gets into the
citadel, who can say that he will ever be dislodged? There is no
safety but in keeping him out."

"Still too serious, father," said Irene. "There is no danger to be
feared from any formidable enemy. All these are very little things."

"It is the little foxes that spoil the tender grapes, my daughter,"
Mr. Delancy replied; "and if the tender grapes are spoiled, what
hope is there in the time of vintage? Alas for us if in the later
years the wine of life shall fail!"

There was so sad a tone in her father's voice, and so sad an
expression on his face, that Irene was touched with a new feeling
toward him. She again put her arms around his neck and kissed him
tenderly.

"Do not fear for us," she replied. "These are only little summer
showers, that make the earth greener and the flowers more beautiful.
The sky is of a more heavenly azure when they pass away, and the sun
shines more gloriously than before."

But the father could not be satisfied, and answered--

"Beware of even summer showers, my darling. I have known fearful
ravages to follow in their path--seen many a goodly tree go down.
After every storm, though the sky may be clearer, the earth upon
which it fell has suffered some loss which is a loss for ever.
Begin, then, by conciliation and forbearance. Look past the
external, which may seem at times too exacting or imperative, and
see only the true heart pulsing beneath--the true, brave heart, that
would give to every muscle the strength of steel for your protection
if danger threatened. Can you not be satisfied with knowing that you
are loved--deeply, truly, tenderly? What more can a woman ask? Can
you not wait until this love puts on its rightly-adjusted exterior,
as it assuredly will. It is yet mingled with self-love, and its
action modified by impulse and habit. Wait--wait--wait, my daughter.
Bear and forbear for a time, as you value peace on earth and
happiness in heaven."

"I will try, father, for your sake, to guard myself," she answered.

"No, no, Irene. Not for my sake, but for the sake of right,"
returned Mr. Delancy.

They were sitting in the vine-covered portico that looked down, over
a sloping lawn toward the river.

"There is Hartley now!" exclaimed Irene, as the form of her lover
came suddenly into view, moving forward along the road that
approached from the landing, and she sprung forward and went rapidly
down to meet him. There an ardent kiss, a twining of arms, warmly
spoken words and earnest gestures. Mr. Delancy looked at them as
they stood fondly together, and sighed. He could not help it, for he
knew there was trouble before them. After standing and talking for a
short time, they began moving toward the house, but paused at every
few paces--sometimes to admire a picturesque view--sometimes to
listen one to the other and respond to pleasant sentiments--and
sometimes in fond dispute. This was Mr. Delancy's reading of their
actions and gestures, as he sat looking at and observing them
closely.

A little way from the path by which they were advancing toward the
house was a rustic arbor, so placed as to command a fine sweep of
river from one line of view and West Point from another. Irene
paused and made a motion of her hand toward this arbor, as if she
wished to go there; but Hartley looked to the house and plainly
signified a wish to go there first. At this Irene pulled him gently
toward the arbor; he resisted, and she drew upon his arm more
resolutely, when, planting his feet firmly, he stood like a rock.
Still she urged and still he declined going in that direction. It
was play at first, but Mr. Delancy saw that it was growing to be
earnest. A few moments longer, and he saw Irene separate from
Hartley and move toward the arbor; at the same time the young man
came forward in the direction of the house. Mr. Delancy, as he
stepped from the portico to meet him, noticed that his color was
heightened and his eyes unusually bright.

"What's the matter with that self-willed girl of mine?" he asked, as
he took the hand of Emerson, affecting a lightness of tone that did
not correspond with his real feelings.

"Oh, nothing serious," the young man replied. "She's only in a
little pet because I wouldn't go with her to the arbor before I paid
my respects to you."

"She's a spoiled little puss," said the father, in a fond yet
serious way, "and you'll have to humor her a little at first,
Hartley. She never had the wise discipline of a mother, and so has
grown up unused to that salutary control which is so necessary for
young persons. But she has a warm, true heart and pure principles;
and these are the foundation-stones on which to build the temple of
happiness."

"Don't fear but that it will be all right between us. I love her too
well to let any flitting humors affect me."

He stepped upon the portico as he spoke and sat down. Irene had
before this reached the arbor and taken a seat there. Mr. Delancy
could do no less than resume the chair from which he had arisen on
the young man's approach. In looking into Hartley's face he noticed
a resolute expression about his mouth. For nearly ten minutes they
sat and talked, Irene remaining alone in the arbor. Mr. Delancy then
said, in a pleasant off-handed way,

"Come, Hartley, you have punished her long enough. I don't like to
see you even play at disagreement."

He did not seem to notice the remark, but started a subject of
conversation that it was almost impossible to dismiss for the next
ten minutes. Then he stepped down from the portico, and was moving
leisurely toward the arbor when he perceived that Irene had already
left it and was returning by another path. So he came back and
seated himself again, to await her approach. But, instead of joining
him, she passed round the house and entered on the opposite side.
For several minutes he sat, expecting every instant to see her come
out on the portico, but she did not make her appearance.

It was early in the afternoon. Hartley, affecting not to notice the
absence of Irene, kept up an animated conversation with Mr. Delancy.
A whole hour went by, and still the young lady was absent. Suddenly
starting, up, at the end of this time, Hartley exclaimed--

"As I live, there comes the boat! and I must be in New York
to-night."

"Stay," said Mr. Delancy, "until I call Irene."

"I can't linger for a moment, sir. It will take quick walking to
reach the landing by the time the boat is there." The young man
spoke hurriedly, shook hands with Mr. Delancy, and then sprung away,
moving at a rapid pace.

"What's the matter, father? Where is Hartley going?" exclaimed
Irene, coming out into the portico and grasping her father's arm.
Her face was pale and her lips trembled.

"He is going to New York," relied Mr. Delancy.

"To New York!" She looked almost frightened.

"Yes. The boat is coming, and he says that he must be in the city
to-night."

Irene sat down, looking pale and troubled.

"Why have you remained away from Hartley ever since his arrival?"
asked Mr. Delancy, fixing his eyes upon Irene and evincing some
displeasure.

Irene did not answer, but her father saw the color coming back to
her face.

"I think, from his manner, that he was hurt by your singular
treatment. What possessed you to do so?"

"Because I was not pleased with him," said Irene. Her voice was now
steady.

"Why not?"

"I wished him to go to the arbor."

"He was your guest, and, in simple courtesy, if there was no other
motive, you should have let his wishes govern your movements," Mr.
Delancy replied.

"He is always opposing me!" said Irene, giving way to a flood of
tears and weeping for a time bitterly.

"It is not at all unlikely, my daughter," replied Mr. Delancy, after
the tears began to flow less freely, "that Hartley is now saying the
same thing of you, and treasuring up bitter things in his heart. I
have no idea that any business calls him to New York to-night."

"Nor I. He takes this means to punish me," said Irene.

"Don't take that for granted. Your conduct has blinded him, and he
is acting now from blind impulse. Before he is half-way to New York
he will regret this hasty step as sincerely as I trust you are
already regretting its occasion."

Irene did not reply.

"I did not think," he resumed, "that my late earnest remonstrance
would have so soon received an illustration like this. But it may be
as well. Trifles light as air have many times proved the beginning
of life-longs separations between friends and lovers who possessed
all the substantial qualities for a life-long and happy
companionship. Oh, my daughter, beware! beware of these little
beginnings of discord. How easy would it have been for you to have
yielded to Hartley's wishes!--how hard will it to endure the pain
that must now be suffered! And remember that you do not suffer
alone; your conduct has made him an equal sufferer. He came up all
the way from the city full of sweet anticipations. It was for your
sake that he came; and love pictured you as embodying all
attractions. But how has he found you? Ah, my daughter, your caprice
has wounded the heart that turned to you for love. He came in joy,
but goes back in sorrow."

Irene went up to her chamber, feeling sadder than she had ever felt
in her life; yet, mingling, with her sadness and self-reproaches,
were complaining thoughts of her lover. For a little half-playful
pettishness was she to be visited with a punishment like this? If be
had really loved her--so she queried--would be have flung himself
away after this hasty fashion? Pride came to her aid in the conflict
of feeling, and gave her self-control and endurance. At tea-time she
met her father, and surprised him with her calm, almost cheerful,
aspect. But his glance was too keen not to penetrate the disguise.
After tea, she sat reading--or at least affecting to read--in the
portico, until the evening shadows came down, and then she retired
to her chamber.

Not many hours of sleep brought forgetfulness of suffering through
the night that followed. Sometimes the unhappy girl heaped mountains
of reproaches upon her own head; and sometimes pride and
indignation, gaining rule in her heart, would whisper
self-justification, and throw the weight of responsibility upon her
lover.

Her pale face and troubled eyes revealed too plainly, on the next
morning, the conflict through which she had passed.

"Write him a letter of apology or explanation," said Mr. Delancy.

But Irene was not in a state of mind for this. Pride came whispering
too many humiliating objections in her ear. Morning passed, and in
the early hours of the afternoon, when the New York boat usually
came up the river, she was out on the portico watching for its
appearance. Hope whispered that, repenting of his hasty return on
the day before, her lover was now hurrying back to meet her. At last
the white hull of the boat came gliding into view, and in less than
half an hour it was at the landing. Then it moved on its course
again. Almost to a second of time had Irene learned to calculate the
minutes it required for Hartley to make the distance between the
landing and the nearest point in the road where his form could meet
her view. She held her breath in eager expectation as that moment of
time approached. It came--it passed; the white spot in the road,
where his dark form first revealed itself, was touched by no
obscuring shadow. For more than ten minutes Irene sat motionless,
gazing still toward that point; then, sighing deeply, she arose and
went up to her room, from which she did not come down until summoned
to join her father at tea.

The next day passed as this had done, and so did the next. Hartley
neither came nor sent a message of any kind. The maiden's heart
began to fail. Grief and fear took the place of accusation and
self-reproach. What if he had left her for ever! The thought made
her heart shiver as if an icy wind had passed over it. Two or three
times she took up her pen to write him a few words and entreat him
to come back to her again. But she could form no sentences against
which pride did not come with strong objection; and so she suffered
on, and made no sign.

A whole week at last intervened. Then the enduring heart began to
grow stronger to bear, and, in self-protection, to put on sterner
moods. Hers was not a spirit to yield weakly in any struggle. She
was formed for endurance, pride and self-reliance giving her
strength above common natures. But this did not really lessen her
suffering, for she was not only capable of deep affection, but
really loved Hartley almost as her own life; and the thought of
losing him, whenever it grew distinct, filled her with terrible
anguish.

With pain her father saw the color leave her cheeks, her eyes grow
fixed and dreamy, and her lips shrink from their full outline.

"Write to Hartley," he said to her one day, after a week had passed.

"Never!" was her quick, firm, almost sharply uttered response; "I
would die first!"

"But, my daughter--"

"Father," she interrupted him, two bright spots suddenly burning on
her cheeks, "don't, I pray you, urge me on this point. I have
courage enough to break, but I will not bend. I gave him no offence.
What right has he to assume that I was not engaged in domestic
duties while he sat talking with you? He said that he had an
engagement in New York. Very well; there was a sufficient reason for
his sudden departure; and I accept the reason. But why does he
remain away? If simply because I preferred a seat in the arbor to
one in the portico, why, the whole thing is so unmanly, that I can
have no patience with it. Write to him, and humor a whim like this!
No, no--Irene Delancy is not made of the right stuff. He went from
me, and he must return again. I cannot go to him. Maiden modesty and
pride forbid. And so I shall remain silent and passive, if my heart
breaks."

It was in the afternoon, and they were sitting in the portico,
where, at this hour, Irene might have been found every day for the
past week. The boat from New York came in sight as she closed the
last sentence. She saw it--for her eyes were on the look-out--the
moment it turned the distant point of land that hid the river
beyond. Mr. Delancy also observed the boat. Its appearance was an
incident of sufficient importance, taking things as they were, to
check the conversation, which was far from being satisfactory on
either side.

The figure of Irene was half buried in a deep cushioned chair, which
had been wheeled out upon the portico, and now her small, slender
form seemed to shrink farther back among the cushions, and she sat
as motionless as one asleep. Steadily onward came the boat, throwing
backward her dusky trail and lashing with her great revolving wheels
the quiet waters into foamy turbulence--onward, until the dark crowd
of human forms could be seen upon her decks; then, turning sharply,
she was lost to view behind a bank of forest trees. Ten minutes
more, and the shriek of escaping steam was heard as she stopped her
ponderous machinery at the landing.

From that time Irene almost held her breath, as so she counted the
moments that must elapse before Hartley could reach the point of
view in the road that led up from the river, should he have been a
passenger in the steamboat. The number was fully told, but it was
to-day as yesterday. There was no sign of his coming. And so the
eyelids, weary with vain expectation, drooped heavily over the
dimming eyes. But she had not stirred, nor shown a sign of feeling.
A little while she sat with her long lashes shading her pale cheeks;
then she slowly raised them and looked out toward the river again.
What a quick start she gave! Did her eyes deceive her? No, it was
Hartley, just in the spot she had looked to see him only a minute or
two before. But how slowly he moved, and with what a weary step!
and, even at this long distance, his face looked white against the
wavy masses of his dark-brown hair.

Irene started up with an exclamation, stood as if in doubt for a
moment, then, springing from the portico, she went flying to meet
him, as swiftly as if moving on winged feet. All the forces of her
ardent, impulsive nature were bearing her forward. There was no
remembrance of coldness or imagined wrong--pride did not even
struggle to lift its head--love conquered everything. The young man
stood still, from weariness or surprise, ere she reached him. As she
drew near, Irene saw that his face was not only pale, but thin and
wasted.

"Oh, Hartley! dear Hartley!" came almost wildly from her lips, as
she flung her arms around his neck, and kissed him over and over
again, on lips, cheeks and brow, with an ardor and tenderness that
no maiden delicacy could restrain. "Have you been sick, or hurt? Why
are you so pale, darling?"

"I have been ill for a week--ever since I was last here," the young
man replied, speaking in a slow, tremulous voice.

"And I knew it not!" Tears were glittering in her eyes and pressing
out in great pearly beads from between the fringing lashes. "Why did
you not send for me, Hartley?"

And she laid her small hands upon each side of his face, as you have
seen a mother press the cheeks of her child, and looked up tenderly
into his love-beaming eyes.

"But come, dear," she added, removing her hands from his face and
drawing her arm within his--not to lean on, but to offer support.
"My father, who has, with me, suffered great anxiety on your
account, is waiting your arrival at the house."

Then, with slow steps, they moved along the upward sloping way,
crowding the moments with loving words.

And so the storm passed, and the sun came out again in the firmament
of their souls. But looked he down on no tempest-marks? Had not the
ruthless tread of passion marred the earth's fair surface? Were no
goodly trees uptorn, or clinging vines wrenched from their support?
Alas! was there ever a storm that did not leave some ruined hope
behind? ever a storm that did not strew the sea with wrecks or mar
the earth's fair beauty?

As when the pain of a crushed limb ceases there comes to the
sufferer a sense of delicious ease, so, after the storm had passed,
the lovers sat in the warm sunshine and dreamed of unclouded
happiness in the future. But in the week that Hartley spent with his
betrothed were revealed to their eyes, many times, desolate places
where flowers had been; and their hearts grew sad as they turned
their eyes away, and sighed for hopes departed, faith shaken, and
untroubled confidence in each other for the future before them, for
ever gone.

CHAPTER III.

THE CLOUD AND THE SIGN.

_IN_ alternate storm and sunshine their lives passed on, until the
appointed day arrived that was to see them bound, not by the
graceful true-lovers' knot, which either might untie, but by a chain
light as downy fetters if borne in mutual love, and galling as
ponderous iron links, if heart answered not heart and the chafing
spirit struggled to get free.

Hartley Emerson loved truly the beautiful, talented and
affectionate, but badly-disciplined, quick-tempered, self-willed
girl he had chosen for a wife; and Irene Delancy would have gone to
prison and to death for the sake of the man to whom she had yielded
up the rich treasures of her young heart. In both cases the great
drawback to happiness was the absence of self-discipline,
self-denial and self-conquest. They could overcome difficulties,
brave danger, set the world at defiance, if need be, for each other,
and not a coward nerve give way; but when pride and passion came
between them, each was a child in weakness and blind self-will.
Unfortunately, persistence of character was strong in both. They
were of such stuff as martyrs were made of in the fiery times of
power and persecution.

A brighter, purer morning than that on which their marriage vows
were said the year had not given to the smiling earth. Clear and
softly blue as the eye of childhood bent the summer sky above them.
There was not a cloud in all the tranquil heavens to give suggestion
of dreary days to come or to wave a sign of warning. The blithe
birds sung their matins amid the branches that hung their leafy
drapery around and above Irene's windows, in seeming echoes to the
songs love was singing in her heart. Nature put on the loveliest
attire in all her ample wardrobe, and decked herself with coronals
and wreaths of flowers that loaded the air with sweetness.

"May your lives flow together like two pure streams that meet in the
same valley, and as bright a sky bend always over you as gives its
serene promise for to-day."

Thus spoke the minister as the ceremonials closed that wrought the
external bond of union between them. His words were uttered with
feeling and solemnity; for marriage, in his eyes, was no light
thing. He had seen too many sad hearts struggling in chains that
only death could break, ever to regard marriage with other than
sober thoughts that went questioning away into the future.

The "amen" of Mr. Delancy was not audibly spoken, but it was
deep-voiced in his heart.

There was to be a wedding-tour of a few weeks, and then the young
couple were to take possession of a new home in the city, Which Mr.
Emerson had prepared for his bride. The earliest boat that came up
from New York was to bears the party to Albany, Saratoga being the
first point of their destination.

After the closing of the marriage ceremony some two or three hours
passed before the time of departure came. The warm congratulations
were followed by a gay, festive scene, in which glad young hearts
had a merry-making time. How beautiful the bride looked! and how
proudly the gaze of her newly-installed husband turned ever and ever
toward her, move which way she would among her maidens, as if she
were a magnet to his eyes. He was standing in the portico that
looked out upon the distant river, about an hour after the wedding,
talking with one of the bridesmaids, when the latter, pointing to
the sky, said, laughing--

"There comes your fate."

Emerson's eyes followed the direction of her finger.

"You speak in riddles," he replied, looking back into the maiden's
face. "What do you see?"

"A little white blemish on the deepening azure," was answered.
"There it lies, just over that stately horse-chestnut, whose
branches arch themselves into the outline of a great cathedral
window."

"A scarcely perceptible cloud?"

"Yes, no bigger than a hand; and just below it is another."

"I see; and yet you still propound a riddle. What has that cloud to
do with my fate?"

"You know the old superstition connected with wedding-days?"

"What?"

"That as the aspect of the day is, so will the wedded life be."

"Ours, then, is full of promise. There has been no fairer day than
this," said the young man.

"Yet many a day that opened as bright and cloudless has sobbed
itself away in tears."

"True; and it may be so again. But I am no believer in signs."

"Nor I," said the young lady, again laughing.

The bride came up at this moment and, hearing the remark of her
young husband, said, as she drew her arm within his--

"What about signs, Hartley?"

"Miss Carman has just reminded me of the superstition about
wedding-days, as typical of life."

"Oh yes, I remember," said Irene, smiling. "If the day opens clear,
then becomes cloudy, and goes out in storm, there will be happiness
in the beginning, but sorrow at the close; but if clouds and rain
herald its awakening, then pass over and leave the sky blue and
sunny, there will be trouble at first, but smiling peace as life
progresses and declines. Our sky is bright as heart could wish." And
the bride looked up into the deep blue ether.

Miss Carman laid one hand upon her arm and with the other pointed
lower down, almost upon the horizon's edge, saying, in a tone of
mock solemnity--

"As I said to Mr. Emerson, so I now say to you--There comes our
fate."

"You don't call that the herald of an approaching storm?"

"Weatherwise people say," answered the maiden, "that a sky without a
cloud is soon followed by stormy weather. Since morning until now
there has not a cloud been seen."'

"Weatherwise people and almanac-makers speak very oracularly, but
the day of auguries and signs is over," replied Irene.

"Philosophy," said Mr. Emerson, "is beginning to find reasons in the
nature of things for results that once seemed only accidental, yet
followed with remarkable certainty the same phenomena. It discovers
a relation of cause and effect where ignorance only recognizes some
power working in the dark."

"So you pass me over to the side of ignorance!" Irene spoke in a
tone that Hartley's ear recognized too well. His remark had touched
her pride.

"Not by any means," he answered quickly, eager to do away the
impression. "Not by any means," he repeated. "The day of mere
auguries, omens and signs is over. Whatever natural phenomena appear
are dependent on natural causes, and men of science are beginning to
study the so-called superstitions of farmers and seamen, to find
out, if possible, the philosophical elucidation. Already a number of
curious results have followed investigation in this field."

Irene leaned on his arm still, but she did not respond. A little
cloud had come up and lay just upon the verge of her soul's horizon.
Her husband knew that it was there; and this knowledge caused a
cloud to dim also the clear azure of his mind. There was a singular
correspondence between their mental sky and the fair cerulean
without.

Fearing to pursue the theme on which they were conversing, lest some
unwitting words might shadow still further the mind of Irene,
Emerson changed the subject, and was, to all appearance, successful
in dispelling the little cloud.

The hour came, at length, when the bridal party must leave. After a
tender, tearful partings with her father, Irene turned her steps
away from the home of her childhood into a new path, that would lead
her out into the world, where so many thousands upon thousands, who
saw only a way of velvet softness before them, have cut their tended
feet upon flinty rocks, even to the verve end of their tearful
journey. Tightly and long did Mr. Delancy hold his child to his
heart, and when his last kiss was given and his fervent "God give
you a happy life, my daughter!" said, he gazed after her departing
form with eyes front which manly firmness could not hold back the
tears.

No one knew better than Mr. Delancy the perils that lay before his
daughter. That storms would darken her sky and desolate her heart,
he had too good reason to fear. His hope for her lay beyond the
summer-time of life, when, chastened by suffering and subdued by
experience, a tranquil autumn would crown her soul with blessings
that might have been earlier enjoyed. He was not superstitious, and
yet it was with a feeling of concern that he saw the white and
golden clouds gathering like enchanted land along the horizon, and
piling themselves up, one above another, as if in sport, building
castles and towers that soon dissolved, changing away into fantastic
forms, in which the eye could see no meaning; and when, at last, his
ear caught a far-distant sound that jarred the air, a sudden pain
shot through his heart.

"On any other day but this!" he sighed to himself, turning from the
window at which he was standing and walking restlessly the floor for
several minutes, lost in a sad, dreamy reverie.

Like something instinct with life the stately steamer, quivering
with every stroke of her iron heart, swept along the gleaming river
on her upward passage, bearing to their destination her freight of
human souls. Among theme was our bridal party, which, as the day was
so clear and beautiful, was gathered upon the upper deck. As Irene's
eyes turned from the closing vision of her father's beautiful home,
where the first cycle of her life had recorded its golden hours, she
said, with a sigh, speaking to one of her companions--

"Farewell, Ivy Cliff! I shall return to you again, but not the same
being I was when I left your pleasant scenes this morning."

"A happier being I trust," replied Miss Carman, one of her
bridemaids.

Rose Carman was a young friend, residing in the neighborhood of her
father, to whom Irene was tenderly attached.

"Something here says no." And Irene, bending toward Miss Carman,
pressed one of her hands against her bosom.

"The weakness of an hour like this," answered her friend with an
assuring smile. "It will pass away like the morning cloud and the
early dew."

Mr. Emerson noticed the shade upon the face of his bride, and
drawing near to her, said, tenderly--

"I can forgive you a sigh for the past, Irene. Ivy Cliff is a lovely
spot, and your home has been all that a maiden's heart could desire.
It would be strange, indeed, if the chords that have so long bound
you there did not pull at your heart in parting."

Irene did not answer, but let her eyes turn backward with a pensive
almost longing glance toward the spot where lay hidden among the
distant trees the home of her early years. A deep shadow had
suddenly fallen upon her spirits. Whence it came she knew not and
asked not; but with the shadow was a dim foreboding of evil.

There was tact and delicacy enough in the companions of Irene to
lead them to withdraw observation and to withhold further remarks
until she could recover the self-possession she had lost. This came
back in a little while, when, with an effort, she put on the light,
easy manner so natural to her.

"Looking at the signs?" said one of the party, half an hour
afterward, as she saw the eyes of Irene ranging along the sky, where
clouds were now seen towering up in steep masses, like distant
mountains.

"If I were a believer of signs," replied Irene, placing her arm
within that of the maiden who had addressed her, and drawing her
partly aside, "I might feel sober at this portent. But I am not.
Still, sign or no sign, I trust we are not going to have a storm. It
would greatly mar our pleasure."

But long ere the boat reached Albany, rain began to fall,
accompanied by lightning and thunder; and soon the clouds were
dissolving in a mimic deluge. Hour after hour, the wind and rain and
lightning held fierce revelry, and not until near the completion of
the voyage did the clouds hold back their watery treasures, and the
sunbeams force themselves through the storm's dark barriers,

When the stars came out that evening, studding the heavens with
light, there was no obscuring spot on all the o'erarching sky.

CHAPTER IV.

UNDER THE CLOUD.

_THE_ wedding party was to spend a week at Saratoga, and it was now
the third day since its arrival. The time had passed pleasantly, or
wearily, according to the state of mind or social habits and
resources of the individual. The bride, it was remarked by some of
the party, seemed dull; and Rose Carman, who knew her friend better,
perhaps, than any other individual in the company, and kept her
under close observation, was concerned to notice an occasional
curtness of manner toward her husband, that was evidently not
relished. Something had already transpired to jar the chords so
lately attuned to harmony.

After dinner a ride was proposed by one of the company. Emerson
responded favorably, but Irene was indifferent. He urged her, and
she gave an evidently reluctant consent. While the gentlemen went to
make arrangement for carriages, the ladies retired to their rooms.
Miss Carman accompanied the bride. She had noticed her manner, and
felt slightly troubled at her state of mind, knowing, as she did,
her impulsive character and blind self-will when excited by
opposition.

"I don't want to ride to-day!" exclaimed Irene, throwing herself
into a chair as soon as she had entered her room; "and Hartley knows
that I do not."

Her cheeks burned and her eyes sparkled.

"If it will give him pleasure to ride out," said Rose, in a gentle
soothing manner, "you cannot but have the same feeling in
accompanying him."

"I beg your pardon!" replied Irene, briskly. "If I don't want to
ride, no company can make the act agreeable. Why can't people learn
to leave others in freedom? If Hartley had shown the same
unwillingness to join this riding party that I manifested, do you
think I would have uttered a second word in favor of going? No. I am
provoked at his persistence."

"There, there, Irene!" said Miss Carman, drawing an arm tenderly
around the neck of her friend; "don't trust such sentences on your
lips. I can't bear to hear you talk so. It isn't my sweet friend
speaking."

"You are a dear, good girl, Rose," replied Irene, smiling faintly,
"and I only wish that I had a portion of your calm, gentle spirit.
But I am as I am, and must act out if I act at all. I must be myself
or nothing."

"You can be as considerate of others as of yourself?" said Rose.

Irene looked at her companion inquiringly.

"I mean," added Rose, "that you can exercise the virtue of
self-denial in order to give pleasure to another--especially if that
other one be an object very dear to you. As in the present case,
seeing that your husband wants to join this riding party, you can,
for his sake, lay aside your indifference, and enter, with a hearty
good-will, into the proposed pastime."

"And why cannot he, seeing that I do not care to ride, deny himself
a little for my sake, and not drag me out against my will? Is all
the yielding and concession to be on my side? Must his will rule in
everything? I can tell you what it is, Rose, this will never suit
me. There will be open war between us before the honeymoon has waxed
and waned, if he goes on as he has begun."

"Hush! hush, Irene!" said her friend, in a tone of deprecation. "The
lightest sense of wrong gains undue magnitude the moment we begin to
complain. We see almost anything to be of greater importance when
from the obscurity of thought we bring it out into the daylight of
speech."

"It will be just as I say, and saying it will not make it any more
so," was Irene's almost sullen response to this. "I have my own
ideas of things and my own individuality, and neither of these do I
mean to abandon. If Hartley hasn't the good sense to let me have my
own way in what concerns myself, I will take my own way. As to the
troubles that may come afterward, I do not give them any weight in
the argument. I would die a martyr's deaths rather than become the
passive creature of another."

"My dear friend, why will you talk so?" Rose spoke in a tone of
grief.

"Simply because I am in earnest. From the hour of our marriage I
have seen a disposition on the part of my husband to assume
control--to make his will the general law of our actions. It has not
exhibited itself in things of moment, but in trifles, showing that
the spirit was there. I say this to you, Rose, because we have been
like sisters, and I can tell you of my inmost thoughts. There is a
cloud already in the sky, and it threatens an approaching storm."

"Oh, my friend, why are you so blind, so weak, so self-deceived? You
are putting forth your hands to drag down the temple of happiness.
If it fall, it will crush you beneath a mass of ruins; and not you
only, but the one you have so lately pledged yourself before God and
his angels to love."

"And I do love him as deeply as ever man was loved. Oh that he knew
my heart! He would not then shatter his image there. He would not
trifle with a spirit formed for intense, yielding, passionate love,
but rigid as steel and cold as ice when its freedom is touched. He
should have known me better before linking his fate with mine."

One of her darker moods had come upon Irene, and she was beating
about in the blind obscurity of passion. As she began to give
utterance to complaining thoughts, new thoughts formed themselves,
and what was only vague feelings grew into ideas of wrong; and
these, when once spoken, assumed a magnitude unimagined before. In
vain did her friend strive with her. Argument, remonstrance,
persuasion, only seemed to bring greater obscurity and to excite a
more bitter feeling in her mind. And so, despairing of any good
result, Rose withdrew, and left her with her own unhappy thoughts.

Not long after Miss Carman retired, Emerson came in. At the sound of
his approaching footsteps, Irene had, with a strong effort, composed
herself and swept back the deeper shadows from her face.

"Not ready yet?" he said, in a pleasant, half-chiding way. "The
carriages will be at the door in ten minutes."

"I am not going to ride out," returned Irene, in a quiet, seemingly
indifferent tone of voice. Hartley mistook her manner for sport, and
answered pleasantly--

"Oh yes you are, my little lady."

"No, I am not." There was no misapprehension now.

"Not going to ride out?" Hartley's brows contracted.

"No; I am not going to ride out to-day." Each word was distinctly
spoken.

"I don't understand you, Irene."

"Are not my words plain enough?"

"Yes, they are too plain--so plain as to make them involve a
mystery. What do you mean by this sudden change of purpose?"

"I don't wish to ride out," said Irene, with assumed calmness of
manner; "and that being so, may I not have my will in the case?"

"No--"

A red spot burned on Irene's cheeks and her eyes flashed.

"No," repeated her husband; "not after you have given up that will
to another."

"To you!" Irene started to her feet in instant passion. "And so I am
to be nobody, and you the lord and master. My will is to be nothing,
and yours the law of my life." Her lip curled in contemptuous anger.

"You misunderstand me," said Hartley Emerson, speaking as calmly as
was possible in this sudden emergency. "I did not refer specially to
myself, but to all of our party, to whom you had given up your will
in a promise to ride out with them, and to whom, therefore, you were
bound."

"An easy evasion," retorted the excited bride, who had lost her
mental equipoise.

"Irene," the young man spoke sternly, "are those the right words for
your husband? An easy evasion!"

"I have said them."

"And you must unsay them."

Both had passed under the cloud which pride and passion had raised.

"Must! I thought you knew me better, Hartley." Irene grew suddenly
calm.

"If there is to be love between us, all barriers must be removed."

"Don't say _must_ to me, sir! I will not endure the word."

Hartley turned from her and walked the floor with rapid steps,
angry, grieved and in doubt as to what it were best for him to do.
The storm had broken on him without a sign of warning, and he was
wholly unprepared to meet it.

"Irene," he said, at length, pausing before her, "this conduct on
your part is wholly inexplicable. I cannot understand its meaning.
Will you explain yourself?"

"Certainly. I am always ready to give a reason for my conduct," she
replied, with cold dignity.

"Say on, then." Emerson spoke with equal coldness of manner.

"I did not wish to ride out, and said so in the beginning. That
ought to have been enough for you. But no--my wishes were nothing;
your will must be law."

"And that is all! the head and front of my offending!" said Emerson,
in a tone of surprise.

"It isn't so much the thing itself that I object to, as the spirit
in which it is done," said Irene.

"A spirit of overbearing self-will!' said Emerson.

"Yes, if you choose. That is what my soul revolts against. I gave
you my heart and my hand--my love and my confidence--not my freedom.
The last is a part of my being, and I will maintain it while I have
life."

"Perverse girl! What insane spirit has got possession of your mind?"
exclaimed Emerson, chafed beyond endurance.

"Say on," retorted Irene; "I am prepared for this. I have seen, from
the hour of our marriage, that a time of strife would come; that
your will would seek to make itself ruler, and that I would not
submit. I did not expect the issue to come so soon. I trusted in
your love to spare me, at least, until I could be bidden from
general observation when I turned myself upon you and said, Thus far
thou mayest go, but no farther. But, come the struggle early or
late--now or in twenty years--I am prepared."

There came at this moment a rap at their door. Mr. Emerson opened
it.

"Carriage is waiting," said a servant.

"Say that we will be down in a few minutes."

The door closed.

"Come, Irene," said Mr. Emerson.

"You spoke very confidently to the servant, and said we would be
down in a few minutes."

"There, there, Irene! Let this folly die; it has lived long enough.
Come! Make yourself ready with all speed--our party is delayed by
this prolonged absence."

"You think me trifling, and treat me as if I were a captious child,"
said Irene, with chilling calmness; "but I am neither."

"Then you will not go?"

"I will not go." She said the words slowly and deliberately, and as
she spoke looked her husband steadily in the face. She was in
earnest, and he felt that further remonstrance would be in vain.

"You will repent of this," he replied, with enough of menace in his
voice to convey to her mind a great deal more than was in his
thoughts. And he turned from her and left the room. Going down
stairs, he found the riding-party waiting for their appearance.

"Where is Irene?" was asked by one and another, on seeing him alone.

"She does not care to ride out this afternoon, and so I have excused
her," he replied. Miss Carman looked at him narrowly, and saw that
there was a shade of trouble on his countenance, which he could not
wholly conceal. She would have remained behind with Irene, but that
would have disappointed the friend who was to be her companion in
the drive.

As the party was in couples, and as Mr. Emerson had made up his mind
to go without his young wife, he had to ride alone. The absence of
Irene was felt as a drawback to the pleasure of all the company.
Miss Carman, who understood the real cause of Irene's refusal to
ride, was so much troubled in her mind that she sat almost silent
during the two hours they were out. Mr. Emerson left the party after
they had been out for an hour, and returned to the hotel. His
excitement had cooled off, and he began to feel regret at the
unbending way in which he had met his bride's unhappy mood.

"Her over-sensitive mind has taken up a wrong impression," he said,
as he talked with himself; "and, instead of saying or doing anything
to increase that impression, I should, by word and act of kindness,
have done all in my power for its removal. Two wrongs never make a
right. Passion met by passion results not in peace. I should have
soothed and yielded, and so won her back to reason. As a man, I
ought to possess a cooler and more rationally balanced mind. She is
a being of feeling and impulse,--loving, ardent, proud, sensitive
and strong-willed. Knowing this, it was madness in me to chafe
instead of soothing her; to oppose, when gentle concession would
have torn from her eyes an illusive veil. Oh that I could learn
wisdom in time! I was in no ignorance as to her peculiar character.
I knew her faults and her weaknesses, as well as her nobler
qualities; and it was for me to stimulate the one and bear with the
others. Duty, love, honor, humanity, all pointed to this."

The longer Mr. Emerson's thoughts ran in this direction, the deeper
grew his feeling of self-condemnation, and the more tenderly yearned
his heart toward the young creature he had left alone with the
enemies of their peace nestling in her bosom and filling it with
passion and pain. After separating himself from his party, he drove
back toward the hotel at a speed that soon put his horses into a
foam.

CHAPTER V.

THE BURSTING OF THE STORM.

_MR. DELANCY_ was sitting in his library on the afternoon of the
fourth day since the wedding-party left Ivy Cliff, when the entrance
of some one caused him to turn toward the door.

"Irene!" he exclaimed, in a tone of anxiety and alarm, as he started
to his feet; for his daughter stood before him. Her face was pale,
her eyes fixed and sad, her dress in disorder.

"Irene, in Heaven's name, what has happened?"

"The worst," she answered, in a low, hoarse voice, not moving from
the spot where she first stood still.

"Speak plainly, my child. I cannot bear suspense."

"I have left my husband and returned to you!" was the firmly uttered
reply.

"Oh, folly! oh, madness! What evil counselor has prevailed with you,
my unhappy child?" said Mr. Delancy, in a voice of anguish.

"I have counseled with no one but myself."

"Never a wise counselor--never a wise counselor! But why, why have
you taken this desperate step?"

"In self-protection," replied Irene.

"Sit down, my child. There!" and he led her to a seat. "Now let me
remove your bonnet and shawl. How wretched you look, poor, misguided
one! I could have laid you in the grave with less agony than I feel
in seeing you thus."

Her heart was touched at this, and tears fell over her face. In the
selfishness of her own sternly-borne trouble, she had forgotten the
sorrow she was bringing to her father's heart.

"Poor child! poor child!" sobbed the old man, as he sat down beside
Irene and drew her head against his breast. And so both wept
together for a time. After they had grown calm, Mr. Delancy said--

"Tell me, Irene, without disguise of any kind, the meaning of this
step which you have so hastily taken. Let me have the beginning,
progress and consummation of the sad misunderstanding."

While yet under the government of blind passion, ere her husband
returned from the drive which Irene had refused to take with him,
she had, acting from a sudden suggestion that came to her mind, left
her room and, taking the cars, passed down to Albany, where she
remained until morning at one of the hotels. In silence and
loneliness she had, during the almost sleepless night that followed,
ample time for reflection and repentance. And both came, with
convictions of error and deep regret for the unwise, almost
disgraceful step she had taken, involving not only suffering, but
humiliating exposure of herself and husband. But it was felt to be
too late now to look back. Pride would have laid upon her a positive
interdiction, if other considerations had not come in to push the
question of return aside.

In the morning, without partaking of food, Irene left in the New
York boat, and passed down the river toward the home from which she
had gone forth, only a few days before, a happy bride--returning
with the cup, then full of the sweet wine of life, now brimming with
the bitterest potion that had ever touched her lips.

And so she had come back to her father's house. In all the hours of
mental anguish which had passed since her departure from Saratoga,
there had been an accusing spirit at her ear, and, resist as she
would, self-condemnation prevailed over attempted
self-justification. The cause of this unhappy rupture was so slight,
the first provocation so insignificant, that she felt the difficulty
of making out her case before her father. As to the world, pride
counseled silence.

With but little concealment or extenuation of her own conduct, Irene
told the story of her disagreement with Hartley.

"And that was all!" exclaimed Mr. (sic) Delancey, in amazement, when
she ended her narrative.

"All, but enough!" she answered, with a resolute manner.

Mr. Delancy arose and walked the floor in silence for more than ten
minutes, during which time Irene neither spoke nor moved.

"Oh, misery!" ejaculated the father, at length, lifting his hands
above his head and then bringing them down with a gesture of
despair.

Irene started up and moved to his side.

"Dear father!" She spoke tenderly, laying her hands upon him; but he
pushed her away, saying--

"Wretched girl! you have laid upon my old head a burden of disgrace
and wretchedness that you have no power to remove."

"Father! father!" She clung to him, but he pushed her away. His
manner was like that of one suddenly bereft of reason. She clung
still, but he resolutely tore himself from her, when she fell
exhausted and fainting upon the floor.

Alarm now took the place of other emotions, and Mr. Delancy was
endeavoring to lift the insensible body, when a quick, heavy tread
in the portico caused him to look up, just as Hartley Emerson pushed
open one of the French windows and entered the library. He had a
wild, anxious, half-frightened look. Mr. Delancy let the body fall
from his almost paralyzed arms and staggered to a chair, while
Emerson sprung forward, catching up the fainting form of his young
bride and bearing it to a sofa.

"How long has she been in this way?" asked the young man, in a tone
of agitation.

"She fainted this moment," replied Mr. Delancy.

"How long has she been here?"

"Not half an hour," was answered; and as Mr. Delancy spoke he
reached for the bell and jerked it two or three times violently. The
waiter, startled by the loud, prolonged sound, came hurriedly to the
library.

"Send Margaret here, and then get a horse and ride over swiftly for
Dr. Edmundson. Tell him to come immediately."

The waiter stood for a moment or two, looking in a half-terrified
way upon the white, deathly face of Irene, and then fled from the
apartment. No grass grew beneath his horse's feet as he held him to
his utmost speed for the distance of two miles, which lay between
Ivy Cliff and the doctor's residence.

Margaret, startled by the hurried, half-incoherent summons of the
waiter, came flying into the library. The moment her eyes rested
upon Irene, who still insensible upon the sofa, she screamed out, in
terror--

"Oh, she's dead! she's dead!" and stood still as if suddenly
paralyzed; then, wringing her hands, she broke out in a wild,
sobbing tone--

"My poor, poor child! Oh, she is dead, dead!"

"No, Margaret," said Mr. Delancy, as calmly as he could speak, "she
is not dead; it is only a fainting fit. Bring some water, quickly."

Water was brought and dashed into the face of Irene; but there came
no sign of returning consciousness.

"Hadn't you better take her up to her room, Mr. Emerson?" suggested
Margaret.

"Yes," he replied; and, lifting the insensible form of his bride in
his arms, the unhappy man bore her to her chamber. Then, sitting
down beside the bed upon which he had placed her, he kissed her pale
cheeks and, laying his face to hers, sobbed and moaned, in the
abandonment of his grief, like a distressed child weeping in despair
for some lost treasure.

"Come," said Margaret, who was an old family domestic, drawing
Hartley from the bedside, "leave her alone with me for a little
while."

And the husband and father retired from the room. When they
returned, at the call of Margaret, they found Irene in bed, her
white, unconscious face scarcely relieved against the snowy pillow
on which her head was resting.

"She is alive," said Margaret, in a low and excited voice; "I can
feel her heart beat."

"Thank God!" ejaculated Emerson, bending again over the motionless
form and gazing anxiously down upon the face of his bride.

But there was no utterance of thankfulness in the heart of Mr.
Delancy. For her to come back again to conscious life was, he felt,
but a return to wretchedness. If the true prayer of his heart could
have found voice, it would have been for death, and not for life.

In silence, fear and suspense they waited an hour before the doctor
arrived. Little change in Irene took place during that time, except
that her respiration became clearer and the pulsations of her heart
distinct and regular. The application of warm stimulants was
immediately ordered, and their good effects soon became apparent.

"All will come right in a little while," said Dr. Edmundson,
encouragingly. "It seems to be only a fainting fit of unusual
length."

Hartley drew Mr. Delancy aside.

"It will be best that I should be alone with her when she recovers,"
said he.

"You may be right in that," said Mr. Delancy, after a moment's
reflection.

"I am sure that I am," was returned.

"You think she will recover soon?" said Mr. Delancy, approaching the
doctor.

"Yes, at any moment. She is breathing deeper, and her heart beats
with a fuller impulse."

"Let us, retire, then;" and he drew the doctor from the apartment.
Pausing at the door, he called to Margaret in a half whisper. She
went out also, Emerson alone remaining.

Taking his place by the bedside, he waited, in trembling anxiety,
for the moment when her eyes should open and recognize him. At last
there came a quivering of the eyelids and a motion about the
sleeper's lips. Emerson bent over and took one of her hands in his.

"Irene!" He called her name in a voice of the tenderest affection.
The sound seemed to penetrate to the region of consciousness, for
her lips moved with a murmur of inarticulate words. He kissed her,
and said again--

"Irene!"

There was a sudden lighting up of her face.

"Irene, love! darling!" The voice of Emerson was burdened with
tenderness.

"Oh, Hartley!" she exclaimed, opening her eyes and looking with a
kind of glad bewilderment into his face. Then, half rising and
drawing her arms around his neck, she hid her face on his bosom,
murmuring--

"Thank God that it is only a dream!"

"Yes, thank God!" replied her husband, as he kissed her in a kind of
wild fervor; "and may such dreams never come again."

She lay very still for some moments. Thought and memory were
beginning to act feebly. The response of her husband had in it
something that set her to questioning. But there was one thing that
made her feel happy: the sound of his loving voice was in her ears;
and all the while she felt his hand moving, with a soft, caressing
touch, over her cheek and temple.

"Dear Irene!" he murmured in her ears; and then her hand tightened
on his.

And thus she remained until conscious life regained its full
activity. Then the trial came.

Suddenly lifting herself from the bosom of her husband, Irene gave a
hurried glance around the well-known chamber, then turned and looked
with a strange, fearful questioning glance into his face:

"Where am I? What does this mean?"

"It means," replied Emerson, "that the dream, thank God! is over,
and that my dear wife is awake again."

He placed his arms again around her and drew her to his heart,
almost smothering her, as he did so, with kisses.

She lay passive for a little while; then, disengaging herself, she
said, faintly--

"I feel weak and bewildered; let me lie down."

She closed her eyes as Emerson placed her back on the pillow, a sad
expression covering her still pallid face. Sitting down beside her,
he took her hand and held it with a firm pressure. She did not
attempt to withdraw it. He kissed her, and a warmer flush came over
her face.

"Dear Irene!" His hand pressed tightly upon hers, and she returned
the pressure.

"Shall I call your father? He is very anxious about you."

"Not yet." And she caught slightly her breath, as if feeling were
growing too strong for her.

"Let it be as a dream, Hartley." Irene lifted herself up and looked
calmly, but with a very sad expression on her countenance, into her
husband's face.

"Between us two, Irene, even as a dream from which both have
awakened," he replied.

She closed her eyes and sunk back upon the pillow.

Mr. Emerson then went to the door and spoke to Mr. Delancy. On a
brief consultation it was thought best for Dr. Edmundson not to see
her again. A knowledge of the fact that he had been called in might
give occasion for more disturbing thoughts than were already
pressing upon her mind. And so, after giving some general directions
as to the avoidance of all things likely to excite her mind
unpleasantly, the doctor withdrew.

Mr. Delancy saw his daughter alone. The interview was long and
earnest. On his part was the fullest disapproval of her conduct and
the most solemnly spoken admonitions and warnings. She confessed her
error, without any attempt at excuse or palliation, and promised a
wiser conduct in the future.

"There is not one husband in five," said the father, "who would have
forgiven an act like this, placing him, as it does, in such a false
and humiliating position before the world. He loves you with too
deep and true a love, my child, for girlish trifling like this. And
let me warn you of the danger you incur of turning against you the
spirit of such a man. I have studied his character closely, and I
see in it an element of firmness that, if it once sets itself, will
be as inflexible as iron. If you repeat acts of this kind, the day
must come when forbearance will cease; and then, in turning from
you, it will be never to turn back again. Harden him against you
once, and it will be for all time."

Irene wept bitterly at this strong representation, and trembled at
thought of the danger she had escaped.

To her husband, when she was alone with him again, she confessed her
fault, and prayed him to let the memory of it pass from his mind for
ever. On his part was the fullest denial of any purpose whatever, in
the late misunderstanding, to bend her to his will. He assured her
that if he had dreamed of any serious objection on her part to the
ride, he would not have urged it for a moment. It involved no
promised pleasure to him apart from pleasure to her; and it was
because he believed that she would enjoy the drive that he had urged
her to make one of the party.

All this was well, as far as it could go. But repentance and mutual
forgiveness did not restore everything to the old condition--did not
obliterate that one sad page in their history, and leave them free
to make a new and better record. If the folly had been in private,
the effort at forgiving and forgetting would have been attended with
fewer annoying considerations. But it was committed in public, and
under circumstances calculated to attract attention and occasion
invidious remark. And then, how were they to meet the different
members of the wedding-party, which they had so suddenly thrown into
consternation?

On the next day the anxious members of this party made their
appearance at Ivy Cliff, not having, up to this time, received any
intelligence of the fugitive bride. Mr. Delancy did not attempt to
excuse to them the unjustifiable conduct of his daughter, beyond the
admission that she must have been temporarily deranged. Something
was said about resuming the bridal tour, but Mr. Delancy said, "No;
the quiet of Ivy Cliff will yield more pleasure than the excitement
of travel."

And all felt this to be true.

CHAPTER VI.

AFTER THE STORM.

_AFTER_ the storm. Alas! that there should be a wreck-strewn shore
so soon! That within three days of the bridal morning a tempest
should have raged, scattering on the wind sweet blossoms which had
just opened to the sunshine, tearing away the clinging vines of
love, and leaving marks of desolation which no dew and sunshine
could ever obliterate!

It was not a blessed honeymoon to them. How could it be, after what
had passed? Both were hurt and mortified; and while there was mutual
forgiveness and great tenderness and fond concessions, one toward
the other, there was a sober, (sic) thoughful state of mind, not
favorable to happiness.

Mr. Delancy hoped the lesson--a very severe one--might prove the
guarantee of future peace. It had, without doubt, awakened Irene's
mind to sober thoughts--and closer self-examination than usual. She
was convicted in her own heart of folly, the memory of which could
never return to her without a sense of pain.

At the end of three weeks from the day of their marriage, Mr. and
Mrs. Emerson went down to the city to take possession of their new
home. On the eve of their departure from Ivy Cliff, Mr. Delancy had
a long conference with his daughter, in which he conjured her, by
all things sacred, to guard herself against that blindness of
passion which had already produced such unhappy consequences. She
repeated, with many tears, her good resolutions for the future, and
showed great sorrow and contrition for the past.

"It may come out right," said the old man to himself; as he sat
alone, with a pressure of foreboding on his mind, looking into the
dim future, on the day of their departure for New York. His only and
beloved child had gone forth to return no more, unless in sorrow or
wretchedness. "It may come out right, but my heart has sad
misgivings."

There was a troubled suspense of nearly a week, when the first
letter came from Irene to her father. He broke the seal with
unsteady hands, fearing to let his eyes fall upon the opening page.

"My dear, dear father! I am a happy young wife."

"Thank God!" exclaimed the old man aloud, letting the hand fall that
held Irene's letter. It was some moments before he could read
farther; then he drank in, with almost childish eagerness, every
sentence of the long letter.

"Yes, yes, it may come out right," said Mr. Delancy; "it may come
out right." He uttered the words, so often on his lips, with more
confidence than usual. The letter strongly urged him to make her a
visit, if it was only for a day or two.

"You know, dear father," she wrote, "that most of your time is to be
spent with us--all your winters, certainly; and we want you to begin
the new arrangement as soon as possible."

Mr. Delancy sighed over the passage. He had not set his heart on
this arrangement. It might have been a pleasant thing for him to
anticipate; but there was not the hopeful basis for anticipation
which a mind like his required.

Not love alone prompted Mr. Delancy to make an early visit to New
York; a feeling of anxiety to know how it really was with the young
couple acted quite as strongly in the line of incentive. And so he
went down to the city and passed nearly a week there. Both Irene and
her husband knew that he was observing them closely all the while,
and a consciousness of this put them under some constraint.
Everything passed harmoniously, and Mr. Delancy returned with the
half-hopeful, half-doubting words on his lips, so often and often
repeated--

"Yes, yes, it may come out right."

But it was not coming out altogether right. Even while the old man
was under her roof, Irene had a brief season of self-willed reaction
against her husband, consequent on some unguarded word or act, which
she felt to be a trespass on her freedom. To save appearances while
Mr. Delancy was with them, Hartley yielded and tendered
conciliation, all the while that his spirit chafed sorely.

The departure of Mr. Delancy for Ivy Cliff was the signal for both
Irene and her husband to lay aside a portion of the restraint which
each had borne with a certain restlessness that longed for a time of
freedom. On the very day that he left Irene showed so much that
seemed to her husband like perverseness of will that he was
seriously offended, and spoke an unguarded word that was as fire to
stubble--a word that was repented of as soon as spoken, but which
pride would not permit him to recall. It took nearly a week of
suffering to discipline the mind of Mr. Emerson to the point of
conciliation. On the part of Irene there was not the thought of
yielding. Her will, supported by pride, was as rigid as iron. Reason
had no power over her. She felt, rather than thought.

Thus far, both as lover and husband, in all their alienations,
Hartley had been the first to yield; and it was so now. He was
strong-willed and persistent; but cooler reason helped him back into
the right way, and he had, thus far, found it quicker than Irene.
Not that he suffered less or repented sooner. Irene's suffering was
far deeper, but she was blinder and more self-determined.

Again the sun of peace smiled down upon them, but, as before, on
something shorn of its strength or beauty.

"I will be more guarded," said Hartley to himself. "Knowing her
weakness, why should I not protect her against everything that
wounds her sensitive nature? Love concedes, is long suffering and
full of patience. I love Irene--words cannot tell how deeply. Then
why should I not, for her sake, bear and forbear? Why should I think
of myself and grow fretted because she does not yield as readily as
I could desire to my wishes?"

So Emerson talked with himself and resolved. But who does not know
the feebleness of resolution when opposed to temperament and
confirmed habits of mind? How weak is mere human strength! Alas! how
few, depending on that alone, are ever able to bear up steadily, for
any length of time, against the tide of passion!

Off his guard in less than twenty-four hours after resolving thus
with himself, the young husband spoke in captious disapproval of
something which Irene had done or proposed to do, and the
consequence was the assumption on her part of a cold, reserved and
dignified manner, which hurt and annoyed him beyond measure. Pride
led him to treat her in the same way; and so for days they met in
silence or formal courtesy, all the while suffering a degree of
wretchedness almost impossible to be endured, and all the while,
which was worst of all, writing on their hearts bitter things
against each other.

To Emerson, as before, the better state first returned, and the
sunshine of his countenance drove the shadows from hers. Then for a
season they were loving, thoughtful, forbearing and happy. But the
clouds came back again, and storms marred the beauty of their lives.

All this was sad--very sad. There were good and noble qualities in
the hearts of both. They were not narrow-minded and selfish, like so
many of your placid, accommodating, calculating people, but generous
in their feelings and broad in their sympathies. They had ideals of
life that went reaching out far beyond themselves. Yes, it was sad
to see two such hearts beating against and bruising each other,
instead of taking the same pulsation. But there seemed to be no help
for them. Irene's jealous guardianship of her freedom, her quick
temper, pride and self-will made the position of her husband so
difficult that it was almost impossible for him to avoid giving
offence.

The summer and fall passed away without any serious rupture between
the sensitive couple, although there had been seasons of great
unhappiness to both. Irene had been up to Ivy Cliff many times to
visit her father, and now she was, beginning to urge his removal to
the city for the winter; but Mr. Delancy, who had never given his
full promise to this arrangement, felt less and less inclined to
leave his old home as the season advanced. Almost from boyhood he
had lived there, and his habits were formed for rural instead of
city life.

He pictured the close streets, with their rows of houses, that left
for the eye only narrow patches of ethereal blue, and contrasted
this with the broad winter landscape, which for him had always
spread itself out with a beauty rivaled by no other season, and his
heart failed him.

The brief December days were on them, and Irene grew more urgent.

"Come, dear father," she wrote. "I think of you, sitting all alone
at Ivy Cliff, during these long evenings, and grow sad at heart in
sympathy with your loneliness. Come at once. Why linger a week or
even a day longer? We have been all in all to each other these many
years, and ought not to be separated now."

But Mr. Delancy was not ready to exchange the pure air and
widespreading scenery of the Highlands for a city residence, even in
the desolate winter, and so wrote back doubtingly. Irene and her
husband then came up to add the persuasion of their presence at Ivy
Cliff. It did not avail, however. The old man was too deeply wedded
to his home.

"I should be miserable in New York," he replied to their earnest
entreaties; "and it would not add to your happiness to see me going
about with a sober, discontented face, or to be reminded every
little while that if you had left me to my winter's hibernation I
would have been a contented instead of a dissatisfied old man. No,
no, my children; Ivy Cliff is the best place for me. You shall come
up and spend Christmas here, and we will have a gay season."

There was no further use in argument. Mr. Delancy would have his
way; and he was right.

Irene and her husband went back to the city, with a promise to spend
Christmas at the old homestead.

Two weeks passed. It was the twentieth of December. Without previous
intimation, Irene came up alone to Ivy Cliff, startling her father
by coming in suddenly upon him one dreary afternoon, just as the
leaden sky began to scatter down the winter's first offering of
snow.

"My daughter!" he exclaimed, so surprised that he could not move
from where he was sitting.

"Dear father!" she answered with a loving smile, throwing her arms
around his neck and kissing him.

"Where is Hartley?" asked the old man, looking past Irene toward the
door through which she had just entered.

"Oh, I left him in New York," she replied.

"In New York! Have you come alone?"

"Yes. Christmas is only five days off, you know, and I am here to
help you prepare for it. Of course, Hartley cannot leave his
business."

She spoke in an excited, almost gay tone of voice. Mr. Delancy
looked at her earnestly. Unpleasant doubts flitted through his mind.

"When will your husband come up?" he inquired.

"At Christmas," she answered, without hesitation.

"Why didn't you write, love?" asked Mr. Delancy. "You have taken me
by surprise, and set my nerves in a flutter."

"I only thought about it last evening. One of my sudden
resolutions."

And she laughed a low, fluttering laugh. It might have been an
error, but her father had a fancy that it did not come from her
heart.

"I will run up stairs and put off my things," she said, moving away.

"Did you bring a trunk?"

"Oh yes; it is at the landing. Will you send for it?"

And Irene went, with quick steps, from the apartment, and ran up to
the chamber she still called her own. On the way she met Margaret.

"Miss Irene!" exclaimed the latter, pausing and lifting her hands in
astonishment. "Why, where did you come from?"

"Just arrived in the boat. Have come to help you get ready for
Christmas."

"Please goodness, how you frightened me!" said the warm-hearted
domestic, who had been in the family ever since Irene was a child,
and was strongly attached to her. "How's Mr. Emerson?"

"Oh, he's well, thank you, Margaret."

"Well now, child, you did set me all into a fluster. I thought maybe
you'd got into one of your tantrums, and come off and left your
husband."

"Why, Margaret!" A crimson flush mantled the face of Irene.

"You must excuse me, child, but just that came into my head,"
replied Margaret. "You're very downright and determined sometimes;

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