Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

After the Storm by T. S. Arthur

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

respond to his remark.

"Did you ever meet her in private circles?" he next inquired.

"No, sir," she answered, coldly.

"I have had that pleasure," said Major Willard.

There was no responsive word.

"She is a most fascinating woman," continued the major. "That
Juno-like beauty which so distinguishes her on the stage scarcely
shows itself in the drawing-room. On the stage she is queenly--in
private, soft, voluptuous and winning as a houri. I don't wonder
that she has crowds of admirers."

The major's face was close to that of his companion, who felt a wild
sense of repugnance, so strong as to be almost suffocating. The
carriage bounded as the wheels struck an inequality in the street,
throwing them together with a slight concussion. The major laid his
hand upon that of Mrs. Emerson, as if to support her. But she
instantly withdrew the hand he had presumed to touch. He attempted
the same familiarity again, but she placed both hands beyond the
possibility of accidental or designed contact with his, and shrank
still closer into the corner of the carriage, while her heart
fluttered and a tremor ran through her frame.

Major Willard spoke again of the actress, but Mrs. Emerson made no
reply.

"Where are we going?" she asked, after the lapse of some ten
minutes, glancing from the window and seeing, instead of the tall
rows of stately houses which lined the streets along the whole
distance between Mrs. Talbot's residence and her own house,
mean-looking tenements.

"The driver knows his route, I presume," was answered.

"This is not the way, I am sure," said Mrs. Emerson, a slight quiver
of alarm in her voice.

"Our drivers know the shortest cuts," replied the major, "and these
do not always lead through the most attractive quarters of the
town."

Mrs. Emerson shrunk back again in her seat and was silent. Her heart
was throbbing with a vague fear. Suddenly the carriage stopped and
the driver alighted.

"This is not my home," said Mrs. Emerson, as the driver opened the
door, and the major stepped out upon the pavement.

"Oh, yes. This is No. 240 L----street. Yes, ma'am," added the
driver, "this is the number that the gentleman told me."

"What gentleman?" asked Mrs. Emerson.

"This gentleman, if you please, ma'am."

"Drive me home instantly, or this may cost you dear!" said Mrs.
Emerson, in as stern a voice as surprise and fear would permit her
to assume.

"Madam--" Major Willard commenced speaking.

"Silence, sir! Shut the door, driver, and take me home instantly!"

The major made a movement as if he were about to enter the carriage,
when Mrs. Emerson said, in a low, steady, threatening voice--

"At your peril, remain outside! Driver, shut the door. If you permit
that man to enter, my husband will hold you to a strict account."

"Stand back!" exclaimed the driver, in a resolute voice.

But the major was not to be put off in this way. He did not move
from the open door of the carriage. In the next moment the driver's
vigorous arm had hurled him across the pavement. The door was shut,
the box mounted and the carriage whirled away, before the astonished
man could rise, half stunned, from the place where he fell. A few
low, bitter, impotent curses fell from his lips, and then he walked
slowly away, muttering threats of vengeance.

It was nearly twelve o'clock when Irene reached home.

"You are late," said her husband, as she came in.

"Yes," she replied, "later than I intended."

"What's the matter?" he inquired, looking at her narrowly.

"Why do you ask?" She tried to put on an air of indifference.

"You look pale and your voice is disturbed."

"The driver went through parts of the town in returning that made me
feel nervous, as I thought of my lonely and unprotected situation."

"Why did he do that?"

"It wasn't to make the way shorter, for the directest route would
have brought me home ten minutes ago. I declare! The fellow's
conduct made me right nervous. I thought a dozen improbable things."

"It is the last time I will employ him," said Hartley. "How dare he
go a single block away from a direct course, at this late hour?" He
spoke with rising indignation.

At first, Irene resolved to inform her husband of Major Willard's
conduct, but it will be seen by this conversation that she had
changed her mind, at least for the present. Two or three things
caused her to hesitate until she could turn the matter over in her
thoughts more carefully. Pride had its influence. She did not care
to admit that she had been in error and Hartley right as to Major
Willard. But there was a more sober aspect of the case. Hartley was
excitable, brave and strong-willed. She feared the consequences that
might follow if he were informed of Major Willard's outrageous
conduct. A personal collision she saw to be almost inevitable in
this event. Mortifying publicity, if not the shedding of blood,
would ensue.

So, for the present at least, she resolved to keep her own secret,
and evaded the close queries of her husband, who was considerably
disturbed by the alleged conduct of the driver.

One good result followed this rather startling experience. Irene
said no more about attending the conversaziones of Mrs. Talbot. She
did not care to meet Major Willard again, and as he was a regular
visitor at Mrs. Talbot's, she couldn't go there without encountering
him. Her absence on the next social evening was remarked by her new
friend, who called on her the next day.

"I didn't see you last night," said the agreeable Mrs. Talbot.

"No, I remained at home," replied Mrs. Emerson, the smile with which
she had received her friend fading partly away.

"Not indisposed, I hope?"

"No."

"But your husband was! Talk it right out, my pretty one!" said Mrs.
Talbot, in a gay, bantering tone. "Indisposed in mind. He don't like
the class of people one meets at my house. Men of his stamp never
do."

It was on the lips of Mrs. Emerson to say that there might be ground
for his dislike of some who were met there. But she repressed even a
remote reference to an affair that, for the gravest of reasons, she
still desired to keep as her own secret. So she merely answered--

"The indisposition of mind was on my part."

"On your part? Oh dear! That alters the case. And, pray, what
occasioned this indisposition? Not a previous mental surfeit, I
hope."

"Oh no. I never get a surfeit in good company. But people's states
vary, as you are aware. I had a stay-at-home feeling last night, and
indulged myself."

"Very prettily said, my dear. I understand you entirely, and like
your frank, outspoken way. This is always best with friends. I
desire all of mine to enjoy the largest liberty--to come and see me
when they feel like it, and to stay away when they don't feel like
coming. We had a delightful time. Major Willard was there. He's a
charming man! Several times through the evening he asked for you. I
really think your absence worried him. Now, don't blush! A handsome,
accomplished man may admire a handsome and accomplished woman,
without anything wrong being involved. Because one has a husband, is
she not to be spoken to or admired by other men? Nonsense! That is
the world's weak prudery, or rather the common social sentiment
based on man's tyranny over woman."

As Mrs. Talbot ran on in this strain, Mrs. Emerson had time to
reflect and school her exterior. Toward Major Willard her feelings
were those of disgust and detestation. The utterance of his name
shocked her womanly delicacy, but when it was coupled with a
sentiment of admiration for her, and an intimation of the probable
existence of something reciprocal on her part, it was with
difficulty that she could restrain a burst of indignant feeling. But
her strong will helped her, and she gave no intelligible sign of
what was really passing in her thoughts. The subject being
altogether disagreeable, she changed it as soon as possible.

In this interview with Mrs. Talbot a new impression in regard to her
was made on the mind of Mrs. Emerson. Something impure seemed to
pervade the mental atmosphere with which she was surrounded, and
there seemed to be things involved in what she said that shadowed a
latitude in morals wholly outside of Christian duty. When they
separated, much of the enthusiasm which Irene had felt for this
specious, unsafe acquaintance was gone, and her power over her was
in the same measure lessened.

CHAPTER XV.

CAPTIVATED AGAIN.

_BUT_ it is not so easily escaping from a woman like Mrs. Talbot,
when an acquaintanceship is once formed. In less than a week she
called again, and this time in company with another lady, a Mrs.
Lloyd, whom she introduced as a very dear friend. Mrs. Lloyd was a
tall, spare woman, with an intellectual face, bright, restless,
penetrating eyes, a clear musical voice, subdued, but winning
manners. She was a little past thirty, though sickness of body or
mind had stolen the bloom of early womanhood, and carried her
forward, apparently, to the verge of forty. Mrs. Emerson had never
before heard of this lady. But half an hour's conversation
completely captivated her. Mrs. Lloyd had traveled through Europe,
and spoke in a familiar way of the celebrated personages whom she
had met abroad,--talked of art, music and architecture, literature,
artists and literary men--displayed such high culture and easy
acquaintance with themes quite above the range usually met with
among ordinary people, that Mrs. Emerson felt really flattered with
the compliment of a visit.

"My good friend, Mrs. Talbot," said Mrs. Lloyd, during their
conversation, "has spoken of you so warmly that I could do no less
than make overtures for an acquaintance, which I trust may prove
agreeable. I anticipated the pleasure of seeing you at her house
last week, but was disappointed."

"The interview of to-day," remarked Mrs. Talbot, coming in adroitly,
"will only make pleasanter your meeting on to-morrow night."

"At your house?" said Mrs. Lloyd.

"Yes." And Mrs. Talbot threw a winning smile upon Mrs. Emerson. "You
will be there?"

"I think not," was replied.

"Oh, but you must come, my dear Mrs. Emerson! We cannot do without
you."

"I have promised my husband to go out with him."

"Your husband!" The voice of Mrs. Talbot betrayed too plainly her
contempt of husbands.

"Yes, my husband." Mrs. Emerson let her voice dwell with meaning on
the word.

The other ladies looked at each other for a moment or two with
meaning glances; then Mrs. Talbot remarked, in a quiet way, but with
a little pleasantry in her voice, as if she were not right clear in
regard to her young friend's state of feeling,

"Oh dear! these husbands are dreadfully in the way, sometimes!
Haven't you found it so, Mrs. Lloyd?"

The eyes of Mrs. Emerson were turned instantly to the face of her
new acquaintance. She saw a slight change of expression in her pale
face that took something from its agreeable aspect. And yet Mrs.
Lloyd smiled as she answered, in a way meant to be pleasant,

"They are very good in their place."

"The trouble," remarked Mrs. Talbot, in reply, "is to make them keep
their place."

"At our feet." Mrs. Emerson laughed as she said this.

"No," answered Mrs. Lloyd--"at our sides, as equals."

"And beyond that," said Mrs. Talbot, "we want them to give us as
much freedom in the world as they take for themselves. They come in
and go out when they please, and submit to no questioning on our
part. Very well; I don't object; only I claim the same right for
myself. 'I will ask my husband.' Don't you hear this said every day?
Pah! I'm always tempted to cut the acquaintance of a woman when I
hear these words from her lips. Does a man, when a friend asks him
to do anything or go anywhere, say, 'I'll ask my wife?' Not he. A
lady who comes occasionally to our weekly reunions, but whose
husband is too much of a man to put himself down to the level of our
set, is permitted the enjoyment of an evening with us, now and then,
on one condition."

"Condition!" There was a throb of indignant feeling in the voice of
Mrs. Lloyd.

"Yes, on condition that no male visitor at my house shall accompany
her home. A carriage is sent for her precisely at ten o'clock, when
she must leave, and alone."

"Humiliating!" ejaculated Mrs. Lloyd.

"Isn't it? I can scarcely have patience with her. Major Willard has,
at my instance, several times made an effort to accompany her, and
once actually entered her carriage. But the lady commanded him to
retire, or she would leave the carriage herself. Of course, when she
took that position, the gallant major had to leave the field."

"Such a restriction would scarce have suited my fancy," said Mrs.
Lloyd.

"Nor mine. What do you think of that?" And Mrs. Talbot looked into
the face of Mrs. Emerson, whose color had risen beyond its usual
tone.

"Circumstances alter cases," replied the latter, crushing out all
feeling from her voice and letting it fall into a dead level of
indifference.

"But circumstances don't alter facts, my dear. There are the hard
facts of restrictions and conditions, made by a man, and applied to
his equal, a woman. Does she say to him, You can't go to your club
unless you return alone in your carriage, and leave the club-house
precisely at ten o'clock? Oh no. He would laugh in her face, or,
perhaps, consult the family physician touching her sanity."

This mode of putting the question rather bewildered the mind of our
young wife, and she dropped her eyes from those of Mrs. Talbot and
sat looking upon the floor in silence.

"Can't you get your husband to release you from this engagement of
which you have spoken?" asked Mrs. Lloyd. "I should like above all
things to meet you to-morrow evening."

Mrs. Emerson smiled as she answered,

"Husbands have rights, young know, as well as wives. We must consult
their pleasure sometimes, as well as our own."

"Certainly--certainly." Mrs. Lloyd spoke with visible impatience.

"I promised to go with my husband to-morrow night," said Mrs.
Emerson; "and, much as I may desire to meet you at Mrs. Talbot's, I
am not at liberty to go there."

"In bonds! Ah me! Poor wives!" sighed Mrs. Talbot, in affected pity.
"Not at liberty! The admission which comes to us from all sides."

She laughed in her gurgling, hollow way as she said this.

"Not bound to my husband, but to my word of promise," replied Mrs.
Emerson, as pleasantly as her disturbed feelings would permit her to
speak. The ladies were pressing her a little too closely, and she
both saw and felt this. They were stepping beyond the bounds of
reason and delicacy.

Mrs. Lloyd saw the state of mind which had been produced, and at
once changed the subject.

"May I flatter myself with the prospect of having this call
returned?" she said, handing Mrs. Emerson her card as she was about
leaving.

"It will give me great pleasure to know you better, and you may look
to seeing me right early," was the bland reply. And yet Mrs. Emerson
was not really attracted by this woman, but, on the contrary,
repelled. There was something in her keen, searching eyes, which
seemed to be looking right into the thoughts, that gave her a
feeling of doubt.

"Thank you. The favor will be all on my side," said Mrs. Lloyd, as
she held the hand of Mrs. Emerson and gave it a warm pressure.

The visit of these ladies did not leave the mind of Irene in a very
satisfactory state. Some things that were said she rejected, while
other things lingered and occasioned suggestions which were not
favorable to her husband. While she had no wish to be present at
Mrs. Talbot's on account of Major Willard, she was annoyed by the
thought that Hartley's fixing on the next evening for her to go out
with him was to prevent her attendance at the weekly conversazione.

Irene did not mention to her husband the fact that she bad received
a visit from Mrs. Talbot, in company with a pleasant stranger, Mrs.
Lloyd. It would have been far better for her if she had done so.
Many times it was on her lips to mention the call, but as often she
kept silent, one or the other of two considerations having
influence. Hartley did not like Mrs. Talbot, and therefore the
mention of her name, and the fact of her calling, would not be
pleasant theme. The other consideration had reference to a woman's
independence.

"He doesn't tell me of every man he meets through the day, and why
should I feel under obligation to speak of every lady who calls?" So
she thought. "As to Mrs. Lloyd, he would have a hundred prying
question's to ask, as if I we not competent to judge of the
character of my own friends and acquaintances?"

Within a week the call of Mrs. Lloyd was reciprocated by Mrs.
Emerson; not in consequence of feeling drawn toward that lady, but
she had promised to return the friendly visit, and must keep her
word. She found her domiciliated in a fashionable boarding-house,
and was received in the common parlor, in which were two or three
ladies and a gentleman, besides Mrs. Lloyd. The greeting she
received was warm, almost affectionate. In spite of the prejudice
that was creeping into her mind in consequence of an unfavorable
first impression, Mrs. Emerson was flattered by her reception, and
before the termination of her visit she was satisfied that she had
not, in the beginning, formed a right estimate of this really
fascinating woman.

"I hope to see you right soon," she said, as she bade Mrs. Lloyd
good-morning. "It will not be my fault if we do not soon know each
other better."

"Nor mine either," replied Mrs. Lloyd. "I think I shall find you
just after my own heart."

The voice of Mrs. Lloyd was a little raised as she said this, and
Mrs. Emerson noticed that a gentleman who was in the parlor when she
entered, but to whom she had not been introduced, turned and looked
at her with a steady, curious gaze, which struck her at the time as
being on the verge of impertinence.

Only two or three days passed before Mrs. Lloyd returned this visit.
Irene found her more interesting than ever. She had seen a great
deal of society, and had met, according to her own story, with most
of the distinguished men and women of the country, about whom she
talked in a very agreeable manner. She described their personal
appearance, habits, peculiarities and manners, and related pleasant
anecdotes about them. On authors and books she was entirely at home.

But there was an undercurrent of feeling in all she said that a
wiser and more experienced woman than Irene would have noted. It was
not a feeling of admiration for moral, but for intellectual, beauty.
She could dissect a character with wonderful skill, but always
passed the quality of goodness as not taken into account. In her
view this quality did not seem to be a positive element.

When Mrs. Lloyd went away, she left the mind of Irene stimulated,
restless and fluttering with vague fancies. She felt envious of her
new friend's accomplishments, and ambitious to move in as wide a
sphere as she had compassed. The visit was returned at an early
period, and, as before, Mrs. Emerson met Mrs. Lloyd in the public
parlor of her boarding-house. The same gentleman whose manner had a
little annoyed her was present, and she noticed several times, on
glancing toward him, that his eyes were fixed upon her, and with an
expression that she did not understand.

After this, the two ladies met every day or two, and sometimes
walked Broadway together. The only information that Mrs. Emerson had
in regard to her attractive friend she received from Mrs. Talbot.
According to her statement, she was a widow whose married life had
not been a happy one. The husband, like most husbands, was an
overbearing tyrant, and the wife, having a spirit of her own,
resisted his authority. Trouble was the consequence, and Mrs. Talbot
thought, though she was not certain, that a separation took place
before Mr. Lloyd's death. She had a moderate income, which came from
her husband's estate, on which she lived in a kind of idle
independence. So she had plenty of time to read, visit and enjoy
herself in the ways her fancy or inclination might prompt.

CHAPTER XVI.

WEARY OF CONSTRAINT.

_TIME_ moved on, and Mrs. Emerson's intimate city friends were those
to whom she had been introduced, directly or indirectly, through
Mrs. Talbot. Of these, the one who had most influence over her was
Mrs. Lloyd, and that influence was not of the right kind. Singularly
enough, it so happened that Mr. Emerson never let this lady at his
house, though she spent hours there every week; and, more singular
still, Irene had never spoken about her to her husband. She had
often been on the point of doing so, but an impression that Hartley
would take up an unreasonable prejudice against her kept the name of
this friend back from her lips.

Months now succeeded each other without the occurrence of events
marked by special interest. Mr. Emerson grew more absorbed in his
profession as cases multiplied on his hands, and Irene, interested
in her circle of bright-minded, independent-thoughted women, found
the days and weeks gliding on pleasantly enough. But habits of
estimating things a little differently from the common sentiment,
and views of life not by any means consonant with those prevailing
among the larger numbers of her sex, were gradually taking root.

Young, inexperienced, self-willed and active in mind, Mrs. Emerson
had most unfortunately been introduced among a class of persons
whose influence upon her could not fail to be hurtful. Their
conversation was mainly of art, literature, social progress and
development; the drama, music, public sentiment on leading topics of
the day; the advancement of liberal ideas, the necessity of a larger
liberty and a wider sphere of action for woman, and the equality of
the sexes. All well enough, all to be commended when viewed in their
just relation to other themes and interests, but actually pernicious
when separated from the homely and useful things of daily life, and
made so to overshadow these as to warp them into comparative
insignificance. Here lay the evil. It was this elevation of her
ideas above the region of use and duty into the mere ęsthetic and
reformatory that was hurtful to one like Irene--that is, in fact,
hurtful to any woman, for it is always hurtful to take away from the
mind its interest in common life--the life, we mean, of daily useful
work.

Work! We know the word has not a pleasant sound to many ears, that
it seems to include degradation, and a kind of social slavery, and
lies away down in a region to which your fine, cultivated,
intellectual woman cannot descend without, in her view, soiling her
garments. But for all this, it is alone in daily useful work of mind
or hands, work in which service and benefits to others are involved,
that a woman (or a man) gains any true perfection of character. And
this work must be her own, must lie within the sphere of her own
relations to others, and she must engage in it from a sense of duty
that takes its promptings from her own consciousness of right. No
other woman can judge of her relation to this work, and she who
dares to interfere or turn her aside should be considered an
enemy--not a friend.

No wonder, if this be true, that we have so many women of taste,
cultivation, and often brilliant intellectual powers, blazing about
like comets or shooting stars in our social firmament. They attract
admiring attention, excite our wonder, give us themes for
conversation and criticism; but as guides and indicators while we
sail over the dangerous sea of life, what are they in comparison
with some humble star of the sixth magnitude that ever keeps its
true place in the heavens, shining on with its small but steady ray,
a perpetual blessing? And so the patient, thoughtful, loving wife
and mother, doing her daily work for human souls and bodies, though
her intellectual powers be humble, and her taste but poorly
cultivated, fills more honorably her sphere than any of her more
brilliant sisters, who cast off what they consider the shackles by
which custom and tyranny have bound them down to mere home duties
and the drudgery of household care. If down into these they would
bring their superior powers, their cultivated tastes, their larger
knowledge, how quickly would some desert homes in our land put on
refreshing greenness, and desolate gardens blossom like the rose! We
should have, instead of vast imaginary Utopias in the future, model
homes in the present, the light and beauty of which, shining abroad,
would give higher types of social life for common emulation.

Ah, if the Genius of Social Reform would only take her stand
centrally! If she would make the regeneration of homes the great
achievement of our day, then would she indeed come with promise and
blessing. But, alas! she is so far vagrant in her habits--a
fortune-telling gipsy, not a true, loving, useful woman.

Unhappily for Mrs. Emerson, it was the weird-eyed, fortune-telling
gipsy whose Delphic utterances had bewildered her mind.

The reconciliation which followed the Christmas-time troubles of
Irene and her husband had given both more prudent self-control. They
guarded themselves with a care that threw around the manner of each
a certain reserve which was often felt by the other as coldness. To
both this was, in a degree, painful. There was tender love in their
hearts, but it was overshadowed by self-will and false ideas of
independence on the one side, and by a brooding spirit of accusation
and unaccustomed restraint on the other. Many times, each day of
their lives, did words and sentiments, just about to be uttered by
Hartley Emerson, die unspoken, lest in them something might appear
which would stir the quick feelings of Irene into antagonism.

There was no guarantee of happiness in such a state of things.
Mutual forbearance existed, not from self-discipline and tender
love, but from fear of consequences. They were burnt children, and
dreaded, as well they might, the fire.

With little change in their relations to each other, and few events
worthy of notice, a year went by. Mr. Delancy came down to New York
several times during this period, spending a few days at each visit,
while Irene went frequently to Ivy Cliff, and stayed there,
occasionally, as long as two or three weeks. Hartley always came up
from the city while Irene was at her father's, but never stayed
longer than a single day, business requiring him to be at his office
or in court. Mr. Delancy never saw them together without closely
observing their manner, tone of speaking and language. Both, he
could see, were maturing rapidly. Irene had changed most. There was
a style of thinking, a familiarity with popular themes and a womanly
confidence in her expression of opinions that at times surprised
him. With her views on some subjects his own mind was far from being
in agreement, and they often had warm arguments. Occasionally, when
her husband was at Ivy Cliff a difference of sentiment would arise
between them. Mr. Delancy noticed, when this was the case, that
Irene always pressed her view with ardor, and that her husband,
after a brief but pleasant combat, retired from the field. He also
noticed that in most cases, after this giving up of the contest by
Hartley, he was more than usually quiet and seemed to be pondering
things not wholly agreeable.

Mr. Delancy was gratified to see that there was no jarring between
them. But he failed not at the same time to notice something else
that gave him uneasiness. The warmth of feeling, the tenderness, the
lover-like ardor which displayed itself in the beginning, no longer
existed. They did not even show that fondness for each other which
is so beautiful a trait in young married partners. And yet he could
trace no signs of alienation. The truth was, the action of their
lives had been inharmonious. Deep down in their hearts there was no
defect of love. But this love was compelled to hide itself away; and
so, for the most part, it lay concealed from even their own
consciousness.

During the second year of their married life there came a change of
state in both Irene and her husband. They had each grown weary of
constraint when together. It was irksome to be always on guard, lest
some word, tone or act should be misunderstood. In consequence, old
collisions were renewed, and Hartley often grew impatient and even
contemptuous toward his wife, when she ventured to speak of social
progress, woman's rights, or any of the kindred themes in which she
still took a warm interest. Angry retort usually followed on these
occasions, and periods of coldness ensued, the effect of which was
to produce states of alienation.

If a babe had come to soften the heart of Irene, to turn thought and
feeling in a new direction, to awaken a mother's love with all its
holy tenderness, how different would all have been!--different with
her, and different with him. There would then have been an object on
which both could centre interest and affection, and thus draw
lovingly together again, and feel, as in the beginning, heart
beating to heart in sweet accordings. They would have learned their
love-lessons over again, and understood their meanings better. Alas
that the angels of infancy found no place in their dwelling!

With no central attraction at home, her thoughts stimulated by
association with a class of intellectual, restless women, who were
wandering on life's broad desert in search of green places and
refreshing springs, each day's journey bearing them farther and
farther away from landscapes of perpetual verdure, Irene grew more
and more interested in subjects that lay for the most part entirely
out of the range of her husband's sympathies; while he was becoming
more deeply absorbed in a profession that required close application
of thought, intellectual force and clearness, and cold, practical
modes of looking at all questions that came up for consideration.
The consequence was that they were, in all their common interests,
modes of thinking and habits of regarding the affairs of life,
steadily receding from each other. Their evenings were now less
frequently spent together. If home had been a pleasant place to him,
Mr. Emerson would have usually remained at home after the day's
duties were over; or, if he went abroad, it would have been usually
in company with his wife. But home was getting to be dull, if not
positively disagreeable. If a conversation was started, it soon
involved disagreement in sentiment, and then came argument, and
perhaps ungentle words, followed by silence and a mutual writing
down in the mind of bitter things. If there was no conversation,
Irene buried herself in a book--some absorbing novel, usually of the
heroic school.

Naturally, under this state of things, Mr. Emerson, who was social
in disposition, sought companionship elsewhere, and with his own
sex. Brought into contact with men of different tastes, feelings and
habits of thinking, he gradually selected a few as intimate friends,
and, in association with these, formed, as his wife was doing, a
social point of interest outside of his home; thus widening still
further the space between them.

The home duties involved in housekeeping, indifferently as they had
always been discharged by Irene, were now becoming more and more
distasteful to her. This daily care about mere eating and drinking
seemed unworthy of a woman who had noble aspirations, such as burned
in her breast. That was work for women-drudges who had no higher
ambition; "and Heaven knows," she would often say to herself, "there
are enough and to spare of these."

"What's the use of keeping up an establishment like this just for
two people?" she would often remark to her husband; and he would
usually reply,

"For the sake of having a home into which one may retire and shut
out the world."

Irene would sometimes suggest the lighter expense of boarding.

"If it cost twice as much I would prefer to live in my own house,"
was the invariable answer.

"But see what a burden of care it lays on my shoulders."

Now Hartley could only with difficulty repress a word of impatient
rebuke when this argument was used. He thought of his own daily
devotion to business, prolonged often into the night, when an
important case was on hand, and mentally charged his wife with a
selfish love of ease. On the other hand, it seemed to Irene that her
husband was selfish in wishing her to bear the burdens of
housekeeping just for his pleasure or convenience, when they might
live as comfortably in a hotel or boarding-house.

On this subject Hartley would not enter into a discussion. "It's no
use talking, Irene," he would say, when she grew in earnest. "You
cannot tempt me to give up my home. It includes many things that
with me are essential to comfort. I detest boarding-houses; they are
only places for sojourning, not living."

As agreement on this subject was out of the question, Irene did not
usually urge considerations in favor of abandoning their pleasant
home.

CHAPTER XVII.

GONE FOR EVER!

_ONE_ evening--it was nearly three years from the date of their
marriage--Hartley Emerson and his wife were sitting opposite to each
other at the centre-table, in the evening. She had a book in her
hand and he held a newspaper before his face, but his eyes were not
on the printed columns. He had spoken only a few words since he came
in, and his wife noticed that he had the manner of one whose mind is
in doubt or perplexity.

Letting the newspaper fall upon the table at length, Hartley looked
over at his wife and said, in a quiet tone,

"Irene, did you ever meet a lady by the name of Mrs. Lloyd?"

The color mounted to the face of Mrs. Emerson as she replied,

"Yes, I have met her often."

"Since when?"

"I have known her intimately for the past two years."

"What!"

Emerson started to his feet and looked for some moments steadily at
his wife, his countenance expressing the profoundest astonishment.

"And never once mentioned to me her name! Has she ever called here?"

"Yes."

"Often?"

"As often as two or three times a week."

"Irene!"

Mrs. Emerson, bewildered at first by her husband's manner of
interrogating her, now recovered her self-possession, and, rising,
looked steadily at him across the table.

"I am wholly at a loss to understand you," she now said, calmly.

"Have you ever visited that person at her boarding-house?" demanded
Hartley.

"I have, often."

"And walked Broadway with her?"

"Certainly."

"Good heavens! can it be possible!" exclaimed the excited man.

"Pray, sir," said Irene, "who is Mrs. Lloyd?"

"An infamous woman!" was answered passionately.

"That is false!" said Irene, her eyes flashing as she spoke. "I
don't care who says so, I pronounce the words false!"

Hartley stood still and gazed at his wife for some moments without
speaking; then he sat down at the table from which he had arisen
and, shading his face with his hands, remained motionless for a long
time. He seemed like a man utterly confounded.

"Did you ever hear of Jane Beaufort?" he asked at length, looking up
at his wife.

"Oh yes; everybody has heard of her."

"Would you visit Jane Beaufort?"

"Yes, if I believed her innocent of what the world charges against
her."

"You are aware, then, that Mrs. Lloyd and Jane Beaufort are the same
person?"

"No, sir, I am not aware of any such thing."

"It is true."

"I do not believe it. Mrs. Lloyd I have known intimately for over
two years, and can verify her character."

"I am sorry for you, then, for a viler character it would be
difficult to find outside the haunts of infamy," said Emerson.

Contempt and anger were suddenly blended in his manner.

"I cannot hear one to whom I am warmly attached thus assailed. You
must not speak in that style of my friends, Hartley Emerson!"

"Your friends!" There was a look of intense scorn on his face.
"Precious friends, if she represent them, truly! Major Willard is
another, mayhap?"

The face of Irene turned deadly pale at the mention of this name.

"Ha!"

Emerson bent eagerly toward his wife.

"And is that true, also?"

"What? Speak out, sir!" Irene caught her breath, and grasped the
rein of self-control which had dropped, a moment, from her hands.

"It is said that Major Willard bears you company, at times, in your
rides home from evening calls upon your precious friends."

"And you believe the story?"

"I didn't believe it," said Hartley, but in a tone that showed
doubt.

"But have changed your mind?"

"If you say it is not true--that Major Willard never entered your
carriage--I will take your word in opposition to the whole world's
adverse testimony."

But Irene could not answer. Major Willard, as the reader knows, had
ridden with her at night, and alone. But once, and only once. A few
times since then she had encountered, but never deigned to
recognize, him. In her pure heart the man was held in utter
detestation.

Now was the time for a full explanation; but pride was
aroused--strong, stubborn pride. She knew herself to stand triple
mailed in innocency--to be free from weakness or taint; and the
thought that a mean, base suspicion had entered the mind of her
husband aroused her indignation and put a seal upon her lips as to
all explanatory utterances.

"Then I am to believe the worst?" said Hartley, seeing that his wife
did not answer. "The worst, and of you!"

The tone in which this was said, as well as the words themselves,
sent a strong throb to the heart of Irene. "The worst, and of you!"
This from her husband! and involving far more in tone and manner
than in uttered language. "Then I am to believe the worst!" She
turned the sentences over in her mind. Pride, wounded self-love, a
smothered sense of indignation, blind anger, began to gather their
gloomy forces in her mind. "The worst, and of you!" How the echoes
of these words came back in constant repetition! "The worst, and of
you!"

"How often has Major Willard ridden with you at night?" asked
Hartley, in a cold, resolute way.

No answer.

"And did you always come directly home?"

Hartley Emerson was looking steadily into the face of his wife, from
which he saw the color fall away until it became of an ashen hue.

"You do not care to answer. Well, silence is significative," said
the husband, closing his lips firmly. There was a blending of anger,
perplexity, pain, sorrow and scorn in his face, all of which Irene
read distinctly as she fixed her eyes steadily upon him. He tried to
gaze back until her eyes should sink beneath his steady look, but
the effort was lost; for not a single instant did they waver.

He was about turning away, when she arrested the movement by saying,

"Go on, Hartley Emerson! Speak of all that is in your mind. You have
now an opportunity that may never come again."

There was a dead level in her voice that a little puzzled her
husband.

"It is for you to speak," he answered. "I have put my
interrogatories."

Unhappily, there was a shade of imperiousness in his voice.

"I never answer insulting interrogatories; not even from the man who
calls himself my husband," replied Irene, haughtily.

"It may be best for you to answer," said Hartley. There was just the
shadow of menace in his tones.

"Best!" The lip of Irene curled slightly. "On whose account, pray?"

"Best for each of us. Whatever affects one injuriously must affect
both."

"Humph! So we are equals!" Irene tossed her head impatiently, and
laughed a short, mocking laugh.

"Nothing of that, if you please!" was the husband's impatient
retort. The sudden change in his wife's manner threw him off his
guard.

"Nothing of what?" demanded Irene.

"Of that weak, silly nonsense. We have graver matters in hand for
consideration now."

"Ah?" She threw up her eyebrows, then contracted them again with an
angry severity.

"Irene," said Mr. Emerson, his voice falling into a calm but severe
tone, "all this is but weakness and folly. I have heard things
touching your good name--"

"And believe them," broke in Irene, with angry impatience.

"I have said nothing as to belief or disbelief. The fact is grave
enough."

"And you have illustrated your faith in the slander--beautifully,
becomingly, generously!"

"Irene!"

"Generously, as a man who knew his wife. Ah, well!" This last
ejaculation was made almost lightly, but it involved great
bitterness of spirit.

"Do not speak any longer after this fashion," said Hartley, with
considerable irritation of manner; "it doesn't suit my present
temper. I want something in a very different spirit. The matter is
of too serious import. So pray lay aside your trifling. I came to
you as I had a right to come, and made inquiries touching your
associations when not in my company. Your answers are not
satisfactory, but tend rather to con--"

"Sir!" Irene interrupted him in a stern, deep voice, which came so
suddenly that the word remained unspoken. Then, raising her finger
in a warning manner, she said with menace,

"Beware!"

For some moments they stood looking at each other, more like two
animals at bay than husband and wife.

"Touching my associations when not in your company?" said Irene at
length, repeating his language slowly.

"Yes," answered the husband.

"Touching, my associations? Well, Mr. Emerson--so far, I say well."
She was collected in manner and her voice steady. "But what touching
your associations when not in _my_ company?"

The very novelty of this interrogation caused Emerson to start and
change color.

"Ha!" The blood leaped to the forehead of Irene, and her eyes,
dilating suddenly, almost glared upon the face of her husband.

"_Well, sir?_" Irene drew her slender form to its utmost height.
There was an impatient, demanding tone in her voice. "Speak!" she
added, without change of manner. "What touching _your_ associations
when not in _my_ company? As a wife, I have some interest in this
matter. Away from home often until the brief hours, have I no right
to put the question--where and with whom? It would seem so if we are
equal. But if I am the slave and dependant--the creature of your
will and pleasure--why, that alters the case!"

"Have you done?"

Emerson was recovering from his surprise, but not gaining clear
sight or prudent self-possession.

"You have not answered," said Irene, looking coldly, but with
glittering eyes, into his face. "Come! If there is to be a mutual
relation of acts and associations outside of this our home, let us
begin. Sit down, Hartley, and compose yourself. You are the man, and
claim precedence. I yield the prerogative. So let me have your
confession. After you have ended I will give as faithful a narrative
as if on my death-bed. What more can you ask? There now, lead the
way!"

This coolness, which but thinly veiled a contemptuous air, irritated
Hartley almost beyond the bounds of decent self-control.

"Bravely carried off! Well acted!" he retorted with a sneer.

"You do not accept the proposal," said Irene, growing a little
sterner of aspect. "Very well. I scarcely hoped that you would meet
me on this even ground. Why should I have hoped it? Were the
antecedents encouraging? No! But I am sorry. Ah, well! Husbands are
free to go and come at their own sweet will--to associate with
anybody and everybody. But wives--oh dear!"

She tossed her head in a wild, scornful way, as if on the verge of
being swept from her feet by some whirlwind of passion.

"And so," said her husband, after a long silence, "you do not choose
to answer my questions as to Major Willard?"

That was unwisely pressed. In her heart of hearts Irene loathed this
man. His name was an offence to her. Never, since the night he had
forced himself into her carriage, had she even looked into his face.
If he appeared in the room where she happened to be, she did not
permit her eyes to rest upon his detested countenance. If he drew
near to her, she did not seem to notice his presence. If he spoke to
her, as he had ventured several times to do, she paid no regard to
him whatever. So far as any response or manifestation of feeling on
her part was concerned, it was as if his voice had not reached her
ears. The very thought of this man was a foul thing in her mind. No
wonder that the repeated reference by her husband was felt as a
stinging insult.

"If you dare to mention that name again in connection with mine,"
she said, turning almost fiercely upon him, "I will--"

She caught the words and held them back in the silence of her wildly
reeling thoughts.

"Say on!"

Emerson was cool, but not sane. It was madness to press his excited
young wife now. Had he lost sense and discrimination? Could he not
see, in her strong, womanly indignation, the signs of innocence?
Fool! fool! to thrust sharply at her now!

"My father!" came in a sudden gush of strong feeling from the lips
of Irene, as the thought of him whose name was thus ejaculated came
into her mind. She struck her hands together, and stood like one in
wild bewilderment. "My father!" she added, almost mournfully; "oh,
that I had never left you!"

"It would have been better for you and better for me." No, he was
not sane, else would no such words have fallen from his lips.

Irene, with a slight start and a slight change in the expression of
her countenance, looked up at her husband:

"You think so?" Emerson was a little surprised at the way in which
Irene put this interrogation. He looked for a different reply.

"I have said it," was his cold answer.

"Well." She said no more, but looked down and sat thinking for the
space of more than a minute.

"I will go back to Ivy Cliff." She looked up, with something strange
in the expression of her face. It was a blank, unfeeling, almost
unmeaning expression.

"Well." It was Emerson's only response.

"Well; and that is all?" Her tones were so chilling that they came
over the spirit of her husband like the low waves of an icy wind.

"No, that is not all." What evil spirit was blinding his
perceptions? What evil influence pressing him on to the brink of
ruin?

"Say on." How strangely cold and calm she remained! "Say on," she
repeated. Was there none to warn him of danger?

"If you go a third time to your father--" He paused.

"Well?" There was not a quiver in her low, clear, icy tone.

"You must do it with your eyes open, and in full view of the
consequences."

"What are the consequences?"

Beware, rash man! Put a seal on your lips! Do not let the thought so
sternly held find even a shadow of utterance!

"Speak, Hartley Emerson. What are the consequences?"

"You cannot return!" It was said without a quiver of feeling.

"Well." She looked at him with an unchanged countenance, steadily,
coldly, piercingly.

"I have said the words, Irene; and they are no idle utterances.
Twice you have left me, but you cannot do it a third time and leave
a way open between us. Go, then, if you will; but, if we part here,
it must be for ever!"

The eyes of Irene dropped slowly. There was a slight change in the
expression of her face. Her hands moved one within the other
nervously.

For ever! The words are rarely uttered without leaving on the mind a
shade of thought. For ever! They brought more than a simple shadow
to the mind of Irene. A sudden darkness fell upon her soul, and for
a little while she groped about like one who had lost her way. But
her husband's threat of consequences, his cold, imperious manner,
his assumed superiority, all acted as sharp spurs to pride, and she
stood up, strong again, in full mental stature, with every power of
her being in full force for action and endurance.

"I go." There was no sign of weakness in her voice. She had raised
her eyes from the floor and turned them full upon her husband. Her
face was not so pale as it had been a little while before. Warmth
had come back to the delicate skin, flushing it with beauty. She did
not stand before him an impersonation of anger, dislike or
rebellion. There was not a repulsive attitude or expression; no
flashing of the eyes, nor even the cold, diamond glitter seen a
little while before. Slowly turning away, she left the room; but, to
her husband, she seemed still standing there, a lovely vision. There
had fallen, in that instant of time, a sunbeam which fixed the image
upon his memory in imperishable colors. What though he parted
company here with the vital form, that effigy would be, through all
time, his inseparable companion!

"Gone!" Hartley Emerson held his breath as the word came into mental
utterance. There was a motion of regret in his heart; a wish that he
had not spoken quite so sternly--that he had kept back a part of the
hard saying. But it was too late now. He could not, after all that
had just passed between them--after she had refused to answer his
questions touching Major Willard--make any concessions. Come what
would, there was to be no retracing of steps now.

"And it may be as well," said he, rallying himself, "that we part
here. Our experiment has proved a sad failure. We grow colder and
more repellant each day, instead of drawing closer together and
becoming more lovingly assimilated. It is not good--this life--for
either of us. We struggle in our bonds and hurt each other. Better
apart! better apart! Moreover"--his face darkened--"she has fallen
into dangerous companionship, and will not be advised or governed. I
have heard her name fall lightly from lips that cannot utter a
woman's name without leaving it soiled. She is pure now--pure as
snow. I have not a shadow of suspicion, though I pressed her close.
But this contact is bad; she is breathing an impure atmosphere; she
is assorting with some who are sensual and evil-minded, though she
will not believe the truth. Mrs. Lloyd! Gracious heavens! My wife
the intimate companion of that woman! Seen with her in Broadway! A
constant visitor at my house! This, and I knew it not!"

Emerson grew deeply agitated as he rehearsed these things. It was
after midnight when he retired. He did not go to his wife's
apartment, but passed to a room in the story above that in which he
usually slept.

Day was abroad when Emerson awoke the next morning, and the sun
shining from an angle that showed him to be nearly two hours above
the horizon. It was late for Mr. Emerson. Rising hurriedly, and in
some confusion of thought, he went down stairs. His mind, as the
events of the last evening began to adjust themselves, felt an
increasing sense of oppression. How was he to meet Irene? or was he
to meet her again? Had she relented? Had a night of sober reflection
wrought any change? Would she take the step he had warned her as a
fatal one?

With such questions crowding upon him, Hartley Emerson went down
stairs. In passing their chamber-door he saw that it stood wide
open, and that Irene was not there. He descended to the parlors and
to the sitting-room, but did not find her. The bell announced
breakfast; he might find her at the table. No--she was not at her
usual place when the morning meal was served.

"Where is Mrs. Emerson?" he asked of the waiter.

"I have not seen her," was replied.

Mr. Emerson turned away and went up to their chambers. His footsteps
had a desolate, echoing sound to his ears, as he bent his way
thither. He looked through the front and then through the back
chamber, and even called, faintly, the name of his wife. But all was
still as death. Now a small envelope caught his eye, resting on a
casket in which Irene had kept her jewelry. He lifted it, and saw
his name inscribed thereon. The handwriting was not strange. He
broke the seal and read these few words:

"I have gone. IRENE."

The narrow piece of tinted paper on which this was written dropped
from his nerveless fingers, and he stood for some moments still as
if death-stricken, and rigid as stone.

"Well," he said audibly, at length, stepping across the floor, "and
so the end has come!"

He moved to the full length of the chamber and then stood
still--turned, in a little while, and walked slowly back across the
floor--stood still again, his face bent down, his lips closely shut,
his finger-ends gripped into the palms.

"Gone!" He tried to shake himself free of the partial stupor which
had fallen upon him. "Gone!" he repeated. "And so this calamity is
upon us! She has dared the fatal leap! has spoken the irrevocable
decree! God help us both, for both have need of help; I and she, but
she most. God help her to bear the burden she has lifted to her weak
shoulders; she will find it a match for her strength. I shall go
into the world and bury myself in its cares and duties--shall find,
at least, in the long days a compensation in work--earnest,
absorbing, exciting work. But she? Poor Irene! The days and nights
will be to her equally desolate. Poor Irene! Poor Irene!"

CHAPTER XVIII.

YOUNG, BUT WISE.

_THE_ night had passed wearily for Mr. Delancy, broken by fitful
dreams, in which the image of his daughter was always
present--dreams that he could trace to no thoughts or impressions of
the day before; and he arose unrefreshed, and with a vague sense of
trouble in his heart, lying there like a weight which no involuntary
deep inspirations would lessen or remove. No June day ever opened in
fresher beauty than did this one, just four years since the actors
in our drama came smiling before us, in the flush of youth and hope
and confidence in the far-off future. The warmth of early summer had
sent the nourishing sap to every delicate twig and softly expanding
leaf until, full foliaged, the trees around Ivy Cliff stood in
kingly attire, lifting themselves up grandly in the sunlight which
flooded their gently-waving tops in waves of golden glory. The air
was soft and of crystal clearness; and the lungs drank it in as if
the draught were ethereal nectar.

On such a morning in June, after a night of broken and unrefreshing
sleep, Mr. Delancy walked forth, with that strange pressure on his
heart which he had been vainly endeavoring to push aside since the
singing birds awoke him, in the faint auroral dawn, with their
joyous welcome to the coming day. He drew in long draughts of the
delicious air; expanded his chest; moved briskly through the garden;
threw his arms about to hurry the sluggish flow of blood in his
veins; looked with constrained admiration on the splendid landscape
that stretched far and near in the sweep of his vision; but all to
no purpose. The hand still lay heavy upon his heart; he could not
get it removed.

Returning to the house, feeling more uncomfortable for this
fruitless effort to rise above what he tried to call an unhealthy
depression of spirits consequent on some morbid state of the body,
Mr. Delancy was entering the library, when a fresh young face
greeted him with light and smiles.

"Good-morning, Rose," said the old gentleman, as his face brightened
in the glow of the young girl's happy countenance. "I am glad to see
you;" and he took her hand and held it tightly.

"Good-morning, Mr. Delancy. When did you hear from Irene?"

"Ten days ago."

"She was well?"

"Oh yes. Sit down, Rose; there." And Mr. Delancy drew a chair before
the sofa for his young visitor, and took a seat facing her.

"I haven't had a letter from her in six months," said Rose, a sober
hue falling on her countenance.

"I don't think she is quite thoughtful enough of her old friends."

"And too thoughtful, it may be, of new ones," replied Mr. Delancy,
his voice a little depressed from the cheerful tone in which he had
welcomed his young visitor.

"These new friends are not always the best friends, Mr. Delancy."

"No, Rose. For my part, I wouldn't give one old friend, whose heart
I had proved, for a dozen untried new ones."

"Nor I, Mr. Delancy. I love Irene. I have always loved her. You know
we were children together."

"Yes, dear, I know all that; and I'm not pleased with her for
treating you with so much neglect, and all for a set of--"

Mr. Delancy checked himself.

"Irene," said Miss Carman, whom the reader will remember as one of
Mrs. Emerson's bridemaids, "has been a little unfortunate in her New
York friends. I'm afraid of these strong-minded women, as they are
called, among whom she has fallen."

"I detest them!" replied Mr. Delancy, with suddenly aroused
feelings. "They have done my child more harm than they will ever do
good in the world by way of atonement. She is not my daughter of
old."

"I found her greatly changed at our last meeting," said Rose. "Full
of vague plans of reforms and social reorganizations, and impatient
of opposition, or even mild argument, against her favorite ideas."

"She has lost her way," sighed the old man, in a low, sad voice,
"and I'm afraid it will take her a long, long time to get back again
to the old true paths, and that the road will be through deep
suffering. I dreamed about her all night, Rose, and the shadow of my
dreams is upon me still. It is foolish, I know, but I cannot get my
heart again into the sunlight."

And Rose had been dreaming troubled dreams of her old friend, also;
and it was because of the pressure that lay upon her feelings that
she had come over to Ivy Cliff this morning to ask if Mr. Delancy
had heard from Irene. She did not, however, speak of this, for she
saw that he was in an unhappy state on account of his daughter.

"Dreams are but shadows," she said, forcing a smile to her lips and
eyes.

"Yes--yes." The old man responded with an abstracted air. "Yes; they
are only shadows. But, my dear, was there ever a shadow without a
substance?"

"Not in the outside world of nature. Dreams are unreal things--the
fantastic images of a brain where reason sleeps."

"There have been dreams that came as warnings, Rose."

"And a thousand, for every one of these, that signified nothing."

"True. But I cannot rise out of these shadows. They lie too heavily
on my spirit. You must bear with me, Rose. Thank you for coming over
to see me; but I cannot make your visit a pleasant one, and you must
leave me when you grow weary of the old man's company."

"Don't talk so, Mr. Delancy. I'm glad I came over. I meant this only
for a call; but as you are in such poor spirits I must stay a while
and cheer you up."

"You are a good girl," said Mr. Delancy, taking the hand of Rose,
"and I am vexed that Irene should neglect you for the false friends
who are leading her mind astray. But never mind, dear; she will see
her error one of these days, and learn to prize true hearts."

"Is she going to spend much of her time at Ivy Cliff this summer?"
asked Rose.

"She is coming up in July to stay three or four weeks."

"Ah? I'm pleased to hear you say so. I shall then revive old-time
memories in her heart."

"God grant that it may be so!" Rose half started at the solemn tone
in which Mr. Delancy spoke. What could be the meaning of his
strangely troubled manner? Was anything seriously wrong with Irene?
She remembered the confusion into which her impulsive conduct had
thrown the wedding-party; and there was a vague rumor afloat that
Irene had left her husband a few months afterward and returned to
Ivy Cliff. But she had always discredited this rumor. Of her life in
New York she knew but little as to particulars. That it was not
making of her a truer, better, happier woman, nor a truer, better,
happier wife, observation had long ago told her.

"There is a broad foundation of good principles in her character,"
said Miss Carman, "and this gives occasion for hope in the future.
She will not go far astray, with her wily enticers, who have only
stimulated and given direction, for a time, to her undisciplined
impulses. You know how impatient she has always been under
control--how restively her spirit has chafed itself when a
restraining hand was laid upon her. But there are real things in
life of too serious import to be set aside for idle fancies, such as
her new friends have dignified with imposing names--real things,
that take hold upon the solid earth like anchors, and hold the
vessel firm amid wildly rushing currents."

"Yes, Rose, I know all that," replied Mr. Delancy. "I have hope in
the future of Irene; but I shudder in heart to think of the rough,
thorny, desolate ways through which she may have to pass with
bleeding feet before she reaches that serene future. Ah! if I could
save my child from the pain she seems resolute on plucking down and
wearing in her heart!"

"Your dreams have made you gloomy, Mr. Delancy," said Rose, forcing
a smile to her sweet young face. "Come now, let us be more hopeful.
Irene has a good husband. A little too much like her in some things,
but growing manlier and broader in mental grasp, if I have read him
aright. He understands Irene, and, what is more, loves her deeply. I
have watched them closely."

"So have I." The voice of Mr. Delancy was not so hopeful as that of
his companion.

"Still looking on the darker side." She smiled again.

"Ah, Rose, my wise young friend," said Mr. Delancy, "to whom I speak
my thoughts with a freedom that surprises even myself, a father's
eyes read many signs that have no meaning for others."

"And many read them, through fond suspicion, wrong," replied Rose.

"Well--yes--that may be." He spoke in partial abstraction, yet
doubtfully.

"I must look through your garden," said the young lady, rising; "you
know how I love flowers."

"Not much yet to hold your admiration," replied Mr. Delancy, rising
also. "June gives us wide green carpets and magnificent draperies of
the same deep color, but her red and golden broideries are few; it
is the hand of July that throws them in with rich profusion."

"But June flowers are sweetest and dearest--tender nurslings of the
summer, first-born of her love," said Rose, as they stepped out into
the portico. "It may be that the eye gets sated with beauty, as
nature grows lavish of her gifts; but the first white and red petals
that unfold themselves have a more delicate perfume--seem made of
purer elements and more wonderful in perfection--than their later
sisters. Is it not so?"

"If it only appears so it is all the same as if real," replied Mr.
Delancy, smiling.

"How?"

"It is real to you. What more could you have? Not more enjoyment of
summer's gifts of beauty and sweetness."

"No; perhaps not."

Rose let her eyes fall to the ground, and remained silent.

"Things are real to us as we see them; not always as they are," said
Mr. Delancy.

"And this is true of life?"

"Yes, child. It is in life that we create for ourselves real things
out of what to some are airy nothings. Real things, against which we
often bruise or maim ourselves, while to others they are as
intangible as shadows."

"I never thought of that," said Rose.

"It is true."

"Yes, I see it. Imaginary evils we thus make real things, and hurt
ourselves by contact, as, maybe, you have done this morning, Mr.
Delancy."

"Yes--yes. And false ideas of things which are unrealities in the
abstract--for only what is true has actual substance--become real to
the perverted understanding. Ah, child, there are strange
contradictions and deep problems in life for each of us to solve."

"But, God helping us, we may always reach the true solution," said
Rose Carman, lifting a bright, confident face to that of her
companion.

"That was spoken well, my child," returned Mr. Delancy, with a new
life in his voice; "and without Him we can never be certain of our
way."

"Never--never." There was a tender, trusting solemnity in the voice
of Rose.

"Young, but wise," said Mr. Delancy.

"No! Young, but not wise. I cannot see the way plain before me for a
single week, Mr. Delancy. For a week? No, not for a day!"

"Who does?" asked the old man.

"Some."

"None. There are many who walk onward with erect heads and confident
bearing. They are sure of their way, and smile if one whisper a
caution as to the ground upon which they step so fearlessly. But
they soon get astray or into pitfalls. God keeping and guiding us,
Rose, we may find our way safely through this world. But we will
soon lose ourselves if we trust in our own wisdom."

Thus they talked--that old man and gentle-hearted girl--as they
moved about the garden-walks, every new flower, or leaf, or opening
bud they paused to admire or examine, suggesting themes for wiser
words than usually pass between one so old and one so young. At Mr.
Delancy's earnest request, Rose stayed to dinner, the waiting-man
being tent to her father's, not far distant, to take word that she
would not be at home until in the afternoon.

CHAPTER XIX.

THE SHIPWRECKED LIFE.

_OFTEN_, during that morning, did the name of Irene come to their
lips, for the thought of her was all the while present to both.

"You must win her heart back again, Rose," said Mr. Delancy. "I will
lure her to Ivy Cliff often this summer, and keep her here as long
as possible each time. You will then be much together." They had
risen from the dinner-table and were entering the library.

"Things rarely come out as we plan them," answered Rose. "But I love
Irene truly, and will make my own place in her heart again, if she
will give me the key of entrance."

"You must find the key, Rose."

Miss Carman smiled.

"I said if she would give it to me."

"She does not carry the key that opens the door for you," replied
Mr. Delancy. "If you do not know where it lies, search for it in the
secret places of your own mind, and it will be found, God helping
you, Rose."

Mr. Delancy looked at her significantly.

"God helping me," she answered, with a reverent sinking of her
voice, "I will find the key."

"Who is that?" said Mr. Delancy, in a tone of surprise, turning his
face to the window.

Rose followed his eyes, but no one was visible.

"I saw, or thought I saw, a lady cross the portico this moment."

Both stood still, listening and expectant.

"It might have been fancy," said Mr. Delancy, drawing a deep breath.

Rose stepped to one of the library windows, and throwing it up,
looked out upon the portico.

"There is no one," she remarked, coming back into the room.

"Could I have been so mistaken?"

Mr. Delancy looked bewildered.

Seeing that the impression was so strong on his mind, Miss Carman
went out into the hall, and glanced from there into the parlor and
dining-room.

"No one came in, Mr. Delancy," she said, on returning to the
library.

"A mere impression," remarked the old man, soberly. "Well, these
impressions are often very singular. My face was partly turned to
the window, so that I saw out, but not so distinctly as if both eyes
had been in the range of vision. The form of a woman came to my
sight as distinctly as if the presence had been real--the form of a
woman going swiftly past the window."

"Did you recognize the form?"

It was some time before Mr. Delancy replied.

"Yes." He looked anxious.

"You thought of Irene?"

"I did."

"We have talked and thought of Irene so much to-day," said Rose,
"that your thought of her has made you present to her mind with more
than usual distinctness. Her thought of you has been more intent in
consequence, and this has drawn her nearer. You saw her by an
inward, not by an outward, vision. She is now present with you in
spirit, though her body be many miles distant. These things often
happen. They startle us by their strangeness, but are as much
dependent on laws of the mind as bodily nearness is dependent on the
laws of matter."

"You think so?" Mr. Delancy looked at his young companion curiously.

"Yes, I think so."

The old man shook his head. "Ingenious, but not satisfactory."

"You will admit," said Rose, "that as to our minds we may be present
in any part of the world, and in an instant of time, though our
bodies move not."

"Our thought may be," replied Mr. Delancy. "Or, in better words, the
eyes of our minds may be; for it is the eyes that see objects," said
Rose.

"Well; say the eyes of our minds, then."

"We cannot see objects in London, for instance, with our bodily eyes
unless our bodies be in London?" resumed Rose.

"Of course not."

"Nor with our mental eyes, unless our spirits be there."

Mr. Delancy looked down thoughtfully.

"It must be true, then, that our thought of any one brings us
present to that individual, and that such presence is often
recognized."

"That is pushing the argument too far."

"I think not. Has it not often happened that suddenly the thought of
an absent one came into your mind, and that you saw him or her for a
moment or two almost as distinctly as if in bodily presence before
you?"

"Yes. That has many times been the case."

"And you had not been thinking of that person, nor had there been
any incident as a reminder?"

"I believe not."

"My explanation is, that this person from some cause had been led to
think of you intently, and so came to you in spirit. There was
actual presence, and you saw each other with the eyes of your
minds."

"But, my wise reasoner," said Mr. Delancy, "it was the bodily
form--with face, eyes, hands, feet and material garments--that was
seen, not the spirit. If our spirits have eyes that see, why they
can only see spiritual things."

"Has not a spirit a face, and hands, and feet?" asked Rose, with a
confidence that caused the old man to look at her almost
wonderingly.

"Not a face, and hands, and feet like these of mine," he answered.

"Yes, like them," she replied, "but of spiritual substance."

"Spiritual substance! That is a novel term. This is substance." And
Mr. Delancy grasped the arm of a chair.

"No, that is material and unsubstantial," she calmly replied; "it is
subject to change and decay. A hundred years from now and there may
be no visible sign that it had ever been. But the soul is
imperishable and immortal; the only thing about man that is really
substantial. And now," she added, "for the faces of our spirits.
What gives to our natural faces their form, beauty and expression?
Is it not the soul-face within? Remove that by death, and all life,
thought and feeling are gone from the stolid effigy. And so you see,
Mr. Delancy, that our minds must be formed of spiritual substance,
and that our bodies are but the outward material clothing which the
soul puts on for action and use in this world of nature."

"Why, you are a young philosopher!" exclaimed Mr. Delancy, looking
in wonder at his fair companion.

"No," she answered, with simplicity, "I talk with my father about
these things, and it all seems very plain to me. I cannot see how
any one can question what appears to me so plain. That the mind is
substantial we see from this fact alone--it retains impressions
longer than the body."

"You think so?"

"Take an instance," said Rose. "A boy is punished unjustly by a
passionate teacher, who uses taunting words as well as smarting
blows. Now the pain of these blows is gone in less than an hour, but
the word-strokes received on his spirit hurt him, maybe, to the end
of his mortal life. Is it not so? And if so, why? There must be
substance to hold impressions so long."

"You silence, if you do not fully convince," replied Mr. Delancy. "I
must dream over what you have said. And so your explanation is, that
my thought of Irene has turned her thought to me, and thus we became
really present?"

"Yes."

"And that I saw her just now by an inner, and not by an outer,
sight?"

"Yes."

"But why was the appearance an outward manifestation, so to speak?"

"Sight is in the mind, even natural sight. The eye does not go out
to a tree, but the image of the tree comes to the eye, and thence is
presented, in a wonderful and mysterious way, to the mind, which
takes note of its form. The appearance is, that the soul looks out
at the tree; but the fact is, the image of the tree comes to the
brain, and is there seen. Now the brain may be impressed, and
respond by natural vision, from an internal as well as from an
external communication. We see this in cases of visual aberrations,
the instances of which given in books, and clearly authenticated,
are innumerable. Things are distinctly seen in a room which have no
existence in nature; and the illusion is so perfect that it seems
impossible for eyes to be mistaken."

"Well, well, child," said Mr. Delancy, "this is curious, and a
little bewildering. Perhaps it is all just as you say about Irene;
but I feel very heavy here;" and he laid his hand on his breast and
sighed deeply.

At this moment the library door was pushed gently open, and the form
of a woman stood in the presence of Mr. Delancy and Rose. She was
dressed in a dark silk, but had on neither bonnet nor shawl. Both
started; Mr. Delancy raised his hands and bent forward, gazing at
her eagerly, his lips apart. The face of the woman was pale and
haggard, yet familiar as the face of an old friend; but in it was
something so strange and unnatural that for a moment or two it was
not recognized.

"Father!" It was Irene. She advanced quietly and held but her hand.

"My daughter!" He caught the extended hand and kissed her, but she
showed no emotion.

"Rose, dear, I am glad to see you." There was truth in the dead
level tone with which "I am glad to see you" was spoken, and Rose,
who perceived this, took her hand and kissed her. Both hands and
lips were cold.

"What's the matter, Irene? Have you been sick?" asked Mr. Delancy,
in a choking voice.

"No, father, I'm very well." You would never have recognized that
voice as the voice of Irene.

"No, child, you are not well. What ails you? Why are you here in so
strange a way and looking so strangely?"

"Do I look strangely?" There was a feeble effort to awaken a smile,
which only gave her face a ghastly expression.

"Is Hartley with you?"

"No." Her voice was fuller and more emphatic as she uttered this
word. She tried to look steadily at her father, but her eyes moved
aside from the range of his vision.

For a little while there was a troubled silence with all. Rose had
placed an arm around the waist of Irene and drawn her to the sofa,
on which they were now sitting; Mr. Delancy stood before them.
Gradually the cold, almost blank, expression of Irene's face changed
and the old look came back.

"My daughter," said Mr. Delancy.

"Father"--Irene interrupted him--"I know what you are going to say.
My sudden, unannounced appearance, at this time, needs explanation.
I am glad dear Rose is here--my old, true friend"--and she leaned
against Miss Carman--"I can trust her."

The arm of Rose tightened around the waist of Irene.

"Father"--the voice of Irene fell to a deep, solemn tone; there was
no emphasis on one word more than on another; all was a dead level;
yet the meaning was as full and the involved purpose as fixed as if
her voice had run through the whole range of passionate
intonation--"Father, I have come back to Ivy Cliff and to you, after
having suffered shipwreck on the voyage of life. I went out rich, as
I supposed, in heart-treasures; I come back poor. My gold was dross,
and the sea has swallowed up even that miserable substitute for
wealth. Hartley and I never truly loved each other, and the
experiment of living together as husband and wife has proved a
failure. We have not been happy; no, not from the beginning. We have
not even been tolerant or forbearing toward each other. A steady
alienation has been in progress day by day, week by week, and month
by month, until no remedy is left but separation. That has been, at
length, applied, and here I am! It is the third time that I have
left him, and to both of us the act is final. He will not seek me,
and I shall not return."

There had come a slight flush to the countenance of Irene before she
commenced speaking, but this retired again, and she looked deathly
pale. No one answered her--only the arm of Rose tightened like a
cord around the waist of her unhappy friend.

"Father," and now her voice fluttered a little, "for your sake I am
most afflicted. I am strong enough to bear my fate--but you!"

There was a little sob--a strong suppression of feeling--and
silence.

"Oh, Irene! my child! my child!" The old man covered his face with
his hands, sobbed, and shook like a fluttering leaf. "I cannot bear
this! It is too much for me!" and he staggered backward. Irene
sprung forward and caught him in her arms. He would have fallen, but
for this, to the floor. She stood clasping and kissing him wildly,
until Rose came forward and led them both to the sofa.

Mr. Delancy did not rally from this shock. He leaned heavily against
his daughter, and she felt a low tremor in his frame.

"Father!" She spoke tenderly, with her lips to his ear. "Dear
father!"

But he did not reply.

"It is my life-discipline, father," she said; "I will be happier and
better, no doubt, in the end for this severe trial. Dear father, do
not let what is inevitable so break down your heart. You are my
strong, brave, good father, and I shall need now more than ever,
your sustaining arm. There was no help for this. It had to come,
sooner or later. It is over now. The first bitterness is past. Let
us be thankful for that, and gather up our strength for the future.
Dear father! Speak to me!"

Mr. Delancy tried to rally himself, but he was too much broken down
by the shock. He said a few words, in which there was scarcely any
connection of ideas, and then, getting up from the sofa, walked
about the room, turning one of his hands within the other in a
distressed way.

"Oh dear, dear, dear!" he murmured to himself, in a feeble manner.
"I have dreaded this, and prayed that it might not be. Such
wretchedness and disgrace! Such wretchedness and disgrace! Had they
no patience with each other--no forbearance--no love, that it must
come to this? Dear! dear! dear! Poor child!"

Irene, with her white, wretched face, sat looking at him for some
time, as he moved about, a picture of helpless misery; then, going
to him again, she drew an arm around his neck and tried to comfort
him. But there was no comfort in her words. What could _she_ say to
reach with a healing power the wound from which his very life-blood
was pouring.

"Don't talk! don't talk!" he said, pushing Irene away, with slight
impatience of manner. "I am heart-broken. Words are nothing!"

"Mr. Delancy," said Rose, now coming to his side, and laying a hand
upon his arm, "you must not speak so to Irene. This is not like
you."

There was a calmness of utterance and a firmness of manner which had
their right effect.

"How have I spoken, Rose, dear? What have I said?" Mr. Delancy
stopped and looked at Miss Carman in a rebuked, confused way, laying
his hand upon his forehead at the same time.

"Not from yourself," answered Rose.

"Not from myself!" He repeated her words, as if his thoughts were
still in a maze. "Ah, child, this is dreadful!" he added. "I am not
myself! Poor Irene! Poor daughter! Poor father!"

And the old man lost himself again.

A look of fear now shadowed darkly the face of Irene, and she
glanced anxiously from her father's countenance to that of Rose. She
did not read in the face of her young friend much that gave
assurance or comfort.

"Mr. Delancy," said Rose, with great earnestness of manner, "Irene
is in sore trouble. She has come to a great crisis in her life. You
are older and wiser than she is, and must counsel and sustain her.
Be calm, dear sir--calm, clear-seeing, wise and considerate, as you
have always been."

"Calm--clear-seeing--wise." Mr. Delancy repeated the words, as if
endeavoring to grasp the rein of thought and get possession of
himself again.

"Wise to counsel and strong to sustain," said Rose. "You must not
fail us now."

"Thank you, my sweet young monitor," replied Mr. Delancy, partially
recovering himself; "it was the weakness of a moment. Irene," and he
looked toward his daughter, "leave me with my own thoughts for a
little while. Take her, Rose, to her own room, and God give you
power to speak words of consolation; I have none."

Rose drew her arm within that of Irene, and said, "Come." But Irene
lingered, looking tenderly and anxiously at her father.

"Go, my love." Mr. Delancy waved his hand.

"Father! dear father!" She moved a step toward him, while Rose held
her back.

"I cannot help myself, father. The die is cast. Oh bear up with me!
I will be to you a better daughter than I have ever been. My life
shall be devoted to your happiness. In that I will find a
compensation. All is not lost--all is not ruined. My heart is as
pure as when I left you three years ago. I come back bleeding from
my life-battle it is true, but not in mortal peril--wounded, but not
unto death--cast down, but not destroyed."

All the muscles of Mr. Delancy's face quivered with suppressed
feeling as he stood looking at his daughter, who, as she uttered the
words, "cast down, but not destroyed," flung herself in wild
abandonment on his breast.

CHAPTER XX.

THE PALSIED HEART.

_THE_ shock to Mr. Delancy was a fearful one, coming as it did on a
troubled, foreboding state of mind; and reason lost for a little
while her firm grasp on the rein of government. If the old man could
have seen a ray of hope in the case it would have been different.
But from the manner and language of his daughter it was plain that
the dreaded evil had found them; and the certainty of this falling
suddenly, struck him as with a heavy blow.

For several days he was like one who had been stunned. All that
afternoon on which his daughter returned to Ivy Cliff he moved about
in a bewildered way, and by his questions and remarks showed an
incoherence of thought that filled the heart of Irene with alarm.

On the next morning, when she met him at the breakfast-table, he
smiled on her in his old affectionate way. As she kissed him, she
said,

"I hope you slept well last night, father?"

A slight change was visible in his face.

"I slept soundly enough," he replied, "but my dreams were not
agreeable."

Then he looked at her with a slight closing of the brows and a
questioning look in his eyes.

They sat down, Irene taking her old place at the table. As she
poured out her father's coffee, he said, smiling,

"It is pleasant to have you sitting there, daughter."

"Is it?"

Irene was troubled by this old manner of her father. Could he have
forgotten why she was there?

"Yes, it is pleasant," he replied, and then his eye dropped in a
thoughtful way.

"I think, sometimes, that your attractive New York friends have made
you neglectful of your lonely old father. You don't come to see him
as often as you did a year ago."

Mr. Delancy said this with simple earnestness.

"They shall not keep me from you any more, dear father," replied
Irene, meeting his humor, yet heart-appalled at the same time with
this evidence that his mind was wandering from the truth.

"I don't think them safe friends," added Mr. Delancy, with
seriousness.

"Perhaps not," replied Irene.

"Ah! I'm glad to hear you say so. Now, you have one true, safe
friend. I wish you loved her better than you do."

"What is her name?"

"Rose Carman," said Mr. Delancy, with a slight hesitation of manner,
as if he feared repulsion on the part of his daughter.

"I love Rose, dearly; she is the best of girls; and I know her to be
a true friend," replied Irene.

"Spoken like my own daughter!" said the old man with a brightening
countenance. "You must not neglect her any more. Why, she told me
you hadn't written to her in six months. Now, that isn't right.
Never go past old, true friends for the sake of new, and maybe false
ones. No--no. Rose is hurt; you must write to her often--every
week."

Irene could not answer. Her heart was beating wildly. What could
this mean? Had reason fled? But she struggled hard to preserve a
calm exterior.

"Will Hartley be up to-day?"

Irene tried to say "No," but could not find utterance.

Mr. Delancy looked at her curiously, and now in a slightly troubled
way. Then he let his eyes fall, and sat holding his cup like one who
was turning perplexed thoughts in his mind.

"You are not well this morning, father," said Irene, speaking only
because silence was too oppressive for endurance.

"I don't know; perhaps I'm not very well; and Mr. Delancy looked
across the table at his daughter very earnestly. "I had bad dreams
all last night, and they seem to have got mixed up in my thoughts
with real things. How is it? When did you come up from New York?

Book of the day: