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After the Storm by T. S. Arthur

Part 4 out of 5

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Don't smile at me. But really I can't think."

"I came yesterday," said Irene, as calmly as she could speak.

"Yesterday!" He looked at her with a quickly changing face.

"Yes, father, I came up yesterday."

"And Rose was here?"

"Yes."

Mr. Delancy's eyes fell again, and he sat very still.

"Hartley will not be here to-day?"

Mr. Delancy did not look up as he asked this question.

"No, father."

"Nor to-morrow?"

"I think not."

A sigh quivered on the old man's lips.

"Nor the day after that?"

"He did not say when he was coming," replied Irene, evasively.

"Did not say when? Did not say when?" Mr. Delancy repeated the
sentence two or three times, evidently trying all the while to
recall something which had faded from his memory.

"Don't worry yourself about Hartley," said Irene, forcing herself to
pronounce a name that seemed like fire on her lips. "Isn't it enough
that I am here?"

"No, it is not enough." And her father put his hand to his forehead
and looked upward in an earnest, searching manner.

What could Irene say? What could she do? The mind of her father was
groping about in the dark, and she was every moment in dread lest he
should discover the truth and get farther astray from the shock.

No food was taken by either Mr. Delancy or his daughter. The former
grew more entangled in his thoughts, and finally arose from the
table, saying, in a half-apologetic way,

"I don't know what ails me this morning."

"Where are you going?" asked Irene, rising at the same time.

"Nowhere in particular. The air is close here--I'll sit a while in
the portico," he answered, and throwing open one of the windows he
stepped outside. Irene followed him.

"How beautiful!" said Mr. Delancy, as he sat down and turned his
eyes upon the attractive landscape. Irene did not trust her voice in
reply.

"Now go in and finish your breakfast, child. I feel better; I don't
know what came over me." He added the last sentence in an undertone.

Irene returned into the house, but not to resume her place at the
table. Her mind was in an agony of dread. She had reached the
dining-room, and was about to ring for a servant, when she heard her
name called by her father. Running back quickly to the portico, she
found him standing in the attitude of one who had been suddenly
startled; his face all alive with question and suspense.

"Oh, yes! yes! I thought you were here this moment! And so it's all
true?" he said, in a quick, troubled way.

"True? What is true, father?" asked Irene, as she paused before him.

"True, what you told me yesterday."

She did not answer.

"You have left your husband?" He looked soberly into her face.

"I have, father." She thought it best to use no evasion.

He groaned, sat down in the chair from which he had arisen, and let
his head fall upon his bosom.

"Father!" Irene kneeled before him and clasped his hands. "Father!
dear father!"

He laid a hand on her head, and smoothed her hair in a caressing
manner.

"Poor child! poor daughter!" he said, in a fond, pitying voice,
"don't take it so to heart. Your old father loves you still."

She could not stay the wild rush of feeling that was overmastering
her. Passionate sobs heaved her breast, and tears came raining from
her eyes.

"Now, don't, Irene! Don't take on so, daughter! I love you still,
and we will be happy here, as in other days."

"Yes, father," said Irene, holding down her head and calming her
voice, "we will be happy here, as in the dear old time. Oh we will
be very happy together. I won't leave you any more."

"I wish you had never left me," he answered, mournfully; "I was
always afraid of this--always afraid. But don't let it break your
heart; I'm all the same; nothing will ever turn me against you. I
hope he hasn't been very unkind to you?" His voice grew a little
severe.

"We wont say anything against him," replied Irene, trying to
understand exactly her father's state of mind and accommodate
herself thereto. "Forgive and forget is the wisest rule always."

"Yes, dear, that's it. Forgive and forget--forgive and forget.
There's nothing like it in this world. I'm glad to hear you talk
so."

The mind of Mr. Delancy did not again wander from the truth. But the
shock received when it first came upon him with stunning force had
taken away his keen perception of the calamity. He was sad, troubled
and restless, and talked a great deal about the unhappy position of
his daughter--sometimes in a way that indicated much incoherence of
thought. To this state succeeded one of almost total silence, and he
would sit for hours, if not aroused from reverie and inaction by his
daughter, in apparent dreamy listlessness. His conversation, when he
did talk on any subject, showed, however, that his mind had regained
its old clearness.

On the third day after Irene's arrival at Ivy Cliff, her trunks came
up from New York. She had packed them on the night before leaving
her husband's house, and marked them with her name and that of her
father's residence. No letter or message accompanied them. She did
not expect nor desire any communication, and was not therefore
disappointed, but rather relieved from what would have only proved a
cause of disturbance. All angry feelings toward her husband had
subsided; but no tender impulses moved in her heart, nor did the
feeblest thought of reconciliation breathe over the surface of her
mind. She had been in bonds; now the fetters were cast off, and she
loved freedom too well to bend her neck again to the yoke.

No tender impulses moved, we have said, in her heart, for it lay
like a palsied thing, dead in her bosom--dead, we mean, so far as
the wife was concerned. It was not so palsied on that fatal evening
when the last strife with her husband closed. But in the agony that
followed there came, in mercy, a cold paralysis; and now toward
Hartley Emerson her feelings were as calm as the surface of a frozen
lake.

And how was it with the deserted husband? Stern and unyielding also.
The past year had been marked by so little of mutual tenderness,
there had been so few passages of love between them--green spots in
the desert of their lives--that memory brought hardly a relic from
the past over which the heart could brood. For the sake of worldly
appearances, Emerson most regretted the unhappy event. Next, his
trouble was for Irene and her father, but most for Irene.

"Willful, wayward one!" he said many, many times. "You, of all, will
suffer most. No woman can take a step like this without drinking of
pain to the bitterest dregs. If you can hide the anguish, well. But
I fear the trial will be too hard for you--the burden too heavy.
Poor, mistaken one!"

For a month the household arrangements of Mr. Emerson continued as
when Irene left him. He did not intermit for a day or an hour his
business duties, and came home regularly at his usual times--always,
it must be said, with a feeble expectation of meeting his wife in
her old places; we do not say desire, but simply expectation. If she
had returned, well. He would not have repulsed, nor would he have
received her with strong indications of pleasure. But a month went
by, and she did not return nor send him any word. Beyond the brief
"I have gone," there had come from her no sign.

Two months elapsed, and then Mr. Emerson dismissed the servants and
shut up the house, but he neither removed nor sold the furniture;
that remained as it was for nearly a year, when he ordered a sale by
auction and closed the establishment.

Hartley Emerson, under the influence of business and domestic
trouble, matured rapidly, and became grave, silent and reflective
beyond men of his years. Companionable he was by nature, and during
the last year that Irene was with him, failing to receive social
sympathy at home, he had joined a club of young men, whose
association was based on a declared ambition for literary
excellence. From this club he withdrew himself; it did not meet the
wants of his higher nature, but offered much that stimulated the
grosser appetites and passions. Now he gave himself up to earnest
self-improvement, and found in the higher and wider range of thought
which came as the result a partial compensation for what he had
lost. But he was not happy; far, very far from it. And there were
seasons when the past came back upon him in such a flood that all
the barriers of indifference which he had raised for self-protection
were swept away, and he had to build them up again in sadness of
spirit. So the time wore on with him, and troubled life-experiences
were doing their work upon his character.

CHAPTER XXI.

THE IRREVOCABLE DECREE.

_IT_ is two years since the day of separation between Irene and her
husband. Just two years. And she is sitting in the portico at Ivy
Cliff with her father, looking down upon the river that lies
gleaming in sunshine--not thinking of the river, however, nor of
anything in nature.

They are silent and still--very still, as if sleep had locked their
senses. He is thin and wasted as from long sickness, and she looks
older by ten years. There is no fine bloom on her cheeks, from which
the fullness of youth has departed.

It is a warm June day, the softest, balmiest, brightest day the year
has given. The air comes laden with delicate odors and thrilling
with bird melodies, and, turn the eye as it will, there is a feast
of beauty.

Yet, the odors are not perceived, nor the music heard, nor the
beauty seen by that musing old man and his silent daughter. Their
thoughts are not in the present, but far back in the unhappy past,
the memories of which, awakened by the scene and season, have come
flowing in a strong tide upon them.

Two years! They have left the prints of their heavy feet upon the
life of Irene, and the deep marks will never be wholly obliterated.
She were less than human if this were not so. Two years! Yet, not
once in that long, heart-aching time had she for a single moment
looked backward in weakness. Sternly holding to her act as right,
she strengthened herself in suffering, and bore her pain as if it
were a decree of fate. There was no anger in her heart, nor anything
of hardness toward her husband. But there was no love, nor tender
yearning for conjunction--at least, nothing recognized as such in
her own consciousness.

Not since the days Irene left the house of her husband had she heard
from him directly; and only two or three times indirectly. She had
never visited the city since her flight therefrom, and all her
pleasant and strongly influencing associations there were, in
consequence, at an end. Once her very dear friend Mrs. Talbot came
up to sympathize with and strengthen her in the fiery trial through
which she was passing. She found Irene's truer friend, Rosa Carman,
with her; and Rose did not leave them alone for a moment at a time.
All sentiments that she regarded as hurtful to Irene in her present
state of mind she met with her calm, conclusive mode of reasoning,
that took away the specious force of the sophist's dogmas. But her
influence was chiefly used in the repression of unprofitable themes,
and the introduction of such as tended to tranquilize the feelings,
and turn the thoughts of her friend away from the trouble that was
lying upon her soul like a suffocating nightmare. Mrs. Talbot was
not pleased with her visit, and did not come again. But she wrote
several times. The tone of her letters was not, however, pleasant to
Irene, who was disturbed by it, and more bewildered than enlightened
by the sentiments that were announced with oracular vagueness. These
letters were read to Miss Carman, on whom Irene was beginning to
lean with increasing confidence. Rose did not fail to expose their
weakness or fallacy in such clear light that Irene, though she tried
to shut her eyes against the truth presented by Rose, could not help
seeing it. Her replies were not, under these circumstances, very
satisfactory, for she was unable to speak in a free, assenting,
confiding spirit. The consequence was natural. Mrs. Talbot ceased to
write, and Irene did not regret the broken correspondence. Once Mrs.
Lloyd wrote. When Irene broke the seal and let her eyes rest upon
the signature, a shudder of repulsion ran through her frame, and the
letter dropped from her hands to the floor. As if possessed by a
spirit whose influence over her she could not control, she caught up
the unread sheet and threw it into the fire. As the flames seized
upon and consumed it, she drew a long breath and murmured,

"So perish the memory of our acquaintance!"

Almost a dead letter of suffering had been those two years. There
are no events to record, and but little progress to state. Yes,
there had been a dead level of suffering--a palsied condition of
heart and mind; a period of almost sluggish endurance, in which
pride and an indomitable will gave strength to bear.

Mr. Delancy and his daughter were sitting, as we have seen, on that
sweet June day, in silent abstraction of thought, when the
serving-man, who had been to the village, stepped into the portico
and handed Irene a letter. The sight of it caused her heart to leap
and the blood to crimson suddenly her face. It was not an ordinary
letter--one in such a shape had never come to her hand before.

"What is that?" asked her father, coming back as it were to life.

"I don't know," she answered, with an effort to appear indifferent.

Mr. Delancy looked at his daughter with a perplexed manner, and then
let his eyes fall upon the legal envelope in her hand, on which a
large red seal was impressed.

Rising in a quiet way, Irene left the portico with slow steps; but
no sooner was she beyond her father's observation than she moved
toward her chamber with winged feet.

"Bless me, Miss Irene!" exclaimed Margaret, who met her on the
stairs, "what has happened?"

But Irene swept by her without a response, and, entering her room,
shut the door and locked it. Margaret stood a moment irresolute, and
then, going back to her young lady's chamber, knocked for admission.
There was no answer to her summons, and she knocked again.

"Who is it?"

She hardly knew the voice.

"It is Margaret. Can't I come in?"

"Not now," was answered.

"What's the matter, Miss Irene?"

"Nothing, Margaret. I wish to be alone now."

"Something has happened, though, or you'd never look just like
that," said Margaret to herself, as she went slowly down stairs. "Oh
dear, dear! Poor child! there's nothing but trouble for her in this
world."

It was some minutes before Irene found courage to break the imposing
seal and look at the communication within. She guessed at the
contents, and was not wrong. They informed her, in legal phrase,
that her husband had filed an application for a divorce on the
ground of desertion, and gave notice that any resistance to this
application must be on file on or before a certain date.

The only visible sign of feeling that responded to this announcement
was a deadly paleness and a slight, nervous crushing of the paper in
her hands. Moveless as a thing inanimate, she sat with fixed, dreamy
eyes for a long, long time.

A divorce! She had looked for this daily for more than a year, and
often wondered at her husband's tardiness. Had she desired it? Ah,
that is the probing question. Had she desired an act of law to push
them fully asunder--to make the separation plenary in all respects?
No. She did not really wish for the irrevocable sundering decree.

Since her return to her father's house, the whole life of Irene had
been marked by great circumspection. The trial through which she had
passed was enough to sober her mind and turn her thoughts in some
new directions; and this result had followed. Pride, self-will and
impatience of control found no longer any spur to reactive life, and
so her interest in woman's rights, social reforms and all their
concomitants died away, for lack of a personal bearing. At first
there had been warm arguments with Miss Carman on these subjects,
but these grew gradually less earnest, and were finally avoided by
both, as not only unprofitable, but distasteful. Gradually this wise
and true friend had quickened in the mind of Irene an interest in
things out of herself. There are in every neighborhood objects to
awaken our sympathies, if we will only look at and think of them.
"The poor ye have always with you." Not the physically poor only,
but, in larger numbers, the mentally and spiritually poor. The hands
of no one need lie idle a moment for lack of work, for it is no
vague form of speech to say that the harvest is great and the
laborers few.

There were ripe harvest-fields around Ivy Cliff, though Irene had
not observed the golden grain bending its head for the sickle until
Rose led her feet in the right direction. Not many of the naturally
poor were around them, yet some required even bodily
ministrations--children, the sick and the aged. The destitution that
most prevailed was of the mind; and this is the saddest form of
poverty. Mental hunger! how it exhausts the soul and debases its
heaven-born faculties, sinking it into a gross corporeal sphere,
that is only a little removed from the animal! To feed the hungry
and clothe the naked mean a great deal more than the bestowal of
food and raiment; yes, a great deal more; and we have done but a
small part of Christian duty--have obeyed only in the letter--when
we supply merely the bread that perishes.

Rose Carman had been wisely instructed, and she was an apt scholar.
Now, from a learner she became a teacher, and in the suffering Irene
found one ready to accept the higher truths that governed her life,
and to act with her in giving them a real ultimation. So, in the two
years which had woven their web of new experiences for the heart of
Irene, she had been drawn almost imperceptibly by Rose into fields
of labor where the work that left her hands was, she saw, good work,
and must endure for ever. What peace it often brought to her
striving spirit, when, but for the sustaining and protecting power
of good deeds, she would have been swept out upon the waves of
turbulent passion--tossed and beaten there until her exhausted heart
sunk down amid the waters, and lay dead for a while at the bottom of
her great sea of trouble!

It was better--oh, how much better!--when she laid her head at night
on her lonely pillow, to have in memory the face of a poor sick
woman, which had changed from suffering to peace as she talked to
her of higher things than the body's needs, and bore her mind up
into a region of tranquil thought, than to be left with no image to
dwell upon but an image of her own shattered hopes. Yes, this was
far better; and by the power of such memories the unhappy one had
many peaceful seasons and nights of sweet repose.

All around Ivy Cliff, Irene and Rose were known as ministrant
spirits to the poor and humble. The father of Rose was a man of
wealth, and she had his entire sympathy and encouragement. Irene had
no regular duties at home, Margaret being housekeeper and directress
in all departments. So there was nothing to hinder the free course
of her will as to the employment of time. With all her pride of
independence, the ease with which Mrs. Talbot drew Irene in one
direction, and now Miss Carman in another, showed how easily she
might be influenced when off her guard. This is true in most cases
of your very self-willed people, and the reason why so many of them
get astray. Only conceal the hand that leads them, and you may often
take them where you will. Ah, if Hartley Emerson had been wise
enough, prudent enough and loving enough to have influenced aright
the fine young spirit he was seeking to make one with his own, how
different would the result have been!

In the region round about, our two young friends came in time to be
known as the "Sisters of Charity." It was not said of them
mockingly, nor in gay depreciation, nor in mean ill-nature, but in
expression of a common sentiment, that recognized their high,
self-imposed mission.

Thus it had been with Irene since her return to the old home at Ivy
Cliff.

CHAPTER XXII.

STRUCK DOWN.

_YES_, Irene had looked for this--looked for it daily for now more
than a year. Still it came upon her with a shock that sent a
strange, wild shudder through all her being. A divorce! She was less
prepared for it than she had ever been.

What was beyond? Ah! that touched a chord which gave a thrill of
pain. What was beyond? A new alliance, of course. Legal disabilities
removed, Hartley Emerson would take upon himself new marriage vows.
Could she say, "Yea, and amen" to this? No, alas! no. There was a
feeling of intense, irrepressible anguish away down in heart-regions
that lay far beyond the lead-line of prior consciousness. What did
it mean? She asked herself the question with a fainting spirit. Had
she not known herself? Were old states of tenderness, which she had
believed crushed out and dead along ago, hidden away in secret
places of her heart, and kept there safe from harm?

No wonder she sat pale and still, crumpling nervously that fatal
document which had startled her with a new revelation of herself.
There was love in her heart still, and she knew it not. For a long
time she sat like one in a dream.

"God help me!" she said at length, looking around her in a wild,
bewildered manner. "What does all this mean?"

There came at this moment a gentle tap at her door. She knew whose
soft hand had given the sound.

"Irene," exclaimed Rose Carman, as she took the hand of her friend
and looked into her changed countenance, "what ails you?"

Irene turned her face partly away to get control of its expression.

"Sit down, Rose," she said, as soon as she could trust herself to
speak.

They sat down together, Rose troubled and wondering. Irene then
handed her friend the notice which she had received. Miss Carman
read it, but made no remark for some time.

"It has disturbed you," she said at length, seeing that Irene
continued silent.

"Yes, more than I could have believed," answered Irene. Her voice
had lost its familiar tones.

"You have expected this?"

"Yes."

"I thought you were prepared for it."

"And I am," replied Irene, speaking with more firmness of manner.
"Expectation grows so nervous, sometimes, that when the event comes
it falls upon us with a painful shock. This is my case now. I would
have felt it less severely if it had occurred six months ago."

"What will you do?" asked Rose.

"Do?"

"Yes."

"What can I do?"

"Resist the application, if you will."

"But I will not," answered Irene, firmly. "He signifies his wishes
in the case, and those wishes must determine everything. I will
remain passive."

"And let the divorce issue by default of answer?"

"Yes."

There was a faintness of tone which Rose could not help remarking.

"Yes," Irene added, "he desires this complete separation, and I can
have nothing to say in opposition. I left him, and have remained
ever since a stranger to his home and heart. We are nothing to each
other, and yet are bound together by the strongest of bonds. Why
should he not wish to be released from these bonds? And if he
desires it, I have nothing to say. We are divorced in fact--why then
retain the form?"

"There may be a question of the fact," said Rose.

"Yes; I understand you. We have discussed that point fully. Your
view may be right, but I do not see it clearly. I will at least
retain passive. The responsibility shall rest with him."

No life or color came back to the face of Irene. She looked as cold
as marble; not cold without feeling, but with intense feeling
recorded as in a piece of sculpture.

There were deeds of kindness and mercy set down in the purposes of
our young friend, and it was to go forth and perform them that Rose
had called for Irene this morning. But only one Sister of Charity
went to the field that day, and only one for many days afterward.

Irene could not recover from the shock of this legal notice. It
found her less prepared than she had been at any time during the
last two years of separation. Her life at Ivy Cliff had not been
favorable to a spirit of antagonism and accusation, nor favorable to
a self-approving judgment of herself when the past came up, as it
often came, strive as she would to cover it as with a veil. She had
grown in this night of suffering, less self-willed and blindly
impulsive. Some scales had dropped from her eyes, and she saw
clearer. Yet no repentance for that one act of her life, which
involved a series of consequences beyond the reach of conjecture,
had found a place in her heart. There was no looking back from
this--no sober questioning as to the right or necessity which had
been involved. There had been one great mistake--so she decided the
case--and that was the marriage.

From this fatal error all subsequent evil was born.

Months of waiting and expectation followed, and then came a decree
annulling the marriage.

"It is well," was the simple response of Irene when notice of the
fact reached her.

Not even to Rose Carman did she reveal a thought that took shape in
her mind, nor betray a single emotion that trembled in her heart. If
there had been less appearance of indifference--less avoidance of
the subject--her friends would have felt more comfortable as to her
state of mind. The unnatural repose of, exterior was to them
significant of a strife within which she wished to conceal from all
eyes.

About this time her true, loving friend, Miss Carman, married. Irene
did not stand as one of the bridesmaids at the ceremony. Rose gently
hinted her wishes in the case, but Irene shrunk from the position,
and her feeling was respected. The husband of Rose was a merchant,
residing in New York, named Everet. After a short bridal tour she
went to her new home in the city. Mr. Everet was five or six years
her senior, and a man worthy to be her life-companion. No sudden
attachment had grown up between them. For years they had been in the
habit of meeting, and in this time the character of each had been
clearly read by the other. When Mr. Everet asked the maiden's hand,
it, was yielded without a sign of hesitation.

The removal of Rose from the neighborhood of Ivy Cliff greatly
disturbed the even-going tenor of Irene's life. It withdrew also a
prop on which she had leaned often in times of weakness, which would
recur very heavily.

"How can I live without you?" she said in tears, as she sat alone
with the new-made bride on the eve of her departure; "you have been
everything to me, Rose--strength in weakness; light, when all around
was cold and dark; a guide when I had lost my way. God bless and
make you happy, darling! And he will. Hearts like yours create
happiness wherever they go."

"My new home will only be a few hours' distant," replied Rose; "I
shall see you there often."

Irene sighed. She had been to the city only a few times since that
sad day of separation from her husband. Could she return again and
enter one of its bright social circles? Her heart said no. But love
drew her too strongly. In less than a month after Rose became the
mistress of a stately mansion, Irene was her guest. This was just
six years from the time when she set up her home there, a proud and
happy young wife. Alas! that hearth was desolate, "its bright fire
quenched and gone."

It was best for Irene thus to get back again into a wider social
sphere--to make some new friends, and those of a class that such a
woman as Mrs. Everet would naturally draw around her. Three years of
suffering, and the effort to lead a life of self-denial and active
interest in others, had wrought in Irene a great change. The old,
flashing ardor of manner was gone. If she grew animated in
conversation, as she often did from temperament, her face would
light up beautifully, but it did not show the radiance of old times.
Thought, more than feeling, gave its living play to her countenance.
All who met her were attracted; as her history was known,
observation naturally took the form of close scrutiny. People wished
to find the angular and repellant sides of her character in order to
see how far she might be to blame. But they were not able to
discover them. On the subjects of woman's rights, domestic tyranny,
sexual equality and all kindred themes she was guarded in speech.
She never introduced them herself, and said but little when they
formed the staple of conversation.

Even if, in three years of intimate, almost daily, association with
Rose, she had not learned to think in some new directions on these
bewildering questions, certain womanly instincts must have set a
seal upon her lips. Not for all the world would she, to a
stranger--no, nor to any new friend--utter a sentiment that could in
the least degree give color to the thought that she wished to throw
even the faintest shadow of blame on Hartley Emerson. Not that she
was ready to take blame to herself, or give the impression that
fault rested by her door. No. The subject was sacred to herself, and
she asked no sympathy and granted no confidences. There were those
who sought to draw her out, who watched her face and words with keen
intentness when certain themes were discussed. But they were unable
to reach the penetralia of her heart. There was a chamber of record
there into which no one could enter but herself.

Since the separation of Irene from her husband, Mr. Delancy had
shown signs of rapid failure. His heart was bound up in his
daughter, who, with all her captious self-will and impulsiveness,
loved him with a tenderness and fervor that never knew change or
eclipse. To see her make shipwreck of life's dearest hopes--to know
that her name was spoken by hundreds in reprobation--to look daily
on her quiet, changing, suffering face, was more than his fond heart
could bear. It broke him down. This fact, more perhaps, than her own
sad experiences, tended to sober the mind of Irene, and leave it
almost passive under the right influences of her wise young friend.

After the removal of Rose from the neighborhood of Ivy Cliff, the
health of Mr. Delancy failed still more rapidly, and in a few months
the brief visits of Irene to her friend in New York had to be
intermitted. She could no longer venture to leave her father, even
under the care of their faithful Margaret. A sad winter for Irene
succeeded. Mr. Delancy drooped about until after Christmas, in a
weary, listless way, taking little interest in anything, and bearing
both physical and mental consciousness as a burden it would be
pleasant to lay down. Early in January he had to give up and go to
bed; and now the truth of his condition startled the mind of Irene
and filled her with alarm. By slow, insidious encroachments, that
dangerous enemy, typhoid fever, had gained a lodgment in the very
citadel of life, and boldly revealed itself, defying the healer's
art. For weeks the dim light of mortal existence burned with a low,
wavering flame, that any sudden breath of air might extinguish; then
it grew steady again, increased, and sent a few brighter rays into
the darkness which had gathered around Ivy Cliff.

Spring found Mr. Delancy strong enough to sit, propped up with
pillows, by the window of his chamber, and look out upon the
newly-mantled trees, the green fields, and the bright river flashing
in the sunshine. The heart of Irene took courage again. The cloud
which had lain upon it all winter like a funereal pall dissolved,
and went floating away and wasting itself in dim expanses.

Alas, that all this sweet promise was but a mockery of hope! A
sudden cold, how taken it was almost impossible to tell--for Irene
guarded her father as tenderly as if he were a new-born
infant--disturbed life's delicate equipoise, and the scale turned
fatally the wrong way.

Poor Irene! She had only staggered under former blows--this one
struck her down. Had life anything to offer now? "Nothing! nothing!"
she said in her heart, and prayed that she might die and be at rest
with her father.

Months of stupor followed this great sorrow; then her heart began to
beat again with some interest in life. There was one friend, almost
her only friend--for she now repelled nearly every one who
approached her--who never failed in hopeful, comforting, stimulating
words and offices, who visited her frequently in her recluse life at
Ivy Cliff, and sought with untiring assiduity to win her once more
away from its dead seclusion. And she was at last successful. In the
winter after Mr. Delancy's death, Irene, after much earnest
persuasion, consented to pass a few weeks in the city with Mrs.
Everet. This gained, her friend was certain of all the rest.

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE HAUNTED VISION.

_GRADUALLY_ the mind of Irene attained clearness of perception as to
duty, and a firmness of will that led her to act in obedience to
what reason and religion taught her was right. The leading idea
which Mrs. Everet endeavored to keep before her was this: that no
happiness is possible, except in some work that removes
self-consciousness and fills our minds with an interest in the
well-being of others. While Rose was at Ivy Cliff, Irene acted with
her, and was sustained by her love and companionship. After her
marriage and removal to New York, Irene was left to stand alone, and
this tried her strength. It was feeble. The sickness and death of
her father drew her back again into herself, and for a time
extinguished all interest in what was on the outside. To awaken a
new and higher life was the aim of her friend, and she never wearied
in her generous efforts. During this winter plans were matured for
active usefulness in the old spheres, and Mrs. Everet promised to
pass as much time in the next summer with her father as possible, so
as to act with Irene in the development of these schemes.

The first warm days of summer found Irene back again in her home at
Ivy Cliff. Her visit in New York had been prolonged far beyond the
limit assigned to it in the beginning, but Rose would not consent to
an earlier return. This winter of daily life with Mrs. Everet, in
the unreserved intercourse of home, was of great use to Irene.
Affliction had mellowed all the harder portions of her disposition,
which the trouble and experiences of the past few years could not
reach with their softening influences. There was good soil in her
mind, well prepared, and the sower failed not in the work of
scattering good seed upon it with a liberal hand--seed that felt
soon a quickening life and swelled in the delight of coming
germination.

It is not our purpose to record the history of Irene during the
years of her discipline at Ivy Cliff, where she lived, nun-like, for
the larger part of her time. She had useful work there, and in its
faithful performance peace came to her troubled soul. Three or four
times every year she paid a visit to Rose, and spent on each
occasion from one to three or four weeks. It could not but happen
that in these visits congenial friendship would be made, and tender
remembrances go back with her into the seclusion of her country
home, to remain as sweet companions in her hours of loneliness.

It was something remarkable that, during the six or seven years
which followed Irene's separation from her husband, she had never
seen him. He was still a resident of New York, and well known as a
rapidly advancing member of the bar. Occasionally his name met her
eyes in the newspapers, as connected with some important suit; but,
beyond this, his life was to her a dead letter. He might be married
again, for all she knew to the contrary. But she never dwelt on that
thought; its intrusion always disturbed her, and that profoundly.

And how was it with Hartley Emerson? Had he again tried the
experiment which once so signally failed? No; he had not ventured
upon the sea whose depths held the richest vessel he had freighted
in life. Visions of loveliness had floated before him, and he had
been lured by them, a few times, out of his beaten path. But he
carried in his memory a picture that, when his eyes turned inward,
held their gaze so fixedly that all other images grew dim or
unlovely. And so, with a sigh, he would turn again to the old way
and move on as before.

But the past was irrevocable. "And shall I," he began to say to
himself, "for this one great error of my youth--this blind
mistake--pass a desolate and fruitless life?"

Oftener and oftener the question was repeated in his thoughts, until
it found answer in an emphatic No! Then he looked around with a new
interest, and went more into society. Soon one fair face came more
frequently before the eyes of his mind than any other face. He saw
it as he sat in his law-office, saw it on the page of his book as he
read in the evening, lying over the printed words and hiding from
his thoughts their meaning; saw it in dreams. The face haunted him.
How long was this since that fatal night of discord and separation?
Ten years. So long? Yes, so long. Ten weary years had made their
record upon his book of life and upon hers. Ten weary years! The
discipline of this time had not worked on either any moral
deterioration. Both were yet sound to the core, and both were
building up characters based on the broad foundations of virtue.

Steadily that face grew into a more living distinctness, haunting
his daily thoughts and nightly visions. Then new life-pulses began
to throb in his heart; new emotions to tremble over its long calm
surface; new warmth to flow, spring-like, into the indurated soil.
This face, which had begun thus to dwell with him, was the face of a
maiden, beautiful to look upon. He had met her often during a year,
and from the beginning of their acquaintance she had interested him.
If he erred not, the interest was mutual. prom all points of view he
now commenced studying her character. Having made one mistake, he
was fearful and guarded. Better go on a lonely man to the end of
life than again have his love-freighted bark buried in mid-ocean.

At last, Emerson was satisfied. He had found the sweet being whose
life could blend in eternal oneness with his own; and it only
remained for him to say to her in words what she had read as plainly
as written language in his eyes. So far as she was concerned, no
impediment existed. We will not say that she was ripe enough in soul
to wed with this man, who had passed through experiences of a kind
that always develop the character broadly and deeply. No, for such
was not the case. She was too young and inexperienced to understand
him; too narrow in her range of thought; too much a child. But
something in her beautiful, innocent, sweet young face had won his
heart; and in the weakness of passion, not in the manly strength of
a deep love, he had bowed down to a shrine at which he could never
worship and be satisfied.

But even strong men are weak in woman's toils, and Hartley Emerson
was a captive.

There was to be a pleasure-party on one of the steamers that cut the
bright waters of the fair Hudson, and Emerson and the maiden, whose
face was now his daily companion, were to be of the number. He felt
that the time had come for him to speak if he meant to speak at
all--to say what was in his thought, or turn aside and let another
woo and win the lovely being imagination had already pictured as the
sweet companion of his future home. The night that preceded this
excursion was a sleepless one for Hartley Emerson. Questions and
doubts, scarcely defined in his thoughts before, pressed themselves
upon him and demanded a solution. The past came up with a vividness
not experienced for years. In states of
semi-consciousness--half-sleeping, half-waking--there returned to
him such life-like realizations of events long ago recorded in his
memory, and covered over with the dust of time, that he started from
them to full wakefulness, with a heart throbbing in wild tumult.
Once there was presented so vivid a picture of Irene that for some
moments he was unable to satisfy himself that all these ten years of
loneliness were not a dream. He saw her as she stood before him on
that ever-to-be-remembered night and said, "_I go!_" Let us turn
back and read the record of her appearance as he saw her then and
now:

"She had raised her eyes from the floor, and turned them full upon
her husband. Her face was not so pale. 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
repulsively 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."

Emerson groaned as he fell back upon his pillow and shut his eyes.
What would he not then have given for one full draught of Lethe's
fabled waters.

Morning came at last, its bright beams dispersing the shadows of
night; and with it came back the warmth of his new passion and his
purpose on that day, if the opportunity came, to end all doubt, by
offering the maiden his hand--we do not say heart, for of that he
was not the full possessor.

The day opened charmingly, and the pleasure-party were on the wing
betimes. Emerson felt a sense of exhilaration as the steamer passed
out from her moorings and glided with easy grace along the city
front. He stood upon her deck with a maiden's hand resting on his
arm, the touch of which, though light as the pressure of a flower,
was felt with strange distinctness. The shadows of the night, which
had brooded so darkly over his spirit, were gone, and only a dim
remembrance of the gloom remained. Onward the steamer glided,
sweeping by the crowded line of buildings and moving grandly along,
through palisades of rock on one side and picturesque landscapes on
the other, until bolder scenery stretched away and mountain barriers
raised themselves against the blue horizon.

There was a large number of passengers on board, scattered over the
decks or lingering in the cabins, as inclination prompted. The
observer of faces and character had field enough for study; but
Hartley Emerson was not inclined to read in the book of character on
this occasion. One subject occupied his thoughts to the exclusion of
all others. There had come a period that was full of interest and
fraught with momentous consequences which must extend through all of
his after years. He saw little but the maiden at his side--thought
of little but his purpose to ask her to walk with him, a
soul-companion, in the journey of life.

During the first hour there was a constant moving to and fro and the
taking up of new positions by the passengers--a hum and buzz of
conversation--laughing--exclamations--gay talk and enthusiasm. Then
a quieter tone prevailed. Solitary individuals took places of
observation; groups seated themselves in pleasant circles to chat,
and couples drew away into cabins or retired places, or continued
the promenade.

Among the latter were Emerson and his companion. Purposely he had
drawn the fair girl away from their party, in order to get the
opportunity he desired. He did not mean to startle her with an
abrupt proposal here, in the very eye of observation, but to advance
toward the object by slow approaches, marking well the effect of his
words, and receding the moment he saw that, in beginning to
comprehend him, her mind showed repulsion or marked disturbance.

Thus it was with them when the boat entered the Highlands and swept
onward with wind-like speed. They were in one of the gorgeously
furnished cabins, sitting together on a sofa. There had been earnest
talk, but on some subject of taste. Gradually Emerson changed the
theme and began approaching the one nearest to his heart. Slight
embarrassment followed; his voice took on a different tone; it was
lower, tenderer, more deliberate and impressive. He leaned closer,
and the maiden did not retire; she understood him, and was waiting
the pleasure of his speech with heart-throbbings that seemed as if
they must be audible in his ears as well as her own.

The time had come. Everything was propitious. The words that would
have sealed his fate and hers were on his lips, when, looking up, he
knew not why, but under an impulse of the moment, he met two calm
eyes resting upon him with an expression that sent the blood leaping
back to his heart. Two calm eyes and a pale, calm face were before
him for a moment; then they vanished in the crowd. But he knew them,
though ten years lay between the last vision and this.

The words that were on his lips died unspoken. He could not have
uttered them if life or death hung on the issue. No--no--no. A dead
silence followed.

"Are you ill?" asked his companion, looking at him anxiously.

"No, oh no," he replied, trying to rally himself.

"But you are ill, Mr. Emerson. How pale your face is!"

"It will pass off in a moment." He spoke with an effort to appear
self-possessed. "Let us go on deck," he added, rising. "There are a
great many people in the cabin, and the atmosphere is oppressive."

A dead weight fell upon the maiden's heart as she arose and went on
deck by the side of Mr. Emerson. She had noticed his sudden pause
and glance across the cabin at the instant she was holding her
breath for his next words, but did not observe the object, a sight
of which had wrought on him so remarkable a change. They walked
nearly the entire length of the boat, after getting on deck, before
Mr. Emerson spoke. He then remarked on the boldness of the scenery
and pointed out interesting localities, but in so absent and
preoccupied a way that his companion listened without replying. In a
little while he managed to get into the neighborhood of three or
four of their party, with whom he left her, and, moving away, took a
position on the upper deck just over the gangway from which the
landings were made. Here he remained until the boat came to at a
pier on which his feet had stepped lightly many, many times. Ivy
Cliff was only a little way distant, hidden from view by a belt of
forest trees. The ponderous machinery stood still, the plunging
wheels stopped their muffled roar, and in the brooding silence that
followed three or four persons stepped on the plank which had been
thrown out and passed to the shore. A single form alone fixed the
eyes of Hartley Emerson. He would have known it on the instant among
a thousand. It was that of Irene. Her step was slow, like one
abstracted in mind or like one in feeble health. After gaining the
landing, she stood still and turned toward the boat, when their eyes
met again--met, and held each other, by a spell which neither had
power to break. The fastenings were thrown off, the engineer rung
his bell; there was a clatter of machinery, a rush of waters and the
boat glanced onward. Then Irene started like one suddenly aroused
from sleep and walked rapidly away.

And thus they met for the first time after a separation of ten
years.

CHAPTER XXIV.

THE MINISTERING ANGEL.

_A CLATTER_ of machinery, a rush of waters, and the boat glanced
onward but still Hartley Emerson stood motionless and statue-like,
his eyes fixed upon the shore, until the swiftly-gliding vessel bore
him away, and the object which had held his vision by a kind of
fascination was concealed from view.

"An angel, if there ever was one on this side of heaven!" said a
voice close to his ear. Emerson gave a start and turned quickly. A
man plainly dressed stood beside him. He was of middle age, and had
a mild, grave, thoughtful countenance.

"Of whom do you speak?" asked Emerson, not able entirely to veil his
surprise.

"Of the lady we saw go ashore at the landing just now. She turned
and looked at us. You could not help noticing her."

"Who is she?" asked Emerson, and then held his breath awaiting the
answer. The question was almost involuntary, yet prompted by a
suddenly awakened desire to bear the world's testimony regard to
Irene.

"You don't know her, then?" remarked the stranger.

"I asked who she was." Emerson intended to say this firmly, but his
voice was unsteady. "Let us sit down," he added, looking around, and
then leading the way to where some unoccupied chairs were standing.
By the time they were seated he had gained the mastery over himself.

"You don't know her, then?" said the man, repeating his words. "She
is well known about these parts, I can assure you. Why, that was old
Mr. Delancy's daughter. Did you never hear of her?"

"What about her?" was asked.

"Well, in the first place, she was married some ten or twelve years
ago to a lawyer down in New York; and, in the second place, they
didn't live very happily together--why, I never heard. I don't
believe it was her fault, for she's the sweetest, kindest, gentlest
lady it has ever been my good fortune to meet. Some people around
Ivy Cliff call her the 'Angel,' and the word has meaning in it as
applied to her. She left her husband, and he got a divorce, but
didn't charge anything wrong against her. That, I suppose, was more
than he dared to do, for a snow-flake is not purer."

"You have lived in the neighborhood?" said Emerson, keeping his face
a little averted.

"Oh yes, sir. I have lived about here pretty much all my life."

"Then you knew Miss Delancy before she was married?"

"No, sir; I can't say that I knew much about her before that time. I
used to see her now and then as she rode about the neighborhood. She
was a gay, wild girl, sir. But that unhappy marriage made a great
change in her. I cannot forget the first time I saw her after she
came back to her father's. She seemed to me older by many years than
when I last saw her, and looked like one just recovered from a long
and serious illness. The brightness had passed from her face, the
fire from her eyes, the spring from her footsteps. I believe she
left her husband of her own accord, but I never knew that she made
any complaint against him. Of course, people were very curious to
know why she had abandoned him. But her lips must have been sealed,
for only a little vague talk went floating around. I never heard a
breath of wrong charged against him as coming from her."

Emerson's face was turned still more away from his companion, his
eyes bent down and his brows firmly knit. He did not ask farther,
but the man was on a theme that interested him, and so continued.

"For most of the time since her return to Ivy Cliff the life of Miss
Delancy has been given to Christian charities. The death of her
father was a heavy stroke. It took the life out of her for a while.
Since her recovery from that shock she has been constantly active
among us in good deeds. Poor sick women know the touch of her gentle
hand and the music of her voice. She has brought sunlight into many
wintry homes, and kindled again on hearths long desolate the fires
of loving kindness. There must have been some lack of true
appreciation on the part of her husband, sir. Bitter fountains do
not send forth sweet waters like these. Don't you think so?"

"How should I know?" replied Emerson, a little coldly. The question
was sprung upon him so suddenly that his answer was given in
confusion of thought.

"We all have our opinions, sir," said the man, "and this seems a
plain case. I've heard said that her husband was a hot-headed,
self-willed, ill-regulated young fellow, no more fit to get married
than to be President. That he didn't understand the woman--or,
maybe, I should say child--whom he took for his wife is very
certain, or he never would have treated her in the way he did!"

"How did he treat her?" asked Mr. Emerson.

"As to that," replied his talkative companion, "we don't know
anything certain. But we shall not go far wrong in guessing that it
was neither wise nor considerate. In fact, he must have outraged her
terribly."

"This, I presume, is the common impression about Ivy Cliff?"

"No," said the man; "I've heard him well spoken of. The fact is,
people are puzzled about the matter. We can't just understand it.
But, I'm all on her side."

"I wonder she has not married again?" said Emerson. "There are
plenty of men who would be glad to wed so perfect a being as you
represent her to be."

"She marry!" There was indignation and surprise in the man's voice.

"Yes; why not?"

"Sir, she is a Christian woman!"

"I can believe that, after hearing your testimony in regard to her,"
said Emerson. But he still kept his face so much turned aside that
its expression could not be seen.

"And reads her Bible."

"As we all should."

"And, what is more, believes in it," said the man emphatically.

"Don't all Christian people believe in the Bible?" asked Mr.
Emerson.

"I suppose so, after a fashion; and a very queer fashion it is,
sometimes."

"How does this lady of whom you speak believe in it differently from
some others?"

"In this, that it means what it says on the subject of divorce."

"Oh, I understand. You think that if she were to marry again it
would be in the face of conscientious scruples?"

"I do."

Mr. Emerson was about asking another question when one of the party
to which he belonged joined him, and so the strange interview
closed. He bowed to the man with whom he had been conversing, and
then passed to another part of the boat.

With slow steps, that were unsteady from sudden weakness, Irene
moved along the road that led to her home. After reaching the
grounds of Ivy Cliff she turned aside into a small summer-house, and
sat down at one of the windows that looked out upon the river as it
stretched upward in its gleaming way. The boat she bad just left was
already far distant, but it fixed her eyes, and they saw no other
object until it passed from view around a wooded point of land. And
still she sat motionless, looking at the spot where it had vanished
from her sight.

"Miss Irene!" exclaimed Margaret, the faithful old domestic, who
still bore rule at the homestead, breaking in upon her reverie,
"what in the world are you doing here? I expected you up to-day, and
when the boat stopped at the landing and you didn't come, I was
uneasy and couldn't rest. Why child, what is the matter? You're
sick!"

"Oh no, Margaret, I'm well enough," said Irene, trying to smile
indifferently. And she arose and left the summer-house.

Kind, observant old Margaret was far from being satisfied, however.
She saw that Irene was not as when she departed for the city a week
before. If she were not sick in body, she was troubled in her mind,
for her countenance was so changed that she could not look upon it
without feeling a pang in her heart.

"I'm sure you're sick, Miss Irene," she said as they entered the
house. "Now, what is the matter? What can I do or get for you? Let
me send over for Dr. Edmondson?"

"No, no, my good Margaret, don't think of such a thing," replied
Irene. "I'm not sick."

"Something's the matter with you, child," persisted Margaret.

"Nothing that won't cure itself," said Irene, trying to speak
cheerfully. "I'll go up to my room for a little while."

And she turned away from her kind-hearted domestic. On entering her
chamber Irene locked the door in order to be safe from intrusion,
for she knew that Margaret would not let half an hour pass without
coming up to ask how she was. Sitting down by the window, she looked
out upon the river, along whose smooth surface had passed the vessel
in which, a little while before, she met the man once called by the
name of husband--met him and looked into his face for the first time
in ten long years! The meeting had disturbed her profoundly. In the
cabin of that vessel she had seen him by the side of a fair young
girl in earnest conversation; and she had watched with a strange,
fluttering interest the play of his features. What was he saying to
that fair young girl that she listened with such a breathless,
waiting air? Suddenly he turned toward her, their eyes met and were
spell-bound for moments. What did she read in his eyes in those
brief moments? What did he read in hers? Both questions pressed
themselves upon her thoughts as she retreated among the crowd of
passengers, and then hid herself from the chance of another meeting
until the boat reached the landing at Ivy Cliff. Why did she pause
on the shore, and turn to look upon the crowded decks? She knew not.
The act was involuntary. Again their eyes met--met and held each
other until the receding vessel placed dim distance between them.

In less than half an hour Margaret's hand was on the door, but she
could not enter. Irene had not moved from her place at the window in
all that time.

"Is that you, Margaret?" she called, starting from her abstraction.

"Do you want anything, Miss Irene?"

"No, thank you, Margaret."

She answered in as cheerful a tone as she could assume, and the kind
old waiting-woman retired.

From that time every one noted a change in Irene. But none knew, or
even guessed, its cause or meaning. Not even to her friend, Mrs.
Everet, did she speak of her meeting with Hartley Emerson. Her face
did not light up as before, and her eyes seemed always as if looking
inward or gazing dreamily upon something afar off. Yet in good deeds
she failed not. If her own heart was heavier, she made other hearts
lighter by her presence.

And still the years went on in their steady revolutions--one, two,
three, four, five more years, and in all that time the parted ones
did not meet again.

CHAPTER XXV.

BORN FOR EACH OTHER.

_I SAW_ Mr. Emerson yesterday," said Mrs. Everet. She was sitting
with Irene in her own house in New York.

"Did you?" Irene spoke evenly and quietly, but did not turn her face
toward Mrs. Everet.

"Yes. I saw him at my husband's store. Mr. Everet has engaged him to
conduct an important suit, in which many thousands of dollars are at
stake."

"How does be look?" inquired Irene, without showing any feelings but
still keeping her face turned from Mrs Everet.

"Well, I should say, though rather too much frosted for a man of his
years."

"Gray, do you mean?" Irene manifested some surprise.

"Yes; his hair and beard are quite sprinkled with time's white
snow-flakes."

"He is only forty," remarked Irene.

"I should say fifty, judging from his appearance."

"Only forty." And a faint sigh breathed on the lips of Irene. She
did not look around at her friend but sat very still, with her face
turned partly away. Mrs. Everet looked at her closely, to read, if
possible, what was passing in her mind. But the countenance of Irene
was too much hidden. Her attitude, however, indicated intentness of
thought, though not disturbing thought.

"Rose," she said at length, "I grow less at peace with myself as the
years move onward."

"You speak from some passing state of mind," suggested Mrs. Everet.

"No; from a gradually forming permanent state. Ten years ago I
looked back upon the past in a stern, self-sustaining,
martyr-spirit. Five years ago all things wore a different aspect. I
began to have misgivings; I could not so clearly make out my case.
New thoughts on the subject--and not very welcome ones--began to
intrude. I was self-convicted of wrong; yes, Rose, of a great and an
irreparable wrong. I shut my eyes; I tried to look in other
directions; but the truth, once seen, could not pass from the range
of mental vision. I have never told you that I saw Mr. Emerson five
years ago. The effect of that meeting was such that I could not
speak of it, even to you. We met on one of the river steamboats--met
and looked into each other's eyes for just a moment. It may only be
a fancy of mine, but I have thought sometimes that, but for this
seemingly accidental meeting, he would have married again."

"Why do you think so?" asked Mrs. Everet.

Irene did not answer for some moments. She hardly dared venture to
put what she had seen in words. It was something that she felt more
like hiding even from her own consciousness, if that were possible.
But, having ventured so far, she could not well hold back. So she
replied, keeping her voice into as dead a level as it was possible
to assume:

"He was sitting in earnest conversation with a young lady, and from
the expression of her face, which I could see, the subject on which
he was speaking was evidently one in which more than her thought was
interested. I felt at the time that he was on the verge of a new
life-experiment--was about venturing upon a sea on which he had once
made shipwreck. Suddenly he turned half around and looked at me
before I had time to withdraw my eyes--looked at me with a strange,
surprised, startled look. In another moment a form came between us;
when it passed I was lost from his gaze in the crowd of passengers.
I have puzzled myself a great many times over that fact of his
turning his eyes, as if from some hidden impulse, just to the spot
where I was sitting. There are no accidents--as I have often heard
you say--in the common acceptation of the term; therefore this was
no accident."

"It was a providence," said Rose.

"And to what end?" asked Irene.

Mrs. Everet shook her head.

"I will not even presume to conjecture."

Irene sighed, and then sat lost in thought. Recovering herself, she
said:

"Since that time I have been growing less and less satisfied with
that brief, troubled portion of my life which closed so
disastrously. I forgot how much the happiness of another was
involved. A blind, willful girl, struggling in imaginary bonds, I
thought only of myself, and madly rent apart the ties which death
only should have sundered. For five years, Rose, I have carried in
my heart the expression which looked out upon me from the eyes of
Mr. Emerson at that brief meeting. Its meaning was not then, nor is
it now, clear. I have never set myself to the work of
interpretation, and believe the task would be fruitless. But
whenever it is recalled I am affected with a tender sadness. And so
his head is already frosted, Rose?"

"Yes."

"Though in years he has reached only manhood's ripened state. How I
have marred his life! Better, far better, would it have been for him
if I had been the bride of Death on my wedding-day!"

A shadow of pain darkened her face.

"No," replied Mrs. Everet; "it is better for both you and him that
you were not the bride of Death. There are deeper things hidden in
the events of life than our reason can fathom. We die when it is
best for ourselves and best for others that we should die--never
before. And the fact that we live is in itself conclusive that we
are yet needed in the world by all who can be affected by our mortal
existence."

"Gray hairs at forty!" This seemed to haunt the mind of Irene.

"It may be constitutional," suggested Mrs. Everet; "some heads begin
to whiten at thirty."

"Possibly."

But the tone expressed no conviction.

"How was his face?" asked Irene.

"Grave and thoughtful. At least so it appeared to me."

"At forty." It was all Irene said.

Mrs. Everet might have suggested that a man of his legal position
would naturally be grave and thoughtful, but she did not.

"It struck me," said Mrs. Everet, "as a true, pure, manly face. It
was intellectual and refined; delicate, yet firm about the mouth and
expansive in the upper portions. The hair curled softly away from
his white temples and forehead."

"Worthy of a better fate!" sighed Irene. "And it is I who have
marred his whole life! How blind is selfish passion! Ah, my friend,
the years do not bring peace to my soul. There have been times when
to know that he had sought refuge from a lonely life in marriage
would have been a relief to me. Were this the case, the thought of
his isolation, of his imperfect life, would not be for ever rebuking
me. But now, while no less severely rebuked by this thought, I feel
glad that he has not ventured upon an act no clear sanction for
which is found in the Divine law. He could not, I feel, have
remained so true and pure a man as I trust he is this day. God help
him to hold on, faithful to his highest intuitions, even unto the
end."

Mrs. Everet looked at Irene wonderingly as she spoke. She had never
before thus unveiled her thoughts.

"He struck me," was her reply, "as a man who had passed through
years of discipline and gained the mastery of himself."

"I trust that it may be so," Irene answered, rather as if speaking
to herself than to another.

"As I grow older," she added, after a long pause, now looking with
calm eyes upon her friend, "and life-experiences correct my judgment
and chasten my feelings, I see all things in a new aspect. I
understand my own heart better--its needs, capacities and yearnings;
and self-knowledge is the key by which we unlock the mystery of
other souls. So a deeper self-acquaintance enables me to look deeper
into the hearts of all around me. I erred in marrying Mr. Emerson.
We were both too hasty, self-willed and tenacious of rights and
opinions to come together in a union so sacred and so intimate. But,
after I had become his wife, after I had taken upon myself such holy
vows, it was my duty to stand fast. I could not abandon my place and
be innocent before God and man. And I am not innocent, Rose."

The face of Irene was strongly agitated for some moments; but she
recovered herself and went on:

"I am speaking of things that have hitherto been secrets of my own
heart. I could not bring them out even for you to look at, my
dearest, truest, best of friends. Now it seems as if I could not
bear the weight of my heavy thoughts alone; as if, in admitting you
beyond the veil, I might find strength to suffer, if not ease from
pain. There is no such thing as living our lives over again and
correcting their great errors. The past is an irrevocable fact. Ah,
if conscience would sleep, if struggles for a better life would make
atonement for wrong--then, as our years progress, we might lapse
into tranquil states. But gradually clearing vision increases the
magnitude of a fault like mine, for its fatal consequences are seen
in broader light. There is a thought which has haunted me for a year
past like a spectre. It comes to me unbidden; sometimes to disturb
the quiet of my lonely evenings, sometimes in the silent
night-watches to banish sleep from my pillow; sometimes to place
silence on my lips as I sit among cherished friends. I never
imagined that I would put this thought in words for any mortal ear;
yet it is coming to my lips now, and I feel impelled to go on. You
believe that there are, as you call them 'conjugal partners,' or men
and women born for each other, who, in a true marriage of souls,
shall become eternally one. They do not always meet in this life;
nay, for the sake of that discipline which leads to purification,
may form other and uncongenial ties in the world, and live
unhappily; but in heaven they will draw together by a
divinely-implanted attraction, and be there united for ever. I have
felt that something like this must be true; that every soul must
have its counterpart. The thought which has so haunted me is, that
Hartley Emerson and unhappy _I_ were born for each other."

She paused and looked with a half-startled air upon Mrs. Everet to
mark the effect of this revelation. But Rose made no response and
showed no surprise, however she might have been affected by the
singular admission of her friend.

"It has been all in vain," continued Irene "that I have pushed the
thought aside--called it absurd, insane, impossible--back it would
come and take its old place. And, stranger still, out of facts that
I educed to prove its fallacy would come corroborative suggestions.
I think it is well for my peace of mind that I have not been in the
way of hearing about him or of seeing him. Since we parted it has
been as if a dark curtain had fallen between us; and, so far as I am
concerned, that curtain has been lifted up but once or twice, and
then only for a moment of time. So all my thoughts of him are joined
to the past. Away back in that sweet time when the heart of girlhood
first thrills with the passion of love are some memories that haunt
my soul like dreams from Elysium. He was, in my eyes, the
impersonation of all that was lovely and excellent; his presence
made my sense of happiness complete; his voice touched my ears as
the blending of all rich harmonies. But there fell upon him a
shadow; there came hard discords in the music which had entranced my
soul; the fine gold was dimmed. Then came that period of mad strife,
of blind antagonism, in which we hurt each other by rough contact.
Finally, we were driven far asunder, and, instead of revolving
together around a common centre, each has moved in a separate orbit.
For years that dark period of pain has held the former period of
brightness in eclipse; but of late gleams from that better time have
made their way down to the present. Gradually the shadows are giving
away. The first state is coming to be felt more and more as the true
state--as that in best agreement with what we are in relation to
each other. It was the evil in us that met in such fatal
antagonism--not the good; it was something that we must put off if
we would rise from natural and selfish life into spiritual and
heavenly life. It was our selfishness and passion that drove us
asunder. Thus it is, dear Rose, that my thoughts have been wandering
about in the maze of life that entangles me. In my isolation I have
time enough for mental inversion--for self-exploration--for idle
fancies, if you will. And so I have lifted the veil for you;
uncovered my inner life; taken you into the sanctuary over whose
threshold no foot but my own had ever passed."

There was too much in all this for Mrs. Everet to venture upon any
reply that involved suggestion or advice. It was from a desire to
look deeper into the heart of her friend that she had spoken of her
meeting with Mr. Emerson. The glance she obtained revealed far more
than her imagination had ever reached.

CHAPTER XXVI.

LOVE NEVER DIES.

_THE_ brief meeting with Mrs. Everet had stirred the memory of old
times in the heart of Mr. Emerson. With a vividness unknown for
years, Ivy Cliff and the sweetness of many life-passages there came
back to him, and set heart-pulses that he had deemed stilled for
ever beating in tumultuous waves. When the business of the day was
over he sat down in the silence of his chamber and turned his eyes
inward. He pushed aside intervening year after year, until the
long-ago past was, to his consciousness, almost as real as the
living present. What he saw moved him deeply. He grew restless, then
showed disturbance of manner. There was an effort to turn away from
the haunting fascination of this long-buried, but now exhumed
period; but the dust and scoria were removed, and it lifted, like
another Pompeii, its desolate walls and silent chambers in the clear
noon-rays of the present.

After a long but fruitless effort to bury the past again, to let the
years close over it as the waves close over a treasure-laden ship,
Mr. Emerson gave himself up to its thronging memories and let them
bear him whither they would.

In this state of mind he unlocked one of the drawers in a secretary
and took therefrom a small box or casket. Placing this on a table,
he sat down and looked at it for some minutes, as if in doubt
whether it were best for him to go further in this direction.
Whether satisfied or not, he presently laid his fingers upon the lid
of the casket and slowly opened it. It contained only a morocco
case. He touched this as if it were something precious and sacred.
For some moments after it was removed he sat holding it in his hand
and looking at the dark, blank surface, as a long-expected letter is
sometimes held before the seal is broken and the contents devoured
with impatient eagerness. At last his finger pressed the spring on
which it had been resting, and he looked upon a young, sweet face,
whose eyes gazed back into his with a living tenderness. In a little
while his hand so trembled, and his eyes grew so dim, that the face
was veiled from his sight. Closing the miniature, but still
retaining it in his hand, he leaned back in his chair and remained
motionless, with shut eyes, for a long time; then he looked at the
fair young face again, conning over every feature and expression,
until sad memories came in and veiled it again with tears.

"Folly! weakness!" he said at last, pushing the picture from him and
making a feeble effort to get back his manly self-possession. "The
past is gone for ever. The page on which its sad history is written
was closed long ago, and the book is sealed. Why unclasp the volume
and search for that dark record again?"

Yet, even as he said this, his hand reached out for the miniature,
and his eyes were on it ere the closing words had parted from his
lips.

"Poor Irene!" he murmured, as he gazed on her pictured face. "You
had a pure, tender, loving heart--" then, suddenly shutting the
miniature, with a sharp click of the spring, he tossed it from him
upon the table and said,

"This is folly! folly! folly!" and, leaning back in his chair, he
shut his eyes and sat for a long time with his brows sternly knitted
together and his lips tightly compressed. Rising, at length, he
restored the miniature to its casket, and the casket to its place in
the drawer. A servant came to the door at this moment, bringing the
compliments of a lady friend, who asked him, if not engaged, to
favor her with his company on that evening, as she had a visitor,
just arrived, to whom she wished to introduce him. He liked the
lady, who was the wife of a legal friend, very well; but he was not
always so well pleased with her lady friends, of whom she had a
large circle. The fact was, she considered him too fine a man to go
through life companionless, and did not hesitate to use every art in
her power to draw him into an entangling alliance. He saw this, and
was often more amused than annoyed by her finesse.

It was on his lips to send word that he was engaged, but a regard
for truth would not let him make this excuse; so, after a little
hesitation and debate, he answered that he would present himself
during the evening. The lady's visitor was a widow of about thirty
years of age--rich, educated, accomplished and personally
attractive. She was from Boston, and connected with one of the most
distinguished families in Massachusetts, whose line of ancestry ran
back among the nobles of England. In conversation this lady showed
herself to be rarely gifted, and there was a charm about her manners
that was irresistible. Mr. Emerson, who had been steadily during the
past five years growing less and less attracted by the fine women he
met in society, found himself unusually interested in Mrs. Eager.

"I knew you would like her," said his lady friend, as Mr. Emerson
was about retiring at eleven o'clock.

"You take your conclusion for granted," he answered, smiling. "Did I
say that I liked her?"

"We ladies have eyes," was the laughing rejoinder. "Of course you
like her. She's going to spend three or four days with me. You'll
drop in to-morrow evening. Now don't pretend that you have an
engagement. Come; I want you to know her better. I think her
charming."

Mr. Emerson did not promise positively, but said that he might look
in during the evening.

For a new acquaintance, Mrs. Eager had attracted him strongly; and
his thoughtful friend was not disappointed in her expectation of
seeing him at her house on the succeeding night. Mrs. Eager, to whom
the lady she was visiting had spoken of Mr. Emerson in terms of
almost extravagant eulogy, was exceedingly well pleased with him,
and much gratified at meeting him again, A second interview gave
both an opportunity for closer observation, and when they parted it
was with pleasant thoughts of each other lingering in their minds.
During the time that Mrs. Eager remained in New York, which was
prolonged for a week beyond the period originally fixed, Mr. Emerson
saw her almost every day, and became her voluntary escort in
visiting points of local interest. The more he saw of her the more
he was charmed with her character. She seemed in his eyes the most
attractive woman he had ever met. Still, there was something about
her that did not wholly satisfy him, though what it was did not come
into perception.

Five years had passed since any serious thought of marriage had
troubled the mind of Mr. Emerson. After his meeting with Irene he
had felt that another union in this world was not for him--that he
had no right to exchange vows of eternal fidelity with any other
woman. She had remained unwedded, and would so remain, he felt, to
the end of her life. The legal contract between them was dissolved;
but, since his brief talk with the stranger on the boat, he had not
felt so clear as to the higher law obligations which were upon them.
And so he had settled it in his mind to bear life's burdens alone.

But Mrs. Eager had crossed his way, and filled, in many respects,
his ideal of a woman. There was a charm about her that won him
against all resistance.

"Don't let this opportunity pass," said his interested lady friend,
as the day of Mrs. Eager's departure drew nigh. "She is a woman in a
thousand, and will make one of the best of wives. Think, too, of her
social position, her wealth and her large cultivation. An
opportunity like this is never presented more than once in a
lifetime."

"You speak," replied Mr. Emerson, "as if I had only to say the word
and this fair prize would drop into my arms."

"She will have to be wooed if she is won. Were this not the case she
would not be worth having," said the lady. "But my word for it, if
you turn wooer the winning will not be hard. If I have not erred in
my observation, you are about mutually interested. There now, my
cautious sir, if you do not get handsomely provided for, it will be
no fault of mine."

In two days from this time Mrs. Eager was to return to Boston.

"You must take her to see those new paintings at the rooms of the
Society Library to-morrow. I heard her express a desire to examine
them before returning to Boston. Connoisseurs are in ecstasies over
three or four of the pictures, and, as Mrs. Eager is something of an
enthusiast in matters of art, your favor in this will give her no
light pleasure."

"I shall be most happy to attend her," replied Mr. Emerson. "Give
her my compliments, and say that, if agreeable to herself, I will
call for her at twelve to-morrow."

"No verbal compliments and messages," replied the lady; "that isn't
just the way."

"How then? Must I call upon her and deliver my message? That might
not be convenient to me nor agreeable to her."

"Oh!" ejaculated the lady, with affected impatience, "you men are so
stupid at times! You know how to write?"

"Ah! yes, I comprehend you now."

"Very well. Send your compliments and your message in a note; and
let it be daintily worded; not in heavy phrases, like a legal
document."

"A very princess in feminine diplomacy!" said Mr. Emerson to
himself, as he turned from the lady and took his way homeward. "So I
must pen a note."

Now this proved a more difficult matter than he had at first
thought. He sat down to the task immediately on returning to his
room. On a small sheet of tinted note-paper he wrote a few words,
but they did not please him, and the page was thrown into the fire.
He tried again, but with no better success--again and again; but
still, as he looked at the brief sentences, they seemed to express
too much or too little. Unable to pen the note to his satisfaction,
he pushed, at last, his writing materials aside, saying,

"My head will be clearer and cooler in the morning."

It was drawing on to midnight, and Mr. Emerson had not yet retired.
His thoughts were too busy for sleep. Many things were crowding into
his mind--questions, doubts, misgivings--scenes from the past and
imaginations of the future. And amid them all came in now and then,
just for a moment, as he had seen it five years before, the pale,
still face of Irene.

Wearied in the conflict, tired nature at last gave way, and Mr.
Emerson fell asleep in his chair.

Two hours of deep slumber tranquilized his spirit. He awoke from
this, put off his clothing and laid his head on his pillow. It was
late in the morning when he arose. He had no difficulty now in
penning a note to Mrs. Eager. It was the work of a moment, and
satisfactory to him in the first effort.

At twelve he called with a carriage for the lady, whom he found all
ready to accompany him, and in the best possible state of mind. Her
smile, as he presented himself, was absolutely fascinating; and her
voice seemed like a freshly-tuned instrument, every tone was so rich
in musical vibration, and all the tones came chorded to his ear.

There were not many visitors at the exhibition rooms--a score,
perhaps--but they were art-lovers, gazing in rapt attention or
talking in hushed whispers. They moved about noiselessly here and
there, seeming scarcely conscious that others were present.
Gradually the number increased, until within an hour after they
entered it was more than doubled. Still, the presence of art subdued
all into silence or subdued utterances.

Emerson was charmed with his companion's appreciative admiration of
many pictures. She was familiar with art-terms and special points of
interest, and pointed out beauties and harmonies that to him were
dead letters without an interpreter. They came, at last, to a small
but wonderfully effective picture, which contained a single figure,
that of a man sitting by a table in a room which presented the
appearance of a library. He held a letter in his hand--a old letter;
the artist had made this plain--but was not reading. He had been
reading; but the words, proving conjurors, had summoned the dead
past before him, and he was now looking far away, with sad, dreamy
eyes, into the long ago. A casket stood open. Time letter had
evidently been taken from this repository. There was a miniature; a
bracelet of auburn hair; a ring and a chain of gold lying on the
table. Mr. Emerson turned to the catalogue and read,

"WITH THE BURIED PAST."

And below this title the brief sentiment--

"Love never dies."

A deep, involuntary sigh came through his lips and stirred the
pulseless air around him. Then, like an echo, there came to his ears
an answering sigh, and, turning, he looked into the face of Irene!
She had entered the rooms a little while before, and in passing from
picture to picture had reached this one a few moments after Mr.
Emerson. She had not observed him, and was just beginning to feel
its meaning, when the sigh that attested its power over him reached
her ears and awakened an answering sigh. For several moments their
eyes were fixed in a gaze which neither had power to withdraw. The
face of Irene had grown thinner, paler and more shadowy--if we may
use that term to express something not of the earth, earthy--than it
was when he looked upon it five years before. But her eyes were
darker in contrast with her colorless face, and had a deeper tone of
feeling.

They did not speak nor pass a sign of recognition. But the instant
their eyes withdrew from each other Irene turned from the picture
and left the rooms.

When Mr. Emerson looked back into the face of his companion, its
charm was gone. Beside that of the fading countenance, so still and
nun-like, upon which he had gazed a moment before, it looked coarse
and worldly. When she spoke, her tones no longer came in chords of
music to his ears, but jarred upon his feelings. He grew silent;
cold, abstracted. The lady noted the change, and tried to rally him;
but her efforts were vain. He moved by her side like an automaton,
and listened to her comments on the pictures they paused to examine
in such evident absent-mindedness that she became annoyed, and
proposed returning home. Mr. Emerson made no objection, and they
left the quiet picture-gallery for the turbulence of Broadway. The
ride home was a silent one, and they separated in mutual
embarrassment, Mr. Emerson going back to his rooms instead of to his
office, and sitting down in loneliness there, with a shuddering
sense of thankfulness at his heart for the danger he had just
escaped.

"What a blind spell was on me!" he said, as he gazed away down into
his soul--far, far deeper than any tone or look from Mrs. Eager had
penetrated--and saw needs, states and yearnings there which must be
filled or there could be no completeness of life. And now the still,
pale face of Irene stood out distinctly; and her deep, weird,
yearning eyes looked into his with a fixed intentness that stirred
his heart to its profoundest depths.

Mr. Emerson was absent from his office all that day. But on the next
morning he was at his post, and it would have taken a close observer
to have detected any change in his usually quiet face. But there was
a change in the man--a great change. He had gone down deeper into
his heart than he had ever gone before, and understood himself
better. There was little danger of his ever being tempted again in
this direction.

CHAPTER XXVII.

EFFECTS OF THE STORM.

_IT_ was more than a week before Mr. Emerson called again upon the
lady friend who had shown so strong a desire to procure him a wife.
He expected her to introduce the name of Mrs. Eager, and came
prepared to talk in a way that would for ever close the subject of
marriage between them. The lady expressed surprise at not having
seen him for so long a time, and then introduced the subject nearest
her thought.

"What was the matter with you and Mrs. Eager?" she asked, her face
growing serious.

Mr. Emerson shook his head, and said, "Nothing," with not a shadow
of concern in his voice.

"Nothing? Think again. I could hardly have been deceived."

"Why do you ask? Did the lady charge anything ungallant against me?"

Mr. Emerson was unmoved.

"Oh no, no! She scarcely mentioned your name after her return from
viewing the pictures. But she was not in so bright a humor as when
she went out, and was dull up to the hour of her departure for
Boston. I'm afraid you offended her in some way--unconsciously on
your part, of course."

"No, I think not," said Mr. Emerson. "She would be sensitive in the
extreme if offended by any word or act of mine."

"Well, letting that all pass, Mr. Emerson, what do you think of Mrs.
Eager?"

"That she is an attractive and highly accomplished woman."

"And the one who reaches your ideal of a wife?"

"No, ma'am," was the unhesitating answer, and made in so emphatic a
tone that there was no mistaking his sincerity. There was a change
in his countenance and manner. He looked unusually serious.

The lady tried to rally him, but he had come in too sober a state of
mind for pleasant trifling on this subject, of all others.

"My kind, good friend," he said, "I owe you many thanks for the
interest you have taken in me, and for your efforts to get me a
companion. But I do not intend to marry."

"So you have said--"

"Pardon me for interrupting you." Mr. Emerson checked the light
speech that was on her tongue. "I am going to say to you some things
that have never passed my lips before. You will understand me; this
I know, or I would not let a sentence come into utterance. And I
know more, that you will not make light of what to me is sacred."

The lady was sobered in a moment.

"To make light of what to you is sacred would be impossible," she
replied.

"I believe it, and therefore I am going to speak of things that are
to me the saddest of my life, and yet are coming to involve the
holiest sentiments. I have more than one reason for desiring now to
let another look below the quiet surface; and I will lift the veil
for your eyes alone. You know that I was married nearly twenty years
ago, and that my wife separated herself from me in less than three
years after our union; and you also know that the separation was
made permanent by a divorce. This is all that you or any other one
knows, so far as I have made communication on the subject; and I
have reason to believe that she who was my wife has been as reserved
in the matter as myself.

"The simple facts in the case are these: We were both young and
undisciplined, both quick-tempered, self-willed, and very much
inclined to have things our own way. She was an only child, and so
was I. Each had been spoiled by long self-indulgence. So, when we
came together in marriage, the action of our lives, instead of
taking a common pulsation, was inharmonious. For a few years we
strove together blindly in our bonds, and then broke madly asunder.
I think we were about equally in fault; but if there was a
preponderance of blame, it rested on my side, for, as a man, I
should have kept a cooler head and shown greater forbearance. But
the time for blame has long since passed. It is with the stern,
irrevocable facts that we are dealing now.

"So bitter had been our experience, and so painful the shock of
separation, that I think a great many years must have passed before
repentance came into either heart--before a feeling of regret that
we had not held fast to our marriage vows was born. How it was with
me you may infer from the fact that, after the lapse of two years, I
deliberately asked for and obtained a divorce on the ground of
desertion. But doubt as to the propriety of this step stirred
uneasily in my mind for the first time when I held the decree in my
hand; and I have never felt wholly satisfied with myself since.
There should be something deeper than incompatibility of temper to
warrant a divorce. The parties should correct what is wrong in
themselves, and thus come into harmony. There is no excuse for
pride, passion and self-will. The law of God does not make these
justifiable causes of divorce, and neither should the law of man. A
purer woman than my wife never lived; and she had elements of
character that promised a rare development. I was proud of her. Ah,
if I had been wiser and more patient! If I had endeavored to lead,
instead of assuming the manly prerogative! But I was young, and
blind, and willful!

"Fifteen years have passed since the day we parted, and each has
remained single. If we had not separated, we might now be living in
a true heart-union; for I believe, strange as it may sound to you,
that we were made for each other--that, when the false and evil of
our lives are put off, the elements of conjunction will appear. We
have made for ourselves of this world a dreary waste, when, if we
had overcome the evil of our hearts, our paths would have been
through green and fragrant places. It may be happier for us in the
next; and it will be. I am a better man, I think, for the discipline
through which I have passed, and she is a better woman."

Mr. Emerson paused.

"She? Have you seen her?" the lady asked.

"Twice since we parted, and then only for a moment. Suddenly each
time we met, and looked into each other's eyes for a single instant;
then, as if a curtain had dropped suddenly between us, we were
separated. But the impression of her face remained as vivid and
permanent as a sun-picture. She lives, for most of her time,
secluded at Ivy Cliff, her home on the Hudson; and her life is
passed there, I hear, in doing good. And, if good deeds, from right
ends, write their history on the human face, then her countenance
bears the record of tenderest charities. It was pale when I last saw
it--pale, but spiritual--I can use no other word; and I felt a
sudden panic at the thought that she was growing into a life so pure
and heavenly that I must stand afar off as unworthy. It had
sometimes come into my thought that we were approaching each other,
as both put off, more and more, the evil which had driven us apart
and held us so long asunder. But this illusion our last brief
meeting dispelled. She has passed me on the road of self-discipline
and self-abnegation, and is journeying far ahead. And now I can but
follow through life at a distance.

"So much, and no more, my friend. I drop the veil over my heart. You
will understand me better hereafter. I shall not marry. That legal
divorce is invalid. I could not perjure my soul by vows of fidelity
toward another. Patiently and earnestly will I do my allotted work
here. My better hopes lie all in the heavenly future.

"And now, my friend, we will understand each other better. You have
looked deeper into my thoughts and experiences than any other human
being. Let the revelation be sacred to yourself. The knowledge you
possess may enable you to do me justice sometimes, and sometimes to
save me from an intrusion of themes that cannot but touch me
unpleasantly. There was a charm about Mrs. Eager that, striking me
suddenly, for a little while bewildered my fancy. She is a woman of
rare endowments, and I do not regret the introduction and passing
influence she exercised over me. It was a dream from which the
awakening was certain. Suddenly the illusion vanished, as I saw her
beside my lost Irene. The one was of the earth, earthy--the other
of heaven, heavenly; and as I looked back into her brilliant face,
radiant with thought and feeling, I felt a low, creeping shudder, as
if just freed from the spell of a siren. I cannot be enthralled
again, even for a moment."

Back again into his world's work Mr. Emerson returned after this
brief, exciting episode, and found in its performance from high and
honorable motives that calmly sustaining power which comes only as
the reward of duties faithfully done.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

AFTER THE STORM.

_AFTER_ the storm! How long the treasure remained buried in deep
waters! How long the earth showed unsightly furrows and barren
places! For nearly twenty years there had been warm sunshine, and no
failure of the dews nor the early and latter rain. But grass had not
grown nor flowers blossomed in the path of that desolating tempest.
Nearly twenty years! If the history of these two lives during that
long period could be faithfully written, it would flood the soul
with tears.

Four years later than the time when we last presented Irene to the
reader we introduce her again. That meeting in the picture-gallery
had disturbed profoundly the quiet pulses of her life. She did not
observe Mr. Emerson's companion. The picture alone had attracted her
attention; and she had just began to feel its meaning when an
audible sigh reached her ears. The answering sigh was involuntary.
Then they looked into each other's faces again--only for an
instant--but with what a volume of mutual revelations!

It was four years subsequent to this time that Irene, after a brief
visit in New York to her friend, Mrs. Everet, returned to her rural
home. Mrs. Everet was to follow on the next day, and spend a few
weeks with her father. It was yet in the early summer, and there
were not many passengers on the-boat. As was usual, Irene provided
herself with a volume, and soon after going on board took a retired
place in one of the cabins and buried herself in its pages. For over

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