Part 2 out of 10
interview his brow darkened, but his face softened as she drew
toward the close. When she ceased he said:--
"Don't you see I was right in saying that your own tact would guide
you better than my reason? If I, instead of your own nature, had
directed you, we should have made an awful mess of it. Now let me
think a moment. This young fellow has suggested an idea to me,--a
general line of action which I think you can carry out. There is
nothing like a good definite plan,--not cast-iron, you know, but
flexible and modified by circumstances as you go along, yet so
clear and defined as to give you something to aim at. Confound it,
that's what's the matter with our military authorities. If McClellan
is a ditch-digger let them put a general in command; or, if he
is a general, give him what he wants and let him alone. There is
no head, no plan. I confess, however, that just now I am chiefly
interested in your campaigns, which, after all, stand the best chance
of bringing about union, in spite of your negative mood manifested
to-night. Nature will prove too strong for you, and some day--soon
probably--you will conquer, only to surrender yourself. Be that as
it may, the plan I suggest need not be interfered with. Be patient.
I'm only following the tactics in vogue,--taking the longest way
around to the point to be attacked. Lane said that if you carried
out your present principle of action you would have a power possessed
by few. I think he is right. I'm not flattering you. Little power
of any kind can co-exist with vanity. The secret of your fascination
is chiefly in your individuality. There are other girls more beautiful
and accomplished who have not a tithe of it. Now and then a woman
is peculiarly gifted with the power to influence men,--strong men,
too. You had this potency in no slight degree when neither your
heart nor your brain was very active. You will find that it will
increase with time, and if you are wise it will be greater when
you are sixty than at present. If you avoid the Scylla of vanity
on the one hand, and the Charybdis of selfishness on the other, and
if the sympathies of your heart keep pace with a cultivated mind,
you will steadily grow in social influence. I believe it for this
reason: A weak girl would have been sentimental with Lane, would have
yielded temporarily, either to his entreaty or to his anger, only
to disappoint him in the end, or else would have been conventional
in her refusal and so sent him to the bad, probably. You recognized
just what you could be to him, and had the skill--nature, rather,
for all was unpremeditated--to obtain an influence by which you
can incite him to a better manhood and a greater success, perhaps,
than if he were your accepted lover. Forgive this long preamble:
I am thinking aloud and feeling my way, as it were. What did you
ask him to promise? Why, to make the most and best of himself.
Why not let this sentence suggest the social scheme of your life?
Drop fellows who have neither brains nor heart,--no good mettle
in them,--and so far as you have influence strive to inspire the
others to make the most and best of themselves. You would not find
the kitchen-maid a rival on this plan of life; nor indeed, I regret
to say, many of your natural associates. Outwardly your life will
appear much the same, but your motive will change everything, and
flow through all your action like a mountain spring, rendering it
impossible for you to poison any life."
"O papa, the very possibility of what you suggest makes life appear
beautiful. The idea of a convent!"
"Convents are the final triumph of idiocy. If bad women could be
shut up and made to say prayers most of the time, no harm at least
would be done,--the good, problematical; but to immure a woman of
sweet, natural, God-bestowed impulses is the devil's worst practical
joke in this world. Come, little girl, it's late. Think over the
scheme; try it as you have a chance; use your power to incite men to
make the most and best of themselves. This is better than levying
your little tribute of flattery and attention, like other belles,--a
phase of life as common as cobble-stones and as old as vanity. For
instance, you have an artist among your friends. Possibly you can
make him a better artist and a better fellow in every way. Drop all
muffs and sticks; don't waste yourself on them. Have considerable
charity for some of the wild fellows, none for their folly, and from
the start tolerate no tendencies toward sentimentality. You will
find that the men who admire girls bent on making eyes rather than
making men will soon disappear. Sensible fellows won't misunderstand
you, even though prompted to more than friendship; and you will have
a circle of friends of which any woman might be proud. Of course
you will find at times that unspoken negatives will not satisfy;
but if a woman has tact, good sense, and sincerity, her position is
impregnable. As long as she is not inclined to love a man herself,
she can, by a mere glance, not only define her position, but
defend it. By simple dignity and reserve she can say to all, 'Thus
far and no farther.' If, without encouragement, any one seeks to
break through this barrier he meets a quiet negative which he must
respect, and in his heart does respect. Now, little girl, to sum up
your visit, with its long talks and their dramatic and unexpected
illustration, I see nothing to prevent you from going forward and
making the best and most of your life according to nature and truth.
You have a good start, and a rather better chance than falls to
the lot of the majority."
"Truly," said Marian, thoughtfully, "we don't appear to grow old
and change by time so much as by what happens,--by what we think
and feel. Everything appears changed, including you and myself."
"It's more in appearance than in reality. You will find the impetus
of your old life so strong that it will be hard even to change the
direction of the current. You will be much the same outwardly, as
I said before. The stream will flow through the same channel of
characteristic traits and habits. The vital change must be in the
stream itself,--the motive from which life springs."
How true her father's words seemed on the following evening after
her return! Her mother, as she sat down, to their dainty little
dinner, looked as if her serenity had been undisturbed by a single
perplexing thought during the past few days. There was the same
elegant, yet rather youthful costume for a lady of her years; the
same smiling face, not yet so full in its outline as to have lost
all its girlish beauty. It was marred by few evidences of care and
trouble, nor was it spiritualized by thought or deep experience.
Marian observed her closely, not with any disposition towards cold
or conscious criticism, but in order that she might better understand
the conditions of her own life. She also had a wakening curiosity
to know just what her mother was to her father and he to her. The
hope was forming that she could make them more to each other. She
had too much tact to believe that this could be done by general
exhortations. If anything was to be accomplished it must be by
methods so fine and unobtrusive as to be scarcely recognized.
Her father's inner life had been a revelation to her, and she was
led to query: "Why does not mamma understand it? CAN she understand
it?" Therefore she listened attentively to the details of what had
happened in her absence. She waited in vain for any searching and
intelligent questions concerning the absent husband. Beyond that
he was well, and that everything about the house was just as she
had left it, Mrs. Vosburgh appeared to have no interest. She was
voluble over little household affairs, the novel that just then
absorbed her, and especially the callers and their chagrin at
finding the young girl absent.
"Only the millionnaire widower remained any length of time when
learning that you were away," said the lady, "and he spent most of
the evening with me. I assure you he is a very nice, entertaining
"How did he entertain you? What did he talk about?"
"Let me remember. Now I think of it, what didn't he talk about? He
is one of the most agreeable gossips I ever met,--knows everybody
and everything. He has at his finger-ends the history of all who
were belles in my time, and" (complacently) "I find that few have
done better than I, while some, with all their opportunities, chose
very crooked sticks."
"You are right, mamma. It seems to me that neither of us half
appreciates papa. He works right on so quietly and steadily, and
yet he is not a machine, but a man."
"Oh, I appreciate him. Nine out of ten that he might have married
would have made him no end of trouble. I don't make him any. Well,
after talking about the people we used to know, Mr. Lanniere began
a tirade against the times and the war, which he says have cost him
a hundred thousand dollars; but he took care in a quiet way to let
me know that he has a good many hundred thousands left. I declare,
Marian, you might do a great deal worse."
"Do you not think I might do a great deal better?" the young girl
asked, with a frown.
"I have no doubt you think so. Girls will be romantic. I was,
myself; but as one goes on in life one finds that a million, more
or less, is a very comfortable fact. Mr. Lanniere has a fine house
in town, but he's a great traveller, and an habitue of the best
hotels of this country and Europe. You could see the world with
him on its golden side."
"Well, mamma, I want a man,--not an habitue. What's more, I must
be in love with the man, or he won't stand the ghost of a chance.
So you see the prospects are that you will have me on your hands
indefinitely. Mr. Lanniere, indeed! What should I be but a part of
his possessions,--another expensive luxury in his luxurious life?
I want a man like papa,--earnest, large-brained, and large-hearted,--who,
instead of inveighing against the times, is absorbed in the vital
questions of the day, and is doing his part to solve them rightly.
I would like to take Mr. Lanniere into a military hospital or
cemetery, and show him what the war has cost other men."
"Why, Marian, how you talk!"
"I wish I could make you know how I feel. It seems to me that one
has only to think a little and look around in order to feel deeply.
I read of an awful battle while coming up in the cars. We have
been promised, all the spring, that Richmond would be taken, the
war ended, and all go on serenely again; but it doesn't look like
"What's the use of women distressing themselves with such things?"
said Mrs. Vosburgh, irritably. "I can't bear to think of war and
its horrors, except as they give spice to a story. Our whole trouble
is a big political squabble, and you know I detest politics. It
is just as Mr. Lanniere says,--if our people had only let slavery
alone all would have gone on veil. The leaders on both sides will
find out before the summer is over that they have gone too far
and fast, and they had better settle their differences with words
rather than blows. We shall all be shaking hands ana making up
"Papa doesn't think so."
"Your father is a German at heart. He has the sense to be practical
about every-day affairs and enjoy a good dinner, but he amuses
himself with cloudy speculations and ideals and vast questions
about the welfare of the world, or the 'trend of the centuries,'
as he said one day to me. I always try to laugh him out of such
vague nonsense. Has he been talking to you about the 'trend of the
"No, mamma, he has not," replied Marian, gravely; "but if he does
I shall try to understand what he means and be interested. I know
that papa feels deeply about the war, and means to take the most
effective part in it that he can, and that he does not think it
will end so easily as you believe. These facts make me feel anxious,
for I know how resolute papa is."
"He has no right to take any risks," said the lady, emphatically.
"He surely has the same right that other men have."
"Oh, well," concluded Mrs. Vosburgh, with a shrug, "there is no use
in borrowing trouble. When it comes to acting, instead of dreaming
and speculating on vast, misty questions, I can always talk your
father into good sense. That is the best thing about him,--he is
well-balanced, in spite of his tendency to theories. When I show
him that a thing is quixotic he laughs, shrugs his shoulders, and
good-naturedly goes on in the even tenor of his way. It was the
luckiest thing in the world for him when he married me, for I soon
learned his weak points, and have ever guarded him against them.
As a result he has had a quiet, prosperous career. If he wishes to
serve the government in some civilian capacity, and is well paid
for it, why shouldn't he? But I would never hear of his going to
the front, fighting, and marching in Virginia mud and swamps. If
he ever breathes such a thought to you, I hope you will aid me in
showing him how cruel and preposterous it is."
Marian sighed, as she thought: "I now begin to see how well papa
understands mamma, but has she any gauge by which to measure him?
I fear he has found his home lonely, in spite of good dinners."
"Come, my dear," resumed Mrs. Vosburgh, "we are lingering too long.
Some of your friends may be calling soon, although I said I did
not know whether you would be at home to-night or not. Mr. Lanniere
will be very likely to come, for I am satisfied that he has serious
intentions. What's more, you might do worse,--a great deal worse."
"Three times you have said that, mamma, and I don't like it," said
Marian, a little indignantly. "Of course I might do worse; I might
kill him, and I should be tempted to if I married him. You know
that I do not care for him, and he knows it, too. Indeed, I scarcely
respect him. You don't realize what you are saying, for you would
not have me act from purely mercenary motives?"
"Oh, certainly not; but Mr. Lanniere is not a monster or a decrepit
centenarian. He is still in his prime, and is a very agreeable and
accomplished man of the world. He is well-connected, moves in the
best society, and could give his wife everything."
"He couldn't give me happiness, and he would spoil my life."
"Oh well, if you feel so, there is nothing more to be said. I can
tell you, though, that multitudes of girls would be glad of your
chance; but, like so many young people, you have romantic ideas,
and do not appreciate the fact that happiness results chiefly from
the conditions of our lot, and that we soon learn to have plenty
of affection for those who make them all we could desire;" and she
touched a bell for the waitress, who had been temporarily dismissed.
The girl came in with a faint smile on her face. "Has she been
listening?" thought Marian. "That creature, then, with her vain,
pretty, yet vulgar face, is the type of what I was. She has been
lighting the drawing-room for me to do what she proposes to do
later in the evening. She looks just the same. Mamma is just the
same. Callers will come just the same. How unchanged all is, as
papa said it would be! I fear much may be unchangeable."
She soon left the dining-room for the parlor, her dainty, merry
little campaigning-ground. What should be its future record? Could
she carry out the scheme of life which her father had suggested?
"Well," she concluded, with an ominous flash in her eyes at her fair
reflection in the mirror, "whether I can incite any one to better
things or not, I can at least do some freezing out. That gossipy,
selfish old Mr. Lanniere must take his million to some other market.
I have no room in my life for him. Neither do I dote on the future
acquaintance of Mr. Strahan. I shall put him on probation. If men
don't want my society and regard on the new conditions, they can
stay away; if they persist in coming, they must do something finer
and be something finer than in the past. The friendship of one man
like Fenton Lane is worth more than the attention of a wilderness
of muffs and sticks, as papa calls them. What I fear is that I shall
appear goody-goody, and that would disgust every one, including
MR. Lanniere evidently had serious intentions, for he came
unfashionably early. He fairly beamed on the young girl when he
found her at home. Indeed, as she stood before him in her radiant
youth, which her evening costume enhanced with a fine taste quickly
recognized by his practised eyes, he very justly regarded her as
better than anything which his million had purchased hitherto. It
might easily be imagined that he had added a little to the couleur
de rose of the future by an extra glass of Burgundy, for he positively
appeared to exude an atmosphere of affluence, complacency, and
gracious intention. The quick-witted girl detected at once his
King-Cophetua air, and she was more amused than embarrassed. Then
the eager face of Fenton Lane arose in her fancy, and she heard
his words, "I would shoulder a musket and march away to-morrow if
you bade me!" How insignificant was all that this man could offer,
as compared with the boundless, self-sacrificing love of the other,
before whom her heart bowed in sincere homage if nothing more! What
was this man's offer but an expression of selfishness? And what
could she ever be but an accessory of his Burgundy? Indeed, as his
eyes, humid from wine, gloated upon her, and he was phrasing his
well-bred social platitudes and compliments, quite oblivious of
the fact that HER eyes were taking on the blue of a winter sky,
her cheeks began to grow a little hot with indignation and shame.
He knew that she did not love him, that naturally she could not,
and that there had been nothing in their past relations to inspire
even gratitude and respect towards him. In truth, his only effort
had been to show his preference and to indicate his wishes. What
then could his offer mean but the expectation that she would take
him as a good bargain, and, like any well-bred woman of the world,
comply with all its conditions? Had she given him the impression that
she could do this? While the possibility made her self-reproachful,
she was conscious of rising resentment towards him who was so
complacently assuming that she was for sale.
"Indeed, Miss Vosburgh," was the conclusion of his rather long
preliminaries, "you must not run away soon again. June days may
be charming under any circumstances, but your absence certainly
insures dull June evenings."
"You are burdening your conscience without deceiving me," the young
girl replied, demurely, "and should not so wrong yourself. Mamma
said that you were very entertaining, and that last evening was a
delightful one. It could scarcely be otherwise. It is natural that
people of the same age should be congenial. I will call mamma at
"I beg you will not,--at least not just yet. I have something to
say to which I trust you will listen kindly and favorably. Do you
think me so very old?"
"No older than you have a perfect right to be, Mr. Lanniere," said
the girl, laughing. "I can think of no reason for your reproachful
"Let me give you one then. Your opinions are of immense importance
"Truly, Mr. Lanniere, this is strange beyond measure, especially
as I am too young to have formed many opinions."
"That fact only increases my admiration and regard One must reach
my years in order to appreciate truly the dewy freshness of youth.
The world is a terra incognita to you yet, and your opinions of
life are still to be formed. Let me give you a chance to see the
world from lofty, sunny elevations."
"I am too recently from my geography not to remember that while
elevations may be sunny they are very cold," was the reply, with
a charming little shiver. "Mont Blanc has too much perspective."
"Do not jest with me or misunderstand me, Miss Vosburgh," he said,
impressively. "There is a happy mean in all things."
"Yes, Mr. Lanniere, and the girl who means to be happy should take
care to discover it."
"May it not be discovered for her by one who is better acquainted
with life? In woman's experience is not happiness more often
thrust upon her than achieved? I, who know the world and the rich
pleasures and triumphs it affords to one who, in the military phrase
of the day, is well supported, can offer you a great deal,--more
than most men, I assure you."
"Why, Mr. Lanniere," said the young girl, looking at him with
demure surprise, "I am perfectly contented and happy. No ambition
for triumphs is consuming me. What triumphs? As for pleasure, each
day brings all and more than I deserve. Young as one may be, one
can scarcely act without a motive."
"Then I am personally nothing to you?" he said stiffly, and rising.
"Pardon me, Mr. Lanniere. I hope my simple directness may not appear
childish, but it seems to me that I have met your suggestions with
natural answers; What should you be to me but an agreeable friend
He understood her fence perfectly, and was aware that the absence
of a mercenary spirit on her part made his suit appear almost
ridiculous. If her clear young eyes would not see him through a
golden halo, but only as a man and a possible mate, what could he
be to her? Even gold-fed egotism could not blind him to the truth
that she was looking at HIM, and that the thought of bartering
herself for a little more of what she had to her heart's content
already was not even considered. There was distressing keenness in
the suggestion that, not wanting the extraneous things he offered,
no motive was left. He was scarcely capable of suspecting her
indignation that he should deem her capable of sacrificing her fair
young girlhood for greater wealth and luxury, even had she coveted
them,--an indignation enhanced by her new impulses. The triumphs,
happiness, and power which she now was bent on achieving could
never be won under the dense shade of his opulent selfishness. He
embodied all that was inimical to her hopes and plans, all that was
opposed to the motives and inspiration received from her father,
and she looked at him with unamiable eyes.
While he saw this to some extent, he was unaccustomed to denial by
others or by himself. She was alluringly beautiful, as she stood
before him,--all the more valued because she valued herself so
highly, all the more coveted because superior to the sordid motives
upon which even he had counted as the chief allies in his suit.
In the intense longing of a self-indulgent nature he broke out,
seizing her hand as he spoke: "O Miss Marian, do not deny me.
I know I could make you happy. I would give you everything. Your
slightest wish should be law. I would be your slave."
"I do not wish a slave," she replied, freezingly, withdrawing her
hand. "I am content, as I told you; but were I compelled to make
a choice it should be in favor of a man to whom I could look up,
and whom I could aid in manly work. I shall not make a choice until
compelled to by my heart."
"If your heart is still your own, give me a chance to win it,"
resumed the suitor, seeking vainly to take her hand again. "I am
in my prime, and can do more than most men. I will put my wealth
at your disposal, engage in noble charities, patriotic--"
This interview had been so absorbing as to make them oblivious of
the fact that another visitor had been admitted to the hall. Hearing
voices in the drawing-room, Mr. Strahan entered, and now stood just
behind Mr. Lanniere, with an expression in which dismay, amusement,
and embarrassment were so comically blended that Marian, who first
saw him, had to cover her face with her handkerchief to hide her
sense of the ludicrous.
"Pardon me," said the inopportune new-comer, "I--I--"
"Maledictions on you!" exclaimed the goaded millionnaire, now
enraged beyond self-control, and confronting the young fellow with
glaring, bloodshot eyes.
This greeting put Strahan entirely at his ease, and a glimpse of
Marian's mirth had its influence also. She had turned instantly
away, and gone to the farther side of the apartment.
"Come now, Mr. Lanniere," he said, with an assumption of much
dignity; "there is scant courtesy in your greeting, and without
reason. I have the honor of Miss Vosburgh's acquaintance as truly
as yourself. This is her parlor, and she alone has the right to
indicate that I am unwelcome. I shall demand no apologies here and
now, but I shall demand them. I may appear very young--"
"Yes, you do; very young. I should think that ears like yours might
have--" And then the older man paused, conscious that the violence
of his anger was carrying him too far.
Strahan struck a nonchalant attitude, as he coolly remarked: "My
venerable friend, your passion is unbecoming to your years. Miss
Vosburgh, I humbly ask your pardon that my ears were not long enough
to catch the purport of this interview. I am not in the habit of
listening at a lady's door before I enter. My arrival at a moment
so awkward for me was my misfortune. I discovered nothing to your
discredit, Mr. Lanniere. Indeed, your appreciation of Miss Vosburgh
is the most creditable thing I know about you,--far more so than
your insults because I merely entered the door to which I was shown
by the maid who admitted me. Miss Vosburgh, with your permission
I will now depart, in the hope that you will forgive the annoyance--"
"I cannot give you my permission under the circumstances, Mr.
Strahan. You have committed no offence against me, or Mr. Lanniere,
either, as he will admit after a little thought. Let us regard the
whole matter as one of those awkward little affairs over which good
breeding can speedily triumph. Sit down, and I will call mamma."
"Pardon me, Miss Vosburgh," said Mr. Lanniere, in a choking voice,
for he could not fail to note the merriment which the mercurial
Strahan strove in vain to suppress; "I will leave you to more
congenial society. I have paid you the highest compliment in my
power, and have been ill-requited."
As if stung, the young girl took a step towards him, and said,
indignantly: "What was the nature of your compliment? What have you
asked but that I should sell myself for money? I may have appeared
to you a mere society girl, but I was never capable of that.
Mr. Lanniere departed with tingling ears, and a dawning consciousness
that he had over-rated his million, and that he had made a fool of
All trace of mirth passed from Strahan's expression, as he looked
at the young girl's stern, flushed face and the angry sheen of her
"By Jove!" he exclaimed, "that's magnificent. I've seen a girl now
to whom I can take off my hat, not as a mere form. Half the girls
in our set would have given their eyes for the chance of capturing
such a man. Think what a vista of new bonnets he suggests!"
"You are probably mistaken. One girl has proved how she regarded
the vista, and I don't believe you had any better opinion of me
than of the others. Come now, own up. Be honest. Didn't you regard
me as one of the girls 'in our set' as you phrase it, that would
jump at the chance?"
"Oh, nonsense, Miss Marian. The idea--"
She checked him by a gesture. "I wish downright sincerity, and I
shall detect the least false note in your words."
Strahan looked into her resolute, earnest eyes a moment, and
then revealed a new trait. He discarded the slight affectation
that characterized his manner, stood erect, and returned her gaze
steadily. "You ask for downright sincerity?" he said.
"Yes; I will take nothing less."
"You have no right to ask it unless you will be equally sincere
"Oh, indeed; you are in a mood for bargains, as well as Mr.
"Not at all. You have stepped out of the role of the mere society
girl. In that guise I shall be all deference and compliments. On
the basis of downright sincerity I have my rights, and you have
no right to compel me to give an honest opinion so personal in its
nature without giving one in return."
"I agree," she said, after a moment's thought.
"Well, then, while I was by no means sure, I thought it was possible,
even probable, that you would accept a man like Lanniere. I have
known society girls to do such things, haven't you?"
"And I tell you, Mr. Strahan, that you misjudge a great many society
"Oh, you must tell me a great deal more than that. Have I not just
discovered that I misjudged one? Now pitch into Arthur Strahan."
"I am inclined to think that I have misjudged you, also; but
I will keep my compact, and give you the impression you made, and
you won't like it."
"I don't expect to; but I shall expect downright sincerity."
"Very well. I'll test you. You are not simple and manly, even in
your dress and manner; you are an anomaly in the country; you are
inclined to gossip; and it's my belief that a young man should do
more in life than amuse himself."
Strahan flushed, but burst out laughing as he exclaimed, "My
photograph, by Jupiter!"
"Photographs give mere surface. Come, what's beneath it?"
"In one respect, at least, I think I am on a par with yourself. I
have enough honest good-nature to listen to the truth with thanks."
"Is that all?"
"Come, Miss Marian, what is the use of words when I have had such
an example of deeds? I have caught you, red-handed, in the act of
giving a millionnaire his conge. In the face of this stern fact
do you suppose I am going to try to fish up some germs of manhood
for your inspection? As you have suggested, I must do something,
or I'm out of the race with you. I honestly believe, though, I am
not such a fool as I have seemed. I shall always be something of
a rattle-brain, I suppose, and if I were dying I could not help
seeing the comical side of things." He hesitated a moment, and then
asked, abruptly, "Miss Marian, have you read to-day's paper?"
"Yes, I have," with a tinge of sadness in her tone.
"Well, so have I. Think of thousands of fine young fellows lying
stiff and stark in those accursed swamps!"
"Yes," she cried, with a rush of tears, "I WILL think of them.
I will try to see them, horrible as the sight is, even in fancy.
When they died so heroically, shame on me if I turn away in weak,
dainty disgust! Oh, the burning shame that Northern girls don't
think more of such men and their self-sacrifice!"
"You're a trump, Miss Marian; that's evident. Well, one little bit
of gossip about myself, and then I must go. I have another engagement
this evening. Old Lanniere was right. I'm young, and I've been
very young. Of late I've made deliberate effort to remain a fool;
but a man has got to be a fool or a coward down to the very hard-pan
of his soul if the logic of recent events has no effect on him. I
don't think I am exactly a coward, but the restraint of army-life,
and especially roughing it, is very distasteful. I kept thinking
it would all soon be over, that more men were in now than were
needed, and that it was a confounded disagreeable business, and
all that. But my mind wasn't at rest; I wasn't satisfied with the
ambitions of my callow youth; and, as usual when one is in trouble
and in doubt about a step, I exaggerated my old folly to disguise
my feelings. But this Richmond campaign, and the way Stonewall
Jackson has been whacking our fellows in the Shenandoah, made me
feel that I was standing back too long, and the battle described
in to-day's paper brought me to a decision. I'm in for it, Miss
Marian. You may think I'm not worth the powder required to blow me
up, but I'm going to Virginia as soon as I can learn enough not to
be more dangerous to those around me than to the enemy."
She darted to his side, and took his hand, exclaiming, "Mr. Strahan!
forgive me; I've done you a hundred-fold more injustice than you
He was visibly embarrassed, a thing unusual with him, and he
said, brusquely: "Oh, come now, don't let us have any pro patria
exaltation. I don't resemble a hero any more than I do a doctor of
divinity. I'm just like lots of other young fellows who have gone,
only I have been slower in going, and my ardor won't set the river
on fire. But the times are waking up all who have any wake-up in
them, and the exhibition of the latest English cut in coats and
trousers is taking on a rather inglorious aspect. How ridiculous
it all seems in the light of the last battle! Jove! but I HAVE been
He did look young indeed, with his blond mustache and flushed face,
that was almost as fair as a girl's. She regarded him wonderingly,
thinking how strangely events were applying the touchstone to one
and another. But the purpose of this boyish-appearing exquisite
was the most unexpected thing in the era of change that had begun.
She could scarcely believe it, and exclaimed, "You face a cannon?"
"I don't look like it, do I? I fancy I would. I should be too
big a coward to run away, for then I should have to come back to
face you, which would be worse, you know. I'm not going to do any
bragging, however. Deeds, deeds. Not till I have laid out a Johnny,
or he has laid me out, can I take rank with you after your rout of
the man of millions. I don't ask you to believe in me yet."
"Well, I do believe in you. You are making an odd yet vivid
impression on me. I believe you will face danger just as you did
Mr. Lanniere, in a half-nonchalant and a half-satirical mood, while
all the time there will be an undercurrent of downright earnestness
and heroism in you, which you will hide as if you were ashamed of
He flushed with pleasure, but only laughed, "We'll see." Then after
a moment he added, "Since we are down to the bed-rock in our talk
I'll say out the rest of my say, then follow Lanniere, and give
him something more to digest before he sleeps."
"Halt, sir--military jargon already--how can you continue your
quarrel with Mr. Lanniere without involving my name?"
Strahan looked blank for a second, then exclaimed: "Another evidence,
of extreme youth! Lanniere may go to thunder before I risk annoying
"Yes, thank you; please let him go to thunder. He won't talk of
the affair, and so can do you no harm."
"Supposing he could, that would be no excuse for annoying you."
"I think you punished him sufficiently before he went, and without
ceasing to be a gentleman, too. If you carry out your brave purpose
you need not fear for your reputation."
"Well, Miss Marian, I shall carry it out. Society girl as I believed
you to be, I like you better than the others. Don't imagine I'm
going to be sentimental. I should stand as good a chance of winning
a major-general's stars as you. I've seen better fellows raising
the siege and disappearing, you know. Well, the story I thought
would be short is becoming long. I wanted to tell you first what
I proposed; for, hang it all! I've read it in your eyes that you
thought I was little better than a popinjay, and I wished to prove
to you that I could be a man after my fashion."
"I like your fashion, and am grateful for your confidence. What's
more, you won't be able to deceive me a bit hereafter. I shall
persist in admiring you as a brave man, and shall stand up for you
through thick and thin."
"You always had a kind of loyalty to us fellows that we recognized
"I feel now as if I had not been very loyal to any one, not even
myself. As with you, however, I must let the future tell a different
"If I make good my words, will you be my friend?"
"Yes, yes indeed, and a proud one. But oh!"--she clasped her hand
over her eyes,--"what is all this tending to? When I think of the
danger and suffering to which you may--"
"Oh, come now," he interrupted, laughing, but with a little
suspicious moisture in eyes as blue as her own; "it will be harder
for you to stay and think of absent friends than for them to go.
I foresee how it will turn out. You will be imagining high tragedy
on stormy nights when we shall be having a jolly game of poker.
Good-night. I shall be absent for a time,--going to West Point to
be coached a little by my friend Captain Varrum."
He drew himself up, saluted her a la militaire, right-about-faced
with the stiffness of a ramrod, and was departing, when a light
hand touched his arm, and Marian said, with a look so kind and
sympathetic that his eyes fell before it: "Report to me occasionally,
Captain Strahan. There are my colors;" and she gave him a white
rose from her belt.
His mouth quivered slightly, but with a rather faltering laugh
he replied, as he put the rose to his lips, "Never let the color
suggest that I will show the white feather;" and then he began his
military career with a precipitate retreat.
CHARMED BY A CRITIC.
"WHAT next?" was Marian's wondering query after Mr. Strahan's
departure. The change of motive which already had had no slight
influence on her own action and feeling had apparently ushered in
a new era in her experience; but the sense of novelty in personal
affairs was quite lost as she contemplated the transformation in
the mercurial Strahan, who had apparently been an irredeemable fop.
That the fastidious exquisite should tramp through Virginia mud,
and face a battery of hostile cannon, appeared to her the most
marvellous of human paradoxes. An hour before she would have declared
the idea preposterous. Now she was certain he would do all that he
had said, and would do it in the manner satirical and deprecatory
towards himself which she had suggested.
Radical as the change seemed, she saw that it was a natural one
as he had explained it. If there was any manhood in him the times
would evoke it. After all, his chief faults had been youth and
a nature keenly sensitive to certain social influences. Belonging
to a wealthy and fashionable clique in the city, he had early been
impressed by the estimated importance of dress and gossip. To excel
in these, therefore, was to become pre-eminent. As time passed,
however, the truth, never learned by some, that his clique was not
the world, began to dawn on him. He was foolish, but not a fool;
and when he saw young fellows no older than himself going to the
front, when he read of their achievements and sufferings, he drew
comparisons. The result was that he became more and more dissatisfied.
He felt that he was anomalous, in respect not only to the rural
scenery of his summer home, but to the times, and the conviction
was growing that the only way to right himself was to follow the
host of American youth who had gone southward. It was a conviction to
which he could not readily yield, and which he sought to disguise
by exaggerating his well-known characteristics. People of his
temperament often shrink from revealing their deeper feelings,
believing that these would seem to others so incongruous as to call
forth incredulous smiles. Strahan was not a coward, except in the
presence of ridicule. This had more terrors for him than all the
guns of the Confederacy; and he knew that every one, from his own
family down, would laugh at the thought of his going to the war.
In a way that puzzled him a little he felt that he would not care
so much if Marian Vosburgh did not laugh. The battle of which he
had read to-day had at last decided him; he must go; but if Marian
would give him credit for a brave, manly impulse, and not think of
him as a ludicrous spectacle when he donned the uniform, he would
march away with a light heart. He did not analyze her influence
over him, but only knew that she had a peculiar fascination which
it was not in his impressionable nature to resist.
Thus it may be seen that he only gave an example of the truth that
great apparent changes are the result of causes that have long been
Marian, like many others, did not sufficiently take this fact into
account, and was on the qui vive for other remarkable manifestations.
They did not occur. As her father had predicted, life, in its
outward conditions, resumed its normal aspects. Her mother laughed
a little, sighed a little, when she heard the story of Mr. Lanniere's
final exit; the coquettish kitchen-maid continued her career with
undisturbed complacency; and Marian to her own surprise found that,
after the first days of her enthusiasm had passed, it required the
exertion of no little will-power to refrain from her old motives
and tactics. But she was loyal to herself and to her implied promise
to her father. She knew that he was watching her,--that he had set
his heart on the development, in a natural way, of her best traits.
She also knew that if she faltered she must face his disappointment
and her own contempt.
She had a horror, however, of putting on what she called "goody-goody
airs," and under the influence of this feeling acted much like
her old self. Not one of her callers could have charged her with
manifesting a certain kind of misleading favor, but her little salon
appeared as free from restraint as ever, and her manner as genial
and lively. It began to be observed by some, however, that while
she participated unhesitatingly in the light talk of others, she
herself would occasionally broach topics of more weight, especially
such as related to the progress of the war; and more than once she
gave such direction to her conversation with the artist as made
his eyes kindle.
Her father was satisfied. He usually came home late on Saturday,
and some of her gentleman friends who were in the habit of dropping
in of a Sunday evening, were soon taught that these hours were
"You need not excuse yourself on my account," her father had said
"But I shall," was her prompt response. "After all you have done
and are doing for me, it's a pity if I can't give you one evening
in the week. You are looking after other people in New York;
I'm going to look after you; and you shall find that I am a sharp
inquisitor. You must reveal enough of the secrets of that mysterious
office of yours to satisfy me that you are not in danger."
He soon began to look forward with glad anticipation to his ramble
by her side in the summer twilight. He saw that what he had done
and what he had thought during the week interested her deeply, and
to a girl of her intelligence he had plenty to tell that was far
from commonplace. She saw the great drama of her country's history
unfolding, and not only witnessed the events that were presented
to the world, but was taken behind the scenes and shown many of
the strange and secret causes that were producing them. Moreover
expectation of something larger and greater was constantly raised.
After their walk they would return to the house, and she would sing
or read to him until she saw his eyes heavy with the sleep that
steals gradually and refreshingly into a weary man's brain.
Mrs. Vosburgh observed this new companionship with but little surprise
and no jealousy. "It was time," she said, "that Marian should begin
to do something for her father, and not leave everything to me."
One thing puzzled Marian: weeks were passing and she neither saw
nor heard anything of Lane or Strahan. This fact, in view of what
had been said at parting, troubled her. She was not on calling
terms with the latter's family, and therefore was unable to learn
anything from them. Even his male friends in the neighborhood did
not know where he was or what he was doing. Her father had taken
the pains to inform himself that Lane was apparently at work in
his law-office as usual. These two incipient subjects of the power
she hoped to wield seemed to have dropped her utterly, and she was
On the last day of June she was taking a ramble in a somewhat
wild and secluded place not far from her home, and thinking rather
disconsolately that her father had overrated her influence,--that
after all she was but a pretty and ordinary girl, like millions
of others,--a fact that Lane and Strahan had at last discovered.
Suddenly she came upon the artist, sketching at a short distance
from her. As she turned to retreat a twig snapped under her foot,
revealing her presence. He immediately arose and exclaimed, "Miss
Vosburgh, is it I that you fear, or a glimpse of my picture?"
"Neither, of course. I feared I might dispel an inspired mood.
Why should I intrude, when you have nature before you and the muse
looking over your shoulder?"
"Over my left shoulder, then, with a mocking smile. You are
mistaken if you fancy you can harm any of my moods. Won't you stay
and criticise my picture for me?"
"Why, Mr. Blauvelt, I'm not an art critic."
"Yes, you are,--one of the class I paint for. Our best critics are
our patrons, cultivated people."
"I should never think of patronizing you."
"Perhaps you might entertain the thought of encouraging me a little,
if you felt that I was worth it."
"Now, Mr. Blauvelt, notwithstanding the rural surroundings, you
must remember that I was bred in the city. I know the sovereign
contempt that you artists have for the opinions of the people. When
it comes to art, I'm only people."
"No such generalization will answer in your case. You have as
distinct an individuality as any flower blooming on this hillside."
"There are flowers and flowers. Some are quite common."
"None are commonplace to me, for there is a genuine bit of nature
in every one. Still you are right: I was conscious of the fragrance
from this eglantine-bush here, until you came."
"Oh, then let me go at once."
"I beg that you will not. You are the eglantine in human form, and
often quite as briery."
"Then you should prefer the bush there, which gives you its beauty
and fragrance without a scratch. But truly your comparison is too
far-fetched, even for an artist or a poet, for I suppose they are
near of kin. To sensible, matter-of-fact girls, nothing is more
absurd than your idealization of us. See how quickly and honestly
I can disenchant you. In the presence of both nature and art I
am conscious that it is nearly lunch-time. You are far from your
boarding-place, so come and take your luck with us. Mamma will be
glad to see you, and after lunch I may be a more amiable critic."
"As a critic, I do not wish you to be amiable, but honest severity
itself. That you stumbled upon me accidentally in your present
mood is my good fortune. Tell me the faults in my picture in the
plainest English, and I will gratefully accept your invitation; for
the hospitality at your cottage is so genial that bread and cheese
would be a banquet. I have a strong fancy for seeing my work through
your eyes, and so much faith in you that I know you will tell me
what you think, since I ask you to do so."
"Why have you faith in me?" she asked, with a quick, searching
"I belong somewhat to the impressionist school, and my impression
of you leads to my words."
"If you compel me to be honest, I must say I'm not capable of
criticising your picture. I know little of art, and nothing of its
"Eyes like yours should be able to see a great deal, and, as I said,
I am possessed by the wish to know just what they do see. There is
the scene I was sketching, and here the canvas. Please, Miss Marian."
"It will be your own fault, now, if you don't like what I say,"
laughed the young girl, with ready tact, for a quick glance or two
had already satisfied her that the picture was not to her taste.
"My only remark is this, Mr. Blauvelt,--Nature does not make the
same impression on me that it does on you. There is the scene, as
you say. How can I make you understand what I feel? Nature always
looks so natural to me! It awakens within me various emotions, but
never surprise,--I mean that kind of surprise one has when seeing
a lady dressed in colors that do not harmonize. To my eye, even in
gaudy October, Nature appears to blend her effects so that there
is nothing startling or incongruous."
"Is there anything startling and incongruous in my picture?"
"I have not said that. You see you have brought me into perplexity, you
have taken me beyond my depth, by insisting on having my opinion.
I have read a good many art criticisms first and last. Art is gabbled
about a good deal in society, you know, and we have to keep a set
of phrases on hand, whether we understand them or not. But since
you believe in impressions, and will have mine, it is this as nearly
as I can express it. You are under the influence of a school or
a fashion in art, and perhaps unconsciously you are controlled by
this when looking at the scene there. It seems to me that if I were
an artist I should try to get on my canvas the same effects that
nature produces, and I would do it after my own fashion and not
after some received method just then prevailing. Let me illustrate
what I mean by a phase of life that I know more about. There are
some girls in society whose ambition it is to dress in the latest
style. They are so devoted to fashion that they appear to forget
themselves, and are happy if their costume reflects the mode of the
hour, even though it makes them look hideous. My aim would be to
suggest the style rather unobtrusively, and clothe myself becomingly.
I'm too egotistical to be ultra-fashionable. Since I, who am in
love chiefly with myself, can so modify style, much more should
you, who are devoted to nature, make fashion in art subservient to
"You are right. I have worked too much in studios and not enough
out of doors. Ever since I have been sketching this summer, I have
had a growing dissatisfaction, and a sense of being trammelled. I
do believe, as you say, that a certain received method or fashion
of treatment has been uppermost in my mind, and I have been trying
to torture--nature into conformity. I'll paint this thing all out
and begin again."
"No, don't do that. Are not pictures like people a little? If
I wanted to improve in some things, it wouldn't do for me to be
painted all out. Cannot changes for the better come by softening
features here and bringing out others there, by colorings a little
more like those before us, and--pardon me--by not leaving so much
to the imagination? You artists can see more between the lines than
we people can."
"Let me try;" and with eager eyes he sat down before his easel
again. "Now see if I succeed a little," he added, after a moment.
His whole nature appeared kindled and animated by hope. He worked
rapidly and boldly. His drawing had been good before, and, as time
passed, nature's sweet, true face began to smile upon him from
his canvas. Marian grew almost as absorbed as himself, learning by
actual vision how quick, light strokes can reproduce and preserve
on a few square inches the transitory beauty of the hour and the
At times she would stimulate his effort by half-spoken sentences
of satisfaction, and at last he turned and looked up suddenly at
her flushed, interested face.
"You are the muse," he exclaimed, impetuously, "who, by looking
over my shoulder, can make an artist of me."
She instinctively stepped farther away, saying, decisively, "Be
careful then to regard me as a muse."
She had replied to his ardent glance and tone, even more than to
his words. There was not a trace of sentiment in her clear, direct
gaze. The quiet dignity and reserve of her manner sobered him
instantly. Her presence, her words, the unexpected success in the
new departure which she had suggested, had excited him deeply; yet
a moment's thought made it clear that there had been nothing on
her part to warrant the hope of more than friendly interest. This
interest might easily be lost by a few rash words, while there
was slight reason that he should ever hope for anything more. Then
also came the consciousness of his straitened circumstances and the
absurdity of incurring obligations which he might never be able to
meet. He had assured himself a thousand times that art should be
his mistress, yet here he was on the eve of acting like a fool by
making love to one who never disguised her expensive tastes. He was
not an artist of the olden school,--all romance and passion,--and
the modishly dressed, reserved maiden before him did not, in the
remotest degree, suggest a languishing heroine in days of yore,
certain to love against sense and reason. The wild, sylvan shade,
the June atmosphere, the fragrance of the eglantine, even the
presence of art, in whose potent traditions mood is the highest law,
could not dispel the nineteenth century or make this independent,
clear-headed American girl forget for a moment what was sensible
and right. She stood there alone under the shadow of the chestnuts,
and by a glance defined her rights, her position towards her companion,
and made him respect them. Nor was he headlong, passionate, absurd.
He was a part of his age, and was familiar with New York society.
The primal instincts of his nature had obtained ascendency for
a mordent. Ardent words to the beautiful girl who looked over
his shoulder and inspired his touch seemed as natural as breath.
She had made herself for the moment a part of his enthusiasm. But
what could be the sequel of ardent words, even if successful, but
prosaic explanations and the facing of the inexorable problem of
supporting two on an income that scarcely sufficed for the Bohemian
life of one?
He had sufficient self-control, and was mentally agile enough to
come down upon his feet. Rising, he said, quietly: "If you will be
my muse, as far as many other claims upon your time and thoughts
permit, I shall be very grateful. I have observed that you have
a good eye for harmony in color, and, what is best of all, I have
induced you to be very frank. See how much you have helped me. In
brief--Bless me! how long have you been here?"
He pulled out his watch in comic dismay, and held it towards her.
"No lunch for us to-day," he concluded, ruefully.
"Well," exclaimed Marian, laughing, "this is the first symptom
I have ever had of being an artist. It was quite natural that you
should forget the needs of sublunary mortals, but that I should do
so must prove the existence of an undeveloped trait. I could become
quite absorbed in art if I could look on and see its wonders like
a child. You must come home with me and take your chance. If lunch
is over, we'll forage."
He laughingly shouldered his apparatus, and walked by her side
through the June sunshine and shade, she in the main keeping up
the conversation. At last he said, rather abruptly: "Miss Vosburgh,
you do not look on like a child,--rather, with more intelligence
than very many society girls possess; and--will you forgive me?--you
defend yourself like a genuine American woman. I have lived abroad,
you know, and have learned how to value such women. I wish you to
know how much I respect you, how truly I appreciate you, and how
grateful and honored I shall feel if you will be simply a frank,
kind friend. You made use of the expression 'How shall I make
you understand?' So I now use it, and suggest what I mean by a
question,--Is there not something in a man's nature which enables
him to do better if some woman, in whom he believes, shows that
"I should be glad if this were true of some men," she said, gently,
"because I do care. I'll be frank, too. Nothing would give me a
more delicious sense of power than to feel that in ways I scarcely
understood I was inciting my friends to make more of themselves
than they would if they did not know me. If I cannot do a little
of what you suggest, of what account am I to my friends?"
"Your friends can serve a useful purpose by amusing you."
"Then the reverse is true, and I am merely amusing to my friends.
Is that the gist of your fine words, after all?" and her face
flushed as she asked the question.
"No, it is not true, Miss Vosburgh. You have the power of entertaining
your friends abundantly, but you could make me a better artist,
and that with me would mean a better man, if you took a genuine
interest in my efforts."
"I shall test the truth of your words," was her smiling response.
"Meanwhile you can teach me to understand art better, so that I
shall know what I am talking about." Then she changed the subject.
A GIRL'S LIGHT HAND.
ON the evening of the 3d of July Marian drove down in her phaeton
to the station for her father, and was not a little surprised to
see him advancing towards her with Mr. Lane. The young man shook
hands with her cordially, yet quietly, and there was something in
his expression that assured her of the groundlessness of all the
fears she had entertained.
"I have asked Mr. Lane to dine with us," said her father. "He will
walk over from the hotel in the course of half an hour."
While the gentlemen had greeted her smilingly, there had been an
expression on their faces which suggested that their minds were
not engrossed by anticipation of a holiday outing. Marian knew well
what it meant. The papers had brought to every home in the land the
tidings of the awful seven days' fighting before Richmond. So far
from taking the city, McClellan had barely saved his army. Thousands
of men were dead in the swamps of the Chickahominy; thousands were
dying in the sultry heat of the South and on the malarial banks of
Mr. Vosburgh's face was sad and stern in its expression, and when
Marian asked, "Papa, is it so bad as the papers say?" he replied:
"God only knows how bad it is. For a large part of our army it is
as bad as it can be. The most terrible feature of it all to me is
that thick-headed, blundering men are holding in their irresolute
hands the destinies of just such brave young fellows as Mr. Lane
here. It is not so dreadful for a man to die if his death furthers
a cause which he believes to be sacred, but to die from the sheer
stupidity and weakness of his leaders is a bitter thing. Instead of
brave action, there is fatal blundering all along the line. For a
long time the President, sincere and true-hearted as he is, could
not learn that he is not a military man, and he has permitted a
large part of our armies to be scattered all over Virginia. They
have accomplished next to nothing. McClellan long since proved that
he would not advance without men enough to walk over everything.
He is as heavy as one of his own siege guns. He may be sure, if he
has all he wants, but is mortally slow, and hadn't brains enough
to realize that the Chickahominy swamps thinned his army faster
than brave fighting. He should have been given the idle, useless
men under McDowell and others, and then ordered to take Richmond.
If he wouldn't move, then they should have put a man in his place
who would, and not one who would sit down and dig. At last he has
received an impetus from Richmond, instead of Washington, and he
has moved at a lively pace, but to the rear. His men were as brave
as men could be; and if the courage shown on the retreat, or change
of base, as some call it, had been manifested in an advance, weeks
ago, Richmond would have been ours. The 'change of base' has carried
us well away from the point attacked, brave men have suffered and
died in vain, and the future is so clouded that only one thing is
"What is that, papa?" was the anxious query.
"We must never give up. We must realize that we are confronting
some of the best soldiers and generals the world has known. The
North is only half awake to its danger and the magnitude of its task.
We have sent out comparatively few of our men to do a disagreeable
duty for us, while we take life comfortably and luxuriously as
before. The truth will come home to us soon, that we are engaged
in a life-and-death struggle."
"Papa, these events will bring no changes to you? In your work, I
"Not at present. I truly believe, Marian, that I can serve my country
more effectively in the performance of the duties with which I am
now charged. But who can tell what a day will bring forth? Lane is
going to the front. He will tell you all about it. He is a manly
fellow, and no doubt will explain why you have not heard from him."
"Real life has come in very truth," thought Marian, as she went to
her room to prepare for dinner; "but on every side it also brings
the thought of death."
Her face was pale, and clouded with apprehension, when she joined
the gentlemen; but Lane was so genial and entertaining at dinner
as to make it difficult for her to believe that he had resolved on
a step so fraught with risk. When at last they were alone in the
drawing-room she said, "Is it true that you intend to enter the
"Yes, and it is time that it was true," was his smiling reply.
"I don't feel like laughing, Mr. Lane. Going to Virginia does not
strike me as a pleasure excursion. I have thought a great deal
since I saw you last. You certainly have kept your promise to be
a distant and absent friend."
He looked at her eagerly, as he said, "You have thought a great
deal--have you thought about me?"
"Certainly," she replied, with a slight flush; "I meant all that
I said that evening."
That little emphasized word dispelled the hope that had for a moment
asserted itself. Time and a better acquaintance with her own heart
had not brought any change of feeling to her, and after a moment
he said, quietly: "I think I can prove that I have been a sincere
and loyal friend as well as an absent one. Having never felt--well,
you cannot know--it takes a little time for a fellow to--pardon
me; let all that go. I have tried to gain self-control, and I have
obeyed your request, to do nothing rash, literally. I remained
steadily at work in my office a certain number of hours every
day. If the general hope that Richmond would be taken, and the war
practically ended, had proved well founded, for the sake of others
I should have resisted my inclination to take part in the struggle.
I soon concluded, however, that it would be just as well to prepare
for what has taken place, and so gave part of my afternoons and
evenings to a little useful training. I am naturally very fond
of a horse, and resolved that if I went at all it should be as a
cavalry-man, so I have been giving not a little of my time to horseback
exercise, sabre, pistol, and carbine practice, and shall not be
quite so awkward as some of the other raw recruits. I construed
McClellan's retreat into an order for me to advance, and have come
to you as soon as I could to report progress."
"Why could you not have come before?--why could you not have told
me?" she asked, a little reproachfully.
"Some day perhaps you will know," he replied, turning away for a
"I feared that maturer thought had convinced you that I could not
be much of a friend,--that I was only a gay young girl who wouldn't
appreciate an earnest man's purposes."
"Miss Marian, you wrong me in thinking that I could so wrong you.
Never for a moment have I entertained such a thought. I can't explain
to you all my experience. I wished to be more sure of myself, to
have something definite to tell you, that would prove me more worthy
of your friendship."
"My faith in you has never faltered a moment, Mr. Lane. While your
words make me proud indeed, they also make me very sad. I don't
wonder that you feel as you do about going, and were I a man
I should probably take the same course. But I am learning at last
what this war means. I can't with a light heart see my friends go."
"Let it be with a brave heart, then. There are tears in your eyes,
"Why should there not be? O Mr. Lane, I am not coldhearted and
callous. I am not so silly and shallow as I seemed."
"I never thought you so--"
By a gesture she stopped him, as she continued: "I recognized the
expression on papa's face and yours the moment I saw you, and I
know what it means."
"Yes, Miss Marian; and I recognize the expression on your face.
Were you a man you would have gone before this."
"I think it would be easier to go than to stay and think of all
one's friends must face."
"Of course it would be for one like you. You must not look on the
dark side, however. You will scarcely find a jollier set of men
than our soldiers."
"I fear too many are reckless. This you have promised me not to
"I shall keep my promise; but a soldier must obey orders, you know.
O Miss Marian, it makes such a difference with me to know that you
care so much! Knowing you as I do now, it would seem like black
treason to do or be anything unmanly."
Callers were now announced, and before an hour had passed there
were half a dozen or more young men in the drawing-room. Some were
staying at the hotel, but the majority were from the villas in the
neighborhood, the holiday season permitting the return of those
in business. However dark and crimson might be the tide of thought
that flowed through the minds of those present, in memory of what
had occurred during the last few days, the light of mirth played
on the surface. The times afforded themes for jest, rather than
doleful predictions. Indeed, in accordance with a principle in human
nature, there was a tendency to disguise feelings and anxiety by
words so light as to border on recklessness. Questions as to future
action were coming home to all the young men, but not for the world
would they permit one another, or especially a spirited young girl,
to suspect that they were awed, or made more serious even, by the
thought that the battle was drawing nearer to them. Lane was a
leader in the gayety. His presence was regarded by some with both
surprise and surmise. It had been thought that he had disappeared
finally below Miss Vosburgh's horizon, but his animated face and
manner gave no indication of a rejected and despondent suitor.
The mirth was at its height when Strahan entered, dressed plainly
in the uniform of a second lieutenant. He was greeted with a shout
of laughter by the young men, who knew him well, and by a cordial
pressure from Marian's hand. This made the gauntlet which he knew
he must run of little consequence to him. All except Lane drew up
and gave him a military salute.
"Pretty fair for the awkward squad," he remarked, coolly.
"Come, report, report," cried several voices; "where have you been?"
"Why, of course, fellows, he's been arranging the change of base
with McClellan, only the army went south and he came north."
"I've been farther south than any of you."
"See here, Strahan, this uniform is rather new for a veteran's."
"Yes; never dealt in old clothes."
"Where's your command?"
"Here, if you'll all enlist. I think I could make soldiers of some
"Why, fellows, what a chance for us! If Strahan can't teach us the
etiquette of war, who can?"
"Yes, gentlemen; and I will give you the first rule in advance.
Always face the music."
"Dance music, you mean. Strahan has been at West Point and knows
that a fellow in civilian togs stands no chance. How he eclipses
us all to-night with the insignia of rank on his shoulders! Where
will you make headquarters?"
"At home, for the present."
"That's right. We knew you would hit upon the true theory
of campaigning. Never was there a better strategic point for your
operations, Strahan, than the banks of the Hudson."
"I shall try to prove you right. A recruiting sergeant will join
me in a day or two, and then I can accommodate you all with muskets."
"All? Not Miss Marian?"
"Those possessing her rank and influence do not carry muskets."
"Come, fellows, let us celebrate the 4th by enlisting under Strahan,"
cried the chief spokesman, who was not a very friendly neighbor of
the young officer. "It won't be long before we shall know all the
gossip of the Confederacy."
"You will certainly have to approach near enough to receive some
very direct news."
"Gentlemen," cried Marian, "a truce! Mr. Strahan has proved that
he can face a hot fire, and send back good shots, even when greatly
outnumbered. I have such faith in him that I have already given him
my colors. You may take my word for it that he will render a good
account of himself. I am now eager to hear of his adventures."
"I haven't had any, Miss Marian. What I said about Virginia was
mere bluff,--merely made an excursion or two on the Virginia side
of the Potomac, out of curiosity."
"But what does this uniform mean?"
"Merely what it suggests. I went to Washington, which is a great
camp, you know. Through relatives I had some influence there, and
at last obtained a commission at the bottom of the ladder in a new
regiment that is to be recruited. Meanwhile I was put through the
manual of arms, with a lot of other awkward fellows, by a drill
officer. I kept shady and told my people to be mum until something
came out of it all. Come, fellows, thirteen dollars a month, hard
tack, and glory! Don't all speak at once!"
"I'm with you as far as going is concerned," said Lane, shaking
Strahan's hand warmly, "only I've decided on the cavalry."
"Were I a man, you should have one recruit for your regiment to-night,"
said Marian. "You have gone to work in a way that inspires confidence."
"I foresee, fellows, that we shall all have to go, or else Miss
Marian will cross us out of her books," remarked one of the young
"No, indeed," she replied. "I would not dare urge any one to go.
But those who, like Mr. Lane and Mr. Strahan, decide the question
for themselves, cannot fail to carry my admiration with them."
"That's the loudest bugle call I expect to hear," remarked Mr.
Blauvelt, who entered at that moment.
"Here's the place to open your recruiting-office," added another,
laughing. "If Miss Marian would be free with her colors, she could
raise a brigade."
"I can assure you beforehand that I shall not be free with them;
much less will I hold them out as an inducement. Slight as may be
their value, they must be earned."
"What chivalrous deed has Strahan performed?" was asked, in chorus.
"One that I appreciate, and I don't give my faith lightly,"
"Mr. Strahan, I congratulate you," said Lane, with a swift and
somewhat reproachful glance at Marian; "you have already achieved
your best laurels."
"I've received them, but not earned them yet. Miss Marian gives a
fellow a good send-off, however, and time will tell the story with
us all. I must now bid you good-evening," he said to the young
girl. "I merely stopped for a few moments on my way from the train."
She followed him to the door, and said, sotto voce: "You held your
own splendidly. Your first report is more than satisfactory;" and
he departed happier than any major-general in the service.
When the rest had gone, Lane, who had persistently lingered, began:
"No doubt it will appear absurd to you that a friend should be
jealous. But Strahan seems to have won the chief honors."
"Perhaps he has deserved them, Mr. Lane. I know what your opinion
of him was, and I think you guessed mine. He has won the chief battle
of life,--victory over himself. Ever since I have known you, you
have inspired my respect as a strong, resolute man. In resolving
upon what you would do instinctively Mr. Strahan has had such a
struggle that he has touched my sympathies. One cannot help feeling
differently toward different friends, you know. Were I in trouble,
I should feel that I could lean upon you. To encourage and sustain
would always be my first impulse with Mr. Strahan. Are you content?"
"I should try to be, had I your colors also."
"Oh, I only gave him a rose. Do you want one?"
"Well, now you are even," she said, laughing, and handing him one
of those she wore.
He looked at it thoughtfully for a moment, and then said, quietly:
"Some would despise this kind of thing as the merest sentiment.
With others it would influence the sternest action and the supreme
moments of life."
DURING her drives Marian had often passed the entrance to one of
the finest old places in the vicinity, and, although aware that the
family was absent in Europe, she had observed that the fact made
no difference in the scrupulous care of that portion of the grounds
which was visible. The vista from the road, however, was soon lost
among the boles and branches of immense overshadowing oaks. Even to
the passer-by an impression of seclusion and exclusion was given,
and Marian at last noted that no reference was made to the family
in the social exchanges of her little drawing-room. The dwelling
to which the rather stiff and stately entrance led was not visible
from the car-windows as she passed to and from the city, so abrupt
was the intervening bluff, but upon one occasion from the deck of
a steamboat she had caught glimpses through the trees of a large
and substantial brick edifice.
Before Strahan had disappeared for a time, as we have related, her
slight curiosity had so far asserted itself that she had asked for
information concerning the people who left their beautiful home
untenanted in June.
"I fancy I can tell you more about them than most people in this
vicinity, but that is not so very much. The place adjoins ours,
and as a boy I fished and hunted with Willard Merwyn a good deal.
Mrs. Merwyn is a widow and a Southern-bred woman. A Northern man
of large wealth married her, and then she took her revenge on the
rest of the North by having as little to do with it as possible.
She was said to own a large property in the South,--plantation,
negroes, and all that. The place on the Hudson belonged to the
Merwyn side of the house, and the family have only spent a few
summers here and have been exclusive and unpopular. My mother made
their acquaintance abroad, and they knew it would be absurd to put
on airs with us; so the ladies of the two families have exchanged
more or less formal visits, but in the main they have little to do
with the society of this region. As boys Willard and myself did not
care a fig for these things, and became very good friends. I have
not seen him for several years; they have all been abroad; and I
hear that he has become an awful swell."
"Why then, if he ever returns, you and he will be good friends
again," Marian had laughingly replied and had at once dismissed
the exclusive Merwyns from her mind.
On the morning of the 4th of July Strahan had come over to have a
quiet talk with Marian, and had found Mr. Lane there before him.
By feminine tactics peculiarly her own, Marian had given them to
understand that both were on much the same footing, and that their
united presence did not form "a crowd;" and the young men, having
a common ground of purpose and motive, were soon at ease together,
and talked over personal and military matters with entire freedom,
amusing the young girl with accounts of their awkwardness in drill
and of the scenes they had witnessed. She was proud indeed of her
two knights, as she mentally characterized them,--so different,
yet both now inspiring a genuine liking and respect. She saw that
her honest goodwill and admiration were evoking their best manhood
and giving them as much happiness as she would ever have the power
to bestow, and she felt that her scheme of life was not a false
one. They understood her fully, and knew that the time had passed
forever when she would amuse herself at their expense. She had
become an inspiration of manly endeavor, and had ceased to be the
object of a lover's pursuit. If half-recognized hopes lurked in
their hearts, the fulfilment of these must be left to time.
"By the way," remarked Strahan, as he was taking his leave, "I hear
that these long-absent Merwyns have deigned to return to their native
land,--for their own rather than their country's good though, I
fancy. I suppose Mrs. Merwyn feels that it is time she looked after
her property and maintained at least the semblance of loyalty. I
also hear that they have been hob-nobbing with the English aristocracy,
who look upon us Yankees as a 'blasted lot of cads, you know.'
Shall I bring young Merwyn over to see you after he arrives?"
"As you please," she replied, with an indifferent shrug.
Strahan had a half-formed scheme in his mind, but when he called
upon young Merwyn he was at first inclined to hesitate. Great as
was his confidence in Marian, he had some vaguely jealous fears,
more for the young girl than for himself, in subjecting her to the
influence of the man that his boyhood's friend had become.
Willard Merwyn was a "swell" in Strahan's vernacular, but even in
the early part of their interview he gave the impression of being
something more, or rather such a superior type of the "swell" genus,
that Marian's friend was conscious of a fear that the young girl
might be dazzled and interested, perhaps to her sorrow.
Merwyn had developed into a broad-shouldered man, nearly six feet
in height. His quiet, courteous elegance did not disguise from one
who had known him so well in boyhood an imperious, self-pleasing
nature, and a tenacity of purpose in carrying out his own desires.
He accepted of his quondam friend's uniform without remark. That
was Strahan's affair and not his, and by a polite reserve, he made
the mercurial fellow feel that his affairs were his own. Strahan
chafed under this polished reticence, this absence of all curiosity.
"Blast him!" thought the young officer, "he acts like a superior
being, who has deigned to visit America to look after his rents,
and intimates that the country has no further concern with him or
he with it. Jove! I'd give all the pay I ever expect to get to see
him a rejected suitor of my plucky little American girl;" and he
regarded his host with an ill-disposed eye. At last he resolved to
take the initiative boldly.
"How long do you expect to remain here, Merwyn?"
"I scarcely know. It depends somewhat on my mother's plans."
"Thunder! It's time you had plans of your own, especially when a
man has your length of limb and breadth of chest."
"I have not denied the possession of plans," Merwyn quietly remarked,
his dark eye following the curling, upward flight of smoke from
"You certainly used to be decided enough sometimes, when I wanted
you to pull an oar."
"And you so good-naturedly let me off," was the reply, with a slight
"I didn't let you off good-naturedly, nor do I intend to now. Good
heavens, Merwyn! don't you read the papers? There's a chance now
to take an oar to some purpose. You were brave enough as a boy."
Merwyn's eyes came down from the curling smoke to Strahan's face
with a flash, and he rose and paced the room for a moment, then
said, in his old quiet tones, "They say the child is father of the
"Oh well, Merwyn," was the slightly irritable rejoinder, "I have
and ever had, you remember, a way of expressing my thoughts. If,
while abroad, you have become intolerant of that trait, why, the
sooner we understand each other the better. I don't profess to be
anything more than an American, and I called to-day with no other
motive than the obvious and natural one."
A shade of annoyance passed over Merwyn's face, but as Strahan
ceased he came forward and held out his hand, saying: "I like you
all the better for speaking your thoughts,--for doing just as you
please. You must be equally fair and yield to me the privilege of
keeping my thoughts, and doing as I please."
Strahan felt that there was nothing to do but to take the proffered
hand, so irresistible was the constraint of his host's courtesy,
although felt to be without warmth or cordiality. Disguising his
inward protest by a light laugh he said: "I could shake hands with
almost any one on such a mutual understanding. Well, since we have
begun on the basis of such absolute frankness on my part, my next
thought is, What shall be our relations while you are here? I am a
busier fellow than I was at one time, and my stay is also uncertain,
and sure to be brief. I do not wish to be unneighborly in remembrance
of old times, nor do I wish to be obtrusive. In the natural order
of things, I should show you, a comparative stranger, some attention,
inform you about the natives and transient residents, help you
amuse yourself, and all that. But I have not the slightest desire
to make unwelcome advances. I have plenty of such in prospect south
of Mason and Dixon's line."
Merwyn laughed with some heartiness as he said: "You have attained
one attribute of a soldier assuredly,--bluntness. Positively,
Strahan, you have developed amazingly. Why, only the other day we
were boys squabbling to determine who should have the first shot
at an owl we saw in the mountains. The result was, the owl took
flight. You never gave in an inch to me then, and I liked you all
the better for it. Come now, be reasonable. I yield to you your
full right to be yourself; yield as much to me and let us begin
where we left off, with only the differences that years have made,
and we shall get on as well as ever."
"Agreed," said Strahan, promptly. "Now what can I do for you? I
have only certain hours at my disposal."
"Well," replied Merwyn, languidly, "come and see me when you can,
and I'll walk over to your quarters--I suppose I should so call
them--and have a smoke with you occasionally. I expect to be awfully
dull here, but between the river and the mountains I shall have
"You propose to ignore society then?"
"Why say 'ignore'? That implies a conscious act. Let us suppose
that society is as indifferent to me as I to it."
"There's a little stutterer down at the hotel who claims to be an
"Bah, Strahan! I hope your sword is sharper than your satire. I've
had enough of English lords for the present."
"Yes, Merwyn, you appear to have had enough of most things,--perhaps
too much. If your countrymen are uninteresting, you may possibly
wish to meet some of your countrywomen. I've been abroad enough to
know that you have never found their superiors."
"Well, that depends upon who my countrywoman is. I should prefer
to see her before I intrude--"
"Risk being bored, you mean."
"As you please. Fie, Strahan! you are not cultivating a soldier's
penchant for women?"
"It hasn't needed any cultivating. I have my opinion of a man who
does not admire a fine woman."
"So have I, only each and all must define the adjective for
"It has been defined for me. Well, my time is up. We'll be two
friendly neutral powers, and, having marked out our positions, can
maintain our frontiers with diplomatic ease. Good-morning."
Merwyn laughingly accompanied his guest to the door, but on the
piazza, they met Mrs. Merwyn, who involuntarily frowned as she saw
Strahan's uniform, then with quiet elegance she greeted the young
man. But he had seen her expression, and was somewhat formal.
"We shall hope to see your mother and sisters before long," the
Strahan bowed, and walked with military erectness down the avenue,
his host looking after him with cynical and slightly contemptuous
good-nature; but Mrs. Merwyn followed the receding figure with an
expression of great bitterness.
Her appearance was that of a remarkable woman. She was tall, and
slight; every motion was marked by grace, but it was the grace of
a person accustomed to command. One would never dream of woman's
ministry when looking at her. Far more than would ever be true of
Marian she suggested power, but she would govern through her will,
her pride and prejudices. The impress of early influences had sunk
deep into her character. The only child of a doting father, she
had ruled him, and, of course, the helpless slaves who had watched
her moods and trembled at her passion. There were scars on human
backs to-day, which were the results of orders from her girlish
lips. She was not greatly to blame. Born of a proud and imperious
ancestry, she had needed the lessons of self-restraint and gentleness
from infancy. Instead, she had been absolute, even in the nursery;
and as her horizon had widened it had revealed greater numbers to
whom her will was law. From childhood she had passed into maidenhood
with a dower of wealth and beauty, learning early, like Marian,
that many of her own race were willing to become her slaves.
In the South there is a chivalric deference to women far exceeding
that usually paid to the sex at the North, and her appearance,
temperament, and position evoked that element to the utmost. He
knows little of human nature who cannot guess the result. Yet, by
a common contradiction, the one among her many suitors who won such
love as she could give was a Northern man as proud as herself. He
stood alone in his manner of approach, made himself the object of
her thoughts by piquing her pride, and met her varying moods by
a quiet, unvarying dignity that compelled her respect. The result
was that she yielded to the first man who would not yield undue
deference to her.
Mr. Merwyn employed his power charily, however, or rather with
principle. He quietly insisted on his rights; but as he granted hers
without a word, and never irritated her by small, fussy exactions,
good-breeding prevented any serious clashing of wills, and their
married life had passed in comparative serenity. As time elapsed
her will began, in many ways, to defer to his quieter and stronger
will, and then, as if life must teach her that there is no true
control except self-control, Mr. Merwyn died, and left her mistress
of almost everything except herself.
It must not be supposed, however, that her self-will was a
passionate, moody absolutism. She had outgrown that, and was too
well-bred ever to show much temper. The tendency of her mature
purposes and prejudices was to crystallize into a few distinct
forms. With the feminine logic of a narrow mind, she made her husband
an exception to the people among whom he had been born and bred.
Widowed, she gave her whole heart to the South. Its institutions,
habits, and social code were sacred, and all opponents thereof
sacrilegious enemies. To that degree that they were hostile, or
even unbelieving, she hated them.
During the years immediately preceding the war she had been abroad
superintending the education of Willard and two younger daughters,
and when hostilities began she was led to believe that she could
serve the cause better in England than on her remote plantation.
In her fierce partisanship, or rather perverted patriotism,--for
in justice it must be said that she knew no other country than the
South,--she was willing to send her son to Richmond. He thwarted
this purpose by quietly manifesting one of his father's traits.
"No," he said, "I will not fight against the section to which my
father belonged. To my mind it's a wretched political squabble at
best, and the politicians will settle it before long. I have my
life before me, and don't propose to be knocked on the head for
the sake of a lot of political John Smiths, North or South."
In vain she tried to fire his heart with dreams of Southern empire.
He had made up that part of himself derived from Northern birth--his
mind--and would not yield. Meantime his Southern, indolent,
pleasure-loving side was appealed to powerfully by aristocratic
life abroad, and he felt it would be the sheerest folly to abandon
his favorite pursuits. He was little more then than a graceful
animal, shrewd enough to know that his property was chiefly at the
North, and that it would be unwise to endanger it.
Mrs. Merwyn's self-interest and natural affection led her to yield
to necessity with fairly good grace. The course resolved upon
by Willard preserved her son and the property. When the South
had accomplished its ambitious dreams she believed she would have
skill enough to place him high among its magnates, while, if he
were killed in one of the intervening battles,--well, she was loyal
enough to incur the risk, but at heart she did not deeply regret
that she had escaped the probable sacrifice.
Thus time passed on, and she used her social influence in behalf
of her section, but guardedly, lest she should jeopardize the
interests of her children. In May of the year in which our story
opened, the twenty-first birthday of Willard occurred, and was
celebrated with befitting circumstance. He took all this quietly,
but on the morning of the day following he said to his mother:--
"You remember the provisions of my father's will. My share of the
property was to be transferred to me when I should become of age.
We ought to return to New York at once and have the necessary papers
In vain she protested that the property was well managed, that the
income was received regularly, that he could have this, and that
it would be intensely disagreeable for her to visit New York. He,
who had yielded indifferently to all her little exactions, was
inexorable, and the proud, self-willed woman found that he had so
much law and reason on his side that she was compelled to submit.
Indeed, she at last felt that she had been unduly governed by her
prejudices, and that it might be wise to go and see for themselves
that their affairs were managed to the best advantage. Deep
in her heart was also the consciousness that it was her husband's
indomitable will that she was carrying out, and that she could
never escape from that will in any exigency where it could justly
make itself felt. She therefore required of her son the promise
that their visit should be as unobtrusive as possible, and that
he would return with her as soon as he had arranged matters to his
mind. To this he had readily agreed, and they were now in the land
for which the mother had only hate and the son indifference.
AN OATH AND A GLANCE.
As Strahan disappeared in the winding of the avenue a sudden and
terrible thought occurred to Mrs. Merwyn. She glanced at her son,
who had walked to the farther end of the piazza, and stood for a
moment with his back towards her. His manly proportions made her
realize, as she had never done before, that he had attained his
majority,--that he was his own master. He had said he would not
fight against the North, but, as far as the South was concerned,
he had never committed himself. And then his terrible will!
She went to her room and thought. He was in a land seething with
excitement and patriotic fervor. She knew not what influences a
day might bring to bear upon him. Above all else she feared taunts
for lack of courage. She knew that her own passionate pride slept
in his breast and on a few occasions she had seen its manifestations.
As a rule he was too healthful, too well organized and indolent,
to be easily irritated, while in serious matters he had not been
crossed. She knew enough of life to be aware that his manhood had
never been awakened or even deeply moved, and she was eager indeed
to accomplish their mission in the States and return to conditions
of life not so electrical.
In the mean time she felt that she must use every precaution. She
summoned a maid and asked that her son should be sent to her.
The young man soon lounged in, and threw himself into an easy chair.
His mother looked at him fixedly for a moment, and then asked, "Why
is young Strahan in THAT uniform?"
"I didn't ask him," was the careless reply. "Obviously, however,
because he has entered the service in some capacity."
"Did he not suggest that it would be a very proper thing for you
to do, also?"
"Oh, of course. He wouldn't be Strahan if he hadn't. He has a high
appreciation of a 'little brief authority,' especially if vested in
himself. Believing himself to be so heroic he is inclined to call
others to account."
"I trust you have rated such vaporings at their worth."
"I have not rated them at all. What do I care for little Strahan
or his opinions? Nil."
"Shall you see much of him while we are compelled to remain in this
"More of him than of any one else, probably. We were boys together,
and he amuses me. What is more to the point, if I make a Union officer
my associate I disarm hostile criticism and throw an additional
safeguard around my property. There is no telling to what desperate
straits the Northern authorities may be reduced, and I don't propose
to give them any grounds for confiscation."
"You are remarkably prudent, Willard, for a young man of Southern
"I am of Northern descent also," he replied, with a light laugh.
"Father was as strong a Northern man--so I imagine--as you are a
Southern woman, and so, by a natural law, I am neutral, brought to
a standstill by two equal and opposite forces."
The intense partisan looked at him with perplexity, and for a moment
felt a strange and almost superstitious belief in his words. Was
there a reciprocal relation of forces which would render her schemes
futile? She shared in the secret hopes and ambitions of the Southern
leaders. Had Northern and Southern blood so neutralized the heart
of this youth that he was indifferent to both sections? and had she,
by long residence abroad, and indulgence, made him so cosmopolitan
that he merely looked upon the world as "his oyster"? She was
not the first parent who, having failed to instil noble, natural
principles in childhood, is surprised and troubled at the outcome
of a mind developing under influences unknown or unheeded. That
the South would be triumphant she never doubted a moment. It would
not merely achieve independence, but also a power that would grow
like the vegetation of its genial climate, and extend until the
tapering Isthmus of Panama became the national boundary of the
empire. But what part would be taken by this strange son who seemed
equally endowed with graceful indolence and indomitable will? Were
his tireless strength and energy to accomplish nothing better than
the climbing of distant mountains? and would he maintain indifference
towards a struggle for a dominion beyond Oriental dreams? Physically
and mentally he seemed capable of doing what he chose; practically
he chose to do what he pleased from hour to hour. Amusing himself
with a languid, good-natured disregard of what he looked upon as
trivial affairs, he was like adamant the moment a supreme and just
advantage was his. He was her husband over agaim, with strange
differences. What could she do at the present moment but the thing
she proposed to do?
"Willard," she said, slowly, and in a voice that pierced his
indifference, "have you any regard for me?"
"Certainly. Have I shown any want of respect?"
"That is not the question at all. You are young, Willard, and you
live in the future. I live much in the past. My early home was in
the South, where my family, for generations, has been eminent. Is
it strange, then, that I should love that sunny land?"
"Well, all I ask at present is that you will promise me never,
under any motive, to take up arms against that land of my ancestors."
"I have not the slightest disposition to do so."
"Willard, what to-day is, is. Neither you nor I know what shall be
on the morrow. I never expected to marry a Northern man, yet I did
so; nor should I regret it if I consulted my heart only. He was
different from all his race. I did not foresee what was coming,
or I could have torn my heart out before involving myself in these
Northern complications. I cannot change the past, but I must provide
for the future. O Willard, to your eyes your Northern fortune seems
large. But a few years will pass before you will be shown what
a trifle it is compared with the prizes of power and wealth that
will be bestowed upon loyal Southerners. You have an ancestry, an
ability, that would naturally place you among the foremost. Terrible
as would be the sacrifice on my part, I could still give you my
blessing if you imitated young Strahan in one respect, and devoted
yourself heart, soul, and sword to our cause."
"The probable result would be that you and my sisters would
be penniless, I sleeping in mud, and living on junk and hoe-cake.
Another result, probable, only a little more remote, is that the
buzzards would pick my bones. Faugh! Oh, no. I've settled that
question, and it's a bore to think a question over twice. There
are thousands of Americans in Europe. Their wisdom suits me until
this tea-pot tempest is over. If any one doubts my courage I'll
prove it fast enough, but, if I had my way, the politicians, North
and South, should do their own fighting and starving."
"But, Willard, our leaders are not mere politicians. They are men
of grand, far-reaching schemes, and when their plans are accomplished,
they will attain regal power and wealth."
"Visions, mamma, visions. I have enough of my father's blood in
my veins to be able to look at both sides of a question. Strahan
asked me severely if I did not read the papers;" and he laughed
lightly. "Well, I do read them, at least enough of them to pick
out a few grains of truth from all the chaff. The North and South
have begun fighting like two bull-dogs, and it's just a question
which has the longer wind and the more endurance. The chances are
all in favor of the North. I shall not throw myself and property
away for the sake of a bare possibility. That's settled."
"Have you ice-water in your veins?" his mother asked, passionately.
"I have your blood, madam, and my father's, hence I am what I am."
"Well, then you must be a man of honor, of your word. Will you
promise never to take arms against the South?"
"I have told you I have no disposition to do so."
"The promise, then, can cost you little, and it will be a relief
to my mind."
"Oh, well, mamma, if it will make you feel any easier, I promise
with one exception. Both South and North must keep their hands off
the property my father gave me."
"If Southern leaders were dictating terms in New York City, as they
will, ere long, they would never touch your property."
"They had better not."
"You know what I mean, Willard. I ask you never to assume this
hated Northern uniform, or put your foot on Southern soil with a
"Yes, I can promise that."
"Swear it to me then, by your mother's honor and your father's
"Is not my word sufficient?"
"These things are sacred to me, and I wish them treated in a sacred
manner. If you will do this my mind will be at rest and I may be
able to do more for you in the future."