Part 3 out of 5
arranged them in separate files, according to the character of
their contents. Then I rearranged these latter in the order of
time, so far as it was indicated; and afterwards commenced the work
of picking out and threading together whatever facts might be
noted. The first thing I ascertained, or rather conjectured, was
that the man's life might be divided into three very distinct
phases, the first ending in Breslau, the second in Poland, and the
third and final one in America. Thereupon I once again rearranged
the material, and attacked that which related to the first phase.
It consisted of the following papers: Three letters, in a female
hand, commencing "My dear brother," and terminating with "Thy
loving sister, Elise;" part of a diploma from a gymnasium, or high
school, certifying that [here the name was cut out] had
successfully passed his examination, and was competent to
teach,--and here again, whether by accident or design, the paper
was torn off; a note, apparently to a jeweller, ordering a certain
gold ring to be delivered to "Otto," and signed " B. V. H.;" a
receipt from the package-post for a box forwarded to Warsaw, to the
address of Count Ladislas Kasincsky; and finally a washing-list, at
the bottom of which was written, in pencil, in a trembling hand:
"May God protect thee! But do not stay away so very long."
In the second collection, relating to Poland, I found the
following: Six orders in Russian and three in French, requesting
somebody to send by "Jean" sums of money, varying from two to eight
hundred rubles. These orders were in the same hand, and all signed
"Y." A charming letter in French, addressed "cher ami," and
declining, in the most delicate and tender way, an offer of
marriage made to the sister of the writer, of whose signature only
"Amelie de" remained, the family name having been torn off. A few
memoranda of expenses, one of which was curious: "Dinner with
Jean, 58 rubles;" and immediately after it: "Doctor, 10 rubles."
There were, moreover, a leaf torn out of a journal, and half of a
note which had been torn down the middle, both implicating "Jean"
in some way with the fortunes of the dead man.
The papers belonging to the American phase, so far as they were to
be identified by dates, or by some internal evidence, were fewer,
but even more enigmatical in character. The principal one was a
list of addresses in New York, divided into sections, the street
boundaries of which were given. There were no names, but some
of the addresses were marked +, and others ?, and a few had been
crossed out with a pencil. Then there were some leaves of a
journal of diet and bodily symptoms, of a very singular character;
three fragments of drafts of letters, in pencil, one of them
commencing, "Dog and villain!" and a single note of "Began work,
September 10th, 1865." This was about a year before his death.
The date of the diploma given by the gymnasium at Breslau was June
27, 1855, and the first date in Poland was May 3, 1861. Belonging
to the time between these two periods there were only the order for
the ring (1858), and a little memorandum in pencil, dated "Posen,
Dec., 1859." The last date in Poland was March 18, 1863, and the
permit to embark at Bremen was dated in October of that year.
Here, at least, was a slight chronological framework. The
physician who attended the county almshouse had estimated the man's
age at thirty, which, supposing him to have been nineteen at the
time of receiving the diploma, confirmed the dates to that extent.
I assumed, at the start, that the name which had been so carefully
cut out of all the documents was the man's own. The "Elise" of the
letters was therefore his sister. The first two letters related
merely to "mother's health," and similar details, from which it was
impossible to extract any thing, except that the sister was in some
kind of service. The second letter closed with: "I have enough
work to do, but I keep well. Forget thy disappointment so far
as _I_ am concerned, for I never expected any thing; I don't know
why, but I never did."
Here was a disappointment, at least, to begin with. I made a note
of it opposite the date, on my blank programme, and took up the
next letter. It was written in November, 1861, and contained a
passage which keenly excited my curiosity. It ran thus: "Do,
pray, be more careful of thy money. It may be all as thou sayest,
and inevitable, but I dare not mention the thing to mother, and
five thalers is all I can spare out of my own wages. As for thy
other request, I have granted it, as thou seest, but it makes me a
little anxious. What is the joke? And how can it serve thee?
That is what I do not understand, and I have plagued myself not a
little to guess."
Among the Polish memoranda was this: "Sept. 1 to Dec. 1, 200
rubles," which I assumed to represent a salary. This would give
him eight hundred a year, at least twelve times the amount which
his sister--who must either have been cook or housekeeper, since
she spoke of going to market for the family--could have received.
His application to her for money, and the manner of her reference
to it, indicated some imprudence or irregularity on his part. What
the "other request" was, I could not guess; but as I was turning
and twisting the worn leaf in some perplexity, I made a sudden
discovery. One side of the bottom edge had been very slightly
doubled over in folding, and as I smoothed it out, I noticed some
diminutive letters in the crease. The paper had been worn
nearly through, but I made out the words: "Write very soon,
This was the name in the order for the gold ring, signed "B. V.
H."--a link, indeed, but a fresh puzzle. Knowing the stubborn
prejudices of caste in Germany, and above all in Eastern Prussia
and Silesia, I should have been compelled to accept "Otto," whose
sister was in service, as himself the servant of "B. V. H.," but
for the tenderly respectful letter of "Amelie de----," declining
the marriage offer for her sister. I re-read this letter very
carefully, to determine whether it was really intended for "Otto."
It ran thus:
"DEAR FRIEND,--I will not say that your letter was entirely
unexpected, either to Helmine or myself. I should, perhaps, have
less faith in the sincerity of your attachment if you had not
already involuntarily betrayed it. When I say that although I
detected the inclination of your heart some weeks ago, and that I
also saw it was becoming evident to my sister, yet I refrained from
mentioning the subject at all until she came to me last evening
with your letter in her hand,--when I say this, you will understand
that I have acted towards you with the respect and sympathy which
I profoundly feel. Helmine fully shares this feeling, and her poor
heart is too painfully moved to allow her to reply. Do I not say,
in saying this, what her reply must be? But, though her heart
cannot respond to your love, she hopes you will always believe her
a friend to whom your proffered devotion was an honor, and will
be--if you will subdue it to her deserts--a grateful thing to
remember. We shall remain in Warsaw a fortnight longer, as I think
yourself will agree that it is better we should not
immediately return to the castle. Jean, who must carry a fresh
order already, will bring you this, and we hope to have good news
of Henri. I send back the papers, which were unnecessary; we never
doubted you, and we shall of course keep your secret so long as you
choose to wear it.
The more light I seemed to obtain, the more inexplicable the
circumstances became. The diploma and the note of salary were
grounds for supposing that "Otto" occupied the position of tutor in
a noble Polish family. There was the receipt for a box addressed
to Count Ladislas Kasincsky, and I temporarily added his family
name to the writer of the French letter, assuming her to be his
wife. "Jean" appeared to be a servant, and "Henri" I set down as
the son whom Otto was instructing in the castle or family seat in
the country, while the parents were in warsaw. Plausible, so far;
but the letter was not such a one as a countess would have written
to her son's tutor, under similar circumstances. It was addressed
to a social equal, apparently to a man younger than herself, and
for whom--supposing him to have been a tutor, secretary, or
something of the kind--she must have felt a special sympathy. Her
mention of "the papers" and "your secret" must refer to
circumstances which would explain the mystery. "So long as you
choose to WEAR it," she had written: then it was certainly a
secret connected with his personal history.
Further, it appeared that "Jean" was sent to him with "an
order." What could this be, but one of the nine orders for money
which lay before my eyes? I examined the dates of the latter, and
lo! there was one written upon the same day as the lady's letter.
The sums drawn by these orders amounted in all to four thousand two
hundred rubles. But how should a tutor or secretary be in
possession of his employer's money? Still, this might be accounted
for; it would imply great trust on the part of the latter, but no
more than one man frequently reposes in another. Yet, if it were
so, one of the memoranda confronted me with a conflicting fact:
"Dinner with Jean, 58 rubles." The unusual amount--nearly fifty
dollars--indicated an act of the most reckless dissipation, and in
company with a servant, if "Jean," as I could scarcely doubt, acted
in that character. I finally decided to assume both these
conjectures as true, and apply them to the remaining testimony.
I first took up the leaf which had been torn out of a small journal
or pocket note-book, as was manifested by the red edge on three
sides. It was scribbled over with brief notes in pencil, written
at different times. Many of them were merely mnemonic signs; but
the recurrence of the letters J and Y seemed to point to
transactions with "Jean," and the drawer of the various sums of
money. The letter Y reminded me that I had been too hasty in
giving the name of Kasincsky to the noble family; indeed, the name
upon the post-office receipt might have no connection with the
matter I was trying to investigate.
Suddenly I noticed a "Ky" among the mnemonic signs, and the
suspicion flashed across my mind that Count Kasincsky had signed
the order with the last letter of his family name! To assume this,
however, suggested a secret reason for doing so; and I began to
think that I had already secrets enough on hand.
The leaf was much rubbed and worn, and it was not without
considerable trouble that I deciphered the following (omitting the
"Oct. 30 (Nov. 12)--talk with Y; 20--Jean. Consider.
"Nov. 15--with J--H--hope.
"Dec. 1--Told the C. No knowledge of S--therefore safe. Uncertain
of---- C to Warsaw. Met J. as agreed. Further and further.
"Dec. 27--All for naught! All for naught!
"Jan. 19, '63--Sick. What is to be the end? Threats. No tidings
of Y. Walked the streets all day. At night as usual.
"March 1--News. The C. and H. left yesterday. No more to hope.
Let it come, then!"
These broken words warmed my imagination powerfully. Looking at
them in the light of my conjecture, I was satisfied that "Otto" was
involved in some crime, or dangerous secret, of which "Jean" was
either the instigator or the accomplice. "Y.," or Count
Kasincsky,--and I was more than ever inclined to connect the two,--
-also had his mystery, which might, or might not, be identical with
the first. By comparing dates, I found that the entry made
December 27 was three days later than the date of the letter of
"Amelie de----"; and the exclamation "All for naught!"
certainly referred to the disappointment it contained. I now
guessed the "H." in the second entry to mean "Helmine." The two
last suggested a removal to Warsaw from the country. Here was a
little more ground to stand on; but how should I ever get at the
I took up the torn half of a note, which, after the first
inspection, I had laid aside as a hopeless puzzle. A closer
examination revealed several things which failed to impress me at
the outset. It was written in a strong and rather awkward
masculine hand; several words were underscored, two misspelled, and
I felt--I scarcely knew why--that it was written in a spirit of
mingled contempt and defiance. Let me give the fragment just as it
lay before me:
It is quite time
be done. Who knows
is not his home by this
CONCERN FOR THE
that they are well off,
sian officers are
cide at once, my
risau, or I must
t TEN DAYS DELAY
money can be divi-
tier, and you may
ever you please.
untess goes, and she
will know who you
time, unless you carry
friend or not
Here, I felt sure, was the clue to much of the mystery. The first
thing that struck me was the appearance of a new name. I looked at
it again, ran through in my mind all possible German names, and
found that it could only be "Johann,"--and in the same instant I
recalled the frequent habit of the Prussian and Polish nobility of
calling their German valets by French names. This, then, was
"Jean!" The address was certainly "Baron," and why thrice
underscored, unless in contemptuous satire? Light began to break
upon the matter at last. "Otto" had been playing the part, perhaps
assuming the name, of a nobleman, seduced to the deception by his
passion for the Countess' sister, Helmine. This explained the
reference to "the papers," and "the secret," and would account for
the respectful and sympathetic tone of the Countess' letter. But
behind this there was certainly another secret, in which "Y."
(whoever he might be) was concerned, and which related to money.
The close of the note, which I filled out to read, "Your friend or
not, as you may decide," conveyed a threat, and, to judge from the
halves of lines immediately preceding it, the threat referred to
the money, as well as to the betrayal of an assumed character.
Here, just as the story began to appear in faint outline, my
discoveries stopped for a while. I ascertained the breadth of
the original note by a part of the middle-crease which remained,
filled out the torn part with blank paper, completed the divided
words in the same character of manuscript) and endeavored to guess
the remainder, but no clairvoyant power of divination came to my
aid. I turned over the letters again, remarking the neatness with
which the addresses had been cut off, and wondering why the man had
not destroyed the letters and other memoranda entirely, if he
wished to hide a possible crime. The fact that they were not
destroyed showed the hold which his past life had had upon him even
to his dying hour. Weak and vain, as I had already suspected him
to be,--wanting in all manly fibre, and of the very material which
a keen, energetic villain would mould to his needs,--I felt that
his love for his sister and for "Helmine," and other associations
connected with his life in Germany and Poland, had made him cling
to these worn records.
I know not what gave me the suspicion that he had not even found
the heart to destroy the exscinded names; perhaps the care with
which they had been removed; perhaps, in two instances, the
circumstance of their taking words out of the body of the letters
with them. But the suspicion came, and led to a re-examination of
the leathern wallets. I could scarcely believe my eyes, when
feeling something rustle faintly as I pressed the thin lining of an
inner pocket, I drew forth three or four small pellets of paper,
and unrolling them, found the lost addresses! I fitted them to the
vacant places, and found that the first letters of the sister in
Breslau had been forwarded to "Otto Lindenschmidt," while the
letter to Poland was addressed "Otto von Herisau."
I warmed with this success, which exactly tallied with the previous
discoveries, and returned again to the Polish memoranda The words
"[Rus]sian officers" in "Jean's" note led me to notice that it had
been written towards the close of the last insurrection in Poland--
a circumstance which I immediately coupled with some things in the
note and on the leaf of the journal. "No tidings of Y" might
indicate that Count Kasincsky had been concerned in the rebellion,
and had fled, or been taken prisoner. Had he left a large amount
of funds in the hands of the supposed Otto von Herisau, which were
drawn from time to time by orders, the form of which had been
previously agreed upon? Then, when he had disappeared, might it
not have been the remaining funds which Jean urged Otto to divide
with him, while the latter, misled and entangled in deception
rather than naturally dishonest, held back from such a step? I
could hardly doubt so much, and it now required but a slight effort
of the imagination to complete the torn note.
The next letter of the sister was addressed to Bremen. After
having established so many particulars, I found it easily
intelligible. "I have done what I can," she wrote. "I put it in
this letter; it is all I have. But do not ask me for money again;
mother is ailing most of the time, and I have not yet dared to tell
her all. I shall suffer great anxiety until I hear that the vessel
has sailed. My mistress is very good; she has given me an advance
on my wages, or I could not have sent thee any thing. Mother
thinks thou art still in Leipzig: why didst thou stay there so
long? but no difference; thy money would have gone anyhow."
It was nevertheless singular that Otto should be without money, so
soon after the appropriation of Count Kasincsky's funds. If the
"20" in the first memorandum on the leaf meant "twenty thousand
rubles," as I conjectured, and but four thousand two hundred were
drawn by the Count previous to his flight or imprisonment, Otto's
half of the remainder would amount to nearly eight thousand rubles;
and it was, therefore, not easy to account for his delay in
Leipzig, and his destitute condition.
Before examining the fragments relating to the American phase of
his life,--which illustrated his previous history only by
occasional revelations of his moods and feelings,--I made one more
effort to guess the cause of his having assumed the name of "Von
Herisau." The initials signed to the order for the ring ("B. V.
H.") certainly stood for the same family name; and the possession
of papers belonging to one of the family was an additional evidence
that Otto had either been in the service of, or was related to,
some Von Herisau. Perhaps a sentence in one of the sister's
letters--"Forget thy disappointment so far as _I_ am concerned, for
I never expected any thing"--referred to something of the kind. On
the whole, service seemed more likely than kinship; but in that
case the papers must have been stolen.
I had endeavored, from the start, to keep my sympathies out of
the investigation, lest they should lead me to misinterpret the
broken evidence, and thus defeat my object. It must have been the
Countess' letter, and the brief, almost stenographic, signs of
anxiety and unhappiness on the leaf of the journal, that first
beguiled me into a commiseration, which the simple devotion and
self-sacrifice of the poor, toiling sister failed to neutralize.
However, I detected the feeling at this stage of the examination,
and turned to the American records, in order to get rid of it.
The principal paper was the list of addresses of which I have
spoken. I looked over it in vain, to find some indication of its
purpose; yet it had been carefully made out and much used. There
was no name of a person upon it,--only numbers and streets, one
hundred and thirty-eight in all. Finally, I took these, one by
one, to ascertain if any of the houses were known to me, and found
three, out of the whole number, to be the residences of persons
whom I knew. One was a German gentleman, and the other two were
Americans who had visited Germany. The riddle was read! During a
former residence in New York, I had for a time been quite overrun
by destitute Germans,--men, apparently, of some culture, who
represented themselves as theological students, political refugees,
or unfortunate clerks and secretaries,--soliciting assistance. I
found that, when I gave to one, a dozen others came within the next
fortnight; when I refused, the persecution ceased for about the
same length of time. I became convinced, at last, that these
persons were members of an organized society of beggars, and
the result proved it; for when I made it an inviolable rule to give
to no one who could not bring me an indorsement of his need by some
person whom I knew, the annoyance ceased altogether.
The meaning of the list of addresses was now plain. My nascent
commiseration for the man was not only checked, but I was in danger
of changing my role from that of culprit's counsel to that of
When I took up again the fragment of the first draught of a letter
commencing, "Dog and villain!" and applied it to the words "Jean"
or "Johann Helm," the few lines which could be deciphered became
full of meaning. "Don't think," it began, "that I have forgotten
you, or the trick you played me! If I was drunk or drugged the
last night, I know how it happened, for all that. I left, but I
shall go back. And if you make use of "(here some words were
entirely obliterated) . . . . "is true. He gave me the ring, and
meant" . . . . This was all I could make out. The other papers
showed only scattered memoranda, of money, or appointments, or
addresses, with the exception of the diary in pencil.
I read the letter attentively, and at first with very little idea
of its meaning. Many of the words were abbreviated, and there were
some arbitrary signs. It ran over a period of about four months,
terminating six weeks before the man's death. He had been
wandering about the country during this period, sleeping in woods
and barns, and living principally upon milk. The condition of his
pulse and other physical functions was scrupulously set down,
with an occasional remark of "good" or "bad." The conclusion was
at last forced upon me that he had been endeavoring to commit
suicide by a slow course of starvation and exposure. Either as the
cause or the result of this attempt, I read, in the final notes,
signs of an aberration of mind. This also explained the singular
demeanor of the man when found, and his refusal to take medicine or
nourishment. He had selected a long way to accomplish his purpose,
but had reached the end at last.
The confused material had now taken shape; the dead man, despite
his will, had confessed to me his name and the chief events of his
life. It now remained--looking at each event as the result of a
long chain of causes--to deduce from them the elements of his
individual character, and then fill up the inevitable gaps in the
story from the probabilities of the operation of those elements.
This was not so much a mere venture as the reader may suppose,
because the two actions of the mind test each other. If they
cannot, thus working towards a point and back again, actually
discover what WAS, they may at least fix upon a very probable
MIGHT HAVE BEEN.
A person accustomed to detective work would have obtained my little
stock of facts with much less trouble, and would, almost
instinctively, have filled the blanks as he went along. Being an
apprentice in such matters, I had handled the materials awkwardly.
I will not here retrace my own mental zigzags between character and
act, but simply repeat the story as I finally settled and accepted
Otto Lindenschmidt was the child of poor parents in or near
Breslau. His father died when he was young; his mother earned a
scanty subsistence as a washerwoman; his sister went into service.
Being a bright, handsome boy, he attracted the attention of a Baron
von Herisau, an old, childless, eccentric gentleman, who took him
first as page or attendant, intending to make him a superior valet
de chambre. Gradually, however, the Baron fancied that he
detected in the boy a capacity for better things; his condescending
feeling of protection had grown into an attachment for the
handsome, amiable, grateful young fellow, and he placed him in the
gymnasium at Breslau, perhaps with the idea, now, of educating him
to be an intelligent companion.
The boy and his humble relatives, dazzled by this opportunity,
began secretly to consider the favor as almost equivalent to his
adoption as a son. (The Baron had once been married, but his wife
and only child had long been dead.) The old man, of course, came
to look upon the growing intelligence of the youth as his own work:
vanity and affection became inextricably blended in his heart, and
when the cursus was over, he took him home as the companion of
his lonely life. After two or three years, during which the young
man was acquiring habits of idleness and indulgence, supposing his
future secure, the Baron died,--perhaps too suddenly to make full
provision for him, perhaps after having kept up the appearance of
wealth on a life-annuity, but, in any case, leaving very little, if
any, property to Otto. In his disappointment, the latter
retained certain family papers which the Baron had intrusted to his
keeping. The ring was a gift, and he wore it in remembrance of his
Wandering about, Micawber-like, in hopes that something might turn
up, he reached Posen, and there either met or heard of the Polish
Count, Ladislas Kasincsky, who was seeking a tutor for his only
son. His accomplishments, and perhaps, also, a certain
aristocratic grace of manner unconsciously caught from the Baron
von Herisau, speedily won for him the favor of the Count and
Countess Kasincsky, and emboldened him to hope for the hand of the
Countess' sister, Helmine ----, to whom he was no doubt sincerely
attached. Here Johann Helm, or "Jean," a confidential servant of
the Count, who looked upon the new tutor as a rival, yet adroitly
flattered his vanity for the purpose of misleading and displacing
him, appears upon the stage. "Jean" first detected Otto's passion;
"Jean," at an epicurean dinner, wormed out of Otto the secret of
the Herisau documents, and perhaps suggested the part which the
latter afterwards played.
This "Jean" seemed to me to have been the evil agency in the
miserable history which followed. After Helmine's rejection of
Otto's suit, and the flight or captivity of Count Kasincsky,
leaving a large sum of money in Otto's hands, it would be easy for
"Jean," by mingled persuasions and threats, to move the latter to
flight, after dividing the money still remaining in his hands.
After the theft, and the partition, which took place beyond the
Polish frontier, "Jean" in turn, stole his accomplice's share,
together with the Von Herisau documents.
Exile and a year's experience of organized mendicancy did the rest.
Otto Lindenschmidt was one of those natures which possess no moral
elasticity--which have neither the power nor the comprehension of
atonement. The first real, unmitigated guilt--whether great or
small--breaks them down hopelessly. He expected no chance of self-
redemption, and he found none. His life in America was so utterly
dark and hopeless that the brightest moment in it must have been
that which showed him the approach of death.
My task was done. I had tracked this weak, vain, erring, hunted
soul to its last refuge, and the knowledge bequeathed to me but a
single duty. His sins were balanced by his temptations; his vanity
and weakness had revenged themselves; and there only remained to
tell the simple, faithful sister that her sacrifices were no longer
required. I burned the evidences of guilt, despair and suicide,
and sent the other papers, with a letter relating the time and
circumstances of Otto Lindenschmidt's death, to the civil
authorities of Breslau, requesting that they might be placed in the
hands of his sister Elise.
This, I supposed, was the end of the history, so far as my
connection with it was concerned. But one cannot track a secret
with impunity; the fatality connected with the act and the actor
clings even to the knowledge of the act. I had opened my door a
little, in order to look out upon the life of another, but in doing
so a ghost had entered in, and was not to be dislodged until
I had done its service.
In the summer of 1867 I was in Germany, and during a brief journey
of idlesse and enjoyment came to the lovely little watering-place
of Liebenstein, on the southern slope of the Thuringian Forest. I
had no expectation or even desire of making new acquaintances among
the gay company who took their afternoon coffee under the noble
linden trees on the terrace; but, within the first hour of my
after-dinner leisure, I was greeted by an old friend, an author,
from Coburg, and carried away, in my own despite, to a group of his
associates. My friend and his friends had already been at the
place a fortnight, and knew the very tint and texture of its
gossip. While I sipped my coffee, I listened to them with one ear,
and to Wagner's overture to "Lohengrin" with the other; and I
should soon have been wholly occupied with the fine orchestra had
I not been caught and startled by an unexpected name.
"Have you noticed," some one asked, "how much attention the Baron
von Herisau is paying her?"
I whirled round and exclaimed, in a breath, "The Baron von
"Yes," said my friend; "do you know him?"
I was glad that three crashing, tremendous chords came from the
orchestra just then, giving me time to collect myself before I
replied: "I am not sure whether it is the same person: I knew a
Baron von Herisau long ago: how old is the gentleman here?"
"About thirty-five, I should think," my friend answered.
"Ah, then it can't be the same person," said I: "still, if he
should happen to pass near us, will you point him out to me?"
It was an hour later, and we were all hotly discussing the question
of Lessing's obligations to English literature, when one of the
gentlemen at the table said: "There goes the Baron von Herisau: is
it perhaps your friend, sir?"
I turned and saw a tall man, with prominent nose, opaque black
eyes, and black mustache, walking beside a pretty, insipid girl.
Behind the pair went an elderly couple, overdressed and snobbish in
appearance. A carriage, with servants in livery, waited in the
open space below the terrace, and having received the two couples,
whirled swiftly away towards Altenstein.
Had I been more of a philosopher I should have wasted no second
thought on the Baron von Herisau. But the Nemesis of the knowledge
which I had throttled poor Otto Lindenschmidt's ghost to obtain had
come upon me at last, and there was no rest for me until I had
discovered who and what was the Baron. The list of guests which
the landlord gave me whetted my curiosity to a painful degree; for
on it I found the entry: "Aug. 15.--Otto V. Herisau, Rentier,
It was quite dark when the carriage returned. I watched the
company into the supper-room, and then, whisking in behind them,
secured a place at the nearest table. I had an hour of quiet,
stealthy observation before my Coburg friend discovered me, and by
that time I was glad of his company and had need of his confidence.
But, before making use of him in the second capacity, I desired to
make the acquaintance of the adjoining partie carree. He had
bowed to them familiarly in passing, and when the old gentleman
said, "Will you not join us, Herr ----?" I answered my friend's
interrogative glance with a decided affirmative, and we moved to
the other table.
My seat was beside the Baron von Herisau, with whom I exchanged the
usual commonplaces after an introduction. His manner was cold and
taciturn, I thought, and there was something forced in the smile
which accompanied his replies to the remarks of the coarse old
lady, who continually referred to the "Herr Baron" as authority
upon every possible subject. I noticed, however, that he cast a
sudden, sharp glance at me, when I was presented to the company as
The man's neighborhood disturbed me. I was obliged to let the
conversation run in the channels already selected, and stupid
enough I found them. I was considering whether I should not give
a signal to my friend and withdraw, when the Baron stretched his
hand across the table for a bottle of Affenthaler, and I caught
sight of a massive gold ring on his middle finger. Instantly I
remembered the ring which "B. V. H." had given to Otto
Lindenschmidt, and I said to myself, "That is it!" The inference
followed like lightning that it was "Johann Helm" who sat beside
me, and not a Baron von Herisau!
That evening my friend and I had a long, absorbing conversation in
my room. I told him the whole story, which came back vividly to
memory, and learned, in return, that the reputed Baron was supposed
to be wealthy, that the old gentleman was a Bremen merchant or
banker, known to be rich, that neither was considered by those who
had met them to be particularly intelligent or refined, and that
the wooing of the daughter had already become so marked as to be a
general subject of gossip. My friend was inclined to think my
conjecture correct, and willingly co-operated with me in a plan to
test the matter. We had no considerable sympathy with the snobbish
parents, whose servility to a title was so apparent; but the
daughter seemed to be an innocent and amiable creature, however
silly, and we determined to spare her the shame of an open scandal.
If our scheme should seem a little melodramatic, it must not be
forgotten that my friend was an author. The next morning, as the
Baron came up the terrace after his visit to the spring, I stepped
forward and greeted him politely, after which I said: "I see by
the strangers' list that you are from East Prussia, Baron; have you
ever been in Poland?" At that moment, a voice behind him called
out rather sharply, "Jean!" The Baron started, turned round and
then back to me, and all his art could not prevent the blood from
rushing to his face. I made, as if by accident, a gesture with my
hand, indicating success, and went a step further.
"Because," said I, "I am thinking of making a visit to Cracow
and Warsaw, and should be glad of any information--"
"Certainly!" he interrupted me, "and I should be very glad to give
it, if I had ever visited Poland."
"At least," I continued, "you can advise me upon one point; but
excuse me, shall we not sit down a moment yonder? As my question
relates to money, I should not wish to be overheard."
I pointed out a retired spot, just before reaching which we were
joined by my friend, who suddenly stepped out from behind a clump
of lilacs. The Baron and he saluted each other.
"Now," said I to the former, "I can ask your advice, Mr. Johann
He was not an adept, after all. His astonishment and confusion
were brief, to be sure, but they betrayed him so completely that
his after-impulse to assume a haughty, offensive air only made us
"If I had a message to you from Otto Lindenschmidt, what then?" I
He turned pale, and presently stammered out, "He--he is dead!"
"Now," said my friend, "it is quite time to drop the mask before
us. You see we know you, and we know your history. Not from Otto
Lindenschmidt alone; Count Ladislas Kasincsky--"
"What! Has he come back from Siberia?" exclaimed Johann Helm. His
face expressed abject terror; I think he would have fallen upon his
knees before us if he had not somehow felt, by a rascal's
instinct, that we had no personal wrongs to redress in unmasking
Our object, however, was to ascertain through him the complete
facts of Otto Lindenschmidt's history, and then to banish him from
Liebenstein. We allowed him to suppose for awhile that we were
acting under the authority of persons concerned, in order to make
the best possible use of his demoralized mood, for we knew it would
not last long.
My guesses were very nearly correct. Otto Lindenschmidt had been
educated by an old Baron, Bernhard von Herisau, on account of his
resemblance in person to a dead son, whose name had also been Otto.
He could not have adopted the plebeian youth, at least to the
extent of giving him an old and haughty name, but this the latter
nevertheless expected, up to the time of the Baron's death. He had
inherited a little property from his benefactor, but soon ran
through it. "He was a light-headed fellow," said Johann Helm, "but
he knew how to get the confidence of the old Junkers. If he
hadn't been so cowardly and fidgety, he might have made himself a
The Polish episode differed so little from my interpretation that
I need not repeat Helm's version. He denied having stolen Otto's
share of the money, but could not help admitting his possession of
the Von Herisau papers, among which were the certificates of birth
and baptism of the old Baron's son, Otto. It seems that he
had been fearful of Lindenschmidt's return from America, for
he managed to communicate with his sister in Breslau, and in this
way learned the former's death. Not until then had he dared to
assume his present disguise.
We let him go, after exacting a solemn pledge that he would betake
himself at once to Hamburg, and there ship for Australia. (I
judged that America was already amply supplied with individuals of
his class.) The sudden departure of the Baron von Herisau was a
two days' wonder at Liebenstein; but besides ourselves, only the
Bremen banker knew the secret. He also left, two days afterwards,
with his wife and daughter--their cases, it was reported, requiring
Otto Lindenschmidt's life, therefore, could not hide itself. Can
When John Vincent, after waiting twelve years, married Phebe
Etheridge, the whole neighborhood experienced that sense of relief
and satisfaction which follows the triumph of the right. Not that
the fact of a true love is ever generally recognized and respected
when it is first discovered; for there is a perverse quality in
American human nature which will not accept the existence of any
fine, unselfish passion, until it has been tested and established
beyond peradventure. There were two views of the case when John
Vincent's love for Phebe, and old Reuben Etheridge's hard
prohibition of the match, first became known to the community. The
girls and boys, and some of the matrons, ranged themselves at once
on the side of the lovers, but a large majority of the older men
and a few of the younger supported the tyrannical father.
Reuben Etheridge was rich, and, in addition to what his daughter
would naturally inherit from him, she already possessed more than
her lover, at the time of their betrothal. This in the eyes
of one class was a sufficient reason for the father's hostility.
When low natures live (as they almost invariably do) wholly in the
present, they neither take tenderness from the past nor warning
from the possibilities of the future. It is the exceptional men
and women who remember their youth. So, these lovers received a
nearly equal amount of sympathy and condemnation; and only slowly,
partly through their quiet fidelity and patience, and partly
through the improvement in John Vincent's worldly circumstances,
was the balance changed. Old Reuben remained an unflinching despot
to the last: if any relenting softness touched his heart, he
sternly concealed it; and such inference as could be drawn from the
fact that he, certainly knowing what would follow his death,
bequeathed his daughter her proper share of his goods, was all that
could be taken for consent.
They were married: John, a grave man in middle age, weather-beaten
and worn by years of hard work and self-denial, yet not beyond the
restoration of a milder second youth; and Phebe a sad, weary woman,
whose warmth of longing had been exhausted, from whom youth and its
uncalculating surrenders of hope and feeling had gone forever.
They began their wedded life under the shadow of the death out of
which it grew; and when, after a ceremony in which neither
bridesmaid nor groomsman stood by their side, they united their
divided homes, it seemed to their neighbors that a separated
husband and wife had come together again, not that the relation was
new to either.
John Vincent loved his wife with the tenderness of an innocent man,
but all his tenderness could not avail to lift the weight of
settled melancholy which had gathered upon her. Disappointment,
waiting, yearning, indulgence in long lament and self-pity, the
morbid cultivation of unhappy fancies--all this had wrought its
work upon her, and it was too late to effect a cure. In the night
she awoke to weep at his side, because of the years when she had
awakened to weep alone; by day she kept up her old habit of
foreboding, although the evening steadily refuted the morning; and
there were times when, without any apparent cause, she would fall
into a dark, despairing mood which her husband's greatest care and
cunning could only slowly dispel.
Two or three years passed, and new life came to the Vincent farm.
One day, between midnight and dawn, the family pair was doubled;
the cry of twin sons was heard in the hushed house. The father
restrained his happy wonder in his concern for the imperilled life
of the mother; he guessed that she had anticipated death, and she
now hung by a thread so slight that her simple will might snap it.
But her will, fortunately, was as faint as her consciousness; she
gradually drifted out of danger, taking her returning strength with
a passive acquiescence rather than with joy. She was hardly paler
than her wont, but the lurking shadow seemed to have vanished from
her eyes, and John Vincent felt that her features had assumed a new
expression, the faintly perceptible stamp of some spiritual change.
It was a happy day for him when, propped against his breast and
gently held by his warm, strong arm, the twin boys were first
brought to be laid upon her lap. Two staring, dark-faced
creatures, with restless fists and feet, they were alike in every
least feature of their grotesque animality. Phebe placed a hand
under the head of each, and looked at them for a long time in
"Why is this?" she said, at last, taking hold of a narrow pink
ribbon, which was tied around the wrist of one.
"He's the oldest, sure," the nurse answered. "Only by fifteen
minutes or so, but it generally makes a difference when twins come
to be named; and you may see with your own eyes that there's no
telling of 'em apart otherways."
"Take off the ribbon, then," said Phebe quietly; "_I_ know them."
"Why, ma'am, it's always done, where they're so like! And I'll
never be able to tell which is which; for they sleep and wake and
feed by the same clock. And you might mistake, after all, in
giving 'em names--"
"There is no oldest or youngest, John; they are two and yet one:
this is mine, and this is yours."
"I see no difference at all, Phebe," said John; "and how can we
"We will not divide," she answered; "I only meant it as a sign."
She smiled, for the first time in many days. He was glad of heart,
but did not understand her. "What shall we call them?" he
asked. "Elias and Reuben, after our fathers?"
"No, John; their names must be David and Jonathan."
And so they were called. And they grew, not less, but more alike,
in passing through the stages of babyhood. The ribbon of the older
one had been removed, and the nurse would have been distracted, but
for Phebe's almost miraculous instinct. The former comforted
herself with the hope that teething would bring a variation to the
two identical mouths; but no! they teethed as one child. John,
after desperate attempts, which always failed in spite of the
headaches they gave him, postponed the idea of distinguishing one
from the other, until they should be old enough to develop some
dissimilarity of speech, or gait, or habit. All trouble might have
been avoided, had Phebe consented to the least variation in their
dresses; but herein she was mildly immovable.
"Not yet," was her set reply to her husband; and one day, when he
manifested a little annoyance at her persistence, she turned to
him, holding a child on each knee, and said with a gravity which
silenced him thenceforth: "John, can you not see that our burden
has passed into them? Is there no meaning in this--that two
children who are one in body and face and nature, should be given
to us at our time of life, after such long disappointment and
trouble? Our lives were held apart; theirs were united before they
were born, and I dare not turn them in different directions.
Perhaps I do not know all that the Lord intended to say to us,
in sending them; but His hand is here!"
"I was only thinking of their good," John meekly answered. "If
they are spared to grow up, there must be some way of knowing one
from the other."
"THEY will not need it, and I, too, think only of them. They
have taken the cross from my heart, and I will lay none on theirs.
I am reconciled to my life through them, John; you have been very
patient and good with me, and I will yield to you in all things but
in this. I do not think I shall live to see them as men grown;
yet, while we are together, I feel clearly what it is right to do.
Can you not, just once, have a little faith without knowledge,
"I'll try, Phebe," he said. "Any way, I'll grant that the boys
belong to you more than to me."
Phebe Vincent's character had verily changed. Her attacks of semi-
hysterical despondency never returned; her gloomy prophecies
ceased. She was still grave, and the trouble of so many years
never wholly vanished from her face; but she performed every duty
of her life with at least a quiet willingness, and her home became
the abode of peace; for passive content wears longer than
David and Jonathan grew as one boy: the taste and temper of one was
repeated in the other, even as the voice and features. Sleeping or
waking, grieved or joyous, well or ill, they lived a single life,
and it seemed so natural for one to answer to the other's name,
that they probably would have themselves confused their own
identities, but for their mother's unerring knowledge. Perhaps
unconsciously guided by her, perhaps through the voluntary action
of their own natures, each quietly took the other's place when
called upon, even to the sharing of praise or blame at school, the
friendships and quarrels of the playground. They were healthy and
happy lads, and John Vincent was accustomed to say to his
neighbors, "They're no more trouble than one would be; and yet
they're four hands instead of two."
Phebe died when they were fourteen, saying to them, with almost her
latest breath, "Be one, always!" Before her husband could decide
whether to change her plan of domestic education, they were passing
out of boyhood, changing in voice, stature, and character with a
continued likeness which bewildered and almost terrified him. He
procured garments of different colors, but they were accustomed to
wear each article in common, and the result was only a mixture of
tints for both. They were sent to different schools, to be
returned the next day, equally pale, suffering, and incapable of
study. Whatever device was employed, they evaded it by a mutual
instinct which rendered all external measures unavailing. To John
Vincent's mind their resemblance was an accidental misfortune,
which had been confirmed through their mother's fancy. He felt
that they were bound by some deep, mysterious tie, which, inasmuch
as it might interfere with all practical aspects of life, ought to
be gradually weakened. Two bodies, to him, implied two distinct
men, and it was wrong to permit a mutual dependence which
prevented either from exercising his own separate will and
But, while he was planning and pondering, the boys became young
men, and he was an old man. Old, and prematurely broken; for he
had worked much, borne much, and his large frame held only a
moderate measure of vital force. A great weariness fell upon him,
and his powers began to give way, at first slowly, but then with
accelerated failure. He saw the end coming, long before his sons
suspected it; his doubt, for their sakes, was the only thing which
made it unwelcome. It was "upon his mind" (as his Quaker neighbors
would say) to speak to them of the future, and at last the proper
It was a stormy November evening. Wind and rain whirled and drove
among the trees outside, but the sitting-room of the old farm-house
was bright and warm. David and Jonathan, at the table, with their
arms over each other's backs and their brown locks mixed together,
read from the same book: their father sat in the ancient rocking-
chair before the fire, with his feet upon a stool. The housekeeper
and hired man had gone to bed, and all was still in the house.
John waited until he heard the volume closed, and then spoke.
"Boys," he said, "let me have a bit of talk with you. I don't seem
to get over my ailments rightly,--never will, maybe. A man must
think of things while there's time, and say them when they HAVE
to be said. I don't know as there's any particular hurry in my
case; only, we never can tell, from one day to another. When
I die, every thing will belong to you two, share and share alike,
either to buy another farm with the money out, or divide this: I
won't tie you up in any way. But two of you will need two farms
for two families; for you won't have to wait twelve years, like
your mother and me."
"We don't want another farm, father!" said David and Jonathan
"I know you don't think so, now. A wife seemed far enough off from
me when I was your age. You've always been satisfied to be with
each other, but that can't last. It was partly your mother's
notion; I remember her saying that our burden had passed into you.
I never quite understood what she meant, but I suppose it must
rather be the opposite of what WE had to bear."
The twins listened with breathless attention while their father,
suddenly stirred by the past, told them the story of his long
"And now," he exclaimed, in conclusion, "it may be putting wild
ideas into your two heads, but I must say it! THAT was where I
did wrong--wrong to her and to me,--in waiting! I had no right to
spoil the best of our lives; I ought to have gone boldly, in broad
day, to her father's house, taken her by the hand, and led her
forth to be my wife. Boys, if either of you comes to love a woman
truly, and she to love you, and there is no reason why God (I don't
say man) should put you asunder, do as I ought to have done, not as
I did! And, maybe, this advice is the best legacy I can leave
"But, father," said David, speaking for both, "we have never
thought of marrying."
"Likely enough," their father answered; "we hardly ever think of
what surely comes. But to me, looking back, it's plain. And this
is the reason why I want you to make me a promise, and as solemn as
if I was on my death-bed. Maybe I shall be, soon."
Tears gathered in the eyes of the twins. "What is it, father?"
they both said.
"Nothing at all to any other two boys, but I don't know how
YOU'll take it. What if I was to ask you to live apart for a
"Oh father!" both cried. They leaned together, cheek pressing
cheek, and hand clasping hand, growing white and trembling. John
Vincent, gazing into the fire, did not see their faces, or his
purpose might have been shaken.
"I don't say NOW," he went on. "After a while, when--well, when
I'm dead. And I only mean a beginning, to help you toward what
HAS to be. Only a month; I don't want to seem hard to you; but
that's little, in all conscience. Give me your word: say, `For
There was a long pause. Then David and Jonathan said, in low,
faltering voices, "For mother's sake, I promise."
"Remember that you were only boys to her. She might have made all
this seem easier, for women have reasons for things no man can
answer. Mind, within a year after I'm gone!"
He rose and tottered out of the room.
The twins looked at each other: David said, "Must we?" and
Jonathan, "How can we?" Then they both thought, "It may be a long
while yet." Here was a present comfort, and each seemed to hold it
firmly in holding the hand of the other, as they fell asleep side
The trial was nearer than they imagined. Their father died before
the winter was over; the farm and other property was theirs, and
they might have allowed life to solve its mysteries as it rolled
onwards, but for their promise to the dead. This must be
fulfilled, and then--one thing was certain; they would never again
"The sooner the better," said David. "It shall be the visit to our
uncle and cousins in Indiana. You will come with me as far as
Harrisburg; it may be easier to part there than here. And our new
neighbors, the Bradleys, will want your help for a day or two,
after getting home."
"It is less than death," Jonathan answered, "and why should it seem
to be more? We must think of father and mother, and all those
twelve years; now I know what the burden was."
"And we have never really borne any part of it! Father must have
been right in forcing us to promise."
Every day the discussion was resumed, and always with the same
termination. Familiarity with the inevitable step gave them
increase of courage; yet, when the moment had come and gone, when,
speeding on opposite trains, the hills and valleys multiplied
between them with terrible velocity, a pang like death cut to the
heart of each, and the divided life became a chill, oppressive
During the separation no letters passed between them. When the
neighbors asked Jonathan for news of his brother, he always
replied, "He is well," and avoided further speech with such
evidence of pain that they spared him. An hour before the month
drew to an end, he walked forth alone, taking the road to the
nearest railway station. A stranger who passed him at the entrance
of a thick wood, three miles from home, was thunderstruck on
meeting the same person shortly after, entering the wood from the
other side; but the farmers in the near fields saw two figures
issuing from the shade, hand in hand.
Each knew the other's month, before they slept, and the last thing
Jonathan said, with his head on David's shoulder, was, "You must
know our neighbors, the Bradleys, and especially Ruth." In the
morning, as they dressed, taking each other's garments at random,
as of old, Jonathan again said, "I have never seen a girl that I
like so well as Ruth Bradley. Do you remember what father said
about loving and marrying? It comes into my mind whenever I see
Ruth; but she has no sister."
"But we need not both marry," David replied, "that might part us,
and this will not. It is for always now."
"For always, David."
Two or three days later Jonathan said, as he started on an errand
to the village: "I shall stop at the Bradleys this evening, so you
must walk across and meet me there."
When David approached the house, a slender, girlish figure, with
her back towards him, was stooping over a bush of great crimson
roses, cautiously clipping a blossom here and there. At the
click of the gate-latch she started and turned towards him. Her
light gingham bonnet, falling back, disclosed a long oval face,
fair and delicate, sweet brown eyes, and brown hair laid smoothly
over the temples. A soft flush rose suddenly to her cheeks, and he
felt that his own were burning.
"Oh Jonathan!" she exclaimed, transferring the roses to her left
hand, and extending her right, as she came forward.
He was too accustomed to the name to recognize her mistake at once,
and the word "Ruth!" came naturally to his lips.
"I should know your brother David has come," she then said; "even
if I had not heard so. You look so bright. How glad I am!"
"Is he not here?" David asked.
"No; but there he is now, surely!" She turned towards the lane,
where Jonathan was dismounting. "Why, it is yourself over again,
As they approached, a glance passed between the twins, and a secret
transfer of the riding-whip to David set their identity right with
Ruth, whose manner toward the latter innocently became shy with all
its friendliness, while her frank, familiar speech was given to
Jonathan, as was fitting. But David also took the latter to
himself, and when they left, Ruth had apparently forgotten that
there was any difference in the length of their acquaintance.
On their way homewards David said: "Father was right. We must
marry, like others, and Ruth is the wife for us,--I mean for
you, Jonathan. Yes, we must learn to say MINE and YOURS,
after all, when we speak of her."
"Even she cannot separate us, it seems," Jonathan answered. "We
must give her some sign, and that will also be a sign for others.
It will seem strange to divide ourselves; we can never learn it
properly; rather let us not think of marriage."
"We cannot help thinking of it; she stands in mother's place now,
as we in father's."
Then both became silent and thoughtful. They felt that something
threatened to disturb what seemed to be the only possible life for
them, yet were unable to distinguish its features, and therefore
powerless to resist it. The same instinct which had been born of
their wonderful spiritual likeness told them that Ruth Bradley
already loved Jonathan: the duty was established, and they must
conform their lives to it. There was, however, this slight
difference between their natures--that David was generally the
first to utter the thought which came to the minds of both. So
when he said, "We shall learn what to do when the need comes," it
was a postponement of all foreboding. They drifted contentedly
towards the coming change.
The days went by, and their visits to Ruth Bradley were continued.
Sometimes Jonathan went alone, but they were usually together, and
the tie which united the three became dearer and sweeter as it was
more closely drawn. Ruth learned to distinguish between the two
when they were before her: at least she said so, and they were
willing to believe it. But she was hardly aware how nearly
alike was the happy warmth in her bosom produced by either pair of
dark gray eyes and the soft half-smile which played around either
mouth. To them she seemed to be drawn within the mystic circle
which separated them from others--she, alone; and they no longer
imagined a life in which she should not share.
Then the inevitable step was taken. Jonathan declared his love,
and was answered. Alas! he almost forgot David that late summer
evening, as they sat in the moonlight, and over and over again
assured each other how dear they had grown. He felt the trouble in
David's heart when they met.
"Ruth is ours, and I bring her kiss to you," he said, pressing his
lips to David's; but the arms flung around him trembled, and David
whispered, "Now the change begins."
"Oh, this cannot be our burden!" Jonathan cried, with all the
rapture still warm in his heart.
"If it is, it will be light, or heavy, or none at all, as we shall
bear it," David answered, with a smile of infinite tenderness.
For several days he allowed Jonathan to visit the Bradley farm
alone, saying that it must be so on Ruth's account. Her love, he
declared, must give her the fine instinct which only their mother
had ever possessed, and he must allow it time to be confirmed.
Jonathan, however, insisted that Ruth already possessed it; that
she was beginning to wonder at his absence, and to fear that she
would not be entirely welcome to the home which must always be
David yielded at once.
"You must go alone," said Jonathan, "to satisfy yourself that she
knows us at last."
Ruth came forth from the house as he drew near. Her face beamed;
she laid her hands upon his shoulders and kissed him. "Now you
cannot doubt me, Ruth!" he said, gently.
"Doubt you, Jonathan!" she exclaimed with a fond reproach in her
eyes. "But you look troubled; is any thing the matter?"
"I was thinking of my brother," said David, in a low tone.
"Tell me what it is," she said, drawing him into the little arbor
of woodbine near the gate. They took seats side by side on the
rustic bench. "He thinks I may come between you: is it not that?"
she asked. Only one thing was clear to David's mind--that she
would surely speak more frankly and freely of him to the supposed
Jonathan than to his real self. This once he would permit the
"Not more than must be," he answered. "He knew all from the very
beginning. But we have been like one person in two bodies, and any
change seems to divide us."
"I feel as you do," said Ruth. "I would never consent to be your
wife, if I could really divide you. I love you both too well for
"Do you love me?" he asked, entirely forgetting his representative
Again the reproachful look, which faded away as she met his eyes.
She fell upon his breast, and gave him kisses which were answered
with equal tenderness. Suddenly he covered his face with his
hands, and burst into a passion of tears.
"Jonathan! Oh Jonathan!" she cried, weeping with alarm and
It was long before he could speak; but at last, turning away his
head, he faltered, "I am David!"
There was a long silence.
When he looked up she was sitting with her hands rigidly clasped in
her lap: her face was very pale.
"There it is, Ruth," he said; "we are one heart and one soul.
Could he love, and not I? You cannot decide between us, for one is
the other. If I had known you first, Jonathan would be now in my
place. What follows, then?"
"No marriage," she whispered.
"No!" he answered; "we brothers must learn to be two men instead of
one. You will partly take my place with Jonathan; I must live with
half my life, unless I can find, somewhere in the world, your other
"I cannot part you, David!"
"Something stronger than you or me parts us, Ruth. If it were
death, we should bow to God's will: well, it can no more be got
away from than death or judgment. Say no more: the pattern of all
this was drawn long before we were born, and we cannot do any
thing but work it out."
He rose and stood before her. "Remember this, Ruth," he said; "it
is no blame in us to love each other. Jonathan will see the truth
in my face when we meet, and I speak for him also. You will not
see me again until your wedding-day, and then no more afterwards--
but, yes! ONCE, in some far-off time, when you shall know me to
be David, and still give me the kiss you gave to-day."
"Ah, after death!" she thought: "I have parted them forever." She
was about to rise, but fell upon the seat again, fainting. At the
same moment Jonathan appeared at David's side.
No word was said. They bore her forth and supported her between
them until the fresh breeze had restored her to consciousness. Her
first glance rested on the brother's hands, clasping; then, looking
from one to the other, she saw that the cheeks of both were wet.
"Now, leave me," she said, "but come to-morrow, Jonathan!" Even
then she turned from one to the other, with a painful, touching
uncertainty, and stretched out both hands to them in farewell.
How that poor twin heart struggled with itself is only known to
God. All human voices, and as they believed, also the Divine
Voice, commanded the division of their interwoven life. Submission
would have seemed easier, could they have taken up equal and
similar burdens; but David was unable to deny that his pack was
overweighted. For the first time, their thoughts began to diverge.
At last David said: "For mother's sake, Jonathan, as we promised.
She always called you HER child. And for Ruth's sake, and
father's last advice: they all tell me what I must do."
It was like the struggle between will and desire, in the same
nature, and none the less fierce or prolonged because the softer
quality foresaw its ultimate surrender. Long after he felt the
step to be inevitable, Jonathan sought to postpone it, but he was
borne by all combined influences nearer and nearer to the time.
And now the wedding-day came. David was to leave home the same
evening, after the family dinner under his father's roof. In the
morning he said to Jonathan: "I shall not write until I feel that
I have become other than now, but I shall always be here, in you,
as you will be in me, everywhere. Whenever you want me, I shall
know it; and I think I shall know when to return."
The hearts of all the people went out towards them as they stood
together in the little village church. Both were calm, but very
pale and abstracted in their expression, yet their marvellous
likeness was still unchanged. Ruth's eyes were cast down so they
could not be seen; she trembled visibly, and her voice was scarcely
audible when she spoke the vow. It was only known in the
neighborhood that David was going to make another journey. The
truth could hardly have been guessed by persons whose ideas follow
the narrow round of their own experiences; had it been, there would
probably have been more condemnation than sympathy. But in a vague
way the presence of some deeper element was felt--the falling
of a shadow, although the outstretched wing was unseen. Far above
them, and above the shadow, watched the Infinite Pity, which was
not denied to three hearts that day.
It was a long time, more than a year, and Ruth was lulling her
first child on her bosom, before a letter came from David. He had
wandered westwards, purchased some lands on the outer line of
settlement, and appeared to be leading a wild and lonely life. "I
know now," he wrote, "just how much there is to bear, and how to
bear it. Strange men come between us, but you are not far off when
I am alone on these plains. There is a place where I can always
meet you, and I know that you have found it,--under the big ash-
tree by the barn. I think I am nearly always there about sundown,
and on moonshiny nights, because we are then nearest together; and
I never sleep without leaving you half my blanket. When I first
begin to wake I always feel your breath, so we are never really
parted for long. I do not know that I can change much; it is not
easy; it is like making up your mind to have different colored eyes
and hair, and I can only get sunburnt and wear a full beard. But
we are hardly as unhappy as we feared to be; mother came the other
night, in a dream, and took us on her knees. Oh, come to me,
Jonathan, but for one day! No, you will not find me; I am going
across the Plains!"
And Jonathan and Ruth? They loved each other tenderly; no external
trouble visited them; their home was peaceful and pure; and
yet, every room and stairway and chair was haunted by a sorrowful
ghost. As a neighbor said after visiting them, "There seemed to be
something lost." Ruth saw how constantly and how unconsciously
Jonathan turned to see his own every feeling reflected in the
missing eyes; how his hand sought another, even while its fellow
pressed hers; how half-spoken words, day and night, died upon his
lips, because they could not reach the twin-ear. She knew not how
it came, but her own nature took upon itself the same habit. She
felt that she received a less measure of love than she gave--not
from Jonathan, in whose whole, warm, transparent heart no other
woman had ever looked, but something of her own passed beyond him
and never returned. To both their life was like one of those
conjurer's cups, seemingly filled with red wine, which is held from
the lips by the false crystal hollow.
Neither spoke of this: neither dared to speak. The years dragged
out their slow length, with rare and brief messages from David.
Three children were in the house, and still peace and plenty laid
their signs upon its lintels. But at last Ruth, who had been
growing thinner and paler ever since the birth of her first boy,
became seriously ill. Consumption was hers by inheritance, and it
now manifested itself in a form which too surely foretold the
result. After the physician had gone, leaving his fatal verdict
behind him, she called to Jonathan, who, bewildered by his grief,
sank down on his knees at her bedside and sobbed upon her breast.
"Don't grieve," she said; "this is my share of the burden. If I
have taken too much from you and David, now comes the atonement.
Many things have grown clear to me. David was right when he said
that there was no blame. But my time is even less than the doctor
thinks: where is David? Can you not bid him come?"
"I can only call him with my heart," he answered. "And will he
hear me now, after nearly seven years?"
"Call, then!" she eagerly cried. "Call with all the strength of
your love for him and for me, and I believe he will hear you!"
The sun was just setting. Jonathan went to the great ash-tree,
behind the barn, fell upon his knees, and covered his face, and the
sense of an exceeding bitter cry filled his heart. All the
suppressed and baffled longing, the want, the hunger, the
unremitting pain of years, came upon him and were crowded into the
single prayer, "Come, David, or I die!" Before the twilight faded,
while he was still kneeling, an arm came upon his shoulder, and the
faint touch of another cheek upon his own. It was hardly for the
space of a thought, but he knew the sign.
"David will come!" he said to Ruth.
From that day all was changed. The cloud of coming death which
hung over the house was transmuted into fleecy gold. All the lost
life came back to Jonathan's face, all the unrestful sweetness of
Ruth's brightened into a serene beatitude. Months had passed since
David had been heard from; they knew not how to reach him
without many delays; yet neither dreamed of doubting his
Two weeks passed, three, and there was neither word nor sign.
Jonathan and Ruth thought, "He is near," and one day a singular
unrest fell upon the former. Ruth saw it, but said nothing until
night came, when she sent Jonathan from her bedside with the words,
"Go and meet him?"
An hour afterwards she heard double steps on the stone walk in
front of the house. They came slowly to the door; it opened; she
heard them along the hall and ascending the stairs; then the
chamber-lamp showed her the two faces, bright with a single,
One brother paused at the foot of the bed; the other drew near and
bent over her. She clasped her thin hands around his neck, kissed
him fondly, and cried, "Dear, dear David!"
"Dear Ruth," he said, "I came as soon as I could. I was far away,
among wild mountains, when I felt that Jonathan was calling me. I
knew that I must return, never to leave you more, and there was
still a little work to finish. Now we shall all live again!"
"Yes," said Jonathan, coming to her other side, "try to live,
Her voice came clear, strong, and full of authority. "I DO live,
as never before. I shall take all my life with me when I go to
wait for one soul, as I shall find it there! Our love unites, not
divides, from this hour!"
The few weeks still left to her were a season of almost
superhuman peace. She faded slowly and painlessly, taking the
equal love of the twin-hearts, and giving an equal tenderness and
gratitude. Then first she saw the mysterious need which united
them, the fulness and joy wherewith each completed himself in the
other. All the imperfect past was enlightened, and the end, even
that now so near, was very good.
Every afternoon they carried her down to a cushioned chair on the
veranda, where she could enjoy the quiet of the sunny landscape,
the presence of the brothers seated at her feet, and the sports of
her children on the grass. Thus, one day, while David and Jonathan
held her hands and waited for her to wake from a happy sleep, she
went before them, and, ere they guessed the truth, she was waiting
for their one soul in the undiscovered land.
And Jonathan's children, now growing into manhood and girlhood,
also call David "father." The marks left by their divided lives
have long since vanished from their faces; the middle-aged men,
whose hairs are turning gray, still walk hand in hand, still sleep
upon the same pillow, still have their common wardrobe, as when
they were boys. They talk of "our Ruth" with no sadness, for they
believe that death will make them one, when, at the same moment, he
summons both. And we who know them, to whom they have confided the
touching mystery of their nature, believe so too.
THE EXPERIENCES OF THE A. C.
Bridgeport! Change cars for the Naugatuck Railroad!" shouted the
conductor of the New York and Boston Express Train, on the evening
of May 27th, 1858. Indeed, he does it every night (Sundays
excepted), for that matter; but as this story refers especially to
Mr. J. Edward Johnson, who was a passenger on that train, on the
aforesaid evening, I make special mention of the fact. Mr.
Johnson, carpet-bag in hand, jumped upon the platform, entered the
office, purchased a ticket for Waterbury, and was soon whirling in
the Naugatuck train towards his destination.
On reaching Waterbury, in the soft spring twilight, Mr. Johnson
walked up and down in front of the station, curiously scanning the
faces of the assembled crowd. Presently he noticed a gentleman who
was performing the same operation upon the faces of the alighting
passengers. Throwing himself directly in the way of the latter,
the two exchanged a steady gaze.
"Is your name Billings?" "Is your name Johnson?" were
simultaneous questions, followed by the simultaneous exclamations--
Then there was a crushing grasp of hands, repeated after a pause,
in testimony of ancient friendship, and Mr. Billings, returning to
practical life, asked--
"Is that all your baggage? Come, I have a buggy here: Eunice has
heard the whistle, and she'll be impatient to welcome you."
The impatience of Eunice (Mrs. Billings, of course,) was not of
long duration, for in five minutes thereafter she stood at the door
of her husband's chocolate-colored villa, receiving his friend.
While these three persons are comfortably seated at the tea-table,
enjoying their waffles, cold tongue, and canned peaches, and asking
and answering questions helter-skelter in the delightful confusion
of reunion after long separation, let us briefly inform the reader
who and what they are.
Mr. Enos Billings, then, was part owner of a manufactory of metal
buttons, forty years old, of middling height, ordinarily quiet and
rather shy, but with a large share of latent warmth and enthusiasm
in his nature. His hair was brown, slightly streaked with gray,
his eyes a soft, dark hazel, forehead square, eyebrows straight,
nose of no very marked character, and a mouth moderately full, with
a tendency to twitch a little at the corners. His voice was
undertoned, but mellow and agreeable.
Mrs. Eunice Billings, of nearly equal age, was a good specimen of
the wide-awake New-England woman. Her face had a piquant smartness
of expression, which might have been refined into a sharp
edge, but for her natural hearty good-humor. Her head was smoothly
formed, her face a full oval, her hair and eyes blond and blue in
a strong light, but brown and steel-gray at other times, and her
complexion of that ripe fairness into which a ruddier color will
sometimes fade. Her form, neither plump nor square, had yet a
firm, elastic compactness, and her slightest movement conveyed a
certain impression of decision and self-reliance.
As for J. Edward Johnson, it is enough to say that he was a tall,
thin gentleman of forty-five, with an aquiline nose, narrow face,
and military whiskers, which swooped upwards and met under his nose
in a glossy black mustache. His complexion was dark, from the
bronzing of fifteen summers in New Orleans. He was a member of a
wholesale hardware firm in that city, and had now revisited his
native North for the first time since his departure. A year
before, some letters relating to invoices of metal buttons signed,
"Foster, Kirkup, & Co., per Enos Billings," had accidentally
revealed to him the whereabouts of the old friend of his youth,
with whom we now find him domiciled. The first thing he did, after
attending to some necessary business matters in New York, was to
take the train for Waterbury.
"Enos," said he, as he stretched out his hand for the third cup of
tea (which he had taken only for the purpose of prolonging the
pleasant table-chat), "I wonder which of us is most changed."
"You, of course," said Mr. Billings, "with your brown face and
big mustache. Your own brother wouldn't have known you if he had
seen you last, as I did, with smooth cheeks and hair of unmerciful
length. Why, not even your voice is the same!"
"That is easily accounted for," replied Mr. Johnson. "But in your
case, Enos, I am puzzled to find where the difference lies. Your
features seem to be but little changed, now that I can examine them
at leisure; yet it is not the same face. But, really, I never
looked at you for so long a time, in those days. I beg pardon; you
used to be so--so remarkably shy."
Mr. Billings blushed slightly, and seemed at a loss what to answer.
His wife, however, burst into a merry laugh, exclaiming--
"Oh, that was before the days of the A. C!"
He, catching the infection, laughed also; in fact Mr. Johnson
laughed, but without knowing why.
"The `A. C.'!" said Mr. Billings. "Bless me, Eunice! how long it
is since we have talked of that summer! I had almost forgotten
that there ever was an A. C."
"Enos, COULD you ever forget Abel Mallory and the beer?--or that
scene between Hollins and Shelldrake?--or" (here SHE blushed the
least bit) "your own fit of candor?" And she laughed again, more
heartily than ever.
"What a precious lot of fools, to be sure!" exclaimed her husband.
Mr. Johnson, meanwhile, though enjoying the cheerful humor of his
hosts, was not a little puzzled with regard to its cause.
"What is the A. C.?" he ventured to ask.
Mr. and Mrs. Billings looked at each other, and smiled without
"Really, Ned," said the former, finally, "the answer to your
question involves the whole story."
"Then why not tell him the whole story, Enos?" remarked his wife.
"You know I've never told it yet, and it's rather a hard thing to
do, seeing that I'm one of the heroes of the farce--for it wasn't
even genteel comedy, Ned," said Mr. Billings. "However," he
continued, "absurd as the story may seem, it's the only key to the
change in my life, and I must run the risk of being laughed at."
"I'll help you through, Enos," said his wife, encouragingly; "and
besides, my role in the farce was no better than yours. Let us
resuscitate, for to-night only, the constitution of the A. C."
"Upon my word, a capital idea! But we shall have to initiate Ned."
Mr. Johnson merrily agreeing, he was blindfolded and conducted into
another room. A heavy arm-chair, rolling on casters, struck his
legs in the rear, and he sank into it with lamb-like resignation.
"Open your mouth!" was the command, given with mock solemnity.
"Now shut it!"
And his lips closed upon a cigar, while at the same time the
handkerchief was whisked away from his eyes. He found himself
in Mr. Billing's library.
"Your nose betrays your taste, Mr. Johnson," said the lady, "and I
am not hard-hearted enough to deprive you of the indulgence. Here
"Well," said he, acting upon the hint, "if the remainder of the
ceremonies are equally agreeable, I should like to be a permanent
member of your order."
By this time Mr. and Mrs. Billings, having between them lighted the
lamp, stirred up the coal in the grate, closed the doors, and taken
possession of comfortable chairs, the latter proclaimed--
"The Chapter (isn't that what you call it?) will now be held!"
"Was it in '43 when you left home, Ned?" asked Mr. B.
"Well, the A. C. culminated in '45. You remember something of the
society of Norridgeport, the last winter you were there? Abel
Mallory, for instance?"
"Let me think a moment," said Mr. Johnson reflectively. "Really,
it seems like looking back a hundred years. Mallory--wasn't that
the sentimental young man, with wispy hair, a tallowy skin, and
big, sweaty hands, who used to be spouting Carlyle on the `reading
evenings' at Shelldrake's? Yes, to be sure; and there was Hollins,
with his clerical face and infidel talk,--and Pauline Ringtop, who
used to say, `The Beautiful is the Good.' I can still hear her
shrill voice, singing, `Would that _I_ were beautiful, would that
_I_ were fair!'"
There was a hearty chorus of laughter at poor Miss Ringtop's
expense. It harmed no one, however; for the tar-weed was already
thick over her Californian grave.
"Oh, I see," said Mr. Billings, "you still remember the absurdities
of those days. In fact, I think you partially saw through them
then. But I was younger, and far from being so clear-headed, and
I looked upon those evenings at Shelldrake's as being equal, at
least, to the symposia of Plato. Something in Mallory always
repelled me. I detested the sight of his thick nose, with the
flaring nostrils, and his coarse, half-formed lips, of the bluish
color of raw corned-beef. But I looked upon these feelings as
unreasonable prejudices, and strove to conquer them, seeing the
admiration which he received from others. He was an oracle on the
subject of `Nature.' Having eaten nothing for two years, except
Graham bread, vegetables without salt, and fruits, fresh or dried,
he considered himself to have attained an antediluvian purity of
health--or that he would attain it, so soon as two pimples on his
left temple should have healed. These pimples he looked upon as
the last feeble stand made by the pernicious juices left from the
meat he had formerly eaten and the coffee he had drunk. His theory
was, that through a body so purged and purified none but true and
natural impulses could find access to the soul. Such, indeed, was
the theory we all held. A Return to Nature was the near
Millennium, the dawn of which we already beheld in the sky. To be
sure there was a difference in our individual views as to how this
should be achieved, but we were all agreed as to what the result
"I can laugh over those days now, Ned; but they were really happy
while they lasted. We were the salt of the earth; we were lifted
above those grovelling instincts which we saw manifested in the
lives of others. Each contributed his share of gas to inflate the
painted balloon to which we all clung, in the expectation that it
would presently soar with us to the stars. But it only went up
over the out-houses, dodged backwards and forwards two or three
times, and finally flopped down with us into a swamp."
"And that balloon was the A. C.?" suggested Mr. Johnson.
"As President of this Chapter, I prohibit questions," said Eunice.
"And, Enos, don't send up your balloon until the proper time.
Don't anticipate the programme, or the performance will be
"I had almost forgotten that Ned is so much in the dark," her
obedient husband answered. "You can have but a slight notion," he
continued, turning to his friend, "of the extent to which this
sentimental, or transcendental, element in the little circle at
Shelldrake's increased after you left Norridgeport. We read the
`Dial,' and Emerson; we believed in Alcott as the `purple Plato' of
modern times; we took psychological works out of the library, and
would listen for hours to Hollins while he read Schelling or
Fichte, and then go home with a misty impression of having imbibed
infinite wisdom. It was, perhaps, a natural, though very eccentric
rebound from the hard, practical, unimaginative New-England mind
which surrounded us; yet I look back upon it with a kind of wonder.
I was then, as you know, unformed mentally, and might have
been so still, but for the experiences of the A. C."
Mr. Johnson shifted his position, a little impatiently. Eunice
looked at him with laughing eyes, and shook her finger with a mock
"Shelldrake," continued Mr. Billings, without noticing this by-
play, "was a man of more pretence than real cultivation, as I
afterwards discovered. He was in good circumstances, and always
glad to receive us at his house, as this made him, virtually, the
chief of our tribe, and the outlay for refreshments involved only
the apples from his own orchard and water from his well. There was
an entire absence of conventionality at our meetings, and this,
conpared with the somewhat stiff society of the village, was
really an attraction. There was a mystic bond of union in our
ideas: we discussed life, love, religion, and the future state, not
only with the utmost candor, but with a warmth of feeling which, in
many of us, was genuine. Even I (and you know how painfully shy
and bashful I was) felt myself more at home there than in my
father's house; and if I didn't talk much, I had a pleasant feeling
of being in harmony with those who did.
"Well, 'twas in the early part of '45--I think in April,--when we
were all gathered together, discussing, as usual, the possibility
of leading a life in accordance with Nature. Abel Mallory was
there, and Hollins, and Miss Ringtop, and Faith Levis, with her
knitting,--and also Eunice Hazleton, a lady whom you have never
seen, but you may take my wife at her representative--"
"Stick to the programme, Enos," interrupted Mrs. Billings.
"Eunice Hazleton, then. I wish I could recollect some of the
speeches made on that occasion. Abel had but one pimple on his
temple (there was a purple spot where the other had been), and was
estimating that in two or three months more he would be a true,
unspoiled man. His complexion, nevertheless, was more clammy and
whey-like than ever.
"`Yes,' said he, `I also am an Arcadian! This false dual existence
which I have been leading will soon be merged in the unity of
Nature. Our lives must conform to her sacred law. Why can't we
strip off these hollow Shams,' (he made great use of that word,)
`and be our true selves, pure, perfect, and divine?'
"Miss Ringtop heaved a sigh, and repeated a stanza from her
"`Ah, when wrecked are my desires
On the everlasting Never,
And my heart with all its fires
In the cradle of Creation
Finds the soul resuscitation!
"Shelldrake, however, turning to his wife, said--
"`Elviry, how many up-stairs rooms is there in that house down on
"`Four,--besides three small ones under the roof. Why, what made
you think of that, Jesse?' said she.
"`I've got an idea, while Abel's been talking,' he answered.
`We've taken a house for the summer, down the other side of
Bridgeport, right on the water, where there's good fishing and a
fine view of the Sound. Now, there's room enough for all of us--at
least all that can make it suit to go. Abel, you and Enos, and
Pauline and Eunice might fix matters so that we could all take the
place in partnership, and pass the summer together, living a true
and beautiful life in the bosom of Nature. There we shall be
perfectly free and untrammelled by the chains which still hang
around us in Norridgeport. You know how often we have wanted to be
set on some island in the Pacific Ocean, where we could build up a
true society, right from the start. Now, here's a chance to try
the experiment for a few months, anyhow.'
"Eunice clapped her hands (yes, you did!) and cried out--
"`Splendid! Arcadian! I'll give up my school for the summer.'
"Miss Ringtop gave her opinion in another quotation:
"`The rainbow hues of the Ideal
Condense to gems, and form the Real!'
"Abel Mallory, of course, did not need to have the proposal
repeated. He was ready for any thing which promised indulgence,
and the indulgence of his sentimental tastes. I will do the fellow
the justice to say that he was not a hypocrite. He firmly believed
both in himself and his ideas--especially the former. He pushed
both hands through the long wisps of his drab-colored hair,
and threw his head back until his wide nostrils resembled a double
door to his brain.
"`Oh Nature!' he said, `you have found your lost children! We
shall obey your neglected laws! we shall hearken to your divine
whispers I we shall bring you back from your ignominious exile, and
place you on your ancestral throne!'
"`Let us do it!' was the general cry.
"A sudden enthusiasm fired us, and we grasped each other's hands in
the hearty impulse of the moment. My own private intention to make
a summer trip to the White Mountains had been relinquished the
moment I heard Eunice give in her adhesion. I may as well confess,
at once, that I was desperately in love, and afraid to speak to
"By the time Mrs. Sheldrake brought in the apples and water we
were discussing the plan as a settled thing. Hollins had an
engagement to deliver Temperance lectures in Ohio during the
summer, but decided to postpone his departure until August, so that
he might, at least, spend two months with us. Faith Levis couldn't
go--at which, I think, we were all secretly glad. Some three or
four others were in the same case, and the company was finally
arranged to consist of the Shelldrakes, Hollins, Mallory, Eunice,
Miss Ringtop, and myself. We did not give much thought, either to
the preparations in advance, or to our mode of life when settled
there. We were to live near to Nature: that was the main thing.
"`What shall we call the place?' asked Eunice.
"`Arcadia!' said Abel Mallory, rolling up his large green eyes.
"`Then,' said Hollins, `let us constitute ourselves the Arcadian
"Aha!" interrupted Mr. Johnson, "I see! The A. C.!"
"Yes, you can see the A. C. now," said Mrs. Billings; "but to
understand it fully, you should have had a share in those Arcadian
"I am all the more interested in hearing them described. Go on,
"The proposition was adopted. We called ourselves The Arcadian
Club; but in order to avoid gossip, and the usual ridicule, to
which we were all more or less sensitive, in case our plan should
become generally known, it was agreed that the initials only should
be used. Besides, there was an agreeable air of mystery about it:
we thought of Delphi, and Eleusis, and Samothrace: we should
discover that Truth which the dim eyes of worldly men and women
were unable to see, and the day of disclosure would be the day of
Triumph. In one sense we were truly Arcadians: no suspicion of
impropriety, I verily believe, entered any of our minds. In our
aspirations after what we called a truer life there was no material
taint. We were fools, if you choose, but as far as possible from
being sinners. Besides, the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Shelldrake,
who naturally became the heads of our proposed community were
sufficient to preserve us from slander or suspicion, if even
our designs had been publicly announced.
"I won't bore you with an account of our preparations. In fact,
there was very little to be done. Mr. Shelldrake succeeded in
hiring the house, with most of its furniture, so that but a few
articles had to be supplied. My trunk contained more books than
boots, more blank paper than linen.
"`Two shirts will be enough,' said Abel: `you can wash one of them
any day, and dry it in the sun.'
"The supplies consisted mostly of flour, potatoes, and sugar.
There was a vegetable-garden in good condition, Mr. Shelldrake
said, which would be our principal dependence.
"`Besides, the clams!' I exclaimed unthinkingly.
"`Oh, yes!' said Eunice, `we can have chowder-parties: that will be
"`Clams! chowder! oh, worse than flesh!' groaned Abel. `Will you
reverence Nature by outraging her first laws?'
"I had made a great mistake, and felt very foolish. Eunice and I
looked at each other, for the first time."
"Speak for yourself only, Enos," gently interpolated his wife.
"It was a lovely afternoon in the beginning of June when we first
approached Arcadia. We had taken two double teams at Bridgeport,
and drove slowly forward to our destination, followed by a cart
containing our trunks and a few household articles. It was a
bright, balmy day: the wheat-fields were rich and green, the
clover showed faint streaks of ruby mist along slopes leaning
southward, and the meadows were yellow with buttercups. Now and
then we caught glimpses of the Sound, and, far beyond it, the dim
Long Island shore. Every old white farmhouse, with its gray-walled
garden, its clumps of lilacs, viburnums, and early roses, offered
us a picture of pastoral simplicity and repose. We passed them,
one by one, in the happiest mood, enjoying the earth around us, the
sky above, and ourselves most of all.
"The scenery, however, gradually became more rough and broken.
Knobs of gray gneiss, crowned by mournful cedars, intrenched upon
the arable land, and the dark-blue gleam of water appeared through
the trees. Our road, which had been approaching the Sound, now
skirted the head of a deep, irregular inlet, beyond which extended
a beautiful promontory, thickly studded with cedars, and with
scattering groups of elm, oak and maple trees. Towards the end of
the promontory stood a house, with white walls shining against the
blue line of the Sound.
"`There is Arcadia, at last!' exclaimed Mr. Shelldrake.
"A general outcry of delight greeted the announcement. And,
indeed, the loveliness of the picture surpassed our most poetic
anticipations. The low sun was throwing exquisite lights across
the point, painting the slopes of grass of golden green, and giving
a pearly softness to the gray rocks. In the back-ground was drawn
the far-off water-line, over which a few specks of sail glimmered
against the sky. Miss Ringtop, who, with Eunice, Mallory, and
myself, occupied one carriage, expressed her `gushing' feelings in
the usual manner:
"`Where the turf is softest, greenest,
Doth an angel thrust me on,--
Where the landscape lies serenest,
In the journey of the sun!'
"`Don't, Pauline!' said Eunice; `I never like to hear poetry
flourished in the face of Nature. This landscape surpasses any
poem in the world. Let us enjoy the best thing we have, rather
than the next best.'
"`Ah, yes!' sighed Miss Ringtop, `'tis true!
"`They sing to the ear; this sings to the eye!'
"Thenceforward, to the house, all was childish joy and jubilee.
All minor personal repugnances were smoothed over in the general
exultation. Even Abel Mallory became agreeable; and Hollins,
sitting beside Mrs. Shelldrake on the back seat of the foremost
carriage, shouted to us, in boyish lightness of heart.
"Passing the head of the inlet, we left the country-road, and
entered, through a gate in the tottering stone wall, on our summer
domain. A track, open to the field on one side, led us past a
clump of deciduous trees, between pastures broken by cedared knolls
of rock, down the centre of the peninsula, to the house. It was
quite an old frame-building, two stories high, with a gambrel roof
and tall chimneys. Two slim Lombardy poplars and a broad-
leaved catalpa shaded the southern side, and a kitchen-garden,
divided in the centre by a double row of untrimmed currant-bushes,
flanked it on the east. For flowers, there were masses of blue
flags and coarse tawny-red lilies, besides a huge trumpet-vine
which swung its pendent arms from one of the gables. In front of
the house a natural lawn of mingled turf and rock sloped steeply
down to the water, which was not more than two hundred yards
distant. To the west was another and broader inlet of the Sound,
out of which our Arcadian promontory rose bluff and bold, crowned
with a thick fringe of pines. It was really a lovely spot which
Shelldrake had chosen--so secluded, while almost surrounded by the
winged and moving life of the Sound, so simple, so pastoral and
home-like. No one doubted the success of our experiment, for that
evening at least.
"Perkins Brown, Shelldrake's boy-of-all-work, awaited us at the
door. He had been sent on two or three days in advance, to take
charge of the house, and seemed to have had enough of hermit-life,
for he hailed us with a wild whoop, throwing his straw hat half-way
up one of the poplars. Perkins was a boy of fifteen, the child of
poor parents, who were satisfied to get him off their hands,
regardless as to what humanitarian theories might be tested upon
him. As the Arcadian Club recognized no such thing as caste, he
was always admitted to our meetings, and understood just enough of
our conversation to excite a silly ambition in his slow mind. His
animal nature was predominant, and this led him to be deceitful.
At that time, however, we all looked upon him as a proper
young Arcadian, and hoped that he would develop into a second Abel
"After our effects had been deposited on the stoop, and the
carriages had driven away, we proceeded to apportion the rooms, and
take possession. On the first floor there were three rooms, two of
which would serve us as dining and drawing rooms, leaving the third
for the Shelldrakes. As neither Eunice and Miss Ringtop, nor
Hollins and Abel showed any disposition to room together, I quietly
gave up to them the four rooms in the second story, and installed
myself in one of the attic chambers. Here I could hear the music
of the rain close above my head, and through the little gable
window, as I lay in bed, watch the colors of the morning gradually
steal over the distant shores. The end was, we were all satisfied.
"`Now for our first meal in Arcadia!' was the next cry. Mrs.
Shelldrake, like a prudent housekeeper, marched off to the kitchen,
where Perkins had already kindled a fire. We looked in at the
door, but thought it best to allow her undisputed sway in such a
narrow realm. Eunice was unpacking some loaves of bread and paper
bags of crackers; and Miss Ringtop, smiling through her ropy curls,
as much as to say, `You see, _I_ also can perform the coarser tasks
of life!' occupied herself with plates and cups. We men,
therefore, walked out to the garden, which we found in a promising
condition. The usual vegetables had been planted and were
growing finely, for the season was yet scarcely warm enough
for the weeds to make much headway. Radishes, young onions, and
lettuce formed our contribution to the table. The Shelldrakes, I
should explain, had not yet advanced to the antediluvian point, in
diet: nor, indeed, had either Eunice or myself. We acknowledged
the fascination of tea, we saw a very mitigated evil in milk and
butter, and we were conscious of stifled longings after the
abomination of meat. Only Mallory, Hollins, and Miss Ringtop had
reached that loftiest round on the ladder of progress where the
material nature loosens the last fetter of the spiritual. They
looked down upon us, and we meekly admitted their right to do so.
"Our board, that evening, was really tempting. The absence of meat
was compensated to us by the crisp and racy onions, and I craved
only a little salt, which had been interdicted, as a most
pernicious substance. I sat at one corner of the table, beside
Perkins Brown, who took an opportunity, while the others were
engaged in conversation, to jog my elbow gently. As I turned
towards him, he said nothing, but dropped his eyes significantly.
The little rascal had the lid of a blacking-box, filled with salt,
upon his knee, and was privately seasoning his onions and radishes.
I blushed at the thought of my hypocrisy, but the onions were so
much better that I couldn't help dipping into the lid with him.
"`Oh,' said Eunice, `we must send for some oil and vinegar! This
lettuce is very nice.'
"`Oil and vinegar?' exclaimed Abel.
"`Why, yes,' said she, innocently: `they are both vegetable
"Abel at first looked rather foolish, but quickly recovering
"`All vegetable substances are not proper for food: you would not