Part 4 out of 5
taste the poison-oak, or sit under the upas-tree of Java.'
"`Well, Abel,' Eunice rejoined, `how are we to distinguish what is
best for us? How are we to know WHAT vegetables to choose, or
what animal and mineral substances to avoid?'
"`I will tell you,' he answered, with a lofty air. `See here!'
pointing to his temple, where the second pimple--either from the
change of air, or because, in the excitement of the last few days,
he had forgotten it--was actually healed. `My blood is at last
pure. The struggle between the natural and the unnatural is over,
and I am beyond the depraved influences of my former taste. My
instincts are now, therefore, entirely pure also. What is good for
man to eat, that I shall have a natural desire to eat: what is bad
will be naturally repelled. How does the cow distinguish between
the wholesome and the poisonous herbs of the meadow? And is man
less than a cow, that he cannot cultivate his instincts to an equal
point? Let me walk through the woods and I can tell you every
berry and root which God designed for food, though I know not its
name, and have never seen it before. I shall make use of my time,
during our sojourn here, to test, by my purified instinct, every
substance, animal, mineral, and vegetable, upon which the
human race subsists, and to create a catalogue of the True Food of
"Abel was eloquent on this theme, and he silenced not only Eunice,
but the rest of us. Indeed, as we were all half infected with the
same delusions, it was not easy to answer his sophistries.
"After supper was over, the prospect of cleaning the dishes and
putting things in order was not so agreeable; but Mrs. Shelldrake
and Perkins undertook the work, and we did not think it necessary
to interfere with them. Half an hour afterwards, when the full
moon had risen, we took our chairs upon the sloop, to enjoy the
calm, silver night, the soft sea-air, and our summer's residence in
"`My friends,' said Hollins (and HIS hobby, as you may remember,
Ned, was the organization of Society, rather than those reforms
which apply directly to the Individual),--`my friends, I think we
are sufficiently advanced in progressive ideas to establish our
little Arcadian community upon what I consider the true basis: not
Law, nor Custom, but the uncorrupted impulses of our nature. What
Abel said in regard to dietetic reform is true; but that alone will
not regenerate the race. We must rise superior to those
conventional ideas of Duty whereby Life is warped and crippled.
Life must not be a prison, where each one must come and go, work,
eat, and sleep, as the jailer commands. Labor must not be a
necessity, but a spontaneous joy. 'Tis true, but little labor
is required of us here: let us, therefore, have no set tasks, no
fixed rules, but each one work, rest, eat, sleep, talk or be
silent, as his own nature prompts.'
"Perkins, sitting on the steps, gave a suppressed chuckle, which I
think no one heard but myself. I was vexed with his levity, but,
nevertheless, gave him a warning nudge with my toe, in payment for
the surreptitious salt.
"`That's just the notion I had, when I first talked of our coming
here,' said Shelldrake. `Here we're alone and unhindered; and if
the plan shouldn't happen to work well (I don't see why it
shouldn't though), no harm will be done. I've had a deal of hard
work in my life, and I've been badgered and bullied so much by your
strait-laced professors, that I'm glad to get away from the world
for a spell, and talk and do rationally, without being laughed at.'
"`Yes,' answered Hollins, `and if we succeed, as I feel we shall,
for I think I know the hearts of all of us here, this may be the
commencement of a new EEpoch for the world. We may become the
turning-point between two dispensations: behind us every thing
false and unnatural, before us every thing true, beautiful, and
"`Ah,' sighed Miss Ringtop, `it reminds me of Gamaliel J.
Gawthrop's beautiful lines:
"`Unrobed man is lying hoary
In the distance, gray and dead;
There no wreaths of godless glory
To his mist-like tresses wed,
And the foot-fall of the Ages
Reigns supreme, with noiseless tread.'
"`I am willing to try the experiment,' said I, on being appealed to
by Hollins; `but don't you think we had better observe some kind of
order, even in yielding every thing to impulse? Shouldn't there
be, at least, a platform, as the politicians call it--an agreement
by which we shall all be bound, and which we can afterwards exhibit
as the basis of our success?'
"He meditated a few moments, and then answered--
"`I think not. It resembles too much the thing we are trying to
overthrow. Can you bind a man's belief by making him sign certain
articles of Faith? No: his thought will be free, in spite of it;
and I would have Action--Life--as free as Thought. Our platform--
to adopt your image--has but one plank: Truth. Let each only be
true to himself: BE himself, ACT himself, or herself with the
uttermost candor. We can all agree upon that.'
"The agreement was accordingly made. And certainly no happier or
more hopeful human beings went to bed in all New England that
"I arose with the sun, went into the garden, and commenced weeding,
intending to do my quota of work before breakfast, and then devote
the day to reading and conversation. I was presently joined by
Shelldrake and Mallory, and between us we finished the onions and
radishes, stuck the peas, and cleaned the alleys. Perkins, after
milking the cow and turning her out to pasture, assisted Mrs.
Shelldrake in the kitchen. At breakfast we were joined by Hollins,
who made no excuse for his easy morning habits; nor was one
expected. I may as well tell you now, though, that his
natural instincts never led him to work. After a week, when a
second crop of weeds was coming on, Mallory fell off also, and
thenceforth Shelldrake and myself had the entire charge of the
garden. Perkins did the rougher work, and was always on hand when
he was wanted. Very soon, however, I noticed that he was in the
habit of disappearing for two or three hours in the afternoon.
"Our meals preserved the same Spartan simplicity. Eunice, however,
carried her point in regard to the salad; for Abel, after tasting
and finding it very palatable, decided that oil and vinegar might
be classed in the catalogue of True Food. Indeed, his long
abstinence from piquant flavors gave him such an appetite for it
that our supply of lettuce was soon exhausted. An embarrassing
accident also favored us with the use of salt. Perkins happening
to move his knee at the moment I was dipping an onion into the
blacking-box lid, our supply was knocked upon the floor. He picked
it up, and we both hoped the accident might pass unnoticed. But
Abel, stretching his long neck across the corner of the table,
caught a glimpse of what was going on.
"`What's that?' he asked.
"`Oh, it's--it's only,' said I, seeking for a synonyme, `only
chloride of sodium!'
"`Chloride of sodium! what do you do with it?'
"`Eat it with onions,' said I, boldly: `it's a chemical substance,
but I believe it is found in some plants.'
"Eunice, who knew something of chemistry (she taught a class,
though you wouldn't think it), grew red with suppressed fun, but
the others were as ignorant as Abel Mallory himself.
"`Let me taste it,' said he, stretching out an onion.
"I handed him the box-lid, which still contained a portion of its
contents. He dipped the onion, bit off a piece, and chewed it
"`Why,' said he, turning to me, `it's very much like salt.'
"Perkins burst into a spluttering yell, which discharged an onion-
top he had just put between his teeth across the table; Eunice and
I gave way at the same moment; and the others, catching the joke,
joined us. But while we were laughing, Abel was finishing his
onion, and the result was that Salt was added to the True Food, and
thereafter appeared regularly on the table.
"The forenoons we usually spent in reading and writing, each in his
or her chamber. (Oh, the journals, Ned!--but you shall not see
mine.) After a midday meal,--I cannot call it dinner,--we sat upon
the stoop, listening while one of us read aloud, or strolled down
the shores on either side, or, when the sun was not too warm, got
into a boat, and rowed or floated lazily around the promontory.
"One afternoon, as I was sauntering off, past the garden, towards
the eastern inlet, I noticed Perkins slipping along behind the
cedar knobs, towards the little woodland at the end of our domain.
Curious to find out the cause of his mysterious disappearances, I
followed cautiously. From the edge of the wood I saw him enter a
little gap between the rocks, which led down to the water.
Presently a thread of blue smoke stole up. Quietly creeping along,
I got upon the nearer bluff and looked down. There was a sort of
hearth built up at the base of the rock, with a brisk little fire
burning upon it, but Perkins had disappeared. I stretched myself
out upon the moss, in the shade, and waited. In about half an hour
up came Perkins, with a large fish in one hand and a lump of clay
in the other. I now understood the mystery. He carefully imbedded
the fish in a thin layer of clay, placed it on the coals, and then
went down to the shore to wash his hands. On his return he found
me watching the fire.
"`Ho, ho, Mr. Enos!' said he, `you've found me out; But you won't
say nothin'. Gosh! you like it as well I do. Look 'ee there!'--
breaking open the clay, from which arose `a steam of rich distilled
perfumes,'--`and, I say, I've got the box-lid with that 'ere stuff
in it,--ho! ho!'--and the scamp roared again.
"Out of a hole in the rock he brought salt and the end of a loaf,
and between us we finished the fish. Before long, I got into the
habit of disappearing in the afternoon.
"Now and then we took walks, alone or collectively, to the nearest
village, or even to Bridgeport, for the papers or a late book. The
few purchases we required were made at such times, and sent down in
a cart, or, if not too heavy, carried by Perkins in a basket. I
noticed that Abel, whenever we had occasion to visit a grocery,
would go sniffing around, alternately attracted or repelled by the
various articles: now turning away with a shudder from a
ham,--now inhaling, with a fearful delight and uncertainty,
the odor of smoked herrings. `I think herrings must feed on sea-
weed,' said he, `there is such a vegetable attraction about them.'
After his violent vegetarian harangues, however, he hesitated about
adding them to his catalogue.
"But, one day, as we were passing through the village, he was
reminded by the sign of `WARTER CRACKERS' in the window of an
obscure grocery that he required a supply of these articles, and we
therefore entered. There was a splendid Rhode Island cheese on the
counter, from which the shop-mistress was just cutting a slice for
a customer. Abel leaned over it, inhaling the rich, pungent
"`Enos,' said he to me, between his sniffs, `this impresses me like
flowers--like marigolds. It must be--really--yes, the vegetable
element is predominant. My instinct towards it is so strong that
I cannot be mistaken. May I taste it, ma'am?'
"The woman sliced off a thin corner, and presented it to him on the
"`Delicious!' he exclaimed; `I am right,--this is the True Food.
Give me two pounds--and the crackers, ma'am.'
"I turned away, quite as much disgusted as amused with this
charlatanism. And yet I verily believe the fellow was sincere--
self-deluded only. I had by this time lost my faith in him, though
not in the great Arcadian principles. On reaching home, after an
hour's walk, I found our household in unusual commotion. Abel
was writhing in intense pain: he had eaten the whole two pounds of
cheese, on his way home! His stomach, so weakened by years of
unhealthy abstinence from true nourishment, was now terribly
tortured by this sudden stimulus. Mrs. Shelldrake, fortunately,
had some mustard among her stores, and could therefore administer
a timely emetic. His life was saved, but he was very ill for two
or three days. Hollins did not fail to take advantage of this
circumstance to overthrow the authority which Abel had gradually
acquired on the subject of food. He was so arrogant in his nature
that he could not tolerate the same quality in another, even where
their views coincided.
"By this time several weeks had passed away. It was the beginning
of July, and the long summer heats had come. I was driven out of
my attic during the middle hours of the day, and the others found
it pleasanter on the doubly shaded stoop than in their chambers.
We were thus thrown more together than usual--a circumstance which
made our life more monotonous to the others, as I could see; but to
myself, who could at last talk to Eunice, and who was happy at the
very sight of her, this `heated term' seemed borrowed from Elysium.
I read aloud, and the sound of my own voice gave me confidence;
many passages suggested discussions, in which I took a part; and
you may judge, Ned, how fast I got on, from the fact that I
ventured to tell Eunice of my fish-bakes with Perkins, and invite
her to join them. After that, she also often disappeared from
sight for an hour or two in the afternoon."
----"Oh, Mr. Johnson," interrupted Mrs. Billings, "it wasn't for
"Of course not," said her husband; "it was for my sake."
"No, you need not think it was for you. Enos," she added,
perceiving the feminine dilemma into which she had been led, "all
this is not necessary to the story."
"Stop!" he answered. "The A. C. has been revived for this night
only. Do you remember our platform, or rather no-platform? I must
follow my impulses, and say whatever comes uppermost."
"Right, Enos," said Mr. Johnson; "I, as temporary Arcadian, take
the same ground. My instinct tells me that you, Mrs. Billings,
must permit the confession."
She submitted with a good grace, and her husband continued:
"I said that our lazy life during the hot weather had become a
little monotonous. The Arcadian plan had worked tolerably well, on
the whole, for there was very little for any one to do--Mrs.
Shelldrake and Perkins Brown excepted. Our conversation, however,
lacked spirit and variety. We were, perhaps unconsciously, a
little tired of hearing and assenting to the same sentiments. But
one evening, about this time, Hollins struck upon a variation, the
consequences of which he little foresaw. We had been reading one
of Bulwer's works (the weather was too hot for Psychology), and
came upon this paragraph, or something like it:
"`Ah, Behind the Veil! We see the summer smile of the Earth--
enamelled meadow and limpid stream,--but what hides she in her
sunless heart? Caverns of serpents, or grottoes of priceless gems?
Youth, whose soul sits on thy countenance, thyself wearing no mask,
strive not to lift the masks of others! Be content with what thou
seest; and wait until Time and Experience shall teach thee to find
jealousy behind the sweet smile, and hatred under the honeyed
"This seemed to us a dark and bitter reflection; but one or another
of us recalled some illustration of human hypocrisy, and the
evidences, by the simple fact of repetition, gradually led to a
division of opinion--Hollins, Shelldrake, and Miss Ringtop on the
dark side, and the rest of us on the bright. The last, however,
contented herself with quoting from her favorite poet, Gamaliel J.
"`I look beyond thy brow's concealment!
I see thy spirit's dark revealment!
Thy inner self betrayed I see:
Thy coward, craven, shivering ME!'
"`We think we know one another,' exclaimed Hollins; `but do we? We
see the faults of others, their weaknesses, their disagreeable
qualities, and we keep silent. How much we should gain, were
candor as universal as concealment! Then each one, seeing himself
as others see him, would truly know himself. How much
misunderstanding might be avoided--how much hidden shame be
removed--hopeless, because unspoken, love made glad--honest
admiration cheer its object--uttered sympathy mitigate
misfortune--in short, how much brighter and happier the world would
become if each one expressed, everywhere and at all times, his true
and entire feeling! Why, even Evil would lose half its power!'
"There seemed to be so much practical wisdom in these views that we
were all dazzled and half-convinced at the start. So, when
Hollins, turning towards me, as he continued, exclaimed--`Come, why
should not this candor be adopted in our Arcadia? Will any one--
will you, Enos--commence at once by telling me now--to my face--my
principal faults?' I answered after a moment's reflection--`You
have a great deal of intellectual arrogance, and you are,
physically, very indolent'
"He did not flinch from the self-invited test, though he looked a
"`Well put,' said he, `though I do not say that you are entirely
correct. Now, what are my merits?'
"`You are clear-sighted,' I answered, `an earnest seeker after
truth, and courageous in the avowal of your thoughts.'
"This restored the balance, and we soon began to confess our own
private faults and weaknesses. Though the confessions did not go
very deep,--no one betraying anything we did not all know
already,--yet they were sufficient to strength Hollins in his new
idea, and it was unanimously resolved that Candor should
thenceforth be the main charm of our Arcadian life. It was the
very thing _I_ wanted, in order to make a certain communication to
Eunice; but I should probably never have reached the point,
had not the same candor been exercised towards me, from a quarter
where I least expected it.
"The next day, Abel, who had resumed his researches after the True
Food, came home to supper with a healthier color than I had before
seen on his face.
"`Do you know,' said he, looking shyly at Hollins, `that I begin to
think Beer must be a natural beverage? There was an auction in the
village to-day, as I passed through, and I stopped at a cake-stand
to get a glass of water, as it was very hot. There was no water--
only beer: so I thought I would try a glass, simply as an
experiment. Really, the flavor was very agreeable. And it
occurred to me, on the way home, that all the elements contained in
beer are vegetable. Besides, fermentation is a natural process.
I think the question has never been properly tested before.'
"`But the alcohol!' exclaimed Hollins.
"`I could not distinguish any, either by taste or smell. I know
that chemical analysis is said to show it; but may not the alcohol
be created, somehow, during the analysis?'
"`Abel,' said Hollins, in a fresh burst of candor, `you will never
be a Reformer, until you possess some of the commonest elements of
"The rest of us were much diverted: it was a pleasant relief to our
"Abel, however, had a stubborn streak in his character. The next
day he sent Perkins Brown to Bridgeport for a dozen bottles of
`Beer.' Perkins, either intentionally or by mistake, (I always
suspected the former,) brought pint-bottles of Scotch ale,
which he placed in the coolest part of the cellar. The evening
happened to be exceedingly hot and sultry, and, as we were all
fanning ourselves and talking languidly, Abel bethought him of his
beer. In his thirst, he drank the contents of the first bottle,
almost at a single draught.
"`The effect of beer,' said he, `depends, I think, on the
commixture of the nourishing principle of the grain with the
cooling properties of the water. Perhaps, hereafter, a liquid food
of the same character may be invented, which shall save us from
mastication and all the diseases of the teeth.'
"Hollins and Shelldrake, at his invitation, divided a bottle
between them, and he took a second. The potent beverage was not
long in acting on a brain so unaccustomed to its influence. He
grew unusually talkative and sentimental, in a few minutes.
"`Oh, sing, somebody!' he sighed in a hoarse rapture: `the night
was made for Song.'
"Miss Ringtop, nothing loath, immediately commenced, `When stars
are in the quiet skies;' but scarcely had she finished the first
verse before Abel interrupted her.
"`Candor's the order of the day, isn't it?' he asked.
"`Yes!' `Yes!' two or three answered.
"`Well then,' said he, `candidly, Pauline, you've got the darn'dest
"Miss Ringtop gave a faint little scream of horror.
"`Oh, never mind!' he continued. `We act according to
impulse, don't we? And I've the impulse to swear; and it's right.
Let Nature have her way. Listen! Damn, damn, damn, damn! I never
knew it was so easy. Why, there's a pleasure in it! Try it,
Pauline! try it on me!'
"`Oh-ooh!' was all Miss Ringtop could utter.
"`Abel! Abel!' exclaimed Hollins, `the beer has got into your
"`No, it isn't Beer,--it's Candor!' said Abel. `It's your own
proposal, Hollins. Suppose it's evil to swear: isn't it better I
should express it, and be done with it, than keep it bottled up to
ferment in my mind? Oh, you're a precious, consistent old humbug,
"And therewith he jumped off the stoop, and went dancing awkwardly
down towards the water, singing in a most unmelodious voice, `'Tis
home where'er the heart is.'
"`Oh, he may fall into the water!' exclaimed Eunice, in alarm.
"`He's not fool enough to do that,' said Shelldrake. `His head is
a little light, that's all. The air will cool him down presently.'
But she arose and followed him, not satisfied with this assurance.
Miss Ringtop sat rigidly still. She would have received with
composure the news of his drowning.
"As Eunice's white dress disappeared among the cedars crowning the
shore, I sprang up and ran after her. I knew that Abel was not
intoxicated, but simply excited, and I had no fear on his account:
I obeyed an involuntary impulse. On approaching the water, I
heard their voices--hers in friendly persuasion, his in sentimental
entreaty,--then the sound of oars in the row-locks. Looking out
from the last clump of cedars, I saw them seated in the boat,
Eunice at the stern, while Abel, facing her, just dipped an oar now
and then to keep from drifting with the tide. She had found him
already in the boat, which was loosely chained to a stone.
Stepping on one of the forward thwarts in her eagerness to persuade
him to return, he sprang past her, jerked away the chain, and
pushed off before she could escape. She would have fallen, but he
caught her and placed her in the stern, and then seated himself at
the oars. She must have been somewhat alarmed, but there was only
indignation in her voice. All this had transpired before my
arrival, and the first words I heard bound me to the spot and kept
"`Abel, what does this mean?' she asked
"`It means Fate--Destiny!' he exclaimed, rather wildly. `Ah,
Eunice, ask the night, and the moon,--ask the impulse which told
you to follow me! Let us be candid like the old Arcadians we
imitate. Eunice, we know that we love each other: why should we
conceal it any longer? The Angel of Love comes down from the stars
on his azure wings, and whispers to our hearts. Let us confess to
each other! The female heart should not be timid, in this pure and
beautiful atmosphere of Love which we breathe. Come, Eunice! we
are alone: let your heart speak to me!'
"Ned, if you've ever been in love, (we'll talk of that after
a while,) you will easily understand what tortures I endured, in
thus hearing him speak. That HE should love Eunice! It was a
profanation to her, an outrage to me. Yet the assurance with which
he spoke! COULD she love this conceited, ridiculous, repulsive
fellow, after all? I almost gasped for breath, as I clinched the
prickly boughs of the cedars in my hands, and set my teeth, waiting
to hear her answer.
"`I will not hear such language! Take me back to the shore!' she
said, in very short, decided tones.
"`Oh, Eunice,' he groaned, (and now, I think he was perfectly
sober,) `don't you love me, indeed? _I_ love you,--from my heart
I do: yes, I love you. Tell me how you feel towards me.'
"`Abel,' said she, earnestly, `I feel towards you only as a friend;
and if you wish me to retain a friendly interest in you, you must
never again talk in this manner. I do not love you, and I never
shall. Let me go back to the house.'
"His head dropped upon his breast, but he rowed back to the shore,
drew the bow upon the rocks, and assisted her to land. Then,
sitting down, he groaned forth--
"`Oh, Eunice, you have broken my heart!' and putting his big hands
to his face, began to cry.
"She turned, placed one hand on his shoulder, and said in a calm,
but kind tone--
"`I am very sorry, Abel, but I cannot help it.'
"I slipped aside, that she might not see me, and we returned by
"I slept very little that night. The conviction which I chased
away from my mind as often as it returned, that our Arcadian
experiment was taking a ridiculous and at the same time
impracticable development, became clearer and stronger. I felt
sure that our little community could not hold together much longer
without an explosion. I had a presentiment that Eunice shared my
impressions. My feelings towards her had reached that crisis where
a declaration was imperative: but how to make it? It was a
terrible struggle between my shyness and my affection. There was
another circumstance in connection with this subject, which
troubled me not a little. Miss Ringtop evidently sought my
company, and made me, as much as possible, the recipient of her
sentimental outpourings. I was not bold enough to repel her--
indeed I had none of that tact which is so useful in such
emergencies,--and she seemed to misinterpret my submission. Not
only was her conversation pointedly directed to me, but she looked
at me, when singing, (especially, `Thou, thou, reign'st in this
bosom!') in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable. What if
Eunice should suspect an attachment towards her, on my part. What
if--oh, horror!--I had unconsciously said or done something to
impress Miss Ringtop herself with the same conviction? I shuddered
as the thought crossed my mind. One thing was very certain: this
suspense was not to be endured much longer.
"We had an unusually silent breakfast the next morning. Abel
scarcely spoke, which the others attributed to a natural
feeling of shame, after his display of the previous evening.
Hollins and Shelldrake discussed Temperance, with a special view to
his edification, and Miss Ringtop favored us with several
quotations about `the maddening bowl,'--but he paid no attention to
them. Eunice was pale and thoughtful. I had no doubt in my mind,
that she was already contemplating a removal from Arcadia.
Perkins, whose perceptive faculties were by no means dull,
whispered to me, `Shan't I bring up some porgies for supper?' but
I shook my head. I was busy with other thoughts, and did not join
him in the wood, that day.
"The forenoon was overcast, with frequent showers. Each one
occupied his or her room until dinner-time, when we met again with
something of the old geniality. There was an evident effort to
restore our former flow of good feeling. Abel's experience with
the beer was freely discussed. He insisted strongly that he had
not been laboring under its effects, and proposed a mutual test.
He, Shelldrake, and Hollins were to drink it in equal measures, and
compare observations as to their physical sensations. The others
agreed,--quite willingly, I thought,--but I refused. I had
determined to make a desperate attempt at candor, and Abel's fate
was fresh before my eyes.
"My nervous agitation increased during the day, and after sunset,
fearing lest I should betray my excitement in some way, I walked
down to the end of the promontory, and took a seat on the rocks.
The sky had cleared, and the air was deliciously cool and
sweet. The Sound was spread out before me like a sea, for the Long
Island shore was veiled in a silvery mist. My mind was soothed and
calmed by the influences of the scene, until the moon arose.
Moonlight, you know, disturbs--at least, when one is in love. (Ah,
Ned, I see you understand it!) I felt blissfully miserable, ready
to cry with joy at the knowledge that I loved, and with fear and
vexation at my cowardice, at the same time.
"Suddenly I heard a rustling beside me. Every nerve in my body
tingled, and I turned my head, with a beating and expectant heart.
Pshaw! It was Miss Ringtop, who spread her blue dress on the rock
beside me, and shook back her long curls, and sighed, as she gazed
at the silver path of the moon on the water.
"`Oh, how delicious!' she cried. `How it seems to set the spirit
free, and we wander off on the wings of Fancy to other spheres!'
"`Yes,' said I, `It is very beautiful, but sad, when one is alone.'
"I was thinking of Eunice.
"`How inadequate,' she continued, `is language to express the
emotions which such a scene calls up in the bosom! Poetry alone is
the voice of the spiritual world, and we, who are not poets, must
borrow the language of the gifted sons of Song. Oh, Enos, I
WISH you were a poet! But you FEEL poetry, I know you do.
I have seen it in your eyes, when I quoted the burning lines of
Adeliza Kelley, or the soul-breathings of Gamaliel J. Gawthrop.
In HIM, particularly, I find the voice of my own nature.
Do you know his `Night-Whispers?' How it embodies the feelings of
such a scene as this!
"Star-drooping bowers bending down the spaces,
And moonlit glories sweep star-footed on;
And pale, sweet rivers, in their shining races,
Are ever gliding through the moonlit places,
With silver ripples on their tranced faces,
And forests clasp their dusky hands, with low and sullen moan!'
"`Ah!' she continued, as I made no reply, `this is an hour for the
soul to unveil its most secret chambers! Do you not think, Enos,
that love rises superior to all conventionalities? that those whose
souls are in unison should be allowed to reveal themselves to each
other, regardless of the world's opinions?'
"`Yes!' said I, earnestly.
"`Enos, do you understand me?' she asked, in a tender voice--almost
"`Yes,' said I, with a blushing confidence of my own passion.
"`Then,' she whispered, `our hearts are wholly in unison. I know
you are true, Enos. I know your noble nature, and I will never
doubt you. This is indeed happiness!'
"And therewith she laid her head on my shoulder, and sighed--
"`Life remits his tortures cruel,
Love illumes his fairest fuel,
When the hearts that once were dual
Meet as one, in sweet renewal!'
"`Miss Ringtop!' I cried, starting away from her, in alarm, `you
don't mean that--that--'
"I could not finish the sentence.
"`Yes, Enos, DEAR Enos! henceforth we belong to each other.'
"The painful embarrassment I felt, as her true meaning shot through
my mind, surpassed anything I had imagined, or experienced in
anticipation, when planning how I should declare myself to Eunice.
Miss Ringtop was at least ten years older than I, far from handsome
(but you remember her face,) and so affectedly sentimental, that I,
sentimental as I was then, was sick of hearing her talk. Her
hallucination was so monstrous, and gave me such a shock of
desperate alarm, that I spoke, on the impulse of the moment, with
great energy, without regarding how her feelings might be wounded.
"`You mistake!' I exclaimed. `I didn't mean that,--I didn't
understand you. Don't talk to me that way,--don't look at me in
that way, Miss Ringtop! We were never meant for each other--I
wasn't----You're so much older--I mean different. It can't be--no,
it can never be! Let us go back to the house: the night is cold.'
"I rose hastily to my feet. She murmured something,--what, I did
not stay to hear,--but, plunging through the cedars, was hurrying
with all speed to the house, when, half-way up the lawn, beside one
of the rocky knobs, I met Eunice, who was apparently on her way to
In my excited mood, after the ordeal through which I had
passed, everything seemed easy. My usual timidity was blown
to the four winds. I went directly to her, took her hand, and
"`Eunice, the others are driving me mad with their candor; will you
let me be candid, too?'
"`I think you are always candid, Enos,' she answered.
"Even then, if I had hesitated, I should have been lost. But I
went on, without pausing--
"`Eunice, I love you--I have loved you since we first met. I came
here that I might be near you; but I must leave you forever, and
to-night, unless you can trust your life in my keeping. God help
me, since we have been together I have lost my faith in almost
everything but you. Pardon me, if I am impetuous--different from
what I have seemed. I have struggled so hard to speak! I have
been a coward, Eunice, because of my love. But now I have spoken,
from my heart of hearts. Look at me: I can bear it now. Read the
truth in my eyes, before you answer.'
"I felt her hand tremble while I spoke. As she turned towards me
her face, which had been averted, the moon shone full upon it, and
I saw that tears were upon her cheeks. What was said--whether
anything was said--I cannot tell. I felt the blessed fact, and
that was enough. That was the dawning of the true Arcadia."
Mrs. Billings, who had been silent during this recital, took her
husband's hand and smiled. Mr. Johnson felt a dull pang about the
region of his heart. If he had a secret, however, I do not
feel justified in betraying it.
"It was late," Mr. Billings continued, "before we returned to the
house. I had a special dread of again encountering Miss Ringtop,
but she was wandering up and down the bluff, under the pines,
singing, `The dream is past.' There was a sound of loud voices, as
we approached the stoop. Hollins, Shelldrake and his wife, and
Abel Mallory were sitting together near the door. Perkins Brown,
as usual, was crouched on the lowest step, with one leg over the
other, and rubbing the top of his boot with a vigor which betrayed
to me some secret mirth. He looked up at me from under his straw
hat with the grin of a malicious Puck, glanced towards the group,
and made a curious gesture with his thumb. There were several
empty pint-bottles on the stoop.
"`Now, are you sure you can bear the test?' we heard Hollins ask,
as we approached.
"`Bear it? Why to be sure!' replied Shelldrake; `if I couldn't
bear it, or if YOU couldn't, your theory's done for. Try! I
can stand it as long as you can.'
"`Well, then,' said Hollins, `I think you are a very ordinary man.
I derive no intellectual benefit from my intercourse with you, but
your house is convenient to me. I'm under no obligations for your
hospitality, however, because my company is an advantage to you.
Indeed if I were treated according to my deserts, you couldn't do
enough for me.'
"Mrs. Shelldrake was up in arms.
"`Indeed,' she exclaimed, `I think you get as good as you deserve,
and more too.'
"`Elvira,' said he, with a benevolent condescension, `I have no
doubt you think so, for your mind belongs to the lowest and most
material sphere. You have your place in Nature, and you fill it;
but it is not for you to judge of intelligences which move only on
the upper planes.'
"`Hollins,' said Shelldrake, `Elviry's a good wife and a sensible
woman, and I won't allow you to turn up your nose at her.'
"`I am not surprised,' he answered, `that you should fail to stand
the test. I didn't expect it.'
"`Let me try it on YOU!' cried Shelldrake. `You, now, have some
intellect,--I don't deny that,--but not so much, by a long shot, as
you think you have. Besides that, you're awfully selfish in your
opinions. You won't admit that anybody can be right who differs
from you. You've sponged on me for a long time; but I suppose I've
learned something from you, so we'll call it even. I think,
however, that what you call acting according to impulse is simply
an excuse to cover your own laziness.'
"`Gosh! that's it!' interrupted Perkins, jumping up; then,
recollecting himself, he sank down on the steps again, and shook
with a suppressed `Ho! ho! ho!'
"Hollins, however, drew himself up with an exasperated air.
"`Shelldrake,' said he, `I pity you. I always knew your ignorance,
but I thought you honest in your human character. I never
suspected you of envy and malice. However, the true Reformer must
expect to be misunderstood and misrepresented by meaner minds.
That love which I bear to all creatures teaches me to forgive you.
Without such love, all plans of progress must fail. Is it not so,
"Shelldrake could only ejaculate the words, `Pity!' `Forgive?' in
his most contemptuous tone; while Mrs. Shelldrake, rocking
violently in her chair, gave utterance to that peculiar clucking,
`TS, TS, TS, TS,' whereby certain women express emotions too
deep for words.
"Abel, roused by Hollins's question, answered, with a sudden
"`Love! there is no love in the world. Where will you find it?
Tell me, and I'll go there. Love! I'd like to see it! If all
human hearts were like mine, we might have an Arcadia; but most men
have no hearts. The world is a miserable, hollow, deceitful shell
of vanity and hypocrisy. No: let us give up. We were born before
our time: this age is not worthy of us.'
"Hollins stared at the speaker in utter amazement. Shelldrake gave
a long whistle, and finally gasped out--
"`Well, what next?'
"None of us were prepared for such a sudden and complete wreck of
our Arcadian scheme. The foundations had been sapped before, it is
true; but we had not perceived it; and now, in two short days, the
whole edifice tumbled about our ears. Though it was inevitable, we
felt a shock of sorrow, and a silence fell upon us. Only that
scamp of a Perkins Brown, chuckling and rubbing his boot, really
rejoiced. I could have kicked him.
"We all went to bed, feeling that the charm of our Arcadian life
was over. I was so full of the new happiness of love that I was
scarcely conscious of regret. I seemed to have leaped at once into
responsible manhood, and a glad rush of courage filled me at the
knowledge that my own heart was a better oracle than those--now so
shamefully overthrown--on whom I had so long implicitly relied. In
the first revulsion of feeling, I was perhaps unjust to my
associates. I see now, more clearly, the causes of those vagaries,
which originated in a genuine aspiration, and failed from an
ignorance of the true nature of Man, quite as much as from the
egotism of the individuals. Other attempts at reorganizing Society
were made about the same time by men of culture and experience, but
in the A. C. we had neither. Our leaders had caught a few half-
truths, which, in their minds, were speedily warped into errors.
I can laugh over the absurdities I helped to perpetrate, but I must
confess that the experiences of those few weeks went far towards
making a man of me."
"Did the A. C. break up at once?" asked Mr. Johnson.
"Not precisely; though Eunice and I left the house within two days,
as we had agreed. We were not married immediately, however. Three
long years--years of hope and mutual encouragement--passed away
before that happy consummation. Before our departure, Hollins had
fallen into his old manner, convinced, apparently, that Candor
must be postponed to a better age of the world. But the quarrel
rankled in Shelldrake's mind, and especially in that of his wife.
I could see by her looks and little fidgety ways that his further
stay would be very uncomfortable. Abel Mallory, finding himself
gaining in weight and improving in color, had no thought of
returning. The day previous, as I afterwards learned, he had
discovered Perkins Brown's secret kitchen in the woods.
"`Golly!' said that youth, in describing the circumstance to me, `I
had to ketch TWO porgies that day.'
"Miss Ringtop, who must have suspected the new relation between
Eunice and myself, was for the most part rigidly silent. If she
quoted, it was from the darkest and dreariest utterances of her
"What happened after our departure I learned from Perkins, on the
return of the Shelldrakes to Norridgeport, in September. Mrs.
Shelldrake stoutly persisted in refusing to make Hollins's bed, or
to wash his shirts. Her brain was dull, to be sure; but she was
therefore all the more stubborn in her resentment. He bore this
state of things for about a week, when his engagements to lecture
in Ohio suddenly called him away. Abel and Miss Ringtop were left
to wander about the promontory in company, and to exchange
lamentations on the hollowness of human hopes or the pleasures of
despair. Whether it was owing to that attraction of sex which
would make any man and any woman, thrown together on a desert
island, finally become mates, or whether she skilfully ministered
to Abel's sentimental vanity, I will not undertake to decide: but
the fact is, they were actually betrothed, on leaving Arcadia.
I think he would willingly have retreated, after his return to the
world; but that was not so easy. Miss Ringtop held him with an
inexorable clutch. They were not married, however, until just
before his departure for California, whither she afterwards
followed him. She died in less than a year, and left him free."
"And what became of the other Arcadians?" asked Mr. Johnson.
"The Shelldrakes are still living in Norridgeport. They have
become Spiritualists, I understand, and cultivate Mediums.
Hollins, when I last heard of him, was a Deputy-Surveyor in the New
York Custom-House. Perkins Brown is our butcher here in Waterbury,
and he often asks me--`Do you take chloride of soda on your
beefsteaks?' He is as fat as a prize ox, and the father of five
"Enos!" exclaimed Mrs. Billings, looking at the clock, "it's nearly
midnight! Mr. Johnson must be very tired, after such a long story.
The Chapter of the A. C. is hereby closed!"
FRIEND ELI'S DAUGHTER.
The mild May afternoon was drawing to a close, as Friend Eli Mitch-
enor reached the top of the long hill, and halted a few minutes, to
allow his horse time to recover breath. He also heaved a sigh of
satisfaction, as he saw again the green, undulating valley of the
Neshaminy, with its dazzling squares of young wheat, its brown
patches of corn-land, its snowy masses of blooming orchard, and the
huge, fountain like jets of weeping willow, half concealing the
gray stone fronts of the farm-houses. He had been absent from home
only six days, but the time seemed almost as long to him as a three
years' cruise to a New Bedford whaleman. The peaceful seclusion
and pastoral beauty of the scene did not consciously appeal to his
senses; but he quietly noted how much the wheat had grown during
his absence, that the oats were up and looking well, that Friend
Comly's meadow had been ploughed, and Friend Martin had built his
half of the line-fence along the top of the hill-field. If any
smothered delight in the loveliness of the spring-time found
a hiding-place anywhere in the well-ordered chambers of his heart,
it never relaxed or softened the straight, inflexible lines of his
face. As easily could his collarless drab coat and waistcoat have
flushed with a sudden gleam of purple or crimson.
Eli Mitchenor was at peace with himself and the world--that is, so
much of the world as he acknowledged. Beyond the community of his
own sect, and a few personal friends who were privileged to live on
its borders, he neither knew nor cared to know much more of the
human race than if it belonged to a planet farther from the sun.
In the discipline of the Friends he was perfect; he was privileged
to sit on the high seats, with the elders of the Society; and the
travelling brethren from other States, who visited Bucks County,
invariably blessed his house with a family-meeting. His farm was
one of the best on the banks of the Neshaminy, and he also enjoyed
the annual interest of a few thousand dollars, carefully secured by
mortgages on real estate. His wife, Abigail, kept even pace with
him in the consideration she enjoyed within the limits of the sect;
and his two children, Moses and Asenath, vindicated the paternal
training by the strictest sobriety of dress and conduct. Moses
wore the plain coat, even when his ways led him among "the world's
people;" and Asenath had never been known to wear, or to express a
desire for, a ribbon of a brighter tint than brown or fawn-color.
Friend Mitchenor had thus gradually ripened to his sixtieth year in
an atmosphere of life utterly placid and serene, and looked
forward with confidence to the final change, as a translation into
a deeper calm, a serener quiet, a prosperous eternity of mild
voices, subdued colors, and suppressed emotions.
He was returning home, in his own old-fashioned "chair," with its
heavy square canopy and huge curved springs, from the Yearly
Meeting of the Hicksite Friends, in Philadelphia. The large bay
farm-horse, slow and grave in his demeanor, wore his plain harness
with an air which made him seem, among his fellow-horses, the
counterpart of his master among men. He would no more have thought
of kicking than the latter would of swearing a huge oath. Even
now, when the top of the hill was gained, and he knew that he was
within a mile of the stable which had been his home since colthood,
he showed no undue haste or impatience, but waited quietly, until
Friend Mitchenor, by a well-known jerk of the lines, gave him the
signal to go on. Obedient to the motion, he thereupon set forward
once more, jogging soberly down the eastern slope of the hill,--
across the covered bridge, where, in spite of the tempting level of
the hollow-sounding floor, he was as careful to abstain from
trotting as if he had read the warning notice,--along the wooded
edge of the green meadow, where several cows of his acquaintance
were grazing,--and finally, wheeling around at the proper angle,
halted squarely in front of the gate which gave entrance to the
The old stone house in front, the spring-house in a green little
hollow just below it, the walled garden, with its clumps of
box and lilac, and the vast barn on the left, all joining in
expressing a silent welcome to their owner, as he drove up the
lane. Moses, a man of twenty-five, left his work in the garden,
and walked forward in his shirt-sleeves.
"Well, father, how does thee do?" was his quiet greeting, as they
"How's mother, by this time?" asked Eli.
"Oh, thee needn't have been concerned," said the son. "There she
is. Go in: I'll tend to the horse."
Abigail and her daughter appeared on the piazza. The mother was a
woman of fifty, thin and delicate in frame, but with a smooth,
placid beauty of countenance which had survived her youth. She was
dressed in a simple dove-colored gown, with book-muslin cap and
handkerchief, so scrupulously arranged that one might have
associated with her for six months without ever discovering a spot
on the former, or an uneven fold in the latter. Asenath, who
followed, was almost as plainly attired, her dress being a dark-
blue calico, while a white pasteboard sun-bonnet, with broad cape,
covered her head.
"Well, Abigail, how art thou?" said Eli, quietly giving his hand to
"I'm glad to see thee back," was her simple welcome.
No doubt they had kissed each other as lovers, but Asenath had
witnessed this manifestation of affection but once in her life--
after the burial of a younger sister. The fact impressed her with
a peculiar sense of sanctity and solemnity: it was a caress wrung
forth by a season of tribulation, and therefore was too
earnest to be profaned to the uses of joy. So far, therefore, from
expecting a paternal embrace, she would have felt, had it been
given, like the doomed daughter of the Gileadite, consecrated to
Both she and her mother were anxious to hear the proceedings of the
meeting, and to receive personal news of the many friends whom Eli
had seen; but they asked few questions until the supper-table was
ready and Moses had come in from the barn. The old man enjoyed
talking, but it must be in his own way and at his own good time.
They must wait until the communicative spirit should move him.
With the first cup of coffee the inspiration came. Hovering at
first over indifferent details, he gradually approached those of
more importance,--told of the addresses which had been made, the
points of discipline discussed, the testimony borne, and the
appearance and genealogy of any new Friends who had taken a
prominent part therein. Finally, at the close of his relation, he
"Abigail, there is one thing I must talk to thee about. Friend
Speakman's partner,--perhaps thee's heard of him, Richard Hilton,--
has a son who is weakly. He's two or three years younger than
Moses. His mother was consumptive, and they're afraid he takes
after her. His father wants to send him into the country for the
summer--to some place where he'll have good air, and quiet, and
moderate exercise, and Friend Speakman spoke of us. I thought I'd
mention it to thee, and if thee thinks well of it, we can send word
down next week, when Josiah Comly goes"
"What does THEE think?" asked his wife, after a pause
"He's a very quiet, steady young man, Friend Speakman says, and
would be very little trouble to thee. I thought perhaps his board
would buy the new yoke of oxen we must have in the fall, and the
price of the fat ones might go to help set up Moses. But it's for
thee to decide."
"I suppose we could take him," said Abigail, seeing that the
decision was virtually made already; "there's the corner room,
which we don't often use. Only, if he should get worse on our
"Friend Speakman says there's no danger. He is only weak-breasted,
as yet, and clerking isn't good for him. I saw the young man at
the store. If his looks don't belie him, he's well-behaved and
So it was settled that Richard Hilton the younger was to be an
inmate of Friend Mitchenor's house during the summer.
At the end of ten days he came.
In the under-sized, earnest, dark-haired and dark-eyed young man of
three-and-twenty, Abigail Mitchenor at once felt a motherly
interest. Having received him as a temporary member of the family,
she considered him entitled to the same watchful care as if he were
in reality an invalid son. The ice over an hereditary Quaker
nature is but a thin crust, if one knows how to break it; and in
Richard Hilton's case, it was already broken before his
arrival. His only embarrassment, in fact, arose from the
difficulty which he naturally experienced in adapting himself to
the speech and address of the Mitchenor family. The greetings of
old Eli, grave, yet kindly, of Abigail, quaintly familiar and
tender, of Moses, cordial and slightly condescending, and finally
of Asenath, simple and natural to a degree which impressed him like
a new revelation in woman, at once indicated to him his position
among them. His city manners, he felt, instinctively, must be
unlearned, or at least laid aside for a time. Yet it was not easy
for him to assume, at such short notice, those of his hosts.
Happening to address Asenath as "Miss Mitchenor," Eli turned to him
with a rebuking face.
"We do not use compliments, Richard," said he; "my daughter's name
"I beg pardon. I will try to accustom myself to your ways, since
you have been so kind as to take me for a while," apologized
"Thee's under no obligation to us," said Friend Mitchenor, in his
strict sense of justice; "thee pays for what thee gets."
The finer feminine instinct of Abigail led her to interpose.
"We'll not expect too much of thee, at first, Richard," she
remarked, with a kind expression of face, which had the effect of
a smile: "but our ways are plain and easily learned. Thee knows,
perhaps, that we're no respecters of persons."
It was some days, however, before the young man could overcome his
natural hesitation at the familiarity implied by these new forms of
speech. "Friend Mitchenor" and "Moses" were not difficult to
learn, but it seemed a want of respect to address as "Abigail" a
woman of such sweet and serene dignity as the mother, and he was
fain to avoid either extreme by calling her, with her cheerful
permission, "Aunt Mitchenor." On the other hand, his own modest
and unobtrusive nature soon won the confidence and cordial regard
of the family. He occasionally busied himself in the garden, by
way of exercise, or accompanied Moses to the corn-field or the
woodland on the hill, but was careful never to interfere at
inopportune times, and willing to learn silently, by the simple
process of looking on.
One afternoon, as he was idly sitting on the stone wall which
separated the garden from the lane, Asenath, attired in a new gown
of chocolate-colored calico, with a double-handled willow work-
basket on her arm, issued from the house. As she approached him,
she paused and said--
"The time seems to hang heavy on thy hands, Richard. If thee's
strong enough to walk to the village and back, it might do thee
more good than sitting still."
Richard Hilton at once jumped down from the wall.
"Certainly I am able to go," said he, "if you will allow it."
"Haven't I asked thee?" was her quiet reply.
"Let me carry your basket," he said, suddenly, after they had
walked, side by side, some distance down the lane.
"Indeed, I shall not let thee do that. I'm only going for the
mail, and some little things at the store, that make no weight at
all. Thee mustn't think I'm like the young women in the city, who,
I'm told, if they buy a spool of Cotton, must have it sent home to
them. Besides, thee mustn't over-exert thy strength."
Richard Hilton laughed merrily at the gravity with which she
uttered the last sentence.
"Why, Miss--Asenath, I mean--what am I good for; if I have not
strength enough to carry a basket?"
"Thee's a man, I know, and I think a man would almost as lief be
thought wicked as weak. Thee can't help being weakly-inclined, and
it's only right that thee should be careful of thyself. There's
surely nothing in that that thee need be ashamed of."
While thus speaking, Asenath moderated her walk, in order,
unconsciously to her companion, to restrain his steps.
"Oh, there are the dog's-tooth violets in blossom?" she exclaimed,
pointing to a shady spot beside the brook; "does thee know them?"
Richard immediately gathered and brought to her a handful of the
nodding yellow bells, trembling above their large, cool, spotted
"How beautiful they are!" said he; "but I should never have taken
them for violets."
"They are misnamed," she answered. "The flower is an
Erythronium; but I am accustomed to the common name, and like it.
Did thee ever study botany?"
"Not at all. I can tell a geranium, when I see it, and I know a
heliotrope by the smell. I could never mistake a red cabbage for
a rose, and I can recognize a hollyhock or a sunflower at a
considerable distance. The wild flowers are all strangers to me;
I wish I knew something about them."
"If thee's fond of flowers, it would be very easy to learn. I
think a study of this kind would pleasantly occupy thy mind. Why
couldn't thee try? I would be very willing to teach thee what
little I know. It's not much, indeed, but all thee wants is a
start. See, I will show thee how simple the principles are."
Taking one of the flowers from the bunch, Asenath, as they slowly
walked forward, proceeded to dissect it, explained the mysteries of
stamens and pistils, pollen, petals, and calyx, and, by the time
they had reached the village, had succeeded in giving him a general
idea of the Linnaean system of classification. His mind took hold
of the subject with a prompt and profound interest. It was a new
and wonderful world which suddenly opened before him. How
surprised he was to learn that there were signs by which a
poisonous herb could be detected from a wholesome one, that cedars
and pine-trees blossomed, that the gray lichens on the rocks
belonged to the vegetable kingdom! His respect for Asenath's
knowledge thrust quite out of sight the restraint which her youth
and sex had imposed upon him. She was teacher, equal, friend;
and the simple candid manner which was the natural expression of
her dignity and purity thoroughly harmonized with this relation.
Although, in reality, two or three years younger than he, Asenath
had a gravity of demeanor, a calm self-possession, a deliberate
balance of mind, and a repose of the emotional nature, which he had
never before observed, except in much older women. She had had, as
he could well imagine, no romping girlhood, no season of careless,
light-hearted dalliance with opening life, no violent alternation
even of the usual griefs and joys of youth. The social calm in
which she had expanded had developed her nature as gently and
securely as a sea-flower is unfolded below the reach of tides and
She would have been very much surprised if any one had called her
handsome: yet her face had a mild, unobtrusive beauty which seemed
to grow and deepen from day to day. Of a longer oval than the
Greek standard, it was yet as harmonious in outline; the nose was
fine and straight, the dark-blue eyes steady and untroubled, and
the lips calmly, but not too firmly closed. Her brown hair, parted
over a high white forehead, was smoothly laid across the temples,
drawn behind the ears, and twisted into a simple knot. The white
cape and sun-bonnet gave her face a nun-like character, which set
her apart, in the thoughts of "the world's people" whom she met, as
one sanctified for some holy work. She might have gone around the
world, repelling every rude word, every bold glance, by the
protecting atmosphere of purity and truth which inclosed her.
The days went by, each bringing some new blossom to adorn and
illustrate the joint studies of the young man and maiden. For
Richard Hilton had soon mastered the elements of botany, as taught
by Priscilla Wakefield,--the only source of Asenath's knowledge,--
and entered, with her, upon the text-book of Gray, a copy of which
he procured from Philadelphia. Yet, though he had overtaken her in
his knowledge of the technicalities of the science, her practical
acquaintance with plants and their habits left her still his
superior. Day by day, exploring the meadows, the woods, and the
clearings, he brought home his discoveries to enjoy her aid in
classifying and assigning them to their true places. Asenath had
generally an hour or two of leisure from domestic duties in the
afternoons, or after the early supper of summer was over; and
sometimes, on "Seventh-days," she would be his guide to some
locality where the rarer plants were known to exist. The parents
saw this community of interest and exploration without a thought of
misgiving. They trusted their daughter as themselves; or, if any
possible fear had flitted across their hearts, it was allayed by
the absorbing delight with which Richard Hilton pursued his study.
An earnest discussion as to whether a certain leaf was ovate or
lanceolate, whether a certain plant belonged to the species
scandens or canadensis, was, in their eyes, convincing proof
that the young brains were touched, and therefore NOT the young
But love, symbolized by a rose-bud, is emphatically a botanical
emotion. A sweet, tender perception of beauty, such as this study
requires, or develops, is at once the most subtile and certain
chain of communication between impressible natures. Richard
Hilton, feeling that his years were numbered, had given up, in
despair, his boyish dreams, even before he understood them: his
fate seemed to preclude the possibility of love. But, as he gained
a little strength from the genial season, the pure country air, and
the release from gloomy thoughts which his rambles afforded, the
end was farther removed, and a future--though brief, perhaps, still
a FUTURE--began to glimmer before him. If this could be his
life,--an endless summer, with a search for new plants every
morning, and their classification every evening, with Asenath's
help on the shady portico of Friend Mitchenor's house,--he could
forget his doom, and enjoy the blessing of life unthinkingly.
The azaleas succeeded to the anemones, the orchis and trillium
followed, then the yellow gerardias and the feathery purple
pogonias, and finally the growing gleam of the golden-rods along
the wood-side and the red umbels of the tall eupatoriums in the
meadow announced the close of summer. One evening, as Richard, in
displaying his collection, brought to view the blood-red leaf of a
gum-tree, Asenath exclaimed--
"Ah, there is the sign! It is early, this year."
"What sign?" he asked.
"That the summer is over. We shall soon have frosty nights,
and then nothing will be left for us except the asters and gentians
Was the time indeed so near? A few more weeks, and this Arcadian
life would close. He must go back to the city, to its rectilinear
streets, its close brick walls, its artificial, constrained
existence. How could he give up the peace, the contentment, the
hope he had enjoyed through the summer? The question suddenly took
a more definite form in his mind: How could he give up Asenath?
Yes--the quiet, unsuspecting girl, sitting beside him, with her lap
full of the September blooms he had gathered, was thenceforth a
part of his inmost life. Pure and beautiful as she was, almost
sacred in his regard, his heart dared to say--"I need her and claim
"Thee looks pale to-night, Richard," said Abigail, as they took
their seats at the supper-table. "I hope thee has not taken cold."
"Will thee go along, Richard? I know where the rudbeckias grow,"
said Asenath, on the following "Seventh-day" afternoon.
They crossed the meadows, and followed the course of the stream,
under its canopy of magnificent ash and plane trees, into a brake
between the hills. It was an almost impenetrable thicket, spangled
with tall autumnal flowers. The eupatoriums, with their purple
crowns, stood like young trees, with an undergrowth of aster
and blue spikes of lobelia, tangled in a golden mesh of dodder. A
strong, mature odor, mixed alike of leaves and flowers, and very
different from the faint, elusive sweetness of spring, filled the
air. The creek, with a few faded leaves dropped upon its bosom,
and films of gossamer streaming from its bushy fringe, gurgled over
the pebbles in its bed. Here and there, on its banks, shone the
deep yellow stars of the flower they sought.
Richard Hilton walked as in a dream, mechanically plucking a stem
of rudbeckia, only to toss it, presently, into the water.
"Why, Richard! what's thee doing?" cried Asenath; "thee has thrown
away the very best specimen."
"Let it go," he answered, sadly. "I am afraid everything else is
"What does thee mean?" she asked, with a look of surprised and
"Don't ask me, Asenath. Or--yes, I WILL tell you. I must say
it to you now, or never afterwards. Do you know what a happy life
I've been leading since I came here?--that I've learned what life
is, as if I'd never known it before? I want to live, Asenath,--and
do you know why?"
"I hope thee will live, Richard," she said, gently and tenderly,
her deep-blue eyes dim with the mist of unshed tears.
"But, Asenath, how am I to live without you? But you can't
understand that, because you do not know what you are to me.
No, you never guessed that all this while I've been loving you more
and more, until now I have no other idea of death than not to see
you, not to love you, not to share your life!"
"I knew you would be shocked, Asenath. I meant to have kept this
to myself. You never dreamed of it, and I had no right to disturb
the peace of your heart. The truth is told now,--and I cannot take
it back, if I wished. But if you cannot love, you can forgive me
for loving you--forgive me now and every day of my life."
He uttered these words with a passionate tenderness, standing on
the edge of the stream, and gazing into its waters. His slight
frame trembled with the violence of his emotion. Asenath, who had
become very pale as he commenced to speak, gradually flushed over
neck and brow as she listened. Her head drooped, the gathered
flowers fell from her hands, and she hid her face. For a few
minutes no sound was heard but the liquid gurgling of the water,
and the whistle of a bird in the thicket beside them. Richard
Hilton at last turned, and, in a voice of hesitating entreaty,
pronounced her name--
She took away her hands, and slowly lifted her face. She was pale,
but her eyes met his with a frank, appealing, tender expression,
which caused his heart to stand still a moment. He read no
reproach, no faintest thought of blame; but--was it pity?--was it
"We stand before God, Richard," said she, in a low, sweet,
solemn tone. "He knows that I do not need to forgive thee. If
thee requires it, I also require His forgiveness for myself."
Though a deeper blush now came to cheek and brow, she met his gaze
with the bravery of a pure and innocent heart. Richard, stunned
with the sudden and unexpected bliss, strove to take the full
consciousness of it into a being which seemed too narrow to contain
it. His first impulse was to rush forward, clasp her passionately
in his arms, and hold her in the embrace which encircled, for him,
the boundless promise of life; but she stood there, defenceless,
save in her holy truth and trust, and his heart bowed down and gave
"Asenath," said he, at last, "I never dared to hope for this. God
bless you for those words! Can you trust me?--can you indeed love
"I can trust thee,--I DO love thee!"
They clasped each other's hands in one long, clinging pressure. No
kiss was given, but side by side they walked slowly up the dewy
meadows, in happy and hallowed silence. Asenath's face became
troubled as the old farmhouse appeared through the trees.
"Father and mother must know of this, Richard," said she. "I am
afraid it may be a cross to them."
The same fear had already visited his own mind, but he answered,
"I hope not. I think I have taken a new lease of life, and shall
soon be strong enough to satisfy them. Besides, my father is in
"It is not that," she answered; "but thee is not one of us."
It was growing dusk when they reached the house. In the dim
candle-light Asenath's paleness was not remarked; and Richard's
silence was attributed to fatigue.
The next morning the whole family attended meeting at the
neighboring Quaker meeting-house, in the preparation for which, and
the various special occupations of their "First-day" mornings, the
unsuspecting parents overlooked that inevitable change in the faces
of the lovers which they must otherwise have observed. After
dinner, as Eli was taking a quiet walk in the garden, Richard
Hilton approached him.
"Friend Mitchenor," said he, "I should like to have some talk with
"What is it, Richard?" asked the old man, breaking off some pods
from a seedling radish, and rubbing them in the palm of his hand.
"I hope, Friend Mitchenor," said the young man, scarcely knowing
how to approach so important a crisis in his life, "I hope thee has
been satisfied with my conduct since I came to live with thee, and
has no fault to find with me as a man."
"Well," exclaimed Eli, turning around and looking up, sharply,
"does thee want a testimony from me? I've nothing, that I know of,
to say against thee."
"If I were sincerely attached to thy daughter, Friend Mitchenor,
and she returned the attachment, could thee trust her happiness in
"What!" cried Eli, straightening himself and glaring upon the
speaker, with a face too amazed to express any other feeling.
"Can you confide Asenath's happiness to my care? I love her with
my whole heart and soul, and the fortune of my life depends on your
The straight lines in the old man's face seemed to grow deeper and
more rigid, and his eyes shone with the chill glitter of steel.
Richard, not daring to say a word more, awaited his reply in
"So!" he exclaimed at last, "this is the way thee's repaid me! I
didn't expect THIS from thee! Has thee spoken to her?"
"Thee has, has thee? And I suppose thee's persuaded her to think
as thee does. Thee'd better never have come here. When I want to
lose my daughter, and can't find anybody else for her, I'll let
"What have you against me, Friend Mitchenor?" Richard sadly asked,
forgetting, in his excitement, the Quaker speech he had learned.
"Thee needn't use compliments now! Asenath shall be a Friend while
_I_ live; thy fine clothes and merry-makings and vanities are not
for her. Thee belongs to the world, and thee may choose one of the
"Never!" protested Richard; but Friend Mitchenor was already
ascending the garden-steps on his way to the house.
The young man, utterly overwhelmed, wandered to the nearest
grove and threw himself on the ground. Thus, in a miserable chaos
of emotion, unable to grasp any fixed thought, the hours passed
away. Towards evening, he heard a footstep approaching, and sprang
up. It was Moses.
The latter was engaged, with the consent of his parents and
expected to "pass meeting" in a few weeks. He knew what had
happened, and felt a sincere sympathy for Richard, for whom he had
a cordial regard. His face was very grave, but kind.
"Thee'd better come in, Richard," said he; "the evenings are damp,
and I v'e brought thy overcoat. I know everything, and I feel that
it must be a great cross for thee. But thee won't be alone in
"Do you think there is no hope of your father relenting?" he asked,
in a tone of despondency which anticipated the answer.
"Father's very hard to move," said Moses; "and when mother and
Asenath can't prevail on him, nobody else need try. I'm afraid
thee must make up thy mind to the trial. I'm sorry to say it,
Richard, but I think thee'd better go back to town."
"I'll go to-morrow,--go and die!" he muttered hoarsely, as he
followed Moses to the house.
Abigail, as she saw his haggard face, wept quietly. She pressed
his hand tenderly, but said nothing. Eli was stern and cold as an
Iceland rock. Asenath did not make her appearance. At supper, the
old man and his son exchanged a few words about the farm-work to be
done on the morrow, but nothing else was said. Richard soon
left the room and went up to his chamber to spend his last, his
only unhappy night at the farm. A yearning, pitying look from
Abigail accompanied him.
"Try and not think hard of us!" was her farewell the next morning,
as he stepped into the old chair, in which Moses was to convey him
to the village where he should meet the Doylestown stage. So,
without a word of comfort from Asenath's lips, without even a last
look at her beloved face, he was taken away.
True and firm and self-reliant as was the nature of Asenath
Mitchenor, the thought of resistance to her father's will never
crossed her mind. It was fixed that she must renounce all
intercourse with Richard Hilton; it was even sternly forbidden her
to see him again during the few hours he remained in the house; but
the sacred love, thus rudely dragged to the light and outraged, was
still her own. She would take it back into the keeping of her
heart, and if a day should ever come when he would be free to
return and demand it of her, he would find it there, unwithered,
with all the unbreathed perfume hoarded in its folded leaves. If
that day came not, she would at the last give it back to God,
saying, "Father, here is Thy most precious gift, bestow it as Thou
As her life had never before been agitated by any strong emotion,
so it was not outwardly agitated now. The placid waters of
her soul did not heave and toss before those winds of passion and
sorrow: they lay in dull, leaden calm, under a cold and sunless
sky. What struggles with herself she underwent no one ever knew.
After Richard Hilton's departure, she never mentioned his name, or
referred, in any way, to the summer's companionship with him. She
performed her household duties, if not cheerfully, at least as
punctually and carefully as before; and her father congratulated
himself that the unfortunate attachment had struck no deeper root.
Abigail's finer sight, however, was not deceived by this external
resignation. She noted the faint shadows under the eyes, the
increased whiteness of the temples, the unconscious traces of pain
which sometimes played about the dimpled corners of the mouth, and
watched her daughter with a silent, tender solicitude.
The wedding of Moses was a severe test of Asenath's strength, but
she stood the trial nobly, performing all the duties required by
her position with such sweet composure that many of the older
female Friends remarked to Abigail, "How womanly Asenath has
grown!" Eli Mitchenor noted, with peculiar satisfaction, that the
eyes of the young Friends--some of them of great promise in the
sect, and well endowed with worldly goods--followed her admiringly.
"It will not be long," he thought, "before she is consoled."
Fortune seemed to favor his plans, and justify his harsh treatment
of Richard Hilton. There were unfavorable accounts of the young
man's conduct. His father had died during the winter, and he
was represented as having become very reckless and dissipated.
These reports at last assumed such a definite form that Friend
Mitchenor brought them to the notice of his family.
"I met Josiah Comly in the road," said he, one day at dinner.
"He's just come from Philadelphia, and brings bad news of Richard
Hilton. He's taken to drink, and is spending in wickedness the
money his father left him. His friends have a great concern about
him, but it seems he's not to be reclaimed."
Abigail looked imploringly at her husband, but he either
disregarded or failed to understand her look. Asenath, who had
grown very pale, steadily met her father's gaze, and said, in a
tone which he had never yet heard from her lips--
"Father, will thee please never mention Richard Hilton's name when
I am by?"
The words were those of entreaty, but the voice was that of
authority. The old man was silenced by a new and unexpected power
in his daughter's heart: he suddenly felt that she was not a girl,
as heretofore, but a woman, whom he might persuade, but could no
"It shall be as thee wishes, Asenath," he said; "we had best forget
Of their friends, however, she could not expect this reserve, and
she was doomed to hear stories of Richard which clouded and
embittered her thoughts of him. And a still severer trial was in
store. She accompanied her father, in obedience to his wish,
and against her own desire, to the Yearly Meeting in Philadelphia.
It has passed into a proverb that the Friends, on these occasions,
always bring rain with them; and the period of her visit was no
exception to the rule. The showery days of "Yearly Meeting Week"
glided by, until the last, and she looked forward with relief to
the morrow's return to Bucks County, glad to have escaped a meeting
with Richard Hilton, which might have confirmed her fears and could
but have given her pain in any case.
As she and her father joined each other, outside the meeting-house,
at the close of the afternoon meeting, a light rain was falling.
She took his arm, under the capacious umbrella, and they were soon
alone in the wet streets, on their way to the house of the Friends
who entertained them. At a crossing, where the water pouring down
the gutter towards the Delaware, caused them to halt a man,
plashing through the flood, staggered towards them. Without an
umbrella, with dripping, disordered clothes, yet with a hot,
flushed face, around which the long black hair hung wildly, he
approached, singing to himself with maudlin voice a song that would
have been sweet and tender in a lover's mouth. Friend Mitchenor
drew to one side, lest his spotless drab should be brushed by the
unclean reveller; but the latter, looking up, stopped suddenly face
to face with them.
"Asenath!" he cried, in a voice whose anguish pierced through the
confusion of his senses, and struck down into the sober quick of
"Richard!" she breathed, rather than spoke, in a low, terrified
It was indeed Richard Hilton who stood before her, or rather--as
she afterwards thought, in recalling the interview--the body of
Richard Hilton possessed by an evil spirit. His cheeks burned with
a more than hectic red, his eyes were wild and bloodshot, and
though the recognition had suddenly sobered him, an impatient,
reckless devil seemed to lurk under the set mask of his features.
"Here I am, Asenath," he said at length, hoarsely. "I said it was
death, didn't I? Well, it's worse than death, I suppose; but what
matter? You can't be more lost to me now than you were already.
This is THY doing, Friend Eli," he continued, turning to the old
man, with a sneering emphasis on the "THY." "I hope thee's
satisfied with thy work!"
Here he burst into a bitter, mocking laugh, which it chilled
Asenath's blood to hear.
The old man turned pale. "Come away, child!" said he, tugging at
her arm. But she stood firm, strengthened for the moment by a
solemn feeling of duty which trampled down her pain.
"Richard," she said, with the music of an immeasurable sorrow in
her voice, "oh, Richard, what has thee done? Where the Lord
commands resignation, thee has been rebellious; where he chasteneth
to purify, thee turns blindly to sin. I had not expected this of
thee, Richard; I thought thy regard for me was of the kind which
would have helped and uplifted thee,--not through me, as an
unworthy object, but through the hopes and the pure desires of thy
own heart. I expected that thee would so act as to justify what I
felt towards thee, not to make my affection a reproach,--oh,
Richard, not to cast over my heart the shadow of thy sin!"
The wretched young man supported himself against the post of an
awning, buried his face in his hands, and wept passionately. Once
or twice he essayed to speak, but his voice was choked by sobs,
and, after a look from the streaming eyes which Asenath could
scarcely bear to meet, he again covered his face. A stranger,
coming down the street, paused out of curiosity. "Come, come!"
cried Eli, once more, eager to escape from the scene. His daughter
stood still, and the man slowly passed on.
Asenath could not thus leave her lost lover, in his despairing
grief. She again turned to him, her own tears flowing fast and
"I do not judge thee, Richard, but the words that passed between us
give me a right to speak to thee. It was hard to lose sight of
thee then, but it is still harder for me to see thee now. If the
sorrow and pity I feel could save thee, I would be willing never to
know any other feelings. I would still do anything for thee except
that which thee cannot ask, as thee now is, and I could not give.
Thee has made the gulf between us so wide that it cannot be
crossed. But I can now weep for thee and pray for thee as a
fellow-creature whose soul is still precious in the sight of the
Lord. Fare thee well!"
He seized the hand she extended, bowed down, and showered mingled
tears and kisses upon it. Then, with a wild sob in his throat, he
started up and rushed down the street, through the fast-falling
rain. The father and daughter walked home in silence. Eli had
heard every word that was spoken, and felt that a spirit whose
utterances he dared not question had visited Asenath's tongue.
She, as year after year went by, regained the peace and patience
which give a sober cheerfulness to life. The pangs of her heart
grew dull and transient; but there were two pictures in her memory
which never blurred in outline or faded in color: one, the brake of
autumn flowers under the bright autumnal sky, with bird and stream
making accordant music to the new voice of love; the other a rainy
street, with a lost, reckless man leaning against an awning-post,
and staring in her face with eyes whose unutterable woe, when she
dared to recall it, darkened the beauty of the earth, and almost
shook her trust in the providence of God.
Year after year passed by, but not without bringing change to the
Mitchenor family. Moses had moved to Chester County soon after his
marriage, and had a good farm of his own. At the end of ten years
Abigail died; and the old man, who had not only lost his savings by
an unlucky investment, but was obliged to mortgage his farm,
finally determined to sell it and join his son. He was
getting too old to manage it properly, impatient under the
unaccustomed pressure of debt, and depressed by the loss of the
wife to whom, without any outward show of tenderness, he was, in
truth, tenderly attached. He missed her more keenly in the places
where she had lived and moved than in a neighborhood without the
memory of her presence. The pang with which he parted from his
home was weakened by the greater pang which had preceded it.
It was a harder trial to Asenath. She shrank from the encounter
with new faces, and the necessity of creating new associations.
There was a quiet satisfaction in the ordered, monotonous round of
her life, which might be the same elsewhere, but here alone was the
nook which held all the morning sunshine she had ever known. Here
still lingered the halo of the sweet departed summer,--here still
grew the familiar wild-flowers which THE FIRST Richard Hilton
had gathered. This was the Paradise in which the Adam of her heart
had dwelt, before his fall. Her resignation and submission
entitled her to keep those pure and perfect memories, though she
was scarcely conscious of their true charm. She did not dare to
express to herself, in words, that one everlasting joy of woman's
heart, through all trials and sorrows--"I have loved, I have been
On the last "First-day" before their departure, she walked down the
meadows to the lonely brake between the hills. It was the early
spring, and the black buds of the ash had just begun to swell. The
maples were dusted with crimson bloom, and the downy catkins of the
swamp-willow dropped upon the stream and floated past her, as
once the autumn leaves. In the edges of the thickets peeped forth
the blue, scentless violet, the fairy cups of the anemone, and the
pink-veined bells of the miskodeed. The tall blooms through which
the lovers walked still slept in the chilly earth; but the sky
above her was mild and blue, and the remembrance of the day came
back to her with a delicate, pungent sweetness, like the perfume of
the trailing arbutus in the air around her. In a sheltered, sunny
nook, she found a single erythronium, lured forth in advance of its
proper season, and gathered it as a relic of the spot, which she
might keep without blame. As she stooped to pluck it, her own face
looked up at her out of a little pool filled by the spring rains.
Seen against the reflected sky, it shone with a soft radiance, and
the earnest eyes met hers, as if it were her young self, evoked
from the past, to bid her farewell. "Farewell!" she whispered,
taking leave at once, as she believed, of youth and the memory of
During those years she had more than once been sought in marriage,
but had steadily, though kindly, refused. Once, when the suitor
was a man whose character and position made the union very
desirable in Eli Mitchenor's eyes, he ventured to use his paternal
influence. Asenath's gentle resistance was overborne by his
arbitrary force of will, and her protestations were of no avail.
"Father," she finally said, in the tone which he had once heard and
still remembered, `thee can take away, but thee cannot give."
He never mentioned the subject again.
Richard Hilton passed out of her knowledge shortly after her
meeting with him in Philadelphia. She heard, indeed, that his
headlong career of dissipation was not arrested,--that his friends
had given him up as hopelessly ruined,--and, finally, that he had
left the city. After that, all reports ceased. He was either
dead, or reclaimed and leading a better life, somewhere far away.
Dead, she believed--almost hoped; for in that case might he not now
be enjoying the ineffable rest and peace which she trusted might be
her portion? It was better to think of him as a purified spirit,
waiting to meet her in a holier communion, than to know that he was
still bearing the burden of a soiled and blighted life. In any
case, her own future was plain and clear. It was simply a
prolongation of the present--an alternation of seed-time and
harvest, filled with humble duties and cares, until the Master
should bid her lay down her load and follow Him.
Friend Mitchenor bought a small cottage adjacent to his son's farm,
in a community which consisted mostly of Friends, and not far from
the large old meeting-house in which the Quarterly Meetings were
held. He at once took his place on the upper seat, among the
elders, most of whom he knew already, from having met them, year
after year, in Philadelphia. The charge of a few acres of ground
gave him sufficient occupation; the money left to him after the
sale of his farm was enough to support him comfortably; and a late
Indian summer of contentment seemed now to have come to the
old man. He was done with the earnest business of life. Moses was
gradually taking his place, as father and Friend; and Asenath would
be reasonably provided for at his death. As his bodily energies
decayed, his imperious temper softened, his mind became more
accessible to liberal influences, and he even cultivated a cordial
friendship with a neighboring farmer who was one of "the world's
people." Thus, at seventy-five he was really younger, because
tenderer of heart and more considerate, than he had been at sixty.
Asenath was now a woman of thirty-five, and suitors had ceased to
approach her. Much of her beauty still remained, but her face had
become thin and wasted, and the inevitable lines were beginning to
form around her eyes. Her dress was plainer than ever, and she
wore the scoop-bonnet of drab silk, in which no woman can seem
beautiful, unless she be very old. She was calm and grave in her
demeanor, save that her perfect goodness and benevolence shone
through and warmed her presence; but, when earnestly interested,
she had been known to speak her mind so clearly and forcibly that
it was generally surmised among the Friends that she possessed "a
gift," which might, in time, raise her to honor among them. To the
children of Moses she was a good genius, and a word from "Aunt
'Senath" oftentimes prevailed when the authority of the parents was
disregarded. In them she found a new source of happiness; and when
her old home on the Neshaminy had been removed a little farther
into the past, so that she no longer looked, with every morning's
sun, for some familiar feature of its scenery, her submission
brightened into a cheerful content with life.
It was summer, and Quarterly-Meeting Day had arrived. There had
been rumors of the expected presence of "Friends from a distance,"
and not only those of the district, but most of the neighbors who
were not connected with the sect, attended. By the by-road,
through the woods, it was not more than half a mile from Friend
Mitchenor's cottage to the meeting-house, and Asenath, leaving her
father to be taken by Moses in his carriage, set out on foot. It
was a sparkling, breezy day, and the forest was full of life.
Squirrels chased each other along the branches of the oaks, and the
air was filled with fragrant odors of hickory-leaves, sweet fern,
and spice-wood. Picking up a flower here and there, Asenath walked
onward, rejoicing alike in shade and sunshine, grateful for all the
consoling beauty which the earth offers to a lonely heart. That
serene content which she had learned to call happiness had filled
her being until the dark canopy was lifted and the waters took back
their transparency under a cloudless sky.
Passing around to the "women's side" of the meeting-house, she
mingled with her friends, who were exchanging information
concerning the expected visitors. Micajah Morrill had not arrived,
they said, but Ruth Baxter had spent the last night at Friend
Way's, and would certainly be there. Besides, there were Friend
Chandler, from Nine Partners, and Friend Carter, from Maryland:
they had been seen on the ground. Friend Carter was said to have
a wonderful gift,--Mercy Jackson had heard him once, in
Baltimore. The Friends there had been a little exercised about
him, because they thought he was too much inclined to "the
newness," but it was known that the Spirit had often manifestly led
him. Friend Chandler had visited Yearly Meeting once, they
believed. He was an old man, and had been a personal friend of
At the appointed hour they entered the house. After the subdued
rustling which ensued upon taking their seats, there was an
interval of silence, shorter than usual, because it was evident
that many persons would feel the promptings of the Spirit. Friend
Chandler spoke first, and was followed by Ruth Baxter, a frail
little woman, with a voice of exceeding power. The not unmelodious
chant in which she delivered her admonitions rang out, at times,
like the peal of a trumpet. Fixing her eyes on vacancy, with her
hands on the wooden rail before her, and her body slightly swaying
to and fro, her voice soared far aloft at the commencement of every
sentence, gradually dropping, through a melodious scale of tone, to
the close. She resembled an inspired prophetess, an aged Deborah,
crying aloud in the valleys of Israel.
The last speaker was Friend Carter, a small man, not more than
forty years of age. His face was thin and intense in its
expression, his hair gray at the temples, and his dark eye almost
too restless for a child of "the stillness and the quietness." His
voice, though not loud, was clear and penetrating, with an earnest,
sympathetic quality, which arrested, not the ear alone, but the
serious attention of the auditor. His delivery was but
slightly marked by the peculiar rhythm of the Quaker preachers; and
this fact, perhaps, increased the effect of his words, through the
contrast with those who preceded him.
His discourse was an eloquent vindication of the law of kindness,
as the highest and purest manifestation of true Christian doctrine.
The paternal relation of God to man was the basis of that religion
which appealed directly to the heart: so the fraternity of each man
with his fellow was its practical application. God pardons the
repentant sinner: we can also pardon, where we are offended; we can
pity, where we cannot pardon. Both the good and the bad principles
generate their like in others. Force begets force; anger excites
a corresponding anger; but kindness awakens the slumbering emotions
even of an evil heart. Love may not always be answered by an equal
love, but it has never yet created hatred. The testimony which
Friends bear against war, he said, is but a general assertion,
which has no value except in so far as they manifest the principle
of peace in their daily lives--in the exercise of pity, of charity,
of forbearance, and Christian love.
The words of the speaker sank deeply into the hearts of his
hearers. There was an intense hush, as if in truth the Spirit had
moved him to speak, and every sentence was armed with a sacred
authority. Asenath Mitchenor looked at him, over the low partition
which divided her and her sisters from the men's side, absorbed in
his rapt earnestness and truth. She forgot that other hearers
were present: he spake to her alone. A strange spell seemed to
seize upon her faculties and chain them at his feet: had he
beckoned to her, she would have arisen and walked to his side.
Friend Carter warmed and deepened as he went on. "I feel moved to-
day," he said,--"moved, I know not why, but I hope for some wise
purpose,--to relate to you an instance of Divine and human kindness
which has come directly to my own knowledge. A young man of
delicate constitution, whose lungs were thought to be seriously
affected, was sent to the house of a Friend in the country, in
order to try the effect of air and exercise."
Asenath almost ceased to breathe, in the intensity with which she
gazed and listened. Clasping her hands tightly in her lap to
prevent them from trembling, and steadying herself against the back
of the seat, she heard the story of her love for Richard Hilton
told by the lips of a stranger!--not merely of his dismissal from
the house, but of that meeting in the street, at which only she and
her father were present! Nay, more, she heard her own words
repeated, she heard Richard's passionate outburst of remorse
described in language that brought his living face before her! She
gasped for breath--his face WAS before her! The features,
sharpened by despairing grief, which her memory recalled, had
almost anticipated the harder lines which fifteen years had made,
and which now, with a terrible shock and choking leap of the heart,
she recognized. Her senses faded, and she would have fallen
from her seat but for the support of the partition against
which she leaned. Fortunately, the women near her were too much
occupied with the narrative to notice her condition. Many of them
wept silently, with their handkerchiefs pressed over their mouths.
The first shock of death-like faintness passed away, and she clung
to the speaker's voice, as if its sound alone could give her
strength to sit still and listen further.
"Deserted by his friends, unable to stay his feet on the evil
path," he continued, "the young man left his home and went to a
city in another State. But here it was easier to find associates
in evil than tender hearts that might help him back to good. He
was tired of life, and the hope of a speedier death hardened him in
his courses. But, my friends, Death never comes to those who
wickedly seek him. The Lord withholds destruction from the hands
that are madly outstretched to grasp it, and forces His pity and
forgiveness on the unwilling soul. Finding that it was the
principle of LIFE which grew stronger within him, the young man
at last meditated an awful crime. The thought of self-destruction
haunted him day and night. He lingered around the wharves, gazing
into the deep waters, and was restrained from the deed only by the
memory of the last loving voice he had heard. One gloomy evening,
when even this memory had faded, and he awaited the approaching
darkness to make his design secure, a hand was laid on his arm. A
man in the simple garb of the Friends stood beside him, and a face
which reflected the kindness of the Divine Father looked upon
him. `My child,' said he, `I am drawn to thee by the great trouble
of thy mind. Shall I tell thee what it is thee meditates?' The
young man shook his head. `I will be silent, then, but I will save
thee. I know the human heart, and its trials and weaknesses, and
it may be put into my mouth to give thee strength.' He took the
young man's hand, as if he had been a little child, and led him to
his home. He heard the sad story, from beginning to end; and the
young man wept upon his breast, to hear no word of reproach, but
only the largest and tenderest pity bestowed upon him. They knelt
down, side by side, at midnight; and the Friend's right hand was
upon his head while they prayed.
"The young man was rescued from his evil ways, to acknowledge still
further the boundless mercy of Providence. The dissipation wherein
he had recklessly sought death was, for him, a marvellous
restoration to life. His lungs had become sound and free from the
tendency to disease. The measure of his forgiveness was almost
more than he could bear. He bore his cross thenceforward with a
joyful resignation, and was mercifully drawn nearer and nearer to
the Truth, until, in the fulness of his convictions, he entered
into the brotherhood of the Friends.
"I have been powerfully moved to tell you this story." Friend
Carter concluded, "from a feeling that it may be needed, here, at
this time, to influence some heart trembling in the balance. Who
is there among you, my friends, that may not snatch a brand from
the burning! Oh, believe that pity and charity are the most
effectual weapons given into the hands of us imperfect mortals, and
leave the awful attribute of wrath in the hands of the Lord!"
He sat down, and dead silence ensued. Tears of emotion stood in
the eyes of the hearers, men as well as women, and tears of
gratitude and thanksgiving gushed warmly from those of Asenath. An
ineffable peace and joy descended upon her heart.
When the meeting broke up, Friend Mitchenor, who had not recognized
Richard Hilton, but had heard the story with feelings which he
endeavored in vain to control, approached the preacher.
"The Lord spoke to me this day through thy lips," said he; "will
thee come to one side, and hear me a minute?"
"Eli Mitchenor!" exclaimed Friend Carter; "Eli! I knew not thee
was here! Doesn't thee know me?"
The old man stared in astonishment. "It seems like a face I ought
to know," he said, "but I can't place thee." They withdrew to the
shade of one of the poplars. Friend Carter turned again, much
moved, and, grasping the old man's hands in his own, exclaimed--
"Friend Mitchenor, I was called upon to-day to speak of myself. I
am--or, rather, I WAS--the Richard Hilton whom thee knew."
Friend Mitchenor's face flushed with mingled emotions of shame and
joy, and his grasp on the preacher's hands tightened.
"But thee calls thyself Carter?" he finally said.
"Soon after I was saved," was the reply, "an aunt on the mother's
side died, and left her property to me, on condition that I should
take her name. I was tired of my own then, and to give it up
seemed only like losing my former self; but I should like to have
it back again now."
"Wonderful are the ways of the Lord, and past finding out!" said
the old man. "Come home with me, Richard,--come for my sake, for
there is a concern on my mind until all is clear between us. Or,
stay,--will thee walk home with Asenath, while I go with Moses?"
"Yes. There she goes, through the gate. Thee can easily overtake
her. I 'm coming, Moses!"--and he hurried away to his son's
carriage, which was approaching.
Asenath felt that it would be impossible for her to meet Richard
Hilton there. She knew not why his name had been changed; he had
not betrayed his identity with the young man of his story; he
evidently did not wish it to be known, and an unexpected meeting
with her might surprise him into an involuntary revelation of the
fact. It was enough for her that a saviour had arisen, and her