Part 7 out of 11
"She is distressed, or, rather, perplexed, about her religious
doubts, I inferred from what she said just before you came in. She
has drifted out into a troubled sea of philosophy, I am inclined to
think, and, not satisfied with what she has found, is now irresolute
as to the proper course. Poor child, she is terribly in earnest
about the matter." He sighed heavily.
His wife watched him eagerly.
"What did you tell her?"
"Not to come to me; that it would be a perfect exemplification of
'the blind leading the blind'; and when she learned my own state of
uncertainty, she seemed to think so herself."
An expression of acute pain passed over her features; but, banishing
it as speedily as possible, she answered very gently:
"Take care, my husband, lest by recapitulating your doubts you
"Alice, I told her the whole truth. She is not a nature to be put
off with halfway statements. Hartwell is an avowed infidel, and she
knows it; yet I do not believe his views have weighed with her
against received systems of faith. My dear Alice, this spirit of
skepticism is scattered far and wide over the land; I meet with it
often where I least expect it. It broods like a hideous nightmare
over this age, and Beulah must pass through the same ordeal which is
testing the intellectual portion of every community. But--there is
that eternal door-bell. Let us have dinner, Alice; I must go out
early this afternoon."
He took down a pair of scales and began to weigh some medicine. His
wife wisely forbore to renew the discussion, and, ringing the bell
for dinner, interested him with an account of her visit to a poor
family who required his immediate attention.
With a heart unwontedly heavy Beulah prepared to call upon Pauline,
later in the afternoon of the same day. It was not companionship she
needed, for this was supplied by books, and the sensation of
loneliness was one with which she had not yet been made acquainted;
but she wanted a strong, healthy, cultivated intellect, to dash away
the mists that were wreathing about her own mind. Already the lofty,
imposing structure of self-reliance began to rock to its very
foundations. She was nearly ready for her walk, when Mrs. Hoyt came
"Miss Beulah, there is a lady in the parlor waiting to see you."
"Is it Miss Graham?"
"No. She is a stranger, and gave no name."
Beulah descended to the parlor in rather an ungracious mood. As she
entered a lady sprang to meet her, with both hands extended. She was
superbly beautiful, with a complexion of dazzling whiteness, and
clear, radiant, violet eyes, over which arched delicately penciled
brows. The Grecian mouth and chin were faultlessly chiseled; the
whole face was one of rare loveliness.
"You don't know me! For shame, Beulah, to forget old friends!"
"Oh, Pauline, is it you? I am very glad to see you."
"Don't say that for politeness' sake! Here I have been for ten days
and you have not stirred a foot to see me."
"I didn't know you were in town till this morning, and just as you
came I was putting on my bonnet to go and see you."
"Are you telling the truth?"
"Yes; positively I am."
"Well, I am glad you felt disposed to see me. After my uncle, you
and Charon are all I cared anything about meeting here. Bless your
dear, solemn, gray eyes! how often I have wanted to see you!"
The impulsive girl threw her arms round Beulah's neck, and kissed
"Be quiet, and let me look at you. Oh, Pauline, how beautiful you
have grown!" cried Beulah, who could not forbear expressing the
admiration she felt.
"Yes; the artists in Florence raved considerably about ray beauty. I
can't tell you the number of times I sat for my portrait. It is very
pleasant to be pretty; I enjoy it amazingly," said she, with all the
candor which had characterized her in childhood; and, with a
vigorous squeeze of Beulah's hand, she continued:
"I was astonished when I came, and found that you had left Uncle
Guy, and were teaching little ragged, dirty children their A B C's.
What possessed you to do such a silly thing?"
"Duty, my dear Pauline."
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, don't begin about duty. Ernest--" She
paused, a rich glow swept over her face, and, shaking back her
curls, she added:
"You must quit all this. I say you must!"
"I see you are quite as reckless and scatter-brained as ever,"
answered Beulah, smiling at her authoritative tone.
"No; I positively am not the fool Uncle Guy used to think me. I have
more sense than people give me credit for, though I dare say I shall
find you very skeptical on the subject. Beulah, I know very well why
you took it into your wise head to be a teacher. You were unwilling
to usurp what you considered my place in Uncle Guy's home and heart.
You need not straighten yourself in that ungraceful way. I know
perfectly well it is the truth; but I am no poor, suffering, needy
innocent, that you should look after. I am well provided for, and
don't intend to take one cent of Uncle Guy's money, so you might
just as well have the benefit of it. I know, too, that you and ma
did not exactly adore each other. I understand all about that old
skirmishing. But things have changed very much, Beulah; so you must
quit this horrid nonsense about working and being independent."
"How you do rattle on about things you don't comprehend!" laughed
"Come, don't set me down for a simpleton! I tell you I am in
earnest! You must come back to Uncle Guy!"
"Pauline, it is worse than useless to talk of this matter. I decided
long ago as to what I ought to do, and certainly shall not change my
opinion now. Tell me what you saw in Europe."
"Why, has not Eugene told you all you wish to know? Apropos! I saw
him at a party last night, playing the devoted to that little
beauty, Netta Dupres. We were all in Paris at the same time. I don't
fancy her; she is too insufferably vain and affected. It is my
opinion that she is flirting with Eugene, which must be quite
agreeable to you. Oh, I tell you, Beulah, I could easily put her
mind, heart, and soul in my thimble!"
"I did not ask your estimate of Miss Dupres. I want to know
something of your European tour. I see Eugene very rarely."
"Oh, of course we went to see all the sights, and very stupid it
was. Mr. Lockhart scolded continually about my want of taste and
appreciation, because I did not utter all the interjections of
delight and astonishment over old, tumbledown ruins, and genuine
'masterpieces' of art, as he called them. Upon my word, I have been
tired almost to death, when he and ma descanted by the hour on the
'inimitable, and transcendent, and entrancing' beauties and glories
of old pictures, that were actually so black with age that they
looked like daubs of tar, and I could not tell whether the figures
were men or women, archangels or cow drivers. Some things I did
enjoy; such as the Alps, and the Mediterranean, and St. Peter's, and
Westminster Abbey, and some of the German cathedrals. But as to
keeping my finger on the guide-book and committing all the ecstasy
to memory, to spout out just at the exact moment when I saw nothing
to deserve it, why, that is all fudge. I tell you there is nothing
in all Europe equal to our Niagara! I was heartily glad to come
home, though I enjoyed some things amazingly."
"How is Mr. Lockhart's health?"
"Very poor, I am sorry to say. He looks so thin and pale I often
tell him he would make quite as good a pictured saint as any we saw
"How long will you remain here?"
"Till Uncle Guy thinks Mr. Lockhart is well enough to go to his
plantation, I suppose."
"What makes you so restless, Pauline? Why don't you sit still?"
asked Beulah, observing that her visitor twisted about as if
"Because I want to tell you something, and really do not know how to
begin," said she, laughing and blushing.
"I cannot imagine what should disconcert you, Pauline."
"Thank you. Truly, that is a flattering tribute to my sensibility.
Beulah, can't you guess what I have to tell you?"
"Certainly not. But why should you hesitate to disclose it?"
"Simply because your tremendous gray eyes have such an owlish way of
looking people out of countenance. Now, don't look quite through me,
and I will pluck up my courage, and confess. Beulah--I am going to
be married soon." She hid her crimsoned cheeks behind her hands.
"Married! impossible!" cried Beulah.
"But I tell you I am! Here is my engagement ring. Now, the most
astonishing part of the whole affair is that my intended sovereign
is a minister! A preacher, as solemn as Job!"
"You a minister's wife, Pauline! Oh, child, you are jesting!" said
Beulah, with an incredulous smile.
"No! absurd as it may seem, it is nevertheless true. I am to be
married in March. Ma says I am a fool; Mr. Lockhart encourages and
supports me; and Uncle Guy laughs heartily every time the affair is
alluded to. At first, before we went to Europe, there was violent
opposition from my mother, but she found I was in earnest, and now
it is all settled for March. Uncle Guy knows Ernest Mortimor, and
esteems him very highly, but thinks that I am the last woman in the
United States who ought to be a minister's wife. I believe he told
Ernest as much; but of course he did not believe him."
"Where does Mr. Mortimor reside?"
"In Georgia; has charge of a church there. He had a sister at the
same school I attended in New York; and, during a visit to her, he
says he met his evil-angel in me. He is about five years my senior;
but he is here now, and you will have an opportunity of forming your
own opinion of him."
"How long have you known him?"
"About two years. I am rather afraid of him, to tell you the honest
truth. He is so grave, and has such rigid notions, that I wonder
very much what ever induced his holiness to fancy such a heedless
piece of womanhood as he is obliged to know I am; for I never put on
any humility or sanctity. What do you think, Beulah? Uncle Guy
coolly told me, this morning, in Ernest's presence, that he was only
charmed by my pretty face, and that if I did not learn some common
sense he would very soon repent his choice. Oh, the doleful warnings
I have been favored with! But you shall all see that I am worthy of
Mr. Mortimer's love."
Her beautiful face was radiant with hope; yet in the violet eyes
there lurked unshed tears.
"I am very glad that you are so happy, Pauline; and, if you will, I
am very sure you can make yourself all that Mr. Mortimor could
"I am resolved I will. Yesterday he talked to me very seriously
about the duties which he said would devolve on me. I tried to laugh
him out of his sober mood, but he would talk about 'pastoral
relations,' and what would be expected of a pastor's wife, until I
was ready to cry with vexation. Ernest is not dependent on his
salary; his father is considered wealthy, I believe, which fact
reconciles ma in some degree. To-morrow he will preach in Dr. Hew's
church, and you must go to hear him. I have never yet heard him
preach, and am rather anxious to know what sort of sermons I am to
listen to for the remainder of my life." She looked at her watch,
"I shall certainly go to hear him," answered Beulah.
"Of course you will, and after service you must go home and spend
the day with me. Ma begs that you will not refuse to dine with her;
and, as you are engaged all the week, Uncle Guy expects you also;
that is, he told me to insist on your coming, but thought you would
probably decline. Will you come? Do say yes."
"I don't know yet. I will see you at church."
Thus they parted.
On Sabbath morning Beulah sat beside the window, with her folded
hands resting on her lap. The day was cloudless and serene; the sky
of that intense melting blue which characterizes our clime. From
every quarter of the city brazen muezzins called worshipers to the
temple, and bands of neatly clad, happy children thronged the
streets, on their way to Sabbath school. Save these, and the pealing
bells, a hush pervaded all things, as though Nature were indeed "at
her prayers." Blessed be the hallowed influences which every sunny
Sabbath morn exerts! Blessed be the holy tones which at least once a
week call every erring child back to its Infinite Father! For some
time Beulah had absented herself from church, for she found that
instead of profiting by sermons she came home to criticise and
question. But early associations are strangely tenacious, and, as
she watched the children trooping to the house of God, there rushed
to her mind memories of other years, when the orphan bands from the
asylum regularly took their places in the Sabbath school. The hymns
she sang then rang again in her ears; long-forgotten passages of
Scripture, repeated then, seemed learned but yesterday. How often
had the venerable superintendent knelt and invoked special guidance
for the afflicted band from the God of orphans! Now she felt doubly
orphaned. In her intellectual pride, she frequently asserted that
she was "the star of her own destiny"; but this morning childish
memories prattled of the Star of Bethlehem, before which she once
bent the knee of adoration. Had it set forever, amid clouds of
superstition, sin, and infidelity? Glittering spires pointed to the
bending heavens, and answered: "It burns on forever, 'brighter and
brighter unto the perfect day'!" With a dull weight on her heart,
she took down her Bible and opened it indifferently at her book-
mark. It proved the thirty-eighth chapter of Job, and she read on
and on, until the bells warned her it was the hour of morning
service. She walked to church, not humbled and prepared to receive
the holy teachings of revelation, but with a defiant feeling in her
heart which she did not attempt or care to analyze. She was not
accustomed to attend Dr. Hew's church, but the sexton conducted her
to a pew, and as she seated herself the solemn notes of the organ
swelled through the vaulted aisles. The choir sang a magnificent
anthem from Haydn's "Creation," and then only the deep, thundering
peal of the organ fell on the dim, cool air. Beulah could bear no
more; as she lowered her veil, bitter tears gushed over her troubled
face. Just then she longed to fall on her knees before the altar and
renew the vows of her childhood; but this impulse very soon died
away, and, while the pews on every side rapidly filled, she watched
impatiently for the appearance of the minister. Immediately in front
of her sat Mr. and Mrs. Graham and Antoinette Dupres. Beulah was
pondering the absence of Cornelia and Eugene, when a full, manly
voice fell on her ear, and, looking up, she saw Mr. Mortimor
standing in the pulpit. He looked older than Pauline's description
had prepared her to expect, and the first impression was one of
disappointment. But the longer she watched the grave, quiet face the
more attractive it became. Certainly he was a handsome man, and,
judging from the contour of head and features, an intellectual one.
There was an absolute repose in the countenance which might have
passed with casual observers for inertia, indifference; but to the
practiced physiognomist it expressed the perfect peace of a mind and
heart completely harmonious. The voice was remarkably clear and well
modulated. His text was selected from the first and last chapters of
Ecclesiastes, and consisted of these verses:
"For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge,
"And further, by these, my son, be admonished; of making many books
there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us
hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his
commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."
To the discourse which followed Beulah listened with the deepest
interest. She followed the speaker over the desert of ancient
Oriental systems, which he rapidly analyzed, and held up as empty
shells; lifting the veil of soufism, he glanced at the mystical
creed of Algazzali; and, in an epitomized account of the Grecian
schools of philosophy, depicted the wild vagaries into which many
had wandered, and the unsatisfactory results to which all had
attained. Not content with these instances of the insufficiency and
mocking nature of human wisdom and learning, he adverted to the
destructive tendency of the Helvetian and D'Holbach systems, and,
after a brief discussion of their ruinous tenets, dilated, with some
erudition upon the conflicting and dangerous theories propounded by
Germany. Then came the contemplation of Christianity, from it's rise
among the fishermen of Galilee to its present summit of power. For
eighteen hundred years it had been assaulted by infidelity, yet each
century saw it advancing--a conquering colossus. Throughout the
sermon the idea was maintained that human reason was utterly
inadequate to discover to man his destiny, that human learning was a
great cheat, and that only from the pages of Holy Writ could genuine
wisdom be acquired. Men were to be as little children in order to be
taught the truths of immortality. Certainly the reasoning was clear
and forcible, the philosophic allusions seemed very apropos, and the
language was elegant and impassioned. The closing hymn was sung; the
organ hushed its worshiping tones; the benediction was pronounced;
the congregation dispersed.
As Beulah descended the steps she found Pauline and Mrs. Lockhart
waiting at the carriage for her. The latter greeted her with quite a
show of cordiality; but the orphan shrank back from the offered
kiss, and merely touched the extended hand. She had not forgotten
the taunts and unkindness of other days; and, though not vindictive,
she could not feign oblivion of the past, nor assume a friendly
manner foreign to her. She took her seat in the carriage, and found
it rather difficult to withdraw her fascinated eyes from Pauline's
lovely face. She knew what was expected of her, however; and said,
as they drove rapidly homeward:
"Mr. Mortimor seems to be a man of more than ordinary erudition."
"Did you like his sermon? Do you like him?" asked Pauline eagerly.
"I like him very much indeed; but do not like his sermon at all,"
answered Beulah bluntly.
"I am sure everybody seemed to be delighted with it," said Mrs.
"Doubtless the majority of his congregation were; and I was very
much interested, though I do not accept his views. His delivery is
remarkably impressive, and his voice is better adapted to the pulpit
than any I have ever listened to." She strove to say everything
favorable which, in candor, she could.
"Still you did not like his sermon?" said Pauline gravely.
"I cannot accept his conclusions."
"I liked the discourse particularly, Pauline. I wish Percy could
have heard it," said Mrs. Lockhart.
The daughter took no notice whatever of this considerate speech, and
sat quite still, looking more serious than Beulah had ever seen her.
Conversation flagged, despite the young teacher's efforts, and she
was heartily glad when the carriage entered the avenue. Her heart
swelled as she caught sight of the noble old cedars, whose venerable
heads seemed to bow in welcome, while the drooping branches held out
their arms, as if to embrace her. Each tree was familiar; even the
bright coral yaupon clusters were like dear friends greeting her
after a long absence. She had never realized until now how much she
loved this home of her early childhood, and large drops dimmed her
eyes as she passed along the walks where she had so often wandered.
The carriage approached the house, and she saw her quondam guardian
standing before the door. He was bare-headed, and the sunshine fell
like a halo upon his brown, clustering hair, threading it with gold.
He held, in one hand, a small basket of grain, from which he fed a
flock of hungry pigeons. On every side they gathered about him--blue
and white, brown and mottled--some fluttering down from the roof of
the house; two or three, quite tame, perched on his arm, eating from
the basket; and one, of uncommon beauty, sat on his shoulder, cooing
softly. By his side stood Charon, looking gravely on, as if he, wise
soul, thought this familiarity signally impudent. It was a
singularly quiet, peaceful scene, which indelibly daguerreotyped
itself on Beulah's memory. As the carriage whirled round the circle,
and drew up at the door, the startled flock wheeled off; and,
brushing the grain from his hands, Dr. Hartwell advanced to assist
his sister. Pauline sprang out first, exclaiming:
"You abominable heathen! Why didn't you come to church? Even Dr.
Asbury was out."
"Guy, you missed an admirable sermon," chimed in Mrs. Lockhart.
He was disengaging the fringe of Pauline's shawl, which caught the
button of his coat, and, looking up as his sister spoke, his eyes
met Beulah's anxious gaze. She had wondered very much how he would
receive her. His countenance expressed neither surprise nor
pleasure; he merely held out his hand to assist her, saying, in his
usual grave manner:
"I am glad to see you, Beulah."
She looked up in his face for some trace of the old kindness; but
the rare, fascinating smile and protective tenderness had utterly
vanished. He returned her look with a calmly indifferent glance,
which pained her more than any amount of sternness could have done.
She snatched her hand from his, and, missing the carriage step,
would have fallen, but he caught and placed her safely on the
ground, saying coolly:
"Take care; you are awkward."
She followed Pauline up the steps, wishing herself at home in her
little room. But her companion's gay chat diverted her mind, and she
only remembered how very beautiful was the face she looked on.
They stood together before a mirror, smoothing their hair, and
Beulah could not avoid contrasting the images reflected. One was
prematurely grave and thoughtful in its expression--the other
radiant with happy hopes. Pauline surmised what was passing in her
friend's mind, and said merrily:
"For shame, Beulah! to envy me my poor estate of good looks! Why, I
am all nose and eyes, curls, red lips, and cheeks; but you have an
additional amount of brains to balance my gifts. Once I heard Uncle
Guy say that you had more intellect than all the other women and
children in the town! Come; Mr. Lockhart wants to see you very
She ran down the steps as heedlessly as in her childhood, and Beulah
followed her more leisurely. In the study they found the remainder
of the party; Mr. Lockhart was wrapt in a heavy dressing-gown, and
reclined on the sofa. He welcomed Beulah very warmly, keeping her
hand in his and making her sit down near him. He was emaciated, and
a hacking cough prevented his taking any active part in the
conversation. One glance at his sad face sufficed to show her that
his days on earth were numbered, and the expression with which he
regarded his wife told all the painful tale of an unhappy marriage.
She was discussing the sermon, and declaring herself highly
gratified at the impression which Mr. Mortimor had evidently made on
his large and fashionable congregation. Dr. Hartwell stood on the
hearth, listening in silence to his sister's remarks. The Atlantic
might have rolled between them, for any interest he evinced in the
subject. Pauline was restless and excited; finally she crossed the
room, stood close to her uncle, and, carelessly fingering his watch
chain, said earnestly: "Uncle Guy, what did Ernest mean, this
morning, by a 'Fourieristic-phalanx?'"
"A land where learned men are captivated by blue eyes and rosy
lips," answered the doctor, looking down into her sparkling face.
As they stood together Beulah remarked how very much Pauline
resembled him. True, he was pale, and she was a very Hebe, but the
dazzling transparency of the complexion was the same, the silky,
nut-brown hair the same, and the classical chiseling of mouth and
nose identical. Her eyes were "deeply, darkly," matchlessly blue,
and his were hazel; her features were quivering with youthful
joyousness and enthusiasm, his might have been carved in ivory, they
seemed so inflexible; still they were alike. Pauline did not exactly
relish the tone of his reply, and said hastily:
"Uncle Guy, I wish you would not treat me as if I were an idiot; or,
what is not much better, a two-year-old child! How am I ever to
learn any sense?"
"Indeed, I have no idea," said he, passing his soft hand over her
"You are very provoking! Do you want Ernest to think me a fool?"
"Have you waked to a consciousness of that danger?"
"Yes; and I want you to teach me something. Come, tell me what that
thing is I asked you about."
"Tell you what?"
"Why, what a--a 'Fourieristic-phalanx' is?" said she earnestly.
Beulah could not avoid smiling, and wondered how he managed to look
so very serious, as he replied:
"I know very little about the tactics of Fourieristic-phalanxes, but
believe a phalange is a community or association of about eighteen
hundred persons, who were supposed or intended to practice the
Fourieristic doctrines. In fine, a phalange is a sort of French
"And where is that, sir?" asked Pauline innocently, without taking
her eyes from his face.
"Utopia is situated in No-country, and its chief city is on the
banks of the river Waterless."
"Oh, Uncle Guy! how can you quiz me so unmercifully, when I ask you
to explain things to me?"
"Why, Pauline, I am answering your questions correctly. Sir Thomas
More professed to describe Utopia, which means No-place, and
mentions a river Waterless. Don't look so desperately lofty. I will
show you the book, if you are so incorrigibly stupid." He passed his
arm round her as he spoke, and kept her close beside him.
"Mr. Lockhart, is he telling the truth?" cried she incredulously.
"Certainly he is," answered her stepfather, smiling.
"Oh, I don't believe either of you! You two think that I am simple
enough to believe any absurdity you choose to tell me. Beulah, what
"Just what your uncle told you. More used Greek words which
signified nothing, in order to veil the satire."
"Oh, a satire! Now, what is the reason you could not say it was a
satire, you wiseacre?"
"Because I gave you credit for some penetration, and at least common
"Both of which I have proved myself devoid of, I suppose? Thank
you." She threw her arms round his neck, kissed him once or twice,
and laughingly added: "Come now, Uncle Guy, tell me what these
'phalanxes,' as you call them, have to do with Ernest's text?"
"I really cannot inform you. There is the dinner bell." Unclasping
her arms, he led the way to the dining room.
Later in the afternoon Mr. Lockhart retired to his own room; his
wife fell asleep on the sofa, and Beulah and Pauline sat at the
parlor window, discussing the various occurrences of their long
separation. Pauline talked of her future--how bright it was; how
very much she and Ernest loved each other, and how busy she would be
when she had a home of her own. She supposed she would be obliged to
give up dancing; she had an indistinct idea that preachers' wives
were not in the habit of indulging in any such amusements, and, as
for the theater and opera, she rather doubted whether either were to
be found in the inland town where she was to reside. Uncle Guy
wished to furnish the parsonage, and, among other things, had
ordered an elegant piano for her; she intended to practice a great
deal, because Ernest was so fond of music. Uncle Guy had a hateful
habit of lecturing her about "domestic affairs," but she imagined
the cook would understand her own business; and if Mr. Mortimor
supposed she was going to play housemaid, why, she would very soon
undeceive him. Beulah was much amused at the childlike simplicity
with which she discussed her future, and began to think the whole
affair rather ludicrous, when Pauline started, and exclaimed, as the
blood dyed her cheeks:
"There is Ernest coming up the walk!"
He came in, and greeted her with gentle gravity. He was a dignified,
fine-looking man, with polished manners and perfect self-possession.
There was no trace of austerity in his countenance, and nothing in
his conversation betokening a desire to impress strangers with his
ministerial dignity. He was highly cultivated in all his tastes,
agreeable, and, in fine, a Christian gentleman. Pauline seemed to
consider his remarks oracular, and Beulah could not forbear
contrasting her quietness in his presence with the wild, frolicsome
recklessness which characterized her manner on other occasions. She
wondered what singular freak induced this staid, learned clergyman
to select a companion so absolutely antagonistic in every element of
character. But a glance at Pauline's perfectly beautiful face
explained the mystery. How could anyone help loving her, she was so
radiant and so winning in her unaffected artlessness?
Beulah conjectured that they might, perhaps, entertain each other
without her assistance, and soon left them for the greenhouse, which
was connected with the parlors by a glass door. Followed by Charon,
who had remained beside her all day, she walked slowly between the
rows of plants, many of which were laden with flowers. Brilliant
clusters of scarlet geranium, pale, fragrant heliotropes, and
camellias of every hue surrounded her. Two or three canary birds, in
richly ornate cages, chirped and twittered continually, and for a
moment she forgot the changes that had taken place since the days
when she sought this favorite greenhouse to study her text-books.
Near her stood an antique China vase containing a rare creeper, now
full of beautiful, star-shaped lilac flowers. Many months before,
her guardian had given her this root, and she had planted it in this
same vase; now the long, graceful wreaths were looped carefully
back, and tied to a slender stake. She bent over the fragrant
blossoms, with a heart brimful of memories, and tears dropped thick
and fast on the delicate petals. Charon gave a short bark of
satisfaction, and, raising her head, she saw Dr. Hartwell at the
opposite end of the greenhouse. He was clipping the withered flowers
from a luxuriant white japonica, the same that once furnished
ornaments for her hair. Evidently, he was rather surprised to see
her there, but continued clipping the faded blossoms, and whistled
to his dog. Charon acknowledged the invitation by another bark, but
nestled his great head against Beulah, and stood quite still, while
she passed her hand caressingly over him. She fancied a smile
crossed her guardian's lips; but when he turned toward her there was
no trace of it, and he merely said:
"Where is Pauline?"
"In the parlor, with Mr. Mortimer."
"Here are the scissors; cut as many flowers as you like."
He held out the scissors; but she shook her head, and answered
"Thank you; I do not want any."
He looked at her searchingly, and, observing unshed tears in her
eyes, said, in a kinder tone than he had yet employed:
"Beulah, what do you want?"
"Something that I almost despair of obtaining."
"Child, you are wasting your strength and energies in a fruitless
undertaking. Already you have grown thin and hollow-eyed; your
accustomed contented, cheerful spirit is deserting you. Your self-
appointed task is a hopeless one; utterly hopeless!"
"I will not believe it," said she firmly.
"Very well; some day you will be convinced that you are not
infallible." He smiled grimly, and busied himself with his flowers.
"Sir, you could help me, if you would." She clasped her hands over
his arm, and fixed her eyes on his countenance, with all the
confidence and dependence of other days.
"Did I ever refuse you anything you asked?" said he, looking down at
the little hands on his arm, and at the pale, anxious face, with its
deep, troubled eyes.
"No! and it is precisely for that reason that I ask assistance from
"I suppose you are reduced to the last necessity. What has become of
your pride, Beulah?"
"It is all here, in my heart, sir! thundering to me to walk out and
leave you, since you are so unlike yourself!"
He looked stern and indescribably sad. She glanced up an instant at
his fascinating eyes, and then, laying her head down on his arm, as
she used to do in childhood, said resolutely:
"Oh, sir! you must aid me. Whom have I to advise me but you?"
"My advice has about as much weight with you as Charon's would,
could he utter it. I am an admirable counselor only so long as my
opinions harmonize with the dictates of your own will. How am I to
aid you? I went, at twelve o'clock last night, to see a dying man,
and, passing along the street, saw a light burning from your window.
Two hours later, as I returned, it glimmered there still. Why were
you up? Beulah, what is the matter with you? Has your last treatise
on the 'Origin of Ideas' run away with those of its author, and
landed you both in a region of vagaries? Remember, I warned you."
"Something worse, sir." "Perhaps German metaphysics have stranded
you on the bleak, bald cliffs of Pyrrhonism?"
"Sir, it seems to me there is a great deal of unmerited odium laid
upon the innocent shoulders of German metaphysics. People declaim
against the science of metaphysics, as if it were the disease
itself; whereas it is the remedy. Metaphysics do not originate the
trouble; their very existence proves the priority of the disease
which they attempt to relieve--"
"Decidedly a homeopathic remedy," interrupted her guardian, smiling.
"But, sir, the questions which disturb my mind are older than my
acquaintance with so-called philosophic works. They have troubled me
from my childhood."
"Nevertheless, I warned you not to explore my library," said he,
with a touch of sorrow in his voice.
"How, then, can you habitually read books which you are unwilling to
put into my hands?"
"To me all creeds and systems are alike null. With you, Beulah, it
was once very different."
"Once! yes, once!" She shuddered at the wild waste into which she
"What are the questions that have so long disturbed you?"
"Questions, sir, which, all my life, have been printed on evening
sun-flushed clouds, on rosy sea shells, on pale, sweet, delicate
blossoms, and which I have unavailingly sought to answer for myself.
There are mysteries in physics, morals, and metaphysics that have
wooed me on to an investigation; but the further I wander, deeper
grows the darkness. Alone and unaided I have been forced to brave
these doubts; I have studied, and read, and thought. Cloudy
symbolisms mock me on every side; and the more earnestly I strive to
overtake truth the tighter grow my eyes. Now, sir, you are much
older; you have scaled the dizzy heights of science and carefully
explored the mines of philosophy; and if human learning will avail,
then you can help me. It is impossible for you to have lived and
studied so long without arriving at some conclusion relative to
these vexing questions of this and every other age. I want to know
whether I have ever lived before; whether there is not an anterior
life of my soul, of which I get occasional glimpses, and the memory
of which haunts and disquiets me. This doubt has not been engendered
by casual allusions to Plato's 'reminiscence theory'; before I knew
there was such a doctrine in existence I have sat by your study
fire, pondering some strange coincidences for which I could not
account. It seemed an indistinct outgoing into the far past; a dim
recollection of scenes and ideas, older than the aggregate of my
birthdays; now a flickering light, then all darkness; no clew; all
shrouded in the mystery of voiceless ages. I tried to explain these
psychological phenomena by the theory of association of ideas, but
they eluded an analysis; there was no chain along which memory can
pass. They were like ignes fatui, flashing up from dank caverns and
dying out while I looked upon them. As I grew older I found strange
confirmation in those curious passages of Coleridge and Wordsworth,
[Footnote: Coleridge's "Sonnet on the Birth of a Son." Wordsworth's
"Ode--Intimations of Immortality."] and continually I propound to my
soul these questions: 'If you are immortal, and will exist through
endless ages, have you not existed from the beginning of time?
Immortality knows neither commencement nor ending. If so, whither
shall I go when this material framework is dissolved? to make other
frameworks? to a final rest? Or shall the I, the me, the soul, lose
its former identity? Am I a minute constituent of the all-diffused,
all-pervading Spirit, a breath of the Infinite Essence, one day to
be divested of my individuality? or is God an awful, gigantic,
immutable, isolated Personality? If so, what medium of communication
is afforded? Can the spiritual commune with matter? Can the material
take cognizance of the purely spiritual and divine?' Oh, sir! I know
that you do not accept the holy men of Galilee as His deputed
oracles. Tell me where you find surer prophets. Only show me the
truth--the eternal truth, and I would give my life for it! Sir, how
can you smile at such questions as these--questions involving the
soul's destiny? One might fancy you a second Parrhasius."
She drew back a step or two and regarded him anxiously, nay,
pleadingly, as though he held the key to the Temple of Truth, and
would not suffer her to pass the portal. A sarcastic smile lighted
his Apollo-like face, as he answered:
"There is more truth in your metaphor than you imagined; a la
Parrhasius, I do see you, a tortured Prometheus, chained by links of
your own forging to the Caucasus of Atheism. But listen to--"
"No, no; not that! not Atheism! God save me from that deepest,
blackest gulf!" She shuddered, and covered her face with her hands.
"Beulah, you alone must settle these questions with your own soul;
my solutions would not satisfy you. For thousands of years they have
been propounded, and yet no answer comes down on the 'cloudy wings
of centuries.' Each must solve to suit his or her peculiar
conformation of mind. My child, if I could aid you I would gladly do
so; but I am no Swedenborg, to whom the arcana of the universe have
"Still, after a fashion, you have solved these problems. May I not
know what your faith is?" said she earnestly.
"Child, I have no faith! I know that I exist; that a beautiful
universe surrounds me, and I am conscious of a multitude of
conflicting emotions; but, like Launcelot Smith, I doubt whether I
am 'to pick and choose myself out of myself.' Further than this I
would assure you of nothing. I stand on the everlasting basis of all
skepticism, 'There is no criterion of truth! All must be but
subjectively, relatively true.'"
"Sir, this may be so as regards psychological abstractions; but can
you be contented with this utter negation of the grand problems of
"A profound philosophic writer of the age intimates that the various
psychological systems which have so long vexed the world are but
veiled ontologic speculations. What matters the machinery of ideas,
but as enabling philosophy to cope successfully with ontology?
Philosophy is a huge wheel which has been revolving for ages; early
metaphysicians hung their finely spun webs on its spokes, and
metaphysicians of the nineteenth century gaze upon and renew the
same pretty theories as the wheel revolves. The history of
philosophy shows but a reproduction of old systems and methods of
inquiry. Beulah, no mine of ontologic truth has been discovered.
Conscious of this, our seers tell us there is nothing now but
'eclecticism'! Ontology is old as human nature, yet the stone of
Sisyphus continues to roll back upon the laboring few who strive to
impel it upward. Oh, child, do you not see how matters stand? Why,
how can the finite soul cope with Infinite Being? This is one form--
the other, if we can take cognizance of the Eternal and Self-
existing Being, underlying all phenomena, why, then, we are part and
parcel of that Infinity. Pantheism or utter skepticism--there is no
"I don't want to believe that, sir. I will not believe it. What was
my reason given to me for? Was this spirit of inquiry after truth
only awakened in my soul to mock me with a sense of my nothingness?
Why did my Maker imbue me with an insatiable thirst for knowledge?
Knowledge of the deep things of philosophy, the hidden wonders of
the universe, the awful mysteries of the shadowy spirit realm? Oh,
there are analogies pervading all departments! There is physical
hunger to goad to exertions which will satisfy its demands, and most
tonics are bitter; so, bitter struggles develop and strengthen the
soul, even as hard study invigorates the mind and numerous sorrows
chasten the heart. There is truth for the earnest seeker somewhere--
somewhere! If I live a thousand years I will toil after it till I
find it. If, as you believe, death is annihilation, then will I make
the most of my soul while I have it. Oh, sir, what is life for?
Merely to eat and drink, to sleep and be clothed? Is it to be only a
constant effort to keep soul and body together? If I thought so I
would rather go back to nothingness this day--this hour! No, no! My
name bids me press on; there is a land of Beulah somewhere for my
troubled spirit. Oh, I will go back to my humble home, and study on,
unguided, unassisted even as I have begun. I cannot rest on your
rock of negation."
She could not control her trembling voice, and tears of bitter
disappointment fell over her pale, fixed features. A melancholy
smile parted Dr. Hartwell's lips, and, smoothing the bands of
rippling hair which lay on her white brow, he answered in his own
thrilling, musical accents:
"Child, you are wasting your energies in vain endeavors to build up
walls of foam that--"
"Sir, I am no longer a child! I am a woman, and--"
"Yes, my little Beulah, and your woman's heart will not be satisfied
long with these dim abstractions, which now you chase so eagerly.
Mark me, there surely comes a time when you will loathe the bare
name of metaphysics. You are making a very hotbed of your intellect,
while you heart is daily becoming a dreary desert. Take care, lest
the starvation be so complete that eventually you will be unable to
reclaim it. Dialectics answer very well in collegiate halls, but
will not content you. Remember 'Argemone.'"
"She is a miserable libel on woman's nature and intellect. I scorn
the attempted parallel!" answered Beulah indignantly.
"Very well; mark me, though, your intellectual pride will yet wreck
He walked out of the greenhouse, whistling to Charon, who bounded
after him. Beulah saw from the slanting sunlight that the afternoon
was far advanced, and feeling in no mood to listen to Pauline's
nonsense she found her bonnet and shawl, and repaired to the parlor
to say good-by to the happy pair, who seemed unconscious of her long
absence. As she left the house the window of the study was thrown
open, and Dr. Hartwell called out carelessly:
"Wait, and let me order the carriage."
"No, thank you."
"I am going into town directly, and can take you home in the buggy."
"I will not trouble you; I prefer walking. Good-by."
He bowed coldly, and she hurried away, glad to reach the gate and
feel that she was once more free from his searching glance and
beyond the sound of his reserved, chilling tones. As she walked on,
groups of happy parents and children were seen in every direction,
taking their quiet Sabbath ramble through the suburbs; and as joyous
voices and innocent laughter fell upon the still air, she remembered
with keen sorrow that she had no ties, no kindred, no companions.
Lilly's cherub face looked out at her from the somber frame of the
past, and Eugene's early friendship seemed now a taunting specter.
In her warm, loving heart were unfathomable depths of intense
tenderness. Was it the wise providence of God which sealed these
wells of affection, or was it a grim, merciless fate which snatched
her idols from her, one by one, and left her heart desolate? Such an
inquiry darted through her mind; but she put it resolutely aside,
and consoled herself much after this fashion: "Why should I question
the circumstances of my life? If the God of Moses guards his
creation, all things are well. If not, life is a lottery, and though
I have drawn blanks thus far, the future may contain a prize, and
for me that prize may be the truth my soul pants after. I have no
right to complain; the very loneliness of my position fits me
peculiarly for the work I have to do. I will labor, and be content."
The cloud passed swiftly from her countenance, and she looked up to
the quiet sky with a brave, hopeful heart.
Among the number of gentlemen whom Beulah occasionally met at Dr.
Asbury's house were two whose frequent visits and general demeanor
induced the impression that they were more than ordinarily
interested in the sisters. Frederick Vincent evinced a marked
preference for Georgia, while Horace Maxwell was conspicuously
attentive to Helen. The former was wealthy, handsome, indolent, and
self-indulgent; the latter rather superior, as to business habits,
which a limited purse peremptorily demanded. Doubtless both would
have passed as men of medium capacity, but certainly as nothing
more. In fine, they were fair samples, perfect types of the numerous
class of fashionable young men who throng all large cities. Good-
looking, vain, impudent, heartless, frivolous, and dissipated;
adepts at the gaming table and pistol gallery, ciphers in an
intelligent, refined assembly. They smoked the choicest cigars,
drank the most costly wines, drove the fastest horses, and were
indispensable at champagne and oyster suppers. They danced and
swore, visited and drank, with reckless indifference to every purer
and nobler aim. Notwithstanding manners of incorrigible effrontery
which characterized their clique, the ladies always received them
with marked expressions of pleasure, and the entree of the "first
circle" was certainly theirs. Dr. Asbury knew comparatively little
of the young men who visited so constantly at his house, but of the
two under discussion he chanced to know that they were by no means
models of sobriety, having met them late one night as they supported
each other's tottering forms homeward, after a card and wine party,
which ended rather disastrously for both. He openly avowed his
discontent at the intimacy their frequent visits induced, and
wondered how his daughters could patiently indulge in the heartless
chit-chat which alone could entertain them. But he was a fond,
almost doting father, and seemed to take it for granted that they
were mere dancing acquaintances, whose society must be endured. Mrs.
Asbury was not so blind, and discovered, with keen sorrow and
dismay, that Georgia was far more partial to Vincent than she had
dreamed possible. The mother's heart ached with dread lest her
child's affections were really enlisted, and, without her husband's
knowledge she passed many hours of bitter reflection as to the best
course she should pursue to arrest Vincent's intimacy at the house.
Only a woman knows woman's heart, and she felt that Georgia's
destiny would be decided by the measures she now employed. Ridicule,
invective, and even remonstrance she knew would only augment her
interest in one whom she considered unjustly dealt with. She was
thoroughly acquainted with the obstinacy which formed the stamen of
Georgia's character, and very cautiously the maternal guidance must
be given. She began by gravely regretting the familiar footing Mr.
Vincent had acquired in her family, and urged upon Georgia and Helen
the propriety of discouraging attentions that justified the world in
joining their names. This had very little effect. She was conscious
that because of his wealth Vincent was courted and flattered by the
most select and fashionable of her circle of acquaintances, and
knew, alas! that he was not more astray than the majority of the
class of young men to which he belonged. With a keen pang, she saw
that her child shrank from her, evaded her kind questions, and
seemed to plunge into the festivities of the season with unwonted
zest. From their birth she had trained her daughters to confide
unreservedly in her, and now to perceive the youngest avoiding her
caresses, or hurrying away from her anxious glance, was bitter
indeed. How her pure-hearted darling could tolerate the reckless,
frivolous being in whose society she seemed so well satisfied was a
painful mystery; but the startling reality looked her in the face,
and she resolved, at every hazard, to save her from the misery which
was in store for Fred Vincent's wife. Beulah's quick eye readily
discerned the state of affairs relative to Georgia and Vincent, and
she could with difficulty restrain an expression of the disgust a
knowledge of his character inspired. He was a brother of the Miss
Vincent she had once seen at Dr. Hartwell's, and probably this
circumstance increased her dislike. Vincent barely recognized her
when they chanced to meet, and, of all his antipathies, hatred of
Beulah predominated. He was perfectly aware that she despised his
weaknesses and detested his immoralities; and, while he shrank from
the steadfast gray eyes, calm but contemptuous, he hated her
Cornelia Graham seemed for a time to have rallied all her strength,
and attended parties and kept her place at the opera with a
regularity which argued a complete recovery. Antoinette Dupres was
admired and nattered; the season was unusually gay. What if Death
had so lately held his awful assize in the city? Bereaved families
wrapped their sable garments about lonely hearts, and wept over the
countless mounds in the cemetery; but the wine-cup and song and
dance went their accustomed rounds in fashionable quarters, and
drink, dress, and be merry appeared the all-absorbing thought. Into
this gayety Eugene Graham eagerly plunged; night after night was
spent in one continued whirl; day by day he wandered further astray,
and ere long his visits to Beulah ceased entirely. Antoinette
thoroughly understood the game she had to play, and easily and
rapidly he fell into the snare. To win her seemed his only wish; and
not even Cornelia's keenly searching eyes could check his admiration
and devotion. January had gone; February drew near its close. Beulah
had not seen Eugene for many days and felt more than usually anxious
concerning him, for little intercourse now existed between Cornelia
and herself. One evening, however, as she stood before a glass and
arranged her hair with more than ordinary care, she felt that she
would soon have an opportunity of judging whether reports were true.
If he indeed rushed along the highway to ruin, one glance would
discover to her the fact. Dr. Asbury wished to give Pauline Chilton
a party, and his own and Mrs. Asbury's kind persuasions induced the
orphan to consent to attend. The evening had arrived. She put on her
simple Swiss muslin dress, without a wish for anything more costly,
and entered the carriage her friends had sent to convey her to the
house. The guests rapidly assembled; soon the rooms were thronged
with merry people, whose moving to and fro prevented regular
conversation. The brilliant chandeliers flashed down on rich silks
and satins, gossamer fabrics, and diamonds which blazed dazzlingly.
Pauline was superbly beautiful. Excitement lighted her eyes and
flushed her cheeks, until all paused to gaze at her transcendent
loveliness. It was generally known that ere many days her marriage
would take place, and people looked at her in her marvelous, queenly
beauty, and wondered what infatuation induced her to give her hand
to a minister, when she, of all others present, seemed made to move
in the gay scene where she reigned supreme. From a quiet seat near
the window Beulah watched her airy, graceful form glide through the
quadrille, and feared that in future years she would sigh for the
gayeties which in her destined lot would be withheld from her. She
tried to fancy the dazzling beauty metamorphosed into the staid
clergyman's wife, divested of satin and diamonds, and visiting the
squalid and suffering portion of her husband's flock. But the
contrast was too glaring, and she turned her head to watch for
Eugene's appearance. Before long she saw him cross the room with
Antoinette on his arm. The quadrille had ended, and as, at the
request of one of the guests, the band played a brilliant mazourka,
numerous couples took their places on the floor. Beulah had never
seen the mazourka danced in public; she knew that neither Helen nor
Georgia ever danced the so-called "fancy dances," and was not a
little surprised when the gentlemen encircled the waists of their
partners and whirled away. Her eyes followed Eugene's tall form, as
the circuit of the parlors was rapidly made, and he approached the
corner where she sat. He held his lovely partner close to his heart,
and her head drooped very contentedly on his shoulder. He was
talking to her as they danced, and his lips nearly touched her
glowing cheek. On they came, so close to Beulah that Antoinette's
gauzy dress floated against her, and, as the music quickened, faster
flew the dancers. Beulah looked on with a sensation of disgust which
might have been easily read in her countenance; verily she blushed
for her degraded sex, and, sick of the scene, left the window and
retreated to the library, where the more sedate portion of the
guests were discussing various topics. Here were Mr. and Mrs.
Grayson; Claudia was North, at school. Beulah found a seat near Mrs.
Asbury, and endeavored to banish the painful recollections which
Mrs. Grayson's face recalled. They had not met since the memorable
day when the orphan first found a guardian, and she felt that there
was still an unconquerable aversion in her heart which caused it to
throb heavily. She thought the time tediously long, and when at last
the signal for supper was given, felt relieved. As usual, there was
rushing and squeezing into the supper room, and, waiting until the
hall was comparatively deserted, she ran up to the dressing room for
her shawl, tired of the crowd and anxious to get home again. She
remembered that she had dropped her fan behind one of the sofas in
the parlor, and, as all were at supper, fancied she could obtain it
unobserved, and entered the room for that purpose. A gentleman stood
by the fire; but, without noticing him, she pushed the sofa aside,
secured her fan, and was turning away when a well-known voice
"Beulah, where are you going?"
"What! so soon tired?"
"Yes; heartily tired," said she, wrapping her shawl about her.
"Have you spoken to Eugene to-night?"
Her guardian looked at her very intently, as if striving to read her
soul, and said slowly:
"Child, he and Antoinette are sitting in the front parlor. I
happened to overhear a remark as I passed them. He is an accepted
lover; they are engaged."
A quick shiver ran over Beulah's frame, and a dark frown furrowed
her pale brow, as she answered:
"I feared as much."
"Why should you fear, child? She is a beautiful heiress, and he
loves her," returned Dr. Hartwell, without taking his eyes from her
"No; he thinks he loves her, but it is not so. He is fascinated by
her beauty; but I fear the day will come when, discovering her true
character, he will mourn his infatuation. I know his nature, and I
know, too, that she cannot make him happy."
She turned away; but he walked on with her to the carriage, handed
her in, and said "Good-night" as coldly as usual. Meantime, the
rattle of plates, jingle of forks and spoons, in the supper room,
would have rendered all conversation impossible had not the
elevation of voices kept pace with the noise and confusion. At one
end of the table Cornelia Graham stood talking to a distinguished
foreigner who was spending a few days in the city. He was a handsome
man, with fine colloquial powers, and seemed much interested in a
discussion which he and Cornelia carried on, relative to the society
of American cities as compared with European. A temporary lull in
the hum of voices allowed Cornelia to hear a remark made by a
gentleman quite near her.
"Miss Laura, who did you say that young lady was that Mrs. Asbury
introduced me to? The one with such magnificent hair and teeth?"
His companion was no other than Laura Martin, whose mother, having
built an elegant house and given several large parties, was now a
"fashionable," par excellence. Laura elevated her nose very
perceptibly, and answered:
"Oh, a mere nobody! Beulah Benton. I can't imagine how she contrived
to be invited here. She is a teacher in the public school, I
believe; but that is not the worst. She used to hire herself out as
a servant. Indeed, it is a fact, she was my little brother's nurse
some years ago. I think ma hired her for six dollars a month." She
laughed affectedly, and allowed her escort to fill her plate with
Cornelia grew white with anger, and the stranger asked, with a
smile, if he should consider this a sample of the society she
boasted of. Turning abruptly to Laura, she replied, with undisguised
"The Fates forbid, Mr. Falconer, that you should judge American
society from some of the specimens you may see here to-night!
Misfortune placed Miss Benton, at an early age, in an orphan asylum,
and while quite young she left it to earn a support. Mrs. Martin
(this young lady's mother) hired her as a nurse; but she soon left
this position, qualified herself to teach, and now, with a fine
intellect thoroughly cultivated, is the pride of all who can
appreciate true nobility of soul and, of course, an object of envy
and detraction to her inferiors, especially to some of our
fashionable parvenus, whose self-interest prompts them to make money
alone the standard of worth, and who are in the habit of determining
the gentility of different persons by what they have, not what they
Her scornful glance rested witheringly on Laura's face, and,
mortified and enraged, the latter took her companion's arm and moved
"I have some desire to become acquainted with one who could deserve
such eulogy from you," answered the foreigner, somewhat amused at
the course the conversation had taken and quite satisfied that
Americans were accustomed to correct false impressions in rather an
"I will present you to her with great pleasure. She is not here; we
must search for her."
She took his arm, and they looked for Beulah from room to room;
finally, Dr. Hartwell informed Cornelia that she had gone home, and,
tired and out of humor, the latter excused herself and prepared to
follow her friend's example. Her father was deep in a game of whist,
her mother unwilling to return home so soon, and Eugene and
Antoinette--where were they? Dr. Hartwell saw her perplexed
expression, and asked:
"Whom are you looking for?"
"He is with your cousin on the west gallery. I will conduct you to
them, if you wish it."
He offered his arm, and noticed the scowl that instantly darkened
her face. Unconsciously her fingers grasped his arm tightly, and she
walked on with a lowering brow. As they approached the end of the
gallery Cornelia saw that the two she sought stood earnestly
conversing. Eugene's arm passed round Antoinette's waist. Dr.
Hartwell watched his companion closely; the light from the window
gleamed over her face and showed it gray and rigid. Her white lips
curled as she muttered:
"Let us take another turn before I speak to them."
"Surely you are not surprised?"
"Oh, no! I am not blind!"
"It was an unlucky chance that threw your cousin in his path," said
the doctor composedly.
"Oh, it is merely another link in the chain of fatality which binds
my family to misfortune. She has all the family traits of the
Labords, and you know what they are," cried Cornelia.
He compressed his lips, and a lightning glance shot out from his
eyes; but he stilled the rising tempest, and replied coldly:
"Why, then, did you not warn him?"
"Warn him! So I did. But I might as well grasp at the stars yonder
as hope to influence him in this infatuation."
Once more they approached the happy pair, and, leaning forward,
Cornelia said hoarsely:
"Eugene, my father is engaged; come home with me."
He looked up, and answered carelessly: "Oh, you are leaving too
early. Can't you entertain yourself a little longer?"
Her freezing tone startled him, and for the first time he noticed
the haggard face, with its expression of angry scorn. Her eyes were
fixed on Antoinette, who only smiled and looked triumphantly
"Are you ill, Cornelia? Of course I will take you home if you really
desire it. Doctor, I must consign Miss Dupres to your care till I
Eugene by no means relished the expression of his sister's
countenance. She bade Dr. Harwell adieu, passed her arm through her
brother's, and they proceeded to their carriage. The ride was short
and silent. On reaching home, Eugene conducted Cornelia into the
house, and was about to return when she said imperiously:
"A word with you before you go."
She entered the sitting room, threw her wrappings on a chair, and
began to divest herself of bracelets and necklace. Eugene lighted a
cigar and stood waiting to hear what she might choose to
communicate. Fastening her brilliant black eyes on his face, she
"Eugene Graham, did you learn dissimulation in the halls of
"What do you mean, Cornelia?"
"Where did you learn to deceive one who believed you pure and
truthful as an archangel? Answer me that." Her whole face was a
glare of burning scorn.
"Insulting insinuations are unworthy of you and beneath my notice,"
he proudly replied.
"Well, then, take the more insulting truth! What crawling serpent of
temptation induced you to tell me you expected to marry Beulah? No
evasion! I will not be put off! Why did you deceive me with a
falsehood I was too stupidly trusting to discover until recently?"
"When I told you so I expected to marry Beulah; not so much because
I loved her, but because I supposed that she rather considered me
bound to her by early ties. I discovered, however, that her
happiness was not dependent on me, and therefore abandoned the
"And my peerless cousin is to be your bride, eh?"
"Yes; she has promised me her hand at an early day."
"No doubt. You don't deserve anything better. Beulah scorns you; I
see it in her eyes. Marry you! You! Oh, Eugene, she is far too
superior to you. You are blind now; but the day will surely come
when your charmer will, with her own hand, tear the veil from your
eyes, and you will curse your folly. It is of no use to tell you
that she is false, heartless, utterly unprincipled; you will not
believe it, of course, till you find out her miserable defects
yourself. I might thunder warnings in your ears from now till
doomsday, and you would not heed me. But whether I live to see it or
not, you will bitterly rue your infatuation. You will blush for the
name which, as your wife, Antoinette will disgrace. Now leave me."
She pointed to the door, and, too much incensed to reply, he quitted
the room with a suppressed oath, slamming the door behind him.
Cornelia went up to her own apartment and, without ringing for her
maid, took off the elegant dress she wore, and threw her dressing
gown round her. The diamond hairpins glowed like coals of fire in
her black braids, mocking the gray, bloodless face, and look of
wretchedness. She took out the jewels, laid them on her lap, and
suffered the locks of hair to fall upon her shoulders. Then great
hot tears rolled over her face; heavy sobs convulsed her frame, and,
bowing down her head, the haughty heiress wept passionately. Eugene
was the only being she really loved; for years her hopes and pride
had centered in him. Now down the long vista of coming time she
looked and saw him staggering on to ruin and disgrace. She knew her
own life would at best be short, and felt that now it had lost its
only interest, and she was ready to sink to her last rest rather
than witness his future career. This was the first time she had wept
since the days of early childhood; but she calmed the fearful
struggle in her heart, and, toward dawn, fell asleep, with a
repulsive sneer on her lips. The ensuing day she was forced to
listen to the complacent comments of her parents, who were well
pleased with the alliance. Antoinette was to return home
immediately, the marriage would take place in June, and they were
all to spend the summer at the North; after which it was suggested
that the young couple should reside with Mr. Graham. Cornelia was
standing apart when her mother made this proposition, and, turning
sharply toward the members of her family, the daughter exclaimed:
"Never! You all know that this match is utterly odious to me. Let
Eugene have a house of his own; I have no mind to have Antoinette
longer in my home. Nay, father; it will not be for a great while.
When I am gone they can come; I rather think I shall not long be in
their way. While I do live, let me be quiet, will you?"
Her burning yet sunken eyes ran over the group.
Eugene sprang up and left the room; Antoinette put her embroidered
handkerchief to dry eyes; Mrs. Graham looked distressed; and her
husband wiped his spectacles. But the mist was in his eyes, and
presently large drops fell over his cheeks as he looked at the face
and form of his only child.
Cornelia saw his emotion; the great floodgate of her heart seemed
suddenly lifted. She passed her white fingers over his gray hair,
and murmured brokenly:
"My father--my father! I have been a care and a sorrow to you all my
life; I am very wayward and exacting, but bear with your poor child;
my days are numbered. Father, when my proud head lies low in the
silent grave, then give others my place."
He took her in his arms and kissed her hollow cheek, saying
"My darling, you break my heart. Have you ever been denied a wish?
What is there that I can do to make you happy?"
"Give Eugene a house of his own, and let me be at peace in my home.
Will you do this for me?"
"Thank you, my father."
Disengaging his clasping arm, she left them.
A few days after the party at her house, Mrs. Asbury returned home
from a visit to the asylum (of which she had recently been elected a
manager). In passing the parlor door she heard suppressed voices,
looked in, and, perceiving Mr. Vincent seated near Georgia, retired,
without speaking, to her own room. Securing the door, she sank on
her knees, and besought an all-wise God to direct and aid her in her
course of duty. The time had arrived when she must hazard everything
to save her child from an ill-fated marriage; and though the
mother's heart bled she was firm in her resolve. When Mr. Vincent
took leave, and Georgia had returned to her room, Mrs. Asbury sought
her. She found her moody and disposed to evade her questions.
Passing her arm round her, she said very gently:
"My dear child, let there be perfect confidence between us. Am I not
more interested in your happiness than anyone else? My child, what
has estranged you of late?"
Georgia made no reply.
"What, but my love for you and anxiety for your happiness, could
induce me to object to your receiving Mr. Vincent's attentions?"
"You are prejudiced against him, and always were!"
"I judge the young man only from his conduct. You know--you are
obliged to know, that he is recklessly dissipated, selfish, and
"He is no worse than other young men. I know very few who are not
quite as wild as he is. Beside, he has promised to sign the
temperance pledge if I will marry him."
"My child, you pain me beyond expression. Does the depravity which
prevails here sanction Vincent's dissipation? Oh, Georgia, has
association deprived you of horror of vice? Can you be satisfied
because others are quite as degraded? He does not mean what he
promises; it is merely to deceive you. His intemperate habits are
too confirmed to be remedied now; he began early, at college, and
has constantly grown worse."
"You are prejudiced," persisted Georgia, unable to restrain her
"If I am, it is because of his profligacy! Can you possibly be
attached to such a man?"
Georgia sobbed and cried heartily. Her good sense told her that her
mother was right, but it was difficult to relinquish the hope of
reforming him. As gently as possible, Mrs. Asbury dwelt upon his
utter worthlessness, and the misery and wretchedness which would
surely ensue from such a union. With streaming eyes, she implored
her to banish the thought, assuring her she would sooner see her in
her grave than the wife of a drunkard. And now the care of years was
to be rewarded; her firm but gentle reasoning prevailed. Georgia had
always reverenced her mother; she knew she was invariably guided by
principle; and now, as she listened to her earnest entreaties, all
her obstinacy melted away. Throwing herself into her mother's arms,
she begged her to forgive the pain and anxiety she had caused her.
Mrs. Asbury pressed her to her heart, and silently thanked God for
the success of her remonstrances. Of all this Dr. Asbury knew
nothing. When Mr. Vincent called the following day Georgia very
decidedly rejected him. Understanding from her manner that she meant
what she said, he became violently enraged; swore, with a solemn
oath, that he would make her repent her trifling; took his hat, and
left the house. This sufficed to remove any lingering tenderness
from Georgia's heart; and from that hour Fred Vincent darkened the
home circle no more.
Pauline's wedding day dawned clear and bright, meet for the happy
event it was to chronicle. The ceremony was to be performed in
church, at an early hour, to enable the newly married pair to leave
on the morning boat, and the building was crowded with the numerous
friends assembled to witness the rites. The minister stood within
the altar, and, after some slight delay, Mr. Mortimor led Pauline
down the aisle. Dr. Hartwell and Mrs. Lockhart stood near the altar.
Mr. Lockhart's indisposition prevented his attendance. Satin, blond,
and diamonds were discarded; Pauline was dressed in a gray traveling
habit and wore a plain drab traveling bonnet.
It was a holy, a touching bridal. The morning sunshine, stealing
through the lofty, arched windows, fell on her pure brow with
dazzling radiance, and lent many a golden wave to the silky,
clustering curls. Pauline was marvelously beautiful; the violet eyes
were dewy with emotion, and her ripe, coral lips wreathed with a
smile of trembling joyousness. Perchance a cursory observer might
have fancied Mr. Mortimor's countenance too grave and thoughtful for
such an occasion; but though the mouth was at rest, and the dark,
earnest eyes sparkled not, there was a light of grateful, chastened
gladness shed over the quiet features. Only a few words were uttered
by the clergyman, and Pauline, the wild, wayward, careless, high-
spirited girl, stood there a wife. She grew deadly pale, and looked
up with a feeling of awe to him who was now, for all time, the
master of her destiny. The vows yet upon her lips bound her
irrevocably to his side, and imposed on her, as a solemn duty, the
necessity of bearing all trials for herself; of smoothing away home
cares from his path; and, when her own heart was troubled, of
putting by the sorrow and bitterness, and ever welcoming his coming
with a word of kindness or a smile of joy. A wife! She must be brave
enough to wrestle with difficulties for herself, instead of wearying
him with all the tedious details of domestic trials, and yet turn to
him for counsel and sympathy in matters of serious import. No longer
a mere self-willed girl, consulting only her own wishes and tastes,
she had given another the right to guide and control her; and now
realizing, for the first time, the importance of the step she had
taken, she trembled in anticipation of the trouble her wayward,
obstinate will would cause her. But with her wonted, buoyant spirit
she turned from all unpleasant reflections, and received the
congratulations of her friends with subdued gayety. Beulah stood at
some distance, watching the April face, checkered with smiles and
tears; and, looking with prophetic dread into the future, she saw
how little genuine happiness could result from a union of natures so
entirely uncongenial. To her the nuptial rites were more awfully
solemn than those of death, for how infinitely preferable was a
quiet resting-place in the shadow of mourning cedars to the lifelong
agony of an unhappy union! She looked up at her quondam guardian, as
he stood, grave and silent, regarding his niece with sadly anxious
eyes; and, as she noted the stern inflexibility of his sculptured
mouth, she thought that he stood there a marble monument, recording
the misery of an ill-assorted marriage. But it was schooltime, and
she approached to say "good-by," as the bridal pair took their seats
in the carriage. Pauline seemed much troubled at bidding her adieu;
she wept silently a minute, then, throwing her arms around Beulah's
neck, whispered pleadingly.
"Won't you go back to Uncle Guy? Won't you let him adopt you? Do,
please. See how grim and pale he looks. Won't you?"
"No. He has ceased to care about my welfare; he is not distressed
about me, I assure you. Good-by. Write to me often."
"Yes, I will; and in vacation Ernest says you are to come up and
spend at least a month with us. Do you hear?"
The carriage was whirled away, and Beulah walked on to her
schoolroom with a dim foreboding that when she again met the
beautiful, warm-hearted girl sunshine might be banished from her
face. Days, weeks, and months passed by. How systematic industry
speeds the wheels of time! Beulah had little leisure, and this was
employed with the most rigid economy. School duties occupied her
until late in the day; then she gave, every afternoon, a couple of
music lessons and it was not until night that she felt herself
free. The editor of the magazine found that her articles were worth
remuneration, and consequently a monthly contribution had to be
copied and sent in at stated intervals. Thus engaged, spring glided
into summer, and once more a June sun beamed on the city. One
Saturday she accompanied Clara to a jewelry store to make some
trifling purchase, and saw Eugene Graham leaning over the counter,
looking at some sets of pearl and diamonds. He did not perceive her
immediately, and she had an opportunity of scanning his countenance
unobserved. Her lip trembled as she noticed the flushed face and
inflamed eyes, and saw that the hand which held a bracelet was very
unsteady. He looked up, started, and greeted her with evident
embarrassment. She waited until Clara had completed her purchase,
and then said quietly:
"Eugene, are you going away without coming to see me?"
"Why, no; I had intended calling yesterday, but was prevented, and I
am obliged to leave this afternoon. By the way, help me to select
between these two pearl sets. I suppose you can imagine their
It was the first time he had alluded to his marriage, and she
answered with an arch smile:
"Oh, yes! I dare say I might guess very accurately. It would not
require Yankee ingenuity."
She examined the jewels, and, after giving an opinion as to their
superiority, turned to go, saying:
"I want to see you a few moments before you leave the city. I am
going home immediately, and any time during the day, when you can
call, will answer."
He looked curious, glanced at his watch, pondered an instant, and
promised to call in an hour.
She bowed and returned home, with an almost intolerable weight on
her heart. She sat with her face buried in her hands, collecting her
thoughts, and, when summoned to meet Eugene, went down with a firm
heart, but trembling frame. It was more than probable that she would
be misconstrued and wounded, but she determined to hazard all,
knowing how pure were the motives that actuated her. He seemed
restless and ill at ease, yet curious withal, and, after some
trifling commonplace remarks, Beulah seated herself on the sofa
beside him, and said:
"Eugene, why have you shunned me so pertinaciously since your return
"I have not shunned you, Beulah; you are mistaken. I have been
engaged, and therefore could visit but little."
"Do not imagine that any such excuses blind me to the truth," said
she, with an impatient gesture.
"What do you mean?" he answered, unable to bear the earnest,
troubled look of the searching eyes.
"Oh, Eugene! be honest--be honest! Say at once you shunned me lest I
should mark your altered habits in your altered face. But I know it
all, notwithstanding. It is no secret that Eugene Graham has more
than once lent his presence to midnight carousals over the wine-cup.
Once you were an example of temperance and rectitude, but vice is
fashionable and patronized in this city, and your associates soon
dragged you down from your proud height to their degraded level. The
circle in which you move were not shocked at your fall. Ladies
accustomed to hear of drunken revels ceased to attach disgrace to
them, and you were welcomed and smiled upon, as though you were all
a man should be. Oh, Eugene! I understand why you have carefully
shunned one who has an unconquerable horror of that degradation into
which you have fallen. I am your friend, your best and most
disinterested friend. What do your fashionable acquaintances care
that your moral character is impugned and your fair name tarnished?
Your dissipation keeps their brothers and lovers in countenance;
your once noble, unsullied nature would shame their depravity. Do
you remember one bright, moonlight night, about six years ago, when
we sat in Mrs. Williams' room at the asylum and talked of our
future? Then, with a soul full of pure aspirations, you said:
'Beulah, I have written "Excelsior" on my banner, and I intend, like
that noble youth, to press forward over every obstacle, mounting at
every step, until I too stand on the highest pinnacle and plant my
banner where its glorious motto shall float over the world!'
'Excelsior!' Ah, my brother, that banner trails in the dust! Alpine
heights tower far behind you, dim in the distance, and now with
another motto--'Lower still'--you are rushing down to an awful gulf.
Oh, Eugene! do you intend to go on to utter ruin? Do you intend to
wreck happiness, health, and character in the sea of reckless
dissipation? Do you intend to spend your days in disgusting
intoxication? I would you had a mother, whose prayers might save
you, or a father, whose gray hairs you dared not dishonor, or a
sister to win you back from ruin. Oh, that you and I had never,
never left the sheltering walls of the asylum!"
She wept bitterly, and, more moved than he chose to appear, Eugene
shaded his face with his fingers. Beulah placed her hand on his
shoulder, and continued falteringly:
"Eugene, I am not afraid to tell you the unvarnished truth. You may
get angry, and think it is no business of mine to counsel you, who
are older and master of your own fate; but when we were children I
talked to you freely, and why should I not now? True friendship
strengthens with years, and shall I hesitate to speak to you of what
gives me so much pain? In a very few days you are to be married.
Eugene, if the wine-cup is dearer to you than your beautiful bride,
what prospect of happiness has either of you? I had hoped her
influence would deter you from it, at least during her visit here;
but if not then, how can her presence avail in future? Oh, for
Heaven's sake! for Antoinette's, for your own, quit the ranks of
ruin you are in, and come back to temperance and honor. You are
bowing down Cornelia's proud head in humiliation and sorrow. Oh,
Eugene, have mercy on yourself!"
He tried to look haughty and insulted, but it would not answer. Her
pale face, full of earnest, tearful entreaty, touched his heart, not
altogether indurated by profligate associations. He knew she had not
given an exaggerated account; he had imagined that she would not
hear of his revels; but certainly she told only the truth. Yet he
resolved not to admit the charge, and, shaking off her hand,
"If I am the degraded character you flatteringly pronounce me, it
should certainly render my society anything but agreeable to your
fastidious taste. I shall not soon forget your unmerited insults."
He rose as he spoke.
"You are angry now, Eugene, because I have held up your own portrait
for your inspection. You are piqued because I tell you the truth.
But when all this has subsided, and you think the matter calmly
over, you will be forced to acknowledge that only the purest
friendship could prompt me to remonstrate with you on your ruinous
career. Of course, if you choose, you can soon wreck yourself; you
are your own master; but the infatuation will recoil upon you. Your
disgrace and ruin will not affect me, save that, as your friend, I
should mourn your fall. Ah, Eugene, I have risked your displeasure--
I have proved my friendship!"
He took his hat and turned toward the door; but she placed herself
before it, and, holding out both hands, exclaimed sorrowfully:
"Do not let us part in anger! I am an orphan without relatives or
protectors, and from early years you have been a kind brother. At
least, let us part as friends. I know that in future we shall be
completely alienated, but your friend Beulah will always rejoice to
hear of your welfare and happiness; and if her warning words, kindly
meant, have no effect, and she hears, with keen regret, of your
final ruin, she at least will feel that she honestly and anxiously
did all in her power to save you. Good-by. Shake hands, Eugene, and
bear with you to the altar my sincere wishes for your happiness."
She held out her hands entreatingly; but he took no notice of the
movement, and, hurrying by, left the house. For a moment Beulah
bowed her head and sobbed; then she brushed the tears from her
cheek, and the black brows met in a heavy frown. True, she had not
expected much else, yet she felt bitterly grieved, and it was many
months are she ceased to remember the pain of this interview;
notwithstanding the contempt she could not avoid feeling for his
The Grahams all accompanied Eugene, and, after the marriage, went
North for the summer. A handsome house was erected near Mr. Graham's
residence, and in the fall the young people were to take possession
of it. Mr. Lockhart rallied sufficiently to be removed to his home
"up the country," and, save Dr. Asbury's family, Beulah saw no one
but Clara and her pupils. With July came the close of the session,
and the young teacher was free again. One afternoon she put on her
bonnet and walked to a distant section of the town to inquire after
Kate Ellison (one of her assistant teachers), who, she happened to
hear, was quite ill. She found her even worse than she had expected,
and, on offering her services to watch over the sick girl, was
anxiously requested to remain with her during the night. She
dispatched a message to Mrs. Hoyt, cheerfully laid aside her bonnet,
and took a seat near the sufferer, while the infirm mother retired
to rest. The family were very poor, and almost entirely dependent on
Kate's salary for a support. The house was small arid comfortless;
the scanty furniture of the plainest kind. About dusk Beulah left
her charge in a sound sleep, and, cautiously opening the blinds,
seated herself on the window sill. The solitary candle on the table
gave but a dim light, and she sat for a long time looking out into
the street and up at the quiet, clear sky. A buggy drew up beneath
the window--she supposed it was the family physician. Mrs. Ellison
had not mentioned his coming, but of course it must be a physician,
and sure enough there was a knock at the door. She straightened one
or two chairs, picked up some articles of clothing scattered about
the floor, and opened the door.
She knew not what doctor Mrs. Ellison employed, and, as her guardian
entered, she drew back with a start of surprise. She had not seen
him since the morning of Pauline's marriage, five months before, and
then he had not noticed her. Now he stopped suddenly, looked at her
a moment, and said, as if much chagrined:
"What are you doing here, Beulah?"
"Nursing Kate, sir. Don't talk so loud; she is asleep," answered
Beulah rather frigidly.
She did not look at him, but knew his eyes were on her face, and
presently he said:
"You are always where you ought not to be. That girl has typhus
fever, and, ten to one, you will take it. In the name of common
sense! why don't you let people take care of their own sick, and
stay at home, instead of hunting up cases like a professed nurse? I
suppose the first confirmed case of smallpox you hear of, you will
hasten to offer your services. You don't intend to spend the night
here, it is to be hoped?"
"Her mother has been sitting up so constantly that she is completely
exhausted, and somebody must assist in nursing Kate. I did not know
that she had any contagious disease; but if she has, I suppose I
might as well run the risk as anybody else. It is but common
humanity to aid the family."
"Oh! if you choose to risk your life it is your own affair. Do not
imagine for an instant that I expected my advice to weigh an iota
He walked off to Kate, felt her pulse, and, without waking her,
proceeded to replenish the glass of medicine on the table. Beulah
was in no mood to obtrude herself on his attention; she went to the
window, and stood with her back to him. She could not tamely bear
his taunting manner, yet felt that it was out of her power to
retort, for she still reverenced him. She was surprised when he came
up to her, and said abruptly:
"To-day I read an article in 'T----'s Magazine' called the 'Inner
Life,' by 'Delta.'"
A deep crimson dyed her pale face an instant, and her lips curled
ominously, as she replied, in a would-be indifferent tone:
"It is not well, at all. It is very ill. It is most miserable!"
"Well! what do I care for the article in 'T----'s Magazine'? "These
words were jerked out, as it were, with something like a sneer.
"You care more than you will ever be brought to confess. Have you
read this precious 'Inner Life'?"
"Have you any idea who the author is?"
"Yes, sir; I know the author; but if it had been intended or desired
that the public should know, also, the article would never have
appeared over a fictitious signature."
This "Inner Life," which she had written for the last number of the
magazine, was an allegory, in which she boldly attempted to disprove
the truth of the fact Tennyson has so inimitably embodied in "The
Palace of Art," namely, that love of beauty and intellectual culture
cannot satisfy the God-given aspirations of the soul. Her guardian
fully comprehended the dawning, and as yet unacknowledged dread
which prompted this article, and hastily laying his hand on her
shoulder, he said:
"Ah, proud girl! you are struggling desperately with your heart.
You, too, have reared a 'palace' on dreary, almost inaccessible
crags; and, because already you begin to weary of your isolation,
you would fain hurl invectives at Tennyson, who explores your
mansion, 'so royal, rich, and wide,' and discovers the grim specters
that dwell with you! You were very miserable when you wrote that
sketch; you are not equal to what you have undertaken. Child, this
year of trial and loneliness has left its impress on your face. Are
you not yet willing to give up the struggle?"
The moon had risen, and, as its light shone on her countenance, he
saw a fierce blaze in her eyes he had never noticed there before.
She shook off his light touch, and answered:
"No! I will never give up!"
He smiled, and left her.
She remained with her sick friend until sunrise the next morning,
and ere she left the house was rewarded by the assurance that she
was better. In a few days Kate was decidedly convalescent. Beulah
did not take typhus fever.
The day was sullen, stormy, and dark. Gray, leaden clouds were
scourged through the sky by a howling southeastern gale, and the
lashed waters of the bay broke along the shore with a solemn,
continued boom. The rain fell drearily, and sheet lightning, pale
and constant, gave a ghastly hue to the scudding clouds. It was one
of those lengthened storms which, during the month of August, are so
prevalent along the Gulf coast. Clara Sanders sat near a window,
bending over a piece of needlework, while, with her hands clasped
behind her, Beulah walked up and down the floor. Their countenances
contrasted vividly; Clara's sweet, placid face, with drooped eyelids
and Madonna-like serenity; the soft, auburn hair curled about her
cheeks, and the delicate lips in peaceful rest. And Beulah!--how
shall I adequately paint the gloom and restlessness written in her
stormy countenance? To tell you that her brow was bent and lowering,
that her lips were now unsteady and now tightly compressed, and that
her eyes were full of troubled shadows, would convey but a faint
impression of the anxious discontent which seemed to have taken
entire possession of her. Clara glanced at her, sighed, and went on
with her work; she knew perfectly well she was in no humor for
conversation. The rain increased until it fell in torrents, and the
hoarse thunder muttered a dismal accompaniment. It grew too dark to
see the stitches; Clara put by her work, and, folding her hands on
her lap, sat looking out into the storm, listening to the roar of
the rushing wind, as it bowed the treetops and uplifted the white-
capped billows of the bay. Beulah paused beside the window, and said
"It is typical of the individual, social, moral, and intellectual
life. Look which way you will, you find antagonistic elements
fiercely warring. There is a broken cog somewhere in the machinery
of this plunging globe of ours. Everything organic, and inorganic,
bears testimony to a miserable derangement. There is not a
department of earth where harmony reigns. True, the stars are
serene, and move in their everlasting orbits, with fixed precision,
but they are not of earth; here there is nothing definite, nothing
certain. The seasons are regular, but they are determined by other
worlds. Verily, the contest is still fiercely waged between Ormuzd
and Ahriman, and the last has the best of it, so far. The three
thousand years of Ahriman seem dawning."
She resumed her walk, and, looking after her anxiously, Clara
"But remember, the 'Zend-Avesta' promises that Ormuzd shall finally
conquer and reign supreme. In this happy kingdom I love to trace the
resemblance to the millennium which was shown St. John on lonely
"It is small comfort to anticipate a time of blessedness for future
generations. What benefit is steam or telegraph to the moldering
mummies of the catacombs? I want to know what good the millennium
will do you and me when our dust is mingled with mother earth, in
some silent necropolis?"
"Oh, Beulah, what ails you to-day? You look so gloomy and wretched.
It seems to me you have changed sadly of late. I knew that a life of
labor such as you voluntarily assumed would chasten your spirit, but
I did not expect this utter revolution of your natura so soon. Oh,
have done with skepticism!"
"Faith in creeds is not to be put on and laid aside at will, like a
garment. Granted that these same doctrines of Zoroaster are faint
adumbrations of the Hebrew creed, the Gordian knot is by no means
loosed. That prologue in 'Faust' horrified you yesterday; yet, upon
my word, I don't see why; for very evidently it is taken from Job,
and Faust is but an ideal Job, tempted in more subtle manner than by
the loss of flocks, houses, and children. You believe that Satan was
allowed to do his utmost to ruin Job, and Mephistopheles certainly
set out on the same fiendish mission. Mephistopheles is not the
defiant demon of Milton, but a powerful prince in the service of
God. You need not shudder; I am giving no partial account; I merely
repeat the opinion of many on this subject. It is all the same to
me. Evil exists: that is the grim fact. As to its origin--I would
about as soon set off to search for the city Asgard."
"Still, I would not give my faith for all your learning and
philosophy. See what it has brought you to," answered Clara
"Your faith! what does it teach you of this evil principle?"
retorted Beulah impatiently.
"At least more than all speculation has taught you. You admit that
of its origin you know nothing; the Bible tells me that time was
when earth was sinless, and man holy, and that death and sin entered
the world by man's transgression--"
"Which I don't believe," interrupted Beulah.
"So you might sit there and stop your ears and close your eyes and
assert that this was a sunny, serene day. Your reception or
rejection of the Biblical record by no means affects its
authenticity. My faith teaches that the evil you so bitterly
deprecate is not eternal; shall finally be crushed, and the harmony
you crave pervade all realms. Why an All-wise and All-powerful God
suffers evil to exist is not for his finite creatures to determine.
It is one of many mysteries which it is as utterly useless to bother
over as to weave ropes of sand."
She gathered up her sewing materials, put them in her basket, and
retired to her own room. Beulah felt relieved when the door closed
behind her, and, taking up Theodore Parker's "Discourses," began to
read. Poor, famishing soul! what chaff she eagerly devoured! In her
anxious haste she paused not to perceive that the attempted
refutations of Christianity contained objections more gross and
incomprehensible than the doctrine assailed. Long before she had
arrived at the conclusion that ethical and theological truth must be
firmly established on psychological foundations, hence she plunged
into metaphysics, studying treatise after treatise and system after
system. To her grievous disappointment, however, the psychology of
each seemed different, nay opposed. She set out believing her
"consciousness" the infallible criterion of truth; this she fancied
philosophy taught, at least professed to teach; but instead of
unanimity among metaphysicians, she found fierce denunciation of
predecessors, ingenious refutations of principles which they had
evolved from rigid analysis of the facts of consciousness, and an
intolerant dogmatism which astonished and confused her. One extolled
Locke as an oracle of wisdom; another ridiculed the shallowness of
his investigations and the absurdity of his doctrines; while a third
showed conclusively that Locke's assailant knew nothing at all of
what he wrote, and maintained that he alone could set matters right.
She studied Locke for herself. Either he was right and all the
others were wrong, or else there was no truth in any. Another
philosopher professed to ground some points of his faith on certain
principles of Descartes; the very next work she read proclaimed that
Descartes never held any such principles, that the writer had
altogether mistaken his views; whereupon up started another, who
informed her that nobody knew what Descartes really did believe on
the subject under discussion; that it was a mooted question among
his disciples. This was rather discouraging, but, nothing daunted,
she bought, borrowed, and read on.
Brown's descent upon Reid greatly interested her. True, there were
very many things she could not assent to; yet the arguments seemed
plausible enough, when lo! a metaphysical giant rescues Reid; tells
her that Brown was an ignoramus; utterly misunderstood the theory he
set himself to criticise, and was a wretched bungler; after which he
proceeds to show that although Brown had not acumen enough to
perceive it, Reid had himself fallen into grave errors and culpable
obscurity. Who was right, or who was wrong, she could not for her
life decide. It would have been farcical, indeed, had she not been
so anxiously in earnest. Beginning to distrust herself, and with a
dawning dread lest after all psychology would prove an incompetent
guide, she put by the philosophies themselves and betook herself to
histories of philosophy, fancying that here all bitter invective
would be laid aside, and stern impartiality prevail. Here the evil
she fled from increased fourfold. One historian of philosophy (who
was a great favorite of her guardian), having lost all confidence in
the subjects he treated, set himself to work to show the fallacy of
all systems, from Anaximander to Cousin. She found the historians of
philosophy as much at variance as the philosophers themselves, and
looked with dismay into the dim land of vagaries into which
metaphysics had drawn the brightest minds of the past. Then her
guardian's favorite quotation recurred to her with painful
significance: "There is no criterion of truth; all is merely
subjective truth." It was the old skeptical palladium, ancient as
metaphysics. She began to despair of the truth in this direction;
but it certainly existed somewhere. She commenced the study of
Cousin with trembling eagerness; if at all, she would surely find in
a harmonious "Eclecticism" the absolute truth she has chased through
so many metaphysical doublings. "Eclecticism" would cull for her the
results of all search and reasoning. For a time she believed she had
indeed found a resting-place; his "true" satisfied her; his
"beautiful" fascinated her; but when she came to examine his
"Theodieea," and trace its results, she shrank back appalled. She
was not yet prepared to embrace his subtle pantheism. Thus far had
her sincere inquiries and efforts brought her. It was no wonder her
hopeful nature grew bitter and cynical; no wonder her brow was bent
with puzzled thought and her pale face haggard and joyless. Sick of
systems, she began to search her own soul; did the very thing of all
others best calculated to harass her mind and fill it with
inexplicable mysteries. She constituted her own reason the sole
judge; and then, dubious of the verdict, arraigned reason itself
before itself. Now began the desperate struggle. Alone and unaided,
she wrestled with some of the grimmest doubts that can assail a
human soul. The very prevalence of her own doubts augmented the
difficulty. On every side she saw the footprints of skepticism; in
history, essays, novels, poems, and reviews. Still her indomitable
will maintained the conflict. Her hopes, aims, energies, all
centered in this momentous struggle. She studied over these world-
problems until her eyes grew dim and the veins on her brow swelled
like cords. Often gray dawn looked in upon her, still sitting before
her desk, with a sickly, waning lamplight gleaming over her pallid
face. And to-day, as she looked out on the flying clouds, and
listened to the mournful wail of the rushing gale, she seemed to
stand upon the verge of a yawning chaos. What did she believe? She
knew not. Old faiths had crumbled away; she stood in a dreary waste,
strewn with the wreck of creeds and systems; a silent desolation!
And with Richter's Christ she exclaimed: "Oh! how is each so
solitary in this wide grave of the All? I am alone with myself. Oh,
Father! oh, Father, where is thy infinite bosom, that I might rest
on it?" A belief in something she must have; it was an absolute
necessity of the soul. There was no scoffing tendency in her
skepticism; she could not jest over the solemn issues involved, and
stood wondering which way she should next journey after this "pearl
of great price." It was well for her that garlands of rhetoric and
glittering logic lay over the pitfalls before her; for there were
unsounded abysses, darker than any she had yet endeavored to fathom.
Clara came back, and softly laid her hand on her friend's arm.
"Please put up your book and sing something for me, won't you?"
Beulah looked at the serene countenance, so full of resignation, and
"What! are you, too, tired of listening to this storm-anthem nature
has treated us to for the last two days? It seems to me the very
universe, animate and inanimate, is indulging in an uncontrollable
fit of the 'blues.' One would almost think the dead-march was being
played up and down the aisles of creation."
She pressed her hands to her hot brow, as if to wipe away the
cobwebs that dimmed her vision, and, raising the lid of the piano,
ran her fingers over the keys.
"Sing me something hopeful and heart-cheering," said Clara.
"I have no songs of that description."
"Yes, you have: 'Look Aloft' and the 'Psalm of Life.'"