Part 4 out of 4
over by Farmer Wise himself, with his poor eyes bandaged and the
sturdy farmer's hand to guide him into the little back parlor where
Mr. George and Mildred sat alone, for Mrs. Cox had been ordered out
by that exacting gentleman as early as eight o'clock. Nothing but
the presence of Mildred herself and the love divine and human that
filled Mr. George's breast to overflowing could have saved him from
succumbing to the painful shock.
"Well, I should think you are cured now, my poor Joseph!" said his
"Of what, in heaven's name?" said poor Mr. Joseph. "By Jove to think--
to think of some men, George! What had I done, what had I done?"
"I do think of them," said Mr. Foxley gravely. "I do think of them.
And but for my happiness here," touching Mildred's dress reverently,
"I could wish--" wistfully, "That we had never come here--'twas I
who brought you my poor Joseph, 'twas I, 'twas I."
"Oh! that's rubbish!" pronounced Mr. Joseph energetically. "The main
point is now, how am I to get my living. God! I am perfectly useless!
They won't take me back in town there."
"Dear Mr. Joseph," said Mildred, with her eyes shining on the
brother of her lover. "You will live with us of course, with--Dacre,
Dacre and me, and my aunt. We all love you--see," and Milly rose,
first pressing Mr. George's fingers as they touched her dress in
passing and giving him a look which was meant to keep him in order
for a few moments, "no one can nurse you as well as I can--ask Dacre--
let me take off that bandage and put it on again more comfortably
for you! Will you, dear Mr. Joseph?" Mr. Joseph groaned and hid his
face against Milly's heaving breast.
"She is to be your angel as well as mine, perhaps," murmured his
"I have always been so active," groaned poor Mr. Joseph, "What is to
become of me? To live here with you would have been beautiful, but
now--the simple thought of existence at all anywhere is unbearable!
And the money--good God, George, how can I Help giving way!"
Some few other such scenes had naturally to be gone through before
any course could be suggested to Mr. Joseph. Mrs. Cox had been taken
into confidence, and Farmer Wise made to understand that nothing
must be said about the unhappy affair. Mr. Joseph wrote into town
explaining in some way his resignation of the rather important
clerkship he had but just begun to fill creditably, and sending for
all his belongings took to Mrs. Cox's remaining little room under
the roof in the character of an invalid. The secret was admirably
kept, even by the doctor who had been written to and who had seen a
similar case some years ago.
"A jealous devil, I suppose," said he, when he read Mr. George
"Well, he might have come off worse. But I should like to know who
the country lass was that he'd been sparkin', and who revenged
herself like that."
A few weeks afterwards Mildred was married to George Albert Dacre
Foxley, of Foxley Manor, Notts, by the Rev. Mr. Higgs in the village
church. Her lover looked wonderfully well and strong on the occasion
and was so happy that he was actually mischievously inclined during
the ceremony, nearly causing his bride to laugh out audibly.
Handsome and distinguished and aristocratic a gentleman as he looked,
Mildred was not unworthy of him, as a straighter, firmer, more
composed and more smiling a bride never entered a church. The girl
was too happy to know what nervousness meant nor self-consciousness.
She sat with her lover after he was dressed and had lain down a few
moments to rest, until it was time to start in the carriage which
Mr. Rattray had in the most unexpected manner offered them and which
Mr. George accepted with the easy languid grace that characterized
his acceptance of most things in this world excepting Milly. He had
plenty of force and passion and to spare concerning _that_ gift.
Stipulating that "Squires" must sit on the box seat, he and Milly
and Mrs. Cox, an ideal little wedding party, drove off in actually
high glee, laughing and chatting and joking immoderately to the
amazement of the villagers, prominent among whom were Mrs. Woods and
"Woods" himself, rescued in a dazed condition from the back premises
of the "Temperance Hotel" according to popular local tradition, and
Mrs. Lyman, B. Rattray, _nee_ Maria Higgs. Mr. Joseph alas! could
not be present.
In the year that followed this remarkable marriage, the relative
positions of the Mr. Foxleys underwent a great change. So much love
and so much care lightened the elder brother's existence so
materially, that his health actually improved, and by the end of the
sixth month of marriage he was able to shoot and fish once more, and
walk with his adoring wife without the help of her strong arm and
shoulder. Indeed it was she who about this time began to need his
assistance during those long strolls by the side of the brook or
through the tall grain grown meadows--a matter which astonished them
both to the extent of stupefaction. Mr. George took his trouble to
"I don't know what you expected, Mr. George, I don't indeed," said
she, secretly amused at his simplicity. "You went and got married,
as was only natural, and now you are frightened at the results, as
is only natural."
"But, my dear lady," expostulated the perplexed gentleman, "it
involves so many things, all manner of complications. For instance,
money. I shall have--I really believe, my dear good Mrs. Cox--I
shall have to make some money."
"You!" ejaculated Mrs. Cox.
"I know. It appears hopeless. I never turned a penny, honest or
otherwise in my life. Joseph you see--ah! poor Joseph!"
Poor Joseph indeed, darkness for light, solitude for society,
enforced idleness for long-continued habits of activity, who could
enjoy life under these circumstances--and careful of him as Mildred
was, and sympathetic as his brother was, these two were too
intensely absorbed in each other to give him all the amusement and
attention he craved. He grew thin and weak and slightly perverse and
seemed to care more for Mrs. Cox's company than for his brother's.
And yet there was nothing wrong with him except his terrible
affliction. Mrs. Cox was sure he had something on his mind, and one
day she ventured to tell him so. He flushed all over his pale
freckled skin, and feeling for her motherly hands took them in his
"There is," he said. "I wonder no one has ever guessed it.
Miss Dexter, where is she? Does anyone ever see her?"
"My poor boy, my dear Mr. Joseph," cried Mrs. Cox. "You did not
really care for her, did you? Surely! You did not care for her!"
"No," said he decidedly. "No, I did not care for her--I didn't,
never could have cared for her as George cares for Mildred, say--but
she was a lady and kind to me, and I liked to go there, and the fact
is--I miss her--and I am so sorry for her! and yet, you know, I am
half frightened of her too and afraid to go out, thinking she may
meet me and I wouldn't see her coming, you know! Yet she wouldn't do
it again, I think!"
"Heaven save us, no, Mr. Joseph! And you so forgiving! Mercy me, and
people say men make all the trouble!"
"It's half-and-half, Mrs. Cox, dear old soul," muttered Mr. Joseph,
leaning back on his cushions. "I suppose we were both to blame. I
can't, for the life of me, fall to talking of it as a judgment, for
before heaven, I had done nothing. Yet I forgot how lonely she was
and how proud, and I forgot too, that Ellen--that Ellen--"
"Ay, Mr. Joseph. It was Ellen too. Poor Ellen, that passed away out
of it all!"
"And she--Miss Dexter--is still here, still living by herself in the
cottage by the oak! I remember so well, Mrs. Cox, the first time my
brother and I ever saw that oak!"
"I daresay, Mr. Joseph, I daresay. Yes, she is still there, living
in her cottage unloved and unheeded, Mr. Joseph. And may she ever
"Oh! don't say that, dear old soul! Don't say that! Do you know, I
should like to see her--I mean--meet her once again!"
Mrs. Cox was certain he was not in "his right head" as she said to
"See her again! Meet her, talk to her! The woman who served ye like
this! what can you be thinking of? Let me call your brother. There
he is coming along the road, brown and bonny, with his wife on his
arm, bless them both?"
"Did you say he was brown, Mrs. Cox? My brother brown! What a change!
He looks so well then, dear old soul!"
"If you could but see him, Mr. Joseph, you would see how well."
"Well and brown! And Mildred, she is pale, I suppose, and with her
eyes turned up to his and her lips brushing his shoulder every now
and then--O I can see them--I suppose they go on a worse than ever."
"Indeed and they do, Mr. Joseph. After, breakfast this morning I
sent them up into the drawing-room to be out of the way of the
drover's meeting to be held in the bar, and when I went up to ask
them about the lunch they would take with them on the river this.
afternoon I heard no sound like and just whispered at the door a bit
if I might come in. When I went in, there was your brother standing
behind her in a chair, with all her hair down, and a brush in his
hand and his wife fast asleep! He looked frightened for a minute
when he saw me and I besought him to bring her to, thinking he'd
mesmerized her. He'd been brushing it and playing with it and the
morning over warm--she had fallen asleep. And I left them, Mr. Joseph,
I left them, for they love each other so. And when I think of the
honor he has done my girl, and how particular he is that she shall
be called Mrs. Foxley--it--"
"Well, well, Mrs. Cox, ours is a good name, and I do not think my
brother would have ever allowed any but a good girl to bear it. And
if a girl is lovely and gentle and pure-minded, and innocent, and
neat, and clean, and refined as your niece was, it matters not
about her birth. Birth! O my dear old soul, I am sick of the word!
Miss Dexter now, is a lady, you know."
"And I must see her again," enforced Mr. Joseph, brought back to his
one idea. "I must see her again."
Mrs. Cox communicated this intelligence to her niece, Mrs. Foxley.
"I think I can understand why," said she, lying back in her
husband's arms one hot summer night under the trees at the back of
the blouse. "It seems a hard wish to understand and a harder one to
comply with, but it may have to be done. Dacre--"
"What my darling!"
"When are you going to tell me about your life in England and--and--
about the woman who sent you out of it?"
"The woman! I never told you about a woman, child!"
"No. But I guessed. It is sure to have been a woman, Dacre."
"Well, I don't mind when I tell you. Nothing of all that time is
anything to me now. Shall I tell you now?"
"If you please, dearest Dacre. For I must be close to you when I
listen to that, and must not have you see me, for I know I shall cry."
"Dearest child! Well then, it shall be now, for you could scarcely
be closer to me than you are now? And if you cry, as you must try
not to do, you shall be allowed to cry here upon my breast and I
will not look. I can hardly see you as it is, it is so dark. Let me
think, how I shall begin. You know Joseph--our poor Joseph--is my
only brother and I never had any sisters. My father--you know this
too--is an English country gentleman living in one of the most
beautiful seats in England. If I were to describe the old place to
you, you would want to go, and I could not spare you, so I will only
say--well, you have seen those photographs?"
"Yes, dearest Dacre."
"They only give you a faint idea of what it is. It is Tudor you know--
do you know what Tudor is, Mrs. Foxley--and all red brick, weathered
all colors, and terraced, with lots of little windows and some big
ones with stained glass in them, and urns on the terrace, and a
rookery, and an old avenue of poplars, haunted too, and so on, and
so on--there's no end to it, Mildred! Yes, it's a fine old place,
without doubt Well, that is where I was born. I don't remember my
mother. I wish I did. She died when Joseph was born, he is just four
years younger than I am. Our youth was passed there--at the Manor,
of course, and we had the usual small college education not
extending to a university career that gentleman's sons have in
England, you know. I didn't make many friends at school, and where
we lived, there was no one to visit, and we had very few relations.
It is quite unusual I believe for two boys to grow up as we did, in
comparative isolation. My father was a kind of Dombey--you know
Dombey, Mildred--wrapped up in his old place and the associations of
his youth and in his family pride. The Foxleys are better born I
believe than half of the aristocracy; we go back to the Conquest on
my father's side--a thing which he never permits himself to forget
for an instant. Well, Milly, it was a dull life for two lively,
affectionate lads like Joseph and me, wasn't it, and had it not been
for all this, child, nature, you know, and the trees and the streams
and the out-door sports I love so well, I could never have got on at
all. Then when I was nineteen--just your age, love--came a change. I,
being the elder and heir to the estate was sent off to town--I mean,
London, my dear--and the Continent, with a tutor. Joseph--well, I
believe I have never fully understood what became of Joseph during
the four years I was away, but I suppose he amused himself. He has a
knack of doing that I never had, except when I am in the country.
Well, this tutor wasn't a bad sort of a fellow and at first we got
on splendidly, living in town in chambers, going to the plays and
the opera, and dining all over, just wherever I liked or he knew,
and excursions oat of London, you know--oh! jolly enough for a
little while! Then we went across to Paris--"
"Yes, dearest Dacre?"
Mr. Foxley stopped a moment to lift his wife's face closer to his own.
He kissed it--a long long kiss that entranced them both to the
degree of forgetting the story.
"If you would rather not go on--" said Mildred.
"Oh! I must now. Well, we did Paris, and then the other capitals and
Nice--Nice was just then coming into vogue, and ran down into Italy--
I remember I liked Genoa so much--and then we came back to Paris,
for Harfleur--that was the tutor's name, and it doesn't sound like a
real one, does it--preferred Paris to any other European town and of
course so did I. About this time, his true character began to show
itself. He went out frequently without me, smoked quite freely,
would order in wine and get me to drink with him, and was very much
given to calling me fresh, green, and all that you know. I began to
think he was right. I was past twenty-one, and I had never even had
a glimpse into the inside of life. Women, now and all that kind of
thing--I was positively ignorant of--but to be sure, one quickly
learns in Paris."
For one night, Harfleur asked me in his usual sneering tone how I
was going to spend my evening.
"I am going out to a charming _soiree_ at the house of Madame de
L'Estarre, the most charming woman in Paris," said he.
"'Then I shall accompany you,' I said, fired by his insulting tone.
And I went, Mildred. I suppose I was good-looking, eh, my child--and
had sufficient air of distinction about me to impress Madame de
L'Estarre, for she left the crowd of waxed and perfumed Frenchmen
and devoted herself entirely to me. Although she was--beautiful--she
was not tall, and I, standing at her side all that evening, never
took my eyes off her dazzling face and her white uncovered bosom. In
a week, my child, I had learnt to know and love every feature in
that dazzling face and began to dream of the day when I should be
allowed to kiss that bosom. Yes, I certainly loved her."
"I am sure you loved her, Dacre my darling. And how could she help
loving you, dear, in return?"
"Oh that is another thing entirely, quite another thing. After that
night, Harfleur showed me more respect than he had done for some
time previously and we began to hit it off again better. I went to
her _hotel_--her house you know, every day. At first she would
always receive me alone, sending anybody away who happened to be
there and refusing to admit anybody who came while we were together.--
It is difficult, even to my wife, to explain what kind of a woman
she was. All that first time, when we would be alone, she would--
make love, I suppose it must be called--with her eyes and her hands,
and her very skirts and her fan, and the cushion, and the footstool.
The room was always beautiful and always dim, and she would greet me
with outstretched hands and a shy smile, making room for me beside
her on the sofa--she always sat on a sofa. We would talk of nothing
at all perhaps but look into each other's eyes, until the force of
her look would draw me close, close to her till we were almost in
one another's arms, and I could feel her breath coming faster every
moment when just as I imagined she would sink upon my shoulder--she
would draw herself up with a laugh and push me away, declaring
somebody was coming. Then, if nobody came, she would go through the
same farce again. This would happen perhaps two or three times a day.
In the evening, I was again at her side, night after night regarding
her with a devotion that amazed even my friend Harfleur.
"She treats you like a dog. It will kill you yet, George. Come away."
But of course I would not go. I accompanied her to the theatre, to
the Bois, to the shops, to church--yes, even to church, Mildred,
think of that--and she was very careful and circumspect and all that.
I even believe as far as direct actions go, she may have been a
virtuous woman, for she certainly, had no other lover when I knew her.
She was a widow, enormously rich and nothing to do. Therefore, I
suppose she went in for the torturing business as a profession. Her
Frenchmen did not mind; that was the secret of her charm with them--
so clever, they called her, but it nearly killed me, her cleverness.
I grew pale and worn--sleep--I never slept. All my life I had lived
without natural affection, and now I was pouring forth upon this
woman the love I might have rendered friends, sister, brother, mother,
as well as the passion of a young man. I say to you now, Mildred, my
wife, that the woman who tramples on the passion of a young man is
as bad as the man who slays the innocence of a young girl. And
that's what she did. Finally, when this had lasted for a year and a
half, and Harfleur had gone back to England, one day, when I was
perfectly desperate and could have killed her, Milly, as she lay at
full length on her damned sofa--pardon, my dear, no, don't kiss my
hand, child, don't--dressed in some rose-colored stuff all trailing
about her and her hands clasped under her head, I fell by her on my
knees and besought her to tell me what she meant and if she ever
could care for me. I give you my word, my dear, and with my hand
over your innocent heart, you know I dare not lie--in all that year
and a half I had not even touched her lips. You cannot, happily
imagine the torture of such a position.
Well, that day, she bent over to me on her side and said "What do
you want, is it to kiss me? Chut! wait for that till we are married."
"Do you mean to marry me?" I gasped out. "She said 'yes,' Mildred,
and brushed my cheek with her lips. What do you think I did then,
"How can I tell, dearest Dacre!"
"I fainted, dearest. Think of it. But I believed her, you see, and
the revulsion was too great. In a moment or two I came to myself
with the sounds of laughter in my ears. I was on her sofa--that
damned sofa--pardon again, my dear--and she was standing with three
of her cursed Frenchmen around her all laughing fit to kill
themselves. I saw through it all in a moment. They had been on the
other side of the curtains. I went straight up to her and said 'Did
you say that you were ready to become my wife?' She only laughed and
the men too with her. Then I struck her--on her white breast, Milly--
and struck the three Frenchmen on the face one after the other. They
were so astonished that not one of them moved, and I parted the
curtains, and left the house."
"Did you never see her again?"
"Never. I left Paris considerably wiser than I had entered it and
avoided society generally. I had one year's life in London, and was
considered no end of a catch by the mammas, I believe, but you can
imagine I did not easily fall a victim. No. That is all my story, my
dear, all at least that has been unguessed at by you. My health was
very bad at home and beyond my love of sport I cared for nothing. I
grew to hate my life in England, even England, though she had done
me no harm. Finally, I quarrelled with my father who married again,
a woman we both disliked, Joseph and I, and so we turned our backs
on the Old World and came out to Canada and to--you."
Mildred still lay, crying softly, in her husband's arms. "I had
sometimes dreamt," continued Mr. Foxley, "of meeting some young girl
who could love me and on whose innocence and sweetness I could rest
and whom besides I should really love. It did not dawn upon me when
I first saw you, that _you_ were the one I wanted, for we must
confess, dear, that you were very plump and rather pink and spoke--"
"Why, Dacre, how can you? I was only fifteen! Cruel!"
"Yes, I know. And how you changed! Now, you are so different that it
is not the same Mildred at all. Such is the power of a true love, my
child, and we must always be happy,--ours is one of those marriages."
Theirs was indeed one of those marriages. Mr. Foxley took to farming
and enriched his purse as well as his health. Mr. Joseph had an
interview with Miss Dexter the nature of which I am not going to
reveal, but which resulted in a placid intimacy between the two to
the surprise of all save Milly who always said that "she thought she
knew why." Miss Dexter frequently accompanied blind Mr. Joseph on
his lonely walks or would sit with him when the others were out, as
none but he cared to meet her. Towards his death which occurred in
about four years time, she was with him constantly, and died herself
in a fortnight after, having left in her will, all her maiden
belongings to her "good friend, Farmer Wise." The farmer was not
much moved when informed of this fact, so incomprehensible to the
rest of the village. He had always kept the little bottle with its
cruel label, and had always feared and avoided poor, proud, foolish,
wicked Charlotte Dexter since that Saturday night.
As for Mr. George and his wife, I see a vision of a successful and
happy husband and father in the prime of early old age (which means,
that at fifty-three one is not old with a young wife and three sweet
children) and of Mildred, who is always a little pale, has her eyes
constantly turned up to her husband's with her lips brushing her
shoulder every now and then.
Ay, still and forever. And so ends my sketch of how the Mr. Foxleys
came, stayed and never went away.
The Gilded Hammock.
Who does not know the beautiful Miss De Grammont? Isabel De Grammont,
who lives by herself and is sole mistress of the brown-stone mansion
in Fifth Avenue, the old family estate on the Hudson, the villa at
Cannes, the first floor of a magnificently decayed palace at Naples,
who has been everywhere, seen everything and--cared for nobody?
She reclines now in her latest craze--a hammock made of pure gold
wire, fine and strong and dazzling as the late October sun shines
upon it stretched from corner to corner of her regally-furnished
drawing-room. Two gilded tripods securely fastened to the floor hold
the ends of the hammock in which she lies. The rage for yellow holds
her as it holds everyone who loves beauty and light and sunshine.
Cushions of yellow damask support her head, and a yellow tiger-skin
is under her feet. The windows are entirely hidden with thick amber
draperies, and her own attire is a clinging gown of some soft silk
of a deep creamy tint that as she sways to and fro in the hammock is
slightly lifted, displaying a petticoat of darker tint, and Russian
slippers of bronzed kid. Amber, large clear and priceless, gleams in
its soft waxy glow in her hair, on her neck, round her waist, where
it clasps a belt of thick gold cloth and makes a chain for a fan of
Because you see, although it is autumn, it is very warm all through
Miss De Grammont's mansion, as she insists on fires, huge bonfires,
you may call them, of wood and peat in every room and on every hearth.
Out of the fires grew the desire for the hammock.
"Why," says Miss De Grammont, with a faint yawn, "why must I only
lie in a hammock in the Summer, and then, where nobody can see me? I
will have a hammock made for the winter, to lie in and watch my
And so she did, for money is law and beauty creates duty, and one day,
when the fashionable stream, the professional cliques and the
artistic hangers-on called upon her "from three to six," they were
confronted by the vision of an exquisitely beautiful woman dressed
in faint yellow with great bunches of primroses in brass bowls from
Morocco on a table by her side, who received them in a "gilded
hammock," with her feet on a tiger-skin, and her chestnut hair
catching a brighter tinge from the flames of her roaring fire, and
the sunlight as it came in through the amber medium of the
The tea was Russian, like the slippers, and the butler who presented
it was a mysterious foreigner who spoke five languages. The guests
all wondered, as people always did, at De Grammont. Nobody knew quite
what she had done with herself since she had been left an orphan at
the age of nineteen. She suddenly shot up into a woman, beautiful,
with that patrician and clear-cut loveliness with yet a touch of the
_bohemienne_ about it which only _les belles Americaines_ know.
Then she took unto herself a maid, two dogs, and three Saratoga
trunks and went over to Europe wandering about everywhere. At Cannes,
she met and subjugated the heir to the crown; of this friendship the
tiger-skin remained as a _souvenir_. The heir to the crown was not
generous. Next came various members of embassies, all proud, all poor,
and all frantically in love. She laid all manner of traps for her
lovers and discovered in nearly every case that these men were after
her money. A certain Russian Grand Duke, from whom had come some
superb amber ornaments--he being a man of more wealth than the others--
never forgave her the insult she offered him. He sent her these
ornaments from the same shop in Paris that he ordered--at the same
time--a diamond star for a well-known ballet dancer, and the two
purchases were charged to his account. Through some stupidity, the
star came to her. She ordered her horses and drove the same day to
the jewelers, who was most humble and anxious to retrieve his error.
He showed her the amber. She examined it carefully. "It is genuine,
and very fine," she said gravely. "I have lived in Russia and I know.
I am very fond of amber. I will buy this myself from you, and you may
inform His Highness of the fact"
The delighted shop-keeper did not ask her very much more than its
genuine value and next day all Paris knew of the transaction and
flocked to the Opera to see her in the ornaments which had cost the
Russian Duke his friendship for the bearer. But though eccentric,
impulsive and domineering, no whisper had ever attached itself to
her name. On her return to her native New York, was she not welcomed,
feted, honored, besieged with invitations everywhere? People felt
she was different from the girl who went away. _She_ had been
undecided, emotional, a trifle vain, self-conscious, guilty of moods--
no small offence in society; this glorious creature was a queen, a
goddess, always calm, always serene, always a trifle bored, always
superbly the same. Her house she re-furnished altogether. The three
Saratoga trunks were now represented by nine or ten English ones,
dress baskets, large packing cases, and one mysterious long box
which when opened contained several panels of old Florentine carved
wood-work which interested all New York immensely. Pictures and
tapestries, armor and screens, and a gate of mediaeval wrought iron
were all among her art treasures. The foreign butler was her _charge
d'affaires_, and managed everything most wisely and even economically.
He engaged a few servants in New York, her maid, housekeeper and the
two housemaids she had brought out with her. Her house was the
perfect abode of the most faultless aestheticism. It was perfection
in every detail and in the _ensemble_ which greeted the eye, the ear,
every sense, and all mental endowments, from the vestibule in marble
and rugs to the inner boudoir and sanctum of the mistress of the
house, hung with pale rose and straw-color in mingled folds of
stamped Indian silks, priceless in color and quality. Two Persian
cats adorned the lounge and one of her great dogs--a superb mastiff--
occupied the rug before the door night and day, almost without rest.
Such were the general surroundings of Isabel de Grammont. Art and
letters, music and general culture were inseparable from the daily
life of such a woman as well as immediate beautiful presences, so
that into this faultless house came everything new that the world
offered in books, magazines, songs and new editions. Thanks to
European travel, there was no language she could not read, no modern
work she had not studied. Also came to her receptions the literary
lions of New York. Aspiring journalists, retiring editors,
playrights and composers, a few actors and crowds of would-be poets
flocked to the exquisite drawing-rooms hung with yellow, wherein the
owner of so much magnificence lounged in her golden hammock. Sonnets
were written of her descriptive of orioles flying in the golden west,
and newspaper paragraphs indited weekly in her praise referred to
her as the "Semiramus of a new and adoring society world." Baskets of
flowers, tubs of flowers, barrels of flowers were sent weekly to her
address, and she was solicited--on charitable, fashionable, religious,
communistic, orthodox and socialistic grounds as lady patroness of
this or member of that and subscriber to the other. In short, she
was a success, and as nothing succeeds like success, we may take it
that as the months rolled on, and the great house still maintained
its superb hospitality and Miss De Grammont still appeared in her
sumptuous carriage either smothered in furs or laces according to
the seasons, she still maintained in like manner her position in
society and her right to the homage and admiration of all classes.
But this was not the case. Even a worm will turn and public opinion
is very often a little vernacular, let us say. And it happened, that
public opinion in the case of Miss De Grammont, began to turn, to
raise itself up in fact and look a little about it and beyond it as
we have all seen worms do--both in cheeses and out of them--when the
fact that she lay most of the time in a gilded hammock swung in
front of her drawing-room fire was announced from the pulpits of
society journals. It may have been that her friends were devoid of
imagination, that they were cold, prudish, satirical, unpoetical,
unaesthetic, anything we like to call them, that will explain their
action in the matter, for they clearly, one and all, disliked the
notion of the hammock. One spoke of it disparagingly to another, who
took it up and abused it to a third, who described it to a friend
who "wrote for the papers." This gifted gentleman who lodged with a
lady of the same temper and edited a fashion journal, concocted with
her help a description of the thing which soon found its way into
his paper and was then copied into hers. The public grew uneasy. It
would swallow any story it was told about the Heir Apparent, for
instance and a Russian Grand Duke--is it not the sublime prerogative
of American women to dally with such small game as those gentlemen--
but it kicked against the probability of such an actual fact as the
hammock already described which seemed too ridiculous a whim to
possess any real existence. However, the tongues of the fashionable
callers, the professional cliques and the artistic hangers-on
coincided in the affair to that extent that soon the existence of
the gilded hammock was established and from that time Miss De
Grammonts' popularity was on the wane. Dowagers looked askance and
matrons posed in a patronizing manner, the flippant correspondents
of society journals and the compilers of sonnets in which that very
hammock had been eulogized and metaphored to distraction now waited
upon her, if at all in an entirely different manner. Strange how all
classes began to recall the many peculiar or unaccountable things
she had done, the extraordinary costumes she had worn, the fact that
she lived alone, and the other fact that she made so few friends.
From aspersions cast on her house, her equipage, her dresses, there
came to be made strictures on her private character, her love affairs,
her friends and career in Europe, her _menage_ at present in New
York and the members thereof. Finally public opinion finding that
all this made very little impression outwardly, upon the regal
disdain of Miss De Grammont in her carriage or in her Opera-stall,
however she might writhe and chafe when safely ensconced within that
rose and straw-colored boudoir, made up its mind that the secret of
the whole three volume novel, the key to the entire mystery lay with
That black-moustached functionary, they whispered, had his mistress
in his power. He had been a courier, and she had fallen in love with
him abroad. Or he had been a well-known conjurer and coerced her
through means little less than infernal to run away with him. He was
a mesmerist, so they said, and could send her into trances at will.
Then he had been the famous Man Milliner of Vienna, whose
disappearance one fine day with the entire trousseau of an Austrian
Grand Duchess had been a nine days' wonder. These dresses she wore,
strange mixtures never seen on earth before of violet and blue, pink
and pea-green, rose and lemon, were the identical ones prepared for
the Grand Duchess. Finally, he was an Italian Prince rescued from a
novel of "Ouida's," whom she had found living in exile, having to
suffer punishment for some fiendish crime perpetrated in the days of
When the stories had reached this point, Miss De Grammont, to whom
they were conveyed through papers, notes from "confidential friends,"
her maid and others, wrote a letter one day directed to the:
REV. LUKE FIELDING,
Pastor, Congregational Church,
A week or ten days after, Miss De Grammont, seated--not, in the
gilded hammock though it still swung gracefully before the glowing
fire--but in the cushions which graced her window looking on the
front of the house, saw a gentleman arrive in a cab. She rose
hastily and opened the door of the room herself for her visitor.
This was the Rev. Luke Fielding, a gentleman of the severest
Puritanical cut and a true New Englander to boot. With his hat in
his hand he advanced with an expression on his face of the deepest
amazement and dismay which increased momentarily as he saw not only
the gorgeous coloring and appointments of the room but the fair
figure of its occupant. To be sure, she had with infinite difficulty
selected the plainest dress she could find in her wardrobe to
receive him in, a gown of dark green velvet made very simply, and
high to the throat. But alas! there was no disguising the priceless
lace at her wrists, or the gems that glittered on her firm white
"My dear cousin!" said the lady, giving him both her hands.
"My dear cousin Isabel," returned the minister, laying his hat down
on a plush-covered chair on which it looked curiously out of place,
and taking her hands in his.
"My dear cousin Isabel, after so many years!"
"It is only eight years, cousin," returned the lady.
"True," replied the minister gravely. "Yet to one like myself that
seems a long time. You sent for me, cousin." His gaze wandered round
the room and then fastened once more upon Miss De Grammont.
"Yes," she said faintly. "I could not tell you all in my letter. I
wanted--I want still--somebody's help."
"And it is very natural you should apply for mine, cousin, I will do
anything I can. I have"--the minister grew sensibly more severe,
more grave--"I have this day, on the train, seen a paper--a new kind
of paper to me, I confess,--a _Society Journal_ it calls itself, in
which a name is mentioned. Is your--trouble--connected with that?"
Miss De Grammont blushed deeply. "Yes. That is my name. I would not
have troubled you--but I must ask your advice, for you are the only
one of the family, of my mother's family--" Her voice broke.
"Yes, cousin, you are right."
The minister rose and stood up before her, a stern though not
unsympathetic figure in his stiff black coat and iron gray hair.
"I know what you are going to ask me to do. You will ask me to see
these people, these editors, reviewers, whatever they are, to talk
to them, to impress upon them what you are and who you are, and who
your mother was, and what is the end of the base man who imagines
lies and the end of all the workers of iniquity. You will ask me to
tell them that it is all false, all abominable intrigue and
treachery and I shall demand in your name and in my own as your only
near relative and a minister of the Gospel, an apology. It is but
jealousy, cousin. Forgive me, but you are too beautiful and too
young to live alone in such a house, in such a manner. You must marry.
Or else you must give up such a life. It maketh enemies within your
gates and behold! there shall be no man to say a good thing of thee!"
The minister had lifted up his voice as if he had been in the pulpit
and for one instant laid his hand on his cousin's hair. Then he went
back to his seat.
Miss De Grammont was profoundly moved. Great tears coursed down her
cheeks and until they had stopped she could not trust herself to
"The paper!" she said dismally. "You have seen a paper, you say, with--
my--my name in it! There is nothing new in that. I have been in the
papers for months past. I am never out of them. And this one says--"
The minister drew it out of his pocket.
"That with you, in this house lives, in the character of a butler,
an exiled Italian Prince who committed grave personal and political
offences many years ago and was sent to prison. That you are married
to him. My dear cousin, it is monstrous!"
Miss De Grammont took out her handkerchief already wet through with
her tears and pressed it to her eyes.
"It is not monstrous," she said, "but it is most extraordinary. He
_is_ an Italian Prince, and I _am_ married to him."
To use a hackneyed phrase, the room swam around Mr. Fielding for an
instant When he recovered he could only sit and gaze at the
beautiful woman before him. The details of village life, in Vermont
had not educated him up to exigencies of this sort. A fearful chasm
seemed to have opened under his feet, and he began to comprehend
dimly that there were other lives than his own and that of his
estimable but commonplace wife being daily lived out in this world.
"Yes," said Miss De Grammont, a little more bravely now that the
worst shock was over. "That is quite true. And the extraordinary
part of it is that they can only have guessed at it; evolved it, as
it were from the depths of their inner consciousness, they can't
possible have discovered it. It isn't known anywhere, save perhaps
to one or two in Italy."
"In Italy," murmured the Rev. Mr. Fielding. "You met him in Italy?
And why keep it secret? My dear cousin, you have made a great mistake.
And all this sad and singular story is true?"
"Very nearly true. All but the offences. They never happened."
"Your husband is not a political character then?"
"Oh! not in the least. He knows nothing of politics. My Jose! he
couldn't hurt anything, moreover!"
"Jose is a Spanish name, surely," said Mr. Fielding.
"His mother was a Castilian, fair and proud as only a Castilian can
be. She named him Jose--But he has other names, three, all Italian--
"I see," said the minister dryly. "I am sorry that I cannot give you
all the sympathy in this matter that you may desire, but you have
entered on a course of action which is perplexing at least, to say
no more. I feel, my dear cousin, that as a--married woman--your
confidences are--ill placed and I must ask you to withdraw them. You
must settle this matter with your--ahem--husband." Mr. Fielding
took up his hat and in another moment would have been gone forever,
but that turning at the door he saw such intense supplication in his
cousin's eyes that his orthodox heart melted.
"Forgive me cousin," he said coming back. "There may be still a way
out of it. Will you tell me all?" Miss De Grammont then related her
different heart episodes abroad, entanglements, half-engagements,
desperate flirtations and all the rest of it to this sober,
black-coated gentleman. Such a revelation poured forth in truly
feminine style nearly drove him away the second time, but true to
his word, he remained nevertheless, sitting bolt upright in a padded
chair only meant for lounging. Finally, she told him of her snares
to catch lovers and how one day she was caught herself by the
dark-browed, eloquent Prince Corunna.
She fell in love herself for the first time in her life, and he with
her, so he declared. But he was miserably poor and with the pride of
a Castilian would not woo her because of her money. She hated it,
yet she could not live without it.
The minister smiled pityingly.
However she made him marry her, and then proposed as a test, in
which he joyfully acquiesced, that he should make himself of use to
her, be in fact, her major-domo, steward, butler, amanuensis,
anything and everything.
"It is most unprecedented," sighed the minister. "That a man with
Castilian blood in his veins--"
Miss De Grammont interrupted him. "He was happier so, dear cousin.
But I--I grew most unhappy. And since I have been here, I have been
very unhappy still. We are both in a false position and now--thanks
to that unlucky hammock--our secret has become common property."
"The hammock!" said Mr. Fielding. "What has that got to do with it?
It is a pretty idea."
"So I think," said Miss De Grammont, delighted beyond measure. Then
she told him about the paragraphs, large and small, the confidential
friends, the small beginnings that had lead insensibly up to the
culminating point--that of scandal.
"I am being dropped gradually," she said.
"Of course you are," said the minister. "Of course you are. Soon you
will be--forgive me--a dead letter. There is only one thing to be
done and that I can do at once. A letter must be written to this
paper, stating calmly in as few words as possible that this
paragraph is true, that you _are_ married to Prince--ah--Corunna,
that he _is_ a political offender and for that reason the marriage
_was_ kept secret, but that now of course as informers must
already have given the secret away, you are obliged to endorse it
"But Jose is not a political offender! Never did anything wrong in
"Of course not," said the minister. "Some of us others, even
clergymen, are not so fortunate. Now that must be included, else
there is no good reason for having kept your marriage secret. Other
explanations will not be taken. Besides this will entitle you to
sympathy at once. Will you write the letter and I can leave it at
the office for you? There is time for me to do that before my train
Miss De Grammont wrote her letter as dictated by her cousin. He put
it in his pocket and rose to go.
"Will you not stay and see my husband?" she said timidly.
"Thank you, no." returned Mr. Fielding. "I haven't met many
foreigners. I don't think, perhaps, we should get on. Down in
Phippsville--well, my circle is so different from yours, Isabel. It
is the fashion I hear to live abroad now, and desert America--at
least to depreciate it, and not to care about its opinion--but that
hasn't spread yet to our little village. It seems as if it might
have been better for instance, had you stayed in Europe. You see,
having married an Italian, all this trouble would have been avoided--
I mean--it could have gone on over there--but now--well, riches are
a snare, my dear cousin, as you have by this time found. Good-bye,
dear cousin, and God be with you."
When a letter addressed to the editor of the Society Journal
appeared the next day signed Isabel Corunna (nee De Grammont) with
its paralysing statement in a few concise words, New York was
startled to its foundation. Public opinion which for a week had been
at the culminating point of distrust, malevolence and resentment,
turned the corner in a moment and for the moment believed implicitly
in the faith of the lady it had abandoned. The greatest sympathy was
shown Madame La Princesse Corunna, or Princess Corunna, or Miss De
Grammont that was, or whatever her friends chose to call her. The
butler disappeared for ever and the Prince came in. It was a
transformation scene equal to Beauty and the Beast. Dark-browed and
eloquent as ever, the Prince was a social success whenever he chose
to be, but as time went on, he and his wife became more and more
absorbed in each other and the world saw little of either of them.
For a time he posed as a political offender which gave his wife no
end of amusement. They were so far reinstated into public favor that
the hammock--source of mingled joy and woe--was again considered as
a thing of beauty and a thing to be imitated. There are a dozen such
hammocks now in New York City.
But there are still a few ill-natured people, dowagers, matrons, an
old love or two, and a handful of shrivelled spinsters who declare
that the Prince is no Prince at all, but a Pastrycook.