Part 2 out of 3
"Maiden name? Let me see. Why--oh, no--oh, yes--Cleveland, Mary
"Mary Cleveland, of Boston; married Hamilton Leithe, about nineteen
years ago. I used to know the lady. And this is her daughter! And Mary
Cleveland is dead!--Help yourself, Haymaker. I never take more than one
course at this hour of the day."
"But you must let me introduce you, you know," mumbled Haymaker,
through his succotash.
"I hardly know," said Drayton, rubbing his mustache. "Pardon me if I
leave you," he added, looking at his watch. "It is later than I
Nothing more was seen of Drayton for the rest of that day. But the next
morning, as Mary Leithe sat on the Bowlder Rock, with a book on her
lap, and her eyes on the bathers, and her thoughts elsewhere, she heard
a light, leisurely tread behind her, and a gentlemanly, effective
figure made its appearance, carrying a malacca walking-stick, and a
small telescope in a leather case slung over the shoulder.
"Good-morning, Miss Leithe," said this personage, in a quiet and
pleasant voice. "I knew your mother before you were born, and I can not
feel like a stranger toward her daughter. My name is Ambrose Drayton.
You look something like your mother, I think."
"I think I remember mamma's having spoken of you," said Mary Leithe,
looking up a little shyly, but with a smile that was the most winning
of her many winning manifestations. Her upper lip, short, but somewhat
fuller than the lower one, was always alive with delicate movements;
the corners of her mouth were blunt, the teeth small; and the smile was
such as Psyche's might have been when Cupid waked her with a kiss.
"It was here I first met your mother," continued Drayton, taking his
place beside her. "We often sat together on this very rock. I was a
young fellow then, scarcely older than you, and very full of romance
and enthusiasm. Your mother--". He paused a moment, looking at his
companion with a grave smile in his eyes. "If I had been as dear to her
as she was to me," he went on, "you would have been our daughter."
Mary looked out upon the bathers, and upon the azure bay, and into her
own virgin heart. "Are you married, too?" she asked at length.
"I was cut out for an old bachelor, and I have been true to my
destiny," was his reply. "Besides, I've lived abroad till a month or
two ago, and good Americans don't marry foreign wives."
"I should like to go abroad," said Mary Leithe.
"It is the privilege of Americans," said Drayton. "Other people are
born abroad, and never know the delight of real travel. But, after all,
America is best. The life of the world culminates here. We are the prow
of the vessel; there may be more comfort amidships, but we are the
first to touch the unknown seas. And the foremost men of all nations
are foremost only in so far as they are at heart American; that is to
say, America is, at present, even more an idea and a principle than it
is a country. The nation has perhaps not yet risen to the height of its
opportunities. So you have never crossed the Atlantic?"
"No; my father never wanted to go; and after he died, mamma could not."
"Well, our American Emerson says, you know, that, as the good of travel
respects only the mind, we need not depend for it on railways and
"It seems to me, if we never moved ourselves, our minds would never
really move either."
"Where would you most care to go?"
"To Rome, and Jerusalem, and Egypt, and London."
"They seem like parts of my mind that I shall never know unless I visit
"Is there no part of the world that answers to your heart?"
"Oh, the beautiful parts everywhere, I suppose."
"I can well believe it," said Drayton, but with so much simplicity and
straightforwardness that Mary Leithe's cheeks scarcely changed color.
"And there is beauty enough here," he added, after a pause.
"Yes; I have always liked this place," said she, "though the cottages
seem a pity."
"You knew the old farm-house, then?"
"Oh, yes; I used to play in the farm-yard when I was a little girl.
After my father died, Mamma used to come here every year. And my aunt
has a cottage here now. You haven't met my aunt, Mr. Drayton?"
"I wished to know you first. But now I want to know her, and to become
one of the family. There is no one left, I find, who belongs to me.
What would you think of me for a bachelor uncle?"
"I would like it very much," said Mary, with a smile.
"Then let us begin," returned Drayton.
Several days passed away very pleasantly. Never was there a bachelor
uncle so charming, as Haymaker would have said, as Drayton. The kind of
life in the midst of which he found himself was altogether novel and
delightful to him. In some aspects it was like enjoying for the first
time a part of his existence which he should have enjoyed in youth, but
had missed; and in many ways he doubtless enjoyed it more now than he
would have done then, for he brought it to a maturity of experience
which had taught him the inestimable value of simple things; a quiet
nobility of character and clearness of knowledge that enabled him to
perceive and follow the right course in small things as in great; a
serene yet cordial temperament that rendered him the cheerfulest and
most trustworthy of companions; a generous and masculine disposition,
as able to direct as to comply; and years which could sympathize
impartially with youth and age, and supply something which each lacked.
He, meanwhile, sometimes seemed to himself to be walking in a dream.
The region in which he was living, changed, yet so familiar, the
thought of being once more, after so many years of homeless wandering,
in his own land and among his own countrymen, and the companionship of
Mary Leithe, like, yet so unlike, the Mary Cleveland he had known and
loved, possessing in reality all the tenderness and lovely virginal
sweetness that he had imagined in the other, with a warmth of heart
that rejuvenated his own, and a depth and freshness of mind answering
to the wisdom that he had drawn from experience, and rendering her,
though in her different and feminine sphere, his equal--all these
things made Drayton feel as if he would either awake and find them the
phantasmagoria of a beautiful dream, or as if the past time were the
dream, and this the reality. Certainly, in this ardent, penetrating
light of the present, the past looked vaporous and dim, like a range of
mountains scaled long ago and vanishing on the horizon.
And was this all? Doubtless it was, at first. It was natural that
Drayton should regard with peculiar tenderness the daughter of the
woman he had loved. She was an orphan, and poor; he was alone in the
world, with no one dependent upon him, and with wealth which could find
no better use than to afford this girl the opportunities and the
enjoyments which she else must lack. His anticipations in returning to
America had been somewhat cold and vague. It was his native land; but
abstract patriotism is, after all, rather chilly diet for a human being
to feed his heart upon. The unexpected apparition of Mary Leithe had
provided just that vividness and particularity that were wanting.
Insensibly Drayton bestowed upon her all the essence of the love of
country which he had cherished untainted throughout his long exile. It
was so much easier and simpler a thing to know and appreciate her than
to do as much for the United States and their fifty million
inhabitants, national, political, and social, that it is no wonder if
Drayton, as a modest and sane gentleman, preferred to make the former
the symbol of the latter--of all, at least, that was good and lovable
therein. At the same time, so clear-headed a man could scarcely have
failed to be aware that his affection for Mary Leithe was not actually
dependent upon the fact of her being an emblem. Upon what, then, was it
dependent? Upon her being the daughter of Mary Cleveland? It was true
that he had loved Mary Cleveland; but she had deliberately jilted him
to marry a wealthier man, and was therefore connected with and
responsible for the most painful as well as the most pleasurable
episode of his early life. Mary Leithe bore some personal resemblance
to her mother; but had she been as like her in character and
disposition as she was in figure and feature, would Drayton, knowing
what he knew, have felt drawn toward her? A man does not remain for
twenty years under the influence of an unreasonable and mistaken
passion. Drayton certainly had not, although his disappointment had
kept him a bachelor all his life, and altered the whole course of his
existence. But when we have once embarked upon a certain career, we
continue in it long after the motive which started us has been
forgotten. No; Drayton's regard for Mary Leithe must stand on its own
basis, independent of all other considerations.
What, in the next place, was the nature of this regard? Was it merely
avuncular, or something different? Drayton assured himself that it was
the former. He was a man of the world, and had done with passions. The
idea of his falling in love made him smile in a deprecatory manner.
That the object of such love should be a girl eighteen years his junior
rendered the suggestion yet more irrational. She was lustrous with
lovable qualities, which he genially recognized and appreciated; nay,
he might love her, but the love would be a quasi-paternal one, not the
love that demands absolute possession and brooks no rivalry. His
attitude was contemplative and beneficent, not selfish and exclusive.
His greatest pleasure would be to see her married to some one worthy of
her. Meantime he might devote himself to her freely and without fear.
And yet, once again, was he not the dupe of himself and of a
convention? Was his the mood in which an uncle studies his niece, or
even a father his daughter? How often during the day was she absent
from his thoughts, or from his dreams at night? What else gave him so
much happiness as to please her, and what would he not do to give her
pleasure? Why was he dissatisfied and aimless when not in her presence?
Why so full-orbed and complete when she was near? He was eighteen years
the elder, but there was in her a fullness of nature, a balanced
development, which went far toward annulling the discrepancy. Moreover,
though she was young, he was not old, and surely he had the knowledge,
the resources, and the will to make her life happy. There would be, he
fancied, a certain poetical justice in such an issue. It would
illustrate the slow, seemingly severe, but really tender wisdom of
Providence. Out of the very ashes of his dead hopes would arise this
gracious flower of promise. She would afford him scope for the
employment of all those riches, moral and material, which life had
brought him; she would be his reward for having lived honorably and
purely for purity's and honor's sake. But why multiply reasons? There
was justification enough; and true love knows nothing of justification.
He loved her, then; and now, did she love him? This was the real
problem--the mystery of a maiden's heart, which all Solomon's wisdom
and Bacon's logic fail to elucidate. Drayton did what he could. Once he
came to her with the news that he must be absent from an excursion
which they had planned, and he saw genuine disappointment darken her
sweet face, and her slender figure seem to droop. This was well as far
as it went, but beyond that it proved nothing. Another time he gave her
a curious little shell which he had picked up while they were rambling
together along the beach, and some time afterward he accidently noticed
that she was wearing it by a ribbon round her neck. This seemed better.
Again, on a night when there was a social gathering at the hotel, he
entered the room and sat apart at one of the windows, and as long as he
remained there he felt that her gaze was upon him, and twice or thrice
when he raised his eyes they were met by hers, and she smiled; and
afterward, when he was speaking near her, he noticed that she
disregarded what her companion of the moment was saying to her, and
listened only to him. Was not all this encouragement? Nevertheless,
whenever, presuming upon this, he hazarded less ambiguous
demonstrations, she seemed to shrink back and appear strange and
troubled. This behavior perplexed him; he doubted the evidence that had
given him hope; feared that he was a fool; that she divined his love,
and pitied him, and would have him, if at all, only out of pity.
Thereupon he took himself sternly to task, and resolved to give her up.
It was a transparent July afternoon, with white and gray clouds
drifting across a clear blue sky, and a southwesterly breeze roughening
the dark waves and showing their white shoulders. Mary Leithe and
Drayton came slowly along the rocks, he assisting her to climb or
descend the more rugged places, and occasionally pausing with her to
watch the white canvas of a yacht shiver in the breeze as she went
about, or to question whether yonder flash amid the waves, where the
gulls were hovering and dipping, were a bluefish breaking water. At
length they reached a little nook in the seaward face, which, by often
resorting to it, they had in a manner made their own. It was a small
shelf in the rock, spacious enough for two to sit in at ease, with a
back to lean against, and at one side a bit of level ledge which served
as a stand or table. Before them was the sea, which, at high-water
mark, rose to within three yards of their feet; while from the
shoreward side they were concealed by the ascending wall of sandstone.
Drayton had brought a cushion with him, which he arranged in Mary's
seat; and when they had established themselves, he took a volume of
Emerson's poems from his pocket and laid it on the rock beside him.
"Are you comfortable?" he asked.
"Yes; I wish it would be always like this--the weather, and the sun,
and the time--so that we might stay here forever."
"Forever is the least useful word in human language," observed Drayton.
"In the perspective of time, a few hours, or days, or years, seem alike
"But it is not the same to our hearts, which live forever," she
"The life of the heart is love," said Drayton.
"And that lasts forever," said Mary Leithe.
"True love lasts, but the object changes," was his reply.
"It seems to change sometimes," said she.
"But I think it is only our perception that is misled. We think we have
found what we love; but afterward, perhaps, we find it was not in the
person we supposed, but in some other. Then we love it in him; not
because our heart has changed, but just because it has not."
"Has that been your experience?" Drayton asked, with a smile.
"Oh, I was speaking generally," she said, looking down.
"It may be the truth; but if so, it is a perilous thing to be loved."
"Why, yes. How can the lover be sure that he really is what his
mistress takes him for? After all, a man has and is nothing in himself.
His life, his love, his goodness, such as they are, flow into him from
his Creator, in such measure as he is capable or desirous of receiving
them. And he may receive more at one time than at another. How shall he
know when he may lose the talismanic virtue that won her love--even
supposing he ever possessed it?"
"I don't know how to argue," said Mary Leithe; "I can only feel when a
thing is true or not--or when I think it is--and say what I feel."
"Well, I am wise enough to trust the truth of your feeling before any
This assertion somewhat disconcerted Mary Leithe, who never liked to be
confronted with her own shadow, so to speak. However, she seemed
resolved on this occasion to give fuller utterance than usual to what
was in her mind; so, after a pause, she continued, "It is not only how
much we are capable of receiving from God, but the peculiar way in
which each one of us shows what is in him, that makes the difference in
people. It is not the talisman so much as the manner of using it that
wins a girl's love. And she may think one manner good until she comes
to know that another is better."
"And, later, that another is better still?"
"You trust my feeling less than you thought, you see," said Mary,
blushing, and with a tremor of her lips.
"Perhaps I am afraid of trusting it too much," Drayton replied, fixing
his eyes upon her. Then he went on, with a changed tone and manner:
"This metaphysical discussion of ours reminds me of one of Emerson's
poems, whose book, by-the-by, I brought with me. Have you ever read
"Very few of them," said Mary; "I don't seem to belong to them."
"Not many people can eat them raw, I imagine," rejoined Drayton,
laughing. "They must be masticated by the mind before they can nourish
the heart, and some of them--However, the one I am thinking of is very
beautiful, take it how you will. It is called, 'Give all to Love.' Do
you know it!"
Mary shook her head.
"Then listen to it," said Drayton, and he read the poem to her. "What
do you think of it?" he asked when he had ended.
"It is very short," said Mary, "and it is certainly beautiful; but I
don't understand some parts of it, and I don't think I like some other
"It is a true poem," returned Drayton; "it has a body and a soul; the
body is beautiful, but the soul is more beautiful still; and where the
body seems incomplete, the soul is most nearly perfect. Be loyal, it
says, to the highest good you know; follow it through all difficulties
and dangers; make it the core of your heart and the life of your soul;
and yet, be free of it! For the hour may always be at hand when that
good that you have lived for and lived in must be given up. And then--
what says the poet?
"'Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Though her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.'"
There was something ominous in Drayton's tone, quiet and pleasant
though it sounded to the ear, and Mary could not speak; she knew that
he would speak again, and that his words would bring the issue finally
He shut the book and put it in his pocket. For some time he remained
silent, gazing eastward across the waves, which came from afar to break
against the rock at their feet. A small white pyramidal object stood up
against the horizon verge, and upon this Drayton's attention appeared
to be concentrated.
"If you should ever decide to come," he said at length, "and want the
services of a courier who knows the ground well, I shall be at your
"Come where?" she said, falteringly.
"Eastward. To Europe."
"You will go with me?"
"Hardly that. But I shall be there to receive you."
"You are going back?"
"In a month, or thereabouts."
"Oh, Mr. Drayton! Why?"
"Well, for several reasons. My coming here was an experiment. It might
have succeeded, but it was made too late. I am too old for this young
country. I love it, but I can be of no service to it. On the contrary,
so far as I was anything, I should be in the way. It does not need me,
and I have been an exile so long as to have lost my right to inflict
myself upon it. Yet I am glad to have been here; the little time that I
have been here has recompensed me for all the sorrows of my life, and I
shall never forget an hour of it as long as I live."
"Are you quite sure that your country does not want you--need you?"
"I should not like my assurance to be made more sure."
"How can you know? Who has told you? Whom have you asked?"
"There are some questions which it is not wise to put; questions whose
answers may seem ungracious to give, and are sad to hear."
"But the answer might not seem so. And how can it be given until you
Drayton turned and looked at her. His face was losing its resolute
composure, and there was a glow in his eyes and in his cheeks that
called up an answering warmth in her own.
"Do you know where my country is?" he demanded, almost sternly.
"It is where you are loved and wanted most, is it not?" she said,
"Do not deceive yourself--nor me!" exclaimed Drayton, putting out his
hand toward her, and half rising from the rock. "There is only one
thing more to say."
A sea-gull flew close by them, and swept on, and in a moment was far
away, and lost to sight. So in our lives does happiness come so near us
as almost to brush our cheeks with its wings, and then pass on, and
become as unattainable as the stars. As Mary Leithe was about to speak,
a shadow cast from above fell across her face and figure. She seemed to
feel a sort of chill from it, warm though the day was; and without
moving her eyes from Drayton's face to see whence the shadow came, her
expression underwent a subtle and sudden change, losing the fervor of a
moment before, and becoming relaxed and dismayed. But after a moment
Drayton looked up, and immediately rose to his feet, exclaiming, "Frank
On the rock just above them stood a young man, dark of complexion, with
eager eyes, and a figure athletic and strong. As Drayton spoke his
name, his countenance assumed an expression half-way between pleased
surprise and jealous suspicion. Meanwhile Mary Leithe had covered her
face with her hands.
"I'm sure I'd no idea you were here, Mr. Drayton," said the young man.
"I was looking for Mary Leithe. Is that she?"
Mary uncovered her face, and rose to her feet languidly. She did not as
yet look toward Redmond, but she said in a low voice, "How do you do,
Frank? You--came so suddenly!"
"I didn't stop to think--that I might interrupt you," said he, drawing
back a little and lifting his head.
Drayton had been observing the two intently, breathing constrainedly
the while, and grasping a jutting point of rock with his hand as he
stood. He now said, in a genial and matter-of-fact voice, "Well, Master
Frank, I shall have an account to settle with you when you and my niece
have got through your first greetings."
"Mary your niece!" cried Redmond, bewildered.
"My niece by courtesy; her mother was a dear friend of mine before Mary
was born. And now it appears that she is the young lady, the dearest
and loveliest ever heard of, about whom you used to rhapsodize to me in
Dresden! Why didn't you tell me her name? By Jove, you young rogue,
I've a good mind to refuse my consent to the match! What if I had
married her off to some other young fellow, and you been left in the
lurch! However, luckily for you, I haven't been able thus far to find
any one who in my opinion--How do you do, Frank? You--came so
"I didn't stop to think--that I might interrupt you," said he, drawing
back a little and lifting his head.
Drayton had been observing the two intently, breathing constrainedly
the while, and grasping a jutting point of rock with his hand as he
stood. He now said, in a genial and matter-of-fact voice, "Well, Master
Frank, I shall have an account to settle with you when you and my niece
have got through your first greetings."
"Mary your niece!" cried Redmond, bewildered.
"My niece by courtesy; her mother was a dear friend of mine before Mary
was born. And now it appears that she is the young lady, the dearest
and loveliest ever heard of, about whom you used to rhapsodize to me in
Dresden! Why didn't you tell me her name? By Jove, you young rogue,
I've a good mind to refuse my consent to the match! What if I had
married her off to some other young fellow, and you been left in the
lurch! However, luckily for you, I haven't been able thus far to find
any one who in my opinion would suit her better. Come down here and
shake hands, Frank, and then I'll leave you to make your excuses to
Miss Leithe. And the next time you come back to her after a year's
absence, don't frighten her heart into her mouth by springing out on
her like a jack-in-the-box. Send a bunch of flowers or a signet-ring to
tell her you are coming, or you may get a cooler reception than you'd
"Ah! Ambrose Drayton," he sighed to himself as he clambered down the
rocks alone, and sauntered along the shore, "there is no fool like an
old fool. Where were your eyes that you couldn't have seen what was the
matter? Her heart was fighting against itself all the time, poor child!
And you, selfish brute, bringing to bear on her all your antiquated
charms and fascinations--Heaven save the mark!--and bullying her into
the belief that you could make her happy! Thank God, Ambrose Drayton,
that your awakening did not come too late. A minute more would have
made her and you miserable for life--and Redmond too, confound him! And
yet they might have told me; one of them might have told me, surely.
Even at my age it is hard to remember one's own insignificance. And I
did love her! God knows how I loved her! I hope he loves her as much;
but how can he help it! And she--she won't remember long! An old fellow
who made believe he was her uncle, and made rather a fool of himself;
went back to Europe, and never been heard of since. Ah, me!"
"Where did you get acquainted with Mr. Drayton, Frank?"
"At Dresden. It was during the vacation at Freiberg last winter, and I
had come over to Dresden to have a good time. We stayed at the same
hotel. We played a game of billiards together, and he chatted with me
about America, and asked me about my mining studies at Freiberg; and I
thought him about the best fellow I'd ever met. But I didn't know then
--I hadn't any conception what a splendid fellow he really was. If ever
I hear anybody talking of their ideal of a gentleman, I shall ask them
if they ever met Ambrose Drayton."
"What did he do?"
"Well, the story isn't much to my credit; if it hadn't been for him,
you might never have heard of me again; and it will serve me right to
confess the whole thing to you. It's about a--woman."
"What sort of a woman?"
"She called herself a countess; but there's no telling what she really
was. I only know she got me into a fearful scrape, and if it hadn't
been for Mr. Drayton--"
"Did you do anything wrong, Frank?"
"No; upon my honor as a gentleman! If I had, Mary, I wouldn't be here
Mary looked at him with a sad face. "Of course I believe you, Frank,"
she said. "But I think I would rather not hear any more about it."
"Well, I'll only tell you what Mr. Drayton did. I told him all about it
--how it began, and how it went on, and all; and how I was engaged to a
girl in America--I didn't tell him your name; and I wasn't sure, then,
whether you'd ever marry me, after all; because, you know, you had been
awfully angry with me before I went away, because I wanted to study in
Europe instead of staying at home. But, you see, I've got my diploma,
and that'll give me a better start than I ever should have had if I'd
only studied here. However--what was I saying? Oh! so he said he would
find out about the countess, and talk to her himself. And how he
managed I don't know; and he gave me a tremendous hauling over the
coals for having been such an idiot; but it seems that instead of being
a poor injured, deceived creature, with a broken heart, and all that
sort of thing, she was a regular adventuress--an old hand at it, and
had got lots of money out of other fellows for fear she would make a
row. But Mr. Drayton had an interview with her. I was there, and I
never shall forget it if I live to a hundred. You never saw anybody so
quiet, so courteous, so resolute, and so immitigably stern as he was.
And yet he seemed to be stern only against the wrong she was trying to
do, and to be feeling kindness and compassion for her all the time. She
tried everything she knew, but it wasn't a bit of use, and at last she
broke down and cried, and carried on like a child. Then Mr. Drayton
took her out of the room, and I don't know what happened, but I've
always suspected that he sent her off with money enough in her pocket
to become an honest woman with if she chose to; but he never would
admit it to me. He came back to me after a while, and told me to have
nothing more to do with any woman, good or bad except the woman I
meant to marry, and I promised him I wouldn't, and I kept my promise.
But we have him to thank for our happiness, Mary."
Tears came silently into Mary's eyes; she said nothing, but sat with
her hands clasped around one knee, gazing seaward.
"You don't seem very happy, though," pursued Redmond, after a pause;
"and you acted so oddly when I first found you and Mr. Drayton
together--I almost thought--well, I didn't know what to think. You do
love me, don't you?"
For a few moments Mary Leithe sat quite motionless, save for a slight
tremor of the nerves that pervaded her whole body; and then, all at
once, she melted into sobs. Redmond could not imagine what was the
matter with her; but he put his arms round her, and after a little
hesitation or resistance, the girl hid her face upon his shoulder, and
wept for the secret that she would never tell.
But Mary Leithe's nature was not a stubborn one, and easily adapted
itself to the influences with which she was most closely in contact.
When she and Redmond presented themselves at Aunt Corwin's cottage that
evening her tears were dried, and only a tender dimness of the eyes and
a droop of her sweet mouth betrayed that she had shed any.
"Mr. Drayton wanted to be remembered to you, Mary," observed Aunt
Corwin, shortly before going to bed. She had been floating colored sea-
weeds on paper all the time since supper, and had scarcely spoken a
"Has he gone?" Mary asked.
"Who? Oh, yes; he had a telegram, I believe. His trunks were to follow
him. He said he would write. I liked that man. He was not like Mr.
Haymaker; he was a gentleman. He took an interest in my collections,
and gave me several nice specimens. Your mother was a fool not to have
married him. I wish you could have married him yourself. But it was not
to be expected that he would care for a child like you, even if your
head were not turned by that Frank Redmond. How soon shall you let him
"Whenever he likes," answered Mary Leithe, turning away.
As a matter of fact, they were married the following winter. A week
before the ceremony a letter arrived for Mary from New York, addressed
in a legal hand. It contained an intimation that, in accordance with
the instructions of their client, Mr. Ambrose Drayton, the undersigned
had placed to her account the sum of fifty thousand dollars as a
preliminary bequest, it being the intention of Mr. Drayton to make her
his heir. There was an inclosure from Drayton himself, which Mary,
after a moment's hesitation, placed in her lover's hand, and bade him
break the seal.
It contained only a few lines, wishing happiness to the bride and
bridegroom, and hoping they all might meet in Europe, should the
wedding trip extend so far. "And as for you, my dear niece," continued
the writer, "whenever you think of me remember that little poem of
Emerson's that we read on the rocks the last time I saw you. The longer
I live the more of truth do I find in it, especially in the last verse:
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive!'"
"What does that mean?" demanded Redmond, looking up from the letter.
"We can not know except by experience," answered Mary Leithe.
"SET NOT THY FOOT ON GRAVES."
_New York_, _April 29th_.--Last night I came upon this
passage in my old author: "Friend, take it sadly home to thee--Age and
Youthe are strangers still. Youthe, being ignorant of the wisdome of
Age, which is Experience, but wise with its own wisdome, which is of
the unshackeled Soule, or Intuition, is great in Enterprise, but slack
in Achievement. Holding itself equal to all attempts and conditions,
and to be heir, not of its own spanne of yeares and compasse of
Faculties only, but of all time and all Human Nature--such, I saye,
being its illusion (if, indeede, it be illusion, and not in some sorte
a Truth), it still underrateth the value of Opportunitie, and, in the
vain beleefe that the City of its Expectation is paved with Golde and
walled with Precious Stones, letteth slip betwixt its fingers those
diamondes and treasures which ironical Fate offereth it.... But see
nowe what the case is when this youthe becometh in yeares. For nowe he
can nowise understand what defecte of Judgmente (or effecte of
insanitie rather) did leade him so to despise and, as it were, reject
those Giftes and golden chaunces which come but once to mortal men.
Experience (that saturnine Pedagogue) hath taught him what manner of
man he is, and that, farre from enjoying that Deceptive Seeminge or
mirage of Freedome which would persuade him that he may run hither and
thither as the whim prompteth over the face of the Earthe--yea, take
the wings of the morninge and winnowe his aerie way to the Pleiadies--
he must e'en plod heavilie and with paine along that single and narrowe
Path whereto the limitations of his personal nature and profession
confine him--happy if he arrive with muche diligence and faire credit
at the ende thereof, and falle not ignobly by the way. Neverthelesse--
for so great is the infatuation of man, who, although he acquireth all
other knowledge, yet arriveth not at the knowledge of Himself--if to
the Sage of Experience he proffered once again the gauds and prizes of
youthe, which he hath ever since regretted and longed for--what doeth
he in his wisdome? Verilie, so longe as the matter remaineth _in
nubibis_, as the Latins say, or in the Region of the Imagination, as
oure speeche hath it, he will beleeve, yea, take his oathe, that he
still is master of all those capacities and energies whiche, in his
youthe, would have prompted and enabled him to profit by this desired
occurrence. Yet shall it appeare (if the thinge be brought still
further to the teste, and, from an Imagination or Dreame, become an
actual Realitie), that he will shrinke from and decline that which he
did erste so ardently sigh for and covet. And the reason of this is as
follows, to-wit: That Habit or Custome hath brought him more to love
and affect those very ways and conditions of life, yea, those
inconveniences and deficiencies which he useth to deplore and abhorre,
than that Crown of Golde or Jewel of Happiness whose withholding he
hath all his life lamented. Hence we may learne, that what is past, is
dead, and that though thoughts be free, nature is ever captive, and
loveth her chaine."
This is too lugubrious and cynical not to have some truth in it; but I
am unwilling to believe that more than half of it is true. The author
himself was evidently an old man, and therefore a prejudiced judge; and
he did not make allowances for the range and variety of temperament.
Age is not a matter of years, and scarcely of experience. The only
really old persons are the selfish ones. The man whose thoughts,
actions, and affections center upon himself, soon acquires a fixity and
crustiness which (if to be old is to be "strange to youth") is old as
nothing else is. But the man who makes the welfare and happiness of
others his happiness, is as young at threescore as he was at twenty,
and perhaps even younger, for he has had no time to grow old.
_April 30th_.--The Courtneys are in town! This is, I believe, her
first visit to America since he married her. At all events, I have not
seen or heard of her in all these seven years. I wonder ... I was going
to write, I wonder whether she remembers me. Of course she remembers
me, in a sort of way. I am tied up somewhere among her bundle of
recollections, and occasionally, in an idle moment, her eye falls upon
me, and moves her, perhaps, to smile or to sigh. For my own part, in
thinking over our old days, I find I forget her less than I had
supposed. Probably she has been more or less consciously in my mind
throughout. In the same way, one has always latent within him the
knowledge that he must die; but it does not follow that he is
continually musing on the thought of death. As with death, so with this
old love of mine. What a difference, if we had married! She was a very
lovely girl--at least, I thought so then. Very likely I should not
think her so now. My taste and knowledge have developed; a different
order of things interests me. It may not be an altogether pleasant
thing to confess; but, knowing myself as I now do, I have often thanked
my stars that I am a bachelor.
Doubtless she is even more changed than I am. A woman changes more than
a man in seven years, and a married woman especially must change a
great deal from twenty-two to twenty-nine. Think of Ethel Leigh being
in her thirtieth year! and the mother of four or five children,
perhaps. Well, for the matter of that, think of the romantic and
ambitious young Claude Campbell being an old bachelor of forty! I have
married Art instead of Ethel, and she, instead of being Mrs. Campbell,
is Mrs. Courtney.
It was a surprising thing--her marrying him so suddenly. But,
appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I have never quite made up
my mind that Ethel was really fickle. She did it out of pique, or
pride, or impulse, or whatever it is that sways women in such cases.
She was angry, or indignant--how like fire and ice at once she was when
she was angry!--and she was resolved to show me that she could do
without me. She would not listen to my explanations; and I was always
awkward and stiff about making explanations. Besides, it was not an
easy matter to explain, especially to a girl like her. With a married
woman or a widow it would have been a simple thing enough. But Ethel
Leigh, the minister's daughter--innocent, ignorant, passionate--she would
tolerate nothing short of a public disavowal and discontinuance of my
relations with Mrs. Murray, and that, of course, I could not consent to,
though heaven knows (and so must Ethel, by this time) that Mrs. Murray was
nothing to me save as she was the wife of my friend, during whose
enforced absence I was bound to look after her, to some extent. It was
not my fault that poor Mrs. Murray was a fool. But such are the
trumpery seeds from which tragedies grow. Not that ours was a tragedy,
exactly: Ethel married her English admirer, and I became a somewhat
distinguished artist, that is all. I wonder whether she has been happy!
Likely enough; she was born to be wealthy; Englishmen make good
husbands sometimes, and her London life must have been a brilliant
one.... I have been looking at my old photograph of her--the one she
gave me the morning after we were engaged. Tall, slender, dark, with
level brows, and the bearing of a Diana. She certainly was handsome,
and I shall not run the risk of spoiling this fine memory by calling on
her. Even if she have not deteriorated, she can scarcely have improved.
Nay, even were she the same now as then, I should not find her so,
because of the change in myself. Why should I blink the truth?
Experience, culture, and the sober second thought of middle age have
carried me far beyond the point where I could any longer be in sympathy
with this crude, thin-skinned, impulsive girl. And then--four or five
children! Decidedly, I will give her a wide berth. And Courtney
himself, with his big beard, small brain, and obtrusive laugh! I shall
step across to California for a few months.
_May 1st_.--Called this morning on Ethel Leigh--Mrs. Deighton
Courtney, that is to say. She is not so much changed, but she has
certainly improved. When I say she has not changed much, I refer to her
physical appearance. Her features are scarcely altered; her figure is a
little fuller and more compact; in her bearing there is a certain quiet
composure and self-possession--the air of a woman who has seen the
world, has received admiration, and is familiar with the graceful
little arts of social intercourse. In short, she has acquired a high
external polish; and that is precisely what she most needed. Evidently,
too, there is an increased mental refinement corresponding to the
outward manner. She has mellowed, sweetened--whether deepened or not I
should hesitate to affirm. But I am quite sure that I find her more
charming to talk with, more supple in intercourse, more fascinating, in
a word, than formerly. We chatted discursively and rather volubly for
more than an hour; yet we did not touch on anything very serious or
profound. They are staying at the Brevoort House. Courtney himself, by-
the-by, is still in Boston (they landed there), where business will
detain him a few days. Ethel goes on a house-hunting expedition to-
morrow, and I am going with her; for New York has altered out of her
recollection during these seven years. They are to remain here three
years, perhaps longer. Courtney is to establish and oversee an American
branch of his English business.
They have only one child--a pretty little thing: Susie and I became
Mrs. Courtney opened the door of the private sitting-room in which I
was awaiting her, and came in--beautifully! She has learned how to do
that since I knew her. My own long residence in Paris has made me more
critical than I used to be in such matters; but I do not remember
having met any woman in society with manners more nearly perfect than
Mrs. Courtney's. Ethel Leigh used to be, upon occasion, painfully
abrupt and disconcerting; and her movements and attitudes, though there
was abundant native grace in them, were often careless and
unconventional. Of course, I do not forget that niceties of deportment,
without sound qualities of mind and heart to back them, are of trifling
value; but the two kinds of attraction are by no means incompatible
with each other. Mrs. Courtney smiles often. Ethel Leigh used to smile
rarely, although, when the smile did come, it was irresistibly winning;
there was in it exquisite significance and tenderness. It is a
beautiful smile still, but that charm of rarity (if it be a charm) is
lacking. It is a conventional smile more than a spontaneous or a happy
one; indeed, it led me to surmise that she had perhaps not been very
happy since we last met, and had learned to use this smile as a sort of
veil. Not that I suppose for a moment that Courtney has ill-treated
her. I never could see anything in the man beyond a superficial
comeliness, a talent for business, and an affable temper; but ho was
not in any sense a bad fellow. Besides, he was over head and ears in
love with her; and Ethel would be sure to have the upper hand of a
nature like his. No, her unhappiness, if she be unhappy, would be due
to no such cause, she and her husband are no doubt on good terms with
each other. But--suppose she has discovered that he fell short of what
she demanded in a husband; that she overmatched him; that, in order to
make their life smooth, she must descend to him? I imagine it may be
something of that kind. Poor Mrs. Courtney!
She addressed me as "Mr. Campbell," and I dare say she was right. Women
best know how to meet these situations. To have called me "Claude"
would have placed us in a false position, by ignoring the changes that
have taken place. It is wise to respect these barriers; they are
conventional, but, rightly considered, they are more of an assistance
than of an obstacle to freedom of intercourse. I asked her how she
liked England. She smiled and said, "It was my business to like
England; still, I am glad to see America once more."
"You will entertain a great deal, I presume--that sort of thing?"
"We shall hope to make friends with people--and to meet old friends.
It is such a pleasant surprise to find you here. I heard you were
settled in Paris."
"So I was, for several years; the Parisians said nice things about my
pictures. But one may weary even of Paris. I returned here two years
ago, and am now as much of a fixture in New York as if I'd never left
"But not a permanent fixture. Shall we never see you in London?"
"My present probabilities lie rather in the direction of California. I
want to make some studies of the scenery and the atmosphere. Besides, I
am getting too old to think of another European residence."
"No one gets old after thirty--especially no bachelor!" she answered,
with a smile. "But if you were ever to feel old, the society of London
would rejuvenate you."
"It has certainly done you no harm. But you have the happiness to be
She looked at me pleasantly and said, "Yes, I make a good
Englishwoman." That sounded like an evasion, but the expression of her
face was not evasive. In the old days she would probably have flushed
up and said something cutting.
"You must see my little girl," she said, after a while.
The child was called, and presently came in. She resembles her mother,
and has a vivacity scarcely characteristic of English children. I am
not constitutionally a worshiper of children, but I liked Susie. She
put her arms round her mother's arm, and gazed at me with wide-eyed
"This is Mr. Campbell," said mamma.
"My name is Susan Courtney," said the little thing. "We are going to
stay in New York three years. Hot here--this is only an hotel--we are
going to have a house. How do you do? This is my dolly."
I saluted dolly, and thereby inspired its parent with confidence: she
put her hand in mine, and gave me her smooth little cheek to kiss. "You
are not like papa," she then observed.
I smiled conciliatingly, being uncertain whether it were prudent to
follow this lead; but Mrs. Courtney asked, "In what way different,
"Papa has a beard," replied Susie.
The incident rather struck me; it seemed to indicate that Mrs. Courtney
was under no apprehension that the child would say anything
embarrassing about the father. Having learned so much, I ventured
"Do you love papa or mamma best?" I inquired.
"I am with mamma most," she answered, after meditation, "but when papa
comes, I like him."
This was non-committal. She continued, "Papa is coming here day after
to-morrow. To-morrow, mamma and I are going to find a house."
"Your husband leaves all that to you?" I said, turning to Mrs.
"Mr. Courtney never knows or cares what sort of a place he lives in. It
took me some little time to get used to that. I wanted everything to be
just in a certain way. They used to laugh at me, and say I was more
English than he."
"Now that you are both here, you must both be American."
"He doesn't enjoy America much. Of course, it is very different from
London. An Englishman can not be expected to care for American ways and
American quickness, and--"
"American people?" I put in, laughingly.
"Don't undress dolly here," she said to Susie. "It isn't time yet to
put her to bed, and she might catch cold."
Was this another evasion? The serene face betrayed nothing, but she
had left unanswered the question that aimed at discovering how she and
her husband stood toward each other. After all, however, no answer
could have told me more than her no answer did--supposing it to have
been intentional. I soon afterward took my leave, after having arranged
to call to-morrow and accompany her and Susie on their house-hunting
expedition. Upon the whole, I don't think I am sorry to have renewed my
acquaintance with her. She is more delightful--as an acquaintance--than
when I knew her formerly. Should I have fallen in love with her had I
met her for the first time as she is now? Yes, and no! In the old days
there was something about her that commanded me--that fascinated my
youthful imagination. Perhaps it was only the freshness, the ignorance,
the timidity of young maidenhood--that mystery of possibilities of a
nature that has not yet met the world and received its impress for good
or evil. It is this which captivates in youth; and this, of course,
Mrs. Courtney has lost. But every quality that might captivate mature
manhood is hers, and, were I likely to think of marriage now, and were
she marriageable, she is the type of woman I would choose. Yet I do not
quite relish the perception that my present feminine ideal (whether it
be lower or higher) is not the former one. But,--frankly, would I marry
her if I could? I hardly know: I have got out of the habit of regarding
marriage as among my possibilities; many avenues of happiness that once
were open to me are now closed against me. Put it, that I have lost a
faculty--that I am now able to enjoy only in imagination a phase of
existence that, formerly, I could have enjoyed in fact. This bit of
self-analysis may be erroneous; but I would not like to run the risk of
proving it so! Am I not well enough off as I am? My health is fair, my
mind active, my reputation secure, my finances prosperous. The things
that I can dream must surely be better than anything that could happen.
I can picture, for example, a state of matrimonial felicity which no
marriage of mine could realize. Besides, I can, whenever I choose, see
Mrs. Courtney herself, talk with her, and enjoy her as a reasonable and
congenial friend, apart from the danger and disappointment that might
result from a closer connection. I think I have chosen the wiser part,
or, rather, the wiser part has been thrust upon me. That I shall never
be wildly happy is, at least, security that I shall never be profoundly
miserable. I shall simply be comfortable. Is this sour grapes? Am I, if not
counting, then discounting my eggs before they are hatched? To such
questions a practical--a materialized--answer would be the only
conclusive one. Were Mrs. Courtney ready to drop into my mouth, I
should either open my mouth, or else I should shut it, and either act
would be conclusive. But, so far from being ready to drop into my mouth,
she is immovably and (to all appearances) contentedly fixed where she
is. I suppose I am insinuating that appearances are deceptive; that she
may be unhappy with her husband, and desire to leave him. Well, there
is no technical evidence in support of such an hypothesis; but, again, in
a matter of this kind, it is not so much the technical as the indirect
evidence that tells--the cadences of the voice, the breathing, the
silences, the atmosphere. There is no denying that I did somehow
acquire a vague impression that Courtney is not so large a figure in his
wife's eyes as he might be. I may have been biased by my previous
conception of his character, or I may have misinterpreted the impalpable,
indescribable signs that I remarked in her. But, once more, how do I
know that her not caring for him would postulate her caring for me? Why
should she care for either of us? Our old romance is to her as the memory
of something read in a book, and it is powerless to make her heart beat
one throb the faster. Were Courtney to die to-morrow, would his widow
expect me to marry her? Not she! She would settle down here quietly,
educate her daughter, and think better of her departed husband with
every year that passed, and less of repeating the experiment that made
her his! I may be prone to romantic and elaborate speculations, but I am
not exactly a fool. I do not delude myself with the idea that Mrs. Courtney
is, at this moment, following my example by recording her impressions of
me at her own writing-desk, and asking herself whether--if such and
such a thing were to happen--such another would be apt to follow.
No; she has put Susie to bed, and is by this time asleep herself, after
having read through the "Post," or "Bazar," or the last new novel, as
her predilection may be. It is after midnight; since she has not followed
my example, I will follow hers; it is much the more sensible of the two.
_May 2d_.--What a woman she is! and, in a different sense, what a
man I am! How little does a man know or suspect himself until he is
brought to the proof! How serenely and securely I philosophized and
laid down the law yesterday! and to-day, how strange to contrast the
event with my prognostication of it! And yet, again, how little has
happened that might not be told in such a way as to appear nothing! It
was the latent meaning, the spirit, the touch of look and tone. Her
husband may have reached New York by this time; they may be together at
this moment; he will find no perceptible change in her--perceptible to
him! He will be told that I have been her escort during the day, and
that I was polite and serviceable, and that a house has been selected.
What more is there to tell? Nothing--that he could hear or understand!
and yet--everything! He will say, "Yes, I recollect Campbell; nice
fellow; have him to dine with us one of these days." But I shall never
sit at their table; I shall never see her again; I can not! I shall
start for California next week. Meanwhile I will write down the history
of one day, for it is well to have these things set visibly before one
--to grasp the nettle, as it were. Nothing is so formidable as it
appears when we shrink from defining it to ourselves.
I drove to the hotel in my brougham at eleven o'clock, as we had
previously arranged. She was ready and waiting for me, and little Susie
was with her. Ethel was charmingly dressed, and there was a soft look
in her eyes as she turned them on me--a look that seemed to say, "I
remember the past; it is pleasant to see you, so pleasant as to be
sad!" Susie came to me as if I were an old friend, and I lifted the
child from the floor and kissed her twice.
"Why did you give me two kisses?" she demanded, as I put her down.
"Papa always gives me only one kiss."
"Papa has mamma as well as you to kiss; but I have no one; I am an old
"When you have known mamma longer, will you kiss her too?"
"Old bachelors kiss nobody but little girls," I replied, laughing.
"We went down to the brougham, and after we were seated and on our
way," Ethel said, "Already I feel so much at home in New York, it almost
startles me. I fancied I should have forgotten old associations--should
have grown out of sympathy with them; but I seem only to have learned
to appreciate them more. Our memory for some things is better than we
"There are two memories in us," I remarked; "the memory of the heart
and the memory of the head. The former never is lost, though the other
may be. But I had not supposed that you cared very deeply for the
American period of your life."
"England is very agreeable," she said, rather hastily. She turned her
head and looked out of the window; but after a pause she added, as if
to herself, "but I am an American!"
"There is, no doubt, a deep-rooted and substantial repose in English
life such as is scarcely to be found elsewhere," I said; "but, for all
that, I have often thought that the best part of domestic happiness
could exist nowhere but here. Here a man may marry the woman he loves,
and their affection for each other will be made stronger by the
hardships they may have to pass through. After all, when we come to the
end of our lives, it is not the business we have done, nor the social
distinction we have enjoyed--it is the love we have given and received
that we are glad of."
"Mamma," inquired Susie, "does Mr. Campbell love you?"
We both of us looked at the child and laughed a little. "Mr. Campbell
is an old friend," said Ethel. After a few moments she blushed. She
held in her hand some house-agents' orders to view houses, and these
she now began to examine. "Is this Madison Avenue place likely to be a
good one?" she asked me.
"It is conveniently situated and comfortable; but I should think it
might be too large for a family of three. Perhaps, though, you don't
like a close fit?"
"I don't like empty rooms, though I prefer such rooms as there are to
be large. But it doesn't make much difference. Mr. Courtney moves about
a good deal, and he is as happy in a hotel as anywhere. These American
hotels are luxurious and splendid, but they are not home-like to me."
"I remember you used to dislike being among a crowd of people you
"Yes, and I haven't yet learned to be sociable in that way. A friend is
more company for me than a score of acquaintances. Dear me! I'm afraid
New York will spoil me--for England!"
"Perhaps Mr. Courtney may be cured of England by New York."
She smiled and said, "Perhaps! He accommodates himself to things more
easily than I do, but I think one needs to be born in America to know
how to love it."
Under the veil of discussing America and things in general, we were
talking of ourselves, awakening reminiscences of the past, and
discovering, with a pleasure we did not venture to acknowledge, that--
allowing for the events and the years that had come between--we were as
much in accord as when we were young lovers. Yes, as much, and perhaps
even more. For surely, if one grows in the right way, the sphere of
knowledge and sympathy must enlarge, and thereby the various points of
contact between two minds and hearts must be multiplied. Ethel and I,
during these seven years, had traveled our round of daily life on
different sides of the earth; but the miles of sea and land which had
physically separated us had been powerless to estrange our spirits.
Nothing is more strange, in this mysterious complexity of impressions
and events that we call human existence, than the fact that two beings,
entirely cut off from all natural means of association and communion,
may yet, unknown to each other, be breathing the same spiritual air and
learning the same moral and intellectual lessons. Like two seeds of the
same species, planted, the one in American soil, the other in English,
Ethel and I had selected, by some instinct of the soul, the same
elements from our different surroundings; so that now, when we met once
more, we found a close and harmonious resemblance between the leaves
and blossoms of our experience. What can be more touching and
delightful than such a discovery? Or what more sad than to know that it
came too late for us to profit by it?
Oh, Ethel, how easy it is to take the little step that separates light
from darkness, happiness from misery! Remembering that we live but
once, and that the worthy enjoyments of life are so limited in number
and so hard to get, it seems unjust and monstrous that one little hour
of jealousy or misunderstanding should wreck the fair prospects of
months and years. Why is mischief so much readier to our hand than
We got out at a house near the Park. I assisted Ethel to alight, and,
as her hand rested on mine, the thought crossed my mind--How sweet if
this were our own home that we are about to enter!--and I glanced at
her face to see whether a like thought had visited her. She maintained
a subdued demeanor, with an expression about the mouth and eyes of a
peculiar timid gentleness, and, as it were, a sort of mental leaning
upon me for support and protection. She felt, it may be, a little fear
of herself, at finding herself--in more senses than one--so near to me;
and, woman-like, she depended upon me to protect her against the very
peril of which I was the occasion. No higher or more delicate
compliment can be paid by a woman to a man; and I resolved that I would
do what in me lay to deserve it. But such resolutions are the hardest
in the world to keep, because the circumstance or the impulse of the
moment is continually in wait to betray you. Ethel was more fascinating
and lovely in this mood than in any other I had hitherto seen her in;
and the misgiving, from which I could not free myself, that the man
whom Fate had made her husband did not appreciate or properly cherish
the gift bestowed upon him, made me warm toward her more than ever. I
could scarcely have believed that such blood could flow in the sober
veins of my middle age; but love knows nothing of time or age!
"I do not like this house," Susie declared, when we had been admitted
by the care-taker. "It has no carpets, nor chairs, nor pictures; and
the floor is dirty; and the walls are not pretty!"
"I suppose one can have these houses decorated and furnished at short
notice?" Ethel asked me.
"It would not take long. There are several firms that make it their
"I have always wanted to live in a house where the colors and forms
were to my taste. I don't know whether you remember that you used to
think I had some taste in such matters. Mr. Courtney, of course,
doesn't care much about art, and he didn't encourage me to carry out my
ideas. A business man can not be an artist, you know."
"You yourself would have become an artist if--" I began; but I was
approaching dangerous ground, and I stopped. "This dining-room might be
done in Indian red," I remarked--"the woodwork, that is to say. The
walls would be a warm salmon color, which contrasts well with the cold
blue of the china, which it is the fashion to have about nowadays. As
for the furniture, antique dark oak is as safe as anything, don't you
"I should like all that," said she, moving a little nearer me, and
letting her eyes wander about the room with a pleased expression, until
at length they met my own. "If you could only design our decoration for
us, I'm sure it would be perfect; at least, I should be satisfied.
Well, and how should we... how ought the drawing-room to be done?"
"There is a shade of yellow that is very agreeable for drawing-rooms,
and it goes very well with the dull peacock-blue which is in vogue now.
Then you could get one of those bloomy Morris friezes. There is some
very graceful Chippendale to be picked up in various places. And no
such good furniture is made nowadays. But I am advising you too much
from the artist's point of view."
"Oh, I can get other sort of advice when I want it." She looked at me
with a smile; our glances met more often now than at first. "But it
seems to me," she went on, "that the way the house is built docs not
suit the way we want to decorate it. Let us look at a smaller one. I
should think ten rooms would be quite enough. And it would be nice to
have a corner house, would it not?"
"If the question were only of our agreement, there would probably not
be much difficulty," I said, in a tone which I tried to make merely
courteous, but which may have revealed something more than courtesy
In coming down-stairs she gathered her dress in her right hand and put
her left in my arm; and then, in a flash, the picture came before me of
the last time we had gone arm-in-arm together down-stairs. It was at
her father's house, and she was speaking to me of that unlucky Mrs.
Murray; we had our quarrel that evening in the drawing-room, and it was
never made up. From then till now, what a gulf! and yet those years
would have been but a bridge to pass over, save for the one barrier
that was insurmountable between us.
"What has become of that Mrs. Murray whom you used to know?" she asked,
as we reached the foot of the stairs. She relinquished my arm as she
spoke, and faced me.
I felt the blood come to my face. "Mrs. Murray was in my thoughts at
the same moment--and perhaps by the same train of associations." I
answered, "I don't know where she is now; I lost sight of her years
ago--soon after you were married, in fact. Why do you ask?"
"You had not forgotten her, then?"
"I had every reason to forget her, except the one reason for which I
have remembered her--and you know what that is! Have you mistrusted me
all this time?"
"Oh, no--no! I don't think I really mistrusted you at all; and long ago
I admitted to myself that you had acted unselfishly and honorably. But
I was angry at the time; you know, sometimes a girl will be angry, even
when there is no good reason for it. I have long wished for an
opportunity to tell you this, for my own sake, you know, as well as for
"I hardly know whether I am most glad or sorry to hear this," I said,
as we moved toward the door. "If you had only been able to say it, or
to think it, before ... there would have been a great difference!"
"The worst of mistakes is, they are so seldom set right at the time, or
in the way they ought to be. Come, Susie, we are going away now. Susie,
do you most like to be American or English?"
"English," replied Susie, without hesitation.
Her mother turned to me and said in a low tone:
"I love her, whichever she is."
I understood what she meant. Susie was the symbol of that inevitable
element in our lives which seems to evolve itself without reference to
our desires or efforts; but which, nevertheless, when we have
recognized that it is inevitable, we learn (if we are wise) to accept
and even to love. Save for the estrangement between Ethel and myself,
Susie would never have existed; yet there she was, a beautiful child,
who had as good a right to be as either of us; and her mother loved
her, and, as it were, bade me love her also. I took the little maiden
by the hand and said, "You are right, Susie; the Americans are the
children of the English, and can not expect to be so wise and
comfortable as they. But you must remember that the Americans have a
future before them, and we are not enemies any more. Will you be
friends with me, and let me call you my little girl?"
"I shouldn't mind being your little girl, if I could still have the
same mamma," was Susie's reply. "Papa is away a great deal, and you
could be papa, you know, until he came back."
I made some laughing answer; but, in fact, Susie's frank analysis of
the situation poignantly kindled an imagination which stood in no need
of stimulus. Ah, if this were the Golden Age, when love never went
astray, how happy we might be! But it is not the Golden Age--far from
it! Meanwhile, I think I can assert, with a clear conscience, that no
dishonorable purpose possessed me. I loved Ethel too profoundly to wish
to do her wrong. Yet I may have wished--I did wish--that a kindly
Providence might have seen fit to remove the disabilities that
controlled us. If a wish could have removed Courtney painlessly to
another world, I think I should have wished it. There was something
exquisitely touching in Ethel's appearance and manner. She is as pure
as any woman that ever lived; but she is a woman! and I felt that, for
this day, I had a man's power over her. Occasionally I was conscious
that her eyes were resting on my face; when I addressed her, her aspect
softened and brightened; she fell into little moods of preoccupation
from which she would emerge with a sigh; in many ways she betrayed,
without knowing it, the secret that neither of us would mention. I do
not mean to imply that she expected me to mention it. A pure woman does
not realize the dangers of the world; and that very fact is itself her
strongest security against them. But, had I spoken, she would have
responded. It was a temptation which I could hardly have believed I
could have resisted as I did; but such a woman calls out all that is
best and noblest in a man; and, at the time, I was better than I am!
When we were in the brougham again, I said, "If you will allow me, I
will drive you to a house I have seen, which belongs to a man with whom
I am slightly acquainted. He is on the point of leaving it, but his
furniture is still in it, and, as he is himself an artist and a man of
taste, it will be worth your while to look at it. He is rather deaf,
but that is all the better; we can express our opinions without
disturbing him. Perhaps you might arrange to take house and furniture
as they stand."
"Whatever you advise, I shall like to do," Ethel answered.
We presently arrived at the house, which was situated in the upper part
of the town, a little to the west of Fifth Avenue. It was a comely
gabled edifice of red brick, with square bay-windows and a roomy porch.
The occupant, Maler, a German, happened to be at home; and on my
sending in my card, we were admitted at once, and he came to greet us
in the hall in his usual hearty, headlong fashion.
"My good Campbell," he exclaimed, in his blundering English, "very
delighted to see you. Ah, dis will be madame, and de little maid! So
you are married since some time--I have not know it! Your servant,
Madame Campbell. I know--all de artists know--your husband: we wish we
could paint how he can--but it is impossible! Ha, ha, ha! not so! Now,
I am very pleased you shall see dis house. May I beg de honor of
accompany you? First you shall see de studio; dat I call de stomach of
de house, eh? because it is most important of all de places, and make
de rest of de places live. See, I make dat window be put in--you find
no better light in New York. Den you see, here we have de alcove, where
Madame Campbell shall sit and make her sewing, while de husband do his
work on de easel. How you like dat portiere? I design him myself--oh,
yes, I do all here; you keep them if you like; I go to Germany, perhaps
not come back after some years, so I leave dem, not so? Now I show you
my little chamber of the piano. See, I make an arched ceiling--groined
arch, eh?--and I gild him; so I get pretty light and pretty sound,
not? Ah! madame, I have not de happiness to be married, but I make my
house so, dat if I get me a wife, she find all ready; but no wife come,
so I give him over to Herr Campbell and you. Now we mount up-stairs to
de bed-rooms, eh?"
In this way he went over the entire house with us. His loud, jolly
voice, his resounding laugh, his bustling manner, his heedless, boy-
like self-confidence, and his deafness, made it impossible to get in a
word of explanation, and, after a few efforts, I gave up the attempt.
"Let him suppose what he likes," I said aside to Ethel, "it can make no
difference; he is going away, and you will never see him again. After
all these years, it can do no great harm for us to play at being Mr.
and Mrs. Campbell for an hour!"
"It is a very beautiful house," she said, tacitly accepting what I had
proposed. "It is such a house as I have always dreamed of living in. I
shall not care to look at any others. Will you tell him that we--that I
will take it just as it stands. You have made this a very pleasant day
for me--a very happy day," she added, in a lower tone. "Every room here
will be associated with you. You will come here often and see me, will
you not? Perhaps, after all, you might use the studio to paint my--or
Susie's portrait in."
"I shall inflict myself upon you very often, I have no doubt," was all
I ventured to reply. I could not tell her, at that moment, that we must
never see each other again. She--after the manner of women--probably
supposes that a man's strength is limitless; that he may do with
himself and make of himself what he chooses; and she supposes that I
could visit her and converse with her day after day, and yet keep my
thoughts and my acts within such bounds as would enable me to take
Courtney honestly by the hand. But I know too well my own weakness, and
I shall leave her while yet I have power to do so. Tomorrow--or soon--I
will write to her one last letter, telling her why I go.
Sudden and strange indeed has been this passionate episode in a life
which, methought, had done with passion. It has lasted hardly so many
hours as I have lived years; and yet, were I to live on into the next
century, it would never cease to influence me in all I think and do. I
can not solve to my satisfaction this problem--why two lives should be
wasted as ours have been. Courtney could have been happy with another
wife, or with no wife at all, perhaps; but, for Ethel and me, there
could be no happiness save in each other. But were she free to-day, the
separation that has already existed--long though it has been--would
only serve to render our future union more blissful and complete. We
have learned, by sad experience, the value of a love like ours, and we
should know how to give it its fullest and widest expression. But oh!
what a blank and chilly road lies before us now!
I drove her back to her hotel; we hardly spoke all the way; my heart
was too full, and hers also, I think; though she did not know, as I
did, that it was our last interview. It must be our last! Heaven help
me to keep that resolution!
Susie was not at all impressed by the pathos of the situation; she
babbled all the time, and thus, at all events, afforded us an excuse
for our silence. At parting, one incident occurred that may as well be
recorded. I had shaken hands with Ethel, speaking a few words of
farewell, and allowing her to infer that we might meet again on the
morrow; then I turned to Susie, and gave her the kiss which I would
have given the world to have had the right to press on her mother's
lips. Ethel saw, and, I think, understood. She stooped quickly down,
and laid her mouth where mine had been. Through the innocent medium of
the child, our hearts met; and then I saw her no more.
_May 3d_.--Of course, it may not be true, probably it is not;
mistakes are so easily made in the first moments of such horror and
confusion; the dead come to life, and the living die. Or, at the worst,
he may be only wounded or disabled. At all events, I decline to
believe, save upon certain evidence, that the poor fellow has actually
been killed. Were it to turn out so, I should feel almost like a
murderer; for was not I writing, in this very journal, and perhaps at
the very moment the accident occurred, that if my wish could send him
to another world, I would not spare him?
_Later_.--I have read all the accounts in the newspapers this
morning, and all agree in putting Courtney's name among the killed.
There can be no doubt about it any longer; he is dead. When the
collision occurred, the car in which he vas riding was thrown across
the track, and the other train crashed through it. Judging by the
condition of the body when discovered, death must have been nearly
instantaneous. Poor Courtney! My conscience is not at ease. Of course,
I am not really responsible; that is only imagination. But I begin to
suspect that my imagination has been playing me more than one trick
And now, with this new state of affairs so suddenly and terribly
brought about, what is to be done? I am as yet scarcely in a condition
to reflect calmly; but a voice within me seems to say that something
else besides my conscience has been awakened by Courtney's death. Can
it be that imagination, dallying with what it took for impossibilities,
could so far mislead a man? Well, I shall start at once for the scene
of the disaster, and relieve the poor fellow's widow of whatever pain I
can. Ethel Courtney a widow! Ah, Ethel! Death sheds a ghastly light
upon the idle vagaries of the human heart.
_May 15th_.--_Denver_, _Colorado_.--Magnificent weather
and scenery; very different from my own mental scenery and mood at this
moment. I am sorely out of spirits; and no wonder, after the reckless
and insane emotion of the first days of this month. One pays for such
indulgences at my age.
I have been re-reading the foregoing pages of this journal. Was I a
fool or a coward, or was I merely intoxicated for eight-and-forty
hours? At all events, Courtney's tragic end sobered me, and put what I
had been doing in a true light. I am glad my insanity was not permitted
to proceed farther than it did; but I have quite enough to reproach
myself with as it is. So far as I hare been able to explain the matter
to myself, my prime error lay in attributing, in a world subject to
constant change, too much permanence to a given state of affairs. The
fact that Ethel was the wife of another man seemed to me so fixed and
unalterable that I allowed my imagination to play with the picture of
what might happen if that unalterable fact were altered. Secure in this
fallacy, I worked myself up to the pitch of believing that I was
actually and passionately in love with a woman whose inaccessibility
was, after all, her most winning attraction. Moreover, by writing down,
in this journal, the events and words of the hours we spent together, I
confirmed myself in my false persuasion, and probably imported into the
record of what we said and did an amount of color and hidden
significance that never, as I am now convinced, belonged to it in
reality. Deluded by the notion that I was playing with a fancy, I was
suddenly aroused to find myself imbrued in facts. The whole episode has
profoundly humiliated me, and degraded me in my own esteem.
But I am not at the bottom of the mystery yet. Was I not in love with
Ethel? Surely I was, if love be anything. Then why did I not ask her to
marry me? Would she have refused me? No. That last look she gave me
from under her black veil, when I told her I was going away.... Ah, no,
she would not have refused me. Then why did I hesitate? Was not such a
marriage precisely what I have always longed for? During all these
seven years have I not been bewailing my bachelorhood, and wishing for
an Ethel to cheer my solitary fireside with her gracious presence, to
be interested in my work and hopes, to interest me in her wifely and
maternal ways and aspirations? And when at last all these things were
offered me, why did I shrink back and reject them?
Honestly, I can not explain it. Perhaps, if I had never loved her
before, I might have loved her this time enough to unite my fate with
hers. Or, perhaps--for I may as well speak plainly, since I am speaking
to myself--perhaps, by force of habit, I had grown to love, better than
love itself, those self-same forlorn conditions and dreary solitudes
which I was continually lamenting and praying to be delivered from.
What a dismal solution of the problem this would be were it the true
one! It amounts to saying that I prefer an empty room, a silent hearth,
an old pair of slippers, and a dressing-gown to the love and
companionship of a refined and beautiful woman!--that I love even my
own discomforts more than the comfort she would give me! It sounds
absurd, scandalous, impossible; and yet, if it be not the literal
truth, I know not what the truth is. It is amazing that an educated and
intelligent man can live to be forty years old and still have come to
no better an understanding of himself than I had. Verily, as my old
author said, thought is free, but nature is captive, and loveth her
chain. Yes, my old author was right.
MY FRIEND PATON.
Mathew Morriss, my father, was a cotton merchant in Liverpool twenty-
five years ago--a steady, laborious, clear-headed man, very
affectionate and genial in his private intercourse. He was wealthy, and
we lived in a sumptuous house in the upper part of the city. This was
when I was about ten years old. My father was twice married; I was the
child of the first wife, who died when I was very young; my stepmother
came five years later. She was the elder of two sisters, both beautiful
women. The sister often came to visit us. I remember I liked her better
than I liked my stepmother; in fact, I regarded her with that sort of
romantic attachment that often is developed in lads of my age. She had
golden brown hair and a remarkably sweet voice, and she sang and played
in a manner that transported me with delight; for I was already devoted
to music. She was of a gentle yet impulsive temperament, easily moved
to smiles and tears; she seemed to me the perfection of womankind, and
I made no secret of my determination to marry her when I grew up. She
used to caress me, and look at me in a dreamy way, and tell me I was
the nicest and handsomest boy in the world. "And as soon as you are a
year older than I am, John," she would say, "you shall marry me, if you
Another frequent visitor at our house at this time was not nearly so
much a favorite of mine. This was a German, Adolf Körner by name, who
had been a clerk in my father's concern for a number of years, and had
just been admitted junior partner. My father placed every confidence in
him, and often declared that he had the best idea of business he had
ever met with. This may very likely have been the fact; but to me he
appeared simply a tall, grave, taciturn man, of cold manners, speaking
with a slight German accent, which I disliked. I suppose he was about
thirty-seven years of age, but I always thought of him as older than my
father, who was fifty. Another and more valid reason for my disliking
Körner was that he was in the habit of paying a great deal of attention
to my ladylove, Miss Juliet Tretherne. I used to upbraid Juliet about
encouraging his advances, and I expressed my opinion of him in the
plainest language, at which she would smile in a preoccupied wav, and
would sometimes draw me to her and kiss me on the forehead. Once she
said, "Mr. Körner is a very noble gentleman; you must not dislike him."
This had the effect of making me hate him all the more.
One day I noticed an unusual commotion in the house, and Juliet came
down-stairs attired in a lovely white dress, with a long veil, and
fragrant flowers in her hair. She got into a carriage with my father
and stepmother, and drove away. I did not understand what it meant, and
no one told me. After they were gone I went into the drawing-room, and,
greatly to my surprise, saw there a long table covered with a white
cloth and laid out with a profusion of good things to eat and drink in
sparkling dishes and decanters. In the middle of the table was a great
cake covered with white frosting; the butler was arranging some flowers
"What is that cake for, Curtis?" I asked.
"For the bride, to be sure," said Curtis, without looking up.
"The bride! who is she?" I demanded in astonishment.
"Your aunt Juliet, to be sure!" said Curtis, composedly, stepping back
and contemplating his floral arrangement with his head on one side.
I asked no more, but betook myself with all speed to my room, locked
the door, flung myself on the bed, and cried to heartbreaking with
grief, indignation, and mortification. After a very long time some one
tried the door, and a voice--the voice of Juliet--called to me. I made
no answer. She began to plead with me; I resisted as long as I could,
but finally my affection got the better of my resentment, and I arose
and opened the door, hiding my tear-stained face behind my arm. Juliet
caught me in her arms and kissed me; tears were running down her own
cheeks. How lovely she looked! My heart melted, and I was just on the
point of forgiving her when the voice of Körner became audible from
below, calling out "Mrs. Körner!" I tore myself away from her, and
cried passionately, "You don't love me! you love him! go to him!" She
looked at me for a moment with a pained expression; then she put her
hand in the pocket of her dress and drew out something done up in white
paper. "See what I have brought you, you unkind boy," said she. "What
is it?" I demanded. "A piece of my wedding-cake," she replied. "Give it
me!" said I. She put it in my hand; I ran forward to the head of the
stairs, which Körner was just ascending, dashed the cake in his face,
and then rushed back to my own room, whence neither threats nor coaxing
availed to draw me forth for the rest of the day.
I never saw Juliet again. She and her husband departed on their
wedding-trip that afternoon; it was to take them as far as Germany, for
Körner said that he wished to visit his father and mother, who were
still alive, before settling down permanently in Liverpool. Whether
they really did so was never discovered. But, about a fortnight later,
a dreadful fact came to light. Körner--the grave and reticent Körner,
whom everybody trusted and thought so highly of--was a thief, and he
had gone off with more than half my father's property in his pocket.
The blow almost destroyed my father, and my stepmother, too, for that
matter, for at first it seemed as though Juliet must have been privy to
the crime. This, however, turned out not to have been the case. Her
fate must have been all the more terrible on that account; but no news
of either of them ever came back to us, and my father would never take
any measures to bring Körner to justice. It was several months before
he recovered from the shock sufficiently to take up business again; and
then the American Civil War came and completed his ruin. He died, a
poor and broken-down man, a year later. My stepmother, who was really
an admirable woman, realized whatever property remained to us, took a
small house, and sent me to an excellent school, where I was educated
for Cambridge. Meanwhile I had been devoting all possible time to
music; for I had determined to become a composer, and I was looking
forward, after taking my degree, to completing my musical education
abroad; but my mother's health was precarious, and, when the time came,
she found herself unequal to making the journey, and the change of
habits and surroundings that it implied. We lived very quietly in
Liverpool for three or four years; then she died, and, after I had
settled our affairs, I found myself in possession of a small income and
alone in the world. Without loss of time I set out for the Continent.
I went to a German city, where the best musical training was to be had,
and made my arrangements to pass several years there. At the banker's,
when I went to provide for the regular receipt of my remittances, I met
a young American, by name Paton Jeffries. He was from New England, and,
I think, a native of the State of Connecticut; his father, he told me,
was a distinguished inventor, who had made and lost a considerable
fortune in devising a means of promoting sleep by electricity. Paton
was studying to be an architect, which, he said, was the coming
profession in his country; and it was evident, on a short acquaintance,
that he was a fellow of unusual talents--one of those men of whom you
say that, come what may, they are always sure to fall on their feet.
For my part, I have certainly never met with so active and versatile a
spirit. He was a year or so older than I, rather tall than short,
lightly but strongly built, with a keen, smiling, subtle face, a
finely-developed forehead, light wavy hair, and gray eyes, very
penetrating and bright. There was a pleasing kind of eagerness and
volubility in his manner of talking, and a slight imperfection, not
amounting to a lisp, in his utterance, which imparted a naive charm to
his speech. He used expressive and rapid gestures with his hands and
arms, and there was a magnetism, a fascination, about the whole man
that strongly impressed me. I was at that period much more susceptible
of impressions, and prone to yield to them, than I am now. Paton's
rattling vivacity, his knowledge of the world, his entertaining talk
and stories, his curiosity, enterprise, and audacity, took me by storm;
he was my opposite in temperament and character, and it seemed to me
that he had most of the advantages on his side. Nevertheless, he
professed, and I still believe he felt, a great liking for me, and we
speedily came to an agreement to seek a lodging together. On the second
day of our search, we found just what we wanted.
It was an old house, on the outskirts of the town, standing by itself,
with a small garden behind it. It had formerly been occupied by an
Austrian baron, and it was probably not less than two hundred years
old. The baron's family had died out, or been dispersed, and now the
venerable edifice was let, in the German fashion, in separate floors or
_étages_, communicating with a central staircase. Some alterations
rendered necessary by this modification had been made, but
substantially the house was unchanged. Our apartment comprised four or
five rooms on the left of the landing and at the top of the house,
which consisted of three stories. The chief room was the parlor, which
looked down through a square bow-window on the street. This room was of
irregular shape, one end being narrower than the other, and nearly
fitting the space at this end was a kind of projecting shelf or
mantelpiece (only, of course, there was no fireplace under it, open
fireplaces being unknown in Germany), upon which rested an old cracked
looking-glass, made in two compartments, the frame of which, black with
age and fly-spots, was fastened against the wall. The shelf was
supported by two pilasters; but the object of the whole structure was a
mystery; so far as appeared, it served no purpose but to support the
looking-glass, which might just as well have been suspended from a nail
in the wall. Paton, I remember, betrayed a great deal of curiosity
about it; and since the consideration of the problem was more in his
line of business than in mine, I left it to him. At the opposite end of
the room stood a tall earthenware stove. The walls were wainscoted five
feet up from the dark polished floor, and were hung with several smoky
old paintings, of no great artistic value. The chairs and tables were
plain, but very heavy and solid, and of a dark hue like the room. The
window was nearly as wide as it was high, and opened laterally from the
center on hinges. The other rooms were of the same general appearance,
but smaller. We both liked the place, and soon made ourselves very
comfortable in it. I hired a piano, and had it conveyed upstairs to the
parlor; while Paton disposed his architectural paraphernalia on and in
the massive writing-table near the window. Our cooking and other
household duties were done for us by the wife of the _portier_,
the official corresponding to the French _concierge_, who, in all
German houses, attends at the common door, and who, in this case, lived
in a couple of musty little closets opening into the lower hall, and
eked out his official salary by cobbling shoes. He was an odd,
grotesque humorist, of most ungainly exterior, black haired and
bearded, with a squint, a squab nose, and a short but very powerful
figure. Dirty he was beyond belief, and he was abominably fragrant of
vile tobacco. For my part, I could not endure this fellow; but Paton,
who had much more of what he called human nature in him than I had,
established friendly relations with him at once, and reported that he
found him very amusing. It was characteristic of Paton that, though he
knew much less about the German language than I did, he could
understand and make himself understood in it much better; and, when we
were in company, it was always he who did the talking.
It would never have occurred to me to wonder, much less to inquire, who
might be the occupants of the other _étages_; but Paton was more
enterprising, and before we had been settled three days in our new
quarters, he had gathered from his friend the portier, and from other
sources, all the obtainable information on the subject. The information
was of no particular interest, however, except as regarded the persons
who dwelt on the floor immediately below us. They were two--an old man
and a young woman, supposed to be his daughter. They had been living
here several years--from before the time, indeed, that the portier had
occupied his present position. In all these years the old man was known
to have been out of his room only twice. He was certainly an eccentric
person, and was said to be a miser and extremely wealthy. The portier
further averred that his property--except such small portion of it as
was invested and on the income of which he lived--was realized in the
form of diamonds and other precious stones, which, for greater
security, he always carried, waking or sleeping, in a small leathern
bag, fastened round his neck by a fine steel chain. His daughter was
scarcely less a mystery than he, for, though she went out as often as
twice or thrice a week, she was always closely veiled, and her figure
was so disguised by the long cloak she wore that it was impossible to
say whether she were graceful or deformed, beautiful or ugly. The
balance of belief, however, was against her being attractive in any
respect. The name by which the old miser was known was Kragendorf; but,
as the portier sagaciously remarked, there was no knowing, in such
cases, whether the name a man bore was his own or somebody's else.
This Kragendorf mystery was another source of apparently inexhaustible
interest to Paton, who was fertile in suggestions as to how it might be
explained or penetrated. I believe he and the portier talked it over at
great length, but, so far as I am aware, without arriving at any
solution. I took little heed of the matter, being now fully absorbed in
my studies; and it is to be hoped that Herr Kragendorf was not of a
nervous temperament, otherwise he must have inveighed profanely against
the constant piano-practice that went on over his head. I also had a
violin, on which I flattered myself I could perform with a good deal of
expression, and by and by, in the long, still evenings--it was
November, but the temperature was still mild--I got into the habit of
strolling along the less frequented streets, with my violin under my
shoulder, drawing from it whatever music my heart desired. Occasionally
I would pause at some convenient spot, lean against a wall, and give
myself up to improvisation. At such times a little cluster of auditors
would gradually collect in front of me, listening for the most part
silently, or occasionally giving vent to low grunts and interjections
of approval. One evening, I remember, a young woman joined the group,
though keeping somewhat in the background; she listened intently, and
after a time gradually turned her face toward me, unconsciously as it
were; and the light of a street-lamp at a little distance revealed a
countenance youthful, pale, sad, and exquisitely beautiful. It
impressed me as with a vague reminiscence of something I had seen or
imagined--some pictured face, perhaps, caught in a glance and never to
be identified. Her eyes finally met mine; I stopped playing. She
started, gave me an alarmed look, and, gliding swiftly away,
disappeared. I could not forget this incident; it haunted me strangely
and persistently. Many a time thereafter I revisited the same spot, and
drew together other audiences, but the delicate girl with the dark-blue
eyes and the tender, sensitive mouth, was never again among them.
It was at this epoch, I think, that the inexhaustible Paton made a
discovery. From my point of view it was not a discovery of any moment;
but, as usual, he took interest in it enough for both of us. It
appeared that, in attempting to doctor the crack in the old looking-
glass, a large piece of the plate had got loose, and come away in his
hands; and in the space behind he had detected a paper, carefully
folded and tied up with a piece of faded ribbon. Paton was never in the
habit of hampering himself with fine-drawn scruples, and he had no
hesitation in opening the folded paper and spreading it out on the
table. Judging from the glance I gave it, it seemed to be a confused
and abstruse mixture of irregular geometrical figures and cramped
German chirography. But Paton set to work upon it with as much
concentration as if it had been a recipe for the Philosopher's Stone;
he reproduced the lines and angles on fresh paper, and labored over the
writing with a magnifying-glass and a dictionary. At times he would
mutter indistinctly to himself, lift his eyebrows, nod or shake his
head, bite his lips, and rub his forehead, and anon fall to work again
with fresh vigor. At last he leaned back in his chair, thumped his hand
on the table, and laughed.
"Got it!" he exclaimed. "Say, John, old boy, I've got it! and it's the
most curious old thing ever you saw in your life!"
"Something in analytical geometry, isn't it?" said I, turning round on
"Analytical pudding's end! It's a plan of a house, my boy, and, what's
more, of this very house we're in! That's a find, and no mistake! These
are the descriptions and explanations--these bits of writing. It's a
perfect labyrinth of Crete! Udolpho was nothing to it!"
"Well, I suppose it isn't of much value except as a curiosity?"
"Don't be too sure of that, John, my boy! Who knows but there's a
treasure concealed somewhere in this house? or a skeleton in a secret
chamber! This old paper may make our fortune yet!"
"The treasure wouldn't belong to us if we found it; and, besides, we
can't make explorations beyond our own premises, and we know what's in
"Do we? Did we know what was behind the looking-glass? Did you never
hear of sliding panels, and private passages, and concealed staircases?
Where's your imagination, man? But you don't need imagination--here it
is in black and white!"
As he spoke, he pointed to a part of the plan; but, as I was stooping
to examine it, he seemed to change his mind.
"No matter," he exclaimed, suddenly folding up the paper and rising
from his chair. "You're not an architect, and you can't be expected to
go in for these things. No; there's no practical use in it, of course.
But secret passages were always a hobby of mine. Well, what are you
going to do this evening? Come over to the café and have a game of
"No; I shall go to bed early to-night."
"You sleep too much," said Paton. "Everybody does, if my father,
instead of inventing a way of promoting sleep, had invented a way of
doing without it, he'd have been the richest man in America to-day.
However, do as you like. I sha'n't be back till late."
He put on his hat and sallied forth with a cigar in his mouth. Paton
was of rather a convivial turn; he liked to have a good time, as he
called it; and, indeed, he seemed to think that the chief end of man
was to get money enough to have a good time continually, a sort of good
eternity. His head was strong, and he could stand a great deal of
liquor; and I have seen him sip and savor a glass of raw brandy or
whisky as another man would a glass of Madeira. In this, and the other
phases of his life about town, I had no participation, being
constitutionally as well as by training averse therefrom; and he, on
the other hand, would never have listened to my sage advice to modify
his loose habits. Our companionship was apart from these things; and,
as I have said, I found in him a good deal that I could sympathize
with, without approaching the moralities.
That night, after I had been for some time asleep, I awoke and found
myself listening to a scratching and shoving noise that seemed quite
unaccountable. By-and-by it made me uneasy. I got up and went toward
the parlor, from which the noise proceeded. On reaching the doorway, I
saw Paton on his knees before one of the pilasters in the narrow end of
the room; a candle was on the floor beside him, and he was busily at
work at something, though what it was I could not make out. The creak
of the threshold under my foot caused him to look round. He started
violently, and sprang to his feet.
"Oh! it's you, is it?" he said, after a moment. "Great Scott! how you
scared me! I was--I dropped a bit of money hereabouts, and I was
scraping about to find it. No matter--it wasn't much! Sorry I disturbed
you, old boy." And, laughing, he picked up his candle and went into his
From this time there was a change vaguely perceptible in our mutual
relations; we chatted together less than before, and did not see so
much of each other. Paton was apt to be out when I was at home, and
generally sat up after I was abed. He seemed to be busy about
something--something connected with his profession, I judged; but,
contrary to his former custom, he made no attempt to interest me in it.
To tell the truth, I had begun to realize that our different tastes and
pursuits must lead us further and further apart, and that our
separation could be only a question of time. Paton was a materialist,
and inclined to challenge all the laws and convictions that mankind has
instituted and adopted; there was no limit to his radicalism. For
example, on coming in one day, I found him with a curious antique
poniard in his hands, which he had probably bought in some old
curiosity shop. At first I fancied he meant to conceal it; but, if so,
he changed his mind.
"What do you think of that?" he said, holding it out to me. "There's a
solution of continuity for you! Mind you don't prick yourself! It's
poisoned up to the hilt!"
"What do you want of such a thing?" I asked.
"Well, killing began with Cain, and isn't likely to go out of fashion
in our day. I might find it convenient to give one of my friends--you,
for instance--a reminder of his mortality some time. You'll say murder
is immoral. Bless you, man, we never could do without it! No man dies
before his time, and some one dies every day that some one else may
This was said in a jocose way, and, of course, Paton did not mean it.
But it affected me unpleasantly nevertheless.
As I was washing my hands in my room, I happened to look out of my
window, which commanded a view of the garden at the back of the house.
It was an hour after sunset, and the garden was nearly dark; but I
caught a movement of something below, and, looking more closely, I
recognized the ugly figure of the portier. He seemed to be tying
something to the end of a long slender pole, like a gigantic fishing-
rod; and presently he advanced beneath my window, and raised the pole
as high as it would go against the wall of the house. The point he
touched was the sill of the window below mine--probably that of the
bedroom of Herr Kragendorf. At this juncture the portier seemed to be
startled at something--possibly he saw me at my window; at all events,
he lowered his pole and disappeared in the house.
The next day Paton made an announcement that took me by surprise. He
said he had made up his mind to quit Germany, and that very shortly. He
mentioned having received letters from home, and declared he had got,
or should soon have got, all he wanted out of this country. "I'm going
to stop paying money for instruction," he said, "and begin to earn it
by work. I shall stay another week, but then I'm off. Too slow here for
me! I want to be in the midst of things, using my time."
I did not attempt to dissuade him; in fact, my first feeling was rather
one of relief; and this Paton, with his quick preceptions, was probably
"Own up, old boy!" he said, laughing; "you'll be able to endure my
absence. And yet you needn't think of me as worse than anybody else. If
everybody were musicians and moralists, it would be nice, no doubt; but
one might get tired of it in time, and then what would you do? You must
give the scamps and adventurers their innings, after all! They may not
do much good, but they give the other fellows occupation. I was born
without my leave being asked, and I may act as suits me without asking
This was said on a certain bright morning after our first fall of snow;
the tiled roofs of the houses were whitened with it, it cushioned the
window-sills, and spread a sparkling blankness over the garden. In the
streets it was already melting, and people were slipping and splashing
on the wet and glistening pavements. After gazing out at this scene for
a while, in a mood of unwonted thoughtfulness, Paton yawned, stretched
himself, and declared his intention of taking a stroll before dinner.
Accordingly he lit a cigar and went forth. I watched him go down the
street and turn the corner.
An hour afterward, just when dinner was on the table, I heard an
unusual noise and shuffling on the stairs, and a heavy knock on the
door. I opened it, and saw four men bearing on a pallet the form of my
friend Paton. A police officer accompanied them. They brought Paton in,
and laid him on his bed. The officer told me briefly what had happened,
gave me certain directions, and, saying that a surgeon would arrive
immediately, he departed with the four men tramping behind him.
Paton had slipped in going across the street, and a tramway car had run
over him. He was not dead, though almost speechless; but his injuries
were such that it was impossible that he should recover. He kept his
eyes upon me; they were as bright as ever, though his face was deadly
pale. He seemed to be trying to read my thoughts--to find out my
feeling about him, and my opinion of his condition. I was terribly
shocked and grieved, and my face no doubt showed it. By-and-by I saw
his lips move, and bent down to listen.
"Confounded nuisance!" he whispered faintly in my car. "It's all right,
though; I'm not going to die this time. I've got something to do, and
I'm going to do it--devil take me if I don't!"
He was unable to say more, and soon after the surgeon came in. He made
an examination, and it was evident that he had no hope. His shrug of
the shoulders was not lost upon Paton, who frowned, and made a defiant
movement of the lip. But presently he said to me, still in the same
whisper, "John, if that old fool should be right--he won't be, but in
case of accidents--you must take charge of my things--the papers, and
all. I'll make you heir of my expectations! Write out a declaration to
that effect: I can sign my name; and he'll be witness."
I did as he directed, and having explained to the surgeon the nature of
the document, I put the pen in Paton's hand; but was obliged to guide
his hand with my own in order to make an intelligible signature. The
surgeon signed below, and Paton seemed satisfied. He closed his eyes;
his sufferings appeared to be very slight. But, even while I was
looking at him, a change came over his face--a deadly change. His eyes
opened; they were no longer bright, but sunken and dull. He gave me a
dusky look--whether of rage, of fear, or of entreaty, I could not tell.
His lips parted, and a voice made itself audible; not like his own
voice, but husky and discordant. "I'm going," it said. "But look out
for me.... Do it yourself!"
"Der Herr ist todt" (the man is dead), said the surgeon the next
It was true. Paton had gone out of this life at an hour's warning. What
purpose or desire his last words indicated, there was nothing to show.
He was dead; and yet I could hardly believe that it was so. He had been
so much alive; so full of schemes and enterprises. Nothing now was left
but that crushed and haggard figure, stiffening on the bed; nothing, at
least, that mortal senses could take cognizance of. It was a strange
Paton's funeral took place a few days afterward. I returned from the
graveyard weary in body and mind. At the door of the house stood the
portier, who nodded to me, and said,
"A very sad thing to happen, worthy sir; but so it is in the world. Of
all the occupants of this house, one would have said the one least
likely to be dead to-day was Herr Jeffries. Heh! if I had been the good
Providence, I would have made away with the old gentleman of the
_étage_ below, who is of no use to anybody."
This, for lack of a better, was Paton's funeral oration. I climbed the
three flights of stairs and let myself into our apartment--mine
exclusively now. The place was terribly lonely; much more so than if
Paton had been alive anywhere in the world. But he was dead; and, if
his own philosophy were true, he was annihilated. But it was not true!
How distinct and minute was my recollection of him--his look, his
gestures, the tones of his voice. I could almost see him before me; my
memory of him dead seemed clearer than when he was alive. In that
invisible world of the mind was he not living still, and perhaps not
I sat down at the table where he had been wont to work, and unlocked
the drawers in which he kept his papers. These, or some of them, I took
out and spread before me. But I found it impossible, as yet, to
concentrate my attention upon them; I pushed back my chair, and,
rising, went to the piano. Here I remained for perhaps a couple of
hours, striking the vague chords that echo wandering thoughts. I was
trying to banish this haunting image of Paton from my mind, and at
length I partly succeeded.
All at once, however, the impression of him (as I may call it) came
back with a force and vividness that startled me. I stopped playing,
and sat for a minute perfectly still. I felt that Paton was in the
room; that if I looked round I should see him. I however restrained
myself from looking round with all the strength of my will--wherefore I
know not. What I felt was not fear, but the conviction that I was on
the brink of a fearful and unprecedented experience--an experience
that would not leave me as it found me. This strange struggle with
myself taxed all my powers; the sweat started out on my forehead. At
last the moment came when I could struggle no longer. I laid my hand on
the keyboard, and pushed myself round on the stool. There was a
momentary dazzle before my eyes, and after that I saw plainly. My hand,
striking the keys, had produced a jarring discord; and while this was
yet tingling in my ears, Paton, who was sitting in his old place at the
table, with his back toward me, faced about in his chair, and his eyes
met mine. I thought he smiled.
My excitement was past, and was succeeded by a dead calm. I examined
him critically. His appearance was much the same as when in life; nay,
he was even more like himself than before. The subtle or crafty
expression which had always been discernible in his features was now
intensified, and there was something wild and covertly fierce in the
shining of his gray eyes, something that his smile was unable to
disguise. What was human and genial in my former friend had passed
away, and what remained was evil--the kind of evil that I now perceived
to have been at the base of his nature. It was a revelation of
character terrible in its naked completeness. I knew at a glance that
Paton must always have been a far more wicked man that I had ever
imagined; and in his present state all the remains of goodness had been
stripped away, and nothing but wickedness was left.
I felt impelled, by an impulse for which I could not account, to
approach the table and examine the papers once more; and now it entered
into my mind to perceive a certain method and meaning in them that had
been hidden from me before. It was as though I were looking at them
through Paton's intelligence, and with his memory. He had in some way
ceased to be visible to me; but I became aware that he wished me to sit
down in his chair, and I did so. Under his guidance, and in obedience
to a will that seemed to be my own, and yet was in direct opposition to
my real will, I began a systematic study of the papers. Paton,
meanwhile, remained close to me, though I could no longer see him; but
I felt the gaze of his fierce, shining eyes, and his crafty, evil
smile. I soon obtained a tolerable insight into what the papers meant,
and what was the scheme in which Paton had been so much absorbed at the
time of his death, and which he had been so loath to abandon.
It was a wicked and cruel scheme, worked out to the smallest
particular. But, though I understood its hideousness intellectually, it
aroused in mo no corresponding emotion; my sensitiveness to right arid
wrong seemed stupefied or inoperative. I could say, "This is wicked,"
but I could not awaken in myself a horror of committing the wickedness;
and, moreover, I knew that, if the influence Paton was able to exercise
over me continued, I must in due time commit it.
Presently I became aware, or, to speak more accurately, I seemed to
remember, that there was something in Paton's room which it was