Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Doctor Grimshawe's Secret by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

them happened to be wanting an opportunity to come before the public in
an after-dinner speech. Just at present there was no occasion of that
sort; and the good Warden fancied that he might give considerable
_éclat_ to his hereditary feast by bringing forward the young
American envoy, a distinguished and eloquent man, to speak on the well-
worn topic of the necessity of friendly relations between England and

"You are eloquent, I doubt not, my young friend?" inquired he.

"Why, no," answered Redclyffe, modestly.

"Ah, yes, I know it," returned the Warden. "If one have all the natural
prerequisites of eloquence; a quick sensibility, ready thought, apt
expression, a good voice--and not making its way into the world through
your nose either, as they say most of your countrymen's voices do. You
shall make the crack speech at my dinner; and so strengthen the bonds
of good fellowship between our two countries, that there shall be no
question of war for at least six months to come."

Accordingly, the preparations for this stately banquet went on with
great spirit; and the Warden exhorted Redclyffe to be thinking of some
good topics for his international speech; but the young man laughed it
off, and told his friend that he thought the inspiration of the moment,
aided by the good old wine which the Warden had told him of, as among
the treasures of the Hospital, would perhaps serve him better than any
elaborate preparation.

Redclyffe, being not even yet strong, used to spend much time, when the
day chanced to be pleasant, (which was oftener than his preconceptions
of English weather led him to expect,) in the garden behind the
Warden's house. It was an extensive one, and apparently as antique as
the foundation of the establishment; and during all these years it had
probably been growing richer and richer. Here were flowers of ancient
race, and some that had been merely field or wayside flowers when first
they came into the garden; but by long cultivation and hereditary care,
instead of dying out, they had acquired a new richness and beauty, so
that you would scarcely recognize the daisy or the violet. Roses too,
there were, which Doctor Hammond said had been taken from those white
and red rose-trees in the Temple Gardens, whence the partisans of York
and Lancaster had plucked their fatal badges. With these, there were
all the modern and far-fetched flowers from America, the East, and
elsewhere; even the prairie flowers and the California blossoms were
represented here; for one of the brethren had horticultural tastes, and
was permitted freely to exercise them there. The antique character of
the garden was preserved, likewise, by the alleys of box, a part of
which had been suffered to remain, and was now grown to a great height
and density, so as to make impervious green walls. There were also yew
trees clipped into strange shapes of bird and beast, and uncouth
heraldic figures, among which of course the leopard's head grinned
triumphant; and as for fruit, the high garden wall was lined with pear
trees, spread out flat against it, where they managed to produce a
cold, flavorless fruit, a good deal akin to cucumbers.

Here, in these genial old arbors, Redclyffe used to recline in the
sweet, mild summer weather, basking in the sun, which was seldom too
warm to make its full embrace uncomfortable; and it seemed to him, with
its fertility, with its marks everywhere of the quiet long-bestowed
care of man, the sweetest and cosiest seclusion he had ever known; and
two or three times a day, when he heard the screech of the railway
train, rushing on towards distant London, it impressed him still more
with a sense of safe repose here.

Not unfrequently he here met the white-bearded palmer in whose chamber
he had found himself, as if conveyed thither by enchantment, when he
first came to the Hospital. The old man was not by any means of the
garrulous order; and yet he seemed full of thoughts, full of
reminiscences, and not disinclined to the company of Redclyffe. In
fact, the latter sometimes flattered himself that a tendency for his
society was one of the motives that brought him to the garden; though
the amount of their intercourse, after all, was not so great as to
warrant the idea of any settled purpose in so doing. Nevertheless, they
talked considerably; and Redclyffe could easily see that the old man
had been an extensive traveller, and had perhaps occupied situations
far different from his present one, and had perhaps been a struggler in
troubled waters before he was drifted into the retirement where
Redclyffe found him. He was fond of talking about the unsuspected
relationship that must now be existing between many families in England
and unknown consanguinity in the new world, where, perhaps, really the
main stock of the family tree was now existing, and with a new spirit
and life, which the representative growth here in England had lost by
too long continuance in one air and one mode of life. For history and
observation proved that all people--and the English people by no means
less than others--needed to be transplanted, or somehow renewed, every
few generations; so that, according to this ancient philosopher's
theory, it would be good for the whole people of England now, if it
could at once be transported to America, where its fatness, its
sleepiness, its too great beefiness, its preponderant animal character,
would be rectified by a different air and soil; and equally good, on
the other hand, for the whole American people to be transplanted back
to the original island, where their nervousness might be weighted with
heavier influences, where their little women might grow bigger, where
their thin, dry men might get a burden of flesh and good stomachs,
where their children might, with the air, draw in a reverence for age,
forms, and usage.

Redclyffe listened with complacency to these speculations, smiling at
the thought of such an exodus as would take place, and the reciprocal
dissatisfaction which would probably be the result. But he had greater
pleasure in drawing out some of the old gentleman's legendary lore,
some of which, whether true or not, was very curious. [Endnote: 2.]

As Redclyffe sat one day watching the old man in the garden, he could
not help being struck by the scrupulous care with which he attended to
the plants; it seemed to him that there was a sense of justice,--of
desiring to do exactly what was right in the matter, not favoring one
plant more than another, and doing all he could for each. His progress,
in consequence, was so slow, that in an hour, while Redclyffe was off
and on looking at him, he had scarcely done anything perceptible. Then
he was so minute; and often, when he was on the point of leaving one
thing to take up another, some small neglect that he saw or fancied
called him back again, to spend other minutes on the same task. He was
so full of scruples. It struck Redclyffe that this was conscience,
morbid, sick, a despot in trifles, looking so closely into life that it
permitted nothing to be done. The man might once have been strong and
able, but by some unhealthy process of his life he had ceased to be so
now. Nor did any happy or satisfactory result appear to come from these
painfully wrought efforts; he still seemed to know that he had left
something undone in doing too much in another direction. Here was a
lily that had been neglected, while he paid too much attention to a
rose; he had set his foot on a violet; he had grubbed up, in his haste,
a little plant that he mistook for a weed, but that he now suspected
was an herb of grace. Grieved by such reflections as these, he heaved a
deep sigh, almost amounting to a groan, and sat down on the little
stool that he carried with him in his weeding, resting his face in his

Redclyffe deemed that he might be doing the old man a good service by
interrupting his melancholy labors; so he emerged from the opposite
door of the summer-house, and came along the adjoining walk with
somewhat heavy footsteps, in order that the palmer might have warning
of his approach without any grounds to suppose that he had been watched
hitherto. Accordingly, when he turned into the other alley, he found
the old man sitting erect on his stool, looking composed, but still
sad, as was his general custom.

"After all your wanderings and experience," said he, "I observe that
you come back to the original occupation of cultivating a garden,--the
innocentest of all."

"Yes, so it would seem," said the old man; "but somehow or other I do
not find peace in this."

"These plants and shrubs," returned Redclyffe, "seem at all events to
recognize the goodness of your rule, so far as it has extended over
them. See how joyfully they take the sun; how clear [they are] from all
these vices that lie scattered round, in the shape of weeds. It is a
lovely sight, and I could almost fancy a quiet enjoyment in the plants
themselves, which they have no way of making us aware of, except by
giving out a fragrance."

"Ah! how infinitely would that idea increase man's responsibility,"
said the old palmer, "if, besides man and beast, we should find it
necessary to believe that there is also another set of beings dependent
for their happiness on our doing, or leaving undone, what might have
effect on them!"

"I question," said Redclyffe, smiling, "whether their pleasurable or
painful experiences can be so keen, that we need trouble our
consciences much with regard to what we do, merely as it affects them.
So highly cultivated a conscience as that would be a nuisance to one's
self and one's fellows."

"You say a terrible thing," rejoined the old man. "Can conscience be
too much alive in us? is not everything however trifling it seems, an
item in the great account, which it is of infinite importance therefore
to have right? A terrible thing is that you have said."

"That may be," said Redclyffe; "but it is none the less certain to me,
that the efficient actors--those who mould the world--are the persons
in whom something else is developed more strongly than conscience.
There must be an invincible determination to effect something; it may
be set to work in the right direction, but after that it must go
onward, trampling down small obstacles--small considerations of right
and wrong--as a great rock, thundering down a hillside, crushes a
thousand sweet flowers, and ploughs deep furrows in the innocent

As Redclyffe gave vent to this doctrine, which was not naturally his,
but which had been the inculcation of a life, hitherto devoted to
politics, he was surprised to find how strongly sensible he became of
the ugliness and indefensibleness of what he said. He felt as if he
were speaking under the eye of Omniscience, and as if every word he
said were weighed, and its emptiness detected, by an unfailing
intelligence. He had thought that he had volumes to say about the
necessity of consenting not to do right in all matters minutely, for
the sake of getting out an available and valuable right as the whole;
but there was something that seemed to tie his tongue. Could it be the
quiet gaze of this old man, so unpretending, so humble, so simple in
aspect? He could not tell, only that he faltered, and finally left his
speech in the midst.

But he was surprised to find how he had to struggle against a certain
repulsion within himself to the old man. He seemed so nonsensical,
interfering with everybody's right in the world; so mischievous,
standing there and shutting out the possibility of action. It seemed
well to trample him down; to put him out of the way--no matter how--
somehow. It gave him, he thought, an inkling of the way in which this
poor old man had made himself odious to his kind, by opposing himself,
inevitably, to what was bad in man, chiding it by his very presence,
accepting nothing false. You must either love him utterly, or hate him
utterly; for he could not let you alone. Redclyffe, being a susceptible
man, felt this influence in the strongest way; for it was as if there
was a battle within him, one party pulling, wrenching him towards the
old man, another wrenching him away, so that, by the agony of the
contest, he felt disposed to end it by taking flight, and never seeing
the strange individual again. He could well enough conceive how a
brutal nature, if capable of receiving his influence at all, might find
it so intolerable that it must needs get rid of him by violence,--by
taking his blood if necessary.

All these feelings were but transitory, however; they swept across him
like a wind, and then he looked again at the old man and saw only his
simplicity, his unworldliness,--saw little more than the worn and
feeble individual in the Hospital garb, leaning on his staff; and then
turning again with a gentle sigh to weed in the garden. And then
Redclyffe went away, in a state of disturbance for which he could not
account to himself.


High up in the old carved roof, meanwhile, the spiders of centuries
still hung their flaunting webs with a profusion that old Doctor
Grimshawe would have been ravished to see; but even this was to be
remedied, for one day, on looking in, Redclyffe found the great hall
dim with floating dust, and down through it came great floating masses
of cobweb, out of which the old Doctor would have undertaken to
regenerate the world; and he saw, dimly aloft, men on ladders sweeping
away these accumulations of years, and breaking up the haunts and
residences of hereditary spiders.

The stately old hall had been in process of cleaning and adapting to
the banquet purposes of the nineteenth century, which it was accustomed
to subserve, in so proud a way, in the sixteenth. It was, in the first
place, well swept and cleansed; the painted glass windows were cleansed
from dust, and several panes, which had been unfortunately broken and
filled with common glass, were filled in with colored panes, which the
Warden had picked up somewhere in his antiquarian researches. They were
not, to be sure, just what was wanted; a piece of a saint, from some
cathedral window, supplying what was lacking of the gorgeous purple of
a mediæval king; but the general effect was rich and good, whenever the
misty English atmosphere supplied sunshine bright enough to pervade it.
Tapestry, too, from antique looms, faded, but still gorgeous, was hung
upon the walls. Some suits of armor, that hung beneath the festal
gallery, were polished till the old battered helmets and pierced
breastplates sent a gleam like that with which they had flashed across
the battle-fields of old. [Endnote: 1.]

So now the great day of the Warden's dinner had arrived; and, as may be
supposed, there were fiery times in the venerable old kitchen. The
cook, according to ancient custom, concocted many antique dishes, such
as used to be set before kings and nobles; dainties that might have
called the dead out of their graves; combinations of ingredients that
had ceased to be put together for centuries; historic dishes, which had
long, long ceased to be in the list of revels. Then there was the
stalwart English cheer of the sirloin, and the round; there were the
vast plum-puddings, the juicy mutton, the venison; there was the game,
now just in season,--the half-tame wild fowl of English covers, the
half-domesticated wild deer of English parks, the heathcock from the
far-off hills of Scotland, and one little prairie hen, and some canvas-
back ducks--obtained, Heaven knows how, in compliment to Redclyffe--
from his native shores. O, the old jolly kitchen! how rich the flavored
smoke that went up its vast chimney! how inestimable the atmosphere of
steam that was diffused through it! How did the old men peep into it,
even venture across the threshold, braving the hot wrath of the cook
and his assistants, for the sake of imbuing themselves with these rich
and delicate flavors, receiving them in as it were spiritually; for,
received through the breath and in the atmosphere, it was really a
spiritual enjoyment. The ghosts of ancient epicures seemed, on that day
and the few preceding ones, to haunt the dim passages, snuffing in with
shadowy nostrils the rich vapors, assuming visibility in the congenial
medium, almost becoming earthly again in the strength of their earthly
longings for one other feast such as they used to enjoy.

Nor is it to be supposed that it was only these antique dainties that
the Warden provided for his feast. No; if the cook, the cultured and
recondite old cook, who had accumulated within himself all that his
predecessors knew for centuries,--if he lacked anything of modern
fashion and improvement, he had supplied his defect by temporary
assistance from a London club; and the bill of fare was provided with
dishes that Soyer would not have harshly criticised. The ethereal
delicacy of modern taste, the nice adjustment of flowers, the French
style of cookery, was richly attended to; and the list was long of
dishes with fantastic names, fish, fowl, and flesh; and
_entremets_, and "sweets," as the English call them, and sugared
cates, too numerous to think of.

The wines we will not take upon ourselves to enumerate; but the juice,
then destined to be quaffed, was in part the precious vintages that had
been broached half a century ago, and had been ripening ever since; the
rich and dry old port, so unlovely to the natural palate that it
requires long English seasoning to get it down; the sherry, imported
before these modern days of adulteration; some claret, the Warden said
of rarest vintage; some Burgundy, of which it was the quality to warm
the blood and genialize existence for three days after it was drunk.
Then there was a rich liquid contributed to this department by
Redclyffe himself; for, some weeks since, when the banquet first loomed
in the distance, he had (anxious to evince his sense of the Warden's
kindness) sent across the ocean for some famous Madeira which he had
inherited from the Doctor, and never tasted yet. This, together with
some of the Western wines of America, had arrived, and was ready to be

The Warden tested these modern wines, and recognized a new flavor, but
gave it only a moderate approbation; for, in truth, an elderly
Englishman has not a wide appreciation of wines, nor loves new things
in this kind more than in literature or life. But he tasted the
Madeira, too, and underwent an ecstasy, which was only alleviated by
the dread of gout, which he had an idea that this wine must bring on,--
and truly, if it were so splendid a wine as he pronounced it, some pain
ought to follow as the shadow of such a pleasure.

As it was a festival of antique date, the dinner hour had been fixed
earlier than is usual at such stately banquets; namely, at six o'clock,
which was long before the dusky hour at which Englishmen love best to
dine. About that period, the carriages drove into the old courtyard of
the Hospital in great abundance; blocking up, too, the ancient portal,
and remaining in a line outside. Carriages they were with armorial
bearings, family coaches in which came Englishmen in their black coats
and white neckcloths, elderly, white-headed, fresh-colored, squat; not
beautiful, certainly, nor particularly dignified, nor very well
dressed, nor with much of an imposing air, but yet, somehow or other,
producing an effect of force, respectability, reliableness, trust,
which is probably deserved, since it is invariably experienced. Cold
they were in deportment, and looked coldly on the stranger, who, on his
part, drew himself up with an extra haughtiness and reserve, and felt
himself in the midst of his enemies, and more as if he were going to do
battle than to sit down to a friendly banquet. The Warden introduced
him, as an American diplomatist, to one or two of the gentlemen, who
regarded him forbiddingly, as Englishmen do before dinner.

Not long after Redclyffe had entered the reception-room, which was but
shortly before the hour appointed for the dinner, there was another
arrival betokened by the clatter of hoofs and grinding wheels in the
courtyard; and then entered a gentleman of different mien from the
bluff, ruddy, simple-minded, yet worldly Englishmen around him. He was
a tall, dark man, with a black moustache and almost olive skin, a
slender, lithe figure, a flexible face, quick, flashing, mobile. His
deportment was graceful; his dress, though it seemed to differ in
little or nothing from that of the gentlemen in the room, had yet a
grace and picturesqueness in his mode of wearing it. He advanced to the
Warden, who received him with distinction, and yet, Redclyffe fancied,
not exactly with cordiality. It seemed to Redclyffe that the Warden
looked round, as if with the purpose of presenting Redclyffe to this
gentleman, but he himself, from some latent reluctance, had turned away
and entered, into conversation with one of the other gentlemen, who
said now, looking at the new-comer, "Are you acquainted with this last

"Not at all," said Redclyffe. "I know Lord Braithwaite by sight,
indeed, but have had no introduction. He is a man, certainly, of
distinguished appearance."

"Why, pretty well," said the gentleman, "but un-English, as also are
his manners. It is a pity to see an old English family represented by
such a person. Neither he, his father, nor grandfather was born among
us; he has far more Italian blood than enough to drown the slender
stream of Anglo-Saxon and Norman. His modes of life, his prejudices,
his estates, his religion, are unlike our own; and yet here he is in
the position of an old English gentleman, possibly to be a peer. You,
whose nationality embraces that of all the world, cannot, I suppose,
understand this English feeling." [Endnote: 2.]

"Pardon me," said Redclyffe, "I can perfectly understand it. An
American, in his feelings towards England, has all the jealousy and
exclusiveness of Englishmen themselves,--perhaps, indeed, a little

"I beg your pardon," said the Englishman, incredulously, "I think you
cannot possibly understand it!" [Endnote: 3.]

The guests were by this time all assembled, and at the Warden's bidding
they moved from the reception-room to the dining-hall, in some order
and precedence, of which Redclyffe could not exactly discover the
principle, though he found that to himself--in his quality, doubtless,
of Ambassador--there was assigned a pretty high place. A venerable
dignitary of the Church--a dean, he seemed to be--having asked a
blessing, the fair scene of the banquet now lay before the guests,
presenting a splendid spectacle, in the high-walled, antique,
tapestried hall, overhung with the dark, intricate oaken beams, with
the high Gothic windows, through one of which the setting sunbeams
streamed, and showed the figures of kings and warriors, and the old
Braithwaites among them. Beneath and adown the hall extended the long
line of the tables, covered with the snow of the damask tablecloth, on
which glittered, gleamed, and shone a good quality of ancient ancestral
plate, and an _épergne_ of silver, extending down the middle; also
the gleam of golden wine in the decanters; and truly Redclyffe thought
that it was a noble spectacle, made so by old and stately associations,
which made a noble banquet of what otherwise would be only a vulgar
dinner. The English have this advantage and know how to make use of it.
They bring--in these old, time-honored feasts--all the past to sit down
and take the stately refreshment along with them, and they pledge the
historic characters in their wine.

A printed bill of fare, in gold letters, lay by each plate, on which
Redclyffe saw the company glancing with great interest. The first dish,
of course, was turtle soup, of which--as the gentleman next him, the
Mayor of a neighboring town, told Redclyffe--it was allowable to take
twice. This was accompanied, according to one of those rules which one
knows not whether they are arbitrary or founded on some deep reason, by
a glass of punch. Then came the noble turbot, the salmon, the sole, and
divers of fishes, and the dinner fairly set in. The genial Warden
seemed to have given liberal orders to the attendants, for they spared
not to offer hock, champagne, sherry, to the guests, and good bitter
ale, foaming in the goblet; and so the stately banquet went on, with
somewhat tedious magnificence; and yet with a fulness of effect and
thoroughness of sombre life that made Redclyffe feel that, so much
importance being assigned to it,--it being so much believed in,--it was
indeed a feast. The cumbrous courses swept by, one after another; and
Redclyffe, finding it heavy work, sat idle most of the time, regarding
the hall, the old decaying beams, the armor hanging beneath the
galleries, and these Englishmen feasting where their fathers had
feasted for so many ages, the same occasion, the same men, probably, in
appearance, though the black coat and the white neckcloth had taken the
place of ruff, embroidered doublet, and the magnificence of other ages.
After all, the English have not such good things to eat as we in
America, and certainly do not know better how to make them palatable.
[Endnote: 4.]

Well; but by and by the dinner came to a conclusion, as regarded the
eating part; the cloth was withdrawn; a dessert of fruits, fresh and
dried, pines, hothouse grapes, and all candied conserves of the Indies,
was put on the long extent of polished mahogany. There was a tuning up
of musicians, an interrogative drawing of fiddle-bows, and other
musical twangs and puffs; the decanters opposite the Warden and his
vice-president,--sherry, port, Redclyffe's Madeira, and claret, were
put in motion along the table, and the guests filled their glasses for
the toast which, at English dinner-tables, is of course the first to be
honored,--the Queen. Then the band struck up the good old anthem, "God
save the Queen," which the whole company rose to their feet to sing. It
was a spectacle both interesting and a little ludicrous to Redclyffe,--
being so apart from an American's sympathies, so unlike anything that
he has in his life or possibilities,--this active and warm sentiment of
loyalty, in which love of country centres, and assimilates, and
transforms itself into a passionate affection for a person, in whom
they love all their institutions. To say the truth, it seemed a happy
notion; nor could the American--while he comforted himself in the pride
of his democracy, and that he himself was a sovereign--could he help
envying it a little, this childlike love and reverence for a person
embodying all their country, their past, their earthly future. He felt
that it might be delightful to have a sovereign, provided that
sovereign were always a woman,--and perhaps a young and fine one. But,
indeed, this is not the difficulty, methinks, in English institutions
which the American finds it hardest to deal with. We could endure a
born sovereign, especially if made such a mere pageant as the English
make of theirs. What we find it hardest to conceive of is, the
satisfaction with which Englishmen think of a race above them, with
privileges that they cannot share, entitled to condescend to them, and
to have gracious and beautiful manners at their expense; to be kind,
simple, unpretending, because these qualities are more available than
haughtiness; to be specimens of perfect manhood;--all these advantages
in consequence of their position. If the peerage were a mere name, it
would be nothing to envy; but it is so much more than a name; it
enables men to be really so superior. The poor, the lower classes,
might bear this well enough; but the classes that come next to the
nobility,--the upper middle classes,--how they bear it so lovingly is
what must puzzle the American. But probably the advantage of the
peerage is the less perceptible the nearer it is looked at.

It must be confessed that Redclyffe, as he looked at this assembly of
peers and gentlemen, thought with some self-gratulation of the
probability that he had within his power as old a rank, as desirable a
station, as the best of them; and that if he were restrained from
taking it, it would probably only be by the democratic pride that made
him feel that he could not, retaining all his manly sensibility, accept
this gewgaw on which the ages--his own country especially--had passed
judgment, while it had been suspended over his head. He felt himself,
at any rate, in a higher position, having the option of taking this
rank, and forbearing to do so, than if he took it. [Endnote: 5.]

After this ensued a ceremony which is of antique date in old English
corporations and institutions, at their high festivals. It is called
the Loving Cup. A sort of herald or toast-master behind the Warden's
chair made proclamation, reciting the names of the principal guests,
and announcing to them, "The Warden of the Braithwaite Hospital drinks
to you in a Loving Cup"; of which cup, having sipped, or seemed to sip
(for Redclyffe observed that the old drinkers were rather shy of it) a
small quantity, he sent it down the table. Its progress was accompanied
with a peculiar entanglement of ceremony, one guest standing up while
another drinks, being pretty much as follows. First, each guest
receiving it covered from the next above him, the same took from the
silver cup its silver cover; the guest drank with a bow to the Warden
and company, took the cover from the preceding guest, covered the cup,
handed it to the next below him, then again removed the cover, replaced
it after the guest had drunk, who, on his part, went through the same
ceremony. And thus the cup went slowly on its way down the stately
hall; these ceremonies being, it is said, originally precautions
against the risk, in wild times, of being stabbed by the man who was
drinking with you, or poisoned by one who should fail to be your
taster. The cup was a fine, ancient piece of plate, massive, heavy,
curiously wrought with armorial bearings, in which the leopard's head
appeared. Its contents, so far as Redclyffe could analyze them by a
moderate sip, appeared to be claret, sweetened, with spices, and,
however suited to the peculiarity of antique palates, was not greatly
to Redclyffe's taste. [Endnote: 6.]

Redclyffe's companion just below him, while the Loving Cup was
beginning its march, had been explaining the origin of the custom as a
defence of the drinker in times of deadly feud; when it had reached
Lord Braithwaite, who drank and passed it to Redclyffe covered, and
with the usual bow, Redclyffe looked into his Lordship's Italian eyes
and dark face as he did so, and the thought struck him, that, if there
could possibly be any use in keeping up this old custom, it might be so
now; for, how intimated he could hardly tell, he was sensible in his
deepest self of a deadly hostility in this dark, courteous, handsome
face. He kept his eyes fixed on his Lordship as he received the cup,
and felt that in his own glance there was an acknowledgment of the
enmity that he perceived, and a defiance, expressed without visible
sign, and felt in the bow with which they greeted one another. When
they had both resumed their seats, Redclyffe chose to make this
ceremonial intercourse the occasion of again addressing him.

"I know not whether your Lordship is more accustomed than myself to
these stately ceremonials," said he.

"No," said Lord Braithwaite, whose English was very good. "But this is
a good old ceremony, and an ingenious one; for does it not twine us
into knotted links of love--this Loving Cup--like a wreath of
Bacchanals whom I have seen surrounding an antique vase. Doubtless it
has great efficacy in entwining a company of friendly guests into one
affectionate society."

"Yes; it should seem so," replied Redclyffe, with a smile, and again
meeting those black eyes, which smiled back on him. "It should seem so,
but it appears that the origin of the custom was quite different, and
that it was as a safeguard to a man when he drank with his enemy. What
a peculiar flavor it must have given to the liquor, when the eyes of
two deadly foes met over the brim of the Loving Cup, and the drinker
knew that, if he withdrew it, a dagger would be in his heart, and the
other watched him drink, to see if it was poison!"

"Ah!" responded his Lordship, "they had strange fashions in those rough
old times. Nowadays, we neither stab, shoot, nor poison. I scarcely
think we hate except as interest guides us, without malevolence."

This singular conversation was interrupted by a toast, and the rising
of one of the guests to answer it. Several other toasts of routine
succeeded; one of which, being to the honor of the old founder of the
Hospital, Lord Braithwaite, as his representative, rose to reply,--
which he did in good phrases, in a sort of eloquence unlike that of the
Englishmen around him, and, sooth to say, comparatively unaccustomed as
he must have been to the use of the language, much more handsomely than
they. In truth, Redclyffe was struck and amused with the rudeness, the
slovenliness, the inartistic quality of the English speakers, who
rather seemed to avoid grace and neatness of set purpose, as if they
would be ashamed of it. Nothing could be more ragged than these
utterances which they called speeches; so patched, and darned; and yet,
somehow or other--though dull and heavy as all which seemed to inspire
them--they had a kind of force. Each man seemed to have the faculty of
getting, after some rude fashion, at the sense and feeling that was in
him; and without glibness, without smoothness, without form or
comeliness, still the object with which each one rose to speak was
accomplished,--and what was more remarkable, it seemed to be
accomplished without the speaker's having any particular plan for doing
it. He was surprised, too, to observe how loyally every man seemed to
think himself bound to speak, and rose to do his best, however unfit
his usual habits made him for the task. Observing this, and thinking
how many an American would be taken aback and dumbfounded by being
called on for a dinner speech, he could not but doubt the correctness
of the general opinion, that Englishmen are naturally less facile of
public speech than our countrymen.

"You surpass your countrymen," said Redclyffe, when his Lordship
resumed his seat, amid rapping and loud applause.

"My countrymen? I scarcely know whether yon mean the English or
Italians," said Lord Braithwaite. "Like yourself, I am a hybrid, with
really no country, and ready to take up with any."

"I have a country,--one which I am little inclined to deny," replied
Redclyffe, gravely, while a flush (perhaps of conscientious shame) rose
to his brow.

His Lordship bowed, with a dark Italian smile, but Redclyffe's
attention was drawn away from the conversation by a toast which the
Warden now rose to give, and in which he found himself mainly
concerned. With a little preface of kind words (not particularly aptly
applied) to the great and kindred country beyond the Atlantic, the
worthy Warden proceeded to remark that his board was honored, on this
high festival, with a guest from that new world; a gentleman yet young,
but already distinguished in the councils of his country; the bearer,
he remarked, of an honored English name, which might well claim to be
remembered here, and on this occasion, although he had understood from
his friend that the American bearers of this name did not count kindred
with the English ones. This gentleman, he further observed, with
considerable flourish and emphasis, had recently been called from his
retirement and wanderings into the diplomatic service of his country,
which he would say, from his knowledge, the gentleman was well
calculated to honor. He drank the health of the Honorable Edward
Redclyffe, Ambassador of the United States to the Court of Hohen-

Our English cousins received this toast with the kindest enthusiasm, as
they always do any such allusion to our country; it being a festal
feeling, not to be used except on holidays. They rose, with glass in
hand, in honor of the Ambassador; the band struck up "Hail, Columbia";
and our hero marshalled his thoughts as well as he might for the
necessary response; and when the tumult subsided he arose.

His quick apprehending had taught him something of the difference of
taste between an English and an American audience at a dinner-table; he
felt that there must be a certain looseness, and carelessness, and
roughness, and yet a certain restraint; that he must not seem to aim at
speaking well, although, for his own ambition, he was not content to
speak ill; that, somehow or other, he must get a heartiness into his
speech; that he must not polish, nor be too neat, and must come with a
certain rudeness to his good points, as if he blundered on them, and
were surprised into them. Above all, he must let the good wine and
cheer, and all that he knew and really felt of English hospitality, as
represented by the kind Warden, do its work upon his heart, and speak
up to the extent of what he felt--and if a little more, then no great
harm--about his own love for the father-land, and the broader grounds
of the relations between the two countries. On this system, Redclyffe
began to speak; and being naturally and habitually eloquent, and of
mobile and ready sensibilities, he succeeded, between art and nature,
in making a speech that absolutely delighted the company, who made the
old hall echo, and the banners wave and tremble, and the board shake,
and the glasses jingle, with their rapturous applause. What he said--or
some shadow of it, and more than he quite liked to own--was reported in
the county paper that gave a report of the dinner; but on glancing over
it, it seems not worth while to produce this eloquent effort in our
pages, the occasion and topics being of merely temporary interest.

Redclyffe sat down, and sipped his claret, feeling a little ashamed of
himself, as people are apt to do after a display of this kind.

"You know the way to the English heart better than I do," remarked his
Lordship, after a polite compliment to the speech. "Methinks these dull
English are being improved in your atmosphere. The English need a
change every few centuries,--either by immigration of new stock, or
transportation of the old,--or else they grow too gross and earthly,
with their beef, mutton, and ale. I think, now, it might benefit both
countries, if your New England population were to be reciprocally
exchanged with an equal number of Englishmen. Indeed, Italians might do
as well."

"I should regret," said Redclyffe, "to change the English, heavy as
they are."

"You are an admirable Englishman," said his Lordship. "For my part, I
cannot say that the people are very much to my taste, any more than
their skies and climate, in which I have shivered during the two years
that I have spent here."

Here their conversation ceased; and Redclyffe listened to a long train
of speechifying, in the course of which everybody, almost, was toasted;
everybody present, at all events, and many absent. The Warden's old
wine was not spared; the music rang and resounded from the gallery; and
everybody seemed to consider it a model feast, although there were no
very vivid signs of satisfaction, but a decorous, heavy enjoyment, a
dull red heat of pleasure, without flame. Soda and seltzer-water, and
coffee, by and by were circulated; and at a late hour the company began
to retire.

Before taking his departure, Lord Braithwaite resumed his conversation
with Redclyffe, and, as it appeared, with the purpose of making a
hospitable proposition.

"I live very much alone," said he, "being insulated from my neighbors
by many circumstances,--habits, religion, and everything else
peculiarly English. If you are curious about old English modes of life,
I can show you, at least, an English residence, little altered within a
century past. Pray come and spend a week with me before you leave this
part of the country. Besides, I know the court to which you are
accredited, and can give you, perhaps, useful information about it."

Redclyffe looked at him in some surprise, and with a nameless
hesitation; for he did not like his Lordship, and had fancied, in
truth, that there was a reciprocal antipathy. Nor did he yet feel that
he was mistaken in this respect; although his Lordship's invitation was
given in a tone of frankness, and seemed to have no reserve, except
that his eyes did not meet his like Anglo-Saxon eyes, and there seemed
an Italian looking out from within the man. But Redclyffe had a sort of
repulsion within himself; and he questioned whether it would be fair to
his proposed host to accept his hospitality, while he had this secret
feeling of hostility and repugnance,--which might be well enough
accounted for by the knowledge that he secretly entertained hostile
interests to their race, and half a purpose of putting them in force.
And, besides this,--although Redclyffe was ashamed of the feeling,--he
had a secret dread, a feeling that it was not just a safe thing to
trust himself in this man's power; for he had a sense, sure as death,
that he did not wish him well, and had a secret dread of the American.
But he laughed within himself at this feeling, and drove it down. Yet
it made him feel that there could be no disloyalty in accepting his
Lordship's invitation, because it was given in as little friendship as
it would be accepted.

"I had almost made my arrangements for quitting the neighborhood," said
he, after a pause; "nor can I shorten the week longer which I had
promised to spend with my very kind friend, the Warden. Yet your
Lordship's kindness offers we a great temptation, and I would gladly
spend the next ensuing week at Braithwaite Hall."

"I shall expect you, then," said Lord Braithwaite. "You will find me
quite alone, except my chaplain,--a scholar, and a man of the world,
whom you will not be sorry to know."

He bowed and took his leave, without shaking hands, as an American
would have thought it natural to do, after such a hospitable agreement;
nor did Redclyffe make any motion towards it, and was glad that his
Lordship had omitted it. On the whole, there was a secret
dissatisfaction with himself; a sense that he was not doing quite a
frank and true thing in accepting this invitation, and he only made
peace with himself on the consideration that Lord Braithwaite was as
little cordial in asking the visit as he in acceding to it.


The guests were now rapidly taking their departure, and the Warden and
Redclyffe were soon left alone in the antique hall, which now, in its
solitude, presented an aspect far different from the gay festivity of
an hour before; the duskiness up in the carved oaken beams seemed to
descend and fill the hall; and the remembrance of the feast was like
one of those that had taken place centuries ago, with which this was
now numbered, and growing ghostly, and faded, and sad, even as they had
long been.

"Well, my dear friend," said the Warden, stretching himself and
yawning, "it is over. Come into my study with me, and we will have a
devilled turkey-bone and a pint of sherry in peace and comfort."

"I fear I can make no figure at such a supper," said Redclyffe. "But I
admire your inexhaustibleness in being ready for midnight refreshment
after such a feast."

"Not a glass of good liquor has moistened my lips to-night," said the
Warden, "save and except such as was supplied by a decanter of water
made brown with toast; and such a sip as I took to the health of the
Queen, and another to that of the Ambassador to Hohen-Linden. It is the
only way, when a man has this vast labor of speechifying to do; and
indeed there is no possibility of keeping up a jolly countenance for
such a length of time except on toast-water."

They accordingly adjourned to the Warden's sanctum, where that worthy
dignitary seemed to enjoy himself over his sherry and cracked bones, in
a degree that he probably had not heretofore; while Redclyffe, whose
potations had been more liberal, and who was feverish and disturbed,
tried the effect of a little brandy and soda-water. As often happens at
such midnight symposiums, the two friends found themselves in a more
kindly and confidential vein than had happened before, great as had
been the kindness and confidence already grown up between them.
Redclyffe told his friend of Lord Braithwaite's invitation, and of his
own resolution to accept it.

"Why not? You will do well," said the Warden; "and you will find his
Lordship an accustomed host, and the old house most interesting. If he
knows the secrets of it himself, and will show them, they will be well
worth the seeing."

"I have had a scruple in accepting this invitation," said Redclyffe.

"I cannot see why," said the Warden. "I advise it by all means, since I
shall lose nothing by it myself, as it will not lop off any part of
your visit to me."

"My dear friend," said Redclyffe, irresistibly impelled to a confidence
which he had not meditated a moment before, "there is a foolish secret
which I must tell you, if you will listen to it; and which I have only
not revealed to you because it seemed to me foolish and dream-like;
because, too, I am an American, and a democrat; because I am ashamed of
myself and laugh at myself."

"Is it a long story?" asked the Warden.

"I can make it of any length, and almost any brevity," said Redclyffe.

"I will fill my pipe then," answered the Warden, "and listen at my
ease; and if, as you intimate, there prove to be any folly in it, I
will impute it all to the kindly freedom with which you have partaken
of our English hospitality, and forget it before to-morrow morning."

He settled himself in his easy-chair, in a most luxurious posture; and
Redclyffe, who felt a strange reluctance to reveal--for the first time
in his life--the shadowy hopes, if hopes they were, and purposes, if
such they could be called, with which he had amused himself so many
years, begun the story from almost the earliest period that he could
remember. He told even of his earliest recollection, with an old woman,
in the almshouse, and how he had been found there by the Doctor, and
educated by him, with all the hints and half-revelations that had been
made to him. He described the singular character of the Doctor, his
scientific pursuits, his evident accomplishments, his great abilities,
his morbidness and melancholy, his moodiness, and finally his death,
and the singular circumstances that accompanied it. The story took a
considerable time to tell; and after its close, the Warden, who had
only interrupted it by now and then a question to make it plainer,
continued to smoke his pipe slowly and thoughtfully for a long while.

"This Doctor of yours was a singular character," said he. "Evidently,
from what you tell me as to the accuracy of his local reminiscences, he
must have been of this part of the country,--of this immediate
neighborhood,--and such a man could not have grown up here without
being known. I myself--for I am an old fellow now--might have known him
if he lived to manhood hereabouts."

"He seemed old to me when I first knew him," said Redclyffe. "But
children make no distinctions of age. He might have been forty-five
then, as well as I can judge."

"You are now twenty-seven or eight," said the Warden, "and were four
years old when you first knew him. He might now be sixty-five. Do you
know, my friend, that I have something like a certainty that I know who
your Doctor was?"

"How strange this seems!" exclaimed Redclyffe. "It has never struck me
that I should be able to identify this singular personage with any
surroundings or any friends."

The Warden, to requite his friend's story,--and without as yet saying a
word, good or bad, on his ancestral claims,--proceeded to tell him some
of the gossip of the neighborhood,--what had been gossip thirty or
forty years ago, but was now forgotten, or, at all events, seldom
spoken of, and only known to the old, at the present day. He himself
remembered it only as a boy, and imperfectly. There had been a
personage of that day, a man of poor estate, who had fallen deeply in
love and been betrothed to a young lady of family; he was a young man
of more than ordinary abilities, and of great promise, though small
fortune. It was not well known how, but the match between him and the
young lady was broken off, and his place was supplied by the then
proprietor of Braithwaite Hall; as it was supposed, by the artifices of
her mother. There had been circumstances of peculiar treachery in the
matter, and Mr. Oglethorpe had taken it severely to heart; so severely,
indeed, that he had left the country, after selling his ancestral
property, and had only been occasionally heard of again. Now, from
certain circumstances, it had struck the Warden that this might be the
mysterious Doctor of whom Redclyffe spoke. [Endnote: 1.]

"But why," suggested Redclyffe, "should a man with these wrongs to
avenge take such an interest in a descendant of his enemy's family?"

"That is a strong point in favor of my supposition," replied the
Warden. "There is certainly, and has long been, a degree of probability
that the true heir of this family exists in America. If Oglethorpe
could discover him, he ousts his enemy from the estate and honors, and
substitutes the person whom he has discovered and educated. Most
certainly there is revenge in the thing. Should it happen now, however,
the triumph would have lost its sweetness, even were Oglethorpe alive
to partake of it; for his enemy is dead, leaving no heir, and this
foreign branch has come in without Oglethorpe's aid."

The friends remained musing a considerable time, each in his own train
of thought, till the Warden suddenly spoke.

"Do you mean to prosecute this apparent claim of yours?"

"I have not intended to do so," said Redclyffe.

"Of course," said the Warden, "that should depend upon the strength of
your ground; and I understand you that there is some link wanting to
establish it. Otherwise, I see not how you can hesitate. Is it a little
thing to hold a claim to an old English estate and honors?"

"No; it is a very great thing, to an Englishman born, and who need give
up no higher birthright to avail himself of it," answered Redclyffe.
"You will laugh at me, my friend; but I cannot help feeling that I, a
simple citizen of a republic, yet with none above me except those whom
I help to place there,--and who are my servants, not my superiors,--
must stoop to take these honors. I leave a set of institutions which
are the noblest that the wit and civilization of man have yet
conceived, to enlist myself in one that is based on a far lower
conception of man, and which therefore lowers every one who shares in
it. Besides," said the young man, his eyes kindling with the ambition
which had been so active a principle in his life, "what prospects--what
rewards for spirited exertion--what a career, only open to an American,
would I give up, to become merely a rich and idle Englishman, belonging
(as I should) nowhere, without a possibility of struggle, such as a
strong man loves, with only a mockery of a title, which in these days
really means nothing,--hardly more than one of our own Honorables. What
has any success in English life to offer (even were it within my reach,
which, as a stranger, it would not be) to balance the proud career of
an American statesman?"

"True, you might be a President, I suppose," said the Warden, rather
contemptuously,--"a four years' potentate. It seems to me an office
about on a par with that of the Lord Mayor of London. For my part, I
would rather be a baron of three or four hundred years' antiquity."

"We talk in vain," said Redclyffe, laughing. "We do not approach one
another's ideas on this subject. But, waiving all speculations as to my
attempting to avail myself of this claim, do you think I can fairly
accept this invitation to visit Lord Braithwaite? There is certainly a
possibility that I may arraign myself against his dearest interests.
Conscious of this, can I accept his hospitality?"

The Warden paused. "You have not sought access to his house," he
observed. "You have no designs, it seems, no settled designs at all
events, against his Lordship,--nor is there a probability that they
would be forwarded by your accepting this invitation, even if you had
any. I do not see but you may go. The only danger is, that his
Lordship's engaging qualities may seduce you into dropping your claims
out of a chivalrous feeling, which I see is among your possibilities.
To be sure, it would be more satisfactory if he knew your actual
position, and should then renew his invitation."

"I am convinced," said Redclyffe, looking up from his musing posture,
"that he does know them. You are surprised; but in all Lord
Braithwaite's manner towards me there has been an undefinable something
that makes me aware that he knows on what terms we stand towards each
other. There is nothing inconceivable in this. The family have for
generations been suspicious of an American line, and have more than
once sent messengers to try to search out and put a stop to the
apprehension. Why should it not have come to their knowledge that there
was a person with such claims, and that he is now in England?"

"It certainly is possible," replied the Warden, "and if you are
satisfied that his Lordship knows it, or even suspects it, you meet him
on fair ground. But I fairly tell you, my good friend, that--his
Lordship being a man of unknown principles of honor, outlandish, and an
Italian in habit and moral sense--I scarcely like to trust you in his
house, he being aware that your existence may be inimical to him. My
humble board is the safer of the two."

"Pshaw!" said Redclyffe. "You Englishmen are so suspicious of anybody
not regularly belonging to yourselves. Poison and the dagger haunt your
conceptions of all others. In America you think we kill every third man
with the bowie-knife. But, supposing there were any grounds for your
suspicion, I would still encounter it. An American is no braver than an
Englishman; but still he is not quite so chary of his life as the
latter, who never risks it except on the most imminent necessity. We
take such matters easy. In regard to this invitation, I feel that I can
honorably accept it, and there are many idle and curious motives that
impel me to it. I will go."

"Be it so; but you must come back to me for another week, after
finishing your visit," said the Warden. "After all, it was an idle
fancy in me that there could be any danger. His Lordship has good
English blood in his veins, and it would take oceans and rivers of
Italian treachery to wash out the sterling quality of it. And, my good
friend, as to these claims of yours, I would not have you trust too
much to what is probably a romantic dream; yet, were the dream to come
true, I should think the British peerage honored by such an accession
to its ranks. And now to bed; for we have heard the chimes of midnight,
two hours agone."

They accordingly retired; and Redclyffe was surprised to find what a
distinctness his ideas respecting his claim to the Braithwaite honors
had assumed, now that he, after so many years, had imparted them to
another. Heretofore, though his imagination had played with them so
much, they seemed the veriest dreams; now, they had suddenly taken form
and hardened into substance; and he became aware, in spite of all the
lofty and patriotic sentiments which he had expressed to the Warden,
that these prospects had really much importance in his mind.

Redclyffe, during the few days that he was to spend at the Hospital,
previous to his visit to Braithwaite Hall, was conscious of a
restlessness such as we have all felt on the eve of some interesting
event. He wondered at himself at being so much wrought up by so simple
a thing as he was about to do; but it seemed to him like a coming home
after an absence of centuries. It was like an actual prospect of
entrance into a castle in the air,--the shadowy threshold of which
should assume substance enough to bear his foot, its thin, fantastic
walls actually protect him from sun and rain, its hall echo with his
footsteps, its hearth warm him. That delicious, thrilling uncertainty
between reality and fancy, in which he had often been enwrapt since his
arrival in this region, enveloped him more strongly than ever; and with
it, too, there came a sort of apprehension, which sometimes shuddered
through him like an icy draught, or the touch of cold steel to his
heart. He was ashamed, too, to be conscious of anything like fear; yet
he would not acknowledge it for fear; and indeed there was such an
airy, exhilarating, thrilling pleasure bound up with it, that it could
not really be so.

It was in this state of mind that, a day or two after the feast, he saw
Colcord sitting on the bench, before the portal of the Hospital, in the
sun, which--September though it was--still came warm and bright (for
English sunshine) into that sheltered spot; a spot where many
generations of old men had warmed their limbs, while they looked down
into the life, the torpid life, of the old village that trailed its
homely yet picturesque street along by the venerable buildings of the

"My good friend," said Redclyffe, "I am about leaving you, for a time,
--indeed, with the limited time at my disposal, it is possible that I
may not be able to come back hither, except for a brief visit. Before I
leave you, I would fain know something more about one whom I must ever
consider my benefactor."

"Yes," said the old man, with his usual benignant quiet, "I saved your
life. It is yet to be seen, perhaps, whether thereby I made myself your
benefactor. I trust so."

"I feel it so, at least," answered Redclyffe, "and I assure you life
has a new value for me since I came to this place; for I have a deeper
hold upon it, as it were,--more hope from it, more trust in something
good to come of it."

"This is a good change,--or should be so," quoth the old man.

"Do you know," continued Redclyffe, "how long you have been a figure in
my life?"

"I know it," said Colcord, "though you might well have forgotten it."

"Not so," said Redclyffe. "I remember, as if it were this morning, that
time in New England when I first saw you."

"The man with whom you then abode," said Colcord, "knew who I was."

"And he being dead, and finding you here now, by such a strange
coincidence," said Redclyffe, "and being myself a man capable of taking
your counsel, I would have you impart it to me: for I assure you that
the current of my life runs darkly on, and I would be glad of any light
on its future, or even its present phase."

"I am not one of those from whom the world waits for counsel," said the
pensioner, "and I know not that mine would be advantageous to you, in
the light which men usually prize. Yet if I were to give any, it would
be that you should be gone hence."

"Gone hence!" repeated Redclyffe, surprised. "I tell you--what I have
hardly hitherto told to myself--that all my dreams, all my wishes
hitherto, have looked forward to precisely the juncture that seems now
to be approaching. My dreaming childhood dreamt of this. If you know
anything of me, you know how I sprung out of mystery, akin to none, a
thing concocted out of the elements, without visible agency; how all
through my boyhood I was alone; how I grew up without a root, yet
continually longing for one,--longing to be connected with somebody,
and never feeling myself so. Yet there was ever a looking forward to
this time at which I now find myself. If my next step were death, yet
while the path seemed to lead toward a certainty of establishing me in
connection with my race, I would take it. I have tried to keep down
this yearning, to stifle it, annihilate it, by making a position for
myself, by being my own fact; but I cannot overcome the natural horror
of being a creature floating in the air, attached to nothing; ever this
feeling that there is no reality in the life and fortunes, good or bad,
of a being so unconnected. There is not even a grave, not a heap of dry
bones, not a pinch of dust, with which I can claim kindred, unless I
find it here!"

"This is sad," said the old man,--"this strong yearning, and nothing to
gratify it. Yet, I warn you, do not seek its gratification here. There
are delusions, snares, pitfalls, in this life. I warn you, quit the

"No," said Redclyffe, "I will follow the mysterious clue that seems to
lead me on; and, even now, it pulls me one step further."

"How is that?" asked the old man.

"It leads me onward even as far as the threshold--across the threshold
--of yonder mansion," said Redclyffe.

"Step not across it; there is blood on that threshold!" exclaimed the
pensioner. "A bloody footstep emerging. Take heed that there be not as
bloody a one entering in!"

"Pshaw!" said Redclyffe, feeling the ridicule of the emotion into which
he had been betrayed, as the old man's wildness of demeanor made him
feel that he was talking with a monomaniac. "We are talking idly. I do
but go, in the common intercourse of society, to see the old English
residence which (such is the unhappy obscurity of my position) I fancy,
among a thousand others, may have been that of my ancestors. Nothing is
likely to come of it. My foot is not bloody, nor polluted with anything
except the mud of the damp English soil."

"Yet go not in!" persisted the old man.

"Yes, I must go," said Redclyffe, determinedly, "and I will."

Ashamed to have been moved to such idle utterances by anything that the
old man could say Redclyffe turned away, though he still heard the sad,
half-uttered remonstrance of the old man, like a moan behind him, and
wondered what strange fancy had taken possession of him.

The effect which this opposition had upon him made him the more aware
how much his heart was set upon this visit to the Hall; how much he had
counted upon being domiciliated there; what a wrench it would be to him
to tear himself away without going into that mansion, and penetrating
all the mysteries wherewith his imagination, exercising itself upon the
theme since the days of the old Doctor's fireside talk, had invested
it. In his agitation he wandered forth from the Hospital, and, passing
through the village street, found himself in the park of Braithwaite
Hall, where he wandered for a space, until his steps led him to a point
whence the venerable Hall appeared, with its limes and its oaks around
it; its look of peace, and aged repose, and loveliness; its stately
domesticity, so ancient, so beautiful; its mild, sweet simplicity; it
seemed the ideal of home. The thought thrilled his bosom, that this was
his home,--the home of the wild Western wanderer, who had gone away
centuries ago, and encountered strange chances, and almost forgotten
his origin, but still kept a clue to bring him back; and had now come
back, and found all the original emotions safe within him. It even
seemed to him, that, by his kindred with those who had gone before,--by
the line of sensitive blood linking him with that final emigrant,--he
could remember all these objects;--that tree, hardly more venerable now
than then; that clock-tower, still marking the elapsing time; that
spire of the old church, raising itself beyond. He spread out his arms
in a kind of rapture, and exclaimed:--

"O home, my home, my forefathers' home! I have come back to thee! The
wanderer has come back!"

There was a slight stir near him; and on a mossy seat, that was
arranged to take advantage of a remarkably good point of view of the
old Hall, he saw Elsie sitting. She had her drawing-materials with her,
and had probably been taking a sketch. Redclyffe was ashamed of having
been overheard by any one giving way to such idle passion as he had
been betrayed into; and yet, in another sense, he was glad,--glad, at
least, that something of his feeling, as yet unspoken to human being,
was shared, and shared by her with whom, alone of living beings, he had
any sympathies of old date, and whom he often thought of with feelings
that drew him irresistibly towards her.

"Elsie," said he, uttering for the first time the old name, "Providence
makes you my confidant. We have recognized each other, though no word
has passed between us. Let us speak now again with one another. How
came you hither? What has brought us together again?--Away with this
strangeness that lurks between us! Let us meet as those who began life
together, and whose life-strings, being so early twisted in unison,
cannot now be torn apart."

"You are not wise," said Elsie, in a faltering voice, "to break the
restraint we have tacitly imposed upon ourselves. Do not let us speak
further on this subject."

"How strangely everything evades me!" exclaimed Redclyffe. "I seem to
be in a land of enchantment, where I can get hold of nothing that lends
me a firm support. There is no medium in my life between the most
vulgar realities and the most vaporous fiction, too thin to breathe.
Tell me, Elsie, how came you here? Why do you not meet me frankly? What
is there to keep you apart from the oldest friend, I am bold to say,
you have on earth? Are you an English girl? Are you one of our own New
England maidens, with her freedom, and her know-how, and her force,
beyond anything that these demure and decorous damsels can know?"

"This is wild," said Elsie, straggling for composure, yet strongly
moved by the recollections that he brought up. "It is best that we
should meet as strangers, and so part."

"No," said Redclyffe; "the long past comes up, with its memories, and
yet it is not so powerful as the powerful present. We have met again;
our adventures have shown that Providence has designed a relation in my
fate to yours. Elsie, are you lonely as I am?"

"No," she replied, "I have bonds, ties, a life, a duty. I must live
that life and do that duty. You have, likewise, both. Do yours, lead
your own life, like me."

"Do you know, Elsie," he said, "whither that life is now tending?"

"Whither?" said she, turning towards him.

"To yonder Hall," said he.

She started up, and clasped her hands about his arm.

"No, no!" she exclaimed, "go not thither! There is blood upon the
threshold! Return: a dreadful fatality awaits you here."

"Come with me, then," said he, "and I yield my purpose."

"It cannot be," said Elsie.

"Then I, too, tell you it cannot be," returned Redclyffe. [Endnote: 2.]

The dialogue had reached this point, when there came a step along the
wood-path; the branches rustled, and there was Lord Braithwaite,
looking upon the pair with the ordinary slightly sarcastic glance with
which he gazed upon the world.

"A fine morning, fair lady and fair sir," said he. "We have few such,
except in Italy."


So Redclyffe left the Hospital, where he had spent many weeks of
strange and not unhappy life, and went to accept the invitation of the
lord of Braithwaite Hall. It was with a thrill of strange delight,
poignant almost to pain, that he found himself driving up to the door
of the Hall, and actually passing the threshold of the house. He
looked, as he stept over it, for the Bloody Footstep, with which the
house had so long been associated in his imagination; but could nowhere
see it. The footman ushered him into a hall, which seemed to be in the
centre of the building, and where, little as the autumn was advanced, a
fire was nevertheless burning and glowing on the hearth; nor was its
effect undesirable in the somewhat gloomy room. The servants had
evidently received orders respecting the guest; for they ushered him at
once to his chamber, which seemed not to be one of those bachelor's
rooms, where, in an English mansion, young and single men are forced to
be entertained with very bare and straitened accommodations; but a
large, well, though antiquely and solemnly furnished room, with a
curtained bed, and all manner of elaborate contrivances for repose; but
the deep embrasures of the windows made it gloomy, with the little
light that they admitted through their small panes. There must have
been English attendance in this department of the household
arrangements, at least; for nothing could exceed the exquisite nicety
and finish of everything in the room, the cleanliness, the attention to
comfort, amid antique aspects of furniture; the rich, deep preparations
for repose.

The servant told Redclyffe that his master had ridden out, and, adding
that luncheon would be on the table at two o'clock, left him; and
Redclyffe sat some time trying to make out and distinguish the feelings
with which he found himself here, and realizing a lifelong dream. He
ran back over all the legends which the Doctor used to tell about this
mansion, and wondered whether this old, rich chamber were the one where
any of them had taken place; whether the shadows of the dead haunted
here. But, indeed, if this were the case, the apartment must have been
very much changed, antique though it looked, with the second, or third,
or whatever other numbered arrangement, since those old days of
tapestry hangings and rush-strewed floor. Otherwise this stately and
gloomy chamber was as likely as any other to have been the one where
his ancestor appeared for the last time in the paternal mansion; here
he might have been the night before that mysterious Bloody Footstep was
left on the threshold, whence had arisen so many wild legends, and
since the impression of which nothing certain had ever been known
respecting that ill-fated man,--nothing certain in England at least,--
and whose story was left so ragged and questionable even by all that he
could add.

Do what he could, Redclyffe still was not conscious of that deep home-
feeling which he had imagined he should experience when, if ever, he
should come back to the old ancestral place; there was strangeness, a
struggle within himself to get hold of something that escaped him, an
effort to impress on his mind the fact that he was, at last,
established at his temporary home in the place that he had so long
looked forward to, and that this was the moment which he would have
thought more interesting than any other in his life. He was strangely
cold and indifferent, frozen up as it were, and fancied that he would
have cared little had he been to leave the mansion without so much as
looking over the remaining part of it.

At last, he became weary of sitting and indulging this fantastic humor
of indifference, and emerged from his chamber with the design of
finding his way about the lower part of the house. The mansion had that
delightful intricacy which can never be contrived; never be attained by
design; but is the happy result of where many builders, many designs,--
many ages, perhaps,--have concurred in a structure, each pursuing his
own design. Thus it was a house that you could go astray in, as in a
city, and come to unexpected places, but never, until after much
accustomance, go where you wished; so Redclyffe, although the great
staircase and wide corridor by which he had been led to his room seemed
easy to find, yet soon discovered that he was involved in an unknown
labyrinth, where strange little bits of staircases led up and down, and
where passages promised much in letting him out, but performed nothing.
To be sure, the old English mansion had not much of the stateliness of
one of Mrs. Radcliffe's castles, with their suites of rooms opening one
into another; but yet its very domesticity--its look as if long ago it
had been lived in--made it only the more ghostly; and so Redclyffe felt
the more as if he were wandering through a homely dream; sensible of
the ludicrousness of his position, he once called aloud; but his voice
echoed along the passages, sounding unwontedly to his ears, but
arousing nobody. It did not seem to him as if he were going afar, but
were bewildered round and round, within a very small compass; a
predicament in which a man feels very foolish usually.

As he stood at an old window, stone-mullioned, at the end of a passage
into which he had come twice over, a door near him opened, and a
personage looked out whom he had not before seen. It was a face of
great keenness and intelligence, and not unpleasant to look at, though
dark and sallow. The dress had something which Redclyffe recognized as
clerical, though not exactly pertaining to the Church of England,--a
sort of arrangement of the vest and shirt-collar; and he had knee
breeches of black. He did not seem like an English clerical personage,
however; for even in this little glimpse of him Redclyffe saw a
mildness, gentleness, softness, and asking-of-leave, in his manner,
which he had not observed in persons so well assured of their position
as the Church of England clergy.

He seemed at once to detect Redclyffe's predicament, and came forward
with a pleasant smile, speaking in good English, though with a somewhat
foreign accent.

"Ah, sir, you have lost your way. It is a labyrinthian house for its
size, this old English Hall,--full of perplexity. Shall I show you to
any point?"

"Indeed, sir," said Redclyffe, laughing, "I hardly know whither I want
to go; being a stranger, and yet knowing nothing of the public places
of the house. To the library, perhaps, if you will be good enough to
direct me thither."

"Willingly, my dear sir," said the clerical personage; "the more easily
too, as my own quarters are close adjacent; the library being my
province. Do me the favor to enter here."

So saying, the priest ushered Redclyffe into an austere-looking yet
exceedingly neat study, as it seemed, on one side of which was an
oratory, with a crucifix and other accommodations for Catholic
devotion. Behind a white curtain there were glimpses of a bed, which
seemed arranged on a principle of conventual austerity in respect to
limits and lack of softness; but still there was in the whole austerity
of the premises a certain character of restraint, poise, principle,
which Redclyffe liked. A table was covered with books, many of them
folios in an antique binding of parchment, and others were small,
thick-set volumes, into which antique lore was rammed and compressed.
Through an open door, opposite to the one by which he had entered,
there was a vista of a larger apartment, with alcoves, a rather dreary-
looking room, though a little sunshine came through a window at the
further end, distained with colored glass.

"Will you sit down in my little home?" said the courteous priest. "I
hope we may be better acquainted; so allow me to introduce myself. I am
Father Angelo, domestic chaplain to his Lordship. You, I know, are the
American diplomatic gentleman, from whom his Lordship has been
expecting a visit."

Redclyffe bowed.

"I am most happy to know you," continued the priest. "Ah; you have a
happy country, most catholic, most recipient of all that is outcast on
earth. Men of my religion must ever bless it."

"It certainly ought to be remembered to our credit," replied Redclyffe,
"that we have shown no narrow spirit in this matter, and have not, like
other Protestant countries, rejected the good that is found in any man
on account of his religious faith. American statesmanship comprises
Jew, Catholic, all."

After this pleasant little acknowledgment, there ensued a conversation
having some reference to books; for though Redclyffe, of late years,
had known little of what deserves to be called literature,--having
found political life as much estranged from it as it is apt to be with
politicians,--yet he had early snuffed the musty fragrance of the
Doctor's books, and had learned to love its atmosphere. At the time he
left college, he was just at the point where he might have been a
scholar; but the active tendencies of American life had interfered with
him, as with thousands of others, and drawn him away from pursuits
which might have been better adapted to some of his characteristics
than the one he had adopted. The priest gently felt and touched around
his pursuits, and finding some remains of classic culture, he kept up a
conversation on these points; showing him the possessions of the
library in that department, where, indeed, were some treasures that he
had discovered, and which seemed to have been collected at least a
century ago.

"Generally, however," observed he, as they passed from one dark alcove
to another, "the library is of little worth, except to show how much of
living truth each generation contributes to the botheration of life,
and what a public benefactor a bookworm is, after all. There, now! did
you ever happen to see one? Here is one that I have watched at work,
some time past, and have not thought it worth while to stop him."

Redclyffe looked at the learned little insect, who was eating a strange
sort of circular trench into an old book of scholastic Latin, which
probably only he had ever devoured,--at least ever found to his taste.
The insect seemed in excellent condition, fat with learning, having
doubtless got the essence of the book into himself. But Redclyffe was
still more interested in observing in the corner a great spider, which
really startled him,--not so much for its own terrible aspect, though
that was monstrous, as because he seemed to see in it the very great
spider which he had known in his boyhood; that same monster that had
been the Doctor's familiar, and had been said to have had an influence
in his death. He looked so startled that Father Angelo observed it.

"Do not be frightened," said he; "though I allow that a brave man may
well be afraid of a spider, and that the bravest of the brave need not
blush to shudder at this one. There is a great mystery about this
spider. No one knows whence he came; nor how long he has been here. The
library was very much shut up during the time of the last inheritor of
the estate, and had not been thoroughly examined for some years when I
opened it, and swept some of the dust away from its old alcoves. I
myself was not aware of this monster until the lapse of some weeks,
when I was startled at seeing him, one day, as I was reading an old
book here. He dangled down from the ceiling, by the cordage of his web,
and positively seemed to look into my face."

"He is of the species Condetas," said Redclyffe,--"a rare spider seldom
seen out of the tropic regions."

"You are learned, then, in spiders," observed the priest, surprised.

"I could almost make oath, at least, that I have known this ugly
specimen of his race," observed Redclyffe. "A very dear friend, now
deceased, to whom I owed the highest obligations, was studious of
spiders, and his chief treasure was one the very image of this."

"How strange!" said the priest. "There has always appeared to me to be
something uncanny in spiders. I should be glad to talk further with you
on this subject. Several times I have fancied a strange intelligence in
this monster; but I have natural horror of him, and therefore refrain
from interviews."

"You do wisely, sir," said Redclyffe. "His powers and purposes are
questionably beneficent, at best."

In truth, the many-legged monster made the old library ghostly to him
by the associations which it summoned up, and by the idea that it was
really the identical one that had seemed so stuffed with poison, in the
lifetime of the Doctor, and at that so distant spot. Yet, on
reflection, it appeared not so strange; for the old Doctor's spider, as
he had heard him say, was one of an ancestral race that he had brought
from beyond the sea. They might have been preserved, for ages possibly,
in this old library, whence the Doctor had perhaps taken his specimen,
and possibly the one now before him was the sole survivor. It hardly,
however, made the monster any the less hideous to suppose that this
might be the case; and to fancy the poison of old times condensed into
this animal, who might have sucked the diseases, moral and physical, of
all this family into him, and to have made himself their demon. He
questioned with himself whether it might not be well to crush him at
once, and so perhaps do away with the evil of which he was the emblem.

"I felt a strange disposition to crush this monster at first," remarked
the priest, as if he knew what Redclyffe was thinking of,--"a feeling
that in so doing I should get rid of a mischief; but then he is such a
curious monster. You cannot long look at him without coming to the
conclusion that he is indestructible."

"Yes; and to think of crushing such a deep-bowelled monster!" said
Redclyffe, shuddering. "It is too great a catastrophe."

During this conversation in which he was so deeply concerned, the
spider withdrew himself, and hand over hand ascended to a remote and
dusky corner, where was his hereditary abode.

"Shall I be likely to meet Lord Braithwaite here in the library?" asked
Redclyffe, when the fiend had withdrawn himself. "I have not yet seen
him since my arrival."

"I trust," said the priest, with great courtesy, "that you are aware of
some peculiarities in his Lordship's habits, which imply nothing in
detriment to the great respect which he pays all his few guests, and
which, I know, he is especially desirous to pay to you. I think that we
shall meet him at lunch, which, though an English institution, his
Lordship has adopted very readily."

"I should hope," said Redclyffe, willing to know how far he might be
expected to comply with the peculiarities--which might prove to be
eccentricities--of his host, "that my presence here will not be too
greatly at variance with his Lordship's habits, whatever they may be. I
came hither, indeed, on the pledge that, as my host would not stand in
my way, so neither would I in his."

"That is the true principle," said the priest, "and here comes his
Lordship in person to begin the practice of it."


Lord Braithwaite came into the principal door of the library as the
priest was speaking, and stood a moment just upon the threshold,
looking keenly out of the stronger light into this dull and darksome
apartment, as if unable to see perfectly what was within; or rather, as
Redclyffe fancied, trying to discover what was passing between those
two. And, indeed, as when a third person comes suddenly upon two who
are talking of him, the two generally evince in their manner some
consciousness of the fact; so it was in this case, with Redclyffe at
least, although the priest seemed perfectly undisturbed, either through
practice of concealment, or because he had nothing to conceal.

His Lordship, after a moment's pause, came forward, presenting his hand
to Redclyffe, who shook it, and not without a certain cordiality; till
he perceived that it was the left hand, when he probably intimated some
surprise by a change of manner.

"I am an awkward person," said his Lordship. "The left hand, however,
is nearest the heart; so be assured I mean no discourtesy."

"The Signor Ambassador and myself," observed the priest, "have had a
most interesting conversation (to me at least) about books and
bookworms, spiders, and other congruous matters; and I find his
Excellency has heretofore made acquaintance with a great spider bearing
strong resemblance to the hermit of our library."

"Indeed," said his Lordship. "I was not aware that America had yet
enough of age and old misfortune, crime, sordidness, that accumulate
with it, to have produced spiders like this. Had he sucked into himself
all the noisomeness of your heat?"

Redclyffe made some slight answer, that the spider was a sort of pet of
an old virtuoso to whom he owed many obligations in his boyhood; and
the conversation turned from this subject to others suggested by topics
of the day and place. His Lordship was affable, and Redclyffe could
not, it must be confessed, see anything to justify the prejudices of
the neighbors against him. Indeed, he was inclined to attribute them,
in great measure, to the narrowness of the English view,--to those
insular prejudices which have always prevented them from fully
appreciating what differs from their own habits. At lunch, which was
soon announced, the party of three became very pleasant and sociable,
his Lordship drinking a light Italian red wine, and recommending it to
Redclyffe; who, however, was English enough to prefer some bitter ale,
while the priest contented himself with pure water,--which is, in
truth, a less agreeable drink in chill, moist England than in any
country we are acquainted with.

"You must make yourself quite at home here," said his Lordship, as they
rose from table. "I am not a good host, nor a very genial man, I
believe. I can do little to entertain you; but here is the house and
the grounds at your disposal,--horses in the stable,--guns in the
hall,--here is Father Angelo, good at chess. There is the library. Pray
make the most of them all; and if I can contribute in any way to your
pleasure, let me know."

All this certainly seemed cordial, and the manner in which it was said
seemed in accordance with the spirit of the words; and yet, whether the
fault was in anything of morbid suspicion in Redclyffe's nature, or
whatever it was, it did not have the effect of making him feel welcome,
which almost every Englishman has the natural faculty of producing on a
guest, when once he has admitted him beneath his roof. It might be in
great measure his face, so thin and refined, and intellectual without
feeling; his voice which had melody, but not heartiness; his manners,
which were not simple by nature, but by art;--whatever it was,
Redclyffe found that Lord Braithwaite did not call for his own
naturalness and simplicity, but his art, and felt that he was
inevitably acting a part in his intercourse with him, that he was on
his guard, playing a game; and yet he did not wish to do this. But
there was a mobility, a subtleness in his nature, an unconscious tact,
--which the mode of life and of mixing with men in America fosters and
perfects,--that made this sort of finesse inevitable to him, with any
but a natural character; with whom, on the other hand, Redclyffe could
be as fresh and natural as any Englishman of them all.

Redclyffe spent the time between lunch and dinner in wandering about
the grounds, from which he had hitherto felt himself debarred by
motives of delicacy. It was a most interesting ramble to him, coming to
trees which his ancestor, who went to America, might have climbed in
his boyhood, might have sat beneath, with his lady-love, in his youth;
deer there were, the descendants of those which he had seen; old stone
stiles, which his foot had trodden. The sombre, clouded light of the
day fell down upon this scene, which in its verdure, its luxuriance of
vegetable life, was purely English, cultivated to the last extent
without losing the nature out of a single thing. In the course of his
walk he came to the spot where he had been so mysteriously wounded on
his first arrival in this region; and, examining the spot, he was
startled to see that there was a path leading to the other side of a
hedge, and this path, which led to the house, had brought him here.

Musing upon this mysterious circumstance, and how it should have
happened in so orderly a country as England, so tamed and subjected to
civilization,--an incident to happen in an English park which seemed
better suited to the Indian-haunted forests of the wilder parts of his
own land,--and how no researches which the Warden had instituted had
served in the smallest degree to develop the mystery,--he clambered
over the hedge, and followed the footpath. It plunged into dells, and
emerged from them, led through scenes which seemed those of old
romances, and at last, by these devious ways, began to approach the old
house, which, with its many gray gables, put on a new aspect from this
point of view. Redclyffe admired its venerableness anew; the ivy that
overran parts of it; the marks of age; and wondered at the firmness of
the institutions which, through all the changes that come to man, could
have kept this house the home of one lineal race for so many centuries;
so many, that the absence of his own branch from it seemed but a
temporary visit to foreign parts, from which he was now returned, to be
again at home, by the old hearthstone.

"But what do I mean to do?" said he to himself, stopping short, and
still looking at the old house. "Am I ready to give up all the actual
life before me for the sake of taking up with what I feel to be a less
developed state of human life? Would it not be better for me to depart
now, to turn my back on this flattering prospect? I am not fit to be
here,--I, so strongly susceptible of a newer, more stirring life than
these men lead; I, who feel that, whatever the thought and cultivation
of England may be, my own countrymen have gone forward a long, long
march beyond them, not intellectually, but in a way that gives them a
further start. If I come back hither, with the purpose to make myself
an Englishman, especially an Englishman of rank and hereditary estate,
--then for me America has been discovered in vain, and the great spirit
that has been breathed into us is in vain; and I am false to it all!"

But again came silently swelling over him like a flood all that ancient
peace, and quietude, and dignity, which looked so stately and beautiful
as brooding round the old house; all that blessed order of ranks, that
sweet superiority, and yet with no disclaimer of common brotherhood,
that existed between the English gentleman and his inferiors; all that
delightful intercourse, so sure of pleasure, so safe from rudeness,
lowness, unpleasant rubs, that exists between gentleman and gentleman,
where, in public affairs, all are essentially of one mind, or seem so
to an American politician, accustomed to the fierce conflicts of our
embittered parties; where life was made so enticing, so refined, and
yet with a sort of homeliness that seemed to show that all its strength
was left behind; that seeming taking in of all that was desirable in
life, and all its grace and beauty, yet never giving life a hard enamel
of over-refinement. What could there be in the wild, harsh, ill-
conducted American approach to civilization, which could compare with
this? What to compare with this juiciness and richness? What other men
had ever got so much out of life as the polished and wealthy Englishmen
of to-day? What higher part was to be acted, than seemed to lie before
him, if he willed to accept it?

He resumed his walk, and, drawing near the manor-house, found that he
was approaching another entrance than that which had at first admitted
him; a very pleasant entrance it was, beneath a porch, of antique form,
and ivy-clad, hospitable and inviting; and it being the approach from
the grounds, it seemed to be more appropriate to the residents of the
house than the other one. Drawing near, Redclyffe saw that a flight of
steps ascended within the porch, old-looking, much worn; and nothing is
more suggestive of long time than a flight of worn steps; it must have
taken so many soles, through so many years, to make an impression.
Judging from the make of the outside of the edifice, Redclyffe thought
that he could make out the way from the porch to the hall and library;
so he determined to enter this way.

There had been, as was not unusual, a little shower of rain during the
afternoon; and as Redclyffe came close to the steps, they were
glistening with the wet. The stones were whitish, like marble, and one
of them bore on it a token that made him pause, while a thrill like
terror ran through his system. For it was the mark of a footstep, very
decidedly made out, and red, like blood,--the Bloody Footstep,--the
mark of a foot, which seemed to have been slightly impressed into the
rock, as if it had been a soft substance, at the same time sliding a
little, and gushing with blood. The glistening moisture of which we
have spoken made it appear as if it were just freshly stamped there;
and it suggested to Redclyffe's fancy the idea, that, impressed more
than two centuries ago, there was some charm connected with the mark
which kept it still fresh, and would continue to do so to the end of
time. It was well that there was no spectator there,--for the American
would have blushed to have it known how much this old traditionary
wonder had affected his imagination. But, indeed, it was as old as any
bugbear of his mind--as any of those bugbears and private terrors which
grow up with people, and make the dreams and nightmares of childhood,
and the fever-images of mature years, till they haunt the deliriums of
the dying bed, and after that possibly, are either realized or known no
more. The Doctor's strange story vividly recurred to him, and all the
horrors which he had since associated with this trace; and it seemed to
him as if he had now struck upon a bloody track, and as if there were
other tracks of this supernatural foot which he was bound to search
out; removing the dust of ages that had settled on them, the moss and
deep grass that had grown over them, the forest leaves that might have
fallen on them in America--marking out the pathway, till the pedestrian
lay down in his grave.

The foot was issuing from, not entering into, the house. Whoever had
impressed it, or on whatever occasion, he had gone forth, and doubtless
to return no more. Redclyffe was impelled to place his own foot on the
track; and the action, as it were, suggested in itself strange ideas of
what had been the state of mind of the man who planted it there; and he
felt a strange, vague, yet strong surmise of some agony, some terror
and horror, that had passed here, and would not fade out of the spot.
While he was in these musings, he saw Lord Braithwaite looking at him
through the glass of the porch, with fixed, curious eyes, and a smile
on his face. On perceiving that Redclyffe was aware of his presence, he
came forth without appearing in the least disturbed.

"What think you of the Bloody Footstep?" asked he.

"It seems to me, undoubtedly," said Redclyffe, stooping to examine it
more closely, "a good thing to make a legend out of; and, like most
legendary lore, not capable of bearing close examination. I should
decidedly say that the Bloody Footstep is a natural reddish stain in
the stone."

"Do you think so, indeed?" rejoined his Lordship. "It may be; but in
that case, if not the record of an actual deed,--of a foot stamped down
there in guilt and agony, and oozing out with unwipeupable blood,--we
may consider it as prophetic;--as foreboding, from the time when the
stone was squared and smoothed, and laid at this threshold, that a
fatal footstep was really to be impressed here."

"It is an ingenious supposition," said Redclyffe. "But is there any
sure knowledge that the prophecy you suppose has yet been fulfilled?"

"If not, it might yet be in the future," said Lord Braithwaite. "But I
think there are enough in the records of this family to prove that
there did one cross this threshold in a bloody agony, who has since
returned no more. Great seekings, I have understood, have been had
throughout the world for him, or for any sign of him, but nothing
satisfactory has been heard."

"And it is now too late to expect it," observed the American.

"Perhaps not," replied the nobleman, with a glance that Redclyffe
thought had peculiar meaning in it. "Ah! it is very curious to see what
turnings up there are in this world of old circumstances that seem
buried forever; how things come back, like echoes that have rolled away
among the hills and been seemingly hushed forever. We cannot tell when
a thing is really dead; it comes to life, perhaps in its old shape,
perhaps in a new and unexpected one; so that nothing really vanishes
out of the world. I wish it did."

The conversation now ceased, and Redclyffe entered the house, where he
amused himself for some time in looking at the ancient hall, with its
gallery, its armor, and its antique fireplace, on the hearth of which
burned a genial fire. He wondered whether in that fire was the
continuance of that custom which the Doctor's legend spoke of, and that
the flame had been kept up there two hundred years, in expectation of
the wanderer's return. It might be so, although the climate of England
made it a natural custom enough, in a large and damp old room, into
which many doors opened, both from the exterior and interior of the
mansion; but it was pleasant to think the custom a traditionary one,
and to fancy that a booted figure, enveloped in a cloak, might still
arrive, and fling open the veiling cloak, throw off the sombre and
drooping-brimmed hat, and show features that were similar to those seen
in pictured faces on the walls. Was he himself--in another guise, as
Lord Braithwaite had been saying--that long-expected one? Was his the
echoing tread that had been heard so long through the ages--so far
through the wide world--approaching the blood-stained threshold?

With such thoughts, or dreams (for they were hardly sincerely enough
entertained to be called thoughts), Redclyffe spent the day; a strange,
delicious day, in spite of the sombre shadows that enveloped it. He
fancied himself strangely wonted, already, to the house; as if his
every part and peculiarity had at once fitted into its nooks, and
corners, and crannies; but, indeed, his mobile nature and active fancy
were not entirely to be trusted in this matter; it was, perhaps, his
American faculty of making himself at home anywhere, that he mistook
for the feeling of being peculiarly at home here.


Redclyffe was now established in the great house which had been so long
and so singularly an object of interest with him. With his customary
impressibility by the influences around him, he begun to take in the
circumstances, and to understand them by more subtile tokens than he
could well explain to himself. There was the steward, [Endnote: 1] or
whatever was his precise office; so quiet, so subdued, so nervous, so
strange! What had been this man's history? What was now the secret of
his daily life? There he was, creeping stealthily up and down the
staircases, and about the passages of the house; always as if he were
afraid of meeting somebody. On seeing Redclyffe in the house, the
latter fancied that the man expressed a kind of interest in his face;
but whether pleasure or pain he could not well tell; only he sometimes
found that he was contemplating him from a distance, or from the
obscurity of the room in which he sat,--or from a corridor, while he
smoked his cigar on the lawn. A great part, if not the whole of this,
he imputed to his knowledge of Redclyffe's connections with the Doctor;
but yet this hardly seemed sufficient to account for the pertinacity
with which the old man haunted his footsteps,--the poor, nervous old
thing,--always near him, or often unexpectedly so; and yet apparently
not very willing to hold conversation with him, having nothing of
importance to say.

"Mr. Omskirk," said Redclyffe to him, a day or two after the
commencement of his visit, "how many years have you now been in this

"0, sir, ever since the Doctor's departure for America," said Omskirk,
"now thirty and five years, five months, and three days."

"A long time," said Redclyffe, smiling, "and you seem to keep the
account of it very accurately."

"A very long time, your honor," said Omskirk; "so long, that I seem to
have lived one life before it began, and I cannot think of any life
than just what I had. My life was broken off short in the midst; and
what belonged to the earlier part of it was another man's life; this is

"It might be a pleasant life enough, I should think, in this fine old
Hall," said Redclyffe; "rather monotonous, however. Would you not like
a relaxation of a few days, a pleasure trip, in all these thirty-five
years? You old Englishmen are so sturdily faithful to one thing. You do
not resemble my countrymen in that."

"0, none of them ever lived in an old mansion-house like this," replied
Omskirk, "they do not know the sort of habits that a man gets here.
They do not know my business either, nor any man's here."

"Is your master then, so difficult?" said Redclyffe.

"My master! Who was speaking of him?" said the old man, as if
surprised. "Ah, I was thinking of Dr. Grimshawe. He was my master, you

And Redclyffe was again inconceivably struck with the strength of the
impression that was made on the poor old man's mind by the character of
the old Doctor; so that, after thirty years of other service, he still
felt him to be the master, and could not in the least release himself
from those earlier bonds. He remembered a story that the Doctor used to
tell of his once recovering a hanged person, and more and more came to
the conclusion that this was the man, and that, as the Doctor had said,
this hold of a strong mind over a weak one, strengthened by the idea
that he had made him, had subjected the man to him in a kind of slavery
that embraced the soul.

And then, again, the lord of the estate interested him greatly, and not
unpleasantly. He compared what he seemed to be now with what, according
to all reports, he had been in the past, and could make nothing of it,
nor reconcile the two characters in the least. It seemed as if the
estate were possessed by a devil,--a foul and melancholy fiend,--who
resented the attempted possession of others by subjecting them to
himself. One had turned from quiet and sober habits to reckless
dissipation; another had turned from the usual gayety of life to
recluse habits, and both, apparently, by the same influence; at least,
so it appeared to Redclyffe, as he insulated their story from all other
circumstances, and looked at them by one light. He even thought that he
felt a similar influence coming over himself, even in this little time
that he had spent here; gradually, should this be his permanent
residence,--and not so very gradually either,--there would come its own
individual mode of change over him. That quick suggestive mind would
gather the moss and lichens of decay. Palsy of its powers would
probably be the form it would assume. He looked back through the
vanished years to the time which he had spent with the old Doctor, and
he felt unaccountably as if the mysterious old man were yet ruling him,
as he did in his boyhood; as if his inscrutable, inevitable eye were
upon him in all his movements; nay, as if he had guided every step that
he took in coming hither, and were stalking mistily before him, leading
him about. He sometimes would gladly have given up all these wild and
enticing prospects, these dreams that had occupied him so long, if he
could only have gone away and looked back upon the house, its inmates,
and his own recollections no more; but there came a fate, and took the
shape of the old Doctor's apparition, holding him back.

And then, too, the thought of Elsie had much influence in keeping him
quietly here; her natural sunshine was the one thing that, just now,
seemed to have a good influence upon the world. She, too, was evidently
connected with this place, and with the fate, whatever it might be,
that awaited him here. The Doctor, the ruler of his destiny, had
provided her as well as all the rest; and from his grave, or wherever
he was, he still seemed to bring them together.

So here, in this darkened dream, he waited for what should come to
pass; and daily, when he sat down in the dark old library, it was with
the thought that this day might bring to a close the doubt amid which
he lived,--might give him the impetus to go forward. In such a state,
no doubt, the witchcraft of the place was really to be recognized, the
old witchcraft, too, of the Doctor, which he had escaped by the quick
ebullition of youthful spirit, long ago, while the Doctor lived; but
which had been stored up till now, till an influence that remained
latent for years had worked out in active disease. He held himself open
for intercourse with the lord of the mansion; and intercourse of a
certain nature they certainly had, but not of the kind which Redclyffe
desired. They talked together of politics, of the state of the
relations between England and America, of the court to which Redclyffe
was accredited; sometimes Redclyffe tried to lead the conversation to
the family topics, nor, in truth, did Lord Braithwaite seem to decline
his lead; although it was observable that very speedily the
conversation would be found turned upon some other subject, to which it
had swerved aside by subtle underhand movements. Yet Redclyffe was not
the less determined, and at no distant period, to bring up the subject
on which his mind dwelt so much, and have it fairly discussed between

He was sometimes a little frightened at the position and circumstances
in which he found himself; a great disturbance there was in his being,
the causes of which he could not trace. It had an influence on his
dreams, through which the Doctor seemed to pass continually, and when
he awoke it was often with the sensation that he had just the moment
before been holding conversation with the old man, and that the latter
--with that gesture of power that he remembered so well--had been
impressing some command upon him; but what that command was, he could
not possibly call to mind. He wandered among the dark passages of the
house, and up its antique staircases, as if expecting at every turn to
meet some one who would have the word of destiny to say to him. When he
went forth into the park, it was as if to hold an appointment with one
who had promised to meet him there; and he came slowly back, lingering
and loitering, because this expected one had not yet made himself
visible, yet plucked up a little alacrity as he drew near the house,
because the communicant might have arrived in his absence, and be
waiting for him in the dim library. It seemed as if he was under a
spell; he could neither go away nor rest,--nothing but dreams, troubled
dreams. He had ghostly fears, as if some one were near him whom he
could not make out; stealing behind him, and starting away when he was
impelled to turn round. A nervousness that his healthy temperament had
never before permitted him to be the victim of, assailed him now. He
could not help imputing it partly to the influence of the generations
who had left a portion of their individual human nature in the house,
which had become magnetic by them and could not rid itself of their
presence in one sense, though, in another, they had borne it as far off
as to where the gray tower of the village church rose above their

Again, he was frightened to perceive what a hold the place was getting
upon him; how the tendrils of the ivy seemed to hold him and would not
let him go; how natural and homelike (grim and sombre as they were) the
old doorways and apartments were becoming; how in no place that he had
ever known had he had such a home-like feeling. To be sure, poor
fellow, he had no earlier home except the almshouse, where his
recollection of a fireside crowded by grim old women and pale, sickly
children, of course never allowed him to have the reminiscences of a
private, domestic home. But then there was the Doctor's home by the
graveyard, and little Elsie, his constant playmate? No, even those
recollections did not hold him like this heavy present circumstance.
How should he ever draw himself away? No; the proud and vivid and
active prospects that had heretofore spread themselves before him,--the
striving to conquer, the struggle, the victory, the defeat, if such it
was to be,--the experiences for good or ill,--the life, life, life,--
all possibility of these was passing from him; all that hearty earnest
contest or communion of man with man; and leaving him nothing but this
great sombre shade, this brooding of the old family mansion, with its
dreary ancestral hall, its mouldy dignity, its life of the past, its
fettering honor, which to accept must bind him hand and foot, as
respects all effort, such as he had trained himself for,--such as his
own country offered. It was not any value for these,--as it seemed to
Redclyffe,--but a witchcraft, an indefinable spell, a something that he
could not define, that enthralled him, and was now doing a work on him
analogous to, though different from, that which was wrought on Omskirk
and all the other inhabitants, high and low, of this old mansion.

He felt greatly interested in the master of the mansion; although
perhaps it was not from anything in his nature; but partly because he
conceived that he himself had a controlling power over his fortunes,
and likewise from the vague perception of this before-mentioned trouble
in him. It seemed, whatever it might be, to have converted an ordinary
superficial man of the world into a being that felt and suffered
inwardly, had pangs, fears, a conscience, a sense of unseen things. It
seemed as if underneath this manor-house were the entrance to the cave
of Trophonius, one visit to which made a man sad forever after; and
that Lord Braithwaite had been there once, or perhaps went nightly, or
at any hour. Or the mansion itself was like dark-colored experience,
the reality; the point of view where things were seen in their true
lights; the true world, all outside of which was delusion, and here--
dreamlike as its structures seemed--the absolute truth. All those that
lived in it were getting to be a brotherhood; and he among them; and
perhaps before the blood-stained threshold would grow up an impassable
barrier, which would cause himself to sit down in dreary quiet, like
the rest of them.

Redclyffe, as has been intimated, had an unavowed--unavowed to himself
--suspicion that the master of the house cherished no kindly purpose
towards him; he had an indistinct feeling of danger from him; he would
not have been surprised to know that he was concocting a plot against
his life; and yet he did not think that Lord Braithwaite had the
slightest hostility towards him. It might make the thing more horrible,
perhaps; but it has been often seen in those who poison for the sake of
interest, without feelings of personal malevolence, that they do it as
kindly as the nature of the thing will permit; they, possibly, may even
have a certain degree of affection for their victims, enough to induce
them to make the last hours of life sweet and pleasant; to wind up the
fever of life with a double supply of enjoyable throbs; to sweeten and
delicately flavor the cup of death that they offer to the lips of him
whose life is inconsistent with some stated necessity of their own.
"Dear friend," such a one might say to the friend whom he reluctantly
condemned to death, "think not that there is any base malice, any
desire of pain to thee, that actuates me in this thing. Heaven knows, I
earnestly wish thy good. But I have well considered the matter,--more
deeply than thou hast,--and have found that it is essential that one
thing should be, and essential to that thing that thou, my friend,
shouldst die. Is that a doom which even thou wouldst object to with
such an end to be answered? Thou art innocent; thou art not a man of
evil life; the worst thing that can come of it, so far as thou art
concerned, would be a quiet, endless repose in yonder churchyard, among
dust of thy ancestry, with the English violets growing over thee there,
and the green, sweet grass, which thou wilt not scorn to associate with
thy dissolving elements, remembering that thy forefather owed a debt,
for his own birth and growth, to this English soil, and paid it not,--
consigned himself to that rough soil of another clime, under the forest
leaves. Pay it, dear friend, without repining, and leave me to battle a
little longer with this troublesome world, and in a few years to rejoin
thee, and talk quietly over this matter which we are now arranging. How
slight a favor, then, for one friend to do another, will seem this that
I seek of thee."

Redclyffe smiled to himself, as he thus gave expression to what he
really half fancied were Lord Braithwaite's feelings and purposes
towards him, and he felt them in the kindness and sweetness of his
demeanor, and his evident wish to make him happy, combined with his own
subtile suspicion of some design with which he had been invited here,
or which had grown up since he came.

Whoever has read Italian history must have seen such instances of this
poisoning without malice or personal ill-feeling.

His own pleasant, companionable, perhaps noble traits and qualities,
may have made a favorable impression on Lord Braithwaite, and perhaps
he regretted the necessity of acting as he was about to do, but could
not therefore weakly relinquish his deliberately formed design. And, on
his part, Redclyffe bore no malice towards Lord Braithwaite, but felt
really a kindly interest in him, and could he have made him happy at
any less cost than his own life, or dearest interests, would perhaps
have been glad to do so. He sometimes felt inclined to remonstrate with
him in a friendly way; to tell him that his intended course was not
likely to lead to a good result; that they had better try to arrange
the matter on some other basis, and perhaps he would not find the
American so unreasonable as he supposed.

All this, it will be understood, were the mere dreamy suppositions of
Redclyffe, in the idleness and languor of the old mansion, letting his
mind run at will, and following it into dim caves, whither it tended.
He did not actually believe anything of all this; unless it be a
lawyer, or a policeman, or some very vulgar natural order of mind, no
man really suspects another of crime. It is the hardest thing in the
world for a noble nature--the hardest and the most shocking--to be
convinced that a fellow-being is going to do a wrong thing, and the
consciousness of one's own inviolability renders it still more
difficult to believe that one's self is to be the object of the wrong.
What he had been fancying looked to him like a romance. The strange
part of the matter was, what suggested such a romance in regard to his
kind and hospitable host, who seemed to exercise the hospitality of
England with a kind of refinement and pleasant piquancy that came from
his Italian mixture of blood? Was there no spiritual whisper here?

So the time wore on; and Redclyffe began to be sensible that he must
soon decide upon the course that he was to take; for his diplomatic
position waited for him, and he could not loiter many days more away in
this half delicious, half painful reverie and quiet in the midst of his
struggling life. He was yet as undetermined what to do as ever; or, if
we may come down to the truth, he was perhaps loath to acknowledge to
himself the determination that he had actually formed.

One day, at dinner, which now came on after candle-light, he and Lord
Braithwaite sat together at table, as usual, while Omskirk waited at
the sideboard. It was a wild, gusty night, in which an autumnal breeze
of later autumn seemed to have gone astray, and come into September
intrusively. The two friends--for such we may call them--had spent a
pleasant day together, wandering in the grounds, looking at the old
house at all points, going to the church, and examining the cross-
legged stone statues; they had ridden, too, and taken a great deal of
healthful exercise, and had now that pleasant sense of just weariness
enough which it is the boon of the climate of England to incite and
permit men to take. Redclyffe was in one of his most genial moods, and
Lord Braithwaite seemed to be the same; so kindly they were both
disposed to one another, that the American felt that he might not
longer refrain from giving his friend some light upon the character in

Book of the day: