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Elsie Venner by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)

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was buried in it under the crimson turf.

Mr. Silas Peckham said little or nothing. His sensibilities were not
acute, but he perceived that he had made a miscalculation. He hoped
that there was no offence,--thought it might have been mutooally
agreeable, conclooded he would give up the idee of a colation, and
backed himself out as if unwilling to expose the less guarded aspect
of his person to the risk of accelerating impulses.

The Colonel shut the door,--cast his eye on the toe of his right
boot, as if it had had a strong temptation,--looked at his watch,
then round the room, and, going to a cupboard, swallowed a glass of
deep-red brandy and water to compose his feelings.


(With a Digression on "Hired Help.")

"ABEL! Slip Cassia into the new sulky, and fetch her round."

Abel was Dr. Kittredge's hired man. He was born in New Hampshire, a
queer sort of State, with fat streaks of soil and population where
they breed giants in mind and body, and lean streaks which export
imperfectly nourished young men with promising but neglected
appetites, who may be found in great numbers in all the large towns,
or could be until of late years, when they have been half driven out
of their favorite basement-stories by foreigners, and half coaxed
away from them by California. New Hampshire is in more than one
sense the Switzerland of New England. The "Granite State" being
naturally enough deficient in pudding-stone, its children are apt to
wander southward in search of that deposit,--in the unpetrified

Abel Stebbins was a good specimen of that extraordinary hybrid or
mule between democracy and chrysocracy, a native-born New-England
serving-man. The Old World has nothing at all like him. He is at
once an emperor and a subordinate. In one hand he holds one five-
millionth part (be the same more or less) of the power that sways the
destinies of the Great Republic. His other hand is in your boot,
which he is about to polish. It is impossible to turn a fellow
citizen whose vote may make his master--say, rather, employer--
Governor or President, or who may be one or both himself, into a
flunky. That article must be imported ready-made from other centres
of civilization. When a New Englander has lost his self-respect as a
citizen and as a man, he is demoralized, and cannot be trusted with
the money to pay for a dinner.

It may be supposed, therefore, that this fractional emperor, this
continent-shaper, finds his position awkward when he goes into
service, and that his employer is apt to find it still more
embarrassing. It is always under protest that the hired man does his
duty. Every act of service is subject to the drawback, "I am as good
as you are." This is so common, at least, as almost to be the rule,
and partly accounts for the rapid disappearance of the indigenous
"domestic" from the basements above mentioned. Paleontologists will
by and by be examining the floors of our kitchens for tracks of the
extinct native species of serving-man. The female of the same race
is fast dying out; indeed, the time is not far distant when all the
varieties of young woman will have vanished from New England, as the
dodo has perished in the Mauritius. The young lady is all that we
shall have left, and the mop and duster of the last Ahnira or Loizy
will be stared at by generations of Bridgets and Noras as that famous
head and foot of the lost bird are stared at in the Ashmolean Museum.

Abel Stebbins, the Doctor's man, took the true American view of his
difficult position. He sold his time to the Doctor, and, having sold
it, he took care to fulfil his half of the bargain. The Doctor, on
his part, treated him, not like a gentleman, because one does not
order a gentleman to bring up his horse or run his errands, but he
treated him like a man. Every order was given in courteous terms.
His reasonable privileges were respected as much as if they had been
guaranteed under hand and seal. The Doctor lent him books from his
own library, and gave him all friendly counsel, as if he were a son
or a younger brother.

Abel had Revolutionary blood in his veins, and though he saw fit to
"hire out," he could never stand the word "servant," or consider
himself the inferior one of the two high contracting parties. When
he came to live with the Doctor, he made up his mind he would dismiss
the old gentleman, if he did not behave according to his notions of
propriety. But he soon found that the Doctor was one of the right
sort, and so determined to keep him. The Doctor soon found, on his
side, that he had a trustworthy, intelligent fellow, who would be
invaluable to him, if he only let him have his own way of doing what
was to be done.

The Doctor's hired man had not the manners of a French valet. He was
grave and taciturn for the most part, he never bowed and rarely
smiled, but was always at work in the daytime, and always reading in
the evening. He was hostler, and did all the housework that a man
could properly do, would go to the door or "tend table," bought the
provisions for the family,--in short, did almost everything for them
but get their clothing. There was no office in a perfectly appointed
household, from that of steward down to that of stable-boy, which he
did not cheerfully assume. His round of work not consuming all his
energies, he must needs cultivate the Doctor's garden, which he kept
in one perpetual bloom, from the blowing of the first crocus to the
fading of the last dahlia.

This garden was Abel's poem. Its half-dozen beds were so many
cantos. Nature crowded them for him with imagery such as no Laureate
could copy in the cold mosaic of language. The rhythm of alternating
dawn and sunset, the strophe and antistrophe still perceptible
through all the sudden shifts of our dithyrambic seasons and echoed
in corresponding floral harmonies, made melody in the soul of Abel,
the plain serving-man. It softened his whole otherwise rigid aspect.
He worshipped God according to the strict way of his fathers; but a
florist's Puritanism is always colored by the petals of his flowers,
--and Nature never shows him a black corolla.

He may or may not figure again in this narrative; but as there must
be some who confound the New England hired man, native-born, with the
servant of foreign birth, and as there is the difference of two
continents and two civilizations between them, it did not seem fair
to let Abel bring round the Doctor's mare and sulky without touching
his features in half-shadow into our background.

The Doctor's mare, Cassia, was so called by her master from her
cinnamon color, cassia being one of the professional names for that
spice or drug. She was of the shade we call sorrel, or, as an
Englishman would perhaps say, chestnut,--a genuine "Morgan" mare,
with a low forehand, as is common in this breed, but with strong
quarters and flat hocks, well ribbed up, with a good eye and a pair
of lively ears,--a first-rate doctor's beast, would stand until her
harness dropped off her back at the door of a tedious case, and trot
over hill and dale thirty miles in three hours, if there was a child
in the next county with a bean in its windpipe and the Doctor gave
her a hint of the fact. Cassia was not large, but she had a good
deal of action, and was the Doctor's show-horse. There were two.
other animals in his stable: Quassia or Quashy, the black horse, and
Caustic, the old bay, with whom he jogged round the village.

"A long ride to-day?" said Abel, as he brought up the equipage.

"Just out of the village,--that 's all.---There 's a kink in her
mane,--pull it out, will you?"

"Goin' to visit some of the great folks," Abel said to himself."
Wonder who it is."--Then to the Doctor,--"Anybody get sick at
Sprowles's? They say Deacon Soper had a fit, after eatin' some o'
their frozen victuals."

The Doctor smiled. He guessed the Deacon would do well enough. He
was only going to ride over to the Dudley mansion-house.



If that primitive physician, Chiron, M. D., appears as a Centaur, as
we look at him through the lapse of thirty centuries, the modern
country-doctor, if he could be seen about thirty miles off, could not
be distinguished from a wheel-animalcule. He inhabits a wheel-
carriage. He thinks of stationary dwellings as Long Tom Coffin did
of land in general; a house may be well enough for incidental
purposes, but for a "stiddy" residence give him a "kerridge." If he
is classified in the Linnaean scale, he must be set down thus: Genus
Homo; Species Rotifer infusorius, the wheel-animal of infusions.

The Dudley mansion was not a mile from the Doctor's; but it never
occurred to him to think of walking to see any of his patients'
families, if he had any professional object in his visit. Whenever
the narrow sulky turned in at a gate, the rustic who was digging
potatoes, or hoeing corn, or swishing through the grass with his
scythe, in wave-like crescents, or stepping short behind a loaded
wheelbarrow, or trudging lazily by the side of the swinging, loose-
throated, short-legged oxen, rocking along the road as if they had
just been landed after a three-months' voyage, the toiling native,
whatever he was doing, stopped and looked up at the house the Doctor
was visiting.

"Somebody sick over there t' Haynes's. Guess th' old man's ailin'
ag'in. Winder's half-way open in the chamber,--should n' wonder 'f
he was dead and laid aout. Docterin' a'n't no use, when y' see th'
winders open like that. Wahl, money a'n't much to speak of to th'
old man naow! He don' want but tew cents,--'n' old Widah Peake, she
knows what he wants them for!"

Or again,--

"Measles raound pooty thick. Briggs's folks buried two children with
'em lass' week. Th' of Doctor, he'd h' ker'd 'em threugh. Struck in
'n' p'dooced mo't'f'cation,--so they say."

This is only meant as a sample of the kind of way they used to think
or talk, when the narrow sulky turned in at the gate of some house
where there was a visit to be made.

Oh, that narrow sulky! What hopes, what fears, what comfort, what
anguish, what despair, in the roll of its coming or its parting
wheels! In the spring, when the old people get the coughs which give
them a few shakes and their lives drop in pieces like the ashes of a
burned thread which have kept the threadlike shape until they were
stirred,--in the hot summer noons, when the strong man comes in from
the fields, like the son of the Shunamite, crying, "My head, my
head,"--in the dying autumn days, when youth and maiden lie fever-
stricken in many a household, still-faced, dull-eyed, dark-flushed,
dry-lipped, low-muttering in their daylight dreams, their fingers
moving singly like those of slumbering harpers,--in the dead winter,
when the white plague of the North has caged its wasted victims,
shuddering as they think of the frozen soil which must be quarried
like rock to receive them, if their perpetual convalescence should
happen to be interfered with by any untoward accident,--at every
season, the narrow sulky rolled round freighted with unmeasured
burdens of joy and woe.

The Doctor drove along the southern foot of The Mountain. The
"Dudley Mansion" was near the eastern edge of this declivity, where
it rose steepest, with baldest cliffs and densest patches of
overhanging wood. It seemed almost too steep to climb, but a
practised eye could see from a distance the zigzag lines of the
sheep-paths which scaled it like miniature Alpine roads. A few
hundred feet up The Mountain's side was a dark deep dell, unwooded,
save for a few spindling, crazy-looking hackmatacks or native
larches, with pallid green tufts sticking out fantastically all over
them. It shelved so deeply, that, while the hemlock-tassels were
swinging on the trees around its border, all would be still at its
springy bottom, save that perhaps a single fern would wave slowly
backward and forward like a sabre with a twist as of a feathered
oar,--and this when not a breath could be felt, and every other stem
and blade were motionless. There was an old story of one having
perished here in the winter of '86, and his body having been found in
the spring,--whence its common name of "Dead-Man's Hollow." Higher
up there were huge cliffs with chasms, and, it was thought, concealed
caves, where in old times they said that Tories lay hid,--some hinted
not without occasional aid and comfort from the Dudleys then living
in the mansion-house. Still higher and farther west lay the accursed
ledge,--shunned by all, unless it were now and then a daring youth,
or a wandering naturalist who ventured to its edge in the hope of
securing some infantile Crotalus durissus, who had not yet cut his
poison teeth.

Long, long ago, in old Colonial times, the Honorable Thomas Dudley,
Esquire, a man of note and name and great resources, allied by
descent to the family of "Tom Dudley," as the early Governor is
sometimes irreverently called by our most venerable, but still
youthful antiquary,--and to the other public Dudleys, of course,--of
all of whom he made small account, as being himself an English
gentleman, with little taste for the splendors of provincial office,
early in the last century, Thomas Dudley had built this mansion. For
several generations it had been dwelt in by descendants of the same
name, but soon after the Revolution it passed by marriage into the
hands of the Venners, by whom it had ever since been held and

As the doctor turned an angle in the road, all at once the stately
old house rose before him. It was a skilfully managed effect, as it
well might be, for it was no vulgar English architect who had planned
the mansion and arranged its position and approach. The old house
rose before the Doctor, crowning a terraced garden, flanked at the
left by an avenue of tall elms. The flower-beds were edged with box,
which diffused around it that dreamy balsamic odor, full of ante-
natal reminiscences of a lost Paradise, dimly fragrant as might be
the bdellium of ancient Havilah, the land compassed by the river
Pison that went out of Eden. The garden was somewhat neglected, but
not in disgrace,--and in the time of tulips and hyacinths, of roses,
of "snowballs," of honeysuckles, of lilacs, of syringas, it was rich
with blossoms.

From the front-windows of the mansion the eye reached a far blue
mountain-summit,--no rounded heap, such as often shuts in a village-
landscape, but a sharp peak, clean-angled as Ascutney from the
Dartmouth green. A wide gap through miles of woods had opened this
distant view, and showed more, perhaps, than all the labors of the
architect and the landscape-gardener the large style of the early

The great stone-chimney of the mansion-house was the centre from
which all the artificial features of the scene appeared to flow. The
roofs, the gables, the dormer-windows, the porches, the clustered
offices in the rear, all seemed to crowd about the great chimney. To
this central pillar the paths all converged. The single poplar
behind the house,--Nature is jealous of proud chimneys, and always
loves to put a poplar near one, so that it may fling a leaf or two
down its black throat every autumn,--the one tall poplar behind the
house seemed to nod and whisper to the grave square column, the elms
to sway their branches towards it. And when the blue smoke rose from
its summit, it seemed to be wafted away to join the azure haze which
hung around the peak in the far distance, so that both should bathe
in a common atmosphere.

Behind the house were clumps of lilacs with a century's growth upon
them, and looking more like trees than like shrubs. Shaded by a
group of these was the ancient well, of huge circuit, and with a low
arch opening out of its wall about ten feet below the surface,--
whether the door of a crypt for the concealment of treasure, or of a
subterranean passage, or merely of a vault for keeping provisions
cool in hot weather, opinions differed.

On looking at the house, it was plain that it was built with Old-
World notions of strength and durability, and, so far as might be,
with Old-World materials. The hinges of the doors stretched out like
arms, instead of like hands, as we make them. The bolts were massive
enough for a donjon-keep. The small window-panes were actually
inclosed in the wood of the sashes instead of being stuck to them
with putty, as in our modern windows. The broad staircase was of
easy ascent, and was guarded by quaintly turned and twisted
balusters. The ceilings of the two rooms of state were moulded with
medallion-portraits and rustic figures, such as may have been seen by
many readers in the famous old Philipse house,--Washington's head-
quarters,--in the town of Yorkers. The fire-places, worthy of the
wide-throated central chimney, were bordered by pictured tiles, some
of them with Scripture stories, some with Watteau-like figures,--tall
damsels in slim waists and with spread enough of skirt for a modern
ballroom, with bowing, reclining, or musical swains of what everybody
calls the "conventional" sort,--that is, the swain adapted to genteel
society rather than to a literal sheep-compelling existence.

The house was furnished, soon after it was completed, with many heavy
articles made in London from a rare wood just then come into fashion,
not so rare now, and commonly known as mahogany. Time had turned it
very dark, and the stately bedsteads and tall cabinets and claw-
footed chairs and tables were in keeping with the sober dignity of
the ancient mansion. The old "hangings" were yet preserved in the
chambers, faded, but still showing their rich patterns,--properly
entitled to their name, for they were literally hung upon flat wooden
frames like trellis-work, which again were secured to the naked

There were portraits of different date on the walls of the various
apartments, old painted coats-of-arms, bevel-edged mirrors, and in
one sleeping-room a glass case of wax-work flowers and spangly
symbols, with a legend signifying that E. M. (supposed to be
Elizabeth Mascarene) wished not to be "forgot"

"When I am dead and lay'd in dust
And all my bones are"---

Poor E. M.! Poor everybody that sighs for earthly remembrance in a
planet with a core of fire and a crust of fossils!

Such was the Dudley mansion-house,--for it kept its ancient name in
spite of the change in the line of descent. Its spacious apartments
looked dreary and desolate; for here Dudley Venner and his daughter
dwelt by themselves, with such servants only as their quiet mode of
life required. He almost lived in his library, the western room on
the ground-floor. Its window looked upon a small plat of green, in
the midst of which was a single grave marked by a plain marble slab.
Except this room, and the chamber where he slept, and the servants'
wing, the rest of the house was all Elsie's. She was always a
restless, wandering child from her early years, and would have her
little bed moved from one chamber to another,--flitting round as the
fancy took her. Sometimes she would drag a mat and a pillow into one
of the great empty rooms, and, wrapping herself in a shawl, coil up
and go to sleep in a corner. Nothing frightened her; the "haunted"
chamber, with the torn hangings that flapped like wings when there
was air stirring, was one of her favorite retreats. She had been a
very hard creature to manage. Her father could influence, but not
govern her. Old Sophy, born of a slave mother in the house, could do
more with her than anybody, knowing her by long instinctive study.
The other servants were afraid of her. Her father had sent for
governesses, but none of them ever stayed long. She made them
nervous; one of them had a strange fit of sickness; not one of them
ever came back to the house to see her. A young Spanish woman who
taught her dancing succeeded best with her, for she had a passion for
that exercise, and had mastered some of the most difficult dances.
Long before this period, she had manifested some most extraordinary
singularities of taste or instinct. The extreme sensitiveness of her
father on this point prevented any allusion to them; but there were
stories floating round, some of them even getting into the papers,--
without her name, of course,--which were of a kind to excite intense
curiosity, if not more anxious feelings. This thing was certain,
that at the age of twelve she was missed one night, and was found
sleeping in the open air under a tree, like a wild creature. Very
often she would wander off by day, always without a companion,
bringing home with her a nest, a flower, or even a more questionable
trophy of her ramble, such as showed that there was no place where
she was afraid to venture. Once in a while she had stayed out over
night, in which case the alarm was spread, and men went in search of
her, but never successfully,--so--that some said she hid herself in
trees, and others that she had found one of the old Tory caves.

Some, of course, said she was a crazy girl, and ought to be sent to
an Asylum. But old Dr. Kittredge had shaken his head, and told them
to bear with her, and let her have her way as much as they could, but
watch her, as far as possible, without making her suspicious of them.
He visited her now and then, under the pretext of seeing her father
on business, or of only making a friendly call.

The Doctor fastened his horse outside the gate, and walked up the
garden-alley. He stopped suddenly with a start. A strange sound
had jarred upon his ear. It was a sharp prolonged rattle,
continuous, but rising and falling as if in rhythmical cadence. He
moved softly towards the open window from which the sound seemed to

Elsie was alone in the room, dancing one of those wild Moorish
fandangos, such as a matador hot from the Plaza de Toros of Seville
or Madrid might love to lie and gaze at. She was a figure to look
upon in silence. The dancing frenzy must have seized upon her while
she was dressing; for she was in her bodice, bare-armed, her hair
floating unbound far below the waist of her barred or banded skirt.
She had caught up her castanets, and rattled them as she danced with
a kind of passionate fierceness, her lithe body undulating with
flexuous grace, her diamond eyes glittering, her round arms wreathing
and unwinding, alive and vibrant to the tips of the slender fingers.
Some passion seemed to exhaust itself in this dancing paroxysm; for
all at once she reeled from the middle of the floor, and flung
herself, as it were in a careless coil, upon a great tiger's-skin
which was spread out in one corner of the apartment.

The old Doctor stood motionless, looking at her as she lay panting on
the tawny, black-lined robe of the dead monster which stretched out
beneath her, its rude flattened outline recalling the Terror of the
Jungle as he crouched for his fatal spring. In a few moments her
head drooped upon her arm, and her glittering eyes closed,--she was
sleeping. He stood looking at her still, steadily, thoughtfully,
tenderly. Presently he lifted his hand to his forehead, as if
recalling some fading remembrance of other years.

"Poor Catalina!"

This was all he said. He shook his head,--implying that his visit
would be in vain to-day,--returned to his sulky, and rode away, as if
in a dream.



The Doctor was roused from his revery by the clatter of approaching
hoofs. He looked forward and saw a young fellow galloping rapidly
towards him.

A common New-England rider with his toes turned out, his elbows
jerking and the daylight showing under him at every step, bestriding
a cantering beast of the plebeian breed, thick at every point where
he should be thin, and thin at every point where he should be thick,
is not one of those noble objects that bewitch the world. The best
horsemen outside of the cities are the unshod countryboys, who ride
"bareback," with only a halter round the horse's neck, digging their
brown heels into his ribs, and slanting over backwards, but sticking
on like leeches, and taking the hardest trot as if they loved it.---
This was a different sight on which the Doctor was looking. The
streaming mane and tail of the unshorn, savage-looking, black horse,
the dashing grace with which the young fellow in the shadowy
sombrero, and armed with the huge spurs, sat in his high-peaked
saddle, could belong only to the mustang of the Pampas and his
master. This bold rider was a young man whose sudden apparition in
the quiet inland town had reminded some of the good people of a
bright, curly-haired boy they had known some eight or ten years
before as little Dick Venner.

This boy had passed several of his early years at the Dudley mansion,
the playmate of Elsie, being her cousin, two or three years older
than herself, the son of Captain Richard Venner, a South American
trader, who, as he changed his residence often, was glad to leave the
boy in his brother's charge. The Captain's wife, this boy's mother,
was a lady of Buenos Ayres, of Spanish descent, and had died while
the child was in his cradle. These two motherless children were as
strange a pair as one roof could well cover. Both handsome, wild,
impetuous, unmanageable, they played and fought together like two
young leopards, beautiful, but dangerous, their lawless instincts
showing through all their graceful movements.

The boy was little else than a young Gaucho when he first came to
Rockland; for he had learned to ride almost as soon as to walk, and
could jump on his pony and trip up a runaway pig with the bolas or
noose him with his miniature lasso at an age when some city-children
would hardly be trusted out of sight of a nursery-maid. It makes men
imperious to sit a horse; no man governs his fellows so well as from
this living throne. And so, from Marcus Aurelius in Roman bronze,
down to the "man on horseback" in General Cushing's prophetic speech,
the saddle has always been the true seat of empire. The absolute
tyranny of the human will over a noble and powerful beast develops
the instinct of personal prevalence and dominion; so that horse-
subduer and hero were almost synonymous in simpler times, and are
closely related still. An ancestry of wild riders naturally enough
bequeaths also those other tendencies which we see in the Tartars,
the Cossacks, and our own Indian Centaurs, and as well, perhaps, in
the old-fashioned fox-hunting squire as in any of these. Sharp
alternations of violent action and self-indulgent repose; a hard run,
and a long revel after it; this is what over-much horse tends to
animalize a man into. Such antecedents may have helped to make
little Dick Venner a self-willed, capricious boy, and a rough
playmate for Elsie.

Elsie was the wilder of the two. Old Sophy, who used to watch them
with those quick, animal-looking eyes of hers,--she was said to be
the granddaughter of a cannibal chief, and inherited the keen senses
belonging to all creatures which are hunted as game, Old Sophy, who
watched them in their play and their quarrels, always seemed to be
more afraid for the boy than the girl. "Masse Dick! Masse Dick!
don' you be too rough wi' dat gal! She scratch you las' week, 'n'
some day she bite you; 'n' if she bite you, Masse Dick! "Old Sophy
nodded her head ominously, as if she could say a great deal more;
while, in grateful acknowledgment of her caution, Master Dick put his
two little fingers in the angles of his mouth, and his forefingers on
his lower eyelids, drawing upon these features until his expression
reminded her of something she vaguely recollected in her infancy,--
the face of a favorite deity executed in wood by an African artist
for her grandfather, brought over by her mother, and burned when she
became a Christian.

These two wild children had much in common. They loved to ramble
together, to build huts, to climb trees for nests, to ride the colts,
to dance, to race, and to play at boys' rude games as if both were
boys. But wherever two natures have a great deal in common, the
conditions of a first-rate quarrel are furnished ready-made.
Relations are very apt to hate each other just because they are too
much alike. It is so frightful to be in an atmosphere of family
idiosyncrasies; to see all the hereditary uncomeliness or infirmity
of body, all the defects of speech, all the failings of temper,
intensified by concentration, so that every fault of our own finds
itself multiplied by reflections, like our images in a saloon lined.
with mirrors! Nature knows what she is about. The centrifugal
principle which grows out of the antipathy of like to like is only
the repetition in character of the arrangement we see expressed
materially in certain seed-capsules, which burst and throw the seed
to all points of the compass. A house is a large pod with a human
germ or two in each of its cells or chambers; it opens by dehiscence
of the front-door by and by, and projects one of its germs to Kansas,
another to San Francisco, another to Chicago, and so on; and this
that Smith may not be Smithed to death and Brown may not be Browned
into a mad-house, but mix in with the world again and struggle back
to average humanity.

Elsie's father, whose fault was to indulge her in everything, found
that it would never do to let these children grow up together. They
would either love each other as they got older, and pair like wild
creatures, or take some fierce antipathy, which might end nobody
could tell where. It was not safe to try. The boy must be sent
away. A sharper quarrel than common decided this point. Master Dick
forgot Old Sophy's caution, and vexed the girl into a paroxysm of
wrath, in which she sprang at him and bit his arm. Perhaps they made
too much of it; for they sent for the old Doctor, who came at once
when he heard what had happened. He had a good deal to say about the
danger there was from the teeth of animals or human beings when
enraged; and as he emphasized his remarks by the application of a
pencil of lunar caustic to each of the marks left by the sharp white
teeth, they were like to be remembered by at least one of his

So Master Dick went off on his travels, which led him into strange
places and stranger company. Elsie was half pleased and half sorry
to have him go; the children had a kind of mingled liking and hate
for each other, just such as is very common among relations. Whether
the girl had most satisfaction in the plays they shared, or in
teasing him, or taking her small revenge upon him for teasing her, it
would have been hard to say. At any rate, she was lonely without
him. She had more fondness for the old black woman than anybody; but
Sophy could not follow her far beyond her own old rocking-chair. As
for her father, she had made him afraid of her, not for his sake, but
for her own. Sometimes she would seem to be fond of him, and the
parent's heart would yearn within him as she twined her supple arms
about him; and then some look she gave him, some half-articulated
expression, would turn his cheek pale and almost make him shiver, and
he would say kindly, "Now go, Elsie, dear," and smile upon her as
she went, and close and lock the door softly after her. Then his
forehead would knot and furrow itself, and the drops of anguish stand
thick upon it. He would go to the western window of his study and
look at the solitary mound with the marble slab for its head-stone.
After his grief had had its way, he would kneel down and pray for his
child as one who has no hope save in that special grace which can
bring the most rebellious spirit into sweet subjection. All this
might seem like weakness in a parent having the charge of one sole
daughter of his house and heart; but he had tried authority and
tenderness by turns so long without any good effect, that he had
become sore perplexed, and, surrounding her with cautious
watchfulness as he best might, left her in the main to her own
guidance and the merciful influences which Heaven might send down to
direct her footsteps.

Meantime the boy grew up to youth and early manhood through a strange
succession of adventures. He had been at school at Buenos Ayres,--
had quarrelled with his mother's relatives,--had run off to the
Pampas, and lived with the Gauchos;--had made friends with the
Indians, and ridden with them, it was rumored, in some of their
savage forays,--had returned and made up his quarrel,--had got money
by inheritance or otherwise,--had troubled the peace of certain
magistrates,--had found it convenient to leave the City of Wholesome
Breezes for a time, and had galloped off on a fast horse of his, (so
it was said,) with some officers riding after him, who took good care
(but this was only the popular story) not to catch him. A few days
after this he was taking his ice on the Alameda of Mendoza, and a
week or two later sailed from Valparaiso for New York, carrying with
him the horse with which he had scampered over the Plains, a trunk or
two with his newly purchased outfit of, clothing and other
conveniences, and a belt heavy with gold and with a few Brazilian
diamonds sewed in it, enough in value to serve him for a long

Dick Venner had seen life enough to wear out the earlier
sensibilities of adolescence. He was tired of worshipping or
tyrannizing over the bistred or umbered beauties of mingled blood
among whom he had been living. Even that piquant exhibition which
the Rio de Mendoza presents to the amateur of breathing sculpture
failed to interest him. He was thinking of a far-off village on the
other side of the equator, and of the wild girl with whom he used to
play and quarrel, a creature of a different race from these
degenerate mongrels.

"A game little devil she was, sure enough!"--And as Dick spoke, he
bared his wrist to look for the marks she had left on it: two small
white scars, where the two small sharp upper teeth had struck when
she flashed at him with her eyes sparkling as bright as those
glittering stones sewed up in the belt he wore. "That's a filly
worth noosing!" said Dick to himself, as he looked in admiration at
the sign of her spirit and passion. "I wonder if she will bite at
eighteen as she did at eight! She shall have a chance to try, at any

Such was the self-sacrificing disposition with which Richard Venner,
Esq., a passenger by the Condor from Valparaiso, set foot upon his
native shore, and turned his face in the direction of Rockland, The
Mountain, and the mansion-house. He had heard something, from time
to time, of his New-England relatives, and knew that they were living
together as he left them. And so he heralded himself to "My dear
Uncle" by a letter signed "Your loving nephew, Richard Venner," in
which letter he told a very frank story of travel and mercantile
adventure, expressed much gratitude for the excellent counsel and
example which had helped to form his character and preserve him in
the midst of temptation, inquired affectionately after his uncle's
health, was much interested to know whether his lively cousin who
used to be his playmate had grown up as handsome as she promised to
be, and announced his intention of paying his respects to them both
at Rockland. Not long after this came the trunks marked R. V. which
he had sent before him, forerunners of his advent: he was not going
to wait for a reply or an invitation.

What a sound that is,--the banging down of the preliminary trunk,
without its claimant to give it the life which is borrowed by all
personal appendages, so long as the owner's hand or eye is on them!
If it announce the coming of one loved and longed for, how we delight
to look at it, to sit down on it, to caress it in our fancies, as a
lone exile walking out on a windy pier yearns towards the merchantman
lying alongside, with the colors of his own native land at her peak,
and the name of the port he sailed from long ago upon her stern! But
if it tell the near approach of the undesired, inevitable guest, what
sound short of the muffled noises made by the undertakers as they
turn the corners in the dim-lighted house, with low shuffle of feet
and whispered cautions, carries such a sense of knocking-kneed
collapse with it as the thumping down in the front entry of the heavy
portmanteau, rammed with the changes of uncounted coming weeks?

Whether the R. V. portmanteaus brought one or the other of these
emotions to the tenants of the Dudley mansion, it might not be easy
to settle. Elsie professed to be pleased with the thought of having
an adventurous young stranger, with stories to tell, an inmate of
their quiet, not to say dull, family. Under almost any other
circumstances, her father would have been unwilling to take a young
fellow of whom he knew so little under his roof; but this was his
nephew, and anything that seemed like to amuse or please Elsie was
agreeable to him. He had grown almost desperate, and felt as if any
change in the current of her life and feelings might save her from
some strange paroxysm of dangerous mental exaltation or sullen
perversion of disposition, from which some fearful calamity might
come to herself or others.

Dick had been several weeks at the Dudley mansion. A few days
before, he had made a sudden dash for the nearest large city,--and
when the Doctor met him, he was just returning from his visit.

It had been a curious meeting between the two young persons, who had
parted so young and after such strange relations with each other.
When Dick first presented himself at the mansion, not one in the
house would have known him for the boy who had left them all so
suddenly years ago. He was so dark, partly from his descent, partly
from long habits of exposure, that Elsie looked almost fair beside
him. He had something of the family beauty which belonged to his
cousin, but his eye had a fierce passion in it, very unlike the cold
glitter of Elsie's. Like many people of strong and imperious temper,
he was soft-voiced and very gentle in his address, when he had no
special reason for being otherwise. He soon found reasons enough to
be as amiable as he could force himself to be with his uncle and his
cousin. Elsie was to his fancy. She had a strange attraction for
him, quite unlike anything he had ever known in other women. There
was something, too, in early associations: when those who parted as
children meet as man and woman, there is always a renewal of that
early experience which followed the taste of the forbidden fruit,--a
natural blush of consciousness, not without its charm.

Nothing could be more becoming than the behavior of "Richard Venner,
Esquire, the guest of Dudley Venner, Esquire, at his noble mansion,"
as he was announced in the Court column of the "Rockland Weekly
Universe." He was pleased to find himself treated with kindness and
attention as a relative. He made himself very agreeable by abundant
details concerning the religious, political, social, commercial, and
educational progress of the South American cities and states. He was
himself much interested in everything that was going on about the
Dudley mansion, walked all over it, noticed its valuable wood-lots
with special approbation, was delighted with the grand old house and
its furniture, and would not be easy until he had seen all the family
silver and heard its history. In return, he had much to tell of his
father, now dead,--the only one of the Venners, beside themselves, in
whose fate his uncle was interested. With Elsie, he was subdued and
almost tender in his manner; with the few visitors whom they saw, shy
and silent,--perhaps a little watchful, if any young man happened to
be among them.

Young fellows placed on their good behavior are apt to get restless
and nervous, all ready to fly off into some mischief or other. Dick
Venner had his half-tamed horse with him to work off his suppressed
life with. When the savage passion of his young blood came over him,
he would fetch out the mustang, screaming and kicking as these
amiable beasts are wont to do, strap the Spanish saddle tight to his
back, vault into it, and, after getting away from the village, strike
the long spurs into his sides and whirl away in a wild gallop, until
the black horse was flecked with white foam, and the cruel steel
points were red with his blood. When horse and rider were alike
fired, he would fling the bridle on his neck and saunter homeward,
always contriving to get to the stable in a quiet way, and coming
into the house as calm as a bishop after a sober trot on his steady-
going cob.

After a few weeks of this kind of life, he began to want some more
fierce excitement. He had tried making downright love to Elsie, with
no great success as yet, in his own opinion. The girl was capricious
in her treatment of him, sometimes scowling and repellent, sometimes
familiar, very often, as she used to be of old, teasing and
malicious. All this, perhaps, made her more interesting to a young
man who was tired of easy conquests. There was a strange fascination
in her eyes, too, which at times was quite irresistible, so that he
would feel himself drawn to her by a power which seemed to take away
his will for the moment. It may have been nothing but the common
charm of bright eyes; but he had never before experienced the same
kind of attraction.

Perhaps she was not so very different from what she had been as a
child, after all. At any rate, so it seemed to Dick Venner, who, as
was said before, had tried making love to her. They were sitting
alone in the study one day; Elsie had round her neck that somewhat
peculiar ornament, the golden torque, which she had worn to the great
party. Youth is adventurous and very curious about necklaces,
brooches, chains, and other such adornments, so long as they are worn
by young persons of the female sex. Dick was seized with a great
passion for examining this curious chain, and, after some preliminary
questions, was rash enough to lean towards her and put out his hand
toward the neck that lay in the golden coil.

She threw her head back, her eyes narrowing and her forehead drawing
down so that Dick thought her head actually flattened itself. He
started involuntarily; for she looked so like the little girl who had
struck him with those sharp flashing teeth, that the whole scene came
back, and he felt the stroke again as if it had just been given, and
the two white scars began to sting as they did after the old Doctor
had burned them with that stick of gray caustic, which looked so like
a slate pencil, and felt so much like the end of a red-hot poker.

It took something more than a gallop to set him right after this.
The next day he mentioned having received a letter from a mercantile
agent with whom he had dealings. What his business was is, perhaps,
none of our business. At any rate, it required him to go at once to
the city where his correspondent resided.

Independently of this "business" which called him, there may have
been other motives, such as have been hinted at. People who have
been living for a long time in dreary country-places, without any
emotion beyond such as are occasioned by a trivial pleasure or
annoyance, often get crazy at last for a vital paroxysm of some kind
or other. In this state they rush to the great cities for a plunge
into their turbid life-baths, with a frantic thirst for every
exciting pleasure, which makes them the willing and easy victims of
all those who sell the Devil's wares on commission. The less
intelligent and instructed class of unfortunates, who venture with
their ignorance and their instincts into what is sometimes called the
"life" of great cities, are put through a rapid course of instruction
which entitles them very commonly to a diploma from the police court.
But they only illustrate the working of the same tendency in mankind
at large which has been occasionally noticed in the sons of ministers
and other eminently worthy people, by many ascribed to that intense
congenital hatred for goodness which distinguishes human nature from
that of the brute, but perhaps as readily accounted for by
considering it as the yawning and stretching of a young soul cramped
too long in one moral posture.

Richard Veneer was a young man of remarkable experience for his
years. He ran less risk, therefore, in exposing himself to the
temptations and dangers of a great city than many older men, who,
seeking the livelier scenes of excitement to be found in large towns
as a relaxation after the monotonous routine of family life, are too
often taken advantage of and made the victims of their sentiments or
their generous confidence in their fellow-creatures. Such was not
his destiny. There was something about him which looked as if he
would not take bullying kindly. He had also the advantage of being
acquainted with most of those ingenious devices by which the
proverbial inconstancy of fortune is steadied to something more
nearly approaching fixed laws, and the dangerous risks which have so
often led young men to ruin and suicide are practically reduced to
somewhat less than nothing. So that Mr. Richard Veneer worked off
his nervous energies without any troublesome adventure, and was ready
to return to Rockland in less than a week, without having lightened
the money-belt he wore round his body, or tarnished the long
glittering knife he carried in his boot.

Dick had sent his trunk to the nearest town through which the
railroad leading to the city passed. He rode off on his black horse
and left him at the place where he took the cars. On arriving at the
city station, he took a coach and drove to one of the great hotels.
Thither drove also a sagacious-looking, middle-aged man, who entered
his name as "W. Thompson" in the book at the office immediately
after that of "R. Venner." Mr. "Thompson" kept a carelessly
observant eye upon Mr. Venner during his stay at the hotel, and
followed him to the cars when he left, looking over his shoulder when
he bought his ticket at the station, and seeing him fairly off
without obtruding himself in any offensive way upon his attention.
Mr. Thompson, known in other quarters as Detective Policeman Terry,
got very little by his trouble. Richard Venner did not turn out to
be the wife-poisoner, the defaulting cashier, the river-pirate, or
the great counterfeiter. He paid his hotel-bill as a gentleman
should always do, if he has the money and can spare it. The
detective had probably overrated his own sagacity when he ventured to
suspect Mr. Venner. He reported to his chief that there was a
knowing-looking fellow he had been round after, but he rather guessed
he was nothing more than "one o' them Southern sportsmen."

The poor fellows at the stable where Dick had left his horse had had
trouble enough with him. One of the ostlers was limping about with a
lame leg, and another had lost a mouthful of his coat, which came
very near carrying a piece of his shoulder with it. When Mr. Venner
came back for his beast, he was as wild as if he had just been
lassoed, screaming, kicking, rolling over to get rid of his saddle,
and when his rider was at last mounted, jumping about in a way to
dislodge any common horseman. To all this Dick replied by sticking
his long spurs deeper and deeper into his flanks, until the creature
found he was mastered, and dashed off as if all the thistles of the
Pampas were pricking him.

"One more gallop, Juan?" This was in the last mile of the road
before he came to the town which brought him in sight of the mansion-
house. It was in this last gallop that the fiery mustang and his
rider flashed by the old Doctor. Cassia pointed her sharp ears and
shied to let them pass. The Doctor turned and looked through the
little round glass in the back of his sulky.

"Dick Turpin, there, will find more than his match!" said the Doctor.


(With Extracts from the "Report of the committee.")

The readers of this narrative will hardly expect any elaborate
details of the educational management of the Apollinean Institute.
They cannot be supposed to take the same interest in its affairs as
was shown by the Annual Committees who reported upon its condition
and prospects. As these Committees were, however, an important part
of the mechanism of the establishment, some general account of their
organization and a few extracts from the Report of the one last
appointed may not be out of place.

Whether Mr. Silas Peckham had some contrivance for packing his
Committees, whether they happened always to be made up of optimists
by nature, whether they were cajoled into good-humor by polite
attentions, or whether they were always really delighted with the
wonderful acquirements of the pupils and the admirable order of the
school, it is certain that their Annual Reports were couched in
language which might warm the heart of the most cold-blooded and
calculating father that ever had a family of daughters to educate.
In fact, these Annual Reports were considered by Mr. Peckham as his
most effective advertisements.

The first thing, therefore, was to see that the Committee was made up
of persons known to the public.

Some worn-out politician, in that leisurely and amiable transition-
state which comes between official extinction and the paralysis which
will finish him as soon as his brain gets a little softer, made an
admirable Chairman for Mr. Peckham, when he had the luck to pick up
such an article. Old reputations, like old fashions, are more prized
in the grassy than in the stony districts. An effete celebrity, who
would never be heard of again in the great places until the funeral
sermon waked up his memory for one parting spasm, finds himself in
full flavor of renown a little farther back from the changing winds
of the sea-coast. If such a public character was not to be had, so
that there was no chance of heading the Report with the name of the
Honorable Mr. Somebody, the next best thing was to get the Reverend
Dr. Somebody to take that conspicuous position. Then would follow
two or three local worthies with Esquire after their names. If any
stray literary personage from one of the great cities happened to be
within reach, he was pounced upon by Mr. Silas Peckham. It was a
hard case for the poor man, who had travelled a hundred miles or two
to the outside suburbs after peace and unwatered milk, to be pumped
for a speech in this unexpected way. It was harder still, if he had
been induced to venture a few tremulous remarks, to be obliged to
write them out for the "Rockland Weekly Universe," with the chance of
seeing them used as an advertising certificate as long as he lived,
if he lived as long as the late Dr. Waterhouse did after giving his
certificate in favor of Whitwell's celebrated Cephalic Snuff.

The Report of the last Committee had been signed by the Honorable,
___________late __________ of ____________, as Chairman. (It is with
reluctance that the name and titles are left in blank; but our public
characters are so familiarly known to the whole community that this
reserve becomes necessary.) The other members of the Committee were
the Reverend Mr. Butters, of a neighboring town, who was to make the
prayer before the Exercises of the Exhibition, and two or three
notabilities of Rockland, with geoponic eyes, and glabrous, bumpless
foreheads. A few extracts from the Report are subjoined:

"The Committee have great pleasure in recording their unanimous
opinion, that the Institution was never in so flourishing a

"The health of the pupils is excellent; the admirable quality of food
supplied shows itself in their appearance; their blooming aspect
excited the admiration of the Committee, and bears testimony to the
assiduity of the excellent Matron.

"......moral and religious condition most encouraging, which they
cannot but attribute to the personal efforts and instruction of the
faithful Principal, who considers religious instruction a solemn duty
which he cannot commit to other people.

"......great progress in their studies, under the intelligent
superintendence of the accomplished Principal, assisted by Mr.
Badger, [Mr. Langdon's predecessor,] Miss Darley, the lady who
superintends the English branches, Miss Crabs, her assistant and
teacher of Modern Languages, and Mr. Schneider, teacher of French,
German, Latin, and Music....

"Education is the great business of the Institute. Amusements are
objects of a secondary nature; but these are by no means

"......English compositions of great originality and beauty,
creditable alike to the head and heart of their accomplished
authors.... several poems of a very high order of merit, which would
do honor to the literature of any age or country.... life-like
drawings, showing great proficiency.... Many converse fluently in
various modern languages.... perform the most difficult airs with
the skill of professional musicians....

"......advantages unsurpassed, if equalled by those of any
Institution in the country, and reflecting the highest honor on the
distinguished Head of the Establishment, SILAS PECKHAM, Esquire, and
his admirable Lady, the MATRON, with their worthy assistants...."

The perusal of this Report did Mr. Bernard more good than a week's
vacation would have done: It gave him such a laugh as he had not had
for a month. The way in which Silas Peckham had made his Committee
say what he wanted them to--for he recognized a number of expressions
in the Report as coming directly from the lips of his principal, and
could not help thinking how cleverly he had forced his phrases, as
jugglers do the particular card they wish their dupe to take--struck
him as particularly neat and pleasing.

He had passed through the sympathetic and emotional stages in his new
experience, and had arrived at the philosophical and practical state,
which takes things coolly, and goes to work to set them right. He
had breadth enough of view to see that there was nothing so very
exceptional in this educational trader's dealings with his
subordinates, but he had also manly feeling enough to attack the
particular individual instance of wrong before him. There are plenty
of dealer's in morals, as in ordinary traffic, who confine themselves
to wholesale business. They leave the small necessity of their next-
door neighbor to the retailers, who are poorer in statistics and
general facts, but richer in the every-day charities. Mr. Bernard
felt, at first, as one does who sees a gray rat steal out of a drain
and begin gnawing at the bark of some tree loaded with fruit or
blossoms, which he will soon girdle, if he is let alone. The first
impulse is to murder him with the nearest ragged stone. Then one
remembers that he is a rodent, acting after the law of his kind, and
cools down and is contented to drive him off and guard the tree
against his teeth for the future. As soon as this is done, one can
watch his attempts at mischief with a certain amusement.

This was the kind of process Mr. Bernard had gone through. First,
the indignant surprise of a generous nature, when it comes
unexpectedly into relations with a mean one. Then the impulse of
extermination,--a divine instinct, intended to keep down vermin of
all classes to their working averages in the economy of Nature. Then
a return of cheerful tolerance,--a feeling, that, if the Deity could
bear with rats and sharpers, he could; with a confident trust, that,
in the long run, terriers and honest men would have the upperhand,
and a grateful consciousness that he had been sent just at the right
time to come between a patient victim and the master who held her in

Having once made up his mind what to do, Mr. Bernard was as good-
natured and hopeful as ever. He had the great advantage, from his
professional training, of knowing how to recognize and deal with
the nervous disturbances to which overtasked women are so liable. He
saw well enough that Helen Darley would certainly kill herself or
lose her wits, if he could not lighten her labors and lift off a
large part of her weight of cares. The worst of it was, that she was
one of those women who naturally overwork themselves, like those
horses who will go at the top of their pace until they drop. Such
women are dreadfully unmanageable. It is as hard reasoning with them
as it would have been reasoning with Io, when she was flying over
land and sea, driven by the sting of the never-sleeping gadfly.

This was a delicate, interesting game that he played. Under one
innocent pretext or another, he invaded this or that special province
she had made her own. He would collect the themes and have them all
read and marked, answer all the puzzling questions in mathematics,
make the other teachers come to him for directions, and in this way
gradually took upon himself not only all the general superintendence
that belonged to his office, but stole away so many of the special
duties which might fairly have belonged to his assistant, that,
before she knew it, she was looking better and feeling more cheerful
than for many and many a month before.

When the nervous energy is depressed by any bodily cause, or
exhausted by overworking, there follow effects which have often been
misinterpreted by moralists, and especially by theologians. The
conscience itself becomes neuralgic, sometimes actually inflamed, so
that the least touch is agony. Of all liars and false accusers, a
sick conscience is the most inventive and indefatigable. The devoted
daughter, wife, mother, whose life has been given to unselfish
labors, who has filled a place which it seems to others only an angel
would make good, reproaches herself with incompetence and neglect of
duty. The humble Christian, who has been a model to others, calls
himself a worm of the dust on one page of his diary, and arraigns
himself on the next for coming short of the perfection of an

Conscience itself requires a conscience, or nothing can be more
unscrupulous. It told Saul that he did well in persecuting the
Christians. It has goaded countless multitudes of various creeds to
endless forms of self-torture. The cities of India are full of
cripples it has made. The hill-sides of Syria are riddled with
holes, where miserable hermits, whose lives it had palsied, lived and
died like the vermin they harbored. Our libraries are crammed with
books written by spiritual hypochondriacs, who inspected all their
moral secretions a dozen times a day. They are full of interest, but
they should be transferred from the shelf of the theologian to that
of the medical man who makes a study of insanity.

This was the state into which too much work and too much
responsibility were bringing Helen Darley, when the new master came
and lifted so much of the burden that was crushing her as must be
removed before she could have a chance to recover her natural
elasticity and buoyancy. Many of the noblest women, suffering like
her, but less fortunate in being relieved at the right moment, die
worried out of life by the perpetual teasing of this inflamed,
neuralgic conscience. So subtile is the line which separates the
true and almost angelic sensibility of a healthy, but exalted nature,
from the soreness of a soul which is sympathizing with a morbid state
of the body that it is no wonder they are often confounded. And thus
many good women are suffered to perish by that form of spontaneous
combustion in which the victim goes on toiling day and night with the
hidden fire consuming her, until all at once her cheek whitens, and,
as we look upon her, she drops away, a heap of ashes. The more they
overwork themselves, the more exacting becomes the sense of duty,--as
the draught of the locomotive's furnace blows stronger and makes the
fire burn more fiercely, the faster it spins along the track.

It is not very likely, as was said at the beginning of this chapter,
that we shall trouble ourselves a great deal about the internal
affairs of the Apollinean Institute. These schools are, in the
nature of things, not so very unlike each other as to require a
minute description for each particular one among them. They have all
very much the same general features, pleasing and displeasing. All
feeding-establishments have something odious about them,--from the
wretched country-houses where paupers are farmed out to the lowest
bidder, up to the commons-tables at colleges and even the fashionable
boarding-house. A person's appetite should be at war with no other
purse than his own. Young people, especially, who have a bone-
factory at work in them, and have to feed the living looms of
innumerable growing tissues, should be provided for, if possible, by
those who love them like their own flesh and blood. Elsewhere their
appetites will be sure to make them enemies, or, what are almost as
bad, friends whose interests are at variance with the claims of their
exacting necessities and demands.

Besides, all commercial transactions in regard to the most sacred
interests of life are hateful even to those who profit by them. The
clergyman, the physician, the teacher, must be paid; but each of
them, if his duty be performed in the true spirit, can hardly help a
shiver of disgust when money is counted out to him for administering
the consolations of religion, for saving some precious life, for
sowing the seeds of Christian civilization in young ingenuous souls.

And yet all these schools, with their provincial French and their
mechanical accomplishments, with their cheap parade of diplomas and
commencements and other public honors, have an ever fresh interest to
all who see the task they are performing in our new social order.
These girls are not being educated for governesses, or to be
exported, with other manufactured articles, to colonies where there
happens to be a surplus of males. Most of them will be wives, and
every American-born husband is a possible President of these United
States. Any one of these girls may be a four-years' queen. There is
no sphere of human activity so exalted that she may not be called
upon to fill it.

But there is another consideration of far higher interest. The
education of our community to all that is beautiful is flowing in
mainly through its women, and that to a considerable extent by the
aid of these large establishments, the least perfect of which do
something to stimulate the higher tastes and partially instruct them.
Sometimes there is, perhaps, reason to fear that girls will be too
highly educated for their own happiness, if they are lifted by their
culture out of the range of the practical and every-day working youth
by whom they are surrounded. But this is a risk we must take. Our
young men come into active life so early, that, if our girls were not
educated to something beyond mere practical duties, our material
prosperity would outstrip our culture; as it often does in large
places where money is made too rapidly. This is the meaning,
therefore, of that somewhat ambitious programme common to most of
these large institutions, at which we sometimes smile, perhaps
unwisely or uncharitably.

We shall take it for granted that the routine of instruction went on
at the Apollinean Institute much as it does in other schools of the
same class. People, young or old, are wonderfully different, if we
contrast extremes in pairs. They approach much nearer, if we take
them in groups of twenty. Take two separate hundreds as they come,
without choosing, and you get the gamut of human character in both so
completely that you can strike many chords in each which shall be in
perfect unison with corresponding ones in the other. If we go a step
farther, and compare the population of two villages of the same race
and region, there is such a regularly graduated distribution and
parallelism of character, that it seems as if Nature must turn out
human beings in sets like chessmen.

It must be confessed that the position in which Mr. Bernard now found
himself had a pleasing danger about it which might well justify all
the fears entertained on his account by more experienced friends,
when they learned that he was engaged in a Young Ladies' Seminary.
The school never went on more smoothly than during the first period
of his administration, after he had arranged its duties, and taken
his share, and even more than his share, upon himself. But human
nature does not wait for the diploma of the Apollinean Institute to
claim the exercise of it, instincts and faculties. These young girls
saw but little of the youth of the neighborhood. The mansion-house
young men were off at college or in the cities, or making love to
each other's sisters, or at any rate unavailable for some reason or
other. There were a few "clerks,"--that is, young men who attended
shops, commonly called "stores,"--who were fond of walking by the
Institute, when they were off duty, for the sake of exchanging a word
or a glance with any one of the young ladies they might happen to
know, if any such were stirring abroad: crude young men, mostly, with
a great many "Sirs" and "Ma'ams" in their speech, and with that style
of address sometimes acquired in the retail business, as if the
salesman were recommending himself to a customer, "First-rate family
article, Ma'am; warranted to wear a lifetime; just one yard and three
quarters in this pattern, Ma'am; sha'n't I have the pleasure?" and so
forth. If there had been ever so many of them, and if they had been
ever so fascinating, the quarantine of the Institute was too rigorous
to allow any romantic infection to be introduced from without.

Anybody might see what would happen, with a good-looking, well-
dressed, well-bred young man, who had the authority of a master, it
is true, but the manners of a friend and equal, moving about among
these young girls day after day, his eyes meeting theirs, his breath
mingling with theirs, his voice growing familiar to them, never in
any harsh tones, often soothing, encouraging, always sympathetic,
with its male depth and breadth of sound among the chorus of trebles,
as if it were a river in which a hundred of these little piping
streamlets-might lose themselves; anybody might see what would
happen. Young girls wrote home to their parents that they enjoyed
themselves much, this term, at the Institute, and thought they were
making rapid progress in their studies. There was a great enthusiasm
for the young master's reading-classes in English poetry. Some of
the poor little things began to adorn themselves with an extra
ribbon, or a bit of such jewelry as they had before kept for great
occasions. Dear souls! they only half knew what they were doing it
for. Does the bird know why its feathers grow more brilliant and its
voice becomes musical in the pairing season?

And so, in the midst of this quiet inland town, where a mere accident
had placed Mr. Bernard Langdon, there was a concentration of
explosive materials which might at any time change its Arcadian and
academic repose into a scene of dangerous commotion. What said Helen
Darley, when she saw with her woman's glance that more than one girl,
when she should be looking at her book, was looking over it toward
the master's desk? Was her own heart warmed by any livelier feeling
than gratitude, as its life began to flow with fuller pulses, and the
morning sky again looked bright and the flowers recovered their lost
fragrance? Was there any strange, mysterious affinity between the
master and the dark girl who sat by herself? Could she call him at
will by looking at him? Could it be that--? It made her shiver to
think of it.---And who was that strange horseman who passed Mr.
Bernard at dusk the other evening, looking so like Mephistopheles
galloping hard to be in season at the witches' Sabbath-gathering?
That must be the cousin of Elsie's who wants to marry her, they say.
A dangerous-looking fellow for a rival, if one took a fancy to the
dark girl! And who is she, and what?---by what demon is she haunted,
by what taint is she blighted, by what curse is she followed, by what
destiny is she marked, that her strange beauty has such a terror in
it, and that hardly one shall dare to love her, and her eye glitters
always, but warms for none?

Some of these questions are ours. Some were Helen Darley's. Some of
them mingled with the dreams of Bernard Langdon, as he slept the
night after meeting the strange horseman. In the morning he happened
to be a little late in entering the schoolroom. There was something
between the leaves of the Virgil which lay upon his desk. He opened
it and saw a freshly gathered mountain-flower. He looked at Elsie,
instinctively, involuntarily. She had another such flower on her

A young girl's graceful compliment,--that is all,--no doubt,--no
doubt. It was odd that the flower should have happened to be laid
between the leaves of the Fourth Book of the "AEneid," and at this

"Incipit effari, mediaque in voce resistit."

A remembrance of an ancient superstition flashed through the master's
mind, and he determined to try the Sortes Virgilianae. He shut the
volume, and opened it again at a venture.---The story of Laocoon!

He read with a strange feeling of unwilling fascination, from
"Horresco referees" to "Bis medium amplexi," and flung the book from
him, as if its leaves had been steeped in the subtle poisons that
princes die of.



People will talk. 'Ciascun lo dice' is a tune that is played oftener
than the national air of this country or any other.

"That 's what they say. Means to marry her, if she is his cousin.
Got money himself,--that 's the story,--but wants to come and live in
the old place, and get the Dudley property by and by." "Mother's
folks was wealthy."--"Twenty-three to twenty-five year old."--"He
a'n't more 'n twenty, or twenty-one at the outside."--"Looks as if
he knew too much to be only twenty year old."--"Guess he's been
through the mill,--don't look so green, anyhow, hey? Did y' ever
mind that cut over his left eyebrow?"

So they gossiped in Rockland. The young fellows could make nothing
of Dick Venner. He was shy and proud with the few who made advances
to him. The young ladies called him handsome and romantic, but he
looked at them like a many-tailed pacha who was in the habit of,
ordering his wives by the dozen.

"What do you think of the young man over there at the Veneers'?" said
Miss Arabella Thornton to her father.

"Handsome," said the Judge, "but dangerous-looking. His face is
indictable at common law. Do you know, my dear, I think there is a
blank at the Sheriff's office, with a place for his name in it?"

The Judge paused and looked grave, as if he had just listened to the
verdict of the jury and was going to pronounce sentence.

"Have you heard anything against him?" said the Judge's daughter.

"Nothing. But I don't like these mixed bloods and half-told stories.
Besides, I have seen a good many desperate fellows at the bar, and I
have a fancy they all have a look belonging to them. The worst one I
ever sentenced looked a good deal like this fellow. A wicked mouth.
All our other features are made for us; but a man makes his own

"Who was the person you sentenced?"

"He was a young fellow that undertook to garrote a man who had won
his money at cards. The same slender shape, the same cunning, fierce
look, smoothed over with a plausible air. Depend upon it, there is
an expression in all the sort of people who live by their wits when
they can, and by worse weapons when their wits fail them, that we old
law-doctors know just as well as the medical counsellors know the
marks of disease in a man's face. Dr. Kittredge looks at a man and
says he is going to die; I look at another man and say he is going to
be hanged, if nothing happens. I don't say so of this one, but I
don't like his looks. I wonder Dudley Veneer takes to him so

"It's all for Elsie's sake," said Miss Thornton. "I feel quite sure
of that. He never does anything that is not meant for her in some
way. I suppose it amuses her to have her cousin about the house.
She rides a good deal since he has been here. Have you seen them
galloping about together? He looks like my idea of a Spanish bandit
on that wild horse of his."

"Possibly he has been one,--or is one," said the Judge,--smiling as
men smile whose lips have often been freighted with the life and
death of their fellow-creatures. "I met them riding the other day.
Perhaps Dudley is right, if it pleases her to have a companion. What
will happen, though, if he makes love to her? Will Elsie be easily
taken with such a fellow? You young folks are supposed to know more
about these matters than we middle-aged people."

"Nobody can tell. Elsie is not like anybody else. The girls who
have seen most of her think she hates men, all but 'Dudley,' as she
calls her father. Some of them doubt whether she loves him. They
doubt whether she can love anything human, except perhaps the old
black woman who has taken care of her since she was a baby. The
village people have the strangest stories about her; you know what
they call her?"

She whispered three words in her father's ear. The Judge changed
color as she spoke, sighed deeply, and was silent as if lost in
thought for a moment.

"I remember her mother," he said, "so well! A sweeter creature never
lived. Elsie has something of her in her look, but those are not her
mother's eyes. They were dark, but soft, as in all I ever saw of her
race. Her father's are dark too, but mild, and even tender, I should
say. I don't know what there is about Elsie's,--but do you know, my
dear, I find myself curiously influenced by them? I have had to face
a good many sharp eyes and hard ones,--murderers' eyes and pirates',
--men who had to be watched in the bar, where they stood on trial,
for fear they should spring on the prosecuting officers like tigers,
--but I never saw such eyes as Elsie's; and yet they have a kind of
drawing virtue or power about them,--I don't know what else to call
it: have you never observed this?"

His daughter smiled in her turn.

"Never observed it? Why, of course, nobody could be with Elsie
Venner and not observe it. There are a good many other strange
things about her: did you ever notice how she dresses?"

"Why, handsomely enough, I should think," the Judge answered. "I
suppose she dresses as she likes, and sends to the city for what she
wants. What do you mean in particular? We men notice effects in
dress, but not much in detail."

"You never noticed the colors and patterns of her dresses? You never
remarked anything curious about her ornaments? Well! I don't
believe you men know, half the time, whether a lady wears a nine-
penny collar or a thread-lace cape worth a thousand dollars. I don't
believe you know a silk dress from a bombazine one. I don't believe
you can tell whether a woman is in black or in colors, unless you
happen to know she is a widow. Elsie Venner has a strange taste in
dress, let me tell you. She sends for the oddest patterns of stuffs,
and picks out the most curious things at the jeweller's, whenever she
goes to town with her father. They say the old Doctor tells him to
let her have her way about such matters. Afraid of her mind, if she
is contradicted, I suppose. You've heard about her going to school
at that place,--the 'Institoot,' as those people call it? They say
she's bright enough in her way,--has studied at home, you know, with
her father a good deal, knows some modern languages and Latin, I
believe: at any rate, she would have it so,--she must go to the
'Institoot.' They have a very good female teacher there, I hear; and
the new master, that young Mr. Langdon, looks and talks like a well-
educated young man. I wonder what they 'll make of Elsie, between

So they talked at the Judge's, in the calm, judicial-looking mansion-
house, in the grave, still library, with the troops of wan-hued law-
books staring blindly out of their titles at them as they talked,
like the ghosts of dead attorneys fixed motionless and speechless,
each with a thin, golden film over his unwinking eyes.

In the mean time, everything went on quietly enough after Cousin
Richard's return. A man of sense,--that is, a man who knows
perfectly well that a cool head is worth a dozen warm hearts in
carrying the fortress of a woman's affections, (not yours, "Astarte,"
nor yours, "Viola,")--who knows that men are rejected by women every
day because they, the men, love them, and are accepted every day
because they do not, and therefore can study the arts of pleasing,--a
man of sense, when he finds he has established his second parallel
too soon, retires quietly to his first, and begins working on his
covered ways again. The whole art of love may be read in any
Encyclopaedia under the title Fortification, where the terms just
used are explained. After the little adventure of the necklace, Dick
retreated at once to his first parallel. Elsie loved riding,--and
would go off with him on a gallop now and then. He was a master of
all those strange Indian horseback-feats which shame the tricks of
the circus-riders, and used to astonish and almost amuse her
sometimes by disappearing from his saddle, like a phantom horseman
lying flat against the side of the bounding creature that bore him,
as if he were a hunting leopard with his claws in the horse's flank
and flattening himself out against his heaving ribs. Elsie knew a
little Spanish too, which she had learned from the young person who
had taught her dancing, and Dick enlarged her vocabulary with a few
soft phrases, and would sing her a song sometimes, touching the air
upon an ancient-looking guitar they had found with the ghostly things
in the garret,--a quaint old instrument, marked E. M. on the back,
and supposed to have belonged to a certain Elizabeth Mascarene,
before mentioned in connection with a work of art,--a fair, dowerless
lady, who smiled and sung and faded away, unwedded, a hundred years
ago, as dowerless ladies, not a few, are smiling and singing and
fading now,--God grant each of them His love,--and one human heart as
its interpreter!

As for school, Elsie went or stayed away as she liked. Sometimes,
when they thought she was at her desk in the great schoolroom, she
would be on The Mountain,--alone always. Dick wanted to go with her,
but she would never let him. Once, when she had followed the zigzag
path a little way up, she looked back and caught a glimpse of him
following her. She turned and passed him without a word, but giving
him a look which seemed to make the scars on his wrist tingle, went
to her room, where she locked herself up, and did not come out again
till evening, Old Sophy having brought her food, and set it down, not
speaking, but looking into her eyes inquiringly, like a dumb beast
trying to feel out his master's will in his face. The evening was
clear and the moon shining. As Dick sat at his chamber-window,
looking at the mountain-side, he saw a gray-dressed figure flit
between the trees and steal along the narrow path which led upward.
Elsie's pillow was unpressed that night, but she had not been missed
by the household,--for Dick knew enough to keep his own counsel. The
next morning she avoided him and went off early to school. It was
the same morning that the young master found the flower between the
leaves of his Virgil.

The girl got over her angry fit, and was pleasant enough with her
cousin for a few days after this; but she shunned rather than sought
him. She had taken a new interest in her books, and especially in
certain poetical readings which the master conducted with the elder
scholars. This gave Master Langdon a good chance to study her ways
when her eye was on her book, to notice the inflections of her voice,
to watch for any expression of her sentiments; for, to tell the
truth, he had a kind of fear that the girl had taken a fancy to him,
and, though she interested him, he did not wish to study her heart
from the inside.

The more he saw her, the more the sadness of her beauty wrought upon
him. She looked as if she might hate, but could not love. She
hardly smiled at anything, spoke rarely, but seemed to feel that her
natural power of expression lay all in her bright eyes, the force of
which so many had felt, but none perhaps had tried to explain to
themselves. A person accustomed to watch the faces of those who were
ailing in body or mind, and to search in every line and tint for some
underlying source of disorder, could hardly help analyzing the
impression such a face produced upon him. The light of those
beautiful eyes was like the lustre of ice; in all her features there
was nothing of that human warmth which shows that sympathy has
reached the soul beneath the mask of flesh it wears. The look was
that of remoteness, of utter isolation. There was in its stony
apathy, it seemed to him, the pathos which we find in the blind who
show no film or speck over the organs of sight; for Nature had meant
her to be lovely, and left out nothing but love. And yet the master
could not help feeling that some instinct was working in this girl
which was in some way leading her to seek his presence. She did not
lift her glittering eyes upon him as at first. It seemed strange
that she did not, for they were surely her natural weapons of
conquest. Her color did not come and go like that of young girls
under excitement. She had a clear brunette complexion, a little sun-
touched, it may be,--for the master noticed once, when her necklace
was slightly displaced, that a faint ring or band of a little lighter
shade than the rest of the surface encircled her neck. What was the
slight peculiarity of her enunciation, when she read? Not a lisp,
certainly, but the least possible imperfection in articulating some
of the lingual sounds,--just enough to be noticed at first, and quite
forgotten after being a few times heard.

Not a word about the flower on either side. It was not uncommon for
the schoolgirls to leave a rose or pink or wild flower on the
teacher's desk. Finding it in the Virgil was nothing, after all; it
was a little delicate flower, which looked as if it were made to
press, and it was probably shut in by accident at the particular
place where he found it. He took it into his head to examine it in a
botanical point of view. He found it was not common,--that it grew
only in certain localities,--and that one of these was among the
rocks of the eastern spur of The Mountain.

It happened to come into his head how the Swiss youth climb the sides
of the Alps to find the flower called the Edelweiss for the maidens
whom they wish to please. It is a pretty fancy, that of scaling some
dangerous height before the dawn, so as to gather the flower in its
freshness, that the favored maiden may wear it to church on Sunday
morning, a proof at once of her lover's devotion and his courage.
Mr. Bernard determined to explore the region where this flower was
said to grow, that he might see where the wild girl sought the
blossoms of which Nature was so jealous.

It was on a warm, fair Saturday afternoon that he undertook his land-
voyage of discovery. He had more curiosity, it may be, than he would
have owned; for he had heard of the girl's wandering habits, and the
guesses about her sylvan haunts, and was thinking what the chances
were that he should meet her in some strange place, or come upon
traces of her which would tell secrets she would not care to have

The woods are all alive to one who walks through them with his mind
in an excited state, and his eyes and ears wide open. The trees are
always talking, not merely whispering with their leaves, (for every
tree talks to itself in that way, even when it stands alone in the
middle of a pasture,) but grating their boughs against each other, as
old horn-handed farmers press their dry, rustling palms together,
dropping a nut or a leaf or a twig, clicking to the tap of a
woodpecker, or rustling as a squirrel flashes along a branch. It was
now the season of singing-birds, and the woods were haunted with
mysterious, tender music. The voices of the birds which love the
deeper shades of the forest are sadder than those of the open fields:
these are the nuns who have taken the veil, the hermits that have
hidden themselves away from the world and tell their griefs to the
infinite listening Silences of the wilderness,--for the one deep
inner silence that Nature breaks with her fitful superficial sounds
becomes multiplied as the image of a star in ruffled waters.
Strange! The woods at first convey the impression of profound
repose, and yet, if you watch their ways with open ear, you find the
life which is in them is restless and nervous as that of a woman: the
little twigs are crossing and twining and separating like slender
fingers that cannot be still; the stray leaf is to be flattened into
its place like a truant curl; the limbs sway and twist, impatient of
their constrained attitude; and the rounded masses of foliage swell
upward and subside from time to time with long soft sighs, and, it
may be, the falling of a few rain-drops which had lain hidden among
the deeper shadows. I pray you, notice, in the sweet summer days
which will soon see you among the mountains, this inward tranquillity
that belongs to the heart of the woodland, with this nervousness, for
I do not know what else to call it, of outer movement. One would
say, that Nature, like untrained persons, could not sit still without
nestling about or doing something with her limbs or features, and
that high breeding was only to be looked for in trim gardens, where
the soul of the trees is ill at ease perhaps, but their manners are
unexceptionable, and a rustling branch or leaf falling out of season
is an indecorum. The real forest is hardly still except in the
Indian summer; then there is death in the house, and they are waiting
for the sharp shrunken months to come with white raiment for the
summer's burial.

There were many hemlocks in this neighborhood, the grandest and most
solemn of all the forest-trees in the mountain regions. Up to a
certain period of growth they are eminently beautiful, their boughs
disposed in the most graceful pagoda-like series of close terraces,
thick and dark with green crystalline leaflets. In spring the tender
shoots come out of a paler green, finger-like, as if they were
pointing to the violets at their feet. But when the trees have grown
old, and their rough boles measure a yard and more through their
diameter, they are no longer beautiful, but they have a sad solemnity
all their own, too full of meaning to require the heart's comment to
be framed in words. Below, all their earthward-looking branches are
sapless and shattered, splintered by the weight of many winters'
snows; above, they are still green and full of life, but their
summits overtop all the deciduous trees around them, and in their
companionship with heaven they are alone. On these the lightning
loves to fall. One such Mr. Bernard saw,--or rather, what had been
one such; for the bolt had torn the tree like an explosion from
within, and the ground was strewed all around the broken stump with
flakes of rough bark and strips and chips of shivered wood, into
which the old tree had been rent by the bursting rocket from the

--The master had struck up The Mountain obliquely from the western
side of the Dudley mansion-house. In this way he ascended until he
reached a point many hundred feet above the level of the plain, and
commanding all the country beneath and around. Almost at his feet he
saw the mansion-house, the chimney standing out of the middle of the
roof, or rather, like a black square hole in it,--the trees almost
directly over their stems, the fences as lines, the whole nearly as
an architect would draw a ground-plan of the house and the inclosures
round it. It frightened him to see how the huge masses of rock and
old forest-growths hung over the home below. As he descended a
little and drew near the ledge of evil name, he was struck with the
appearance of a long narrow fissure that ran parallel with it and
above it for many rods, not seemingly of very old standing,--for
there were many fibres of roots which had evidently been snapped
asunder when the rent took place, and some of which were still
succulent in both separated portions.

Mr. Bernard had made up his mind, when he set forth, not to come back
before he had examined the dreaded ledge. He had half persuaded
himself that it was scientific curiosity. He wished to examine the
rocks, to see what flowers grew there, and perhaps to pick up an
adventure in the zoological line; for he had on a pair of high, stout
boots, and he carried a stick in his hand, which was forked at one
extremity, so as to be very convenient to hold down a crotalus with,
if he should happen to encounter one. He knew the aspect of the
ledge from a distance; for its bald and leprous-looking declivities
stood out in their nakedness from the wooded sides of The Mountain,
when this was viewed from certain points of the village. But the
nearer aspect of the blasted region had something frightful in it.
The cliffs were water-worn, as if they had been gnawed for thousands
of years by hungry waves. In some places they overhung their base so
as to look like leaning towers which might topple over at any minute.
In other parts they were scooped into niches or caverns. Here and
there they were cracked in deep fissures, some of them of such width
that one might enter them, if he cared to run the risk of meeting the
regular tenants, who might treat him as an intruder.

Parts of the ledge were cloven perpendicularly, with nothing but
cracks or slightly projecting edges in which or on which a foot could
find hold. High up on one of these precipitous walls of rock he saw
some tufts of flowers, and knew them at once for the same that he had
found between the leaves of his Virgil. Not there, surely! No woman
would have clung against that steep, rough parapet to gather an idle
blossom. And yet the master looked round everywhere, and even up the
side of that rock, to see if there were no signs of a woman's
footstep. He peered about curiously, as if his eye might fall on some
of those fragments of dress which women leave after them, whenever
they run against each other or against anything else,--in crowded
ballrooms, in the brushwood after picnics, on the fences after
rambles, scattered round over every place which has witnessed an act
of violence, where rude hands have been laid upon them. Nothing--
Stop, though, one moment. That stone is smooth and polished, as if
it had been somewhat worn by the pressure of human feet. There is
one twig broken among the stems of that clump of shrubs. He put his
foot upon the stone and took hold of the close-clinging shrub. In
this way he turned a sharp angle of the rock and found himself on a
natural platform, which lay in front of one of the wider fissures,--
whether the mouth of a cavern or not he could not yet tell. A flat
stone made an easy seat, upon which he sat down, as he was very glad
to do, and looked mechanically about him. A small fragment
splintered from the rock was at his feet. He took it and threw it
down the declivity a little below where he sat. He looked about for
a stem or a straw of some kind to bite upon,--a country-instinct,--
relic, no doubt, of the old vegetable-feeding habits of Eden. Is
that a stem or a straw? He picked it up. It was a hair-pin.

To say that Mr. Langdon had a strange sort of thrill shoot through
him at the sight of this harmless little implement would be a
statement not at variance with the fact of the case. That smooth
stone had been often trodden, and by what foot he could not doubt.
He rose up from his seat to look round for other signs of a woman's
visits. What if there is a cavern here, where she has a retreat,
fitted up, perhaps, as anchorites fitted their cells,--nay, it may
be, carpeted and mirrored, and with one of those tiger-skins for a
couch, such as they, say the girl loves to lie on? Let us look, at
any rate.

Mr. Bernard walked to the mouth of the cavern or fissure and looked
into it. His look was met by the glitter of two diamond eyes, small,
sharp, cold, shining out of the darkness, but gliding with a smooth,
steady motion towards the light, and himself. He stood fixed, struck
dumb, staring back into them with dilating pupils and sudden numbness
of fear that cannot move, as in the terror of dreams. The two sparks
of light came forward until they grew to circles of flame, and all at
once lifted themselves up as if in angry surprise. Then for the
first time thrilled in Mr. Bernard's ears the dreadful sound that
nothing which breathes, be it man or brute, can hear unmoved,--the
long, loud, stinging whirr, as the huge, thick bodied reptile shook
his many-jointed rattle and adjusted his loops for the fatal stroke.
His eyes were drawn as with magnets toward the circles of flame. His
ears rung as in the overture to the swooning dream of chloroform.
Nature was before man with her anaesthetics: the cat's first shake
stupefies the mouse; the lion's first shake deadens the man's fear
and feeling; and the crotalus paralyzes before he strikes. He waited
as in a trance,--waited as one that longs to have the blow fall, and
all over, as the man who shall be in two pieces in a second waits for
the axe to drop. But while he looked straight into the flaming eyes,
it seemed to him that they were losing their light and terror, that
they were growing tame and dull; the charm was dissolving, the
numbness was passing away, he could move once more. He heard a light
breathing close to his ear, and, half turning, saw the face of Elsie
Venner, looking motionless into the reptile's eyes, which had shrunk
and faded under the stronger enchantment of her own.



It was commonly understood in the town of Rockland that Dudley Venner
had had a great deal of trouble with that daughter of his, so
handsome, yet so peculiar, about whom there were so many strange
stories. There was no end to the tales which were told of her
extraordinary doings. Yet her name was never coupled with that of
any youth or man, until this cousin had provoked remark by his visit;
and even then it was oftener in the shape of wondering conjectures
whether he would dare to make love to her, than in any pretended
knowledge of their relations to each other, that the public tongue
exercised its village-prerogative of tattle.

The more common version of the trouble at the mansion-house was this:
Elsie was not exactly in her right mind. Her temper was singular,
her tastes were anomalous, her habits were lawless, her antipathies
were many and intense, and she was liable to explosions of
ungovernable anger. Some said that was not the worst of it. At
nearly fifteen years old, when she was growing fast, and in an
irritable state of mind and body, she had had a governess placed over
her for whom she had conceived an aversion. It was whispered among a
few who knew more of the family secrets than others, that, worried
and exasperated by the presence and jealous oversight of this person,
Elsie had attempted to get finally rid of her by unlawful means, such
as young girls have been known to employ in their straits, and to
which the sex at all ages has a certain instinctive tendency, in
preference to more palpable instruments for the righting of its
wrongs. At any rate, this governess had been taken suddenly ill, and
the Doctor had been sent for at midnight. Old Sophy had taken her
master into a room apart, and said a few words to him which turned
him as white as a sheet. As soon as he recovered himself, he sent
Sophy out, called in the old Doctor, and gave him some few hints, on
which he acted at once, and had the satisfaction of seeing his
patient out of danger before he left in the morning. It is proper to
say, that, during the following days, the most thorough search was
made in every nook and cranny of those parts of the house which Elsie
chiefly haunted, but nothing was found which might be accused of
having been the intentional cause of the probably accidental sudden
illness of the governess. From this time forward her father was
never easy. Should he keep her apart, or shut her up, for fear of
risk to others, and so lose every chance of restoring her mind to its
healthy tone by kindly influences and intercourse with wholesome
natures? There was no proof, only presumption, as to the agency of
Elsie in the matter referred to. But the doubt was worse, perhaps,
than certainty would have been,--for then he would have known what to

He took the old Doctor as his adviser. The shrewd old man listened
to the father's story, his explanations of possibilities, of
probabilities, of dangers, of hopes. When he had got through, the
Doctor looked him in the face steadily, as if he were saying, Is that

The father's eyes fell. This was not all. There was something at
the bottom of his soul which he could not bear to speak of,--nay,
which, as often as it reared itself through the dark waves of
unworded consciousness into the breathing air of thought, he trod
down as the ruined angels tread down a lost soul, trying to come up
out of the seething sea of torture. Only this one daughter! No!
God never would have ordained such a thing. There was nothing ever
heard of like it; it could not be; she was ill,--she would outgrow
all these singularities; he had had an aunt who was peculiar; he had
heard that hysteric girls showed the strangest forms of moral
obliquity for a time, but came right at last. She would change all
at once, when her health got more firmly settled in the course of her
growth. Are there not rough buds that open into sweet flowers? Are
there not fruits, which, while unripe, are not to be tasted or
endured, which mature into the richest taste and fragrance? In God's
good time she would come to her true nature; her eyes would lose that
frightful, cold glitter; her lips would not feel so cold when she
pressed them against his cheek; and that faint birth-mark, her mother
swooned when she first saw, would fade wholly out,--it was less
marked, surely, now than it used to be!

So Dudley Venner felt, and would have thought, if he had let his
thoughts breathe the air of his soul. But the Doctor read through
words and thoughts and all into the father's consciousness. There
are states of mind which may be shared by two persons in presence of
each other, which remain not only unworded, but unthoughted, if such
a word may be coined for our special need. Such a mutually
interpenetrative consciousness there was between the father and the
old physician. By a common impulse, both of them rose in a
mechanical way and went to the western window, where each started, as
he saw the other's look directed towards the white stone which stood
in the midst of the small plot of green turf.

The Doctor had, for a moment, forgotten himself but he looked up at
the clouds, which were angry, and said, as if speaking of the
weather, "It is dark now, but we hope it will clear up by and by.
There are a great many more clouds than rains, and more rains than
strokes of lightning, and more strokes of lightning than there are
people killed. We must let this girl of ours have her way, as far as
it is safe. Send away this woman she hates, quietly. Get her a
foreigner for a governess, if you can,--one that can dance and sing
and will teach her. In the house old Sophy will watch her best. Out
of it you must trust her, I am afraid,--for she will not be followed
round, and she is in less danger than you think. If she wanders at
night, find her, if you can; the woods are not absolutely safe. If
she will be friendly with any young people, have them to see her,--
young men especially. She will not love any one easily, perhaps not
at all; yet love would be more like to bring her right than anything
else. If any young person seems in danger of falling in love with
her, send him to me for counsel."

Dry, hard advice, but given from a kind hewn, with a moist eye, and
in tones which tried to be cheerful and were full of sympathy. This
advice was the key to the more than indulgent treatment which, as we
have seen, the girl had received from her father and all about her.
The old Doctor often came in, in the kindest, most natural sort of
way, got into pleasant relations with Elsie by always treating her in
the same easy manner as at the great party, encouraging all her
harmless fancies, and rarely reminding her that he was a professional
adviser, except when she came out of her own accord, as in the talk
they had at the party, telling him of some wild trick she had been

"Let her go to the girls' school, by all means," said the Doctor,
when she had begun to talk about it. "Possibly she may take to some
of the girls or of the teachers. Anything to interest her.
Friendship, love, religion, whatever will set her nature at work. We
must have headway on, or there will be no piloting her. Action first
of all, and then we will see what to do with it."

So, when Cousin Richard came along, the Doctor, though he did not
like his looks any too well, told her father to encourage his staying
for a time. If she liked him, it was good; if she only tolerated
him, it was better than nothing.

"You know something about that nephew of yours, during these last
years, I suppose?" the Doctor said. "Looks as if he had seen life.
Has a scar that was made by a sword-cut, and a white spot on the side
of his neck that looks like a bullet-mark. I think he has been what
folks call a 'hard customer.'"

Dudley Venner owned that he had heard little or nothing of him of
late years. He had invited himself, and of course it would not be
decent not to receive him as a relative. He thought Elsie rather
liked having him about the house for a while. She was very
capricious,--acted as if she fancied him one day and disliked him the
next. He did not know,--but sometimes thought that this nephew of
his might take a serious liking to Elsie. What should he do about
it, if it turned out so?

The Doctor lifted his eyebrows a little. He thought there was no
fear. Elsie was naturally what they call a man-hater, and there was
very little danger of any sudden passion springing up between two
such young persons. Let him stay awhile; it gives her something to
think about. So he stayed awhile, as we have seen.

The more Mr. Richard became acquainted with the family,--that is,
with the two persons of whom it consisted,--the more favorably the
idea of a permanent residence in the mansion-house seemed to impress
him. The estate was large,--hundreds of acres, with woodlands and
meadows of great value. The father and daughter had been living
quietly, and there could not be a doubt that the property which came
through the Dudleys must have largely increased of late years. It
was evident enough that they had an abundant income, from the way in
which Elsie's caprices were indulged. She had horses and carriages
to suit herself; she sent to the great city for everything she wanted
in the way of dress. Even her diamonds--and the young man knew
something about these gems--must be of considerable value; and yet
she wore them carelessly, as it pleased her fancy. She had precious
old laces, too, almost worth their weight in diamonds; laces which
had been snatched from altars in ancient Spanish cathedrals during
the wars, and which it would not be safe to leave a duchess alone
with for ten minutes. The old house was fat with the deposits of
rich generations which had gone before. The famous "golden" fire-set
was a purchase of one of the family who had been in France during the
Revolution, and must have come from a princely palace, if not from
one of the royal residences. As for silver, the iron closet which
had been made in the dining-room wall was running over with it: tea-
kettles, coffee-pots, heavy-lidded tankards, chafing-dishes, punch-
bowls, all that all the Dudleys had ever used, from the caudle-cup
which used to be handed round the young mother's chamber, and the
porringer from which children scooped their bread-and-milk with
spoons as solid as ingots, to that ominous vessel, on the upper
shelf, far back in the dark, with a spout like a slender italic S,
out of which the sick and dying, all along the last century, and
since, had taken the last drops that passed their lips. Without
being much of a scholar, Dick could see well enough, too, that the
books in the library had been ordered from the great London houses,
whose imprint they bore, by persons who knew what was best and meant
to have it. A man does not require much learning to feel pretty
sure, when he takes one of those solid, smooth, velvet-leaved
quartos, say a Baskerville Addison, for instance, bound in red
morocco, with a margin of gold as rich as the embroidery of a
prince's collar, as Vandyck drew it,--he need not know much to feel
pretty sure that a score or two of shelves full of such books mean
that it took a long purse, as well as a literary taste, to bring them

To all these attractions the mind of this thoughtful young gentleman
may be said to have been fully open. He did not disguise from
himself, however, that there were a number of drawbacks in the way of
his becoming established as the heir of the Dudley mansion-house and
fortune. In the first place, Cousin Elsie was, unquestionably, very
piquant, very handsome, game as a hawk, and hard to please, which
made her worth trying for. But then there was something about Cousin
Elsie,--(the small, white scars began stinging, as he said this to
himself, and he pushed his sleeve up to look at them)--there was
something about Cousin Elsie he couldn't make out. What was the
matter with her eyes, that they sucked your life out of you in that
strange way? What did she always wear a necklace for? Had she some
such love-token on her neck as the old Don's revolver had left on
his? How safe would anybody feel to live with her? Besides, her
father would last forever, if he was left to himself. And he may
take it into his head to marry again. That would be pleasant!

So talked Cousin Richard to himself, in the calm of the night and in
the tranquillity of his own soul. There was much to be said on both
sides. It was a balance to be struck after the two columns were
added up. He struck the balance, and came to the conclusion that he
would fall in love with Elsie Venner.

The intelligent reader will not confound this matured and serious
intention of falling in love with the young lady with that mere
impulse of the moment before mentioned as an instance of making love.
On the contrary, the moment Mr. Richard had made up his mind that he
should fall in love with Elsie, he began to be more reserved with
her, and to try to make friends in other quarters. Sensible men, you
know, care very little what a girl's present fancy is. The question
is: Who manages her, and how can you get at that person or those
persons? Her foolish little sentiments are all very well in their
way; but business is business, and we can't stop for such trifles.
The old political wire-pullers never go near the man they want to
gain, if they can help it; they find out who his intimates and
managers are, and work through them. Always handle any positively
electrical body, whether it is charged with passion or power, with
some non-conductor between you and it, not with your naked hands.---
The above were some of the young gentleman's working axioms; and he
proceeded to act in accordance with them.

He began by paying his court more assiduously to his uncle. It was
not very hard to ingratiate himself in that quarter; for his manners
were insinuating, and his precocious experience of life made him
entertaining. The old neglected billiard--room was soon put in
order, and Dick, who was a magnificent player, had a series of games
with his uncle, in which, singularly enough, he was beaten, though
his antagonist had been out of play for years. He evinced a profound
interest in the family history, insisted on having the details of its
early alliances, and professed a great pride in it, which he had
inherited from his father, who, though he had allied himself with the
daughter of an alien race, had yet chosen one with the real azure
blood in her veins, as proud as if she had Castile and Aragon for her
dower and the Cid for her grand-papa. He also asked a great deal of
advice, such as inexperienced young persons are in need of, and
listened to it with due reverence.

It is not very strange that uncle Dudley took a kinder view of his
nephew than the Judge, who thought he could read a questionable
history in his face,--or the old Doctor, who knew men's temperaments
and organizations pretty well, and had his prejudices about races,
and could tell an old sword-cut and a ballet-mark in two seconds from
a scar got by falling against the fender, or a mark left by king's
evil. He could not be expected to share our own prejudices; for he
had heard nothing of the wild youth's adventures, or his scamper over
the Pampas at short notice. So, then, "Richard Venner, Esquire,
guest of Dudley Venner, Esquire, at his elegant mansion," prolonged
his visit until his presence became something like a matter of habit,
and the neighbors began to think that the fine old house would be
illuminated before long for a grand marriage.

He had done pretty well with the father: the next thing was to gain
over the nurse. Old Sophy was as cunning as a red fox or a gray
woodchuck. She had nothing in the world to do but to watch Elsie;
she had nothing to care for but this girl and her father. She had
never liked Dick too well; for he used to make faces at her and tease
her when he was a boy, and now he was a man there was something about
him.---she could not tell what--that made her suspicious of him. It
was no small matter to get her over to his side.

The jet-black Africans know that gold never looks so well as on the
foil of their dark skins. Dick found in his trunk a string of gold
beads, such as are manufactured in some of our cities, which he had
brought from the gold region of Chili,--so he said,--for the express
purpose of giving them to old Sophy. These Africans, too, have a
perfect passion for gay-colored clothing; being condemned by Nature,
as it were, to a perpetual mourning-suit, they love to enliven it
with all sorts of variegated stuffs of sprightly patterns, aflame
with red and yellow. The considerate young man had remembered this,
too, and brought home for Sophy some handkerchiefs of rainbow hues,
which had been strangely overlooked till now, at the bottom of one of
his trunks. Old Sophy took his gifts, but kept her black eyes open
and watched every movement of the young people all the more closely.
It was through her that the father had always known most of the
actions and tendencies of his daughter.

In the mean time the strange adventure on The Mountain had brought
the young master into new relations with Elsie. She had led him out
of, danger; perhaps saved him from death by the strange power she
exerted. He was grateful, and yet shuddered at the recollection of
the whole scene. In his dreams he was pursued by the glare of cold
glittering eyes, whether they were in the head of a woman or of a
reptile he could not always tell, the images had so run together.
But he could not help seeing that the eyes of the young girl had been
often, very often, turned upon him when he had been looking away, and
fell as his own glance met them. Helen Darley told him very plainly
that this girl was thinking about him more than about her book. Dick
Venner found she was getting more constant in her attendance at
school. He learned, on inquiry, that there was a new master, a
handsome young man. The handsome young man would not have liked the
look that, came over Dick's face when he heard this fact mentioned.

In short, everything was getting tangled up together, and there would
be no chance of disentangling the threads in this chapter.



If Master Bernard felt a natural gratitude to his young pupil for
saving him from an imminent peril, he was in a state of infinite
perplexity to know why he should have needed such aid. He, an
active, muscular, courageous, adventurous young fellow, with--a stick
in his hand, ready to hold down the Old Serpent himself, if he had
come in his way, to stand still, staring into those two eyes, until
they came up close to him, and the strange, terrible sound seemed to
freeze him stiff where he stood,--what was the meaning of it? Again,
what was the influence this girl had seemingly exerted, under which
the venomous creature had collapsed in such a sudden way? Whether he
had been awake or dreaming he did not feel quite sure. He knew he
had gone up The Mountain, at any rate; he knew he had come down The
Mountain with the girl walking just before him;--there was no
forgetting her figure, as she walked on in silence, her braided locks
falling a little, for want of the lost hairpin, perhaps, and looking
like a wreathing coil of--Shame on such fancies!--to wrong that
supreme crowning gift of abounding Nature, a rush of shining black
hair, which, shaken loose, would cloud her all round, like Godiva,
from brow to instep! He was sure he had sat down before the fissure
or cave. He was sure that he was led softly away from the place, and
that it was Elsie who had led him. There was the hair-pin to show
that so far it was not a dream. But between these recollections came
a strange confusion; and the more the master thought, the more he was
perplexed to know whether she had waked him, sleeping, as he sat on
the stone, from some frightful dream, such as may come in a very
brief slumber, or whether she had bewitched him into a trance with
those strange eyes of hers, or whether it was all true, and he must
solve its problem as he best might.

There was another recollection connected with this mountain
adventure. As they approached the mansion-house, they met a young
man, whom Mr. Bernard remembered having seen once at least before,
and whom he had heard of as a cousin of the young girl. As Cousin
Richard Venner, the person in question, passed them, he took the
measure, so to speak, of Mr. Bernard, with a look so piercing, so
exhausting, so practised, so profoundly suspicious, that the young
master felt in an instant that he had an enemy in this handsome
youth,--an enemy, too, who was like to be subtle and dangerous.

Mr. Bernard had made up his mind, that, come what might, enemy or no
enemy, live or die, he would solve the mystery of Elsie Venner,
sooner or later. He was not a man to be frightened out of his
resolution by a scowl, or a stiletto, or any unknown means of
mischief, of which a whole armory was hinted at in that passing look
Dick Venner had given him. Indeed, like most adventurous young
persons, he found a kind of charm in feeling that there might be some

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