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Etexts from Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Part 4 out of 5

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She was clad entirely in white, a pale, ethereal creature, who,
though a native of New England, had been educated abroad, and
seemed not merely a stranger from another clime, but almost a
being from another world. For several years, until left an
orphan, she had dwelt with her father in sunny Italy, and there
had acquired a taste and enthusiasm for sculpture and painting
which she found few opportunities of gratifying in the
undecorated dwellings of the colonial gentry. It was said that
the early productions of her own pencil exhibited no inferior
genius, though, perhaps, the rude atmosphere of New England had
cramped her hand, and dimmed the glowing colors of her fancy. But
observing her uncle's steadfast gaze, which appeared to search
through the mist of years to discover the subject of the picture,
her curiosity was excited.

"Is it known, my dear uncle," inquired she, "what this old
picture once represented? Possibly, could it be made visible, it
might prove a masterpiece of some great artist--else, why has it
so long held such a conspicuous place?"

As her uncle, contrary to his usual custom (for he was as
attentive to all the humors and caprices of Alice as if she had
been his own best-beloved child), did not immediately reply, the
young Captain of Castle William took that office upon himself.

"This dark old square of canvas, my fair cousin," said he, "has
been an heirloom in the Province House from time immemorial. As
to the painter, I can tell you nothing; but, if half the stories
told of it be true, not one of the great Italian masters has ever
produced so marvellous a piece of work as that before you."

Captain Lincoln proceeded to relate some of the strange fables
and fantasies which, as it was impossible to refute them by
ocular demonstration, had grown to be articles of popular belief,
in reference to this old picture. One of the wildest, and at the
same time the best accredited, accounts, stated it to be an
original and authentic portrait of the Evil One, taken at a witch
meeting near Salem; and that its strong and terrible resemblance
had been confirmed by several of the confessing wizards and
witches, at their trial, in open court. It was likewise affirmed
that a familiar spirit or demon abode behind the blackness of the
picture, and had shown himself, at seasons of public calamity, to
more than one of the royal governors. Shirley, for instance, had
beheld this ominous apparition, on the eve of General
Abercrombie's shameful and bloody defeat under the walls of
Ticonderoga. Many of the servants of the Province House had
caught glimpses of a visage frowning down upon them, at morning
or evening twilight,--or in the depths of night, while raking up
the fire that glimmered on the hearth beneath; although, if any
were bold enough to hold a torch before the picture, it would
appear as black and undistinguishable as ever. The oldest
inhabitant of Boston recollected that his father, in whose days
the portrait had not wholly faded out of sight, had once looked
upon it, but would never suffer himself to be questioned as to
the face which was there represented. In connection with such
stories, it was remarkable that over the top of the frame there
were some ragged remnants of black silk, indicating that a veil
had formerly hung down before the picture, until the duskiness of
time had so effectually concealed it. But, after all, it was the
most singular part of the affair that so many of the pompous
governors of Massachusetts had allowed the obliterated picture to
remain in the state chamber of the Province House.

"Some of these fables are really awful," observed Alice Vane, who
had occasionally shuddered, as well as smiled, while her cousin
spoke. "It would be almost worth while to wipe away the black
surface of the canvas, since the original picture can hardly be
so formidable as those which fancy paints instead of it."

"But would it be possible," inquired her cousin, "to restore this
dark picture to its pristine hues?"

"Such arts are known in Italy," said Alice.

The Lieutenant-Governor had roused himself from his abstracted
mood, and listened with a smile to the conversation of his young
relatives. Yet his voice had something peculiar in its tones when
he undertook the explanation of the mystery.

"I am sorry, Alice, to destroy your faith in the legends of which
you are so fond," remarked he; "but my antiquarian researches
have long since made me acquainted with the subject of this
picture--if picture it can be called--which is no more visible,
nor ever will be, than the face of the long buried man whom it
once represented. It was the portrait of Edward Randolph, the
founder of this house, a person famous in the history of New

"Of that Edward Randolph," exclaimed Captain Lincoln, "who
obtained the repeal of the first provincial charter, under which
our forefathers had enjoyed almost democratic privileges! He that
was styled the arch-enemy of New England, and whose memory is
still held in detestation as the destroyer of our liberties!"

"It was the same Randolph," answered Hutchinson, moving uneasily
in his chair. "It was his lot to taste the bitterness of popular

"Our annals tell us," continued the Captain of Castle William,
"that the curse of the people followed this Randolph where he
went, and wrought evil in all the subsequent events of his life,
and that its effect was seen likewise in the manner of his death.
They say, too, that the inward misery of that curse worked itself
outward, and was visible on the wretched man's countenance,
making it too horrible to be looked upon. If so, and if this
picture truly represented his aspect, it was in mercy that the
cloud of blackness has gathered over it."

"These traditions are folly to one who has proved, as I have, how
little of historic truth lies at the bottom," said the
Lieutenant-Governor. "As regards the life and character of Edward
Randolph, too implicit credence has been given to Dr. Cotton
Mather, who--I must say it, though some of his blood runs in my
veins--has filled our early history with old women's tales, as
fanciful and extravagant as those of Greece or Rome."

"And yet," whispered Alice Vane, "may not such fables have a
moral? And, methinks, if the visage of this portrait be so
dreadful, it is not without a cause that it has hung so long in a
chamber of the Province House. When the rulers feel themselves
irresponsible, it were well that they should be reminded of the
awful weight of a people's curse."

The Lieutenant-Governor started, and gazed for a moment at his
niece, as if her girlish fantasies had struck upon some feeling
in his own breast, which all his policy or principles could not
entirely subdue. He knew, indeed, that Alice, in spite of her
foreign education, retained the native sympathies of a New
England girl.

"Peace, silly child," cried he, at last, more harshly than he had
ever before addressed the gentle Alice. "The rebuke of a king is
more to be dreaded than the clamor of a wild, misguided
multitude. Captain Lincoln, it is decided. The fortress of Castle
William must be occupied by the royal troops. The two remaining
regiments shall be billeted in the town, or encamped upon the
Common. It is time, after years of tumult, and almost rebellion,
that his majesty's government should have a wall of strength
about it."

"Trust, sir--trust yet awhile to the loyalty of the people," said
Captain Lincoln; "nor teach them that they can ever be on other
terms with British soldiers than those of brotherhood, as when
they fought side by side through the French War. Do not convert
the streets of your native town into a camp. Think twice before
you give up old Castle William, the key of the province, into
other keeping than that of true-born New Englanders."

"Young man, it is decided," repeated Hutchinson, rising from his
chair. "A British officer will be in attendance this evening, to
receive the necessary instructions for the disposal of the
troops. Your presence also will be required. Till then,

With these words the Lieutenant-Governor hastily left the room,
while Alice and her cousin more slowly followed, whispering
together, and once pausing to glance back at the mysterious
picture. The Captain of Castle William fancied that the girl's
air and mien were such as might have belonged to one of those
spirits of fable-fairies, or creatures of a more antique
mythology--who sometimes mingled their agency with mortal
affairs, half in caprice, yet with a sensibility to human weal or
woe. As he held the door for her to pass, Alice beckoned to the
picture and smiled.

"Come forth, dark and evil Shape!" cried she. "It is thine hour!"

In the evening, Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson sat in the same
chamber where the foregoing scene had occurred, surrounded by
several persons whose various interests had summoned them
together. There were the selectmen of Boston, plain, patriarchal
fathers of the people, excellent representatives of the old
puritanical founders, whose sombre strength had stamped so deep
an impress upon the New England character. Contrasting with these
were one or two members of Council, richly dressed in the white
wigs, the embroidered waistcoats and other magnificence of the
time, and making a somewhat ostentatious display of courtier-like
ceremonial. In attendance, likewise, was a major of the British
army, awaiting the Lieutenant-Governor's orders for the landing
of the troops, which still remained on board the transports. The
Captain of Castle William stood beside Hutchinson's chair with
folded arms, glancing rather haughtily at the British officer, by
whom he was soon to be superseded in his command. On a table, in
the centre of the chamber, stood a branched silver candlestick,
throwing down the glow of half a dozen wax-lights upon a paper
apparently ready for the Lieutenant-Governor's signature.

Partly shrouded in the voluminous folds of one of the window
curtains, which fell from the ceiling to the floor, was seen the
white drapery of a lady's robe. It may appear strange that Alice
Vane should have been there at such a time; but there was
something so childlike, so wayward, in her singular character, so
apart from ordinary rules, that her presence did not surprise the
few who noticed it. Meantime, the chairman of the Selectmen was
addressing to the Lieutenant-Governor a long and solemn protest
against the reception of the British troops into the town.

"And if your Honor," concluded this excellent but somewhat prosy
old gentleman, "shall see fit to persist in bringing these
mercenary sworders and musketeers into our quiet streets, not on
our heads be the responsibility. Think, sir, while there is yet
time, that if one drop of blood be shed, that blood shall be an
eternal stain upon your Honor's memory. You, sir, have written
with an able pen the deeds of our forefathers. The more to be
desired is it, therefore, that yourself should deserve honorable
mention, as a true patriot and upright ruler, when your own
doings shall be written down in history."

"I am not insensible, my good sir, to the natural desire to stand
well in the annals of my country," replied Hutchinson,
controlling his impatience into courtesy, "nor know I any better
method of attaining that end than by withstanding the merely
temporary spirit of mischief, which, with your pardon, seems to
have infected elder men than myself. Would you have me wait till
the mob shall sack the Province House, as they did my private
mansion? Trust me, sir, the time may come when you will be glad
to flee for protection to the king's banner, the raising of which
is now so distasteful to you."

"Yes," said the British major, who was impatiently expecting the
Lieutenant-Governor's orders. "The demagogues of this Province
have raised the devil and cannot lay him again. We will exorcise
him, in God's name and the king's."

"If you meddle with the devil, take care of his claws!" answered
the Captain of Castle William, stirred by the taunt against his

"Craving your pardon, young sir," said the venerable Selectman,
"let not an evil spirit enter into your words. We will strive
against the oppressor with prayer and fasting, as our forefathers
would have done. Like them, moreover, we will submit to whatever
lot a wise Providence may send us,--always, after our own best
exertions to amend it."

"And there peep forth the devil's claws!" muttered Hutchinson,
who well understood the nature of Puritan submission. "This
matter shall be expedited forthwith. When there shall be a
sentinel at every corner, and a court of guard before the town
house, a loyal gentleman may venture to walk abroad. What to me
is the outcry of a mob, in this remote province of the realm? The
king is my master, and England is my country! Upheld by their
armed strength, I set my foot upon the rabble, and defy them!"

He snatched a pen, and was about to affix his signature to the
paper that lay on the table, when the Captain of Castle William
placed his hand upon his shoulder. The freedom of the action, so
contrary to the ceremonious respect which was then considered due
to rank and dignity, awakened general surprise, and in none more
than in the Lieutenant-Governor himself. Looking angrily up, he
perceived that his young relative was pointing his finger to the
opposite wall. Hutchinson's eye followed the signal; and he saw,
what had hitherto been unobserved, that a black silk curtain was
suspended before the mysterious picture, so as completely to
conceal it. His thoughts immediately recurred to the scene of the
preceding afternoon; and, in his surprise, confused by indistinct
emotions, yet sensible that his niece must have had an agency in
this phenomenon, he called loudly upon her.

"Alice!--come hither, Alice!"

No sooner had he spoken than Alice Vane glided from her station,
and pressing one hand across her eyes, with the other snatched
away the sable curtain that concealed the portrait. An
exclamation of surprise burst from every beholder; but the
Lieutenant-Governor's voice had a tone of horror.

"By Heaven!" said he, in a low, inward murmur, speaking rather to
himself than to those around him, "if the spirit of Edward
Randolph were to appear among us from the place of torment, he
could not wear more of the terrors of hell upon his face!"

"For some wise end," said the aged Selectman, solemnly, "hath
Providence scattered away the mist of years that had so long hid
this dreadful effigy. Until this hour no living man hath seen
what we behold!"

Within the antique frame, which so recently had inclosed a sable
waste of canvas, now appeared a visible picture, still dark,
indeed, in its hues and shadings, but thrown forward in strong
relief. It was a half-length figure of a gentleman in a rich but
very old-fashioned dress of embroidered velvet, with a broad ruff
and a beard, and wearing a hat, the brim of which overshadowed
his forehead. Beneath this cloud the eyes had a peculiar glare,
which was almost lifelike. The whole portrait started so
distinctly out of the background, that it had the effect of a
person looking down from the wall at the astonished and
awe-stricken spectators. The expression of the face, if any words
can convey an idea of it, was that of a wretch detected in some
hideous guilt, and exposed to the bitter hatred and laughter and
withering scorn of a vast surrounding multitude. There was the
struggle of defiance, beaten down and overwhelmed by the crushing
weight of ignominy. The torture of the soul had come forth upon
the countenance. It seemed as if the picture, while hidden behind
the cloud of immemorial years, had been all the time acquiring an
intenser depth and darkness of expression, till now it gloomed
forth again, and threw its evil omen over the present hour. Such,
if the wild legend may be credited, was the portrait of Edward
Randolph, as he appeared when a people's curse had wrought its
influence upon his nature.

" 'T would drive me mad--that awful face!" said Hutchinson, who
seemed fascinated by the contemplation of it.

"Be warned, then!" whispered Alice. "He trampled on a people's
rights. Behold his punishment--and avoid a crime like his!"

The Lieutenant-Governor actually trembled for an instant; but,
exerting his energy--which was not, however, his most
characteristic feature --he strove to shake off the spell of
Randolph's countenance.

"Girl!" cried he, laughing bitterly as he turned to Alice, "have
you brought hither your painter's art--your Italian spirit of
intrigue--your tricks of stage effect--and think to influence the
councils of rulers and the affairs of nations by such shallow
contrivances? See here!"

"Stay yet a while," said the Selectman, as Hutchinson again
snatched the pen; "for if ever mortal man received a warning from
a tormented soul, your Honor is that man!"

"Away!" answered Hutchinson fiercely. "Though yonder senseless
picture cried 'Forbear!'--it should not move me!"

Casting a scowl of defiance at the pictured face (which seemed at
that moment to intensify the horror of its miserable and wicked
look), he scrawled on the paper, in characters that betokened it
a deed of desperation, the name of Thomas Hutchinson. Then, it is
said, he shuddered, as if that signature had granted away his

"It is done," said he; and placed his hand upon his brow.

"May Heaven forgive the deed," said the soft, sad accents of
Alice Vane, like the voice of a good spirit flitting away.

When morning came there was a stifled whisper through the
household, and spreading thence about the town, that the dark,
mysterious picture had started from the wall, and spoken face to
face with Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson. If such a miracle had
been wrought, however, no traces of it remained behind, for
within the antique frame nothing could be discerned save the
impenetrable cloud, which had covered the canvas since the memory
of man. If the figure had, indeed, stepped forth, it had fled
back, spirit-like, at the daydawn, and hidden itself behind a
century's obscurity. The truth probably was, that Alice Vane's
secret for restoring the hues of the picture had merely effected
a temporary renovation. But those who, in that brief interval,
had beheld the awful visage of Edward Randolph, desired no second
glance, and ever afterwards trembled at the recollection of the
scene, as if an evil spirit had appeared visibly among them. And
as for Hutchinson, when, far over the ocean, his dying hour drew
on, he gasped for breath, and complained that he was choking with
the blood of the Boston Massacre; and Francis Lincoln, the former
Captain of Castle William, who was standing at his bedside,
perceived a likeness in his frenzied look to that of Edward
Randolph. Did his broken spirit feel, at that dread hour, the
tremendous burden of a People's curse?

At the conclusion of this miraculous legend, I
inquired of mine host whether the picture still remained in the
chamber over our heads; but Mr. Tiffany informed me that it had
long since been removed, and was supposed to be hidden in some
out-of-the-way corner of the New England Museum. Perchance some
curious antiquary may light upon it there, and, with the
assistance of Mr. Howorth, the picture cleaner, may supply a not
unnecessary proof of the authenticity of the facts here set down.
During the progress of the story a storm had been gathering
abroad, and raging and rattling so loudly in the upper regions of
the Province House, that it seemed as if all the old governors
and great men were running riot above stairs while Mr. Bela
Tiffany babbled of them below. In the course of generations, when
many people have lived and died in an ancient house, the
whistling of the wind through its crannies, and the creaking of
its beams and rafters, become strangely like the tones of the
human voice, or thundering laughter, or heavy footsteps treading
the deserted chambers. It is as if the echoes of half a century
were revived. Such were the ghostly sounds that roared and
murmured in our ears when I took leave of the circle round the
fireside of the Province House, and plunging down the door steps,
fought my way homeward against a drifting snow-storm.




Mine excellent friend, the landlord of the Province House, was
pleased, the other evening, to invite Mr. Tiffany and myself to
an oyster supper. This slight mark of respect and gratitude, as
he handsomely observed, was far less than the ingenious
tale-teller, and I, the humble note-taker of his narratives, had
fairly earned, by the public notice which our joint lucubrations
had attracted to his establishment. Many a cigar had been smoked
within his premises--many a glass of wine, or more potent aqua
vitae, had been quaffed--many a dinner had been eaten by curious
strangers, who, save for the fortunate conjunction of Mr. Tiffany
and me, would never have ventured through that darksome avenue
which gives access to the historic precincts of the Province
House. In short, if any credit be due to the courteous assurances
of Mr. Thomas Waite, we had brought his forgotten mansion almost
as effectually into public view as if we had thrown down the
vulgar range of shoe shops and dry goods stores, which hides its
aristocratic front from Washington Street. It may be unadvisable,
however, to speak too loudly of the increased custom of the
house, lest Mr. Waite should find it difficult to renew the lease
on so favorable terms as heretofore.

Being thus welcomed as benefactors, neither Mr. Tiffany nor
myself felt any scruple in doing full justice to the good things
that were set before us. If the feast were less magnificent than
those same panelled walls had witnessed in a by-gone century,--if
mine host presided with somewhat less of state than might have
befitted a successor of the royal Governors,--if the guests made
a less imposing show than the bewigged and powdered and
embroidered dignitaries, who erst banqueted at the gubernatorial
table, and now sleep, within their armorial tombs on Copp's Hill,
or round King's Chapel,--yet never, I may boldly say, did a more
comfortable little party assemble in the Province House, from
Queen Anne's days to the Revolution. The occasion was rendered
more interesting by the presence of a venerable personage, whose
own actual reminiscences went back to the epoch of Gage and Howe,
and even supplied him with a doubtful anecdote or two of
Hutchinson. He was one of that small, and now all but
extinguished, class, whose attachment to royalty, and to the
colonial institutions and customs that were connected with it,
had never yielded to the democratic heresies of after times. The
young queen of Britain has not a more loyal subject in her
realm--perhaps not one who would kneel before her throne with
such reverential love--as this old grandsire, whose head has
whitened beneath the mild sway of the Republic, which still, in
his mellower moments, he terms a usurpation. Yet prejudices so
obstinate have not made him an ungentle or impracticable
companion. If the truth must be told, the life of the aged
loyalist has been of such a scrambling and unsettled
character,--he has had so little choice of friends and been so
often destitute of any,--that I doubt whether he would refuse a
cup of kindness with either Oliver Cromwell or John Hancock,--to
say nothing of any democrat now upon the stage. In another paper
of this series I may perhaps give the reader a closer glimpse of
his portrait.

Our host, in due season, uncorked a bottle of Madeira, of such
exquisite perfume and admirable flavor that he surely must have
discovered it in an ancient bin, down deep beneath the deepest
cellar, where some jolly old butler stored away the Governor's
choicest wine, and forgot to reveal the secret on his death-bed.
Peace to his red-nosed ghost, and a libation to his memory! This
precious liquor was imbibed by Mr. Tiffany with peculiar zest;
and after sipping the third glass, it was his pleasure to give us
one of the oddest legends which he had yet raked from the
storehouse where he keeps such matters. With some suitable
adornments from my own fancy, it ran pretty much as follows.

Not long after Colonel Shute had assumed the
government of Massachusetts Bay, now nearly a hundred and twenty
years ago, a young lady of rank and fortune arrived from England,
to claim his protection as her guardian. He was her distant
relative, but the nearest who had survived the gradual extinction
of her family; so that no more eligible shelter could be found
for the rich and high-born Lady Eleanore Rochcliffe than within
the Province House of a transatlantic colony. The consort of
Governor Shute, moreover, had been as a mother to her childhood,
and was now anxious to receive her, in the hope that a beautiful
young woman would be exposed to infinitely less peril from the
primitive society of New England than amid the artifices and
corruptions of a court. If either the Governor or his lady had
especially consulted their own comfort, they would probably have
sought to devolve the responsibility on other hands; since, with
some noble and splendid traits of character, Lady Eleanore was
remarkable for a harsh, unyielding pride, a haughty consciousness
of her hereditary and personal advantages, which made her almost
incapable of control. Judging from many traditionary anecdotes,
this peculiar temper was hardly less than a monomania; or, if the
acts which it inspired were those of a sane person, it seemed due
from Providence that pride so sinful should be followed by as
severe a retribution. That tinge of the marvellous, which is
thrown over so many of these half-forgotten legends, has probably
imparted an additional wildness to the strange story of Lady
Eleanore Rochcliffe.

The ship in which she came passenger had arrived at Newport,
whence Lady Eleanore was conveyed to Boston in the Governor's
coach, attended by a small escort of gentlemen on horseback. The
ponderous equipage with its four black horses, attracted much
notice as it rumbled through Cornhill, surrounded by the prancing
steeds of half a dozen cavaliers, with swords dangling to their
stirrups and pistols at their holsters. Through the large glass
windows of the coach, as it rolled along, the people could
discern the figure of Lady Eleanore, strangely combining an
almost queenly stateliness with the grace and beauty of a maiden
in her teens. A singular tale had gone abroad among the ladies of
the province, that their fair rival was indebted for much of the
irresistible charm of her appearance to a certain article of
dress--an embroidered mantle--which had been wrought by the most
skilful artist in London, and possessed even magical properties
of adornment. On the present occasion, however, she owed nothing
to the witchery of dress, being clad in a riding habit of velvet,
which would have appeared stiff and ungraceful on any other form.

The coachman reined in his four black steeds, and the whole
cavalcade came to a pause in front of the contorted iron
balustrade that fenced the Province House from the public street.
It was an awkward coincidence that the bell of the Old South was
just then tolling for a funeral; so that, instead of a gladsome
peal with which it was customary to announce the arrival of
distinguished strangers, Lady Eleanore Rochcliffe was ushered by
a doleful clang, as if calamity had come embodied in her
beautiful person.

"A very great disrespect!" exclaimed Captain Langford, an English
officer, who had recently brought dispatches to Governor Shute.
"The funeral should have been deferred, lest Lady Eleanore's
spirits be affected by such a dismal welcome."

"With your pardon, sir," replied Doctor Clarke, a physician, and
a famous champion of the popular party, "whatever the heralds may
pretend, a dead beggar must have precedence of a living queen.
King Death confers high privileges."

These remarks were interchanged while the speakers waited a
passage through the crowd, which had gathered on each side of the
gateway, leaving an open avenue to the portal of the Province
House. A black slave in livery now leaped from behind the coach,
and threw open the door; while at the same moment Governor Shute
descended the flight of steps from his mansion, to assist Lady
Eleanore in alighting. But the Governor's stately approach was
anticipated in a manner that excited general astonishment. A pale
young man, with his black hair all in disorder, rushed from the
throng, and prostrated himself beside the coach, thus offering
his person as a footstool for Lady Eleanore Rochcliffe to tread
upon. She held back an instant, yet with an expression as if
doubting whether the young man were worthy to bear the weight of
her footstep, rather than dissatisfied to receive such awful
reverence from a fellow-mortal.

"Up, sir," said the Governor, sternly, at the same time lifting
his cane over the intruder. "What means the Bedlamite by this

"Nay," answered Lady Eleanore playfully, but with more scorn than
pity in her tone, "your Excellency shall not strike him. When men
seek only to be trampled upon, it were a pity to deny them a
favor so easily granted--and so well deserved!"

Then, though as lightly as a sunbeam on a cloud, she placed her
foot upon the cowering form, and extended her hand to meet that
of the Governor. There was a brief interval, during which Lady
Eleanore retained this attitude; and never, surely, was there an
apter emblem of aristocracy and hereditary pride trampling on
human sympathies and the kindred of nature, than these two
figures presented at that moment. Yet the spectators were so
smitten with her beauty, and so essential did pride seem to the
existence of such a creature, that they gave a simultaneous
acclamation of applause.

"Who is this insolent young fellow?" inquired Captain Langford,
who still remained beside Doctor Clarke. "If he be in his senses,
his impertinence demands the bastinado. If mad, Lady Eleanore
should be secured from further inconvenience, by his

"His name is Jervase Helwyse," answered the Doctor; "a youth of
no birth or fortune, or other advantages, save the mind and soul
that nature gave him; and being secretary to our colonial agent
in London, it was his misfortune to meet this Lady Eleanore
Rochcliffe. He loved her--and her scorn has driven him mad."

"He was mad so to aspire," observed the English officer.

"It may be so," said Doctor Clarke, frowning as he spoke. "But I
tell you, sir, I could well-nigh doubt the justice of the Heaven
above us if no signal humiliation overtake this lady, who now
treads so haughtily into yonder mansion. She seeks to place
herself above the sympathies of our common nature, which envelops
all human souls. See, if that nature do not assert its claim over
her in some mode that shall bring her level with the lowest!"

"Never!" cried Captain Langford indignantly--"neither in life,
nor when they lay her with her ancestors."

Not many days afterwards the Governor gave a ball in honor of
Lady Eleanore Rochcliffe. The principal gentry of the colony
received invitations, which were distributed to their residences,
far and near, by messengers on horseback, bearing missives sealed
with all the formality of official dispatches. In obedience to
the summons, there was a general gathering of rank, wealth, and
beauty; and the wide door of the Province House had seldom given
admittance to more numerous and honorable guests than on the
evening of Lady Eleanore's ball. Without much extravagance of
eulogy, the spectacle might even be termed splendid; for,
according to the fashion of the times, the ladies shone in rich
silks and satins, outspread over wide-projecting hoops; and the
gentlemen glittered in gold embroidery, laid unsparingly upon the
purple, or scarlet, or sky-blue velvet, which was the material of
their coats and waistcoats. The latter article of dress was of
great importance, since it enveloped the wearer's body nearly to
the knees, and was perhaps bedizened with the amount of his whole
year's income, in golden flowers and foliage. The altered taste
of the present day--a taste symbolic of a deep change in the
whole system of society--would look upon almost any of those
gorgeous figures as ridiculous; although that evening the guests
sought their reflections in the pier-glasses, and rejoiced to
catch their own glitter amid the glittering crowd. What a pity
that one of the stately mirrors has not preserved a picture of
the scene, which, by the very traits that were so transitory,
might have taught us much that would be worth knowing and

Would, at least, that either painter or mirror could convey to us
some faint idea of a garment, already noticed in this
legend,--the Lady Eleanore's embroidered mantle,--which the
gossips whispered was invested with magic properties, so as to
lend a new and untried grace to her figure each time that she put
it on! Idle fancy as it is, this mysterious mantle has thrown an
awe around my image of her, partly from its fabled virtues, and
partly because it was the handiwork of a dying woman, and,
perchance, owed the fantastic grace of its conception to the
delirium of approaching death.

After the ceremonial greetings had been paid, Lady Eleanore
Rochcliffe stood apart from the mob of guests, insulating herself
within a small and distinguished circle, to whom she accorded a
more cordial favor than to the general throng. The waxen torches
threw their radiance vividly over the scene, bringing out its
brilliant points in strong relief; but she gazed carelessly, and
with now and then an expression of weariness or scorn, tempered
with such feminine grace that her auditors scarcely perceived the
moral deformity of which it was the utterance. She beheld the
spectacle not with vulgar ridicule, as disdaining to be pleased
with the provincial mockery of a court festival, but with the
deeper scorn of one whose spirit held itself too high to
participate in the enjoyment of other human souls. Whether or no
the recollections of those who saw her that evening were
influenced by the strange events with which she was subsequently
connected, so it was that her figure ever after recurred to them
as marked by something wild and unnatural,--although, at the
time, the general whisper was of her exceeding beauty, and of the
indescribable charm which her mantle threw around her. Some close
observers, indeed, detected a feverish flush and alternate
paleness of countenance, with corresponding flow and revulsion of
spirits, and once or twice a painful and helpless betrayal of
lassitude, as if she were on the point of sinking to the ground.
Then, with a nervous shudder, she seemed to arouse her energies
and threw some bright and playful yet half-wicked sarcasm into
the conversation. There was so strange a characteristic in her
manners and sentiments that it astonished every right-minded
listener; till looking in her face, a lurking and
incomprehensible glance and smile perplexed them with doubts both
as to her seriousness and sanity. Gradually, Lady Eleanore
Rochcliffe's circle grew smaller, till only four gentlemen
remained in it. These were Captain Langford, the English officer
before mentioned; a Virginian planter, who had come to
Massachusetts on some political errand; a young Episcopal
clergyman, the grandson of a British earl; and, lastly, the
private secretary of Governor Shute, whose obsequiousness had won
a sort of tolerance from Lady Eleanore.

At different periods of the evening the liveried servants of the
Province House passed among the guests, bearing huge trays of
refreshments and French and Spanish wines. Lady Eleanore
Rochcliffe, who refused to wet her beautiful lips even with a
bubble of Champagne, had sunk back into a large damask chair,
apparently overwearied either with the excitement of the scene or
its tedium, and while, for an instant, she was unconscious of
voices, laughter and music, a young man stole forward, and knelt
down at her feet. He bore a salver in his hand, on which was a
chased silver goblet, filled to the brim with wine, which he
offered as reverentially as to a crowned queen, or rather with
the awful devotion of a priest doing sacrifice to his idol.
Conscious that some one touched her robe, Lady Eleanore started,
and unclosed her eyes upon the pale, wild features and
dishevelled hair of Jervase Helwyse.

"Why do you haunt me thus?" said she, in a languid tone, but with
a kindlier feeling than she ordinarily permitted herself to
express. "They tell me that I have done you harm."

"Heaven knows if that be so," replied the young man solemnly.
"But, Lady Eleanore, in requital of that harm, if such there be,
and for your own earthly and heavenly welfare, I pray you to take
one sip of this holy wine, and then to pass the goblet round
among the guests. And this shall be a symbol that you have not
sought to withdraw yourself from the chain of human
sympathies--which whoso would shake off must keep company with
fallen angels."

"Where has this mad fellow stolen that sacramental vessel?"
exclaimed the Episcopal clergyman.

This question drew the notice of the guests to the silver cup,
which was recognized as appertaining to the communion plate of
the Old South Church; and, for aught that could be known, it was
brimming over with the consecrated wine.

"Perhaps it is poisoned," half whispered the Governor's

"Pour it down the villain's throat!" cried the Virginian

"Turn him out of the house!" cried Captain Langford, seizing
Jervase Helwyse so roughly by the shoulder that the sacramental
cup was overturned, and its contents sprinkled upon Lady
Eleanore's mantle. "Whether knave, fool, or Bedlamite, it is
intolerable that the fellow should go at large."

"Pray, gentlemen, do my poor admirer no harm," said Lady Eleanore
with a faint and weary smile. "Take him out of my sight, if such
be your pleasure; for I can find in my heart to do nothing but
laugh at him; whereas, in all decency and conscience, it would
become me to weep for the mischief I have wrought!"

But while the by-standers were attempting to lead away the
unfortunate young man, he broke from them, and with a wild,
impassioned earnestness, offered a new and equally strange
petition to Lady Eleanore. It was no other than that she should
throw off the mantle, which, while he pressed the silver cup of
wine upon her, she had drawn more closely around her form, so as
almost to shroud herself within it.

"Cast it from you!" exclaimed Jervase Helwyse, clasping his hands
in an agony of entreaty. "It may not yet be too late! Give the
accursed garment to the flames!"

But Lady Eleanore, with a laugh of scorn, drew the rich folds of
the embroidered mantle over her head, in such a fashion as to
give a completely new aspect to her beautiful face, which--half
hidden, half revealed--seemed to belong to some being of
mysterious character and purposes.

"Farewell, Jervase Helwyse!" said she. "Keep my image in your
remembrance, as you behold it now."

"Alas, lady!" he replied, in a tone no longer wild, but sad as a
funeral bell. "We must meet shortly, when your face may wear
another aspect--and that shall be the image that must abide
within me."

He made no more resistance to the violent efforts of the
gentlemen and servants, who almost dragged him out of the
apartment, and dismissed him roughly from the iron gate of the
Province House. Captain Langford, who had been very active in
this affair, was returning to the presence of Lady Eleanore
Rochcliffe, when he encountered the physician, Doctor Clarke,
with whom he had held some casual talk on the day of her arrival.
The Doctor stood apart, separated from Lady Eleanore by the width
of the room, but eying her with such keen sagacity that Captain
Langford involuntarily gave him credit for the discovery of some
deep secret.

"You appear to be smitten, after all, with the charms of this
queenly maiden," said he, hoping thus to draw forth the
physician's hidden knowledge.

"God forbid!" answered Doctor Clarke, with a grave smile; "and if
you be wise you will put up the same prayer for yourself. Woe to
those who shall be smitten by this beautiful Lady Eleanore! But
yonder stands the Governor--and I have a word or two for his
private ear. Good night!"

He accordingly advanced to Governor Shute, and addressed him in
so low a tone that none of the by-standers could catch a word of
what he said, although the sudden change of his Excellency's
hitherto cheerful visage betokened that the communication could
be of no agreeable import. A very few moments afterwards it was
announced to the guests that an unforeseen circumstance rendered
it necessary to put a premature close to the festival.

The hall at the Province House supplied a topic of conversation
for the colonial metropolis for some days after its occurrence,
and might still longer have been the general theme, only that a
subject of all-engrossing interest thrust it, for a time, from
the public recollection. This was the appearance of a dreadful
epidemic, which, in that age and long before and afterwards, was
wont to slay its hundreds and thousands on both sides of the
Atlantic. On the occasion of which we speak, it was distinguished
by a peculiar virulence, insomuch that it has left its
traces--its pit-marks, to use an appropriate figure--on the
history of the country, the affairs of which were thrown into
confusion by its ravages. At first, unlike its ordinary course,
the disease seemed to confine itself to the higher circles of
society, selecting its victims from among the proud, the
well-born, and the wealthy, entering unabashed into stately
chambers, and lying down with the slumberers in silken beds. Some
of the most distinguished guests of the Province House even those
whom the haughty Lady Eleanore Rochcliffe had deemed not unworthy
of her favor--were stricken by this fatal scourge. It was
noticed, with an ungenerous bitterness of feeling, that the four
gentlemen--the Virginian, the British officer, the young
clergyman, and the Governor's secretary--who had been her most
devoted attendants on the evening of the ball, were the foremost
of whom the plague stroke fell. But the disease, pursuing its
onward progress, soon ceased to be exclusively a prerogative of
aristocracy. Its red brand was no longer conferred like a noble's
star, or an order of knighthood. It threaded its way through the
narrow and crooked streets, and entered the low, mean, darksome
dwellings, and laid its hand of death upon the artisans and
laboring classes of the town. It compelled rich and poor to feel
themselves brethren then; and stalking to and fro across the
Three Hills, with a fierceness which made it almost a new
pestilence, there was that mighty conqueror--that scourge and
horror of our forefathers--the Small-Pox!

We cannot estimate the affright which this plague inspired of
yore, by contemplating it as the fangless monster of the present
day. We must remember, rather, with what awe we watched the
gigantic footsteps of the Asiatic cholera, striding from shore to
shore of the Atlantic, and marching like destiny upon cities far
remote which flight had already half depopulated. There is no
other fear so horrible and unhumanizing as that which makes man
dread to breathe heaven's vital air lest it be poison, or to
grasp the hand of a brother or friend lest the gripe of the
pestilence should clutch him. Such was the dismay that now
followed in the track of the disease, or ran before it throughout
the town. Graves were hastily dug, and the pestilential relics as
hastily covered, because the dead were enemies of the living, and
strove to draw them headlong, as it were, into their own dismal
pit. The public councils were suspended, as if mortal wisdom
might relinquish its devices, now that an unearthly usurper had
found his way into the ruler's mansion. Had an enemy's fleet been
hovering on the coast, or his armies trampling on our soil, the
people would probably have committed their defence to that same
direful conqueror who had wrought their own calamity, and would
permit no interference with his sway. This conquerer had a symbol
of his triumphs. It was a blood-red flag, that fluttered in the
tainted air, over the door of every dwelling into which the
Small-Pox had entered.

Such a banner was long since waving over the portal of the
Province House; for thence, as was proved by tracking its
footsteps back, had all this dreadful mischief issued. It had
been traced back to a lady's luxurious chamber--to the proudest
of the proud--to her that was so delicate, and hardly owned
herself of earthly mould--to the haughty one, who took her stand
above human sympathies--to Lady Eleanore! There remained no room
for doubt that the contagion had lurked in that gorgeous mantle,
which threw so strange a grace around her at the festival. Its
fantastic splendor had been conceived in the delirious brain of a
woman on her death-bed, and was the last toil of her stiffening
fingers, which had interwoven fate and misery with its golden
threads. This dark tale, whispered at first, was now bruited far
and wide. The people raved against the Lady Eleanore, and cried
out that her pride and scorn had evoked a fiend, and that,
between them both, this monstrous evil had been born. At times,
their rage and despair took the semblance of grinning mirth; and
whenever the red flag of the pestilence was hoisted over another
and yet another door, they clapped their hands and shouted
through the streets, in bitter mockery: "Behold a new triumph for
the Lady Eleanore!"

One day, in the midst of these dismal times, a wild figure
approached the portal of the Province House, and folding his
arms, stood contemplating the scarlet banner which a passing
breeze shook fitfully, as if to fling abroad the contagion that
it typified. At length, climbing one of the pillars by means of
the iron balustrade, he took down the flag and entered the
mansion, waving it above his head. At the foot of the staircase
he met the Governor, booted and spurred, with his cloak drawn
around him, evidently on the point of setting forth upon a

"Wretched lunatic, what do you seek here?" exclaimed Shute,
extending his cane to guard himself from contact. "There is
nothing here but Death. Back--or you will meet him!"

"Death will not touch me, the banner-bearer of the pestilence!"
cried Jervase Helwyse, shaking the red flag aloft. "Death, and
the Pestilence, who wears the aspect of the Lady Eleanore, will
walk through the streets to-night, and I must march before them
with this banner!"

"Why do I waste words on the fellow?" muttered the Governor,
drawing his cloak across his mouth. "What matters his miserable
life, when none of us are sure of twelve hours' breath? On, fool,
to your own destruction!"

He made way for Jervase Helwyse, who immediately ascended the
staircase, but, on the first landing place, was arrested by the
firm grasp of a hand upon his shoulder. Looking fiercely up, with
a madman's impulse to struggle with and rend asunder his
opponent, he found himself powerless beneath a calm, stern eye,
which possessed the mysterious property of quelling frenzy at its
height. The person whom he had now encountered was the physician,
Doctor Clarke, the duties of whose sad profession had led him to
the Province House, where he was an infrequent guest in more
prosperous times.

"Young man, what is your purpose?" demanded he.

"I seek the Lady Eleanore," answered Jervase Helwyse,

"All have fled from her," said the physician. "Why do you seek
her now? I tell you, youth, her nurse fell death-stricken on the
threshold of that fatal chamber. Know ye not, that never came
such a curse to our shores as this lovely Lady Eleanore?--that
her breath has filled the air with poison?--that she has shaken
pestilence and death upon the land, from the folds of her
accursed mantle?"

"Let me look upon her!" rejoined the mad youth, more wildly. "Let
me behold her, in her awful beauty, clad in the regal garments of
the pestilence! She and Death sit on a throne together. Let me
kneel down before them!"

"Poor youth!" said Doctor Clarke; and, moved by a deep sense of
human weakness, a smile of caustic humor curled his lip even
then. "Wilt thou still worship the destroyer and surround her
image with fantasies the more magnificent, the more evil she has
wrought? Thus man doth ever to his tyrants. Approach, then!
Madness, as I have noted, has that good efficacy, that it will
guard you from contagion--and perchance its own cure may be found
in yonder chamber."

Ascending another flight of stairs, he threw open a door and
signed to Jervase Helwyse that he should enter. The poor lunatic,
it seems probable, had cherished a delusion that his haughty
mistress sat in state, unharmed herself by the pestilential
influence, which, as by enchantment, she scattered round about
her. He dreamed, no doubt, that her beauty was not dimmed, but
brightened into superhuman splendor. With such anticipations, he
stole reverentially to the door at which the physician stood, but
paused upon the threshold, gazing fearfully into the gloom of the
darkened chamber.

"Where is the Lady Eleanore?" whispered he.

"Call her," replied the physician.

"Lady Eleanore!--Princess!--Queen of Death!" cried Jervase
Helwyse, advancing three steps into the chamber. "She is not
here! There on yonder table, I behold the sparkle of a diamond
which once she wore upon her bosom. There"--and he
shuddered--"there hangs her mantle, on which a dead woman
embroidered a spell of dreadful potency. But where is the Lady

Something stirred within the silken curtains of a canopied bed;
and a low moan was uttered, which, listening intently, Jervase
Helwyse began to distinguish as a woman's voice, complaining
dolefully of thirst. He fancied, even, that he recognized its

"My throat!--my throat is scorched," murmured the voice. "A drop
of water!"

"What thing art thou?" said the brain-stricken youth, drawing
near the bed and tearing asunder its curtains. "Whose voice hast
thou stolen for thy murmurs and miserable petitions, as if Lady
Eleanore could be conscious of mortal infirmity? Fie! Heap of
diseased mortality, why lurkest thou in my lady's chamber?"

"O Jervase Helwyse," said the voice--and as it spoke the figure
contorted itself, struggling to hide its blasted face--"look not
now on the woman you once loved! The curse of Heaven hath
stricken me, because I would not call man my brother, nor woman
sister. I wrapped myself in PRIDE as in a MANTLE, and scorned the
sympathies of nature; and therefore has nature made this wretched
body the medium of a dreadful sympathy. You are avenged--they are
all avenged--Nature is avenged--for I am Eleanore Rochcliffe!"

The malice of his mental disease, the bitterness lurking at the
bottom of his heart, mad as he was, for a blighted and ruined
life, and love that had been paid with cruel scorn, awoke within
the breast of Jervase Helwyse. He shook his finger at the
wretched girl, and the chamber echoed, the curtains of the bed
were shaken, with his outburst of insane merriment.

"Another triumph for the Lady Eleanore!" he cried. "All have been
her victims! Who so worthy to be the final victim as herself?"

Impelled by some new fantasy of his crazed intellect, he snatched
the fatal mantle and rushed from the chamber and the house. That
night a procession passed, by torchlight, through the streets,
bearing in the midst the figure of a woman, enveloped with a
richly embroidered mantle; while in advance stalked Jervase
Helwyse, waving the red flag of the pestilence. Arriving opposite
the Province House, the mob burned the effigy, and a strong wind
came and swept away the ashes. It was said that, from that very
hour, the pestilence abated, as if its sway had some mysterious
connection, from the first plague stroke to the last, with Lady
Eleanore's Mantle. A remarkable uncertainty broods over that
unhappy lady's fate. There is a belief, however, that in a
certain chamber of this mansion a female form may sometimes be
duskily discerned, shrinking into the darkest corner and
muffling her face within an embroidered mantle. Supposing the
legend true, can this be other than the once proud Lady Eleanore?

Mine host and the old loyalist and I bestowed no
little warmth of applause upon this narrative, in which we had
all been deeply interested; for the reader can scarcely conceive
how unspeakably the effect of such a tale is heightened when, as
in the present case, we may repose perfect confidence in the
veracity of him who tells it. For my own part, knowing how
scrupulous is Mr. Tiffany to settle the foundation of his facts,
I could not have believed him one whit the more faithfully had he
professed himself an eye-witness of the doings and sufferings of
poor Lady Eleanore. Some sceptics, it is true, might demand
documentary evidence, or even require him to produce the
embroidered mantle, forgetting that--Heaven be praised--it was
consumed to ashes. But now the old loyalist, whose blood was
warmed by the good cheer, began to talk, in his turn, about the
traditions of the Province House, and hinted that he, if it were
agreeable, might add a few reminiscences to our legendary stock.
Mr. Tiffany, having no cause to dread a rival, immediately
besought him to favor us with a specimen; my own entreaties, of
course, were urged to the same effect; and our venerable guest,
well pleased to find willing auditors, awaited only the return of
Mr. Thomas Waite, who had been summoned forth to provide
accommodations for several new arrivals. Perchance the public-but
be this as its own caprice and ours shall settle the matter--may
read the result in another Tale of the Province House.




Our host having resumed the chair, he, as well as Mr. Tiffany and
myself; expressed much eagerness to be made acquainted with the
story to which the loyalist had alluded. That venerable man first
of all saw fit to moisten his throat with another glass of wine,
and then, turning his face towards our coal fire, looked
steadfastly for a few moments into the depths of its cheerful
glow. Finally, he poured forth a great fluency of speech. The
generous liquid that he had imbibed, while it warmed his
age-chilled blood, likewise took off the chill from his heart and
mind, and gave him an energy to think and feel, which we could
hardly have expected to find beneath the snows of fourscore
winters. His feelings, indeed, appeared to me more excitable than
those of a younger man; or at least, the same degree of feeling
manifested itself by more visible effects than if his judgment
and will had possessed the potency of meridian life. At the
pathetic passages of his narrative he readily melted into tears.
When a breath of indignation swept across his spirit the blood
flushed his withered visage even to the roots of his white hair;
and he shook his clinched fist at the trio of peaceful auditors,
seeming to fancy enemies in those who felt very kindly towards
the desolate old soul. But ever and anon, sometimes in the midst
of his most earnest talk, this ancient person's intellect would
wander vaguely, losing its hold of the matter in hand, and
groping for it amid misty shadows. Then would he cackle forth a
feeble laugh, and express a doubt whether his wits--for by that
phrase it pleased our ancient friend to signify his mental
powers--were not getting a little the worse for wear.

Under these disadvantages, the old loyalist's story required more
revision to render it fit for the public eye than those of the
series which have preceded it; nor should it be concealed that
the sentiment and tone of the affair may have undergone some
slight, or perchance more than slight, metamorphosis, in its
transmission to the reader through the medium of a thorough-going
democrat. The tale itself is a mere sketch, with no involution of
plot, nor any great interest of events, yet possessing, if I have
rehearsed it aright, that pensive influence over the mind which
the shadow of the old Province House flings upon the loiterer in
its court-yard.

The hour had come--the hour of defeat and
humiliation--when Sir William Howe was to pass over the threshold
of the Province House, and embark, with no such triumphal
ceremonies as he once promised himself, on board the British
fleet. He bade his servants and military attendants go before
him, and lingered a moment in the loneliness of the mansion, to
quell the fierce emotions that struggled in his bosom as with a
death throb. Preferable, then, would he have deemed his fate, had
a warrior's death left him a claim to the narrow territory of a
grave within the soil which the King had given him to defend.
With an ominous perception that, as his departing footsteps
echoed adown the staircase, the sway of Britain was passing
forever from New England, he smote his clinched hand on his brow,
and cursed the destiny that had flung the shame of a dismembered
empire upon him.

"Would to God," cried he, hardly repressing his tears of rage,
"that the rebels were even now at the doorstep! A blood-stain
upon the floor should then bear testimony that the last British
ruler was faithful to his trust."

The tremulous voice of a woman replied to his exclamation.

"Heaven's cause and the King's are one," it said. "Go forth, Sir
William Howe, and trust in Heaven to bring back a Royal Governor
in triumph."

Subduing, at once, the passion to which he had yielded only in
the faith that it was unwitnessed, Sir William Howe became
conscious that an aged woman, leaning on a gold-headed staff, was
standing betwixt him and the door. It was old Esther Dudley, who
had dwelt almost immemorial years in this mansion, until her
presence seemed as inseparable from it as the recollections of
its history. She was the daughter of an ancient and once eminent
family, which had fallen into poverty and decay, and left its
last descendant no resource save the bounty of the King, nor any
shelter except within the walls of the Province House. An office
in the household, with merely nominal duties, had been assigned
to her as a pretext for the payment of a small pension, the
greater part of which she expended in adorning herself with an
antique magnificence of attire. The claims of Esther Dudley's
gentle blood were acknowledged by all the successive Governors;
and they treated her with the punctilious courtesy which it was
her foible to demand, not always with success, from a neglectful
world. The only actual share which she assumed in the business of
the mansion was to glide through its passages and public
chambers, late at night, to see that the servants had dropped no
fire from their flaring torches, nor left embers crackling and
blazing on the hearths. Perhaps it was this invariable custom of
walking her rounds in the hush of midnight that caused the
superstition of the times to invest the old woman with attributes
of awe and mystery; fabling that she had entered the portal of
the Province House, none knew whence, in the train of the first
Royal Governor, and that it was her fate to dwell there till the
last should have departed. But Sir William Howe, if he ever heard
this legend, had forgotten it.

"Mistress Dudley, why are you loitering here?" asked he, with
some severity of tone. "It is my pleasure to be the last in this
mansion of the King."

"Not so, if it please your Excellency," answered the
time-stricken woman. "This roof has sheltered me long. I will not
pass from it until they bear me to the tomb of my forefathers.
What other shelter is there for old Esther Dudley, save the
Province House or the grave?"

"Now Heaven forgive me!" said Sir William Howe to himself. "I was
about to leave this wretched old creature to starve or beg. Take
this, good Mistress Dudley," he added, putting a purse into her
hands. "King George's head on these golden guineas is sterling
yet, and will continue so, I warrant you, even should the rebels
crown John Hancock their king. That purse will buy a better
shelter than the Province House can now afford."

"While the burden of life remains upon me, I will have no other
shelter than this roof," persisted Esther Dudley, striking her
staff upon the floor with a gesture that expressed immovable
resolve. "And when your Excellency returns in triumph, I will
totter into the porch to welcome you."

"My poor old friend!" answered the British General,--and all his
manly and martial pride could no longer restrain a gush of bitter
tears. "This is an evil hour for you and me. The Province which
the King intrusted to my charge is lost. I go hence in
misfortune--perchance in disgrace--to return no more. And you,
whose present being is incorporated with the past--who have seen
Governor after Governor, in stately pageantry, ascend these
steps--whose whole life has been an observance of majestic
ceremonies, and a worship of the King--how will you endure the
change? Come with us! Bid farewell to a land that has shaken off
its allegiance, and live still under a royal government, at

"Never, never!" said the pertinacious old dame. "Here will I
abide; and King George shall still have one true subject in his
disloyal Province."

"Beshrew the old fool!" muttered Sir William Howe, growing
impatient of her obstinacy, and ashamed of the emotion into which
he had been betrayed. "She is the very moral of old-fashioned
prejudice, and could exist nowhere but in this musty edifice.
Well, then, Mistress Dudley, since you will needs tarry, I give
the Province House in charge to you. Take this key, and keep it
safe until myself, or some other Royal Governor, shall demand it
of you."

Smiling bitterly at himself and her, he took the heavy key of the
Province House, and delivering it into the old lady's hands, drew
his cloak around him for departure. As the General glanced back
at Esther Dudley's antique figure, he deemed her well fitted for
such a charge, as being so perfect a representative of the
decayed past--of an age gone by, with its manners, opinions,
faith and feelings, all fallen into oblivion or scorn--of what
had once been a reality, but was now merely a vision of faded
magnificence. Then Sir William Howe strode forth, smiting his
clinched hands together, in the fierce anguish of his spirit; and
old Esther Dudley was left to keep watch in the lonely Province
House, dwelling there with memory; and if Hope ever seemed to
flit around her, still was it Memory in disguise.

The total change of affairs that ensued on the departure of the
British troops did not drive the venerable lady from her
stronghold. There was not, for many years afterwards, a Governor
of Massachusetts; and the magistrates, who had charge of such
matters, saw no objection to Esther Dudley's residence in the
Province House, especially as they must otherwise have paid a
hireling for taking care of the premises, which with her was a
labor of love. And so they left her the undisturbed mistress of
the old historic edifice. Many and strange were the fables which
the gossips whispered about her, in all the chimney corners of
the town. Among the time-worn articles of furniture that had been
left in the mansion there was a tall, antique mirror, which was
well worthy of a tale by itself, and perhaps may hereafter be the
theme of one. The gold of its heavily-wrought frame was
tarnished, and its surface so blurred, that the old woman's
figure, whenever she paused before it, looked indistinct and
ghost-like. But it was the general belief that Esther could cause
the Governors of the overthrown dynasty, with the beautiful
ladies who had once adorned their festivals, the Indian chiefs
who had come up to the Province House to hold council or swear
allegiance, the grim Provincial warriors, the severe
clergymen--in short, all the pageantry of gone days--all the
figures that ever swept across the broad plate of glass in former
times--she could cause the whole to reappear, and people the
inner world of the mirror with shadows of old life. Such legends
as these, together with the singularity of her isolated
existence, her age, and the infirmity that each added winter
flung upon her, made Mistress Dudley the object both of fear and
pity; and it was partly the result of either sentiment that, amid
all the angry license of the times, neither wrong nor insult ever
fell upon her unprotected head. Indeed, there was so much
haughtiness in her demeanor towards intruders, among whom she
reckoned all persons acting under the new authorities, that it
was really an affair of no small nerve to look her in the face.
And to do the people justice, stern republicans as they had now
become, they were well content that the old gentlewoman, in her
hoop petticoat and faded embroidery, should still haunt the
palace of ruined pride and overthrown power, the symbol of a
departed system, embodying a history in her person. So Esther
Dudley dwelt year after year in the Province House, still
reverencing all that others had flung aside, still faithful to
her King, who, so long as the venerable dame yet held her post,
might be said to retain one true subject in New England, and one
spot of the empire that had been wrested from him.

And did she dwell there in utter loneliness? Rumor said, not so.
Whenever her chill and withered heart desired warmth, she was
wont to summon a black slave of Governor Shirley's from the
blurred mirror, and send him in search of guests who had long ago
been familiar in those deserted chambers. Forth went the sable
messenger, with the starlight or the moonshine gleaming through
him, and did his errand in the burial ground, knocking at the
iron doors of tombs, or upon the marble slabs that covered them,
and whispering to those within: "My mistress, old Esther Dudley,
bids you to the Province House at midnight." And punctually as
the clock of the Old South told twelve came the shadows of the
Olivers, the Hutchinsons, the Dudleys, all the grandees of a
by-gone generation, gliding beneath the portal into the
well-known mansion, where Esther mingled with them as if she
likewise were a shade. Without vouching for the truth of such
traditions, it is certain that Mistress Dudley sometimes
assembled a few of the stanch, though crestfallen, old Tories,
who had lingered in the rebel town during those days of wrath and
tribulation. Out of a cobwebbed bottle, containing liquor that a
royal Governor might have smacked his lips over, they quaffed
healths to the King, and babbled treason to the Republic, feeling
as if the protecting shadow of the throne were still flung around
them. But, draining the last drops of their liquor, they stole
timorously homeward, and answered not again if the rude mob
reviled them in the street.

Yet Esther Dudley's most frequent and favored guests were the
children of the town. Towards them she was never stern. A kindly
and loving nature, hindered elsewhere from its free course by a
thousand rocky prejudices, lavished itself upon these little
ones. By bribes of gingerbread of her own making, stamped with a
royal crown, she tempted their sunny sportiveness beneath the
gloomy portal of the Province House, and would often beguile them
to spend a whole play-day there, sitting in a circle round the
verge of her hoop petticoat, greedily attentive to her stories of
a dead world. And when these little boys and girls stole forth
again from the dark, mysterious mansion, they went bewildered,
full of old feelings that graver people had long ago forgotten,
rubbing their eyes at the world around them as if they had gone
astray into ancient times, and become children of the past. At
home, when their parents asked where they had loitered such a
weary while, and with whom they had been at play, the children
would talk of all the departed worthies of the Province, as far
back as Governor Belcher and the haughty dame of Sir William
Phipps. It would seem as though they had been sitting on the
knees of these famous personages, whom the grave had hidden for
half a century, and had toyed with the embroidery of their rich
waistcoats, or roguishly pulled the long curls of their flowing
wigs. "But Governor Belcher has been dead this many a year,"
would the mother say to her little boy. "And did you really see
him at the Province House?" "Oh yes, dear mother! yes!" the
half-dreaming child would answer. "But when old Esther had done
speaking about him he faded away out of his chair." Thus, without
affrighting her little guests, she led them by the hand into the
chambers of her own desolate heart, and made childhood's fancy
discern the ghosts that haunted there.

Living so continually in her own circle of ideas, and never
regulating her mind by a proper reference to present things,
Esther Dudley appears to have grown partially crazed. It was
found that she had no right sense of the progress and true state
of the Revolutionary War, but held a constant faith that the
armies of Britain were victorious on every field, and destined to
be ultimately triumphant. Whenever the town rejoiced for a battle
won by Washington, or Gates, or Morgan or Greene, the news, in
passing through the door of the Province House, as through the
ivory gate of dreams, became metamorphosed into a strange tale of
the prowess of Howe, Clinton, or Cornwallis. Sooner or later it
was her invincible belief the colonies would be prostrate at the
footstool of the King. Sometimes she seemed to take for granted
that such was already the case. On one occasion, she startled the
townspeople by a brilliant illumination of the Province House,
with candles at every pane of glass, and a transparency of the
King's initials and a crown of light in the great balcony window.
The figure of the aged woman in the most gorgeous of her mildewed
velvets and brocades was seen passing from casement to casement,
until she paused before the balcony, and flourished a huge key
above her head. Her wrinkled visage actually gleamed with
triumph, as if the soul within her were a festal lamp.

"What means this blaze of light? What does old Esther's joy
portend?" whispered a spectator. "It is frightful to see her
gliding about the chambers, and rejoicing there without a soul to
bear her company."

"It is as if she were making merry in a tomb," said another.

"Pshaw! It is no such mystery," observed an old man, after some
brief exercise of memory. "Mistress Dudley is keeping jubilee for
the King of England's birthday."

Then the people laughed aloud, and would have thrown mud against
the blazing transparency of the King's crown and initials, only
that they pitied the poor old dame, who was so dismally
triumphant amid the wreck and ruin of the system to which she

Oftentimes it was her custom to climb the weary staircase that
wound upward to the cupola, and thence strain her dimmed eyesight
seaward and countryward, watching for a British fleet, or for the
march of a grand procession, with the King's banner floating over
it. The passengers in the street below would discern her anxious
visage, and send up a shout, "When the golden Indian on the
Province House shall shoot his arrow, and when the cock on the
Old South spire shall crow, then look for a Royal Governor
again!"--for this had grown a byword through the town. And at
last, after long, long years, old Esther Dudley knew, or
perchance she only dreamed, that a Royal Governor was on the eve
of returning to the Province House, to receive the heavy key
which Sir William Howe had committed to her charge. Now it was
the fact that intelligence bearing some faint analogy to Esther's
version of it was current among the townspeople. She set the
mansion in the best order that her means allowed, and, arraying
herself in silks and tarnished gold, stood long before the
blurred mirror to admire her own magnificence. As she gazed, the
gray and withered lady moved her ashen lips, murmuring half
aloud, talking to shapes that she saw within the mirror, to
shadows of her own fantasies, to the household friends of memory,
and bidding them rejoice with her and come forth to meet the
Governor. And while absorbed in this communion, Mistress Dudley
heard the tramp of many footsteps in the street, and, looking out
at the window, beheld what she construed as the Royal Governor's

"O happy day! O blessed, blessed hour!" she exclaimed. "Let me
but bid him welcome within the portal, and my task in the
Province House, and on earth, is done!"

Then with tottering feet, which age and tremulous joy caused to
tread amiss, she hurried down the grand staircase, her silks
sweeping and rustling as she went, so that the sound was as if a
train of spectral courtiers were thronging from the dim mirror.
And Esther Dudley fancied that as soon as the wide door should be
flung open, all the pomp and splendor of by-gone times would pace
majestically into the Province House, and the gilded tapestry of
the past would be brightened by the sunshine of the present. She
turned the key--withdrew it from the lock--unclosed the door--and
stepped across the threshold. Advancing up the court-yard
appeared a person of most dignified mien, with tokens, as Esther
interpreted them, of gentle blood, high rank, and long-accustomed
authority, even in his walk and every gesture. He was richly
dressed, but wore a gouty shoe which, however, did not lessen the
stateliness of his gait. Around and behind him were people in
plain civic dresses, and two or three war-worn veterans,
evidently officers of rank, arrayed in a uniform of blue and
buff. But Esther Dudley, firm in the belief that had fastened its
roots about her heart, beheld only the principal personage, and
never doubted that this was the long-looked-for Governor, to whom
she was to surrender up her charge. As he approached, she
involuntary sank down on her knees and tremblingly held forth the
heavy key.

"Receive my trust! take it quickly!" cried she, "for methinks
Death is striving to snatch away my triumph. But he comes too
late. Thank Heaven for this blessed hour! God save King George!"

"That, Madam, is a strange prayer to be offered up at such a
moment," replied the unknown guest of the Province House, and
courteously removing his hat, he offered his arm to raise the
aged woman. "Yet, in reverence for your gray hairs and long-kept
faith, Heaven forbid that any here should say you nay. Over the
realms which still acknowledge his sceptre, God save King

Esther Dudley started to her feet, and hastily clutching back the
key gazed with fearful earnestness at the stranger; and dimly and
doubtfully, as if suddenly awakened from a dream, her bewildered
eyes half recognized his face. Years ago she had known him among
the gentry of the province. But the ban of the King had fallen
upon him! How, then, came the doomed victim here? Proscribed,
excluded from mercy, the monarch's most dreaded and hated foe,
this New England merchant had stood triumphantly against a
kingdom's strength; and his foot now trod upon humbled Royalty,
as he ascended the steps of the Province House, the people's
chosen Governor of Massachusetts.

"Wretch, wretch that I am!" muttered the old woman, with such a
heart-broken expression that the tears gushed from the stranger's
eyes "Have I bidden a traitor welcome? Come, Death! come

"Alas, venerable lady!" said Governor Hancock, tending her his
support with all the reverence that a courtier would have shown
to a queen.

"Your life has been prolonged until the world has changed around
you. You have treasured up all that time has rendered
worthless--the principles, feelings, manners, modes of being and
acting, which another generation has flung aside--and you are a
symbol of the past. And I, and these around me--we represent a
new race of men--living no longer in the past, scarcely in the
present--but projecting our lives forward into the future.
Ceasing to model ourselves on ancestral superstitions, it is our
faith and principle to press onward, onward! Yet," continued he,
turning to his attendants, "let us reverence, for the last time,
the stately and gorgeous prejudices of the tottering Past!"

While the Republican Governor spoke, he had continued to support
the helpless form of Esther Dudley; her weight grew heavier
against his arm; but at last, with a sudden effort to free
herself, the ancient woman sank down beside one of the pillars of
the portal. The key of the Province House fell from her grasp,
and clanked against the stone.

"I have been faithful unto death," murmured she. "God save the King!"

"She hath done her office!" said Hancock solemnly. "We will follow
her reverently to the tomb of her ancestors; and then, my fellow-citizens,
onward--onward! We are no longer children of the Past!"

As the old loyalist concluded his narrative, the
enthusiasm which had been fitfully flashing within his sunken
eyes, and quivering across his wrinkled visage, faded away, as if
all the lingering fire of his soul were extinguished. Just then,
too, a lamp upon the mantel-piece threw out a dying gleam, which
vanished as speedily as it shot upward, compelling our eyes to
grope for one another's features by the dim glow of the hearth.
With such a lingering fire, methought, with such a dying gleam,
had the glory of the ancient system vanished from the Province
House, when the spirit of old Esther Dudley took its flight. And
now, again, the clock of the Old South threw its voice of ages on
the breeze, knolling the hourly knell of the Past, crying out far
and wide through the multitudinous city, and filling our ears, as
we sat in the dusky chamber, with its reverberating depth of
tone. In that same mansion--in that very chamber--what a volume
of history had been told off into hours, by the same voice that
was now trembling in the air. Many a Governor had heard those
midnight accents, and longed to exchange his stately cares for
slumber. And as for mine host and Mr. Bela Tiffany and the old
loyalist and me, we had babbled about dreams of the past, until
we almost fancied that the clock was still striking in a bygone
century. Neither of us would have wondered, had a
hoop-petticoated phantom of Esther Dudley tottered into the
chamber, walking her rounds in the hush of midnight, as of yore,
and motioned us to quench the fading embers of the fire, and
leave the historic precincts to herself and her kindred shades.
But as no such vision was vouchsafed, I retired unbidden, and
would advise Mr. Tiffany to lay hold of another auditor, being
resolved not to show my face in the Province House for a good
while hence--if ever.


One September night a family had gathered round their hearth,
and piled it high with the driftwood of mountain streams, the dry
cones of the pine, and the splintered ruins of great trees that
had come crashing down the precipice. Up the chimney roared the
fire, and brightened the room with its broad blaze. The faces of
the father and mother had a sober gladness; the children laughed;
the eldest daughter was the image of Happiness at seventeen; and
the aged grandmother, who sat knitting in the warmest place, was
the image of Happiness grown old. They had found the "herb,
heart's-ease," in the bleakest spot of all New England. This
family were situated in the Notch of the White Hills, where the
wind was sharp throughout the year, and pitilessly cold in the
winter,--giving their cottage all its fresh inclemency before it
descended on the valley of the Saco. They dwelt in a cold spot
and a dangerous one; for a mountain towered above their heads, so
steep, that the stones would often rumble down its sides and
startle them at midnight.

The daughter had just uttered some simple jest that filled them
all with mirth, when the wind came through the Notch and seemed
to pause before their cottage--rattling the door, with a sound of
wailing and lamentation, before it passed into the valley. For a
moment it saddened them, though there was nothing unusual in the
tones. But the family were glad again when they perceived that
the latch was lifted by some traveller, whose footsteps had been
unheard amid the dreary blast which heralded his approach, and
wailed as he was entering, and went moaning away from the door.

Though they dwelt in such a solitude, these people held daily
converse with the world. The romantic pass of the Notch is a
great artery, through which the life-blood of internal commerce
is continually throbbing between Maine, on one side, and the
Green Mountains and the shores of the St. Lawrence, on the other.
The stage-coach always drew up before the door of the cottage.
The wayfarer, with no companion but his staff, paused here to
exchange a word, that the sense of loneliness might not utterly
overcome him ere he could pass through the cleft of the mountain,
or reach the first house in the valley. And here the teamster, on
his way to Portland market, would put up for the night; and, if a
bachelor, might sit an hour beyond the usual bedtime, and steal a
kiss from the mountain maid at parting. It was one of those
primitive taverns where the traveller pays only for food and
lodging, but meets with a homely kindness beyond all price. When
the footsteps were heard, therefore, between the outer door and
the inner one, the whole family rose up, grandmother, children
and all, as if about to welcome some one who belonged to them,
and whose fate was linked with theirs.

The door was opened by a young man. His face at first wore the
melancholy expression, almost despondency, of one who travels a
wild and bleak road, at nightfall and alone, but soon brightened
up when he saw the kindly warmth of his reception. He felt his
heart spring forward to meet them all, from the old woman, who
wiped a chair with her apron, to the little child that held out
its arms to him. One glance and smile placed the stranger on a
footing of innocent familiarity with the eldest daughter.

"Ah, this fire is the right thing!" cried he; "especially when
there is such a pleasant circle round it. I am quite benumbed;
for the Notch is just like the pipe of a great pair of bellows;
it has blown a terrible blast in my face all the way from

"Then you are going towards Vermont?" said the master of the
house, as he helped to take a light knapsack off the young man's

"Yes; to Burlington, and far enough beyond," replied he. "I meant
to have been at Ethan Crawford's to-night; but a pedestrian
lingers along such a road as this. It is no matter; for, when I
saw this good fire, and all your cheerful faces, I felt as if you
had kindled it on purpose for me, and were waiting my arrival. So
I shall sit down among you, and make myself at home."

The frank-hearted stranger had just drawn his chair to the fire
when something like a heavy footstep was heard without, rushing
down the steep side of the mountain, as with long and rapid
strides, and taking such a leap in passing the cottage as to
strike the opposite precipice. The family held their breath,
because they knew the sound, and their guest held his by

"The old mountain has thrown a stone at us, for fear we should
forget him," said the landlord, recovering himself. "He sometimes
nods his head and threatens to come down; but we are old
neighbors, and agree together pretty well upon the whole. Besides
we have a sure place of refuge hard by if he should be coming in
good earnest."

Let us now suppose the stranger to have finished his supper of
bear's meat; and, by his natural felicity of manner, to have
placed himself on a footing of kindness with the whole family, so
that they talked as freely together as if he belonged to their
mountain brood. He was of a proud, yet gentle spirit--haughty and
reserved among the rich and great; but ever ready to stoop his
head to the lowly cottage door, and be like a brother or a son at
the poor man's fireside. In the household of the Notch he found
warmth and simplicity of feeling, the pervading intelligence of
New England, and a poetry of native growth, which they had
gathered when they little thought of it from the mountain peaks
and chasms, and at the very threshold of their romantic and
dangerous abode. He had travelled far and alone; his whole life,
indeed, had been a solitary path; for, with the lofty caution of
his nature, he had kept himself apart from those who might
otherwise have been his companions. The family, too, though so
kind and hospitable, had that consciousness of unity among
themselves, and separation from the world at large, which, in
every domestic circle, should still keep a holy place where no
stranger may intrude. But this evening a prophetic sympathy
impelled the refined and educated youth to pour out his heart
before the simple mountaineers, and constrained them to answer
him with the same free confidence. And thus it should have been.
Is not the kindred of a common fate a closer tie than that of

The secret of the young man's character was a high and abstracted
ambition. He could have borne to live an undistinguished life,
but not to be forgotten in the grave. Yearning desire had been
transformed to hope; and hope, long cherished, had become like
certainty, that, obscurely as he journeyed now, a glory was to
beam on all his pathway,--though not, perhaps, while he was
treading it. But when posterity should gaze back into the gloom
of what was now the present, they would trace the brightness of
his footsteps, brightening as meaner glories faded, and confess
that a gifted one had passed from his cradle to his tomb with
none to recognize him.

"As yet," cried the stranger--his cheek glowing and his eye
flashing with enthusiasm--"as yet, I have done nothing. Were I to
vanish from the earth to-morrow, none would know so much of me as
you: that a nameless youth came up at nightfall from the valley
of the Saco, and opened his heart to you in the evening, and
passed through the Notch by sunrise, and was seen no more. Not a
soul would ask, 'Who was he? Whither did the wanderer go?' But I
cannot die till I have achieved my destiny. Then, let Death come!
I shall have built my monument!"

There was a continual flow of natural emotion, gushing forth amid
abstracted reverie, which enabled the family to understand this
young man's sentiments, though so foreign from their own. With
quick sensibility of the ludicrous, he blushed at the ardor into
which he had been betrayed.

"You laugh at me," said he, taking the eldest daughter's hand,
and laughing himself. "You think my ambition as nonsensical as if
I were to freeze myself to death on the top of Mount Washington,
only that people might spy at me from the country round about.
And, truly, that would be a noble pedestal for a man's statue!"

"It is better to sit here by this fire," answered the girl,
blushing, "and be comfortable and contented, though nobody thinks
about us."

"I suppose," said her father, after a fit of musing, "there is
something natural in what the young man says; and if my mind had
been turned that way, I might have felt just the same. It is
strange, wife, how his talk has set my head running on things
that are pretty certain never to come to pass."

"Perhaps they may," observed the wife. "Is the man thinking what
he will do when he is a widower?"

"No, no!" cried he, repelling the idea with reproachful kindness.
"When I think of your death, Esther, I think of mine, too. But I
was wishing we had a good farm in Bartlett, or Bethlehem, or
Littleton, or some other township round the White Mountains; but
not where they could tumble on our heads. I should want to stand
well with my neighbors and be called Squire, and sent to General
Court for a term or two; for a plain, honest man may do as much
good there as a lawyer. And when I should be grown quite an old
man, and you an old woman, so as not to be long apart, I might
die happy enough in my bed, and leave you all crying around me. A
slate gravestone would suit me as well as a marble one--with just
my name and age, and a verse of a hymn, and something to let
people know that I lived an honest man and died a Christian."

"There now!" exclaimed the stranger; "it is our nature to desire
a monument, be it slate or marble, or a pillar of granite, or a
glorious memory in the universal heart of man."

"We're in a strange way, to-night," said the wife, with tears in
her eyes. "They say it's a sign of something, when folks' minds
go a wandering so. Hark to the children!"

They listened accordingly. The younger children had been put to
bed in another room, but with an open door between, so that they
could be heard talking busily among themselves. One and all
seemed to have caught the infection from the fireside circle, and
were outvying each other in wild wishes, and childish projects of
what they would do when they came to be men and women. At length
a little boy, instead of addressing his brothers and sisters,
called out to his mother.

"I'll tell you what I wish, mother," cried he. "I want you and
father and grandma'm, and all of us, and the stranger too, to
start right away, and go and take a drink out of the basin of the

Nobody could help laughing at the child's notion of leaving a
warm bed, and dragging them from a cheerful fire, to visit the
basin of the Flume,--a brook, which tumbles over the precipice,
deep within the Notch. The boy had hardly spoken when a wagon
rattled along the road, and stopped a moment before the door. It
appeared to contain two or three men, who were cheering their
hearts with the rough chorus of a song, which resounded, in
broken notes, between the cliffs, while the singers hesitated
whether to continue their journey or put up here for the night.

"Father," said the girl, "they are calling you by name."

But the good man doubted whether they had really called him, and
was unwilling to show himself too solicitous of gain by inviting
people to patronize his house. He therefore did not hurry to the
door; and the lash being soon applied, the travellers plunged
into the Notch, still singing and laughing, though their music
and mirth came back drearily from the heart of the mountain.

"There, mother!" cried the boy, again. "They'd have given us a
ride to the Flume."

Again they laughed at the child's pertinacious fancy for a night
ramble. But it happened that a light cloud passed over the
daughter's spirit; she looked gravely into the fire, and drew a
breath that was almost a sigh. It forced its way, in spite of a
little struggle to repress it. Then starting and blushing, she
looked quickly round the circle, as if they had caught a glimpse
into her bosom. The stranger asked what she had been thinking of.

"Nothing," answered she, with a downcast smile. "Only I felt
lonesome just then."

"Oh, I have always had a gift of feeling what is in other
people's hearts," said he, half seriously. "Shall I tell the
secrets of yours? For I know what to think when a young girl
shivers by a warm hearth, and complains of lonesomeness at her
mother's side. Shall I put these feelings into words?"

"They would not be a girl's feelings any longer if they could be
put into words," replied the mountain nymph, laughing, but
avoiding his eye.

All this was said apart. Perhaps a germ of love was springing in
their hearts, so pure that it might blossom in Paradise, since it
could not be matured on earth; for women worship such gentle
dignity as his; and the proud, contemplative, yet kindly soul is
oftenest captivated by simplicity like hers. But while they spoke
softly, and he was watching the happy sadness, the lightsome
shadows, the shy yearnings of a maiden's nature, the wind through
the Notch took a deeper and drearier sound. It seemed, as the
fanciful stranger said, like the choral strain of the spirits of
the blast, who in old Indian times had their dwelling among these
mountains, and made their heights and recesses a sacred region.
There was a wail along the road, as if a funeral were passing. To
chase away the gloom, the family threw pine branches on their
fire, till the dry leaves crackled and the flame arose,
discovering once again a scene of peace and humble happiness. The
light hovered about them fondly, and caressed them all. There
were the little faces of the children, peeping from their bed
apart and here the father's frame of strength, the mother's
subdued and careful mien, the high-browed youth, the budding
girl, and the good old grandam, still knitting in the warmest
place. The aged woman looked up from her task, and, with fingers
ever busy, was the next to speak.

"Old folks have their notions," said she, "as well as young ones.
You've been wishing and planning; and letting your heads run on
one thing and another, till you've set my mind a wandering too.
Now what should an old woman wish for, when she can go but a step
or two before she comes to her grave? Children, it will haunt me
night and day till I tell you."

"What is it, mother?" cried the husband and wife at once.

Then the old woman, with an air of mystery which drew the circle
closer round the fire, informed them that she had provided her
graveclothes some years before,--a nice linen shroud, a cap with
a muslin ruff, and everything of a finer sort than she had worn
since her wedding day. But this evening an old superstition had
strangely recurred to her. It used to be said, in her younger
days, that if anything were amiss with a corpse, if only the ruff
were not smooth, or the cap did not set right, the corpse in the
coffin and beneath the clods would strive to put up its cold
hands and arrange it. The bare thought made her nervous.

"Don't talk so, grandmother!" said the girl, shuddering.

"Now,"--continued the old woman, with singular earnestness, yet
smiling strangely at her own folly,--"I want one of you, my
children--when your mother is dressed and in the coffin--I want
one of you to hold a looking-glass over my face. Who knows but I
may take a glimpse at myself, and see whether all's right?"

"Old and young, we dream of graves and monuments," murmured the
stranger youth. "I wonder how mariners feel when the ship is
sinking, and they, unknown and undistinguished, are to be buried
together in the ocean--that wide and nameless sepulchre?"

For a moment, the old woman's ghastly conception so engrossed the
minds of her hearers that a sound abroad in the night, rising
like the roar of a blast, had grown broad, deep, and terrible,
before the fated group were conscious of it. The house and all
within it trembled; the foundations of the earth seemed to be
shaken, as if this awful sound were the peal of the last trump.
Young and old exchanged one wild glance, and remained an instant,
pale, affrighted, without utterance, or power to move. Then the
same shriek burst simultaneously from all their lips.

"The Slide! The Slide!"

The simplest words must intimate, but not portray, the
unutterable horror of the catastrophe. The victims rushed from
their cottage, and sought refuge in what they deemed a safer
spot--where, in contemplation of such an emergency, a sort of
barrier had been reared. Alas! they had quitted their security,
and fled right into the pathway of destruction. Down came the
whole side of the mountain, in a cataract of ruin. Just before it
reached the house, the stream broke into two branches--shivered
not a window there, but overwhelmed the whole vicinity, blocked
up the road, and annihilated everything in its dreadful course.
Long ere the thunder of the great Slide had ceased to roar among
the mountains, the mortal agony had been endured, and the victims
were at peace. Their bodies were never found.

The next morning, the light smoke was seen stealing from the
cottage chimney up the mountain side. Within, the fire was yet
smouldering on the hearth, and the chairs in a circle round it,
as if the inhabitants had but gone forth to view the devastation
of the Slide, and would shortly return, to thank Heaven for their
miraculous escape. All had left separate tokens, by which those
who had known the family were made to shed a tear for each. Who
has not heard their name? The story has been told far and wide,
and will forever be a legend of these mountains. Poets have sung
their fate.

There were circumstances which led some to suppose that a
stranger had been received into the cottage on this awful night,
and had shared the catastrophe of all its inmates. Others denied
that there were sufficient grounds for such a conjecture. Woe for
the high-souled youth, with his dream of Earthly Immortality! His
name and person utterly unknown; his history, his way of life,
his plans, a mystery never to be solved, his death and his
existence equally a doubt! Whose was the agony of that death


"And so, Peter, you won't even consider of the business?" said
Mr. John Brown, buttoning his surtout over the snug rotundity of
his person, and drawing on his gloves. "You positively refuse to
let me have this crazy old house, and the land under and
adjoining, at the price named?"

"Neither at that, nor treble the sum," responded the gaunt,
grizzled, and threadbare Peter Goldthwaite. "The fact is, Mr.
Brown, you must find another site for your brick block, and be
content to leave my estate with the present owner. Next summer, I
intend to put a splendid new mansion over the cellar of the old

"Pho, Peter!" cried Mr. Brown, as he opened the kitchen door;
"content yourself with building castles in the air, where
house-lots are cheaper than on earth, to say nothing of the cost
of bricks and mortar. Such foundations are solid enough for your
edifices, while this underneath us is just the thing for mine;
and so we may both be suited. What say you again?"

"Precisely what I said before, Mr. Brown," answered Peter
Goldthwaite. "And as for castles in the air, mine may not be as
magnificent as that sort of architecture, but perhaps as
substantial, Mr. Brown, as the very respectable brick block with
dry goods stores, tailors' shops, and banking rooms on the lower
floor, and lawyers' offices in the second story, which you are so
anxious to substitute."

"And the cost, Peter, eh?" said Mr. Brown, as he withdrew, in
something of a pet. "That, I suppose, will be provided for,
off-hand, by drawing a check on Bubble Bank!"

John Brown and Peter Goldthwaite had been jointly known to the
commercial world between twenty and thirty years before, under
the firm of Goldthwaite & Brown; which co-partnership, however,
was speedily dissolved by the natural incongruity of its
constituent parts. Since that event, John Brown, with exactly the
qualities of a thousand other John Browns, and by just such
plodding methods as they used, had prospered wonderfully, and
become one of the wealthiest John Browns on earth. Peter
Goldthwaite, on the contrary, after innumerable schemes, which
ought to have collected all the coin and paper currency of the
country into his coffers, was as needy a gentleman as ever wore a
patch upon his elbow. The contrast between him and his former
partner may be briefly marked; for Brown never reckoned upon
luck, yet always had it; while Peter made luck the main condition
of his projects, and always missed it. While the means held out,
his speculations had been magnificent, but were chiefly confined,
of late years, to such small business as adventures in the
lottery. Once he had gone on a gold-gathering expedition
somewhere to the South, and ingeniously contrived to empty his
pockets more thoroughly than ever; while others, doubtless, were
filling theirs with native bullion by the handful. More recently
he had expended a legacy of a thousand or two of dollars in
purchasing Mexican scrip, and thereby became the proprietor of a
province; which, however, so far as Peter could find out, was
situated where he might have had an empire for the same
money,--in the clouds. From a search after this valuable real
estate Peter returned so gaunt and threadbare that, on reaching
New England, the scarecrows in the cornfields beckoned to him, as
he passed by. "They did but flutter in the wind," quoth Peter
Goldthwaite. No, Peter, they beckoned, for the scarecrows knew
their brother!

At the period of our story his whole visible income would not
have paid the tax of the old mansion in which we find him. It was
one of those rusty, moss-grown, many-peaked wooden houses, which
are scattered about the streets of our elder towns, with a
beetle-browed second story projecting over the foundation, as if
it frowned at the novelty around it. This old paternal edifice,
needy as he was, and though, being centrally situated on the
principal street of the town, it would have brought him a
handsome sum, the sagacious Peter had his own reasons for never
parting with, either by auction or private sale. There seemed,
indeed, to be a fatality that connected him with his birthplace;
for, often as he had stood on the verge of ruin, and standing
there even now, he had not yet taken the step beyond it which
would have compelled him to surrender the house to his creditors.
So here he dwelt with bad luck till good should come.

Here then in his kitchen, the only room where a spark of fire
took off the chill of a November evening, poor Peter Goldthwaite
had just been visited by his rich old partner. At the close of
their interview, Peter, with rather a mortified look, glanced
downwards at his dress, parts of which appeared as ancient as the
days of Goldthwaite & Brown. His upper garment was a mixed
surtout, wofully faded, and patched with newer stuff on each
elbow; beneath this he wore a threadbare black coat, some of the
silk buttons of which had been replaced with others of a
different pattern; and lastly, though he lacked not a pair of
gray pantaloons, they were very shabby ones, and had been
partially turned brown by the frequent toasting of Peter's shins
before a scanty fire. Peter's person was in keeping with his
goodly apparel. Gray-headed, hollow-eyed, pale-cheeked, and
lean-bodied, he was the perfect picture of a man who had fed on
windy schemes and empty hopes, till he could neither live on such
unwholesome trash, nor stomach more substantial food. But,
withal, this Peter Goldthwaite, crack-brained simpleton as,
perhaps, he was, might have cut a very brilliant figure in the
world, had he employed his imagination in the airy business of
poetry, instead of making it a demon of mischief in mercantile
pursuits. After all, he was no bad fellow, but as harmless as a
child, and as honest and honorable, and as much of the gentleman
which nature meant him for, as an irregular life and depressed
circumstances will permit any man to be.

As Peter stood on the uneven bricks of his hearth, looking round
at the disconsolate old kitchen, his eyes began to kindle with
the illumination of an enthusiasm that never long deserted him.
He raised his hand, clinched it, and smote it energetically
against the smoky panel over the fireplace.

"The time is come!" said he. "With such a treasure at command, it
were folly to be a poor man any longer. To-morrow morning I will
begin with the garret, nor desist till I have torn the house

Deep in the chimney-corner, like a witch in a dark cavern, sat a
little old woman, mending one of the two pairs of stockings
wherewith Peter Goldthwaite kept his toes from being frostbitten.
As the feet were ragged past all darning, she had cut pieces out
of a cast-off flannel petticoat, to make new soles. Tabitha
Porter was an old maid, upwards of sixty years of age, fifty-five
of which she had sat in that same chimney-corner, such being the
length of time since Peter's grandfather had taken her from the
almshouse. She had no friend but Peter, nor Peter any friend but
Tabitha; so long as Peter might have a shelter for his own head,
Tabitha would know where to shelter hers; or, being homeless
elsewhere, she would take her master by the hand and bring him to
her native home, the almshouse. Should it ever be necessary, she
loved him well enough to feed him with her last morsel, and
clothe him with her under petticoat. But Tabitha was a queer old
woman, and, though never infected with Peter's flightiness, had
become so accustomed to his freaks and follies that she viewed
them all as matters of course. Hearing him threaten to tear the
house down, she looked quietly up from her work.

"Best leave the kitchen till the last, Mr. Peter," said she.

"The sooner we have it all down the better," said Peter
Goldthwaite. "I am tired to death of living in this cold, dark,
windy, smoky, creaking, groaning, dismal old house. I shall feel
like a younger man when we get into my splendid brick mansion,
as, please Heaven, we shall by this time next autumn. You shall
have a room on the sunny side, old Tabby, finished and furnished
as best may suit your own notions."

"I should like it pretty much such a room as this kitchen,"
answered Tabitha. "It will never be like home to me till the
chimney-corner gets as black with smoke as this; and that won't
be these hundred years. How much do you mean to lay out on the
house, Mr. Peter?"

"What is that to the purpose?" exclaimed Peter, loftily. "Did not
my great-granduncle, Peter Goldthwaite, who died seventy years
ago, and whose namesake I am, leave treasure enough to build
twenty such?"

"I can't say but he did, Mr. Peter," said Tabitha, threading her

Tabitha well understood that Peter had reference to an immense
hoard of the precious metals, which was said to exist somewhere
in the cellar or walls, or under the floors, or in some concealed

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