Part 4 out of 5
Rutherford," he read. "Well, this is consistent at least. She wears the
disguise of a virtuous woman in her very tomb. Marion Nugent rests beneath
the waves of the Atlantic ocean, and here Rose Sherbrooke sleeps in an
honored grave beneath the shelter of the dead girl's stainless name. But
the deception has power to harm no longer, so let us leave her in peace.
It is well for our family that, even as a sunken wreck, we still find this
pirate bark Under False Colors,"
LUCY HAMILTON HOOPER.
The Hungry Heart.
A village on the coast of Maine; in this village a boarding-house; in this
boarding-house a parlor.
This parlor is, strictly speaking, a chamber: it is in the second story,
and until lately it contained a bed, washstand, etc.; but a visitor from
New York has taken a fancy to change it to a reception-room. In the rear,
communicating with it, is a sleeping-closet.
The room is what you might expect to find in a village boarding-house: the
floor of liliuptian extent; the ceiling low, uneven, cracked and yellow;
the originally coarse and ugly wall-paper now blotched with age; the
carpet thin, threadbare, patched and stained; the furniture of various
woods and colors, and in various stages of decrepitude.
But a tiny bracket or two, three or four handsome engravings, two fresh
wreaths of evergreens, two vases of garden flowers, a number of Swiss and
French knickknacks, and a few prettily-bound books, give the little nest
an air of refinement which is almost elegance.
You judge at once that the occupant must be a woman--a woman moreover of
sensibility and taste; a woman of good society. Of all this you become
positive when you look at her, take note of her gracious manner and listen
to her cultured voice.
Her expression is singularly frank and almost childlike: it exhibits a
rapid play of thoughts, and even of emotions: it is both vivacious and
refined, both eager and sweet. It would seem as if here were the
impossible combination, the ideal union, so often dreamed of by poets and
artists, of girlish simplicity and innocence with womanly cleverness and
In a large easy-chair reclines her rather small, slender and willowy form,
starting slightly forward when she speaks, and sinking back when she
listens. Her sparkling eyes are fixed on the eyes of her one visitor with
an intentness and animation of interest which should be very fascinating.
He, a young man, not five years older than herself, very gentle in manner
and with a remarkably sweet expression of face, evidently is fascinated,
and even strongly moved, if one may judge by the feverish color in his
cheeks, the eager inquiry of his gaze and the tremor of his lips.
The first words of hers which we shall record are a strange utterance to
come from a woman:
"Let me tell you something which I have read lately. It sounds like a
satire, and yet there is too much truth in it: 'Every woman in these days
needs two husbands--one to fill her purse, and one to fill her heart; one
to dress her, and one to love her. It is not easy to be the two in one.'
That is what I have read, and it is only too true. Remember it, and don't
A spasm of intense spiritual pain crossed the young man's fine and kindly
"Don't say such things, I beg of you!" he implored. "I am sure that in
what you have quoted there is a slander upon most women. I know that it
Her lips parted as if for a contradiction, but it was evidently very
pleasant to her to hear such words from him, and with a little childlike
smile of gratification she let him proceed.
"I have perfect confidence in you," he murmured. "I am willing to put all
my chances of happiness in your hands. My only fear is that I am not half
worthy of you--not a thousandth part worthy of you. Will you not listen to
me seriously? Will you not be so kind?"
A tremor of emotion slightly lifted her hands, and it seemed for a moment
as if she would extend them to him. Then there was a sudden revulsion:
with a more violent shudder, evidently of a painful nature, she threw
herself backward, her face turned pale, and she closed her eyes as if to
shut him from her sight.
"I ought to ask your pardon," she whispered. "I never thought that it
would come to this. I never meant that it should. Oh, I ask your pardon."
Recovering herself with singular quickness, a bright smile dancing along
the constantly changing curves of her lips, like sunbeams leaping from
wavelet to wavelet, she once more leaned cordially toward him, and said in
a gay yet pleading tone, "Let us talk of something else. Come, tell me
about yourself--all about yourself, nothing about me."
"I cannot speak of anything else," he replied, after looking at her long
in silence. "My whole being is full of you: I cannot think of anything
A smile of gratitude sweetly mastered her mouth: then it suddenly turned
to a smile of pity; then it died in a quiver of remorse.
"Oh, we cannot marry," she sighed. "We must not marry, if we could. Let me
tell you something dreadful. People hate each other after they are
married. I know: I have seen it. I knew a girl of seventeen who married a
man ten years older--a man who was Reason itself. Her friends told her,
and she herself believed it, that she was sure of happiness. But after
three years she found that she did not love, that she was not loved, and
that she was miserable. He was too rational: he used to judge her as he
would a column of figures--he had no comprehension for her feelings."
There was a momentary pause, during which she folded her hands and looked
at him, but with an air of not seeing him. In the recollection of this
heart-tragedy of the past and of another she had apparently forgotten the
one which was now pressing upon herself.
"It was incredible how cold and unsympathizing and dull he could be," she
went on. "Once, after she had worked a week in secret to surprise him with
a dressing-gown made by her own hands--labored a week, waited and hoped a
week for one word of praise--he only said, 'It is too short.' Don't you
think it was cruel? It was. I suppose he soon forgot it, but she never
could. A woman cannot forget such slights: they do not seem little blows
to her; they make her very soul bleed."
"Don't reproach _me_ for it," whispered the young man with a pleading
smile. "You seem to be reproving me, and I can't bear it. I am not
"Oh, not you," she answered quickly. "I am not scolding you. I could not."
She did not mean it, but she gave him a smile of indescribable sweetness:
she had had no intention of putting out her hands toward him, but she did
it. He seized the delicate fingers and slowly drew her against his heart.
Her face crimson with feeling, her whole form trembling to the tiniest
vein, she rose to her feet, turning away her head as if to fly, and yet
did not escape, and could not wish to escape. Holding her in his arm, he
poured into her ear a murmur which was not words, it was so much more than
"Oh, _could_ you truly love me?" she at last sobbed. "Could you _keep_
After a while some painful recollection seemed to awaken her from this
dream of happiness, and, drawing herself out of his embrace, she looked
him sadly in the eyes, saying, "I must not be so weak. I must save myself
and you from misery. Oh, I must. Go now--leave me for a while: do go. I
must have time to think before I say another word to you."
"Good-bye, my love--soon to be my wife," he answered, stifling with a kiss
the "No, no," which she tried to utter.
Although he meant to go, and although she was wretchedly anxious that he
should go, he was far from gone. All across the room, at every square of
the threadbare carpet, they halted to renew their talk. Minutes passed, an
hour had flown, and still he was there. And when he at last softly opened
the door, she herself closed it, saying, "Oh no! not yet."
So greedy is a loving woman for love, so much does she hate to lose the
breath of it from her soul: to let it be withdrawn is like consenting to
die when life is sweetest.
Thus it was through her, who had bidden him to go, and who had meant that
he should go, that he remained for minutes longer, dropping into her ear
whispers of love which at last drew out her confession of love. And when
the parting moment came--that moment of woman's life in which she least
belongs to herself--there was not in this woman a single reservation of
feeling or purpose.
These people, who were so madly in love with each other, were almost
strangers. The man was Charles Leighton, a native of Northport, who had
never gone farther from his home than to Boston, and there only to
graduate in the Harvard College and Medical School.
The lady was Alice Duvernois: her name was all that was known of her in
the village--it was all that she had told of herself. Only a month
previous to the scene above described she had arrived in Northport to
obtain, as she said, a summer of quiet and sea-bathing. She had come
alone, engaged her own rooms, and for a time seemed to want nothing but
Even after she had made herself somewhat familiar with the other inmates
of the boarding-house, nothing positive was learned of her history. That
she had been married was probable: an indefinable something in her face
and carriage seemed to reveal thus much: moreover, her trunks were marked
And yet, so young did she sometimes look, so childlike was her smile and
so simple her manner, that there were curious ones who scouted the
supposition of wifehood. People addressed her both as "Miss" and "Mrs.";
at last it was discovered that her letters bore the latter title: then she
became popularly known as "the beautiful widow."
It would be a waste of time to sketch the opening and ripening of the
intimacy between Doctor Leighton and this fascinating stranger. On his
part it was as nearly a case of love at first sight as perhaps can occur
among people of the Anglo-Saxon race. From the beginning he had no doubts
about giving her his whole heart: he was mastered at once by an emotion
which would not let him hesitate: he longed with all his soul for her
soul, and he strove to win it.
Well, we will not go over the story: we know that he had triumphed. Yes,
in spite of her terror of the future, in spite of some withholding mystery
in the past, she had granted him--or rather she had not been able to
prevent him from seizing--her passionate affection. She had uttered a
promise which, a month before, she would not have dreamed herself capable
In so doing she had acquired an almost unendurable happiness. It was one
of those mighty and terrible joys which are like the effect of opium--one
of those joys which condense life and abbreviate it, which excite and yet
stupefy, which intoxicate and kill. With this in her heart she lived ten
of her old days in one, but also she drew for those ten days upon her
After one of her interviews with Leighton, after an hour of throbbing, of
trembling, of vivid but confused emotions, her face would be as pale as
death, and her weakness such that she could hardly speak. The hands which,
while they clung to his, had been soft and moist, became dry and hot as
with fever, and then cold as ice. At night she could scarcely sleep: for
hours her brain throbbed with the thought of him, and of what stood
between him and her. In the morning she was heavy with headache, dizzy,
faint, hysterical; yet the moment she saw him again she was all life, all
From the point of confession there was no more resistance. She would be
his wife; she would be married whenever he wished; she seemed mad to
reward him for his love; she wanted somehow to sacrifice herself for his
sake. Yet, although she hesitated no longer, she sometimes gazed at him
with eyes full of anxiety, and uttered words which presaged evil.
"If any trouble springs from this, you must pardon me," she more than once
whispered. "I cannot help it. I have never, never, never been loved
before; and oh, I have been so hungry, so famished for it, I had begun to
despair of it. Yes, when I first met you, I had quite despaired of there
being any love in the world for me. I could not help listening to you: I
could not help taking all your words and looks into my craving heart; and
now I am yours--forgive me!"
Stranger as she was in Northport, everybody trusted the frank sweetness in
her face, and sought no other cause for admiring her and wishing her
happiness. The whole village came to the church to witness her marriage
and to doat upon a bridal beauty which lay far more in expression than in
form or feature. A few words of description--inadequate notes to represent
the precious gold of reality--must be given to one who could change the
stare of curiosity to a beaming glance of sympathy.
Small, slender, fragile; neither blonde nor brunette; a clear skin, with a
hectic flush; light chestnut hair, glossy and curling; eyes of violet
blue, large, humid and lustrous, which at the first glance seemed black
because of the darkness, length and closeness of the lashes, and capable
of expressing an earnestness and sweetness which no writer or artist might
hope to depict; a manner which in solitude might be languid, but which the
slightest touch of interest kindled into animation; in fine, white teeth
that sparkled with gayety, and glances that flashed happiness.
She was married without bridal costume, and there was no wedding journey.
Leighton was poor, and must attend to his business; and his wife wanted
nothing from him which he could not spare--nothing but his love.
Impossible to paint her pathetic gratitude for this affection; the
spiritual--it was not passionate--fondness which she bore him; the
softness of her eyes as she gazed for minutes together into his; the
sudden, tremulous outreachings of her hands toward him, as she just
touches him with her finger and draws back, then leans forward and lies in
his arms, uttering a little cry of happiness. Here was a heart that must
long have hungered for affection--a heart unspeakably thankful and joyous
at obtaining it.
"I have been smiling all day," she sometimes said to him. "People have
asked me why I looked so gay, and what I had heard that was funny. It is
just because I am entirely happy, and because the feeling is still a
surprise. Shall I ever get over it? Am I silly? No!"
Her gladness of heart seemed to make her angelic. She rejoiced in every
joy around her, and grieved for every sorrow. She visited the poor of her
husband's patients, watched with them when there was need, made little
collections for their relief, chatted away their forebodings, half cured
them with her smile. There was something catching, comforting, uplifting
in the spectacle of that overbrimming content.
The well were as susceptible to its influence as the sick. Once, half a
dozen men and twice as many boys were seen engaged in recovering her veil
out of a pond into which the wind had blown it; and when it was handed to
her by a shy youth on the end of a twenty-foot pole, all felt repaid for
their labors by the childlike burst of laughter with which she received
it. Now and then, however, shadows fell across this sunshine. In those
dark moments she frequently reverted to the unhappy couple of whom she had
told Leighton when he first spoke to her of marriage. She was possessed to
describe the man--his dull, filmy, unsympathetic black eyes, his
methodical life and hard rationality, his want of sentiment and
"Why do you talk of that person so much?" Leighton implored. "You seem to
be charging me with his cruelty. I am not like him."
The tears filled her eyes as she started toward him, saying, "No, you are
_not_ like him. Even if you should become like him, I couldn't reproach
you. I should merely die."
"But you know him so well?" he added, inquiringly. "You seem to fear him.
Has he any power over you?"
For a moment she was so sombre that he half feared lest her mind was
unstrung on this one subject.
"No," she at last said. "His power is gone--nearly gone. Oh, if I could
After another pause, during which she seemed to be nerving herself to a
confession, she threw herself into her husband's arms and whispered, "He
He was puzzled by the contrast between the violence of her emotion and the
unimportance of this avowal; but as he at least saw that the subject was
painful to her, and as he was all confidence and gentleness, he put no
"Forget it all," he murmured, caressing her; and with a deep sigh, the
sigh of tired childhood, she answered, "Yes."
The long summer days, laden with happiness for these two, sailed onward to
their sunset havens. After a time, as August drew near its perfumed death,
Alice began to speak of a journey which she should soon be obliged to make
to New York. She _must_ go, she said to Leighton--it was a matter of
property, of business: she would tell him all about it some day. But she
would return soon; that is, she would return as soon as possible: she
would let him know how soon by letter.
When he proposed to accompany her she would not hear of it. To merely go
on with her, she represented, would be a useless expense, and to stay as
long as she might need to stay would injure his practice. In these days
her gayety seemed forced, and more than once he found her weeping; yet so
innocent was he, so simple in his views of life, so candid in soul, that
he suspected no hidden evil: he attributed her agitation entirely to grief
at the prospect of separation.
His own annoyance in view of the journey centred in the fact that his wife
would be absent from him, and that he could not incessantly surround her
with his care. Whether she would be happy, whether she would be treated
with consideration, whether she would be safe from accidents and alarms,
whether her delicate health would not suffer, were the questions which
troubled him. He had the masculine instinct of protection: he was as
virile as he was gentle and affectionate.
The parting was more painful to him than he had expected, because to her
it was such an undisguised and terrible agony.
"You will not forget me?" she pleaded. "You will never, never hate me? You
will always love me? You are the only person who has ever made the world
pleasant to me; and you have made it so pleasant! so different from what
it was! a new earth to me! a star! I will come back as soon as this
business will let me. Some day I will come back, never to go away. Oh,
will not that be delightful?"
Her extreme distress, her terror lest she might not return, her
forebodings lest he should some day cease to love her, impressed him for a
moment--only for a truant moment--with doubts as to a mystery. As he left
the railway station, full of gratitude for the last glance of her loving
eyes, he asked himself once or twice, "What is it?"
What was it?
We will follow her. She is ominously sad during the lonely journey: she is
almost stern by the time she arrives in New York. In place of the summer's
sweetness and gayety, there is a wintry and almost icy expression in her
face, as if she were about to encounter trials to which she had been long
accustomed, and which she had learned to bear with hardness if not with
No one meets her at the railway station, no one at the door of the sombre
house where her carriage stops--no one until she has passed up stairs into
a darkling parlor.
There she is received by the man whom she has so often described to
Deighton--a man of thin, erect form, a high and narrow forehead, regular
and imperturbable features, fixed and filmy black eyes, a mechanical
carriage, an icy demeanor.
At sight of her he slightly bowed--then he advanced slowly to her and took
her hand: he seemed to be hesitating whether he should give her any
"You need not kiss me," she said, her eyes fixed on the floor. "You do not
wish to do it."
He sighed, as if he too were unhappy, or at least weary; but he drew his
hand away and resumed his walk up and down the room.
"So you chose to pass your summer in a village?" he presently said, in the
tone of a man who has ceased to rule, but not ceased to criticise. "I hope
you liked it."
"I told you in my letters that I liked it," she replied in an
"And I told you in my letters that I did not like it. It would have been
more decent in you to stay in Portland, among the people whom I had
requested to take care of you. However, you are accustomed to have your
own way. I can only observe that when a woman will have her own way, she
ought to pay her own way."
A flush, perhaps of shame, perhaps of irritation, crossed her hitherto
pale face, but she made no response to the scoff, and continued to look at
After a few seconds, during which neither of them broke the silence, she
seemed to understand that the reproof was over, and she quietly quitted
The man pushed the door to violently with his foot, and said in an accent
of angry scorn, "That is what is now called a wife."
Well, we have reached the mystery: we have found that it was a crime.
In the working of social laws there occur countless cases of individual
hardship. The institution of marriage is as beneficent as the element of
fire; yet, like that, it sometimes tortures when it should only have
The sufferer, if a woman, usually bears her smart tamely--with more or
less domestic fretting and private weeping indeed, but without violent
effort to escape from her bed of embers. Divorce is public, ugly and
brutal: her sensibility revolts from it. Moreover, mere unhappiness, mere
disappointment of the affections, does not establish a claim for legal
separation. Finally, there is woman's difficulty of self-maintenance--the
fact that her labor will not in general give her both comfort and
What then? Unloved, unable to love, yet with an intense desire for
affection, and an immense capacity for granting it, her heart is tempted
to wander beyond the circle of her duty. A flattering shape approaches her
dungeon-walls; a voice calls to her to come forth and be glad, if only for
a moment; there seems to be a chance of winning the adoration which has
been her whole life's desire; there is an opportunity of using the
emotions which are burning within her. Shall she burst open the gate on
which is written LEGALITY?
Evidently the temptation is mighty. Laden with a forsaken, wounded and
perhaps angry heart, she is so easily led into the belief that her
exceptional suffering gives her a right to exceptional action! She feels
herself justified in setting aside law, when law, falsifying its purpose,
violating its solemn pledge, brings her misery instead of happiness. She
will not, or cannot, reflect that special hardships must occur under all
law; that it is the duty of the individual to bear such chance griefs
without insurrection against the public conscience; that entire freedom of
private judgment would dissolve society.
Too often--though far less often than man does the like--she makes of her
sorrow an armor of excuse, and enters into a contest for unwarrantable
chances of felicity. Only, in general, she is so far conscious of guilt,
or at least so far fearful of punishment, as to carry on her struggle in
the darkness. Few, however maddened by suffering, openly defy the serried
phalanx of the world. Still fewer venture the additional risk of defying
it under the forms of a legality which they have ventured to violate.
Why is it that so few women, even of a low and reckless class, have been
bigamists? It is because the feminine soul has a profound respect, a
little less than religious veneration, for the institution of marriage;
because it instinctively recoils from trampling upon the form which
consecrates love; because in very truth it regards the nuptial bond as a
sacrament. I believe that the average woman would turn away from bigamy
with a deeper shudder than from any other stain of conjugal infidelity.
But there are exceptions to all modes of feeling and of reasoning.
Here is Alice Duvernois: she is a woman of good position, of intellectual
quickness, of unusual sensitiveness of spirit; yet she has thought out
this woeful question differently from the great majority of her sex. To
her, thirsty for sympathy and love, bound to a man who gives her neither,
grown feverish and delirious with the torment of an empty heart, it has
seemed that the sanctity of a second marriage will somehow cover the
violation of a first.
This aberration we can only explain on the ground that she was one of
those natures--mature in some respects, but strangely childlike in
others--whom most of us love to stigmatize as unpractical, and who in fact
never become quite accustomed to this world and its rules.
On the very evening of her arrival home she put to her husband a question
of infantile and almost incredible simplicity. It was one of the many
observations which made him tell her from time to time that she was a
"What do they do," she asked, "to women who marry two husbands?"
"They put them in jail," was his cool reply.
"I think it is brutal," she broke out indignantly, as if the iron gates
were already closing upon her, and she were contesting the justice of the
"You are a pretty simpleton, to set up your opinion against that of all
civilized society!" was the response of incarnate Reason.
From that moment she trembled at her danger, and quivered under the
remorse which terror brings. At times she thought of flying, of abandoning
the husband who did not love her for the one who did; but she was afraid
of being pursued, afraid of discovery. The knowledge that society had
already passed judgment upon her made her see herself in the new light of
a criminal, friendless, hunted and doomed. The penalty of her illegal
grasp after happiness was already tracking her like a bloodhound.
Yet when she further learned that her second marriage was not binding
because of the first, her heart rose in mutiny. Faithful to the only love
that there had been for her in the world, she repeated to herself, a
hundred times a day, "It _is_ binding--it _is_!"
She was in dark insurrection against her kind; at times she was on the
point of bursting out into open defiance. She stared at Duvernois, crazy
to tell him, "I am wedded to another."
He noticed the wild expression, the longing, wide-open eyes, the parted
and eager lips, the trembling chin. At last he said, with a brutality
which had become customary with him, "What are you putting on those airs
for? I suppose you are imagining yourself the heroine of a romance."
With a glare of pain and scorn she walked away from him in silence.
It is shocking indeed to be fastened speechless upon a rack, and to be
charged by uncomprehending souls with counterfeiting emotion. She was so
constituted that she could not help laying up this speech of her husband's
against him as one of many stolid misdoings which justified both contempt
and aversion. In fact, his inability or unwillingness to comprehend her
had always been, in her searching and sensitive eyes, his chief crime. To
be understood, to be accepted at her full worth, was one of the most
urgent demands of her nature.
The life of this young woman, not only within but without, was strange
indeed. She fulfilled that problem of Hawthorne's--an individual bearing
one character, living one life in one place, and a totally different one
in another place--upon one spot of earth angelic, and upon another vile.
Stranger still, her harsher qualities appeared where her manner of life
was lawful, and her finer ones where it was condemnable. At Northport she
had been like sunlight to her intimates and like a ministering seraph to
the poor. In New York she avoided society: she had no tenderness for
The explanation seems to be that love was her only motive of feeling and
action. Not a creature of reason, not a creature of conscience--she was
only a creature of emotion, an exaggerated woman.
Unfortunately, her husband, methodical in life, judicial in mind,
contemptuous of sentiment, was an exaggerated man. Here was a beating
heart united to a skeleton. The result of this unfortunate combination had
been a wreck of happiness and defiance of law.
Duvernois had not a friend intelligent enough to say to him, "You _must _
love your wife; if you cannot love her, you must with merciful deception
make her believe that you do. You must show her when you return from
business that you have thought of her; you must buy a bouquet, a toy, a
trifle, to carry home to her. If you do these things, you will be
rewarded; if not, you will be punished."
But had there been such a friend, Duvernois would not have comprehended
him. Ho would have replied, or at least he would have thought, "My wife is
a fool. She is not worth the money that I now spend upon her, much less
the reflection and time that you call upon me to spend."
Two such as Alice and Duvernois could not live together in peace.
Notwithstanding her old dread of him, and notwithstanding the new alarm
with which she was filled by the discovery that she was a felon, she could
not dissemble her feelings when she looked him in the face. Sometimes she
was silently contemptuous--sometimes (when her nerves were shaken) openly
hostile. Rational, impassive, vigorous as he was, she made him unhappy.
The letters of Leighton were at once a joy and a sorrow. She awaited them
impatiently; she went every day to the delivery post-office whither she
had directed them to be sent; she took them from the hands of the
indifferent clerk with a suffocating beating of the heart. Alone, she
devoured them, kissed them passionately a hundred times, sat down in
loving haste to answer them. But then came the necessity of excusing her
long absence, of inventing some lie for the man she worshiped, of
deterring him from coming to see her.
During that woeful winter of terror, of aversion, of vain longing, her
health failed rapidly. A relentless cough pursued her, the beautiful flame
in her cheek burned freely, and a burst of blood from the lungs warned her
that her future was not to be counted by years.
She cared little: her sole desire was to last until summer. She merely
asked to end her hopeless life in loving arms--to end it before those arms
should recoil from her in horror.
No discovery. Her husband was too indifferent toward her to watch her
closely, or even to suspect her. As early in June as might be she obtained
permission to go to the seaside, and with an eagerness which would have
found the hurricane slow she flew to Northport.
Leighton received her with a joy which at first blinded him to her
"Oh, how could you stay so long away from me?" were his first words. "Oh,
my love, my darling wife! thank you for coming back to me."
But after a few moments, when the first flush and, sparkle of excitement
had died out of her cheeks and eyes, he asked eagerly, "What is the matter
with you? Have you been sick?"
"I am all well again, now that I see you," she answered, putting out her
arms to him with that little start of love and joy which had so often
It absolutely seemed that in the presence of the object of her affection
this erring woman became innocent. Her smile was as simple and pure as
that of childhood: her violet eyes reminded one of a heaven without a
cloud. It must have been that, away from punishment and from terror, she
did not feel herself to be guilty.
But the day of reckoning was approaching. She had scarcely begun to regain
an appearance of health under the stimulus of country air and renewed
happiness, when a disquieting letter arrived from Duvernois. In a tone
which was more than usually authoritative, he directed her to meet him at
Portland, to go to Nahant and Newport. Did he suspect something?
She would have given years of life to be able to show the letter to
Leighton and ask his counsel. But here her punishment began to double upon
her: the being whom she most loved was precisely the one to whom she must
not expose this trouble--the one from whom she was most anxious to conceal
In secret, and with unconfided tears, she wrote a reply, alleging (what
was true) that her feeble health demanded quiet, and praying that she
might be spared the proposed journey. For three days she feverishly
expected an answer, knowing the while that she ought to go to Portland to
meet Duvernois, should he chance to come, yet unable to tear herself away
from Leighton, even for twenty-four hours.
In the afternoon of the third day she made one of her frequent visits of
charity. At the house of a poor and bed-ridden widow she met, as she had
hoped to meet, her husband. When they left the place he took her into his
gig and carried her home.
It was a delicious day of mid June: the sun was setting in clouds of
crimson and gold; the earth was in its freshest summer glory. In the
beauty of the scene, and in the companionship of the heart which was all
hers, she forgot, or seemed to forget, her troubles. One hand rested on
Leighton's arm; her face was lifted steadily to his, like a flower to the
light; her violet eyes were dewy and sparkling with happiness. There were
little clutches of her fingers on his wrist whenever he turned to look at
her. There were spasms of joy in her slender and somewhat wasted frame as
she leaned from time to time against his shoulder.
Arrived at the house, she was loth to have him leave her for even the time
required to take his horse to the stable.
"Come soon," she said--"come as quick as you can. I shall be at the
window. Look up when you reach the gate. Look at the window all the way
from the gate to the door."
In an instant, not even taking off her bonnet, she was sitting by the
window waiting for him to appear.
A man approached, walking behind the hedge of lilacs which bordered the
yard, and halted at the gate with an air of hesitation. She turned ghastly
white: retribution was upon her. It was Duvernois.
With that swift instinct of escape which sensitive and timorous creatures
possess, she glided out of the room, through the upper hall, down a back
stairway, into the garden behind the house, and so on to an orchard
already obscure in the twilight. Here she paused in her breathless flight,
and burst into one of her frequent coughs, which she vainly attempted to
"I was already dying," she groaned. "Ah, why could he not have given me
time to finish?"
From the orchard she could faintly see the road, and she now discovered
Leighton returning briskly toward the house. Her first thought was, "He
will look up at the window, and he will not see me!" Her next was, "They
will meet, and all will be known!"
Under the sting of this last reflection she again ran onward until her
breath failed. She had no idea where she should go: her only purpose was
to fly from immediate exposure and scorn--to fly both from the man she
detested and the man she loved. Her speed was quickened to the extent of
her strength by the consideration that she was already missed, and would
soon be pursued.
"Oh, don't let them come!--don't let them find me!" she prayed to some
invisible power, she could not have said what.
Mainly intent as she was upon mere present escape from reproachful eyes,
she at times thought of lurking in the woods or in some neighboring
village until Duvernois should disappear and leave her free to return to
Leighton. But always the reflection came up, "Now he knows that I have
deceived him; now he will despise me and hate me, and refuse to see me;
now I can never go back."
In such stresses of extreme panic and anguish an adult is simply a child,
with the same overweight of emotions and the same imperfections of reason.
During the moments when she was certain that Leighton would not forgive
her, Alice made wild clutches at the hope that Duvernois might. There were
glimpses of the earlier days of her married life; cheering phantoms of the
days when she believed that she loved and that she was beloved--phantoms
which swore by altars and bridal veils to secure her pardon.
She imagined Duvernois overtaking her with the words, "Alice, I forgive
your madness: do you also forgive the coldness which drove you to it?"
She imagined herself springing to him, reaching out her hands for
reconciliation, putting up her mouth for a kiss, and sobbing, "Ah, why
were you not always so?"
Then of a sudden she scorned this fancy, trampled it under her weary,
aching feet, and abhorred herself for being faithless to Leighton.
At last she reached a sandy, lonely coast-road, a mile from the village,
with a leaden, pulseless, corpselike sea on the left, and on the right a
long stretch of black, funereal marshes. Seating herself on a ruinous
little bridge of unpainted and wormeaten timbers, she looked down into a
narrow, sluggish rivulet, of the color of ink, which oozed noiselessly
from the morass into the ocean. Her strength was gone: for the present
farther flight was impossible, unless she fled from earth--fled into the
This thought had indeed followed her from the house: at first it had been
vague, almost unnoticed, like the whisper of some one far behind; then it
had become clearer, as if the persuading fiend went faster than she
through the darkness, and were overtaking her. Now it was urgent, and
would not be hushed, and demanded consideration.
"If you should die," it muttered, "then you will escape: moreover, those
who now abhor you and scorn you, will pity you; and pity for the dead is
almost respect, almost love."
"Oh, how can a ruined woman defend herself but by dying?" She wept as she
gazed with a shudder into the black rivulet.
Then she thought that the water seemed foul; that her body would become
tangled in slimy reeds and floating things; that when they found her she
would be horrible to look upon. But even in this there was penance, a
meriting of forgiveness, a claim for pity.
Slowly, inch by inch, like one who proposes a step which cannot be
retraced, she crept under the railing of the bridge, seated herself on the
edge of the shaky planking and continued to gaze into the inky waters.
A quarter of an hour later, when the clergyman of Northport passed by that
spot, returning from a visit to a dying saint of his flock, no one was
We must revert to the two husbands. Duvernois had long wondered what could
keep his wife in a sequestered hamlet, and immediately on her refusal to
join him in a summer tour he had resolved to look into her manner of life.
At the village hotel he had learned that a lady named Duvernois had
arrived in the place during the previous summer, and that she had been
publicly married to a Doctor Leighton. He did not divulge his name--he did
not so much as divulge his emotions: he listened to this story calmly, his
eyes fixed on vacancy.
At the door of the boarding-house he asked for Mrs. Duvernois, and then
corrected himself, saying, "I mean Mrs. Leighton."
He must have had singular emotions at the moment, yet the servant-girl
noticed nothing singular in his demeanor.
Mrs. Leighton could not be found. None of the family had seen her enter or
go out: it was not known that she had been in the house for an hour.
"But there comes Doctor Leighton," remarked the girl as the visitor turned
Even in this frightful conjuncture the characteristic coolness of
Duvernois did not forsake him: after a moment's hesitation and a quick
glance at his rival, he said, "I do not know him: I will call again."
On the graveled walk which led from the yard gate to the doorstep the two
men met and passed without a word--the face of the one as inexpressive of
the strangeness and horror of the encounter as the mind of the other was
unconscious of them.
Leighton immediately missed Alice. In a quarter of an hour he became
anxious: in an hour he was in furious search of her.
Somewhat later, when Duvernois came once more to the house, accompanied by
a fashionably-dressed youth, who, as it subsequently appeared, was his
younger brother, he found the family and the neighborhood in wild alarm
over the disappearance of Mrs. Leighton. The two at once returned to the
hotel, procured saddle-horses and joined in the general chase.
It was ten o'clock at night, and the moon was shining with a vaporous,
spectral light, when the maddest of chances brought the two husbands
together over a body which the tide, with its multitudinous cold fingers,
had gently laid upon the beach.
Leighton leaped from his horse, lifted the corpse with a loud cry, and
covered the white wet face with kisses.
Duvernois leaned forward in his saddle, and gazed at both without a word
or a movement.
"Oh, what could have led her to this?" groaned the physician, already too
sure that life had departed.
"Insanity," was the monotoned response of the statue on horseback.
The funeral took place two days later: the coffin-plate bore the
inscription, "Alice Leighton, aged 23." Duvernois read it, and said not a
"If you don't claim her as your wife," whispered the brother, "you may
find it difficult to marry again."
"Do you think I shall want to marry again?" responded the widower with an
He was aware that he had lost a shame and a torment, and not aware that
she might have been an honor and a joy, if only he had been able to love.
J. W. DE FOREST.
"How Mother Did It."
The year 1839--that is, the year in which I was born--is of no manner of
importance to myself or anybody else. The year 1859--that is, the year in
which I began to _live_ (Charlie and I got married that year)--is of
considerable importance to myself and to somebody else. The two decades
forming the interim between those years constitute my Dark Age, in which I
teethed and measled and whooping-coughed, and went to school, and wore my
hair in two long pig-tails, and loved molasses candy, and regarded a
school-room as purgatory, a ball-room as heaven--when I sang and danced
and grew as the birds and grasshoppers and flowers sing and dance and
grow, because they having nothing else to do.
Then came my Golden Age. That means, then came Charlie into my life, when
I felt for the first time that there was music in the birds' voices and
perfume in the flowers--that there was light in the heavens above and on
the earth beneath, for God was in heaven and Charlie was on earth--when I,
who had all along been hardly more than a human grasshopper, became the
happiest of happy women--so much happier, I thought, than I deserved. For
who was I, and what great thing had I ever done, that I should be crowned
with such a crown of glory as--Charlie? why should I, insignificant I, be
so blest among women as to be taken to wife by Charlie?
I was insanely sentimental enough to rather resent the fact that Charlie
was prosaically well off: his circumstances were distressingly easy. It
would have been so much nicer, so deliciously romantic, if there had been
an opportunity afforded me to show how ready, nay, eager, I was to
sacrifice friends, home and country for his dear sake. But Charlie didn't
want me to sacrifice my friends; nor did it require any great amount of
heroism to exchange my modestly comfortable home for his decidedly
luxurious one; and as for country, nothing on earth could have induced
Charlie to leave his own country, much less his own parish, much less his
own plantation. So we were married without any talk of sacrifice on either
side, and moved quietly enough from father's small plantation to Charlie's
There was but one drawback to the perfectness of my happiness: there was
so little hope of my ever having an opportunity to air those magnanimous
traits of character upon the possession of which I so plumed myself. I
felt sure that I could meet the most adverse circumstances with the most
smiling patience, but circumstances obstinately refused to be adverse. I
was inwardly conscious that the most trying emergency could not shake my
heroic but purely feminine fortitude; but, alas! my fortitude was likely
to rust while waiting for the emergency. Injury and wrong should be met
with sublime dignity, but the most wildly speculative imagination could
not look upon Charlie's placidly handsome face and convert him into a
To tell how the longed-for opportunity to exercise my powers of endurance,
and my dignity, and all the rest of it, did finally come about, and to
tell how I bore the test, is the object of this paper.
For the first six months of our married life, Charlie and I were simply
ridiculously happy--selfishly happy too. We resented a neighbor's visit as
an act of barbarous invasion, and the necessity of returning such visits
was acknowledged with a sublimity of resignation worthy of pictorial
representation in that exquisite parlor manual, Fox's _Book of Martyrs_.
If Charlie left the house for an hour or two, I looked upon his enforced
absence as a cruel dispensation of Providence, which I did _not_ bear with
"fortitude and sublime dignity," but pouted over like the ridiculous baby
I was. Bare conjugal civility required that on leaving the house Charlie
should kiss me three times, and on returning six times: anything short of
that I should have considered a pre-monitory symptom of approaching
separation. If Charlie had ever been so savage as to call me plain
"Lulie," I should have felt certain he was sick and tired of me, and was
repenting of having married me instead of that spectacled bas-bleu, Miss
Minerva Henshaw, who read Buckle and talked dictionary. I believe I was
intoxicated with my own happiness, and was a little nonsensical because I
was so happy.
Fortunately for the comfort of both Charlie and myself, his domestic
cabinet consisted of a marvelously well-trained set of servants, who were
simply perfect--as perfect in their way as Charlie was in his. They had
been trained by Charlie's mother, who had been the head of affairs in his
house up to the hour of her death--an event which had occurred some dozen
years before my first meeting with Charlie. Everybody said she had been a
celebrated housekeeper, and Charlie's devotion to her had been the talk of
the country-side. There were people malicious enough to say that if
Charlie's mother had never died, he would never have married, but I take
the liberty of resenting such an assertion as a personal insult; for,
although I don't doubt the dear old lady was a perfect jewel in her way,
yet, looking at the portrait of her which hangs over our parlor
mantelpiece, I see the face of a hard, determined-looking woman with cold
gray eyes and rigidly set mouth, in a funny-looking black dress, neither
high-necked nor low-necked, having a starchy white ruffle round the edge,
in vivid white contrast to the yellow skin; with grizzly, iron-gray curls
peeping out from under a cap that is fearfully and wonderfully made, with
a huge ruffled border radiating in a circumference of several feet, while
its two black-and-white gauze ribbon strings lie in rigid exactness over
her two rigidly exact shoulders. Looking on this portrait, I do not thank
anybody for saying that it was only because death chose that shining mark
that I had found favor in Charlie's eyes.
We had been married, I suppose, about six months, when, sitting one
evening over a cozy wood-fire in our cozy little parlor, just under the
work of art I have described at such length, Charlie committed his first
matrimonial solecism. He yawned, actually gaped--an open-mouthed, audible,
Glancing up at him from my work (which consisted of the inevitable worked
slippers without which no woman considers her wifehood absolutely
asserted), I caught him in the act. "Are you tired, Charlie?" I asked in
accents of wifely anxiety.
Tired! Poor fellow! he ought to have been, for he had ridden all over the
plantation that day, had written two business letters, and smoked there's
no telling how many cigars, and had only taken one little cat-nap after
He was leaning back in his arm-chair, with his eyes fixed in mournful
meditation upon his mother's portrait (at least I thought so), when I
asked him if he was tired, and I fancied he was thinking sad thoughts of
the mother who had not been dead so very long as never to trouble the
thoughts of the living; so, laying down my slippers, I crossed the rug and
perched myself on Charlie's knee.
"Talk to me about her, Charlie dear."
"About whom, little one?" asked Charlie, turning his eyes toward me with a
little lazy look of inquiry.
"About your mother, Charlie: weren't you thinking about her just now?"
"I don't know--maybe I was. Dear mother! you don't find many women like
Reader, that was my first glimpse of Charlie's hobby. And from the
luck-less moment when I so innocently invited him to mount it, up to the
time when I forcibly compelled him to dismount from it, I had ample
opportunity to exercise my "smiling patience, sublime dignity and heroic
fortitude." Whether or not I improved my opportunities properly, I will
leave you to judge for yourself. But for two whole years "how mother did
it" seemed to be the watchword of Charlie's existence, and was the _bete
noir_ of mine.
So long as Charlie and I were in Paradise the house kept itself, and very
nicely it did it too, but by the time we were ready to come back to earth
the perfect servants, who had been taking such good care of themselves,
and our two daft selves into the bargain, were found to be sadly
demoralized. The discovery came upon us gradually. I think my husband
noticed the decadence as soon as I did, but I wasn't going to invite his
attention to the fact; and he, I suppose, thought that I thought that
everything was just as it should be.
One of Charlie's inherited manias was for early rising--a habit which
would have been highly commendable and undeniably invaluable in a laboring
man, but which struck me, who had an equally strong mania for not rising
early, as extremely inconvenient and the least little bit absurd. Charlie
got up early simply because "mother did it" before him; and after he had
risen at earliest dawn and dressed himself, he had nothing better to do
than walk out on the front gallery, locate himself in a big wicker chair,
tilt his chair back and elevate his feet to the top of the banisters, and
stare out over the cottonfields. This position he would maintain,
probably, about twenty minutes. Then the pangs of hunger would render him
restless, and he would draw out his watch to note the time of day. The
next step in the formula would bring him back to my room door while I was
still sleepily trying to reconnect the broken links of a dream, from which
vain effort he would startle me into wide-awake reality by a stentorian
"Lulie, Lulie! Come, wife--it's breakfast-time."
Upon which, instead of "heroic fortitude," I would treat him to a little
cross "Please yell at the cook, Charlie, and not at me. I'm sure if people
_will_ get up at such unearthly hours, they should expect to be kept
waiting for their breakfast."
Then the spirit of unrest would impel Charlie toward the back door, where
I would hear him commanding, exhorting, entreating.
Mentally registering a vow to give my husband a dose of Mrs. Winslow's
Soothing Syrup on the coming night, I would relinquish all hope of another
nap, get up and dress myself, and join my roaring lion on the front
gallery, where we would both sit meekly waiting for the allied forces of
kitchen and dining-room to decide upon the question of revictualing us.
"Lulie," said Charlie to me one morning at the breakfast-table, "things
are getting all out of gear about this house, somehow or other."
I put down the coffee-pot with a resigned thump and asked my lord, with an
injured air, to please explain himself.
"Well, when mother was alive I never knew what it was to sit down to my
breakfast later than six o'clock in summer or seven in winter."
"How did she manage it, Charlie?" I asked, very meekly.
"Why, by getting up early herself. No servant on the face of the globe is
going to get up at daybreak and go to work in earnest when she knows her
mistress is sound asleep in bed. I will tell you how mother did: she had a
pretty good-sized bell, that she kept on a table by her bedside, and every
morning, as soon as her eyes were open, she would give such a peal with
that old bell that all the servants on the premises knew that 'Mistress
was awake and up,' and bestirred themselves accordingly. There was no
discount on mother: that was the way she made father a rich man, too."
"But, Charlie, you're already a rich man, and why on earth should we get
out of bed at daybreak just because your mother and father did so before
"Of course, Lulie," said Charlie, the least little bit coldly, "I have no
desire in the world to force you to conform to my views: I only told you
how mother did it."
Reader, you know how I loved Charlie, and after that I out-larked the lark
in early rising; and although Charlie and I did little more than gape in
each other's faces for an hour or two, and wish breakfast would come, and
wonder what made them take so long, he was perfectly satisfied that we
were both on the road that was to make us healthier, wealthier and wiser.
Among other points on which my husband and I were mutually agreed was a
liking for good strong coffee, and we also held in common one decided
opinion, and that was, that our coffee was gradually becoming anything but
good and strong.
Charlie broached the subject first. "Lulie, our coffee is getting to be
perfectly undrinkable," said he one morning, putting his cup down with a
face of disgust.
"It is indeed, Charlie: it's perfectly villainous. Milly ought to be
ashamed of herself: I shall speak to her again after breakfast."
"Maybe you don't give out enough coffee?" suggested Charlie.
"I don't know how much Milly takes," I replied, innocently.
"Takes! Do you mean to say that you don't know how much coffee goes out of
your pantry, Lulie? I don't wonder we never have any fit to drink!"
If I had been of an argumentative turn, I would have asked Charlie to
explain how giving the cook carte blanche in the matter of quantity should
have had such a disastrous effect in the matter of quality. But I was not
of an argumentative turn, so I took no notice of his queer logic.
"Why should I bother about every spoonful of coffee, Charlie? You assured
me, when I first came here, that every servant you had was as honest as
you or I, and I'm sure Milly knows better than I do how much coffee she
_ought_ to take."
"Well," said Charlie with a sigh of mock resignation, "that may be the way
they do things now-a-days, but I remember exactly how mother managed to
have good coffee." Here the hobby broke into a brisk canter: "I recollect
she had a little oval wooden box, that held, I suppose, about a quart--or
two, maybe--of roasted coffee, and that box stood on the mantelpiece in
her room; and every morning, as soon as her bell rang, Milly would come
with a cup and spoon, and mother would measure out two table-spoonfuls of
coffee with her own hands and give it to the cook, and the cook knew
better than not to have good coffee, I can tell you."
"Are you sure it was only two spoonfuls, Charlie?"
"I am sure," responded Charlie, solemnly.
As good-luck would have it, while rummaging in the store-room a day or two
after that coffee talk, I came upon a little old oval wooden box, the lid
of which I detached with some difficulty, and as the scent of the roses
hung round it still, I had no difficulty in identifying my treasure-trove
with the wooden box that had played such a distinguished part in the good
old times when cooks "knew better than not to have good coffee, I can tell
Hoping that some relic of my dead predecessor might prove more
awe-inspiring to contumacious Milly than my own despised monitions, I
exhumed the wooden box, had it thoroughly cleansed, filled with roasted
coffee and placed upon my mantelpiece, giving Milly orders to come to _me_
hereafter, every morning, for the coffee.
Charlie gave me a grateful little kiss when he saw the old box in the old
place, either as a reward for my amiable endeavor to do things as mother
did, or because he took the old wooden box for an outward and visible sign
of the inward and spiritual grace that was to move Milly to make good
But somehow or other, in spite of the unsightly old wooden box on my
mantelshelf, the coffee didn't improve in the least. Maybe the charm
failed to work because Charlie had forgotten which end of the mantelpiece
his mother used to keep it on, or I used the wrong spoon. I'm inclined to
lay it on the spoon myself, but there's no telling.
The first cotton-picking season that came round after my marriage seemed
to afford Charlie no end of opportunities for riding his hobby at a fast
and furious pace. It seemed as if there was no end to the things that
mother used to do at that important season. I suppose she really was a
wonderful woman, and I humbly hope that by the time I have lived as long
as she did, and get to looking as she does in her portrait, and can wear a
wonderful-looking cap with the wonderful composure she wore it with, and
have little iron-gray curls hanging round my iron-gray visage, I may be
only half as wonderful.
"Would I see to the making of the cotton sacks? That was one thing mother
always did." Thus Charlie.
Of course I would: why should I object to doing anything that would
forward my husband's interests? Besides, I was actually pining for some
healthful occupation: I was tired of playing at living. I resolved on a
brilliant plan. I would out-mother mother, for she only _saw_ to the
making of the sacks: I would make them myself, every one of them, on my
sewing-machine. If I couldn't make cotton-sacks on it, what was the use of
Charlie had informed me that he would send me down seven or eight women
from the quarters to make the sacks. I informed him with a flourish that I
should need but one: I should want her to cut the sacks out. Charlie
thanked me, and Martha and I and "Wheeler & Wilson" made the sacks.
Was I to blame that the wretched things burst in twenty places at once the
first time they were used? Was I to blame that two women were kept busy
mending my sacks until they ceased to be sacks? Charlie might think so,
but I did not.
He reported the failure of my cotton-sack experiment with very unbecoming
levity, as it struck me, accompanying his report with a somewhat unjust
comment upon new-fangled notions, such as sewing-machines, etc., etc.,
winding up with--"Now, when mother was alive" (I fairly winced), "the
house was not considered too good for the darkies to sit on the back
gallery with their work and make the sacks right under mother's
eye--sewing them with good strong thread, too, that was spun for the
purpose. I can remember the old spinning-wheel: it used to sit right at
that end of the gallery."
Like Captain Cuttle, I "made a note of it" for future use.
I often had occasion to wonder, during the early years of my married life,
how it happened that the son of such an exceptionally perfect woman as I
was compelled to presume my respected mother-in-law to have been, should
have grown up with such shockingly disorderly habits as had my Charlie.
The wretched creature would stalk into my bed-room--which I was
particularly dainty about--fresh from shooting or fishing, with pounds of
mud clinging to his boots, bristling all over with cockleburs, his hands
grimed with gunpowder; and helping himself to water from my ewer, he would
begin dabbling in my china basin until he had reduced its originally pure
contents into a compound of mud and ink, and would wind up by making a
finish of my fresh damask towel, and throwing it on the bed or a chair
instead of returning it to the rack, as he should have done.
"Charlie," said I one day, saucily inviting a dose of "what mother did,"
"what did mother used to do when you came into her room and turned it into
a pig-stye, and then left it for her to clean up again?"
"She never let me do it," said Charlie with a laugh. "I'll tell you how
she did. She had a tin basin on a shelf on the back gallery, and one of
those great big rolling towels that lasted about a week; and after her
washstand was fixed up in the morning, we knew better than to upset it, I
can tell you."
"Very well, sir: I intend you shall know better than to upset mine, I'll
In fact, things had come to that pass that I had mentally resolved to
"show" Charlie a great many things. I firmly believed that the secret of
the power that Charlie's mother had exercised over her household, and
still exercised over him in memory, lay in the fact that she made them all
afraid of her: so I firmly resolved that they should all be afraid of me,
poor little me! It is true, I was but twenty, and she was fifty; I was but
a pocket edition of a woman, and she was a _Webster Unabridged_; I had
little meek blue eyes, that dropped to the ground in the most shamefaced
manner if a body did but look at me, and she had hard, cold gray eyes,
that not only looked straight at you, but right through you. Still, I
hoped, notwithstanding these trifling drawbacks, to make myself very
awe-inspiring by dint of a grand assumption of spirit.
To put it into very plain language, I resolved to bully Charlie off his
hobby. He had thrown his mother at my head (figuratively speaking, of
course) until, if she had been present in _propria persona_, I should have
been tempted to try Hiawatha's remarkable feat with his grandmother, and
throw her up against the moon. But as I could not revenge myself upon her
personally, I began to lay deep and subtle plans for inducing Charlie to
leave her to her repose.
As the veritable bell which, in the days when "mother did it," had acted
as a sort of Gabriel's trump, was still extant, minus clapper and handle,
I was enabled to provide myself with its fac-simile. Armed with this
instrument of retribution, I laid me down to sleep by Charlie's side,
gloating in anticipation over my ripening scheme of vengeance.
It was a rare thing for me to wake up before Charlie, but I did manage to
do so on the morning in question, by dint, I think, of a powerful mental
resolution to that effect made the night before. I raised myself very
softly, so as not to disturb my husband's gentle slumbers, and, possessing
myself of my big bell, I laid on with a will, raising such a clatter in
the quiet morning air that Charlie fairly bounded into the middle of the
room before he in the least comprehended where it came from.
"In the name of God, Lulie, what is the meaning of that?" he exclaimed,
looking at me as if he half doubted my sanity.
"That's the way mother did it, Charlie," I replied placidly enough, and,
replacing my big bell on the table, I settled myself on my pillow once
more, ostensibly to go to sleep again--in reality to have my laugh out in
a quiet fashion, for it was enough to have made the very bed-posts laugh
to see Charlie's funny look of astonishment and indignation. But of course
he couldn't say a word, you know.
For two more mornings I clattered my bell about his precious old head, and
then he paid me to quit, and after that began riding his hobby at a little
The next direct intimation he gave that his faith in inherited ideas was
growing shaky was a plaintive little request that I would not stick so
close to the old wooden box, but give out enough coffee to ensure him
something to drink for his breakfast.
Now, I had no wish that my husband should drink bad coffee just because
Providence had seen fit to remove his mother from this sublunary sphere: I
merely wanted to cure him of telling me how mother did it; so as soon as
he thus tacitly acknowledged that his suggestion had not been a success, I
took matters into my own hands, and proved to him that coffee could be
made as well by young wives as by old mothers.
In the due revolution of the seasons King Cotton donned his royal robes of
ermine once more, and sacks again became the one thing needful. It was the
very rainiest, wettest, muddiest picking-season that had ever been seen.
In pursuance of my plan, I had seven or eight women down from the
quarters, and a spinning-wheel also, which was set to humming right under
our bed-room window.
The rainy weather had kept Charlie in the house, and he was lounging on a
couch in my room, enjoying a pleasant semi-doze, when the monotonous
whirr-r-r of the spinning-wheel first attracted his attention. "Lulie," he
asked, rising into a sitting posture, "what is that infernal noise on the
"The spinning-wheel, Charlie. They are spinning thread to make the sacks
with," I answered, without looking up from my work.
"Oh!" and Charlie subsided for a while. "Ahem! Lulie, my dear, how long is
that devilish spinning to be kept up?"
"Devilish! Why, Charlie, that's the way mother did it."
"Well," said Charlie, scratching his head and looking foolish, "I know she
did, Lulie, but I'll be confounded if I can stand it much longer."
"Why, Charlie, you used to stand it when mother did it," I answered
"I was hardly ever about the house in those days, Lulie: I suppose that
was why I didn't mind it."
"Why weren't you about the house much in those days, Charlie?"
"Because you weren't in it, you witch, I suppose."
This was such a decided triumph over the old lady of the portrait that I
could afford to be amiable; so, giving him a spasmodic little hug and an
energetic little kiss, I went out and stopped the spinning nuisance
After that the hobby went slower and slower, feebler and feebler. One more
energetic display of my bogus spirit and "the enemy was mine."
Winter came on in its duly-appointed time, bringing with it the usual
quantity of wild ducks and more than the usual degree of severe cold.
Charlie was an inveterate duck-shooter, and with the return of the season
came the return of mud and dirt in my bowls.
I determined to do as mother did. A tin basin made its appearance on the
back gallery, four yards of crash sewed together at the end were made to
revolve over the roller, and by way of forcing the experiment to a
successful issue orders were given that my own pitchers should be filled
only after nightfall.
I was sitting in my bed-room sewing away, in placid unconsciousness of
outside cold and discomfort, when Charlie got home from his first hunt of
"No water, Lulie?" and the monster took hold of my nice pitcher with a
pair of muddy, half-frozen hands.
"On the gallery, dear, just where mother used to keep it;" and I smiled up
at him angelically.
With a muttered something or other, poor Charlie bounded out to the back
gallery. He came back in a minute, his hands as muddy and cold as ever.
"Look here, Lulie: the water's all frozen in that confounded tin basin out
"I'll have it thawed out for you," I said sweetly, rising as I spoke.
"I say, wifey"--and the great, handsome fellow came close up to me with
his mud and his burs--"do you think it's exactly fair, when a fellow's
been out all the morning shooting ducks for your dinner, to make him stand
out on the gallery such a day as this and scrub the mud off his frozen
"That's the way mother did," was all my answer.
"Look here, Lulie, I cry quits. If you'll only let a body off this once,
you may keep house on your own plan, little lady, and I'll never tell you
how mother did it again so long as I live."
"Well, then, don't, that's a dear," I replied, "for you'll only make me
dislike her memory, without doing any good. Just be patient with me,
Charlie, and maybe after a while I'll be as good a housekeeper as your
mother was before me. The mistake you and all other men make is, in
comparing your wives at the end of their first year of housekeeping with
your mothers, whose housekeeping you knew nothing about until it was of
ever so many years' duration. I'm young yet, but I'm improving in that
matter every day, Charlie."
With which little moral lecture I gave Charlie a kiss, and some water to
wash the mud from his poor red hands.
_Moral._--My dear girls, don't you ever marry a man that cannot take his
affidavit he never had a mother, unless it is expressly stipulated in the
marriage contract that he is never to tell you how his mother did it.
The Red Fox: A Tale of New Year's Eve.
It was New Year's Eve, 184-. I and my two little boys, children of five
and seven, were alone in the house. My husband had been unexpectedly
called away on business, and the servant had gone to her friends to spend
the coming holiday.
It was drawing toward night. The cold shadows of the winter twilight were
already falling. A dull red glow in the west told where the sun was going
down. Over the rest of the sky hung heavy gray clouds. A few drops of rain
fell from time to time, and the wind was rising, coming round the corner
of the house with a long, mournful howl like that of a lost hound.
I am not a very nervous person, but I did not like the idea of spending by
myself the long evening that would come after the children's bed-time.
We were living then in a very new place in Michigan, which I shall call
Maysville. My husband, an ex-army officer, had resigned the sword for the
saw-mill. Our house was the oldest in the village, which does not speak
much for its antiquity, as five years before Maysville had been unbroken
forest. The house stood outside the cluster of houses that formed the
little settlement: it was a quarter of a mile to our nearest neighbor.
Now, Maysville calls itself a city, has an academy and a college, and a
great quantity of church in proportion to its population. Then, we "went
to meeting" in a little white-painted, pine box of a thing, like a barn
that had risen in life. The stumps stood about the street: the cows
wandered at will and pastured in the "public square," an irregular
clearing running out into indefinite space. Here also the Indians would
encamp when they came to town from their reservation about five miles
away, and here also, I regret to say, they would sometimes get drunk, and
add what Martha Penney calls "a revolving animosity to the scenery." The
squaws, however, would generally secure the knives and guns before the
quarrelsome stage was reached. Not unfrequently the ladies would bring the
weapons to Mrs. Moore or myself to hide away till their lords and masters
should be sober. Then, feeling secure that no great harm could happen,
they would look on with the utmost placidity at the antics of their better
halves until they dropped down to sleep off their liquor.
There were no Indians in town that night, however, and if there had been,
I was not at all afraid of them, for we were on excellent terms with the
whole reservation. My feeling about staying alone was merely one of those
unreasonable sensations that sometimes overtake people of ill-regulated
I went to the door and looked out at the gray, angry sky. It was not cold,
but chill. The wind howled and shivered among the leafless branches:
everything promised a storm.
I was not at all sorry to see Mr. and Mrs. Moore drive up in their light
buggy, with their two high-stepping, little brown horses. Mrs. Moore had
in her arms a bundle in a long blue embroidered cloak--a baby, in short.
She and her husband firmly believed this infant to be the most beautiful,
most intelligent and altogether most charming creature which the world had
ever seen. They had been married three years, and little Carry was their
Mr. and Mrs. Moore were by no means ordinary people. Mrs. Moore--born
Minny or Hermione Adams--was a very small woman, exceedingly pretty, with
light brown curly hair, dark blue eyes and a complexion like an apple
Mr. Moore was the son of a Seneca mother and Cherokee father, with not a
drop of white blood in his veins. So he thought, at least, but I never
could quite believe it, because he could and did work, and never so much
as touched even a glass of wine. His parents had died when he was very
young, and he had been brought up and educated by a missionary, a gentle,
scholarly old Presbyterian minister, whose memory his adopted son held in
The story of our acquaintance with Richard Moore is too long to be told
here. Four years before he had come with us from the Pawnee country. He
had married Minny Adams with the full consent of her parents and the
opposition of all her other friends. Contrary to all prophecies, and with
that inartistic disregard of the probable which events often show, they
had been very happy together.
Mr. Moore--otherwise Wyanota--was a civil engineer, and stood high in his
"Look here, mamma," he said as he drove up. "Will you take in the wife and
the small child for to-night? I must go away."
"Certainly," said I, overjoyed. "But where are you going, to be caught in
"Oh, they have got into a fuss with the hands over on the railroad, and
have sent for me. I might have known Robinson wouldn't manage when I left
"English!" said Wyn, most expressively. "No one can stand the airs he puts
Now, such airs as Mr. Moore possessed--and they were neither few nor far
between--were not put on, but were perfectly natural to him.
"Can't you come in and get your tea?" I asked as he handed me the baby and
helped his wife down.
"No: I must go over directly and compose matters. Good-bye, little woman:
by-bye, baby! Do you know, we think she's beginning to say 'papa?'" said
Wyn, proudly; and then he kissed his wife and child and drove away.
I carried the infant phenomenon into the house and took off its wrappings.
She was my namesake, and I loved the little creature, but I can't say she
was a pretty baby. She was a soft, brown thing, with her father's
beautiful southern eyes and her mother's mouth, but otherwise she
certainly was not handsome. She was ten months old, but she had a look of
experience and wisdom in her wee face that would have made her seem old at
twenty years. She sat on my lap and watched me in a meditative way, as
though she were reviewing her former estimate of my character, and
considering whether her opinions on that subject were well founded. There
was something quite weird and awful in her dignity and gravity.
"Isn't she a wise-looking little thing?" said Minny. "She makes me think
sometimes of the fairy changeling that was a hundred and fifty years old,
and never saw soap made in an egg-shell."
"This baby never would have made such a confession of ignorance, you may
depend. She would not have acknowledged that anything lay out of the range
of her experience. Take your chicken till I get tea, for I am my own girl
We had a very merry time over the tea-table and in washing up the dishes.
Until the boys went to bed we were in something of a frolic with them and
the baby, and it was not till the little one was asleep in her crib and Ed
and Charley were quiet in bed that we noticed how wild the weather was
The rain, which had at first fallen in pattering drops, was now driving in
sheets before a mighty wind, which roared through the woods back of the
house with a noise like thunder. The branches of the huge oaks in the
front yard creaked and groaned as only oak boughs can. The house shook,
the rain lashed the roof, and the wind clawed and rattled the blinds like
some wild creature trying to get in.
"I hope Wyn is safe under shelter,'' said Mrs. Moore.
"He will have reached the end of his journey long before this. I hope he
will have no trouble with the men, but he is not apt to. I pity poor Mr.
Robinson. When Wyn chooses, his extreme politeness is something quite
"I will say for my husband," observed Mrs. Moore, "that when he sets
himself to work to be disagreeable, he can, without doing one uncourteous
thing, be more aggravating than any one I ever saw in my life."
"It is perfectly evident that he never tries his airs on you, or you would
not speak so. Hear the wind blow!"
"It is no use listening to the weather. The house will stand, I suppose.
Have you got your work? Then let me read to you. It will seem like old
times, before I was married."
Minny Moore was in some respects a very remarkable woman. Though little
Carry was her first baby, she _could_ talk on other subjects. She did not
expect you to listen with rapture to the tenth account of how baby had
said "Da-da," or thrill with agony over the tale of an attack of wind. She
had been her husband's friend and companion before the baby was born: she
did not entirely throw him over now that it had come. She had always been
fond of reading, and she continued to keep up her interest in the world
outside of her nursery. She thought that as her daughter grew up her
mother would be as valuable as a guide and friend if she did not wholly
sink the educated woman in the nurse-maid and seamstress. These habits may
have been "unfeminine," but they certainly made Mrs. Moore much more
agreeable as a companion than if she had been able to talk of nothing but
the baby's clothes, teeth and ailments.
I took out my work, and Minny began to read _Locksley Hall_, which was
then a new poem on this side the water. I had never heard it before, and I
must confess I was much affected--more than I should be now. Mrs. Moore,
however, chose to say that she thought Amy had made a most fortunate
escape, that she had no doubt but the hero would have been a most
intolerable person to live with, and that their marriage, had it come to
pass, would have ended in Amy's taking in sewing to support both herself
and her husband. As for the Squire, why we had no word for his character
but his disappointed rival's, and his drinking might be all a slander. As
to his snoring, why poets might snore as well as other people. If he loved
his wife "somewhat better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse,"
"Why what more," said Mrs. Moore, "could any woman ask of a man given to
horses and hunting? If Calvin Bruce ever cares more for a woman than he
does for his brown pointer and his fast trotter, she may think herself
At that instant a sudden and furious blast rushed out of the woods, and
tore and shook at the four corners of the house as if to wrench it from
"It's quite awful to hear the wind scream like that," said Minny. "It is
like the banshee. Hark! is not that some one knocking at the back door?"
I listened, and amid the rattling and shaking of blinds and timbers I
heard what sounded like a hurried, impatient knock at the side door. "Who
can it be on such a wild night?" I said, and took the candle and went to
open the door. I set the light in the hall, for I knew the wind would blow
it out. In spite of this precaution, however, the flame was extinguished,
for as I drew back the bolt and lifted the latch the blast threw the door
violently back on its hinges, and rushed into the hall as though exulting
in having finally made an entrance.
"Pretty bad weather, mamma," said some one in the softest, sweetest voice,
like a courteous flute, and there entered my old friend the Black Panther.
This gentleman measured seven feet in his moccasins, and as he stood in
our little entry he looked gigantic indeed. He closed the door with some
difficulty, and I relit the candle.
"You are quite wet through," I said, for the water dripped from his
blanket and woolen hunting-frock. He carried his rifle in his hand, and I
thought the old man looked very tired and sad, and even anxious.
"You all well?" he asked, earnestly.
"Certainly. The captain has gone away, and Minny and the baby are here for
the night. My dear friend, where have you been in this weather? There is a
good fire in the kitchen. Come and get dry there, and let me make you a
cup of hot coffee and get you something to eat."
Here Minny came out into the hall and held up her hands in sunrise.
"Oh, uncle," she said, calling him by the name she had used toward him
since her childhood, "how could you come out in all this rain, and bring
on your rheumatism? How do you think any one is ever going to find dry
clothes for such a big creature as you?"
The Panther gave a little grunt and a smile. He was used to Minny's
lectures, and he followed us both into the kitchen, where she made him sit
down by the fire and took off his wet blanket, waiting on him like a
daughter, and scolding him gently meanwhile. The old gentleman had of late
years been subject to rheumatism, and it was too likely that this exposure
would bring on another attack. The Panther patted her two little hands
between his own. Like most of his race, he had beautiful hands, soft and
rounded even in his old age, with long taper fingers that had, I dare say,
taken more than one scalp in their time.
"Pooh!" said he, lightly. "You think old Ingin melt like maple sugar? You
well?" he asked, anxiously.
"And little one?"
"As well as a little pig, fast asleep in the other room."
"Where your husband?"
"Gone over to the railroad on business."
"And yours?" he asked, turning to me.
"Gone to Carysville. Do you know anything about him? is anything the
matter?" I asked, a little alarmed at his persistent questioning and an
indefinite something in the old man's tone and manner.
"Oh no," said he, earnestly. "I come right over from our place."
"Walked from the reservation in this storm!" said I. "What could have made
you do such a thing?"
"Nothing--just to see you. Not very strange come see two nice women," said
the old gentleman, with a little complimentary bow.
The Panther was somewhat vain of his knowledge of what he called "white
manners," but I never saw a white man who could be so gently dignified, so
courteous, so altogether charming in manner, as the old chief when he
chose. He hardly knew one letter from another, but he had had sixty-five
years of experience in war and council. Many a man "got up regardless of
expense" in college and society might have taken lessons in deportment
from this old Pottawatomie. He had known Minny from her childhood. Her
father's farm had been the first clearing in all that part of the country.
Deacon Adams had always been on excellent terms with the Indians, and his
little daughter had found her earliest playmates among their children. The
Panther had carried Minny in his arms when she was a baby; and as his own
family of boys and girls died one after another, he clung closer to the
child who had been their pet as well as his own.
The Panther was one of those big, soft, easy men who seem made to be ruled
by one woman or another. He was greatly respected in his tribe, and had
much influence. When they had been a nation he had been one of their most
distinguished warriors, and his word had been law. He had always
maintained toward the "young men" a somewhat imperious manner. He had
conducted himself with dignity and decision in all his visits to
Washington, where he had been a great lion, and in all his dealings with
the United States he had shown much wisdom and ability. But report said
that when once within the domestic circle and before his squaw, the
diplomatist and warrior was exceedingly meek. He bore his wife's death
with resignation, but he had never married again. He loved Minny Adams
better than anything on earth, and the girl had great influence over him.
She, in her turn, was very fond of him. From her earliest years he had
been her friend, confidant and admirer. He looked so fierce and dangerous,
and was so kind and simple, that the alliance between the girl and himself
was very much like that between a little child and a big mastiff--the
child protected and leader, the dog protector and led.
Minny made flannel shirts for him, and he wore them: she trimmed his
moccasins, and the dainty cambric ruffles which he wore when in grand
costume were got up by her hands. The Panther, however, did not often
appear in full dress. She tried to teach him to read, and she did get him
through the alphabet, but he greatly preferred hearing stories read to
learning to do it for himself, and was especially fond of the _Arabian
Nights_, which he quite believed. She even coaxed him to go to church with
her, and might have made a convert of him but for the interference of an
exceedingly silly young clergyman. The Panther rather liked to hear the
Bible, but I fear he was more attracted by the sound than the sense: his
favorite chapter was the story of David and Goliah. He used to say that
"Ingin religion was good for Ingin, and white religion was good for white
man." However, he never offered the least opposition to the missionary who
had settled among his people: indeed, he rather patronized that gentleman.
He and Wyanota were excellent friends. It was good to see the deference
and respect with which the younger man treated the elder. I always said
that it was the Panther who made the match between Minny and Mr. Moore.
Their house was one of his homes, and he was a frequent guest at our own.
He petted and spoiled my two children: he was very soft and kind to me,
whom he called "Mamma," after Wyn's example, and he considered that my
husband "understood good manners"--a compliment which he did not pay to
A dear little daughter whom we had lost had been very fond of him: the
child had died in his arms. I was alone at the time, and the old man's
sympathy was such a comfort to me in my trouble that for his own sake, as
well as for our little girl's, he had become very dear to us.
For an Indian, the Panther might be called almost a sober character. He
was seldom drunk more than four or five times a year, and when he was, he
always was very careful to keep out of the way of his white friends until
he was sober, when he would lecture the young men on the evils of
intemperance in most impressive fashion. He was a good deal of an orator,
possessing a voice of great sweetness and power; and though he was such an
immense creature, all his movements were light and graceful as those of a
kitten. He could speak perfectly good, even elegant, English when he
chose, but he did not always choose, and generally omitted the pronouns;
but his voice, manner and gestures in speaking were perfectly charming
when he was in a good temper. When he was not, he was somewhat awful, but
it was only under great provocation that he became savage. In general, he
was an amiable, kind, lazy creature, whom it was very easy to love.
I could not but wonder that night, as I set out the table and made the
coffee, what had brought the Panther so far in such wild weather. He did
not seem like himself. He was usually very conversable, and would chat
away by the hour together, in a fashion half shrewd, half simple, often
very interesting; but now he was silent and _distrait_.
"Carry," said Mrs. Moore, "are there not some of Wyn's things here yet in
that old trunk in your lumber-room?"
"Yes. Perhaps you can find something the chief can put on, and bring down
a pair of the captain's socks and slippers."
"Oh, never mind, never mind," said the damp giant.
"But I will mind," said the little woman; and she went out and soon
returned with the things, which she insisted he should go and put on.
"Well, always one woman or another," said the Panther in a tone of
resignation: "always squaw git her own way. You see that little girl,
mamma? Could squeeze her up just like a rabbit. Always she order me round
since she so high, and I just big fool enough let her;" and he went into
the next room, and presently came out arrayed in dry garments, as to his
upper man at least. I set the table with the best I had in the house, and
Minny and I sat down to get a cup of coffee with our guest.
At any other time the old gentleman would have purred and talked over this
little feast like an amiable old cat, but now he was rather silent; and I
noticed that in the pauses of the wind he would stop as though listening
for some expected sound. I began to think he was concealing from me some
misfortune or danger, and the same thought was evidently in Minny's mind,
for she watched him anxiously.
When we went back into the parlor the Panther walked to the baby's crib,
and stood for a moment looking at the sleeping child with a tenderness
which softened his whole aspect. Then he asked for the little boys.
"They are fast asleep in the next room," I said. "Go and look at them, and
you will be sure."
The Panther smiled, but he went into my room, which opened from the
parlor, and bending down softly kissed the two little faces resting on the
I drew a large chair to the fire for him, and Minny filled his pipe, for I
had "followed the drum" too long to object to smoking. The giant stretched
his length of limb before the fire, but he did not seem quite at ease,
even under the influence of the tobacco. He looked a little troubled and
anxious, and lifted his head once or twice with a sudden motion, like a
dog who has misgivings that something is wrong out-doors.
The baby stirred in her sleep, and the chief began gently to rock the
cradle. "'Spose she order me about too, by and by," he said, "like her
"Oh, you like to make that out," said Minny, "because you are such a great
big, strong man. If you were a little bit of a creature, you would always
be standing on your dignity to make yourself look tall. The last time Wyn
and I were at Detroit we went to church, and I heard the very smallest man
I ever saw preach a tremendous sermon about the man being the head of the
woman, insisting mightily on the respect we all owe to the other sex. When
we came out I asked Wyn what he thought, and he said he thought it was
exactly such a sermon as such a very tiny man might be expected to
"Ah! and he heard you both, my dear," said I; "and he says Mr. Moore has
no element of reverence in his character!"
Here the Panther dropped his pipe, and starting from his chair looked like
his namesake just ready for a spring, as the sharp, quick bark of a little
dog was heard from the nearest house.
"Only dog," he said in a tone of relief, and resumed his smoking.
"Uncle," said Minny, "I do wish you would tell me what the matter is, or
what you are listening for. You make me think there is something wrong."
I looked up and seconded Minny's request.
"'Spose I tell you, you think it all Ingin nonsense," he said, looking a
"Even if I did, sir, I should feel more comfortable," I said.
"Yes, do tell us, please," said Minny, earnestly.
"Well, then," said the old man, speaking with an effort, "last night went
out after a coon--up in the woods right back of here--"
"And went up on that little hill over your pasture, and then," said the
old man lowering his voice and speaking with great earnestness, "hear _red
fox bark_--one, two, three times out loud, and then again farther off.
I was greatly relieved at finding that I was threatened by nothing worse
than the oracle of the red fox. I knew the Indian superstition that if
this animal is heard to bark anywhere near a dwelling, he foretells death
within twenty-four hours to some one beneath its roof.
"But," said I, "the red fox is only a sign for Indians. He does not bark
for white people, and you were not under a roof at the time, so it cannot
apply to you."
"Don't know!" said the Panther, shaking his head. "Never know that sign
fail. Then here this little woman and this baby--all the same as Ingin
Minny looked a little troubled. In spite of his reading, his college
education and mathematics, Wyanota had sundry queer notions and
superstitions, about which he very seldom spoke, but which nevertheless
had some weight with him, and it is possible that he had in some degree
communicated his ideas to his wife.
"I don't believe in signs," said Minny, but nevertheless she looked
"So I thought," said the chief with a little smile. "Know mamma here think
it all nonsense, or else come over this morning to tell her. Then think
she not believe it and not mind, and so keep quiet. Then storm come up and
wind blow, and couldn't stand it; so set out and walk over here to take
care of her; and she--maybe she laugh at me?"
"No indeed, sir," said I, greatly touched by the anxious affection which
had brought the old man so far in such weather. "How good you are to me!
You mean to stay here to-night of course, and in the morning you will see
that the red fox was simply barking for his own amusement; but I am sorry
he drove you to take such a toilsome walk, though we are glad to have you
"My business take care of you when your men gone. Got no one my own
blood," he said, rather sadly: "boys dead, girl dead, squaw dead--no one
but you two care much for old man."
Minny went and kissed him softly. "You know I belong to you," she said,
"and baby has no grandfather but you."
"Ah! your father!" said the Panther, rocking the cradle. "He and I always
good friends. 'Member when you come, your mother she got no milk for you,
poor little starved thing! My squaw she lose her baby--nice little boy
too," said the old man, with a sigh--"she tell your mother she nurse you;
so she did. You git fat and rosy right off. You all the same one of us
after that. No spoil your pretty white skin, though," said the Panther,
patting Minny's cheek with his brown fingers. "Seem just like that happen
yesterday: now you got baby yourself. Ah! your father--mighty well pleased
he be 'spose he see that little one."
"How often I wish he could!" said "Minny with a sigh, for both her father
and mother were dead.
"You 'pend upon it, he comfortable somewhere," said the chief,
consolingly. "Deacon Adams, he real good man. Look here, mamma! Like to
ask you question. You say when we die white man go to one place, Indian go
"I don't say so, sir. I don't pretend to know all this world by heart,
much less the other."
"Well, that what Indian say, any way. Now 'spose that so, what come of
"What do you think?" I asked, for neither Minny nor I could venture an
opinion on this abstruse point.
"Don't know," said the old man. "Saw young Cherokee in Washington: he
marry pretty little schoolmistress go down there to teach, and their
little boy die. Then that young man feel bad, and he fret good deal 'bout
where that baby gone to, and he ask me, and I no able tell him. Guess me
find out when get there: no use to trouble till then, You make these?" he
asked, changing the subject, and looking with admiration at the captain's
embroidered slippers which I had lent him.
"Yes. They were pretty when they were new. I'll make you a pair just like
them, if you wish. Shall I?"
The old gentleman looked greatly delighted, for he was as fond of finery
as any girl, and took no small pride in adorning his still handsome
I brought out all my embroidery-patterns, and the giant took as much
pleasure as a child in the pretty painted pictures and gay-colored wools
and silks. I made all the conversation I could over the slippers, willing
to divert him from the melancholy which seemed to have taken possession of
his mind. Over my work-basket he brightened a little, and chatted away
quite like himself, and listened with pleasure to Minny's singing. We did
not rise to go to bed till eleven o'clock, which was a very late hour for
Maysville. When the Panther spent the night at our house, as was
frequently the case, he never would go regularly to bed, but would take
his blanket and lie down before the kitchen fire. With great politeness he
insisted on getting the wood ready for morning, a thing he never would
have dreamed of doing for a woman of his own race.
As he came back into the kitchen from the shed he took up his rifle, which
he had set down by the door. As he did so an angry look came over his
face. "Look here," he said: "somebody been spoil my rifle!"
I looked at the piece in surprise, for the lock was broken. "It cannot
have been done since you came," I said. "There is no one in the house but
"Of course not, of course not!" said the Panther, eager to show that he
had no suspicion of his friends.
"Did you stop anywhere on your way?"
"Yes," said he with some slight embarrassment. "Stop at Ryan's,"
mentioning a low tavern on the borders of the reservation, which was a
terrible thorn in the side of all the missionary's efforts. "Stop a minute
light my pipe, but no drink one drop," he added with great earnestness;
"but they ask me good deal."
"Did you put your gun down?"
"Guess so," he said after a moment's reflection. "Yes, know did put it
down a minute or two."
"Then that was when the mischief was done, you may be sure. This lock was
never broken by accident. It must have been a mere piece of spite because
you would not stay. I wonder you did not notice it when you came out."
"In a hurry, and kept the buckskin over it, not to git it wet. Wish knew
who did that," said he, with a look not good to see. "Guess not do it
"I am very sorry, but it can easily be mended."
I spread out on the floor for him the comfortable and blankets I had
brought for his use, and hung up his woolen hunting-frock, now quite dry.
As I took it into my hand, I felt something very heavy in the pocket.
"I hope you have nothing here that will be spoiled with wet?" I said.
"Oh, nothing but money," said the chief, carelessly. "Mean to tell Minny
to take some of it and buy clothes for me."
He took out as he spoke a handful of loose change--copper, silver and two
or three gold-pieces--and a roll of bills a good deal damp, and put it all
into my apron. I counted the money and found there were seventy-five
dollars. Strong indeed must have been the attraction which had brought the
old man away from the tavern-fire in his sober senses with such a sum of
money in his pocket.
"Just got that," he said. "Part from Washington, part sell deer-skins."
There was no need to tell me that it had not been long in his possession.
Money in the Panther's hands was like water in a sieve.
"You give me five dollars, give the rest to Minny," he said; and as this
was by much the wisest arrangement for him, I did as he wished.
"You got captain's gun?" he asked me. "Never like to go to sleep without
something to catch up: hit somebody 'spose somebody come."
"I am sorry to say the captain has his rifle with him, and I lent the
shotgun to Jim Brewster this afternoon."
He looked annoyed, but he went out into the woodshed and returned with the
axe, which was new and sharp. "Have something, anyway," he said, doggedly.
"Why, what do you think can possibly happen?"
"Don't know. Always like to have something to catch up. Good-night, mamma.
You go to sleep."
I went to bed and fell asleep almost on the minute, but I could not have
slept long when I was wakened by the noise of the wind against the
shutters. The rain had ceased, but the blast was still roaring without.
Minny and her child were in a room which opened out of the parlor opposite
my own. The lamp which was burning there threw a dim light into my
chamber, and showed me each familiar object and my little boys asleep
Some one says that between the hours of one and four in the morning the
human mind is not itself. I fully believe it. In those hours you do not
"fix your mind" on melancholy subjects--they fix themselves upon you. If
you turn back into the past, there comes up before you every occasion on
which you made a fool of yourself, every lost opportunity, every slight
injury you ever experienced. If you look at the future, you see nothing
but coming failure and disappointment. The present moment connects itself
with every tale you ever heard or read of ghosts, murder, vampires or
That night, either because of the wind or because I had taken too strong
coffee, I fell into "the fidgets," as this state of mind is sometimes
called, and selected for immediate cause of discomfort the Panther's
presentiment about the red fox. Who could explain the mysterious way in
which animals are warned of approaching danger? Perhaps the old science of
divination was not so entirely a delusion; and then I remembered all the
old stories in Roman history of people who had come to grief by neglecting
the oracles. The old idea that whatever incident is considered as an omen
will be such in reality, seemed to me at that hour of the night not wholly
an unreasonable theory.
I had known, to be sure, some fifty presentiments which came to nothing,
but then I had known as many as three which had been verified: perhaps the
present case might be one of the exceptions to the rule. Then I remembered
all the stories in Scott's _Demonology_, which I had lately read, and
quite forgot all the arguments intended to disprove them.
[Illustration: The Attack on the "Panther."]
I thought of the broken gun-lock: I thought it not improbable that the
Panther had, when at Ryan's, mentioned that he was coming to our house,
and that it was very likely he had let it appear that he carried his money
with him. Ryan's was one of the worst places in all the State. I
remembered that the money was in the house, and I began to wish, like the
Panther, that I had something to "catch up." Then there were so many
noises about! I heard footsteps, which you will always hear if you listen
for them on a windy night. When our petted old cat jumped from his place
on the parlor sofa to lie down before the fire, I started up in bed in a
I must have been in this uncomfortable state of mind and body for the best
part of an hour before I remembered that in a drawer in the front parlor
lay two little old-fashioned pistols, unloaded but in good order.
I had grown so excited and uneasy that I felt as if I could not rest
unless I got up, found those pistols and loaded them, though nobody had
ever heard of a burglary in Maysville, and half the time the doors were
left unlocked at night. Rather despising myself for my nervousness, but
yielding to it nevertheless, I rose, put on my dressing-gown and slippers,
lit my candle and went to find the two little pistols. I stepped very
softly, not to disturb Minny, for I should have been quite ashamed then to
have her know my cowardice. I looked in at the door as I passed. She was
sound asleep, with her baby on her arm. The baby, however, was broad
awake, but lying perfectly still, with her little finger in her mouth. Her
eyes shone in the lamplight as she turned them on me--not startled like