Part 2 out of 5
"Oh, yes, John! we'll manage it," said Grace, who had by this time
swallowed her anger, and shouldered her cross once more with a womanly
perseverance. "Oh, yes! the Fergusons, and the Wilcoxes, and the
Lennoxes, will all call; and we shall have picnics, and lawn teas, and
musicals, and parties."
"Yes, yes, I see," said John. "Gracie, _isn't_ she a dear little
thing? Didn't she look cunning in that white wrapper this morning? How
do women do those things, I wonder?" said John. "Don't you think her
manners are lovely?"
"They are very sweet, and she is charmingly pretty," said Grace; "and
I love her dearly."
"And so affectionate! Don't you think so?" continued John. "She's a
person that you can do any thing with through her heart. She's all
heart, and very little head. I ought not to say that, either. I think
she has fair natural abilities, had they ever been cultivated."
"My dear John," said Grace, "you forget what time it is. Good-night!"
_WILL SHE LIKE IT_?
"John," said Grace, "when are you going out again to our Sunday school
at Spindlewood? They are all asking after you. Do you know it is now
two months since they have seen you?"
"I know it," said John. "I am going to-morrow. You see, Gracie, I
couldn't well before."
"Oh! I have told them all about it, and I have kept things up; but
then there are so many who want to see _you_, and so many things that
you alone could settle and manage."
"Oh, yes! I'll go to-morrow," said John. "And, after this, I shall
be steady at it. I wonder if we could get Lillie to go," said he,
Grace did not answer. Lillie was a subject on which it was always
embarrassing to her to be appealed to. She was so afraid of appearing
jealous or unappreciative; and her opinions were so different from
those of her brother, that it was rather difficult to say any thing.
"Do you think she would like it, Grace?"
"Indeed, John, you must know better than I. If anybody could make her
take an interest in it, it would be you."
Before his marriage, John had always had the idea that pretty,
affectionate little women were religious and self-denying at heart, as
matters of course. No matter through what labyrinths of fashionable
follies and dissipation they had been wandering, still a talent for
saintship was lying dormant in their natures, which it needed only the
touch of love to develop. The wings of the angel were always concealed
under the fashionable attire of the belle, and would unfold themselves
when the hour came. A nearer acquaintance with Lillie, he was forced
to confess, had not, so far, confirmed this idea. Though hers was a
face so fair and pure that, when he first knew her, it suggested ideas
of prayer, and communion with angels, yet he could not disguise from
himself that, in all near acquaintance with her, she had proved to
be most remarkably "of the earth, earthy." She was alive and fervent
about fashionable gossip,--of who is who, and what does what; she was
alive to equipages, to dress, to sightseeing, to dancing, to any thing
of which the whole stimulus and excitement was earthly and physical.
At times, too, he remembered that she had talked a sort of pensive
sentimentalism, of a slightly religious nature; but the least idea of
a moral purpose in life--of self-denial, and devotion to something
higher than immediate self-gratification--seemed never to have entered
her head. What is more, John had found his attempts to introduce such
topics with her always unsuccessful. Lillie either gaped in his face,
and asked him what time it was; or playfully pulled his whiskers, and
asked him why he didn't take to the ministry; or adroitly turned the
conversation with kissing and compliments.
Sunday morning came, shining down gloriously through the dewy
elm-arches of Springdale. The green turf on either side of the wide
streets was mottled and flecked with vivid flashes and glimmers of
emerald, like the sheen of a changeable silk, as here and there long
arrows of sunlight darted down through the leaves and touched the
The gardens between the great shady houses that flanked the street
were full of tall white and crimson phloxes in all the majesty of
their summer bloom, and the air was filled with fragrance; and Lillie,
after a two hours' toilet, came forth from her chamber fresh and
lovely as the bride in the Canticles. "Thou art all fair, my
love; there is no spot in thee." She was killingly dressed in the
rural-simplicity style. All her robes and sashes were of purest white;
and a knot of field-daisies and grasses, with French dew-drops on
them, twinkled in an infinitesimal bonnet on her little head, and her
hair was all _creped_ into a filmy golden aureole round her face. In
short, dear reader, she was a perfectly got-up angel, and wanted only
some tulle clouds and an opening heaven to have gone up at once, as
similar angels do from the Parisian stage.
"You like me, don't you?" she said, as she saw the delight in John's
John was tempted to lay hold of his plaything.
"Don't, now,--you'll crumple me," she said, fighting him off with a
dainty parasol. "Positively you shan't touch me till after church."
John laid the little white hand on his arm with pride, and looked down
at her over his shoulder all the way to church. He felt proud of her.
They would look at her, and see how pretty she was, he thought. And so
they did. Lillie had been used to admiration in church. It was one of
her fields of triumph. She had received compliments on her toilet
even from young clergymen, who, in the course of their preaching and
praying, found leisure to observe the beauties of nature and grace in
their congregation. She had been quite used to knowing of young men
who got good seats in church simply for the purpose of seeing her;
consequently, going to church had not the moral advantages for her
that it has for people who go simply to pray and be instructed. John
saw the turning of heads, and the little movements and whispers of
admiration; and his heart was glad within him. The thought of her
mingled with prayer and hymn; even when he closed his eyes, and bowed
his head, she was there.
Perhaps this was not exactly as it should be; yet let us hope the
angels look tenderly down on the sins of too much love. John felt as
if he would be glad of a chance to die for her; and, when he thought
of her in his prayers, it was because he loved her better than
As to Lillie, there was an extraordinary sympathy of sentiment between
them at that moment. John was thinking only of her; and she was
thinking only of herself, as was her usual habit,--herself, the one
object of her life, the one idol of her love.
Not that she knew, in so many words, that she, the little, frail
bit of dust and ashes that she was, was her own idol, and that she
appeared before her Maker, in those solemn walls, to draw to herself
the homage and the attention that was due to God alone; but yet it was
true that, for years and years, Lillie's unconfessed yet only motive
for appearing in church had been the display of herself, and the
winning of admiration.
But is she so much worse than others?--than the clergyman who uses
the pulpit and the sacred office to show off his talents?--than the
singers who sing God's praises to show their voices,--who intone the
agonies of their Redeemer, or the glories of the _Te Deum_, confident
on the comments of the newspaper press on their performance the next
week? No: Lillie may be a little sinner, but not above others in this
"Lillie," said John to her after dinner, assuming a careless,
matter-of-course air, "would you like to drive with me over to
Spindlewood, and see my Sunday school?"
"_Your_ Sunday school, John? Why, bless me! do _you_ teach Sunday
"Certainly I do. Grace and I have a school of two hundred children and
young people belonging to our factories. I am superintendent."
"I never did hear of any thing so odd!" said Lillie. "What in the
world can you want to take all that trouble for,--go basking over
there in the hot sun, and be shut up with a room full of those
ill-smelling factory-people? Why, I'm sure it can't be your duty! I
wouldn't do it for the world. Nothing would tempt me. Why, gracious,
John, you might catch small-pox or something!"
"Pooh! Lillie, child, you don't know any thing about them. They are
just as cleanly and respectable as anybody."
"Oh, well! they may be. But these Irish and Germans and Swedes and
Danes, and all that low class, do smell so,--you needn't tell me,
now!--that working-class smell is a thing that can't be disguised."
"But, Lillie, these are our people. They are the laborers from whose
toils our wealth comes; and we owe them something."
"Well! you pay them something, don't you?"
"I mean morally. We owe our efforts to instruct their children, and to
elevate and guide them. Lillie, I feel that it is wrong for us to use
wealth merely as a means of self-gratification. We ought to labor for
those who labor for us. We ought to deny ourselves, and make some
sacrifices of ease for their good."
"You dear old preachy creature!" said Lillie. "How good you must be!
But, really, I haven't the smallest vocation to be a missionary,--not
the smallest. I can't think of any thing that would induce me to take
a long, hot ride in the sun, and to sit in that stived-up room with
those common creatures."
John looked grave. "Lillie," he said, "you shouldn't speak of any of
your fellow-beings in that heartless way."
"Well now, if you are going to scold me, I'm sure I don't want to go.
I'm sure, if everybody that stays at home, and has comfortable times,
Sundays, instead of going out on missions, is heartless, there are a
good many heartless people in the world."
"I beg your pardon, my darling. I didn't mean, dear, that _you_ were
heartless, but that what you said _sounded_ so. I knew you didn't
really mean it. I didn't ask you, dear, to go to _work_,--only to be
company for me."
"And I ask you to stay at home, and be company for _me_. I'm sure it
is lonesome enough here, and you are off on business almost all your
days; and you might stay with me Sundays. You could hire some poor,
pious young man to do all the work over there. There are plenty of
them, dear knows, that it would be a real charity to help, and that
could preach and pray better than you can, I know. I don't think a man
that is busy all the week ought to work Sundays. It is breaking the
"But, Lillie, I am _interested_ in my Sunday school. I know all my
people, and they know me; and no one else in the world could do for
them what I could."
"Well, I should think you might be interested in _me_: nobody else can
do for me what you can, and I want you to stay with me. That's just
the way with you men: you don't care any thing about us after you get
"Now, Lillie, darling, you know that isn't so."
"It's just so. You care more for your old missionary work, now,
than you do for me. I'm sure I never knew that I'd married a
"Darling, please, now, don't laugh at me, and try to make me selfish
and worldly. You have such power over me, you ought to be my
"I'll be your common-sense, John. When you get on stilts, and run
benevolence into the ground, I'll pull you down. Now, I know it must
be bad for a man, that has as much as you do to occupy his mind all
the week, to go out and work Sundays; and it's foolish, when you could
perfectly well hire somebody else to do it, and stay at home, and have
a good time."
"But, Lillie, I _need_ it myself."
"Need it,--what for? I can't imagine."
"To keep me from becoming a mere selfish, worldly man, and living for
mere material good and pleasure."
"You dear old Don Quixote! Well, you are altogether in the clouds
above me. I can't understand a word of all that."
"Well, good-by, darling," said John, kissing her, and hastening out of
the room, to cut short the interview.
Milton has described the peculiar influence of woman over man, in
lowering his moral tone, and bringing him down to what he considered
the peculiarly womanly level. "You women," he said to his wife, when
she tried to induce him to seek favors at court by some concession of
principle,--"you women never care for any thing but to be fine, and to
ride in your coaches." In Father Adam's description of the original
Eve, he says,--
"All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded; wisdom, in discourse with her,
Loses, discountenanced, and like folly shows."
Something like this effect was always produced on John's mind when he
tried to settle questions relating to his higher nature with Lillie.
He seemed, somehow, always to get the worst of it. All her womanly
graces and fascinations, so powerful over his senses and imagination,
arrayed themselves formidably against him, and for the time seemed to
strike him dumb. What he believed, and believed with enthusiasm, when
he was alone, or with Grace, seemed to drizzle away, and be belittled,
when he undertook to convince her of it. Lest John should be called
a muff and a spoon for this peculiarity, we cite once more the high
authority aforesaid, where Milton makes poor Adam tell the angel,--
"Yet when I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems
And in herself complete, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best."
John went out from Lillie's presence rather humbled and over-crowed.
When the woman that a man loves laughs at his moral enthusiasms, it
is like a black frost on the delicate tips of budding trees. It
is up-hill work, as we all know, to battle with indolence and
selfishness, and self-seeking and hard-hearted worldliness. Then the
highest and holiest part of our nature has a bashfulness of its own.
It is a heavenly stranger, and easily shamed. A nimble-tongued,
skilful woman can so easily show the ridiculous side of what seemed
heroism; and what is called common-sense, so generally, is only some
neatly put phase of selfishness. Poor John needed the angel at his
elbow, to give him the caution which he is represented as giving to
"What transports thee so?
An outside?--fair, no doubt, and worthy well
Thy cherishing, thy honor, and thy love,
Not thy subjection. Weigh her with thyself,
Then value. Oft-times nothing profits more
Than self-esteem, grounded on just and right
Well managed: of that skill the more them knowest,
The more she will acknowledge thee her head,
And to realities yield all her shows."
But John had no angel at his elbow. He was a fellow with a great
heart,--good as gold,--with upward aspirations, but with slow speech;
and, when not sympathized with, he became confused and incoherent, and
even dumb. So his only way with his little pink and white empress was
immediate and precipitate flight.
Lillie ran to the window when he was gone, and saw him and Grace get
into the carriage together; and then she saw them drive to the old
Ferguson House, and Rose Ferguson came out and got in with them.
"Well," she said to herself, "he shan't do that many times more,--I'm
No, she did not say it. It would be well for us all if we _did_ put
into words, plain and explicit, many instinctive resolves and purposes
that arise in our hearts, and which, for want of being so expressed,
influence us undetected and unchallenged. If we would say out boldly,
"I don't care for right or wrong, or good or evil, or anybody's rights
or anybody's happiness, or the general good, or God himself,--all
I care for, or feel the least interest in, is to have a good time
myself, and I mean to do it, come what may,"--we should be only
expressing a feeling which often lies in the dark back-room of the
human heart; and saying it might alarm us from the drugged sleep of
life. It might rouse us to shake off the slow, creeping paralysis of
selfishness and sin before it is for ever too late.
But Lillie was a creature who had lost the power of self-knowledge.
She was, my dear sir, what you suppose the true woman to be,--a bundle
of blind instincts; and among these the strongest was that of property
in her husband, and power over him. She had lived in her power over
men; it was her field of ambition. She knew them thoroughly. Women are
called ivy; and the ivy has a hundred little fingers in every inch of
its length, that strike at every flaw and crack and weak place in the
strong wall they mean to overgrow; and so had Lillie. She saw, at a
glance, that the sober, thoughtful, Christian life of Springdale was
wholly opposed to the life she wanted to lead, and in which John was
to be her instrument. She saw that, if such women as Grace and Rose
had power with him, she should not have; and her husband should
be hers alone. He should do her will, and be her subject,--so she
thought, smiling at herself as she looked in the looking-glass, and
then curled herself peacefully and languidly down in the corner of
the sofa, and drew forth the French novel that was her usual Sunday
Lillie liked French novels. There was an atmosphere of things in them
that suited her. The young married women had lovers and admirers; and
there was the constant stimulus of being courted and adored, under the
safe protection of a good-natured "_mari_."
In France, the flirting is all done after marriage, and the young girl
looks forward to it as her introduction to a career of conquest. In
America, so great is our democratic liberality, that we think of
uniting the two systems. We are getting on in that way fast. A
knowledge of French is beginning to be considered as the pearl of
great price, to gain which, all else must be sold. The girls must go
to the French theatre, and be stared at by French _debauchees_, who
laugh at them while they pretend they understand what, thank Heaven,
they cannot. Then we are to have series of French novels, carefully
translated, and puffed and praised even by the religious press,
written by the corps of French female reformers, which will show them
exactly how the naughty French women manage their cards; so that, by
and by, we shall have the latest phase of eclecticism,--the union
of American and French manners. The girl will flirt till twenty _a
l'Americaine_, and then marry and flirt till forty _a la Francaise_.
This was about Lillie's plan of life. Could she hope to carry it out
It seemed a little like old times to Grace, to be once more going with
Rose and John over the pretty romantic road to Spindlewood.
John did not reflect upon how little she now saw of him, and how much
of a trial the separation was; but he noticed how bright and almost
gay she was, when they were by themselves once more. He was gay too.
In the congenial atmosphere of sympathy, his confidence in himself,
and his own right in the little controversy that had occurred,
returned. Not that he said a word of it; he did not do so, and would
not have done so for the world. Grace and Rose were full of anecdotes
of this, that, and the other of their scholars; and all the
particulars of some of their new movements were discussed. The people
had, of their own accord, raised a subscription for a library, which
was to be presented to John that day, with a request that he would
select the books.
"Gracie, that must be your work," said John; "you know I shall have an
important case next week."
"Oh, yes! Rose and I will settle it," said Grace. "Rose, we'll get the
catalogues from all the book-stores, and mark the things."
"We'll want books for the children just beginning to read; and then
books for the young men in John's Bible-class, and all the way
between," said Rose. "It will be quite a work to select."
"And then to bargain with the book-stores, and make the money go 'far
as possible,'" said Grace.
"And then there'll be the covering of the books," said Rose. "I'll
tell you. I think I'll manage to have a lawn tea at our house; and the
girls shall all come early, and get the books covered,--that'll be
"I think Lillie would like that," put in John.
"I should be so glad!" said Rose. "What a lovely little thing she is!
I hope she'll like it. I wanted to get up something pretty for her. I
think, at this time of the year, lawn teas are a little variety."
"Oh, she'll like it of course!" said John, with some sinking of heart
about the Sunday-school books.
There were so many pressing to shake hands with John, and congratulate
him, so many histories to tell, so many cases presented for
consultation, that it was quite late before they got away; and tea had
been waiting for them more than an hour when they returned.
Lillie looked pensive, and had that indescribable air of patient
martyrdom which some women know how to make so very effective. Lillie
had good general knowledge of the science of martyrdom,--a little
spice and flavor of it had been gently infused at times into her
demeanor ever since she had been at Springdale. She could do the
uncomplaining sufferer with the happiest effect. She contrived to
insinuate at times how she didn't complain,--how dull and slow she
found her life, and yet how she endeavored to be cheerful.
"I know," she said to John when they were by themselves, "that you and
Grace both think I'm a horrid creature."
"Why, no, dearest; indeed we don't."
"But you do, though; oh, I feel it! The fact is, John, I haven't a
particle of constitution; and, if I should try to go on as Grace does,
it would kill me in a month. Ma never would let me try to do any
thing; and, if I did, I was sure to break all down under it: but, if
you say so, I'll try to go into this school."
"Oh, no, Lillie! I don't want you to go in. I know, darling, you could
not stand any fatigue. I only wanted you to take an interest,--just to
go and see them for my sake."
"Well, John, if you must go, and must keep it up, I must try to go.
I'll go with you next Sunday. It will make my head ache perhaps; but
no matter, if you wish it. You don't think badly of me, do you?" she
said coaxingly, playing with his whiskers.
"No, darling, not the least."
"I suppose it would be a great deal better for you if you had married
a strong, energetic woman, like your sister. I do admire her so; but
it discourages me."
"Darling, I'd a thousand times rather have you what you are," said
"What she wills to do,
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best."
"O John! come, you ought to be sincere."
"Sincere, Lillie! I am sincere."
"You really would rather have poor, poor little me than a woman like
Gracie,--a great, strong, energetic woman?" And Lillie laid her soft
cheek down on his arm in pensive humility.
"Yes, a thousand million times," said John in his enthusiasm, catching
her in his arms and kissing her. "I wouldn't for the world have you
any thing but the darling little Lillie you are. I love your faults
more than the virtues of other women. You are a thousand times better
than I am. I am a great, coarse blockhead, compared to you. I hope I
didn't hurt your feelings this noon; you know, Lillie, I'm hasty, and
apt to be inconsiderate. I don't really know that I ought to let you
go over next Sunday."
"O John, you are so good! Certainly if you go I ought to; and I shall
try my best." Then John told her all about the books and the lawn tea,
and Lillie listened approvingly.
So they had a lawn tea at the Fergusons that week, where Lillie was
the cynosure of all eyes. Mr. Mathews, the new young clergyman of
Springdale, was there. Mr. Mathews had been credited as one of the
admirers of Rose Ferguson; but on this occasion he promenaded and
talked with Lillie, and Lillie alone, with an exclusive devotion.
"What a lovely young creature your new sister is!" he said to Grace.
"She seems to have so much religious sensibility."
"I say, Lillie," said John, "Mathews seemed to be smitten with you. I
had a notion of interfering."
"Did you ever see any thing like it, John? I couldn't shake the
creature off. I was so thankful when you came up and took me. He's
Rose's admirer, and he hardly spoke a word to her. I think it's
The next Sunday, Lillie rode over to Spindlewood with John and Rose
and Mr. Mathews.
Never had the picturesque of religion received more lustre than from
her presence. John was delighted to see how they all gazed at her
and wondered. Lillie looked like a first-rate French picture of the
youthful Madonna,--white, pure, and patient. The day was hot, and the
hall crowded; and John noticed, what he never did before, the close
smell and confined air, and it made him uneasy. When we are feeling
with the nerves of some one else, we notice every roughness and
inconvenience. John thought he had never seen his school appear so
little to advantage. Yet Lillie was an image of patient endurance,
trying to be pleased; and John thought her, as she sat and did
nothing, more of a saint than Rose and Grace, who were laboriously
sorting books, and gathering around them large classes of factory
boys, to whom they talked with an exhausting devotedness.
When all was over, Lillie sat back on the carriage-cushions, and
smelled at her gold vinaigrette.
"You are all worn out, dear," said John, tenderly.
"It's no matter," she said faintly.
"O Lillie darling! _does_ your head ache?"
"A little,--you know it was close in there. I'm very sensitive to such
things. I don't think they affect others as they do me," said Lillie,
with the voice of a dying zephyr.
"Lillie, _it is not your duty to go_" said John; "if you are not made
ill by this, I never will take you again; you are too precious to be
"How can you say so, John? I'm a poor little creature,--no use to
Hereupon John told her that her only use in life was to be lovely and
to be loved,--that a thing of beauty was a joy forever, &c., &c.
But Lillie was too much exhausted, on her return, to appear at the
tea-table. She took to her bed at once with sick headache, to the
poignant remorse of John. "You see how it is, Gracie," he said. "Poor
dear little thing, she is willing enough, but there's nothing of her.
We mustn't allow her to exert herself; her feelings always carry her
The next Sunday, John sat at home with Lillie, who found herself too
unwell to go to church, and was in a state of such low spirits as to
require constant soothing to keep her quiet.
"It is fortunate that I have you and Rose to trust the school with,"
said John; "you see, it's my first duty to take care of Lillie."
One of the shrewdest and most subtle modern French writers has given
his views of womankind in the following passage:--
"There are few women who have not found themselves, at least once
in their lives, in regard to some incontestable fact, faced down by
precise, keen, searching inquiry,--one of those questions pitilessly
put by their husbands, the very idea of which gives a slight chill,
and the first word of which enters the heart like a stroke of
a dagger. Hence comes the maxim, _Every woman lies_--obliging
lies--venial lies--sublime lies--horrible lies--but always the
obligation of lying.
"This obligation once admitted, must it not be a necessity to know how
to lie well? In France, the women lie admirably. Our customs instruct
them so well in imposture. And woman is so naively impertinent, so
pretty, so graceful, so true, in her lying! They so well understand
its usefulness in social life for avoiding those violent shocks which
would destroy happiness,--it is like the cotton in which they pack
"Lying is to them the very foundation of language, and truth is only
the exception; they speak it, as they are virtuous, from caprice or
for a purpose. According to their character, some women laugh when
they lie, and some cry; some become grave, and others get angry.
Having begun life by pretending perfect insensibility to that
homage which flatters them most, they often finish by lying even to
themselves. Who has not admired their apparent superiority and calm,
at the moment when they were trembling for the mysterious treasures
of their love? Who has not studied their ease and facility, their
presence of mind in the midst of the most critical embarrassments of
social life? There is nothing awkward about it; their deception flows
as softly as the snow falls from heaven.
"Yet there are men that have the presumption to expect to get the
better of the Parisian woman!--of the woman who possesses thirty-seven
thousand ways of saying 'No,' and incommensurable variations in saying
This is a Frenchman's view of life in a country where women are
trained more systematically for the mere purposes of attraction than
in any other country, and where the pursuit of admiration and the
excitement of winning lovers are represented by its authors
as constituting the main staple of woman's existence. France,
unfortunately, is becoming the great society-teacher of the world.
What with French theatres, French operas, French novels, and the
universal rush of American women for travel, France is becoming so
powerful on American fashionable society, that the things said of the
Parisian woman begin in some cases to apply to some women in America.
Lillie was as precisely the woman here described as if she had been
born and bred in Paris. She had all the thirty-seven thousand ways of
saying "No," and the incommensurable variations in saying "Yes,"
as completely as the best French teaching could have given it. She
possessed, and had used, all that graceful facility, in the story of
herself that she had told John in the days of courtship. Her power
over him was based on a dangerous foundation of unreality. Hence,
during the first few weeks of her wedded life, came a critical scene,
in which she was brought in collision with one of those "pitiless
questions" our author speaks of.
Her wedding-presents, manifold and brilliant, had remained at home, in
the charge of her mother, during the wedding-journey. One bright day,
a few weeks after her arrival in Springdale, the boxes containing the
treasures were landed there; and John, with all enthusiasm, busied
himself with the work of unpacking these boxes, and drawing forth the
Now, it so happened that Lillie's maternal grandfather, a nice, pious
old gentleman, had taken the occasion to make her the edifying and
suggestive present of a large, elegantly bound family Bible.
The binding was unexceptionable; and Lillie assigned it a proper place
of honor among her wedding-gear. Alas! she had not looked into it, nor
seen what dangers to her power were lodged between its leaves.
But John, who was curious in the matter of books, sat quietly down in
a corner to examine it; and on the middle page, under the head "Family
Record," he found, in a large, bold hand, the date of the birth of
"Lillie Ellis" in figures of the most uncompromising plainness; and
thence, with one flash of his well-trained arithmetical sense, came
the perception that, instead of being twenty years old, she was in
fact twenty-seven,--and that of course she had lied to him.
[Illustration: "He found the date of the birth of 'Lillie Ellis.'"]
It was a horrid and a hard word for an American young man to have
suggested in relation to his wife. If we may believe the French
romancer, a Frenchman would simply have smiled in amusement on
detecting this petty feminine _ruse_ of his beloved. But American men
are in the habit of expecting the truth from respectable women as a
matter of course; and the want of it in the smallest degree strikes
them as shocking. Only an Englishman or an American can understand the
dreadful pain of that discovery to John.
The Anglo-Saxon race have, so to speak, a worship of truth; and
they hate and abhor lying with an energy which leaves no power of
The Celtic races have a certain sympathy with deception. They have a
certain appreciation of the value of lying as a fine art, which has
never been more skilfully shown than in the passage from De Balzac we
have quoted. The woman who is described by him as lying so sweetly and
skilfully is represented as one of those women "qui ont je ne
sais quoi de saint et de sacre, qui inspirent tant de respect que
l'amour,"--"a woman who has an indescribable something of holiness and
purity which inspires respect as well as love." It was no detraction
from the character of Jesus, according to the estimate of Renan, to
represent him as consenting to a benevolent fraud, and seeming to work
miracles when he did not work them, by way of increasing his good
influence over the multitude.
But John was the offspring of a generation of men for hundreds of
years, who would any of them have gone to the stake rather than have
told the smallest untruth; and for him who had been watched and
guarded and catechised against this sin from his cradle, till he was
as true and pure as a crystal rock, to have his faith shattered in the
woman he loved, was a terrible thing.
As he read the fatal figures, a mist swam before his eyes,--a sort of
faintness came over him. It seemed for a moment as if his very life
was sinking down through his boots into the carpet. He threw down the
book hastily, and, turning, stepped through an open window into the
garden, and walked quickly off.
"Where in the world is John going?" said Lillie, running to the door,
and calling after him in imperative tones.
"John, John, come back. I haven't done with you yet;" but John never
turned his head.
"How very odd! what in the world is the matter with him?" she said to
John was gone all the afternoon. He took a long, long walk, all by
himself, and thought the matter over. He remembered that fresh,
childlike, almost infantine face, that looked up into his with such a
bewitching air of frankness and candor, as she professed to be telling
all about herself and her history; and now which or what of it was
true? It seemed as if he loathed her; and yet he couldn't help loving
her, while he despised himself for doing it.
When he came home to supper, he was silent and morose. Lillie came
running to meet him; but he threw her off, saying he was tired. She
was frightened; she had never seen him look like that.
"John, what is the matter with you?" said Grace at the tea-table. "You
are upsetting every thing, and don't drink your tea."
"Nothing--only--I have some troublesome business to settle," he said,
getting up to go out again. "You needn't wait for me; I shall be out
"What can be the matter?"
Lillie, indeed, had not the remotest idea. Yet she remembered his
jumping up suddenly, and throwing down the Bible; and mechanically she
went to it, and opened it. She turned it over; and the record met her
"Provoking!" she said. "Stupid old creature! must needs go and put
that out in full." Lillie took a paper-folder, and cut the leaf out
quite neatly; then folded and burned it.
She knew now what was the matter. John was angry at her; but she
couldn't help wondering that he should be so angry. If he had
laughed at her, teased her, taxed her with the trick, she would have
understood what to do. But this terrible gloom, this awful commotion
of the elements, frightened her.
She went to her room, saying that she had a headache, and would go to
bed. But she did not. She took her French novel, and read till she
heard him coming; and then she threw down her book, and began to
cry. He came into the room, and saw her leaning like a little white
snow-wreath over the table, sobbing as if her heart would break. To
do her justice, Lillie's sobs were not affected. She was lonesome and
thoroughly frightened; and, when she heard him coming, her nerves
gave out. John's heart yearned towards her. His short-lived anger had
burned out; and he was perfectly longing for a reconciliation. He felt
as if he must have her to love, no matter what she was. He came up to
her, and stroked her hair. "O Lillie!" he said, "why couldn't you have
told me the truth? What made you deceive me?"
"I was afraid you wouldn't like me if I did," said Lillie, in her
"O Lillie! I should have liked you, no matter how old you were,--only
you should have told me _the truth_."
"I know it--I know it--oh, it _was_ wrong of me!" and Lillie sobbed,
and seemed in danger of falling into convulsions; and John's heart
gave out. He gathered her in his arms. "I can't help loving you; and I
can't live without you," he said, "be you what you may!"
Lillie's little heart beat with triumph under all her sobs: she had
got him, and should hold him yet.
"There can be no confidence between husband and wife, Lillie," said
John, gravely, "unless we are perfectly true with each other. Promise
me, dear, that you will never deceive me again."
Lillie promised with ready fervor. "O John!" she said, "I never should
have done so wrong if I had only come under your influence earlier.
The fact is, I have been under the worst influences all my life. I
never had anybody like you to guide me."
John may of course be excused for feeling that his flattering little
penitent was more to him than ever; and as to Lillie, she gave a sigh
of relief. _That_ was over, "anyway;" and she had him not only safe,
but more completely hers than before.
A generous man is entirely unnerved by a frank confession. If Lillie
had said one word in defence, if she had raised the slightest shadow
of an argument, John would have roused up all his moral principle to
oppose her; but this poor little white water-sprite, dissolving in a
rain of penitent tears, quite washed away all his anger and all his
The next morning, Lillie, all fresh in a ravishing toilet, with
field-daisies in her hair, was in a condition to laugh gently at John
for his emotion of yesterday. She triumphed softly, not too obviously,
in her power. He couldn't do without her,--do what she might,--that
"Now, John," she said, "don't you think we poor women are judged
rather hardly? Men, you know, tell all sorts of lies to carry on their
great politics and their ambition, and nobody thinks it so dreadful of
"I _do_--I should," interposed John.
"Oh, well! _you_--you are an exception. It is not one man in a hundred
that is so good as you are. Now, we women have only one poor little
ambition,--to be pretty, to please you men; and, as soon as you know
we are getting old, you don't like us. And can you think it's so very
shocking if we don't come square up to the dreadful truth about our
age? Youth and beauty is all there is to us, you know."
"O Lillie! don't say so," said John, who felt the necessity of being
instructive, and of improving the occasion to elevate the moral tone
of his little elf. "Goodness lasts, my dear, when beauty fades."
"Oh, nonsense! Now, John, don't talk humbug. I'd like to see _you_
following goodness when beauty is gone. I've known lots of plain old
maids that were perfect saints and angels; and yet men crowded and
jostled by them to get the pretty sinners. I dare say now," she added,
with a bewitching look over her shoulder at him, "you'd rather have me
than Miss Almira Carraway,--hadn't you, now?"
And Lillie put her white arm round his neck, and her downy cheek to
his, and said archly, "Come, now, confess."
Then John told her that she was a bad, naughty girl; and she laughed;
and, on the whole, the pair were more hilarious and loving than usual.
But yet, when John was away at his office, he thought of it again, and
found there was still a sore spot in his heart.
She had cheated him once; would she cheat him again? And she could
cheat so prettily, so serenely, and with such a candid face, it was a
No: she wasn't like his mother, he thought with a sigh. The "je
ne sais quoi de saint et de sacre," which had so captivated his
imagination, did not cover the saintly and sacred nature; it was a
mere outward purity of complexion and outline. And then Grace,--she
must not be left to find out what he knew about Lillie. He had told
Grace that she was only twenty,--told it on her authority; and now
must he become an accomplice? If called on to speak of his wife's age,
must he accommodate the truth to her story, or must he palter and
evade? Here was another brick laid on the wall of separation between
his sister and himself. It was rising daily. Here was another subject
on which he could never speak frankly with Grace; for he must defend
Lillie,--every impulse of his heart rushed to protect her.
But it is a terrible truth, and one that it will not hurt any of us to
bear in mind, that our judgments of our friends are involuntary.
We may long with all our hearts to confide; we may be fascinated,
entangled, and wish to be blinded; but blind we cannot be. The friend
that has lied to us once, we may long to believe; but we cannot. Nay,
more; it is the worse for us, if, in our desire to hold the dear
deceiver in our hearts, we begin to chip and hammer on the great
foundations of right and honor, and to say within ourselves, "After
all, why be so particular?" Then, when we have searched about for all
the reasons and apologies and extenuations for wrong-doing, are we
sure that in our human weakness we shall not be pulling down the
moral barriers in ourselves? The habit of excusing evil, and finding
apologies, and wishing to stand with one who stands on a lower moral
plane, is not a wholesome one for the soul.
As fate would have it, the very next day after this little scene,
who should walk into the parlor where Lillie, John, and Grace were
sitting, but that terror of American democracy, the census-taker.
Armed with the whole power of the republic, this official steps with
elegant ease into the most sacred privacies of the family. Flutterings
and denials are in vain. Bridget and Katy and Anne, no less than
Seraphina and Isabella, must give up the critical secrets of their
John took the paper into the kitchen. Honest old Bridget gave in her
age with effrontery as "twinty-five." Anne giggled and flounced, and
declared on her word she didn't know,--they could put it down as they
liked. "But, Anne, you _must_ tell, or you may be sent to jail, you
Anne giggled still harder, and tossed her head: "Then it's to jail
I'll have to go; for I don't know."
"Dear me," said Lillie, with an air of edifying candor, "what a fuss
they make! Set down my age 'twenty-seven,' John," she added.
Grace started, and looked at John; he met her eye, and blushed to the
roots of his hair.
"Why, what's the matter?" said Lillie, "are you embarrassed at telling
"Oh, nothing!" said John, writing down the numbers hastily; and then,
finding a sudden occasion to give directions in the garden, he darted
out. "It's so silly to be ashamed of our age!" said Lillie, as the
"Of course," said Grace; and she had the humanity never to allude to
the subject with her brother.
SCENE.--_A chamber at the Seymour House. Little discovered weeping.
John rushing in with empressement_.
"Lillie, you _shall_ tell me what ails you."
"Nothing ails me, John."
"Yes, there does; you were crying when I came in."
"Oh, well, that's nothing!"
"Oh, but it _is_ a great deal! What is the matter? I can see that you
are not happy."
"Oh, pshaw, John! I am as happy as I ought to be, I dare say; there
isn't much the matter with me, only a little blue, and I don't feel
"You don't feel strong! I've noticed it, Lillie."
"Well, you see, John, the fact is, that I never have got through this
month without going to the sea-side. Mamma always took me. The doctors
told her that my constitution was such that I couldn't get along
without it; but I dare say I shall do well enough in time, you know."
"But, Lillie," said John, "if you do need sea-air, you must go. I
can't leave my business; that's the trouble."
"Oh, no, John! don't think of it. I ought to make an effort to get
along. You see, it's very foolish in me, but places affect my spirits
so. It's perfectly absurd how I am affected."
"Well, Lillie, I hope this place doesn't affect you unpleasantly,"
"It's a nice, darling place, John, and it's very silly in me; but
it is a fact that this house somehow has a depressing effect on my
spirits. You know it's not like the houses I've been used to. It has a
sort of old look; and I can't help feeling that it puts me in mind of
those who are dead and gone; and then I think I shall be dead and gone
too, some day, and it makes me cry so. Isn't it silly of me, John?"
"Poor little pussy!" said John.
"You see, John, our rooms are lovely; but they aren't modern and
cheerful, like those I've been accustomed to. They make me feel
pensive and sad all the time; but I'm trying to get over it."
"Why, Lillie!" said John, "would you like the rooms refurnished? It
can easily be done if you wish it."
"Oh, no, no, dear! You are too good; and I'm sure the rooms are
lovely, and it would hurt Gracie's feelings to change them. No: I must
try and get over it. I know just how silly it is, and I shall try to
overcome it. If I had only more strength, I believe I could."
"Well, darling, you must go to the sea-side. I shall have you sent
right off to Newport. Gracie can go with you."
"Oh, no, John! not for the world. Gracie must stay, and keep house for
you. She's such a help to you, that it would be a shame to take her
away. But I think mamma would go with me,--if you could take me there,
and engage my rooms and all that, why, mamma could stay with me, you
know. To be sure, it would be a trial not to have you there; but then
if I could get up my strength, you know,"--
"Exactly, certainly; and, Lillie, how would you like the parlors
arranged if you had your own way?"
"Oh, John! don't think of it."
"But I just want to know for curiosity. Now, how would you have them
if you could?"
"Well, then, John, don't you think it would be lovely to have them
frescoed? Did you ever see the Folingsbees' rooms in New York? They
were so lovely!--one was all in blue, and the other in crimson,
opening into each other; with carved furniture, and those _marquetrie_
tables, and all sorts of little French things. They had such a gay and
"Now, Lillie, if you want our rooms like that, you shall have them."
"O John, you are too good! I couldn't ask such a sacrifice."
"Oh, pshaw! it isn't a sacrifice. I don't doubt I shall like them
better myself. Your taste is perfect, Lillie; and, now I think of it,
I wonder that I thought of bringing you here without consulting you
in every particular. A woman ought to be queen in her own house, I am
"But, Gracie! Now, John, I know she has associations with all the
things in this house, and it would be cruel to her," said Lillie, with
"Pshaw! Gracie is a good, sensible girl, and ready to make any
rational change. I suppose we have been living rather behind the
times, and are somewhat rusty, that's a fact; but Gracie will enjoy
new things as much as anybody, I dare say."
"Well, John, since you are set on it, there's Charlie Ferrola, one of
my particular friends; he's an architect, and does all about arranging
rooms and houses and furniture. He did the Folingsbees', and the
Hortons', and the Jeromes', and no end of real nobby people's houses;
and made them perfectly lovely. People say that one wouldn't know that
they weren't in Paris, in houses that he does."
Now, our John was by nature a good solid chip of the old Anglo-Saxon
block; and, if there was any thing that he had no special affinity
for, it was for French things. He had small opinion of French morals,
and French ways in general; but then at this moment he saw his Lillie,
whom, but half an hour before, he found all pale and tear-drenched,
now radiant and joyous, sleek as a humming-bird, with the light in
her eyes, and the rattle on the tip of her tongue; and he felt so
delighted to see her bright and gay and joyous, that he would have
turned his house into the Jardin Mabille, if that were possible.
Lillie had the prettiest little caressing tricks and graces
imaginable; and she perched herself on his knee, and laughed and
chatted so gayly, and pulled his whiskers so saucily, and then,
springing up, began arraying herself in such an astonishing daintiness
of device, and fluttering before him with such a variety of
well-assorted plumage, that John was quite taken off his feet. He
did not care so much whether what she willed to do were, "Wisest,
virtuousest, discreetest, best," as feel that what she wished to do
must be done at any rate.
[Illustration: "She perched herself on his knee."]
"Why, darling!" he said in his rapture; "why didn't you tell me all
this before? Here you have been growing sad and blue, and losing your
vivacity and spirits, and never told me why!"
"I thought it was my duty, John, to try to bear it," said Lillie, with
the sweet look of a virgin saint. "I thought perhaps I should get used
to things in time; and I think it is a wife's duty to accommodate
herself to her husband's circumstances."
"No, it's a husband's duty to accommodate himself to his wife's
wishes," said John. "What's that fellow's address? I'll write to him
about doing our house, forthwith."
"But, John, do pray tell Gracie that it's _your_ wish. I don't want
her to think that it's I that am doing this. Now, pray do think
whether you really want it yourself. You see it must be so natural
for you to like the old things! They must have associations, and I
wouldn't for the world, now, be the one to change them; and, after
all, how silly it was of me to feel blue!"
"Don't say any more, Lillie. Let me see,--next week," he said, taking
out his pocket-book, and looking over his memoranda,--"next week I'll
take you down to Newport; and you write to-day to your mother to meet
you there, and be your guest. I'll write and engage the rooms at
"I don't know what I shall do without you, John."
"Oh, well, I couldn't stay possibly! But I may run down now and then,
for a night, you know."
"Well, we must make that do," said Lillie, with a pensive sigh.
Thus two very important moves on Miss Lillie's checker-board of life
were skilfully made. The house was to be refitted, and the Newport
Now, dear friends, don't think Lillie a pirate, or a conspirator, or
a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing, or any thing else but what she was,--a
pretty little, selfish woman; undeveloped in her conscience and
affections, and strong in her instincts and perceptions; in a blind
way using what means were most in her line to carry her purposes.
Lillie had always found her prettiness, her littleness, her
helplessness, and her tears so very useful in carrying her points in
life that she resorted to them as her lawful stock in trade. Neither
were her blues entirely shamming. There comes a time after marriage,
when a husband, if he be any thing of a man, has something else to do
than make direct love to his wife. He cannot be on duty at all hours
to fan her, and shawl her, and admire her. His love must express
itself through other channels. He must be a full man for her sake;
and, as a man, must go forth to a whole world of interests that takes
him from her. Now what in this case shall a woman do, whose only life
lies in petting and adoration and display?
Springdale had no _beau monde_, no fashionable circle, no Bois de
Boulogne, and no beaux, to make amends for a husband's engrossments.
Grace was sisterly and kind; but what on earth had they in common
to talk about? Lillie's wardrobe was in all the freshness of bridal
exuberance, and there was nothing more to be got, and so, for the
moment, no stimulus in this line. But then where to wear all these
fine French dresses? Lillie had been called on, and invited once
to little social evening parties, through the whole round of old,
respectable families that lived under the elm-arches of Springdale;
and she had found it rather stupid. There was not a man to make an
admirer of, except the young minister, who, after the first afternoon
of seeing her, returned to his devotion to Rose Ferguson.
You know, ladies, Aesop has a pretty little fable as follows: A young
man fell desperately in love with a cat, and prayed to Jupiter to
change her to a woman for his sake. Jupiter was so obliging as to
grant his prayer; and, behold, a soft, satin-skinned, purring,
graceful woman was given into his arms.
But the legend goes on to say that, while he was delighting in her
charms, she heard the sound of _mice_ behind the wainscot, and left
him forthwith to rush after her congenial prey.
Lillie had heard afar the sound of _mice_ at Newport, and she longed
to be after them once more. Had she not a prestige now as a rich young
married lady? Had she not jewels and gems to show? Had she not any
number of mouse-traps, in the way of ravishing toilets? She thought it
all over, till she was sick with longing, and was sure that nothing
but the sea-air could do her any good; and so she fell to crying, and
kissing her faithful John, till she gained her end, like a veritable
little cat as she was.
_NEWPORT; OR, THE PARADISE OF NOTHING TO DO_.
Behold, now, our Lillie at the height of her heart's desire, installed
in fashionable apartments at Newport, under the placid chaperonship
of dear mamma, who never saw the least harm in any earthly thing her
Lillie chose to do.
All the dash and flash and furbelow of upper-tendom were there; and
Lillie now felt the full power and glory of being a rich, pretty,
young married woman, with oceans of money to spend, and nothing on
earth to do but follow the fancies of the passing hour.
This was Lillie's highest ideal of happiness; and didn't she enjoy it?
Wasn't it something to flame forth in wondrous toilets in the eyes of
Belle Trevors and Margy Silloway and Lottie Cavers, who were _not_
married; and before the Simpkinses and the Tomkinses and the
Jenkinses, who, last year, had said hateful things about her, and
intimated that she had gone off in her looks, and was on the way to be
an old maid?
And wasn't it a triumph when all her old beaux came flocking round
her, and her parlors became a daily resort and lounging-place for all
the idle swains, both of her former acquaintance and of the newcomers,
who drifted with the tide of fashion? Never had she been so much the
rage; never had she been declared so "stunning." The effect of all
this good fortune on her health was immediate. We all know how the
spirits affect the bodily welfare; and hence, my dear gentlemen, we
desire it to be solemnly impressed on you, that there is nothing so
good for a woman's health as to give her her own way.
Lillie now, from this simple cause, received enormous accessions of
vigor. While at home with plain, sober John, trying to walk in the
quiet paths of domesticity, how did her spirits droop! If you only
could have had a vision of her brain and spinal system, you would have
seen how there was no nervous fluid there, and how all the fine little
cords and fibres that string the muscles were wilting like flowers out
of water; but now she could bathe the longest and the strongest of any
one, could ride on the beach half the day, and dance the German into
the small hours of the night, with a degree of vigor which showed
conclusively what a fine thing for her the Newport air was. Her
dancing-list was always over-crowded with applicants; bouquets were
showered on her; and the most superb "turn-outs," with their masters
for charioteers, were at her daily disposal.
All this made talk. The world doesn't forgive success; and the
ancients informed us that even the gods were envious of happy people.
It is astonishing to see the quantity of very proper and rational
moral reflection that is excited in the breast of society, by any
sort of success in life. How it shows them the vanity of earthly
enjoyments, the impropriety of setting one's heart on it! How does
a successful married flirt impress all her friends with the gross
impropriety of having one's head set on gentlemen's attentions!
"I must say," said Belle Trevors, "that dear Lillie does astonish me.
Now, I shouldn't want to have that dissipated Danforth lounging in
my rooms every day, as he does in Lillie's: and then taking her out
driving day after day; for my part, I don't think it's respectable."
"Why don't you speak to her?" said Lottie Cavers.
"Oh, my dear! she wouldn't mind _me_. Lillie always was the most
imprudent creature; and, if she goes on so, she'll certainly get
awfully talked about. That Danforth is a horrid creature; I know all
As Miss Belle had herself been driving with the "horrid creature"
only the week before Lillie came, it must be confessed that her
opportunities for observation were of an authentic kind.
Lillie, as queen in her own parlor, was all grace and indulgence. Hers
was now to be the sisterly _role_, or, as she laughingly styled it,
the maternal. With a ravishing morning-dress, and with a killing
little cap of about three inches in extent on her head, she enacted
the young matron, and gave full permission to Tom, Dick, and Harry to
make themselves at home in her room, and smoke their cigars there in
peace. She "adored the smell;" in fact, she accepted the present of
a fancy box of cigarettes from Danforth with graciousness, and would
sometimes smoke one purely for good company. She also encouraged her
followers to unveil the tender secrets of their souls confidentially
to her, and offered gracious mediations on their behalf with any of
the flitting Newport fair ones. When they, as in duty bound, said that
they saw nobody whom they cared about now she was married, that she
was the only woman on earth for them,--she rapped their knuckles
briskly with her fan, and bid them mind their manners. All this mode
of proceeding gave her an immense success.
[Illustration: "And would sometimes smoke one purely for good
But, as we said before, all this was talked about; and ladies in their
letters, chronicling the events of the passing hour, sent the tidings
up and down the country; and so Miss Letitia Ferguson got a letter
from Mrs. Wilcox with full pictures and comments; and she brought the
same to Grace Seymour.
"I dare say," said Letitia, "these things have been exaggerated; they
always are: still it does seem desirable that your brother should go
there, and be with her."
"He can't go and be with her," said Grace, "without neglecting his
business, already too much neglected. Then the house is all in
confusion under the hands of painters; and there is that young artist
up there,--very elegant gentleman,--giving orders to right and left,
every one of which involves further confusion and deeper expense; for
my part, I see no end to it. Poor John has got 'the Old Man of the
Sea' on his back in the shape of this woman; and I expect she'll be
the ruin of him yet. I can't want to break up his illusion about her;
because, what good will it do? He has married her, and must live with
her; and, for Heaven's sake, let the illusion last while it can! I'm
going to draw off, and leave them to each other; there's no other
"You are, Gracie?"
"Yes; you see John came to me, all stammering and embarrassment, about
this making over of the old place; but I put him at ease at once. 'The
most natural thing in the world, John,' said I. 'Of course Lillie has
her taste; and it's her right to have the house arranged to suit it.'
And then I proposed to take all the old family things, and furnish
the house that I own on Elm Street, and live there, and let John and
Lillie keep house by themselves. You see there is no helping the
thing. Married people must be left to themselves; nobody can help
them. They must make their own discoveries, fight their own battles,
sink or swim, together; and I have determined that not by the winking
of an eye will I interfere between them."
"Well, but do you think John wants you to go?"
"He feels badly about it; and yet I have convinced him that it's best.
Poor fellow! all these changes are not a bit to his taste. He liked
the old place as it was, and the old ways; but John is so unselfish.
He has got it in his head that Lillie is very sensitive and peculiar,
and that her spirits require all these changes, as well as Newport
"Well," said Letitia, "if a man begins to say A in that line, he must
"Of course," said Grace; "and also C and D, and so on, down to X,
Y, Z. A woman, armed with sick-headaches, nervousness, debility,
presentiments, fears, horrors, and all sorts of imaginary and real
diseases, has an eternal armory of weapons of subjugation. What can a
man do? Can he tell her that she is lying and shamming? Half the time
she isn't; she can actually work herself into about any physical state
she chooses. The fortnight before Lillie went to Newport, she really
looked pale, and ate next to nothing; and she managed admirably to
seem to be trying to keep up, and not to complain,--yet you see how
she can go on at Newport."
"It seems a pity John couldn't understand her."
"My dear, I wouldn't have him for the world. Whenever he does, he will
despise her; and then he will be wretched. For John is no hypocrite,
any more than I am. No, I earnestly pray that his soap-bubble may not
"Well, then," said Letitia, "at least, he might go down to Newport for
a day or two; and his presence there might set some things right:
it might at least check reports. You might just suggest to him that
unfriendly things were being said."
"Well, I'll see what I can do," said Grace.
So, by a little feminine tact in suggestion, Grace despatched her
brother to spend a day or two in Newport.
His coming and presence interrupted the lounging hours in Lillie's
room; the introduction to "my husband" shortened the interviews. John
was courteous and affable; but he neither smoked nor drank, and there
was a mutual repulsion between him and many of Lillie's _habitues_.
"I say, Dan," said Bill Sanders to Danforth, as they were smoking on
one end of the veranda, "you are driven out of your lodgings since
"No more than the rest of you," said Danforth.
"I don't know about that, Dan. I think _you_ might have been taken for
master of those premises. Look here now, Dan, why didn't you _take_
little Lill yourself? Everybody thought you were going to last year."
"Didn't want her; knew too much," said Danforth. "Didn't want to keep
her; she's too cursedly extravagant. It's jolly to have this sort of
concern on hand; but I'd rather Seymour'd pay her bills than I."
"Who thought you were so practical, Dan?"
"Practical! that I am; I'm an old bird. Take my advice, boys, now:
keep shy of the girls, and flirt with the married ones,--then you
don't get roped in."
"I say, boys," said Tom Nichols, "isn't she a case, now? What a head
she has! I bet she can smoke equal to any of us."
"Yes; I keep her in cigarettes," said Danforth; "she's got a box of
them somewhere under her ruffles now."
"What if Seymour should find them?" said Tom.
"Seymour? pooh! he's a muff and a prig. I bet you he won't find her
out; she's the jolliest little humbugger there is going. She'd cheat a
fellow out of the sight of his eyes. It's perfectly wonderful."
"How came Seymour to marry her?"
"He? Why, he's a pious youth, green as grass itself; and I suppose she
talked religion to him. Did you ever hear her talk religion?"
A roar of laughter followed this, out of which Danforth went on. "By
George, boys, she gave me a prayer-book once! I've got it yet."
"Well, if that isn't the best thing I ever heard!" said Nichols.
"It was at the time she was laying siege to me, you see. She undertook
the part of guardian angel, and used to talk lots of sentiment.
The girls get lots of that out of George Sand's novels about the
_holiness_ of doing just as you've a mind to, and all that," said
"By George, Dan, you oughtn't to laugh. She may have more good in her
than you think."
"Oh, humbug! don't I know her?"
"Well, at any rate she's a wonderful creature to hold her looks. By
George! how she _does_ hold out! You'd say, now, she wasn't more than
"Yes; she understands getting herself up," said Danforth, "and touches
up her cheeks a bit now and then."
"She don't paint, though?"
"Don't paint! _Don't_ she? I'd like to know if she don't; but she does
it like an artist, like an old master, in fact."
"Or like a young mistress," said Tom, and then laughed at his own wit.
Now, it so happened that John was sitting at an open window above, and
heard occasional snatches of this conversation quite sufficient to
impress him disagreeably. He had not heard enough to know exactly what
had been said, but enough to feel that a set of coarse, low-minded men
were making quite free with the name and reputation of his Lillie; and
he was indignant.
"She is so pretty, so frank, and so impulsive," he said. "Such women
are always misconstrued. I'm resolved to caution her."
"Lillie," he said, "who is this Danforth?"
"Charlie Danforth--oh! he's a millionnaire that I refused. He was wild
about me,--is now, for that matter. He perfectly haunts my rooms, and
is always teasing me to ride with him."
"Well, Lillie, if I were you, I wouldn't have any thing to do with
"John, I don't mean to, any more than I can help. I try to keep him
off all I can; but one doesn't want to be rude, you know."
"My darling," said John, "you little know the wickedness of the world,
and the cruel things that men will allow themselves to say of women
who are meaning no harm. You can't be too careful, Lillie."
"Oh! I am careful. Mamma is here, you know, all the while; and I never
receive except she is present."
John sat abstractedly fingering the various objects on the table; then
he opened a drawer in the same mechanical manner.
"Why, Lillie! what's this? what in the world are these?"
"O John! sure enough! well, there is something I was going to ask you
about. Danforth used always to be sending me things, you know, before
we were married,--flowers and confectionery, and one thing or other;
and, since I have been here now, he has done the same, and I really
didn't know what to do about it. You know I didn't want to quarrel
with him, or get his ill-will; he's a high-spirited fellow, and a man
one doesn't want for an enemy; so I have just passed it over easy as I
"But, Lillie, a box of cigarettes!--of course, they can be of no use
"Of course: they are only a sort of curiosity that he imports from
Spain with his cigars."
"I've a great mind to send them back to him myself," said John.
"Oh, don't, John! why, how it would look! as if you were angry, or
thought he meant something wrong. No; I'll contrive a way to give 'em
back without offending him. I am up to all such little ways."
"Come, now," she added, "don't let's be cross just the little time you
have to stay with me. I do wish our house were not all torn up, so
that I could go home with you, and leave Newport and all its bothers
"Well, Lillie, you could go, and stay with me at Gracie's," said John,
brightening at this proposition.
"Dear Gracie,--so she has got a house all to herself; how I shall miss
her! but, really, John, I think she will be happier. Since you would
insist on revolutionizing our house, you know"--
"But, Lillie, it was to please you."
"Oh, I know it! but you know I begged you not to. Well, John, I don't
think I should like to go in and settle down on Grace; perhaps, as I
am here, and the sea-air and bathing strengthens me so, we may as well
put it through. I will come home as soon as the house is done."
"But perhaps you would want to go with me to New York to select the
"Oh, the artist does all that! Charlie Ferrola will give his orders to
Simon & Sauls, and they will do every thing up complete. It's the way
they all do--saves lots of trouble."
John went home, after three days spent in Newport, feeling that Lillie
was somehow an injured fair one, and that the envious world bore down
always on beauty and prosperity.
But incidentally he heard and overheard much that made him uneasy. He
heard her admired as a "bully" girl, a "fast one;" he heard of her
smoking, he overheard something about "painting."
The time was that John thought Lillie an embryo angel,--an angel a
little bewildered and gone astray, and with wings a trifle the worse
for the world's wear,--but essentially an angel of the same nature
with his own revered mother.
Gradually the mercury had been falling in the tube of his estimation.
He had given up the angel; and now to himself he called her "a silly
little pussy," but he did it with a smile. It was such a neat, white,
graceful pussy; and all his own pussy too, and purred and rubbed its
little head on no coat-sleeve but his,--of that he was certain. Only
a bit silly. She would still _fib_ a little, John feared, especially
when he looked back to the chapter about her age,--and then, perhaps,
about the cigarettes.
Well, she might, perhaps, in a wild, excited hour, have smoked _one
or two_, just for fun, and the thing had been exaggerated. She had
promised fairly to return those cigarettes,--he dared not say to
himself that he feared she would not. He kept saying to himself that
she would. It was necessary to say this often to make himself believe
As to painting--well, John didn't like to ask her, because, what if
she shouldn't tell him the truth? And, if she did paint, was it so
great a sin, poor little thing? he would watch, and bring her out of
it. After all, when the house was all finished and arranged, and he
got her back from Newport, there would be a long, quiet, domestic
winter at Springdale; and they would get up their reading-circles, and
he would set her to improving her mind, and gradually the vision of
this empty, fashionable life would die out of her horizon, and she
would come into his ways of thinking and doing.
But, after all, John managed to be proud of her. When he read in the
columns of "The Herald" the account of the Splandangerous ball in
Newport, and of the entrancingly beautiful Mrs. J.S., who appeared in
a radiant dress of silvery gauze made _a la nuage_, &c., &c., John was
rather pleased than otherwise. Lillie danced till daylight,--it showed
that she must be getting back her strength,--and she was voted the
belle of the scene. Who wouldn't take the comfort that is to be got
in any thing? John owned this fashionable meteor,--why shouldn't he
rejoice in it?
Two years ago, had anybody told him that one day he should have a wife
that told fibs, and painted, and smoked cigarettes, and danced all
night at Newport, and yet that he should love her, and be proud
of her, he would have said, Is thy servant a dog? He was then a
considerate, thoughtful John, serious and careful in his life-plans;
and the wife that was to be his companion was something celestial.
But so it is. By degrees, we accommodate ourselves to the actual and
existing. To all intents and purposes, for us it is the inevitable.
_HOME A LA POMPADOUR_.
Well, Lillie came back at last; and John conducted her over the
transformed Seymour mansion, where literally old things had passed
away, and all things become new.
There was not a relic of the past. The house was furbished and
resplendent--it was gilded--it was frescoed--it was _a la_ Pompadour,
and _a la_ Louis Quinze and Louis Quatorze, and _a la_ every thing
Frenchy and pretty, and gay and glistening. For, though the parlors at
first were the only apartments contemplated in this _renaissance_,
yet it came to pass that the parlors, when all tricked out, cast
such invidious reflections on the chambers that the chambers felt
themselves old and rubbishy, and prayed and stretched out hands of
imploration to have something done for _them_!
So the spare chamber was first included in the glorification
programme; but, when the spare chamber was once made into a Pompadour
pavilion, it so flouted and despised the other old-fashioned Yankee
chambers, that they were ready to die with envy; and, in short, there
was no way to produce a sense of artistic unity, peace, and quietness,
but to do the whole thing over, which was done triumphantly.
The French Emperor, Louis Napoleon, who was a shrewd sort of a man
in his day and way, used to talk a great deal about the "logic of
events;" which language, being interpreted, my dear gentlemen, means
a good deal in domestic life. It means, for instance, that when you
drive the first nail, or tear down the first board, in the way of
alteration of an old house, you will have to make over every room and
corner in it, and pay as much again for it as if you built a new one.
John was able to sympathize with Lillie in her childish delight in the
new house, because he _loved_ her, and was able to put himself and his
own wishes out of the question for her sake; but, when all the bills
connected with this change came in, he had emotions with which Lillie
could not sympathize: first, because she knew nothing about figures,
and was resolved never to know any thing; and, like all people who
know nothing about them, she cared nothing;--and, second, because she
did _not_ love John.
Now, the truth is, Lillie would have been quite astonished to have
been told this. She, and many other women, suppose that they love
their husbands, when, unfortunately, they have not the beginning of an
idea what love is. Let me explain it to you, my dear lady. Loving to
be admired by a man, loving to be petted by him, loving to be caressed
by him, and loving to be praised by him, is not loving a man. All
these may be when a woman has no power of loving at all,--they may
all be simply because she loves herself, and loves to be flattered,
praised, caressed, coaxed; as a cat likes to be coaxed and stroked,
and fed with cream, and have a warm corner.
But all this _is not love_. It may exist, to be sure, where there _is_
love; it generally does. But it may also exist where there is no love.
Love, my dear ladies, is _self-sacrifice_; it is a life out of self
and in another. Its very essence is the preferring of the comfort, the
ease, the wishes of another to one's own, _for the_ love we bear
them. Love is giving, and not receiving. Love is not a sheet of
blotting-paper or a sponge, sucking in every thing to itself; it is
an out-springing fountain, giving from itself. Love's motto has been
dropped in this world as a chance gem of great price by the loveliest,
the fairest, the purest, the strongest of Lovers that ever trod this
mortal earth, of whom it is recorded that He said, "It is more blessed
to give than to receive." Now, in love, there are ten receivers to one
giver. There are ten persons in this world who like to be loved and
love love, where there is one who knows _how to love_. That, O my dear
ladies, is a nobler attainment than all your French and music and
dancing. You may lose the very power of it by smothering it under a
load of early self-indulgence. By living just as you are all wanting
to live,--living to be petted, to be flattered, to be admired, to be
praised, to have your own way, and to do only that which is easy and
agreeable,--you may lose the power of self-denial and self-sacrifice;
you may lose the power of loving nobly and worthily, and become a mere
sheet of blotting-paper all your life.
You will please to observe that, in all the married life of these two,
as thus far told, all the accommodations, compliances, changes, have
been made by John for Lillie.
_He_ has been, step by step, giving up to her his ideal of life, and
trying, as far as so different a nature can, to accommodate his to
hers; and she accepts all this as her right and due.
She sees no particular cause of gratitude in it,--it is what she
expected when she married. Her own specialty, the thing which she has
always cultivated, is to get that sort of power over man, by which she
can carry her own points and purposes, and make him flexible to her
will; nor does a suspicion of the utter worthlessness and selfishness
of such a life ever darken the horizon of her thoughts.
John's bills were graver than he expected. It is true he was rich; but
riches is a relative term. As related to the style of living hitherto
practised in his establishment, John's income was princely, and left
a large balance to be devoted to works of general benevolence; but he
perceived that, in this year, that balance would be all absorbed; and
this troubled him.
Then, again, his establishment being now given up by his sister must
be reorganized, with Lillie at its head; and Lillie declared in the
outset that she could not, and would not, take any trouble about any
"John would have to get servants; and the servants would have to see
to things:" she "was resolved, for one thing, that she wasn't going to
be a slave to house-keeping."
By great pains and importunity, and an offer of high wages, Grace and
John retained Bridget in the establishment, and secured from New York
a seamstress and a waitress, and other members to make out a domestic
This sisterhood were from the isle of Erin, and not an unfavorable
specimen of that important portion of our domestic life. They were
quick-witted, well-versed in a certain degree of household and
domestic skill, guided in well-doing more by impulsive good feeling
than by any very enlightened principle. The dominant idea with
them all appeared to be, that they were living in the house of a
millionnaire, where money flowed through the establishment in a golden
stream, out of which all might drink freely and rejoicingly, with no
questions asked. Mrs. Lillie concerned herself only with results, and
paid no attention to ways and means. She wanted a dainty and generous
table to be spread for her, at all proper hours, with every pleasing
and agreeable variety; to which she should come as she would to the
table of a boarding-house, without troubling her head where any thing
came from or went to. Bridget, having been for some years under the
training and surveillance of Grace Seymour, was more than usually
competent as cook and provider; but Bridget had abundance of the Irish
astuteness, which led her to feel the genius of circumstances, and to
shape her course accordingly.
With Grace, she had been accurate, saving, and economical; for Miss
Grace was so. Bridget had felt, under her sway, the beauty of that
economy which saves because saving is in itself so fitting and so
respectable; and because, in this way, a power for a wise generosity
is accumulated. She was sympathetic with the ruling spirit of the
But, under the new mistress, Bridget declined in virtue. The
announcement that the mistress of a family isn't going to give herself
any trouble, nor bother her head with care about any thing, is one the
influence of which is felt downward in every department. Why should
Bridget give herself any trouble to save and economize for a mistress
who took none for herself? She had worked hard all her life, why not
take it easy? And it was so much easier to send daily a basket of cold
victuals to her cousin on Vine Street than to contrive ways of making
the most of things, that Bridget felt perfectly justified in doing it.
If, once in a while, a little tea and a paper of sugar found their way
into the same basket, who would ever miss it?
The seamstress was an elegant lady. She kept all Lillie's dresses and
laces and wardrobe, and had something ready for her to put on when
she changed her toilet every day. If this very fine lady wore her
mistress's skirts and sashes, and laces and jewelry, on the sly, to
evening parties among the upper servant circles of Springdale, who
was to know it? Mrs. John Seymour knew nothing about where her things
were, nor what was their condition, and never wanted to trouble
herself to inquire.
It may therefore be inferred that when John began to settle up
accounts, and look into financial matters, they seemed to him not to
be going exactly in the most promising way.
He thought he would give Lillie a little practical insight into
his business,--show her exactly what his income was, and make some
estimates of his expenses, just that she might have some little idea
how things were going.
So John, with great care, prepared a nice little account-book,
prefaced by a table of figures, showing the income of the Spindlewood
property, and the income of his law business, and his income from
other sources. Against this, he placed the necessary out-goes of his
business, and showed what balance might be left. Then he showed what
had hitherto been spent for various benevolent purposes connected with
the schools and his establishments at Spindlewood. He showed what had
been the bills for the refitting of the house, and what were now the
running current expenses of the family.
He hoped that he had made all these so plain and simple, that Lillie
might easily be made to understand them, and that thus some clear
financial boundaries might appear in her mind. Then he seized a
favorable hour, and produced his book.
"Lillie," he said, "I want to make you understand a little about our
expenditures and income."
"Oh, dreadful, John! don't, pray! I never had any head for things of
"But, Lillie, _please_ let me show you," persisted John. "I've made it
just as simple as can be."
[Illustration: "I never had the least head for figures."]
"O John! now--I just--can't--there now! Don't bring that book now;
it'll just make me low-spirited and cross. I never had the least head
for figures; mamma always said so; and if there _is_ any thing that
seems to me perfectly dreadful, it is accounts. I don't think it's any
of a woman's business--it's all _man's_ work, and men have got to see
to it. Now, _please_ don't," she added, coming to him coaxingly, and
putting her arm round his neck.
"But, you see, Lillie," John persevered, in a pleading tone,--"you
see, all these alterations that have been made in the house have
involved very serious expenses; and then, too, we are living at a very
different rate of expense from what we ever lived before"--
"There it is, John! Now, you oughtn't to reproach me with it; for you
know it was your own idea. I didn't want the alterations made; but you
would insist on it. I didn't think it was best; but you would have
"But, Lillie, it was all because you wanted them."
"Well, I dare say; but I shouldn't have wanted them if I thought it
was going to bring in all this bother and trouble, and make me have to
look over old accounts, and all such things. I'd rather never have had
any thing!" And here Lillie began to cry.
"Come, now, my darling, do be a sensible woman, and not act like a
"There, John! it's just as I knew it would be; I always said you
wanted a different sort of a woman for a wife. Now, you knew when you
took me that I wasn't in the least strong-minded or sensible, but a
poor little helpless thing; and you are beginning to get tired of me
already. You wish you had married a woman like Grace, I know you do."
"Lillie, how silly! Please do listen, now. You have no idea how simple
and easy what I want to explain to you is."
"Well, John, I can't to-night, anyhow, because I have a headache. Just
this talk has got my head to thumping so,--it's really dreadful! and
I'm so low-spirited! I do wish you had a wife that would suit you
better." And forthwith Mrs. Lillie dissolved in tears; and John
stroked her head, and petted her, and called her a nice little pussy,
and begged her pardon for being so rough with her, and, in short,
acted like a fool generally.
"If that woman was _my_ wife now," I fancy I hear some youth with a
promising moustache remark, "I'd make her behave!"
Well, sir, supposing she was your wife, what are you going to do about
What are you going to do when accounts give your wife a sick headache,
so that she cannot possibly attend to them? Are you going to enact the
Blue Beard, and rage and storm, and threaten to cut her head off? What
good would that do? Cutting off a wrong little head would not turn it
into a right one. An ancient proverb significantly remarks, "You
can't have more of a cat than her skin,"--and no amount of fuming and
storming can make any thing more of a woman than she is. _Such_ as
your wife is, sir, you must take her, and make the best of it. Perhaps
you want your own way. Don't you wish you could get it?
But didn't she promise to obey? Didn't she? Of course. Then why is it
that I must be all the while yielding points, and she never? Well,
sir, that is for you to settle. The marriage service gives you
authority; so does the law of the land. John could lock up Mrs. Lillie
till she learned her lessons; he could do any of twenty other things
that no gentleman would ever think of doing, and the law would support
him in it. But, because John is a gentleman, and not Paddy from Cork,
he strokes his wife's head, and submits.
We understand that our brethren, the Methodists, have recently decided
to leave the word "obey" out of the marriage-service. Our friends are,
as all the world knows, a most wise and prudent denomination, and
guided by a very practical sense in their arrangements. If they have
left the word "obey" out, it is because they have concluded that it
does no good to put it in,--a decision that John's experience would go
a long way to justify.
"My dear Lillie," quoth John one morning, "next week Wednesday is my
"Is it? How charming! What shall we do?"
"Well, Lillie, it has always been our custom--Grace's and mine--to
give a grand _fete_ here to all our work-people. We invite them all
over _en masse_, and have the house and grounds all open, and devote
ourselves to giving them a good time."
Lillie's countenance fell.
"Now, really, John, how trying! what shall we do? You don't really
propose to bring all those low, dirty, little factory children in
Spindlewood through our elegant new house? Just look at that satin
furniture, and think what it will be when a whole parcel of freckled,
tow-headed, snubby-nosed children have eaten bread and butter and
doughnuts over it! Now, John, there is reason in all things; _this_
house is not made for a missionary asylum."
John, thus admonished, looked at his house, and was fain to admit that
there was the usual amount of that good, selfish, hard grit--called
common sense--in Lillie's remarks.
Rooms have their atmosphere, their necessities, their artistic
proprieties. Apartments _a la_ Louis Quatorze represent the ideas
and the sympathies of a period when the rich lived by themselves in
luxury, and the poor were trodden down in the gutter; when there was
only aristocratic contempt and domination on one side, and servility
and smothered curses on the other. With the change of the apartments
to the style of that past era, seemed to come its maxims and morals,
as artistically indicated for its completeness. So John walked up and
down in his Louis Quinze _salon_, and into his Pompadour _boudoir_,
and out again into the Louis Quatorze dining-rooms, and reflected.
He had had many reflections in those apartments before. Of all
ill-adapted and unsuitable pieces of furniture in them, he had always
felt himself the most unsuitable and ill-adapted. He had never felt
at home in them. He never felt like lolling at ease on any of those
elegant sofas, as of old he used to cast himself into the motherly
arms of the great chintz one that filled the recess. His Lillie, with
her smart paraphernalia of hoops and puffs and ruffles and pinkings
and bows, seemed a perfectly natural and indigenous production there;
but he himself seemed always to be out of place. His Lillie might have
been any of Balzac's charming duchesses, with their "thirty-seven
thousand ways of saying 'Yes;'" but, as to himself, he must have been
taken for her steward or gardener, who had accidentally strayed in,
and was fraying her satin surroundings with rough coats and heavy
boots. There was not, in fact, in all the reorganized house, a place
where he felt _himself_ to be at all the proper thing; nowhere
where he could lounge, and read his newspaper, without a feeling
of impropriety; nowhere that he could indulge in any of the slight
Hottentot-isms wherein unrenewed male nature delights,--without a
feeling of rebuke.
John had not philosophized on the causes of this. He knew, in a
general and unconfessed way, that he was not comfortable in his new
arrangements; but he supposed it was his own fault. He had fallen into
rusty, old-fashioned, bachelor ways; and, like other things that are
not agreeable to the natural man, he supposed his trim, resplendent,
genteel house was good for him, and that he ought to like it, and by
grace should attain to liking it, if he only tried long enough.
Only he took long rests every day while he went to Grace's, on Elm
Street, and stretched himself on the old sofa, and sat in his mother's
old arm-chair, and told Grace how very elegant their house was, and
how much taste the architect had shown, and how much Lillie was
delighted with it.
But this silent walk of John's, up and down his brilliant apartments,
opened his eyes to another troublesome prospect. He was a Christian
man, with a high aim and ideal in life. He believed in the Sermon on
the Mount, and other radical preaching of that nature; and he was
a very honest man, and hated humbug in every shape. Nothing seemed
meaner to him than to profess a sham. But it began in a cloudy way to
appear to him that there is a manner of arranging one's houses that
makes it difficult--yes, well-nigh impossible--to act out in them any
of the brotherhood principles of those discourses.
There are houses where the self-respecting poor, or the honest
laboring man and woman, cannot be made to enter or to feel at home.
They are made for the selfish luxury of the privileged few. Then John
reflected, uneasily, that this change in his house had absorbed that
whole balance which usually remained on his accounts to be devoted to
benevolent purposes, and with which this year he had proposed to erect
a reading-room for his work-people.
"Lillie," said John, as he walked uneasily up and down, "I wish you
would try to help me in this thing. I always have done it,--my father
and mother did it before me,--and I don't want all of a sudden to
depart from it. It may seem a little thing, but it does a great deal
of good. It produces kind feeling; it refines and educates and softens
"Oh, well, John! if you say so, I must, I suppose," said Lillie, with
a sigh. "I can have the carpets and furniture all covered, I suppose;
it'll be no end of trouble, but I'll try. But I must say, I think all
this kind of petting of the working-classes does no sort of good; it
only makes them uppish and exacting: you never get any gratitude for
"But you know, dearie, what is said about doing good, 'hoping for
nothing again,'" said John.
"Now, John, please don't preach, of all things. Haven't I told
you that I'll try my best? I am going to,--I'll work with all my
strength,--you know that isn't much,--but I shall exert myself to the
utmost if you say so."
"My dear, I don't want you to injure yourself!"
"Oh! I don't mind," said Lillie, with the air of a martyr. "The
servants, I suppose, will make a fuss about it; and I shouldn't wonder
if it was the means of sending them every one off in a body, and
leaving me without any help in the house, just as the Follingsbees and
the Simpkinses are coming to visit us."
"I didn't know that you had invited the Follingsbees and Simpkinses,"
"Didn't I tell you? I meant to," said Mrs. Lillie, innocently.
"I don't like those Follingsbees, Lillie. He is a man I have no
respect for; he is one of those shoddy upstarts, not at all our sort
of folks. I'm sorry you asked him."
"But his wife is my particular friend," said Lillie, "and they were
very polite to mamma and me at Newport; and we really owe them some
"Well, Lillie, since you have asked them, I will be polite to
them; and I will try and do every thing to save you care in this
entertainment. I'll speak to Bridget myself; she knows our ways, and
has been used to managing."
And so, as John was greatly beloved by Bridget, and as all the
domestic staff had the true Irish fealty to the man of the house, and
would run themselves off their feet in his service any day,--it came
to pass that the _fete_ was holden, as of yore, in the grounds. Grace
was there and helped, and so were Letitia and Rose Ferguson; and all
passed off better than could be expected. But John did not enjoy it.
He felt all the while that he was dragging Lillie as a thousand-pound
weight after him; and he inly resolved that, once out of that day's
festival, he would never try to have it again.
Lillie went to bed with sick headache, and lay two days after it,
during which she cried and lamented incessantly. She "knew she was not
the wife for John;" she "always told him he wouldn't be satisfied with
her, and now she saw he wasn't; but she had tried her very best, and
now it was cruel to think she should not succeed any better."
"My dearest child," said John, who, to say the truth, was beginning to
find this thing less charming than it used to be, "I _am_ satisfied.
I am much obliged to you. I'm sure you have done all that could be
"Well, I'm sure I hope those folks of yours were pleased," quoth
Lillie, as she lay looking like a martyr, with a cloth wet in
ice-water bound round her head. "They ought to be; they have left
grease-spots all over the sofa in my boudoir, from one end to the
other; and cake and raisins have been trodden into the carpets; and
the turf around the oval is all cut up; and they have broken my little
Diana; and such a din as there was!--oh, me! it makes my head ache to
think of it."
[Illustration: "Oh, me! it makes my head ache to think of it."]
"Never mind, Lillie, I'll see to it, and set it all right."
"No, you can't. One of the children broke that model of the Leaning
Tower too. I found it. You can't teach such children to let things
alone. Oh, dear me! my head!"
"There, there, pussy! only don't worry," said John, in soothing tones.
"Don't think me horrid, _please_ don't," said Lillie, piteously. "I
did try to have things go right; didn't I?"
"Certainly you did, dearie; so don't worry. I'll get all the spots
taken out, and all the things mended, and make every thing right."
So John called Rosa, on his way downstairs. "Show me the sofa that
they spoiled," said he.
"Sofa?" said Rosa.
"Yes; I understand the children greased the sofa in Mrs. Seymour's
"Oh, dear, no! nothing of the sort; I've been putting every thing to
rights in all the rooms, and they look beautifully."
"Didn't they break something?"
"Oh, no, nothing! The little things were good as could be."
"That Leaning Tower, and that little Diana," suggested John.
"Oh, dear me, no! I broke those a month ago, and showed them to Mrs.
Seymour, and promised to mend them. Oh! she knows all about that."
"Ah!" said John, "I didn't know that. Well, Rosa, put every thing up
nicely, and divide this money among the girls for extra trouble," he
added, slipping a bill into her hand.
"I'm sure there's no trouble," said Rosa. "We all enjoyed it; and
I believe everybody did; only I'm sorry it was too much for Mrs.
Seymour; she is very delicate."
"Yes, she is," said John, as he turned away, drawing a long, slow
That long, slow sigh had become a frequent and unconscious occurrence
with him of late. When our ideals are sick unto death; when they are
slowly dying and passing away from us, we sigh thus. John said to