Part 4 out of 5
rather pitying herself for her loneliness, now that the offer of
relief had come. She laughed, though; and, handing John her letter,
"Look here, John! here's a letter I have just had from Walter
John broke out into a loud, hilarious laugh.
"The blessed old brick!" said he. "Has he turned up again?"
"Read the letter, John," said Grace. "I don't know exactly how to
John read the letter, and seemed to grow more and more quiet as he
read it. Then he came and stood by Grace, and stroked her hair gently.
"I wish, Gracie dear," he said, "you had asked my advice about this
matter years ago. You loved Walter,--I can see you did; and you sent
him off on my account. It is just too bad! Of all the men I ever knew,
he was the one I should have been best pleased to have you marry!"
"It was not wholly on your account, John. You know there was our
father," said Grace.
"Yes, yes, Gracie; but he would have preferred to see you well
married. He would not have been so selfish, nor I either. It is your
self-abnegation, you dear over-good women, that makes us men seem
selfish. We should be as good as you are, if you would give us the
chance. I think, Gracie, though you're not aware of it, there is a
spice of Pharisaism in the way in which you good girls allow us men
to swallow you up without ever telling us what you are doing. I often
wondered about your intimacy with Sydenham, and why it never came to
any thing; and I can but half forgive you. How selfish I must have
"Oh, no, John! indeed not."
"Come, you needn't put on these meek airs. I insist upon it, you have
been feeling self-righteous and abused," said John, laughing; "but
'all's well that ends well.' Sit down, now, and write him a real
sensible letter, like a nice honest woman as you are."
"And say, 'Yes, sir, and thank you too'?" said Grace, laughing.
"Well, something in that way," said John. "You can fence it in with
as many make-believes as is proper. And now, Gracie, this is deuced
lucky! You see Sydenham will be down here at once; and it wouldn't be
exactly the thing for you to receive him at this house, and our only
hotel is perfectly impracticable in winter; and that brings me to what
I am here about. Lillie is going to New York to spend the holidays;
and I wanted you to shut up, and come up and keep house for us. You
see you have only one servant, and we have four to be looked after.
You can bring your maid along, and then I will invite Walter to our
house, where he will have a clear field; and you can settle all your
matters between you."
"So Lillie is going to the Follingsbees'?" said Grace.
"Yes: she had a long, desperately sentimental letter from Mrs.
Follingsbee, urging, imploring, and entreating, and setting forth all
the splendors and glories of New York. Between you and me, it strikes
me that that Mrs. Follingsbee is an affected goose; but I couldn't say
so to Lillie, 'by no manner of means.' She professes an untold amount
of admiration and friendship for Lillie, and sets such brilliant
prospects before her, that I should be the most hard-hearted old Turk
in existence if I were to raise any objections; and, in fact, Lillie
is quite brilliant in anticipation, and makes herself so delightful
that I am almost sorry that I agreed to let her go."
"When shall you want me, John?"
"Well, this evening, say; and, by the way, couldn't you come up and
see Lillie a little while this morning? She sent her love to you, and
said she was so hurried with packing, and all that, that she wanted
you to excuse her not calling."
"Oh, yes! I'll come," said Grace, good-naturedly, "as soon as I have
had time to put things in a little order."
"And write your letter," said John, gayly, as he went out. "Don't
Grace did not forget the letter; but we shall not indulge our readers
with any peep over her shoulder, only saying that, though written with
an abundance of precaution, it was one with which Walter Sydenham was
Then she made her few arrangements in the house-keeping line, called
in her grand vizier and prime minister from the kitchen, and held with
her a counsel of ways and means; put on her india-rubbers and Polish
boots, and walked up through the deep snow-drifts to the Springdale
post-office, where she dropped the fateful letter with a good heart on
the whole; and then she went on to John's, the old home, to offer any
parting services to Lillie that might be wanted.
It is rather amusing, in any family circle, to see how some one
member, by dint of persistent exactions, comes to receive always, in
all the exigencies of life, an amount of attention and devotion which
is never rendered back. Lillie never thought of such a thing as
offering any services of any sort to Grace. Grace might have packed
her trunks to go to the moon, or the Pacific Ocean, quite alone for
matter of any help Lillie would ever have thought of. If Grace had
headache or tooth-ache or a bad cold, Lillie was always "so sorry;"
but it never occurred to her to go and sit with her, to read to her,
or offer any of a hundred little sisterly offices. When she was in
similar case, John always summoned Grace to sit with Lillie during
the hours that his business necessarily took him from her. It really
seemed to be John's impression that a tooth-ache or headache of
Lillie's was something entirely different from the same thing with
Grace, or any other person in the world; and Lillie fully shared the
Grace found the little empress quite bewildered in her multiplicity of
preparations, and neglected details, all of which had been deferred to
the last day; and Rosa and Anna and Bridget, in fact the whole staff,
were all busy in getting her off.
"So good of you to come, Gracie!" and, "If you would do this;" and,
"Won't you see to that?" and, "If you could just do the other!" and
Grace both could and would, and did what no other pair of hands could
in the same time. John apologized for the lack of any dinner. "The
fact is, Gracie, Bridget had to be getting up a lot of her things that
were forgotten till the last moment; and I told her not to mind,
we could do on a cold lunch." Bridget herself had become so wholly
accustomed to the ways of her little mistress, that it now seemed the
most natural thing in the world that the whole house should be upset
But, at last, every thing was ready and packed; the trunks and boxes
shut and locked, and the keys sorted; and John and Lillie were on
their way to the station.
"I shall find out Walter in New York, and bring him back with me,"
said John, cheerily, as he parted from Grace in the hall. "I leave you
to get things all to rights for us."
It would not have been a very agreeable or cheerful piece of work to
tidy the disordered house and take command of the domestic forces
under any other circumstances; but now Grace found it a very nice
diversion to prevent her thoughts from running too curiously on this
future meeting. "After all," she thought to herself, "he is just the
same venturesome, imprudent creature that he always was, jumping to
conclusions, and insisting on seeing every thing in his own way. How
could he dare write me such a letter without seeing me? Ten years
make great changes. How could he be sure he would like me?" And she
examined herself somewhat critically in the looking-glass.
"Well," she said, "he may thank me for it that we are not engaged, and
that he comes only as an old friend, and perfectly free, for all he
has said, to be nothing more, unless on seeing each other we are
so agreed. I am so sorry the old place is all demolished and
be-Frenchified. It won't look natural to him; and I am not the kind of
person to harmonize with these cold, polished, glistening, slippery
surroundings, that have no home life or association in them."
But Grace had to wake from these reflections to culinary counsels with
Bridget, and to arrangements of apartments with Rosa. Her own
exacting carefulness followed the careless footsteps of the untrained
handmaids, and rearranged every plait and fold; so that by nightfall
the next day she was thoroughly tired.
She beguiled the last moments, while waiting for the coming of the
cars, in arranging her hair, and putting on one of those wonderful
Parisian dresses, which adapt themselves so precisely to the air of
the wearer that they seem to be in themselves works of art. Then she
stood with a fluttering color to see the carriage drive up to the
door, and the two get out of it.
It is almost too bad to spy out such meetings, and certainly one has
no business to describe them; but Walter Sydenham carried all before
him, by an old habit which he had of taking all and every thing for
granted, as, from the first moment, he did with Grace. He had no idea
of hesitations or holdings off, and would have none; and met Gracie as
if they had parted only yesterday, and as if her word to him always
had been yes, instead of no.
In fact, they had not been together five minutes before the whole
life of youth returned to them both,--that indestructible youth which
belongs to warm hearts and buoyant spirits.
Such a merry evening as they had of it! When John, as the wood fire
burned low on the hearth, with some excuse of letters to write in his
library, left them alone together, Walter put on her finger a diamond
"There, Gracie! now, when shall it be? You see you've kept me waiting
so long that I can't spare you much time. I have an engagement to
be in Montreal the first of February, and I couldn't think of going
alone. They have merry times there in midwinter; and I'm sure it will
be ever so much nicer for you than keeping house alone here."
Grace said, of course, that it was impossible; but Walter declared
that doing the impossible was precisely in his line, and pushed on his
various advantages with such spirit and energy that, when they parted
for the night, Grace said she would think of it: which promise, at
the breakfast-table next morning, was interpreted by the unblushing
Walter, and reported to John, as a full consent. Before noon that
day, Walter had walked up with John and Grace to take a survey of the
cottage, and had given John indefinite power to engage workmen and
artificers to rearrange and enlarge and beautify it for their return
after the wedding journey. For the rest of the visit, all the three
were busy with pencil and paper, projecting balconies, bow-windows,
pantries, library, and dining-room, till the old cottage so blossomed
out in imagination as to leave only a germ of its former self.
Walter's visit brought back to John a deal of the warmth and freedom
which he had not known since he married. We often live under an
insensible pressure of which we are made aware only by its removal.
John had been so much in the habit lately of watching to please
Lillie, of measuring and checking his words or actions, that he now
bubbled over with a wild, free delight in finding himself alone with
Grace and Walter. He laughed, sang, whistled, skipped upstairs two at
a time, and scarcely dared to say even to himself why he was so happy.
He did not face himself with that question, and went dutifully to
the library at stated times to write to Lillie, and made much of her
_THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE_.
If John managed to be happy without Lillie in Springdale, Lillie
managed to be blissful without him in New York.
"The bird let loose in Eastern skies" never hastened more fondly home
than she to its glitter and gayety, its life and motion, dash and
sensation. She rustled in all her bravery of curls and frills,
pinkings and quillings,--a marvellous specimen of Parisian frostwork,
without one breath of reason or philosophy or conscience to melt it.
The Follingsbees' house might stand for the original of the Castle of
"Halls where who can tell
What elegance and grandeur wide expand,--
The pride of Turkey and of Persia's land?
Soft quilts on quilts; on carpets, carpets spread;
And couches stretched around in seemly band;
And endless pillows rise to prop the head:
So that each spacious room was one full swelling bed."
It was not without some considerable profit that Mrs. Follingsbee had
read Balzac and Dumas, and had Charlie Ferrola for master of arts
in her establishment. The effect of the whole was perfect; it
transported one, bodily, back to the times of Montespan and Pompadour,
when life was all one glittering upper-crust, and pretty women were
never troubled with even the shadow of a duty.
It was with a rebound of joyousness that Lillie found herself once
more with a crowded list of invitations, calls, operas, dancing, and
shopping, that kept her pretty little head in a perfect whirl of
excitement, and gave her not one moment for thought.
Mrs. Follingsbee, to say the truth, would have been a little careful
about inviting a rival queen of beauty into the circle, were it not
that Charlie Ferrola, after an attentive consideration of the subject,
had assured her that a golden-haired blonde would form a most complete
and effective tableau, in contrast with her own dark rich style of
beauty. Neither would lose by it, so he said; and the impression, as
they rode together in an elegant open barouche, with ermine carriage
robes, would be "stunning." So they called each other _ma soeur_, and
drove out in the park in a ravishing little pony-phaeton all foamed
over with ermine, drawn by a lovely pair of cream-colored horses,
whose harness glittered with gold and silver, after the fashion of the
Count of Monte Cristo. In truth, if Dick Follingsbee did not remind
one of Solomon in all particulars, he was like him in one, that he
"made silver and gold as the stones of the street" in New York.
Lillie's presence, however, was all desirable; because it would draw
the calls of two or three old New York families who had hitherto stood
upon their dignity, and refused to acknowledge the shoddy aristocracy.
The beautiful Mrs. John Seymour, therefore, was no less useful
than ornamental, and advanced Mrs. Follingsbee's purposes in her
"Now, I suppose," said Mrs. Follingsbee to Lillie one day, when they
had been out making fashionable calls together, "we really must call
on Charlie's wife, just to keep her quiet."
"I thought you didn't like her," said Lillie.
"I don't; I think she is dreadfully common," said Mrs. Follingsbee:
"she is one of those women who can't talk any thing but baby, and
bores Charlie half to death. But then, you know, when there is
a _liaison_ like mine with Charlie, one can't be too careful
to cultivate the wives. _Les convenances_, you know, are the
all-important things. I send her presents constantly, and send my
carriage around to take her to church or opera, or any thing that is
going on, and have her children at my fancy parties: yet, for
all that, the creature has not a particle of gratitude; those
narrow-minded women never have. You know I am very susceptible to
people's atmospheres; and I always feel that that creature is just as
full of spite and jealousy as she can stick in her skin."
It will be remarked that this was one of those idiomatic phrases which
got lodged in Mrs. Follingsbee's head in a less cultivated period of
her life, as a rusty needle sometimes hides in a cushion, coming out
unexpectedly when excitement gives it an honest squeeze.
"Now, I should think," pursued Mrs. Follingsbee, "that a woman who
really loved her husband would be thankful to have him have such a
rest from the disturbing family cares which smother a man's genius,
as a house like ours offers him. How can the artistic nature exercise
itself in the very grind of the thing, when this child has a cold,
and the other the croup; and there is fussing with mustard-paste and
ipecac and paregoric,--all those realities, you know? Why, Charlie
tells me he feels a great deal more affection for his children when he
is all calm and tranquil in the little boudoir at our house; and he
writes such lovely little poems about them, I must show you some of
them. But this creature doesn't appreciate them a bit: she has no
poetry in her."
"Well, I must say, I don't think I should have," said Lillie,
honestly. "I should be just as mad as I could be, if John acted so."
"Oh, my dear! the cases are different: Charlie has such peculiarities
of genius. The artistic nature, you know, requires soothing." Here
they stopped, and rang at the door of a neat little house, and were
ushered into a pair of those characteristic parlors which show that
they have been arranged by a home-worshipper, and a mother. There were
plants and birds and flowers, and little _genre_ pictures of children,
animals, and household interiors, arranged with a loving eye and hand.
"Did you ever see any thing so perfectly characteristic?" said Mrs.
Follingsbee, looking around her as if she were going to faint.
"This woman drives Charlie perfectly wild, because she has no
appreciation of high art. Now, I sent her photographs of Michel
Angelo's 'Moses,' and 'Night and Morning;' and I really wish you would
see where she hung them,--away in yonder dark corner!"
"I think myself they are enough to scare the owls," said Lillie, after
a moment's contemplation.
"But, my dear, you know they are the thing," said Mrs. Follingsbee:
"people never like such things at first, and one must get used to high
art before one forms a taste for it. The thing with her is, she has no
docility. She does not try to enter into Charlie's tastes."
The woman with "no docility" entered at this moment,--a little
snow-drop of a creature, with a pale, pure, Madonna face, and that sad
air of hopeless firmness which is seen unhappily in the faces of so
"I had to bring baby down," she said. "I have no nurse to-day, and he
has been threatened with croup."
[Illustration: "I had to bring baby down."]
"The dear little fellow!" said Mrs. Follingsbee, with officious
graciousness. "So glad you brought him down; come to his aunty?" she
inquired lovingly, as the little fellow shrank away, and regarded
her with round, astonished eyes. "Why will you not come to my next
reception, Mrs. Ferrola?" she added. "You make yourself quite a
stranger to us. You ought to give yourself some variety."
"The fact is, Mrs. Follingsbee," said Mrs. Ferrola, "receptions in New
York generally begin about my bed-time; and, if I should spend the
night out, I should have no strength to give to my children the next
"But, my dear, you ought to have some amusement."
"My children amuse me, if you will believe it," said Mrs. Ferrola,
with a remarkably quiet smile.
Mrs. Follingsbee was not quite sure whether this was meant to be
sarcastic or not. She answered, however, "Well! your husband will
come, at all events."
"You may be quite sure of that," said Mrs. Ferrola, with the same
"Well!" said Mrs. Follingsbee, rising, with patronizing cheerfulness,
"delighted to see you doing so well; and, if it is pleasant, I
will send the carriage round to take you a drive in the park this
And, like a rustling cloud of silks and satins and perfumes, she bent
down and kissed the baby, and swept from the apartment.
Mrs. Ferrola, with a movement that seemed involuntary, wiped the
baby's cheek with her handkerchief, and, folding it closer to her
bosom, looked up as if asking patience where patience is to be found
for the asking.
"There! I didn't I tell you?" said Mrs. Follingsbee when she came
out; "just one of those provoking, meek, obstinate, impracticable
creatures, with no adaptation in her."
"Oh, gracious me!" said Lillie: "I can't imagine more dire despair
than to sit all day tending baby."
"Well, so you would think; and Charlie has offered to hire competent
nurses, and wants her to dress herself up and go into society; and she
just won't do it, and sticks right down by the cradle there, with her
children running over her like so many squirrels."
"Oh! I hope and trust I never shall have children," said Lillie,
fervently, "because, you see, there's an end of every thing. No more
fun, no more frolics, no more admiration or good times; nothing but
this frightful baby, that you can't get rid of."
Yet, as Lillie spoke, she knew, in her own slippery little heart, that
the shadow of this awful cloud of maternity was resting over her;
though she laced and danced, and bid defiance to every law of nature,
with a blind and ignorant wilfulness, not caring what consequences she
might draw down on herself, if only she might escape this.
And was there, then, no soft spot in this woman's heart anywhere?
Generally it is thought that the throb of the child's heart awakens a
heart in the mother, and that the mother is born again with her child.
It is so with unperverted nature, as God meant it to be; and you
shall hear from the lips of an Irish washer-woman a genuine poetry of
maternal feeling, for the little one who comes to make her toil more
toilsome, that is wholly withered away out of luxurious circles, where
there is every thing to make life easy. Just as the Chinese have
contrived fashionable monsters, where human beings are constrained to
grow in the shape of flower-pots, so fashionable life contrives at
last to grow a woman who hates babies, and will risk her life to be
rid of the crowning glory of womanhood.
There was a time in Lillie's life, when she was sixteen years of age,
which was a turning-point with her, and decided that she should be the
heartless woman she was. If at that age, and at that time, she had
decided to marry the man she really loved, marriage might indeed have
proved to her a sacrament. It might have opened to her a door through
which she could have passed out from a career of selfish worldliness
into that gradual discipline of unselfishness which a true
But she did not. The man was poor, and she was beautiful; her beauty
would buy wealth and worldly position, and so she cast him off. Yet
partly to gratify her own lingering feeling, and partly because she
could not wholly renounce what had once been hers, she kept up for
years with him just that illusive simulacrum which such women call
friendship; which, while constantly denying, constantly takes pains to
attract, and drains the heart of all possibility of loving another.
Harry Endicott was a young man of fine capabilities, sensitive,
interesting, handsome, full of generous impulses, whom a good woman
might easily have led to a full completeness. He was not really
Lillie's cousin, but the cousin of her mother; yet, under the name of
cousin, he had constant access and family intimacy.
This winter Harry Endicott suddenly returned to the fashionable
circles of New York,--returned from a successful career in India, with
an ample fortune. He was handsomer than ever, took stylish bachelor
lodgings, set up a most distracting turnout, and became a sort of
Marquis of Farintosh in fashionable circles. Was ever any thing so
lucky, or so unlucky, for our Lillie?--lucky, if life really does
run on the basis of French novels, and if all that is needed is the
sparkle and stimulus of new emotions; unlucky, nay, even gravely
terrible, if life really is established on a basis of moral
responsibility, and dogged by the fatal necessity that "whatsoever man
or woman soweth, that shall he or she also reap."
In the most critical hour of her youth, when love was sent to her
heart like an angel, to beguile her from selfishness, and make
self-denial easy, Lillie's pretty little right hand had sowed to the
world and the flesh; and of that sowing she was now to reap all the
disquiets, the vexations, the tremors, that go to fill the pages of
French novels,--records of women who marry where they cannot love, to
serve the purposes of selfishness and ambition, and then make up for
it by loving where they cannot marry. If all the women in America who
have practised, and are practising, this species of moral agriculture
should stand forth together, it would be seen that it is not for
nothing that France has been called the society educator of the world.
The apartments of the Follingsbee mansion, with their dreamy
voluptuousness, were eminently adapted to be the background and
scenery of a dramatic performance of this kind. There were vistas of
drawing-rooms, with delicious boudoirs, like side chapels in a temple
of Venus, with handsome Charlie Ferrola gliding in and out, or
lecturing dreamily from the corner of some sofa on the last
most important crinkle of the artistic rose-leaf, demonstrating
conclusively that beauty was the only true morality, and that there
was no sin but bad taste; and that nobody knew what good taste was but
himself and his clique. There was the discussion, far from edifying,
of modern improved theories of society, seen from an improved
philosophic point of view; of all the peculiar wants and needs of
etherealized beings, who have been refined and cultivated till it is
the most difficult problem in the world to keep them comfortable,
while there still remains the most imperative necessity that they
should be made happy, though the whole universe were to be torn down
and made over to effect it.
The idea of not being happy, and in all respects as blissful as they
could possibly be made, was one always assumed by the Follingsbee
clique as an injustice to be wrestled with. Anybody that did not
affect them agreeably, that jarred on their nerves, or interrupted
the delicious reveries of existence with the sharp saw-setting of
commonplace realities, in their view ought to be got rid of summarily,
whether that somebody were husband or wife, parent or child.
Natures that affected each other pleasantly were to spring together
like dew-drops, and sail off on rosy clouds with each other to the
land of Do-just-as-you-have-a-mind-to.
The only thing never to be enough regretted, which prevented this
immediate and blissful union of particles, was the impossibility of
living on rosy clouds, and making them the means of conveyance to the
desirable country before mentioned. Many of the fair _illuminatae_ who
were quite willing to go off with a kindred spirit, were withheld by
the necessities of infinite pairs of French kid gloves, and gallons
of cologne-water, and indispensable clouds of mechlin and point lace,
which were necessary to keep around them the poetry of existence.
Although it was well understood among them that the religion of the
emotions is the only true religion, and that nothing is holy that you
do not feel exactly like doing, and every thing is holy that you do;
still these fair confessors lacked the pluck of primitive Christians,
and could not think of taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods,
even for the sake of a kindred spirit. Hence the necessity of living
in deplored marriage-bonds with husbands who could pay rent and taxes,
and stand responsible for unlimited bills at Stewart's and Tiffany's.
Hence the philosophy which allowed the possession of the body to one
man, and of the soul to another, which one may see treated of at large
in any writings of the day.
As yet Lillie had been kept intact from all this sort of thing by the
hard, brilliant enamel of selfishness. That little shrewd, gritty
common sense, which enabled her to see directly through other people's
illusions, has, if we mistake not, by this time revealed itself to our
readers as an element in her mind: but now there is to come a decided
thrust at the heart of her womanhood; and we shall see whether the
paralysis is complete, or whether the woman is alive.
If Lillie had loved Harry Endicott poor, had loved him so much that
at one time she had seriously balanced the possibility of going to
housekeeping in a little unfashionable house, and having only one
girl, and hand in hand with him walking the paths of economy,
self-denial, and prudence,--the reader will see that Harry Endicott
rich, Harry Endicott enthroned in fashionable success, Harry Endicott
plus fast horses, splendid equipages, a fine city house, and a country
house on the Hudson, was something still more dangerous to her
But more than this was the stimulus of Harry Endicott out of her
power, and beyond the sphere of her charms. She had a feverish desire
to see him, but he never called. Forthwith she had a confidential
conversation with her bosom friend, who entered into the situation
with enthusiasm, and invited him to her receptions. But he didn't
The fact was, that Harry Endicott hated Lillie now, with that kind
of hatred which is love turned wrong-side out. He hated her for the
misery she had caused him, and was in some danger of feeling it
incumbent on himself to go to the devil in a wholly unnecessary manner
on that account.
He had read the story of Monte Cristo, with its highly wrought plot of
vengeance, and had determined to avenge himself on the woman who had
so tortured him, and to make her feel, if possible, what he had felt.
So, when he had discovered the hours of driving observed by Mrs.
Follingsbee and Lillie in the park, he took pains, from time to time,
to meet them face to face, and to pass Lillie with an unrecognizing
stare. Then he dashed in among Mrs. Follingsbee's circle, making
himself everywhere talked of, till they were beset on all hands by the
inquiry, "Don't you know young Endicott? why, I should think you would
want to have him visit, here."
After this had been played far enough, he suddenly showed himself one
evening at Mrs. Follingsbee's, and apologized in an off-hand manner
to Lillie, when reminded of passing her in the park, that really he
wasn't thinking of meeting her, and didn't recognize her, she was so
altered; it had been so many years since they had met, &c. All in
a tone of cool and heartless civility, every word of which was a
dagger's thrust not only into her vanity, but into the poor little bit
of a real heart which fashionable life had left to Lillie.
Every evening, after he had gone, came a long, confidential
conversation with Mrs. Follingsbee, in which every word and look
was discussed and turned, and all possible or probable inferences
therefrom reported; after which Lillie often laid a sleepless head
on a hot and tumbled pillow, poor, miserable child! suffering her
punishment, without even the grace to know whence it came, or what it
meant. Hitherto Lillie had been walking only in the limits of that
kind of permitted wickedness, which, although certainly the remotest
thing possible from the Christianity of Christ, finds a great deal of
tolerance and patronage among communicants of the altar. She had lived
a gay, vain, self-pleasing life, with no object or purpose but the
simple one to get each day as much pleasurable enjoyment out of
existence as possible. Mental and physical indolence and inordinate
vanity had been the key-notes of her life. She hated every thing that
required protracted thought, or that made trouble, and she longed for
excitement. The passion for praise and admiration had become to
her like the passion of the opium-eater for his drug, or of the
brandy-drinker for his dram. But now she was heedlessly steering to
what might prove a more palpable sin.
Harry the serf, once half despised for his slavish devotion, now stood
before her, proud and free, and tantalized her by the display he made
of his indifference, and preference for others. She put forth every
art and effort to recapture him. But the most dreadful stroke of fate
of all was, that Rose Ferguson had come to New York to make a winter
visit, and was much talked of in certain circles where Harry was quite
intimate; and he professed himself, indeed, an ardent admirer at her
_THE VAN ASTRACHANS_.
The Van Astrachans, a proud, rich old family, who took a certain
defined position in New-York life on account of some ancestral
passages in their family history, had invited Rose to spend a month or
two with them; and she was therefore moving as a star in a very high
Now, these Van Astrachans were one of those cold, glittering,
inaccessible pinnacles in Mrs. Follingsbee's fashionable Alp-climbing
which she would spare no expense to reach if possible. It was one of
the families for whose sake she had Mrs. John Seymour under her roof;
and the advent of Rose, whom she was pleased to style one of Mrs.
Seymour's most intimate friends, was an unhoped-for stroke of good
luck; because there was the necessity of calling on Rose, of taking
her out to drive in the park, and of making a party on her account,
from which, of course, the Van Astrachans could not stay away.
It will be seen here that our friend, Mrs. Follingsbee, like all
ladies whose watch-word is "Excelsior," had a peculiar, difficult, and
slippery path to climb.
The Van Astrachans were good old Dutch-Reformed Christians,
unquestioning believers in the Bible in general, and the Ten
Commandments in particular,--persons whose moral constitutions had
been nourished on the great stocky beefsteaks and sirloins of plain
old truths which go to form English and Dutch nature. Theirs was
a style of character which rendered them utterly hopeless of
comprehending the etherealized species of holiness which obtained
in the innermost circles of the Follingsbee _illuminati_. Mr. Van
Astrachan buttoned under his coat not only many solid inches of what
Carlyle calls "good Christian fat," but also a pocket-book through
which millions of dollars were passing daily in an easy and
comfortable flow, to the great advantage of many of his
fellow-creatures no less than himself; and somehow or other he was
pig-headed in the idea that the Bible and the Ten Commandments
had something to do with that stability of things which made this
necessary flow easy and secure.
He was slow-moulded, accurate, and fond of security; and was of
opinion that nineteen centuries of Christianity ought to have settled
a few questions so that they could be taken for granted, and were not
to be kept open for discussion.
Moreover, Mr. Van Astrachan having read the accounts of the first
French revolution, and having remarked all the subsequent history of
that country, was confirmed in his idea, that pitching every thing
into pi once in fifty years was no way to get on in the affairs of
He had strong suspicions of every thing French, and a mind very ill
adapted to all those delicate reasonings and shadings and speculations
of which Mr. Charlie Ferrola was particularly fond, which made every
thing in morals and religion an open question.
He and his portly wife planted themselves, like two canons of the
sanctuary, every Sunday, in the tip-top highest-priced pew of the
most orthodox old church in New York; and if the worthy man sometimes
indulged in gentle slumbers in the high-padded walls of his slip, it
was because he was so well assured of the orthodoxy of his minister
that he felt that no interest of society would suffer while he was off
duty. But may Heaven grant us, in these days of dissolving views and
general undulation, large armies of these solid-planted artillery on
the walls of our Zion!
Blessed be the people whose strength is to sit still! Much needed are
they when the activity of free inquiry seems likely to chase us out of
house and home, and leave us, like the dove in the deluge, no rest for
the sole of our foot.
Let us thank God for those Dutch-Reformed churches; great solid
breakwaters, that stand as the dykes in their ancestral Holland to
keep out the muddy waves of that sea whose waters cast up mire and
But let us fancy with what quakings and shakings of heart Mrs.
Follingsbee must have sought the alliance of these tremendously solid
old Christians. They were precisely what she wanted to give an air of
solidity to the cobweb glitter of her state. And we can also see
how necessary it was that she should ostentatiously visit Charlie
Ferfola's wife, and speak of her as a darling creature, her particular
friend, whom she was doing her very best to keep out of an early
Charlie Ferrola said that the Van Astrachans were obtuse; and so, to
a certain degree, they were. In social matters they had a kind of
confiding simplicity. They were so much accustomed to regard positive
morals in the light of immutable laws of Nature, that it would not
have been easy to have made them understand that sliding scale of
estimates which is in use nowadays. They would probably have had but
one word, and that a very disagreeable one, to designate a married
woman who was in love with anybody but her husband. Consequently, they
were the very last people whom any gossip of this sort could ever
reach, or to whose ears it could have been made intelligible.
Mr. Van Astrachan considered Dick Follingsbee a swindler, whose proper
place was the State's prison, and whose morals could only be mentioned
with those of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Nevertheless, as Mrs. Follingsbee made it a point of rolling up her
eyes and sighing deeply when his name was mentioned,--as she attended
church on Sunday with conspicuous faithfulness, and subscribed to
charitable societies and all manner of good works,--as she had got
appointed directress on the board of an orphan asylum where Mrs. Van
Astrachan figured in association with her, that good lady was led to
look upon her with compassion, as a worthy woman who was making
the best of her way to heaven, notwithstanding the opposition of a
As for Rose, she was as fresh and innocent and dewy, in the hot whirl
and glitter and glare of New York, as a waving spray of sweet-brier,
brought in fresh with all the dew upon it.
She really had for Lillie a great deal of that kind of artistic
admiration which nice young girls sometimes have for very beautiful
women older than themselves; and was, like almost every one else,
somewhat bejuggled and taken in by that air of infantine sweetness and
simplicity which had survived all the hot glitter of her life, as if a
rose, fresh with dew, should lie unwilted in the mouth of a furnace.
Moreover, Lillie's face had a beauty this winter it had never worn:
the softness of a real feeling, the pathos of real suffering, at times
touched her face with something that was always wanting in it before.
The bitter waters of sin that she would drink gave a strange feverish
color to her cheek; and the poisoned perfume she would inhale gave a
strange new brightness to her eyes.
Rose sometimes looked on her and wondered; so innocent and healthy
and light-hearted in herself, she could not even dream of what was
passing. She had been brought up to love John as a brother, and opened
her heart at once to his wife with a sweet and loyal faithfulness.
When she told Mrs. Van Astrachan that Mrs. John Seymour was one of
her friends from Springdale, married into a family with which she had
grown up with great intimacy, it seemed the most natural thing in the
world to the good lady that Rose should want to visit her; that she
should drive with her, and call on her, and receive her at their
house; and with her of course must come Mrs. Follingsbee.
Mr. Van Astrachan made a dead halt at the idea of Dick Follingsbee. He
never would receive _that_ man under his roof, he said, and he never
would enter his house; and when Mr. Van Astrachan once said a thing
of this kind, as Mr. Hosea Biglow remarks, "a meeting-house wasn't
But then Mrs. Follingsbee's situation was confidentially stated to
Lillie, and by Lillie confidentially stated to Rose, and by Rose to
Mrs. Van Astrachan; and it was made to appear how Dick Follingsbee had
entirely abandoned his wife, going off in the ways of Balaam the son
of Bosor, and all other bad ways mentioned in Scripture, habitually
leaving poor Mrs. Follingsbee to entertain company alone, so that he
was never seen at her parties, and had nothing to do with her.
"So much the better for them," remarked Mr. Van Astrachan.
"In that case, my dear, I don't see that it would do any harm for you
to go to Mrs. Follingsbee's party on Rose's account. I never go to
parties, as you know; and I certainly should not begin by going there.
But still I see no objection to your taking Rose."
If Mr. Van Astrachan had seen objections, you never would have caught
Mrs. Van Astrachan going; for she was one of your full-blooded women,
who never in her life engaged to do a thing she didn't mean to do:
and having promised in the marriage service to obey her husband, she
obeyed him plumb, with the air of a person who is fulfilling the
prophecies; though her chances in this way were very small, as Mr. Van
Astrachan generally called her "ma," and obeyed all her orders with a
stolid precision quite edifying to behold. He took her advice always,
and was often heard naively to remark that Mrs. Van Astrachan and he
were always of the same opinion,--an expression happily defining that
state in which a man does just what his wife tells him to.
_MRS. FOLLINGSBEE'S PARTY, AND WHAT CAME OF IT_.
Our vulgar idea of a party is a week or fortnight of previous
discomfort and chaotic tergiversation, and the mistress of it all
distracted and worn out with endless cares. Such a party bursts in
on a well-ordered family state as a bomb bursts into a city, leaving
confusion and disorder all around. But it would be a pity if such a
life-long devotion to the arts and graces as Mrs. Follingsbee had
given, backed by Dick Follingsbee's fabulous fortune, and administered
by the exquisite Charlie Ferrola, should not have brought forth some
appreciable results. One was, that the great Castle of Indolence was
prepared for the _fete_ with no more ripple of disturbance than if it
had been a Nereid's bower, far down beneath the reach of tempests,
where the golden sand is never ruffled, and the crimson and blue sea
flowers never even dream of commotion.
Charlie Ferrola wore, it is true, a brow somewhat oppressed with care,
and was kept tucked up on a rose-colored satin sofa, and served with
lachrymae Christi, and Montefiascone, and all other substitutes
for the dews of Hybla, while he draughted designs for the floral
arrangements, which were executed by obsequious attendants in felt
slippers; and the whole process of arrangement proceeded like a dream
of the lotus-eaters' paradise.
Madame de Tullegig was of course retained primarily for the adornment
of Mrs. Follingsbee's person. It was understood, however, on this
occasion, that the composition of the costumes was to embrace both
hers and Lillie's, that they might appear in a contrasted tableau,
and bring out each other's points. It was a subject worthy a Parisian
artiste, and drew so seriously on Madame de Tullegig's brain-power,
that she assured Mrs. Follingsbee afterwards that the effort of
composition had sensibly exhausted her.
Before we relate the events of that evening, as they occurred, we must
give some little idea of the position in which the respective parties
Harry Endicott, by his mother's side, was related to Mrs. Van
Astrachan. Mr. Van Astrachan had been, in a certain way, guardian
to him; and his success in making his fortune was in consequence of
capital advanced and friendly patronage thus accorded. In the
family, therefore, he had the _entree_ of a son, and had enjoyed the
opportunity of seeing Rose with a freedom and frequency that soon
placed them on the footing of old acquaintanceship. Rose was an easy
person to become acquainted with in an ordinary and superficial
manner. She was like those pellucid waters whose great clearness
deceives the eye as to their depth. Her manners had an easy and
gracious frankness; and she spoke right on, with an apparent
simplicity and fearlessness that produced at first the impression that
you knew all her heart. A longer acquaintance, however, developed
depths of reserved thought and feeling far beyond what at first
Harry, at first, had met her only on those superficial grounds of
banter and _badinage_ where a gay young gentleman and a gay young lady
may reconnoitre, before either side gives the other the smallest peep
of the key of what Dr. Holmes calls the side-door of their hearts.
Harry, to say the truth, was in a bad way when he first knew Rose:
he was restless, reckless, bitter. Turned loose into society with an
ample fortune and nothing to do, he was in danger, according to the
homely couplet of Dr. Watts, of being provided with employment by that
undescribable personage who makes it his business to look after idle
Rose had attracted him first by her beauty, all the more attractive to
him because in a style entirely different from that which hitherto had
captivated his imagination. Rose was tall, well-knit, and graceful,
and bore herself with a sort of slender but majestic lightness, like
a meadow-lily. Her well-shaped, classical head was set finely on
her graceful neck, and she had a stag-like way of carrying it, that
impressed a stranger sometimes as haughty; but Rose could not help
that, it was a trick of nature. Her hair was of the glossiest black,
her skin fair as marble, her nose a little, nicely-turned aquiline
affair, her eyes of a deep violet blue and shadowed by long dark
lashes, her mouth a little larger than the classical proportion, but
generous in smiles and laughs which revealed perfect teeth of dazzling
whiteness. There, gentlemen and ladies, is Rose Ferguson's picture:
and, if you add to all this the most attractive impulsiveness and
self-unconsciousness, you will not wonder that Harry Endicott at first
found himself admiring her, and fancied driving out with her in the
park; and that when admiring eyes followed them both, as a handsome
pair, Harry was well pleased.
Rose, too, liked Harry Endicott. A young girl of twenty is not a
severe judge of a handsome, lively young man, who knows far more of
the world than she does; and though Harry's conversation was a perfect
Catherine-wheel of all sorts of wild talk,--sneering, bitter, and
sceptical, and giving expression to the most heterodox sentiments,
with the evident intention of shocking respectable authorities,--Rose
rather liked him than otherwise; though she now and then took the
liberty to stand upon her dignity, and opened her great blue eyes on
him with a grave, inquiring look of surprise,--a look that seemed to
challenge him to stand and defend himself. From time to time, too,
she let fall little bits of independent opinion, well poised and well
turned, that hit exactly where she meant they should; and Harry began
to stand a little in awe of her.
Harry had never known a woman like Rose; a woman so poised and
self-centred, so cultivated, so capable of deep and just reflections,
and so religious. His experience with women had not been fortunate, as
has been seen in this narrative; and, insensibly to himself, Rose was
beginning to exercise an influence over him. The sphere around her was
cool and bright and wholesome, as different from the hot atmosphere of
passion and sentiment and flirtation to which he had been accustomed,
as a New-England summer morning from a sultry night in the tropics.
Her power over him was in the appeal to a wholly different part of his
nature,--intellect, conscience, and religious sensibility; and once
or twice he found himself speaking to her quietly, seriously, and
rationally, not from the purpose of pleasing her, but because she had
aroused such a strain of thought in his own mind. There was a certain
class of brilliant sayings of his, of a cleverly irreligious and
sceptical nature, at which Rose never laughed: when this sort of
firework was let off in her presence, she opened her eyes upon him,
wide and blue, with a calm surprise intermixed with pity, but said
nothing; and, after trying the experiment several times, he gradually
felt this silent kind of look a restraint upon him.
At the same time, it must not be conjectured that, at present, Harry
Endicott was thinking of falling in love with Rose. In fact, he
scoffed at the idea of love, and professed to disbelieve in its
existence. And, beside all this, he was gratifying an idle vanity, and
the wicked love of revenge, in visiting Lillie; sometimes professing
for days an exclusive devotion to her, in which there was a little too
much reality on both sides to be at all safe or innocent; and then,
when he had wound her up to the point where even her involuntary looks
and words and actions towards him must have compromised her in the
eyes of others, he would suddenly recede for days, and devote himself
exclusively to Rose; driving ostentatiously with her in the park,
where he would meet Lillie face to face, and bow triumphantly to her
in passing. All these proceedings, talked over with Mrs. Follingsbee,
seemed to give promise of the most impassioned French romance
Rose walked through all her part in this little drama, wrapped in a
veil of sacred ignorance. Had she known the whole, the probability
is that she would have refused Harry's acquaintance; but, like many
another nice girl, she tripped gayly near to pitfalls and chasms of
which she had not the remotest conception.
Lillie's want of self-control, and imprudent conduct, had laid her
open to reports in certain circles where such reports find easy
credence; but these were circles with which the Van Astrachans never
mingled. The only accidental point of contact was the intimacy of Rose
with the Seymour family; and Rose was the last person to understand
an allusion if she heard it. The reading of Rose had been carefully
selected by her father, and had not embraced any novels of the French
romantic school; neither had she, like some modern young ladies,
made her mind a highway for the tramping of every kind of possible
fictitious character which a novelist might choose to draw, nor taken
an interest in the dissections of morbid anatomy. In fact, she was
old-fashioned enough to like Scott's novels; and though she was just
the kind of girl Thackeray would have loved, she never could bring her
fresh young heart to enjoy his pictures of world-worn and decaying
The idea of sentimental flirtations and love-making on the part of a
married woman was one so beyond her conception of possibilities that
it would have been very difficult to make her understand or believe
On the occasion of the Follingsbee party, therefore, Rose accepted
Harry as an escort in simple good faith. She was by no means so wise
as not to have a deal of curiosity about it, and not a little of dazed
and dazzled sense of enjoyment in prospect of the perfect labyrinth of
fairy-land which the Follingsbee mansion opened before her.
On the eventful evening, Mrs. Follingsbee and Lillie stood together
to receive their guests,--the former in gold color, with magnificent
point lace and diamond tiara; while Lillie in heavenly blue, with
wreaths of misty tulle and pearl ornaments, seemed like a filmy cloud
by the setting sun.
Rose, entering on Harry Endicott's arm, in the full bravery of a
well-chosen toilet, caused a buzz of admiration which followed them
through the rooms; but Rose was nothing to the illuminated eyes of
Mrs. Follingsbee compared with the portly form of Mrs. Van Astrachan
entering beside her, and spreading over her the wings of motherly
protection. That much-desired matron, serene in her point lace and
diamonds, beamed around her with an innocent kindliness, shedding
respectability wherever she moved, as a certain Russian prince was
said to shed diamonds.
[Illustration: "Rose, entering on Harry Endicott's arm."]
"Why, that is Mrs. Van Astrachan!"
"You don't tell me so! Is it possible?"
"Which?" "Where is she?" "How in the world did she get here?" were
the whispered remarks that followed her wherever she moved; and Mrs.
Follingsbee, looking after her, could hardly suppress an exulting _Te
Deum_. It was done, and couldn't be undone.
Mrs. Van Astrachan might not appear again at a _salon_ of hers for a
year; but that could not do away the patent fact, witnessed by so many
eyes, that she had been there once. Just as a modern newspaper or
magazine wants only one article of a celebrated author to announce him
as among their stated contributors for all time, and to flavor every
subsequent issue of the journal with expectancy, so Mrs. Follingsbee
exulted in the idea that this one evening would flavor all her
receptions for the winter, whether the good lady's diamonds ever
appeared there again or not. In her secret heart, she always had the
perception, when striving to climb up on this kind of ladder, that the
time might come when she should be found out; and she well knew the
absolute and uncomprehending horror with which that good lady would
regard the French principles and French practice of which Charlie
Ferrola and Co. were the expositors and exemplars.
This was what Charlie Ferrola meant when he said that the Van
Astrachans were obtuse. They never could be brought to the niceties of
moral perspective which show one exactly where to find the vanishing
point for every duty.
Be that as it may, there, at any rate, she was, safe and sound;
surrounded by people whom she had never met before, and receiving
introductions to the right and left with the utmost graciousness. The
arrangements for the evening had been made at the tea-table of the Van
Astrachans with an innocent and trustful simplicity.
"You know, dear," said Mrs. Van Astrachan to Rose, "that I never like
to stay long away from papa" (so the worthy lady called her husband);
"and so, if it's just the same to you, you shall let me have the
carriage come for me early, and then you and Harry shall be left free
to see it out. I know young folks must be young," she said, with a
comfortable laugh. "There was a time, dear, when my waist was not
bigger than yours, that I used to dance all night with the best of
them; but I've got bravely over that now."
[Illustration: The Van Astrachans]
"Yes, Rose," said Mr. Van Astrachan, "you mayn't believe it, but ma
there was the spryest dancer of any of the girls. You are pretty nice
to look at, but you don't quite come up to what she was in those
days. I tell you, I wish you could have seen her," said the good man,
warming to his subject. "Why, I've seen the time when every fellow on
the floor was after her."
"Papa," says Mrs. Van Astrachan, reprovingly, "I wouldn't say such
things if I were you."
"Yes, I would," said Rose. "Do tell us, Mr. Van Astrachan."
"Well, I'll tell you," said Mr. Van Astrachan: "you ought to have seen
her in a red dress she used to wear."
"Oh, come, papa! what nonsense! Rose, I never wore a red dress in my
life; it was a pink silk; but you know men never do know the names for
"Well, at any rate," said Mr. Van Astrachan, hardily, "pink or red, no
matter; but I'll tell you, she took all before her that evening. There
were Stuyvesants and Van Rennselaers and Livingstons, and all sorts of
grand fellows, in her train; but, somehow, I cut 'em out. There is no
such dancing nowadays as there was when wife and I were young. I've
been caught once or twice in one of their parties; and I don't call
it dancing. I call it draggle-tailing. They don't take any steps, and
there is no spirit in it."
"Well," said Rose, "I know we moderns are very much to be pitied. Papa
always tells me the same story about mamma, and the days when he was
young. But, dear Mrs. Van Astrachan, I hope you won't stay a moment,
on my account, after you get tired. I suppose if you are just seen
with me there in the beginning of the evening, it will matronize
me enough; and then I have engaged to dance the 'German' with Mr.
Endicott, and I believe they keep that up till nobody knows when. But
I am determined to see the whole through."
"Yes, yes! see it all through," said Mr. Van Astrachan. "Young people
must be young. It's all right enough, and you won't miss my Polly
after you get fairly into it near so much as I shall. I'll sit up for
her till twelve o'clock, and read my paper."
Rose was at first, to say the truth, bewildered and surprised by the
perfect labyrinth of fairy-land which Charlie Ferrola's artistic
imagination had created in the Follingsbee mansion.
Initiated people, who had travelled in Europe, said it put them in
mind of the "Jardin Mabille;" and those who had not were reminded of
some of the wonders of "The Black Crook." There were apartments turned
into bowers and grottoes, where the gas-light shimmered behind veils
of falling water, and through pendant leaves of all sorts of strange
water-plants of tropical regions. There were all those wonderful
leaf-plants of every weird device of color, which have been conjured
up by tricks of modern gardening, as Rappacini is said to have created
his strange garden in Padua. There were beds of hyacinths and crocuses
and tulips, made to appear like living gems by the jets of gas-light
which came up among them in glass flowers of the same form. Far away
in recesses were sofas of soft green velvet turf, overshadowed by
trailing vines, and illuminated with moonlight-softness by hidden
alabaster lamps. The air was heavy with the perfume of flowers, and
the sound of music and dancing from the ball-room came to these
recesses softened by distance.
The Follingsbee mansion occupied a whole square of the city; and
these enchanted bowers were created by temporary enlargements of the
conservatory covering the ground of the garden. With money, and the
Croton Water-works, and all the New-York greenhouses at disposal,
nothing was impossible.
There was in this reception no vulgar rush or crush or jam. The
apartments opened were so extensive, and the attractions in so
many different directions, that there did not appear to be a crowd
There was no general table set, with the usual liabilities of rush and
crush; but four or five well-kept rooms, fragrant with flowers and
sparkling with silver and crystal, were ready at any hour to minister
to the guest whatever delicacy or dainty he or she might demand; and
light-footed waiters circulated with noiseless obsequiousness through
all the rooms, proffering dainties on silver trays.
Mrs. Van Astrachan and Rose at first found themselves walking
everywhere, with a fresh and lively interest. It was something quite
out of the line of the good lady's previous experience, and so
different from any thing she had ever seen before, as to keep her in a
state of placid astonishment. Rose, on the other hand, was delighted
and excited; the more so that she could not help perceiving that she
herself amid all these objects of beauty was followed by the admiring
glances of many eyes.
It is not to be supposed that a girl so handsome as Rose comes to her
twentieth year without having the pretty secret made known to her
in more ways than one, or that thus made known it is any thing but
agreeable; but, on the present occasion, there was a buzz of inquiry
and a crowd of applicants about her; and her dancing-list seemed in
a fair way to be soon filled up for the evening, Harry telling
her laughingly that he would let her off from every thing but the
"German;" but that she might consider her engagement with him as a
standing one whenever troubled with an application which for any
reason she did not wish to accept.
Harry assumed towards Rose that air of brotherly guardianship which a
young man who piques himself on having seen a good deal of the world
likes to take with a pretty girl who knows less of it. Besides, he
rather valued himself on having brought to the reception the most
brilliant girl of the evening.
Our friend Lillie, however, was in her own way as entrancingly
beautiful this evening as the most perfect mortal flesh and blood
could be made; and Harry went back to her when Rose went off with her
partners as a moth flies to a candle, not with any express intention
of burning his wings, but simply because he likes to be dazzled,
and likes the bitter excitement. He felt now that he had power over
her,--a bad, a dangerous power he knew, with what of conscience was
left in him; but he thought, "Let her take her own risk." And so, many
busy gossips saw the handsome young man, his great dark eyes kindled
with an evil light, whirling in dizzy mazes with this cloud of flossy
mist; out of which looked up to him an impassioned woman's face, and
eyes that said what those eyes had no right to say.
There are times, in such scenes of bewilderment, when women are as
truly out of their own control by nervous excitement as if they were
intoxicated; and Lillie's looks and words and actions towards Harry
were as open a declaration of her feelings as if she had spoken them
aloud to every one present.
The scandals about them were confirmed in the eyes of every one that
looked on; for there were plenty of people present in whose view of
things the worst possible interpretation was the most probable one.
Rose was in the way, during the course of the evening, of hearing
remarks of the most disagreeable and startling nature with regard to
the relations of Harry and Lillie to each other. They filled her with
a sort of horror, as if she had come to an unwholesome place;
while she indignantly repelled them from her thoughts, as every
uncontaminated woman will the first suspicion of the purity of a
sister woman. In Rose's view it was monstrous and impossible. Yet when
she stood at one time in a group to see them waltzing, she started,
and felt a cold shudder, as a certain instinctive conviction of
something not right forced itself on her. She closed her eyes, and
wished herself away; wished that she had not let Mrs. Van Astrachan
go home without her; wished that somebody would speak to Lillie and
caution her; felt an indignant rising of her heart against Harry, and
was provoked at herself that she was engaged to him for the "German."
She turned away; and, taking the arm of the gentleman with her,
complained of the heat as oppressive, and they sauntered off together
into the bowery region beyond.
"Oh, now! where can I have left my fan?" she said, suddenly stopping.
"Let me go back and get it for you," said he of the whiskers who
attended her. It was one of the dancing young men of New York, and it
is no particular matter what his name was.
"Thank you," said Rose: "I believe I left it on the sofa in the yellow
drawing-room." He was gone in a moment.
Rose wandered on a little way, through the labyrinth of flowers and
shadowy trees and fountains, and sat down on an artificial rock where
she fell into a deep reverie. Rising to go back, she missed her way,
and became quite lost, and went on uneasily, conscious that she had
committed a rudeness in not waiting for her attendant.
At this moment she looked through a distant alcove of shrubbery, and
saw Harry and Lillie standing together,--she with both hands laid upon
his arm, looking up to him and speaking rapidly with an imploring
accent. She saw him, with an angry frown, push Lillie from him
so rudely that she almost fell backward, and sat down with her
handkerchief to her eyes; he came forward hurriedly, and met the eyes
of Rose fixed upon him.
[Illustration: "She saw him, with an angry frown, push Lillie from
"Mr. Endicott," she said, "I have to ask a favor of you. Will you
be so good as to excuse me from the 'German' to-night, and order my
"Why, Miss Ferguson, what is the matter?" he said: "what has come over
you? I hope I have not had the misfortune to do any thing to displease
Without replying to this, Rose answered, "I feel very unwell. My head
is aching violently, and I cannot go through the rest of the evening.
I must go home at once." She spoke it in a decided tone that admitted
of no question.
Without answer, Harry Endicott gave her his arm, accompanied her
through the final leave-takings, went with her to the carriage, put
her in, and sprang in after her.
Rose sank back on her seat, and remained perfectly silent; and Harry,
after a few remarks of his had failed to elicit a reply, rode by her
side equally silent through the streets homeward.
He had Mr. Van Astrachan's latch-key; and, when the carriage stopped,
he helped Rose to alight, and went up the steps of the house.
"Miss Ferguson," he said abruptly, "I have something I want to say to
"Not now, not to-night," said Rose, hurriedly. "I am too tired; and it
is too late."
"To-morrow then," he said: "I shall call when you will have had time
to be rested. Good-night!"
_THE SPIDER-WEB BROKEN_.
Harry did not go back, to lead the "German," as he had been engaged to
do. In fact, in his last apologies to Mrs. Follingsbee, he had excused
himself on account of his partner's sudden indisposition,--thing which
made no small buzz and commotion; though the missing gap, like all
gaps great and little in human society, soon found somebody to step
into it: and the dance went on just as gayly as if they had been
Meanwhile, there were in this good city of New York a couple of
sleepless individuals, revolving many things uneasily during the
night-watches, or at least that portion of the night-watches that
remained after they reached home,--to wit, Mr. Harry Endicott and Miss
What had taken place in that little scene between Lillie and Harry,
the termination of which was seen by Rose? We are not going to give
a minute description. The public has already been circumstantially
instructed by such edifying books as "Cometh up as a Flower," and
others of a like turn, in what manner and in what terms married women
can abdicate the dignity of their sex, and degrade themselves so
far as to offer their whole life, and their whole selves, to some
reluctant man, with too much remaining conscience or prudence to
accept the sacrifice.
It was from some such wild, passionate utterances of Lillie that Harry
felt a recoil of mingled conscience, fear, and that disgust which man
feels when she, whom God made to be sought, degrades herself to seek.
There is no edification and no propriety in highly colored and minute
drawing of such scenes of temptation and degradation, though they
are the stock and staple of some French novels, and more disgusting
English ones made on their model. Harry felt in his own conscience
that he had been acting a most unworthy part, that no advances on the
part of Lillie could excuse his conduct; and his thoughts went back
somewhat regretfully to the days long ago, when she was a fair,
pretty, innocent girl, and he had loved her honestly and truly.
Unperceived by himself, the character of Rose was exerting a
powerful influence over him; and, when he met that look of pain and
astonishment which he had seen in her large blue eyes the night
before, it seemed to awaken many things within him. It is astonishing
how blindly people sometimes go on as to the character of their own
conduct, till suddenly, like a torch in a dark place, the light of
another person's opinion is thrown in upon them, and they begin to
judge themselves under the quickening influence of another person's
moral magnetism. Then, indeed, it often happens that the graves give
up their dead, and that there is a sort of interior resurrection and
Harry did not seem to be consciously thinking of Rose, and yet the
undertone of all that night's uneasiness was a something that had
been roused and quickened in him by his acquaintance with her. How he
loathed himself for the last few weeks of his life! How he loathed
that hot, lurid, murky atmosphere of flirtation and passion and French
sentimentality in which he had been living!--atmosphere as hard to
draw healthy breath in as the odor of wilting tuberoses the day after
Harry valued Rose's good opinion as he had never valued it before;
and, as he thought of her in his restless tossings, she seemed to him
something as pure, as wholesome, and strong as the air of his native
New-England hills, as the sweet-brier and sweet-fern he used to love
to gather when he was a boy. She seemed of a piece with all the good
old ways of New England,--its household virtues, its conscientious
sense of right, its exact moral boundaries; and he felt somehow as if
she belonged, to that healthy portion of his life which he now looked
back upon with something of regret.
Then, what would she think of him? They had been friends, he said to
himself; they had passed over those boundaries of teasing unreality
where most yoking gentlemen and young ladies are content to hold
converse with each other, and had talked together reasonably and
seriously, saying in some hours what they really thought and felt.
And Rose had impressed him at times by her silence and reticence
in certain connections, and on certain subjects, with a sense of
something hidden and veiled,--a reserved force that he longed still
further to penetrate. But now, he said to himself, he must have
fallen in her opinion. Why was she so cold, so almost haughty, in her
treatment of him the night before? He felt in the atmosphere around
her, and in the touch of her hand, that she was quivering like a
galvanic battery with the suppressed force of some powerful emotion;
and his own conscience dimly interpreted to him what it might be.
To say the truth, Rose was terribly aroused. And there was a great
deal in her to be aroused, for she had a strong nature; and the whole
force of womanhood in her had never received such a shock.
Whatever may be scoffingly said of the readiness of women to pull one
another down, it is certain that the highest class of them have the
feminine _esprit de corps_ immensely strong. The humiliation of
another woman seems to them their own humiliation; and man's lordly
contempt for another woman seems like contempt of themselves.
The deepest feeling roused in Rose by the scenes which she saw last
night was concern for the honor of womanhood; and her indignation at
first did not strike where we are told woman's indignation does, on
the woman, but on the man. Loving John Seymour as a brother from her
childhood, feeling in the intimacy in which they had grown up as if
their families had been one, the thoughts that had been forced upon
her of his wife the night before had struck to her heart with the
weight of a terrible affliction. She judged Lillie as a pure woman
generally judges another,--out of herself,--and could not and would
not believe that the gross and base construction which had been put
upon her conduct was the true one. She looked upon her as led astray
by inordinate vanity, and the hopeless levity of an undeveloped,
unreflecting habit of mind. She was indignant with Harry for the part
that he had taken in the affair, and indignant and vexed with herself
for the degree of freedom and intimacy which she had been suffering to
grow up between him and herself. Her first impulse was to break it off
altogether, and have nothing more to say to or do with him. She felt
as if she would like to take the short course which young girls
sometimes take out of the first serious mortification or trouble in
their life, and run away from it altogether. She would have liked to
have packed her trunk, taken her seat on board the cars, and gone home
to Springdale the next day, and forgotten all about the whole of it;
but then, what should she say to Mrs. Van Astrachan? what account
could she give for the sudden breaking up of her visit?
Then, there was Harry going to call on her the next day! What ought
she to say to him? On the whole, it was a delicate matter for a young
girl of twenty to manage alone. How she longed to have the counsel of
her sister or her mother! She thought of Mrs. Van Astrachan; but
then, again, she did not wish to disturb that good lady's pleasant,
confidential relations with Harry, and tell tales of him out of
school: so, on the whole, she had a restless and uncomfortable night
Mrs. Van Astrachan expressed her surprise at seeing Rose take her
place at the breakfast-table the next morning. "Dear me!" she said, "I
was just telling Jane to have some breakfast kept for you. I had no
idea of seeing you down at this time."
"But," said Rose, "I gave out entirely, and came away only an hour
after you did. The fact is, we country girls can't stand this sort
of thing. I had such a terrible headache, and felt so tired and
exhausted, that I got Mr. Endicott to bring me away before the
"Bless me!" said Mr. Van Astrachan; "why, you're not at all up to
snuff! Why, Polly, you and I used to stick it out till daylight!
"Well, you see, Mr. Van Astrachan, I hadn't anybody like you to stick
it out with," said Rose. "Perhaps that made the difference."
"Oh, well, now, I am sure there's our Harry! I am sure a girl must
be difficult, if he doesn't suit her for a beau," said the good
"Oh, Mr. Endicott is all well enough!" said Rose; "only, you observe,
not precisely to me what you were to the lady you call Polly,--that's
"Ha, ha!" laughed Mr. Van Astrachan. "Well, to be sure, that does make
a difference; but Harry's a nice fellow, nice fellow, Miss Rose: not
many fellows like him, as I think."
"Yes, indeed," chimed in Mrs. Van Astrachan. "I haven't a son in the
world that I think more of than I do of Harry; he has such a good
Now, the fact was, this eulogistic strain that the worthy couple were
very prone to fall into in speaking of Harry to Rose was this morning
most especially annoying to her; and she turned the subject at
once, by chattering so fluently, and with such minute details of
description, about the arrangements of the rooms and the flowers and
the lamps and the fountains and the cascades, and all the fairy-land
wonders of the Follingsbee party, that the good pair found themselves
constrained to be listeners during the rest of the time devoted to the
It will be found that good young ladies, while of course they have all
the innocence of the dove, do display upon emergencies a considerable
share of the wisdom of the serpent. And on this same mother wit and
wisdom, Rose called internally, when that day, about eleven o'clock,
she was summoned to the library, to give Harry his audience.
Truth to say, she was in a state of excited womanhood vastly becoming
to her general appearance, and entered the library with flushed cheeks
and head erect, like one prepared to stand for herself and for her
Harry, however, wore a mortified, semi-penitential air, that, on
the first glance, rather mollified her. Still, however, she was not
sufficiently clement to give him the least assistance in opening the
conversation, by the suggestions of any of those nice little oily
nothings with which ladies, when in a gracious mood, can smooth the
path for a difficult confession.
She sat very quietly, with her hands before her, while Harry walked
tumultuously up and down the room.
"Miss Ferguson," he said at last, abruptly, "I know you are thinking
ill of me."
Miss Ferguson did not reply.
"I had hoped," he said, "that there had been a little something more
than mere acquaintance between us. I had hoped you looked upon me as a
"I did, Mr. Endicott," said Rose.
"And you do not now?"
"I cannot say that," she said, after a pause; "but, Mr. Endicott, if
we are friends, you must give me the liberty to speak plainly."
"That's exactly what I want you to do!" he said impetuously; "that is
just what I wish."
"Allow me to ask, then, if you are an early friend and family
connection of Mrs. John Seymour?"
"I was an early friend, and am somewhat of a family connection."
"That is, I understand there has been a ground in your past history
for you to be on a footing of a certain family intimacy with Mrs.
Seymour; in that case, Mr. Endicott, I think you ought to have
considered yourself the guardian of her honor and reputation, and not
allowed her to be compromised on your account."
The blood flushed into Harry's face; and he stood abashed and silent.
Rose went on,--
"I was shocked, I was astonished, last night, because I could not help
overhearing the most disagreeable, the most painful remarks on you and
her,--remarks most unjust, I am quite sure, but for which I fear you
have given too much reason!"
"Miss Ferguson," said Harry, stopping as he walked up and down, "I
confess I have been wrong and done wrong; but, if you knew all, you
might see how I have been led into it. That woman has been the evil
fate of my life. Years ago, when we were both young, I loved her as
honestly as man could love a woman; and she professed to love me in
return. But I was poor; and she would not marry me. She sent me off,
yet she would not let me forget her. She would always write to me just
enough to keep up hope and interest; and she knew for years that all
my object in striving for fortune was to win her. At last, when a
lucky stroke made me suddenly rich, and I came home to seek her, I
found her married,--married, as she owns, without love,--married for
wealth and ambition. I don't justify myself,--I don't pretend to; but
when she met me with her old smiles and her old charms, and told me
she loved me still, it roused the very devil in me. I wanted revenge.
I wanted to humble her, and make her suffer all she had made me; and I
didn't care what came of it."
Harry spoke, trembling with emotion; and Rose felt almost terrified
with the storm she had raised.
"O Mr. Endicott!" she said, "was this worthy of you? was there nothing
better, higher, more manly than this poor revenge? You men are
stronger than we: you have the world in your hands; you have a
thousand resources where we have only one. And you ought to be
stronger and nobler according to your advantages; you ought to rise
superior to the temptations that beset a poor, weak, ill-educated
woman, whom everybody has been flattering from her cradle, and whom
you, I dare say, have helped to flatter, turning her head with
compliments, like all the rest of them. Come, now, is not there
something in that?"
"Well, I suppose," said Harry, "that when Lillie and I were girl and
boy together, I did flatter her, sincerely that is. Her beauty made a
fool of me; and I helped make a fool of her."
"And I dare say," said Rose, "you told her that all she was made for
was to be charming, and encouraged her to live the life of a butterfly
or canary-bird. Did you ever try to strengthen her principles, to
educate her mind, to make her strong? On the contrary, haven't you
been bowing down and adoring her for being weak? It seems to me that
Lillie is exactly the kind of woman that you men educate, by the way
you look on women, and the way you treat them."
Harry sat in silence, ruminating.
"Now," said Rose, "it seems to me it's the most cowardly and unmanly
thing in the world for men, with every advantage in their hands, with
all the strength that their kind of education gives them, with all
their opportunities,--a thousand to our one,--to hunt down these poor
little silly women, whom society keeps stunted and dwarfed for their
"Miss Ferguson, you are very severe," said Harry, his face flushing.
"Well," said Rose, "you have this advantage, Mr. Endicott: you know,
if I am, the world will not be. Everybody will take your part;
everybody will smile on you, and condemn her. That is generous, is
it not? I think, after all, Noah Claypole isn't so very uncommon a
picture of the way that your lordly sex turn round and cast all
the blame on ours. You will never make me believe in a protracted
flirtation between a gentleman and lady, where at least half the blame
does not lie on his lordship's side. I always said that a woman had
no need to have offers made her by a man she could not love, if she
conducted herself properly; and I think the same is true in regard to
men. But then, as I said before, you have the world on your side;
nine persons out of ten see no possible harm in a man's taking every
advantage of a woman, if she will let him."
"But I care more for the opinion of the tenth person than of the
nine," said Harry; "I care more for what you think than any of them.
Your words are severe; but I think they are just."
"O Mr. Endicott!" said Rose, "live for something higher than for
what I think,--than for what any one thinks. Think how many glorious
chances there are for a noble career for a young man with your
fortune, with your leisure, with your influence! is it for you to
waste life in this unworthy way? If I had your chances, I would try to
do something worth doing."
Rose's face kindled with enthusiasm; and Harry looked at her with
"Tell me what I ought to do!" he said.
"I cannot tell you," said Rose; "but where there is a will there is a
way: and, if you have the will, you will find the way. But, first, you
must try and repair the mischief you have done to Lillie. By your own
account of the matter, you have been encouraging and keeping up a sort
of silly, romantic excitement in her. It is worse than silly; it is
sinful. It is trifling with her best interests in this life and the
life to come. And I think you must know that, if you had treated her
like an honest, plain-spoken brother or cousin, without any trumpery
of gallantry or sentiment, things would have never got to be as they
are. You could have prevented all this; and you can put an end to it
"Honestly, I will try," said Harry. "I will begin, by confessing my
faults like a good boy, and take the blame on myself where it belongs,
and try to make Lillie see things like a good girl. But she is in bad
surroundings; and, if I were her husband, I wouldn't let her stay
there another day. There are no morals in that circle; it's all a
perfect crush of decaying garbage."
"I think," said Rose, "that, if this thing goes no farther, it will
gradually die out even in that circle; and, in the better circles of
New York, I trust it will not be heard of. Mrs. Van Astrachan and I
will appear publicly with Lillie; and if she is seen with us, and at
this house, it will be sufficient to contradict a dozen slanders. She
has the noblest, kindest husband,--one of the best men and truest
gentlemen I ever knew."
"I pity him then," said Harry.
"He is to be pitied," said Rose; "but his work is before him. This
woman, such as she is, with all her faults, he has taken for better or
for worse; and all true friends and good people, both his and hers,
should help both sides to make the best of it."
"I should say," said Harry, "that there is in this no best side."
"I think you do Lillie injustice," said Rose. "There is, and must be,
good in every one; and gradually the good in him will overcome the
evil in her."
"Let us hope so," said Harry. "And now, Miss Ferguson, may I hope that
you won't quite cross my name out of your good book? You'll be friends
with me, won't you?"
"Oh, certainly!" said Rose, with a frank smile.
"Well, let's shake hands on that," said Harry, rising to go.
Rose gave him her hand, and the two parted in all amity.
Harry went straightway from the interview to call upon Lillie, and had
a conversation with her; in which he conducted himself like a
sober, discreet, and rational man. It was one of those daylight,
matter-of-fact kinds of talks, with no nonsense about them, in which
things are called by their right names. He confessed his own sins, and
took upon his own shoulders the blame that properly belonged there;
and, having thus cleared his conscience, took occasion to give Lillie
a deal of grandfatherly advice, of a very sedative tendency.
They had both been very silly, he said; and the next step to being
silly very often was to be wicked. For his part, he thought she ought
to be thankful for so good a husband; and, for his own part, he should
lose no time in trying to find a good wife, who would help him to be
a good man, and do something worth doing in the world. He had given
people occasion to say ill-natured things about her; and he was sorry
for it. But, if they stopped being imprudent, the world would in time
stop talking. He hoped, some of these days, to bring his wife down to
see her, and to make the acquaintance of her husband, whom he knew to
be a capital fellow, and one that she ought to be proud of.
Thus, by the intervention of good angels, the little paper-nautilus
bark of Lillie's fortunes was prevented from going down in the great
ugly maelstrom, on the verge of which it had been so heedlessly
Harry was not slow in pushing the advantage of his treaty of
friendship with Rose to its utmost limits; and, being a young
gentleman of parts and proficiency, he made rapid progress.
The interview of course immediately bred the necessity for at least a
dozen more; for he had to explain this thing, and qualify that, and,
on reflection, would find by the next day that the explanation and
qualification required a still further elucidation. Rose also, after
the first conversation was over, was troubled at her own boldness, and
at the things that she in her state of excitement had said; and so
was only too glad to accord interviews and explanations as often as
sought, and, on the whole, was in the most favorable state towards her
Hence came many calls, and many conferences with Rose in the library,
to Mrs. Van Astrachan's great satisfaction, and concerning which Mr.
Van Astrachan had many suppressed chuckles and knowing winks at Polly.
"Now, pa, don't you say a word," said Mrs. Van Astrachan.
"Oh, no, Polly! catch me! I see a great deal, but I say nothing," said
the good gentleman, with a jocular quiver of his portly person. "I
don't say any thing,--oh, no! by no manner of means."
Neither at present did Harry; neither do we.
_SENTIMENT v. SENSIBILITY_.
The poet has feelingly sung the condition of
"The banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled, and garlands dead," &c.,
and so we need not cast the daylight of minute description on the
Charlie Ferrola, however, was summoned away at early daylight, just as
the last of the revellers were dispersing, by a hurried messenger
from his wife; and, a few moments after he entered his house, he was
standing beside his dying baby,--the little fellow whom we have
seen brought down on Mrs. Ferrola's arm, to greet the call of Mrs.
It is an awful thing for people of the flimsy, vain, pain-shunning,
pleasure-seeking character of Charlie Ferrola, to be taken at times,
as such people will be, in the grip of an inexorable power, and held
face to face with the sternest, the most awful, the most frightful
realities of life. Charlie Ferrola was one of those whose softness and
pitifulness, like that of sentimentalists generally, was only one form
of intense selfishness. The sight of suffering pained him; and his
first impulse was to get out of the way of it. Suffering that he did
not see was nothing to him; and, if his wife or children were in any
trouble, he would have liked very well to have known nothing about it.
But here he was, by the bedside of this little creature, dying in the
agonies of slow suffocation, rolling up its dark, imploring eyes, and
lifting its poor little helpless hands; and Charlie Ferrola broke out
into the most violent and extravagant demonstrations of grief.
The pale, firm little woman, who had watched all night, and in whose
tranquil face a light as if from heaven was beaming, had to assume the
care of him, in addition to that of her dying child. He was another
helpless burden on her hands.
There came a day when the house was filled with white flowers, and
people came and went, and holy words were spoken; and the fairest
flower of all was carried out, to return to the house no more.
"That woman is a most unnatural and peculiar woman!" said Mrs.
Follingsbee, who had been most active and patronizing in sending
flowers, and attending to the scenic arrangements of the funeral. "It
is just what I always said: she is a perfect statue; she's no kind of
feeling. There was Charlie, poor fellow! so sick that he had to go to
bed, perfectly overcome, and have somebody to sit up with him; and
there was that woman never shed a tear,--went round attending to every
thing, just like a piece of clock-work. Well, I suppose people are
happier for being made so; people that have no sensibility are better
fitted to get through the world. But, gracious me! I can't understand
such people. There she stood at the grave, looking so calm, when
Charlie was sobbing so that he could hardly hold himself up. Well, it
really wasn't respectable. I think, at least, I would keep my veil
down, and keep my handkerchief up. Poor Charlie! he came to me at
last; and I gave way. I was completely broken down, I must confess.
Poor fellow! he told me there was no conceiving his misery. That baby
was the very idol of his soul; all his hopes of life were centred in
it. He really felt tempted to rebel at Providence. He said that he
really could not talk with his wife on the subject. He could not enter
into her submission at all; it seemed to him like a want of feeling.
He said of course it wasn't her fault that she was made one way and he
In fact, Mr. Charlie Ferrola took to the pink satin boudoir with a
more languishing persistency than ever, requiring to be stayed with
flagons, and comforted with apples, and receiving sentimental calls of
condolence from fair admirers, made aware of the intense poignancy of
his grief. A lovely poem, called "My Withered Blossom," which appeared
in a fashionable magazine shortly after, was the out-come of this
experience, and increased the fashionable sympathy to the highest
Honest Mrs. Van Astrachan, however, though not acquainted with Mrs.
Ferrola, went to the funeral with Rose; and the next day her carriage
was seen at Mrs. Ferrola's door.
"You poor little darling!" she said, as she came up and took Mrs.
Ferrola in her arms. "You must let me come, and not mind me; for I
know all about it. I lost the dearest little baby once; and I have
never forgotten it. There! there, darling!" she said, as the little
woman broke into sobs in her arms. "Yes, yes; do cry! it will do your
little heart good."
There are people who, wherever they move, freeze the hearts of those
they touch, and chill all demonstration of feeling; and there are warm
natures, that unlock every fountain, and bid every feeling gush forth.
The reader has seen these two types in this story.
"Wife," said Mr. Van Astrachan, coming to Mrs. V. confidentially a day
or two after, "I wonder if you remember any of your French. What is a
"Really, dear," said Mrs. Van Astrachan, whose reading of late years
had been mostly confined to such memoirs as that of Mrs. Isabella
Graham, Doddridge's "Rise and Progress," and Baxter's "Saint's Rest,"
"it's a great while since I read any French. What do you want to know
"Well, there's Ben Stuyvesant was saying this morning, in Wall Street,
that there's a great deal of talk about that Mrs. Follingsbee and that
young fellow whose baby's funeral you went to. Ben says there's a
_liaison_ between her and him. I didn't ask him what 'twas; but it's
something or other with a French name that makes talk, and I don't
think it's respectable! I'm sorry that you and Rose went to her party;
but then that can't be helped now. I'm afraid this Mrs. Follingsbee is
no sort of a woman, after all."
"But, pa, I've been to call on Mrs. Ferrola, poor little afflicted
thing!" said Mrs. Van Astrachan. "I couldn't help it! You know how we
felt when little Willie died."
"Oh, certainly, Polly! call on the poor woman by all means, and do all
you can to comfort her; but, from all I can find out, that handsome
jackanapes of a husband of hers is just the poorest trash going. They
say this Follingsbee woman half supports him. The time was in New York
when such doings wouldn't be allowed; and I don't think calling things
by French names makes them a bit better. So you just be careful, and
steer as clear of her as you can."
"I will, pa, just as clear as I can; but you know Rose is a friend
of Mrs. John Seymour; and Mrs. Seymour is visiting at Mrs.
"Her husband oughtn't to let her stay there another day," said Mr.
Van Astrachan. "It's as much as any woman's reputation is worth to be
staying with her. To think of that fellow being dancing and capering
at that Jezebel's house the night his baby was dying!"
"Oh, but, pa, he didn't know it."
"Know it? he ought to have known it! What business has a man to get
a woman with a lot of babies round her, and then go capering off?
'Twasn't the way I did, Polly, you know, when our babies were young. I
was always on the spot there, ready to take the baby, and walk up and
down with it nights, so that you might get your sleep; and I always
had it my side of the bed half the night. I'd like to have seen myself
out at a ball, and you sitting up with a sick baby! I tell you, that
if I caught any of my boys up to such tricks, I'd cut them out of my
will, and settle the money on their wives;--that's what I would!"
"Well, pa, I shall try and do all in my power for poor Mrs. Ferrola,"
said Mrs. Van Astrachan; "and you may be quite sure I won't take
another step towards Mrs. Follingsbee's acquaintance."
"It's a pity," said Mr. Van Astrachan, "that somebody couldn't put it
into Mr. John Seymour's head to send for his wife home.
"I don't see, for my part, what respectable women want to be
gallivanting and high-flying on their own separate account for, away
from their husbands! Goods that are sold shouldn't go back to the
shop-windows," said the good gentleman, all whose views of life were
of the most old-fashioned, domestic kind.
"Well, dear, we don't want to talk to Rose about any of this scandal,"
said his wife.
"No, no; it would be a pity to put any thing bad into a nice girl's
head," said Mr. Van Astrachan. "You might caution her in a general
way, you know; tell her, for instance, that I've heard of things that
make me feel you ought to draw off. Why can't some bird of the air
tell that little Seymour woman's husband to get her home?"
The little Seymour woman's husband, though not warned by any
particular bird of the air, was not backward in taking steps for the
recall of his wife, as shall hereafter appear.
Some weeks had passed in Springdale while these affairs had been going
on in New York. The time for the marriage of Grace had been set; and
she had gone to Boston to attend to that preparatory shopping which
even the most sensible of the sex discover to be indispensable on such
Grace inclined, in the centre of her soul, to Bostonian rather than
New-York preferences. She had the innocent impression that a classical
severity and a rigid reticence of taste pervaded even the rebellious
department of feminine millinery in the city of the Pilgrims,--an idea
which we rather think young Boston would laugh down as an exploded
superstition, young Boston's leading idea at the present hour being
apparently to outdo New York in New York's imitation of Paris.
In fact, Grace found it very difficult to find a milliner who, if left
to her own devices, would not befeather and beflower her past all
self-recognition, giving to her that generally betousled and fly-away
air which comes straight from the _demi-monde_ of Paris.
We apprehend that the recent storms of tribulation which have beat
upon those fairy islands of fashion may scatter this frail and
fanciful population, and send them by shiploads on missions of
civilization to our shores; in which case, the bustle and animation
and the brilliant display on the old turnpike, spoken of familiarly as
the "broad road," will be somewhat increased.
Grace however managed, by the exercise of a good individual taste,
to come out of these shopping conflicts in good order,--a handsome,
well-dressed, charming woman, with everybody's best wishes for, and
sympathy in, her happiness.
Lillie was summoned home by urgent messages from her husband, calling
her back to take her share in wedding festivities.
She left willingly; for the fact is that her last conversation with
her cousin Harry had made the situation as uncomfortable to her as if
he had unceremoniously deluged her with a pailful of cold water.
There is a chilly, disagreeable kind of article, called common sense,
which is of all things most repulsive and antipathetical to all petted
creatures whose life has consisted in flattery. It is the kind of talk
which sisters are very apt to hear from brothers, and daughters from
fathers and mothers, when fathers and mothers do their duty by them;
which sets the world before them as it is, and not as it is painted by
flatterers. Those women who prefer the society of gentlemen, and who
have the faculty of bewitching their senses, never are in the way of
hearing from this cold matter-of-fact region; for them it really does
not exist. Every phrase that meets their ear is polished and softened,
guarded and delicately turned, till there is not a particle of homely
truth left in it. They pass their time in a world of illusions; they
demand these illusions of all who approach them, as the sole condition
of peace and favor. All gentlemen, by a sort of instinct, recognize
the woman who lives by flattery, and give her her portion of meat
in due season; and thus some poor women are hopelessly buried, as
suicides used to be in Scotland, under a mountain of rubbish, to which
each passer-by adds one stone. It is only by some extraordinary power
of circumstances that a man can be found to invade the sovereignty of
a pretty woman with any disagreeable tidings; or, as Junius says, "to
instruct the throne in the language of truth." Harry was brought up to
this point only by such a concurrence of circumstances. He was in love
with another woman,--a ready cause for disenchantment. He was in
some sort a family connection; and he saw Lillie's conduct at last,
therefore, through the plain, unvarnished medium of common sense.
Moreover, he felt a little pinched in his own conscience by the view
which Rose seemed to take of his part in the matter, and, manlike, was
strengthened in doing his duty by being a little galled and annoyed at
the woman whose charms had tempted him into this dilemma. So he
talked to Lillie like a brother; or, in other words, made himself
disagreeably explicit,--showed her her sins, and told her her duties
as a married woman. The charming fair ones who sentimentally desire
gentlemen to regard them as sisters do not bargain for any of this
sort of brotherly plainness; and yet they might do it with great
advantage. A brother, who is not a brother, stationed near the ear of
a fair friend, is commonly very careful not to compromise his position
by telling unpleasant truths; but, on the present occasion, Harry made
a literal use of the brevet of brotherhood which Lillie had bestowed
on him, and talked to her as the generality of _real_ brothers talk to
their sisters, using great plainness of speech. He withered all her
poor little trumpery array of hothouse flowers of sentiment, by
treating them as so much garbage, as all men know they are. He set
before her the gravity and dignity of marriage, and her duties to her
husband. Last, and most unkind of all, he professed his admiration of
Rose Ferguson, his unworthiness of her, and his determination to win
her by a nobler and better life; and then showed himself to be a
stupid blunderer by exhorting Lillie to make Rose her model, and seek
to imitate her virtues.
Poor Lillie! the world looked dismal and dreary enough to her. She
shrunk within herself. Every thing was withered and disenchanted. All
her poor little stock of romance seemed to her as disgusting as the
withered flowers and crumpled finery and half-melted ice-cream the
morning after a ball.
In this state, when she got a warm, true letter from John, who always
grew tender and affectionate when she was long away, couched in those
terms of admiration and affection that were soothing to her ear, she
really longed to go back to him. She shrunk from the dreary plainness
of truth, and longed for flattery and petting and caresses once
more; and she wrote to John an overflowingly tender letter, full of
longings, which brought him at once to her side, the most delighted of
men. When Lillie cried in his arms, and told him that she found New
York perfectly hateful; when she declaimed on the heartlessness of
fashionable life, and longed to go with him to their quiet home,--she
was tolerably in earnest; and John was perfectly enchanted.
Poor John! Was he a muff, a spoon? We think not. We understand well
that there is not a _woman_ among our readers who has the slightest
patience with Lillie, and that the most of them are half out of
patience with John for his enduring tenderness towards her.
But men were born and organized by nature to be the protectors of
women; and, generally speaking, the stronger and more thoroughly
manly a man is, the more he has of what phrenologists call the "pet
organ,"--the disposition which makes him the charmed servant of what
is weak and dependent. John had a great share of this quality. He was
made to be a protector. He loved to protect; he loved every thing that
was helpless and weak,--young animals, young children, and delicate
He was a romantic adorer of womanhood, as a sort of divine mystery,--a
never-ending poem; and when his wife was long enough away from him to
give scope for imagination to work, when she no longer annoyed him
with the friction of the sharp little edges of her cold and selfish
nature, he was able to see her once more in the ideal light of first
love. After all, she was his wife; and in that one word, to a good
man, is every thing holy and sacred. He longed to believe in her and
trust her wholly; and now that Grace was going from him, to belong to
another, Lillie was more than ever his dependence.
On the whole, if we must admit that John was weak, he was weak where
strong and noble natures may most gracefully be so,--weak through
disinterestedness, faith, and the disposition to make the best of the
wife he had chosen.
And so Lillie came home; and there was festivity and rejoicing. Grace
found herself floated into matrimony on a tide bringing gifts and
tokens of remembrance from everybody that had ever known her; for all
were delighted with this opportunity of testifying a sense of her
worth, and every hand was ready to help ring her wedding bells.
It is supposed by some that to become a mother is of itself a healing
and saving dispensation; that of course the reign of selfishness
ends, and the reign of better things begins, with the commencement of
But old things do not pass away and all things become new by any such
rapid process of conversion. A whole life spent in self-seeking and
self-pleasing is no preparation for the most august and austere of
woman's sufferings and duties; and it is not to be wondered at if the
untrained, untaught, and self-indulgent shrink from this ordeal, as
The next spring, while the gables of the new cottage on Elm Street