Part 4 out of 4
toi-meme, qu'avec ton coeur, qu'avec ta misere! Que dis-je?
Tu y vas avec un compte de plus a rendre, a la rencontre du
grand Dieu qui doit te juger; tu y vas avec l'eternite de
plus pour souffrir, et le temps de moins pour te repentir!
A moins que tu ne penses peut-etre, parceque l'oeil de
l'homme n'a rien vu au-dela de la tombe, que cette vie n'ait
pas de suite. Mais non, tu ne saurais le croire! Quand tous
les autres le penseraient, toi, tu ne le pourrais pas. Tu as
une preuve d'immortalite qui t'appartient en propre. Cette
tristesse qui te consume, est quelque chose de trop intime et
de trop profond pour se dissoudre avec tes organes, et ce qui
est capable de tant souffrir ne pent pas s'aller perdre dans
la terre. Les vers heriteront de la poussiere de ton corps,
mais l'amertume de ton ame, qui en heritera? Ces extases
sublimes, ces tourments affreux; ces hauteurs des cieux, ces
profondeurs des abimes; qu'y a-t-il d'assez grand ou d'assez
abaisse, d'assez eleve ou d'assez avili pour les revetir en
ta place? Non, tu ne saurais jamais croire que tout meurt
avec le corps; ou si tu le pouvais tu n'en serais que plus
insense, plus miserable encore.
It is proof how child-like I had been, how obedient in suppressing all
forbidden thoughts, that these words smote me with such horror. I had
indulged in no speculation; I had never thought of him as haunted by the
self he fled; as still bound to an inexorable and inextinguishable life,
"With time and hope behind him cast,
And all his work to do with palsied hands and cold."
The terrors I had had, had been vague. I had thought dimly of
punishment, more keenly of separation. If I had analysed my thoughts, I
suppose I should have found annihilation to have been my belief--death
forever, loss eternal. But this--if this were truth--(and it smote me as
the truth alone can smite), oh, it was maddening. To my knees! To my
knees! Oh, that I might live long years to pray for him! Oh, that I
might stretch out my hands to God for him, withered with age and shrunk
with fasting, and strong but in faith and final perseverance! Oh, it
could not be too late! What was prayer made for, but for a time like
this? What was this little breath of time, compared with the Eternal
Years, that we should only speak _now_ for each other to our merciful
God, and never speak for each other afterward? Spirits are forever; and
is prayer only for the days of the body?
It was well for me that none of the doubts that are so often expressed
had found any lodgment in my brain; if I had not believed that I had a
right to pray for him, and that my prayers might help him, I cannot
understand how I could have lived through those nights and days
APRSE PERDRE, PERD ON BIEN.
What to those who understand
Are to-day's enjoyments narrow,
Which to-morrow go again,
Which are shared with evil men,
And of which no man in his dying
Taketh aught for softer lying?
It was now early spring: the days were lengthening and were growing
soft. Lent (late that year) was nearly over. I had begun to think much
about the summer, and to wonder if I were to pass it in the city. There
was one thing that the winter had developed in me, and that was, a sort
of affection for my uncle. I had learned that I owed him a duty, and had
tried to find ways of fulfilling it; had taken a little interest in the
house, and had tried to make him more comfortable. Also I had prayed
very constantly for him, and perhaps there is no way more certain of
establishing an affection, or at least a charity for another, than that.
In return, he had been a little more human to me than formerly, had
shown some interest in my health, and continued appreciation of the fact
that I was in the house. Once he had talked to me, for perhaps half an
hour, about my mother, for which I was unspeakably grateful. Several
times he had given me a good deal of money, which I had cared much less
about. Latterly he had permitted me to go to church alone, which had
seemed to me must be owing to Richard's intervention.
Richard had been almost as much as formerly at the house: my uncle was
becoming more and more dependent on him. For myself, I did not see as
much of him as the year before. We were always together at the table, of
course. But the evenings that Richard was with my uncle, I thought it
unnecessary for me to stay down-stairs. Besides, now, they almost always
had writing or business affairs to occupy them.
It was natural that I should go away, and no one seemed to notice it.
Richard still brought me books, still arranged things for me with my
uncle (as in the matter of going to church alone), but we had no more
talks together by ourselves, and he never asked me to go anywhere with
him. At Christmas he sent me beautiful flowers, and a picture for my
room. Sophie I rarely saw, and only longed never to see Benny was
permitted to come and spend a day with me, at great intervals, and I
enjoyed him more than his mother or his uncle.
One day my uncle went down to his office in his usual health; at three
o'clock he was brought home senseless, and only lived till midnight,
dying without recovering speech or consciousness. It was a sudden
seizure, but what everybody had expected; everybody was shocked for the
moment, and then wondered that they were. It was very appalling to me; I
was so unhappy, I almost believed I loved him, and I certainly mourned
for him with simplicity and affection.
The preparations for the funeral were so frightful, and all the thoughts
it brought so unnerving, that I was almost ill. A great deal came upon
me, in trying to manage the wailing servants, and in helping Richard in
It was the day after the funeral; I was tired, out, and had lain down on
the sofa in the dining-room, partly because I hated to be alone
up-stairs, and partly because it was not far from lunch-time, and I felt
too weary to take any needless steps. I don't think ever in my life
before I had lain down on that sofa, or had spent two hours except, at
the table, in that room. It was a most cheerless room, and no one ever
thought of sitting down in it, except at mealtime. I closed the shutters
and darkened it to suit my eyes, which ached, and I think must have
The parlor was the room which adjoined the dining-room (only two large
rooms on one floor, as they used to build), and separated from it by
heavy mahogany columns and sliding-doors. These doors were half-way
open, and I was roused by voices in the parlor. As soon as I recovered
myself from the sudden waking, I recognized Sophie's and then Richard's.
I wondered what Richard was doing up-town at that hour, and so Sophie
did too, for she asked him very plainly.
"I thought I ought to come to see Pauline," she said, "but I did not
suppose I should find you here in the middle of the day."
"There is something that I've got to see Pauline about at once," he
said, "and so I was obliged to come up-town."
"Nothing has happened?" she said interrogatively.
"No," he answered, evasively.
But she went on: "I suppose it's something in relation to the will; I
hope she's well provided for, poor thing."
"Sophie," said her brother, with a change of tone, "You'll have to hear
it some time, and perhaps you may as well hear it now. It is that that I
have come up-town about; there has been some strange mistake made; there
is no will."
"No will!" echoed Sophie, "Why, you told me once--"
"That he had left her everything. So he told me twice last year; so I
have always believed to be the case. Since the day he died, the most
faithful search has been made; there is not a corner of his office, of
his library, of his room, that I have not hunted through. He was so
methodical in business matters, so exact in the care of his papers, that
I had little hope, after I had gone through his desk. I cannot
understand it. It is altogether dark to me."
"What can have made him change his mind about it, Richard? Can he have
heard anything about last summer?"
"Not from me, Sophie. But I have sometimes thought he knew, from
allusions that he has made to her mother's marriage, more than once
"He was very angry about that, at the time, I suppose?"
"Yes, I imagine so. The man she married was poor, and a foreigner: two
things he hated. I never heard there was anything against him but
"How can he have heard about Mr. Langenau?" said Sophie, musingly.
"I think Pauline must have told him," said Richard.
"Pauline? never. She is much too clever; she never told him. You may be
quite sure of _that_."
"Pauline clever! Poor Pauline!" said Richard, with a short, sarcastic
laugh, which had the effect of making Sophie angry.
"I am willing," she said, "that she should be as stupid and as good as
you can wish--. To whom does the money go?" she added, as if she had not
patience for the other subject.
"To a brother, with whom he had a quarrel, and whom he had not seen for
over sixteen years."
"But there had been some sort of a reconciliation, at least an exchange
of letters, within these three months past."
"And it is in consequence of hearing from him, and being pressed by his
lawyer for an immediate settlement of the estate, that I have come up to
tell Pauline, and to prepare her for her changed prospects."
"And what do you propose to advise?" asked Sophie, with a chilling
"Heaven knows, Sophie," answered her brother, with a heavy sigh. "I see
nothing ahead for the poor girl, but loneliness and trial. She is
utterly unfit to struggle with the world. And she has not even a shelter
for her head."
"Richard," interrupted his sister, with intensity of feeling in her
voice, "I see what you are trying to persuade yourself: do not tell me,
after what has passed, you still feel that you are bound to her--"
"_Bound!_" exclaimed Richard, with a vehemence most strange in him, as,
pacing the room, he stood still before his sister. His back was toward
me. She was so absorbed she did not see me as I darted past the
folding-doors into the hall. As I flew panting up to my own room, I
remember one feeling above all others, the first feeling of affection
toward the house that I had ever had. It was mine no longer, my home
never again; I had no right to stay in it a moment: my own room was not
mine any more--the room where I had learned to pray, and to try to lead
a good life--the room where I had lain when I was so near to death--the
room where Sister Madeline had led me to such peaceful, quiet thoughts.
I had but one wish now, not to see Richard, to escape Sophie, to get
away forever from this house to which I had no right. I pulled down my
hat and my street things, and dressed so quickly, that I had slipped
down the stairs, and out into the street, before they had ceased talking
in the parlor. I heard their voices, very low, as I passed through the
hall. I fully meant never to come back to the house again--not to be
My heart swelled as the door closed behind me. It was dreadful not to
have a home. I was so unused to being in the street alone, that I felt
frightened when I reached the cars and stopped them.
I was going to Sister Madeline. She would take me, and keep me, and
teach me where to live, and how. I was a little confused, and got out at
the wrong street, and had to walk several blocks before I reached
The servant at the door met me with an answer that made me wonder
whether there were anything else to happen to me on that day.
Sister Madeline had been called away--had gone on a long
journey--something about the illness of her brother; and I must not come
inside the door, for a contagious disease was raging, and the orders
were strict that no one be admitted. I had walked so fast, and in such
excitement of feeling, that I was weak and faint when I turned to go
down the steps. Where should I go? I walked on slowly now, and
undecided, for I had no aim.
The clergyman to whom I had gone for direction in matters spiritual, was
ill--for two weeks had given up even Lenten duties. Anything--but I
could not go home, or rather where home had been. I walked and walked
till I was almost fainting, and found myself in the Park. There the
lovely indications of spring, and the quiet, and the fresh air, soothed
me, and I sat down under some trees near the water, and rested myself.
But the same giddy whirl of thoughts came back, the same incompetency to
deal with such strange facts, and the same confusion. I do not know how
long I wandered about; but I was faint and weary and hungry, and
frightened too, for people were beginning to look at me.
It began to force itself upon me that I must go back to Varick-street
after all, and take a fresh start. Then I began to think how I should
get back, on which side must I go to find the cars--where was I,
literally. Then I sat down to wait, till I should see some policeman, or
some kind-looking person, near me, to whom I could apply for this very
necessary information. In the meantime I took out my purse to see if I
had the proper change. Verily, not that, nor any change at all! My heart
actually stood still. Yes, it was very true: I had given away, right
and left, during this Lent: caring nothing for money, and being very
sure of more when this was gone. I was literally penniless. I had not
even the money to ride home in the cars.
Till a person has felt this sensation, he has not had one of the most
remarkable experiences of life. To know where you can get money, to feel
that there is some _dernier ressort_ however hateful to you, is one
thing; but to _know_ that you have not a cent--not a prospect of getting
one--not a hope of earning one--no means of living--this is suffocation.
This is the stopping of that breath that keeps the world alive.
The bench on which I happened to be sitting was one of those pretty,
little, covered seats, which jut out into the lake. I looked down into
the water as I sat with my empty purse in my lap, and remembered vaguely
the many narratives I had seen in the newspapers about unaccounted-for
and unknown suicides. I could see how it might be inevitable--a sort of
pressure, a fatality that might not be resisted. Even cowardice might be
overcome when that pressure was put on.
It is a very amazing thing to feel that you have no money, nor any means
of getting even eightpence: it chokes you: you feel as if the wheel had
made its last revolution, and there was no power to make it turn again.
It is not any question of pride, or of independence, when it comes
suddenly; it is a feeling of the inevitable; you do not turn to others.
You feel your individual failure, and you stand alone.
For myself, this was my reflection: I had not even a shelter for my
head; Richard had said so. I had not a cent of money, and I had no means
of earning any. The uncle who was coming to take possession of the house
and furniture, was one whom I had been taught to distrust and dread. He
would, perhaps, not even let me go into my room again, and would turn me
out to-morrow, if he came: my clothes--were _they_ even mine, or would
they be given to me, if they were? This uncle had reproached Uncle
Leonard once for what he had done for me. I had even an idea that it was
about my mother's marriage that the quarrel had occurred. And hard as I
had regarded Uncle Leonard, he had been the soft-hearted one of the
brothers, who had sheltered the little girl (after he had thrown off the
mother, and broken her poor heart).
The house in Varick-street would be broken up. What would become of the
cook, and Ann Coddle? It would be easier for them to live than for me.
They could get work to do, for they knew how to work, and people would
employ them. I--I could do nothing, I had been taught to do nothing. I
had never been directed how to hem a handkerchief. I had tried to dust
my room one day, and the effort had tired me dreadfully, and did not
look very well, as a result. I could not teach. I had been educated in a
slipshod way, no one directing anything about it--just what it occurred
to the person who had charge of me to put before me.
I had intended to throw myself upon Sister Madeline. But what then? What
could she have done for me? I had asked her months before if I could not
be a sister, and had been discouraged both by her and by my director. I
believe they thought I was too young and too pretty, and, in fact, had
no vocation. No doubt they thought I might soon look upon things
differently, when my trouble was a little older.
And Richard--I did not give Richard many thoughts that day, for my heart
was sore, when I remembered all his words. He had always thought that I
was to be rich; perhaps that had made him so long patient with me. He
had said I was not clever; he had seemed to be very sorry for me. He
might well be. Sophie had asked him if he were still bound to me. I had
not heard all his answer, but he had spoken in a tone of scorn. I did
not want to think about him.
There was no whither to turn myself for help. And the clergyman, who had
been more than kind to me, who had seemed to help me with words and
counsel out of heaven,--he was cut off from my succor, and I stood
alone--I, who was so dependent, so naturally timid, and so
It was a dreary hour of my life, that hour that I sat looking over at
the water of the pretty placid lake. I don't like to recall it. Some one
passed by me, gave an exclamation of surprise, and came back hastily. It
was Richard. He seemed so glad, and so relieved to see me--and to me it
was like Heaven opening; notwithstanding my vindictive thoughts about
him, I could have sprung into his arms; I felt protected, safe, the
moment he was by me. I tried to speak, and then began to cry.
"I've been looking for you these last two hours," he said, sitting down
beside me. "I came up-town to see you, and found you had gone out. I
thought you would not be likely to go anywhere but to see Sister
Madeline, and there the servant told me you had come this way. I could
not find you here, and went back to Varick-street, then was frightened
at hearing you had not come back, and returned again to look for you.
What made you stay so long? Something has happened. Tell me what you are
I had no talent for acting, and not much discretion when I was excited;
and he found out very soon that I knew what had befallen me. (I think he
believed that Sophie had told me of it.)
"Were you very much surprised?" he said. "Had you supposed that you
would be his heiress?"
"Why, no. I had not thought anything about it. I am afraid I have not
thought much about anything this winter. I must have been very
ungrateful, as well as childish, for I never have felt as if it were
fortunate that I had a home, and as much money as I wanted. I did not
care anything about being rich, you know--ever."
"No, I know you did not. I was sure you would have been satisfied with a
very moderate provision."
"Oh, Richard," I cried, clasping my hands together, "if he had left me a
little--just a little--just a few hundred dollars, when he had so much,
to have kept me from having to work, when I don't know how to work, and
am such a child."
"Work!" he exclaimed, looking down at me as if I were something so
exquisite and so precious, that the very thought was profanation.
"Work! no, Pauline, you shall not have to work."
"But what can I do?" I said, "I have nothing--and you know it; not a
shelter; not the money to pay for my breakfast to-morrow morning. Not a
person to whom I have a right to go for help; not a human being who is
bound to care for me. Oh, I don't care what becomes of me; I wish that
it were time for me to die."
Richard got up, and paced up and down the little platform with an
"It was so strange," I went on, "when he seemed this winter to take a
little notice of me, and to want to have me near him. I really almost
thought he cared for me. And when I was so ill last Fall, don't you
remember how often he used to come up to my room?"
"I remember--yes. It is all very strange."
"And some days early in the winter, when I could scarcely speak at
table, I was so unhappy, he would look at me so long, and seem to think.
And then would be very kind and gentle afterward, and do something to
show he liked me--give me money, you know, as he always did."
"Tell me, Pauline: did he ever ask you anything about last summer, or
did you ever tell him?"
"No, Richard, I could never have spoken to him about it; and he never
asked me. But I know he saw that I was not happy."
"Pauline," said Richard, after a pause, and as if forcing himself to
speak, "there is no use in disguising from you what your position is:
you know it yourself, enough of it, at least, to make you understand why
I speak now. I don't know of any way out of it, but one; and I feel as
if it were ungenerous to press that on you now, and, Heaven knows, I
would not do it if I could think of anything else to offer to you. You
know, Pauline, that if you will marry me, you will have everything that
you need, as much as if your uncle had left you everything."
He did not look at me, but paced up and down the platform, and spoke
with a thick, husky voice.
"You know it's been the object of my life, ever since I knew you, but I
don't want that to influence you. I know it is too soon, a great deal
too soon. And I would not have done it, if I could have seen anything
else to do, or if you could have done without me."
I must have been deadly pale, for when at last he looked at me, he
"I don't know how it is," he said, with a groan, "I always have to give
you pain, when, Heaven knows, I'd give my life to spare you every
suffering. I can't see any other way to take care of you than the way I
tell you of, and yet, I have no doubt you think me cruel, and selfish,
to ask you to do it now. It does seem so, and yet it is not. If you knew
how much it has cost me to speak, you would believe it."
"I do believe it," I said, trying to command my voice. "I think you have
always been too good and kind to me. But I can't tell you how this makes
me feel. Oh, Richard, isn't there any, any other way?"
"Perhaps there may be," he said, with a bitter and disappointed look,
"but I do not know of it."
"Oh, Richard, do not be angry with me. Think how hard it is for me
always to be disappointing you. I have a great deal of trouble!"
"Yes, Pauline, I know you have," he said, sitting down by me, and taking
my hand in a repentant way. "You see I'm selfish, and only looked at my
own disappointment just that minute. I thought I had not any hope that
you might not mind the idea of marrying me; but you see, after all, I
had. I believe I must have fancied that you were getting over your
trouble: you have seemed so much brighter lately. But now I know the
truth; and now I know that what I do is simply sacrifice and duty. A man
must be a fool who looks for pleasure in marrying a woman who has no
love for him. And I say now, in the face of it all, marry me, Pauline,
if you can bring yourself to do it. I am the only approach to a friend
that you have in the world. As your husband, I can care for you and
protect you. You are young, your character is unformed, you are ignorant
of the world. You have no home, no protection, literally none, and I am
afraid to trust you. You need not be angry if I say so. I think I've
earned the right to find some faults in you. I don't expect you to love
me. I don't expect to be particularly happy; but there are a good many
ways of serving God and doing one's duty; and if we try to serve him and
to live for duty, it will all come out right at last. You will be a
happier woman, Pauline, if you do it, than if you rebel against it, and
try to find some other way, and put yourself in a subordinate place, or
a place of dependence, and waste your life, and expose yourself to
temptation. No, no, Pauline, I cannot see you do it. Heaven knows, I
wish you had somebody else to direct you. But it has all come upon me,
and I must do the best I can. I think any one else would advise the
same, who had the same means of judging."
"I will do just what you think best," I said, almost in a whisper,
"That is right," he answered, in a husky voice, rising too, and putting
my cloak about my shoulders, which had fallen off. "You will see it
will be best."
A GREAT DEAL TOO SOON.
But her sad eyes, still fastened on the ground,
Are governed with a goodly modesty,
That suffers not a look to glance away,
Which may let in a little thought unsound.
Vouloir ce que Dieu veut est la seule science
Qui nous met en repos.
Richard had obtained for me (with difficulty), from the lawyer of the
new uncle who had arisen, the privilege of remaining in the house for
another month, undisturbed in any way. At the end of those four weeks I
was to be married to him, one day, quietly in church, and to go away. It
was very hard to have to see Sophie, and be treated with ignominy, for
doing what I did not want to do; it was very hard to make preparations
to leave the only place I wanted to stay in now; it was very hard to be
tranquil and even, while my heart was like lead. But I had begun to
discover that that was the general order of things here below, and it
did not amaze me as it had done at first. I was doing my duty, to the
best of my discernment, and was not to be deterred by all the lead in
It was very well for Richard to say, he did it for sacrifice and for
duty. I have no doubt at first he did it greatly for those two things:
but he grew happier every day, I could see. He was very considerate of
my sadness, and always acted on the basis on which our engagement was
begun, never keeping my hand in his, or kissing me, or asking any of the
trifling favors of a lover.
He was grave and silent: but I could see the change in his face; I could
see that he was more exacting of every moment that I spent away from
him; he kept near me, and followed me with his eyes, and seemed never to
be satisfied with his possession of me.
He bought me the most beautiful jewels, (he had made great strides
toward fortune in the last six months, and was a rich man now in
earnest,) and though he never clasped them on my throat or wrist, nor
even fitted a ring on my finger, I could feel his eyes upon me,
hungering for a smile, a word of gratitude.
And who would not have been grateful? But it was "too soon, a great deal
too soon," as he had said himself. I was very grateful, but I would
have been glad to die.
I have wondered whether he saw it or not, I rather think not. I was very
submissive and gentle, and tried to be bright, and I think he was so
absorbed in the satisfaction of my promise, so intent upon his plans for
making me happy, and for making me love him, that he made himself
believe there was no heart of lead below the tranquillity he saw.
It was the third week since my uncle's death. The next week was to come
the marriage, on Wednesday, the 19th of May.
"Marriages in May are not happy," said Ann Coddle.
"I did not need you to tell me that," I thought.
It was on Thursday, the 13th; Richard had come up a little earlier, in
the evening. It grew to be a little earlier every evening.
"By-and-by he will not go down-town at all, at this rate," I said to
myself, when I heard his ring that night.
I was sitting by the parlor-lamp, with the evening paper in my lap, of
which I had not read a word. He came and sat down by the table, and we
talked a little while. I tried to find things to talk about, and
wondered if it always would be so. I felt as if some day I should give
out entirely, and have to go through bankruptcy. (And take a
He never seemed to feel the want of talking; I suppose he was quite
satisfied with his thoughts, and with having me beside him.
By-and-by, he said he should have to go up to the library, and look over
the last of some books of my uncle's, and finish an inventory that he
had begun. Could I not bring my work and sit there by him? I felt a
little selfish, for we were already on the last week, and I said I
thought I would sit in the parlor. I had to write a letter to Sister
Madeline. I had not heard a word from her yet, though I had
Why could not I write in the library?
I always liked to be alone when I wrote letters: I could not think, when
any one was in the room. Besides, trying to smile, he would be sure
He looked disappointed, and lingered a good while before he went away.
As he rose to go away he threw into my lap a little package, saying,
"There is some white lace for you. Can't you use it on some of your
clothes? I don't know anything about such things: maybe it isn't pretty
enough, but I thought perhaps it would do for that lilac silk you
I opened the package: it was exquisite, fit for a princess; and as I
bent over it, I thought, how dead I must be, that it gave me no pleasure
to know it was my own, for I had loved such baubles so, a year ago.
"What a mass of it!" I exclaimed, unfolding yard on yard.
"You must always wear lace," he said, throwing one end of it over my
black dress around the shoulder. "I like you in it. I am tired of those
stiff little linen collars."
The lace had given me a little compunction about not spending the
evening with him: but as I had said so, I could not draw back; so I
compromised the matter by going up to the library with him, to see that
he was comfortable, before I came down to write my letter.
I brought the little student-lamp from my own room and lit it, and put
it on the library-table, and brought him some fresh pens, and opened the
inkstand for him, even pushed up the chair and put a little footstool by
it. Though he was standing by the bookshelves, and seemed to be
engrossed by them, I knew that he was watching me, filled with content
"Do you remember where that box of cigars was put?" he said, turning to
me as I paused. That was to keep me longer; for they were on the shelf,
half a yard from where he stood.
I got the cigar-box and put it on the table.
"Now you will want some matches, and this stand is almost empty." So I
took it away with me to my room, and came back with it filled.
"Is there anything else that I can do?" I said, pausing as I put it on
"No, Pauline. I believe not. Thank you."
I think that moment Richard was nearer to happiness than he had ever
been before. Poor fellow!
I went down-stairs, feeling quite easy in mind, and sat down to my
letter. That threw me back into the past, for to Sister Madeline I
poured out my heart. An hour went by, and I had forgotten Richard and
the library. I was recalled to the present by hearing some books fall on
the floor (the library was over the parlor); and by hearing Richard's
step heavily crossing the room. I started up, pushed my letter into my
portfolio, and wiped away my tears, quite frightened that Richard should
see me crying. To my surprise, he came hurriedly down the stairs, passed
the parlor-door, opened the hall-door, and shutting it heavily after
him, was gone, without a word to me. This startled me for a moment, it
was so unusual. But my heart was not enough engaged to be wounded by the
slight, and I very soon returned to my letter and my other thoughts.
When I went up to bed, I stopped in the library, and found the lamp
still burning, the pens unused, a cigar, which had been lighted, but
unsmoked, lying on the table. A book was lying on the floor at the foot
of the bookshelf, where I had left Richard standing. I picked it up.
"This was the last book that Uncle Leonard ever read," I said to myself,
turning its pages over. I remembered that he had it in his hand the last
night of his life, when I bade him goodnight. I was not in the room the
next day, till he was brought home in a dying state.
Ann had put the books in order, and arranged them, after he went
down-town in the morning.
I wondered whether Richard knew that that was the last book he had been
reading, and I put it by, to tell him of it in the morning when he came.
But in the morning Richard did not come. Unusual again; and I was for an
hour or two surprised. He always found some excuse for coming on his way
down-town: and it was very odd that he should not want to explain his
sudden going away last night. But, as before, my lack of love made the
wound very slight, and in a little time I had forgotten all about it,
and was only thinking that this was Friday--and that Wednesday was
coming very near.
All this is to be sanctified,
This rupture with the past;
For thus we die before our deaths,
And so die well at last.
Dinner-time came, and passed, and still Richard did not come. At eight
o'clock Ann brought the tea, as usual, and it stood nearly an hour upon
the table; and then I told her to take it away.
By this time I had begun to feel uneasy. Something must have happened.
It would necessarily be something uncomfortable, perhaps something that
would frighten me, and give me another shock. And I dreaded that so; I
had had so many. But perhaps, dreadful though it might be, it would
bring me a release. Perhaps Richard was only angry with me, and _that_
might bring me a release.
At nine o'clock I heard a ring at the bell, and then his step in the
hall. He was slower than usual in coming in; everything made me feel
confused and apprehensive. When he opened the door and entered, I was
trying to command myself, but I forgot all about myself when I saw
_him_. His face was white, and he looked haggard and harassed, as if he
had gone through a year of suffering since last night, when I left him
with the lamp and cigar in the library.
I started up and put out my hand. "What is it, Richard? You are in some
He said no, and tried to speak in an ordinary tone, sitting down on the
sofa by my chair.
I was confused and thrown back by this, and tried to talk as if nothing
had been said.
"Will you have a cup of tea?" I asked; "Ann has just taken it away."
He said absently, yes, and I rang for Ann to bring the tea, and then
went to the table to pour it out.
He sat with his face leaning on his hand on the arm of the sofa, and did
not seem to notice me till I carried the cup to him, and offered it.
Then he started, and looked up and took it, asking my pardon, and
"Are you not going to have one yourself?" he said, half rising.
"No, I don't want any to-night. Tell me if yours is right."
"Yes, it is very nice," he said absently, drinking some. Then rising
suddenly, he put the cup on the mantleshelf, and said to me, "Send Ann
away, I want to talk to you."
I told Ann I would ring for her when I wanted her, and sat down by the
lamp again, with many apprehensions.
"You asked me if anything had happened, Pauline, didn't you?" he said.
"No," I answered. "But I was sure that something had, from the way you
looked when you came in."
"It is something that--that changes things very much for you, Pauline,"
he resumed, with an effort, "and makes all our arrangements
unnecessary--that is, unless you choose."
I looked amazed and frightened, and he went on.
"I made a discovery last night in the library. The will is found,
I started to my feet, with my hands pressed against my heart, waiting
breathlessly for his next word.
"Everything is left to you--and I have come to tell you, you are
free--if you desire to be."
"Oh, thank God! Thank God!" I cried; then covering my face with my
hands, sank back into my seat, and burst into tears.
He turned from me and walked to the other end of the room; each of us
lived much in that little time.
For myself, I had accepted my bondage so meekly, so dutifully, that I
did not know the weight it had been upon me till it was suddenly taken
off. I did not think of him--I could only think, there was no next
Wednesday, and I could stay where I was. It was like the sudden
cessation of dreadful and long-continued pain: it was Heaven. I was
crying for joy. But at last the reaction came, and I had to think
"Oh, Richard," I cried, going toward him, (he was sitting by the window,
and his hand concealed his eyes.) "I don't know what you think of me, I
hope you can forgive me."
He did not speak, and I felt a dreadful pang of self-reproach.
"Richard," I said, crying, and taking hold of his hand, "I am ashamed of
myself for being glad. I will marry you yet, if you want me to. I know
how good you have been to me. I know I am ungrateful and abominable."
Still he did not speak. His very lips were white, and his hand, when I
touched it, did not meet mine or move.
"You are angry with me," I cried, bursting into a flood of tears. "Oh,
how you ought to hate me. Oh, I wish we had never seen each other. I
wish I had been dead before I brought you all this trouble. Richard, do
look at me--do speak to me. Don't you believe that I am sorry? Don't you
know I will do anything you want me to?"
He seemed to try to speak--moved a little, as a person in pain might do,
but, bending his head a little lower on his hand, was silent still.
"Richard," I said, after several moments' silence, speaking
thoughtfully--"it has all come to me at last. I begin to see what you
have been to me always, and how badly I have treated you. But it must
have been because I was very young, and did not think. I am sure my
heart was not so bad, and I mean to be different now. You know I have
not had any one to teach me. Will you let me try and make you happy?"
"No, Pauline," he said at last, speaking with effort. "It is all over
now, and we will never talk of it again."
I was silent for many minutes--standing before him with irresolution.
"If it was right for me to marry you before," I said at last, "Why is it
not right now, if I mean to do my duty?"
"No, it is no longer right, if it ever was," he answered. "I will not
take advantage of your sense of duty now, as I was going to take
advantage of your necessity before. No, you are free, and it is all
at an end."
"You are unjust to yourself. You were not taking advantage of my
necessity. You were saving me, and I am ashamed of myself when I think
of everything. Oh, Richard, where did you learn to be so good!"
A spasm of pain crossed his face, and he turned away from me.
"If you give me up," I said timidly, "who will take care of me?"
"There will be plenty now," he answered bitterly.
"There wasn't anybody yesterday."
"But there will be to-morrow. No, Pauline," he said, lifting his head
and speaking in a firmer voice, "What I thought I was doing, till this
showed me my heart, and how I had deceived myself, I will do now, even
if it kills me. I thought I was acting for your good, and from a sense
of duty: now that I know what is for your good, and what is my duty, I
will go on in that, and nothing shall turn me from it, so help
"At least you will forgive me," I said, with tears, "for all the things
that I have made you suffer."
"Yes," he said, with some emotion, "I shall forgive you sooner than I
shall forgive myself. I cannot see that you have been to blame."
"Ah," I cried, hiding my face with shame, when I thought of all my
selfishness and indifference, and the return I had made him for his
devoted love. "I know how I have been to blame; and I am going to pay
you for your goodness and care by breaking your heart for you--by
upsetting all your plans. Oh, Richard! You had better let it all go on!
Think how everybody knows about it!"
He shook his head. "I don't care a straw for that," he said. And I am
sure he did not.
"No," he said firmly, getting up, and walking up and down the room; "it
is all over, and we must make the best of it. I shall still have
everything to do for you under the will; and while you mustn't expect me
to see you often, just for the present time, at least, you know I shall
do everything as faithfully as if nothing had occurred. You must write
to me whenever you think my judgment or advice would do you any good.
And I shall be always looking after things that you don't understand,
and taking care of your interests, whether you hear from me or not.
You'll always be sure of that, whatever may occur."
"Oh," I faltered, with a sudden frightened feeling of loneliness and
loss, in the midst of my new freedom, "I can't feel as if it were
"I don't know how this terrible mistake about the will occurred," he
went on, without noticing what I said: "it was only a--mercy that I
found it when I did. It was between the leaves of a book, an old volume
of Tacitus; I took it down to look at the title for the inventory, and
it fell out."
"That was the book he had in his hand when I saw him last, that night
before he died."
"Yes? Then after you went up-stairs I suppose he was thinking of you,
and he took out the will to read it over, and maybe left it out, meaning
to lock it up again in the morning."
"And in the morning he was not well," I said, "and perhaps went away
leaving it lying on the book; I remember, Ann said there were several
papers lying on the table, when she arranged the room."
"No doubt," said Richard, "she shut it up in the book it laid on, and
put it on the shelf. But it is all one how it came about. The will is
all correct and duly executed. One of the witnesses was a clerk, who
returned yesterday from South America, where he had been gone for
several months. The other is lying ill at his home in Westchester, but I
have sent to-day and had his deposition taken. It is all in order, and
there can be no dispute."
I think at that moment I should have been glad if it had been found
invalid. There was something so inevitable and final in Richard's plain
and practical words.
Evidently a great change had come in my life, and I could not help it if
I would. I could not but feel the separation from the person upon whom I
had leaned so long, and who had done everything for me, and I knew this
separation was to be a final one; Richard's words left no doubt of that.
"What you'd better do," he said, leaning by the mantelpiece, "is to tell
the servants about this--this--change in your plans, to-morrow; unpack,
and settle the house to stay here for the present. In the course of a
couple of months it will be time enough to make up your mind about where
you will live. I think, till the will is admitted and all that, you had
better keep things as they are, and make no change."
He had been so used to thinking for me, that he could not give it up at
once. "I will tell Sophie to-morrow," he went on. "It will not be
necessary for you to see her if she should come before she hears of it
from me." (Sophie had an engagement with me to go out on the following
morning. He seemed to to have forgotten nothing.)
"What will Sophie think of me?" I said, with my eyes on the floor.
"Richard, it looks very bad for me; when I was poor, I was going to
marry you, and now that I have money left me, I am going to break
"What difference does it make how it looks," he said, "when you know you
have done right? I will tell Sophie the truth, that it was my doing both
times, and that you only yielded to my judgment in the matter. Besides,
if she judges you harshly, it need not make much matter to you. You will
never again be thrown intimately with her, I suppose."
"No, I suppose not," I said faintly. I was being turned out of my world
very fast, and it was not very clear what I was going to get in exchange
for it (except freedom).
"I will send you up money to-morrow morning," he went on, "to pay the
servants, and all that. The clerk I shall send it by, is the one that I
shall put in charge of your matters. You can always draw on him for
money, or ask him any questions, or call on him for any service, in case
I should be away, or ill, or anything."
"You are going away?" I said interrogatively.
"It is possible, for a while--I don't know. I haven't made up my mind
definitely about what I am going to do. But in case I _should_ be away,
I mean, you are to call on him."
"Anything he tells you, about signing papers, and such things, you may
be sure is all right."
"But don't do anything, without consulting me, for anybody else,
"I'll remember," I said absently and humbly. It was no wonder Richard
felt I needed somebody to take care of me!
"I believe there's nothing else I wanted to say to you," he said at
last, moving from the mantelpiece where he had been standing; "at least,
nothing that I can't write about, when it occurs to me."
"Oh, Richard!" I said, beginning to cry again, as I knew that the moment
of parting had come, "I don't understand you at all. I think you take it
"Isn't that the way to take it?" he said, in a voice that was,
certainly, very calm indeed.
I looked up in his face: he was ten years older. I really was frightened
at the change in him.
"Oh!" I exclaimed, putting my face down in my hands, "I wasn't worth
all I've made you suffer."
"Maybe you weren't," he said simply, "But it wasn't either your fault or
mine--and you couldn't help it--that I wanted you."
He made a quick movement as he passed the table, and my work-basket fell
at his feet, and a little jewel-box rolled across the floor. It was a
ring he had brought me, only three days before.
He stooped to pick it up, and I saw his features contract as if in pain,
as he laid it back upon the table. And his voice was unsteady, as he
said, not looking at me while he spoke, "I hope you won't send any of
these things back. If there's anything you're willing to keep, because I
gave it to you, I'd like it very much. The rest send to your church, or
somewhere. I don't want to have to look at them again."
By this time I was sobbing, and, sitting down by the table, had buried
my face on my arms.
"I'm sorry that it makes you feel so," he said, "but it can't be helped.
Don't cry, I can't bear to see you cry. Good-bye, Pauline; God
And he was gone. I did not realize it, and did not lift my head, till I
heard the heavy sound of the outer door closing after him.
Then I knew it was all over, and that things were changed for me
"I cannot cry and get over it as you can," he had said.
And if tears would have got me over it, I should have been cured that
MY NEW WORLD.
Few are the fragments left of follies past;
For worthless things are transient. Those that last
Have in them germs of an eternal spirit,
And out of good their permanence inherit.
Nor they unblest,
Who underneath the world's bright vest
With sackcloth tame their aching breast,
The sharp-edged cross in jewels hide.
From eighteen to twenty-four--a long step; and it covers the ground that
is generally the brightest and gayest in a woman's life, and the most
decisive. With me it was, in a certain sense, bright and gay; but the
deciding events of my life seemed to have been crowded into the year,
the story of which has just been told. Of the six years that came after,
there is not much to tell. My character went on forming itself, no
doubt, and interiorly I was growing in one direction or the other; but
in external matters, there is not much of interest.
I had "no end of money," so it seemed to me, and to a good many other
people, I should think, from the way that they paid me court. I don't
see why it did not turn my head, except that I was what they call
religious, and dreadfully afraid of doing wrong. I was not my own
mistress exactly, either, for I had some one to direct my conscience,
though that was the only direction that I ever had. I had not the
smallest restriction as to money from Richard (to whom the estate was
left in trust); and it had been found much to exceed his expectations,
or those of anybody else.
I had the whole world before me, where to go and what to choose; not
very much stability of character, and the greatest ignorance; a
considerable share of good looks, and the love of pleasure inseparable
from youth and health; absolutely no authority, and any amount of
flattery and temptation. I think it must be agreed, it was a happy thing
for me that I was brought under the influence of Sister Madeline, and
that through her I was made to feel most afraid of sin, and of myself;
and that the life within, the growth in grace, and the keeping clear my
conscience, was made to appear of more consequence than the life
without, that was so full of pleasures and of snares.
I often think now of the obedience with which I would give up a party,
stay at home alone, and read a good book, because I had been advised to
do it, or because it was a certain day; of the simplicity with which I
would pat away a novel, when its interest was at the height, because it
was the hour for me to read something different, or because it was
Friday, or because I was to learn to give up doing what I wanted to.
These things, trivial in themselves, and never bound upon my conscience,
only offered as advice, had the effect of breaking up the constant
influence of the world, giving me a little time for thought, and
opportunity for self-denial. I cannot help thinking such things are very
useful for young persons, and particularly those who have only ordinary
force and resolution. At least, I think they were made a means of
security to me. I was so in earnest to do right, that I often thought,
in terror for myself, in the midst of alluring pleasures and delights,
it was a pity they had not let me be a Sister when I wanted to at first.
(I really think I had more vocation than they thought: I could have
_given up_, to the end of life, without a murmur, if that is what is
necessary.) As to the people who wanted to marry me, I did not care for
any of them, and seemed to have much less coquetry than of old. They
simply did not interest me, (of course, in a few years, I had outgrown
the love that I had supposed to be so immortal.) It was very pleasant to
be always attended to, and to have more constant homage than any other
young woman whom I saw. But as to liking particularly any of the men
themselves, it never occurred to me to think of it.
I was placed by my fortunate circumstances rather above the intrigue,
and detraction, and heart-burning, that attends the social struggle for
life in ordinary cases. If I were envied, I did not know it, and I had
small reason to envy anybody else, being quite the queen.
I enjoyed above measure, the bright and pleasant things that I had at my
command: the sunny rooms of my pretty house: the driving, the sailing,
the dancing: all that charms a healthy young taste, and is innocent. I
took journeys, with the ecstasy of youth and of good health. I never
shall forget the pleasure of certain days and skies, and the enjoyment
that I had in nature. In society, I had a little more weariness, as I
grew older, and found a certain want of interest, as was inevitable.
Society isn't all made up of clever people, and even clever people get
to be tiresome in the course of time. But at twenty-four I was by no
means _blase_, only more addicted to books and journeys, and less
enthusiastic about parties and croquet, though these I could enjoy a
I had a pretty house (and re-furnished it very often, which always gave
me pleasure). I had no care, for Richard had arranged that I should have
a very excellent sort of person for duenna, who had a good deal of tact,
and didn't bore me, and was shrewd enough to make things very smooth. I
liked her very much, though I think now she was something of a
hypocrite. But she had enough principle to make things very respectable,
and I never took her for a friend. We had very pretty little dinners,
and little evenings when anybody wanted them, though the house wasn't
very large. My duenna (by name Throckmorton) liked journeys as well as I
did, and never objected to going anywhere. Altogether we were very
The people whom I had known in that first year of my social existence,
had drifted away from me a good deal in this new life. Sophie I could
not help meeting sometimes, for she was still a gay woman, but I
naturally belonged to a younger set, and did not go very long into
general society. We still disliked each other with the cordiality of our
first acquaintance, but I was very sorry for it, and had a great many
repentances about it after every meeting. Kilian I met a good deal, but
we rather avoided each other, at short range, though exceedingly good
friends to the general observation.
Mary Leighton I seldom saw; no doubt she was consumed with envy when she
heard of me, for they were poor, and not able to keep up with gay life
as would have pleased her. She still maintained her intimacy with
Kilian, for he had not the resolution to break off a flirtation of
which, I was sure, he must be very tired.
Henrietta had married very well, two years after I saw her at R----, and
was the staid, placid matron that she was always meant to be.
Charlotte Benson was the clever woman still: a little stronger-minded,
and no less good-looking than of old, and no more. People were beginning
to say that she would not marry, though she was only twenty-six. She did
not go much to parties, and was not in my set. She affected art and
lectures, and excursions to mountains, and campings-out, and
unconventionalities, and no doubt had a good time in her way. But it was
not my way: and so we seldom met. When we did, she did not show much
more respect for me than of old, which always had the effect of making
me feel angry.
And as for Richard, we could not have been much further apart, if he
had lived "in England and I at Rotterdam." For a year, while he was
settling up the estate, he was closely in the city. I did not see him
more than once or twice, all business being transacted through his
lawyer, and the clerk of whom he had spoken to me. After the business
matters of the estate were all in order, he went away, intending, I
believe, to stay a year or two. But he came back before many months were
over, and settled down into the routine of business life, which now
seemed to have become necessary to him.
Travel was only a weariness to him in his state of mind; and work, and
city-life, seemed the panacea. He did not live with Sophie, but took
apartments, which he furnished plainly; and seemed settling down,
according to his brother, into much of the sort of life that Uncle
Leonard had led so many years in Varick-street.
Sophie still went to R----, and I often heard of the pleasant parties
there in summer. But Richard seldom went, and seemed to have lost his
interest in the place, though I have no doubt he spent more money on it
than before. I heard of many improvements every year.
And Richard was now a man of wealth, so much so that people talked about
him; and the newspapers said, in talking about real-estate, or
investments, or institutions of charity--"When such men as Richard
Vandermarck allow their names to appear, we may be sure," etc., etc. He
was now the head of the firm, and one of the first business men of the
city. He seemed a great deal older than he was; thirty-seven is young to
occupy the place he held.
Such a _parti_ could not be let alone entirely. His course was certainly
discouraging, and it needs tough hopes to live on nothing. But stranger
things had happened; more obdurate men had yielded; and unappropriated
loveliness hoped on. The story of an early attachment was afloat in
connection with his name. I don't know whether I was made to play a part
in it or not.
I saw him, perhaps, twice a year, not oftener. His manner was always, to
me, peculiarly grave and kind; to every one, practical and unpretending.
I had many letters from him, particularly when I was away on journeys.
He seemed always to want to know exactly where I was, and to feel a care
of me, though his letters never went beyond business matters, and advice
about things I did not understand.
As my guardian, he could not have done less, nor was it necessary that
he should do more; still I often wished it would occur to him to come
and see me oftener, and give me an opportunity of showing him how much
I had improved, and how different I had become. I had the greatest
respect for his opinion; and he had grown, unconsciously to myself, to
be a sort of oracle with me, and a sort of hero, too.
I was apt to compare other men with him, and they fell very far short of
his measure in my eyes. That may have been because I saw him much too
seldom, and the other men much too often.
BIEN PERDU, BIEN CONNU.
Keep, therefore, a true woman's eye,
And love me still, but know not why;
So hast thou the same reason still
To doat upon me ever!
"It's very nice to be at home again," I said to Mrs. Throckmorton, as I
broke a great lump of coal in pieces, and watched the flames
"Yes," said Mrs. Throckmorton, putting another piece of sugar in her
coffee, for she was still at the table. "That is, if you call this home;
I must confess it doesn't feel so to me altogether."
"Well, it's our own dear, noisy, raging, racketing, bustling old city,
if it isn't our own house, and I'm sure we're very comfortable."
"Very," said Mrs. Throckmorton, who was always pleased.
"Every time I hear the tinkle of a car-bell, or the roar of an omnibus,
I feel a thrill of pleasure," I said; "I never was so glad to get
"That's something new, isn't it?" said Mrs. Throckmorton, briefly.
"I don't know; I think I am always glad to get back home."
"And very glad to go away again too, my dear."
"I don't think I shall travel any more," I returned. "The fact is, I am
getting too old to care about it, I believe."
Mrs. Throckmorton laughed, being considerably over forty, and still as
fond of going about as ever.
We were only _de retour_ two days. We had started eighteen months ago,
for at least three years in Europe, and I had found myself unaccountably
tired of it at the end of a year and a half; and here we were.
Our house was rented, but that I had not allowed to be any obstacle,
though Mrs. Throckmorton, who was very well satisfied with the easy life
abroad, had tried to make it so. I had secured apartments which were
very pretty and complete. We had found them in order, and we had come
there from the steamer. I was eminently happy at being where I wanted
"How odd it seems to be in town and have nobody know it," I said,
thinking, with a little quiet satisfaction, how pleased several people I
could name would be, if they only knew we were so near them.
"Nobody but Mr. Vandermarck, I suppose," said Mrs. Throckmorton.
"Not even he," I answered, "for he can't have got my letter yet; it was
only mailed the day we started. It was only a chance, you know, our
getting those staterooms, and we were in such a hurry. I was so much
obliged to that dear, old German gentleman for dying. We shouldn't have
been here if he hadn't."
"Pauline, my dear!"
"Well, I can't think, as he's probably in heaven, that he can have
begrudged us his tickets to New York."
"I should think not," said Mrs. Throckmorton, with a little sigh. For
New York was not heaven to her, and she had spent a good deal of the day
in looking up the necessary servants for our establishment, which,
little as it was, required just double the number that had made us
She had too much discretion to trouble me with her cares, however, so
she said cheerfully, after a few moments, by way of diverting my mind
and her own--
"Well, I heard some news to-day."
"Ah!"--(I had been unpacking all day; and Mrs. Throckmorton in the
interval of servant-hunting had not been able to refrain from a visit or
two, _en passant_ to dear friends.)
"Yes: Kilian Vandermarck was married yesterday."
"Yesterday! how odd. And pray, who has he married? Not Mary Leighton, I
"Leighton. Yes, that's the name. No money, and a little _passe_.
"Well, he deserves it. That is even-handed justice, I'm not sorry for
him. He's been trifling all his days, and now he's got his punishment.
It serves Sophie right, too. I know she can't endure her. She never
thought there was the slightest danger. But I'm sorry for Richard, that
he's got to have such a girl related to him."
"Oh, well," said Mrs. Throckmorton, "I don't know whether that'll affect
him very much, for they say he's going to be married too."
"Yes; and to that Benson girl, you know."
"Who told you?"
"Mary Ann. She's heard it half a dozen times, she says. I believe it's
rather an old affair. His sister made it up, I'm told. The young lady's
been spending the summer with them, and this autumn it came out."
"I don't believe it."
"I'm sure I don't know; only that's the talk. It would be odd, though,
if we'd just come home in time for the wedding. You'll have to give her
something handsome, being your guardian, and all."
I wouldn't give her anything, and she shouldn't marry Richard, I
thought, as I leaned back in my chair and looked into the fire; a great
silence having fallen on us since the delivery of that piece of news.
I said I didn't believe it, and yet I'm afraid I did. It was so like a
man to give in at last; at least, like any man but Richard. He had
always liked Charlotte Benson, and known how clever she was, and Sophie
had been so set upon it, (particularly since Richard had had so much
money that he had given her a handsome settlement that nothing would
affect.) And now that Kilian was married and would have the place,
unless Richard wanted it, it was natural that Sophie should approve
Richard having _his_ wife there instead of Kilian having his; Kilian's
being one that nobody particularly approved.
Yes, it did sound very much like probability. I wasn't given to
self-analysis; but I acknowledged to myself, that I was very much
disappointed, and that if I had known that this was going to happen, I
should have stayed in Europe.
I had never felt as if there were any chance of Richard marrying any
one; I had not said to myself, that his love for me still had an
existence, nor had I any reason to believe it. But the truth had been,
I had always felt that he belonged to me, and was my right, and I felt a
bitter resentment toward this woman, who was supposed to have usurped my
place. How _dared_ Richard love anybody else! I was angry with him, and
very much hurt, and very, very unhappy.
Long after Mrs. Throckmorton went to her middle-aged repose, I sat up
and went through imaginary scenes, and reviewed the situation a hundred
times, and tried to convince myself of what I wanted to believe, and
ended without any satisfaction.
One thing was certain. If Richard was going to marry Charlotte Benson,
he was not going to do it because he loved her. He might not be
prevented from doing it because he loved me; but he did not love her. I
could not say why exactly. But I knew she was not the kind of woman for
him to think of loving, and I would not believe it till I heard it from
himself, and I would hear it from himself at the earliest possible date.
I did not like to be unhappy, and was very impatient to get rid of this,
if it were not true, and to know the worst, at once, if it were.
"My dear Throcky," I said to my companion, at the breakfast-table, "I
think you'd better go and take dinner with your niece to-day. I've sent
for Mr. Vandermarck to come and dine, and I thought perhaps you'd
rather not be bored; we shall have business to talk about, and business
is such a nuisance when you're not interested in it."
"Very well, my dear," said Mrs. Throckmorton, with indestructible
"Or you might have a headache, if you'd rather, and I'll send your
dinner up to you. I'll be sure Susan takes you everything that's nice."
"Well, then, I think I'll have a headache; I'm afraid I'd rather have it
than one of Mary Ann's poor dinners. (I'd be sure of one to-morrow if
"Paris things have spoiled you, I'm afraid," I said. "Only see that I
have something nice for Richard, won't you?--How do you think the cook
is going to do?" This was the first sign of interest I had given in the
matter of _menage_; by which it will be seen I was still a little
selfish, and not very wise. But Throckmorton was a person to cultivate
my selfishness, and there had not been much to develop the wisdom of
She promised me a very pretty dinner, no matter at what trouble, and
made me feel quite easy about her wounded feelings. One of the best
features of Throckmorton was, she hadn't any feelings; you might treat
her like a galley-slave, and she would show the least dejection. It was
a temptation to have such a person in the house.
I had sent a note to Richard which contained the following:
"I am sure you will be surprised to know we have returned.
But the fact is, I got very tired of Italy; and we were
disappointed in the apartments we wanted in Berlin, and some
of the people we expected to have with us had to give it up,
and altogether it seemed dull, and we thought it would be
just as pleasant to come home. We were able to get staterooms
that just suited us, and it didn't seem worth while to lose
them by waiting to send word. We had a very comfortable
voyage, and I am glad to find myself at home, though Mrs.
Throckmorton doesn't think the rooms are very nice. I want to
know if you won't come to dinner. We dine at six. Send a line
back by the boy. I want to ask you about some
And I had received for answer:
"MY DEAR PAULINE:
"Of course I am astonished to think you are at home. I
enclosed you several letters by the steamer yesterday, none
of them of any very great importance, though, I think. I will
come up at six.
"P.S. I am very glad you wanted to come home."
I read this letter over a great many times, but it did not enlighten me
at all as to his intentions about marrying Charlotte Benson. It was very
matter-of-fact, but that Richard's letters always were. Evidently he had
thought the same of it himself, as he read it over, and had added the
postscript. But that did not seem very enthusiastic. Altogether I was
not happy, waiting for six o'clock to come.
Time and chance are but a tide,
Slighted love is sair to bide.
The dining-room and parlor of our little suite adjoined; the door was
standing open between them, as I walked up and down the parlor, waiting
nervously for Richard to arrive. The fire was bright, and the only light
in the parlor was a soft, pretty lamp, which we had brought from Italy.
There were flowers on the table, and in two or three vases, and the
curtains were pretty, and there were several large mirrors. Outside, it
was the twilight of a dark autumnal day; almost night already, and the
lamps were lit. It lacked several minutes of six when Richard came. I
felt very much agitated when he entered the room. It was a year and a
half since I had seen him: besides, this piece of news! But he looked
just the same as ever, and I had not the self-possession to note whether
he seemed agitated at meeting me. I do not know exactly what we talked
about for the first few moments, probably I was occupied in trying to
excuse myself for coming home so suddenly, for I found Richard was not
altogether pleased at not having been informed, and thought there must
be something yet to tell. He was not used to feminine caprice, and I
began to feel a good deal ashamed of myself. I had to remind myself,
more than once, that I was not responsible to any one.
"I just felt like it," was such a very weak explanation to offer to this
grave business-man, for disarranging two years of carefully-laid plans.
I found I was getting to be a little afraid of Richard: we had been so
long apart, and he had grown so much older.
"I hope, at least, you are not going to scold me for it," I said at
last, with a little laugh, feeling that was my best way out of it. "I
shall think you are not glad, to see me."
"I am glad to see you," he said, gravely; "and as to scolding, it's so
long since you've given me an opportunity, I should not know how to
go to work."
"Do you mean, because I've been away so long, or because I've been so
Susan, who had been watching her opportunity, now appeared in the
dining-room door, and said that dinner was on the table.
Richard asked for Mrs. Throckmorton when we sat down to dinner. I told
him she was dining with her niece. (She had reconsidered the question of
the headache, and had gone to hear more news.) The dinner was very nice,
and very nicely served; but somehow, Richard did not seem to enjoy it
very much, that is, not as I had been in the habit lately of seeing men
enjoy their meals.
"I am afraid you are getting like Uncle Leonard, and only care about
Wall-street," I said. "I shouldn't wonder if you forgot to order your
dinner half the time, and took the same thing for breakfast every
morning in the year."
"That's just exactly how it is," he said. "If Sophie did not come down
to my quarters every week or two, and regulate affairs a little, I don't
know where I should be, in the matter of my dinners."
"How is Sophie?" I said.
"Very well. I saw her yesterday. I went to put Charley in College for
"I can't think of Charley as a young man."
"Yes, Charley is a strapping fellow, within two inches of my height."
"Impossible! And where is Benny?"
"At school here in town. His mother will not let him go to
boarding-school. He is a nice boy: I think there's more in him
"And I hear Kilian is married!"
"Yes. Kilian is married--the very day you landed, too."
"Well," I said, with a little dash of temper, "I'm very sorry for you
all. I did not think Kilian was going to be so foolish."
"He thinks he's very wise, though, all the same," said Richard, with a
smile, which turned into a sigh before he had done speaking.
"I do dislike her so," I exclaimed, warmly. "There isn't an honest or
straightforward thing about her. She is weak, too; her only strength is
her suppleness and cunning."
"I know you never liked her," said Richard, gravely; "but I hope you'll
try to think better of her now."
"I hope I shall never have to see her," I answered, with angry warmth.
Richard was silent, and I was very much ashamed of myself a moment
after. I had meant him to see how much improved I was, and how well
disciplined. This was a pretty exhibition! I had not spoken so of any
one for a year, at least. I colored with mortification and penitence.
Richard evidently saw it, and felt sorry for me, for he said,
"I can understand exactly how you feel, Pauline. This marriage is a
great trial to me. I have done all I could to keep Kilian from throwing
himself away, but I might as well have argued with the winds."
"I don't care how much Kilian throws himself away," I said, impulsively.
"He deserves it for keeping around her all these years. But I do mind
that she is your sister, and that she will be mistress of the house
There was an awful silence then. Heavens! what had I been thinking about
to have said that! I had precipitated the _denouement_, and I had not
meant to. I did not want to hear it that moment, if he were going to
marry Charlotte Benson, nor did I want to hear it, if he were saving the
old place for me. I felt as if I had given the blow that would bring the
whole structure down, and I waited for the crash in frightened silence.
In the meantime the business of the table went on. I ate half a chicken
croquette, and Susan placed the salad before Richard, and another plate.
He did not speak till he had put the salad on his plate; then he said,
without looking at me, in a voice a good deal lower than was usual
"She is not to be mistress of that house. They will live in town."
Then I felt cold and chilled to my very heart; it was well that he did
not expect me to speak, for I could not have commanded my voice enough
to have concealed my agitation. I knew very well from that moment that
he was going to marry Charlotte Benson. Something that was said a little
later was a confirmation.
I had recovered myself enough to talk about ordinary things, and to keep
strictly to them, too. Richard was talking of the great heat of the past
summer. I had said it had been unparalleled in France; had he not found
it very uncomfortable here in town?
"I have been out of town so much, I can hardly say how it has been
here," he answered. "I was all of August in the country; only coming to
the city twice."
My heart sank: that was just what they had said; he had been a great
deal at home this summer, and she had been there all the time.
The dinner was becoming terribly _ennuyant_, and I wished with all my
heart Throckmorton had been contented with just half the courses.
Richard did not seem to enjoy them, and I--I was so wretched I could
scarcely say a word, much less eat a morsel. It had been a great
mistake to invite him to take dinner; it was being too familiar, when he
had put me at such a distance all these years: I wished for Mrs.
Throckmorton with all my heart. Why had I sent her off? Richard was
evidently so constrained, and it was in such bad taste to have asked him
here; it could not help putting thoughts in both our minds, sitting
alone at a table opposite each other, as we should have been sitting
daily if that horrid will had not been found. He had dined with us just
twice before, but that was at dinner-parties, when there had been ever
so many people between us, and when I had not said six words to him
during the whole evening.
The only excuse I could offer, and that he could understand, would be
that I wanted to talk business to him; I had said in my note that I
wanted to consult him about something, and I must keep that in mind. I
had wanted to ask him about a house I thought of buying, adjoining the
Sisters' Hospital, to enlarge their work; but I was so wicked and
worldly, I felt just then as if I did not care whether they had a house
or not, or whether they did any work. However, I resolved to speak about
it, when we had got away from the table, if we ever did.
Susan kept bringing dish after dish.
"Oh, we don't want any of that!" I exclaimed, at last, impatiently; "do
take it away, and tell them to send in the coffee."
I was resolved upon one thing: Richard should tell me of his engagement
before he went away; it would be dishonorable and unkind if he did not,
and I should make him do it. I was not quite sure that I had
self-control enough not to show how it made me feel, when it came to
hearing it all in so many words. But in very truth, I had not much pride
as regarded him; I felt so sore-hearted and unhappy, I did not care much
whether he knew it or suspected it.
I could not help remembering how little concealment he had made of his
love for me, even when he knew that all the heart I had was given to
another. I would be very careful not to precipitate the disclosure,
however, while we sat at table; it is so disagreeable to talk to any one
on an agitating subject _vis-a-vis_ across a little dinner-table, with a
bright light overhead, and a servant walking around, able to stop and
study you from any point she pleases.
Coffee came at last, though even that, Susan was unwilling to look upon
as the legitimate finale, and had her views about liqueur, instructed by
Throckmorton. But I cut it short by getting up and saying, "I'm sure
you'll be glad to go into the parlor; it gets warm so soon in these
The parlor was very cool and pleasant; a window had been open, and the
air was fresh, and the flowers were delicious, and the lamp was softer
and pleasanter than the gas. I went to break up the coal and make the
fire blaze, and Richard to shut the window down.
When I had pulled a chair up to the fire and seated myself, he stood
leaning on the mantelpiece, on the other side from me. I felt sure he
meant to go, the minute that he could get away--a committee meeting, no
doubt, or some such nauseous fraud. But he should not go away until he
had told me, that was certain.
"What is it that you wanted to ask me about, Pauline?" he said, rather
My heart gave a great thump; how could he have known? Oh, it was the
business that I had spoken of in my stupid note. Yes; and I began to
explain to him what I wanted to do about the hospital.
He looked infinitely relieved. I believe he had an idea it was something
very different. My explanation could not have added much to his
reverence for my business ability. I was very indefinite, and could not
tell him whether it was hundreds or thousands that I meant.
He said, with a smile, he thought it must be thousands, as city property
was so very high. He was very kind, however, about the matter, and did
not discourage me at all. He always seemed to approve of my desire to
give away in charity, and, within bounds, always furthered such plans of
doing good. He said he would look into it, and would write me word next
week what his impression was; and then, I think, he meant to go away.
Then I began talking on every subject I could think of, hoping some of
the roads would lead to Rome. But none of them led there, and I was
"Oh, don't you want to look at some photographs?" I said, at last,
thinking I saw an opening for my wedge. I got the package, and he came
to the table and looked at them, standing up. They were naturally of
much more interest to me than to him, being of places and people with
which I had so lately been familiar.
But he looked at them very kindly, and asked a good many questions about
"Look at this," I said, handing him an Antwerp peasant-woman in her
hideous bonnet. "Isn't that ridiculously like Charlotte Benson? I bought
it because it was so singular a resemblance."
"It is like her," he said, thoughtfully, looking at it long. "The mouth
is a little larger and the eyes further apart. But it is a most striking
likeness. It might almost have been taken for her."
"How is she, and when have you seen her?" I said, a little choked for
"She is very well. I saw her yesterday," he answered, still looking at
the little picture.
"Was she with Sophie this summer?"
"Yes, for almost two months."
"I hope she doesn't keep everybody in order as sharply as she used to?"
I said, with a bitter little laugh.
"I don't know," he said. "I think, perhaps, she is rather less decided
than she used to be."
"Oh, you call it decision, do you? Well, I'm glad I know what it is. I
used to think it hadn't such a pretty name as that."
Richard looked grave; it certainly was not a graceful way to lead up to
"But then, you always liked her," I said.
"Yes, I always liked her," he answered, simply.
"I'm afraid I'm not very amiable," I retorted, "for I never liked her:
no better even than that fraudulent Mary Leighton, clever and sensible
as she always was. There is such a thing as being too clever, and too
sensible, and making yourself an offence to all less admirable people."
Richard was entirely silent, and, I was sure, was disapproving of me
"Do you know what I heard yesterday?" I said, In a daring way. "And I
hope you're going to tell me if it's true, to-night?"
"What was it that you heard yesterday?" he asked, without much change of
tone. He had laid down the photograph, and had gone back, and was
leaning by the mantelpiece again.
"Why, I heard that you were going to marry Charlotte Benson. Is it
I had pushed away the pile of photographs from me, and had looked up at
him when I began, but my voice and courage rather failed before the end,
and my eyes fell. There was a silence--a silence that seemed to
"Why do you ask me that question?" he said, at last, in a low voice. "Do
you believe I am, yourself?"
"No," I cried, springing up, and going over to his side. "No, I don't
believe it. Tell me it isn't true, and promise me you won't ever, ever
marry Charlotte Benson."
The relief was so unspeakable that I didn't care what I said, and the
joy I felt showed itself in my face and voice. I put out my hand to him
when I said "promise me," but he did not take it, and turned his head
away from me.
"I shall not marry Charlotte Benson," he said; "but I cannot understand
what difference it makes to you."
It was now my turn to be silent, and I shrank back a step or two in
He raised his head, and looked steadily at me for a moment, and then
"Pauline, you did a great many things, but I don't think you ever
willingly deceived me. Did you?"
I shook my head without looking lip.
"Then be careful what you do now, and let the past alone," he said, and
his voice was almost stern.
I trembled, and turned pale.
"Women sometimes play with dangerous weapons," he said; "I don't accuse
you of meaning to give pain, but only of forgetting that some
recollections are not to you what they are to me. I never want to
interfere with any one's comfort or enjoyment; I only want to be let
alone. I do very well, and am not unhappy. About marrying, now or ever,
I should have thought you would have known. But let me tell you once for
all: I haven't any thought of it, and shall not ever have. It is not
that I am holding to any foolish hopes. It would be exactly the same if
you were married, or had died. It simply isn't in my nature to feel the
same way a second time. People are made differently, that is all. I'm
very well contented, and you need never let it worry you."
He was very pale now, and his eyes had an expression I had never seen in
"Richard," I said, faintly, "I never _have_ deceived you: believe me now
when I tell you, I am sorry from my heart for all that's past."
"You told me so before, and I did forgive you. I forgave you fully, and
have never had a thought that wasn't kind."
"I know it," I said. "But you do not trust me--you don't ever come near
me, or want to see me."
"You do not know what you are talking of," he answered, turning from me.
"I forgive you anything you may have done at any time to give me pain. I
will do everything I can to serve you, in every way I can; only do not
stir up the past, and let me forget the little of it that I can forget."
I burst into tears, and put my hands before my face.
"What is it?" he said, uneasily. "You need not be troubled about me."
Seeing that I did not stop, he said again, "Tell me: is it that that
I shook my head.
"What is it, then? Something that I do not know about? Pauline, you are
unhappy, and yet you've everything in the world to make you happy. I
often think, there are not many women have as much."
"The poorest of them are better off than I," I said, without raising my
"Then you are ungrateful," he said, "for you have youth, and health, and
money, and everybody likes you. You could choose from all the world."
"No, I couldn't," I exclaimed, like a child; "and everybody doesn't like
me,"--and then I cried again, for I was really in despair, and thought
he meant to put me away, memory and all.
"Well, if that's your trouble," he said, with a sigh, "I suppose I
cannot help you; but I'm very sorry."
"Yes, you _can_ help me," I cried imploringly, forgetting all I ought to
have remembered; "if you only would forgive me, really and in earnest,
and be friends again--and let me try--" and I covered my face with
"Pauline," he said, standing by my side, and his voice almost frightened
me, it was so strong with feeling; "is this a piece of sentiment? Do you
mean anything? Or am I to be trifled with again?"
He took hold of my wrists with both his hands, with such force as to
give me pain, and drew them from my face.
"Look at me," he said, "and tell me what you mean; and decide
now--forever and forever. For this is the last time that you will have a
chance to say."
"It's all very well," I said, trying to turn my face away from him.
"It's all very well to talk about loving me yet, and being just the
same; but this isn't the way you used to talk, and I think it's
"That isn't answering me," he said, holding me closer to him.
"What shall I say," I whispered, hiding my face upon his arm. "Nothing
will ever satisfy you."
"Nothing ever _has_ satisfied me," he said, "--before."