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The Ancestral Footstep (fragment) by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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With An Appendix Containing




* * * * *




"Septimius Felton" was the outgrowth of a project, formed by Hawthorne
during his residence in England, of writing a romance, the scene of which
should be laid in that country; but this project was afterwards
abandoned, giving place to a new conception in which the visionary search
for means to secure an earthly immortality was to form the principal
interest. The new conception took shape in the uncompleted "Dolliver
Romance." The two themes, of course, were distinct, but, by a curious
process of thought, one grew directly out of the other: the whole history
constitutes, in fact, a chapter in what may be called the genealogy of a
romance. There remained, after "Septimius Felton" had been published,
certain manuscripts connected with the scheme of an English story. One of
these manuscripts was written in the form of a journalized narrative; the
author merely noting the date of what he wrote, as he went along. The
other was a more extended sketch, of much greater bulk, and without date,
but probably produced several years later. It was not originally intended
by those who at the time had charge of Hawthorne's papers that either of
these incomplete writings should be laid before the public; because they
manifestly had not been left by him in a form which he would have
considered as warranting such a course. But since the second and larger
manuscript has been published under the title of "Dr. Grimshawe's
Secret," it has been thought best to issue the present sketch, so that
the two documents may be examined together. Their appearance places in
the hands of readers the entire process of development leading to the
"Septimius" and "The Dolliver Romance." They speak for themselves much
more efficiently than any commentator can expect to do; and little,
therefore, remains to be said beyond a few words of explanation in regard
to the following pages.

The Note-Books show that the plan of an English romance, turning upon the
fact that an emigrant to America had carried away a family secret which
should give his descendant the power to ruin the family in the mother
country, had occurred to Hawthorne as early as April, 1855. In August of
the same year he visited Smithell's Hall, in Bolton le Moors, concerning
which he had already heard its legend of "The Bloody Footstep," and from
that time on, the idea of this footprint on the threshold-stone of the
ancestral mansion seems to have associated itself inextricably with the
dreamy substance of his yet unshaped romance. Indeed, it leaves its mark
broadly upon Sibyl Dacy's wild legend in "Septimius Felton," and
reappears in the last paragraph of that story. But, so far as we can know
at this day, nothing definite was done until after his departure for
Italy. It was then, while staying in Rome, that he began to put upon
paper that plot which had first occupied his thoughts three years before,
in the scant leisure allowed him by his duties at the Liverpool
consulate. Of leisure there was not a great deal at Rome, either; for, as
the "French and Italian Note-Books" show, sight-seeing and social
intercourse took up a good deal of his time, and the daily record in his
journal likewise had to be kept up. But he set to work resolutely to
embody, so far as he might, his stray imaginings upon the haunting
English theme, and to give them connected form. April 1, 1858, he began;
and then nearly two weeks passed before he found an opportunity to
resume; April 13th being the date of the next passage. By May he gets
fully into swing, so that day after day, with but slight breaks, he
carries on the story, always increasing in interest for us who read as
for him who improvised. Thus it continues until May 19th, by which time
he has made a tolerably complete outline, filled in with a good deal of
detail here and there. Although the sketch is cast in the form of a
regular narrative, one or two gaps occur, indicating that the author had
thought out certain points which he then took for granted without making
note of them. Brief scenes, passages of conversation and of narration,
follow one another after the manner of a finished story, alternating with
synopses of the plot, and queries concerning particulars that needed
further study; confidences of the romancer to himself which form
certainly a valuable contribution to literary history. The manuscript
closes with a rapid sketch of the conclusion, and the way in which it is
to be executed. Succinctly, what we have here is a romance in embryo;
one, moreover, that never attained to a viable stature and constitution.
During his lifetime it naturally would not have been put forward as
demanding public attention; and, in consideration of that fact, it has
since been withheld from the press by the decision of his daughter, in
whom the title to it vests. Students of literary art, however, and many
more general readers will, I think, be likely to discover in it a charm
all the greater for its being in parts only indicated; since, as it
stands, it presents the precise condition of a work of fiction in its
first stage. The unfinished "Grimshawe" was another development of the
same theme, and the "Septimius" a later sketch, with a new element
introduced. But the present experimental fragment, to which it has been
decided to give the title of "The Ancestral Footstep," possesses a
freshness and spontaneity recalling the peculiar fascination of those
chalk or pencil outlines with which great masters in the graphic art have
been wont to arrest their fleeting glimpses of a composition still

It would not be safe to conclude, from the large amount of preliminary
writing done with a view to that romance, that Hawthorne always adopted
this laborious mode of making several drafts of a book. On the contrary,
it is understood that his habit was to mature a design so thoroughly in
his mind before attempting to give it actual existence on paper that but
little rewriting was needed. The circumstance that he was obliged to
write so much that did not satisfy him in this case may account partly
for his relinquishing the theme, as one which for him had lost its
seductiveness through too much recasting.

It need be added only that the original manuscript, from which the
following pages are printed through the medium of an exact copy, is
singularly clear and fluent. Not a single correction occurs throughout;
but here and there a word is omitted, obviously by mere accident, and
these omissions have been supplied. The correction in each case is marked
by brackets, in this printed reproduction. The sketch begins abruptly;
but there is no reason to suppose that anything preceded it except the
unrecorded musings in the author's mind, and one or two memoranda in the
"English Note-Books." We must therefore imagine the central figure,
Middleton, who is the American descendant of an old English family, as
having been properly introduced, and then pass at once to the opening
sentences. The rest will explain itself.

G. P. L.

* * * * *




April 1, 1858. _Thursday_.--He had now been travelling long in those rich
portions of England where he would most have wished to find the object of
his pursuit; and many had been the scenes which he would willingly have
identified with that mentioned in the ancient, time-yellowed record which
he bore about with him. It is to be observed that, undertaken at first
half as the amusement, the unreal object, of a grown man's play-day, it
had become more and more real to him with every step of the way that he
followed it up; along those green English lanes it seemed as if
everything would bring him close to the mansion that he sought; every
morning he went on with renewed hopes, nor did the evening, though it
brought with it no success, bring with it the gloom and heaviness of a
real disappointment. In all his life, including its earliest and happiest
days, he had never known such a spring and zest as now filled his veins,
and gave lightsomeness to his limbs; this spirit gave to the beautiful
country which he trod a still richer beauty than it had ever borne, and
he sought his ancient home as if he had found his way into Paradise and
were there endeavoring to trace out the sight [site] of Eve's bridal
bower, the birthplace of the human race and its glorious possibilities of
happiness and high performance.

In these sweet and delightful moods of mind, varying from one dream to
another, he loved indeed the solitude of his way; but likewise he loved
the facility which his pursuit afforded him, of coming in contact with
many varieties of men, and he took advantage of this facility to an
extent which it was not usually his impulse to do. But now he came forth
from all reserves, and offered himself to whomever the chances of the way
offered to him, with a ready sensibility that made its way through every
barrier that even English exclusiveness, in whatever rank of life, could
set up. The plastic character of Middleton was perhaps a variety of
American nature only presenting itself under an individual form; he could
throw off the man of our day, and put on a ruder nature, but then it was
with a certain fineness, that made this only [a] distinction between it
and the central truth. He found less variety of form in the English
character than he had been accustomed to see at home; but perhaps this
was in consequence of the external nature of his acquaintance with it;
for the view of one well accustomed to a people, and of a stranger to
them, differs in this--that the latter sees the homogeneity, the one
universal character, the groundwork of the whole, while the former sees a
thousand little differences, which distinguish the individual men apart,
to such a degree that they seem hardly to have any resemblance among

But just at the period of his journey when we take him up, Middleton had
been for two or three days the companion of an old man who interested him
more than most of his wayside companions; the more especially as he
seemed to be wandering without an object, or with such a dreamy object as
that which led Middleton's own steps onward. He was a plain old man
enough, but with a pale, strong-featured face and white hair, a certain
picturesqueness and venerableness, which Middleton fancied might have
befitted a richer garb than he now wore. In much of their conversation,
too, he was sensible that, though the stranger betrayed no acquaintance
with literature, nor seemed to have conversed with cultivated minds, yet
the results of such acquaintance and converse were here. Middleton was
inclined to think him, however, an old man, one of those itinerants, such
as Wordsworth represented in the "Excursion," who smooth themselves by
the attrition of the world and gain a knowledge equivalent to or better
than that of books from the actual intellect of man awake and active
around them.

Often, during the short period since their companionship originated,
Middleton had felt impelled to disclose to the old man the object of his
journey, and the wild tale by which, after two hundred years, he had been
blown as it were across the ocean, and drawn onward to commence this
search. The old man's ordinary conversation was of a nature to draw forth
such a confidence as this; frequently turning on the traditions of the
wayside; the reminiscences that lingered on the battle-fields of the
Roses, or of the Parliament, like flowers nurtured by the blood of the
slain, and prolonging their race through the centuries for the wayfarer
to pluck them; or the family histories of the castles, manor-houses, and
seats which, of various epochs, had their park-gates along the roadside
and would be seen with dark gray towers or ancient gables, or more modern
forms of architecture, rising up among clouds of ancient oaks. Middleton
watched earnestly to see if, in any of these tales, there were
circumstances resembling those striking and singular ones which he had
borne so long in his memory, and on which he was now acting in so strange
a manner; but [though] there was a good deal of variety of incident in
them, there never was any combination of incidents having the peculiarity
of this.

"I suppose," said he to the old man, "the settlers in my country may have
carried away with them traditions long since forgotten in this country,
but which might have an interest and connection, and might even piece out
the broken relics of family history, which have remained perhaps a
mystery for hundreds of years. I can conceive, even, that this might be
of importance in settling the heirships of estates; but which now, only
the two insulated parts of the story being known, remain a riddle,
although the solution of it is actually in the world, if only these two
parts could he united across the sea, like the wires of an electric

"It is an impressive idea," said the old man. "Do you know any such
tradition as you have hinted at?"

_April 13th_.--Middleton could not but wonder at the singular chance that
had established him in such a place, and in such society, so strangely
adapted to the purposes with which he had been wandering through England.
He had come hither, hoping as it were to find the past still alive and in
action; and here it was so in this one only spot, and these few persons
into the midst of whom he had suddenly been cast. With these reflections
he looked forth from his window into the old-fashioned garden, and at the
stone sundial, which had numbered all the hours--all the daylight and
serene ones, at least--since his mysterious ancestor left the country.
And [is] this, then, he thought to himself, the establishment of which
some rumor had been preserved? Was it here that the secret had its
hiding-place in the old coffer, in the cupboard, in the secret chamber,
or whatever was indicated by the apparently idle words of the document
which he had preserved? He still smiled at the idea, but it was with a
pleasant, mysterious sense that his life had at last got out of the dusty
real, and that strangeness had mixed itself up with his daily experience.

With such feelings he prepared himself to go down to dinner with his
host. He found him alone at table, which was placed in a dark old room
modernized with every English comfort and the pleasant spectacle of a
table set with the whitest of napery and the brightest of glass and
china. The friendly old gentleman, as he had found him from the first,
became doubly and trebly so in that position which brings out whatever
warmth of heart an Englishman has, and gives it to him if he has none.
The impressionable and sympathetic character of Middleton answered to the
kindness of his host; and by the time the meal was concluded, the two
were conversing with almost as much zest and friendship as if they were
similar in age, even fellow-countrymen, and had known one another all
their life-time. Middleton's secret, it may be supposed, came often to
the tip of his tongue; but still he kept it within, from a natural
repugnance to bring out the one romance of his life. The talk, however,
necessarily ran much upon topics among which this one would have come in
without any extra attempt to introduce it.

"This decay of old families," said the Master, "is much greater than
would appear on the surface of things. We have such a reluctance to part
with them, that we are content to see them continued by any fiction,
through any indirections, rather than to dispense with old names. In your
country, I suppose, there is no such reluctance; you are willing that one
generation should blot out all that preceded it, and be itself the newest
and only age of the world."

"Not quite so," answered Middleton; "at any rate, if there be such a
feeling in the people at large, I doubt whether, even in England, those
who fancy themselves possessed of claims to birth, cherish them more as a
treasure than we do. It is, of course, a thousand times more difficult
for us to keep alive a name amid a thousand difficulties sedulously
thrown around it by our institutions, than for you to do, where your
institutions are anxiously calculated to promote the contrary purpose. It
has occasionally struck me, however, that the ancient lineage might often
be found in America, for a family which has been compelled to prolong
itself here through the female line, and through alien stocks."

"Indeed, my young friend," said the Master, "if that be the case, I
should like to [speak?] further with you upon it; for, I can assure you,
there are sometimes vicissitudes in old families that make me grieve to
think that a man cannot be made for the occasion."

All this while, the young lady at table had remained almost silent; and
Middleton had only occasionally been reminded of her by the necessity of
performing some of those offices which put people at table under a
Christian necessity of recognizing one another. He was, to say the truth,
somewhat interested in her, yet not strongly attracted by the neutral
tint of her dress, and the neutral character of her manners. She did not
seem to be handsome, although, with her face full before him, he had not
quite made up his mind on this point.

_April 14th_.--So here was Middleton, now at length seeing indistinctly a
thread, to which the thread that he had so long held in his hand--the
hereditary thread that ancestor after ancestor had handed down--might
seem ready to join on. He felt as if they were the two points of an
electric chain, which being joined, an instantaneous effect must follow.
Earnestly, as he would have looked forward to this moment (had he in
sober reason ever put any real weight on the fantasy in pursuit of which
he had wandered so far) he now, that it actually appeared to be realizing
itself, paused with a vague sensation of alarm. The mystery was evidently
one of sorrow, if not of crime, and he felt as if that sorrow and crime
might not have been annihilated even by being buried out of human sight
and remembrance so long. He remembered to have heard or read, how that
once an old pit had been dug open, in which were found the remains of
persons that, as the shuddering by-standers traditionally remembered, had
died of an ancient pestilence; and out of that old grave had come a new
plague, that slew the far-off progeny of those who had first died by it.
Might not some fatal treasure like this, in a moral view, be brought to
light by the secret into which he had so strangely been drawn? Such were
the fantasies with which he awaited the return of Alice, whose light
footsteps sounded afar along the passages of the old mansion; and then
all was silent.

At length he heard the sound, a great way off, as he concluded, of her
returning footstep, approaching from chamber to chamber, and along the
staircases, closing the doors behind her. At first, he paid no great
attention to the character of these sounds, but as they drew nearer, he
became aware that the footstep was unlike those of Alice; indeed, as
unlike as could be, very regular, slow, yet not firm, so that it seemed
to be that of an aged person, sauntering listlessly through the rooms. We
have often alluded to Middleton's sensitiveness, and the quick vibrations
of his sympathies; and there was something in this slow approach that
produced a strange feeling within him; so that he stood breathlessly,
looking towards the door by which these slow footsteps were to enter. At
last, there appeared in the doorway a venerable figure, clad in a rich,
faded dressing-gown, and standing on the threshold looked fixedly at
Middleton, at the same time holding up a light in his left hand. In his
right was some object that Middleton did not distinctly see. But he knew
the figure, and recognized the face. It was the old man, his long since
companion on the journey hitherward.

"So," said the old man, smiling gravely, "you have thought fit, at last,
to accept the hospitality which I offered you so long ago. It might have
been better for both of us--for all parties--if you had accepted it

"You here!" exclaimed Middleton. "And what can be your connection with
all the error and trouble, and involuntary wrong, through which I have
wandered since our last meeting? And is it possible that you even then
held the clue which I was seeking?"

"No,--no," replied Rothermel. "I was not conscious, at least, of so
doing. And yet had we two sat down there by the wayside, or on that
English stile, which attracted your attention so much; had we sat down
there and thrown forth each his own dream, each his own knowledge, it
would have saved much that we must now forever regret. Are you even now
ready to confide wholly in me?"

"Alas," said Middleton, with a darkening brow, "there are many reasons,
at this moment, which did not exist then, to incline me to hold my peace.
And why has not Alice returned?--and what is your connection with her?"

"Let her answer for herself," said Rothermel; and he called her, shouting
through the silent house as if she were at the furthest chamber, and he
were in instant need: "Alice!--Alice!--Alice!--here is one who would know
what is the link between a maiden and her father!"

Amid the strange uproar which he made Alice came flying back, not in
alarm but only in haste, and put her hand within his own. "Hush, father,"
said she. "It is not time."

Here is an abstract of the plot of this story. The Middleton who
emigrated to America, more than two hundred years ago, had been a dark
and moody man; he came with a beautiful though not young woman for his
wife, and left a family behind him. In this family a certain heirloom had
been preserved, and with it a tradition that grew wilder and stranger
with the passing generations. The tradition had lost, if it ever had,
some of its connecting links; but it referred to a murder, to the
expulsion of a brother from the hereditary house, in some strange way,
and to a Bloody Footstep which he had left impressed into the threshold,
as he turned about to make a last remonstrance. It was rumored, however,
or vaguely understood, that the expelled brother was not altogether an
innocent man; but that there had been wrong done, as well as crime
committed, insomuch that his reasons were strong that led him,
subsequently, to imbibe the most gloomy religious views, and to bury
himself in the Western wilderness. These reasons he had never fully
imparted to his family; but had necessarily made allusions to them, which
had been treasured up and doubtless enlarged upon. At last, one
descendant of the family determines to go to England, with the purpose of
searching out whatever ground there may be for these traditions, carrying
with him certain ancient documents, and other relics; and goes about the
country, half in earnest, and half in sport of fancy, in quest of the old
family mansion. He makes singular discoveries, all of which bring the
book to an end unexpected by everybody, and not satisfactory to the
natural yearnings of novel readers. In the traditions that he brought
over, there was a key to some family secrets that were still unsolved,
and that controlled the descent of estates and titles. His influence upon
these matters involves [him] in divers strange and perilous adventures;
and at last it turns out that he himself is the rightful heir to the
titles and estate, that had passed into another name within the last
half-century. But he respects both, feeling that it is better to make a
virgin soil than to try to make the old name grow in a soil that had been
darkened with so much blood and misfortune as this.

_April 27th. Tuesday_.--It was with a delightful feeling of release from
ordinary rules, that Middleton found himself brought into this connection
with Alice; and he only hoped that this play-day of his life might last
long enough to rest him from all that he had suffered. In the enjoyment
of his position he almost forgot the pursuit that occupied him, nor might
he have remembered for a long space if, one evening, Alice herself had
not alluded to it. "You are wasting precious days," she suddenly said.
"Why do not you renew your quest?"

"To what do you allude?" said Middleton, in surprise. "What object do you
suppose me to have?"

Alice smiled; nay, laughed outright. "You suppose yourself to be a
perfect mystery, no doubt," she replied. "But do not I know you--have not
I known you long--as the holder of the talisman, the owner of the
mysterious cabinet that contains the blood-stained secret?"

"Nay, Alice, this is certainly a strange coincidence, that you should
know even thus much of a foolish secret that makes me employ this little
holiday time, which I have stolen out of a weary life, in a wild-goose
chase. But, believe me, you allude to matters that are more a mystery to
me than my affairs appear to be to you. Will you explain what you would
suggest by this badinage?"

Alice shook her head. "You have no claim to know what I know, even if it
would be any addition to your own knowledge. I shall not, and must not
enlighten you. You must burrow for the secret with your own tools, in
your own manner, and in a place of your own choosing. I am bound not to
assist you."

"Alice, this is wilful, wayward, unjust," cried Middleton, with a flushed
cheek. "I have not told you--yet you know well--the deep and real
importance which this subject has for me. We have been together as
friends, yet, the instant when there comes up an occasion when the
slightest friendly feeling would induce you to do me a good office, you
assume this altered tone."

"My tone is not in the least altered in respect to you," said Alice. "All
along, as you know, I have reserved myself on this very point; it being,
I candidly tell you, impossible for me to act in your interest in the
matter alluded to. If you choose to consider this unfriendly, as being
less than the terms on which you conceive us to have stood give you a
right to demand of me--you must resent it as you please. I shall not the
less retain for you the regard due to one who has certainly befriended me
in very untoward circumstances."

This conversation confirmed the previous idea of Middleton, that some
mystery of a peculiarly dark and evil character was connected with the
family secret with which he was himself entangled; but it perplexed him
to imagine in what way this, after the lapse of so many years, should
continue to be a matter of real importance at the present day. All the
actors in the original guilt--if guilt it were--must have been long ago
in their graves; some in the churchyard of the village, with those
moss-grown letters embossing their names; some in the church itself, with
mural tablets recording their names over the family-pew, and one, it
might be, far over the sea, where his grave was first made under the
forest leaves, though now a city had grown up around it. Yet here was he,
the remote descendant of that family, setting his foot at last in the
country, and as secretly as might be; and all at once his mere presence
seemed to revive the buried secret, almost to awake the dead who partook
of that secret and had acted it. There was a vibration from the other
world, continued and prolonged into this, the instant that he stepped
upon the mysterious and haunted ground.

He knew not in what way to proceed. He could not but feel that there was
something not exactly within the limits of propriety in being here,
disguised--at least, not known in his true character--prying into the
secrets of a proud and secluded Englishman. But then, as he said to
himself on his own side of the question, the secret belonged to himself
by exactly as ancient a tenure and by precisely as strong a claim, as to
the Englishman. His rights here were just as powerful and well-founded as
those of his ancestor had been, nearly three centuries ago; and here the
same feeling came over him that he was that very personage, returned
after all these ages, to see if his foot would fit this bloody footstep
left of old upon the threshold. The result of all his cogitation was, as
the reader will have foreseen, that he decided to continue his
researches, and, his proceedings being pretty defensible, let the result
take care of itself.

For this purpose he went next day to the hospital, and ringing at the
Master's door, was ushered into the old-fashioned, comfortable library,
where he had spent that well-remembered evening which threw the first ray
of light on the pursuit that now seemed developing into such strange and
unexpected consequences. Being admitted, he was desired by the domestic
to wait, as his Reverence was at that moment engaged with a gentleman on
business. Glancing through the ivy that mantled over the window,
Middleton saw that this interview was taking place in the garden, where
the Master and his visitor were walking to and fro in the avenue of box,
discussing some matter, as it seemed to him, with considerable
earnestness on both sides. He observed, too, that there was warmth,
passion, a disturbed feeling on the stranger's part; while, on that of
the Master, it was a calm, serious, earnest representation of whatever
view he was endeavoring to impress on the other. At last, the interview
appeared to come toward a climax, the Master addressing some words to his
guest, still with undisturbed calmness, to which the latter replied by a
violent and even fierce gesture, as it should seem of menace, not towards
the Master, but some unknown party; and then hastily turning, he left the
garden and was soon heard riding away. The Master looked after him
awhile, and then, shaking his white head, returned into the house and
soon entered the parlor.

He looked somewhat surprised, and, as it struck Middleton, a little
startled, at finding him there; yet he welcomed him with all his former
cordiality--indeed, with a friendship that thoroughly warmed Middleton's
heart even to its coldest corner.

"This is strange!" said the old gentleman. "Do you remember our
conversation on that evening when I first had the unlooked-for pleasure
of receiving you as a guest into my house? At that time I spoke to you of
a strange family story, of which there was no denouement, such as a
novel-writer would desire, and which had remained in that unfinished
posture for more than two hundred years! Well; perhaps it will gratify
you to know that there seems a prospect of that wanting termination being

"Indeed!" said Middleton.

"Yes," replied the Master. "A gentleman has just parted with me who was
indeed the representative of the family concerned in the story. He is the
descendant of a younger son of that family, to whom the estate devolved
about a century ago, although at that time there was search for the heirs
of the elder son, who had disappeared after the bloody incident which I
related to you. Now, singular as it may appear, at this late day, a
person claiming to be the descendant and heir of that eldest son has
appeared, and if I may credit my friend's account, is disposed not only
to claim the estate, but the dormant title which Eldredge himself has
been so long preparing to claim for himself. Singularly enough, too, the
heir is an American."

_May 2d, Sunday._--"I believe," said Middleton, "that many English
secrets might find their solution in America, if the two threads of a
story could be brought together, disjoined as they have been by time and
the ocean. But are you at liberty to tell me the nature of the incidents
to which you allude?"

"I do not see any reason to the contrary," answered the Master; "for the
story has already come in an imperfect way before the public, and the
full and authentic particulars are likely soon to follow. It seems that
the younger brother was ejected from the house on account of a love
affair; the elder having married a young woman with whom the younger was
in love, and, it is said, the wife disappeared on the bridal night, and
was never heard of more. The elder brother remained single during the
rest of his life; and dying childless, and there being still no news of
the second brother, the inheritance and representation of the family
devolved upon the third brother and his posterity. This branch of the
family has ever since remained in possession; and latterly the
representation has become of more importance, on account of a claim to an
old title, which, by the failure of another branch of this ancient
family, has devolved upon the branch here settled. Now, just at this
juncture, comes another heir from America, pretending that he is the
descendant of a marriage between the second son, supposed to have been
murdered on the threshold of the manor-house, and the missing bride! Is
it not a singular story?"

"It would seem to require very strong evidence to prove it," said
Middleton. "And methinks a Republican should care little for the title,
however he might value the estate."

"Both--both," said the Master, smiling, "would be equally attractive to
your countryman. But there are further curious particulars in connection
with this claim. You must know, they are a family of singular
characteristics, humorists, sometimes developing their queer traits into
something like insanity; though oftener, I must say, spending stupid
hereditary lives here on their estates, rusting out and dying without
leaving any biography whatever about them. And yet there has always been
one very queer thing about this generally very commonplace family. It is
that each father, on his death-bed, has had an interview with his son, at
which he has imparted some secret that has evidently had an influence on
the character and after life of the son, making him ever after a
discontented man, aspiring for something he has never been able to find.
Now the American, I am told, pretends that he has the clue which has
always been needed to make the secret available; the key whereby the lock
may be opened; the something that the lost son of the family carried away
with him, and by which through these centuries he has impeded the
progress of the race. And, wild as the story seems, he does certainly
seem to bring something that looks very like the proof of what he says."

"And what are those proofs?" inquired Middleton, wonder-stricken at the
strange reduplication of his own position and pursuits.

"In the first place," said the Master, "the English marriage-certificate
by a clergyman of that day in London, after publication of the banns,
with a reference to the register of the parish church where the marriage
is recorded. Then, a certified genealogy of the family in New England,
where such matters can be ascertained from town and church records, with
at least as much certainty, it would appear, as in this country. He has
likewise a manuscript in his ancestor's autograph, containing a brief
account of the events which banished him from his own country; the
circumstances which favored the idea that he had been slain, and which he
himself was willing should be received as a belief; the fortune that led
him to America, where he wished to found a new race wholly disconnected
with the past; and this manuscript he sealed up, with directions that it
should not be opened till two hundred years after his death, by which
time, as it was probable to conjecture, it would matter little to any
mortal whether the story was told or not. A whole generation has passed
since the time when the paper was at last unsealed and read, so long it
had no operation; yet now, at last, here comes the American, to disturb
the succession of an ancient family!"

"There is something very strange in all this," said Middleton.

And indeed there was something stranger in his view of the matter than he
had yet communicated to the Master. For, taking into consideration the
relation in which he found himself with the present recognized
representative of the family, the thought struck him that his coming
hither had dug up, as it were, a buried secret that immediately assumed
life and activity the moment that it was above ground again. For seven
generations the family had vegetated in the quietude of English country
gentility, doing nothing to make itself known, passing from the cradle to
the tomb amid the same old woods that had waved over it before his
ancestor had impressed the bloody footstep; and yet the instant that he
came back, an influence seemed to be at work that was likely to renew the
old history of the family. He questioned with himself whether it were not
better to leave all as it was; to withdraw himself into the secrecy from
which he had but half emerged, and leave the family to keep on, to the
end of time perhaps, in its rusty innocence, rather than to interfere
with his wild American character to disturb it. The smell of that dark
crime--that brotherly hatred and attempted murder--seemed to breathe out
of the ground as he dug it up. Was it not better that it should remain
forever buried, for what to him was this old English title--what this
estate, so far from his own native land, located amidst feelings and
manners which would never be his own? It was late, to be sure--yet not
too late for him to turn back: the vibration, the fear, which his
footsteps had caused, would subside into peace! Meditating in this way,
he took a hasty leave of the kind old Master, promising to see him again
at an early opportunity. By chance, or however it was, his footsteps
turned to the woods of ---- Chace, and there he wandered through its
glades, deep in thought, yet always with a strange sense that he was
treading on the soil where his ancestors had trodden, and where he
himself had best right of all men to be. It was just in this state of
feeling that he found his course arrested by a hand upon his shoulder.

"What business have you here?" was the question sounded in his ear; and,
starting, he found himself in the grasp, as his blood tingled to know, of
a gentleman in a shooting-dress, who looked at him with a wrathful brow.
"Are you a poacher, or what?"

Be the case what it might, Middleton's blood boiled at the grasp of that
hand, as it never before had done in the course of his impulsive life. He
shook himself free, and stood fiercely before his antagonist, confronting
him with his uplifted stick, while the other, likewise, appeared to be
shaken by a strange wrath.

"Fellow," muttered he--"Yankee blackguard!--impostor--take yourself oil
these grounds. Quick, or it will be the worse for you!"

Middleton restrained himself. "Mr. Eldredge," said he, "for I believe I
speak to the man who calls himself owner of this land on which we
stand,--Mr. Eldredge, you are acting under a strange misapprehension of
my character. I have come hither with no sinister purpose, and am
entitled, at the hands of a gentleman, to the consideration of an
honorable antagonist, even if you deem me one at all. And perhaps, if you
think upon the blue chamber and the ebony cabinet, and the secret
connected with it,"--

"Villain, no more!" said Eldredge; and utterly mad with rage, he
presented his gun at Middleton; but even at the moment of doing so, he
partly restrained himself, so far as, instead of shooting him, to raise
the butt of his gun, and strike a blow at him. It came down heavily on
Middleton's shoulder, though aimed at his head; and the blow was terribly
avenged, even by itself, for the jar caused the hammer to come down; the
gun went off, sending the bullet downwards through the heart of the
unfortunate man, who fell dead upon the ground. Eldredge[1] stood
stupefied, looking at the catastrophe which had so suddenly occurred.

[1] Evidently a slip of the pen; Middleton being intended.

_May 3d, Monday._--So here was the secret suddenly made safe in this so
terrible way; its keepers reduced from two parties to one interest; the
other who alone knew of this age-long mystery and trouble now carrying it
into eternity, where a long line of those who partook of the knowledge,
in each successive generation, might now be waiting to inquire of him how
he had held his trust. He had kept it well, there was no doubt of it; for
there he lay dead upon the ground, having betrayed it to no one, though
by a method which none could have foreseen, the whole had come into the
possession of him who had brought hither but half of it. Middleton looked
down in horror upon the form that had just been so full of life and
wrathful vigor--and now lay so quietly. Being wholly unconscious of any
purpose to bring about the catastrophe, it had not at first struck him
that his own position was in any manner affected by the violent death,
under such circumstances, of the unfortunate man. But now it suddenly
occurred to him, that there had been a train of incidents all calculated
to make him the object of suspicion; and he felt that he could not, under
the English administration of law, be suffered to go at large without
rendering a strict account of himself and his relations with the
deceased. He might, indeed, fly; he might still remain in the vicinity,
and possibly escape notice. But was not the risk too great? Was it just
even to be aware of this event, and not relate fully the manner of it,
lest a suspicion of blood-guiltiness should rest upon some innocent head?
But while he was thus cogitating, he heard footsteps approaching along
the wood-path; and half-impulsively, half on purpose, he stept aside into
the shrubbery, but still where he could see the dead body, and what
passed near it.

The footsteps came on, and at the turning of the path, just where
Middleton had met Eldredge, the new-comer appeared in sight. It was
Hoper, in his usual dress of velveteen, looking now seedy,
poverty-stricken, and altogether in ill-case, trudging moodily along,
with his hat pulled over his brows, so that he did not see the ghastly
object before him till his foot absolutely trod upon the dead man's hand.
Being thus made aware of the proximity of the corpse, he started back a
little, yet evincing such small emotion as did credit to his English
reserve; then uttering a low exclamation,--cautiously low, indeed,--he
stood looking at the corpse a moment or two, apparently in deep
meditation. He then drew near, bent down, and without evincing any horror
at the touch of death in this horrid shape, he opened the dead man's
vest, inspected the wound, satisfied himself that life was extinct, and
then nodded his head and smiled gravely. He next proceeded to examine
seriatim the dead man's pockets, turning each of them inside out and
taking the contents, where they appeared adapted to his needs: for
instance, a silken purse, through the interstices of which some gold was
visible; a watch, which however had been injured by the explosion, and
had stopt just at the moment--twenty-one minutes past five--when the
catastrophe took place. Hoper ascertained, by putting the watch to his
ear, that this was the case; then pocketing it, he continued his
researches. He likewise secured a note-book, on examining which he found
several bank-notes, and some other papers. And having done this, the
thief stood considering what to do next; nothing better occurring to him,
he thrust the pockets back, gave the corpse as nearly as he could the
same appearance that it had worn before he found it, and hastened away,
leaving the horror there on the wood-path.

He had been gone only a few minutes when another step, a light woman's
step, [was heard] coming along the pathway, and Alice appeared, having on
her usual white mantle, straying along with that fearlessness which
characterized her so strangely, and made her seem like one of the
denizens of nature. She was singing in a low tone some one of those airs
which have become so popular in England, as negro melodies; when
suddenly, looking before her, she saw the blood-stained body on the
grass, the face looking ghastly upward. Alice pressed her hand upon her
heart; it was not her habit to scream, not the habit of that strong,
wild, self-dependent nature; and the exclamation which broke from her was
not for help, but the voice of her heart crying out to herself. For an
instant she hesitated, as [if] not knowing what to do; then approached,
and with her white, maiden hand felt the brow of the dead man,
tremblingly, but yet firm, and satisfied herself that life had wholly
departed. She pressed her hand, that had just touched the dead man's, on
her forehead, and gave a moment to thought.

What her decision might have been, we cannot say, for while she stood in
this attitude, Middleton stept from his seclusion, and at the noise of
his approach she turned suddenly round, looking more frightened and
agitated than at the moment when she had first seen the dead body. She
faced Middleton, however, and looked him quietly in the eye. "You see
this!" said she, gazing fixedly at him. "It is not at this moment that
you first discover it."

"No," said Middleton, frankly. "It is not. I was present at the
catastrophe. In one sense, indeed, I was the cause of it; but, Alice, I
need not tell you that I am no murderer."

"A murderer?--no," said Alice, still looking at him with the same fixed
gaze. "But you and this man were at deadly variance. He would have
rejoiced at any chance that would have laid you cold and bloody on the
earth, as he is now; nay, he would most eagerly have seized on any
fair-looking pretext that would have given him a chance to stretch you
there. The world will scarcely believe, when it knows all about your
relations with him, that his blood is not on your hand. Indeed," said
she, with a strange smile, "I see some of it there now!"

And, in very truth, so there was; a broad blood-stain that had dried on
Middleton's hand. He shuddered at it, but essayed vainly to rub it off.

"You see," said she. "It was foreordained that you should shed this man's
blood; foreordained that, by digging into that old pit of pestilence, you
should set the contagion loose again. You should have left it buried
forever. But now what do you mean to do?"

"To proclaim this catastrophe," replied Middleton. "It is the only honest
and manly way. What else can I do?"

"You can and ought to leave him on the wood-path, where he has fallen,"
said Alice, "and go yourself to take advantage of the state of things
which Providence has brought about. Enter the old house, the hereditary
house, where--now, at least--you alone have a right to tread. Now is the
hour. All is within your grasp. Let the wrong of three hundred years be
righted, and come back thus to your own, to these hereditary fields, this
quiet, long-descended home; to title, to honor."

Yet as the wild maiden spoke thus, there was a sort of mockery in her
eyes; on her brow; gleaming through all her face, as if she scorned what
she thus pressed upon him, the spoils of the dead man who lay at their
feet. Middleton, with his susceptibility, could not [but] be sensible of
a wild and strange charm, as well as horror, in the situation; it seemed
such a wonder that here, in formal, orderly, well-governed England, so
wild a scene as this should have occurred; that they too [two?] should
stand here, deciding on the descent of an estate, and the inheritance of
a title, holding a court of their own.

"Come, then," said he, at length. "Let us leave this poor fallen
antagonist in his blood, and go whither you will lead me. I will judge
for myself. At all events, I will not leave my hereditary home without
knowing what my power is."

"Come," responded Alice; and she turned back; but then returned and threw
a handkerchief over the dead man's face, which while they spoke had
assumed that quiet, ecstatic expression of joy which often is observed to
overspread the faces of those who die of gunshot wounds, however fierce
the passion in which the spirits took their flight. With this strange,
grand, awful joy did the dead man gaze upward into the very eyes and
hearts, as it were, of the two that now bent over him. They looked at one

"Whence comes this expression?" said Middleton, thoughtfully. "Alice,
methinks he is reconciled to us now; and that we are members of one
reconciled family, all of whom are in heaven but me."

_Tuesday, May 4th._--"How strange is this whole situation between you and
me," said Middleton, as they went up the winding pathway that led towards
the house. "Shall I ever understand it? Do you mean ever to explain it to
me? That I should find you here with that old man,[2] so mysterious,
apparently so poor, yet so powerful! What [is] his relation to you?"

[2] The allusion here is apparently to the old man who proclaims
himself Alice's father, in the portion dated April 14th. He figures
hereafter as the old Hospitaller, Hammond. The reader must not take
this present passage as referring to the death of Eldredge, which has
just taken place in the preceding section. The author is now
beginning to elaborate the relation of Middleton and Alice. As will
be seen, farther on, the death of Eldredge is ignored and abandoned;
Eldredge is revived, and the story proceeds in another way.--G. P. L.

"A close one," replied Alice sadly. "He was my father!"

"Your father!" repeated Middleton, starting back. "It does but heighten
the wonder! Your father! And yet, by all the tokens that birth and
breeding, and habits of thought and native character can show, you are my
countrywoman. That wild, free spirit was never born in the breast of an
Englishwoman; that slight frame, that slender beauty, that frail
envelopment of a quick, piercing, yet stubborn and patient spirit,--are
those the properties of an English maiden?"

"Perhaps not," replied Alice quietly. "I am your countrywoman. My father
was an American, and one of whom you have heard--and no good, alas!--for
many a year."

"And who then was he?" asked Middleton.

"I know not whether you will hate me for telling you," replied Alice,
looking him sadly though firmly in the face. "There was a man--long years
since, in your childhood--whose plotting brain proved the ruin of himself
and many another; a man whose great designs made him a sort of potentate,
whose schemes became of national importance, and produced results even
upon the history of the country in which he acted. That man was my
father; a man who sought to do great things, and, like many who have had
similar aims, disregarded many small rights, strode over them, on his way
to effect a gigantic purpose. Among other men, your father was trampled
under foot, ruined, done to death, even, by the effects of his ambition."

"How is it possible!" exclaimed Middleton. "Was it Wentworth?"

"Even so," said Alice, still with the same sad calmness and not
withdrawing her steady eyes from his face. "After his ruin; after the
catastrophe that overwhelmed him and hundreds more, he took to flight;
guilty, perhaps, but guilty as a fallen conqueror is; guilty to such an
extent that he ceased to be a cheat, as a conqueror ceases to be a
murderer. He came to England. My father had an original nobility of
nature; and his life had not been such as to debase it, but rather such
as to cherish and heighten that self-esteem which at least keeps the
possessor of it from many meaner vices. He took nothing with him; nothing
beyond the bare means of flight, with the world before him, although
thousands of gold would not have been missed out of the scattered
fragments of ruin that lay around him. He found his way hither, led, as
you were, by a desire to reconnect himself with the place whence his
family had originated; for he, too, was of a race which had something to
do with the ancient story which has now been brought to a close. Arrived
here, there were circumstances that chanced to make his talents and
habits of business available to this Mr. Eldredge, a man ignorant and
indolent, unknowing how to make the best of the property that was in his
hands. By degrees, he took the estate into his management, acquiring
necessarily a preponderating influence over such a man."

"And you," said Middleton. "Have you been all along in England? For you
must have been little more than an infant at the time."

"A mere infant," said Alice, "and I remained in our own country under the
care of a relative who left me much to my own keeping; much to the
influences of that wild culture which the freedom of our country gives to
its youth. It is only two years that I have been in England."

"This, then," said Middleton thoughtfully, "accounts for much that has
seemed so strange in the events through which we have passed; for the
knowledge of my identity and my half-defined purpose which has always
glided before me, and thrown so many strange shapes of difficulty in my
path. But whence,--whence came that malevolence which your father's
conduct has so unmistakably shown? I had done him no injury, though I had
suffered much."

"I have often thought," replied Alice, "that my father, though retaining
a preternatural strength and acuteness of intellect, was really not
altogether sane. And, besides, he had made it his business to keep this
estate, and all the complicated advantages of the representation of this
old family, secure to the person who was deemed to have inherited them. A
succession of ages and generations might be supposed to have blotted out
your claims from existence; for it is not just that there should be no
term of time which can make security for lack of fact and a few
formalities. At all events, he had satisfied himself that his duty was to
act as he has done."

"Be it so! I do not seek to throw blame on him," said Middleton.
"Besides, Alice, he was your father!"

"Yes," said she, sadly smiling; "let him [have] what protection that
thought may give him, even though I lose what he may gain. And now here
we are at the house. At last, come in! It is your own; there is none that
can longer forbid you!"

They entered the door of the old mansion, now a farmhouse, and there were
its old hall, its old chambers, all before them. They ascended the
staircase, and stood on the landing-place above; while Middleton had
again that feeling that had so often made him dizzy,--that sense of being
in one dream and recognizing the scenery and events of a former dream. So
overpowering was this feeling, that he laid his hand on the slender arm
of Alice, to steady himself; and she comprehended the emotion that
agitated him, and looked into his eyes with a tender sympathy, which she
had never before permitted to be visible,--perhaps never before felt. He
steadied himself and followed her till they had entered an ancient
chamber, but one that was finished with all the comfortable luxury
customary to be seen in English homes.

"Whither have you led me now?" inquired Middleton.

"Look round," said Alice. "Is there nothing here that you ought to
recognize?--nothing that you kept the memory of, long ago?"

He looked round the room again and again, and at last, in a somewhat
shadowy corner, he espied an old cabinet made of ebony and inlaid with
pearl; one of those tall, stately, and elaborate pieces of furniture that
are rather articles of architecture than upholstery; and on which a
higher skill, feeling, and genius than now is ever employed on such
things, was expended. Alice drew near the stately cabinet and threw wide
the doors, which, like the portals of a palace, stood between two
pillars; it all seemed to be unlocked, showing within some beautiful old
pictures in the panel of the doors, and a mirror, that opened a long
succession of mimic halls, reflection upon reflection, extending to an
interminable nowhere.

"And what is this?" said Middleton,--"a cabinet? Why do you draw my
attention so strongly to it?"

"Look at it well," said she. "Do you recognize nothing there? Have you
forgotten your description? The stately palace with its architecture,
each pillar with its architecture, those pilasters, that frieze; you
ought to know them all. Somewhat less than you imagined in size, perhaps;
a fairy reality, inches for yards; that is the only difference. And you
have the key?"

And there then was that palace, to which tradition, so false at once and
true, had given such magnitude and magnificence in the traditions of the
Middleton family, around their shifting fireside in America. Looming afar
through the mists of time, the little fact had become a gigantic vision.
Yes, here it was in miniature, all that he had dreamed of; a palace of
four feet high!

"You have the key of this palace," said Alice; "it has waited--that is,
its secret and precious chamber has, for you to open it, these three
hundred years. Do you know how to find that secret chamber?"

Middleton, still in that dreamy mood, threw open an inner door of the
cabinet, and applying the old-fashioned key at his watch-chain to a hole
in the mimic pavement within, pressed one of the mosaics, and immediately
the whole floor of the apartment sank, and revealed a receptacle within.
Alice had come forward eagerly, and they both looked into the
hiding-place, expecting what should be there. It was empty! They looked
into each other's faces with blank astonishment. Everything had been so
strangely true, and so strangely false, up to this moment, that they
could not comprehend this failure at the last moment. It was the
strangest, saddest jest! It brought Middleton up with such a sudden
revulsion that he grew dizzy, and the room swam round him and the cabinet
dazzled before his eyes. It had been magnified to a palace; it had
dwindled down to Liliputian size; and yet, up till now, it had seemed to
contain in its diminutiveness all the riches which he had attributed to
its magnitude. This last moment had utterly subverted it; the whole great
structure seemed to vanish.

"See; here are the dust and ashes of it," observed Alice, taking
something that was indeed only a pinch of dust out of the secret
compartment. "There is nothing else."


_May 5th, Wednesday_.--The father of these two sons, an aged man at the
time, took much to heart their enmity; and after the catastrophe, he
never held up his head again. He was not told that his son had perished,
though such was the belief of the family; but imbibed the opinion that he
had left his home and native land to become a wanderer on the face of the
earth, and that some time or other he might return. In this idea he spent
the remainder of his days; in this idea he died. It may be that the
influence of this idea might be traced in the way in which he spent some
of the latter years of his life, and a portion of the wealth which had
become of little value in his eyes, since it had caused dissension and
bloodshed between the sons of one household. It was a common mode of
charity in those days--a common thing for rich men to do--to found an
almshouse or a hospital, and endow it, for the support of a certain
number of old and destitute men or women, generally such as had some
claim of blood upon the founder, or at least were natives of the parish,
the district, the county, where he dwelt. The Eldredge Hospital was
founded for the benefit of twelve old men, who should have been wanderers
upon the face of the earth; men, they should be, of some education, but
defeated and hopeless, cast off by the world for misfortune, but not for
crime. And this charity had subsisted, on terms varying little or nothing
from the original ones, from that day to this; and, at this very time,
twelve old men were not wanting, of various countries, of various
fortunes, but all ending finally in ruin, who had centred here, to live
on the poor pittance that had been assigned to them, three hundred years
ago. What a series of chronicles it would have been if each of the
beneficiaries of this charity, since its foundation, had left a record of
the events which finally led him hither. Middleton often, as he talked
with these old men, regretted that he himself had no turn for authorship,
so rich a volume might he have compiled from the experience, sometimes
sunny and triumphant, though always ending in shadow, which he gathered
here. They were glad to talk to him, and would have been glad and
grateful for any auditor, as they sat on one or another of the stone
benches, in the sunshine of the garden; or at evening, around the great
fireside, or within the chimney-corner, with their pipes and ale.

There was one old man who attracted much of his attention, by the
venerableness of his aspect; by something dignified, almost haughty and
commanding, in his air. Whatever might have been the intentions and
expectations of the founder, it certainly had happened in these latter
days that there was a difficulty in finding persons of education, of good
manners, of evident respectability, to put into the places made vacant by
deaths of members; whether that the paths of life are surer now than they
used to be, and that men so arrange their lives as not to be left, in any
event, quite without resources as they draw near its close; at any rate,
there was a little tincture of the vagabond running through these twelve
quasi gentlemen,--through several of them, at least. But this old man
could not well be mistaken; in his manners, in his tones, in all his
natural language and deportment, there was evidence that he had been more
than respectable; and, viewing him, Middleton could not help wondering
what statesman had suddenly vanished out of public life and taken refuge
here, for his head was of the statesman-class, and his demeanor that of
one who had exercised influence over large numbers of men. He sometimes
endeavored to set on foot a familiar relation with this old man, but
there was even a sternness in the manner in which he repelled these
advances, that gave little encouragement for their renewal. Nor did it
seem that his companions of the Hospital were more in his confidence than
Middleton himself. They regarded him with a kind of awe, a shyness, and
in most cases with a certain dislike, which denoted an imperfect
understanding of him. To say the truth, there was not generally much love
lost between any of the members of this family; they had met with too
much disappointment in the world to take kindly, now, to one another or
to anything or anybody. I rather suspect that they really had more
pleasure in burying one another, when the time came, than in any other
office of mutual kindness and brotherly love which it was their part to
do; not out of hardness of heart, but merely from soured temper, and
because, when people have met disappointment and have settled down into
final unhappiness, with no more gush and spring of good spirits, there is
nothing any more to create amiability out of.

So the old people were unamiable and cross to one another, and unamiable
and cross to old Hammond, yet always with a certain respect; and the
result seemed to be such as treated the old man well enough. And thus he
moved about among them, a mystery; the histories of the others, in the
general outline, were well enough known, and perhaps not very uncommon;
this old man's history was known to none, except, of course, to the
trustees of the charity, and to the Master of the Hospital, to whom it
had necessarily been revealed, before the beneficiary could be admitted
as an inmate. It was judged, by the deportment of the Master, that the
old man had once held some eminent position in society; for, though bound
to treat them all as gentlemen, he was thought to show an especial and
solemn courtesy to Hammond.

Yet by the attraction which two strong and cultivated minds inevitably
have for one another, there did spring up an acquaintanceship, an
intercourse, between Middleton and this old man, which was followed up in
many a conversation which they held together on all subjects that were
supplied by the news of the day, or the history of the past. Middleton
used to make the newspaper the opening for much discussion; and it seemed
to him that the talk of his companion had much of the character of that
of a retired statesman, on matters which, perhaps, he would look at all
the more wisely, because it was impossible he could ever more have a
personal agency in them. Their discussions sometimes turned upon the
affairs of his own country, and its relations with the rest of the world,
especially with England; and Middleton could not help being struck with
the accuracy of the old man's knowledge respecting that country, which so
few Englishmen know anything about; his shrewd appreciation of the
American character,--shrewd and caustic, yet not without a good degree of
justice; the sagacity of his remarks on the past, and prophecies of what
was likely to happen,--prophecies which, in one instance, were singularly
verified, in regard to a complexity which was then arresting the
attention of both countries.

"You must have been in the United States," said he, one day.

"Certainly; my remarks imply personal knowledge," was the reply. "But it
was before the days of steam."

"And not, I should imagine, for a brief visit," said Middleton. "I only
wish the administration of this government had the benefit to-day of your
knowledge of my countrymen. It might be better for both of these kindred

"Not a whit," said the old man. "England will never understand America;
for England never does understand a foreign country; and whatever you may
say about kindred, America is as much a foreign country as France itself.
These two hundred years of a different climate and circumstances--of life
on a broad continent instead of in an island, to say nothing of the
endless intermixture of nationalities in every part of the United States,
except New England--have created a new and decidedly original type of
national character. It is as well for both parties that they should not
aim at any very intimate connection. It will never do."

"I should be sorry to think so," said Middleton; "they are at all events
two noble breeds of men, and ought to appreciate one another. And America
has the breadth of idea to do this for England, whether reciprocated or

_Thursday, May 6th._--Thus Middleton was established in a singular way
among these old men, in one of the surroundings most unlike anything in
his own country. So old it was that it seemed to him the freshest and
newest thing that he had ever met with. The residence was made infinitely
the more interesting to him by the sense that he was near the place--as
all the indications warned him--which he sought, whither his dreams had
tended from his childhood; that he could wander each day round the park
within which were the old gables of what he believed was his hereditary
home. He had never known anything like the dreamy enjoyment of these
days; so quiet, such a contrast to the turbulent life from which he had
escaped across the sea. And here he set himself, still with that sense of
shadowiness in what he saw and in what he did, in making all the
researches possible to him, about the neighborhood; visiting every little
church that raised its square battlemented Norman tower of gray stone,
for several miles round about; making himself acquainted with each little
village and hamlet that surrounded these churches, clustering about the
graves of those who had dwelt in the same cottages aforetime. He visited
all the towns within a dozen miles; and probably there were few of the
inhabitants who had so good an acquaintance with the neighborhood as this
native American attained within a few weeks after his coming thither.

In course of these excursions he had several times met with a young
woman,--a young lady, one might term her, but in fact he was in some
doubt what rank she might hold, in England,--who happened to be wandering
about the country with a singular freedom. She was always alone, always
on foot; he would see her sketching some picturesque old church, some
ivied ruin, some fine drooping elm. She was a slight figure, much more so
than English women generally are; and, though healthy of aspect, had not
the ruddy complexion, which he was irreverently inclined to call the
coarse tint, that is believed the great charm of English beauty. There
was a freedom in her step and whole little womanhood, an elasticity, an
irregularity, so to speak, that made her memorable from first sight; and
when he had encountered her three or four times, he felt in a certain way
acquainted with her. She was very simply dressed, and quite as simple in
her deportment; there had been one or two occasions, when they had both
smiled at the same thing; soon afterwards a little conversation had taken
place between them; and thus, without any introduction, and in a way that
somewhat puzzled Middleton himself, they had become acquainted. It was so
unusual that a young English girl should be wandering about the country
entirely alone--so much less usual that she should speak to a
stranger--that Middleton scarcely knew how to account for it, but
meanwhile accepted the fact readily and willingly, for in truth he found
this mysterious personage a very likely and entertaining companion. There
was a strange quality of boldness in her remarks, almost of brusqueness,
that he might have expected to find in a young countrywoman of his own,
if bred up among the strong-minded, but was astonished to find in a young
Englishwoman. Somehow or other she made him think more of home than any
other person or thing he met with; and he could not but feel that she was
in strange contrast with everything about her. She was no beauty; very
piquant; very pleasing; in some points of view and at some moments
pretty; always good-humored, but somewhat too self-possessed for
Middleton's taste. It struck him that she had talked with him as if she
had some knowledge of him and of the purposes with which he was there;
not that this was expressed, but only implied by the fact that, on
looking back to what had passed, he found many strange coincidences in
what she had said with what he was thinking about.

He perplexed himself much with thinking whence this young woman had come,
where she belonged, and what might be her history; when, the next day, he
again saw her, not this time rambling on foot, but seated in an open
barouche with a young lady. Middleton lifted his hat to her, and she
nodded and smiled to him; and it appeared to Middleton that a
conversation ensued about him with the young lady, her companion. Now,
what still more interested him was the fact that, on the panel of the
barouche were the arms of the family now in possession of the estate of
Smithell's; so that the young lady, his new acquaintance, or the young
lady, her seeming friend, one or the other, was the sister of the present
owner of that estate. He was inclined to think that his acquaintance
could not be the Miss Eldredge, of whose beauty he had heard many tales
among the people of the neighborhood. The other young lady, a tall,
reserved, fair-haired maiden, answered the description considerably
better. He concluded, therefore, that his acquaintance must be a visitor,
perhaps a dependent and companion; though the freedom of her thought,
action, and way of life seemed hardly consistent with this idea. However,
this slight incident served to give him a sort of connection with the
family, and he could but hope that some further chance would introduce
him within what he fondly called his hereditary walls. He had come to
think of this as a dreamland; and it seemed even more a dreamland now
than before it rendered itself into actual substance, an old house of
stone and timber standing within its park, shaded about with its
ancestral trees.

But thus, at all events, he was getting himself a little wrought into the
net-work of human life around him, secluded as his position had at first
seemed to be, in the farmhouse where he had taken up his lodgings. For,
there was the Hospital and its old inhabitants, in whose monotonous
existence he soon came to pass for something, with his liveliness of
mind, his experience, his good sense, his patience as a listener, his
comparative youth even--his power of adapting himself to these stiff and
crusty characters, a power learned among other things in his political
life, where he had acquired something of the faculty (good or bad as
might be) of making himself all things to all men. But though he amused
himself with them all, there was in truth but one man among them in whom
he really felt much interest; and that one, we need hardly say, was
Hammond. It was not often that he found the old gentleman in a
conversible mood; always courteous, indeed, but generally cool and
reserved; often engaged in his one room, to which Middleton had never yet
been admitted, though he had more than once sent in his name, when
Hammond was not apparent upon the bench which, by common consent of the
Hospital, was appropriated to him.

One day, however, notwithstanding that the old gentleman was confined to
his room by indisposition, he ventured to inquire at the door, and,
considerably to his surprise, was admitted. He found Hammond in his
easy-chair, at a table, with writing-materials before him; and as
Middleton entered, the old gentleman looked at him with a stern, fixed
regard, which, however, did not seem to imply any particular displeasure
towards this visitor, but rather a severe way of regarding mankind in
general. Middleton looked curiously around the small apartment, to see
what modification the character of the man had had upon the customary
furniture of the Hospital, and how much of individuality he had given to
that general type. There was a shelf of books, and a row of them on the
mantel-piece; works of political economy, they appeared to be, statistics
and things of that sort; very dry reading, with which, however,
Middleton's experience as a politician had made him acquainted. Besides
these there were a few works on local antiquities, a county-history
borrowed from the Master's library, in which Hammond appeared to have
been lately reading.

"They are delightful reading," observed Middleton, "these old
county-histories, with their great folio volumes and their minute account
of the affairs of families and the genealogies, and descents of estates,
bestowing as much blessed space on a few hundred acres as other
historians give to a principality. I fear that in my own country we shall
never have anything of this kind. Our space is so vast that we shall
never come to know and love it, inch by inch, as the English antiquarians
do the tracts of country with which they deal; and besides, our land is
always likely to lack the interest that belongs to English estates; for
where land changes its ownership every few years, it does not become
imbued with the personalities of the people who live on it. It is but so
much grass; so much dirt, where a succession of people have dwelt too
little to make it really their own. But I have found a pleasure that I
had no conception of before, in reading some of the English local

"It is not a usual course of reading for a transitory visitor," said
Hammond. "What could induce you to undertake it?"

"Simply the wish, so common and natural with Americans," said
Middleton--"the wish to find out something about my kindred--the local
origin of my own family."

"You do not show your wisdom in this," said his visitor. "America had
better recognize the fact that it has nothing to do with England, and
look upon itself as other nations and people do, as existing on its own
hook. I never heard of any people looking hack to the country of their
remote origin in the way the Anglo-Americans do. For instance, England is
made up of many alien races, German, Danish. Norman, and what not: it has
received large accessions of population at a later date than the
settlement of the United States. Yet these families melt into the great
homogeneous mass of Englishmen, and look hack no more to any other
country. There are in this vicinity many descendants of the French
Huguenots; but they care no more for France than for Timbuctoo, reckoning
themselves only Englishmen, as if they were descendants of the aboriginal
Britons. Let it he so with you."

"So it might be," replied Middleton, "only that our relations with
England remain far more numerous than our disconnections, through the
bonds of history, of literature, of all that makes up the memories, and
much that makes up the present interests of a people. And therefore I
must still continue to pore over these old folios, and hunt around these
precincts, spending thus the little idle time I am likely to have in a
busy life. Possibly finding little to my purpose; but that is quite a
secondary consideration."

"If you choose to tell me precisely what your aims are," said Hammond,
"it is possible I might give you some little assistance."

_May 7th, Friday_.--Middleton was in fact more than half ashamed of the
dreams which he had cherished before coming to England, and which since,
at times, had been very potent with him, assuming as strong a tinge of
reality as those [scenes?] into which he had strayed. He could not
prevail with himself to disclose fully to this severe, and, as he
thought, cynical old man how strong within him was the sentiment that
impelled him to connect himself with the old life of England, to join on
the broken thread of ancestry and descent, and feel every link well
established. But it seemed to him that he ought not to lose this fair
opportunity of gaining some light on the abstruse field of his
researches; and he therefore explained to Hammond that he had reason,
from old family traditions, to believe that he brought with him a
fragment of a history that, if followed out, might lead to curious
results. He told him, in a tone half serious, what he had heard
respecting the quarrel of the two brothers, and the Bloody Footstep, the
impress of which was said to remain, as a lasting memorial of the tragic
termination of that enmity. At this point, Hammond interrupted him. He
had indeed, at various points of the narrative, nodded and smiled
mysteriously, as if looking into his mind and seeing something there
analogous to what he was listening to. He now spoke.

"This is curious," said he. "Did you know that there is a manor-house in
this neighborhood, the family of which prides itself on having such a
blood-stained threshold as you have now described?"

"No, indeed!" exclaimed Middleton, greatly interested. "Where?"

"It is the old manor-house of Smithell's," replied Hammond, "one of those
old wood and timber [plaster?] mansions, which are among the most ancient
specimens of domestic architecture in England. The house has now passed
into the female line, and by marriage has been for two or three
generations in possession of another family. But the blood of the old
inheritors is still in the family. The house itself, or portions of it,
are thought to date back quite as far as the Conquest."

"Smithell's?" said Middleton. "Why, I have seen that old house from a
distance, and have felt no little interest in its antique aspect. And it
has a Bloody Footstep! Would it be possible for a stranger to get an
opportunity to inspect it?"

"Unquestionably," said Hammond; "nothing easier. It is but a moderate
distance from here, and if you can moderate your young footsteps, and
your American quick walk, to an old man's pace, I would go there with you
some day. In this languor and ennui of my life, I spend some time in
local antiquarianism, and perhaps I might assist you in tracing out how
far these traditions of yours may have any connection with reality. It
would be curious, would it not, if you had come, after two hundred years,
to piece out a story which may have been as much a mystery in England as
there in America?"

An engagement was made for a walk to Smithell's the ensuing day; and
meanwhile Middleton entered more fully into what he had received from
family traditions and what he had thought out for himself on the matter
in question.

"Are you aware," asked Hammond, "that there was formerly a title in this
family, now in abeyance, and which the heirs have at various times
claimed, and are at this moment claiming? Do you know, too,--but you can
scarcely know it,--that it has been surmised by some that there is an
insecurity in the title to the estate, and has always been; so that the
possessors have lived in some apprehension, from time immemorial, that
another heir would appear and take from them the fair inheritance? It is
a singular coincidence."

"Very strange," exclaimed Middleton. "No; I was not aware of it; and, to
say the truth, I should not altogether like to come forward in the light
of a claimant. But this is a dream, surely!"

"I assure you, sir," continued the old man, "that you come here in a very
critical moment; and singularly enough there is a perplexity, a
difficulty, that has endured for as long a time as when your ancestors
emigrated, that is still rampant within the bowels, as I may say, of the
family. Of course, it is too like a romance that you should be able to
establish any such claim as would have a valid influence on this matter;
but still, being here on the spot, it may be worth while, if merely as a
matter of amusement, to make some researches into this matter."

"Surely I will," said Middleton, with a smile, which concealed more
earnestness than he liked to show; "as to the title, a Republican cannot
be supposed to think twice about such a bagatelle. The estate!--that
might be a more serious consideration."

They continued to talk on the subject; and Middleton learned that the
present possessor of the estates was a gentleman nowise distinguished
from hundreds of other English gentlemen; a country squire modified in
accordance with the type of to-day, a frank, free, friendly sort of a
person enough, who had travelled on the Continent, who employed himself
much in field-sports, who was unmarried, and had a sister who was
reckoned among the beauties of the county.

While the conversation was thus going on, to Middleton's astonishment
there came a knock at the door of the room, and, without waiting for a
response, it was opened, and there appeared at it the same young woman
whom he had already met. She came in with perfect freedom and
familiarity, and was received quietly by the old gentleman; who, however,
by his manner towards Middleton, indicated that he was now to take his
leave. He did so, after settling the hour at which the excursion of the
next day was to take place. This arranged, he departed, with much to
think of, and a light glimmering through the confused labyrinth of
thoughts which had been unilluminated hitherto.

To say the truth, he questioned within himself whether it were not better
to get as quickly as he could out of the vicinity; and, at any rate, not
to put anything of earnest in what had hitherto been nothing more than a
romance to him. There was something very dark and sinister in the events
of family history, which now assumed a reality that they had never before
worn; so much tragedy, so much hatred, had been thrown into that deep
pit, and buried under the accumulated debris, the fallen leaves, the rust
and dust of more than two centuries, that it seemed not worth while to
dig it up; for perhaps the deadly influences, which it had taken so much
time to hide, might still be lurking there, and become potent if he now
uncovered them. There was something that startled him, in the strange,
wild light, which gleamed from the old man's eyes, as he threw out the
suggestions which had opened this prospect to him. What right had he--an
American, Republican, disconnected with this country so long, alien from
its habits of thought and life, reverencing none of the things which
Englishmen reverenced--what right had he to come with these musty claims
from the dim past, to disturb them in the life that belonged to them?
There was a higher and a deeper law than any connected with ancestral
claims which he could assert; and he had an idea that the law bade him
keep to the country which his ancestor had chosen and to its
institutions, and not meddle nor make with England. The roots of his
family tree could not reach under the ocean; he was at most but a
seedling from the parent tree. While thus meditating he found that his
footsteps had brought him unawares within sight of the old manor-house of
Smithell's; and that he was wandering in a path which, if he followed it
further, would bring him to an entrance in one of the wings of the
mansion. With a sort of shame upon him, he went forward, and, leaning
against a tree, looked at what he considered the home of his ancestors.

_May 9th, Sunday_.--At the time appointed, the two companions set out on
their little expedition, the old man in his Hospital uniform, the long
black mantle, with the bear and ragged staff engraved in silver on the
breast, and Middleton in the plain costume which he had adopted in these
wanderings about the country. On their way, Hammond was not very
communicative, occasionally dropping some shrewd remark with a good deal
of acidity in it; now and then, too, favoring his companion with some
reminiscence of local antiquity; but oftenest silent. Thus they went on,
and entered the park of Pemberton Manor by a by-path, over a stile and
one of those footways, which are always so well worth threading out in
England, leading the pedestrian into picturesque and characteristic
scenes, when the highroad would show him nothing except what was
commonplace and uninteresting. Now the gables of the old manor-house
appeared before them, rising amidst the hereditary woods, which doubtless
dated from a time beyond the days which Middleton fondly recalled, when
his ancestors had walked beneath their shade. On each side of them were
thickets and copses of fern, amidst which they saw the hares peeping out
to gaze upon them, occasionally running across the path, and comporting
themselves like creatures that felt themselves under some sort of
protection from the outrages of man, though they knew too much of his
destructive character to trust him too far. Pheasants, too, rose close
beside them, and winged but a little way before they alighted; they
likewise knew, or seemed to know, that their hour was not yet come. On
all sides in these woods, these wastes, these beasts and birds, there was
a character that was neither wild nor tame. Man had laid his grasp on
them all, and done enough to redeem them from barbarism, but had stopped
short of domesticating them; although Nature, in the wildest thing there,
acknowledged the powerful and pervading influence of cultivation.

Arriving at a side door of the mansion, Hammond rang the bell, and a
servant soon appeared. He seemed to know the old man, and immediately
acceded to his request to be permitted to show his companion the house;
although it was not precisely a show-house, nor was this the hour when
strangers were usually admitted. They entered; and the servant did not
give himself the trouble to act as a cicerone to the two visitants, but
carelessly said to the old gentleman that he knew the rooms, and that he
would leave him to discourse to his friend about them. Accordingly, they
went into the old hall, a dark oaken-panelled room, of no great height,
with many doors opening into it. There was a fire burning on the hearth;
indeed, it was the custom of the house to keep it up from morning to
night; and in the damp, chill climate of England, there is seldom a day
in some part of which a fire is not pleasant to feel. Hammond here
pointed out a stuffed fox, to which some story of a famous chase was
attached; a pair of antlers of enormous size; and some old family
pictures, so blackened with time and neglect that Middleton could not
well distinguish their features, though curious to do so, as hoping to
see there the lineaments of some with whom he might claim kindred. It was
a venerable apartment, and gave a good foretaste of what they might hope
to find in the rest of the mansion.

But when they had inspected it pretty thoroughly, and were ready to
proceed, an elderly gentleman entered the hall, and, seeing Hammond,
addressed him in a kindly, familiar way; not indeed as an equal friend,
but with a pleasant and not irksome conversation. "I am glad to see you
here again," said he. "What? I have an hour of leisure; for, to say the
truth, the day hangs rather heavy till the shooting season begins. Come;
as you have a friend with you, I will be your cicerone myself about the
house, and show you whatever mouldy objects of interest it contains."

He then graciously noticed the old man's companion, but without asking or
seeming to expect an introduction; for, after a careless glance at him,
he had evidently set him down as a person without social claims, a young
man in the rank of life fitted to associate with an inmate of Pemberton's
Hospital. And it must be noticed that his treatment of Middleton was not
on that account the less kind, though far from being so elaborately
courteous as if he had met him as an equal. "You have had something of a
walk," said he, "and it is a rather hot day. The beer of Pemberton Manor
has been reckoned good these hundred years; will you taste it?"

Hammond accepted the offer, and the beer was brought in a foaming
tankard; but Middleton declined it, for in truth there was a singular
emotion in his breast, as if the old enmity, the ancient injuries, were
not yet atoned for, and as if he must not accept the hospitality of one
who represented his hereditary foe. He felt, too, as if there were
something unworthy, a certain want of fairness, in entering clandestinely
the house, and talking with its occupant under a veil, as it were; and
had he seen clearly how to do it, he would perhaps at that moment have
fairly told Mr. Eldredge that he brought with him the character of
kinsman, and must be received on that grade or none. But it was not easy
to do this; and after all, there was no clear reason why he should do it;
so he let the matter pass, merely declining to take the refreshment, and
keeping himself quiet and retired.

Squire Eldredge seemed to be a good, ordinary sort of gentleman,
reasonably well educated, and with few ideas beyond his estate and
neighborhood, though he had once held a seat in Parliament for part of a
term. Middleton could not but contrast him, with an inward smile, with
the shrewd, alert politicians, their faculties all sharpened to the
utmost, whom he had known and consorted with in the American Congress.
Hammond had slightly informed him that his companion was an American; and
Mr. Eldredge immediately gave proof of the extent of his knowledge of
that country, by inquiring whether he came from the State of New England,
and whether Mr. Webster was still President of the United States;
questions to which Middleton returned answers that led to no further
conversation. These little preliminaries over, they continued their
ramble through the house, going through tortuous passages, up and down
little flights of steps, and entering chambers that had all the charm of
discoveries of hidden regions; loitering about, in short, in a labyrinth
calculated to put the head into a delightful confusion. Some of these
rooms contained their time-honored furniture, all in the best possible
repair, heavy, dark, polished; beds that had been marriage beds and dying
beds over and over again; chairs with carved backs; and all manner of old
world curiosities; family pictures, and samplers, and embroidery;
fragments of tapestry; an inlaid floor; everything having a story to it,
though, to say the truth, the possessor of these curiosities made but a
bungling piece of work in telling the legends connected with them. In one
or two instances Hammond corrected him.

By and by they came to what had once been the principal bed-room of the
house; though its gloom, and some circumstances of family misfortune that
had happened long ago, had caused it to fall into disrepute in latter
times; and it was now called the Haunted Chamber, or the Ghost's Chamber.
The furniture of this room, however, was particularly rich in its antique
magnificence; and one of the principal objects was a great black cabinet
of ebony and ivory, such as may often be seen in old English houses, and
perhaps often in the palaces of Italy, in which country they perhaps
originated. This present cabinet was known to have been in the house as
long ago as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and how much longer neither
tradition nor record told. Hammond particularly directed Middleton's
attention to it.

"There is nothing in this house," said he, "better worth your attention
than that cabinet.' Consider its plan; it represents a stately mansion,
with pillars, an entrance, with a lofty flight of steps, windows, and
everything perfect. Examine it well."

There was such an emphasis in the old man's way of speaking that
Middleton turned suddenly round from all that he had been looking at, and
fixed his whole attention on the cabinet; and strangely enough, it seemed
to be the representative, in small, of something that he had seen in a
dream. To say the truth, if some cunning workman had been employed to
copy his idea of the old family mansion, on a scale of half an inch to a
yard, and in ebony and ivory instead of stone, he could not have produced
a closer imitation. Everything was there.

"This is miraculous!" exclaimed he. "I do not understand it."

"Your friend seems to be curious in these matters," said Mr. Eldredge
graciously. "Perhaps he is of some trade that makes this sort of
manufacture particularly interesting to him. You are quite at liberty, my
friend, to open the cabinet and inspect it as minutely as you wish. It is
an article that has a good deal to do with an obscure portion of our
family history. Look, here is the key, and the mode of opening the outer
door of the palace, as we may well call it." So saying, he threw open the
outer door, and disclosed within the mimic likeness of a stately entrance
hall, with a floor chequered of ebony and ivory. There were other doors
that seemed to open into apartments in the interior of the palace; but
when Mr. Eldredge threw them likewise wide, they proved to be drawers and
secret receptacles, where papers, jewels, money, anything that it was
desirable to store away secretly, might be kept.

"You said, sir," said Middleton, thoughtfully, "that your family history
contained matter of interest in reference to this cabinet. Might I
inquire what those legends are?"

"Why, yes," said Mr. Eldredge, musing a little. "I see no reason why I
should have any idle concealment about the matter, especially to a
foreigner and a man whom I am never likely to see again. You must know,
then, my friend, that there was once a time when this cabinet was known
to contain the fate of the estate and its possessors; and if it had held
all that it was supposed to hold, I should not now be the lord of
Pemberton Manor, nor the claimant of an ancient title. But my father, and
his father before him, and his father besides, have held the estate and
prospered on it; and I think we may fairly conclude now that the cabinet
contains nothing except what we see."

And he rapidly again threw open one after another all the numerous
drawers and receptacles of the cabinet.

"It is an interesting object," said Middleton, after looking very closely
and with great attention at it, being pressed thereto, indeed, by the
owner's good natured satisfaction in possessing this rare article of
vertu. "It is admirable work," repeated he, drawing back. "That mosaic
floor, especially, is done with an art and skill that I never saw

There was something strange and altered in Middleton's tones, that
attracted the notice of Mr. Eldredge. Looking at him, he saw that he had
grown pale, and had a rather bewildered air.

"Is your friend ill?" said he. "He has not our English ruggedness of
look. He would have done better to take a sip of the cool tankard, and a
slice of the cold beef. He finds no such food and drink as that in his
own country, I warrant."

"His color has come back," responded Hammond, briefly. "He does not need
any refreshment, I think, except, perhaps, the open air."

In fact, Middleton, recovering himself, apologized to Mr. Hammond
[Eldredge?]; and as they had now seen nearly the whole of the house, the
two visitants took their leave, with many kindly offers on Mr. Eldredge's
part to permit the young man to view the cabinet whenever he wished. As
they went out of the house (it was by another door than that which gave
them entrance), Hammond laid his hand on Middleton's shoulder and pointed
to a stone on the threshold, on which he was about to set his foot. "Take
care!" said he. "It is the Bloody Footstep."

Middleton looked down and saw something, indeed, very like the shape of a
footprint, with a hue very like that of blood. It was a twilight sort of
a place, beneath a porch, which was much overshadowed by trees and
shrubbery. It might have been blood; but he rather thought, in his wicked
skepticism, that it was a natural, reddish stain in the stone. He
measured his own foot, however, in the Bloody Footstep, and went on.

_May 10th, Monday_.--This is the present aspect of the story: Middleton
is the descendant of a family long settled in the United States; his
ancestor having emigrated to New England with the Pilgrims; or, perhaps,
at a still earlier date, to Virginia with Raleigh's colonists. There had
been a family dissension,--a bitter hostility between two brothers in
England; on account, probably, of a love affair, the two both being
attached to the same lady. By the influence of the family on both sides,
the young lady had formed an engagement with the elder brother, although
her affections had settled on the younger. The marriage was about to take
place when the younger brother and the bride both disappeared, and were
never heard of with any certainty afterwards; but it was believed at the
time that he had been killed, and in proof of it a bloody footstep
remained on the threshold of the ancestral mansion. There were rumors,
afterwards, traditionally continued to the present day, that the younger
brother and the bride were seen, and together, in England; and that some
voyager across the sea had found them living together, husband and wife,
on the other side of the Atlantic. But the elder brother became a moody
and reserved man, never married, and left the inheritance to the children
of a third brother, who then became the representative of the family in
England; and the better authenticated story was that the second brother
had really been slain, and that the young lady (for all the parties may
have been Catholic) had gone to the Continent and taken the veil there.
Such was the family history as known or surmised in England, and in the
neighborhood of the manor-house, where the Bloody Footstep still remained
on the threshold; and the posterity of the third brother still held the
estate, and perhaps were claimants of an ancient baronage, long in

Now, on the other side of the Atlantic, the second brother and the young
lady had really been married, and became the parents of a posterity,
still extant, of which the Middleton of the romance is the surviving
male. Perhaps he had changed his name, being so much tortured with the
evil and wrong that had sprung up in his family, so remorseful, so
outraged, that he wished to disconnect himself with all the past, and
begin life quite anew in a new world. But both he and his wife, though
happy in one another, had been remorsefully and sadly so; and, with such
feelings, they had never again communicated with their respective
families, nor had given their children the means of doing so. There must,
I think, have been something nearly approaching to guilt on the second
brother's part, and the bride should have broken a solemnly plighted
troth to the elder brother, breaking away from him when almost his wife.
The elder brother had been known to have been wounded at the time of the
second brother's disappearance; and it had been the surmise that he had
received this hurt in the personal conflict in which the latter was
slain. But in truth the second brother had stabbed him in the emergency
of being discovered in the act of escaping with the bride; and this was
what weighed upon his conscience throughout life in America. The American
family had prolonged itself through various fortunes, and all the ups and
downs incident to our institutions, until the present day. They had some
old family documents, which had been rather carelessly kept; but the
present representative, being an educated man, had looked over them, and
found one which interested him strongly. It was--what was it?--perhaps a
copy of a letter written by his ancestor on his death-bed, telling his
real name, and relating the above incidents. These incidents had come
down in a vague, wild way, traditionally, in the American family, forming
a wondrous and incredible legend, which Middleton had often laughed at,
yet been greatly interested in; and the discovery of this document seemed
to give a certain aspect of veracity and reality to the tradition.
Perhaps, however, the document only related to the change of name, and
made reference to certain evidences by which, if any descendant of the
family should deem it expedient, he might prove his hereditary identity.
The legend must be accounted for by having been gathered from the talk of
the first ancestor and his wife. There must be in existence, in the early
records of the colony, an authenticated statement of this change of name,
and satisfactory proofs that the American family, long known as
Middleton, were really a branch of the English family of Eldredge, or
whatever. And in the legend, though not in the written document, there
must be an account of a certain magnificent, almost palatial residence,
which Middleton shall presume to be the ancestral home; and in this
palace there shall be said to be a certain secret chamber, or receptacle,
where is reposited a document that shall complete the evidence of the
genealogical descent.

Middleton is still a young man, but already a distinguished one in his
own country; he has entered early into politics, been sent to Congress,
but having met with some disappointments in his ambitious hopes, and
being disgusted with the fierceness of political contests in our country,
he has come abroad for recreation and rest. His imagination has dwelt
much, in his boyhood, on the legendary story of his family; and the
discovery of the document has revived these dreams. He determines to
search out the family mansion; and thus he arrives, bringing half of a
story, being the only part known in America, to join it on to the other
half, which is the only part known in England. In an introduction I must
do the best I can to state his side of the matter to the reader, he
having communicated it to me in a friendly way, at the Consulate; as many
people have communicated quite as wild pretensions to English

He comes to the midland counties of England, where he conceives his
claims to lie, and seeks for his ancestral home; but there are
difficulties in the way of finding it, the estates having passed into the
female line, though still remaining in the blood. By and by, however, he
comes to an old town where there is one of the charitable institutions
bearing the name of his family, by whose beneficence it had indeed been
founded, in Queen Elizabeth's time. He of course becomes interested in
this Hospital; he finds it still going on, precisely as it did in the old
days; and all the character and life of the establishment must be
picturesquely described. Here he gets acquainted with an old man, an
inmate of the Hospital, who (if the uncontrollable fatality of the story
will permit) must have an active influence on the ensuing events. I
suppose him to have been an American, but to have fled his country and
taken refuge in England; he shall have been a man of the Nicholas Biddle
stamp, a mighty speculator, the ruin of whose schemes had crushed
hundreds of people, and Middleton's father among the rest. Here he had
quitted the activity of his mind, as well as he could, becoming a local
antiquary, etc., and he has made himself acquainted with the family
history of the Eldredges, knowing more about it than the members of the
family themselves do. He had known in America (from Middleton's father,
who was his friend) the legends preserved in this branch of the family,
and perhaps had been struck by the way in which they fit into the English
legends; at any rate, this strikes him when Middleton tells him his story
and shows him the document respecting the change of name. After various
conversations together (in which, however, the old man keeps the secret
of his own identity, and indeed acts as mysteriously as possible), they
go together to visit the ancestral mansion. Perhaps it should not be in
their first visit that the cabinet, representing the stately mansion,
shall be seen. But the Bloody Footstep may; which shall interest
Middleton much, both because Hammond has told him the English tradition
respecting it, and because too the legends of the American family made
some obscure allusions to his ancestor having left blood--a bloody
footstep--on the ancestral threshold. This is the point to which the
story has now been sketched out. Middleton finds a commonplace old
English country gentleman in possession of the estate, where his
forefathers have lived in peace for many generations; but there must be
circumstances contrived which shall cause Middleton's conduct to be
attended by no end of turmoil and trouble. The old Hospitaller, I
suppose, must be the malicious agent in this; and his malice must be
motived in some satisfactory way. The more serious question, what shall
be the nature of this tragic trouble, and how can it be brought about?

_May 11th, Tuesday_.--How much better would it have been if this secret,
which seemed so golden, had remained in the obscurity in which two
hundred years had buried it! That deep, old, grass-grown grave being
opened, out from it streamed into the sunshine the old fatalities, the
old crimes, the old misfortunes, the sorrows, that seemed to have
departed from the family forever. But it was too late now to close it up;
he must follow out the thread that led him on,--the thread of fate, if
you choose to call it so; but rather the impulse of an evil will, a
stubborn self-interest, a desire for certain objects of ambition which
were preferred to what yet were recognized as real goods. Thus reasoned,
thus raved, Eldredge, as he considered the things that he had done, and
still intended to do; nor did these perceptions make the slightest
difference in his plans, nor in the activity with which he set about
their performance. For this purpose he sent for his lawyer, and consulted
him on the feasibility of the design which he had already communicated to
him respecting Middleton. But the man of law shook his head, and, though
deferentially, declined to have any active concern with the matter that
threatened to lead him beyond the bounds which he allowed himself, into a
seductive but perilous region.

"My dear sir," said he, with some earnestness, "you had much better
content yourself with such assistance as I can professionally and
consistently give you. Believe [me], I am willing to do a lawyer's
utmost, and to do more would be as unsafe for the client as for the legal

Thus left without an agent and an instrument, this unfortunate man had to
meditate on what means he would use to gain his ends through his own
unassisted efforts. In the struggle with himself through which he had
passed, he had exhausted pretty much all the feelings that he had to
bestow on this matter; and now he was ready to take hold of almost any
temptation that might present itself, so long as it showed a good
prospect of success and a plausible chance of impunity. While he was thus
musing, he heard a female voice chanting some song, like a bird's among
the pleasant foliage of the trees, and soon he saw at the end of a
wood-walk Alice, with her basket on her arm, passing on toward the
village. She looked towards him as she passed, but made no pause nor yet
hastened her steps, not seeming to think it worth her while to be
influenced by him. He hurried forward and overtook her.

So there was this poor old gentleman, his comfort utterly overthrown,
decking his white hair and wrinkled brow with the semblance of a coronet,
and only hoping that the reality might crown and bless him before he was
laid in the ancestral tomb. It was a real calamity; though by no means
the greatest that had been fished up out of the pit of domestic discord
that had been opened anew by the advent of the American; and by the use
which had been made of it by the cantankerous old man of the Hospital.
Middleton, as he looked at these evil consequences, sometimes regretted
that he had not listened to those forebodings which had warned him back
on the eve of his enterprise; yet such was the strange entanglement and
interest which had wound about him, that often he rejoiced that for once
he was engaged in something that absorbed him fully, and the zeal for the
development of which made him careless for the result in respect to its
good or evil, but only desirous that it show itself. As for Alice, she
seemed to skim lightly through all these matters, whether as a spirit of
good or ill he could not satisfactorily judge. He could not think her
wicked; yet her actions seemed unaccountable on the plea that she was
otherwise. It was another characteristic thread in the wild web of
madness that had spun itself about all the prominent characters of our
story. And when Middleton thought of these things, he felt as if it might
be his duty (supposing he had the power) to shovel the earth again into
the pit that he had been the means of opening; but also felt that,
whether duty or not, he would never perform it.

For, you see, on the American's arrival he had found the estate in the
hands of one of the descendants; but some disclosures consequent on his
arrival had thrown it into the hands of another; or, at all events, had
seemed to make it apparent that justice required that it should be so
disposed of. No sooner was the discovery made than the possessor put on a
coronet; the new heir had commenced legal proceedings; the sons of the
respective branches had come to blows and blood; and the devil knows what
other devilish consequences had ensued. Besides this, there was much
falling in love at cross-purposes, and a general animosity of everybody
against everybody else, in proportion to the closeness of the natural
ties and their obligation to love one another.

The moral, if any moral were to be gathered from these petty and wretched
circumstances, was, "Let the past alone: do not seek to renew it; press
on to higher and better things,--at all events, to other things; and be
assured that the right way can never be that which leads you back to the
identical shapes that you long ago left behind. Onward, onward, onward!"

"What have you to do here?" said Alice. "Your lot is in another land.
You have seen the birthplace of your forefathers, and have gratified your
natural yearning for it; now return, and cast in your lot with your own
people, let it be what it will. I fully believe that it is such a lot as
the world has never yet seen, and that the faults, the weaknesses, the
errors, of your countrymen will vanish away like morning mists before the
rising sun. You can do nothing better than to go back."

"This is strange advice, Alice," said Middleton, gazing at her and
smiling. "Go back, with such a fair prospect before me; that were strange
indeed! It is enough to keep me here, that here only I shall see
you,--enough to make me rejoice to have come, that I have found you

"Do not speak in this foolish way," cried Alice, panting. "I am giving
you the best advice, and speaking in the wisest way I am capable
of,--speaking on good grounds too,--and you turn me aside with a silly
compliment. I tell you that this is no comedy in which we are performers,
but a deep, sad tragedy; and that it depends most upon you whether or no
it shall be pressed to a catastrophe. Think well of it."

"I have thought, Alice," responded the young man, "and I must let things
take their course; if, indeed, it depends at all upon me, which I see no
present reason to suppose. Yet I wish you would explain to me what you

To take up the story from the point where we left it: by the aid of the
American's revelations, some light is thrown upon points of family
history, which induce the English possessor of the estate to suppose that
the time has come for asserting his claim to a title which has long been
in abeyance. He therefore sets about it, and engages in great expenses,
besides contracting the enmity of many persons, with whose interests he
interferes. A further complication is brought about by the secret
interference of the old Hospitaller, and Alice goes singing and dancing
through the whole, in a way that makes her seem like a beautiful devil,
though finally it will be recognized that she is an angel of light.
Middleton, half bewildered, can scarcely tell how much of this is due to
his own agency; how much is independent of him and would have happened
had he stayed on his own side of the water. By and by a further and
unexpected development presents the singular fact that he himself is the
heir to whatever claims there are, whether of property or rank,--all
centring in him as the representative of the eldest brother. On this
discovery there ensues a tragedy in the death of the present possessor of
the estate, who has staked everything upon the issue; and Middleton,
standing amid the ruin and desolation of which he has been the innocent
cause, resigns all the claims which he might now assert, and retires, arm
in arm with Alice, who has encouraged him to take this course, and to act
up to his character. The estate takes a passage into the female line, and
the old name becomes extinct, nor does Middleton seek to continue it by
resuming it in place of the one long ago assumed by his ancestor. Thus he
and his wife become the Adam and Eve of a new epoch, and the fitting
missionaries of a new social faith, of which there must be continual
hints through the book.

A knot of characters may be introduced as gathering around Middleton,
comprising expatriated Americans of all sorts: the wandering printer who
came to me so often at the Consulate, who said he was a native of
Philadelphia, and could not go home in the thirty years that he had been
trying to do so, for lack of the money to pay his passage; the large
banker; the consul of Leeds; the woman asserting her claims to half
Liverpool; the gifted literary lady, maddened by Shakespeare, &c., &c.
The Yankee who had been driven insane by the Queen's notice, slight as it
was, of the photographs of his two children which he had sent her. I have
not yet struck the true key-note of this Romance, and until I do, and
unless I do, I shall write nothing but tediousness and nonsense. I do not
wish it to be a picture of life, but a Romance, grim, grotesque, quaint,
of which the Hospital might be the fitting scene. It might have so much
of the hues of life that the reader should sometimes think it was
intended for a picture, yet the atmosphere should be such as to excuse
all wildness. In the Introduction, I might disclaim all intention to draw
a real picture, but say that the continual meetings I had with Americans
bent on such errands had suggested this wild story. The descriptions of
scenery, &c., and of the Hospital, might be correct, but there should be
a tinge of the grotesque given to all the characters and events. The
tragic and the gentler pathetic need not be excluded by the tone and
treatment. If I could but write one central scene in this vein, all the
rest of the Romance would readily arrange itself around that nucleus. The
begging-girl would be another American character; the actress too; the
caravan people. It must be humorous work, or nothing.


_May 12th, Wednesday_.--Middleton found his abode here becoming daily
more interesting; and he sometimes thought that it was the sympathies
with the place and people, buried under the supergrowth of so many ages,
but now coming forth with the life and vigor of a fountain, that, long
hidden beneath earth and ruins, gushes out singing into the sunshine, as
soon as these are removed. He wandered about the neighborhood with
insatiable interest; sometimes, and often, lying on a hill-side and
gazing at the gray tower of the church; sometimes coming into the village
clustered round that same church, and looking at the old timber and
plaster houses, the same, except that the thatch had probably been often
renewed, that they used to be in his ancestor's days. In those old
cottages still dwelt the families, the ----s, the Prices, the Hopnorts,
the Copleys, that had dwelt there when America was a scattered progeny of
infant colonies; and in the churchyard were the graves of all the
generations since--including the dust of those who had seen his
ancestor's face before his departure.

The graves, outside the church walls indeed, bore no marks of this
antiquity; for it seems not to have been an early practice in England to
put stones over such graves; and where it has been done, the climate
causes the inscriptions soon to become obliterated and unintelligible.
But, within the church, there were rich words of the personages and times
with whom Middleton's musings held so much converse.

But one of his greatest employments and pastimes was to ramble through
the grounds of Smithell's, making himself as well acquainted with its
wood paths, its glens, its woods, its venerable trees, as if he had been
bred up there from infancy. Some of those old oaks his ancestor might
have been acquainted with, while they were already sturdy and well-grown
trees; might have climbed them in boyhood; might have mused beneath them
as a lover; might have flung himself at full length on the turf beneath
them, in the bitter anguish that must have preceded his departure forever
from the home of his forefathers. In order to secure an uninterrupted
enjoyment of his rambles here, Middleton had secured the good-will of the
game-keepers and other underlings whom he was likely to meet about the
grounds, by giving them a shilling or a half-crown; and he was now free
to wander where he would, with only the advice rather than the caution,
to keep out of the way of their old master,--for there might be trouble,
if he should meet a stranger on the grounds, in any of his tantrums. But,
in fact, Mr. Eldredge was not much in the habit of walking about the
grounds; and there were hours of every day, during which it was
altogether improbable that he would have emerged from his own apartments
in the manor-house. These were the hours, therefore, when Middleton most
frequented the estate; although, to say the truth, he would gladly have
so timed his visits as to meet and form an acquaintance with the lonely
lord of this beautiful property, his own kinsman, though with so many
ages of dark oblivion between. For Middleton had not that feeling of
infinite distance in the relationship, which he would have had if his
branch of the family had continued in England, and had not intermarried
with the other branch, through such a long waste of years; he rather felt
as if he were the original emigrant who, long resident on a foreign
shore, had now returned, with a heart brimful of tenderness, to revisit
the scenes of his youth, and renew his tender relations with those who
shared his own blood.

There was not, however, much in what he heard of the character of the
present possessor of the estate--or indeed in the strong family
characteristic that had become hereditary--to encourage him to attempt
any advances. It is very probable that the religion of Mr. Eldredge, as a
Catholic, may have excited a prejudice against him, as it certainly had
insulated the family, in a great degree, from the sympathies of the
neighborhood. Mr. Eldredge, moreover, had resided long on the Continent;
long in Italy; and had come back with habits that little accorded with
those of the gentry of the neighborhood; so that, in fact, he was almost
as much of a stranger, and perhaps quite as little of a real Englishman,
as Middleton himself. Be that as it might, Middleton, when he sought to
learn something about him, heard the strangest stories of his habits of
life, of his temper, and of his employments, from the people with whom he
conversed. The old legend, turning upon the monomania of the family, was
revived in full force in reference to this poor gentleman; and many a
time Middleton's interlocutors shook their wise heads, saying with a
knowing look and under their breath that the old gentleman was looking
for the track of the Bloody Footstep. They fabled--or said, for it might
not have been a false story--that every descendant of this house had a
certain portion of his life, during which he sought the track of that
footstep which was left on the threshold of the mansion; that he sought
it far and wide, over every foot of the estate; not only on the estate,
but throughout the neighborhood; not only in the neighborhood but all
over England; not only throughout England but all about the world. It was
the belief of the neighborhood--at least of some old men and women in
it--that the long period of Mr. Eldredge's absence from England had been
spent in the search for some trace of those departing footsteps that had
never returned. It is very possible--probable, indeed--that there may
have been some ground for this remarkable legend; not that it is to be
credited that the family of Eldredge, being reckoned among sane men,
would seriously have sought, years and generations after the fact, for
the first track of those bloody footsteps which the first rain of drippy
England must have washed away; to say nothing of the leaves that had
fallen and the growth and decay of so many seasons, that covered all
traces of them since. But nothing is more probable than that the
continual recurrence to the family genealogy, which had been necessitated
by the matter of the dormant peerage, had caused the Eldredges, from
father to son, to keep alive an interest in that ancestor who had
disappeared, and who had been supposed to carry some of the most
important family papers with him. But yet it gave Middleton a strange
thrill of pleasure, that had something fearful in it, to think that all
through these ages he had been waited for, sought for, anxiously
expected, as it were; it seemed as if the very ghosts of his kindred, a
long shadowy line, held forth their dim arms to welcome him; a line
stretching back to the ghosts of those who had flourished in the old, old
times; the doubletted and beruffled knightly shades of Queen Elizabeth's
time; a long line, stretching from the mediaeval ages, and their
duskiness, downward, downward, with only one vacant space, that of him
who had left the Bloody Footstep. There was an inexpressible pleasure
(airy and evanescent, gone in a moment if he dwelt upon it too
thoughtfully, but very sweet) to Middleton's imagination, in this idea.
When he reflected, however, that his revelations, if they had any effect
at all, might serve only to quench the hopes of these long expectants, it
of course made him hesitate to declare himself.

One afternoon, when he was in the midst of musings such as this, he saw
at a distance through the park, in the direction of the manor-house, a
person who seemed to be walking slowly and seeking for something upon the
ground. He was a long way off when Middleton first perceived him; and
there were two clumps of trees and underbrush, with interspersed tracts
of sunny lawn, between them. The person, whoever he was, kept on, and
plunged into the first clump of shrubbery, still keeping his eyes on the
ground, as if intensely searching for something. When he emerged from the
concealment of the first clump of shrubbery, Middleton saw that he was a
tall, thin person, in a dark dress; and this was the chief observation
that the distance enabled him to make, as the figure kept slowly onward,
in a somewhat wavering line, and plunged into the second clump of
shrubbery. From that, too, he emerged; and soon appeared to be a thin
elderly figure, of a dark man with gray hair, bent, as it seemed to
Middleton, with infirmity, for his figure still stooped even in the
intervals when he did not appear to be tracking the ground. But Middleton
could not but be surprised at the singular appearance the figure had of
setting its foot, at every step, just where a previous footstep had been
made, as if he wanted to measure his whole pathway in the track of
somebody who had recently gone over the ground in advance of him.
Middleton was sitting at the foot of an oak; and he began to feel some
awkwardness in the consideration of what he would do if Mr. Eldredge--for
he could not doubt that it was he--were to be led just to this spot, in
pursuit of his singular occupation. And even so it proved.

Middleton could not feel it manly to fly and hide himself, like a guilty
thing; and indeed the hospitality of the English country gentleman in
many cases gives the neighborhood and the stranger a certain degree of
freedom in the use of the broad expanse of ground in which they and their
forefathers have loved to sequester their residences. The figure kept on,
showing more and more distinctly the tall, meagre, not unvenerable
features of a gentleman in the decline of life, apparently in ill-health;
with a dark face, that might once have been full of energy, but now
seemed enfeebled by time, passion, and perhaps sorrow. But it was strange
to see the earnestness with which he looked on the ground, and the
accuracy with which he at last set his foot, apparently adjusting it
exactly to some footprint before him; and Middleton doubted not that,
having studied and re-studied the family records and the judicial
examinations which described exactly the track that was seen the day
after the memorable disappearance of his ancestor, Mr. Eldredge was now,
in some freak, or for some purpose best known to himself, practically
following it out. And follow it out he did, until at last he lifted up
his eyes, muttering to himself: "At this point the footsteps wholly

Lifting his eyes, as we have said, while thus regretfully and
despairingly muttering these words, he saw Middleton against the oak,
within three paces of him.

_May 13th, Thursday_.--Mr. Eldredge (for it was he) first kept his eyes
fixed full on Middleton's face, with an expression as if he saw him not;
but gradually--slowly, at first--he seemed to become aware of his
presence; then, with a sudden flush, he took in the idea that he was
encountered by a stranger in his secret mood. A flush of anger or shame,
perhaps both, reddened over his face; his eyes gleamed; and he spoke
hastily and roughly.

"Who are you?" he said. "How come you here? I allow no intruders in my
park. Begone, fellow!"

"Really, sir, I did not mean to intrude upon you," said Middleton
blandly. "I am aware that I owe you an apology; but the beauties of your
park must plead my excuse; and the constant kindness of [the] English
gentleman, which admits a stranger to the privilege of enjoying so much
of the beauty in which he himself dwells as the stranger's taste permits
him to enjoy."

"An artist, perhaps," said Mr. Eldredge, somewhat less uncourteously. "I
am told that they love to come here and sketch those old oaks and their
vistas, and the old mansion yonder. But you are an intrusive set, you
artists, and think that a pencil and a sheet of paper may be your
passport anywhere. You are mistaken, sir. My park is not open to

"I am sorry, then, to have intruded upon you," said Middleton, still in
good humor; for in truth he felt a sort of kindness, a sentiment,
ridiculous as it may appear, of kindred towards the old gentleman, and
besides was not unwilling in any way to prolong a conversation in which
he found a singular interest. "I am sorry, especially as I have not even
the excuse you kindly suggest for me. I am not an artist, only an
American, who have strayed hither to enjoy this gentle, cultivated, tamed
nature which I find in English parks, so contrasting with the wild,
rugged nature of my native land. I beg your pardon, and will retire."

"An American," repeated Mr. Eldredge, looking curiously at him. "Ah, you
are wild men in that country, I suppose, and cannot conceive that an
English gentleman encloses his grounds--or that his ancestors have done
so before him--for his own pleasure and convenience, and does not
calculate on having it infringed upon by everybody, like your own
forests, as you say. It is a curious country, that of yours; and in Italy
I have seen curious people from it."

"True, sir," said Middleton, smiling. "We send queer specimens abroad;
but Englishmen should consider that we spring from them, and that we
present after all only a picture of their own characteristics, a little
varied by climate and in situation."

Mr. Eldredge looked at him with a certain kind of interest, and it seemed
to Middleton that he was not unwilling to continue the conversation, if a
fair way to do so could only be offered to him. A secluded man often
grasps at any opportunity of communicating with his kind, when it is
casually offered to him, and for the nonce is surprisingly familiar,
running out towards his chance-companion with the gush of a dammed-up
torrent, suddenly unlocked. As Middleton made a motion to retire, he put
out his hand with an air of authority to restrain him.

"Stay," said he. "Now that you are here, the mischief is done, and you
cannot repair it by hastening away. You have interrupted me in my mood of
thought, and must pay the penalty by suggesting other thoughts. I am a
lonely man here, having spent most of my life abroad, and am separated
from my neighbors by various circumstances. You seem to be an intelligent
man. I should like to ask you a few questions about your country."

He looked at Middleton as he spoke, and seemed to be considering in what
rank of life he should place him; his dress being such as suited a humble
rank. He seemed not to have come to any very certain decision on this

"I remember," said he, "you have no distinctions of rank in your country;
a convenient thing enough, in some respects. When there are no gentlemen,
all are gentlemen. So let it be. You speak of being Englishmen; and it
has often occurred to me that Englishmen have left this country and been
much missed and sought after, who might perhaps be sought there

"It is certainly so, Mr. Eldredge," said Middleton, lifting his eyes to
his face as he spoke, and then turning them aside. "Many footsteps, the
track of which is lost in England, might be found reappearing on the
other side of the Atlantic; ay, though it be hundreds of years since the
track was lost here."

Middleton, though he had refrained from looking full at Mr. Eldredge as
he spoke, was conscious that he gave a great start; and he remained
silent for a moment or two, and when he spoke there was the tremor in his
voice of a nerve that had been struck and still vibrated.

"That is a singular idea of yours," he at length said; "not singular in
itself, but strangely coincident with something that happened to be
occupying my mind. Have you ever heard any such instances as you speak

"Yes," replied Middleton. "I have had pointed out to me the rightful heir
to a Scottish earldom, in the person of an American farmer, in his
shirt-sleeves. There are many Americans who believe themselves to hold
similar claims. And I have known one family, at least, who had in their
possession, and had had for two centuries, a secret that might have been
worth wealth and honors if known in England. Indeed, being kindred as we
are, it cannot but be the case."

Mr. Eldredge appeared to be much struck by these last words, and gazed
wistfully, almost wildly, at Middleton, as if debating with himself
whether to say more. He made a step or two aside; then returned abruptly,
and spoke.

"Can you tell me the name of the family in which this secret was kept?"
said he; "and the nature of the secret?"

"The nature of the secret," said Middleton, smiling, "was not likely to
be extended to any one out of the family. The name borne by the family
was Middleton. There is no member of it, so far as I am aware, at this
moment remaining in America."

"And has the secret died with them?" asked Mr. Eldredge.

"They communicated it to none," said Middleton.

"It is a pity! It was a villainous wrong," said Mr. Eldredge. "And so, it
may be, some ancient line, in the old country, is defrauded of its rights
for want of what might have been obtained from this Yankee, whose
democracy has demoralized them to the perception of what is due to the
antiquity of descent, and of the bounden duty that there is, in all
ranks, to keep up the honor of a family that has had potence enough to
preserve itself in distinction for a thousand years."

"Yes," said Middleton, quietly, "we have sympathy with what is strong and
vivacious to-day; none with what was so yesterday."

The remark seemed not to please Mr. Eldredge; he frowned, and muttered
something to himself; but recovering himself, addressed Middleton with
more courtesy than at the commencement of their interview; and, with this
graciousness, his face and manner grew very agreeable, almost
fascinating: he [was] still haughty, however.

"Well, sir," said he, "I am not sorry to have met you. I am a solitary
man, as I have said, and a little communication with a stranger is a
refreshment, which I enjoy seldom enough to be sensible of it. Pray, are
you staying hereabouts?"

Middleton signified to him that he might probably spend some little time
in the village.

"Then, during your stay," said Mr. Eldredge, "make free use of the walks
in these grounds; and though it is not probable that you will meet me in
them again, you need apprehend no second questioning of your right to be
here. My house has many points of curiosity that may be of interest to a
stranger from a new country. Perhaps you have heard of some of them."

"I have heard some wild legend about a Bloody Footstep," answered
Middleton; "indeed, I think I remember hearing something about it in my
own country; and having a fanciful sort of interest in such things, I
took advantage of the hospitable custom which opens the doors of curious
old houses to strangers, to go to see it. It seemed to me, I confess,
only a natural stain in the old stone that forms the doorstep."

"There, sir," said Mr. Eldredge, "let me say that you came to a very
foolish conclusion; and so, good-by, sir."

And without further ceremony, he cast an angry glance at Middleton, who
perceived that the old gentleman reckoned the Bloody Footstep among his
ancestral honors, and would probably have parted with his claim to the
peerage almost as soon as have given up the legend.

Present aspect of the story: Middleton on his arrival becomes acquainted
with the old Hospitaller, and is familiarized at the Hospital. He pays a
visit in his company to the manor-house, but merely glimpses at its
remarkable things, at this visit, among others at the old cabinet, which
does not, at first view, strike him very strongly. But, on musing about
his visit afterwards, he finds the recollection of the cabinet strangely
identifying itself with his previous imaginary picture of the palatial
mansion; so that at last he begins to conceive the mistake he has made.
At this first [visit], he does not have a personal interview with the
possessor of the estate; but, as the Hospitaller and himself go from room
to room, he finds that the owner is preceding them, shyly flitting like a
ghost, so as to avoid them. Then there is a chapter about the character
of the Eldredge of the day, a Catholic, a morbid, shy man, representing
all the peculiarities of an old family, and generally thought to be
insane. And then comes the interview between him and Middleton, where the
latter excites such an interest that he dwells upon the old man's mind,
and the latter probably takes pains to obtain further intercourse with
him, and perhaps invites him to dinner, and [to] spend a night in his
house. If so, this second meeting must lead to the examination of the
cabinet, and the discovery of some family documents in it. Perhaps the
cabinet may be in Middleton's sleeping-chamber, and he examines it by
himself, before going to bed; and finds out a secret which will perplex
him how to deal with it.

_May 14th, Friday_.--We have spoken several times already of a young
girl, who was seen at this period about the little antiquated village of
Smithells; a girl in manners and in aspect unlike those of the cottages
amid which she dwelt. Middleton had now so often met her, and in solitary
places, that an acquaintance had inevitably established itself between
them. He had ascertained that she had lodgings at a farm-house near by,
and that she was connected in some way with the old Hospitaller, whose
acquaintance had proved of such interest to him; but more than this he
could not learn either from her or others. But he was greatly attracted
and interested by the free spirit and fearlessness of this young woman;
nor could he conceive where, in staid and formal England, she had grown
up to be such as she was, so without manner, so without art, yet so
capable of doing and thinking for herself. She had no reserve,
apparently, yet never seemed to sin against decorum; it never appeared to
restrain her that anything she might wish to do was contrary to custom;
she had nothing of what could be called shyness in her intercourse with
him; and yet he was conscious of an unapproachableness in Alice. Often,
in the old man's presence, she mingled in the conversation that went on
between him and Middleton, and with an acuteness that betokened a sphere
of thought much beyond what could be customary with young English
maidens; and Middleton was often reminded of the theories of those in our
own country, who believe that the amelioration of society depends greatly
on the part that women shall hereafter take, according to their
individual capacity, in all the various pursuits of life. These deeper
thoughts, these higher qualities, surprised him as they showed
themselves, whenever occasion called them forth, under the light, gay,
and frivolous exterior which she had at first seemed to present.
Middleton often amused himself with surmises in what rank of life Alice
could have been bred, being so free of all conventional rule, yet so nice
and delicate in her perception of the true proprieties that she never
shocked him.

One morning, when they had met in one of Middleton's rambles about the
neighborhood, they began to talk of America; and Middleton described to
Alice the stir that was being made in behalf of women's rights; and he
said that whatever cause was generous and disinterested always, in that
country, derived much of its power from the sympathy of women, and that
the advocates of every such cause were in favor of yielding the whole
field of human effort to be shared with women.

"I have been surprised," said he, "in the little I have seen and heard of
English women, to discover what a difference there is between them and my
own countrywomen."

"I have heard," said Alice, with a smile, "that your countrywomen are a
far more delicate and fragile race than Englishwomen; pale, feeble
hot-house plants, unfit for the wear and tear of life, without energy of
character, or any slightest degree of physical strength to base it upon.
If, now, you had these large-framed Englishwomen, you might, I should
imagine, with better hopes, set about changing the system of society, so
as to allow them to struggle in the strife of politics, or any other
strife, hand to hand, or side by side with men."

"If any countryman of mine has said this of our women," exclaimed
Middleton, indignantly, "he is a slanderous villain, unworthy to have
been borne by an American mother; if an Englishman has said it--as I know
many of them have and do--let it pass as one of the many prejudices only
half believed, with which they strive to console themselves for the
inevitable sense that the American race is destined to higher purposes
than their own. But pardon me; I forgot that I was speaking to an
Englishwoman, for indeed you do not remind me of them. But, I assure you,
the world has not seen such women as make up, I had almost said the mass
of womanhood in my own country; slight in aspect, slender in frame, as
you suggest, but yet capable of bringing forth stalwart men; they
themselves being of inexhaustible courage, patience, energy; soft and
tender, deep of heart, but high of purpose. Gentle, refined, but bold in
every good cause."

"Oh, yea have said quite enough," replied Alice, who had seemed ready to
laugh outright, during this encomium. "I think I see one of these
paragons now, in a Bloomer, I think you call it, swaggering along with a
Bowie knife at her girdle, smoking a cigar, no doubt, and tippling
sherry-cobblers and mint-juleps. It must be a pleasant life."

"I should think you, at least, might form a more just idea of what women
become," said Middleton, considerably piqued, "in a country where the
rules of conventionalism are somewhat relaxed; where woman, whatever you
may think, is far more profoundly educated than in England, where a few
ill-taught accomplishments, a little geography, a catechism of science,
make up the sum, under the superintendence of a governess; the mind being
kept entirely inert as to any capacity for thought. They are cowards,
except within certain rules and forms; they spend a life of old
proprieties, and die, and if their souls do not die with them, it is
Heaven's mercy."

Alice did not appear in the least moved to anger, though considerably to
mirth, by this description of the character of English females. She
laughed as she replied, "I see there is little danger of your leaving
your heart in England." She added more seriously, "And permit me to say,
I trust, Mr. Middleton, that you remain as much American in other
respects as in your preference of your own race of women. The American
who comes hither and persuades himself that he is one with Englishmen, it
seems to me, makes a great mistake; at least, if he is correct in such an
idea he is not worthy of his own country, and the high development that
awaits it. There is much that is seductive in our life, but I think it is
not upon the higher impulses of our nature that such seductions act. I
should think ill of the American who, for any causes of ambition,--any
hope of wealth or rank,--or even for the sake of any of those old,
delightful ideas of the past, the associations of ancestry, the
loveliness of an age-long home,--the old poetry and romance that haunt
these ancient villages and estates of England,--would give up the chance
of acting upon the unmoulded future of America."

"And you, an Englishwoman, speak thus!" exclaimed Middleton. "You perhaps
speak truly; and it may be that your words go to a point where they are
especially applicable at this moment. But where have you learned these
ideas? And how is it that you know how to awake these sympathies, that
have slept perhaps too long?"

"Think only if what I have said be truth," replied Alice. "It is no
matter who or what I am that speak it."

"Do you speak," asked Middleton, from a sudden impulse, "with any secret
knowledge affecting a matter now in my mind?"

Alice shook her head, as she turned away; but Middleton could not
determine whether the gesture was meant as a negative to his question, or
merely as declining to answer it. She left him; and he found himself
strangely disturbed with thoughts of his own country, of the life that he
ought to be leading there, the struggles in which he ought to be taking
part; and, with these motives in his impressible mind, the motives that
had hitherto kept him in England seemed unworthy to influence him.

_May 15th, Saturday_.--It was not long after Middleton's meeting with Mr.
Eldredge in the park of Smithells, that he received--what it is precisely
the most common thing to receive--an invitation to dine at the
manor-house and spend the night. The note was written with much
appearance of cordiality, as well as in a respectful style; and Middleton
could not but perceive that Mr. Eldredge must have been making some
inquiries as to his social status, in order to feel him justified in
putting him on this footing of equality. He had no hesitation in
accepting the invitation, and on the appointed day was received in the
old house of his forefathers as a guest. The owner met him, not quite on
the frank and friendly footing expressed in his note, but still with a
perfect and polished courtesy, which however could not hide from the
sensitive Middleton a certain coldness, a something that seemed to him
Italian rather than English; a symbol of a condition of things between
them, undecided, suspicious, doubtful very likely. Middleton's own manner
corresponded to that of his host, and they made few advances towards more
intimate acquaintance. Middleton was however recompensed for his host's
unapproachableness by the society of his daughter, a young lady born
indeed in Italy, but who had been educated in a Catholic family in
England; so that here was another relation--the first female one--to whom
he had been introduced. She was a quiet, shy, undemonstrative young
woman, with a fine bloom and other charms which she kept as much in the
background as possible, with maiden reserve. (There is a Catholic priest
at table.)

Mr. Eldredge talked chiefly, during dinner, of art, with which his long
residence in Italy had made him thoroughly acquainted, and for which he
seemed to have a genuine taste and enjoyment. It was a subject on which
Middleton knew little; but he felt the interest in it which appears to be
not uncharacteristic of Americans, among the earliest of their
developments of cultivation; nor had he failed to use such few
opportunities as the English public or private galleries offered him to
acquire the rudiments of a taste. He was surprised at the depth of some
of Mr. Eldredge's remarks on the topics thus brought up, and at the
sensibility which appeared to be disclosed by his delicate appreciation
of some of the excellences of those great masters who wrote their epics,
their tender sonnets, or their simple ballads, upon canvas; and Middleton
conceived a respect for him which he had not hitherto felt, and which
possibly Mr. Eldredge did not quite deserve. Taste seems to be a
department of moral sense; and yet it is so little identical with it, and
so little implies conscience, that some of the worst men in the world
have been the most refined.

After Miss Eldredge had retired, the host appeared to desire to make the
dinner a little more social than it had hitherto been; he called for a
peculiar species of wine from Southern Italy, which he said was the most
delicious production of the grape, and had very seldom, if ever before
been imported pure into England. A delicious perfume came from the
cradled bottle, and bore an ethereal, evanescent testimony to the truth
of what he said: and the taste, though too delicate for wine quaffed in
England, was nevertheless delicious, when minutely dwelt upon.

"It gives me pleasure to drink your health, Mr. Middleton," said the
host. "We might well meet as friends in England, for I am hardly more an
Englishman than yourself; bred up, as I have been, in Italy, and coming
back hither at my age, unaccustomed to the manners of the country, with
few friends, and insulated from society by a faith which makes most
people regard me as an enemy. I seldom welcome people here, Mr.
Middleton; but you are welcome."

"I thank you, Mr. Eldredge, and may fairly say that the circumstances to
which you allude make me accept your hospitality with a warmer feeling
than I otherwise might. Strangers, meeting in a strange land, have a sort
of tie in their foreignness to those around them, though there be no
positive relation between themselves."

"We are friends, then?" said Mr. Eldredge, looking keenly at Middleton,
as if to discover exactly how much was meant by the compact. He
continued, "You know, I suppose, Mr. Middleton, the situation in which I
find myself on returning to my hereditary estate, which has devolved to
me somewhat unexpectedly by the death of a younger man than myself. There
is an old flaw here, as perhaps you have been told, which keeps me out of
a property long kept in the guardianship of the crown, and of a barony,
one of the oldest in England. There is an idea--a tradition--a legend,
founded, however, on evidence of some weight, that there is still in
existence the possibility of rinding the proof which we need, to confirm
our cause."

"I am most happy to hear it, Mr. Eldredge," said Middleton.

"But," continued his host, "I am bound to remember and to consider that
for several generations there seems to have been the same idea, and the
same expectation; whereas nothing has ever come of it. Now, among other
suppositions--perhaps wild ones--it has occurred to me that this
testimony, the desirable proof, may exist on your side of the Atlantic;
for it has long enough been sought here in vain."

"As I said in our meeting in your park, Mr. Eldredge," replied Middleton,
"such a suggestion may very possibly be true; yet let me point out that
the long lapse of years, and the continual melting and dissolving of
family institutions--the consequent scattering of family documents, and
the annihilation of traditions from memory, all conspire against its

"And yet, Mr. Middleton," said his host, "when we talked together at our
first singular interview, you made use of an expression--of one
remarkable phrase--which dwelt upon my memory and now recurs to it."

"And what was that, Mr. Eldredge?" asked Middleton.

"You spoke," replied his host, "of the Bloody Footstep reappearing on the
threshold of the old palace of S------. Now where, let me ask you, did
you ever hear this strange name, which you then spoke, and which I have
since spoken?"

"From my father's lips, when a child, in America," responded Middleton.

"It is very strange," said Mr. Eldredge, in a hasty, dissatisfied tone.
"I do not see my way through this."

_May 16, Sunday._--Middleton had been put into a chamber in the oldest
part of the house, the furniture of which was of antique splendor, well
befitting to have come down for ages, well befitting the hospitality
shown to noble and even royal guests. It was the same room in which, at
his first visit to the house, Middleton's attention had been drawn to the
cabinet, which he had subsequently remembered as the palatial residence
in which he had harbored so many dreams. It still stood in the chamber,
making the principal object in it, indeed; and when Middleton was left
alone, he contemplated it not without a certain awe, which at the same
time he felt to be ridiculous. He advanced towards it, and stood
contemplating the mimic facade, wondering at the singular fact of this
piece of furniture having been preserved in traditionary history, when so
much had been forgotten,--when even the features and architectural
characteristics of the mansion in which it was merely a piece of
furniture had been forgotten. And, as he gazed at it, he half thought
himself an actor in a fairy portal [tale?]; and would not have been
surprised--at least, he would have taken it with the composure of a
dream--if the mimic portal had unclosed, and a form of pigmy majesty had
appeared within, beckoning him to enter and find the revelation of what
had so long perplexed him. The key of the cabinet was in the lock, and
knowing that it was not now the receptacle of anything in the shape of
family papers, he threw it open; and there appeared the mosaic floor, the
representation of a stately, pillared hall, with the doors on either
side, opening, as would seem, into various apartments. And here should
have stood the visionary figures of his ancestry, waiting to welcome the
descendant of their race, who had so long delayed his coming. After
looking and musing a considerable time,--even till the old clock from the
turret of the house told twelve, he turned away with a sigh, and went to
bed. The wind moaned through the ancestral trees; the old house creaked
as with ghostly footsteps; the curtains of his bed seemed to waver. He
was now at home; yes, he had found his home, and was sheltered at last
under the ancestral roof after all those long, long wanderings,--after
the little log-built hut of the early settlement, after the straight roof
of the American house, after all the many roofs of two hundred years,
here he was at last under the one which he had left, on that fatal night,
when the Bloody Footstep was so mysteriously impressed on the threshold.
As he drew nearer and nearer towards sleep, it seemed more and more to
him as if he were the very individual--the self-same one throughout the
whole--who had done, seen, suffered, all these long toils and
vicissitudes, and were now come back to rest, and found his weariness so
great that there could he no rest.

Nevertheless, he did sleep; and it may be that his dreams went on, and
grew vivid, and perhaps became truer in proportion to their vividness.
When he awoke he had a perception, an intuition, that he had been
dreaming about the cabinet, which, in his sleeping imagination, had again
assumed the magnitude and proportions of a stately mansion, even as he
had seen it afar from the other side of the Atlantic. Some dim
associations remained lingering behind, the dying shadows of very vivid
ones which had just filled his mind; but as he looked at the cabinet,
there was some idea that still seemed to come so near his consciousness
that, every moment, he felt on the point of grasping it. During the
process of dressing, he still kept his eyes turned involuntarily towards
the cabinet, and at last he approached it, and looked within the mimic
portal, still endeavoring to recollect what it was that he had heard or
dreamed about it,--what half obliterated remembrance from childhood, what
fragmentary last night's dream it was, that thus haunted him. It must
have been some association of one or the other nature that led him to
press his finger on one particular square of the mosaic pavement; and as
he did so, the thin plate of polished marble slipt aside. It disclosed,
indeed, no hollow receptacle, but only another leaf of marble, in the
midst of which appeared to be a key-hole: to this Middleton applied the
little antique key to which we have several times alluded, and found it
fit precisely. The instant it was turned, the whole mimic floor of the
hall rose, by the action of a secret spring, and discovered a shallow
recess beneath. Middleton looked eagerly in, and saw that it contained
documents, with antique seals of wax appended; he took but one glance at
them, and closed the receptacle as it was before.

Why did he do so? He felt that there would be a meanness and wrong in
inspecting these family papers, coming to the knowledge of them, as he
had, through the opportunities offered by the hospitality of the owner of
the estate; nor, on the other hand, did he feel such confidence in his
host, as to make him willing to trust these papers in his hands, with any
certainty that they would be put to an honorable use. The case was one
demanding consideration, and he put a strong curb upon his impatient
curiosity, conscious that, at all events, his first impulsive feeling was
that he ought not to examine these papers without the presence of his
host or some other authorized witness. Had he exercised any casuistry
about the point, however, he might have argued that these papers,
according to all appearance, dated from a period to which his own
hereditary claims ascended, and to circumstances in which his own
rightful interest was as strong as that of Mr. Eldredge. But he had acted
on his first impulse, closed the secret receptacle, and hastening his
toilet descended from his room; and, it being still too early for
breakfast, resolved to ramble about the immediate vicinity of the house.
As he passed the little chapel, he heard within the voice of the priest
performing mass, and felt how strange was this sign of mediaeval religion
and foreign manners in homely England.

As the story looks now: Eldredge, bred, and perhaps born, in Italy, and a
Catholic, with views to the church before he inherited the estate, has
not the English moral sense and simple honor; can scarcely be called an
Englishman at all. Dark suspicions of past crime, and of the possibility
of future crime, may be thrown around him; an atmosphere of doubt shall
envelop him, though, as regards manners, he may be highly refined.
Middleton shall find in the house a priest; and at his first visit he
shall have seen a small chapel, adorned with the richness, as to marbles,
pictures, and frescoes, of those that we see in the churches at Rome; and
here the Catholic forms of worship shall be kept up. Eldredge shall have
had an Italian mother, and shall have the personal characteristics of an
Italian. There shall be something sinister about him, the more apparent
when Middleton's visit draws to a conclusion; and the latter shall feel
convinced that they part in enmity, so far as Eldredge is concerned. He
shall not speak of his discovery in the cabinet.

_May 17th, Monday_.--Unquestionably, the appointment of Middleton as
minister to one of the minor Continental courts must take place in the
interval between Eldredge's meeting him in the park, and his inviting him
to his house. After Middleton's appointment, the two encounter each other
at the Mayor's dinner in St. Mary's Hall, and Eldredge, startled at
meeting the vagrant, as he deemed him, under such a character, remembers
the hints of some secret knowledge of the family history, which Middleton
had thrown out. He endeavors, both in person and by the priest, to make
out what Middleton really is, and what he knows, and what he intends; but
Middleton is on his guard, yet cannot help arousing Eldredge's suspicions
that he has views upon the estate and title. It is possible, too, that
Middleton may have come to the knowledge--may have had some knowledge--of
some shameful or criminal fact connected with Mr. Eldredge's life on the
Continent; the old Hospitaller, possibly, may have told him this, from
some secret malignity hereafter to be accounted for. Supposing Eldredge
to attempt his murder, by poison for instance, bringing back into modern
life his old hereditary Italian plots; and into English life a sort of
crime which does not belong to it,--which did not, at least, although at
this very period there have been fresh and numerous instances of it.
There might be a scene in which Middleton and Eldredge come to a fierce
and bitter explanation; for in Eldredge's character there must be the
English surly boldness as well as the Italian subtlety; and here,
Middleton shall tell him what he knows of his past character and life,
and also what he knows of his own hereditary claims. Eldredge might have
committed a murder in Italy; might have been a patriot, and betrayed his
friends to death for a bribe, bearing another name than his own in Italy;
indeed, he might have joined them only as an informer. All this he had
tried to sink, when he came to England in the character of a gentleman of
ancient name and large estate. But this infamy of his previous character
must be foreboded from the first by the manner in which Eldredge is
introduced; and it must make his evil designs on Middleton appear natural
and probable. It may be, that Middleton has learned Eldredge's previous
character, through some Italian patriot who had taken refuge in America,
and there become intimate with him; and it should be a piece of secret
history, not known to the world in general, so that Middleton might seem
to Eldredge the sole depositary of the secret then in England. He feels a
necessity of getting rid of him; and thenceforth Middleton's path lies
always among pitfalls; indeed, the first attempt should follow promptly
and immediately on his rupture with Eldredge. The utmost pains must be
taken with this incident to give it an air of reality; or else it must be
quite removed out of the sphere of reality by an intensified atmosphere
of romance. I think the old Hospitaller must interfere to prevent the
success of this attempt, perhaps through the means of Alice.

The result of Eldredge's criminal and treacherous designs is, somehow or
other, that he comes to his death; and Middleton and Alice are left to
administer on the remains of the story; perhaps, the Mayor being his
friend, he may be brought into play here. The foreign ecclesiastic shall
likewise come forward, and he shall prove to be a man of subtile policy
perhaps, yet a man of religion and honor; with a Jesuit's principles, but
a Jesuit's devotion and self-sacrifice. The old Hospitaller must die in
his bed, or some other how; or perhaps not--we shall see. He may just as
well be left in the Hospital. Eldredge's attempt on Middleton must be in
some way peculiar to Italy, and which he shall have learned there; and,
by the way, at his dinner-table there shall be a Venice glass, one of the
kind that were supposed to be shattered when poison was put into them.
When Eldredge produces his rare wine, he shall pour it into this, with a
jesting allusion to the legend. Perhaps the mode of Eldredge's attempt on
Middleton's life shall be a reproduction of the attempt made two hundred
years before; and Middleton's knowledge of that incident shall be the
means of his salvation. That would be a good idea; in fact, I think it
must be done so and no otherwise. It is not to be forgotten that there is
a taint of insanity in Eldredge's blood, accounting for much that is wild
and absurd, at the same time that it must be subtile, in his conduct; one
of those perplexing mad people, whose lunacy you are continually
mistaking for wickedness or _vice versa_. This shall be the priest's
explanation and apology for him, after his death. I wish I could get hold
of the Newgate Calendar, the older volumes, or any other book of
murders--the Causes Celebres, for instance. The legendary murder, or
attempt at it, will bring its own imaginative probability with it, when
repeated by Eldredge; and at the same time it will have a dreamlike
effect; so that Middleton shall hardly know whether he is awake or not.
This incident is very essential towards bringing together the past time
and the present, and the two ends of the story.

_May 18th, Tuesday._--All down through the ages since Edward had
disappeared from home, leaving that bloody footstep on the threshold,
there had been legends and strange stories of the murder and the manner
of it. These legends differed very much among themselves. According to
some, his brother had awaited him there, and stabbed him on the
threshold. According to others, he had been murdered in his chamber, and
dragged out. A third story told, that he was escaping with his lady love,
when they were overtaken on the threshold, and the young man slain. It
was impossible at this distance of time to ascertain which of these
legends was the true one, or whether either of them had any portion of
truth, further than that the young man had actually disappeared from that
night, and that it never was certainly known to the public that any
intelligence had ever afterwards been received from him. Now, Middleton
may have communicated to Eldredge the truth in regard to the matter; as,
for instance, that he had stabbed him with a certain dagger that was
still kept among the curiosities of the manor-house. Of course, that will
not do. It must be some very ingenious and artificially natural thing, an
artistic affair in its way, that should strike the fancy of such a man as
Eldredge, and appear to him altogether fit, mutatis mutandis, to be
applied to his own requirements and purposes. I do not at present see in
the least how this is to be wrought out. There shall be everything to
make Eldredge look with the utmost horror and alarm at any chance that he
may be superseded and ousted from his possession of the estate; for he
shall only recently have established his claim to it, tracing out his
pedigree, when the family was supposed to be extinct. And he is come to
these comfortable quarters after a life of poverty, uncertainty,
difficulty, hanging loose on society; and therefore he shall be willing
to risk soul and body both, rather than return to his former state.
Perhaps his daughter shall be introduced as a young Italian girl, to whom
Middleton shall decide to leave the estate.

On the failure of his design, Eldredge may commit suicide, and be found
dead in the wood; at any rate, some suitable end shall be contrived,
adapted to his wants. This character must not be so represented as to
shut him out completely from the reader's sympathies; he shall have
taste, sentiment, even a capacity for affection, nor, I think, ought he
to have any hatred or bitter feeling against the man whom he resolves to
murder. In the closing scenes, when he thinks the fate of Middleton
approaching, there might even be a certain tenderness towards him, a
desire to make the last drops of life delightful; if well done, this
would produce a certain sort of horror, that I do not remember to have
seen effected in literature. Possibly the ancient emigrant might be
supposed to have fallen into an ancient mine, down a precipice, into some
pitfall; no, not so. Into a river; into a moat. As Middleton's
pretensions to birth are not publicly known, there will be no reason why,
at his sudden death, suspicion should fix on Eldredge as the murderer;
and it shall be his object so to contrive his death as that it shall
appear the result of accident. Having failed in effecting Middleton's
death by this excellent way, he shall perhaps think that he cannot do
better than to make his own exit in precisely the same manner. It might
be easy, and as delightful as any death could be; no ugliness in it, no
blood; for the Bloody Footstep of old times might be the result of the
failure of the old plot, not of its success. Poison seems to be the only
elegant method; but poison is vulgar, and in many respects unfit for my
purpose. It won't do. Whatever it may be, it must not come upon the
reader as a sudden and new thing, but as one that might have been
foreseen from afar, though he shall not actually have foreseen it until
it is about to happen. It must be prevented through the agency of Alice.
Alice may have been an artist in Rome, and there have known Eldredge and
his daughter, and thus she may have become their guest in England; or he
may be patronizing her now--at all events she shall be the friend of the
daughter, and shall have a just appreciation of the father's character.
It shall be partly due to her high counsel that Middleton foregoes his
claim to the estate, and prefers the life of an American, with its lofty
possibilities for himself and his race, to the position of an Englishman
of property and title; and she, for her part, shall choose the condition
and prospects of woman in America, to the emptiness of the life of a
woman of rank in England. So they shall depart, lofty and poor, out of
the home which might be their own, if they would stoop to make it so.
Possibly the daughter of Eldredge may be a girl not yet in her teens, for
whom Alice has the affection of an elder sister.

It should be a very carefully and highly wrought scene, occurring just
before Eldredge's actual attempt on Middleton's life, in which all the
brilliancy of his character--which shall before have gleamed upon the
reader--shall come out, with pathos, with wit, with insight, with
knowledge of life. Middleton shall be inspired by this, and shall vie
with him in exhilaration of spirits; but the ecclesiastic shall look on
with singular attention, and some appearance of alarm; and the suspicion
of Alice shall likewise be aroused. The old Hospitaller may have gained
his situation partly by proving himself a man of the neighborhood, by
right of descent; so that he, too, shall have a hereditary claim to be in
the Romance.

Eldredge's own position as a foreigner in the midst of English home life,
insulated and dreary, shall represent to Middleton, in some degree, what
his own would be, were he to accept the estate. But Middleton shall not
come to the decision to resign it, without having to repress a deep
yearning for that sense of long, long rest in an age-consecrated home,
which he had felt so deeply to be the happy lot of Englishmen. But this
ought to be rejected, as not belonging to his country, nor to the age,
nor any longer possible.

_May 19th, Wednesday_.--The connection of the old Hospitaller with the
story is not at all clear. He is an American by birth, but deriving his
English origin from the neighborhood of the Hospital, where he has
finally established himself. Some one of his ancestors may have been
somehow connected with the ancient portion of the story. He has been a
friend of Middleton's father, who reposed entire confidence in him,
trusting him with all his fortune, which the Hospitaller risked in his
enormous speculations, and lost it all. His fame had been great in the
financial world. There were circumstances that made it dangerous for his
whereabouts to be known, and so he had come hither and found refuge in
this institution, where Middleton finds him, but does not know who he is.
In the vacancy of a mind formerly so active, he has taken to the study of
local antiquities; and from his former intimacy with Middleton's father,
he has a knowledge of the American part of the story, which he connects
with the English portion, disclosed by his researches here; so that he is
quite aware that Middleton has claims to the estate, which might be urged
successfully against the present possessor. He is kindly disposed towards
the son of his friend, whom he had so greatly injured; but he is now very
old, and----. Middleton has been directed to this old man by a friend in
America, as one likely to afford him all possible assistance in his
researches; and so he seeks him out and forms an acquaintance with him,
which the old man encourages to a certain extent, taking an evident
interest in him, but does not disclose himself; nor does Middleton
suspect him to be an American. The characteristic life of the Hospital is
brought out, and the individual character of this old man, vegetating
here after an active career, melancholy and miserable; sometimes torpid
with the slow approach of utmost age; sometimes feeble, peevish,
wavering; sometimes shining out with a wisdom resulting from originally
bright faculties, ripened by experience. The character must not be
allowed to get vague, but, with gleams of romance, must yet be kept
homely and natural by little touches of his daily life.

As for Alice, I see no necessity for her being anywise related to or
connected with the old Hospitaller. As originally conceived, I think she
may be an artist--a sculptress--whom Eldredge had known in Rome. No; she
might be a granddaughter of the old Hospitaller, born and bred in
America, but who had resided two or three years in Rome in the study of
her art, and have there acquired a knowledge of the Eldredges and have
become fond of the little Italian girl his daughter. She has lodgings in
the village, and of course is often at the Hospital, and often at the
Hall; she makes busts and little statues, and is free, wild, tender,
proud, domestic, strange, natural, artistic; and has at bottom the
characteristics of the American woman, with the principles of the
strong-minded sect; and Middleton shall be continually puzzled at meeting
such a phenomenon in England. By and by, the internal influence
[evidence?] of her sentiments (though there shall be nothing to confirm
it in her manner) shall lead him to charge her with being an American.

Now, as to the arrangement of the Romance;--it begins as an integral and
essential part, with my introduction, giving a pleasant and familiar
summary of my life in the Consulate at Liverpool; the strange species of
Americans, with strange purposes, in England, whom I used to meet there;
and, especially, how my countrymen used to be put out of their senses by
the idea of inheritances of English property. Then I shall particularly
instance one gentleman who called on me on first coming over; a
description of him must be given, with touches that shall puzzle the
reader to decide whether it is not an actual portrait. And then this
Romance shall be offered, half seriously, as the account of the fortunes
that he met with in his search for his hereditary home. Enough of his
ancestral story may be given to explain what is to follow in the Romance;
or perhaps this may be left to the scenes of his intercourse with the old

The Romance proper opens with Middleton's arrival at what he has reason
to think is the neighborhood of his ancestral home, and here he makes
application to the old Hospitaller. Middleton shall be described as
approaching the Hospital, which shall be pretty literally copied after
Leicester's, although the surrounding village must be on a much smaller
scale of course. Much elaborateness may be given to this portion of the
book. Middleton shall have assumed a plain dress, and shall seek to make
no acquaintances except that of the old Hospitaller; the acquaintance of
Alice naturally following. The old Hospitaller and he go together to the
old Hall, where, as they pass through the rooms, they find that the
proprietor is flitting like a ghost before them from chamber to chamber;
they catch his reflection in a glass, &c., &c. When these have been
wrought up sufficiently, shall come the scene in the wood, where Eldredge
is seen yielding to the superstition that he has inherited, respecting
the old secret of the family, on the discovery of which depends the
enforcement of his claim to a title. All this while, Middleton has
appeared in the character of a man of no note; and now, through some
political change, not necessarily told, he receives a packet addressed to
him as an ambassador, and containing a notice of his appointment to that
dignity. A paragraph in the "Times" confirms the fact, and makes it known
in the neighborhood. Middleton immediately becomes an object of
attention; the gentry call upon him; the Mayor of the neighboring
county-town invites him to dinner, which shall be described with all its
antique formalities. Here he meets Eldredge, who is surprised,
remembering the encounter in the wood; but passes it all off, like a man
of the world, makes his acquaintance, and invites him to the Hall.
Perhaps he may make a visit of some time here, and become intimate, to a
certain degree, with all parties; and here things shall ripen themselves
for Eldredge's attempt upon his life.

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