Part 32 out of 51
All this Clement saw, as in apocalyptic vision, stored up for the
wife of Murray Bradshaw, if he read him rightly, as he felt sure he
did, from the few times he had seen him. He would be rich by and by,
very probably. He looked like one of those young men who are sharp,
and hard enough to come to fortune. Then she would have to take her
place in the great social exhibition where the gilded cages are daily
opened that the animals may be seen, feeding on the sight of
stereotyped toilets and the sound of impoverished tattle. O misery
of semi-provincial fashionable life, where wealth is at its wit's end
to avoid being tired of an existence which has all the labor of
keeping up appearances, without the piquant profligacy which saves it
at least from being utterly vapid! How many fashionable women at the
end of a long season would be ready to welcome heaven itself as a
relief from the desperate monotony of dressing, dawdling, and
This could not go on so forever. Clement had placed a red curtain so
as to throw a rose-bloom on his marble, and give it an aspect which
his fancy turned to the semblance of life. He would sit and look at
the features his own hand had so faithfully wrought, until it seemed
as if the lips moved, sometimes as if they were smiling, sometimes as
if they were ready to speak to him. His companions began to whisper
strange things of him in the studio,--that his eye was getting an
unnatural light,--that he talked as if to imaginary listeners,--in
short, that there was a look as if something were going wrong with
his brain, which it might be feared would spoil his fine
intelligence. It was the undecided battle, and the enemy, as in his
noblest moments he had considered the growing passion, was getting
the better of him.
He was sitting one afternoon before the fatal bust which had smiled
and whispered away his peace, when the post-man brought him a letter.
It was from the simple girl to whom he had given his promise. We
know how she used to prattle in her harmless way about her innocent
feelings, and the trifling matters that were going on in her little
village world. But now she wrote in sadness. Something, she did not
too clearly explain what, had grieved her, and she gave free
expression to her feelings. "I have no one that loves me but you,"
she said; "and if you leave me I must droop and die. Are you true to
me, dearest Clement,--true as when we promised each other that we
would love while life lasted? Or have you forgotten one who will
never cease to remember that she was once your own Susan?"
Clement dropped the letter from his hand, and sat a long hour looking
at the exquisitely wrought features of her who had come between him
and honor and his plighted word.
At length he arose, and, lifting the bust tenderly from its pedestal,
laid it upon the cloth with which it had been covered. He wrapped it
closely, fold upon fold, as the mother whom man condemns and God
pities wraps the child she loves before she lifts her hand against
its life. Then he took a heavy hammer and shattered his lovely idol
into shapeless fragments. The strife was over.
A CHANGE OF PROGRAMME.
Mr. William Murray Bradshaw was in pretty intimate relations with
Miss Cynthia Badlam. It was well understood between them that it
might be of very great advantage to both of them if he should in due
time become the accepted lover of Myrtle Hazard. So long as he could
be reasonably secure against interference, he did not wish to hurry
her in making her decision. Two things he did wish to be sure of, if
possible, before asking her the great question;--first, that she
would answer it in the affirmative; and secondly, that certain
contingencies, the turning of which was not as yet absolutely capable
of being predicted, should happen as he expected. Cynthia had the
power of furthering his wishes in many direct and indirect ways, and
he felt sure of her cooperation. She had some reason to fear his
enmity if she displeased him, and he had taken good care to make her
understand that her interests would be greatly promoted by the
success of the plan which he had formed, and which was confided to
He kept the most careful eye on every possible source of disturbance
to this quietly maturing plan. He had no objection to have Gifted
Hopkins about Myrtle as much as she would endure to have him. The
youthful bard entertained her very innocently with his bursts of
poetry, but she was in no danger from a young person so intimately
associated with the yard-stick, the blunt scissors, and the brown-
paper parcel. There was Cyprian too, about whom he did not feel any
very particular solicitude. Myrtle had evidently found out that she
was handsome and stylish and all that, and it was not very likely she
would take up with such a bashful, humble, country youth as this. He
could expect nothing beyond a possible rectorate in the remote
distance, with one of those little pony chapels to preach in, which,
if it were set up on a stout pole, would pass for a good-sized
martin-house. Cyprian might do to practise on, but there was no
danger of her looking at him in a serious way. As for that youth,
Clement Lindsay, if he had not taken himself off as he did, Murray
Bradshaw confessed to himself that he should have felt uneasy. He
was too good-looking, and too clever a young fellow to have knocking
about among fragile susceptibilities. But on reflection he saw there
could be no danger.
"All up with him,--poor diavolo! Can't understand it--such a little
sixpenny miss--pretty enough boiled parsnip blonde, if one likes that
sort of thing--pleases some of the old boys, apparently. Look out,
Mr. L. remember Susanna and the Elders. Good!
"Safe enough if something new doesn't turn up. Youngish. Sixteen's
a little early. Seventeen will do. Marry a girl while she's in the
gristle, and you can shape her bones for her. Splendid creature
without her trimmings. Wants training. Must learn to dance, and
sing something besides psalm-tunes."
Mr. Bradshaw began humming the hymn, "When I can read my title
clear," adding some variations of his own. "That 's the solo for my
In the mean time Myrtle seemed to be showing some new developments.
One would have said that the instincts of the coquette, or at least
of the city belle, were coming uppermost in her nature. Her little
nervous attack passed away, and she gained strength and beauty every
day. She was becoming conscious of her gifts of fascination, and
seemed to please herself with the homage of her rustic admirers. Why
was it that no one of them had the look and bearing of that young man
she had seen but a moment the other evening? To think that he should
have taken up with such a weakling as Susan Posey! She sighed, and
not so much thought as felt how kind it would have been in Heaven to
have made her such a man. But the image of the delicate blonde stood
between her and all serious thought of Clement Lindsay. She saw the
wedding in the distance, and very foolishly thought to herself that
she could not and would not go to it.
But Clement Lindsay was gone, and she must content herself with such
worshippers as the village afforded. Murray Bradshaw was surprised
and confounded at the easy way in which she received his compliments,
and played with his advances, after the fashion of the trained ball-
room belles, who know how to be almost caressing in manner, and yet
are really as far off from the deluded victim of their suavities as
the topmost statue of the Milan cathedral from the peasant that
kneels on its floor. He admired her all the more for this, and yet
he saw that she would be a harder prize to win than he had once
thought. If he made up his mind that he would have her, he must go
armed with all implements, from the red hackle to the harpoon.
The change which surprised Murray Bradshaw could not fail to be
noticed by all those about her. Miss Silence had long ago come to
pantomime, rolling up of eyes, clasping of hands, making of sad
mouths, and the rest,--but left her to her own way, as already the
property of that great firm of World & Co. which drives such sharp
bargains for young souls with the better angels. Cynthia studied her
for her own purposes, but had never gained her confidence. The Irish
servant saw that some change had come over her, and thought of the
great ladies she had sometimes looked upon in the old country. They
all had a kind of superstitious feeling about Myrtle's bracelet, of
which she had told them the story, but which Kitty half believed was
put in the drawer by the fairies, who brought her ribbons and
partridge feathers, and other slight adornments with which she
contrived to set off her simple costume, so as to produce those
effects which an eye for color and cunning fingers can bring out of
Gifted Hopkins was now in a sad, vacillating condition, between the
two great attractions to which he was exposed. Myrtle looked so
immensely handsome ere Sunday when he saw her going to church, not to
meeting, for she world not go, except when she knew Father Pemberton
was going to be the preacher, that the young poet was on the point of
going down on his knees to her, and telling her that his heart was
hers and hers alone. But he suddenly remembered that he had on his
best trousers, and the idea of carrying the marks of his devotion in
the shape of two dusty impressions on his most valued article of
apparel turned the scale against the demonstration. It happened the
next morning, that Susan Posey wore the most becoming ribbon she had
displayed for a long time, and Gifted was so taken with her pretty
looks that he might very probably have made the same speech to her
that he had been on the point of making to Myrtle the day before, but
that he remembered her plighted affections, and thought what he
should have to say for himself when Clement Lindsay, in a frenzy of
rage and jealousy, stood before him, probably armed with as many
deadly instruments as a lawyer mentions by name in an indictment for
Cyprian Eveleth looked very differently on the new manifestations
Myrtle was making of her tastes and inclinations. He had always felt
dazzled, as well as attracted, by her; but now there was something in
her expression and manner which made him feel still more strongly
that they were intended for different spheres of life. He could not
but own that she was born for a brilliant destiny,--that no ball-
room would throw a light from its chandeliers too strong for her,
--that no circle would be too brilliant for her to illuminate by her
presence. Love does not thrive without hope, and Cyprian was
beginning to see that it was idle in him to think of folding these
wide wings of Myrtle's so that they would be shut up in any cage he
could ever offer her. He began to doubt whether, after all, he might
not find a meeker and humbler nature better adapted to his own. And
so it happened that one evening after the three girls, Olive, Myrtle,
and Bathsheba, had been together at the Parsonage, and Cyprian,
availing himself of a brother's privilege, had joined them, he found
he had been talking most of the evening with the gentle girl whose
voice had grown so soft and sweet, during her long ministry in the
sick-chamber, that it seemed to him more like music than speech. It
would not be fair to say that Myrtle was piqued to see that Cyprian
was devoting himself to Bathsheba. Her ambition was already reaching
beyond her little village circle, and she had an inward sense that
Cyprian found a form of sympathy in the minister's simple-minded
daughter which he could not ask from a young woman of her own
Such was the state of affairs when Master Byles Gridley was one
morning surprised by an early call from Myrtle. He had a volume of
Walton's Polyglot open before him, and was reading Job in the
original, when she entered.
"Why, bless me, is that my young friend Miss Myrtle Hazard?" he
exclaimed. "I might call you Keren-Happuch, which is Hebrew for
Child of Beauty, and not be very far out of the way, Job's youngest
daughter, my dear. And what brings my young friend out in such good
season this morning? Nothing going wrong up at our ancient mansion,
The Poplars, I trust?"
"I want to talk with you, dear Master Gridley," she answered. She
looked as if she did not know just how to begin.
"Anything that interests you, Myrtle, interests me. I think you have
some project in that young head of yours, my child. Let us have it,
in all its dimensions, length, breadth, and thickness. I think I can
guess, Myrtle, that we have a little plan of some kind or other.
We don't visit Papa Job quite so early as this without some special
cause,--do we, Miss Keren-Happuch?"
"I want to go to the city--to school," Myrtle said, with the
directness which belonged to her nature.
"That is precisely what I want you to do myself, Miss Myrtle Hazard.
I don't like to lose you from the village, but I think we must spare
you for a while."
"You're the best and dearest man that ever lived. What could have
made you think of such a thing for me, Mr. Gridley?"
"Because you are ignorant, my child,--partly I want to see you fitted
to take a look at the world without feeling like a little country
miss. Has your aunt Silence promised to bear your expenses while you
are in the city? It will cost a good deal of money."
"I have not said a word to her about it. I am sure I don't know what
she would say. But I have some money, Mr. Gridley."
She showed him a purse with gold, telling him how she came by it.
"There is some silver besides. Will it be enough?"
"No, no, my child, we must not meddle with that. Your aunt will let
me put it in the bank for you, I think, where it will be safe. But
that shall not make any difference. I have got a little money lying
idle, which you may just as well have the use of as not. You can pay
it back perhaps some time or other; if you did not, it would not make
much difference. I am pretty much alone in the world, and except a
book now and then--Aut liberos aut libros, as our valiant heretic has
it,--you ought to know a little Latin, Myrtle, but never mind--I have
not much occasion for money. You shall go to the best school that
any of our cities can offer, Myrtle, and you shall stay there until
we agree that you are fitted to come back to us an ornament to Oxbow
Village, and to larger places than this if you are called there. We
have had some talk about it, your aunt Silence and I, and it is all
settled. Your aunt does not feel very rich just now, or perhaps she
would do more for you. She has many pious and poor friends, and it
keeps her funds low. Never mind, my child, we will have it all
arranged for you, and you shall begin the year 1860 in Madam
Delacoste's institution for young ladies. Too many rich girls and
fashionable ones there, I fear, but you must see some of all kinds,
and there are very good instructors in the school,--I know one,--he
was a college boy with me,--and you will find pleasant and good
companions there, so he tells me; only don't be in a hurry to choose
your friends, for the least desirable young persons are very apt to
cluster about a new-comer."
Myrtle was bewildered with the suddenness of the prospect thus held
out to her. It is a wonder that she did not bestow an embrace upon
the worthy old master. Perhaps she had too much tact. It is a
pretty way enough of telling one that he belongs to a past
generation, but it does tell him that not over-pleasing fact. Like
the title of Emeritus Professor, it is a tribute to be accepted,
hardly to be longed for.
When the curtain rises again, it will show Miss Hazard in a new
character, and surrounded by a new world.
MYRTLE HAZARD AT THE CITY SCHOOL.
Mr. Bradshaw was obliged to leave town for a week or two on business
connected with the great land-claim. On his return, feeling in
pretty good spirits, as the prospects looked favorable, he went to
make a call at The Poplars. He asked first for Miss Hazard.
"Bliss your soul, Mr. Bridshaw," answered Mistress Kitty Fagan,
"she's been gahn nigh a wake. It's to the city, to the big school,
they've sint her."
This announcement seemed to make a deep impression on Murray
Bradshaw, for his feelings found utterance in one of the most
energetic forms of language to which ears polite or impolite are
accustomed. He next asked for Miss Silence, who soon presented
herself. Mr. Bradshaw asked, in a rather excited way, "Is it
possible, Miss Withers, that your niece has quitted you to go to a
Miss Silence answered, with her chief--mourner expression, and her
death-chamber tone: "Yes, she has left us for a season. I trust it
may not be her destruction. I had hoped in former years that she
would become a missionary, but I have given up all expectation of
that now. Two whole years, from the age of four to that of six, I
had prevailed upon her to give up sugar,--the money so saved to go to
a graduate of our institution--who was afterwards----he labored among
the cannibal-islanders. I thought she seemed to take pleasure in
this small act of self-denial, but I have since suspected that Kitty
gave her secret lumps. It was by Mr. Gridley's advice that she went,
and by his pecuniary assistance. What could I do? She was bent on
going, and I was afraid she would have fits, or do something
dreadful, if I did not let her have her way. I am afraid she will
come back to us spoiled. She has seemed so fond of dress lately, and
once she spoke of learning--yes, Mr. Bradshaw, of learning to--dance!
I wept when I heard of it. Yes, I wept."
That was such a tremendous thing to think of, and especially to speak
of in Mr. Bradshaw's presence, for the most pathetic image in the
world to many women is that of themselves in tears,--that it brought
a return of the same overflow, which served as a substitute for
conversation until Miss Badlam entered the apartment.
Miss Cynthia followed the same general course of remark. They could
not help Myrtle's going if they tried. She had always maintained
that, if they had only once broke her will when she was little, they
would have kept the upper hand of her; but her will never was broke.
They came pretty near it once, but the child would n't give in.
Miss Cynthia went to the door with Mr. Bradshaw, and the conversation
immediately became short and informal.
"Demonish pretty business! All up for a year or more,--hey?"
Don't blame me,--I couldn't stop her."
"Give me her address,--I 'll write to her. Any young men teach in
"Can't tell you. She'll write to Olive and Bathsheba, and I'll find
out all about it."
Murray Bradshaw went home and wrote a long letter to Mrs. Clymer
Ketchum, of 24 Carat Place, containing many interesting remarks and
inquiries, some of the latter relating to Madam Delacoste's
institution for the education of young ladies.
While this was going on at Oxbow Village, Myrtle was establishing
herself at the rather fashionable school to which Mr. Gridley had
recommended her. Mrs. or Madam Delacoste's boarding-school had a
name which on the whole it deserved pretty well. She had some very
good instructors for girls who wished to get up useful knowledge in
case they might marry professors or ministers. They had a chance to
learn music, dancing, drawing, and the way of behaving in company.
There was a chance, too, to pick up available acquaintances, for many
rich people sent their daughters to the school, and it was something
to have been bred in their company.
There was the usual division of the scholars into a first and second
set, according to the social position, mainly depending upon the
fortune, of the families to which they belonged. The wholesale
dealer's daughter very naturally considered herself as belonging to a
different order from the retail dealer's daughter. The keeper of a
great hotel and the editor of a widely circulated newspaper were
considered as ranking with the wholesale dealers, and their daughters
belonged also to the untitled nobility which has the dollar for its
armorial bearing. The second set had most of the good scholars, and
some of the prettiest girls; but nobody knew anything about their
families, who lived off the great streets and avenues, or vegetated
in country towns.
Myrtle Hazard's advent made something like a sensation. They did not
know exactly what to make of her. Hazard? Hazard? No great firm of
that name. No leading hotel kept by any Hazard, was there? No
newspaper of note edited by anybody called Hazard, was there? Came
from where? Oxbow Village. Oh, rural district. Yes.--Still they
could not help owning that she was handsome, a concession which of
course had to be made with reservations.
"Don't you think she's vuiry good-lookin'?" said a Boston girl to a
New York girl. "I think she's real pooty."
"I dew, indeed. I didn't think she was haaf so handsome the feeest
time I saw her," answered the New York girl.
"What a pity she had n't been bawn in Bawston!"
"Yes, and moved very young to Ne Yock!"
"And married a sarsaparilla man, and lived in Fiff Avenoo, and moved
in the fust society."
"Better dew that than be strong-mainded, and dew your own cook'n, and
live in your own kitch'n."
"Don't forgit to send your card when you are Mrs. Old Dr. Jacob!"
"Indeed I shaan't. What's the name of the alley, and which bell?"
The New York girl took out a memorandum-book as if to put it down.
"Had n't you better let me write it for you, dear?" said the Boston
girl. "It is as well to have it legible, you know."
"Take it," said the New York girl. "There 's tew York shill'ns in it
when I hand it to you."
"Your whole quarter's allowance, I bullieve,--ain't it?" said the
"Elegant manners, correct deportment, and propriety of language will
be strictly attended to in this institution. The most correct
standards of pronunciation will be inculcated by precept and example.
It will be the special aim of the teachers to educate their pupils
out of all provincialisms, so that they may be recognized as well-
bred English scholars wherever the language is spoken in its purity."
--Extract from the Prospectus of Madam Delacoste's Boarding-school.
Myrtle Hazard was a puzzle to all the girls. Striking, they all
agreed, but then the criticisms began. Many of the girls chattered a
little broken French, and one of them, Miss Euphrosyne De Lacy, had
been half educated in Paris, so that she had all the phrases which
are to social operators what his cutting instruments are to the
surgeon. Her face she allowed was handsome; but her style, according
to this oracle, was a little bourgeoise, and her air not exactly
comme il faut. More specifically, she was guilty of contours
fortement prononces,--corsage de paysanne,--quelque chose de sauvage,
etc., etc. This girl prided herself on her figure.
Miss Bella Pool, (La Belle Poule as the demi-Parisian girl had
christened her,) the beauty of the school, did not think so much of
Myrtle's face, but considered her figure as better than the De Lacy
The two sets, first and second, fought over her as the Greeks and
Trojans over a dead hero, or the Yale College societies over a live
freshman. She was nobody by her connections, it is true, so far as
they could find out, but then, on the other hand, she had the walk of
a queen, and she looked as if a few stylish dresses and a season or
two would make her a belle of the first water. She had that air of
indifference to their little looks and whispered comments which is
surest to disarm all the critics of a small tattling community. On
the other hand, she came to this school to learn, and not to play;
and the modest and more plainly dressed girls, whose fathers did not
sell by the cargo, or keep victualling establishments for some
hundreds of people, considered her as rather in sympathy with them
than with the daughters of the rough-and-tumble millionnaires who
were grappling and rolling over each other in the golden dust of the
great city markets.
She did not mean to belong exclusively to either of their sets. She
came with that sense of manifold deficiencies, and eager ambition to
supply them, which carries any learner upward, as if on wings, over
the heads of the mechanical plodders and the indifferent routinists.
She learned, therefore, in a way to surprise the experienced
instructors. Her somewhat rude sketching soon began to show
something of the artist's touch. Her voice, which had only been
taught to warble the simplest melodies, after a little training began
to show its force and sweetness and flexibility in the airs that
enchant drawing-room audiences. She caught with great readiness the
manner of the easiest girls, unconsciously, for she inherited old
social instincts which became nature with the briefest exercise. Not
much license of dress was allowed in the educational establishment of
Madam Delacoste, but every girl had an opportunity to show her taste
within the conventional limits prescribed. And Myrtle soon began to
challenge remark by a certain air she contrived to give her dresses,
and the skill with which she blended their colors.
"Tell you what, girls," said Miss Berengaria Topping, female
representative of the great dynasty that ruled over the world-famous
Planet Hotel, "she's got style, lots of it. I call her perfectly
splendid, when she's got up in her swell clothes. That oriole's wing
she wears in her bonnet makes her look gorgeous, she'll be a stunning
Pocahontas for the next tableau."
Miss Rose Bugbee, whose family opulence grew out of the only
merchantable article a Hebrew is never known to seek profit from,
thought she could be made presentable in the first circles if taken
in hand in good season. So it came about that, before many weeks had
passed over her as a scholar in the great educational establishment,
she might be considered as on the whole the most popular girl in the
whole bevy of them. The studious ones admired her for her facility
of learning, and her extraordinary appetite for every form of
instruction, and the showy girls, who were only enduring school as
the purgatory that opened into the celestial world of society,
recognized in her a very handsome young person, who would be like to
make a sensation sooner or later.
There were, however, it must be confessed, a few who considered
themselves the thickest of the cream of the school-girls, who
submitted her to a more trying ordeal than any she had yet passed.
"How many horses does your papa keep?" asked Miss Florence Smythe."
We keep nine, and a pony for Edgar."
Myrtle had to explain that she had no papa, and that they did not
keep any horses. Thereupon Miss Florence Smythe lost her desire to
form an acquaintance, and wrote home to her mother (who was an ex-
bonnet-maker) that the school was getting common, she was afraid,--
they were letting in persons one knew nothing about.
Miss Clare Browne had a similar curiosity about the amount of plate
used in the household from which Myrtle came. Her father had just
bought a complete silver service. Myrtle had to own that they used a
good deal of china at her own home,--old china, which had been a
hundred years in the family, some of it.
"A hundred years old!" exclaimed Miss Clare Browne. "What queer-
looking stuff it must be! Why, everything in our house is just as
new and bright! Papaa had all our pictures painted on purpose for
us. Have you got any handsome pictures in your house?"
"We have a good many portraits of members of the family," she said,
"some of them older than the china."
"How very very odd! What do the dear old things look like?"
"One was a great beauty in her time."
"Another was a young woman who was put to death for her religion,
--burned to ashes at the stake in Queen Mary's time."
"How very very wicked! It was n't nice a bit, was it? Ain't you
telling me stories? Was that a hundred years ago?--But you 've got
some new pictures and things, have n't you? Who furnished your
"My great-grandfather, or his father, I believe."
"Stuff and nonsense. I don't believe it. What color are your
"Our woman, Kitty Fagan, told somebody once we didn't keep any horse
but a cow."
" Not keep any horses! Do for pity's sake let me look at your feet."
Myrtle put out as neat a little foot as a shoemaker ever fitted with
a pair of number two. What she would have been tempted to do with
it, if she had been a boy, we will not stop to guess. After all, the
questions amused her quite as much as the answers instructed Miss
Clara Browne. Of that young lady's ancestral claims to distinction
there is no need of discoursing. Her "papaa" commonly said sir in
talking with a gentleman, and her "mammaa" would once in a while
forget, and go down the area steps instead of entering at the proper
door; but they lived behind a brown stone front, which veneers
everybody's antecedents with a facing of respectability.
Miss Clara Browne wrote home to her mother in the same terms as Miss
Florence Smythe,--that the school was getting dreadful common, and
they were letting in very queer folks.
Still another trial awaited Myrtle, and one which not one girl in a
thousand would have been so unprepared to meet. She knew absolutely
nothing of certain things with which the vast majority of young
persons were quite familiar.
There were literary young ladies, who had read everything of Dickens
and Thackeray, and something at least of Sir Walter, and
occasionally, perhaps, a French novel, which they had better have let
alone. One of the talking young ladies of this set began upon Myrtle
"Oh, is n't 'Pickwick' nice?" she asked.
"I don't know," Myrtle replied; "I never tasted any."
The girl stared at her as if she were a crazy creature. "Tasted any!
Why, I mean the 'Pickwick Papers,' Dickens's story. Don't you think
Poor Myrtle had to confess that she had never read them, and did n't
know anything about them.
"What! did you never read any novels?" said the young lady.
"Oh, to be sure I have," said Myrtle, blushing as she thought of the
great trunk and its contents. "I have read 'Caleb Williams,' and
'Evelina,' and 'Tristram Shandy'" (naughty girl!), "and the 'Castle
of Otranto,' and the 'Mysteries of Udolpho,' and the 'Vicar of
Wakefield,' and 'Don Quixote'--"
The young lady burst out laughing. "Stop! stop! for mercy's sake,"
she cried. "You must be somebody that's been dead and buried and
come back to life again. Why you're Rip Van Winkle in a petticoat!
You ought to powder your hair and wear patches."
"We've got the oddest girl here," this young lady wrote home. "She
has n't read any book that is n't a thousand years old. One of the
girls says she wears a trilobite for a breastpin; some horrid old
stone, I believe that is, that was a bug ever so long ago. Her name,
she says, is Myrtle Hazard, but I call her Rip Van Myrtle."
Notwithstanding the quiet life which these young girls were compelled
to lead, they did once in a while have their gatherings, at which a
few young gentlemen were admitted. One of these took place about a
month after Myrtle had joined the school. The girls were all in
their best, and by and by they were to have a tableau. Myrtle came
out in all her force. She dressed herself as nearly as she dared
like the handsome woman of the past generation whom she resembled.
The very spirit of the dead beauty seemed to animate every feature
and every movement of the young girl whose position in the school was
assured from that moment. She had a good solid foundation to build
upon in the jealousy of two or three of the leading girls of the
style of pretensions illustrated by some of their talk which has been
given. There is no possible success without some opposition as a
fulcrum: force is always aggressive, and crowds something or other,
if it does not hit or trample on it.
The cruelest cut of all was the remark attributed to Mr. Livingston
Jerkins, who was what the opposition girls just referred to called
the great "swell" among the privileged young gentlemen who were
present at the gathering.
"Rip Van Myrtle, you call that handsome girl, do you, Miss Clara? By
Jove, she's the stylishest of the whole lot, to say nothing of being
a first-class beauty. Of course you know I except one, Miss Clara.
If a girl can go to sleep and wake up after twenty years looking like
that, I know a good many who had better begin their nap without
waiting. If I were Florence Smythe, I'd try it, and begin now,--eh,
Miss Browne felt the praise of Myrtle to be slightly alleviated by
the depreciation of Miss Smythe, who had long been a rival of her
own. A little later in the evening Miss Smythe enjoyed almost
precisely the same sensation, produced in a very economical way by
Mr. Livingston Jenkins's repeating pretty nearly the same sentiments
to her, only with a change in the arrangement of the proper names.
The two young ladies were left feeling comparatively comfortable with
regard to each other, each intending to repeat Mr. Livingston
Jenkins's remark about her friend to such of her other friends as
enjoyed clever sayings, but not at all comfortable with reference to
Myrtle Hazard, who was evidently considered by the leading "swell" of
their circle as the most noticeable personage of the assembly. The
individual exception in each case did very well as a matter of
politeness, but they knew well enough what he meant.
It seemed to Myrtle Hazard, that evening, that she felt the bracelet
on her wrist glow with a strange, unaccustomed warmth. It was as if
it had just been unclasped from the arm of a yohng woman full of red
blood and tingling all over with swift nerve-currents. Life had
never looked to her as it did that evening. It was the swan's first
breasting the water,--bred on the desert sand, with vague dreams of
lake and river, and strange longings as the mirage came and
dissolved, and at length afloat upon the sparkling wave. She felt as
if she had for the first time found her destiny. It was to please,
and so to command, to rule with gentle sway in virtue of the royal
gift of beauty,--to enchant with the commonest exercise of speech,
through the rare quality of a voice which could not help being always
gracious and winning, of a manner which came to her as an inheritance
of which she had just found the title. She read in the eyes of all
that she was more than any other the centre of admiration. Blame her
who may, the world was a very splendid vision as it opened before her
eyes in its long vista of pleasures and of triumphs. How different
the light of these bright saloons from the glimmer of the dim chamber
at The Poplars! Silence Withers was at that very moment looking at
the portraits of Anne Holyoake and of Judith Pride. "The old picture
seems to me to be fading faster than ever," she was thinking. But
when she held her lamp before the other, it seemed to her that the
picture never was so fresh before, and that the proud smile upon its
lips was more full of conscious triumph than she remembered it. A
reflex, doubtless, of her own thoughts, for she believed that the
martyr was weeping even in heaven over her lost descendant, and that
the beauty, changed to the nature of the malignant spiritual company
with which she had long consorted in the under-world, was pleasing
herself with the thought that Myrtle was in due time to bring her
news from the Satanic province overhead, where she herself had so
long indulged in the profligacy of embonpoint and loveliness.
The evening at the school-party was to terminate with some tableaux.
The girl who had suggested that Myrtle would look "stunning" or
"gorgeous" or "jolly," or whatever the expression was, as Pocahontas,
was not far out of the way, and it was so evident to the managing
heads that she would make a fine appearance in that character, that
the "Rescue of Captain John Smith" was specially got up to show her
Myrtle had sufficient reason to believe that there was a hint of
Indian blood in her veins. It was one of those family legends which
some of the members are a little proud of, and others are willing to
leave uninvestigated. But with Myrtle it was a fixed belief that she
felt perfectly distinct currents of her ancestral blood at intervals,
and she had sometimes thought there were instincts and vague
recollections which must have come from the old warriors and hunters
and their dusky brides. The Indians who visited the neighborhood
recognized something of their own race in her dark eyes, as the
reader may remember they told the persons who were searching after
her. It had almost frightened her sometimes to find how like a wild
creature she felt when alone in the woods. Her senses had much of
that delicacy for which the red people are noted, and she often
thought she could follow the trail of an enemy, if she wished to
track one through the forest, as unerringly as if she were a Pequot
or a Mohegan.
It was a strange feeling that came over Myrtle, as they dressed her
for the part she was to take. Had she never worn that painted robe
before? Was it the first time that these strings of wampum had ever
rattled upon her neck and arms? And could it be that the plume of
eagle's feathers with which they crowned her dark, fast-lengthening
locks had never shadowed her forehead until now? She felt herself
carried back into the dim ages when the wilderness was yet untrodden
save by the feet of its native lords. Think of her wild fancy as we
may, she felt as if that dusky woman of her midnight vision on the
river were breathing for one hour through her lips. If this belief
had lasted, it is plain enough where it would have carried her. But
it came into her imagination and vivifying consciousness with the
putting on of her unwonted costume, and might well leave her when she
put it off. It is not for us, who tell only what happened, to solve
these mysteries of the seeming admission of unhoused souls into the
fleshly tenements belonging to air-breathing personalities. A very
little more, and from that evening forward the question would have
been treated in full in all the works on medical jurisprudence
published throughout the limits of Christendom. The story must be
told or we should not be honest with the reader.
TABLEAU 1. Captain John Smith (Miss Euphrosyne de Lacy) was to be
represented prostrate and bound, ready for execution; Powhatan (Miss
Florence Smythe) sitting upon a log; savages with clubs (Misses Clara
Browne, A. Van Boodle, E. Van Boodle, Heister, Booster, etc., etc.)
standing around; Pocahontas holding the knife in her hand, ready to
cut the cords with which Captain John Smith is bound.--Curtain.
TABLEAU 2. Captain John Smith released and kneeling before
Pocahontas, whose hand is extended in the act of raising him and
presenting him to her father. Savages in various attitudes of
surprise. Clubs fallen from their hands. Strontian flame to be
This was a portion of the programme for the evening, as arranged
behind the scenes. The first part went off with wonderful eclat, and
at its close there were loud cries for Pocahontas. She appeared for
a moment. Bouquets were flung to her; and a wreath, which one of the
young ladies had expected for herself in another part, was tossed
upon the stage, and laid at her feet. The curtain fell.
"Put the wreath on her for the next tableau," some of them whispered,
just as the curtain was going to rise, and one of the girls hastened
to place it upon her head.
The disappointed young lady could not endure it, and, in a spasm of
jealous passion, sprang at Myrtle, snatched it from her head, and
trampled it under her feet at the very instant the curtain was
rising. With a cry which some said had the blood-chilling tone of an
Indian's battle-shriek, Myrtle caught the knife up, and raised her
arm against the girl who had thus rudely assailed her. The girl sank
to the ground, covering her eyes in her terror. Myrtle, with her arm
still lifted, and the blade glistening in her hand, stood over her,
rigid as if she had been suddenly changed to stone. Many of those
looking on thought all this was a part of the show, and were thrilled
with the wonderful acting. Before those immediately around her had
had time to recover from the palsy of their fright Myrtle had flung
the knife away from her, and was kneeling, her head bowed and her
hands crossed upon her breast. The audience went into a rapture of
applause as the curtain came suddenly down; but Myrtle had forgotten
all but the dread peril she had just passed, and was thanking God
that his angel--her own protecting spirit, as it seemed to her had
stayed the arm which a passion such as her nature had never known,
such as she believed was alien to her truest self, had lifted with
deadliest purpose. She alone knew how extreme the danger had been.
"She meant to scare her,--that 's all," they said. But Myrtle tore
the eagle's feathers from her hair, and stripped off her colored
beads, and threw off her painted robe. The metempsychosis was far
too real for her to let her wear the semblance of the savage from
whom, as she believed, had come the lawless impulse at the thought of
which her soul recoiled in horror.
"Pocahontas has got a horrid headache," the managing young ladies
gave it out, "and can't come to time for the last tableau." So this
all passed over, not only without loss of credit to Myrtle, but with
no small addition to her local fame,--for it must have been acting;
"and was n't it stunning to see her with that knife, looking as if
she was going to stab Bells, or to scalp her, or something?"
As Master Gridley had predicted, and as is the case commonly with
new-comers at colleges and schools, Myrtle had come first in contact
with those who were least agreeable to meet. The low-bred youth who
amuse themselves with scurvy tricks on freshmen, and the vulgar girls
who try to show off their gentility to those whom they think less
important than themselves, are exceptions in every institution; but
they make themselves odiously prominent before the quiet and modest
young people have had time to gain the new scholar's confidence.
Myrtle found friends in due time, some of them daughters of rich
people, some poor girls, who came with the same sincerity of purpose
as herself. But not one was her match in the facility of acquiring
knowledge. Not one promised to make such a mark in society, if she
found an opening into its loftier circles. She was by no means
ignorant of her natural gifts, and she cultivated them with the
ambition which would not let her rest.
During her stay at the great school, she made but one visit to Oxbow
Village. She did not try to startle the good people with her
accomplishments, but they were surprised at the change which had
taken place in her. Her dress was hardly more showy, for she was but
a school-girl, but it fitted her more gracefully. She had gained a
softness of expression, and an ease in conversation, which produced
their effect on all with whom she came in contact. Her aunt's voice
lost something of its plaintiveness in talking with her. Miss
Cynthia listened with involuntary interest to her stories of school
and school-mates. Master Byles Gridley accepted her as the great
success of his life, and determined to make her his chief heiress, if
there was any occasion for so doing. Cyprian told Bathsheba that
Myrtle must come to be a great lady. Gifted Hopkins confessed to
Susan Posey that he was afraid of her, since she had been to the
great city school. She knew too much and looked too much like a
queen, for a village boy to talk with.
Mr. William Murray Bradshaw tried all his fascinations upon her, but
she parried compliments so well, and put off all his nearer advances
so dexterously, that he could not advance beyond the region of florid
courtesy, and never got a chance, if so disposed, to risk a question
which he would not ask rashly, believing that, if Myrtle once said
No, there would be little chance of her ever saying Yes.
MUSTERING OF FORCES.
Not long after the tableau performance had made Myrtle Hazard's name
famous in the school and among the friends of the scholars, she
received the very flattering attention of a call from Mrs. Clymer
Ketchum, of 24 Carat Place. This was in consequence of a suggestion
from Mr. Livingston Jenkins, a particular friend of the family.
"They've got a demonish splendid school-girl over there," he said to
that lady, "made the stunningest looking Pocahontas at the show there
the other day. Demonish plucky looking filly as ever you saw. Had a
row with another girl,--gave the war-whoop, and went at her with a
knife. Festive,--hey? Say she only meant to scare her,--looked as
if she meant to stick her, anyhow. Splendid style. Why can't you go
over to the shop and make 'em trot her out?"
The lady promised Mr. Livingston Jenkins that she certainly would,
just as soon as she could find a moment's leisure,--which, as she had
nothing in the world to do, was not likely to be very soon. Myrtle
in the mean time was busy with her studies, little dreaming what an
extraordinary honor was awaiting her.
That rare accident in the lives of people who have nothing to do, a
leisure morning, did at last occur. An elegant carriage, with a
coachman in a wonderful cape, seated on a box lofty as a throne, and
wearing a hat-band as brilliant as a coronet, stopped at the portal
of Madam Delacoste's establishment. A card was sent in bearing the.
open sesame of Mrs. Clymer Ketchum, the great lady of 24 Carat Place.
Miss Myrtle Hazard was summoned as a matter of course, and the
fashionable woman and the young girl sat half an hour together in
Myrtle was fascinated by her visitor, who had that flattering manner
which, to those not experienced in the world's ways, seems to imply
unfathomable depths of disinterested devotion. Then it was so
delightful to look upon a perfectly appointed woman,--one who was as
artistically composed as a poem or an opera,--in whose costume a kind
of various rhythm undulated in one fluent harmony, from the spray
that nodded on her bonnet to the rosette that blossomed on her
sandal. As for the lady, she was captivated with Myrtle. There is
nothing that your fashionable woman, who has ground and polished her
own spark of life into as many and as glittering social facets as it
will bear, has a greater passion for than a large rough diamond,
which knows nothing of the sea of light it imprisons, and which it
will be her pride to have cut into a brilliant under her own eye, and
to show the world for its admiration and her own reflected glory.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum had taken the entire inventory of Myrtle's
natural endowments before the interview was over. She had no
marriageable children, and she was thinking what a killing bait
Myrtle would be at one of her stylish parties.
She soon got another letter from Mr. William Murray Bradshaw, which
explained the interest he had taken in Madam Delacoste's school,--all
which she knew pretty nearly beforehand, for she had found out a good
part of Myrtle's history in the half-hour they had spent in company.
"I had a particular reason for my inquiries about the school," he
wrote. "There is a young girl there I take an interest in. She is
handsome and interesting; and--though it is a shame to mention such a
thing has possibilities in the way of fortune not to be undervalued.
Why can't you make her acquaintance and be civil to her? A country
girl, but fine old stock, and will make a figure some time or other,
I tell you. Myrtle Hazard,--that's her name. A mere schoolgirl.
Don't be malicious and badger me about her, but be polite to her.
Some of these country girls have got 'blue blood' in them, let me
tell you, and show it plain enough."
("In huckleberry season!") said Mrs. Ciymer Ketchum, in a
parenthesis,--and went on reading.
"Don't think I'm one of your love-in-a-cottage sort, to have my head
turned by a village beauty. I've got a career before me, Mrs. K.,
and I know it. But this is one of my pets, and I want you to keep an
eye on her. Perhaps when she leaves school you wouldn't mind asking
her to come and stay with you a little while. Possibly I may come
and see how she is getting on if you do,--won't that tempt you, Mrs.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum wrote back to her relative how she had already
made the young lady's acquaintance.
"Livingston Jerkins (you remember him) picked her out of the whole
lot of girls as the 'prettiest filly in the stable.' That's his
horrid way of talking. But your young milkmaid is really charming,
and will come into form like a Derby three-year-old. There, now,
I've caught that odious creature's horse-talk, myself. You're dead
in love with this girl, Murray, you know you are.
"After all, I don't know but you're right. You would make a good
country lawyer enough, I don't doubt. I used to think you had your
ambitions, but never mind. If you choose to risk yourself on
'possibilities,' it is not my affair, and she's a beauty, there's no
mistake about that.
"There are some desirable partis at the school with your dulcinea.
There 's Rose Bugbee. That last name is a good one to be married
from. Rose is a nice girl,--there are only two of them. The estate
will cut up like one of the animals it was made out of, you know,--
the sandwich-quadruped. Then there 's Berengaria. Old Topping owns
the Planet Hotel among other things,--so big, they say, there's
always a bell ringing from somebody's room day and night the year
round. Only child--unit and six ciphers carries diamonds loose in
her pocket--that's the story--good-looking--lively--a little slangy
called Livingston Jerkins 'Living Jingo' to his face one day. I want
you to see my lot before you do anything serious. You owe something
to the family, Mr. William Murray Bradshaw! But you must suit
yourself, after all: if you are contented with a humble position in
life, it is nobody's business that I know of. Only I know what life
is, Murray B. Getting married is jumping overboard, any way you look
at it, and if you must save some woman from drowning an old maid, try
to find one with a cork jacket, or she 'll carry you down with her."
Murray Bradshaw was calculating enough, but he shook his head over
this letter. It was too demonish cold-blooded for him, he said to
himself. (Men cannot pardon women for saying aloud what they do not
hesitate to think in silence themselves.) Never mind,--he must have
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum's house and influence for his own purposes.
Myrtle Hazard must become her guest, and then if circumstances were
favorable, he was certain obtaining her aid in his project.
The opportunity to invite Myrtle to the great mansion presented
itself unexpectedly. Early in the spring of 1861 there were some
cases of sickness in Madam Delacoste's establishment, which led to
closing the school for a while. Mrs. Clymer Ketchum took advantage
of the dispersion of the scholars to ask Myrtle to come and spend
some weeks with her. There were reasons why this was more agreeable
to the young girl than returning to Oxbow Village, and she very
gladly accepted the invitation.
It was very remarkable that a man living as Master Byles Gridley had
lived for so long a time should all at once display such liberality
as he showed to a young woman who had no claim upon him, except that
he had rescued her from the consequences of her own imprudence and
warned her against impending dangers. Perhaps he cared more for her
than if the obligation had been the other way,--students of human
nature say it is commonly so. At any rate, either he had ampler
resources than it was commonly supposed, or he was imprudently giving
way to his generous impulses, or he thought he was making advances
which would in due time be returned to him. Whatever the reason was,
he furnished her with means, not only for her necessary expenses, but
sufficient to afford her many of the elegances which she would be
like to want in the fashionable society with which she was for a
short time to mingle.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum was so well pleased with the young lady she was
entertaining, that she thought it worth while to give a party while
Myrtle was staying with her. She had her jealousies and rivalries,
as women of the world will, sometimes, and these may have had their
share in leading her to take the trouble a large party involved. She
was tired of the airs of Mrs. Pinnikle, who was of the great Apex
family, and her terribly accomplished daughter Rhadamartha, and
wanted to crush the young lady, and jaundice her mother, with a girl
twice as brilliant and ten times handsomer. She was very willing,
also, to take the nonsense out of the Capsheaf girls, who thought
themselves the most stylish personages of their city world, and would
bite their lips well to see themselves distanced by a country miss.
In the mean time circumstances were promising to bring into Myrtle's
neighborhood several of her old friends and admirers. Mrs. Clymer
Ketchum had written to Murray Bradshaw that she had asked his pretty
milkmaid to come and stay awhile with her, but he had been away on
business, and only arrived in the city a day or two before the party.
But other young fellows had found out the attractions of the girl who
was "hanging out at the Clymer Ketchum concern," and callers were
plenty, reducing tete-a-tetes in a corresponding ratio. He did get
one opportunity, however, and used it well. They had so many things
to talk about in common, that she could not help finding him good
company. She might well be pleased, for he was an adept in the
curious art of being agreeable, as other people are in chess or
billiards, and had made a special study of her tastes, as a physician
studies a patient's constitution. What he wanted was to get her
thoroughly interested in himself, and to maintain her in a receptive
condition until such time as he should be ready for a final move.
Any day might furnish the decisive motive; in the mean time he wished
only to hold her as against all others.
It was well for her, perhaps, that others had flattered her into a
certain consciousness of her own value. She felt her veins full of
the same rich blood as that which had flushed the cheeks of handsome
Judith in the long summer of her triumph. Whether it was vanity, or
pride, or only the instinctive sense of inherited force and
attraction, it was the best of defences. The golden bracelet on her
wrist seemed to have brought as much protection with it as if it had
been a shield over her heart.
But far away in Oxbow Village other events were in preparation. The
"fugitive pieces" of Mr. Gifted Hopkins had now reached a number so
considerable, that, if collected and printed in large type, with
plenty of what the unpleasant printers call "fat,"--meaning thereby
blank spaces,--upon a good, substantial, not to say thick paper, they
might perhaps make a volume which would have substance enough to bear
the title, printed lengthwise along the back, "Hopkins's Poems."
Such a volume that author had in contemplation. It was to be the
literary event of the year 1861.
He could not mature such a project, one which he had been for some
time contemplating, without consulting Mr. Byles Gridley, who, though
he had not unfrequently repressed the young poet's too ardent
ambition, had yet always been kind and helpful.
Mr. Gridley was seated in his large arm-chair, indulging himself in
the perusal of a page or two of his own work before repeatedly
referred to. His eye was glistening, for it had dust rested on the
"There is infinite pathos in unsuccessful authorship. The book that
perishes unread is the deaf mute of literature. The great asylum of
Oblivion is full of such, making inaudible signs to each other in
leaky garrets and unattainable dusty upper shelves."
He shut the book, for the page grew a little dim as he finished this
elegiac sentence, and sighed to think how much more keenly he felt
its truth than when it was written,--than on that memorable morning
when he saw the advertisement in all the papers, "This day published,
'Thoughts on the Universe.' By Byles Gridley, A. M."
At that moment he heard a knock at his door. He closed his eyelids
forcibly for ten seconds, opened them, and said cheerfully,
Gifted Hopkins entered. He had a collection of manuscripts in his
hands which it seemed to him would fill a vast number of pages. He
did not know that manuscript is to type what fresh dandelions are to
the dish of greens that comes to table, of which last Nurse Byloe,
who considered them very wholesome spring grazing for her patients,
used to say that they "biled down dreadful."
"I have brought the autographs of my poems, Master Gridley, to
consult you about making arrangements for publication. They have
been so well received by the public and the leading critics of this
part of the State, that I think of having them printed in a volume.
I am going to the city for that purpose. My mother has given her
consent. I wish to ask you several business questions. Shall I part
with the copyright for a downright sum of money, which I understand
some prefer doing, or publish on shares, or take a percentage on the
sales? These, I believe, are the different ways taken by authors."
Mr. Gridley was altogether too considerate to reply with the words
which would most naturally have come to his lips. He waited as if he
were gravely pondering the important questions just put to him, all
the while looking at Gifted with a tenderness which no one who had
not buried one of his soul's children could have felt for a young
author trying to get clothing for his new-born intellectual
"I think," he said presently, "you had better talk with an
intelligent and liberal publisher, and be guided by his advice. I
can put you in correspondence with such a person, and you had better
trust him than me a great deal. Why don't you send your manuscript
"What, Mr. Gridley? Trust my poems, some of which are unpublished,
to the post-office? No, sir, I could never make up my mind to such a
risk. I mean to go to the city myself, and read them to some of the
leading publishers. I don't want to pledge myself to any one of
them. I should like to set them bidding against each other for the
copyright, if I sell it at all."
Mr. Gridley gazed upon the innocent youth with a sweet wonder in his
eyes that made him look like an angel, a little damaged in the
features by time, but full of celestial feelings.
"It will cost you something to make this trip, Gifted. Have you the
means to pay for your journey and your stay at a city hotel?"
Gifted blushed. "My mother has laid by a small sum for me," he said.
"She knows some of my poems by heart, and she wants to see them all
Master Gridley closed his eyes very firmly again, as if thinking, and
opened them as soon as the foolish film had left them. He had read
many a page of "Thoughts on the Universe" to his own old mother,
long, long years ago, and she had often listened with tears of modest
pride that Heaven had favored her with a son so full of genius.
"I 'll tell you what, Gifted," he said. "I have been thinking for a
good while that I would make a visit to the city, and if you have
made up your mind to try what you can do with the publishers, I will
take you with me as a companion. It will be a saving to you and your
good mother, for I shall bear the expenses of the expedition."
Gifted Hopkins came very near going down on his knees. He was so
overcome with gratitude that it seemed as if his very coattails
wagged with his emotion.
"Take it quietly," said Master Gridley. "Don't make a fool of
yourself. Tell your mother to have some clean shirts and things
ready for you, and we will be off day after to-morrow morning."
Gifted hastened to impart the joyful news to his mother, and to break
the fact to Susan Posey that he was about to leave them for a while,
and rush into the deliriums and dangers of the great city.
Susan smiled. Gifted hardly knew whether to be pleased with her
sympathy, or vexed that she did not take his leaving more to heart.
The smile held out bravely for about a quarter of a minute. Then
there came on a little twitching at the corners of the mouth. Then.
the blue eyes began to shine with a kind of veiled glimmer. Then the
blood came up into her cheeks with a great rush, as if the heart had
sent up a herald with a red flag from the citadel to know what was
going on at the outworks. The message that went back was of
discomfiture and capitulation. Poor Susan was overcome, and gave
herself up to weeping and sobbing.
The sight was too much for the young poet. In a wild burst of
passion he seized her hand, and pressed it to his lips, exclaiming,
"Would that you could be mine forever!" and Susan forgot all that she
ought to have remembered, and, looking half reproachfully but half
tenderly through her tears, said, in tones of infinite sweetness, "O
THE POET AND THE PUBLISHER.
It was settled that Master Byles Gridley and Mr. Gifted Hopkins
should leave early in the morning of the day appointed, to take the
nearest train to the city. Mrs. Hopkins labored hard to get them
ready, so that they might make a genteel appearance among the great
people whom they would meet in society. She brushed up Mr. Gridley's
best black suit, and bound the cuffs of his dress-coat, which were
getting a little worried. She held his honest-looking hat to the
fire, and smoothed it while it was warm, until one would have thought
it had just been ironed by the hatter himself. She had his boots and
shoes brought into a more brilliant condition than they had ever
known: if Gifted helped, it was to his credit as much as if he had
shown his gratitude by polishing off a copy of verses in praise of
When she had got Mr. Gridley's encumbrances in readiness for the
journey, she devoted herself to fitting out her son Gifted. First,
she had down from the garret a capacious trunk, of solid wood, but
covered with leather, and adorned with brass-headed nails, by the
cunning disposition of which, also, the paternal initials stood out
on the rounded lid, in the most conspicuous manner. It was his
father's trunk, and the first thing that went into it, as the widow
lifted the cover, and the smothering shut-up smell struck an old
chord of associations, was a single tear-drop. How well she
remembered the time when she first unpacked it for her young husband,
and the white shirt bosoms showed their snowy plaits! O dear, dear!
But women decant their affection, sweet and sound, out of the old
bottles into the new ones,--off from the lees of the past generation,
clear and bright, into the clean vessels just made ready to receive
it. Gifted Hopkins was his mother's idol, and no wonder. She had
not only the common attachment of a parent for him, as her offspring,
but she felt that her race was to be rendered illustrious by his
genius, and thought proudly of the time when some future biographer
would mention her own humble name, to be held in lasting remembrance
as that of the mother of Hopkins.
So she took great pains to equip this brilliant but inexperienced
young man with everything he could by any possibility need during his
absence. The great trunk filled itself until it bulged with its
contents like a boa-constrictor who has swallowed his blanket. Best
clothes and common clothes, thick clothes and thin clothes, flannels
and linens, socks and collars, with handkerchiefs enough to keep the
pickpockets busy for a week, with a paper of gingerbread and some
lozenges for gastralgia, and "hot drops," and ruled paper to write
letters on, and a little Bible, and a phial with hiera picra, and
another with paregoric, and another with "camphire" for sprains and
--Gifted went forth equipped for every climate from the tropic to the
pole, and armed against every malady from Ague to Zoster. He carried
also the paternal watch, a solid silver bull's-eye, and a large
pocketbook, tied round with a long tape, and, by way of precaution,
pinned into his breast-pocket. He talked about having a pistol, in
case he were attacked by any of the ruffians who are so numerous in
the city, but Mr. Gridley told him, No! he would certainly shoot
himself, and he shouldn't think of letting him take a pistol.
They went forth, Mentor and Telemachus, at the appointed time, to
dare the perils of the railroad and the snares of the city. Mrs.
Hopkins was firm up to near the last moment, when a little quiver in
her voice set her eyes off, and her face broke up all at once, so
that she had to hide it behind her handkerchief. Susan Posey showed
the truthfulness of her character in her words to Gifted at parting.
"Farewell," she said, "and think of me sometimes while absent. My
heart is another's, but my friendship, Gifted--my friendship--"
Both were deeply affected. He took her hand and would have raised it
to his lips; but she did not forget herself, and gently withdrew it,
exclaiming, "O Gifted!" this time with a tone of tender reproach
which made him feel like a profligate. He tore himself away, and
when at a safe distance flung her a kiss, which she rewarded with a
Master Byles Gridley must have had some good dividends from some of
his property of late. There is no other way of accounting for the
handsome style in which he did things on their arrival in the city.
He went to a tailor's and ordered a new suit to be sent home as soon
as possible, for he knew his wardrobe was a little rusty. He looked
Gifted over from head to foot, and suggested such improvements as
would recommend him to the fastidious eyes of the selecter sort of
people, and put him in his own tailor's hands, at the same time
saying that all bills were to be sent to him, B. Gridley, Esq.,
parlor No. 6, at the Planet Hotel. Thus it came to pass that in
three days from their arrival they were both in an eminently
presentable condition. In the mean time the prudent Mr. Gridley had
been keeping the young man busy, and amusing himself by showing him
such of the sights of the city and its suburbs as he thought would
combine instruction with entertainment.
When they were both properly equipped and ready for the best company,
Mr. Gridley said to the young poet, who had found it very hard to
contain his impatience, that they would now call together on the
publisher to whom he wished to introduce him, and they set out
"My name is Gridley," he said with modest gravity, as he entered the
publisher's private room. "I have a note of introduction here from
one of your authors, as I think he called himself, a very popular
writer for whom you publish."
The publisher rose and came forward in the most cordial and
respectful manner. "Mr. Gridley? Professor Byles Gridley,--author
of 'Thoughts on the Universe'?"
The brave-hearted old man colored as if he had been a young girl.
His dead book rose before him like an apparition. He groped in
modest confusion for an answer. "A child I buried long ago, my dear
sir," he said. "Its title-page was its tombstone. I have brought
this young friend with me,--this is Mr. Gifted Hopkins of Oxbow
Village,--who wishes to converse with you about--"
"I have come, sir--" the young poet began, interrupting him.
"Let me look at your manuscript, if you please, Mr. Popkins," said
the publisher, interrupting in his turn.
"Hopkins, if you please, sir," Gifted suggested mildly, proceeding to
extract the manuscript, which had got wedged into his pocket, and
seemed to be holding on with all its might. He was wondering all the
time over the extraordinary clairvoyance of the publisher, who had
looked through so many thick folds, broadcloth, lining, brown paper,
and seen his poems lying hidden in his breast-pocket. The idea that
a young person coming on such an errand should have to explain his
intentions would have seemed very odd to the publisher. He knew the
look which belongs to this class of enthusiasts just as a horse-
dealer knows the look of a green purchaser with the equine fever
raging in his veins. If a young author had come to him with a scrap
of manuscript hidden in his boots, like Major Andre's papers, the
publisher would have taken one glance at him and said, "Out with it!"
While he was battling for the refractory scroll with his pocket,
which turned half wrong side out, and acted as things always do when
people are nervous and in a hurry, the publisher directed his
conversation again to Master Byles Gridley.
"A remarkable book, that of yours, Mr. Gridley, would have a great
run if it were well handled. Came out twenty years too soon,--that
was the trouble. One of our leading scholars was speaking of it to
me the other day. 'We must have a new edition,' he said; people are
just ripe for that book.' Did you ever think of that? Change the
form of it a little, and give it a new title, and it will be a
popular book. Five thousand or more, very likely."
Mr. Gridley felt as if he had been rapidly struck on the forehead
with a dozen distinct blows from a hammer not quite big enough to
stun him. He sat still without saying a word. He had forgotten for
the moment all about poor Gifted Hopkins, who had got out his
manuscript at last, and was calming the disturbed corners of it.
Coming to himself a little, he took a large and beautiful silk
handkerchief, one of his new purchases, from his pocket, and applied
it to his face, for the weather seemed to have grown very warm all at
once. Then he remembered the errand on which he had come, and
thought of this youth, who had got to receive his first hard lesson
in life, and whom he had brought to this kind man that it should be
"You surprise me," he said,--"you surprise me. Dead and buried.
Dead and buried. I had sometimes thought that--at some future
period, after I was gone, it might--but I hardly know what to say
about your suggestions. But here is my young friend, Mr. Hopkins,
who would like to talk with you, and I will leave him in your hands.
I am at the Planet Hotel, if you should care to call upon me. Good
morning. Mr. Hopkins will explain everything to you more at his
ease, without me, I am confident."
Master Gridley could not quite make up his mind to stay through the
interview between the young poet and the publisher. The flush of
hope was bright in Gifted's eye and cheek, and the good man knew that
young hearts are apt to be over-sanguine, and that one who enters a
shower-bath often feels very differently from the same person when he
has pulled the string.
"I have brought you my Poems in the original autographs, sir," said
Mr. Gifted Hopkins.
He laid the manuscript on the table, caressing the leaves still with
one hand, as loath to let it go.
"What disposition had you thought of making of them?" the publisher
asked, in a pleasant tone. He was as kind a man as lived, though he
worked the chief engine in a chamber of torture.
"I wish to read you a few specimens of the poems," he said, "with
reference to their proposed publication in a volume."
"By all means," said the kind publisher, who determined to be very
patient with the protege of the hitherto little-known, but remarkable
writer, Professor Gridley. At the same time he extended his foot in
an accidental sort of way, and pressed it on the right hand knob of
three which were arranged in a line beneath the table. A little bell
in a distant apartment--the little bell marked C--gave one slight
note; loud enough to start a small boy up, who looked at the clock,
and knew that he was to go and call the publisher in just twenty-five
minutes. "A, five minutes; B, ten minutes; C, twenty-five minutes
";--that was the youngster's working formula. Mr. Hopkins was
treated to the full allowance of time, as being introduced by
The young man laid open the manuscript so that the title-page,
written out very handsomely in his own hand, should win the eye of
BLOSSOMS OF THE SOUL.
A WREATH OF VERSE; Original.
BY GIFTED HOPKINS.
"a youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown."--Gray.
"Shall I read you some of the rhymed pieces first, or some of the
blank-verse poems, sir?" Gifted asked.
"Read what you think is best,--a specimen of your first-class style
"I will read you the very last poem I have written," he said, and he
"THE TRIUMPH OF SONG.
"I met that gold-haired maiden, all too dear;
And I to her: Lo! thou art very fair,
Fairer than all the ladies in the world
That fan the sweetened air with scented fans,
And I am scorched with exceeding love,
Yea, crisped till my bones are dry as straw.
Look not away with that high-arched brow,
But turn its whiteness that I may behold,
And lift thy great eyes till they blaze on mine,
And lay thy finger on thy perfect mouth,
And let thy lucent ears of careen pearl
Drink in the murmured music of my soul,
As the lush grass drinks in the globed dew;
For I have many scrolls of sweetest rhyme
I will unroll and make thee glad to hear.
"Then she: O shaper of the marvellous phrase
That openeth woman's heart as Both a key,
I dare not hear thee--lest the bolt should slide
That locks another's heart within my own.
Go, leave me,--and she let her eyelids fall,
And the great tears rolled from her large blue eyes.
"Then I: If thou not hear me, I shall die,
Yea, in my desperate mood may lift my hand
And do myself a hurt no leach can mend;
For poets ever were of dark resolve,
And swift stern deed
"That maiden heard no more,
But spike: Alas! my heart is very weak,
And but for--Stay! And if some dreadful morn,
After great search and shouting thorough the wold,
We found thee missing,--strangled,--drowned i' the mere,
Then should I go distraught and be clean mad!
"O poet, read! read all thy wondrous scrolls.
Yea, read the verse that maketh glad to hear!
Then I began and read two sweet, brief hours,
And she forgot all love save only mine!"
"Is all this from real life?" asked the publisher.
"It--no, sir--not exactly from real life--that is, the leading female
person is not wholly fictitious--and the incident is one which might
have happened. Shall I read you the poems referred to in the one you
have just heard, sir?"
"Allow me, one moment. Two hours' reading, I think, you said. I
fear I shall hardly be able to spare quite time to hear them a11.
Let me ask what you intend doing with these productions, Mr.--- rr
"Hopkins, if you please, sir, not Poplins," said Gifted, plaintively.
He expressed his willingness to dispose of the copyright, to publish
on shares, or perhaps to receive a certain percentage on the profits.
"Suppose we take a glass of wine together, Mr.--Hopkins, before we
talk business," the publisher said, opening a little cupboard and
taking therefrom a decanter and two glasses. He saw the young man
was looking nervous. He waited a few minutes, until the wine had
comforted his epigastrium, and diffused its gentle glow through his
unspoiled and consequently susceptible organisation.
"Come with me," he said.
Gifted followed him into a dingy apartment in the attic, where one
sat at a great table heaped and piled with manuscripts. By him was a
huge basket, ha'f full of manuscripts also. As they entered he
dropped another manuscript into the basket and looked up.
"Tell me," said Gifted, "what are these papers, and who is he that
looks upon them and drops them into the basket?"
"These are the manuscript poems that we receive, and the one sitting
at the table is commonly spoken of among us as 'The Butcher'. The
poems he drops into the basket are those rejected as of no account"
"But does he not read the poems before he rejects them?"
"He tastes them. Do you eat a cheese before you buy it?"
"And what becomes of all those that he drops into the basket?"
"If they are not claimed by their author in proper season, they go to
"What!" said Gifted, with his eyes stretched very round.
"To the paper factory, where they have a horrid machine they call the
devil, that tears everything to bits,--as the critics treat our
authors, sometimes, sometimes, Mr. Hopkins."
Gifted devoted a moment to silent reflection.
After this instructive sight they returned together to the
publisher's private room. The wine had now warmed the youthful
poet's praecordia, so that he began to feel a renewed confidence in
his genius and his fortunes.
"I should like to know what that critic of yours would say to my
manuscript," he said boldly.
"You can try it if you want to," the publisher replied, with an
ominous dryness of manner which the sanguine youth did not perceive,
or, perceiving, did not heed.
"How can we manage to get an impartial judgment?"
"Oh, I'll arrange that. He always goes to his luncheon about this
time. Raw meat and vitriol punch,--that 's what the authors say.
Wait till we hear him go, and then I will lay your manuscript so that
he will come to it among the first after he gets back. You shall see
with your own eyes what treatment it gets. I hope it may please him,
but you shall see."
They went back to the publisher's private room and talked awhile.
Then the little office-boy came up with some vague message about a
gentleman--business--wants to see you, sir, etc., according to the
established programme; all in a vacant, mechanical sort of way, as if
he were a talking-machine just running down.
The publisher told the boy that he was engaged, and the gentleman
must wait. Very soon they heard The Butcher's heavy footstep as he
went out to get his raw meat and vitriol punch.
Now, then," said the publisher, and led forth the confiding literary
lamb once more, to enter the fatal door of the critical shambles.
"Hand me your manuscript, if you please, Mr. Hopkins. I will lay it
so that it shall be the third of these that are coming to hand. Our
friend here is a pretty good judge of verse, and knows a merchantable
article about as quick as any man in his line of business. If he
forms a favorable opinion of your poems, we will talk over your
Gifted was conscious of a very slight tremor as he saw his precious
manuscript deposited on the table, under two others, and over a pile
of similar productions. Still he could not help feeling that the
critic would be struck by his title. The quotation from Gray must
touch his feelings. The very first piece in the collection could not
fail to arrest him. He looked a little excited, but he was in good
"We will be looking about here when our friend comes back," the
publisher said." He is a very methodical person, and will sit down
and go right to work just as if we were not here. We can watch him,
and if he should express any particular interest in your poems, I
will, if you say so, carry you up to him and reveal the fact that you
are the author of the works that please him."
They waited patiently until The Butcher returned, apparently
refreshed by his ferocious refection, and sat down at his table. He
looked comforted, and not in ill humor. The publisher and the poet
talked in low tones, as if on business of their own, and watched him
as he returned to his labor.
The Butcher took the first manuscript that came to hand, read a
stanza here and there, turned over the leaves, turned back and tried
again,--shook his head--held it for an instant over the basket, as if
doubtful,--and let it softly drop. He took up the second manuscript,
opened it in several places, seemed rather pleased with what he read,
and laid it aside for further examination.
He took up the third. "Blossoms of the Soul," etc. He glared at it
in a dreadfully ogreish way. Both the lockers-on held their breath.
Gifted Hopkins felt as if half a glass more of that warm sherry would
not hurt him. There was a sinking at the pit of his stomach, as if
he was in a swing, as high as he could go, close up to the swallows'
nests and spiders' webs. The Butcher opened the manuscript at
random, read ten seconds, and gave a short low grunt. He opened
again, read ten seconds, and gave another grunt, this time a little
longer and louder. He opened once more, read five seconds, and, with
something that sounded like the snort of a dangerous animal, cast it
impatiently into the basket, and took up the manuscript that came
next in order.
Gifted Hopkins stood as if paralyzed for a moment.
"Safe, perfectly safe," the publisher said to him in a whisper."
I'll get it for you presently. Come in and take another glass of
wine," he said, leading him back to his own office.
"No, I thank you," he said faintly, "I can bear it. But this is
dreadful, sir. Is this the way that genius is welcomed to the world
The publisher explained to him, in the kindest manner, that there was
an enormous over-production of verse, and that it took a great part
of one man's time simply to overhaul the cart-loads of it that were
trying to get themselves into print with the imprimatur of his famous
house. "You are young, Mr. Hopkins. I advise you not to try to
force your article of poetry on the market. The B---, our friend,
there, that is, knows a thing that will sell as soon as he sees it.
You are in independent circumstances, perhaps? If so, you can print
--at your own expense--whatever you choose. May I take the liberty
to ask your--profession?"
Gifted explained that he was "clerk" in a "store," where they sold
dry goods and West India goods, and goods promiscuous.
"Oh, well, then," the publisher said, "you will understand me. Do
you know a good article of brown sagas when you see it?"
Gifted Hopkins rather thought he did. He knew at sight whether it
was a fair, salable article or not.
"Just so. Now our friend, there, knows verses that are salable and
unsalable as well as you do brown sugar.--Keep quiet now, and I will
go and get your manuscript for you.
"There, Mr. Hopkins, take your poems,--they will give you a
reputation in your village, I don't doubt, which, is pleasant, but it
will cost you a good deal of money to print them in a volume. You
are very young: you can afford to wait. Your genius is not ripe yet,
I am confident, Mr. Hopkins. These verses are very well for a
beginning, but a man of promise like you, Mr. Hopkins, must n't throw
away his chance by premature publication! I should like to make you
a present of a few of the books we publish. By and by, perhaps, we
can work you into our series of poets; but the best pears ripen
slowly, and so with genius.--Where shall I send the volumes?"
Gifted answered, to parlor No. 6, Planet Hotel, where he soon
presented himself to Master Gridley, who could guess pretty well what
was coming. But he let him tell his story.
"Shall I try the other publishers?" said the disconsolate youth.
"I would n't, my young friend, I would n't. You have seen the best
one of them--all. He is right about it, quite right: you are young,
and had better wait. Look here, Gifted, here is something to please
you. We are going to visit the gay world together. See what has
been left here this forenoon."
He showed him two elegant notes of invitation requesting the pleasure
of Professor Byles Gridley's and of Mr. Gifted Hopkins's company on
Thursday evening, as the guests of Mrs. Clymer Ketchum, of 24 Carat
MRS. CLYMER KETCHUM'S PARTY.
Myrtle Hazard had flowered out as beyond question the handsomest girl
of the season, There were hints from different quarters that she
might possibly be an heiress. Vague stories were about of some
contingency which might possibly throw a fortune into her lap. The
young men about town talked of her at the clubs in their free-and-
easy way, but all agreed that she was the girl of the new crop,--"
best filly this grass," as Livingston Jenkins put it. The general
understanding seemed to be that the young lawyer who had followed her
to the city was going to capture her. She seemed to favor him
certainly as much as anybody. But Myrtle saw many young men now, and
it was not so easy as it would once have been to make out who was an
There had been times when Murray Bradshaw would have offered his
heart and hand to Myrtle at once, if he had felt sure that she would
accept him. But he preferred playing the safe game now, and only
wanted to feel sure of her. He had done his best to be agreeable,
and could hardly doubt that he had made an impression. He dressed
well when in the city,--even elegantly,--he had many of the lesser
social accomplishments, was a good dancer, and compared favorably in
all such matters with the more dashing young fellows in society. He
was a better talker than most of them, and he knew more about the
girl he was dealing with than they could know. "You have only got to
say the word, Murray," Mrs. Clymer Ketchum said to her relative, "and
you can have her. But don't be rash. I believe you can get
Berengaria if you try; and there 's something better there than
possibilities." Murray Bradshaw laughed, and told Mrs. Clymer
Ketchum not to worry about him; he knew what he was doing.
It so happened that Myrtle met Master Byles Gridley walking with Mr.
Gifted Hopkins the day before the party. She longed to have a talk
with her old friend, and was glad to have a chance of pleasing her
poetical admirer. She therefore begged her hostess to invite them
both to her party to please her, which she promised to do at once.
Thus the two elegant notes were accounted for.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum, though her acquaintances were chiefly in the
world of fortune and of fashion, had yet a certain weakness for what
she called clever people. She therefore always variegated her
parties with a streak of young artists and writers, and a literary
lady or two; and, if she could lay hands on a first-class celebrity,
was as happy as an Amazon who had captured a Centaur.
"There's a demonish clever young fellow by the name of Lindsay,"
Mr. Livingston Jenkins said to her a little before the day of the
party. "Better ask him. They say he 's the rising talent in his
line, architecture mainly, but has done some remarkable things in the
way of sculpture. There's some story about a bust he made that was
quite wonderful. I'll find his address for you." So Mr. Clement
Lindsay got his invitation, and thus Mrs. Clymer Ketchum's party
promised to bring together a number of persons with whom we are
acquainted, and who were acquainted with each other.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum knew how to give a party. Let her only have
carte blanche for flowers, music, and champagne, she used to tell her
lord, and she would see to the rest,--lighting the rooms, tables, and
toilet. He needn't be afraid: all he had to do was to keep out of
Subdivision of labor is one of the triumphs of modern civilization.
Labor was beautifully subdivided in this lady's household. It was
old Ketchum's business to make money, and he understood it. It was
Mrs. K.'s business to spend money, and she knew how to do it. The
rooms blazed with light like a conflagration; the flowers burned like
lamps of many-colored flame; the music throbbed into the hearts of
the promenaders and tingled through all the muscles of the dancers.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum was in her glory. Her point d'Alenyon must have
spoiled ever so many French girls' eyes. Her bosom heaved beneath a
kind of breastplate glittering with a heavy dew of diamonds. She
glistened and sparkled with every movement, so that the admirer
forgot to question too closely whether the eyes matched the
brilliants, or the cheeks glowed like the roses. Not far from the
great lady stood Myrtle Hazard. She was dressed as the fashion of
the day demanded, but she had added certain audacious touches of her
own, reminiscences of the time when the dead beauty had flourished,
and which first provoked the question and then the admiration of the
young people who had a natural eye for effect. Over the long white
glove on her left arm was clasped a rich bracelet, of so quaint an
antique pattern that nobody had seen anything like it, and as some
one whispered that it was "the last thing out," it was greatly
admired by the fashion-plate multitude, as well as by the few who had
a taste of their own. If the soul of Judith Pride, long divorced
from its once beautifully moulded dust, ever lived in dim
consciousness through any of those who inherited her blood, it was
then and there that she breathed through the lips of Myrtle Hazard.
The young girl almost trembled with the ecstasy of this new mode of
being, soliciting every sense with light, with perfume, with melody,
--all that could make her feel the wonderful complex music of a fresh
life when all its chords first vibrate together in harmony. Miss
Rhadamantha Pinnikle, whose mother was an Apex (of whose race it was
said that they always made an obeisance when the family name was
mentioned, and had all their portraits painted with halos round their
heads), found herself extinguished in this new radiance. Miss
Victoria Capsheaf stuck to the wall as if she had been a fresco on
it. The fifty-year-old dynasties were dismayed and dismounted.
Myrtle fossilized them as suddenly as if she had been a Gorgon
instead of a beauty.
The guests in whom we may have some interest were in the mean time
making ready for the party, which was expected to be a brilliant one;
for 24 Carat Place was well known for the handsome style of its
Clement Lindsay was a little surprised by his invitation. He had,
however, been made a lion of several times of late, and was very
willing to amuse himself once in a while with a peep into the great
It was but an empty show to him at best, for his lot was cast, and he
expected to lead a quiet domestic life after his student days were
Master Byles Gridley had known what society was in his earlier time,
and understood very well that all a gentleman of his age had to do
was to dress himself in his usual plain way, only taking a little
more care in his arrangements than was needed in the latitude of
Oxbow Village. But Gifted must be looked after, that he should not
provoke the unamiable comments of the city youth by any defect or
extravagance of costume. The young gentleman had bought a light sky-
blue neckerchief, and a very large breast-pin containing a gem which
he was assured by the vender was a genuine stone. He considered that
both these would be eminently effective articles of dress, and Mr.
Gridley had some trouble to convince him that a white tie and plain
shirt-buttons would be more fitted to the occasion.
On the morning of the day of the great party Mr. William Murray
Bradshaw received a brief telegram, which seemed to cause him great
emotion, as he changed color, uttered a forcible exclamation, and
began walking up and down his room in a very nervous kind of way. It
was a foreshadowing of a certain event now pretty sure to happen.
Whatever bearing this telegram may have had upon his plans, he made
up his mind that he would contrive an opportunity somehow that very
evening to propose himself as a suitor to Myrtle Hazard. He could
not say that he felt as absolutely certain of getting the right
answer as he had felt at some previous periods. Myrtle knew her
price, he said to himself, a great deal better than when she was a
simple country girl. The flatteries with which she had been
surrounded, and the effect of all the new appliances of beauty, which
had set her off so that she could not help seeing her own
attractions, rendered her harder to please and to satisfy. A little
experience in society teaches a young girl the arts and the phrases
which all the Lotharios have in common. Murray Bradshaw was ready to
land his fish now, but he was not quite sure that she was yet hooked,
and he had a feeling that by this time she knew every fly in his
book. However, as he had made up his mind not to wait another day,
he addressed himself to the trial before him with a determination to
succeed, if any means at his command would insure success. He
arrayed himself with faultless elegance: nothing must be neglected on
such an occasion. He went forth firm and grave as a general going
into a battle where all is to be lost or won. He entered the blazing
saloon with the unfailing smile upon his lips, to which he set them
as he set his watch to a particular hour and minute.
The rooms were pretty well filled when he arrived and made his bow
before the blazing, rustling, glistening, waving, blushing appearance
under which palpitated, with the pleasing excitement of the magic
scene over which its owner presided, the heart of Mrs. Clymer
Ketchum. He turned to Myrtle Hazard, and if he had ever doubted
which way his inclinations led him, he could doubt no longer. How
much dress and how much light can a woman bear? That is the way to
measure her beauty. A plain girl in a simple dress, if she has only
a pleasant voice, may seem almost a beauty in the rosy twilight. The
nearer she comes to being handsome, the more ornament she will bear,
and the more she may defy the sunshine or the chandelier.
Murray Bradshaw was fairly dazzled with the brilliant effect of
Myrtle in full dress. He did not know before what handsome arms she
had,--Judith Pride's famous arms--which the high-colored young men in
top-boots used to swear were the handsomest pair in New England--
right over again. He did not know before with what defiant effect
she would light up, standing as she did directly under a huge lustre,
in full flower of flame, like a burning azalea. He was not a man who
intended to let his sentiments carry him away from the serious
interests of his future, yet, as he looked upon Myrtle Hazard, his
heart gave one throb which made him feel in every pulse that this way
a woman who in her own right, simply as a woman, could challenge the
homage of the proudest young man of her time. He hardly knew till
this moment how much of passion mingled with other and calmer motives
of admiration. He could say I love you as truly as such a man could
ever speak these words, meaning that he admired her, that he was
attracted to her, that he should be proud of her as his wife, that he
should value himself always as the proprietor of so rare a person,
that no appendage to his existence would take so high a place in his
thoughts. This implied also, what is of great consequence to a young
woman's happiness in the married state, that she would be treated
with uniform politeness, with satisfactory evidences of affection,
and with a degree of confidence quite equal to what a reasonable
woman should expect from a very superior man, her husband.
If Myrtle could have looked through the window in the breast against
which only authors are privileged to flatten their features, it is
for the reader to judge how far the programme would have satisfied
Less than this, a great deal less, does appear to satisfy many young
women; and it may be that the interior just drawn, fairly judged,
belongs to a model lover and husband. Whether it does or not, Myrtle
did not see this picture. There was a beautifully embroidered shirt-
bosom in front of that window through which we have just looked, that
intercepted all sight of what was going on within. She only saw a
man, young, handsome, courtly, with a winning tongue, with an
ambitious spirit, whose every look and tone implied his admiration of
herself, and who was associated with her past life in such a way that
they alone appeared like old friends in the midst of that cold alien
throng. It seemed as if he could not have chosen a more auspicious
hour than this; for she never looked so captivating, and her presence
must inspire his lips with the eloquence of love. And she--was not
this delirious atmosphere of light and music just the influence to
which he would wish to subject her before trying the last experiment
of all which can stir the soul of a woman? He knew the mechanism of
that impressionable state which served Coleridge so excellently
"All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve
The music, and the doleful tale,
The rich and balmy eve,"--
though he hardly expected such startling results as happened in that
case,--which might be taken as an awful warning not to sing moving
ballads to young ladies of susceptible feelings, unless one is
prepared for very serious consequences. Without expecting that
Myrtle would rush into his arms, he did think that she could not help
listening to him in the intervals of the delicious music, in some
recess where the roses and jasmines and heliotropes made the air
heavy with sweetness, and the crimson curtains drooped in heavy folds
that half hid their forms from the curious eyes all round them. Her
heart would swell like Genevieve's as he told her in simple phrase
that she was his life, his love, his all,--for in some two or three
words like these he meant to put his appeal, and not in fine poetical
phrases: that would do for Gifted Hopkins and rhyming tom-tits of
Full of his purpose, involving the plans of his whole life, implying,
as he saw clearly, a brilliant future or a disastrous disappointment,
with a great unexploded mine of consequences under his feet, and the
spark ready to fall into it, he walked about the gilded saloon with a
smile upon his lips so perfectly natural and pleasant, that one would
have said he was as vacant of any aim, except a sort of superficial
good-matured disposition to be amused, as the blankest-eyed simpleton
who had tied himself up in a white cravat and come to bore and be
Yet under this pleasant smile his mind was so busy with its thoughts
that he had forgotten all about the guests from Oxbow Village who, as
Myrtle had told him, were to come this evening. His eye was all at
once caught by a familiar figure, and he recognized Master Byles
Gridley, accompanied by Mr. Gifted Hopkins, at the door of the
saloon. He stepped forward at once to meet, and to present them.
Mr. Gridley in evening costume made an eminently dignified and
respectable appearance. There was an unusual lock of benignity upon
his firmly moulded features, and an air of ease which rather
surprised Mr. Bradshaw, who did not know all the social experiences
which had formed a part of the old Master's history. The greeting
between them was courteous, but somewhat formal, as Mr. Bradshaw was
acting as one of the masters of ceremony. He nodded to Gifted in an
easy way, and led them both into the immediate Presence.
"This is my friend Professor Gridley, Mrs. Ketchum, whom I have the
honor of introducing to you,--a very distinguished scholar, as I have
no doubt you are well aware. And this is my friend Mr. Gifted
Hopkins, a young poet of distinction, whose fame will reach you by
and by, if it has not come to your ears already."
The two gentlemen went through the usual forms, the poet a little
crushed by the Presence, but doing his best. While the lady was
making polite speeches to them, Myrtle Hazard came forward. She was
greatly delighted to meet her old friend, and even looked upon the
young poet with a degree of pleasure she would hardly have expected
to receive from his company. They both brought with them so many
reminiscences of familiar scenes and events, that it was like going
back for the moment to Oxbow Village. But Myrtle did not belong to
herself that evening, and had no opportunity to enter into
conversation just then with either of them. There was to be dancing
by and by, and the younger people were getting impatient that it
should begin. At last the music sounded the well-known summons, and
the floors began to ring to the tread of the dancers. As usual on
such occasions there were a large number of noncombatants, who stood
as spectators around those who were engaged in the campaign of the
evening. Mr. Byles Gridley looked on gravely, thinking of the
minuets and the gavots of his younger days. Mr. Gifted Hopkins, who
had never acquired the desirable accomplishment of dancing, gazed
with dazzled and admiring eyes at the wonderful evolutions of the
graceful performers. The music stirred him a good deal; he had also
been introduced to one or two young persons as Mr. Hopkins, the poet,
and he began to feel a kind of excitement, such as was often the
prelude of a lyric burst from his pen. Others might have wealth and
beauty, he thought to himself, but what were these to the gift of
genius? In fifty years the wealth of these people would have passed
into other hands. In fifty years all these beauties would be dead,
or wrinkled and double-wrinkled great-grandmothers. And when they
were all gone and forgotten, the name of Hopkins would be still fresh
in the world's memory. Inspiring thought! A smile of triumph rose
to his lips; he felt that the village boy who could look forward to
fame as his inheritance was richer than all the millionnaires, and
that the words he should set in verse would have an enduring lustre
to which the whiteness of pearls was cloudy, and the sparkle of
He raised his eyes, which had been cast down in reflection, to look
upon these less favored children of Fortune, to whom she had given
nothing but perishable inheritances. Two or three pairs of eyes, he
observed, were fastened upon him. His mouth perhaps betrayed a
little self-consciousness, but he tried to show his features in an
aspect of dignified self-possession. There seemed to be remarks and
questionings going on, which he supposed to be something like the
Which is it? Which is it?--Why, that one, there,--that young
fellow,--don't you see?--What young fellow are you two looking at?
Who is he? What is he?--Why, that is Hopkins, the poet.--Hopkins,
the poet! Let me see him! Let me see him! Hopkins? What! Gifted
Hopkins? etc., etc.
Gifted Hopkins did not hear these words except in fancy, but he did
unquestionably find a considerable number of eyes concentrated upon
him, which he very naturally interpreted as an evidence that he had
already begun to enjoy a foretaste of the fame of which he should
hereafter have his full allowance. Some seemed to be glancing
furtively, some appeared as if they wished to speak, and all the time
the number of those looking at him seemed to be increasing. A vision
came through his fancy of himself as standing on a platform, and
having persons who wished to look upon him and shake hands with him
presented, as he had heard was the way with great people when going
about the country. But this was only a suggestion, and by no means a
serious thought, for that would have implied infatuation.
Gifted Hopkins was quite right in believing that he attracted many
eyes. At last those of Myrtle Hazard were called to him, and she
perceived that an accident was making him unenviably conspicuous.
The bow of his rather large white neck-tie had slid round and got
beneath his left ear. A not very good-natured or well-bred young
fellow had pointed out the subject of this slight misfortune to one
or two others of not much better taste or breeding, and thus the
unusual attention the youthful poet was receiving explained itself.
Myrtle no sooner saw the little accident of which her rural friend
was the victim than she left her place in the dance with a simple
courage which did her credit.
"I want to speak to you a minute," she said. "Come into this
And the courageous young lady not only told Gifted what had happened
to him, but found a pin somehow, as women always do on a pinch, and
had him in presentable condition again almost before the bewildered
young man knew what was the matter. On reflection it occurred to
him, as it has to other provincial young persons going to great
cities, that he might perhaps have been hasty in thinking himself an
object of general curiosity as yet. There had hardly been time for
his name to have become very widely known. Still, the feeling had
been pleasant for the moment, and had given him an idea of what the
rapture would be, when, wherever he went, the monster digit (to hint
a classical phrase) of the collective admiring public would be lifted
to point him out, and the whisper would pass from one to another,
"That's him! That's Hopkins!"
Mr. Murray Bradshaw had been watching the opportunity for carrying
out his intentions, with his pleasant smile covering up all that was
passing in his mind, and Master Byles Gridley, looking equally
unconcerned, had been watching him. The young man's time came at
last. Some were at the supper-table, some were promenading, some
were talking, when he managed to get Myrtle a little apart from the
rest, and led her towards one of the recesses in the apartment, where
two chairs were invitingly placed. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes
were sparkling,--the influences to which he had trusted had not been
thrown away upon her. He had no idea of letting his purpose be seen
until he was fully ready. It required all his self-mastery to avoid
betraying himself by look or tone, but he was so natural that Myrtle
was thrown wholly off her guard. He meant to make her pleased with
herself at the outset, and that not by point-blank flattery, of which
she had had more than enough of late, but rather by suggestion and
inference, so that she should find herself feeling happy without
knowing how. It would be easy to glide from that to the impression
she had produced upon him, and get the two feelings more or less
mingled in her mind. And so the simple confession he meant to make
would at length evolve itself logically, and hold by a natural
connection to the first agreeable train of thought which he had
called up. Not the way, certainly, that most young men would arrange
their great trial scene; but Murray Bradshaw was a lawyer in love as
much as in business, and considered himself as pleading a cause
before a jury of Myrtle Hazard's conflicting motives. What would any
lawyer do in a jury case but begin by giving the twelve honest men
and true to understand, in the first place, that their intelligence
and virtue were conceded by all, and that he himself had perfect
confidence in them, and leave them to shape their verdict in
accordance with these propositions and his own side of the case?