Part 6 out of 7
restless, had found a pair of half-finished slippers which she had
left behind her. The color came into her cheeks when she remembered
the state of mind she was in when she was working on them for the
Rev. Mr. Stoker. She recollected Master Gridley's mistake about
their destination, and determined to follow the hint he had given.
It would please him better if she sent them to good Father Pemberton,
she felt sure, than if he should get them himself. So she enlarged
them somewhat, (for the old man did not pinch his feet, as the
younger clergyman was in the habit of doing, and was, besides, of
portly dimensions, as the old orthodox three-deckers were apt to be,)
and worked E. P. very handsomely into the pattern, and sent them to
him with her love and respect, to his great delight; for old
ministers do not have quite so many tokens of affection from fair
hands as younger ones.
What made Myrtle nervous and restless? Why had she quitted the city
so abruptly, and fled to her old home, leaving all the gayeties
behind her which had so attracted and dazzled her?
She had not betrayed herself at the third meeting with the young man
who stood in such an extraordinary relation to her,--who had actually
given her life from his own breath,--as when she met him for the
second time. Whether his introduction to her at the party, just at
the instant when Murray Bradshaw was about to make a declaration,
saved her from being in another moment the promised bride of that
young gentleman, or not, we will not be so rash as to say. It
looked, certainly, as if he was in a fair way to carry his point; but
perhaps she would have hesitated, or shrunk back, when the great
question came to stare her in the face.
She was excited, at any rate, by the conversation, so that, when
Clement was presented to her, her thoughts could not at once be all
called away from her other admirer, and she was saved from all danger
of that sudden disturbance which had followed their second meeting.
Whatever impression he made upon her developed itself gradually,
--still, she felt strangely drawn towards him. It was not simply in
his good looks, in his good manners, in his conversation, that she
found this attraction, but there was a singular fascination which she
felt might be dangerous to her peace, without explaining it to
herself in words. She could hardly be in love with this young
artist; she knew that his affections were plighted to another, a fact
which keeps most young women from indulging unruly fancies; yet her
mind was possessed by his image to such an extent that it left little
room for that of Mr. William Murray Bradshaw.
Myrtle Hazard had been just ready to enter on a career of worldly
vanity and ambition. It is hard to blame her, for we know how she
came by the tendency. She had every quality, too, which fitted her
to shine in the gay world; and the general law is, that those who
have the power have the instinct to use it. We do not suppose that
the bracelet on her arm was an amulet, but it was a symbol. It
reminded her of her descent; it kept alive the desire to live over
the joys and excitements of a bygone generation. If she had accepted
Murray Bradshaw, she would have pledged herself to a worldly life.
If she had refused him, it would perhaps have given her a taste of
power that might have turned her into a coquette.
This new impression saved her for the time. She had come back to her
nest in the village like a frightened bird; her heart was throbbing,
her nerves were thrilling, her dreams were agitated; she wanted to be
quiet, and could not listen to the flatteries or entreaties of her
It was a strong will and a subtle intellect that had arrayed their
force and skill against the ill-defended citadel of Myrtle's heart.
Murray Bradshaw was perfectly determined, and not to be kept back by
any trivial hindrances, such as her present unwillingness to accept
him, or even her repugnance to him, if a freak of the moment had
carried her so far. It was a settled thing: Myrtle Hazard must
become Mrs. Bradshaw; and nobody could deny that, if he gave her his
name, they had a chance, at least, for a brilliant future.
MISTRESS KITTY FAGAN CALLS ON MASTER BYLES GRIDLEY.
"I 'd like to go down to the store this mornin', Miss Withers, plase.
Sure I've niver a shoe to my fut, only jist these two that I've got
on, an' one other pair, and thim is so full of holes that whin I 'm
standin' in 'em I'm outside of 'em intirely."
"You can go, Kitty," Miss Silence answered, funereally.
Thereupon Kitty Fagan proceeded to array herself in her most tidy
apparel, including a pair of shoes not exactly answering to her
description, and set out straight for the house of the Widow Hopkins.
Arrived at that respectable mansion, she inquired for Mr. Gridley,
and was informed that he was at home. Had a message for him,--could
she see him in his study? She could if she would wait a little
while. Mr. Gridley was busy just at this minute. Sit down, Kitty,
and warm yourself at the cooking-stove.
Mistress Kitty accepted Mrs. Hopkins's hospitable offer, and
presently began orienting herself, and getting ready to make herself
agreeable. The kindhearted Mrs. Hopkins had gathered about her
several other pensioners besides the twins. These two little people,
it may be here mentioned, were just taking a morning airing in charge
of Susan Posey, who strolled along in company with Gifted Hopkins on
his way to the store.
Mistress Kitty soon began the conversational blandishments so natural
to her good-humored race. "It's a little blarney that'll jist suit
th' old lady," she said to herself, as she made her first
"An' sure an' it's a beautiful kitten you've got there, Mrs. Hopkins.
An' it's a splendid mouser she is, I'll be bound. Does n't she look
as if she'd clans the house out o'them little bastes, bad luck to em."
Mrs. Hopkins looked benignantly upon the more than middle-aged tabby,
slumbering as if she had never known an enemy, and turned smiling to
Mistress Kitty. "Why, bless your heart, Kitty, our old puss would
n't know a mouse by sight, if you showed her one. If I was a mouse,
I'd as lieves have a nest in one of that old cat's ears as anywhere
else. You couldn't find a safer place for one."
"Indade, an' to be sure she's too big an' too handsome a pussy to be
after wastin' her time on them little bastes. It's that little
tarrier dog of yours, Mrs. Hopkins, that will be after worryin' the
mice an' the rats, an' the thaves too, I 'll warrant. Is n't he a
fust-rate-lookin' watch-dog, an' a rig'ler rat-hound?"
Mrs. Hopkins looked at the little short-legged and short-winded
animal of miscellaneous extraction with an expression of contempt and
affection, mingled about half and half. "Worry 'em! If they wanted
to sleep, I rather guess he would worry 'em! If barkin' would do
their job for 'em, nary a mouse nor rat would board free gratis in my
house as they do now. Noisy little good-for-nothing tike,--ain't
Mistress Kitty was put back a little by two such signal failures.
There was another chance, however, to make her point, which she
presently availed herself of,--feeling pretty sure this time that she
should effect a lodgement. Mrs. Hopkins's parrot had been observing
Kitty, first with one eye and then with the other, evidently
preparing to make a remark, but awkward with a stranger. "That 's a
beautiful part y 've got there," Kitty said, buoyant with the
certainty that she was on safe ground this time; "and tahks like a
book, I 'll be bound. Poll! Poll! Poor Poll!"
She put forth her hand to caress the intelligent and affable bird,
which, instead of responding as expected, "squawked," as our phonetic
language has it, and, opening a beak imitated from a tooth-drawing
instrument of the good old days, made a shrewd nip at Kitty's
forefinger. She drew it back with a jerk.
"An' is that the way your part tahks, Mrs. Hopkins?"
"Talks, bless you, Kitty! why, that parrot hasn't said a word this
ten year. He used to say Poor Poll! when we first had him, but he
found it was easier to squawk, and that's all he ever does nowadays,
--except bite once in a while."
"Well, an' to be sure," Kitty answered, radiant as she rose from her
defeats, "if you'll kape a cat that does n't know a mouse when she
sees it, an' a dog that only barks for his livin', and a part that
only squawks an' bites an' niver spakes a word, ye must be the best-
hearted woman that's alive, an' bliss ye, if ye was only a good
Catholic, the Holy Father 'd make a saint of ye in less than no
So Mistress Kitty Fagan got in her bit of Celtic flattery, in spite
of her three successive discomfitures.
"You may come up now, Kitty," said Mr. Gridley over the stairs. He
had just finished and sealed a letter.
"Well, Kitty, how are things going on up at The Poplars? And how
does our young lady seem to be of late?"
"Whisht! whisht! your honor."
Mr. Bradshaw's lessons had not been thrown away on his attentive
listener. She opened every door in the room, "by your lave," as she
said. She looked all over the walls to see if there was any old
stovepipe hole or other avenue to eye or ear. Then she went, in her
excess of caution, to the window. She saw nothing noteworthy except
Mr. Gifted Hopkins and the charge he convoyed, large and small, in
the distance. The whole living fleet was stationary for the moment,
he leaning on the fence with his cheek on his hand, in one of the
attitudes of the late Lord Byron; she, very near him, listening,
apparently, in the pose of Mignon aspirant au ciel, as rendered by
Carlo Dolce Scheffer.
Kitty came back, apparently satisfied, and stood close to Mr.
Gridley, who told her to sit down, which she did, first making a
catch at her apron to dust the chair with, and then remembering that
she had left that part of her costume at home.--Automatic movements,
Mistress Kitty began telling in an undertone of the meeting between
Mr. Bradshaw and Miss Badlam, and of the arrangements she made for
herself as the reporter of the occasion. She then repeated to him,
in her own way, that part of the conversation which has been already
laid before the reader. There is no need of going over the whole of
this again in Kitty's version, but we may fit what followed into the
joints of what has been already told.
"He cahled her Cynthy, d' ye see, Mr. Gridley, an' tahked to her jist
as asy as if they was two rogues, and she knowed it as well as he
did. An' so, says he, I'm goin' away, says he, an' I'm goin' to be
gahn siveral days, or perhaps longer, says he, an' you'd better kape
it, says he."
"Keep what, Kitty? What was it he wanted her to keep?" said Mr.
Gridley, who no longer doubted that he was on the trail of a plot,
and meant to follow it. He was getting impatient with the "says
he's" with which Kitty double-leaded her discourse.
"An' to be sure ain't I tellin' you, Mr. Gridley, jist as fast as my
breath will let me? An' so, says he, you'd better kape it, says he,
mixed up with your other paupers, says he," (Mr. Gridley started,)
"an' thin we can find it in the garret, says he, whinever we want it,
says he. An' if it all goes right out there, says he, it won't be
lahng before we shall want to find it, says he. And I can dipind on
you, says he, for we're both in the same boat, says he, an' you knows
what I knows, says he, an' I knows what you knows, says be. And thin
he taks a stack o' paupers out of his pocket, an' he pulls out one of
'em, an' he says to her, says he, that's the pauper, says he, an' if
you die, says be, niver lose sight of that day or night, says he, for
it's life an' dith to both of us, says he. An' thin he asks her if
she has n't got one o' them paupers--what is 't they cahls 'em?--
divilops, or some sich kind of a name--that they wraps up their
letters in; an' she says no, she has n't got none that's big enough
to hold it. So he says, give me a shate o' pauper, says he. An'
thin he takes the pauper that she give him, an' he folds it up like
one o' them--divilops, if that's the name of 'em; and thin he pulls a
stick o' salin'-wax out of his pocket, an' a stamp, an' he takes the
pauper an' puts it into th' other pauper, along with the rest of the
paupers, an' thin he folds th' other pauper over the paupers, and
thin he lights a candle, an' he milts the salin'-wax, and he sales up
the pauper that was outside th' other paupers, an' he writes on the
back of the pauper, an' thin he hands it to Miss Badlam."
"Did you see the paper that he showed her before he fastened it up
with the others, Kitty?"
"I did see it, indade, Mr. Gridley, and it's the truth I'm tellin'
"Did you happen to notice anything about it, Kitty?"
"I did, indade, Mr. Gridley. It was a longish kind of a pauper, and
there was some blotches of ink on the back of it,--an' they looked
like a face without any mouth, for, says I, there's two spots for the
eyes, says I, and there's a spot for the nose, says I, and there's
niver a spot for the mouth, says I"
This was the substance of what Master Byles Gridley got out of Kitty
Fagan. It was enough, yes, it was too much. There was some deep-
laid plot between Murray Bradshaw and Cynthia Badlam, involving the
interests of some of the persons connected with the late Malachi
Withers; for that the paper described by Kitty was the same that he
had seen the young man conceal in the Corpus Juris Civilis, it was
impossible to doubt. If it had been a single spot an the back of it,
or two, he might have doubted. But three large spots "blotches" she
had called them, disposed thus *.*--would not have happened to be on
two different papers, in all human probability.
After grave consultation of all his mental faculties in committee of
the whole, he arrived at the following conclusion,--that Miss Cynthia
Badlam was the depositary of a secret involving interests which he
felt it his business to defend, and of a document which was
fraudulently withheld and meant to be used for some unfair purpose.
And most assuredly, Master Gridley said to himself, he held a master-
key, which, just so certainly as he could make up his mind to use it,
would open any secret in the keeping of Miss Cynthia Badlam.
He proceeded, therefore, without delay, to get ready for a visit to
that lady at The Poplars. He meant to go thoroughly armed, for he
was a very provident old gentleman. His weapons were not exactly of
the kind which a housebreaker would provide himself with, but of a
somewhat peculiar nature.
Weapon number one was a slip of paper with a date and a few words
written upon it. "I think this will fetch the document," he said to
himself, "if it comes to the worst. Not if I can help it,--not if I
can help it. But if I cannot get at the heart of this thing
otherwise, why, I must come to this. Poor woman!--Poor woman!"
Weapon number two was a small phial containing spirits of hartshorn,
sal volatile, very strong, that would stab through the nostrils, like
a stiletto, deep into the gray kernels that lie in the core of the
brain. Excellent in cases of sudden syncope or fainting, such as
sometimes require the opening of windows, the dashing on of cold
water, the cutting of stays, perhaps, with a scene of more or less
tumultuous perturbation and afflux of clamorous womanhood.
So armed, Byles Gridley, A. M., champion of unprotected innocence,
grasped his ivory-handled cane and sallied forth on his way to The
MASTER BYLES GRIDLEY CALLS ON MISS CYNTHIA BADLAM.
MISS Cynthia Badlam was seated in a small parlor which she was
accustomed to consider her own during her long residences at The
Poplars. The entry stove warmed it but imperfectly, and she looked
pinched and cold, for the evenings were still pretty sharp, and the
old house let in the chill blasts, as old houses are in the habit of
doing. She was sitting at her table, with a little trunk open before
her. She had taken some papers from it, which she was looking over,
when a knock at her door announced a visitor, and Master Byles
Gridley entered the parlor.
As he came into the room, she gathered the papers together and
replaced them in the trunk, which she locked, throwing an unfinished
piece of needle-work over it, putting the key in her pocket, and
gathering herself up for company. Something of all this Master
Gridley saw through his round spectacles, but seemed not to see, and
took his seat like a visitor making a call of politeness.
A visitor at such an hour, of the male sex, without special
provocation, without social pretext, was an event in the life of the
desolate spinster. Could it be--No, it could not--and yet--and yet!
Miss Cynthia threw back the rather common-looking but comfortable
shawl which covered her shoulders, and showed her quite presentable
figure, arrayed with a still lingering thought of that remote
contingency which might yet offer itself at some unexpected moment;
she adjusted the carefully plaited cap, which was not yet of the
lasciate ogni speranza pattern, and as she obeyed these instincts of
her sex, she smiled a welcome to the respectable, learned, and
independent bachelor. Mr. Gridley had a frosty but kindly age before
him, with a score or so of years to run, which it was after all not
strange to fancy might be rendered more cheerful by the companionship
of a well-conserved and amiably disposed woman, if any such should
happen to fall in his way.
That smile came very near disconcerting the plot of Master Byles
Gridley. He had come on an inquisitor's errand, his heart secure, as
he thought, against all blandishments, his will steeled to break down
all resistance. He had come armed with an instrument of torture
worse than the thumb-screw, worse than the pulleys which attempt the
miracle of adding a cubit to the stature, worse than the brazier of
live coals brought close to the naked soles of the feet,--an
instrument which, instead of trifling with the nerves, would clutch
all the nerve-centres and the heart itself in its gripe, and hold
them until it got its answer, if the white lips had life enough left
to shape one. And here was this unfortunate maiden lady smiling at
him, setting her limited attractions in their best light, pleading
with him in that natural language which makes any contumacious
bachelor feel as guilty as Cain before any single woman. If Mr.
Gridley had been alone, he would have taken a good sniff at his own
bottle of sal volatile; for his kind heart sunk within him as he
thought of the errand upon which he had come. It would not do to
leave the subject of his vivisection under any illusion as to the
nature of his designs.
"Good evening, Miss Badlam," he said, "I have come to visit you on a
matter of business."
What was the internal panorama which had unrolled itself at the
instant of his entrance, and which rolled up as suddenly at the sound
of his serious voice and the look of his grave features? It cannot
be reproduced, though pages were given to it; for some of the
pictures were near, and some were distant; some were clearly seen,
and some were only hinted; some were not recognized in the intellect
at all, and yet they were implied, as it were, behind the others.
Many times we have all found ourselves glad or sorry, and yet we
could not tell what thought it was that reflected the sunbeam or cast
the shadow. Took into Cynthia's suddenly exalted consciousness and
see the picture, actual and potential, unroll itself in all its
details of the natural, the ridiculous, the selfish, the pitiful, the
human. Glimpses, hints, echoes, suggestions, involving tender
sentiments hitherto unknown, we may suppose, to that unclaimed
sister's breast,--pleasant excitement of receiving congratulations
from suddenly cordial friends; the fussy delights of buying furniture
and shopping for new dresses,--(it seemed as if she could hear
herself saying, "Heavy silks,--best goods, if you please,")--with
delectable thumping down of flat-sided pieces of calico, cambric,
"rep," and other stiffs, and rhythmic evolution of measured yards,
followed by sharp snip of scissors, and that cry of rending tissues
dearer to woman's ear than any earthly sound until she hears the
voice of her own first-born,(much of this potentially, remember,)--
thoughts of a comfortable settlement, an imposing social condition, a
cheerful household, and by and by an Indian summer of serene
widowhood,--all these, and infinite other involved possibilities had
mapped themselves in one long swift flash before Cynthia's inward
eye, and all vanished as the old man spoke those few words. The look
on his face, and the tone of his cold speech, had instantly swept
them all away, like a tea-set sliding in a single crash from a
What could be the "business" on which he had come to her with that
solemn face?--she asked herself, as she returned his greeting and
offered him a chair. She was conscious of a slight tremor as she put
this question to her own intelligence.
"Are we like to be alone and undisturbed?" Mr. Gridley asked. It was
a strange question,--men do act strangely sometimes. She hardly
knew. whether to turn red or white.
"Yes, there is nobody like to come in at present," she answered. She
did not know what to make of it. What was coming next,
--a declaration, or an accusation of murder?
"My business," Mr. Gridley said, very gravely, "relates to this. I
wish to inspect papers which I have reason to believe exist, and
which have reference to the affairs of the late Malachi Withers. Can
you help me to get sight of any of these papers not to be found at
the Registry of Deeds or the Probate Office?"
"Excuse me, Mr. Gridley, but may I ask you what particular concern
you have with the affairs of my relative, Cousin Malachi Withers,
that's been dead and buried these half-dozen years?"
"Perhaps it would take some time to answer that question fully, Miss
Badlam. Some of these affairs do concern those I am interested in,
if not myself directly."
"May I ask who the person or persons may be on whose account you wish
to look at papers belonging to my late relative, Malachi Withers?"
"You can ask me almost anything, Miss Badlam, but I should really be
very much obliged if you would answer my question first. Can you
help me to get a sight of any papers relating to the estate of
Malachi Withers, not to be found at the Registry of Deeds or the
Probate Office,--any of which you may happen to have any private and
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Gridley; but I don't understand why you come
to me with such questions. Lawyer Penhallow is the proper person, I
should think, to go to. He and his partner that was--Mr. Wibird, you
know--settled the estate, and he has got the papers, I suppose, if
there are any, that ain't to be found in the offices you mention."
Mr. Gridley moved his chair a little, so as to bring Miss Badlam's
face a little more squarely in view.
"Does Mr. William Murray Bradshaw know anything about any papers,
such as I am referring to, that may have been sent to the office?"
The lady felt a little moisture stealing through all her pores, and
at the same time a certain dryness of the vocal organs, so that her
answer came in a slightly altered tone which neither of them could
"You had better ask Mr. William Murray Bradshaw yourself about that,"
she answered. She felt the hook now, and her spines were rising,
partly with apprehension, partly with irritation.
"Has that young gentleman ever delivered into your hands any papers
relating to the affairs of the late Malachi Withers, for your safe
"What do you mean by asking me these questions, Mr. Gridley? I don't
choose to be catechised about Murray Bradshaw's business. Go to him,
if you please, if you want to find out about it."
"Excuse my persistence, Miss Badlam, but I must prevail upon you to
answer my question. Has Mr. William Murray Bradshaw ever delivered
into your hands any papers relating to the affairs of the late
Malachi Withers, for your safe keeping?"
"Do you suppose I am going to answer such questions as you are
putting me because you repeat them over, Mr. Gridley? Indeed I
cha'n't. Ask him, if you please, whatever you wish to know about his
She drew herself up and looked savagely at him. She had talked
herself into her courage. There was a color in her cheeks and a
sparkle in her eye; she looked dangerous as a cobra.
"Miss Cynthia Badlam," Master Gridley said, very deliberately, "I am
afraid we do not entirely understand each other. You must answer my
question precisely, categorically, point-blank, and on the instant.
Will you do this at once, or will you compel me to show you the
absolute necessity of your doing it, at the expense of pain to both
of us? Six words from me will make you answer all my questions."
"You can't say six words, nor sixty, Mr. Gridley, that will make me
answer one question I do not choose to. I defy you!"
"I will not say one, Miss Cynthia Badlam. There are some things one
does not like to speak in words. But I will show you a scrap of
paper, containing just six words and a date; not one word more nor
one less. You shall read them. Then I will burn the paper in the
flame of your lamp. As soon after that as you feel ready, I will ask
the same question again."
Master Gridley took out from his pocket-book a scrap of paper, and
handed it to Cynthia Badlam. Her hand shook as she received it, for
she was frightened as well as enraged, and she saw that Mr. Gridley
was in earnest and knew what he was doing.
She read the six words, he looking at her steadily all the time, and
watching her as if he had just given her a drop of prussic acid.
No cry. No sound from her lips. She stared as if half stunned for
one moment, then turned her head and glared at Mr. Gridley as if she
would have murdered him if she dared. In another instant her face
whitened, the scrap of paper fluttered to the floor, and she would
have followed it but for the support of both Mr. Gridley's arms. He
disengaged one of them presently, and felt in his pocket for the sal
volatile. It served him excellently well, and stung her back again
to her senses very quickly. All her defiant aspect had gone.
"Look!" he said, as he lighted the scrap of paper in the flame."
You understand me, and you see that I must be answered the next time
I ask my question."
She opened her lips as if to speak. It was as when a bell is rung in
a vacuum,--no words came from them,--only a faint gasping sound, an
effort at speech. She was caught tight in the heart-screw.
"Don't hurry yourself, Miss Cynthia," he said, with a certain
relenting tenderness of manner. "Here, take another sniff of the
smelling-salts. Be calm, be quiet,--I am well disposed towards you,
--I don't like to give you trouble. There, now, I must have the
answer to that question; but take your time, take your time."
"Give me some water,--some water!" she said, in a strange hoarse
whisper. There was a pitcher of water and a tumbler on an old marble
sideboard near by. He filled the tumbler, and Cynthia emptied it as
if she had just been taken from the rack, and could have swallowed a
"What do you want to know?" she asked.
"I wish to know all that you can tell me about a certain paper, or
certain papers, which I have reason to believe Mr. William Murray
Bradshaw committed to your keeping."
"There is only one paper of any consequence. Do you want to make him
kill me? or do you want to make me kill myself?"
"Neither, Miss Cynthia, neither. I wish to see that paper, but not
for any bad purpose. Don't you think, on the whole, you have pretty
good reason to trust me? I am a very quiet man, Miss Cynthia. Don't
be afraid of me; only do what I ask,--it will be a great deal better
for you in the end."
She thrust her trembling hand into her pocket, and took out the key
of the little trunk. She drew the trunk towards her, put the key in
the lock, and opened it. It seemed like pressing a knife into her
own bosom and turning the blade. That little trunk held all the
records of her life the forlorn spinster most cherished;--a few
letters that came nearer to love-letters than any others she had ever
received; an album, with flowers of the summers of 1840 and 1841
fading between its leaves; two papers containing locks of hair, half
of a broken ring, and other insignificant mementos which had their
meaning, doubtless, to her,--such a collection as is often priceless
to one human heart, and passed by as worthless in the auctioneer's
inventory. She took the papers out mechanically, and laid them on
the table. Among them was an oblong packet, sealed with what
appeared to be the office seal of Messrs. Penhallow and Bradshaw.
"Will you allow me to take that envelope containing papers, Miss
Badlam? "Mr. Gridley asked, with a suavity and courtesy in his tone
and manner that showed how he felt for her sex and her helpless
She seemed to obey his will as if she had none of her own left. She
passed the envelope to him, and stared at him vacantly while he
examined it. He read on the back of the package: "Withers Estate--
old papers--of no importance apparently. Examine hereafter."
"May I ask when, where, and of whom you obtained these papers, Miss
"Have pity on me, Mr. Gridley,--have pity on me. I am a lost woman
if you do not. Spare me! for God's sake, spare me! There will no
wrong come of all this, if you will but wait a little while. The
paper will come to light when it is wanted, and all will be right.
But do not make me answer any more questions, and let me keep this
paper. O Mr. Gridley! I am in the power of a dreadful man--"
"You mean Mr. William Murray Bradshaw?"
"I mean him."
"Has there not been some understanding between you that he should
become the approved suitor of Miss Myrtle Hazard?"
Cynthia wrung her hands and rocked herself backward and forward in
her misery, but answered not a word. What could she answer, if she
had plotted with this "dreadful man" against a young and innocent
girl, to deliver her over into his hands, at the risk of all her
earthly hopes and happiness?
Master Gridley waited long and patiently for any answer she might
have the force to make. As she made none, he took upon himself to
settle the whole matter without further torture of his helpless
"This package must go into the hands of the parties who had the
settlement of the estate of the late Malachi Withers. Mr. Penhallow
is the survivor of the two gentlemen to whom that business was
intrusted. How long is Mr. William Murray Bradshaw like to be away?"
"Perhaps a few days,--perhaps weeks,--and then he will come back and
kill me,--or--or--worse! Don't take that paper, Mr. Gridley,--he
isn't like you! you would n't--but he would--he would send me to
everlasting misery to gain his own end, or to save himself. And yet
he is n't every way bad, and if he did marry Myrtle she'd think there
never was such a man,--for he can talk her heart out of her, and the
wicked in him lies very deep and won't ever come out, perhaps, if the
world goes right with him." The last part of this sentence showed
how Cynthia talked with her own conscience; all her mental and moral
machinery lay open before the calm eyes of Master Byles Gridley.
His thoughts wandered a moment from the business before him; he had
just got a new study of human nature, which in spite of himself would
be shaping itself into an axiom for an imagined new edition of
"Thoughts on the Universe," something like this, "The greatest saint
may be a sinner that never got down to "hard pan." It was not the
time to be framing axioms.
"Poh! poh!" he said to himself; "what are you about making phrases,
when you have got a piece of work like this in hand?" Then to
Cynthia, with great gentleness and kindness of manner: "Have no fear
about any consequences to yourself. Mr. Penhallow must see that
paper--I mean those papers. You shall not be a loser nor a sufferer
if you do your duty now in these premises."
Master Gridley, treating her, as far as circumstances permitted, like
a gentleman, had shown no intention of taking the papers either
stealthily or violently. It must be with her consent. He had laid
the package down upon the table, waiting for her to give him leave to
take it. But just as he spoke these last words, Cynthia, whose eye
had been glancing furtively at it while he was thinking out his
axiom, and taking her bearings to it pretty carefully, stretched her
hand out, and, seizing the package, thrust it into the sanctuary of
"Mr. Penhallow must see those papers, Miss Cynthia Badlam," Mr.
Gridley repeated calmly. "If he says they or any of them can be
returned to your keeping, well and good. But see them he must, for
they have his office seal and belong in his custody, and, as you see
by the writing on the back, they have not been examined. Now there
may be something among them which is of immediate importance to the
relatives of the late deceased Malachi Withers, and therefore they
must be forthwith submitted to the inspection of the surviving
partner of the firm of Wibird and Penhallow. This I propose to do,
with your consent, this evening. It is now twenty-five minutes past
eight by the true time, as my watch has it. At half past eight
exactly I shall have the honor of bidding you good evening, Miss
Cynthia Badlam, whether you give me those papers or not. I shall go
to the office of Jacob Penhallow, Esquire, and there make one of two
communications to him; to wit, these papers and the facts connected
therewith, or another statement, the nature of which you may perhaps
There is no need of our speculating as to what Mr. Byles Gridley, an
honorable and humane man, would have done, or what would have been
the nature of that communication which he offered as an alternative
to the perplexed woman. He had not at any rate miscalculated the
strength of his appeal, which Cynthia interpreted as he expected.
She bore the heart-screw about two minutes. Then she took the
package from her bosom, and gave it with averted face to Master Byles
Gridley, who, on receiving it, made her a formal but not unkindly
bow, and bade her good evening.
"One would think it had been lying out in the dew," he said, as he
left the house and walked towards Mr. Penhallow's residence.
MASTER BYLES GRIDLEY CONSULTS WITH JACOB PENHALLOW, ESQUIRE
Lawyer Penhallow was seated in his study, his day's work over, his
feet in slippers, after the comfortable but inelegant fashion which
Sir Walter Scott reprobates, amusing himself with a volume of old
Reports. He was a knowing man enough, a keen country lawyer but
honest, and therefore less ready to suspect the honesty of others.
He had a great belief in his young partner's ability, and, though he
knew him to be astute, did not think him capable of roguery.
It was at his request that Mr. Bradshaw had undertaken his journey,
which, as he believed,--and as Mr. Bradshaw had still stronger
evidence of a strictly confidential nature which led him to feel
sure,--would end in the final settlement of the great land claim in
favor of their client. The case had been dragging along from year to
year, like an English chancery suit; and while courts and lawyers and
witnesses had been sleeping, the property had been steadily growing.
A railroad had passed close to one margin of the township, some mines
had been opened in the county, in which a village calling itself a
city had grown big enough to have a newspaper and Fourth of July
orations. It was plain that the successful issue of the long process
would make the heirs of the late Malachi Withers possessors of an
ample fortune, and it was also plain that the firm of Penhallow and
Bradshaw were like to receive, in such case, the largest fee that had
gladdened the professional existence of its members.
Mr. Penhallow had his book open before him, but his thoughts were
wandering from the page. He was thinking of his absent partner, and
the probable results of his expedition. What would be the
consequence if all this property came into the possession of Silence
Withers? Could she have any liberal intentions with reference to
Myrtle Hazard, the young girl who had grown up with her, or was the
common impression true, that she was bent on endowing an institution,
and thus securing for herself a favorable consideration in the higher
courts, where her beneficiaries would be, it might be supposed,
influential advocates? He could not help thinking that Mr. Bradshaw
believed that Myrtle Hazard would eventually come to apart at least
of this inheritance. For the story was, that he was paying his court
to the young lady whenever he got an opportunity, and that he was
cultivating an intimacy with Miss Cynthia Badlam. "Bradshaw would
n'tmake a move in that direction," Mr. Penhallow said to himself,
"until he felt pretty sure that it was going to be a paying business.
If he was only a young minister now, there'd be no difficulty about
it. Let any man, young or old, in a clerical white cravat, step up
to Myrtle Hazard, and ask her to be miserable in his company through
this wretched life, and aunt Silence would very likely give them her
blessing, and add something to it that the man in the white cravat
would think worth even more than that was. But I don't know what
she'll say to Bradshaw. Perhaps he 'd better have a hint to go to
meeting a little more regularly. However, I suppose he knows what
He was thinking all this over when a visitor was announced, and Mr.
Byles Gridley entered the study.
"Good evening, Mr. Penhallow," Mr. Gridley said, wiping his forehead.
"Quite warm, is n't it, this evening?"
"Warm!" said Mr. Penhallow, "I should think it would freeze pretty
thick to-night. I should have asked you to come up to the fire and
warm yourself. But take off your coat, Mr. Gridley,--very glad to
see you. You don't come to the house half as often as you come to
the office. Sit down, sit down."
Mr. Gridley took off his outside coat and sat down. "He does look
warm, does n't he?" Mr. Penhallow thought. "Wonder what has heated
up the old gentleman so. Find out quick enough, for he always goes
straight to business."
"Mr. Penhallow," Mr. Gridley began at once, "I have come on a very
grave matter, in which you are interested as well as myself, and I
wish to lay the whole of it before you as explicitly as I can, so
that we may settle this night before I go what is to be done. I am
afraid the good standing of your partner, Mr. William Murray
Bradshaw, is concerned in the matter. Would it be a surprise to you,
if he had carried his acuteness in some particular case like the one
I am to mention beyond the prescribed limits?"
The question was put so diplomatically that there was no chance for
an indignant denial of the possibility of Mr. Bradshaw's being
involved in any discreditable transaction.
"It is possible," he answered, "that Bradshaw's keen wits may have
betrayed him into sharper practice than I should altogether approve
in any business we carried on together. He is a very knowing young
man, but I can't think he is foolish enough, to say nothing of his
honesty, to make any false step of the kind you seem to hint. I
think he might on occasion go pretty near the line, but I don't
believe he would cross it."
"Permit me a few questions, Mr. Penhallow. You settled the estate of
the late Malachi Withers, did you not?"
"Mr. Wibird and myself settled it together."
"Have you received any papers from any of the family since the
settlement of the estate?"
"Let me see. Yes; a roll of old plans of the Withers Place, and so
forth,--not of much use, but labelled and kept. An old trunk with
letters and account-books, some of them in Dutch,--mere curiosities.
A year ago or more, I remember that Silence sent me over some papers
she had found in an odd corner,--the old man hid things like a
magpie. I looked over most of them,--trumpery not worth keeping,--
old leases and so forth."
"Do you recollect giving some of them to Mr. Bradshaw to look over?"
"Now I come to think of it, I believe I did; but he reported to me,
if I remember right, that they amounted to nothing."
"If any of those papers were of importance, should you think your
junior partner ought to keep them from your knowledge?"
"I need not answer that question, Mr. Gridley. Will you be so good
as to come at once to the facts on which you found your suspicions,
and which lead you to put these questions to me?"
Thereupon Mr. Gridley proceeded to state succinctly the singular
behavior of Murray Bradshaw in taking one paper from a number handed
to him by Mr. Penhallow, and concealing it in a volume. He related
how he was just on the point of taking out the volume which contained
the paper, when Mr. Bradshaw entered and disconcerted him. He had,
however, noticed three spots on the paper by which he should know it
anywhere. He then repeated the substance of Kitty Fagan's story,
accenting the fact that she too noticed three remarkable spots on the
paper which Mr. Bradshaw had pointed out to Miss Badlam as the one so
important to both of them. Here he rested the case for the moment.
Mr. Penhallow looked thoughtful. There was something questionable in
the aspect of this business. It did obviously suggest the idea of an
underhand arrangement with Miss Cynthia, possibly involving some very
grave consequences. It would have been most desirable, he said, to
have ascertained what these papers, or rather this particular paper,
to which so much importance was attached, amounted to. Without that
knowledge there was nothing, after all, which it might not be
possible to explain. He might have laid aside the spotted paper to
examine for some object of mere curiosity. It was certainly odd that
the one the Fagan woman had seen should present three spots so like
those on the other paper, but people did sometimes throw treys at
backgammon, and that which not rarely happened with two dice of six
faces might happen if they had sixty or six hundred faces. On the
whole, he did not see that there was any ground, so far, for anything
more than a vague suspicion. He thought it not unlikely that Mr.
Bradshaw was a little smitten with the young lady up at The Poplars,
and that he had made some diplomatic overtures to the duenna, after
the approved method of suitors. She was young for Bradshaw,--very
young,--but he knew his own affairs. If he chose to make love to a
child, it was natural enough that he should begin by courting her
Master Byles Gridley lost himself for half a minute in a most
discreditable inward discussion as to whether Laura Penhallow was
probably one or two years older than Mr. Bradshaw. That was his way,
he could not help it. He could not think of anything without these
mental parentheses. But he came back to business at the end of his
"I can lay the package before you at this moment, Mr. Penhallow. I
have induced that woman in whose charge it was left to intrust it to
my keeping, with the express intention of showing it to you. But it
is protected by a seal, as I have told you, which I should on no
account presume to meddle with."
Mr. Gridley took out the package of papers.
"How damp it is!" Mr. Penhallow said; "must have been lying in some
very moist neighborhood."
"Very," Mr. Gridley answered, with a peculiar expression which said,
"Never mind about that."
"Did the party give you possession of these documents without making
any effort to retain them?" the lawyer asked.
"Not precisely. It cost some effort to induce Miss Badlam to let
them go out of her hands. I hope you think I was justified in making
the effort I did, not without a considerable strain upon my feelings,
as well as her own, to get hold of the papers?"
"That will depend something on what the papers prove to be, Mr.
Gridley. A man takes a certain responsibility in doing just what you
have done. If, for instance, it should prove that this envelope
contained matters relating solely to private transactions between Mr.
Bradshaw and Miss Badlam, concerning no one but themselves,--and if
the words on the back of the envelope and the seal had been put there
merely as a protection for a package containing private papers of a
delicate but perfectly legitimate character--"
The lawyer paused, as careful experts do, after bending the bow of an
hypothesis, before letting the arrow go. Mr. Gridley felt very warm
indeed, uncomfortably so, and applied his handkerchief to his face.
Could n't be anything in such a violent supposition as that, and yet
such a crafty fellow as that Bradshaw,--what trick was he not up to?
Absurd! Cynthia was not acting,--Rachel would n't be equal to such a
performance!--" why then, Mr. Gridley," the lawyer continued, "I
don't see but what my partner would have you at an advantage, and, if
disposed to make you uncomfortable, could do so pretty effectively.
But this, you understand, is only a supposed case, and not a very
likely one. I don't think it would have been prudent in you to
meddle with that seal. But it is a very different matter with regard
to myself. It makes no difference, so far as I am concerned, where
this package came from, or how it was obtained. It is just as
absolutely within my control as any piece of property I call my own.
I should not hesitate, if I saw fit, to break this seal at once, and
proceed to the examination of any papers contained within the
envelope. If I found any paper of the slightest importance relating
to the estate, I should act as if it had never been out of my
"Suppose, however, I chose to know what was in the package, and,
having ascertained, act my judgment about returning it to the party
from whom you obtained it. In such case I might see fit to restore
or cause it to be restored, to the party, without any marks of
violence having been used being apparent. If everything is not
right, probably no questions would be asked by the party having
charge of the package. If there is no underhand work going on, and
the papers are what they profess to be, nobody is compromised but
yourself, so far as I can see, and you are compromised at any rate,
Mr. Gridley, at least in the good graces of the party from whom you
obtained the documents. Tell that party that I took the package
without opening it, and shall return it, very likely, without
breaking the seal. Will consider of the matter, say a couple of
days. Then you shall hear from me, and she shall hear from you. So.
So. Yes, that's it. A nice business. A thing to sleep on. You had
better leave the whole matter of dealing with the package to me. If
I see fit to send it back with the seal unbroken, that is my affair.
But keep perfectly quiet, if you please, Mr. Gridley, about the whole
matter. Mr. Bradshaw is off, as you know, and the business on which
he is gone is important,--very important. He can be depended on for
that; he has acted all along as if he had a personal interest in the
success of our firm beyond his legal relation to it."
Mr. Penhallow's light burned very late in the office that night, and
the following one. He looked troubled and absent-minded, and when
Miss Laura ventured to ask him how long Mr. Bradshaw was like to be
gone, he answered her in such a way that the girl who waited at table
concluded that he did n't mean to have Miss Laury keep company with
Mr. Bradshaw, or he'd never have spoke so dreadful hash to her when
she asked about him.
SUSAN POSEY'S TRIAL.
A day or two after Myrtle Hazard returned to the village, Master
Byles Gridley, accompanied by Gifted Hopkins, followed her, as has
been already mentioned, to the same scene of the principal events of
this narrative. The young man had been persuaded that it would be
doing injustice to his talents to crowd their fruit prematurely upon
the market. He carried his manuscript back with him, having
relinquished the idea of publishing for the present. Master Byles
Gridley, on the other hand, had in his pocket a very flattering
proposal, from the same publisher to whom he had introduced the young
poet, for a new and revised edition of his work, "Thoughts on the
Universe," which was to be remodelled in some respects, and to have a
new title not quite so formidable to the average reader.
It would be hardly fair to Susan Posey to describe with what delight
and innocent enthusiasm she welcomed back Gifted Hopkins. She had
been so lonely since he was away? She had read such of his poems as
she possessed--duplicates of his printed ones, or autographs which he
had kindly written out for her--over and over again, not without the
sweet tribute of feminine sensibility, which is the most precious of
all testimonials to a poet's power over the heart. True, her love
belonged to another,--but then she was so used to Gifted! She did so
love to hear him read his poems,--and Clement had never written that
"little bit of a poem to Susie," which she had asked him for so long
ago! She received him therefore with open arms,--not literally, of
course, which would have been a breach of duty and propriety, but in
a figurative sense, which it is hoped no reader will interpret to her
The young poet was in need of consolation. It is true that he had
seen many remarkable sights during his visit to the city; that he had
got "smarted up," as his mother called it, a good deal; that he had
been to Mrs. Clymer Ketchum's party, where he had looked upon life in
all its splendors; and that he brought back many interesting
experiences, which would serve to enliven his conversation for a long
time. But he had failed in the great enterprise he had undertaken.
He was forced to confess to his revered parent, and his esteemed
friend Susan Posey, that his genius, which was freely acknowledged,
was not thought to be quite ripe as yet. He told the young lady some
particulars of his visit to the publisher, how he had listened with
great interest to one of his poems, "The Triumph of Song,"--how he
had treated him with marked and flattering attention; but that he
advised him not to risk anything prematurely, giving him the hope
that by and by he would be admitted into that series of illustrious
authors which it was the publisher's privilege to present to the
reading public. In short, he was advised not to print. That was the
net total of the matter, and it was a pang to the susceptible heart
of the poet. He had hoped to have come home enriched by the sale of
his copyright, and with the prospect of seeing his name before long
on the back of a handsome volume.
Gifted's mother did all in her power to console him in his
disappointment. There was plenty of jealous people always that
wanted to keep young folks from rising in the world. Never mind, she
did n't believe but what Gifted could make jest as good verses as any
of them that they kept such a talk about. She had a fear that he
might pine away in consequence of the mental excitement he had gone
through, and solicited his appetite with her choicest appliances,--of
which he partook in a measure which showed that there was no
immediate cause of alarm.
But Susan Posey was more than a consoler,--she was an angel to him in
this time of his disappointment. "Read me all the poems over again,"
she said,--"it is almost the only pleasure I have left, to hear you
read your beautiful verses." Clement Lindsay had not written to
Susan quite so often of late as at some former periods of the history
of their love. Perhaps it was that which had made her look paler
than usual for some little time. Something was evidently preying on
her. Her only delight seemed to be in listening to Gifted as he
read, sometimes with fine declamatory emphasis, sometimes in low,
tremulous tones, the various poems enshrined in his manuscript. At
other times she was sad, and more than once Mrs. Hopkins had seen a
tear steal down her innocent cheek, when there seemed to be no
special cause for grief. She ventured to speak of it to Master Byles
"Our Susan's in trouble, Mr. Gridley, for some reason or other that's
unbeknown to me, and I can't help wishing you could jest have a few
words with her. You're a kind of a grandfather, you know, to all the
young folks, and they'd tell you pretty much everything about
themselves. I calc'late she is n't at ease in her mind about
somethin' or other, and I kind o' think, Mr. Gridley, you could coax
it out of her."
"Was there ever anything like it?" said Master Byles Gridley to
himself. "I shall have all the young folks in Oxbow Village to take
care of at this rate. Susan Posey in trouble, too! Well, well,
well, it's easier to get a birch-bark canoe off the shallows than a
big ship off the rocks. Susan Posey's trouble will be come at easily
enough; but Myrtle Hazard floats in deeper water. We must make Susan
Posey tell her own story, or let her tell it, for it will all come
out of itself."
"I am going to dust the books in the open shelves this morning. I
wonder if Miss Susan Posey would n't like to help for half an hour or
so," Master Gridley remarked at the breakfast-table.
The amiable girl's very pleasant countenance lighted up at the
thought of obliging the old man who had been so kind to her and so
liberal to her friend, the poet. She would be delighted to help him;
she would dust them all for him, if he wanted her to. No, Master
Gridley said, he always wanted to have a hand in it; and, besides,
such a little body as she was could not lift those great folios out
of the lower shelves without overstraining herself; she might handle
the musketry and the light artillery, but he must deal with the heavy
guns himself. "As low down as the octavos, Susan Posey, you shall
govern; below that, the Salic law."
Susan did not low much about the Salic law; but she knew he meant
that he would dust the big books and she would attend to the little
A very young and a very pretty girl is sometimes quite charming in a
costume which thinks of nothing less than of being attractive. Susan
appeared after breakfast in the study, her head bound with a kerchief
of bright pattern, a little jacket she had outgrown buttoned, in
spite of opposition, close about her up to the throat, round which a
white handkerchief was loosely tied, and a pair of old gauntlets
protecting her hands, so that she suggested something between a
gypsy, a jaunty soubrette, and the fille du regiment.
Master Gridley took out a great volume from the lower shelf,--a folio
in massive oaken covers with clasps Like prison hinges, bearing the
stately colophon, white on a ground of vermilion, of Nicholas Jenson
and his associates. He opened the volume,--paused over its blue, and
scarlet initial letter,--he turned page after page, admiring its
brilliant characters, its broad, white marginal rivers, and the
narrower white creek that separated the black-typed twin-columns, he
turned back to the beginning and read the commendatory paragraph,"
Nam ipsorum omnia fidgent tum correctione dignissima, tum cura
imprimendo splendida ac miranda,' and began reading, "Incipit
proemium super apparatum decretalium...." when it suddenly occurred
to him that this was not exactly doing what he had undertaken to do,
and he began whisking an ancient bandanna about the ears of the
venerable volume. All this time Miss Susan Posey was catching the
little books by the small of their backs, pulling them out, opening
them, and clapping them together, 'p-'p-'p! 'p-'p-'p! and carefully
caressing all their edges with a regular professional dusting-cloth,
so persuasively that they yielded up every particle that a year had
drifted upon them, and came forth refreshed and rejuvenated. This
process went on for a while, until Susan had worked down among
the octavos and Master Gridley had worked up among the quartos. He
had got hold of Calmet's Dictionary, and was caught by the article
Solomon, so that he forgot his occupation again. All at once it
struck him that everything was very silent,--the 'p-'p-'p! of
clapping the books had ceased, and the light rustle of Susan's dress
was no longer heard. He looked up and saw her standing perfectly
still, with a book in one hand and her duster in the other. She was
lost in thought, and by the shadow on her face and the glistening of
her blue eyes he knew it was her hidden sorrow that had just come
back to her. Master Gridley shut up his book, leaving Solomon to his
fate, like the worthy Benedictine he was reading, without discussing
the question whether he was saved or not.
"Susan Posey, child, what is your trouble?"
Poor Susan was in the state of unstable equilibrium which the least
touch upsets, and fell to crying. It took her some time to get down
the waves of emotion so that speech would live upon them. At last it
ventured out,--showing at intervals, like the boat rising on the
billow, sinking into the hollow, and climbing again into notice.
"O Mr. Grid-ley--I can't--I can't--tell you or--any-body--what 's the
mat-mat-matter. My heart will br-br-break."
"No, no, no, child," said Mr. Gridley, sympathetically stirred a
little himself by the sight of Susan in tears and sobbing and
catching her breath, "that mustn't be, Susan Posey. Come off the
steps, Susan Posey, and stop dusting the books,--I can finish them,--
and tell me all abort your troubles. I will try 'to help you out of
them, and I have begun to think I know how to help young people
pretty well. I have had some experience at it."
But Susan cried and sobbed all the more uncontrollably and
convulsively. Master Gridley thought he had better lead her at once
to what he felt pretty sure was the source of her grief, and that,
when she had had her cry out, she would probably make the hole in the
ice he had broken big enough in a very few minutes.
"I think something has gone wrong between you and your friend, the
young gentleman with whom you are in intimate relations, my child,
and I think you had better talk freely with me, for I can perhaps
give you a little counsel that will be of service."
Susan cried herself quiet at last. "There's nobody in the world like
you, Mr. Gridley," she said, "and I've been wanting to tell you
something ever so long. My friend--Mr. Clem--Clement Lindsay does
n't care for me as he used to,--I know he does n't. He hasn't
written to me for--I don't know but it's a month. And O Mr. Gridley!
he's such a great man, and I am such a simple person,--I can't help
thinking--he would be happier with somebody else than poor little
This last touch of self-pity overcame her, as it is so apt to do
those who indulge in that delightful misery, and she broke up badly,
as a horse-fancier would say, so that it was some little time before
she recovered her conversational road-gait.
"O Mr. Gridley," she began again, at length, "if I only dared to tell
him what I think,--that perhaps it would be happier for us both--if
we could forget each other! Ought I not to tell him so? Don't you
think he would find another to make him happy? Wouldn't he forgive
me for telling him he was free? Were we not too young to know each
other's hearts when we promised each other that we would love as long
as we lived? Sha'n't I write him a letter this very day and tell him
all? Do you think it would be wrong in me to do it? O Mr. Gridley,
it makes me almost crazy to think about it. Clement must be free! I
cannot, cannot hold him to a promise he does n't want to keep."
There were so many questions in this eloquent rhapsody of Susan's
that they neutralized each other, as one might say, and Master
Gridley had time for reflection. His thoughts went on something in
"Pretty clear case! Guess Mr. Clement can make up his mind to it.
Put it well, did n't she? Not a word about our little Gifted!
That's the trouble. Poets! how they do bewitch these schoolgirls!
And having a chance every day, too, how could you expect her to stand
it?" Then aloud: "Susan Posey, you are a good, honest little girl as
ever was. I think you and Clement were too hasty in coming together
for life before you knew what life meant. I think if you write
Clement a letter, telling him that you cannot help fearing that you
two are not perfectly adapted to each other, on account of certain
differences for which neither of you is responsible, and that you
propose that each should release the other from the pledge given so
long ago,--in that case, I say, I believe he will think no worse of
you for so doing, and may perhaps agree that it is best for both of
you to seek your happiness elsewhere than in each other."
The book-dusting came to as abrupt a close as the reading of
Lancelot. Susan went straight to her room, dried her tears so as to
write in a fair hand, but had to stop every few lines and take a turn
at the "dust-layers," as Mrs. Clymer Ketchum's friend used to call
the fountains of sensibility. It would seem like betraying Susan's
confidence to reveal the contents of this letter, but the reader may
be assured that it was simple and sincere and very sweetly written,
without the slightest allusion to any other young man, whether of the
poetical or cheaper human varieties.
It was not long before Susan received a reply from Clement Lindsay.
It was as kind and generous and noble as she could have asked. It
was affectionate, as a very amiable brother's letter might be, and
candidly appreciative of the reasons Susan had assigned for her
proposal. He gave her back her freedom, not that he should cease to
feel an interest in her, always. He accepted his own release, not
that he would ever think she could be indifferent to his future
fortunes. And within a very brief period of time after sending his
answer to Susan Posey, whether he wished to see her in person, or
whether he had some other motive, he had packed his trunk, and made
his excuses for an absence of uncertain length at the studio, and was
on his way to Oxbow Village.
JUST AS YOU EXPECTED.
The spring of 1861 had now arrived,--that eventful spring which was
to lift the curtain and show the first scene of the first act in the
mighty drama which fixed the eyes of mankind during four bloody
years. The little schemes of little people were going on in all our
cities and villages without thought of the fearful convulsion which
was soon coming to shatter the hopes and cloud the prospects of
millions. Our little Oxbow Village, which held itself by no means
the least of human centres, was the scene of its own commotions, as
intense and exciting to those concerned as if the destiny of the
nation had been involved in them.
Mr. Clement Lindsay appeared suddenly in that important locality, and
repaired to his accustomed quarters at the house of Deacon Rumrill.
That worthy person received him with a certain gravity of manner,
caused by his recollections of the involuntary transgression into
which Mr. Lindsay had led him by his present of "Ivanhoe."--He was,
on the whole, glad to see him, for his finances were not yet wholly
recovered from the injury inflicted on them by the devouring element.
But he could not forget that his boarder had betrayed him into a
breach of the fourth commandment, and that the strict eyes of his
clergyman had detected him in the very commission of the offence. He
had no sooner seen Mr. Clement comfortably installed, therefore, than
he presented himself at the door of his chamber with the book,
enveloped in strong paper and very securely tied round with a stout
"Here is your vollum, Mr. Lindsay," the Deacon said. "I understand
it is not the work of that great and good mahn who I thought wrote
it. I did not see anything immoral in it as fur as I read, but it
belongs to what I consider a very dangerous class of publications.
These novels and romances are awfully destructive to our youth. I
should recommend you, as a young man of principle, to burn the
vollum. At least I hope you will not leave it about anywhere unless
it is carefully tied up. I have written upon the paper round it to
warn off all the young persons of my household from meddling with
True enough, Mr. Clement saw in strong black letters on the back of
the paper wrapping his unfortunate "Ivanhoe,"---
"DANGEROUS READING FOR CHRISTIAN YOUTH.
"TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING."
"I thought you said you had Scott's picture hung up in your parlor,
Deacon Rumrill," he said, a little amused with the worthy man's fear
"It is the great Scott's likeness that I have in my parlor," he said;
"I will show it to you if you will come with me."
Mr. Clement followed the Deacon into that sacred apartment.
"That is the portrait of the great Scott," he said, pointing to an
engraving of a heavy-looking person whose phrenological developments
were a somewhat striking contrast to those of the distinguished Sir
"I will take good care that none of your young people see this
volume," Mr. Clement said; "I trust you read it yourself, however,
and found something to please you in it. I am sure you are safe from
being harmed by any such book. Did n't you have to finish it,
Deacon, after you had once begun?"
"Well, I--I--perused a consid'able portion of the work," the Deacon
answered, in a way that led Mr. Clement to think he had not stopped
much short of Finis. "Anything new in the city?"
"Nothing except what you've all had,--Confederate States establishing
an army and all that,--not very new either. What has been going on
here lately, Deacon?"
"Well, Mr. Lindsay, not a great deal. My new barn is pretty nigh
done. I've got as fine a litter of pigs as ever you see. I don't
know whether you're a judge of pigs or no. The Hazard gal's come
back, spilt, pooty much, I guess. Been to one o' them fashionable
schools,--I 've heerd that she 's learnt to dance. I've heerd say
that that Hopkins boy's round the Posey gal, come to think, she's the
one you went with some when you was here,--I 'm gettin' kind o'
forgetful. Old Doctor Hurlbut's pretty low,--ninety-four year old,--
born in '67,--folks ain't ginerally very spry after they're ninety,
but he held out wonderful."
"How's Mr. Bradshaw?"
"Well, the young squire, he's off travellin' somewhere in the West,
or to Washin'ton, or somewhere else,--I don't jestly know where.
They say that he's follerin' up the courts in the business about old
Malachi's estate. I don' know much about it."
The news got round Oxbow Village very speedily that Mr. Clement
Lindsay, generally considered the accepted lover of Miss Susan Posey,
had arrived in that place. Now it had come to be the common talk of
the village that young Gifted Hopkins and Susan Posey were getting to
be mighty thick with each other, and the prevailing idea was that
Clement's visit had reference to that state of affairs. Some said
that Susan had given her young man the mitten, meaning thereby that
she had signified that his services as a suitor were dispensed with.
Others thought there was only a wavering in her affection for her
lover, and that he feared for her constancy, and had come to
vindicate his rights.
Some of the young fellows, who were doubtless envious of Gifted's
popularity with the fair sex, attempted in the most unjustifiable
manner to play upon his susceptible nature. One of them informed him
that he had seen that Lindsay fellah raound taown with the darndest
big stick y' ever did see. Looked kind o' savage and wild like.
Another one told him that perhaps he'd better keep a little shady;
that are chap that had got the mittin was praowlin' abaout--with a
pistil,--one o' them Darringers,--abaout as long as your thumb, an'
fire a bullet as big as a p'tatah-ball,--'a fellah carries one in his
breeches-pocket, an' shoots y' right threugh his own pahnts, withaout
ever takin' on it aout of his pocket. The stable-keeper, who, it may
be remembered, once exchanged a few playful words with Mr. Gridley,
got a hint from some of these unfeeling young men, and offered the
resources of his stable to the youth supposed to be in peril.
"I 've got a faast colt, Mr. Hopkins, that 'll put twenty mild
betwixt you an' this here village, as quick as any four huffs 'll dew
it in this here caounty, if you should want to get away suddin. I've
heern tell there was some lookin' raound here that wouldn't be
wholesome to meet,--jest say the word, Mr. Hopkins, an' I 'll have ye
on that are colt's back in less than no time, an' start ye off full
jump. There's a good many that's kind o' worried for fear something
might happen to ye, Mr. Hopkins,--y' see fellahs don't like to have
other chaps cuttin' on 'em aout with their gals."
Gifted Hopkins had become excessively nervous by this time. It is
true that everything in his intimacy with Susan Posey, so far, might
come under the general head of friendship; but he was conscious that
something more was in both their thoughts. Susan had given him
mysterious hints that her relations with Clement had undergone a
change, but had never had quite courage enough, perhaps had too much
delicacy, to reveal the whole truth.
Gifted was walking home, deeply immersed in thoughts excited by the
hints which hail been thus wantonly thrown out to inflame his
imagination, when all at once, on lifting his eyes, he saw Clement
Lindsay coming straight towards him. Gifted was unarmed, except with
a pair of blunt scissors, which he carried habitually in his pocket.
What should he do? Should he fly? But he was never a good runner,
being apt to find himself scant o' breath, like Hamlet, after violent
exercise. His demeanor on the occasion did credit to his sense of
his own virtuous conduct and his self-possession. He put his hand
out, while yet at a considerable distance, and marched up towards
Clement, smiling with all the native amiability which belonged to
To his infinite relief, Clement put out his hand to grasp the one
offered him, and greeted the young poet in the most frank and cordial
"And how is Miss Susan Posey, Mr. Hopkins?" asked Clement, in the
most cheerful tone. "It is a long while since I have seen her, and
you must tell her that I hope I shall not leave the village without
finding time to call upon her. She and I are good friends always,
Mr. Hopkins, though perhaps I shall not be quite so often at your
mother's as I was during my last visit to Oxbow Village."
Gifted felt somewhat as the subject of one of those old-fashioned
forms of argument, formerly much employed to convince men of error in
matters of religion, must have felt when the official who
superintended the stretching-machine said, "Slack up!"
He told Mr. Clement all about Susan, and was on the point of saying
that if he, Mr. Clement, did not claim any engrossing interest in
her, he, Gifted, was ready to offer her the devotion of a poet's
heart. Mr. Clement, however, had so many other questions to ask him
about everybody in the village, more particularly concerning certain
young persons in whom he seemed to be specially interested, that
there was no chance to work in his own revelations of sentiment.
Clement Lindsay had come to Oxbow Village with a single purpose. He
could now venture to trust himself in the presence of Myrtle Hazard.
He was free, and he knew nothing to show that she had lost the
liberty of disposing of her heart. But after an experience such as
he had gone through, he was naturally distrustful of himself, and
inclined to be cautious and reserved in yielding to a new passion.
Should he tell her the true relations in which they stood to each
other,--that she owed her life to him, and that he had very nearly
sacrificed his own in saving hers? Why not? He had a claim on her
gratitude for what he had done in her behalf, and out of this
gratitude there might naturally spring a warmer feeling.
No, he could not try to win her affections by showing that he had
paid for them beforehand. She seemed to be utterly unconscious of
the fact that it was he who had been with her in the abyss of waters.
If the thought came to her of itself, and she ever asked him, it
would be time enough to tell her the story. If not, the moment might
arrive when he could reveal to her the truth that he was her
deliverer, without accusing himself of bribing her woman's heart to
reward him for his services. He would wait for that moment.
It was the most natural thing in the world that Mr. Lindsay, a young
gentleman from the city, should call to see Miss Hazard, a young lady
whom he had met recently at a party. To that pleasing duty he
addressed himself the evening after his arrival.
"The young gentleman's goin' a courtin', I calc'late," was the remark
of the Deacon's wife when she saw what a comely figure Mr. Clement
showed at the tea-table.
"A very hahnsome young mahn," the Deacon replied, "and looks as if he
might know consid'able. An architect, you know,--a sort of a
builder. Wonder if he has n't got any good plans for a hahnsome
pigsty. I suppose he 'd charge somethin' for one, but it couldn't be
much, an' he could take it out in board."
"Better ask him," his wife--said; "he looks mighty pleasant; there's
nothin' lost by askin', an' a good deal got sometimes, grandma used
The Deacon followed her advice. Mr. Clement was perfectly good-
natured about it, asked the Deacon the number of snouts in his
menagerie, got an idea of the accommodations required, and sketched
the plaza of a neat, and appropriate edifice for the Porcellarium, as
Master Gridley afterwards pleasantly christened it, which was carried
out by the carpenter, and stands to this day a monument of his
obliging disposition, and a proof that there is nothing so humble
that taste cannot be shown in it.
"What'll be your charge for the plan of the pigsty, Mr. Lindsay?" the
Deacon inquired with an air of interest,--he might have become
involved more deeply than he had intended. "How much should you call
about right for the picter an' figgerin'?"
"Oh, you're quite welcome to my sketch of a plan, Deacon. I've seen
much showier buildings tenanted by animals not very different from
those your edifice is meant for."
Mr. Clement found the three ladies sitting together in the chill, dim
parlor at The Poplars. They had one of the city papers spread out on
the table, and Myrtle was reading aloud the last news from Charleston
Harbor. She rose as Mr. Clement entered, and stepped forward to meet
him. It was a strange impression this young man produced upon her,--
not through the common channels of the intelligence, not exactly that
"magnetic" influence of which she had had experience at a former
time. It did not over come her as at the moment of their second
meeting. But it was something she must struggle against, and she had
force and pride and training enough now to maintain her usual
tranquillity, in spite of a certain inward commotion which seemed to
reach her breathing and her pulse by some strange, inexplicable
Myrtle, it must be remembered, was no longer the simple country girl
who had run away at fifteen, but a young lady of seventeen, who had
learned all that more than a year's diligence at a great school could
teach her, who had been much with girls of taste and of culture, and
was familiar with the style and manners of those who came from what
considered itself the supreme order in the social hierarchy. Her
natural love for picturesque adornment was qualified by a knowledge
of the prevailing modes not usual in so small a place as Oxbow
Village. All this had not failed to produce its impression on those
about her. Persons who, like Miss Silence Withers, believe, not in
education, inasmuch as there is no healthy nature to be educated, but
in transformation, worry about their charges up to a certain period
of their lives. Then, if the transformation does not come, they seem
to think their cares and duties are at an end, and, considering their
theories of human destiny, usually accept the situation with
wonderful complacency. This was the stage which Miss Silence Withers
had reached with reference to Myrtle. It made her infinitely more
agreeable, or less disagreeable, as the reader may choose one or the
other statement, than when she was always fretting about her
"responsibility." She even began to take an interest in some of
Myrtle's worldly experiences, and something like a smile would now
and then disarrange the chief-mourner stillness of her features, as
Myrtle would tell some lively story she had brought away from the gay
society she had frequented.
Cynthia Badlam kept her keen eyes on her like a hawk. Murray
Bradshaw was away, and here was this handsome and agreeable youth
coming in to poach on the preserve of which she considered herself
the gamekeeper. What did it mean? She had heard the story about
Susan's being off with her old love and on with a new one. Ah ha!
this is the game, is it?
Clement Lindsay passed not so much a pleasant evening, as one of
strange, perplexed, and mingled delight and inward conflict. He had
found his marble once more turned to flesh and blood, and breathing
before him. This was the woman he was born for; her form was fit to
model his proudest ideal from, her eyes melted him when they rested
for an instant on his face,--her voice reached the hidden
sensibilities of his inmost nature; those which never betray their
existence until the outward chord to which they vibrate in response
sends its message to stir them. But was she not already pledged to
that other,--that cold-blooded, contriving, venal, cynical, selfish,
polished, fascinating man of the world, whose artful strategy would
pass with nine women out of ten for the most romantic devotion?
If he had known the impression he made, he would have felt less
anxiety with reference to this particular possibility. Miss Silence
expressed herself gratified with his appearance, and thought he
looked like a good young man,--he reminded her of a young friend of
hers who--[It was the same who had gone to one of the cannibal
islands as a missionary,--and stayed there.] Myrtle was very quiet.
She had nothing to say about Clement, except that she had met him at
a party in the city, and found him agreeable. Miss Cynthia wrote a
letter to Murray Bradshaw that very evening, telling him that he had
better come back to Oxbow Village as quickly as he could, unless he
wished to find his place occupied by an intruder.
In the mean time, the country was watching the garrison in Charleston
Harbor. All at once the first gun of the four years' cannonade
hurled its ball against the walls of Fort Sumter. There was no
hamlet in the land which the reverberations of that cannon-roar did
not reach. There was no valley so darkened by overshadowing hills
that it did not see the American flag hauled down on the 13th of
April. There was no loyal heart in the North that did not answer to
the call of the country to its defenders which went forth two days
later. The great tide of feeling reached the locality where the
lesser events of our narrative were occurring. A meeting of the
citizens was instantly called. The venerable Father Pemberton opened
it with a prayer that filled every soul with courage and high
resolve. The young farmers and mechanics of that whole region joined
the companies to which they belonged, or organized in squads and
marched at once, or got ready to march, to the scene of conflict.
The contagion of warlike patriotism reached the most peacefully
inclined young persons.
"My country calls me," Gifted Hopkins said to Susan Posey, "and I am
preparing to obey her summons. If I can pass the medical
examination, which it is possible I may, though I fear my
constitution may be thought too weak, and if no obstacle impedes me,
I think of marching in the ranks of the Oxbow Invincibles. If I go,
Susan, and I fall, will you not remember me . . . as one who . .
. cherished the tenderest . . . sentiments . . . towards you .
. . and who had looked forward to the time when . . . when . ."
His eyes told the rest. He loved!
Susan forgot all the rules of reserve to which she had been trained.
What were cold conventionalities at such a moment? "Never! never!"
she said, throwing her arms about his neck and mingling her tears
with his, which were flowing freely. "Your country does not need
your sword .... but it does need . . . your pen. Your poems will
inspire . . . our soldiers. . . . The Oxbow Invincibles will
march to victory, singing your songs . . . . If you go . . .
and if you.. . fall . . . O Gifted! . . . I . . . I . .
. . yes, I shall die too!"
His love was returned. He was blest!
"Susan," he said, "my own Susan, I yield to your wishes at every
sacrifice. Henceforth they will be my law. Yes, I will stay and
encourage my brave countrymen to go forward to the bloody field. My
voice shall urge them on to the battle-ground. I will give my
dearest breath to stimulate their ardor.
"O Susan! My own, own Susan!"
While these interesting events had been going on beneath the modest
roof of the Widow Hopkins, affairs had been rapidly hastening to a
similar conclusion under the statelier shadow of The Poplars.
Clement Lindsay was so well received at his first visit that he
ventured to repeat it several times, with so short intervals that it
implied something more than a common interest in one of the members
of the household. There was no room for doubt who this could be, and
Myrtle Hazard could not help seeing that she was the object of his
undisguised admiration. The belief was now general in the village
that Gifted Hopkins and Susan Posey were either engaged or on the
point of being so; and it was equally understood that, whatever might
be the explanation, she and her former lover had parted company in an
Love works very strange transformations in young women. Sometimes it
leads them to try every mode of adding to their attractions,--their
whole thought is how to be most lovely in the eyes they would fill so
as to keep out all other images. Poor darlings! We smile at their
little vanities, as if they were very trivial things compared with
the last Congressman's speech or the great Election Sermon; but
Nature knows well what she is about. The maiden's ribbon or ruffle
means a great deal more for her than the judge's wig or the priest's
It was not in this way that the gentle emotion awaking in the breast
of Myrtle Hazard betrayed itself. As the thought dawned in her
consciousness that she was loved, a change came over her such as the
spirit that protected her, according to the harmless fancy she had
inherited, might have wept for joy to behold, if tears could flow
from angelic eyes. She forgot herself and her ambitions,--the
thought of shining in the great world died out in the presence of new
visions of a future in which she was not to be her own,--of feelings
in the depth of which the shallow vanities which had drawn her young
eyes to them for a while seemed less than nothing. Myrtle had not
hitherto said to herself that Clement was her lover, yet her whole
nature was expanding and deepening in the light of that friendship
which any other eye could have known at a glance for the great
Cynthia Badlam wrote a pressing letter to Murray Bradshaw. "There is
no time to be lost; she is bewitched, and will be gone beyond hope if
this business is not put a stop to."
Love moves in an accelerating ratio; and there comes a time when the
progress of the passion escapes from all human formulae, and brings
two young hearts, which had been gradually drawing nearer and nearer
together, into complete union, with a suddenness that puts an
infinity between the moment when all is told and that which went just
They were sitting together by themselves in the dimly lighted parlor.
They had told each other many experiences of their past lives, very
freely, as two intimate friends of different sex might do. Clement
had happened to allude to Susan, speaking very kindly and tenderly of
her. He hoped this youth to whom she was attached would make her
life happy. "You know how simple-hearted and good she is; her image
will always be a pleasant one in my memory,--second to but one
Myrtle ought, according to the common rules of conversation, to have
asked, What other? but she did not. She may have looked as if she
wanted to ask,--she may have blushed or turned pale, perhaps she
could not trust her voice; but whatever the reason was, she sat
still, with downcast eyes. Clement waited a reasonable time, but,
finding it was of no use, began again.
"Your image is the one other,--the only one, let me say, for all else
fades in its presence,--your image fills all my thought. Will you
trust your life and happiness with one who can offer you so little
beside his love? You know my whole heart is yours."
Whether Myrtle said anything in reply or not, whether she acted like
Coleridge's Genevieve,--that is, "fled to him and wept," or suffered
her feelings to betray themselves in some less startling confession,
we will leave untold. Her answer, spoken or silent, could not have
been a cruel one, for in another moment Clement was pressing his lips
to hers, after the manner of accepted lovers.
"Our lips have met to-day for the second time," he said, presently.
She looked at him in wonder. What did he mean? The second time!
How assuredly he spoke! She looked him calmly in the face, and
awaited his explanation.
"I have a singular story to tell you. On the morning of the 16th of
June, now nearly two years ago, I was sitting in my room at
Alderbank, some twenty miles down the river, when I heard a cry for
help coming from the river. I ran down to the bank, and there I saw
a boy in an old boat--"
When it came to the "boy" in the old boat, Myrtle's cheeks flamed so
that she could not bear it, and she covered her face with both her
hands. But Clement told his story calmly through to the end, sliding
gently over its later incidents, for Myrtle's heart was throbbing
violently, and her breath a little catching and sighing, as when she
had first lived with the new life his breath had given her.
"Why did you ask me for myself, when you could have claimed me?" she
"I wanted a free gift, Myrtle," Clement answered, "and I have it."
They sat in silence, lost in the sense of that new life which had
suddenly risen on their souls.
The door-bell rang sharply. Kitty Fagan answered its summons, and
presently entered the parlor and announced that Mr. Bradshaw was in
the library, and wished to see the ladies.
MURRAY BRADSHAW PLAYS HIS LAST CARD.
"How can I see that man this evening, Mr. Lindsay?"
"May I not be Clement, dearest? I would not see him at all, Myrtle.
I don't believe you will find much pleasure in listening to his fine
"I cannot endure it.--Kitty, tell him I am engaged, and cannot see
him this evening. No, no! don't say engaged, say very much
Kitty departed, communing with herself in this wise:--" Ockipied, is
it? An' that's what ye cahl it when ye 're kapin' company with one
young gintleman an' don't want another young gintleman to come in an'
help the two of ye? Ye won't get y'r pigs to market to-day, Mr.
Bridshaw, no, nor to-morrow, nayther, Mr. Bridshaw. It's Mrs.
Lindsay that Miss Myrtle is goin' to be,--an' a big cake there'll be
at the weddin' frosted all over,--won't ye be plased with a slice o'
that, Mr. Bridshaw?"
With these reflections in her mind, Mistress Kitty delivered her
message, not without a gleam of malicious intelligence in her look
that stung Mr. Bradshaw sharply. He had noticed a hat in the entry,
and a little stick by it which he remembered well as one he had seen
carried by Clement Lindsay. But he was used to concealing his
emotions, and he greeted the two older ladies who presently came into
the library so pleasantly, that no one who had not studied his face
long and carefully would have suspected the bitterness of heart that
lay hidden far down beneath his deceptive smile. He told Miss
Silence, with much apparent interest, the story of his journey. He
gave her an account of the progress of the case in which the estate
of which she inherited the principal portion was interested. He did
not tell her that a final decision which would settle the right to
the great claim might be expected at any moment, and he did not tell
her that there was very little doubt that it would be in favor of the
heirs of Malachi Withers. He was very sorry he could not see Miss
Hazard that evening,--hoped he should be more fortunate to-morrow
forenoon, when he intended to call again,--had a message for her from
one of her former school friends, which he was anxious to give her.
He exchanged certain looks and hints with Miss Cynthia, which led her
to withdraw and bring down the papers he had entrusted to her. At
the close of his visit, she followed him into the entry with a lamp,
as was her common custom.
"What's the meaning of all this, Cynthia? Is that fellow making love
"I'm afraid so, Mr. Bradshaw. He's been here several times, and they
seem to be getting intimate. I couldn't do anything to stop it."
"Give me the papers,--quick!"
Cynthia pulled the package from her pocket. Murray Bradshaw looked
sharply at it. A little crumpled,--crowded into her pocket. Seal
unbroken. All safe.
"I shall come again to-morrow forenoon. Another day and it will be
all up. The decision of the court will be known. It won't be my
fault if one visit is not enough.--You don't suppose Myrtle is in
love with this fellow?"
"She acts as--if she might be. You know he's broke with Susan Posey,
and there's nothing to hinder. If you ask my opinion, I think it's
your last chance: she is n't a girl to half do things, and if she has
taken to this man it will be hard to make her change her mind. But
she's young, and she has had a liking for you, and if you manage it
well there's no telling."
Two notes passed between Myrtle Hazard and Master Byles Gridley that
evening. Mistress Kitty Fagan, who had kept her ears pretty wide
open, carried them.
Murray Bradshaw went home in a very desperate state of feeling. He
had laid his plans, as he thought, with perfect skill, and the
certainty of their securing their end. These papers were to have
been taken from the envelope, and found in the garret just at the
right moment, either by Cynthia herself or one of the other members
of the family, who was to be led on, as it were accidentally, to the
discovery. The right moment must be close at hand. He was to offer
his hand--and heart, of course--to Myrtle, and it was to be accepted.
As soon as the decision of the land case was made known, or not long
afterwards, there was to be a search in the garret for papers, and
these were to be discovered in a certain dusty recess, where, of
course, they would have been placed by Miss Cynthia.
And now the one condition which gave any value to these arrangements
seemed like to fail. This obscure youth--this poor fool, who had
been on the point of marrying a simpleton to whom he had made a
boyish promise--was coming between him and the object of his long
pursuit,--the woman who had every attraction to draw him to herself.
It had been a matter of pride with Murray Bradshaw that he never lost
his temper so as to interfere with the precise course of action which
his cool judgment approved; but now he was almost beside himself with
passion. His labors, as he believed, had secured the favorable issue
of the great case so long pending. He had followed Myrtle through
her whole career, if not as her avowed lover, at least as one whose
friendship promised to flower in love in due season. The moment had
come when the scene and the characters in this village drama were to
undergo a change as sudden and as brilliant as is seen in those fairy
spectacles where the dark background changes to a golden palace and
the sober dresses are replaced by robes of regal splendor. The
change was fast approaching; but he, the enchanter, as he had thought
himself, found his wand broken, and his power given to another.
He could not sleep during that night. He paced his room, a prey to
jealousy and envy and rage, which his calm temperament had kept him
from feeling in their intensity up to this miserable hour. He
thought of all that a maddened nature can imagine to deaden its own
intolerable anguish. Of revenge. If Myrtle rejected his suit,
should he take her life on the spot, that she might never be
another's,--that neither man nor woman should ever triumph over him,
--the proud ambitious man, defeated, humbled, scorned? No! that was
a meanness of egotism which only the most vulgar souls could be
capable of. Should he challenge her lover? It was not the way of
the people and time, and ended in absurd complications, if anybody
was foolish enough to try it. Shoot him? The idea floated through
his mind, for he thought of everything; but he was a lawyer, and not
a fool, and had no idea of figuring in court as a criminal. Besides,
he was not a murderer,--cunning was his natural weapon, not violence.
He had a certain admiration of desperate crime in others, as showing
nerve and force, but he did not feel it to be his own style of doing
During the night he made every arrangement for leaving the village
the next day, in case he failed to make any impression on Myrtle
Hazard and found that his chance was gone. He wrote a letter to his
partner, telling him that he had left to join one of the regiments
forming in the city. He adjusted all his business matters so that
his partner should find as little trouble as possible. A little
before dawn he threw himself on the bed, but he could not sleep; and
he rose at sunrise, and finished his preparations for his departure
to the city.
The morning dragged along slowly. He could not go to the office, not
wishing to meet his partner again. After breakfast he dressed
himself with great care, for he meant to show himself in the best
possible aspect. Just before he left the house to go to The Poplars,
he took the sealed package from his trunk, broke open the envelope,
took from it a single paper,--it had some spots on it which
distinguished it from all the rest,--put it separately in his pocket,
and then the envelope containing the other papers. The calm smile be
wore on his features as he set forth cost him a greater effort than
he had ever made before to put it on. He was moulding his face to
the look with which he meant to present himself; and the muscles had
been sternly fixed so long that it was a task to bring them to their
habitual expression in company,--that of ingenuous good-nature.
He was shown into the parlor at The Poplars; and Kitty told Myrtle
that he had called and inquired for her and was waiting down stairs.
"Tell him I will be down presently," she said. "And, Kitty, now mind
just what I tell you. Leave your kitchen door open, so that you can
hear anything fall in the parlor. If you hear a book fall,--it will
be a heavy one, and will make some noise,--run straight up here to my
little chamber, and hang this red scarf out of the window. The left-
hand side-sash, mind, so that anybody can see it from the road. If
Mr. Gridley calls, show him into the parlor, no matter who is there."
Kitty Fagan looked amazingly intelligent, and promised that she would
do exactly as she was told. Myrtle followed her down stairs almost
immediately, and went into the parlor, where Mr. Bradshaw was
Never in his calmest moments had he worn a more insinuating smile on
his features than that with which he now greeted Myrtle. So gentle,
so gracious, so full of trust, such a completely natural expression
of a kind, genial character did it seem, that to any but an expert it
would have appeared impossible that such an effect could be produced
by the skilful balancing of half a dozen pairs of little muscles that
manage the lips and the corners of the mouth. The tones of his voice
were subdued into accord with the look of his features; his whole
manner was fascinating, as far as any conscious effort could make it
so. It was just one of those artificially pleasing effects that so
often pass with such as have little experience of life for the
genuine expression of character and feeling. But Myrtle had learned
the look that shapes itself on the features of one who loves with a
love that seeketh not its own, and she knew the difference between
acting and reality. She met his insinuating approach with a courtesy
so carefully ordered that it was of itself a sentence without appeal.
Artful persons often interpret sincere ones by their own standard.
Murray Bradshaw thought little of this somewhat formal address,--a
few minutes would break this thin film to pieces. He was not only a
suitor with a prize to gain, he was a colloquial artist about to
employ all the resources of his specialty.
He introduced the conversation in the most natural and easy way, by
giving her the message from a former school-mate to which he had
referred, coloring it so delicately, as he delivered it, that it
became an innocent-looking flattery. Myrtle found herself in a rose-
colored atmosphere, not from Murray Bradshaw's admiration, as it
seemed, but only reflected by his mind from another source. That was
one of his arts, always, if possible, to associate himself
incidentally, as it appeared, and unavoidably, with an agreeable
So Myrtle was betrayed into smiling and being pleased before he had
said a word about himself or his affairs. Then he told her of the
adventures and labors of his late expedition; of certain evidence
which at the very last moment he had unearthed, and which was very
probably the turning-point in the case. He could not help feeling
that she must eventually reap some benefit from the good fortune with
which his efforts had been attended. The thought that it might yet
be so had been a great source of encouragement to him,--it would
always be a great happiness to him to remember that he had done
anything to make her happy.
Myrtle was very glad that he had been so far successful,--she did not
know that it made much difference to her, but she was obliged to him
for the desire of serving her that he had expressed.
"My services are always yours, Miss Hazard. There is no sacrifice I
would not willingly make for your benefit. I have never had but one
feeling toward you. You cannot be ignorant of what that feeling is."
"I know, Mr. Bradshaw, it has been one of kindness. I have to thank
you for many friendly attentions, for which I hope I have never been
"Kindness is not all that I feel towards you, Miss Hazard. If that
were all, my lips would not tremble as they do now in telling you my
feelings.--I love you."
He sprang the great confession on Myrtle a little sooner than he had
meant. It was so hard to go on making phrases! Myrtle changed color
a little, for she was startled.
The seemingly involuntary movement she made brought her arm against a
large dictionary, which lay very near the edge of the table on which
it was resting. The book fell with a loud noise to the floor.
There it lay. The young man awaited her answer; he did not think of
polite forms at such a moment.
"It cannot be, Mr. Bradshaw,--it must not be. I have known you long,
and I am not ignorant of all your brilliant qualities, but you must
not speak to me of love. Your regard,--your friendly interest, tell
me that I shall always have these, but do not distress me with
offering more than these."
"I do not ask you to give me your love in return; I only ask you not
to bid me despair. Let me believe that the time may come' when you
will listen to me,--no matter how distant. You are young,--you have
a tender heart,--you would not doom one who only lives for you to
wretchedness,--so long that we have known each other. It cannot be
that any other has come between us--"
Myrtle blushed so deeply that there was no need of his finishing his
"Do you mean, Myrtle Hazard, that you have cast me aside for another?
--for this stranger--this artist--who was with you yesterday when I
came, bringing with me the story of all I had done for you, yes, for
you,--and was ignominiously refused the privilege of seeing you?"
Rage and jealousy had got the better of him this time. He rose as he
spoke, and looked upon her with such passion kindling in his eyes
that he seemed ready for any desperate act.
"I have thanked you for any services you may have rendered me, Mr.
Bradshaw," Myrtle answered, very calmly, "and I hope you will add one
more to them by sparing me this rude questioning. I wished to treat
you as a friend; I hope you will not render that impossible."
He had recovered himself for one more last effort. "I was impatient
overlook it, I beg you. I was thinking of all the happiness I have
labored to secure for you, and of the ruin to us both it would be if
you scornfully rejected the love I offer you,--if you refuse to leave
me any hope for the future,--if you insist on throwing yourself away
on this man, so lately pledged to another. I hold the key of all
your earthly fortunes in my hand. My love for you inspired me in all
that I have done, and, now that I come to lay the result of my labors
at your feet, you turn from me, and offer my reward to a stranger.
I do not ask you to say this day that you will be mine,--I would not
force your inclinations,--but I do ask you that you will hold
yourself free of all others, and listen to me as one who may yet be
more than a friend. Say so much as this, Myrtle, and you shall have
such a future as you never dreamed of. Fortune, position, all that
this world can give, shall be yours."
"Never! never! If you could offer me the whole world, or take away
from me all that the world can give, it would make no difference to
me. I cannot tell what power you hold over me, whether of life and
death, or of wealth and poverty; but after talking to me of love, I
should not have thought you would have wronged me by suggesting any
meaner motive. It is only because we have been on friendly terms so
long that I have listened to you as I have done. You have said more
than enough, and I beg you will allow me to put an end to this
She rose to leave the room. But Murray Bradshaw had gone too far to
control himself,--he listened only to the rage which blinded him.
"Not yet!" he said. "Stay one moment, and you shall know what your
pride and self-will have cost you!"
Myrtle stood, arrested, whether by fear, or curiosity, or the passive
subjection of her muscles to his imperious will, it would be hard to
Murray Bradshaw took out the spotted paper from his breast-pocket,
and held it up before her. "Look here!" he exclaimed. "This would
have made you rich,--it would have crowned you a queen in society,--
it would have given you all, and more than all, that you ever dreamed
of luxury, of splendor, of enjoyment; and I, who won it for you,
would have taught you how to make life yield every bliss it had in
store to your wishes. You reject my offer unconditionally?"
Myrtle expressed her negative only by a slight contemptuous movement.
Murray Bradshaw walked deliberately to the fireplace, and laid the
spotted paper upon the burning coals. It writhed and curled,
blackened, flamed, and in a moment was a cinder dropping into ashes.
He folded his arms, and stood looking at the wreck of Myrtle's
future, the work of his cruel hand. Strangely enough, Myrtle herself
was fascinated, as it were, by the apparent solemnity of this
mysterious sacrifice. She had kept her eyes steadily on him all the
time, and was still gazing at the altar on which her happiness had
been in some way offered up, when the door was opened by Kitty Fagan,
and Master Byles Gridley was ushered into the parlor.
"Too late, old man! "Murray Bradshaw exclaimed, in a hoarse and
savage voice, as he passed out of the room, and strode through the
entry and down the avenue. It was the last time the old gate of The
Poplars was to open or close for him. The same day he left the
village; and the next time his name was mentioned it was as an
officer in one of the regiments just raised and about marching to the
seat of war.
THE SPOTTED PAPER.
What Master Gridley may have said to Myrtle Hazard that served to
calm her after this exciting scene cannot now be recalled. That
Murray Bradshaw thought he was inflicting a deadly injury on her was
plain enough. That Master Gridley did succeed in convincing her that
no great harm had probably been done her is equally certain.
Like all bachelors who have lived a lonely life, Master Byles Gridley
had his habits, which nothing short of some terrestrial convulsion--
or perhaps, in his case, some instinct that drove him forth to help
somebody in trouble--could possibly derange. After his breakfast, he
always sat and read awhile,--the paper, if a new one came to hand, or
some pleasant old author,--if a little neglected by the world of
readers, he felt more at ease with him, and loved him all the better.
But on the morning after his interview with Myrtle Hazard, he had
received a letter which made him forget newspapers, old authors,
almost everything, for the moment. It was from the publisher with
whom he had had a conversation, it may be remembered, when he visited
the city, and was to this effect: That Our Firm propose to print and
stereotype the work originally published under the title of "Thoughts
on the Universe"; said work to be remodelled according to the plan
suggested by the Author, with the corrections, alterations,
omissions, and additions proposed by him; said work to be published
under the following title, to wit: ________ _________: said work to