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The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard

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"Yes," he answered hurriedly, "don't I know? On my honor, I have
tried; why not leave me to God? Didn't you leave yourself that way
once?"

"Oh, you are cruel."

"Pardon me, dear Cass. I _must_ do well now, surely. Will you believe
in me? Oh, do you not know the strength, the power, that comes to us
in the stress of passion and duty?"

"This is from _you_, Ben."

"Never mind; I knew I wanted to marry her, when I saw her. I love her
passionately," and he threw a pebble in the water farther than he had
yet; "but she is so pure, so delicate, that when I approach her, in
spite of my besottedness, my love grows lambent. That's not like me,
you know," with great vehemence. "Will she never understand me?"

His face darkened, and he looked so strangely intent into my eyes that
I was obliged to turn away; he disturbed me.

"Veronica probably will not understand you, but you must manage for
yourself. As you have discerned, she and I are far apart. She is pure,
noble, beautiful, and peculiar. I will have no voice between you."

"You must, you do. We shall hear it if you do not speak. You have a
great power, tall enchantress."

"Certainly. What a powerful life is mine!"

"You come to these shores often. Are you not different beside them?
This colorless picture before us--these vague spaces of sea and
land--the motion of the one--the stillness of the other--have you no
sense that you have a powerful spirit?"

"Is it power? It is pain."

"Your gold has not been refined then."

"Yes, I confess I have a sense of power; but it is not a spiritual
sense."

"Let us go back," he said abruptly.

We mused by our footprints in the wet sand, as we passed them. We were
told when we reached home that Veronica had gone on some expedition
with Fanny. She did not return till time for supper, looking elfish,
and behaving whimsically, as if she had received instructions
accordingly. I fancied that the expression Ben regarded her with might
be the Bellevue Pickersgill expression, it was so different from any
I had seen. There was a haughty curiosity in his face; as she passed
near him, he looked into her eyes, and saw the strange cast which made
their sight so far off.

"Veronica, where are you?" he asked.

The tone of his voice attracted mother's regards; an intelligent
glance was exchanged, and then her eyes sought mine. "It is not as you
thought, mamma," I telegraphed. But Verry, not bringing her eyes back
into the world, merely said, "I am here, am I not?" and went to shut
herself up in her room. I found her there, looking through the wicket.

"The buds are beginning to swell," she said. "I should hear small
voices breaking out from the earth. I grow happy every day now."

"Because the earth will be green again?" I asked, in a coaxing voice.

She shut the wicket, and, looking in my face, said, "I will go down
immediately." For some reason the tears came into my eyes, which she,
taking up the candle, saw. "I am going to play," she said hurriedly,
"come." She ran down before me, but turning, by the foot of the
stairs, she pointed to the parlor door, and said, "Is he my husband?"

"Answer for yourself. Go in, in God's name."

Ben was chatting with father over the fire; he stretched out his hand
to her, with so firm and assured an air, and looked so noble, that I
felt a pang of admiration for him. She laid her hand in his a moment,
passed on to the piano, and began to play divinely, drawing him to
her side. Father peeled and twisted his cigar, as he contemplated them
with a thoughtful countenance.

CHAPTER XXVII.

When we went to Boston we went to a new hotel, as Ben had advised,
deserting the old Bromfield for the Tremont. It was dusk when we
arrived, and tea was served immediately, in a large room full of
somber mahogany furniture. Its atmosphere oppressed Veronica, who ate
her supper in silence.

"Charles Dickens is here, sir," said the waiter, who knew Ben. "Two
models of the Curiosity Shop have just gone upstairs, sir. His room is
right over here, sir."

Veronica looked adoringly at the ceiling.

"Then," said Ben, "our hunters are up from Belem. Anybody in from
Belem, John?"

"Oh yes, sir, every day."

"I'll look them up," he said to us; but he returned soon, and begged
us not to look at Dickens, if we had a chance.

Veronica, with a sigh, gave him up, and lost a chance of being
immortalized with that perpetual and imperturbable beefsteak, covered
with "the blackest of all possible pepper," which was daily served to
him.

Father being out in pursuit of a cigar, Ben asked Veronica what she
would do while he was in Belem.

"Walk round this lion-clawed table."

"I shall be gone from you."

"Alas!"

"Are we to part this way?"

"Father," she cried, as he entered with a theater bill, "had I better
marry this friend of Cassy's?"

"Have you the courage? Do you know each other?"

"Having known Cassandra so long, sir," began Ben, but was interrupted
by Veronica's exclaiming, "We do not know each other at all. What is
the use of making _that_ futile attempt? I am over eighteen, and do
you know me, father?"

"If I do not, it is because you have no shadow."

"Shall I, then?" giving Ben a delicious smile. "I promise."

"I promise, too, Veronica," heaven dawning in his eyes.

"We will see about it," said father. "Now who will go to the theater?"

We declined, but Ben signified his willingness to accompany him.

We took the first morning train, so that father could return before
evening, and ran through in the course of an hour the wooden suburbs
of Belem, bordered by an ancient marsh, from which the sea had long
retired. Taking a cab, we turned into Norfolk Street, at the head of
which, Ben said, a mile distant, was his father's house. It was not
a cheerful street, and when we stopped before an immense square,
three-storied house, it looked still more gloomy! There was a gate on
one side, with white wooden urns on the posts, that shut off a paved
courtway. On each side of the street were houses of the same pattern,
with the same gates. Down the paved court of the opposite house a
coach pulled by two fat horses clattered, and as the coach turned we
saw two old ladies inside, highly dressed, bowing and smiling at Ben.

"The Miss Hiticutts--hundred thousand apiece."

"Hundred thousand apiece," I echoed in an anguish of admiration, which
made my father laugh and Ben scowl. A servant in a linen jacket opened
the door. "Is it yourself, Mr. Ben?"

"Open the parlor door, Murph. Where's my mother and my sister?"

"Miss Somers is taking her exercise, sir, and Mrs. Somers is with
the owld gentleman"; opening the door, with the performance of taking
father's hat.

"Sit down, Cassandra. I'll look up somebody."

It was a bewildering matter where to go; the room, vast and dark, was
a complete litter of tables and sofas. The tables were loaded with
lamps, books, and knick-knacks of every description; the sofas were
strewn with English and French magazines, novels, and papers. I went
to the window, while father perched on the music stool.

My attention was diverted to a large dog in the court, chained to
a post near a pump, where a man was giving water to a handsome bay
horse, at the same time keeping his eye on an individual who stood on
a stone block, dressed in a loose velvet coat, a white felt hat,
and slippers down at the heel. He had a coach whip in his hand--the
handsomest hand I ever saw, which he snapped at the dog, who growled
with rage. I heard Ben's voice in remonstrance; then a lazy laugh from
velvet coat, who gave the dog a cut which made him bound. Ben, untying
him, was overwhelmed with caresses. "Down, you fool! Off, Rash!"
he said. "Look there," pointing to the window where I stood. The
gentleman with the coach whip looked at me also. The likeness to
Ben turned my suspicion into certainty that they were brothers. His
disposition, I thought, must be lovely, judging from the episode with
"Rash." I turned away, almost running against a lady, who extended her
fingers toward me with a quick little laugh, and said:

"How de do? Where's Ben, to introduce us properly?"

"Here, mother," he said behind her, followed by the dog. "You were
expecting Cassandra, my old chum; and Mr. Morgeson has come to leave
her with us."

"Certainly. Rash, go out, dear. Mr. Morgeson, I am sorry to say," she
spoke with more politeness, "that Mr. Somers is confined to his room
with gout. May I take you up?"

"I have a short time to stay," looking at his watch and rising. "Do
you consider the old school friendship between your son and Cassandra
a sufficient reason for leaving her with you? To say nothing of the
faint relationship which, we suppose, exists."

"Of course, very happy; Adelaide expects her," she said vaguely. I saw
at once that she had never heard a word of our being relations. Ben
had managed nicely in the affair of my invitation to Belem. But I
desired to remain, in spite of Mrs. Somers's reception.

Mr. Somers was bolstered up in bed, in a flowered dressing gown, with
a bottle of colchicum and a pile of Congressional reports on a stand
beside him. His urbanity was extreme; it was evident that the gout was
not allowed to interfere with his deportment, though the joints of
his hands were twisted and knotty. He expatiated upon Ben's long
ungratified wish for a visit from me, and thanked father for complying
with it. He mentioned the memento of the miniature, and gave every
particular of Locke Morgeson's early marriage, explaining the exact
shade of consanguinity--a faint one. I glanced at Mrs. Somers, who
sat remote, in the act of inspecting me, with an eye askance, which I
afterward found was her mode of looking at those whom she doubted
or disliked; it changed its expression, as it met mine, into one of
haughty wonder, that said there could be no tie of blood between us.
She irritated and embarrassed me. I tried to think of something
to say, and uttered a few words, which were uncommonly trivial and
awkward. Mr. Somers touched on politics. The door opened, and Ben's
brother entered, with downcast eyes. Advancing to the footboard of the
bed, he leaned his chin on its edge, looked at his father, and in a
remarkably clear, ringing voice, said:

"The check."

Mr. Somers coughed behind his hand. "To-morrow will do, Desmond."

"To-day will do."

"Desmond," said Ben in a low voice, "you do not see Mr. Morgeson and
Miss Morgeson. My brother, Cassandra."

"Beg pardon, good-morning"; and he pulled off his hat with an air of
grace which became him, though it was very indifferent. Mrs. Somers in
a soft voice said: "Ring, Des, dear, will you?" He warned her with
a satirical smile, and gave such a pull at the bell-rope that it came
down. Her florid face flushed a deeper red, but he had gone. Father
looked at his watch, and got up with alacrity.

"You are to dine with us, at least, Mr. Morgeson."

"I must return to Boston on account of my daughter, who is there
alone."

"Have you been remiss, Ben," said his father affectionately, "in not
bringing her also?"

"She would not come, of course, father."

A tall, black-haired girl of twenty-five rushed in.

"Why, Ben," she said, "you were not expected. And this is Miss
Morgeson," shaking hands with me. "You will spend a month, won't
you?" She put her chin in her hand, and scanned me with a cool
deliberateness. "Pa, do you think she is like Caroline Bingham?"

"Yes, so she is; but fairer. She is a great belle," nodding to me.

"Do you _really_ think she looks like her, Somers?" said Mrs. Somers,
in a tone of denial.

"Certainly, but handsomer," Adelaide replied for him, without looking
at her mother.

"Would you like to go to your room?" she asked. "What a pretty dress
this is!" taking hold of the sleeve, her chin in her hand still. "We
will have some walks; Belem is nice for walking. Pa, how do you feel
now?"

She allowed me to go downstairs with father, without following, and
sent Murphy in with wine and biscuit. I put my arms round his neck and
kissed him, for I had a lonesome feeling, which I could not define at
the last moment.

"You will not stay long," he said; "there is something oppressive in
this atmosphere."

"Something artificial, is it? It must be the blood of the Bellevue
Pickersgills that thickens the air."

"Now," said Ben, with father's hat in his hand, "the time is up."

Adelaide was at the door to take courteous leave of him, and Mrs.
Somers bowed from the top of the stairs, revealing a pair of large
ankles, whose base rested in a pair of shabby, pudgy slippers.
Adelaide then took me to my room, telling me not to change my dress,
but to come down soon, for dinner was ready. Hearing a bell, I hurried
down to the parlor which we were in before, and waited for directions
respecting the dinner. Adelaide came presently. "We are dining; come
and sit next me," offering her arm. Mrs. Somers, Desmond, and a girl
of fifteen were at the table. The latter had just come from school,
I concluded, as a satchel of books hung at her chair. Murphy was
removing the soup, and I derived the impression that I had been
forgotten. While taking mine, they vaguely stared about till Murphy
brought in the roast mutton, except Adelaide, who rubbed her teeth
with a dry crust, making a feint of eating it. Desmond kept the
decanter, occasionally swallowing a glassful.

"What wine is that, Murphy?" Mrs. Somers asked. He hesitatingly
answered, "I think it is the Juno, mum."

"You stole the key from pa's room, Des," said the girl. He shook the
carving-knife at her, at which gesture she said "Pooh!" and applied
herself to the roast mutton with avidity. They all ate largely,
especially the girl, whose wide mouth was filled with splendid teeth.
Mrs. Somers made a motion with her glass for Murphy to bring her the
wine, and pouring a teaspoonful, held it to her mouth, as if she were
practicing drinking healths. Her hands were beautiful, too; they all
had handsome hands, whose movements were graceful and expressive. When
Ben arrived, Murphy set the dishes before him, and Adelaide began to
talk in a lively, brilliant way. He did not ask for wine, but I saw
him look toward it and Desmond. The decanter was empty. After the
dessert, Mrs. Somers arose and we followed; but she soon left us, and
we went to the parlor. The girl, taking a seat beside me, said: "My
name is Ann Somers. I am never introduced; Adder, my sister, is in
the way, you know. I dare say Ben never spoke of me to you. I am never
spoken of, am never noticed. I have never had new dresses; yet pa is
my friend, the dear soul."

Adelaide looked upon her with the same superb indifference with which
she regarded her mother and Desmond.

"Would you like to go to your room?" she asked again. "You are too
tired to take a walk, perhaps?"

"Lord!" said Ann, "do let her do as she likes. Adder, don't be too
disagreeable."

I picked up my bonnet, which she took from me, and put on the top of
her head as we went upstairs.

"Murph must bring up your trunk," said Ann, opening the closet. "But
there is no space to hang anything; the great Mogul's wardrobe stops
the way."

My chamber was stately in size and appointments. The afternoon sun
shone in, where a shutter was open, behind the dull red curtains,
and illuminated the portrait of a nimble old lady in a scarlet cloak,
which hung near the gigantic curtained bed, over a vast chair, covered
with faded green damask.

"Grandmother Pickersgill," said Ann, who saw me observing the picture.
Adelaide contemplated it also. "It was painted by Copley," she said,
"Lord Lyndhurst afterwards. Grandfather entertained him, and he went
to one of grandmother's parties; he complimented her on her beauty.
But you see that she has not a handsome hand. Ours is the Pickersgill
hand," and she spread her fingers like a fan. "She was a regular old
screw," continued Ann, "and used to have mother's underclothes tucked
to last for ever; she was a beast to servants, too."

My trunk was brought in, which I unlocked and unpacked, while Adelaide
opened a drawer in a great bureau.

"Oh, you know it is full of Marm's fineries," said Ann, in a
confidential tone; "I'll ring for Hannah." Adelaide busied herself in
throwing the contents of the drawers on the floor. "There's her ball
dresses," commented Ann, as a pink satin, trimmed with magnificent
lace, tumbled out. "Old Carew brought the lace over for her."

"Bring a basket, Hannah, and take these away somewhere, to some other
closet of Mrs. Somers's."

"That gold fringe, do you remember, Adder? She looked like an elephant
with his howdah on when she wore it."

Her impertinence inspired Adelaide, who joined her in a flow of
vituperative wit at the expense of their mother and other relatives,
incidentally brought in. Instead of being aghast, I enjoyed it, and
was feverish with a desire to be as brilliant, for my vocabulary was
deficient and my sense of inferiority was active during the whole
of my visit in Belem. I blushed often, smiled foolishly, and was
afflicted with a general apprehension in regard to _gaucherie_.

I changed my traveling dress, as they were not inclined to leave me,
with anxiety, for I was weak enough to wish to make an impression
with my elegant bearing and appointments. Being so anatomized, I was
oppressed with an indefinite discouragement. Their stealthy, sharp,
selfish scrutiny brought out my failures. My dress seemed ill-made; my
hair unbecomingly dressed; my best collar and ribbon, which I put on,
were nothing to the lace I had just seen falling on the floor. When we
descended it was twilight. Ann said she must study, and left us by the
parlor fire. Adelaide lighted a candle, and took a novel, which she
read reclining on a sofa. Reclining on sofas, I discovered, was a
family trait, though they were all in a state of the most robust
health, with the exception of Mr. Somers. I walked up and down the
rooms. "They were fine once," said Ben, who appeared from a dark
corner, "but faded now. Mother never changes anything if she can
help it. She is a terrible aristocrat," he continued, in a low voice,
"fixed in the ideas imbedded in the Belem institutions, which only
move backward. We laugh, though, at everybody's claims but our own.
You despised me for mentioning the Hiticutts' income; it was the
atmosphere."

"It amuses me to be here."

"Of course; but stir up Adelaide, she is genuine; has fine sense, and
half despises her life; but she knows no other, and is proud."

"Let's go and find tea," she said, yawning, dropping her book. "Why
don't that lazy Murph light the lamp? I wish pa was down to regulate
affairs." No one was at the tea-table but Mrs. Somers.

"Ben is very polite, don't you think so?" she said with her peculiar
laugh, which made my flesh creep, as he pulled up a chair for me. Her
voice made me dizzy, but I smiled. Ben was not the same in Belem,
I saw at once, and no longer wondered at its influence, or at the
vacillating nature of his plans and pursuits. Mrs. Somers gave me
some tea from a spider-shaped silver tea-pot, which was related to a
spider-shaped cream-jug and a spider-shaped sugar-dish. The polished
surface of the mahogany table reflected a pair of tall silver
candlesticks, and the plates, being of warped blue and white Chinese
ware, joggled and clattered when we touched them. The tea was
delicious; I said so, but Mrs. Somers deigned no answer. We were
regaled with spread bread and butter and baked apples. Adelaide ate
six.

"We do not have your Surrey suppers," Ben remarked.

"How should you know?" his mother asked. Ben's eyes looked violent
and he bit his lips. Adelaide commenced speaking before her mother had
finished her question, as if she only needed the spur of her voice to
be lively and agreeable, _per contra_.

"Hepburn must ask us to tea. Her jam and her gossip are wonderful.
Aunt Tucker might ask us too, with housekeeper Beck's permission. I
like tea fights with the old Hindoos. They like us too, Ben; we are
the children of Hindoos also--superior to the rest of the world. There
will be a party or two for this young person."

"Parties be hanged!" he said. "Then we must have a rout here, and I
hate 'em."

"But we owe an entertainment," said Mrs. Somers. "I have been thinking
of giving one as soon as Mr. Somers gets out."

"I have no such idea," said Adelaide, with her back toward her mother.
"We shall have no party until some one has been given to our young
friend, Ben."

Ben and I visited his father, who asked questions relative to the
temperature, the water, and the dietetic qualities of Surrey. He was
affable, but there was no nearness in his affability. He skated on
the ice of appearances, and that was his vocation in his family. He
fulfilled it well, but it was a strain sometimes. His family broke the
ice now and then, which must have made him plunge into the depths
of reality. I learned to respect his courage, bad as his cause was.
Marrying Bellevue Pickersgill for her money, he married his master,
and was endowed only with the privilege of settling her taxes. Simon
Pickersgill, her father, tied up the main part of his money for his
grandchildren. It was to be divided among them when the youngest son
should arrive at the age of twenty-one--an event which took place, I
supposed, while Ben was on his way to India. Desmond and an older son,
who resided anywhere except at home, made havoc with the income. As
the principal prospectively was theirs, or nearly the whole of it, why
should they not dispose of that?

At last Mr. Somers looked at his watch, a gentle reminder that it was
time for us to withdraw. Adelaide was still in the parlor, lying on
her favorite sofa contemplating the ceiling. I asked permission to
retire, which she granted without removing her regards. In spite of my
sound sleep that night, I was started from it by the wail of a young
child. The strangeness of the chamber, and the continued crying,
which I could not locate, kept me awake at intervals till dawn peeped
through the curtains.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

A few days after my arrival, some friends dined with Mrs. Somers. The
daughters of a senator, as Ann informed me, and an ex-governor, or I
should not have known this fact, for I was not introduced. The dinner
was elaborate, and Desmond did the honors. With the walnuts one of the
ladies asked for the baby.

Mrs. Somers made a sign to Desmond, who pulled the bell-rope--mildly
this time. An elderly woman instantly appeared with a child a few
months old, puny and anxious-looking. Mrs. Somers took it from her,
and placed it on the table; it tottered and nodded to the chirrups of
the guests. Ben, from the opposite side of the table, addressed me by
a look, which enlightened me. His voyage to India was useless, as the
property would stand for twenty-one years more, lacking some months,
unless Providence interposed. Adelaide was oblivious of the child,
but Desmond thumped his glass on the mahogany to attract it, for its
energies were absorbed in swallowing its fists and fretfully crying.
When Murphy announced coffee in the parlor, the nurse took it away;
and after coffee and sponge cake were served the visitors drove off.
That afternoon some friends of Adelaide called, to whom she introduced
me as "cousin." She gave graphic descriptions of them, after their
departure. One had achieved greatness by spending her winters in
Washington, and contracting a friendship with John C. Calhoun. Another
was an artist who had painted an ideal head of her ancestor, Sir
Roger de Roger, not he who had arrived some years ago as a weaver from
Glasgow, but the one who had remained on the family estate. A third
reviewed books and collected autographs.

The next afternoon one of the Miss Hiticutts from across the way came,
in a splendid camel's-hair shawl and a shabby dress. "How _is_ Mr.
Somers?" she asked. "He is such a martyr."

Here Mrs. Somers entered. "My dear Bellevue, you are worn out with
your devotion to him; when have you taken the air?" She did not wait
for a reply, but addressed Adelaide with, "This is your young friend,
and where is my favorite, Mr. Ben, and little Miss Ann? Have you
anything new? I went down to Harris yesterday to tell her she must
sweep away her old trash of a circulating library, and begin with the
New Regime of Novels, which threatens to overwhelm us."

Adelaide talked slowly at first, and then soared into a region where
I had never seen a woman--an intellectual one. Miss Hiticutt followed
her, and I experienced a new pleasure. Mrs. Somers was silent, but
listened with respect to Miss Hiticutt, for she was of the real Belem
azure in blood as well as in brain; besides, she was rich, and would
never marry. It was a Pickersgill hallucination to be attentive to
people who had legacies in their power. Mrs. Somers had a bequested
fortune already in hair rings and silver ware. While appearing to
listen to Adelaide, her eyes wandered over me with speculation askant
in them. Adelaide was so full of _esprit_ that I was again smitten
with my inferiority, and from this time I felt a respect for her,
which never declined, although she married an Englishman, who, too
choleric to live in America, took her to Florence, where they settled
with their own towels and silver, and are likely to remain, for her
heart is too narrow to comprise any further interest in Belem.

Miss Hiticutt chatted herself out, giving us an invitation to tea, for
any day, including Ben and Miss Ann, who had not been visible since
breakfast.

April rains kept us indoors for several days. Ann refused to go to
school. She must have a holiday; besides, pa needed her; she alone
could take care of him, after all. Her mother said that she must go.

"Who can make me, mum?"

Desmond ordered the coach for her. When it was ready he put her in it,
seated himself beside her, with provoking nonchalance, and carried her
to school. Murphy, with his velvet-banded hat, left her satchel at the
door, with a ceremonious air, which made Ann slap his cheek and call
him an old grimalkin. But she was obliged to walk home in the rain,
after waiting an hour for him to come back.

Mr. Somers hobbled about his room, with the help of his cane, and said
that he should be out soon, and requested Adelaide to put in order
some book-shelves that were in the third story, for he wanted to
read without confusion. We went there together, and sorted some odd
volumes; piles of Unitarian sermons, bound magazines, political works,
and a heap of histories. Ben found a seat on a bunch of books, pleased
to see us together.

"This is a horrid hole," he said. "I have not been up in this floor
for ages. How do the shelves look?"

A hiccough near us caused us to look toward the door.

"It is only Des, in his usual afternoon trim," said Ben.

She nodded, as he pushed open the door, thrusting in his head. "What
the hell are you doing here? This region is sacred to Chaos and old
Night," striking the panels, first one and then the other, with the
tassels of his dressing-gown. No one answered him. Adelaide counted a
row of books, and Ben whistled.

"Damn you, Ben," he said, in a languid voice: "you never seem bored.
Curse you all. I hate ye, especially that she-Calmuck yonder--that
Siberian-steppe-natured, malachite-hearted girl, our sister."

"Oh come away, Mr. Desmond. What are the poor things doing that you
should harry them?" and the woman who had brought in the baby the day
of the dinner laid her hands on him and pulled him away.

"Sarah will never give him up," said Ben.

"She swears there is good in him. I think he is a wretch," turning
over the leaves of a book with her beautiful hand, such a hand as I
had just seen beating the door--such a hand as clasped its fellow in
Ben's hair. Adelaide was not embarrassed at my presence. She neither
sought nor avoided my look. But Ben said, "You are thinking."

"Is she?" And Adelaide raised her eyes.

"You are all so much alike," I said.

"You are right," she answered seriously. "Our grandfather--"

"Confound him!" broke in Ben. "I wish he had never been born. Are
you proud, Addie, of being like the Pickersgills? But I know you are.
Remember that the part of us which is Pickersgill hates its like. I am
off; I am going to walk."

Adelaide coolly said, after he had gone, that he was very visionary,
predicting changes that could not be, and determined to bring them
about.

"Why did he bring me here?" I asked, as if I were asking in a dream.

"Ben's hospitality is genuine. He is like pa. Besides, you are related
to us--on the Somers side, and are the first visitor we ever saw,
outside of mother's connection. Do you not know, too, that Ben's
friendship is very sincere--very strong?"

"I begin to comprehend the Pickersgills," I remarked as if in a dream.
"How words with any meaning glance off, when addressed to them. How
impossible it is to return the impression they give. How incapable
they are of appreciating what they cannot appropriate to the use of
their idiosyncrasies."

She gazed at me, as if she heard an abstract subject discussed, with a
slight interest in her black eyes.

"Are they vicious to the death?" I went on with this dream. "It is
not fair--their overpowering personality--it is not fair to others. It
overpowers me, though I know it is _all_ fallacious."

"I am ignorant of Ethical Philosophy."

"Miss Somers," said Murphy, knocking, "if Major Millard is below?"

"I am coming."

She smiled when she looked at me again. I stared at her with a
singular feeling. Had I touched her, or had I made a fool of myself?

"There is some nice gingerbread in the closet. Sha'n't I get you a
piece?"

I fell out of my dream.

"Major Millard is an old beau. Come down and captivate him. He likes
fair women."

Declining the gingerbread, I accepted the Major. He was an old
gentleman, in a good deal of highly starched linen, amusing himself
by teazing Ann, who liked it, and paid him in impertinence. Adelaide
played chess with him. Desmond sauntered in about nine, threw himself
into a chair behind the sofa where I sat, and swung his arm over the
back. The chessboard was put aside, and a gossipy conversation was
started, which included Mrs. Somers, who was on a sofa across the
room, but he did not join in it. I watched Mrs. Somers, as her fingers
moved with her Berlin knitting, feeling more composed and settled as
to my identity, in spite of my late outburst, than I had felt at
any moment since my arrival in Belem. They were laughing at a funny
description, which Ann was giving of a meeting she had witnessed
between Miss Hiticutt and Mr. Pearsall, a gentleman lately arrived
from China, after a twenty years' residence, with several lacs of
rupees. Her delineation of Miss Hiticutt, who attempted to appear as
she had twenty years before, was excellent. Ben, who was rolling and
unrolling his mother's yarn, laughed till the tears ran, but Major
Millard looked uneasy, as if he expected to be served _a-la_-Hiticutt
by the satirical Ann after his departure. Before the laughter
subsided, I heard a low voice at my ear, and felt a slight touch from
the tip of a finger on my cheek.

"How came those scars?"

I brushed my cheek with my handkerchief, and answered, "I got them in
battle."

He left his chair, and walked slowly through the room into the dark
front parlor. Major Millard took leave, and was followed by Mrs.
Somers and Ann, neither of whom returned. As Ben stretched himself
on his sofa with an air of relief, Desmond emerged from the dark and
stood behind him, leaning against a column, with his hands in his coat
pockets and his eyes searchingly fixed upon me. Ben, turning his head
in my direction, sprang up so suddenly that I started; but Desmond's
eyes did not move till Ben confronted him; then he gave him a haughty
smile, and begged him to take his repose again.

I went to the piano and ran my fingers over the keys.

"Do you play? Can you sing?" asked Adelaide, rousing herself.

"Yes."

"Do sing. I never talk music; but I like it."

"Some old song," said Ben.

Singing

"Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine,"

I became conscious that Desmond was near me. With a perfectly pure
voice he joined in the song:

"The thirst that from the soul doth rise,
Doth ask a drink divine."

As the tones of his voice floated through the room, I was where I saw
the white sea-birds flashing between the blue deeps of our summer
sea and sky, and the dark rocks that rose and dipped in the murmuring
waves.

CHAPTER XXIX.

One pleasant afternoon Adelaide and I started on a walk. We must go
through the crooked length of Norfolk Street, till we reached the
outskirts of Belem, and its low fields not yet green; that was the
fashionable promenade, she said. After the two o'clock dinner, Belem
walked. All her acquaintances seemed to be in the street, so many bows
were given and returned with ceremony. Nothing familiar was attempted,
nothing beyond the courtliness of an artificial smile.

Returning, we met Desmond with a lady, and a series of bows took
place. Desmond held his hat in his hand till we had passed; his
expression varied so much from what it was when I saw him last, at the
breakfast table, he being in a desperate humor then, that it served me
for mental comment for some minutes.

"That is Miss Brewster," said Adelaide. "She is an heiress, and
fancies Desmond's attentions: she will not marry him, though."

"Is every woman in Belem an heiress?"

"Those we talk about are, and every man is a fortune-hunter. Money
marries money; those who have none do not marry. Those who wait hope.
But the great fortunes of Belem are divided; the race of millionaires
is decaying."

"Is that Ann yonder?"

"I think so, from that bent bonnet."

It proved to be Ann, who went by us with the universal bow and
grimace, sacrificing to the public spirit with her fine manners. She
turned soon, however, and overtook us, proposing to make a detour
to Drummond Street, where an intimate family friend, "Old Hepburn,"
lived, so that the prospect of our going to tea with her might be made
probable by her catching a passing glimpse of us; at this time
she must be at the window with her Voltaire, or her Rousseau. The
proposition was accepted, and we soon came near the house, which
stood behind a row of large trees, and looked very dismal, with
three-fourths of its windows barred with board shutters.

"Walk slow," Ann entreated. "I see her blinking at us. She has not
shed her satin pelisse yet."

Before we got beyond it a dirty little girl came out of the gate, in
a pair of huge shoes and a canvas apron, which covered her, to call us
back. Mrs. Hepburn had seen us, and wished us to come in, wanting to
know who Miss Adelaide had with her, and to talk with her. She ran
back, reappearing again at the door, out of breath, and minus a shoe.
As we entered a small parlor, an old lady in a black dress, with
a deep cape, held out her withered hand, without rising from her
straight-backed arm-chair, smiling at us, but shaking her head
furiously at the small girl, who lingered in the door.

"Mari, Mari," she called, but no Mari came, and the small girl took
our shawls, for Mrs. Hepburn said we must stay, now that she had
inveigled us inside her doors. Ann mimicked her at her back, but to
her face behaved servilely. The name of Morgeson belonged to the early
historical time of New England, Mrs. Hepburn informed me. I never
knew it; but bowed, as if not ignorant. Old Mari must be consulted
respecting the sweetmeats, and she went after her.

"What an old mouser it is!" said Ann. "What unexpected ways she has!
She scours Belem in her velvet shoes, to find out everybody's history.
Don't you smell buttered toast?"

"Your father is getting the best of the gout," said Mrs. Hepburn,
returning. "How is Desmond? He may be the wickedest of you all, but
I like him the best. I shall not throw away praise of him on you,
Adelaide." And she looked at me.

"He bows well," I said.

"He resembles his mother, who was a great beauty. Mr. Somers was
handsome, too. I was at a ball at Governor Flam's thirty years ago.
Your mother was barely fifteen, then, Adelaide; she was just married,
and opened the ball."

She examined me all the while, with a pair of small, round eyes, from
which the color had faded, but which were capable of reading me.

Tea was served by candlelight, on a small table. Mrs. Hepburn kept
her eyes on everything, talking volubly, and pulled the small, girl's
ears, or pushed her by the shoulder, with faith that we were not
observing her. The toast was well buttered, the sweetmeats were
delicious, and the cake was heavenly, as Ann said. Mrs. Hepburn ate
little, but told us a great deal about marriages in prospect and
incomes which waxed or waned in consequence. When tea was over, she
said to the small girl who removed the tea things, "On your life taste
not of the cake or the sweetmeats; and bring me two sticks of wood,
you huzzy." She arranged the sticks on a decaying fire, inside a high
brass fender, pulled up a stand near the hearth, lighted two candles,
and placed on it a pack of cards.

"Some one may come, so that we can play."

Meantime she dozed upright, walking, talking, and dozing again, like a
crafty old parrot.

"She has a great deal of money saved," Ann whispered behind a book.
"She is over seventy. Oh, she is opening her puss eyes!"

Adelaide mused, after her fashion, on the slippery hair-cloth sofa,
looking at the dim fire, and I surveyed the room. Its aspect attracted
me, though it was precise and stiff. An ugly Turkey carpet covered
the floor; a sideboard was against the wall, with a pair of silver
pitchers on it, and two tall vases, filled with artificial flowers,
under glass shades. Old portraits hung over it. Upon one I fixed my
attention.

"That is the portrait of Count Rumford," Mrs. Hepburn said.

"Can't we see the letters?" begged Ann. "And wont you show us your
trinkets? It is three or four years since we looked them over."

"Yes," she answered, good-humoredly; "ring the bell."

An old woman answered it, to whom Mrs. Hepburn said, in a friendly
voice, "The box in my desk." Adelaide and Ann said, "How do you
do, Mari?" When she brought the box, Mrs. Hepburn unlocked it, and
produced some yellow letters, which we looked over, picking out here
and there bits of Parisian gossip, many, many years old. They were
directed to Cavendish Hepburn, by his friend, the original of the
portrait. But the letters were soon laid aside, and we examined
the contents of the box. Old brooches, miniatures painted on
ivory, silhouettes, hair rings, necklaces, ear-rings, chains, and
finger-rings.

"Did you wear this?" asked Ann with a longing voice, slipping an
immense sapphire ring on her forefinger.

"In Mr. Hepburn's day," she answered, taking up a small case, which
she unfastened and gave me. It contained a peculiar pair of ear-rings,
and a brooch of aqua-marina stones, in a setting perforated like a
net.

"They suit you. Will you accept such an old-fashioned ornament? Put
the rings in; here Ann, fasten them."

Ann glared at her in astonishment, and then at me, for the reason
which had prompted so unexpected a gift.

"Is it possible that I am to have them? Why do you give them to me?
They are beautiful," I replied.

"They came from Europe long ago," she said. "And they happen to suit
you."

'Sabrina fair,
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair.'"

"Those lines make me forgive Paradise Lost," said Adelaide.

"They are very long, these ear-rings," Ann remarked.

I put the brooch in the knot of ribbon I wore; Mrs. Hepburn joggled
the white satin bows of her cap in approbation.

The knocker resounded. "There is our partner," she cried.

"It must be late, ma'am," said Adelaide; "and I suspect it is some one
for us. You know we never venture on impromptu visits, except to you,
and our people know where to send."

"Late or not, you shall stay for a game," she said, as Ben came in,
hat in hand, declaring he had been scouting for us since dark. Mrs.
Hepburn snuffed the candles, and rang the bell. The small girl, with
a perturbed air, like one hurried out of a nap, brought in a waiter,
which she placed on the sideboard.

"Get to bed," Mrs. Hepburn loudly whispered, looking over the waiter,
and taking from it a silver porringer, she put it inside the fender,
and then shuffled the cards.

"Now, Ann, you may sit beside me and learn."

"If it is whist, mum, I know it. I played every afternoon at Hampton
last summer, and we spoiled a nice polished table, we scratched it so
with our nails, picking up the cards."

"Young people do too much, nowadays."

I was in the shadow of the sideboard; Ben stood against it.

"When have you played whist, Cassandra?" he asked in a low voice. "Do
you remember?"

"Is my name Cassandra?"

"Have you forgotten that, too?"

"I remember the rain."

"It is not October, yet."

"And the yellow leaves do not stick to the panes. Would you like to
see Helen?"

"Come, play with me, Ben," called Mrs. Hepburn.

"Ann, try your skill," I entreated, "and let me off."

"She can try," Mrs. Hepburn said sharply. "Don't you like games? I
should have said you were by nature a bold gamester." She dealt the
cards rapidly, and was soon absorbed in the game, though she quarreled
with Ann occasionally, and knocked over the candlestick once. Adelaide
played heroically, and was praised, though I knew she hated play.

Two hours passed before we were released. The fire went out, the
candles burnt low, and whatever the contents of the silver porringer,
they had long been cold. When Mrs. Hepburn saw us determined to go,
she sent us to the sideboard for some refreshment. "My caudle is
cold," taking off the cover of the porringer. "Why, Mari, what is
this?" she said, as the woman made a noiseless entrance with a bowl of
hot caudle.

"I knew how it would be," she answered, putting it into the hands of
her mistress.

"I am a desperate old rake, you mean, Mari. There, take your virtue
off, you appall me."

She poured the caudle into small silver tumblers, and gave them to us.
"The Bequest of a Friend" was engraved on them. Her fingers were like
ice, and her head shook with fatigue; but her voice was sprightly and
her smile bright. Ann ate a good deal of sponge cake, and omitted the
caudle, but I drank mine to the memory of the donor of the cup.

"You know that sherry, Ben," and Mrs. Hepburn nodded him toward a
decanter. He put his hand on it, and took it away. "None to-night,"
he said. Mari came with our shawls, and we hastened away, hearing her
shoot the bolt of the door behind us. Ben drew my arm in his, and the
girls walked rapidly before us. It was a white, hazy night, and the
moon was wallowing in clouds.

"Let us walk off the flavor of Hep's cards," said Adelaide, "and go to
Wolf's Point."

"Do you wish to go?" he asked me.

"Yes."

Ann skipped. A nocturnal excursion suited her exactly.

"You are not to have the toothache to-morrow, or pretend to be lame,"
said Adelaide.

"Not another hiss, Adder. _En avant!_"

We passed down Norfolk Street, now dark and silent, and reached our
house. A light was burning in a room in the third story, and a
window was open. Desmond sat by it, his arms folded across his chest,
smoking, and contemplating some object beyond our view. Ann derisively
apostrophized him, under her breath, while Ben unlocked the court gate
and went in after Rash, who came out quietly, and we proceeded. In
looking behind me, I stumbled.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Are you afraid?"

"Yes."

"Of what?"

"The Prince of Darkness."

"The devil lives a little behind us."

"In you, too, then?"

"In Rash. Look at him; he is bigger than Faust's dog, jumps higher,
and is blacker. You can't hear the least sound from him as he gambols
with his familiar."

We left the last regular street on that side of the city, and entered
a road, bordered by trees and bushes, which hid the country from us.
We crept through a gap in it, crossed two or three spongy fields,
and ascended a hill, reaching an abrupt edge of the rocks, over whose
earthy crest we walked. Below it I saw a strip of the sea, hemmed in
on all sides, for the light was too vague for me to see its narrow
outlet. It looked milky, misty, and uncertain; the predominant shores
stifled its voice, if it ever had one. Adelaide and Ann crouched
over the edge of the rock, reciting, in a chanting tone, from a poem
beginning:

"The river of thy thoughts must keep
its solemn course too still and deep
For idle eyes to see."

Their false intonation of voice and the wordy spirit of the poem
convinced me that poetry with them was an artificial taste. I turned
away. The dark earth and the rolling sky were better. Ben followed.

"I hope Veronica's letter will come to-morrow," he said with a groan.

"Veronica! Why Veronica?"

"Don't torment me."

"She writes letters seldom."

"I have written her."

"She has never written me."

"It might be the means of revealing you to each other to do so."

"Ben, your native air is deleterious."

"You laugh. I feel what you say. I do not attempt to play the
missionary at home, for my field is not here."

"You were wise not to bring Veronica, I see already."

"She would see what I hate myself for."

"One may venture farther with a friend than a lover."

"I thought that _you_ might understand the results of my associations.
Curse them all! Come, girls, we must go back."

CHAPTER XXX.

I took a cold that night. Belem was damp always, but its midnight damp
was worse than any other. Mrs. Somers sent me medicine. Adelaide asked
me, with an air of contemplation, what made me sick, and felt her own
pulse. Ann criticised my nightgown ruffles, and accused me of wearing
imitation lace; but nursing was her forte, and she stayed by me,
annoying me by a frequent beating up of my pillow, and the bringing
in of bowls of strange mixtures for me to swallow, which she persuaded
the cook to make and her father to taste.

Before I left my room, Mrs. Somers came to see me.

"You are about well, I hear," she said, in a cold voice.

I felt as if I had been shamming sickness.

"I thought you were in remarkable health, your frame is so large."

Adelaide was there, and answered for me. "You _are_ delicate. It must
be because you do not take care of yourself."

"Wolf's Point to be avoided, perhaps!"

"I have walked to Wolf's Point for fifteen years, night and day, many
times."

"Mr. Munster's man left this note for you," her mother said, handing
it to her.

She read an invitation from Miss Munster, a cousin, to a small party.

"You will not be able to go," Mrs. Somers remarked to me.

"You will go," Adelaide said; "it is an attention to you altogether."

She never replied to her mother, never asked her any questions, so
that talking between them was a one-sided affair.

"Let us go out shopping, Adelaide; I want some lace to wear," I
begged.

Mrs. Somers looked into her drawers, out of which Adelaide had thrust
her finery, and found mine, but said nothing.

"We are going to a party, Ann. Thanks to your messes and your
nursing," as I passed her in the hall.

"Where is your evening dress?"

"Pinned in a napkin--like my talent."

"Old Cousin Munster, the pirate, who made his money in the opium
trade, has good things in his house. I suppose," with a coquettish
air, "that you will see Ned Munster; he _would_ walk to the door with
me to-day. He wishes me out, I know."

We consumed that evening in talking of dress. Adelaide showed me her
camel's-hair scarfs which Desmond had brought, and her dresses. Ann
tried them all on, walking up and down, and standing tiptoe before the
glass, while I trimmed a handkerchief with the lace I had purchased. I
unfolded my dress after they were gone, with a dubious mind. It was
a heavy white silk, with a blue satin stripe. It might be too
old-fashioned, for it belonged to mother, who would never wear it.
The sleeves were puffed with bands of blue velvet, and the waist was
covered with a berthe of the same. It must do, however, for I had no
other.

We were to go at nine. Adelaide came to my room dressed, and with
her hair arranged exactly like mine. She looked well, in spite of her
Mongolic face.

"Pa wants to see us in his room; he has gone to bed."

"Wait a moment," I begged. I took my hair down, unbraided it, brushed
it out of curl as much as I could, twisted it into a loose mass,
through which I stuck pins enough to hold it, bound a narrow fillet of
red velvet round my head, and ran after her.

"That is much better," she said; "you are entirely changed." Desmond
was there, in his usual careless dress, hanging over the footboard of
the bed, and Ann was huddled on the outside. Mrs. Somers was reading.

"Pa," said Ann, "just think of Old Hepburn's giving her a pair of
lovely ear-rings."

"Did she? Where are they?" asked Mrs. Somers.

"I am not surprised," said Mr. Somers. "Mrs. Hepburn knows where to
bestow. Why not wear them?"

"I'll get them," said Ann.

Mr. Somers continued his compliments. He thought there was a pleasing
contrast between Adelaide and myself, referred to Diana, mentioned
that my hair was remarkably thick, and proceeded with a dissertation
on the growth and decay of the hair, when she returned with the
ear-rings.

"It is too dark here," she said.

Desmond, who had remained silent, took the candle, which Mrs. Somers
was reading by, and held it for Ann, close to my face. The operation
was over, but the candle was not taken away till Mrs. Somers asked for
it sharply.

"I dare say," murmured Mr. Somers, who was growing drowsy, "that Mrs.
Hepburn wore them some night, when she went to John Munster's, forty
years ago, and now you wear them to the son's. How things come round!"

The Munsters' man opened the door for us.

The rooms were full. "Very glad," said Mr., Mrs., and Miss Munster,
and amid a loud buzz we fell back into obscurity. Adelaide joined
a group, who were talking at the top of their voices, with most
hilarious countenances.

"They pretend to have a Murillo here, let us go and find it," said
Ben.

It was in a small room. While we looked at a dark-haired, handsome
woman, standing on brown clouds, with hands so fat that every finger
stood apart, Miss Munster brought up a young gentleman with the
Munster cast of countenance.

"My brother begs an introduction, Miss Morgeson."

Ben retired, and Mr. Munster began to talk volubly, with wandering
eyes, repeating words he was in danger of forgetting. No remarks were
required from me. At the proper moment he asked me to make the tour
of the rooms, and offered his arm. As we were crossing the hall, I saw
Despond, hat in hand, and in faultless evening dress, bowing to Miss
Munster.

"Your Cousin Desmond, and mine, is a fine-looking man, is he not? Let
us speak to him."

I drew back. "I'll not interrupt his _devoir_."

He bowed submissively.

"My cousin Desmond," I thought; "let me examine this beauty." He was
handsomer than Ben, his complexion darker, and his hair black. There
was a flush across his cheek-bones, as if he had once blushed, and the
blush had settled. The color of his eyes I could not determine. As if
to resolve my doubt, he came toward us; they were a deep violet,
and the lids were fringed with long black lashes. I speculated on
something animal in those eyes. He stood beside me, and twisted his
heavy mustache.

"What a pretty boudoir this is," I said, backing into a little room
behind us.

"Ned," he said abruptly, "you must resign Miss Morgeson; I am here to
see her."

"Of course," Ned answered; "I relinquish."

Before a word was spoken between us, Mrs. Munster touched Desmond
on the shoulder, and told him that he must come with her, to be
introduced to Count Montholon.

"Bring him here, please."

"Tyrant," she answered playfully, "the Count shall come."

He brought a chair. "Take this; you are pale. You have been ill."
Bringing another, he seated himself before me and fanned himself with
his hat.

Mrs. Munster came back with the Count, an elderly man, and Desmond
rose to meet him, keeping his hand on the back of his chair. They
spoke French. The freedom of their conversation precluded the idea
of my understanding it. The Count made a remark about me. Desmond
replied, glancing at me, and both pulled their mustaches. The Count
was called away soon, and Desmond resumed his chair.

"I understood you," I said.

"The deuce you did."

He placed his hat over a vase of flowers, which tipping over, he
leisurely righted, and bending toward me, said:

"It was in battle."

"Yes."

"And women like you, pure, with no vice of blood, sometimes are
tempted, struggle, and suffer."

His words, still more his voice, made we wince.

"Even drawn battles bring their scars," I replied.

"Convince me beyond all doubt that a woman can reason with her
impulses, or even fathom them, and I will be in your debt."

"Maybe--but Ben is coming."

He looked at me strangely.

"You must find this very dull, Cassandra," said Ben, joining us.

"_Cassandra_," said Desmond, "are you bored?"

The accent with which he spoke my name set my pulses striking like a
clock. I got up mechanically, as Ben directed.

"They are going to supper. There's game. Des. Munster told me to take
the northeast corner of the table."

"I shall take the southwest, then," he replied, nodding to a tall
gentleman who passed with Adelaide. When we left him, he was observing
a carved oak chair, in occult sympathy probably with the grain of
the wood. Nature strikes us with _her_ phenomena at times when other
resources are not at hand.

We were compelled to wait at the door of the supper-room, the jam was
so great.

"What fairy story do you like best?" asked Ben

"I know which you like."

"Well?"

"Bluebeard. You have an affinity with Sister Ann in the tower."

"Do you think I see nothing 'but the sun which makes a dust and the
grass which looks green?' I believe you like Bluebeard, too."

That was a great joke, at which we both laughed.

When I saw Desmond again, he was surrounded by men, the French Count
among them, drinking champagne. He held a bottle, and was talking
fast. The others were laughing. His listless, morose expression had
disappeared; in the place of a brutal-tempered, selfish, bored man, I
saw a brilliant, jovial gentleman. Which was the real man?

"Finish your jelly," said Ben.

"I prefer looking at your brother."

"Leave my brother alone."

"You see nothing but 'the sun which makes a dust, and the grass which
looks green.'"

Miss Munster hoped I was cared for. How gay Desmond was! she had not
seen such a look in his face in a long time. And how strongly he was
marked with the family traits.

"How am I marked, May?" asked Ben.

"Oh, we know worse eccentrics than you are. What are you up to now?
You are not as frank as Desmond."

He laughed as he looked at me, and then Adelaide called to us that it
was time to leave.

We were among the last; the carriage was waiting. We made our bows to
Mrs. Munster, who complained of not having seen more of us. "You are
a favorite of Mrs. Hepburn's, Miss Morgeson, I am told. She is a
remarkable woman, has great powers." I mentioned my one interview with
her. Guests were going upstairs with smiles, and coming down without,
released from their company manners. We rode home in silence, except
that Adelaide yawned fearfully, and then we toiled up the long stairs,
separating with a tired, "good-night."

I extinguished my candle by dropping my shawl upon it, and groped in
vain for matches over the tops of table and shelf.

"To bed in the dark, then," I said, pulling off my gloves and the
band, from my head, for I felt a tightness in it, and pulled out
the hairpins. But a desire to look in the glass overcame me. I felt
unacquainted with myself, and must see what my aspect indicated just
then.

I crept downstairs, to the dining-room, passed my hands over the
sideboard, the mantel shelf, and took the round of the dinner-table,
but found nothing to light my candle with.

"The fire may not be out in the parlor," I thought; "it can be lighted
there." I ran against the hatstand in the hall, knocking a cane down,
which fell with a loud noise. The parlor door was ajar; the fire was
not out, and Desmond was before it, watching its decay.

"What is it?" he asked.

"The candle," I stammered, confused with the necessity of staying to
have it lighted, and the propriety of retreating in the dark.

"Shall I light it?"

I stepped a little further inside the door and gave it to him. He
grew warm with thrusting it between the bars of the grate, and I grew
chilly. Shivering, and with chattering teeth, I made out to say, "A
piece of paper would do it." Raising his head hastily, it came crash
against the edge of the marble shelf. Involuntarily I shut the door,
and leaned against it, to wait for the effect of the blow; but feeling
a pressure against the outside, I yielded to it, and moved aside. Mrs.
Somers entered, with a candle flaring in one hand, and holding with
the other her dressing-gown across her bosom.

"What are you doing here?" she asked harshly, but in a whisper, her
eyes blazing like a panther's.

"Doing?" I replied; "stay and see."

She swept along, and I followed, bringing up close to Desmond, who had
his hand round his head, and was very pale, either from the effect
of the blow or some other cause. Even the flush across his cheeks had
faded. She looked at him sharply; he moved his hands from his head,
and met her eyes. "I am not drunk, you see," he said in a low voice.
She made an insulting gesture toward me, which meant, "Is this an
adventure of yours?"

The blaze in her eyes kindled a more furious one in his; he stepped
forward with a threatening motion.

Anger raged through me--like a fierce rain that strikes flat a violent
sea. I laid my hand on her arm, which she snapped at like a wolf, but
I spoke calmly:

"You tender, true-hearted creature, full of womanly impulses, allow me
to light my candle by yours!"

I picked it from the hearth, lighted it, and held it close to her
face, laughing, though I never felt less merry. But I had restrained
him.

He took the candle away gently.

"Leave the room," he said to her.

She beckoned me to go.

"No, you shall go."

They made a simultaneous movement with their hands, he to insist, she
to deprecate, and I again observed how exactly alike they were.

"_Desmond_," I implored, "pray allow me to go."

A deep flush suffused his face. He bowed, threw wide the door, and
followed me to the foot of the stairs. I reached my hand for the
candle, for he retained both.

"You, pardon first."

"For what?"

"For much? oh--for much."

What story my face told, I could not have told him. He kissed my hand
and turned away.

At the top of the stairs I looked down. He was there with upturned
face, watching me. Whether he went back to confer with his mother,
I never knew; if he did, the expression which he wore then must have
troubled her. I went to bed, wondering over the mischief that a candle
could do. After I had extinguished it, its wick glowed in the dark
like a one-eyed demon.

CHAPTER XXXI.

Another week passed. Ben had received a letter from Veronica,
informing him that letter-writing was a kind of composition she was
not fond of. He must come to her, and then there would be no need for
writing. Her letter exasperated him. His tenacious mind, lying in wait
to close upon hers, was irritated by her simple, candid behavior. I
could give him no consolation, nor did I care to. It suited me that
his feelings for her weakened his penetration in regard to me.

When he roused at the expression which he saw Desmond fix upon me the
night that Major Millard was there, I expected a rehearsal from him of
watchfulness and suspicion; but no symptom appeared. I was glad, for
I was in love with Desmond. I had known it from the night of Miss
Munster's party. The morning after I woke to know my soul had built
itself a lordly pleasure-house; its dome and towers were firm and
finished, glowing in the light that "never was on land or sea." How
elate I grew in this atmosphere! The face of Nemesis was veiled even.
No eye saw the pure, pale nimbus ringed above it. I did not see
_him_, except as an apparition, for suddenly he had become the most
unobtrusive member of the family, silent and absent. Immunity from
espionage was the immutable family rule. Mrs. Somers, under the
direction of that spirit which isolated me from all exterior
influences, for a little time had shut down the lid of her evil
feelings, and was quiet; watching me, perhaps, but not annoying. Mr.
Somers was engaged with the subject of ventilation. Ann, to convince
herself that she had a musical talent, practiced of afternoons till
she was turned out by Adelaide, who had a fit of reading abstruse
works, sometimes seeking me with fingers thrust between their leaves
to hold abstract conversations, which, though I took small part in
them, were of service.

That portion of the world of emotions which I was mapping out she
was profoundly indifferent to. My experiences to her would have been
debasing. As she would not come to me, I went to her, and gained
something.

Ben, always a favorite with his father, pursued him, rode with him,
and made visits of pleasure or business, with a latent object which
kept him on the alert.

I had been in Belem three weeks; in a week more I decided to return
home. My indignation against Mrs. Somers, from our midnight interview,
had not suggested that I should shorten my visit. On the contrary, it
had freed me from any regard or fear of her opinion. I had discovered
her limits.

It was Saturday afternoon. Reflecting that I had but a few days more
for Belem, and summing up the events of my visit and the people I had
met, their fashions and differences, I unrolled a tolerable panorama,
with patches in it of vivid color, and laid it away in my memory, to
be unrolled again at some future time. Then a faint shadow dropped
across my mind like a curtain, the first that clouded my royal palace,
my mental paradise!

I sighed. Joyless, vacant, barren hours prefigured themselves to me,
drifting through my brain, till their vacant shapes crowded it into
darkness. I must do something! I would go out; a walk would be good
for me. Moreover, wishing to purchase a parting gift for Adelaide and
Ann, I would go alone. Wandering from shop to shop in Norfolk Street,
without finding the articles I desired, I turned into a street which
crossed it, and found the right shop. Seeing Drummond Street on an old
gable-end house, a desire to exchange with some one a language which
differed from my thoughts prompted me to look up Mrs. Hepburn. I soon
came to her house, and knocked at the door, which Mari opened. The
current was already changed, as I followed her into a room different
from the one where I had seen Mrs. Hepburn. It was dull of aspect,
long and narrow, with one large window opening on the old-fashioned
garden, and from which I saw a discolored marble Flora. Mrs. Hepburn
was by the window, in her high chair. She held out her hand and
thanked me for coming to see an old woman. Motioning her head toward a
dark corner, she said, "There is a young man who likes occasionally to
visit an old woman also."

The young man, twenty-nine years old, was Desmond. He crossed the
room and offered me his hand. We had not spoken since we parted at
the stairs that memorable night. He hastily brought chairs, and placed
them near Mrs. Hepburn, who seized her spectacles, which were on a
silk workbag beside her, scanned us through them, and exclaimed, "Ah
ha! what is this?"

"Is it something in me, ma'am?" said Desmond, putting his head before
my face so that it was hid from her.

"Something in both of you; thief! thief!"

She rubbed her frail hand against my sleeve, muttering, "See now,
so!--the same characteristics."

"I spoke of the difference of the rooms; the one we were in reminded
me of a lizard! The walls were faint gray, and every piece of
furniture was covered with plain yellow chintz, while the carpet was
a pale green. She replied that she always moved from her winter parlor
to this summer room on the twenty-second day of April, which had
fallen the day before, for she liked to watch the coming out of the
shrubs in the garden, which were as old as herself. The chestnut had
leaved seventy times and more; and the crippled plum, whose fruit was
so wormy to eat, was dying with age. As for the elms at the bottom of
the garden, for all she knew they were a thousand years old.

"The elms are a thousand years old," I repeated and repeated to
myself, while she glided from topic to topic with Desmond, whose
conversation indicated that he was as cultivated as any ordinary
gentleman, when the Pickersgill element was not apparent. The form of
the garden-goddess faded, the sun had gone below the garden wall. The
garden grew dusk, and the elms began to nod their tops at me. I became
silent, listening to the fall of the plummet, which dropped again
and again from the topmost height of that lordly domain, over which
shadows had come. Were they sounding its foundations?

My eyes roved the garden, seeking the nucleus of an emotion which
beset me now--not they, but my senses, formed it--in a garden miles
away, where nodded a row of elms, under which _Charles Morgeson_
stood.

"_I am glad you're here, my darling, do you smell the roses?_"

"Are you going?" I heard Mrs. Hepburn say in a far-off voice. I was
standing by the door.

"Yes, madam; the summer parlor does not delay the sunset."

"Come again. When do you leave Belem?"

"In few days."

Desmond made a grimace, and went to the window.

"Who returns with you," she continued, "Ben? He likes piloting."

"I hope he will; I came here to please him."

"Pooh! You came here because Mr. Somers had a crotchet."

"Well; I was permitted somehow to come."

"It was perfectly right. A woman like you need not question whether a
thing is convenable."

Desmond turned from the window, and bestowed upon her a benign smile,
which she returned with a satisfied nod.

This implied flattery tinkled pleasantly on my ears, allaying a doubt
which I suffered from. Did I realize how much the prestige of those
Belem saints influenced me, or how proud I was with the conviction of
affiliation with those who were plainly marked with Caste?

"Walk with me," he demanded, as we were going down the steps.

We passed out of Drummond Street into a wide open common. Rosy clouds
floated across the zenith, and a warm, balmy wind was blowing. I
thought of Veronica, calm and happy, as the spring always made her,
and the thought was a finishing blow to the variety of moods I had
passed through. The helm of my will was broken.

"There is a good view from Moss Hill yonder," he said. "Shall we go
up?"

I bowed, declining his arm, and trudged beside him. From its summit
Belem was only half in sight. Its old, crooked streets sloped and
disappeared from view; Wolf's Point was at the right of us, and its
thread of sea. I began talking of our walk, and was giving an extended
description of it, when he abruptly asked why I came to Belem.

"I know," he said, "that you would not have come, had there been any
sentiment between you and Ben."

"Thanks for your implication. But I must have made the visit, you
know, or how could I learn that I should not have made it?"

"You regret coming?"

"Veronica will give me no thanks."

"Who is she?"

"My sister, whom Ben loves."

"Ben love a sister of yours? My God--how? when first? where? And how
came you to meet him?"

"That chapter of accidents need not be recounted. Can you help him?"

"What can I do?" he said roughly. "There is little love between us.
You know what a devil's household ours is; but he is one of us--he is
afraid."

"Of what?"

"Of mother--of our antecedents--of himself."

"I could not expect you to speak well of him."

"Of course not. Your sister has no fortune?"

"She has not. Men whose merchandise is ships are apt to die bankrupt."

"Your father is a merchant?"

"Even at that, the greatest of the name.

"We are all tied up, you know. Ben's allowance is smaller than mine.
He is easy about money; therefore he is pa's favorite."

"Why do you not help yourselves?"

"Do you think so? You have not known us long. Have you influenced Ben
to help himself?"

I marched down the hill without reply. Repassing Mrs. Hepburn's, he
said, "My grandfather was an earl's son."

"Mrs. Hepburn likes you for that. My grandfather was a tailor; I
should have told her so, when she gave me the aqua marina jewels."

"Had you the courage?"

"I forgot both the fact and the courage."

I hurried along, for it grew dark, and presently saw Ben on the steps
of the house.

"Have you been walking?" he asked.

"It looks so. Yes, with me," answered Desmond. "Wont you give me
thanks for attention to your friend?"

"It must have been a whim of Cassandra's."

"Break her of whims, if you can--"

"I _will_."

We went into the parlor together.

"Where do you think I have been?" Ben asked.

"Where?"

"For the doctor. The _baby_ is sick"; and he looked hard at Desmond.

"I hope it will live for years and years," I said.

"I know what you are at, Ben," said Desmond. "I have wished the brat
dead; but upon my soul, I have a stronger wish than that--I have
_forgotten_ it."

There was no falseness in his voice; he spoke the truth.

"Forgive me, Des."

"No matter about that," he answered, sauntering off.

I felt happier; that spark of humanity warmed me. I might not have
another. "I would," I said, "that the last day, the last moments of my
visit had come. You will see me henceforth in Surrey. I will live and
die there."

"To-night," Ben said, "I am going to tell pa."

"That is best."

"Horrible atmosphere!"

"It would kill Verry."

"You thrive in it," he said, with a spice of irritation in his voice.

"Thrive!"

Adelaide and Ann proved gracious over my gift. They were talking of
the doctor's visit. Ann said the child was teething, for she had
felt its gums; nothing else was the matter. There need be no
_apprehension_. She should say so to Desmond and Ben, and would post a
letter to her brother in unknown parts.

"Miss Hiticutt has sent for us to come over to tea," Adelaide informed
me. The black silk I wore would do, for we must go at once.

The quiet, formal evening was a pleasant relief, although I was
troubled with a desire to inform Mrs. Somers of Ben's engagement, for
the sake of exasperating her. We came home too early for bed, Adelaide
said; beside, she had music-hunger. I must sing. Mrs. Somers was by
the fire, darning fine napkins, winking over her task, maintaining
in her aspect the determination to avert any danger of a midnight
interview with Desmond. That gentleman was at present sleeping on a
sofa. I seated myself before the piano, wondering whether he slept
from wine, ennui, or to while away the time till I should come. I
touched the keys softly, waiting for an interpreting voice, and half
unconsciously sang the lines of Schiller:

"I hear the sound of music, and the halls
Are full of light. Who are the revelers?"

Desmond made an inarticulate noise and sprang up, as if in answer to a
call. A moment after he stepped quietly over the back of the sofa
and stood bending over me. I looked up. His eyes were clear, his face
alive with intuition. Though Adelaide was close by, she was oblivious;
her eyes were cast upward and her fingers lay languid in her lap. Ann,
more lively, introduced a note here and there into my song to her own
satisfaction. Mrs. Somers I could not see; but I stopped and, giving
the music stool a turn, faced her. She met me with her pale, opaque
stare, and began to swing her foot over her knee; her slipper, already
down at her heel, fell off. I picked it up in spite of her negative
movement and hung it on the foot again.

"I shall speak with you presently," she whispered, glancing at
Desmond.

He heard her and his face flashed with the instinct of sport, which
made me ashamed of any desire for a struggle with her.

"Good-night," I said abruptly, turning away.

"We are all sleepy except this exemplary housewife with her napkins,"
cried Ann. "We will leave her."

"Cassandra," said Adelaide, when we were on the stairs, "how well you
look!"

Ann, elevating her candle, remarked my eyes shone like a cat's.

"Hiticutt's tea was too strong," added Adelaide; "it dilates the
pupils. I am sorry you are going away," and she kissed me; this favor
would have moved me at any other time, but now I rejoiced to see her
depart and leave me alone. I sat down by the toilet table and was
arranging some bottles, when Mrs. Somers rustled in. Out of breath,
she began haughtily:

"What do you mean?"

A lethargic feeling crept over me; my thoughts wandered; I never spoke
nor stirred till she pulled my sleeve violently.

"If you touch me it will rouse me. Did a child of yours ever inflict a
blow upon you?"

She turned purple with rage, looming up before my vision like a peony.

"When are you going home?"

I counted aloud, "Sunday--Monday," and stopped at Wednesday. "Ben is
going back with me."

"_He_ may go."

"And not Desmond?"

"Do you know Desmond?"

"Not entirely."

"He has played with such toys as you are, and broken them."

"Alas, he is hereditarily cruel! Could _I_ expect not to be broken?"

She caught up a glass goblet as if to throw it, but only grasped it so
tight that it shivered. "There goes one of the Pickersgill treasures,
I am sure," I thought.

"I am already scarred, you see. I have been 'nurtured in
convulsions.'"

The action seemed to loosen her speech; but she had to nerve herself
to say what she intended; for some reason or other, she could not
remain as angry as she wished. What she said I will not repeat.

"Madam, I have no plans. If I have a Purpose, it is formless yet. If
God saves us what can you do?"

She made a gesture of contempt.

"You have no soul to thank me for what may be my work," and I opened
the door.

Ben stood on the threshhold.

"In God's name, what is this?"

I pointed to his mother. She looked uneasy, and stepping forward put
her hand on his arm; but he shook her off.

"You may call me a fool, Cassandra, for bringing you here," he said in
a bitter voice, "besides calling me cruel for subjecting you to these
ordeals. I knew how it would be with mother. What is it, madam?" he
asked imperiously, looking so much like her that I shuddered.

"It is not you she is after," she hotly exclaimed.

"No, I should think not." And he led her out swiftly.

I heard Mrs. Somers say at breakfast, as I went in, "We are to lose
Miss Cassandra on Wednesday." I looked at Desmond, who was munching
toast abstractedly. He made a motion for me to take the chair beside
him, which I obeyed. Ben saw this movement, and an expression of pain
passed over his face. At that instant I remembered that Desmond's
being seen in the evening and in the morning was a rare occurrence.
Mr. Somers took up the remark of Mrs. Somers where she had left it,
and expatiated on it till breakfast was over, so courteously and so
ramblingly that I was convinced the affair Ben had at heart had been
revealed. He invited me to go to church, and he spent the whole of the
evening in the parlor; and although Desmond hovered near me all day
and all the evening, we had no opportunity of speaking to each other.

CHAPTER XXXII.

On Tuesday morning Adelaide sent out invitations to a farewell
entertainment, as she called it, for Tuesday evening. Mrs. Somers,
affecting great interest in it, engaged my services in wiping the
dust from glass and china; "too valuable," she said, "for servants to
handle." We spent a part of the morning in the dining-room and pantry.
Ann was with us. If she went out, Mrs. Somers was silent; when present
she chatted. While we were busy Desmond came in, in riding trousers
and whip in hand.

"What nonsense!" he said, touching my hand with the whiplash. "Will
you ride with me after dinner?"

"I must have the horses at three o'clock," said his mother, "to go to
Mrs. Flint's funeral. She was a family friend, you know." The funeral
could not be postponed, even for Desmond; but he grew ill-humored at
once, swore at Murphy, who was packing a waiter at the sideboard, for
rattling the plates; called Ann a minx, because she laughed at him;
and bit a cigar to pieces because he could not light it. Rash had
followed him, his nose against his velveteens, in entreaty to go with
him; I was pleased at this sign of amity between them. At a harder
push than common he looked down and kicked him away.

"Noble creature," I said, "try your whip on him. Rash, go to your
master," and I opened the door. Two smaller dogs, Desmond's property,
made a rush to come in; but I shut them out, whereat they whined so
loudly that Mrs. Somers was provoked to attack him for bringing his
dogs in the house. An altercation took place, and was ended by Desmond
declaring that he was on his way after a bitch terrier, to bring it
home. He went out, giving me a look from the door, which I answered
with a smile that made him stamp all the way through the hall. Mrs.
Somers's feelings as she heard him peeped out at me. Groaning in
spirit, I finished my last saucer and betook myself to my room and
read, till summoned by Mrs. Somers to a consultation respecting the
furniture coverings. Desmond came home, but spoke to no one, hovering
in my vicinity as on the day before.

In the afternoon Adelaide and I went in the carriage to make calls
upon those we did not expect to see in the evening. She wrote P.P.C.
on my cards and laughed at the idea of paying farewell visits to
strangers. The last one was made to Mrs. Hepburn. A soft melancholy
crept over me when I entered the room where I had met Desmond last. We
should probably not see each other alone again. Mrs. Somers's policy
to that effect would be a success, for I should make no opposition to
it. Not a word of my feelings could I speak to Mrs. Hepburn--Adelaide
was there--provided I had the impulse; and Mrs. Hepburn would be the
last to forgive me should I make the conventional mistake of a scene
or an aside. This old lady had taught me something. I went to the
window, curious to know whether any nerve of association would vibrate
again. Nothing stirred me; the machinery which had agitated and
controlled me was effete.

Mrs. Hepburn said, as we were taking leave:

"If you come to Belem next year, and I am above the sod, I invite you
to pass a month with me. But let it be in the summer. I ride then, and
should like you for a companion."

She might have seen irresolution in me, for she added quickly, "You
need not promise--let time decide," and shook my hands kindly.

"Hep, is smitten with you, in her selfish way," Adelaide remarked, as
we rode from the door. She ordered the coachman to drive home by the
"Leslie House," which she wanted me to see. A great aunt had lived
and died there, leaving the house--one of the oldest in Belem--to her
brother Ned.

"Who is he like?"

"Desmond; but worse. There's only a year's difference in their ages.
They were educated together, kept in the nursery till they were great
boys and tyrants, and then sent abroad. They were in Amiens three
years."

"There are Desmond and Ben; they are walking in the street we are
passing."

She looked out.

"They are quarreling, I dare say. Ben is a prig, and preaches to Des."

While we were in the house, and Adelaide talked with the old servant
of her aunt, my thoughts were occupied with Desmond. What had they
quarreled on? Desmond was pale, and laughed; but Ben was red, and
looked angry.

"Why do you look at me so fixedly?" Adelaide asked, when we were in
the carriage again.

It was on my tongue to say, "Because I am beset." I did not, however;
instead I asked her if she never noticed what a rigid look people wore
in their best bonnets, and holding a card-case? She said, "Yes," and
shook out her handkerchief, as if to correct her own rigidity.

After an early tea she compelled me to sing, and we delayed dressing
till Mrs. Somers bloomed in, with purple satin and feather head-dress.

"Now we must go," she said, "and get ready."

"What shall you wear?" Mrs. Somers asked, advising a certain ugly,
claret-colored silk.

"Be sure not," said Adelaide on the stairs. "That dress makes your
hair too yellow."

I heard loud laughing in the third story, and heavy steps, while I
was in my room; and when I went down, I saw two gentlemen in evening
dress, standing by Desmond, at the piano, and singing, "_Fill, fill
the sparkling brimmer_." They were, as Ann informed me, college
friends of Des, who had arrived for a few days' visit, she supposed;
disagreeable persons, of course. They were often in Belem to ride,
fish, or play billiards. "Pa hates them," she said in conclusion. Mr.
Somers entering at this moment, in his _diplomatique_ style, his gouty
white hands shaded with wristbands, and his throat tied with a white
cravat, appeared to contradict her assertion, he was so affable in his
salutations to the young men. Desmond turned from the piano when he
heard his father's voice, and caught sight of me. He started toward
me; but his attention was claimed by one of the gentlemen, who had
been giving me a prolonged stare, and he dropped back on his seat,
with an indifferent air, answering some question relating to myself.
He looked as when I first saw him--flushed, haughty, and bored. His
hair and dress were disordered, his boots splashed with mud; and it
was evident that he did not intend to appear at the party.

Adelaide called me to remain by her; but I slipped away when I thought
no more would arrive, and sought a retired corner, to which Mr. Somers
brought Desmond's friends, introducing them as the sons of his college
chums, and leaving them, one lolling against the mantel, the other
over the back of a chair. They were muzzy with drink, and seemed to
grow warm, as I looked from one to the other, with an attentive air.

"You are visiting in Belem," said one.

"That is true," I replied.

"It is too confoundedly aristocratic for me; it knocks Beacon Street
into nothingness."

"Where is Beacon Street?"

"Don't you know _that_? Nor the Mall?"

"No."

Our conversation was interrupted by Ben, whom I had not seen since the
day before. He had been out of town, transacting some business for
his father. We looked at each other without speaking, but divined each
other's thoughts. "You _are_ as true and noble as I think you are,
Cassy. I must have it so. You _shall not_ thwart me." "Faithful
and good Ben,--do you pass a sufficiently strict examination upon
yourself? Are you not disposed to carry through your own ideas without
considering _me_?" Whatever our internal comments were, we smiled upon
each other with the sincerity of friendship, and I detected Mr. Digby
in the act of elevating his eyebrows at Mr. Devereaux, who signified
his opinion by telegraphing back: "It is all over with them."

"Hey, Somers," said the first; "what are you doing nowadays?"

"Pretty much the same work that I always have on hand."

"Do you mean to stick to Belem?"

"No."

"I thought so. But what has come over Des. lately? He is spoony."

"He is going backward, may be, to some course he omitted in his career
with you fellows. We must run the same round somehow, you know."

"He'll not find much reason for it, when he arrives," Mr. Devereaux
said.

Miss Munster joined us, with the intention of breaking up our
conclave, and soon moved away, with Mr. Digby and Devereaux in her
train.

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