Part 3 out of 8
spit from the window.'
"'Ah, indeed, sir! and pray, if I may ask, what was it you saw?'
"'Really very curious; but getting up to spit, and looking out
before I did so--necessary caution, ma'am--some persons might be
just under the window, you know--'
"'Yes, sir, yes.' The old creature began to look and talk mighty
"'An ugly habit, ma'am--that of spitting. We Kentuckians carry it to
great excess. Foreigners, I'm told, count it monstrous vulgar--effect
of tobacco-chewing, ma'am--a deuced bad habit, I grant you, but 'tis
a habit, and there's no leaving it off, even if we would. I don't
think Kentuckians, as a people, a bit more vulgar than English, or
French, or Turks, or any other respectable people of other countries.'
"'No, sir, certainly not; but the transaction--what you saw.'
"Ah yes! beg pardon; but, as I was saying, something really quite
suspicious! Just as I was about to spit, when I went to the window,
some ten minutes ago--perhaps you did not observe, but I did not
spit. Good reason for it, ma'am--might have done mischief"
"Ah that brings me to the question I want to ask: any handsome
young ladies living about here, ma'am?--here, in your neighborood?"
"Why, yes, sir," answered the old tabby, with something like
surprise; there's several--there's the Masons, just opposite: the
Bagbys, next door to them below, and Mr. Wilford's daughter: all
of them would be considered pretty by some persons. On the same
side with us, there's Mrs. Freeman and her two daughters, but the
widow is accounted by many the youngest looking and prettiest of
the whole, though, to my thinking, that's saying precious little for
any. Next door to us is a Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs, who have a daughter,
and she IS rather pretty, but I don't know much about them. It might
be a mother's vanity, sir, but I think I may be proud of having a
daughter myself, who is about as pretty as any of the best among
them; and that's saying a great deal less for her than might be
"Ah, indeed--you a daughter, ma'am? But she is not grown-up, of
course--a mere child?"
"Oh, I beg your pardon, sir, said the old creature, tickled up to
the eyes, and looking at me with the sweetest smiles; though it
may surprise you very much, she is not only no child, but a woman
grown; and, what's more, I think she will be made a wife this very
"Egad, then I suspect she's not the only one that's about to
be made a wife of. I suspect some one of these young ladies, your
neighbors, will be very soon in the same condition."
"Indeed, sir--pray, who?--how do you know? and the old tabby edged
herself along the sofa until she almost got jam up beside me."
"Well, said I, I don't KNOW exactly, but I'm deucedly suspicious
of it, and, more than that, there's some underhand work going on."
"This made her more curious than ever; and her hands and feet, and
indeed her whole body, got such a fidgeting, that I fancied she
began to think of getting St. Vitus for a bedfellow. Her eagerness
made her ask me two or three times what made me think so; and, seeing
her anxiety, I purposely delayed in order to worry her. I wished
to see how far I could run her up. When I did begin to explain,
I went to work in a round-about way enough--something thus, old
Kentuck--as I began: "Well, ma'am, this tobacco-chewing, as I said
before, carried me, as you witnessed, constantly to the window.
I don't know that I chew more than many others, but I know I chew
too much for my good, and for decency, too, ma'am."
"Yes, sir, yes; but the young lady, and--"
"Ah, yes, ma'am. Well, then, going to the window once, twice, or
thrice, I could not help but see a young man standing beneath it,
evidently in waiting--very earnest, very watchful--seemingly very
much interested and anxious, as if waiting for somebody."
"Is it possible?" whispered the tabby, full of expectation.
"Yes, very possible, ma'am--very true." There he stood; I could even
hoar his deep-drawn sighs--deep, long, as if from the very bottom
of his heart.'
"Was he so VERY near, sir?"
"Just under the window--going to and fro--very anxious. I was
almost afraid I had spit on him, he looked up so hard--so--"
"What, sir, up at you? at--at MY windows, sir?"
"Not exactly, ma'am, that was only my notion, for I thought I
might have spit upon him, and so wakened his anger; but, indeed,
he looked all about him, as, indeed, it was natural that he should,
you know, if he meditated anything that wa'n't exactly right. There
was a carriage in waiting--a close carriage--not a hundred yards
"Ah, sir, do tell me what sort of a looking young gentleman was
"Good-looking fellow enough, ma'am--rather tall, slenderish, but
not so slender--wore a black frock." By this time the old creature
was up at the window--her long, skinny neck stretched out as far
as it could go.
"Ah!" said I, "ma'am, you're quite too late, if you expect to see
the sport. They're off; I saw the last of them when I took my last
spit from the window. They were then--"
"But, sir, did he--did you say that this person--the person you
spit on--carried a young lady away with him?"
"You mistake me, ma'am--"
"Ah"--she drew a mighty long breath as if relieved.
"I did NOT spit upon him; I only came near doing it once or twice.
If I hadn't looked, I should very probably have divided my quid
pretty equally between both of them."
"Both! both!" she almost screamed. "Did she go with him, then?--was
there in truth a young woman?"
"You never saw a creature in such a tearing fidget. Her long
nose was nearly stuck into my face, and both her hands, all claws
extended, seemed ready for my cheeks. I felt a little ticklish, I
assure you; but I kept up my courage, determined to see the game
out, and answered very deliberately, after I had put a fresh quid
into my jaws:--"
"Ay, that she did, ma'am, and seemed deuced glad to go, as was
natural enough. A mighty pretty girl she was, too; rather thin,
but pretty enough to tempt a clever fellow to do anything. I reckon
they're nigh on to being man and wife by this time, let the old
people say what they will."
"But the old put didn't wait to hear me say all this. Before the
words were well out of my mouth, she gave a bounce, to the bell-rope
first--I thought she'd ha' jerked it to pieces--and then to the
head of the stairs."
"Excuse me for a moment, sir, if you please," she said, in a
"Certainly, ma'am," says I, with a great Kentucky sort of bow and
natural civility; and then I could hear her squalling from the
head of the stairs, and at the top of her voice, "Julia! Julia!
Julia!"--but there was no answer from Julia. Then came the servants;
then came the outcry; then she bounced back into the parlor,
and blazed out at me for not telling her at once that it was her
daughter who had been carried off, without making so long a story
of it, and putting in so much talk about tobacco.
"Lord bless you, my dear woman!" says I, innocent enough, was that
pretty girl your daughter? That accounts for the fellow looking
up at the window so often; and I to fancy that it was all because
I might have given him a quid!"
"You must have seen her THEN!"
"Well, ma'am," said I, "I must come again about the negroes. I
see you've got your hands full."
"And, with that, I pushed down stairs, while she blazed out at
her husband, whom she called an old fool; and me, whom she called
a young one; and the negroes, whom she ordered to fly in a hundred
ways in the same breath; and, to make matters worse, she seized
her hat and shawl, and bounced down the steps after me. Here we
were in a fix again, that made her a hundred times more furious.
The street-door was locked on the outside, and the key gone, and
I fastened up with the old mad tabby. I tried to stand it while
the servants were belaboring to break open, but the storm was too
heavy, and, raising a sash, I went through: and, in good faith, I
believe she bounced through after me; for, when I got fairly into
the street and looked round, there she went, bounce, flounce,
pell-mell, all in a rage, steam up, puffing like a porpoise--though,
thank Jupiter! she took another course from myself. I was glad to
get out of her clutches, I assure you."
Such was Kingsley's account of his expedition, told in his
particular manner; and endued with the dramatic vitality which he
was well able to give it, it was inimitable. It needs but a few
words to finish it. Mrs. Clifford, with unerring instinct, made
her way to the house of that friendly lady who had assisted our
proceedings. But she came too late for anything but abuse. Julia
was irrevocably mine. Bitter was the clamor which, in our chamber,
assailed us from below.
"Oh, Edward, how shall I meet her?" was the convulsive speech of
Julia, as she heard the fearful sounds of her mother's voice--a
voice never very musical, and which now, stimulated by unmeasured
rage--the rage of a baffled and wicked woman--poured forth a torrent
of screams rather than of human accents. We soon heard the rush
of the torrent up stairs, and in the direction of our chamber.
"Fear nothing, Julia; her power over you is now at an end. You
are now mine--mine only--mine irrevocably!"
"Ah, she is still my mother!" gasped the lovely trembler in my
arms. A moment more, and the old lady was battering at the door. I
had locked it within. Her voice, husky but subdued, now called to
"Julia! Julia! Julia!--come out!"
"Who is there? what do you want?" I demanded. I was disposed to
keep her out, but Julia implored me to open the door. She had really
no strength to reply to the summons of the enraged woman; and her
entreaty to me was expressed in a whisper which scarcely filled
my own ears. She was weak almost to fainting. I trembled lest her
weakness, coupled with her fears, and the stormy scene that I felt
might be reasonably anticipated, would be too much for her powers
of endurance. I hesitated. She put her hand on my wrist.
"For my sake, Edward, let her in. Let her see me. We will have to
meet her, and better now--now, when I feel all the solemnity of
my new position, and while the pledges I have just made are most
present to my thoughts. Do not fear for me. I am weak and very
feeble, but I am resolute. I feel that I am not wrong."
She could scarcely gasp out these brief sentences. I urged her not
to risk her strength in the interview.
"As you love me, do as I beg you," she replied, with entreating
earnestness. "It does not become me to keep my mother, under any
circumstances, thus waiting at the door, and asking entrance."
Meanwhile, the clamors of Mrs. Clifford were continued. Julia's
aunt was there also, and the controversy was hot and heavy between
them. Annoyed as I was, and apprehensive for Julia. I yet could not
forbear laughing at the ludicrousness of my position and the whole
scene. I began to think, from the equal violence of the two ancient
dames without, that they might finally get to blows. This was also
the fear of Julia, and another reason why we should throw open the
door. I at length did so; and soon had the doubtful satisfaction
of transferring to myself all the wrath of the disappointed mother.
She rushed in, the moment the door turned upon its hinges, almost
upsetting me in the violence of her onset. Bounding into the apartment
with a fury that was utterly beyond her own control, I was led to
fear that she might absolutely inflict violence upon her daughter,
who by this time had sunk, in equal terror and exhaustion, upon a
sofa in the remotest corner of the room. I hastily placed myself
between them, and did not scruple, with extended hands, to maintain
a safe interval of space between the two. I will not attempt to
describe the tigress rage or the shrieking violence which ensued on
the part of this veteran termagant. It was only closed at length,
when, Julia having fainted under the storm, dead to all appearance,
I picked up the assailant VI ET ARMIS, and, in defiance of screams
and scratches--for she did not spare the use of her talons--resolutely
transported her from the chamber.
ONE DEBT PAID.
Staggering forward under this burden--a burden equally active and
heavy--who should I encounter at the head of the stairs, but the
liege lord of the lady--my poor imbecile uncle. As soon as she
beheld him--foaming and almost unintelligible in her rage--she
screamed for succor--cried "murder" "rape," "robbery," and heaven
knows what besides. A moment before, though she scratched and
scuffled to the utmost, she had not employed her lungs. A momentary
imprecation alone had broken from her, as it were, perforce and
unavoidably. Now, nothing could exceed the stentorian tumult which
her tongue maintained. She called upon her husband to put me to
death--to tear me in pieces--to do anything and everything for the
punishing of so dreadful an offender as myself. In thus commanding
him, she did not forbear uttering her own unmeasured opinion of
the demerits of the man whose performances she required.
"If you had the spirit of a man, Clifford--if you were not a poor
shoat--you'd never have submitted so long as you have to this
viper's insolence. And there you stand, doing nothing--absolutely
still as a stock, though you see him beating your wife. Ah! you
monster!--you coward!--that I should ever have married a man that
wasn't able to protect me."
This is a sufficient sample of her style, and not the worst. I am
constrained to confess that some portions of the good lady's language
would better have suited the modes of speech common enough among
the Grecian housekeepers at the celebration of the Eleusinian
mysteries. I have omitted not a few of the bad words, and forborne
the repetition of that voluminous eloquence poured out, after
the Billingsgate fashion, equally upon myself, her daughter, and
husband. During the vituperation she still kicked and scuffled;
my face suffered, and my eyes narrowly escaped. But I grasped her
firmly; and when her husband, my worthy uncle, in obedience to her
orders, sprang upon me, with the bludgeon which he now habitually
carried, I confronted him with the lusty person of his spouse, and
regret to say, that the first thwack intended for my shoulders,
descended with some considerable emphasis upon hers. This increased
her fury, and redoubled her screams. But it did not lessen my
determination, or make me change my mode of proceeding. I resolutely
pushed her before me. The husband stood at the head of the stairs
and my object was to carry her down to the lower story. The stairs
were narrow, and by keeping up a good watch, I contrived to force
him to give ground, using his spouse as a sort of battering-RAM--not to
perpetrate a pun at the expense of the genders--which, I happened
to know, had always been successful in making him give ground on all
previous occasions. His habitual deference for the dame, assisted
me in my purpose. Step by step, however, he disputed my advance;
but I was finally successful; without any injury beyond that which
had been inflicted by the talons of the fair lady, and perhaps
a single and slight stroke upon the shoulder from the club of her
husband, I succeeded in landing her upon the lower flat in safety.
Beyond a squeeze or two, which the exigency of the case made
something more affectionate than any I should have been otherwise
pleased to bestow upon her, she suffered no hurt at my hands.
But, though willing to release her, she was not so willing herself
to be released. When I set her free, she flew at me with cat-like
intrepidity; and I found her a much more difficult customer than
her husband. Him I soon baffled. A moment sufficed to grapple with
him and wrench the stick from his hands, and then, with a moderate
exercise of agility, I contrived to spring up the stairway which I
had just descended, regain the chamber, and secure the door, before
they could overtake or annoy me with their further movements. My
wife's aunt, meanwhile, had been busy with her restoratives. Julia
was now recovering from the fainting fit; and I had the satisfaction
of hearing from one of the servants that the baffled enemy had gone
off in a fury that made their departure seem a flight rather than
a mere retreat.
I should have treated the whole event with indifference--their
rage and their regard equally--but for my suffering and sensitive
wife. Wronged as she had been, and so persecuted as to render all
her subsequent conduct justifiable, she yet forgot none of her
filial obligations; and, in compliance with her earnest entreaties,
I had already, the very day after this conflict, prepared an
elaborate and respectful epistle to both father and mother, when
an event took place of startling solemnity, which was calculated
to subdue my anger, and make the feelings of my wife, if possible,
more accessible than ever to the influences of fear and sorrow.
Only three days from our marriage had elapsed, when her father was
stricken speechless in the street. He was carried home for dead.
I have already hinted that, months before, and just after the
threatened discovery of those fraudulent measures by which he lost
his fortune, his mind had become singularly enfeebled; his memory
failing, and all his faculties of judgment--never very strong--growing
capricious, or else obtuse and unobserving. These were the symptoms
of a rapid physical change, the catastrophe of which was at hand.
How far the excitement growing out of his daughter's flight and
marriage may have precipitated this result, is problematical. It
may be said, in this place, that my wife's mother charged it all to
my account. I was pronounced the murderer of her husband. On this
head I did not reproach myself. It was necessary, however, that a
reconciliation should take place between the father and his child.
To this I had, of course, no sort of objection. But it will scarce
be believed that the miserable woman, her mother, opposed herself to
their meeting with the utmost violence of her character. Nothing
but the outcry of the family and all its friends--including
the excellent physician whose secret services had contributed so
much toward my happiness--compelled her to give way, though still
ungraciously, to the earnest entreaty of her daughter for permission
to see her father before he died! and even then, by the death-bed
of the unhappy and almost unconscious man, she recommenced the scene
of abuse and bitter reproach, which, however ample the reader and
hearer may have already found it, it appears she had left unfinished.
It was in the midst of a furious tirade, directed against myself,
chiefly, and Julia, in part, that the spasms of death, unperceived
by the mother, passed over the contracted muscles of the father's
face. The bitter speech of the blind woman--blind of heart--was actually
finished after death had given the final blow to the victim. Of
this she had no suspicion, until instructed by the piercing shrieks
of her daughter, who fell swooning upon the corse before her.
It was supposed by Julia and certain of her friends that an event
so solemn, so impressive, and so unexpected, as the death of Mr.
Clifford, would reasonably affect the mind of his widow; and the
concessions which I had meditated to address to herself and her
late husband were now so varied as to apply solely to herself. I
took considerable pains in preparing my letter, with the view to
soften her prejudices and asperities, as well as to convince her
reason. There was one suggestion which Julia was disposed to insist
on, to which, however, I was singularly averse. In the destitution
of Mrs. Clifford, her diminished and still diminishing resources,
not to speak of her loneliness, she thought that I ought to tender
her a home with us. Had she been any other than the captious,
cross-grained creature that she was--bad her misfortunes produced
only in part their legitimate and desirable effects of subduing
her perversity--I should have had no sort of objection. But I knew
her imperious and unreasonable nature; and I may here add, that,
by this time, I knew something of my own: I was a man of despotic
character. The constant conflicts which I had had from boyhood,
resulting as they had done in my frequent successes and final
triumph, had, naturally enough, made me dictatorial. Sanguine in
temperament, earnest in character, resolute in impulse, I was
necessarily arbitrary in mood. It was not likely that Mrs. Clifford
would forget her waywardnesses, and it was just as unreasonable
that I should submit to her insolences. Besides, one's home ought
to be a very sacred place. It is necessary that the peace there
should compensate and console for the strifes without. To hope for
this in any household where there is more than one master, would
bo worse than idle. Nay, even if there were peace, the chances are
still great that there would be some lack of propriety. Domestic
regulations would become inutile. Children and servants would
equally fail of duty and improvement under conflicting authorities;
and all the sweet social harmonies of family would be jarred
away by misunderstandings if not bickerings, leading to coldness,
suspicion, and irremediable jealousies. These things seemed to
threaten me from the first moment when Julia submitted to me her
desire that her mother should be invited to take up her abode with
us. I reasoned with her against it; suggested all the grounds of
objection which I really felt; and reviewed at length the long
history of our connection from my childhood up, which had been
distinguished by her constant hostility and hate. "How," I asked,
"can it be hoped that there will be any change for the better now?
She is the same woman, I the same man! It is not reasonable to think
that the result of our reunion will be other than it has been."
But Julia implored.
"I know what you say is reasonable--is just; but, dear Edward, she
is my mother, and she is alone."
I yielded to her wishes. Could I else? My letter to her mother
concluded with a respectful entreaty that she would take apartments
in our dwelling, and a chair at our table, and lessen, to this
extent, the expenses of her own establishment.
"What!" exclaimed the frenzied woman to Julia's aunt, to whom the
charge of presenting the communication was committed--"what! eat
the bread of that insolent and ungrateful wretch? Never! never!"
She flung the epistle from her with disdain; and, to confess a truth,
though, on Julia's account, I should have wished a reconciliation,
I was by no means sorry, on my own, that such was her ultimatum. I
gave myself little further concern about this foolish person, and
was happy to see that in a short time my wife appeared to recover
from the sadness and stupor which the death of her father and the
temper of her mother had naturally induced. The truth is, she had,
for so long a period previously to her marriage, suffered from the
persecutions of the latter, and moaned over the shame and imbecility
of the former, that her present situation was one of great relief,
and, for a while, of comparative happiness.
We lived in a pleasant cottage in the suburbs. A broad and placid
lake spread out before our dwelling; and its tiny billows, under
the pressure of the sweet southwestern breezes, beat almost against
our very doors. Green and shady groves environed us on three sides,
and sheltered us from the intrusive gaze of the highway; and never
was a brighter collection of flowers and blossoms clustered around
any habitation of hope and happiness before. I rented the cottage
on moderate terms, and furnished it neatly, but simply, as became
my resources. All things considered, the prospect was fair and
promising before us. Julia had few toils, and ample leisure for
painting and music, for both of which she had considerable taste;
for the former art, in particular, she possessed no small talent.
Our city, indeed, seemed one peculiarly calculated for these arts.
Our sky was blue--deeply, beautifully blue; our climate mild and
delightful. Our people were singularly endowed with the genius
for graceful and felicitous performances. Music was an ordinary
attribute of the great mass; and in no community under the sun was
there such an overflow of talent in painting and sculpture. It was
the grand error of our wise heads to fancy that our city could be
made one of great trade; and, in a vain struggle to give it some
commercial superiority over its neighbor communities, the wealth
of the people was thrown away upon projects that yielded nothing;
and the arts were left neglected in a region which might have
been made--and might still be made--if not exclusively, at least
pre-eminently their own. The ordinary look of the women was beauty,
the ordinary accent was sweetness. The soft moonlight evenings were
rendered doubly harmonious by the tender tinkling of the wandering
guitar, or the tones of the plaintive flute; while, from every
third dwelling, rose the more stately but scarcely sweeter melodies
stricken by pliant fingers from the yielding soul of the divine
piano. The tastes even of the mechanic were refined by this language,
the purest In which passion ever speaks; and an ambition--the result
of the highest tone of aristocratic influence upon society--prompted
his desires to purposes and a position to which in other regions
he is not often permitted to aspire. These influences were assisted
by the peculiar location of our city--by its suburban freedom from all
closeness; its innumerable gardens, the appanage of every household;
its piazzas, verandahs, porches; its broad and minstrel-wooing rivers;
and the majestic and evergreen forests, which grew and gathered
around us on every hand. If ever there was a city intended by nature
more particularly than another for the abodes and the offices of
art, it was ours. It will become so yet: the mean, money-loving
soul of trade can not always keep it from its destinies. We may
never see it in our day; but so surely as we live, and as it shall
live, will it become an Athens in our land--a city of empire by
the sea, renowned for genius and taste--and the chosen retreat of
muses, younger and more vigorous, and not less lovely, than the
Julia was in a very high degree impregnated with the taste and
desire for art which seemed so generally the characteristic of our
people. I speak not now of the degree of skill which she possessed.
Her teacher was a foreigner, and a mere mechanic; but, while
he taught her only the ordinary laws of painting, her natural
endowment wrought more actively in favor of her performances. She
soon discovered how much she could learn from the little which her
teacher knew; and when she made this discovery, she ceased to have
any use for his assistance. Books, the study of the old masters,
and such of the new as were available to her, served her infinitely
more in the prosecution of her efforts; and these I stimulated by
all means in my power: for I esteemed her natural endowments to
be very high, and very well knew how usual it is for young ladies,
after marriage, to give up those tastes and accomplishments which
had distinguished and heightened their previous charms. It was quite
enough that I admired the art, and tasked her to its pursuit, to
make her cling to it with alacrity and love. We wandered together
early in the morning and at the coming on of evening, over all the
sweet, enticing scenes which were frequent in our suburbs. Environed
by two rivers, wide and clear, with deep forests beyond--a broad
bay opening upon the sea in front--lovely islands of gleaming sand,
strewn at pleasant intervals, seeming, beneath the transparent
moonlight, the chosen places of retreat for naiads from the deep
and fairies from the grove--there was no lack of objects to delight
the eye and woo the pencil to its performances. Besides, never was
blue sky, and gold-and-purple sunset, more frequent, more rich,
more shifting in its shapes and colors, from beauty to superior
beauty, than in our latitude. The eye naturally turned up to it
with a sense of hunger; the mind naturally felt the wish to record
such hues and aspects for the use of venerating love; and the eager
spirit, beginning to fancy the vision wrought according to its own
involuntary wish, seemed spontaneously to cry aloud, in the language
of the artist, on whom the consciousness of genius was breaking
with a sun-burst for the first time, "I, too, am a painter!"
Julia's studio was soon full of beginnings. Fragmentary landscapes
were all about her. Like most southrons, she did not like to finish.
There is an impatience of toil--of its duration at least--in the
southern mind, which leaves it too frequently unperforming. This
is a natural characteristic of an excitable people. People easily
moved are always easily diverted from their objects. People of very
vivid fancy are also very capricious. There is yet another cause
for the non-performance of the southern mind--its fastidiousness.
In a high state of social refinement, the standards of taste become
so very exacting, that the mind prefers not to attempt, rather
than to offend that critical judgment which it feels to be equally
active in its analysis and rigid in its requisitions. Genius and
ambition must be independent of such restraints. "Be bold, be bold,
be bold!" is the language of encouragement in Spenser; and when
he says, at the end, "Be not too bold," we are to consider the
qualification as simply a quiet caution not to allow proper courage
to rush into rashness and insane license. The GENIUS that suffers
itself to be fettered by the PRECISE, will perhaps learn how
to polish marble, but will never make it live, and will certainly
never live very long itself!
With books and music, painting and flowers, we passed the happy
moments of the honeymoon. I yielded as little of myself and my mind
to my office and clients, in that period, as I possibly could. My
cottage was my paradise. My habits, as might be inferred from my
history, were singularly domestic. Doomed, as I had been, from my
earliest years, to know neither friends nor parents; isolated, in
my infancy, from all those tender ties which impress upon the heart,
for all succeeding years, tokens of the most endearing affection;
denied the smiles of those who yet filled my constant sight--my
life was a long yearning for things of love--for things to love!
While the struggle continued between Julia's parents and myself,
though confiding in her love, I had yet no confidence in my own
hope to realize and to secure it. Now that it was mine--mine, at
last--I grew uxorious in its contemplation. Like the miser, I had
my treasure at home, and I hastened home to survey it with precisely
the same doubts, and hopes, and fears, which the disease of avarice
prompts in the unhappy heart of its victim To this disease, in
chief, I have to attribute all my future sorrows; but the time
is not yet for that. It is my joys now that I have to contemplate
and describe. How I dwelt, and how I dreamed! how I seemed to tread
on air, in the unaccustomed fullness of my spirit! how my whole
soul, given up to the one pursuit, I fondly fancied had secured
its object! I fancied--nay, for the time, I was happy! Surely, I
THE HAPPY SEASON.
Surely, I then was happy! I can not deceive myself as to the
character of those brief Eden moments of security and peace. Even
now, lone as I appear in the sight of others--degraded as I feel
myself--even now I look back on our low white cottage, by the
shores of that placid lake--its little palings gleaming sweetly
through its dense green foliage--recall those happy, halcyon days,
and feel that we both, for the time, had attained the secret--the
secret worth all the rest--of an enjoyment actually felt, and
quite as full, flush, and satisfactory, as it had seemed in the
perspective. Possession had taken nothing of the gusto from hope.
Truth had not impaired a single beauty of the ideal. I looked in
Julia's face at morning when I awakened, and her loveliness did
not fade. My lips, that drank sweetness from hers, did not cease
to believe the sweetness to be there--as pure, as warm, as full
of richness, as when I had only dreamed of their perfections. Our
days and nights were pure, and gentle, and fond. One twenty-four
hours shall speak for all.
When we rose at morning, we prepared for a ramble, either into the
woods, or along the banks of the lovely river that lay west of, and
at a short distance only from, our dwelling. There, wandering, as
the sun rose, we imparted to each other's eyes the several objects
of beauty which his rising glance betrayed. Sometimes we sat
beneath a tree, while she hurriedly sketched a clump of woods, the
winding turn of the shore, its occasional crescent form or abrupt
headland, as they severally appeared in a new light, and at a happy
moment of time, beneath our vision. The songs of pleasant birds
allured us on; the sweet scent of pines and myrtle refreshed us;
and a gay, wholesome, hearty spirit was awakened in our mutual
bosoms, as thus, day after day, while, like the d&y, our hearts
were in their first youth, we resorted to the ever-fresh mansions
of the sovereign Nature. This habit produces purity of feeling,
and continues the habit in its earliest simplicity. The childlike
laws which it encourages and strengthens are those which virtue
most loves, and which strained forms of society are the first to
overthrow. The pure tastes of youth are those which are always
most dear to humanity; and love is easy of access, and peace not
often a stranger to the mind, where these tastes preserve their
My profession was something at variance with these tastes and
feelings. The very idea of law, which presupposes the frequent
occurrence of injustice, engenders, by its practice, a habit of
suspicion. To throw doubt upon the fact, and defeat and prevent
convictions of the probable, are habits which lawyers soon acquire.
This is natural from the daily encounter with bad and striving
men--men who employ the law as an instrument by which to evade
right, or inflict wrong; and, this apart, the acute mind loves,
for its own sake, the very exercise of doubt, by which ingenuity
is put in practice, and an adroit discrimination kept constantly
I was saved, however, from something of this danger. The injustice
which I had been subjected to, in my own boyhood, had filled me
with the keenest love for the right. The idea of injustice aroused
my sternest feelings of resistance. I had adopted the law as
a profession with something of a patriotic feeling. I felt that
I could make it an instrument for putting down the oppressor, the
wrong-doer--for asserting right, and maintaining innocence! I had
my admiration, too, at that period, of that logical astuteness,
that wonderful tenacity of hold and pursuit, and discrimination
of attribute and subject, which distinguish this profession beyond
all others, and seem to confirm the assumption made in its behalf,
by which it has been declared the perfection of human reason. It
will not be subtracting anything from this estimate, if I express
my conviction, founded upon my own experience, that, though such
may be the character of the law as an abstract science, it deserves
no such encomium as it is ordinarily practised. Lawyers are too
commonly profound only in the technicalities of the profession;
and a very keen study and acquaintance with these--certainly a too
great reliance upon them, and upon the dicta of other lawyers--leads
to a dreadful departure from elementary principles, and a most woful
(sic) disregard, if not ignorance, of those profounder sources of
knowledge without which laws multiply at the expense of reason,
and not in support of it; and lawyers may be compared to those
ignorant captains to whom good ships are intrusted, who rely upon
continual sounding to grope their way along the accustomed shores.
Let them once leave the shores, and get beyond the reach of their
plummets, and the good ship must owe its safety to fortune and the
favor of the winds, for further skill is none.
I did not find the practice of the law affect my taste for domestic
pleasures; on the contrary, it stimulated and preserved them. After
toiling a whole morning in the courts, it was a sweet reprieve to
be allowed to hurry off to my quiet cottage, and hear the one dear
voice of my household, and examine the quiet pictures. These never
stunned me with clamors; I was never pestered by them to determine
the meum et tuum between noisy disputants, neither of whom is exactly
right. There, my eye could repose on the sweetest scenes--scenes
of beauty and freshness-the shady verdure of the woods, the rich
variety of flowers, and pure, calm, transparent waters, hallowed
by the meek glances of the matron moon. No creature could have
been more gentle than my wife. She met me with a composed smile,
equally bright and meek. I never heard a complaint from her
lips. The evils of which other men complain--the complaints about
servants, scoldings about delay or dinner--never reached my ears.
The kindest solicitude that, in my fatigue, or amid the toils of
a business of which wives can know little, and for which they make
too little allowance, there should be nothing at home to make me
irritable or give me disquiet, distinguished equally her sense and
her affection. If it became her duty to communicate any unpleasant
intelligence--any tidings which might awaken anger or impatience--she
carefully waited foi the proper time, when the excitement of my
blood was overcome, and repose of blood and brain had naturally
brought about a kindred composure of mind.
Our afternoons were usually spent in the shade of the garden or
piazza. Sometimes, I sat by her while she was sketching. At others,
she helped me to dress and train my garden-vines. Now and then
we renewed our rambles of the morning, heedfully observing the
different aspects of the same scenes and object, which had then
delighted us, under the mellowing smiles of the sun at its decline.
With books, music, and chess, our evenings passed away without
our consciousness; and day melted into night, and night departed
and gave place to the new-born day, as quietly as if life had, in
truth, become to us a great instrument of harmony, which bore us
over the smooth seas of Time, to the gentle beating of fairy and
unseen minstrelsy. Truly, then, we were two happy children. The
older children of this world, stimulated by stronger tastes and more
lofty indulgences, may smile at the infantile simplicity of such
resources and modes of enjoyment. They were childish, but perhaps
not the less wise for that. Infancy lies very near to heaven.
Childhood is a not unfit study for angels; and happy were it for us
could we maintain the hearts and the hopes of that innocent period
for a longer day within our bosoms. In our world we grow too fast,
too presumptuously. We live on too rich food, moral and intellectual.
The artifices of our tastes prove most fatally the decline of our
reason. But, for us--we two linked hearts, so segregated from all
beside--we certainly lived the lives of children for a while. But
we were not to live thus always. In some worldly respects, _I_ was
still a child: I cared little for its pomps, its small honors, its
puny efforts, its tinselly displays. But I had vices of mind--vices
of my own--sufficient to embitter the social world where all seems
now so sweet--where all, in truth, WAS sweet, and pure, and worthy
--and which might, under other circumstances, have been kept so to
the last. I am now to describe a change!
THE EVIL PRINCIPLE.
Heretofore, I have spoken of the blind hearts of others--of Mr.
Clifford and his wilful wife--I have yet said little to show the
blindness of my own. This task is now before me, and, with whatever
reluctance, the exhibition shall resolutely be made. I have
described a couple newly wed--eminently happy--blessed with tolerable
independence--resources from without and within--dwelling in the
smiles of Heaven, and not uncheered by the friendly countenance of
man. I am to display the cloud, which hangs small at first, a mere
speck, but which is to grow to a gloomy tempest that is to swallow
up the loveliness of the sky, and blacken with gloom and sorrow
the fairest aspects of the earth. I am to show the worm in the
bud which is to bring blight--the serpent in the garden which is
to spoil the Eden. Wo, beyond all other woes, that this serpent
should be engendered in one's own heart, producing its blindness,
and finally working its bane! Yet, so it is! The story is a painful
one to tell; the task is one of self-humiliation. But the truth
may inform others--may warn, may strengthen, may save--before their
hearts shall be utterly given up to that blindness which must end
in utter desperation and irretrievable overthrow.
If the reader has not been utterly unmindful of certain moral
suggestions which have been thrown out passingly in my previous
narrative, he will have seen that, constitutionally, I am of an
ardent, impetuous temper--an active mind, ready, earnest, impatient
of control--seeking the difficult for its own sake, and delighting
in the conquest which is unexpected by others.
Such a nature is usually frank and generous. It believes in the
affections--it depends upon them. It freely gives its own, but
challenges the equally free and spontaneous gift of yours in return.
It has little faith in the things which fill the hearts of the mere
worldlings. Worldly honors may delight it, but not worldly toys. It
has no veneration for gewgaws. The shows of furniture and of dress
it despises. The gorgeous equipage is an encumbrance to it; the
imposing jewel it would not wear, lest it might subtract something
from that homage which it prefers should be paid to the wearer.
It is all selfish--thoroughly selfish--but not after the world's
fashion of selfishness. It hoards nothing, and gives quite as much
as it asks. What does it ask? What? It asks for love--devoted
attachment; the homage of the loved one and the friends; the
implicit confidence of all around it! Ah! can anything be more
exacting? Cruelly exacting, if it be not worthy of that it asks!
Imagine such a nature, denied from the beginning! The parents of
its youth are gone!--the brother and the sister--the father and the
friend! It is destitute, utterly, of these! It is also destitute
of those resources of fortune which are supposed to be sufficient
to command them. It is thrown upon the protection, the charge of
strangers. Not strangers--no! From strangers, perhaps, but little
could be expected. It is thrown upon the care of relatives--a
father's brother! Could the tie be nearer? Not well! But it had
been better if strangers had been its guardians. Then it might
have learned to endure more patiently. At least, it would have felt
less keenly the pangs inflicted by neglect, contumely, injustice.
In this situation it grows up, like some sapling torn from its parent
forest, its branches hacked off, its limbs lacerated! It grows up
in a stranger soil. The sharp winds assail it from every quarter.
But still it lives--it grows. It grows wildly, rudely, ungracefully;
but it is strong and tough, in consequence of its exposure and its
trials. Its vitality increases with every collision which shakes
and rends it; until, in the pathetic language of relatives unhappily
burdened with such encumbrances, "it seems impossible to kill it!"
I will not say that mine tried to kill me, but I do say that they
took precious little care that I was not killed. The effect upon
my body was good, however--the effect of their indifference. This
roughening process is a part of physical training which very few
parents understand. It is essential--should be insisted on--but it
must not be accompanied with a moral roughening, which forces upon
the mind of the pupil the conviction that the ordeal is meant for
his destruction rather than for his good. There will be a recoil of
the heart--a cruel recoil from the humanities--if such a conviction
once fills the mind. It was this recoil which I felt! With warm
affections seeking for objects of love--with feelings of hope and
veneration, imploring for altars to which to attach themselves--I
was commanded to go alone. The wilderness alone was open to me:
what wonder if my heart grew wild and capricious even as that of
the savage who dwells only amid their cheerless recesses? With
a smile judiciously bestowed--with a kind word, a gentle tone, an
occasional voice of earnest encouragement--my uncle and aunt might
have fashioned my heart at their pleasure. I should have been as
clay in the hands of the potter--a pliant willow in the grasp of
the careful trainer. A nature constituted like mine is, of all
others, the most flexible; but it is also, of all others, the most
resisting and incorrigible. Approach it with a judicious regard
to its affections, and you do with it what you please. Let it but
fancy that it is the victim of your injustice, however slight,
and the war is an interminable one between you!
Thus did I learn the first lessons of suspiciousness. They attended
me to the schoolhouse; they governed and made me watchful there.
The schoolhouse, the play-places--the very regions of earnest faith
and unlimited confidence--produced no such effects in me. They might
have done so, had I ceased, on going to school, to see my relatives
any longer. But the daily presence of my uncle and aunt, with their
system of continued injustice, at length rendered my suspicious
moods habitual. I became shy. I approached nobody, or approached
them with doubt and watchfulness. I learned, at the earliest
period, to look into character, to analyze conduct, to pry into the
mysterious involutions of the working minds around me. I traced,
or fancied that I traced, the performance to the unexpressed and
secret motive in which it had its origin. I discovered, or believed
that I discovered, that the world was divided into banditti and
hypocrites. At that day I made little allowance for the existence
of that larger class than all, who happen to be the victims. Unless
this were the larger class, the other two must very much and very
rapidly diminish. My infant philosophy did not carry me very deeply
into the recesses of my own heart. It was enough that I felt some
of its dearest rights to be outraged--I did not care to inquire
whether it was altogether right itself.
At length, there was a glimpse of dawn amid all this darkness. The
world was not altogether evil. All hearts were not shut against me;
and in the sweet smiles of Julia Clifford, in her kind attentions,
soothing assurances, and fond entreaties, there was opportunity,
at last, for my feelings to overflow. Like a mountain-stream
long pent up, which at length breaks through its confinements, my
affections rushed into the grateful channel which her pliant heart
afforded me. They were wild, and strong, and, devoted, in proportion
to their long denial and restraint. Was it not natural enough that
I should love with no ordinary attachment--that my love should be
an impetuous torrent--all-devoted--struggling, striving--rushing
only in the one direction--believing, in truth, that there was none
other in the world in which to run?
This was a natural consequence of the long sophistication of my
feelings. I knew nothing of the world--of society. I had shared
in none of its trusts; I had only felt its exactions. Like some
country-boy, or country-girl, for the first time brought into the
great world, I surrendered myself wholly to the first gratified
impulse. I made no conditions, no qualifications. I set all my
hopes of heart upon a single cast of the die, and did not ask what
might be the consequences if the throw was unfortunate.
One of the good effects of a free communication of the young with
society is, to lessen the exacting nature of the affections. People
who live too much to themselves--in their own centre, and for their
own single objects--become fastidious to disease. They ask too
much from their neighbors. Willing to surrender their OWN affections
at a glance, they fancy the world wanting in sensibility when
they find that their readiness in this respect fails to produce a
corresponding readiness in others. This is the natural history of
that enthusiasm which is thrown back upon itself and is chilled
by denial. The complaint of coldness and selfishness against the
world is very common among very young or very inexperienced men.
The world gets a bad character, simply because it refuses to lavish
its affections along the highways--simply because it is cautious
in giving its trusts, and expects proofs of service and actual
sympathy rather than professions. Men like myself, of a warm,
impetuous nature, complain of the heartlessness of mankind. They
fancy themselves peculiarly the victims of an unkind destiny in
this respect; and finally cut their throats in a moment of frenzy,
or degenerate into a cynicism that delights in contradictions, in
sarcasms, in self-torture, and the bitterest hostility to their
Society itself is the only and best corrective of this unhappy
disposition. The first gift to the young, therefore, should be
the gift of society. By this word society, however, I do not mean
a set, a clique, a pitiable little circle. Let the sphere of movement
be sufficiently extended--as large as possible--that the means of
observation and thought may be sufficiently comprehensive, and no
influences from one man or one family shall be suffered to give the
bias to the immature mind and inexperienced judgment. In society
like this, the errors, prejudices, weaknesses, of one man, are
corrected by a totally opposite form of character in another. The
mind of the youth hesitates. Hesitation brings circumspection,
watchfulness; watchfulness, discrimination; discrimination, choice;
and a capacity to choose implies the attainment of a certain
degree of deliberateness and judgment with which the youth may be
permitted to go upon his way, supposed to be provided for in the
difficult respect of being able henceforward to take care of himself.
I had no society--knew nothing of society--saw it at a distance,
under suspicious circumstances, and was myself an object of
its suspicion. Its attractions were desirable to me, but seemed
unattainable. It required some sacrifices to obtain its entrée,
and these sacrifices were the very ones which my independence would
not allow me to make. My independence was my treasure, duly valued
in proportion to the constant strife by which it was assailed. I
had that! THAT could not be taken from me. THAT kept me from sinking
into the slave the tool, the sycophant, perhaps the brute; THAT
prompted me to hard study in secret places; THAT strengthened my
heart, when, desolate and striving against necessity, I saw nothing
of the smiles of society, and felt nothing of the bounties of
life. Then came my final emancipation--my success--my triumph!
My independence was assailed no longer. My talents were no longer
doubted or denied. My reluctant neighbors sent in their adhesion.
My uncle forbore his sneers. Lastly, and now--Julia was mine!
My heart's desires were all gratified as completely as my mind's
Was I happy? The inconsiderate mind will suppose this very
probable--will say, I should be. But evil seeds that are planted
in the young heart grow up with years--not so rapidly or openly as
to offend--and grow to be poisonous weeds with maturity. My feelings
were too devoted, too concentrative, too all-absorbing, to leave me
happy, even when they seemed gratified. The man who has but a single
jewel in the world, is very apt to labor under a constant apprehension
of its loss. He who knows but one object of attachment--whose
heart's devotion turns evermore but to one star of all the countless
thousands in the heavens--wo is he, if that star be shrouded from
his gaze in the sudden overflow of storms!--still more wo is he,
when that star withdraws, or seems to withdraw, its corresponding
gaze, or turns it elsewhere upon another worshipper! See you not
the danger which threatened me? See you not that, never having been
beloved before--never having loved but the one--I loved that one
with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength; and
required from that one the equal love of heart, soul, strength?
See you not that my love--linked with impatient mind, imperious
blood, impetuous enthusiasm, and suspicious fear--was a devotion
exacting as the grave--searching as fever--as jealous of the thing
whose worship it demands as God is said to be of ours?
Mine was eminently a jealous heart! On this subject of jealousy, men
rarely judge correctly. They speak of Othello as jealous--Othello,
one of the least jealous of all human natures! Jealousy is a
quality that needs no cause. It makes its own cause. It will find
or make occasion for its exercise, in the most innocent circumstances.
The PROOFS that made Othello wretched and revengeful, were sufficient
to have deceived any jury under the sun. He had proofs. He had
a strong case to go upon. It would have influenced any judgment.
He did not seek or find these proofs for himself. He did not wish
to find them. He was slow to see them. His was not jealousy. His
error was that of pride and self-esteem. He was outraged in both.
His mistake was in being too prompt of action in a case which
admitted of deliberation. This was the error of a proud man, a
soldier, prompt to decide, prompt to act, and to punish if necessary.
But never was human character less marked by a jealous mood than
that of Othello. His great self-esteem was, of itself, a sufficient
security against jealousy. Mine might have been, had it not been
so terribly diseased by ill-training.
Without apprehending the extent of my own weakness, the forms that
it would take, or the tyrannies that it would inflict, I was still
not totally uninformed on the subject of my peculiar character;
and, fearing then rather that I might pain my wife by some of its
wanton demonstrations, than that she would ever furnish me with,
an occasion for them, I took an opportunity, a few evenings after
our marriage, to suggest to her the necessity of regarding my
outbreaks with an indulgent eye.
My heart had been singularly softened by the most touching
associations. We sat together in our piazza, beneath a flood of
the richest and balmiest moonlight, screened only from its silvery
blaze by interposing masses of the woodbine, mingled with shoots
of oleander, arbor-vitae, and other shrub-trees. The mild breath
of evening sufficed only to lift quiveringly their green leaves
and glowing blossoms, to stir the hair upon our cheeks, and give
to the atmosphere that wooing freshness which seems so necessary
a concomitant of the moonlight. The hand of Julia was in mine.
There were few words spoken between us; love has its own sufficing
language, and is content with that consciousness that all is right
which implores no other assurances. Julia had just risen from the
piano: we had both been touched with a deeper sense of the thousand
harmonies in nature, by listening to those of Rossini; and now,
gazing upon some transparent, fleecy, white clouds that were slowly
pressing forward in the path of the moonlight, as if in duteous
attendance upon some maiden queen, our mutual minds were busied
in framing pictures from the fine yet fantastic forms that glowed,
gathering on our gaze. I felt the hand of Julia trembling in my
own. Her head sank upon my shoulder; I felt a warm drop fall from
her eyes upon my hand, and exclaimed--
"Julia, you weep! wherefore do you weep, dear wife?"
"With joy, my husband! My heart is full of joy. I am so happy, I
can only weep. Ah! tears alone speak for the true happiness."
"Ah! would it last, Julia--would it last!"
"Oh, doubt not that it will last. Why should it not t What have we
Mine was a serious nature. I answered sadly, if not gloomily:--
"Because it is a joy of life that we feel, and it must share the
vicissitudes of life."
"True, true, but love is a joy of eternal life as well as of this."
There was a beautiful and consoling truth in this one little
sentence, which my self-absorption was too great, at the time, to
suffer me to see. Perhaps even she herself was not fully conscious
of the glorious and pregnant truth which lay at the bottom of what
she said. Love is, indeed, not merely a joy of eternal life: it is
THE joy of eternal life!--its particular joy--a dim shadow of which
we sometimes feel in this--pure, lasting, comparatively perfect,
the more it approaches, in its performances and its desires, the
divine essence, of which it is so poor a likeness. We should so
live, so love, as to make the one run into the other, even as a
small river runs down, through a customary channel, into the great
deeps of the sea. Death should be to the affections a mere channel
through which they pass into a natural, a necessary condition, where
their streams flow with more freedom, and over which, harmoniously
controlling, as powerful, the spirit of love broods ever with
"dovelike wings outspread." I answered, still gloomily, in the
customary world commonplaces:--
"We must expect the storm. It will not be moonlight always. We must
look for the cloud. Age, sickness, death!--ah! do these not follow
on our footsteps, ever unerring, certain always, but so often rapid?
Soon, how soon, they haunt us in the happiest moments--they meet
us at every corner! They never altogether leave us."
"Enough, dear husband. Dwell not upon these gloomy thoughts. Ah!
why should you--NOW?'
"I will not; but there are others, Julia."
"What others? Evils?"
"Sadder evils yet than these."
"Oh, no!--I hope not."
"Coldness of the once warm heart. The chill of affection in the
loved one. Estrangement--indifference!--ah, Julia!"
"Impossible, Edward! This can not, MUST not be, with us You do not
think that I could be cold to you; and you--ah! surely YOU will
never cease to love me?"
"Never, I trust, never!"
"No! you must not--SHALL not. Oh, Edward, let me die first before
such a fear should fill my breast. You I love, as none was loved
before. Without your love, I am nothing. If I can not hang upon
you, where can I hang?"
And she clung to me with a grasp as if life and death depended on
it, while her sobs, as from a full heart, were insuppressible in
spite of all her efforts.
"Fear nothing, dearest Julia: do you not believe that I love you?"
"Ah! if I did not, Edward--"
"It is with you always to make me love you. You are as completely
the mistress of my whole heart as if it had acknowledged no laws
but yours from the beginning."
"What am I to do, dear Edward?"
"Forbear--be indulgent--pity me and spare me!"
"What mean you, Edward?"
"That heart which is all and only yours, Julia, is yet, I am assured,
a wilful and an erring heart! I feel that it is strange, wayward,
sometimes unjust to others, frequently to itself. It is a cross-grained,
capricious heart; you will find its exactions irksome."
"Oh, I know it better. You wrong yourself."
"No! In the solemn sweetness of this hour, dear Julia--now, while all
things are sweet to our eyes, all things dear to our affections--I
feel a chill of doubt and apprehension come over me. I am so happy--so
unusually happy--that I can not feel sure that I am so--that my
happiness will continue long. I will try, on my own part, to do
nothing by which to risk its loss. But I feel that I am too wilful,
at times, to be strong in keeping a resolution which is so very
necessary to our mutual happiness. You must help--you must strengthen
"Oh, yes! but how? I will do anything--be anything."
"I am capricious, wayward; at times, full of injustice. Love me
not less that I am so--that I sometimes show this waywardness to
you--that I sometimes do injustice to your love. Bear with me till
the dark mood passes from my heart. I have these moods, or have
had them, frequently. It may be--I trust it will be--that, blessed
with your love, and secure in its possession, there will be no room
in my heart for such ugly feelings. But I know not. They sometimes
take supreme possession of me. They seize upon me in all places.
They wrap my spirit as in a cloud. I sit apart. I scowl upon those
around me. I feel moved to say bitter things--to shoot darts in
defiance at every glance--to envenom every sentence which I speak.
These are cruel moods. I have striven vainly to shake them off.
They have grown up with my growth--have shared in whatever strength
I have; and, while they embitter my own thoughts and happiness, I
dread that they will fling their shadow upon yours!"
She replied with gayety, with playfulness, but there was an effort
"Oh, you make the matter worse than it is. I suppose all that
troubles you is the blues. But you will never have them again. When
I see them coming on I will sit by you and sing to you. We will
come out here and watch the evening; or you shall read to me, or we
will ramble in the garden--or--a thousand things which shall make
you forget that there was ever such a thing in the world as sorrow."
"Dear Julia--will you do this?"
"More--everything to make you happy." And she drew me closer in her
embrace, and her lips with a tremulous, almost convulsive sweetness,
were pressed upon my forehead; and clinging there, oh! how sweetly
did she weep!
"You will tire of my waywardness--of my exactions. Ah! I shall
force you from my side by my caprice."
"You can not, Edward, if you would," she replied, in mournful
accents like my own, "I have no remedy against you! I have nobody
now to whom to turn. Have _I_ not driven all from my side--all but
It was my task to soothe her now.
"Nay, Julia, be not you sorrowful. You must continue glad and blest,
that you may conquer my sullen moods, my dark presentiments. When
I tell you of the evils of my temper, I tell you of occasional
clouds only. Heaven forbid that they should give an enduring aspect
to our heavens!"
She responded fervently to my ejaculation. I continued:--
"I have only sought to prepare you for the management of my arbitrary
nature, to keep you from suffering too much, and sinking beneath
its exactions. You will bear with me patiently. Forgive me for
my evil hours. Wait till the storm has overblown; and find me your
own, then, as much as before; and let me feel that you are still
mine--that the tempest has not separated our little vessels."
"Will I not? Ah! do not fear for me, Edward. It is a happiness for
me to weep here--here, in your arms. When you are sad and moody,
I will come as now."
"What if I repulse you?"
"You will not--no, no!--you will not."
"But if I do I Suppose---"
"Ah! it is hard to suppose that. But I will not heed it. I will
"Then you will conquer, Julia. I feel that you will conquer! You
will drive out the devils. Surely, then, I shall be incorrigible
Such was my conviction then. I little knew myself.
I little knew myself! This knowledge of one's self is the
most important knowledge, which very few of us acquire. We seldom
look into our own hearts for other objects than those which will
administer to their petty vanities and passing triumphs. Could we
only look there sometimes for the truth! But we are blind--blind
all! In some respects I was one of the blindest!
I have given a brief glimpse of our honeymoon. Perhaps, as the
world goes, the picture is by no means an attractive one. Quiet
felicity forms but a small item in the sources of happiness,
now-a-days, among young couples. Mine was sufficiently quiet and
sufficiently humble. One would suppose that he who builds so lowly
should have no reason to apprehend the hurricane. Social ambition
was clearly no object with either of us. We sighed neither for
the glitter nor the regards of fashionable life. Neither upon
fine houses, jewels, or equipages, did we set our hearts. For the
pleasures of the table I had no passion, and never was young woman
so thoroughly regardless of display as Julia Clifford. To be let
alone--to be suffered to escape in our own way, unharming, unharmed,
through the dim avenues of life--was assuredly all that we asked
from man. Perhaps--I say it without cant--this, perhaps, was all
that we possibly asked from heaven. This was all that I asked, at
least, and this was much. It was asking what had never yet been
accorded to humanity. In the vain assumption of my heart I thought
that my demands were moderate.
Let no man console himself with the idea that his chances of
success are multiplied in degree with the insignificance, or seeming
insignificance, of his aims. Perhaps the very reverse of this is
the truth. He who seeks for many objects of enjoyment--whose tastes
are diversified--has probably the very best prospect that some of
them may be gratified. He is like the merchant whose ventures on
the sea are divided among many vessels. He may lose one or more,
yet preserve the main bulk of his fortune from the wreck. But he
who has only a single bark--one freightage, however costly--whose
whole estate is invested in the one venture--let him lose that, and
all is lost. It does not matter that his loss, speaking relatively,
is but little. Suppose his shipment, in general estimation, to be
of small value. The loss to him is so much the greater. It was the
dearer to him because of its insignificance, and being all that he
had; is quite as conclusive of his ruin, as would be the foundering
of every vessel which the rich merchant sent to sea.
I was one of these petty traders. I invested my whole capital
of the affections in one precious jewel. Did I lose it, or simply
fear its loss? Time must show. But, of a truth, I felt as the miser
feels with his hoarded treasure. While I watched its richness and
beauty, doubts and dread beset me. Was it safe? Everything depended
upon its security. Thieves might break in and steal. Enough, for
the present, to say, that much of my security, and of the security
of all who, like me, possess a dear treasure, depends upon our
convictions of security. He who apprehends loss, is already robbed.
The reality is scarcely worse than the hourly anticipation of it.
My friends naturally became the visitors of my family. Certain of
the late Mrs. Clifford's friends were also ours. Our circle was
sufficiently large for those who already knew how to distinguish
between the safe pleasures of a small set, and the horse-play and
heartless enjoyments of fashionable jams. Were we permitted in this
world to live only for ourselves, we should have been perfectly
gratified had this been even less. We should have been very well
content to have gone on from day to day without ever beholding the
shadow of a stranger upon our threshold.
This was not permitted, however. We had a round of congratulatory
visits. Among those who came, the first were the old, long-tried
friends to whom I owed so much--the Edgertons. No family could
have been more truly amiable than this; and William Edgerton was the
most amiable of the family. I have already said enough to persuade
the reader that he was a very worthy man. He was more. He was
a principled one. Not very highly endowed, perhaps, he was yet an
intelligent gentleman. None could be more modest in expression--none
less obtrusive in deportment--none more generous in service. The
defects in his character were organic--not moral. He had no vices--no
vulgarities. But his temperament was an inactive one. He was apt to
be sluggish, and when excited was nervous. He was not irritable,
but easily discomposed. His tastes were active at the expense of
his genius. With ability, he was yet unperforming. His standards
were morbidly fastidious. Fearing to fall below them, he desisted
until the moment of action was passed for ever; and the feeling of
his own weakness, in this respect, made him often sad, but to do
him justice, never querulous.
With a person so constituted, the delicate tastes and sensibilities
are like to be indulged in a very high degree. William Edgerton
loved music and all the quiet arts. Painting was his particular
delight. He himself sketched with great spirit. He had the happy
eye for the tout ensemble in a fine landscape. He knew exactly
how much to take in and what to leave out, in the delineation of a
lovely scene. This is a happy talent for discrimination which the
ordinary artist does not possess. It is the capacity which, in
the case of orators and poets, informs them of the precise moment
when they should stop. It is the happiest sort of judgment, since,
though the artist may be neither very excellent in drawing, nor
very felicitous in color, it enables him always to bestow a certain
propriety on his picture which compensates, to a certain degree,
for inferiority in other respects. To know how to grasp objects
with spirit, and bestow them with a due regard to mutual dependence,
is one of the most exquisite faculties of the landscape-painter.
William Edgerton, had he been forced by necessity to have made
the art of painting his profession would have made for himself a
reputation of no inferior kind. But amateur art, like amateur
literature, rarely produces any admirable fruits. Complete success
only attends the devotee to the muse. The worship must be exclusive
at her altar; the attendance constant and unremitting. There must
be no partial, no divided homage. She is a jealous mistress, like
all the rest. The lover of her charms, if he would secure her
smiles, must be a professor at her shrine. He can not come and go
at pleasure. She resents such impertinence by neglect. In plain
terms, the fine arts must be made a business by those who desire
their favor. Like law, divinity, physic, they constitute a profession
of their own; require the same diligent endeavor, close study,
fond pursuit! William Edgerton loved painting, but his business
was the law. He loved painting too much to love his profession. He
gave too much of his time to the law to be a successful painter--too
much time to painting to be a lawyer. He was nothing! At the bar he
never rose a step after the first day, when, together, we appeared
in our mutual maiden case; and contenting himself with the occasional
execution of a landscape, sketchy and bold, but without finish,
he remained in that nether-land of public consideration, unable to
grasp the certainties of either pursuit at which he nevertheless
was constantly striving; striving, however, with that qualified
degree of effort, which, if it never could secure the prize, never
could fatigue him much with the endeavor to do so.
He was perfectly delighted when he first saw some of the sketches
of my wife. He had none of that little jealousy which so frequently
impairs the temper and the worth of amateurs. He could admire
without prejudice, and praise without reserve. He praised them. He
evidently admired them. He sought every occasion to see them, and
omitted none in which to declare his opinion of their merits. This,
in the first pleasant season of my marriage--when the leaves were
yet green and fresh upon the tree of love--was grateful to my
feelings. I felt happy to discover that my judgment had not erred
in the selection of my wife. I stimulated her industry that I might
listen to my friend's eulogy. I suggested subjects for her pencil.
I fitted up an apartment especially as a studio for her use. I
bought her some fine studies, lay figures, heads in marble and
plaster; and lavished, in this way, the small surplus fund which
had heretofore accrued from my professional industry, and that
personal frugality with which it was accompanied.
William Edgerton was now for ever at our house. He brought his own
pictures for the inspection of my wife. He sometimes painted in her
studio. He devised rural and aquatic parties with sole reference
to landscape scenery and delineation; and indifferent to the law
always, he now abandoned himself almost entirely to those tastes
which seemed to have acquired of a sudden, the strangest and the
In this--at least for a considerable space of time--I saw nothing
very remarkable. I knew his tastes previously. I had seen how
little disposed he was to grapple earnestly with the duties of his
profession; and did not conceive it surprising, that, with family
resources sufficient to yield him pecuniary independence, he should
surrender himself up to the luxurious influence of tastes which were
equally lovely in themselves, and natural to the first desires of
his mind. But when for days he was missed from his office--when
the very hours of morning which are most religiously devoted by the
profession to its ostensible if not earnest pursuit, were yielded
up to the easel--and when, overlooking the boundaries which,
according to the conventional usage, made such a course improper,
he passed many of these mornings at my house, during my absence,
I began to entertain feelings of disquietude.
For these I had then no name. The feelings were vague and indefinable,
but not the less unpleasant. I did not fancy for a moment that I
was wronged, or likely to be wronged, but I felt that he was doing
wrong. Then, too, I had my misgivings of what the world would
think! I did not fancy that he had any design to wrong me; but
there seemed to me a cruel want of consideration in his conduct.
But what annoyed me most was, that Julia should receive him at such
periods He was thoughtless, enthusiastic in art, and thoughtless,
perhaps, in consequence of his enthusiasm. But I expected that
she should think for both of us in such a case. Women, alone, can
be the true guardians of appearances where they themselves are
concerned; and it was matter of painful surprise to me that she
should not have asked herself the question: "What will the neighbors
think, during my husband's absence, to see a stranger, a young
man, coming to visit me with periodical regularity, morning after
That she did not ask herself this question should have been a very
strong argument to show me that her thoughts were all innocent.
But there is a terrible truth in what Caesar said of his wife's
reputation: "She must be free from suspicion." She must not only do
nothing wrong, but she must not suffer or do anything which might
incur the suspicion of wrong doing. There is nothing half so sensible
to the breath of calumny, as female reputation, particularly in
regions of high civilization, where women are raised to an artificial
rank of respect, which obviates, in most part, the obligations of
their dependence upon man, but increases, in due proportion, some
of their responsibilities to him. Poor Julia had no circumspection,
because she had no feeling of evil. I believe she was purity itself;
I equally believe that William Edgerton was quite incapable of evil
design. But when I came from my office, the first morning that he
had thus passed at my house in my absence, and she told me that
he had been there, and how the time had been spent, I felt a pang,
like a sharp arrow, suddenly rush into my brain. Julia had no
reserve in telling me this fact. It was a subject she seemed pleased
to dwell upon. She narrated with the earnest, unseeing spirit of a
self-satisfied child, the sort of conversation which had taken place
between them--praised Edgerton's taste, his delicacy, his subdued,
persuasive manners, and showed herself as utterly unsophisticated
as any Swiss mountain-girl who voluntarily yields the traveller a
kiss, and tells her mother of it afterward. I listened with chilled
manners and a troubled mind.
"You are unwell, Edward," she remarked tenderly, approaching and
throwing her arms around my neck, as she perceived the gradual
gathering of that cloud upon my brows.
"Why do you think so, Julia?"
"Oh, you look so sad--almost severe, Edward, and your words are so
few and cold. Have I offended you, dear Edward?"
I was confused at this direct question. I felt annoyed, ashamed.
I pleaded headache in justification of my manner--it did ache, and
my heart, too, but not with the ordinary pang; and I felt a warm
blush suffuse my cheek, as I yielded to the first suggestion which
prompted me to deceive my wife.
A large leading step was thus taken, and progress was easy afterward.
Oh! sweet spirit of confidence, thou only true saint, more needful
than all, to bind the ties of kindred and affection! why art thou
so prompt to fly at the approach of thy cold, dark enemy, distrust?
Why dost thou yield the field with so little struggle? Why, when
the things, dearest to thee of all in the world's gift--its most
valued treasure, its purest, sweetest, and proudest trophies--why,
when these are the stake which is to reward thy courage, thy
adherence, to compensate thee for trial, to console thee for loss
and outrage--why is it that thou art so ready to despond of the
cause so dear to thee, and forfeit the conquest by which alone thy
whole existence is made sweet. This is the very suicide of self.
Fearful of loss, we forsake the prize, which we have won; and
hearkening to the counsel of a natural enemy, eat of that bitter
fruit which banishes for ever from our lips the sweet savor which
we knew before, and without which, no savor that is left is sweet.
PROGRESS OF THE EVIL SPIRIT.
If I felt so deeply annoyed at the first morning visit which William
Edgerton paid to my wife, what was my annoyance when these visits
became habitual. I was miserable but could not complain. I was
ashamed of the language of complaint on such a subject. There is
something very ridiculous in the idea of a jealous husband--it has
always provoked the laughter of the world; and I was one of those
men who shrunk from ridicule with a more than mortal dread. Besides,
I really felt no alarm. I had the utmost confidence in my wife's
virtue. I had not the less confidence in that of Edgerton. But I
was jealous of her deference--of her regard--for another. She was,
in my eyes, as something sacred, set apart--a treasure exclusively my
own! Should it be that another should come to divide her veneration
with me? I was vexed that she should derive satisfaction from another
source than myself. This satisfaction she derived from the visits
of Edgerton. She freely avowed it.
"How amiable--how pleasant he is," she would say, in the perfect
innocence of her heart; "and really, Edward, he has so much talent!"
These praises annoyed me. They were as so much wormwood to my spirit.
It must be remembered that I was not myself what the world calls
an amiable man. I doubt if any, even of my best friends, would
describe me as a pleasant one. I was a man of too direct and
earnest a temperament to establish a claim, in reasonable degree,
to either of these characteristics. I was, accordingly, something
blunt in my address--the tones of my voice were loud--my manner
was all empressement, except when I was actually angry, and then
it was cold. hard, dry, inflexible. I was the last person in the
world to pass for an amiable. Now, Julia, on the other hand, was
quiet, subdued, timorous--the tones of a strong, decided voice
startled her--she shrunk from controversy--yielded always with
a happy grace in anticipation of the conflict, and showed, in all
respects, that nice, almost nervous organization which attaches
the value of principles and morals to mere manners, and would be
as much shocked, perhaps, at the expression of a rudeness, as at
the commission of a sin. Not that such persons would hold a sin to
be less criminal or innocuous than would we ourselves; but that
they regard mere conduct as of so much more importance.
When, therefore, she praised William Edgerton for those qualities
which I well knew I did not possess, I could not resist the annoyance.
My self-esteem--continually active--stimulated as it had been
by the constant moral strife, to which it had been subjected from
boyhood--was continually apprehending disparagement. Of the purity
of Julia's heart, and the chastity of her conduct, the very freedom
of her utterance was conclusive. Had she felt one single improper
emotion toward William Edgerton, her lips would never have voluntarily
uttered his name, and never in the language of applause. On this
head I had not then the slightest apprehension. It was not jealousy
so much as EGOISME that was preying upon me. Whatever it was,
however, it could not be repressed as I listened to the eulogistic
language of my wife. I strove, but could not subdue, altogether,
the evil spirit which was fast becoming predominant within me. Yet,
though speaking under its immediate influence, I was very far from
betraying its true nature. My egoisme had not yet made such advances
as to become reckless and incautious. I surprised her by my answer
to her eulogies.
"I have no doubt he is amiable--he is amiable--but that is not
enough for a man. He must be something more than amiable, if he
would escape the imputation of being feeble--something more if he
would be anything!"
Julia looked at me with eyes of profound and dilating astonishment.
Having got thus far, it was easy to advance. The first step is half
the journey in all such cases.
"William Edgerton is a little too amiable, perhaps, for his own
good. It makes him listless and worthless. He will do nothing at
pictures, wasting his time only when he should be at his business."
"But did I not understand you, Edward, that he was a man of fortune,
and independent of his profession?" she answered timidly.
"Even that will not justify a man in becoming a trifler. No man
should waste his time in painting, unless he makes a trade of it."
"But his leisure, Edward," suggested Julia, with a look of increasing
"His leisure, indeed, Julia;--but he has been here all day--day
after day. If painting is such a passion with him, let him abandon
law and take to it. But he should not pursue one art while processing
another. It is as if a man hankered after that which he yet lacked
the courage to challenge and pursue openly.'
"I don't think you love pictures as you used to, Edward," she
remarked to me, after a little interval passed in unusual silence.
"Perhaps it is because I have matters of more consequence to
attend to. YOU seem sufficiently devoted to them now to excuse my
"Surely, dear Edward, something I have done vexes you. Tell me,
husband. Do not spare me. Say, in what have I offended?"
I had not the courage to be ingenuous. Ah! if I had!
"Nay, you have not offended," I answered hastily--"I am only worried
with some unmanageable thoughts. The law, you know, is full of
provoking, exciting, irritating necessities."
She looked at ne with a kind but searching glance. My soul seemed
to shrink from that scrutiny. My eyes sunk beneath her gaze.
"I wish I knew how to console you, Edward: to make you entirely
happy. I pray for it, Edward. I thought we were always to be
so happy. Did you not promise me that you would always leave your
cares at your office--that our cottage should be sacred to love
and peace only?"
She put her arms about my neck, and looked into my face with such
a sweet, strange, persuasive smile--half mirth, half sadness--that
the evil spirit was subdued within me. I clasped her fervently in
my embrace, with all my old feelings of confidence and joy renewed.
At this moment the servant announced Mr. Edgerton, and with
a start--a movement--scarcely as gentle as it should have been, I
put the fond and still beloved woman from my embrace!
CHANGES OF HOME.
From this time my intercourse with William Edgerton was, on my part,
one of the most painful and difficult constraint. I had nothing to
reproach him with; no grounds whatever for quarrel; and could not,
in his case--regarding the long intimacy which I had maintained with
himself and father, and the obligations which were due from me to
both--adopt such a manner of reserve and distance as to produce
the result of indifference and estrangement which I now anxiously
desired. I was still compelled to meet him--meet him, too, with
an affectation of good feeling and good humor, which I soon found
it, of all things in the world, the most difficult even to pretend.
How much would I have given could he only have provoked me to anger
on any ground--could he have given me an occasion for difference
of any sort or to any degree--anything which could have justified
a mutual falling off from the old intimacy! But William Edgerton
was meekness and kindness itself. His confidence in me was of
the most unobservant, suspicionless character; either that, or
I succeeded better than I thought in the effort to maintain the
external aspects of old friendship. He saw nothing of change in my
deportment. He seemed not to see it, at least; and came as usual,
or more frequently than usual, to my house, until, at length, the
studio of my wife was quite as much his as hers--nay, more; for,
after a brief space, whether it was that Julia saw what troubled me,
or felt herself the imprudence of Edgerton's conduct, she almost
entirely surrendered it to him. She was not now so often to be seen
This proceeding alarmed me. I dreaded lest my secret should be
discovered. I was shocked lest my wife should suppose me jealous.
The feeling is one which carries with it a sufficiently severe
commentary, in the fact that most men are heartily ashamed to be
thought to suffer from it. But, if it vexed me to think that she
should know or suspect the truth, how much more was I troubled
lest it should be seen or suspected by others! This fear led to
new circumspection. I now affected levities of demeanor and remark;
studiously absented myself from home of an evening, leaving my wife
with Edgerton, or any other friend who happened to be present; and,
though I began no practices of profligacy, such as are common to
young scapegraces in all times, I yet, to some moderate extent,
A tone of sadness now marked the features of my wife. There was
an expression of anxiety in her countenance, which, amid all her
previous sufferings, I had never seen there before. She did not
complain; but sometimes, when we sat alone together, I reading,
perhaps, and she sewing, she would drop her work in her lap, and
sigh suddenly and deeply, as if the first shadows of the upgathering
gloom were beginning to cloud her young and innocent spirit, and
force her apprehensions into utterance. This did not escape me, but
I read its signification, as witches are said to read the Bible,
backward. A gloomier fancy filled my brain as I heard her unconscious
"It is the language of regret. She laments our marriage. She
could have found another, surely, who could have made her happier.
Perhaps, had Edgerton and herself known each other intimately
Dark, perverse imagining! It crushed me. I felt, I can not tell,
what bitterness. Let no one suppose that I endured less misery than
I inflicted. The miseries of the damned could not have exceeded
mine in some of the moments when these cruel conjectures filled my
mind. Then followed some such proofs as these of the presence of
the Evil One:--
"You sigh, Julia. You are unhappy."
"Unhappy? no, dear Edward, not unhappy! What makes you think so?"
"What makes you sigh, then?"
"I do not know. I am certainly not unhappy. Did I sigh, Edward?"
"Yes, and seemingly from the very bottom of your heart. I fear,
Julia, that you are not happy; nay, I am sure you are not! I feel
that I am not the man to make you happy. I am a perverse--"
"'Nay, Edward, now you speak so strangely, and your brow is stern,
and your tones tremble! What can it be afflicts you? You are angry
at something, dear Edward. Surely, it can not be with me."
"And if it were, Julia, I am afraid it would give you little
"Now, Edward, you are cruel. You do me wrong. You do yourself wrong.
Why should you suppose that it would give me little concern to see
you angry? So far from this, I should regard it as the greatest
misery which I had to suffer. Do not speak so, dearest Edward--do
not fancy such things. Believe me, my husband, when I tell you
that I know nothing half so dear to me as your love--nothing that
I would not sacrifice with a pleasure, to secure, to preserve THAT!"
"Ah! would you give up painting?"
"Painting! that were a small sacrifice! I worked at it only because
you used to like it."
"What, you think I do not like it now?"
"I KNOW you do not."
"But you paint still?"
"No! I have not handled brush or pencil for a week. Mr. Edgerton
was reproaching me only yesterday for my neglect."
"Ah, indeed! Well, you promised him to resume, did you not? He is
a rare persuader! He is so amiable, so mild--you could not well
It was from her face that I formed a rational conjecture of the
expression that must have appeared in mine. Her eyes dilated with
a look of timid wonder, not unmixed with apprehension. She actually
shrunk back a space; then, approaching, laid her hand upon my wrist,
as she exclaimed:--
"God of heaven, Edward, what strange thought is in your bosom?
what is the meaning of that look? Look not so again, if you would
not kill me!"
I averted my face from hers, but without speaking. She threw her
arms around my neck.
"Do not turn away from me, Edward. Do not, do not, I entreat you!
You must not--no! not till you tell me what is troubling you--not
till I soothe you, and make you love me again as much as you did
When I turned to her again, the tears--hot, scalding tears--were
already streaming down my cheeks.
"Julia, God knows I love you! Never woman yet was more devotedly
loved by man! I love you too much--too deeply--too entirely! Alas,
I love nothing else!"
"Say not that you love me too much--that can not be! Do I not love
you--you only, you altogether? Should I not have your whole love
"Ah, Julia! but my love is a convulsive eagerness of soul--a passion
that knows no limit! It is not that my heart is entirely yours:
it is that it is yours with a frenzied desperation. There is a
fanaticism in love as in religion. My love is that fanaticism. It
burns--it commands--where yours would but soothe and solicit."
"But is mine the less true--the less valuable for this, dear Edward?"
"No, perhaps not! It may be even more true, more valuable; it may
be only less intense. But fanaticism, you know, is exacting--nothing
more so. It permits no half-passion, no moderate zeal. It insists
upon devotion like its own. Ah, Julia, could you but love as I do!"
"I love you all, Edward, all that I can, and as it belongs in my
nature to love. But I am a woman, and a timid one, you know. I am
not capable of that wild passion which you feel. Were I to indulge
it, it would most certainly destroy me. Even as it sometimes appears
in you, it terrifies and unnerves me. You are so impetuous!"
"Ah, you would have only the meek, the amiable!"
And thus, with an implied sarcasm, our conversation ended. Julia
turned on me a look of imploring, which was naturally one of
reproach. It did not have its proper influence upon me. I seized
my hat, and hurried from the house. I rushed, rather than walked,
through the streets; and, before I knew where I was, I found myself
on the banks of the river, under the shade of trees, with the soft
evening breeze blowing upon me, and the placid moon sailing quietly
above. I threw myself down upon the grass, and delivered myself up
to gloomy thoughts. Here was I, then, scarcely twenty-five years
old; young, vigorous; with a probable chance of fortune before me;
a young and lovely wife, the very creature of my first and only
choice, one whom I tenderly loved, whom, if to seek again, I should
again, and again, and only, seek! Yet I was miserable--miserable
in the very possession of my first hopes, my best joys--the very
treasure that had always seemed the dearest in my sight. Miserable
blind heart! miserable indeed! For what was there to make me
miserable? Absolutely nothing--nothing that the outer world could
give--nothing that it could ever take away. But what fool is it
that fancies there must be a reason for one's wretchedness? The
reason is in our own hearts; in the perverseness which can make of
its own heaven a hell! not often fashion a heaven out of hell!
Brooding, I lay upon the sward, meditating unutterable things,
and as far as ever from any conclusion. Of one thing alone I
was satisfied--that I was unutterably miserable; that my destiny
was written in sable; that I was a man foredoomed to wo! Were
my speculations strange or unnatural! Unnatural indeed! There
is a class of surface-skimming persons, who pronounce all things
unnatural which, to a cool, unprovoked, and perhaps unprovokable
mind, appear unreasonable: as if a vexed nature and exacting
passions were not the most unreasonable yet most natural of all
moral agents. My woes may have been groundless, but it was surely
not unnatural that I felt and entertained them.
Thus, with bitter mood, growing more bitter with every moment of
its unrestrained indulgence, I gloomed in loneliness beside the
banks of that silvery and smooth-flowing river. Certainly the
natural world around me lent no color to my fancies. While all
was dark within, all was bright without. A fiend was tugging at
my heart; while from a little white cottage, a few hundred yards
below, which grew flush with the margin of the stream, there stole
forth the tender, tinkling strains of a guitar, probably touched
by fair fingers of a fair maiden, with some enamored boy, blind and
doting, hovering beside her. I, too, had stood thus and hearkened
thus, and where am I--what am I!
I started to my feet. I found something offensive in the music.
It came linked with a song which I had heard Julia sing a hundred
times; and when I thought of those hours of confidence, and felt
myself where I was, alone--and how lone!--bitterer than ever were
the wayward pangs which were preying upon the tenderest fibres of
In the next moment I ceased to be alone. I was met and jostled by
another person as I bounded forward, much too rapidly, in an effort
to bury myself in the deeper shadow of some neighboring trees. The
stranger was nearly overthrown in the collision, which extorted a
hasty exclamation from his lips, not unmingled with a famous oath
or two. In the voice. I recognised that of my friend Kingsley--the
well-known pseudo-Kentucky gentleman, who had acted a part so
important in extricating my wife from her mother's custody. I made
myself known to him in apologizing for my rudeness.
"You here!" said he; "I did not expect to meet you. I have just
been to your house, where I found your wife, and where I intended
to stop a while and wait for you. But Bill Edgerton, in the meanwhile,
popped in, and after that I could hear nothing but pictures and
paintings, Madonnas, Ecce Homos, and the like; till I began to fancy
that I smelt nothing but paint and varnish. So I popped out, with
a pretty blunt excuse, leaving the two amateurs to talk in oil
and water-colors, and settle the principles of art as they please.
Like you, I fancy a real landscape, here, by the water, and under
the green trees, in preference to a thousand of their painted
It may be supposed that my mood underwent precious little improvement
after this communication. Dark conceits, darker than ever, came
across my mind. I longed to get away, and return to that home from
which I had banished confidence!--ah, only too happy if there still
lingered hope! But my friend, blunt, good-humored, and thoughtless
creature as he was, took for granted that I had come to look at
the landscape, to admire water-views by moonlight, and drink fresh
draughts of sea-breeze from the southwest; and, thrusting his arm
through mine, he dragged me on, down, almost to the threshold of
the cottage, whence still issued the tinkle, tinkle, of the guitar
which had first driven me away.
"That girl sings well. Do you know her--Miss Davison? She's soon
to be married, THEY say (d--n 'they say,' however--the greatest
scandal-monger, if not mischief-maker and liar, in the world!)--she
is soon to be married to young Trescott--a clover lad who sniffles,
plays on the flute, wears whisker and imperial on the most cream-colored
and effeminate face you ever saw! A good fellow, nevertheless, but
a silly! She is a good fellow, too, rather the cleverest of the
twain, and perhaps the oldest. The match, if match it really is to
be, none of the wisest for that very reason. The damsel, now-a-days,
who marries a lad younger than herself, is laying up a large stock
of pother, which is to bother her when she becomes thirty--for even
young ladies, you know, after forty, may become thirty. A sort of
dispensation of nature. She sings well, nevertheless."
I said something--it matters not what. Dark images of home were in
my eyes. I heard no song--saw no landscape The voice of Kingsley
was a sort of buzzing in my ears.
"You are dull to-night, but that song ought to soothe you. What a
cheery, light-hearted wench it is! Her voice does seem so to rise
in air, shaking its wings, and crying tira-la! tira-la! with an
enthusiasm which is catching! I almost feel prompted to kick up my
heels, throw a summerset, and, while turning on my axis, give her
an echo of tira-la! tira-la! tira-la! after her own fashion."
"You are certainly a happy, mad fellow, Kingsley!" was my faint,
cheerless commentary upon a gayety of heart which I could not share,
and the unreserved expression of which, at that moment, only vexed
"And you no glad one, Clifford. That song, which almost prompts me
to dance, makes no impression on you! By-the-way, your wife used
to sing so well, and now I never hear her. That d---d painting,
if you don't mind, will make her give up everything else! As for
Bill Edgerton, he cares for nothing else out his varnish, trees,
and umber-hills, and streaky water. You shouldn't let him fill
your wife's mind with this oil-and-varnish spirit--giving up the
piano, the guitar, and that sweeter instrument than all, her own
voice. D--n the paintings!--his long talk on the subject almost makes
me sick of everything like a picture. I now look upon a beautiful
landscape like this. as a thing that is shortly to be desecrated--taken
in vain--scratched out of shape and proportion upon a deal-board,
and colored after such a fashion as never before was seen in the
natural world, upon, or under, or about this solid earth. D--n the
pictures, I say again!--but, for God's sake, Clifford, don't let
your wife give up the music! Make her play, even if she don't like
it. She likes the painting best, but I wouldn't allow it! A wife is
a sort of person that we set to do those things that we wish done
and can't do for ourselves. That's my definition of a wife. Now, if
I were in your place, with my present love for music and dislike
of pictures, I'd put her at the piano, and put the paint-saucers,
and the oil, and the smutted canvass, out of the window; and
then--unless he came to his senses like other people--I'd thrust
Bill Edgerton out after them! I'd never let the best friend in the
world spoil my wife."
The effect of this random chatter of my good-natured friend upon
my mind may well be imagined. It was fortunate that he was quite
too much occupied in what he was saying to note my annoyance. In
vain, anxious to be let off, was I restrained in utterance--cold,
unpliable. The good fellow took for granted that it was an act
of friendship to try to amuse; and thus, yearning with a nameless
discontent and apprehension to get home I was marched to and fro
along the river-bank, from one scene to another--he, meanwhile,
utterly heedless of time, and as actively bent on perpetual motion
as if his sinews were of steel and his flesh iron. Meanwhile, the
guitar ceased, and the song in the cottage of Miss Davison; the
lights went out in that and all the other dwellings in sight; the
moon waned; and it was not till the clock from a distant steeple
tolled out the hour of eleven with startling solemnity, that Kingsley
"Well, mon ami, we have had a ramble, and I trust I have somewhat
dissipated your gloomy fit. And now to bed--what say you?--with
what appetite we may!"
With what appetite, indeed! We separated. I rushed homeward, the
moment he was out of sight--once more stood before my own dwelling.
There the lights remained unextinguished and William Edgerton was
still a tenant of my parlor!
I had not the courage to enter my own dwelling! My heart sank
within me. It was as if the whole hope of a long life, an intense
desire, a keen unremitting pursuit, had suddenly been for ever
baffled. Let no one who has not been in my situation; who has not
been governed by like moral and social influences from the beginning;
who knows not my sensibilities, and the organization--singular and
strange it may be--of my mind and body; let no such person jump
to the conclusion that there was any thing unnatural, however
unreasonable and unreasoning, in the wild passion which possessed
me. I look back upon it with some surprise myself. The fears which
I felt, the sufferings I endured, however unreasonable, were yet
true to my training. That training made me selfish; how selfish let
my blindness show! In the blindness of self I could see nothing but
the thing I feared, the one phantom--phantom though it were--which
was sufficient to quell and crush all the better part of man within
me, banish all the real blessings which were at command around
me. I gave but a single second glance through the windows of my
habitation, and then darted desperately away from the entrance! I
bounded, without a consciousness, through the now still and dreary
streets, and found myself, without intending it, once more beside the
river, whose constant melancholy chidings, seemed the echoes-though
in the faintest possible degree--of the deep waters of some
apprehensive sorrow then rolling through all the channels of my
What was it that I feared? What was it that I sought? Was it love?
Can it be that the strange passion which we call by this name, was
the source of that sad frenzy which filled and afflicted my heart?
And was I not successful in my love? Had I not found the sought?--won
the withheld? What was denied to me that I desired? I asked of
myself these questions. I asked them in vain. I could not answer
them. I believe that I can answer now. It was sincerity, earnestness,
devotion from her, all speaking through an intensity like that
which I felt within my own soul.
Now, Julia lacked this earnestness, this intensity. Accustomed
to submission, her manner was habitually subdued. Her strongest
utterance was a tear, and that was most frequently hidden. She did
not respond to me in the language in which my affections were wont
to speak. Sincerity she did not lack--far from it--she was truth
itself! It is the keener pang to my conscience now, that I am
compelled to admit this conviction. Her modes of utterance were
not less true than mine. They were not less significant of truth;