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The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard

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odd, you know; but his oddity never troubles me." And she resumed her
sewing with a placid face.

"Veronica is odd, also," was my thought; "but oddity there runs in
a different direction." Her image appeared to me, pale, delicate,
unyielding. I seemed to wash like a weed at her base.

"You should see my sister, Alice."

"Charles spoke of her; he says she plays beautifully. If you feel
strong next week, we will go to Boston, and make our winter purchases.
By the way, I hope you are not nervous. To go back to Charles, I
have noticed how little you say to him. You know he never talks. The
influence you speak of--it does not make you dislike him?"

"No; I meant to say--my choice of words must be poor--that it was
possible I might be thinking too much of him; he is your husband,
you know, though I do not think he is particularly interesting, or
pleasing."

She laughed, as if highly amused, and said: "Well, about our dresses.
You need a ball dress, so do I; for we shall have balls this winter,
and if the children are well, we will go. I think, too, that you had
better get a gray cloth pelisse, with a fur trimming. We dress so much
at church."

"Perhaps," I said. "And how will a gray hat with feathers look? I must
first write father, and ask for more money."

"Of course; but he allows you all you want."

"He is not so very rich; we do not live as handsomely as you do."

It was tea-time when we had finished our confab, and Alice sent me to
bed soon after. I was comfortably drowsy when I heard Charles driving
into the stable. "There he is," I thought, with a light heart, for I
felt better since I had spoken to Alice of him. Her matter-of-fact air
had blown away the cobwebs that had gathered across my fancy.

I saw him at the breakfast-table the next morning. He was noting
something in his memorandum book, which excused him from offering me
his hand; but he spoke kindly, said he was glad to see me, hoped I was
well, and could find a breakfast that I liked.

"For some reason or other, I do not eat so much as I did in Surrey."

Alice laughed, and I blushed.

"What do you think, Charles?" she said, "Cassandra seems worried by
the influence, as she calls it, you have upon each other."

"Does she?"

He raised his strange, intense eyes to mine; a blinding, intelligent
light flowed from them which I could not defy, nor resist, a light
which filled my veins with a torrent of fire.

"You think Cassandra is not like you," he continued with a curious
intonation.

"I told her that your oddities never troubled me."

"That is right."

"To-day," I muttered, "Alice, I shall go back to school."

"You must ride," she answered.

"Jesse will drive you up," said Charles, rising. Alice called him
back, to tell him her plan of the Boston visit.

"Certainly; go by all means," he said, and went on his way.

I made my application to father, telling him I had nothing to wear. He
answered with haste, begging me to clothe myself at once.

CHAPTER XVII.

It was November when we returned from Boston. One morning when the
frost sparkled on the dead leaves, which still dropped on the walks,
Helen Perkins and I were taking a stroll down Silver Street, behind
the Academy, when we saw Dr. White coming down the street in his
sulky, rocking from side to side like a cradle. He stopped when he
came up to us.

"Do ye sit up late of evenings, Miss Morgeson?"

"No, Doctor; only once a week or so."

"You are a case." And he meditatively pulled his shaggy whiskers
with a loose buckskin glove. "There's a ripple coming under your eyes
already; what did I tell you? Let me see, did you say you were like
father or mother?"

"I look like my father. By the way, Doctor, I am studying my
temperament. You will make an infidel of me by your inquiries."

Helen laughed, and staring at him, called him a bear, and told him he
ought to live in a hospital, where he would have plenty of sick women
to tease.

"I should find few like you there."

He chirruped to his horse, but checked it again, put out his head and
called, "Keep your feet warm, wont you? And read Shakespeare."

Helen said that Dr. White had been crossed in love, and long after had
married a deformed woman--for science's sake, perhaps. His talent was
well known out of Rosville; but he was unambitious and eccentric.

"He is interested in you, Cass, that I see. Are you quite well? What
about the change you spoke of?"

"Dr. White has theories; he has attached one to me. Nature has
adjusted us nicely, he thinks, with fine strings; if we laugh too
much, or cry too long, a knot slips somewhere, which 'all the king's
men' can't take up again. Perhaps he judges women by his deformed
wife. Men do judge that way, I suppose, and then pride themselves
on their experience, commencing their speeches about us, with 'you
women.' I'll answer your question, though,--there's a blight creeping
over me, or a mildew."

"Is there a worm i' the bud?"

"There may be one at the root; my top is green and flourishing, isn't
it?"

"You expect to be in a state of beatitude always. What is a mote of
dust in another's eye, in yours is a cataract. You are mad at your
blindness, and fight the air because you can't see."

"I feel that I see very little, especially when I understand the
clearness of your vision. Your good sense is monstrous."

"It will come right somehow, with you; when twenty years are wasted,
maybe," she answered sadly. "There's the first bell! I haven't a word
yet of my rhetoric lesson," opening her book and chanting, "'Man,
thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear.' Are you going to Professor
Simpson's class?" shutting it again. "I know the new dance"; and
she began to execute it on the walk. The door of a house opposite
us opened, and a tall youth came out, hat in hand. Without evincing
surprise, he advanced toward Helen, gravely dancing the same step;
they finished the figure with unmoved countenances. "Come now," I
said, taking her arm. He then made a series of bows to us, retreating
to the house, with his face toward us, till he reached the door and
closed it. He was tall and stout, with red hair, and piercing black
eyes, and looked about twenty-three. "Who can that be, Helen?"

"A stranger; probably some young man come to Dr. Price, or a law
student. He is new here, at all events. His is not an obscure face; if
it had been seen, we should have known it."

"We shall meet him, then."

And we did, the very next day, which was Wednesday, in the hall, where
we went to hear the boys declaim. I saw him, sitting by himself in
a chair, instead of being with the classes. He was in a brown study,
unaware that he was observed; both hands were in his pockets, and his
legs were stretched out till his pantaloons had receded up his boots,
whose soles he knocked together, oblivious of the noise they made. In
spite of his red hair, I thought him handsome, with his Roman nose and
firm, clefted chin. Helen and I were opposite him at the lower part
of the hall, but he did not see us, till the first boy mounted the
platform, and began to spout one of Cicero's orations; then he looked
up, and a smile spread over his face. He withdrew his hands from his
pockets, updrew his legs, and surveyed the long row of girls opposite,
beginning at the head of the hall. As his eyes reached us, a flash of
recognition shot across; he raised his hand as if to salute us, and
I noticed that it was remarkably handsome, small and white, and
ornamented with an old-fashioned ring. It was our habit, after the
exercises were over, to gather round Dr. Price, to exchange a few
words with him. And this occasion was no exception, for Dr. Price,
with his double spectacles, and his silk handkerchief in his hand,
was answering our questions, when feeling a touch, he stopped, turned
hastily, and saw the stranger.

"Will you be so good as to introduce me to the two young ladies near
you? We have met before, but I do not know their names."

"Ah," said the Doctor, taking off his spectacles and wiping them
leisurely; then raising his voice, said, "Miss Cassandra Morgeson and
Miss Helen Perkins, Mr. Ben Somers, of Belem, requests me to present
him to you. I add the information that he is, although a senior,
suspended from Harvard College, for participating in a disgraceful
fight. It is at your option to notice him."

"If he would be kind enough," said Mr. Somers, moving toward us, "to
say that I won it."

"With such hands?" I asked.

"Oh, Somers," interposed the Doctor, "have you much knowledge of the
Bellevue Pickersgills' pedigree?"

"Certainly; my grandpa, Desmond Pickersgill, although he came to this
country as a cabin boy, was brother to an English earl. This is our
coat of arms," showing the ring he wore.

"That is a great fact," answered the Doctor.

"This lad," addressing me, "belongs to the family I spoke of to you, a
member of which married one of your name."

"Is it possible? I never heard much of my father's family."

"No," said the Doctor dryly; "Somers has no coat of arms. I expected,
when I asked you, to hear that the Pickergills' history was at your
fingers' ends."

"Only above the second joint of the third finger of my left hand."

I thought Dr. Price was embarrassing.

"Is your family from Troy?" Mr. Somers asked me, in a low tone.

"Do you dislike my name? Is that of Veronica a better one? It is my
sister's, and we were named by our great-grandfather, who married a
Somers, a hundred years ago."

Miss Black, my Barmouth teacher, came into my mind, for I had said the
same thing to her in my first interview; but I was recalled from my
wandering by Mr. Somers asking, "Are you looking for your sister? Far
be it from me to disparage any act of your great-grandfather's, but
I prefer the name of Veronica, and fancy that the person to whom
the name belongs has a narrow face, with eyes near together, and a
quantity of light hair, which falls straight; that she has long hands;
is fond of Gothic architecture, and has a will of her own."

"But never dances," said Helen.

There was a whist party at somebody's house every Wednesday evening.
Alice had selected the present for one, and had invited more than the
usual number. I asked Mr. Somers to come.

"Dress coat?" he inquired.

"Oh, no."

"Is Rosville highly starched?"

"Oh, no."

"I'll be sure to go into society, then, as long as I can go limp."

He bowed, and, retiring with Dr. Price, walked through the green with
him, perusing the ground.

I wore a dark blue silk for the party, with a cinnamon-colored satin
stripe through it; a dress that Alice supervised. She fastened a pair
of pearl ear-rings in my ears, and told me that I never looked better.
It was the first time since grandfather's death that I had worn any
dress except a black one. My short sleeves were purled velvet, and
a lace tucker was drawn with a blue ribbon across the corsage. As
I adjusted my dress, a triumphant sense of beauty possessed me;
Cleopatra could not have been more convinced of her charms than I was
of mine. "It is a pleasant thing," I thought, "that a woman's mind may
come and go by the gate Beautiful."

I went down before Alice, who stayed with the children till she heard
the first ring at the door.

"Where is Charles?" I asked, after we had greeted the Bancrofts.

"He will come in time to play, for he likes whist; do you?

"No."

We did not speak again, but I noticed how gay and agreeable she was
through the evening.

Ben Somers came early, suffering from a fit of nonchalance, to the
disgust of several young men, standard beaux, who regarded him with an
impertinence which delighted him.

"Here comes," he said, "'a daughter of the gods, divinely tall, and
most divinely fair.'" Meaning me, which deepened their disgust.

"Come to the piano," I begged. Helen was there, but his eyes did not
rest upon her, but upon Charles, whom I saw for the first time that
evening. I introduced them.

"Cassandra," said Charles, "let us make up a game in the East Room.
Miss Helen, will you join? Mr. Somers, will you take a hand?"

"Certainly. Miss Morgeson, will you be my partner?"

"Will you play with me then, Miss Helen?" asked Charles.

"If you desire it," she answered, rather ungraciously.

We took our seats in the East Room, which opened from the parlor, at a
little table by the chimney. The astral lamp from the center table in
the parlor shone into our room, intercepting any view toward us. I sat
by the window, the curtain of which was drawn apart, and the shutters
unclosed. A few yellow leaves stuck against the panes, unstirred by
the melancholy wind, which sighed through the crevices. Charles was at
my right hand, by the mantel; the light from a candelabra illuminated
him and Mr. Somers, while Helen and I were in shadow. Mr. Somers dealt
the cards, and we began the game.

"We shall beat you," he said to Charles.

"Not unless Cassandra has improved," he replied.

I promised to do my best, but soon grew weary, and we were beaten. To
my surprise Mr. Somers was vexed. His imperturbable manner vanished;
he sat erect, his eyes sparkled, and he told me I must play better. We
began another game, which he was confident of winning. I kept my eyes
on the cards, and there was silence till Mr. Somers exclaimed, "Don't
trump now, Mr. Morgeson."

I watched the table for his card to fall, but as it did not, looked
at him for the reason. He had forgotten us, and was lost in
contemplation, with his eyes fixed upon me. The recognition of
some impulse had mastered him. I must prevent Helen and Mr. Somers
perceiving this! I shuffled the cards noisily, rustled my dress,
looked right and left for my handkerchief to break the spell.

"How the wind moans!" said Helen. I understood her tone; she
understood him, as I did.

"I _like_ Rosville, Miss Perkins," cried Mr. Somers.

"Do you?" said Charles, clicking down his card, as though his turn had
just come. "I must trump this in spite of you."

"I am tired of playing," I said.

"We are beaten, Miss Perkins," said Mr. Somers, rising. "Bring it
here," to a servant going by with a tray and glasses. He drank
a goblet of wine, before he offered us any. "Now give us music!"
offering his arm to Helen, and taking her away. Charles and I remained
at the table. "By the way," he said abruptly, "I have forgotten to
give you a letter from your father--here it is." I stretched my hand
across the table, he retained it. I rose from my chair and stood
beside him.

"Cassandra," he said at last, growing ashy pale, "is there any other
world than this we are in now?"

I raised my eyes, and saw my own pale face in the glass over the
mantel above his head.

"What do you see?" he asked, starting up.

I pointed to the glass.

"I begin to think," I said, "there is another world, one peopled
with creatures like those we see there. What are they--base, false,
cowardly?"

"Cowardly," he muttered, "will you make me crush you? Can we lie to
each other? Look!"

He turned me from the glass.

At that moment Helen struck a crashing blow on the piano keys.

"Charles, give me--give me the letter."

He looked vaguely round the floor, it was crumpled in his hand. A side
door shut, and I stood alone. Pinching my cheeks and wiping my lips to
force the color back, I returned to the parlor. Mr. Somers came to me
with a glass of wine. It was full, and some spilled on my dress; he
made no offer to wipe it off. After that, he devoted himself to Alice;
talked lightly with her, observing her closely. I made the tour of the
party, overlooked the whist players, chatted with the talkers, finally
taking a seat, where Helen joined me.

"Now I am going," she said.

"Why don't they all go?"

"Look at Mr. Somers playing the agreeable to Mrs. Morgeson. What kind
of a woman is she, Cass?"

"Go and learn for yourself."

"I fear I have not the gift for divining people that you have."

"Do you hear the wind moan now, Helen?"

She turned crimson, and said: "Let us go to the window; I think it
rains."

We stood within the curtains, and listened to its pattering on the
floor of the piazza, and trickling down the glass like tears.

"Helen, if one could weep as quietly as this rain falls, and keep the
face as unwrinkled as the glass, it would be pretty to weep."

"Is it hard for you to cry?"

"I can't remember; it is so long since."

My ear caught the sound of a step on the piazza.

"Who is that?" she asked.

"It is a man."

"Morgeson?"

"Morgeson."

"Cassandra?"

"Cassandra."

"I can cry," and Helen covered her face.

"Cry away, then. Give me a fierce shower of tears, with thunder and
lightning between, if you like. Don't sop, and soak, and drizzle."

The step came close to the window; it was not in harmony with the rain
and darkness, but with the hot beating of my heart.

"We are breaking up," called Mr. Somers. "Mr. Bancroft's carriage is
ready, I am bid to say. It is inky outside."

"Yes," said Helen, "I am quite ready."

"There are a dozen chaises in the yard; Mr. Morgeson is there, and
lanterns. He is at home among horses, I believe."

"Do you like horses?" I asked.

"Not in the least."

Somebody called Helen.

"Good-night, Cass."

"Good-night; keep out of the rain."

"Good-night, Miss Morgeson," said Mr. Somers, when she had gone.
"Good-night and good-morning. My acquaintance with you has begun; it
will never end. You thought me a boy; I am just your age."

"'Never,' is a long word, Boy Somers."

"It is."

It rained all night; I wearied of its monotonous fall; if I slept it
turned into a voice which was pent up in a letter which I could not
open.

CHAPTER XVIII.

Alice was unusually gay the next morning. She praised Mr. Somers, and
could not imagine what had been the cause of his being expelled from
the college.

"Don't you like him, Cassandra? His family are unexceptionable."

"So is he, I believe, except in his fists. But how did you learn that
his family were unexceptionable?"

"Charles inquired in Boston, and heard that his mother was one of the
greatest heiresses in Belem."

"Did you enjoy last night, Alice?"

"Yes, I am fond of whist parties. You noticed that Charles has not a
remarkable talent that way. Did he speak to Mr. Somers at all, while
you played? I was too busy to come in. By the by, I must go now, and
see if the parlor is in order."

I followed her with my bonnet in hand, for it was school time.
She looked about, then went up to the mantel, and taking out the
candle-ends from the candelabra, looked in the glass, and said, "I am
a fright this morning."

"Am I?" I asked over her shoulder, for I was nearly a head taller.

"No; you are too young to look jaded in the morning. Your eyes are as
clear as a child's; and how blue they are."

"Mild and babyish-like, are they not? almost green with innocence. But
Charles has devilish eyes, don't you think so?"

She turned with her mouth open in astonishment, and her hand full of
candle-ends. "Cassandra Morgeson, are you mad?"

"Good-by," Alice.

I only saw Mr. Somers at prayers during the following fortnight. But
in that short time he made many acquaintances. Helen told me that he
had decided to study law with Judge Ryder, and that he had asked her
how long I expected to stay in Rosville. Nothing eccentric had been
discovered in his behavior; but she was convinced that he would
astonish us before long. The first Wednesday after our party, I was
absent from the elocutionary exercise; but the second came round, and
I took my place as usual beside Helen.

"This will be Mr. Somers's first and last appearance on our stage,"
she whispered; "some whim prompts him to come to-day."

He delighted Dr. Price by translating from the Agamemnon of AEschylus.

"Re-enter Clytemnestra."

"_Men! Citizens! ye Elders of Argos present here._"

"Who was Agamemnon?" I whispered.

"He gave Cassandra her last ride."

"Did he upset her?"

"Study Greek and you will know," she replied, frowning at him as he
stepped from the platform.

We went to walk in Silver Street after school, and he joined us.

"Do you read Greek?" he asked her.

"My father is a Greek Professor, and he made me study it when I was a
little girl."

"The name of Cassandra inspired me to rub up my knowledge of the
tragedies."

Helen and he had a Homeric talk, while I silently walked by them,
thinking that Cassandra would have suited Veronica, and that no name
suited me. From some reason I did not discover, Helen began to loiter,
pretending that she wanted to have a look at the clouds. But when I
looked back her head was bent to the ground. Mr. Somers offered to
carry my books.

"Carry Helen's; she is smaller than I am."

"Confound Helen!"

"And the books, too, if you like. Helen," I called, "why do you
loiter? It is time for dinner. We must go home."

"I am quite ready for my dinner," she replied. "Wont you come to our
house this afternoon and take tea with me?"

"Oh, Miss Perkins, do invite me also," he begged. "I want to bring
Tennyson to you."

"Is he related to Agamemnon?" I asked.

"I'll ask Mrs. Bancroft if I may invite you," said Helen, "if you are
sure that you would like a stupid, family tea."

"I am positive that I should. Tennyson, though an eminent Grecian, is
not related to the person you spoke of."

We parted at the foot of Silver Street, with the expectation of
meeting before night. Helen sent me word not to fail, as she had sent
for Mr. Somers, and that Mrs. Bancroft was already preparing tea.
Alice drove down there with me, to call on Mrs. Bancroft. The two
ladies compared children, and by the time Alice was ready to go, Mr.
Somers arrived. She staid a few moments more to chat with him, and
when she went at last, told me Charles would come for me on his way
from the mills.

My eyes wandered in the direction of Mr. Somers. His said: "No; go
home with _me_."

"Very well, Alice, whatever is convenient," I answered quietly.

Mrs. Bancroft was a motherly woman, and Mr. Bancroft was a fatherly
man. Five children sat round the tea-table, distinguished by the
Bancroft nose. Helen and I were seated each side of Mr. Somers. The
table reminded me of our table at Surrey, it was so covered with vast
viands; but the dishes were alike, and handsome. I wondered whether
mother had bought the new china in Boston, and, buttering my second
hot biscuit, I thought of Veronica; then, of the sea. How did it look?
Hark! Its voice was in my ear! Could I climb the housetop? Might I not
see the mist which hung over our low-lying sea by Surrey?

"Will you take quince or apple jelly, Miss Morgeson?" asked Mrs.
Bancroft.

"Apple, if you please."

"Do you write that sister of yours often?" asked Mr. Somers, as he
passed me the apple jelly.

"I never write her."

"Will you tell me something of Surrey?"

"Mr. Somers, shall I give you a cup-custard?"

"No, thank you, mam."

"Surrey is lonely, evangelical, primitive."

"Belem is dreary too; most of it goes to Boston, or to India."

"Does it smell of sandal wood? And has everybody tea-caddies? _Vide_
Indian stories."

"We have a crate of queer things from Calcutta."

"Are you going to study law with Judge Ryder?" Mr. Bancroft inquired.

"I think so."

Then Helen pushed back her chair; and Mrs. Bancroft stood in her place
long enough for us to reach the parlor door.

"And I must go to the office," Mr. Bancroft said, so we had the parlor
to ourselves; but Mr. Somers did not read from Tennyson--for he had
forgotten to bring the book.

"Now for a compact," he said. "I must be called Ben Somers by you; and
may I call you Cassandra, and Helen?"

"Yes," we answered.

"Let us be confidential."

And we were. I was drawn into speaking of my life at home; my remarks,
made without premeditation, proved that I possessed ideas and feelings
hitherto unknown. I felt no shyness before him, and, although I saw
his interest in me, no agitation. Helen was also moved to tell us
that she was engaged. She rolled up her sleeve to show us a bracelet,
printed in ink on her arm, with the initials, "L.N." Those of her
cousin, she said; he was a sailor, and some time, she supposed, they
would marry.

"How could you consent to have your arm so defaced?" I asked.

Her eyes flashed as she replied that she had not looked upon the mark
in that light before.

"We may all be tattooed," said Mr. Somers.

"I am," I thought.

He told us in his turn that he should be rich. "There are five of us.
My mother's fortune cuts up rather; but it wont be divided till the
youngest is twenty-one. I assure you we are impatient."

"Some one of your family happened to marry a Morgeson," I here
remarked.

"I wrote father about that; he must know the circumstance, though he
never has a chance to expatiate on _his_ side of the house. Poor man!
he has the gout, and passes his time in experiments with temperature
and diet. Will you ever visit Belem? I shall certainly go to Surrey."

Mrs. Bancroft interrupted us, and soon after Mr. Bancroft arrived,
redolent of smoke. Ten o'clock came, and nobody for me. At half-past
ten I put on my shawl to walk home, when Charles drove up to the gate.

"Say," said Ben Somers, in a low voice, "that you will walk with me."

"I am not too late, Cassandra?" called Charles, coming up the steps,
bowing to all. "I am glad you are ready; Nell is impatient."

"My dear," asked Mrs. Bancroft, "how dare you trust to the mercy of
such vicious beasts as Mr. Morgeson loves to drive?"

"Come," he said, touching my arm.

"Wont you walk?" said Mr. Somers aloud.

"Walk?" echoed Charles. "No."

"I followed him. Nell had already bitten off a paling; and as he
untied her he boxed her ears. She did not jump, for she knew the hand
that struck her. We rushed swiftly away through the long shadows of
the moonlight.

"Charles, what did Ben Somers do at Harvard?"

"He was in a night-fight, and he sometimes got drunk; it is a family
habit."

"Pray, why did you inquire about him?"

"From the interest I feel in him."

"You like him, then?"

"I detest him; do you too?"

"I like him."

He bent down and looked into my face.

"You are telling me a lie."

I made no reply.

"I should beg your pardon, but I will not. I am going away to-morrow.
Give me your hand, and say farewell."

"Farewell then. Is Alice up? I see a light moving in her chamber."

"If you do, she is not waiting for me."

"I have been making coffee for you," she said, as soon as we entered,
"in my French biggin. I have packed your valise too, Charles, and have
ordered your breakfast. Cassy, we will breakfast after he has gone."

"I have to sit up to write, Alice. See that the horses are exercised.
Ask Parker to drive them. The men will be here to-morrow to enlarge
the conservatory."

"Yes."

"I shall get a better stock while I am away."

I sipped my coffee; Alice yawned fearfully, with her hand on the
coffee-pot, ready to pour again. "Why, Charles," she exclaimed, "there
is no cream in your coffee."

"No, there isn't," looking into his cup; "nor sugar."

She threw a lump at him, which he caught, laughing one of his abrupt
laughs.

"How extraordinarily affectionate," I thought, but somehow it pleased
me.

"Why do you tempt me, Alice?" I said. "Doctor White says I must not
drink coffee."

"Tempted!" Charles exclaimed. "Cassandra is never tempted. What she
does, she does because she will. Don't worry yourself, Alice, about
her."

"Because I will," I repeated.

A nervous foreboding possessed me, the moment I entered my room. Was
it the coffee? Twice in the night I lighted my candle, looked at the
little French clock on the mantel, and under the bed. At last I fell
asleep, but starting violently from its oblivious dark, to become
aware that the darkness of the room was sentient. A breath passed over
my face; but I caught no sound, though I held my breath to listen for
one. I moved my hands before me then, but they came in contact with
nothing. My forebodings passed away, and I slept till Alice sent for
me. I sat up in bed philosophizing, and examining the position of
the chairs, the tops of the tables and the door. No change had taken
place. But my eyes happened to fall on my handkerchief, which had
dropped by the bedside. I picked it up; there was a dusty footprint
upon it. The bell rang, and, throwing it under the bed, I dressed and
ran down. Alice was taking breakfast, tired of waiting. She said the
baby had cried till after midnight, and that Charles never came to bed
at all.

"Do eat this hot toast; it has just come in."

"I shall stay at home to-day, Alice, I feel chilly; is it cold?"

"You must have a fire in your room."

"Let me have one to day; I should like to sit there."

She gave orders for the fire, and went herself to see that it burned.
Soon I was sitting before it, my feet on a stool, and a poker in my
hand with which I smashed the smoky lumps of coal which smoldered in
the grate.

I stayed there all day, looking out of the window when I heard the
horses tramp in the stable or a step on the piazza. It was a dull
November day; the atmosphere was glutinous with a pale mist, which
made the leaves stick together in bunches, helplessly cumbering the
ground. The boughs dropped silent tears over them, under the gray,
pitiless sky. I read Byron, which was the only book in the house,
I believe; for neither Charles nor Alice read anything except the
newspapers. I looked over my small stores also, and my papers, which
consisted of father's letters. As I was sorting them the thought
struck me of writing to Veronica, and I arranged my portfolio, pulled
the table nearer the fire, and began, "Dear Veronica." After writing
this a few times I gave it up, cut off the "Dear Veronicas," and made
lamplighters of the paper.

Ben Somers called at noon, to inquire the reason of my absence from
school, and left a book for me. It was the poems he had spoken of.
I lighted on "Fatima," read it and copied it. In the afternoon Alice
came up with the baby.

"Let me braid your hair," she said, "in a different fashion."

I assented; the baby was bestowed on a rug, and a chair was put before
the glass, that I might witness the operation.

"What magnificent hair!" she said, as she unrolled it. "It is a yard
long."

"It is a regular mane, isn't it?"

She began combing it; the baby crawled under the bed, and coming out
with the handkerchief in its hand, crept up to her, trying to make her
take it. She had combed my hair over my face, but I saw it.

"Do I hurt you, Cass?"

"No, do I ever hurt you, Alice?" And I divided the long bands over my
eyes, and looked up at her.

"Were any of your family ever cracked? I have long suspected you of a
disposition that way."

"The child is choking itself with that handkerchief."

She took it, and, tossing it on the bed, gave Byron to the child to
play with, and went on with the hair-dressing.

"There, now," she said, "is not this a masterpiece of barber's craft?
Look at the back of your head, and then come down."

"Yes, I will, for I feel better."

When I returned to my room again it was like meeting a confidential
friend.

A few days after, father came to Rosville. I invited Ben Somers and
Helen to spend with us the only evening he stayed. After they were
gone, we sat in my room and talked over many matters. His spirits were
not as buoyant as usual, and I felt an undefinable anxiety which I did
not mention. When he said that mother was more abstracted than
ever, he sighed. I asked him how many years he thought I must waste;
eighteen had already gone for nothing.

"You must go in the way ordained, waste or no waste. I have tried to
make your life differ from mine at the same age, for you are like me,
and I wanted to see the result."

"We shall see."

"Veronica has been let alone--is master of herself, except when in a
rage. She is an extraordinary girl; independent of kith and kin, and
everything else. I assure you, Miss Cassy, she is very good."

"Does she ever ask for me?"

"I never heard her mention your name but once. She asked one day what
your teachers were. You do not love each other, I suppose. What hatred
there is between near relations! Bitter, bitter," he said calmly, as
if he thought of some object incapable of the hatred he spoke of.

"That's Grandfather John Morgeson you think of. I do not hate
Veronica. I think I love her; at least she interests me."

"The same creeping in the blood of us all, Cassy. I did not like my
father; but thank God I behaved decently toward him. It must be late."

As he kissed me, and we stood face to face, I recognized my likeness
to him. "He has had experiences that I shall never know," I thought.
"Why should I tell him mine?" But an overpowering impulse seized me
to speak to him of Charles. "Father," and I put my hands on his
shoulders. He set his candle back on the table.

"You look hungry-eyed, eager. What is it? Are you well?"

"No."

"You are faded a little. Your face has lost its firmness."

My impulse died a sudden death. I buried it with a swallow.

"Do you think so?"

"You are all alike. Let me tell you something; don't get sick. If you
are, hide it as much as possible. Men do not like sick women."

"I'll end this fading business as soon as possible. It _is_ late.
Good-night, dad."

I examined my face as soon as he closed the door. There _was_ a
change. Not the change from health to disease, but an expression
lurking there--a reflection of some unrevealed secret.

The next morning was passed with Alice and the children. He was
pleased with her prettiness and sprightliness, and his gentle manner
and disposition pleased her. She asked him to let me spend another
year in Rosville; but he said that I must return to Surrey, and that
he never would allow me to leave home again.

"She will marry."

"Not early."

"Never, I believe," I said.

"It will be as well."

"Yes," she replied; "if you leave her a fortune, or teach her some
trade, that will give her some importance in the world."

Her wisdom astonished me.

He was sorry, he said, that Morgeson was not at home. When he
mentioned him I looked out of the window, and saw Ben Somers coming
into the yard. As he entered, Alice gave him a meaning look, which was
not lost upon me, and which induced him to observe Ben closely.

"The train is nearly due, Mr. Morgeson; shall I walk to the station
with you?"

"Certainly; come, Cassy."

On the way he touched me, making a sign toward Ben. I shook my head,
which appeared satisfactory. The rest of the time was consumed in the
discussion of the relationship, which ended in an invitation, as I
expected, to Surrey.

"The governor is not worried, is he?" asked Ben, on our way back.

"No more than I am."

"What a pity Morgeson was not at home!"

"Why a pity?"

"I should like to see them together, they are such antipodal men. Does
your father know him well?"

"Does any one know him well?"

"Yes, I know him. I do not like him. He is a savage, living by his
instincts, with one element of civilization--he loves Beauty--beauty
like yours." He turned pale when he said this, but went on. "He has
never seen a woman like you; who has? Forgive me, but I watch you
both."

"I have perceived it."

"I suppose so, and it makes you more willful."

"You said you were but a boy."

"Yes, but I have had one or two manly wickednesses. I have done with
them, I hope."

"So that you have leisure to pry into those of others."

"You do not forgive me."

"I like you; but what can I do?"

"Keep up your sophistry to the last."

CHAPTER XIX.

Alice and I were preparing for the first ball, when Charles came home,
having been absent several weeks. The conservatory was finished, and
looked well, jutting from the garden-room, which we used often, since
the weather had been cold. The flowers and plants it was filled with
were more fragrant and beautiful than rare. I never saw him look so
genial as when he inspected it with us. Alice was in good-humor, also,
for he had brought her a set of jewels.

"Is it not her birthday," he said, when he gave her the jewel case,
"or something, that I can give Cassandra this?" taking a little box
from his pocket.

"Oh yes," said Alice; "show it to us."

"Will you have it?" he asked me.

I held out my hand, and he put on my third finger a diamond ring,
which was like a star.

"How well it looks on your long hand!" said Alice.

"What unsuspected tastes I find I have!" I answered. "I am
passionately fond of rings; this delights me."

His swarthy face flushed with pleasure at my words; but, according to
his wont, he said nothing.

A few days after his return, a man came into the yard, leading a
powerful horse chafing in his halter, which he took to the
stable. Charles asked me to look at a new purchase he had made in
Pennsylvania. The strange man was lounging about the stalls when we
went in, inspecting the horses with a knowing air.

"I declare, sir," said Jesse, "I am afeared to tackle this ere animal;
he's a reglar brute, and no mistake."

"He'll be tame enough; he is but four years old."

"He's never been in a carriage," said the man.

"Lead him out, will you?"

The man obeyed. The horse was a fine creature, black, and thick-maned;
but the whites of his eyes were not clear; they were streaked with
red, and he attempted continually to turn his nostrils inside out.
Altogether, I thought him diabolical.

"What's the matter with his eyes?" Charles asked.

"I think, sir," the man replied, "as how they got inflamed like, in
the boat coming from New York. It's nothing perticalar, I believe."

Alice declared it was too bad, when she heard there was another horse
in the stable. She would not look at him, and said she would never
ride with Charles when he drove him.

I had been taking lessons of Professor Simpson, and was ready for
the ball. All the girls from the Academy were going in white, except
Helen, who was to wear pink silk. It was to be a military ball, and
strangers were expected. Ben Somers, and our Rosville beaux, were
of course to be there, all in uniform, except Ben, who preferred the
dress of a gentleman, he said,--silk stockings, pumps, and a white
cravat.

We were dressed by nine o'clock, Alice in black velvet, with a wreath
of flowers in her black hair--I in alight blue velvet bodice, and
white silk skirt. We were waiting for the ball hack to come for us, as
hat was the custom, for no one owned a close coach in Rosville, when
Charles brought in some splendid scarlet flowers which he gave to
Alice.

"Where are Cassandra's?"

"She does not care for flowers; besides, she would throw them away on
her first partner."

He put us in the coach, and went back. I was glad he did not come with
us, and gave myself up to the excitement of my first ball. Alice was
surrounded by her acquaintances at once, and I was asked to dance a
quadrille by Mr. Parker, whose gloves were much too large, and whose
white trowsers were much too long.

"I kept the flowers you gave me," he said in a breathless way.

"Oh yes, I remember; mustn't we forward now?"

"Mr. Morgeson's very fond of flowers."

"So he is. How de do, Miss Ryder."

Miss Ryder, my vis-a-vis, bowed, looking scornfully at my partner, who
was only a clerk, while hers was a law student. I immediately turned
to Mr. Parker with affable smiles, and went into a kind of dumb-show
of conversation, which made him warm and uncomfortable. Mrs. Judge
Ryder sailed by on Ben Somers's arm.

"Put your shoulders down," she whispered to her daughter, who had
poked one very much out of her dress. "My love," she spoke aloud, "you
mustn't dance _every_ set."

"No, ma," and she passed on, Ben giving a faint cough, for my benefit.
We could not find Alice after the dance was over. A brass band
alternated with the quadrille band, and it played so loudly that we
had to talk at the top of our voices to be heard. Mine soon gave out,
and I begged Mr. Parker to bring Helen, for I had not yet seen her.
She was with Dr. White, who had dropped in to see the miserable
spectacle. The air, he said, shaking his finger at me, was already
miasmal; it would be infernal by midnight Christians ought not to be
there. "Go home early, Miss. Your mother never went to a ball, I'll
warrant."

"We are wiser than our mothers."

"And wickeder; you will send for me to-morrow."

"Your Valenciennes lace excruciates the Ryders," said Helen. "I was
standing near Mrs. Judge Ryder and the girls just now. 'Did you ever
see such an upstart?' And, 'What an extravagant dress she has on--it
is ridiculous,' Josephine Ryder said. When Ben Somers heard this
attack on you, he told them that your lace was an heirloom. Here he
is." Mr. Parker took her away, and Ben Somers went in pursuit of a
seat. The quadrille was over, I was engaged for the next, and he had
not come back. I saw nothing of him till the country dance before
supper. He was at the foot of the long line, opposite a pretty girl
in blue, looking very solemn and stately. I took off the glove from my
hand which wore the new diamond, and held it up, expecting him to look
my way soon. Its flash caught his eyes, as they roamed up and down,
and, as I expected, he left his place and came up behind me.

"Where did you get that ring?" wiping his face with his handkerchief.

"Ask Alice."

"You are politic."

"Handsome, isn't it?"

"And valuable; it cost as much as the new horse."

"Have you made a memorandum of it?"

"Destiny has brilliant spokes in her wheel, hasn't she?"

"Is that from the Greek tragedies?"

"To your places, gentlemen," the floor-manager called, and the band
struck up the Fisher's Hornpipe. At supper, I saw Ben Somers, still
with the pretty girl in blue; but he came to my chair and asked me if
I did not think she was a pretty toy for a man to play with.

"How much wine have you drunk? Enough to do justice to the family
annals?"

"Really, you have been well informed. No, I have _not_ drunk enough
for that; but Mrs. Ryder has sent her virgins home with me. I am
afraid their lamps are upset again. I drink nothing after to-night.
You shall not ask again, 'How much?'"

My fire was out when I reached home. My head was burning and aching.
I was too tired to untwist my hair, and I pulled and dragged at my
dress, which seemed to have a hundred fastenings. Creeping into bed,
I perceived the odor of flowers, and looking at my table discovered a
bunch of white roses.

"Roses are nonsense, and life is nonsense," I thought.

When I opened my eyes, Alice was standing by the bed, with a glass of
roses in her hand.

"Charles put these roses here, hey?"

"I suppose so; throw them out of the window, and me too; my head is
splitting."

"To make amends for not giving you any last night," she went on; "he
is quite childish."

"Can't you unbraid my hair, it hurts my head so?"

She felt my hands. I was in a fever, she said, and ran down for
Charles. "Cass is sick, in spite of your white roses."

"The devil take the roses. Can't you get up, Cassandra?"

"Not now. Go away, will you?"

He left the room abruptly. Alice loosened my hair, bound my head, and
poured cologne-water over me, lamenting all the while that she had not
brought me home; and then went down for some tea, presently returning
to say that Charles had been for Dr. White, who said he would not
come. But he was there shortly afterward. By night I was well again.

Dr. Price gave us a lecture on late hours that week, requesting us, if
we had any interest in our education, or expected him to have any, to
abstain from balls.

Ben Somers disappeared; no one knew where he had gone. The Ryders were
in consternation, for he was an intimate of the family, since he
had gone into Judge Ryder's office, six weeks before. He returned,
however, with a new overcoat trimmed with fur, the same as that with
which my new cloak was trimmed. A great snowstorm began the day of his
return, and blocked us indoors for several days, and we had permanent
sleighing afterward.

In January it was proposed that we should go to the Swan Tavern, ten
miles out of Rosville.

I had made good resolutions since the ball, and declined going to the
second, which came off three weeks afterward. The truth was, I did not
enjoy the first; but I preferred to give my decision a virtuous tinge.
I also determined to leave the Academy when the spring came, for I
felt no longer a schoolgirl. But for Helen, I could not have remained
as I did. She stayed for pastime now, she confessed, it was so dull at
home; her father was wrapped in his studies, and she had a stepmother.
I resolved again that I would study more, and was translating, in view
of this resolve, "Corinne," with Miss Prior, and singing sedulously
with Mrs. Lane, and had begun a course of reading with Dr. Price.

I refused two invitations to join the sleighing party, and on the
night it was to be had prepared to pass the evening in my own room
with Oswald and Corinne. Before the fire, with lighted candles, I
heard a ringing of bells in the yard and a stamping of feet on the
piazza. Alice sent up for me. I found Ben Somers with her, who begged
me to take a seat in his sleigh. Helen was there, and Amelia Bancroft.
Alice applauded me for refusing him; but when he whispered in my ear
that he had been to Surrey I changed my mind. She assisted me with
cheerful alacrity to put on a merino dress, its color was purple;--a
color I hate now, and never wear--and wrapped me warmly. Charles
appeared before we started. "Are you really going?" he asked, in a
tone of displeasure.

"She is really going," Ben answered for me. "Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft are
going," Helen said. "Why not drive out with Mrs. Morgeson?"

"The night is splendid," Ben remarked.

"Wont you come?" I asked.

"If Alice wishes it. Will you go?" he asked her.

"Would you?" she inquired of all, and all replied, "Yes."

We started in advance. Helen and Amelia were packed on the back seat,
in a buffalo robe, while Ben and I sat in the shelter of the driver's
box, wrapped in another. It was moonlight, and as we passed the
sleighs of the rest of the party, exchanging greetings, we grew very
merry. Ben, voluble and airy, enlivened us by his high spirits.

We were drinking mulled wine round the long pine dinner-table of the
Swan, when Charles and Alice arrived. There were about thirty in the
room, which was lighted by tallow candles. When he entered, it seemed
as if the candles suddenly required snuffing, and we ceased to laugh.
All spoke to him with respect, but with an inflection of the voice
which denoted that he was not one of us. As he carelessly passed round
the table all made a movement as he approached, scraping their chairs
on the bare floor, moving their glass of mulled wine, or altering the
position of their arms or legs. An indescribable appreciation of the
impression which he made upon others filled my heart. His isolation
from the sympathy of every person there gave me a pain and a pity, and
for the first time I felt a pang of tenderness, and a throe of pride
for him. But Alice, upon whom he never made any impression, saw
nothing of this; her gayety soon removed the stiffness and silence he
created. The party grew noisy again, except Ben, who had not broken
the silence into which he fell as soon as he saw Charles. The mulled
wine stood before him untouched. I moved to the corner of the table
to allow room for the chair which Charles was turning toward me. Ben
ordered more wine, and sent a glass full to him. Taking it from
the boy who brought it, I gave it to him. "Drink," I said. My voice
sounded strangely. Barely tasting it, he set the glass down, and
leaning his arm on the table, turned his face to me, shielding it with
his hand from the gaze of those about us. I pushed away a candle that
flared in our faces.

"You never drink wine?"

"No, Cassandra."

"How was the ride down?"

"Delightful."

"What about the new horse?"

"He is an awful brute."

"When shall we have a ride with him?"

"When you please."

The boy came in to say would we please go to the parlor; our room was
wanted for supper. An immediate rush, with loud laughing, took place,
for the parlor fire; but Charles and I did not move. I was busy
remaking the bow of my purple silk cravat.

"'I drink the cup of a costly death,'" Ben hummed, as he sauntered
along by us, hands in his pockets--the last in the room, except us
two.

"Indeed, Somers; perhaps you would like this too." And Charles offered
him his glass of wine.

Ben took it, and with his thumb and finger snapped it off at the stem,
tipping the wine over Charles's hand.

I saw it staining his wristband, like blood. He did not stir, but a
slight smile traveled swiftly over his face.

"I know Veronica," said Ben, looking at me. "Has this man seen _her_?"

His voice crushed me. What a barrier his expression of contempt made
between her and me!

Withal, I felt a humiliating sense of defeat.

Charles read me.

As he folded his wristband under his sleeve, carefully and slowly, his
slender fingers did not tremble with the desire that possessed him,
which I saw in his terrible eyes as plainly as if he had spoken, "I
would kill him."

They looked at my hands, for I was wringing them, and a groan burst
from me.

"Somers," said Charles, rising and touching his shoulder, "behave like
a man, and let us alone; I love this girl."

His pale face changed, his eyes softened, and mine filled with tears.

"Cassandra," urged Ben, in a gentle voice, "come with me; come away."

"Fool," I answered; "leave _me_ alone, and go."

He hesitated, moved toward the door, and again urged me to come.

"Go! go!" stamping my foot, and the door closed without a sound.

For a moment we stood, transfixed in an isolation which separated us
from all the world beside.

"Now Charles, we"--a convulsive sob choked me, a strange taste filled
my mouth, I put my handkerchief to my lips and wiped away streaks of
blood. I showed it to him.

"It is nothing, by God!" snatching the handkerchief. "Take mine--oh,
my dear--"

I tried to laugh, and muttered the imperative fact of joining the
rest.

"Be quiet, Cassandra."

He opened the window, took a handful of snow from the sill and put it
to my mouth. It revived me.

"Do you hear, Charles? Never say those frightful words again. Never,
never."

"Never, if it must be so."

He touched my hand; I opened it; his closed over mine.

"Go, now," he said, and springing to the window, threw it up, and
jumped out. The boy came in with a tablecloth on his arm, and behind
him Ben.

"Glass broken, sir."

"Put it in the bill."

He offered me his arm, which I was glad to take.

"Where is Charles?" Alice asked, when we went in.

"He has just left us," Ben answered; "looking after his horses,
probably."

"Of course," she replied. "You look blue, Cass. Here, take my chair by
the fire; we are going to dance a Virginia reel."

I accepted her offer, and was thankful that the dance would take them
away. I wanted to be alone forever. Helen glided behind my chair, and
laid her hand on my shoulder; I shook it off.

"What is the matter, Cass?"

"I am going away from Char--school."

"We are all going; but not to-night."

"I am going to-night."

"So you shall, dear; but wait till after supper."

"Do you think, Helen, that I shall ever have consumption?" fumbling
for my handkerchief, forgetting in whose possession it was. Charles
came in at that instant, and I remembered that he had it.

"What on earth has happened to you? Oh!" she exclaimed, as I looked at
her. "You were out there with Morgeson and Ben Somers," she whispered;
"something has occurred; what is it?"

"You shall never know; never--never--never."

"Cassandra, that man is a devil."

"I like devils."

"The same blood rages in both of you."

"It's mulled wine,--thick and stupid."

"Nonsense."

"Will there be tea, at supper?"

"You shall have some."

"Ask Ben to order it."

"Heaven forgive us all, Cassandra!"

"Remember the tea."

Charles stood near his wife; wherever she moved afterwards he moved.
I saw it, and felt that it was the shadow of something which would
follow.

At last the time came for us to return. Helen had plied me with tea,
and was otherwise watchful, but scarcely spoke.

"It is an age," I said, "since I left Rosville."

She raised her eyebrows merely, and asked me if I would have more tea.

"In my room," I thought, "I shall find myself again." And as I opened
my door, it welcomed me with so friendly and silent an aspect, that I
betrayed my grief, and it covered my misery as with a cloak.

CHAPTER XX.

Helen was called home by the illness of her father and did not return
to Rosville. She would write me, she said; but it was many weeks
before I received a letter. Ben Somers about this time took a fit of
industry, and made a plan for what he called a well-regulated life,
averring that he should always abide by it. Every hour had its duty,
which must be fulfilled. He weighed his bread and meat, ate so many
ounces a day, and slept watch and watch, as he nautically termed it.
I guessed that the meaning of his plan was to withdraw from the
self-chosen post of censor. His only alienation was an occasional
disappearance for a few days. I never asked him where he went, and had
never spoken to him concerning his mysterious remark about having
been in Surrey. Neither had I heard anything of his being there from
father. Once he told me that his father had explained the marriage of
old Locke Morgeson; but that it was not clear to him that we were at
all related.

In consequence of his rigorous life, I saw little of him. Though
urged by Alice, he did not come to our house, and we rarely met him
elsewhere. People called him eccentric, but as he was of a rich family
he could afford to be, and they felt no slight by his neglect.

There was a change everywhere. The greatest change of all was in
Charles. From the night of the sleigh-ride his manner toward me was
totally altered. As far as I could discern, the change was a confirmed
one. The days grew monotonous, but my mind avenged itself by night in
dreams, which renewed our old relation in all its mysterious vitality.
So strong were their impressions that each morning I expected to
receive some token from him which would prove that they were not
lies. As my expectation grew cold and faint, the sense of a double
hallucination tormented me--the past and the present.

The winter was over. I passed it like the rest of Rosville, going out
when Alice went, staying at home when she stayed. It was all one what
I did, for my aspect was one of content.

Alice alone was unchanged; her spirits and pursuits were always the
same. Judging by herself, if she judged at all, she perceived no
change in us. Her theory regarding Charles was too firm to be shaken,
and all his oddity was a matter of course. As long as I ate, and
drank, and slept as usual, I too must be the same. He was not at home
much. Business, kept him at the mills, where he often slept, or out of
town. But the home machinery was still under his controlling hand. Not
a leaf dropped in the conservatory that he did not see; not a meal
was served whose slightest detail was not according to his desire. The
horses were exercised, the servants managed, the children kept within
bounds; nothing in the formula of our daily life was ever dropped, and
yet I scarcely ever saw him! When we met, I shared his attentions. He
gave me flowers; noticed my dress; spoke of the affairs of the day;
but all in so public and matter-of-fact a way that I thought I must be
the victim of a vicious sentimentality, or that he had amused himself
with me. Either way, the sooner I cured myself of my vice the better.
But my dreams continued.

"I miss something in your letters," father complained. "What is it?
Would you like to come home? Your mother is failing in health--she may
need you, though she says not."

I wrote him that I should come home.

"Are you prepared," he asked in return, "to remain at home for the
future? Have you laid the foundation of anything by which you can
abide contented, and employed? Veronica has been spending two months
in New York, with the family of one of my business friends. All that
she brings back serves to embellish her quiet life, not to change it.
Will it be so with you?"

I wrote back, "No; but I am coming."

He wrote again of changes in Surrey. Dr. Snell had gone, library and
all, and a new minister, red hot from Andover, had taken his place. An
ugly new church was building. His best ship, the _Locke Morgeson_,
was at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, he had just heard. Her loss
bothered him, but his letters were kinder than ever.

I consulted with Alice about leaving the Academy. She approved
my plan, but begged me not to leave her. I said nothing of my
determination to that effect, feeling a strange disinclination toward
owning it, though I persisted in repeating it to myself. I applied
diligently to my reading, emulating Ben Somers in the regularity of
my habits, and took long walks daily--a mode of exercise I had adopted
since I had ceased my rides with Charles. The pale blue sky of spring
over me, and the pale green grass under me, were charming perhaps;
but there was the same monotony in them, as in other things. I did not
frequent our old promenade, Silver Street, but pushed my walks
into the outskirts of Rosville, by farms bordered with woods. My
schoolmates, who were familiar with all the pleasant spots of the
neighborhood, met me in groups. "Are you really taking walks like the
rest of us?" they asked. "Only alone," I answered.

I bade farewell at last to Miss Prior. We parted with all friendliness
and respect; from the fact, possibly, that we parted ignorant of each
other. It was the most rational relation that I had ever held with any
one. We parted without emotion or regret, and I started on my usual
walk.

As I was returning I met Ben Somers. When he saw me he threw his cap
into the air, with the information that he had done with his plans,
and had ordered an indigestible supper, in honor of his resolve. As
people had truly remarked, he could afford to be eccentric. He was
tired of it; he had money enough to do without law. "Not as much as
your cousin Morgeson, who can do without the Gospel, too."

This was the first time that he had referred to Charles since that
memorable night. Trifling as his words were, they broke into the
foundations of my stagnant will, and set the tide flowing once more.

"You went to Surrey."

"I was there a few hours. Your father was not at home. He asked me
there, you remember. I introduced myself, therefore, and was politely
received by your mother, who sent for Veronica. She came in with an
occupied air, her hands full of what I thought were herbs; but they
were grasses, which she had been re-arranging, she said.

"'You know my sister?' she asked, coming close, and looking at me with
the most singular eyes that were ever on earth." He stopped a moment.
"Not like yours, in the least," he continued. "'Cassandra is very
handsome now, is she?'

"'Why, Veronica,' said your mother, 'you astonish Mr. Somers.'

"'You are not astonished,' she said with vehemence, 'you are
embarrassed.'

"'Upon my soul I am,' I replied, feeling at ease as soon as I had said
so.

"'Tell me, what has Cassandra been taught? Is Rosville suited to her?
We are not.'

"'Veronica!' said your mother again.

"'Mother," and she shook the grasses, and made a little snow fall
round her; 'what shall I say then? I am sure he knows Cassandra. What
did you come here for?' turning to me again.

"'To see you,' I answered foolishly.

"'And has Cassandra spoken of me?' Her pale face grew paler, and an
indescribable expression passed over it. 'I do not often speak of
her.'

"'She does not of you,' I was obliged to answer. And then I said I
must go. But your mother made me dine with them. When I came away
Veronica offered me her hand, but she sent no message to you. She has
never been out of my mind a moment since."

"You remember the particulars of the interview very well."

"Why not?"

"Would she bear your supervision?"

"Forgive me, Cassandra. Have I not been making a hermit of myself,
eating bread and meat by the ounce, for an expiation?"

"How did it look there? Oh, tell me!"

"You strange girl, have you a soul then? It is a grand place, where
it has not been meddled with. I hired a man to drive me as far as any
paths went, into those curving horns of land, on each side of Surrey
to the south. The country is crazy with barrenness, and the sea mocks
it with its terrible beauty."

"You will visit us, won't you?"

"Certainly; I intend to go there."

"Do you know that I left school to-day?"

"It is time."

I hurried into the house, for I did not wish to hear any questions
from him concerning my future. Charlotte, who was rolling up an
umbrella in the hall, said it was tea-time, adding that Mr. Morgeson
had come, and that he was in the dining-room. I went upstairs to leave
my bonnet. As I pulled off my glove the ring on my finger twisted
round. I took it off, for the first time since Charles had given it
to me. A sense of haste came upon me; my hands trembled. I brushed
my hair with the back of the brush, shook it out, and wound it into
a loose mass, thrust in my comb and went down. Charlotte was putting
candles on the tea table. Edward was on his father's knee; Alice was
waiting by the tray.

"Here--is--Cassandra," said Charles, mentioning the fact as if he
merely wished to attract the child's attention.

"Here--is--Cassandra," I repeated, imitating his tone. He started.
Some devil broke loose in him, and looking through his eyes an
instant, disappeared, like a maniac who looks through the bars of his
cell, and dodges from the eye of his keeper. Jesse brought me a letter
while we were at the table. It was from Helen. I broke its seal to see
how long it was, and put it aside.

"I am free, Alice. I have left the Academy, and am going to set up for
an independent woman."

"What?" said Charles; "you did not tell me. Did you know it, Alice?"

"Yes; we can't expect her to be at school all her days."

"Cassandra," he said suddenly, "will you give me the salt?"

He looked for the ring on the hand which I stretched toward him.

He not only missed that, but he observed the disregard of his wishes
in the way I had arranged my hair. I shook it looser from the comb and
pushed it from my face. An expression of unspeakable passion, pride,
and anguish came into his eyes; his mouth trembled; he caught up a
glass of water to hide his face, and drank slowly from it.

"Are you going away again soon?" Alice asked him presently.

"No."

"To keep Cassandra, I intend to ask Mrs. Morgeson to come again. Will
you write Mr. Morgeson to urge it?"

"Yes."

"I shall ask them to give up Cass altogether to us."

"You like her so much, do you, Alice?"

His voice sounded far off and faint.

Again I refrained from speaking my resolution of going home. I would
give up thinking of it even! I felt again the tension of the chain
between us. That night I ceased to dream of him.

"My letter is from Helen, Alice," I said.

"When did you see Somers?" Charles asked.

"To-day. I have an idea he will not remain here long."

"He is an amusing young man," Alice remarked.

"Very," said Charles.

Helen's letter was long and full of questions. What had I done? How
had I been? She gave an account of her life at home. She was her
father's nurse, and seldom left him. It was a dreary sort of business,
but she was not melancholy. In truth, she felt better pleased with
herself than she had been in Rosville. She could not help thinking
that a chronic invalid would be a good thing for me. How was Ben
Somers? How much longer should I stay in Rosville? It would know us no
more forever when we left, and both of us would leave it at the same
time. Would I visit her ever? They lived in a big house with a red
front door. On the left was a lane with tall poplars dying on each
side of it, up which the cows passed every night. At the back of it
was a huge barn round which martins and pigeons flew the year through.
It was dull but respectable and refined, and no one knew that she was
tattooed on the arm.

I treasured this letter and all she wrote me. It was my first
school-girl correspondence and my last.

Relations of Alice came from a distance to pay her a visit. There was
a father, a mother, a son about twenty-one, and two girls who were
younger. Alice wished that they had stayed at home; but she was polite
and endeavored to make their visit agreeable. The son, called by his
family "Bill," informed Charles that he was a judge of horseflesh, and
would like to give his nags a try, having a high-flyer himself at
home that the old gentleman would not hear of his bringing along. His
actions denoted an admiration of me. He looked over the book I was
reading or rummaged my workbox, trying on my thimble with an air of
tenderness, and peeping into my needlebook. He told Alice that he
thought I was a whole team and a horse to let, but he felt rather
balky when he came near me, I had such a smartish eye.

"What am I to do, marm?" asked Jesse one morning when Charles was
away. "That ere young man wants to ride the new horse, and it is jist
the one he mus'n't ride."

"I will speak to Cousin Bill myself," she said.

"He seems a sperrited young feller, and if he wants to break his neck
it's most a pity he shouldn't."

"I think," she said when Jesse had retired, "that Charles must be
saving up that beast to kill himself with. He will not pull a chaise
yet."

"Has Charles tried him?"

"In the lane in an open wagon. He has a whim of having him broken to
drive without blinders, bare of harness; he has been away so of late
that he has not accomplished it."

Bill entered while we were talking, and Alice told him he must not
attempt to use the horse, but proposed he should take her pair and
drive out with me. I shook my head in vain; she was bent on mischief.
He was mollified by the proposal, and I was obliged to get ready. On
starting he placed his cap on one side, held his whip upright, telling
me that it was not up to the mark in length, and doubled his knuckles
over the reins. He was a good Jehu, but I could not induce him to
observe anything along the road.

"Where's Mr. Morgeson's mills?"

We turned in their direction.

"He is a man of property, ain't he?"

"I think so."

"He has prime horses anyhow. That stallion of his would bring a
first-rate price if he wanted to sell. Do you play the piano?"

"A little."

"And sing?"

"Yes."

"I have not heard you. Will you sing '_A place in thy memory,
dearest,'_ some time for me?"

"Certainly."

"Are you fond of flowers and the like?"

"Very fond of them."

"So am I; our tastes agree. Here we are, hey?"

Charles came out when he saw us coming over the bridge, and Bill
pulled up the horses scientifically, giving him a coachman's salute.
"You see I am quite a whip."

"You are," said Charles.

"What a cub!" he whispered me. "I think I'll give up my horses and
take to walking as you have."

On the way home Bill held the reins in one hand and attempted to take
mine with the other, a proceeding which I checked, whereupon he was
exceedingly confused. The whip fell from his clutch over the dasher,
and in recovering it his hat fell off; shame kept him silent for the
rest of the ride.

I begged Alice to propose no more rides with Cousin Bill. That night
he composed a letter which he sent me by Charlotte early the next
morning.

"Why, Charlotte, what nonsense is this?"

"I expect," she answered sympathizingly, "that it is an offer of his
hand and heart."

"Don't mention it, Charlotte."

"Never while I have breath."

In an hour she told Phoebe, who told Alice, who told Charles, and
there it ended. It was an offer, as Charlotte predicted. My first! I
was crestfallen! I wrote a reply, waited till everybody had gone to
breakfast, and slipping into his room, pinned it to the pincushion.
In the evening he asked if I ever sang "_Should these fond hopes e'er
forsake thee."_ I gave him the "_Pirate's Serenade_" instead, which
his mother declared beautiful. I saw Alice and Charles laughing,
and could hardly help joining them, when I looked at Bill, in whose
countenance relief and grief were mingled.

It was a satisfaction to us when they went away. Their visit was
shortened, I suspected, by the representations Bill made to his
mother. She said, "Good-by," with coldness; but he shook hands with
me, and said it was all right he supposed.

The day they went I had a letter from father which informed me that
mother would not come to Rosville. He reminded me that I had been
in Rosville over a year. "I am going home soon," I said to myself,
putting away the letter. It was a summer day, bright and hot. Alice,
busy all day, complained of fatigue and went to bed soon after tea.
The windows were open and the house was perfumed with odors from
the garden. At twilight I went out and walked under the elms, whose
pendant boughs were motionless. I watched the stars as they came out
one by one above the pale green ring of the horizon and glittered in
the evening sky, which darkened slowly. I was coming up the gravel
walk when I heard a step at the upper end of it which arrested me. I
recognized it, and slipped behind a tree to wait till it should pass
by me; but it ceased, and I saw Charles pulling off a twig of the
tree, which brushed against his face. Presently he sprang round the
tree, caught me, and held me fast.

"I am glad you are here, my darling. Do you smell the roses?"

"Yes; let me go."

"Not till you tell me one thing. Why do you stay in Rosville?"

The baby gave a loud cry in Alice's chamber which resounded through
the garden.

"Go and take care of your baby," I said roughly, "and not busy
yourself with me."

"Cassandra," he said, with a menacing voice, "how dare you defy me?
How dare you tempt me?"

I put my hand on his arm. "Charles, is love a matter of temperament?"

"Are you mad? It is life--it is heaven--it is hell."

"There is something in this soft, beautiful, odorous night that makes
one mad. Still I shall not say to you what you once said to me."

"Ah! you do not forget those words--'_I love you_.'"

Some one came down the lane which ran behind the garden whistling an
opera air.

"There is your Providence," he said quietly, resting his hand against
the tree.

I ran round to the front piazza, just as Ben Somers turned out of the
lane, and called him.

"I have wandered all over Rosville since sunset," he said "and at last
struck upon that lane. To whom does it belong?"

"It is ours, and the horses are exercised there."

"'In such a night,
Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan walls,
And sighed his soul towards the Grecian tents,
Where Cressid lay that night.'"

'"In such a night,
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand,
Upon the wild sea banks, and waved her love
To come again to Carthage.'"

"Talk to me about Surrey, Cassandra."

"Not a word."

"Why did you call me?"

"To see what mood you were in."

"How disagreeable you are! What is the use of venturing one's mood
with you?"

CHAPTER XXI.

Alice called me to her chamber window one morning. "Look into the
lane. Charles and Jesse are there with that brute. He goes very well,
now that they have thrown the top of the chaise back; he quivered like
a jelly at first."

"I must have a ride, Alice."

"Charles," she called. "Breakfast is waiting."

"What shall be his name, girls?" he asked.

"Aspen," I suggested.

"That will do," said Alice.

"Shall we ride soon?" I asked.

"Will you?" he spoke quickly. "In a day or two, then."

"Know what you undertake, Cass," said Alice.

"She always does," he answered.

"Let me go, papa," begged Edward.

"By and by, my boy."

"What a compliment, Cass! He does not object to venture you."

He proposed Fairtown, six miles from Rosville, as he had business
there. The morning we were to go proved cloudy, and we waited till
afternoon, when Charles, declaring that it would not rain, ordered
Aspen to be harnessed. I went into Alice's room tying my bonnet; he
was there, leaning over the baby's crib, who lay in it crowing and
laughing at the snapping of his fingers. Alice was hemming white
muslin.

"Take a shawl with you, Cass; I think it will rain, the air is so
heavy."

"I guess not," said Charles, going to the window. "What a nuisance
that lane is, so near the garden! I'll have it plowed soon, and
enclosed."

"For all those wild primroses you value so?" she asked.

"I'll spare those."

Charlotte came to tell us that the chaise was ready.

"Good-bye, Alice," he said, passing her, and giving her work a toss up
to the ceiling.

"Be careful."

"Take care, sir," said Penn, after we were in the chaise, "and don't
give way to him; if you do, he'll punish you. May be he feels the
thunder in the air."

We reached Fairtown without any indication of mischief from Aspen,
although he trotted along as if under protest. Charles was delighted,
and thought he would be very fast, by the time he was trained. It grew
murky and hot every moment, and when we reached Fairtown the air was
black and sultry with the coming storm. Charles left me at the little
hotel, and returned so late in the afternoon that we decided not to
wait for the shower. Two men led Aspen to the door. He pulled at his
bridle, and attempted to run backward, playing his old trick of trying
to turn his nostrils inside out, and drawing back his upper lip.

"Something irritates him, Charles."

"If you are afraid, you must not come with me. I can have you sent
home in a carriage from the tavern."

"I shall go back with you."

But I felt a vague alarm, and begged him to watch Aspen, and not talk.
Aspen went faster and faster, seeming to have lost his shyness, and my
fears subsided. We were within a couple of miles of Rosville, when a
splashing rain fell.

"You must not be wet," said Charles. "I will put up the top. Aspen is
so steady now, it may not scare him."

"No, no," I said; but he had it up already, and asked me to snap the
spring on my side. I had scarcely taken my arm inside the chaise when
Aspen stopped, turned his head, and looked at us with glazed eyes;
flakes of foam flew from his mouth over his mane. The flesh on his
back contracted and quivered. I thought he was frightened by the
chaise-top, and looked at Charles in terror.

"He has some disorder," he cried. "Oh, Cassandra! My God!"

He tried to spring at his head, but was too late, for the horse was
leaping madly. He fell back on his seat.

"If he will keep the road," he muttered.

I could not move my eyes from him. How pale he was! But he did
not speak again. The horse ran a few rods, leaped across a ditch,
clambered up a stone wall with his fore-feet, and fell backward!

Dr. White was in my room, washing my face. There was a smell of
camphor about the bed. "You crawled out of a small hole, my child," he
said, as I opened my eyes. It was quite dark, but I saw people at
the door, and two or three at the foot of my bed, and I heard low,
constrained talking everywhere.

"His iron feet made a dreadful noise on the stones, Doctor!"

I shut my eyes again and dozed. Suddenly a great tumult came to my
heart.

"Was he killed?" I cried, and tried to rise from the bed. "Let me go,
will you?"

"He is dead," whispered Dr. White.

I laughed loudly.

"Be a good girl--be a good girl. Get out, all of you. Here, Miss
Prior."

"You are crying, Doctor; my eyes feel dry."

"Pooh, pooh, little one. Now I am going to set your arm; simple
fracture, that's all. The blow was tempered, but you are paralyzed by
the shock."

"Miss Prior, is my face cut?"

"Not badly, my dear."

My arm was set, my face bandaged, some opium administered, and then
I was left alone with Miss Prior. I grew drowsy, but suffered so from
the illusion that I was falling out of bed that I could not sleep.

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