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Rutherford,” he read. “Well, this is consistent at least. She wears the disguise of a virtuous woman in her very tomb. Marion Nugent rests beneath the waves of the Atlantic ocean, and here Rose Sherbrooke sleeps in an honored grave beneath the shelter of the dead girl’s stainless name. But the deception has power to harm no longer, so let us leave her in peace. It is well for our family that, even as a sunken wreck, we still find this pirate bark Under False Colors,”

LUCY HAMILTON HOOPER.

The Hungry Heart.

A village on the coast of Maine; in this village a boarding-house; in this boarding-house a parlor.

This parlor is, strictly speaking, a chamber: it is in the second story, and until lately it contained a bed, washstand, etc.; but a visitor from New York has taken a fancy to change it to a reception-room. In the rear, communicating with it, is a sleeping-closet.

The room is what you might expect to find in a village boarding-house: the floor of liliuptian extent; the ceiling low, uneven, cracked and yellow; the originally coarse and ugly wall-paper now blotched with age; the carpet thin, threadbare, patched and stained; the furniture of various woods and colors, and in various stages of decrepitude.

But a tiny bracket or two, three or four handsome engravings, two fresh wreaths of evergreens, two vases of garden flowers, a number of Swiss and French knickknacks, and a few prettily-bound books, give the little nest an air of refinement which is almost elegance.

You judge at once that the occupant must be a woman–a woman moreover of sensibility and taste; a woman of good society. Of all this you become positive when you look at her, take note of her gracious manner and listen to her cultured voice.

Her expression is singularly frank and almost childlike: it exhibits a rapid play of thoughts, and even of emotions: it is both vivacious and refined, both eager and sweet. It would seem as if here were the impossible combination, the ideal union, so often dreamed of by poets and artists, of girlish simplicity and innocence with womanly cleverness and feeling.

In a large easy-chair reclines her rather small, slender and willowy form, starting slightly forward when she speaks, and sinking back when she listens. Her sparkling eyes are fixed on the eyes of her one visitor with an intentness and animation of interest which should be very fascinating.

He, a young man, not five years older than herself, very gentle in manner and with a remarkably sweet expression of face, evidently is fascinated, and even strongly moved, if one may judge by the feverish color in his cheeks, the eager inquiry of his gaze and the tremor of his lips.

The first words of hers which we shall record are a strange utterance to come from a woman:

“Let me tell you something which I have read lately. It sounds like a satire, and yet there is too much truth in it: ‘Every woman in these days needs two husbands–one to fill her purse, and one to fill her heart; one to dress her, and one to love her. It is not easy to be the two in one.’ That is what I have read, and it is only too true. Remember it, and don’t marry.”

A spasm of intense spiritual pain crossed the young man’s fine and kindly face.

“Don’t say such things, I beg of you!” he implored. “I am sure that in what you have quoted there is a slander upon most women. I know that it slanders you.”

Her lips parted as if for a contradiction, but it was evidently very pleasant to her to hear such words from him, and with a little childlike smile of gratification she let him proceed.

“I have perfect confidence in you,” he murmured. “I am willing to put all my chances of happiness in your hands. My only fear is that I am not half worthy of you–not a thousandth part worthy of you. Will you not listen to me seriously? Will you not be so kind?”

A tremor of emotion slightly lifted her hands, and it seemed for a moment as if she would extend them to him. Then there was a sudden revulsion: with a more violent shudder, evidently of a painful nature, she threw herself backward, her face turned pale, and she closed her eyes as if to shut him from her sight.

“I ought to ask your pardon,” she whispered. “I never thought that it would come to this. I never meant that it should. Oh, I ask your pardon.” Recovering herself with singular quickness, a bright smile dancing along the constantly changing curves of her lips, like sunbeams leaping from wavelet to wavelet, she once more leaned cordially toward him, and said in a gay yet pleading tone, “Let us talk of something else. Come, tell me about yourself–all about yourself, nothing about me.”

“I cannot speak of anything else,” he replied, after looking at her long in silence. “My whole being is full of you: I cannot think of anything else.”

A smile of gratitude sweetly mastered her mouth: then it suddenly turned to a smile of pity; then it died in a quiver of remorse.

“Oh, we cannot marry,” she sighed. “We must not marry, if we could. Let me tell you something dreadful. People hate each other after they are married. I know: I have seen it. I knew a girl of seventeen who married a man ten years older–a man who was Reason itself. Her friends told her, and she herself believed it, that she was sure of happiness. But after three years she found that she did not love, that she was not loved, and that she was miserable. He was too rational: he used to judge her as he would a column of figures–he had no comprehension for her feelings.”

There was a momentary pause, during which she folded her hands and looked at him, but with an air of not seeing him. In the recollection of this heart-tragedy of the past and of another she had apparently forgotten the one which was now pressing upon herself.

“It was incredible how cold and unsympathizing and dull he could be,” she went on. “Once, after she had worked a week in secret to surprise him with a dressing-gown made by her own hands–labored a week, waited and hoped a week for one word of praise–he only said, ‘It is too short.’ Don’t you think it was cruel? It was. I suppose he soon forgot it, but she never could. A woman cannot forget such slights: they do not seem little blows to her; they make her very soul bleed.”

“Don’t reproach _me_ for it,” whispered the young man with a pleading smile. “You seem to be reproving me, and I can’t bear it. I am not guilty.”

“Oh, not you,” she answered quickly. “I am not scolding you. I could not.”

She did not mean it, but she gave him a smile of indescribable sweetness: she had had no intention of putting out her hands toward him, but she did it. He seized the delicate fingers and slowly drew her against his heart. Her face crimson with feeling, her whole form trembling to the tiniest vein, she rose to her feet, turning away her head as if to fly, and yet did not escape, and could not wish to escape. Holding her in his arm, he poured into her ear a murmur which was not words, it was so much more than words.

“Oh, _could_ you truly love me?” she at last sobbed. “Could you _keep_ loving me?”

After a while some painful recollection seemed to awaken her from this dream of happiness, and, drawing herself out of his embrace, she looked him sadly in the eyes, saying, “I must not be so weak. I must save myself and you from misery. Oh, I must. Go now–leave me for a while: do go. I must have time to think before I say another word to you.”

“Good-bye, my love–soon to be my wife,” he answered, stifling with a kiss the “No, no,” which she tried to utter.

Although he meant to go, and although she was wretchedly anxious that he should go, he was far from gone. All across the room, at every square of the threadbare carpet, they halted to renew their talk. Minutes passed, an hour had flown, and still he was there. And when he at last softly opened the door, she herself closed it, saying, “Oh no! not yet.”

So greedy is a loving woman for love, so much does she hate to lose the breath of it from her soul: to let it be withdrawn is like consenting to die when life is sweetest.

Thus it was through her, who had bidden him to go, and who had meant that he should go, that he remained for minutes longer, dropping into her ear whispers of love which at last drew out her confession of love. And when the parting moment came–that moment of woman’s life in which she least belongs to herself–there was not in this woman a single reservation of feeling or purpose.

These people, who were so madly in love with each other, were almost strangers. The man was Charles Leighton, a native of Northport, who had never gone farther from his home than to Boston, and there only to graduate in the Harvard College and Medical School.

The lady was Alice Duvernois: her name was all that was known of her in the village–it was all that she had told of herself. Only a month previous to the scene above described she had arrived in Northport to obtain, as she said, a summer of quiet and sea-bathing. She had come alone, engaged her own rooms, and for a time seemed to want nothing but solitude.

Even after she had made herself somewhat familiar with the other inmates of the boarding-house, nothing positive was learned of her history. That she had been married was probable: an indefinable something in her face and carriage seemed to reveal thus much: moreover, her trunks were marked “James Duvernois.”

And yet, so young did she sometimes look, so childlike was her smile and so simple her manner, that there were curious ones who scouted the supposition of wifehood. People addressed her both as “Miss” and “Mrs.”; at last it was discovered that her letters bore the latter title: then she became popularly known as “the beautiful widow.”

It would be a waste of time to sketch the opening and ripening of the intimacy between Doctor Leighton and this fascinating stranger. On his part it was as nearly a case of love at first sight as perhaps can occur among people of the Anglo-Saxon race. From the beginning he had no doubts about giving her his whole heart: he was mastered at once by an emotion which would not let him hesitate: he longed with all his soul for her soul, and he strove to win it.

Well, we will not go over the story: we know that he had triumphed. Yes, in spite of her terror of the future, in spite of some withholding mystery in the past, she had granted him–or rather she had not been able to prevent him from seizing–her passionate affection. She had uttered a promise which, a month before, she would not have dreamed herself capable of making.

In so doing she had acquired an almost unendurable happiness. It was one of those mighty and terrible joys which are like the effect of opium–one of those joys which condense life and abbreviate it, which excite and yet stupefy, which intoxicate and kill. With this in her heart she lived ten of her old days in one, but also she drew for those ten days upon her future.

After one of her interviews with Leighton, after an hour of throbbing, of trembling, of vivid but confused emotions, her face would be as pale as death, and her weakness such that she could hardly speak. The hands which, while they clung to his, had been soft and moist, became dry and hot as with fever, and then cold as ice. At night she could scarcely sleep: for hours her brain throbbed with the thought of him, and of what stood between him and her. In the morning she was heavy with headache, dizzy, faint, hysterical; yet the moment she saw him again she was all life, all freshness.

From the point of confession there was no more resistance. She would be his wife; she would be married whenever he wished; she seemed mad to reward him for his love; she wanted somehow to sacrifice herself for his sake. Yet, although she hesitated no longer, she sometimes gazed at him with eyes full of anxiety, and uttered words which presaged evil.

“If any trouble springs from this, you must pardon me,” she more than once whispered. “I cannot help it. I have never, never, never been loved before; and oh, I have been so hungry, so famished for it, I had begun to despair of it. Yes, when I first met you, I had quite despaired of there being any love in the world for me. I could not help listening to you: I could not help taking all your words and looks into my craving heart; and now I am yours–forgive me!”

Stranger as she was in Northport, everybody trusted the frank sweetness in her face, and sought no other cause for admiring her and wishing her happiness. The whole village came to the church to witness her marriage and to doat upon a bridal beauty which lay far more in expression than in form or feature. A few words of description–inadequate notes to represent the precious gold of reality–must be given to one who could change the stare of curiosity to a beaming glance of sympathy.

Small, slender, fragile; neither blonde nor brunette; a clear skin, with a hectic flush; light chestnut hair, glossy and curling; eyes of violet blue, large, humid and lustrous, which at the first glance seemed black because of the darkness, length and closeness of the lashes, and capable of expressing an earnestness and sweetness which no writer or artist might hope to depict; a manner which in solitude might be languid, but which the slightest touch of interest kindled into animation; in fine, white teeth that sparkled with gayety, and glances that flashed happiness.

She was married without bridal costume, and there was no wedding journey. Leighton was poor, and must attend to his business; and his wife wanted nothing from him which he could not spare–nothing but his love. Impossible to paint her pathetic gratitude for this affection; the spiritual–it was not passionate–fondness which she bore him; the softness of her eyes as she gazed for minutes together into his; the sudden, tremulous outreachings of her hands toward him, as she just touches him with her finger and draws back, then leans forward and lies in his arms, uttering a little cry of happiness. Here was a heart that must long have hungered for affection–a heart unspeakably thankful and joyous at obtaining it.

“I have been smiling all day,” she sometimes said to him. “People have asked me why I looked so gay, and what I had heard that was funny. It is just because I am entirely happy, and because the feeling is still a surprise. Shall I ever get over it? Am I silly? No!”

Her gladness of heart seemed to make her angelic. She rejoiced in every joy around her, and grieved for every sorrow. She visited the poor of her husband’s patients, watched with them when there was need, made little collections for their relief, chatted away their forebodings, half cured them with her smile. There was something catching, comforting, uplifting in the spectacle of that overbrimming content.

The well were as susceptible to its influence as the sick. Once, half a dozen men and twice as many boys were seen engaged in recovering her veil out of a pond into which the wind had blown it; and when it was handed to her by a shy youth on the end of a twenty-foot pole, all felt repaid for their labors by the childlike burst of laughter with which she received it. Now and then, however, shadows fell across this sunshine. In those dark moments she frequently reverted to the unhappy couple of whom she had told Leighton when he first spoke to her of marriage. She was possessed to describe the man–his dull, filmy, unsympathetic black eyes, his methodical life and hard rationality, his want of sentiment and tenderness.

“Why do you talk of that person so much?” Leighton implored. “You seem to be charging me with his cruelty. I am not like him.”

The tears filled her eyes as she started toward him, saying, “No, you are _not_ like him. Even if you should become like him, I couldn’t reproach you. I should merely die.”

“But you know him so well?” he added, inquiringly. “You seem to fear him. Has he any power over you?”

For a moment she was so sombre that he half feared lest her mind was unstrung on this one subject.

“No,” she at last said. “His power is gone–nearly gone. Oh, if I could only forget!”

After another pause, during which she seemed to be nerving herself to a confession, she threw herself into her husband’s arms and whispered, “He is my–uncle.”

He was puzzled by the contrast between the violence of her emotion and the unimportance of this avowal; but as he at least saw that the subject was painful to her, and as he was all confidence and gentleness, he put no more inquiries.

“Forget it all,” he murmured, caressing her; and with a deep sigh, the sigh of tired childhood, she answered, “Yes.”

The long summer days, laden with happiness for these two, sailed onward to their sunset havens. After a time, as August drew near its perfumed death, Alice began to speak of a journey which she should soon be obliged to make to New York. She _must_ go, she said to Leighton–it was a matter of property, of business: she would tell him all about it some day. But she would return soon; that is, she would return as soon as possible: she would let him know how soon by letter.

When he proposed to accompany her she would not hear of it. To merely go on with her, she represented, would be a useless expense, and to stay as long as she might need to stay would injure his practice. In these days her gayety seemed forced, and more than once he found her weeping; yet so innocent was he, so simple in his views of life, so candid in soul, that he suspected no hidden evil: he attributed her agitation entirely to grief at the prospect of separation.

His own annoyance in view of the journey centred in the fact that his wife would be absent from him, and that he could not incessantly surround her with his care. Whether she would be happy, whether she would be treated with consideration, whether she would be safe from accidents and alarms, whether her delicate health would not suffer, were the questions which troubled him. He had the masculine instinct of protection: he was as virile as he was gentle and affectionate.

The parting was more painful to him than he had expected, because to her it was such an undisguised and terrible agony.

“You will not forget me?” she pleaded. “You will never, never hate me? You will always love me? You are the only person who has ever made the world pleasant to me; and you have made it so pleasant! so different from what it was! a new earth to me! a star! I will come back as soon as this business will let me. Some day I will come back, never to go away. Oh, will not that be delightful?”

Her extreme distress, her terror lest she might not return, her forebodings lest he should some day cease to love her, impressed him for a moment–only for a truant moment–with doubts as to a mystery. As he left the railway station, full of gratitude for the last glance of her loving eyes, he asked himself once or twice, “What is it?”

What was it?

We will follow her. She is ominously sad during the lonely journey: she is almost stern by the time she arrives in New York. In place of the summer’s sweetness and gayety, there is a wintry and almost icy expression in her face, as if she were about to encounter trials to which she had been long accustomed, and which she had learned to bear with hardness if not with resentment.

No one meets her at the railway station, no one at the door of the sombre house where her carriage stops–no one until she has passed up stairs into a darkling parlor.

There she is received by the man whom she has so often described to Deighton–a man of thin, erect form, a high and narrow forehead, regular and imperturbable features, fixed and filmy black eyes, a mechanical carriage, an icy demeanor.

At sight of her he slightly bowed–then he advanced slowly to her and took her hand: he seemed to be hesitating whether he should give her any further welcome.

“You need not kiss me,” she said, her eyes fixed on the floor. “You do not wish to do it.”

He sighed, as if he too were unhappy, or at least weary; but he drew his hand away and resumed his walk up and down the room.

“So you chose to pass your summer in a village?” he presently said, in the tone of a man who has ceased to rule, but not ceased to criticise. “I hope you liked it.”

“I told you in my letters that I liked it,” she replied in an expressionless monotone.

“And I told you in my letters that I did not like it. It would have been more decent in you to stay in Portland, among the people whom I had requested to take care of you. However, you are accustomed to have your own way. I can only observe that when a woman will have her own way, she ought to pay her own way.”

A flush, perhaps of shame, perhaps of irritation, crossed her hitherto pale face, but she made no response to the scoff, and continued to look at the floor.

After a few seconds, during which neither of them broke the silence, she seemed to understand that the reproof was over, and she quietly quitted the room.

The man pushed the door to violently with his foot, and said in an accent of angry scorn, “That is what is now called a wife.”

Well, we have reached the mystery: we have found that it was a crime.

In the working of social laws there occur countless cases of individual hardship. The institution of marriage is as beneficent as the element of fire; yet, like that, it sometimes tortures when it should only have comforted.

The sufferer, if a woman, usually bears her smart tamely–with more or less domestic fretting and private weeping indeed, but without violent effort to escape from her bed of embers. Divorce is public, ugly and brutal: her sensibility revolts from it. Moreover, mere unhappiness, mere disappointment of the affections, does not establish a claim for legal separation. Finally, there is woman’s difficulty of self-maintenance–the fact that her labor will not in general give her both comfort and position.

What then? Unloved, unable to love, yet with an intense desire for affection, and an immense capacity for granting it, her heart is tempted to wander beyond the circle of her duty. A flattering shape approaches her dungeon-walls; a voice calls to her to come forth and be glad, if only for a moment; there seems to be a chance of winning the adoration which has been her whole life’s desire; there is an opportunity of using the emotions which are burning within her. Shall she burst open the gate on which is written LEGALITY?

Evidently the temptation is mighty. Laden with a forsaken, wounded and perhaps angry heart, she is so easily led into the belief that her exceptional suffering gives her a right to exceptional action! She feels herself justified in setting aside law, when law, falsifying its purpose, violating its solemn pledge, brings her misery instead of happiness. She will not, or cannot, reflect that special hardships must occur under all law; that it is the duty of the individual to bear such chance griefs without insurrection against the public conscience; that entire freedom of private judgment would dissolve society.

Too often–though far less often than man does the like–she makes of her sorrow an armor of excuse, and enters into a contest for unwarrantable chances of felicity. Only, in general, she is so far conscious of guilt, or at least so far fearful of punishment, as to carry on her struggle in the darkness. Few, however maddened by suffering, openly defy the serried phalanx of the world. Still fewer venture the additional risk of defying it under the forms of a legality which they have ventured to violate.

Why is it that so few women, even of a low and reckless class, have been bigamists? It is because the feminine soul has a profound respect, a little less than religious veneration, for the institution of marriage; because it instinctively recoils from trampling upon the form which consecrates love; because in very truth it regards the nuptial bond as a sacrament. I believe that the average woman would turn away from bigamy with a deeper shudder than from any other stain of conjugal infidelity.

But there are exceptions to all modes of feeling and of reasoning.

Here is Alice Duvernois: she is a woman of good position, of intellectual quickness, of unusual sensitiveness of spirit; yet she has thought out this woeful question differently from the great majority of her sex. To her, thirsty for sympathy and love, bound to a man who gives her neither, grown feverish and delirious with the torment of an empty heart, it has seemed that the sanctity of a second marriage will somehow cover the violation of a first.

This aberration we can only explain on the ground that she was one of those natures–mature in some respects, but strangely childlike in others–whom most of us love to stigmatize as unpractical, and who in fact never become quite accustomed to this world and its rules.

On the very evening of her arrival home she put to her husband a question of infantile and almost incredible simplicity. It was one of the many observations which made him tell her from time to time that she was a fool.

“What do they do,” she asked, “to women who marry two husbands?”

“They put them in jail,” was his cool reply.

“I think it is brutal,” she broke out indignantly, as if the iron gates were already closing upon her, and she were contesting the justice of the punishment.

“You are a pretty simpleton, to set up your opinion against that of all civilized society!” was the response of incarnate Reason.

From that moment she trembled at her danger, and quivered under the remorse which terror brings. At times she thought of flying, of abandoning the husband who did not love her for the one who did; but she was afraid of being pursued, afraid of discovery. The knowledge that society had already passed judgment upon her made her see herself in the new light of a criminal, friendless, hunted and doomed. The penalty of her illegal grasp after happiness was already tracking her like a bloodhound.

Yet when she further learned that her second marriage was not binding because of the first, her heart rose in mutiny. Faithful to the only love that there had been for her in the world, she repeated to herself, a hundred times a day, “It _is_ binding–it _is_!”

She was in dark insurrection against her kind; at times she was on the point of bursting out into open defiance. She stared at Duvernois, crazy to tell him, “I am wedded to another.”

He noticed the wild expression, the longing, wide-open eyes, the parted and eager lips, the trembling chin. At last he said, with a brutality which had become customary with him, “What are you putting on those airs for? I suppose you are imagining yourself the heroine of a romance.”

With a glare of pain and scorn she walked away from him in silence.

It is shocking indeed to be fastened speechless upon a rack, and to be charged by uncomprehending souls with counterfeiting emotion. She was so constituted that she could not help laying up this speech of her husband’s against him as one of many stolid misdoings which justified both contempt and aversion. In fact, his inability or unwillingness to comprehend her had always been, in her searching and sensitive eyes, his chief crime. To be understood, to be accepted at her full worth, was one of the most urgent demands of her nature.

The life of this young woman, not only within but without, was strange indeed. She fulfilled that problem of Hawthorne’s–an individual bearing one character, living one life in one place, and a totally different one in another place–upon one spot of earth angelic, and upon another vile.

Stranger still, her harsher qualities appeared where her manner of life was lawful, and her finer ones where it was condemnable. At Northport she had been like sunlight to her intimates and like a ministering seraph to the poor. In New York she avoided society: she had no tenderness for misery.

The explanation seems to be that love was her only motive of feeling and action. Not a creature of reason, not a creature of conscience–she was only a creature of emotion, an exaggerated woman.

Unfortunately, her husband, methodical in life, judicial in mind, contemptuous of sentiment, was an exaggerated man. Here was a beating heart united to a skeleton. The result of this unfortunate combination had been a wreck of happiness and defiance of law.

Duvernois had not a friend intelligent enough to say to him, “You _must _ love your wife; if you cannot love her, you must with merciful deception make her believe that you do. You must show her when you return from business that you have thought of her; you must buy a bouquet, a toy, a trifle, to carry home to her. If you do these things, you will be rewarded; if not, you will be punished.”

But had there been such a friend, Duvernois would not have comprehended him. Ho would have replied, or at least he would have thought, “My wife is a fool. She is not worth the money that I now spend upon her, much less the reflection and time that you call upon me to spend.”

Two such as Alice and Duvernois could not live together in peace. Notwithstanding her old dread of him, and notwithstanding the new alarm with which she was filled by the discovery that she was a felon, she could not dissemble her feelings when she looked him in the face. Sometimes she was silently contemptuous–sometimes (when her nerves were shaken) openly hostile. Rational, impassive, vigorous as he was, she made him unhappy.

The letters of Leighton were at once a joy and a sorrow. She awaited them impatiently; she went every day to the delivery post-office whither she had directed them to be sent; she took them from the hands of the indifferent clerk with a suffocating beating of the heart. Alone, she devoured them, kissed them passionately a hundred times, sat down in loving haste to answer them. But then came the necessity of excusing her long absence, of inventing some lie for the man she worshiped, of deterring him from coming to see her.

During that woeful winter of terror, of aversion, of vain longing, her health failed rapidly. A relentless cough pursued her, the beautiful flame in her cheek burned freely, and a burst of blood from the lungs warned her that her future was not to be counted by years.

She cared little: her sole desire was to last until summer. She merely asked to end her hopeless life in loving arms–to end it before those arms should recoil from her in horror.

No discovery. Her husband was too indifferent toward her to watch her closely, or even to suspect her. As early in June as might be she obtained permission to go to the seaside, and with an eagerness which would have found the hurricane slow she flew to Northport.

Leighton received her with a joy which at first blinded him to her enfeebled health.

“Oh, how could you stay so long away from me?” were his first words. “Oh, my love, my darling wife! thank you for coming back to me.”

But after a few moments, when the first flush and, sparkle of excitement had died out of her cheeks and eyes, he asked eagerly, “What is the matter with you? Have you been sick?”

“I am all well again, now that I see you,” she answered, putting out her arms to him with that little start of love and joy which had so often charmed him.

It absolutely seemed that in the presence of the object of her affection this erring woman became innocent. Her smile was as simple and pure as that of childhood: her violet eyes reminded one of a heaven without a cloud. It must have been that, away from punishment and from terror, she did not feel herself to be guilty.

But the day of reckoning was approaching. She had scarcely begun to regain an appearance of health under the stimulus of country air and renewed happiness, when a disquieting letter arrived from Duvernois. In a tone which was more than usually authoritative, he directed her to meet him at Portland, to go to Nahant and Newport. Did he suspect something?

She would have given years of life to be able to show the letter to Leighton and ask his counsel. But here her punishment began to double upon her: the being whom she most loved was precisely the one to whom she must not expose this trouble–the one from whom she was most anxious to conceal it.

In secret, and with unconfided tears, she wrote a reply, alleging (what was true) that her feeble health demanded quiet, and praying that she might be spared the proposed journey. For three days she feverishly expected an answer, knowing the while that she ought to go to Portland to meet Duvernois, should he chance to come, yet unable to tear herself away from Leighton, even for twenty-four hours.

In the afternoon of the third day she made one of her frequent visits of charity. At the house of a poor and bed-ridden widow she met, as she had hoped to meet, her husband. When they left the place he took her into his gig and carried her home.

It was a delicious day of mid June: the sun was setting in clouds of crimson and gold; the earth was in its freshest summer glory. In the beauty of the scene, and in the companionship of the heart which was all hers, she forgot, or seemed to forget, her troubles. One hand rested on Leighton’s arm; her face was lifted steadily to his, like a flower to the light; her violet eyes were dewy and sparkling with happiness. There were little clutches of her fingers on his wrist whenever he turned to look at her. There were spasms of joy in her slender and somewhat wasted frame as she leaned from time to time against his shoulder.

Arrived at the house, she was loth to have him leave her for even the time required to take his horse to the stable.

“Come soon,” she said–“come as quick as you can. I shall be at the window. Look up when you reach the gate. Look at the window all the way from the gate to the door.”

In an instant, not even taking off her bonnet, she was sitting by the window waiting for him to appear.

A man approached, walking behind the hedge of lilacs which bordered the yard, and halted at the gate with an air of hesitation. She turned ghastly white: retribution was upon her. It was Duvernois.

With that swift instinct of escape which sensitive and timorous creatures possess, she glided out of the room, through the upper hall, down a back stairway, into the garden behind the house, and so on to an orchard already obscure in the twilight. Here she paused in her breathless flight, and burst into one of her frequent coughs, which she vainly attempted to smother.

“I was already dying,” she groaned. “Ah, why could he not have given me time to finish?”

From the orchard she could faintly see the road, and she now discovered Leighton returning briskly toward the house. Her first thought was, “He will look up at the window, and he will not see me!” Her next was, “They will meet, and all will be known!”

Under the sting of this last reflection she again ran onward until her breath failed. She had no idea where she should go: her only purpose was to fly from immediate exposure and scorn–to fly both from the man she detested and the man she loved. Her speed was quickened to the extent of her strength by the consideration that she was already missed, and would soon be pursued.

“Oh, don’t let them come!–don’t let them find me!” she prayed to some invisible power, she could not have said what.

Mainly intent as she was upon mere present escape from reproachful eyes, she at times thought of lurking in the woods or in some neighboring village until Duvernois should disappear and leave her free to return to Leighton. But always the reflection came up, “Now he knows that I have deceived him; now he will despise me and hate me, and refuse to see me; now I can never go back.”

In such stresses of extreme panic and anguish an adult is simply a child, with the same overweight of emotions and the same imperfections of reason. During the moments when she was certain that Leighton would not forgive her, Alice made wild clutches at the hope that Duvernois might. There were glimpses of the earlier days of her married life; cheering phantoms of the days when she believed that she loved and that she was beloved–phantoms which swore by altars and bridal veils to secure her pardon.

She imagined Duvernois overtaking her with the words, “Alice, I forgive your madness: do you also forgive the coldness which drove you to it?”

She imagined herself springing to him, reaching out her hands for reconciliation, putting up her mouth for a kiss, and sobbing, “Ah, why were you not always so?”

Then of a sudden she scorned this fancy, trampled it under her weary, aching feet, and abhorred herself for being faithless to Leighton.

At last she reached a sandy, lonely coast-road, a mile from the village, with a leaden, pulseless, corpselike sea on the left, and on the right a long stretch of black, funereal marshes. Seating herself on a ruinous little bridge of unpainted and wormeaten timbers, she looked down into a narrow, sluggish rivulet, of the color of ink, which oozed noiselessly from the morass into the ocean. Her strength was gone: for the present farther flight was impossible, unless she fled from earth–fled into the unknown.

This thought had indeed followed her from the house: at first it had been vague, almost unnoticed, like the whisper of some one far behind; then it had become clearer, as if the persuading fiend went faster than she through the darkness, and were overtaking her. Now it was urgent, and would not be hushed, and demanded consideration.

“If you should die,” it muttered, “then you will escape: moreover, those who now abhor you and scorn you, will pity you; and pity for the dead is almost respect, almost love.”

“Oh, how can a ruined woman defend herself but by dying?” She wept as she gazed with a shudder into the black rivulet.

Then she thought that the water seemed foul; that her body would become tangled in slimy reeds and floating things; that when they found her she would be horrible to look upon. But even in this there was penance, a meriting of forgiveness, a claim for pity.

Slowly, inch by inch, like one who proposes a step which cannot be retraced, she crept under the railing of the bridge, seated herself on the edge of the shaky planking and continued to gaze into the inky waters.

A quarter of an hour later, when the clergyman of Northport passed by that spot, returning from a visit to a dying saint of his flock, no one was there.

We must revert to the two husbands. Duvernois had long wondered what could keep his wife in a sequestered hamlet, and immediately on her refusal to join him in a summer tour he had resolved to look into her manner of life.

At the village hotel he had learned that a lady named Duvernois had arrived in the place during the previous summer, and that she had been publicly married to a Doctor Leighton. He did not divulge his name–he did not so much as divulge his emotions: he listened to this story calmly, his eyes fixed on vacancy.

At the door of the boarding-house he asked for Mrs. Duvernois, and then corrected himself, saying, “I mean Mrs. Leighton.”

He must have had singular emotions at the moment, yet the servant-girl noticed nothing singular in his demeanor.

Mrs. Leighton could not be found. None of the family had seen her enter or go out: it was not known that she had been in the house for an hour.

“But there comes Doctor Leighton,” remarked the girl as the visitor turned to leave.

Even in this frightful conjuncture the characteristic coolness of Duvernois did not forsake him: after a moment’s hesitation and a quick glance at his rival, he said, “I do not know him: I will call again.”

On the graveled walk which led from the yard gate to the doorstep the two men met and passed without a word–the face of the one as inexpressive of the strangeness and horror of the encounter as the mind of the other was unconscious of them.

Leighton immediately missed Alice. In a quarter of an hour he became anxious: in an hour he was in furious search of her.

Somewhat later, when Duvernois came once more to the house, accompanied by a fashionably-dressed youth, who, as it subsequently appeared, was his younger brother, he found the family and the neighborhood in wild alarm over the disappearance of Mrs. Leighton. The two at once returned to the hotel, procured saddle-horses and joined in the general chase.

It was ten o’clock at night, and the moon was shining with a vaporous, spectral light, when the maddest of chances brought the two husbands together over a body which the tide, with its multitudinous cold fingers, had gently laid upon the beach.

Leighton leaped from his horse, lifted the corpse with a loud cry, and covered the white wet face with kisses.

Duvernois leaned forward in his saddle, and gazed at both without a word or a movement.

“Oh, what could have led her to this?” groaned the physician, already too sure that life had departed.

“Insanity,” was the monotoned response of the statue on horseback.

The funeral took place two days later: the coffin-plate bore the inscription, “Alice Leighton, aged 23.” Duvernois read it, and said not a word.

“If you don’t claim her as your wife,” whispered the brother, “you may find it difficult to marry again.”

“Do you think I shall want to marry again?” responded the widower with an icy stare.

He was aware that he had lost a shame and a torment, and not aware that she might have been an honor and a joy, if only he had been able to love.

J. W. DE FOREST.

“How Mother Did It.”

The year 1839–that is, the year in which I was born–is of no manner of importance to myself or anybody else. The year 1859–that is, the year in which I began to _live_ (Charlie and I got married that year)–is of considerable importance to myself and to somebody else. The two decades forming the interim between those years constitute my Dark Age, in which I teethed and measled and whooping-coughed, and went to school, and wore my hair in two long pig-tails, and loved molasses candy, and regarded a school-room as purgatory, a ball-room as heaven–when I sang and danced and grew as the birds and grasshoppers and flowers sing and dance and grow, because they having nothing else to do.

Then came my Golden Age. That means, then came Charlie into my life, when I felt for the first time that there was music in the birds’ voices and perfume in the flowers–that there was light in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, for God was in heaven and Charlie was on earth–when I, who had all along been hardly more than a human grasshopper, became the happiest of happy women–so much happier, I thought, than I deserved. For who was I, and what great thing had I ever done, that I should be crowned with such a crown of glory as–Charlie? why should I, insignificant I, be so blest among women as to be taken to wife by Charlie?

I was insanely sentimental enough to rather resent the fact that Charlie was prosaically well off: his circumstances were distressingly easy. It would have been so much nicer, so deliciously romantic, if there had been an opportunity afforded me to show how ready, nay, eager, I was to sacrifice friends, home and country for his dear sake. But Charlie didn’t want me to sacrifice my friends; nor did it require any great amount of heroism to exchange my modestly comfortable home for his decidedly luxurious one; and as for country, nothing on earth could have induced Charlie to leave his own country, much less his own parish, much less his own plantation. So we were married without any talk of sacrifice on either side, and moved quietly enough from father’s small plantation to Charlie’s large one.

There was but one drawback to the perfectness of my happiness: there was so little hope of my ever having an opportunity to air those magnanimous traits of character upon the possession of which I so plumed myself. I felt sure that I could meet the most adverse circumstances with the most smiling patience, but circumstances obstinately refused to be adverse. I was inwardly conscious that the most trying emergency could not shake my heroic but purely feminine fortitude; but, alas! my fortitude was likely to rust while waiting for the emergency. Injury and wrong should be met with sublime dignity, but the most wildly speculative imagination could not look upon Charlie’s placidly handsome face and convert him into a possible tyrant.

To tell how the longed-for opportunity to exercise my powers of endurance, and my dignity, and all the rest of it, did finally come about, and to tell how I bore the test, is the object of this paper.

For the first six months of our married life, Charlie and I were simply ridiculously happy–selfishly happy too. We resented a neighbor’s visit as an act of barbarous invasion, and the necessity of returning such visits was acknowledged with a sublimity of resignation worthy of pictorial representation in that exquisite parlor manual, Fox’s _Book of Martyrs_. If Charlie left the house for an hour or two, I looked upon his enforced absence as a cruel dispensation of Providence, which I did _not_ bear with “fortitude and sublime dignity,” but pouted over like the ridiculous baby I was. Bare conjugal civility required that on leaving the house Charlie should kiss me three times, and on returning six times: anything short of that I should have considered a pre-monitory symptom of approaching separation. If Charlie had ever been so savage as to call me plain “Lulie,” I should have felt certain he was sick and tired of me, and was repenting of having married me instead of that spectacled bas-bleu, Miss Minerva Henshaw, who read Buckle and talked dictionary. I believe I was intoxicated with my own happiness, and was a little nonsensical because I was so happy.

Fortunately for the comfort of both Charlie and myself, his domestic cabinet consisted of a marvelously well-trained set of servants, who were simply perfect–as perfect in their way as Charlie was in his. They had been trained by Charlie’s mother, who had been the head of affairs in his house up to the hour of her death–an event which had occurred some dozen years before my first meeting with Charlie. Everybody said she had been a celebrated housekeeper, and Charlie’s devotion to her had been the talk of the country-side. There were people malicious enough to say that if Charlie’s mother had never died, he would never have married, but I take the liberty of resenting such an assertion as a personal insult; for, although I don’t doubt the dear old lady was a perfect jewel in her way, yet, looking at the portrait of her which hangs over our parlor mantelpiece, I see the face of a hard, determined-looking woman with cold gray eyes and rigidly set mouth, in a funny-looking black dress, neither high-necked nor low-necked, having a starchy white ruffle round the edge, in vivid white contrast to the yellow skin; with grizzly, iron-gray curls peeping out from under a cap that is fearfully and wonderfully made, with a huge ruffled border radiating in a circumference of several feet, while its two black-and-white gauze ribbon strings lie in rigid exactness over her two rigidly exact shoulders. Looking on this portrait, I do not thank anybody for saying that it was only because death chose that shining mark that I had found favor in Charlie’s eyes.

We had been married, I suppose, about six months, when, sitting one evening over a cozy wood-fire in our cozy little parlor, just under the work of art I have described at such length, Charlie committed his first matrimonial solecism. He yawned, actually gaped–an open-mouthed, audible, undeniable yawn!

Glancing up at him from my work (which consisted of the inevitable worked slippers without which no woman considers her wifehood absolutely asserted), I caught him in the act. “Are you tired, Charlie?” I asked in accents of wifely anxiety.

Tired! Poor fellow! he ought to have been, for he had ridden all over the plantation that day, had written two business letters, and smoked there’s no telling how many cigars, and had only taken one little cat-nap after dinner.

He was leaning back in his arm-chair, with his eyes fixed in mournful meditation upon his mother’s portrait (at least I thought so), when I asked him if he was tired, and I fancied he was thinking sad thoughts of the mother who had not been dead so very long as never to trouble the thoughts of the living; so, laying down my slippers, I crossed the rug and perched myself on Charlie’s knee.

“Talk to me about her, Charlie dear.”

“About whom, little one?” asked Charlie, turning his eyes toward me with a little lazy look of inquiry.

“About your mother, Charlie: weren’t you thinking about her just now?”

“I don’t know–maybe I was. Dear mother! you don’t find many women like her now-a-days.”

Reader, that was my first glimpse of Charlie’s hobby. And from the luck-less moment when I so innocently invited him to mount it, up to the time when I forcibly compelled him to dismount from it, I had ample opportunity to exercise my “smiling patience, sublime dignity and heroic fortitude.” Whether or not I improved my opportunities properly, I will leave you to judge for yourself. But for two whole years “how mother did it” seemed to be the watchword of Charlie’s existence, and was the _bete noir_ of mine.

So long as Charlie and I were in Paradise the house kept itself, and very nicely it did it too, but by the time we were ready to come back to earth the perfect servants, who had been taking such good care of themselves, and our two daft selves into the bargain, were found to be sadly demoralized. The discovery came upon us gradually. I think my husband noticed the decadence as soon as I did, but I wasn’t going to invite his attention to the fact; and he, I suppose, thought that I thought that everything was just as it should be.

One of Charlie’s inherited manias was for early rising–a habit which would have been highly commendable and undeniably invaluable in a laboring man, but which struck me, who had an equally strong mania for not rising early, as extremely inconvenient and the least little bit absurd. Charlie got up early simply because “mother did it” before him; and after he had risen at earliest dawn and dressed himself, he had nothing better to do than walk out on the front gallery, locate himself in a big wicker chair, tilt his chair back and elevate his feet to the top of the banisters, and stare out over the cottonfields. This position he would maintain, probably, about twenty minutes. Then the pangs of hunger would render him restless, and he would draw out his watch to note the time of day. The next step in the formula would bring him back to my room door while I was still sleepily trying to reconnect the broken links of a dream, from which vain effort he would startle me into wide-awake reality by a stentorian “Lulie, Lulie! Come, wife–it’s breakfast-time.”

Upon which, instead of “heroic fortitude,” I would treat him to a little cross “Please yell at the cook, Charlie, and not at me. I’m sure if people _will_ get up at such unearthly hours, they should expect to be kept waiting for their breakfast.”

Then the spirit of unrest would impel Charlie toward the back door, where I would hear him commanding, exhorting, entreating.

Mentally registering a vow to give my husband a dose of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup on the coming night, I would relinquish all hope of another nap, get up and dress myself, and join my roaring lion on the front gallery, where we would both sit meekly waiting for the allied forces of kitchen and dining-room to decide upon the question of revictualing us.

“Lulie,” said Charlie to me one morning at the breakfast-table, “things are getting all out of gear about this house, somehow or other.”

I put down the coffee-pot with a resigned thump and asked my lord, with an injured air, to please explain himself.

“Well, when mother was alive I never knew what it was to sit down to my breakfast later than six o’clock in summer or seven in winter.”

“How did she manage it, Charlie?” I asked, very meekly.

“Why, by getting up early herself. No servant on the face of the globe is going to get up at daybreak and go to work in earnest when she knows her mistress is sound asleep in bed. I will tell you how mother did: she had a pretty good-sized bell, that she kept on a table by her bedside, and every morning, as soon as her eyes were open, she would give such a peal with that old bell that all the servants on the premises knew that ‘Mistress was awake and up,’ and bestirred themselves accordingly. There was no discount on mother: that was the way she made father a rich man, too.”

“But, Charlie, you’re already a rich man, and why on earth should we get out of bed at daybreak just because your mother and father did so before us?”

“Of course, Lulie,” said Charlie, the least little bit coldly, “I have no desire in the world to force you to conform to my views: I only told you how mother did it.”

Reader, you know how I loved Charlie, and after that I out-larked the lark in early rising; and although Charlie and I did little more than gape in each other’s faces for an hour or two, and wish breakfast would come, and wonder what made them take so long, he was perfectly satisfied that we were both on the road that was to make us healthier, wealthier and wiser.

Among other points on which my husband and I were mutually agreed was a liking for good strong coffee, and we also held in common one decided opinion, and that was, that our coffee was gradually becoming anything but good and strong.

Charlie broached the subject first. “Lulie, our coffee is getting to be perfectly undrinkable,” said he one morning, putting his cup down with a face of disgust.

“It is indeed, Charlie: it’s perfectly villainous. Milly ought to be ashamed of herself: I shall speak to her again after breakfast.”

“Maybe you don’t give out enough coffee?” suggested Charlie.

“I don’t know how much Milly takes,” I replied, innocently.

“Takes! Do you mean to say that you don’t know how much coffee goes out of your pantry, Lulie? I don’t wonder we never have any fit to drink!”

If I had been of an argumentative turn, I would have asked Charlie to explain how giving the cook carte blanche in the matter of quantity should have had such a disastrous effect in the matter of quality. But I was not of an argumentative turn, so I took no notice of his queer logic.

“Why should I bother about every spoonful of coffee, Charlie? You assured me, when I first came here, that every servant you had was as honest as you or I, and I’m sure Milly knows better than I do how much coffee she _ought_ to take.”

“Well,” said Charlie with a sigh of mock resignation, “that may be the way they do things now-a-days, but I remember exactly how mother managed to have good coffee.” Here the hobby broke into a brisk canter: “I recollect she had a little oval wooden box, that held, I suppose, about a quart–or two, maybe–of roasted coffee, and that box stood on the mantelpiece in her room; and every morning, as soon as her bell rang, Milly would come with a cup and spoon, and mother would measure out two table-spoonfuls of coffee with her own hands and give it to the cook, and the cook knew better than not to have good coffee, I can tell you.”

“Are you sure it was only two spoonfuls, Charlie?”

“I am sure,” responded Charlie, solemnly.

As good-luck would have it, while rummaging in the store-room a day or two after that coffee talk, I came upon a little old oval wooden box, the lid of which I detached with some difficulty, and as the scent of the roses hung round it still, I had no difficulty in identifying my treasure-trove with the wooden box that had played such a distinguished part in the good old times when cooks “knew better than not to have good coffee, I can tell you.”

Hoping that some relic of my dead predecessor might prove more awe-inspiring to contumacious Milly than my own despised monitions, I exhumed the wooden box, had it thoroughly cleansed, filled with roasted coffee and placed upon my mantelpiece, giving Milly orders to come to _me_ hereafter, every morning, for the coffee.

Charlie gave me a grateful little kiss when he saw the old box in the old place, either as a reward for my amiable endeavor to do things as mother did, or because he took the old wooden box for an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace that was to move Milly to make good coffee.

But somehow or other, in spite of the unsightly old wooden box on my mantelshelf, the coffee didn’t improve in the least. Maybe the charm failed to work because Charlie had forgotten which end of the mantelpiece his mother used to keep it on, or I used the wrong spoon. I’m inclined to lay it on the spoon myself, but there’s no telling.

The first cotton-picking season that came round after my marriage seemed to afford Charlie no end of opportunities for riding his hobby at a fast and furious pace. It seemed as if there was no end to the things that mother used to do at that important season. I suppose she really was a wonderful woman, and I humbly hope that by the time I have lived as long as she did, and get to looking as she does in her portrait, and can wear a wonderful-looking cap with the wonderful composure she wore it with, and have little iron-gray curls hanging round my iron-gray visage, I may be only half as wonderful.

“Would I see to the making of the cotton sacks? That was one thing mother always did.” Thus Charlie.

Of course I would: why should I object to doing anything that would forward my husband’s interests? Besides, I was actually pining for some healthful occupation: I was tired of playing at living. I resolved on a brilliant plan. I would out-mother mother, for she only _saw_ to the making of the sacks: I would make them myself, every one of them, on my sewing-machine. If I couldn’t make cotton-sacks on it, what was the use of having it?

Charlie had informed me that he would send me down seven or eight women from the quarters to make the sacks. I informed him with a flourish that I should need but one: I should want her to cut the sacks out. Charlie thanked me, and Martha and I and “Wheeler & Wilson” made the sacks.

Was I to blame that the wretched things burst in twenty places at once the first time they were used? Was I to blame that two women were kept busy mending my sacks until they ceased to be sacks? Charlie might think so, but I did not.

He reported the failure of my cotton-sack experiment with very unbecoming levity, as it struck me, accompanying his report with a somewhat unjust comment upon new-fangled notions, such as sewing-machines, etc., etc., winding up with–“Now, when mother was alive” (I fairly winced), “the house was not considered too good for the darkies to sit on the back gallery with their work and make the sacks right under mother’s eye–sewing them with good strong thread, too, that was spun for the purpose. I can remember the old spinning-wheel: it used to sit right at that end of the gallery.”

Like Captain Cuttle, I “made a note of it” for future use.

I often had occasion to wonder, during the early years of my married life, how it happened that the son of such an exceptionally perfect woman as I was compelled to presume my respected mother-in-law to have been, should have grown up with such shockingly disorderly habits as had my Charlie. The wretched creature would stalk into my bed-room–which I was particularly dainty about–fresh from shooting or fishing, with pounds of mud clinging to his boots, bristling all over with cockleburs, his hands grimed with gunpowder; and helping himself to water from my ewer, he would begin dabbling in my china basin until he had reduced its originally pure contents into a compound of mud and ink, and would wind up by making a finish of my fresh damask towel, and throwing it on the bed or a chair instead of returning it to the rack, as he should have done.

“Charlie,” said I one day, saucily inviting a dose of “what mother did,” “what did mother used to do when you came into her room and turned it into a pig-stye, and then left it for her to clean up again?”

“She never let me do it,” said Charlie with a laugh. “I’ll tell you how she did. She had a tin basin on a shelf on the back gallery, and one of those great big rolling towels that lasted about a week; and after her washstand was fixed up in the morning, we knew better than to upset it, I can tell you.”

“Very well, sir: I intend you shall know better than to upset mine, I’ll show you.”

In fact, things had come to that pass that I had mentally resolved to “show” Charlie a great many things. I firmly believed that the secret of the power that Charlie’s mother had exercised over her household, and still exercised over him in memory, lay in the fact that she made them all afraid of her: so I firmly resolved that they should all be afraid of me, poor little me! It is true, I was but twenty, and she was fifty; I was but a pocket edition of a woman, and she was a _Webster Unabridged_; I had little meek blue eyes, that dropped to the ground in the most shamefaced manner if a body did but look at me, and she had hard, cold gray eyes, that not only looked straight at you, but right through you. Still, I hoped, notwithstanding these trifling drawbacks, to make myself very awe-inspiring by dint of a grand assumption of spirit.

To put it into very plain language, I resolved to bully Charlie off his hobby. He had thrown his mother at my head (figuratively speaking, of course) until, if she had been present in _propria persona_, I should have been tempted to try Hiawatha’s remarkable feat with his grandmother, and throw her up against the moon. But as I could not revenge myself upon her personally, I began to lay deep and subtle plans for inducing Charlie to leave her to her repose.

As the veritable bell which, in the days when “mother did it,” had acted as a sort of Gabriel’s trump, was still extant, minus clapper and handle, I was enabled to provide myself with its fac-simile. Armed with this instrument of retribution, I laid me down to sleep by Charlie’s side, gloating in anticipation over my ripening scheme of vengeance.

It was a rare thing for me to wake up before Charlie, but I did manage to do so on the morning in question, by dint, I think, of a powerful mental resolution to that effect made the night before. I raised myself very softly, so as not to disturb my husband’s gentle slumbers, and, possessing myself of my big bell, I laid on with a will, raising such a clatter in the quiet morning air that Charlie fairly bounded into the middle of the room before he in the least comprehended where it came from.

“In the name of God, Lulie, what is the meaning of that?” he exclaimed, looking at me as if he half doubted my sanity.

“That’s the way mother did it, Charlie,” I replied placidly enough, and, replacing my big bell on the table, I settled myself on my pillow once more, ostensibly to go to sleep again–in reality to have my laugh out in a quiet fashion, for it was enough to have made the very bed-posts laugh to see Charlie’s funny look of astonishment and indignation. But of course he couldn’t say a word, you know.

For two more mornings I clattered my bell about his precious old head, and then he paid me to quit, and after that began riding his hobby at a little slower gait.

The next direct intimation he gave that his faith in inherited ideas was growing shaky was a plaintive little request that I would not stick so close to the old wooden box, but give out enough coffee to ensure him something to drink for his breakfast.

Now, I had no wish that my husband should drink bad coffee just because Providence had seen fit to remove his mother from this sublunary sphere: I merely wanted to cure him of telling me how mother did it; so as soon as he thus tacitly acknowledged that his suggestion had not been a success, I took matters into my own hands, and proved to him that coffee could be made as well by young wives as by old mothers.

In the due revolution of the seasons King Cotton donned his royal robes of ermine once more, and sacks again became the one thing needful. It was the very rainiest, wettest, muddiest picking-season that had ever been seen. In pursuance of my plan, I had seven or eight women down from the quarters, and a spinning-wheel also, which was set to humming right under our bed-room window.

The rainy weather had kept Charlie in the house, and he was lounging on a couch in my room, enjoying a pleasant semi-doze, when the monotonous whirr-r-r of the spinning-wheel first attracted his attention. “Lulie,” he asked, rising into a sitting posture, “what is that infernal noise on the back gallery?”

“The spinning-wheel, Charlie. They are spinning thread to make the sacks with,” I answered, without looking up from my work.

“Oh!” and Charlie subsided for a while. “Ahem! Lulie, my dear, how long is that devilish spinning to be kept up?”

“Devilish! Why, Charlie, that’s the way mother did it.”

“Well,” said Charlie, scratching his head and looking foolish, “I know she did, Lulie, but I’ll be confounded if I can stand it much longer.”

“Why, Charlie, you used to stand it when mother did it,” I answered maliciously.

“I was hardly ever about the house in those days, Lulie: I suppose that was why I didn’t mind it.”

“Why weren’t you about the house much in those days, Charlie?”

“Because you weren’t in it, you witch, I suppose.”

This was such a decided triumph over the old lady of the portrait that I could afford to be amiable; so, giving him a spasmodic little hug and an energetic little kiss, I went out and stopped the spinning nuisance immediately.

After that the hobby went slower and slower, feebler and feebler. One more energetic display of my bogus spirit and “the enemy was mine.”

Winter came on in its duly-appointed time, bringing with it the usual quantity of wild ducks and more than the usual degree of severe cold. Charlie was an inveterate duck-shooter, and with the return of the season came the return of mud and dirt in my bowls.

I determined to do as mother did. A tin basin made its appearance on the back gallery, four yards of crash sewed together at the end were made to revolve over the roller, and by way of forcing the experiment to a successful issue orders were given that my own pitchers should be filled only after nightfall.

I was sitting in my bed-room sewing away, in placid unconsciousness of outside cold and discomfort, when Charlie got home from his first hunt of the season.

“No water, Lulie?” and the monster took hold of my nice pitcher with a pair of muddy, half-frozen hands.

“On the gallery, dear, just where mother used to keep it;” and I smiled up at him angelically.

With a muttered something or other, poor Charlie bounded out to the back gallery. He came back in a minute, his hands as muddy and cold as ever.

“Look here, Lulie: the water’s all frozen in that confounded tin basin out there.”

“I’ll have it thawed out for you,” I said sweetly, rising as I spoke.

“I say, wifey”–and the great, handsome fellow came close up to me with his mud and his burs–“do you think it’s exactly fair, when a fellow’s been out all the morning shooting ducks for your dinner, to make him stand out on the gallery such a day as this and scrub the mud off his frozen hands?”

“That’s the way mother did,” was all my answer.

“Look here, Lulie, I cry quits. If you’ll only let a body off this once, you may keep house on your own plan, little lady, and I’ll never tell you how mother did it again so long as I live.”

“Well, then, don’t, that’s a dear,” I replied, “for you’ll only make me dislike her memory, without doing any good. Just be patient with me, Charlie, and maybe after a while I’ll be as good a housekeeper as your mother was before me. The mistake you and all other men make is, in comparing your wives at the end of their first year of housekeeping with your mothers, whose housekeeping you knew nothing about until it was of ever so many years’ duration. I’m young yet, but I’m improving in that matter every day, Charlie.”

With which little moral lecture I gave Charlie a kiss, and some water to wash the mud from his poor red hands.

_Moral._–My dear girls, don’t you ever marry a man that cannot take his affidavit he never had a mother, unless it is expressly stipulated in the marriage contract that he is never to tell you how his mother did it.

J.R. HADERMANN.

The Red Fox: A Tale of New Year’s Eve.

It was New Year’s Eve, 184-. I and my two little boys, children of five and seven, were alone in the house. My husband had been unexpectedly called away on business, and the servant had gone to her friends to spend the coming holiday.

It was drawing toward night. The cold shadows of the winter twilight were already falling. A dull red glow in the west told where the sun was going down. Over the rest of the sky hung heavy gray clouds. A few drops of rain fell from time to time, and the wind was rising, coming round the corner of the house with a long, mournful howl like that of a lost hound.

I am not a very nervous person, but I did not like the idea of spending by myself the long evening that would come after the children’s bed-time.

We were living then in a very new place in Michigan, which I shall call Maysville. My husband, an ex-army officer, had resigned the sword for the saw-mill. Our house was the oldest in the village, which does not speak much for its antiquity, as five years before Maysville had been unbroken forest. The house stood outside the cluster of houses that formed the little settlement: it was a quarter of a mile to our nearest neighbor.

Now, Maysville calls itself a city, has an academy and a college, and a great quantity of church in proportion to its population. Then, we “went to meeting” in a little white-painted, pine box of a thing, like a barn that had risen in life. The stumps stood about the street: the cows wandered at will and pastured in the “public square,” an irregular clearing running out into indefinite space. Here also the Indians would encamp when they came to town from their reservation about five miles away, and here also, I regret to say, they would sometimes get drunk, and add what Martha Penney calls “a revolving animosity to the scenery.” The squaws, however, would generally secure the knives and guns before the quarrelsome stage was reached. Not unfrequently the ladies would bring the weapons to Mrs. Moore or myself to hide away till their lords and masters should be sober. Then, feeling secure that no great harm could happen, they would look on with the utmost placidity at the antics of their better halves until they dropped down to sleep off their liquor.

There were no Indians in town that night, however, and if there had been, I was not at all afraid of them, for we were on excellent terms with the whole reservation. My feeling about staying alone was merely one of those unreasonable sensations that sometimes overtake people of ill-regulated minds.

I went to the door and looked out at the gray, angry sky. It was not cold, but chill. The wind howled and shivered among the leafless branches: everything promised a storm.

I was not at all sorry to see Mr. and Mrs. Moore drive up in their light buggy, with their two high-stepping, little brown horses. Mrs. Moore had in her arms a bundle in a long blue embroidered cloak–a baby, in short. She and her husband firmly believed this infant to be the most beautiful, most intelligent and altogether most charming creature which the world had ever seen. They had been married three years, and little Carry was their first child.

Mr. and Mrs. Moore were by no means ordinary people. Mrs. Moore–born Minny or Hermione Adams–was a very small woman, exceedingly pretty, with light brown curly hair, dark blue eyes and a complexion like an apple blossom.

Mr. Moore was the son of a Seneca mother and Cherokee father, with not a drop of white blood in his veins. So he thought, at least, but I never could quite believe it, because he could and did work, and never so much as touched even a glass of wine. His parents had died when he was very young, and he had been brought up and educated by a missionary, a gentle, scholarly old Presbyterian minister, whose memory his adopted son held in loving reverence.

The story of our acquaintance with Richard Moore is too long to be told here. Four years before he had come with us from the Pawnee country. He had married Minny Adams with the full consent of her parents and the opposition of all her other friends. Contrary to all prophecies, and with that inartistic disregard of the probable which events often show, they had been very happy together.

Mr. Moore–otherwise Wyanota–was a civil engineer, and stood high in his profession.

“Look here, mamma,” he said as he drove up. “Will you take in the wife and the small child for to-night? I must go away.”

“Certainly,” said I, overjoyed. “But where are you going, to be caught in a storm?”

“Oh, they have got into a fuss with the hands over on the railroad, and have sent for me. I might have known Robinson wouldn’t manage when I left him?”

“Why not?”

“English!” said Wyn, most expressively. “No one can stand the airs he puts on.”

Now, such airs as Mr. Moore possessed–and they were neither few nor far between–were not put on, but were perfectly natural to him.

“Can’t you come in and get your tea?” I asked as he handed me the baby and helped his wife down.

“No: I must go over directly and compose matters. Good-bye, little woman: by-bye, baby! Do you know, we think she’s beginning to say ‘papa?'” said Wyn, proudly; and then he kissed his wife and child and drove away.

I carried the infant phenomenon into the house and took off its wrappings. She was my namesake, and I loved the little creature, but I can’t say she was a pretty baby. She was a soft, brown thing, with her father’s beautiful southern eyes and her mother’s mouth, but otherwise she certainly was not handsome. She was ten months old, but she had a look of experience and wisdom in her wee face that would have made her seem old at twenty years. She sat on my lap and watched me in a meditative way, as though she were reviewing her former estimate of my character, and considering whether her opinions on that subject were well founded. There was something quite weird and awful in her dignity and gravity.

“Isn’t she a wise-looking little thing?” said Minny. “She makes me think sometimes of the fairy changeling that was a hundred and fifty years old, and never saw soap made in an egg-shell.”

“This baby never would have made such a confession of ignorance, you may depend. She would not have acknowledged that anything lay out of the range of her experience. Take your chicken till I get tea, for I am my own girl to-night.”

We had a very merry time over the tea-table and in washing up the dishes. Until the boys went to bed we were in something of a frolic with them and the baby, and it was not till the little one was asleep in her crib and Ed and Charley were quiet in bed that we noticed how wild the weather was getting.

The rain, which had at first fallen in pattering drops, was now driving in sheets before a mighty wind, which roared through the woods back of the house with a noise like thunder. The branches of the huge oaks in the front yard creaked and groaned as only oak boughs can. The house shook, the rain lashed the roof, and the wind clawed and rattled the blinds like some wild creature trying to get in.

“I hope Wyn is safe under shelter,” said Mrs. Moore.

“He will have reached the end of his journey long before this. I hope he will have no trouble with the men, but he is not apt to. I pity poor Mr. Robinson. When Wyn chooses, his extreme politeness is something quite awful.”

“I will say for my husband,” observed Mrs. Moore, “that when he sets himself to work to be disagreeable, he can, without doing one uncourteous thing, be more aggravating than any one I ever saw in my life.”

“It is perfectly evident that he never tries his airs on you, or you would not speak so. Hear the wind blow!”

“It is no use listening to the weather. The house will stand, I suppose. Have you got your work? Then let me read to you. It will seem like old times, before I was married.”

Minny Moore was in some respects a very remarkable woman. Though little Carry was her first baby, she _could_ talk on other subjects. She did not expect you to listen with rapture to the tenth account of how baby had said “Da-da,” or thrill with agony over the tale of an attack of wind. She had been her husband’s friend and companion before the baby was born: she did not entirely throw him over now that it had come. She had always been fond of reading, and she continued to keep up her interest in the world outside of her nursery. She thought that as her daughter grew up her mother would be as valuable as a guide and friend if she did not wholly sink the educated woman in the nurse-maid and seamstress. These habits may have been “unfeminine,” but they certainly made Mrs. Moore much more agreeable as a companion than if she had been able to talk of nothing but the baby’s clothes, teeth and ailments.

I took out my work, and Minny began to read _Locksley Hall_, which was then a new poem on this side the water. I had never heard it before, and I must confess I was much affected–more than I should be now. Mrs. Moore, however, chose to say that she thought Amy had made a most fortunate escape, that she had no doubt but the hero would have been a most intolerable person to live with, and that their marriage, had it come to pass, would have ended in Amy’s taking in sewing to support both herself and her husband. As for the Squire, why we had no word for his character but his disappointed rival’s, and his drinking might be all a slander. As to his snoring, why poets might snore as well as other people. If he loved his wife “somewhat better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse,” “Why what more,” said Mrs. Moore, “could any woman ask of a man given to horses and hunting? If Calvin Bruce ever cares more for a woman than he does for his brown pointer and his fast trotter, she may think herself happy indeed.”

At that instant a sudden and furious blast rushed out of the woods, and tore and shook at the four corners of the house as if to wrench it from its foundations.

“It’s quite awful to hear the wind scream like that,” said Minny. “It is like the banshee. Hark! is not that some one knocking at the back door?”

I listened, and amid the rattling and shaking of blinds and timbers I heard what sounded like a hurried, impatient knock at the side door. “Who can it be on such a wild night?” I said, and took the candle and went to open the door. I set the light in the hall, for I knew the wind would blow it out. In spite of this precaution, however, the flame was extinguished, for as I drew back the bolt and lifted the latch the blast threw the door violently back on its hinges, and rushed into the hall as though exulting in having finally made an entrance.

“Pretty bad weather, mamma,” said some one in the softest, sweetest voice, like a courteous flute, and there entered my old friend the Black Panther.

This gentleman measured seven feet in his moccasins, and as he stood in our little entry he looked gigantic indeed. He closed the door with some difficulty, and I relit the candle.

“You are quite wet through,” I said, for the water dripped from his blanket and woolen hunting-frock. He carried his rifle in his hand, and I thought the old man looked very tired and sad, and even anxious.

“You all well?” he asked, earnestly.

“Certainly. The captain has gone away, and Minny and the baby are here for the night. My dear friend, where have you been in this weather? There is a good fire in the kitchen. Come and get dry there, and let me make you a cup of hot coffee and get you something to eat.”

Here Minny came out into the hall and held up her hands in sunrise.

“Oh, uncle,” she said, calling him by the name she had used toward him since her childhood, “how could you come out in all this rain, and bring on your rheumatism? How do you think any one is ever going to find dry clothes for such a big creature as you?”

The Panther gave a little grunt and a smile. He was used to Minny’s lectures, and he followed us both into the kitchen, where she made him sit down by the fire and took off his wet blanket, waiting on him like a daughter, and scolding him gently meanwhile. The old gentleman had of late years been subject to rheumatism, and it was too likely that this exposure would bring on another attack. The Panther patted her two little hands between his own. Like most of his race, he had beautiful hands, soft and rounded even in his old age, with long taper fingers that had, I dare say, taken more than one scalp in their time.

“Pooh!” said he, lightly. “You think old Ingin melt like maple sugar? You well?” he asked, anxiously.

“Quite so.”

“And little one?”

“As well as a little pig, fast asleep in the other room.”

“Where your husband?”

“Gone over to the railroad on business.”

“And yours?” he asked, turning to me.

“Gone to Carysville. Do you know anything about him? is anything the matter?” I asked, a little alarmed at his persistent questioning and an indefinite something in the old man’s tone and manner.

“Oh no,” said he, earnestly. “I come right over from our place.”

“Walked from the reservation in this storm!” said I. “What could have made you do such a thing?”

“Nothing–just to see you. Not very strange come see two nice women,” said the old gentleman, with a little complimentary bow.

The Panther was somewhat vain of his knowledge of what he called “white manners,” but I never saw a white man who could be so gently dignified, so courteous, so altogether charming in manner, as the old chief when he chose. He hardly knew one letter from another, but he had had sixty-five years of experience in war and council. Many a man “got up regardless of expense” in college and society might have taken lessons in deportment from this old Pottawatomie. He had known Minny from her childhood. Her father’s farm had been the first clearing in all that part of the country. Deacon Adams had always been on excellent terms with the Indians, and his little daughter had found her earliest playmates among their children. The Panther had carried Minny in his arms when she was a baby; and as his own family of boys and girls died one after another, he clung closer to the child who had been their pet as well as his own.

The Panther was one of those big, soft, easy men who seem made to be ruled by one woman or another. He was greatly respected in his tribe, and had much influence. When they had been a nation he had been one of their most distinguished warriors, and his word had been law. He had always maintained toward the “young men” a somewhat imperious manner. He had conducted himself with dignity and decision in all his visits to Washington, where he had been a great lion, and in all his dealings with the United States he had shown much wisdom and ability. But report said that when once within the domestic circle and before his squaw, the diplomatist and warrior was exceedingly meek. He bore his wife’s death with resignation, but he had never married again. He loved Minny Adams better than anything on earth, and the girl had great influence over him. She, in her turn, was very fond of him. From her earliest years he had been her friend, confidant and admirer. He looked so fierce and dangerous, and was so kind and simple, that the alliance between the girl and himself was very much like that between a little child and a big mastiff–the child protected and leader, the dog protector and led.

Minny made flannel shirts for him, and he wore them: she trimmed his moccasins, and the dainty cambric ruffles which he wore when in grand costume were got up by her hands. The Panther, however, did not often appear in full dress. She tried to teach him to read, and she did get him through the alphabet, but he greatly preferred hearing stories read to learning to do it for himself, and was especially fond of the _Arabian Nights_, which he quite believed. She even coaxed him to go to church with her, and might have made a convert of him but for the interference of an exceedingly silly young clergyman. The Panther rather liked to hear the Bible, but I fear he was more attracted by the sound than the sense: his favorite chapter was the story of David and Goliah. He used to say that “Ingin religion was good for Ingin, and white religion was good for white man.” However, he never offered the least opposition to the missionary who had settled among his people: indeed, he rather patronized that gentleman.

He and Wyanota were excellent friends. It was good to see the deference and respect with which the younger man treated the elder. I always said that it was the Panther who made the match between Minny and Mr. Moore. Their house was one of his homes, and he was a frequent guest at our own. He petted and spoiled my two children: he was very soft and kind to me, whom he called “Mamma,” after Wyn’s example, and he considered that my husband “understood good manners”–a compliment which he did not pay to every one.

A dear little daughter whom we had lost had been very fond of him: the child had died in his arms. I was alone at the time, and the old man’s sympathy was such a comfort to me in my trouble that for his own sake, as well as for our little girl’s, he had become very dear to us.

For an Indian, the Panther might be called almost a sober character. He was seldom drunk more than four or five times a year, and when he was, he always was very careful to keep out of the way of his white friends until he was sober, when he would lecture the young men on the evils of intemperance in most impressive fashion. He was a good deal of an orator, possessing a voice of great sweetness and power; and though he was such an immense creature, all his movements were light and graceful as those of a kitten. He could speak perfectly good, even elegant, English when he chose, but he did not always choose, and generally omitted the pronouns; but his voice, manner and gestures in speaking were perfectly charming when he was in a good temper. When he was not, he was somewhat awful, but it was only under great provocation that he became savage. In general, he was an amiable, kind, lazy creature, whom it was very easy to love.

I could not but wonder that night, as I set out the table and made the coffee, what had brought the Panther so far in such wild weather. He did not seem like himself. He was usually very conversable, and would chat away by the hour together, in a fashion half shrewd, half simple, often very interesting; but now he was silent and _distrait_.

“Carry,” said Mrs. Moore, “are there not some of Wyn’s things here yet in that old trunk in your lumber-room?”

“Yes. Perhaps you can find something the chief can put on, and bring down a pair of the captain’s socks and slippers.”

“Oh, never mind, never mind,” said the damp giant.

“But I will mind,” said the little woman; and she went out and soon returned with the things, which she insisted he should go and put on.

“Well, always one woman or another,” said the Panther in a tone of resignation: “always squaw git her own way. You see that little girl, mamma? Could squeeze her up just like a rabbit. Always she order me round since she so high, and I just big fool enough let her;” and he went into the next room, and presently came out arrayed in dry garments, as to his upper man at least. I set the table with the best I had in the house, and Minny and I sat down to get a cup of coffee with our guest.

At any other time the old gentleman would have purred and talked over this little feast like an amiable old cat, but now he was rather silent; and I noticed that in the pauses of the wind he would stop as though listening for some expected sound. I began to think he was concealing from me some misfortune or danger, and the same thought was evidently in Minny’s mind, for she watched him anxiously.

When we went back into the parlor the Panther walked to the baby’s crib, and stood for a moment looking at the sleeping child with a tenderness which softened his whole aspect. Then he asked for the little boys.

“They are fast asleep in the next room,” I said. “Go and look at them, and you will be sure.”

The Panther smiled, but he went into my room, which opened from the parlor, and bending down softly kissed the two little faces resting on the same pillow.

I drew a large chair to the fire for him, and Minny filled his pipe, for I had “followed the drum” too long to object to smoking. The giant stretched his length of limb before the fire, but he did not seem quite at ease, even under the influence of the tobacco. He looked a little troubled and anxious, and lifted his head once or twice with a sudden motion, like a dog who has misgivings that something is wrong out-doors.

The baby stirred in her sleep, and the chief began gently to rock the cradle. “‘Spose she order me about too, by and by,” he said, “like her mother.”

“Oh, you like to make that out,” said Minny, “because you are such a great big, strong man. If you were a little bit of a creature, you would always be standing on your dignity to make yourself look tall. The last time Wyn and I were at Detroit we went to church, and I heard the very smallest man I ever saw preach a tremendous sermon about the man being the head of the woman, insisting mightily on the respect we all owe to the other sex. When we came out I asked Wyn what he thought, and he said he thought it was exactly such a sermon as such a very tiny man might be expected to preach.”

“Ah! and he heard you both, my dear,” said I; “and he says Mr. Moore has no element of reverence in his character!”

Here the Panther dropped his pipe, and starting from his chair looked like his namesake just ready for a spring, as the sharp, quick bark of a little dog was heard from the nearest house.

“Only dog,” he said in a tone of relief, and resumed his smoking.

“Uncle,” said Minny, “I do wish you would tell me what the matter is, or what you are listening for. You make me think there is something wrong.”

I looked up and seconded Minny’s request.

“‘Spose I tell you, you think it all Ingin nonsense,” he said, looking a little embarrassed.

“Even if I did, sir, I should feel more comfortable,” I said.

“Yes, do tell us, please,” said Minny, earnestly.

“Well, then,” said the old man, speaking with an effort, “last night went out after a coon–up in the woods right back of here–“

“Yes: well?”

“And went up on that little hill over your pasture, and then,” said the old man lowering his voice and speaking with great earnestness, “hear _red fox bark_–one, two, three times out loud, and then again farther off. There, now!”

I was greatly relieved at finding that I was threatened by nothing worse than the oracle of the red fox. I knew the Indian superstition that if this animal is heard to bark anywhere near a dwelling, he foretells death within twenty-four hours to some one beneath its roof.

“But,” said I, “the red fox is only a sign for Indians. He does not bark for white people, and you were not under a roof at the time, so it cannot apply to you.”

“Don’t know!” said the Panther, shaking his head. “Never know that sign fail. Then here this little woman and this baby–all the same as Ingin now.”

Minny looked a little troubled. In spite of his reading, his college education and mathematics, Wyanota had sundry queer notions and superstitions, about which he very seldom spoke, but which nevertheless had some weight with him, and it is possible that he had in some degree communicated his ideas to his wife.

“I don’t believe in signs,” said Minny, but nevertheless she looked annoyed.

“So I thought,” said the chief with a little smile. “Know mamma here think it all nonsense, or else come over this morning to tell her. Then think she not believe it and not mind, and so keep quiet. Then storm come up and wind blow, and couldn’t stand it; so set out and walk over here to take care of her; and she–maybe she laugh at me?”

“No indeed, sir,” said I, greatly touched by the anxious affection which had brought the old man so far in such weather. “How good you are to me! You mean to stay here to-night of course, and in the morning you will see that the red fox was simply barking for his own amusement; but I am sorry he drove you to take such a toilsome walk, though we are glad to have you here.”

“My business take care of you when your men gone. Got no one my own blood,” he said, rather sadly: “boys dead, girl dead, squaw dead–no one but you two care much for old man.”

Minny went and kissed him softly. “You know I belong to you,” she said, “and baby has no grandfather but you.”

“Ah! your father!” said the Panther, rocking the cradle. “He and I always good friends. ‘Member when you come, your mother she got no milk for you, poor little starved thing! My squaw she lose her baby–nice little boy too,” said the old man, with a sigh–“she tell your mother she nurse you; so she did. You git fat and rosy right off. You all the same one of us after that. No spoil your pretty white skin, though,” said the Panther, patting Minny’s cheek with his brown fingers. “Seem just like that happen yesterday: now you got baby yourself. Ah! your father–mighty well pleased he be ‘spose he see that little one.”

“How often I wish he could!” said “Minny with a sigh, for both her father and mother were dead.

“You ‘pend upon it, he comfortable somewhere,” said the chief, consolingly. “Deacon Adams, he real good man. Look here, mamma! Like to ask you question. You say when we die white man go to one place, Indian go to another–“

“I don’t say so, sir. I don’t pretend to know all this world by heart, much less the other.”

“Well, that what Indian say, any way. Now ‘spose that so, what come of half-breed, eh?”

“What do you think?” I asked, for neither Minny nor I could venture an opinion on this abstruse point.

“Don’t know,” said the old man. “Saw young Cherokee in Washington: he marry pretty little schoolmistress go down there to teach, and their little boy die. Then that young man feel bad, and he fret good deal ’bout where that baby gone to, and he ask me, and I no able tell him. Guess me find out when get there: no use to trouble till then, You make these?” he asked, changing the subject, and looking with admiration at the captain’s embroidered slippers which I had lent him.

“Yes. They were pretty when they were new. I’ll make you a pair just like them, if you wish. Shall I?”

The old gentleman looked greatly delighted, for he was as fond of finery as any girl, and took no small pride in adorning his still handsome person.

I brought out all my embroidery-patterns, and the giant took as much pleasure as a child in the pretty painted pictures and gay-colored wools and silks. I made all the conversation I could over the slippers, willing to divert him from the melancholy which seemed to have taken possession of his mind. Over my work-basket he brightened a little, and chatted away quite like himself, and listened with pleasure to Minny’s singing. We did not rise to go to bed till eleven o’clock, which was a very late hour for Maysville. When the Panther spent the night at our house, as was frequently the case, he never would go regularly to bed, but would take his blanket and lie down before the kitchen fire. With great politeness he insisted on getting the wood ready for morning, a thing he never would have dreamed of doing for a woman of his own race.

As he came back into the kitchen from the shed he took up his rifle, which he had set down by the door. As he did so an angry look came over his face. “Look here,” he said: “somebody been spoil my rifle!”

I looked at the piece in surprise, for the lock was broken. “It cannot have been done since you came,” I said. “There is no one in the house but ourselves.”

“Of course not, of course not!” said the Panther, eager to show that he had no suspicion of his friends.

“Did you stop anywhere on your way?”

“Yes,” said he with some slight embarrassment. “Stop at Ryan’s,” mentioning a low tavern on the borders of the reservation, which was a terrible thorn in the side of all the missionary’s efforts. “Stop a minute light my pipe, but no drink one drop,” he added with great earnestness; “but they ask me good deal.”

“Did you put your gun down?”

“Guess so,” he said after a moment’s reflection. “Yes, know did put it down a minute or two.”

“Then that was when the mischief was done, you may be sure. This lock was never broken by accident. It must have been a mere piece of spite because you would not stay. I wonder you did not notice it when you came out.”

“In a hurry, and kept the buckskin over it, not to git it wet. Wish knew who did that,” said he, with a look not good to see. “Guess not do it again.”

“I am very sorry, but it can easily be mended.”

I spread out on the floor for him the comfortable and blankets I had brought for his use, and hung up his woolen hunting-frock, now quite dry.

As I took it into my hand, I felt something very heavy in the pocket.

“I hope you have nothing here that will be spoiled with wet?” I said.

“Oh, nothing but money,” said the chief, carelessly. “Mean to tell Minny to take some of it and buy clothes for me.”

He took out as he spoke a handful of loose change–copper, silver and two or three gold-pieces–and a roll of bills a good deal damp, and put it all into my apron. I counted the money and found there were seventy-five dollars. Strong indeed must have been the attraction which had brought the old man away from the tavern-fire in his sober senses with such a sum of money in his pocket.

“Just got that,” he said. “Part from Washington, part sell deer-skins.”

There was no need to tell me that it had not been long in his possession. Money in the Panther’s hands was like water in a sieve.

“You give me five dollars, give the rest to Minny,” he said; and as this was by much the wisest arrangement for him, I did as he wished.

“You got captain’s gun?” he asked me. “Never like to go to sleep without something to catch up: hit somebody ‘spose somebody come.”

“I am sorry to say the captain has his rifle with him, and I lent the shotgun to Jim Brewster this afternoon.”

He looked annoyed, but he went out into the woodshed and returned with the axe, which was new and sharp. “Have something, anyway,” he said, doggedly.

“Why, what do you think can possibly happen?”

“Don’t know. Always like to have something to catch up. Good-night, mamma. You go to sleep.”

I went to bed and fell asleep almost on the minute, but I could not have slept long when I was wakened by the noise of the wind against the shutters. The rain had ceased, but the blast was still roaring without. Minny and her child were in a room which opened out of the parlor opposite my own. The lamp which was burning there threw a dim light into my chamber, and showed me each familiar object and my little boys asleep beside me.

Some one says that between the hours of one and four in the morning the human mind is not itself. I fully believe it. In those hours you do not “fix your mind” on melancholy subjects–they fix themselves upon you. If you turn back into the past, there comes up before you every occasion on which you made a fool of yourself, every lost opportunity, every slight injury you ever experienced. If you look at the future, you see nothing but coming failure and disappointment. The present moment connects itself with every tale you ever heard or read of ghosts, murder, vampires or robbers.

That night, either because of the wind or because I had taken too strong coffee, I fell into “the fidgets,” as this state of mind is sometimes called, and selected for immediate cause of discomfort the Panther’s presentiment about the red fox. Who could explain the mysterious way in which animals are warned of approaching danger? Perhaps the old science of divination was not so entirely a delusion; and then I remembered all the old stories in Roman history of people who had come to grief by neglecting the oracles. The old idea that whatever incident is considered as an omen will be such in reality, seemed to me at that hour of the night not wholly an unreasonable theory.

I had known, to be sure, some fifty presentiments which came to nothing, but then I had known as many as three which had been verified: perhaps the present case might be one of the exceptions to the rule. Then I remembered all the stories in Scott’s _Demonology_, which I had lately read, and quite forgot all the arguments intended to disprove them.

[Illustration: The Attack on the “Panther.”]

I thought of the broken gun-lock: I thought it not improbable that the Panther had, when at Ryan’s, mentioned that he was coming to our house, and that it was very likely he had let it appear that he carried his money with him. Ryan’s was one of the worst places in all the State. I remembered that the money was in the house, and I began to wish, like the Panther, that I had something to “catch up.” Then there were so many noises about! I heard footsteps, which you will always hear if you listen for them on a windy night. When our petted old cat jumped from his place on the parlor sofa to lie down before the fire, I started up in bed in a sudden fright.

I must have been in this uncomfortable state of mind and body for the best part of an hour before I remembered that in a drawer in the front parlor lay two little old-fashioned pistols, unloaded but in good order.

I had grown so excited and uneasy that I felt as if I could not rest unless I got up, found those pistols and loaded them, though nobody had ever heard of a burglary in Maysville, and half the time the doors were left unlocked at night. Rather despising myself for my nervousness, but yielding to it nevertheless, I rose, put on my dressing-gown and slippers, lit my candle and went to find the two little pistols. I stepped very softly, not to disturb Minny, for I should have been quite ashamed then to have her know my cowardice. I looked in at the door as I passed. She was sound asleep, with her baby on her arm. The baby, however, was broad awake, but lying perfectly still, with her little finger in her mouth. Her eyes shone in the lamplight as she turned them on me–not startled like