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Doctor Grimshawe's Secret by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Son-in-Law and Daughter


A preface generally begins with a truism; and I may set out with the
admission that it is not always expedient to bring to light the
posthumous work of great writers. A man generally contrives to publish,
during his lifetime, quite as much as the public has time or
inclination to read; and his surviving friends are apt to show more
zeal than discretion in dragging forth from his closed desk such
undeveloped offspring of his mind as he himself had left to silence.
Literature has never been redundant with authors who sincerely
undervalue their own productions; and the sagacious critics who
maintain that what of his own an author condemns must be doubly
damnable, are, to say the least of it, as often likely to be right as

Beyond these general remarks, however, it does not seem necessary to
adopt an apologetic attitude. There is nothing in the present volume
which any one possessed of brains and cultivation will not be thankful
to read. The appreciation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's writings is more
intelligent and wide-spread than it used to be; and the later
development of our national literature has not, perhaps, so entirely
exhausted our resources of admiration as to leave no welcome for even
the less elaborate work of a contemporary of Dickens and Thackeray. As
regards "Doctor Grimshawe's Secret,"--the title which, for lack of a
better, has been given to this Romance,--it can scarcely be pronounced
deficient in either elaboration or profundity. Had Mr. Hawthorne
written out the story in every part to its full dimensions, it could
not have failed to rank among the greatest of his productions. He had
looked forward to it as to the crowning achievement of his literary
career. In the Preface to "Our Old Home" he alludes to it as a work
into which he proposed to convey more of various modes of truth than he
could have grasped by a direct effort. But circumstances prevented him
from perfecting the design which had been before his mind for seven
years, and upon the shaping of which he bestowed more thought and labor
than upon anything else he had undertaken. The successive and
consecutive series of notes or studies [Footnote: These studies,
extracts from which will be published in one of our magazines, are
hereafter to be added, in their complete form, to the Appendix of this
volume.] which he wrote for this Romance would of themselves make a
small volume, and one of autobiographical as well as literary interest.
There is no other instance, that I happen to have met with, in which a
writer's thought reflects itself upon paper so immediately and
sensitively as in these studies. To read them is to look into the man's
mind, and see its quality and action. The penetration, the subtlety,
the tenacity; the stubborn gripe which he lays upon his subject, like
that of Hercules upon the slippery Old Man of the Sea; the clear and
cool common-sense, controlling the audacity of a rich and ardent
imagination; the humorous gibes and strange expletives wherewith he
ridicules, to himself, his own failure to reach his goal; the immense
patience with which--again and again, and yet again--he "tries back,"
throwing the topic into fresh attitudes, and searching it to the marrow
with a gaze so piercing as to be terrible;--all this gives an
impression of power, of resource, of energy, of mastery, that
exhilarates the reader. So many inspired prophets of Hawthorne have
arisen of late, that the present writer, whose relation to the great
Romancer is a filial one merely, may be excused for feeling some
embarrassment in submitting his own uninstructed judgments to
competition with theirs. It has occurred to him, however, that these
undress rehearsals of the author of "The Scarlet Letter" might afford
entertaining and even profitable reading to the later generation of
writers whose pleasant fortune it is to charm one another and the
public. It would appear that this author, in his preparatory work at
least, has ventured in some manner to disregard the modern canons which
debar writers from betraying towards their creations any warmer feeling
than a cultured and critical indifference: nor was his interest in
human nature such as to confine him to the dissection of the moral
epidermis of shop-girls and hotel-boarders. On the contrary, we are
presented with the spectacle of a Titan, baring his arms and plunging
heart and soul into the arena, there to struggle for death or victory
with the superb phantoms summoned to the conflict by his own genius.
The men of new times and new conditions will achieve their triumphs in
new ways; but it may still be worth while to consider the methods and
materials of one who also, in his own fashion, won and wore the laurel
of those who know and can portray the human heart.

But let us return to the Romance, in whose clear though shadowy
atmosphere the thunders and throes of the preparatory struggle are
inaudible and invisible, save as they are implied in the fineness of
substance and beauty of form of the artistic structure. The story is
divided into two parts, the scene of the first being laid in America;
that of the second, in England. Internal evidence of various kinds goes
to show that the second part was the first written; or, in other words,
that the present first part is a rewriting of an original first part,
afterwards discarded, and of which the existing second part is the
continuation. The two parts overlap, and it shall be left to the
ingenuity of critics to detect the precise point of junction. In
rewriting the first part, the author made sundry minor alterations in
the plot and characters of the story, which alterations were not
carried into the second part. It results from this that the manuscript
presents various apparent inconsistencies. In transcribing the work for
the press, these inconsistent sentences and passages have been
withdrawn from the text and inserted in the Appendix; or, in a few
unimportant instances, omitted altogether. In other respects, the text
is printed as the author left it, with the exception of the names of
the characters. In the manuscript each personage figures in the course
of the narrative under from three to six different names. This
difficulty has been met by bestowing upon each of the _dramatis
personŠ_ the name which last identified him to the author's mind,
and keeping him to it throughout the volume.

The story, as a story, is complete as it stands; it has a beginning, a
middle, and an end. There is no break in the narrative, and the
legitimate conclusion is reached. To say that the story is complete as
a work of art, would be quite another matter. It lacks balance and
proportion. Some characters and incidents are portrayed with minute
elaboration; others, perhaps not less important, are merely sketched in
outline. Beyond a doubt it was the author's purpose to rewrite the
entire work from the first page to the last, enlarging it, deepening
it, adorning it with every kind of spiritual and physical beauty, and
rounding out a moral worthy of the noble materials. But these last
transfiguring touches to Aladdin's Tower were never to be given; and he
has departed, taking with him his Wonderful Lamp. Nevertheless there is
great splendor in the structure as we behold it. The character of old
Doctor Grimshawe, and the picture of his surroundings, are hardly
surpassed in vigor by anything their author has produced; and the dusky
vision of the secret chamber, which sends a mysterious shiver through
the tale, seems to be unique even in Hawthorne.

There have been included in this volume photographic reproductions of
certain pages of the original manuscript of Doctor Grimshawe, selected
at random, upon which those ingenious persons whose convictions are in
advance of their instruction are cordially invited to try their teeth;
for it has been maintained that Mr. Hawthorne's handwriting was
singularly legible. The present writer possesses specimens of Mr.
Hawthorne's chirography at various ages, from boyhood until a day or
two before his death. Like the handwriting of most men, it was at its
best between the twenty-fifth and the fortieth years of life; and in
some instances it is a remarkably beautiful type of penmanship. But as
time went on it deteriorated, and, while of course retaining its
elementary characteristics, it became less and less easy to read,
especially in those writings which were intended solely for his own
perusal. As with other men of sensitive organization, the mood of the
hour, a good or a bad pen, a ready or an obstructed flow of thought,
would all be reflected in the formation of the written letters and
words. In the manuscript of the fragmentary sketch which has just been
published in a magazine, which is written in an ordinary commonplace-
book, with ruled pages, and in which the author had not yet become
possessed with the spirit of the story and characters, the handwriting
is deliberate and clear. In the manuscript of "Doctor Grimshawe's
Secret," on the other hand, which was written almost immediately after
the other, but on unruled paper, and when the writer's imagination was
warm and eager, the chirography is for the most part a compact mass of
minute cramped hieroglyphics, hardly to be deciphered save by flashes
of inspiration. The matter is not, in itself, of importance, and is
alluded to here only as having been brought forward in connection with
other insinuations, with the notice of which it seems unnecessary to
soil these pages. Indeed, were I otherwise disposed, Doctor Grimshawe
himself would take the words out of my mouth; his speech is far more
poignant and eloquent than mine. In dismissing this episode, I will
take the liberty to observe that it appears to indicate a spirit in our
age less sceptical than is commonly supposed,--belief in miracles being
still possible, provided only the miracle be a scandalous one.

It remains to tell how this Romance came to be published. It came into
my possession (in the ordinary course of events) about eight years ago.
I had at that time no intention of publishing it; and when, soon after,
I left England to travel on the Continent, the manuscript, together
with the bulk of my library, was packed and stored at a London
repository, and was not again seen by me until last summer, when I
unpacked it in this city. I then finished the perusal of it, and,
finding it to be practically complete, I re-resolved to print it in
connection with a biography of Mr. Hawthorne which I had in
preparation. But upon further consideration it was decided to publish
the Romance separately; and I herewith present it to the public, with
my best wishes for their edification.

NEW YORK, November 21, 1882.



A long time ago, [Endnote: 1] in a town with which I used to be
familiarly acquainted, there dwelt an elderly person of grim aspect,
known by the name and title of Doctor Grimshawe,[Endnote: 2] whose
household consisted of a remarkably pretty and vivacious boy, and a
perfect rosebud of a girl, two or three years younger than he, and an
old maid-of-all-work, of strangely mixed breed, crusty in temper and
wonderfully sluttish in attire. [Endnote: 3] It might be partly owing to
this handmaiden's characteristic lack of neatness (though primarily, no
doubt, to the grim Doctor's antipathy to broom, brush, and dusting-
cloths) that the house--at least in such portions of it as any casual
visitor caught a glimpse of--was so overlaid with dust, that, in lack
of a visiting card, you might write your name with your forefinger upon
the tables; and so hung with cobwebs that they assumed the appearance
of dusky upholstery.

It grieves me to add an additional touch or two to the reader's
disagreeable impression of Doctor Grimshawe's residence, by confessing
that it stood in a shabby by-street, and cornered on a graveyard, with
which the house communicated by a back door; so that with a hop, skip,
and jump from the threshold, across a flat tombstone, the two children
[Endnote: 4] were in the daily habit of using the dismal cemetery as
their playground. In their graver moods they spelled out the names and
learned by heart doleful verses on the headstones; and in their merrier
ones (which were much the more frequent) they chased butterflies and
gathered dandelions, played hide-and-seek among the slate and marble,
and tumbled laughing over the grassy mounds which were too eminent for
the short legs to bestride. On the whole, they were the better for the
graveyard, and its legitimate inmates slept none the worse for the two
children's gambols and shrill merriment overhead. Here were old brick
tombs with curious sculptures on them, and quaint gravestones, some of
which bore puffy little cherubs, and one or two others the effigies of
eminent Puritans, wrought out to a button, a fold of the ruff, and a
wrinkle of the skull-cap; and these frowned upon the two children as if
death had not made them a whit more genial than they were in life. But
the children were of a temper to be more encouraged by the good-natured
smiles of the puffy cherubs, than frightened or disturbed by the sour

This graveyard (about which we shall say not a word more than may
sooner or later be needful) was the most ancient in the town. The clay
of the original settlers had been incorporated with the soil; those
stalwart Englishmen of the Puritan epoch, whose immediate ancestors had
been planted forth with succulent grass and daisies for the sustenance
of the parson's cow, round the low-battlemented Norman church towers in
the villages of the fatherland, had here contributed their rich Saxon
mould to tame and Christianize the wild forest earth of the new world.
In this point of view--as holding the bones and dust of the primeval
ancestor--the cemetery was more English than anything else in the
neighborhood, and might probably have nourished English oaks and
English elms, and whatever else is of English growth, without that
tendency to spindle upwards and lose their sturdy breadth, which is
said to be the ordinary characteristic both of human and vegetable
productions when transplanted hither. Here, at all events, used to be
some specimens of common English garden flowers, which could not be
accounted for,--unless, perhaps, they had sprung from some English
maiden's heart, where the intense love of those homely things, and
regret of them in the foreign land, had conspired together to keep
their vivifying principle, and cause its growth after the poor girl was
buried. Be that as it might, in this grave had been hidden from sight
many a broad, bluff visage of husbandman, who had been taught to plough
among the hereditary furrows that had been ameliorated by the crumble
of ages: much had these sturdy laborers grumbled at the great roots
that obstructed their toil in these fresh acres. Here, too, the sods
had covered the faces of men known to history, and reverenced when not
a piece of distinguishable dust remained of them; personages whom
tradition told about; and here, mixed up with successive crops of
native-born Americans, had been ministers, captains, matrons, virgins
good and evil, tough and tender, turned up and battened down by the
sexton's spade, over and over again; until every blade of grass had its
relations with the human brotherhood of the old town. A hundred and
fifty years was sufficient to do this; and so much time, at least, had
elapsed since the first hole was dug among the difficult roots of the
forest trees, and the first little hillock of all these green beds was
piled up.

Thus rippled and surged, with its hundreds of little billows, the old
graveyard about the house which cornered upon it; it made the street
gloomy, so that people did not altogether like to pass along the high
wooden fence that shut it in; and the old house itself, covering ground
which else had been sown thickly with buried bodies, partook of its
dreariness, because it seemed hardly possible that the dead people
should not get up out of their graves and steal in to warm themselves
at this convenient fireside. But I never heard that any of them did so;
nor were the children ever startled by spectacles of dim horror in the
night-time, but were as cheerful and fearless as if no grave had ever
been dug. They were of that class of children whose material seems
fresh, not taken at second hand, full of disease, conceits, whims, and
weaknesses, that have already served many people's turns, and been
moulded up, with some little change of combination, to serve the turn
of some poor spirit that could not get a better case.

So far as ever came to the present writer's knowledge, there was no
whisper of Doctor Grimshawe's house being haunted; a fact on which both
writer and reader may congratulate themselves, the ghostly chord having
been played upon in these days until it has become wearisome and
nauseous as the familiar tune of a barrel-organ. The house itself,
moreover, except for the convenience of its position close to the
seldom-disturbed cemetery, was hardly worthy to be haunted. As I
remember it, (and for aught I know it still exists in the same guise,)
it did not appear to be an ancient structure, nor one that would ever
have been the abode of a very wealthy or prominent family;--a three-
story wooden house, perhaps a century old, low-studded, with a square
front, standing right upon the street, and a small enclosed porch,
containing the main entrance, affording a glimpse up and down the
street through an oval window on each side, its characteristic was
decent respectability, not sinking below the boundary of the genteel.
It has often perplexed my mind to conjecture what sort of man he could
have been who, having the means to build a pretty, spacious, and
comfortable residence, should have chosen to lay its foundation on the
brink of so many graves; each tenant of these narrow houses crying out,
as it were, against the absurdity of bestowing much time or pains in
preparing any earthly tabernacle save such as theirs. But deceased
people see matters from an erroneous--at least too exclusive--point of
view; a comfortable grave is an excellent possession for those who need
it, but a comfortable house has likewise its merits and temporary
advantages. [Endnote: 5.]

The founder of the house in question seemed sensible of this truth, and
had therefore been careful to lay out a sufficient number of rooms and
chambers, low, ill-lighted, ugly, but not unsusceptible of warmth and
comfort; the sunniest and cheerfulest of which were on the side that
looked into the graveyard. Of these, the one most spacious and
convenient had been selected by Doctor Grimshawe as a study, and fitted
up with bookshelves, and various machines and contrivances, electrical,
chemical, and distillatory, wherewith he might pursue such researches
as were wont to engage his attention. The great result of the grim
Doctor's labors, so far as known to the public, was a certain
preparation or extract of cobwebs, which, out of a great abundance of
material, he was able to produce in any desirable quantity, and by the
administration of which he professed to cure diseases of the
inflammatory class, and to work very wonderful effects upon the human
system. It is a great pity, for the good of mankind and the advantage
of his own fortunes, that he did not put forth this medicine in pill-
boxes or bottles, and then, as it were, by some captivating title,
inveigle the public into his spider's web, and suck out its gold
substance, and himself wax fat as he sat in the central intricacy.

But grim Doctor Grimshawe, though his aim in life might be no very
exalted one, seemed singularly destitute of the impulse to better his
fortunes by the exercise of his wits: it might even have been supposed,
indeed, that he had a conscientious principle or religious scruple--
only, he was by no means a religious man--against reaping profit from
this particular nostrum which he was said to have invented. He never
sold it; never prescribed it, unless in cases selected on some
principle that nobody could detect or explain. The grim Doctor, it must
be observed, was not generally acknowledged by the profession, with
whom, in truth, he had never claimed a fellowship; nor had he ever
assumed, of his own accord the medical title by which the public chose
to know him. His professional practice seemed, in a sort, forced upon
him; it grew pretty extensive, partly because it was understood to be a
matter of favor and difficulty, dependent on a capricious will, to
obtain his services at all. There was unquestionably an odor of
quackery about him; but by no means of an ordinary kind. A sort of
mystery--yet which, perhaps, need not have been a mystery, had any one
thought it worth while to make systematic inquiry in reference to his
previous life, his education, even his native land--assisted the
impression which his peculiarities were calculated to make. He was
evidently not a New-Englander, nor a native of any part of these
Western shores. His speech was apt to be oddly and uncouthly idiomatic,
and even when classical in its form was emitted with a strange, rough
depth of utterance, that came from recesses of the lungs which we
Yankees seldom put to any use. In person, he did not look like one of
us; a broad, rather short personage, with a projecting forehead, a red,
irregular face, and a squab nose; eyes that looked dull enough in their
ordinary state, but had a faculty, in conjunction with the other
features, which those who had ever seen it described as especially ugly
and awful. As regarded dress, Doctor Grimshawe had a rough and careless
exterior, and altogether a shaggy kind of aspect, the effect of which
was much increased by a reddish beard, which, contrary to the usual
custom of the day, he allowed to grow profusely; and the wiry
perversity of which seemed to know as little of the comb as of the

We began with calling the grim Doctor an elderly personage; but in so
doing we looked at him through the eyes of the two children, who were
his intimates, and who had not learnt to decipher the purport and value
of his wrinkles and furrows and corrugations, whether as indicating
age, or a different kind of wear and tear. Possibly--he seemed so
aggressive and had such latent heat and force to throw out when
occasion called--he might scarcely have seemed middle-aged; though here
again we hesitate, finding him so stiffened in his own way, so little
fluid, so encrusted with passions and humors, that he must have left
his youth very far behind him; if indeed he ever had any.

The patients, or whatever other visitors were ever admitted into the
Doctor's study, carried abroad strange accounts of the squalor of dust
and cobwebs in which the learned and scientific person lived; and the
dust, they averred, was all the more disagreeable, because it could not
well be other than dead men's almost intangible atoms, resurrected from
the adjoining graveyard. As for the cobwebs, they were no signs of
housewifely neglect on the part of crusty Hannah, the handmaiden; but
the Doctor's scientific material, carefully encouraged and preserved,
each filmy thread more valuable to him than so much golden wire. Of all
barbarous haunts in Christendom or elsewhere, this study was the one
most overrun with spiders. They dangled from the ceiling, crept upon
the tables, lurked in the corners, and wove the intricacy of their webs
wherever they could hitch the end from point to point across the
window-panes, and even across the upper part of the doorway, and in the
chimney-place. It seemed impossible to move without breaking some of
these mystic threads. Spiders crept familiarly towards you and walked
leisurely across your hands: these were their precincts, and you only
an intruder. If you had none about your person, yet you had an odious
sense of one crawling up your spine, or spinning cobwebs in your
brain,--so pervaded was the atmosphere of the place with spider-life.
What they fed upon (for all the flies for miles about would not have
sufficed them) was a secret known only to the Doctor. Whence they came
was another riddle; though, from certain inquiries and transactions of
Doctor Grimshawe's with some of the shipmasters of the port, who
followed the East and West Indian, the African and the South American
trade, it was supposed that this odd philosopher was in the habit of
importing choice monstrosities in the spider kind from all those tropic
regions. [Endnote: 6.]

All the above description, exaggerated as it may seem, is merely
preliminary to the introduction of one single enormous spider, the
biggest and ugliest ever seen, the pride of the grim Doctor's heart,
his treasure, his glory, the pearl of his soul, and, as many people
said, the demon to whom he had sold his salvation, on condition of
possessing the web of the foul creature for a certain number of years.
The grim Doctor, according to this theory, was but a great fly which
this spider had subtly entangled in his web. But, in truth, naturalists
are acquainted with this spider, though it is a rare one; the British
Museum has a specimen, and, doubtless, so have many other scientific
institutions. It is found in South America; its most hideous spread of
legs covers a space nearly as large as a dinner-plate, and radiates
from a body as big as a door-knob, which one conceives to be an
agglomeration of sucked-up poison which the creature treasures through
life; probably to expend it all, and life itself, on some worthy foe.
Its colors, variegated in a sort of ugly and inauspicious splendor,
were distributed over its vast bulb in great spots, some of which
glistened like gems. It was a horror to think of this thing living;
still more horrible to think of the foul catastrophe, the crushed-out
and wasted poison, that would follow the casual setting foot upon it.

No doubt, the lapse of time since the Doctor and his spider lived has
already been sufficient to cause a traditionary wonderment to gather
over them both; and, especially, this image of the spider dangles down
to us from the dusky ceiling of the Past, swollen into somewhat uglier
and huger monstrosity than he actually possessed. Nevertheless, the
creature had a real existence, and has left kindred like himself; but
as for the Doctor, nothing could exceed the value which he seemed to
put upon him, the sacrifices he made for the creature's convenience, or
the readiness with which he adapted his whole mode of life, apparently,
so that the spider might enjoy the conditions best suited to his
tastes, habits, and health. And yet there were sometimes tokens that
made people imagine that he hated the infernal creature as much as
everybody else who caught a glimpse of him. [Endnote: 7.]


Considering that Doctor Grimshawe, when we first look upon him, had
dwelt only a few years in the house by the graveyard, it is wonderful
what an appearance he, and his furniture, and his cobwebs, and their
unweariable spinners, and crusty old Hannah, all had of having
permanently attached themselves to the locality. For a century, at
least, it might be fancied that the study in particular had existed
just as it was now; with those dusky festoons of spider-silk hanging
along the walls, those book-cases with volumes turning their parchment
or black-leather backs upon you, those machines and engines, that
table, and at it the Doctor, in a very faded and shabby dressing-gown,
smoking a long clay pipe, the powerful fumes of which dwelt continually
in his reddish and grisly beard, and made him fragrant wherever he
went. This sense of fixedness--stony intractability--seems to belong to
people who, instead of hope, which exalts everything into an airy,
gaseous exhilaration, have a fixed and dogged purpose, around which
everything congeals and crystallizes. [Endnote: 1] Even the sunshine,
dim through the dustiness of the two casements that looked upon the
graveyard, and the smoke, as it came warm out of Doctor Grimshawe's
mouth, seemed already stale. But if the two children, or either of
them, happened to be in the study,--if they ran to open the door at the
knock, if they came scampering and peeped down over the banisters,--the
sordid and rusty gloom was apt to vanish quite away. The sunbeam itself
looked like a golden rule, that had been flung down long ago, and had
lain there till it was dusty and tarnished. They were cheery little
imps, who sucked up fragrance and pleasantness out of their
surroundings, dreary as these looked; even as a flower can find its
proper perfume in any soil where its seed happens to fall. The great
spider, hanging by his cordage over the Doctor's head, and waving
slowly, like a pendulum, in a blast from the crack of the door, must
have made millions and millions of precisely such vibrations as these;
but the children were new, and made over every day, with yesterday's
weariness left out.

The little girl, however, was the merrier of the two. It was quite
unintelligible, in view of the little care that crusty Hannah took of
her, and, moreover, since she was none of your prim, fastidious
children, how daintily she kept herself amid all this dust; how the
spider's webs never clung to her, and how, when--without being
solicited--she clambered into the Doctor's arms and kissed him, she
bore away no smoky reminiscences of the pipe that he kissed
continually. She had a free, mellow, natural laughter, that seemed the
ripened fruit of the smile that was generally on her little face, to be
shaken off and scattered abroad by any breeze that came along. Little
Elsie made playthings of everything, even of the grim Doctor, though
against his will, and though, moreover, there were tokens now and then
that the sight of this bright little creature was not a pleasure to
him, but, on the contrary, a positive pain; a pain, nevertheless,
indicating a profound interest, hardly less deep than though Elsie had
been his daughter.

Elsie did not play with the great spider, but she moved among the whole
brood of spiders as if she saw them not, and, being endowed with other
senses than those allied to these things, might coexist with them and
not be sensible of their presence. Yet the child, I suppose, had her
crying fits, and her pouting fits, and naughtiness enough to entitle
her to live on earth; at least crusty Hannah often said so, and often
made grievous complaint of disobedience, mischief, or breakage,
attributable to little Elsie; to which the grim Doctor seldom responded
by anything more intelligible than a puff of tobacco-smoke, and,
sometimes, an imprecation; which, however, hit crusty Hannah instead of
the child. Where the child got the tenderness that a child needs to
live upon, is a mystery to me; perhaps from some aged or dead mother,
or in her dreams; perhaps from some small modicum of it, such as boys
have, from the little boy; or perhaps it was from a Persian kitten,
which had grown to be a cat in her arms, and slept in her little bed,
and now assumed grave and protective airs towards her former playmate.
[Endnote: 2.]

The boy, [Endnote: 3] as we have said, was two or three years Elsie's
elder, and might now be about six years old. He was a healthy and
cheerful child, yet of a graver mood than the little girl, appearing to
lay a more forcible grasp on the circumstances about him, and to tread
with a heavier footstep on the solid earth; yet perhaps not more so
than was the necessary difference between a man-blossom, dimly
conscious of coming things, and a mere baby, with whom there was
neither past nor future. Ned, as he was named, was subject very early
to fits of musing, the subject of which--if they had any definite
subject, or were more than vague reveries--it was impossible to guess.
They were of those states of mind, probably, which are beyond the
sphere of human language, and would necessarily lose their essence in
the attempt to communicate or record them. The little girl, perhaps,
had some mode of sympathy with these unuttered thoughts or reveries,
which grown people had ceased to have; at all events, she early learned
to respect them, and, at other times as free and playful as her Persian
kitten, she never in such circumstances ventured on any greater freedom
than to sit down quietly beside him, and endeavor to look as thoughtful
as the boy himself.

Once, slowly emerging from one of these waking reveries, little Ned
gazed about him, and saw Elsie sitting with this pretty pretence of
thoughtfulness and dreaminess in her little chair, close beside him;
now and then peeping under her eyelashes to note what changes might
come over his face. After looking at her a moment or two, he quietly
took her willing and warm little hand in his own, and led her up to the

The group, methinks, must have been a picturesque one, made up as it
was of several apparently discordant elements, each of which happened
to be so combined as to make a more effective whole. The beautiful
grave boy, with a little sword by his side and a feather in his hat, of
a brown complexion, slender, with his white brow and dark, thoughtful
eyes, so earnest upon some mysterious theme; the prettier little girl,
a blonde, round, rosy, so truly sympathetic with her companion's mood,
yet unconsciously turning all to sport by her attempt to assume one
similar;--these two standing at the grim Doctor's footstool; he
meanwhile, black, wild-bearded, heavy-browed, red-eyed, wrapped in his
faded dressing-gown, puffing out volumes of vapor from his long pipe,
and making, just at that instant, application to a tumbler, which, we
regret to say, was generally at his elbow, with some dark-colored
potation in it that required to be frequently replenished from a
neighboring black bottle. Half, at least, of the fluids in the grim
Doctor's system must have been derived from that same black bottle, so
constant was his familiarity with its contents; and yet his eyes were
never redder at one time than another, nor his utterance thicker, nor
his mood perceptibly the brighter or the duller for all his
conviviality. It is true, when, once, the bottle happened to be empty
for a whole day together, Doctor Grimshawe was observed by crusty
Hannah and by the children to be considerably fiercer than usual: so
that probably, by some maladjustment of consequences, his intemperance
was only to be found in refraining from brandy.

Nor must we forget--in attempting to conceive the effect of these two
beautiful children in such a sombre room, looking on the graveyard, and
contrasted with the grim Doctor's aspect of heavy and smouldering
fierceness--that over his head, at this very moment, dangled the
portentous spider, who seemed to have come down from his web aloft for
the purpose of hearing what the two young people could have to say to
his patron, and what reference it might have to certain mysterious
documents which the Doctor kept locked up in a secret cupboard behind
the door.

"Grim Doctor," said Ned, after looking up into the Doctor's face, as a
sensitive child inevitably does, to see whether the occasion was
favorable, yet determined to proceed with his purpose whether so or
not,--"Grim Doctor, I want you to answer me a question."

"Here's to your good health, Ned!" quoth the Doctor, eying the pair
intently, as he often did, when they were unconscious. "So you want to
ask me a question? As many as you please, my fine fellow; and I shall
answer as many, and as much, and as truly, as may please myself!"

"Ah, grim Doctor!" said the little girl, now letting go of Ned's hand,
and climbing upon the Doctor's knee, "'ou shall answer as many as Ned
please to ask, because to please him and me!"

"Well, child," said Doctor Grimshawe, "little Ned will have his rights
at least, at my hands, if not other people's rights likewise; and, if
it be right, I shall answer his question. Only, let him ask it at once;
for I want to be busy thinking about something else."

"Then, Doctor Grim," said little Ned, "tell me, in the first place,
where I came from, and how you came to have me?"

The Doctor looked at the little man, so seriously and earnestly putting
this demand, with a perplexed, and at first it might almost seem a
startled aspect.

"That is a question, indeed, my friend Ned!" ejaculated he, putting
forth a whiff of smoke and imbibing a nip from his tumbler before he
spoke; and perhaps framing his answer, as many thoughtful and secret
people do, in such a way as to let out his secret mood to the child,
because knowing he could not understand it: "Whence did you come?
Whence did any of us come? Out of the darkness and mystery; out of
nothingness; out of a kingdom of shadows; out of dust, clay, mud, I
think, and to return to it again. Out of a former state of being,
whence we have brought a good many shadowy revelations, purporting that
it was no very pleasant one. Out of a former life, of which the present
one is the hell!--And why are you come? Faith, Ned, he must be a wiser
man than Doctor Grim who can tell why you or any other mortal came
hither; only one thing I am well aware of,--it was not to be happy. To
toil and moil and hope and fear; and to love in a shadowy, doubtful
sort of way, and to hate in bitter earnest,--that is what you came

"Ah, Doctor Grim! this is very naughty," said little Elsie. "You are
making fun of little Ned, when he is in earnest."

"Fun!" quoth Doctor Grim, bursting into a laugh peculiar to him, very
loud and obstreperous. "I am glad you find it so, my little woman.
Well, and so you bid me tell absolutely where he came from?"

Elsie nodded her bright little head.

"And you, friend Ned, insist upon knowing?"

"That I do, Doctor Grim!" answered Ned. His white, childish brow had
gathered into a frown, such was the earnestness of his determination;
and he stamped his foot on the floor, as if ready to follow up his
demand by an appeal to the little tin sword which hung by his side. The
Doctor looked at him with a kind of smile,--not a very pleasant one;
for it was an unamiable characteristic of his temper that a display of
spirit, even in a child, was apt to arouse his immense combativeness,
and make him aim a blow without much consideration how heavily it might
fall, or on how unequal an antagonist.

"If you insist upon an answer, Master Ned, you shall have it," replied
he. "You were taken by me, boy, a foundling from an almshouse; and if
ever hereafter you desire to know your kindred, you must take your
chance of the first man you meet. He is as likely to be your father as

The child's eyes flashed, and his brow grew as red as fire. It was but
a momentary fierceness; the next instant he clasped his hands over his
face, and wept in a violent convulsion of grief and shame. Little Elsie
clasped her arms about him, kissing his brow and chin, which were all
that her lips could touch, under his clasped hands; but Ned turned away
uncomforted, and was blindly making his way towards the door.

"Ned, my little fellow, come back!" said Doctor Grim, who had very
attentively watched the cruel effect of his communication.

As the boy did not reply, and was still tending towards the door, the
grim Doctor vouchsafed to lay aside his pipe, get up from his arm-chair
(a thing he seldom did between supper and bedtime), and shuffle after
the two children in his slippers. He caught them on the threshold,
brought little Ned back by main force,--for he was a rough man even in
his tenderness,--and, sitting down again and taking him on his knee,
pulled away his hands from before his face. Never was a more pitiful
sight than that pale countenance, so infantile still, yet looking old
and experienced already, with a sense of disgrace, with a feeling of
loneliness; so beautiful, nevertheless, that it seemed to possess all
the characteristics which fine hereditary traits and culture, or many
forefathers, could do in refining a human stock. And this was a
nameless weed, sprouting from some chance seed by the dusty wayside!

"Ned, my dear old boy," said Doctor Grim,--and he kissed that pale,
tearful face,--the first and last time, to the best of my belief, that
he was ever betrayed into that tenderness; "forget what I have said!
Yes, remember, if you like, that you came from an almshouse; but
remember, too,--what your friend Doctor Grim is ready to affirm and
make oath of,--that he can trace your kindred and race through that
sordid experience, and back, back, for a hundred and fifty years, into
an old English line. Come, little Ned, and look at this picture."

He led the boy by the hand to a corner of the room, where hung upon the
wall a portrait which Ned had often looked at. It seemed an old
picture; but the Doctor had had it cleaned and varnished, so that it
looked dim and dark, and yet it seemed to be the representation of a
man of no mark; not at least of such mark as would naturally leave his
features to be transmitted for the interest of another generation. For
he was clad in a mean dress of old fashion,--a leather jerkin it
appeared to be,--and round his neck, moreover, was a noose of rope, as
if he might have been on the point of being hanged. But the face of the
portrait, nevertheless, was beautiful, noble, though sad; with a great
development of sensibility, a look of suffering and endurance amounting
to triumph,--a peace through all.

"Look at this," continued the Doctor, "if you must go on dreaming about
your race. Dream that you are of the blood of this being; for, mean as
his station looks, he comes of an ancient and noble race, and was the
noblest of them all! Let me alone, Ned, and I shall spin out the web
that shall link you to that man. The grim Doctor can do it!"

The grim Doctor's face looked fierce with the earnestness with which he
said these words. You would have said that he was taking an oath to
overthrow and annihilate a race, rather than to build one up by
bringing forward the infant heir out of obscurity, and making plain the
links--the filaments--which cemented this feeble childish life, in a
far country, with the great tide of a noble life, which had come down
like a chain from antiquity, in old England.

Having said the words, however, the grim Doctor appeared ashamed both
of the heat and of the tenderness into which he had been betrayed; for
rude and rough as his nature was, there was a kind of decorum in it,
too, that kept him within limits of his own. So he went back to his
chair, his pipe, and his tumbler, and was gruffer and more taciturn
than ever for the rest of the evening. And after the children went to
bed, he leaned back in his chair and looked up at the vast tropic
spider, who was particularly busy in adding to the intricacies of his
web; until he fell asleep with his eyes fixed in that direction, and
the extinguished pipe in one hand and the empty tumbler in the other.


Doctor Grimshawe, after the foregone scene, began a practice of
conversing more with the children than formerly; directing his
discourse chiefly to Ned, although Elsie's vivacity and more outspoken
and demonstrative character made her take quite as large a share in the
conversation as he.

The Doctor's communications referred chiefly to a village, or
neighborhood, or locality in England, which he chose to call Newnham;
although he told the children that this was not the real name, which,
for reasons best known to himself, he wished to conceal. Whatever the
name were, he seemed to know the place so intimately, that the
children, as a matter of course, adopted the conclusion that it was his
birthplace, and the spot where he had spent his schoolboy days, and had
lived until some inscrutable reason had impelled him to quit its ivy-
grown antiquity, and all the aged beauty and strength that he spoke of,
and to cross the sea.

He used to tell of an old church, far unlike the brick and pine-built
meeting-houses with which the children were familiar; a church, the
stones of which were laid, every one of them, before the world knew of
the country in which he was then speaking: and how it had a spire, the
lower part of which was mantled with ivy, and up which, towards its
very spire, the ivy was still creeping; and how there was a tradition,
that, if the ivy ever reached the top, the spire would fall upon the
roof of the old gray church, and crush it all down among its
surrounding tombstones. [Endnote: 1] And so, as this misfortune would be
so heavy a one, there seemed to be a miracle wrought from year to year,
by which the ivy, though always flourishing, could never grow beyond a
certain point; so that the spire and church had stood unharmed for
thirty years; though the wise old people were constantly foretelling
that the passing year must be the very last one that it could stand.

He told, too, of a place that made little Ned blush and cast down his
eyes to hide the tears of anger and shame at he knew not what, which
would irresistibly spring into them; for it reminded him of the
almshouse where, as the cruel Doctor said, Ned himself had had his
earliest home. And yet, after all, it had scarcely a feature of
resemblance; and there was this great point of difference,--that
whereas, in Ned's wretched abode (a large, unsightly brick house),
there were many wretched infants like himself, as well as helpless
people of all ages, widows, decayed drunkards, people of feeble wits,
and all kinds of imbecility; it being a haven for those who could not
contend in the hard, eager, pitiless struggle of life; in the place the
Doctor spoke of, a noble, Gothic, mossy structure, there were none but
aged men, who had drifted into this quiet harbor to end their days in a
sort of humble yet stately ease and decorous abundance. And this
shelter, the grim Doctor said, was the gift of a man who had died ages
ago; and having been a great sinner in his lifetime, and having drawn
lands, manors, and a great mass of wealth into his clutches, by violent
and unfair means, had thought to get his pardon by founding this
Hospital, as it was called, in which thirteen old men should always
reside; and he hoped that they would spend their time in praying for
the welfare of his soul. [Endnote: 2.]

Said little Elsie, "I am glad he did it, and I hope the poor old men
never forgot to pray for him, and that it did good to the poor wicked
man's soul."

"Well, child," said Doctor Grimshawe, with a scowl into vacancy, and a
sort of wicked leer of merriment at the same time, as if he saw before
him the face of the dead man of past centuries, "I happen to be no
lover of this man's race, and I hate him for the sake of one of his
descendants. I don't think he succeeded in bribing the Devil to let him
go, or God to save him!"

"Doctor Grim, you are very naughty!" said Elsie, looking shocked.

"It is fair enough," said Ned, "to hate your enemies to the very brink
of the grave, but then to leave him to get what mercy he can."

"After shoving him in!" quoth the Doctor; and made no further response
to either of these criticisms, which seemed indeed to affect him very
little--if he even listened to them. For he was a man of singularly
imperfect moral culture; insomuch that nothing else was so remarkable
about him as that--possessing a good deal of intellectual ability, made
available by much reading and experience--he was so very dark on the
moral side; as if he needed the natural perceptions that should have
enabled him to acquire that better wisdom. Such a phenomenon often
meets us in life; oftener than we recognize, because a certain tact and
exterior decency generally hide the moral deficiency. But often there
is a mind well polished, married to a conscience and natural impulses
left as they were in childhood, except that they have sprouted up into
evil and poisonous weeds, richly blossoming with strong-smelling
flowers, or seeds which the plant scatters by a sort of impulse; even
as the Doctor was now half-consciously throwing seeds of his evil
passions into the minds of these children. He was himself a grown-up
child, without tact, simplicity, and innocence, and with ripened evil,
all the ranker for a native heat that was in him and still active,
which might have nourished good things as well as evil. Indeed, it did
cherish by chance a root or two of good, the fragrance of which was
sometimes perceptible among all this rank growth of poisonous weeds. A
grown-up child he was,--that was all.

The Doctor now went on to describe an old country-seat, which stood
near this village and the ancient Hospital that he had been telling
about, and which was formerly the residence of the wicked man (a knight
and a brave one, well known in the Lancastrian wars) who had founded
the latter. It was a venerable old mansion, which a Saxon Thane had
begun to build more than a thousand years ago, the old English oak that
he built into the frame being still visible in the ancient skeleton of
its roof, sturdy and strong as if put up yesterday. And the descendants
of the man who built it, through the French line (for a Norman baron
wedded the daughter and heiress of the Saxon), dwelt there yet; and in
each century they had done something for the old Hall,--building a
tower, adding a suite of rooms, strengthening what was already built,
putting in a painted window, making it more spacious and convenient,--
till it seemed as if Time employed himself in thinking what could be
done for the old house. As fast as any part decayed, it was renewed,
with such simple art that the new completed, as it were, and fitted
itself to the old. So that it seemed as if the house never had been
finished, until just that thing was added. For many an age, the
possessors had gone on adding strength to strength, digging out the
moat to a greater depth, piercing the walls with holes for archers to
shoot through, or building a turret to keep watch upon. But at last all
necessity for these precautions passed away, and then they thought of
convenience and comfort, adding something in every generation to these.
And by and by they thought of beauty too; and in this time helped them
with its weather-stains, and the ivy that grew over the walls, and the
grassy depth of the dried-up moat, and the abundant shade that grew up
everywhere, where naked strength would have been ugly.

"One curious thing in the house," said the Doctor, lowering his voice,
but with a mysterious look of triumph, and that old scowl, too, at the
children, "was that they built a secret chamber,--a very secret one!"

"A secret chamber!" cried little Ned; "who lived in it? A ghost?"

"There was often use for it," said Doctor Grim; "hiding people who had
fought on the wrong side, or Catholic priests, or criminals, or
perhaps--who knows?--enemies that they wanted put out of the way,--
troublesome folks. Ah! it was often of use, that secret chamber: and is
so still!"

Here the Doctor paused a long while, and leaned back in his chair,
slowly puffing long whiffs from his pipe, looking up at the great
spider-demon that hung over his head, and, as it seemed to the children
by the expression of his face, looking into the dim secret chamber
which he had spoken of, and which, by something in his mode of alluding
to it, assumed such a weird, spectral aspect to their imaginations that
they never wished to hear of it again. Coming back at length out of his
reverie,--returning, perhaps, out of some weird, ghostly, secret
chamber of his memory, whereof the one in the old house was but the
less horrible emblem,--he resumed his tale. He said that, a long time
ago, a war broke out in the old country between King and Parliament. At
that period there were several brothers of the old family (which had
adhered to the Catholic religion), and these chose the side of the King
instead of that of the Puritan Parliament: all but one, whom the family
hated because he took the Parliament side; and he became a soldier, and
fought against his own brothers; and it was said among them that, so
inveterate was he, he went on the scaffold, masked, and was the very
man who struck off the King's head, and that his foot trod in the
King's blood, and that always afterwards he made a bloody track
wherever he went. And there was a legend that his brethren once caught
the renegade and imprisoned him in his own birthplace--

"In the secret chamber?" interrupted Ned.

"No doubt!" said the Doctor, nodding, "though I never heard so."

They imprisoned him, but he made his escape and fled, and in the
morning his prison-place, wherever it was, was empty. But on the
threshold of the door of the old manor-house there was the print of a
bloody footstep; and no trouble that the housemaids took, no rain of
all the years that have since passed, no sunshine, has made it fade:
nor have all the wear and tramp of feet passing over it since then
availed to erase it.

"I have seen it myself," quoth the Doctor, "and know this to be true."

"Doctor Grim, now you are laughing at us," said Ned, trying to look
grave. But Elsie hid her face on the Doctor's knee; there being
something that affected the vivid little girl with peculiar horror in
the idea of this red footstep always glistening on the doorstep, and
wetting, as she fancied, every innocent foot of child or grown person
that had since passed over it. [Endnote: 3.]

"It is true!" reiterated the grim Doctor; "for, man and boy, I have
seen it a thousand times."

He continued the family history, or tradition, or fantastic legend,
whichever it might be; telling his young auditors that the Puritan, the
renegade son of the family, was afterwards, by the contrivances of his
brethren, sent to Virginia and sold as a bond slave; and how he had
vanished from that quarter and come to New England, where he was
supposed to have left children. And by and by two elder brothers died,
and this missing brother became the heir to the old estate and to a
title. Then the family tried to track his bloody footstep, and sought
it far and near, through green country paths, and old streets of
London; but in vain. Then they sent messengers to see whether any
traces of one stepping in blood could be found on the forest leaves of
America; but still in vain. The idea nevertheless prevailed that he
would come back, and it was said they kept a bedchamber ready for him
yet in the old house. But much as they pretended to regret the loss of
him and his children, it would make them curse their stars were a
descendant of his to return now. For the child of a younger son was in
possession of the old estate, and was doing as much evil as his
forefathers did; and if the true heir were to appear on the threshold,
he would (if he might but do it secretly) stain the whole doorstep as
red as the Bloody Footstep had stained one little portion of it.

"Do you think he will ever come back?" asked little Ned.

"Stranger things have happened, my little man!" said Doctor Grimshawe,
"than that the posterity of this man should come back and turn these
usurpers out of his rightful inheritance. And sometimes, as I sit here
smoking my pipe and drinking my glass, and looking up at the cunning
plot that the spider is weaving yonder above my head, and thinking of
this fine old family and some little matters that have been between
them and me, I fancy that it may be so! We shall see! Stranger things
have happened."

And Doctor Grimshawe drank off his tumbler, winking at little Ned in a
strange way, that seemed to be a kind of playfulness, but which did not
affect the children pleasantly; insomuch that little Elsie put both her
hands on Doctor Grim's knees, and begged him not to do so any
more. [Endnote: 4.]

[Endnote: 1]

The children, after this conversation, often introduced the old English
mansion into their dreams and little romances, which all imaginative
children are continually mixing up with their lives, making the
commonplace day of grown people a rich, misty, glancing orb of fairy-
land to themselves. Ned, forgetting or not realizing the long lapse of
time, used to fancy the true heir wandering all this while in America,
and leaving a long track of bloody footsteps behind him; until the
period when, his sins being expiated (whatever they might be), he
should turn back upon his steps and return to his old native home. And
sometimes the child used to look along the streets of the town where he
dwelt, bending his thoughtful eyes on the ground, and think that
perhaps some time he should see the bloody footsteps there, betraying
that the wanderer had just gone that way.

As for little Elsie, it was her fancy that the hero of the legend still
remained imprisoned in that dreadful secret chamber, which had made a
most dread impression on her mind; and that there he was, forgotten all
this time, waiting, like a naughty child shut up in a closet, until
some one should come to unlock the door. In the pitifulness of her
disposition, she once proposed to little Ned that, as soon as they grew
big enough, they should set out in quest of the old house, and find
their way into it, and find the secret chamber, and let the poor
prisoner out. So they lived a good deal of the time in a half-waking
dream, partly conscious of the fantastic nature of their ideas, yet
with these ideas almost as real to them as the facts of the natural
world, which, to children, are at first transparent and unsubstantial.

The Doctor appeared to have a pleasure, or a purpose, in keeping his
legend forcibly in their memories; he often recurred to the subject of
the old English family, and was continually giving new details about
its history, the scenery in its neighborhood, the aspect of the
mansion-house; indicating a very intense interest in the subject on his
own part, of which this much talk seemed the involuntary overflowing.

There was, however, an affection mingled with this sentiment. It
appeared to be his unfortunate necessity to let his thoughts dwell very
constantly upon a subject that was hateful to him, with which this old
English estate and manor-house and family were somehow connected; and,
moreover, had he spoken thus to older and more experienced auditors,
they might have detected in the manner and matter of his talk, a
certain hereditary reverence and awe, the growth of ages, mixed up with
a newer hatred, impelling him to deface and destroy what, at the same
time, it was his deepest impulse to bow before. The love belonged to
his race; the hatred, to himself individually. It was the feeling of a
man lowly born, when he contracts a hostility to his hereditary
superior. In one way, being of a powerful, passionate nature, gifted
with force and ability far superior to that of the aristocrat, he might
scorn him and feel able to trample on him; in another, he had the same
awe that a country boy feels of the magistrate who flings him a
sixpence and shakes his horsewhip at him.

Had the grim Doctor been an American, he might have had the vast
antipathy to rank, without the trace of awe that made it so much more
malignant: it required a low-born Englishman to feel the two together.
What made the hatred so fiendish was a something that, in the natural
course of things, would have been loyalty, inherited affection, devoted
self-sacrifice to a superior. Whatever it might be, it seemed at times
(when his potations took deeper effect than ordinary) almost to drive
the grim Doctor mad; for he would burst forth in wild diatribes and
anathemas, having a strange, rough force of expression and a depth of
utterance, as if his words came from a bottomless pit within himself,
where burned an everlasting fire, and where the furies had their home;
and plans of dire revenge were welded into shape as in the heat of a
furnace. After the two poor children had been affrighted by paroxysms
of this kind, the strange being would break out into one of his roars
of laughter, that seemed to shake the house, and, at all events, caused
the cobwebs and spiders suspended from the ceiling, to swing and
vibrate with the motion of the volumes of reverberating breath which he
thus expelled from his capacious lungs. Then, catching up little Elsie
upon one knee and Ned upon the other, he would become gentler than in
his usual moods, and, by the powerful magnetism of his character, cause
them to think him as tender and sweet an old fellow as a child could
desire for a playmate. Upon the whole, strange as it may appear, they
loved the grim Doctor dearly; there was a loadstone within him that
drew them close to him and kept them there, in spite of the horror of
many things that he said and did. One thing that, slight as it seemed,
wrought mightily towards their mutually petting each other, was that no
amount of racket, hubbub, shouting, laughter, or noisy mischief which
the two children could perpetrate, ever disturbed the Doctor's studies,
meditations, or employments of whatever kind. He had a hardy set of
nerves, not refined by careful treatment in himself or his ancestors,
but probably accustomed from of old to be drummed on by harsh voices,
rude sounds, and the clatter and clamor of household life among homely,
uncultivated, strongly animal people.

As the two children grew apace, it behooved their strange guardian to
take some thought for their instruction. So far as little Elsie was
concerned, however, he seemed utterly indifferent to her having any
cultivation: having imbibed no modern ideas respecting feminine
capacities and privileges, but regarding woman, whether in the bud or
in the blossom, as the plaything of man's idler moments, and the
helpmeet--but in a humble capacity--of his daily life. He sometimes
bade her go to the kitchen and take lessons of crusty Hannah in bread-
making, sweeping, dusting, washing, the coarser needlework, and such
other things as she would require to know when she came to be a woman;
but carelessly allowed her to gather up the crumbs of such instruction
as he bestowed on her playmate Ned, and thus learn to read, write, and
cipher; which, to say the truth, was about as far in the way of
scholarship as little Elsie cared to go.

But towards little Ned the grim Doctor adopted a far different system.
No sooner had he reached the age when the soft and tender intellect of
the child became capable of retaining impressions, than he took him
vigorously in hand, assigning him such tasks as were fit for him, and
curiously investigating what were the force and character of the powers
with which the child grasped them. Not that the Doctor pressed him
forward unduly; indeed, there was no need of it; for the boy manifested
a remarkable docility for instruction, and a singular quickness in
mastering the preliminary steps which lead to science: a subtle
instinct, indeed, which it seemed wonderful a child should possess for
anything as artificial as systems of grammar and arithmetic. A
remarkable boy, in truth, he was, to have been found by chance in an
almshouse; except that, such being his origin, we are at liberty to
suppose for him whatever long cultivation and gentility we may think
necessary, in his parentage of either side,--such as was indicated also
by his graceful and refined beauty of person. He showed, indeed, even
before he began to read at all, an instinctive attraction towards
books, and a love for and interest in even the material form of
knowledge,--the plates, the print, the binding of the Doctor's volumes,
and even in a bookworm which he once found in an old volume, where it
had eaten a circular furrow. But the little boy had too quick a spirit
of life to be in danger of becoming a bookworm himself. He had this
side of the intellect, but his impulse would be to mix with men, and
catch something from their intercourse fresher than books could give
him; though these would give him what they might.

In the grim Doctor, rough and uncultivated as he seemed, this budding
intelligence found no inadequate instructor. Doctor Grimshawe proved
himself a far more thorough scholar, in the classics and mathematics,
than could easily have been found in our country. He himself must have
had rigid and faithful instruction at an early period of life, though
probably not in his boyhood. For, though the culture had been bestowed,
his mind had been left in so singularly rough a state that it seemed as
if the refinement of classical study could not have been begun very
early. Or possibly the mind and nature were incapable of polish; or he
may have had a coarse and sordid domestic life around him in his
infancy and youth. He was a gem of coarse texture, just hewn out. An
American with a like education would more likely have gained a certain
fineness and grace, and it would have been difficult to distinguish him
from one who had been born to culture and refinement. This sturdy
Englishman, after all that had been done for his mind, and though it
had been well done, was still but another ploughman, of a long race of
such, with a few scratchings of refinement on his hard exterior. His
son, if he left one, might be a little less of the ploughman; his
grandson, provided the female element were well chosen, might approach
to refinement; three generations--a century at least--would be required
for the slow toil of hewing, chiselling, and polishing a gentleman out
of this ponderous block, now rough from the quarry of human nature.
But, in the mean time, he evidently possessed in an unusual degree the
sort of learning that refines other minds,--the critical acquaintance
with the great poets and historians of antiquity, and apparently an
appreciation of their merits, and power to teach their beauty. So the
boy had an able tutor, capable, it would seem, of showing him the way
to the graces he did not himself possess; besides helping the growth of
the strength without which refinement is but sickly and disgusting.

Another sort of culture, which it seemed odd that this rude man should
undertake, was that of manners; but, in fact, rude as the grim Doctor's
own manners were, he was one of the nicest and severest censors in that
department that was ever known. It is difficult to account for this;
although it is almost invariably found that persons in a low rank of
life, such as servants and laborers, will detect the false pretender to
the character of a gentleman, with at least as sure an instinct as the
class into which they seek to thrust themselves. Perhaps they recognize
something akin to their own vulgarity, rather than appreciate what is
unlike themselves. The Doctor possessed a peculiar power of rich rough
humor on this subject, and used to deliver lectures, as it were, to
little Ned, illustrated with sketches of living individuals in the town
where they dwelt; by an unscrupulous use of whom he sought to teach the
boy what to avoid in manners, if he sought to be a gentleman. But it
must be confessed he spared himself as little as other people, and
often wound up with this compendious injunction,--"Be everything in
your behavior that Doctor Grim is not!"

His pupil, very probably, profited somewhat by these instructions; for
there are specialties and arbitrary rules of behavior which do not come
by nature. But these are few; and beautiful, noble, and genial manners
may almost be called a natural gift; and these, however he inherited
them, soon proved to be an inherent possession of little Ned. He had a
kind of natural refinement, which nothing could ever soil or offend; it
seemed, by some magic or other, absolutely to keep him from the
knowledge of much of the grim Doctor's rude and sordid exterior, and to
render what was around him beautiful by a sort of affiliation, or
reflection from that quality in himself, glancing its white light upon
it. The Doctor himself was puzzled, and apparently both startled and
delighted at the perception of these characteristics. Sometimes he
would make a low, uncouth bow, after his fashion, to the little fellow,
saying, "Allow me to kiss your hand, my lord!" and little Ned, not
quite knowing what the grim Doctor meant, yet allowed the favor he
asked, with a grave and gracious condescension that seemed much to
delight the suitor. This refusal to recognize or to suspect that the
Doctor might be laughing at him was a sure token, at any rate, of the
lack of one vulgar characteristic in little Ned.

In order to afford little Ned every advantage to these natural gifts,
Doctor Grim nevertheless failed not to provide the best attainable
instructor for such positive points of a polite education as his own
fierce criticism, being destructive rather than generative, would not
suffice for. There was a Frenchman in the town--a M. Le Grand, secretly
calling himself a Count--who taught the little people, and, indeed,
some of their elders, the Parisian pronunciation of his own language;
and likewise dancing (in which he was more of an adept and more
successful than in the former branch) and fencing: in which, after
looking at a lesson or two, the grim Doctor was satisfied of his skill.
Under his instruction, with the stimulus of the Doctor's praise and
criticism, Ned soon grew to be the pride of the Frenchman's school, in
both the active departments; and the Doctor himself added a further
gymnastic acquirement (not absolutely necessary, he said, to a
gentleman's education, but very desirable to a man perfect at all
points) by teaching him cudgel-playing and pugilism. In short, in
everything that related to accomplishments, whether of mind or body, no
pains were spared with little Ned; but of the utilitarian line of
education, then almost exclusively adopted, and especially desirable
for a fortuneless boy like Ned, dependent on a man not wealthy, there
was little given.

At first, too, the Doctor paid little attention to the moral and
religious culture of his pupil; nor did he ever make a system of it.
But by and by, though with a singular reluctance and kind of
bashfulness, he began to extend his care to these matters; being drawn
into them unawares, and possibly perceiving and learning what he taught
as he went along. One evening, I know not how, he was betrayed into
speaking on this point, and a sort of inspiration seized him. A vista
opened before him: handling an immortal spirit, he began to know its
requisitions, in a degree far beyond what he had conceived them to be
when his great task was undertaken. His voice grew deep, and had a
strange, impressive pathos in it; his talk became eloquent with depth
of meaning and feeling, as he told the boy of the moral dangers of the
world, for which he was seeking to educate him; and which, he said,
presented what looked like great triumphs, and yet were the greatest
and saddest of defeats. He told him that many things that seemed
nearest and dearest to the heart of man were destructive, eating and
gnawing away and corroding what was best in him; and what a high,
noble, re-creating triumph it was when these dark impulses were
resisted and overthrown; and how, from that epoch, the soul took a new
start. He denounced the selfish greed of gold, lawless passion,
revenge,--and here the grim Doctor broke out into a strange passion and
zeal of anathema against this deadly sin, making a dreadful picture of
the ruin that it creates in the heart where it establishes itself, and
how it makes a corrosive acid of those genial juices. Then he told the
boy that the condition of all good was, in the first place, truth;
then, courage; then, justice; then, mercy; out of which principles
operating upon one another would come all brave, noble, high, unselfish
actions, and the scorn of all mean ones; and how that from such a
nature all hatred would fall away, and all good affections would be

I know not at what point it was, precisely, in these ethical
instructions that an insight seemed to strike the grim Doctor that
something more--vastly more--was needed than all he had said; and he
began, doubtfully, to speak of man's spiritual nature and its demands,
and the emptiness of everything which a sense of these demands did not
pervade, and condense, and weighten into realities. And going on in
this strain, he soared out of himself and astonished the two children,
who stood gazing at him, wondering whether it were the Doctor who was
speaking thus; until some interrupting circumstance seemed to bring him
back to himself, and he burst into one of his great roars of laughter.
The inspiration, the strange light whereby he had been transfigured,
passed out of his face; and there was the uncouth, wild-bearded, rough,
earthy, passionate man, whom they called Doctor Grim, looking ashamed
of himself, and trying to turn the whole matter into a jest. [Endnote: 2.]

It was a sad pity that he should have been interrupted, and brought
into this mocking mood, just when he seemed to have broken away from
the sinfulness of his hot, evil nature, and to have soared into a
region where, with all his native characteristics transfigured, he
seemed to have become an angel in his own likeness. Crusty Hannah, who
had been drawn to the door of the study by the unusual tones of his
voice,--a kind of piercing sweetness in it,--always averred that she
saw the gigantic spider swooping round his head in great crafty
circles, and clutching, as it were, at his brain with its great claws.
But it was the old woman's absurd idea that this hideous insect was the
Devil, in that ugly guise,--a superstition which deserves absolutely no
countenance. Nevertheless, though this paroxysm of devotional feeling
and insight returned no more to the grim Doctor, it was ever after a
memorable occasion to the two children. It touched that religious
chord, in both their hearts, which there was no mother to touch; but
now it vibrated long, and never ceased to vibrate so long as they
remained together,--nor, perhaps, after they were parted from each
other and from the grim Doctor. And even then, in those after years,
the strange music that had been awakened was continued, as it were the
echo from harps on high. Now, at all events, they made little prayers
for themselves, and said them at bedtime, generally in secret,
sometimes in unison; and they read in an old dusty Bible which lay
among the grim Doctor's books; and from little heathens, they became
Christian children. Doctor Grimshawe was perhaps conscious of this
result of his involuntary preachment, but he never directly noticed it,
and did nothing either to efface or deepen the impression.

It was singular, however, that, in both the children's minds, this one
gush of irresistible religious sentiment, breaking out of the grim
Doctor's inner depths, like a sort of holy lava from a volcano that
usually emitted quite other matter, (such as hot, melted wrath and
hate,) quite threw out of sight, then and always afterwards, his darker
characteristics. They remembered him, with faith and love, as a
religious man, and forgot--what perhaps had made no impression on their
innocent hearts--all the traits that other people might have called
devilish. To them the grim Doctor was a saint, even during his lifetime
and constant intercourse with them, and canonized forever afterwards.
There is almost always, to be sure, this profound faith, with regard to
those they love, in childhood; but perhaps, in this instance, the
children really had a depth of insight that grown people lacked; a
profound recognition of the bottom of this strange man's nature, which
was of such stuff as martyrs and heroic saints might have been made of,
though here it had been wrought miserably amiss. At any rate, his face
with the holy awe upon it was what they saw and remembered, when they
thought of their friend Doctor Grim.

One effect of his zealous and analytic instruction of the boy was very
perceptible. Heretofore, though enduring him, and occasionally making a
plaything of him, it may be doubted whether the grim Doctor had really
any strong affection for the child: it rather seemed as if his strong
will were forcing him to undertake, and carry sedulously forward, a
self-imposed task. All that he had done--his redeeming the bright child
from poverty and nameless degradation, ignorance, and a sordid life
hopeless of better fortune, and opening to him the whole realm of
mighty possibilities in an American life--did not imply any love for
the little individual whom he thus benefited. It had some other motive.

But now, approaching the child in this close, intimate, and helpful
way, it was very evident that his interest took a tenderer character.
There was everything in the boy, that a boy could possess, to attract
affection; he would have been a father's pride and joy. Doctor
Grimshawe, indeed, was not his father; but to a person of his character
this was perhaps no cause of lesser love than if there had been the
whole of that holy claim of kindred between them. We speak of the
natural force of blood; we speak of the paternal relation as if it were
productive of more earnest affection than can exist between two
persons, one of whom is protective, but unrelated. But there are wild,
forcible, unrestricted characters, on whom the necessity and even duty
of loving their own child is a sort of barrier to love. They perhaps do
not love their own traits, which they recognize in their children; they
shrink from their own features in the reflection presented by these
little mirrors. A certain strangeness and unlikeness (such as gives
poignancy to the love between the sexes) would excite a livelier
affection. Be this as it may, it is not probable that Doctor Grimshawe
would have loved a child of his own blood, with the coarse
characteristics that he knew both in his race and himself, with nearly
such fervor as this beautiful, slender, yet strenuous, intelligent,
refined boy,--with such a high-bred air, handling common things with so
refined a touch, yet grasping them so firmly; throwing a natural grace
on all he did. Was he not his father,--he that took this fair blossom
out of the sordid mud in which he must soon have withered and perished?
Was not this beautiful strangeness, which he so wondered at, the result
of his care?

And little Elsie? did the grim Doctor love her as well? Perhaps not,
for, in the first place, there was a natural tie, though not the
nearest, between her and Doctor Grimshawe, which made him feel that she
was cast upon his love: a burden which he acknowledged himself bound to
undertake. Then, too, there were unutterably painful reminiscences and
thoughts, that made him gasp for breath, that turned his blood sour,
that tormented his dreams with nightmares and hellish phantoms; all of
which were connected with this innocent and happy child; so that,
cheerful and pleasant as she was, there was to the grim Doctor a little
fiend playing about his floor and throwing a lurid light on the wall,
as the shadow of this sun-flickering child. It is certain that there
was always a pain and horror mixed with his feelings towards Elsie; he
had to forget himself, as it were, and all that was connected with the
causes why she came to be, before he could love her. Amid his fondness,
when he was caressing her upon his knee, pressing her to his rough
bosom, as he never took the freedom to press Ned, came these hateful
reminiscences, compelling him to set her down, and corrugating his
heavy brows as with a pang of fiercely resented, strongly borne pain.
Still, the child had no doubt contrived to make her way into the great
gloomy cavern of the grim Doctor's heart, and stole constantly further
and further in, carrying a ray of sunshine in her hand as a taper to
light her way, and illuminate the rude dark pit into which she so
fearlessly went.


Doctor Grim [Endnote: 1] had the English faith in open air and daily
acquaintance with the weather, whatever it might be; and it was his
habit, not only to send the two children to play, for lack of a better
place, in the graveyard, but to take them himself on long rambles, of
which the vicinity of the town afforded a rich variety. It may be that
the Doctor's excursions had the wider scope, because both he and the
children were objects of curiosity in the town, and very much the
subject of its gossip: so that always, in its streets and lanes, the
people turned to gaze, and came to their windows and to the doors of
shops to see this grim, bearded figure, leading along the beautiful
children each by a hand, with a surly aspect like a bulldog. Their
remarks were possibly not intended to reach the ears of the party, but
certainly were not so cautiously whispered but they occasionally did do
so. The male remarks, indeed, generally died away in the throats that
uttered them; a circumstance that doubtless saved the utterer from some
very rough rejoinder at the hands of the Doctor, who had grown up in
the habit of a very ready and free recourse to his fists, which had a
way of doubling themselves up seemingly of their own accord. But the
shrill feminine voices sometimes sent their observations from window to
window without dread of any such repartee on the part of the subject of

"There he goes, the old Spider-witch!" quoth one shrill woman, "with
those two poor babes that he has caught in his cobweb, and is going to
feed upon, poor little tender things! The bloody Englishman makes free
with the dead bodies of our friends and the living ones of our

"How red his nose is!" quoth another; "he has pulled at the brandy-
bottle pretty stoutly to-day, early as it is! Pretty habits those
children will learn, between the Devil in the shape of a great spider,
and this devilish fellow in his own shape! It were well that our
townsmen tarred and feathered the old British wizard!"

And, as he got further off, two or three little blackguard barefoot
boys shouted shrilly after him,--

"Doctor Grim, Doctor Grim,
The Devil wove a web for him!"

being a nonsensical couplet that had been made for the grim Doctor's
benefit, and was hooted in the streets, and under his own windows.
Hearing such remarks and insults, the Doctor would glare round at them
with red eyes, especially if the brandy-bottle had happened to be much
in request that day.

Indeed, poor Doctor Grim had met with a fortune which befalls many a
man with less cause than drew the public attention on this odd
humorist; for, dwelling in a town which was as yet but a larger
village, where everybody knew everybody, and claimed the privilege to
know and discuss their characters, and where there were few topics of
public interest to take off their attention, a very considerable
portion of town talk and criticism fell upon him. The old town had a
certain provincialism, which is less the characteristic of towns in
these days, when society circulates so freely, than then: besides, it
was a very rude epoch, just when the country had come through the war
of the Revolution, and while the surges of that commotion were still
seething and swelling, and while the habits and morals of every
individual in the community still felt its influence; and especially
the contest was too recent for an Englishman to be in very good odor,
unless he should cease to be English, and become more American than the
Americans themselves in repudiating British prejudices or principles,
habits, mode of thought, and everything that distinguishes Britons at
home or abroad. As Doctor Grim did not see fit to do this, and as,
moreover, he was a very doubtful, questionable, morose, unamiable old
fellow, not seeking to make himself liked nor deserving to be so, he
was a very unpopular person in the town where he had chosen to reside.
Nobody thought very well of him; the respectable people had heard of
his pipe and brandy-bottle; the religious community knew that he never
showed himself at church or meeting; so that he had not that very
desirable strength (in a society split up into many sects) of being
able to rely upon the party sympathies of any one of them. The mob
hated him with the blind sentiment that makes one surly cur hostile to
another surly cur. He was the most isolated individual to be found
anywhere; and, being so unsupported, everybody was his enemy.

The town, as it happened, had been pleased to interest itself much in
this matter of Doctor Grim and the two children, insomuch as he never
sent them to school, nor came with them to meeting of any kind, but was
bringing them up ignorant heathen to all appearances, and, as many
believed, was devoting them in some way to the great spider, to which
he had bartered his own soul. It had been mooted among the selectmen,
the fathers of the town, whether their duty did not require them to put
the children under more suitable guardianship; a measure which, it may
be, was chiefly hindered by the consideration that, in that case, the
cost of supporting them would probably be transferred from the grim
Doctor's shoulders to those of the community. Nevertheless, they did
what they could. Maidenly ladies, prim and starched, in one or two
instances called upon the Doctor--the two children meanwhile being in
the graveyard at play--to give him Christian advice as to the
management of his charge. But, to confess the truth, the Doctor's
reception of these fair missionaries was not extremely courteous. They
were, perhaps, partly instigated by a natural feminine desire to see
the interior of a place about which they had heard much, with its
spiders' webs, its strange machines and confusing tools; so, much
contrary to crusty Hannah's advice, they persisted in entering. Crusty
Hannah listened at the door; and it was curious to see the delighted
smile which came over her dry old visage as the Doctor's growling,
rough voice, after an abrupt question or two, and a reply in a thin
voice on the part of the maiden ladies, grew louder and louder, till
the door opened, and forth came the benevolent pair in great
discomposure. Crusty Hannah averred that their caps were much rumpled;
but this view of the thing was questioned; though it were certain that
the Doctor called after them downstairs, that, had they been younger
and prettier, they would have fared worse. A male emissary, who was
admitted on the supposition of his being a patient, did fare worse; for
(the grim Doctor having been particularly intimate with the black
bottle that afternoon) there was, about ten minutes after the visitor's
entrance, a sudden fierce upraising of the Doctor's growl; then a
struggle that shook the house; and, finally, a terrible rumbling down
the stairs, which proved to be caused by the precipitate descent of the
hapless visitor; who, if he needed no assistance of the grim Doctor on
his entrance, certainly would have been the better for a plaster or two
after his departure.

Such were the terms on which Doctor Grimshawe now stood with his
adopted townspeople; and if we consider the dull little town to be full
of exaggerated stories about the Doctor's oddities, many of them
forged, all retailed in an unfriendly spirit; misconceptions of a
character which, in its best and most candidly interpreted aspects, was
sufficiently amenable to censure; surmises taken for certainties;
superstitions--the genuine hereditary offspring of the frame of public
mind which produced the witchcraft delusion--all fermenting together;
and all this evil and uncharitableness taking the delusive hue of
benevolent interest in two helpless children;--we may partly judge what
was the odium in which the grim Doctor dwelt, and amid which he walked.
The horrid suspicion, too, countenanced by his abode in the corner of
the graveyard, affording the terrible Doctor such facilities for making
free, like a ghoul as he was, with the relics of mortality from the
earliest progenitor to the man killed yesterday by the Doctor's own
drugs, was not likely to improve his reputation.

He had heretofore contented himself with, at most, occasionally shaking
his stick at his assailants; but this day the black bottle had
imparted, it may be, a little more fire than ordinary to his blood; and
besides, an unlucky urchin happened to take particularly good aim with
a mud ball, which took effect right in the midst of the Doctor's bushy
beard, and, being of a soft consistency, forthwith became incorporated
with it. At this intolerable provocation the grim Doctor pursued the
little villain, amid a shower of similar missiles from the boy's
playmates, caught him as he was escaping into a back yard, dragged him
into the middle of the street, and, with his stick, proceeded to give
him his merited chastisement.

But, hereupon, it was astonishing how sudden commotion flashed up like
gunpowder along the street, which, except for the petty shrieks and
laughter of a few children, was just before so quiet. Forth out of
every window in those dusky, mean wooden houses were thrust heads of
women old and young; forth out of every door and other avenue, and as
if they started up from the middle of the street, or out of the unpaved
sidewalks, rushed fierce avenging forms, threatening at full yell to
take vengeance on the grim Doctor; who still, with that fierce dark
face of his,--his muddy beard all flying abroad, dirty and foul, his
hat fallen off, his red eyes flashing fire,--was belaboring the poor
hinder end of the unhappy urchin, paying off upon that one part of the
boy's frame the whole score which he had to settle with the rude boys
of the town; giving him at once the whole whipping which he had
deserved every day of his life, and not a stroke of which he had yet
received. Need enough there was, no doubt, that somebody should
interfere with such grim and immitigable justice; and certainly the
interference was prompt, and promised to be effectual.

"Down with the old tyrant! Thrash him! Hang him! Tar and feather the
viper's fry! the wizard! the body-snatcher!" bellowed the mob, one
member of which was raving with delirium tremens, and another was a
madman just escaped from bedlam.

It is unaccountable where all this mischievous, bloodthirsty multitude
came from,--how they were born into that quietness in such a moment of
time! What had they been about heretofore? Were they waiting in
readiness for this crisis, and keeping themselves free from other
employment till it should come to pass? Had they been created for the
moment, or were they fiends sent by Satan in the likeness of a
blackguard population? There you might see the offscourings of the
recently finished war,--old soldiers, rusty, wooden-legged: there,
sailors, ripe for any kind of mischief; there, the drunken population
of a neighboring grogshop, staggering helter-skelter to the scene, and
tumbling over one another at the Doctor's feet. There came the father
of the punished urchin, who had never shown heretofore any care for his
street-bred progeny, but who now came pale with rage, armed with a pair
of tongs; and with him the mother, flying like a fury, with her cap
awry, and clutching a broomstick, as if she were a witch just alighted.
Up they rushed from cellar doors, and dropped down from chamber
windows; all rushing upon the Doctor, but overturning and thwarting
themselves by their very multitude. For, as good Doctor Grim levelled
the first that came within reach of his fist, two or three of the
others tumbled over him and lay grovelling at his feet; the Doctor
meanwhile having retreated into the angle between two houses. Little
Ned, with a valor which did him the more credit inasmuch as it was
exercised in spite of a good deal of childish trepidation, as his pale
face indicated, brandished his fists by the Doctor's side; and little
Elsie did what any woman may,--that is, screeched in Doctor Grim's
behalf with full stretch of lungs. Meanwhile the street boys kept up a
shower of mud balls, many of which hit the Doctor, while the rest were
distributed upon his assailants, heightening their ferocity.

"Seize the old scoundrel! the villain! the Tory! the dastardly
Englishman! Hang him in the web of his own devilish spider,--'t is long
enough! Tar and feather him! tar and feather him!"

It was certainly one of those crises that show a man how few real
friends he has, and the tendency of mankind to stand aside, at least,
and let a poor devil fight his own troubles, if not assist them in
their attack. Here you might have seen a brother physician of the grim
Doctor's greatly tickled at his plight: or a decorous, powdered,
ruffle-shirted dignitary, one of the weighty men of the town, standing
at a neighbor's corner to see what would come of it.

"He is not a respectable man, I understand, this Grimshawe,--a quack,
intemperate, always in these scuffles: let him get out as he may!"

And then comes a deacon of one of the churches, and several church-
members, who, hearing a noise, set out gravely and decorously to see
what was going forward in a Christian community.

"Ah! it is that irreligious and profane Grimshawe, who never goes to
meeting. We wash our hands of him!"

And one of the selectmen said,--

"Surely this common brawler ought not to have the care of these nice,
sweet children; something must be done about it; and when the man is
sober, he must be talked to!"

Alas! it is a hard case with a man who lives upon his own bottom and
responsibility, making himself no allies, sewing himself on to nobody's
skirts, insulating himself,--hard, when his trouble comes; and so poor
Doctor Grimshawe was like to find it.

He had succeeded by dint of good skill, and some previous practice at
quarter-staff, in keeping his assailants at bay, though not without
some danger on his own part; but their number, their fierceness, and
the more skilled assault of some among them must almost immediately
have been successful, when the Doctor's part was strengthened by an
unexpected ally. This was a person [Endnote: 2] of tall, slight figure,
who, without lifting his hands to take part in the conflict, thrust
himself before the Doctor, and turned towards the assailants, crying,--

"Christian men, what would you do? Peace,--peace!"

His so well intended exhortation took effect, indeed, in a certain way,
but not precisely as might have been wished: for a blow, aimed at
Doctor Grim, took effect on the head of this man, who seemed to have no
sort of skill or alacrity at defending himself, any more than at making
an assault; for he never lifted his hands, but took the blow as
unresistingly as if it had been kindly meant, and it levelled him
senseless on the ground.

Had the mob really been enraged for any strenuous cause, this incident
would have operated merely as a preliminary whet to stimulate them to
further bloodshed. But, as they were mostly actuated only by a natural
desire for mischief, they were about as well satisfied with what had
been done as if the Doctor himself were the victim. And besides, the
fathers and respectabilities of the town, who had seen this mishap from
afar, now began to put forward, crying out, "Keep the peace! keep the
peace! A riot! a riot!" and other such cries as suited the emergency;
and the crowd vanished more speedily than it had congregated, leaving
the Doctor and the two children alone beside the fallen victim of a
quarrel not his own. Not to dwell too long on this incident, the
Doctor, laying hold of the last of his enemies, after the rest had
taken to their heels, ordered him sternly to stay and help him bear the
man, whom he had helped to murder, to his house.

"It concerns you, friend; for, if he dies, you hang to a dead

And this was done accordingly.


About an hour thereafter there lay on a couch that had been hastily
prepared in the study a person of singularly impressive presence: a
thin, mild-looking man, with a peculiar look of delicacy and natural
refinement about him, although he scarcely appeared to be technically
and as to worldly position what we call a gentleman; plain in dress and
simple in manner, not giving the idea of remarkable intellectual gifts,
but with a kind of spiritual aspect, fair, clear complexion, gentle
eyes, still somewhat clouded and obscured by the syncope into which a
blow on the head had thrown him. He looked middle-aged, and yet there
was a kind of childlike, simple expression, which, unless you looked at
him with the very purpose of seeing the traces of time in his face,
would make you suppose him much younger.

"And how do you find yourself now, my good fellow?" asked Doctor
Grimshawe, putting forth his hand to grasp that of the stranger, and
giving it a good, warm shake. "None the worse, I should hope?"
[Endnote: 1.]

"Not much the worse," answered the stranger: "not at all, it may be.
There is a pleasant dimness and uncertainty in my mode of being. I am
taken off my feet, as it were, and float in air, with a faint delight
in my sensations. The grossness, the roughness, the too great
angularity of the actual, is removed from me. It is a state that I like
well. It may be, this is the way that the dead feel when they awake in
another state of being, with a dim pleasure, after passing through the
brief darkness of death. It is very pleasant."

He answered dreamily, and sluggishly, reluctantly, as if there were a
sense of repose in him which he disliked to break by putting any of his
sensations into words. His voice had a remarkable sweetness and
gentleness, though lacking in depth of melody.

"Here, take this," said the Doctor, who had been preparing some kind of
potion in a teaspoon: it may have been a dose of his famous preparation
of spider's web, for aught I know, the operation of which was said to
be of a soothing influence, causing a delightful silkiness of
sensation; but I know not whether it was considered good for
concussions of the brain, such as it is to be supposed the present
patient had undergone. "Take this: it will do you good; and here I
drink your very good health in something that will do me good."

So saying, the grim Doctor quaffed off a tumbler of brandy and water.

"How sweet a contrast," murmured the stranger, "between that scene of
violence and this great peace that has come over me! It is as when one
can say, I have fought the good fight."

"You are right," said the Doctor, with what would have been one of his
deep laughs, but which he modified in consideration of his patient's
tenderness of brain. "We both of us fought a good fight; for though you
struck no actual stroke, you took them as unflinchingly as ever I saw a
man, and so turned the fortune of the battle better than if you smote
with a sledge-hammer. Two things puzzle me in the affair. First, whence
came my assailants, all in that moment of time, unless Satan let loose
out of the infernal regions a synod of fiends, hoping thus to get a
triumph over me. And secondly, whence came you, my preserver, unless
you are an angel, and dropped down from the sky."

"No," answered the stranger, with quiet simplicity. "I was passing
through the street to my little school, when I saw your peril, and felt
it my duty to expostulate with the people."

"Well," said the grim Doctor, "come whence you will, you did an angel's
office for me, and I shall do what an earthly man may to requite it.
There, we will talk no more for the present."

He hushed up the children, who were already, of their own accord,
walking on tiptoe and whispering, and he himself even went so far as to
refrain from the usual incense of his pipe, having observed that the
stranger, who seemed to be of a very delicate organization, had seemed
sensible of the disagreeable effect on the atmosphere of the room. The
restraint lasted, however, only till (in the course of the day) crusty
Hannah had fitted up a little bedroom on the opposite side of the
entry, to which she and the grim Doctor moved the stranger, who, though
tall, they observed was of no great weight and substance,--the lightest
man, the Doctor averred, for his size, that ever he had handled.

Every possible care was taken of him, and in a day or two he was able
to walk into the study again, where he sat gazing at the sordidness and
unneatness of the apartment, the strange festoons and drapery of
spiders' webs, the gigantic spider himself, and at the grim Doctor, so
shaggy, grizzly, and uncouth, in the midst of these surroundings, with
a perceptible sense of something very strange in it all. His mild,
gentle regard dwelt too on the two beautiful children, evidently with a
sense of quiet wonder how they should be here, and altogether a sense
of their unfitness; they, meanwhile, stood a little apart, looking at
him, somewhat disturbed and awed, as children usually are, by a sense
that the stranger was not perfectly well, that he had been injured, and
so set apart from the rest of the world.

"Will you come to me, little one?" said he, holding out a delicate hand
to Elsie.

Elsie came to his side without any hesitation, though without any of
the rush that accompanied her advent to those whom she affected. "And
you, my little man," added the stranger, quietly, and looking to Ned,
who likewise willingly approached, and, shaking him by the offered
hand, let it go again, but continued standing by his side.

"Do you know, my little friends," said the stranger, "that it is my
business in life to instruct such little people as you?"

"Do they obey you well, sir?" asked Ned, perhaps conscious of a want of
force in the person whom he addressed.

The stranger smiled faintly. "Not too well," said he. "That has been my
difficulty; for I have moral and religious objections, and also a great
horror, to the use of the rod, and I have not been gifted with a harsh
voice and a stern brow; so that, after a while, my little people
sometimes get the better of me. The present generation of men is too
gross for gentle treatment."

"You are quite right," quoth Doctor Grimshawe, who had been observing
this little scene, and trying to make out, from the mutual deportment
of the stranger and the two children, what sort of man this fair, quiet
stranger was, with his gentleness and weakness,--characteristics that
were not attractive to himself, yet in which he acknowledged, as he saw
them here, a certain charm; nor did he know, scarcely, whether to
despise the one in whom he saw them, or to yield to a strange sense of
reverence. So he watched the children, with an indistinct idea of being
guided by them. "You are quite right: the world now--and always before,
as far as I ever heard--requires a great deal of brute force, a great
deal of animal food and brandy in the man that is to make an impression
on it."

The convalescence of the stranger--he gave his name as Colcord--
proceeded favorably; for the Doctor remarked that, delicate as his
system was, it had a certain purity,--a simple healthfulness that did
not run into disease as stronger constitutions might. It did not
apparently require much to crush down such a being as this,--not much
unkindly breath to blow out the taper of his life,--and yet, if not
absolutely killed, there was a certain aptness to keep alive in him not
readily to be overcome.

No sooner was he in a condition so to do, than he went forth to look
after the little school that he had spoken of, but soon came back,
announcing in a very quiet and undisturbed way that, during his
withdrawal from duty, the scholars had been distributed to other
instructors, and consequently he was without place or occupation
[Endnotes: 2, 3, 4.]

"A hard case," said the Doctor, flinging a gruff curse at those who had
so readily deserted the poor schoolmaster.

"Not so hard," replied Colcord. "These little fellows are an unruly
set, born of parents who have led rough lives,--here in battle time,
too, with the spirit of battle in them,--therefore rude and contentious
beyond my power to cope with them. I have been taught, long ago," he
added, with a peaceful smile, "that my business in life does not lie
with grown-up and consolidated men and women; and so, not to be useless
in my day, and to gain the little that my sustenance requires, I have
thought to deal with children. But even for this I lack force."

"I dare say," said the Doctor, with a modified laugh. "Little devils
they are, harder to deal with than men. Well, I am glad of your failure
for one reason, and of your being thrown out of business; because we
shall have the benefit of you the longer. Here is this boy to be
instructed. I have made some attempts myself; but having no art of
instructing, no skill, no temper I suppose, I make but an indifferent
hand at it: and besides I have other business that occupies my
thoughts. Take him in hand, if you like, and the girl for company. No
matter whether you teach her anything, unless you happen to be
acquainted with needlework."

"I will talk with the children," said Colcord, "and see if I am likely
to do good with them. The lad, I see, has a singular spirit of
aspiration and pride,--no ungentle pride,--but still hard to cope with.
I will see. The little girl is a most comfortable child."

"You have read the boy as if you had his heart in your hand," said the
Doctor, rather surprised. "I could not have done it better myself,
though I have known him all but from the egg."

Accordingly, the stranger, who had been thrust so providentially into
this odd and insulated little community, abode with them, without more
words being spoken on the subject: for it seemed to all concerned a
natural arrangement, although, on both parts, they were mutually
sensible of something strange in the companionship thus brought about.
To say the truth, it was not easy to imagine two persons apparently
less adapted to each other's society than the rough, uncouth, animal
Doctor, whose faith was in his own right arm, so full of the old Adam
as he was, so sturdily a hater, so hotly impulsive, so deep, subtle,
and crooked, so obstructed by his animal nature, so given to his pipe
and black bottle, so wrathful and pugnacious and wicked,--and this mild
spiritual creature, so milky, with so unforceful a grasp; and it was
singular to see how they stood apart and eyed each other, each tacitly
acknowledging a certain merit and kind of power, though not well able
to appreciate its value. The grim Doctor's kindness, however, and
gratitude, had been so thoroughly awakened, that he did not feel the
disgust that he probably otherwise might at what seemed the mawkishness
of Colcord's character; his want, morally speaking, of bone and muscle;
his fastidiousness of character, the essence of which it seemed to be
to bear no stain upon it; otherwise it must die.

On Colcord's part there was a good deal of evidence to be detected, by
a nice observer, that he found it difficult to put up with the Doctor's
coarse peculiarities, whether physical or moral. His animal indulgences
of appetite struck him with wonder and horror; his coarse expressions,
his free indulgence of wrath, his sordid and unclean habits; the dust,
the cobwebs, the monster that dangled from the ceiling; his pipe,
diffusing its fragrance through the house, and showing, by the plainest
and simplest proof, how we all breathe one another's breath, nice and
proud as we may be, kings and daintiest ladies breathing the air that
has already served to inflate a beggar's lungs. He shrank, too, from
the rude manhood of the Doctor's character, with its human warmth,--an
element which he seemed not to possess in his own character. He was
capable only of gentle and mild regard,--that was his warmest
affection; and the warmest, too, that he was capable of exciting in
others. So that he was doomed as much apparently as the Doctor himself
to be a lonely creature, without any very deep companionship in the
world, though not incapable, when he, by some rare chance, met a soul
distantly akin, of holding a certain high spiritual communion. With the
children, however, he succeeded in establishing some good and available
relations; his simple and passionless character coincided with their
simplicity, and their as yet unawakened passions: they appeared to
understand him better than the Doctor ever succeeded in doing. He
touched springs and elements in the nature of both that had never been
touched till now, and that sometimes made a sweet, high music. But this
was rarely; and as far as the general duties of an instructor went,
they did not seem to be very successfully performed. Something was
cultivated; the spiritual germ grew, it might be; but the children, and
especially Ned, were intuitively conscious of a certain want of
substance in the instructor,--a something of earthly bulk; a too
etherealness. But his connection with our story does not lie in any
excellence, or lack of excellence, that he showed as an instructor, and
we merely mention these things as illustrating more or less his

The grim Doctor's curiosity was somewhat piqued by what he could see of
the schoolmaster's character, and he was desirous of finding out what
sort of a life such a man could have led in a world which he himself
had found so rough a one; through what difficulties he had reached
middle age without absolutely vanishing away in his contact with more
positive substances than himself; how the world had given him a
subsistence, if indeed he recognized anything more dense than
fragrance, like a certain people whom Pliny mentioned in Africa,--a
point, in fact, which the grim Doctor denied, his performance at table
being inappreciable, and confined, at least almost entirely, to a dish
of boiled rice, which crusty Hannah set before him, preparing it, it
might be, with a sympathy of her East Indian part towards him.

Well, Doctor Grimshawe easily got at what seemed to be all of the facts
of Colcord's life; how that he was a New-Englander, the descendant of
an ancient race of settlers, the last of them; for, once pretty
numerous in their quarter of the country, they seemed to have been
dying out,--exhaling from the earth, and passing to some other region.

"No wonder," said the Doctor bluffly. "You have been letting slip the
vital principle, if you are a fair specimen of the race. You do not
clothe yourself in substance. Your souls are not coated sufficiently.
Beef and brandy would have saved you. You have exhaled for lack of

The schoolmaster shook his head, and probably thought his earthly
salvation and sustenance not worth buying at such a cost. The remainder
of his history was not tangible enough to afford a narrative. There
seemed, from what he said, to have always been a certain kind of
refinement in his race, a nicety of conscience, a nicety of habit,
which either was in itself a want of force, or was necessarily
connected with it, and which, the Doctor silently thought, had
culminated in the person before him.

"It was always in us," continued Colcord, with a certain pride which
people generally feel in their ancestral characteristics, be they good
or evil. "We had a tradition among us of our first emigrant, and the
causes that brought him to the New World; and it was said that he had
suffered so much, before quitting his native shores, so painful had
been his track, that always afterwards on the forest leaves of this
land his foot left a print of blood wherever he trod." [Endnote: 5.]


"A print of blood!" said the grim Doctor, breaking his pipe-stem by
some sudden spasm in his gripe of it. "Pooh! the devil take the pipe! A
very strange story that! Pray how was it?" [Endnote: 1.]

"Nay, it is but a very dim legend," answered the schoolmaster:
"although there are old yellow papers and parchments, I remember, in my
father's possession, that had some reference to this man, too, though
there was nothing in them about the bloody footprints. But our family
legend is, that this man was of a good race, in the time of Charles the
First, originally Papists, but one of them--the second you, our legend
says--was of a milder, sweeter cast than the rest, who were fierce and
bloody men, of a hard, strong nature; but he partook most of his
mother's character. This son had been one of the earliest Quakers,
converted by George Fox; and moreover there had been love between him
and a young lady of great beauty and an heiress, whom likewise the
eldest son of the house had designed to make his wife. And these
brothers, cruel men, caught their innocent brother and kept him in
confinement long in his own native home--"

"How?" asked the Doctor. "Why did not he appeal to the laws?"

"Our legend says," replied the schoolmaster, "only that he was kept in
a chamber that was forgotten." [Endnote: 2.]

"Very strange that!" quoth the Doctor. "He was sold by his brethren."

The schoolmaster went on to tell, with much shuddering, how a Jesuit
priest had been mixed up with this wretched business, and there had
been a scheme at once religious and political to wrest the estate and
the lovely lady from the fortunate heir; and how this grim Italian
priest had instigated them to use a certain kind of torture with the
poor heir, and how he had suffered from this; but one night, when they
left him senseless, he contrived to make his escape from that cruel
home, bleeding as he went; and how, by some action of his imagination,
--his sense of the cruelty and hideousness of such treatment at his
brethren's hands, and in the holy name of his religion,--his foot,
which had been crushed by their cruelty, bled as he went, and that
blood had never been stanched. And thus he had come to America, and
after many wanderings, and much track of blood along rough ways, to New
England. [Endnote: 3.]

"And what became of his beloved?" asked the grim Doctor, who was
puffing away at a fresh pipe with a very queer aspect.

"She died in England," replied the schoolmaster. "And before her death,
by some means or other, they say that she found means to send him a
child, the offspring of their marriage, and from that child our race
descended. And they say, too, that she sent him a key to a coffin, in
which was locked up a great treasure. But we have not the key. But he
never went back to his own country; and being heart-broken, and sick
and weary of the world and its pomps and vanities, he died here, after
suffering much persecution likewise from the Puritans. For his peaceful
religion was accepted nowhere."

"Of all legends,--all foolish legends," quoth the Doctor, wrathfully,
with a face of a dark blood-red color, so much was his anger and
contempt excited, "and of all absurd heroes of a legend, I never heard
the like of this! Have you the key?"

"No; nor have I ever heard of it," answered the schoolmaster.

"But you have some papers?"

"They existed once: perhaps are still recoverable by search," said the
schoolmaster. "My father knew of them."

"A foolish legend," reiterated the Doctor. "It is strange how human
folly strings itself on to human folly, as a story originally false and
foolish grows older"

He got up and walked about the room, with hasty and irregular strides
and a prodigious swinging of his ragged dressing-gown, which swept away
as many cobwebs as it would take a week to reproduce. After a few
turns, as if to change the subject, the Doctor asked the schoolmaster
if he had any taste for pictures, and drew his attention to the
portrait which has been already mentioned,--the figure in antique
sordid garb, with a halter round his neck, and the expression in his
face which the Doctor and the two children had interpreted so
differently. Colcord, who probably knew nothing about pictures, looked
at it at first merely from the gentle and cool complaisance of his
character; but becoming absorbed in the contemplation, stood long
without speaking; until the Doctor, looking in his face, perceived his
eyes were streaming with tears.

"What are you crying about?" said he, gruffly.

"I don't know," said the schoolmaster quietly. "But there is something
in this picture that affects me inexpressibly; so that, not being a man
passionate by nature, I have hardly ever been so moved as now!"

"Very foolish," muttered the Doctor, resuming his strides about the
room. "I am ashamed of a grown man that can cry at a picture, and can't
tell the reason why."

After a few more turns he resumed his easy-chair and his tumbler, and,
looking upward, beckoned to his pet spider, which came dangling
downward, great parti-colored monster that he was, and swung about his
master's head in hideous conference as it seemed; a sight that so
distressed the schoolmaster, or shocked his delicate taste, that he
went out, and called the two children to take a walk with him, with the

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