Augusta J. Evans
Part 4 out of 11
Memories of earlier days clustered about him, parting the somber
clouds with their rosy fingers. His features began to soften.
"Sir, can you read it now without feeling your soul kindle?"
"Yes, child; it has lost its interest for me. I read it as
indifferently as I do one of my medical books. So will you one day."
"Never! It shall be a guide-book to my soul, telling of the pathway,
arched with galaxies and paved with suns, through which that soul
shall pass in triumph to its final rest!"
"And who shall remain in that 'illimitable dungeon of pure, pure
darkness, which imprisons creation? That dead sea of nothing, in
whose unfathomable zone of blackness the jewel of the glittering
universe is set and buried forever?' Child, is not that, too a
dwelling-place?" He passed his fingers through his hair, sweeping it
all back from his ample forehead. Beulah opened the book, and read
"Immediately my eyes were opened, and I saw, as it were, an
interminable sea of light; all spaces between all heavens were
filled with happiest light, for the deserts and wastes of the
creation were now filled with the sea of light, and in this sea the
suns floated like ash-gray blossoms, and the planets like black
grains of seed. Then my heart comprehended that immortality dwelled
in the spaces between the worlds, and Death only among the worlds;
and the murky planets I perceived were but cradles for the infant
spirits of the universe of light! In the Zaarahs of the creation I
saw, I heard, I felt--the glittering, the echoing, the breathing of
life and creative power!"
She closed the volume, and, while her lips trembled with deep
feeling, added earnestly:
"Oh, sir, it makes me long, like Jean Paul, 'for some narrow cell or
quiet oratory in this metropolitan cathedral of the universe.' It is
an infinite conception and painting of infinity, which my soul
endeavors to grasp, but wearies in thinking of!"
Dr. Hartwell smiled, and, pointing to a row of books, said with some
"I will test your love of Jean Paul. Give me that large volume in
crimson binding on the second shelf. No--further on; that is it."
He turned over the leaves for a few minutes, and, with a finger
still on the page, put it into her hand, saying:
"Begin here at 'I went through the worlds,' and read down to 'when I
She sat down and read. He put his hand carelessly over his eyes, and
watched her curiously through his fingers. It was evident that she
soon became intensely interested. He could see the fierce throbbing
of a vein in her throat and the tight clutching of her fingers. Her
eyebrows met in the wrinkling forehead, and the lips were compressed
severely. Gradually the flush faded from her cheek, an expression of
pain and horror swept over her stormy face, and, rising hastily, she
"False! false! 'That everlasting storm which no one guides' tells me
in thunder tones that there is a home of rest in the presence of the
infinite Father! Oh, chance does not roam, like a destroying angel,
through that 'snow-powder of stars!' The love of our God is over all
his works as a mantle! Though you should 'take the wings of the
morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,' lo! he is
there! The sorrowing children of the universe are not orphans!
Neither did Richter believe it; well might he declare that with this
sketch he would 'terrify himself' and vanquish the specter of
Atheism! Oh, sir! the dear God stretches his arm about each and all
of us! 'When the sorrow-laden lays himself, with a galled back, into
the earth, to sleep till a fairer morning,' it is not true that 'he
awakens in a stormy chaos, in an everlasting midnight!' It is not
true! He goes home to his loved dead, and spends a blissful eternity
in the kingdom of Jehovah, where death is no more, 'where the wicked
cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest!'"
She laid the volume on his knee, and tears which would not be
restrained rolled swiftly over her cheeks.
He looked at her mournfully, and took her hand in his.
"My child, do you believe all this as heartily as you did when a
little girl? Is your faith in your religion unshaken?"
He felt her fingers close over his spasmodically, as she hastily
"Of course, of course! What could shake a faith which years should
But the shiver which crept through her frame denied her assertion,
and with a keen pang he saw the footprints of the Destroyer. She
must not know, however, that he doubted her words, and, with an
effort, he said:
"I am glad, Beulah; and if you would continue to believe, don't read
my books promiscuously. There are many on those shelves yonder which
I would advise you never to open. Be warned in time, my child."
She snatched her hand from his, and answered proudly:
"Sir, think you I could be satisfied with a creed which I could not
bear to have investigated? If I abstained from reading your books,
dreading lest my faith be shaken, then I could no longer confide in
that faith. Christianity has triumphed over the subtleties of
infidelity for eighteen hundred years. What have I to fear?"
"Beulah, do you want to be just what I am? Without belief in any
creed! hopeless of eternity as of life! Do you want to be like me?
If not, keep your hands off of my books! Good night; it is time for
you to be asleep."
He motioned her away, and, too much pained to reply, she silently
The day had been clear, though cold, and late in the afternoon
Beulah wrapped a shawl about her, and ran out into the front yard
for a walk. The rippling tones of the fountain were hushed; the
shrubs were bare, and, outside the greenhouse, not a flower was to
be seen. Even the hardy chrysanthemums were brown and shriveled.
Here vegetation slumbered in the grave of winter. The hedges were
green, and occasional clumps of cassina bent their branches beneath
the weight of coral fruitage. Tall poplars lifted their leafless
arms helplessly toward the sky, and threw grotesque shadows on the
ground beneath, while the wintry wind chanted a mournful dirge
through the somber foliage of the aged, solemn cedars. Noisy flocks
of robins fluttered among the trees, eating the ripe, red yaupon
berries, and now and then parties of pigeons circled round and round
the house. Charon lay on the doorstep, blinking at the setting sun,
with his sage face dropped on his paws. Afar off was heard the hum
of the city; but here all was quiet and peaceful. Beulah looked over
the beds, lately so brilliant and fragrant in their wealth of floral
beauty; at the bare gray poplars, whose musical rustling had so
often hushed her to sleep in cloudless summer nights, and an
expression of serious thoughtfulness settled on her face. Many
months before she had watched the opening spring in this same
garden. Had seen young leaves and delicate blossoms bud out from
naked stems, had noted their rich luxuriance as the summer heat came
on--their mature beauty; and when the first breath of autumn sighed
through the land she saw them flush and decline, and gradually die
and rustle down to their graves. Now, where green boughs and
perfumed petals had gayly looked up in the sunlight, all was
desolate. The piercing northern wind seemed to whisper as it passed,
"Life is but the germ of death, and death the development of a
higher life." Was the cycle eternal then? Were the beautiful
ephemeras she had loved so dearly gone down into the night of death,
but for a season, to be born again, in some distant springtime,
mature, and return, as before, to the charnel-house? Were the
threescore and ten years of human life analogous? Life, too, had its
springtime, its summer of maturity, its autumnal decline, and its
wintry night of death. Were the cold sleepers in the neighboring
cemetery waiting, like those dead flowers, for the tireless
processes of nature, whereby their dust was to be reanimated,
remolded, lighted with a soul, and set forward for another journey
of threescore and ten years of life and labor? Men lived and died;
their ashes enriched Mother Earth; new creations sprang, phoenix-
like, from the sepulcher of the old. Another generation trod life's
path in the dim footprints of their predecessors, and that, too,
vanished in the appointed process, mingling dust with dust, that
Protean matter might hold the even tenor of its way, in accordance
with the oracular decrees of Isis. Was it true that, since the
original Genesis, "nothing had been gained, and nothing lost?" Was
earth, indeed, a monstrous Kronos? If so, was not she as old as
creation? To how many other souls had her body given shelter? How
was her identity to be maintained? True, she had read that identity
was housed in "consciousness," not bones and muscles? But could
there be consciousness without bones and muscles? She drew her shawl
closely around her, and looked up at the cloudless sea of azure. The
sun had sunk below the horizon; the birds had all gone to rest;
Charon had sought the study rug; even the distant hum of the city
was no longer heard. "The silver sparks of stars were rising on the
altar of the east, and falling down in the red sea of the west."
Beulah was chilled; there were cold thoughts in her mind--icy
specters in her heart; and she quickened her pace up and down the
avenue, dusky beneath the ancient gloomy cedars. One idea haunted
her: aside from revelation, what proof had she that, unlike those
moldering flowers, her spirit should never die? No trace was to be
found of the myriads of souls who had preceded her. Where were the
countless hosts? Were life and death balanced? was her own soul
chiliads old, forgetting its former existences, save as dim,
undefinable reminiscences, flashed fitfully upon it? If so, was it a
progression? How did she know that her soul had not entered her body
fresh from the release of the hangman, instead of coming down on
angel wings from its starry home, as she had loved to think? A
passage which she had read many weeks before flashed upon her mind:
"Upon the dead mother, in peace and utter gloom, are reposing the
dead children. After a time uprises the everlasting sun; and the
mother starts up at the summons of the heavenly dawn, with a
resurrection of her ancient bloom. And her children? Yes, but they
must wait a while!" This resurrection was springtime, beckoning
dormant beauty from the icy arms of winter; how long must the
children wait for the uprising of the morning star of eternity? From
childhood these unvoiced queries had perplexed her mind, and,
strengthening with her growth, now cried out peremptorily for
answers. With shuddering dread she strove to stifle the spirit
which, once thoroughly awakened, threatened to explore every nook
and cranny of mystery. She longed to talk freely with her guardian
regarding many of the suggestions which puzzled her, but shrank
instinctively from broaching such topics. Now, in her need, the
sublime words of Job came to her: "Oh, that my words were now
written! oh, that they were printed in a book; for I know that my
Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the
earth; and though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I
see God." Handel's "Messiah" had invested this passage with
resistless grandeur, and, leaving the cold, dreary garden, she sat
down before the melodeon and sang a portion of the Oratorio. The
sublime strains seemed to bear her worshiping soul up to the
presence-chamber of Deity, and exultingly she repeated the
"For now is Christ risen from the dead:
The first-fruits of them that sleep."
The triumph of faith shone in her kindled eyes, though glittering
drops fell on the ivory keys, and the whole countenance bespoke a
heart resting in the love of the Father. While her fingers still
rolled waves of melody through the room, Dr. Hartwell entered, with
a parcel in one hand and a magnificent cluster of greenhouse flowers
in the other. He laid the latter before Beulah, and said:
"I want you to go with me to-night to hear Sontag. The concert
commences at eight o'clock, and you have no time to spare. Here are
some flowers for your hair; arrange it as you have it now; and here,
also, a pair of white gloves. When you are ready, come down and make
"Thank you, sir, for remembering me so kindly, and supplying all my
"Beulah, there are tears on your lashes. What is the matter?"
interrupted the doctor, pointing to the drops which had fallen on
the rosewood frame of the melodeon.
"Is it not enough to bring tears to my eyes when I think of all your
kindness?" She hurried away without suffering him to urge the
The prospect of hearing Sontag gave her exquisite pleasure, and she
dressed with trembling eagerness, while Harriet leaned on the bureau
and wondered what would happen next. Except to attend church and
visit Clara and Mrs. Williams, Beulah had never gone out before; and
the very seclusion in which she lived rendered this occasion one of
interest and importance. As she took her cloak and ran downstairs
the young heart throbbed violently. Would her fastidious guardian be
satisfied with her appearance? She felt the blood gush over her face
as she entered the room; but he did not look at her, continued to
read the newspaper he held, and said, from behind the extended
"I will join you directly."
She poured out the tea with an unsteady hand. Dr. Hartwell took his
silently; and, as both rose from the table, handed her a paper,
"The carriage is not quite ready yet. There is a programme."
As she glanced over it he scanned her closely, and an expression of
satisfaction settled on his features. She wore a dark blue silk (one
he had given her some weeks before), which exquisitely fitted her
slender, graceful figure, and was relieved by a lace collar,
fastened with a handsome cameo pin, also his gift. The glossy black
hair was brushed straight back from the face, in accordance with the
prevailing style, and wound into a knot at the back of the head. On
either side of this knot she wore a superb white camellia, which
contrasted well with the raven hair. Her face was pale, but the
expression was one of eager expectation. As the carriage rattled up
to the door he put his hand on her shoulder, and said:
"You look very well to-night, my child. Those white japonicas become
She breathed freely once more.
At the door of the concert hall he gave her his arm, and, while the
pressure of the crowd detained them a moment at the entrance, she
clung to him with a feeling of dependence utterly new to her. The
din of voices, the dazzling glare of the gas-lights bewildered her,
and she walked on mechanically, till the doctor entered his seat and
placed her beside him. The brilliant chandeliers shone down on
elegant dresses, glittering diamonds, and beautiful women, and,
looking forward, Beulah was reminded of the glowing descriptions in
the "Arabian Nights." She observed that many curious eyes were bent
upon her, and ere she had been seated five minutes more than one
lorgnette was leveled at her. Everybody knew Dr. Hartwell, and she
saw him constantly returning the bows of recognition which assailed
him from the ladies in their vicinity. Presently he leaned his head
on his hand, and she could not forbear smiling at the ineffectual
attempts made to arrest his attention. The hall was crowded, and, as
the seats filled to their utmost capacity she was pressed against
her guardian. He looked down at her, and whispered:
"Very democratic. Eh, Beulah?"
She smiled, and was about to reply, when her attention was attracted
by a party which just then took their places immediately in front of
her. It consisted of an elderly gentleman and two ladies, one of
whom Beulah instantly recognized as Cornelia Graham. She was now a
noble-looking, rather than beautiful, woman; and the incipient
pride, so apparent in girlhood, had matured into almost repulsive
hauteur. She was very richly dressed, and her brilliant black eyes
wandered indifferently over the room, as though such assemblages had
lost their novelty and interest for her. Chancing to look back, she
perceived Dr. Hartwell, bowed, and said with a smile:
"Pray, do not think me obstinate. I had no wish to come, but father
"I am glad you feel well enough to be here," was his careless reply.
Cornelia's eyes fell upon the quiet figure at his side, and, as
Beulah me her steady gaze, she felt something of her old dislike
warming in her eyes. They had never met since the morning of
Cornelia's contemptuous treatment at Madam St. Cymon's; and now, to
Beulah's utter astonishment, she deliberately turned round, put out
her white-gloved hand over the back of the seat, and said
"How are you, Beulah? You have altered so materially that I scarcely
Beulah's nature was generous; she was glad to forget old injuries,
and, as their hands met in a friendly clasp, she answered:
"You have changed but little."
"And that for the worse, as people have a pleasant way of telling
me. Beulah, I want to know honestly if my rudeness caused you to
leave madam's school?"
"That was not my only reason," replied Beulah very candidly.
At this moment a burst of applause greeted the appearance of the
cantatrice, and all conversation was suspended. Beulah listened to
the warbling of the queen of song with a thrill of delight.
Passionately fond of music, she appreciated the brilliant execution
and entrancing melody as probably very few in that crowded house
could have done. With some of the pieces selected she was familiar,
and others she had long desired to hear. She was unconscious of the
steady look with which her guardian watched her, as, with parted
lips, she leaned eagerly forward to catch every note. When Sontag
left the stage, and the hum of conversation was heard once more,
Beulah looked up, with a long sigh of delight, and murmured:
"Oh, sir! isn't she a glorious woman?"
"Miss Graham is speaking to you," said he coolly.
She raised her head, and saw the young lady's eyes riveted on her
"Beulah, when did you hear from Eugene?"
"About three weeks since, I believe."
"We leave for Europe day after to-morrow; shall, perhaps, go
directly to Heidelberg. Have you any commissions? any messages?"
Under the mask of seeming indifference, she watched Beulah intently
as, shrinking from the cold, searching eyes, the latter replied:
"Thank you, I have neither to trouble you with."
Again the prima-donna appeared on the stage, and again Beulah forgot
everything but the witching strains. In the midst of one of the
songs she felt her guardian start violently; and the hand which
rested on his knee was clinched spasmodically. She looked at him;
the wonted pale face was flushed to the edge of his hair; the blue
veins stood out hard and corded on his brow; and the eyes, like
burning stars, were fixed on some object not very remote, while he
gnawed his lip, as if unconscious of what he did. Following the
direction of his gaze, she saw that it was fastened on a gentleman
who sat at some little distance from them. The position he occupied
rendered his countenance visible, and a glance sufficed to show her
that the features were handsome, the expression sinister, malignant,
and cunning. His entire appearance was foreign, and conveyed the
idea of reckless dissipation. Evidently he came there, not for the
music, but to scan the crowd, and his fierce eyes roamed over the
audience with a daring impudence which disgusted her. Suddenly they
rested on her own face, wandered to Dr. Hartwell's, and, lingering
there a full moment with a look of defiant hatred, returned to her,
causing her to shudder at the intensity and freedom of his gaze. She
drew herself up proudly, and, with an air of haughty contempt, fixed
her attention on the stage. But the spell of enchantment was broken;
she could hear the deep, irregular breathing of her guardian, and
knew, from the way in which he stared down on the floor, that he
could with difficulty remain quietly in his place. She was glad when
the concert ended and the mass of heads began to move toward the
door. With a species of curiosity that she could not repress, she
glanced at the stranger; their eyes met, as before, and his smile of
triumphant scorn made her cling closer to her guardian's arm, and
take care not to look in that direction again. She felt
inexpressibly relieved when, hurried on by the crowd in the rear,
they emerged from the heated room into a long, dim passage leading
to the street. They were surrounded on all sides by chattering
groups, and, while the light was too faint to distinguish faces,
these words fell on her ear with painful distinctness: "I suppose
that was Dr. Hartwell's protegee he had with him. He is a great
curiosity. Think of a man of his age and appearance settling down as
if he were sixty years old, and adopting a beggarly orphan! She is
not at all pretty. What can have possessed him?"
"No, not pretty, exactly; but there is something odd in her
appearance. Her brow is magnificent, and I should judge she was
intellectual. She is as colorless as a ghost. No accounting for
Hartwell; ten to one he will marry her. I have heard it surmised
that he was educating her for a wife--" Here the party who were in
advance vanished, and, as he approached the carriage, Dr. Hartwell
"Another specimen of democracy."
Beulah felt as if a lava tide surged madly in her veins, and, as the
carriage rolled homeward, she covered her face with her hands.
Wounded pride, indignation, and contempt struggled violently in her
heart. For some moments there was silence; then her guardian drew
her hands from her face, held them firmly in his, and, leaning
forward, said gravely:
"Beulah, malice and envy love lofty marks. Learn, as I have done, to
look down with scorn from the summit of indifference upon the feeble
darts aimed from the pits beneath you. My child, don't suffer the
senseless gossip of the shallow crowd to wound you."
She endeavored to withdraw her hands, but his unyielding grasp
"Beulah, you must conquer your morbid sensitiveness, if you would
have your life other than a dreary burden."
"Oh, sir! you are not invulnerable to these wounds; how, then, can
I, an orphan girl, receive them with indifference?" She spoke
passionately, and drooped her burning face till it touched his arm.
"Ah, you observed my agitation to-night. But for a vow made to my
dying mother, that villian's blood had long since removed all
grounds of emotion. Six years ago he fled from me, and his
unexpected reappearance to-night excited me more than I had fancied
it was possible for anything to do." His voice was as low, calm, and
musical as though he were reading aloud to her some poetic tale of
injuries; and, in the same even, quiet tone, he added:
"It is well. All have a Nemesis."
"Not on earth, sir."
"Wait till you have lived as long as I, and you will think with me.
Beulah, be careful how you write to Eugene of Cornelia Graham;
better not mention her name at all. If she lives to come home again
you will understand me."
"Is not her health good?" asked Beulah in surprise.
"Far from it. She has a disease of the heart which may end her
existence any moment. I doubt whether she ever returns to America.
Mind, I do not wish you to speak of this to anyone. Good-night. If
you are up in time in the morning I wish you would be so good as to
cut some of the choicest flowers in the greenhouse and arrange a
handsome bouquet before breakfast. I want to take it to one of my
patients, an old friend of my mother's."
They were at home, and, only pausing at the door of Mrs. Watson's
room to tell the good woman the "music was charming," Beulah
hastened to her own apartment. Throwing herself into a chair, she
recalled the incidents of the evening, and her cheeks burned
painfully as her position in the eyes of the world was forced upon
her recollection. Tears of mortification rolled over her hot face,
and her heart throbbed almost to suffocation. She sank upon her
knees and tried to pray, but sobs choked her utterrance; and,
leaning her head against the bed, she wept bitterly.
Ah, is there not pain, and sorrow, and evil enough in this fallen
world of ours, that meddling gossips must needs poison the few pure
springs of enjoyment and peace? Not the hatred of the Theban
brothers could more thoroughly accomplish this fiendish design than
the whisper of detraction, the sneer of malice, or the fatal
innuendo of envious, low-bred tattlers. Human life is shielded by
the bulwark of legal provisions, and most earthly possessions are
similarly protected; but there are assassins whom the judicial arm
cannot reach, who infest society in countless hordes, and, while
their work of ruin and misery goes ever on, there is for the unhappy
victims no redress. Thy holy precepts, O Christ! alone can antidote
this universal evil.
Beulah calmed the storm that raged in her heart, and, as she took
the flowers from her hair, said resolutely:
"Before long I shall occupy a position where there will be nothing
to envy, and then, possibly, I may escape the gossiping rack. Eugene
may think me a fool, if he likes; but support myself I will, if it
costs me my life. What difference should it make to him, so long as
I prefer it? One more year of study and I shall be qualified for any
situation; then I can breathe freely. May God shield me from all
That year of study rolled swiftly away; another winter came and
passed; another spring hung its verdant drapery over earth, and now
ardent summer reigned once more. It was near the noon of a starry
July night that Beulah sat in her own room beside her writing-desk.
A manuscript lay before her, yet damp with ink, and as she traced
the concluding words, and threw down her pen, a triumphant smile
flashed over her face. To-morrow the session of the public school
would close, with an examination of its pupils; to-morrow she would
graduate, and deliver the valedictory to the graduating class. She
had just finished copying her address, and, placing it carefully in
the desk, rose and leaned against the window, that the cool night
air might fan her fevered brow. The hot blood beat heavily in her
temples, and fled with arrowy swiftness through her veins. Continued
mental excitement, like another Shylock, peremptorily exacted its
debt, and, as she looked out on the solemn beauty of the night,
instead of soothing, it seemed to mock her restlessness. Dr.
Hartwell had been absent since noon, but now she detected the whir
of wheels in the direction of the carriage house, and knew that he
was in the study. She heard him throw open the shutters and speak to
Charon, and, gathering up her hair, which hung loosely about her
shoulders, she confined it with a comb and glided noiselessly down
the steps. The lamplight gleamed through the open door, and, pausing
on the threshold, she asked:
"May I come in for a few minutes, or are you too much fatigued to
"Beulah, I positively forbade your sitting up this late. It is
midnight, child; go to bed." He held some papers, and spoke without
even glancing toward her.
"Yes, I know; but I want to ask you something before I sleep."
"Well, what is it?" Still he did not look up from his papers.
"Will you attend the exercises to-morrow?"
"Is it a matter of any consequence whether I do or not?"
"To me, sir, it certainly is."
"Child, I shall not have leisure."
"Be honest, and say that you have not sufficient interest!" cried
He smiled, and answered placidly:
"Good-night, Beulah. You should have been asleep long ago." Her lips
quivered, and she lingered, loath to leave him in so unfriendly a
mood. Suddenly he raised his head, looked at her steadily, and said:
"Have you sent in your name as an applicant for a situation?"
"Good-night." His tone was stern, and she immediately retreated.
Unable to sleep, she passed the remaining hours of the short night
in pacing the floor, or watching the clockwork of stars point to the
coming dawn. Though not quite eighteen, her face was prematurely
grave and thoughtful, and its restless, unsatisfied expression
plainly discovered a perturbed state of mind and heart. The time had
come when she must go out into the world and depend only upon
herself; and though she was anxious to commence the work she had
assigned herself, she shrank from the thought of quitting her
guardian's home and thus losing the only companionship she really
prized. He had not sought to dissuade her; had appeared perfectly
indifferent to her plans; and this unconcern had wounded her deeply.
To-morrow would decide her election as teacher, and, as the
committee would be present at her examination (which was to be more
than usually minute in view of her application), she looked forward
impatiently to this occasion. Morning dawned, and she hailed it
gladly; breakfast came, and she took hers alone; the doctor had
already gone out for the day. This was not an unusual occurrence,
yet this morning she noted it particularly. At ten o'clock the
academy was crowded with visitors, and the commissioners and
teachers were formidably arrayed on the platform raised for this
purpose. The examination began; Greek and Latin classes were
carefully questioned, and called on to parse and scan to a tiresome
extent; then came mathematical demonstrations. Every conceivable
variety of lines and angles adorned the blackboards; and next in
succession were classes in rhetoric and natural history. There was a
tediousness in the examinations incident to such occasions, and, as
repeated inquiries were propounded, Beulah rejoiced at the prospect
of release. Finally the commissioners declared themselves quite
satisfied with the proficiency attained, and the graduating class
read the compositions for the day. At length, at a signal from the
superintendent of the department, Beulah ascended the platform, and,
surrounded by men signalized by scholarship and venerable from age,
she began her address. She wore a white mull muslin, and her glossy
black hair was arranged with the severe simplicity which
characterized her style of dress. Her face was well-nigh as
colorless as the paper she held, and her voice faltered with the
first few sentences.
The theme was "Female Heroism," and as she sought among the dusky
annals of the past for instances in confirmation of her predicate,
that female intellect was capable of the most exalted attainments,
and that the elements of her character would enable woman to cope
successfully with difficulties of every class, her voice grew clear,
firm, and deep. Quitting the fertile fields of history, she painted
the trials which hedge woman's path, and with unerring skill defined
her peculiar sphere, her true position. The reasoning was singularly
forcible, the imagery glowing and gorgeous, and occasional passages
of exquisite pathos drew tears from her fascinated audience; while
more than once a beautiful burst of enthusiasm was received with
flattering applause. Instead of flushing, her face grew paler, and
the large eyes were full of lambent light, which seemed to flash out
from her soul. In conclusion, she bade adieu to the honored halls
where her feet had sought the paths of knowledge; paid a just and
grateful tribute to the Institution of Public Schools, and to the
Commissioners through whose agency she had been enabled to enjoy so
many privileges; and, turning to her fellow-graduates, touchingly
reminded them of the happy past and warned of the shrouded future.
Crumpling the paper in one hand, she extended the other toward her
companions, and in thrilling accents conjured them, in any and every
emergency, to prove themselves true women of America--ornaments of
the social circle, angel guardians of the sacred hearthstone,
ministering spirits where suffering and want demanded succor; women
qualified to assist in a council of statesmen, if dire necessity
ever required it; while, in whatever positions they might be placed,
their examples should remain imperishable monuments of true female
heroism. As the last words passed her lips she glanced swiftly over
the sea of heads, and perceived her guardian leaning with folded
arms against a pillar, while his luminous eyes were fastened on her
face. A flash of joy irradiated her countenance, and, bending her
head amid the applause of the assembly, she retired to her seat. She
felt that her triumph was complete; the whispered, yet audible,
inquiries regarding her name, the admiring, curious glances directed
toward her, were not necessary to assure her of success; and when,
immediately after the diplomas were distributed, she rose and
received hers with the calm look of one who has toiled long for some
need, and puts forth her hand for what she is conscious of having
deserved. The crowd slowly dispersed, and, beckoned forward once
more, Beulah confronted the august committee whose prerogative it
was to elect teachers. A certificate was handed her, and the
chairman informed her of her election to a vacant post in the
Intermediate Department. The salary was six hundred dollars, to be
paid monthly, and her duties would commence with the opening of the
next session, after two months' vacation. In addition he
congratulated her warmly on the success of her valedictory effort,
and suggested the propriety of cultivating talents which might
achieve for her an enviable distinction. She bowed in silence, and
turned away to collect her books. Her guardian approached, and said
in a low voice:
"Put on your bonnet and come down to the side gate. It is too warm
for you to walk home."
Without waiting for her answer, he descended the steps, and she was
soon seated beside him in the buggy. The short ride was silent, and,
on reaching home, Beulah would have gone, immediately to her room,
but the doctor called her into the study and, as he rang the bell,
"You look very much exhausted; rest here, while I order a glass of
It was speedily brought, and, having iced it, he held it to her
white lips. She drank the contents, and her head sank on the sofa
cushions. The fever of excitement was over, a feeling of lassitude
stole over her, and she soon lost all consciousness in a heavy
sleep. The sun was just setting as she awakened from her slumber,
and, sitting up, she soon recalled the events of the day. The
evening breeze, laden with perfume, stole in refreshingly through
the blinds, and, as the sunset pageant faded, and darkness crept on,
she remained on the sofa, pondering her future course. The lamp and
her guardian made their appearance at the same moment, and, throwing
himself down in one corner of the sofa, the latter asked: "How are
you since your nap? A trifle less ghastly, I see."
"Much better, thank you, sir. My head is quite clear again."
"Clear enough to make out a foreign letter?" He took one from his
pocket and put it in her hand.
An anxious look flitted across her face, and she glanced rapidly
over the contents, then crumpled the sheet nervously in her fingers.
"What is the matter now?"
"He is coming home. They will all be here in November." She spoke as
if bitterly chagrined and disappointed.
"Most people would consider that joyful news," said the doctor
"What! after spending more than five years (one of them in
traveling), to come back without having acquired a profession and
settle down into a mere walking ledger! To have princely advantages
at his command, and yet throw them madly to the winds and be content
to plod along the road of mercantile life, without one spark of
ambition, when his mental endowments would justify his aspiring to
the most exalted political stations in the land."
Her voice trembled from intensity of feeling.
"Take care how you disparage mercantile pursuits; some of the most
masterly minds of the age were nurtured in the midst of ledgers."
"And I honor and reverence all such far more than their colleagues
whose wisdom was culled in classic academic halls; for the former,
struggling amid adverse circumstances, made good their claim to an
exalted place in the temple of Fame. But necessity forced them to
purely mercantile pursuits. Eugene's case is by no means analogous;
situated as he is, he could be just what he chose. I honor all men
who do their duty nobly and truly in the positions fate has assigned
them; but, sir, you know there are some more richly endowed than
others, some whom nature seems to have destined for arduous
diplomatic posts; whose privilege it is to guide the helm of state
and achieve distinction as men of genius. To such the call will be
imperative; America needs such men. Heaven only knows where they are
to rise from, when the call is made! I do not mean to disparage
mercantile pursuits; they afford constant opportunities for the
exercise and display of keenness and clearness of intellect, but do
not require the peculiar gifts so essential in statesmen. Indolence
is unpardonable in any avocation, and I would be commended to the
industrious, energetic merchant, in preference to superficial, so-
called, 'professional men.' But Eugene had rare educational
advantages, and I expected him to improve them, and be something
more than ordinary. He expected it, five years ago. What infatuation
possesses him latterly I cannot imagine."
Dr. Hartwell smiled, and said very quietly: "Has it ever occurred to
you that you might have overestimated Eugene's abilities?"
"Sir, you entertained a flattering opinion of them when he left
here." She could animadvert upon his fickleness, but did not choose
that others should enjoy the same privilege.
"I by no means considered him an embryo Webster or Calhoun; never
looked on him as an intellectual prodigy. He had a good mind, a
handsome face, and frank, gentlemanly manners which, in the
aggregate, impressed me favorably." Beulah bit her lips, and stooped
to pat Charon's head. There was silence for some moments, and then
the doctor asked:
"Does he mention Cornelia's health?"
"Only once, incidentally. I judge from the sentence that she is
rather feeble. There is a good deal of unimportant chat about a lady
they have met in Florence. She is the daughter of a Louisiana
planter; very beautiful and fascinating; is a niece of Mrs.
Graham's, and will spend part of next winter with the Grahams."
"What is her name?"
Beulah was still caressing Charon, and did not observe the purplish
glow which bathed the doctor's face at the mention of the name. She
only saw that he rose abruptly, and walked to the window, where he
stood until tea was brought in. As they concluded the meal and left
the table he held out his hand.
"Beulah, I congratulate you on your signal success to-day. Your
valedictory made me proud of my protegee." She had put her hand in
his, and looked up in his face, but the cloudy splendor of the eyes
was more than she could bear, and drooping her head a little, she
"You have vacation for two months?"
"Yes, sir; and then my duties commence. Here is the certificate of
my election." She offered it for inspection; but, without noticing
it, he continued:
"Beulah, I think you owe me something for taking care of you, as you
phrased it long ago at the asylum. Do you admit the debt?"
"Most gratefully, sir! I admit that I can never liquidate it: I can
repay you only with the most earnest gratitude." Large tears hung
upon her lashes, and, with an uncontrollable impulse, she raised his
hand to her lips.
"I am about to test the sincerity of your gratitude, I doubt it."
She trembled, and looked at Mm uneasily. He laid his hand on her
shoulder, and said slowly:
"Relinquish the idea of teaching. Let me present you to society as
my adopted child. Thus you can requite the debt."
"I cannot! I cannot!" cried Beulah firmly, though tears gushed over
"Cannot? cannot?" repeated the doctor, pressing heavily upon her
"Will not, then!" said she proudly.
They looked at each other steadily. A withering smile of scorn and
bitterness distorted his Apollo-like features, and he pushed her
from him, saying, in the deep, concentrated tone of intense
"I might have known it. I might have expected it; for Fate has
always decreed me just such returns."
Leaning against the sculptured Niobe, which stood near, Beulah
exclaimed, in a voice of great anguish:
"Oh, Dr. Hartwell! do not make me repent the day I entered this
house. God knows I am grateful, very grateful, for your unparalleled
kindness. Oh, that it were in my power to prove to you my gratitude!
Do not upbraid me. You knew that I came here only to be educated.
Even then I could not bear the thought of always imposing on your
generosity; and every day that passed strengthened this impatience
of dependence. Through your kindness it is now in my power to
maintain myself, and, after the opening of next session, I cannot
remain any longer the recipient of your bounty. Oh, sir, do not
charge me with ingratitude! It is more than I can bear; more than I
"Mark me, Beulah! Your pride will wreck you; wreck your happiness,
your peace of mind. Already its iron hand is crushing your young
heart. Beware lest, in yielding to its decrees, you become the
hopeless being a similar course has rendered me. Beware! But why
should I warn you? Have not my prophecies ever proved Cassandran?
"No, I will not leave you in anger." She drew near him and took his
hand in both hers. The fingers were cold and white as marble, rigid
and inflexible as steel.
"My guardian, would you have me take a step (through fear of your
displeasure) which would render my life a burden? Will you urge me
to remain, when I tell you that I cannot be happy here? I think
"Urge you to remain? By the Furies--no! I urge you to go! Yes--go! I
no longer want you here. Your presence would irritate me beyond
measure. But listen to me. I am going to New York on business; had
intended taking you with me; but, since you are so stubbornly proud,
I can consent to leave you. I shall start to-morrow evening--rather
earlier than I expected--and shall not return before September,
perhaps even later. What your plans are I shall not inquire; but it
is my request that you remain in this house, under Mrs. Watson's
care, until your school duties commence; then you will, I suppose,
remove elsewhere. I also request, particularly, that you will not
hesitate to use the contents of a purse which I shall leave on my
desk for you. Remember that in coming years, when trials assail you,
if you need a friend, I will still assist you. You will leave me
now, if you please, as I have some letters to write." He motioned
her away, and, unable to frame any reply, she left the room.
Though utterly miserable, now that her guardian seemed so completely
estranged, her proud nature rebelled at his stern dismissal, and a
feeling of reckless defiance speedily dried the tears on her cheek.
That he should look down upon her with scornful indifference stung
her almost to desperation, and she resolved, instead of weeping, to
meet and part with him as coldly as his contemptuous treatment
justified. Weary in mind and body she fell asleep, and soon forgot
all her plans and sorrows. The sun was high in the heavens when
Harriet waked her, and, starting up, she asked:
"What time is it? How came I to sleep so late?"
"It is eight o'clock. Master ate breakfast an hour ago. Look here,
child; what is to pay? Master is going off to the North, to be gone
till October. He sat up all night, writing and giving orders about
things on the place, 'specially the greenhouse and the flower seeds
to be saved in the front yard. He has not been in such a way since
seven years ago. What is in the wind now? What ails him?" Harriet
sat with her elbows on her knees, and her wrinkled face resting in
the palms of her hands. She looked puzzled and discontented.
"He told me last night that he expected to leave home this evening;
that he was going to New York on business." Beulah affected
indifference; but the searching eyes of the old woman were fixed on
her, and, as she turned away, Harriet exclaimed:
"Going this evening! Why, child, he has gone. Told us all good-by,
from Mrs. Watson down to Charon. Said his trunk must be sent down to
the wharf at three o'clock; that he would not have time to come home
again. There, good gracious! you are as white as a sheet; I will
fetch you some wine." She hurried out, and Beulah sank into a chair,
stunned by the intelligence.
When Harriet proffered a glass of cordial she declined it, and said
"I will come, after a while, and take my breakfast. There is no
accounting for your master's movements. I would as soon engage to
keep up with a comet. There, let go my dress; I am going into the
study for a while." She went slowly down the steps and, locking the
door of the study to prevent intrusion, looked around the room.
There was an air of confusion, as though books and chairs had been
hastily moved about. On the floor lay numerous shreds of crape, and,
glancing up, she saw, with surprise, that the portrait had been
closely wrapped in a sheet and suspended with the face to the wall.
Instantly an uncontrollable desire seized her to look at that face.
She had always supposed it to be his wife's likeness, and longed to
gaze upon the features of one whose name her husband had never
mentioned. The mantel was low, and, standing on a chair, she
endeavored to catch the cord which supported the frame; but it hung
too high. She stood on the marble mantel, and stretched her hands
eagerly up; but though her fingers touched the cord she could not
disengage it from the hook, and, with a sensation of keen
disappointment, she was forced to abandon the attempt. A note on the
desk attracted her attention. It was directed to her, and contained
only a few words:
"Accompanying this is a purse containing a hundred dollars. In any
emergency which the future may present, do not hesitate to call on
She laid her head down on his desk and sobbed bitterly. For the
first time she realized that he had indeed gone--gone without one
word of adieu, one look of kindness or reconciliation. Her tortured
heart whispered: "Write him a note; ask him to come home; tell him
you will not leave his house." But pride answered: "He is a tyrant;
don't be grieved at his indifference; he is nothing to you; go to
work boldly and repay the money you have cost him." Once more, as in
former years, a feeling of desolation crept over her. She had
rejected her guardian's request, and isolated herself from sympathy;
for who would assist and sympathize with her mental difficulties as
he had done? The tears froze in her eyes, and she sat for some time
looking at the crumpled note. Gradually an expression of proud
defiance settled on her features; she took the purse, walked up to
her room, and put on her bonnet and mantle. Descending to the
breakfast room, she drank a cup of coffee, and, telling Mrs. Watson
she would be absent an hour or two, left the house and proceeded to
Madam St. Cymon's. She asked to see Miss Sanders, and, after waiting
a few minutes in the parlor, Clara made her appearance. She looked
wan and weary, but greeted her friend with a gentle smile.
"I heard of your triumph yesterday, Beulah, and most sincerely
"I am in no mood for congratulations just now. Clara, did not you
tell me, a few days since, that the music teacher of this
establishment was ill and that Madam St. Cymon was anxious to
"Yes; I have no idea she will ever be well again. If strong enough
she is going back to her family in Philadelphia next week. Why do
"I want to get the situation, and wish you would say to madam that I
have called to see her about it. I will wait here till you speak to
"Beulah, are you mad? Dr. Hartwell never will consent to your
teaching music!" cried Clara, with astonishment written on every
"Dr. Hartwell is not my master, Clara Sanders! Will you speak to
madam, or shall I have to do it?"
"Certainly, I will speak to her. But oh, Beulah! are you wild enough
to leave your present home for such a life?"
"I have been elected a teacher in the public schools but shall have
nothing to do until the first of October. In the meantime I intend
to give music lessons. If madam will employ me for two months she
may be able to procure a professor by the opening of the next term.
And, further, if I can make this arrangement I am coming immediately
to board with Mrs. Hoyt. Now speak to madam for me, will you?"
"One moment more. Does the doctor know of all this?"
"He knows that I intend to teach in the public school. He goes to
New York this afternoon."
Clara looked at her mournfully, and said, with sad emphasis:
"Oh, Beulah! you may live to rue your rashness."
To Madam St. Cymon the proposal was singularly opportune, and,
hastening to meet the applicant, she expressed much pleasure at
seeing Miss Benton again. She was very anxious to procure a teacher
for the young ladies boarding with her, and for her own daughters,
and the limited engagement would suit very well. She desired,
however, to hear Miss Benton perform. Beulah took off her gloves and
played several very difficult pieces with the ease which only
constant practice and skillful training can confer. Madam declared
herself more than satisfied with her proficiency, and requested her
to commence her instructions on the following day. She had given the
former teacher six hundred dollars a year, and would allow Miss
Benton eighty dollars for the two months. Beulah was agreeably
surprised at the ample remuneration, and, having arranged the hours
of her attendance at the school, she took leave of the principal.
Clara called to her as she reached the street; and, assuming a
gayety which, just then, was very foreign to her real feelings,
"It is all arranged. I shall take tea with you in my new home,
provided Mrs. Hoyt can give me a room." She kissed her hand and
hurried away. Mrs. Hoyt found no difficulty in providing a room;
and, to Beulah's great joy, managed to have a vacant one adjoining
Clara's. She was a gentle, warmhearted woman; and as Beulah examined
the apartment and inquired the terms, she hesitated, and said:
"My terms are thirty dollars a month; but you are poor, I judge, and
being Miss Clara's friend I will only charge you twenty-five."
"I do not wish you to make any deduction in my favor. I will take
the room at thirty dollars," answered Beulah rather haughtily.
"Very well. When will you want it?"
"Immediately. Be kind enough to have it in readiness for me. I shall
come this afternoon. Could you give me some window curtains? I
should like it better, if you could do so without much
"Oh, certainly! they were taken down yesterday to be washed.
Everything shall be in order for you."
It was too warm to walk home again, and Beulah called a carriage.
The driver had not proceeded far when a press of vehicles forced him
to pause a few minutes. They happened to stand near the post office,
and, as Beulah glanced at the eager crowd collected in front, she
started violently on perceiving her guardian. He stood on the
corner, talking to a gentleman of venerable aspect, and she saw that
he looked harassed. She was powerfully impelled to beckon him to
her, and at least obtain a friendly adieu; but again pride
prevailed. He had deliberately left her, without saying good-by, and
she would not force herself on his notice. Even as she dropped her
veil to avoid observation the carriage rolled on, and she was soon
at Dr. Hartwell's door. Unwilling to reflect on the steps she had
taken, she busied herself in packing her clothes and books. On every
side were tokens of her guardian's constant interest and
remembrance--pictures, vases, and all the elegant appendages of a
writing-desk. At length the last book was stowed avay and nothing
else remained to engage her. The beautiful little Nuremberg clock on
the mantel struck two, and, looking up, she saw the solemn face of
Harriet, who was standing in the door. Her steady, wondering gaze
disconcerted Beulah, despite her assumed indifference.
"What is the meaning of all this commotion? Hal says you ordered the
carriage to be ready at five o'clock to take you away from here. Oh,
child! what are things coming to? What will master say? What won't
he say? What are you quitting this house for, where you have been
treated as well as if it belonged to you? What ails you?"
"Nothing. I have always intended to leave here as soon as I was able
to support myself. I can do so now, very easily, and am going to
board. Your master knows I intend to teach."
"But he has no idea that you are going to leave here before he comes
home, for he gave us all express orders to see that you had just
what you wanted. Oh, he will be in a tearing rage when he hears of
it! Don't anger him, child! Do, pray, for mercy's sake, don't anger
him! He never forgets anything! When he once sets his head he is
worse than David or the Philistines! If he is willing to support you
it is his own lookout. He is able, and his money is his own. His kin
won't get it. He and his brother don't speak; and as for Miss May!
they never did get along in peace, even before he was married. So,
if he chooses to give some of his fortune to you, it is nobody's
business but his own; and you are mighty simple, I can tell you, if
you don't stay here and take it."
"That will do, Harriet. I do not wish any more advice. I don't want
your master's fortune, even if I had the offer of it! I am
determined to make my own living; so just say no more about it."
"Take care, child. Remember, 'Pride goeth before a fall'!"
"What do you mean?" cried Beulah angrily.
"I mean that the day is coming when you will be glad enough to come
back and let my master take care of you! That's what I mean. And see
if it doesn't come to pass. But he will not do it then; I tell you
now he won't. There is no forgiving spirit about him; he is as
fierce, and bears malice as long, as a Comanche Injun! It is no
business of mine though. I have said my say; and I will be bound you
will go your own gait. You are just about as hard-headed as he is
himself. Anybody would almost believe you belonged to the Hartwell
family. Every soul of them is alike in the matter of temper; only
Miss Pauline has something of her pa's disposition. I suppose, now
her ma is married again, she will want to come back to her uncle;
should not wonder if he 'dopted her, since you have got the bit
between your teeth."
"I hope he will," answered Beulah. She ill brooked Harriet's plain
speech, but remembrances of past affection checked the severe rebuke
which more than once rose to her lips.
"We shall see; we shall see!" And Harriet walked off with anything
but a placid expression of countenance, while Beulah sought Mrs.
Watson to explain her sudden departure and acquaint her with her
plans for the summer. The housekeeper endeavored most earnestly to
dissuade her from taking the contemplated step, assuring her that
the doctor would be grieved and displeased; but her arguments
produced no effect, and, with tears of regret, she bade her
The sun was setting when Beulah took possession of her room at Mrs.
Hoyt's house. The furniture was very plain, and the want of several
articles vividly recalled the luxurious home she had abandoned. She
unpacked and arranged her clothes, and piled her books on a small
table, which was the only substitute for her beautiful desk and
elegant rosewood bookcase. She had gathered a superb bouquet of
flowers as she crossed the front yard, and, in lieu of her Sevres
vases, placed them in a dim-looking tumbler which stood on the tall,
narrow mantelpiece. Her room was in the third story, with two
windows, one opening to the south and one to the west. It grew dark
by the time she had arranged the furniture, and, too weary to think
of going down to tea, she unbound her hair and took a seat beside
the window. The prospect was extended; below her were countless
lamps, marking the principal streets; and, in the distance, the dark
cloud of masts told that river and bay might be distinctly seen by
daylight. The quiet stars looked dim through the dusty atmosphere,
and the noise of numerous vehicles rattling by produced a confused
impression, such as she had never before received at this usually
calm twilight season. The events of the day passed in a swift
review, and a mighty barrier seemed to have sprung up (as by some
foul spell) between her guardian and herself. What an immeasurable
gulf now yawned to separate them! Could it be possible that the
friendly relations of years were thus suddenly and irrevocably
annulled? Would he relinquish all interest in one whom he had so
long watched over and directed? Did he intend that they should be
completely estranged henceforth? For the first time since Lilly's
death she felt herself thrown upon the world. Alone and unaided, she
was essaying to carve her own fortune from the huge quarries where
thousands were diligently laboring. An undefinable feeling of
desolation crept into her heart; but she struggled desperately
against it, and asked, in proud defiance of her own nature:
"Am I not sufficient unto myself? Leaning only on myself, what more
should I want? Nothing! His sympathy is utterly unnecessary."
A knock at the door startled her, and, in answer to her "Come in,"
Clara Sanders entered. She walked slowly, and, seating herself
beside Beulah, said, in a gentle but weary tone:
"How do you like your room? I am so glad it opens into mine."
"Quite as well as I expected. The view from this window must be very
fine. There is the tea-bell, I suppose. Are you not going down? I am
too much fatigued to move."
"No; I never want supper, and generally spend the evenings in my
room. It is drearily monotonous here. Nothing to vary the routine
for me, except my afternoon walk, and recently the warm weather has
debarred me even from that. You are a great walker, I believe, and I
look forward to many pleasant rambles with you when I feel stronger
and autumn comes. Beulah, how long does Dr. Hartwell expect to
remain at the North? He told me, some time ago, that he was a
delegate to the Medical Convention."
"I believe it is rather uncertain; but probably he will not return
"Indeed! That is a long time for a physician to absent himself."
Just then an organ-grinder paused on the pavement beneath the window
and began a beautiful air from "Sonnambula." It was a favorite song
of Beulah's, and, as the melancholy tones swelled on the night air,
they recalled many happy hours spent in the quiet study beside the
melodeon. She leaned out of the window till the last echo died away,
and, as the musician shouldered his instrument and trudged off, she
"Is there not a piano in the house!"
"Yes; just such a one as you might expect to find in a boarding
house, where unruly children are thrumming upon it from morning till
night. It was once a fine instrument, but now is only capable of
excruciating discords. You will miss your grand piano."
"I must have something in my own room to practice on. Perhaps I can
hire a melodeon or piano for a moderate sum. I will try to-morrow."
"The Grahams are coming home soon, I hear. One of the principal
upholsterers boards here, and he mentioned this morning at breakfast
that he had received a letter from Mr. Graham, directing him to
attend to the unpacking of an entirely new set of furniture.
Everything will be on a grand scale. I suppose Eugene returns with
"Yes; they will all arrive in November."
"It must be a delightful anticipation for you."
"Why so, pray?"
"Why? Because you and Euguene are such old friends."
"Oh, yes; as far as Eugene is concerned, of course it is a very
"He is identified with the Grahams."
"Not necessarily," answered Beulah coldly.
A sad smile flitted over Clara's sweet face as she rose and kissed
her friend's brow, saying gently:
"Good-night, dear. I have a headache, and must try to sleep it off.
Since you have determined to battle with difficulties I am very glad
to have you here with me. I earnestly hope that success may crown
your efforts and the sunshine of happiness dispel for you the
shadows that have fallen thick about my pathway. You have been rash,
Beulah, and short-sighted; but I trust that all will prove for the
She glided away, and, locking the door, Beulah returned to her seat
and laid her head wearily down on the window-sill. What a Hermes is
thought! Like a vanishing dream fled the consciousness of
surrounding objects, and she was with Eugene. Now, in the earlier
years of his absence, she was in Heidelberg, listening to the
evening chimes, and rambling with him through the heart of the
Odenwald. Then they explored the Hartz, climbed the Brocken, and
there, among the clouds, discussed the adventures of Faust and his
kinsman, Manfred. Anon, the arrival of the Grahams disturbed the
quiet of Eugene's life, and, far away from the picturesque haunts of
Heidelberg students, he wandered with them over Italy, Switzerland,
and France. Engrossed by these companions, he no longer found time
to commune with her, and when occasionally he penned a short letter
it was hurried, constrained, and unsatisfactory. One topic had
become stereotyped; he never failed to discourage the idea of
teaching; urged most earnestly the folly of such a step, and dwelt
upon the numerous advantages of social position arising from a
residence under her guardian's roof. We have seen that from the hour
of Lilly's departure from the asylum Beulah's affections, hopes,
pride, all centered in Eugene. There had long existed a tacit
compact which led her to consider her future indissolubly linked
with his; and his parting words seemed to seal this compact as holy
and binding, when he declared, "I mean, of course, to take care of
you myself, when I come home, for you know you belong to me." His
letters for many months retained the tone of dictatorship, but the
tenderness seemed all to have melted away. He wrote as if with a
heart preoccupied by weightier matters, and now Beulah could no
longer conceal from herself the painful fact that the man was far
different from the boy. After five years' absence he was coming back
a man; engrossed by other thoughts and feelings than those which had
prompted him in days gone by. With the tenacious hope of youth she
still trusted that she might have misjudged him; he could never be
other than noble and generous; she would silence her forebodings and
wait till his return. She wished beyond all expression to see him
once more, and the prospect of a speedy reunion often made her heart
throb painfully. That he would reproach her for her obstinate
resolution of teaching, she was prepared to expect; but, strong in
the consciousness of duty, she committed herself to the care of a
merciful God, and soon slept as soundly as though under Dr.
Sometimes, after sitting for five consecutive hours at the piano,
guiding the clumsy fingers of tyros, and listening to a tiresome
round of scales and exercises, Beulah felt exhausted, mentally and
physically, and feared that she had miserably overrated her powers
of endurance. The long, warm days of August dragged heavily by, and
each night she felt grateful that the summer was one day nearer its
grave. One afternoon she proposed to Clara to extend their walk to
the home of her guardian, and, as she readily assented, they left
the noise and crowd of the city, and soon found themselves on the
"This is my birthday," said Beulah, as they passed a clump of pines
and caught a glimpse of the white gate beyond.
"Ah! How old are you?"
"Eighteen--but I feel much older."
She opened the gate, and, as they leisurely ascended the avenue of
aged cedars, Beulah felt once more as if she were going home. A
fierce bark greeted her, and the next moment Charon rushed to meet
her; placing his huge paws on her shoulders, and whining and barking
joyfully. He bounded before her to the steps, and lay down
contentedly on the piazza. Harriet's turbaned head appeared at the
entrance, and a smile of welcome lighted up her ebon face, as she
shook Beulah's hand.
Mrs. Watson was absent, and, after a few questions, Beulah entered
the study, saying:
"I want some books, Harriet; and Miss Sanders wishes to see the
Ah! every chair and book-shelf greeted her like dear friends, and
she bent down over some volumes to hide the tears that sprang into
her eyes. The only really happy portion of her life had been passed
here; every article in the room was dear from association, and,
though only a month had elapsed since her departure, those bygone
years seemed far, far off, among the mist of very distant
recollections. Thick and fast fell the hot drops, until her eyes
were blinded, and she could no longer distinguish the print they
were riveted on. The memory of kind smiles haunted her, and kinder
tones seemed borne to her from every corner of the apartment. Clara
was eagerly examining the paintings, and neither of the girls
observed Harriet's entrance, until she asked:
"Do you know that the yellow fever has broke out here?"
"Oh, you are mistaken! It can't be possible!" cried Clara, turning
"I tell you, it is a fact. There are six cases now at the hospital;
Hal was there this morning. I have lived here a good many years,
and, from the signs, I think we are going to have dreadfully sickly
times. You young ladies had better keep out of the sun; first thing
you know, you will have it."
"Who told you there was yellow fever at the hospital?"
"Dr. Asbury said so; and, what is more, Hal has had it himself, and
nursed people who had it; and he says it is the worst sort of yellow
"I am not afraid of it," said Beulah, looking up for the first time.
"I am dreadfully afraid of it," answered Clara, with a nervous
"Then you had better leave town as quick as possible, for folks who
are easily scared always catch it soonest."
"Nonsense!" cried Beulah, noting the deepening pallor of Clara's
"Oh, I will warrant, if everybody else--every man, woman, and child
in the city--takes it, you won't! Miss Beulah, I should like to know
what you are afraid of!" muttered Harriet, scanning the orphan's
countenance, and adding, in a louder tone: "Have you heard anything
"No." Beulah bit her lips to conceal her emotion.
"Hal hears from him. He was in New York when he wrote the last
letter." She took a malicious pleasure in thus torturing her
visitor; and, determined not to gratify her by any manifestation of
interest or curiosity, Beulah took up a couple of volumes and turned
to the door, saying:
"Come, Clara, you must each have a bouquet. Harriet, where are the
flower scissors? Dr. Hartwell never objected to my carefully cutting
even his choicest flowers. There! Clara, listen to the cool rippling
of the fountain. How I have longed to hear its silvery murmur once
They went out into the front yard. Clara wandered about the flower
beds, gathering blossoms which were scattered in lavish profusion on
all sides; and, leaning over the marble basin, Beulah bathed her
brow in the crystal waters. There were bewitching beauty and
serenity in the scene before her, and as Charon nestled his great
head against her hand she found it very difficult to realize the
fact that she had left this lovely retreat for the small room at
Mrs. Hoyt's boarding house. It was not her habit, however, to
indulge in repinings, and, though her ardent appreciation of beauty
rendered the place incalculably dear to her, she resolutely gathered
a cluster of flowers, bade adieu to Harriet, and descended the
avenue. Charon walked soberly beside her, now and then looking up,
as if to inquire the meaning of her long absence and wonder at her
sudden departure. At the gate she patted him affectionately on the
head and passed out; he made no attempt to follow her, but barked
violently, and then lay down at the gate, whining mournfully.
"Poor Charon! I wish I might have him," said she sadly.
"I dare say the doctor would give him to you," answered Clara very
"I would just as soon think of asking him for his own head," replied
"It is a mystery to me, Beulah, how you can feel so coldly toward
"I should very much like to know what you mean by that?" said
Beulah, involuntarily crushing the flowers she held.
"Why, you speak of him just as you would of anybody else."
"You seem to be afraid of him."
"To a certain extent, I am; and so is everybody else who knows him
"This fear is unjust to him."
"How so, pray?"
"Because he is too noble to do aught to inspire it."
"Certainly he is feared, nevertheless, by all who know him well."
"It seems to me that, situated as you have been, you would almost
"I am not addicted to worshiping anything but God!" answered Beulah
"You are an odd compound, Beulah. Sometimes I think you must be
"Don't be hurt. But you are so cold, so freezing; you chill me."
"Do I? Dr. Hartwell (your Delphic oracle, it seems) says I am as
fierce as a tropical tornado."
"I do not understand how you can bear to give up such an enchanting
home, and go to hard work, as if you were driven to it from
"Do not go over all that beaten track again, if you please. It is
not my home! I can be just as happy, nay, happier, in my little
"I doubt it," said Clara pertinaciously.
Stopping suddenly, and fixing her eyes steadily on her companion,
Beulah hastily asked:
"Clara Sanders, why should you care if my guardian and I are
A burning blush dyed cheek and brow, as Clara drooped her head, and
"Because he is my friend also, and I know that your departure will
"You overestimate my worth and his interest. He is a man who lives
in a world of his own and needs no society, save such as is afforded
in his tasteful and elegant home. He loves books, flowers, music,
paintings, and his dog! He is a stern man, and shares his griefs and
joys with no one. All this I have told you before."
There was a long silence, broken at last by an exclamation from
"Oh! how beautiful! how silent! how solemn! Look down the long dim
aisles. It is an oratory where my soul comes to worship! Presently
the breeze will rush up from the gulf, and sweep the green organ,
and a melancholy chant will swell through these dusky arches. Oh,
what are Gothic cathedrals and gilded shrines in comparison with
these grand forest temples, where the dome is the bending vault of
God's blue, and the columns are these everlasting pines!" She
pointed to a thick clump of pines sloping down to a ravine.
The setting sun threw long quivering rays through the clustering
boughs, and the broken beams, piercing the gloom beyond, showed the
long aisles as in a "cathedral light."
As Clara looked down the dim glade, and then watched Beulah's parted
lips and sparkling eyes, as she stood bending forward with rapturous
delight written on every feature, she thought that she had indeed
misjudged her in using the epithets "freezing and heartless."
"You are enthusiastic," said she gently.
"How can I help it? I love the grand and beautiful too well to offer
a tribute of silent admiration. Oh, my homage is that of a whole
They reached home in the gloaming, and each retired to her own room.
For a mere trifle Beulah had procured the use of a melodeon, and
now, after placing the drooping flowers in water, she sat down
before the instrument and poured out the joy of her soul in song.
Sad memories no longer floated like corpses on the sea of the past;
grim forebodings crouched among the mists of the future, and she
sang song after song, exulting in the gladness of her heart. An
analysis of these occasional hours of delight was as impossible as
their creation. Sometimes she was conscious of their approach, while
gazing up at the starry islets in the boundless lake of azure sky;
or when a gorgeous sunset pageant was passing away; sometimes from
hearing a solemn chant in church, or a witching strain from a
favorite opera. Sometimes from viewing dim old pictures; sometimes
from reading a sublime passage in some old English or German author.
It was a serene elevation of feeling; an unbounded peace; a
chastened joyousness, which she was rarely able to analyze, but
which isolated her for a time from all surrounding circumstances.
How long she sang on the present occasion she knew not, and only
paused on hearing a heavy sob behind her. Turning round, she saw
Clara sitting near, with her face in her hands. Kneeling beside her,
Beulah wound her arms around her, and asked earnestly:
"What troubles you, my friend? May I not know?"
Clara dropped her head on Beulah's shoulder, and answered
"The tones of your voice always sadden me. They are like organ
notes, solemn and awful! Yes, awful; and yet very sweet--sweeter
than any music I ever heard. Your singing fascinates me, yet,
strange as it may seem, it very often makes me weep. There is an
unearthliness, a spirituality that affects me singularly."
"I am glad that is all. I was afraid you were distressed about
something. Here, take my rocking chair; I am going to read, and, if
you like, you may have the benefit of my book."
"Beulah, do put away your books for one night, and let us have a
quiet time. Don't study now. Come, sit here, and talk to me."
"Flatterer, do you pretend that you prefer my chattering to the
wonderful words of a man who 'talked like an angel'? You must listen
to the tale of that 'Ancient Mariner with glittering eye.'"
"Spare me that horrible ghostly story of vessels freighted with
staring corpses! Ugh! it curdled the blood in my veins once, and I
shut the book in disgust. Don't begin it now, for Heaven's sake!"
"Why, Clara! It is the most thrilling poem in the English language.
Each reperusal fascinates me more and more. It requires a dozen
readings to initiate you fully into its weird, supernatural realms."
"Yes; and it is precisely for that reason that I don't choose to
hear it. There is quite enough of the grim and hideous in reality
without hunting it up in pages of fiction. When I read I desire to
relax my mind, not put it on the rack, as your favorite books
invariably do. Absolutely, Beulah, after listening to some of your
pet authors, I feel as if I had been standing on my head. You need
not look so coolly incredulous; it is a positive fact. As for that
'Ancient Mariner' you are so fond of, I am disposed to take the
author's own opinion of it, as expressed in those lines addressed to
"I suppose, then, you fancy 'Christabel' as little as the other,
seeing that it is a tale of witchcraft. How would you relish that
grand anthem to nature's God, written in the vale of Chamouni?"
"I never read it," answered Clara very quietly.
"What? Never read 'Sibylline Leaves'? Why, I will wager my head that
you have parsed from them a thousand times! Never read that
magnificent hymn before sunrise, in the midst of glaciers and snow-
crowned, cloud-piercing peaks? Listen, then; and if you don't feel
like falling upon your knees, you have not a spark of poetry in your
She drew the lamp close to her, and read aloud. Her finely modulated
voice was peculiarly adapted to the task, and her expressive
countenance faithfully depicted the contending emotions which filled
her mind as she read. Clara listened with pleased interest, and,
when the short poem was concluded, said:
"Thank you; it is beautiful. I have often seen extracts from it.
Still, there is a description of Mont Blanc in 'Manfred' which I
believe I like quite as well."
"What? That witch fragment?"
"I don't understand 'Manfred.' Here and there are passages in
cipher. I read and catch a glimpse of hidden meaning; I read again,
and it vanishes in mist. It seems to me a poem of symbols, dimly
adumbrating truths, which my clouded intellect clutches at in vain.
I have a sort of shadowy belief that 'Astarte,' as in its ancient
mythological significance, symbolizes nature. There is a dusky vein
of mystery shrouding her, which favors my idea of her as
representing the universe. Manfred, with daring hand, tore away that
'Veil of Isis' which no mortal had ever pierced before, and,
maddened by the mockery of the stony features, paid the penalty of
his sacrilegious rashness, and fled from the temple, striving to
shake off the curse. My guardian has a curious print of 'Astarte,'
taken from some European Byronic gallery. I have studied it until
almost it seemed to move and speak to me. She is clad in the ghostly
drapery of the tomb, just as invoked by Nemesis, with trailing
tresses, closed eyes, and folded hands. The features are dim,
spectral, yet marvelously beautiful. Almost one might think the
eyelids quivered, there is such an air of waking dreaminess. That
this is a false and inadequate conception of Byron's 'Astarte' I
feel assured, and trust that I shall yet find the key to this
enigma. It interests me greatly, and, by some inexplicable process,
whenever I sit pondering the mystery of Astarte, that wonderful
creation in 'Shirley' presents itself. Astarte becomes in a trice
that 'woman-Titan' Nature, kneeling before the red hills of the
west, at her evening prayers. I see her prostrate on the great steps
of her altar, praying for a fair night, for mariners at sea, for
lambs in moors, and unfledged birds in woods. Her robe of blue air
spreads to the outskirts of the heath. A veil, white as an
avalanche, sweeps from her head to her feet, and arabesques of
lightning flame on its borders. I see her zone, purple, like the
horizon; through its blush shines the star of evening. Her forehead
has the expanse of a cloud, and is paler than the early moon, risen
long before dark gathers. She reclines on the ridge of Stillbro-
Moor, her mighty hands are joined beneath it. So kneeling, face to
face, 'Nature speaks with God.' Oh! I would give twenty years of my
life to have painted that Titan's portrait. I would rather have been
the author of this than have wielded the scepter of Zenobia, in the
palmiest days of Palmyra!"
She spoke rapidly, and with white lips that quivered. Clara looked
at her wonderingly, and said hesitatingly:
"I don't understand the half of what you have been saying, It sounds
to me very much as if you had stumbled into a lumber room of queer
ideas; snatched up a handful, all on different subjects, and woven
them into a speech as incongruous as Joseph's variegated coat."
There was no reply. Beulah's hands were clasped on the table before
her, and she leaned forward with eyes fixed steadily on the floor.
Clara waited a moment, and then continued:
"I never noticed any of the mysteries of 'Manfred' that seem to
trouble you so much. I enjoy the fine passages, and never think of
the hidden meanings, as you call them; whereas it seems you are
always plunging about in the dark, hunting you know not what. I am
content to glide on the surface, and--"
"And live in the midst of foam and bubbles!" cried Beulah, with a
gesture of impatience.
"Better that than grope among subterranean caverns, black and icy,
as you are forever doing. You are even getting a weird, unearthly
look. Sometimes, when I come in and find you, book in hand, with
that far-off expression in your eyes, I really dislike to speak to
you. There is no more color in your face and hands than in that wall
yonder. You will dig your grave among books, if you don't take care.
There is such a thing as studying too much. Your mind is perpetually
at work; all day you are thinking, thinking, thinking; and at night,
since the warm weather has made me open the door between our rooms,
I hear you talking earnestly and rapidly in your sleep. Last week I
came in on tiptoe, and stood a few minutes beside your bed. The moon
shone in through the window, and though you were fast asleep, I saw
that you tossed your hands restlessly; while I stood there you spoke
aloud, in an incoherent manner, of the 'Dream Fugue,' and 'Vision of
Sudden Death,' and now and then you frowned, and sighed heavily, as
if you were in pain. Music is a relaxation to most people, but it
seems to put your thoughts on the rack. You will wear yourself out
prematurely if you don't quit this constant studying."
She rose to go, and, glancing up at her, Beulah answered musingly:
"We are very unlike. The things that I love you shrink from as dull
and tiresome. I live in a different world. Books are to me what
family, and friends, and society are to other people. It may be that
the isolation of my life necessitates this. Doubtless, you often
find me abstracted. Are you going so soon? I had hoped we should
spend a profitable evening, but it has slipped away, and I have done
nothing. Good-night." She rose and gave the customary good-night
kiss, and, as Clara retired to her own room, Beulah turned up the
wick of her lamp and resumed her book. The gorgeous mazes of
Coleridge no longer imprisoned her fancy; it wandered mid the
silence, and desolation, and sand rivulets of the Thebaid desert;
through the date groves of the lonely Laura; through the museums of
Alexandria. Over the cool, crystal depths of "Hypatia" her thirsty
spirit hung eagerly. In Philammon's intellectual nature she found a
startling resemblance to her own. Like him, she had entered a
forbidden temple, and learned to question; and the same "insatiable
craving to know the mysteries of learning" was impelling her, with
irresistible force, out into the world of philosophic inquiry. Hours
fled on unnoted; with nervous haste the leaves were turned. The town
clock struck three. As she finished the book and laid it on the
table she bowed her head upon her hands. She was bewildered. Was
Kingsley his own Raphael-Aben-Ezra? or did he heartily believe in
the Christianity of which he had given so hideous a portraiture? Her
brain whirled, yet there was a great dissatisfaction. She could not
contentedly go back to the Laura with Philammon; "Hypatia" was not
sufficiently explicit. She was dissatisfied; there was more than
this Alexandrian ecstasy to which Hypatia was driven; but where, and
how should she find it? Who would guide her? Was not her guardian,
in many respects, as skeptical as Raphael himself? Dare she enter,
alone and unaided, this Cretan maze of investigation, where all the
wonderful lore of the gifted Hypatia had availed nothing? What was
her intellect given her for, if not to be thus employed? Her head
ached with the intensity of thought, and, as she laid it on her
pillow and closed her eyes, day looked out over the eastern sky.
The ensuing week was one of anxious apprehension to all within the
city. Harriet's words seemed prophetic; there was every intimation
of a sickly season. Yellow fever had made its appearance in several
sections of the town in its most malignant type. The board of health
devised various schemes for arresting the advancing evil. The
streets were powdered with lime and huge fires of tar kept
constantly burning, yet daily, hourly, the fatality increased; and,
as colossal ruin strode on, the terrified citizens fled in all
directions. In ten days the epidemic began to make fearful havoc;
all classes and ages were assailed indiscriminately. Whole families
were stricken down in a day, and not one member spared to aid the
others. The exodus was only limited by impossibility; all who could
abandoned their homes and sought safety in flight. These were the
fortunate minority; and, as if resolved to wreak its fury on the
remainder, the contagion spread into every quarter of the city. Not
even physicians were spared; and those who escaped trembled in
anticipation of the fell stroke. Many doubted that it was yellow
fever, and conjectured that the veritable plague had crossed the
ocean. Of all Mrs. Hoyt's boarders, but half a dozen determined to
hazard remaining in the infected region. These were Beulah, Clara,
and four gentlemen. Gladly would Clara have fled to a place of
safety, had it been in her power; but there was no one to accompany
or watch over her, and as she was forced to witness the horrors of
the season a sort of despair seemed to nerve her trembling frame.
Mrs. Watson had been among the first to leave the city. Madam St.
Cymon had disbanded her school; and, as only her three daughters
continued to take music lessons, Beulah had ample leisure to
contemplate the distressing scenes which surrounded her. At noon,
one September day, she stood at the open window of her room. The air
was intensely hot; the drooping leaves of the China trees were
motionless; there was not a breath of wind stirring; and the sable
plumes of the hearses were still as their burdens. The brazen,
glittering sky seemed a huge glowing furnace, breathing out only
scorching heat. Beulah leaned out of the window, and, wiping away
the heavy drops that stood on her brow, looked down the almost
deserted street. Many of the stores were closed; whilom busy haunts
were silent; and very few persons were visible, save the drivers of
two hearses and of a cart filled with coffins. The church bells
tolled unceasingly, and the desolation, the horror, were
indescribable, as the sable wings of the Destroyer hung over the
doomed city. Out of her ten fellow-graduates, four slept in the
cemetery. The night before she had watched beside another, and at
dawn saw the limbs stiffen and the eyes grow sightless. Among her
former schoolmates the contagion had been particularly fatal, and,
fearless of danger, she had nursed two of them. As she stood fanning
herself, Clara entered hurriedly, and, sinking into a chair,
exclaimed, in accents of terror:
"It has come! as I knew it would! Two of Mrs. Hoyt's children have
been taken, and, I believe, one of the waiters also! Merciful God!
what will become of me?" Her teeth chattered, and she trembled from
head to foot.
"Don't be alarmed, Clara! Your excessive terror is your greatest
danger. If you would escape you must keep as quiet as possible."
She poured out a glass of water and made her drink it; then asked:
"Can Mrs. Hoyt get medical aid?"
"No; she has sent for every doctor in town, and not one has come."
"Then I will go down and assist her." Beulah turned toward the door,
but Clara caught her dress, and said hoarsely:
"Are you mad, thus continually to put your life in jeopardy? Are you
shod with immortality, that you thrust yourself into the very path
"I am not afraid of the fever, and therefore think I shall not take
it. As long as I am able to be up I shall do all that I can to
relieve the sick. Remember, Clara, nurses are not to be had now for
any sum." She glided down the steps, and found the terrified mother
wringing her hands helplessly over the stricken ones. The children
were crying on the bed, and, with the energy which the danger
demanded, Beulah speedily ordered the mustard baths, and
administered the remedies she had seen prescribed on previous
occasions. The fever rose rapidly, and, undaunted by thoughts of
personal danger, she took her place beside the bed. It was past
midnight when Dr. Asbury came; exhausted and haggard from
unremitting toil and vigils, he looked several years older than when
she had last seen him. He started on perceiving her perilous post,
and said anxiously:
"Oh, you are rash! very rash! What would Hartwell say? What will he
think when he comes?"
"Comes! Surely you have not urged him to come back now!" said she,
grasping his arm convulsively.
"Certainly. I telegraphed to him to come home by express. You need
not look so troubled; he has had this Egyptian plague, will run no
risk, and, even if he should, will return as soon as possible."
"Are you sure that he has had the fever?"
"Yes, sure. I nursed him myself, the summer after he came from
Europe, and thought he would die. That was the last sickly season we
have had for years, but this caps the climax of all I ever saw or
heard of in America. Thank God, my wife and children are far away;
and, free from apprehension on their account, I can do my duty."
All this was said in an undertone, and, after advising everything
that could possibly be done, he left the room, beckoning Beulah
after him. She followed, and he said earnestly:
"Child, I tremble for you. Why did you leave Hartwell's house and
incur all this peril? Beulah, though it is nobly unselfish in you to
devote yourself to the sick, as you are doing, it may cost you your
life--nay, most probably it will."
"I have thought of it all, sir, and determined to do my duty."
"Then God preserve you. Those children have been taken violently;
watch them closely; good nursing is worth all the apothecary shops.
You need not send for me any more; I am out constantly; whenever I
can I will come; meantime, depend only on the nursing. Should you be
taken yourself, let me know at once; do not fail. A word more--keep
yourself well stimulated."
He hurried away, and she returned to the sickroom, to speculate on
the probability of soon meeting her guardian. Who can tell how
dreary were the days and nights that followed? Mrs. Hoyt took the
fever, and mother and children moaned together. On the morning of
the fourth day the eldest child, a girl of eight years, died, with
Beulah's hand grasped in hers. Happily, the mother was unconscious,
and the little corpse was borne into an adjoining room. Beulah
shrank from the task which she felt for the first time in her life
called on to perform. She could nurse the living, but dreaded the
thought of shrouding the dead. Still, there was no one else to do
it, and she bravely conquered her repugnance, and clad the young
sleeper for the tomb. The gentlemen boarders, who had luckily
escaped, arranged the mournful particulars of the burial; and, after
severing a sunny lock of hair for the mother, should she live,
Beulah saw the cold form borne out to its last resting-place.
Another gloomy day passed slowly, and she was rewarded by the
convalescence of the remaining sick child. Mrs. Hoyt still hung upon
the confines of eternity; and Beulah, who had not closed her eyes
for many nights, was leaning over the bed counting the rushing
pulse, when a rapid step caused her to look up, and, falling forward
in her arms, Clara cried:
"Save me! save me! The chill is on me now!"
It was too true; and as Beulah assisted her to her room and
carefully bathed her feet, her heart was heavy with dire dread lest
Clara's horror of the disease should augment its ravages. Dr. Asbury
was summoned with all haste; but, as usual, seemed an age in coming,
and when at last he came could only prescribe what had already been
done. It was pitiable to watch the agonized expression of Clara's
sweet face, as she looked from the countenance of the physician to
that of her friend, striving to discover their opinion of her case.
"Doctor, you must send Hal to me. He can nurse Mrs. Hoyt and little
Willie while I watch Clara. I can't possibly take care of all three,
though Willie is a great deal better. Can you send him at once? He
is a good nurse."
"Yes; he has been nursing poor Tom Hamil, but he died about an hour
ago, and Hal is released. I look for Hartwell hourly. You do keep up
amazingly! Bless you, Beulah!" Wringing her hand, he descended the
Re-entering the room Beulah sat down beside Clara, and taking one
burning hand in her cool palms, pressed it softly, saying in an
"I feel so much relieved about Willie; he is a great deal better;
and I think Mrs. Hoyt's fever is abating. You were not taken so
severely as Willie, and if you will go to sleep quietly I believe
you will only have a light attack."
"Did those downstairs have black vomit?" asked Clara shudderingly.
"Lizzie had it; the others did not. Try not to think about it. Go to
"What was that the doctor said about Dr. Hartwell? I could not hear
very well, you talked so low. Ah, tell me, Beulah."
"Only that he is coming home soon--that was all. Don't talk any
Clara closed her eyes, but tears stole from beneath the lashes and
coursed rapidly down her glowing cheeks. The lips moved in prayer,
and her fingers closed tightly over those of her companion. Beulah
felt that her continued vigils and exertions were exhausting her.
Her limbs trembled when she walked, and there was a dull pain in her
head which she could not banish. Her appetite had long since
forsaken her, and it was only by the exertion of a determined will
that she forced herself to eat. She was warmly attached to Clara,
and the dread of losing this friend caused her to suffer keenly.
Occasionally she stole away to see the other sufferers, fearing that
when Mrs. Hoyt discovered Lizzie's death the painful intelligence
would seal her own fate. It was late at night. She had just returned
from one of these hasty visits, and, finding that Hal was as
attentive as anyone could be, she threw herself, weary and anxious,
into an armchair beside Clara's bed. The crimson face was turned
toward her, the parched lips parted, the panting breath labored and
irregular. The victim was delirious; the hazel eyes, inflamed and
vacant, rested on Beulah's countenance, and she murmured:
"He will never know! Oh, no! how should he? The grave will soon shut
me in, and I shall see him no more--no more!" She shuddered and
Beulah leaned her head against the bed, and, as a tear slid down
upon her hand, she thought and said with bitter sorrow:
"I would rather see her the victim of death than have her drag out
an aimless, cheerless existence, rendered joyless by this hopeless
She wondered whether Dr. Hartwell suspected this love. He was
remarkably quick-sighted, and men, as well as women, were very vain
and wont to give even undue weight to every circumstance which
flattered their self-love. She had long seen this partiality; would
not the object of it be quite as penetrating? Clara was very pretty;
nay, at times she was beautiful. If conscious of her attachment,
could he ever suffer himself to be influenced by it? No; impossible!
There were utter antagonisms of taste and temperament which rendered
it very certain that she would not suit him for a companion. Yet she
was very lovable. Beulah walked softly across the room and leaned
out of the window. An awful stillness brooded over the city.
"The moving moon went up the sky,
And nowhere did abide;
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside."
The soft beams struggled to pierce the murky air, dense with smoke
from the burning pitch. There was no tread on the pavement--all was
solemn as Death, who held such mad revel in the crowded graveyards.
Through the shroud of smoke she could see the rippling waters of the
bay, as the faint southern breeze swept its surface. It was a
desolation realizing all the horrors of the "Masque of the Red
Death," and as she thought of the mourning hearts in that silent
city, of Clara's danger and her own, Beulah repeated sadly those
"'Like clouds that rake the mountain summit,
Or waves that own no curbing hand,
How fast has brother followed brother,
From sunshine to the sunless land!'"
Clasping her hands, she added earnestly:
"I thank thee, my Father! that the Atlantic rolls between Eugene and
this 'besom of destruction.'"
A touch on her shoulder caused her to look around, and her eyes
rested on her guardian. She started, but did not speak, and held out
her hand. He looked at her long and searchingly; his lip trembled,
and, instead of taking her offered hand, he passed his arm around
her and drew her to his bosom. She looked up with surprise; and,
bending his haughty head, he kissed her pale brow for the first
time. She felt then that she would like to throw her arms round his
neck and tell him how very glad she was to see him again--how
unhappy his sudden departure had made her; but a feeling she could
not pause to analyze prevented her from following the dictates of
her heart; and, holding her off, so as to scan her countenance, Dr.
"How worn and haggard you look! Oh, child! your rash obstinacy has
tortured me beyond expression."
"I have but done my duty. It has been a horrible time. I am glad you
have come. You will not let Clara die."
"Sit down, child. You are trembling from exhaustion."
He drew up a chair for her, and, taking her wrist in his hand, said,
as he examined the slow pulse:
"Was Clara taken violently? How is she?"
"She is delirious, and so much alarmed at her danger that I feel
very uneasy about her. Come and see her; perhaps she will know you."
She led the way to the bedside; but there was no recognition in the
wild, restless eyes, and as she tossed from side to side, her
incoherent muttering made Beulah dread lest she should discover to
its object the adoring love which filled her pure heart. She told
her guardian what had been prescribed. He offered no suggestion as
to the treatment, but gave a potion which she informed him was due.
As Clara swallowed the draught, she looked at him, and said eagerly:
"Has he come? Did he say he would see me and save me? Did Dr.
Hartwell send me this?"
"She raves," said Beulah hastily.
A shadow fell upon his face, and, stooping over the pillow, he
answered very gently:
"Yes; he has come to save you. He is here."
She smiled, and seemed satisfied for a moment; then moaned and
muttered on indistinctly.
"He knows it all? Oh, poor, poor Clara!" thought Beulah. shading her
face to prevent his reading what passed in her mind.
"How long have you been sitting up, Beulah?"
She told him.
"It is no wonder you look as if years had suddenly passed over your
head! You have a room here, I believe. Go to it, and go to sleep; I
will not leave Clara."
It was astonishing how his presence removed the dread weight of
responsibility from her heart. Not until this moment had she felt as
if she could possibly sleep.
"I will sleep now, so as to be refreshed for to-morrow and to-morrow
night. Here is a couch; I will sleep here, and if Clara grows worse
you must wake me." She crossed the room, threw herself on the couch,
and laid her aching head on her arm. Dr. Hartwell placed a pillow
under the head; once more his fingers sought her wrist; once more
his lips touched her forehead, and as he returned to watch beside
Clara and listen to her ravings, Beulah sank into a heavy, dreamless
sleep of exhaustion.
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