Augusta J. Evans
Part 5 out of 11
She was awakened by the cool pattering of raindrops, which beat
through the shutters and fell upon her face. She sprang up with a
thrill of delight and looked out. A leaden sky lowered over the
city, and as the torrents came down in whitening sheets, the thunder
rolled continuously overhead, and trailing wreaths of smoke from the
dying fires drooped like banners over the roofs of the houses. Not
the shower which gathered and fell around seagirt Carmel was more
"Thank God! it rains!" cried Beulah, and, turning toward Clara, she
saw with pain that the sufferer was all unconscious of the tardy
blessing. She kissed the hot, dry brow; but no token of recognition
greeted her anxious gaze. The fever was at its height; the delicate
features were strangely sharpened and distorted. Save the sound of
her labored breathing, the room was silent, and, sinking on her
knees, Beulah prayed earnestly that the gentle sufferer might be
spared. As she rose her guardian entered, and she started at the
haggard, wasted, harassed look of the noble face, which she had not
observed before. He bent down and coaxed Clara to take a spoonful of
medicine, and Beulah asked earnestly:
"Have you been ill, sir?"
He did not even glance at her. The affectionate cordiality of the
hour of meeting had utterly vanished. He looked as cold, stern, and
impenetrable as some half-buried sphinx of the desert.
"Have you seen the others this morning?" said she, making a strong
effort to conceal the chagrin this revulsion of feeling occasioned.
"Yes; Mrs. Hoyt will get well."
"Does she know of her child's death?"
"You are not going, surely?" she continued, as he took his hat and
glanced at his watch.
"I am needed elsewhere. Only nursing can now avail here. You know
very well what is requisite. Either Dr. Asbury or I will be here
again to-night to sit up with this gentle girl."
"You need neither of you come to sit up with her. I will do that
myself. I shall not sleep another moment until I know that she is
"Very well." He left the room immediately.
"How he cases his volcanic nature in ice!" thought Beulah, sinking
into the armchair. "Last night he seemed so kind, so cordial, so
much my friend and guardian! To-day there is a mighty barrier, as
though he stood on some towering crag and talked to me across an
infinite gulf! Well, well, even an Arctic night passes away; and I
can afford to wait till his humor changes."
For many hours the rain fell unceasingly, but toward sunset the pall
of clouds was scourged on by a brisk western breeze, and the clear
canopy of heaven, no longer fiery as for days past, but cool and
blue, bent serenely over the wet earth. The slanting rays of the
swiftly sinking sun flashed through dripping boughs, creating
myriads of diamond sprays; and over the sparkling waters of the bay
sprang a brilliant bow, arching superbly along the eastern horizon,
where a bank of clouds still lay. Verily, it seemed a new covenant
that the destroying demon should no longer desolate the beautiful
city, and to many an anxious, foreboding heart that glorious rainbow
gave back hope and faith. A cool, quiet twilight followed. Beulah
knew that hearses still bore the dead to their silent chambers; she
could hear the rumbling, the melancholy, solemn sound of the wheels;
but firm trust reigned in her heart, and, with Clara's hand in hers,
she felt an intuitive assurance that the loved one would not yet be
summoned from her earthly field of action. The sick in the other
part of the house were much better, and, though one of the gentlemen
boarders had been taken since morning, she lighted the lamp and
stole about the room with a calmer, happier spirit than she had
known for many days. She fancied that her charge breathed more
easily, and the wild stare of the inflamed eyes was concealed under
the long lashes which lay on the cheeks. The sufferer slept, and the
watcher augured favorably. About nine o'clock she heard steps on the
stairs, and soon after Drs. Asbury and Hartwell entered together.
There was little to be told, and less to be advised, and while the
latter attentively examined the pulse and looked down at the altered
countenance, stamped with the signet of the dread disease, the
former took Beulah's hand in both his, and said kindly:
"How do you do, my little heroine? By Nebros! you are worth your
weight in medical treatises. How are you, little one?"
"Quite well, thank you, sir, and I dare say I am much more able to
sit up with the sick than you, who have had no respite whatever.
Don't stand up, when you must be so weary; take this easy-chair."
Holding his hand firmly, she drew him down to it. There had always
been a fatherly tenderness in his manner toward her, when visiting
at her guardian's, and she regarded him with reverence and
affection. Though often blunt, he never chilled nor repelled her, as
his partner so often did, and now she stood beside him, still
holding one of his hands. He smoothed back the gray hair from his
furrowed brow, and, with a twinkle in his blue eye, said:
"How much will you take for your services? I want to engage you to
teach my madcap daughters a little quiet bravery and uncomplaining
"I have none of the Shylock in my composition; only give me a few
kind words and I shall be satisfied. Now, once for all, Dr. Asbury,
if you treat me to any more barefaced flattery of this sort, I nurse
no more of your patients."
Dr. Hartwell here directed his partner's attention to Clara, and,
thoroughly provoked at the pertinacity with which he avoided
noticing her, she seized the brief opportunity to visit Mrs. Hoyt
and little Willie. The mother welcomed her with a silent grasp of
the hand and a gush of tears. But this was no time for
acknowledgments, and Beulah strove, by a few encouraging remarks, to
cheer the bereaved parent and interest Willie, who, like all other
children under such circumstances, had grown fretful. She shook up
their pillows, iced a fresh pitcher of water for them, and,
promising to run down and see them often, now that Hal was forced to
give his attention to the last victim, she noiselessly stole back to
Clara's room. Dr. Hartwell was walking up and down the floor, and
his companion sat just as she had left him. He rose as she entered,
and, putting on his hat, said kindly:
"Are you able to sit up with Miss Sanders to-night? If not, say so
"I am able and determined to do so."
"Very well. After to-morrow it will not be needed."
"What do you mean?" cried Beulah, clutching his arm.
"Don't look so savage, child. She will either be convalescent or
beyond all aid. I hope and believe the former. Watch her closely
till I see you again. Good-night, dear child." He stepped to the
door, and, with a slight inclination of his head, Dr. Hartwell
It was a vigil Beulah never forgot. The night seemed interminable,
as if the car of time were driven backward, and she longed
inexpressibly for the dawning of day. Four o'clock came at last;
silence brooded over the town; the western breeze had sung itself to
rest, and there was a solemn hush, as though all nature stood still
to witness the struggle between dusky Azrael and a human soul. Clara
slept. The distant stars looked down encouragingly from their homes
of blue, and once more the lonely orphan bent her knee in
supplication before the throne of Jehovah. But a cloud seemed
hovering between her heart and the presence-chamber of Deity. In
vain she prayed, and tried to believe that life would be spared in
answer to her petitions. Faith died in her soul, and she sat with
her eyes riveted upon the face of her friend. The flush of consuming
fever paled, the pulse was slow and feeble, and by the gray light of
day Beulah saw that the face was strangely changed. For several
hours longer she maintained her watch; still the doctor did not
come, and while she sat with Clara's fingers clasped in her, the
brown eyes opened, and looked dreamily at her. She leaned over and,
kissing the wan cheek, asked eagerly:
"How do you feel, darling?"
"Perfectly weak and helpless. How long have I been sick?"
"Only a few days. You are a great deal better now." She tenderly
smoothed the silky hair that clustered in disorder round the face.
Clara seemed perplexed; she thought for a moment, and said feebly:
"Have I been very ill?"
"Well--yes. You have been right sick. Had some fever, but it has
Clara mused again. Memory came back slowly, and at length she asked:
"Did they all die?"
"Did who die?"
"All those downstairs." She shuddered violently.
"Oh, no! Mrs. Hoyt and Willie are almost well. Try to go to sleep
Several minutes glided by; the eyes closed, and, clasping Beulah's
fingers tightly, she asked again:
"Have I had any physician?"
"Yes. I thought it would do no harm to have Dr. Asbury see you,"
answered Beulah carelessly. She saw an expression of disappointment
pass sadly over the girl's countenance; and, thinking it might be as
well to satisfy her at once, she continued, as if speaking on
"Dr. Hartwell came home since you were taken sick, and called to see
you two or three times."
A faint glow tinged the sallow cheek, and while a tremor crept over
her lips she said almost inaudibly:
"When will he come again?"
"Before long, I dare say. Indeed, there is his step now. Dr. Asbury
is with him."
She had not time to say more, for they came in immediately, and,
with a species of pity she noted the smile of pleasure which curved
Clara's mouth as her guardian bent down and spoke to her. While he
took her thin hand and fixed his eyes on her face, Dr. Asbury looked
over his shoulder, and said bluntly:
"Hurrah for you! All right again, as I thought you would be! Does
your head ache at all this morning? Feel like eating half a dozen
"She is not deaf," said Dr. Hartwell rather shortly.
"I am not so sure of that; she has been to all my questions lately.
I must see about Carter, below. Beulah, child, you look the worse
for your apprenticeship to our profession."
"So do you, sir," said she, smiling as her eyes wandered over his
"You may well say that, child. I snatched about two hours' sleep
this morning, and when I woke I felt very much like Coleridge's
"'I moved, and could not feel my limbs;
I was so light--almost,
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.'"
He hurried away to another part of the house, and Beulah went into
her own apartment to arrange her hair, which she felt must need
Looking into the glass she could not forbear smiling at the face
which looked back at her, it was so thin and ghastly; even the lips
were colorless and the large eyes sunken. She unbound her hair, and
had only shaken it fully out, when a knock at her door called her
from the glass. She tossed her hair all back, and it hung like an
inky veil almost to the floor, as she opened the door and confronted
"Here is some medicine which must be mixed in a tumbler of water. I
want a tablespoonful given every hour, unless Clara is asleep. Keep
"Is that all?" said Beulah coolly.
"That is all." He walked off, and she brushed and twisted up her
hair, wondering how long he meant to keep up that freezing manner.
It accorded very well with his treatment before his departure for
the North, and she sighed as she recalled the brief hour of
cordiality which followed his return. She began to perceive that
this was the way they were to meet in future; she had displeased
him, and he intended that she should feel it. Tears gathered in her
eyes, but she drove them scornfully back, and exclaimed indignantly:
"He wants to rule me with a rod of iron, because I am indebted to
him for an education and support for several years. As I hope for a
peaceful rest hereafter, I will repay him every cent he has expended
for music, drawing, and clothing! I will economize until every
picayune is returned."
The purse had not been touched, and, hastily counting the contents
to see that all the bills were there, she relocked the drawer and
returned to the sickroom with anything but a calm face. Clara seemed
to be asleep, and, picking up a book, Beulah began to read. A
sickroom is always monotonous and dreary, and long confinement had
rendered Beulah restless and uncomfortable. Her limbs ached--so did
her head, and continued loss of sleep made her nervous to an unusual
degree. She longed to open her melodeon and play; this would have
quieted her, but of course was not to be thought of, with four
invalids in the house and death on almost every square in the city.
She was no longer unhappy about Clara, for there was little doubt
that, with care, she would soon be well, and thus drearily the hours
wore on. Finally Clara evinced a disposition to talk. Her nurse
discouraged it, with exceedingly brief replies; intimating that she
would improve her condition by going to sleep. Toward evening Clara
seemed much refreshed by a long nap, and took some food which had
been prepared for her.
"The sickness is abating, is it not, Beulah?"
"Yes, very perceptibly; but more from lack of fresh victims than
anything else. I hope we shall have a white frost soon."
"It has been very horrible! I shudder when I think of it," said
"Then don't think of it," answered her companion.
"Oh, how can I help it? I did not expect to live through it. I was
sure I should die when that chill came on. You have saved me, dear
Beulah!" Tears glistened in her soft eyes.
"No; God saved you."
"Through your instrumentality," replied Clara, raising her friend's
hand to her lips.
"Don't talk any more; the doctor expressly enjoined quiet for you."
"I am glad to owe my recovery to him also. How noble and good he is-
-how superior to everybody else!" murmured the sick girl.
Beulah's lips became singularly compact, but she offered no comment.
She walked up and down the room, although so worn out that she could
scarcely keep herself erect. When the doctor came she escaped
unobserved to her room, hastily put on her bonnet, and ran down the
steps for a short walk. It was perfect Elysium to get out once more
under the pure sky and breathe the air, as it swept over the bay,
cool, sweet, and invigorating. The streets were still quiet, but
hearses and carts, filled with coffins, no longer greeted her on
every side, and she walked for several squares. The sun went down,
and, too weary to extend her ramble, she slowly retraced her steps.
The buggy no longer stood at the door, and, after seeing Mrs. Hoyt
and trying to chat pleasantly, she crept back to Clara.
"Where have you been?" asked the latter.
"To get a breath of fresh air and see the sun set."
"Dr. Hartwell asked for you. I did not know what had become of you."
"How do you feel to-night?" said Beulah, laying her hand softly on
"Better, but very weak. You have no idea how feeble I am. Beulah, I
want to know whether--"
"You were told to keep quiet, so don't ask any questions, for I will
not answer one."
"You are not to sit up to-night; the doctor said I would not require
"Let the doctor go back to the North and theorize in his medical
conventions! I shall sleep here by your bed, on this couch. If you
feel worse, call me. Now, good-night; and don't open your lips
again." She drew the couch close to the bed, and, shading the lamp,
threw her weary frame down to rest; ere long she slept. The
pestilential storm had spent its fury. Daily the number of deaths
diminished; gradually the pall of silence and desolation which had
hung over the city vanished. The streets resumed their usual busy
aspect, and the hum of life went forward once more. At length
fugitive families ventured home again; and though bands of crape,
grim badges of bereavement, met the eye on all sides, all rejoiced
that Death had removed his court--that his hideous carnival was
over. Clara regained her strength very slowly; and when well enough
to quit her room, walked with the slow, uncertain step of
feebleness. On the last day of October she entered Beulah's
apartment, and languidly approached the table, where the latter was
engaged in drawing.
"Always at work! Beulah, you give yourself no rest. Day and night
you are constantly busy."
Apparently this remark fell on deaf ears; for, without replying,
Beulah lifted her drawing, looked at it intently, turned it round
once or twice, and then resumed her crayon.
"What a hideous countenance! Who is it?" continued Clara.
"She is horrible! Where did you ever see anything like it?"
"During the height of the epidemic I fell asleep for a few seconds,
and dreamed that Mors was sweeping down, with extended arms, to
snatch you. By the clock I had not slept quite two minutes, yet the
countenance of Mors was indelibly stamped on my memory, and now I am
transferring it to paper. You are mistaken; it is terrible, but not
hideous!" Beulah laid aside her pencil, and, leaning her elbows on
the table, sat, with her face in her hands, gazing upon the drawing.
It represented the head and shoulders of a winged female; the
countenance was inflexible, grim, and cadaverous. The large, lurid
eyes had an owlish stare; and the outspread pinions, black as night,
made the wan face yet more livid by contrast. The extended hands
were like those of a skeleton.
"What strange fancies you have! It makes the blood curdle in my
veins to look at that awful countenance," said Clara shudderingly.
"I cannot draw it as I saw it in my dream! Cannot do justice to my
ideal Mors!" answered Beulah, in a discontented tone, as she took up
the crayon and retouched the poppies which clustered in the sable
"For Heaven's sake, do not attempt to render it any more horrible!
Put it away, and finish this lovely Greek face. Oh, how I envy you
your talent for music and drawing! Nature gifted you rarely!"
"No! she merely gave me an intense love of beauty, which constantly
impels me to embody, in melody or coloring, the glorious images
which the contemplation of beauty creates in my soul. Alas! I am not
a genius. If I were I might hope to achieve an immortal renown.
Gladly would I pay its painful and dangerous price!" She placed the
drawing of Mors in her portfolio and began to touch lightly an
unfinished head of Sappho.
"Ah, Clara, how connoisseurs would carp at this portrait of the
'Lesbian Muse'! My guardian, for one, would sneer, superbly."
"Why, pray? It is perfectly beautiful!"
"Because, forsooth, it is no low-browed, swarthy Greek. I have a
penchant for high, broad, expansive foreheads, which are
antagonistic to all the ancient models of beauty. Low foreheads
characterize the antique; but who can fancy 'violet-crowned,
"'With that gloriole
Of ebon hair, on calmed brows,'
other than I have drawn her!" She held up the paper, and smiled
In truth, it was a face of rare loveliness; of oval outline, with
delicate yet noble features, whose expression seemed the reflex of
the divine afflatus. The uplifted eyes beamed with the radiance of
inspiration; the full, ripe lips were just parted; the curling hair
clustered with child-like simplicity round the classic head; and the
exquisitely formed hands clasped a lyre.
"Beulah, don't you think the eyes are most too wild?" suggested
"What? for a poetess! Remember poesy hath madness in it," answered
Beulah, still looking earnestly at her drawing.
"Madness? What do you mean?"
"Just what I say. I believe poetry to be the highest and purest
phase of insanity. Those finely strung, curiously nervous natures
that you always find coupled with poetic endowments, are
characterized by a remarkable activity of the mental organs; and
this continued excitement and premature development of the brain
results in a disease which, under this aspect, the world offers
premiums for. Though I enjoy a fine poem as much as anybody, I
believe, in nine cases out of ten, it is the spasmodic vent of a
highly nervous system, overstrained, diseased. Yes, diseased! If it
does not result in the frantic madness of Lamb, or the final
imbecility of Southey, it is manifested in various other forms, such
as the morbid melancholy of Cowper, the bitter misanthropy of Pope,
the abnormal moodiness and misery of Byron, the unsound and
dangerous theories of Shelley, and the strange, fragmentary nature
"Oh, Beulah! what a humiliating theory! The poet placed on an
ignominious level with the nervous hypochondriac! You are the very
last person I should suppose guilty of entertaining such a degraded
estimate of human powers," interposed Clara energetically.
"I know it is customary to rave about Muses, and Parnassus, and
Helicon, and to throw the charitable mantle of 'poetic
idiosyncrasies' over all those dark spots on poetic disks. All
conceivable and inconceivable eccentricities are pardoned, as the
usual concomitants of genius; but, looking into the home lives of
many of the most distinguished poets, I have been painfully
impressed with the truth of my very unpoetic theory. Common sense
has arraigned before her august tribunal some of the socalled
'geniuses' of past ages, and the critical verdict is that much of
the famous 'fine frenzy' was bona-fide frenzy of a sadder nature."
"Do you think that Sappho's frenzy was established by the Leucadian
"You confound the poetess with a Sappho who lived later, and threw
herself into the sea from the promontory of Leucate. Doubtless she
too had 'poetic idiosyncrasies'; but her spotless life and, I
believe, natural death, afford no indication of an unsound
intellect. It is rather immaterial, however, to--" Beulah paused
abruptly as a servant entered and approached the table, saying:
"Miss Clara, Dr. Hartwell is in the parlor and wishes to see you."
"To see me!" repeated Clara in surprise, while a rosy tinge stole
into her wan face; "to see me! No! It must be you, Beulah."
"He said Miss Sanders," persisted the servant, and Clara left the
Beulah looked after her with an expression of some surprise; then
continued penciling the chords of Sappho's lyre. A few minutes
elapsed, and Clara returned with flushed cheeks and a smile of
"Beulah, do pin my mantle on straight. I am in such a hurry. Only
think how kind Dr. Hartwell is; he has come to take me out to ride;
says I look too pale, and he thinks a ride will benefit me. That
will do, thank you."
She turned away, but Beulah rose and called out:
"Come back here and get my velvet mantle. It is quite cool, and it
will be a marvelous piece of management to ride out for your health
and come home with a cold. What! no gloves either! Upon my word,
your thoughts must be traveling over the bridge Shinevad."
"Sure enough; I had forgotten my gloves; I will get them as I go
down. Good-by." With the mantle on her arm she hurried away.
Beulah laid aside her drawing materials and prepared for her
customary evening walk. Her countenance was clouded, her lip
unsteady. Her guardian's studied coldness and avoidance pained her,
but it was not this which saddened her now. She felt that Clara was
staking the happiness of her life on the dim hope that her
attachment would be returned. She pitied the delusion and dreaded
the awakening to a true insight into his nature; to a consciousness
of the utter uncongeniality which, she fancied, barred all thought
of such a union. As she walked on these reflections gave place to
others entirely removed from Clara and her guardian; and, on
reaching the grove of pines opposite the asylum, where she had so
often wandered in days gone by, she paced slowly up and down the
"arched aisles," as she was wont to term them. It was a genuine
October afternoon, cool and sunny. The delicious haze of Indian
summer wrapped every distant object in its soft, purple veil; the
dim vistas of the forest ended in misty depths; the very air, in its
dreamy languor, resembled the atmosphere which surrounded
"The mild-eyed, melancholy lotus-eaters"
of the far East. Through the openings, pale, golden poplars shook
down their dying leaves, and here and there along the ravine crimson
maples gleamed against the background of dark green pines. In every
direction bright-colored leaves, painted with "autumnal hectic,"
strewed the bier of the declining year. Beulah sat down on a tuft of
moss, and gathered clusters of golden-rod and purple and white
asters. She loved these wild wood-flowers much more than gaudy
exotics or rare hothouse plants. They linked her with the days of
her childhood, and now each graceful spray of golden-rod seemed a
wand of memory calling up bygone joys, griefs, and fancies. Ah, what
a hallowing glory invests our past, beckoning us back to the haunts
of the olden time! The paths our childish feet trod seem all angel-
guarded and thornless; the songs we sang then sweep the harp of
memory, making magical melody; the words carelessly spoken now
breathe a solemn, mysterious import; and faces that early went down
to the tomb smile on us still with unchanged tenderness. Aye, the
past, the long past, is all fairyland. Where our little feet were
bruised we now see only springing flowers; where childish lips drank
from some Marab verdure and garlands woo us back. Over the rustling
leaves a tiny form glided to Beulah's side; a pure infantine face
with golden curls looked up at her, and a lisping voice of unearthly
sweetness whispered in the autumn air. Here she had often brought
Lilly and filled her baby fingers with asters and goldenrod; and
gathered bright scarlet leaves to please her childish fancy. Bitter
waves had broken over her head since then; shadows had gathered
about her heart. Oh, how far off were the early years! How changed
she was; how different life and the world seemed to her now! The
flowery meadows were behind her, with the vestibule of girlhood, and
now she was a woman, with no ties to link her with any human being;
alone, and dependent only on herself. Verily she might have
exclaimed in the mournful words of Lamb:
"All, all are gone, the old familiar faces."
She sat looking at the wild flowers in her hand; a sad, dreamy light
filled the clear gray eyes, and now and then her brow was plowed by
some troubled thought. The countenance told of a mind perplexed and
questioning. The "cloud no bigger than a man's hand" had crept up
from the horizon of faith, and now darkened her sky; but she would
not see the gathering gloom; shut her eyes resolutely to the coming
storm. As the cool October wind stirred the leaves at her feet, and
the scarlet and gold cloud-flakes faded in the west, she rose and
walked slowly homeward. She was too deeply pondering her speculative
doubts to notice Dr. Hartwell's buggy whirling along the street; did
not see his head extended, and his cold, searching glance; and of
course he believed the blindness intentional and credited it to
pique or anger. On reaching home she endeavored by singing a
favorite hymn to divert the current of her thoughts, but the shadows
were growing tenacious and would not be banished so easily. "If a
man die shall he live again?" seemed echoing on the autumn wind. She
took up her Bible and read several chapters, which she fancied would
uncloud her mind; but in vain. Restlessly she began to pace the
floor; the lamplight gleamed on a pale, troubled face. After a time
the door opened and Clara came in. She took a seat without speaking,
for she had learned to read Beulah's countenance, and saw at a
glance that she was abstracted and in no mood for conversation. When
the tea bell rang Beulah stopped suddenly in the middle of the room.
"What is the matter?" asked Clara.
"I feel as if I needed a cup of coffee, that is all. Will you join
"No; and if you take it you will not be able to close your eyes."
"Did you have a pleasant ride?" said Beulah, laying her hand on her
companion's shoulder and looking gravely down into the sweet face,
which wore an expression she had never seen there before.
"Oh, I shall never forget it! never!" murmured Clara.
"I am glad you enjoyed it; very glad. I wish the color would come
back to your cheeks. Riding is better for you now than walking." She
stooped down and pressed her lips to the wan cheek as she spoke.
"Did you walk this evening, after I left you?"
"What makes you look so grave?"
"A great many causes--you among the number."
"What have I done?"
"You are not so strong as I should like to see you. You have a sort
of spiritual look that I don't at all fancy."
"I dare say I shall soon be well again." This was said with an
effort, and a sigh quickly followed.
Beulah rang the bell for a cup of coffee, and, taking down a book,
drew her chair near the lamp.
"What! studying already?" cried Clara impatiently.
"And why not? Life is short at best, and rarely allows time to
master all departments of knowledge. Why should I not seize every
"Oh, Beulah! though you are so much younger, you awe me. I told your
guardian to-day that you were studying yourself into a mere shadow.
He smiled, and said you were too willful to be advised. You talk to
me about not looking well! You never have had any color, and lately
you have grown very thin and hollow-eyed. I asked the doctor if he
did not think you were looking ill, and he said that you had changed
very much since the summer. Beulah, for my sake, please don't pore
over your books so incessantly." She took Beulah's hand gently in
"Want of color is as constitutional with me as the shape of my nose.
I have always been pale, and study has no connection with it. Make
yourself perfectly easy on my account."
"You are very willful, as your guardian says!" cried Clara
"Yes; that is like my sallow complexion--constitutional," answered
Beulah, laughing, and opening a volume of Carlyle as she spoke.
"Oh, Beulah, I don't know what will become of you!" Tears sprang
into Clara's eyes.
"Do not be at all uneasy, my dear, dove-eyed Clara. I can take care
It was the middle of November, and the absentees who had spent their
summer at the North were all at home again. Among these were Mrs.
Asbury and her two daughters; and only a few days after their return
they called to see Beulah. She found them polished, cultivated, and
agreeable; and when, at parting, the mother kindly pressed her hand
and cordially invited her to visit them often and sociably, she felt
irresistibly drawn toward her, and promised to do so. Ere long there
came a friendly note, requesting her to spend the evening with them;
and thus, before she had known them many weeks, Beulah found herself
established on the familiar footing of an old friend. Universally
esteemed and respected, Dr. Asbury's society was sought by the most
refined circle of the city, and his house was a favorite resort for
the intellectual men and women of the community. Occupying an
enviable position in his profession, he still found leisure to
devote much of his attention to strictly literary topics, and the
honest frankness and cordiality of his manners, blended with the
instructive tone of his conversation, rendered him a general
favorite. Mrs. Asbury merited the elevated position which she so
ably filled as the wife of such a man. While due attention was given
to the education and rearing of her daughters, she admirably
discharged the claims of society, and, by a consistent adherence to
the principles of the religion she professed, checked by every means
within her power the frivolous excesses and dangerous extremes which
prevailed throughout the fashionable circles in which she moved.
Zealously, yet unostentatiously, she exerted herself in behalf of
the various charitable institutions organized to ameliorate the
sufferings of the poor in their midst; and while as a Christian she
conformed to the outward observances of her church, she faithfully
inculcated and practiced at home the pure precepts of a religion
whose effects should be the proper regulation of the heart and
charity toward the world. Her parlors were not the favorite
rendezvous where gossips met to retail slander. Refined, dignified,
gentle, and hospitable, she was a woman too rarely, alas! met with,
in so-called fashionable circles. Her husband's reputation secured
them the acquaintance of all distinguished strangers, and made their
house a great center of attraction. Beulah fully enjoyed and
appreciated the friendship thus tendered her, and soon looked upon
Dr. Asbury and his noble wife as counselors to whom in any emergency
she could unhesitatingly apply. They based their position in society
on their own worth, not the extrinsic appendages of wealth and
fashion, and readily acknowledged the claims of all who (however
humble their abode or avocation) proved themselves worthy of respect
and esteem. In their intercourse with the young teacher there was an
utter absence of that contemptible supercilious condescension which
always characterizes an ignorant and parvenu aristocracy. They
treated her as an equal in intrinsic worth, and prized her as a
friend. Helen Asbury was older than Beulah and Georgia somewhat
younger. They were sweet-tempered, gay girls, lacking their parent's
intellectual traits, but sufficiently well-informed and cultivated
to constitute them agreeable companions. Of their father's extensive
library they expressed themselves rather afraid, and frequently
bantered Beulah about the grave books she often selected from it.
Beulah found her school duties far less irksome than she had
expected, for she loved children, and soon became interested in the
individual members of her classes. From eight o'clock until three
she was closely occupied; then the labors of the day were over, and
she spent her evenings much as she had been wont ere the opening of
the session. Thus November glided quickly away, and the first of
December greeted her ere she dreamed of its approach. The Grahams
had not returned, though daily expected; and, notwithstanding two
months had elapsed without Eugene's writing, she looked forward with
intense pleasure to his expected arrival. There was one source of
constant pain for her in Dr. Hartwell's continued and complete
estrangement. Except a cold, formal bow in passing there was no
intercourse whatever; and she sorrowed bitterly over this seeming
indifference in one to whom she owed so much and was so warmly
attached. Remotely connected with this cause of disquiet was the
painful change in Clara. Like a lily suddenly transplanted to some
arid spot, she had seemed to droop since the week of her ride.
Gentle, but hopeless and depressed, she went, day after day, to her
duties at Madam St. Cymon's school, and returned at night wearied,
silent, and wan. Her step grew more feeble, her face thinner and
paler. Often Beulah gave up her music and books, and devoted the
evenings to entertaining and interesting her; but there was a
constraint and reserve about her which could not be removed.
One evening, on returning from a walk with Helen Asbury, Beulah ran
into her friend's room with a cluster of flowers. Clara sat by the
fire, with a piece of needlework in her hand; she looked listless
and sad. Beulah threw the bright golden and crimson chrysanthemums
in her lap, and, stooping down, kissed her warmly, saying:
"How is your troublesome head? Here is a flowery cure for you."
"My head does not ache quite so badly. Where did you find these
beautiful chrysanthemums?" answered Clara languidly.
"I stopped to get a piece of music from Georgia, and Helen cut them
for me. Oh, what blessed things flowers are! They have been well
styled, 'God's undertones of encouragement to the children of
She was standing on the hearth, warming her fingers. Clara looked up
at the dark, clear eye and delicate, fixed lips before her, and
sighed involuntarily. Beulah knelt on the carpet, and, throwing one
arm around her companion, said earnestly:
"My dear Clara, what saddens you to-night? Can't you tell me?"
A hasty knock at the door gave no time for an answer. A servant
"Is Miss Beulah Benton here? There is a gentleman in the parlor to
see her; here is the card."
Beulah still knelt on the floor and held out her hand indifferently.
The card was given, and she sprang up with a cry of joy.
"Oh, it is Eugene!"
At the door of the parlor she paused and pressed her hand tightly to
her bounding heart. A tall form stood before the grate, and a glance
discovered to her a dark mustache and heavy beard; still it must be
Eugene, and, extending her arms unconsciously, she exclaimed:
"Eugene! Eugene! Have you come at last?"
He started, looked up, and hastened toward her. Her arms suddenly
dropped to her side, and only their hands met in a firm, tight
clasp. For a moment they gazed at each other in silence, each noting
the changes which time had wrought. Then he said slowly:
"I should not have known you, Beulah. You have altered
surprisingly." His eyes wandered wonderingly over her features. She
was pale and breathless; her lips trembled violently, and there was
a strange gleam in her large, eager eyes. She did not reply, but
stood looking up intently into his handsome face. Then she shivered;
the long, black lashes drooped; her white fingers relaxed their
clasp of his, and she sat down on the sofa near. Ah! her womanly
intuitions, infallible as Ithuriel's spear, told her that he was no
longer the Eugene she had loved so devotedly. An iron hand seemed to
clutch her heart, and again a shudder crept over her as he seated
himself beside her, saying:
"I am very much pained to find you here. I am just from Dr.
Hartwell's, where I expected to see you."
He paused, for something about her face rather disconcerted him, and
he took her hand again in his.
"How could you expect to find me there, after reading my last
"I still hoped that your good sense would prevent your taking such
an extraordinary step."
She smiled icily, and answered:
"Is it so extraordinary, then, that I should desire to maintain my
"It would not have been compromised by remaining where you were."
"I should scorn myself were I willing to live idly on the bounty of
one upon whom I have no claim."
"You are morbidly fastidious, Beulah."
Her eyes flashed, and, snatching her hand from his, she asked, with
curling lips: "Eugene, if I prefer to teach for a support, why
should you object?"
"Simply because you are unnecessarily lowering yourself in the
estimation of the community. You will find that the circle which a
residence under Dr. Hartwell's roof gave you the entree of, will
look down with contempt upon a subordinate teacher in a public
"Then, thank Heaven, I am forever shut out from that circle! Is my
merit to be gauged by the cost of my clothes or the number of
fashionable parties I attend, think you?"
"Assuredly, Beulah, the things you value so lightly are the
standards of worth and gentility in the community you live in, as
you will unfortunately find."
She looked at him steadily, with grief, and scorn, and wonder in her
deep, searching eyes, as she exclaimed:
"Oh, Eugene! what has changed you so, since the bygone years when in
the asylum we talked of the future? of laboring, conquering, and
earning homes for ourselves! Oh, has the foul atmosphere of foreign
lands extinguished all your selfrespect? Do you come back sordid and
sycophantic, and the slave of opinions you would once have utterly
detested? Have you narrowed your soul and bowed down before the
miserable standard which every genuine, manly spirit must loathe?
Oh! has it come to this? Has it come to this?" Her voice was broken
and bitter, scalding tears of shame and grief gushed over her
"This fierce recrimination and unmerited tirade is not exactly the
welcome I was prepared to expect," returned Eugene haughtily; and,
rising, he took his hat from the table. She rose also, but made no
effort to detain him, and leaned her head against the mantelpiece.
He watched her a moment, then approached and put his hand on her
"Beulah, as a man I see the world and its relations in a far
different light from that in which I viewed it while a boy."
"It is utterly superfluous to tell me so!" replied Beulah bitterly.
"I grapple with realities now, and am forced to admit the expediency
of prudent policy. You refuse to see things in their actual
existence and prefer toying with romantic dreams. Beulah, I have
awakened from these since we parted."
She put up her hand deprecatingly, and answered:
"Then let me dream on! let me dream on!"
"Beulah, I have been sadly mistaken in my estimate of your
character. I could not have believed there was so much fierce
obstinacy, so much stubborn pride, in your nature."
She instantly lifted her head, and their eyes met. Other days came
back to both; early confidence, mutual love and dependence. For a
moment his nobler impulses prevailed, and, with an unsteady lip, he
passed his arm quickly around her. But she drew coldly back, and
"It seems we are mutually disappointed in each other. I regret that
the discharge of my duty should so far conflict with your opinions
and standard of propriety as to alienate us so completely as it
seems likely to do. All my life I have looked to you for guidance
and counsel; but to-night you have shaken my trust, and henceforth I
must depend upon my own heart to support me in my work. Oh, Eugene!
friend of my childhood! beware lest you sink yourself in your own
estimation! Oh, for days, and months, and years I have pictured the
hour of your return, little dreaming that it would prove one of the
saddest of my life! I have always looked up to you. Oh, Eugene!
Eugene! you are not what you were! Do not! oh, do not make me pity
you! That would kill me!" She covered her face with her hands, and
"I am not so changed as you think me," returned Eugene proudly.
"Then, in earlier years I was miserably deceived in your character.
For the sake of wealth, and what the world calls 'position,' you
have sold yourself. In lieu of his gold and influence Mr. Graham has
your will, your conscience. Ah, Eugene! how can you bear to be a
mere tool in his hands?"
"Beulah, your language, your insinuations are unpardonable! By
Heaven, no one but yourself might utter them, and not even you can
do so with impunity! If you choose to suffer your foolish pride and
childish whims to debar you from the enviable position in society
which Dr. Hartwell would gladly confer on you--why, you have only
yourself to censure. But my situation in Mr. Graham's family has
long been established. He has ever regarded me as his son, treated
me as such, and as such I feel bound to be guided by him in my
choice of a profession. Beulah, I have loved you well, but such
another exhibition of scorn and bitterness will indeed alienate us.
Since you have set aside my views and counsel in the matter of
teaching, I shall not again refer to it, I promise you. I have no
longer the wish to control your actions, even had I the power. But,
remember, since the hour you stood beside your father's grave,
leaning on me, I have been constantly your friend. My expostulations
were for what I considered your good. Beulah, I am still, to you,
the Eugene of other days. It will be your own fault if the sanctity
of our friendship is not maintained."
"It shall not be my fault, Eugene." She hastily held out her hand.
He clasped it in his, and, as if dismissing the topics which had
proved so stormy, drew her to a seat, and said composedly:
"Come, tell me what you have been doing with yourself these long
five years, which have changed you so. I have heard already of your
heroism in nursing the sick, during the late awful season of
pestilence and death."
For an hour they talked on indifferent themes, each feeling that the
other was veiling the true impulses of the heart, and finally Eugene
rose to go.
"How is Cornelia's health now?" asked Beulah, as they stood up
before the fire.
"About the same. She never complains, but does not look like
herself. Apropos! she intrusted a note to me, for you, which I had
quite forgotten. Here it is. Miss Dupres is with her for the winter;
at least, a part of it. Cornelia will come and see you in a day or
two, she requested me to say; and I do hope, Beulah, that you will
visit her often; she has taken a great fancy to you."
"How long since?" answered Beulah, with an incredulous smile.
"Since she met you at a concert, I believe. By the way, we are very
musical at our house, and promise ourselves some delightful evenings
this winter. You must hear Antoinette Dupres sing; she is equal to
the best prima-donna of Italy. Do you practice much?"
"Well, I must go. When shall I see you again?"
"Whenever you feel disposed to come; and I hope that will be often.
Eugene, you were a poor correspondent; see that you prove a better
"Yes, I will. I have a thousand things to say, but scarcely know
where to commence. You are always at home in the evenings, I
"Yes: except occasionally when I am with the Asburys."
"Do you see much of them?"
"Yes; a good deal."
"I am glad to hear it; they move in the very first circle. Now,
Beulah, don't be offended if I ask what is the matter with Dr.
Hartwell? How did you displease him?"
"Just as I displeased you; by deciding to teach. Eugene, it pains me
very much that he should treat me as he does, but it is utterly out
of my power to rectify the evil."
"He told me that he knew nothing of your movements or plans. I wish,
for your sake, you could be reconciled."
"We will be some day. I must wait patiently," said she, with a sigh.
"Beulah, I don't like that troubled look about your mouth. What is
the matter? Can I in any way remove it? It is connected with me,
even remotely? My dear Beulah, do not shrink from me."
"Nothing is the matter that you can rectify," said she gravely.
"Something is the matter, then, which I may not know?"
"And you will not trust me?"
"It is not a question of trust, Eugene."
"You think I cannot help you?"
"You cannot help me, I am sure." "Well, I will see you again to-
morrow; till then, good-by." They shook hands, and she went back to
her own room. Cornelia's note contained an invitation to spend the
next evening with them; she would call as soon as possible. She put
it aside, and, throwing her arms on the mantelpiece, bowed her head
upon them. This, then, was the hour which, for five years, she had
anticipated as an occasion of unmixed delight. She was not weeping;
no, the eyes were dry and the lips firmly fixed. She was thinking of
the handsome face which a little while before was beside her;
thinking, with keen agony, of footprints there which she had never
dreamed of seeing; they were very slight, yet unmistakable--the fell
signet of dissipation. Above all, she read it in the eyes, which
once looked so fearlessly into hers. She knew he did not imagine for
an instant that she suspected it; and of all the bitter cups which
eighteen years had proffered, this was by far the blackest. It was
like a hideous dream, and she groaned, and passed her hand over her
brow, as if to sweep it all away. Poor Beulah! the idol of her
girlhood fell from its pedestal and lay in crumbling ruins at her
feet. In this hour of reunion she saw clearly into her own heart;
she did not love him, save as a friend, as a brother. She was forced
to perceive her own superiority; could she love a man whom she did
not revere? Verily, she felt now that she did not love Eugene. There
was a feeling of contempt for his weakness, yet she could not bear
to see him other than she had hoped. How utterly he had disappointed
her? Could it be possible that he had fallen so low as to dissipate
habitually? This she would not believe; he was still too noble for
such a disgraceful course. She felt a soft touch on her shoulder,
and raised her sad, tearless face. Clara, with her ethereal,
spiritual countenance, stood on the hearth. "Do I disturb you?" said
"No; I am glad you came. I was listening to cold, bitter, bitter
thoughts. Sit down, Clara; you look fatigued."
"Oh, Beulah! I am weary in body and spirit; I have no energy; my
very existence is a burden to me."
"Clara, it is weak to talk so. Rouse yourself, and fulfill the
destiny for which you were created."
"I have no destiny but that of loneliness and misery."
"Our situations are similar, yet I never repine as you do."
"You have not the same cause. You are self-reliant; need no society
to conduce to your happiness; your heart is bound up in your books."
"Where yours had better have been," answered Beulah. She walked
across the floor several times, then said impressively, as she threw
her arm round Clara's waist:
"Crush it; crush it; if you crush your heart in the effort."
A moan escaped Clara's lips, and she hid her face against her
"I have known it since the night of your grandfather's death. If you
want to be happy and useful, crush it out of your heart."
"I have tried, and cannot."
"Oh, but you can! I tell you there is nothing a woman cannot do,
provided she puts on the armor of duty and unsheathes the sword of a
strong, unbending will. Of course, you can do it, if you will."
"Wait till you feel as I do, Beulah, and it will not seem so light a
"That will never happen. If I live till the next geological period I
never shall love anybody as insanely as you love. Why, Clara, don't
you see that you are wrecking your happiness? What strange
infatuation has seized you?"
"I know now that it is perfectly hopeless," said Clara calmly.
"You might have known it from the first."
"No; it is but recently that the barrier has risen."
"What barrier?" asked Beulah curiously.
"For Heaven's sake, Beulah, do not mock me! You know too well what
"Yes; utter uncongeniality."
Clara raised her head, looked into the honest face before her, and
"If that were all, I could yet hope to merit his love; but you know
that is not so. You must know that he has no love to bestow."
Beulah's face seemed instantly steeled. A grayish hue crept over it;
and, drawing her slender form to its full height, she replied, with
"What do you mean? I can only conjecture."
"Beulah, you know he loves you!" cried Clara, with a strangely quiet
"Clara Sanders, never say that again as long as you live; for there
is not the shadow of truth in it."
"Ah, I would not believe it till it was forced upon me. The heart
bars itself a long time to painful truths! I have looked at you, and
wondered whether you could be ignorant of what I saw so clearly. I
believe you are honest in what you say. I know that you are; but it
is nevertheless true. I saw it the evening I went to ride. He loves
you, whether you see it or not. And, moreover, the world has begun
to join your names. I have heard, more than once, that he educated
you with the intention of marrying you; and recently it has been
rumored that the marriage would take place very soon. Do not be hurt
with me, Beulah! I think it is right that you should know all this."
"It is utterly false from beginning to end! He never had such a
thought! never! never!" cried Beulah, striking her clenched hand
heavily on the table.
"Why, then, was he so anxious to prevent your teaching?"
"Because he is generous and kind, and fancied it was a life of
hardship, which I could escape by accepting his offer to adopt me.
Your supposition is perfectly ridiculous. He is double my age. A
stern, taciturn man. What could possibly attract him to one whom he
looks upon as a mere child? And, moreover, he is a worshiper of
beauty! Now, it is an indisputable fact that I am anything but a
beauty! Oh, the idea is absurd beyond all degree. Never mention it
to me again. I tell you solemnly, Clara, your jealous fancy has run
away with your common sense."
A sad, incredulous smile flitted over Clara's face; but she made no
"Clara, rouse yourself from this weak dream. Oh, where is your
pride--your womanly pride--your self-respect? Is your life to be
aimless and dreary because of an unrequited attachment? Shake it
off! Rise above it! Destroy it! Oh, it makes the blood tingle in my
veins to think of your wasting your energies and hopes in love for
one who is so utterly indifferent to you. Much as I love you, Clara,
had I the power to make you his wife to-morrow, I would rather see
you borne to your grave. You know nothing of his fitful, moody
nature; his tyrannical will. You could not be happy with him; you
would see how utterly unsuited you are."
"Are you acquainted with the circumstances of his early life and
ill-fated marriage?" asked Clara, in a low, passionless tone.
"No; he never alluded to his marriage in any way. Long as I lived in
his house there was no mention of his wife's name, and I should
never have known of his marriage but from his sister."
"It was a most unhappy marriage," said Clara musingly.
"So I conjectured from his studious avoidance of all allusion to
"His wife was very, very beautiful; I saw her once when I was a
child," continued Clara.
"Of course she must have been, for he could not love one who was
"She lived but a few months; yet even in that short time they had
become utterly estranged, and she died of a broken heart. There is
some mystery connected with it; they were separated."
"Separated!" cried Beulah in amazement.
"Yes, separated; she died in New Orleans, I believe."
"And yet you profess to love him! A man who broke his wife's heart,"
said Beulah, with a touch of scorn.
"No; you do his noble nature injustice. He is incapable of such a
course. Even a censorious world acquitted him of unkindness."
"And heaped contumely on the unhappy victim, eh?" rejoined Beulah.
"Her conduct was not irreproachable, it has been whispered."
"Aye, whispered by slanderous tongues! Not openly avowed, to admit
of denial and refutation! I wonder the curse of Gomorrah does not
descend on this gossiping, libelous community."
"No one seems to know anything definite about the affair; though I
have often heard it commented upon and wondered over."
"Clara, let it be buried henceforth. Neither you nor I have any
right to discuss and censure what neither of us know anything about.
Dr. Hartwell has been my best and truest friend. I love and honor
him; his faults are his own, and only his Maker has the right to
balance his actions. Once for all, let the subject drop." Beulah
compressed her lips with an expression which her companion very well
understood. Soon after the latter withdrew, and, leaning her arms on
the table near her, Beulah sank into a reverie which was far from
pleasant. Dismissing the unsatisfactory theme of her guardian's
idiosyncrasies, her thoughts immediately reverted to Eugene, and the
revolution which five years had effected in his character.
In the afternoon of the following day she was engaged with her
drawing, when a succession of quick raps at her door forced an
impatient "Come in" from her lips. The door opened, and she rose
involuntarily as the queenly form of Cornelia Graham stood before
her. With a slow, stately tread she approached, and, extending her
hand, said unconcernedly:
"I have waived ceremony, you see, and come up to your room."
"How are you?" said Beulah, as they shook hands and seated
"Just as usual. How did you contrive to escape the plague?"
"By resolving not to have it, I believe."
"You have a wan, sickly look, I think."
"So have you, I am sure. I hoped that you would come home strong and
well." Beulah noted, with a feeling of compassion, the thin, hollow
cheeks and sunken, yet burning, eyes before her. Cornelia bit her
lip, and asked haughtily:
"Who told you that I was not well?"
"Your countenance would tell me, if I had never heard it from
others," replied Beulah, with an instantaneous recollection of her
"Did you receive my note yesterday?"
"Yes. I am obliged by your invitation, but cannot accept it."
"So I supposed, and therefore came to make sure of you. You are too
proud to come until all the family call upon you, eh?"
"No; only people who consider themselves inferior are on the watch
for slights, and scrupulously exact the minutest requirements of
etiquette. On the plane of equality these barriers melt away."
As Beulah spoke she looked steadily into the searching, black eyes,
which seemed striving to read her soul. An expression of pleasure
lighted the sallow face, and the haughty lines about the beautiful
mouth melted into a half-smile.
"Then you have not forgiven my rudeness during early schooldays?"
"I had nothing to forgive. I had forgotten the affair until you
"Then, why will you not come?"
"For reasons which would not be removed by a recapitulation."
"And you positively will not come?"
"Not this evening. Another time I certainly will come with
"Say to-morrow, then."
"To-morrow I shall be engaged."
"Where? Excuse my pertinacity."
"At Dr. Asbury's. I have promised to practice some duets with
"Do you play well, Beulah? Are you a good musician?"
Cornelia mused a moment, and then said slowly, as if watching the
effect of her question:
"You have seen Eugene, of course?"
"He has changed very much in his appearance, has he not?"
"More than I was prepared to expect."
"He is to be a merchant, like my father."
"So he wrote me."
"You endeavored to dissuade him from complying with my father's
wishes, did you not?"
"Yes; most earnestly," answered Beulah gravely.
"Beulah Benton, I like you! You are honest indeed. At last I find
one who is." With a sudden impulse she laid her white, jeweled hand
"Is honesty, or, rather, candor, so very rare, Cornelia?"
"Come out from your 'loop-hole of retreat,' into the world, and you
can easily answer your own question."
"You seem to have looked on human nature through misanthropic
"Yes; I bought a pair of spectacles, for which I paid a most
exorbitant price! but they were labeled 'experience'!" She smiled
"You do not seem to have enjoyed your tour particularly."
"Yes, I did; but one is glad to rest sometimes. I may yet prove a
second Bayard Taylor, notwithstanding. I should like you for a
companion. You would not sicken me with stereotyped nonsense."
Her delicate fingers folded themselves about Beulah's, who could not
bring herself to withdraw her hand.
"And, sure enough, you would not be adopted? Do you mean to adhere
to your determination, and maintain yourself by teaching?"
"And I admire you for it! Beulah, you must get over your dislike to
"I do not dislike you, Cornelia."
"Thank you for your negative preference," returned Cornelia, rather
amused at her companion's straightforward manner. Then, with a
sudden contraction of her brow, she added:
"I am not so bearish as they give me credit for?"
"I never heard you called so."
"Ah! that is because you do not enter the enchanted circle of 'our
clique.' During morning calls I am flattered, cajoled, and fawned
upon. Their carriages are not out of hearing before my friends and
admirers, like hungry harpies, pounce upon my character, manners,
and appearance, with most laudable zest and activity. Wait till you
have been initiated into my coterie of fashionable friends! Why, the
battle of Marengo was a farce in comparison with the havoc they can
effect in the space of a morning among the characters of their
select visiting list! What a precious age of backbiting we city
belles live in!" She spoke with an air of intolerable scorn.
"As a prominent member of this circle, why do you not attempt to
rectify this spreading evil? You might effect lasting good."
"I am no Hercules, to turn the Peneus of reform through the Augean
realms of society," answered Cornelia, with an impatient gesture;
and, rising, she drew on her glove. Beulah looked up at her, and
pitied the joyless, cynical nature, which gave an almost repulsively
austere expression to the regular, faultless features.
"Beulah, will you come on Saturday morning and spend an hour or so
"No; I have a music lesson to give; but if you will be at home in
the afternoon, I will come with pleasure."
"I shall expect you, then. You were drawing when I came in; are you
fond of it?" As she spoke she took up a piece which was nearly
"Yes; but you will find my sketches very crude."
"Who taught you to draw?"
"I have had several teachers. All rather indifferent, however."
"Where did you see a St. Cecilia? There is too much breadth of brow
here," continued Cornelia, with a curious glance at the young
"Yes; I deviated from the original intentionally. I copied it from a
collection of heads which Georgia Asbury brought from the North."
"I have a number of choice paintings, which I selected in Europe.
Any that you may fancy are at your service for models."
"Thank you. I shall be glad to avail myself of the privilege."
"Good-by. You will come Saturday?"
"Yes; if nothing occurs to prevent, I will come in the afternoon."
Beulah pressed her offered hand, and saw her descend the steps with
a feeling of pity which she could not exactly analyze. Passing by
the window, she glanced down, and paused to look upon an elegant
carriage standing before the door. The day was cold, but the top was
thrown back, and on one of the cushions sat, or, rather, reclined, a
richly dressed and very beautiful girl. As Beulah leaned out to
examine the lovely stranger more closely Cornelia appeared. The
driver opened the low door, and, as Cornelia stepped in, the young
lady, who was Miss Dupres, of course, ejaculated rather peevishly:
"You stayed an age!"
"Drive down the Bay Road, Wilson," was Cornelia's reply, and, as she
folded her rich cloak about her, the carriage was whirled away.
Beulah went back to the fire, warmed her fingers, and resumed her
drawing, thinking that she would not willingly change places with
the petted child of wealth and luxury.
It was a dreary Saturday afternoon, but Beulah wrapped a warm shawl
about her, and set out to pay the promised visit. The air was damp
and raw, and leaden, marbled clouds hung in the sky. Mr. Graham's
house was situated in the fashionable part of the city, near Mr.
Grayson's residence, and, as Beulah passed the crouching lions, she
quickened her steps, to escape the painful reminiscences which they
recalled. In answer to her ring, the servant ushered her into the
parlors, furnished with almost Oriental magnificence, and was
retiring, when she gave her name.
"You are Miss Benton, then. I have orders to show you up at once to
Miss Cornelia's room. She has seen no visitors today. This way,
miss, if you please."
He led the way, up an easy, spiral flight of steps, to the door of a
room, which he threw open. Cornelia was sitting in a large cushioned
chair by the fire, with a papier-mache writing-desk beside her,
covered with letters. There was a bright fire in the grate, and the
ruddy haze, together with the reflection from the crimson damask
curtains, gave a dim, luxurious aspect to the chamber, which in
every respect betokened the fastidious taste of a petted invalid.
Clad in a dark silk robe-de-chambre, with her cheek pressed against
the blue velvet lining of the chair, Cornelia's face wore a sickly,
sallow hue, which was rendered more palpable by her black,
glittering eyes and jetty hair. She eagerly held out her hand, and a
smile of sincere pleasure parted the lips, which a paroxysm of pain
seemed to have just compressed.
"It is such a gloomy day I feared you would not come. Take off your
bonnet and shawl."
"It is not so gloomy out as you imagine," said Beulah.
"What? not, with dull clouds, and a stiff, raw, northeaster? I
looked out of the window a while since, and the bay looked just as I
have seen the North Sea, gray and cold. Why don't you take off your
"Because I can only sit with you a short time," answered Beulah,
resisting the attempt made to take her shawl.
"Why can't you spend the evening?" said Cornelia, frowning.
"I promised not to remain more than an hour."
"Clara Sanders. She is sick; unable to leave her room; and is lonely
when I am away."
"My case is analogous; so I will put myself on the charity list for
once. I have not been downstairs for two days."
"But you have everything to interest you even here," returned
Beulah, glancing around at the numerous paintings and engravings
which were suspended on all sides, while ivory, marble, and bronze
statuettes were scattered in profusion about the room. Cornelia
followed her glance, and asked, with a joyless smile:
"Do you suppose those bits of stone and canvas satisfy me?"
"Certainly. 'A thing of beauty should be a joy forever.' With all
these, and your library, surely you are never lonely."
"Pshaw! they tire me immensely. Sometimes the cramped positions and
unwinking eyes of that 'Holy Family' there over the chimneypiece
make me perfectly nervous."
"You must be morbidly sensitive at such times."
"Why? Do you never feel restless and dissatisfied without any
"And yet you have few sources of pleasure," said Cornelia, in a
musing tone, as her eyes wandered over her visitor's plain attire.
"No! my sources of enjoyment are as varied and extended as the
"I should like you to map them. Shut up all day with a parcel of
rude, stupid children, and released only to be caged again in a
small room in a second-rate boarding house. Really, I should fancy
they were limited indeed."
"No; I enjoy my brisk walk to school in the morning; the children
are neither so dull nor so bearish as you seem to imagine. I am
attached to many of them, and do not feel the day to be very long.
At three I hurry home, get my dinner, practice, and draw or sew till
the shadows begin to dim my eyes; then I walk until the lamps are
lighted, find numberless things to interest me, even in a winter's
walk, and go back to my room refreshed and eager to get to my books.
Once seated with them, what portion of the earth is there that I may
not visit, from the crystal Arctic temples of Odin and Thor to the
groves of Abyssinia? In this age of travel and cheap books I can sit
in my room in the third story, and, by my lamplight, see all, and
immeasurably more, than you, who have been traveling for eighteen
months. Wherever I go I find sources of enjoyment; even the pictures
in bookstores give me pleasure and contribute food for thought; and
when, as now, I am surrounded by all that wealth can collect, I
admire, and enjoy the beauty and elegance as much as if I owned it
all. So you see that my enjoyments are as varied as the universe
"Eureka!" murmured Cornelia, eying her companion curiously, "Eureka!
you shall have the tallest case in the British Museum, or Barnum's,
just as your national antipathies may incline you."
"What impresses you as so singular in my mode of life?" asked Beulah
"Your philosophic contentment, which I believe you are too candid to
counterfeit. Your easy solution of that great human riddle given the
world, to find happiness. The Athenian and Alexandrian schools
dwindle into nothingness. Commend me to your 'categories,' O Queen
of Philosophy." She withdrew her searching eyes, and fixed them
moodily on the fire, twirling the tassel of her robe as she mused.
"You are most egregiously mistaken, Cornelia, if you have been led
to suppose, from what I said a moment since, that I am never
troubled about anything. I merely referred to enjoyments derived
from various sources, open alike to rich and poor. There are Marahs
hidden in every path; no matter whether the draught is taken in
jeweled goblets or unpolished gourds."
"Sometimes, then, you are 'blued' most dismally, like the balance of
unphilosophic men and women, eh?"
"Occasionally my mind is very much perplexed and disturbed; not
exactly 'blued,' as you express it, but dimmed, clouded."
"What clouds it? Will you tell me?" said Cornelia eagerly.
"The struggle to see that which I suppose it never was intended I
"I don't understand you," said Cornelia, knitting her brows.
"Nor would you even were I to particularize."
"Perhaps I am not so very obtuse as you fancy."
"At any rate, I shall not enter into detail," answered Beulah,
smiling quietly at the effect of her words.
"Do you ever weary of your books?" Cornelia leaned forward, and bent
a long searching look on her guest's countenance as she spoke.
"Not of my books; but sometimes, nay, frequently, of the thoughts
"A distinction without a difference," said the invalid coldly.
"A true distinction, nevertheless," maintained Beulah.
"Be good enough to explain it then."
"For instance, I read Carlyle for hours, without the slightest
sensation of weariness. Midnight forces me to lay the book
reluctantly aside, and then the myriad conjectures and inquiries
which I am conscious of, as arising from those same pages, weary me
beyond all degrees of endurance."
"And these conjectures cloud your mind?" said Cornelia, with a half-
smile breaking over her face.
"I did not say so; I merely gave it as an illustration of what you
professed not to understand."
"I see your citadel of reserve and mistrust cannot be carried by
storm," answered Cornelia petulantly.
Before Beulah could reply, a servant entered, and addressed
"Your mother wants to show your Paris hat and veil, and handsomest
point-lace set, to Mrs. Vincent, and Miss Julia says, can't she run
up and see you a minute?"
A sneering smile accompanied the contemptuous answer, which was
delivered in no particularly gentle manner.
"This is the second time those 'particular friends' of ours have
called to inspect my winter outfit. Take down my entire wardrobe to
them: dresses, bonnets, mantles, laces, handkerchiefs, ribbons,
shawls--nay, gloves and slippers, for there is a 'new style' of
catch on one, and of bows and buckles on the other. Do you hear me,
Mary? don't leave a rag of my French finery behind. Let the
examination be sufficiently complete this time. Don't forget the
Indian shawl and the opera cloak and hood, nor that ornamental comb,
named after the last popular danseuse; and tell Miss Julia she will
please excuse me--another time I will try to see her. Say I am
Some moments elapsed, during which Mary opened and shut a number of
drawers and boxes, and finally disappeared, staggering beneath a
load of silks, velvets, and laces. As the door closed behind her,
Cornelia smoothed her brow, and said apologetically:
"Doubtless it seems a mere trifle of accommodation to display all
that mass of finery to their eagerly curious eyes; but I assure you
that, though I have not been at home quite a week, those things have
vacated their places at least twenty times for inspection; and this
ridiculous mania for the 'latest style' disgusts me beyond measure.
I tell you, the majority of the women in this town think of nothing
else. I have not yet looked over my wardrobe myself. Mother selected
it in Paris, and I did not trouble myself to examine it when it was
Beulah smiled, but offered no comment. Cornelia suddenly sank back
in her chair, and said hastily:
"Give me that vial on the bureau! Quick! quick!"
Beulah sprang up and handed her the vial, which she put to her lips.
She was ghastly pale, her features writhed, and heavy drops
glistened on her brow, corrugated by severe pain.
"Can I do anything for you, Cornelia? Shall I call your mother?"
"No. You may fan me, if you will." She moaned and closed her eyes.
Beulah seized a fan, and did as requested, now and then wiping away
the moisture which gathered around the lips and forehead. Gradually
the paroxysm passed off, and, opening her eyes, she said wearily:
"That will do, thank you. Now pour out a glass of water from the
Beulah handed her the draught, saying, with surprise:
"Sitting wrapped up by a fire and drinking ice-water!"
"Yes; I use ice-water the year round. Please touch the bellrope,
As Beulah resumed her seat, Cornelia added, with a forced laugh:
"You look as if you pitied me."
"I do, most sincerely. Do you suffer in this way often?"
"Yes--no--well, when I am prudent I don't." Then, turning to the
servant, who stood at the door, she continued: "John, go to Dr.
Hartwell's office (not his house, mind you), and leave word that he
must come here before night. Do you understand? Shut the door-stop!
send up some coal!"
She drew her chair closer to the fire, and, extending her slippered
feet on the marble hearth, said:
"I have suffered more during the last three days than in six months
before. Last night I did not close my eyes--and Dr. Hartwell must
prepare me some medicine. What is the matter with Clara Sanders? She
looks like an alabaster image!"
"She has never recovered entirely from that attack of yellow fever;
and a day or two ago she took cold, and has had constant fever
since. I suppose she will see the doctor while I am here. I feel
anxious about her."
"She looks ethereal, as if refined for a translation to heaven,"
continued Cornelia musingly; then suddenly lifting her head, she
listened an instant, and exclaimed angrily: "It is very strange that
I am not to have an hour's peace and enjoyment with you, without--"
The door opened, and a graceful form and lovely face approached the
fireplace. "Miss Benton, suffer me to introduce my cousin, Miss
Dupres," said Cornelia very coldly.
The young lady just inclined her head, and proceeded to scan
Beulah's countenance and dress, with a degree of cool impertinence
which was absolutely amusing. Evidently, however, Cornelia saw
nothing amusing in this ill-bred stare, for she pushed a light chair
impatiently toward her, saying:
"Sit down, Antoinette!"
She threw herself into the seat with a sort of languid grace, and
said, in the most musical of voices:
"Why would not you see Julia Vincent? She was so much disappointed."
"Simply and solely because I did not choose to see her. Be good
enough to move your chair to one side, if you please," snapped
"That was very unkind in you, considering she is so fond of you. We
are all to spend the evening with her next week--you, and your
brother, and I. A mere 'sociable,' she says." She had been
admiringly inspecting her small hands, loaded with diamonds; and
now, turning round, she again freely scrutinized Beulah, who had
been silently contemplating her beautiful oval profile and silky
auburn curls. Certainly Antoinette Dupres was beautiful, but it was
such a beauty as one sees in wax dolls--blank, soulless,
expressionless, if I may except the predominating expression of
self-satisfaction. Beulah's quiet dignity failed to repel the
continued stare fixed upon her, and, gathering up the folds of her
shawl, she rose.
"Don't go," said Cornelia earnestly.
"I must; Clara is alone, and I promised to return soon."
"When will you come again?" Cornelia took her hand and pressed it
"I really do not know. I hope you will be better soon."
"Eugene will be disappointed; he expects you to spend the evening
with us. What shall I tell him?"
"I will come and see you the very first day I can get out of this
prison-house of mine. Meantime, if I send for you, will you come and
sit with me?"
"That depends upon circumstances. If you are sick and lonely, I
certainly will. Good-by."
"Good-by, Beulah." The haughty heiress drew the orphan's face down
to hers and kissed her cordially. Not a little surprised by this
unexpected demonstration of affection in one so cold and stately,
Beulah bowed distantly to the cousin, who returned the salutation
still more distantly, and, hastening down the steps, was glad to
find herself once more under the dome of sky, gray and rainy though
it was. The wind sighed and sobbed through the streets, and a few
cold drops fell, as she approached Mrs. Hoyt's. Quickening her
steps, she ran in by a side entrance, and was soon at Clara's room.
The door stood open, and, with bonnet and shawl in her hand, she
entered, little prepared to meet her guardian, for she had absented
herself with the hope of avoiding him. He was sitting by a table,
preparing some medicine, and looked up involuntarily as she came in.
His eyes lightened instantly, but he merely said:
The tone was less icy than on previous occasions, and, crossing the
room at once, she stood beside him, and held out her hand.
"How are you, sir?"
He did not, take the hand, but looked at her keenly, and said:
"You are an admirable nurse, to go off and leave your sick friend."
Beulah threw down her bonnet and shawl, and, retreating to the
hearth, began to warm her fingers, as she replied, with
"I have just left another of your patients. Cornelia Graham has been
worse than usual for a day or two. Clara, I will put away my outdoor
wrappings and be with you presently." She retired to her own room,
and, leaning against the window, where the rain was now pattering
drearily, she murmured faintly:
"Will he always treat me so? Have I lost my friend forever? Once he
was so different; so kind, even in his sternness!" A tear hung upon
her lash, and fell on her hand; she brushed it hastily away, and
stood thinking over this alienation, so painful and unnatural, when
she heard her guardian close Clara's door and walk across the hall
to the head of the stairs. She waited a while, until she thought he
had reached his buggy, and slowly proceeded to Clara's room. Her
eyes were fixed on the floor and her hand was already on the bolt of
the door, when a deep voice startled her.
She looked up at him proudly. Resentment had usurped the place of
grief. But she could not bear the earnest eyes that looked into hers
with such misty splendor; and, provoked at her own emotion, she
"What do you want, sir?"
He did not answer at once, but stood observing her closely. She felt
the hot blood rush into her usually cold, pale face, and, despite
her efforts to seem perfectly indifferent, her eyelids and lips
would tremble. His hand rested lightly on her shoulder, and he spoke
"Child, have you been ill? You look wretched. What ails you,
"That will not answer. Tell me, child, tell me!"
"I tell you I am as well as usual," cried she impatiently, yet her
voice faltered. She was struggling desperately with her own heart.
The return of his old manner, the winning tones of his voice,
affected her more than she was willing he should see.
"Beulah, you used to be truthful and candid."
"I am so still," she returned stoutly, though tears began to gather
in her eyes.
"No, child; already the world has changed you."
A shadow fell over his face, and the sad eyes were like clouded
"You know better, sir! I am just what I always was! It is you who
are so changed! Once you were my friend; my guardian! Once you were
kind, and guided me; but now you are stern, and bitter, and
tyrannical!" She spoke passionately, and tears, which she bravely
tried to force back, rolled swiftly down her cheeks. His light touch
on her shoulder tightened until it seemed a hand of steel, and, with
an expression which she never forgot, even in after years, he
"Tyrannical! Not to you, child!"
"Yes, sir; tyrannical! cruelly tyrannical! Because I dared to think
and act for myself, you have cast off--utterly! You try to see how
cold and distant you can be; and show me that you don't care whether
I live or die, so long as I choose to be independent of you. I did
not believe that you could ever be so ungenerous!" She looked up at
him with swimming eyes. He smiled down into her tearful face, and
"Why did you defy me, child?"
"I did not, sir, until you treated me worse than the servants; worse
than you did Charon even."
"How, indeed! You left me in your own house without one word of
good-by, when you expected to be absent an indefinite time. Did you
suppose that I would remain there an hour after such treatment?"
He smiled again, and said in the low, musical tone which she had
always found so difficult to resist.
"Come back, my child. Come back to me!"
"Never, sir! never!" answered she resolutely.
A stony hue settled on his face; the lips seemed instantly frozen,
and, removing his hand from her shoulder, he said, as if talking to
a perfect stranger: "See that Clara Sanders needs nothing; she is
far from being well."
He left her; but her heart conquered for an instant, and she sprang
down two steps and caught his hand. Pressing her face against his
arm, she exclaimed brokenly:
"Oh, sir! do not cast me off entirely! My friend, my guardian,
indeed I have not deserved this!"
He laid his hand on her bowed head, and said calmly:
"Fierce, proud spirit! Ah! it will take long years of trial and
suffering to tame you. Go, Beulah! You have cast yourself off. It
was no wish, no work of mine."
He lifted her head from his arm, gently unclasped her fingers, and
walked away. Beulah dried the tears on her cheek, and, composing
herself by a great effort, returned to Clara. The latter still sat
in an easy-chair, and leaned back with closed eyes. Beulah made no
effort to attract her attention, and sat down noiselessly to reflect
upon her guardian's words and the separation which, she now clearly
saw, he intended should be final. There, in the gathering gloom of
twilight, sat Clara Sanders, nerving her heart for the dreary
future; solemnly and silently burying the cherished hopes that had
irised her path, and now, looking steadily forward to coming years,
she said to her drooping spirit: "Be strong and bear this sorrow. I
will conquer my own heart." How is it that, when the human soul is
called to pass through a fierce ordeal, and numbing despair seizes
the faculties and energies in her sepulchral grasp, how is it that
superhuman strength is often suddenly infused into the sinking
spirit? There is a mysterious yet resistless power given, which
winds up and sets again in motion that marvelous bit of mechanism,
the human will; that curiously intricate combination of wheels; that
mainspring of action, which has baffled the ingenuity of
philosophers, and remains yet undiscovered, behind the cloudy shrine
of the unknown. Now, there are times when this human clock well-nigh
runs down; when it seems that volition is dead; when the past is all
gilded, the future all shrouded, and the soul grows passive, hoping
nothing, fearing nothing. Yet when the slowly swinging pendulum
seems about to rest, even then an unseen hand touches the secret
spring; and, as the curiously folded coil quivers on again, the
resuscitated will is lifted triumphantly back to its throne. This
newborn power is from God. But, ye wise ones of earth, tell us how,
and by whom, is the key applied? Are ministering angels (our white-
robed idols, our loved dead) ordained to keep watch over the
machinery of the will and attend to the winding up? Or is this
infusion of strength, whereby to continue its operations, a sudden
tightening of those invisible cords which bind the All-Father to the
spirits he has created? Truly, there is no Oedipus for this vexing
riddle. Many luckless theories have been devoured by the Sphinx;
when will metaphysicians solve it? One tells us vaguely enough, "Who
knows the mysteries of will, with its vigor? Man doth not yield him
to the angels, nor unto death, utterly, save only through the
weakness of his feeble will." This pretty bubble of a "latent
strength" has vanished; the power is from God; but who shall unfold
the process? Clara felt that this precious help was given in her
hour of need; and, looking up undauntedly to the clouds that
darkened her sky, said to her hopeless heart: "I will live to do my
duty, and God's work on eirth; I will go bravely forward in my path
of labor, strewing flowers and sunshine. If God needs a lonely,
chastened spirit to do his behests, oh! shall I murmur and die
because I am chosen? What are the rushing, howling waves of life in
comparison with the calm, shoreless ocean of all eternity?"
The lamp was brought in and the fire renewed, and the two friends
sat by the hearth, silent, quiet. Clara's face had a sweet, serene
look: Beulah's was composed, so far as rigidity of features
betokened; yet the firm curve of her full upper lip might have
indexed somewhat of the confusion which reigned in her mind. Once a
great, burning light flashed out from her eyes, then the lashes
drooped a little and veiled the storm. After a time Clara lifted her
eyes, and said gently:
"Will you read to me, Beulah?"
"Gladly, gladly; what shall it be?" She sprang up eagerly.
"Anything hopeful and strengthening. Anything but your study-books
of philosophy and metaphysics. Anything but those, Beulah."
"And why not those?" asked the girl quickly.
"Because they always confuse and darken me."
"You do not understand them, perhaps?"
"I understand them sufficiently to know that they are not what I
"What do you need, Clara?"
"The calm content and courage to do my duty through life. I want to
be patient and useful."
The gray eyes rested searchingly on the sweet face, and then, with a
contracted brow, Beulah stepped to the window and looked out. The
night was gusty, dark, and rainy; heavy drops pattered briskly down
the panes. She turned away, and, standing on the hearth, with her
hands behind her, slowly repeated the beautiful lines, beginning:
"'The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.'"
Her voice was low and musical, and, as she concluded the short poem
which seemed so singularly suited to Clara's wishes, the latter said
"Yes, yes, Beulah,"
"'Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.'"
"Let us obey the poet's injunction, and realize the closing lines:"
"'And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.'"
Still Beulah stood on the hearth, with a dreamy abstraction looking
out from her eyes, and when she spoke there was a touch of
impatience in her tone:
"Why try to escape it all, Clara? If those 'grand old masters,'
those 'bards sublime,' who tell us in trumpet-tones of 'life's
endless toil and endeavor,' speak to you through my loved books, why
should you 'long for rest'?"
"An unfledged birdling cannot mount to the dizzy eyries of the
eagle," answered Clara meekly.
"One grows strong only by struggling with difficulties. Strong
swimmers are such from fierce buffetings with hungry waves. Come out
of your warm nest of inertia! Strengthen your wings by battling with
storm and wind!" Her brow bent as she spoke.
"Beulah, what sustains you would starve me."
"Something has come over you, Clara."
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