Augusta J. Evans
Part 8 out of 11
"No, no. Impossible. I could not sing either now," replied Beulah,
averting her face.
"Why not now? They are the excelsior strains of struggling pilgrims.
They were written for the dark hours of life."
"They are a mockery to me. Ask me for anything else," said she,
compressing her lips.
Clara leaned her arm on the piano, and, looking sadly at her
companion, said, as if with a painful effort:
"Beulah, in a little while we shall be separated, and only the All-
Father knows whether we shall meet on earth again. My application
for that situation as governess up the country brought me an answer
to-day. I am to go very soon."
Beulah made no reply, and Clara continued sorrowfully:
"It is very painful to leave my few remaining friends and go among
perfect strangers, but it is best that I should." She leaned her
head on her hand, and wept.
"Why is it best?"
"Because here I am constantly reminded of other days and other
hopes, now lying dead on my heart. But we will not speak of this. Of
all my ties here, my love for you is now the strongest. Oh, Beulah,
our friendship has been sacred, and I dread the loneliness which
will be my portion when hundreds of miles lie between us! The links
that bind orphan hearts like ours are more lasting than all others."
"I shall be left entirely alone, if you accept this situation. You
have long been my only companion. Don't leave me, Clara," murmured
Beulah, while her lips writhed and quivered.
"You will have the Asburys still, and they are sincere friends."
"Yes, friends, but not companions. What congeniality is there
between those girls and myself? None. My isolation will be complete
when you leave me."
"Beulah, will you let me say what is in my heart?"
"Say it freely, my brown-eyed darling."
"Well, then, Beulah; give it up; give it up. It will only bow down
your heart with untold cares and sorrows."
"Give up what?"
"This combat with loneliness and poverty."
"I am not lonely," answered Beulah, with a wintry smile.
"Oh, Beulah! yes, you are; wretchedly lonely. I have been but a poor
companion for you; intellectually, you are far beyond me, and there
has been little congeniality in our tastes and pursuits. I have
always known this; and I know, too, that you never will be a happy
woman until you have a companion equal in intellect, who understands
and sympathizes with you. Ah, Beulah! with all your stubborn pride,
and will, and mental endowments, you have a woman's heart; and crush
its impulses as you may, it will yet assert its sway. As I told you
long ago, grammars, and geographies, and duty could not fill the
void in my heart; and, believe me, neither will metaphysics and
philosophy and literature satisfy you. Suppose you do attain
celebrity as a writer. Can the plaudits of strangers bring back to
your solitary hearth the loved dead, or cheer you in your hours of
gloom? I too am an orphan; I speak of what I can appreciate. You are
mistaken, Beulah, in thinking you can dispense with sympathy. You
are not sufficient for yourself, as you have so proudly maintained.
God has created us for companionship; it is a necessity of human
"Then why are you and I orphaned for all time?" asked Beulah coldly.
"The sablest clouds of sorrow have silver linings. Perhaps that you
and I might turn more continually to the God of orphans. Beulah, God
has not flooded earth with eternal sunlight. He knew that shadows
were needed to chasten the spirits of his children, and teach them
to look to him for the renewal of all blessings. But shadows are
fleeting, and every season of gloom has its morning star. Oh, I
thank God that his own hand arranged the chiaroscuro of earth!" She
spoke earnestly; the expression of her eyes told that her thoughts
had traveled into the dim, weird land of futurity. Beulah offered no
comment; but the gloom deepened on her brow and her white fingers
crept restlessly over the piano keys. After a moment's silence,
"I would not regret our separation so much if I left you in the
possession of Christian faith; armed with a perfect trust in the
religion of Jesus Christ. Oh, Beulah, it makes my heart ache when I
think of you, struggling so fiercely in the grasp of infidelity!
Many times have I seen the light shining beneath your door, long
after midnight, and wept over the conflict in which I knew you were
engaged; and only God knows how often I have mingled your name in my
prayers, entreating him to direct you in your search, to guide you
safely through the paths of skepticism, and place your weary feet
upon the 'rock of ages.' Oh, Beulah, do not make my prayers vain by
your continued questioning! Come back to Christ and the Bible."
Tears glided down her cheeks as she passed her arm round her friend,
and dropped her head on her shoulder. Beulah's eyelids trembled an
instant, but there was no moisture in the gray depths, as she
"Thank you, Clara, for your interest. I am glad you have this faith
you would fain lead me to. Not for worlds would I unsettle it, even
if I could. You are comforted in your religion, and it is a
priceless blessing to you. But I am sincere, even in my skepticism.
I am honest; and God, if he sees my heart, sees that I am. I may be
an infidel, as you call me, but, if so, I am an honest one; and if
the Bible is all true, as you believe, God will judge my heart. But
I shall not always be skeptical; I shall find the truth yet. I know
it is a tedious journey I have set out on, and it may be my life
will be spent in the search; but what of that, if at last I attain
the goal? What if I only live to reach it? What will my life be to
me without it?"
"And can you contentedly contemplate your future, passed as this
last year has been?" cried Clara.
"Perhaps 'contentedly' is scarcely the right term. I shall not
murmur, no matter how dreary the circumstances of my life may be,
provided I succeed at last," replied Beulah resolutely.
"Oh, Beulah, you make my heart ache!"
"Then try not to think of or care for me."
"There is another heart, dear Beulah, a heart sad but noble, that
you are causing bitter anguish. Are you utterly indifferent to this
"All of the last exists merely in your imagination. We will say no
more about it, if you please."
She immediately began a brilliant overture, and Clara retreated to
the window. With night the roar of the tempest increased; the rain
fell with a dull, uninterrupted patter, the gale swept furiously on,
and the heaving, foaming waters of the bay gleamed luridly beneath
the sheet-lightning. Clara stood looking out, and before long Beulah
joined her; then the former said suddenly:
"Do you remember that, about six years ago, a storm like this tossed
the 'Morning Star' far from its destined track, and for many days it
was unheard of? Do you remember, too, that it held one you loved;
and that, in an agony of dread lest he should find a grave among
coral beds, you bowed your knee in prayer to Almighty God, imploring
him to calm the tempest, hush the gale, and save him who was so dear
to you? Ah, Beulah, you distrusted human pilots then!"
As Beulah made no reply, she fancied she was pondering her words.
But memory had flown back to the hour when she knelt in prayer for
Eugene, and she thought she could far better have borne his death
then, in the glorious springtime of his youth, than know that he had
fallen from his noble height. Then she could have mourned his loss
and cherished his memory ever after; now she could only pity and
despise his folly. What was that early shipwreck she so much
dreaded, in comparison with the sea of vice, whose every wave tossed
him helplessly on to ruin. He had left her an earnest believer in
religion; he came back scoffing at everything sacred. This much she
had learned from Cornelia. Was there an intimate connection between
the revolutions in his nature? Misled by her silence, Clara said
"You were happy in that early faith. Oh, Beulah, you will never find
another so holy, so comforting!"
Beulah frowned and looked up impatiently.
"Clara, I am not to be persuaded into anything. Leave me to myself.
You are kind, but mistaken."
"If I have said too much, forgive me; I was actuated by sincere
affection and pity for your state of mind."
"I am not an object of pity by any means," replied Beulah very
Clara was unfortunate in her expressions; she seemed to think so,
and turned away. But, conscious of having spoken hastily, Beulah
caught her hand, and exclaimed frankly:
"Do not be hurt with me; I did not intend to wound you. Forgive me,
Clara. Don't go. When are you to leave for your new home?"
"Day after to-morrow. Mr. Arlington seems anxious that I should come
immediately. He has three children--a son and two daughters. I hope
they are amiable; I dread lest they prove unruly and spoiled. If so,
woe to their governess."
"Does Mr. Arlington reside in the village to which you directed your
"No. He resides on his plantation, several miles from the village.
The prospect of being in the country is the only redeeming feature
in the arrangement. I hope my health will be permanently restored by
the change; but of the success of my plan only time can decide."
"And when shall we meet again?" said Beulah slowly.
"Perhaps henceforth our paths diverge widely. We may meet no more on
earth; but, dear Beulah, there is a 'peaceful shore, where billows
never beat nor tempests roar,' where assuredly we shall spend an
eternity together if we keep the faith here. Oh, if I thought our
parting now was for all time I should mourn bitterly, very bitterly;
but I will not believe it. The arms of our God support you. I shall
always pray that he will guide and save you." She leaned forward,
kissed Beulah's forehead, and left the room.
One afternoon in October the indisposition of one of her music
pupils released Beulah earlier than usual, and she determined to
seize this opportunity and visit the asylum. Of the walk across the
common she never wearied; the grass had grown brown, and, save the
deep, changeless green of the ancient pines, only the hectic
coloring of the dying year met her eye. The day was cool and windy,
and the common presented a scene of boisterous confusion, which she
paused to contemplate. A number of boys had collected to play their
favorite games; balls flew in every direction and merry shouts rang
cheerily through the air. She looked on a few moments at their
careless, happy sports, and resumed her walk, feeling that their
joyousness was certainly contagious, she was so much lighter-hearted
from having watched their beaming faces and listened to their
As she drew near the asylum gate memory began to pass its fingers
over her heart; but here, too, sounds of gladness met her. The
orphans were assembled on the lawn in front of the building,
chatting as cheerfully as though they were all members of one
family. The little ones trundled hoops and chased each other up and
down the graveled walks; some of the boys tossed their balls, and a
few of the larger girls were tying up chrysanthemums to slender
stakes. They were dressed alike; all looked contented, neat, and
happy, and their rosy faces presented a noble tribute to the
efficacy and untold blessings of the institution. To many of them
Beulah was well known. She threw off her bonnet and shawl, and
assisted the girls in their work among the flowers, while the little
ones gathered around her, lisping their childish welcome and coaxing
her to join in their innocent games. The stately China trees, where,
in years gone by, Lilly and Claudy had watched the chirping robins,
were again clad in their rich, golden livery; and, as Beulah looked
up at the red brick walls that had sheltered her head in the early
days of orphanage, it seemed but yesterday that she trod these walks
and listened to the wintry wind sighing through these same loved
trees. The children told her that their matron had been sick and was
not yet quite well, and, needing no pilot, Beulah went through the
house in search of her. She found her at last in the storeroom,
giving out materials for the evening meal, and had an opportunity of
observing the change which had taken place in the last few months.
She was pale and thin, and her sharpened features wore a depressed,
weary expression; but, turning round, she perceived Beulah, and a
glad smile broke instantly over her countenance as she clasped the
girl's hand in both hers.
"Dear child, I have looked for you a long time. I did not think you
would wait so many weeks. Come in and sit down."
"I did not know you had been sick until I came and heard the
children speak of it. You should have sent met word. I see you have
not entirely recovered."
"No; I am quite feeble yet; but, in time, I hope I shall be well
again. Ah, Beulah, I have wanted to see you so much! so much! Child,
it seems to me I shall never get used to being separated from you."
Beulah sat on the sofa near her, and the matron's withered hands
were passed caressingly over the glossy bands of hair which lay on
the orphan's white temples.
"I love to come here occasionally; it does me good. But not too
often; that would be painful, you know."
Beulah spoke in a subdned voice, while memory painted the evening
when Eugene had sought her in this apartment and wiped away her
tears for Lilly's absence. Her features twitched as she thought of
the bitter changes that rolling years work, and she sighed
unconsciously. The matron's hands were still smoothing her hair, and
presently she said, with an anxious, scrutinizing look:
"Have you been sick since you were here last?"
"No. What makes you imagine such a thing?"
"Dear child, I do not imagine; I know you look worn and ill. Why,
Beulah, hold up your hand; there, see how transparent it is! Almost
like wax! Something ails you, child; that I know well enough."
"No, I assure you, I am not ill. Sometimes, of late, I have been
troubled with the old headaches you used to cure when I was a child;
but, on the whole, I am well."
"Beulah, they tell me Eugene is married," said the kind-hearted
woman, with another look at the quiet face beside her.
"Yes; he was married nearly five months ago." A tremor passed over
her lips as she spoke.
"Did you see his wife?"
"Yes; she is a very pretty woman. I may say, a beautiful woman; but
she does not suit him. At least, I am afraid she will not."
"Ah, I knew as much! I thought as much!" cried Mrs. Williams.
"Why?" asked Beulah wonderingly.
"Oh, money cloaks all faults, child. I knew he did not marry her for
Beulah started a little, and said hastily:
"You do him injustice--great injustice! Eugene was charmed by her
beauty, not her fortune?"
"Oh, heiresses are always beautiful and charming in the eyes of the
world! Beulah, do you know that I watched for Eugene, for days, and
weeks, and months after his return from Europe? I wanted to see him-
-oh, so much! I loved you both as though you were my own children. I
was so proud of that boy! I had raised him from a crawling infant,
and never dreamed that he would forget me. But he did not come. I
have not seen him since he left, six years ago, for Germany. Oh, the
boy has pained me--pained me! I loved him so much!"
Beulah's brow clouded heavily, as she said:
"It is better so--better that you should not see him. He is not what
he was when he quitted us."
"Is it true, then, that he drinks--that he is wild and dissipated? I
heard it once, but would not believe it. Oh, it can't be that Eugene
"Yes, he drinks--not to stupid intoxication, but too freely for his
health and character. He does not look like himself now."
Mrs. Williams bowed down her head and wept bitterly, while Beulah
"His adoption was his ruin. Had he remained dependent on his
individual exertions he would have grown up an honor to himself and
his friends. But Mr. Graham is considered very wealthy, and Eugene
weakly desisted from the honest labor which was his duty. His
fashionable associates have ruined him. In Europe he learned to
drink, and here his companions dragged him constantly into scenes of
dissipation. But I do not despair of him yet. It may be long before
he awakens from this infatuation; but I trust he will yet reform. I
cannot bear to think of him as a confirmed drunkard! Oh, no! no! I
may be wrong, but I still hope that his nobler nature will conquer."
"God help the boy! I have prayed for him for years, and I shall pray
for him still, though he has forgotten me."
She sobbed, and covered her face with her apron. A joyless smile
flitted over Beulah's fixed, grave features, as she said
"He will come to see you when he returns from the North. He has not
forgotten you--that is impossible. Like me, he owes you too much."
"I shall leave here very soon," said Mrs. Williams, wiping her eyes.
"Leave the asylum! for what?"
"I am getting old, child, and my health is none of the best. The
duties are very heavy here, and I am not willing to occupy the
position unless I could discharge all the duties faithfully. I have
sent in my resignation to the managers, and as soon as they succeed
in getting another matron, I shall leave the asylum. I am sorry to
be obliged to go; I have been here so long that I am very much
attached to the place and the children. But I am not able to do what
I have done, and I know it is right that I should give up the
"What are you going to do?"
"I have means enough to live plainly the remainder of my life. I
intend to rent or buy a small house, and settle down and be quiet. I
feel now as if I should like to spend my days in peace."
"Do you intend to live alone?"
"Yes, child; except a servant, I suppose I shall be quite alone. But
you will come to see me often, and perhaps Eugene will remember me
some day, when he is in trouble."
"No, I shall not come to see you at all! I mean to come and live
with you--that is, if I may?" cried Beulah, springing up and laying
her hand on the matron's.
"God bless you, dear child; how glad I shall be!" She wound her arms
round the slender form, and laughed through her tears.
Beulah gently put back the gray locks that had fallen from the
border of her cap, and said hopefully:
"I am sick of boarding--sick of town! Let us get a nice little
house, where I can walk in and out to my school. Have you selected
any particular place?"
"No. I have looked at two or three, but none suited me exactly. Now
you can help me. I am so thankful you are going to be with me! Will
you come as soon as I can be released here?"
"Yes; just as soon as you are ready for me; and I think I know a
house for rent which will just suit us. Now I want it understood
that I am to pay the rent."
"Oh, no, child! I won't hear to it, for I am--"
"Very well, then; I will stay where I am."
"Oh, Beulah! you are not in earnest?"
"Yes, I am; so say no more about it. I will come on no other
condition. I will see the owner of the house, ascertain what I can
obtain it for, and send you word. Then you can look at it and
"I am quite willing to trust it to you, child; only I can't bear the
thought of your paying the rent for it. But we can arrange that
"No; you must be perfectly satisfied with the house. I will go by
this evening and find out about it, so as to let you know at once.
Have you any idea when the 'board' will procure another matron?"
"They have advertised, and several persons applied, I believe, but
they were not exactly pleased with the applicants. I suppose,
however, that in a few days they will find a substitute for me."
"Well, be sure you get a good servant; and now I must go."
She put on her bonnet and shawl with unwonted haste, and ran down
the steps. In her frequent walks she had noticed two cottages in
course of erection, not very far from the pine grove in front of the
asylum, and now, crossing the common, she directed her steps toward
them. The lots were small, and belonged to Dr. Asbury, who said he
would build a couple of cottages for poor families to rent at cheap
rates. As Beulah approached the houses she saw the doctor's buggy
standing near the door, and, thinking it a good omen, quickened her
steps. Each building contained only three rooms and a hall, with a
gallery or rather portico in front. They were genuine cottages
ornes, built after Downing's plans, and presented a tasteful,
inviting appearance. The windows were arched and the woodwork
elaborately carved. Beulah pushed open the freshly painted gate, ran
up the steps and into the hall. The carpenters were still at work in
the kitchen, and, as she conjectured, here she found her friend,
giving some final directions. She looked round the snug little
kitchen, and, walking up to Dr. Asbury, who stood with his back to
the door, she shook his hand with a cheerful salutation.
"Halloo, Beulah! where did you drop from? Glad to see you. Glad to
see you. How came you prying into my new houses? Answer me that! Did
you see my spouse as you came through the hall?"
"No; I will go back and hunt for her--"
"You need not; there she comes down the steps of the house. She
would insist on seeing about some shelves for this precious kitchen;
thinks I am bound to put pantries, and closets, and shelves all over
the house, for my future tenants. I suppose before the first poor
family takes possession I shall be expected to fill the closet with
table linen and cutlery, and the larder with sugar, flour, and wax
candles. Look here, Mrs. Asbury, how many more shelves is this
kitchen to have?"
"It is well she has a conscience, sir, since nature denied you one,"
answered Beulah, whom Mrs. Asbury received very affectionately.
"Conscience! Bless my soul! she has none, as regards my unlucky
purse. Positively she wanted to know, just now, if I would not have
that little patch of ground between the house and the paling laid
off into beds; and if I would not plant a few rose bushes and vines,
for the first rascally set of children to tear up by the roots, just
as soon as their parents moved in. There's conscience for you with a
"And what did you say, sir?"
"What did I say? Why, just what every other meek husband says to
appeals which 'won't cost much, you know.' Of course I had no
opinion of my own. Madame, here, is infallible; so I am put down for
maybe a hundred dollars more. You need not have asked the result,
you true daughter of Eve; every one of you understand wheedling.
Those two mischievous imps of mine are almost as great adepts as
their mother. Hey, Beulah, no whispering there! You look as wise as
an owl. What am I to do next? Paper the walls and fresco the
ceilings? Out with it."
"I want to ask, sir, how much rent your conscience will allow you to
demand for this pigeon-box of a house?"
"Well, I had an idea of asking two hundred dollars for it. Cheap
enough at that. You may have it for two hundred," said he, with a
good-humored nod toward Beulah.
"Very well, I will take it at that, provided Mrs. Williams likes it
as well as I do. In a day or two I will determine."
"In the name of common sense, Beulah, what freak is this?" said the
doctor, looking at her with astonishment.
"I am going to live with the matron of the asylum, whom you know
very well. I think this house will suit us exactly, and the rent
suits my purse far better than a larger building would. I am tired
of boarding. I want a little home of my own, where, when the labors
of school are over, I can feel at ease. The walk twice a day will
benefit me, I feel assured. You need not look so dismal and
perplexed; I will make a capital tenant. Your door-facings shan't be
pencil-marked; your windows shan't be broken, nor your gate swung
off its hinges. As for those flowers you are so anxious to plant,
and that patch of ground you are so much interested in, it shall
blossom like the plain of Sharon."
He looked at her wistfully; took off his spectacles, wiped them with
the end of his coat, and said dubiously:
"What does Hartwell think of this project?"
"I have not consulted him."
"The plain English of which is that, whether he approves or
condemns, you are determined to carry out this new plan? Take care,
Beulah; remember the old adage about 'cutting off your nose to spite
"Rather malapropos. Dr. Asbury," said she indifferently.
"I am an old man, Beulah, and know something of life and the world."
"Nay, George; why dissuade her from this plan? If she prefers this
quiet little home to the cenfinement and bustle of a boarding house,
if she thinks she would be happier here with Mrs. Williams than in
the heart of the city, why should not she come? Suffer her to judge
for herself. I am disposed to applaud her choice," interrupted Mrs.
"Alice, do you suppose she will be satisfied to bury herself out
here, with an infirm old woman for a companion? Here she must have
an early breakfast, trudge through rain and cold into town; teach
stupid little brats till evening; then listen to others equally
stupid; thrum over music lessons, and, at last, tired out, drag
herself back here about dark, when it is too late to see whether her
garden is a cotton patch or a peach orchard! Will you please to tell
me what enjoyment there is for one of her temperament in such a
"Your picture is all shadow. George; and, even if it were not, she
is the best judge of what will promote her happiness. Do not
discourage her. Ah, humble as the place is, I know how her heart
aches for a spot she can call 'home.' These three rooms will be a
haven of rest for her when the day is done. My dear Beulah, I trust
you may be very happy here, or wherever you decide to live; you
deserve to be."
"Thank you, madam, for your friendly sympathy. I am glad you approve
"Well, well; if you soon weary of this freak you can easily give up
the house, that is all. Now, Beulah, if you determine to take it,
rest assured I will gladly make any additions or alterations you may
suggest. I dare say I shall like you for a tenant. But see here,
Mrs. Asbury, I have patients to look after. Please to remember that
I am a professional character, consequently can call no moment my
own. What! another row of shelves round that side? This building
houses for rent is a ruinous speculation! Come, it is too late now
to go over the rooms again; to-morrow will do as well. Beulah, are
you going to play cook, too?"
"No, indeed! Mrs. Williams will find us a servant. Good-by. I will
decide about the house as soon as possible."
The following day she dispatched a note to the matron with
information concerning the house; and at the close of the week all
arrangements were completed, so that they might take possession as
soon as a new matron was secured. Thus the last of October glided
swiftly away, and one cold, clear day in November Beulah was
notified that Mrs. Williams was comfortably settled in the new home.
She went to school as usual, and when the recitations were ended,
started out with a glad heart and springing step. In half an hour
she reached the little white gate, and found Mrs. Williams waiting
there to welcome her. Everything was new and neat; the tastefully
selected carpets were not tapestry, but cheap ingrain; the snowy
curtains were of plain dimity, with rose-colored borders, and the
tea table held, instead of costly Sevres, simple white china, with a
band of gilt. A bright fire crackled and glowed in the chimney, and,
as Beulah stood on the hearth and glanced round the comfortable
little room, which was to be both parlor and dining room, she felt
her heart thrill with delight, and exclaimed:
"This is home! at last I feel that I have a home of my own. Not the
Rothschilds, in their palaces, are so happy as I!"
For years she had been a wanderer, with no hearthstone, and now, for
the first time since her father's death she was at home. Not the
home of adoption; nor the cheerless room of a boarding house, but
the humble home which labor and rigid economy had earned for her.
Her heart bounded with joy; an unwonted glow suffused her cheeks,
and her parted lips trembled. The evening passed quickly, and when
she retired to her own room she was surprised to find a handsome
rosewood bookcase and desk occupying one corner. She opened the
glass doors and saw her books carefully arranged on the shelves.
Could her guardian have sent it? No; since her refusal of the watch,
she felt sure he would not have offered it. A small note lay on the
shelf, and, recognizing the delicate handwriting, she read the
lines, containing these words:
"BEULAH: Accept the accompanying case and desk as a slight testimony
of the affection of
"Your sincere friend,
Tears sprang into her eyes as she opened the desk and discovered an
elegant pen and pencil and every convenience connected with writing.
Turning away, she saw beside the fire a large, deep easy-chair,
cushioned with purple morocco, and knew it was exactly like one she
had often seen in Dr. Asbury's library. On the back was pinned a
narrow slip of paper, and she read, in the doctor's scrawling,
"Child, don't be too proud to use it."
She was not. Throwing herself into the luxurious chair, she broke
the seal of a letter received that day from Pauline Mortimor. Once
before, soon after her marriage, a few lines of gay greeting had
come, and then many months had elapsed. As she unfolded the sheet
she saw, with sorrow, that in several places it was blotted with
tears; and the contents, written in a paroxysm of passion, disclosed
a state of wretchedness which Beulah little suspected. Pauline's
impulsive, fitful nature was clearly indexed in the letter, and,
after a brief apology for her long silence, she wrote as follows:
"Oh, Beulah, I am so miserable; so very, very wretched Beulah,
Ernest does not love me! You will scarcely believe me, Oh, I hardly
know how to believe it myself! Uncle Guy was right; I do not suit
Ernest. But I loved him so very, very dearly, and thought him so
devoted to me. Fool that I was! my eyes are opened at last. Beulah,
it nearly drives me wild to think that I am bound to him for life,
an unloved wife. Not a year has passed since our marriage, yet
already he has tired of my 'pretty face.' Oh, Beulah, if I could
only come to you, and put my arms round your neck, and lay my poor,
weary head down on your shoulder, then I could tell you all--"
[Here several sentences were illegible from tears, and she could
only read what followed.]
"Since yesterday morning Ernest has not spoken to me. While I write
he is sitting in the next room, reading, as cold, indifferent, and
calm as if I were not perfectly wretched. He is tyrannical; and
because I do not humor all his whims, and have some will of my own,
he treats me with insulting indifference. He is angry now because I
resented some of his father's impertinent speeches about my dress.
This is not the first nor the second time that we have quarreled. He
has an old-maid sister who is forever meddling about my affairs and
sneering at my domestic arrangements; and because I finally told her
I believed I was mistress of my own house Ernest has never forgiven
me. Ellen (the sister I loved and went to school with) has married
and moved to a distant part of the State. The other members of his
family are bigoted, proud, and parsimonious, and they have chiefly
made the breach between us. Oh, Beulah, if I could only undo the
past, and be Pauline Chilton once more! Oh, if I could be free and
happy again! But there is no prospect of that. I am his wife, as he
told me yesterday, and suppose I must drag out a miserable
existence. Yet I will not be trampled on by his family! His sister
spends much of her time with us; reads to Ernest, talks to him about
things that she glories in telling me I don't understand the first
word of. Beulah, I was anxious to study and make myself a companion
for him; but, try as I may, Lucy contrives always to fret and thwart
me. Two days ago she nearly drove me beside myself with her sneers
and allusions to my great mental inferiority to Ernest (as if I were
not often enough painfully reminded of the fact without any of her
assistance!). I know I should not have said it, but I was too angry
to think of propriety, and told her that her presence in my home was
very disagreeable. Oh, if you could have seen her insulting smile,
as she answered that her 'noble brother needed her, and she felt it
a duty to remain with him.' Beulah, I love my husband; I would do
anything on earth to make him happy if we were left to ourselves,
but as to submitting to Lucy's arrogance and sneers, I will not!
Ernest requires me to apologize to his father and sister, and I told
him I would not! I would die first! He does not love me or he would
shield me from such trials. He thinks his sister is perfection, and
I tell you I do absolutely detest her. Now, Beulah, there is no one
else to whom I would mention my unhappiness. Mother does not suspect
it, and never shall, even when she visits me. Uncle Guy predicted
it, and I would not have him know it for the universe. But I can
trust you; I feel that you will sympathize with me, and I want you
to counsel me. Oh, tell me what I ought to do to rid myself of this
tormenting sister-in-law and father-in-law, and, I may say, all
Ernest's kin. Sometimes, when I think of the future, I absolutely
shudder; for if matters go on this way much longer I shall learn to
hate my husband too. He knew my disposition before he married me,
and has no right to treat me as he does. If it were only Ernest I
could bring myself to 'obey' him, for I love him very devotedly; but
as to being dictated to by all his relatives, I never will! Beulah,
burn this blurred letter; don't let anybody know how drearily I am
situated. I am too proud to have my misery published. To know that
people pitied me would kill me. I never can be happy again, but
perhaps you can help me to be less miserable. Do write to me! Oh,
how I wish you could come to me! I charge you, Beulah, don't let
Uncle Guy know that I am not happy. Good-by. Oh, if ever you marry,
be sure your husband has no old-maid sisters and no officious kin! I
am crying so that I can barely see the lines. Good-by, dear Beulah."
Beulah leaned forward and dropped the letter into the glowing mass
of coals. It shriveled, blazed, and vanished, and, with a heavy
sigh, she sat pondering the painful contents. What advice could she
possibly give that would remedy the trouble? She was aware that the
young wife must indeed have been "very wretched" before she could
consent to disclose her domestic feuds to another. Under happier
auspices she felt that Pauline would have made a devoted, gentle
wife, but feared it was now too late to mold her character in
conformity with her husband's wishes. "So much for a union of
uncongenial natures," thought Beulah, as she prepared to answer the
unlucky letter. As guardedly as possible she alluded to Mr. Mortimor
and his family, and urged Pauline to talk to her husband gently but
firmly, and assure him that the continued interference of his family
was unendurable. If her remonstrances proved futile, to do what she
considered due to herself as mistress of her own establishment, and
try not to notice the annoyances of others. Beulah felt and
acknowledged her inability to advise the young wife in the difficult
position in which she was placed, and closed by assuring her that
only her own good sense, guided by sincere love for her husband,
could rightly direct her course. She was warmly attached to Pauline,
and it was with a troubled heart that she addressed her reply.
The Grahams were all at home again, and Eugene and his bride had
been for several weeks fairly settled in their elegant new house.
Beulah had seen none of the family since their return, for her time
was nearly all occupied, and as soon as released from school she
gladly hurried out to her little home. One evening as she left the
academy Mr. Graham's spirited horses dashed up to the gate, and the
coachman handed her a note. It was from Mrs. Graham.
"Cornelia is quite indisposed, and begs that you will call and see
her this afternoon. As it threatens rain, I send the carriage.
Beulah crumpled the note between her fingers, and hesitated. The
coachman perceived her irresolution, and hastened to say:
"You needn't be afraid of the horses, miss. Miss Nett' rides so much
they are tamed down."
"I am not at all afraid of the horses. Has Cornelia been sick since
her return from the North?"
"Why, miss, she came home worse than ever. She has not been
downstairs since. She is sick all the time now."
Beulah hesitated no longer. Mrs. Graham met her at the door, and
greeted her more cordially than she had done on any previous
occasion. She looked anxious and weary, and said, as she led the way
to her daughter's apartment:
"We are quite uneasy about Cornelia; you will find her sadly
altered." She ushered Beulah into the room, then immediately
Cornelia was propped up by cushions and pillows in her easy-chair;
her head was thrown back, and her gaze appeared to be riveted on a
painting which hung opposite. Beulah stood beside her a moment,
unnoticed, and saw with painful surprise the ravages which disease
had made in the once beautiful face and queenly form. The black,
shining hair was cut short, and clustered in thick, wavy locks about
the wan brow, now corrugated as by some spasm of pain. The cheeks
were hollow and ghastly pale; the eyes sunken, but unnaturally large
and brilliant; and the colorless lips compressed as though to bear
habitual suffering. Her wasted hands, grasping the arms of the
chair, might have served as a model for a statue of death, so thin,
pale, almost transparent. Beulah softly touched one of them, and
"Cornelia, you wished to see me."
The invalid looked at her intently, and smiled.
"I thought you would come. Ah, Beulah, do you recognize this wreck
as your former friend?"
"I was not prepared to find you so changed; for until this afternoon
I was not aware your trip had been so fruitless. Do you suffer
"Suffer! Yes; almost all the time. But it is not the bodily torture
that troubles me so much--I could bear that in silence. It is my
mind, Beulah; my mind."
She pointed to a chair; Beulah drew it near her, and Cornelia
"I thought I should die suddenly; but it is to be otherwise The
torture is slow, lingering. I shall never leave this house again,
except to go to my final home. Beulah, I have wanted to see you very
much; I thought you would hear of my illness and come. How calm and
pale you are! Give me your hand. Ah, cool and pleasant; mine parched
with fever. And you have a little home of your own, I hear. How have
things gone with you since we parted? Are you happy?"
"My little home is pleasant, and my wants are few," replied Beulah.
"Have you seen Eugene recently?"
"Not since his marriage."
A bitter laugh escaped Cornelia's lips, as she writhed an instant,
and then said:
"I knew how it would be. I shall not live to see the end, but you
will. Ha, Beulah! already he has discovered his mistake. I did not
expect it so soon; I fancied Antoinette had more policy. She has
dropped the mask. He sees himself wedded to a woman completely
devoid of truth; he knows her now as she is--as I tried to show him
she was before it was too late; and, Beulah, as I expected, he has
grown reckless--desperate. Ah, if you could have witnessed a scene
at the St. Nicholas, in New York, not long since, you would have
wept over him. He found his bride heartless; saw that she preferred
the society of other gentlemen to his; that she lived only for the
adulation of the crowd; and one evening, on coming home to the
hotel, found she had gone to the opera with a party she knew he
detested. Beulah, it sickens me when I think of his fierce railings,
and anguish, and scorn. He drank in mad defiance, and when she
returned greeted her with imprecations that would have bowed any
other woman, in utter humiliation, into the dust. She laughed
derisively, told him he might amuse himself as he chose, she would
not heed his wishes as regarded her own movements. Luckily, my
parents knew nothing of it; they little suspected, nor do they now
know, why I was taken so alarmingly ill before dawn. I am glad I am
to go so soon. I could not endure to witness his misery and
She closed her eyes and groaned.
"What induced her to marry him?" asked Beulah.
"Only her own false heart knows. But I have always believed she was
chiefly influenced by a desire to escape from the strict discipline
to which her father subjected her at home. Her mother was anything
but a model of propriety; and her mother's sister, who was Dr.
Hartwell's wife, was not more exemplary. My uncle endeavored to curb
Antoinette's dangerous fondness for display and dissipation, and she
fancied that, as Eugene's wife, she could freely plunge into
gayeties which were sparingly allowed her at home. I know she does
not love Eugene; she never did; and, assuredly, his future is dark
enough. I believe, if she could reform him she would not; his
excesses sanction, or at least in some degree palliate, hers. Oh,
Beulah, I see no hope for him!"
"Have you talked to him kindly, Cornelia? Have you faithfully
exerted your influence to check him in his route to ruin?"
"Talked to him? Aye; entreated, remonstrated, upbraided, used every
argument at my command. But I might as well talk to the winds and
hope to hush their fury. I shall not stay to see his end; I shall
soon be silent and beyond all suffering. Death is welcome, very
Her breathing was quick and difficult, and two crimson spots burned
on her sallow cheeks. Her whole face told of years of bitterness,
and a grim defiance of death, which sent a shudder through Beulah,
as she listened to the panting breath. Cornelia saturated her
handkerchief with some delicate perfume from a crystal vase, and,
passing it over her face, continued:
"They tell me it is time I should be confirmed; talk vaguely of
seeing preachers, and taking the sacrament, and preparing myself, as
if I could be frightened into religion and the church. My mother
seems just to have waked up to a knowledge of my spiritual
condition, as she calls it. Ah, Beulah, it is all dark before me;
black, black as midnight! I am going down to an eternal night; down
to annihilation. Yes, Beulah; soon I shall descend into what
Schiller's Moor calls the 'nameless yonder.' Before long I shall
have done with mystery; shall be sunk into unbroken rest." A ghastly
smile parted her lips as she spoke.
"Cornelia, do you fear death?"
"No; not exactly. I am glad I am so soon to be rid of my vexed,
joyless life; but you know it is all a dark mystery; and sometimes,
when I recollect how I felt in my childhood, I shrink from the final
dissolution. I have no hopes of a blissful future, such as cheer
some people in their last hour. Of what comes after death I know and
believe nothing. Occasionally I shiver at the thought of
annihilation; but if, after all, revelation is true, I have
something worse than annihilation to fear. You know the history of
my skepticism; it is the history of hundreds in this age. The
inconsistencies of professing Christians disgusted me. Perhaps I was
wrong to reject the doctrines because of their abuse; but it is too
late now for me to consider that. I narrowly watched the conduct of
some of the members of the various churches, and, as I live, Beulah,
I have never seen but one who practiced the precepts of Christ. I
concluded she would have been just what she was without religious
aids. One of my mother's intimate friends was an ostentatious,
pharisaical Christian; gave alms, headed charity lists; was
remarkably punctual in her attendance at church, and apparently very
devout; yet I accidentally found out that she treated a poor
seamstress (whom she hired for a paltry sum) in a manner that
shocked my ideas of consistency, of common humanity. The girl was
miserably poor, and had aged parents and brothers and sisters
dependent on her exertions; but her Christian employer paid her the
lowest possible price, and trampled on her feelings as though she
had been a brute. Oh, the hollowness of the religion I saw
practiced! I sneered at everything connected with churches, and
heard no more sermons, which seemed only to make hypocrites and
pharisees of the congregation. I have never known but one exception.
Mrs. Asbury is a consistent Christian. I have watched her, under
various circumstances; I have tempted her, in divers ways, to test
her, and to-day, skeptic as I am, I admire and revere that noble
woman. If all Christians set an example as pure and bright as hers,
there were less infidelity and atheism in the land. If I had known
even half a dozen such I might have had a faith to cheer me in the
hour of my struggle. She used to talk gently to me in days past, but
I would not heed her. She often comes to see me now; and though I do
not believe the words of comfort that fall from her lips, still they
soothe me; and I love to have her sit near me, that I may look at
her sweet, holy face, so full of winning purity. Beulah, a year ago
we talked of these things. I was then, as now, hopeless of creeds,
of truth, but you were sure you would find the truth. I looked at
you eagerly when you came in, knowing I could read the result in
your countenance. Ah, there is no peace written there! Where is your
truth? Show it to me."
She twined her thin, hot fingers round Beulah's cold hand, and spoke
in a weary tone. The orphan's features twitched an instant, and her
old troubled look came back, as she said:
"I wish I could help you, Cornelia. It must be terrible, indeed, to
stand on the brink of the grave and have no belief in anything. I
would give more than I possess to be able to assist you, but I
cannot; I have no truth to offer you; I have yet discovered nothing
for myself. I am not so sanguine as I was a year ago, but I still
hope that I shall succeed."
"You will not; you will not. It is all mocking mystery, and no more
than the aggregated generations of the past can you find any
Cornelia shook her head, and leaned back in her chair.
"Philosophy promises one," replied Beulah resolutely.
"Philosophy! Take care! That hidden rock stranded me. Listen to me.
Philosophy, or, what is nowadays its synonym, metaphysical systems,
are worse than useless. They will make you doubt your own individual
existence, if that be possible. I am older than you; I am a sample
of the efficacy of such systems. Oh, the so-called philosophers of
this century and the last are crowned heads of humbuggery! Adepts in
the famous art of"
"'Wrapping nonsense round,
With pomp and darkness, till it seems profound.'"
"They mock earnest, enquiring minds with their refined,
infinitesimal, homeopathic 'developments' of deity; metaphysical
wolves in Socratic cloaks. Oh, they have much to answer for! 'Spring
of philosophy!' ha! ha! They have made a frog pond of it, in which
to launch their flimsy, painted toy barks. Have done with them,
Beulah, or you will be miserably duped."
"Have you lost faith in Emerson and Theodore Parker?" asked Beulah.
"Yes; lost faith in everything and everybody, except Mrs. Asbury.
Emerson's atheistic fatalism is enough to unhinge human reason; he
is a great and, I believe, an honest thinker, and of his genius I
have the profoundest admiration. An intellectual Titan, he wages a
desperate war with received creeds, and, rising on the ruins of
systems, struggles to scale the battlements of truth. As for Parker,
a careful perusal of his works was enough to disgust me. But no more
of this, Beulah--so long as you have found nothing to rest upon. I
had hoped much from your earnest search; but since it has been
futile, let the subject drop. Give me that glass of medicine. Dr.
Hartwell was here just before you came. He is morose and haggard;
what ails him?"
"I really don't know. I have not seen him for several months--not
since August, I believe."
"So I supposed, as I questioned him about you; and he seemed
ignorant of your movements. Beulah, does not life look dreary and
tedious when you anticipate years of labor and care? Teaching is not
child's sport. Are you not already weary in spirit?"
"No, I am not weary; neither does life seem joyless. I know that I
shall have to labor for a support; but necessity always supplies
strength. I have many, very many sources of happiness, and look
forward, hopefully, to a life of usefulness."
"Do you intend to teach all your days? Are you going to wear out
your life over primers and slates?"
"Perhaps so. I know not how else I shall more easily earn a
"I trust you will marry, and be exempted from that dull, tedious
routine," said Cornelia, watching her countenance.
Beulah made a gesture of impatience.
"That is a mode of exemption so extremely remote that I never
consider it. I do not find teaching so disagreeable as you imagine,
and dare say at fifty (if I live that long) I shall still be in a
schoolroom. Remember the trite line:"
"'I dreamed, and thought that life was beauty
I woke, and found that life was duty'"
"Labor, mental and physical, is the heritage of humanity, and
happiness is inseparably bound up with the discharge of duty. It is
a divine decree that all should work, and a compliance with that
decree insures a proper development of the moral, intellectual, and
"You are brave, Beulah, and have more of hope in your nature than I.
For twenty-three years I have been a petted child; but life has
given me little enjoyment. Often have I asked, Why was I created?
for what am I destined? I have been like a gilded bubble, tossed
about by every breath! Oh, Beulah! often, in the desolation of my
heart, I have recalled that grim passage of Pollok's, and that that
verily I was that
"'Atom which God
Had made superfluously, and needed not
To build creation with, but back again
To nothing threw, and left it in the void,
With everlasting sense, that once it was!'"
"My life has not been useful, it has been but joyless, and clouded
with the shadow of death from my childhood."
Her voice was broken, and tears trickled over her emaciated face.
She put up her thin hand and brushed them away, as if ashamed of her
"Sometimes I think if I could only live, and be strong, I would make
myself useful in the world--would try to be less selfish and
exacting, but all regrets are vain, and the indulged child of luxury
must take her place in the pale realms of death along with the
poverty-stricken and laboring. Beulah, I was in pain last night, and
could not sleep, and for hours I seemed to hear the words of that
horrible vision: 'And he saw how world after world shook off its
glimmering souls upon the sea of Death, as a water-bubble scatters
swimming lights on the waves.' Oh! my mind is clouded and my heart
hopeless, it is dismal to stand alone as I do, and confront the
final issue, without belief in anything. Sometimes, when the
paroxysms are severe and prolonged, I grow impatient of the tedious
delay, and would spring, open-armed, to meet Death, the deliverer."
Beulah was deeply moved, and answered, with a faltering voice and
"I wish I could comfort and cheer you; but I cannot--I cannot! If
the hand of disease placed me to-day on the brink beside you, I
should be as hopeless as you. Oh, Cornelia! it makes my heart ache
to look at you now, and I would give my life to be able to stand
where you do, with a calm trust in the God of Israel; but--"
"Then be warned by my example. In many respects we resemble each
other; our pursuits have been similar. Beulah, do not follow me to
the end! Take my word for it, all is dark and grim."
She sank back, too much exhausted to continue the conversation, and
Beulah rose to go.
"Can't you stay with me?" said the feeble girl.
"No; my companionship is no benefit to you now. If I could help you
I would not leave you at all."
She pressed her lips to the forehead furrowed by suffering, and
It was dusk when she reached home, and, passing the dining room,
where the tea table awaited her arrival, she sought her own
apartment. A cheerful fire blazed in welcome; but just now all
things were somber to her vision, and she threw herself into a chair
and covered her face with her hands. Like a haunting specter,
Cornelia's haggard countenance pursued her, and a dull foreboding
pointed to a coming season when she, too, would quit earth in
hopeless uncertainty. She thought of her guardian and his skeptical
misanthropy. He had explored every by-path of speculation, and after
years of study and investigation had given up in despair, and
settled down into a refined pantheism. Could she hope to succeed
better? Was her intellect so vastly superior to those who for
thousands of years had puzzled by midnight lamps over these
identical questions of origin and destiny? What was the speculation
of all ages, from Thales to Comte, to the dying girl she had just
left? Poor Beulah! For the first time her courage forsook her, and
bitter tears gushed over her white cheeks. There was no stony
bitterness in her face, but an unlifting shadow that mutely revealed
the unnumbered hours of strife and desolation which were slowly
bowing that brave heart to the dust. She shuddered, as now, in self-
communion, she felt that atheism, grim and murderous, stood at the
entrance of her soul, and threw its benumbing shadow into the inmost
recesses. Unbelief hung its murky vapors about her heart, curtaining
it from the sunshine of God's smile. It was not difficult to trace
her gradual progress if so she might term her unsatisfactory
journey. Rejecting literal revelation, she was perplexed to draw the
exact line of demarcation between myths and realities; then followed
doubts as to the necessity, and finally as to the probability and
possibility, of an external, verbal revelation. A revealed code or
system was antagonistic to the doctrines of rationalism; her own
consciousness must furnish the necessary data. But how far was
"individualism" allowable? And here the hydra of speculation reared
its horrid head; if consciousness alone furnished truth, it was but
true for her, true according to the formation of her mind, but not
absolutely true. Admit the supremacy of the individual reason, and
she could not deny "that the individual mind is the generating
principle of all human knowledge; that the soul of man is like the
silkworm, which weaves its universe out of its own being; that the
whole mass of knowledge to which we can ever attain lies potentially
within us from the beginning; that all truth is nothing more than a
She became entangled in the finely spun webs of ontology, and knew
not what she believed. Her guardian's words rang in her ears like a
knell. "You must accept either utter skepticism, or absolute,
A volume which she had been reading the night before lay on the
table, and she opened it at the following passage:
"Every being is sufficient to itself; that is, every being is, in
and by itself, infinite: has its God, its highest conceivable being,
in itself. The object of any subject is nothing else than the
subject's own nature taken objectively. Such as are a man's thoughts
and dispositions, such is his God! Consciousness of God is self-
consciousness; by his God, you know the man, and by the man, his
God: the two are identical! Religion is merely the consciousness
which a man has of his own, not limited, but infinite, nature; it is
an early form of self-knowledge. God is the objective nature of the
Thus much Feuerbach offered her. She put down the book and leaned
her head wearily on her hands. A light touch on her arm caused her
to glance up, and Mrs. Williams' anxious face looked down at her.
"What is the matter with you, Beulah? Are you sick?"
"No; I am as well as usual." She hastily averted her head.
"But something troubles you, child!"
"Yes; a great many things trouble me; but I am used to troubles, you
know, and can cope with them unaided."
"Won't you tell me what they are, Beulah?"
"You cannot help me, or I would. One cause of sorrow, however, is
the approaching death of a friend whom I shall miss and mourn.
Cornelia Graham cannot live much longer. I saw her this evening, and
found that she has become sadly altered."
"She is young to die," said the matron, with a sigh.
"Yes; only twenty-three."
"Perhaps her death will be the means of reclaiming my poor boy."
Beulah shook her head, and Mrs. Williams added:
"She has lived only for this world and its pleasures. Is she afraid
of the world to come? Can she die peacefully?"
"She will die calmly, but not hopefully. She does not believe in
She felt that the matron was searching her countenance, and was not
surprised when she said falteringly:
"Neither do you believe in it. Oh, Beulah! I have known it since you
came to reside under the same roof with me, and I have wept and
prayed over you almost as much as over Eugene. When Sabbath after
Sabbath passed, and you absented yourself from church, I knew
something was wrong. Beulah, who has taught you infidelity? Oh, it
would have been better that you too had followed Lilly, in the early
days when you were pure in heart! Much as I love you, I would rather
weep over your grave than know you had lived to forget God."
Beulah made no reply; and, passing her hands tenderly over the
girl's head, she continued:
"When you came to me, a little child, I taught you your morning and
evening prayers. Oh, Beulah! Beulah! now you lay down to sleep
without a thought of prayer. My child, what is to become of you?"
"I don't know. But do not be distressed about me; I am trying to do
my duty just as conscientiously as though I went to church."
"Don't deceive yourself, dear child. If you cease to pray and read
your Bible, how are you to know what your duty is? How are you to
keep yourself 'pure and unspotted from the world'? Beulah, a man
without religion is to be pitied; but, oh! a Godless woman is a
horror above all things. It is no marvel you look so anxious and
hollow-eyed. You have forsaken the 'ways of pleasantness and the
paths of peace.'"
"I am responsible to no one for my opinions."
"Yes, you are; responsible to God, for he has given truth to the
world, and when you shut your eyes, and willingly walk in darkness,
he will judge you accordingly. If you had lived in an Indian jungle,
out of hearing of Gospel truth, then God would not have expected
anything but idolatry from you; but you live in a Christian land; in
the land of Bibles, and 'to whom much is given, much will be
expected.' The people of this generation are running after new
doctrines, and overtake much error. Beulah, since I have seen you
sitting up nearly all night, pouring over books that rail at Jesus
and his doctrines, I have repented the hour I first suggested your
educating yourself to teach. If this is what all your learning has
brought you to, it would have been better if you had been put out to
learn millinery or mantua-making. Oh, my child, you have been my
greatest pride, but now you are a grief to me!"
She took Beulah's hand in hers, and pressed her lips to it, while
the tears fell thick and fast. The orphan was not unmoved; her
lashes were heavy with unshed drops, but she said nothing.
"Beulah, I am fifty-five years old; I have seen a great deal of the
world, and, I tell you, I have never yet known a happy man or woman
who did not reverence God and religion. I can see that you are not
happy. Child, you never will be so long as you wander away from God.
I pray for you; but you must also pray for yourself. May God help
you, my dear child!"
She left her, knowing her nature too well to hope to convince her of
Beulah remained for some time in the same position, with her eyes
fixed on the fire, and her forehead plowed by torturing thought. The
striking of the clock roused her from her reverie, and, drawing a
chair near her desk, she took up her pen to complete an article due
the next day at the magazine office. Ah, how little the readers
dreamed of the heavy heart that put aside its troubles to labor for
their amusement! To-night she did not succeed as well as usual; her
manuscript was blurred, and, forced to copy the greater part of it,
the clock struck three before she laid her weary head on her pillow.
Mr. Graham sat by his daughter's bed, with his elbow resting on her
pillow and his head drooped on his hand. It was noon, and sunshine
sparkled out of doors; but here the heavy curtains swept across the
windows and cast a lurid light over the sickroom. His heart ached as
he looked upon the wreck of his once brilliant and beautiful child,
and he shaded his face to conceal the tears which stole down his
furrowed cheeks. The restless sufferer threw up her arms over the
pillow, and, turning toward him, said in a voice sharpened by
"Has mother gone? I want to say something to you."
"We are alone, my child; speak to me freely."
"There are a few things I wish to have arranged, and my time is
short. You have never refused me any gratification I desired, and I
know you will grant my last request. Father, if I were a bride to-
day, what would be my portion of the estate? How much would you give
"I would give every cent I possess to purchase you a life of
"You do not understand me. I have always been considered an heiress,
and I want to know how much I would be entitled to, if I should
live? Of course Eugene has an equal share. How much is it?"
"About eighty thousand dollars apiece, I suppose, leaving as much
for your mother. Why do you ask, my daughter?"
"Eighty thousand dollars. How much good might be done with it, if
judiciously distributed and invested! Father, I shall not live to
squander it in frivolous amusements or superfluous luxuries. Are you
willing that I should dispose of a portion of it before my death?"
"Yes, Cornelia, if it will afford you any gratification. My poor,
afflicted child; how can I deny you anything you choose to ask?"
She put up one arm around his neck, and, drawing his head close to
her, said earnestly:
"I only wish to use a part of it. Father, I want to leave Beulah
about five thousand dollars. That sum will enable her to live more
comfortably, and labor less, and I should like to feel, before I
die, that I had been the means of assisting her. Will you invest
that amount in stocks for her, or pay the money into her own hands?
Will you see that it is arranged so that she will certainly receive
it, no matter what happens?"
"Yes, I promise you that she shall have five thousand dollars, to
dispose of as she thinks proper."
"She is proud, and will not receive it willingly; but you must
arrange it so that she will be benefited by it. Father, can you do
this for me?"
"Yes, without difficulty, I think."
"Let it be kept secret, will you?"
"Rest assured it shall have no unnecessary publicity."
"See that it is conveyed to her so securely that no quibbles of law
can wrest it from her at any future day, for none of us knows what
"I promise you she shall have it if I live twelve hours longer."
"Then I want five thousand more given to the orphan asylum. Give it
in your own name. You only have the right to give. Don't have my
name mentioned in the matter. Will you promise me this also?"
"Yes; it shall all be done. Is there anything else?"
"Thank you, that is all, as regards money matters. Raise my pillow a
little; there, that will do. Father, can't you do something to save
Eugene? You must see now how reckless he is growing."
"Recently I have expostulated with him, and he seemed disposed to
reform his habits. Acknowledged that his associations had been
injurious, and regretted the excesses into which he had been led. He
has been rather wild since he came from college; but I think, now he
is married, he will sober down. That is one reason why I encouraged
his marrying so early. Intemperance is his only fault, and I trust
his good sense will soon lead him to correct it." A smothered sigh
concluded the sentence.
"Father, Antoinette is not the woman to reform him. Don't trust to
her influence; if you do, Eugene will be ruined. Watch over him
closely yourself; try to win him away from the haunts of
dissipation; I tell you now his wife will never do it. She has duped
you and my mother as to her character, but you will find that she is
as utterly heartless as her own mother was. I always opposed the
match, because I probed her mask of dissimulation, and knew Eugene
could not be happy with her. But the mistake is irretrievable, and
it only remains for you to watch him the more carefully. Lift me,
father; I can't breathe easily. There is the doctor on the steps; I am
too tired to talk any more to-day."
One week later, as Beulah was spending her Sabbath evening in her
own apartment, she was summoned to see her friend for the last time.
It was twilight when she reached Mr. Graham's house and glided
noiselessly up the thickly carpeted stairway. The bells were all
muffled, and a solemn stillness reigned over the mansion. She left
her bonnet and shawl in the hall, and softly entered the chamber
unannounced. Unable to breathe in a horizontal position, Cornelia
was bolstered up in her easychair. Her mother sat near her, with her
face hid on her husband's bosom. Dr. Hartwell leaned against the
mantel, and Eugene stood on the hearth opposite him, with his head
bowed down on his hands. Cornelia drew her breath in quick gasps,
and cold drops glistened on her pallid face. Her sunken eyes
wandered over the group, and when Beulah drew near she extended her
hands eagerly, while a shadowy smile passed swiftly over her
"Beulah, come close to me--close." She grasped her hands tightly,
and Beulah knelt at the side of her chair.
"Beulah, in a little while I shall be at rest. You will rejoice to
see me free from pain, won't you? I have suffered for so many months
and years. But death is about to release me forever. Beulah, is it
forever?--is it forever? Am I going down into an eternal sleep, on a
marble couch, where grass and flowers will wave over me, and the sun
shine down on me? Yes, it must be so. Who has ever waked from this
last dreamless slumber? Abel was the first to fall asleep, and since
then, who has wakened? No one. Earth is full of pale sleepers; and I
am soon to join the silent band."
There was a flickering light in her eyes, like the flame of a candle
low in its socket, and her panting breath was painful to listen to.
"Cornelia, they say Jesus of Nazareth slept, and woke again; if so,
"Ha, but you don't believe that, Beulah. They say, they say! Yes.
but I never believed them before, and I don't want to believe them
now. I will not believe it. It is too late to tell me that now.
Beulah, I shall know very soon; the veil of mystery is being lifted.
Oh, Beulah, I am glad I am going; glad I shall soon have no more
sorrow and pain; but it is all dark, dark! You know what I mean.
Don't live as I have, believing nothing. No matter what your creed
may be, hold fast, have firm faith in it. It is because I believe in
nothing that I am so clouded now. Oh, it is such a dark, dark,
lonely way! If I had a friend to go with me I should not shrink
back; but oh, Beulah, I am so solitary! It seems to me I am going
out into a great starless midnight." She shivered, and her cold
fingers clutched Beulah's convulsively.
"Calm yourself, Cornelia. If Christianity is true, God will see that
you were honest in your skepticism, and judge you leniently. If not,
then death is annihilation, and you have nothing to dread; you will
sink into quiet oblivion of all your griefs."
"Annihilation! then I shall see you all no more! Oh, why was I ever
created, to love others, and then be torn away forever, and go back
to senseless dust? I never have been happy; I have always had
aspirations after purer, higher enjoyments than earth could afford
me, and must they be lost in dead clay? Oh, Beulah, can you give me
no comfort but this? Is this the sum of all your study, as well as
mine? Ah, it is vain, useless; man can find out nothing. We are all
blind; groping our way through mysterious paths, and now I am going
into the last--the great mystery!"
She shook her head with a bitter smile, and closed her eyes, as if
to shut out some hideous specter. Dr. Hartwell gave her a spoonful
of some powerful medicine, and stood watching her face, distorted by
the difficulty of breathing. A long silence ensued, broken only by
the sobs of the parents. Cornelia leaned back, with closed eyes, and
now and then her lips moved, but nothing intelligible escaped them.
It was surprising how she seemed to rally sometimes, and breathe
with perfect ease; then the paroxysms would come on more violent
than ever. Beulah knelt on the floor, with her forehead resting on
the arm of the chair, and her hands still grasped in the firm hold
of the dying girl. Time seemed to stand still to watch the issue,
for moments were long as hours to the few friends of the sufferer.
Beulah felt as if her heart were leaden, and a band of burning iron
seemed drawn about her brow. Was this painful parting to be indeed
eternal? Was there no future home for the dead of this world? Should
the bands of love and friendship, thus rudely severed, be renewed no
more? Was there no land where the broken links might be gathered up
again? What did philosophy say of these grim hours of struggle and
separation? Nothing--absolutely nothing! Was she to see her sister
no more? Was a moldering mass of dust all that remained of the
darling dead--the beautiful angel Lilly, whom she had so idolized?
Oh! was life, then, a great mockery, and the soul, with its noble
aims and impulses, but a delicate machine of matter? Her brain was
in a wild, maddening whirl; she could not weep; her eyes were dry
and burning. Cornelia moved an instant, and murmured audibly:
"'For here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come.' Ah!
what is its name? that 'continuing city'! Necropolis?" Again she
remained for some time speechless.
Dr. Hartwell softly wiped away the glistening drops on her brow,
and, opening her eyes, she looked up at him intently. It was an
imploring gaze, which mutely said: "Can't you help me?" He leaned
over, and answered it, sadly enough:
"Courage, Cornelia! It will very soon be over now. The worst is
past, my friend."
"Yes; I know. There is a chill creeping over me. Where is Eugene?"
He came and stood near her; his face full of anguish, which could
not vent itself in tears. Her features became convulsed as she
looked at him; a wailing cry broke from her lips; and, extending her
arms toward him, she said sobbingly:
"Shall I see you no more--no more? Oh, Eugene, my brother, my pride,
my dearest hope! whom I have loved better than my own life, are we
now parted forever--forever!"
He laid her head on his bosom, and endeavored to soothe her; but,
clinging to him, she said huskily:
"Eugene, with my last breath I implore you; forsake your intemperate
companions. Shun them and their haunts. Let me die feeling that at
least my dying prayer will save you! Oh, when I am gone; when I am
silent in the graveyard, remember how the thought of your
intemperance tortured me! Remember how I remonstrated and entreated
you not to ruin yourself! Remember that I loved you above everything
on earth; and that, in my last hour, I prayed you to save yourself!
Oh, Eugene, for my sake! for my sake! quit the wine-cup, and leave
drunkenness for others more degraded!--Promise me!--Where are you?--
Oh, it is all cold and dark!--I can't see you!--Eugene, promise!
Her eyes were riveted on his, and her lips moved for some seconds;
then the clasping arms gradually relaxed; the gasps ceased. Eugene
felt a long shudder creep over the limbs, a deep, heavy sigh passed
her lips, and Cornelia Graham's soul was with its God.
Ah! after twenty-three years of hope and fear, struggling and
questioning, what an exit! Eugene lifted the attenuated form and
placed it on the bed; then threw himself into her vacant chair, and
sobbed like a broken-hearted child. Mr. Graham took his wife from
the room; and, after some minutes, Dr. Hartwell touched the kneeling
figure, with the face still pressed against the chair Eugene now
"Come, Beulah; she will want you no more."
She lifted a countenance so full of woe that, as he looked at her,
the moisture gathered in his eyes, and he put his hand tenderly on
her head, saying:
"Come with me, Beulah."
"And this is death? Oh, my God, save me from such a death!"
She clasped her hands over her eyes, and shivered; then, rising from
her kneeling posture, threw herself on a couch, and buried her face
in its cushions. That long night of self-communion was never
The day of the funeral was cold, dark, and dismal. A January wind
howled through the streets, and occasional drizzling showers
enhanced the gloom. The parlors and sitting room were draped, and on
the marble slab of one of the tables stood the coffin, covered with
a velvet pall. Once before Beulah had entered a room similarly
shrouded; and it seemed but yesterday that she stood beside Lilly's
rigid form. She went in alone, and waited some moments near the
coffin, striving to calm the wild tumult of conflicting sorrows in
her oppressed heart; then lifted the covering and looked on the
sleeper. Wan, waxen, and silent. No longer the fitful sleep of
disease, nor the refreshing slumber of health, but the still iciness
of ruthless death. The black locks were curled around the forehead,
and the beautiful hands folded peacefully over the heart that should
throb no more with the anguish of earth. Death had smoothed the brow
and put the trembling mouth at rest, and every feature was in
repose. In life she had never looked so placidly beautiful.
"What availed all her inquiries, and longings, and defiant cries?
She died, no nearer the truth than when she began. She died without
hope and without knowledge. Only death could unseal the mystery,"
thought Beulah, as she looked at the marble face and recalled the
bitterness of its lifelong expression. Persons began to assemble;
gradually the rooms filled. Beulah bent down and kissed the cold
lips for the last time, and, lowering her veil, retired to a dim
corner. She was very miserable, but her eyes were tearless, and she
sat, she knew not how long, unconscious of what passed around her.
She heard the stifled sobs of the bereaved parents as in a painful
dream; and when the solemn silence was broken she started, and saw a
venerable man, a stranger, standing at the head of the coffin; and
these words fell upon her ears like a message from another world:
"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; and he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and
whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die!"
Cornelia had not believed; was she utterly lost? Beulah asked
herself this question, and shrank from the answer. She did not
believe; would she die as Cornelia died, without comfort? Was there
but one salvation? When the coffin was borne out, and the procession
formed, she went on mechanically, and found herself seated in a
carriage with Mrs. Asbury and her two daughters. She sank back in
one corner, and the long line of carriages, extending for many
squares, slowly wound through the streets. The wind wailed and
sobbed, as if in sympathy, and the rain drizzled against the window
glass. When the procession reached the cemetery, it was too wet to
think of leaving the carriages, but Beulah could see the coffin
borne from the hearse, and heard the subdued voice of the minister;
and when the shrouded form of the only child was lowered into its
final resting-place, she groaned, and hid her face in her hands.
Should they meet no more? Hitherto Mrs. Asbury had forborne to
address her, but now she passed her arm round the shuddering form,
and said gently:
"My dear Beulah, do not look so hopelessly wretched. In the midst of
life we are in death; but God has given a promise to cheer us all in
sad scenes like this. St. John was told to write, 'From henceforth,
blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from, their
"And do you think she is lost forever because she did not believe?
Do you? Can you?" cried Beulah vehemently.
"Beulah, she had the Bible, which promises eternal life. If she
entirely rejected it, she did so voluntarily and deliberately; but
only God knows the heart--only her Maker can judge her. I trust that
even in the last hour the mists rolled from her mind."
Beulah knew better, but said nothing; it was enough to have
witnessed that darkened soul's last hour on earth. As the carriage
stopped at her door Mrs. Asbury said:
"My dear Beulah, stay with me to-night. I think I can help you to
find what you are seeking so earnestly."
Beulah shrank back, and answered:
"No, no. No one can help me; I must help myself. Some other time I
The rain fell heavily as she reached her own home, and she went to
her room with a heaviness of heart almost unendurable. She sat down
on the rug before the fire, and threw her arms up over a chair, as
she was wont to do in childhood; and, as she remembered that the
winter rain now beat pitilessly on the grave of one who had never
known privation, nor aught of grief that wealth could shield her
from, she moaned bitterly. What lamp had philosophy hung in the
sable chambers of the tomb? The soul was impotent to explain its
origin--how, then, could it possibly read the riddle of final
destiny? Psychologists had wrangled for ages over the question of
'ideas.' Were infants born with or without them? Did ideas arise or
develop them selves independently of experience? The affirmation or
denial of this proposition alone distinguished the numerous schools,
which had so long wrestled with psychology; and if this were
insolvable, how could human intellect question further? Could it
bridge the gulf of Death, and explore the shores of Eternity?
Time, "like a star, unhasting, yet unresting," moved on. The keen
blasts of winter were gathered back in their Northern storehouses,
and the mild airs of spring floated dreamily beneath genial skies.
The day had been cloudless and balmy, but now the long, level rays
of sunshine, darting from the horizon, told it "was well-nigh done";
and Beulah sat on the steps of her cottage home and watched the
dolphin-like death. The regal splendors of Southern springtime were
on every side; the bright, fresh green of the grassy common, with
its long, velvety slopes, where the sunshine fell slantingly; the
wild luxuriance of the Cherokee rose hedges, with their graceful
streamers gleaming with the snow powder of blossoms; the waving of
newborn foliage; the whir and chirping of birds, as they sought
their leafy shelters; brilliant patches of verbena, like flakes of
rainbow, in the neighboring gardens, and the faint, sweet odor of
violet, jasmine, roses, and honeysuckle burdening the air. Beulah
sat with her hands folded on her lap; an open book lay before her--a
volume of Euskin; but the eyes had wandered away from his gorgeous
descriptions, to another and still more entrancing volume--the
glorious page of nature; and as the swift Southern twilight gathered
she sat looking out, mute and motionless. The distant pinetops sang
their solemn, soothing lullaby, and a new moon sat royally in the
soft violet sky. Around the columns of the little portico a
luxuriant wistaria clambered, and long, purple blossoms, with their
spicy fragrance, drooped almost on Beulah's head, as she leaned it
against the pillar. The face wore a weary, suffering look; the
large, restless eyes were sadder than ever, and there were tokens of
languor in every feature. A few months had strangely changed the
countenance once so hopeful and courageous in its uplifted
expression. The wasted form bore evidence of physical suffering, and
the slender fingers were like those of a marble statue. Yet she had
never missed an hour in the schoolroom, nor omitted one iota of the
usual routine of mental labor. Rigorously the tax was levied, no
matter how the weary limbs ached or how painfully the head throbbed;
and now nature rebelled at the unremitted exaction, and clamored for
a reprieve. Mrs. Williams had been confined to her room for many
days by an attack of rheumatism, and the time devoted to her was
generally reclaimed from sleep. It was no mystery that she looked
ill and spent. Now, as she sat watching the silver crescent
glittering in the vest, her thoughts wandered to Clara Sanders, and
the last letter received from her, telling of a glorious day-star of
hope which had risen in her cloudy sky. Mr. Arlington's brother had
taught her that the dream of her girlhood was but a fleeting fancy,
that she could love again more truly than before, and in the summer
holidays she was to give him her hand and receive his name. Beulah
rejoiced in her friend's happiness; but a dim foreboding arose lest,
as in Pauline's case, thorns should spring up in paths where now
only blossoms were visible. Since that letter, so full of complaint
and sorrow, no tidings had come from Pauline. Many months had
elapsed, and Beulah wondered more and more at the prolonged silence.
She had written several times, but received no answer, and
imagination painted a wretched young wife in that distant parsonage.
Early in spring she learned from Dr. Asbury that Mr. Lockhart had
died at his plantation of consumption, and she conjectured that Mrs.
Lockhart must be with her daughter. Beulah half rose, then leaned
back against the column, sighed involuntarily, and listened to that
"still, small voice of the level twilight behind purple hills." Mrs.
Williams was asleep, but the tea table waited for her, and in her
own room, on her desk, lay an unfinished manuscript which was due
the editor the next morning. She was rigidly punctual in handing in
her contributions, cost her what it might; yet now she shrank from
the task of copying and punctuating and sat a while longer, with the
gentle Southern breeze rippling over her hot brow. She no longer
wrote incognito. By accident she was discovered as the authoress of
several articles commented upon by other journals, and more than
once her humble home had been visited by some of the leading
literati of the place. Her successful career thus far inflamed the
ambition which formed so powerful an element in her mental
organization, and a longing desire for fame took possession of her
soul. Early and late she toiled; one article was scarcely in the
hands of the compositor ere she was engaged upon another. She lived,
as it were, in a perpetual brain fever, and her physical frame
suffered proportionably. The little gate opened and closed with a
creaking sound, and, hearing a step near her, Beulah looked up and
saw her guardian before her. The light from the dining room fell on
his face, and a glance showed her that, although it was pale and
inflexible as ever, something of more than ordinary interest had
induced this visit. He had never entered that gate before; and she
sprang up and held out both hands with an eager cry.
"Oh, sir, I am so glad to see you once more!"
He took her hands in his and looked at her gravely; then made her
sit down again on the step, and said:
"I suppose you would have died before you could get your consent to
send for me? It is well that you have somebody to look after you.
How long have you had this fever?"
"Fever! Why, sir, I have no fever," she replied, with some surprise.
"Oh, child! are you trying to destroy yourself by your obstinacy? If
so, like most other things you undertake, I suppose you will
He held her hands and kept his finger on the quick bounding pulse.
Beulah had not seen him since the night of Cornelia's death, some
months before, and conjectured that Dr. Asbury had told him she was
not looking well.
She could not bear the steady, searching gaze of his luminous eyes,
and, moving restlessly, said:
"Sir, what induces you to suppose that I am sick? I have complained
of indisposition to no one."
"Of course you have not, for people are to believe that you are a
She fancied his tone was slightly sneering; but his countenance wore
the expression of anxious, protecting interest which she had so
prized in days past, and, as her hands trembled in his clasp and his
firm hold tightened, she felt that it was useless to attempt to
conceal the truth longer.
"I didn't know I was feverish; but for some time I have daily grown
weaker; I tremble when I stand or walk, and am not able to sleep.
That is all."
He smiled down at her earnest face, and asked:
"Is that all, child? Is that all?"
"Yes, sir; all."
"And here you have been, with a continued, wasting nervous fever for
you know not how many days, yet keep on your round of labors without
He dropped her hands and folded his arms across his broad chest,
keeping his eyes upon her.
"I am not at all ill; but believe I need some medicine to strengthen
"Yes, child; you do, indeed, need a medicine, but it is one you will
"Try me, sir," answered she, smiling.
"Try you? I might as well try to win an eagle from its lonely rocky
home. Beulah, you need rest. Rest for mind, body, and heart. But you
will not take it; oh, no, of course you won't!"
He passed his hand over his brow, and swept back the glossy chestnut
hair, as if it oppressed him.
"I would willingly take it, sir, if I could; but the summer vacation
is still distant, and, besides, my engagements oblige me to exert
myself. It is a necessity with me."
"Rather say sheer obstinacy," said he sternly.
"You are severe, sir," replied Beulah, lifting her head haughtily.
"No; I only call things by their proper names."
"Very well; if you prefer it, then, obstinacy compels me just now to
deny myself the rest you prescribe."
"Yes; rightly spoken; and it will soon compel you to a long rest, in
the quiet place where Cornelia waits for you. You are a mere shadow
now, and a few more months will complete your design. I have blamed
myself more than once that I did not suffer you to die with Lilly,
as you certainly would have done had I not tended you so closely.
Your death then would have saved me much care and sorrow, and you
There was a shadow on his face, and his voice had the deep, musical
tone which always made her heart thrill. Her eyelids drooped, as she
"You are unjust. We meet rarely enough, Heaven knows. Why do you
invariably make these occasions seasons of upbraiding, of taunts and
sneers. Sir, I owe you my life, and more than my life, and never can
I forget or cancel my obligations; but are you no longer my friend?"
His whole face lighted up; the firm mouth trembled.
"No, Beulah. I am no longer your friend."
She looked up at him, and a quiver crept across her lips. She had
never seen that eager expression in his stern face before. His dark,
fascinating eyes were full of pleading tenderness, and, as she
drooped her head on her lap, she knew that Clara was right, that she
was dearer to her guardian than anyone else. A half-smothered groan
escaped her, and there was a short pause.
Dr. Hartwell put his hands gently on her bowed head and lifted the
"Child, does it surprise you?"
She said nothing, and, leaning her head against him, as she had
often done years before, he passed his hand caressingly over the
folds of hair, and added:
"You call me your guardian; make me such. I can no longer be only
your friend; I must either be more, or henceforth a stranger. My
life has been full of sorrow and bitterness, but you can bring
sunlight to my home and heart. You were too proud to be adopted.
Once I asked you to be my child. Ah! I did not know my own heart
then. Our separation during the yellow-fever season first taught me
how inexpressibly dear you were to me, how entirely you filled my
heart. Now I ask you to be my wife, to give yourself to me. Oh,
Beulah, come back to my cheerless home! Best your lonely heart, my
"Impossible. Do not ask it. I cannot! I cannot!" cried Beulah,
"Why not, my little Beulah?"
He clasped his arm around her and drew her close to him, while his
head was bent so low that his brown hair touched her cheek.
"Oh, sir, I would rather die! I should be miserable as your wife.
You do not love me, sir; you are lonely, and miss my presence in
your house; but that is not love, and marriage would be a mockery.
You would despise a wife who was such only from gratitude. Do not
ask this of me; we would both be wretched. You pity my loneliness
and poverty, and I reverence you; nay, more, I love you, sir, as my
best friend; I love you as my protector. You are all I have on earth
to look to for sympathy and guidance. You are all I have; but I
cannot marry you; oh, no; no! a thousand times, no!" She shrank away
from the touch of his lips on her brow, and an expression of
hopeless suffering settled upon her face.
He withdrew his arm, and rose.
"Beulah, I have seen sunlit bubbles gliding swiftly on the bosom of
a clear brook and casting golden shadows down upon the pebbly bed.
Such a shadow you are now chasing--ah, child, the shadow of a gilded
bubble! Panting and eager, you clutch at it; the bubble dances on,
the shadow with it; and Beulah, you will never, never grasp it.
Ambition such as yours, which aims at literary fame, is the
deadliest foe to happiness. Man may content himself with the
applause of the world and the homage paid to his intellect; but
woman's heart has holier idols. You cue young, and impulsive, and
aspiring, and Fame beckons you on, like the siren of antiquity; but
the months and years will surely come when, with wasted energies and
embittered heart, you are left to mourn your infatuation. I would
save you from this; but you will drain the very dregs rather than
forsake your tempting fiend, for such is ambition to the female
heart. Yes, you will spend the springtime of your life chasing a
painted specter, and go down to a premature grave, disappointed and
miserable. Poor child, it needs no prophetic vision to predict your
ill-starred career! Already the consuming fever has begun its march.
In far-distant lands, I shall have no tidings of you; but none will
be needed. Perhaps when I travel home to die your feverish dream
will have ended; or, perchance, sinking to eternal rest in some palm
grove of the far East, we shall meet no more. Since the day I took
you in my arms from Lilly's coffin you have been my only hope, my
all. You little knew how precious you were to me, nor what keen
suffering our estrangement cost me. Oh, child, I have loved you as
only a strong, suffering, passionate heart could love its last idol!
But I, too, chased a shadow. Experience should have taught me
wisdom. Now I am a gloomy, joyless man, weary of my home and
henceforth a wanderer. Asbury (if he lives) will be truly your
friend, and to him T shall commit the legacy which hitherto you have
refused to accept. Mr. Graham paid it into my hands after his last
unsatisfactory interview with you. The day may come when you will
need it. I shall send you some medicine which, for your own sake,
you had better take immediately; but you will never grow stronger
until you give yourself rest, relaxation, physically and mentally.
Remember, when your health is broken and all your hopes withered,
remember I warned you and would have saved you, and you would not."
He stooped and took his hat from the floor.
Beulah sat looking at him, stunned, bewildered, her tearless eyes
strained and frightened in their expression. The transient
illumination in his face had faded, like sunset tints, leaving dull,
leaden clouds behind. His compressed lips were firm again, and the
misty eyes became coldly glittering, as one sees stars brighten in a
He put on his hat, and they looked at each other fixedly.
"You are not in earnest? you are not going to quit your home?" cried
Beulah, in a broken, unsteady tone.
"Yes--going into the far East; to the ruined altars of Baalbec; to
Meroe, to Tartary, India, China, and only Fate knows where else.
Perhaps find a cool Nebo in some Himalayan range. Going? Yes. Did
you suppose I meant only to operate on your sympathies? I know you
too well. What is it to you whether I live or die? whether my weary
feet rest in an Indian jungle, or on a sunny slope of the city
cemetery? Yes, I am going very soon, and this is our last meeting. I
shall not again disturb you in your ambitious pursuits. Ah, child--"
"Oh, don't go! don't leave me! I beg, I implore you, not to leave
me. Oh, I am so desolate! don't forsake me! I could not bear to know
you were gone. Oh, don't leave me!" She sprang up, and, throwing her
arms round his neck, clung to him, trembling like a frightened
child. But there was no relaxation of his pale, fixed features, as
he coldly answered:
"Once resolved, I never waver. So surely as I live I shall go. It
might have been otherwise, but you decided it yourself. An hour ago
you held my destiny in your hands; now it is fixed. I should have
gone six years since had I not indulged a lingering hope of
happiness in your love. Child, don't shiver and cling to me so.
Oceans will soon roll between us, and, for a time, you will have no
leisure to regret my absence. Henceforth we are strangers."
"No; that shall never be. You do not mean it; you know it is
impossible. You know that I prize your friendship above every
earthly thing. You know that I look up to you as to no one else.
That I shall be miserable, oh, how miserable, if you leave me! Oh,
sir, I have mourned over your coldness and indifference; don't cast
me off! Don't go to distant lands and leave me to struggle without
aid or counsel in this selfish, unfriendly world! My heart dies
within me at the thought of your being where I shall not be able to
see you. Oh, my guardian, don't forsake me!"
She pressed her face against his shoulder and clasped her arms
firmly round his neck.
"I am not your guardian, Beulah. You refused to make me such. You
are a proud, ambitious woman, solicitous only to secure eminence as
an authoress. I asked your heart; you have now none to give; but
perhaps some day you will love me as devotedly, nay, as madly, as I
have long loved you; for love like mine would wake affection even in
a marble image; but then rolling oceans and trackless deserts will
divide us. And now, good-by. Make yourself a name; bind your aching
brow with the chaplet of fame, and see if ambition can fill your
heart. Good-by, dear child."
Gently he drew her arms from his neck, and took her face in his soft
palms. He looked at her a moment, sadly and earnestly, as if
striving to fix her features in the frame of memory; then bent his
head and pressed a long kiss on her lips. She put out her hands, but
he had gone, and, sinking down on the step, she hid her face in her
arms. A pall seemed suddenly thrown over the future, and the
orphaned heart shrank back from the lonely path where only specters
were visible. Never before had she realized how dear he was to her,
how large a share of her love he possessed, and now the prospect of
a long, perhaps final separation, filled her with a shivering,
horrible dread. We have seen that self-reliance was a powerful
element in her character, and she had learned, from painful
necessity, to depend as little as possible upon the sympathies of
others; but in this hour of anguish a sense of joyless isolation
conquered; her proud soul bowed down beneath the weight of
intolerable grief, and acknowledged itself not wholly independent of
the love and presence of her guardian.
Beulah went back to her desk, and, with tearless eyes, began the
allotted task of writing. The article was due, and must be finished;
was there not a long, dark future in which to mourn? The sketch was
designed to prove that woman's happiness was not necessarily
dependent on marriage. That a single life might be more useful, more
tranquil, more unselfish. Beulah had painted her heroine in glowing
tints, and triumphantly proved her theory correct, while to female
influence she awarded a sphere (exclusive of rostrums and all
political arenas) wide as the universe and high as heaven. Weary
work it all seemed to her now; but she wrote on and on, and finally
the last page was copied and the last punctuation mark affixed. She
wrapped up the manuscript, directed it to the editor, and then the
pen fell from her nerveless fingers and her head went down, with a
wailing cry, on her desk. There the morning sun flashed upon a white
face, tear-stained and full of keen anguish. How her readers would
have marveled at the sight! Ah, "Verily the heart knoweth its own
One afternoon in the following week Mrs. Williams sat wrapped up in
the hall, watching Beulah's movements in the yard at the rear of the
house. The whitewashed paling was covered with luxuriant raspberry
vines, and in one corner of the garden was a bed of strawberry
plants. Over this bed Beulah was bending with a basket nearly filled
with the ripe scarlet berries. Stooping close to the plants she saw
only the fruit she was engaged in picking; and when the basket was
quite full she was suddenly startled by a merry laugh and a pair of
hands clasped over her eyes.
"Who blindfolds me?" said she.
"Guess, you solemn witch!"
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