Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Part 2 out of 3
the corvette was to sail next day, and the girls were willing
to make the most of it. As they came to the outer door, the
dawn was inexpressibly beautiful,--deep rose melting into
saffron, beneath a tremulous morning star. With a sudden
impulse, they agreed to walk home, the fresh air seemed so
delicious. Philip and Emilia went first, outstripping the
Passing the Jewish cemetery, Kate and Harry paused a moment.
The sky was almost cloudless, the air was full of a thousand
scents and songs, the rose-tints in the sky were deepening, the
star paling, while a few vague clouds went wandering upward,
and dreamed themselves away.
"There is a grave in that cemetery," said Kate, gently, "where
lovers should always be sitting. It lies behind that tall
monument; I cannot see it for the blossoming boughs. There were
two young cousins who loved each other from childhood, but were
separated, because Jews do not allow such unions. Neither of
them was ever married; and they lived to be very old, the one
in New Orleans, the other at the North. In their last
illnesses each dreamed of walking in the fields with the other,
as in their early days; and the telegraphic despatches that
told their deaths crossed each other on the way. That is his
monument, and her grave was made behind it; there was no room
for a stone."
Kate moved a step or two, that she might see the graves. The
branches opened clear. What living lovers had met there, at
this strange hour, above the dust of lovers dead? She saw with
amazement, and walked on quickly that Harry might not also see.
It was Emilia who sat beside the grave, her dark hair drooping
and dishevelled, her carnation cheek still brilliant after the
night's excitement; and he who sat at her feet, grasping her
hand in both of his, while his lips poured out passionate words
to which she eagerly listened, was Philip Malbone.
Here, upon the soil of a new nation, lay a spot whose
associations seemed already as old as time could make
them,--the last footprint of a tribe now vanished from this
island forever,--the resting-place of a race whose very
funerals would soon be no more. Each April the robins built
their nests around these crumbling stones, each May they reared
their broods, each June the clover blossomed, each July the
wild strawberries grew cool and red; all around was youth and
life and ecstasy, and yet the stones bore inscriptions in an
unknown language, and the very graves seemed dead.
And lovelier than all the youth of Nature, little Emilia sat
there in the early light, her girlish existence gliding into
that drama of passion which is older than the buried nations,
older than time, than death, than all things save life and God.
TALKING IT OVER.
AUNT JANE was eager to hear about the ball, and called
everybody into her breakfast-parlor the next morning. She was
still hesitating about her bill of fare.
"I wish somebody would invent a new animal," she burst forth.
"How those sheep bleated last night! I know it was an
expression of shame for providing such tiresome food."
"You must not be so carnally minded, dear," said Kate. "You
must be very good and grateful, and not care for your
breakfast. Somebody says that mutton chops with wit are a great
deal better than turtle without."
"A very foolish somebody," pronounced Aunt Jane. "I have had a
great deal of wit in my life, and very little turtle. Dear
child, do not excite me with impossible suggestions. There are
dropped eggs, I might have those. They look so beautifully, if
it only were not necessary to eat them. Yes, I will certainly
have dropped eggs. I think Ruth could drop them; she drops
"Poor little Ruth!" said Kate. "Not yet grown up!"
"She will never grow up," said Aunt Jane, "but she thinks she
is a woman; she even thinks she has a lover. O that in early
life I had provided myself with a pair of twins from some
asylum; then I should have had some one to wait on me."
"Perhaps they would have been married too," said Kate.
"They should never have been married," retorted Aunt Jane.
"They should have signed a paper at five years old to do no
such thing. Yesterday I told a lady that I was enraged that a
servant should presume to have a heart, and the woman took it
seriously and began to argue with me. To think of living in a
town where one person could be so idiotic! Such a town ought to
be extinguished from the universe."
"Auntie!" said Kate, sternly, "you must grow more charitable."
"Must I?" said Aunt Jane; "it will not be at all becoming. I
have thought about it; often have I weighed it in my mind
whether to be monotonously lovely; but I have always thrust it
away. It must make life so tedious. It is too late for me to
change,--at least, anything about me but my countenance, and
that changes the wrong way. Yet I feel so young and fresh; I
look in my glass every morning to see if I have not a new face,
but it never comes. I am not what is called well-favored. In
fact, I am not favored at all. Tell me about the party."
"What shall I tell?" said Kate.
"Tell me what people were there," said Aunt Jane, "and how they
were dressed; who were the happiest and who the most miserable.
I think I would rather hear about the most miserable,--at
least, till I have my breakfast."
"The most miserable person I saw," said Kate, "was Mrs.
Meredith. It was very amusing to hear her and Hope talk at
cross-purposes. You know her daughter Helen is in Paris, and
the mother seemed very sad about her. A lady was asking if
something or other were true; 'Too true,' said Mrs. Meredith;
'with every opportunity she has had no real success. It was not
the poor child's fault. She was properly presented; but as yet
she has had no success at all.'
"Hope looked up, full of sympathy. She thought Helen must be
some disappointed school-teacher, and felt an interest in her
immediately. 'Will there not be another examination?' she
asked. 'What an odd phrase,' said Mrs. Meredith, looking rather
disdainfully at Hope. 'No, I suppose we must give it up, if
that is what you mean. The only remaining chance is in the
skating. I had particular attention paid to Helen's skating on
that very account. How happy shall I be, if my foresight is
"Hope thought this meant physical education, to be sure, and
fancied that handsome Helen Meredith opening a school for
calisthenics in Paris! Luckily she did not say anything. Then
the other lady said, solemnly, 'My dear Mrs. Meredith, it is
too true. No one can tell how things will turn out in society.
How often do we see girls who were not looked at in America,
and yet have a great success in Paris; then other girls go out
who were here very much admired, and they have no success at
"Hope understood it all then, but she took it very calmly. I
was so indignant, I could hardly help speaking. I wanted to
say that it was outrageous. The idea of American mothers
training their children for exhibition before what everybody
calls the most corrupt court in Europe! Then if they can catch
the eye of the Emperor or the Empress by their faces or their
paces, that is called success!"
"Good Americans when they die go to Paris," said Philip, "so
says the oracle. Naughty Americans try it prematurely, and go
while they are alive. Then Paris casts them out, and when they
come back, their French disrepute is their stock in trade."
"I think," said the cheerful Hope, "that it is not quite so
bad." Hope always thought things not so bad. She went on. "I
was very dull not to know what Mrs. Meredith was talking about.
Helen Meredith is a warm-hearted, generous girl, and will not
go far wrong, though her mother is not as wise as she is
well-bred. But Kate forgets that the few hundred people one
sees here or at Paris do not represent the nation, after all."
"The most influential part of it," said Emilia.
"Are you sure, dear?" said her sister. "I do not think they
influence it half so much as a great many people who are too
busy to go to either place. I always remember those hundred
girls at the Normal School, and that they were not at all like
Mrs. Meredith, nor would they care to be like her, any more
than she would wish to be like them."
"They have not had the same advantages," said Emilia.
"Nor the same disadvantages," said Hope. "Some of them are not
so well bred, and none of them speak French so well, for she
speaks exquisitely. But in all that belongs to real training of
the mind, they seem to me superior, and that is why I think
they will have more influence."
"None of them are rich, though, I suppose," said Emilia, "nor
of very nice families, or they would not be teachers. So they
will not be so prominent in society."
"But they may yet become very prominent in society," said
Hope,--"they or their pupils or their children. At any rate, it
is as certain that the noblest lives will have most influence
in the end, as that two and two make four."
"Is that certain?" said Philip. "Perhaps there are worlds
where two and two do not make just that desirable amount."
"I trust there are," said Aunt Jane. "Perhaps I was intended
to be born in one of them, and that is why my housekeeping
accounts never add up."
Here hope was called away, and Emilia saucily murmured, "Sour
"Not a bit of it!" cried Kate, indignantly. "Hope might have
anything in society she wishes, if she would only give up some
of her own plans, and let me choose her dresses, and her rich
uncles pay for them. Count Posen told me, only yesterday, that
there was not a girl in Oldport with such an air as hers."
"Not Kate herself?" said Emilia, slyly.
"I?" said Kate. "What am I? A silly chit of a thing, with
about a dozen ideas in my head, nearly every one of which was
planted there by Hope. I like the nonsense of the world very
well as it is, and without her I should have cared for nothing
else. Count Posen asked me the other day, which country
produced on the whole the most womanly women, France or
America. He is one of the few foreigners who expect a rational
answer. So I told him that I knew very little of Frenchwomen
personally, but that I had read French novels ever since I was
born, and there was not a woman worthy to be compared with Hope
in any of them, except Consuelo, and even she told lies."
"Do not begin upon Hope," said Aunt Jane. "It is the only
subject on which Kate can be tedious. Tell me about the
dresses. Were people over-dressed or under-dressed?"
"Under-dressed," said Phil. "Miss Ingleside had a half-inch
strip of muslin over her shoulder."
Here Philip followed Hope out of the room, and Emilia presently
"Tell on!" said Aunt Jane. "How did Philip enjoy himself?"
"He is easily amused, you know," said Kate. "He likes to
observe people, and to shoot folly as it flies."
"It does not fly," retorted the elder lady. "I wish it did.
You can shoot it sitting, at least where Philip is."
"Auntie," said Kate, "tell me truly your objection to Philip.
I think you did not like his parents. Had he not a good
"She was good," said Aunt Jane, reluctantly, "but it was that
kind of goodness which is quite offensive."
"And did you know his father well?"
"Know him!" exclaimed Aunt Jane. "I should think I did. I have
sat up all night to hate him."
"That was very wrong," said Kate, decisively. "You do not mean
that. You only mean that you did not admire him very much."
"I never admired a dozen people in my life, Kate. I once made
a list of them. There were six women, three men, and a
"What happened?" said Kate. "The Is-raelites died after
Pharaoh, or somebody, numbered them. Did anything happen to
"It was worse with mine," said Aunt Jane. "I grew tired of
some and others I forgot, till at last there was nobody left
but the dog, and he died."
"Was Philip's father one of them?"
"Tell me about him," said Kate, firmly.
"Ruth," said the elder lady, as her young handmaiden passed the
door with her wonted demureness, "come here; no, get me a glass
of water. Kate! I shall die of that girl. She does some
idiotic thing, and then she looks in here with that contented,
beaming look. There is an air of baseless happiness about her
that drives me nearly frantic."
"Never mind about that," persisted Kate. "Tell me about
Philip's father. What was the matter with him?"
"My dear," Aunt Jane at last answered,--with that fearful
moderation to which she usually resorted when even her stock of
superlatives was exhausted,--"he belonged to a family for whom
truth possessed even less than the usual attractions."
This neat epitaph implied the erection of a final tombstone
over the whole race, and Kate asked no more.
Meantime Malbone sat at the western door with Harry, and was
running on with one of his tirades, half jest, half earnest,
against American society.
"In America," he said, "everything which does not tend to money
is thought to be wasted, as our Quaker neighbor thinks the
children's croquet-ground wasted, because it is not a potato
"Not just!" cried Harry. "Nowhere is there more respect for
those who give their lives to intellectual pursuits."
"What are intellectual pursuits?" said Philip. "Editing daily
newspapers? Teaching arithmetic to children? I see no others
"Science and literature," answered Harry.
"Who cares for literature in America," said Philip, "after a
man rises three inches above the newspaper level? Nobody reads
Thoreau; only an insignificant fraction read Emerson, or even
Hawthorne. The majority of people have hardly even heard their
names. What inducement has a writer? Nobody has any weight in
America who is not in Congress, and nobody gets into Congress
without the necessity of bribing or button-holing men whom he
"But you do not care for public life?" said Harry.
"No," said Malbone, "therefore this does not trouble me, but it
troubles you. I am content. My digestion is good. I can
always amuse myself. Why are you not satisfied?"
"Because you are not," said Harry. "You are dissatisfied with
men, and so you care chiefly to amuse yourself with women and
"I dare say," said Malbone, carelessly. "They are usually less
ungraceful and talk better grammar."
"But American life does not mean grace nor grammar. We are all
living for the future. Rough work now, and the graces by and
"That is what we Americans always say," retorted Philip.
"Everything is in the future. What guaranty have we for that
future? I see none. We make no progress towards the higher
arts, except in greater quantities of mediocrity. We sell
larger editions of poor books. Our artists fill larger frames
and travel farther for materials; but a ten-inch canvas would
tell all they have to say."
"The wrong point of view," said Hal. "If you begin with high
art, you begin at the wrong end. The first essential for any
nation is to put the mass of the people above the reach of
want. We are all usefully employed, if we contribute to that."
"So is the cook usefully employed while preparing dinner," said
Philip. "Nevertheless, I do not wish to live in the kitchen."
"Yet you always admire your own country," said Harry, "so long
as you are in Europe."
"No doubt," said Philip. "I do not object to the kitchen at
that distance. And to tell the truth, America looks well from
Europe. No culture, no art seems so noble as this far-off
spectacle of a self-governing people. The enthusiasm lasts till
one's return. Then there seems nothing here but to work hard
and keep out of mischief."
"That is something," said Harry.
"A good deal in America," said Phil. "We talk about the
immorality of older countries. Did you ever notice that no
class of men are so apt to take to drinking as highly
cultivated Americans? It is a very demoralizing position, when
one's tastes outgrow one's surroundings. Positively, I think a
man is more excusable for coveting his neighbor's wife in
America than in Europe, because there is so little else to
"Malbone!" said Hal, "what has got into you? Do you know what
things you are saying?"
"Perfectly," was the unconcerned reply. "I am not arguing; I
am only testifying. I know that in Paris, for instance, I
myself have no temptations. Art and history are so delightful,
I absolutely do not care for the society even of women; but
here, where there is nothing to do, one must have some
stimulus, and for me, who hate drinking, they are, at least, a
more refined excitement."
"More dangerous," said Hal. "Infinitely more dangerous, in the
morbid way in which you look at life. What have these sickly
fancies to do with the career that opens to every brave man in
a great nation?"
"They have everything to do with it, and there are many for
whom there is no career. As the nation develops, it must
produce men of high culture. Now there is no place for them
except as bookkeepers or pedagogues or newspaper reporters.
Meantime the incessant unintellectual activity is only a
sublime bore to those who stand aside."
"Then why stand aside?" persisted the downright Harry.
"I have no place in it but a lounging-place," said Malbone. "I
do not wish to chop blocks with a razor. I envy those men,
born mere Americans, with no ambition in life but to 'swing a
railroad' as they say at the West. Every morning I hope to
wake up like them in the fear of God and the love of money."
"You may as well stop," said Harry, coloring a little.
"Malbone, you used to be my ideal man in my boyhood, but"--
"I am glad we have got beyond that," interrupted the other,
cheerily, "I am only an idler in the land. Meanwhile, I have
my little interests,--read, write, sketch--"
"Flirt?" put in Hal, with growing displeasure.
"Not now," said Phil, patting his shoulder, with imperturbable
good-nature. "Our beloved has cured me of that. He who has won
the pearl dives no more."
"Do not let us speak of Hope," said Harry. "Everything that
you have been asserting Hope's daily life disproves."
"That may be," answered Malbone, heartily. "But, Hal, I never
flirted; I always despised it. It was always a grande passion
with me, or what I took for such. I loved to be loved, I
suppose; and there was always something new and fascinating to
be explored in a human heart, that is, a woman's."
"Some new temple to profane?" asked Hal severely.
"Never!" said Philip. "I never profaned it. If I deceived, I
shared the deception, at least for a time; and, as for
sensuality, I had none in me."
"Did you have nothing worse? Rousseau ends where Tom Jones
"My temperament saved me," said Philip. "A woman is not a
woman to me, without personal refinement."
"Just what Rousseau said," replied Harry.
"I acted upon it," answered Malbone. "No one dislikes Blanche
Ingleside and her demi monde more than I."
"You ought not," was the retort. "You help to bring other
girls to her level."
"Whom?" said Malbone, startled.
"Emilia?" repeated the other, coloring crimson. "I, who have
warned her against Blanche's society."
"And have left her no other resource," said Harry, coloring
still more. "Malbone, you have gained (unconsciously of course)
too much power over that girl, and the only effect of it is, to
keep her in perpetual excitement. So she seeks Blanche, as she
would any other strong stimulant. Hope does not seem to have
discovered this, but Kate has, and I have."
Hope came in, and Harry went out. The next day he came to
Philip and apologized most warmly for his unjust and
inconsiderate words. Malbone, always generous, bade him think
no more about it, and Harry for that day reverted strongly to
his first faith. "So noble, so high-toned," he said to Kate.
Indeed, a man never appears more magnanimous than in forgiving
a friend who has told him the truth.
IT was true enough what Harry had said. Philip Malbone's was
that perilous Rousseau-like temperament, neither sincere enough
for safety, nor false enough to alarm; the winning tenderness
that thrills and softens at the mere neighborhood of a woman,
and fascinates by its reality those whom no hypocrisy can
deceive. It was a nature half amiable, half voluptuous, that
disarmed others, seeming itself unarmed. He was never wholly
ennobled by passion, for it never touched him deeply enough;
and, on the other hand, he was not hardened by the habitual
attitude of passion, for he was never really insincere.
Sometimes it seemed as if nothing stood between him and utter
profligacy but a little indolence, a little kindness, and a
good deal of caution.
"There seems no such thing as serious repentance in me," he had
once said to Kate, two years before, when she had upbraided him
with some desperate flirtation which had looked as if he would
carry it as far as gentlemen did under King Charles II. "How
does remorse begin?"
"Where you are beginning," said Kate.
"I do not perceive that," he answered. "My conscience seems,
after all, to be only a form of good-nature. I like to be
stirred by emotion, I suppose, and I like to study character.
But I can always stop when it is evident that I shall cause
pain to somebody. Is there any other motive?"
"In other words," said she, "you apply the match, and then turn
your back on the burning house."
Philip colored. "How unjust you are! Of course, we all like
to play with fire, but I always put it out before it can
spread. Do you think I have no feeling?"
Kate stopped there, I suppose. Even she always stopped soon,
if she undertook to interfere with Malbone. This charming
Alcibiades always convinced them, after the wrestling was over,
that he had not been thrown.
The only exception to this was in the case of Aunt Jane. If
she had anything in common with Philip,--and there was a
certain element of ingenuous unconsciousness in which they were
not so far unlike,--it only placed them in the more complete
antagonism. Perhaps if two beings were in absolutely no respect
alike, they never could meet even for purposes of hostility;
there must be some common ground from which the aversion may
proceed. Moreover, in this case Aunt Jane utterly disbelieved
in Malbone because she had reason to disbelieve in his father,
and the better she knew the son the more she disliked the
Philip was apt to be very heedless of such aversions,--indeed,
he had few to heed,--but it was apparent that Aunt Jane was the
only person with whom he was not quite at ease. Still, the
solicitude did not trouble him very much, for he instinctively
knew that it was not his particular actions which vexed her, so
much as his very temperament and atmosphere,--things not to be
changed. So he usually went his way; and if he sometimes felt
one of her sharp retorts, could laugh it off that day and sleep
it off before the next morning.
For you may be sure that Philip was very little troubled by
inconvenient memories. He never had to affect forgetfulness of
anything. The past slid from him so easily, he forgot even to
try to forget. He liked to quote from Emerson, "What have I to
do with repentance?" "What have my yesterday's errors," he
would say, "to do with the life of to-day?"
"Everything," interrupted Aunt Jane, "for you will repeat them
to-day, if you can."
"Not at all," persisted he, accepting as conversation what she
meant as a stab. "I may, indeed, commit greater errors,"--here
she grimly nodded, as if she had no doubt of it,--"but never
just the same. To-day must take thought for itself."
"I wish it would," she said, gently, and then went on with her
own thoughts while he was silent. Presently she broke out
again in her impulsive way.
"Depend upon it," she said, "there is very little direct
retribution in this world."
Phil looked up, quite pleased at her indorsing one of his
favorite views. She looked, as she always did, indignant at
having said anything to please him.
"Yes," said she, "it is the indirect retribution that crushes.
I've seen enough of that, God knows. Kate, give me my
Malbone had that smooth elasticity of surface which made even
Aunt Jane's strong fingers slip from him as they might from a
fish, or from the soft, gelatinous stem of the water-target.
Even in this case he only laughed good-naturedly, and went out,
whistling like a mocking-bird, to call the children round him.
Toward the more wayward and impulsive Emilia the good lady was
far more merciful. With all Aunt Jane's formidable keenness,
she was a little apt to be disarmed by youth and beauty, and
had no very stern retributions except for those past middle
age. Emilia especially charmed her while she repelled. There
was no getting beyond a certain point with this strange girl,
any more than with Philip; but her depths tantalized, while his
apparent shallows were only vexatious. Emilia was usually
sweet, winning, cordial, and seemed ready to glide into one's
heart as softly as she glided into the room; she liked to
please, and found it very easy. Yet she left the impression
that this smooth and delicate loveliness went but an inch
beyond the surface, like the soft, thin foam that enamels
yonder tract of ocean, belongs to it, is a part of it, yet is,
after all, but a bequest of tempests, and covers only a dark
abyss of crossing currents and desolate tangles of rootless
kelp. Everybody was drawn to her, yet not a soul took any
comfort in her. Her very voice had in it a despairing
sweetness, that seemed far in advance of her actual history; it
was an anticipated miserere, a perpetual dirge, where nothing
had yet gone down. So Aunt Jane, who was wont to be perfectly
decisive in her treatment of every human being, was fluctuating
and inconsistent with Emilia. She could not help being
fascinated by the motherless child, and yet scorned herself for
even the doubting love she gave.
"Only think, auntie," said Kate, "how you kissed Emilia,
"Of course I did," she remorsefully owned. "I have kissed her
a great many times too often. I never will kiss her again.
There is nothing but sorrow to be found in loving her, and her
heart is no larger than her feet. Today she was not even
pretty! If it were not for her voice, I think I should never
wish to see her again."
But when that soft, pleading voice came once more, and Emilia
asked perhaps for luncheon, in tones fit for Ophelia, Aunt Jane
instantly yielded. One might as well have tried to enforce
indignation against the Babes in the Wood.
This perpetual mute appeal was further strengthened by a
peculiar physical habit in Emilia, which first alarmed the
household, but soon ceased to inspire terror. She fainted very
easily, and had attacks at long intervals akin to faintness,
and lasting for several hours. The physicians pronounced them
cataleptic in their nature, saying that they brought no danger,
and that she would certainly outgrow them. They were sometimes
produced by fatigue, sometimes by excitement, but they brought
no agitation with them, nor any development of abnormal powers.
They simply wrapped her in a profound repose, from which no
effort could rouse her, till the trance passed by. Her eyes
gradually closed, her voice died away, and all movement ceased,
save that her eyelids sometimes trembled without opening, and
sweet evanescent expressions chased each other across her
face,--the shadows of thoughts unseen. For a time she seemed to
distinguish the touch of different persons by preference or
pain; but soon even this sign of recognition vanished, and the
household could only wait and watch, while she sank into deeper
and yet deeper repose.
There was something inexpressibly sweet, appealing, and
touching in this impenetrable slumber, when it was at its
deepest. She looked so young, so delicate, so lovely; it was as
if she had entered into a shrine, and some sacred curtain had
been dropped to shield her from all the cares and perplexities
of life. She lived, she breathed, and yet all the storms of
life could but beat against her powerless, as the waves beat on
the shore. Safe in this beautiful semblance of death,--her
pulse a little accelerated, her rich color only softened, her
eyelids drooping, her exquisite mouth curved into the sweetness
it had lacked in waking,--she lay unconscious and supreme, the
temporary monarch of the household, entranced upon her throne.
A few hours having passed, she suddenly waked, and was a
self-willed, passionate girl once more. When she spoke, it was
with a voice wholly natural; she had no recollection of what
had happened, and no curiosity to learn.
IT had been a lovely summer day, with a tinge of autumnal
coolness toward nightfall, ending in what Aunt Jane called a
"quince-jelly sunset." Kate and Emilia sat upon the Blue Rocks,
"Promise, Emilia!" said Kate.
Emilia said nothing.
"Remember," continued Kate, "he is Hope's betrothed. Promise,
Emilia looked into Kate's face and saw it flushed with a
generous eagerness, that called forth an answering look in her.
She tried to speak, and the words died into silence. There was
a pause, while each watched the other.
When one soul is grappling with another for life, such silence
may last an instant too long; and Kate soon felt her grasp
slipping. Momentarily the spell relaxed. Other thoughts
swelled up, and Emilia's eyes began to wander; delicious
memories stole in, of walks through blossoming paths with
Malbone,--of lingering steps, half-stifled words and sentences
left unfinished;--then, alas! of passionate caresses,--other
blossoming paths that only showed the way to sin, but had never
quite led her there, she fancied. There was so much to tell,
more than could ever be explained or justified. Moment by
moment, farther and farther strayed the wandering thoughts, and
when the poor child looked in Kate's face again, the mist
between them seemed to have grown wide and dense, as if neither
eyes nor words nor hands could ever meet again. When she spoke
it was to say something evasive and unimportant, and her voice
was as one from the grave.
In truth, Philip had given Emilia his heart to play with at
Neuchatel, that he might beguile her from an attachment they
had all regretted. The device succeeded. The toy once in her
hand, the passionate girl had kept it, had clung to him with
all her might; he could not shake her off. Nor was this the
worst, for to his dismay he found himself responding to her
love with a self-abandonment of ardor for which all former
loves had been but a cool preparation. He had not intended
this; it seemed hardly his fault: his intentions had been
good, or at least not bad. This piquant and wonderful fruit of
nature, this girlish soul, he had merely touched it and it was
his. Its mere fragrance was intoxicating. Good God! what
should he do with it?
No clear answer coming, he had drifted on with that terrible
facility for which years of self-indulged emotion had prepared
him. Each step, while it was intended to be the last, only made
some other last step needful.
He had begun wrong, for he had concealed his engagement,
fancying that he could secure a stronger influence over this
young girl without the knowledge. He had come to her simply as
a friend of her Transatlantic kindred; and she, who was always
rather indifferent to them, asked no questions, nor made the
discovery till too late. Then, indeed, she had burst upon him
with an impetuous despair that had alarmed him. He feared, not
that she would do herself any violence, for she had a childish
dread of death, but that she would show some desperate
animosity toward Hope, whenever they should meet. After a long
struggle, he had touched, not her sense of justice, for she had
none, but her love for him; he had aroused her tenderness and
Without his actual assurance, she yet believed that he would
release himself in some way from his betrothal, and love only
Malbone had fortunately great control over Emilia when near
her, and could thus keep the sight of this stormy passion from
the pure and unconscious Hope. But a new distress opened
before him, from the time when he again touched Hope's hand.
The close intercourse of the voyage had given him for the time
almost a surfeit of the hot-house atmosphere of Emilia's love.
The first contact of Hope's cool, smooth fingers, the soft
light of her clear eyes, the breezy grace of her motions, the
rose-odors that clung around her, brought back all his early
passion. Apart from this voluptuousness of the heart into which
he had fallen, Malbone's was a simple and unspoiled nature; he
had no vices, and had always won popularity too easily to be
obliged to stoop for it; so all that was noblest in him paid
allegiance to Hope. From the moment they again met, his
wayward heart reverted to her. He had been in a dream, he said
to himself; he would conquer it and be only hers; he would go
away with her into the forests and green fields she loved, or
he would share in the life of usefulness for which she yearned.
But then, what was he to do with this little waif from the
heart's tropics,--once tampered with, in an hour of mad
dalliance, and now adhering in-separably to his life?
Supposing him ready to separate from her, could she be detached
Kate's anxieties, when she at last hinted them to Malbone, only
sent him further into revery. "How is it," he asked himself,
"that when I only sought to love and be loved, I have thus
entangled myself in the fate of others? How is one's heart to
be governed? Is there any such governing? Mlle. Clairon
complained that, so soon as she became seriously attached to
any one, she was sure to meet somebody else whom she liked
better. Have human hearts," he said, "or at least, has my
heart, no more stability than this?"
It did not help the matter when Emilia went to stay awhile with
Mrs. Meredith. The event came about in this way. Hope and Kate
had been to a dinner-party, and were as usual reciting their
experiences to Aunt Jane.
"Was it pleasant?" said that sympathetic lady.
"It was one of those dreadfully dark dining-rooms," said Hope,
seating herself at the open window.
"Why do they make them look so like tombs?" said Kate.
"Because," said her aunt, "most Americans pass from them to the
tomb, after eating such indigestible things. There is a wish
for a gentle transition."
"Aunt Jane," said Hope, "Mrs. Meredith asks to have a little
visit from Emilia. Do you think she had better go?"
"Mrs. Meredith?" asked Aunt Jane. "Is that woman alive yet?"
"Why, auntie!" said Kate. "We were talking about her only a
"Perhaps so," conceded Aunt Jane, reluctantly. "But it seems
to me she has great length of days!"
"How very improperly you are talking, dear!" said Kate. "She
is not more than forty, and you are--"
"Fifty-four," interrupted the other.
"Then she has not seen nearly so many days as you."
"But they are such long days! That is what I must have meant.
One of her days is as long as three of mine. She is so
"She does not tire you very often," said Kate.
"She comes once a year," said Aunt Jane. "And then it is not
to see me. She comes out of respect to the memory of my
great-aunt, with whom Talleyrand fell in love, when he was in
America, before Mrs. Meredith was born. Yes, Emilia may as well
So Emilia went. To provide her with companionship, Mrs.
Meredith kindly had Blanche Ingleside to stay there also.
Blanche stayed at different houses a good deal. To do her
justice, she was very good company, when put upon her best
behavior, and beyond the reach of her demure mamma. She was
always in spirits, often good-natured, and kept everything in
lively motion, you may be sure. She found it not unpleasant,
in rich houses, to escape some of those little domestic
parsimonies which the world saw not in her own; and to secure
this felicity she could sometimes lay great restraints upon
herself, for as much as twenty-four hours. She seemed a little
out of place, certainly, amid the precise proprieties of Mrs.
Meredith's establishment. But Blanche and her mother still held
their place in society, and it was nothing to Mrs. Meredith who
came to her doors, but only from what other doors they came.
She would have liked to see all "the best houses" connected by
secret galleries or underground passages, of which she and a
few others should hold the keys. A guest properly presented
could then go the rounds of all unerringly, leaving his card at
each, while improper acquaintances in vain howled for admission
at the outer wall. For the rest, her ideal of social happiness
was a series of perfectly ordered entertainments, at each of
which there should be precisely the same guests, the same
topics, the same supper, and the same ennui.
MALBONE stood one morning on the pier behind the house. A two
days' fog was dispersing. The southwest breeze rippled the
deep blue water; sailboats, blue, red, and green, were darting
about like white-winged butterflies; sloops passed and
repassed, cutting the air with the white and slender points of
their gaff-topsails. The liberated sunbeams spread and
penetrated everywhere, and even came up to play (reflected from
the water) beneath the shadowy, overhanging counters of dark
vessels. Beyond, the atmosphere was still busy in rolling away
its vapors, brushing the last gray fringes from the low hills,
and leaving over them only the thinnest aerial veil. Farther
down the bay, the pale tower of the crumbling fort was now
shrouded, now revealed, then hung with floating lines of vapor
as with banners.
Hope came down on the pier to Malbone, who was looking at the
boats. He saw with surprise that her calm brow was a little
clouded, her lips compressed, and her eyes full of tears.
"Philip," she said, abruptly, "do you love me?"
"Do you doubt it?" said he, smiling, a little uneasily.
Fixing her eyes upon him, she said, more seriously: "There is a
more important question, Philip. Tell me truly, do you care
He started at the words, and looked eagerly in her face for an
explanation. Her expression only showed the most anxious
For one moment the wild impulse came up in his mind to put an
entire trust in this truthful woman, and tell her all. Then the
habit of concealment came back to him, the dull hopelessness of
a divided duty, and the impossibility of explanations. How
could he justify himself to her when he did not really know
himself? So he merely said, "Yes."
"She is your sister," he added, in an explanatory tone, after a
pause; and despised himself for the subterfuge. It is amazing
how long a man may be false in action before he ceases to
shrink from being false in words.
"Philip," said the unsuspecting Hope, "I knew that you cared
about her. I have seen you look at her with so much affection;
and then again I have seen you look cold and almost stern. She
notices it, I am sure she does, this changeableness. But this
is not why I ask the question. I think you must have seen
something else that I have been observing, and if you care
about her, even for my sake, it is enough."
Here Philip started, and felt relieved.
"You must be her friend," continued Hope, eagerly. "She has
changed her whole manner and habits very fast. Blanche
Ingleside and that set seem to have wholly controlled her, and
there is something reckless in all her ways. You are the only
person who can help her."
"I do not know how," said Hope, almost impatiently. "You know
how. You have wonderful influence. You saved her before, and
will do it again. I put her in your hands."
"What can I do for her?" asked he, with a strange mingling of
terror and delight.
"Everything," said she. "If she has your society, she will not
care for those people, so much her inferiors in character.
Devote yourself to her for a time."
"And leave you?" said Philip, hesitatingly.
"Anything, anything," said she. "If I do not see you for a
month, I can bear it. Only promise me two things. First, that
you will go to her this very day. She dines with Mrs.
"Then," said Hope, with saddened tones, "you must not say it
was I who sent you. Indeed you must not. That would spoil
all. Let her think that your own impulse leads you, and then
she will yield. I know Emilia enough for that."
Malbone paused, half in ecstasy, half in dismay. Were all the
events of life combining to ruin or to save him? This young
girl, whom he so passionately loved, was she to be thrust back
into his arms, and was he to be told to clasp her and be
silent? And that by Hope, and in the name of duty?
It seemed a strange position, even for him who was so eager for
fresh experiences and difficult combinations. At Hope's appeal
he was to risk Hope's peace forever; he was to make her sweet
sisterly affection its own executioner. In obedience to her
love he must revive Emilia's. The tender intercourse which he
had been trying to renounce as a crime must be rebaptized as a
duty. Was ever a man placed, he thought, in a position so
inextricable, so disastrous? What could he offer Emilia? How
could he explain to her his position? He could not even tell
her that it was at Hope's command he sought her.
He who is summoned to rescue a drowning man, knowing that he
himself may go down with that inevitable clutch around his
neck, is placed in some such situation as Philip's. Yet Hope
had appealed to him so simply, had trusted him so nobly!
Suppose that, by any self-control, or wisdom, or unexpected aid
of Heaven, he could serve both her and Emilia, was it not his
duty? What if it should prove that he was right in loving them
both, and had only erred when he cursed himself for tampering
with their destinies? Perhaps, after all, the Divine Love had
been guiding him, and at some appointed signal all these
complications were to be cleared, and he and his various loves
were somehow to be ingeniously provided for, and all be made
happy ever after.
He really grew quite tender and devout over these meditations.
Phil was not a conceited fellow, by any means, but he had been
so often told by women that their love for him had been a
blessing to their souls, that he quite acquiesced in being a
providential agent in that particular direction. Considered as
a form of self-sacrifice, it was not without its pleasures.
Malbone drove that afternoon to Mrs. Ingleside's charming
abode, whither a few ladies were wont to resort, and a great
many gentlemen. He timed his call between the hours of dining
and driving, and made sure that Emilia had not yet emerged.
Two or three equipages beside his own were in waiting at the
gate, and gay voices resounded from the house. A servant
received him at the door, and taking him for a tardy guest,
ushered him at once into the dining-room. He was indifferent to
this, for he had been too often sought as a guest by Mrs.
Ingleside to stand on any ceremony beneath her roof.
That fair hostess, in all the beauty of her shoulders, rose to
greet him, from a table where six or eight guests yet lingered
over flowers and wine. The gentlemen were smoking, and some of
the ladies were trying to look at ease with cigarettes.
Malbone knew the whole company, and greeted them with his
accustomed ease. He would not have been embarrassed if they
had been the Forty Thieves. Some of them, indeed, were not so
far removed from that fabled band, only it was their fortunes,
instead of themselves, that lay in the jars of oil.
"You find us all here," said Mrs. Ingleside, sweetly. "We will
wait till the gentlemen finish their cigars, before driving."
"Count me in, please," said Blanche, in her usual vein of
frankness. "Unless mamma wishes me to conclude my weed on the
Avenue. It would be fun, though. Fancy the dismay of the
Frenchmen and the dowagers!"
"And old Lambert," said one of the other girls, delightedly.
"Yes," said Blanche. "The elderly party from the rural
districts, who talks to us about the domestic virtues of the
wife of his youth."
"Thinks women should cruise with a broom at their mast-heads,
like Admiral somebody in England," said another damsel, who was
rolling a cigarette for a midshipman.
"You see we do not follow the English style," said the smooth
hostess to Philip. "Ladies retiring after dinner! After all,
it is a coarse practice. You agree with me, Mr. Malbone?"
"Speak your mind," said Blanche, coolly. "Don't say yes if
you'd rather not. Because we find a thing a bore, you've no
call to say so."
"I always say," continued the matron, "that the presence of
woman is needed as a refining influence."
Malbone looked round for the refining influences. Blanche was
tilted back in her chair, with one foot on the rung of the
chair before her, resuming a loud-toned discourse with Count
Posen as to his projected work on American society. She was
trying to extort a promise that she should appear in its pages,
which, as we all remember, she did. One of her attendant nymphs
sat leaning her elbows on the table, "talking horse" with a
gentleman who had an undoubted professional claim to a
knowledge of that commodity. Another, having finished her
manufactured cigarette, was making the grinning midshipman open
his lips wider and wider to receive it. Mrs. Ingleside was
talking in her mincing way with a Jew broker, whose English was
as imperfect as his morals, and who needed nothing to make him
a millionnaire but a turn of bad luck for somebody else. Half
the men in the room would have felt quite ill at ease in any
circle of refined women, but there was not one who did not feel
perfectly unembarrassed around Mrs. Ingleside's board.
"Upon my word," thought Malbone, "I never fancied the English
after-dinner practice, any more than did Napoleon. But if this
goes on, it is the gentlemen who ought to withdraw. Cannot
somebody lead the way to the drawing-room, and leave the ladies
to finish their cigars?"
Till now he had hardly dared to look at Emilia. He saw with a
thrill of love that she was the one person in the room who
appeared out of place or ill at ease. She did not glance at
him, but held her cigarette in silence and refused to light it.
She had boasted to him once of having learned to smoke at
"What's the matter, Emmy?" suddenly exclaimed Blanche. "Are
you under a cloud, that you don't blow one?"
"Blanche, Blanche," said her mother, in sweet reproof. "Mr.
Malbone, what shall I do with this wild girl? Such a light way
of talking! But I can assure you that she is really very fond
of the society of intellectual, superior men. I often tell her
that they are, after all, her most congenial associates. More
so than the young and giddy."
"You'd better believe it," said the unabashed damsel. "Take
notice that whenever I go to a dinner-party I look round for a
clergyman to drink wine with."
"Incorrigible!" said the caressing mother. "Mr. Malbone would
hardly imagine you had been bred in a Christian land."
"I have, though," retorted Blanche. "My esteemed parent always
accustomed me to give up something during Lent,--champagne, or
the New York Herald, or something."
The young men roared, and, had time and cosmetics made it
possible, Mrs. Ingleside would have blushed becomingly. After
all, the daughter was the better of the two. Her bluntness was
refreshing beside the mother's suavity; she had a certain
generosity, too, and in a case of real destitution would have
lent her best ear-rings to a friend.
By this time Malbone had edged himself to Emilia's side. "Will
you drive with me?" he murmured in an undertone.
She nodded slightly, abruptly, and he withdrew again.
"It seems barbarous," said he aloud, "to break up the party.
But I must claim my promised drive with Miss Emilia."
Blanche looked up, for once amazed, having heard a different
programme arranged. Count Posen looked up also. But he thought
he must have misunderstood Emilia's acceptance of his previous
offer to drive her; and as he prided himself even more on his
English than on his gallantry, he said no more. It was no great
matter. Young Jones's dog-cart was at the door, and always
opened eagerly its arms to anybody with a title.
A NEW ENGAGEMENT.
TEN days later Philip came into Aunt Jane's parlor, looking
excited and gloomy, with a letter in his hand. He put it down
on her table without its envelope,--a thing that always
particularly annoyed her. A letter without its envelope, she
was wont to say, was like a man without a face, or a key
without a string,--something incomplete, preposterous. As
usual, however, he strode across her prejudices, and said, "I
have something to tell you. It is a fact."
"Is it?" said Aunt Jane, curtly. "That is refreshing in these
"A good beginning," said Kate. "Go on. You have prepared us
for something incredible."
"You will think it so," said Malbone. "Emilia is engaged to
Mr. John Lambert." And he went out of the room.
"Good Heavens!" said Aunt Jane, taking off her spectacles.
"What a man! He is ugly enough to frighten the neighboring
crows. His face looks as if it had fallen together out of
chaos, and the features had come where it had pleased Fate.
There is a look of industrious nothingness about him, such as
busy dogs have. I know the whole family. They used to bake our
"I suppose they are good and sensible," said Kate.
"Like boiled potatoes, my dear," was the response,--"wholesome
but perfectly uninteresting."
"Is he of that sort?" asked Kate.
"No," said her aunt; "not uninteresting, but ungracious. But I
like an ungracious man better than one like Philip, who hangs
over young girls like a soft-hearted avalanche. This Lambert
will govern Emilia, which is what she needs."
"She will never love him," said Kate, "which is the one thing
she needs. There is nothing that could not be done with Emilia
by any person with whom she was in love; and nothing can ever
be done with her by anybody else. No good will ever come of
this, and I hope she will never marry him."
With this unusual burst, Kate retreated to Hope. Hope took the
news more patiently than any one, but with deep solicitude. A
worldly marriage seemed the natural result of the Ingleside
influence, but it had not occurred to anybody that it would
come so soon. It had not seemed Emilia's peculiar temptation;
and yet nobody could suppose that she looked at John Lambert
through any glamour of the affections.
Mr. John Lambert was a millionnaire, a politician, and a
widower. The late Mrs. Lambert had been a specimen of that
cheerful hopelessness of temperament that one finds abundantly
developed among the middle-aged women of country towns. She
enjoyed her daily murders in the newspapers, and wept profusely
at the funerals of strangers. On every occasion, however
felicitous, she offered her condolences in a feeble voice, that
seemed to have been washed a great many times and to have
faded. But she was a good manager, a devoted wife, and was more
cheerful at home than elsewhere, for she had there plenty of
trials to exercise her eloquence, and not enough joy to make it
her duty to be doleful. At last her poor, meek, fatiguing voice
faded out altogether, and her husband mourned her as heartily
as she would have bemoaned the demise of the most insignificant
neighbor. After her death, being left childless, he had
nothing to do but to make money, and he naturally made it.
Having taken his primary financial education in New England, he
graduated at that great business university, Chicago, and then
entered on the public practice of wealth in New York.
Aunt Jane had perhaps done injustice to the personal appearance
of Mr. John Lambert. His features were irregular, but not
insignificant, and there was a certain air of slow command
about him, which made some persons call him handsome. He was
heavily built, with a large, well-shaped head, light whiskers
tinged with gray, and a sort of dusty complexion. His face was
full of little curved wrinkles, as if it were a slate just
ruled for sums in long division, and his small blue eyes winked
anxiously a dozen different ways, as if they were doing the
sums. He seemed to bristle with memorandum-books, and kept
drawing them from every pocket, to put something down. He was
slow of speech, and his very heaviness of look added to the
impression of reserved power about the man.
All his career in life had been a solid progress, and his
boldest speculations seemed securer than the legitimate
business of less potent financiers. Beginning business life by
peddling gingerbread on a railway train, he had developed such
a genius for railway management as some men show for chess or
for virtue; and his accumulating property had the momentum of a
He had read a good deal at odd times, and had seen a great deal
of men. His private morals were unstained, he was equable and
amiable, had strong good sense, and never got beyond his depth.
He had travelled in Europe and brought home many statistics,
some new thoughts, and a few good pictures selected by his
friends. He spent his money liberally for the things needful to
his position, owned a yacht, bred trotting-horses, and had
founded a theological school. He submitted to these and other
social observances from a vague sense of duty as an American
citizen; his real interest lay in business and in politics.
Yet he conducted these two vocations on principles
diametrically opposite. In business he was more honest than
the average; in politics he had no conception of honesty, for
he could see no difference between a politician and any other
merchandise. He always succeeded in business, for he thoroughly
understood its principles; in politics he always failed in the
end, for he recognized no principles at all. In business he
was active, resolute, and seldom deceived; in politics he was
equally active, but was apt to be irresolute, and was deceived
every day of his life. In both cases it was not so much from
love of power that he labored, as from the excitement of the
game. The larger the scale the better he liked it; a large
railroad operation, a large tract of real estate, a big and
noisy statesman,--these investments he found irresistible.
On which of his two sets of principles he would manage a wife
remained to be proved. It is the misfortune of what are called
self-made men in America, that, though early accustomed to the
society of men of the world, they often remain utterly
unacquainted with women of the world, until those charming
perils are at last sprung upon them in full force, at New York
or Washington. John Lambert at forty was as absolutely
ignorant of the qualities and habits of a cultivated woman as
of the details of her toilet. The plain domesticity of his
departed wife he had understood and prized; he remembered her
household ways as he did her black alpaca dress; indeed, except
for that item of apparel, she was not so unlike himself. In
later years he had seen the women of society; he had heard them
talk; he had heard men talk about them, wittily or wickedly, at
the clubs; he had perceived that a good many of them wished to
marry him, and yet, after all, he knew no more of them than of
the rearing of humming-birds or orchids,--dainty, tropical
things which he allowed his gardener to raise, he keeping his
hands off, and only paying the bills. Whether there was in
existence a class of women who were both useful and
refined,--any intermediate type between the butterfly and the
drudge,--was a question which he had sometimes asked himself,
without having the materials to construct a reply.
With imagination thus touched and heart unfilled, this man had
been bewitched from the very first moment by Emilia. He kept
it to himself, and heard in silence the criticisms made at the
club-windows. To those perpetual jokes about marriage, which
are showered with such graceful courtesy about the path of
widowers, he had no reply; or at most would only admit that he
needed some elegant woman to preside over his establishment,
and that he had better take her young, as having habits less
fixed. But in his secret soul he treasured every tone of this
girl's voice, every glance of her eye, and would have kept in a
casket of gold and diamonds the little fragrant glove she once
let fall. He envied the penniless and brainless boys, who, with
ready gallantry, pushed by him to escort her to her carriage;
and he lay awake at night to form into words the answer he
ought to have made, when she threw at him some careless phrase,
and gave him the opportunity to blunder.
And she, meanwhile, unconscious of his passion, went by him in
her beauty, and caught him in the net she never threw. Emilia
was always piquant, because she was indifferent; she had never
made an effort in her life, and she had no respect for persons.
She was capable of marrying for money, perhaps, but the
sacrifice must all be completed in a single vow. She would not
tutor nor control herself for the purpose. Hand and heart must
be duly transferred, she supposed, whenever the time was up;
but till then she must be free.
This with her was not art, but necessity; yet the most
accomplished art could have devised nothing so effectual to
hold her lover. His strong sense had always protected him from
the tricks of matchmaking mammas and their guileless maids.
Had Emilia made one effort to please him, once concealed a
dislike, once affected a preference, the spell might have been
broken. Had she been his slave, he might have become a very
unyielding or a very heedless despot. Making him her slave, she
kept him at the very height of bliss. This king of railways and
purchaser of statesmen, this man who made or wrecked the
fortunes of others by his whim, was absolutely governed by a
reckless, passionate, inexperienced, ignorant girl.
And this passion was made all the stronger by being a good deal
confined to his own breast. Somehow it was very hard for him
to talk sentiment to Emilia; he instinctively saw she disliked
it, and indeed he liked her for not approving the stiff phrases
which were all he could command. Nor could he find any relief
of mind in talking with others about her. It enraged him to be
clapped on the back and congratulated by his compeers; and he
stopped their coarse jokes, often rudely enough. As for the
young men at the club, he could not bear to hear them mention
his darling's name, however courteously. He knew well enough
that for them the betrothal had neither dignity nor purity;
that they held it to be as much a matter of bargain and sale as
their worst amours. He would far rather have talked to the
theological professors whose salaries he paid, for he saw that
they had a sort of grave, formal tradition of the sacredness of
marriage. And he had a right to claim that to him it was
sacred, at least as yet; all the ideal side of his nature was
suddenly developed; he walked in a dream; he even read
Sometimes he talked a little to his future brother-in-law,
Harry,--assuming, as lovers are wont, that brothers see sisters
on their ideal side. This was quite true of Harry and Hope,
but not at all true as regarded Emilia. She seemed to him
simply a beautiful and ungoverned girl whom he could not
respect, and whom he therefore found it very hard to idealize.
Therefore he heard with a sort of sadness the outpourings of
generous devotion from John Lambert.
"I don't know how it is, Henry," the merchant would gravely
say, "I can't get rightly used to it, that I feel so strange.
Honestly, now, I feel as if I was beginning life over again. It
ain't a selfish feeling, so I know there's some good in it. I
used to be selfish enough, but I ain't so to her. You may not
think it, but if it would make her happy, I believe I could lie
down and let her carriage roll over me. By -----, I would build
her a palace to live in, and keep the lodge at the gate myself,
just to see her pass by. That is, if she was to live in it
alone by herself. I couldn't stand sharing her. It must be me
Probably there was no male acquaintance of the parties, however
hardened, to whom these fine flights would have seemed more
utterly preposterous than to the immediate friend and
prospective bridesmaid, Miss Blanche Ingleside. To that young
lady, trained sedulously by a devoted mother, life was really a
serious thing. It meant the full rigor of the marriage market,
tempered only by dancing and new dresses. There was a stern
sense of duty beneath all her robing and disrobing; she
conscientiously did what was expected of her, and took her
little amusements meanwhile. It was supposed that most of the
purchasers in the market preferred slang and bare shoulders,
and so she favored them with plenty of both. It was merely the
law of supply and demand. Had John Lambert once hinted that he
would accept her in decent black, she would have gone to the
next ball as a Sister of Charity; but where was the need of it,
when she and her mother both knew that, had she appeared as the
Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, she would not have won him? So her
only resource was a cheerful acquiescence in Emilia's luck, and
a judicious propitiation of the accepted favorite.
"I wouldn't mind playing Virtue Rewarded myself, young woman,"
said Blanche, "at such a scale of prices. I would do it even
to so slow an audience as old Lambert. But you see, it isn't
my line. Don't forget your humble friends when you come into
your property, that's all." Then the tender coterie of
innocents entered on some preliminary consideration of
When Emilia came home, she dismissed the whole matter lightly
as a settled thing, evaded all talk with Aunt Jane, and coolly
said to Kate that she had no objection to Mr. Lambert, and
might as well marry him as anybody else.
"I am not like you and Hal, you know," said she. "I have no
fancy for love in a cottage. I never look well in anything
that is not costly. I have not a taste that does not imply a
fortune. What is the use of love? One marries for love, and is
unhappy ever after. One marries for money, and perhaps gets
love after all. I dare say Mr. Lambert loves me, though I do
not see why he should."
"I fear he does," said Kate, almost severely.
"Fear?" said Emilia.
"Yes," said Kate. "It is an unequal bargain, where one side
does all the loving."
"Don't be troubled," said Emilia. "I dare say he will not love
me long. Nobody ever did!" And her eyes filled with tears
which she dashed away angrily, as she ran up to her room.
It was harder yet for her to talk with Hope, but she did it,
and that in a very serious mood. She had never been so open
with her sister.
"Aunt Jane once told me," she said, "that my only safety was in
marrying a good man. Now I am engaged to one."
"Do you love him, Emilia?" asked Hope, gravely.
"Not much," said Emilia, honestly. "But perhaps I shall, by
"Emilia," cried Hope, "there is no such thing as happiness in a
marriage without love."
"Mine is not without love," the girl answered. "He loves me.
It frightens me to see how much he loves me. I can have the
devotion of a lifetime, if I will. Perhaps it is hard to
receive it in such a way, but I can have it. Do you blame me
Hope hesitated. "I cannot blame you so much, my child," she
said, "as if I thought it were money for which you cared. It
seems to me that there must be something beside that, and
"O Hope, how I thank you," interrupted Emilia. "It is not
money. You know I do not care about money, except just to buy
my clothes and things. At least, I do not care about so much
as he has,--more than a million dollars, only think! Perhaps
they said two million. Is it wrong for me to marry him, just
because he has that?"
"Not if you love him."
"I do not exactly love him, but O Hope, I cannot tell you about
it. I am not so frivolous as you think. I want to do my duty.
I want to make you happy too: you have been so sweet to me."
"Did you think it would make me happy to have you married?"
asked Hope, surprised, and kissing again and again the young,
sad face. And the two girls went upstairs together, brought for
the moment into more sisterly nearness by the very thing that
had seemed likely to set them forever apart.
SO short was the period between Emilia's betrothal and her
marriage, that Aunt Jane's sufferings over trousseau and visits
did not last long. Mr. Lambert's society was the worst thing to
"He makes such long calls!" she said, despairingly. "He should
bring an almanac with him to know when the days go by."
"But Harry and Philip are here all the time," said Kate, the
"Harry is quiet, and Philip keeps out of the way lately," she
answered. "But I always thought lovers the most inconvenient
thing about a house. They are more troublesome than the mice,
and all those people who live in the wainscot; for though the
lovers make less noise, yet you have to see them."
"A necessary evil, dear," said Kate, with much philosophy.
"I am not sure," said the complainant. "They might be excluded
in the deed of a house, or by the terms of the lease. The next
house I take, I shall say to the owner, 'Have you a good well
of water on the premises? Are you troubled with rats or
lovers?' That will settle it."
It was true, what Aunt Jane said about Malbone. He had changed
his habits a good deal. While the girls were desperately busy
about the dresses, he beguiled Harry to the club, and sat on
the piazza, talking sentiment and sarcasm, regardless of
"When we are young," he would say, "we are all idealists in
love. Every imaginative boy has such a passion, while his
intellect is crude and his senses indifferent. It is the
height of bliss. All other pleasures are not worth its pains.
With older men this ecstasy of the imagination is rare; it is
the senses that clutch or reason which holds."
"Is that an improvement?" asked some juvenile listener.
"No!" said Philip, strongly. "Reason is cold and sensuality
hateful; a man of any feeling must feed his imagination; there
must be a woman of whom he can dream."
"That is," put in some more critical auditor, "whom he can love
as a woman loves a man."
"For want of the experience of such a passion," Malbone went
on, unheeding, "nobody comprehends Petrarch. Philosophers and
sensualists all refuse to believe that his dream of Laura went
on, even when he had a mistress and a child. Why not? Every
one must have something to which his dreams can cling, amid the
degradations of actual life, and this tie is more real than the
degradation; and if he holds to the tie, it will one day save
"What is the need of the degradation?" put in the clear-headed
"None, except in weakness," said Philip. "A stronger nature
may escape it. Good God! do I not know how Petrarch must have
felt? What sorrow life brings! Suppose a man hopelessly
separated from one whom he passionately loves. Then, as he
looks up at the starry sky, something says to him: 'You can
bear all these agonies of privation, loss of life, loss of
love,--what are they? If the tie between you is what you
thought, neither life nor death, neither folly nor sin, can
keep her forever from you.' Would that one could always feel
so! But I am weak. Then comes impulse, it thirsts for some
immediate gratification; I yield, and plunge into any happiness
since I cannot obtain her. Then comes quiet again, with the
stars, and I bitterly reproach myself for needing anything more
than that stainless ideal. And so, I fancy, did Petrarch."
Philip was getting into a dangerous mood with his
sentimentalism. No lawful passion can ever be so bewildering or
ecstatic as an unlawful one. For that which is right has all
the powers of the universe on its side, and can afford to wait;
but the wrong, having all those vast forces against it, must
hurry to its fulfilment, reserve nothing, concentrate all its
ecstasies upon to-day. Malbone, greedy of emotion, was drinking
to the dregs a passion that could have no to-morrow.
Sympathetic persons are apt to assume that every refined
emotion must be ennobling. This is not true of men like
Malbone, voluptuaries of the heart. He ordinarily got up a
passion very much as Lord Russell got up an appetite,--he, of
Spence's Anecdotes, who went out hunting for that sole purpose,
and left the chase when the sensation came. Malbone did not
leave his more spiritual chase so soon,--it made him too happy.
Sometimes, indeed, when he had thus caught his emotion, it
caught him in return, and for a few moments made him almost
unhappy. This he liked best of all; he nursed the delicious
pain, knowing that it would die out soon enough, there was no
need of hurrying it to a close. At least, there had never been
need for such solicitude before.
Except for his genius for keeping his own counsel, every
acquaintance of Malbone's would have divined the meaning of
these reveries. As it was, he was called whimsical and
sentimental, but he was a man of sufficiently assured position
to have whims of his own, and could even treat himself to an
emotion or so, if he saw fit. Besides, he talked well to
anybody on anything, and was admitted to exhibit, for a man of
literary tastes, a good deal of sense. If he had engaged
himself to a handsome schoolmistress, it was his fancy, and he
could afford it. Moreover she was well connected, and had an
air. And what more natural than that he should stand at the
club-window and watch, when his young half-sister (that was to
be) drove by with John Lambert? So every afternoon he saw them
pass in a vehicle of lofty description, with two wretched
appendages in dark blue broadcloth, who sat with their backs
turned to their masters, kept their arms folded, and nearly
rolled off at every corner. Hope would have dreaded the close
neighborhood of those Irish ears; she would rather have ridden
even in an omnibus, could she and Philip have taken all the
seats. But then Hope seldom cared to drive on the Avenue at
all, except as a means of reaching the ocean, whereas with most
people it appears the appointed means to escape from that
spectacle. And as for the footmen, there was nothing in the
conversation worth their hearing or repeating; and their
presence was a relief to Emilia, for who knew but Mr. Lambert
himself might end in growing sentimental?
Yet she did not find him always equally tedious. Their drives
had some variety. For instance, he sometimes gave her some
lovely present before they set forth, and she could feel that,
if his lips did not yield diamonds and rubies, his pockets did.
Sometimes he conversed about money and investments, which she
rather liked; this was his strong and commanding point; he
explained things quite clearly, and they found, with mutual
surprise, that she also had a shrewd little brain for those
matters, if she would but take the trouble to think about them.
Sometimes he insisted on being tender, and even this was not so
bad as she expected, at least for a few minutes at a time; she
rather enjoyed having her hand pressed so seriously, and his
studied phrases amused her. It was only when he wished the
conversation to be brilliant and intellectual, that he became
intolerable; then she must entertain him, must get up little
repartees, must tell him lively anecdotes, which he swallowed
as a dog bolts a morsel, being at once ready for the next. He
never made a comment, of course, but at the height of his
enjoyment he gave a quick, short, stupid laugh, that so jarred
upon her ears, she would have liked to be struck deaf rather
than hear it again.
At these times she thought of Malbone, how gifted he was, how
inexhaustible, how agreeable, with a faculty for happiness that
would have been almost provoking had it not been contagious.
Then she looked from her airy perch and smiled at him at the
club-window, where he stood in the most negligent of attitudes,
and with every faculty strained in observation. A moment and
she was gone.
Then all was gone, and a mob of queens might have blocked the
way, without his caring to discuss their genealogies, even with
old General Le Breton, who had spent his best (or his worst)
years abroad, and was supposed to have been confidential
adviser to most of the crowned heads of Europe.
For the first time in his life Malbone found himself in the
grasp of a passion too strong to be delightful. For the first
time his own heart frightened him. He had sometimes feared that
it was growing harder, but now he discovered that it was not
He knew it was not merely mercenary motives that had made
Emilia accept John Lambert; but what troubled him was a vague
knowledge that it was not mere pique. He was used to dealing
with pique in women, and had found it the most manageable of
weaknesses. It was an element of spasmodic conscience than he
saw here, and it troubled him.
Something told him that she had said to herself: "I will be
married, and thus do my duty to Hope. Other girls marry
persons whom they do not love, and it helps them to forget.
Perhaps it will help me. This is a good man, they say, and I
think he loves me."
"Think?" John Lambert had adored her when she had passed by
him without looking at him; and now when the thought came over
him that she would be his wife, he became stupid with bliss.
And as latterly he had thought of little else, he remained more
or less stupid all the time.
To a man like Malbone, self-indulgent rather than selfish, this
poor, blind semblance of a moral purpose in Emilia was a great
embarrassment. It is a terrible thing for a lover when he
detects conscience amidst the armory of weapons used against
him, and faces the fact that he must blunt a woman's principles
to win her heart. Philip was rather accustomed to evade
conscience, but he never liked to look it in the face and defy
Yet if the thought of Hope at this time came over him, it came
as a constraint, and he disliked it as such; and the more
generous and beautiful she was, the greater the constraint. He
cursed himself that he had allowed himself to be swayed back to
her, and so had lost Emilia forever. And thus he drifted on,
not knowing what he wished for, but knowing extremely well what
THE NEMESIS OF PASSION.
MALBONE was a person of such ready, emotional nature, and such
easy expression, that it was not hard for Hope to hide from
herself the gradual ebbing of his love. Whenever he was fresh
and full of spirits, he had enough to overflow upon her and
every one. But when other thoughts and cares were weighing on
him, he could not share them, nor could he at such times, out
of the narrowing channel of his own life, furnish more than a
few scanty drops for her.
At these times he watched with torturing fluctuations the signs
of solicitude in Hope, the timid withdrawing of her fingers,
the questioning of her eyes, the weary drooping of her whole
expression. Often he cursed himself as a wretch for paining
that pure and noble heart. Yet there were moments when a vague
inexpressible delight stole in; a glimmering of shame-faced
pleasure as he pondered on this visible dawning of distrust; a
sudden taste of freedom in being no longer fettered by her
confidence. By degrees he led himself, still half ashamed, to
the dream that she might yet be somehow weaned from him, and
leave his conscience free. By constantly building upon this
thought, and putting aside all others, he made room upon the
waste of his life for a house of cards, glittering,
unsubstantial, lofty,--until there came some sudden breath that
swept it away; and then he began on it again.
In one of those moments of more familiar faith which still
alternated with these cold, sad intervals, she asked him with
some sudden impulse, how he should feel if she loved another?
She said it, as if guided by an instinct, to sound the depth of
his love for her. Starting with amazement, he looked at her,
and then, divining her feeling, he only replied by an
expression of reproach, and by kissing her hands with an
habitual tenderness that had grown easy to him,--and they were
such lovely hands! But his heart told him that no spent swimmer
ever transferred more eagerly to another's arms some precious
burden beneath which he was consciously sinking, than he would
yield her up to any one whom she would consent to love, and who
could be trusted with the treasure. Until that ecstasy of
release should come, he would do his duty,--yes, his duty.
When these flushed hopes grew pale, as they soon did, he could
at least play with the wan fancies that took their place. Hour
after hour, while she lavished upon him the sweetness of her
devotion, he was half consciously shaping with his tongue some
word of terrible revealing that should divide them like a
spell, if spoken, and then recalling it before it left his
lips. Daily and hourly he felt the last agony of a weak and
passionate nature,--to dream of one woman in another's arms.
She, too, watched him with an ever-increasing instinct of
danger, studied with a chilly terror the workings of his face,
weighed and reweighed his words in absence, agonized herself
with new and ever new suspicions; and then, when these had
accumulated beyond endurance, seized them convulsively and
threw them all away. Then, coming back to him with a great
overwhelming ardor of affection, she poured upon him more and
more in proportion as he gave her less.
Sometimes in these moments of renewed affection he half gave
words to his remorse, accused himself before her of unnamed
wrong, and besought her to help him return to his better self.
These were the most dangerous moments of all, for such appeals
made tenderness and patience appear a duty; she must put away
her doubts as sins, and hold him to her; she must refuse to see
his signs of faltering faith, or treat them as mere symptoms of
ill health. Should not a wife cling the closer to her husband
in proportion as he seemed alienated through the wanderings of
disease? And was not this her position? So she said within
herself, and meanwhile it was not hard to penetrate her
changing thoughts, at least for so keen an observer as Aunt
Jane. Hope, at length, almost ceased to speak of Malbone, and
revealed her grief by this evasion, as the robin reveals her
nest by flitting from it.
Yet there were times when he really tried to force himself into
a revival of this calmer emotion. He studied Hope's beauty
with his eyes, he pondered on all her nobleness. He wished to
bring his whole heart back to her--or at least wished that he
wished it. But hearts that have educated themselves into
faithlessness must sooner or later share the suffering they
give. Love will be avenged on them. Nothing could have now
recalled this epicure in passion, except, possibly, a little
withholding or semi-coquetry on Hope's part, and this was
utterly impossible for her. Absolute directness was a part of
her nature; she could die, but not manouvre.
It actually diminished Hope's hold on Philip, that she had at
this time the whole field to herself. Emilia had gone for a
few weeks to the mountains, with the household of which she was
a guest. An ideal and unreasonable passion is strongest in
absence, when the dream is all pure dream, and safe from the
discrepancies of daily life. When the two girls were together,
Emilia often showed herself so plainly Hope's inferior, that it
jarred on Philip's fine perceptions. But in Emilia's absence
the spell of temperament, or whatever else brought them
together, resumed its sway unchecked; she became one great
magnet of attraction, and all the currents of the universe
appeared to flow from the direction where her eyes were
shining. When she was out of sight, he needed to make no
allowance for her defects, to reproach himself with no overt
acts of disloyalty to Hope, to recognize no criticisms of his
own intellect or conscience. He could resign himself to his
reveries, and pursue them into new subtleties day by day.
There was Mrs. Meredith's house, too, where they had been so
happy. And now the blinds were pitilessly closed, all but one
where the Venetian slats had slipped, and stood half open as if
some dainty fingers held them, and some lovely eyes looked
through. He gazed so long and so often on that silent
house,--by day, when the scorching sunshine searched its pores
as if to purge away every haunting association, or by night,
when the mantle of darkness hung tenderly above it, and seemed
to collect the dear remembrances again,--that his fancy by
degrees grew morbid, and its pictures unreal. "It is
impossible," he one day thought to himself, "that she should
have lived in that room so long, sat in that window, dreamed on
that couch, reflected herself in that mirror, breathed that
air, without somehow detaching invisible fibres of her being,
delicate films of herself, that must gradually, she being gone,
draw together into a separate individuality an image not quite
bodiless, that replaces her in her absence, as the holy
Theocrite was replaced by the angel. If there are ghosts of the
dead, why not ghosts of the living also?" This lover's fancy so
pleased him that he brought to bear upon it the whole force of
his imagination, and it grew stronger day by day. To him,
thenceforth, the house was haunted, and all its floating traces
of herself visible or invisible,--from the ribbon that he saw
entangled in the window-blind to every intangible and fancied
atom she had imparted to the atmosphere,--came at last to
organize themselves into one phantom shape for him and looked
out, a wraith of Emilia, through those relentless blinds. As
the vision grew more vivid, he saw the dim figure moving
through the house, wan, restless, tender, lingering where they
had lingered, haunting every nook where they had been happy
once. In the windy moanings of the silent night he could put
his ear at the keyhole, and could fancy that he heard the wild
signals of her love and despair.
ACROSS THE BAY.
THE children, as has been said, were all devoted to Malbone,
and this was, in a certain degree, to his credit. But it is a
mistake to call children good judges of character, except in
one direction, namely, their own. They understand it, up to the
level of their own stature; they know who loves them, but not
who loves virtue. Many a sinner has a great affection for
children, and no child will ever detect the sins of such a
friend; because, toward them, the sins do not exist.
The children, therefore, all loved Philip, and yet they turned
with delight, when out-door pleasures were in hand, to the
strong and adroit Harry. Philip inclined to the daintier
exercises, fencing, billiards, riding; but Harry's vigorous
physique enjoyed hard work. He taught all the household to
swim, for instance. Jenny, aged five, a sturdy, deep-chested
little thing, seemed as amphibious as himself. She could
already swim alone, but she liked to keep close to him, as all
young animals do to their elders in the water, not seeming to
need actual support, but stronger for the contact. Her favorite
position, however, was on his back, where she triumphantly
clung, grasping his bathing-dress with one hand, swinging
herself to and fro, dipping her head beneath the water, singing
and shouting, easily shifting her position when he wished to
vary his, and floating by him like a little fish, when he was
tired of supporting her. It was pretty to see the child in her
one little crimson garment, her face flushed with delight, her
fair hair glistening from the water, and the waves rippling and
dancing round her buoyant form. As Harry swam farther and
farther out, his head was hidden from view by her small person,
and she might have passed for a red seabird rocking on the
gentle waves. It was one of the regular delights of the
household to see them bathe.
Kate came in to Aunt Jane's room, one August morning, to say
that they were going to the water-side. How differently people
may enter a room! Hope always came in as the summer breeze
comes, quiet, strong, soft, fragrant, resistless. Emilia never
seemed to come in at all; you looked up, and she had somehow
drifted where she stood, pleading, evasive, lovely. This was
especially the case where one person was awaiting her alone;
with two she was more fearless, with a dozen she was buoyant,
and with a hundred she forgot herself utterly and was a spirit
of irresistible delight.
But Kate entered any room, whether nursery or kitchen, as if it
were the private boudoir of a princess and she the favorite
maid of honor. Thus it was she came that morning to Aunt Jane.
"We are going down to see the bathers, dear," said Kate.
"Shall you miss me?"
"I miss you every minute," said her aunt, decisively. "But I
shall do very well. I have delightful times here by myself.
What a ridiculous man it was who said that it was impossible to
imagine a woman's laughing at her own comic fancies. I sit and
laugh at my own nonsense very often."
"It is a shame to waste it," said Kate.
"It is a blessing that any of it is disposed of while you are
not here," said Aunt Jane. "You have quite enough of it."
"We never have enough," said Kate. "And we never can make you
repeat any of yesterday's."
"Of course not," said Aunt Jane. "Nonsense must have the dew
on it, or it is good for nothing."
"So you are really happiest alone?"
"Not so happy as when you are with me,--you or Hope. I like to
have Hope with me now; she does me good. Really, I do not care
for anybody else. Sometimes I think if I could always have four
or five young kittens by me, in a champagne-basket, with a
nurse to watch them, I should be happier. But perhaps not; they
would grow up so fast!"
"Then I will leave you alone without compunction," said Kate.
"I am not alone," said Aunt Jane; "I have my man in the boat to
watch through the window. What a singular being he is! I think
he spends hours in that boat, and what he does I can't
conceive. There it is, quietly anchored, and there is he in it.
I never saw anybody but myself who could get up so much
industry out of nothing. He has all his housework there, a
broom and a duster, and I dare say he has a cooking-stove and a
gridiron. He sits a little while, then he stoops down, then he
goes to the other end. Sometimes he goes ashore in that absurd
little tub, with a stick that he twirls at one end."
"That is called sculling," interrupted Kate.
"Sculling! I suppose he runs for a baked potato. Then he goes
back. He is Robinson Crusoe on an island that never keeps still
a single instant. It is all he has, and he never looks away,
and never wants anything more. So I have him to watch. Think
of living so near a beaver or a water-rat with clothes on!
Good-by. Leave the door ajar, it is so warm."
And Kate went down to the landing. It was near the "baptismal
shore," where every Sunday the young people used to watch the
immersions; they liked to see the crowd of spectators, the
eager friends, the dripping convert, the serene young minister,
the old men and girls who burst forth in song as the new
disciple rose from the waves. It was the weekly festival in
that region, and the sunshine and the ripples made it
gladdening, not gloomy. Every other day in the week the
children of the fishermen waded waist-deep in the water, and
played at baptism.
Near this shore stood the family bathing-house; and the girls
came down to sit in its shadow and watch the swimming. It was
late in August, and on the first of September Emilia was to be
Nothing looked cool, that day, but the bay and those who were
going into it. Out came Hope from the bathing-house, in a new
bathing-dress of dark blue, which was evidently what the others
had come forth to behold.
"Hope, what an imposter you are!" cried Kate instantly. "You
declined all my proffers of aid in cutting that dress, and now
see how it fits you! You never looked so beautifully in your
life. There is not such another bathing-dress in Oldport, nor
such a figure to wear it."
And she put both her arms round that supple, stately waist,
that might have belonged to a Greek goddess, or to some queen
in the Nibelungen Lied.
The party watched the swimmers as they struck out over the
clear expanse. It was high noon; the fishing-boats were all
off, but a few pleasure-boats swung different ways at their
moorings, in the perfect calm. The white light-house stood
reflected opposite, at the end of its long pier; a few vessels
lay at anchor, with their sails up to dry, but with that
deserted look which coasters in port are wont to wear. A few
fishes dimpled the still surface, and as the three swam out
farther and farther, their merry voices still sounded close at
hand. Suddenly they all clapped their hands and called; then
pointed forward to the light-house, across the narrow harbor.
"They are going to swim across," said Kate. "What creatures
they are! Hope and little Jenny have always begged for it, and
now Harry thinks it is so still a day they can safely venture.
It is more than half a mile. See! he has called that boy in a
boat, and he will keep near them. They have swum farther than
that along the shore."
So the others went away with no fears.
Hope said afterwards that she never swam with such delight as
on that day. The water seemed to be peculiarly thin and clear,
she said, as well as tranquil, and to retain its usual buoyancy
without its density. It gave a delicious sense of freedom; she
seemed to swim in air, and felt singularly secure. For the
first time she felt what she had always wished to
experience,--that swimming was as natural as walking, and might
be indefinitely prolonged. Her strength seemed limitless, she
struck out more and more strongly; she splashed and played with
little Jenny, when the child began to grow weary of the long
motion. A fisherman's boy in a boat rowed slowly along by their
Nine tenths of the distance had been accomplished, when the
little girl grew quite impatient, and Hope bade Harry swim on
before her, and land his charge. Light and buoyant as the child
was, her tightened clasp had begun to tell on him.
"It tires you, Hal, to bear that weight so long, and you know I
have nothing to carry. You must see that I am not in the least
tired, only a little dazzled by the sun. Here, Charley, give
me your hat, and then row on with Mr. Harry." She put on the
boy's torn straw hat, and they yielded to her wish. People
almost always yielded to Hope's wishes when she expressed
them,--it was so very seldom.
Somehow the remaining distance seemed very great, as Hope saw
them glide away, leaving her in the water alone, her feet
unsupported by any firm element, the bright and pitiless sky
arching far above her, and her head burning with more heat than
she had liked to own. She was conscious of her full strength,
and swam more vigorously than ever; but her head was hot and
her ears rang, and she felt chilly vibrations passing up and
down her sides, that were like, she fancied, the innumerable
fringing oars of the little jelly-fishes she had so often
watched. Her body felt almost unnaturally strong, and she took
powerful strokes; but it seemed as if her heart went out into
them and left a vacant cavity within. More and more her life
seemed boiling up into her head; queer fancies came to her, as,
for instance, that she was an inverted thermometer with the
mercury all ascending into a bulb at the top. She shook her
head and the fancy cleared away, and then others came.
She began to grow seriously anxious, but the distance was
diminishing; Harry was almost at the steps with the child, and
the boy had rowed his skiff round the breakwater out of sight;
a young fisherman leaned over the railing with his back to her,
watching the lobster-catchers on the other side. She was almost
in; it was only a slight dizziness, yet she could not see the
light-house. Concentrating all her efforts, she shut her eyes
and swam on, her arms still unaccountably vigorous, though the
rest of her body seemed losing itself in languor. The sound in
her ear had grown to a roar, as of many mill-wheels. It seemed
a long distance that she thus swam with her eyes closed. Then
she half opened her eyes, and the breakwater seemed all in
motion, with tier above tier of eager faces looking down on
her. In an instant there was a sharp splash close beside her,
and she felt herself grasped and drawn downwards, with a whirl
of something just above her, and then all consciousness went
out as suddenly as when ether brings at last to a patient,
after the roaring and the tumult in his brain, its blessed
foretaste of the deliciousness of death.
When Hope came again to consciousness, she found herself
approaching her own pier in a sail-boat, with several very wet
gentlemen around her, and little Jenny nestled close to her,
crying as profusely as if her pretty scarlet bathing-dress were
being wrung out through her eyes. Hope asked no questions, and
hardly felt the impulse to inquire what had happened. The
truth was, that in the temporary dizziness produced by her
prolonged swim, she had found herself in the track of a
steamboat that was passing the pier, unobserved by her brother.
A young man, leaping from the dock, had caught her in his arms,
and had dived with her below the paddle-wheels, just as they
came upon her. It was a daring act, but nothing else could have
saved her. When they came to the surface, they had been picked
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