Catherine A. Warfield
Part 8 out of 9
better for my laying on of hands? You seem refreshed."
"Yes, greatly better; a good sleep was what I needed, and I fell into a
doze while you were beside the bed, I believe. I have heard of magnetism
before as a means of relief for pain; now I am convinced of its
"Magnetism! You don't think it amounts to that, do you? You flatter me;"
and I laughed.
"I do, indeed, and I am sure I am much obliged to you, Miss Monfort;
though, for that matter, you can never say, even when you come to your
own again--which you will now do shortly--that I have not been
considerate and attentive to you while in confinement."
"You need not be afraid of any complaint as far as you are concerned. I
think I comprehend you and your motives by this time. Let there be peace
between us from this hour." And I extended my hand to her, which, very
unexpectedly to me, she seized and kissed--a proceeding deprecated
loathingly. "I assure you," I added, laughingly, "I would rather even
marry Englehart than continue here."
"Then you will marry Mr. Gregory?"
"I do not know--either that or die, I suppose--whichever God pleases. I
am weary of being a prisoner--weary of you, of every thing about me. All
that I cared for is lost to me, and I might as well surrender, I
suppose; not at discretion, however!"
She turned from me silently, and sought her couch again; but I felt
instinctively that she slept no more; and so we lay, silently watching
one another, until morning. I dared not renew my efforts to escape, at
all events, in the night-time, when I knew the house was locked, and
watched without, as well as within--for this was the old habit of the
One--two--three--four o'clock came, and passed, and were reported by the
deep-tongued clock in the room beneath me, before I slept, and then I
dreamed a vision so vivid, that I wakened from it excited--exhausted--as
though its frightful figments had been stern realities.
I thought that the noble dog Ossian came to me again and laid the
double-footed key upon my lap, as he had done at Beauseincourt--staining
my white dress with blood, not mud, this time, and that Colonel La Vigne
struck it furiously to the floor, and handed me instead the wooden one I
had carved, with the words of the proverb:
"The opportunity lost is like the arrow sped: it comes no more. Your
wooden key will fail you next time, as it has failed you this, and you
will be baffled--baffled--as you tried to baffle me! Miriam, unseen I
Then he laughed horribly, and faded in the gray dawn, to which I awoke,
covered with cold dew, and trembling in every limb. Had he been there,
indeed, in spiritual presence? Was it his hand that had left that band
about my brow--that surging in my brain--that weight upon my heart? O
God! had I indeed become the sport of fiends? At last I wept, and in my
tears found sullen comfort. The image so often caviled at as false in
_Hamlet_ came to me then as the readiest interpretation of what I
suffered, and thus proved its own fidelity and truth. "A sea of sorrow"
did indeed seem to roll above me, against which I felt the vanity of
My destruction was decreed, and I had nothing to do but suffer and
All the persecution I had sustained since my father's death, at the
hands of Evelyn and Basil Bainrothe--all my wrongs, beginning at the
heart-betrayal of Claude, and ending with the immurement I was suffering
now at the hands of his father--all my strange life at Beauseincourt,
with its episode of horror, its one reality of perfect happiness too
fair to last, its singular revelations, its warm and deep attachments,
my fearful and nightmare-like experience on the burning ship, the level
raft, with the green wares curling above it, the rescue, the snare into
which I had inevitably fallen, the Inquisition-walls closing around
me--all were there in one vivid and overwhelming mental summary!
I think if ever madness came near me in my life, it came that night, so
crushing, so terrific was this weight which, Sysiphus-like, memory was
rolling to the summit of the present moment, to fall back again by the
power of its own weight to the valley below--the valley of despair---
and destroy all that it encountered or found beneath it. Yet, by the
time the sun was up, my eyes were sealed again in slumber.
Before I close this chapter, it will be as well to describe the tableau
I had caught sight of through the open parlor-door when I tempted my
fate and failed.
Standing close in the shadow, so that, even if directed toward me
unconsciously, the glance of those within, I knew, could not penetrate
the mystery of my presence, I scanned with a sad derision, the scene
before me. With a glance I received the impression that it required
moments to convey in narrative.
On the hearth-rug, with his back to the fire, his legs apart, his
coat-skirts parted behind him, stood Basil Bainrothe, monarch of all he
surveyed, with extended hand, evidently demonstrating some axiom to the
two visitors ensconced on the sofa near him, who, with the exception of
their booted feet, and the straps of their pantaloons, were beyond my
angle of vision. On the opposite side of the chimney from these
inscrutable guests sat two ladies, elaborately dressed and rouged, in
whom I recognized at a glance Evelyn Erle and Mrs. Raymond. Just before
I vanished, Claude Bainrothe, courteous in manner and elegant in
exterior, approached them from the other parlor, in time to witness the
_entree_ of Gregory, to which I have referred, and to salute him
cordially. That these were all confederates I could not doubt, and
prepared to aid each other. How could I know that one pair of those
evident feet belonged to the invisible body of a man who was one of the
few whom I could have called to my defense from the ends of the earth,
had choice of champions been afforded me? It was not until long
afterward that I ascertained beyond a doubt that Major Favraud had
formed one of that company on the occasion of my fatal failure. Had I
dreamed of his presence, I should fearlessly have entered the parlor,
and thrown myself on his brotherly protection, secure of his best
efforts to rescue me, even though his own heart's blood had been the
Alas! should I ever find another dart like that, never to be recalled,
to launch in the right direction, and fix quivering in the eye of the
target?--God alone could know.
After the one hopeful excitement of my prison-life, my spirit drooped
deplorably for a season, and all occupation became distasteful to me. My
diary even was abandoned, the writing of which had so well assisted to
fill my time, and, although destroyed daily, to impress upon my memory a
faithful and sequent record of the monotonous hours, else remembered
merely as a homogeneous whole. Had it not been for poor Ernie and his
requirements, I should have sunk under this fresh phase of suffering, I
am convinced. My health, too, was giving way. My strength, my energy
were failing. I kept my bed, as I had never been willing to do before if
able to arise from it, until noon sometimes, for want of nervous
impulse, and my food was tasteless and innutritious, even when I forced
myself to eat a portion of what was placed regularly before me. It
seemed to me that, long ere this, Wardour Wentworth must have
ascertained my fate, and the thought that he might be passive when my
very soul was at stake, thrilled me with agony unspeakable.
This mood endured so long that even Mrs. Clayton grew alarmed. She
insisted on Dr. Englehart again, and, when I shook my head drearily for
all reply, begged that I would permit her to state my case to Mrs.
Raymond, who might in turn see some able physician about me and procure
To this, at last, I consented.
The consequence was what I had hoped it might be: Mrs. Raymond came in
person, and I had at last the opportunity I had long desired of seeing
her alone. If thoughtless, if unrefined according to my views of good
breeding, she was still young, and vivacious, and perhaps kind-hearted;
besides this, sufficiently well pleased with herself to be generous to
one who could no longer be her rival.
Her approach was heralded by a note from Mr. Bainrothe, full of his
characteristic, guileful sophistry and cool impertinence. It ran as
follows (I still possess this billet with others of his inditing--along
with a snake's rattle):
"MIRIAM: I am glad to hear through Mrs. Clayton that reaction has
occurred, and that you manifest repentance for your recent violence
toward one who always means you well. A little jesting on the part of
your guardian, my dear girl, should meet with a very different
reception, and handsome women must submit to compliments with a good
grace, or run the risk of being called prudes or viragos. Not that I
mean to apply either term to you by any means. Your father's daughter
could not be other than a lady, even if she tried, but I must confess
your manners have deteriorated somewhat since you went into voluntary
banishment among those outlandish people. I have heard no very good
account of this old La Vigne who died in debt, it seems, and left his
children beggars. I have some curiosity to know whether he paid your
salary. 'Straws show,' you know, etc.
"It is now October; by the end of this month I hope you will have made
up that stubborn mind of yours (truly indomitable, as I often say to
Evelyn) to leave seclusion, and enter your family once more in the only
way you can do so respectably after what has occurred--as a married
"You remember the French song which I was always fond of humming, 'Ou
est on si bien qu'au sein de sa famille?' How appropriate it seems to
"You will be surprised to hear that your step-mother's brother has
appeared on the tapis, and that he has had the audacity to propose to
adopt Mabel, whom he claims as his niece.
"He seems a gentlemanly person enough, but may be an impostor for aught
I know. The young lady he was engaged to, Gregory tells me, perished in
the Kosciusko, which proves a relief, after all, as it is rumored he has
a wife in Europe. But such gossip can hardly interest you very vividly.
The man has gone to California, and will probably return no more.
"Did you, or did you not, meet this person at Colonel La Vigne's?
Favraud hinted something of the kind when he was here; but I can get no
satisfaction from Gregory.
"They all believe you were drowned in Georgia, and I thought it best for
the present not to undeceive Favraud, who laments your fate.
"The surprise will be all the more pleasant; and, of course, every thing
will be explained to the satisfaction of friends when you appear
publicly as the wife of Luke Gregory--'long secretly married!' You see,
it will be necessary to go back a little to save appearances, on account
The miscreant! I understood him now--oh, my God, for strength to tear
his cowardly heart from his truculent body! But no; let there be no
further unavailing anger. In God's good time all should recoil on his
own head. For the present, I must bear, and make myself insensible, if
possible; and yet, I would not willingly have had the living greenness
of my spirit turned to stone, as we are told branches are in some
strange, foreign rivers--crystal-cold!
Another extract, the closing one, and then forever away with Basil
Bainrothe and his flimsy letters:
"Again, I must congratulate you on the subdued and humbled temper you
manifest. Claude, and Evelyn, and I, had just been discussing a plan for
removing you to another asylum, where stricter discipline and less
luxurious externals are employed to conquer the otherwise unmanageable
inmates. Dr. Englehart, you know, holds up the theory of indulgence to
his patients, and I am rejoiced to find his measures have at last
prevailed over your frenzy. Mabel, like your other friends, believes you
dead, and is at home with Evelyn and Claude, and is growing in beauty
and intelligence every day.
"She was quite shocked at her uncle's wild behavior, and positively
refused to go with him, is fond of Mr. Gregory, and remembers you with
"Owing to my knowledge of your condition for the last year, my dear
child, I don't blame you for any thing that is past, not even for those
delusions with regard to my own acts and intentions which formed your
mania, nor for the misfortune and sense of shame which, no doubt, caused
your hasty flight, and whose evidences you brought with you from the
raft, in the shape of a nearly year-old child.
"I remain, faithfully yours,
The shameful accusations which brought the blood to my brow ought to
have been easier to bear than all the rest, because so easily confuted,
and because I knew not really believed; but they were not. The very idea
of shame humiliated me more than positive ill-treatment could have done;
and, spotless though I knew myself to be (as others knew me too--all I
loved and cared for), still my purity was shocked by such injustice.
I felt like one who had gone out to walk in fresh attire, and been
mud-pelted by rude urchins, so that the outward robes, at least, were
soiled, and a sense of degradation and uncleanness became the
consequence in spite of reason. But, after all, the dress could be
easily changed when opportunity should occur, and all be made clean
again, and the mud-pelting forgotten or overlooked, and the urchins
punished or dismissed in scorn.
Surely, God would not much longer permit this fiend to subjugate me. Had
I not suffered sufficiently? Alas I who but our Creator can judge of our
deserts, or measure our power to bear?
In my adversity and lonely trouble I had drawn near to Him and his
blessed Son--our Mediator, and example, and only strength. Dear as was
still the memory of that earthly love, the only real passion I had ever
known, could ever know, it came no longer to my spirit as a substitute
for religion. I had learned to separate my worship of God from my fealty
to man, yet was this last not weakened, but strengthened, by such
If only for the gift of grace it brought to me, let me bless my sad
The dreary days rolled on; the health of Mrs. Clayton declined so
rapidly that a small stove was found necessary to the comfort of her
contracted bedroom, which freed me from the unpleasant necessity of her
actual presence. The stocking-basket was set aside, the gingerbread nuts
were neglected, and the noise of constant crunching, as of bones, came
no more from my dragon's den; nor yet the smell of Stilton cheese and
porter, wherewith she had so frequently regaled herself and nauseated me
between-meals, and in the night-season. I used to call her a chronic
eater--a symptom, I believe, of the worst sort of dyspepsia, as well as
too often its occasion.
I prefer, myself, the Indian notion of eating, seldom, and enough at a
time. After all, is there any despot equal to the stomach and its
requisitions? What an injustice it seems to all the rest of the organs,
the royal brain especially, that this selfish, sensual sybarite should
exact tribute, and even enforce concession, whenever denied its
There are human beings, the poor of the earth, as we know, who pass
their whole lives, merge their immortal souls in ministering to its
absolute necessities, who go cold, ill-clad, and ignorant, to keep off
the pangs of hunger; who sacrifice pride and affection at its miserable
altar. There are others, fewer in number, it is true, but scarcely less
to be pitied, who exceed this enforced servility in the most abject
fashion of voluntary adulation; who flatter, persuade, and bring rich
tribute to this smiling Moloch, only waiting his own time to turn upon
and destroy his idolaters. For the pampered stomach, like all other
spoiled potentates, is treacherous and ungrateful beyond belief.
Yet the philosophers tell us man's necessity for food lies at the root
of civilization, and that the desire for a sufficiency and variety of
aliment alone keeps up our energies! I cannot think so; I believe it is
the stone about our necks that drags us down, and is intended to do so,
and which keeps us truly from being "but a little lower than the
"Revenons a nos moutons!"
The good-hearted vulgarian, who, whatever she was, and however
detestable the part she was playing, was at least possessed of womanly
sympathy, came frequently to see me during those weary days. Her
engagement to Mr. Bainrothe was never by her acknowledged, or by me
alluded to, and she seemed to have taken up the impression in some way
that I was the victim of an unfortunate attachment to that subtle
person, which had degenerated into a morbid and causeless hatred on my
part, leading to mania.
Had she stated this conviction plainly, I might have been tempted to
undeceive her; as it was, I suffered the error to continue, knowing that
no condition of belief would influence her half so kindly toward me.
Women as a class have a sincere friendship for those who have undergone
slighting treatment at the hands of their lovers and husbands; and we
all know what a common trick of trade it is with men who have been
unsuccessful in their attempts to gain a woman's affections, or worse,
in their evil designs on her honor, to give out such mendacious
Yet, to the end of time, the vanity and credulity of women will lead
them to lend credence to such statements, rather than look matters
firmly in the face, with the eyes of common-sense and experience. I, for
one, am a very skeptic on this subject of manly dislike growing out of
female susceptibility, and usually take the conservative view of the
During one of these condescending visits of the "Lady Anastasia," whose
position toward Bainrothe I perfectly comprehended, through the
inadvertence, it may be remembered, of Mrs. Clayton, I ventured to ask
her whether she had met with her betrothed, as she had expected to do on
landing at New York, and when her marriage was to take place.
"Whenever you come out of this retirement, dear; not before. You see I
have set my heart on 'aving you for my bridesmaid, with your friends'
"Then Mr. Bainrothe has concluded to annul the condition of my marriage
before leaving the asylum."
"Oh, I had forgotten about that! Well, we will have the ceremony
performed together, if you prefer; down in Dr. Englehart's
"You reside here, then?" I questioned; "you are at home in this house,
whosesoever it may be?"
"Oh, no, you quite misunderstand me. I am staying with friends, and Mr.
Bainrothe is over at home with his son and daughter-in-law"--with a jerk
of her head in the right direction--"in the other city, I mean; I am
such a stranger I. forget names sometimes. This, you know, is solely
Dr. Englehart's establishment."
"I suppose that gentleman is absent, as I have not seen him lately," I
"He has been absent, but has just returned. He speaks of calling, I
believe, very soon, to see you on the part of Mr. Gregory. How happy you
are to inspire such a passion in the heart of that splendid man!"--and
she rolled her eyes, and drew up her square, flat shoulders
expressively. "Do tell me where you knew him, and all about it; I am
sure he is much more suitable to you, in age and intellect,
than--than--even Mr. Bainrothe."
"There is no question of him now," I responded, gravely, purposely
misunderstanding her; "he has been married some time to my step-sister,
Evelyn Erie, and, I suppose, with many of my other friends, believes me
"Oh, no, I assure you," she rejoined, with some confusion, "it is a
mistake altogether. Both Mr. and Mrs. Claude Bainrothe are perfectly
aware of your seclusion, and he, especially, recommended and contrived
"There _was_ contrivance, then; you admit that!" I said, impressively.
At this juncture a feeble voice from the adjoining room was heard
calling aloud, and I listened to it, uplifted as it was, evidently, in
tones of remonstrance and reproof, for some moments afterward--the Lady
Anastasia having hastened, with dutiful alacrity, to the bedside of her
I became aware, after this visit, that Mrs. Raymond had become my jailer
as well as her mother's. She came regularly at supper-time thereafter to
superintend Dinah's arrangements, to give Mrs. Clayton her
night-draught, which did not assuage her direful vigilance one
particle, but rather seemed to infuse new powers of wakefulness in those
ever-watchful eyes, until sunrise, when, protected by the knowledge that
others besides herself were on the watch, she permitted sleep to take
possession of her senses.
I earnestly believe that no one ever so effectually controlled the
predisposition to slumber as did this woman.
After locking us up regularly for the night, the "Lady Anastasia"
withdrew, followed by Dinah; and I would hear, later, sounds of
festivity, in which her well-known laugh was blended, in the dining-room
below, where, with Bainrothe and his friends, she held wassail,
frequently, until after midnight. The groans of Mrs. Clayton would then
commence, and, with little intermission, last until morning's light.
Yet it was something to be rid of Mrs. Raymond's surveillance during
those very hours I had selected for my second effort to escape. This
must be hazarded, I knew, between eight and ten o'clock of the evening,
during which time I had reason to suppose the house-door remained
unlocked. The risk of encountering some one in the hall below--for there
was constant passing and repassing of footsteps during those
hours--constituted my chief danger; but, at all hazards, the experiment
must then, if at all, be made.
October was fast drifting away, and I knew that at its close my course
would be decided for me, should I not anticipate such despotism by
setting it at naught, in the only possible way--that of flying from the
scene of my oppression.
How to do this, and when, became the one problem of my existence; and it
was well for me that Mrs. Clayton was too great a sufferer to notice
beyond my external safety, or she might have seen clear indications of
some strange change at work, stamped upon my features.
My unsettled intentions were suddenly brought to a crisis by the
contents of a letter handed to me, as usual, in the shadows of the
evening, by the long-absent Dr. Englehart, who came in person, in
accordance with Mrs. Raymond's announcement (arriving, as it chanced,
while Mrs. Clayton slumbered), to deliver it.
Gregory wrote a large, clear hand, not difficult to decipher, even by
the dim light of a moonlight lamp; and, while Dr. Englehart stood
regarding me in the shadow, anxiously enough, I perceived, to keep me
entirely on my guard, I perused, with mingled derision and terror, this
truly characteristic epistle. My running commentaries, as I
read--entirely _sotto voce_, of course, for one does not care to rouse
the wrath of a tiger on the crouch, by flinging pebbles in the
jungle--may give some idea of the impression it made upon me, and the
emotions it excited.
"BELOVED MIRIAM" (insolent cur!)--"for by this tender title I am
permitted to address you at last" (by whom?)--"I cannot flatter myself
that, in concurring with the wishes of your friends, you return my
fervent passion" (you are mistaken there; I do return it with the seal
unbroken); "but will you not suffer me to hope that the deep,
disinterested devotion of months may undo the past, and dissolve those
bitter prejudices which I feel well aware were instilled into your heart
by one of the coldest and most time-serving of men" (of course, hope is
free to all; it is no longer kept in a box, as in the days of Pandora)?
"When I assure you that Wentworth, with a perfect knowledge of your
present situation, has repudiated the past, you will more perfectly
understand my reference" (I will believe this when he tells me so, not
before; your assertion simply reassures me). "It is not, however, to
place my own devotion in contrast with his perfidy, that I now address
you" (Nature drew the contrast, fortunately for him, without your
assistance), "but to beseech you, for your own sake, to let nothing turn
you from your recently-formed resolution" (I don't intend to let any
thing turn me, if I can help it, this time!). "It remains with you to
live a free and happy life, adored and indulged by one who would give
his heart's blood to serve you" (a poor gift, I take it), "or pass your
whole existence in the cell of a lunatic, cut off from every being who
could care for or protect you." (Great Heavens! what can the wretch
mean?) "Should you refuse to become my wife, and affix your signature to
the papers in your possession, I have reason to know that Bainrothe
designs to make, or rather continue, you dead, and imprison you in a
lonely house on the sea-coast, which he owns, where others of his
victims have before now lived and died unknown!" (Very melodramatic,
truly; but I don't believe Cagliostro would dare to do it.) "To convince
you of the truth of my allegations. Dr. Engelehart is instructed to
place in your hands a note recently intercepted by me from that
arch-conspirator to his son, which please return to him, my truest
friend" (direst enemy, you mean), "along with this letter, as I send you
both documents at my own peril, and dare not leave them in your hands"
(how magnanimous!); and here I dropped the letter on the table, and
extended my hand mutely to Dr. Englehart for the note, which was ready
for me, in the hollow of his pudgy palm.
It did, indeed, most clearly confirm the statement, true or false, of
the ubiquitous Gregory. Returning it to the physician _pro tem_., I then
continued the perusal of this singular love-letter to the end, in which
the lawyer and knave predominated in spite of Eros! Yet there was food
for consideration here, and extremest terror.
"How long before this ultimatum is proposed to me, which Mr. Gregory
seemed to anticipate, and with which you, no doubt, are acquainted?" I
asked, coldly, after consideration.
"Ten days will close up de whole transaction, as I understand," was the
no less cool reply, made in those husky, inimitable tones, peculiar to
the man of petty pills.
"Ten days! It would seem a short time wherein to get up a reasonable
"True--true! but nosing of dat kind is necessaire under dese
circumstances--only your mos' gracious and graceful consent!" He spoke
eagerly, with bowed head and clasped hands, standing mutely before me
when he had concluded.
"If Mr. Gregory loved me truly, he would not limit me thus," I hazarded.
"He would give me time to learn to return his affection, as I must try
to do, and to forget the past! He would not strike hands with my
persecutors, but insist on my liberation--or obtain it, as he could
readily do, without their cooeperation, through you, Dr. Englehart, who
seem to be his friend and ally, and who have already run such risks for
his sake in bringing me these two dangerous letters," and as I spoke I
pushed them across the table, to be gathered up and concealed with
How perfectly he played his part, and how cunningly Bainrothe had
contrived to convey to me his menace--real, or assumed for effect, I
could not tell which, for my judgment spoke one language, my cowardice
another! Yet, I confess, that the panic was complete, though I concealed
it from the enemy.
"Women usually, at least romantic and incredulous women like me, demand
some proof of a lover's devotion," I resumed, as coolly as I could,
"before yielding him their faith and fealty; but Mr. Gregory has given
me no evidence so far of the sincerity of his passion; I confess I find
it difficult, under the circumstances, to believe in its existence."
He drew near to me, bent eagerly above me, then again concealed himself,
as it was wise for him to do, in shadow; and I could hear his hissing
breath, as it passed between his closed teeth--like that of a roused
serpent. The impulse of the man came near betraying him, but he rallied
and refrained from an exposure, as he would have supposed it, that must
have been fatal to his success as a lover, even if it confirmed his
power of possession.
His tones, low and deep, were unmistakably those of suppressed passion
when he spoke again, and he had almost dropped his accent, so
"When shall he come to you, and speak for himself? Let me take to him
some word of encouragement from your lips--for de love of whom--he
languishes--he dies! All other passions of his life have proved like
cobwebs, compared to this--avarice, ambition, revenge, all yield before
it! He is your slave! Do not trample on a fervent heart, thus laid at
your feet! Have mercy on this unfortunate!"
"Strange language from a captor to a captive--mocking language, that I
find unendurable! Let Mr. Gregory remain where he is until the extreme
limit of the interval granted me by Basil Bainrothe--as breathing-space
before execution; and before hope expires in thick darkness--then let
him come and take what he will find of the victim of so much perfidy!"
"You do not--you cannot--meditate personal violence, self-murder?" He
spoke in a voice of agony, that could scarcely be restrained from
breaking into its natural tones.
"No--no--do not flatter yourselves that I could be driven by you--by
_any_ one to such God-offending," I hastened to say, for I felt the
importance of keeping this barrier of disguise, of ice, between Gregory
and myself as a means of safety for a season, and determined that he
should not transcend it, if I could prevent an _expose_, such as his
excited feelings made imminent. "My hopes are dead--say this to Mr.
Gregory--and I have reason to believe I should fare as well in his hands
as in any other's, knowing him--as I know him to be--" and I hesitated
here for a moment--"gentle, compassionate, faithful, where his feelings
are fairly enlisted."
"He thanks you, through my lips, most lovely lady, for dis great proof
of consideration; dis' message, which I shall truthfully deliver, will
fill his heart with joy, long a stranger to his breast, for he has
feared your hatred."
"Now go, Dr. Englehart, and let no one come to me without previous
warning, for I need all my strength to bear me up in this emergency. Nor
would I meet Mr. Gregory without due preparation--even of apparel," and
I glanced at my dress of spotted lawn, faded and unseasonable as it
seemed in the autumn weather. "I know his fastidiousness on this
subject, and from this time it ought to, it must be my study to try to
Why was not the fate of Ananias or Sapphira mine after that false
utterance? Why did I triumph in the strength of guile that desperation
gave me, rather than sink abashed and penitent beneath it? And this was
the woman who had once lectured on duplicity and expediency, and deemed
herself above them!
Bitter and nauseous as was this bowl to me, I drank it without a
grimace; so much depended on the measure of deceit--hope, love, honor,
life itself perhaps--for my terrors whispered that even such warnings as
those Gregory had given were not to be disregarded where there was
question of success or failure to Basil Bainrothe! But one alternative
presented itself--escape! Delay, I scarce could hope for, and, even if
granted, how could it avail me in the end? Those words--"He will make
you dead!" rang in my ears, and seemed written on the wall. They
confronted me everywhere. It was so easy to do this--so easy to repeat
what the papers had already told the world--so easy to confine me in a
maniac's cell under an assumed name, and by the aid of my own gold, and
say, "She perished at sea!"
It would be to the interest of all who knew it, to preserve the secret,
except the poor ship's captain, and he had been a dupe, and would
scarcely recognize his folly, or, if he did, be the first to boast of
and publish it. Besides that, should the matter be inquired into, how
easy for Bainrothe to allege that my own family had sanctioned his
course to save my reputation! For innuendo was over on this disgraceful
subject. He had declared openly his base design.
Years might elapse before the final exposition, years of utter ruin to
my prospects and my hopes. Wentworth might be married by that time, or
indifferent, or dead; Ernie too old to make the matter of a year or two
of consequence in the carrying out of the nefarious scheme to sustain
which it would be so easy to summon and suborn witnesses.
All these possibilities represented themselves to me with frightful
distinctness; my mind became imbued with them to the exclusion of all
else--of reason even. I was literally panic-stricken, and nothing but
flight could satisfy my instinct, my impulse of self-preservation. I
must go, even if blown like a leaf before the gales of heaven; must fly,
if even to certainty of destruction. I had felt this necessity once
before, be it remembered, but never so stringently, so morbidly as now.
I was yielding under the agony, the anxiety incident to my condition; my
nervous system, too severely taxed, was breaking down, and it would
succumb entirely, unless relief came to me (of this I felt convinced),
before another weary month should roll away. Had I been imprisoned for a
certain term of years as an expiation for crimes, I think I could have
borne it better; but the injustice, the uncertainty of these proceedings
were more than I could sustain.
I fell asleep, I remember, on the night of my interview with
Gregory--_alias_ Englehart--to dream confusedly of Baron Trenck and his
iron collar, and the Princess Amelia and her unmitigated grief, and it
seemed to me that I was given to drink from a cup the poor prisoner had
carved (as memoirs tell us he carved and sold many such), filled with a
sort of bitter wine, by the man in the iron mask--so vividly did Fancy,
mixing her ingredients, typify the anguish of my waking moments, and
reproduce its anxieties, in dreams of night that could not be
When I awoke in the morning it was to lie quietly, and listen to the
doleful voice of Sabra, for such had been Dinah's Congo name, uplifted
in what she called a "speritual" as she cleaned the brass mountings of
the grate and kindled its tardy fires. With very slight alteration and
adjustment, this picturesque and dramatic Obi hymn is given in this
place, just as I jotted it down in my diary, thus imprinting it on my
memory from her own dolphin-like lips and bellows-like lungs. Her
forefathers, she informed me with considerable pride, had been
snake-worshipers, and she certainly inherited their tendency to treat
the worst enemy of mankind with respectful adoration.
It served to divert my mind from its one fixed idea for a little time to
arrange this singular hymn, which, together with those she had given
voice to on the raft, proved her poetic powers. For Sabra assured me
that this gift of sacred song had come to her one day when she was
washing her master's linen, and that she had felt it run cold streaks
down her back and through her brain, and that from that time she was
uplifted to sing "sperituals" by spells and seasons. This, her longest
and most successful inspiration, I now lay before the reader:
We's on de road to Zion,
We's on de paf' to Zion,
But dar's a roarin' lion,
For Satan stops de way.
Oh! lef' us pass, ole Masta,
Oh! lef' us pass, strong Masta,
Oh! lef' us pass, rich Masta--
It am near de break ob day!
We's on de road to Zion,
We's on de paf' to Zion,
But wid his red-hot iron
He bars de hebbenly gate!
Oh! lef' us pass, ole Masta,
Oh! lef' us pass, kin' Masta,
Oh! lef' us pass, sweet Masta,
For we is mighty late!
Does you hear de rain a-fallin'?
Does you hear de prophets callin'?
Does you hear de cherubs squallin'
Wat's settin' on de gate?
Oh! lef us pass, ole Masta,
Oh! step dis side, kin' Masta,
Unbar de do', dear Masta,
We _dar'_ no longer wait!
Does you hear de win' a blowin'?
Does you hear de chickens crowin'?
Does you see de niggars hoein'?
It am de break ob day!
Oh! lef us by, good Masta,
Oh! stan' aside, ole Masta,
Oh! light your lamp, sweet Sabiour,
For we done los' our way!
We'll gib you all our money,
We'll fotch you yams and honey,
We'll fill your pipe wid 'baccer,
An' twiss your tail wid hay!
We'll shod your hoofs wid copper,
We'll knob your horns wid silber,
We'll cook you rice and gopher,
Ef you will clar de way!
He's gwine away, my bredderin,
He's stepped aside, my sisterin,
He's clared de track, my chillun,
Now make de trumpets bray!
We tanks you kindly, Masta,
We gibs you tanks, ole Masta,
You is a buckra Masta,
Whateber white folks say!
During these last days of my captivity, Mrs. Clayton was truly a piteous
sight to see--swathed in flannel and helpless as an infant, yet still
perversely vigilant as she had been in her hours of health, and
determined on the subject of opiates as before. I sometimes think she
feared to place herself wholly in my hands, as she must have been under
the influence of a powerful anodyne, and that, in spite of her
professions of confidence, and even affection, she feared me as her foe.
God knows that, had it been to save my own life, I would not have harmed
one hair of her viperish head, as flat on top as if the stone of the
Indian had been bound upon its crown from babyhood, yet full of brains
to bursting around the base of the skull.
It was necessary for Dinah to be in constant attendance on my Argus, and
even to feed her, so helpless were her hands, with the mucilages which
now formed her principal diet, by the order of some celebrated physician
who wrote his prescriptions without seeing his patient, after the form
of the ancients, sending them daily through the hands of Mrs. Raymond.
Still those vigilant green eyes never faltered in their task, and lying
where--with the door opened between our chambers (as she tyrannically
required it to be most of the time) she could command a view of almost
every act of my life--I found her scrutiny more unendurable than when
she had at least feigned to be absorbed with her stocking-basket.
Ernie's noise, too, disturbed her, and I was obliged to keep him
constantly amused, for fear that her wrath might culminate in eternal
The days slid on--November had passed through that exquisite phase of
existence (which almost redeems it from the reproach cast upon it
through all time, of being _par excellence_ the gloomy month of the
year), the sweet and balmy influences of which had reached us, even
through the walls of our prison-house, in the shape of smoky sunshine,
and balmy, odorous, and lingering blossoms, and was now asserting its
traditional character with much angry bluster of sleet, and storm, and
cutting wind. It was Herod lamenting his Mariamne slain by his own hand,
and making others suffer the consequences of his regretted cruelty, his
remorseful anguish. It was the fierce Viking making wild wail over his
No more to come until another year had done its work of resurrection and
decay, the lovely Indian Summer slumbered under her mound of withered
flowers and heaps of gorgeous leaves, unheeding all, or unconscious of
the grief of her stern bridegroom.
Cold and bitter and bleak howled the November blast, and ruthlessly
drove the sleet against the shivering panes, exposed without, though
shielded within by Venetian folding shutters, on that gray morning, when
a passing whisper from most unlovely and altogether unfaithful lips
nerved me paradoxically to sudden resolution.
False as I knew old Dinah to be--almost on principle--still, I could not
disregard the possible truth of her passing warning, given in broken
whisper first as she poured out my tea and afterward prepared my bath.
"Honey, don't you touch no tea nor coffee dis evening after Dinah goes
out ob here an' de bolt am fetched home; jus' make 'tence to drene it
down, like, but don't swaller one mortal drop, for dey is gwine to give
you a dose of laudamy"--nodding sagaciously and peering into the teapot
as she interpolated aloud; "sure enough, it is full ob grounds, honey!
(I heerd 'um say dat wid my own two blessed yers), for de purpose of
movin' you soun' asleep up to dat bell-tower (belfry, b'leves dey call
it sometimes)--he! he! he! next door, in dat big house, war de res' on
'em libs, de little angel gal too. You see, honey, der was an ossifer to
sarve a process writ about somebody here dis mornin', but dar was
something wrong about it, so dey all said, an' he is comin' to sarch de
house for you, I spec', to-morrow; for de hue an' cry is out somehow--or
mebbe it's me--he! he! he! (very faintly) an' dey is gwine to move you,
so dey says, to keep all dark, after you gets soun' asleep. But de
ossifer is 'bleeged to wait till mornin' (court-time, as I heerd 'em
say) comes roun' agin to git de _haby-corpy_ fixed up right, an' dat's
how he spounded hisself. Wat does dat mean, honey?"
"I can scarcely make you understand now, Dinah" (aside). "Don't ask
me--just go on, low, very low; how did you hear all this?" (Aloud) "More
"Wid my ear to de key-hole, in de study, war dey axed de ossifer. My
'spicions was roused by de words he 'dressed to me wen I opened de front
do', for you see, dat ole nigger watch-dog ob dern, dat has nebber a
good word for nobody, was gone to market, an' Madame Raymond she hel' de
watch, an' she sont me from de kitchen to mine de front-do' bell.
"'Old dame,' says the ossifer (for so dey calls him), as pleasant as a
mornin' in May; 'has you a young gal locked up here as you knows ob? Now
tell what you choose, and don't be afraid of dese folks. Dis is a free
country for bofe black and white.'
"Den I answered him straightforward like de trufe: 'Dar's nobody in de
house heah but wat you kin see for axin' for 'em, as far as I knows on.
Wat young gal do you 'lude to, masta?--Bridget Maloney, I spose, dat
Irish heifer wat does de chambers ebery mornin' and goes home ob
ebenin's. Ef you means her, she's off to church to-day, an' sleeps at
her mammy's house.'
"'Does you feel willin' to swar to de trufe of your insertion, ole
dame?' he disclaims. 'I shall resist on dat'--fierce as a buck-rabbit,
holdin' up his right hand, an' blinkin' his little 'cute eyes.
"Sartin an' sure I does when de right time is come,' I sez. 'Jes' take
me to de court-hous' ef you doubt Dinah's word compunctionable. I neber
hab bin in dat place yit since I was sold in Georgy on de block befo' de
high, wooden steps; but I knows it is more solemn to lie dar dan in
"Den Mr. Bainrofe he cum out, hearin' de talk, in dat long-tailed,
satin-flowered gownd ob his'n, wid a silk rope tied roun' his waist, an'
gole tossels hangin' in front, jes' like a Catholic Roman or a king, an'
he sez, 'Walk in here, my fren, an' don't tamper wid my servants--dat
ain't gentlem'ly;' den he puts his han' on de ossifer's shoulder, an'
dey walked in together, an' I listened at de do', in duty boun', an' I
heerd him say, 'Plant a guard if you choose--do wateber you like--but,
till dat writ am rectified, you can't sarch through my house, for a
man's house is his castle here, as in de Great Britain, till de law
reaches out a long arm an' a strong arm.' Dat was wat Mr. Bainrofe
spounded to de ossifer, an' he 'peared 'fused-like an' flusterfied, for
I peeped fru de key-hole at 'em wen dey wus talkin'. 'An,' sez he, 'dis
heah paper does want de secon' seal, sure enough, since I 'xamine it,
wat you, is so 'tickiler 'bout; but dat can easily be reconstructified,
an' I'll be sartin sure to be here airly to-morrow morning. In de mean
while, my man, McDermot, shall keep de house in his eye, an' mus' hab de
liberty of lodgment.'
"Den Mr. Bainrofe he say, 'Oh, sartinly--your man, McDermot, am welcome
to his bite an' sup, an' all he kin fine out'--an' he laughed, an' dey
parted, mighty pleasant-like, and den he called Mrs. Raymun' and Mass'
Gregory, an' I listened again. Dat's our colored way for reformation,
child. An' I heerd 'em--"
"Dinah! Dinah! what are you muttering about--don't you hear Mrs. Raymond
knocking? Miss Monfort must be tired out of your nonsense. What keeps
you there so long?"
"I'se spounding another speritual to Miss Mirainy, an', wen I gits
'gaged in dat way, I disregards airthly knockin'. I'se listenin' to de
angels hammerin' overhead, an' Mrs. Raymun' will hab to wait a
spell--he! he! he!"
"Oh, go at once, Dinah, and open the door for Mrs. Raymond. I can write
your song down just as well another time," I remonstrated, taking up and
laying down my note-book as I spoke, so as to display my ostensible
occupation to the peering eyes of Mrs. Clayton (now sitting bolt upright
in her bed, looking like a Chinese bonze), for the purpose of sweeping
in my position definitively.
"That will do, Dinah. Now go and get Miss Monfort's bath ready," I
heard my dragoness say, after a short whispered communication from her
early visitor. It was the idea, probably, to remove me, as well as
Dinah, while the plot was being unfolded, and my bath-room, with its
closed door, promised security from quick ears and eyes to the brace of
conspirators now plotting their final blow.
Once in that belfry, and truly might the sense of Dante's famous
inscription become my motto for life: "Here hope is left behind."
I covered my eyes as I recalled that dreary, dreadful prison-house of
clock and bell, into which I had clambered once by means of a movable
step-ladder, rarely left there by the attendant, in order to rescue my
famished cat, shut up there by accident. I recollected the maddened look
of the creature, as it flew by me like a flash, frightened out of its
wits, Mrs. Austin had said, by the clicking of the machinery of the huge
clock, and the chiming of the responsive bell. Both were silent now, and
there was room enough for a prisoner's cot in that lonely and dismantled
turret as there once had been for a telescope and its rest, used for
astronomical purposes at long intervals by my father and a few of his
scientific friends, but finally dismantled and put aside forever.
I could imagine myself a denizen, at the will of Bainrothe, of that
weird, gray belfry, shut up with that silent clock, in company with a
bed, a chair, and table, denied, perchance, even the comfort of a stove,
for fear the flue might utter smoke, and, with it, that kind of
revelation, said proverbially to accompany such manifestations; denied
books, even writing-materials, the sight of a human face, and furnished
with food merely sufficing in quantity and quality to keep soul and body
Could I resist this state of things? Could I sustain it and retain my
reason? No, I felt that the picture my fancy drew, if realized, would
make me abject and submissive, change me to a cowardly, cringing slave.
I was not made of the right stuff for martyrdom, only for battle, for
resistance, and would put forth my last powers in the effort to save
myself from the unendurable trials before me, even if destruction were
the consequence. A pistol-ball in my brain would be preferable to what I
saw awaiting me, should Bainrothe succeed in his stratagem, as I doubted
not he would do, if determined on it. I should know freedom in its true
sense never again, if that night were suffered to pass without its
redemption, if that belfry once were entered.
As carelessly as I could I followed Dinah to the bath-room, ostensibly
to direct the temperature of the water, but really to draw out from her
all that was possible while the mood of communication possessed her, on
the subject so vital to me and my welfare. Life and death almost were
involved in her revelations, and I hastened to wind in the clew while it
lingered in my hand; for I knew that she was an eccentric as well as a
selfish creature, and might suddenly see fit to withdraw or snap its
"Now, tell me about McDermot, Dinah, what sort of a look has he? Is he
large or small, light or dark, and does he smoke a pipe'?"
"He is a great big man, honey, wid red har an' sort ob chaney-blue eyes;
mos while, sometimes he rolls em up in his head, an' he smells mighty
strong of whisky. I tells you all; his bref mos knocked me down, but I
didn't see no pipe?"
A discouraging account, truly; yet I persevered. It seemed my only hope
to enlist this man on my side, either through his sympathies or sense of
duty. I had no power to command his services on the side of his avarice.
The ring on my finger, the pledge of Wentworth's troth, a massive
circlet of chased gold, was all that remained to me in the shape of
valuables. I did not possess a stiver in that prison, nor own even the
clothes on my back.
"Could you not take him a message from me, Dinah? It is his duty, you
know, to assist me; it is on my account, doubtless, he is placed here;
and hereafter I can reward him liberally, and you too. Just now, you
know, I am penniless."
The woman stopped and looked at me, her small black irises mere points,
set in extensive, muddy-looking whites, not unfrequently suffused and
"I dun told the ossifer dar wus no one here you knows, answerin' to your
"But that was only a measure of safety for yourself; you surely do not
mean to take sides with my persecutors?"
"I has nuffin at all to do wid it, at all," hunching her back; "I has
gib you far warnin' 'bout de laudamy an' der retentions, an' you mus'
fight it out yourself, chile! I is afraid to go one step furder; but de
debble sort o' tempted me dis mornin' to make a clean breast of der
doins. Ef you mentions it, do; I is retermined to reny ebbery word of
your ramification, and in dis here country a nigger's word, dey tells
me, goes jus' as fur as a pore white gal's, if not furder; 'sides dat, I
is gwine to swar favorable for my 'ployers, in course, at de
court-house--unless"--hesitating and leering in my face--"you sees,
honey, dey have not paid me yit--and mebbe dey won't, ef I displeases
'em, an' your gole watch is gone; an' den, Dinah would be lef' on de
"But I have other property, Dinah, other jewels, even. That watch was
very little compared to what I possess outside of these prison-walls,
and these possessions--"
"Whar is dey, honey? 'a bird in dis han' am worf two dozen in a bush,'
as my ole masta used to say, wen de traders cum up to buy his corn an'
cotton, an' I always sawed de dollars come down mighty quick after dat
sayin' of his'n; for I used to watch round the dinin'-room pretty
constant an' close in dem days, totin' in poplar-chips an' corn-cobs for
kin'lin' an' litin' masta's long clay pipes--none ob de common sort, I
tells you--an' brushin' up de harf an' keepin' off' de flies, and so
forf. You see I was a little shaver in dem days, an' masta liked my
Congo straction, an' petted me a heap, an' I never seed the cotton-field
till my ole masta died; den dey put me out ob de house, because Mass
Jack Dillard's father--dat was my ole mistis's own step-brother's secon'
son--he 'cused me ob stealin' his gole pencil-case wrongfully--like I
had any use fur his writin' 'tensils!" (indignantly).
"Dinah," I adjured, cutting short the stream of her narrative, "for
God's sake, see Mr. McDermot, and tell him of my situation! He shall
have a thousand dollars to-morrow, and you also shall have money enough
to buy your whole family, and bring them hither, if you will but assist
me to escape _this_ night. Don't stand and look at me, woman, but act at
once, if you have a human heart. You must help me now, or never."
"You mus' tink I's one ob de born fools, Miss Mirimy, to bl'eve all dat
stuff! Doesn't I know you loss all your trunks on de 'Scusco, an' wasn't
you a pore gal, teachin' white folks's chilluns fur a livin' before? I
has hearn all dat discounted since I come into dis 'stablishment. We
all knows as how teachers is de meanest kine of white trash gwine;
still, I specs you might'ly. You has been ob de quality; any nigger can
see dat wid half an eye open; an' you has got more sense in de end ob yo
little finger, ef you is crazy, dan all de res tied up in a bunch ob
fedders! Wat I does for you, chile, I does for lub ob yo purliteness"
(hesitating here). "You hasn't anoder ob dem gole-pieces anywhar, like
dat you gib me befo', has you? I'se bery bad off fur 'baccer, I is,
indeed, chile, an' de pay is mighty slow in dis house."
"I have not a five-penny bit, Dinah, not one copper cent, if it were to
save my life or yours."
"Is dat ring of yours good guinea gole, honey?" asked the mercenary
creature, leering at it. "It looks mighty bright and pretty, it does
dat! But mebbe its nuffin but pinchbeck, after all."
"It looks what it is, Dinah"--and, after a moment's consideration, I
drew it from my finger. "If I give you this, will you promise to deliver
my message to McDermot faithfully?"
"Sartain sure, honey, but tell me again wat it is; I forgits de small
"Get me my pencil and a scrap of paper, and let me write it down for him
to read; or no, this might involve observation, detection. I must rely
upon your memory, Dinah, which I have reason to know is good. Now,
listen and understand me. I promise to Mr. McDermot one thousand
dollars, to be paid down to-morrow morning, if he will help me to escape
to-night. And I promise you liberty for all of your family, and security
for yourself, if you will assist me, or even be silent, and let me go
without a word, without informing. Do you understand this, Dinah? If so,
repeat it to me low, yet distinctly."
She obeyed me, evincing wonderful shrewdness in her way of putting the
affair, as she said she meant to do, in approaching McDermot.
"And do you believe me, Dinah, now that I have promised so solemnly to
pay these rewards?"
"Dats neider here nor dar, Miss Mirim, so dat McDermot bleves you, dat's
enough; wat dis chile bleves am her own business. Dem Irish am mighty
stupid kine ob creeturs; dey swallows down mos' any thing you chooses to
A voice without, uplifted at this juncture, as if it had long been
expending itself in ineffectual appeals, now summoned Dinah, harshly and
The Lady Anastasia had departed, after a brief interview, and Mrs.
Clayton, unable to leave her bed, felt naturally anxious to ascertain
the cause of Dinah's prolonged ministry on her fellow-prisoner.
I heard only the words, "De pattikalerest lady I ebber come acrost about
de feel of water, an' I is done tired out, I is--" The rest was lost, as
Dinah vanished from the apartment of the invalid. In the next moment, I
heard the key turned, and the outlet bolt drawn, and the growl of the
surly sable watch-dog without, who, in Mrs. Raymond's absence,
officiated as our jailer and Cerberus.
It was early evening when Dinah returned, for she brought to us but two
meals at this season, the necessary food for Ernie being always ready in
a closet. She came ushered in, as usual, by Mrs. Raymond, who bore with
her on this occasion what she called savory broth, concocted, by her own
fair hands, for the benefit of her suffering parent. While Clayton was
employed in supping this mutton abomination, with a loud noise peculiar
to the vulgar, and Mrs. Raymond whispering inaudible words above the
bowl, I was ostensibly employed in tearing a croquet to pieces with my
fork, while I interrogated Dinah, in a low, even voice, between each
shred, unintelligible, I knew, in the next room, through its monotony,
on the success of her mission, and caught her muttered rather than
murmured replies eagerly in return.
"Did you speak with him, Dinah?"
"Dere was no use, honey; Bainrothe done bought him up. I peaked fru de
key-hole, and seen de gole paid down wid my own two precious eyes. Dar's
no mistake about dat," shaking her head dolefully. "All you has to do
now, honey, is to keep wide awake, an' duly sober, as ole mast a used to
say, 'frain 'ligiously from de tea or coffee, one or de udder, dat she
will offer you 'bout eight o'clock dis ebenin', or mebbe dey will send
it up by me, I can't say yit. Howsomever, you needn't to drink dat stuff
arter wat you knows; an' ef dey goes to take you forcefully off to de
belfry in de night-time, you kin skreech ebbery step ob de way. Dat's de
bes plan, chile, wat I kin project for your resistance; but I'se afeard
dar is no hopin' you, any way we can fix it."
"Thank you, Dinah, you have done your best, no doubt; don't sell my
ring, though; I shall want it back some day."
"La, chile, I done 'sposed ob it aready, an' dey give me a poun of
backer an' a gole-piece fur it. It was good gole an' no mistake. I tells
you all," adding aloud, "an' now, Miss Mirim, I has tole you ebbery
syllable. I disremembered ob dat speritual ar. I is sorry you doesn't
like dese crockets, fur de madame made un wid her own clean red hands."
"Say white hands, you old limb of Satan, or I shall be after you with a
mop," cried the laughing voice of Mrs. Raymond from the side of the sick
woman's bed, betraying at once how she had divided her attention. Then,
advancing into my chamber, she added, as coolly as though she had been
suggesting a visit to the theatre:
"Excuse me, Miss Monfort, for intruding, but I am about to ask you
whether it would be agreeable to you to be married to-night at ten
o'clock? This seems very sudden, but circumstances have forced the
arrangement on us all, and I assure you, from the bottom of my heart, it
is for both of us the preferable alternative of evils, as poor Sir Harry
Raymond would have said. Alas, my dear! shall I ever again have such a
helpmate as he was: so kind, so generous, so considerate"--and she
clasped and wrung her large, rosy hands. "A second marriage is often a
great sacrifice, and, in any case, a hazard, as I feel, as the time
draws near, very sensibly. But you seem confounded, and yet you must
have been somewhat prepared for this condition of things after your last
interview with Dr. Englehart?"
The amazement of Dinah at this change in the programme, if possible,
exceeded my own. She did not understand, as I did, that it was a measure
prompted not only by humanity but self-interest, and that even the hard
heart of Basil Bainrothe preferred a compromise to such violence and
injustice as those he had otherwise meditated. Besides, what better or
more sensible mode than this could there be, according to his views, of
quashing the whole _esclandre_--quieting official inquiry as well as
public indignation? As the wife of Gregory, I should be, of course, a
_forcat_ for life, walking abroad with the concealed brand and manacle,
afraid and ashamed to complain and acknowledge my condition, and
willing to condone every thing.
I saw, at a glance, that my true policy was to feign a reluctant consent
to this proposition, and to determine later what recourse to take, as if
indeed any remained to me in that den of serpents. I would consider, as
soon as Mrs. Raymond was gone, what measures to pursue in order to elude
the vigilance of McDermot, the detective; and then, if all proved vain,
I could but perish! For I would have walked cheerfully over the burning
ploughshares of old, lived again through the hideous nightmare of the
burning ship and raft, nay, clasped hands with the spectre of La Vigne
himself, had it offered to lead me to purgatory, rather than have
married the knave, the liar, the half-breed Gregory!
My resolution was soon made.
"You will send me a suitable dress, I suppose," I said, calmly, "you
know I am a pauper here."
"Yes, fortunately I have two almost alike. Which shall it be, a chally
"It matters little, the color is all I care for. Let it be white; I have
a superstition about being married in colors."
"So should I have, were this the first time, but, being a widow, I shall
wear a lavender-satin, trimmed with blond, made up for a very different
"Yes, that will be quite suitable. Well, the long agony is over at last,
and I am glad of it," and I drew a deep, free breath.
"You will have to sign the papers before you come down-stairs. Mr.
Bainrothe told me to say this to you, and to ask you to have them ready;
they will be witnessed below with the marriage, and at nine,
_precisely_, expect me to appear with your gown, and make your toilet."
"Will not Bridget Maloney do as well?" I asked, desperately. She, at
least, I thought, may be compassionate.
"It is strange you should know of her at all, or she of you. It is that
girl, then, who has given us all this trouble," going to the bed, "when
I did not suppose she knew of her existence. Explain this, Clayton, if
"I suppose Ernie, who is fond of her, has mentioned her name to Miss
Monfort; she thinks his mother is sick up-stairs, but knows no more, I
am certain; besides, it's Dr. Englehart's establishment--such things are
to be expected, and surprise no one of the attendants. Bridget is kept
busy among them all." The farce was to be kept up, it seemed, to the
Old Dinah was evidently quaking in her shoes, and began to see her
error, as she glanced reproachfully at me, but no further revelation
seemed to be expected. It was, indeed, to divert, partly, immediate
suspicion from one I still hoped to make my tool, that I mentioned the
Irish girl at all, or craved her presence, but I soon found how futile
in one instance was this trust. No sooner had Mrs. Raymond turned to
depart, than Dinah followed her, protesting against being locked up the
whole evening with the invalid, and begging leave to go out for an hour
or two on business of her own, which she declared important.
"But Miss Monfort may need you in making her preparations," remonstrated
Mrs. Raymond, "and Clayton and Ernie will want your attention; besides,
fires will go down if not constantly mended, this cold evening."
"Dar's plenty of coal in de box, an' de tongs, wid claws, wat Ernie is
so fond of handling ready and waitin' for dem wat's strong enough to use
dem if dey choose, an' tea in de caddy, an' de kittle on de trivet, jes
filled up, de brass toastin'-fork on de peg in de closet, 'sides bread
an' butter, an' jam, an' new milk on de shelf, an' I is 'bliged to go
anyway, case my ticklerest friend am dyin' ob de numony--I is jes got
word; but at nine o'clock" (and she looked maliciously at me) "percisely
Dinah'll be in dis pickin' patch--he! he! he! can't possumbly cum no
In a flash I saw the advantage her prolonged absence would give me,
unless, indeed, she had become my confederate, so I beheld her depart
with a feeling of relief which reacted in the next moment to positive
helplessness and terror as the bolt was drawn, behind her. What could I
do? What was there to be done? For a time I sat mute and crushed by
consideration; then casting myself on my bed I slept for half an hour,
the kind of slumber that confusion generates, and yet I woke refreshed,
calmed, comforted, and with a clearly-formed resolution and plan of
action. I rose and approached Mrs. Clayton, whose groans, perhaps,
aroused me, and, as I stood beside her bed, the clock in the dining
room-below struck six. I had still three hours for hope--for endeavor,
before the circle of flame should close hopelessly around me forever!
Three hours--were they not enough? Could I not compel them to
A cup of strong tea was hastily drawn and swallowed--another made for,
and administered by my hand to, Mrs. Clayton, with toast _ad libitum_--a
tedious process--and afterward Ernie's supper prepared and eaten--all in
less than half an hour. By seven he was in bed and asleep, and I had
taken my seat by Mrs. Clayton, for the purpose, apparently, of merciful
ministry to her condition--a piece of self-abnegation, as it seemed, and
as she felt it, scarcely to be expected on my blissful marriage-night.
"I feel very sorry for you; you suffer so, Mrs. Clayton," I had said, as
I drew a chair beside her bed.
"And I for you, Miss Monfort; our fate seems equally hard, but we must
bear it;" and she groaned heavily and closed her eyes, evidently in
"I have come to that conclusion, also, after a bitter struggle; physical
pain is not so easily borne, however; the body has little philosophy."
"I thought all this was over," she rejoined, abstractedly, "when my
hands were drawn as you see them by neuralgia ten years since. But I did
not suffer as much then, I believe, as I do now; besides, I was younger,
happier, better able to bear pain."
"Yes, that is true; the old should be at rest," at least my sense of
justice whispered this; then, after a pause: "Does my rubbing ease your
shoulder, Mrs. Clayton?"
"Somewhat--it is my head to-night, however, that troubles me chiefly. Be
good enough to press my temples. Ah, that is great relief! You are very
kind, Miss Monfort; yet, in reviewing the past, I hope you will not find
that I have been wanting to you in my turn. I trust we shall part in
peace and meet hereafter as friends. But you do not answer me."
"Pardon me, I was thinking. This is a crisis, you know--this night
decides my fate for good or ill, all rests with merciful God!"
"Yes, all--of ourselves we are helpless, of course. It is a comfort to
me, I confess, as I lie here, to feel that I have never willingly
injured a fellow-being; to think that I--but, bless my soul, Miss
Monfort, you must not hold me down in that way! you would not, I trust.
But even if you did--no key this time, the door is fast without!"
"Oh, not for worlds! be still, the pain will pass. I have the gift, you
know, of soothing physical suffering. There, rest, you must not stir;
give yourself up to me, if you can--slumber will come."
"It must not come--see, we are all alone!"
Her glazing eye--her slower breathing began already to attest the
influence of the electric fluid, so potent in my veins, so wanting in
her own, both from temperament and disease, yet she resisted bravely and
long, and, even when her limbs were powerless, her spirit rebelled
against me in murmured words of defiant opposition; but this, too,
yielded finally to silence and to stupor; and she slept the deep, calm,
unmistakable slumber caused by magnetism.
Then, again, I went through the experiment of the preceding night, and
strove to awaken her.
"Get up," I said, and yet without willing that she should do so. "Mrs.
Raymond is here to show you her marriage-dress, and Mr. Bainrothe
"Tell them to let me sleep; don't--don't--disturb me. I am so happy--so
peaceful. It is sweet, too, to think that she will be married at last.
Poor thing! it was no fault of hers, though--no fault. A young actress
is exposed to so many temptations, and it was better so--Harry Raymond's
That secret would never have escaped her devoted lips had she been able
to retain it.
As carefully as the eyes of the dead are closed, I drew down her gaping
lids, and turned away. As I did so, the clock struck eight. Fatima never
listened more anxiously to the toll of parting time than I did that
night; but, alas for me! no sister Anne kept watch on the tower; no
brother hastened to arrest the sword. I was deserted by all save God and
desperation. One hour comprised my fate! Very quietly I closed the door
between Mrs. Clayton's room and my own. The bolt was on the other side,
so I could not secure my privacy, even for a moment, should she chance
to wake, or should Mrs. Raymond or Dinah return unexpectedly. As rapidly
as I could, I altered my dress--this time above my clothes--threw on the
black silk frock and mantilla prepared for me on shipboard, tied a dark
veil over my head, an old woolen scarf about my throat, provided for
Ernie's sore-throat and croup, and stood equipped for my enterprise.
Neither bonnet, nor gloves, nor boots, did I possess--Mrs. Raymond's
loan having long since been condoned on behalf of some one else, and my
clothing, in my captivity, had been contrived to suit my circumstances.
Wheeling the bedstead very gently on its noiseless castors a few inches
from the wall, I insinuated myself between them, and, sheltered by the
head-board, loosened again the slightly-adhering covering of paper that
concealed the door, and fitted into the key-hole the well-oiled wooden
key, which once before had proved its efficiency. It did not fail me
now, in my hour of extremity, for a moment later I had turned and
removed it from its socket, stepped forth upon the landing, and relocked
without the door of my prison; but, perhaps, with too much of nervous
haste, too little caution, for, to my inexpressible confusion, the
handle of the instrument of my emancipation remained in my hand, broken
off at the lock, and useless forever more.
In delaying probable pursuit from within, I had cut off all possibility
of my own retreat in case of failure. My bridges were literally burned
behind me, and I had no alternative left between flight and detection.
And yet there was something in the situation that, inconsistently
enough, made me smile, albeit with a trembling heart.
I shook my head drearily, as a couplet from Collins's "Camel-Driver,"
with its strange appropriateness, irresistibly crossed my brain.
Why is it that, in times like these, such conceits beset us, such
comparisons arise? Does the quality called presence of mind find root in
the same source that impels us to apt quotation?--
"What if the lion in his rage I meet?
Oft in the dust I see his printed feet."
I gained fresh heart from that trivial diversion of thought, and stood
quietly contemplating alternately the hall below and that above (both of
which were visible from my place on the intermediate platform; all was
still in both of these wide corridors), to make sure of the safety of my
enterprise; and now, once more my foot was on the brink of those
mysterious stairs which led, I felt, to doom or to liberty. I commenced,
very cautiously, to descend them. The study-door at their foot was
closed, and all seemed silent within. The murmur of voices, and the
remote rattling of china proceeding from the ell behind the hall,
encouraged me to believe that on this bitter night the family was
concentrated, for greater comfort, in the supper-room.
With my hand on the baluster, pausing at every step, I crept quietly
down the stairway; then, as if my feet were suddenly winged with terror,
I darted by the study-door, flew lightly over the carpeted hall, and
found myself, in another moment, secure within the small enclosed
vestibule into which the door of entrance gave. My worst misgivings had
never compassed the terrific truth. At this early hour of the evening,
not only was the front door locked, but the key had been withdrawn. This
My knees gave way beneath me, and I sank like a flaccid heap in the
corner, against one of the leaves of the small folding-door that divided
the arched vestibule from the long entry, and which was secured to the
floor by a bolt, while the other one was thrown back. Crouched in the
shadow, powerless to move or think, I heard, with inexpressible terror,
the door of the study open, and the voice and step of Bainrothe in the
hall, approaching me.
Had he heard me? Would he come? Was I betrayed?
I felt my hair rise on my head as these questions rang like a tocsin
through my brain, and I think, at that moment, I had a foretaste of the
chief agony of death.
They were answered by Bainrothe himself, as he paused midway between the
study-door and my place of refuge; and again I breathed--I lived.
"I was mistaken, 'Stasia, it is not he! the wind, probably; and that
marble looks so cold--so uninviting--shall not explore it. He has a key,
you know, and can come when he likes; for my part, I shall go in to
supper while the oysters are hot. Do as you like, though."
"Had we not better wait? You know he is sure to come to-night, bad as
the weather is, on account of that affair. It was late when Wentworth
This was the rejoinder made from within the study, in which I
recognized the voice of Mrs. Raymond, clear and shrill.
"Well, have it as you please. If you prefer courtesy to comfort, you
shall be gratified; but what's the use of ceremony with Gregory? He will
be here in twenty minutes, Mr. Bainrothe; but don't wait. I shall have
time to sup with him before I go up-stairs, you know. I believe I will
stay where I am until he comes, and finish taking in the poor thing's
wedding-gown. Well, any thing is better than removal to the belfry"--and
I thought I heard a sigh.
"A matter of mere temporary necessity, you know, only she might have
frozen in the interval," said Bainrothe, jauntily, as he walked up the
hall to the door of the dining-room, which I heard him open and let fall
against its sill again. It closed with a spring, and in the next moment
the study-door was also softly shut, and all was still.
My resolution was promptly taken. The folding leaves of the inner
door--that which divided the marble-paved vestibule from the carpeted
entry--against one of which I had been, leaning, I well knew worked to
and fro on pulleys which obeyed the drawing of a cord and tassel hanging
at one side, and thus they could readily be closed with a touch by any
one standing in the vestibule as they opened out into the hall on which
side was the latch and bolt. I recalled this quaint arrangement with a
quickness born of emergency, as one that might serve me now, and
speadily possessed myself of the tassel at the extremity of the
controlling cord. Thus armed, and praying inwardly for strength and
courage, and wherewith to carry out my scheme successfully, I took my
stand in one of the two niches (just large enough for the purpose) in
the door-frame, preferring, of course, that next to the lock, prepared
to darken the vestibule at the first approach of the expected guest (I
was afraid to do it before, lest attention might be called to it from
within the house), and make my escape by rushing past him ere he could
recover himself as he entered in the gloom.
The hazard was extreme, the result uncertain, the effort almost
foolhardy, it may be thought; but the storm and darkness were in my
favor, and I was fleet of foot, as were not all of my pursuers, as far
as I could foresee who these might be.
Momently I grew cooler, more determined, more calm, more desperate, more
regardless of consequences; and now the culmination of endeavor
approached in the shape of the sound of stamping feet upon the icy
platform of the steps which they had softly ascended, and the uncertain
fitting of a dead-latch key in its dark socket, the feeling for the knob
with half-frozen fingers, and finally the sudden and violent throwing
forward and open of the door into the darkened vestibule, for I had
drawn the cord at the first symptoms of Gregory's advent, which yet took
me by surprise. I had closed the inner doors, it is true, but paralyzed
with sudden terror I had taken no advantage of the darkness thus evoked,
and, as the tall form of the expected and expectant bridegroom staggered
in, literally blown forward by the tempest, with introverted umbrella,
and wet and streaming garments (dimly discerned in the gloom) that
brushed against me as he passed, I continued to stand transfixed to
stone in the niche I still occupied.
The dream in which La Vigne had prophesied my failure flashed over me
like lightning, and my knees trembled beneath me, yet I still clung
spasmodically to the cord I held, and with such desperate force that,
when Gregory pushed against the door, he believed it latched within, and
so desisted from further effort.
"Dark as Erebus," he muttered, "and on such a night! Confound such
hospitality! I suppose I must go back and ring;" and in pursuance of
this idea he again suddenly opened the front-door, which, swinging
violently back as he turned his face within, once more afforded me the
golden opportunity so lately lost. Quick as thought I dropped the cord I
held, and in the sudden gust the leaves of the inner door, thus
released, flew open and impelled my foe irresistibly forward. With his
flapping coat and hat he drifted into the lighted hall before the
driving blast, and, roused to instantaneous action, I slid from the
niche I filled to the icy platform without, and swift and silent as a
spectre sped down the sleety steps to the outward darkness. I was free!
A moment after, I heard the door slammed heavily after me, while I
crouched by the gate-post for concealment.
Rising up, I mutely blessed the friendly portal that made me an outcast
in the storm-swept streets from which the very dogs shrank terrified.
One moment, one only, I paused as I passed by my father's gate-way,
crowned with stone lions that glimmered in the gloom. The force of
association and of contrast shook me with emotion--I could not enter
there. My own roof afforded me no shelter from the biting blast; but
squares away, with a comparative stranger, I must seek (if I ever gained
it on that dreadful night) a refuge from the storms and sure protection
from my foes.
I moved rapidly along toward the tall street-lamp that diffused a dim
and murky light from its frost-crusted lantern at the corner of the
square, and before I reached it I encountered the first danger of my
Protected, fortunately, by the shadow of the high stone-wall near which
I walked rapidly, I met Dinah, so nearly face to face that the whiff of
the pipe she was smoking was warm upon my cheek. Wrapped in her old
cloth shawl and quilted hood, she muttered as she went, and staggered
too, I thought, though here the northeast wind, that swept her along
before it, might have been at fault, while, blowing in my face, it
retarded my progress.
I passed her unchallenged, but, glancing back just as I turned the
corner, I became aware that she was retracing her steps. I fled rapidly
on until I reached the shelter of a friendly nook between two houses
(well remembered of old), when, turning again to gaze, I saw her
standing immovable as a statue beneath the lamp-post, evidently looking
in the direction I had taken. There seemed no way of escape now save in
persistent flight. My place of concealment might be too readily detected
by a cautious observer, a savage on the war-trail. Should Dinah herself
pursue me, I knew my speed would distance her; but, that prompt pursuit
of some kind was imminent, I knew from that moment.
My aim was to reach the house of Dr. Pemberton, no intermediate one
presenting itself as that of an acquaintance of whom I could ask
shelter, and belief in the truth of my assertions. Of this house I
remembered the position with tolerable accuracy. It formed one, I knew,
of a long block of buildings extending from one street to another, and
was near the centre.
I had been there only on rare occasions, when his niece abode with him,
for he dwelt ordinarily in widowed solitude, although, our intimacy was
that of relatives rather than of patient and physician.
For this desired goal I strained every nerve, every muscle, every
faculty, on that never-to-be-forgotten night of bitter, freezing cold,
and driving sleet and blast, which seemed to proclaim itself, in every
howling gust, "The wind Euroclydon!"
At first, excitement and terror winged my feet; but even these refused,
after I had gone a few squares, to do their friendly office.
Bareheaded, but for a filmy veil, soon thoroughly drenched through;
barehanded and almost barefooted, for my thin silk slippers and
stockings formed not, after my first few steps, the slightest impediment
to wet or cold, I felt that I must perish by the wayside. The sleety
storm drove sharply in my face, rendered doubly sensitive to its rigor
by long absence from outward air. My insufficient clothing clung closely
about me, freezing in every fold, and I glided rather than walked along
the icy pavement, scarcely lifting my stiffened feet, or having power to
One stern hope--it almost seemed a forlorn one--now possessed me to the
exclusion of all else; one prayer trembled on my quivering lips--that I
might reach my destination, if only to tell my story and drop dead a
Yet I think, in spite of this resolve--this prayer--that, had a friendly
door been opened on the way, an area even emitting light and warmth, I
should have instinctively turned aside and, at any risk, pleaded for
shelter, both from storm and foeman.
In those days that seem far back in the march of luxury, because of
the vast impetus of human momentum, stores were closed early, and the
primitive family tea-table still existed which marked the assemblage of
the household around the evening comet and hearth.
I remember the closed, inhospitable look of the houses past which I
sped--the solid wooden shutters, then universal, which, closed from the
wayfarer every evidence of internal life, and the cold sheen of the
icy-white marble steps, made visible by dim lamp-light.
I gained a street-corner not very far, as it seemed to me, from my place
of destination. Yet, until I glanced across the way, I was uncertain,
and, but for the friendly refuge this opportunity presented, I think I
must have faltered and perhaps fallen and frozen to death on the
To my bewildered and disordered brain, Aladdin's palace seemed suddenly
to rise before me in that wilderness of sealed houses and uninhabited
streets; for, as I have said before, the very dogs had crept away that
night into secure corners, and not even a pariah chimney-sweep, with his
dingy blanket drawn close around him, nodded and dozed by a watch-box or
slept on a door-step.
I crept across the space that divided me from this cynosure of warmth
and luxury, as a poor, draggled moth might do, to bask in the
revivifying light of an astral lamp, attracted beyond my power to
resist, to pause before the resplendent window, rich in green and purple
and amber rotund vases, whose transparent contents were set forth and
revealed by fiery jets of gas, toward which I feebly stretched my
There was a splendid vision, also, of goldfish, in glass globes, jars of
leaden rock-work, baskets of waxen fruits and flowers, crystal bottles
containing rose and amber essences; but, above all, there was
light--there was heat.
With one greedy, insatiate gaze my eyes swept in the details of this
mimic Eden, and, in another moment, my hand turned the knob of the
ground-glass door near the window, and I found myself in paradise!
Rest, shelter, heat--these must I have or perish, and, but for the
timely refuge of this thrice-blessed apothecary's shop, I might have
left this retrospect unwritten!
I staggered to a chair, and seated myself, unbidden, by the almost
red-hot stove, and cowered above it for a time, oblivious of all else.
Then I looked timidly around me.
The master of this Eden was standing, at the moment when he first caught
my eyes, holding up a bottle, scrutinizingly, between his face and the
light, one of many of the same sort that a lad, in a long, white apron,
was engaged in washing.
The odor of the various drugs and essences over which he presided formed
an aromatic atmosphere singularly suggestive of incense, as did his
costume, that of a high-priest of the temple; but, very soon discarding
a gray-linen cape or talma, worn for the protection of his speckless
coat, and tossing a bundle of corks rather disdainfully to his
assistant, the head of the establishment came politely forward, standing
on the other side of the stove, with clasped hands, expectantly.
"You will tell me your errand here when you are quite ready," he said,
kindly. "Do rest and warm yourself first. The stove has a narcotic
tendency when one has just come out of cold like this! The thermometer
has fallen twenty degrees since noonday; but that is only half the
trouble. Hem! This sleet and wind are beyond any former experience of
mine at this season."
I heard the words of the speaker as if bound in a dreadful dream, but
they were clearly understood, and now I made an effort at utterance, but
failed, until after repeated endeavors, to enunciate one word. Yet I
noted distinctly, and even with a nice discrimination of scrutiny, the
red-haired and bright-eyed man, portly and somewhat pompous-looking,
with his plump hands folded over his vest, who stood before me, looking
pityingly down on my suffering face.
After a time I gathered up my forces sufficiently to inquire, being
quite thawed and comforted by the reviving heat of the apartment, how
far it might be to the house of Dr. Pemberton, who resided in the block
of houses known as Kendrick's Row, on Maple Street.
"It is nearly a square and a half, miss, by street measurement just now,
as, on account of changes, this is impassable," was the prompt reply.
"Scarcely half a square by the alley that runs from my back-door, after
a short turn, straight through to Maple Street; and, if it is only
question of a message, I can send Caleb, so that you may await the
coming of the doctor in comfort, in this emporium. He always uses his
gig for night-visits, and will, no doubt, be happy to carry you home in
"Thanks--there is no question of a medical visit. I have very important
business with him. I must see him in his own house. I will go without
further delay. But, perhaps"--lingering a moment--"you would be so good
as to suffer Mr. Caleb to show me the short way you spoke of? I shall
not mind going through the alley at all."
I rose prepared to depart, and glanced beseechingly at Caleb, who laid
down his bottle uncorked, and folded his arms with an approving knightly
bow, unperceived by his employer.
"We have just had a similar inquiry as to Dr. Pemberton's locality; I
mean," said the master of the emporium, without replying to my request,
"on the part of a very distinguished-looking personage--I might say,
well got up in the fur and overcoat line--and, had you come in a few
moments earlier, you might have had his escort; or perhaps you are on
his track now--probably one of his party?" hesitatingly. "No! Well, it
is a strange coincidence, to say the least--very strange--as the doctor
is so well known hereabouts. As to going out in the storm again, I have
my misgivings, miss, for you, when I look at the flimsiness of your
attire and its drenched condition. I can't see, indeed, how a
delicate-looking lady like yourself ever held her own against this
terrific wind. Eolus seems to have lost his bags! But, perhaps you had
an escort to the corner?"
"No--no--no--I came quite alone! Oh, for pity's sake, put me on my way
and let me go! My business is most urgent!" I hesitated--my heart sank.
Had Bainrothe been before me to spirit the doctor away by some feigned
message of need, of distress, to which no inclemency of weather could
close that benevolent medical ear? And did he lie in wait for me on the
"Perhaps I had, after all, better go alone," I continued; "it might be
too great an inconvenience"--and I moved toward the ground-glass door.
"Not if you will accept my services, miss," said Caleb, timidly, pushing
away the remaining corks as he spoke, and glancing furtively at his
"How often must I remind you, Caleb Fink," said the owner of the
emporium, "that your sphere is circumscribed to your duties? Attend to
those phials, and drain them well before you bottle the citrate of
magnesia. The last was spoiled by your unpardonable carelessness. I have
not forgotten this!"
And again, with a deprecatory look at me, Caleb Fink subsided into a
"Truly has the great and wise Dr. Perkins remarked that 'the women of
America are suicidal from the cradle to the grave!' I will give you one
of his pamphlets, miss, to take away with you, and you will be convinced
that slippers are serpents in disguise in winter weather! The wooden
shoes of Germany rather! Ay, or even the _sabot_ of France! You must not
stir another step in those. Be seated, pray, and I will not detain you
long, while I procure a substitute or protection for such shams, worth
nothing in such Siberian weather.--Caleb, a word with you;". and he
whispered to his apprentice, who glided away, to return in a trice with
a pair of India-rubber overshoes, into which benign boats he proceeded
to thrust my unresisting feet, as I stood leaning on the counter; after
which a muffler was tied about my ears, and a heavy honey-comb shawl
thrown over my shoulders by the same expeditious hands.
"Could you be always as spry, Caleb! Your gloves now--I shall need my
own"--and a pair of stalwart knitted mits were forthwith drawn over my
passive hands, in which my fingers nestled undivided and warm.
"Now you look something like going for the doctor! My overcoat,
Caleb--gloves--fur-cape--cane! All hanging near the bed. There, we are
ready now for old Borealis himself, if he chooses to blow! But I
forget--God bless me, you are as pale as the ghost of Pompey, at
Philippi!--Caleb, the Perkins elixir--a glass!--Now, young lady, just
take it down at a gulp. It is the only alcoholic preparation that
Napoleon Bonaparte Burress ever suffered to pass his temperate lips.
Father Matthew does not object to it at all, I am told, on emergencies.
It may be had at this repository very low, either by the gross or
dozen"--speaking the last words mechanically, and he tendered me a small
glass of some nauseous, bittersweet, and potent beverage, that coursed
through my veins like liquid fire.
"Thank you; it is very comforting," I gasped, and, setting the glass
down on the counter, I covered my face with my hands and burst into
The whole forlornness of my outcast and eleemosynary condition rushed
over me simultaneously with the flood of warmth caused by the Perkins
elixir, which nerved me the next moment for the encounter with the
I saw the kindly master of the emporium turn away, either to conceal his
own emotion or his observation of mine, and Caleb stood trembling and
crying like a girl before me.
I had shrunk, it may be remembered, from the description Sabra gave me
of McDermot, when I heard of his red hair and "chaney-blue eyes;" but to
this red-haired, hazel-eyed man I yearned instinctively, for there are
moral differences discernible in the temperament greater than any other,
and, when a red-haired man is tender-hearted, he usually usurps the
womanly prerogative, and gushes.
But Caleb's sympathy touched me even more.
"We will go now, if you please," I said, recovering myself by a strong
effort, and Napoleon B. Burress mutely tendered me his stout,
overcoated arm. "The short way you mentioned--let us go that way, if not
disagreeable to you," I pleaded.
"Oh, no; it will be an absolute saving of time to me; but, I warn you,
the alley is narrow and dark!"
"Never mind; I prefer the short cut, be it what it may. Time is every
thing to me."
We passed through the shop, threaded a narrow entry, opened a back-door,
which gave upon a strip of paved yard, leading in turn to a back-gate,
through which we emerged into a dark and dirty-looking alley.
But first the work of unlocking a padlock, which confined a chain, had
to be effected, and, while Mr. N.B. Burress was thus unfastening his
back-gate preparatory to egress, I stood gazing back, Eurydice-like, in
the place I had left, for the doors of the long entry stood open,
revealing the shop beyond and its illuminated window.
Standing thus, I saw, as through a vista and in a perfect ecstasy of
terror, the ground-glass shop-door open, and two well-known forms in
succession block its portals--those of Gregory and Bainrothe! Would
Caleb send them on our track, or would the better part of valor come to
his aid and save me from their clutches?
A thought occurred to me. "Mr. Burress," I said (I had retained his name
with its remarkable prefix), "will you not lock the gate outside? I can
wait patiently until you secure your premises--and--and bring away the
"I had meant to leave it here until my return, but you are right,"
speaking indulgently. "I suppose burglars are abroad on nights like
this," and he quietly relocked the alley-gate. "You are very
considerate," he said, dryly, after we had gone a few yards in profound
silence, "but had I not better return for a lantern?"
"Oh, not for worlds! Faster--faster, Mr. Burress, and Heaven will reward
you! Never mind the stones--the snow--the mud--so that we get there
first! Yes, I see where the lane turns; I see very well in the
dark--never fear--only do not delay--I am so glad you locked the
alley-gate. They cannot come that way."
"Of whom are you afraid, poor young lady? Nobody would harm you, I am
sure; such a gentle, tender thing as you seem to be!"
"Oh, yes! Fiends are on my track! Don't let them get possession of me
again, Mr. Burress. I am pursued--yes--faster--faster!"
"But what has startled you, poor thing, since we left the Repository?
You seemed quite calm after the Perkins elixir--and those tears. Ah! I
understand!" and he coughed several times significantly. The doctor will
set all right, I suppose, when I give you into his hands. I am glad I
came with you myself--courage, we shall soon be there!"
"Yes--yes--he is my only hope! I will explain all when we are safe with
him. It is not as you think! I have no strength now. Don't question me
further, it exhausts me to talk. Just drag me along."
And silently and valiantly did he betake himself to his task. The
noisome alley was threaded, and again we emerged into the sleety,
lamp-lit street, a few doors from the corner of that block, in the
centre of which Dr. Pemberton resided.
As we approached the friendly threshold, the exact situation of which
was familiar to my companion, he pointed it out triumphantly with his
"We shall soon be there," he reiterated, "no need for hurry now." But
as he spoke I saw a carriage turn the corner we were facing, and again I
urged on my lagging escort to his utmost speed. I ran up the sleety
steps in advance of him, and rang the bell with convulsive energy. Its
summons was answered promptly, but not a second too soon, for, as the
door opened to admit me, the carriage paused before the door, and two
men leaped from it, one of whom, the taller, thrusting Burress aside,
rushed up the steps after me with outstretched arms.
I had found refuge in the vestibule, and slammed the door in his
face--closing, as it did, with a spring-lock--before he reached the
platform. Then turning to his companion, he fled down to the street
again, with the cry that reached my ear distinctly, of "Baffled, by
God!" on his profane lips, and the twain drove off as rapidly as they
A moment later a feeble ring at the door, and a voice from without,
assuring the inmates that it was only N.B. Burress, and conjuring them
not to be alarmed, caused him to be admitted at once by the house-maid,
and shown into the same small front study into which she had conducted
me to await the doctor's appearance.
"What name shall I give? The doctor is engaged," said the house-maid,
"None at all, merely let me know when he is ready to see me. I am tired
and cold, and can wait patiently by this good fire."
"It may be some time, miss; would you like a cup of hot coffee, you and
this gentleman? The doctor has just had his supper, and there is a pint
or more left in the urn."
"Thanks--nothing could be more welcome," and the house-maid disappeared.
"That is the way of this house--patients are always entertained, if in
need of refreshment," said Mr. Burress, advancing to the chimney, while
he rubbed his hands in a self-gratulatory manner, then expanded them
before the bright glare that filled every pore with warmth.
I was tremulous, and silent, and half exhausted, and he seemed to take
this in at a friendly glance, for he made none of those inquiries that I
knew were burning on his inquisitive lips; but after a few moments of
further enjoyment before the grate, and having duly turned himself as on
a spit, so as to absorb every ray of heat possible, he betook himself to
an arm-chair and a book, near the drop-light on a corner table, the soft
rustling of the turning leaves of which had a most soothing effect on my
"I shall only stay a few minutes," he said, apologetically. "I wish,
however, to see you safe in Dr. Pemberton's hands before I leave you, as
a sort of duty, you know, you being a charge of mine, and should you
need further escort--"
"Oh, thank you, kindly; you have surely had enough trouble on my account
"Not a particle--only a pleasure, miss; but the push I got from your
pursuer upset me on the pavement and made sparks fly out of my eyes,
and, before I could gather myself up, they were back again in the
carriage and off. You will have to give me the mans name, miss--you
will, indeed, on my own account, when all your fatigue and fright are
over. Such favors are generally returned by me with compound interest."
"Oh, be thankful you have not a compound fracture, Mr. Burress, and let
the fellow go. He is beneath contempt. But I shall not be satisfied
until Dr. Pemberton tells me himself that you are uninjured."
"A lump as big as a potato--that's all, miss; not worth minding, I
assure you;" and he raised his hand to his occipital region. "An
application, before retiring to bed, of 'Prang's Blood and Life
Regenerator,' will make all right again. An astonishing remedy, miss,
which no family should be without, and which may be obtained cheaply by
the gross or dozen at my emporium. You have heard of Hercules Prang?"
These were the last words I heard distinctly from the lips of Napoleon
B. Burress; nor were they answered, even by the brief "Never" which
might have proclaimed my ignorance of the very existence of that
demi-god of charlatanry, who, for the benefit of suffering mankind, had
condescended to compel his genius into the shape of a "revivifying
I had, with the aid of the house-maid, divested myself of my wet
overshoes and wrappings before the advent of my companion, and had
already ensconced myself in a deep Spanish chair, that stood invitingly
and with extended arms in one corner of the fireplace, when he advanced
to place himself on the rug for a general roasting.
It was precisely twenty minutes past ten, Mr. Burress told me later,
when he detected, by stealing on tiptoe to my chair, and bending above
me, that I was sound asleep, and the mantel clock was on the stroke of
eleven when I awoke.
In one corner of the room sat a stern statue of Silence, in the shape of
N.B. Burress, watching my repose, and from the adjoining office came the
murmur of voices that proved that the long interview between Dr.
Pemberton and his patient was still in progress.
At this moment, one of the walnut-leaves of the small folding-door,
that formed a communication between the study and office of the good
physician, swung itself gently on its noiseless hinges, into the
position distinguished in description as "slightly ajar," and thus
remained fixed, after a fashion that spiritual mediums might have been
able to account for, on supernatural principles.
The low murmur of voices then readily resolved itself into shaped words
and sentences, and, but for my deep languor, and the delightful sense of
security that possessed me, I should have risen and closed the obliging
door, to shut out unintentional communications.
As it was, I lingered and listened, as one might do to the dash of
waves, or the rustling of branches, until suddenly the tones and meaning
of the principal interlocutor caused me to rise to my loftiest sitting
posture, and clasp the arms of the chair I occupied, while the strained
ear of attention drank in every syllable of the remainder of the
narrative, evidently drawing near its close.
The low monotony of a continued discourse pervaded the voice, the manner
of the speaker, the thread of whose story was no longer interrupted, as
before, by the comments or questions of his companion, intent upon the
vital interest of the tale.
"So I turned back at Panama," said the _raconteur_, probably, of a
series of adventures, "and abandoned my project altogether. The man
spoke with an air and tone of truth: the sketch was unmistakably hers.
The whole thing was full of _vraisemblance_, so to speak, and bore me
completely off my feet. The initials beneath the sketch of Christian
Garth were identical with her own.
"He referred me to Captain Van Dome for confirmation of the saving of
the few remaining passengers on the raft, and her presence in the ship
Latona, together with that of the child and negress.
"I have seen Captain Van Dorne, and he admits the part he played, on the
representation of Bainrothe; and, through the evidence of a newspaper
advertisement, of the previous autumn, which had met his eye, to satisfy
the puerile scruples of this really good but ignorant man--going no
deeper than the surface in his code of morals--they were obliged to tear
out the record of their names, and take refuge temporarily in the
long-boat, before he would swear to Miriam, in her state-room, that
Bainrothe was not on board.
"As to the _habeas corpus_ which would have gone into effect to-day, and
which the wretch managed to defeat by requiring an error to be corrected
in the writ, that no guiltless man would have observed, I fear sometimes
it will prove ineffectual if we wait for the morrow. My plan was to go
at midnight with a party of my friends to the house of this miscreant,
and take the law in my own hands; but, in this I could not stir, for the
reasons I have given you. Besides that, it was risking too much--her
safety and reputation.
"She cannot be secretly removed, of course, for we have a detective in
the house able and strong, besides the old well-paid negress, both of
"Have played you false," I interrupted, rising impetuously, and throwing
back the loose leaf of the door, "and I am here to tell you this. O
friends, have you forgotten me?"
And, rushing forward, I threw an arm around each of those dear necks,
weeping alternately on the shoulder of one and the other of the two men
I loved best in the world, and who, for some moments, sat silent and
Then Wentworth rose mutely, and clasped me to his breast, and silence
prevailed between us. It comprehended all.
I think, when we meet again in heaven, after that severance which is
inevitable to those who wear a mortal shape, we may feel as we did then,
but never before! The rapture--the relief--the spiritual
ecstasy--surmounting, as on wings of fire, pain, fatigue, suspense,
anguish of mind and body--were in themselves lessons of immortality
beyond any that book or sage has issued from midnight vigil or earthly
Not until a new order of things is established, and we have done with
tribulation, tears, and death, shall we again know such sensations; nor
is it indeed quite certain that human heart and brain could twice
sustain them here below!
Reaction came at last! Life is full of bathos as well as pathos. An hour
later, we four companions in the rejoicing over this redemption, if
chiefly strangers before, were partaking cheerfully together of hot
coffee and oysters. The services of Mrs. Jessup had been called in--the
doctor's excellent old Quaker house-keeper--and, amid many "thous" and
"thees," she had served us a capital and expeditious supper.
No one enjoyed the festive occasion more than Mr. Burress, who, on the
point of stealing lightly away after witnessing from the front study the
scene of recognition and meeting, had been arrested on the threshold by
Dr. Pemberton himself.
Either to allow a full explanation between two long-parted lovers, or to
conceal his own emotion and get back his customary calm, our dear doctor
had seen fit to step into the front-study for a few minutes, and he
checked Mr. Burress, with his hand on the door knob, with some very
natural questions as to the mode and time of our meeting, and ended by
requiring his presence at the slight collation he ordered at once.
The part the worthy apothecary had played' in my closing adventure; the
certainty that to his zeal and promptness I owed my immunity from
further captivity--for, had I walked around the square in the usual
Back to Full Books