The Complete PG Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)
Part 31 out of 51
more trial. It was the dead of the night, and this was a fearful old
place to be wandering about; but she was possessed with an urgent
feeling which would not let her wait until daylight.
She stole like a ghost from her chamber. She glided along the narrow
entries as she had seemed to move in her dream. She opened the
folding doors of the great upright desk. She had always before
examined it by daylight, and though she had so often pulled all the
little drawers out, she had never thoroughly explored the recesses
which received them. But in her new-born passion of search, she held
her light so as to illuminate all these deeper spaces. At once she
thought she saw the marks of pressure with a finger. She pressed her
own finger on this place, and, as it yielded with a slight click, a
small mahogany pilaster sprang forward, revealing its well-kept
secret that it was the mask of a tall, deep, very narrow drawer.
There was something heavy in it, and, as Myrtle turned it over, a
golden bracelet fell into her hand. She recognized it at once as
that which had been long ago the ornament of the fair woman whose
portrait hung in her chamber. She clasped it upon her wrist, and
from that moment she felt as if she were the captive of the lovely
phantom who had been with her in her dream.
"The old man walked last night, God save us!" said Kitty Fagan to
Biddy Finnegan, the day after Myrtle's nightmare and her curious
It seems probable enough that Myrtle's whole spiritual adventure was
an unconscious dramatization of a few simple facts which her
imagination tangled together into a kind of vital coherence. The
philosopher who goes to the bottom of things will remark that all the
elements of her fantastic melodrama had been furnished her while
waking. Master Byles Gridley's penetrating and stinging caution was
the text, and the grotesque carvings and the portraits furnished the
"properties" with which her own mind had wrought up this scenic show.
The philosopher who goes to the bottom of things might not find it so
easy to account for the change which came over Myrtle Hazard from the
hour when she clasped the bracelet of Judith Pride upon her wrist.
She felt a sudden loathing of the man whom she had idealized as a
saint. A young girl's caprice? Possibly. A return of the natural
instincts of girlhood with returning health? Perhaps so. An
impression produced by her dream? An effect of an influx from
another sphere of being? The working of Master Byles Gridley's
emphatic warning? The magic of her new talisman?
We may safely leave these questions for the present. As we have to
tell, not what Myrtle Hazard ought to have done, and why she should
have done it, but what she did do, our task is a simpler one than it
would be to lay bare all the springs of her action. Until this
period, she had hardly thought of herself as a born beauty. The
flatteries she had received from time to time were like the chips and
splinters under the green wood, when the chill women pretended to
make a fire in the best parlor at The Poplars, which had a way of
burning themselves out, hardly warming, much less kindling, the fore-
stick and the back-log.
Myrtle had a tinge of what some call superstition, and she began to
look upon her strange acquisition as a kind of amulet. Its
suggestions betrayed themselves in one of her first movements.
Nothing could be soberer than the cut of the dresses which the
propriety of the severe household had established as the rule of her
costume. But the girl was no sooner out of bed than a passion came
over her to see herself in that less jealous arrangement of drapery
which the Beauty of the last century had insisted on as presenting
her most fittingly to the artist. She rolled up the sleeves of her
dress, she turned down its prim collar and neck, and glanced from her
glass to the portrait, from the portrait back to the glass. Myrtle
was not blind nor dull, though young, and in many things untaught.
She did not say in so many words, "I too am a beauty," but she could
mot help seeing that she had many of the attractions of feature and
form which had made the original of the picture before her famous.
The same stately carriage of the head, the same full-rounded neck,
the same more than hinted outlines of figure, the same finely shaped
arms and hands, and something very like the same features startled
her by their identity in the permanent image of the canvas and the
fleeting one of tile mirror.
The world was hers then,--for she had not read romances and love-
letters without finding that beauty governs it in all times and
places. Who was this middle-aged minister that had been hanging
round her and talking to her about heaven, when there was not a
single joy of earth that she had as yet tasted? A man that had been
saying all his fine things to Miss Susan Posey, too, had he, before
he had bestowed his attentions on her? And to a dozen other girls,
too, nobody knows who!
The revulsion was a very sadden one. Such changes of feeling are apt
to be sudden in young people whose nerves have been tampered with,
and Myrtle was not of a temperament or an age to act with much
deliberation where a pique came in to the aid of a resolve. Master
Gridley guessed sagaciously what would be the effect of his
revelation, when he told her of the particular attentions the
minister had paid to pretty Susan Posey and various other young
The Rev. Mr. Stoker had parted his hair wonderfully that morning, and
made himself as captivating as his professional costume allowed. He
had drawn down the shades of his windows so as to let in that subdued
light which is merciful to crow's-feet and similar embellishments,
and wheeled up his sofa so that two could sit at the table and read
from the same book.
At eleven o'clock he was pacing the room with a certain feverish
impatience, casting a glance now and then at the mirror as he passed
it. At last the bell rang, and he himself went to answer it, his
heart throbbing with expectation of meeting his lovely visitor.
Myrtle Hazard appeared by an envoy extraordinary, the bearer of
sealed despatches. Mistress Kitty Fagan was the young lady's
substitute, and she delivered into the hand of the astonished
clergyman the following missive:
TO THE REV. MR. STOKER.
Reverend Sir,--I shall not come to your study this day. I do not
feel that I have any more need of religious counsel at this time, and
I am told by a friend that there are others who will be glad to hear
you talk on this subject. I hear that Mrs. Hopkins is interested in
religious subjects, and would have been glad to see you in my
company. As I cannot go with her, perhaps Miss Susan Posey will take
my place. I thank you for all the good things you have said to me,
and that you have given me so much of your company. I hope we shall
sing hymns together in heaven some time, if we are good enough, but I
want to wait for that awhile, for I do not feel quite ready. I am
not going to see you any more alone, reverend sir. I think this is
best, and I have good advice. I want to see more of young people of
my own age, and I have a friend, Mr. Gridley, who I think is older
than you are, that takes an interest in me; and as you have many
others that you must be interested in, he can take the place of a
father better than you can do. I return to you the hymn-book, I read
one of those you marked, and do not care to read any more.
The Rev. Mr. Stoker uttered a cry of rage as he finished this
awkwardly written, but tolerably intelligible letter. What could he
do about it? It would hardly do to stab Myrtle Hazard, and shoot
Byles Gridley, and strangle Mrs. Hopkins, every one of which
homicides he felt at the moment that he could have committed. And
here he was in a frantic paroxysm, and the next day was Sunday, and
his morning's discourse was unwritten. His savage mediaeval theology
came to his relief, and he clutched out of a heap of yellow
manuscripts his well-worn "convulsion-fit" sermon. He preached it
the next day as if it did his heart good, but Myrtle Hazard did not
hear it, for she had gone to St. Bartholomew's with Olive Eveleth.
SAINT AND SINNER
It happened a little after this time that the minister's invalid wife
improved--somewhat unexpectedly in health, and, as Bathsheba was
beginning to suffer from imprisonment in her sick-chamber, the
physician advised very strongly that she should vary the monotony of
her life by going out of the house daily for fresh air and cheerful
companionship. She was therefore frequently at the house of Olive
Eveleth; and as Myrtle wanted to see young people, and had her own
way now as never before, the three girls often met at the parsonage.
Thus they became more and more intimate, and grew more and more into
each other's affections.
These girls presented three types of spiritual character which are to
be found in all our towns and villages. Olive had been carefully
trained, and at the proper age confirmed. Bathsheba had been prayed
for, and in due time startled and converted. Myrtle was a simple
daughter of Eve, with many impulses like those of the other two
girls, and some that required more watching. She was not so safe,
perhaps, as either of the other girls, for this world or the next;
but she was on some accounts more interesting, as being a more
genuine representative of that inexperienced and too easily deluded,
yet always cherished, mother of our race, whom we must after all
accept as embodying the creative idea of woman, and who might have
been alive and happy now (though at a great age) but for a single
The Rev. Ambrose Eveleth, Rector of Saint Bartholomew's, Olive's
father, was one of a class numerous in the Anglican Church, a
cultivated man, with pure tastes, with simple habits, a good reader,
a neat writer, a safe thinker, with a snug and well-fenced mental
pasturage, which his sermons kept cropped moderately close without
any exhausting demand upon the soil. Olive had grown insensibly into
her religious maturity, as into her bodily and intellectual
developments, which one might suppose was the natural order of things
in a well-regulated Christian--household, where the children are
brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Bathsheba had been worried over and perplexed and depressed with
vague apprehensions about her condition, conveyed in mysterious
phrases and graveyard expressions of countenance, until about the age
of fourteen years, when she had one of those emotional paroxysms very
commonly considered in some Protestant sects as essential to the
formation of religious character. It began with a shivering sense of
enormous guilt, inherited and practised from her earliest infancy.
Just as every breath she ever drew had been malignantly poisoning the
air with carbonic acid, so her every thought and feeling had been
tainting the universe with sin. This spiritual chill or rigor had in
due order been followed by the fever-flush of hope, and that in its
turn had ushered in the last stage, the free opening of all the
spiritual pores in the peaceful relaxation of self-surrender.
Good Christians are made by many very different processes. Bathsheba
had taken her religion after the fashion of her sect; but it was
genuine, in spite of the cavils of the formalists, who could not
understand that the spirit which kept her at her mother's bedside was
the same as that which poured the tears of Mary of Magdala on the
feet of her Lord, and led her forth at early dawn with the other Mary
to visit his sepulchre.
Myrtle was a child of nature, and of course, according to the out-
worn formulae which still shame the distorted religion of humanity,
hateful to the Father in Heaven who made her. She had grown up in
antagonism with all that surrounded her. She had been talked to
about her corrupt nature and her sinful heart, until the words had
become an offence and an insult. Bathsheba knew her father's
fondness for young company too well to suppose that his intercourse
with Myrtle had gone beyond the sentimental and poetical stage, and
was not displeased when she found that there was some breach between
them. Myrtle herself did not profess to have passed through the
technical stages of the customary spiritual paroxysm. Still, the
gentle daughter of the terrible preacher loved her and judged her
kindly. She was modest enough to think that perhaps the natural
state of some girls might be at least as good as her own after the
spiritual change of which she had been the subject. A manifest
heresy, but not new, nor unamiable, nor inexplicable.
The excellent Bishop Joseph Hall, a painful preacher and solid divine
of Puritan tendencies, declares that he prefers good-nature before
grace in the election of a wife; because, saith he, "it will be a
hard Task, where the Nature is peevish and froward, for Grace to make
an entire Conquest whilst Life lasteth." An opinion apparently
entertained by many modern ecclesiastics, and one which may be
considered very encouraging to those young ladies of the politer
circles who have a fancy for marrying bishops and other fashionable
clergymen. Not of course that "grace" is so rare a gift among the
young ladies of the upper social sphere; but they are in the habit of
using the word with a somewhat different meaning from that which the
good Bishop attached to it.
It was impossible for Myrtle to be frequently at Olive's without
often meeting Olive's brother, and her reappearance with the bloom on
her cheek was a signal which her other admirers were not likely to
overlook as a hint to recommence their flattering demonstrations; and
so it was that she found herself all at once the centre of attraction
to three young men with whom we have made some acquaintance, namely,
Cyprian Eveleth, Gifted Hopkins, and Murray Bradshaw.
When the three girls were together at the house of Olive, it gave
Cyprian a chance to see something of Myrtle in the most natural way.
Indeed, they all became used to meeting him in a brotherly sort of
relation; only, as he was not the brother of two of them, it gave him
the inside track, as the sporting men say, with reference to any
rivals for the good-will of either of these. Of course neither
Bathsheba nor Myrtle thought of him in any other light than as
Olive's brother, and would have been surprised with the manifestation
on his part of any other feeling, if it existed. So he became very
nearly as intimate with them as Olive was, and hardly thought of his
intimacy as anything more than friendship, until one day Myrtle sang
some hymns so sweetly that Cyprian dreamed about her that night; and
what young person does not know that the woman or the man once
idealized and glorified in the exalted state of the imagination
belonging to sleep becomes dangerous to the sensibilities in the
waking hours that follow? Yet something drew Cyprian to the gentler
and more subdued nature of Bathsheba, so that he often thought, like
a gayer personage than himself, whose divided affections are famous
in song, that he could have been blessed to share her faithful heart,
if Myrtle had not bewitched him with her unconscious and innocent
sorceries. As for poor, modest Bathsheba, she thought nothing of
herself, but was almost as much fascinated by Myrtle as if she had
been one of the sex she was born to make in love with her.
The first rival Cyprian was to encounter in his admiration of Myrtle
Hazard was Mr. Gifted Hopkins. This young gentleman had the enormous
advantage of that all-subduing accomplishment, the poetical
endowment. No woman, it is pretty generally understood, can resist
the youth or man who addresses her in verse. The thought that she is
the object of a poet's love is one which fills a woman's ambition
more completely than all that wealth or office or social eminence can
offer. Do the young millionnaires and the members of the General
Court get letters from unknown ladies, every day, asking for their
autographs and photographs? Well, then!
Mr. Gifted Hopkins, being a poet, felt that it was so, to the very
depth of his soul. Could he not confer that immortality so dear to
the human heart? Not quite yet, perhaps,--though the "Banner and
Oracle" gave him already "an elevated niche in the Temple of Fame,"
to quote its own words,--but in that glorious summer of his genius,
of which these spring blossoms were the promise. It was a most
formidable battery, then, which Cyprian's first rival opened upon the
fortress of Myrtle's affections.
His second rival, Mr. William Murray Bradshaw, had made a half-
playful bet with his fair relative, Mrs. Clymer Ketchum, that he
would bag a girl within twelve months of date who should unite three
desirable qualities, specified in the bet, in a higher degree than
any one of the five who were on the matrimonial programme which she
had laid out for him,--and Myrtle was the girl with whom he meant to
win the bet. When a young fellow like him, cool and clever, makes up
his mind to bring down his bird, it is no joke, but a very serious
and a tolerably certain piece of business. Not being made a fool of
by any boyish nonsense,--passion and all that,--he has a great
advantage. Many a woman rejects a man because he is in love with
her, and accepts another because he is not. The first is thinking
too much of himself and his emotions,--the other makes a study of her
and her friends, and learns what ropes to pull. But then it must be
remembered that Murray Bradshaw had a poet for his rival, to say
nothing of the brother of a bosom friend.
The qualities of a young poet are so exceptional, and such
interesting objects of study, that a narrative like this can well
afford to linger awhile in the delineation of this most envied of all
the forms of genius. And by contrasting the powers and limitations
of two such young persons as Gifted Hopkins and Cyprian Eveleth, we
may better appreciate the nature of that divine inspiration which
gives to poetry the superiority it claims over every other form of
Gifted Hopkins had shown an ear for rhythm, and for the simpler forms
of music, from his earliest childhood. He began beating with his
heels the accents of the psalm tunes sung at meeting at a very tender
age,--a habit, indeed, of which he had afterwards to correct himself,
as, though it shows a sensibility to rhythmical impulses like that
which is beautifully illustrated when a circle join hands and
emphasize by vigorous downward movements the leading syllables in the
tune of Auld Lang Syne, yet it is apt to be too expressive when a
large number of boots join in the performance. He showed a
remarkable talent for playing on one of the less complex musical
instruments, too limited in compass to satisfy exacting ears, but
affording excellent discipline to those who wish to write in the
simpler metrical forms,--the same which summons the hero from his
repose and stirs his blood in battle.
By the time he was twelve years old he was struck with the pleasing
resemblance of certain vocal sounds which, without being the same,
yet had a curious relation which made them agree marvellously well in
couples; as eyes with skies; as heart with art, also with part and
smart; and so of numerous others, twenty or thirty pairs, perhaps,
which number he considerably increased as he grew older, until he may
have had fifty or more such pairs at his command.
The union of so extensive a catalogue of words which matched each
other, and of an ear so nice that it could tell if there were nine or
eleven syllables in an heroic line, instead of the legitimate ten,
constituted a rare combination of talents in the opinion of those
upon whose judgment he relied. He was naturally led to try his
powers in the expression of some just thought or natural sentiment in
the shape of verse, that wonderful medium of imparting thought and
feeling to his fellow-creatures which a bountiful Providence had made
his rare and inestimable endowment.
It was at about this period of his life, that is to say, when he was
of the age of thirteen, or we may perhaps say fourteen years, for we
do not wish to overstate his precocity, that he experienced a
sensation so entirely novel, that, to the best of his belief, it was
such as no other young person had ever known, at least in anything
like the same degree. This extraordinary emotion was brought on by
the sight of Myrtle Hazard, with whom he had never before had any
near relations, as they had been at different schools, and Myrtle was
too reserved to be very generally known among the young people of his
Then it was that he broke forth in his virgin effort, "Lines to
M----e," which were published in the village paper, and were claimed
by all possible girls but the right one; namely, by two Mary Annes,
one Minnie, one Mehitable, and one Marthie, as she saw fit to spell
the name borrowed from her who was troubled about many things.
The success of these lines, which were in that form of verse known to
the hymn-books as "common metre," was such as to convince the youth
that, whatever occupation he might be compelled to follow for a time
to obtain a livelihood or to assist his worthy parent, his true
destiny was the glorious career of a poet. It was a most pleasing
circumstance, that his mother, while she fully recognized the
propriety of his being diligent in the prosaic line of business to
which circumstances had called him, was yet as much convinced as he
himself that he was destined to achieve literary fame. She had read
Watts and Select Hymns all through, she said, and she did n't see but
what Gifted could make the verses come out jest as slick, and the
sound of the rhymes jest as pooty, as Izik Watts or the Selectmen,
whoever they was,--she was sure they couldn't be the selectmen of
this town, wherever they belonged. It is pleasant to say that the
young man, though favored by nature with this rarest of talents, did
not forget the humbler duties that Heaven, which dresses few singing-
birds in the golden plumes of fortune, had laid upon him. After
having received a moderate amount of instruction at one of the less
ambitious educational institutions of the town, supplemented, it is
true, by the judicious and gratuitous hints of Master Gridley, the
young poet, in obedience to a feeling which did him the highest
credit, relinquished, at least for the time, the Groves of Academus,
and offered his youth at the shrine of Plutus, that is, left off
studying and took to business. He became what they call a "clerk" in
what they call a "store" up in the huckleberry districts, and kept
such accounts as were required by the business of the establishment.
His principal occupation was, however, to attend to the details of
commerce as it was transacted over the counter. This industry
enabled him, to his great praise be it spoken, to assist his
excellent parent, to clothe himself in a becoming manner, so that he
made a really handsome figure on Sundays and was always of
presentable aspect, likewise to purchase a book now and then, and to
subscribe for that leading periodical which furnishes the best models
to the youth of the country in the various modes of composition.
Though Master Gridley was very kind to the young man, he was rather
disposed to check the exuberance of his poetical aspirations. The
truth was, that the old classical scholar did not care a great deal
for modern English poetry. Give him an Ode of Horace, or a scrap
from the Greek Anthology, and he would recite it with great inflation
of spirits; but he did not think very much of "your Keatses, and your
Tennysons, and the whole Hasheesh crazy lot," as he called the
dreamily sensuous idealists who belong to the same century that
brought in ether and chloroform. He rather shook his head at Gifted
Hopkins for indulging so largely in metrical composition.
"Better stick to your ciphering, my young friend," he said to him,
one day. "Figures of speech are all very well, in their way; but if
you undertake to deal much in them, you'll figure down your prospects
into a mighty small sum. There's some danger that it will take all
the sense out of you, if you keep writing verses at this rate. You
young scribblers think any kind of nonsense will do for the public,
if it only has a string of rhymes tacked to it. Cut off the bobs of
your kite, Gifted Hopkins, and see if it does n't pitch, and stagger,
and come down head-foremost. Don't write any stuff with rhyming
tails to it that won't make a decent show for itself after you've
chopped all the rhyming tails off. That's my advice, Gifted Hopkins.
Is there any book you would like to have out of my library? Have you
ever read Spenser's Faery Queen?"
He had tried, the young man answered, on the recommendation of
Cyprian Eveleth, but had found it rather hard reading.
Master Gridley lifted his eyebrows very slightly, remembering that
some had called Spenser the poet's poet. "What a pity," he said to
himself, "that this Gifted Hopkins has n't got the brains of that
William Murray Bradshaw! What's the reason, I wonder, that all the
little earthen pots blow their covers off and froth over in rhymes at
such a great rate, while the big iron pots keep their lids on, and do
all their simmering inside?"
That is the way these old pedants will talk, after all their youth
and all their poetry, if they ever had any, are gone. The smiles of
woman, in the mean time, encouraged the young poet to smite the lyre.
Fame beckoned him upward from her templed steep. The rhymes which
rose before him unbidden were as the rounds of Jacob's ladder, on
which he would climb to a heaven of-glory.
Master Gridley threw cold water on the young man's too sanguine
anticipations of success. "All up with the boy, if he's going to
take to rhyming when he ought to be doing up papers of brown sugar
and weighing out pounds of tea. Poor-house,--that 's what it'll end
in. Poets, to be sure! Sausage-makers! Empty skins of old
phrases,--stuff 'em with odds and ends of old thoughts that never
were good for anything,--cut 'em up in lengths and sell'em to fools!
"And if they ain't big fools enough to buy 'em, give'em away; and if
you can't do that, pay folks to take'em. Bah! what a fine style of
genius common-sense is! There's a passage in the book that would fit
half these addle-headed rhymesters. What is that saying of mine
about I squinting brains?"
He took down "Thoughts on the Universe," and read:--
"Of Squinting Brains.
"Where there is one man who squints with his eyes, there are a dozen
who squint with their brains. It is an infirmity in one of the eyes,
making the two unequal in power, that makes men squint. Just so it
is an inequality in the two halves of the brain that makes some men
idiots and others rascals. I knows a fellow whose right half is a
genius, but his other hemisphere belongs to a fool; and I had a
friend perfectly honest on one side, but who was sent to jail because
the other had an inveterate tendency in the direction of picking
pockets and appropriating aes alienum."
All this, talking and reading to himself in his usual fashion.
The poetical faculty which was so freely developed in Gifted Hopkins
had never manifested itself in Cyprian Eveleth, whose look and voice
might, to a stranger, have seemed more likely to imply an imaginative
nature. Cyprian was dark, slender, sensitive, contemplative, a lover
of lonely walks,--one who listened for the whispers of Nature and
watched her shadows, and was alive to the symbolisms she writes over
everything. But Cyprian had never shown the talent or the
inclination for writing in verse.
He was on the pleasantest terms with the young poet, and being
somewhat older, and having had the advantage of academic and college
culture, often gave him useful hints as to the cultivation of his
powers, such as genius frequently requires at the hands of humbler
intelligences. Cyprian was incapable of jealousy; and although the
name of Gifted Hopkins was getting to be known beyond the immediate
neighborhood, and his autograph had been requested by more than one
young lady living in another county, he never thought of envying the
young poet's spreading popularity.
That the poet himself was flattered by these marks of public favor
may be inferred from the growing confidence with which he expressed
himself in his conversations with Cyprian, more especially in one
which was held at the "store" where he officiated as "clerk."
"I become more and more assured, Cyprian," he said, leaning over the
counter, "that I was born to be a poet. I feel it in my marrow. I
must succeed. I must win the laurel of fame. I must taste the
" Molasses," said a bareheaded girl of ten who entered at that
moment, bearing in her hand a cracked pitcher, "ma wants three gills
Gifted Hopkins dropped his subject and took up a tin measure. He
served the little maid with a benignity quite charming to witness,
made an entry on a slate of .08, and resumed the conversation.
"Yes, I am sure of it, Cyprian. The very last piece I wrote was
copied in two papers. It was 'Contemplations in Autumn,' and--don't
think I am too vain--one young lady has told me that it reminded her
of Pollok. You never wrote in verse, did you, Cyprian?"
"I never wrote at all, Gifted, except school and college exercises,
and a letter now and then. Do you find it an easy and pleasant
exercise to make rhymes?"
Pleasant! Poetry is to me a delight and a passion. I never know
what I am going to write when I sit down. And presently the rhymes
begin pounding in my brain,--it seems as if there were a hundred
couples of them, paired like so many dancers,--and then these rhymes
seem to take possession of me, like a surprise party, and bring in
all sorts of beautiful thoughts, and I write and write, and the
verses run measuring themselves out like"---
"Ribbins,--any narrer blue ribbins, Mr. Hopkins? Five eighths of a
yard, if you please, Mr. Hopkins. How's your folks?" Then, in a
lower tone, "Those last verses of yours in the Bannernoracle were
Gifted Hopkins meted out the five eighths of blue ribbon by the aid
of certain brass nails on the counter. He gave good measure, not
prodigal, for he was loyal to his employer, but putting a very
moderate strain on the ribbon, and letting the thumb-nail slide with
a contempt of infinitesimals which betokened a large soul in its
The young lady departed, after casting upon him one of those
bewitching glances which the young poet--let us rather say the poet,
without making odious distinctions--is in the confirmed habit of
receiving from dear woman.
Mr. Gifted Hopkins resumed: "I do not know where this talent, as my
friends call it, of mine, comes from. My father used to carry a
chain for a surveyor sometimes, and there is a ten-foot pole in the
house he used to measure land with. I don't see why that should make
me a poet. My mother was always fond of Dr. Watts's hymns; but so
are other young men's mothers, and yet they don't show poetical
genius. But wherever I got it, it comes as easy to me to write in
verse as to write in prose, almost. Don't you ever feel a longing to
send your thoughts forth in verse, Cyprian?"
"I wish I had a greater facility of expression very often," Cyprian
answered; "but when I have my best thoughts I do not find that I have
words that seem fitting to clothe them. I have imagined a great many
poems, Gifted, but I never wrote a rhyming verse, or verse of any
kind. Did you ever hear Olive play 'Songs without Words'? If you
have ever heard her, you will know what I mean by unrhymed and
"I am sure I don't know what you mean, Cyprian, by poetry without
rhyme or verse, any more than I should if you talked about pictures
that were painted on nothing, or statues that were made out of
nothing. How can you tell that anything is poetry, I should like to
know, if there is neither a regular line with just so many syllables,
nor a rhyme? Of course you can't. I never have any thoughts too
beautiful to put in verse: nothing can be too beautiful for it."
Cyprian left the conversation at this point. It was getting more
suggestive than interpenetrating, and he thought he might talk the
matter over better with Olive. Just then a little boy came in, and
bargained with Gifted for a Jews-harp, which, having obtained, he
placed against his teeth, and began playing upon it with a pleasure
almost equal to that of the young poet reciting his own verses.
"A little too much like my friend Gifted Hopkins's poetry," Cyprian
said, as he left the "store." "All in one note, pretty much. Not a
great many tunes, 'Hi Betty Martin,' 'Yankee Doodle,' and one or two
more like them. But many people seem to like them, and I don't doubt
it is as exciting to Gifted to write them as it is to a great genius
to express itself in a poem."
Cyprian was, perhaps, too exacting. He loved too well the sweet
intricacies of Spenser, the majestic and subtly interwoven harmonies
of Milton. These made him impatient of the simpler strains of Gifted
Though he himself never wrote verses, he had some qualities which his
friend the poet may have undervalued in comparison with the talent of
modelling the symmetries of verse and adjusting the correspondences
of rhyme. He had kept in a singular degree all the sensibilities of
childhood, its simplicity, its reverence. It seemed as if nothing of
all that he met in his daily life was common or unclean to him, for
there was no mordant in his nature for what was coarse or vile, and
all else he could not help idealizing into its own conception of
itself, so to speak. He loved the leaf after its kind as well as the
flower, and the root as well as the leaf, and did not exhaust his
capacity of affection or admiration on the blossom or bud upon which
his friend the poet lavished the wealth of his verse. Thus Nature
took him into her confidence. She loves the men of science well, and
tells them all her family secrets,--who is the father of this or that
member of the group, who is brother, sister, cousin, and so on,
through all the circle of relationship. But there are others to whom
she tells her dreams; not what species or genus her lily belongs to,
but what vague thought it has when it dresses in white, or what
memory of its birthplace that is which we call its fragrance.
Cyprian was one of these. Yet he was not a complete nature. He
required another and a wholly different one to be the complement of
his own. Olive came as near it as a sister could, but--we must
borrow an old image--moonlight is no more than a cold and vacant
glimmer on the sun-dial, which only answers to the great flaming orb
of day. If Cyprian could but find some true, sweet-tempered, well-
balanced woman, richer in feeling than in those special imaginative
gifts which made the outward world at times unreal to him in the
intense reality of his own inner life, how he could enrich and adorn
her existence,--how she could direct and chasten and elevate the
character of all his thoughts and actions!
"Bathsheba," said Olive, "it seems to me that Cyprian is getting more
and more fascinated with Myrtle Hazard. He has never got over the
fancy he took to her when he first saw her in her red jacket, and
called her the fire-hang-bird. Wouldn't they suit each other by and
by, after Myrtle has come to herself and grown into a beautiful and
noble woman, as I feel sure she will in due time?"
"Myrtle is very lovely," Bathsheba answered, "but is n't she a little
too--flighty--for one like your brother? Cyprian isn't more like
other young men than Myrtle is like other young girls. I have
thought sometimes--I wondered whether out-of-the-way people and
common ones do not get along best together. Does n't Cyprian want
some more every-day kind of girl to keep him straight? Myrtle is
beautiful, beautiful,--fascinates everybody. Has Mr. Bradshaw been
following after her lately? He is taken with her too. Didn't you
ever think she would have to give in to Murray Bradshaw at last? He
looks to me like a man that would hold on desperately as a lover."
If Myrtle Hazard, instead of being a half-finished school-girl,
hardly sixteen years old, had been a young woman of eighteen or
nineteen, it would have been plain sailing enough for Murray
Bradshaw. But he knew what a distance their ages seemed just now to
put between them,--a distance which would grow practically less and
less with every year, and he did not wish to risk anything so long as
there was no danger of interference. He rather encouraged Gifted
Hopkins to write poetry to Myrtle. "Go in, Gifted," he said,
"there's no telling what may come of it," and Gifted did go in at a
Murray Bradshaw did not write poetry himself, but he read poetry with
a good deal of effect, and he would sometimes take a hint from one of
Gifted Hopkins's last productions to recite a passionate lyric of
Byron or Moore, into which he would artfully throw so much meaning
that Myrtle was almost as much puzzled, in her simplicity, to know
what it meant, as she had been by the religious fervors of the Rev.
He spoke well of Cyprian Eveleth. A good young man,--limited, but
exemplary. Would succeed well as rector of a small parish. That
required little talent, but a good deal of the humbler sort of
virtue. As for himself, he confessed to ambition,--yes, a great deal
of ambition. A failing, he supposed, but not the worst of failings.
He felt the instinct to handle the larger interests of society. The
village would perhaps lose sight of him for a time; but he meant to
emerge sooner or later in the higher spheres of government or
diplomacy. Myrtle must keep his secret. Nobody else knew it. He
could not help making a confidant of her,--a thing he had never done
before with any other person as to his plans in life. Perhaps she
might watch his career with more interest from her acquaintance with
him. He loved to think that there was one woman at least who would
be pleased to hear of his success if he succeeded, as with life and
health he would,--who would share his disappointment if fate should
not favor him.--So he wound and wreathed himself into her thoughts.
It was not very long before Myrtle began to accept the idea that she
was the one person in the world whose peculiar duty it was to
sympathize with the aspiring young man whose humble beginnings she
had the honor of witnessing. And it is not very far from being the
solitary confidant, and the single source of inspiration, to the
growth of a livelier interest, where a young man and a young woman
are in question.
Myrtle was at this time her own mistress as never before. The three
young men had access to her as she walked to and from meeting and in
her frequent rambles, besides the opportunities Cyprian had of
meeting her in his sister's company, and the convenient visits which,
in connection with the great lawsuit, Murray Bradshaw could make,
without question, at The Poplars.
It was not long before Cyprian perceived that he could never pass a
certain boundary of intimacy with Myrtle. Very pleasant and sisterly
always she was with him; but she never looked as if she might mean
more than she said, and cherished a little spark of sensibility which
might be fanned into the flame of love. Cyprian felt this so
certainly that he was on the point of telling his grief to Bathsheba,
who looked to him as if she would sympathize as heartily with him as
his own sister, and whose sympathy would have a certain flavor in
it,--something which one cannot find in the heart of the dearest
sister that ever lived. But Bathsheba was herself sensitive, and
changed color when Cyprian ventured a hint or two in the direction of
his thought, so that he never got so fax as to unburden his heart to
her about Myrtle, whom she admired so sincerely that she could not
have helped feeling a great interest in his passion towards her.
As for Gifted Hopkins, the roses that were beginning to bloom fresher
and fresher every day in Myrtle's cheeks unfolded themselves more and
more freely, to speak metaphorically, in his song. Every week she
would receive a delicately tinted note with lines to "Myrtle
awaking," or to "Myrtle retiring," (one string of verses a little too
Musidora-ish, and which soon found itself in the condition of a
cinder, perhaps reduced to that state by spontaneous combustion,) or
to "The Flower of the Tropics," or to the "Nymph of the River-side,"
or other poetical alias, such as bards affect in their sieges of the
Gifted Hopkins was of a sanguine temperament. As he read and re-read
his verses it certainly seemed to him that they must reach the heart
of the angelic being to whom they were addressed. That she was slow
in confessing the impression they made upon her, was a favorable
sign; so many girls called his poems "sweet pooty," that those
charming words, though soothing, no longer stirred him deeply.
Myrtle's silence showed that the impression his verses had made was
deep. Time would develop her sentiments; they were both young; his
position was humble as yet; but when he had become famous through the
land-oh blissful thought!--the bard of Oxbow Village would bear a
name that any woman would be proud to assume, and the M. H. which
her delicate hands had wrought on the kerchiefs she wore would yet
perhaps be read, not Myrtle Hazard, but Myrtle Hopkins.
SUSAN'S YOUNG MAN.
There seems no reasonable doubt that Myrtle Hazard might have made a
safe thing of it with Gifted Hopkins, (if so inclined,) provided that
she had only been secured against interference. But the constant
habit of reading his verses to Susan Posey was not without its risk
to so excitable a nature as that of the young poet. Poets were
always capable of divided affections, and Cowley's "Chronicle" is a
confession that would fit the whole tribe of them. It is true that
Gifted had no right to regard Susan's heart as open to the wiles of
any new-comer. He knew that she considered herself, and was
considered by another, as pledged and plighted. Yet she was such a
devoted listener, her sympathies were so easily roused, her blue eyes
glistened so tenderly at the least poetical hint, such as "Never, oh
never," "My aching heart," "Go, let me weep,"--any of those touching
phrases out of the long catalogue which readily suggests itself, that
her influence was getting to be such that Myrtle (if really anxious
to secure him) might look upon it with apprehension, and the owner of
Susan's heart (if of a jealous disposition) might have thought it
worth while to make a visit to Oxbow Village to see after his
It may seem not impossible that some friend had suggested as much as
this to the young lady's lover.
The caution would have been unnecessary, or at least premature.
Susan was loyal as ever to her absent friend. Gifted Hopkins had
never yet presumed upon the familiar relations existing between them
to attempt to shake her allegiance. It is quite as likely, after
all, that the young gentleman about to make his appearance in Oxbow
Village visited the place of his own accord, without a hint from
anybody. But the fact concerns us more than the reason of it, just
"Who do you think is coming, Mr. Gridley? Who do you think is
coming?" said Susan Posey, her face covered with a carnation such as
the first season may see in a city belle, but not the second.
"Well, Susan Posey, I suppose I must guess, though I am rather slow
at that business. Perhaps the Governor. No, I don't think it can be
the Governor, for you would n't look so happy if it was only his
Excellency. It must be the President, Susan Posey,--President James
Buchanan. Have n't I guessed right, now, tell me, my dear?"
"O Mr. Gridley, you are too bad,--what do I care for governors and
presidents? I know somebody that's worth fifty million thousand
presidents,--and he 's coming,--my Clement is coming," said Susan,
who had by this time learned to consider the awful Byles Gridley as
her next friend and faithful counsellor.
Susan could not stay long in the house after she got her note
informing her that her friend was soon to be with her. Everybody
told everything to Olive Eveleth, and Susan must run over to the
parsonage to tell her that there was a young gentleman coming to
Oxbow Village; upon which Olive asked who it was, exactly as if she
did not know; whereupon Susan dropped her eyes and said, "Clement,--I
mean Mr. Lindsay."
That was a fair piece of news now, and Olive had her bonnet on five
minutes after Susan was gone, and was on her way to Bathsheba's,--it
was too bad that the poor girl who lived so out of the world
shouldn't know anything of what was going on in it. Bathsheba had
been in all the morning, and the Doctor had said she must take the
air every day; so Bathsheba had on her bonnet a little after Olive
had gone, and walked straight up to The Poplars to tell Myrtle Hazard
that a certain young gentleman, Clement Lindsay, was coming to Oxbow
It was perhaps fortunate that there was no special significance to
Myrtle in the name of Clement Lindsay. Since the adventure which had
brought these two young persons together, and, after coming so near a
disaster, had ended in a mere humiliation and disappointment, and but
for Master Gridley's discreet kindness might have led to foolish
scandal, Myrtle had never referred to it in any way. Nobody really
knew what her plans had been except Olive and Cyprian, who had
observed a very kind silence about the whole matter. The common
version of the story was harmless, and near enough to the truth,
--down the river,--boat upset,--pulled out,--taken care of by some
women in a house farther down,--sick, brain fever,--pretty near it,
anyhow,--old Dr. Hurlbut called in,--had her hair cut,--hystericky,
Myrtle was contented with this statement, and asked no questions, and
it was a perfectly understood thing that nobody alluded to the
subject in her presence. It followed from all this that the name of
Clement Lindsay had no peculiar meaning for her. Nor was she like to
recognize him as the youth in whose company she had gone through her
mortal peril, for all her recollections were confused and dreamlike
from the moment when she awoke and found herself in the foaming
rapids just above the fall, until that when her senses returned, and
she saw Master Byles Gridley standing over her with that look of
tenderness in his square features which had lingered in her
recollection, and made her feel towards him as if she were his
Now this had its advantage; for as Clement was Susan's young man, and
had been so for two or three years, it would have been a great pity
to have any such curious relations established between him and Myrtle
Hazard as a consciousness on both sides of what had happened would
"Who is this Clement Lindsay, Bathsheba?" Myrtle asked.
Why, Myrtle, don't you remember about Susan Posey's is-to-be,--the
young man that has been well, I don't know, but I suppose engaged to
her ever since they were children almost?"
"Yes, yes, I remember now. Oh dear! I have forgotten so many
things, I should think I had been dead and was coming back to life
again. Do you know anything about him, Bathsheba? Did n't somebody
say he was very handsome? I wonder if he is really in love with
Susan Posey. Such a simple thing? I want to see him. I have seen
so few young men."
As Myrtle said these words, she lifted the sleeve a little on her
left arm, by a half-instinctive and half-voluntary movement. The
glimmering gold of Judith Pride's bracelet flashed out the yellow
gleam which has been the reddening of so many hands and the
blackening of so, many souls since that innocent sin-breeder was
first picked up in the land of Havilah. There came a sudden light
into her eye, such as Bathsheba had never seen there before. It
looked to her as if Myrtle were saying unconsciously to herself that
she had the power of beauty, and would like to try its influence on
the handsome young man whom she was soon to meet, even at the risk of
unseating poor little Susan in his affections. This pained the
gentle and humble-minded girl, who, without having tasted the world's
pleasures, had meekly consecrated herself to the lowly duties which
lay nearest to her. For Bathsheba's phrasing of life was in the
monosyllables of a rigid faith. Her conceptions of the human soul
were all simplicity and purity, but elementary. She could not
conceive the vast license the creative energy allows itself in
mingling the instincts which, after long conflict, may come into
harmonious adjustment. The flash which Myrtle's eye had caught from
the gleam of the golden bracelet filled Bathsheba with a sudden fear
that she was like to be led away by the vanities of that world lying
in wickedness of which the minister's daughter had heard so much and
seen so little.
Not that Bathsheba made any fine moral speeches, to herself. She
only felt a slight shock, such as a word or a look from one we love
too often gives us,--such as a child's trivial gesture or movement
makes a parent feel,--that impalpable something which in the
slightest possible inflection of a syllable or gradation of a tone
will sometimes leave a sting behind it, even in a trusting heart.
This was all. But it was true that what she saw meant a great deal.
It meant the dawning in Myrtle Hazard of one of her as yet unlived
secondary lives. Bathsheba's virgin perceptions had caught a faint
early ray of its glimmering twilight.
She answered, after a very slight pause, which this explanation has
made seem so long, that she had never seen the young gentleman, and
that she did not know about Susan's sentiments. Only, as they had
kept so long to each other, she supposed there must be love between
Myrtle fell into a revery, with certain tableaux glowing along its
perspectives which poor little Susan Posey would have shivered to
look upon, if they could have been transferred from the purple clouds
of Myrtle's imagination to the pale silvery mists of Susan's pretty
fancies. She sat in her day-dream long after Bathsheba had left her,
her eyes fixed, not on the faded portrait of her beatified
ancestress, but on that other canvas where the dead Beauty seemed to
live in all the splendors of her full-blown womanhood.
The young man whose name had set her thoughts roving was handsome, as
the glance at him already given might have foreshadowed. But his
features had a graver impress than his age seemed to account for, and
the sober tone of his letter to Susan implied that something had
given him a maturity beyond his years. The story was not an uncommon
one. At sixteen he had dreamed-and told his dream. At eighteen he
had awoke, and found, as he believed, that a young heart had grown to
his so that its life was dependent on his own. Whether it would have
perished if its filaments had been gently disentangled from the
object to which they had attached themselves, experienced judges of
such matters may perhaps question. To justify Clement in his
estimate of the danger of such an experiment, we must remember that
to young people in their teens a first passion is a portentous and
unprecedented phenomenon. The young man may have been mistaken in
thinking that Susan would die if he left her, and may have done more
than his duty in sacrificing himself; but if so, it was the mistake
of a generous youth, who estimated the depth of another's feelings by
his own. He measured the depth of his own rather by what he felt
they might be, than by that of any abysses they had yet sounded.
Clement was called a "genius" by those who knew him, and was
consequently in danger of being spoiled early. The risk is great
enough anywhere, but greatest in a new country, where there is an
almost universal want of fixed standards of excellence.
He was by nature an artist; a shaper with the pencil or the chisel, a
planner, a contriver capable of turning his hand to almost any work
of eye and hand. It would not have been strange if he thought he
could do everything, having gifts which were capable of various
application,--and being an American citizen. But though he was a
good draughtsman, and had made some reliefs and modelled some
figures, he called himself only an architect. He had given him.
self up to his art, not merely from a love of it and talent for it,
but with a kind of heroic devotion, because he thought his country
wanted a race of builders to clothe the new forms of religious,
social, and national life afresh from the forest, the quarry, and the
mine. Some thought he would succeed, others that he would be a
"Grand notions,--grand notions," the master with whom he studied
said. "Large ground plan of life,--splendid elevation. A little
wild in some of his fancies, perhaps, but he's only a boy, and he's
the kind of boy that sometimes grows to be a pretty big man. Wait
and see,--wait and see. He works days, and we can let him dream
nights. There's a good deal of him, anyhow." His fellow-students
were puzzled. Those who thought of their calling as a trade, and
looked forward to the time when they should be embodying the ideals
of municipal authorities in brick and stone, or making contracts with
wealthy citizens, doubted whether Clement would have a sharp eye
enough for business. "Too many whims, you know. All sorts of queer
ideas in his head,--as if a boy like him were going to make things
all over again!".
No doubt there was something of youthful extravagance in his plans
and expectations. But it was the untamed enthusiasm which is the
source of all great thoughts and deeds,--a beautiful delirium which
age commonly tames down, and for which the cold shower-bath the world
furnishes gratis proves a pretty certain cure.
Creation is always preceded by chaos. The youthful architect's mind
was confused by the multitude of suggestions which were crowding in
upon it, and which he had not yet had time or developed mature
strength sufficient to reduce to order. The young American of any
freshness of intellect is stimulated to dangerous excess by the
conditions of life into which he is born. There is a double
proportion of oxygen in the New World air. The chemists have not
found it out yet, but human brains and breathing-organs have long
since made the discovery.
Clement knew that his hasty entanglement had limited his
possibilities of happiness in one direction, and he felt that there
was a certain grandeur in the recompense of working out his defeated
instincts through the ambitious medium of his noble art. Had not
Pharaohs chosen it to proclaim their longings for immortality,
Caesars their passion for pomp and luxury, and priests to symbolize
their conceptions of the heavenly mansions? His dreams were on a
grand scale; such, after all, are the best possessions of youth. Had
he but been free, or mated with a nature akin to his own, he would
have felt himself as truly the heir of creation as any young man that
lived. But his lot was cast, and his youth had all the serious
aspect to himself of thoughtful manhood. In the region of his art
alone he hoped always to find freedom and a companionship which his
home life could never give him.
Clement meant to have visited his beloved before he left Alderbank,
but was called unexpectedly back to the city. Happily Susan was not
exacting; she looked up to him with too great a feeling of distance
between them to dare to question his actions. Perhaps she found a
partial consolation in the company of Mr. Gifted Hopkins, who tried
his new poems on her, which was the next best thing to addressing
them to her. "Would that you were with us at this delightful
season," she wrote in the autumn; "but no, your Susan must not
repine. Yet, in the beautiful words of our native poet,
"Oh would, oh would that thou wast here,
For absence makes thee doubly dear;
Ah! what is life while thou 'rt away?
'T is night without the orb of day!'"
The poet referred to, it need hardly be said, was our young and
promising friend G. H., as he sometimes modestly signed himself. The
letter, it is unnecessary to state, was voluminous,--for a woman can
tell her love, or other matter of interest, over and over again in as
many forms as another poet, not G. H., found for his grief in ringing
the musical changes of "In Memoriam."
The answers to Susan's letters were kind, but not very long. They
convinced her that it was a simple impossibility that Clement could
come to Oxbow Village, on account of the great pressure of the work
he had to keep him in the city, and the plans he must finish at any
rate. But at last the work was partially got rid of, and Clement was
coming; yes, it was so nice, and, oh dear! should n't she be real
happy to see him?
To Susan he appeared as a kind of divinity, almost too grand for
human nature's daily food. Yet, if the simple-hearted girl could
have told herself the whole truth in plain words, she would have
confessed to certain doubts which from time to time, and oftener of
late, cast a shadow on her seemingly bright future. With all the
pleasure that the thought of meeting Clement gave her, she felt a
little tremor, a certain degree of awe, in contemplating his visit.
If she could have clothed her self-humiliation in the gold and purple
of the "Portuguese Sonnets," it would have been another matter; but
the trouble with the most common sources of disquiet is that they
have no wardrobe of flaming phraseology to air themselves in; the
inward burning goes on without the relief and gratifying display of
"A friend of mine is coming to the village," she said to Mr. Gifted
Hopkins. "I want you to see him. He is a genius,--as some other
young men are." (This was obviously personal, and the youthful poet
blushed with ingenuous delight.) "I have known him for ever so many
years. He and I are very good friends." The poet knew that this
meant an exclusive relation between them; and though the fact was no
surprise to him, his countenance fell a little. The truth was, that
his admiration was divided between Myrtle, who seemed to him divine
and adorable, but distant, and Susan, who listened to his frequent
poems, whom he was in the habit of seeing in artless domestic
costumes, and whose attractions had been gaining upon him of late in
the enforced absence of his divinity.
He retired pensive from this interview, and, flinging himself at his
desk, attempted wreaking his thoughts upon expression, to borrow the
language of one of his brother bards, in a passionate lyric which he
"Another's! Oh the pang, the smart!
Fate owes to Love a deathless grudge,--
The barbed fang has rent a heart
"judge--judge,--no, not judge. Budge, drudge, fudge--What a
disgusting language English is! Nothing fit to couple with such a
word as grudge! And the gush of an impassioned moment arrested in
full flow, stopped short, corked up, for want of a paltry rhyme!
Judge,--budge,--drudge,--nudge, oh!--smudge,--misery!--fudge. In
vain,--futile,--no use,--all up for to-night!"
While the poet, headed off in this way by the poverty of his native
tongue, sought inspiration by retiring into the world of dreams,--
went to bed, in short, his more fortunate rival was just entering the
village, where he was to make his brief residence at the house of
Deacon Rumrill, who, having been a loser by the devouring element,
was glad to receive a stray boarder when any such were looking about
For some reason or other he was restless that evening, and took out a
volume he had brought with him to beguile the earlier hours of the
night. It was too late when he arrived to disturb the quiet of Mrs.
Hopkins's household, and whatever may have been Clement's impatience,
he held it in check, and sat tranquilly until midnight over the pages
of the book with which he had prudently provided himself.
"Hope you slept well last night," said the old Deacon, when Mr.
Clement came down to breakfast the next morning.
"Very well, thank you,--that is, after I got to bed. But I sat up
pretty late reading my favorite Scott. I am apt to forget how the
hours pass when I have one of his books in my hand."
The worthy Deacon looked at Mr. Clement with a sudden accession of
"You couldn't find better reading, young man. Scott is my favorite
author. A great man. I have got his likeness in a gilt-frame
hanging up in the other room. I have read him all through three
The young man's countenance brightened. He had not expected to find
so much taste for elegant literature in an old village deacon.
"What are your favorites among his writings, Deacon? I suppose you
have your particular likings, as the rest of us have."
The Deacon was flattered by the question. "Well," he answered, "I
can hardly tell you. I like pretty much everything Scott ever wrote.
Sometimes I think it is one thing, and sometimes another. Great on
Paul's Epistles,--don't you think so?"
The honest fact was, that Clement remembered very little about
"Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk,"--a book of Sir Walter's less famous
than many of his others; but he signified his polite assent to the
Deacon's statement, rather wondering at his choice of a favorite, and
smiling at his queer way of talking about the Letters as Epistles.
"I am afraid Scott is not so much read now-a-days as he once was, and
as he ought to be," said Mr. Clement: "Such character, such nature
and so much grace."
"That's it,--that's it, young man," the Deacon broke in,--"Natur' and
Grace,--Natur' and Grace. Nobody ever knew better what those two
words meant than Scott did, and I'm very glad to see--you've chosen
such good wholesome reading. You can't set up too late, young man,
to read Scott. If I had twenty children, they should all begin
reading Scott as soon as they were old enough to spell sin,--and
that's the first word my little ones learned, next to 'pa' and I
'ma.' Nothing like beginning the lessons of life in good season."
"What a grim old satirist!" Clement said to himself. "I wonder if
the old man reads other novelists.--Do tell me, Deacon, if you have
read Thackeray's last story? "
"Thackeray's story? Published by the American Tract Society?"
"Not exactly," Clement answered, smiling, and quite delighted to find
such an unexpected vein of grave pleasantry about the demure-looking
church-dignitary; for the Deacon asked his question without moving a
muscle, and took no cognizance whatever of the young man's tone and
smile. First-class humorists are, as is well known, remarkable for
the immovable solemnity of their features. Clement promised himself
not a little amusement from the curiously sedate drollery of the
venerable Deacon, who, it was plain from his conversation, had
cultivated a literary taste which would make him a more agreeable
companion than the common ecclesiastics of his grade in country
After breakfast, Mr. Clement walked forth in the direction of Mrs.
Hopkins's house, thinking as he went of the pleasant surprise his
visit would bring to his longing and doubtless pensive Susan; for
though she knew he was coming, she did not know that he was at that
moment in Oxbow Village.
As he drew near the house, the first thing he saw was Susan Posey,
almost running against her just as he turned a corner. She looked
wonderfully lively and rosy, for the weather was getting keen and the
frosts had begun to bite. A young gentleman was walking at her side,
and reading to her from a paper he held in his hand. Both looked
deeply interested,--so much so that Clement felt half ashamed of
himself for intruding upon them so abruptly.
But lovers are lovers, and Clement could not help joining them. The
first thing, of course, was the utterance of two simultaneous
exclamations, "Why, Clement!" "Why, Susan!" What might have come
next in the programme, but for the presence of a third party, is
matter of conjecture; but what did come next was a mighty awkward
look on the part of Susan Posey, and the following short speech:
"Mr. Lindsay, let me introduce Mr. Hopkins, my friend, the poet I 've
written to you about. He was just reading two of his poems to me.
Some other time, Gifted--Mr. Hopkins."
"Oh no, Mr. Hopkins,--pray go on," said Clement. "I 'm very fond of
The poet did not require much urging, and began at once reciting over
again the stanzas which were afterwards so much admired in the
"Banner and Oracle,"--the first verse being, as the readers of that
paper will remember,
"She moves in splendor, like the ray
That flashes from unclouded skies,
And all the charms of night and day
Are mingled in her hair and eyes."
Clement, who must have been in an agony of impatience to be alone
with his beloved, commanded his feelings admirably. He signified his
approbation of the poem by saying that the lines were smooth and the
rhymes absolutely without blemish. The stanzas reminded him forcibly
of one of the greatest poets of the century.
Gifted flushed hot with pleasure. He had tasted the blood of his own
rhymes; and when a poet gets as far as that, it is like wringing the
bag of exhilarating gas from the lips of a fellow sucking at it, to
drag his piece away from him.
"Perhaps you will like these lines still better," he said; "the style
is more modern:--
"'O daughter of the spiced South,
Her bubbly grapes have spilled the wine
That staineth with its hue divine
The red flower of thy perfect mouth.'"
And so on, through a series of stanzas like these, with the pulp of
two rhymes between the upper and lower crust of two others.
Clement was cornered. It was necessary to say something for the
poet's sake,--perhaps for Susan's; for she was in a certain sense
responsible for the poems of a youth of genius, of whom she had
spoken so often and so enthusiastically.
"Very good, Mr. Hopkins, and a form of verse little used, I should
think, until of late years. You modelled this piece on the style of
a famous living English poet, did you not?"
"Indeed I did not, Mr. Lindsay,--I never imitate. Originality is, if
I may be allowed to say so much for myself, my peculiar forte. Why,
the critics allow as much as that. See here, Mr. Lindsay."
Mr. Gifted Hopkins pulled out his pocket-book, and, taking therefrom
a cutting from a newspaper,--which dropped helplessly open of itself,
as if tired of the process, being very tender in the joints or
creases, by reason of having been often folded and unfolded read
aloud as follows:
"The bard of Oxbow Pillage--our valued correspondent who writes over
the signature of G. H.--is, in our opinion, more remarkable for his
originality than for any other of his numerous gifts."
Clement was apparently silenced by this, and the poet a little elated
with a sense of triumph. Susan could not help sharing his feeling of
satisfaction, and without meaning it in the least, nay, without
knowing it, for she was as simple and pure as new milk, edged a
little bit--the merest infinitesimal atom--nearer to Gifted Hopkins,
who was on one side of her, while Clement walked on the other. Women
love the conquering party,--it is the way of their sex. And poets,
as we have seen, are well-nigh irresistible when they exert their
dangerous power of fascination upon the female heart. But Clement
was above jealousy; and, if be perceived anything of this movement,
took no notice of it.
He saw a good deal of his pretty Susan that day. She was tender in
her expressions and manners as usual, but there was a little
something in her looks and language from time to time that Clement
did not know exactly what to make of. She colored once or twice when
the young poet's name was mentioned. She was not so full of her
little plans for the future as she had sometimes been, "everything
was so uncertain," she said. Clement asked himself whether she felt
quite as sure that her attachment would last as she once did. But
there were no reproaches, not even any explanations, which are about
as bad between lovers. There was nothing but an undefined feeling on
his side that she did not cling quite so closely to him, perhaps, as
he had once thought, and that, if he had happened to have been
drowned that day when he went down with the beautiful young woman, it
was just conceivable that Susan, who would have cried dreadfully, no
doubt, would in time have listened to consolation from some other
young man,--possibly from the young poet whose verses he had been
admiring. Easy-crying widows take new husbands soonest; there is
nothing like wet weather for transplanting, as Master Gridley used to
say. Susan had a fluent natural gift for tears, as Clement well
knew, after the exercise of which she used to brighten up like the
rose which had been washed, just washed in a shower, mentioned by
As for the poet, he learned more of his own sentiments during this
visit of Clement's than he had ever before known. He wandered about
with a dreadfully disconsolate look upon his countenance. He showed
a falling-off in his appetite at tea-time, which surprised and
disturbed his mother, for she had filled the house with fragrant
suggestions of good things coming, in honor of Mr. Lindsay, who was
to be her guest at tea. And chiefly the genteel form of doughnut
called in the native dialect cymbal ( Qu. Symbol? B. G.) which
graced the board with its plastic forms, suggestive of the most
pleasing objects,--the spiral ringlets pendent from the brow of
beauty; the magic circlet, which is the pledge of plighted
affection,--the indissoluble knot, which typifies the union of
hearts, which organs were also largely represented; this exceptional
delicacy would at any other time have claimed his special notice.
But his mother remarked that he paid little attention to these, and
his, "No, I thank you," when it came to the preserved "damsels," as
some call them, carried a pang with it to the maternal bosom. The
most touching evidence of his unhappiness--whether intentional or the
result of accident was not evident was a broken heart, which he left
upon his plate, the meaning of which was as plain as anything in the
language of flowers. His thoughts were gloomy during that day,
running a good deal on the more picturesque and impressive methods of
bidding a voluntary farewell to a world which had allured him with
visions of beauty only to snatch them from his impassioned gaze. His
mother saw something of this, and got from him a few disjointed
words, which led her to lock up the clothes-line and hide her late
husband's razors,--an affectionate, yet perhaps unnecessary
precaution, for self-elimination contemplated from this point of view
by those who have the natural outlet of verse to relieve them is
rarely followed by a casualty. It may rather be considered as
implying a more than average chance for longevity; as those who
meditate an--imposing finish naturally save themselves for it, and
are therefore careful of their health until the time comes, and this
is apt to be indefinitely postponed so long as there is a poem to
write or a proof to be corrected.
THE SECOND MEETING.
Miss Eveleth requests the pleasure of Mr. Lindsay's company to meet a
few friends on the evening of the Feast of St. Ambrose, December 7th,
THE PARSONAGE, December 6th.
It was the luckiest thing in the world. They always made a little
festival of that evening at the Rev. Ambrose Eveleth's, in honor of
his canonized namesake, and because they liked to have a good time.
It came this year just at the right moment, for here was a
distinguished stranger visiting in the place. Oxbow Village seemed
to be running over with its one extra young man,--as may be seen
sometimes in larger villages, and even in cities of moderate
Mr. William Murray Bradshaw had called on Clement the day after his
arrival. He had already met the Deacon in the street, and asked some
questions about his transient boarder.
A very interesting young man, the Deacon said, much given to the
reading of pious books. Up late at night after he came, reading
Scott's Commentary. Appeared to be as fond of serious works as other
young folks were of their novels and romances and other immoral
publications. He, the Deacon, thought of having a few religious
friends to meet the young gentleman, if he felt so disposed; and
should like to have him, Mr. Bradshaw, come in and take a part in the
exercises.--Mr. Bradshaw was unfortunately engaged. He thought the
young gentleman could hardly find time for such a meeting during his
Mr. Bradshaw expected naturally to see a youth of imperfect
constitution, and cachectic or dyspeptic tendencies, who was in
training to furnish one of those biographies beginning with the
statement that, from his infancy, the subject of it showed no
inclination for boyish amusements, and so on, until he dies out, for
the simple reason that there was not enough of him to live. Very
interesting, no doubt, Master Byles Gridley would have said, but had
no more to do with good, hearty, sound life than the history of those
very little people to be seen in museums preserved in jars of
alcohol, like brandy peaches.
When Mr. Clement Lindsay presented himself, Mr. Bradshaw was a good
deal surprised to see a young fellow of such a mould. He pleased
himself with the idea that he knew a man of mark at sight, and he set
down Clement in that category at his first glance. The young man met
his penetrating and questioning look with a frank, ingenuous, open
aspect, before which he felt himself disarmed, as it were, and thrown
upon other means of analysis. He would try him a little in talk.
"I hope you like these people you are with. What sort of a man do
you find my old friend the Deacon?"
Clement laughed. "A very queer old character. Loves his joke as
well, and is as sly in making it, as if he had studied Joe Miller
instead of the Catechism."
Mr. Bradshaw looked at the young man to know what he meant. Mr.
Lindsay talked in a very easy way for a serious young person. He was
puzzled. He did not see to the bottom of this description of the
Deacon. With a lawyer's instinct, he kept his doubts to himself and
tried his witness with a new question.
"Did you talk about books at all with the old man?"
"To be sure I did. Would you believe it,--that aged saint is a great
novel-reader. So he tells me. What is more, he brings up his
children to that sort of reading, from the time when they first begin
to spell. If anybody else had told me such a story about an old
country deacon, I wouldn't have believed it; but he said so himself,
to me, at breakfast this morning."
Mr. Bradshaw felt as if either he or Mr. Lindsay must certainly be in
the first stage of mild insanity, and he did not think that he
himself could be out of his wits. He must try one more question. He
had become so mystified that he forgot himself, and began putting his
interrogation in legal form.
"Will you state, if you please--I beg your pardon--may I ask who is
your own favorite author?"
"I think just now I like to read Scott better than almost anybody."
"Do you mean the Rev. Thomas Scott, author of the Commentary?"
Clement stared at Mr. Bradshaw, and wondered whether he was trying to
make a fool of him. The young lawyer hardly looked as if he could be
a fool himself.
"I mean Sir Walter Scott," he said, dryly.
"Oh!" said Mr. Bradshaw. He saw that there had been a slight
misunderstanding between the young man and his worthy host, but it
was none of his business, and there were other subjects of interest
to talk about.
"You know one of our charming young ladies very well, I believe, Mr.
Lindsay. I think you are an old acquaintance of Miss Posey, whom we
all consider so pretty."
Poor Clement! The question pierced to the very marrow of his soul,
but it was put with the utmost suavity and courtesy, and honeyed with
a compliment to the young lady, too, so that there was no avoiding a
direct and pleasant answer to it.
"Yes," he said, "I have known the young lady you speak of for a long
time, and very well,--in fact, as you must have heard, we are
something more than friends. My visit here is principally on her
"You must give the rest of us a chance to see something of you during
your visit, Mr. Lindsay. I hope you are invited to Miss Eveleth's
"Yes, I got a note this morning. Tell me, Mr. Bradshaw, who is there
that I shall meet if I go? I have no doubt there are girls here in
the village I should like to see, and perhaps some young fellows that
I should like to talk with. You know all that's prettiest and
pleasantest, of course."
"Oh, we're a little place, Mr. Lindsay. A few nice people, the rest
comme Va, you know. High-bush blackberries and low-bush black-
berries,--you understand,--just so everywhere,--high-bush here and
there, low-bush plenty. You must see the two parsons' daughters,
--Saint Ambrose's and Saint Joseph's,--and another girl I want
particularly to introduce you to. You shall form your own opinion of
her. I call her handsome and stylish, but you have got spoiled, you
know. Our young poet, too, one we raised in this place, Mr. Lindsay,
and a superior article of poet, as we think,--that is, some of us,
for the rest of us are jealous of him, because the girls are all
dying for him and want his autograph. And Cyp,--yes, you must talk
to Cyp,--he has ideas. But don't forget to get hold of old Byles
Master Gridley I mean--before you go. Big head. Brains enough for a
cabinet minister, and fit out a college faculty with what was left
over. Be sure you see old Byles. Set him talking about his book,
'Thoughts on the Universe.' Did n't sell much, but has got knowing
things in it. I'll show you a copy, and then you can tell him you
know it, and he will take to you. Come in and get your dinner with
me to-morrow. We will dine late, as the city folks do, and after
that we will go over to the Rector's. I should like to show you some
of our village people."
Mr. Bradshaw liked the thought of showing the young man to some of
his friends there. As Clement was already "done for," or "bowled
out," as the young lawyer would have expressed the fact of his being
pledged in the matrimonial direction, there was nothing to be
apprehended on the score of rivalry. And although Clement was
particularly good-looking, and would have been called a
distinguishable youth anywhere, Mr. Bradshaw considered himself far
more than his match, in all probability, in social accomplishments.
He expected, therefore, a certain amount of reflex credit for
bringing such a fine young fellow in his company, and a second
instalment of reputation from outshining him in conversation. This
was rather nice calculating, but Murray Bradshaw always calculated.
With most men life is like backgammon, half skill, and half luck, but
with him it was like chess. He never pushed a pawn without reckoning
the cost, and when his mind was least busy it was sure to be half a
dozen moves ahead of the game as it was standing.
Mr. Bradshaw gave Clement a pretty dinner enough for such a place as
Oxbow Village. He offered him some good wine, and would have made
him talk so as to show his lining, to use one of his own expressions,
but Clement had apparently been through that trifling experience, and
could not be coaxed into saying more than he meant to say. Murray
Bradshaw was very curious to find out how it was that he had become
the victim of such a rudimentary miss as Susan Posey. Could she be
an heiress in disguise? Why no, of course not; had not he made all
proper inquiries about that when Susan came to town? A small
inheritance from an aunt or uncle, or some such relative, enough to
make her a desirable party in the eyes of certain villagers perhaps,
but nothing to allure a man like this, whose face and figure as
marketable possessions were worth say a hundred thousand in the
girl's own right, as Mr. Bradshaw put it roughly, with another
hundred thousand if his talent is what some say, and if his
connection is a desirable one, a fancy price,--anything he would
fetch. Of course not. Must have got caught when he was a child.
Why the diavolo didn't he break it off, then?
There was no fault to find with the modest entertainment at the
Parsonage. A splendid banquet in a great house is an admirable
thing, provided always its getting up did not cost the entertainer an
inward conflict, nor its recollection a twinge of economical regret,
nor its bills a cramp of anxiety. A simple evening party in the
smallest village is just as admirable in its degree, when the parlor
is cheerfully lighted, and the board prettily spread, and the guests
are made to feel comfortable without being reminded that anybody is
making a painful effort.
We know several of the young people who were there, and need not
trouble ourselves for the others. Myrtle Hazard had promised to
come. She had her own way of late as never before; in fact, the
women were afraid of her. Miss Silence felt that she could not be
responsible for her any longer. She had hopes for a time that Myrtle
would go through the customary spiritual paroxysm under the influence
of the Rev. Mr. Stoker's assiduous exhortations; but since she had
broken off with him, Miss Silence had looked upon her as little
better than a backslider. And now that the girl was beginning to
show the tendencies which seemed to come straight down to her from
the belle of the last century, (whose rich physical developments
seemed to the under-vitalized spinster as in themselves a kind of
offence against propriety,) the forlorn woman folded her thin hands
and looked on hopelessly, hardly venturing a remonstrance for fear of
some new explosion. As for Cynthia, she was comparatively easy since
she had, through Mr. Byles Gridley, upset the minister's questionable
arrangement of religious intimacy. She had, in fact, in a quiet way,
given Mr. Bradshaw to understand that he would probably meet Myrtle
at the Parsonage if he dropped in at their small gathering. Clement
walked over to Mrs. Hopkins's after his dinner with the young lawyer,
and asked if Susan was ready to go with him. At the sound of his
voice, Gifted Hopkins smote his forehead, and called himself, in
subdued tones, a miserable being. His imagination wavered uncertain
for a while between pictures of various modes of ridding himself of
existence, and fearful deeds involving the life of others. He had no
fell purpose of actually doing either, but there was a gloomy
pleasure in contemplating them as possibilities, and in mentally
sketching the "Lines written in Despair" which would be found in what
was but an hour before the pocket of the youthful bard, G. H., victim
of a hopeless passion. All this emotion was in the nature of a
surprise to the young man. He had fully believed himself desperately
in love with Myrtle Hazard; and it was not until Clement came into
the family circle with the right of eminent domain over the realm of
Susan's affections, that this unfortunate discovered that Susan's
pretty ways and morning dress and love of poetry and liking for his
company had been too much for him, and that he was henceforth to be
wretched during the remainder of his natural life, except so far as
he could unburden himself in song.
Mr. William Murray Bradshaw had asked the privilege of waiting upon
Myrtle to the little party at the Eveleths. Myrtle was not
insensible to the attractions of the young lawyer, though she had
never thought of herself except as a child in her relations with any
of these older persons. But she was not the same girl that she had
been but a few months before. She had achieved her independence by
her audacious and most dangerous enterprise. She had gone through
strange nervous trials and spiritual experiences which had matured
her more rapidly than years of common life would have done. She had
got back her health, bringing with it a riper wealth of womanhood.
She had found her destiny in the consciousness that she inherited the
beauty belonging to her blood, and which, after sleeping for a
generation or two as if to rest from the glare of the pageant that
follows beauty through its long career of triumph, had come to the
light again in her life, and was to repeat the legends of the olden
time in her own history.
Myrtle's wardrobe had very little of ornament, such as the modistes
of the town would have thought essential to render a young girl like
her presentable. There were a few heirlooms of old date, however,
which she had kept as curiosities until now, and which she looked
over until she found some lace and other convertible material, with
which she enlivened her costume a little for the evening. As she
clasped the antique bracelet around her wrist, she felt as if it were
an amulet that gave her the power of charming which had been so long
obsolete in her lineage. At the bottom of her heart she cherished a
secret longing to try her fascinations on the young lawyer. Who
could blame her? It was not an inwardly expressed intention,--it was
the simple instinctive movement to subjugate the strongest of the
other sex who had come in her way, which, as already said, is as
natural to a woman as it is to a man to be captivated by the
loveliest of those to whom he dares to aspire.
Before William Murray Bradshaw and Myrtle Hazard had reached the
Parsonage, the girl's cheeks were flushed and her dark eyes were
flashing with a new excitement. The young man had not made love to
her directly, but he had interested her in herself by a delicate and
tender flattery of manner, and so set her fancies working that she
was taken with him as never before, and wishing that the Parsonage
had been a mile farther from The Poplars. It was impossible for a
young girl like Myrtle to conceal the pleasure she received from
listening to her seductive admirer, who was trying all his trained
skill upon his artless companion. Murray Bradshaw felt sure that the
game was in his hands if he played it with only common prudence.
There was no need of hurrying this child,--it might startle her to
make downright love abruptly; and now that he had an ally in her own
household, and was to have access to her with a freedom he had never
before enjoyed, there was a refined pleasure in playing his fish,--
this gamest of golden-scaled creatures,--which had risen to his fly,
and which he wished to hook, but not to land, until he was sure it
would be worth his while.
They entered the little parlor at the Parsonage looking so beaming,
that Olive and Bathsheba exchanged glances which implied so much that
it would take a full page to tell it with all the potentialities
"How magnificent Myrtle is this evening, Bathsheba!" said Cyprian
"What a handsome pair they are, Cyprian!" said Bathsheba cheerfully.
Cyprian sighed. "She always fascinates me whenever I look upon her.
Is n't she the very picture of what a poet's love should be,--a poem
herself,--a glorious lyric,--all light and music! See what a smile
the creature has! And her voice! When did you ever hear such tones?
And when was it ever so full of life before."
Bathsheba sighed. "I do not know any poets but Gifted Hopkins. Does
not Myrtle look more in her place by the side of Murray Bradshaw than
she would with Gifted hitched on her arm?"
Just then the poet made his appearance. He looked depressed, as if
it had cost him an effort to come. He was, however, charged with a
message which he must deliver to the hostess of the evening.
"They 're coming presently," he said. "That young man and Susan.
Wants you to introduce him, Mr. Bradshaw."
The bell rang presently, and Murray Bradshaw slipped out into the
entry to meet the two lovers.
"How are you, my fortunate friend?" he said, as he met them at the
door. "Of course you're well and happy as mortal man can be in this
vale of tears. Charming, ravishing, quite delicious, that way of
dressing your hair, Miss Posey! Nice girls here this evening, Mr.
Lindsay. Looked lovely when I came out of the parlor. Can't say how
they will show after this young lady puts in an appearance." In
reply to which florid speeches Susan blushed, not knowing what else
to do, and Clement smiled as naturally as if he had been sitting for
He felt, in a vague way, that he and Susan were being patronized,
which is not a pleasant feeling to persons with a certain pride of
character. There was no expression of contempt about Mr. Bradshaw's
manner or language at which he could take offence. Only he had the
air of a man who praises his neighbor without stint, with a calm
consciousness that he himself is out of reach of comparison in the
possessions or qualities which he is admiring in the other. Clement
was right in his obscure perception of Mr. Bradshaw's feeling while
he was making his phrases. That gentleman was, in another moment, to
have the tingling delight of showing the grand creature he had just
begun to tame. He was going to extinguish the pallid light of
Susan's prettiness in the brightness of Myrtle's beauty. He would
bring this young man, neutralized and rendered entirely harmless by
his irrevocable pledge to a slight girl, face to face with a
masterpiece of young womanhood, and say to him, not in words, but as
plainly as speech could have told him, "Behold my captive!"
It was a proud moment for Murray Bradshaw. He had seen, or thought
that he had seen, the assured evidence of a speedy triumph over all
the obstacles of Myrtle's youth and his own present seeming slight
excess of maturity. Unless he were very greatly mistaken, he could
now walk the course; the plate was his, no matter what might be the
entries. And this youth, this handsome, spirited-looking, noble-
aired young fellow, whose artist-eye could not miss a line of
Myrtle's proud and almost defiant beauty, was to be the witness of
his power, and to look in admiration upon his prize! He introduced
him to the others, reserving her for the last. She was at that
moment talking with the worthy Rector, and turned when Mr. Bradshaw
spoke to her.
"Miss Hazard, will you allow me to present to you my friend, Mr.
They looked full upon each other, and spoke the common words of
salutation. It was a strange meeting; but we who profess to tell the
truth must tell strange things, or we shall be liars.
In poor little Susan's letter there was some allusion to a bust of
Innocence which the young artist had begun, but of which he had said
nothing in his answer to her. He had roughed out a block of marble
for that impersonation; sculpture was a delight to him, though
secondary to his main pursuit. After his memorable adventure, the
image of the girl he had rescued so haunted him that the pale ideal
which was to work itself out in the bust faded away in its perpetual
presence, and--alas, poor Susan! in obedience to the impulse that he
could not control, he left Innocence sleeping in the marble, and
began modelling a figure of proud and noble and imperious beauty, to
which he gave the name of Liberty.
The original which had inspired his conception was before him. These
were the lips to which his own had clung when he brought her back
from the land of shadows. The hyacinthine curl of her lengthening
locks had added something to her beauty; but it was the same face
which had haunted him. This was the form he had borne seemingly
lifeless in his arms, and the bosom which heaved so visibly before
him was that which his eyes they were the calm eyes of a sculptor,
but of a sculptor hardly twenty years old.
Yes,--her bosom was heaving. She had an unexplained feeling of
suffocation, and drew great breaths,--she could not have said why,
--but she could not help it; and presently she became giddy, and had
a great noise in her ears, and rolled her eyes about, and was on the
point of going into an hysteric spasm. They called Dr. Hurlbut, who
was making himself agreeable to Olive just then, to come and see what
was the matter with Myrtle.
"A little nervous turn,--that is all," he said.
"Open the window. Loose the ribbon round her neck. Rub her hands.
Sprinkle some water on her forehead.
"A few drops of cologne. Room too warm for her,--that 's all, I
Myrtle came to herself after a time without anything like a regular
paroxysm. But she was excitable, and whatever the cause of the
disturbance may have been, it seemed prudent that she should go home
early; and the excellent Rector insisted on caring for her, much to
the discontent of Mr. William Murray Bradshaw.
"Demonish odd," said this gentleman, "was n't it, Mr. Lindsay, that
Miss Hazard should go off in that way. Did you ever see her before?"
"I--I--have seen that young lady before," Clement answered.
"Where did you meet her?" Mr. Bradshaw asked, with eager interest.
"I met her in the Valley of the Shadow of Death," Clement answered,
very solemnly.--"I leave this place to-morrow morning. Have you any
commands for the city?"
"Knows how to shut a fellow up pretty well for a young one, doesn't
he?" Mr. Bradshaw thought to himself.
"Thank you, no," he answered, recovering himself. "Rather a
melancholy place to make acquaintance in, I should think, that Valley
you spoke of. I should like to know about it."
Mr. Clement had the power of looking steadily into another person's
eyes in a way that was by no means encouraging to curiosity or
favorable to the process of cross-examination. Mr. Bradshaw was not
disposed to press his question in the face of the calm, repressive
look the young man gave him.
"If he was n't bagged, I shouldn't like the shape of things any too
well," he said to himself.
The conversation between Mr. Clement Lindsay and Miss Susan Posey, as
they walked home together, was not very brilliant. "I am going to-
morrow morning," he said, "and I must bid you good-by tonight."
Perhaps it is as well to leave two lovers to themselves, under these
Before he went he spoke to his worthy host, whose moderate demands he
had to satisfy, and with whom he wished to exchange a few words.
"And by the way, Deacon, I have no use for this book, and as it is in
a good type, perhaps you would like it. Your favorite, Scott, and
one of his greatest works. I have another edition of it at home, and
don't care for this volume."
"Thank you, thank you, Mr. Lindsay, much obleeged. I shall read that
copy for your sake, the best of books next to the Bible itself."
After Mr. Lindsay had gone, the Deacon looked at the back of the
book. "Scott's Works, Vol. IX." He opened it at hazard, and
happened to fall on a well-known page, from which he began reading
"When Izrul, of the Lord beloved,
Out of the land of bondage came."
The whole hymn pleased the grave Deacon. He had never seen this work
of the author of the Commentary. No matter; anything that such a
good man wrote must be good reading, and he would save it up for
Sunday. The consequence of this was, that, when the Rev. Mr. Stoker
stopped in on his way to meeting on the "Sabbath," he turned white
with horror at the spectacle of the senior Deacon of his church
sitting, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, absorbed in the pages of
"Ivanhoe," which he found enormously interesting; but, so far as he
had yet read, not occupied with religious matters so much as he had
Myrtle had no explanation to give of her nervous attack. Mr.
Bradshaw called the day after the party, but did not see her. He met
her walking, and thought she seemed a little more distant than
common. That would never do. He called again at The Poplars a few
days afterwards, and was met in the entry by Miss Cynthia, with whom
he had a long conversation on matters involving Myrtle's interests
and their own.
Mr. Clement Lindsay returned to the city and his usual labors in a
state of strange mental agitation. He had received an impression for
which he was unprepared. He had seen for the second time a young
girl whom, for the peace of his own mind, and for the happiness of
others, he should never again have looked upon until Time had taught
their young hearts the lesson which all hearts must learn, sooner or
What shall the unfortunate person do who has met with one of those
disappointments, or been betrayed into one of those positions, which
do violence to all the tenderest feelings, blighting the happiness of
youth, and the prospects of after years?
If the person is a young man, he has various resources. He can take
to the philosophic meerschaum, and nicotine himself at brief
intervals into a kind of buzzing and blurry insensibility, until he
begins to "color" at last like the bowl of his own pipe, and even his
mind gets the tobacco flavor. Or he can have recourse to the more
suggestive stimulants, which will dress his future up for him in
shining possibilities that glitter like Masonic regalia, until the
morning light and the waking headache reveal his illusion. Some kind
of spiritual anaesthetic he must have, if he holds his grief fast
tied to his heartstrings. But as grief must be fed with thought, or
starve to death, it is the best plan to keep the mind so busy in
other ways that it has no time to attend to the wants of that
ravening passion. To sit down and passively endure it, is apt to end
in putting all the mental machinery into disorder.
Clement Lindsay had thought that his battle of life was already
fought, and that he had conquered. He believed that he had subdued
himself completely, and that he was ready, without betraying a shadow
of disappointment, to take the insufficient nature which destiny had
assigned him in his companion, and share with it all of his own
larger being it was capable, not of comprehending, but of
He had deceived himself. The battle was not fought and won. There
had been a struggle, and what seemed to be a victory, but the enemy
--intrenched in the very citadel of life--had rallied, and would make
another desperate attempt to retrieve his defeat.
The haste with which the young man had quitted the village was only a
proof that he felt his danger. He believed that, if he came into the
presence of Myrtle Hazard for the third time, he should be no longer
master of his feelings. Some explanation must take place between
them, and how was it possible that it should be without emotion? and
in what do all emotions shared by a young man with such a young girl
as this tend to find their last expression?
Clement determined to stun his sensibilities by work. He would give
himself no leisure to indulge in idle dreams of what might have been.
His plans were never so carefully finished, and his studies were
never so continuous as now. But the passion still wrought within
him, and, if he drove it from his waking thoughts, haunted his sleep
until he could endure it no longer, and must give it some
manifestation. He had covered up the bust of Liberty so closely,
that not an outline betrayed itself through the heavy folds of
drapery in which it was wrapped. His thoughts recurred to his
unfinished marble, as offering the one mode in which he could find a
silent outlet to the feelings and thoughts which it was torture to
keep imprisoned in his soul. The cold stone would tell them, but
without passion; and having got the image which possessed him out of
himself into a lifeless form, it seemed as if he might be delivered
from a presence which, lovely as it was, stood between him and all
that made him seem honorable and worthy to himself.
He uncovered the bust which he had but half shaped, and struck the
first flake from the glittering marble. The toil, once begun,
fascinated him strangely, and after the day's work was done, and at
every interval he could snatch from his duties, he wrought at his
"Clement is graver than ever," the young men said at the office.
"What's the matter, do you suppose? Turned off by the girl they say
he means to marry by and by? How pale he looks too! Must have
something worrying him: he used to look as fresh as a clove pink."
The master with whom he studied saw that he was losing color, and
looking very much worn; and determined to find out, if he could,
whether he was not overworking himself. He soon discovered that his
light was seen burning late into the night, that he was neglecting
his natural rest, and always busy with some unknown task, not called
for in his routine of duty or legitimate study.
"Something is wearing on you, Clement," he said. "You are killing
yourself with undertaking too much. Will you let me know what keeps
you so busy when you ought to be asleep, or taking your ease and
comfort in some way or other?"
Nobody but himself had ever seen his marble or its model. He had now
almost finished it, laboring at it with such sleepless devotion, and
he was willing to let his master have a sight of his first effort of
the kind,--for he was not a sculptor, it must be remembered, though
he had modelled in clay, not without some success, from time to time.
"Come with me," he said.
The master climbed the stairs with him up to his modest chamber. A
closely shrouded bust stood on its pedestal in the light of the
"That is my ideal personage," Clement said. "Wait one moment, and
you shall see how far I have caught the character of our uncrowned
The master expected, very naturally, to see the conventional young
woman with classical wreath or feather headdress, whom we have placed
upon our smallest coin, so that our children may all grow up loving
As Clement withdrew the drapery that covered his work, the master
stared at it in amazement. He looked at it long and earnestly, and
at length turned his eyes, a little moistened by some feeling which
thus betrayed itself, upon his scholar.
"This is no ideal, Clement. It is the portrait of a very young but
very beautiful woman. No common feeling could have guided your hand
in shaping such a portrait from memory. This must be that friend of
yours of whom I have often heard as an amiable young person. Pardon
me, for you know that nobody cares more for you than I do,--I hope
that you are happy in all your relations with this young friend of
yours. How could one be otherwise?"
It was hard to bear, very hard. He forced a smile. "You are partly
right," he said. "There is a resemblance, I trust, to a living
person, for I had one in my mind."
"Did n't you tell me once, Clement, that you were attempting a bust
of Innocence? I do not see any block in your room but this. Is that
"Done with!" Clement answered; and, as he said it, the thought stung
through him that this was the very stone which was to have worn the
pleasant blandness of pretty Susan's guileless countenance. How the
new features had effaced the recollection of the others!
In a few days more Clement had finished his bust. His hours were
again vacant to his thick-coming fancies. While he had been busy
with his marble, his hands had required his attention, and he must
think closely of every detail upon which he was at work. But at
length his task was done, and he could contemplate what he had made
of it. It was a triumph for one so little exercised in sculpture.
The master had told him so, and his own eye could not deceive him.
He might never succeed in any repetition of his effort, but this once
he most certainly had succeeded. He could not disguise from himself
the source of this extraordinary good fortune in so doubtful and
difficult an attempt. Nor could he resist the desire of
contemplating the portrait bust, which--it was foolish to talk about
ideals--was not Liberty, but Myrtle Hazard.
It was too nearly like the story of the ancient sculptor; his own
work was an over-match for its artist. Clement had made a mistake in
supposing that by giving his dream a material form he should drive it
from the possession of his mind. The image in which he had fixed his
recollection of its original served only to keep her living presence
before him. He thought of her as she clasped her arms around him,
and they were swallowed up in the rushing waters, coming so near to
passing into the unknown world together. He thought of her as he
stretched her lifeless form upon the bank, and looked for one brief
moment on her unsunned loveliness,--"a sight to dream of, not to
tell." He thought of her as his last fleeting glimpse had shown her,
beautiful, not with the blossomy prettiness that passes away with the
spring sunshine, but with a rich vitality of which noble outlines and
winning expression were only the natural accidents. And that
singular impression which the sight of him had produced upon her,
--how strange! How could she but have listened to him,--to him, who
was, as it were, a second creator to her, for he had bought her back
from the gates of the unseen realm,--if he had recalled to her the
dread moments they had passed in each other's arms, with death, not
love, in all their thoughts. And if then he had told her how her
image had remained with him, how it had colored all his visions, and
mingled with all his conceptions, would not those dark eyes have
melted as they were turned upon him? Nay, how could he keep the
thought away, that she would not have been insensible to his passion,
if he could have suffered its flame to kindle in his heart? Did it
not seem as if Death had spared them for Love, and that Love should
lead them together through life's long journey to the gates of Death?
Never! never! never! Their fates were fixed. For him, poor insect
as he was, a solitary flight by day, and a return at evening to his
wingless mate! For her--he thought he saw her doom.
Could he give her up to the cold embraces of that passionless
egotist, who, as he perceived plainly enough, was casting his shining
net all around her? Clement read Murray Bradshaw correctly. He
could not perhaps have spread his character out in set words, as we
must do for him, for it takes a long apprenticeship to learn to
describe analytically what we know as soon as we see it; but he felt
in his inner consciousness all that we must tell for him.
Fascinating, agreeable, artful, knowing, capable of winning a woman
infinitely above himself, incapable of understanding her,--oh, if he
could but touch him with the angel's spear, and bid him take his true
shape before her whom he was gradually enveloping in the silken
meshes of his subtle web! He would make a place for her in the
world,--oh yes, doubtless. He would be proud of her in company,
would dress her handsomely, and show her off in the best lights. But
from the very hour that he felt his power over her firmly
established, he would begin to remodel her after his own worldly
pattern. He would dismantle her of her womanly ideals, and give her
in their place his table of market-values. He would teach her to
submit her sensibilities to her selfish interest, and her tastes to
the fashion of the moment, no matter which world or half-world it
came from. "As the husband is, the wife is,"--he would subdue her to
what he worked in.
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