The Minister's Charge
William D. Howells
Part 6 out of 7
said her nephew, as if with the wish to be a little more accurate.
Jerry asked Lemuel to watch Mrs. Harmon's goods while he went for a
carriage, and said sir to him. It seemed to Lemuel that this
respect, and Mrs. Harmon's unmerited praises, together with the doom
that was secretly upon him, would drive him wild.
The evening after the fire Mrs. Sewell sat talking it over with her
husband, in the light of the newspaper reports, which made very much
more of Lemuel's part in it than she liked. The reporters had
flattered the popular love of the heroic in using Mrs. Harmon's
version of his exploits, and represented him as having been most
efficient and daring throughout, and especially so in regard to the
"Well, that doesn't differ materially from what they told us
themselves," said Sewell.
"You know very well, David," retorted his wife, "that there couldn't
have been the least danger at any time; and when he helped her to
get Mr. Evans downstairs, the fire was nearly all out."
"Very well, then; he would have saved their lives if it had been
necessary. It was a case of potential heroism, that contained all
the elements of self-sacrifice."
Mrs. Sewell could not deny this, but she was not satisfied. She was
silent a moment before she asked, "What do you suppose that wretched
creature will do now?"
"I think very likely he will come to me," answered Sewell.
"I dare say." The bell rang. "And I suppose that's he now!"
They listened and heard Miss Vane's voice at the door, asking for
Mrs. Sewell ran down the stairs and kissed her. "Oh, I'm _so_
glad you came. Isn't it wonderful? I've just come from them, and
she's taking the whole care of him, as if he had always been the
sick one, and she strong and well."
"What do you mean, Lucy? He isn't ill!"
"What are you talking about?"
"About Mr. Evans--"
"Oh!" said Miss Vane, with cold toleration. She arrived at the study
door and gave Sewell her hand. "I scarcely knew him, you know; I
only met him casually here. I've come to see," she added nervously,
"if you know where Lemuel is, Mr. Sewell. Have you seen anything of
him since the fire? How nobly he behaved! But I never saw anything
he wasn't equal to!"
"Mrs. Sewell objects to his saving human life," said Sewell, not
able to deny himself.
"I don't see how you can take the slightest interest in him," began
Mrs. Sewell, saying a little more than she meant.
"You would, my dear," returned Miss Vane, "if you had wronged him as
"Or as I," said Sewell.
"I'm thankful I haven't, then," said his wife. "It seems to me that
there's nothing else of him. As to his noble behaviour, it isn't
possible you believe those newspaper accounts? He didn't save any
one's life; there was no danger!"
Miss Vane, preoccupied with her own ideal of the facts, stared at
her without replying, and then turned to Sewell.
"I want to find him and ask him to stay with me till he can get
something else to do." Sewell's eyebrows arched themselves
involuntarily. "Sibyl has gone to New York for a fortnight; I shall
be quite alone in the house, and I shall be very glad of his
company," she explained to the eyebrows, while ignoring them. Her
chin quivered a little, as she added, "I shall be _proud_ of
his company. I wish him to understand that he is my _guest._"
"I suppose I shall see him soon," said Sewell, "and I will give him
"Will you tell him," persisted Miss Vane, a little hysterically,
"that if he is in any way embarrassed, I insist upon his coming to
me immediately--at _once?_"
Sewell smiled, "Yes."
"I know that I'm rather ridiculous," said Miss Vane, smiling in
sympathy, "and I don't blame Mrs. Sewell for not entering into my
feelings. Nobody could, who hadn't felt the peculiar Lemuel
"I don't imagine he's embarrassed in any way," said Sewell. "He
seems to have the gift of lighting on his feet. But I'll tell him
how peremptory you are, Miss Vane."
"Well, upon my word," cried Mrs. Sewell, when Miss Vane had taken
leave of them in an exaltation precluding every recurrent attempt to
enlighten her as to the true proportions of Lemuel's part in the
fire, "I really believe people like to be made fools of. Why didn't
_you_ tell her, David, that he had done nothing?"
"What would have been the use? She has her own theory of the affair.
Besides, he did do something; he did his duty, and my experience is
that it's no small thing to do. It wasn't his fault that he didn't
He waited some days for Lemuel to come to him, and he inquired each
time he went to see the Evanses if they knew where he was. But they
had not heard of him since the night of the fire.
"It's his shyness," said Evans; "I can understand how if he thought
he had put me under an obligation he wouldn't come near me--and
Evans was to go out of town for a little while; the proprietors of
the _Saturday Afternoon_ insisted upon his taking a rest, and
they behaved handsomely about his salary. He did not want to go, but
his wife got him away finally, after he had failed in two or three
attempts at writing.
Lemuel did not appear to Sewell till the evening of the day when the
Evanses left town. It seemed as if he had waited till they were
gone, so that he could not be urged to visit them. At first the
minister scolded him a little for his neglect; but Lemuel said he
had heard about them, and knew they were getting along all right. He
looked as if he had not been getting along very well himself; his
face was thin, and had an air at once dogged and apprehensive. He
abruptly left talking of Evans, and said, "I don't know as you heard
what happened that night before the fire just after I got back from
"No, I hadn't."
Lemuel stopped. Then he related briefly and cleanly the whole
affair, Sewell interrupting him from time to time with murmurs of
sympathy, and "Tchk, tchk, tchk!" and "Shocking, shocking!" At the
end he said, "I had hoped somehow that the general calamity had
swallowed up your particular trouble in it. Though I don't know that
general calamities ever do that with particular troubles," he added,
more to himself than to Lemuel; and he put the idea away for some
"Mr. Evans stopped and said something to me that night. He said we
had to live things down, and not die them down; he wanted I should
wait till Saturday before I was sure that I couldn't get through
Tuesday. He said, How did we know that death was the end of
"Yes," said the minister, with a smile of fondness for his friend;
"that was like Evans all over."
"I sha'n't forget those things," said Lemuel. "They've been in my
head ever since. If it hadn't been for them, I don't know what I
should have done."
He stopped, and after a moment's inattention Sewell perceived that
he wished to be asked something more. "I hope," he said, "that
nothing more has been going wrong with you?" and as he asked this he
laid his hand affectionately on the young man's shoulder, just as
Evans had done. Lemuel's eyes dimmed and his breath thickened. "What
has become of the person--the discharged convict?"
"I guess I had better tell you," he said; and he told him of the
adventure with Berry and Williams.
Sewell listened in silence, and then seemed quite at a loss what to
say; but Lemuel saw that he was deeply afflicted. At last he asked,
lifting his eyes anxiously to Sewell's, "Do you think I did wrong to
say the thief was a friend of mine, and get him off that way?"
"That's a very difficult question," sighed Sewell. "You had a duty
"Yes, I've thought of that since!"
"If I had been in your place, I'm afraid I should be glad not to
have thought of it in time; and I'm afraid I'm glad that, as it is,
it's too late. But doesn't it involve you with him in the eyes of
the other young man?" "Yes, I presume it does," said Lemuel. "I
shall have to go away."
"Back to Willoughby Pastures?" asked Sewell, with not so much faith
in that panacea for Lemuel's troubles as he had once had.
"No, to some other town. Do you know of anything I could get to do
in New York?"
"Oh, no, no!" said the minister. "You needn't let this banish you.
We must seek this young Mr.--"
"--Mr. Berry out, and explain the matter to him."
"Then you'll have to tell him all about me?"
"Yes. Why not?"
Lemuel was silent, and looked down.
"In the meantime," pursued the minister, "I have a message for you
from Miss Vane. She has heard, as we all have, of your behaviour
during the fire--"
"It wasn't anything," Lemuel interrupted. "There wasn't the least
danger; and Mrs. Evans did it all herself, anyway. It made me sick
to see how the papers had it. It's a shame!"
Sewell smiled. "I'm afraid you couldn't make Miss Vane think so; but
I can understand what you mean. She has never felt quite easy about
the way--the terms--on which she parted with you. She has spoken to
me several times of it, and--ah--expressed her regret; and now,
knowing that you have been--interrupted in your life, she is anxious
to have you come to her--"
An angry flash lighted up Lemuel's face.
"I couldn't go back there! I wouldn't do any such work again."
"I don't mean that," Sewell hastened to say "Miss Vane wished me to
ask you to come as her guest until you could find something--Miss
Sibyl Vane has gone to New York--"
"I'm very much obliged to her," said Lemuel, "but I shouldn't want to
give her so much trouble, or any one. I--I liked her very much, and
I shouldn't want she should think I didn't appreciate her
"I will tell her," said the minister. "I had no great hope you would
see your way to accepting it. But she will be glad to know that you
received it." He added, rather interrogatively than affirmatively,
"In the right spirit."
"Oh yes," said Lemuel. "Please to tell her I did."
"Thank you," said Sewell, with bland vagueness. "I don't know that
I've asked yet where you are staying at present?"
"I'm at Mrs. Nash's, 13 Canary Place. Mrs. Harmon went there first."
"Oh! And are you looking forward to rejoining her in a new place?"
"I don't know as I am. I don't know as I should want to go into an
Sewell manifested a little embarrassment. "Well, you won't forget
your promise to let me be of use to you--pecuniarily, if you should
be in need of a small advance at any time."
"Oh no! But I've got enough money for a while yet--till I can get
something to do." He rose, and after a moment's hesitation he said,
"I don't know as I want you should say anything to that fellow about
me. To Mr. Berry, I mean."
"Oh! certainly not," said Sewell, "if you don't wish it."
Whatever it was in that reticent and elusive soul which prompted his
request, the minister now felt that he could not know; but perhaps
the pang that Lemuel inflicted on himself had as much transport as
anguish in it. He believed that he had for ever cut himself off from
the companionship that seemed highest and holiest on earth to him;
he should never see that girl again; Berry must have told Miss Swan,
and long before this Miss Carver had shuddered at the thought of him
as the accomplice of a thief. But he proudly said to himself that he
must let it all go; for if he had not been a thief, he had been a
beggar and a menial, he had come out of a hovel at home, and his
mother went about like a scarecrow, and it mattered little what kind
of shame she remembered him in.
He thought of her perpetually now, and, in those dialogues which we
hold in reverie with the people we think much about, he talked with
her all day long. At first, when he began to do this, it seemed a
wrong to Statira; but now, since the other was lost to him beyond
other approach, he gave himself freely up to the mystical colloquies
he held with her, as the devotee abandons himself to imagined
converse with a saint. Besides, if he was in love with Statira, he
was not in love with Jessie; that he had made clear to himself; for
his feeling toward her was wholly different.
Most of the time, in these communings, he was with her in her own
home, down at Corbitant, where he fancied she had gone, after the
catastrophe at the St. Albans, and he sat there with her on a porch
at the front door, which she had once described to him, and looked
out under the silver poplars at the vessels in the bay. He formed
himself some image of it all from pictures of the seaside which he
had seen; and there were times when he tried to go back with her
into the life she had led there as a child. Perhaps his ardent
guesses at this were as near reality as anything that could be made
to appear, for, after her mother and brothers and sisters had died
out of the wide old house, her existence there was as lonely as if
she had been a little ghost haunting it. She had inherited her
mother's temperament with her father's constitution; she was the
child born to his last long absence at sea and her mother's last
solitude at home. When he returned, he found his wife dead and his
maiden sister caring for the child in the desolate house.
This sister of Captain Carver's had been disappointed, as the phrase
is, when a young girl; another girl had won her lover from her. Her
disappointment had hardened her to the perception of the neighbours;
and, by a strange perversion of the sympathies and faculties, she
had turned from gossip and censure, from religion, and from all the
sources of comfort that the bruised heart of Corbitant naturally
turned to, and found such consolation as came to her in books, that
is to say romances, and especially the romances that celebrated and
deified such sorrow as her own. She had been a pretty little thing
when young, and Jessie remembered her as pretty in her early old
age. At heart she must still have been young when her hair was grey,
for she made a friend and companion of the child, and they fed upon
her romances together. When the aunt died, the child, who had known
no mother but her, was stricken with a grief so deep and wild that
at first her life and then her mind was feared for. To get her away
from the associations and influences of the place, her father sent
her to school in the western part of the State, where she met
Madeline Swan, and formed one of those friendships which are like
passions between young girls. During her long absence, her father
married again; and she was called home to his deathbed. He was dead
when she arrived; he had left a will that made her dependent on her
stepmother. When Madeline Swan wrote to announce that she was coming
to Boston to study art, Jessie Carver had no trouble in arranging
with her stepmother, by the sacrifice of her final claim on her
father's estate, to join her friend there, with a little sum of
money on which she was to live till she should begin to earn
Her life had been a series of romantic episodes; Madeline said that
if it could be written out it would be fascinating; but she went to
work very practically, and worked hard. She had not much feeling for
colour; but she drew better than her friend, and what she hoped to
do was to learn to illustrate books.
One evening, after a day of bitter-sweet reveries of Jessie, Lemuel
went to see Statira. She and 'Manda Grier were both very gay, and
made him very welcome. They had tea for him; Statira tried all her
little arts, and 'Manda Grier told some things that had happened in
the box-factory. He could not help laughing at them; they were
really very funny; but he felt somehow that it was all a preparation
for something else. At last the two girls made a set at him, as
'Manda Grier called it, and tried to talk him into their old scheme
of going to wait on table at some of the country hotels, or the
seaside. They urged that now, while he was out of a place, it was
just the time to look up a chance.
He refused, at first kindly, and at last angrily; and he would have
gone away in this mood if Statira had not said that she would never
say another word to him about it, and hung upon his neck, while
'Manda Grier looked on in sullen resentment. He came away sick and
heavy at heart. He said to himself that they would be willing to
drag him into the mire; they had no pride; they had no sense; they
did not know anything and they could not learn. He tried to get away
from them to Miss Carver in his thoughts; but the place where he had
left her was vacant, and he could not conjure her back. Out of the
void, he was haunted by a look of grieving reproach and wonder from
That evening Sewell went to see an old parishioner of his who lived
on the Hill, and who among his eccentricities had the habit of
occupying his city house all summer long, while his family flitted
with other people of fashion to the seashore. That year they talked
of taking a cottage for the first time since they had sold their own
cottage at Nahant, in a day of narrow things now past. The ladies
urged that he ought to come with them, and not think of staying in
Boston now that he had a trouble of the eyes which had befallen him,
and Boston would be so dull if he could not get about freely and
read as usual.
He answered that he would rather be blind in Boston than telescopic
at Beverly, or any other summer resort; and that as for the want of
proper care, which they urged, he did not think he should lack in
his own house, if they left him where he could reach a bell. His
youngest daughter, a lively little blonde, laughed with a cousin of
his wife's who was present, and his wife decorously despaired. The
discussion of the topic was rather premature, for they were not
thinking of going to Beverly before middle of May, if they took the
cottage; but an accident had precipitated it, and they were having
it out, as people do, each party in the hope that the other would
yield if kept at long enough before the time of final decision came.
"Do you think," said the husband and father, who looked a whimsical
tyrant at the worst, but was probably no easier to manage for his
whimsicality, "that I am going to fly in the face of prosperity, and
begin to do as other people wish because I'm pecuniarily able to do
as I please?"
The little blonde rose decisively from the low chair where she had
been sitting. "If papa has begun to reason about it, we may as well
yield the point for the present, mamma. Come, Lily! Let us leave him
to Cousin Charles."
"Oh, but I say!" cried Cousin Charles, "if I'm to stay and fight it
out with him, I've got to know which side I'm on."
"You're on the right side," said the young lady over her shoulder;
"you always are, Cousin Charles."
Cousin Charles, in the attempt to kiss his hand toward his
flatterer, pulled his glasses off his nose by their cord.
"Bromfield," he said, "I don't see but this commits me against you."
And then, the ladies having withdrawn, the two men put on that
business air with which our sex tries to atone to itself for having
unbent to the lighter minds of the other; heaven knows what women do
when the men with whom they have been talking go away.
"If you should happen to stay in town," continued the cousin
treacherously, "I shall be very glad, for I don't know but I shall
be here the greater part of the summer myself."
"I shall stay," said the other, "but there won't be anything casual
"What do you hear from Tom?" asked the cousin, feeling about on the
mantel for a match. He was a full-bodied, handsome, amiable-looking
old fellow, whose breath came in quick sighs with this light
exertion. He had a blond complexion, and what was left of his hair,
a sort of ethereal down on the top of his head, and some cherished
fringes at the temples, was turning the yellowish grey that blond
The other gentleman, stretched at ease in a deep chair, with one leg
propped on a cricket, had the distinction of long forms, which the
years had left in their youthful gracility; his snow-white moustache
had been allowed to droop over the handsome mouth, whose teeth were
beginning to go. "They're on the other side of the clock," he said,
referring to the matches. He added, with another glance at his
relative, "Charles, you ought to bant. It's beginning to affect your
"_Beginning!_ Your memory's going, Bromfield. But they say
there's a new system that allows you to eat everything. I'm waiting
for that. In the meantime, I've gone back to my baccy."
"They've cut mine off," sighed the other. "Doesn't it affect your
"Not a bit. But what do you do, now you can't smoke and your eyes
have given out?"
"I bore myself. I had a letter from Tom yesterday," said the
sufferer, returning to the question that his cousin's obesity had
diverted him from. "He's coming on in the summer."
"Tom's a lucky fellow," said the cousin. "I wish you had insisted on
my taking some of that stock of his when you bought in."
"Yes, you made a great mistake," said the other, with whimsical
superiority. "You should have taken my advice. You would now be
rolling in riches, as I am, with a much better figure for it."
The cousin smoked a while. "Do you know, I think Tom's about the
best fellow I ever knew."
"He's a good boy," said the other, with the accent of a father's
pride and tenderness.
"Going to bring his pretty chickens and their dam?" asked the
cousin, parting his coat-skirts to the genial influence of the fire.
"No; it's a short visit. They're going into the Virginia mountains
for the summer." A manservant came in and said something in a low
voice. "Heigh? What? Why, of course! Certainly! By all means! Show
him in! Come in, parson; come in!" called the host to his yet unseen
visitor, and he held out his hand for Sewell to take when he
appeared at the door. "Glad to see you! I can't get up,--a little
gouty to-day,--but Bellingham's on foot. _His_ difficulty is
Bellingham gave the minister a near-sighted man's glare through his
glasses, and then came eagerly forward and shook hands. "Oh, Mr.
Sewell! I hope you've come to put up some job on Corey. Don't spare
him! With Kanawha Paint Co. at the present figures he merits any
demand that Christian charity can make upon him. The man's
prosperity is disgraceful."
"I'm glad to find you here, Mr. Bellingham," said Sewell, sitting
"Oh, is it double-barrelled?" pleaded Bellingham.
"I don't know that it's a deadly weapon of any kind," returned the
minister. "But if one of you can't help me, perhaps the other can."
"Well, let us know what the job is," said Corey. "We refuse to
commit ourselves beforehand."
"I shall have to begin at the beginning," said Sewell warningly,
"and the beginning is a long way off."
"No matter," said Bellingham adventurously. "The further off, the
better. I've been dining with Corey--he gives you a very good dinner
now, Corey does--and I'm just in the mood for a deserving case."
"The trouble with Sewell is," said Corey, "that he doesn't always
take the trouble to have them deserving. I hope this is interesting,
"I suspect you'll find it more interesting than I shall," said the
minister, inwardly preparing himself for the amusement which
Lemuel's history always created in his hearers. It seemed to him, as
he began, that he was always telling this story, and that his part
in the affair was always becoming less and less respectable. No
point was lost upon his hearers; they laughed till the ladies in the
drawing-room above wondered what the joke could be.
"At any rate," said Bellingham, "the fellow behaved magnificently at
the fire. I read the accounts of it."
"I think his exploits owe something to the imagination of the
reporters," said Sewell. "He tells a different story himself."
"Oh, of course!" said Bellingham.
"Well; and what else?" asked Corey.
"There isn't any more. Simply he's out of work, and wants something
to do--anything to do--anything that isn't menial."
"Ah, that's a queer start of his," said Bellingham thoughtfully. "I
don't know but I like that."
"And do you come to such effete posterity as we are for help in a
case like that?" demanded Corey. "Why, the boy's an Ancestor!"
"So he is! Why, so he is--so he is!" said Bellingham, with delight
in the discovery. "Of course he is!"
"All you have to do," pursued Corey, "is to give him time, and he'll
found a fortune and a family, and his children's children will be
cutting ours in society. Half of our great people have come up in
that way. Look at the Blue-book, where our nobility is enrolled;
it's the apotheosis of farm-boys, mechanics, insidemen, and I don't
"But in the meantime this ancestor is now so remote that he has
nothing to do," suggested Sewell. "If you give him time you kill
"Well, what do you want me to do? Mrs. Corey is thinking of setting
up a Buttons. But you say this boy has a soul above buttons. And
besides, he's too old."
"Look here, Bromfield," said Bellingham, "why don't you get
_him_ to read to you?"
Corey glanced from his cousin to the minister, whose face betrayed
that this was precisely what he had had in his own mind.
"Is that the job?" asked Corey.
Sewell nodded boldly.
"He would read through his nose, wouldn't he? I couldn't stand that.
I've stopped talking through mine, you know."
"Why, look here, Bromfield!" said Bellingham for the second time.
"Why don't you let me manage this affair for you? I'm not of much
use in the world, but from time to time I like to do my poor best;
and this is just one of the kind of things I think I'm fitted for. I
should like to see this young man. When I read in the newspapers of
some fellow who has done a fine thing, I always want to see what
manner of man he is; and I'm glad of any chance that throws him in
"Your foible's notorious, Charles. But I don't see why you keep my
cigars all to yourself," said Corey.
"My dear fellow," said Bellingham, making a hospitable offer of the
cigar-box from the mantel, "you said they'd cut you off."
"Ah, so they have. I forgot. Well, what's your plan?"
"My plan," said Bellingham, "is to have him to breakfast with me,
and interview him generally, and get him to read me a few passages,
without rousing his suspicions. Heigh?"
"I don't know that I believe much in your plan," said Corey. "I
should like to hear what my spiritual adviser has to say."
"I shouldn't know what to advise, exactly," said Sewell. "But I
won't reject any plan that gives my client a chance."
"Isn't client rather euphuistic?" asked Corey.
"It is, rather. But I've got into the habit of handling Barker very
delicately, even in thought. I'm not sure he'll come," added Sewell,
turning to Bellingham.
"Oh yes, he will," said Bellingham. "Tell him it's business. There
won't be anybody there. Will nine be too late for him?"
"I imagine he's more accustomed to half-past five at home, and seven
"Well, we'll say nine, anyway. I can't imagine the cause that would
get me up earlier. Here!" He turned to the mantel and wrote an
invitation upon his card, and handed it to Sewell. "Please give him
that from me, and beg him to come. I really want to see him, and if
he can't read well enough for this fastidious old gentleman, we'll
see what else he can do. Corey tells me he expects Tom on this
summer," he concluded, in dismissal of Lemuel as a topic.
"Ah," said Sewell, putting the card in his pocket, "I'm very glad to
He had something, but not so much, of the difficulty in overcoming
Lemuel's reluctance that he had feared, and on the morning named
Lemuel presented himself at the address on Bellingham's card exactly
at nine. He had the card in his hand, and he gave it to the man who
opened the street door of the bachelors' apartment house where
Bellingham lived. The man read it carefully over, and then said, "Oh
yes; second floor," and, handing it back, left Lemuel to wander
upstairs alone. He was going to offer the card again at Bellingham's
door, but he had a dawning misgiving. Bellingham had opened the door
himself, and, feigning to regard the card as offered by way of
introduction, he gave his hand cordially, and led him into the cozy
room, where the table was already laid for breakfast.
"Glad to see you, glad to see you, Mr. Barker. Give me your coat.
Ah, I see you scorn the effeminacy of half-season things. Put your
hat anywhere. The advantage of bachelors' quarters is that you
_can_ put anything anywhere. We haven't a woman on the premises, and
you can fancy how unmolested we are."
Lemuel had caught sight of one over the mantel, who had nothing but
her water-colours on, and was called an "Etude;" but he no longer
trembled, for evil or for good, in such presences. "That's one of
those Romano-Spanish things," said Bellingham, catching the
direction of his eye. "I forget the fellow's name; but it isn't bad.
We're pretty snug here," he added, throwing open two doors in
succession, to show the extent of his apartment.
"Here you have the dining-room and drawing-room and library in one;
and here's my bedroom, and here's my bath."
He pulled an easy-chair up toward the low fire for Lemuel. "But
perhaps you're hot from walking? Sit wherever you like."
Lemuel chose to sit by the window. "It's very mild out," he said,
and Bellingham did not exact anything more of him. He talked at him,
and left Lemuel to make his mental inventory of the dense Turkey
rugs on the slippery hardwood floor, the pictures on the Avails, the
deep, leather-lined seats, the bric-a-brac on the mantel, the tall,
coloured chests of drawers in two corners, the delicate china and
quaint silver on the table.
Presently steps were heard outside, and Bellingham threw open the
door as he had to Lemuel, and gave a hand to each of the two guests
whom he met on his threshold.
"Ah, Meredith! Good morning, venerable father!" He drew them in.
"Let me introduce you to Mr. Barker, Mr. Meredith. Mr. Barker, the
Rev. Mr. Seyton. You fellows are pretty prompt."
"We're pretty hungry," said Mr. Meredith. "I don't know that we
should have got here if we hadn't leaned up against each other as we
came along. Several policemen regarded us suspiciously, but Seyton's
cloth protected us."
"It was terrible, coming up Beacon Street with an old offender like
Meredith, at what he considered the dead hour of the night," said
Mr. Seyton. "I don't know what I should have done if any one had
been awake to see us."
"You shall have breakfast instantly," said Bellingham, touching an
annunciator, and awakening a distant electric titter somewhere.
Mr. Seyton came toward Lemuel, who took the young Ritualist for a
Catholic priest, but was not proof against the sweet friendliness
which charmed every one with him, and was soon talking at more ease
than he had felt from all Bellingham's cordial intention. He was put
at his host's right hand when they sat down, and Mr. Seyton was
given the foot, so that they continued their talk.
"Mr. Bellingham tells me you know my friend Sewell," said the
Lemuel's face kindled. "Oh yes! Do you know him too?"
"Yes, I've known him a long time. He's a capital fellow, Sewell is."
"I think he's a great preacher," ventured Lemuel.
"Ah--well--yes? Is he? I've never heard him lecture," said Mr.
Seyton, looking down at his bread.
"I swear, Seyton," said Meredith across the table, "when you put on
that ecclesiastical superciliousness of yours, I want to cuff you."
"I've no doubt he'd receive it in a proper spirit," said Bellingham,
who was eating himself hot and red from the planked shad before him.
"But you mustn't do it here."
"Of course," said Mr. Seyton, "Sewell is a very able man, and no end
of a good fellow, but you can't expect me to admit he's a priest."
He smiled in sweet enjoyment of his friend's wrath. Lemuel observed
that he spoke with an accent different from the others, which he
thought very pleasant, but he did not know it for that neat
utterance which the Anglican Church bestows upon its servants.
"He's no Jesuit," growled Meredith.
"I'm bound to say he's not a pagan, either," laughed the clergyman.
"These gentlemen exchange these little knocks," Bellingham explained
to Lemuel's somewhat puzzled look, "because they were boys together
at school and college, and can't realise that they've grown up to be
lights of the bar and the pulpit." He looked round at the different
plates. "Have some more shad?" No one wanted more, it seemed, and
Bellingham sent it away by the man, who replaced it with broiled
chicken before Bellingham, and lamb chops in front of Mr. Seyton.
"This is all there is," the host said.
"It's enough for me," said Meredith, "if no one else takes
But in fact there was also an omelet, and bread and butter delicious
beyond anything that Lemuel had tasted; and there was a bouquet of
pink radishes with fragments of ice dropped among olives, and other
facts of a polite breakfast. At the close came a dish of what
Bellingham called premature strawberries.
"Why! they're actually _sweet_!" said Meredith, "and they're as
natural as emery-bags."
"Yes, they're all you say," said Bellingham. "You can have
strawberries any time nowadays after New Year's, if you send far
enough for them; but to get them ripe and sound, or distinguishable
from small turnips in taste, is another thing."
Lemuel had never imagined a breakfast like that; he wondered at
himself for having respected the cuisine of the St. Albans. It
seemed to him that he and the person he had been--the farm-boy, the
captive of the police, the guest of the Wayfarer's Lodge, the
servant of Miss Vane, and the head-waiter at the hotel--could not be
the same person. He fell into a strange reverie, while the talk, in
which he had shared so little, took a range far beyond him. Then he
looked up and found all the others' eyes upon him, and heard
Bellingham saying, "I fancy Mr. Barker can tell us something about
that," and at Lemuel's mystified stare he added, "About the amount
of smoke at a fire that a man could fight through. Mr. Seyton was
speaking of the train that was caught in the forest fires down in
Maine the other day. How was it with you at the St. Albans?"
Lemuel blushed. It was clear that Mr. Bellingham had been reading
that ridiculous newspaper version of his exploit. "There was hardly
any smoke at all where I was. It didn't seem to have got into the
upper entries much."
"That's just what I was saying!" triumphed Bellingham. "If a man has
anything to do, he can get on. That's the way with the firemen. It's
the rat-in-a-trap _idea_ that paralyses. Do you remember your
sensations at all, when you were coming through the fire? Those
things are very curious sometimes," Bellingham suggested.
"There was no fire where I was," said Lemuel stoutly, but helpless
to make a more comprehensive disclaimer.
"I imagine you wouldn't notice that, any more than the smoke," said
Bellingham, with a look of satisfaction in his hero for his other
guests. "It's a sort of ecstasy. Do you remember that fellow of Bret
Harte's, in _How Christmas came to Simpson's Bar_, who gets a
shot in his leg, or something, when he's riding to get the sick boy
a Christmas present, and doesn't know it till he drops off his horse
in a faint when he gets back?" He jumped actively up from the table,
and found the book on his shelf. "There!" He fumbled for his glasses
without finding them. "Will you be kind enough to read the passage,
Mr. Barker? I think I've found the page. It's marked." He sat down
again, and the others waited.
Lemuel read, as he needs must, and he did his best.
"Ah, that's very nice. Glad you didn't dramatise it; the drama ought
to be in the words, not the reader. I like your quiet way."
"Harte seems to have been about the last of the story-tellers to
give us the great, simple heroes," said Seyton.
When the others were gone, and Lemuel, who had been afraid to go
first, rose to take himself away, Bellingham shook his hand
cordially and said, "I hope you weren't bored? The fact is, I rather
promised myself a _tete-a-tete_ with you, and I told Mr. Sewell
so; but I fell in with Seyton and Meredith yesterday--you can't help
falling in with one when you fall in with the other; they're
inseparable when Seyton's in town and I couldn't resist the
temptation to ask them."
"Oh no, I wasn't bored at all," said Lemuel.
"I'm very glad. But--sit down a moment. I want to speak to you about
a little matter of business. Mr. Sewell was telling us something of
you the other night, at my cousin Bromfield Corey's, and it occurred
to me that you might be willing to come and read to him. His eyes
seem to be on the wane, some way, and he's rather sleepless. He'd
give you a bed, and sometimes you'd have to read to him in the
night; you'd take your meals where you like. How does it strike you,
supposing the 'harnsome pittance' can be arranged?"
"Why, if you think I can do it," began Lemuel.
"Of course I do. You don't happen to read French?"
Lemuel shook his head hopelessly. "I studied Latin some at school--"
"Ah! Well! I don't think he'd care for Latin. I think we'd better
stick to English for the present."
Bellingham arranged for Lemuel to go with him that afternoon to his
cousin's and make, as he phrased it, a stagger at the job.
The stagger seemed to be sufficiently satisfactory. Corey could not
repress some twinges at certain characteristics of Lemuel's accent,
but he seemed, in a critical way, to take a fancy to him, and he was
conditionally installed for a week.
Corey was pleased from the beginning with Lemuel's good looks, and
justified himself to his wife with an Italian proverb: "_Novanta
su cento, chi e bello difuori e buono di dentro_." She had heard
that proverb before, and she had always considered it shocking; but
he insisted that most people married upon no better grounds, and
that what sufficed in the choice of a husband or wife was enough for
the choice of an intellectual nurse. He corrected Lemuel's
pronunciation where he found it faulty, and amused himself with
Lemuel's struggles to conceal his hurt vanity, and his final good
sense in profiting by the correction. But Lemuel's reading was
really very good; it was what, even more than his writing, had given
him a literary reputation in Willoughby Pastures; and the old man
made him exercise it in widely different directions. Chiefly,
however, it was novels that he read, which, indeed, are the chief
reading of most people in our time; and as they were necessarily the
novels of our language, his elder was not obliged to use that care
in choosing them which he must have exacted of himself in the
fiction of other tongues. He liked to hear Lemuel talk, and he used
the art of getting at the boy's life by being frank with his own
experience. But this was not always successful, and he was
interested to find Lemuel keeping doors that Sewell's narrative had
opened carefully closed against him. He betrayed no consciousness
that they existed, and Lemuel maintained intact the dignity and
pride which come from the sense of ignominy well hidden.
The week of probation had passed without interrupting their
relation, and Lemuel was regularly installed, and began to lead a
life which was so cut off from his past in most things that it
seemed to belie it. He found himself dropped in the midst of luxury
stranger to him than the things they read of in those innumerable
novels. The dull, rich colours in the walls, and the heavily rugged
floors and dark-wooded leathern seats of the library where he read
to the old man; the beautiful forms of the famous bronzes, and the
Italian saints and martyrs in their baroque or Gothic frames of dim
gold; the low shelves with their ranks of luxurious bindings, and
all the seriously elegant keeping of the place, flattered him out of
his strangeness; and the footing on which he was received in this
house, the low-voiced respect with which the man-servant treated
him, the master's light, cordial frankness, the distant graciousness
of the mistress, and the unembarrassed, unembarrassing kindliness of
the young ladies, both so much older than himself, contributed to an
effect that afterwards deepened more and more, and became a vital
part of the struggle which he was finally to hold with himself. The
first two or three days he saw no one but Mr. Corey, and but for the
women's voices in the other parts of the house, he might have
supposed himself in another bachelor's apartments, finer and grander
than Bellingham's. He was presented to Mrs. Corey when she came into
the library, but he did not see the daughters of the house till he
was installed in it. After that, his acquaintance with them seemed
to go no further. They were all polite and kind when they met him,
in the library or on the stairs, but they showed no curiosity about
him; and his never meeting them at table helped to keep him a
stranger to them under the same roof. He ate at a boarding-house in
a neighbouring street, but he slept at the Coreys' after he had read
their father asleep, and then, going out to his late breakfast, he
did not return till Mr. Corey had eaten his own, much later.
He wondered at first that neither of those young ladies read to
their father, not knowing the disability for mutual help that riches
bring. Later, he saw how much Miss Lily Corey was engrossed with
charity and art, and how constantly Miss Nannie Corey was occupied
with social cares, and was perpetually going and coming in their
performance. Then he saw that they could not have rendered nor their
father have received from his family the duty which he was paid to
do, as they must have done if they had been poorer. But they were
all fond of one another, and the father had a way of joking with his
daughters, especially the youngest; and they talked with a freedom
of themselves which puzzled Lemuel. It appeared from what they said
at different times that they had not always been so rich, or that
they had once had money, and then less, and now much more. It
appeared also that their prosperity was due to a piece of luck, and
that the young Mr. Corey, whom they expected in the summer, had
brought it about. His father was very proud of him, and, getting
more and more used to Lemuel's companionship, he talked a great deal
about his Tom, as he called him, and about Tom's wife, and his
wife's family, who were somehow, Lemuel inferred, not all that his
own family could wish them, but very good people. Once when Mr.
Corey was talking of them, Mrs. Corey came in upon them, and seemed
to be uneasy, as if she thought he was saying too much. But the
daughters did not seem to care, especially the youngest.
He found out that Mr. Corey used to be a painter, and had lived a
long time in Italy when he was young, and he recalled with a
voluptuous thrill of secrecy that Williams had once been in Italy.
Mr. Corey seemed to think better of it than Williams; he liked to
talk of Rome and Florence, and of Venice, which Williams had said
was a kind of hole. The old man said this or that picture was of
this or that school, and vague lights of knowledge and senses of
difference that flattered Lemuel's intellectual vanity stole in upon
him. He began to feel that the things Mr. Corey had lived for were
the great and high objects of life.
He now perceived how far from really fine or fashionable anything at
the St. Albans had been, and that the simplicity of Miss Vane's
little house, which the splendour of the hotel had eclipsed in his
crude fancy, was much more in harmony with the richness of Mr.
Corey's. He oriented himself anew, and got another view of the world
which he had dropped into. Occasionally he had glimpses of people
who came to see the Coreys, and it puzzled him that this family,
which he knew so kind and good, took with others the tone hard and
even cynical which seemed the prevailing tone of society; when their
acquaintances went away they dropped back, as if with relief, into
their sincere and amiable fashions of speech. Lemuel asked himself
if every one in the world was playing a part; it did not seem to him
that Miss Carver had been; she was always the same, and always
herself. To be one's-self appeared to him the best thing in the
world, and he longed for it the more as he felt that he too was
insensibly beginning to play a part. Being so much in this beautiful
and luxurious house, where every one was so well dressed and well
mannered, and well kept in body and mind, and passing from his
amazement at all its appointments into the habit of its comfortable
beauty, he forgot more and more the humility and the humiliations of
his past. He did not forget its claims upon him; he sent home every
week the greater part of his earnings, and he wrote often to his
mother; but now, when he could have got the time to go home and see
her, he did not go. In the exquisite taste of his present
environment, he could scarcely believe in that figure, grizzled,
leathern, and gaunt, and costumed in a grotesque unlikeness to
either sex. Sometimes he played with the fantastic supposition of
some other origin for himself, romantic and involved like that of
some of the heroes he was always reading of, which excluded her.
Another effect of this multifarious literature through which his
duties led him was the awakening of the ambition to write, stunned
by his first disastrous adventures in Boston, and dormant almost
ever since, except as it had stirred under the promptings of Evans's
kindly interest. But now it did not take the form of verse; he began
to write moralistic essays, never finished, but full of severe
comment on the folly of the world as he saw it. Sometimes they were
examinations of himself, and his ideas and principles, his doctrines
and practice, penetrating quests such as the theologians of an
earlier day used to address to their consciences.
Meantime, the deeply underlying mass of his rustic crudity and raw
youth took on a far higher polish than it had yet worn. Words
dropped at random in the talk he now heard supplied him with motives
and shaped his actions. Once Mr. Bellingham came in laughing about a
sign which he saw in a back street, of Misfit Parlours, and Lemuel
spent the next week's salary for a suit at a large clothing store,
to replace the dress Sewell had thought him so well in. He began
insensibly to ape the manners of those about him.
It drew near the time when the ladies of the Corey family were to
leave town, where they had lingered much longer than they meant, in
the hope that Mr. Corey might be so much better, or so much worse,
that he would consent to go to the shore with them. But his
disabilities remained much the same, and his inveterate habits
indomitable. By this time that trust in Lemuel, which never failed
to grow up in those near him, reconciled the ladies to the obstinate
resolution of the master of the house to stay in it as usual. They
gave up the notion of a cottage, and they were not going far away,
nor for long at any one time; in fact, one or other of them was
always in the house. Mrs. Corey had grown into the habit of
confidence with Lemuel concerning her husband's whims and foibles;
and this motherly frankness from a lady so stately and distant at
first was a flattery more poisonous to his soul than any other
circumstance of his changed life.
It came July, and even Sewell went away then. He went with a mind at
rest concerning Lemuel's material prospects, and his unquestionable
usefulness and acceptability; but something, at the bottom of his
satisfaction, teased him still: a dumb fear that the boy was
extravagant, a sense that he was somehow different, and not wholly
for the better, from what he had been. He had seen, perhaps, nothing
worse in him than that growth of manner which amused Corey.
"He is putting us on," he said to Bellingham one day, "and making us
fit as well as he can. I don't think we're altogether becoming, but
that's our fault, probably. I can't help thinking that if we were of
better cut and material we should show to better effect upon that
granite soul. I wish Tom were here. I've an idea that Tom would fit
him like a glove. Charles, why don't _you_ pose as a model for
"I don't see why I'm not a very good model without posing," said
Bellingham. "What do you want me to do for him? Take him to the
club? Barker's _not_ very conversational."
"You don't take him on the right topics," said Corey, not minding
that he had left the point. "I assure you that Barker, on any
serious question that comes up in our reading, has a clear head and
an apt tongue of his own. It isn't our manners alone that he
emulates. I can't find that any of us ever dropped an idea or
suggestion of value that Barker didn't pick it up, and turn it to
much more account than the owner. He's as true as a Tuscan peasant,
as proud as an Indian, and as quick as a Yankee."
"Ah! I _hoped_ you wouldn't go abroad for that last," said
"No; and it's delightful, seeing the great variety of human nature
there is in every human being here. Our life isn't stratified;
perhaps it never will be. At any rate, for the present, we're all in
vertical sections. But I always go back to my first notion of
Barker: he's ancestral, and he makes me feel like degenerate
posterity. I've had the same sensation with Tom; but Barker seems to
go a little further back. I suppose there's such a thing as getting
too far back in these Origin of Species days; but he isn't excessive
in that or in anything. He's confoundedly temperate, in fact; and
he's reticent; he doesn't allow any unseemly intimacy. He's always
turning me out-of-doors."
"Of course! But what can we old fellows hope to know of what's going
on in any young one? Talk of strangeness! I'd undertake to find more
in common with a florid old fellow of fifty from the red planet Mars
than with any young Bostonian of twenty."
"Yes; but it's the youth of my sires that I find so strange in
Barker. Only, theoretically, there's no Puritanism. He's a thorough
believer in Sewell. I suspect he could formulate Sewell's theology a
great deal better than Sewell could."
Statira and 'Manda Grier had given up their plan of getting places
in a summer hotel when Lemuel absolutely refused to take part in it,
and were working through the summer in the box-factory. Lemuel came
less regularly to see them now, for his Sunday nights had to be at
Mr. Corey's disposition; but Statira was always happy in his coming,
and made him more excuses than he had thought of, if he had let a
longer interval than usual pass. He could not help feeling the
loveliness of her patience, the sweetness of her constancy; but he
disliked 'Manda Grier more and more, and she grew stiffer and
sharper with him. Sometimes the aimlessness of his relation to
Statira hung round him like a cloud, which he could not see beyond.
When he was with her he contented himself with the pleasure he felt
in her devotion, and the tenderness this awakened in his own heart;
but when he was away from her there was a strange disgust and
bitterness in these.
Sometimes, when Statira and 'Manda Grier took a Saturday afternoon
off, he went with them into the country on one of the horse-car
lines, or else to some matinee at a garden-theatre in the suburbs.
Statira liked the theatre better than anything else; and she used to
meet other girls whom she knew there, and had a gay time. She
introduced Lemuel to them, and after a few moments of high civility
and distance they treated him familiarly, as Statira's beau. Their
talk, after that he was now used to, was flat and foolish, and their
pert ease incensed him. He came away bruised and burning, and
feeling himself unfit to breathe the refined and gentle air to which
he returned in Mr. Corey's presence. Then he would vow in his heart
never to expose himself to such things again; but he could not tell
Statira that he despised the friends she was happy with; he could
only go with a reluctance it was not easy to hide, and atone by
greater tenderness for a manner that wounded her. One day toward the
end of August, when they were together at a suburban theatre,
Statira wandered off to a pond there was in the grounds with some
other girls, who had asked him to go and row them, and had called
him a bear for refusing, and told him to look out for Barnum. They
left him sitting alone with 'Manda Grier, at a table where they had
all been having ice-cream at his expense; and though it was no longer
any pleasure to be with her, it was better than to be with them, for
she was not a fool, at any rate. Statira turned round at a little
distance to mock them with a gesture and a laugh, and the laugh
ended in a cough, long and shattering, so that one of her companions
had to stop with her, and put her arm round her till she could
recover herself and go on.
It sent a cold thrill through Lemuel, and then he turned angry.
"What is it Statira does to keep taking more cold?"
"Oh, I guess 'tain't 'ny _more_ cold," said 'Manda Grier.
"What do you mean?"
"I guess 'f you cared a great deal you'd noticed that cough 'f hers
before now. 'Tain't done it any too much good workin' in that
arsenic paper all summer long."
'Manda Grier talked with her face turned away from him.
It provoked him more and more. "I _do_ care," he retorted,
eager to quarrel, "and you know it. Who got her into the box-
factory, I should like to know?"
"_I_ did!" said 'Manda Grier, turning sharply on him, "and you
_kept_ her there; and between us we've killed her."
"How have I kept her there, I should like to know?"
"'F you'd done's she wanted you should, she might 'a' been at some
pleasant place in the country--the mount'ns, or somewhere 't she'd
been ov'r her cough by this time. But no! You was too nasty proud
for that, Lemuel Barker!"
A heavy load of guilt dropped upon Lemuel's heart, but he flung it
off, and he retorted furiously,
"You ought to have been ashamed of yourself to ever want her to take
a servant's place."
"Oh, a servant's place! If she'd been ashamed of a servant when you
came meechin' round her, where'd you been, I sh'd like to know? And
now I wish she had; 'n' if she wa'n't such a little fool, 'n' all
wrapped in you, the way 't she is, I could wish 't she'd never set
eyes on you again, servant or no servant. But I presume it's too
late now, and I presume she's got to go on suff'rin' for you and
wonderin' what she's done to offend you when you don't come, and
what she's done when you do, with your stuck-up, masterful airs, and
your double-faced ways. But don't you try to pretend to me, Lemuel
Barker, 't you care the least mite for her any more, 'f you ever
did, because it won't go down! 'N' if S'tira wa'n't such a perfect
little blind fool, she could see 't you didn't care for her any more
than the ground 't you walk on, 'n' 't you'd be glad enough if she
was under it, if you couldn't be rid of her any other way!" 'Manda
Grier pulled her handkerchief out and began to cry into it.
Lemuel was powerfully shaken by this attack; he did feel responsible
for Statira's staying in town all summer; but the spectacle of
'Manda Grier publicly crying at his side in a place like that helped
to counteract the effect of her words. "'Sh! Don't cry!" he began,
looking fearfully round him. "Everybody 'll see you!"
"I don't care! Let them!" sobbed the girl. "If they knowed what I
know, and could see you _not_ cryin', I guess they'd think you
looked worse than I do!"
"You don't understand--I can explain--"
"No, you can't explain, Mr. Barker!" said 'Manda Grier, whipping
down her handkerchief, and fiercely confronting him across the
table. "You can't explain anything so 's to blind me any longer! I
was a big fool to ever suppose you had any heart in you; but when
you came round at first, and was so meek you couldn't say your soul
was your own, and was so glad if S'tira spoke to you, or looked at
you, that you was ready to go crazy, I _did_ suppose there was
some _little_ something to you! And yes, I helped you on all I
could, and helped you to fool that poor thing that you ain't worthy
to kiss the ground she walks on, Lord forgive me _for_ it! But
it's all changed now! You seem to think it's the greatest favour if
you come round once a fortnight, and set and let her talk to you,
and show you how she dotes upon you, the poor little silly coot! And
if you ever speak a word, it's like the Lord unto Moses, it's so
grand! But I understand! You've got other friends now! _You after
that art-student_? Oh, you can blush and try to turn it off! I've
seen you blush before, and I know you! And I know you're in love
with that girl, and you're just waitin' to break off with S'tira;
but you hain't got the spirit to up and do it like a man! You want
to let it lag along, and _lag_ along, and see 'f something
won't happen to get you out of it! _You waitin' for her to
die_? Well, you won't have to wait long! But if I was a man, I'd
spoil your beauty for you first."
The torrent of her words rolled him on, bruising and tearing his
soul, which their truth pierced like jagged points. From time to
time he opened his lips to protest or deny, but no words came, and
in his silence a fury of scorn for the poor, faithful, scolding
thing, so just, so wildly unjust, gathered head in him.
"Be still!" he ground between his teeth. "Be still, you--" He
stopped for the word, and that saved him from the outrage he had
meant to pay her back with. He rose from the table. "You can tell
Statira what you've said to me. I'm going home."
He rushed away; the anger was like strong drink in his brain; he was
like one drunk all the way back to the city in the car.
He could not go to Mr. Corey's at once; he felt as if physically
besmeared with shame; he could not go to his boarding-house; it
would have been as if he had shown himself there in a coat of tar
and feathers. Those insolent, true, degrading words hissed in his
ears, and stung him incessantly. They accused, they condemned with
pitiless iteration; and yet there were instants when he knew himself
guiltless of all the wrong of which in another sense he knew himself
guilty. In his room he renewed the battle within himself that he had
fought so long in his wanderings up and down the street, and he
conquered himself at last into the theory that Statira had
authorised or permitted 'Manda Grier to talk to him in that way.
This simplified the whole affair; it offered him the release which
he now knew he had longed for. As he stretched himself in the sheets
at daybreak, he told himself that he need never see either of them
again. He was free.
Lemuel went through the next day in that licence of revolt which
every human soul has experienced in some measure at some time. We
look back at it afterwards, and see it a hideous bondage. But for
the moment Lemuel rejoiced in it; and he abandoned himself boldly to
thoughts that had hitherto been a furtive and trembling rapture.
In the afternoon, when he was most at leisure, he walked down to the
Public Garden, and found a seat on a bench near the fountain where
the Venus had shocked his inexperience the first time he saw her; he
remembered that simple boy with a smile of pity, and then went back
into his cloud of reverie. There, safely hid from trouble and wrong,
he told his ideal how dear she was to him, and how she had shaped
and governed his life, and made it better and nobler from the first
moment they had met. The fumes of the romances which he had read
mixed with the love-born delirium in his brain; he was no longer
low, but a hero of lofty line, kept from his rightful place by
machinations that had failed at last, and now he was leading her,
his bride, into the ancient halls which were to be their home, and
the source of beneficence and hope to all the poor and humbly-born
around them. His eyes were so full of this fantastic vision, the
soul of his youth dwelt so deeply within this dream-built
tabernacle, that it was with a shock of anguish he saw coming up the
walk towards him the young girl herself. His airy structure fell in
ruins around him; he was again common and immeasurably beneath her;
she was again in her own world, where, if she thought of him at all,
it must be as a squalid vagabond and the accomplice of a thief. If
he could have escaped, he would, but he could not move; he sat still
and waited with fallen eyes for her to pass him.
At sight of him she hesitated and wavered; then she came towards
him, and at a second impulse held out her hand, smiling with a
"I didn't know it was you at first," she said. "It seems so strange
to see any one that I know!"
"I didn't expect to see you, either," he stammered out, getting
somehow upon his feet, and taking her hand, while his face burned,
and he could not keep his eyes on hers; "I--didn't know you were
"I've only been here a few days. I'm drawing at the Museum. I've
just got back. Have you been here all summer?"
"Yes--all summer. I hope you've been well--I suppose you've been
"Yes, I've just got back," she repeated.
"Oh yes! I meant that!"
She smiled at his confusion, as kindly as the ideal of his day-dream.
"I've been spending the summer with Madeline, and I've spent most of
it out-of-doors, sketching. Have you been well?"
"Yes--not very; oh yes, I'm well--" She had begun to move forward
with the last question, and he found himself walking with her. "Did
she--has Miss Swan come back with you?" he asked, looking her in the
eyes with more question than he had put into his words.
"No, I don't think she'll come back this winter," said the girl.
"You know," she went on, colouring a little, "that she's married
"No," said Lemuel.
"Yes. To Mr. Berry. And I have a letter from him for you."
"Was he there with you, this summer?" asked Lemuel, ignoring alike
Berry's marriage and the letter from him.
"Oh yes; of course! And I liked him better than I used to. He is
very good, and if Madeline didn't have to go so far West to live! He
will know how to appreciate her, and there are not many who can do
that! Her father thinks he has a great deal of ability. Yes, if
Madeline _had_ to get married!"
She talked as if convincing and consoling herself, and there was an
accent of loneliness in it all that pierced Lemuel's preoccupation;
he had hardly noted how almost pathetically glad she was to see him.
"You'll miss her here," he ventured.
"Oh, I don't dare to think of it," cried the girl. "I don't know
what I shall do! When I first saw you, just now, it brought up
Madeline and last winter so that it seemed too much to bear!"
They had walked out of the garden across Charles Street, and were
climbing the slope of Beacon Street Mall, in the Common. "I
suppose," she continued, "the only way will be to work harder, and
try to forget it. They wanted me to go out and stay with them; but
of course I couldn't. I shall work, and I shall read. I shall not
find another Madeline Swan! You must have been reading a great deal
this summer, Mr. Barker," she said, in turning upon him from her
bereavement. "Have you seen any of the old boarders? Or Mrs. Harmon?
I shall never have another winter like that at the poor old St.
Lemuel made what answer he could. There was happiness enough in
merely being with her to have counterbalanced all the pain he was
suffering; and when she made him partner of her interests and
associations, and appealed to their common memories in confidence of
his sympathy, his heavy heart stirred with strange joy. He had
supposed that Berry must have warned her against him; but she was
treating him as if he had not. Perhaps he had not, and perhaps he
had done so, and this was her way of showing that she did not
believe it. He tried to think so; he knew it was a subterfuge, but
he lingered in it with a fleeting, fearful pleasure. They had
crossed from the Common and were walking up under the lindens of
Chestnut Street, and from time to time they stopped, in the
earnestness of their parley, and stood talking, and then loitered on
again in the summer security from oversight which they were too rapt
to recognise. They reached the top of the hill, and came to a door
where she stopped. He fell back a pace. "Good-bye--" It was eternal
loss, but it was escape.
She smiled in timorous hesitation. "Won't you come in? And I will
get Mr. Berry's letter."
She opened the door with a latch-key, and he followed her within; a
servant-girl came half-way up the basement stairs to see who it was,
and then went down. She left him in the dim parlour a moment, while
she went to get the letter. When she returned, "I have a little room
for my work at the top of the house," she said, "but it will never
be like the St. Albans. There's no one else here yet, and it's
pretty lonesome--without Madeline."
She sank into a chair, but he remained standing, and seemed not to
heed her when she asked him to sit down. He put Berry's letter into
his pocket without looking at it, and she rose again.
She must have thought he was going, and she said with a smile of
gentle trust, "It's been like having last winter back again to see
you. We thought you must have gone home right after the fire; we
didn't see anything of you again. We went ourselves in about a
Then she did not know, and he must tell her himself.
"Did Mr. Berry say anything about me--at the fire--that last day?"
he began bluntly.
"No!" she said, looking at him with surprise; there was a new sound in
his voice. "He had no need to say anything! I wanted to tell you--to
write and tell you--how much I honoured you for it--how ashamed I was
for misunderstanding you just before, when--"
He knew that she meant when they all pitied him for a coward.
Her voice trembled; he could tell that the tears were in her eyes.
He tried to put the sweetness of her praise from him. "Oh, it wasn't
that that I meant," he groaned; and he wrenched the words out. "That
fellow, who said he was a friend of mine, and got into the house
that way, was a thief; and Mr. Berry caught him robbing his room the
day of the fire, and treated me as if I knew it and was helping him
"Oh!" cried the girl. "How cruel! How could he do that?"
Lemuel could not suffer himself to take refuge in her generous faith
"When I first came to Boston, I had my money stolen, and there were
two days when I had nothing to eat; and then I was arrested by
mistake for stealing a girl's satchel; and when I was acquitted, I
slept the next night in the tramp's lodging-house, and that fellow
was there, and when he came to the St. Albans I was ashamed to tell
where I had known him, and so I let him pass himself off for my
He kept his eyes fixed on hers, but he could not see them change
from their pity of him, or light up with a sense of any squalor in
"And I used to think that _my_ life had been hard!" she cried.
"Oh, how much you have been through!"
"And after that," he pursued, "Mr. Sewell got me a place, a sort of
servant's place, and when I lost that I came to be the man-of-all
work at the St. Albans."
In her eyes the pity was changing to admiration; his confession
which he had meant to be so abject had kindled her fancy like a
"How little we know about people and what they have suffered! But I
thank you for telling me this--oh yes!--and I shall always think of
myself with contempt. How easy and pleasant my life has been! And
She stopped, and he stood helpless against her misconception. He
told her about the poverty he had left at home, and the wretched
circumstance of his life, but she could not see it as anything but
honourable to his present endeavour. She listened with breathless
interest to it all, and, "Well," she sighed at last, "it will always
be something for you to look back to, and be proud of. And that
girl--did she never say or do anything to show that she was sorry
for that cruel mistake? Did you ever see her afterwards?"
"Yes," said Lemuel, sick at heart, and feeling how much more
triumphantly he could have borne ignominy and rejection than this
She seemed to think he would say something more, but he turned away
from her, and after a little silence of expectance she let him go,
with promises to come again, which she seemed to win from him for
his own sake.
In the street he took out Berry's letter and read it.
"DEAR OLD MAN,--I've been trying to get off a letter to you almost
any time the last three months; but I've been round so much, and
upside down so much since I saw you--out to W. T. and on my head in
Western Mass.--that I've not been able to fetch it. I don't know as
I could fetch it now, if it wasn't for the prospective Mrs. A. W.
B., Jr., standing over me with a revolver, and waiting to see me do
it. I've just been telling her about that little interview of ours
with Williams, that day, and she thinks I ought to be man enough to
write and say that I guess I was all wrong about you; I had a
sneaking idea of the kind from the start almost, but if a fellow's
proud at all, he's proud of his mistakes, and he hates to give them
up. I'm pretty badly balled up now, and I can't seem to get the
right words about remorse, and so forth; but you know how it is
yourself. I am sorry, there's no two ways about that; but I've kept
my suspicions as well as my regrets to myself, and now I do the best
thing I can by way of reparation. I send this letter by Miss Carver.
She hasn't read it, and she don't know what it's all about; but I
guess you'd better tell her. Don't spare, yours truly, A. W. BERRY,
The letter did not soften Lemuel at all towards Berry, and he was
bitterly proud that he had spoken without this bidding, though he
had seemed to speak to no end that he had expected. After a while he
lost himself in his day-dreams again, and in the fantastic future
which he built up this became a great source of comfort to him and
to his ideal. Now he parted with her in sublime renunciation, and
now he triumphed over all the obstacles between them; but whatever
turn he willed his fortunes to take, she still praised him, and he
prided himself that he had shown himself at his worst to her of his
own free impulse. Sewell praised him for it in his reverie; Mr.
Corey and Mr. Bellingham both made him delicate compliments upon his
noble behaviour, which he feigned had somehow become known to them.
At the usual hour he was at Mr. Corey's house, where he arrived
footsore, and empty from supperless wanderings, but not hungry and
not weary. The serving-man at the door met him with the message that
Mr. Corey had gone to dine at his club, and would not be at home
till late. He gave Lemuel a letter, which had all the greater effect
from being presented to him on the little silver tray employed to
bring up the cards and notes of the visitors and correspondents of
the family. The envelope was stamped in that ephemeral taste which
configured the stationery of a few years ago, with the lines of
alligator leather, and it exhaled a perfume so characteristic that
it seemed to breathe Statira visibly before him. He knew this far
better than the poor, scrawly, uncultivated handwriting which he had
seen so little. He took the letter, and turning from the door read
it by the light of the next street lamp.
"DEAR LEMUEL--Manda Grier has told me what she said to you and Ime
about crazy about it dear Lem I want you should come and see mee O
Lem you dont Suppose i could of let Manda Grier talk to you that way
if I had of none it but of course you dident only do Say so I give
her a real good goen over and she says shes sory she done it i dont
want any body should care for mee without itse there free will but I
shall alwayes care for you if you dont care for me dont come but if
you do Care I want you should come as soon as ever you can I can
explane everything Manda Grier dident mean anything but for the best
but sometimes she dont know what she is sayin O Lem you mussent be
mad But if you are and you dont want to come ennymore dont come But
O i hope you wouldent let such a thing set you againste mee
recollect that I never done or Said anything to set you against me
A cruel disgust mingled with the remorse that this letter brought
him. Its illiteracy made him ashamed, and the helpless fondness it
expressed was like a millstone hanged about his neck. He felt the
deadly burden of it drag him down.
A passer-by on the other side of the street coughed slightly in the
night air, and a thought flashed through Lemuel, from which he
cowered, as if he had found himself lifting his hand against
His impulse was to turn and run, but there was no escape on any
side. It seemed to him that he was like that prisoner he had read
of, who saw the walls of his cell slowly closing together upon him,
and drawing nearer and nearer till they should crush him between
them. The inexperience of youth denies it perspective; in that
season of fleeting and unsubstantial joys, of feverish hopes,
despair wholly darkens a world which after years find full of
chances and expedients.
If Mr. Sewell had been in town there might have been some hope
through him; or if Mr. Evans were there; or even if Berry were at
hand, it would be some one to advise with, to open his heart to in
his extremity. He walked down into Bolingbroke Street, knowing well
that Mr. Sewell was not at home, but pretending to himself, after
the fashion of the young, that if he should see a light in his house
it would be a sign that all should come out right with him, and if
not, it would come out wrong. He would not let himself lift his eyes
to the house front till he arrived before it. When he looked his
heart stood still; a light streamed bright and strong from the
He hurried across the street, and rang; and after some delay, in
which the person coming to the door took time to light the gas in
the hall, Mr. Sewell himself opened to him. They stood confronted in
mutual amazement, and then Sewell said, with a cordiality which he
did not keep free from reluctance, "Oh--Mr. Barker! Come in! Come
in!" But after they had shaken hands, and Lemuel had come in, he
stood there in the hall with him, and did not offer to take him up
to his study. "I'm so glad to have this glimpse of you! How in the
world did you happen to come?"
"I was passing and saw the light," said Lemuel.
Sewell laughed. "To be sure! We never have any idea how far our
little candle throws its beams! I'm just here for the night, on my
way from the mountains to the sea; I'm to be the 'supply' in a
friend's pulpit at New Bedford; and I'm here quite alone in the
house, scrambling a sermon together. But I'm _so_ glad to see
you! You're well, I hope? You're looking a little thin, but that's
no harm. Do you enjoy your life with Mr. Corey? I was sure you
would! When you come to know him, you will find him one of the best
of men--kindly, thoughtful, and sympathetic. I've felt very
comfortable about your being with him whenever I've thought of you,
and you may be sure that I've thought of you often. What about our
friends of the St. Albans? Do you see Mrs. Harmon? You knew the
Evanses had gone to Europe."
"Yes; I got a letter from him yesterday."
"He didn't pick up so fast as they hoped, and he concluded to try
the voyage. I hear very good accounts of him. He said he was going
to write you. Well! And Mr. Corey is well?" He smiled more beamingly
upon Lemuel, who felt that he wished him to go, and stood haplessly
trying to get away.
In the midst of his own uneasiness Sewell noted Lemuel's. "Is there
anything--something--you wished to speak with me about?"
"No. No, not anything in particular. I just saw the light, and--"
Sewell took his hand and wrung it with affection.
"It was so good of you to run in and see me. Don't fancy it's been
any disturbance. I'd got into rather a dim place in my work, but
since I've been standing here with you--ha, ha, ha! those things do
happen so curiously!--the whole thing has become perfectly luminous.
I'm delighted you're getting on so nicely. Give my love to Mr.
Corey. I shall see you soon again. We shall all be back in a little
over a fortnight. Glad of this moment with you, if it's only a
He wrung Lemuel's hand again, this time in perfect sincerity, and
eagerly shut him out into the night.
The dim place had not become so luminous to him as it had to the
minister. A darkness, which the obscurity of the night faintly
typified, closed round him, pierced by one ray only, and from this
he tried to turn his face. It was the gleam that lights up every
labyrinth where our feet wander and stumble, but it is not always
easy to know it from those false lights of feeble-hearted pity, of
mock-sacrifice, of sick conscience, which dance before us to betray
to worse misery yet.
Some sense of this, broken and faltering, reached Lemuel where he
stood, and tried to deal faithfully with his problem. In that one
steadfast ray he saw that whatever he did he must not do it for
himself; but what his duty was he could not make out. He knew now,
if he had not known before, that whatever his feeling for Statira
was, he had not released himself from her, and it seemed to him that
he could not release himself by any concern for his own advantage.
That notion with which he had so long played, her insufficiency for
his life now and for the needs of his mind hereafter, revealed
itself in its real cruelty. The things that Mr. Sewell had said,
that his mother had said, that Berry had said, in what seemed a
fatal succession, and all to the same effect, against throwing
himself away upon some one inadequate to him at his best, fell to
the ground like withered leaves, and the fire of that steadfast ray
But whom to turn to for counsel now? The one friend in whom he had
trusted, to whom he had just gone, ready to fling down his whole
heart before him, had failed him, failed him unwittingly,
unwillingly, as he had failed him once before, but this time in
infinitely greater stress. He did not blame him now, fiercely,
proudly, as he had once blamed him, but again he wandered up and
down the city streets, famished and outcast through his defection.
It was late when he went home, but Mr. Corey had not yet returned,
and he had time to sit down and write the letter which he had
decided to send to Statira, instead of going to see her. It was not
easy to write, but after many attempts he wrote it.
Dear Statira,--You must not be troubled, at what Amanda said to me.
I assure you that, although I was angry at first, I am entirely
willing to overlook it at your request. She probably spoke hastily,
and I am now convinced that she spoke without your authority. You
must not think that I am provoked at you.
"I received your letter this evening; and I will come to see you
very soon. Lemuel Barker."
The letter was colder than he meant to make it, but he felt that he
must above all be honest, and he did not see how he could honestly
make it less cold. When it came to Statira's hands she read it
silently to herself, over and over again, while her tears dripped
'Manda Grier was by, and she watched her till she could bear the sight
no longer. She snatched the letter from the girl's hands and ran it
through, and then she flung it on the ground. "Nasty, cold-hearted,
stuck-up, shameless thing!"
"Oh, don't, 'Manda; don't, 'Manda!" sobbed Statira, and she plunged
her face into the pillows of the bed, where she sat.
"Shameless, cold-hearted, stuck-up, nasty thing!" said 'Manda Grier,
varying her denunciation in the repetition, and apparently getting
fresh satisfaction out of it in that way. "Don't? St'ira Dudley, if
you was a woman--if you was _half_ a woman--you'd never speak
to that little corpse-on-ice again."
"O 'Manda, don't call him names-! I can't bear to have you!"
"Names? If you was anybody at all, you wouldn't look at him! You
wouldn't _think_ of him!"
"O 'Manda, 'Manda! You know I can't let you talk so," moaned
"Talk? I could talk my _head_ off! 'You must not think I was
provoked with you,'" she mimicked Lemuel's dignity of diction in
mincing falsetto. "'I will come to see you very soon.' Miserable,
worthless, conceited whipper-snapper!"
"O 'Manda, you'll break my heart if you go on so!"
"Well, then, give him up! He's goin' to give you up."
"Oh, he ain't; you know he ain't! He's just busy, and I know he'll
come. I'll bet you he'll be here to-morrow. It'll kill me to give
She had lifted herself from the pillow, and she began to cough.
"He'll kill you anyway," cried 'Manda Grier, in a passion of pity
and remorse. She ran across the room to get the medicine which
Statira had to take in these paroxysms. "There, there! Take it! I
sha'n't say anything more about him."
"And do you take it all back?" gasped Statira, holding the proffered
"Yes, yes! But do take your med'cine, St'ira, 'f you don't want to
die where you set."
"And do you think he'll come?"
"Yes, he'll come."
"Do you say it just to get me to take the medicine?"
"No, I really do believe he'll come."
"O 'Manda, 'Manda!" Statira took her medicine, and then wildly flung
her arms round 'Manda Grier's neck, and began to sob and to cry
there. "Oh, how hard I am with you, Manda! I should think if I was
as hard with everybody else, they'd perfectly hate me."
"Yes, and that's why he hate me. He does hate me. You said he did."
"No, St'ira, I didn't. You never was hard to anybody, and the
meanest old iceberg in creation couldn't hate you."
"Then you think he does care for me?"
"And you know he'll come soon?"
Lemuel had promised himself that if he could gain a little time he
should be able better to decide what it was right for him to do. His
heart lifted as he dropped the letter into the box, and he went
through the chapters which Mr. Corey asked him to read, after he
came in, with an ease incredible to himself. In the morning he woke
with a mind that was almost cheerful. He had been honest in writing
that letter, and so far he had done right; he should keep his word
about going soon to see Statira, and that would be honest too. He
did not look beyond this decision, and he felt, as we all do, more
or less vaguely when we have resolved to do right, that he had the
merit of a good action.
Statira showed herself so glad to see him that he could not do less
than seem to share her joy in their making-up, as she called it,
though he insisted that there had been no quarrel between them; and
now there began for him a strange double life, the fact of which
each reader must reject or accept according to the witness of his
He renewed as far as he could the old warmth of his feeling for
Statira, and in his compunction experienced a tenderness for her
that he had not known before, the strange tenderness that some
spirits feel for those they injure. He went oftener than ever to see
her, he was very good to her, and cheered her with his interest in
all her little interests; he petted her and comforted her; but he
escaped from her as soon as he could, and when he shut her door
behind him he shut her within it. He made haste to forget her, and
to lose himself in thoughts that were never wholly absent even in
her presence. Sometimes he went directly from her to Jessie, whose
innocent Bohemianism kept later hours, and who was always glad to
see him whenever he came. She welcomed him with talk that they
thought related wholly to the books they had been reading, and to
the things of deep psychological import which they suggested. He
seldom came to her without the excuse of a book to be lent or
borrowed; and he never quitted her without feeling inspired with the
wish to know more, and to be more; he seemed to be lifted to purer
and clearer regions of thought. She received him in the parlour, but
their evenings commonly ended in her little studio, whither some
errand took them, or some intrusion of the other boarders banished
them. There he read to her poems or long chapters out of the
essayists or romancers; or else they sat and talked about the
strange things they had noticed in themselves that were like the
things they found in their books. Once when they had talked a long
while in this strain, he told how when he first saw her he thought
she was very proud and cold.
She laughed gaily. "And I used to be afraid of you," she said. "You
used to be always reading there in your little office. Do you think
I'm very proud now?"
"Are you very much afraid of me now?" he retorted.
They laughed together.
"Isn't it strange," she said, "how little we really know about
people in the world?"
"Yes," he answered. "I wonder if it will ever be different. I've
been wrong about nearly every one I've met since I came to Boston."
"And I have too!" she cried, with that delight in the coincidence of
experience which the young feel so keenly.
He had got the habit, with his growing ease in her presence, of
walking up and down the room, while she sat, with her arms lifted
and clasped above her head, forgetful of everything but the things
they were saying, and followed him with her eyes. As he turned about
in his walk, he saw how pretty she was, with her slender form cased
in the black silk she wore, and thrown into full relief by the
lifted arms; he saw the little hands knit above her head, and white
as flowers on her dark hair. Her eyes were very bright, and her soft
lips, small and fine, were red.
He faltered, and lost the thread of his speech. "I forgot what I was
going to say!"
She took down her hands to clasp them over her laughing face a
moment. "And I don't remember what you were saying!" They both
laughed a long time at this; it seemed incomparably droll, and they
became better comrades.
They spent the rest of the evening in laughing and joking.
"I didn't know you were so fond of laughing," he said, when he went
"And I always supposed you were very solemn," she replied.
This again seemed the drollest thing in the world. "Well, I always
was," he said.
"And I don't know when I've laughed so much before!" She stood at
the head of the stairs, and held her lamp up for him to find his way
Again looking back, he saw her in the undefended grace that had
bewildered him before.
When he came next they met very seriously, but before the evening
was past they were laughing together; and so it happened now
whenever he came. They both said how strange it was that laughing
with any one seemed to make you feel so much better acquainted. She
told of a girl at school that she had always disliked till one day
something made them laugh, and after that they became the greatest
He tried to think of some experience to match this, but he could
not; he asked her if she did not think that you always felt a little
gloomy after you had been laughing a great deal. She said yes; after
that first night when they laughed so, she felt so depressed that
she was sure she was going to have bad news from Madeline. Then she
said she had received a letter from Madeline that morning, and she
and Mr. Berry had both wished her to give him their regards if she
ever saw him. This, when she had said it, seemed a very good joke
too; and they laughed at it a little consciously, till he boldly
bade her tell them he came so very seldom that she did not know when
she could deliver their message.
She answered that she was afraid Madeline would not believe that;
and then it came out that he had never replied to Berry's letter.
She said, "Oh! Is that the way you treat your correspondents?" and
he was ashamed to confess that he had not forgiven Berry.
"I will write to him to-night, if you say so," he answered hardily.
"Oh, you must do what you think best," she said, lightly refusing
"Whatever you say will be best," he said, with a sudden, passionate
fervour that surprised himself.
She tried to escape from it. "Am I so infallible as that?"
"You are for me!" he retorted.
A silence followed, which she endeavoured to break, but she sat
still across the little table from him where the shaded lamp spread
its glow, leaving the rest of the room, with its red curtains and
its sketches pinned about, in a warm, luxurious shadow. Her eyes
fell, and she did not speak.
"It must sound very strange to you, I know," he went on; "and it's
strange to me, too; but it seems to me that there isn't anything
I've done without my thinking whether you would like me to do it."
She rose involuntarily. "You make me ashamed to think that you're so
much mistaken about me! I know how we all influence each other--I
know I always try to be what I think people expect me to be--I can't
be myself--I know what you mean; but you--you must be yourself, and
not let--" She stopped in her wandering speech, in strange
agitation, and he rose too.
"I hope you're not offended with me!"
"Offended? Why? Why do you--go so soon?"
"I thought you were going," he answered stupidly.
"Why, I'm at _home!_"
They looked at each other, and then they broke into a happy laugh.
"Sit down again! I don't know what I got up for. It must have been
to make some tea. Did you know Madeline had bequeathed me her tea-
kettle--the one we had at the St. Albans?" She bustled about, and
lit the spirit-lamp under the kettle.
"Blow out that match!" he cried. "You'll set your dress on fire!" He
caught her hand, which she was holding with the lighted match in it
at her side, after the manner of women with lighted matches, and
blew it out himself.
"Oh, thank you!" she said indifferently. "Can you take it without
"Yes, I like it so."
She got out two of the cups he remembered, and he said, "How much
like last winter that seems!"
And "Yes, doesn't it?" she sighed.
The lamp purred and fretted under the kettle, and in the silence in
which they waited, the elm tree that rose from the pavement outside
seemed to look in consciously upon them.
When the kettle began to sing, she poured out the two cups of tea,
and in handing him his their fingers touched, and she gave a little
outcry. "Oh! Madeline's precious cup! I thought it was going to
The soft night-wind blew in through the elm leaves, and their
rustling seemed the expression of a profound repose, an endless
The next night Lemuel went to see Statira, without promising himself
what he should say or do, but if he were to tell her everything, he
felt that she would forgive him more easily than 'Manda Grier. He
was aware that 'Manda always lay in wait for him, to pierce him at
every undefended hint of conscience. Since the first break with her,
there had never been peace between them, and perhaps not kindness
for long before that. Whether or not she felt responsible for having
promoted Statira's affair with him, and therefore bound to guard her
to the utmost from suffering by it, she seemed always to be on the
alert to seize any advantage against him. Sometimes Statira accused
her of trying to act so hatefully to him that he would never come
any more; she wildly blamed her; but the faithful creature was none
the less constant and vigilant on that account. She took patiently
the unjust reproaches which Statira heaped upon her like a wayward
child, and remitted nothing of her suspicion or enmity towards
Lemuel. Once, when she had been very bitter with him, so bitter that
it had ended in an open quarrel between them, Statira sided with him
against her, and when 'Manda Grier flounced out of the room she
offered him, if he wished, to break with her, and never to speak to
her again, or have anything more to do with such a person. But at
this his anger somehow fell; and he said no, she must not think of
such a thing; that 'Manda Grier had been her friend long before he
was, and that, whatever she said to him, she was always good and
true to her. Then Statira fell upon his neck and cried, and praised
him, and said he was a million times more to her than 'Manda Grier,
but she would do whatever he said; and he went away sick at heart.
When he came now, with his thoughts clinging to Jessie, 'Manda Grier
hardly gave him time for the decencies of greeting. She was in a
high nervous exaltation, and Statira looked as if she had been
"What's become o' them art-students you used to have 't the St.
Albans?" she began, her whopper-jaw twitching with excitement, and
her eyes glaring vindictively upon Lemuel.
He had sat down near Statira on the lounge, but she drew a little
away from him in a provisional fashion, as if she would first see
what came of 'Manda Grier's inquisition.
"Art-students?" he repeated aimlessly while he felt his colour go.
"Yes!" she snapped. "Them girls 't used to be 't the St. Albans, 't
you thought so wonderful!"
"I didn't know I thought they were very wonderful!"
"Can't you answer a civil question?" she demanded, raising her
"I haven't heard any," said Lemuel, with sullen scorn.
"Oh! Well!" she sneered. "I forgot that you've b'en used to goin'
with such fine folks that you can't bear to be spoken to in plain
"'Manda!" began Statira, with an incipient whimper.
"You be still, S'tira Dudley! Mr. Barker," said the poor foolish
thing in the mincing falsetto which she thought so cutting, "have
you any idea what's become of your young lady artist friends,--them
that took your portrait as a Roman youth, you know?"
Lemuel made no answer whatever for a time. Then, whether he judged
it best to do so, or was goaded to the defiance by 'Manda Grier's
manner, he replied, "Miss Swan and Miss Carver? Miss Swan is
married, and lives in Wyoming Territory now." Before he had reached
the close of the sentence he had controlled himself sufficiently to
be speaking quite calmly.
"Oh indeed, Mr. Barker! And may I ask where Miss Carver is? She
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