_Louisa M. Alcott._
LOUISA M. ALCOTT.
AUTHOR OF "LITTLE WOMEN," "AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL," "HOSPITAL SKETCHES."
"Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass
through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the
world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own
319 WASHINGTON STREET,
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by
A. K. LORING,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of
IN A YEAR 7
THROUGH FLOOD, AND FIELD, AND FIRE 57
A GOLDEN WEDDING 81
WHY SYLVIA WAS HAPPY 102
DULL, BUT NECESSARY 113
SYLVIA'S HONEYMOON 165
A FIRESIDE FETE 183
EARLY AND LATE 195
IN THE TWILIGHT 206
ASLEEP AND AWAKE 223
WHAT NEXT? 238
SIX MONTHS 259
OUT OF THE SHADOW 285
IN A YEAR.
The room fronted the west, but a black cloud, barred with red, robbed
the hour of twilight's tranquil charm. Shadows haunted it, lurking in
corners like spies set there to watch the man who stood among them mute
and motionless as if himself a shadow. His eye turned often to the
window with a glance both vigilant and eager, yet saw nothing but a
tropical luxuriance of foliage scarcely stirred by the sultry air heavy
with odors that seemed to oppress not refresh. He listened with the same
intentness, yet heard only the clamor of voices, the tramp of feet, the
chime of bells, the varied turmoil of a city when night is defrauded of
its peace by being turned to day. He watched and waited for something;
presently it came. A viewless visitant, welcomed by longing soul and
body as the man, with extended arms and parted lips received the
voiceless greeting of the breeze that came winging its way across the
broad Atlantic, full of healthful cheer for a home-sick heart. Far out
he leaned; held back the thick-leaved boughs already rustling with a
grateful stir, chid the shrill bird beating its flame-colored breast
against its prison bars, and drank deep draughts of the blessed wind
that seemed to cool the fever of his blood and give him back the vigor
he had lost.
A sudden light shone out behind him filling the room with a glow that
left no shadow in it. But he did not see the change, nor hear the step
that broke the hush, nor turn to meet the woman who stood waiting for a
lover's welcome. An indefinable air of sumptuous life surrounded her,
and made the brilliant room a fitting frame for the figure standing
there with warm-hued muslins blowing in the wind. A figure full of the
affluent beauty of womanhood in its prime, bearing unmistakable marks of
the polished pupil of the world in the grace that flowed through every
motion, the art which taught each feature to play its part with the ease
of second nature and made dress the foil to loveliness. The face was
delicate and dark as a fine bronze, a low forehead set in shadowy waves
of hair, eyes full of slumberous fire, and a passionate yet haughty
mouth that seemed shaped alike for caresses and commands.
A moment she watched the man before her, while over her countenance
passed rapid variations of pride, resentment, and tenderness. Then with
a stealthy step, an assured smile, she went to him and touched his hand,
saying, in a voice inured to that language which seems made for lovers'
"Only a month betrothed, and yet so cold and gloomy, Adam!"
With a slight recoil, a glance of soft detestation veiled and yet
visible, Warwick answered like a satiric echo--
"Only a month betrothed, and yet so fond and jealous, Ottila!"
Unchilled by the action, undaunted by the look, the white arm took him
captive, the beautiful face drew nearer, and the persuasive voice asked
"Was it of me you thought when you turned with that longing in your
"Was it of a fairer or a dearer friend than I?"
The black brows contracted ominously, the mouth grew hard, the eyes
glittered, the arm became a closer bond, the entreaty a command.
"Let me know the name, Adam."
She laughed low to herself, and the mobile features softened to their
former tenderness as she looked up into that other face so full of an
accusing significance which she would not understand.
"I have waited two long hours; have you no kinder greeting, love?"
"I have no truer one. Ottila, if a man has done unwittingly a weak,
unwise, or wicked act, what should he do when he discovers it?"
"Repent and mend his ways; need I tell you that?"
"I have repented; will you help me mend my ways?"
"Confess, dear sinner; I will shrive you and grant absolution for the
past, whatever it may be."
"How much would you do for love of me?"
"Anything for you, Adam."
"Then give me back my liberty."
He rose erect and stretched his hands to her with a gesture of entreaty,
an expression of intense desire. Ottila fell back as if the forceful
words and action swept her from him. The smile died on her lips, a
foreboding fear looked out at her eyes, and she asked incredulously--
"Do you mean it?"
"Yes; now, entirely, and forever!"
If he had lifted his strong arm and struck her, it would not have
daunted with such pale dismay. An instant she stood like one who saw a
chasm widening before her, which she had no power to cross. Then as if
disappointment was a thing impossible and unknown, she seized the
imploring hands in a grasp that turned them white with its passionate
pressure as she cried--
"No, I will not! I have waited for your love so long I cannot give it
up; you shall not take it from me!"
But as if the words had made the deed irrevocable, Warwick put her away,
speaking with the stern accent of one who fears a traitor in himself.
"I cannot take from you what you never had. Stand there and hear me. No;
I will have no blandishments to keep me from my purpose, no soft words
to silence the hard ones I mean to speak, no more illusions to hide us
from each other and ourselves."
"Adam, you are cruel."
"Better seem cruel than be treacherous; better wound your pride now than
your heart hereafter, when too late you discover that I married you
without confidence, respect, or love. For once in your life you shall
hear the truth as plain as words can make it. You shall see me at my
best as at my worst; you shall know what I have learned to find in you;
shall look back into the life behind us, forward into the life before
us, and if there be any candor in you I will wring from you an
acknowledgment that you have led me into an unrighteous compact.
Unrighteous, because you have deceived me in yourself, appealed to the
baser, not the nobler instincts in me, and on such a foundation there
can be no abiding happiness."
"Go on, I will hear you." And conscious that she could not control the
will now thoroughly aroused, Ottila bent before it as if meekly ready to
hear all things for love's sake.
A disdainful smile passed over Warwick's face, as with an eye that fixed
and held her own, he rapidly went on, never pausing to choose smooth
phrases or soften facts, but seeming to find a relish in the utterance
of bitter truths after the honeyed falsehood he had listened to so long.
Yet through all the harshness glowed the courage of an upright soul, the
fervor of a generous heart.
"I know little of such things and care less; but I think few lovers pass
through a scene such as this is to be, because few have known lives like
ours, or one such as we. You a woman stronger for good or ill than those
about you, I a man untamed by any law but that of my own will. Strength
is royal, we both possess it; as kings and queens drop their titles in
their closets, let us drop all disguises and see each other as God sees
us. This compact must be broken; let me show you why. Three months ago I
came here to take the chill of an Arctic winter out of blood and brain.
I have done so and am the worse for it. In melting frost I have kindled
fire; a fire that will burn all virtue out of me unless I quench it at
once. I mean to do so, because I will not keep the ten commandments
before men's eyes and break them every hour in my heart."
He paused a moment, as if hotter words rose to his lips than generosity
would let him utter, and when he spoke again there was more reproach
than anger in his voice.
"Ottila, till I knew you I loved no woman but my mother; I wooed no
wife, bought no mistress, desired no friend, but led a life austere as
any monk's, asking only freedom and my work. Could you not let me keep
my independence? Were there not men enough who would find no degradation
in a spiritual slavery like this? Would nothing but my subjection
satisfy your unconquerable appetite for power?"
"Did I seek you, Adam?"
"Yes! Not openly, I grant, your art was too fine for that; you shunned
me that I might seek you to ask why. In interviews that seemed to come
by chance, you tried every wile a woman owns, and they are many. You
wooed me as such as you alone can woo the hearts they know are hardest
to be won. You made your society a refreshment in this climate of the
passions; you hid your real self and feigned that for which I felt most
honor. You entertained my beliefs with largest hospitality; encouraged
my ambitions with a sympathy so genial that I thought it genuine;
professed my scorn for shammery, and seemed an earnest woman, eager to
find the true, to do the right; a fit wife for any man who desired a
helpmate, not a toy. It showed much strength of wit and will to conceive
and execute the design. It proved your knowledge of the virtues you
could counterfeit so well, else I never should have been where I am
"Your commendation is deserved, though so ungently given, Adam."
"There will be no more of it. If I am ungentle, it is because I despise
deceit, and you possess a guile that has given me my first taste of
self-contempt, and the draught is bitter. Hear me out; for this
reminiscence is my justification; you must listen to the one and accept
the other. You seemed all this, but under the honest friendliness you
showed lurked the purpose you have since avowed, to conquer most
entirely the man who denied your right to rule by the supremacy of
beauty or of sex alone. You saw the unsuspected fascination that
detained me here when my better self said 'Go.' You allured my eye with
loveliness, my ear with music; piqued curiosity, pampered pride, and
subdued will by flatteries subtly administered. Beginning afar off, you
let all influences do their work till the moment came for the effective
stroke. Then you made a crowning sacrifice of maiden modesty and owned
you loved me."
Shame burned red on Ottila's dark cheek, and ire flamed up in her eyes,
as the untamable spirit of the woman answered against her will--
"It was not made in vain; for, rebellious as you are, it subdued you,
and with your own weapon, the bare truth."
He had said truly, "You shall see me at my best as at worst." She did,
for putting pride underneath his feet he showed her a brave sincerity,
which she could admire but never imitate, and in owning a defeat
achieved a victory.
"You think I shall deny this. I do not, but acknowledge to the uttermost
that, in spite of all resistance, I was conquered by a woman. If it
affords you satisfaction to hear this, to know that it is hard to say,
harder still to feel, take the ungenerous delight; I give it to you as
an alms. But remember that if I have failed, no less have you. For in
that stormy heart of yours there is no sentiment more powerful than that
you feel for me, and through it you will receive the retribution you
have brought upon yourself. You were elated with success, and forgot too
soon the character you had so well supported. You thought love blinded
me, but there was no love; and during this month I have learned to know
you as you are. A woman of strong passions and weak principles; hungry
for power and intent on pleasure; accomplished in deceit and reckless in
trampling on the nobler instincts of a gifted but neglected nature.
Ottila, I have no faith in you, feel no respect for the passion you
inspire, own no allegiance to the dominion you assert."
"You cannot throw it off; it is too late."
It was a rash defiance; she saw that as it passed her lips, and would
have given much to have recalled it. The stern gravity of Warwick's face
flashed into a stern indignation. His eye shone like steel, but his
voice dropped lower and his hand closed like a vice as he said, with the
air of one who cannot conceal but can control sudden wrath at a taunt to
which past weakness gives a double sting--
"It never is too late. If the priest stood ready, and I had sworn to
marry you within the hour, I would break the oath, and God would pardon
it, for no man has a right to embrace temptation and damn himself by a
life-long lie. You choose to make it a hard battle for me; you are
neither an honest friend nor a generous foe. No matter, I have fallen
into an ambuscade and must cut my way out as I can, and as I will, for
there is enough of this Devil's work in the world without our adding to
"You cannot escape with honor, Adam."
"I cannot remain with honor. Do not try me too hardly, Ottila. I am not
patient, but I do desire to be just. I confess my weakness; will not
that satisfy you? Blazon your wrong as you esteem it; ask sympathy of
those who see not as I see; reproach, defy, lament. I will bear it all,
will make any other sacrifice as an atonement, but I will 'hold fast
mine integrity' and obey a higher law than your world recognizes, both
for your sake and my own."
She watched him as he spoke, and to herself confessed a slavery more
absolute than any he had known, for with a pang she felt that she had
indeed fallen into the snare she spread for him, and in this man, who
dared to own his weakness and her power, she had found a master. Was it
too late to keep him? She knew that soft appeals were vain, tears like
water on a rock, and with the skill that had subdued him once she
endeavored to retrieve her blunder by an equanimity which had more
effect than prayers or protestations. Warwick had read her well, had
shown her herself stripped of all disguises, and left her no defence but
tardy candor. She had the wisdom to see this, the wit to use it and
restore the shadow of the power whose substance she had lost. Leaving
her beauty to its silent work, she fixed on him eyes whose lustre was
quenched in unshed tears, and said with an earnest, humble voice--
"I, too, desire to be just. I will not reproach, defy, or lament, but
leave my fate to you. I am all you say, yet in your judgment remember
mercy, and believe that at twenty-five there is still hope for the noble
but neglected nature, still time to repair the faults of birth,
education, and orphanhood. You say, I have a daring will, a love of
conquest. Can I not will to overcome myself and do it? Can I not learn
to be the woman I have seemed? Love has worked greater miracles, may it
not work this? I have longed to be a truer creature than I am; have seen
my wasted gifts, felt my capacity for better things, and looked for help
from many sources, but never found it till you came. Do you wonder that
I tried to make it mine? Adam, you are a self-elected missionary to the
world's afflicted; you can look beyond external poverty and see the
indigence of souls. I am a pauper in your eyes; stretch out your hand
and save me from myself."
Straight through the one vulnerable point in the man's pride went this
appeal to the man's pity. Indignation could not turn it aside, contempt
blunt its edge, or wounded feeling lessen its force; and yet it failed:
for in Adam Warwick justice was stronger than mercy, reason than
impulse, head than heart. Experience was a teacher whom he trusted; he
had weighed this woman and found her wanting; truth was not in her; the
patient endeavor, the hard-won success so possible to many was hardly so
to her, and a union between them could bring no lasting good to either.
He knew this; had decided it in a calmer hour than the present, and by
that decision he would now abide proof against all attacks from without
or from within. More gently, but as inflexibly as before, he said--
"I do put out my hand and offer you the same bitter draught of
self-contempt that proved a tonic to my own weak will. I can help, pity,
and forgive you heartily, but I dare not marry you. The tie that binds
us is a passion of the senses, not a love of the soul. You lack the
moral sentiment that makes all gifts and graces subservient to the
virtues that render womanhood a thing to honor as well as love. I can
relinquish youth, beauty, worldly advantages, but I must reverence above
all others the woman whom I marry, and feel an affection that elevates
me by quickening all that is noblest and manliest in me. With you I
should be either a tyrant or a slave. I will be neither, but go solitary
all my life rather than rashly mortgage the freedom kept inviolate so
long, or let the impulse of an hour mar the worth of coming years."
Bent and broken by the unanswerable accusations of what seemed a
conscience in human shape, Ottila had sunk down before him with an
abandonment as native to her as the indomitable will which still refused
to relinquish hope even in despair.
"Go," she said, "I am not worthy of salvation. Yet it is hard, very
hard, to lose the one motive strong enough to save me, the one sincere
affection of my life."
Warwick had expected a tempestuous outbreak at his decision; this entire
submission touched him, for in the last words of her brief lament he
detected the accent of truth, and longed to answer it. He paused,
searching for the just thing to be done. Ottila, with hidden face,
watched while she wept, and waited hopefully for the relenting sign. In
silence the two, a modern Samson and Delilah, waged the old war that has
gone on ever since the strong locks were shorn and the temple fell; a
war which fills the world with unmated pairs and the long train of evils
arising from marriages made from impulse, and not principle. As usual,
the most generous was worsted. The silence pleaded well for Ottila, and
when Warwick spoke it was to say impetuously--
"You are right! It is hard that when two err one alone should suffer. I
should have been wise enough to see the danger, brave enough to fly from
it. I was not, and I owe you some reparation for the pain my folly
brings you. I offer you the best, because the hardest, sacrifice that I
can make. You say love can work miracles, and that yours is the
sincerest affection of your life; prove it. In three months you
conquered me; can you conquer yourself in twelve?"
"I will. Nature takes a year for her harvests; I give you the same for
yours. If you will devote one half the energy and care to this work that
you devoted to that other,--will earnestly endeavor to cherish all that
is womanly and noble in yourself, and through desire for another's
respect earn your own,--I, too, will try to make myself a fitter mate
for any woman, and keep our troth unbroken for a year. Can I do more?"
"I dared not ask so much! I have not deserved it, but I will. Only love
me, Adam, and let me save myself through you."
Flushed and trembling with delight she rose, sure the trial was safely
passed, but found that for herself a new one had begun. Warwick offered
"Going? Surely you will stay and help me through my long probation?"
"No; if your desire has any worth you can work it out alone. We should
be hindrances to one another, and the labor be ill done."
"Where will you go? Not far, Adam."
"Straight to the North. This luxurious life enervates me; the pestilence
of slavery lurks in the air and infects me; I must build myself up anew
and find again the man I was."
"When must you go? Not soon."
"I shall hear from you?"
"Not till I come."
"But I shall need encouragement, shall grow hungry for a word, a thought
from you. A year is very long to wait and work alone."
Eloquently she pleaded with voice and eyes and tender lips, but Warwick
did not yield.
"If the test be tried at all it must be fairly tried. We must stand
entirely apart and see what saving virtue lies in self-denial and
"You will forget me, Adam. Some woman with a calmer heart than mine will
teach you to love as you desire to love, and when my work is done it
will be all in vain."
"Never in vain if it be well done, for such labor is its own reward.
Have no fear; one such lesson will last a lifetime. Do your part
heartily, and I will keep my pledge until the year is out."
"And then, what then?"
"If I see in you the progress both should desire, if this tie bears the
test of time and absence, and we find any basis for an abiding union,
then, Ottila, I will marry you."
"But if meanwhile that colder, calmer woman comes to you, what then?"
"Then I will not marry you."
"Ah, your promise is a man's vow, made only to be broken. I have no
faith in you."
"I think you may have. There will be no time for more folly; I must
repair the loss of many wasted days,--nay, not wasted if I have learned
this lesson well. Rest secure; it is impossible that I should love."
"You believed that three months ago and yet you are a lover now."
Ottila smiled an exultant smile, and Warwick acknowledged his proven
fallibility by a haughty flush and a frank amendment.
"Let it stand, then, that if I love again I am to wait in silence till
the year is out and you absolve me from my pledge. Does that satisfy
"It must. But you will come, whatever changes may befall you? Promise me
"I promise it."
"Going so soon? Oh, wait a little!"
"When a duty is to be done, do it at once; delay is dangerous. Good
"Give me some remembrance of you. I have nothing, for you are not a
"Generous in deeds, Ottila. I have given you a year's liberty, a dear
gift from one who values it more than life. Now I add this."
He drew her to him, kissed the red mouth and looked down upon her with a
glance that made his man's face as pitiful as any woman's as he let her
lean there happy in the hope given at such cost. For a moment nothing
stirred in the room but the soft whisper of the wind. For a moment
Warwick's austere life looked hard to him, love seemed sweet, submission
possible; for in all the world this was the only woman who clung to him,
and it was beautiful to cherish and be cherished after years of
solitude. A long sigh of desire and regret broke from him, and at the
sound a stealthy smile touched Ottila's lips as she whispered, with a
velvet cheek against his own--
"Love, you will stay?"
"I will not stay!"
And like one who cries out sharply within himself, "Get thee behind me!"
he broke away.
"Adam, come back to me! Come back!"
He looked over his shoulder, saw the fair woman in the heart of the warm
glow, heard her cry of love and longing, knew the life of luxurious ease
that waited for him, but steadily went out into the night, only
"In a year."
"Come, Sylvia, it is nine o'clock! Little slug-a-bed, don't you mean to
get up to-day?" said Miss Yule, bustling into her sister's room with the
wide-awake appearance of one to whom sleep was a necessary evil, to be
endured and gotten over as soon as possible.
"No, why should I?" And Sylvia turned her face away from the flood of
light that poured into the room as Prue put aside the curtains and flung
up the window.
"Why should you? What a question, unless you are ill; I was afraid you
would suffer for that long row yesterday, and my predictions seldom
"I am not suffering from any cause whatever, and your prediction does
fail this time; I am only tired of everybody and everything, and see
nothing worth getting up for; so I shall just stay here till I do.
Please put the curtain down and leave me in peace."
Prue had dropped her voice to the foreboding tone so irritating to
nervous persons whether sick or well, and Sylvia laid her arm across her
eyes with an impatient gesture as she spoke sharply.
"Nothing worth getting up for," cried Prue, like an aggravating echo.
"Why, child, there are a hundred pleasant things to do if you would only
think so. Now don't be dismal and mope away this lovely day. Get up and
try my plan; have a good breakfast, read the papers, and then work in
your garden before it grows too warm; that is wholesome exercise and
you've neglected it sadly of late."
"I don't wish any breakfast; I hate newspapers, they are so full of
lies; I'm tired of the garden, for nothing goes right this year; and I
detest taking exercise merely because it's wholesome. No, I'll not get
up for that."
"Then stay in the house and draw, read, or practise. Sit with Mark in
the studio; give Miss Hemming directions about your summer things, or go
into town about your bonnet. There is a matinée, try that; or make
calls, for you owe fifty at least. Now I'm sure there's employment
enough and amusement enough for any reasonable person."
Prue looked triumphant, but Sylvia was not a "reasonable person," and
went on in her former despondingly petulant strain.
"I'm tired of drawing; my head is a jumble of other people's ideas
already, and Herr Pedalsturm has put the piano out of tune. Mark always
makes a model of me if I go to him, and I don't like to see my eyes,
arms, or hair in all his pictures. Miss Hemming's gossip is worse than
fussing over new things that I don't need. Bonnets are my torment, and
matinées are wearisome, for people whisper and flirt till the music is
spoiled. Making calls is the worst of all; for what pleasure or profit
is there in running from place to place to tell the same polite fibs
over and over again, and listen to scandal that makes you pity or
despise your neighbors. I shall not get up for any of these things."
Prue leaned on the bedpost meditating with an anxious face till a
forlorn hope appeared which caused her to exclaim--
"Mark and I are going to see Geoffrey Moor, this morning, just home from
Switzerland, where his poor sister died, you know. You really ought to
come with us and welcome him, for though you can hardly remember him,
he's been so long away, still, as one of the family, it is a proper
compliment on your part. The drive will do you good, Geoffrey will be
glad to see you, it is a lovely old place, and as you never saw the
inside of the house you cannot complain that you are tired of that yet."
"Yes I can, for it will never seem as it has done, and I can no longer
go where I please now that a master's presence spoils its freedom and
solitude for me. I don't know him, and don't care to, though his name is
so familiar. New people always disappoint me, especially if I've heard
them praised ever since I was born. I shall not get up for any Geoffrey
Moor, so that bait fails."
Sylvia smiled involuntarily at her sister's defeat, but Prue fell back
upon her last resource in times like this. With a determined gesture she
plunged her hand into an abysmal pocket, and from a miscellaneous
collection of treasures selected a tiny vial, presenting it to Sylvia
with a half pleading, half authoritative look and tone.
"I'll leave you in peace if you'll only take a dose of chamomilla. It is
so soothing, that instead of tiring yourself with all manner of fancies,
you'll drop into a quiet sleep, and by noon be ready to get up like a
civilized being. Do take it, dear; just four sugar-plums, and I'm
Sylvia received the bottle with a docile expression; but the next minute
it flew out of the window, to be shivered on the walk below, while she
said, laughing like a wilful creature as she was--
"I have taken it in the only way I ever shall, and the sparrows can try
its soothing effects with me; so be satisfied."
"Very well. I shall send for Dr. Baum, for I'm convinced that you are
going to be ill. I shall say no more, but act as I think proper, because
it's like talking to the wind to reason with you in one of these
As Prue turned away, Sylvia frowned and called after her--
"Spare yourself the trouble, for Dr. Baum will follow the chamomilla, if
you bring him here. What does he know about health, a fat German,
looking lager beer and talking sauer-kraut? Bring me _bona fide_
sugar-plums and I'll take them; but arsenic, mercury, and nightshade are
not to my taste."
"Would you feel insulted if I ask whether your breakfast is to be sent
up, or kept waiting till you choose to come down?"
Prue looked rigidly calm, but Sylvia knew that she felt hurt, and with
one of the sudden impulses which ruled her the frown melted to a smile,
as drawing her sister down she kissed her in her most loving manner.
"Dear old soul, I'll be good by-and-by, but now I'm tired and cross, so
let me keep out of every one's way and drowse myself into a cheerier
frame of mind. I want nothing but solitude, a draught of water, and a
Prue was mollified at once, and after stirring fussily about for several
minutes gave her sister all she asked, and departed to the myriad small
cares that made her happiness. As the door closed, Sylvia sighed a long
sigh of relief, and folding her arms under her head drifted away into
the land of dreams, where ennui is unknown.
All the long summer morning she lay wrapt in sleeping and waking dreams,
forgetful of the world about her, till her brother played the Wedding
March upon her door on his way to lunch. The desire to avenge the sudden
downfall of a lovely castle in the air roused Sylvia, and sent her down
to skirmish with Mark. Before she could say a word, however, Prue began
to talk in a steady stream, for the good soul had a habit of jumbling
news, gossip, private opinions and public affairs into a colloquial
hodge-podge, that was often as trying to the intellects as the risibles
of her hearers.
"Sylvia, we had a charming call, and Geoffrey sent his love to you. I
asked him over to dinner, and we shall dine at six, because then my
father can be with us. I shall have to go to town first, for there are a
dozen things suffering for attention. You can't wear a round hat and
lawn jackets without a particle of set all summer. I want some things
for dinner,--and the carpet must be got. What a lovely one Geoffrey had
in the library! Then I must see if poor Mrs. Beck has had her leg
comfortably off, find out if Freddy Lennox is dead, and order home the
mosquito nettings. Now don't read all the afternoon, and be ready to
receive any one who may come if I should get belated."
The necessity of disposing of a suspended mouthful produced a lull, and
Sylvia seized the moment to ask in a careless way, intended to bring her
brother out upon his favorite topic,--
"How did you find your saint, Mark?"
"The same sunshiny soul as ever, though he has had enough to make him
old and grave before his time. He is just what we need in our
neighborhood, and particularly in our house, for we are a dismal set at
times, and he will do us all a world of good."
"What will become of me, with a pious, prosy, perfect creature eternally
haunting the house and exhorting me on the error of my ways!" cried
"Don't disturb yourself; he is not likely to take much notice of you;
and it is not for an indolent, freakish midge to scoff at a man whom she
does not know, and couldn't appreciate if she did," was Mark's lofty
"I rather liked the appearance of the saint, however," said Sylvia, with
an expression of naughty malice, as she began her lunch.
"Why, where did you see him!" exclaimed her brother.
"I went over there yesterday to take a farewell run in the neglected
garden before he came. I knew he was expected, but not that he was here;
and when I saw the house open, I slipped in and peeped wherever I liked.
You are right, Prue; it is a lovely old place."
"Now I know you did something dreadfully unladylike and improper. Put me
out of suspense, I beg of you."
Prue's distressful face and Mark's surprise produced an inspiring effect
upon Sylvia, who continued, with an air of demure satisfaction--
"I strolled about, enjoying myself, till I got into the library, and
there I rummaged, for it was a charming place, and I was happy as only
those are who love books, and feel their influence in the silence of a
room whose finest ornaments they are."
"I hope Moor came in and found you trespassing."
"No, I went out and caught him playing. When I'd stayed as long as I
dared, and borrowed a very interesting old book--
"Sylvia! did you really take one without asking?" cried Prue, looking
almost as much alarmed as if she had stolen the spoons.
"Yes; why not? I can apologize prettily, and it will open the way for
more. I intend to browse over that library for the next six months."
"But it was such a liberty,--so rude, so--- dear, dear; and he as fond
and careful of his books as if they were his children! Well, I wash my
hands of it, and am prepared for anything now!"
Mark enjoyed Sylvia's pranks too much to reprove, so he only laughed
while one sister lamented and the other placidly went on--
"When I had put the book nicely in my pocket, Prue, I walked into the
garden. But before I'd picked a single flower, I heard little Tilly
laugh behind the hedge and some strange voice talking to her. So I
hopped upon a roller to see, and nearly tumbled off again; for there was
a man lying on the grass, with the gardener's children rioting over him.
Will was picking his pockets, and Tilly eating strawberries out of his
hat, often thrusting one into the mouth of her long neighbor, who always
smiled when the little hand came fumbling at his lips. You ought to have
seen the pretty picture, Mark."
"Did he see the interesting picture on your side of the wall?"
"No, I was just thinking what friendly eyes he had, listening to his
pleasant talk with the little folks, and watching how they nestled to
him as if he were a girl, when Tilly looked up and cried, 'I see
Silver!' So I ran away, expecting to have them all come racing after.
But no one appeared, and I only heard a laugh instead of the 'stop
thief' that I deserved."
"If I had time I should convince you of the impropriety of such wild
actions; as I haven't, I can only implore you never to do so again on
Geoffrey's premises," said Prue, rising as the carriage drove round.
"I can safely promise that," answered Sylvia, with a dismal shake of the
head, as she leaned listlessly from the window till her brother and
sister were gone.
At the appointed time Moor entered Mr. Yule's hospitably open door; but
no one came to meet him, and the house was as silent as if nothing human
inhabited it. He divined the cause of this, having met Prue and Mark
going downward some hours before, and saying to himself, "The boat is
late," he disturbed no one, but strolled into the drawing-rooms and
looked about him. Being one of those who seldom find time heavy on their
hands, he amused himself with observing what changes had been made
during his absence. His journey round the apartments was not a long one,
for, coming to an open window, he paused with an expression of mingled
wonder and amusement.
A pile of cushions, pulled from chair and sofa, lay before the long
window, looking very like a newly deserted nest. A warm-hued picture
lifted from the wall stood in a streak of sunshine; a half-cleared leaf
of fruit lay on a taboret, and beside it, with a red stain on its
title-page, appeared the stolen book. At sight of this Moor frowned,
caught up his desecrated darling and put it in his pocket. But as he
took another glance at the various indications of what had evidently
been a solitary revel very much after his own heart, he relented, laid
back the book, and, putting aside the curtain floating in the wind,
looked out into the garden, attracted thither by the sound of a spade.
A lad was at work near by, and wondering what new inmate the house had
gained, the neglected guest waited to catch a glimpse of the unknown
face. A slender boy, in a foreign-looking blouse of grey linen; a white
collar lay over a ribbon at the throat, stout half boots covered a trim
pair of feet, and a broad-brimmed hat flapped low on the forehead.
Whistling softly he dug with active gestures; and, having made the
necessary cavity, set a shrub, filled up the hole, trod it down
scientifically, and then fell back to survey the success of his labors.
But something was amiss, something had been forgotten, for suddenly up
came the shrub, and seizing a wheelbarrow that stood near by, away
rattled the boy round the corner out of sight. Moor smiled at his
impetuosity, and awaited his return with interest, suspecting from
appearances that this was some _protégé_ of Mark's employed as a model
as well as gardener's boy.
Presently up the path came the lad, with head down and steady pace,
trundling a barrow full of richer earth, surmounted by a watering-pot.
Never stopping for breath he fell to work again, enlarged the hole,
flung in the loam, poured in the water, reset the shrub, and when the
last stamp and pat were given performed a little dance of triumph about
it, at the close of which he pulled off his hat and began to fan his
heated face. The action caused the observer to start and look again,
thinking, as he recognized the energetic worker with a smile, "What a
changeful thing it is! haunting one's premises unseen, and stealing
one's books unsuspected; dreaming one half the day and masquerading the
other half. What will happen next? Let us see but not be seen, lest the
boy turn shy and run away before the pretty play is done!"
Holding the curtain between the window and himself, Moor peeped through
the semi-transparent screen, enjoying the little episode immensely.
Sylvia fanned and rested a few minutes, then went up and down among the
flowers, often pausing to break a dead leaf, to brush away some harmful
insect, or lift some struggling plant into the light; moving among them
as if akin to them, and cognizant of their sweet wants. If she had
seemed strong-armed and sturdy as a boy before, now she was tender
fingered as a woman, and went humming here and there like any
"Curious child!" thought Moor, watching the sunshine glitter on her
uncovered head, and listening to the air she left half sung. "I've a
great desire to step out and see how she will receive me. Not like any
other girl, I fancy."
But, before he could execute his design, the roll of a carriage was
heard in the avenue, and pausing an instant, with head erect like a
startled doe, Sylvia turned and vanished, dropping flowers as she ran.
Mr. Yule, accompanied by his son and daughter, came hurrying in with
greetings, explanations, and apologies, and in a moment the house was
full of a pleasant stir. Steps went up and down, voices echoed through
the rooms, savory odors burst forth from below, and doors swung in the
wind, as if the spell was broken and the sleeping palace had wakened
with a word.
Prue made a hasty toilet and harassed the cook to the verge of
spontaneous combustion, while Mark and his father devoted themselves to
their guest. Just as dinner was announced Sylvia came in, as calm and
cool as if wheelbarrows were myths and linen suits unknown. Moor was
welcomed with a quiet hand-shake, a grave salutation, and a look that
seemed to say, "Wait a little, I take no friends on trust."
All through dinner, though she sat as silent as a well-bred child, she
looked and listened with an expression of keen intelligence that
children do not wear, and sometimes smiled to herself, as if she saw or
heard something that pleased and interested her. When they rose from
table she followed Prue up stairs, quite forgetting the disarray in
which the drawing-room was left. The gentlemen took possession before
either sister returned, and Mark's annoyance found vent in a philippic
against oddities in general and Sylvia in particular; but his father and
friend sat in the cushionless chairs, and pronounced the scene amusingly
novel. Prue appeared in the midst of the laugh, and having discovered
other delinquencies above, her patience was exhausted, and her regrets
found no check in the presence of so old a friend as Moor.
"Something must be done about that child, father, for she is getting
entirely beyond my control. If I attempt to make her study she writes
poetry instead of her exercises, draws caricatures instead of sketching
properly, and bewilders her music teacher by asking questions about
Beethoven and Mendelssohn, as if they were personal friends of his. If I
beg her to take exercise, she rides like an Amazon all over the Island,
grubs in the garden as if for her living, or goes paddling about the bay
till I'm distracted lest the tide should carry her out to sea. She is so
wanting in moderation she gets ill, and when I give her proper medicines
she flings them out of the window, and threatens to send that worthy,
Dr. Baum, after them. Yet she must need something to set her right, for
she is either overflowing with unnatural spirits or melancholy enough
to break one's heart."
"What have you done with the little black sheep of my flock,--not
banished her, I hope?" said Mr. Yule, placidly, ignoring all complaints.
"She is in the garden, attending to some of her disagreeable pets, I
fancy. If you are going out there to smoke, please send her in, Mark; I
As Mr. Yule was evidently yearning for his after-dinner nap, and Mark
for his cigar, Moor followed his friend, and they stepped through the
window into the garden, now lovely with the fading glow of summer
"You must know that this peculiar little sister of mine clings to some
of her childish beliefs and pleasures in spite of Prue's preaching and
my raillery," began Mark, after a refreshing whiff or two. "She is
overflowing with love and good will, but being too shy or too proud to
offer it to her fellow-creatures, she expends it upon the necessitous
inhabitants of earth, air, and water with the most charming
philanthropy. Her dependants are neither beautiful nor very interesting,
nor is she sentimentally enamored of them; but the more ugly and
desolate the creature, the more devoted is she. Look at her now; most
young ladies would have hysterics over any one of those pets of hers."
Moor looked, and thought the group a very pretty one, though a plump
toad sat at Sylvia's feet, a roly-poly caterpillar was walking up her
sleeve, a blind bird chirped on her shoulder, bees buzzed harmlessly
about her head, as if they mistook her for a flower, and in her hand a
little field mouse was breathing its short life away. Any tender-hearted
girl might have stood thus surrounded by helpless things that pity had
endeared, but few would have regarded them with an expression like that
which Sylvia wore. Figure, posture, and employment were so childlike in
their innocent unconsciousness, that the contrast was all the more
strongly marked between them and the sweet thoughtfulness that made her
face singularly attractive with the charm of dawning womanhood. Moor
spoke before Mark could dispose of his smoke.
"This is a great improvement upon the boudoir full of lap-dogs,
worsted-work and novels, Miss Sylvia. May I ask if you feel no
repugnance to some of your patients; or is your charity strong enough to
beautify them all?"
"I dislike many people, but few animals, because however ugly I pity
them, and whatever I pity I am sure to love. It may be silly, but I
think it does me good; and till I am wise enough to help my
fellow-beings, I try to do my duty to these humbler sufferers, and find
them both grateful and affectionate."
There was something very winning in the girl's manner as she spoke,
touching the little creature in her hand almost as tenderly as if it had
been a child. It showed the newcomer another phase of this many-sided
character; and while Sylvia related the histories of her pets at his
request, he was enjoying that finer history which every ingenuous soul
writes on its owner's countenance for gifted eyes to read and love. As
she paused, the little mouse lay stark and still in her gentle hand; and
though they smiled at themselves, both young men felt like boys again as
they helped her scoop a grave among the pansies, owning the beauty of
compassion, though she showed it to them in such a simple shape.
Then Mark delivered his message, and Sylvia went away to receive Prue's
lecture, with outward meekness, but such an absent mind that the words
of wisdom went by her like the wind.
"Now come and take our twilight stroll, while Mark keeps Mr. Moor in the
studio and Prue prepares another exhortation," said Sylvia, as her
father woke, and taking his arm, they paced along the wide piazza that
encircled the whole house.
"Will father do me a little favor?"
"That is all he lives for, dear."
"Then his life is a very successful one;" and the girl folded her other
hand over that already on his arm. Mr. Yule shook his head with a
regretful sigh, but asked benignly--
"What shall I do for my little daughter?"
"Forbid Mark to execute a plot with which he threatens me. He says he
will bring every gentleman he knows (and that is a great many) to the
house, and make it so agreeable that they will keep coming; for he
insists that I need amusement, and nothing will be so entertaining as a
lover or two. Please tell him not to, for I don't want any lovers yet."
"Why not?" asked her father, much amused at her twilight confidences.
"I'm afraid. Love is so cruel to some people, I feel as if it would be
to me, for I am always in extremes, and continually going wrong while
trying to go right. Love bewilders the wisest, and it would make me
quite blind or mad, I know; therefore I'd rather have nothing to do with
it, for a long, long while."
"Then Mark shall be forbidden to bring a single specimen. I very much
prefer to keep you as you are. And yet you may be happier to do as
others do; try it, if you like, my dear."
"But I can't do as others do; I've tried, and failed. Last winter, when
Prue made me go about, though people probably thought me a stupid little
thing, moping in corners, I was enjoying myself in my own way, and
making discoveries that have been very useful ever since. I know I'm
whimsical, and hard to please, and have no doubt the fault was in
myself, but I was disappointed in nearly every one I met, though I went
into what Prue calls 'our best society.' The girls seemed all made on
the same pattern; they all said, did, thought, and wore about the same
things, and knowing one was as good as knowing a dozen. Jessie Hope was
the only one I cared much for, and she is so pretty, she seems made to
be looked at and loved."
"How did you find the young gentlemen, Sylvia?"
"Still worse; for, though lively enough among themselves they never
found it worth their while to offer us any conversation but such as was
very like the champagne and ice-cream they brought us,--sparkling,
sweet, and unsubstantial. Almost all of them wore the superior air they
put on before women, an air that says as plainly as words, 'I may ask
you and I may not.' Now that is very exasperating to those who care no
more for them than so many grasshoppers, and I often longed to take the
conceit out of them by telling some of the criticisms passed upon them
by the amiable young ladies who looked as if waiting to say meekly,
'Yes, thank you.'"
"Don't excite yourself, my dear; it is all very lamentable and
laughable, but we must submit till the world learns better. There are
often excellent young persons among the 'grasshoppers,' and if you cared
to look you might find a pleasant friend here and there," said Mr.
Yule, leaning a little toward his son's view of the matter.
"No, I cannot even do that without being laughed at; for no sooner do I
mention the word friendship than people nod wisely and look as if they
said, 'Oh, yes, every one knows what that sort of thing amounts to.' I
should like a friend, father; some one beyond home, because he would be
newer; a man (old or young, I don't care which), because men go where
they like, see things with their own eyes, and have more to tell if they
choose. I want a person simple, wise, and entertaining; and I think I
should make a very grateful friend if such an one was kind enough to
"I think you would, and perhaps if you try to be more like others you
will find friends as they do, and so be happy, Sylvia."
"I cannot be like others, and their friendships would not satisfy me. I
don't try to be odd; I long to be quiet and satisfied, but I cannot; and
when I do what Prue calls wild things, it is not because I am
thoughtless or idle, but because I am trying to be good and happy. The
old ways fail, so I attempt new ones, hoping they will succeed; but they
don't, and I still go looking and longing for happiness, yet always
failing to find it, till sometimes I think I am a born disappointment."
"Perhaps love would bring the happiness, my dear?"
"I'm afraid not; but, however that may be, I shall never go running
about for a lover as half my mates do. When the true one comes I shall
know him, love him at once, and cling to him forever, no matter what may
happen. Till then I want a friend, and I will find one if I can. Don't
you believe there may be real and simple friendships between men and
women without falling into this everlasting sea of love?"
Mr. Yule was laughing quietly under cover of the darkness, but composed
himself to answer gravely--
"Yes, for some of the most beautiful and famous friendships have been
such, and I see no reason why there may not be again. Look about,
Sylvia, make yourself happy; and, whether you find friend or lover,
remember there is always the old Papa glad to do his best for you in
Sylvia's hand crept to her father's shoulder, and her voice was full of
daughterly affection, as she said--
"I'll have no lover but 'the old Papa' for a long while yet. But I will
look about, and if I am fortunate enough to find and good enough to keep
the person I want, I shall be very happy; for, father, I really think I
need a friend."
Here Mark called his sister in to sing to them, a demand that would have
been refused but for a promise to Prue to behave her best as an
atonement for past pranks. Stepping in she sat down and gave Moor
another surprise, as from her slender throat there came a voice whose
power and pathos made a tragedy of the simple ballad she was singing.
"Why did you choose that plaintive thing, all about love, despair, and
death? It quite breaks one's heart to hear it," said Prue, pausing in a
mental estimate of her morning's shopping.
"It came into my head, and so I sung it. Now I'll try another, for I am
bound to please you--if I can." And she broke out again with an airy
melody as jubilant as if a lark had mistaken moonlight for the dawn and
soared skyward, singing as it went. So blithe and beautiful were both
voice and song they caused a sigh of pleasure, a sensation of keen
delight in the listener, and seemed to gift the singer with an
unsuspected charm. As she ended Sylvia turned about, and seeing the
satisfaction of their guest in his face, prevented him from expressing
it in words by saying, in her frank way--
"Never mind the compliments. I know my voice is good, for that you may
thank nature; that it is well trained, for that praise Herr Pedalsturm;
and that you have heard it at all, you owe to my desire to atone for
certain trespasses of yesterday and to-day, because I seldom sing before
"Allow me to offer my hearty thanks to Nature, Pedalsturm, and
Penitence, and also to hope that in time I may be regarded, not as a
stranger, but a neighbor and a friend."
Something in the gentle emphasis of the last word struck pleasantly on
the girl's ear, and seemed to answer an unspoken longing. She looked up
at him with a searching glance, appeared to find some 'assurance given
by looks,' and as a smile broke over her face she offered her hand as if
obeying a sudden impulse, and said, half to him, half to herself--
"I think I have found the friend already."
Sylvia sat sewing in the sunshine with an expression on her face half
mirthful, half melancholy, as she looked backward to the girlhood just
ended, and forward to the womanhood just beginning, for on that
midsummer day, she was eighteen. Voices roused her from her reverie,
and, looking up, she saw her brother approaching with two friends, their
neighbor Geoffrey Moor and his guest Adam Warwick. Her first impulse was
to throw down her work and run to meet them, her second to remember her
new dignity and sit still, awaiting them with well-bred composure, quite
unconscious that the white figure among the vines added a picturesque
finish to the quiet summer scene.
They came up warm and merry, with a brisk row across the bay, and Sylvia
met them with a countenance that gave a heartier welcome than her words,
as she greeted the neighbor cordially, the stranger courteously, and
began to gather up her work when they seated themselves in the bamboo
chairs scattered about the wide piazza.
"You need not disturb yourself," said Mark, "we are only making this a
way-station, _en route_ for the studio. Can you tell me where my
knapsack is to be found? after one of Prue's stowages, nothing short of
a divining-rod will discover it, I'm afraid."
"I know where it is. Are you going away again so soon, Mark?"
"Only a two days' trip up the river with these mates of mine. No,
Sylvia, it can't be done."
"I did not say anything."
"Not in words, but you looked a whole volley of 'Can't I goes?' and I
answered it. No girl but you would dream of such a thing; you hate
picnics, and as this will be a long and rough one, don't you see how
absurd it would be for you to try it?"
"I don't quite see it, Mark, for this would not be an ordinary picnic;
it would be like a little romance to me, and I had rather have it than
any birthday present you could give me. We used to have such happy times
together before we were grown up, I don't like to be so separated now.
But if it is not best, I'm sorry that I even looked a wish."
Sylvia tried to keep both disappointment and desire out of her voice as
she spoke, though a most intense longing had taken possession of her
when she heard of a projected pleasure so entirely after her own heart.
But there was an unconscious reproach in her last words, a mute appeal in
the wistful eyes that looked across the glittering bay to the green
hills beyond. Now, Mark was both fond and proud of the young sister,
who, while he was studying art abroad, had studied nature at home, till
the wayward but winning child had bloomed into a most attractive girl.
He remembered her devotion to him, his late neglect of her, and longed
to make atonement. With elevated eyebrows and inquiring glances, he
turned from one friend to another. Moor nodded and smiled, Warwick
nodded, and sighed privately, and having taken the sense of the meeting
by a new style of vote, Mark suddenly announced--
"You can go if you like, Sylvia."
"What!" cried his sister, starting up with a characteristic impetuosity
that sent her basket tumbling down the steps, and crowned her dozing cat
with Prue's nightcap frills. "Do you mean it, Mark? Wouldn't it spoil
your pleasure, Mr. Moor? Shouldn't I be a trouble, Mr. Warwick? Tell me
frankly, for if I can go I shall be happier than I can express."
The gentlemen smiled at her eagerness, but as they saw the altered face
she turned toward them, each felt already repaid for any loss of freedom
they might experience hereafter, and gave unanimous consent. Upon
receipt of which Sylvia felt inclined to dance about the three and bless
them audibly, but restrained herself, and beamed upon them in a state of
wordless gratitude pleasant to behold. Having given a rash consent, Mark
now thought best to offer a few obstacles to enhance its value and try
his sister's mettle.
"Don't ascend into the air like a young balloon, child, but hear the
conditions upon which you go, for if you fail to work three miracles it
is all over with you. Firstly, the consent of the higher powers, for
father will dread all sorts of dangers--you are such a freakish
creature,--and Prue will be scandalized because trips like this are not the
fashion for young ladies."
"Consider that point settled and go on to the next," said Sylvia, who,
having ruled the house ever since she was born, had no fears of success
with either father or sister.
"Secondly, you must do yourself up in as compact a parcel as possible;
for though you little women are very ornamental on land, you are not
very convenient for transportation by water. Cambric gowns and French
slippers are highly appropriate and agreeable at the present moment,
but must be sacrificed to the stern necessities of the case. You must
make a dowdy of yourself in some usefully short, scant, dingy costume,
which will try the nerves of all beholders, and triumphantly prove that
women were never meant for such excursions."
"Wait five minutes and I'll triumphantly prove to the contrary,"
answered Sylvia, as she ran into the house.
Her five minutes was sufficiently elastic to cover fifteen, for she was
ravaging her wardrobe to effect her purpose and convince her brother,
whose artistic tastes she consulted, with a skill that did her good
service in the end. Rapidly assuming a gray gown, with a jaunty jacket
of the same, she kilted the skirt over one of green, the pedestrian
length of which displayed boots of uncompromising thickness. Over her
shoulder, by a broad ribbon, she slung a prettily wrought pouch, and
ornamented her hat pilgrim-wise with a cockle shell. Then taking her
brother's alpen-stock she crept down, and standing in the door-way
presented a little figure all in gray and green, like the earth she was
going to wander over, and a face that blushed and smiled and shone as
she asked demurely--
"Please, Mark, am I picturesque and convenient enough to go?"
He wheeled about and stared approvingly, forgetting cause in effect till
Warwick began to laugh like a merry bass viol, and Moor joined him,
"Come, Mark, own that you are conquered, and let us turn our commonplace
voyage into a pleasure pilgrimage, with a lively lady to keep us knights
and gentlemen wherever we are."
"I say no more; only remember, Sylvia, if you get burnt, drowned, or
blown away, I'm not responsible for the damage, and shall have the
satisfaction of saying, 'There, I told you so.'"
"That satisfaction may be mine when I come home quite safe and well,"
replied Sylvia, serenely. "Now for the last condition."
Warwick looked with interest from the sister to the brother; for, being
a solitary man, domestic scenes and relations possessed the charm of
novelty to him.
"Thirdly, you are not to carry a boat-load of luggage, cloaks, pillows,
silver forks, or a dozen napkins, but are to fare as we fare, sleeping
in hammocks, barns, or on the bare ground, without shrieking at bats or
bewailing the want of mosquito netting; eating when, where, and what is
most convenient, and facing all kinds of weather regardless of
complexion, dishevelment, and fatigue. If you can promise all this, be
here loaded and ready to go off at six o'clock to-morrow morning."
After which cheerful picture of the joys to come, Mark marched away to
his studio, taking his friends with him.
Sylvia worked the three miracles, and at half past five, A. M. was
discovered sitting on the piazza, with her hammock rolled into a twine
sausage at her feet, her hat firmly tied on, her scrip packed, and her
staff in her hand. "Waiting till called for," she said, as her brother
passed her, late and yawning as usual. As the clock struck six the
carriage drove round, and Moor and Warwick came up the avenue in
nautical array. Then arose a delightful clamor of voices, slamming of
doors, hurrying of feet and frequent peals of laughter; for every one
was in holiday spirits, and the morning seemed made for pleasuring.
Mr. Yule regarded the voyagers with an aspect as benign as the summer
sky overhead; Prue ran to and fro pouring forth a stream of counsels,
warnings, and predictions; men and maids gathered on the lawn or hung
out of upper windows; and even old Hecate, the cat, was seen chasing
imaginary rats and mice in the grass till her yellow eyes glared with
excitement. "All in," was announced at last, and as the carriage rolled
away its occupants looked at one another with faces of blithe
satisfaction that their pilgrimage was so auspiciously begun.
A mile or more up the river the large, newly-painted boat awaited them.
The embarkation was a speedy one, for the cargo was soon stowed in
lockers and under seats, Sylvia forwarded to her place in the bow; Mark,
as commander of the craft, took the helm; Moor and Warwick, as crew, sat
waiting orders; and Hugh, the coachman, stood ready to push off at word
of command. Presently it came, a strong hand sent them rustling through
the flags, down dropped the uplifted oars, and with a farewell cheer
from a group upon the shore the Kelpie glided out into the stream.
Sylvia, too full of genuine content to talk, sat listening to the
musical dip of well-pulled oars, watching the green banks on either
side, dabbling her hands in the eddies as they rippled by, and singing
to the wind, as cheerful and serene as the river that gave her back a
smiling image of herself. What her companions talked of she neither
heard nor cared to know, for she was looking at the great picture-book
that always lies ready for the turning of the youngest or the oldest
hands; was receiving the welcome of the playmates she best loved, and
was silently yielding herself to the power which works all wonders with
its benignant magic. Hour after hour she journeyed along that fluent
road. Under bridges where early fishers lifted up their lines to let
them through; past gardens tilled by unskilful townsmen who harvested an
hour of strength to pay the daily tax the city levied on them; past
honeymoon cottages where young wives walked with young husbands in the
dew, or great houses shut against the morning. Lovers came floating down
the stream with masterless rudder and trailing oars. College race-boats
shot by with modern Greek choruses in full blast and the frankest
criticisms from their scientific crews. Fathers went rowing to and fro
with argosies of pretty children, who gave them gay good morrows.
Sometimes they met fanciful nutshells manned by merry girls, who made
for shore at sight of them with most erratic movements and novel
commands included in their Art of Navigation. Now and then some poet or
philosopher went musing by, fishing for facts or fictions, where other
men catch pickerel or perch.
All manner of sights and sounds greeted Sylvia, and she felt as if she
were watching a Panorama painted in water colors by an artist who had
breathed into his work the breath of life and given each figure power to
play its part. Never had human faces looked so lovely to her eye, for
morning beautified the plainest with its ruddy kiss; never had human
voices sounded so musical to her ear, for daily cares had not yet
brought discord to the instruments tuned by sleep and touched by
sunshine into pleasant sound; never had the whole race seemed so near
and dear to her, for she was unconsciously pledging all she met in that
genuine Elixir Vitæ which sets the coldest blood aglow and makes the
whole world kin; never had she felt so truly her happiest self, for of
all the costlier pleasures she had known not one had been so congenial
as this, as she rippled farther and farther up the stream and seemed to
float into a world whose airs brought only health and peace. Her
comrades wisely left her to her thoughts, a smiling Silence for their
figure-head, and none among them but found the day fairer and felt
himself fitter to enjoy it for the innocent companionship of maidenhood
and a happy heart.
At noon they dropped anchor under a wide-spreading oak that stood on the
river's edge, a green tent for wanderers like themselves; there they ate
their first meal spread among white clovers, with a pair of squirrels
staring at them as curiously as human spectators ever watched royalty at
dinner, while several meek cows courteously left their guests the shade
and went away to dine at a side-table spread in the sun. They spent an
hour or two talking or drowsing luxuriously on the grass; then the
springing up of a fresh breeze roused them all, and weighing anchor they
set sail for another port.
Now Sylvia saw new pictures, for, leaving all traces of the city behind
them, they went swiftly countryward. Sometimes by hayfields, each an
idyl in itself, with white-sleeved mowers all arow; the pleasant sound
of whetted scythes; great loads rumbling up lanes, with brown-faced
children shouting atop; rosy girls raising fragrant winrows or bringing
water for thirsty sweethearts leaning on their rakes. Often they saw
ancient farm-houses with mossy roofs, and long well-sweeps suggestive of
fresh draughts, and the drip of brimming pitchers; orchards and
cornfields rustling on either hand, and grandmotherly caps at the narrow
windows, or stout matrons tending babies in the doorway as they watched
smaller selves playing keep house under the "laylocks" by the wall.
Villages, like white flocks, slept on the hillsides; martinbox
schoolhouses appeared here and there, astir with busy voices, alive
with wistful eyes; and more than once they came upon little mermen
bathing, who dived with sudden splashes, like a squad of turtles
tumbling off a sunny rock.
Then they went floating under vernal arches, where a murmurous rustle
seemed to whisper, "Stay!" along shadowless sweeps, where the blue
turned to gold and dazzled with its unsteady shimmer; passed islands so
full of birds they seemed green cages floating in the sun, or doubled
capes that opened long vistas of light and shade, through which they
sailed into the pleasant land where summer reigned supreme. To Sylvia it
seemed as if the inhabitants of these solitudes had flocked down to the
shore to greet her as she came. Fleets of lilies unfurled their sails on
either hand, and cardinal flowers waved their scarlet flags among the
green. The sagittaria lifted its blue spears from arrowy leaves; wild
roses smiled at her with blooming faces; meadow lilies rang their
flame-colored bells; and clematis and ivy hung garlands everywhere, as
if hers were a floral progress, and each came to do her honor.
Her neighbors kept up a flow of conversation as steady as the river's,
and Sylvia listened now. Insensibly the changeful scenes before them
recalled others, and in the friendly atmosphere that surrounded them
these reminiscences found free expression. Each of the three had been
fortunate in seeing much of foreign life; each had seen a different
phase of it, and all were young enough to be still enthusiastic,
accomplished enough to serve up their recollections with taste and
skill, and give Sylvia glimpses of the world through spectacles
sufficiently rose-colored to lend it the warmth which even Truth allows
to her sister Romance.
The wind served them till sunset, then the sail was lowered and the
rowers took to their oars. Sylvia demanded her turn, and wrestled with
one big oar while Warwick sat behind and did the work. Having blistered
her hands and given herself as fine a color as any on her brother's
palette, she professed herself satisfied, and went back to her seat to
watch the evening-red transfigure earth and sky, making the river and
its banks a more royal pageant than splendor-loving Elizabeth ever saw
along the Thames.
Anxious to reach a certain point, they rowed on into the twilight,
growing stiller and stiller as the deepening hush seemed to hint that
Nature was at her prayers. Slowly the Kelpie floated along the shadowy
way, and as the shores grew dim, the river dark with leaning hemlocks or
an overhanging cliff, Sylvia felt as if she were making the last voyage
across that fathomless stream where a pale boatman plies and many go
The long silence was broken first by Moor's voice, saying--
If the influences of the hour had calmed Mark, touched Sylvia, and made
Moor long for music, they had also softened Warwick. Leaning on his oar
he lent the music of a mellow voice to the words of a German Volkslied,
and launched a fleet of echoes such as any tuneful vintager might have
sent floating down the Rhine. Sylvia was no weeper, but as she listened,
all the day's happiness which had been pent up in her heart found vent
in sudden tears, that streamed down noiseless and refreshing as a warm
south rain. Why they came she could not tell, for neither song nor
singer possessed the power to win so rare a tribute, and at another
time, she would have restrained all visible expression of this
indefinable yet sweet emotion. Mark and Moor had joined in the burden of
the song, and when that was done took up another; but Sylvia only sat
and let her tears flow while they would, singing at heart, though her
eyes were full and her cheeks wet faster than the wind could kiss them
After frequent peerings and tackings here and there, Mark at last
discovered the haven he desired, and with much rattling of oars,
clanking of chains, and splashing of impetuous boots, a landing was
effected, and Sylvia found herself standing on a green bank with her
hammock in her arms and much wonderment in her mind whether the
nocturnal experiences in store for her would prove as agreeable as the
daylight ones had been. Mark and Moor unloaded the boat and prospected
for an eligible sleeping-place. Warwick, being an old campaigner, set
about building a fire, and the girl began her sylvan housekeeping. The
scene rapidly brightened into light and color as the blaze sprang up,
showing the little kettle slung gipsywise on forked sticks, and the
supper prettily set forth in a leafy table-service on a smooth, flat
stone. Soon four pairs of wet feet surrounded the fire; an agreeable
oblivion of _meum_ and _tuum_ concerning plates, knives, and cups did
away with etiquette, and every one was in a comfortable state of
weariness, which rendered the thought of bed so pleasant that they
deferred their enjoyment of the reality, as children keep the best bite
till the last.
"What are you thinking of here all by yourself?" asked Mark, coming to
lounge on his sister's plaid, which she had spread somewhat apart from
the others, and where she sat watching the group before her with a
"I was watching your two friends. See what a fine study they make with
the red flicker of the fire on their faces and the background of dark
pines behind them."
They did make a fine study, for both were goodly men yet utterly unlike,
one being of the heroic type, the other of the poetic. Warwick was a
head taller than his tall friend, broad-shouldered, strong-limbed, and
bronzed by wind and weather. A massive head, covered with rings of ruddy
brown hair, gray eyes, that seemed to pierce through all disguises, an
eminent nose, and a beard like one of Mark's stout saints. Power,
intellect, and courage were stamped on face and figure, making him the
manliest man that Sylvia had ever seen. He leaned against the stone, yet
nothing could have been less reposeful than his attitude, for the native
unrest of the man asserted itself in spite of weariness or any soothing
influence of time or place. Moor was much slighter, and betrayed in
every gesture the unconscious grace of the gentleman born. A most
attractive face, with its broad brow, serene eyes, and the cordial smile
about the mouth. A sweet, strong nature, one would say, which, having
used life well had learned the secret of a true success. Inward
tranquillity seemed his, and it was plain to see that no wave of sound,
no wandering breath, no glimpse of color, no hint of night or nature was
without its charm and its significance for him.
"Tell me about that man, Mark. I have heard you speak of him since you
came home, but supposing he was some blowzy artist, I never cared to ask
about him. Now I've seen him, I want to know more," said Sylvia, as her
brother laid himself down after an approving glance at the group
"I met him in Munich, when I first went abroad, and since then we have
often come upon each other in our wanderings. He never writes, but goes
and comes intent upon his own affairs; yet one never can forget him, and
is always glad to feel the grip of his hand again, it seems to put such
life and courage into one."
"Is he good?" asked Sylvia, womanlike, beginning with the morals.
"Violently virtuous. He is a masterful soul, bent on living out his
beliefs and aspirations at any cost. Much given to denunciation of
wrong-doing everywhere, and eager to execute justice upon all offenders
high or low. Yet he possesses great nobility of character, great
audacity of mind, and leads a life of the sternest integrity."
"Is he rich?"
"In his own eyes, because he makes his wants so few."
"Is he married?"
"No; he has no family, and not many friends, for he says what he means
in the bluntest English, and few stand the test his sincerity applies."
"What does he do in the world?"
"Studies it, as we do books; dives into everything, analyzes character,
and builds up his own with materials which will last. If that's not
genius it's something better."
"Then he will do much good and be famous, won't he?"
"Great good to many, but never will be famous, I fear. He is too fierce
an iconoclast to suit the old party, too individual a reformer to join
the new, and being born a century too soon must bide his time, or play
out his part before stage and audience are ready for him."
"Is he learned?"
"Very, in uncommon sorts of wisdom; left college after a year of it,
because it could not give him what he wanted, and taking the world for
his university, life for his tutor, says he shall not graduate till his
term ends with days."
"I know I shall like him very much."
"I hope so, for my sake. He is a grand man in the rough, and an
excellent tonic for those who have courage to try him."
Sylvia was silent, thinking over all she had just heard and finding much
to interest her in it, because, to her imaginative and enthusiastic
nature, there was something irresistibly attractive in the strong,
solitary, self-reliant man. Mark watched her for a moment, then asked
with lazy curiosity--
"How do you like this other friend of mine?"
"He went away when I was such a child that since he came back I've had
to begin again; but if I like him at the end of another month as much as
I do now, I shall try to make your friend my friend, because I need such
an one very much."
Mark laughed at the innocent frankness of his sister's speech but took
it as she meant it, and answered soberly--
"Better leave Platonics till you're forty. Though Moor is twelve years
older than yourself he is a young man still, and you are grown a very
captivating little woman."
Sylvia looked both scornful and indignant.
"You need have no fears. There is such a thing as true and simple
friendship between men and women, and if I can find no one of my own sex
who can give me the help and happiness I want, why may I not look for it
anywhere and accept it in whatever shape it comes?"
"You may, my dear, and I'll lend a hand with all my heart, but you must
be willing to take the consequences in whatever shape _they_ come," said
Mark, not ill pleased with the prospect his fancy conjured up.
"I will," replied Sylvia loftily, and fate took her at her word.
Presently some one suggested bed, and the proposition was unanimously
"Where are you going to hang me?" asked Sylvia, as she laid hold of her
hammock and looked about her with nearly as much interest as if her
suspension was to be of the perpendicular order.
"You are not to be swung up in a tree to-night but laid like a ghost,
and requested not to walk till morning. There is an unused barn close
by, so we shall have a roof over us for one night longer," answered
Mark, playing chamberlain while the others remained to quench the fire
and secure the larder.
An early moon lighted Sylvia to bed, and when shown her half the barn,
which, as she was a Marine, was very properly the bay, Mark explained,
she scouted the idea of being nervous or timid in such rude quarters,
made herself a cosy nest and bade her brother a merry good night.
More weary than she would confess, Sylvia fell asleep at once, despite
the novelty of her situation and the noises that fill a summer night
with fitful rustlings and tones. How long she slept she did not know,
but woke suddenly and sat erect with that curious thrill which sometimes
startles one out of deepest slumber, and is often the forerunner of some
dread or danger. She felt this hot tingle through blood and nerves, and
stared about her thinking of fire. But everything was dark and still,
and after waiting a few moments she decided that her nest had been too
warm, for her temples throbbed and her cheeks were feverish with the
close air of the barn half filled with new-made hay.
Creeping up a fragrant slope she spread her plaid again and lay down
where a cool breath flowed through wide chinks in the wall. Sleep was
slowly returning when the rustle of footsteps scared it quite away and
set her heart beating fast, for they came toward the new couch she had
chosen. Holding her breath she listened. The quiet tread drew nearer and
nearer till it paused within a yard of her, then some one seemed to
throw themselves down, sigh heavily a few times and grow still as if
"It is Mark," thought Sylvia, and whispered his name, but no one
answered, and from the other corner of the barn she heard her brother
muttering in his sleep. Who was it, then? Mark had said there were no
cattle near, she was sure neither of her comrades had left their
bivouac, for there was her brother talking as usual in his dreams; some
one seemed restless and turned often with decided motion, that was
Warwick, she thought, while the quietest sleeper of the three betrayed
his presence by laughing once with the low-toned merriment she
recognized as Moor's. These discoveries left her a prey to visions of
grimy strollers, maudlin farm-servants, and infectious emigrants in
dismal array. A strong desire to cry out possessed her for a moment, but
was checked; for with all her sensitiveness Sylvia had much common
sense, and that spirit which hates to be conquered even by a natural
fear. She remembered her scornful repudiation of the charge of timidity,
and the endless jokes she would have to undergo if her mysterious
neighbor should prove some harmless wanderer or an imaginary terror of
her own, so she held her peace, thinking valiantly as the drops gathered
on her forehead, and every sense grew painfully alert--
"I'll not call if my hair turns gray with fright, and I find myself an
idiot to-morrow. I told them to try me, and I won't be found wanting at
the first alarm. I'll be still, if the thing does not touch me till
dawn, when I shall know how to act at once, and so save myself from
ridicule at the cost of a wakeful night."
Holding fast to this resolve Sylvia lay motionless; listening to the
cricket's chirp without, and taking uncomfortable notes of the state of
things within, for the new comer stirred heavily, sighed long and
deeply, and seemed to wake often, like one too sad or weary to rest. She
would have been wise to have screamed her scream and had the rout over,
for she tormented herself with the ingenuity of a lively fancy, and
suffered more from her own terrors than at the discovery of a dozen
vampires. Every tale of _diablerie_ she had ever heard came most
inopportunely to haunt her now, and though she felt their folly she
could not free herself from their dominion. She wondered till she could
wonder no longer what the morning would show her. She tried to calculate
in how many springs she could reach and fly over the low partition which
separated her from her sleeping body-guard. She wished with all her
heart that she had stayed in her nest which was nearer the door, and
watched for dawn with eyes that ached to see the light.
In the midst of these distressful sensations the far-off crow of some
vigilant chanticleer assured her that the short summer night was wearing
away and relief was at hand. This comfortable conviction had so good an
effect that she lapsed into what seemed a moment's oblivion, but was in
fact an hour's restless sleep, for when her eyes unclosed again the
first red streaks were visible in the east, and a dim light found its
way into the barn through the great door which had been left ajar for
air. An instant Sylvia lay collecting herself, then rose on her arm,
looked resolutely behind her, stared with round eyes a moment, and
dropped down again, laughing with a merriment, which coming on the heels
of her long alarm was rather hysterical. All she saw was a little
soft-eyed Alderney, which lifted its stag-like head, and regarded her
with a confiding aspect that won her pardon for its innocent offence.
Through the relief of both mind and body which she experienced in no
small degree, the first thought that came was a thankful "what a mercy I
didn't call Mark, for I should never have heard the last of this;" and
having fought her fears alone she enjoyed her success alone, and
girl-like resolved to say nothing of her first night's adventures.
Gathering herself up she crept nearer and caressed her late terror,
which stretched its neck toward her with a comfortable sound, and
munched her shawl like a cosset lamb. But before this new friendship was
many minutes old, Sylvia's heavy lids fell together, her head dropped
lower and lower, her hand lay still on the dappled neck, and with a long
sigh of weariness she dropped back upon the hay, leaving little Alderney
to watch over her much more tranquilly than she had watched over it.
THROUGH FLOOD AND FIELD AND FIRE.
Very early were they afloat again, and as they glided up the stream
Sylvia watched the earth's awakening, seeing in it what her own should
be. The sun was not yet visible above the hills, but the sky was ready
for his coming, with the soft flush of color dawn gives only to her
royal lover. Birds were chanting matins as if all the jubilance of their
short lives must be poured out at once. Flowers stirred and brightened
like children after sleep. A balmy wind came whispering from the wood,
bringing the aroma of pines, the cool breath of damp nooks, the
healthful kiss that leaves a glow behind. Light mists floated down the
river like departing visions that had haunted it by night, and every
ripple breaking on the shore seemed to sing a musical good morrow.
Sylvia could not conceal the weariness her long vigil left behind; and
after betraying herself by a drowsy lurch that nearly took her
overboard, she made herself comfortable, and slept till the grating of
the keel on a pebbly shore woke her to find a new harbor reached under
the lee of a cliff, whose deep shadow was very grateful after the glare
of noon upon the water.
"How do you intend to dispose of yourself this afternoon, Adam?" asked
Mark, when dinner was over and his sister busy feeding the birds.
"In this way," answered Warwick, producing a book and settling himself
in a commodious cranny of the rock.
"Moor and I want to climb the cliff and sketch the view; but it is too
rough a road for Sylvia. Would you mind mounting guard for an hour or
two? Read away, and leave her to amuse herself; only pray don't let her
get into any mischief by way of enjoying her liberty, for she fears
nothing and is fond of experiments."
"I'll do my best," replied Warwick, with an air of resignation.
Having slung the hammock and seen Sylvia safely into it, the climbers
departed, leaving her to enjoy the luxury of motion. For half an hour
she swung idly, looking up into the green pavilion overhead, where many
insect families were busy with their small joys and cares, or out over
the still landscape basking in the warmth of a cloudless afternoon. Then
she opened a book Mark had brought for his own amusement, and began to
read as intently as her companion, who leaned against the boulder slowly
turning his pages, with leafy shadows flickering over his uncovered head
and touching it with alternate sun and shade. The book proved
interesting, and Sylvia was rapidly skimming into the heart of the
story, when an unguarded motion caused her swing to slope perilously to
one side, and in saving herself she lost her book. This produced a
predicament, for being helped into a hammock and getting out alone are
two very different things. She eyed the distance from her nest to the
ground, and fancied it had been made unusually great to keep her
stationary. She held fast with one hand and stretched downward with the
other, but the book insolently flirted its leaves just out of reach.
She took a survey of Warwick; he had not perceived her plight, and she
felt an unwonted reluctance to call for help, because he did not look
like one used to come and go at a woman's bidding. After several
fruitless essays she decided to hazard an ungraceful descent; and,
gathering herself up, was about to launch boldly out, when Warwick
cried, "Stop!" in a tone that nearly produced the catastrophe he wished
to avert. Sylvia subsided, and coming up he lifted the book, glanced at
the title, then keenly at the reader.
"Do you like this?"
"So far very much."
"Are you allowed to read what you choose?"
"Yes, sir. That is Mark's choice, however; I brought no book."
"I advise you to skim it into the river; it is not a book for you."
Sylvia caught a glimpse of the one he had been reading himself, and
impelled by a sudden impulse to see what would come of it, she answered
with a look as keen as his own--
"You disapprove of my book; would you recommend yours?"
"In this case, yes; for in one you will find much falsehood in purple
and fine linen, in the other some truth in fig-leaves. Take your
He offered both; but Sylvia took refuge in civility.
"I thank you, I'll have neither; but if you will please steady the
hammock, I will try to find some more harmless amusement for myself."
He obeyed with one of the humorous expressions which often passed over
his face. Sylvia descended as gracefully as circumstances permitted, and
went roving up and down the cliffs. Warwick resumed his seat and the
"barbaric yawp," but seemed to find Truth in demi-toilet less
interesting than Youth in a gray gown and round hat, for which his taste
is to be commended. The girl had small scope for amusement, and when she
had gathered moss for pillows, laid out a white fungus to dry for a
future pin-cushion, harvested penny-royal in little sheaves tied with
grass-blades, watched a battle between black ants and red, and learned
the landscape by heart; she was at the end of her resources, and leaning
on a stone surveyed earth and sky with a somewhat despondent air.
"You would like something to do, I think."
"Yes, sir; for being rather new to this sort of life, I have not yet
learned how to dispose of my time."
"I see that, and having deprived you of one employment will try to
replace it by another."
Warwick rose, and going to the single birch that glimmered among the
pines like a delicate spirit of the wood, he presently returned with
strips of silvery bark.
"You were wishing for baskets to hold your spoils, yesterday; shall we
make some now?" he asked.
"How stupid in me not to think of that! Yes, thank you, I should like it
very much;" and producing her housewife, Sylvia fell to work with a
Warwick sat a little below her on the rock, shaping his basket in
perfect silence. This did not suit Sylvia, for feeling lively and
loquacious she wanted conversation to occupy her thoughts as pleasantly
as the birch rolls were occupying her hands, and there sat a person who,
she was sure, could do it perfectly if he chose. She reconnoitered with
covert glances, made sundry overtures, and sent out envoys in the shape
of scissors, needles, and thread. But no answering glance met hers; her
remarks received the briefest replies, and her offers of assistance were
declined with an absent "No, thank you." Then she grew indignant at this
seeming neglect, and thought, as she sat frowning over her work, behind
"He treats me like a child,--very well, then, I'll behave like one, and
beset him with questions till he is driven to speak; for he can talk, he
ought to talk, he shall talk."
"Mr. Warwick, do you like children?" she began, with a determined
"Better than men or women."
"Do you enjoy amusing them?"
"Exceedingly, when in the humor."
"Are you in the humor now?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Then why don't you amuse me?"
"Because you are not a child."
"I fancied you thought me one."
"If I had, I probably should have put you on my knee, and told you fairy
tales, or cut dolls for you out of this bark, instead of sitting
respectfully silent and making a basket for your stores."
There was a curious smile about Warwick's mouth as he spoke, and Sylvia
was rather abashed by her first exploit. But there was a pleasure in the
daring, and choosing another topic she tried again.
"Mark was telling me last night about the great college you had chosen;
I thought it must be a very original and interesting way to educate
one's self, and wanted very much to know what you had been studying
lately. May I ask you now?"
"Men and women," was the brief answer.
"Have you got your lesson, sir?"
"A part of it very thoroughly, I believe."
"Would you think me rude if I asked which part?"
"And what conclusions do you arrive at concerning this branch of the
subject?" asked Sylvia, smiling and interested.
"That it is both dangerous and unsatisfactory."
He spoke so gravely, looked so stern, that Sylvia obeyed a warning
instinct and sat silent till she had completed a canoe-shaped basket,
the useful size of which produced a sudden longing to fill it. Her eye
had already spied a knoll across the river covered with vines, and so
suggestive of berries that she now found it impossible to resist the
desire for an exploring trip in that direction. The boat was too large
for her to manage alone, but an enterprising spirit had taken possession
of her, and having made one voyage of discovery with small success she
resolved to try again, hoping a second in another direction might prove
"Is your basket done, sir?" she asked.
"Yes; will you have it?"
"Why, you have made it as an Indian would, using grass instead of
thread. It is much more complete than mine, for the green stitches
ornament the white bark, but the black ones disfigure it. I should know
a man made your basket and a woman mine."
"Because one is ugly and strong, the other graceful but unable to stand
alone?" asked Warwick, rising, with a gesture that sent the silvery
shreds flying away on the wind.
"One holds as much as the other, however; and I fancy the woman would
fill hers soonest if she had the wherewithal to do it. Do you know there
are berries on that hillside opposite?"
"I see vines, but consider fruit doubtful, for boys and birds are
thicker than blackberries."
"I've a firm conviction that they have left some for us; and as Mark
says you like frankness, I think I shall venture to ask you to row me
over and help me fill the baskets on the other side."
Sylvia looked up at him with a merry mixture of doubt and daring in her
face, and offered him his hat.
"Very good, I will," said Warwick, leading the way to the boat with an
alacrity which proved how much pleasanter to him was action than repose.
There was no dry landing-place just opposite, and as he rowed higher,
Adam fixed his eyes on Sylvia with a look peculiar to himself, a gaze
more keen than soft, which seemed to search one through and through with
its rapid discernment. He saw a face full of contradictions,--youthful,
maidenly, and intelligent, yet touched with the unconscious melancholy
which is born of disappointment and desire. The mouth was sweet and
tender as a woman's should be, the brow spirited and thoughtful; but the
eyes were by turns eager, absent, or sad, and there was much pride in
the carriage of the small head with its hair of wavy gold gathered into
a green snood, whence little tendrils kept breaking loose to dance upon
her forehead, or hang about her neck. A most significant but not a
beautiful face, because of its want of harmony. The dark eyes, among
their fair surroundings, disturbed the sight as a discord in music jars
upon the ear; even when the lips smiled the sombre shadow of black
lashes seemed to fill them with a gloom that was never wholly lost. The
voice, too, which should have been a girlish treble, was full and low as
a matured woman's, with now and then a silvery ring to it, as if another
and a blither creature spoke.
Sylvia could not be offended by the grave penetration of this glance,
though an uncomfortable consciousness that she was being analyzed and
tested made her meet it with a look intended to be dignified, but which
was also somewhat defiant, and more than one smile passed over Warwick's
countenance as he watched her. The moment the boat glided with a soft
swish among the rushes that fringed the shore, she sprang up the bank,
and leaving a basket behind her by way of hint, hurried to the sandy
knoll, where, to her great satisfaction, she found the vines heavy with
berries. As Warwick joined her she held up a shining cluster, saying
with a touch of exultation in her voice--
"My faith is rewarded; taste and believe."
He accepted them with a nod, and said pleasantly--
"As my prophecy has failed, let us see if yours will be fulfilled."
"I accept the challenge." And down upon her knees went Sylvia among the
vines, regardless of stains, rents, or wounded hands.
Warwick strolled away to leave her "claim" free, and silence fell
between them; for one was too busy with thorns, the other with thoughts,
to break the summer stillness. Sylvia worked with as much energy as if a
silver cup was to be the reward of success. The sun shone fervently and
the wind was cut off by the hill, drops gathered on her forehead and her
cheeks glowed; but she only pushed off her hat, thrust back her hair,
and moved on to a richer spot. Vines caught at her by sleeve and skirt
as if to dishearten the determined plunderer, but on she went with a
wrench and a rip, an impatient "Ah!" and a hasty glance at damaged
fabrics and fingers. Lively crickets flew up in swarms about her, surly
wasps disputed her right to the fruit, and drunken bees blundered
against her as they met zigzagging homeward much the worse for
blackberry wine. She never heeded any of them, though at another time
she would gladly have made friends with all, but found compensation for
her discomforts in the busy twitter of sand swallows perched on the
mullein-tops, the soft flight of yellow butterflies, and the rapidity
with which the little canoe received its freight of "Ethiop sweets." As
the last handful went in she sprung up crying "Done!" with a suddenness
that broke up the Long Parliament and sent its members skimming away as
if a second "Noll" had appeared among them. "Done!" came back Warwick's
answer like a deep echo from below, and hurrying down to meet him she
displayed her success, saying archly--
"I am glad we both won, though to be perfectly candid I think mine is
decidedly the fullest." But as she swung up her birch pannier the handle
broke, and down went basket, berries and all, into the long grass
rustling at her feet.
Warwick could not restrain a laugh at the blank dismay that fell upon
the exultation of Sylvia's face, and for a moment she was both piqued
and petulant. Hot, tired, disappointed, and, hardest of all, laughed at,
it was one of those times that try girls' souls. But she was too old to
cry, too proud to complain, too well-bred to resent, so the little gust
passed over unseen, she thought, and joining in the merriment she said,
as she knelt down beside the wreck--
"This is a practical illustration of the old proverb, and I deserve it
for my boasting. Next time I'll try to combine strength and beauty in my
To wise people character is betrayed by trifles. Warwick stopped
laughing, and something about the girlish figure in the grass,
regathering with wounded hands the little harvest lately lost, seemed to
touch him. His face softened suddenly as he collected several broad
leaves, spread them on the grass, and sitting down by Sylvia, looked
under her hat-brim with a glance of mingled penitence and friendliness.
"Now, young philosopher, pile up your berries in that green platter
while I repair the basket. Bear this in mind when you work in bark: make
your handle the way of the grain, and choose a strip both smooth and
Then drawing out his knife he fell to work, and while he tied green
withes, as if the task were father to the thought, he told her something
of a sojourn among the Indians, of whom he had learned much concerning
their woodcraft, arts, and superstitions; lengthening the legend till
the little canoe was ready for another launch. With her fancy full of
war-trails and wampum, Sylvia followed to the river-side, and as they
floated back dabbled her stained fingers in the water, comforting their
smart with its cool flow till they swept by the landing-place, when she
"Where are we going now? Have I been so troublesome that I must be taken
"We are going to get a third course to follow the berries, unless you
are afraid to trust yourself to me."
"Indeed, I'm not; take me where you like, sir."
Something in her frank tone, her confiding look, seemed to please
Warwick; he sat a moment looking into the brown depths of the water, and
let the boat drift, with no sound but the musical drip of drops from the
"You are going upon a rock, sir."
"I did that three months ago."
He spoke as if to himself, his face darkened, and he shook the hair off
his forehead with an impatient gesture. A swift stroke averted the
shock, and the boat shot down the stream, leaving a track of foam behind
it as Warwick rowed with the energy of one bent on outstripping some
importunate remembrance or dogging care. Sylvia marvelled greatly at the
change which came upon him, but held fast with flying hair and lips
apart to catch the spray, enjoying the breezy flight along a path
tessellated with broad bars of blue and gold. The race ended as abruptly
as it began, and Warwick seemed the winner, for when they touched the
coast of a floating lily-island, the cloud was gone. As he shipped his
oars he turned, saying, with very much the look and manner of a pleasant
"You were asleep when we passed this morning; but I know you like
lilies, so let us go a fishing."
"That I do!" cried Sylvia, capturing a great white flower with a clutch
that nearly took her overboard. Warwick drew her back and did the
"Enough, sir, quite enough. Here are plenty to trim our table and
ourselves with; leave the rest for other voyagers who may come this
As Warwick offered her the dripping nosegay he looked at the white hand
scored with scarlet lines.
"Poor hand! let the lilies comfort it. You are a true woman, Miss
Sylvia, for though your palm is purple there's not a stain upon your
lips, and you have neither worked nor suffered for yourself it seems."
"I don't deserve that compliment, because I was only intent on outdoing
you if possible; so you are mistaken again you see."
"Not entirely, I think. Some faces are so true an index of character
that one cannot be mistaken. If you doubt this look down into the river,
and such an one will inevitably smile back at you."
Pleased, yet somewhat abashed, Sylvia busied herself in knotting up the
long brown stems and tinging her nose with yellow pollen as she inhaled
the bitter-sweet breath of the lilies. But when Warwick turned to resume
the oars, she said--
"Let us float out as we floated in. It is so still and lovely here I
like to stay and enjoy it, for we may never see just such a scene
He obeyed, and both sat silent, watching the meadows that lay green and
low along the shore, feeding their eyes with the beauty of the
landscape, till its peaceful spirit seemed to pass into their own, and
lend a subtle charm to that hour, which henceforth was to stand apart,
serene and happy, in their memories forever. A still August day, with a
shimmer in the air that veiled the distant hills with the mellow haze,
no artist ever truly caught. Midsummer warmth and ripeness brooded in
the verdure of field and forest. Wafts of fragrance went wandering by
from new-mown meadows and gardens full of bloom. All the sky wore its
serenest blue, and up the river came frolic winds, ruffling the lily
leaves until they showed their purple linings, sweeping shadowy ripples
through the long grass, and lifting the locks from Sylvia's forehead
with a grateful touch, as she sat softly swaying with the swaying of the
boat. Slowly they drifted out into the current, slowly Warwick cleft the
water with reluctant stroke, and slowly Sylvia's mind woke from its
trance of dreamy delight, as with a gesture of assent she said--
"Yes, I am ready now. That was a happy little moment, and I am glad to
have lived it, for such times return to refresh me when many a more
stirring one is quite forgotten." A moment after she added, eagerly, as
a new object of interest appeared: "Mr. Warwick, I see smoke. I know
there is a wood on fire; I want to see it; please land again."
He glanced over his shoulder at the black cloud trailing away before the
wind, saw Sylvia's desire in her face, and silently complied; for being
a keen student of character, he was willing to prolong an interview that
gave him glimpses of a nature in which the woman and the child were
"I love fire, and that must be a grand one, if we could only see it
well. This bank is not high enough; let us go nearer and enjoy it," said
Sylvia, finding that an orchard and a knoll or two intercepted the view
of the burning wood.
"It is too far."
"Not at all. I am no helpless, fine lady. I can walk, run, and climb
like any boy; so you need have no fears for me. I may never see such a
sight again, and you know you'd go if you were alone. Please come, Mr.
"I promised Mark to take care of you, and for the very reason that you
love fire, I'd rather not take you into that furnace, lest you never
come out again. Let us go back immediately."
The decision of his tone ruffled Sylvia, and she turned wilful at once,
saying in a tone as decided as his own--
"No; I wish to see it. I am always allowed to do what I wish, so I shall
go;" with which mutinous remark she walked straight away towards the
Warwick looked after her, indulging a momentary desire to carry her back
to the boat, like a naughty child. But the resolute aspect of the figure
going on before him, convinced him that the attempt would be a failure,
and with an amused expression he leisurely followed her.
Sylvia had not walked five minutes before she was satisfied that it
_was_ too far; but having rebelled, she would not own herself in the
wrong, and being perverse, insisted upon carrying her point, though she
walked all night. On she went over walls, under rails, across brooks,
along the furrows of more than one ploughed field, and in among the
rustling corn, that turned its broad leaves to the sun, always in
advance of her companion, who followed with exemplary submission, but
also with a satirical smile, that spurred her on as no other
demonstration could have done. Six o'clock sounded from the church
behind the hill; still the wood seemed to recede as she pursued, still
close behind her came the steady footfalls, with no sound of weariness
in them, and still Sylvia kept on, till, breathless, but successful, she
reached the object of her search.
Keeping to the windward of the smoke, she gained a rocky spot still warm
and blackened by the late passage of the flames, and pausing there,
forgot her own pranks in watching those which the fire played before
her eyes. Many acres were burning, the air was full of the rush and roar
of the victorious element, the crash of trees that fell before it, and
the shouts of men who fought it unavailingly.
"Ah, this is grand! I wish Mark and Mr. Moor were here. Aren't you glad
you came, sir?"
Sylvia glanced up at her companion, as he stood regarding the scene with
the intent, alert expression one often sees in a fine hound when he
scents danger in the air. But Warwick did not answer, for as she spoke a
long, sharp cry of human suffering rose above the tumult, terribly
distinct and full of ominous suggestion.
"Someone was killed when that tree fell! Stay here till I come back;"
and Adam strode away into the wood as if his place were where the peril
For ten minutes Sylvia waited, pale and anxious; then her patience gave
out, and saying to herself, "I can go where he does, and women are
always more helpful than men at such times," she followed in the
direction whence came the fitful sound of voices. The ground was hot
underneath her feet, red eyes winked at her from the blackened sod, and
fiery tongues darted up here and there, as if the flames were lurking
still, ready for another outbreak. Intent upon her charitable errand,
and excited by the novel scene, she pushed recklessly on, leaping
charred logs, skirting still burning stumps, and peering eagerly into
the dun veil that wavered to and fro. The appearance of an impassable
ditch obliged her to halt, and pausing to take breath, she became aware
that she had lost her way. The echo of voices had ceased, a red glare
was deepening in front, and clouds of smoke enveloped her in a stifling
atmosphere. A sense of bewilderment crept over her; she knew not where
she was; and after a rapid flight in what she believed a safe direction
had been cut short by the fall of a blazing tree before her, she stood
still, taking counsel with herself. Darkness and danger seemed to
encompass her, fire flickered on every side, and suffocating vapors
shrouded earth and sky. A bare rock suggested one hope of safety, and
muffling her head in her skirt, she lay down faint and blind, with a
dull pain in her temples, and a fear at her heart fast deepening into
terror, as her breath grew painful and her head began to swim.
"This is the last of the pleasant voyage! Oh, why does no one think of
As the regret rose, a cry of suffering and entreaty broke from her. She
had not called for help till now, thinking herself too remote, her voice
too feeble to overpower the din about her. But some one had thought of
her, for as the cry left her lips steps came crashing through the wood,
a pair of strong arms caught her up, and before she could collect her
scattered senses she was set down beyond all danger on the green bank of
a little pool.
"Well, salamander, have you had fire enough?" asked Warwick, as he
dashed a handful of water in her face with such energetic goodwill that
it took her breath away.
"Yes, oh yes,--and of water, too! Please stop, and let me get my
breath!" gasped Sylvia, warding off a second baptism and staring dizzily
"Why did you quit the place where I left you?" was the next question,
somewhat sternly put.
"I wanted to know what had happened."
"So you walked into a bonfire to satisfy your curiosity, though you had
been told to keep out of it? You'd never make a Casabianca."
"I hope not, for of all silly children, that boy was the silliest, and
he deserved to be blown up for his want of common sense," cried the
"Obedience is an old-fashioned virtue, which you would do well to
cultivate along with your common sense, young lady."
Sylvia changed the subject, for Warwick stood regarding her with an
irate expression that was somewhat alarming. Fanning herself with the
wet hat, she asked abruptly--
"Was the man hurt, sir?"
"Can I not do something for him? He is very far from any house, and I
have some experience in wounds."
"He is past all help, above all want now."
"Dead, Mr. Warwick?"
Sylvia sat down as suddenly as she had risen, and covered her face with
a shiver, remembering that her own wilfulness had tempted a like fate,
and she too, might now have been 'past help, above all want.' Warwick
went down to the pool to bathe his hot face and blackened hands; as he
returned Sylvia met him with a submissive--
"I will go back now if you are ready, sir."
If the way had seemed long in coming it was doubly so in returning, for
neither pride nor perversity sustained her now, and every step cost an
effort. "I can rest in the boat," was her sustaining thought; great
therefore was her dismay when on reaching the river no boat was to be
"Why, Mr. Warwick, where is it?"
"A long way down the river by this time, probably. Believing that we
landed only for a moment, I did not fasten it, and the tide has carried
"But what shall we do?"
"One of two things,--spend the night here, or go round by the bridge."
"Is it far?"
"Some three or four miles, I think."
"Is there no shorter way? no boat or carriage to be had?"
"If you care to wait, I can look for our runaway, or get a wagon from
"It is growing late and you would be gone a long time, I suppose?"
"Which had we better do?"
"I should not venture to advise. Suit yourself, I will obey orders."
"If you were alone what would you do?"
Sylvia looked disturbed, Warwick impenetrable, the river wide, the road
long, and the cliffs the most inaccessible of places. An impressive
pause ensued, then she said frankly--
"It is my own fault and I'll take the consequences. I choose the bridge
and leave you the river. If I don't appear till dawn, tell Mark I sent
him a good night," and girding up her energies she walked bravely off
with much external composure and internal chagrin.
As before, Warwick followed in silence. For a time she kept in advance,
then allowed him to gain upon her, and presently fell behind, plodding
doggedly on through thick and thin, vainly trying to conceal the hunger
and fatigue that were fast robbing her of both strength and spirits.
Adam watched her with a masculine sense of the justice of the
retribution which his wilful comrade had brought upon herself. But as he
saw the elasticity leave her steps, the color fade from her cheeks, the
resolute mouth relax, and the wistful eyes dim once or twice with tears
of weariness and vexation, pity got the better of pique, and he
relented. His steady tramp came to a halt, and stopping by a wayside
spring, he pointed to a mossy stone, saying with no hint of superior
"We are tired, let us rest."
Sylvia dropped down at once, and for a few minutes neither spoke, for
the air was full of sounds more pertinent to the summer night than human
voices. From the copse behind them, came the coo of wood-pigeons, from
the grass at their feet the plaintive chirp of crickets; a busy breeze
whispered through the willow, the little spring dripped musically from
the rock, and across the meadows came the sweet chime of a bell.
Twilight was creeping over forest, hill, and stream, and seemed to drop
refreshment and repose upon all weariness of soul and body, more
grateful to Sylvia, than the welcome seat and leafy cup of water Warwick
brought her from the spring.
The appearance of a thirsty sparrow gave her thoughts a pleasant turn,
for, sitting motionless, she watched the little creature trip down to
the pool, drink and bathe, then flying to a willow spray, dress its
feathers, dry its wings, and sit chirping softly as if it sang its
evening hymn. Warwick saw her interest, and searching in his pocket,
found the relics of a biscuit, strewed a few bits upon the ground before
him, and began a low, sweet whistle, which rose gradually to a varied
strain, alluring, spirited, and clear as any bird voice of the wood.
Little sparrow ceased his twitter, listened with outstretched neck and
eager eye, hopping restlessly from twig to twig, until he hung just over
the musician's head, agitated with a small flutter of surprise, delight,
and doubt. Gathering a crumb or two into his hand, Warwick held it
toward the bird, while softer, sweeter, and more urgent rose the
invitation, and nearer and nearer drew the winged guest, fascinated by
Suddenly a belated blackbird lit upon the wall, surveyed the group and
burst into a jubilant song, that for a moment drowned his rival's notes.
Then, as if claiming the reward, he fluttered to the grass, ate his
fill, took a sip from the mossy basin by the way, and flew singing over
the river, leaving a trail of music behind him. There was a dash and
daring about this which fired little sparrow with emulation. His last
fear seemed conquered, and he flew confidingly to Warwick's palm,
pecking the crumbs with grateful chirps and friendly glances from its
quick, bright eye. It was a pretty picture for the girl to see; the man,
an image of power, in his hand the feathered atom, that, with unerring
instinct, divined and trusted the superior nature which had not yet lost
its passport to the world of innocent delights that Nature gives to
those who love her best. Involuntarily Sylvia clapped her hands, and,
startled by the sudden sound, little sparrow skimmed away.
"Thank you for the pleasantest sight I've seen for many a day. How did
you learn this gentle art, Mr. Warwick?"
"I was a solitary boy, and found my only playmates in the woods and
fields. I learned their worth, they saw my need, and when I asked their
friendship, gave it freely. Now we should go; you are very tired, let me
He held his hand to her, and she put her own into it with a confidence
as instinctive as the bird's. Then, hand in hand they crossed the bridge
and struck into the wilderness again; climbing slopes still warm and
odorous, passing through dells full of chilly damps, along meadows
spangled with fire-flies, and haunted by sonorous frogs; over rocks
crisp with pale mosses, and between dark firs, where shadows brooded,
and melancholy breezes rocked themselves to sleep. Speaking seldom, yet
feeling no consciousness of silence, no sense of restraint, for they no
longer seemed like strangers to one another, and this spontaneous
friendliness lent an indefinable charm to the dusky walk. Warwick found
satisfaction in the knowledge of her innocent faith in him, the touch of
the little hand he held, the sight of the quiet figure at his side.
Sylvia felt that it was pleasant to be the object of his care, fancied
that they would learn to know each other better in three days of this
free life than in as many months at home, and rejoiced over the
discovery of unsuspected traits in him, like the soft lining of the
chestnut burr, to which she had compared him more than once that
afternoon. So, mutually and unconsciously yielding to the influence of
the hour and the mood it brought them, they walked through the twilight
in that eloquent silence which often proves more persuasive than the
most fluent speech.
The welcome blaze of their own fire gladdened them at length, and when
the last step was taken, Sylvia sat down with an inward conviction she
never could get up again. Warwick told their mishap in the fewest
possible words, while Mark, in a spasm of brotherly solicitude, goaded
the fire to a roar that his sister's feet might be dried, administered a
cordial as a preventive against cold, and prescribed her hammock the
instant supper was done. She went away with him, but a moment after she
came to Warwick with a box of Prue's ointment and a soft handkerchief
stripped into bandages.
"What now?" he asked.
"I wish to dress your burns, sir."
"They will do well enough with a little water; go you and rest."
"Mr. Warwick, you know you ate your supper with your left hand, and put
both behind you when you saw me looking at them. Please let me make them
easier; they were burnt for me, and I shall get no sleep till I have had
There was a curious mixture of command and entreaty in her manner, and
before their owner had time to refuse or comply, the scorched hands were
taken possession of, the red blisters covered with a cool bandage, and
the frown of pain smoothed out of Warwick's forehead by the prospect of
relief. As she tied the last knot, Sylvia glanced up with a look that
mutely asked pardon for past waywardness, and expressed gratitude for
past help; then, as if her heart were set at rest, she was gone before
her patient could return his thanks.
She did not reappear, Mark went to send a lad after the lost boat, and
the two friends were left alone; Warwick watching the blaze, Moor
watching him, till, with a nod toward a pair of diminutive boots that
stood turning out their toes before the fire, Adam said--
"The wearer of those defiant-looking articles is the most capricious
piece of humanity it was ever my fortune to see. You have no idea of the
life she has led me since you left."
"I can imagine it."
"She is as freakish, and wears as many shapes as Puck; a gnat, a
will-o'-the-wisp, a Sister of Charity, a meek-faced child; and one does
not know in which guise she pleases most. Hard the task of him who has
and tries to hold her."
"Hard yet happy; for a word will tame the high spirit, a look touch the
warm heart, a kind act be repaid with one still kinder. She is a woman
to be studied well, taught tenderly, and, being won, cherished with an
affection that knows no shadow of a change."
Moor spoke low, and on his face the fire-light seemed to shed a ruddier
glow than it had done before. Warwick eyed him keenly for a moment, then
said, with his usual abruptness--
"Geoffrey, you should marry."
"Set me the example by mortgaging your own heart, Adam."
"I thought so. Tell me the romance."
"It is the old story--a handsome woman, a foolish man; a few weeks of
doubt, a few of happiness; then the two stand apart to view the leap
before they take it; after that, peace or purgatory, as they choose well
"When is the probation over, Adam?"
"In June, God willing."
The hope of deliverance gave to Warwick's tone the fervor of desire, and
led his friend to believe in the existence of a passion deep and strong
as the heart he knew so well. No further confessions disturbed his
satisfaction, for Warwick scorned complaint; pity he would not receive,
sympathy was powerless to undo the past, time alone would mend it, and
to time he looked for help. He rose presently as if bedward bound, but
paused behind Moor, turned his face upward, and said, bending on it a
look given to this friend alone--
"If my confidence were a good gift, you should have it. But my
experience must not mar your faith in womankind. Keep it as chivalrous
as ever, and may God send you the mate whom you deserve. Geoffrey, good
"Good night, Adam."
And with a hand-shake more expressive of affection than many a tenderer
demonstration, they parted--Warwick to watch the stars for hours, and
Moor to muse beside the fire till the little boots were dry.
A GOLDEN WEDDING.
Hitherto they had been a most decorous crew, but the next morning
something in the air seemed to cause a general overflow of spirits, and
they went up the river like a party of children on a merry-making.
Sylvia decorated herself with garlands till she looked like a mermaid;
Mark, as skipper, issued his orders with the true Marblehead twang; Moor
kept up a fire of pun-provoking raillery; Warwick sung like a jovial
giant; while the Kelpie danced over the water as if inspired with the
universal gayety, and the very ripples seemed to laugh as they hurried
"Mark, there is a boat coming up behind us with three gentlemen in it,
who evidently intend to pass us with a great display of skill. Of course
you won't let it," said Sylvia, welcoming the prospect of a race.
Her brother looked over his shoulder, took a critical survey, and nodded
"They are worth a lesson, and shall have it. Easy, now, till they pass;
then hard all, and give them a specimen of high art."
A sudden lull ensued on board the Kelpie while the blue shirts
approached, caught, and passed with a great display of science, as
Sylvia had prophesied, and as good an imitation of the demeanor of
experienced watermen as could be assumed by a trio of studious youths
not yet out of their teens. As the foam of their wake broke against the
other boat's side, Mark hailed them--
"Good morning, gentlemen! We'll wait for you above there, at the bend."
"All serene," returned the rival helmsman, with a bow in honor of
Sylvia, while the other two caused a perceptible increase in the speed
of the "Juanita," whose sentimental name was not at all in keeping with
its rakish appearance.
"Short-sighted infants, to waste their wind in that style; but they pull
well for their years," observed Mark, paternally, as he waited till the
others had gained sufficient advantage to make the race a more equal
one. "Now, then!" he whispered a moment after; and, as if suddenly
endowed with life, the Kelpie shot away with the smooth speed given by
strength and skill. Sylvia watched both boats, yearning to take an oar
herself, yet full of admiration for the well-trained rowers, whose swift
strokes set the river in a foam and made the moment one of pleasure and
excitement. The blue shirts did their best against competitors who had
rowed in many crafts and many waters. They kept the advantage till near
the bend, then Mark's crew lent their reserved strength to a final
effort, and bending to their oars with a will, gained steadily, till,
with a triumphant stroke, they swept far ahead, and with oars at rest
waited in magnanimous silence till the Juanita came up, gracefully
confessing her defeat by a good-humored cheer from her panting crew.
For a moment the two boats floated side by side, while the young men
interchanged compliments and jokes, for a river is a highway where all
travellers may salute each other, and college boys are "Hail fellow!
well met" with all the world.
Sylvia sat watching the lads, and one among them struck her fancy. The
helmsman who had bowed to her was slight and swarthy, with Southern
eyes, vivacious manners, and a singularly melodious voice. A Spaniard,
she thought, and pleased herself with this picturesque figure till a
traitorous smile about the young man's mouth betrayed that he was not
unconscious of her regard. She colored as she met the glance of mingled
mirth and admiration that he gave her, and hastily began to pull off the
weedy decorations which she had forgotten. But she paused presently, for
she heard a surprised voice exclaim--
"Why, Warwick! is that you or your ghost?"
Looking up Sylvia saw Adam lift the hat he had pulled over his brows,
and take a slender brown hand extended over the boat-side with something
like reluctance, as he answered the question in Spanish. A short
conversation ensued, in which the dark stranger seemed to ask
innumerable questions, Warwick to give curt replies, and the names
Gabriel and Ottila to occur with familiar frequency. Sylvia knew nothing
of the language, but received an impression that Warwick was not
overjoyed at the meeting; that the youth was both pleased and perplexed
by finding him there; and that neither parted with much regret as the
distance slowly widened between the boats, and with a farewell salute
parted company, each taking a different branch of the river, which
divided just there.
For the first time Warwick allowed Mark to take his place at the oar,
and sat looking into the clear depths below as if some scene lay there
which other eyes could not discover.
"Who was the olive-colored party with the fine eyes and foreign accent?"
asked Mark, lazily rowing.
"Is he an Italian?"
"No; a Cuban."
"I forgot you had tried that mixture of Spain and Alabama. How was it?"
"As such climates always are to me,--intoxicating to-day, enervating
"How long were you there?"
"I feel tropically inclined, so tell us about it."
"There is nothing to tell."
"I'll prove that by a catechism. Where did you stay?"
"Of course, but with whom?"
"The father of the saffron youth?"
"Of whom did the family consist?"
"Mark, leave Mr. Warwick alone."
"As long as he answers I shall question. Name the four persons, Adam."
"Gabriel, sen., Dolores his wife, Gabriel, jun., Catalina, his sister."
"Ah! now we progress. Was señorita Catalina as comely as her brother?"
"You adored her, of course?"
"I loved her."
"Great heavens! what discoveries we make. He likes it, I know by the
satirical glimmer in his eye; therefore I continue. She adored you, of
"She loved me."
"You will return and marry her?"
"Your depravity appalls me."
"Did I volunteer its discovery?"
"I demand it now. You left this girl believing that you adored her?"
"She knew I was fond of her."
"The parting was tender?"
"On her part."
"Iceberg! She wept in your arms?"
"And gave me an orange."
"You cherished it, of course?"
"I ate it immediately."
"What want of sentiment! You promised to return?"
"But will never keep the promise?"
"I never break one."
"Yet will not marry her?"
"By no means."
"Ask how old the lady was, Mark?"
Mark caught a crab of the largest size at this reply, and remained where
he fell, among the ruins of the castle in Spain, which he had erected
with the scanty materials vouchsafed to him, while Warwick went back to
A drop of rain roused Sylvia from the contemplation of an imaginary
portrait of the little Cuban girl, and looking skyward she saw that the
frolicsome wind had prepared a practical joke for them in the shape of a
thunder-shower. A consultation was held, and it was decided to row on
till a house appeared, in which they would take refuge till the storm
was over. On they went, but the rain was in greater haste than they, and
a summary drenching was effected before the toot of a dinner-horn guided
them to shelter. Landing they marched over the fields, a moist and
mirthful company, toward a red farm-house standing under venerable elms,
with a patriarchal air which promised hospitable treatment and good
cheer. A promise speedily fulfilled by the lively old woman, who
appeared with an energetic "Shoo!" for the speckled hens congregated in
the porch, and a hearty welcome for the weather-beaten strangers.
"Sakes alive!" she exclaimed; "you be in a mess, ain't you? Come right
in and make yourselves to home. Abel, take the men folks up chamber, and
fit 'em out with anything dry you kin lay hands on. Phebe, see to this
poor little creeter, and bring her down lookin' less like a drownded
kitten. Nat, clear up your wittlin's, so's't they kin toast their feet
when they come down; and, Cinthy, don't dish up dinner jest yet."
These directions were given with such vigorous illustration, and the old
face shone with such friendly zeal, that the four submitted at once,
sure that the kind soul was pleasing herself in serving them, and
finding something very attractive in the place, the people, and their
own position. Abel, a staid farmer of forty, obeyed his mother's order
regarding the "men folks;" and Phebe, a buxom girl of sixteen, led
Sylvia to her own room, eagerly offering her best.
As she dried and redressed herself Sylvia made sundry discoveries,
which added to the romance and the enjoyment of the adventure. A smart
gown lay on the bed in the low chamber, also various decorations upon
chair and table, suggesting that some festival was afloat; and a few
questions elicited the facts. Grandpa had seven sons and three
daughters, all living, all married, and all blessed with flocks of
children. Grandpa's birthday was always celebrated by a family
gathering; but to-day, being the fiftieth anniversary of his wedding,
the various households had resolved to keep it with unusual pomp; and
all were coming for a supper, a dance, and a "sing" at the end. Upon
receipt of which intelligence Sylvia proposed an immediate departure;
but the grandmother and daughter cried out at this, pointed to the still
falling rain, the lowering sky, the wet heap on the floor, and insisted
on the strangers all remaining to enjoy the festival, and give an added
interest by their presence.
Half promising what she wholly desired, Sylvia put on Phebe's second
best blue gingham gown for the preservation of which she added a white
apron, and completing the whole with a pair of capacious shoes, went
down to find her party and reveal the state of affairs. They were
bestowed in the prim, best parlor, and greeted her with a peal of
laughter, for all were _en costume_. Abel was a stout man, and his
garments hung upon Moor with a melancholy air; Mark had disdained them,
and with an eye to effect laid hands on an old uniform, in which he
looked like a volunteer of 1812; while Warwick's superior height placed
Abel's wardrobe out of the question; and grandpa, taller than any of his
seven goodly sons, supplied him with a sober suit,--roomy,
square-flapped, and venerable,--which became him, and with his beard
produced the curious effect of a youthful patriarch. To Sylvia's relief
it was unanimously decided to remain, trusting to their own penetration
to discover the most agreeable method of returning the favor; and
regarding the adventure as a welcome change, after two days' solitude,
all went out to dinner prepared to enact their parts with spirit.
The meal being despatched, Mark and Warwick went to help Abel with some
out-door arrangements; and begging grandma to consider him one of her
own boys, Moor tied on an apron and fell to work with Sylvia, laying the
long table which was to receive the coming stores. True breeding is
often as soon felt by the uncultivated as by the cultivated; and the
zeal with which the strangers threw themselves into the business of the
hour won the family, and placed them all in friendly relations at once.
The old lady let them do what they would, admiring everything, and
declaring over and over again that her new assistants "beat her boys and
girls to nothin' with their tastiness and smartness." Sylvia trimmed the
table with common flowers till it was an inviting sight before a viand
appeared upon it, and hung green boughs about the room, with candles
here and there to lend a festal light. Moor trundled a great cheese in
from the dairy, brought milk-pans without mishap, disposed dishes, and
caused Nat to cleave to him by the administration of surreptitious
titbits and jocular suggestions; while Phebe tumbled about in every
one's way, quite wild with excitement; and grandma stood in her pantry
like a culinary general, swaying a big knife for a baton, as she issued
orders and marshalled her forces, the busiest and merriest of them all.
When the last touch was given, Moor discarded his apron and went to join
Mark. Sylvia presided over Phebe's toilet, and then sat herself down to
support Nat through the trying half hour before, as he expressed it,
"the party came in." The twelve years' boy was a cripple, one of those
household blessings which, in the guise of an affliction, keep many
hearts tenderly united by a common love and pity. A cheerful creature,
always chirping like a cricket on the hearth as he sat carving or
turning bits of wood into useful or ornamental shapes for such as cared
to buy them of him, and hoarding up the proceeds like a little miser for
one more helpless than himself.
"What are these, Nat?" asked Sylvia, with the interest that always won
small people, because their quick instincts felt that it was sincere.
"Them are spoons--'postle spoons, they call 'em. You see I've got a
cousin what reads a sight, and one day he says to me, 'Nat, in a book I
see somethin' about a set of spoons with a 'postle's head on each of
'em; you make some and they'll sell, I bet.' So I got gramper's Bible,
found the picters of the 'postles, and worked and worked till I got the
faces good; and now it's fun, for they do sell, and I'm savin' up a lot.
It ain't for me, you know, but mother, 'cause she's wuss'n I be."
"Is she sick, Nat?"
"Oh, ain't she! Why she hasn't stood up this nine year. We was smashed
in a wagon that tipped over when I was three years old. It done
somethin' to my legs, but it broke her back, and made her no use, only
jest to pet me, and keep us all kind of stiddy, you know. Ain't you seen
her? Don't you want to?"
"Would she like it?"
"She admires to see folks, and asked about you at dinner; so I guess
you'd better go see her. Look ahere, you like them spoons, and I'm
agoin' to give you one; I'd give you all on 'em if they wasn't promised.
I can make one more in time, so you jest take your pick, 'cause I like
you, and want you not to forgit me."
Sylvia chose Saint John, because it resembled Moor, she thought; bespoke
and paid for a whole set, and privately resolved to send tools and rare
woods to the little artist that he might serve his mother in his own
pretty way. Then Nat took up his crutches and hopped nimbly before her
to the room, where a plain, serene-faced woman lay knitting, with her
best cap on, her clean handkerchief and large green fan laid out upon
the coverlet. This was evidently the best room of the house; and as
Sylvia sat talking to the invalid her eye discovered many traces of that
refinement which comes through the affections. Nothing seemed too good
for "daughter Patience;" birds, books, flowers, and pictures were
plentiful here though visible nowhere else. Two easy-chairs beside the
bed showed where the old folks oftenest sat; Abel's home corner was
there by the antique desk covered with farmers' literature and samples
of seeds; Phebe's work-basket stood in the window; Nat's lathe in the
sunniest corner; and from the speckless carpet to the canary's clear
water-glass all was exquisitely neat, for love and labor were the
handmaids who served the helpless woman and asked no wages but her
Sylvia amused her new friends mightily, for finding that neither mother
nor son had any complaints to make, any sympathy to ask, she exerted
herself to give them what both needed, and kept them laughing by a
lively recital of her voyage and its mishaps.
"Ain't she prime, mother?" was Nat's candid commentary when the story
ended, and he emerged red and shiny from the pillows where he had
burrowed with boyish explosions of delight.
"She's very kind, dear, to amuse two stay-at-home folks like you and me,
who seldom see what's going on outside four walls. You have a merry
heart, miss, and I hope will keep it all your days, for it's a blessed
thing to own."
"I think you have something better, a contented one," said Sylvia, as
the woman regarded her with no sign of envy or regret.
"I ought to have; nine years on a body's back can teach a sight of
things that are wuth knowin'. I've learnt patience pretty well I guess,
and contentedness ain't fur away, for though it sometimes seems ruther
long to look forward to, perhaps nine more years layin' here, I jest
remember it might have been wuss, and if I don't do much now there's all
eternity to come."
Something in the woman's manner struck Sylvia as she watched her softly
beating some tune on the sheet with her quiet eyes turned toward the
light. Many sermons had been less eloquent to the girl than the look,
the tone, the cheerful resignation of that plain face. She stooped and
kissed it, saying gently--
"I shall remember this."
"Hooray! There they be; I hear Ben!"
And away clattered Nat to be immediately absorbed into the embraces of a
swarm of relatives who now began to arrive in a steady stream. Old and
young, large and small, rich and poor, with overflowing hands or trifles
humbly given, all were received alike, all hugged by grandpa, kissed by
grandma, shaken half breathless by Uncle Abel, welcomed by Aunt
Patience, and danced round by Phebe and Nat till the house seemed a
great hive of hilarious and affectionate bees. At first the strangers
stood apart, but Phebe spread their story with such complimentary
additions of her own that the family circle opened wide and took them in
Sylvia was enraptured with the wilderness of babies, and leaving the
others to their own devices followed the matrons to "Patience's room,"
and gave herself up to the pleasant tyranny of the small potentates, who
swarmed over her as she sat on the floor, tugging at her hair, exploring
her eyes, covering her with moist kisses, and keeping up a babble of
little voices more delightful to her than the discourse of the flattered
mammas who benignly surveyed her admiration and their offspring's
The young people went to romp in the barn; the men, armed with
umbrellas, turned out _en masse_ to inspect the farm and stock, and
compare notes over pig pens and garden gates. But Sylvia lingered where
she was, enjoying a scene which filled her with a tender pain and
pleasure, for each baby was laid on grandma's knee, its small virtues,
vices, ailments, and accomplishments rehearsed, its beauties examined,
its strength tested, and the verdict of the family oracle pronounced
upon it as it was cradled, kissed, and blessed on the kind old heart
which had room for every care and joy of those who called her mother. It
was a sight the girl never forgot, because just then she was ready to
receive it. Her best lessons did not come from books, and she learned
one then as she saw the fairest success of a woman's life while watching
this happy grandmother with fresh faces framing her withered one,
daughterly voices chorusing good wishes, and the harvest of half a
century of wedded life beautifully garnered in her arms.
The fragrance of coffee and recollections of Cynthia's joyful
aberrations at such periods caused a breaking up of the maternal
conclave. The babies were borne away to simmer between blankets until
called for. The women unpacked baskets, brooded over teapots, and kept
up an harmonious clack as the table was spread with pyramids of cake,
regiments of pies, quagmires of jelly, snow-banks of bread, and gold
mines of butter; every possible article of food, from baked beans to
wedding cake, finding a place on that sacrificial altar.
Fearing to be in the way, Sylvia departed to the barn, where she found
her party in a chaotic Babel; for the offshoots had been as fruitful as
the parent tree, and some four dozen young immortals were in full riot.
The bashful roosting with the hens on remote lofts and beams; the bold
flirting or playing in the full light of day; the boys whooping, the
girls screaming, all effervescing as if their spirits had reached the
explosive point and must find vent in noise. Mark was in his element,
introducing all manner of new games, the liveliest of the old and
keeping the revel at its height; for rosy, bright-eyed girls were
plenty, and the ancient uniform universally approved. Warwick had a
flock of lads about him absorbed in the marvels he was producing with
knife, stick, and string; and Moor a rival flock of little lasses
breathless with interest in the tales he told. One on each knee, two at
each side, four in a row on the hay at his feet, and the boldest of all
with an arm about his neck and a curly head upon his shoulder, for Uncle
Abel's clothes seemed to invest the wearer with a passport to their
confidence at once. Sylvia joined this group and partook of a quiet
entertainment with as childlike a relish as any of them, while the merry
tumult went on about her.
The toot of the horn sent the whole barnful streaming into the house
like a flock of hungry chickens, where, by some process known only to
the mothers of large families, every one was wedged close about the
table, and the feast began. This was none of your stand-up, wafery,
bread and butter teas, but a thorough-going, sit-down supper, and all
settled themselves with a smiling satisfaction, prophetic of great
powers and an equal willingness to employ them. A detachment of
half-grown girls was drawn up behind grandma, as waiters; Sylvia
insisted on being one of them, and proved herself a neat-handed Phillis,
though for a time slightly bewildered by the gastronomic performances
she beheld. Babies ate pickles, small boys sequestered pie with a
velocity that made her wink, women swam in the tea, and the men,
metaphorically speaking, swept over the table like a swarm of locusts,
while the host and hostess beamed upon one another and their robust
descendants with an honest pride, which was beautiful to see.
"That Mr. Wackett ain't eat scursely nothin', he jest sets lookin' round
kinder 'mazed like. Do go and make him fall to on somethin', or I shan't
take a mite of comfort in my vittles," said grandma, as the girl came
with an empty cup.
"He is enjoying it with all his heart and eyes, ma'am, for we don't see
such fine spectacles every day. I'll take him something that he likes
and make him eat it."
"Sakes alive! be you to be Mis' Wackett? I'd no idee of it, you look so
"Nor I; we are only friends, ma'am."
"Oh!" and the monosyllable was immensely expressive, as the old lady
confided a knowing nod to the teapot, into whose depths she was just
then peering. Sylvia walked away wondering why persons were always
thinking and saying such things.
As she paused behind Warwick's chair with a glass of cream and a round
of brown bread, he looked up at her with his blandest expression, though
a touch of something like regret was in his voice.
"This is a sight worth living eighty hard years to see, and I envy that
old couple as I never envied any one before. To rear ten virtuous
children, put ten useful men and women into the world, and give them
health and courage to work out their own salvation as these honest souls
will do, is a better job done for the Lord, than winning a battle, or
ruling a State. Here is all honor to them. Drink it with me."
He put the glass to her lips, drank what she left, and rising, placed
her in his seat with the decisive air which few resisted.
"You take no thought for yourself and are doing too much; sit here a
little, and let me take a few steps where you have taken many."
He served her, and standing at her back, bent now and then to speak,
still with that softened look upon the face so seldom stirred by the
gentler emotions that lay far down in that deep heart of his; for never
had he felt so solitary.
All things must have an end, even a family feast, and by the time the
last boy's buttons peremptorily announced, 'Thus far shalt thou go and no
farther,' all professed themselves satisfied, and a general uprising
took place. The surplus population were herded in parlor and chambers,
while a few energetic hands cleared away, and with much clattering of
dishes and wafting of towels, left grandma's spandy clean premises as
immaculate as ever. It was dark when all was done, so the kitchen was
cleared, the candles lighted, Patience's door set open, and little Nat
established in an impromptu orchestra, composed of a table and a chair,
whence the first squeak of his fiddle proclaimed that the ball had
Everybody danced; the babies stacked on Patience's bed, or penned behind
chairs, sprawled and pranced in unsteady mimicry of their elders.
Ungainly farmers, stiff with labor, recalled their early days and
tramped briskly as they swung their wives about with a kindly pressure
of the hard hands that had worked so long together. Little pairs toddled
gravely through the figures, or frisked promiscuously in a grand
conglomeration of arms and legs. Gallant cousins kissed pretty cousins
at exciting periods, and were not rebuked. Mark wrought several of these
incipient lovers to a pitch of despair, by his devotion to the comeliest
damsels, and the skill with which he executed unheard-of evolutions
before their admiring eyes; Moor led out the poorest and the plainest
with a respect that caused their homely faces to shine, and their scant
skirts to be forgotten. Warwick skimmed his five years partner through
the air in a way that rendered her speechless with delight; and Sylvia
danced as she never danced before. With sticky-fingered boys, sleepy
with repletion, but bound to last it out; with rough-faced men who paid
her paternal compliments; with smart youths who turned sheepish with
that white lady's hand in their big brown ones, and one ambitious lad
who confided to her his burning desire to work a sawmill, and marry a
girl with black eyes and yellow hair. While, perched aloft, Nat bowed
away till his pale face glowed, till all hearts warmed, all feet beat
responsive to the good old tunes which have put so much health into
human bodies, and so much happiness into human souls.
At the stroke of nine the last dance came. All down the long kitchen
stretched two breathless rows; grandpa and grandma at the top, the
youngest pair of grandchildren at the bottom, and all between fathers,
mothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins, while such of the babies as were
still extant, bobbed with unabated vigor, as Nat struck up the Virginia
Reel, and the sturdy old couple led off as gallantly as the young one
who came tearing up to meet them. Away they went, grandpa's white hair
flying in the wind, grandma's impressive cap awry with excitement, as
they ambled down the middle, and finished with a kiss when their tuneful
journey was done, amid immense applause from those who regarded this as
the crowning event of the day.
When all had had their turn, and twirled till they were dizzy, a short
lull took place, with refreshments for such as still possessed the power
of enjoying them. Then Phebe appeared with an armful of books, and all
settled themselves for the family "sing."
Sylvia had heard much fine music, but never any that touched her like
this, for, though often discordant, it was hearty, with that
under-current of feeling which adds sweetness to the rudest lay, and is
often more attractive than the most florid ornament or faultless
execution. Every one sang as every one had danced, with all their might;
shrill children, soft-voiced girls, lullaby-singing mothers, gruff boys,
and strong-lunged men; the old pair quavered, and still a few
indefatigable babies crowed behind their little coops. Songs, ballads,
comic airs, popular melodies, and hymns, came in rapid succession. And
when they ended with that song which should be classed with sacred
music for association's sake, and standing hand in hand about the room
with the golden bride and bridegroom in their midst, sang "Home," Sylvia
leaned against her brother with dim eyes and a heart too full to sing.
Still standing thus when the last note had soared up and died, the old
man folded his hands and began to pray. It was an old-fashioned prayer,
such as the girl had never heard from the Bishop's lips; ungrammatical,
inelegant, and long. A quiet talk with God, manly in its straightforward
confession of short-comings, childlike in its appeal for guidance,
fervent in its gratitude for all good gifts, and the crowning one of
loving children. As if close intercourse had made the two familiar, this
human father turned to the Divine, as these sons and daughters turned to
him, as free to ask, as confident of a reply, as all afflictions,
blessings, cares, and crosses, were laid down before him, and the work
of eighty years submitted to his hand. There were no sounds in the room
but the one voice often tremulous with emotion and with age, the coo of
some dreaming baby, or the low sob of some mother whose arms were empty,
as the old man stood there, rugged and white atop as the granite hills,
with the old wife at his side, a circle of sons and daughters girdling
them round, and in all hearts the thought that as the former wedding had
been made for time, this golden one at eighty must be for eternity.
While Sylvia looked and listened a sense of genuine devotion stole over
her; the beauty and the worth of prayer grew clear to her through the
earnest speech of that unlettered man, and for the first time she fully
felt the nearness and the dearness of the Universal Father, whom she had
been taught to fear, yet longed to love.
"Now, my children, you must go before the little folks are tuckered
out," said Grandpa, heartily. "Mother and me can't say enough toe thank
you for the presents you have fetched us, the dutiful wishes you have
give us, the pride and comfort you have allers ben toe us. I ain't no
hand at speeches, so I shan't make none, but jest say ef any 'fliction
falls on any on you, remember mother's here toe help you bear it; ef any
worldly loss comes toe you, remember father's house is yourn while it
stans, and so the Lord bless and keep us all."
"Three cheers for gramper and grammer!" roared a six-foot scion as a
safety valve for sundry unmasculine emotions, and three rousing hurras
made the rafters ring, struck terror to the heart of the oldest
inhabitant of the rat-haunted garret, and summarily woke all the babies.
Then the good-byes began, the flurry of wrong baskets, pails and bundles
in wrong places; the sorting out of small folk too sleepy to know or
care what became of them; the maternal cluckings, and paternal shouts
for Kitty, Cy, Ben, Bill, or Mary Ann; the piling into vehicles with
much ramping of indignant horses unused to such late hours; the last
farewells, the roll of wheels, as one by one the happy loads departed,
and peace fell upon the household for another year.
"I declare for't, I never had sech an out an out good time sense I was
born intoe the world. Ab'ram, you are fit to drop, and so be I; now
let's set and talk it over along of Patience fore we go toe bed."
The old couple got into their chairs, and as they sat there side by
side, remembering that she had given no gift, Sylvia crept behind them,
and lending the magic of her voice to the simple air, sang the fittest
song for time and place--"John Anderson my Jo." It was too much for
grandma, the old heart overflowed, and reckless of the cherished cap
she laid her head on her "John's" shoulder, exclaiming through her
"That's the cap sheaf of the hull, and I can't bear no more to-night.
Ab'ram, lend me your hankchif, for I dunno where mine is, and my face is
all of a drip."
Before the red bandana had gently performed its work in grandpa's hand,
Sylvia beckoned her party from the room, and showing them the clear
moonlight night which followed the storm, suggested that they should
both save appearances and enjoy a novel pleasure by floating homeward
instead of sleeping. The tide against which they had pulled in coming up
would sweep them rapidly along, and make it easy to retrace in a few
hours the way they had loitered over for three days.
The pleasant excitement of the evening had not yet subsided, and all
applauded the plan as a fit finale to their voyage. The old lady
strongly objected, but the young people overruled her, and being
re-equipped in their damaged garments they bade the friendly family a
grateful adieu, left their more solid thanks under Nat's pillow, and
re-embarked upon their shining road.
All night Sylvia lay under the canopy of boughs her brother made to
shield her from the dew, listening to the soft sounds about her, the
twitter of a restless bird, the bleat of some belated lamb, the ripple
of a brook babbling like a baby in its sleep. All night she watched the
changing shores, silvery green or dark with slumberous shadow, and
followed the moon in its tranquil journey through the sky. When it set,
she drew her cloak about her, and, pillowing her head upon her arm,
exchanged the waking for a sleeping dream.
A thick mist encompassed her when she awoke. Above the sun shone dimly,
below rose and fell the billows of the sea, before her sounded the
city's fitful hum, and far behind her lay the green wilderness where she
had lived and learned so much. Slowly the fog lifted, the sun came
dazzling down upon the sea, and out into the open bay they sailed with
the pennon streaming in the morning wind. But still with backward glance
the girl watched the misty wall that rose between her and the charmed
river, and still with yearning heart confessed how sweet that brief
experience had been, for though she had not yet discovered it, like
"The fairy Lady of Shalott,
She had left the web and left the loom,
Had seen the water lilies bloom,
Had seen the helmet and the plume,
And had looked down to Camelot."
WHY SYLVIA WAS HAPPY.
"I never did understand you, Sylvia; and this last month you have been a
perfect enigma to me."
With rocking-chair in full action, suspended needle and thoughtful
expression, Miss Yule had watched her sister for ten minutes as she sat
with her work at her feet, her hands folded on her lap, and her eyes
dreamily fixed on vacancy.
"I always was to myself, Prue, and am more so than ever now," answered
Sylvia, waking out of her reverie with a smile that proved it had been a
"There must be some reason for this great change in you. Come, tell me,
With a motherly gesture Miss Yule drew the girl to her knee, brushed
back the bright hair, and looked into the face so freely turned to hers.
Through all the years they had been together, the elder sister had never
seen before the expression which the younger's face now wore. A vague
expectancy sat in her eyes, some nameless content sweetened her smile, a
beautiful repose replaced the varying enthusiasm, listlessness, and
melancholy that used to haunt her countenance and make it such a study.
Miss Yule could not read the secret of the change, yet felt its novel
charm; Sylvia could not explain it, though penetrated by its power; and
for a moment the sisters looked into each other's faces, wondering why
each seemed altered. Then Prue, who never wasted much time in
speculations of any kind, shook her head, and repeated--
"I don't understand it, but it must be right, because you are so
improved in every way. Ever since that wild trip up the river you have
been growing quiet, lovable, and cheerful, and I really begin to hope
that you will become like other people."
"I only know that I am happy, Prue. Why it is so I cannot tell; but now
I seldom have the old dissatisfied and restless feeling. Everything
looks pleasant to me, every one seems kind, and life begins to be both
sweet and earnest. It is only one of my moods, I suppose; but I am
grateful for it, and pray that it may last."
So earnestly she spoke, so cheerfully she smiled, that Miss Yule blessed
the mood and echoed Sylvia's wish, exclaiming in the next breath, with a
"My, dear, I've got it! You are growing up."
"I think I am. You tried to make a woman of me at sixteen, but it was
impossible until the right time came. That wild trip up the river, as
you call it, did more for me than I can ever tell, and when I seemed
most like a child I was learning to be a woman."
"Well, my dear, go on as you've begun, and I shall be more than
satisfied. What merry-making is on foot to-night? Mark and these friends
of his keep you in constant motion with their riding, rowing, and
rambling excursions, and if it did not agree with you so excellently, I
really should like a little quiet after a month of bustle."
"They are only coming up as usual, and that reminds me that I must go
"There is another new change, Sylvia. You never used to care what you
wore or how you looked, no matter how much time and trouble I expended
on you and your wardrobe. Now you do care, and it does my heart good to
see you always charmingly dressed, and looking your prettiest," said
Miss Yule, with the satisfaction of a woman who heartily believed in
costume as well as all the other elegances and proprieties of
"Am I ever that, Prue?" asked Sylvia, pausing on the threshold with a
shy yet wistful glance.
"Ever what, dear?"
"Always so to me; and now I think every one finds you very attractive
because you try to please, and seem to succeed delightfully."
Sylvia had never asked that question before, had never seemed to know or
care, and could not have chosen a more auspicious moment for her frank
inquiry than the present. The answer seemed to satisfy her, and smiling
at some blithe anticipation of her own, she went away to make a lampless
toilet in the dusk, which proved how slight a hold the feminine passion
for making one's self pretty had yet taken upon her.
The September moon was up and shining clearly over garden, lawn, and
sea, when the sound of voices called her down. At the stair-foot she
paused with a disappointed air, for only one hat lay on the hall table,
and a glance showed her only one guest with Mark and Prue. She strolled
irresolutely through the breezy hall, looked out at either open door,
sung a little to herself, but broke off in the middle of a line, and, as
if following a sudden impulse, went out into the mellow moonlight,
forgetful of uncovered head or dewy damage to the white hem of her
gown. Half way down the avenue she paused before a shady nook, and
looked in. The evergreens that enclosed it made the seat doubly dark to
eyes inured to the outer light, and seeing a familiar seeming figure
sitting with its head upon its hand, Sylvia leaned in, saying, with a
"Why, what is my romantic father doing here?"
The sense of touch was quicker than that of sight, and with an
exclamation of surprise she had drawn back before Warwick replied--
"It is not the old man, but the young one, who is romancing here."
"I beg your pardon! We have been waiting for you; what thought is so
charming that you forgot us all?"
Sylvia was a little startled, else she would scarcely have asked so
plain a question. But Warwick often asked much blunter ones, always told
the naked truth without prevarication or delay, and straightway
"The thought of the woman whom I hope to make my wife."
Sylvia stood silent for a moment as if intent on fastening in her hair
the delicate spray of hop-bells just gathered from the vine that formed
a leafy frame for the graceful picture which she made standing, with
uplifted arms, behind the arch. When she spoke it was to say, as she
moved on toward the house--
"It is too beautiful a night to stay in doors, but Prue is waiting for
me, and Mark wants to plan with you about our ride to-morrow. Shall we
She beckoned, and he came out of the shadow showing her an expression
which she had never seen before. His face was flushed, his eye unquiet,
his manner eager yet restrained. She had seen him intellectually
excited many times; never emotionally till now. Something wayward, yet
warm, in this new mood attracted her, because so like her own. But with
a tact as native as her sympathy she showed no sign of this, except in
the attentive look she fixed upon him as the moonlight bathed him in its
splendor. He met the glance, seemed to interpret it aright, but did not
answer its unconscious inquiry; for pausing, he asked abruptly--
"Should a rash promise be considered binding when it threatens to
destroy one's peace?"
Sylvia pondered an instant before she answered slowly--
"If the promise was freely given, no sin committed in its keeping, and
no peace troubled but one's own, I should say yes."
Still pausing, he looked down at her with that unquiet glance as she
looked up with her steady one, and with the same anxiety he asked--
"Would you keep such a promise inviolate, even though it might cost you
the sacrifice of something dearer to you than your life?"
She thought again, and again looked up, answering with the sincerity
that he had taught her--
"It might be unwise, but if the sacrifice was not one of principle or
something that I ought to love more than life, I think I should keep the
promise as religiously as an Indian keeps a vow of vengeance."
As she spoke, some recollection seemed to strike Warwick like a sudden
stab. The flush died out of his face, the fire from his eyes, and an
almost grim composure fell upon him as he said low to himself, with a
forward step as if eager to leave some pain behind him--
"It is better so; for his sake I will leave all to time."
Sylvia saw his lips move, but caught no sound till he said with a
gravity that was almost gloom--
"I think you would; therefore, beware how you bind yourself with such
verbal bonds. Let us go in."
They went; Warwick to the drawing-room, but Sylvia ran up stairs for the
Berlin wools, which in spite of heat and the sure staining of fingers
were to be wound that night according to contract, for she kept a small
promise as sacredly as she would have done a greater one.
"What have you been doing to give yourself such an uplifted expression,
Sylvia?" said Mark, as she came in.
"Feasting my eyes on lovely colors. Does not that look like a folded
rainbow?" she answered, laying her brilliant burden on the table where
Warwick sat examining a broken reel, and Prue was absorbed in getting a
carriage blanket under way.
"Come, Sylvia, I shall soon be ready for the first shade," she said,
clashing her formidable needles. "Is that past mending, Mr. Warwick?"
"Yes, without better tools than a knife, two pins, and a bodkin."
"Then you must put the skeins on a chair, Sylvia. Try not to tangle
them, and spread your handkerchief in your lap, for that maroon color
will stain sadly. Now don't speak to me, for I must count my stitches."
Sylvia began to wind the wools with a swift dexterity as natural to her
hands as certain little graces of gesture which made their motions
pleasant to watch. Warwick never rummaged work-baskets, gossipped, or
paid compliments for want of something to do. If no little task appeared
for them, he kept his hands out of mischief, and if nothing occurred to
make words agreeable or necessary, he proved that he understood the art
of silence, and sat with those vigilant eyes of his fixed upon whatever
object attracted them. Just then the object was a bright band slipping
round the chair-back, with a rapidity that soon produced a snarl, but no
help till patient fingers had smoothed and wound it up. Then, with the
look of one who says to himself, "I will!" he turned, planted himself
squarely before Sylvia, and held out his hands.
"Here is a reel that will neither tangle nor break your skeins, will you
"Yes, thank you, and in return I'll wind your color first."
"Which is my color?"
"This fine scarlet, strong, enduring, and martial, like yourself."
"You are right."
"I thought so; Mr. Moor prefers blue, and I violet."
"Blue and red make violet," called Mark from his corner, catching the
word "color," though busy with a sketch for a certain fair Jessie Hope.
Moor was with Mr. Yule in his study, Prue mentally wrapped in her
blanket, and when Sylvia was drawn into an artistic controversy with her
brother, Warwick fell into deep thought.
With the pride of a proud man once deceived, he had barred his heart
against womankind, resolving that no second defeat should oppress him
with that distrust of self and others, which is harder for a generous
nature to bear, than the pain of its own wound. He had yet to learn that
the shadow of love suggests its light, and that they who have been
cheated of the food, without which none can truly live, long for it with
redoubled hunger. Of late he had been discovering this, for a
craving, stronger than his own strong will, possessed him. He tried to
disbelieve and silence it; attacked it with reason, starved it with
neglect, and chilled it with contempt. But when he fancied it was dead,
the longing rose again, and with a clamorous cry, undid his work. For
the first time, this free spirit felt the master's hand, confessed a
need its own power could not supply, and saw that no man can live alone
on even the highest aspirations without suffering for the vital warmth
of the affections. A month ago he would have disdained the hope that now
was so dear to him. But imperceptibly the influences of domestic life
had tamed and won him. Solitude looked barren, vagrancy had lost its
charm; his life seemed cold and bare, for, though devoted to noble aims,
it was wanting in the social sacrifices, cares, and joys, that foster
charity, and sweeten character. An impetuous desire to enjoy the rich
experience which did so much for others, came over him to-night as it
had often done while sharing the delights of this home, where he had
made so long a pause. But with the desire came a memory that restrained
him better than his promise. He saw what others had not yet discovered,
and obeying the code of honor which governs a true gentleman, loved his
friend better than himself and held his peace.
The last skein came, and as she wound it, Sylvia's glance involuntarily
rose from the strong hands to the face above them, and lingered there,
for the penetrating gaze was averted, and an unwonted mildness inspired
confidence as its usual expression of power commanded respect. His
silence troubled her, and with curious yet respectful scrutiny, she
studied his face as she had never done before. She found it full of a
noble gravity and kindliness; candor and courage spoke in the lines of
the mouth, benevolence and intellect in the broad arch of the forehead,
ardor and energy in the fire of the eye, and on every lineament the
stamp of that genuine manhood, which no art can counterfeit. Intent upon
discovering the secret of the mastery he exerted over all who approached
him, Sylvia had quite forgotten herself, when suddenly Warwick's eyes
were fixed full upon her own. What spell lay in them she could not tell,
for human eye had never shed such sudden summer over her. Admiration was
not in it, for it did not agitate; nor audacity, for it did not abash;
but something that thrilled warm through blood and nerves, that filled
her with a glad submission to some power, absolute yet tender, and
caused her to turn her innocent face freely to his gaze, letting him
read therein a sentiment for which she had not yet found a name.
It lasted but a moment; yet in that moment, each saw the other's heart,
and each turned a new page in the romance of their lives. Sylvia's eyes
fell first, but no blush followed, no sign of anger or perplexity, only
a thoughtful silence, which continued till the last violet thread
dropped from his hands, and she said almost regretfully--
"This is the end."
"Yes, this is the end."
As he echoed the words Warwick rose suddenly and went to talk with Mark,
whose sketch was done. Sylvia sat a moment as if quite forgetful where
she was, so absorbing was some thought or emotion. Presently she seemed
to glow and kindle with an inward fire; over face and forehead rushed an
impetuous color, her eyes shone, and her lips trembled with the
fluttering of her breath. Then a panic appeared to seize her, for,
stealing noiselessly away, she hurried to her room, and covering up her
face as if to hide it even from herself, whispered to that full heart
of hers, with quick coming tears that belied the words--
"Now I know why I am happy!"
How long she lay there weeping and smiling in the moonlight she never
knew. Her sister's call broke in upon the first love dream she had ever
woven for herself, and she went down to bid the friends good night. The
hall was only lighted by the moon, and in the dimness of the shadow
where she stood, no one saw traces of that midsummer shower on her
cheeks, or detected the soft trouble in her eye, but for the first time
Moor felt her hand tremble in his own and welcomed the propitious omen.
Being an old-fashioned gentleman, Mr. Yule preserved in his family the
pleasant custom of hand-shaking, which gives such heartiness to the
morning and evening greetings of a household. Moor liked and adopted it;
Warwick had never done so, but that night he gave a hand to Prue and
Mark with his most cordial expression, and Sylvia felt both her own
taken in a warm lingering grasp, although he only said "good by!" Then
they went; but while the three paused at the door held by the beauty of
the night, back to them on the wings of the wind came Warwick's voice
singing the song that Sylvia loved. All down the avenue, and far along
the winding road they traced his progress, till the strain died in the
distance leaving only the echo of the song to link them to the singer.
When evening came again Sylvia waited on the lawn to have the meeting
over in the dark, for love made her very shy. But Moor came alone, and
his first words were,
"Comfort me, Sylvia, Adam is gone. He went as unexpectedly as he came,
and when I woke this morning a note lay at my door, but my friend was
She murmured some stereotyped regret, but there was a sharp pain at her
heart till there came to her the remembrance of Warwick's question,
uttered on the spot where she was standing. Some solace she must have,
and clinging to this one thought hopefully within herself--
"He has made some promise, has gone to get released from it, and will
come back to say what he looked last night. He is so true I will believe
in him and wait."
She did wait, but week after week went by and Warwick did not come.
DULL BUT NECESSARY.
Whoever cares only for incident and action in a book had better skip
this chapter and read on; but those who take an interest in the
delineation of character will find the key to Sylvia's here.
John Yule might have been a poet, painter, or philanthropist, for Heaven
had endowed him with fine gifts; he was a prosperous merchant with no
ambition but to leave a fortune to his children and live down the memory
of a bitter past. On the threshold of his life he stumbled and fell; for
as he paused there, waiting for the first step to appear, Providence
tested and found him wanting. On one side, Poverty offered the aspiring
youth her meagre hand; but he was not wise enough to see the virtues
hidden under her hard aspect, nor brave enough to learn the stern yet
salutary lessons which labor, necessity, and patience teach, giving to
those who serve and suffer the true success. On the other hand Opulence
allured him with her many baits, and, silencing the voice of conscience,
he yielded to temptation and wrecked his nobler self.
A loveless marriage was the price he paid for his ambition; not a costly
one, he thought, till time taught him that whosoever mars the integrity
of his own soul by transgressing the great laws of life, even by so much
as a hair's breadth, entails upon himself and heirs the inevitable
retribution which proves their worth and keeps them sacred. The tie that
bound and burdened the unhappy twain, worn thin by constant friction,
snapped at last, and in the solemn pause death made in his busy life,
there rose before him those two ghosts who sooner or later haunt us all,
saying with reproachful voices,--"This I might have been," and "This I
am." Then he saw the failure of his life. At fifty he found himself
poorer than when he made his momentous choice; for the years that had
given him wealth, position, children, had also taken from him youth,
self-respect, and many a gift whose worth was magnified by loss. He
endeavored to repair the fault so tardily acknowledged, but found it
impossible to cancel it when remorse, embittered effort, and age left
him powerless to redeem the rich inheritance squandered in his prime.
If ever man received punishment for a self-inflicted wrong it was John
Yule. A punishment as subtle as the sin; for in the children growing up
about him every relinquished hope, neglected gift, lost aspiration,
seemed to live again; yet on each and all was set the direful stamp of
imperfection, which made them visible illustrations of the great law
broken in his youth.
In Prudence, as she grew to womanhood, he saw his own practical tact and
talent, nothing more. She seemed the living representative of the years
spent in strife for profit, power, and place; the petty cares that fret
the soul, the mercenary schemes that waste a life, the worldly
formalities, frivolities, and fears, that so belittle character. All
these he saw in this daughter's shape; and with pathetic patience bore
the daily trial of an over active, over anxious, affectionate but most
In Mark he saw his ardor for the beautiful, his love of the poetic, his
reverence for genius, virtue, heroism. But here too the subtle blight
had fallen. This son, though strong in purpose was feeble in
performance; for some hidden spring of power was wanting, and the shadow
of that earlier defeat chilled in his nature the energy which is the
first attribute of all success. Mark loved poetry, and "wrote in numbers
for the numbers came;" but, whether tragic, tender, or devout, in each
attempt there was enough of the divine fire to warm them into life, yet
not enough to gift them with the fervor that can make a line immortal,
and every song was a sweet lament for the loftier lays that might have
been. He loved art and gave himself to it; but though studying all forms
of beauty he never reached its soul, and every effort tantalized him
with fresh glimpses of the fair ideal which he could not reach. He loved
the true, but high thoughts seldom blossomed into noble deeds; for when
the hour came the man was never ready, and disappointment was his daily
portion. A sad fate for the son, a far sadder one for the father who had
bequeathed it to him from the irrecoverable past.
In Sylvia he saw, mysteriously blended, the two natures that had given
her life, although she was born when the gulf between regretful husband
and sad wife was widest. As if indignant Nature rebelled against the
outrage done her holiest ties, adverse temperaments gifted the child
with the good and ill of each. From her father she received pride,
intellect, and will; from her mother passion, imagination, and the
fateful melancholy of a woman defrauded of her dearest hope. These
conflicting temperaments, with all their aspirations, attributes, and
inconsistencies, were woven into a nature fair and faulty; ambitious,
yet not self-reliant; sensitive, yet not keen-sighted. These two
masters ruled soul and body, warring against each other, making Sylvia
an enigma to herself and her life a train of moods.
A wise and tender mother would have divined her nameless needs, answered
her vague desires, and through the medium of the most omnipotent
affection given to humanity, have made her what she might have been. But
Sylvia had never known mother-love, for her life came through death; and
the only legacy bequeathed her was a slight hold upon existence, a
ceaseless craving for affection, and the shadow of a tragedy that wrung
from the pale lips, that grew cold against her baby cheek, the cry,
"Free at last, thank God for that!"
Prudence could not fill the empty place, though the good-hearted
housewife did her best. Neither sister understood the other, and each
tormented the other through her very love. Prue unconsciously
exasperated Sylvia, Sylvia unconsciously shocked Prue, and they hitched
along together each trying to do well and each taking diametrically
opposite measures to effect her purpose. Mark briefly but truly
described them when he said, "Sylvia trims the house with flowers, but
Prudence dogs her with a dust-pan."
Mr. Yule was now a studious, melancholy man, who, having said one fatal
"No" to himself, made it the satisfaction of his life to say a never
varying "Yes" to his children. But though he left no wish of theirs
ungratified, he seemed to have forfeited his power to draw and hold them
to himself. He was more like an unobtrusive guest than a master in his
house. His children loved, but never clung to him, because unseen, yet
impassible, rose the barrier of an instinctive protest against the
wrong done their dead mother, unconscious on their part but terribly
significant to him.
Mark had been years away; and though the brother and sister were
tenderly attached, sex, tastes, and pursuits kept them too far apart,
and Sylvia was solitary even in this social seeming home. Dissatisfied
with herself, she endeavored to make her life what it should be with the
energy of an ardent, aspiring nature; and through all experiences, sweet
or bitter, all varying moods, successes and defeats, a sincere desire
for happiness the best and highest, was the little rushlight of her soul
that never wavered or went out.
She never had known friendship in its truest sense, for next to love it
is the most abused of words. She had called many "friend," but was still
ignorant of that sentiment, cooler than passion, warmer than respect,
more just and generous than either, which recognizes a kindred spirit in
another, and claiming its right, keeps it sacred by the wise reserve
that is to friendship what the purple bloom is to the grape, a charm
which once destroyed can never be restored. Love she had desired, yet
dreaded, knowing her own passionate nature, and when it came to her,
making that brief holiday the fateful point of her life, she gave
herself to it wholly. Before that time she had rejoiced over a more
tranquil pleasure, and believed that she had found her friend in the
neighbor who after long absence had returned to his old place.
Nature had done much for Geoffrey Moor, but the wise mother also gave
him those teachers to whose hard lessons she often leaves her dearest
children. Five years spent in the service of a sister, who, through the
sharp discipline of pain was fitting her meek soul for heaven, had
given him an experience such as few young men receive. This fraternal
devotion proved a blessing in disguise; it preserved him from any
profanation of his youth, and the companionship of the helpless creature
whom he loved had proved an ever present stimulant to all that was best
and sweetest in the man. A single duty faithfully performed had set the
seal of integrity upon his character, and given him grace to see at
thirty the rich compensation he had received for the ambitions silently
sacrificed at twenty-five. When his long vigil was over he looked into
the world to find his place again. But the old desires were dead, the
old allurements had lost their charm, and while he waited for time to
show him what good work he should espouse, no longing was so strong as
that for a home, where he might bless and be blessed in writing that
immortal poem a virtuous and happy life.
Sylvia soon felt the power and beauty of this nature, and remembering
how well he had ministered to a physical affliction, often looked into
the face whose serenity was a perpetual rebuke, longing to ask him to
help and heal the mental ills that perplexed and burdened her. Moor soon
divined the real isolation of the girl, read the language of her wistful
eyes, felt that he could serve her, and invited confidence by the
cordial alacrity with which he met her least advance.
But while he served he learned to love her, for Sylvia, humble in her
own conceit, and guarded by the secret passion that possessed her,
freely showed the regard she felt, with no thought of misapprehension,
no fear of consequences. Unconscious that such impulsive demonstration
made her only more attractive, that every manifestation of her frank
esteem was cherished in her friend's heart of hearts, and that through
her he was enjoying the blossom time of life. So peacefully and
pleasantly the summer ripened into autumn and Sylvia's interest into an
Drawn curtains shut out the frosty night, the first fire of the season
burned upon the hearth, and basking in its glow sat Sylvia, letting her
thoughts wander where they would. As books most freely open at pages
oftenest read, the romance of her summer life seldom failed to unclose
at passages where Warwick's name appeared. Pleasant as were many hours
of that time, none seemed so full of beauty as those passed with him,
and sweetest of them all the twilight journey hand in hand. It now
returned to her so freshly that she seemed to hear again the evening
sounds, to feel the warm, fern-scented wind blow over her, to see the
strong hand offered helpfully, and with an impulse past control she
stretched her own to that visionary Warwick as the longing of her heart
found vent in an eager
"I am here."
A voice replied, a hand pressed hers, and springing up she saw, not
Adam, but Moor, standing beside her with a beaming face. Concealing the
thrill of joy, the pang of pain he had brought her, she greeted him
cordially, and reseating herself, instinctively tried to turn the
current of her thoughts.
"I am glad you came, for I have built castles in the air long enough,
and you will give me more substantial entertainment, as you always do."
The broken dream had left tokens of its presence in the unwonted warmth
of Sylvia's manner; Moor felt it, and for a moment did not answer. Much
of her former shyness had crept over her of late; she sometimes shunned
him, was less free in conversation, less frank in demonstration, and
once or twice had colored deeply as she caught his eye upon her. These
betrayals of Warwick's image in her thoughts seemed to Moor the happy
omens he had waited eagerly to see, and each day his hope grew more
assured. He had watched her unseen while she was busied with her mental
pastime, and as he looked his heart had grown unspeakably tender, for
never had her power over him been so fully felt, and never had he so
longed to claim her in the name of his exceeding love. A pleasant peace
reigned through the house, the girl sat waiting at his side, the moment
looked auspicious, the desire grew irresistible, and he yielded to it.
"You are thinking of something new and pleasant to tell me, I
hope,--something in keeping with this quiet place and hour," said
Sylvia, glancing up at him with the traitorous softness still in her
"Yes, and hoping you would like it."
"Then I have never heard it before?"
"Never from me."
"Go on, please; I am ready."
She folded her hands together on her knee, turned her face attentively
to his, and unwittingly composed herself to listen to the sweet story so
often told, and yet so hard to tell. Moor meant to woo her very gently,
for he believed that love was new to her. He had planned many graceful
illustrations for his tale, and rounded many smoothly-flowing sentences
in which to unfold it. But the emotions are not well bred, and when the
moment came nature conquered art. No demonstration seemed beautiful
enough to grace the betrayal of his passion, no language eloquent enough
to tell it, no power strong enough to hold in check the impulse that
mastered him. He went to her, knelt down upon the cushion at her feet,
and lifting to her a face flushed and fervent with the ardor of a man's
first love, said impetuously--
"Sylvia, read it here!"
There was no need for her to look; act, touch, and tone told the story
better than the most impassioned speech. The supplication of his
attitude, the eager beating of his heart, the tender pressure of his
hand, dispelled her blindness in the drawing of a breath, and showed her
what she had done. Now neglected warnings, selfish forgetfulness, and
the knowledge of an unconscious but irremediable wrong frightened and
bewildered her; she hid her face and shrunk back trembling with remorse
and shame. Moor, seeing in her agitation only maiden happiness or
hesitancy, accepted and enjoyed a blissful moment while he waited her
reply. It was so long in coming that he gently tried to draw her hands
away and look into her face, whispering like one scarcely doubtful of
"You love me, Sylvia?"
Only half audible was the reluctant answer, yet he heard it, smiled at
what he fancied a shy falsehood, and said tenderly--
"Will you let me love you, dear?"
Fainter than before was the one word, but it reached and startled him.
Hurriedly he asked--
"Am I nothing to you but a friend?"
With a quick gesture he put down her hands and looked at her. Grief,
regret, and pity, filled her face with trouble, but no love was there.
He saw, yet would not believe the truth, felt that the sweet certainty
of love had gone, yet could not relinquish the fond hope.
"Sylvia, do you understand me?"
"I do, I do! but I cannot say what you would have me, and I must tell
the truth, although it breaks my heart. Geoffrey, I do not love you."
"Can I not teach you?" he pleaded eagerly.
"I have no desire to learn."
Softly she spoke, remorseful she looked, but the words wounded like a
blow. All the glad assurance died, the passionate glow faded, the
caress, half tender, half timid, fell away, and nothing of the happy
lover remained in face or figure. He rose slowly as if the heavy
disappointment oppressed both soul and body. He fixed on her a glance of
mingled incredulity, reproach, and pain, and said, like one bent on
ending suspense at once--
"Did you not see that I loved you? Can you have been trifling with me?
Sylvia, I thought you too simple and sincere for heartless coquetry."
"I am! You shall not suspect me of that, though I deserve all other
reproaches. I have been very selfish, very blind. I should have
remembered that in your great kindness you might like me too well for
your own peace. I should have believed Mark, and been less candid in my
expressions of esteem. But I wanted a friend so much; I found all I
could ask in you; I thought my youth, my faults, my follies, would make
it impossible for you to see in me anything but a wayward girl, who
frankly showed her regard, and was proud of yours. It was one of my sad
mistakes; I see it now; and now it is too late for anything but
penitence. Forgive me if you can; I've taken all the pleasure, and left
you all the pain."
Sylvia spoke in a paroxysm of remorseful sorrow. Moor listened with a
sinking heart, and when she dropped her face into her hands again,
unable to endure the pale expectancy of his, he turned away, saying with
an accent of quiet despair--
"Then I have worked and waited all this summer to see my harvest fail at
last. Oh, Sylvia, I so loved, so trusted you."
He leaned his arm on the low chimney piece, laid down his head upon it
and stood silent, trying to forgive.
It is always a hard moment for any woman, when it demands her bravest
sincerity to look into a countenance of eager love, and change it to one
of bitter disappointment by the utterance of a monosyllable. To Sylvia
it was doubly hard, for now her blindness seemed as incredible as cruel;
her past frankness unjustifiable; her pleasure selfish; her refusal the
blackest ingratitude, and her dream of friendship forever marred. In the
brief pause that fell, every little service he had rendered her, rose
freshly in her memory; every hour of real content and genuine worth that
he had given her, seemed to come back and reproach her; every look,
accent, action, of both happy past and sad present seemed to plead for
him. Her conscience cried out against her, her heart overflowed with
penitence and pity. She looked at him, longing to say something, do
something that should prove her repentance, and assure him of the
affection which she felt. As she looked, two great tears fell glittering
to the hearth, and lay there such eloquent reproaches, that, had
Sylvia's heart been hard and cold as the marble where they shone, it
would have melted then. She could not bear it, she went to him, took in
both her own the rejected hand that hung at his side, and feeling that
no act could too tenderly express her sorrow, lifted it to her lips and
softly kissed it.
An instant she was permitted to lay her cheek against it as a penitent
child mutely imploring pardon might have done. Then it broke from her
hold, and gathering her to himself, Moor looked up exclaiming with
renewed hope, unaltered longing--
"You do care for me, then? You give yourself to me in spite of that hard
No? Ah, Sylvia, you are capricious even in your love."
She could not answer, for if that first No had been hard to utter, this
was impossible. It seemed like turning the knife in the wound, to
disappoint the hope that had gathered strength from despair, and she
could only lay her head down on his breast, weeping the saddest tears
she had ever shed. Still happy in his new delusion, Moor softly stroked
the shining hair, smiling so tenderly, so delightedly, that it was well
for her she did not see the smile, the words were enough.
"Dear Sylvia, I have tried so hard to make you love me, how could you
The reason sprung to her lips, but maiden pride and shame withheld it.
What could she tell except that she had cherished a passion, based only
on a look. She had deceived herself in her belief that Moor was but a
friend, might she not also have deceived herself in believing Warwick
was a lover? She could not own this secret, its betrayal could not alter
her reply, nor heal Moor's wound, but the thought of Warwick
strengthened her. It always did, as surely as the influence of his
friend always soothed her, for one was an embodiment of power, the other
"Geoffrey, let me be true to you and to myself," she said, so earnestly
that it gave weight to her broken words. "I cannot be your wife, but I
can be your dear friend forever. Try to believe this,--make my task
easier by giving up your hope,--and oh, be sure that while I live I
cannot do enough to show my sorrow for the great wrong I have done you."
"Must it be so? I find it very hard to accept the truth and give up the
hope that has made my happiness so long. Let me keep it, Sylvia; let me
wait and work again. I have a firm belief that you _will_ love me yet,
because I cleave to you with heart and soul, long for you continually,
and think you the one woman of the world."
"Ah, if it were only possible!" she sighed.
"Let me make it so! In truth, I think I should not labor long. You are
so young, dear, you have not learned to know your own heart yet. It was
not pity nor penitence alone that brought you here to comfort me. Was
"Yes. Had it been love, could I stand as I am now and not show it?"
She looked up at him, showed him that though her cheeks were wet there
was no rosy dawn of passion there; though her eyes were as full of
affection as of grief, there was no shy avoidance of his own, no
dropping of the lids, lest they should tell too much; and though his arm
encircled her, she did not cling to him as loving women cling when they
lean on the strength which, touched by love, can both cherish and
sustain. That look convinced him better than a flood of words. A long
sigh broke from his lips, and, turning from her the eyes that had so
wistfully searched and found not, they went wandering drearily hither
and thither as if seeking the hope whose loss made life seem desolate.
Sylvia saw it, groaned within herself, but still held fast to the hard
truth, and tried to make it kinder.
"Geoffrey, I once heard you say to Mark, 'Friendship is the best college
character can graduate from. Believe in it, seek for it, and when it
comes keep it as sacredly as love.' All my life I have wanted a friend,
have looked for one, and when he came I welcomed him. May I not keep
him, and preserve the friendship dear and sacred still, although I
cannot offer love?"
Softly, seriously, she spoke, but the words sounded cold to him;
friendship seemed so poor now, love so rich, he could not leave the
blessed sunshine which transfigured the whole earth and sit down in the
little circle of a kindly fire without keen regret.
"I should say yes, I will try to do it if nothing easier remains to me.
Sylvia, for five years I have longed and waited for a home. Duty forbade
it then, because poor Marion had only me to make her sad life happy, and
my mother left her to my charge. Now the duty is ended, the old house
very empty, my heart very hungry for affection. You are all in all to
me, and I find it so difficult to relinquish my dream that I must be
importunate. I have spoken too soon, you have had no time to think, to
look into yourself and question your own heart. Go, now, recall what I
have said, remember that I will wait for you patiently, and when I
leave, an hour hence, come down and give me my last answer."
Sylvia was about to speak, but the sound of an approaching step brought
over her the shyness she had not felt before, and without a word she
darted from the room. Then romance also fled, for Prue came bustling in,
and Moor was called to talk of influenzas, while his thoughts were full
Alone in her chamber Sylvia searched herself. She pictured the life that
would be hers with Moor. The old house so full of something better than
its opulence, an atmosphere of genial tranquillity which made it
home-like to whoever crossed its threshold. Herself the daily companion
and dear wife of the master who diffused such sunshine there; whose
serenity soothed her restlessness; whose affection would be as enduring
as his patience; whose character she so truly honored. She felt that no
woman need ask a happier home, a truer or more tender lover. But when
she looked into herself she found the cordial, unimpassioned sentiment
he first inspired still unchanged, and her heart answered--
"This is friendship."
She thought of Warwick, and the other home that might be hers. Fancy
painted in glowing colors the stirring life, the novelty, excitement,
and ever new delight such wanderings would have for her. The joy of
being always with him; the proud consciousness that she was nearest and
dearest to such a man; the certainty that she might share the knowledge
of his past, might enjoy his present, help to shape his future. There
was no time to look into her heart, for up sprung its warm blood to her
cheek, its hope to her eye, its longing to her lips, its answer glad and
"Ah, this is love!"
The clock struck ten, and after lingering a little Sylvia went down.
Slowly, because her errand was a hard one; thoughtfully, because she
knew not where nor how she could best deliver it. No need to look for
him or linger for his coming; he was already there. Alone in the hall,
absently smoothing a little silken shawl she often wore, and waiting
with a melancholy patience that smote her to the heart. He went to meet
her, took both her hands in his, and looked into her face so tenderly,
"Sylvia, is it good night or good by?"
Her eyes filled, her hands trembled, her color paled, but she answered
"Forgive me; it is good by."
"Another gift for you, Sylvia. I don't know the writing, but it smells
like flowers," said Mark, as a smiling maid brought in a package on
Sylvia tore off the wrapper, lifted a cover, and exclaimed with
pleasure, though it was the simplest present she had received that day.
Only an osier basket, graceful in design and shape, lined with moss, and
filled with holly sprays, the scarlet berries glowing beautifully among
the polished green. No note, no card, no hint of its donor anywhere
appeared, for none of them recognized the boldly written address.
Presently a thought came to Sylvia; in a moment the mystery seemed to
grow delightfully clear, and she said to herself with a glow of joy,
"This is so like Adam I know he sent it."
"I must say it is the most peculiar present I ever saw, and it is my
belief that the boy who brought it stole whatever article of value it
contained, for it was very carelessly done up. No person in their senses
would send a few sprigs of common holly to a young lady in this odd
way," said Prue, poking here and there in hopes of finding some clue.
"It is not common, but very beautiful; we seldom see any so large and
green, and full of berries. Nor is it odd, but very kind, because from
the worn look of the wrapper I know it has been sent a long way to
please me. Look at the little ferns in the moss, and smell the sweet
moist odor that seems to take us into summer woods in spite of a
snowstorm. Ah, he knew what I should like."
"Who knew?" asked Mark, quickly.
"You must guess." And fearing that she had betrayed herself, Sylvia
hurried across the room to put the holly in water.
"Ah, ha, I see," said Mark, laughing.
"Who is it?" asked Prue, looking mystified.
"Geoffrey," whispered Mr. Yule, with an air of satisfaction.
Then all three looked at one another, all three nodded sagely, and all
three glanced at the small person bending over the table with cheeks
almost as rosy as the berries in her hand.
Every one knows what a Christmas party is when a general friendliness
pervades the air, and good wishes fly about like _confetti_ during
Carnival. To such an one went Sylvia and Mark that night, the brother
looking unusually blithe and debonair, because the beloved Jessie had
promised to be there if certain aunts and uncles would go away in time;
the sister in a costume as pretty as appropriate, for snow and holly
made her a perfect Yule. Sylvia loved dancing, and knew "wall flowers"
only by sight; therefore she was busy; her lover's gift shone greenly in
bosom, hair, and fleecy skirts; therefore she was beautiful, and the
thought that Adam had not forgotten her lay warm at her heart; therefore
she was supremely happy. Mark was devoted, but disappointed, for Jessie
did not come, and having doomed the detaining aunts and uncles to a
most unblessed fate, he sought consolation among less fair damsels.
"Now go and enjoy yourself. I shall dance no more round dances, for I'd
rather not with any one but you, and you have been a martyr long
Mark roamed away, and finding a cool corner Sylvia watched the animated
scene before her till her wandering glance was arrested by the sight of
a new comer, and her mind busied with trying to recollect where she had
seen him. The slender figure, swarthy face, and vivacious eyes all
seemed familiar, but she could find no name for their possessor till he
caught her eye, when he half bowed and wholly smiled. Then she
remembered, and while still recalling that brief interview one of their
young hosts appeared with the stranger, and Gabriel André was duly
"I could hardly expect to be remembered, and am much flattered, I assure
you. Did you suffer from the shower that day, Miss Yule?"
The speech was nothing, but the foreign accent gave a softness to the
words, and the southern grace of manner gave an air of romance to the
handsome youth. Sylvia was in the mood to be pleased with everybody,
everything, and was unusually gracious as they merrily pursued the
subject suggested by his question. Presently he asked--
"Is Warwick with you now?"
"He was not staying with us, but with his friend, Mr. Moor."
"He was the gentleman who pulled so well that day?"
"Is Warwick with him still?"
"Oh, no, he went away three months ago."
"I wonder where!"
"So do I!"
The wish had been impulsively expressed, and was as impulsively echoed.
Young André smiled, and liked Miss Yule the better for forgetting that
somewhat lofty air of hers.
"You have no conjecture, then? I wish to find him, much, very much, but
cannot put myself upon his trail. He is so what you call peculiar that
he writes no letters, leaves no address, and roves here and there like a
"Have you ill news for him?"
"I have the best a man could desire; but fear that while I look for him
he has gone to make a disappointment for himself. You are a friend, I
"Then you know much of him, his life, his ways?"
"Yes, both from himself and Mr. Moor."
"Then you know of his betrothal to my cousin, doubtless, and I may speak
of it, because if you will be so kind you may perhaps help us to find
"I did not know--perhaps he did not wish it--" began Sylvia, folding one
hand tightly in the other, with a quick breath and a momentary sensation
as if some one had struck her in the face.
"He thinks so little of us I shall not regard his wish just now. If you
will permit me I would say a word for my cousin's sake, as I know you
will be interested for her, and I do not feel myself strange with you."
Sylvia bowed, and standing before her with an air half mannish, half
boyish, Gabriel went on in the low, rapid tone peculiar to him.
"See, then, my cousin was betrothed in May. A month after Adam cries
out that he loves too much for his peace, that he has no freedom of his
heart or mind, that he must go away and take his breath before he is
made a happy slave forever. Ottila told me this. She implored him to
stay; but no, he vows he will not come again till they marry, in the
next June. He thinks it a weakness to adore a woman. Impertinente! I
have no patience for him."
Gabriel spoke indignantly, and pressed his foot into the carpet with a
scornful look. But Sylvia took no heed of his petulance, she only kept
her eyes fixed upon him with an intentness which he mistook for
interest. The eyes were fine, the interest was flattering, and though
quite aware that he was both taking a liberty and committing a breach of
confidence, the impulsive young gentleman chose to finish what he had
begun, and trust that no harm would follow.
"He has been gone now more than half a year, but has sent no letter, no
message, nothing to show that he still lives. Ottila waits, she writes,
she grows too anxious to endure, she comes to look for him. I help her,
but we do not find him yet, and meantime I amuse her. My friends are
kind, and we enjoy much as we look about us for this truant Adam."
If Sylvia could have doubted the unexpected revelation, this last trait
was so like Warwick it convinced her at once. Though the belief to which
she had clung so long was suddenly swept from under her, she floated
silently with no outward sign of shipwreck as her hope went down. Pride
was her shield, and crowding back all other emotions she kept herself
unnaturally calm behind it till she was alone. If Gabriel had been
watching her he would only have discovered that she was a paler blonde
than he had thought her; that her address was more coldly charming than
before; and that her eye no longer met his, but rested steadily on the
folded fan she held. He was not watching her, however, but glancing
frequently over her head at something at the far end of the rooms which
a crowd of assiduous gentlemen concealed. His eye wandered, but his
thoughts did not; for still intent on the purpose that seemed to have
brought him to her, he said, as if reluctant to be importunate, yet
resolved to satisfy himself--
"Pardon me that I so poorly entertain you, and let me ask one other
question in Ottila's name. This Moor, would he not give us some clue to
"He is absent, and will be till spring, I think. Where I do not know,
else I could write for you. Did Mr. Warwick promise to return in June?"
"Then, if he lives, he will come. Your cousin must wait; it will not be
"It shall not!"
The young man's voice was stern, and a passionate glitter made his black
eyes fierce. Then the former suavity returned, and with his most gallant
air he said--
"You are kind, Miss Yule; I thank you, and put away this so troublesome
affair. May I have the honor?"
If he had proposed to waltz over a precipice Sylvia felt as if she could
have accepted, provided there was time to ask a question or two before
the crash came. A moment afterward Mark was surprised to see her
floating round the room on the arm of "the olive-colored party," whom he
recognized at once. His surprise soon changed to pleasure, for his
beauty-loving eye as well as his brotherly pride was gratified as the
whirling couples subsided and the young pair went circling slowly by,
giving to the graceful pastime the enchantment few have skill to lend
it, and making it a spectacle of life-enjoying youth to be remembered by
the lookers on.
"Thank you! I have not enjoyed such a waltz since I left Cuba. It is the
rudest of rude things to say, but to you I may confide it, because you
dance like a Spaniard. The ladies here seem to me as cold as their own
snow, and they make dancing a duty, not a pleasure. They should see
Ottila; she is all grace and fire. I could kill myself dancing with her.
Adam used to say it was like wine to watch her."
"I wish she was here to give us a lesson."
"She is, but will not dance to-night."
"Here!" cried Sylvia, stopping abruptly.
"Why not? Elyott is mad for her, and gave me no peace till I brought
her. She is behind that wall of men; shall I make a passage for you? She
will be glad to talk with you of Adam, and I to show you the handsomest
woman in Habana."
"Let us wait a little; I should be afraid to talk before so many. She is
very beautiful, then."
"You will laugh and call me extravagant, as others do, if I say what I
think; so I will let you judge for yourself. See, your brother stands on
tiptoe to peep at her. Now he goes in, and there he will stay. You do
not like that, perhaps. But Ottila cannot help her beauty, nor the power
she has of making all men love her. I wish she could!"
"She is gifted and accomplished, as well as lovely?" asked Sylvia,
glancing at her companion's gloomy face.
"She is everything a woman should be, and I could shoot Adam for his
Gabriel's dark face kindled as he spoke, and Sylvia drearily wished he
would remember how ill-bred it was to tire her with complaints of her
friend, and raptures over his cousin. He seemed to perceive this, turned
a little haughty at her silence, and when he spoke was all the stranger
"This is a contra danza; shall we give the snow-ladies another lesson?
First, may I do myself the pleasure of getting you an ice?"
"A glass of water, please; I am cool enough without more ice."
He seated her and went upon his errand. She was cool now; weary-footed,
sick at heart, and yearning to be alone. But in these days women do not
tear their hair and make scenes, though their hearts may ache and burn
with the same sharp suffering as of old. Till her brother came she knew
she must bear it, and make no sign. She did bear it, drank the water
with a smile, danced the dance with spirit, and bore up bravely till
Mark appeared. She was alone just then, and his first words were--
"Have you seen her?"
"No; take me where I can, and tell me what you know of her."
"Nothing, but that she is André's cousin, and he adores her, as boys
always do a charming woman who is kind to them. Affect to be admiring
these flowers, and look without her knowing it, or she will frown at you
like an insulted princess, as she did at me."
Sylvia looked, saw the handsomest woman in Havana, and hated her
immediately. It was but natural, for Sylvia was a very human girl, and
Ottila one whom no woman would love, however much she might admire.
Hers was that type of character which every age has reproduced, varying
externally with climates and conditions, but materially the same from
fabled Circe down to Lola Montes, or some less famous syren whose
subjects are not kings. The same passions that in ancient days broke out
in heaven-defying crimes; the same power of beauty, intellect, or
subtlety; the same untamable spirit and lack of moral sentiment are the
attributes of all; latent or alert as the noble or ignoble nature may
predominate. Most of us can recall some glimpse of such specimens of
Nature's work in a daring mood. Many of our own drawing-rooms have held
illustrations of the nobler type, and modern men and women have quailed
before royal eyes whose possessors ruled all spirits but their own. Born
in Athens, and endowed with a finer intellect, Ottila might have been an
Aspasia; or cast in that great tragedy the French Revolution, have
played a brave part and died heroically like Roland and Corday. But set
down in uneventful times, the courage, wit, and passion that might have
served high ends dwindled to their baser counterparts, and made her what
she was,--a fair allurement to the eyes of men, a born rival to the
peace of women, a rudderless nature absolute as fate.
Sylvia possessed no knowledge that could analyze for her the sentiment
which repelled, even while it attracted her toward Warwick's betrothed.
That he loved her she did not doubt, because she felt that even his
pride would yield to the potent fascination of this woman. As Sylvia
looked, her feminine eye took in every gift of face and figure, every
grace of attitude or gesture, every daintiness of costume, and found no
visible flaw in Ottila, from her haughty head to her handsome foot. Yet
when her scrutiny ended, the girl felt a sense of disappointment, and
no envy mingled with her admiration.
As she stood, forgetting to assume interest in the camellias before her,
she saw Gabriel join his cousin, saw her pause and look up at him with
an anxious question. He answered it, glancing toward that part of the
room where she was standing. Ottila's gaze was fixed upon her instantly;
a rapid, but keen survey followed, and then the lustrous eyes turned
away with such supreme indifference, that Sylvia's blood tingled as if
she had received an insult.
"Mark, I am going home," she said, abruptly.
"Very well, I'm ready."
When safe in her own room Sylvia's first act was to take off the holly
wreath, for her head throbbed with a heavy pain that forbade hope of
sleep that night. Looking at the little chaplet so happily made, she saw
that all the berries had fallen, and nothing but the barbed leaves
remained. A sudden gesture crushed it in both her hands, and standing
so, she gathered many a scattered memory to confirm that night's
Warwick had said, with such a tender accent in his voice, "I thought of
the woman I would make my wife." That was Ottila. He had asked so
anxiously, "If one should keep a promise when it disturbed one's peace?"
That was because he repented of his hasty vow to absent himself till
June. It was not love she saw in his eyes the night they parted, but
pity. He read her secret before that compassionate glance revealed it to
herself, and he had gone away to spare her further folly. She had
deceived herself, had blindly cherished a baseless hope, and this was
the end. Even for the nameless gift she found a reason, with a woman's
skill, in self-torture. Moor had met Adam, had told his disappointment,
and still pitying her Warwick had sent the pretty greeting to console
her for the loss of both friend and lover.
This thought seemed to sting her into sudden passion. As if longing to
destroy every trace of her delusion, she tore away the holly wreaths and
flung them in the fire; took down the bow and arrow Warwick had made her
from above the _étagère_, where she had arranged the spoils of her happy
voyage, snapped them across her knee and sent them after the holly;
followed by the birch canoe, and every pebble, moss, shell, or bunch of
headed grass he had given her then. The osier basket was not spared, the
box went next, and even the wrapper was on its way to immolation, when,
as she rent it apart, with a stern pleasure in the sacrifice it was
going to complete, from some close fold of the paper hitherto
undisturbed a card dropped at her feet.
She caught it up and read in handwriting almost as familiar as her own:
"To Sylvia,--A merry Christmas and best wishes from her friend, Geoffrey
Moor." The word "friend" was underscored, as if he desired to assure her
that he still cherished the only tie permitted him, and sent the green
token to lighten her regret that she could give no more.
Warm over Sylvia's sore heart rushed the tender thought and longing, as
her tears began to flow. "He cares for me! he remembered me! I wish he
would come back and comfort me!"
It is easy to say, "I will forget," but perhaps the hardest task given
us is to lock up a natural yearning of the heart, and turn a deaf ear to
its plaint, for captive and jailer must inhabit the same small cell.
Sylvia was proud, with that pride which is both sensitive and
courageous, which can not only suffer but wring strength from suffering.
While she struggled with a grief and shame that aged her with their
pain, she asked no help, made no complaint; but when the forbidden
passion stretched its arms to her, she thrust it back and turned to
pleasure for oblivion.
Those who knew her best were troubled and surprised by the craving for
excitement which now took possession of her, the avidity with which she
gratified it, regardless of time, health, and money. All day she hurried
here and there, driving, shopping, sight-seeing, or entertaining guests
at home. Night brought no cessation of her dissipation, for when balls,
masquerades, and concerts failed, there still remained the theatre. This
soon became both a refuge and a solace, for believing it to be less
harmful than other excitements, her father indulged her new whim. But,
had she known it, this was the most dangerous pastime she could have
chosen. Calling for no exertion of her own, it left her free to
passively receive a stimulant to her unhappy love in watching its mimic
semblance through all phases of tragic suffering and sorrow, for she
would see no comedies, and Shakespeare's tragedies became her study.
This lasted for a time, then the reaction came. A black melancholy fell
upon her, and energy deserted soul and body. She found it a weariness to
get up in the morning and weariness to lie down at night. She no longer
cared even to seem cheerful, owned that she was spiritless, hoped she
should be ill, and did not care if she died to-morrow. When this dark
mood seemed about to become chronic she began to mend, for youth is
wonderfully recuperative, and the deepest wounds soon heal even against
the sufferer's will. A quiet apathy replaced the gloom, and she let the
tide drift her where it would, hoping nothing, expecting nothing, asking
nothing but that she need not suffer any more.
She lived fast; all processes with her were rapid; and the secret
experience of that winter taught her many things. She believed it had
only taught her to forget, for now the outcast love lay very still, and
no longer beat despairingly against the door of her heart, demanding to
be taken in from the cold. She fancied that neglect had killed it, and
that its grave was green with many tears. Alas for Sylvia! how could she
know that it had only sobbed itself to sleep, and would wake beautiful
and strong at the first sound of its master's voice.
Mark became eventful. In his fitful fashion he had painted a picture of
the Golden Wedding, from sketches taken at the time. Moor had suggested
and bespoken it, that the young artist might have a motive for finishing
it, because, though he excelled in scenes of that description, he
thought them beneath him, and tempted by more ambitious designs,
neglected his true branch of the art. In April it was finished, and at
his father's request Mark reluctantly sent it with his Clytemnestra to
the annual exhibition. One morning at breakfast Mr. Yule suddenly
laughed out behind his paper, and with a face of unmixed satisfaction
passed it to his son, pointing to a long critique upon the Exhibition.
Mark prepared himself to receive with becoming modesty the praises
lavished upon his great work, but was stricken with amazement to find
Clytemnestra disposed of in a single sentence, and the Golden Wedding
lauded in a long enthusiastic paragraph.
"What the deuce does the man mean!" he ejaculated, staring at his
"He means that the work which warms the heart is greater than that which
freezes the blood, I suspect. Moor knew what you could do and has made
you do it, sure that if you worked for fame unconsciously you should
achieve it. This is a success that I can appreciate, and I congratulate
you heartily, my son."
"Thank you, sir. But upon my word I don't understand it, and if this
wasn't written by the best Art critic in the country I should feel
inclined to say the writer was a fool. Why that little thing was a daub
compared to the other."
He got no farther in his protest against this unexpected freak of
fortune, for Sylvia seized the paper and read the paragraph aloud with
such happy emphasis amid Prue's outcries and his father's applause, that
Mark began to feel that he really had done something praiseworthy, and
that the "daub" was not so despicable after all.
"I'm going to look at it from this new point of sight," was his sole
comment as he went away.
Three hours afterward he appeared to Sylvia as she sat sewing alone, and
startled her with the mysterious announcement.
"I've done it!"
"Done what? Have you burnt poor Clytemnestra?"
"Hang Clytemnestra! I'll begin at the beginning and prepare you for the
grand finale. I went to the Exhibition, and stared at Father Blake and
his family for an hour. Decided that wasn't bad, though I still admire
the other more. Then people began to come and crowd up, so that I
slipped away for I couldn't stand the compliments. Dahlmann, Scott, and
all the rest of my tribe were there, and, as true as my name is Mark
Yule, every man of them ignored the Greek party and congratulated me
upon the success of that confounded Golden Wedding."
"My dearest boy, I am so proud! so glad! What is the matter? Have you
been bitten by a tarantula?"
She might well ask, for Mark was dancing all over the carpet in a most
extraordinary style, and only stopped long enough to throw a little case
into Sylvia's lap, asking as a whole faceful of smiles broke loose--
"What does that mean?"
She opened it, and a suspicious circlet of diamonds appeared, at sight
of which she clapped her hands, and cried out--
"You're going to ask Jessie to wear it!"
"I have! I have!" sung Mark, dancing more wildly than ever. Sylvia
chased him into a corner and held him there, almost as much excited as
he, while she demanded a full explanation, which he gave her, laughing
like a boy, and blushing like a girl.
"You have no business to ask, but of course I'm dying to tell you. I
went from that Painter's Purgatory as we call it, to Mr. Hope's, and
asked for Miss Jessie. My angel came down; I told her of my success, and
she smiled as never a woman did before; I added that I'd only waited to
make myself more worthy of her, by showing that I had talent, as well as
love and money to offer her, and she began to cry, whereat I took her in
my arms and ascended straight into heaven."
"Please be sober, Mark, and tell me all about it. Was she glad? Did she
say she would? And is everything as we would have it?"
"It is all perfect, divine, and rapturous, to the last degree. Jessie
has liked me ever since she was born, she thinks; adores you and Prue
for sisters; yearns to call my parent father; allowed me to say and do
whatever I liked; and gave me a ravishing kiss just there. Sacred spot;
I shall get a mate to it when I put this on her blessed little finger.
Try it for me, I want it to be right, and your hands are of a size. That
fits grandly. When shall I see a joyful sweetheart doing this on his own
She shook off the ring as if it burned her, watching it roll glittering
away, with a somewhat tragical expression. Then she calmed herself, and
sitting down to her work, enjoyed Mark's raptures for an hour.
The distant city bells were ringing nine that night as a man paused
before Mr. Yule's house, and attentively scrutinized each window. Many
were alight, but on the drawn curtain of one a woman's shadow came and
went. He watched it a moment, passed up the steps, and noiselessly went
in. The hall was bright and solitary; from above came the sound of
voices, from a room to the right, the stir of papers and the scratch of
a pen, from one on the left, a steady rustle as of silk, swept slowly to
and fro. To the threshold of this door the man stepped and looked in.
Sylvia was just turning in her walk, and as she came musing down the
room, Moor saw her well. With some women dress has no relation to states
of mind; with Sylvia it was often an indication of the mental garb she
wore. Moor remembered this trait, and saw in both countenance and
costume the change that had befallen her in his long absence. Her face
was neither gay nor melancholy, but serious and coldly quiet, as if some
inward twilight reigned. Her dress, a soft, sad grey, with no decoration
but a knot of snowdrops in her bosom. On these pale flowers her eyes
were fixed, and as she walked with folded arms and drooping head, she
sang low to herself--
'Upon the convent roof, the snows
Lie sparkling to the moon;
My breath to heaven like incense goes,
May my soul follow soon.
Lord, make my spirit pure and clear,
As are the frosty skies,
Or this first snowdrop of the year,
That in my bosom lies.'
Very gentle was the call, but she started as if it had been a shout,
looked an instant while light and color flashed into her face, then ran
to him exclaiming joyfully--
"Oh, Geoffrey! I am glad! I am glad!"
There could be but one answer to such a welcome, and Sylvia received it
as she stood there, not weeping now, but smiling with the sincerest
satisfaction, the happiest surprise. Moor shared both emotions, feeling
as a man might feel when, parched with thirst, he stretches out his
hand for a drop of rain, and receives a brimming cup of water. He drank
a deep draught gratefully, then, fearing that it might be as suddenly
withdrawn, asked anxiously--
"Sylvia, are we friends or lovers?"
"Anything, if you will only stay."
She looked up as she spoke, and her face betrayed that a conflict
between desire and doubt was going on within her. Impulse had sent her
there, and now it was so sweet to know herself beloved, she found it
hard to go away. Her brother's happiness had touched her heart, roused
the old craving for affection, and brought a strong desire to fill the
aching void her lost love had left with this recovered one. Sylvia had
not learned to reason yet, she could only feel, because, owing to the
unequal development of her divided nature, the heart grew faster than
the intellect. Instinct was her surest guide, and when she followed it
unblinded by a passion, unthwarted by a mood, she prospered. But now she
was so blinded and so thwarted, and now her great temptation came.
Ambition, man's idol, had tempted the father; love, woman's god, tempted
the daughter; and, as if the father's atonement was to be wrought out
through his dearest child the daughter also made the fatal false step of
"Then you _have_ learned to love me, Sylvia?"
"No, the old feeling has not changed except to grow more remorseful,
more eager to prove its truth. Once you asked me if I did not wish to
love you; then I did not, now I sincerely do. If you still want me with
my many faults, and will teach me in your gentle way to be all I should
to you, I will gladly learn, because I never needed love as I do now.
Geoffrey, shall I stay or go?"
"Stay, Sylvia. Ah, thank God for this!"
If she had ever hoped that Moor would forget her for his own sake, she
now saw how vain such hope would have been, and was both touched and
troubled by the knowledge of her supremacy which that hour gave her. She
was as much the calmer as friendship is than love, and was the first to
speak again, still standing there content although her words expressed a
"Are you very sure you want me? Are you not tired of the thorn that has
fretted you so long? Remember, I am so young, so ignorant, and unfitted
for a wife. Can I give you real happiness? make home what you would have
it? and never see in your face regret that some wiser, better woman was
not in my place?"
"I am sure of myself, and satisfied with you, as you are no wiser, no
better, nothing but my Sylvia."
"It is very sweet to hear you say that with such a look. I do not
deserve it but I will. Is the pain I once gave you gone now, Geoffrey?"
"Then I am satisfied, and will begin my life anew by trying to learn
well the lesson my kind master is to teach me."
When Moor went that night Sylvia followed him, and as they stood
together this happy moment seemed to recall that other sad one, for
taking her hands again he asked, smiling now--
"Dear, is it good night or good by?"
"It is good by and come to-morrow."
Nothing could have been more unlike than the two pairs of lovers who
from April to August haunted Mr. Yule's house. One pair was of the
popular order, for Mark was tenderly tyrannical, Jessie adoringly
submissive, and at all hours of the day they were to be seen making
tableaux of themselves. The other pair were of the peculiar order,
undemonstrative and unsentimental, but quite as happy. Moor knew his
power, but used it generously, asking little while giving much. Sylvia
as yet found nothing to regret, for so gently was she taught, the lesson
could not seem hard, and when her affection remained unchanged in kind,
although it deepened in degree, she said within herself--
"That strong and sudden passion was not true love, but an unwise,
unhappy delusion of my own. I should be glad that it is gone, because I
know I am not fit to be Warwick's wife. This quiet feeling which
Geoffrey inspires must be a safer love for me, and I should be grateful
that in making his happiness I may yet find my own."
She tried heartily to forget herself in others, unconscious that there
are times when the duty we owe ourselves is greater than that we owe to
them. In the atmosphere of cheerfulness that now surrounded her she
could not but be cheerful, and soon it would have been difficult to find
a more harmonious household than this. One little cloud alone remained
to mar the general sunshine. Mark was in a frenzy to be married, but had
set his heart on a double wedding, and Sylvia would not fix the time,
"Let me be quite sure of myself before I take this step, and do not
Matters stood thus till Mark, having prepared his honeymoon cottage, as
a relief to his impatience, found it so irresistible that he announced
his marriage for the first of August, and declared no human power should
change his purpose. Sylvia promised to think of it, but gave no decided
answer, for though she would hardly own it to herself she longed to
remain free till June was past. It came and went without a sign, and
July began before the longing died a sudden death, and she consented to
Mark and Jessie came in from the city one warm morning and found Sylvia
sitting idly in the hall. She left her preparations all to Prue, who
revelled in such things, and applied herself diligently to her lesson as
if afraid she might not learn it as she should. Half way up stairs Mark
turned and said, laughing--
"Sylvia, I saw Searle to-day,--one of the fellows whom we met on the
river last summer,--and he began to tell me something about André and
the splendid cousin, who is married and gone abroad it seems. I did not
hear much, for Jessie was waiting; but you remember the handsome Cubans
we saw at Christmas, don't you?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Well, I thought you'd like to know that the lad had gone home to
Cleopatra's wedding, so you cannot have him to dance at yours. Have you
forgotten how you waltzed that night?"
"No, I've not forgotten."
Mark went off to consult Prue, and Jessie began to display her purchases
before eyes that only saw a blur of shapes and colors, and expatiate
upon their beauties to ears that only heard the words--"The splendid
cousin is married and gone abroad."
"I should enjoy these pretty things a thousand times more if you would
please us all by being married when we are," sighed Jessie, looking at
"What, really? Sylvia, you are a perfect darling! Mark! Prue! she says
Away flew Jessie to proclaim the glad tidings, and Sylvia, with a
curious expression of relief, regret, and resolve, repeated to herself
Every one took care that Miss Caprice should not have time to change her
mind. The whole house was soon in a bustle, for Prue ruled supreme. Mr.
Yule fled from the din of women's tongues, the bridegrooms were kept on
a very short allowance of bride, and Sylvia and Jessie were almost
invisible, for milliners and mantua-makers swarmed about them till they
felt like animated pin-cushions. The last evening came at length, and
Sylvia was just planning an escape into the garden when Prue, whose
tongue wagged as rapidly as her hands worked, exclaimed--
"How can you stand staring out of window when there is so much to do?
Here are all these trunks to pack, Maria in her bed with every tooth in
a frightful state of inflammation, and that capable Jane What's-her-name
gone off while I was putting a chamomile poultice on her face. If you
are tired sit down and try on all your shoes, for though Mr. Peggit has
your measure, those absurd clerks seem to think it a compliment to send
children's sizes to grown women. I'm sure my rubbers were a perfect
Sylvia sat down, tugged on one boot and fell into a reverie with the
other in her hand, while Prue clacked on like a wordmill in full
"How I'm ever to get all these gowns into that trunk passes my
comprehension. There's a tray for each, of course; but a ball dress is
such a fractious thing. I could shake that Antoinette Roche for
disappointing you at the last minute; and what you are to do for a maid,
I don't know. You'll have so much dressing to do you will be quite worn
out; and I want you to look your best on all occasions, for you will
meet everybody. This collar won't wear well; Clara hasn't a particle of
judgment, though her taste is sweet. These hose, now, are a good, firm
article; I chose them myself. Do be sure you get all your things from
the wash. At those great hotels there's a deal of pilfering, and you are
Here Sylvia came out of her reverie with a sigh that was almost a groan.
"Don't they fit? I knew they wouldn't!" said Prue, with an air of
"The boots suit me, but the hotels do not; and if it was not ungrateful,
after all your trouble, I should like to make a bonfire of this roomful
of haberdashery, and walk quietly away to my new home by the light of
As if the bare idea of such an awful proceeding robbed her of all
strength, Miss Yule sat suddenly down in the trunk by which she was
standing. Fortunately it was nearly full, but her appearance was
decidedly ludicrous as she sat with the collar in one uplifted hand, the
hose in the other, and the ball dress laid over her lap like a fainting
lady; while she said, with imploring solemnity, which changed abruptly
from the pathetic to the comic at the end of her speech--
"Sylvia, if I ever cherished a wish in this world of disappointment, it
is that your wedding shall have nothing peculiar about it, because every
friend and relation you've got expects it. Do let me have the comfort of
knowing that every one was surprised and pleased; for if the expression
was elegant (which it isn't, and only suggested by my trials with those
dressmakers), I should say I was on pins and needles till it's all over.
Bless me! and so I am, for here are three on the floor and one in my
shoe." Prue paused to extract the appropriate figure of speech which she
had chosen, and Sylvia said--
"If we have everything else as you wish it, would you mind if we didn't
go the journey?"
"Of course I should. Every one goes a wedding trip, it's part of the
ceremony; and if two carriages and two bridal pairs don't leave here
to-morrow, I shall feel as if all my trouble had been thrown away."
"I'll go, Prue, I'll go; and you shall be satisfied. But I thought we
might go from here in style, and then slip off on some quieter trip. I
am so tired I dread the idea of frolicking for a whole month, as Mark
and Jessie mean to do."
It was Prue's turn to groan now, and she did so dismally. But Sylvia had
never asked a favor in vain, and this was not the moment to refuse to
her anything, so worldly pride yielded to sisterly affection, and Prue
said with resignation, as she fell to work more vigorously than ever,
because she had wasted five good minutes--
"Do as you like, dear, you shall not be crossed on your last day at
home. Ask Geoffrey, and if you are happy I'm satisfied."
Before Sylvia could thank her sister there came a tap and a voice
"Might I come in?"
"If you can get in," answered Prue, as, reversing her plan in her hurry,
she whisked the collar into a piecebag and the hose into a bandbox.
Moor paused on the threshold in a masculine maze, that one small person
could need so much drapery.
"May I borrow Sylvia for a little while? A breath of air will do her
good, and I want her bright and blooming for to-morrow, else young Mrs.
Yule will outshine young Mrs. Moor."
"What a thoughtful creature you are, Geoffrey. Take her and welcome,
only pray put on a shawl, Sylvia, and don't stay out late, for a bride
with a cold in her head is the saddest of spectacles."
Glad to be released Sylvia went away, and, dropping the shawl as soon as
she was out of Prue's sight, paced up and down the garden walks upon her
lover's arm. Having heard her wish and given a hearty assent Moor
"Where shall we go? Tell me what you would like best and you shall have
it. You will not let me give you many gifts, but this pleasure you will
accept from me I know."
"You give me yourself, that is more than I deserve. But I should like to
have you take me to the place you like best. Don't tell me beforehand,
let it be a surprise."
"I will, it is already settled, and I know you will like it. Is there no
other wish to be granted, no doubt to be set at rest, or regret withheld
that I should know? Tell me, Sylvia, for if ever there should be
confidence between us it is now."
As he spoke the desire to tell him of her love for Adam rose within her,
but with the desire came a thought that modified the form in which
impulse prompted her to make confession. Moor was both sensitive and
proud, would not the knowledge of the fact mar for him the friendship
that was so much to both? From Warwick he would never learn it, from her
he should have only a half confidence, and so love both friend and wife
with an untroubled heart. Few of us can always control the rebellious
nature that so often betrays and then reproaches, few always weigh the
moment and the act that bans or blesses it, and where is the life that
has not known some turning-point when a fugitive emotion has decided
great issues for good or ill? Such an emotion came to Sylvia then, and
another temptation, wearing the guise of generosity, urged her to
another false step, for when the first is taken a second inevitably
"I have no wish, no regret, nothing but the old doubt of my unstable
self, and the fear that I may fail to make you happy. But I should like
to tell you something. I don't know that you will care for it, or that
there is any need to tell it, but when you said there should be
confidence between us, I felt that I wanted you to know that I had loved
some one before I loved you."
He did not see her face, he only heard her quiet voice. He had no
thought of Adam, whom she had known so short a time, who was already
bound; he only fancied that she spoke of some young lover who had
touched her heart, and while he smiled at the nice sense of honor that
prompted the innocent confession, he said, with no coldness, no
curiosity in voice or face--
"No need to tell it, dear. I have no jealousy of any one who has gone
before me. Rest assured of this, for if I could not share so large a
heart with one who will never claim my share I should not deserve it."
"That is so like you! Now I am quite at ease."
He looked down at her as she went beside him, thinking that of all the
brides he had ever seen his own looked least like one.
"I always thought that you would make a very ardent lover, Sylvia. That
you would be excited, gay, and brilliant at a time like this. But you
are so quiet, so absorbed, and so unlike your former self that I begin
to think I do not know you yet."
"You will in time. I am passionate and restless by nature, but I am also
very sensitive to all influences, personal or otherwise, and were you
different from your tranquil, sunshiny self, I too should change. I am
quiet because I seem in a pleasant state, half-waking, half dreaming,
from which I never wish to wake. I am tired of the past, contented with
the present, and to you I leave the future."
"It shall be a happy one if I can make it so, and to-morrow you will
give me the dear right to try."
"Yes," she said, and thinking of the solemn promises to be then made,
she added, thoughtfully, "I think I love, I know I honor, I will try to
obey. Can I do more?"
Well for them both if they could have known that friendship is love's
twin, and the gentle sisters are too often mistaken for each other.
That Sylvia was innocently deceiving both her lover and herself, by
wrapping her friendship in the garb her lost love had worn, forgetting
that the wanderer might return and claim its own, leaving the other to
suffer for the borrowed warmth. They did not know it, and walked
tranquilly together in the summer night, planning the new life as they
went, and when they parted Moor pointed to a young moon hanging in the
"See, Sylvia, our honeymoon has risen."
"May it be a happy one!"
"It will be, and when the anniversary of this glad night comes round it
shall be shining still. God bless my little wife."
Sylvia was awakened on her wedding morning by a curious choking sound,
and starting up found Prue crying over her as if her heart were broken.
"What has happened? Is Geoffrey ill? Is all the silver stolen? Can't the
Bishop come?" she asked, wondering what calamity could move her sister
to tears at such a busy time.
Prue took Sylvia in her arms, and rocking to and fro as if she were
still a baby, poured forth a stream of words and tears together.
"Nothing has happened; I came to call you, and broke down because it was
the last time I should do it. I've been awake all night, thinking of you
and all you've been to me since I took you in my arms nineteen years
ago, and said you should be mine. My little Sylvia, I've been neglectful
of so many things, and now I see them all; I've fretted you with my
ways, and haven't been patient enough with yours; I've been selfish even
about your wedding, and it won't be as you like it; you'll reproach me
in your heart, and I shall hate myself for it when you are gone never to
be my care and comfort any more. And--oh, my dear, my dear, what shall I
do without you?"
This unexpected demonstration from her prosaic sister touched Sylvia
more than the most sentimental lamentations from another. It brought to
mind all the past devotion, the future solitude of Prue's life, and she
clung about her neck tearless but very tender.
"I never shall reproach you, never cease to love and thank you for all
you've been to me, my dear old girl. You mustn't grieve over me, or
think I shall forget you, for you never shall be forsaken; and very soon
I shall be back, almost as much your Sylvia as ever. Mark will live on
one side, I shall live on the other, and we'll be merry and cosy
together. And who knows but when we are both out of your way you will
learn to think of yourself and marry also."
At this Prue began to laugh hysterically, and exclaimed, with more than
her usual incoherency--
"I must tell you, it was so very odd! I didn't mean to do so, because
you children would tease me; but now I will to make you laugh, for it's
a bad omen to cry over a bride, they say. My dear, that gouty Mr.
MacGregor, when I went in with some of my nice broth last week (Hugh
slops so, and he's such a fidget, I took it myself), after he had eaten
every drop before my eyes, wiped his mouth and asked me to marry him."
"And you would not, Prue?"
"Bless me, child, how could I? I must take care of my poor dear father,
and he isn't pleasant in the least, you know, but would wear my life out
in a week. I really pitied him, however, when I refused him, with a
napkin round his neck, and he tapped his waistcoat with a spoon so
comically, when he offered me his heart, as if it were something good to
"How very funny! What made him do it, Prue?"
"He said he'd watched the preparations from his window, and got so
interested in weddings that he wanted one himself, and felt drawn to me
I was so sympathetic. That means a good nurse and cook, my dear. I
understand these invalid gentlemen, and will be a slave to no man so fat
and fussy as Mr. Mac, as my brother calls him. It's not respectful, but
I like to refresh myself by saying it just now."
"Never mind the old soul, Prue, but go and have your breakfast
comfortably, for there's much to be done, and no one is to dress me but
your own dear self."
At this Prue relapsed into the pathetic again, and cried over her sister
as if, despite the omen, brides were plants that needed much watering.
The appearance of the afflicted Maria, with her face still partially
eclipsed by the chamomile comforter, and an announcement that the
waiters had come and were "ordering round dreadful," caused Prue to
pocket her handkerchief and descend to turn the tables in every sense of
The prospect of the wedding breakfast made the usual meal a mere
mockery. Every one was in a driving hurry, every one was very much
excited, and nobody but Prue and the colored gentlemen brought anything
to pass. Sylvia went from room to room bidding them good-by as the child
who had played there so long. But each looked unfamiliar in its state
and festival array, and the old house seemed to have forgotten her
already. She spent an hour with her father, paid Mark a little call in
the studio where he was bidding adieu to the joys of bachelorhood, and
preparing himself for the jars of matrimony by a composing smoke, and
then Prue claimed her.
The agonies she suffered during that long toilet are beyond the powers
of language to portray, for Prue surpassed herself and was the very
essence of fussiness. But Sylvia bore it patiently as a last sacrifice,
because her sister was very tender-hearted still, and laughed and cried
over her work till all was done, when she surveyed the effect with
"You are very sweet, my dear, and so delightfully calm, you really do
surprise me. I always thought you'd have hysterics on your wedding-day,
and got my _vinaigrette_ all ready. Keep your hands just as they are,
with the handkerchief and bouquet, it looks very easy and rich. Dear me,
what a spectacle I've made of myself! But I shall cry no more, not even
during the ceremony as many do. Such displays of feeling are in very bad
taste, and I shall be firm, perfectly firm, so if you hear any one sniff
you'll know it isn't me. Now I must go and scramble on my dress; first,
let me arrange you smoothly in a chair. There, my precious, now think of
soothing things, and don't stir till Geoffrey comes for you."
Too tired to care what happened just then, Sylvia sat as she was placed,
feeling like a fashion-plate of a bride, and wishing she could go to
sleep. Presently the sound of steps as fleet as Mark's but lighter,
waked her up, and forgetting orders, she rustled to the door with an
expression which fashion-plates have not yet attained.
"Good morning, little bride."
"Good morning, bonny bridegroom."
Then they looked at one another, and both smiled. But they seemed to
have changed characters, for Moor's usually tranquil face was full of
pale excitement; Sylvia's usually vivacious one, full of quietude, and
her eyes wore the unquestioning content of a child who accepts some
friendly hand, sure that it will lead it right.
"Prue desires me to take you out into the upper hall, and when Mr. Deane
beckons, we are to go down at once. The rooms are full, and Jessie is
ready. Shall we go?"
"One moment: Geoffrey, are you quite happy now?"
"Then it shall be the first duty of my life to keep you so," and with a
gesture soft yet solemn, Sylvia laid her hand in his, as if endowing him
with both gift and giver. He held it fast and never let it go until it
was his own.
In the upper hall they found Mark hovering about Jessie like an agitated
bee, about a very full-blown flower, and Clara Deane flapping him away,
lest he should damage the effect of this beautiful white rose. For ten
minutes, ages they seemed, the five stood together listening to the stir
below, looking at one another, till they were tired of the sight and
scent of orange blossoms, and wishing that the whole affair was safely
over. But the instant a portentous "Hem!" was heard, and a white glove
seen to beckon from the stair foot, every one fell into a flutter. Moor
turned paler still, and Sylvia felt his heart beat hard against her
hand. She herself was seized with a momentary desire to run away and
say "No" again; Mark looked as if nerving himself for immediate
execution, and Jessie feebly whispered--
"Oh, Clara, I'm going to faint!"
"Good heavens, what shall I do with her? Mark, support her! My darling
girl, smell this and bear up. For mercy sake do something, Sylvia, and
don't stand there looking as if you'd been married every day for a
In his excitement, Mark gave his bride a little shake. Its effect was
marvellous. She rallied instantly, with a reproachful glance at her
crumpled veil and a decided--
"Come quick, I can go now."
Down they went, through a wilderness of summer silks, black coats, and
bridal gloves. How they reached their places none of them ever knew;
Mark said afterward, that the instinct of self preservation led him to
the only means of extrication that circumstances allowed. The moment the
Bishop opened his book, Prue took out her handkerchief and cried
steadily through the entire ceremony, for dear as were the proprieties,
the "children" were dearer still.
At Sylvia's desire, Mark was married first, and as she stood listening
to the sonorous roll of the service falling from the Bishop's lips, she
tried to feel devout and solemn, but failed to do so. She tried to keep
her thoughts from wandering, but continually found herself wondering if
that sob came from Prue, if her father felt it very much, and when it
would be done. She tried to keep her eyes fixed timidly upon the carpet
as she had been told to do, but they would rise and glance about against
One of these derelictions from the path of duty, nearly produced a
catastrophe. Little Tilly, the gardener's pretty child, had strayed in
from among the servants peeping at a long window in the rear, and
established herself near the wedding group, looking like a small ballet
girl in her full white frock and wreath pushed rakishly askew on her
curly pate. As she stood regarding the scene with dignified amazement,
her eye met Sylvia's. In spite of the unusual costume, the baby knew her
playmate, and running to her, thrust her head under the veil with a
delighted "Peep a bo!" Horror seized Jessie, Mark was on the brink of a
laugh, and Moor looked like one fallen from the clouds. But Sylvia drew
the little marplot close to her with a warning word, and there she
stayed, quietly amusing herself with "pooring" the silvery dress,
smelling the flowers and staring at the Bishop.
After this, all prospered. The gloves came smoothly off, the rings went
smoothly on; no one cried but Prue, no one laughed but Tilly; the brides
were admired, the grooms envied; the service pronounced impressive, and
when it ended, a tumult of congratulations arose.
Sylvia always had a very confused idea of what happened during the next
hour. She remembered being kissed till her cheeks burned, and shaken
hands with till her fingers tingled; bowing in answer to toasts, and
forgetting to reply when addressed by the new name; trying to eat and
drink, and discovering that everything tasted of wedding cake; finding
herself up stairs hurrying on her travelling dress, then down stairs
saying good by; and when her father embraced her last of all, suddenly
realizing with a pang, that she was married and going away, never to be
little Sylvia any more.
Prue _was_ gratified to her heart's content, for, when the two bridal
carriages had vanished with handkerchiefs flying from their windows, in
answer to the white whirlwind on the lawn, Mrs. Grundy, with an
approving smile on her aristocratic countenance, pronounced this the
most charming affair of the season.
It began with a pleasant journey. Day after day they loitered along
country roads that led them through many scenes of summer beauty;
pausing at old-fashioned inns and wayside farmhouses, or gipsying at
noon in some green nook where their four-footed comrades dined off their
tablecloth while they made merry over the less simple fare their last
hostess had provided for them. When the scenery was uninteresting, as
was sometimes the case, for Nature will not disturb her domestic
arrangements for any bridal pair, one or the other read aloud, or both
sang, while conversation was a never-failing pastime and silence had
charms which they could enjoy. Sometimes they walked a mile or two, ran
down a hillside, rustled through a grain field, strolled into an
orchard, or feasted from fruitful hedges by the way, as care-free as the
squirrels on the wall, or the jolly brown bees lunching at the sign of
"The Clover-top." They made friends with sheep in meadows, cows at the
brook, travellers morose or bland, farmers full of a sturdy sense that
made their chat as wholesome as the mould they delved in; school
children barefooted and blithe, and specimens of womankind, from the
buxom housewife who took them under her motherly wing at once, to the
sour, snuffy, shoe-binding spinster with "No Admittance" written all
over her face.
To Moor the world was glorified with the purple light which seldom
touches it but once for any of us; the journey was a wedding march, made
beautiful by summer, victorious by joy; his young wife the queen of
women, and himself an equal of the gods because no longer conscious of a
want. Sylvia could not be otherwise than happy, for finding unbounded
liberty and love her portion, she had nothing to regret, and regarded
marriage as an agreeable process which had simply changed her name and
given her protector, friend, and lover all in one. She was therefore her
sweetest and sincerest self, miraculously docile, and charmingly gay;
interested in all she saw, and quite overflowing with delight when the
last days of the week betrayed the secret that her destination was the
Loving the sea so well, her few flights from home had given her only
marine experiences, and the flavor of entire novelty was added to the
feast her husband had provided for her. It came to her not only when she
could enjoy it most, but when she needed it most, soothing the unquiet,
stimulating the nobler elements which ruled her life by turns and
fitting her for what lay before her. Choosing the quietest roads, Moor
showed her the wonders of a region whose wild grandeur and beauty make
its memory a life-long satisfaction. Day after day they followed
mountain paths, studying the changes of an ever-varying landscape,
watching the flush of dawn redden the granite fronts of these Titans
scarred with centuries of storm, the lustre of noon brood over them
until they smiled, the evening purple wrap them in its splendor, or
moonlight touch them with its magic; till Sylvia, always looking up at
that which filled her heart with reverence and awe, was led to look
beyond, and through the medium of the friend beside her learned that
human love brings us nearer to the Divine, and is the surest means to
that great end.
The last week of the honeymoon came all too soon, for then they had
promised to return. The crowning glory of the range was left until the
last, and after a day of memorable delights Sylvia sat in the sunset
feasting her eyes upon the wonders of a scene which is indescribable,
for words have limits and that is apparently illimitable. Presently Moor
came to her asking--
"Will you join a party to the great ice palace, and see three acres of
snow in August, worn by a waterfall into a cathedral, as white if not as
durable as any marble?"
"I sit so comfortably here I think I had rather not. But you must go
because you like such wonders, and I shall rest till you come back."
"Then I shall take myself off and leave you to muse over the pleasures
of the day, which for a few hours has made you one of the most eminent
women this side the Rocky Mountains. There is a bugle at the house here
with which to make the echoes, I shall take it with me, and from time to
time send up a sweet reminder that you are not to stray away and lose
Sylvia sat for half an hour, then wearied by the immensity of the wide
landscape she tried to rest her mind by examining the beauties close at
hand. Strolling down the path the sight-seers had taken, she found
herself in a rocky basin, scooped in the mountain side like a cup for a
little pool, so clear and bright it looked a diamond set in jet. A
fringe of scanty herbage had collected about its brim, russet mosses,
purple heath, and delicate white flowers, like a band of tiny hill
people keeping their revels by some fairy well. The spot attracted her,
and remembering that she was not to stray away, she sat down beside the
path to wait for her husband's return.
In the act of bending over the pool to sprinkle the thirsty little
company about it, her hand was arrested by the tramp of approaching
feet, and looking up to discover who was the disturber of her retreat,
she saw a man pausing at the top of the path opposite to that by which
she had come. He seemed scrutinizing the solitary occupant of the dell
before descending; but as she turned her face to him he flung away
knapsack, hat, and staff, and then with a great start she saw no
stranger, but Adam Warwick. Coming down to her so joyfully, so
impetuously, she had only time to recognise him, and cry out, when she
was swept up in an embrace as tender as irresistible, and lay there
conscious of nothing, but that happiness like some strong swift angel
had wrapt her away into the promised land so long believed in, hungered
for, and despaired of, as forever lost. Soon she heard his voice,
breathless, eager, but so fond it seemed another voice than his.
"My darling! did you think I should never come?"
"I thought you had forgotten me, I knew you were married. Adam, put me
But he only held her closer, and laughed such a happy laugh that Sylvia
felt the truth before he uttered it.
"How could I marry, loving you? How could I forget you even if I had
never come to tell you this? Sylvia, I know much that has passed.
Geoffrey's failure gave me courage to hope for success, and that the
mute betrothal made with a look so long ago had been to you all it has
been to me."
"Adam, you are both right and wrong,--you do not know all,--let me tell
you,"--began Sylvia, as these proofs of ignorance brought her to herself
with a shock of recollection and dismay. But Warwick was as absolute in
his happiness as he had been in his self-denial, and took possession of
her mentally as well as physically with a despotism too welcome and
entire to be at once resisted.
"You shall tell me nothing till I have shown the cause of my
hard-seeming silence. I must throw off that burden first, then I will
listen to you until morning if you will. I have earned this moment by a
year of effort, let me keep you here and enjoy it without alloy."
The old charm had lost none of its power, for absence seemed to have
gifted it with redoubled potency, the confirmation of that early hope to
grace it with redoubled warmth. Sylvia let him keep her, feeling that he
had earned that small reward for a year's endeavor, resolving to grant
all now left her to bestow, a few moments more of blissful ignorance,
then to show him his loss and comfort him, sure that her husband would
find no disloyalty in a compassion scarcely less deep and self-forgetful
than his own would have been had he shared their secret. Only pausing to
place himself upon the seat she had left, Warwick put off her hat, and
turning her face to his regarded it with such unfeigned and entire
content her wavering purpose was fixed by a single look. Then as he
began to tell the story of the past she forgot everything but the rapid
words she listened to, the countenance she watched, so beautifully
changed and softened, it seemed as if she had never seen the man before,
or saw him now as we sometimes see familiar figures glorified in dreams.
In the fewest, kindest words Warwick told her of Ottila, the promise and
the parting; then, as if the dearer theme deserved less brevity, he
lingered on it as one lingers at a friend's door, enjoying in
anticipation the welcome he is sure awaits him.
"The night we walked together by the river--such a wilful yet winning
comrade as I had that day, and how I enjoyed it all!--that night I
suspected that Geoffrey loved you, Sylvia, and was glad to think it. A
month later I was sure of it, and found in that knowledge the great
hardship of my life, because I loved you myself. Audacious thing! how
dared you steal into my heart and take possession when I had turned my
last guest out and barred the door? I thought I had done with the
sentiment that had so nearly wrecked me once, but see how blind I
was--the false love only made me readier for the true. You never seemed
a child to me, Sylvia, because you have an old soul in a young body, and
your father's trials and temptations live again in you. This first
attracted me. I liked to watch, to question, to study the human enigma
to which I had found a clue from its maker's lips. I liked your candor
and simplicity, your courage and caprice. Even your faults found favor
in my eyes; for pride, will, impetuosity were old friends of mine, and I
liked to see them working in another shape. At first you were a
curiosity, then an amusement, then a necessity. I wanted you, not
occasionally, but constantly. You put salt and savor into life for me;
for whether you spoke or were silent, were sweet or sour, friendly or
cold, I was satisfied to feel your nearness, and always took away an
inward content which nothing else could give me. This affection was so
unlike the other that I deceived myself for a time--not long. I soon
knew what had befallen me, soon felt that this sentiment was good to
feel, because I forgot my turbulent and worser self and felt the nobler
regenerated by the innocent companionship you gave me. I wanted you, but
it was not the touch of hands or lips, the soft encounter of eyes, the
tones of tenderness, I wanted most. It was that something beyond my
reach, vital and vestal, invisible, yet irresistible; that something, be
it heart, soul, or mind, which drew me to you by an attraction genial
and genuine as itself. My Sylvia, that was love, and when it came to me
I took it in, sure that whether its fruition was granted or denied I
should be a manlier man for having harbored it even for an hour. Why
turn your face away? Well, hide it if you will, but lean here as you did
once so long ago."
She let him lay it on his shoulder, still feeling that Moor was one to
look below the surface of these things and own that she did well in
giving so pure a love a happy moment before its death, as she would have
cherished Warwick had he laid dying.
"On that September evening, as I sat alone, I had been thinking of what
might be and what must be. Had decided that I would go away for
Geoffrey's sake. He was fitter than I to have you, being so gentle, and
in all ways ready to possess a wife. I was so rough, such a vagrant, so
full of my own purposes and plans, how could I dare to take into my
keeping such a tender little creature as yourself? I thought you did not
care for me; I knew any knowledge of my love would only mar his own; so
it was best to go at once and leave him to the happiness he so well
deserved. Just then you came to me, as if the wind had blown my desire
to my arms. Such a loving touch that was! it nearly melted my resolve,
it seemed hard not to take the one thing I wanted, when it came to me so
opportunely. I yearned to break that idle promise, made when I was vain
in my own conceit, and justly punished for its folly; but you said keep
it, and I did. You could not understand my trouble, and when I sat
before you so still, perhaps looking grim and cold, you did not know how
I was wrestling with my unruly self. I am not truly generous, for the
relinquishment of any cherished object always costs a battle, and I too
often find I am worsted. For the first time I dared not meet your eyes
till you dived into mine with that expression wistful and guileless,
which has often made me feel as if we stood divested of our bodies, soul
"Tongue I could control, heart I could not. Up it sprung stronger than
will, swifter than thought, and answered you. Sylvia, had there been one
ray of self-consciousness in those steady eyes of yours, one atom of
maiden shame, or fear, or trouble, I should have claimed you as my own.
There was not; and though you let me read your face like an open book,
you never dreamed what eloquence was in it. Innocent heart, that loved
and had not learned to know it. I saw this instantly, saw that a few
more such encounters would show it to you likewise, and felt more
strongly than before that if ever the just deed to you, the generous one
to Geoffrey were done, it should be then. For that was the one moment
when your half-awakened heart could fall painlessly asleep again, if I
did not disturb it, and dream on till Geoffrey woke it, to find a
gentler master than I could be to it."
"It could not, Adam; you had wholly roused it, and it cried for you so
long, so bitterly, oh, why did you not come to answer it before?"
"How could I till the year was over? Was I not obeying you in keeping
that accursed promise? God knows I have made many blunders, but I think
the most senseless was that promise; the most short-sighted, that
belief. What right had I to fetter my tongue, or try to govern love?
Shall I ever learn to do my own work aright, and not meddle with the
Lord's? Sylvia, take this presumptuous and domineering devil out of me
in time, lest I blunder as blindly after you are mine as I have before.
Now let me finish before Mark comes to find us. I went away, you know,
singing the farewell I dared not speak, and for nine months kept myself
sane and steady with whatever my hands found to do. If ever work of mine
is blessed it will be that, for into it I put the best endeavor of my
life. Though I had renounced you, I kept my love; let it burn day and
night, fed it with labor and with prayer, trusting that this selfish
heart of mine might be recast and made a fitter receptacle for an
enduring treasure. In May, far at the West, I met a woman who knew
Geoffrey; had seen him lately, and learned that he had lost you. She was
his cousin, I his friend, and through our mutual interest in him this
confidence naturally came about. When she told me this hope blazed up,
and all manner of wild fancies haunted me. Love is arrogant, and I
nourished a belief that even I might succeed where Geoffrey failed. You
were so young, you were not likely to be easily won by any other, if
such a man had asked in vain, and a conviction gradually took possession
of me that you _had_ understood, _had_ loved, and were yet waiting for
me. A month seemed an eternity to wait, but I left myself no moment for
despair, and soon turned my face to Cuba, finding renewed hope on the
way. Gabriel went with me, told me how Ottila had searched for me, and
failing to find me had gone back to make ready for my coming. How she
had tried to be all I desired, and how unworthy I was of her. This was
well, but the mention of your name was better, and much close
questioning gave me the scene which he remembered, because Ottila had
chidden him sharply for his disclosures to yourself. Knowing you so
well, I gathered much from trifles which were nothing in Gabriel's eyes.
I felt that regard for me, if nothing warmer, had prompted your interest
in them; and out of the facts given me by Faith and Gabriel I built
myself a home, which I have inhabited as a guest till now, when I know
myself its master, and welcome its dear mistress, so my darling."
He bent to give her tender greeting, but Sylvia arrested him.
"Not yet, Adam! not yet! Go on, before it is too late to tell me as you
He thought it was some maidenly scruple, and though he smiled at it he
respected it, for this same coyness in the midst of all her whims had
always been one of her attractions in his eye.
"Shy thing! I will tame you yet, and draw you to me as confidingly as I
drew the bird to hop into my hand and eat. You must not fear me, Sylvia,
else I shall grow tyrannical; for I hate fear, and like to trample on
whatever dares not fill its place bravely, sure that it will receive its
due as trustfully as these little mosses sit among the clouds and find a
spring to feed them even in the rock. Now I will make a speedy end of
this, pleasant as it is to sit here feeling myself no longer a solitary
waif. I shall spare you the stormy scenes I passed through with Ottila,
because I do not care to think of my Cleopatra while I hold 'my fine
spirit Ariel' in my arms. She had done her best, but had I been still
heart-free I never could have married her. She is one of those tameless
natures which only God can govern; I dared not, even when I thought I
loved her, for much as I love power I love truth more. I told her this,
heard prayers, reproaches, threats, and denunciations; tried to leave
her kindly, and then was ready for my fate with you. But I was not to
have my will so easily. I had fallen into the net, and was not to leave
it till the scourging had been given. So like that other wandering
Christian, I cried out, submitted, and was the meeker for it. I had to
wait a little before the ship sailed; I would not stay at El Labarinto,
Gabriel's home, for Ottila was there; and though the fever raged at
Havana, I felt secure in my hitherto unbroken health. I returned there,
and paid the penalty; for weeks of suffering taught me that I could not
trifle with this body of mine, sturdy as it seemed."
"Oh, Adam, who took care of you? Where did you lie and suffer all that
"Never fret yourself concerning that; I was not neglected. A sister of
the 'Sacred Heart' took excellent care of me, and a hospital is as good
as a palace when one neither knows nor cares where he is. It went hardly
with me, I believe; but being resolved to live, I fought it through.
Death looked at me, had compassion, and passed by. There is a Haytien
proverb which must comfort you if I am a gaunt ghost of my former self:
'A lean freeman is better than a fat slave.' There comes the first smile
I have seen; but my next bit of news will bring a frown, I think. When I
was well enough to creep out, I learned that Ottila was married. You
heard the rumor, doubtless, but not the name, for Gabriel's and mine
were curiously blended in many minds by the suddenness of my
disappearance and his appearance as the bridegroom. It was like
her,--she had prepared for me as if sure I was to fill the place I had
left, hoping that this confidence of hers would have its due effect upon
me. It did try me sorely, but an experience once over is as if it had
never been, as far as regret or indecision is concerned; therefore
wedding gowns and imperious women failed to move me. To be left a
groomless bride stung that fiery pride of hers more than many an actual
shame or sin would have done. People would pity her, would see her loss,
deride her wilful folly. Gabriel loved her as she desired to be loved,
blindly and passionately; few knew of our later bond, many of our
betrothal, why not let the world believe me the rejected party come back
for a last appeal? I had avoided all whom I once knew, for I loathed the
place; no one had discovered me at the hospital, she thought me gone,
she boldly took the step, married the poor boy, left Cuba before I was
myself again, and won herself an empty victory which I never shall
"How strange! Yet I can believe it of her, she looked a woman who would
dare do anything. Then you came back, Adam, to find me? What led you
here, hoping so much and knowing so little?"
"Did you ever know me do anything in the accustomed way? Do I not always
aim straight at the thing I want and pursue it by the shortest road? It
fails often, and I go back to the slower surer way; but my own is always
tried first, as involuntarily as I hurled myself down that slope, as if
storming a fort instead of meeting my sweetheart. That is a pretty old
word beloved of better men than I, so let me use it once. Among the
first persons I met on landing was a friend of your father's; he was
just driving away in hot haste, but catching a glimpse of the familiar
face, I bethought me that it was the season for summer travel, you might
be away, and no one else would satisfy me; he might know, and time be
saved. I asked one question, 'Where are the Yules?' He answered, as he
vanished, 'The young people are all at the mountains.' That was enough,
and congratulating myself on the forethought which would save me some
hundred miles of needless delay, away I went, and for days have been
searching for you every where on that side of these hills which I know
so well. But no Yules had passed, and feeling sure you were on this side
I came, not around, but straight over, for this seemed a royal road to
my love, and here I found her waiting for me by the way. Now Sylvia, are
your doubts all answered, your fears all laid, your heart at rest on
As the time drew nearer Sylvia's task daunted her. Warwick was so
confident, so glad and tender over her, it seemed like pronouncing the
death doom to say those hard words, "It is too late." While she
struggled to find some expression that should tell all kindly yet
entirely, Adam, seeming to read some hint of her trouble, asked, with
that gentleness which now overlaid his former abruptness, and was the
more alluring for the contrast--
"Have I been too arrogant a lover? too sure of happiness, too blind to
my small deserts? Sylvia, have I misunderstood the greeting you have
"Yes, Adam, utterly."
He knit his brows, his eye grew anxious, his content seemed rudely
broken, but still hopefully he said--
"You mean that absence has changed you, that you do not love me as you
did, and pity made you kind? Well, I receive the disappointment, but I
do not relinquish my desire. What has been may be; let me try again to
earn you; teach me to be humble, patient, all that I should be to make
myself more dear to you. Something disturbs you, be frank with me; I
have shown you all my heart, what have you to show me in return?"
She freed herself entirely from his hold and held up her hand before
him. He did not see the ring; he thought she gave him all he asked, and
with a glow of gratitude extended both his own to take it. Then she saw
that delay was worse than weak, and though she trembled she spoke out
bravely ending his suspense at once.
"Adam, I do _not_ love you as I did, nor can I wish or try to bring it
back, because--I am married."
He sprung up as if shot through the heart, nor could a veritable bullet
from her hand have daunted him with a more intense dismay than those
three words. An instant's incredulity, then conviction came to him, and
he met it like a man, for though his face whitened and his eye burned
with an expression that wrung her heart, he demanded steadily,--
This was the hardest question of all, for well she knew the name would
wound the deeper for its dearness, and while it lingered pitifully upon
her lips its owner answered for himself. Clear and sweet came up the
music of the horn, bringing them a familiar air they all loved, and had
often sung together. Warwick knew it instantly, felt the hard truth but
rebelled against it, and put out his arm as if to ward it off as he
exclaimed, with real anguish in countenance and voice--
"Oh, Sylvia! it is not Geoffrey?"
Then, as if all strength had gone out of her, she dropped down upon the
mossy margin of the spring and covered up her face, feeling that the
first sharpness of a pain like this was not for human eyes to witness.
How many minutes passed she could not tell, the stillness of the spot
remained unbroken by any sound but the whisper of the wind, and in this
silence Sylvia found time to marvel at the calmness which came to her.
Self had been forgotten in surprise and sympathy, and still her one
thought was how to comfort Warwick. She had expected some outburst of
feeling, some gust of anger or despair, but neither sigh nor sob,
reproach nor regret reached her, and soon she stole an anxious glance to
see how it went with him. He was standing where she left him, both hands
locked together till they were white with the passionate pressure. His
eyes fixed on some distant object with a regard as imploring as
unseeing, and through those windows of the soul he looked out darkly,
not despairingly; but as if sure that somewhere there was help for him,
and he waited for it with a stern patience more terrible to watch than
the most tempestuous grief. Sylvia could not bear it, and remembering
that her confession had not yet been made, seized that instant for the
purpose, prompted by an instinct which assured her that the knowledge of
her pain would help him to bear his own.
She told him all, and ended saying--
"Now, Adam, come to me and let me try to comfort you."
Sylvia was right; for through the sorrowful bewilderment that brought a
brief eclipse of hope and courage, sympathy reached him like a friendly
hand to uphold him till he found the light again. While speaking, she
had seen the immobility that frightened her break up, and Warwick's
whole face flush and quiver with the rush of emotions controllable no
longer. But the demonstration which followed was one she had never
thought to see from him, for when she stretched her hands to him with
that tender invitation, she saw the deep eyes fill and overflow. Then he
threw himself down before her, and for the first time in her short life
showed her that sad type of human suffering, a man weeping like a woman.
Warwick was one of those whose passions, as his virtues, were in unison
with the powerful body they inhabited, and in such a crisis as the
present but one of two reliefs were possible to him; either wrathful
denunciation, expostulation and despair, or the abandon of a child.
Against the former he had been struggling dumbly till Sylvia's words had
turned the tide, and too entirely natural to feel a touch of shame at
that which is not a weakness but a strength, too wise to reject so safe
an outlet for so dangerous a grief, he yielded to it, letting the
merciful magic of tears quench the fire, wash the first bitterness away,
and leave reproaches only writ in water. It was better so, and Sylvia
acknowledged it within herself as she sat mute and motionless, softly
touching the brown hair scattered on the moss, her poor consolation
silenced by the pathos of the sight, while through it all rose and fell
the fitful echo of the horn, in very truth "a sweet reminder not to
stray away and lose herself." An hour ago it would have been a welcome
sound, for peak after peak gave back the strain, and airy voices
whispered it until the faintest murmur died. But now she let it soar and
sigh half heard, for audible to her alone still came its sad
accompaniment of bitter human tears. To Warwick it was far more; for
music, the comforter, laid her balm on his sore heart as no mortal pity
could have done, and wrought the miracle which changed the friend who
seemed to have robbed him of his love to an unconscious Orpheus, who
subdued the savage and harmonized the man. Soon he was himself again,
for to those who harbor the strong virtues with patient zeal, no lasting
ill can come, no affliction can wholly crush, no temptation wholly
vanquish. He rose with eyes the clearer for their stormy rain, twice a
man for having dared to be a child again. Humbler and happier for the
knowledge that neither vain resentment nor unjust accusation had
defrauded of its dignity, the heavy hour that left him desolate but not
"I _am_ comforted, Sylvia, rest assured of that. And now there is little
more to say, but one thing to do. I shall not see your husband yet, and
leave you to tell him what seems best, for, with the instinct of an
animal, I always go away to outlive my hurts alone. But remember that I
acquit you of blame, and believe that I will yet be happy in your
happiness. I know if Geoffrey were here, he would let me do this,
because he has suffered as I suffer now."
Bending, he gathered her to an embrace as different from that other as
despair is from delight, and while he held her there, crowding into one
short minute, all the pain and passion of a year, she heard a low, but
exceeding bitter cry--"Oh, my Sylvia! it is hard to give you up." Then
with a solemn satisfaction, which assured her as it did himself, he
spoke out clear and loud--
"Thank God for the merciful Hereafter, in which we may retrieve the
blunders we make here."
With that he left her, never turning till the burden so joyfully cast
down had been resumed. Then, staff and hat in hand, he paused on the
margin of that granite cup, to him a cup of sorrow, and looked into its
depths again. Clouds were trooping eastward, but in that pause the sun
glanced full on Warwick's figure, lifting his powerful head into a flood
of light, as he waved his hand to Sylvia with a gesture of courage and
good cheer. The look, the act, the memories they brought her, made her
heart ache with a sharper pang than pity, and filled her eyes with tears
of impotent regret, as she turned her head as if to chide the blithe
clamor of the horn. When she looked again, the figure and the sunshine
were both gone, leaving her alone and in the shadow.
A FIRESIDE FETE.
"No cousin Faith to-night. The rain has prevented her from taking this
boat, and she is not likely to come later as she comes alone," said
Moor, returning from a fruitless drive to meet his expected guest one
"It always rains when I want anything very much. I seem to have a great
deal of bad weather in my life," answered Sylvia, despondingly.
"Never mind the rain; let us make sunshine for ourselves, and forget it
as children do."
"I wish I was a child again, they are always happy."
"Let us play at being children, then. Let us sit down upon the rug,
parch corn, crack nuts, roast apples, and be merry in spite of wind or
Sylvia's face brightened, for the fancy pleased her, and she wanted
something new and pleasant to divert her thoughts from herself. Glancing
at her dress, which was unusually matronly in honor of the occasion, she
"I don't look much like a child, but I should like to try and feel like
one again if I can."
"Let us both look and feel so as much as possible. You like
masquerading; go make a little girl of yourself, while I turn boy, and
prepare for our merry making."
No lad could have spoken with a blither face, for Moor had preserved
much of the boy in spite of his thirty years. His cheerfulness was so
infectious, that Sylvia already began to forget her gloom, and hurried
away to do her part. Putting on a short, girlish gown, kept for
scrambles among the rocks, she improvised a pinafore, and braided her
long hair a la Morlena Kenwigs, with butterfly bows at the ends. When
she went down, she found her husband in garden jacket, collar turned
over a ribbon, hair in a curly tumble, and jackknife in hand, seated on
the rug before a roaring fire, and a semicircle of apples, whittling and
whistling like a very boy. They examined one another with mirthful
commendations, and Moor began his part by saying--
"Isn't this jolly? Now come and cuddle down here beside me, and see
which will keep it up the longest."
"What would Prue say? and who would recognize the elegant Mr. Moor in
this big boy? Putting dignity and broadcloth aside makes you look about
eighteen, and very charming I find you," said Sylvia, looking about
twelve herself, and also very charming.
"Here is a wooden fork for you to tend the roast with, while I see to
the corn laws and prepare a vegetable snowstorm. What will you have,
little girl, you look as if you wanted something?"
"I was only thinking that I should have a doll to match your knife. I
feel as if I should enjoy trotting a staring fright on my knee, and
singing Hush-a-by. But I fancy even your magic cannot produce such a
thing,--can it, my lad?"
"In exactly five minutes a lovely doll will appear, though such a thing
has not been seen in my bachelor establishment for years."
With which mysterious announcement Moor ran off, blundering over the
ottomans and slamming the doors as a true boy should. Sylvia pricked
chestnuts, and began to forget her bosom trouble as she wondered what
would appear with the impatient curiosity appropriate to the character
she had assumed. Presently her husband reappeared with much breeziness
of aspect, rain drops in his hair, and a squirming bundle in his arms.
Triumphantly unfolding many wraps, he displayed little Tilly in her
"There is sorcery for you, and a doll worth having; being one of the
sort that can shut its eyes; it was going to bed, but its mamma relented
and lends it to us for the night. I told Mrs. Dodd you wanted her, and
couldn't wait, so she sent her clothes; but the room is so warm let the
dear play in her pretty bed-gown."
Sylvia received her lovely plaything with enthusiasm, and Tilly felt
herself suddenly transported to a baby's Paradise, where beds were
unknown and fruit and freedom were her welcome portion. Merrily popped
the corn, nimbly danced the nuts upon the shovel, lustily remonstrated
the rosy martyrs on the hearth, and cheerfully the minutes slipped away.
Sylvia sung every jubilant air she knew, Moor whistled astonishing
accompaniments, and Tilly danced over the carpet with nut-shells on her
toes, and tried to fill her little gown with "pitty flowers" from its
garlands and bouquets. Without the wind lamented, the sky wept, and the
sea thundered on the shore; but within, youth, innocence, and love held
their blithe revel undisturbed.
"How are the spirits now?" asked one playmate of the other.
"Quite merry, thank you; and I should think I was little Sylvia again
but for the sight of this."
She held up the hand that wore a single ornament; but the hand had grown
so slender since it was first put on, that the ring would have fallen
had she not caught it at her finger-tip. There was nothing of the boy in
her companion's face, as he said, with an anxious look--
"If you go on thinning so fast I shall begin to fear that the little
wife is not happy with her old husband. Is she, dear?"
"She would be a most ungrateful woman if she were not. I always get thin
as winter comes on, but I'm so careless I'll find a guard for my ring
"No need to wait till then; wear this to please me, and let Marion's
cipher signify that you are _mine_."
With a gravity that touched her more than the bestowal of so dear a
relic, Moor unslung a signet ring from his watchguard, and with some
difficulty pressed it to its place on Sylvia's finger, a most effectual
keeper for that other ring whose tenure seemed so slight. She shrunk a
little and glanced up at him, because his touch was more firm than
tender, and his face wore a masterful expression seldom seen there; for
instinct, subtler than perception, prompted both act and aspect. Then
her eye fell and fixed upon the dark stone with the single letter
engraved upon its tiny oval, and to her it took a double significance as
her husband held it there, claiming her again, with that emphatic
"Mine." She did not speak, but something in her manner caused the fold
between his brows to smooth itself away as he regarded the small hand
lying passively in his, and said, half playfully, half earnestly--
"Forgive me if I hurt you, but you know my wooing is not over yet; and
till you love me with a perfect love I cannot feel that my wife is
"I am so young, you know; when I am a woman grown I can give you a
woman's love; now it is a girl's, you say. Wait for me, Geoffrey, a
little longer, for indeed I do my best to be all you would have me."
Something brought tears into her eyes and made her lips tremble, but in
a breath the smile came back, and she added gayly--
"How can I help being grave sometimes, and getting thin, with so many
housekeeping cares upon my shoulders, and such an exacting, tyrannical
husband to wear upon my nerves. Don't I look like the most miserable of
She did not certainly as she shook the popper laughingly, and looked
over her shoulder at him, with the bloom of fire-light on her cheeks,
its cheerfulness in her eyes.
"Keep that expression for every day wear, and I am satisfied. I want no
tame Griselda, but the little girl who once said she was always happy
with me. Assure me of that, and, having won my Leah, I can work and wait
still longer for my Rachel. Bless the baby! what has she done to herself
Tilly had retired behind the sofa, after she had swarmed over every
chair and couch, examined everything within her reach, on _étagère_ and
table, embraced the Hebe in the corner, played a fantasia on the piano,
and choked herself with the stopper of the odor bottle. A doleful wail
betrayed her hiding place, and she now emerged with a pair of
nutcrackers, ditto of pinched fingers, and an expression of great mental
and bodily distress. Her woes vanished instantaneously, however, when
the feast was announced, and she performed an unsteady _pas seul_ about
the banquet, varied by skirmishes with her long night-gown and darts at
any unguarded viand that tempted her.
No ordinary table service would suit the holders of this fireside
_fête_. The corn was heaped in a bronze urn, the nuts in a graceful
basket, the apples lay on a plate of curiously ancient china, and the
water turned to wine through the medium of a purple flagon of Bohemian
glass. The refection was spread upon the rug as on a flowery table, and
all the lustres were lighted, filling the room with a festal glow. Prue
would have held up her hands in dismay, like the benighted piece of
excellence she was, but Mark would have enjoyed the picturesque group
and sketched a mate to the Golden Wedding. For Moor, armed with the
wooden fork, did the honors; Sylvia, leaning on her arm, dropped corn
after corn into a baby mouth that bird-like always gaped for more; and
Tilly lay luxuriously between them, warming her little feet as she ate
and babbled to the flames.
The clock was on the stroke of eight, the revel at its height, when the
door opened and a servant announced--
"Miss Dane and Mr. Warwick."
An impressive pause followed, broken by a crow from Tilly, who seized
this propitious moment to bury one hand in the nuts and with the other
capture the big red apple which had been denied her. The sound seemed to
dissipate the blank surprise that had fallen on all parties, and brought
both host and hostess to their feet, the former exclaiming, heartily--
"Welcome, friends, to a modern saturnalia and the bosom of the Happy
"I fear you did not expect me so late," said Miss Dane. "I was detained
at the time fixed upon and gave it up, but Mr. Warwick came, and we set
off together. Pray don't disturb yourselves, but let us enjoy the game
"You and Adam are guests who never come too early or too late. We are
playing children to-night, so just put yourselves back a dozen years and
let us all be merry together. Sylvia, this our cousin, Faith here is
your new kinswoman. Please love one another as little people are
commanded to do."
A short stir ensued while hands were shaken, wraps put off, and some
degree of order restored to the room, then they all sat down and began
to talk. With well bred oblivion of the short gown and long braids of
her bashful-looking hostess, Miss Dane suggested and discussed various
subjects of mutual interest, while Sylvia tried to keep her eyes from
wandering to the mirror opposite, which reflected the figures of her
husband and his friend.
Warwick sat erect in the easy-chair, for he never lounged; and Moor,
still supporting his character, was perched upon the arm, talking with
boyish vivacity. Every sense being unwontedly alert, Sylvia found
herself listening to both guests at once, and bearing her own part in
one conversation so well that occasional lapses were only attributed to
natural embarrassment. What she and Miss Dane said she never remembered;
what the other pair talked of she never forgot. The first words she
caught were her husband's.
"You see I have begun to live for myself, Adam."
"I also see that it agrees with you excellently."
"Better than with you, for you are not looking like your old self,
though June made you happy, I hope?"
"If freedom is happiness it did."
"Are you still alone?"
"More so than ever."
Sylvia lost the next words, for a look showed her Moor's hand on Adam's
shoulder, and that for the first time within her memory Warwick did not
meet his friend's glance with one as open, but bent his eyes upon the
ground, while his hand went to and fro across his lips as if to steady
them. It was a gesture she remembered well, for though self-control
could keep the eye clear, the voice firm, that half-hidden mouth of his
sometimes rebelled and grew tremulous as a woman's. The sight and the
answer set her heart beating with the thought, "Why has he come?" The
repetition of a question by Miss Dane recalled her from a dangerous
memory, and when that friendly lady entered upon another long sentence
to relieve her young hostess, she heard Moor say--
"You have had too much solitude, Adam; I am sure of it, for no man can
live long alone and not get the uncanny look you have. What have you
"Fighting the old fight with this unruly self of mine, and getting ready
for another tussle with the Adversary, in whatever shape he may appear."
"And now you are come to your friend for the social solace which the
haughtiest heart hungers for when most alone. You shall have it. Stay
with us, Adam, and remember that whatever changes come to me my home is
"I know it, Geoffrey. I wanted to see your happiness before I go away
again, and should like to stay with you a day or so if you are sure
that--that she would like it."
Moor laughed and pulled a lock of the brown mane, as if to tease the
lion into a display of the spirit he seemed to have lost.
"How shy you are of speaking the new name! 'She' will like it, I assure
you, for she makes my friends hers. Sylvia, come here, and tell Adam he
is welcome; he dares to doubt it. Come and talk over old times, while I
do the same with Faith."
She went, trembling inwardly, but outwardly composed, for she took
refuge in one of those commonplace acts which in such moments we gladly
perform, and bless in our secret souls. She had often wondered where
they would next meet, and how she should comport herself at such a
trying time. She had never imagined that he would come in this way, or
that a hearth-brush would save her from the betrayal of emotion. So it
was, however, and an involuntary smile passed over her face as she
managed to say quite naturally, while brushing the nutshells tidily out
"You know you are always welcome, Mr. Warwick. 'Adam's Room,' as we call
it, is always ready, and Geoffrey was wishing for you only yesterday."
"I am sure of his satisfaction at my coming, can I be equally sure of
yours. May I, ought I to stay?"
He leaned forward as he spoke, with an eager yet submissive look, that
Sylvia dared not meet, and in her anxiety to preserve her
self-possession, she forgot that to this listener every uttered word
became a truth, because his own were always so.
"Why not, if you can bear our quiet life, for we are a Darby and Joan
already, though we do not look so to-night, I acknowledge."
Men seldom understand the subterfuges women instinctively use to conceal
many a natural emotion which they are not strong enough to control, not
brave enough to confess. To Warwick, Sylvia seemed almost careless, her
words a frivolous answer to the real meaning of his question, her smile
one of tranquil welcome. Her manner wrought an instant change in him,
and when he spoke again he was the Warwick of a year ago.
"I hesitated, Mrs. Moor, because I have sometimes heard young wives
complain that their husbands' friends were marplots, and I have no
desire to be one."
This speech, delivered with frosty gravity, made Sylvia as cool and
quiet as itself. She put her ally down, looked full at Warwick, and said
with a blending of dignity and cordiality which even the pinafore could
"Please to consider yourself a specially invited guest, now and always.
Never hesitate, but come and go as freely as you used to do, for nothing
need be changed between us three because two of us have one home to
"Thanks; and now that the hearth is scrupulously clean may I offer you a
The old keenness was in his eye, the old firmness about the mouth, the
old satirical smile on his lips as Warwick presented the seat, with an
inclination that to her seemed ironical. She sat down, but when she cast
about her mind for some safe and easy topic to introduce, every idea had
fled; even memory and fancy turned traitors; not a lively sally could be
found, not a pleasant remembrance returned to help her, and she sat
dumb. Before the dreadful pause grew awkward, however, rescue came in
the form of Tilly. Nothing daunted by the severe simplicity of her
attire she planted herself before Warwick, and shaking her hair out of
her eyes stared at him with an inquiring glance and cheeks as red as her
apple. She seemed satisfied in a moment, and climbing to his knee
established herself there, coolly taking possession of his watch, and
examining the brown beard curiously as it parted with the white flash of
teeth, when Warwick smiled his warmest smile.
"This recalls the night you fed the sparrow in your hand. Do you
remember, Adam?" and Sylvia looked and spoke like her old self again.
"I seldom forget anything. But pleasant as that hour was this is more to
me, for the bird flew away, the baby stays and gives me what I need."
He wrapt the child closer in his arms, leaned his dark head on the
bright one, and took the little feet into his hand with a fatherly look
that caused Tilly to pat his cheek and begin an animated recital of some
nursery legend, which ended in a sudden gape, reminding Sylvia that one
of her guests was keeping late hours.
"What comes next?" asked Warwick.
"Now I lay me and byelow in the trib," answered Tilly, stretching
herself over his arm with a great yawn.
Warwick kissed the rosy half-open mouth and seemed loth to part with the
pious baby, for he took the shawl Sylvia brought and did up the drowsy
bundle himself. While so busied she stole a furtive glance at him,
having looked without seeing before. Thinner and browner, but stronger
than ever was the familiar face she saw, yet neither sad nor stern, for
the grave gentleness which had been a fugitive expression before now
seemed habitual. This, with the hand at the lips and the slow dropping
of the eyes, were the only tokens of the sharp experience he had been
passing through. Born for conflict and endurance, he seemed to have
manfully accepted the sweet uses of adversity and grown the richer for
Those who themselves are quick to suffer, are also quick to see the
marks of suffering in others; that hasty scrutiny assured Sylvia of all
she had yearned to know, yet wrung her heart with a pity the deeper for
its impotence. Tilly's heavy head drooped between her bearer and the
light as they left the room, but in the dusky hall a few hot tears fell
on the baby's hair, and her new nurse lingered long after the lullaby
was done. When she reappeared the girlish dress was gone, and she was
Madam Moor again, as her husband called her when she assumed her stately
air. All smiled at the change, but he alone spoke of it.
"I win the applause, Sylvia; for I sustain my character to the end,
while you give up before the curtain falls. You are not so good an
actress as I thought you."
Sylvia's smile was sadder than her tears as she briefly answered--
"No, I find I cannot be a child again."
EARLY AND LATE.
One of Sylvia's first acts when she rose was most significant. She shook
down her abundant hair, carefully arranged a part in thick curls over
cheeks and forehead, gathered the rest into its usual coil, and said to
herself, as she surveyed her face half hidden in the shining cloud--
"It looks very sentimental, and I hate the weakness that drives me to
it, but it must be done, because my face is such a traitor. Poor
Geoffrey! he said I was no actress; I am learning fast."
Why every faculty seemed sharpened, every object assumed an unwonted
interest, and that quiet hour possessed an excitement that made her own
room and countenance look strange to her, she would not ask herself, as
she paused on the threshold of the door to ascertain if her guests were
stirring. Nothing was heard but the sound of regular footfalls on the
walk before the door, and with an expression of relief she slowly went
down. Moor was taking his morning walk bareheaded in the sun. Usually
Sylvia ran to join him, but now she stood musing on the steps, until he
saw and came to her. As he offered the flower always ready for her, he
"Did the play last night so captivate you, that you go back to the
curls, because you cannot keep the braids?"
"A sillier whim than that, even. I am afraid of those two people; and as
I am so quick to show my feelings in my face, I intend to hide behind
this veil if I get shy or troubled. Did you think I could be so artful?"
"Your craft amazes me. But, dearest child, you need not be afraid of
Faith and Adam. Both already love you for my sake, and soon will for
your own. Both are so much older, that they can easily overlook any
little short-coming, in consideration of your youth. Sylvia, I want to
tell you something about Adam. I never spoke of it before, because,
although no promise of silence was asked or given, I knew he considered
it a confidence. Now that it is all over, I know that I may tell my
wife, and she will help me comfort him."
"Tell on, Geoffrey, I hear you."
"Well, dear, when we went gypsying long ago, on the night you and Adam
lost the boat, as I sat drying your boots, and privately adoring them in
spite of the mud, I made a discovery. Adam loved, was on some sort of
probation, and would be married in June. He was slow to speak of it, but
I understood, and last night when I went to his room with him, I asked
how he had fared. Sylvia, it would have made your heart ache to have
seen his face, as he said in that brief way of his--'Geoffrey, the woman
I loved is married, ask me nothing more.' I never shall; but I know, by
the change I see in him, that the love was very dear, the wound very
"Poor Adam! how can we help him?"
"Let him do as he likes. I will take him to his old haunts, and busy him
with my affairs till he forgets his own. In the evenings we will have
Prue, Mark, and Jessie over here, will surround him with social
influences, and make the last hours of the day the cheerfullest; then
he won't lie awake and think all night, as I suspect he has been doing
of late. Sylvia, I should like to see that woman; though I could find it
in my heart to hate her for her perfidy to such a man."
Sylvia's head was bent as if to inhale the sweetness of the flower she
held, and all her husband saw was the bright hair blowing in the wind.
"I pity her for her loss as well as hate her. Now, let us talk of
something else, or my tell-tale face will betray that we have been
talking of him, when we meet Adam."
They did so, and when Warwick put up his curtain, the first sight he
saw, was his friend walking with his young wife under the red-leaved
maples, in the sunshine. The look Moor had spoken of, came into his
eyes, darkening them with the shadow of despair. A moment it gloomed
there, then passed, for Honor said reproachfully to Love--"They are
happy, should not that content you?"
"It shall!" answered the master of both, as he dropped the curtain and
In pursuance of his kindly plan, Moor took Adam out for a long tramp
soon after breakfast, and Sylvia and Miss Dane sat down to sew. In the
absence of the greater fear, Sylvia soon forgot the lesser one, and
began to feel at ease to study her new relative and covet her esteem.
Faith was past thirty, shapely and tall, with much natural dignity of
carriage, and a face never beautiful, but always singularly attractive
from its mild and earnest character. Looking at her, one felt assured
that here was a right womanly woman, gentle, just, and true; possessed
of a well-balanced mind, a self-reliant soul, and that fine gift which
is so rare, the power of acting as a touchstone to all who approached,
forcing them to rise or fall to their true level, unconscious of the
test applied. Her presence was comfortable, her voice had motherly tones
in it, her eyes a helpful look. Even the soft hue of her dress, the
brown gloss of her hair, the graceful industry of her hands, had their
attractive influence. Sylvia saw and felt these things with the
quickness of her susceptible temperament, and found herself so warmed
and won, that soon it cost her an effort to withhold anything that tried
or troubled her, for Faith was a born consoler, and Sylvia's heart was
However gloomy her day might have been she always brightened in the
evening as naturally as moths begin to flutter when candles come. On the
evening of this day the friendly atmosphere about her, and the
excitement of Warwick's presence so affected her, that though the gayety
of girlhood was quite gone she looked as softly brilliant as some late
flower that has gathered the summer to itself and gives it out again in
the bloom and beauty of a single hour.
When tea was over, for heroes and heroines must eat if they are to do
anything worth the paper on which their triumphs and tribulations are
recorded, the women gathered about the library table, work in hand, as
female tongues go easier when their fingers are occupied. Sylvia left
Prue and Jessie to enjoy Faith, and while she fabricated some trifle
with scarlet silk and an ivory shuttle, she listened to the conversation
of the gentlemen who roved about the room till a remark of Prue's
brought the party together.
"Helen Chesterfield has run away from her husband in the most
Mark and Moor drew near, Adam leaned on the chimney-piece, the workers
paused, and having produced her sensation, Prue proceeded to gratify
their curiosity as briefly as possible, for all knew the parties in
question and all waited anxiously to hear particulars.
"She married a Frenchman old enough to be her father, but very rich. She
thought she loved him, but when she got tired of her fine establishment,
and the novelties of Paris, she found she did not, and was miserable.
Many of her new friends had lovers, so why should not she; and presently
she began to amuse herself with this Louis Gustave Isadore Theodule de
Roueville--There's a name for a Christian man! Well, she began in play,
grew in earnest, and when she could bear her domestic trouble no longer
she just ran away, ruining herself for this life, and really I don't
know but for the next also."
"Poor soul! I always thought she was a fool, but upon my word I pity
her," said Mark.
"Remember she was very young, so far away from her mother, with no real
friend to warn and help her, and love is so sweet. No wonder she went."
"Sylvia, how can you excuse her in that way? She should have done her
duty whether she loved the old gentleman or not, and kept her troubles
to herself in a proper manner. You young girls think so much of love, so
little of moral obligations, decorum, and the opinions of the world, you
are not fit judges of the case. Mr. Warwick agrees with me, I am sure."
"Not in the least."
"Do you mean to say that Helen should have left her husband?"
"Certainly, if she could not love him."
"Do you also mean to say that she did right to run off with that Gustave
Isadore Theodule creature?"
"By no means. It is worse than folly to attempt the righting of one
wrong by the commission of another."
"Then what in the world should she have done?"
"She should have honestly decided which she loved, have frankly told the
husband the mistake both had made, and demanded her liberty. If the
lover was worthy, have openly married him and borne the world's
censures. If not worthy, have stood alone, an honest woman in God's
eyes, whatever the blind world might have thought."
Prue was scandalized to the last degree, for with her marriage was more
a law than a gospel; a law which ordained that a pair once yoked should
abide by their bargain, be it good or ill, and preserve the proprieties
in public no matter how hot a hell their home might be for them and for
"What a dreadful state society would be in if your ideas were adopted!
People would constantly be finding out that they were mismatched, and go
running about as if playing that game where every one changes places.
I'd rather die at once than live to see such a state of things as that,"
said the worthy spinster.
"So would I, and recommend prevention rather than a dangerous cure."
"I really should like to hear your views, Mr. Warwick, for you quite
take my breath away."
Much to Sylvia's surprise Adam appeared to like the subject, and placed
his views at Prue's disposal with alacrity.
"I would begin at the beginning, and teach young people that marriage is
not the only aim and end of life, yet would fit them for it, as for a
sacrament too high and holy to be profaned by a light word or thought.
Show them how to be worthy of it and how to wait for it. Give them a
law of life both cheerful and sustaining; a law that shall keep them
hopeful if single, sure that here or hereafter they will find that other
self and be accepted by it; happy if wedded, for their own integrity of
heart will teach them to know the true god when he comes, and keep them
loyal to the last."
"That is all very excellent and charming, but what are the poor souls to
do who haven't been educated in this fine way?" asked Prue.
"Unhappy marriages are the tragedies of our day, and will be, till we
learn that there are truer laws to be obeyed than those custom
sanctions, other obstacles than inequalities of fortune, rank, and age.
Because two persons love, it is not always safe or wise for them to
marry, nor need it necessarily wreck their peace to live apart. Often
what seems the best affection of our hearts does more for us by being
thwarted than if granted its fulfilment and prove a failure which
embitters two lives instead of sweetening one."
He paused there, but Prue wanted a clearer answer, and turned to Faith,
sure that the woman would take her own view of the matter.
"Which of us is right, Miss Dane, in Helen's case?"
"I cannot venture to judge the young lady, knowing so little of her
character or the influences that have surrounded her, and believing that
a certain divine example is best for us to follow at such times. I agree
with Mr. Warwick, but not wholly, for his summary mode of adjustment
would not be quite just nor right in all cases. If both find that they
do not love, the sooner they part the wiser; if one alone makes the
discovery the case is sadder still, and harder for either to decide. But
as I speak from observation only my opinions are of little worth."
"Of great worth, Miss Dane; for to women like yourself observation often
does the work of experience, and despite your modesty I wait to hear the
Warwick spoke, and spoke urgently, for the effect of all this upon
Sylvia was too absorbing a study to be relinquished yet. As he turned to
her, Faith gave him an intelligent glance, and answered like one
speaking with intention and to some secret but serious issue--
"You shall have them. Let us suppose that Helen was a woman possessed of
a stronger character, a deeper nature; the husband a younger, nobler
man; the lover truly excellent, and above even counselling the step this
pair have taken. In a case like that the wife, having promised to guard
another's happiness, should sincerely endeavor to do so, remembering
that in making the joy of others we often find our own, and that having
made so great a mistake the other should not bear all the loss. If there
be a strong attachment on the husband's part, and he a man worthy of
affection and respect, who has given himself confidingly, believing
himself beloved by the woman he so loves, she should leave no effort
unmade, no self-denial unexacted, till she has proved beyond all doubt
that it is impossible to be a true wife. Then, and not till then, has
she the right to dissolve the tie that has become a sin, because where
no love lives inevitable suffering and sorrow enter in, falling not only
upon guilty parents, but the innocent children who may be given them."
"And the lover, what of him?" asked Adam, still intent upon his purpose,
for, though he looked steadily at Faith, he knew that Sylvia drove the
shuttle in and out with a desperate industry that made her silence
significant to him.
"I would have the lover suffer and wait; sure that, however it may fare
with him, he will be the richer and the better for having known the joy
and pain of love."
"Thank you." And to Mark's surprise Warwick bowed gravely, and Miss Dane
resumed her work with a preoccupied air.
"Well, for a confirmed celibate, it strikes me you take a remarkable
interest in matrimony," said Mark. "Or is it merely a base desire to
speculate upon the tribulations of your fellow-beings, and congratulate
yourself upon your escape from them?"
"Neither; I not only pity and long to alleviate them, but have a strong
desire to share them, and the wish and purpose of my life for the last
year has been to marry."
Outspoken as Warwick was at all times and on all subjects, there was
something in this avowal that touched those present, for with the words
a quick rising light and warmth illuminated his whole countenance, and
the energy of his desire tuned his voice to a key which caused one heart
to beat fast, one pair of eyes to fill with sudden tears. Moor could not
see his friend's face, but he saw Mark's, divined the indiscreet inquiry
hovering on his lips, and arrested it with a warning gesture.
A pause ensued, during which each person made some mental comment on the
last speech, and to several of the group that little moment was a
memorable one. Remembering the lost love Warwick had confessed to him,
Moor thought with friendliest regret--"Poor Adam, he finds it impossible
to forget." Reading the truth in the keen delight the instant brought
her, Sylvia cried out within herself, "Oh, Geoffrey, forgive me, for I
love him!" and Warwick whispered to that impetuous heart of his, "Be
still, we have ventured far enough."
Prue spoke first, very much disturbed by having her prejudices and
opinions opposed, and very anxious to prove herself in the right.
"Mark and Geoffrey look as if they agreed with Mr. Warwick in
his--excuse me if I say, dangerous ideas; but I fancy the personal
application of them would change their minds. Now, Mark, just look at
it; suppose some one of Jessie's lovers should discover an affinity for
her, and she for him, what would you do?"
"Shoot him or myself, or all three, and make a neat little tragedy of
"There is no getting a serious answer from you, and I wonder I ever try.
Geoffrey, I put the case to you; if Sylvia should find she adored Julian
Haize, who fell sick when she was married, you know, and should inform
you of that agreeable fact some fine day, should you think it quite
reasonable and right to say, 'Go, my dear, I'm very sorry, but it can't
The way in which Prue put the case made it impossible for her hearers
not to laugh. But Sylvia held her breath while waiting for her husband's
answer. He was standing behind her chair, and spoke with the smile still
on his lips, too confident to harbor even a passing fancy.
"Perhaps I ought to be generous enough to do so, but not being a Jaques,
with a convenient glacier to help me out of the predicament, I am afraid
I should be hard to manage. I love but few, and those few are my world;
so do not try me too hardly, Sylvia."
"I shall do my best, Geoffrey."
She dropped her shuttle as she spoke, and stooping to pick it up, down
swept the long curls over either cheek; thus, when she fell to work
again, nothing of her face was visible but a glimpse of forehead, black
lashes and faintly smiling mouth. Moor led the conversation to other
topics, and was soon deep in an art discussion with Mark and Miss Dane,
while Prue and Jessie chatted away on that safe subject, dress. But
Sylvia worked silently, and Warwick still leaned there watching the busy
hand as if he saw something more than a pretty contrast between the
white fingers and the scarlet silk.
When the other guests had left, and Faith and himself had gone to their
rooms, Warwick, bent on not passing another sleepless night full of
unprofitable longings, went down again to get a book. The library was
still lighted, and standing there alone he saw Sylvia, wearing an
expression that startled him. Both hands pushed back and held her hair
away as if she scorned concealment from herself. Her eyes seemed fixed
with a despairing glance on some invisible disturber of her peace. All
the light and color that made her beautiful were gone, leaving her face
worn and old, and the language of both countenance and attitude was that
of one suddenly confronted with some hard fact, some heavy duty, that
must be accepted and performed.
This revelation lasted but a moment, Moor's step came down the hall, the
hair fell, the anguish passed, and nothing but a wan and weary face
remained. But Warwick had seen it, and as he stole away unperceived he
pressed his hands together, saying mournfully within himself, "I was
mistaken. God help us all."
IN THE TWILIGHT.
If Sylvia needed another trial to make that hard week harder, it soon
came to her in the knowledge that Warwick watched her. She well knew
why, and vainly endeavored to conceal from him that which she had
succeeded in concealing entirely from others. But he possessed the key
to her variable moods; he alone knew that now painful forethought, not
caprice dictated many of her seeming whims, and ruled her simplest
action. To others she appeared busy, gay, and full of interest in all
about her; to him, the industry was a preventive of forbidden thoughts;
the gayety a daily endeavor to forget; the interest, an anxiety
concerning the looks and words of her companions, because she must guard
Sylvia felt something like terror in the presence of this penetrating
eye, this daring will, for the vigilance was unflagging and unobtrusive,
and with all her efforts she could not read his heart as she felt her
own was being read. Adam could act no part, but bent on learning the
truth for the sake of all, he surmounted the dangers of the situation by
no artifice, no rash indulgence, but by simply shunning solitary
interviews with Sylvia as carefully as the courtesy due his hostess
would allow. In walks and drives, and general conversation, he bore his
part, surprising and delighting those who knew him best by the genial
change which seemed to have softened his rugged nature. But the instant
the family group fell apart and Moor's devotion to his cousin left
Sylvia alone, Warwick was away into the wood or out upon the sea,
lingering there till some meal, some appointed pleasure, or the evening
lamp brought all together. Sylvia understood this, and loved him for it
even while she longed to have it otherwise. But Moor reproached him for
his desertion, doubly felt since the gentler acquirements made him
dearer to his friend. Hating all disguises, Warwick found it hard to
withhold the fact which was not his own to give, and sparing no blame to
himself, answered Moor's playful complaint with a sad sincerity that
freed him from all further pleadings.
"Geoffrey, I have a heavy heart which even you cannot heal. Leave it to
time, and let me come and go as of old, enjoying the social hour when I
may, flying to solitude when I must."
Much as Sylvia had longed to see these friends, she counted the hours of
their stay, for the presence of one was a daily disquieting, because
spirits would often flag, conversation fail, and an utter weariness
creep over her when she could least account for or yield to it. More
than once during that week she longed to lay her head on Faith's kind
bosom and ask help. Deep as was her husband's love it did not possess
the soothing power of a woman's sympathy, and though it cradled her as
tenderly as if she had been a child, Faith's compassion would have been
like motherly arms to fold and foster. But friendly as they soon became,
frank as was Faith's regard for Sylvia, earnest as was Sylvia's
affection for Faith, she never seemed to reach that deeper place where
she desired to be. Always when she thought she had found the innermost
that each of us seek for in our friend, she felt that Faith drew back,
and a reserve as delicate as inflexible barred her approach with chilly
gentleness. This seemed so foreign to Faith's nature that Sylvia
pondered and grieved over it till the belief came to her that this
woman, so truly excellent and loveworthy, did not desire to receive her
confidence, and sometimes a bitter fear assailed her that Warwick was
not the only reader of her secret trouble.
All things have an end, and the last day came none too soon for one
dweller under that hospitable roof. Faith refused all entreaties to
stay, and looked somewhat anxiously at Warwick as Moor turned from
herself to him with the same urgency.
"Adam, you will stay? Promise me another week?"
"I never promise, Geoffrey."
Believing that, as no denial came, his request was granted, Moor gave
his whole attention to Faith, who was to leave them in an hour.
"Sylvia, while I help our cousin to select and fasten up the books and
prints she likes to take with her, will you run down into the garden and
fill your prettiest basket with our finest grapes? You will like that
better than fumbling with folds and string; and you know one's servants
should not perform these pleasant services for one's best friends."
Glad to be away, Sylvia ran through the long grape walk to its sunniest
nook, and standing outside the arch, began to lay the purple clusters in
her basket. Only a moment was she there alone; Warwick's shadow,
lengthened by the declining sun, soon fell black along the path. He did
not see her, nor seem intent on following her; he walked slowly, hat in
hand, so slowly that he was but midway down the leafy lane when Faith's
voice arrested him. She was in haste, as her hurried step and almost
breathless words betrayed; and losing not an instant, she cried before
"Adam, you will come with me? I cannot leave you here."
"Do you doubt me, Faith?"
"No; but loving women are so weak."
"So strong, you mean; men are weakest when they love."
"Adam, _will_ you come?"
"I will follow you; I shall speak with Geoffrey first."
"Must you tell him so soon?"
Faith's hand had been on Warwick's arm; as he spoke the last words she
bent her head upon it for an instant, then without another word turned
and hurried back as rapidly as she had come, while Warwick stood where
she left him, motionless as if buried in some absorbing thought.
All had passed in a moment, a moment too short, too full of intense
surprise to leave Sylvia time for recollection and betrayal of her
presence. Half hidden and wholly unobserved she had seen the unwonted
agitation of Faith's countenance and manner, had heard Warwick's softly
spoken answers to those eager appeals, and with a great pang had
discovered that some tender confidence existed between these two of
which she had never dreamed. Sudden as the discovery was its acceptance
and belief; for, knowing her own weakness, Sylvia found something like
relief in the hope that a new happiness for Warwick had ended all
temptation, and in time perhaps all pain for herself. Impulsive as ever
she leaned upon the seeming truth, and making of the fancy a fact,
passed into a perfect passion of self-abnegation, thinking, in the brief
pause that followed Faith's departure--
"This is the change we see in him; this made him watch me, hoping I had
forgotten, as I once said and believed. I should be glad, I will be
glad, and let him see that even while I suffer I can rejoice in that
which helps us both."
Full of her generous purpose, yet half doubtful how to execute it,
Sylvia stepped from the recess where she had stood, and slowly passed
toward Warwick, apparently intent on settling her fruity burden as she
went. At the first sound of her light step on the gravel he turned,
feeling at once that she must have heard, and eager to learn what
significance that short dialogue possessed for her. Only a hasty glance
did she give him as she came, but it showed him flushed cheeks, excited
eyes, and lips a little tremulous as they said--
"These are for Faith; will you hold the basket while I cover it with
He took it, and as the first green covering was deftly laid, he asked,
below his breath--
"Sylvia, did you hear us?"
To his unutterable amazement she looked up clearly, and all her heart
was in her voice, as she answered with a fervency he could not doubt--
"Yes; and I was glad to hear, to know that a nobler woman filled the
place I cannot fill. Oh, believe it, Adam; and be sure that the
knowledge of your great content will lighten the terrible regret which
you have seen as nothing else ever could have done."
Down fell the basket at their feet, and taking her face between his
hands, Warwick bent and searched with a glance that seemed to penetrate
to her heart's core. For a moment she struggled to escape, but the grasp
that held her was immovable. She tried to oppose a steadfast front and
baffle that perilous inspection, but quick and deep rushed the
traitorous color over cheek and forehead with its mute betrayal. She
tried to turn her eyes away, but those other eyes, dark and dilated with
intensity of purpose, fixed her own, and the confronting countenance
wore an expression which made its familiar features look awfully large
and grand to her panic-stricken sight. A sense of utter helplessness
fell on her, courage deserted her, pride changed to fear, defiance to
despair; as the flush faded, the fugitive glance was arrested and the
upturned face became a pale blank, ready to receive the answer that
strong scrutiny was slowly bringing to the light, as invisible
characters start out upon a page when fire passes over them. Neither
spoke, but soon through all opposing barriers the magnetism of an
indomitable will drew forth the truth, set free the captive passion pent
so long, and wrung from those reluctant lineaments a full confession of
that power which heaven has gifted with eternal youth.
The instant this assurance was his own beyond a doubt, Warwick released
her, snatched up his hat, and hurrying down the path vanished in the
wood. Spent as with an hour's excitement, and bewildered by emotions
which she could no longer master, Sylvia lingered in the grape walk till
her husband called her. Then hastily refilling her basket, she shook her
hair about her face and went to bid Faith good by. Moor was to accompany
her to the city, and they left early, that Faith might pause for adieux
to Mark and Prudence.
"Where is Adam? Has he gone before, or been inveigled into staying?"
Moor spoke to Sylvia, but busied in fastening the basket-lid, she seemed
not to hear, and Faith replied for her.
"He will take a later boat, we need not wait for him."
When Faith embraced Sylvia, all the coldness had melted from her manner,
and her voice was tender as a mother's as she whispered low in her ear--
"Dear child, if ever you need any help that Geoffrey cannot give,
remember cousin Faith."
For two hours Sylvia sat alone, not idle, for in the first real solitude
she had enjoyed for seven days she looked deeply into herself, and
putting by all disguises owned the truth, and resolved to repair the
past if possible, as Faith had counselled in the case which she had now
made her own. Like so many of us, Sylvia often saw her errors too late
to avoid committing them, and failing to do the right thing at the right
moment, kept herself forever in arrears with that creditor who must
inevitably be satisfied. She had been coming to this decision all that
weary week, and these quiet hours left her both resolute and resigned.
As she sat there while the early twilight began to gather, her eye often
turned to Warwick's travelling bag, which Faith, having espied it ready
in his chamber, had brought down and laid in the library, as a reminder
of her wish. As she looked at it, Sylvia's heart yearned toward it in
the fond, foolish way which women have of endowing the possessions of
those they love with the attractions of sentient things, and a portion
of their owner's character or claim upon themselves. It was like
Warwick, simple and strong, no key, and every mark of the long use which
had tested its capabilities and proved them durable. A pair of gloves
lay beside it on the chair, and though she longed to touch anything of
his, she resisted the temptation till, pausing near them in one of her
journeys to the window, she saw a rent in the glove that lay
uppermost,--that appeal was irresistible,--"Poor Adam! there has been no
one to care for him so long, and Faith does not yet know how; surely I
may perform so small a service for him if he never knows how tenderly I
Standing ready to drop her work at a sound, Sylvia snatched a brief
satisfaction which solaced her more than an hour of idle lamentation,
and as she kissed the glove with a long, sad kiss, and put it down with
eyes that dimly saw where it should be, perhaps there went as much real
love and sorrow into that little act as ever glorified some greater
deed. Then she went to lie in the "Refuge," as she had named an ancient
chair, with her head on its embracing arm. Not weeping, but quietly
watching the flicker of the fire, which filled the room with warm
duskiness, making the twilight doubly pleasant, till a sudden blaze
leaped up, showing her that her watch was over and Warwick come. She had
not heard him enter, but there he was close before her, his face glowing
with the frosty air, his eye clear and kind, and in his aspect that
nameless charm which won for him the confidence of whosoever read his
countenance. Scarce knowing why, Sylvia felt reassured that all was
well, and looked up with more welcome in her heart than she dared betray
"Come at last! where have you been so long, Adam?"
"Round the Island I suspect, for I lost my way, and had no guide but
instinct to lead me home again. I like to say that word, for though it
is not home it seems so to me now. May I sit here before I go, and warm
myself at your fire, Sylvia?"
Sure of his answer he established himself on the stool at her feet,
stretched his hands to the grateful blaze, and went on with some inward
resolution lending its power and depth to his voice.
"I had a question to settle with myself and went to find my best
counsellors in the wood. Often when I am harassed by some perplexity or
doubt to which I can find no wise or welcome answer, I walk myself into
a belief that it will come; then it appears. I stoop to break a handsome
flower, to pick up a cone, or watch some little creature happier than I,
and there lies my answer, like a good luck penny, ready to my hand."
"Faith has gone, but Geoffrey hopes to keep you for another week," said
Sylvia, ignoring the unsafe topic.
"Shall he have his wish?"
"Faith expects you to follow her."
"And you think I ought?"
"I think you will."
"When does the next boat leave?"
"An hour hence."
"I'll wait for it here. Did I wake you coming in?"
"I was not asleep; only lazy, warm, and quiet."
"And deadly tired;--dear soul, how can it be otherwise, leading the life
There was such compassion in his voice, such affection in his eye, such
fostering kindliness in the touch of the hand he laid upon her own, that
Sylvia cried within herself,--"Oh, if Geoffrey would only come!" and
hoping for that help to save her from herself, she hastily replied--
"You are mistaken, Adam,--my life is easier than I deserve,--my husband
makes me very--"
"Miserable,--the truth to me, Sylvia."
Warwick rose as he spoke, closed the door and came back wearing an
expression which caused her to start up with a gesture of entreaty--
"No no, I will not hear you! Adam, you must not speak!"
He paused opposite her, leaving a little space between them, which he
did not cross through all that followed, and with that look, inflexible
yet pitiful, he answered steadily--
"I _must_ speak and you _will_ hear me. But understand me, Sylvia, I
desire and design no French sentiment nor sin like that we heard of, and
what I say now I would say if Geoffrey stood between us. I have settled
this point after long thought and the heartiest prayers I ever prayed;
and much as I have at stake, I speak more for your sake than my own.
Therefore do not entreat nor delay, but listen and let me show you the
wrong you are doing yourself, your husband, and your friend."
"Does Faith know all the past? does she desire you to do this that her
happiness may be secure?" demanded Sylvia.
"Faith is no more to me, nor I to Faith, than the friendliest regard can
make us. She suspected that I loved you long ago; she now believes that
you love me; she pities her cousin tenderly, but will not meddle with
the tangle we have made of our three lives. Forget that folly, and let
me speak to you as I should. When we parted I thought that you loved
Geoffrey; so did you. When I came here I was sure of it for a day; but
on that second night I saw your face as you stood here alone, and then I
knew what I have since assured myself of. God knows, I think my gain
dearly purchased by his loss. I see your double trial; I know the
tribulations in store for all of us; yet, as an honest man, I must speak
out, because you ought not to delude yourself or Geoffrey another day."
"What right have you to come between us and decide my duty, Adam?"
Sylvia spoke passionately, roused to resistance by his manner and the
turmoil of emotions warring within her.
"The right of a sane man to save the woman he loves from destroying her
own peace forever, and undermining the confidence of the friend dearest
to them both. I know this is not the world's way in such matters; but I
care not; because I believe one human creature has a right to speak to
another in times like these as if they two stood alone. I will not
command, I will appeal to you, and if you are the candid soul I think
you, your own words shall prove the truth of what I say. Sylvia, do you
love your husband?"
"Yes, Adam, dearly."
"More than you love me?"
"I wish I did! I wish I did!"
"Are you happy with him?"
"I was till you came; I shall be when you are gone."
"Never! It is impossible to go back to the blind tranquillity you once
enjoyed. Now a single duty lies before you; delay is weak, deceit is
wicked; utter sincerity alone can help us. Tell Geoffrey all; then,
whether you live your life alone, or one day come to me, there is no
false dealing to repent of, and looking the hard fact in the face robs
it of one half its terrors. Will you do this, Sylvia?"
"No, Adam. Remember what he said that night: 'I love but few, and those
few are my world,'--I am chief in that world; shall I destroy it, for my
selfish pleasure? He waited for me very long, is waiting still; can I
for a second time disappoint the patient heart that would find it
easier to give up life than the poor possession which I am? No, I ought
not, dare not do it yet."
"If you dare not speak the truth to your friend, you do not deserve him,
and the name is a lie. You ask me to remember what he said that
night,--I ask you to recall the look with which he begged you not to try
him too hardly. Put it to yourself,--which is the kinder justice, a full
confession now, or a late one hereafter, when longer subterfuge has made
it harder for you to offer, bitterer for him to receive? I tell you,
Sylvia, it were more merciful to murder him outright than to slowly wear
away his faith, his peace, and love by a vain endeavor to perform as a
duty what should be your sweetest pleasure, and what will soon become a
burden heavier than you can bear."
"You do not see as I see; you cannot understand what I am to him, nor
can I tell you what he is to me. It is not as if I could dislike or
despise him for any unworthiness of his own; nor as if he were a lover
only. Then I could do much which now is worse than impossible, for I
have married him, and it is too late."
"Oh, Sylvia! why could you not have waited?"
"Why? because I am what I am, too easily led by circumstances, too
entirely possessed by whatever hope, belief, or fear rules me for the
hour. Give me a steadfast nature like your own and I will be as strong.
I know I am weak, but I am not wilfully wicked; and when I ask you to be
silent, it is because I want to save him from the pain of doubt, and try
to teach myself to love him as I should. I must have time, but I can
bear much and endeavor more persistently than you believe. If I forgot
you once, can I not again? and should I not? I am all in all to him,
while you, so strong, so self-reliant, can do without my love as you
have done till now, and will soon outlive your sorrow for the loss of
that which might have made us happy had I been more patient."
"Yes, I shall outlive it, else I should have little faith in myself. But
I shall not forget; and if you would remain forever what you now are to
me, you will so act that nothing may mar this memory, if it is to be no
more. I doubt your power to forget an affection which has survived so
many changes and withstood assaults such as Geoffrey must unconsciously
have made upon it. But I have no right to condemn your beliefs, to order
your actions, or force you to accept my code of morals if you are not
ready for it. You must decide, but do not again deceive yourself, and
through whatever comes hold fast to that which is better worth
preserving than husband, happiness, or friend."
His words fell cold on Sylvia's ear, for with the inconsistency of a
woman's heart she thought he gave her up too readily, yet honored him
more truly for sacrificing both himself and her to the principle that
ruled his life and made him what he was. His seeming resignation
steadied her, for now he waited her decision, while before he was only
bent on executing the purpose wherein he believed salvation lay. She
girded up her strength, collected her thoughts, and tried to show him
what she believed to be her duty.
"Let me tell you how it is with me, Adam, and be patient if I am not
wise and brave like you, but far too young, too ignorant to bear such
troubles well. I am not leaning on my own judgment now, but on Faith's,
and though you do not love her as I hoped, you feel she is one to trust.
She said the wife, in that fictitious case which was so real to us, the
wife should leave no effort unmade, no self-denial unexacted, till she
had fairly proved that she could not be what she had promised. Then, and
then only, had she a right to undo the tie that had bound her. I must do
this before I think of your love or my own, for on my marriage morning I
made a vow within myself that Geoffrey's happiness should be the first
duty of my life. I shall keep that vow as sacredly as I will those I
made before the world, until I find that it is utterly beyond my power,
then I will break all together."
"You have tried that once, and failed."
"No, I have never tried it as I shall now. At first, I did not know the
truth, then I was afraid to believe, and struggled blindly to forget.
Now I see clearly, I confess it, I resolve to conquer it, and I will not
yield until I have done my best. You say you must respect me. Could you
do so if I no longer respected myself? I should not, if I forgot all
Geoffrey had borne and done for me, and could not bear and do this thing
for him. I must make the effort, and make it silently; for he is very
proud with all his gentleness, and would reject the seeming sacrifice
though he would make one doubly hard for love of me. If I am to stay
with him, it spares him the bitterest pain he could suffer; if I am to
go, it gives him a few more months of happiness, and I may so prepare
him that the parting will be less hard. How others would act I cannot
tell, I only know that this seems right to me; and I must fight my fight
alone, even if I die in doing it."
She was so earnest, yet so humble; so weak in all but the desire to do
well; so young to be tormented with such fateful issues, and withal so
steadfast in the grateful yet remorseful tenderness she bore her
husband, that though sorely disappointed and not one whit convinced,
Warwick could only submit to this woman-hearted child, and love her
with redoubled love, both for what she was and what she aspired to be.
"Sylvia, what would you have me do?"
"You must go away, and for a long time, Adam; because when you are near
me my will is swayed by yours, and what you desire I long to give you.
Go quite away, and through Faith you may learn whether I succeed or
fail. It is hard to say this, yet you know it is a truer hospitality in
me to send you from my door than to detain and offer you temptation for
your daily bread."
How strangely Ottila came back to him, and all the scenes he had passed
through with her!--a perilous contrast just then. Yet, despite his pride
in the loving little creature who put him from her that she might be
worthy of him, one irrepressible lament swelled his heart and passed his
"Ah, Sylvia! I thought that parting on the mountain was the hardest I
could ever know, but this is harder; for now I have but to say come to
me, and you would come."
But the bitter moment had its drop of honey, whose sweetness nourished
him when all else failed. Sylvia answered with a perfect confidence in
that integrity which even her own longing could not bribe--
"Yes, Adam, but you will not say it, because feeling as I feel, you know
I must not come to you."
He did know it, and confessed his submission by folding fast the arms
half opened for her, and standing dumb with the words trembling on his
lips. It was the bravest action of a life full of real valor, for the
sacrifice was not made with more than human fortitude. The man's heart
clamored for its right, patience was weary, hope despaired, and all
natural instincts mutinied against the command that bound them. But no
grain of virtue ever falls wasted to the ground; it drops back upon its
giver a regathered strength, and cannot fail of its reward in some
kindred soul's approval, imitation, or delight. It was so then, as
Sylvia went to him; for though she did not touch nor smile upon him, he
felt her nearness; and the parting assured him that its power bound them
closer than the happiest union. In her face there shone a look half
fervent, half devout, and her voice had no falter in it now.
"You show me what I should be. All my life I have desired strength of
heart and stability of soul; may I not hope to earn for myself a little
of the integrity I love in you? If courage, self-denial, and self-help,
make you what you are, can I have a more effectual guide? You say you
shall outlive this passion; why should not I imitate your brave example,
and find the consolations you shall find? Oh, Adam, let me try."
"Then go; go now, while I can say it as I should."
"The good Lord bless and help you, Sylvia."
She gave him both her hands, but though he only pressed them silently,
that pressure nearly destroyed the victory she had won, for the strong
grasp snapped the slender guard-ring Moor had given her a week ago. She
heard it drop with a golden tinkle on the hearth, saw the dark oval,
with its doubly significant character, roll into the ashes, and felt
Warwick's hold tighten as if he echoed the emphatic word uttered when
the ineffectual gift was first bestowed. Superstition flowed in Sylvia's
blood, and was as unconquerable as the imagination which supplied its
food. This omen startled her. It seemed a forewarning that endeavor
would be vain, that submission was wisdom, and that the husband's charm
had lost its virtue when the stronger power claimed her. The desire to
resist began to waver as the old passionate longing sprang up more
eloquent than ever; she felt the rush of a coming impulse, knew that it
would sweep her into Warwick's arms, there to forget her duty, to
forfeit his respect. With the last effort of a sorely tried spirit she
tore her hands away, fled up to the room which had never needed lock or
key till now, and stifling the sound of those departing steps among the
cushions of the little couch where she had wept away childish woes and
dreamed girlish dreams, she struggled with the great sorrow of her too
early womanhood, uttering with broken voice that petition oftenest
quoted from the one prayer which expresses all our needs--
"Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil."
ASLEEP AND AWAKE.
March winds were howling round the house, the clock was striking two,
the library lamp still burned, and Moor sat writing with an anxious
face. Occasionally, he paused to look backward through the leaves of the
book in which he wrote; sometimes he sat with suspended pen, thinking
deeply; and once or twice he laid it down, to press his hand over eyes
more weary than the mind that compelled them to this late service.
Returning to his work after one of these pauses, he was a little
startled to see Sylvia standing on the threshold of the door. Rising
hastily to ask if she were ill, he stopped half way across the room,
for, with a thrill of apprehension and surprise, he saw that she was
asleep. Her eyes were open, fixed and vacant, her face reposeful, her
breathing regular, and every sense apparently wrapt in the profoundest
unconsciousness. Fearful of awakening her too suddenly, Moor stood
motionless, yet full of interest, for this was his first experience of
somnambulism, and it was a strange, almost an awful sight, to witness
the blind obedience of the body to the soul that ruled it.
For several minutes she remained where she first appeared. Then, as if
the dream demanded action, she stooped, and seemed to take some object
from a chair beside the door, held it an instant, kissed it softly and
laid it down. Slowly and steadily she went across the room, avoiding all
obstacles with the unerring instinct that often leads the sleepwalker
through dangers that appall his waking eyes, and sat down in the great
chair he had left, leaned her cheek upon its arm, and rested tranquilly
for several minutes. Soon the dream disturbed her, and lifting her head,
she bent forward, as if addressing or caressing some one seated at her
feet. Involuntarily her husband smiled; for often when they were alone
he sat there reading or talking to her, while she played with his hair,
likening its brown abundance to young Milton's curling locks in the
picture overhead. The smile had hardly risen when it was scared away,
for Sylvia suddenly sprung up with both hands out, crying in a voice
that rent the silence with its imploring energy--
"No, no, you must not speak! I will not hear you!"
Her own cry woke her. Consciousness and memory returned together, and
her face whitened with a look of terror, as her bewildered eyes showed
her not Warwick, but her husband. This look, so full of fear, yet so
intelligent, startled Moor more than the apparition or the cry had done,
for a conviction flashed into his mind that some unsuspected trouble had
been burdening Sylvia, and was now finding vent against her will.
Anxious to possess himself of the truth, and bent on doing so, he veiled
his purpose for a time, letting his unchanged manner reassure and
"Dear child, don't look so lost and wild. You are quite safe, and have
only been wandering in your sleep. Why, Mrs. Macbeth, have you murdered
some one, that you go crying out in this uncanny way, frightening me as
much as I seem to have frightened you?"
"I have murdered sleep. What did I do? what did I say?" she asked,
trembling and shrinking as she dropped into her chair.
Hoping to quiet her, he took his place on the footstool, and told her
what had passed. At first, she listened with a divided mind, for so
strongly was she still impressed with the vividness of the dream, she
half expected Warwick to rise like Banquo, and claim the seat that a
single occupancy seemed to have made his own. An expression of intense
relief replaced that of fear, when she had heard all, and she composed
herself with the knowledge that her secret was still hers. For, dreary
bosom-guest as it was, she had not yet resolved to end her trial.
"What set you walking, Sylvia?"
"I recollect hearing the clock strike one, and thinking I would come
down to see what you were doing so late, but must have dropped off and
carried out my design asleep. You see I put on wrapper and slippers as I
always do, when I take nocturnal rambles awake. How pleasant the fire
feels, and how cosy you look here; no wonder you like to stay and enjoy
She leaned forward warming her hands in unconscious imitation of Adam,
on the night which she had been recalling before she slept. Moor watched
her with increasing disquiet; for never had he seen her in a mood like
this. She evaded his question, she averted her eyes, she half hid her
face, and with a gesture that of late had grown habitual, seemed to try
to hide her heart. Often had she baffled him, sometimes grieved him, but
never before showed that she feared him. This wounded both his love and
pride, and this fixed his resolution, to wring from her an explanation
of the changes which had passed over her within those winter months,
for they had been many and mysterious. As if she feared silence, Sylvia
soon spoke again.
"Why are you up so late? This is not the first time I have seen your
lamp burning when I woke. What are you studying so deeply?"
Leaning on the arm of her chair he looked up wistfully, tenderly, as if
inviting confidence, sueing for affection. The words, the look, smote
Sylvia to the heart, and but for the thought, "I have not tried long
enough," she would have uttered the confession that leaped to her lips.
Once spoken, it would be too late for secret effort or success, and this
man's happiest hopes would vanish in a breath. Knowing that his nature
was almost as sensitively fastidious as a woman's, she also knew that
the discovery of her love for Adam, innocent as it had been,
self-denying as it tried to be, would forever mar the beauty of his
wedded life for Moor. No hour of it would seem sacred, no act, look, or
word of hers entirely his own, nor any of the dear delights of home
remain undarkened by the shadow of his friend. She could not speak yet,
and turning her eyes to the fire, she asked--
"Why study me? Have you no better book?"
"None that I love to read so well or have such need to understand;
because, though nearest and dearest as you are to me, I seem to know you
less than any friend I have. I do not wish to wound you, dear, nor be
exacting; but since we were married you have grown more shy than ever,
and the act which should have drawn us tenderly together seems to have
estranged us. You never talk now of yourself, or ask me to explain the
working of that busy mind of yours; and lately you have sometimes
shunned me, as if solitude were pleasanter than my society. Is it,
"Sometimes; I always liked to be alone, you know."
She answered as truly as she could, feeling that his love demanded every
confidence but the one cruel one which would destroy its peace past
"I knew I had a most tenacious heart, but I hoped it was not a selfish
one," he sorrowfully said. "Now I see that it is, and deeply regret that
my hopeful spirit, my impatient love, has brought disappointment to us
both. I should have waited longer, should have been less confident of my
own power to win you, and never let you waste your life in vain
endeavors to be happy when I was not all to you that you expected. I
should not have consented to your wish to spend the winter here so much
alone with me. I should have known that such a quiet home and studious
companion could not have many charms for a young girl like you. Forgive
me, I will do better, and this one-sided life of ours shall be changed;
for while I have been supremely content you have been miserable."
It was impossible to deny it, and with a tearless sob she laid her arm
about his neck, her head on his shoulder, and mutely confessed the truth
of what he said. The trouble deepened in his face, but he spoke out more
cheerfully, believing that he had found the secret sorrow.
"Thank heaven, nothing is past mending, and we will yet be happy. An
entire change shall be made; you shall no longer devote yourself to me,
but I to you. Will you go abroad, and forget this dismal home until its
rest grows inviting, Sylvia?"
"No, Geoffrey, not yet. I will learn to make the home pleasant, I will
work harder, and leave no time for ennui and discontent. I promised to
make your happiness, and I can do it better here than anywhere. Let me
"No, Sylvia, you work too hard already; you do everything with such
vehemence you wear out your body before your will is weary, and that
brings melancholy. I am very credulous, but when I see that acts belie
words I cease to believe. These months assure me that you are not happy;
have I found the secret thorn that frets you?"
She did not answer, for truth she could not, and falsehood she would
not, give him. He rose, went walking to and fro, searching memory,
heart, and conscience for any other cause, but found none, and saw only
one way out of his bewilderment. He drew a chair before her, sat down,
and looking at her with the masterful expression dominant in his face,
"Sylvia, have I been tyrannical, unjust, unkind, since you came to me?"
"Oh, Geoffrey, too generous, too just, too tender!"
"Have I claimed any rights but those you gave me, entreated or demanded
any sacrifices knowingly and wilfully?"
"Now I do claim my right to know your heart; I do entreat and demand one
thing, your confidence."
Then she felt that the hour had come, and tried to prepare to meet it as
she should by remembering that she had endeavored prayerfully,
desperately, despairingly, to do her duty, and had failed. Warwick was
right, she could not forget him. There was such vitality in the man and
in the sentiment he inspired, that it endowed his memory with a power
more potent than the visible presence of her husband. The knowledge of
his love now undid the work that ignorance had helped patience and
pride to achieve before. The more she struggled to forget, the deeper,
dearer, grew the yearning that must be denied, till months of fruitless
effort convinced her that it was impossible to outlive a passion more
indomitable than will, or penitence, or perseverance. Now she saw the
wisdom of Adam's warning, and felt that he knew both his friend's heart
and her own better than herself. Now she bitterly regretted that she had
not spoken out when he was there to help her, and before the least
deceit had taken the dignity from sorrow. Nevertheless, though she
trembled she resolved; and while Moor spoke on, she made ready to atone
for past silence by a perfect loyalty to truth.
"My wife, concealment is not generosity, for the heaviest trouble shared
together could not so take the sweetness from my life, the charm from
home, or make me more miserable than this want of confidence. It is a
double wrong, because you not only mar my peace but destroy your own by
wasting health and happiness in vain endeavors to bear some grief alone.
Your eye seldom meets mine now, your words are measured, your actions
cautious, your innocent gayety all gone. You hide your heart from me,
you hide your face; I seem to have lost the frank girl whom I loved, and
found a melancholy woman, who suffers silently till her honest nature
rebels, and brings her to confession in her sleep. There is no page of
my life which I have not freely shown you; do I do not deserve an equal
candor? Shall I not receive it?"
"Sylvia, what stands between us?"
Earnest as a prayer, brief as a command had been the question,
instantaneous was the reply, as Sylvia knelt down before him, put back
the veil that should never hide her from him any more, looked up into
her husband's face without one shadow in her own, and steadily told all.
The revelation was too utterly unexpected, too difficult of belief to be
at once accepted or understood. Moor started at the name, then leaned
forward, breathless and intent, as if to seize the words before they
left her lips; words that recalled incidents and acts dark and unmeaning
till the spark of intelligence fired a long train of memories and
enlightened him with terrible rapidity. Blinded by his own devotion, the
knowledge of Adam's love and loss seemed gages of his fidelity; the
thought that he loved Sylvia never had occurred to him, and seemed
incredible even when her own lips told it. She had been right in fearing
the effect this knowledge would have upon him. It stung his pride,
wounded his heart, and forever marred his faith in love and friendship.
As the truth broke over him, cold and bitter as a billow of the sea, she
saw gathering in his face the still white grief and indignation of an
outraged spirit, suffering with all a woman's pain, with all a man's
intensity of passion. His eye grew fiery and stern, the veins rose dark
upon his forehead, the lines about the mouth showed hard and grim, the
whole face altered terribly. As she looked, Sylvia thanked heaven that
Warwick was not there to feel the sudden atonement for an innocent
offence which his friend might have exacted before this natural but
unworthy temptation had passed by.
"Now I have given all my confidence though I may have broken both our
hearts in doing it. I do not hope for pardon yet, but I am sure of pity,
and I leave my fate in your hands. Geoffrey, what shall I do?"
"Wait for me," and putting her away, Moor left the room.
Suffering too much in mind to remember that she had a body, Sylvia
remained where she was, and leaning her head upon her hands tried to
recall what had passed, to nerve herself for what was to come. Her first
sensation was one of unutterable relief. The long struggle was over; the
haunting care was gone; there was nothing now to conceal; she might be
herself again, and her spirit rose with something of its old elasticity
as the heavy burden was removed. A moment she enjoyed this hard-won
freedom, then the memory that the burden was not lost but laid on other
shoulders, filled her with an anguish too sharp to find vent in tears,
too deep to leave any hope of cure except in action. But how act? She
had performed the duty so long, so vainly delayed, and when the first
glow of satisfaction passed, found redoubled anxiety, regret, and pain
before her. Clear and hard the truth stood there, and no power of hers
could recall the words that showed it to her husband, could give them
back the early blindness, or the later vicissitudes of hope and fear. In
the long silence that filled the room she had time to calm her
perturbation and comfort her remorse by the vague but helpful belief
which seldom deserts sanguine spirits, that something, as yet unseen and
unsuspected, would appear to heal the breach, to show what was to be
done, and to make all happy in the end.
Where Moor went or how long he stayed Sylvia never knew, but when at
length he came, her first glance showed her that pride is as much to be
dreaded as passion. No gold is without alloy, and now she saw the shadow
of a nature which had seemed all sunshine. She knew he was very proud,
but never thought to be the cause of its saddest manifestation; one
which showed her that its presence could make the silent sorrow of a
just and gentle man a harder trial to sustain than the hottest anger,
the bitterest reproach. Scarcely paler than when he went, there was no
sign of violent emotion in his countenance. His eye shone keen and dark,
an anxious fold crossed his forehead, and a melancholy gravity replaced
the cheerful serenity his face once wore. Wherein the alteration lay
Sylvia could not tell, but over the whole man some subtle change had
passed. The sudden frost which had blighted the tenderest affection of
his life seemed to have left its chill behind, robbing his manner of its
cordial charm, his voice of its heartsome ring, and giving him the look
of one who sternly said--"I must suffer, but it shall be alone."
Cold and quiet, he stood regarding her with a strange expression, as if
endeavoring to realize the truth, and see in her not his wife but
Warwick's lover. Oppressed by the old fear, now augmented by a
measureless regret, she could only look up at him feeling that her
husband had become her judge. Yet as she looked she was conscious of a
momentary wonder at the seeming transposition of character in the two so
near and dear to her. Strong-hearted Warwick wept like any child, but
accepted his disappointment without complaint and bore it manfully.
Moor, from whom she would sooner have expected such demonstration, grew
stormy first, then stern, as she once believed his friend would have
done. She forgot that Moor's pain was the sharper, his wound the deeper,
for the patient hope cherished so long; the knowledge that he never had
been, never could be loved as he loved; the sense of wrong that could
not but burn even in the meekest heart at such a late discovery, such an
Sylvia spoke first, not audibly, but with a little gesture of
supplication, a glance of sorrowful submission. He answered both, not by
lamentation or reproach, but by just enough of his accustomed tenderness
in touch and tone to make her tears break forth, as he placed her in the
ancient chair so often occupied together, took the one opposite, and
sweeping a clear space on the table between them, looked across it with
the air of a man bent on seeing his way and following it at any cost.
"Now Sylvia, I can listen as I should."
"Oh, Geoffrey, what can I say?"
"Repeat all you have already told me. I only gathered one fact then, now
I want the circumstances, for I find this confession difficult of
Perhaps no sterner expiation could have been required of her than to sit
there, face to face, eye to eye, and tell again that little history of
thwarted love and fruitless endeavor. Excitement had given her courage
for the first confession, now it was torture to carefully repeat what
had poured freely from her lips before. But she did it, glad to prove
her penitence by any test he might apply. Tears often blinded her,
uncontrollable emotion often arrested her; and more than once she turned
on him a beseeching look, which asked as plainly as words, "Must I go
Intent on learning all, Moor was unconscious of the trial he imposed,
unaware that the change in himself was the keenest reproach he could
have made, and still with a persistency as gentle as inflexible, he
pursued his purpose to the end. When great drops rolled down her cheeks
he dried them silently; when she paused, he waited till she calmed
herself; and when she spoke he listened with few interruptions but a
question now and then. Occasionally a sudden flush of passionate pain
swept across his face, as some phrase, implying rather than expressing
Warwick's love or Sylvia's longing, escaped the narrator's lips, and
when she described their parting on that very spot, his eye went from
her to the hearth her words seemed to make desolate, with a glance she
never could forget. But when the last question was answered, the last
appeal for pardon brokenly uttered, nothing but the pale pride remained;
and his voice was cold and quiet as his mien.
"Yes, it is this which has baffled and kept me groping in the dark so
long, for I wholly trusted what I wholly loved."
"Alas, it was that very confidence that made my task seem so necessary
and so hard. How often I longed to go to you with my great trouble as I
used to do with lesser ones. But here you would suffer more than I; and
having done the wrong, it was for me to pay the penalty. So like many
another weak yet willing soul, I tried to keep you happy at all costs."
"One frank word before I married you would have spared us this. Could
you not foresee the end and dare to speak it, Sylvia?"
"I see it now, I did not then, else I would have spoken as freely as I
speak to-night. I thought I had outlived my love for Adam; it seemed
kind to spare you a knowledge that would disturb your friendship, so
though I told the truth, I did not tell it all. I thought temptations
came from without; I could withstand such, and I did, even when it wore
Adam's shape. This temptation came so suddenly, seemed so harmless,
generous and just, that I yielded to it unconscious that it was one.
Surely I deceived myself as cruelly as I did you, and God knows I have
tried to atone for it when time taught me my fatal error."
"Poor child, it was too soon for you to play the perilous game of
hearts. I should have known it, and left you to the safe and simple joys
of girlhood. Forgive me that I have kept you a prisoner so long; take
off the fetter I put on, and go, Sylvia."
"No, do not put me from you yet; do not think that I can hurt you so,
and then be glad to leave you suffering alone. Look like your kind self
if you can; talk to me as you used to; let me show you my heart and you
will see how large a place you fill in it. Let me begin again, for now
the secret is told there is no fear to keep out love; and I can give my
whole strength to learning the lesson you have tried so patiently to
"You cannot, Sylvia. We are as much divorced as if judge and jury had
decided the righteous but hard separation for us. You can never be a
wife to me with an unconquerable affection in your heart; I can never be
your husband while the shadow of a fear remains. I will have all or
"Adam foretold this. He knew you best, and I should have followed the
brave counsel he gave me long ago. Oh, if he were only here to help us
The desire broke from Sylvia's lips involuntarily as she turned for
strength to the strong soul that loved her. But it was like wind to
smouldering fire; a pang of jealousy wrung Moor's heart, and he spoke
out with a flash of the eye that startled Sylvia more than the rapid
change of voice and manner.
"Hush! Say anything of yourself or me, and I can bear it, but spare me
the sound of Adam's name to-night. A man's nature is not forgiving like
a woman's, and the best of us harbor impulses you know nothing of. If I
am to lose wife, friend, and home, for God's sake leave me my
All the coldness and pride passed from Moor's face as the climax of his
sorrow came; with an impetuous gesture he threw his arms across the
table, and laid down his head in a paroxysm of tearless suffering such
as men only know.
How Sylvia longed to speak! But what consolation could the tenderest
words supply? She searched for some alleviating suggestion, some happier
hope; none came. Her eye turned imploringly to the pictured Fates above
her as if imploring them to aid her. But they looked back at her
inexorably dumb, and instinctively her thought passed beyond them to the
Ruler of all fates, asking the help which never is refused. No words
embodied her appeal, no sound expressed it, only a voiceless cry from
the depths of a contrite spirit, owning its weakness, making known its
want. She prayed for submission, but her deeper need was seen, and when
she asked for patience to endure, Heaven sent her power to act, and out
of this sharp trial brought her a better strength and clearer knowledge
of herself than years of smoother experience could have bestowed. A
sense of security, of stability, came to her as that entire reliance
assured her by its all-sustaining power that she had found what she most
needed to make life clear to her and duty sweet. With her face in her
hands, she sat, forgetful that she was not alone, as in that brief but
precious moment she felt the exceeding comfort of a childlike faith in
the one Friend who, when we are deserted by all, even by ourselves, puts
forth His hand and gathers us tenderly to Himself.
Her husband's voice recalled her, and looking up she showed him such an
earnest, patient countenance, it touched him like an unconscious rebuke.
The first tears she had seen rose to his eyes, and all the old
tenderness came back into his voice, softening the dismissal which had
been more coldly begun.
"Dear, silence and rest are best for both of us to-night. We cannot
treat this trouble as we should till we are calmer; then we will take
counsel how soonest to end what never should have been begun. Forgive
me, pray for me, and in sleep forget me for a little while."
He held the door for her, but as she passed Sylvia lifted her face for
the good night caress without which she had never left him since she
became his wife. She did not speak, but her eye humbly besought this
token of forgiveness; nor was it denied. Moor laid his hand upon her
lips, saying, "these are Adam's now," and kissed her on the forehead.
Such a little thing: but it overcame Sylvia with the sorrowful certainty
of the loss which had befallen both, and she crept away, feeling herself
an exile from the heart and home whose happy mistress she could never be
Moor watched the little figure going upward, and weeping softly as it
went, as if he echoed the sad "never any more," which those tears
expressed, and when it vanished with a backward look, shut himself in
alone with his great sorrow.
Sylvia laid her head down on her pillow, believing that this night would
be the longest, saddest she had ever known. But before she had time to
sigh for sleep it wrapt her in its comfortable arms, and held her till
day broke. Sunshine streamed across the room, and early birds piped on
the budding boughs that swayed before the window. But no morning smile
saluted her, no morning flower awaited her, and nothing but a little
note lay on the unpressed pillow at her side.
"Sylvia, I have gone away to Faith, because this proud, resentful spirit
of mine must be subdued before I meet you. I leave that behind me which
will speak to you more kindly, calmly than I can now, and show you that
my effort has been equal to my failure. There is nothing for me to do
but submit; manfully if I must, meekly if I can; and this short exile
will prepare me for the longer one to come. Take counsel with those
nearer and dearer to you than myself, and secure the happiness which I
have so ignorantly delayed, but cannot wilfully destroy. God be with
you, and through all that is and is to come, remember that you remain
beloved forever in the heart of Geoffrey Moor."
Sylvia had known many sad uprisings, but never a sadder one than this,
and the hours that followed aged her more than any year had done. All
day she wandered aimlessly to and fro, for the inward conflict would not
let her rest. The house seemed home no longer when its presiding genius
was gone, and everywhere some token of his former presence touched her
with its mute reproach.
She asked no counsel of her family, for well she knew the outburst of
condemnation, incredulity, and grief that would assail her there. They
could not help her yet; they would only augment perplexities, weaken
convictions, and distract her mind. When she was sure of herself she
would tell them, endure their indignation and regret, and steadily
execute the new purpose, whatever it should be.
To many it might seem an easy task to break the bond that burdened and
assume the tie that blessed. But Sylvia had grown wise in
self-knowledge, timorous through self-delusion; therefore the greater
the freedom given her the more she hesitated to avail herself of it. The
nobler each friend grew as she turned from one to the other, the more
impossible seemed the decision, for generous spirit and loving heart
contended for the mastery, yet neither won. She knew that Moor had put
her from him never to be recalled till some miracle was wrought that
should make her truly his. This renunciation showed her how much he had
become to her, how entirely she had learned to lean upon him, and how
great a boon such perfect love was in itself. Even the prospect of a
life with Warwick brought forebodings with its hope. Reason made her
listen to many doubts which hitherto passion had suppressed. Would she
never tire of his unrest? Could she fill so large a heart and give it
power as well as warmth? Might not the two wills clash, the ardent
natures inflame one another, the stronger intellect exhaust the weaker,
and disappointment come again? And as she asked these questions,
conscience, the monitor whom no bribe can tempt, no threat silence,
invariably answered "Yes."
But chief among the cares that beset her was one that grew more
burdensome with thought. By her own will she had put her liberty into
another's keeping; law confirmed the act, gospel sanctioned the vow, and
it could only be redeemed by paying the costly price demanded of those
who own that they have drawn a blank in the lottery of marriage. Public
opinion is a grim ghost that daunts the bravest, and Sylvia knew that
trials lay before her from which she would shrink and suffer, as only a
woman sensitive and proud as she could shrink and suffer. Once apply
this remedy and any tongue would have the power to wound, any eye to
insult with pity or contempt, any stranger to criticise or condemn, and
she would have no means of redress, no place of refuge, even in that
stronghold, Adam's heart.
All that dreary day she wrestled with these stubborn facts, but could
neither mould nor modify them as she would, and evening found her spent,
but not decided. Too excited for sleep, yet too weary for exertion, she
turned bedward, hoping that the darkness and the silence of night would
bring good counsel, if not rest.
Till now she had shunned the library as one shuns the spot where one has
suffered most. But as she passed the open door the gloom that reigned
within seemed typical of that which had fallen on its absent master, and
following the impulse of the moment Sylvia went in to light it with the
little glimmer of her lamp. Nothing had been touched, for no hand but
her own preserved the order of this room, and all household duties had
been neglected on that day. The old chair stood where she had left it,
and over its arm was thrown the velvet coat, half dressing-gown, half
blouse, that Moor liked to wear at this household trysting-place. Sylvia
bent to fold it smoothly as it hung, and feeling that she must solace
herself with some touch of tenderness, laid her cheek against the soft
garment, whispering "Good night." Something glittered on the cushion of
the chair, and looking nearer she found a steel-clasped book, upon the
cover of which lay a dead heliotrope, a little key.
It was Moor's Diary, and now she understood that passage of the note
which had been obscure before. "I leave that behind me which will speak
to you more kindly, calmly, than I can now, and show you that my effort
has been equal to my failure." She had often begged to read it,
threatened to pick the lock, and felt the strongest curiosity to learn
what was contained in the long entries that he daily made. Her requests
had always been answered with the promise of entire possession of the
book when the year was out. Now he gave it, though the year was not
gone, and many leaves were yet unfilled. He thought she would come to
this room first, would see her morning flower laid ready for her, and,
sitting in what they called their Refuge, would draw some comfort for
herself, some palliation for his innocent offence, from the record so
She took it, went away to her own room, unlocked the short romance of
his wedded life, and found her husband's heart laid bare before her.
It was a strange and solemn thing to look so deeply into the private
experience of a fellow-being; to trace the birth and progress of
purposes and passions, the motives of action, the secret aspirations,
the besetting sins that made up the inner life he had been leading
beside her. Moor wrote with an eloquent sincerity, because he had put
himself into his book, as if feeling the need of some _confidante_ he
had chosen the only one that pardons egotism. Here, too, Sylvia saw her
chameleon self, etched with loving care, endowed with all gifts and
graces, studied with unflagging zeal, and made the idol of a life.
Often a tuneful spirit seemed to assert itself, and passing from smooth
prose to smoother poetry, sonnet, song, or psalm, flowed down the page
in cadences stately, sweet, or solemn, filling the reader with delight
at the discovery of a gift so genuine, yet so shyly folded up within
itself, unconscious that its modesty was the surest token of its worth.
More than once Sylvia laid her face into the book, and added her
involuntary comment on some poem or passage made pathetic by the
present; and more than once paused to wonder, with exceeding wonder, why
she could not give such genius and affection its reward. Had she needed
any confirmation of the fact so hard to teach herself, this opening of
his innermost would have given it. For while she bitterly grieved over
the death-blow she had dealt his happy hope, it no longer seemed a
possibility to change her stubborn heart, or lessen by a fraction the
debt which she sadly felt could only be repaid in friendship's silver,
not love's gold.
All night she lay there like some pictured Magdalene, purer but as
penitent as Correggio's Mary, with the book, the lamp, the melancholy
eyes, the golden hair that painters love. All night she read, gathering
courage, not consolation, from those pages, for seeing what she was not
showed her what she might become; and when she turned the little key
upon that story without an end, Sylvia the girl was dead, but Sylvia the
woman had begun to live.
Lying in the rosy hush of dawn, there came to her a sudden memory--
"If ever you need help that Geoffrey cannot give, remember cousin
This was the hour Faith foresaw; Moor had gone to her with his trouble,
why not follow, and let this woman, wise, discreet, and gentle, show her
what should come next?
The newly risen sun saw Sylvia away upon her journey to Faith's home
among the hills. She lived alone, a cheerful, busy, solitary soul,
demanding little of others, yet giving freely to whomsoever asked an
alms of her.
Sylvia found the gray cottage nestled in a hollow of the mountain side;
a pleasant hermitage, secure and still. Mistress and maid composed the
household, but none of the gloom of isolation darkened the sunshine that
pervaded it; peace seemed to sit upon its threshold, content to brood
beneath its eaves, and the atmosphere of home to make it beautiful.
When some momentous purpose or event absorbs us we break through fears
and formalities, act out ourselves forgetful of reserve, and use the
plainest phrases to express emotions which need no ornament and little
aid from language. Sylvia illustrated this fact, then; for, without
hesitation or embarrassment, she entered Miss Dane's door, called no
servant to announce her, but went, as if by instinct, straight to the
room where Faith sat alone, and with the simplest greeting asked--
"Is Geoffrey here?"
"He was an hour ago, and will be an hour hence. I sent him out to rest,
for he cannot sleep. I am glad you came to him; he has not learned to do
without you yet."
With no bustle of surprise or sympathy Faith put away her work, took
off the hat and cloak, drew her guest beside her on the couch before the
one deep window looking down the valley, and gently chafing the chilly
hands in warm ones, said nothing more till Sylvia spoke.
"He has told you all the wrong I have done him?"
"Yes, and found a little comfort here. Do you need consolation also?"
"Can you ask? But I need something more, and no one can give it to me so
well as you. I want to be set right, to hear things called by their true
names, to be taken out of myself and made to see why I am always doing
wrong while trying to do well."
"Your father, sister, or brother are fitter for that task than I. Have
you tried them?"
"No, and I will not. They love me, but they could not help me; for they
would beg me to conceal if I cannot forget, to endure if I cannot
conquer, and abide by my mistake at all costs. That is not the help I
want. I desire to know the one just thing to be done, and to be made
brave enough to do it, though friends lament, gossips clamor, and the
heavens fall. I am in earnest now. Rate me sharply, drag out my
weaknesses, shame my follies, show no mercy to my selfish hopes; and
when I can no longer hide from myself put me in the way I should go, and
I will follow it though my feet bleed at every step."
She was in earnest now, terribly so, but still Faith drew back, though
her compassionate face belied her hesitating words.
"Go to Adam; who wiser or more just than he?"
"I cannot. He, as well as Geoffrey, loves me too well to decide for me.
You stand between them, wise as the one, gentle as the other, and you do
not care for me enough to let affection hoodwink reason. Faith, you
bade me come; do not cast me off, for if you shut your heart against me
I know not where to go."
Despairing she spoke, disconsolate she looked, and Faith's reluctance
vanished. The maternal aspect returned, her voice resumed its warmth,
her eye its benignity, and Sylvia was reassured before a word was
"I do not cast you off, nor shut my heart against you. I only hesitated
to assume such responsibility, and shrunk from the task because of
compassion, not coldness. Sit here, and tell me all your trouble,
"That is so kind! It seems quite natural to turn to you as if I had a
claim upon you. Let me have, and if you can, love me a little, because I
have no mother, and need one very much."
"My child, you shall not need one any more."
"I feel that, and am comforted already. Faith, if you were me, and stood
where I stand, beloved by two men, either of whom any woman might be
proud to call husband, putting self away, to which should you cleave?"
Sylvia paled and trembled, as if the oracle she had invoked was an
unanswerable voice pronouncing the inevitable. She watched Faith's
countenance a moment, groping for her meaning, failed to find it, and
whispered below her breath--
"Can I know why?"
"Because your husband is, your lover _should_ be your friend and nothing
more. You have been hardly taught the lesson many have to learn, that
friendship cannot fill love's place, yet should be kept inviolate, and
served as an austerer mistress who can make life very beautiful to such
as feel her worth and deserve her delights. Adam taught me this, for
though Geoffrey took you from him, he still held fast his friend,
letting no disappointment sour, no envy alienate, no resentment destroy
the perfect friendship years of mutual fidelity have built up between
"Yes!" cried Sylvia, "how I have honored Adam for that steadfastness,
and how I have despised myself, because I could not be as wise and
faithful in the earlier, safer sentiment I felt for Geoffrey."
"Be wise and faithful now; cease to be the wife, but remain the friend;
freely give all you can with honesty, not one jot more."
"Never did man possess a truer friend than I will be to him--if he will
let me. But, Faith, if I may be that to Geoffrey, may I not be something
nearer and dearer to Adam? Would not you dare to hope it, were you me?"
"No, Sylvia, never."
"If you were blind, a cripple, or cursed with some incurable infirmity
of body, would not you hesitate to bind yourself and your affliction to
"You know I should not only hesitate, but utterly refuse."
"I do know it, therefore I venture to show you why, according to my
belief, you should not marry Adam. I cannot tell you as I ought, but
only try to show you where to seek the explanation of my seeming harsh
advice. There are diseases more subtle and dangerous than any that vex
our flesh; diseases that should be as carefully cured if curable, as
inexorably prevented from spreading as any malady we dread. A paralyzed
will, a morbid mind, a mad temper, a tainted heart, a blind soul, are
afflictions to be as much regarded as bodily infirmities. Nay, more,
inasmuch as souls are of greater value than perishable flesh. Where this
is religiously taught, believed, and practised, marriage becomes in
truth a sacrament blessed of God; children thank parents for the gift of
life; parents see in children living satisfactions and rewards, not
reproaches or retributions doubly heavy to be borne, for the knowledge
that where two sinned, many must inevitably suffer."
"You try to tell me gently, Faith, but I see that you consider me one of
the innocent unfortunates, who have no right to marry till they be
healed, perhaps never. I have dimly felt this during the past year, now
I know it, and thank God that I have no child to reproach me hereafter,
for bequeathing it the mental ills I have not yet outlived."
"Dear Sylvia, you are an exceptional case in all respects, because an
extreme one. The ancient theology of two contending spirits in one body,
is strangely exemplified in you, for each rules by turns, and each helps
or hinders as moods and circumstances lead. Even in the great event of a
woman's life, you were thwarted by conflicting powers; impulse and
ignorance, passion and pride, hope and despair. Now you stand at the
parting of the ways, looking wistfully along the pleasant one where Adam
seems to beckon, while I point down the rugged one where I have walked,
and though my heart aches as I do it, counsel you as I would a daughter
of my own."
"I thank you, I will follow you, but my life looks very barren if I must
relinquish my desire."
"Not as barren as if you possessed your desire, and found in it another
misery and mistake. Could you have loved Geoffrey, it might have been
safe and well with you; loving Adam, it is neither. Let me show you why.
He is an exception like yourself; perhaps that explains your attraction
for each other. In him the head rules, in Geoffrey the heart. The one
criticises, the other loves mankind. Geoffrey is proud and private in
all that lies nearest him, clings to persons, and is faithful as a
woman. Adam has only the pride of an intellect which tests all things,
and abides by its own insight. He clings to principles; persons are but
animated facts or ideas; he seizes, searches, uses them, and when they
have no more for him, drops them like the husk, whose kernel he has
secured; passing on to find and study other samples without regret, but
with unabated zeal. For life to him is perpetual progress, and he obeys
the law of his nature as steadily as sun or sea. Is not this so?"
"All true; what more, Faith?"
"Few women, if wise, would dare to marry this man, noble and love-worthy
as he is, till time has tamed and experience developed him. Even then
the risk is great, for he demands and unconsciously absorbs into himself
the personality of others, making large returns, but of a kind which
only those as strong, sagacious, and steadfast as himself can receive
and adapt to their individual uses, without being overcome and
possessed. That none of us should be, except by the Spirit stronger than
man, purer than woman. You feel, though you do not understand this
power. You know that his presence excites, yet wearies you; that, while
you love, you fear him, and even when you long to be all in all to him,
you doubt your ability to make his happiness. Am I not right?"
"I must say, yes."
"Then, it is scarcely necessary for me to tell you that I think this
unequal marriage would be but a brief one for you; bright at its
beginning, dark at its end. With him you would exhaust yourself in
passionate endeavors to follow where he led. He would not know this, you
would not confess it, but too late you might both learn that you were
too young, too ardent, too frail in all but the might of love, to be his
wife. It is like a woodbird mating with an eagle, straining its little
wings to scale the sky with him, blinding itself with gazing at the sun,
striving to fill and warm the wild eyrie which becomes its home, and
perishing in the stern solitude the other loves. Yet, too fond and
faithful to regret the safer nest among the grass, the gentler mate it
might have had, the summer life and winter flitting to the south for
which it was designed."
"Faith, you frighten me; you seem to see and show me all the dim
forebodings I have hidden away within myself, because I could not
understand or dared not face them. How have you learned so much? How can
you read me so well? and who told you these things of us all?"
"I had an unhappy girlhood in a discordant home; early cares and losses
made me old in youth, and taught me to observe how others bore their
burdens. Since then solitude has led me to study and reflect upon the
question toward which my thoughts inevitably turned. Concerning yourself
and your past Geoffrey told me much but Adam more."
"Have you seen him? Has he been here? When, Faith, when?"
Light and color flashed back into Sylvia's face, and the glad eagerness
of her voice was a pleasant sound to hear after the despairing accents
gone before. Faith sighed, but answered fully, carefully, while the
compassion of her look deepened as she spoke.
"I saw him but a week ago, vehement and vigorous as ever. He has come
hither often during the winter, has watched you unseen, and brought me
news of you which made Geoffrey's disclosure scarcely a surprise. He
said you bade him hear of you through me, that he preferred to come, not
write, for letters were often false interpreters, but face to face one
gets the real thought of one's friend by look, as well as word, and the
result is satisfactory."
"That is Adam! But what more did he say? How did you advise him? I know
he asked counsel of you, as we all have done."
"He did, and I gave it as frankly as to you and Geoffrey. He made me
understand you, judge you leniently, see in you the virtues you have
cherished despite drawbacks such as few have to struggle with. Your
father made Adam his confessor during the happy month when you first
knew him. I need not tell you how he received and preserved such a
trust. He betrayed no confidence, but in speaking of you I saw that his
knowledge of the father taught him to understand the daughter. It was
well and beautifully done, and did we need anything to endear him to us
this trait of character would do it, for it is a rare endowment, the
power of overcoming all obstacles of pride, age, and the sad reserve
self-condemnation brings us, and making confession a grateful healing."
"I know it; we tell our sorrows to such as Geoffrey, our sins to such as
Adam. But, Faith, when you spoke of me, did you say to him what you have
been saying to me about my unfitness to be his wife because of
inequality, and my unhappy inheritance?"
"Could I do otherwise when he fixed that commanding eye of his upon me
asking, 'Is my love as wise as it is warm?' He is one of those who
force the hardest truths from us by the simple fact that they can bear
it, and would do the same for us. He needed it then, for though instinct
was right,--hence his anxious question,--his heart, never so entirely
roused as now, made it difficult for him to judge of your relations to
one another, and there my woman's insight helped him."
"What did he do when you told him? I see that you will yet hesitate to
tell me. I think you have been preparing me to hear it. Speak out.
Though my cheeks whiten and my hands tremble I can bear it, for you
shall be the law by which I will abide."
"You shall be a law to yourself, my brave Sylvia. Put your hands in mine
and hold fast to the friend who loves and honors you for this. I will
tell you what Adam did and said. He sat in deep thought many minutes;
but with him to see is to do, and soon he turned to me with the
courageous expression which in him signifies that the fight is fought,
the victory won. 'It is necessary to be just, it is not necessary to be
happy. I shall never marry Sylvia, even if I may,'--and with that
paraphrase of words, whose meaning seemed to fit his need, he went away.
I think he will not come again either to me--or you."
How still the room grew as Faith's reluctant lips uttered the last
words! Sylvia sat motionless looking out into the sunny valley, with
eyes that saw nothing but the image of that beloved friend leaving her
perhaps forever. Well she knew that with this man to see _was_ to do,
and with a woeful sense of desolation falling cold upon her heart, she
felt that there was nothing more to hope for but a brave submission like
his own. Yet in that pause there came a feeling of relief after the
first despair. The power of choice was no longer left her, and the help
she needed was bestowed by one who could decide against himself,
inspired by a sentiment which curbed a strong man's love of power, and
made it subject to a just man's love of right. Great examples never lose
their virtue; what Pompey was to Warwick that Warwick became to Sylvia,
and in the moment of supremest sorrow she felt the fire of a noble
emulation kindling within her from the spark he left behind.
"Faith, what comes next?"
"This," and she was gathered close while Faith confessed how hard her
task had been by letting tears fall fast upon the head which seemed to
have found its proper resting-place, as if despite her courage and her
wisdom the woman's heart was half broken with its pity. Better than any
words was the motherly embrace, the silent shower, the blessed balm of
sympathy which soothed the wounds it could not heal. Leaning against
each other the two hearts talked together in the silence, feeling the
beauty of the tie kind Nature weaves between the hearts that should be
knit. Faith often turned her lips to Sylvia's forehead, brushed back her
hair with a lingering touch, and drew her nearer as if it was very
pleasant to see and feel the little creature in her arms. Sylvia lay
there, tearless and tranquil; thinking thoughts for which she had no
words, and trying to prepare herself for the life to come, a life that
now looked very desolate. Her eye still rested on the valley where the
river flowed, the elms waved their budding boughs in the bland air, and
the meadows wore their earliest tinge of green. But she was not
conscious of these things till the sight of a solitary figure coming
slowly up the hill recalled her to the present and the duties it still
held for her.
"Here is Geoffrey! How wearily he walks,--how changed and old he
looks,--oh, why was I born to be a curse to all who love me!"
"Hush, Sylvia, say anything but that, because it casts reproach upon
your father. Your life is but just begun; make it a blessing, not a
curse, as all of us have power to do; and remember that for every
affliction there are two helpers, who can heal or end the heaviest we
know--Time and Death. The first we may invoke and wait for; the last God
alone can send when it is better not to live."
"I will try to be patient. Will you meet and tell Geoffrey what has
passed? I have no strength left but for passive endurance."
Faith went; Sylvia heard the murmur of earnest conversation; then steps
came rapidly along the hall, and Moor was in the room. She rose
involuntarily, but for a moment neither spoke, for never had they met as
now. Each regarded the other as if a year had rolled between them since
they parted, and each saw in the other the changes that one day had
wrought. Neither the fire of resentment nor the frost of pride now
rendered Moor's face stormy or stern. Anxious and worn it was, with
newly graven lines upon the forehead and melancholy curves about the
mouth, but the peace of a conquered spirit touched it with a pale
serenity, and some perennial hope shone in the glance he bent upon his
wife. For the first time in her life Sylvia was truly beautiful,--not
physically, for never had she looked more weak and wan, but spiritually,
as the inward change made itself manifest in an indescribable expression
of meekness and of strength. With suffering came submission, with
repentance came regeneration, and the power of the woman yet to be,
touched with beauty the pathos of the woman now passing through the
"Faith has told you what has passed between us, and you know that my
loss is a double one," she said. "Let me add that I deserve it, that I
clearly see my mistakes, will amend such as I can, bear the consequences
of such as are past help, try to profit by all, and make no new ones. I
cannot be your wife, I ought not to be Adam's; but I may be myself, may
live my life alone, and being friends with both wrong neither. This is
my decision; in it I believe, by it I will abide, and if it be a just
one God will not let me fail."
"I submit, Sylvia; I can still hope and wait."
So humbly he said it, so heartily he meant it, she felt that his love
was as indomitable as Warwick's will, and the wish that it were right
and possible to accept and reward it woke with all its old intensity. It
was not possible; and though her heart grew heavier within her, Sylvia
"No, Geoffrey, do not hope, do not wait; forgive me and forget me. Go
abroad as you proposed; travel far and stay long away. Change your life,
and learn to see in me only the friend I once was and still desire to
"I will go, will stay till you recall me, but while you live your life
alone I shall still hope and wait."
This invincible fidelity, so patient, so persistent, impressed the
listener like a prophecy, disturbed her conviction, arrested the words
upon her lips and softened them.
"It is not for one so unstable as myself to say, 'I shall never change.'
I do not say it, though I heartily believe it, but will leave all to
time. Surely I may do this; may let separation gently, gradually
convince you or alter me; and as the one return which I can make for all
you have given me, let this tie between us remain unbroken for a little
longer. Take this poor consolation with you; it is the best that I can
offer now. Mine is the knowledge that however I may thwart your life in
this world, there is a beautiful eternity in which you will forget me
and be happy."
She gave him comfort, but he robbed her of her own as he drew her to
him, answering with a glance brighter than any smile--
"Love is immortal, dear, and even in the 'beautiful eternity' I shall
still hope and wait."
* * * * *
How soon it was all over! the return to separate homes, the disclosures,
and the storms; the preparations for the solitary voyage, the last
charges and farewells.
Mark would not, and Prue could not, go to see the traveller off; the
former being too angry to lend his countenance to what he termed a
barbarous banishment, the latter, being half blind with crying, stayed
to nurse Jessie, whose soft heart was nearly broken at what seemed to
her the most direful affliction under heaven.
But Sylvia and her father followed Moor till his foot left the soil, and
still lingered on the wharf to watch the steamer out of port. An
uncongenial place in which to part; carriages rolled up and down, a
clamor of voices filled the air, the little steamtug snorted with
impatience, and the waves flowed seaward with the ebbing of the tide.
But father and daughter saw only one object, heard only one sound,
Moor's face as it looked down upon them from the deck, Moor's voice as
he sent cheery messages to those left behind. Mr. Yule was endeavoring
to reply as cheerily, and Sylvia was gazing with eyes that saw very
dimly through their tears, when both were aware of an instantaneous
change in the countenance they watched. Something beyond themselves
seemed to arrest Moor's eye; a moment he stood intent and motionless,
then flushed to the forehead with the dark glow Sylvia remembered well,
waved his hand to them and vanished down the cabin stairs.
"Papa, what did he see?"
There was no need of any answer; Adam Warwick came striding through the
crowd, saw them, paused with both hands out, and a questioning glance as
if uncertain of his greeting. With one impulse the hands were taken;
Sylvia could not speak, her father could, and did approvingly--
"Welcome, Warwick; you are come to say good by to Geoffrey?"
"Rather to you, sir; he needs none, I go with him."
"With him!" echoed both hearers.
"Ay, that I will. Did you think I would let him go away alone feeling
bereaved of wife, and home, and friend?"
"We should have known you better. But, Warwick, he will shun you; he hid
himself just now as you approached; he has tried to forgive, but he
cannot so soon forget."
"All the more need of my helping him to do both. He cannot shun me long
with no hiding-place to fly to but the sea, and I will so gently
constrain him by the old-time love we bore each other, that he must
relent and take me back into his heart again."
"Oh, Adam! go with him, stay with him, and bring him safely back to me
when time has helped us all."
"I shall do it, God willing."
Unmindful of all else Warwick bent and took her to him as he gave the
promise, seemed to put his whole heart into a single kiss and left her
trembling with the stress of his farewell. She saw him cleave his way
through the throng, leap the space left by the gangway just withdrawn,
and vanish in search of that lost friend. Then she turned her face to
her father's shoulder, conscious of nothing but the fact that Warwick
had come and gone.
A cannon boomed, the crowd cheered, the last cable was flung off, and
the steamer glided from her moorings with the surge of water and the
waft of wind like some sea-monster eager to be out upon the ocean free
"Look up, Sylvia; she will soon pass from sight."
"Are they there?"
"Then I do not care to see. Look for me, father, and tell me when they
"They will not come, dear; both have said good by, and we have seen the
last of them for many a long day."
"They will come! Adam will bring Geoffrey to show me they are friends
again. I know it; you shall see it. Lift me to that block and watch the
deck with me that we may see them the instant they appear."
Up she sprung, eyes clear now, nerves steady, faith strong. Leaning
forward so utterly forgetful of herself, she would have fallen into the
green water tumbling there below, had not her father held her fast. How
slowly the minutes seemed to pass, how rapidly the steamer seemed to
glide away, how heavily the sense of loss weighed on her heart as wave
after wave rolled between her and her heart's desire.
"Come down, Sylvia, it is giving yourself useless pain to watch and
wait. Come home, my child, and let us comfort one another."
She did not hear him, for as he spoke the steamer swung slowly round to
launch itself into the open bay, and with a cry that drew many eyes upon
the young figure with its face of pale expectancy, Sylvia saw her hope
"I knew they would come! See, father, see! Geoffrey is smiling as he
waves his handkerchief, and Adam's hand is on his shoulder. Answer them!
oh, answer them! I can only look."
The old man did answer them enthusiastically, and Sylvia stretched her
arms across the widening space as if to bring them back again. Side by
side the friends stood now; Moor's eye upon his wife, while from his
hand the little flag of peace streamed in the wind. But Warwick's glance
was turned upon his friend, and Warwick's hand already seemed to claim
the charge he had accepted.
Standing thus they passed from sight, never to come sailing home
together as the woman on the shore was praying God to let her see them
The ensuing half year seemed fuller of duties and events than any Sylvia
had ever known. At first she found it very hard to live her life alone;
for inward solitude oppressed her, and external trials were not wanting.
Only to the few who had a right to know, had the whole trouble been
confided. They were discreet from family pride, if from no tenderer
feeling; but the curious world outside of that small circle was full of
shrewd surmises, of keen eyes for discovering domestic breaches, and
shrill tongues for proclaiming them. Warwick escaped suspicion, being so
little known, so seldom seen; but for the usual nine days matrons and
venerable maids wagged their caps, lifted their hands, and sighed as
they sipped their dish of scandal and of tea--
"Poor young man! I always said how it would be, she was so peculiar. My
dear creature, haven't you heard that Mrs. Moor isn't happy with her
husband, and that he has gone abroad quite broken-hearted?"
Sylvia felt this deeply, but received it as her just punishment, and
bore herself so meekly that public opinion soon turned a somersault, and
the murmur changed to--
"Poor young thing! what could she expect? My dear, I have it from the
best authority, that Mr. Moor has made her miserable for a year, and now
left her broken-hearted." After that, the gossips took up some newer
tragedy, and left Mrs. Moor to mend her heart as best she could, a favor
very gratefully received.
As Hester Prynne seemed to see some trace of her own sin in every bosom,
by the glare of the Scarlet Letter burning on her own; so Sylvia, living
in the shadow of a household grief, found herself detecting various
phases of her own experience in others. She had joined that sad
sisterhood called disappointed women; a larger class than many deem it
to be, though there are few of us who have not seen members of it.
Unhappy wives; mistaken or forsaken lovers; meek souls, who make life a
long penance for the sins of others; gifted creatures kindled into
fitful brilliancy by some inward fire that consumes but cannot warm.
These are the women who fly to convents, write bitter books, sing songs
full of heartbreak, act splendidly the passion they have lost or never
won. Who smile, and try to lead brave uncomplaining lives, but whose
tragic eyes betray them, whose voices, however sweet or gay, contain an
undertone of hopelessness, whose faces sometimes startle one with an
expression which haunts the observer long after it is gone.
Undoubtedly Sylvia would have joined the melancholy chorus, and fallen
to lamenting that ever she was born, had she not possessed a purpose
that took her out of herself and proved her salvation. Faith's words
took root and blossomed. Intent on making her life a blessing, not a
reproach to her father, she lived for him entirely. He had taken her
back to him, as if the burden of her unhappy past should be upon his
shoulders, the expiation of her faults come from him alone. Sylvia
understood this now, and nestled to him so gladly, so confidingly, he
seemed to have found again the daughter he had lost and be almost
content to have her all his own.
How many roofs cover families or friends who live years together, yet
never truly know each other; who love, and long and try to meet, yet
fail to do so till some unexpected emotion or event performs the work.
In the weeks that followed the departure of the friends, Sylvia
discovered this and learned to know her father. No one was so much to
her as he; no one so fully entered into her thoughts and feelings; for
sympathy drew them tenderly together, and sorrow made them equals. As
man and woman they talked, as father and daughter they loved; and the
beautiful relation became their truest solace and support.
Miss Yule both rejoiced at and rebelled against this; was generous, yet
mortally jealous; made no complaint, but grieved in private, and one
fine day amazed her sister by announcing, that, being of no farther use
at home, she had decided to be married. Both Mr. Yule and Sylvia had
desired this event, but hardly dared to expect it in spite of sundry
propitious signs and circumstances.
A certain worthy widower had haunted the house of late, evidently on
matrimonial thoughts intent. A solid gentleman, both physically and
financially speaking; possessed of an ill-kept house, bad servants, and
nine neglected children. This prospect, however alarming to others, had
great charms for Prue; nor was the Reverend Gamaliel Bliss repugnant to
her, being a rubicund, bland personage, much given to fine linen, long
dinners, and short sermons. His third spouse had been suddenly
translated, and though the years of mourning had not yet expired, things
went so hardly with Gamaliel, that he could no longer delay casting his
pastoral eyes over the flock which had already given three lambs to his
fold, in search of a fourth. None appeared whose meek graces were
sufficiently attractive, or whose dowries were sufficiently large.
Meantime the nine olive-branches grew wild, the servants revelled, the
ministerial digestion suffered, the sacred shirts went buttonless, and
their wearer was wellnigh distraught. At this crisis he saw Prudence,
and fell into a way of seating himself before the well-endowed spinster,
with a large cambric pocket-handkerchief upon his knee, a frequent tear
meandering down his florid countenance, and volcanic sighs agitating his
capacious waistcoat as he poured his woes into her ear. Prue had been
deeply touched by these moist appeals, and was not much surprised when
the reverend gentleman went ponderously down upon his knee before her in
the good old-fashioned style which frequent use had endeared to him,
murmuring with an appropriate quotation and a subterranean sob--
"Miss Yule, 'a good wife is a crown to her husband;' be such an one to
me, unworthy as I am, and a mother to my bereaved babes, who suffer for
a tender woman's care."
She merely upset her sewing-table with an appropriate start, but
speedily recovered, and with a maidenly blush murmured in return--
"Dear me, how very unexpected! pray speak to papa,--oh, rise, I beg."
"Call me Gamaliel, and I obey!" gasped the stout lover, divided between
rapture and doubts of his ability to perform the feat alone.
"Gamaliel," sighed Prue, surrendering her hand.
"My Prudence, blessed among women!" responded the blissful Bliss. And
having saluted the fair member, allowed it to help him rise; when, after
a few decorous endearments, he departed to papa, and the bride elect
rushed up to Sylvia with the incoherent announcement--
"My dearest child, I have accepted him! It was such a surprise, though
so touchingly done. I was positively mortified; Maria had swept the room
so ill, his knees were white with lint, and I'm a very happy woman,
bless you, love!"
"Sit down, and tell me all about it," cried her sister. "Don't try to
sew, but cry if you like, and let me pet you, for indeed I am rejoiced."
But Prue preferred to rock violently, and boggle down a seam as the best
quietus for her fluttered nerves, while she told her romance, received
congratulations, and settled a few objections made by Sylvia, who tried
to play the prudent matron.
"I am afraid he is too old for you, my dear."
"Just the age; a man should always be ten years older than his wife. A
woman of thirty-five is in the prime of life, and if she hasn't arrived
at years of discretion then, she never will. Shall I wear pearl-colored
silk and a white bonnet, or just a very handsome travelling dress?"
"Whichever you like. But, Prue, isn't he rather stout, I won't say
"Sylvia, how can you! Because papa is a shadow, you call a fine, manly
person like Gam--Mr. Bliss, corpulent. I always said I would _not_ marry
an invalid, (Macgregor died of apoplexy last week, I heard, at a small
dinner party; fell forward with his head upon the cheese, and expired
without a groan,) and where can you find a more robust and healthy man
than Mr. Bliss? Not a gray hair, and gout his only complaint. So
aristocratic. You know I've loads of fine old flannel, just the thing
Sylvia commanded her countenance with difficulty, and went on with her
"He is a personable man, and an excellent one, I believe, yet I should
rather dread the responsibility of nine small children, if I were you."
"They are my chief inducement to the match. Just think of the state
those dears must be in, with only a young governess, and half a dozen
giddy maids to see to them. I long to be among them, and named an early
day, because measles and scarlatina are coming round again, and only
Fanny, and the twins, Gus and Gam, have had either. I know all their
names and ages, dispositions, and characters, and love them like a
mother already. He perfectly adores them, and that is very charming in a
learned man like Mr. Bliss."
"If that is your feeling it will all go well I have no doubt. But,
Prue,--I don't wish to be unkind, dear,--do you quite like the idea of
being the fourth Mrs. Bliss?"
"Bless me, I never thought of that! Poor man, it only shows how much he
must need consolation, and proves how good a husband he must have been.
No, Sylvia, I don't care a particle. I never knew those estimable
ladies, and the memory of them shall not keep me from making Gamaliel
happy if I can. What he goes through now is almost beyond belief. My
child, just think!--the coachman drinks; the cook has tea-parties
whenever she likes, and supports her brother's family out of her
perquisites, as she calls her bare-faced thefts; the house maids romp
with the indoor man, and have endless followers; three old maids set
their caps at him, and that hussy, (I must use a strong expression,)
that hussy of a governess makes love to him before the children. It is
my duty to marry him; I shall do it, and put an end to this fearful
state of things."
Sylvia asked but one more question--
"Now, seriously, do you love him very much? Will he make you as happy as
my dear old girl should be?"
Prue dropped her work, and hiding her face on Sylvia's shoulder,
answered with a plaintive sniff or two, and much real feeling--
"Yes, my dear, I do. I tried to love him, and I did not fail. I shall be
happy, for I shall be busy. I am not needed here any more, and so I am
glad to go away into a home of my own, feeling sure that you can fill my
place; and Maria knows my ways too well to let things go amiss. Now,
kiss me, and smooth my collar, for papa may call me down."
The sisters embraced and cried a little, as women usually find it
necessary to do at such interesting times; then fell to planning the
wedding outfit, and deciding between the "light silk and white bonnet,"
or the "handsome travelling suit."
Miss Yule made a great sacrifice to the proprieties by relinquishing her
desire for a stately wedding, and much to Sylvia's surprise and relief,
insisted that, as the family was then situated, it was best to have no
stir or parade, but to be married quietly at church and slip
unostentatiously out of the old life into the new. Her will was law, and
as the elderly bridegroom felt that there was no time to spare, and the
measles continued to go about seeking whom they might devour, Prue did
not keep him waiting long. "Three weeks is very little time, and nothing
will be properly done, for one must have everything new when one is
married of course, and mantua-makers are but mortal women (exorbitant in
their charges this season, I assure you), so be patient, Gamaliel, and
spend the time in teaching my little ones to love me before I come."
"My dearest creature, I will." And well did the enamored gentleman
perform his promise.
Prue kept hers so punctually that she was married with the bastings in
her wedding gown and two dozen pocket-handkerchiefs still unhemmed;
facts which disturbed her even during the ceremony. A quiet time
throughout; and after a sober feast, a tearful farewell, Mrs. Gamaliel
Bliss departed, leaving a great void behind and carrying joy to the
heart of her spouse, comfort to the souls of the excited nine,
destruction to the "High Life Below Stairs," and order, peace, and
plenty to the realm over which she was to know a long and prosperous
Hardly had the excitement of this event subsided when another occurred
to keep Sylvia from melancholy and bring an added satisfaction to her
lonely days. Across the sea there came to her a little book, bearing her
name upon its title-page. Quaintly printed, and bound in some foreign
style, plain and unassuming without, but very rich within, for there she
found Warwick's Essays, and between each of these one of the poems from
Moor's Diary. Far away there in Switzerland they had devised this
pleasure for her, and done honor to the woman whom they both loved, by
dedicating to her the first fruits of their lives. "Alpen Rosen" was its
title, and none could have better suited it in Sylvia's eyes, for to her
Warwick was the Alps and Moor the roses. Each had helped the other;
Warwick's rugged prose gathered grace from Moor's poetry, and Moor's
smoothly flowing lines acquired power from Warwick's prose. Each had
given her his best, and very proud was Sylvia of the little book, over
which she pored day after day, living on and in it, eagerly collecting
all praises, resenting all censures, and thinking it the one perfect
volume in the world.
Others felt and acknowledged its worth as well, for though fashionable
libraries were not besieged by inquiries for it, and no short-lived
enthusiasm welcomed it, a place was found for it on many study tables,
where real work was done. Innocent girls sang the songs and loved the
poet, while thoughtful women, looking deeper, honored the man. Young men
received the Essays as brave protests against the evils of the times,
and old men felt their faith in honor and honesty revive. The wise saw
great promise in it, and the most critical could not deny its beauty and
Early in autumn arrived a fresh delight; and Jessie's little daughter
became peacemaker as well as idol. Mark forgave his enemies, and swore
eternal friendship with all mankind the first day of his baby's life;
and when his sister brought it to him he took both in his arms, making
atonement for many hasty words and hard thoughts by the broken whisper--
"I have two little Sylvias now."
This wonderful being absorbed both households, from grandpapa to the
deposed sovereign Tilly, whom Sylvia called her own, and kept much with
her; while Prue threatened to cause a rise in the price of stationery by
the daily and copious letters full of warning and advice which she sent,
feeling herself a mother in Israel among her tribe of nine, now safely
carried through the Red Sea of scarlatina. Happy faces made perpetual
sunshine round the little Sylvia, but to none was she so dear a boon as
to her young god-mother. Jessie became a trifle jealous of "old Sylvia,"
as she now called herself, for she almost lived in baby's nursery;
hurrying over in time to assist at its morning ablutions, hovering about
its crib when it slept, daily discovering beauties invisible even to its
mother's eyes, and working early and late on dainty garments, rich in
the embroidery which she now thanked Prue for teaching her against her
will. The touch of the baby hands seemed to heal her sore heart; the
sound of the baby voice, even when most unmusical, had a soothing effect
upon her nerves; the tender cares its helplessness demanded absorbed her
thoughts, and kept her happy in a new world whose delights she had never
known till now.
From this time a restful expression replaced the patient hopelessness
her face had worn before, and in the lullabys she sang the listeners
caught echoes of the cheerful voice they had never thought to hear
again. Gay she was not, but serene. Quiet was all she asked; and
shunning society seemed happiest to sit at home with baby and its gentle
mother, with Mark, now painting as if inspired, or with her father, who
relinquished business and devoted himself to her. A pleasant pause
seemed to have come after troublous days; a tranquil hush in which she
sat waiting for what time should bring her. But as she waited the woman
seemed to bloom more beautifully than the girl had done. Light and color
revisited her countenance clearer and deeper than of old; fine lines
ennobled features faulty in themselves; and the indescribable refinement
of a deep inward life made itself manifest in look, speech, and gesture,
giving promise of a gracious womanhood.
Mr. Yule augured well from this repose, and believed the dawning
loveliness to be a herald of returning love. He was thinking hopeful
thoughts one day as he sat writing to Moor, whose faithful correspondent
he had become, when Sylvia came in with one of the few notes she sent
her husband while away.
"Just in time. God bless me, child! what is it?"
Well might he exclaim, for in his daughter's face he saw an expression
which caused his hope to suddenly become a glad belief. Her lips smiled,
though in her eyes there lay a shadow which he could not comprehend, and
her answer did not enlighten him as she put her arm about his neck and
laid her slip of paper in his hand.
"Enclose my note, and send the letter; then, father, we will talk."
In a small Italian town not far from Rome, a traveller stood listening
to an account of a battle lately fought near by, in which the town had
suffered much, yet been forever honored in the eyes of its inhabitants,
by having been the headquarters of the Hero of Italy. An inquiry of the
traveller's concerning a countryman of whom he was in search, created a
sensation at the little inn, and elicited the story of the battle, one
incident of which was still the all-absorbing topic with the excited
villagers. This was the incident which one of the group related with the
dramatic effects of a language composed almost as much of gesture as of
words, and an audience as picturesque as could well be conceived.
While the fight was raging on the distant plain, a troop of marauding
Croats dashed into the town, whose defenders, although outnumbered,
contested every inch of ground, while slowly driven back toward the
convent, the despoiling of which was the object of the attack. This
convent was both hospital and refuge, for there were gathered women and
children, the sick, the wounded, and the old. To secure the safety of
these rather than of the sacred relics, the Italians were bent on
holding the town till the reinforcement for which they had sent could
come up. It was a question of time, and every moment brought nearer the
destruction of the helpless garrison, trembling behind the convent
walls. A brutal massacre was in store for them if no help came; and
remembering this the red-shirted Garibaldians fought as if they well
deserved their sobriquet of "Scarlet Demons."
Help did come, not from below, but from above. Suddenly a cannon
thundered royally, and down the narrow street rushed a deathful
defiance, carrying disorder and dismay to the assailants, joy and wonder
to the nearly exhausted defenders. Wonder, for well they knew the gun
had stood silent and unmanned since the retreat of the enemy two days
before, and this unexpected answer to their prayers seemed Heaven-sent.
Those below looked up as they fought, those above looked down as they
feared, and midway between all saw that a single man held the gun. A
stalwart figure, bareheaded, stern faced, sinewy armed, fitfully seen
through clouds of smoke and flashes of fire, working with a silent
energy that seemed almost superhuman to the eyes of the superstitious
souls, who believed they saw and heard the convent's patron saint
proclaiming their salvation with a mighty voice.
This belief inspired the Italians, caused a panic among the Croats, and
saved the town. A few rounds turned the scale, the pursued became the
pursuers, and when the reinforcement arrived there was little for it to
do but join in the rejoicing and salute the brave cannoneer, who proved
to be no saint, but a stranger come to watch the battle, and thus
opportunely lend his aid.
Enthusiastic were the demonstrations; vivas, blessings, tears,
handkissing, and invocation of all the saints in the calendar, till it
was discovered that the unknown gentleman had a bullet in his breast
and was in need of instant help. Whereupon the women, clustering about
him like bees, bore him away to the wounded ward, where the inmates rose
up in their beds to welcome him, and the clamorous crowd were with
difficulty persuaded to relinquish him to the priest, the surgeon, and
the rest he needed. Nor was this all; the crowning glory of the event to
the villagers was the coming of the Chief at nightfall, and the scene
about the stranger's bed. Here the narrator glowed with pride, the women
in the group began to sob, and the men took off their caps, with black
eyes glittering through their tears.
"Excellenza, he who had fought for us like a tempest, an angel of doom,
lay there beside my cousin Beppo, who was past help and is now in holy
Paradise--Speranza was washing the smoke and powder from him, the wound
was easy--death of my soul! may he who gave it die unconfessed! See you,
I am there, I watch him, the friend of Excellenza, the great still man
who smiled but said no word to us. Then comes the Chief,--silenzio, till
I finish!--he comes, they have told him, he stays at the bed, he looks
down, the fine eye shines, he takes the hand, he says low--'I thank
you,'--he lays his cloak,--the gray cloak we know and love so well--over
the wounded breast, and so goes on. We cry out, but what does the
friend? Behold! he lifts himself, he lays the cloak upon my Beppo, he
says in that so broken way of his--'Comrade, the honor is for you who
gave your life for him, I give but a single hour.' Beppo saw, heard,
comprehended; thanked him with a glance, and rose up to die crying,
'Viva Italia! Viva Garibaldi!'"
The cry was caught up by all the listeners in a whirlwind of
enthusiastic loyalty, and the stranger joined in it, thrilled with an
equal love and honor for the Patriot Soldier, whose name upon Italian
lips means liberty.
"Where is he now, this friend of mine, so nearly lost, so happily
A dozen hands pointed to the convent, a dozen brown faces lighted up,
and a dozen eager voices poured out directions, messages, and
benedictions in a breath. Ordering his carriage to follow presently, the
traveller rapidly climbed the steep road, guided by signs he could not
well mistake. The convent gate stood open, and he paused for no
permission to enter, for looking through it, down the green vista of an
orchard path, he saw his friend and sprang to meet him.
"Truant that you are, to desert me for ten days, and only let me find
you when you have no need of me."
"I always need you, but am not always needed. I went away because the
old restlessness came upon me in that dead city Rome. You were happy
there, but I scented war, followed and found it by instinct, and have
had enough of it. Look at my hands."
He laughed as he showed them, still bruised and blackened with the hard
usage they had received; nothing else but a paler shade of color from
loss of blood, showed that he had passed through any suffering or
"Brave hands, I honor them for all their grime. Tell me about it, Adam;
show me the wound; describe the scene, I want to hear it in calm
But Warwick was slow to do so being the hero of the tale, and very brief
was the reply Moor got.
"I came to watch, but found work ready for me. It is not clear to me
even now what I did, nor how I did it. One of my Berserker rages
possessed me I fancy; my nerves and muscles seemed made of steel and
gutta percha; the smell of powder intoxicated, and the sense of power
was grand. The fire, the smoke, the din were all delicious, and I felt
like a giant, as I wielded that great weapon, dealing many deaths with a
single pair of hands."
"The savage in you got the mastery just then; I've seen it, and have
often wondered how you managed to control it so well. Now it has had a
holiday and made a hero of you."
"The savage is better out than in, and any man may be a hero if he will.
What have you been doing since I left you poring over pictures in a
"You think to slip away from the subject, do you? and after facing death
at a cannon's breach expect me to be satisfied with an ordinary
greeting? I won't have it; I insist upon asking as many questions as I
like, hearing about the wound and seeing if it is doing well. Where is
Warwick showed it, a little purple spot above his heart. Moor's face
grew anxious as he looked, but cleared again as he examined it, for the
ball had gone upward and the wholesome flesh was already healing fast.
"Too near, Adam, but thank God it was no nearer. A little lower and I
might have looked for you in vain."
"This heart of mine is a tough organ, bullet-proof, I dare say, though I
wear no breastplate."
"But this!" Involuntarily Moor's eye asked the question his lips did not
utter as he touched a worn and faded case hanging on the broad breast
before him. Silently Warwick opened it, showing not Sylvia's face but
that of an old woman, rudely drawn in sepia; the brown tints bringing
out the marked features as no softer hue could have done, and giving to
each line a depth of expression that made the serious countenance
singularly lifelike and attractive.
Now Moor saw where Warwick got both keen eyes and tender mouth, as well
as all the gentler traits that softened his strong character; and felt
that no other woman ever had or ever would hold so dear a place as the
old mother whose likeness he had drawn and hung where other men wear
images of mistress or of wife. With a glance as full of penitence as the
other had been of disquiet, Moor laid back the little case, drew bandage
and blouse over both wound and picture, and linked his arm in Warwick's
as he asked--
"Who shot you?"
"How can I tell? I knew nothing of it till that flock of women fell to
kissing these dirty hands of mine; then I was conscious of a stinging
pain in my shoulder, and a warm stream trickling down my side. I looked
to see what was amiss, whereat the good souls set up a shriek, took
possession of me, and for half an hour wept and wailed over me in a
frenzy of emotion and good-will that kept me merry in spite of the
surgeon's probes and the priest's prayers. The appellations showered
upon me would have startled even your ears, accustomed to soft words.
Were you ever called 'core of my heart,' 'sun of my soul,' or 'cup of
"Cannonading suits your spirits excellently; I remember your telling me
that you had tried and liked it. But there is to be no more of it, I
have other plans for you. Before I mention them tell me of the interview
"That now is a thing to ask one about; a thing to talk of and take
pride in all one's days. I was half asleep and thought myself dreaming
till he spoke. A right noble face, Geoffrey--full of thought and power;
the look of one born to command others because master of himself. A
square strong frame; no decorations, no parade; dressed like his men,
yet as much the chief as if he wore a dozen orders on his scarlet
"Where is the cloak? I want to see and touch it; surely you kept it as a
"Not I. Having seen the man, what do I care for the garment that covered
him. I keep the hand shake, the 'Grazia, grazia,' for my share. Poor
Beppo lies buried in the hero's cloak."
"I grudge it to him, every inch of it, for not having seen the man _I_
do desire the garment. Who but you would have done it?"
Warwick smiled, knowing that his friend was well pleased with him for
all his murmuring. They walked in silence till Moor abruptly asked--
"When can you travel, Adam?"
"I was coming back to you to-morrow."
"Are you sure it is safe?"
"Quite sure; ten days is enough to waste upon a scratch like this."
"Come now, I cannot wait till to-morrow."
"Very good. Can you stop till I get my hat?"
"You don't ask me why I am in such haste."
Moor's tone caused Warwick to pause and look at him. Joy, impatience,
anxiety, contended with each other in his countenance; and as if unable
to tell the cause himself, he put a little paper into the other's hand.
Only three words were contained in it, but they caused Warwick's face
to kindle with all the joy betrayed in that of his friend, none of the
impatience nor anxiety.
"What can I say to show you my content? The months have seemed very long
to you, but now comes the reward. The blessed little letter! so like
herself; the slender slip, the delicate handwriting, the three happy
words,--'Geoffrey, come home.'"
Moor did not speak, but still looked up anxiously, inquiringly; and
Warwick answered with a glance he could not doubt.
"Have no fears for me. I share the joy as heartily as I shared the
sorrow; neither can separate us any more."
"Thank heaven for that! But, Adam, may I accept this good gift and be
sure I am not robbing you again? You never speak of the past, how is it
with you now?"
"Quite well and happy; the pain is gone, the peace remains. I would not
have it otherwise. Six months have cured the selfishness of love, and
left the satisfaction which nothing can change or take away."
"But Sylvia, what of her, Adam?"
"Henceforth, Sylvia and Ottila are only fair illustrations of the two
extremes of love. I am glad to have known both; each has helped me, and
each will be remembered while I live. But having gained the experience I
can relinquish the unconscious bestowers of it, if it is not best to
keep them. Believe that I do this without regret, and freely enjoy the
happiness that comes to you."
"I will, but not as I once should; for though I feel that you need
neither sympathy nor pity, still, I seem to take so much and leave you
"You leave me myself, better and humbler than before. In the fierce half
hour I lived not long ago, I think a great and needful change was
wrought in me. All lives are full of such, coming when least looked for,
working out the end through unexpected means. The restless, domineering
devil that haunted me was cast out then; and during the quiet time that
followed a new spirit entered in and took possession."
"What is it, Adam?"
"I cannot tell, yet I welcome it. This peaceful mood may not last
perhaps, but it brings me that rare moment--pity that it is so rare, and
but a moment--when we seem to see temptation at our feet; when we are
conscious of a willingness to leave all in God's hand, ready for
whatever He may send; feeling that whether it be suffering or joy we
shall see the Giver in the gift, and when He calls can answer cheerfully
'Lord here am I.'"
It _was_ a rare moment, and in it Moor for the first time clearly saw
the desire and design of his friend's life; saw it because it was
accomplished, and for the instant Adam Warwick was what he aspired to
be. A goodly man, whose stalwart body seemed a fit home for a strong
soul, wise with the wisdom of a deep experience, genial with the virtues
of an upright life, devout with that humble yet valiant piety which
comes through hard-won victories over "the world, the flesh, and the
devil." Despite the hope that warmed his heart, Moor felt poor beside
him, as a new reverence warmed the old affection. His face showed it
though he did not speak, and Warwick laid an arm about his shoulders as
he had often done of late when they were alone, drawing him gently on
again, as he said, with a touch of playfulness to set both at ease--
"Tell me your plans, 'my cup of gold,' and let me lend a hand toward
filling you brimful of happiness. You are going home?"
"At once; you also."
"Is it best?"
"Yes; you came for me, I stay for you, and Sylvia waits for both."
"She says nothing of me in this short, sweet note of hers;" and Warwick
smoothed it carefully in his large hand, eyeing it as if he wished there
were some little word for him.
"True, but in the few letters she has written there always comes a
message to you, though you never write a line; nor would you go to her
now had she sent for you alone; she knew that, and sends for me, sure
that you will follow."
"Being a woman she cannot quite forgive me for loving her too well to
make her miserable. Dear soul, she will never know how much it cost me,
but I knew that my only safety lay in flight. Tell her so a long while
"You shall do it yourself, for you are coming home with me."
"What to do there?"
"All you ever did; walk up and down the face of the earth, waxing in
power and virtue, and coming often to us when we get fairly back into
our former ways, for you are still the house friend."
"I was wondering, as I walked here, what my next summons would be, when
lo, you came. Go on, I'll follow you; one could hardly have a better
"You are sure you are able, Adam?"
"Shall I uproot a tree or fling you over the wall to convince you, you
motherly body? I am nearly whole again, and a breath of sea air will
complete the cure. Let me cover my head, say farewell to the good
Sisters, and I shall be glad to slip away without further
demonstrations from the volcanoes below there."
Laying one hand on the low wall, Warwick vaulted over with a backward
glance at Moor, who followed to the gateway, there to wait till the
adieux were over. Very brief they were, and presently Warwick
reappeared, evidently touched yet ill-pleased at something, for he both
smiled and frowned as he paused on the threshold as if loth to go. A
little white goat came skipping from the orchard, and seeing the
stranger took refuge at Warwick's knee. The act of the creature seemed
to suggest a thought to the man. Pulling off the gay handkerchief some
grateful woman had knotted round his neck, he fastened it about the
goat's, having secured something in one end, then rose as if content.
"What are you doing?" called Moor, wondering at this arrangement.
"Widening the narrow entrance into heaven set apart for rich men unless
they leave their substance behind, as I am trying to do. The kind
creatures cannot refuse it now; so trot away to your mistress, little
Nanna, and tell no tales as you go."
As the goat went tapping up the steps a stir within announced the
dreaded demonstration. Warwick did not seem to hear it; he stood looking
far across the trampled plain and ruined town toward the mountains
shining white against the deep Italian sky. A rapt, far-reaching look,
as if he saw beyond the purple wall, and seeing forgot the present in
some vision of the future.
"Come, Adam! I am waiting."
His eye came back, the lost look passed, and cheerily he answered--
"I am ready."
A fortnight later in that dark hour before the dawn, with a murky sky
above them, a hungry sea below them, the two stood together the last to
leave a sinking ship.
"Room for one more, choose quick!" shouted a hoarse voice from the boat
tossing underneath, freighted to the water's edge with trembling lives.
"Go, Geoffrey, Sylvia is waiting."
"Not without you, Adam."
"But you are exhausted; I can bear a rough hour better than yourself,
and morning will bring help."
"It may not. Go, I am the lesser loss."
"What folly! I will force you to it; steady there, he is coming."
"Push off, I am _not_ coming."
In times like that, few pause for pity or persuasion; the instinct of
self-preservation rules supreme, and each is for himself, except those
in whom love of another is stronger than love of life. Even while the
friends generously contended the boat was swept away, and they were left
alone in the deserted ship, swiftly making its last voyage downward.
Spent with a day of intense excitement, and sick with hope deferred,
Moor leaned on Warwick, feeling that it was adding bitterness to death
to die in sight of shore. But Warwick never knew despair; passive
submission was not in his power while anything remained to do or dare,
and even then he did not cease to hope. It was certain death to linger
there; other boats less heavily laden had put off before, and might
drift across their track; wreckers waiting on the shore might hear and
help; at least it were better to die bravely and not "strike sail to a
fear." About his waist still hung a fragment of the rope which had
lowered more than one baby to its mother's arms; before them the
shattered taffrail rose and fell as the waves beat over it. Wrenching a
spar away he lashed Moor to it, explaining his purpose as he worked.
There was only rope enough for one, and in the darkness Moor believed
that Warwick had taken equal precautions for himself.
"Now Geoffrey your hand, and when the next wave ebbs let us follow it.
If we are parted and you see her first tell her I remembered, and give
In the black night with only Heaven to see them the men kissed tenderly
as women, then hand in hand sprang out into the sea. Drenched and
blinded they struggled up after the first plunge, and struck out for the
shore, guided by the thunder of the surf they had listened to for twelve
long hours, as it broke against the beach, and brought no help on its
receding billows. Soon Warwick was the only one who struggled, for
Moor's strength was gone, and he clung half conscious to the spar,
tossing from wave to wave, a piteous plaything for the sea.
"I see a light!--they must take you in--hold fast, I'll save you for the
little wife at home."
Moor heard but two words, "wife" and "home;" strained his dim eyes to
see the light, spent his last grain of strength to reach it, and in the
act lost consciousness, whispering--"She will thank you," as his head
fell against Warwick's breast and lay there, heavy and still. Lifting
himself above the spar, Adam lent the full power of his voice to the
shout he sent ringing through the storm. He did not call in vain, a
friendly wind took the cry to human ears, a relenting wave swept them
within the reach of human aid, and the boat's crew, pausing
involuntarily, saw a hand clutch the suspended oar, a face flash up from
the black water, and heard a breathless voice issue the command--
"Take in this man! he saved you for your wives, save him for his."
One resolute will can sway a panic-stricken multitude; it did so then.
The boat was rocking in the long swell of the sea; a moment and the
coming wave would sweep them far apart. A woman sobbed, and as if moved
by one impulse four sturdy arms clutched and drew Moor in. While
loosening his friend Warwick had forgotten himself, and the spar was
gone. He knew it, but the rest believed that they left the strong man a
chance of life equal to their own in that overladen boat. Yet in the
memories of all who caught that last glimpse of him there long remained
the recollection of a dauntless face floating out into the night, a
steady voice calling through the gale, "A good voyage, comrades!" as he
turned away to enter port before them.
Wide was the sea and pitiless the storm, but neither could dismay the
unconquerable spirit of the man who fought against the elements as
bravely as if they were adversaries of mortal mould, and might be
vanquished in the end. But it was not to be; soon he felt it, accepted
it, turned his face upward toward the sky, where one star shone, and
when Death whispered "Come!" answered as cheerily as to that other
friend, "I am ready." Then with a parting thought for the man he had
saved, the woman he had loved, the promise he had kept, a great and
tender heart went down into the sea.
* * * * *
Sometimes the Sculptor, whose workshop is the world, fuses many metals
and casts a noble statue; leaves it for humanity to criticise, and when
time has mellowed both beauties and blemishes, removes it to that inner
studio, there to be carved in enduring marble.
Adam Warwick was such an one; with much alloy and many flaws; but
beneath all defects the Master's eye saw the grand lines that were to
serve as models for the perfect man, and when the design had passed
through all necessary processes,--the mould of clay, the furnace fire,
the test of time,--He washed the dust away, and pronounced it ready for
OUT OF THE SHADOW.
They had been together for an hour, the husband and the wife. The first
excitement was now over, and Sylvia stood behind him tearless and
tranquil, while Moor, looking like a man out of whom the sea had
drenched both strength and spirit, leaned his weary head against her,
trying to accept the great loss, enjoy the great gain which had befallen
him. Hitherto all their talk had been of Warwick, and as Moor concluded
the history of the months so tragically ended, for the first time he
ventured to express wonder at the calmness with which his hearer
received the sad story.
"How quietly you listen to words which it wrings my heart to utter. Have
you wept your tears dry, or do you still cling to hope?"
"No, I feel that we shall never see him any more; but I have no desire
to weep, for tears and lamentations do not belong to him. He died a
beautiful, a noble death; the sea is a fitting grave for him, and it is
pleasant to think of him asleep there, quiet at last."
"I cannot feel so; I find it hard to think of him as dead; he was so
full of life, so fit to live."
"And therefore fit to die. Imagine him as I do, enjoying the larger life
he longed for, and growing to be the strong, sweet soul whose
foreshadowing we saw and loved so here."
"Sylvia, I have told you of the beautiful change which befell him in
those last days, and now I see the same in you. Are you, too, about to
leave me when I have just recovered you?"
"I shall stay with you all my life."
"Then Adam was less to you than you believed, and I am more?"
"Nothing is changed. Adam is all he ever was to me, you are all you ever
can be; but I--"
"Then why send for me? Why say you will stay with me all your life?
Sylvia, for God's sake, let there be no more delusion or deceit!"
"Never again! I will tell you; I meant to do it at once, but it is so
She turned her face away, and for a moment neither stirred. Then drawing
his head to its former resting-place she touched it very tenderly,
seeing how many white threads shone among the brown; and as her hand
went to and fro with an inexpressibly soothing gesture, she said, in a
tone whose quietude controlled his agitation like a spell--
"Long ago, in my great trouble, Faith told me that for every human
effort or affliction there were two friendly helpers, Time and Death.
The first has taught me more gently than I deserved; has made me humble,
and given me hope that through my errors I may draw virtue from
repentance. But while I have been learning the lessons time can teach,
that other helper has told me to be ready for its coming. Geoffrey, I
sent for you because I knew you would love to see me again before we
must say the long good by."
"Oh, Sylvia! not that; anything but that. I cannot bear it now!"
"Dear heart, be patient; lean on me, and let me help you bear it, for it
"It shall not be! There must be some help, some hope. God would not be
so pitiless as to take both."
"I shall not leave you yet. He does not take me; it is I, who, by
wasting life, have lost the right to live."
"But is it so? I cannot make it true. You look so beautiful, so
blooming, and the future seemed so sure. Sylvia, show it to me, if it
She only turned her face to him, only held up her transparent hand, and
let him read the heavy truth. He did so, for now he saw that the beauty
and the bloom were transitory as the glow of leaves that frost makes
fairest as they fall, and felt the full significance of the great change
which had come. He clung to her with a desperate yet despairing hold,
and she could only let the first passion of his grief have way, soothing
and sustaining, while her heart bled and the draught was very bitter to
"Hush, love; be quiet for a little; and when you can bear it better, I
will tell you how it is with me."
"Tell me now; let me hear everything at once. When did you know? How are
you sure? Why keep it from me all this time?"
"I have only known it for a little while, but I am very sure, and I kept
it from you that you might come happily home, for knowledge of it would
have lengthened every mile, and made the journey one long anxiety. I
could not know that Adam would go first, and so make my task doubly
"Come to me, Sylvia; let me keep you while I may. I will not be
violent; I will listen patiently, and through everything remember you."
He did remember her, so thoughtfully, so tenderly, that her little story
flowed on uninterrupted by sigh or sob; and while he held his grief in
check, the balm of submission comforted his sore heart. Sitting by him,
sustaining and sustained, she told the history of the last six months,
till just before the sending of the letter. She paused there a moment,
then hurried on, gradually losing the consciousness of present emotion
in the vivid memory of the past.
"You have no faith in dreams; I have; and to a dream I owe my sudden
awakening to the truth. Thank and respect it, for without its warning I
might have remained in ignorance of my state until it was too late to
find and bring you home."
"God bless the dream and keep the dreamer!"
"This was a strange and solemn vision; one to remember and to love for
its beautiful interpretation of the prophecy that used to awe and sadden
me, but never can again. I dreamed that the last day of the world had
come. I stood on a shadowy house-top in a shadowy city, and all around
me far as eye could reach thronged myriads of people, till the earth
seemed white with human faces. All were mute and motionless, as if fixed
in a trance of expectation, for none knew how the end would come. Utter
silence filled the world, and across the sky a vast curtain of the
blackest cloud was falling, blotting out face after face and leaving the
world a blank. In that universal gloom and stillness, far above me in
the heavens I saw the pale outlines of a word stretching from horizon to
horizon. Letter after letter came out full and clear, till all across
the sky, burning with a ruddy glory stronger than the sun, shone the
great word Amen. As the last letter reached its bright perfection, a
long waft of wind broke over me like a universal sigh of hope from human
hearts. For far away on the horizon's edge all saw a line of light that
widened as they looked, and through that rift, between the dark earth
and the darker sky, rolled in a softly flowing sea. Wave after wave came
on, so wide, so cool, so still. None trembled at their approach, none
shrunk from their embrace, but all turned toward that ocean with a
mighty rush, all faces glowed in its splendor, and million after million
vanished with longing eyes fixed on the arch of light through which the
ebbing sea would float them when its work was done. I felt no fear, only
the deepest awe, for I seemed such an infinitesimal atom of the
countless host that I forgot myself. Nearer and nearer came the flood,
till its breath blew on my cheeks, and I, too, leaned to meet it,
longing to be taken. A great wave rolled up before me, and through its
soft glimmer I saw a beautiful, benignant face regarding me. Then I knew
that each and all had seen the same, and losing fear in love were glad
to go. The joyful yearning woke me as the wave seemed to break at my
feet, and ebbing leave me still alive."
"And that is all? Only a dream, a foreboding fancy, Sylvia?"
"When I woke my hair was damp on my forehead, my breath quite still, my
heart so cold I felt as if death had indeed been near me and left its
chill behind. So strong was the impression of the dream, so perfect was
the similitude between the sensations I had experienced then, and more
than once awake, that I felt that something was seriously wrong with
"You had been ill then?"
"Not consciously, not suffering any pain, but consumed with an inward
fever that would not burn itself away. I used to have a touch of it in
the evenings, you remember; but now it burned all day, making me look
strong and rosy, yet leaving me so worn out at night that no sleep
seemed to restore me. A few weak and weary hours, then the fire was
rekindled and the false strength, color, spirits, returned to deceive
myself, and those about me, for another day."
"Did you tell no one of this, Sylvia?"
"Not at first, because I fancied it a mental ill. I had thought so much,
so deeply, it seemed but natural that I should be tired. I tried to rest
myself by laying all my cares and sorrows in God's hand, and waiting
patiently to be shown the end. I see it now, but for a time I could only
sit and wait; and while I did so my soul grew strong but my ill-used
body failed. The dream came, and in the stillness of that night I felt a
strange assurance that I should see my mother soon."
"Dear, what did you do?"
"I determined to discover if I had deceived myself with a superstitious
fancy, or learned a fateful fact in my own mysterious way. If it were
false, no one would be made anxious by it; if true, possessing the first
knowledge of it would enable me to comfort others. I went privately to
town and consulted the famous physician who has grown gray in the study
"Did you go alone, Sylvia?"
"Yes, alone. I am braver than I used to be, and have learned never to
feel quite alone. I found a grave, stern-looking man; I told him that I
wished to know the entire truth whatever it might be, and that he need
not fear to tell me because I was prepared for it. He asked many
questions, thought a little, and was very slow to speak. Then I saw how
it would be, but urged him to set my mind at rest. His stern old face
grew very pitiful as he took my hand and answered gently--'My child, go
home and prepare to die.'"
"Good God, how cruel! Sylvia, how did you bear it?"
"At first the earth seemed to slip away from under me, and time to stand
still. Then I was myself again, and could listen steadily to all he
said. It was only this,--I had been born with a strong nature in a
feeble frame, had lived too fast, wasted health ignorantly, and was past
"Could he do nothing for you?"
"Nothing but tell me how to husband my remaining strength, and make the
end easy by the care that would have kept me longer had I known this
"And no one saw your danger; no one warned you of it; and I was away!"
"Father could not see it, for I looked well and tried to think I felt
so. Mark and Jessie were absorbed in baby Sylvia, and Prue was gone. You
might have seen and helped me, for you have the intuitions of a woman in
many things, but I could not send for you then because I could not give
you what you asked. Was it wrong to call you when I did, and try to make
the hard fact easier to bear by telling it myself?"
"Heaven bless you for it, Sylvia. It was truly generous and kind. I
never could have forgiven you had you denied me the happiness of seeing
you again, and you have robbed the truth of half its bitter pain by
telling it yourself."
A restful expression came into her face, and a sigh of satisfaction
proved how great was the relief of feeling that for once her heart had
prompted her aright. Moor let her rest a little, then asked with a look
more pathetic than his words--
"What am I to you now? Where is my home to be?"
"My friend forever, no more, no less; and your home is here with us
until I leave my father to your care. All this pain and separation were
in vain if we have not learned that love can neither be forced nor
feigned. While I endeavored to do so, God did not help me, and I went
deeper and deeper into sorrow and wrong doing. When I dropped all
self-delusion and desperate striving, and stood still, asking to be
shown the right, then he put out his hand and through much tribulation
led me to convictions that I dare not disobey. Our friendship may be a
happy one if we accept and use it as we should. Let it be so, and for
the little while that I remain, let us live honestly before heaven and
take no thought for the world's opinion."
Adam might have owned the glance she bent upon her husband, so clear, so
steadfast was it; but the earnestness was all her own, and blended with
it a new strength that seemed a late compensation for lost love and
waning life. Remembering the price both had paid for it, Moor gratefully
accepted the costly friendship offered him, and soon acknowledged both
its beauty and its worth.
"One question more; Sylvia, how long?"
It was very hard to answer, but folding the sharp fact in the gentlest
fancy that appeared to her she gave him the whole truth.
"I shall not see the spring again, but it will be a pleasant time to lay
me underneath the flowers."
Sylvia had not known how to live, but now she proved that she did know
how to die. So beautifully were the two made one, the winning girl, the
deep-hearted woman, that she seemed the same beloved Sylvia, yet Sylvia
strengthened, purified, and perfected by the hard past, the solemn
present. Those about her felt and owned the unconscious power, which we
call the influence of character, and which is the noblest that gives
sovereignty to man or woman.
So cheerfully did she speak of it, so tranquilly did she prepare to meet
it, that death soon ceased to be an image of grief or fear to those
about her, and became a benignant friend, who, when the mortal wearies,
blesses it with a brief sleep, that it may wake immortal. She would have
no sad sick-chamber, no mournful faces, no cessation of the wholesome
household cares and joys, that do so much to make hearts strong and
spirits happy. While strength remained, she went her round of daily
duties, doing each so lovingly, that the most trivial became a delight,
and taking unsuspected thought for the comfort or the pleasure of those
soon to be left behind, so tenderly, that she could not seem lost to
them, even when she was gone.
Faith came to her, and as her hands became too weak for anything but
patient folding, every care slipped so quietly into Faith's, that few
perceived how fast she was laying down the things of this world, and
making ready to take up those of the world to come. Her father was her
faithful shadow; bent and white-haired now, but growing young at heart
in spite of sorrow, for his daughter had in truth become the blessing of
his life. Mark and Jessie brought their offering of love in little
Sylvia's shape, and the innocent consoler did her sweet work by making
sunshine in a shady place. But Moor was all in all to Sylvia, and their
friendship proved an abiding strength, for sorrow made it very tender,
sincerity ennobled it, and the coming change sanctified it to them
April came; and on her birthday, with a grateful heart, Moor gathered
the first snow-drops of the year. All day they stood beside her couch,
as fragile and as pale as she, and many eyes had filled as loving
fancies likened her to the slender, transparent vase, the very spirit of
a shape, and the white flowers that had blossomed beautifully through
the snow. When the evening lamp was lighted, she took the little posy in
her hand, and lay with her eyes upon it, listening to the book Moor
read, for this hour always soothed the unrest of the day. Very quiet was
the pleasant room, with no sounds in it but the soft flicker of the
fire, the rustle of Faith's needle, and the subdued music of the voice
that patiently went reading on, long after Sylvia's eyes had closed,
lest she should miss its murmur. For an hour she seemed to sleep, so
motionless, so colorless, that her father, always sitting at her side,
bent down at last to listen at her lips. The lips smiled, the eyes
unclosed, and she looked up at him, with an expression as tender as
"A long sleep and pleasant dreams that wake you smiling?" he asked.
"Beautiful and happy thoughts, father; let me tell you some of them. As
I lay here, I fell to thinking of my life, and at first it seemed the
sorrowfullest failure I had ever known. Whom had I made happy? What had
I done worth the doing? Where was the humble satisfaction that should
come hand in hand with death? At first I could find no answers to my
questions, and though my one and twenty years do not seem long to live,
I felt as if it would have been better for us all if I had died, a
new-born baby in my mother's arms."
"My child, say anything but that, because it is I who have made your
life a failure."
"Wait a little father, and you will see that it is a beautiful success.
I _have_ given happiness, _have_ done something worth the doing; now I
see a compensation for all seeming loss, and heartily thank God that I
did not die till I had learned the true purpose of all lives. He knows
that I say these things humbly, that I claim no virtue for myself, and
have been a blind instrument in His hand, to illustrate truths that will
endure when I am forgotten. I have helped Mark and Jessie, for,
remembering me, they will feel how blest they are in truly loving one
another. They will keep little Sylvia from making mistakes like mine,
and the household joys and sorrows we have known together, will teach
Mark to make his talent a delight to many, by letting art interpret
Her brother standing behind her stooped and kissed her, saying through
"I shall remember, dear."
"I have helped Geoffrey, I believe. He lived too much in the affections,
till through me he learned that none may live for love alone. Genius
will be born of grief, and he will put his sorrow into song to touch and
teach other hearts more gently than his own has been, so growing a
nobler and a richer man for the great cross of his life."
Calm, with the calmness of a grief too deep for tears, and strong in a
devout belief, Moor gave his testimony as she paused.
"I shall endeavor, and now I am as grateful for the pain as for the joy,
because together they will show me how to live, and when I have learned
that I shall be ready to come to you."
"I think I have served Adam. He needed gentleness as Geoffrey needed
strength, and I, unworthy as I am, woke that deep heart of his and made
it a fitter mate for his great soul. To us it seems as if he had left
his work unfinished, but God knew best, and when he was needed for a
better work he went to find it. Yet I am sure that he was worthier of
eternal life for having known the discipline of love."
There was no voice to answer now, but Sylvia felt that she would receive
it very soon and was content.
"Have you no lesson for your father? The old man needs it most."
She laid her thin hand tenderly on his, that if her words should bring
reproach, she might seem to share it with him.
"Yes, father, this. That if the chief desire of the heart is for the
right, it is possible for any human being, through all trials,
temptations, and mistakes, to bring good out of evil, hope from despair,
success from defeat, and come at last to know an hour as beautiful and
blest as this."
Who could doubt that _she_ had learned the lesson, when from the ruins
of the perishable body the imperishable soul rose steadfast and serene,
proving that after the long bewilderment of life and love it had
attained the eternal peace.
The room grew very still, and while those about her pondered her words
with natural tears, Sylvia lay looking up at a lovely picture that
seemed leaning down to offer her again the happiest memory of her youth.
It was a painting of the moonlight voyage down the river. Mark had given
it that day, and now when the longer, sadder voyage was nearly over, she
regarded it with a tender pleasure. The moon shone full on Warwick,
looking out straight and strong before him with the vigilant expression
native to his face; a fit helmsman to guide the boat along that rapid
stream. Mark seemed pausing to watch the oars silvered by the light, and
their reflections wavy with the current. Moor, seen in shadow, leaned
upon his hand, as if watching Sylvia, a quiet figure, full of grace and
color, couched under the green arch. On either hand the summer woods
made vernal gloom, behind the cliffs rose sharply up against the blue,
and all before wound a shining road, along which the boat seemed
floating like a bird on slender wings between two skies.
So long she lay forgetful of herself and all about her, that Moor saw
she needed rest, for the breath fluttered on her lips, the flowers had
fallen one by one, and her face wore the weary yet happy look of some
patient child waiting for its lullaby.
"Dear, you have talked enough; let me take you up now, lest the
pleasant day be spoiled by a sleepless night."
"I am ready, yet I love to stay among you all, for in my sleep I seem to
drift so far away I never quite come back. Good night, good night; I
shall see you in the morning."
With a smile, a kiss for all, they saw her fold her arms about her
husband's neck, and lay down her head as if she never cared to lift it
up again. The little journey was both a pleasure and pain to them, for
each night the way seemed longer to Sylvia, and though the burden
lightened the bearer grew more heavy-hearted. It was a silent passage
now, for neither spoke, except when one asked tenderly, "Are you easy,
love?" and the other answered, with a breath that chilled his cheek,
"Quite happy, quite content."
So, cradled on the heart that loved her best, Sylvia was gently carried
to the end of her short pilgrimage, and when her husband laid her down
the morning had already dawned.
FAITH GARTNEY'S GIRLHOOD,
By the Author of "The Gayworthys," "Boys at Chequasset"
_1 vol., 12mo. Elegant fancy cloth. Price $1.75._
This charming story fills a void long felt for something for a young
girl, growing into womanhood, to read.
It depicts that bewitching period in life, lying between FOURTEEN and
TWENTY, with its noble aspirations, and fresh enthusiasms. It is written
by a very accomplished lady, and is "_the best book ever written for
A lady of rare culture says,--
"'Faith Gartney's Girlhood,' is a noble, good work, that could only have
been accomplished by an elevated mind united to a chaste, tender heart.
From the first page to the last, the impression is received of a life
which has been lived; the characters are genuine, well drawn, skilfully
presented; they are received at once with kind, friendly greeting, and
followed with interest, till the last page compels a reluctant farewell.
"'The book is written for girls, growing as they grow to womanhood.' The
story has an interest, far beyond that found in modern romances of the
day, conveyed in pure, refined language; suggestive, pleasing thoughts
are unfolded on every page; the reflective and descriptive passages are
natural, simple, and exquisitely finished.
"In these days, when the tendency of society is to educate girls for
heartless, aimless, factitious life, a book like this is to be welcomed
and gratefully received. Wherever it is read, it will be retained as a
thoughtful, suggestive--if silent--friend."
By Miss Eliza Meteyard (Silverpen).
_1 vol., 12mo. Elegant fancy cloth. Price $1.50._
Douglas Jerrold gave this distinguished English authoress this "_nom de
plume_," and her style has the point, brightness, and delicacy which it
suggests.--This is not a cook book as the title might mislead some to
suppose, but a fresh, vigorous, powerful story of English country life,
full of exquisite pictures of rural scenery, with a plot which is
managed with great skill, and a surprise kept constantly ahead so that
from the opening to the close the interest never flags. There is life in
every page and a fresh, delicate, hearty sentiment pervades the book
that exhilarates and charms indescribably.
The heroine--Charlotte the housekeeper--is one of the finest characters
ever drawn, and merits unqualified commendation.
As a whole, for beauty of style and diction, passionate earnestness,
effective contrasts, distinctness of plot, unity, and completeness, this
novel is without a rival. It is a "midnight darling" that Charles Lamb
would have exulted in, and perhaps the best as yet produced from a
SIMPLICITY AND FASCINATION.
BY ANNE BEALE.
_1 vol., 12mo. Elegant fancy cloth. Price $1.50._
It is not often that such a sound and yet readable English novel is
republished in America.
The due mean between flashiness and dulness is hard to be attained, but
we have it here.
There is neither a prosy page nor a sensational chapter in it.
It is a nice book for a clean hearth and an easy chair.
It is a natural, healthy book, written by a living person, about people
of flesh and blood, who might have been our neighbors, and of events,
which might happen to anybody. This is a great charm in a novel. This
leaves a clean taste in the mouth, and a delicious memory of the feast.
The tone of it is high and true, without being obtrusively good. Such a
book is as great a relief amid the sensational stories of the day, as a
quiet little bit of "still life" is to the eye, after being blinded by
the glaring colors of the French school.
This novel reproduces that exquisite tone or flavor so hard to express
which permeates true English country life, and gives to it a peculiar
charm unlike any other, which one having once seen and felt, lives as it
were under a spell, and would never willingly allow to fade from their
Too much cannot be said in praise of Simplicity and Fascination.
A Tale of the English Aristocracy.
_1 vol., 12mo. Elegant fancy cloth. Price $ 1.50._
Three thousand eight hundred and seventy-six new books were published in
England this last year, which is about the average number of past years.
Thirteen years ago Pique was first published in London, and up to the
present time, notwithstanding the enormous number of new books issued,
the effect of which is to crowd the old ones out of sight, this
remarkable novel has continued to have a large sale.
This is the strongest praise that can be bestowed on any book. It is not
in the least "sensational," but relies solely on its rare beauty of
style and truthfulness to nature for its popularity.
It has the merit of being amusing, pleasantly written, and engrossing.
The characters being high-bred men and women, are charming companions
for an hour's solitude, and one puts the book aside regretfully, even as
one closes the eyes on a delicious vision. The American edition has
taken every one by surprise, that so remarkably good a novel should have
so long escaped attention.
Every body is charmed with it, and its sale will continue for years to
By the author of "Faith Gartney's Girlhood," "Boys at
American ladies and gentlemen travelling in England, are amazed and
delighted to find "an American Novel" welcomed with such warmth and
enthusiasm, by the "cultivated" and "influential," in all parts of the
No American book since "Uncle Tom," is so universally known, read, and
The London journals, without exception, have given it a cordial welcome.
Read what they say of it:--
"We wish to write our most appreciative word of this admirable and
unexceptional book. We feel while we read it that a new master of
fiction has arisen.... We can well afford to wait a few years now,
if at the end we are to receive from the same pen a work of such a
character and mark as 'The Gayworthys.'"--_Eclectic Journal._
"It is impossible not to welcome so genial a gift. Nothing so
complete and delicately beautiful has come to England from America
since Hawthorne's death, and there is more of America in 'The
Gayworthys' than in 'The Scarlet Letter,' or 'The House with Seven
Gables.' ... We know not where so much tender feeling and wholesome
thought are to be found together as in this history of the fortunes
of the Gayworthys."--_Reader._
"'The Gayworthys' comes to us very seasonably, for it belongs to a
class of novels wanted more and more every day, yet daily growing
scarcer. We have therefore, a warmer welcome for the book before us
as being a particularly favorable specimen of its class. Without the
exciting strength of wine, it offers to feverish lips all the
grateful coolness of the unfermented grape."--_Pall Mall Gazette._
"We have no misgivings in promising our readers a rich treat in 'The
Gayworthys.' ... 'The Gayworthys' will become a great
"... The book is crowded with epigrams as incisive as this, yet
incisive without malice or bitterness, cutting not so much from the
sharpness of the thought as from its weight. There is deep
kindliness in the following passage, as well as deep insight.... The
tone of the story, the curious sense of peace and kindliness which
it produces, comes out well in that extract, and the reader quits
it, feeling as he would have felt had he been gazing half an hour on
that scene--with more confidence alike in nature and humanity, less
care for the noisy rush of city life, and yet withal less fear of
"It is a pleasant book and will make for the producer
"We venture to say no one who begins the book will leave it
unfinished, or will deny that great additions have been made to his
circle of acquaintance. He has been introduced to a New England
village, and made acquainted with most of the leading villagers in a
way which leaves the impression on him thenceforward that he knows
them personally, that their fortunes and failures, and achievements,
and misunderstandings are matters of interest to him, that he would
like to know how Gershom Vose got on with his farm, and if Joanna
Gair's marriage turned out happily, and if 'Say' Gair was as
interesting as a farmer's wife as she has been as a little child."
MARGARET AND HER BRIDESMAIDS.
By the Author of "The Queen of the County."
_1 vol., 12mo. Elegant fancy cloth. Price $1.50._
This fascinating story of "Six School Girls" is as charming a story as
has been written for young ladies. The talented author has a great
reputation in England, and all her books are widely circulated and read.
"Faith Gartney's Girlhood" and "Margaret and her Bridesmaids" should
stand side by side in every young lady's book-case. Read what the
_London Athenæum_, the highest literary authority, says of it: "We may
save ourselves the trouble of giving any lengthened review of this book,
for we recommend all who are in search of a fascinating novel to read it
for themselves. They will find it well worth their while. There is a
freshness and originality about it quite charming, and there is a
certain nobleness in the treatment, both of sentiment and incident,
which is not often found. We imagine that few can read it without
deriving some comfort or profit from the quiet good sense and
unobtrusive words of counsel with which it abounds."
The story is very interesting. It is the history of six school-fellows.
Margaret, the heroine, is, of course, a woman in the highest state of
perfection. But Lotty--the little, wilful, wild, fascinating, brave
Lotty--is the gem of the book, and, as far as our experience in novel
reading goes, is an entirely original character--a creation--and a very
charming one. No story that occurs to our memory contains more interest
than this for novel readers, particularly those of the tender sex, to
whom it will be a dear favorite.
We hope the authoress will give us some more novels, as good as
"Margaret and her Bridesmaids."