But to fully appreciate this natural courtesy, one must visit the humbler Fayalese at home. You enter a low stone hut, thatched and windowless, and you find the mistress within, a robust, black-eyed, dark-skinned woman, engaged in grinding corn with a Scriptural handmill. She bars your way with apologies; you must not enter so poor a house; you are so beautiful, so perfect, and she is so poor, she has "nothing but the day and the night," or some equally poetic phrase. But you enter and talk with her a little, and she readily shows you all her little possessions,—her chest on the earthen floor, her one chair and stool, her tallow-candle stuck against the wall, her husk mattress rolled together, with the precious blue cloak inside of it. Behind a curtain of coarse straw-work is a sort of small boudoir, holding things more private, an old barrel with the winter's fuel in it, a few ears of corn hanging against the wall, a pair of shoes, and a shelf with a large pasteboard box. The box she opens triumphantly and exhibits her santinhos, or little images of saints. This is San Antonio, and this is Nossa Senhora do Conceicao, Our Lady of the Conception. She prays to them every day for sunshine; but they do not seem to hear, this winter, and it rains all the time. Then, approaching the climax of her blessedness, with beaming face she opens a door in the wall, and shows you her pig.
The courtesy of the higher classes tends to formalism, and has stamped itself on the language in some very odd ways. The tendency common to all tongues, towards a disuse of the second person singular, as too blunt and familiar, is carried so far in Spanish and Portuguese as to disuse the second person plural also, except in the family circle, and to substitute the indirect phrases, vuestra Merced (in Spanish) and vossa Merce (in Portuguese), both much contracted in speaking and familiar writing, and both signifying "your Grace." The joke of invariably applying this epithet to one's valet would seem sufficiently grotesque in either language, and here the Spanish stops; but Portuguese propriety has gone so far that even this phrase has become too hackneyed to be civil. In talking with your equals, it would be held an insult to call them simply "your Grace"; it must be some phrase still more courtly,—vossa Excellencia, or vossa Senhoria.—One may hear an elderly gentleman talking to a young girl of fourteen, or, better still, two such damsels talking together, and it is "your Excellency" at every sentence; and the prescribed address on an envelope is "Illustrissima Excellentissima Senhora Dona Maria." The lower classes have not quite reached the "Excellency," but have got beyond the "Grace," and hence the personal pronouns are in a state of colloquial chaos, and the only safe way is to hold to the third person and repeat the name of Manuel or Maria, or whatever it may be, as often as possible.
This leads naturally to the mention of another peculiar usage. On visiting the Fayal post-office, I was amazed to find the letters arranged alphabetically in the order of the baptismal, not the family names, of the persons concerned,—as if we should enumerate Adam, Benjamin, Charles, and so on. But I at once discovered this to be the universal usage. Merchants, for instance, thus file their business papers; or rather, since four-fifths of the male baptismal names in the language fall under the four letters, A, F, J, M, they arrange only five bundles, giving one respectively to Antonio, Francisco, Jose or Joao, and Manuel, adding a fifth for sundries. This all seemed inexplicable, till at last there proved to be an historical kernel to the nut. The Portuguese, and to some extent the Spaniards, have kept nearer to the primitive usage which made the personal name the important one and the patronymic quite secondary. John Smith is not known conversationally as Mr. Smith, but as Mr. John,—Senhor Joao. One may have an acquaintance in society named Senhor Francisco, and another named Senhora Dona Christina, and it may be long before it turns out that they are brother and sister, the family name being, we will suppose, Garcia da Rosa; and even then it will be doubtful whether to call them Garcia or da Rosa. This explains the great multiplication of names in Spain and Portugal. The first name being the important one, the others may be added, subtracted, multiplied, or divided, with perfect freedom. A wife may or may not add her husband's name to her own; the eldest son takes some of the father's family names, the second son some of the mother's, saints' names are sprinkled in to suit the taste, and no confusion is produced, because the first name is the only one in common use. Each may, if he pleases, carry all his ancestors on his visiting-card, without any inconvenience except the cost of pasteboard.
Fayal exhibits another point of courtesy to be studied. The gentleman of our party was early warned that it was very well to learn his way about the streets, but far more essential to know the way to the brim of his hat. Every gentleman touches his hat to every lady, acquaintance or stranger, in street or balcony. So readily does one grow used to this, that I was astonished, for a moment, at the rudeness of some French officers, just landed from a frigate, who passed some ladies, friends of mine, without raising the hat. "Are these," I asked, "the polite Frenchmen one reads about?"—not reflecting that I myself should not have ventured on bowing to strange ladies in the same position, without special instruction in Portuguese courtesies. These little refinements became, indeed, very agreeable, only alloyed by the spirit of caste in which they were performed,—elbowing the peasant-woman off the sidewalk for the sake of doffing the hat to the Baroness. I thought of the impartial courtesies shown towards woman as woman in my own country, and the spread eagle within me flapped his pinions. Then I asked myself, "What if the woman were black?" and the eagle immediately closed his wings, and flapped no more. But I may add, that afterwards, attending dances among the peasants, I was surprised to see my graceful swains in humble life smoking and spitting in the presence of white-robed belles, in a manner not to be witnessed on our farthest western borders.
The position of woman in Portuguese countries brings one nearer to that Oriental type from which modern society has been gradually diverging. Woman is secluded, so far as each family can afford it, which is the key to the Oriental system. Seclusion is aristocracy, and if it cannot be made complete, the household must do the best they can. Thus, in the lowest classes, one daughter is often decreed by the parents to be brought up like a lady, and for this every sacrifice is to be made. Her robust sisters go bare-footed to the wells for water, they go miles unprotected into the lonely mountains; no social ambition, no genteel helplessness for them. But Mariquinha is taught to read, write, and sew; she is as carefully looked after as if the world wished to steal her; she wears shoes and stockings and an embroidered kerchief and a hooded cloak; and she never steps outside the door alone. You meet her, pale and demure, plodding along to mass with her mother. The sisters will marry laborers and fishermen; Mariquinha will marry a small shop-keeper or the mate of a vessel, or else die single. It is not very pleasant for the poor girl in the mean time; she is neither healthy nor happy; but "let us be genteel or die."
On festa-days she and her mother draw their hoods so low and their muffling handkerchiefs so high that the costume is as good as a yashmak, and in passing through the streets these one-eyed women seem like an importation from the "Arabian Nights." Ladies of higher rank, also, wear the hooded cloak for disguise and greater freedom, and at a fashionable wedding in the cathedral I have seen the jewelled fingers of the uninvited acquaintances gleam from the blue folds of broadcloth. But very rarely does one see the aristocratic lady in the street in her own French apparel, and never alone. There must be a male relative, or a servant, or, at the very least, a female companion. Even the ladies of the American Consul's family very rarely go out singly,—not from any fear, for the people are as harmless as birds, but from etiquette. The first foreign lady who walked habitually alone in the streets was at once christened "The Crazy American." A lady must not be escorted home from an evening party by a gentleman, but by a servant with a lantern; and as the streets have no lamps, I never could see the breaking-up of any such entertainment without recalling Retzsch's quaint pictures of the little German towns, and the burghers plodding home with their lanterns,—unless, perchance, what a foreign friend of ours called a "sit-down chair" came rattling by, and transferred our associations to Cranford and Mr. Winkle.
We found or fancied other Orientalisms. A visitor claps his hands at the head of the court-yard stairs, to summon an attendant. The solid chimneys, with windows in them, are precisely those described by Urquhart in his delightful "Pillars of Hercules"; so are the gardens, divided into clean separate cells by tall hedges of cane; so is the game of ball played by the boys in the street, under the self-same Moorish name of arri; so is the mode of making butter, by tying up the cream in a goat-skin and kicking it till the butter comes. Even the architecture fused into one all our notions of Gothic and of Moorish, and gave great plausibility to Urquhart's ingenious argument for the latter as the true original. And it is a singular fact that the Mohammedan phrase Oxald, "Would to Allah," is still the most familiar ejaculation in the Portuguese language and the habitual equivalent in their religious books for "Would to God."
We were treated with great courtesy and hospitality by our Portuguese neighbors, and an evening party in Fayal is in some respects worth describing. As one enters, the anteroom is crowded with gentlemen, and the chief reception-room seems like a large omnibus, lighted, dressed with flowers, and having a row of ladies on each side. The personal beauty is perhaps less than one expects, though one sees some superb dark eyes and blue-black hair; they dress with a view to the latest French fashions, and sometimes rather a distant view. At last a lady takes her seat at the piano, then comes an eager rush of gentlemen into the room, and partners are taken for cotillons,—large, double, very double cotillons, here called contradancas. The gentlemen appear in scrupulous black broadcloth and satin and white kid; in summer alone they are permitted to wear white trousers to parties; and we heard of one anxious youth who, about the turn of the season, wore the black and carried the white in his pocket, peeping through the door, on arrival, to see which had the majority. It seemed a pity to waste such gifts of discretion on a monarchical country, when he might have emigrated to America and applied them to politics.
The company perform their dancing with the accustomed air of civilized festivity, "as if they were hired to do it, and were doubtful about being paid." Changes of figure are announced by a clapping of hands from one of the gentlemen, and a chorus of such applauses marks the end of the dance. Then they promenade slowly round the room, once or twice, in pairs; then the ladies take their seats, and instantly each gentleman walks hurriedly into the anteroom, and for ten minutes there is as absolute a separation of the sexes as in a Friends' Meeting. Nobody approves of this arrangement, in the abstract; it is all very well, they think, for gentlemen, if foreigners, to remain in the room, but it is not the Portuguese custom. Yet, with this exception, the manners are agreeably simple. Your admission to the house guaranties you as a proper acquaintance, there are no introductions, and you may address any one in any language you can coin into a sentence. Many speak French, and two or three English,—sometimes with an odd mingling of dialects, as when the Military Governor answered my inquiry, made in timid Portuguese, as to how long he had served in the army. "Vinte-cinco annos," he answered, in the same language; then, with an effort after an unexceptionable translation, "Vat you call, Twenty-cinq year"!
The great obstacle to the dialogue soon becomes, however, a deficit of subjects rather than of words. Most of these ladies never go out except to mass and to parties, they never read, and if one of them has some knowledge of geography, it is quite an extended education; so that, when you have asked them if they have ever been to St. Michael, and they have answered, Yes,—or to Lisbon, and they have answered, No,—then social intercourse rather flags. I gladly record, however, that there were some remarkable exceptions to this, and that we found in the family of the late eminent Portuguese statesman, Mousinho d'Albuquerque, accomplishments and knowledge which made their acquaintance an honor.
During the intervals of the dancing, little trays of tea and of cakes are repeatedly carried round,—astonishing cakes, in every gradation of insipidity, with the oddest names: white poison, nuns' kisses, angels' crops, cats' tails, heavenly bacon, royal eggs, coruscations, cocked hats, and esquecidos, or oblivion cakes, the butter being omitted. It seems an unexpected symbol of the plaintive melancholy of the Portuguese character that the small confections which we call kisses they call sighs, suspiros. As night advances, the cakes grow sweeter and the dances livelier, and the pretty national dances are at last introduced; though these are never seen to such advantage as when the peasants perform them on a Saturday or Sunday evening to the monotonous strain of a viola, the musician himself taking part in the complicated dance, and all the men chanting the refrain. Nevertheless they add to the gayety of our genteel entertainment, and you may stay at the party as long as you have patience,—if till four in the morning, so much the better for your popularity; for, though the gathering consist of but thirty people, they like to make the most of it.
Perhaps the next day one of these new friends kindly sends in a present for the ladies of the party: a bouquet of natural flowers with the petals carefully gilded; a folar or Easter cake, being a large loaf of sweetened bread, baked in a ring, and having whole eggs, shell and all, in the midst of it. One lady of our acquaintance received a pretty basket, which being opened revealed two little Portuguese pigs, about eight inches long, snow-white, wearing blue ribbons round their necks and scented with cologne.
Beyond these occasional parties, there seems very little society during the winter, the native ladies seldom either walking or riding, and there being no places of secular amusement. In summer, it is said, when the principal families resort to their vineyards at Pico, formalities are laid aside, and a simpler intercourse takes place. But I never saw any existence more thoroughly pitiable than that of the young men of the higher classes; they had literally nothing to do, except to dress themselves elegantly and lounge all day in an apothecary's shop. A very few went out shooting or fishing occasionally; but anything like employment, even mercantile, was entirely beneath their caste; and they only pardoned the constant industry of the American Consul and his family, as a sort of national eccentricity, for which they must not be severely condemned.
A good school-system is being introduced into all the Portuguese dominions, but there is no book-store in Fayal, though some dry-goods dealers sell a few religious books. We heard a rumor of a Portuguese "Uncle Tom" also, but I never could find the copy. The old Convent Libraries were sent to Lisbon, on the suppression of the monasteries, and never returned. There was once a printing-press on the island, but one of the Governors shipped it off to St. Michael. "There it goes," he said to the American Consul, "and the Devil take it!" The vessel was wrecked in the bay. "You see," he afterwards piously added, "the Devil has taken it." It is proper, however, to mention, that a press and a newspaper have been established since our visit, without further Satanic interference.
Books were scarce on the island. One official gentleman from Lisbon, quite an accomplished man, who spoke French fluently and English tolerably, had some five hundred books, chiefly in the former tongue, including seventy-two volumes of Balzac. His daughter, a young lady of fifteen, more accomplished than most of the belles of the island, showed me her little library of books in French and Portuguese, including three English volumes, an odd selection,—"The Vicar of Wakefield," Gregory's "Legacy to his Daughters," and Fielding's "Life of Jonathan Wild." But, indeed, her supply of modern Portuguese literature was almost as scanty, (there is so very little of it,) and we heard of a gentleman's studying French "in order to have something to read," which seemed the last stage in national decay.
Perhaps we were still more startled by the unexpected literary criticisms of a young lady from St. Michael, English on the father's side, but still Roman Catholic, who had just read the New Testament, and thus naively gave it her indorsement in a letter to an American friend:—"I dare say you have read the New Testament; but if you have not, I recommend it to you. I have just finished reading it, and find it a very moral and nice book." After this certificate, it will be safe for the Bible Society to continue its operations.
Nearly all the popular amusements in Fayal occur in connection with religion. After the simpler buildings and rites of the Romish Church in America, the Fayal churches impress one as vast baby-houses, and the services as acted charades. This perfect intermingling of the religious and the melodramatic was one of our most interesting experiences, and made the Miracle Plays of history a very simple and intelligible thing. In Fayal, holiday and holy-day have not yet undergone the slightest separation. A festival has to the people necessarily some religious association, and when the Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, Mr. Dabney's servants like to dress with flowers a wooden image in his garden, the fierce figure-head of some wrecked vessel, which they boldly personify as the American Saint. On the other hand, the properties of the Church are as freely used for merrymaking. On public days there are fireworks provided by the priests; they are kept in the church till the time comes, and then touched off in front of the building, with very limited success, by the sacristan. And strangest of all, at the final puff and bang of each remarkable piece of pyrotechny, the bells ring out just the same sudden clang which marks the agonizing moment of the Elevation of the Host.
On the same principle, the theatricals which occasionally enliven the island take place in chapels adjoining the churches. I shall never forget the example I saw, on one of these dramatic occasions, of that one cardinal virtue of Patience, which is to the Portuguese race the substitute for all more positive manly qualities. The performance was to be by amateurs, and a written programme had been sent from house to house during the day; and this had announced the curtain as sure to rise at eight. But as most of the spectators went at six to secure places,—literally, places, for each carried his or her own chair,—one might suppose the audience a little impatient before the appointed hour arrived. But one would then suppose very incorrectly. Eight o'clock came, and a quarter past eight, but no curtain rose. Half-past eight. No movement nor sign of any. The people sat still. A quarter to nine. The people sat still. Nine o'clock. The people sat perfectly still, nobody talking much, the gentlemen being all the while separated from the ladies, and all quiet. At last, at a quarter past nine, the orchestra came in! They sat down, laid aside their instruments, and looked about them. Suddenly a whistle was heard behind the scenes. Nothing came of it, however. After a time, another whistle. The people sat still. Then the orchestra began to tune their instruments, and at half-past nine the overture began. And during all that inexplicable delay of one hour and a half, after a preliminary waiting of two hours, there was not a single look of annoyance or impatience, nor the slightest indication, on any face, that this was viewed as a strange or extraordinary thing. Indeed, it was not.
We duly attended, not on this occasion only, but on all ecclesiastical festivals, grave or gay,—the only difficulty being to discover any person in town who had even approximate information as to when or where they were to occur. We saw many sights that are universal in Roman Catholic countries, and many that are peculiar to Fayal: we saw the "Procession of the Empress," when, for six successive Saturday evenings, young girls walk in order through the streets white-robed and crowned; saw the vessels in harbor decorated with dangling effigies of Judas, on the appointed day; saw the bands of men at Easter going about with flags and plates to beg money for the churches, and returning at night with feet suspiciously unsteady; saw the feet-washing, on Maundy-Thursday, of twelve old men, each having a square inch of the instep washed, wiped, and cautiously kissed by the Vicar-General, after which twelve lemons were solemnly distributed, each with a silver coin stuck into the peel; saw and felt the showers of water, beans, flour, oranges, eggs, from the balcony-windows during Carnival; saw weddings in churches, with groups of male companions holding tall candles round kneeling brides; saw the distribution to the poor of bread and meat and wine from long tables arranged down the principal street, on Whitsunday,—a memorial vow, made long since, to deprecate the recurrence of an earthquake. But it must be owned that these things, so unspeakably interesting at first, became a little threadbare before the end of the winter; we grew tired of the tawdriness and shabbiness which pervaded them all, of the coarse faces of the priests, and the rank odor of the incense.
We had left Protestantism in a state of vehement intolerance in America, but we soon found, that, to hear the hardest things said against the priesthood, one must visit a Roman Catholic country. There was no end to the anecdotes of avarice and sensuality in this direction, and there seemed everywhere the strangest combination of official reverence with personal contempt. The principal official, or Ouvidor, was known among his parishioners by the endearing appellation of "The Black Pig," to which his appearance certainly did no discredit. There was a great shipwreck at Pico during our stay, and two hundred thousand dollars' worth of rich goods was stranded on the bare rocks; there were no adequate means for its defence, and the peasants could hardly be expected to keep their hands off. But the foremost hands were those of the parish priest; for three weeks no mass was said in his church, and a funeral was left for days unperformed, that the representative of God might steal more silks and laces. When the next service occurred, the people remained quiet until the priest rose for the sermon; then they rose also tumultuously, and ran out of the church, crying, "Ladrao!" "Thief!" "But why this indignation?" said an intelligent Roman Catholic to us; "there is not a priest on either island who would not have done the same." A few days after I saw this same cool critic, candle in hand, heading a solemn ecclesiastical procession in the cathedral.
In the country-villages there naturally lingers more undisturbed the simple, picturesque life of Roman Catholic society. Every hamlet is clustered round its church, almost always magnificently situated, and each has its special festivals. Never shall I forget one lovely day when we went to witness the annual services at Praya, held to commemorate an ancient escape from an earthquake. It was the first day of February. After weeks of rain, there came at one burst all the luxury of June, winter seemed to pass into summer in a moment, and blackbirds sang on every spray. We walked or rode over a steep promontory, down into a green valley, scooped softly to the sea: the church was by the beach. As we passed along, the steep paths converging from all the hills were full of women and men in spotless blue and white, with bright kerchiefs; they were all walking barefooted over the rocky ways, only the women stopping, ere reaching the church, to don stockings and shoes. Many persons sat in sunny places by the roadsides to beg, with few to beg from,—blind old men, and groups of children clamorous for coppers, but propitiated by sugar-plums. Many others were bringing offerings, candles for the altar, poultry, which were piled, a living mass, legs tied, in the corner of the church, and small sums of money, which were recorded by an ancient man in a mighty book. The church was already so crowded that it was almost impossible to enter; the centre was one great flower-garden of headdresses of kneeling women, and in the aisles were penitents, toiling round the church upon their knees, each bearing a lighted candle. But the services had not yet begun, and we went down among the rocks to eat our luncheon of bread and oranges; the ocean rolled in languidly, a summer sea; we sat beside sheltered, transparent basins, among high and pointed rocks, and great, indolent waves sometimes reared their heads, looking in upon our retreat, or flooding our calm pools with a surface of creamy effervescence. Every square inch of the universe seemed crowded with particles of summer.
On our way past the church, we had caught a glimpse of unwonted black small-clothes, and, slyly peeping into a little chapel, had seen the august Senate of Horta apparently arraying themselves for the ceremony. Presently out came a man with a great Portuguese flag, and then the Senators, two and two, with short black cloaks, white bands, and gold-tipped staves, trod statelily towards the church. And as we approached the door, on our return, we saw these dignitaries sitting in their great arm-chairs, as one might fancy Venetian potentates, while a sonorous Portuguese sermon rolled over their heads as innocuously as a Thanksgiving discourse over any New-England congregation.
Do not imagine, by the way, that critical remarks on sermons are a monopoly of Protestantism. After one religious service in Fayal, my friend, the Professor of Languages, who sometimes gave lessons in English, remarked to me confidentially, in my own tongue,—"His sermon is good, but his exposition is bad; he does not expose well." Supposing him to refer to the elocution, I assented,—secretly thinking, however, that the divine in question had exposed himself exceedingly well.
Another very impressive ceremony was the Midnight Mass on New Year's Eve, when we climbed at midnight, through some close, dark passages in the vast church edifice, into a sort of concealed opera-box above the high altar, and suddenly opened windows looking down into the brilliantly lighted cathedral, crammed with kneeling people and throbbing with loud music. It seemed centuries away from all modern life,—a glimpse into some buried Pompeii of the Middle Ages. More impressive still was Holy Week, when there were some rites unknown to other Roman Catholic countries. For three days the great cathedral was closely veiled from without and darkened within,—every door closed, every window obscured. Before this there had been seventy candles lighting up the high altar and the eager faces; now these were all extinguished, and through the dark church came chanting a procession bearing feeble candles and making a strange clapping sound, with matracas, like watchmen's rattles; men carried the symbolical bier of Jesus in the midst, to its symbolical rest beneath the altar, where the three candles, representing the three Marys, blazed above it. During the time of darkness there were frequent masses and sermons, while terrible transparencies of the Crucifixion were suddenly unrolled from the lofty pulpit, and the throng below wept in sympathy, and clapped their cheeks in token of anguish, like the flutter of many doves. Then came the Hallelujah Saturday, when at noon the mourning ended. It was a breathless moment. The priests kneeled in gorgeous robes, chanting monotonously, with their foreheads upon the altar-steps; and the hushed multitude hung upon their lips, in concentrated ecstasy, waiting for the coming joy. Suddenly burst the words, Gloria in Excelsis. In an instant every door was flung open, every curtain withdrawn, the great church was bathed in meridian sunlight, the organ crashed out triumphant, the bells pealed, flowers were thrown from the galleries in profusion, friends embraced and kissed each other, laughed, talked, and cried, and all the sea of gay head-dresses below was tremulous beneath a mist of unaccustomed splendor. And yet (this thought smote me) all the beautiful transformation has come by simply letting in the common light of day. Then why not keep it always? Clear away, Humanity, these darkened windows, but clear away also these darkening walls, and show us that the simplest religion is the best!
I cannot dwell upon the narrative of our many walks:—to the Espalamarca, with its lonely telegraph-station;—to the Burnt Mountain, with its colored cliffs;—to visit the few aged nuns who still linger in what was once a convent;—to Porto Pim, with its curving Italian beach, its playing boys and picturesque fishermen beneath the arched gateway;—to the tufa-ledges near by, where the soft rocks are honeycombed with the cells hollowed by echini below the water's edge, a fact undescribed and almost unexampled, said Agassiz afterwards;—to the lofty, lonely Monte da Guia, with its solitary chapel on the peak, and its extinct crater, where the sea rolls in and out;—to the Dabney orange-gardens, on Sunday afternoons;—to the beautiful Mirante ravine, whenever a sudden rain filled the cascades and set the watermills and the washerwomen all astir, and the long brook ran down in whirls of white foam to the waiting sea;—or to the western shores of the island, where we turned to Ariadnes, as we watched departing home-bound vessels from those cliffs whose wave-worn fiords and innumerable sea-birds make a Norway of Fayal.
And I must also pass over still greater things:—the winter storms and ship-wrecks, whose annals were they not written to the "New York Tribune"?—and the spring Sunday at superb Castello Branco, with the whole rural population thronging to meet in enthusiastic affection the unwonted presence of the Consul himself, the feudalism of love;—and the ascent of the wild Caldeira, we climbing height after height, leaving the valleys below mottled with blue-robed women spreading their white garments to dry in the sun, and the great Pico peeping above the clouds across the bay, and seeming as if directly above our heads, and nodding to us ere it drew back again;—and, best of all, that wonderful ascension, by two of us, of Pico itself, seven thousand feet from the level of the sea, where we began to climb. We camped half-way up, and watched the sunset over the lower peaks of Fayal; we kindled fires of faya-bushes on the lonely mountain-sides, a beacon for the world; we slept in the loft of a little cattle-shed, with the calves below us, "the cows' sons," as our Portuguese attendant courteously called them; we waked next morning above the clouds, with one vast floor of white level vapor beneath us, such as Thoreau alone has described, with here and there an open glimpse of the sea far below, yet lifted up to an apparent level with the clouds, so as to seem like an Arctic scene, with patches of open water. Then we climbed through endless sheep-pastures and over great slabs of lava, growing steeper and steeper; we entered the crater at last, walled with snows of which portions might be of untold ages, for it is never, I believe, wholly empty; we climbed, in such a gale of wind that the guides would not follow us, the steeple-like central pinnacle, two hundred feet high; and there we reached, never to be forgotten, a small central crater at the very summit, where steam poured up between the stones,—and, oh, from what central earthy depths of wonder that steam came to us! There has been no eruption from any portion of Pico for many years, but it is a volcano still, and we knew that we were standing on the narrow and giddy summit of a chimney of the globe. That was a sensation indeed!
We saw many another wild volcanic cliff and fissure and cave on our two-days' tour round the island of Fayal; but it was most startling, when, on the first morning, as we passed from green valley to valley along the road, suddenly all verdure and life vanished, and we found ourselves riding through a belt of white, coarse moss stretching from mountain to sea, covering rock and wall and shed like snow or moonlight or mountain-laurel or any other pale and glimmering thing; and when, after miles of ignorant wonder, we rode out of it into greenness again, and were told that we had crossed what the Portuguese call a Misterio or Mystery,—the track of the last eruption. The moss was the first primeval coating of vegetation just clothing those lava-rocks again.
But the time was coming when we must bid good-bye to picturesque Fayal. We had been there from November to May; it had been a winter of incessant rains, and the first necessary of life had come to be a change of umbrellas; it had been colder than usual, making it a comfort to look at our stove, though we never lighted it; but our invalids had gained by even this degree of mildness, by the wholesome salt dampness, by the comforts of our hotel with its respectable Portuguese landlord and English landlady, and by the great kindness shown us by all others. At last we had begun to feel that we had squeezed the orange of the Azores a little dry, and we were ready to go. And when, after three weeks of rough sailing in the good bark Azor, we saw Cape Ann again, although it looked somewhat flat and prosaic after the headlands of Fayal, yet we knew that behind those low shores lay all that our hearts held dearest, and all the noblest hopes of the family of man.
* * * * *
MIDSUMMER AND MAY.
Very probably you never saw such a superb creature,—if that word, creature, does not endow her with too much life: a Semiramis, without the profligacy,—an Isis, without the worship,—a Sphinx, yes, a Sphinx, with her desert, who long ago despaired of having one come to read her riddle, strong, calm, patient perhaps. In this respect she seemed to own no redundant life, just enough to eke along existence,—not living, but waiting.
I say, all this would have been one's impression; and one's impression would have been incorrect.
I really cannot state her age; and having attained to years of discretion, it is not of such consequence as it is often supposed to be, whether one be twenty or sixty. You would have been confident, that, living to count her hundreds, she would only have bloomed with more immortal freshness; but such a thought would not have occurred to you at all, if you had not already felt that she was no longer young,—she possessed so perfectly that certain self-reliance, self-understanding, aplomb, into which little folk crystallize at an early age, but which is not to be found with those whose identities are cast in a larger mould, until they have passed through periods of fuller experience.
That Mrs. Laudersdale was the technical magnificent woman, I need not reiterate. I wish I knew some name gorgeous enough in sound and association for that given her at christening; but I don't. It is my opinion that she was born Mrs. Laudersdale, that her coral-and-bell was marked Mrs. Laudersdale, and that her name stands golden-lettered on the recording angel's leaf simply as Mrs. Laudersdale. It is naturally to be inferred, then, that there was a Mr. Laudersdale. There was. But not by any means a person of consequence, you assume? Why, yes, of some,—to one individual at least Mrs. Laudersdale was so weak as to regard him with complacency; she loved—adored her husband. Let me have the justice to say that no one suspected her of it. Of course, then, Mr. Roger Raleigh had no business to fall in love with her.
Well,—but he did.
At the time when Mrs. Laudersdale had become somewhat more than a reigning beauty, and held her sceptre with such apparent indifference that she seemed about abandoning it forever, she no longer dazzled with unventured combinations of colors and materials in dress. She wore most frequently, at this epoch, black velvet that suppled about her well-asserted contours; and the very trail of her skirt was unlike another woman's, for it coiled and bristled after her with a life and motion of its own, like a serpent. Her hair, of too dead a black for gloss or glister, was always adorned with a nasturtium-vine, whose vivid flames seemed like some personal emanation, and whose odor, acrid and single, dispersed a character about her; and the only ornaments she condescended to assume were of Etruscan gold, severely simple in design, elaborately intricate in workmanship. It is evident she was a poet in costume, and had at last en regle acquired a manner. But thirteen years ago she apparelled herself otherwise, and thirteen years ago it was that Mr. Roger Raleigh fell in love with her. This is how it was.
Among the many lakes in New Hampshire, there is one of extreme beauty,—a broad, shadowy water, some nine miles in length, with steep, thickly wooded banks, and here and there, as if moored on its calm surface, an island fit for the Bower of Bliss. At one spot along its shore was, and still is, an old country-house, formerly used as a hotel, but whose customers, always pleasure-seekers from the neighboring towns, had been drawn away by the erection of a more modern and satisfactory place of entertainment at the other extremity of the lake, and it had now been for many years closed. There were no dwellings of any kind in its vicinity, so that it reigned over a solitude of a half-dozen miles in every direction. Once in a while the gay visitors in the more prosperous regions stretched their sails and skimmed along till they saw its white porticos and piazzas gleaming faintly up among the trees; once in a while a belated traveller tied his horse at the gate, and sought admittance in vain, at the empty house, of the shadows who may have kept it. It was not pleasant to see so goodly a mansion falling to ruin for want of fit occupancy, truly; and just as the walls had grown gray with rain and time, the chimneys choked and the casements shrunken, a merry company of friends and families, from another portion of the country, consolidated themselves into a society for the pursuit of happiness, rented the old place, put in carpenters and masons and glaziers, and, when the last tenants vacated the premises, took possession in state themselves. Care and responsibility were not theirs; the matron and her servants alone received such guests; the long summer-days were to come and go with them as joyously as with Bacchus and his crew.
Behold the party domesticated a fortnight at the Bawn, as it was afterward dubbed. Mr. Laudersdale had returned to New York that morning, and his wife had not been met since. Now, at about five o'clock, her white robe floated past the door, and she was seen moving up and down the long piazza and humming a faint little tune to herself. Just then a flock of young women, married and single, fluttered through door and windows to join her; and just then Mrs. Laudersdale stepped down from the end of the piazza and floated up the garden-path and into the woods that skirted the lake-shore and stretched far back and away. Thus abandoned, the others turned their attention to the expanse before and below them; and one or two made their way down to the brink, unhooked a boat, ventured in, and, lifting the single pair of oars, were soon laboring gayly out and creating havoc on the placid waters.
As Mrs. Laudersdale continued to walk, the path which she followed slowly descended to the pebbly rim, rich in open spaces, slopes of verdure just gilding in the declining sun, and coverts of cool, deep shadow. As she advanced leisurely, involved in pleasant fancy, something caught her eye, an unusual object, certainly, lying in a duskier recess; she drew nearer and hung a moment above it. Some fallen statue among rank Roman growth, some marble semblance of a young god, overlaced with a vine and plunged in tall ferns and beaded grasses? And she, bending there,—was it Diana and Endymion over again, Psyche and Eros? Ah, no!—simply Mrs. Laudersdale and Roger Raleigh. Only while one might have counted sixty did she linger to take the real beauty of the scene: the youth, adopted, as it were, to Nature's heart by the clustering growth that sprang up rebounding under the careless weight that crushed it; an attitude of complete and unconscious grace,—one arm thrown out beneath the head, the other listlessly fallen down his side, while the hand still detained the straw hat; the profile, by no means classic, but in strong relief, the dark hair blowing in the gentle wind, the flush of sleep that went and came almost perceptibly with the breath, and the sunbeam that slanting round suddenly suffused the whole. "Pretty boy!" thought Mrs. Laudersdale; "beautiful picture!" and she flitted on. But Roger Raleigh was not a boy, although sleep, that gives back to all stray glimpses of their primal nature, endowed him peculiarly with a look of childlike innocence unknown to his waking hours.
Startled, perhaps, by the intruding step, for it was no light one, a squirrel leaped from the bough to the grass, and, leaping, woke the sleeper. He himself, now unperceived, saw a vision in return,—this woman, young and rare, this queenly, perfect thing, floating on and vanishing among the trees. Whence had she come, and who was she? And hereupon he remembered the old Bawn and its occupants. Had she seen him? Unlikely; but yet, unimportant as it was, it remained an interesting and open question in his mind. Bringing down the hair so ruffled in the idle breeze, he crowded his hat over it with a determined air, half ran, half tumbled, down the bank, sprang into his boat, and, shaking out a sail, went flirting over the lake as fast as the wind could carry him. Leaving a long, straight, shining wake behind him, Mr. Roger Raleigh skimmed along the skin of ripples, and, in order to avoid a sound of shrill voices, skirted the angle of an island, and found himself deceived by the echo and in the midst of them.
Mrs. McLean, Miss Helen Heath, and Miss Mary Purcell, who had embarked with a single pair of oars, were now shipwrecked on the waters wide, as Helen said; for one of their means of progress, she declared, had been snatched by the roaring waves and was floating in the trough of the sea, just beyond their reach. None of the number being acquainted with the process of sculling, they considered it imperative to secure the truant tool, unless they wished to perish floating about unseen; and having weighed the expediency of rigging Helen into a jury-mast, they were now using their endeavors to regain the oar,—Mary Purcell whirling them about like a maelstroem with the remaining one, and Mrs. McLean with her two hands grasping Helen's garments, while the latter half stood in the boat and half lay recumbent on the lake, tipping, slipping, dipping, till her head resembled a mermaid's; while they all three filled the air with more exclaim, shrieking, and laughter than could have been effected by a large-lunged mob.
"Bedlam let loose," thought the intruder, "or all the Naiads up for a frolic?" And as he shot by, a hush fell upon the noisy group,—Helen pausing and erecting herself from her ablutions, Mary's frantic efforts sending them as a broadside upon the Arrow and nearly capsizing it, and Mrs. McLean, ceasing merriment, staring from both her eyes, and saying nothing. Mr. Raleigh seized the oar in passing, and directly afterward had placed it in Helen's hands. Receiving it with a profusion of thanks, she seated herself and bent to its use. But, looking back in a few seconds, Mr. Raleigh observed that the exhausted rowers had made scarcely a yard's distance. He had no inclination for gallant devoir, his eyes and thoughts were full of his late vision in the woods, he wished to reach home and dream; but in a moment he was again beside them, had taken their painter with a bow and an easy sentence, but neither with empressement nor heightened color, and, changing his course, was lending them a portion of the Arrow's swiftness in flight towards the Bawn. It seemed as if the old place sent its ghosts out to him this afternoon. Bringing them close upon the flat landing-rock, and hooking the painter therein, he sheered off, lifting his hat, and was gone.
"Roger! Roger Raleigh!" cried Mrs. McLean, from the shore, "come back!"
Obeying her with an air of puzzled surprise, the person so unceremoniously addressed was immediately beside her again.
"A cool proceeding, Sir!" said she, extending both her hands. "How long would you know your Cousin Kate to be here, and refuse to spare her an hour?"
"Upon my honor," said her cousin, bending very low over the hands, "I but this moment learn her presence in my neighborhood."
"Ah, Sir! and what becomes of my note sealed with sky-blue wax and despatched to you ten days ago?"
"It is true such a note lies on my table at this moment, and it is still sealed with sky-blue wax."
"And still unread?"
"You will not force me to confess such delinquency?"
"And still unread?"
"Ten thousand pardons! Shall I go home and read it?" And herewith the saucy indifference of his face became evident, as he raised it.
"No. But is that the way to serve a lady's communications? Fie, for a gallant! I must take you in hand. These are your New Hampshire customs?"
"'O Kate, nice customs curtsy to nice kings!'"
"So I've heard, when curtsying was in fashion; but that is out of date, together with a good many other nice things,—caring for one's friends, for instance. Why don't you ask how all your uncles and aunts are, Sir?"
"How are all my uncles and aunts, Miss?"
"Oh, don't you know? I thought you didn't. There's another billet, inclosing a bit of pasteboard, lying on your table now unopened too, I'll warrant. Don't you read any of your letters?"
"Alphabetical or epistolary?"
"Answer properly, yes or no."
"I know no one that has authority to write to me, as half a reason."
"Thank you, for one, Sir. And what becomes of your Uncle Reuben?"
"Not included in the category."
"Then you're not aware that I've changed my estate? You don't know my name now, do you?
"'Bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst, But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom'"
"Nonsense! What an exasperating boy! Just the same as ever! Well, it explains itself. Here comes a recent property unto me appertaining. McLean! My husband, Mr. John McLean,—my cousin, Mr. Roger Raleigh."
The new-comer was one of those "sterling men" always to be relied on, generally to be respected, and safely and appropriately leading society and subscription-lists. He was not very imaginative, and he understood at a glance as much of the other as he ever would understand. And the other, feeling instantly that only coin of the king's stamp would pass current here, turned his own counter royal side up, and met his host with genuine cordiality. Shortly afterward, Mrs. McLean withdrew for an improvement in her toilet, and soon returning, found them comparing notes as to the condition of the country, tender bonds of the Union, and relative merits of rival candidates, for all which neither of them cared a straw.
"How do you find me, Sir?" she asked of her cousin.
"Radiant, rosy, and rarely arrayed."
"I see that your affections are to be won, and I proceed accordingly, by making myself charming, in the first place. And now, will you be cheered, but not inebriated, here under the trees, in company with dainty cheese-cakes compounded by these hands, and jelly of Helen Heath's moulding, and automatic trifles that caught an ordaining glimpse of Mrs. Laudersdale's eye and rushed madly together to become almond-pasty?"
"With a method in their madness, I hope."
"Yes, all the almonds not on one side."
"In company with cheese-cakes, jelly, and pasty, simply,—I should have claret and crackers at home, Capua willing. Will it pay?"
"You shall have Port here, when Mrs. Laudersdale comes."
"Not old enough to be crusty yet, Kate," said her husband.
"Very good, for you, John!"
"Mrs. Laudersdale is your housekeeper?" asked her cousin.
"Mrs. Laudersdale? That is rich! But I should never dare to tell her. Our housekeeper? Our cynosure! She is our argent-lidded Persian Girl,—our serene, imperial Eleanore;—
"'Whene'er she moves, The Samian Here rises, and she speaks A Meinnon smitten with the morning sun.'"
"Oh, indeed! And this is a conventicle of young matrimonial victims to practise cookery in seclusion, upon which I have blundered?"
"If the fancy pleases you, yes. There they are."
And hereon followed a series of necessary introductions.
Mr. Roger Raleigh sat with both arms leaning on the table before him, and wondering which of the ladies, half whose names he had not heard, was the Samian Here,—if any of them was,—and if,—and if;——and here Mr. Roger Raleigh's reflections went wandering back to the lakeside path and its vision. Not inopportunely at this moment, a white garment, which, it is unnecessary to say, he had long ago seen advancing, fluttered down the opposite path, and she herself approached.
"Ah! Al fresco?" said the pleasantest voice in the world.
"And isn't it charming?" asked Mrs. McLean. "Imagine us with tables spread outside the door in Fifth Avenue, in Chestnut Street, or on the Common!"
"Even then the arabesque would be wanting," said she, trailing a long branch of the wild grape-vine, with its pale and delicately fragrant blooms, along the snowy board. "Are the cheese-cakes a success, Mrs. McLean? I didn't dine, and am famished.—I see that you have at last heard from your cousin," she added, in an undertone.
"Yes; let me pre—Roger!"
Quickly frustrating any such presentation, Mr. Roger Raleigh half turned, and, bowing, said,—
"I believe I have had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Laudersdale before."
Her haughtiness would have frozen any one else. She bent with the least possible inclination, and sat down upon a stump that immediately became a throne. He resumed his former position, and drummed lightly on the table, while waiting to be served. In less complete repose than she had previously seen him, Mrs. Laudersdale now examined anew the individual before her.
Not by any means tall she found him, but having the square shoulders and broad chest which give, in so much greater a degree than mere height, an impression of strength,—a frame agile and compact, with that easy carriage of the head and that rapid movement so deceptively increasing the stature. The face, too, was probably what, if not informed by a singularly clean and fine soul, would, in the lapse of years, become gross,—the skin of a clear olive, which had slightly flushed as he addressed herself, but not when speaking to other strangers,—kept beardless, and rather square in contour; the mouth not small, but keenly cut, like marble, and always quivering before he spoke, as if the lightning of his thought ran thither naturally to seek spontaneous expression; teeth white; chin cleft; nose of the unclassified order, rather long, the curve opposite to aquiline, and saved from sharpness by nostrils that dilated with a pulse of their own, as those of very proud and sensitive people are apt to do; a wide, low forehead crowned with dark hair, long and fine; heavy brows that overhung deep-set eyes of lightest hazel, but endowed by shadow with a power that no eye of gypsy-black ever swayed for an instant. His whole countenance reminded you of nothing so much as of the young heroes of the French Revolution, for whom irregular features and sallow cheeks were transmuted into brilliant and singular beauty. It wore an inwrapped air, and, with all its mobility, was a mask. He very seldom raised the lids, and his pallor, though owning more of the golden touch of the sun, was as dazzling as Mrs. Laudersdale's own.
Mrs. Laudersdale scarcely observed,—she felt; and probably she saw nothing but the general impression of what I have been telling you.
"Tea, Roger?" asked Mrs. McLean.
"Green, I thank you, and strong."
Rising to receive it, he continued his course till it naturally brought him before Mrs. Laudersdale. Pausing deliberately and sipping the pungent tonic, he at last looked up, and said,—
"Well, you are offended?"
"Then you were awake when I stayed to look at you?" she asked, in reply; for curiosity is a solvent.
"Then you did stay and look at me? That is exactly what I wished to know. How did I look, Belphoebe?"
"Out of his eyes, tell him," said Helen Heath, in passing.
"They were not open," responded Mrs. Laudersdale. "And I cannot tell how you saw me."
"I saw you as Virgil saw his mother,—I mean Aeneas,—as the goddesses are always known, you remember, in departure."
Mrs. Laudersdale felt a weight on her lids beneath his glance, and rose to approach the table.
"Allow me," said Mr. Raleigh, taking her plate and bringing it back directly with a wafery slice of bread and a quaking tumulus of jelly.
Mrs. Laudersdale laughed, though perhaps scarcely pleased with him.
"How did you know my tastes so well?" she asked.
"Since they are not mine," he replied. "Of course you eat jelly, because it is no trouble; you choose your bread thin for the same reason; likewise you would find a glass of that suave, rich cream delicious. Among all motions, you prefer smooth sailing; and I'll venture to say that you sleep in down all summer."
Mrs. Laudersdale looked up in slow and still astonishment; but Mr. Raleigh was already pouring out the glass of cream.
"I've no doubt you would like to have me sweeten it," said he, offering it to her; "but I will not humor such ascetic tendencies. I never approved of flagellation."
And as he spoke, he was gone to break ground for a flirtation with Helen Heath.
Helen Heath appeared to be one of those gay, not-to-be-heart-broken damsels who can drink forever of this dangerous and exhilarating cup without showing symptoms of intoxication. Young men who have nothing worse to do with their time gravitate naturally and unawares toward them for amusement, and spin out the thread till they reach its end, without expectation, without surprise, without regret, without occasion for remorse. Mr. Raleigh could not have been more unfortunate than he was in meeting her, since it gave him reason and excuse henceforth for visiting the Bawn at all seasons.
The table was at last removed, the dew began to fall, Mrs. Laudersdale shivered and withdrew toward the house.
"Incessu patet dea," Mr. Raleigh remembered.
Somewhat later, he started from his seat, bade them all good-night, ran gayly down the bank, and shoved off from shore. And shortly after, Mrs. Laudersdale, looking from her window, saw, for an instant, a single fire-fly hovering over the dark lake. It was Mr. Roger Raleigh's distant lantern, as, stretched at ease, he turned the slow leaves of a Froissart, and suffered the Arrow to drift as it would across the night.
The next morning Mrs. Laudersdale descended, as usual, to the breakfast-table, at an hour when all the rest had concluded their repast. Miss Helen Heath alone remained, trifling with the tea-cups, and singing little exercises.
"Quite an acquisition, Mrs. Laudersdale!" said she.
"What?" said the other, languidly, leaning one arm on the table and looking about for any appetizing edible. "What is an acquisition?"
"You mean who. Mr. Raleigh, of course. But isn't it the queerest thing in the world, up here in this savage district, to light upon a gentleman?"
"Is this a savage district? And is Mr. Raleigh a gentleman?"
"Is he? I never saw his match."
"What! don't you find him so? a thorough gentleman?"
"I don't know what a thorough gentleman is, I dare say," assented Mrs. Laudersdale, indifferently, with no spirit for repartee, breaking an egg and putting it down, crumbling a roll, and finally attacking a biscuit, but gradually raising the siege, yawning, and leaning back in her chair.
"You poor thing!" said Helen. "You are starving to death. What shall I get for you? I have influence in the kitchens. Does marmalade, to spread your muffins, present any attractions? or shall I beg for rusks? or what do you say to doughnuts? there are doughnuts in this closet; crullers and milk are nice for breakfast."
And in a few minutes Helen had rifled a shelf of sufficient temptations to overcome Mrs. Laudersdale's abstinence.
"After all," said she then, "you didn't answer my question."
"If it weren't odd to meet Mr. Raleigh here."
"I don't know," said Mrs. Laudersdale.
"Dear! Mary Purcell takes as much interest. She said he was impertinent, made her talk too much, and made fun of her."
"You are as aggravating as he! If you had anything to do except to look divinely, we'd quarrel. I thought I had a nice bit of entertaining news for you."
"Is that your trouble? I should be sorry to oppress you with it longer. Pray, tell it."
"Will it entertain you?"
"It won't bore you."
"I don't know that I will tell it on such terms. However, I—must talk. Well, then. I have not been dreaming by daylight, but up and improving my opportunities. Partly from himself, and partly from Kate, and partly from the matron here, I have made the following discoveries. Mr. Roger Raleigh has left some very gay cities, and crossed some parallels of latitude, to exile himself in this wilderness of ice and snow,—that's what you and I vote it, whether the trees are green and the sun shines, or not; and I don't see what bewitched mother to adopt such a suicidal plan as coming here to be buried alive. He, that is, Mr. Raleigh, to join my ends, has lived here for five years; and as he came when he was twenty, he is consequently about my age now,—I shouldn't wonder if a trifle older than you. He came here because an immense estate was bequeathed him on the condition that he should occupy this corner of it during one-half of every year from his twenty-first to his thirty-first He has chosen to occupy it during the entire year, running down now and then to have a little music or see a little painting. Sometimes a parcel of his friends,—he never was at college, hasn't any chums, and has educated himself by all manner of out-of-the-way dodges,—sometimes these friends, odd specimens, old music-masters, rambling artists, seedy tutors, fencers, boxers, hunters, clowns, all light down together, and then the neighborhood rings with this precious covey: the rest of the year, may-be, he don't see an individual. One result of this isolation is, that freaks which would be very strange escapades in other people with him are mere commonplaces. Sometimes he goes over to the city there, and roams round like a lost soul seeking for its body; sometimes he goes up a hundred miles or two, takes a guide and handles the mountains; and, except in the accidents at such times, he hasn't seen a woman since he came."
"That accounts," said Mrs. Laudersdale.
"Yes. But just think what a life!"
"He wouldn't stay, if he didn't like," replied Mrs. Laudersdale, to whom the words poverty and riches conveyed not the least idea.
"I don't know. He has an uncle, of whom he is very fond, in India," continued Helen,—"an unfortunate kind of man, with whom everything goes wrong, and who is always taking fevers; and once or twice Mr. Raleigh has started to go and take care of him, and lose the whole estate by the means. He intends to endow him, I believe, by-and-by, when the thing is at his disposal. This uncle kept him at school, when he was an orphan in different circumstances, at a Jesuit institution; and he and Miss Kent were always quarrelling over him, and she thought she had tied up her property nicely out of old Reuben Raleigh's way. It will be nuts, if he ever accepts his nephew's proposed present. The best of it all is, that, if he breaks the condition,—there's no accounting for the caprices of wills,—part of it goes to a needy institution, and part of it inalienably to Mrs. McLean, who"—
"Is an institution, too."
"Who is not needy. There, isn't that a pretty little conte?"
"Very," said Mrs. Laudersdale, having listened with increasing interest. "But, Helen, you'll be a gossip, if you go on and prosper."
"Why, my dear child! He'll be over here every day now; and do you suppose I'm going to flirt with any one, when I don't know his antecedents? There he is now!"
And as Mrs. Laudersdale turned, she saw Mr. Raleigh standing composedly in the doorway and surveying them. She bade him good-morning, coolly enough, while Helen began searching the grounds of the tea-cups, rather uncertain how much of her recital might have met his ears.
"Turning tea-cups, Gypsy Helen, and telling fates, all to no audience, and with no cross on your palm?" asked the guest.
"So you ignore Mrs. Laudersdale?"
"Not at all; you weren't looking at her cup,—if she has one. Will you have the morning paper?" he asked of that lady, who, receiving it, leisurely unfolded and glanced over its extent.
"Where's my Cousin Kate?" then demanded Mr. Raleigh of Helen, having regarded this performance.
"Gone shopping in town."
"Her vocation. For the day?"
"No,—it is time for their return now. When you hear wheels"—
"I hear them"; and he strolled to the window. "You should have said, when I heard tongues; Medes and Elamites and the dwellers in Mesopotamia were less cheerful. A very pretty team. So she took her conjugal appurtenance with her?"
"And left her cousinly impertinence behind her," retorted a gay voice from his elbow.
"Ah, Kate! are you there? It's not a moment since I saw you 'coming from the town.' A pretty hostess, you! I arrive on your invitation to pass the day"—
"But I didn't expect you before the sun."
"To pass the day, and find you absent and the breakfast-table not cleared away."
"My dear Roger, we have not quite taken our habits yet. As soon as the country-air shall have wakened and made over Helen and Mrs. Laudersdale, you will find us ready for company at daybreak."
"What a passion for 'company'! I shall not be surprised some day to receive cards for your death-bed."
"Friends and relatives invited to attend? No, Roger, you mustn't be naughty. You shall receive cards for my dinner-party before we go, if you won't come without; for we have innumerable friends in town, already."
"What's that? A newspaper? A newspaper! How McLean will chuckle!" And she seized the sheet which Mrs. Laudersdale had abandoned in sweeping from the room.
"Is there a Mr. Laudersdale? Where is he?" asked Mr. Raleigh, as he leaned against the window.
"Who?" asked his cousin, deep in a paragraph.
"Mr. Laudersdale. Where is he?"
"Oh! between his four planks, I suppose," she replied, thinking of the Soundboat's berth, which probably contained the gentleman designated.
"Between his four planks," repeated Mr. Raleigh, in a musing tone, entirely misinterpreting her, and to this little accident owing nearly thirteen years' unhappiness.
"She must have married early," he continued.
"Oh, fabulously early," replied Mrs. McLean, between the lines she read. "She is Creole, I believe. She is perfect. The women are as infatuated about her as the men. Here's Helen Heath been dawdling round the table all the morning for the sake of chatting to her while she breakfasts. I don't know why, I'm sure; the woman's charming, but she's too lazy even to talk. McLean! Another flurry in France."
And after shaking hands with Mr. Raleigh, that worthy seized the proffered paper and vanished behind it, leaving to his wife the entertainment of her cousin, which duty she seemed by no means in haste to assume, preferring to remain and vex her husband with a thousand little teasing arts. Meanwhile Mr. Raleigh proceeded to take that office upon himself, by crossing the hall, exploring the parlors, examining the manuscript commonplace-books, and finally by sketching on a leaf of his pocket-book Mrs. Laudersdale, at the other end of the piazza, half-swinging in the vines through which broad sunbeams poured, while Helen Heath was singing and several other ladies were busying themselves with books and needle-work in her vicinity."
"Ah, Mr. Raleigh!" said Helen Heath, as he put up the pocket-book and drew near,—"Mrs. Laudersdale and I have been wondering how you amuse yourself up here; and I make my discovery. You study animated nature; that is to say, you draw Mrs. Laudersdale and me."
"Mistaken, Miss Helen. I draw only Mrs. Laudersdale; and do you call that animated nature?"
"I wish you would draw. Mrs. Laudersdale out."
At this point Mrs. Laudersdale fell out; but, without otherwise stirring from his position than by moving an apparently careless arm, Mr. Raleigh caught and restored her to her balance, as lightly as if he had brushed a floating gossamer from the air to his finger. For the first time, perhaps, in her life, a carnation blossomed an instant in her cheek, then all was as before,—only two of the party felt on that instant that in some mysterious manner their relations with each other were entirely changed.
"But what is it that you do with yourself?" persisted Helen. "Tell us, that we may do likewise."
"Will you come and see?" he asked,—his eyes, however, on Mrs. Laudersdale.
"Will you come in away from the lake to the brooks, and hang among the alders and angle, dreaming, all day long? Or will you rise at dead of night and go out on the lake with me and watch field after field of white lilies flash open as the sun touches them with his spear? Or will you lie during still noons up among the farmers' fields where myriad bandrol corn-poppies flaunt over your head, and stain your finger-tips with the red berries that hang like globes of light in the palace-gardens of mites and midges, soaking yourself in hot sunshine and south-winds and heavy aromatic earth-scents?"
"Come!" said Mrs. Laudersdale, rising earnestly, like one in an eager dream.
"It is plain that you are in training for a poet," said Helen Heath, laughing, to Mr. Raleigh. "Well, when will you take us? Are the lilies in bloom? Shall we go to-morrow morning?"
"I don't know that I shall take you at all, Miss Helen;—river-lilies might suit you best; but these queens of the lakes, the great, calm pond-lilies, creatures of quiet and white radiance,—I have seen only one head that possessed enough of the genuine East-Indian repose to be crowned with them."
"You like repose," said Mrs. Laudersdale. "But what is it?"
"Repose is strength,—life that develops from within, and feels itself and has no need of effort. Repose is inherent security."
"Goodness!" exclaimed Helen. "Article first in a new dictionary,—encyclopedia, I should say. You worship, but you don't possess your god, for you look at this moment like a shaft in the bow; and here comes an archer to give it flight."
"Where are you going, Kate?" said her cousin.
"To pick strawberries in the garden. Want to come?"
The three could do no better than accept her invitation. The good ladies might stare as they could after Mrs. Laudersdale, and wonder what sudden sprite had possessed her, since for neither man nor woman of the numerous party had she hitherto condescended to lift an unwonted eyelid; what they would have said to have seen her plunged in a strawberry-bed, gathering handfuls and raining them drop by drop into Helen Heath's mouth, to silence her while she herself might talk,—her own fingers tipped with more sanguine shade than their native rose, her eyes full of the noon sparkle, and her lips parted with laughter,—we cannot say. Roger Raleigh forgot to move, to speak, to think, as he watched her. But in the midst of this brilliant and novel gayety of hers, there was still a dignity to make one feel that she had by no means abandoned her regal purple, but merely adorned it with profuse golden flourishes.
At dinner that day, Helen begged to know if there were not a great many routes in the vicinity practicable only on horseback, and thought she had attained her end when Mr. Raleigh put his horses and his escort at the service of herself and Mrs. Laudersdale during their stay.
"During our stay!" said Mrs. Laudersdale. "That reminds me that we are to go away!"
"Pleasantly, certainly. When snows fall and storms pipe, the Bawn is an icehouse," said he.
After noon, the remainder of the day was interspersed with light thunder-showers, rendering tea on the grass again impossible; they passed the steaming cups, therefore, as they sat on the piazza curtained with dripping woodbine. The glitter of the drops in the sunset light, a jewelled scintillation, was caught in Mrs. Laudersdale's eyes, and some unconscious excitement fanned a faint color to and fro on her cheek. At last the moon rose; the whole party, regardless of wet slippers, sauntered with Mr. Raleigh to the shore, where the little Arrow hung balancing on her restraining cord. Mrs. Laudersdale stepped in, Mr. Raleigh followed, took up an oar, and pushed out, both standing, and drifting slowly for a few rods' distance; then Mr. Raleigh made the shore again, assisted her out, and shot impatiently away alone. The waters shone like white fire in the wake he cut, great shadows fall through them where island and wood intercepted the broad ascending light, and Mrs. Laudersdale's gay laugh rung across them, as the space grew,—a sweet, rich laugh, that all the spirits of the depths caught and played with like a rare beam that transiently illumined their shadowy, silent haunts.
The next day, and the next, and so for a fortnight, Mr. Roger Raleigh presented himself with the breakfast-urn at the Bawn, tarried during sunshine, slipped home by starlight across the lake. Every day Mrs. Laudersdale was more brilliant, and flashed with a cheery merriment like harmless summer-lightnings. One night, as he pushed away from the bank, he said,—
"Au revoir for five hours."
"For five hours?" said Mrs. Laudersdale.
"For five hours."
"At half-past three in the night?"
"In the morning."
"And what brings you here at dead of dark?"
"The lilies and the dawn."
"Indeed! And whom do you expect to find?"
"You and Miss Helen."
"Well, summer and freedom are here; I am ready for all fates, all deeds of valor, vigils among the rest. We will await you at half-past three in the morning. Helen, we must sleep at high-pressure, soundly, crowding all we can on the square inch of time. Au revoir."
A shadow stood on the piazza, in the semi-darkness, at the appointed hour; two other shadows flitted forward to meet it, and silently down the bank, into the boat, and out upon the lonely glimmering reaches of the water. Nobody spoke; the midnight capture of no fort was ever effected with more phantom-like noiselessness than now went to surprise the Vestals of the Lake; only as two hands touched for an instant, a strange thrill, like fire, quivered through each and tore them apart more swiftly than two winds might cross each other's course. Helen Heath was drowsy and half-nodding in the bow, nodding with the more ease that it was still so dark and that Mr. Raleigh's back was toward her. Mrs. Laudersdale reclined in the stern. Mr. Raleigh once in a while sent them far along with a strong stroke, then only an occasional plash broke the charm of perfect stillness. Ever and anon they passed under the lee of some island, and the heavy air grew full of idle night-sweetness; the waning moon with all its sad and alien power hung low,—dun, malign, and distant, a coppery blotch on the rich darkness of heaven. They floated slowly, still; now and then she dipped a hand into the cool current; now and then he drew in his oars, and, bending forward, dipped his hand with hers. The stars retreated in a pallid veil that dimmed their beams, faint lights streamed up the sky,—the dark yet clear and delicious. They paused motionless in the shelter of a steep rock; over them a wild vine hung and swayed its long wreaths in the water, a sweet-brier starred with fragrant sleeping buds climbed and twisted, and tufts of ribbon-grass fell forward and streamed in the indolent ripple; beneath them the lake, lucid as some dark crystal, sheeted with olive transparence a bottom of yellow sand; here a bream poised on slowly waving fins, as if dreaming of motion, or a perch flashed its red fin from one hollow to another. The shadow lifted a degree, the eye penetrated to farther regions; a bird piped warily, then freely, a second and a third answered, a fourth took up the tale, blue-jay and thrush, catbird and bobolink; wings began to dart about them, the world to rustle overhead, near and far the dark prime grew instinct with sound, the shores and heavens blew out gales of melody, the air broke up in music. He lifted his oars silently; she caught the sweet-brier, and, lightly shaking it, a rain of dew-drops dashed with deepest perfume sprinkled them; they moved on. A thin mist breathed from the lake, steamed round the boat, and lay like a white coverlet upon the water; a light wind sprang up and blew it in long rags and ribbons, lifted, and torn, and streaming, out of sight. All the air was pearly, the sky opaline, the water now crisply emblazoned with a dark and splendid jewelry,—the paved-work of a sapphire; a rosy fleece sailed across their heads, some furnace glowed in the east behind the trees, long beams fell resplendently through and lay beside vast shadows, the giant firs stood black and intense against a red and risen sun; they trailed with one oar through a pad of buds all-unaware of change, stole from the overhanging thickets through a high-walled pass, where, on the open lake, the broad, silent, yellow light crept from bloom to bloom and awoke them with a touch. How perfectly they put off sleep! with what a queenly calm displayed their spotless snow, their priceless gold, and shed abroad their matchless scent! He twined his finger round a slippery serpent-stem, turned the crimson underside of the floating pavilion, and brought up a waxen wonder from its throne to hang like a star in the black braids on her temple. An hour's harvesting among the nymphs, in this rich atmosphere of another world, and with a loaded boat they turned to shore again.
"Smothered in sweets!" exclaimed Mr. Raleigh, as he sprang out, and woke Helen Heath, where, slipped down upon the floor of the boat, her head fallen on her arms, she had lain half-asleep. They were the first words spoken during the morning, and in such situations silence is dangerous.
When the rest of the family descended to breakfast, they found the pictures framed in wreaths of lilies, great floats of them in hall and parlor, and the table laden with flat dishes where with coiled stems they crowded, a white, magnificent throng. Mr. Raleigh still lingered, and, while Mrs. Laudersdale and Helen renewed their toilets, had busied himself in weaving a crown of these and another of poppy-leaves, hanging the one on Mrs. Laudersdale's head, as she entered refreshed, snowy, and fragrant herself, and the sleep-giving things on Helen's,—the latter avenging herself by surveying her companion's adornment, and, as she adjusted the bloom-gray leaves of her own, inquiring if olives grew pickled.
Nothing could be more airy and blithe than were Mrs. Laudersdale's spirits all that morning,—bubbles dancing on a brook, nor foam-sparkle of rosy Champagne. She related their adventures with graphic swiftness, and improvised dangers and escapes with such a reckless disregard of truth that Mr. Raleigh was forced to come to the rescue with more startling improbabilities than they would have encountered in the Enchanted Forest.
The red dawn brought its rain, and before they rose from table the sunshine withdrew and large drops began to patter in good earnest. Mr. Raleigh, who had generally suffered others to entertain him, now, as Mrs. McLean ushered the whole company into the sewing-room, seemed spurred by gayety and brilliance, and to bring into employ all those secrets through which he had ever annihilated time. For a while devoting himself to the elder dames, he won the heart of one by a laborious invention of a million varicolored angles to a square barley-corn of worsted—work, involved Mrs. McLean's crocheting in an inextricable labyrinth as he endeavored to afford her some requisite conchological assistance, and turned with three strokes a very absurd drawing of Mrs. Laudersdale's into a splendid caricature. Having made himself thus generally useful, he now proceeded to make himself generally agreeable; went with all necessary gravity through a series of complicate dancing-steps with Miss Heath; begged Miss Purcell, who was longing to cry over her novel, to allow him to read for her, since he saw that she was trying her eyes, and therewith made fiasco of a page of delicious dolor; and being challenged to chess by a third, declared that was child's play, and dominoes was the game for science,—whereon, having seated a circle at that absorbing sport, he deserted for a meerschaum and the gentlemen, and in company with Captain Purcell, Mr. McLean, and the rest, rolled up from the hall below wreaths of smoke, bursts of laughter, and finally chimes of those concordant voices with which gentlemen talk politics, and, even when agreeing infamously, become vociferant and high-colored.
It was after lunch that Mrs. Laudersdale, having grown weary of the needle-women's thread of discourse, left the sewing-room and proceeded toward her own apartment. Just as she crossed the head of the staircase, the hall-door was flung open, admitting a gleeful blast of the boisterous gale, and an object that, puffing and blowing like a sad-hued dolphin, and shaking like a Newfoundland, appeared at first to be the famous South-West Wind, Esq., in proper person,—whose once sumptuous array clung to his form, and whose face and hands, shining as coal, rolled off the rain like a bronze.
"Bless my heart, Capua!" cried Mr. Raleigh, removing the stem from his lips; "how came you here?"
"Lors, Massa, it's only me," said Capua.
"So I see," replied his master, restoring the pipe to its former position. "How did you come?"
"'Bout swimmed, I 'spect," answered Capua, grounding a chuckle on a reef of ivory. "'Ta'n't no fish-story, dat!"
"Well, what brings you?"
"Naughty Nan,—she hadn't been out"—
"Do you mean to say, you rascal! that you've taken Nan out on such a day? and round the lake, too, I'll warrant?" asked Mr. Raleigh, with some excitement.
"Jes' dat; an' round de lake, ob course; we couldn' come acrost."
"You've ruined her, then"———
"Bress you, Massa, she won't ketch no cold,—she! Smokes like a beaver now; came like streak o' lightnin'."
"You may as well swim her back,—and where we can all see the sport, too."
"No buts about it, Capua," insisted his master, with mock gravity, the stem between his teeth.
"'Spect I'd better rub her down, now I'se here, an' wait'll it holds up a bit, Mass' Roger?" urged Capua, coaxingly.
"Do as you're bid!" ejaculated his master; which, evidently, from long habit, meant, Do as you please.
Mrs. Laudersdale and Helen Heath had crept down the stairs during this dialogue, and now stood interested spectators of the scene. Mrs. McLean came running down behind them.
"Forgotten me, Capua?" said she.
"Lors, Miss Kate!" he replied, scraping his foot and pulling off his hat,—"Cap never f'gets his friends, though you've growed. How d'ye do, Miss Kate?"
"Nicely, thank you. And how's your wife?"
"My wife? Well, she's 'bout beat out. Massa Roger 'n' I, we buried her; finer funeral dan Massa Roger's own mother, Miss Kate, dat was!"
"Poor fellow! I'm so sorry!" began Mrs. McLean, consolingly.
"Well, Miss Kate, you know some folks is easier spared 'n others. Some tongues sharper 'n others. Alwes liked to gib a hot temper time to cool, 's Massa says."
"And how do you do, Capua?"
"Pretty well, Miss Kate; leastways, I'se well enough,—a'n't so pretty."
"What is his name?" whispered Helen.
"'Annible, Missis," said the attentive Capua, whose eyes had been for some time oscillating with indecision between Helen Heath and Mrs. Laudersdale. "Hannibal Raleigh's my name; though Massa alwes call me Cap," he added, insinuatingly,—which, by the way, "Massa" never had been known to do.
"And are you always going to stay and take care of Master Roger?"
"'Spect I shall. Lors, Miss Kate, he's more bother to me 'n all my work,—dat boy!"
"That will do, Capua," said his master; "you may go." And therewith Capua scuffled away.
"Well, Roger, what does this mean?" asked Mrs. McLean, as the door closed.
"It means that Capua, having been dying of curiosity, has resolved to die game, and therefore takes matters into his own hands, and arrives to inspect my conduct and my company."
"Ah, I see. He trembles for his sceptre."
"Miss Heath," said Mr. McLean, rallyingly, "you received a great many of the sable shafts."
"A Saint Sebastiana," said his wife.
"Did Saint Sebastian die of his wounds?" asked Helen.
"Let me tell you, Miss Helen," said Mr. Raleigh, "that Capua is a connoisseur, and his dictum is worth all flatteries. If he had only been with us this morning!"
"You have teased me so much about that, Mr. Raleigh, that I have half a mind never to go with you on another expedition."
"Make no rash vows. I was just thinking what fine company you would be when trouting. The most enchanting quiet is required then, you are aware."
"Oh! when shall we go trouting?"
"We? It was only half a mind, then! We will go to-morrow, wind and weather agreeing."
"And what must I do?"
"You must keep still, stand in the shadow, and fish up-stream."
At this point, Capua put his head inside the door again.
"What is it?" asked Mr. Raleigh.
"Forgot to say, Massa," replied Capua, rolling his eyes fearfully, and still hesitating, and half-closing the door, and then looking back.
"Mass' Raleigh, your house done been burned up!" said Capua, at last, jerking back his head, as if afraid of losing it.
"Ah? And what did you do with"——
"Oh, eberyting safe an' sound. 'Ta'n't dat house; 'ta'n't dis yer house Massa lib in;—Massa's sparrer-house. Reckoned I'd better come and 'form him."
"Is that all?" asked his master, who was accustomed to Capua's method of breaking ill news.
"Now, Mass' Roger, don't you go to being pervoked an' flyin' into one ob dese yer tempers! It's all distinguished now. Ole Cap didn' want to shock his young massa, so thought 'twarn't de wisest way to tell him 'twarn't de sparrer-house, either, at first. 'Twas de inside ob de libery, if he must know de troof; wet an' smutty dar now, mebbe, but no fire."
"Why not? What made the fire go out?" asked Mr. Raleigh, composedly.
"Well, two reasons," replied Capua, rolling a glance over the company;—"one was dis chile's exertions; an' t'other fact, on account ob wich de flames was checked, was because dere warn't no more to burn. Hi!"
"Capua, take Nan, and don't let me see your face again, till I send for it!" said his master, now slightly irate.
"Massa's nigger alwes mind him," was the dutiful response.
Mrs. Laudersdale's handkerchief fell at that moment from the hand that hung over the balustrade. Capua darted to restore it.
"Bress her pretty eyes!" said he. "Ole Cap see's fur into a millstone as any one!" and vanished through the doorway.
"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Raleigh, turning to Mrs. Laudersdale. "He has refused to leave me, and I must indulge him too much, and my sins fall on the head of the nearest passer. He appears to have a constitutional inability to comprehend this absence of punishment. His immunity is so painful to him that I sometimes fancy him to be homesick for a lashing. Now if I do not hasten home, Kate, I shall find a conflagration of the whole house there before me."
And making quick adieux,—while Mrs. Laudersdale jested about tempting the raging waters, and the dinner-bell was ringing, and Helen singing, "Come o'er the stream, Charlie, and dine wi' McLean,"—he opened the door, suffered a patch of blue sky to be seen, and the segment of an afternoon rainbow, shut it, and was gone.
Early again the next morning, Mr. Raleigh sought the Bawn, followed this time by Capua, who was determined not to lose any ground once made, and who now carried the rods, bait, and other paraphernalia.
"Powerful pretty woman, dat, Massa!" said he, as through the open doors a voice was heard gayly exclaiming and answering.
"Which one, Capua?" asked his master.
"A'n't no t'orrer," was his reply; "leastwise, a'n't no 'count,—good for nott'n. Now she,—pity she a'n't single, Massa,—should say she'd lived where sun was plenty and had laid up heaps in her heart."
Here Mrs. Laudersdale came out, and shortly afterward Helen and three or four others. In reply to their questions, Mr. Raleigh stated that the preceding day's disaster had been occasioned by a meerschaum, and had merely charred a table with its superficies of papers and pamphlets, which Capua had chosen to magnify for his own purposes; and the assemblage immediately turned its course inland and toward the brooks. The two who led soon distanced the rest, Capua trudging respectfully behind and keeping them in sight. Here, as they brushed along through the woods, they delayed in order to examine a partridge's nest, to tree a squirrel, to gather some strange wild-flower opening at their approach. Here on the banks they watched the bitterns rise and sail heavily away, and finally in silence commenced the genuine sport.
"Nonsense!" said Helen Heath, meaningly, as Mrs. Laudersdale, when the others joined them, displayed her first capture. "Is that all you've caught?"
Mrs. Laudersdale drew in another for reply.
"How absurd!" said Helen. "Here a month ago you were the dearest and most helpless of mortals, and now you are doing everything!"
The other opened her eyes a moment, and then laughed.
"Hush!" said she.
"Shs! shs!" echoed Capua, making an infinite hubbub himself.
Silence accordingly reigned and produced a string fit for the Sultan's kitchen,—of all the number, Mrs. Laudersdale adding by far the majority,—possibly because her shining prey found destination in the same basket with Mr. Raleigh's,—possibly because, as Helen had intimated, a sudden deftness had bewitched her fingers, so that neither dropping rod nor tangling reel detained her for an instant.
"Our lines have fallen in pleasant places," said Helen, as they took at last their homeward path; "and what a shame! not an adventure yet!"
Mrs. McLean hung on Mr. Raleigh's arm as they went,—for she had taken a whim and feared to see her cousin in the fangs of a coquette; by which means Helen became the companion of Captain Purcell and his daughter, and Mrs. Laudersdale kept lightly in advance, leading a gambol with the greyhound that Capua had added to the party, and presenting in one person, as she went springing from knoll to knoll along the bank, now in sunshine, now in shade, lifting the green boughs or sweeping them aside, a succession of the vivid figures of some antique and processional frieze. Suddenly, with a quick cry, she disappeared, and Helen had her adventure. Mr. Raleigh darted forward, while the hound came frisking back; yet, when he found her fainting in the hollow, stood with stolid immobility until Capua snatched her up and carried her along in his arms, leaving his master to reflect how many times such swarthy servitors might have borne her, as a child, through her island groves. And thus the party, somewhat sobered, resumed their march again. But in the discovery that he had not dared to lift her in his arms, he who took such liberties with every one,—that, lying under her semblance of death, she had inspired him with a certain awe, that he had suddenly found this woman to be an object somewhat sacred,—in this discovery Mr. Raleigh learned not a little. And it would not, perhaps, be an untrue surmise that he found therein as much of pain as of any other emotion; since all the experiences and passions of life must share the phenomena of the great fact itself whose pulse beats through them; and if to love unawares be to dwell like a child in the region of thoughtless and innocent bliss, in attaining manhood all the sadness which is to be eliminated from life becomes apparent, and bliss henceforth must be sought and earned. From that day, then, Mr. Raleigh with difficulty retained his former habits, prevented any eagerness of manner, maintained a cautious vigilance, and in so doing he again became aware that the easy insouciance with which he addressed all other women had long been lost toward Mrs. Laudersdale, or, if yet existing, had become like the light and tender play of any lingering summer-wind in the tress upon her brow.
Mrs. Laudersdale's ankle having been injured by her fall, and Mrs. McLean having taken a cold, the two invalids now became during a week and a day the auditory for all quips and pranks that Miss Heath and Mr. Raleigh could devise. And on the event of their convalescence, the Lord of Misrule himself seemed to have ordained the course of affairs, with a swarming crew of all the imps and mischiefs ever hatched. Mr. Raleigh and Capua went and came with boat-loads of gorgeous stuff from across the lake, a little old man appeared on the spot in answer to a flight of telegrams, machinery and scenery rose like exhalations, music was brought from the city, all the availables of the family were to be found in garden, closet, house-top, conning hieroglyphical pages, and the whole chaotic confusion takes final shape and resolves into a little Spanish Masque, to which kings and queens have once listened in courtly state, and which now unrolls its resplendent pageant before the eyes of Mrs. Laudersdale, translating her, as it were, into another planet, where familiar faces in pompous entablature look out upon her from a whirl of light and color, and familiar voices utter stately sentences in some honeyed unknown tongue. And finally, when the glittering parade finishes, and the strange groups, in their costly raiment, throng out for dancing, she herself gives her hand to some Prince of the pageantry, who does her homage, and, sealing the fact of her restoration, swims once round the room in a mist of harmony, and afterward sits by his side, captive to his will, and subject to his enchantment, while
"All night had the roses heard The flute, violin, bassoon, All night had the casement jessamine stirred With the dancers dancing in tune, Till a silence fell with the waking bird And a hush with the setting moon."
This little episode of illness and recovery having been thus duly celebrated, the masqueraders again forswore roofs and spent long days in distant junketing throughout the woods; the horses, too, were brought into requisition, and a flock of boats kept forever on the wing. And meanwhile, as Helen Heath said,—she then least of all comprehending the real drama of that summer,—Mrs. Laudersdale had taught them how the Greek animated his statue.
"And how was that?" asked Mr. Raleigh.
"He took it out-doors, I fancy, and called the winds to curl about it. He set its feet in morning-dew, he let in light and shade through green dancing leaves above it, he gave it glimpses of moon and star, he taught the forest-birds to chirp and whistle in its ear, and finally he steeped it in sunshine."
"Sunshine, then, was the vivifying stroke?"
"You are mistaken," said he; "the man never found a soul in his work till he put his own there first."
"I always wonder," remarked Mrs. Laudersdale here, "that every artist, in brooding over his marble, adding, touching, bringing out effects, does not end by loving it,—absorbingly, because so beautiful to him,—despairingly, because to him forever silent."
"You needn't wonder anything about it," said Helen, mischievously. "All that you have to do is to make the most of your sunshine."
Mr. McLean, struck with some sudden thought, inspected the three as they stood in a blaze of the midsummer noon, then crossed over to his little wife, drew her arm in his, and held it with cautious imprisonment. The other wife did as she was bidden, and made the most of her sunshine.
If, on first acquaintance, Mrs. Laudersdale had fascinated by her repose, her tropical languor, her latent fire, the charm was none the less, when, turning, it became one dazzle of animation, of careless freedom, of swift and easy grace. Nor, unfamiliar as were such traits, did they seem at all foreign to her, but rather, when once donned, never to have been absent; as if, indeed, she had always been this royal creature, this woman bright and winning as some warm, rich summer's day. The fire that sleeps in marble never flashes and informs the whole mass so fully; if a pearl—lazy growth and accretion of amorphous life—should fuse and form again in sparkling crystals, the miracle would be less. And with what complete unconsciousness had she stepped from passive to positive existence, and found this new state to be as sweet and strange as any child has found it! Long a wife, she had known, nevertheless, nothing but quiet custom or indifference, and had dreamed of love only as the dark and silent side of the moon might dream of light. Now she grew and unfolded in the warmth of this season, like a blossom perfumed and splendid. Sunbeams seemed to lance themselves out of heaven and splinter about her. She queened it over demesnes of sprite-like revelry; the life they led was sylvan; at their fetes the sun assisted. The summer held to her lips a glass whose rosy effervescence, whose fleeting foam, whose tingling spirit exhaled a subtile madness of joy,—a draught whose lees were despair. So nearly had she been destitute of emotion hitherto that she had scarcely a right to be classed with humanity; now, indeed, she would win that right. Not only her character, but her beauty, became another thing under all this largess; one remembered the very Persian rose, in looking at her, and thought of gardens amid whose clouds of rich perfume the nightingales sang all night long; her manner, too, became strangely gracious, and a sweetness lingered after her presence, delicate and fine as the drop of honey in some flower's nectary. So she woke from her icy trance; but, alas! what had wakened her?