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Beauty and The Beast, and Tales From Home
by Bayard Taylor
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In October, the Whitney place, which had been leased for several years, was advertised to be sold at public sale. The owner had gone to the city and become a successful merchant, had outlived his local attachments, and now took advantage of a rise in real estate to disburden himself of a property which he could not profitably control.

Everybody from far and wide attended the sale, and, when Jacob Flint and his father arrived, everybody said to the former: "Of course you've come to buy, Jacob." But each man laughed at his own smartness, and considered the remark original with himself.

Jacob was no longer annoyed. He laughed, too, and answered: "I'm afraid I can't do that; but I've kept half my word, which is more than most men do."

"Jake's no fool, after all," was whispered behind him.

The bidding commenced, at first very spirited, and then gradually slacking off, as the price mounted above the means of the neighboring farmers. The chief aspirant was a stranger, a well-dressed man with a lawyer's air, whom nobody knew. After the usual long pauses and passionate exhortations, the hammer fell, and the auctioneer, turning to the stranger, asked, "What name?"

"Jacob Flint!"

There was a general cry of surprise. All looked at Jacob, whose eyes and mouth showed that he was as dumbfoundered as the rest.

The stranger walked coolly through the midst of the crowd to Samuel Flint, and said, "When shall I have the papers drawn up?"

"As soon as you can," the old man replied; then seizing Jacob by the arm, with the words, "Let's go home now!" he hurried him on.

The explanation soon leaked out. Samuel Flint had not thrown away his wealth, but had put it out of his own hands. It was given privately to trustees, to be held for his son, and returned when the latter should have married with his father's consent. There was more than enough to buy the Whitney place.

Jacob and Susan are happy in their stately home, and good as they are happy. If any person in the neighborhood ever makes use of the phrase "Jacob Flint's Journey," he intends thereby to symbolize the good fortune which sometimes follows honesty, reticence, and shrewdness.



CAN A LIFE HIDE ITSELF?

I had been reading, as is my wont from time to time, one of the many volumes of "The New Pitaval," that singular record of human crime and human cunning, and also of the inevitable fatality which, in every case, leaves a gate open for detection. Were it not for the latter fact, indeed, one would turn with loathing from such endless chronicles of wickedness. Yet these may be safely contemplated, when one has discovered the incredible fatuity of crime, the certain weak mesh in a network of devilish texture; or is it rather the agency of a power outside of man, a subtile protecting principle, which allows the operation of the evil element only that the latter may finally betray itself? Whatever explanation we may choose, the fact is there, like a tonic medicine distilled from poisonous plants, to brace our faith in the ascendancy of Good in the government of the world.

Laying aside the book, I fell into a speculation concerning the mixture of the two elements in man's nature. The life of an individual is usually, it seemed to me, a series of RESULTS, the processes leading to which are not often visible, or observed when they are so. Each act is the precipitation of a number of mixed influences, more or less unconsciously felt; the qualities of good and evil are so blended therein that they defy the keenest moral analysis; and how shall we, then, pretend to judge of any one? Perhaps the surest indication of evil (I further reflected) is that it always tries to conceal itself, and the strongest incitement to good is that evil cannot be concealed. The crime, or the vice, or even the self-acknowledged weakness, becomes a part of the individual consciousness; it cannot be forgotten or outgrown. It follows a life through all experiences and to the uttermost ends of the earth, pressing towards the light with a terrible, demoniac power. There are noteless lives, of course—lives that accept obscurity, mechanically run their narrow round of circumstance, and are lost; but when a life endeavors to lose itself,—to hide some conscious guilt or failure,—can it succeed? Is it not thereby lifted above the level of common experience, compelling attention to itself by the very endeavor to escape it?

I turned these questions over in my mind, without approaching, or indeed expecting, any solution,—since I knew, from habit, the labyrinths into which they would certainly lead me,—when a visitor was announced. It was one of the directors of our county almshouse, who came on an errand to which he attached no great importance. I owed the visit, apparently, to the circumstance that my home lay in his way, and he could at once relieve his conscience of a very trifling pressure and his pocket of a small package, by calling upon me. His story was told in a few words; the package was placed upon my table, and I was again left to my meditations.

Two or three days before, a man who had the appearance of a "tramp" had been observed by the people of a small village in the neighborhood. He stopped and looked at the houses in a vacant way, walked back and forth once or twice as if uncertain which of the cross-roads to take, and presently went on without begging or even speaking to any one. Towards sunset a farmer, on his way to the village store, found him sitting at the roadside, his head resting against a fence-post. The man's face was so worn and exhausted that the farmer kindly stopped and addressed him; but he gave no other reply than a shake of the head.

The farmer thereupon lifted him into his light country-wagon, the man offering no resistance, and drove to the tavern, where, his exhaustion being so evident, a glass of whiskey was administered to him. He afterwards spoke a few words in German, which no one understood. At the almshouse, to which he was transported the same evening, he refused to answer the customary questions, although he appeared to understand them. The physician was obliged to use a slight degree of force in administering nourishment and medicine, but neither was of any avail. The man died within twenty-four hours after being received. His pockets were empty, but two small leathern wallets were found under his pillow; and these formed the package which the director left in my charge. They were full of papers in a foreign language, he said, and he supposed I might be able to ascertain the stranger's name and home from them.

I took up the wallets, which were worn and greasy from long service, opened them, and saw that they were filled with scraps, fragments, and folded pieces of paper, nearly every one of which had been carried for a long time loose in the pocket. Some were written in pen and ink, and some in pencil, but all were equally brown, worn, and unsavory in appearance. In turning them over, however, my eye was caught by some slips in the Russian character, and three or four notes in French; the rest were German. I laid aside "Pitaval" at once, emptied all the leathern pockets carefully, and set about examining the pile of material.

I first ran rapidly through the papers to ascertain the dead man's name, but it was nowhere to be found. There were half a dozen letters, written on sheets folded and addressed in the fashion which prevailed before envelopes were invented; but the name was cut out of the address in every case. There was an official permit to embark on board a Bremen steamer, mutilated in the same way; there was a card photograph, from which the face had been scratched by a penknife. There were Latin sentences; accounts of expenses; a list of New York addresses, covering eight pages; and a number of notes, written either in Warsaw or Breslau. A more incongruous collection I never saw, and I am sure that had it not been for the train of thought I was pursuing when the director called upon me, I should have returned the papers to him without troubling my head with any attempt to unravel the man's story.

The evidence, however, that he had endeavored to hide his life, had been revealed by my first superficial examination; and here, I reflected, was a singular opportunity to test both his degree of success and my own power of constructing a coherent history out of the detached fragments. Unpromising as is the matter, said I, let me see whether he can conceal his secret from even such unpractised eyes as mine.

I went through the papers again, read each one rapidly, and arranged them in separate files, according to the character of their contents. Then I rearranged these latter in the order of time, so far as it was indicated; and afterwards commenced the work of picking out and threading together whatever facts might be noted. The first thing I ascertained, or rather conjectured, was that the man's life might be divided into three very distinct phases, the first ending in Breslau, the second in Poland, and the third and final one in America. Thereupon I once again rearranged the material, and attacked that which related to the first phase.

It consisted of the following papers: Three letters, in a female hand, commencing "My dear brother," and terminating with "Thy loving sister, Elise;" part of a diploma from a gymnasium, or high school, certifying that [here the name was cut out] had successfully passed his examination, and was competent to teach,—and here again, whether by accident or design, the paper was torn off; a note, apparently to a jeweller, ordering a certain gold ring to be delivered to "Otto," and signed "B. V. H.;" a receipt from the package-post for a box forwarded to Warsaw, to the address of Count Ladislas Kasincsky; and finally a washing-list, at the bottom of which was written, in pencil, in a trembling hand: "May God protect thee! But do not stay away so very long."

In the second collection, relating to Poland, I found the following: Six orders in Russian and three in French, requesting somebody to send by "Jean" sums of money, varying from two to eight hundred rubles. These orders were in the same hand, and all signed "Y." A charming letter in French, addressed "cher ami," and declining, in the most delicate and tender way, an offer of marriage made to the sister of the writer, of whose signature only "Amelie de" remained, the family name having been torn off. A few memoranda of expenses, one of which was curious: "Dinner with Jean, 58 rubles;" and immediately after it: "Doctor, 10 rubles." There were, moreover, a leaf torn out of a journal, and half of a note which had been torn down the middle, both implicating "Jean" in some way with the fortunes of the dead man.

The papers belonging to the American phase, so far as they were to be identified by dates, or by some internal evidence, were fewer, but even more enigmatical in character. The principal one was a list of addresses in New York, divided into sections, the street boundaries of which were given. There were no names, but some of the addresses were marked +, and others?, and a few had been crossed out with a pencil. Then there were some leaves of a journal of diet and bodily symptoms, of a very singular character; three fragments of drafts of letters, in pencil, one of them commencing, "Dog and villain!" and a single note of "Began work, September 10th, 1865." This was about a year before his death.

The date of the diploma given by the gymnasium at Breslau was June 27, 1855, and the first date in Poland was May 3, 1861. Belonging to the time between these two periods there were only the order for the ring (1858), and a little memorandum in pencil, dated "Posen, Dec., 1859." The last date in Poland was March 18, 1863, and the permit to embark at Bremen was dated in October of that year. Here, at least, was a slight chronological framework. The physician who attended the county almshouse had estimated the man's age at thirty, which, supposing him to have been nineteen at the time of receiving the diploma, confirmed the dates to that extent.

I assumed, at the start, that the name which had been so carefully cut out of all the documents was the man's own. The "Elise" of the letters was therefore his sister. The first two letters related merely to "mother's health," and similar details, from which it was impossible to extract any thing, except that the sister was in some kind of service. The second letter closed with: "I have enough work to do, but I keep well. Forget thy disappointment so far as I am concerned, for I never expected any thing; I don't know why, but I never did."

Here was a disappointment, at least, to begin with. I made a note of it opposite the date, on my blank programme, and took up the next letter. It was written in November, 1861, and contained a passage which keenly excited my curiosity. It ran thus: "Do, pray, be more careful of thy money. It may be all as thou sayest, and inevitable, but I dare not mention the thing to mother, and five thalers is all I can spare out of my own wages. As for thy other request, I have granted it, as thou seest, but it makes me a little anxious. What is the joke? And how can it serve thee? That is what I do not understand, and I have plagued myself not a little to guess."

Among the Polish memoranda was this: "Sept. 1 to Dec. 1, 200 rubles," which I assumed to represent a salary. This would give him eight hundred a year, at least twelve times the amount which his sister—who must either have been cook or housekeeper, since she spoke of going to market for the family—could have received. His application to her for money, and the manner of her reference to it, indicated some imprudence or irregularity on his part. What the "other request" was, I could not guess; but as I was turning and twisting the worn leaf in some perplexity, I made a sudden discovery. One side of the bottom edge had been very slightly doubled over in folding, and as I smoothed it out, I noticed some diminutive letters in the crease. The paper had been worn nearly through, but I made out the words: "Write very soon, dear Otto!"

This was the name in the order for the gold ring, signed "B. V. H."—a link, indeed, but a fresh puzzle. Knowing the stubborn prejudices of caste in Germany, and above all in Eastern Prussia and Silesia, I should have been compelled to accept "Otto," whose sister was in service, as himself the servant of "B. V. H.," but for the tenderly respectful letter of "Amelie de——," declining the marriage offer for her sister. I re-read this letter very carefully, to determine whether it was really intended for "Otto." It ran thus:

"DEAR FRIEND,—I will not say that your letter was entirely unexpected, either to Helmine or myself. I should, perhaps, have less faith in the sincerity of your attachment if you had not already involuntarily betrayed it. When I say that although I detected the inclination of your heart some weeks ago, and that I also saw it was becoming evident to my sister, yet I refrained from mentioning the subject at all until she came to me last evening with your letter in her hand,—when I say this, you will understand that I have acted towards you with the respect and sympathy which I profoundly feel. Helmine fully shares this feeling, and her poor heart is too painfully moved to allow her to reply. Do I not say, in saying this, what her reply must be? But, though her heart cannot respond to your love, she hopes you will always believe her a friend to whom your proffered devotion was an honor, and will be—if you will subdue it to her deserts—a grateful thing to remember. We shall remain in Warsaw a fortnight longer, as I think yourself will agree that it is better we should not immediately return to the castle. Jean, who must carry a fresh order already, will bring you this, and we hope to have good news of Henri. I send back the papers, which were unnecessary; we never doubted you, and we shall of course keep your secret so long as you choose to wear it. "AMELIE DE——"

The more light I seemed to obtain, the more inexplicable the circumstances became. The diploma and the note of salary were grounds for supposing that "Otto" occupied the position of tutor in a noble Polish family. There was the receipt for a box addressed to Count Ladislas Kasincsky, and I temporarily added his family name to the writer of the French letter, assuming her to be his wife. "Jean" appeared to be a servant, and "Henri" I set down as the son whom Otto was instructing in the castle or family seat in the country, while the parents were in warsaw. Plausible, so far; but the letter was not such a one as a countess would have written to her son's tutor, under similar circumstances. It was addressed to a social equal, apparently to a man younger than herself, and for whom—supposing him to have been a tutor, secretary, or something of the kind—she must have felt a special sympathy. Her mention of "the papers" and "your secret" must refer to circumstances which would explain the mystery. "So long as you choose to WEAR it," she had written: then it was certainly a secret connected with his personal history.

Further, it appeared that "Jean" was sent to him with "an order." What could this be, but one of the nine orders for money which lay before my eyes? I examined the dates of the latter, and lo! there was one written upon the same day as the lady's letter. The sums drawn by these orders amounted in all to four thousand two hundred rubles. But how should a tutor or secretary be in possession of his employer's money? Still, this might be accounted for; it would imply great trust on the part of the latter, but no more than one man frequently reposes in another. Yet, if it were so, one of the memoranda confronted me with a conflicting fact: "Dinner with Jean, 58 rubles." The unusual amount—nearly fifty dollars—indicated an act of the most reckless dissipation, and in company with a servant, if "Jean," as I could scarcely doubt, acted in that character. I finally decided to assume both these conjectures as true, and apply them to the remaining testimony.

I first took up the leaf which had been torn out of a small journal or pocket note-book, as was manifested by the red edge on three sides. It was scribbled over with brief notes in pencil, written at different times. Many of them were merely mnemonic signs; but the recurrence of the letters J and Y seemed to point to transactions with "Jean," and the drawer of the various sums of money. The letter Y reminded me that I had been too hasty in giving the name of Kasincsky to the noble family; indeed, the name upon the post-office receipt might have no connection with the matter I was trying to investigate.

Suddenly I noticed a "Ky" among the mnemonic signs, and the suspicion flashed across my mind that Count Kasincsky had signed the order with the last letter of his family name! To assume this, however, suggested a secret reason for doing so; and I began to think that I had already secrets enough on hand.

The leaf was much rubbed and worn, and it was not without considerable trouble that I deciphered the following (omitting the unintelligible signs):

"Oct. 30 (Nov. 12)—talk with Y; 20—Jean. Consider.

"Nov. 15—with J—H—hope.

"Dec. 1—Told the C. No knowledge of S—therefore safe. Uncertain of—— C to Warsaw. Met J. as agreed. Further and further.

"Dec. 27—All for naught! All for naught!

"Jan. 19, '63—Sick. What is to be the end? Threats. No tidings of Y. Walked the streets all day. At night as usual.

"March 1—News. The C. and H. left yesterday. No more to hope. Let it come, then!"

These broken words warmed my imagination powerfully. Looking at them in the light of my conjecture, I was satisfied that "Otto" was involved in some crime, or dangerous secret, of which "Jean" was either the instigator or the accomplice. "Y.," or Count Kasincsky,—and I was more than ever inclined to connect the two,—-also had his mystery, which might, or might not, be identical with the first. By comparing dates, I found that the entry made December 27 was three days later than the date of the letter of "Amelie de——"; and the exclamation "All for naught!" certainly referred to the disappointment it contained. I now guessed the "H." in the second entry to mean "Helmine." The two last suggested a removal to Warsaw from the country. Here was a little more ground to stand on; but how should I ever get at the secret?

I took up the torn half of a note, which, after the first inspection, I had laid aside as a hopeless puzzle. A closer examination revealed several things which failed to impress me at the outset. It was written in a strong and rather awkward masculine hand; several words were underscored, two misspelled, and I felt—I scarcely knew why—that it was written in a spirit of mingled contempt and defiance. Let me give the fragment just as it lay before me:

"ARON!

It is quite time be done. Who knows is not his home by this CONCERN FOR THE that they are well off, sian officers are cide at once, my risau, or I must t TEN DAYS DELAY money can be divi- tier, and you may ever you please. untess goes, and she will know who you time, unless you carry friend or not decide, ann Helm."

Here, I felt sure, was the clue to much of the mystery. The first thing that struck me was the appearance of a new name. I looked at it again, ran through in my mind all possible German names, and found that it could only be "Johann,"—and in the same instant I recalled the frequent habit of the Prussian and Polish nobility of calling their German valets by French names. This, then, was "Jean!" The address was certainly "Baron," and why thrice underscored, unless in contemptuous satire? Light began to break upon the matter at last. "Otto" had been playing the part, perhaps assuming the name, of a nobleman, seduced to the deception by his passion for the Countess' sister, Helmine. This explained the reference to "the papers," and "the secret," and would account for the respectful and sympathetic tone of the Countess' letter. But behind this there was certainly another secret, in which "Y." (whoever he might be) was concerned, and which related to money. The close of the note, which I filled out to read, "Your friend or not, as you may decide," conveyed a threat, and, to judge from the halves of lines immediately preceding it, the threat referred to the money, as well as to the betrayal of an assumed character.

Here, just as the story began to appear in faint outline, my discoveries stopped for a while. I ascertained the breadth of the original note by a part of the middle-crease which remained, filled out the torn part with blank paper, completed the divided words in the same character of manuscript, and endeavored to guess the remainder, but no clairvoyant power of divination came to my aid. I turned over the letters again, remarking the neatness with which the addresses had been cut off, and wondering why the man had not destroyed the letters and other memoranda entirely, if he wished to hide a possible crime. The fact that they were not destroyed showed the hold which his past life had had upon him even to his dying hour. Weak and vain, as I had already suspected him to be,—wanting in all manly fibre, and of the very material which a keen, energetic villain would mould to his needs,—I felt that his love for his sister and for "Helmine," and other associations connected with his life in Germany and Poland, had made him cling to these worn records.

I know not what gave me the suspicion that he had not even found the heart to destroy the exscinded names; perhaps the care with which they had been removed; perhaps, in two instances, the circumstance of their taking words out of the body of the letters with them. But the suspicion came, and led to a re-examination of the leathern wallets. I could scarcely believe my eyes, when feeling something rustle faintly as I pressed the thin lining of an inner pocket, I drew forth three or four small pellets of paper, and unrolling them, found the lost addresses! I fitted them to the vacant places, and found that the first letters of the sister in Breslau had been forwarded to "Otto Lindenschmidt," while the letter to Poland was addressed "Otto von Herisau."

I warmed with this success, which exactly tallied with the previous discoveries, and returned again to the Polish memoranda The words "[Rus]sian officers" in "Jean's" note led me to notice that it had been written towards the close of the last insurrection in Poland—a circumstance which I immediately coupled with some things in the note and on the leaf of the journal. "No tidings of Y" might indicate that Count Kasincsky had been concerned in the rebellion, and had fled, or been taken prisoner. Had he left a large amount of funds in the hands of the supposed Otto von Herisau, which were drawn from time to time by orders, the form of which had been previously agreed upon? Then, when he had disappeared, might it not have been the remaining funds which Jean urged Otto to divide with him, while the latter, misled and entangled in deception rather than naturally dishonest, held back from such a step? I could hardly doubt so much, and it now required but a slight effort of the imagination to complete the torn note.

The next letter of the sister was addressed to Bremen. After having established so many particulars, I found it easily intelligible. "I have done what I can," she wrote. "I put it in this letter; it is all I have. But do not ask me for money again; mother is ailing most of the time, and I have not yet dared to tell her all. I shall suffer great anxiety until I hear that the vessel has sailed. My mistress is very good; she has given me an advance on my wages, or I could not have sent thee any thing. Mother thinks thou art still in Leipzig: why didst thou stay there so long? but no difference; thy money would have gone anyhow."

It was nevertheless singular that Otto should be without money, so soon after the appropriation of Count Kasincsky's funds. If the "20" in the first memorandum on the leaf meant "twenty thousand rubles," as I conjectured, and but four thousand two hundred were drawn by the Count previous to his flight or imprisonment, Otto's half of the remainder would amount to nearly eight thousand rubles; and it was, therefore, not easy to account for his delay in Leipzig, and his destitute condition.

Before examining the fragments relating to the American phase of his life,—which illustrated his previous history only by occasional revelations of his moods and feelings,—I made one more effort to guess the cause of his having assumed the name of "Von Herisau." The initials signed to the order for the ring ("B. V. H.") certainly stood for the same family name; and the possession of papers belonging to one of the family was an additional evidence that Otto had either been in the service of, or was related to, some Von Herisau. Perhaps a sentence in one of the sister's letters—"Forget thy disappointment so far as I am concerned, for I never expected any thing"—referred to something of the kind. On the whole, service seemed more likely than kinship; but in that case the papers must have been stolen.

I had endeavored, from the start, to keep my sympathies out of the investigation, lest they should lead me to misinterpret the broken evidence, and thus defeat my object. It must have been the Countess' letter, and the brief, almost stenographic, signs of anxiety and unhappiness on the leaf of the journal, that first beguiled me into a commiseration, which the simple devotion and self-sacrifice of the poor, toiling sister failed to neutralize. However, I detected the feeling at this stage of the examination, and turned to the American records, in order to get rid of it.

The principal paper was the list of addresses of which I have spoken. I looked over it in vain, to find some indication of its purpose; yet it had been carefully made out and much used. There was no name of a person upon it,—only numbers and streets, one hundred and thirty-eight in all. Finally, I took these, one by one, to ascertain if any of the houses were known to me, and found three, out of the whole number, to be the residences of persons whom I knew. One was a German gentleman, and the other two were Americans who had visited Germany. The riddle was read! During a former residence in New York, I had for a time been quite overrun by destitute Germans,—men, apparently, of some culture, who represented themselves as theological students, political refugees, or unfortunate clerks and secretaries,—soliciting assistance. I found that, when I gave to one, a dozen others came within the next fortnight; when I refused, the persecution ceased for about the same length of time. I became convinced, at last, that these persons were members of an organized society of beggars, and the result proved it; for when I made it an inviolable rule to give to no one who could not bring me an indorsement of his need by some person whom I knew, the annoyance ceased altogether.

The meaning of the list of addresses was now plain. My nascent commiseration for the man was not only checked, but I was in danger of changing my role from that of culprit's counsel to that of prosecuting attorney.

When I took up again the fragment of the first draught of a letter commencing, "Dog and villain!" and applied it to the words "Jean" or "Johann Helm," the few lines which could be deciphered became full of meaning. "Don't think," it began, "that I have forgotten you, or the trick you played me! If I was drunk or drugged the last night, I know how it happened, for all that. I left, but I shall go back. And if you make use of" (here some words were entirely obliterated).... "is true. He gave me the ring, and meant".... This was all I could make out. The other papers showed only scattered memoranda, of money, or appointments, or addresses, with the exception of the diary in pencil.

I read the letter attentively, and at first with very little idea of its meaning. Many of the words were abbreviated, and there were some arbitrary signs. It ran over a period of about four months, terminating six weeks before the man's death. He had been wandering about the country during this period, sleeping in woods and barns, and living principally upon milk. The condition of his pulse and other physical functions was scrupulously set down, with an occasional remark of "good" or "bad." The conclusion was at last forced upon me that he had been endeavoring to commit suicide by a slow course of starvation and exposure. Either as the cause or the result of this attempt, I read, in the final notes, signs of an aberration of mind. This also explained the singular demeanor of the man when found, and his refusal to take medicine or nourishment. He had selected a long way to accomplish his purpose, but had reached the end at last.

The confused material had now taken shape; the dead man, despite his will, had confessed to me his name and the chief events of his life. It now remained—looking at each event as the result of a long chain of causes—to deduce from them the elements of his individual character, and then fill up the inevitable gaps in the story from the probabilities of the operation of those elements. This was not so much a mere venture as the reader may suppose, because the two actions of the mind test each other. If they cannot, thus working towards a point and back again, actually discover what WAS, they may at least fix upon a very probable MIGHT HAVE BEEN.

A person accustomed to detective work would have obtained my little stock of facts with much less trouble, and would, almost instinctively, have filled the blanks as he went along. Being an apprentice in such matters, I had handled the materials awkwardly. I will not here retrace my own mental zigzags between character and act, but simply repeat the story as I finally settled and accepted it.

Otto Lindenschmidt was the child of poor parents in or near Breslau. His father died when he was young; his mother earned a scanty subsistence as a washerwoman; his sister went into service. Being a bright, handsome boy, he attracted the attention of a Baron von Herisau, an old, childless, eccentric gentleman, who took him first as page or attendant, intending to make him a superior valet de chambre. Gradually, however, the Baron fancied that he detected in the boy a capacity for better things; his condescending feeling of protection had grown into an attachment for the handsome, amiable, grateful young fellow, and he placed him in the gymnasium at Breslau, perhaps with the idea, now, of educating him to be an intelligent companion.

The boy and his humble relatives, dazzled by this opportunity, began secretly to consider the favor as almost equivalent to his adoption as a son. (The Baron had once been married, but his wife and only child had long been dead.) The old man, of course, came to look upon the growing intelligence of the youth as his own work: vanity and affection became inextricably blended in his heart, and when the cursus was over, he took him home as the companion of his lonely life. After two or three years, during which the young man was acquiring habits of idleness and indulgence, supposing his future secure, the Baron died,—perhaps too suddenly to make full provision for him, perhaps after having kept up the appearance of wealth on a life-annuity, but, in any case, leaving very little, if any, property to Otto. In his disappointment, the latter retained certain family papers which the Baron had intrusted to his keeping. The ring was a gift, and he wore it in remembrance of his benefactor.

Wandering about, Micawber-like, in hopes that something might turn up, he reached Posen, and there either met or heard of the Polish Count, Ladislas Kasincsky, who was seeking a tutor for his only son. His accomplishments, and perhaps, also, a certain aristocratic grace of manner unconsciously caught from the Baron von Herisau, speedily won for him the favor of the Count and Countess Kasincsky, and emboldened him to hope for the hand of the Countess' sister, Helmine ——, to whom he was no doubt sincerely attached. Here Johann Helm, or "Jean," a confidential servant of the Count, who looked upon the new tutor as a rival, yet adroitly flattered his vanity for the purpose of misleading and displacing him, appears upon the stage. "Jean" first detected Otto's passion; "Jean," at an epicurean dinner, wormed out of Otto the secret of the Herisau documents, and perhaps suggested the part which the latter afterwards played.

This "Jean" seemed to me to have been the evil agency in the miserable history which followed. After Helmine's rejection of Otto's suit, and the flight or captivity of Count Kasincsky, leaving a large sum of money in Otto's hands, it would be easy for "Jean," by mingled persuasions and threats, to move the latter to flight, after dividing the money still remaining in his hands. After the theft, and the partition, which took place beyond the Polish frontier, "Jean" in turn, stole his accomplice's share, together with the Von Herisau documents.

Exile and a year's experience of organized mendicancy did the rest.

Otto Lindenschmidt was one of those natures which possess no moral elasticity—which have neither the power nor the comprehension of atonement. The first real, unmitigated guilt—whether great or small—breaks them down hopelessly. He expected no chance of self-redemption, and he found none. His life in America was so utterly dark and hopeless that the brightest moment in it must have been that which showed him the approach of death.

My task was done. I had tracked this weak, vain, erring, hunted soul to its last refuge, and the knowledge bequeathed to me but a single duty. His sins were balanced by his temptations; his vanity and weakness had revenged themselves; and there only remained to tell the simple, faithful sister that her sacrifices were no longer required. I burned the evidences of guilt, despair and suicide, and sent the other papers, with a letter relating the time and circumstances of Otto Lindenschmidt's death, to the civil authorities of Breslau, requesting that they might be placed in the hands of his sister Elise.

This, I supposed, was the end of the history, so far as my connection with it was concerned. But one cannot track a secret with impunity; the fatality connected with the act and the actor clings even to the knowledge of the act. I had opened my door a little, in order to look out upon the life of another, but in doing so a ghost had entered in, and was not to be dislodged until I had done its service.

In the summer of 1867 I was in Germany, and during a brief journey of idlesse and enjoyment came to the lovely little watering-place of Liebenstein, on the southern slope of the Thuringian Forest. I had no expectation or even desire of making new acquaintances among the gay company who took their afternoon coffee under the noble linden trees on the terrace; but, within the first hour of my after-dinner leisure, I was greeted by an old friend, an author, from Coburg, and carried away, in my own despite, to a group of his associates. My friend and his friends had already been at the place a fortnight, and knew the very tint and texture of its gossip. While I sipped my coffee, I listened to them with one ear, and to Wagner's overture to "Lohengrin" with the other; and I should soon have been wholly occupied with the fine orchestra had I not been caught and startled by an unexpected name.

"Have you noticed," some one asked, "how much attention the Baron von Herisau is paying her?"

I whirled round and exclaimed, in a breath, "The Baron von Herisau!"

"Yes," said my friend; "do you know him?"

I was glad that three crashing, tremendous chords came from the orchestra just then, giving me time to collect myself before I replied: "I am not sure whether it is the same person: I knew a Baron von Herisau long ago: how old is the gentleman here?"

"About thirty-five, I should think," my friend answered.

"Ah, then it can't be the same person," said I: "still, if he should happen to pass near us, will you point him out to me?"

It was an hour later, and we were all hotly discussing the question of Lessing's obligations to English literature, when one of the gentlemen at the table said: "There goes the Baron von Herisau: is it perhaps your friend, sir?"

I turned and saw a tall man, with prominent nose, opaque black eyes, and black mustache, walking beside a pretty, insipid girl. Behind the pair went an elderly couple, overdressed and snobbish in appearance. A carriage, with servants in livery, waited in the open space below the terrace, and having received the two couples, whirled swiftly away towards Altenstein.

Had I been more of a philosopher I should have wasted no second thought on the Baron von Herisau. But the Nemesis of the knowledge which I had throttled poor Otto Lindenschmidt's ghost to obtain had come upon me at last, and there was no rest for me until I had discovered who and what was the Baron. The list of guests which the landlord gave me whetted my curiosity to a painful degree; for on it I found the entry: "Aug. 15.—Otto V. Herisau, Rentier, East Prussia."

It was quite dark when the carriage returned. I watched the company into the supper-room, and then, whisking in behind them, secured a place at the nearest table. I had an hour of quiet, stealthy observation before my Coburg friend discovered me, and by that time I was glad of his company and had need of his confidence. But, before making use of him in the second capacity, I desired to make the acquaintance of the adjoining partie carree. He had bowed to them familiarly in passing, and when the old gentleman said, "Will you not join us, Herr ——?" I answered my friend's interrogative glance with a decided affirmative, and we moved to the other table.

My seat was beside the Baron von Herisau, with whom I exchanged the usual commonplaces after an introduction. His manner was cold and taciturn, I thought, and there was something forced in the smile which accompanied his replies to the remarks of the coarse old lady, who continually referred to the "Herr Baron" as authority upon every possible subject. I noticed, however, that he cast a sudden, sharp glance at me, when I was presented to the company as an American.

The man's neighborhood disturbed me. I was obliged to let the conversation run in the channels already selected, and stupid enough I found them. I was considering whether I should not give a signal to my friend and withdraw, when the Baron stretched his hand across the table for a bottle of Affenthaler, and I caught sight of a massive gold ring on his middle finger. Instantly I remembered the ring which "B. V. H." had given to Otto Lindenschmidt, and I said to myself, "That is it!" The inference followed like lightning that it was "Johann Helm" who sat beside me, and not a Baron von Herisau!

That evening my friend and I had a long, absorbing conversation in my room. I told him the whole story, which came back vividly to memory, and learned, in return, that the reputed Baron was supposed to be wealthy, that the old gentleman was a Bremen merchant or banker, known to be rich, that neither was considered by those who had met them to be particularly intelligent or refined, and that the wooing of the daughter had already become so marked as to be a general subject of gossip. My friend was inclined to think my conjecture correct, and willingly co-operated with me in a plan to test the matter. We had no considerable sympathy with the snobbish parents, whose servility to a title was so apparent; but the daughter seemed to be an innocent and amiable creature, however silly, and we determined to spare her the shame of an open scandal.

If our scheme should seem a little melodramatic, it must not be forgotten that my friend was an author. The next morning, as the Baron came up the terrace after his visit to the spring, I stepped forward and greeted him politely, after which I said: "I see by the strangers' list that you are from East Prussia, Baron; have you ever been in Poland?" At that moment, a voice behind him called out rather sharply, "Jean!" The Baron started, turned round and then back to me, and all his art could not prevent the blood from rushing to his face. I made, as if by accident, a gesture with my hand, indicating success, and went a step further.

"Because," said I, "I am thinking of making a visit to Cracow and Warsaw, and should be glad of any information—"

"Certainly!" he interrupted me, "and I should be very glad to give it, if I had ever visited Poland."

"At least," I continued, "you can advise me upon one point; but excuse me, shall we not sit down a moment yonder? As my question relates to money, I should not wish to be overheard."

I pointed out a retired spot, just before reaching which we were joined by my friend, who suddenly stepped out from behind a clump of lilacs. The Baron and he saluted each other.

"Now," said I to the former, "I can ask your advice, Mr. Johann Helm!"

He was not an adept, after all. His astonishment and confusion were brief, to be sure, but they betrayed him so completely that his after-impulse to assume a haughty, offensive air only made us smile.

"If I had a message to you from Otto Lindenschmidt, what then?" I asked.

He turned pale, and presently stammered out, "He—he is dead!"

"Now," said my friend, "it is quite time to drop the mask before us. You see we know you, and we know your history. Not from Otto Lindenschmidt alone; Count Ladislas Kasincsky—"

"What! Has he come back from Siberia?" exclaimed Johann Helm. His face expressed abject terror; I think he would have fallen upon his knees before us if he had not somehow felt, by a rascal's instinct, that we had no personal wrongs to redress in unmasking him.

Our object, however, was to ascertain through him the complete facts of Otto Lindenschmidt's history, and then to banish him from Liebenstein. We allowed him to suppose for awhile that we were acting under the authority of persons concerned, in order to make the best possible use of his demoralized mood, for we knew it would not last long.

My guesses were very nearly correct. Otto Lindenschmidt had been educated by an old Baron, Bernhard von Herisau, on account of his resemblance in person to a dead son, whose name had also been Otto.

He could not have adopted the plebeian youth, at least to the extent of giving him an old and haughty name, but this the latter nevertheless expected, up to the time of the Baron's death. He had inherited a little property from his benefactor, but soon ran through it. "He was a light-headed fellow," said Johann Helm, "but he knew how to get the confidence of the old Junkers. If he hadn't been so cowardly and fidgety, he might have made himself a career."

The Polish episode differed so little from my interpretation that I need not repeat Helm's version. He denied having stolen Otto's share of the money, but could not help admitting his possession of the Von Herisau papers, among which were the certificates of birth and baptism of the old Baron's son, Otto. It seems that he had been fearful of Lindenschmidt's return from America, for he managed to communicate with his sister in Breslau, and in this way learned the former's death. Not until then had he dared to assume his present disguise.

We let him go, after exacting a solemn pledge that he would betake himself at once to Hamburg, and there ship for Australia. (I judged that America was already amply supplied with individuals of his class.) The sudden departure of the Baron von Herisau was a two days' wonder at Liebenstein; but besides ourselves, only the Bremen banker knew the secret. He also left, two days afterwards, with his wife and daughter—their cases, it was reported, requiring Kissingen.

Otto Lindenschmidt's life, therefore, could not hide itself. Can any life?



TWIN-LOVE.

When John Vincent, after waiting twelve years, married Phebe Etheridge, the whole neighborhood experienced that sense of relief and satisfaction which follows the triumph of the right. Not that the fact of a true love is ever generally recognized and respected when it is first discovered; for there is a perverse quality in American human nature which will not accept the existence of any fine, unselfish passion, until it has been tested and established beyond peradventure. There were two views of the case when John Vincent's love for Phebe, and old Reuben Etheridge's hard prohibition of the match, first became known to the community. The girls and boys, and some of the matrons, ranged themselves at once on the side of the lovers, but a large majority of the older men and a few of the younger supported the tyrannical father.

Reuben Etheridge was rich, and, in addition to what his daughter would naturally inherit from him, she already possessed more than her lover, at the time of their betrothal. This in the eyes of one class was a sufficient reason for the father's hostility. When low natures live (as they almost invariably do) wholly in the present, they neither take tenderness from the past nor warning from the possibilities of the future. It is the exceptional men and women who remember their youth. So, these lovers received a nearly equal amount of sympathy and condemnation; and only slowly, partly through their quiet fidelity and patience, and partly through the improvement in John Vincent's worldly circumstances, was the balance changed. Old Reuben remained an unflinching despot to the last: if any relenting softness touched his heart, he sternly concealed it; and such inference as could be drawn from the fact that he, certainly knowing what would follow his death, bequeathed his daughter her proper share of his goods, was all that could be taken for consent.

They were married: John, a grave man in middle age, weather-beaten and worn by years of hard work and self-denial, yet not beyond the restoration of a milder second youth; and Phebe a sad, weary woman, whose warmth of longing had been exhausted, from whom youth and its uncalculating surrenders of hope and feeling had gone forever. They began their wedded life under the shadow of the death out of which it grew; and when, after a ceremony in which neither bridesmaid nor groomsman stood by their side, they united their divided homes, it seemed to their neighbors that a separated husband and wife had come together again, not that the relation was new to either.

John Vincent loved his wife with the tenderness of an innocent man, but all his tenderness could not avail to lift the weight of settled melancholy which had gathered upon her. Disappointment, waiting, yearning, indulgence in long lament and self-pity, the morbid cultivation of unhappy fancies—all this had wrought its work upon her, and it was too late to effect a cure. In the night she awoke to weep at his side, because of the years when she had awakened to weep alone; by day she kept up her old habit of foreboding, although the evening steadily refuted the morning; and there were times when, without any apparent cause, she would fall into a dark, despairing mood which her husband's greatest care and cunning could only slowly dispel.

Two or three years passed, and new life came to the Vincent farm. One day, between midnight and dawn, the family pair was doubled; the cry of twin sons was heard in the hushed house. The father restrained his happy wonder in his concern for the imperilled life of the mother; he guessed that she had anticipated death, and she now hung by a thread so slight that her simple will might snap it. But her will, fortunately, was as faint as her consciousness; she gradually drifted out of danger, taking her returning strength with a passive acquiescence rather than with joy. She was hardly paler than her wont, but the lurking shadow seemed to have vanished from her eyes, and John Vincent felt that her features had assumed a new expression, the faintly perceptible stamp of some spiritual change.

It was a happy day for him when, propped against his breast and gently held by his warm, strong arm, the twin boys were first brought to be laid upon her lap. Two staring, dark-faced creatures, with restless fists and feet, they were alike in every least feature of their grotesque animality. Phebe placed a hand under the head of each, and looked at them for a long time in silence.

"Why is this?" she said, at last, taking hold of a narrow pink ribbon, which was tied around the wrist of one.

"He's the oldest, sure," the nurse answered. "Only by fifteen minutes or so, but it generally makes a difference when twins come to be named; and you may see with your own eyes that there's no telling of 'em apart otherways."

"Take off the ribbon, then," said Phebe quietly; "I know them."

"Why, ma'am, it's always done, where they're so like! And I'll never be able to tell which is which; for they sleep and wake and feed by the same clock. And you might mistake, after all, in giving 'em names—"

"There is no oldest or youngest, John; they are two and yet one: this is mine, and this is yours."

"I see no difference at all, Phebe," said John; "and how can we divide them?"

"We will not divide," she answered; "I only meant it as a sign."

She smiled, for the first time in many days. He was glad of heart, but did not understand her. "What shall we call them?" he asked. "Elias and Reuben, after our fathers?"

"No, John; their names must be David and Jonathan."

And so they were called. And they grew, not less, but more alike, in passing through the stages of babyhood. The ribbon of the older one had been removed, and the nurse would have been distracted, but for Phebe's almost miraculous instinct. The former comforted herself with the hope that teething would bring a variation to the two identical mouths; but no! they teethed as one child. John, after desperate attempts, which always failed in spite of the headaches they gave him, postponed the idea of distinguishing one from the other, until they should be old enough to develop some dissimilarity of speech, or gait, or habit. All trouble might have been avoided, had Phebe consented to the least variation in their dresses; but herein she was mildly immovable.

"Not yet," was her set reply to her husband; and one day, when he manifested a little annoyance at her persistence, she turned to him, holding a child on each knee, and said with a gravity which silenced him thenceforth: "John, can you not see that our burden has passed into them? Is there no meaning in this—that two children who are one in body and face and nature, should be given to us at our time of life, after such long disappointment and trouble? Our lives were held apart; theirs were united before they were born, and I dare not turn them in different directions. Perhaps I do not know all that the Lord intended to say to us, in sending them; but His hand is here!"

"I was only thinking of their good," John meekly answered. "If they are spared to grow up, there must be some way of knowing one from the other."

"THEY will not need it, and I, too, think only of them. They have taken the cross from my heart, and I will lay none on theirs. I am reconciled to my life through them, John; you have been very patient and good with me, and I will yield to you in all things but in this. I do not think I shall live to see them as men grown; yet, while we are together, I feel clearly what it is right to do. Can you not, just once, have a little faith without knowledge, John?"

"I'll try, Phebe," he said. "Any way, I'll grant that the boys belong to you more than to me."

Phebe Vincent's character had verily changed. Her attacks of semi-hysterical despondency never returned; her gloomy prophecies ceased. She was still grave, and the trouble of so many years never wholly vanished from her face; but she performed every duty of her life with at least a quiet willingness, and her home became the abode of peace; for passive content wears longer than demonstrative happiness.

David and Jonathan grew as one boy: the taste and temper of one was repeated in the other, even as the voice and features. Sleeping or waking, grieved or joyous, well or ill, they lived a single life, and it seemed so natural for one to answer to the other's name, that they probably would have themselves confused their own identities, but for their mother's unerring knowledge. Perhaps unconsciously guided by her, perhaps through the voluntary action of their own natures, each quietly took the other's place when called upon, even to the sharing of praise or blame at school, the friendships and quarrels of the playground. They were healthy and happy lads, and John Vincent was accustomed to say to his neighbors, "They're no more trouble than one would be; and yet they're four hands instead of two."

Phebe died when they were fourteen, saying to them, with almost her latest breath, "Be one, always!" Before her husband could decide whether to change her plan of domestic education, they were passing out of boyhood, changing in voice, stature, and character with a continued likeness which bewildered and almost terrified him. He procured garments of different colors, but they were accustomed to wear each article in common, and the result was only a mixture of tints for both. They were sent to different schools, to be returned the next day, equally pale, suffering, and incapable of study. Whatever device was employed, they evaded it by a mutual instinct which rendered all external measures unavailing. To John Vincent's mind their resemblance was an accidental misfortune, which had been confirmed through their mother's fancy. He felt that they were bound by some deep, mysterious tie, which, inasmuch as it might interfere with all practical aspects of life, ought to be gradually weakened. Two bodies, to him, implied two distinct men, and it was wrong to permit a mutual dependence which prevented either from exercising his own separate will and judgment.

But, while he was planning and pondering, the boys became young men, and he was an old man. Old, and prematurely broken; for he had worked much, borne much, and his large frame held only a moderate measure of vital force. A great weariness fell upon him, and his powers began to give way, at first slowly, but then with accelerated failure. He saw the end coming, long before his sons suspected it; his doubt, for their sakes, was the only thing which made it unwelcome. It was "upon his mind" (as his Quaker neighbors would say) to speak to them of the future, and at last the proper moment came.

It was a stormy November evening. Wind and rain whirled and drove among the trees outside, but the sitting-room of the old farm-house was bright and warm. David and Jonathan, at the table, with their arms over each other's backs and their brown locks mixed together, read from the same book: their father sat in the ancient rocking-chair before the fire, with his feet upon a stool. The housekeeper and hired man had gone to bed, and all was still in the house.

John waited until he heard the volume closed, and then spoke.

"Boys," he said, "let me have a bit of talk with you. I don't seem to get over my ailments rightly,—never will, maybe. A man must think of things while there's time, and say them when they HAVE to be said. I don't know as there's any particular hurry in my case; only, we never can tell, from one day to another. When I die, every thing will belong to you two, share and share alike, either to buy another farm with the money out, or divide this: I won't tie you up in any way. But two of you will need two farms for two families; for you won't have to wait twelve years, like your mother and me."

"We don't want another farm, father!" said David and Jonathan together.

"I know you don't think so, now. A wife seemed far enough off from me when I was your age. You've always been satisfied to be with each other, but that can't last. It was partly your mother's notion; I remember her saying that our burden had passed into you. I never quite understood what she meant, but I suppose it must rather be the opposite of what WE had to bear."

The twins listened with breathless attention while their father, suddenly stirred by the past, told them the story of his long betrothal.

"And now," he exclaimed, in conclusion, "it may be putting wild ideas into your two heads, but I must say it! THAT was where I did wrong—wrong to her and to me,—in waiting! I had no right to spoil the best of our lives; I ought to have gone boldly, in broad day, to her father's house, taken her by the hand, and led her forth to be my wife. Boys, if either of you comes to love a woman truly, and she to love you, and there is no reason why God (I don't say man) should put you asunder, do as I ought to have done, not as I did! And, maybe, this advice is the best legacy I can leave you."

"But, father," said David, speaking for both, "we have never thought of marrying."

"Likely enough," their father answered; "we hardly ever think of what surely comes. But to me, looking back, it's plain. And this is the reason why I want you to make me a promise, and as solemn as if I was on my death-bed. Maybe I shall be, soon."

Tears gathered in the eyes of the twins. "What is it, father?" they both said.

"Nothing at all to any other two boys, but I don't know how YOU'll take it. What if I was to ask you to live apart for a while?"

"Oh father!" both cried. They leaned together, cheek pressing cheek, and hand clasping hand, growing white and trembling. John Vincent, gazing into the fire, did not see their faces, or his purpose might have been shaken.

"I don't say NOW," he went on. "After a while, when—well, when I'm dead. And I only mean a beginning, to help you toward what HAS to be. Only a month; I don't want to seem hard to you; but that's little, in all conscience. Give me your word: say, 'For mother's sake!'"

There was a long pause. Then David and Jonathan said, in low, faltering voices, "For mother's sake, I promise."

"Remember that you were only boys to her. She might have made all this seem easier, for women have reasons for things no man can answer. Mind, within a year after I'm gone!"

He rose and tottered out of the room.

The twins looked at each other: David said, "Must we?" and Jonathan, "How can we?" Then they both thought, "It may be a long while yet." Here was a present comfort, and each seemed to hold it firmly in holding the hand of the other, as they fell asleep side by side.

The trial was nearer than they imagined. Their father died before the winter was over; the farm and other property was theirs, and they might have allowed life to solve its mysteries as it rolled onwards, but for their promise to the dead. This must be fulfilled, and then—one thing was certain; they would never again separate.

"The sooner the better," said David. "It shall be the visit to our uncle and cousins in Indiana. You will come with me as far as Harrisburg; it may be easier to part there than here. And our new neighbors, the Bradleys, will want your help for a day or two, after getting home."

"It is less than death," Jonathan answered, "and why should it seem to be more? We must think of father and mother, and all those twelve years; now I know what the burden was."

"And we have never really borne any part of it! Father must have been right in forcing us to promise."

Every day the discussion was resumed, and always with the same termination. Familiarity with the inevitable step gave them increase of courage; yet, when the moment had come and gone, when, speeding on opposite trains, the hills and valleys multiplied between them with terrible velocity, a pang like death cut to the heart of each, and the divided life became a chill, oppressive dream.

During the separation no letters passed between them. When the neighbors asked Jonathan for news of his brother, he always replied, "He is well," and avoided further speech with such evidence of pain that they spared him. An hour before the month drew to an end, he walked forth alone, taking the road to the nearest railway station. A stranger who passed him at the entrance of a thick wood, three miles from home, was thunderstruck on meeting the same person shortly after, entering the wood from the other side; but the farmers in the near fields saw two figures issuing from the shade, hand in hand.

Each knew the other's month, before they slept, and the last thing Jonathan said, with his head on David's shoulder, was, "You must know our neighbors, the Bradleys, and especially Ruth." In the morning, as they dressed, taking each other's garments at random, as of old, Jonathan again said, "I have never seen a girl that I like so well as Ruth Bradley. Do you remember what father said about loving and marrying? It comes into my mind whenever I see Ruth; but she has no sister."

"But we need not both marry," David replied, "that might part us, and this will not. It is for always now."

"For always, David."

Two or three days later Jonathan said, as he started on an errand to the village: "I shall stop at the Bradleys this evening, so you must walk across and meet me there."

When David approached the house, a slender, girlish figure, with her back towards him, was stooping over a bush of great crimson roses, cautiously clipping a blossom here and there. At the click of the gate-latch she started and turned towards him. Her light gingham bonnet, falling back, disclosed a long oval face, fair and delicate, sweet brown eyes, and brown hair laid smoothly over the temples. A soft flush rose suddenly to her cheeks, and he felt that his own were burning.

"Oh Jonathan!" she exclaimed, transferring the roses to her left hand, and extending her right, as she came forward.

He was too accustomed to the name to recognize her mistake at once, and the word "Ruth!" came naturally to his lips.

"I should know your brother David has come," she then said; "even if I had not heard so. You look so bright. How glad I am!"

"Is he not here?" David asked.

"No; but there he is now, surely!" She turned towards the lane, where Jonathan was dismounting. "Why, it is yourself over again, Jonathan!"

As they approached, a glance passed between the twins, and a secret transfer of the riding-whip to David set their identity right with Ruth, whose manner toward the latter innocently became shy with all its friendliness, while her frank, familiar speech was given to Jonathan, as was fitting. But David also took the latter to himself, and when they left, Ruth had apparently forgotten that there was any difference in the length of their acquaintance.

On their way homewards David said: "Father was right. We must marry, like others, and Ruth is the wife for us,—I mean for you, Jonathan. Yes, we must learn to say MINE and YOURS, after all, when we speak of her."

"Even she cannot separate us, it seems," Jonathan answered. "We must give her some sign, and that will also be a sign for others. It will seem strange to divide ourselves; we can never learn it properly; rather let us not think of marriage."

"We cannot help thinking of it; she stands in mother's place now, as we in father's."

Then both became silent and thoughtful. They felt that something threatened to disturb what seemed to be the only possible life for them, yet were unable to distinguish its features, and therefore powerless to resist it. The same instinct which had been born of their wonderful spiritual likeness told them that Ruth Bradley already loved Jonathan: the duty was established, and they must conform their lives to it. There was, however, this slight difference between their natures—that David was generally the first to utter the thought which came to the minds of both. So when he said, "We shall learn what to do when the need comes," it was a postponement of all foreboding. They drifted contentedly towards the coming change.

The days went by, and their visits to Ruth Bradley were continued. Sometimes Jonathan went alone, but they were usually together, and the tie which united the three became dearer and sweeter as it was more closely drawn. Ruth learned to distinguish between the two when they were before her: at least she said so, and they were willing to believe it. But she was hardly aware how nearly alike was the happy warmth in her bosom produced by either pair of dark gray eyes and the soft half-smile which played around either mouth. To them she seemed to be drawn within the mystic circle which separated them from others—she, alone; and they no longer imagined a life in which she should not share.

Then the inevitable step was taken. Jonathan declared his love, and was answered. Alas! he almost forgot David that late summer evening, as they sat in the moonlight, and over and over again assured each other how dear they had grown. He felt the trouble in David's heart when they met.

"Ruth is ours, and I bring her kiss to you," he said, pressing his lips to David's; but the arms flung around him trembled, and David whispered, "Now the change begins."

"Oh, this cannot be our burden!" Jonathan cried, with all the rapture still warm in his heart.

"If it is, it will be light, or heavy, or none at all, as we shall bear it," David answered, with a smile of infinite tenderness.

For several days he allowed Jonathan to visit the Bradley farm alone, saying that it must be so on Ruth's account. Her love, he declared, must give her the fine instinct which only their mother had ever possessed, and he must allow it time to be confirmed. Jonathan, however, insisted that Ruth already possessed it; that she was beginning to wonder at his absence, and to fear that she would not be entirely welcome to the home which must always be equally his.

David yielded at once.

"You must go alone," said Jonathan, "to satisfy yourself that she knows us at last."

Ruth came forth from the house as he drew near. Her face beamed; she laid her hands upon his shoulders and kissed him. "Now you cannot doubt me, Ruth!" he said, gently.

"Doubt you, Jonathan!" she exclaimed with a fond reproach in her eyes. "But you look troubled; is any thing the matter?"

"I was thinking of my brother," said David, in a low tone.

"Tell me what it is," she said, drawing him into the little arbor of woodbine near the gate. They took seats side by side on the rustic bench. "He thinks I may come between you: is it not that?" she asked. Only one thing was clear to David's mind—that she would surely speak more frankly and freely of him to the supposed Jonathan than to his real self. This once he would permit the illusion.

"Not more than must be," he answered. "He knew all from the very beginning. But we have been like one person in two bodies, and any change seems to divide us."

"I feel as you do," said Ruth. "I would never consent to be your wife, if I could really divide you. I love you both too well for that."

"Do you love me?" he asked, entirely forgetting his representative part.

Again the reproachful look, which faded away as she met his eyes. She fell upon his breast, and gave him kisses which were answered with equal tenderness. Suddenly he covered his face with his hands, and burst into a passion of tears.

"Jonathan! Oh Jonathan!" she cried, weeping with alarm and sympathetic pain.

It was long before he could speak; but at last, turning away his head, he faltered, "I am David!"

There was a long silence.

When he looked up she was sitting with her hands rigidly clasped in her lap: her face was very pale.

"There it is, Ruth," he said; "we are one heart and one soul. Could he love, and not I? You cannot decide between us, for one is the other. If I had known you first, Jonathan would be now in my place. What follows, then?"

"No marriage," she whispered.

"No!" he answered; "we brothers must learn to be two men instead of one. You will partly take my place with Jonathan; I must live with half my life, unless I can find, somewhere in the world, your other half."

"I cannot part you, David!"

"Something stronger than you or me parts us, Ruth. If it were death, we should bow to God's will: well, it can no more be got away from than death or judgment. Say no more: the pattern of all this was drawn long before we were born, and we cannot do any thing but work it out."

He rose and stood before her. "Remember this, Ruth," he said; "it is no blame in us to love each other. Jonathan will see the truth in my face when we meet, and I speak for him also. You will not see me again until your wedding-day, and then no more afterwards—but, yes! ONCE, in some far-off time, when you shall know me to be David, and still give me the kiss you gave to-day."

"Ah, after death!" she thought: "I have parted them forever." She was about to rise, but fell upon the seat again, fainting. At the same moment Jonathan appeared at David's side.

No word was said. They bore her forth and supported her between them until the fresh breeze had restored her to consciousness. Her first glance rested on the brother's hands, clasping; then, looking from one to the other, she saw that the cheeks of both were wet.

"Now, leave me," she said, "but come to-morrow, Jonathan!" Even then she turned from one to the other, with a painful, touching uncertainty, and stretched out both hands to them in farewell.

How that poor twin heart struggled with itself is only known to God. All human voices, and as they believed, also the Divine Voice, commanded the division of their interwoven life. Submission would have seemed easier, could they have taken up equal and similar burdens; but David was unable to deny that his pack was overweighted. For the first time, their thoughts began to diverge.

At last David said: "For mother's sake, Jonathan, as we promised. She always called you HER child. And for Ruth's sake, and father's last advice: they all tell me what I must do."

It was like the struggle between will and desire, in the same nature, and none the less fierce or prolonged because the softer quality foresaw its ultimate surrender. Long after he felt the step to be inevitable, Jonathan sought to postpone it, but he was borne by all combined influences nearer and nearer to the time.

And now the wedding-day came. David was to leave home the same evening, after the family dinner under his father's roof. In the morning he said to Jonathan: "I shall not write until I feel that I have become other than now, but I shall always be here, in you, as you will be in me, everywhere. Whenever you want me, I shall know it; and I think I shall know when to return."

The hearts of all the people went out towards them as they stood together in the little village church. Both were calm, but very pale and abstracted in their expression, yet their marvellous likeness was still unchanged. Ruth's eyes were cast down so they could not be seen; she trembled visibly, and her voice was scarcely audible when she spoke the vow. It was only known in the neighborhood that David was going to make another journey. The truth could hardly have been guessed by persons whose ideas follow the narrow round of their own experiences; had it been, there would probably have been more condemnation than sympathy. But in a vague way the presence of some deeper element was felt—the falling of a shadow, although the outstretched wing was unseen. Far above them, and above the shadow, watched the Infinite Pity, which was not denied to three hearts that day.

It was a long time, more than a year, and Ruth was lulling her first child on her bosom, before a letter came from David. He had wandered westwards, purchased some lands on the outer line of settlement, and appeared to be leading a wild and lonely life. "I know now," he wrote, "just how much there is to bear, and how to bear it. Strange men come between us, but you are not far off when I am alone on these plains. There is a place where I can always meet you, and I know that you have found it,—under the big ash-tree by the barn. I think I am nearly always there about sundown, and on moonshiny nights, because we are then nearest together; and I never sleep without leaving you half my blanket. When I first begin to wake I always feel your breath, so we are never really parted for long. I do not know that I can change much; it is not easy; it is like making up your mind to have different colored eyes and hair, and I can only get sunburnt and wear a full beard. But we are hardly as unhappy as we feared to be; mother came the other night, in a dream, and took us on her knees. Oh, come to me, Jonathan, but for one day! No, you will not find me; I am going across the Plains!"

And Jonathan and Ruth? They loved each other tenderly; no external trouble visited them; their home was peaceful and pure; and yet, every room and stairway and chair was haunted by a sorrowful ghost. As a neighbor said after visiting them, "There seemed to be something lost." Ruth saw how constantly and how unconsciously Jonathan turned to see his own every feeling reflected in the missing eyes; how his hand sought another, even while its fellow pressed hers; how half-spoken words, day and night, died upon his lips, because they could not reach the twin-ear. She knew not how it came, but her own nature took upon itself the same habit. She felt that she received a less measure of love than she gave—not from Jonathan, in whose whole, warm, transparent heart no other woman had ever looked, but something of her own passed beyond him and never returned. To both their life was like one of those conjurer's cups, seemingly filled with red wine, which is held from the lips by the false crystal hollow.

Neither spoke of this: neither dared to speak. The years dragged out their slow length, with rare and brief messages from David. Three children were in the house, and still peace and plenty laid their signs upon its lintels. But at last Ruth, who had been growing thinner and paler ever since the birth of her first boy, became seriously ill. Consumption was hers by inheritance, and it now manifested itself in a form which too surely foretold the result. After the physician had gone, leaving his fatal verdict behind him, she called to Jonathan, who, bewildered by his grief, sank down on his knees at her bedside and sobbed upon her breast.

"Don't grieve," she said; "this is my share of the burden. If I have taken too much from you and David, now comes the atonement. Many things have grown clear to me. David was right when he said that there was no blame. But my time is even less than the doctor thinks: where is David? Can you not bid him come?"

"I can only call him with my heart," he answered. "And will he hear me now, after nearly seven years?"

"Call, then!" she eagerly cried. "Call with all the strength of your love for him and for me, and I believe he will hear you!"

The sun was just setting. Jonathan went to the great ash-tree, behind the barn, fell upon his knees, and covered his face, and the sense of an exceeding bitter cry filled his heart. All the suppressed and baffled longing, the want, the hunger, the unremitting pain of years, came upon him and were crowded into the single prayer, "Come, David, or I die!" Before the twilight faded, while he was still kneeling, an arm came upon his shoulder, and the faint touch of another cheek upon his own. It was hardly for the space of a thought, but he knew the sign.

"David will come!" he said to Ruth.

From that day all was changed. The cloud of coming death which hung over the house was transmuted into fleecy gold. All the lost life came back to Jonathan's face, all the unrestful sweetness of Ruth's brightened into a serene beatitude. Months had passed since David had been heard from; they knew not how to reach him without many delays; yet neither dreamed of doubting his coming.

Two weeks passed, three, and there was neither word nor sign. Jonathan and Ruth thought, "He is near," and one day a singular unrest fell upon the former. Ruth saw it, but said nothing until night came, when she sent Jonathan from her bedside with the words, "Go and meet him?"

An hour afterwards she heard double steps on the stone walk in front of the house. They came slowly to the door; it opened; she heard them along the hall and ascending the stairs; then the chamber-lamp showed her the two faces, bright with a single, unutterable joy.

One brother paused at the foot of the bed; the other drew near and bent over her. She clasped her thin hands around his neck, kissed him fondly, and cried, "Dear, dear David!"

"Dear Ruth," he said, "I came as soon as I could. I was far away, among wild mountains, when I felt that Jonathan was calling me. I knew that I must return, never to leave you more, and there was still a little work to finish. Now we shall all live again!"

"Yes," said Jonathan, coming to her other side, "try to live, Ruth!"

Her voice came clear, strong, and full of authority. "I DO live, as never before. I shall take all my life with me when I go to wait for one soul, as I shall find it there! Our love unites, not divides, from this hour!"

The few weeks still left to her were a season of almost superhuman peace. She faded slowly and painlessly, taking the equal love of the twin-hearts, and giving an equal tenderness and gratitude. Then first she saw the mysterious need which united them, the fulness and joy wherewith each completed himself in the other. All the imperfect past was enlightened, and the end, even that now so near, was very good.

Every afternoon they carried her down to a cushioned chair on the veranda, where she could enjoy the quiet of the sunny landscape, the presence of the brothers seated at her feet, and the sports of her children on the grass. Thus, one day, while David and Jonathan held her hands and waited for her to wake from a happy sleep, she went before them, and, ere they guessed the truth, she was waiting for their one soul in the undiscovered land.

And Jonathan's children, now growing into manhood and girlhood, also call David "father." The marks left by their divided lives have long since vanished from their faces; the middle-aged men, whose hairs are turning gray, still walk hand in hand, still sleep upon the same pillow, still have their common wardrobe, as when they were boys. They talk of "our Ruth" with no sadness, for they believe that death will make them one, when, at the same moment, he summons both. And we who know them, to whom they have confided the touching mystery of their nature, believe so too.



THE EXPERIENCES OF THE A. C.

"Bridgeport! Change cars for the Naugatuck Railroad!" shouted the conductor of the New York and Boston Express Train, on the evening of May 27th, 1858. Indeed, he does it every night (Sundays excepted), for that matter; but as this story refers especially to Mr. J. Edward Johnson, who was a passenger on that train, on the aforesaid evening, I make special mention of the fact. Mr. Johnson, carpet-bag in hand, jumped upon the platform, entered the office, purchased a ticket for Waterbury, and was soon whirling in the Naugatuck train towards his destination.

On reaching Waterbury, in the soft spring twilight, Mr. Johnson walked up and down in front of the station, curiously scanning the faces of the assembled crowd. Presently he noticed a gentleman who was performing the same operation upon the faces of the alighting passengers. Throwing himself directly in the way of the latter, the two exchanged a steady gaze.

"Is your name Billings?" "Is your name Johnson?" were simultaneous questions, followed by the simultaneous exclamations—"Ned!" "Enos!"

Then there was a crushing grasp of hands, repeated after a pause, in testimony of ancient friendship, and Mr. Billings, returning to practical life, asked—

"Is that all your baggage? Come, I have a buggy here: Eunice has heard the whistle, and she'll be impatient to welcome you."

The impatience of Eunice (Mrs. Billings, of course,) was not of long duration, for in five minutes thereafter she stood at the door of her husband's chocolate-colored villa, receiving his friend.

While these three persons are comfortably seated at the tea-table, enjoying their waffles, cold tongue, and canned peaches, and asking and answering questions helter-skelter in the delightful confusion of reunion after long separation, let us briefly inform the reader who and what they are.

Mr. Enos Billings, then, was part owner of a manufactory of metal buttons, forty years old, of middling height, ordinarily quiet and rather shy, but with a large share of latent warmth and enthusiasm in his nature. His hair was brown, slightly streaked with gray, his eyes a soft, dark hazel, forehead square, eyebrows straight, nose of no very marked character, and a mouth moderately full, with a tendency to twitch a little at the corners. His voice was undertoned, but mellow and agreeable.

Mrs. Eunice Billings, of nearly equal age, was a good specimen of the wide-awake New-England woman. Her face had a piquant smartness of expression, which might have been refined into a sharp edge, but for her natural hearty good-humor. Her head was smoothly formed, her face a full oval, her hair and eyes blond and blue in a strong light, but brown and steel-gray at other times, and her complexion of that ripe fairness into which a ruddier color will sometimes fade. Her form, neither plump nor square, had yet a firm, elastic compactness, and her slightest movement conveyed a certain impression of decision and self-reliance.

As for J. Edward Johnson, it is enough to say that he was a tall, thin gentleman of forty-five, with an aquiline nose, narrow face, and military whiskers, which swooped upwards and met under his nose in a glossy black mustache. His complexion was dark, from the bronzing of fifteen summers in New Orleans. He was a member of a wholesale hardware firm in that city, and had now revisited his native North for the first time since his departure. A year before, some letters relating to invoices of metal buttons signed, "Foster, Kirkup, & Co., per Enos Billings," had accidentally revealed to him the whereabouts of the old friend of his youth, with whom we now find him domiciled. The first thing he did, after attending to some necessary business matters in New York, was to take the train for Waterbury.

"Enos," said he, as he stretched out his hand for the third cup of tea (which he had taken only for the purpose of prolonging the pleasant table-chat), "I wonder which of us is most changed."

"You, of course," said Mr. Billings, "with your brown face and big mustache. Your own brother wouldn't have known you if he had seen you last, as I did, with smooth cheeks and hair of unmerciful length. Why, not even your voice is the same!"

"That is easily accounted for," replied Mr. Johnson. "But in your case, Enos, I am puzzled to find where the difference lies. Your features seem to be but little changed, now that I can examine them at leisure; yet it is not the same face. But, really, I never looked at you for so long a time, in those days. I beg pardon; you used to be so—so remarkably shy."

Mr. Billings blushed slightly, and seemed at a loss what to answer.

His wife, however, burst into a merry laugh, exclaiming—

"Oh, that was before the days of the A. C!"

He, catching the infection, laughed also; in fact Mr. Johnson laughed, but without knowing why.

"The 'A. C.'!" said Mr. Billings. "Bless me, Eunice! how long it is since we have talked of that summer! I had almost forgotten that there ever was an A. C."

"Enos, COULD you ever forget Abel Mallory and the beer?—or that scene between Hollins and Shelldrake?—or" (here SHE blushed the least bit) "your own fit of candor?" And she laughed again, more heartily than ever.

"What a precious lot of fools, to be sure!" exclaimed her husband.

Mr. Johnson, meanwhile, though enjoying the cheerful humor of his hosts, was not a little puzzled with regard to its cause.

"What is the A. C.?" he ventured to ask.

Mr. and Mrs. Billings looked at each other, and smiled without replying.

"Really, Ned," said the former, finally, "the answer to your question involves the whole story."

"Then why not tell him the whole story, Enos?" remarked his wife.

"You know I've never told it yet, and it's rather a hard thing to do, seeing that I'm one of the heroes of the farce—for it wasn't even genteel comedy, Ned," said Mr. Billings. "However," he continued, "absurd as the story may seem, it's the only key to the change in my life, and I must run the risk of being laughed at."

"I'll help you through, Enos," said his wife, encouragingly; "and besides, my role in the farce was no better than yours. Let us resuscitate, for to-night only, the constitution of the A. C."

"Upon my word, a capital idea! But we shall have to initiate Ned."

Mr. Johnson merrily agreeing, he was blindfolded and conducted into another room. A heavy arm-chair, rolling on casters, struck his legs in the rear, and he sank into it with lamb-like resignation.

"Open your mouth!" was the command, given with mock solemnity.

He obeyed.

"Now shut it!"

And his lips closed upon a cigar, while at the same time the handkerchief was whisked away from his eyes. He found himself in Mr. Billing's library.

"Your nose betrays your taste, Mr. Johnson," said the lady, "and I am not hard-hearted enough to deprive you of the indulgence. Here are matches."

"Well," said he, acting upon the hint, "if the remainder of the ceremonies are equally agreeable, I should like to be a permanent member of your order."

By this time Mr. and Mrs. Billings, having between them lighted the lamp, stirred up the coal in the grate, closed the doors, and taken possession of comfortable chairs, the latter proclaimed—

"The Chapter (isn't that what you call it?) will now be held!"

"Was it in '43 when you left home, Ned?" asked Mr. B.

"Yes."

"Well, the A. C. culminated in '45. You remember something of the society of Norridgeport, the last winter you were there? Abel Mallory, for instance?"

"Let me think a moment," said Mr. Johnson reflectively. "Really, it seems like looking back a hundred years. Mallory—wasn't that the sentimental young man, with wispy hair, a tallowy skin, and big, sweaty hands, who used to be spouting Carlyle on the 'reading evenings' at Shelldrake's? Yes, to be sure; and there was Hollins, with his clerical face and infidel talk,—and Pauline Ringtop, who used to say, 'The Beautiful is the Good.' I can still hear her shrill voice, singing, 'Would that I were beautiful, would that I were fair!'"

There was a hearty chorus of laughter at poor Miss Ringtop's expense. It harmed no one, however; for the tar-weed was already thick over her Californian grave.

"Oh, I see," said Mr. Billings, "you still remember the absurdities of those days. In fact, I think you partially saw through them then. But I was younger, and far from being so clear-headed, and I looked upon those evenings at Shelldrake's as being equal, at least, to the symposia of Plato. Something in Mallory always repelled me. I detested the sight of his thick nose, with the flaring nostrils, and his coarse, half-formed lips, of the bluish color of raw corned-beef. But I looked upon these feelings as unreasonable prejudices, and strove to conquer them, seeing the admiration which he received from others. He was an oracle on the subject of 'Nature.' Having eaten nothing for two years, except Graham bread, vegetables without salt, and fruits, fresh or dried, he considered himself to have attained an antediluvian purity of health—or that he would attain it, so soon as two pimples on his left temple should have healed. These pimples he looked upon as the last feeble stand made by the pernicious juices left from the meat he had formerly eaten and the coffee he had drunk. His theory was, that through a body so purged and purified none but true and natural impulses could find access to the soul. Such, indeed, was the theory we all held. A Return to Nature was the near Millennium, the dawn of which we already beheld in the sky. To be sure there was a difference in our individual views as to how this should be achieved, but we were all agreed as to what the result should be.

"I can laugh over those days now, Ned; but they were really happy while they lasted. We were the salt of the earth; we were lifted above those grovelling instincts which we saw manifested in the lives of others. Each contributed his share of gas to inflate the painted balloon to which we all clung, in the expectation that it would presently soar with us to the stars. But it only went up over the out-houses, dodged backwards and forwards two or three times, and finally flopped down with us into a swamp."

"And that balloon was the A. C.?" suggested Mr. Johnson.

"As President of this Chapter, I prohibit questions," said Eunice. "And, Enos, don't send up your balloon until the proper time. Don't anticipate the programme, or the performance will be spoiled."

"I had almost forgotten that Ned is so much in the dark," her obedient husband answered. "You can have but a slight notion," he continued, turning to his friend, "of the extent to which this sentimental, or transcendental, element in the little circle at Shelldrake's increased after you left Norridgeport. We read the 'Dial,' and Emerson; we believed in Alcott as the 'purple Plato' of modern times; we took psychological works out of the library, and would listen for hours to Hollins while he read Schelling or Fichte, and then go home with a misty impression of having imbibed infinite wisdom. It was, perhaps, a natural, though very eccentric rebound from the hard, practical, unimaginative New-England mind which surrounded us; yet I look back upon it with a kind of wonder. I was then, as you know, unformed mentally, and might have been so still, but for the experiences of the A. C."

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