The enthusiastic Sylvia spoke in praise of the Irish girl for her agility and politeness, but the young lady alongside, who did not like the Irish, told her that what the girl wanted was a shilling or two. Servants in Europe were always beggars, and the Irish people especially. But she wouldn't give the girl a quarter if it were her hat. What was the use of making people so mean-spirited?
"I'd like to give her something, if I thought it wouldn't hurt her feelings," said Sylvia, at which the other laughed immoderately.
"Hurt her feelings! Did you ever see an Irish girl whose feelings were hurt by a present of money? I never did, though I don't often try the experiment, that's so."
"I was going to offer her something myself, but she walked away while I was trying to find some change," said Kirk.
The matter of a gratuity to the girl weighed on Sylvia Thorne's mind. She had a sense of a debt in owing her a gratuity, if one may so speak. The next day being calm and fine, and finding her company not very attractive, for young Kirk was engaged with some gentlemen in a stupid game of shuffleboard, she went forward to the part of the deck on which the steerage passengers were allowed to sun themselves, and found the Irish girl holding a baby. "You saved my hat yesterday," she said with embarrassment.
"Sure that's not much now, miss. I'd like to do somethin' for you every day if I could. It isn't every lady that's such a lady," said the girl, with genuine admiration of the delicate features and kindly manner of young Sylvia Thorne.
"Does that baby belong to some friend of yours?" asked the young lady.
"No, miss; I've not got any friends aboard. Its mother's seasick, and I'm givin' her a little rest an' holdin' the baby out here. The air of that steerage isn't fit for a baby, now, you may say."
Should she give her any money? What was it about the girl that made her afraid to offer a customary trifle?
"Where did you live in Ireland?" inquired Sylvia.
"At Drogheda, miss, till I went to work in the linen mills."
"Oh! you worked in the linen mills."
"Yes, miss. My father died, and my mother was poor, and girls must work for their living. But my father wanted me to get a good bit of readin' and writin' so as I might do better; but he died, miss, and I couldn't leave my mother without help."
"You were the only child?"
"I've got a sister, but somehow she didn't care to go out to work, and so I had to go out to service; and I heard that more was paid in Ameriky, where I've got an aunt, an' I had enough to take me out, an' I thought maybe I'd get my mother out there some day, or I'd get money enough to make her comfortable, anyways."
"What kind of work will you do in New York? I don't believe we've got any linen mills. I think we get Irish linen table-cloths, and so on."
"Oh, I'm going out to service. I can't do heavy work, but I can do chambermaid's work."
All this time Sylvia was turning a quarter over in her pocket. It was the only American coin she had carried with her through Europe, and she now took it out slowly, and said:
"You'll accept a little something for your kindness in saving my hat."
"I'm much obliged, miss, but I'd rather not I'd rather have your kind words than any money. It's very lonesome I've been since I left Drogheda."
She put the quarter back into her pocket with something like shame; then she fumbled her rings in a strange embarrassment. She had made a mess of it, she thought. At the same time she was glad the girl had so much pride.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"You must let me help you in some way," said Miss Thorne at last.
"I wonder what kind of people they are in New York, now," said Margaret, looking at Sylvia wistfully. "It seems dreadful to go so far away and not know in whose house you'll be livin'."
Sylvia looked steadily at the girl, and then went away, promising to see her again. She smiled at Walter Kirk, who had finished his game of shuffleboard and was looking all up and down the deck for Miss Thorne. She did not stop to talk with him, however, but pushed on to where her mother and father were sitting not far from the taffrail.
"Mamma, I've been out in the steerage."
"You'll be in the maintop next, I don't doubt," said her father, laughing.
"I've been talking to the Irish girl that caught my hat yesterday."
"You shouldn't talk to steerage people," said Mrs. Thorne. "They might have the smallpox, or they might not be proper people."
"I suppose cabin passengers might have the smallpox too," said Mr. Thorne, who liked to tease either wife or daughter.
"I offered the Irish girl a quarter, and she wouldn't have it."
"You're too free with your money," said her mother in a tone of complaint that was habitual.
"The girl wouldn't impose on you, Sylvia," said Mr. Thorne. "She's honest. She knew that your hat wasn't worth so much. Now, if you had said fifteen cents——"
"O papa, be still," and she put her hand over his mouth. "I want to propose something."
"Going to adopt the Irish——" But here Sylvia's hand again arrested Mr. Thorne's speech.
"No, I'm not going to adopt her, but I want mamma to take her for upstairs girl when we get home."
Mr. Thorne made another effort to push away Sylvia's hand so as to say something, but the romping girl smothered his speech into a gurgle.
"I couldn't think of it. She's got no references and no character."
"Maybe she has got her character in her pocket, you don't know," broke out the father. "That's where some girls carry their character till it's worn out."
"I'll give her a character," said Sylvia. "She is a lady, if she is a servant."
"That's just what I don't want, Sylvia," said Mrs. Thorne, with a plaintive inflection, "a ladylike servant."
"Oh, well, we must try her. How's the girl to get a character if nobody tries her? And she's real splendid, I think, going off to get money to help her mother. And I'm sure she's had some great sorrow or disappointment, you know. She's got such a wistful look in her face, and when I spoke about Drogheda she said——"
"There you are again!" exclaimed the father. "You'll have a heroine to make your bed every morning. But you'd better keep your drawers locked for all that."
"Now, I think that's mean!" and the young girl tried to look stern. But the severity vanished when Mr. Kirk, of the senior class in Highland College, came up to inform Miss Thorne that the young people were about getting up a conundrum party. Miss Sylvia accepted the invitation to join in that diluted recreation, saying, as she departed, "Let's try her anyway."
"If she wants her I suppose I shall have to take her, but I wish she had more sense than to go to the steerage for a servant."
"She could hardly find one in the cabin," ventured Mr. Thorne.
So it happened that, on arrival in New York, Margaret Byrne was installed as second girl at the Thornes'. For in an American home the authority is often equitably divided—the mother has the name of ruling the household which the daughter actually governs.
How much has the setting to do with a romance? The old tales had castles environed with savage forests and supplied with caves and underground galleries leading to where it was necessary to go in the novelist's emergency. In our realistic times we like to lay our scenes on a ground of Axminster with environments of lace curtains, pianos, and oil paintings. How, then, shall I make you understand the real human loves and sorrows that often have play in a girl's heart, where there are no better stage fittings than stationary washtubs and kitchen ranges?
Sylvia Thorne was sure that the pretty maid from Drogheda, whose melancholy showed itself through the veil of her perfect health, had suffered a disappointment. She watched her as she went silently about her work of sweeping and bedmaking, and she knew by a sort of divination that here was a real heroine, a sufferer or a doer of something.
Mrs. Thorne pronounced the new maid good, but "awfully solemn." But when Maggie Byrne met the eyes of Sylvia looking curiously and kindly at her sad face, there broke through her seriousness a smile so bright and sunny that Sylvia was sure she had been mistaken, and that there had been no disappointment in the girl's life.
Maggie shocked Mrs. Thorne by buying a shrine from an image vender and hanging it against the wall in the kitchen. The mistress of the house, being very scrupulous of other people's superstitions, and being one of the stanchest of Protestants, doubted whether she ought to allow an idolatrous image to remain on the wall. She had read the Old Testament a good deal, and she meditated whether she ought not, like Jehu, the son of Nimshi, to break the image in pieces. But Mr. Thorne, when the matter was referred to him, said that a faithful Catholic ought to do better than an unfaithful one, and that so long as Margaret did not steal the jewelry she oughtn't to be disturbed at her prayers, which it was known she was accustomed to say every night, with her head bowed on the ironing table, before the image of Mary and her son.
"How can the Catholics pray to images and say the second commandment, I'd like to know?" said Mrs. Thorne, one morning, with some asperity.
"By a process like that by which we Protestants read the Sermon on the Mount, and then go on reviling our enemies and laying up treasures on earth," said her husband.
"My dear, you never will listen to reason; you know that the Sermon on the Mount is not to be taken literally."
"And how about the second commandment?"
"You'd defend the scribes and Pharisees, I do believe, just for the sake of an argument."
"Oh, no! there are plenty of them alive yet; let them defend themselves, if they want to," said the ungallant husband, with a wicked twinkle in his eye.
As for Sylvia, she was all the more convinced, as time went on, that the girl "had had a disappointment." On the evenings when the cook was out Sylvia would find her way into the kitchen for a talk with Maggie. The quaint old stories of Ireland and the enthusiastic description of Irish scenes that found their way into Margaret Byrne's talk delighted Sylvia's fancy. But the conversations always ended by some allusion to the ship and the hat, and to the large-shouldered blond young man that came down after the hat; and Sylvia confided to Maggie that he had asked permission to call to see her the next summer, when he should come East after his graduation. Margaret had no other company, and she regularly looked for Sylvia on the evenings when she was alone, brightening the kitchen for the occasion so much as to convince the "down-stairs girl" that sly Maggie was accustomed to receive a beau in her absence.
One evening Miss Thorne found Maggie in tears.
"I've a mind to tell you all about it," said the girl, in answer to the inquiries of Sylvia, at the same time pushing her hair back off her face and leaning her head on her hands while she rested her elbows on the table.
"Maybe it will do you good to tell me," answered Sylvia, concealing her eager curiosity behind her desire to serve Margaret.
"Well, you see, miss, my sister Dora is purty."
"So are you, Maggie."
"No, but Dora is a young thing, and kind of helpless, like a baby. I was the oldest, and that Dora was my baby, like. Well, Andy Doyle and me were always friends. I wish I hadn't never seen him. But he seemed to be the nicest fellow in the world. There was never anything said between him an' me, only—well—but I can't tell ye—you're so young—you don't know about such things."
"Yes, I do. You loved him, didn't you?"
"You see, miss, he was always so good. Dora, she hadn't no end of b'ys that liked her. But anything that I had she always wanted, you may say, and I always 'umored her in a way. She was young and a kind of a baby, an' she is that purty, Miss Sylvy. Well, one of us had to go out to work in the mill, an' my mother, she said that Dora must go, because Dora wasn't any good about the house to speak of. She never knew how to do anything right. But Dora cried, and said she couldn't work in the mill, and so I went down to Larne to work in the mill, and Dora promised to look after the house. Now, at the time I went away Dora was all took up with Billy Caughey, and we thought sure as could be it was a match. But what does that girl do but desave Billy, and catch Andy. I don't think, miss, that he ever half loved her, but then I don't know what she made him believe; and then, ye know, nobody ever could refuse Dora anything, with her little beggin', winnin' ways. She just dazed him and got him engaged to her; and I don't believe he was ever entirely happy with her. But what could I do, miss? I couldn't try to coax him back—now could I? She was such a baby of a thing that she would cry if Andy only talked to me a minute after I come home. And I didn't want to take him away from her. That was when the mill at Larne had shut up. And so I hadn't no heart to do anything more there; it seemed like I was dead; and I knowed that if I stayed there would be trouble, for I could see that Andy looked at me strange, like there was somethin' he didn't quite understand, ye may say; but I was mad, and I didn't want to take away Dora's beau, nor to have anything to do with a lad that could change his mind so easy. And so I come away, thinkin' maybe I'd get some heart again on this side of the sea, and that I could soon send for me old mother to come."
Here she leaned her head on the table and cried.
"Now, there," she said after a while, "to-day I got a letter from Dora; there it is!" and she pushed it to the middle of the table as though it stung her. "She says that Andy is comin' over here to make money enough to bring her over after a while, sure. It kind o' makes my heart jump up, miss, to think of seein' anybody from Drogheda, and more'n all to see Andy again, that always played with me, and—— But I despise him too, miss, fer bein' so changeable. But then, Dora she makes fools out of all of them with her purty face and her coaxin' ways, miss. She can't help it, maybe."
"Well, you needn't see Andy if you don't want to," said Sylvia.
"Oh! but I do want to," and Margaret laughed through her tears at her own inconsistency. "Besides, Dora wants me to help him get a place, and I must do that; and then, sure, miss, do you think I'd let him know that I cared a farthin' fer him? Not a bit of it!" and Maggie pushed back her hair and held herself up proudly.
The next morning, as Margaret laid the morning paper on Mr. Thorne's table in the library, she ventured to ask if he knew of a place for a friend of hers that was coming from Ireland the next week. That gentleman had caught the infection of Sylvia's enthusiasm for the Irish girl, and by the blush on her cheek when she made the request he was sure that his penetration had divined the girl's secret. So he made some inquiries about Andy, and, finding that he was "handy with tools," the merchant thought he could give him a place in his packing department.
It happened, therefore, that Sylvia rarely spent any more evenings in the kitchen. Instead of that, her little sister used to frequent it, for Andy was very ingenious in making chairs, tables, and other furniture for doll houses, and little Sophy thought him the nicest man in the world. Maggie was very cool and repellent to him, with little spells of relenting. Sometimes Andy felt himself so much snubbed that he would leave after a five minutes' call, in which event Maggie Byrne was sure to relax a little at the door, and Sylvia or Sophy was almost certain to find her in tears afterward.
Andy could not, perhaps, have defined his feelings toward Margaret. He could not resist the attraction of the kitchen, for was not Maggie his old playmate and the sister of Dora? Sure, there was no harm at all in a fellow's goin' to see, just once a week, the sister of his swateheart, when the ocean kept him from seein' his swateheart herself. But if Andy had been a man accustomed to analyze his feelings he might have inquired how it came that he liked his swateheart's sister better even than his swateheart herself.
One evening he had a letter from Dora, and he thought to cheer Margaret with good news from home. But she would not be cheered.
"Now what's the matter, Mag?" Andy said coaxingly. "Don't that fellow in Larne write to ye?"
"What fellow in Larne?" demanded Margaret with asperity.
"Why, him that used to be so swate when ye was a-workin' in the mill."
"Who told you that?"
"Oh, now, you needn't try to kape it from me! Don't you think I knew all about it? Do you think Dora wouldn't tell me, honey? Don't I know you was engaged to him before you left the mill at Larne? Has he gone an' desaved you now, Maggie? If he has, I don't wonder you're cross."
"Andy, that isn't true. I never had any b'y at Larne, at all."
"Now, what's the use denying it? That's always the way with you girls about such things."
"Andy Doyle, do you go out of this kitchen, and don't you never come back. I never desaved you in my life, and I won't have nobody say that I did."
A conflict of feeling had made Margaret irritable, and Andy was the most convenient object of wrath in the absence of Dora. Andy started slowly out through the hall; there he turned about, and said:
"Hold a bit, my poor Mag. Let me git me thoughts together. It's me's been desaved. If it hadn't 'a' been fer that fellow down at Larne there wouldn't never 'a' been anything betwixt me and Dora. And now——"
"Don't you say no more, Andy. Dora's a child, and she wanted you. Don't ye give her up. If you give her up, and she, poor child, on the other sides of the water, I'll never respict ye—d'ye hear that, now, Andy? Only the last letter she wrote she said she'd break her heart if I let you fall in love with anybody else. The men's all fools now, anyhow, Andy, and some of them is bad, but don't you go and desave that child, that's a-breakin' her heart afther you. And don't ye believe as I ever keered a straw for ye, for I don't keer fer you, nor no other man a-livin'."
Andy stood still for some moments, trying in a dumb way to think what to do or say; then he helplessly opened the door and went out.
The next Thursday evening Andy did not come, and Margaret felt sorry, she could not tell why. But Sylvia came down into the lower hall, peered through the glass of the kitchen door, and, finding the maid sitting alone by the range, entered as of old. And to her Maggie Byrne, sore pressed for sympathy, told of her last talk with the comely young man.
"You see, miss, it would be too mean for me to take Dora's b'y away from her, fer he's the finest-lookin' and altogether the nicest young man anywhere about Drogheda; and Dora, she's always used to havin' the best of everything, and she always took anything that was mine, thinkin' she'd a right to it, and, bein' a weak and purty young thing, I s'pose she had, now, miss."
"I think she's mean, Maggie, and you're foolish if you don't take your own lover back again."
"And she on the other sides of the say, miss? And my own little sister that I packed around in me arms? She's full of tricks, but then she's purty, and she's always been used to havin' my things. At any rate, 'tain't meself as'll be takin' away what's hers, and she's trusted him to me, and she's away on the other sides of the water. At least not if I can help it, miss. And I pray fer help all the time. Besides, do you think I'd have Andy Doyle afther what's happened, even if Dora was out of the way?"
"I know you would," said Sylvia.
"I believe I would, miss, I'm such a fool. But then sometimes I despise him. If it wasn't fer me dear old mother, that maybe I'll never see again," and Maggie wiped her eyes with her apron, "I'd join the Sisters. I think maybe I have got a vocation, as they call it."
It was the very next evening after this interview that Bridget Monahan, the downstairs girl, gave Margaret a little advice.
"He's a foine young feller, now, Mag, but don't you be in no hurry to git married. You're afther havin' a nice face—a kind o' saint's face, on'y it's a thrifle too solemn to win the men. But if Andy should lave, ye might be afther doin' better, and ye might be afther doin' worruss now, Mag. But don't ye git married till ye've got enough to buy a brocade shawl. Ef ye don't git a brocade shawl afore you're married, niver a bit of a one'll ye be afther gittin' aftherwards. Girls like us don't git no money afther they are married, and it's best to lay by enough to git a shawl beforehand now, Mag. That's me own plan."
A few weeks later Maggie was thrown into grief by hearing of the death of her mother. Of course she received sympathy from Sylvia. Andy, also having received a letter from Dora, ventured to call on Maggie to express in his sincerely simple way his sympathy for her grief, and to discuss with her what was now to be done for the homeless girl in the old country.
"We must bring her over, Andy."
"I know that," said the young man. "I'll draw all my money out of the Shamrock Savings Bank to-morry and send her a ticket. But I'll tell you what, Mag, after I went away from here the last time I felt sure I'd never marry Dora Byrne. But maybe I was wrong. Poor thing! I'm sorry fer her, all alone."
"Sure, now, Andy, you must 'a' made a mistake," said Maggie. "It's myself as may've given Dora rason to think I'd got a young man down at Larne. I don't know as she meant to desave you. She needn't, fer you know I don't keer fer men, neither you nor anybody. I'm goin' into the Sisters, now my mother's dead. I've spoken to Sister Agnes about it."
But whether it was from her lonely feeling at the death of her mother, or from her exultation at her victory over her feelings, or whether it was that her heart, trodden down by her conscience, sought revenge, she showed more affection for Andy this evening than ever before, following him to the area gate, detaining him in conversation, and bidding him goodnight with real emotion.
The next evening Andy came again with a long face. He had a paper in which he showed Maggie an account of the suspension of the Shamrock Savings Bank, in which the money of so many Irishmen was locked up, and in which were all of Andy Doyle's savings, except ten dollars he had in his pocket.
"Now, Mag, what am I goin' to do? It takes thirty-five dollars for a ticket. If I put my week's wages that I'll git to-morry on to this, I'm short half of it."
"Sure, Andy, I'll let you have it all if you want it. You keep what you've got. She's me own sister. On'y I'll have to wait a while, for I don't want to fetch into the Sisters any less money than I've spoke to Sister Agnes about."
"I'm a-goin' to pay ye back every cint of it, Mag, and God bless ye! But it 'most makes me hate Dora to see you so good. And I tell you, Maggie, the first thing when she gits here she's got to explain about that fellow down at Larne that she told me about."
"Andy," said Maggie, "d'ye mind now what I say. I've suffered enough on account of Dora's takin' you away from me, but I'd rather die with a broken heart than to have anything to do with you if you are afther breakin' that poor child's heart when she comes here."
"Oh, then you did keer for me a little, Maggie darlint?" exclaimed Andy. "I thought you said you never did keer!"
Maggie was surprised. "I don't keer for you, nor any other man, and I never——" But here she paused. "You ought to be ashamed to be talkin' that way to me, and you engaged to Dora. There, now, take the money, Andy, and git Dora's ticket, and don't let's hear no more foolish talkin' that it would break the poor dear orphan's heart to hear. The poor baby's got nobody but you and me to look afther her, now her mother's gone, and it's a shame and a sin if we don't do it."
Margaret Byrne hurried her work through. The steamer that brought Dora had come in that day. Dora was met at Castle Garden by her aunt, and Margaret had got permission to go to see her in the evening. As Andy Doyle had to go the same way, he stopped for Maggie. All the way over to the aunt's house in Brooklyn he was moody and silent, the very opposite of a man going to meet his betrothed. Margaret was quiet, with the peace of one who has gained a victory. Her struggle was over. There was no more any danger that she should be betrayed into bearing off the affections of her sister's affianced lover.
Maggie greeted Dora affectionately, but Dora was like one distraught. She held herself aloof from her sister, and still more from Andy, who, on his part, made a very poor show of affection.
"Well," said Dora after a while, "I s'pose you two people have been afther makin' love to one another for six months."
"You hain't got any right to say that, Dora," broke out Andy. "Maggie's stood up fer you in a way you didn't more'n half desarve, and it's partly Maggie's money that brought you here. You know well enough what a—a—lie, if I must say it, you told me about Mag's havin' a beau at Larne, and she says she didn't. You're the one that took away your sister's——" But here he paused.
"Hush up, Andy!" broke in Margaret. "You know I never keered fer you, or any other man. Don't you and Dora begin to quarrel now."
Andy looked sullen, and Dora scared. At length Dora took speech timidly.
"Billy will be here in a minute."
"Billy who?" asked Andy.
"Billy Caughey," she answered. "He came over in the same ship with me."
"Oh, I s'pose you've been sparkin' with him ag'in! You pitched him over to take me——"
"No, I haven't been sparkin' with him, Andy; at least, not lately. He's my husband. We got married three months ago."
"And didn't tell me?" said Andy, between pleasure and anger.
"No, we wanted to come over here, and we couldn't have come if it hadn't been for the money you sent."
"Why, Dora, how mean you treated Andy!" broke out Margaret.
"I knew you'd take up for him," said Dora pitifully, "but what could I do, sure? You won't hurt Billy, now, will you, Andy? He's afeard of you."
"Well," said Andy, straightening up his fine form with a smile of relief, "tell Billy that I wish him much j'y, and that I'll be afther thankin' him with all my heart the very first time I see him for the kindness he's afther doin' me. Good-night, Mrs. Billy Caughey, good luck to ye! As Mag says she don't keer fer me, I'll be after going home alone." This last was said bitterly as he opened the door.
"O Andy! wait fer me—do!" said Margaret.
"Ain't you stayin' to see Billy?" asked Dora.
"Not me. It's with Andy Doyle I'm afther goin'," cried Margaret, with a lightness she had not known for a year.
And the two went out together.
The next evening Margaret told Sylvia about it, and the little romance-maker was in ecstasy.
"So you won't enter the sisterhood, then?" she said, when Margaret had finished.
"No, miss, I don't think I've got any vocation."
THE GUNPOWDER PLOT.
THE STORY OF A FOURTH OF JULY.
Whenever one writes with photographic exactness of frontier life he is accused of inventing improbable things.
"Old Davy Lindsley" lived in a queer cabin on the Pomme de Terre River. If you should ever ride over the new Northern Pacific when it shall be completed, or over that branch of it which crosses the Pomme de Terre, you can get out at a station which will, no doubt, be called for an old settler, Gager's Station; and if you would like to see some beautiful scenery, take a canoe and float down the Pomme de Terre River. You will have to make some portages, and you will have a good appetite for supper when you reach the old Lindsley house, ten miles from Gager's, but its present owner is hospitable.
A queer old chap was Lindsley the last time I saw him. I remember how he took me all over his claim and showed me the beauties of Lindsleyville, as he called it. His long iron-gray hair fluttered in the wind, and his face seemed like a wizard's, penetrating but unearthly. That was long before the great tide of immigrants had begun to find their way into this paradise through the highway of the Sauk Valley. Lindsleyville was a hundred and fifty miles out of the world at that time. Its population numbered two—Lindsley and his daughter. The old man had tried to make a fortune in many ways. There was no sort of useless invention that he had not attempted, and you will find in the Patent Office models without number of beehives and cannons, steam cut-offs and baby jumpers, lightning churns and flying machines on which he had taken out patents, assured of making a fortune from each one. He had raised fancy chickens, figured himself rich on two swarms of bees, traveled with a magic lantern, written a philosophic novel, and started a newspaper. There was but one purpose in which he was fixed—which was, to guard his daughter jealously. To do this, and to make the experiment of building a Utopian city, he had traveled to the summit of this knoll on the right bank of the Pomme de Terre. There never was a more beautiful landscape than that which Lindsleyville commanded. But the town did not grow, chiefly because it was so far beyond the border, though the conditions in his deeds intended to secure the character of the city from deterioration were so many that nobody would have been willing to buy the lots.
At the time I speak of David Lindsley had dwelt on the Pomme de Terre for five years. He had removed suddenly from the Connecticut village in which he had been living because he discovered that his daughter had, in spite of his watchfulness, formed an attachment for a young man who had the effrontery to disclose the whole thing to him by politely asking his consent to their marriage.
"Marry my daughter!" choked the old man. "Why, Mr. Brown, you are crazy! I have educated her upon the combined principles of Rousseau, of Pestalozzi, of Froebel, and of Herbert Spencer. And you—you only graduated at Yale, an old fogy mediaeval institution! No, sir! not till I meet a philosopher whose mind has been symmetrically developed can I consent for my Emilia to marry."
And the old man became so frantic, that, to save him from the madhouse, Emilia wrote a letter, at his dictation, to young Brown, peremptorily breaking off all relations; and he, a sensitive, romantic man, was heartbroken, and left the village. He only sent a farewell to his friends the day before he was to sail from New Bedford on a whaling voyage. He carried with him the impression that an unaccountable change of mind in Emilia had left no hope for him.
To prevent a recurrence of such an untoward accident as this, and, as he expressed it, "to bring his daughter's mind into intimate relations with nature," the fanatical philosopher established the town of Lindsleyville, determined that no family in which there was a young man should settle on his town plot, unless, indeed, the young man should prove to be the paragon he was looking for.
Emilia's motherless life had not been a cheerful one, subjected to the ever-changing whims of a visionary father, with whom one of her practical cast of mind could have no point of sympathy. And since she came to Lindsleyville it was harder than ever, for there was no neighbor nearer than Gager's, ten miles away, and there was not a woman within fifty miles. There is no place so lonesome as a prairie; the horizon is so wide, and the earth is so empty!
Lindsley had spent all his own money long ago, and it was only the small annuity of his daughter, inherited from her mother's family, the capital of which was tied up to keep it out of his reach, that prevented them from starving. Emilia was starving indeed, not in body, but in soul. Cut off from human sympathy, she used to sit at the gable window of the cabin and look out over the boundless meadow until it seemed to her that she would lose her reason. The wild geese screaming to one another overhead, the bald eagles building in the solitary elm that grew by the river, the flocks of great white pelicans that were fishing on the beach of Swan Lake, three miles away, were all objects of envy to the lonesome heart of the girl; for they had companions of their kind—they were husbands and wives, and parents and children, while she—here she checked her thoughts, lest she should be disloyal to her father. To her disordered fancy the universe seemed to be a wheel. The sun and the stars came up and went down over the monotonous sea of grass with frightful regularity, and she could not tell whether there was a God or not. When she thought of God at all, it was as a relentless giant turning the crank that kept the sky going round. The universe was an awful machine. The prayers her mother taught her in infancy died upon her lips, and instead of praying to God she cried out to her mother. Un-protestant as the sentiment is, I can not forbear saying that this talking to the dead is one of the most natural things in the world. To Emilia the dimly remembered love of her mother was all of tenderness there was in the universe, the only revelation of God that had come to her, except the other love, which was to her a paradise lost. For the great hard fate that turned the prairie universe round with a crank motion had also—so it seemed to her—snatched away from her the object of her love. This disordered, faithless state was all the fruit she tasted of the peculiar education so much vaunted by her father. She had eaten the husks he gave her and was hungry.
I said she had no company. An old daguerreotype of her mother and a carefully hidden photograph (marked on the back, in a rather immature hand, "E. Brown") seemed to answer with looks of love and sympathy when she wetted them with her tears. They were her rosary and her crucifix; they were the gifts of a beclouded life, through which God shone in dimly upon her.
This poor girl looked and longed so for the company of human kind that she counted those red-letter days on which a half-breed voyageur traveled over the trail in front of the house, and even a party of begging and beggarly Sioux, hungry for all they could get to eat, offering importunately to sell "hompoes" (moccasins) to her father, were not wholly unwelcome. But the days of all days were those on which Edwards, the tall, long-haired American trapper, fished in the Pomme de Terre in sight of the Lindsley cabin. On such occasions the old man Lindsley would leave his work and stay about the house, and watch jealously and uneasily every movement of the trapper. On one or two occasions when that picturesque individual, wearing a wolf-skin cap, with the wolf's tail hanging down between his shoulders, presented himself at the door of the cabin to crave some little courtesy, Lindsley closed the front door and brought out the article asked for from the back, like a mediaeval chieftain guarding his castle. But all the time that poor Emilia could hear the voice of the tall trapper her heart beat two beats for one. For was it not a human voice speaking her own language? And the days on which he was visible were accounted as the gates of paradise, and the moments in which he spoke in her hearing were as paradise itself.
This churlish, inhospitable manner made Lindsley many enemies in a land in which one can not afford to have enemies. Every half-breed hunter took the old man's suspicious manner as a personal affront. "He thinks we are horse thieves," they said scornfully. And Jacques Bourdon, the half-breed who had "filed on" the claim alongside Lindsley's, and even claimed unjustly a "forty" of Lindsley's town plot, had no difficulty in securing the sympathy of the settlers and nomads, who looked on Lindsley as a monster quite capable of anything. He was even reported to have beaten his daughter, and to have confined her in the wilderness that he might keep her out of an immense fortune which she had inherited. So Lindsley grew every day in disfavor in a region where unpopularity in its mildest form is sure to take a most unpleasant way of making itself known. Emilia knew enough to understand this danger, and she was shaken with a nameless fear whenever she heard the sharp words that passed between her father and Bourdon, the half-breed. The resentment of the latter reached its climax when the decision of the land office was rendered in favor of Mr. Lindsley. From that hour the revenge of this man, whose hot French was mixed with relentless Indian blood, hung over the head of the old man, who still read and wrote, and invented and theorized, in utter ignorance of any peril except the danger that some man, not a fool, should marry his daughter.
The Fourth of July was celebrated at Gager's. People came from fifty miles round. Patriotism? No! but love of human fellowship. The celebrated Pierre Bottineau and the other Canadians and half-breeds were there, mellowed with drink, singing the sensual and almost lewd French rowing songs their fathers had sung on the St. Lawrence. "Whisky Jim," the retired stage driver, and Hans Brinkerhoff and the other German settlers, with two or three Yankees, completed the slender crowd, which comprised almost the entire population of six skeleton counties. And the ever-popular Edwards was among them, his grave face and flowing ringlets rising above them all. A man so ready to serve anybody as he was idolized among frontiermen, whose gratitude is almost equal to their revenge. Captain Oscar, the popular politician, who wore his hair long and swore and drank, just to keep in with his widely scattered constituents, whom he represented in the Minnesota Senate each winter (and who usually cast half a dozen votes each for him), made a buncombe speech, and then Edwards, who wouldn't drink, but who knew how to tell strange stories, kept them laughing for half an hour. Edwards was a type of man not so uncommon on the frontier as those imagine who think the trapper always a half-horse, half-alligator creature, such as they read of in the Beadle novels. I knew one trapper who was a student of numismatics, another who devoted his spare time to astronomy, and several traders and trappers who were men of considerable culture, though they are generally men who are a little morbid or eccentric in their mental structure. All Edwards's natural abilities, which were sufficient to have earned him distinction had he been "in civilization," were concentrated on the pursuits of his wild life, and such a man always surpasses the coarser and duller Indian or half-breed in his own field.
After a game of ball, and other sports imitated from the Indians, the bois brules began to be too much softened with whisky to keep up athletic exercises, and something in their manner led Edwards to suspect that there were other amusements on the programme into the secret of which he had not been admitted.
 Bois brules, "burnt wood," is the title the half-breeds apply to themselves, in allusion to their complexion.
By adroit management he contrived to overhear part of a conversation in which "poudre a canon" was mixed up with the name of Lindslee. He inferred that the blowing up of Lindsley's house was to finish the celebration of the national holiday. Treating Bourdon to an extra glass of whisky, and seasoning it with some well-timed denunciations of "the old monster," he gathered that the plan was to plant a keg of powder under the chimney on the north side of the cabin and blow it to pieces, just to scare the monster out, or kill him and his daughter, it did not matter which. Edwards praised the plan. He said that if it were not that he had to go to Pelican Lake that very night he would go along and help blow up the old rascal.
Soon after this he shook hands all around and wished them bon voyage in their trip to Lindsleyville. He winked his eyes knowingly, playing the hypocrite handsomely. Oscar and Bottineau left in different directions, the Germans had gone home drunk, and only "Whisky Jim" joined the half-breeds in their trip. They took possession of an immigrant team that was in Gager's stable, and just after sunset started on their patriotic errand. They were going to celebrate the Fourth by blowing up the tyrant.
Meantime Edwards had taken long strides, but his moccasin-clad feet were not carrying him in the direction of Pelican Lake. Half the time walking as only "the long trapper" could walk, half the time in a swinging trot, he made the best possible speed toward Lindsleyville. He had the start of the half-breeds, but how much he could not tell; and there was no time to be lost. At the summit of every knoll he looked back to see if they were coming, crouching in the grass lest they should discover him.
Lindsley received him as suspiciously as ever, and positively refused to believe his story. But by using his telescope Edwards soon convinced him that the party were just leaving Gager's. The dusk of the evening was coming on, and Lindsley's fright was great as he realized his daughter's peril.
"I will fight them to the death," he said, getting down his revolver, with an air that would have done honor to Don Quixote.
"If you fight them and whip them, they will waylay you and kill you. But there are ten of them, and if you fight them you will be killed, and this lady will be without a protector. If you run away, the house will be destroyed, and you will be killed whenever you are found. But what have you here—a magic lantern?"
The old gentleman had, before Edwards's arrival, taken down the instrument to introduce some improvement which he had just invented. When Edwards stumbled over it and called it a magic lantern he looked at him scornfully.
"A magic lantern!" he cried. "No, sir; that is a dissolving view, oxy-calcium, panto-sciostereoscopticon."
"With this we must save you and your daughter from the half-breeds," said the trapper, a little impatient at this ill-timed manifestation of pedantry. "Get ready for action immediately."
"I have no oxygen gas."
"Make it at once," said Edwards. He picked up some papers marked "chlor. potass." and "black oxide."
"Here is your material," he said.
"Do you understand chemistry?" asked Lindsley. But the trapper did not answer. He got out the retort, and in five minutes the oxygen was bubbling furiously through the wash bottle into the India-rubber receiver. Edwards stood at the window scanning the road toward Gager's with his telescope until it grew dark, which in that latitude was at about ten o'clock. Then the magic lantern was removed to the little grass-roofed stable, in which dwelt a solitary pony, and by Edwards's direction the focus was carefully set so that it would throw a picture against the house. Edwards selected two pictures and adjusted them for use in the two tubes.
The half-breeds were not in haste, and in all the long hour of suspense Emilia, hidden in the barn with her father and young Edwards, was positively happy. For here was human companionship, and a hungry soul will gladly risk death if by that means companionship can be purchased. It did not matter either that conversation was out of the question. It is presence, and not talk, that makes companionship.
But hark! the bois brules are on the bank of the river below. Emilia's heart grew still as she heard them swear. Their sacr-r-r-r-re rolled like the rattle of a rattlesnake. They were coming up the hill, quarreling drunkenly about the powder. Now they were between the house and the stable, getting ready to dig a hole for the "poudre a canon"
"I'll give them fireworks!" said Edwards in a whisper.
A picture of Thorwaldsen's bas-relief of "Morning" having been previously placed in the instrument, Edwards now removed the cap, and the beautiful flying female figure, with the infant in her arms, shone out upon the side of the house with marvelous vividness.
"By thunder!" said Whisky Jim, steadying himself, while every hair stood on end.
"Mon Dieu!" cried the bois brules, who had never seen a picture in their lives except in the cathedral of St. Boniface, at Fort Garry. "Mon Dieu! La Sainte Vierge!" And they fell on their knees before this apparition of the Blessed Virgin, and crossed themselves and prayed lustily.
But "Whisky Jim" straightened himself up, and hiccoughed, and stammered "By thunder!" and added some words which, being Saxon, I will not print.
"The devil!" cried Jim, a minute later, starting down the hill at full speed, for, by Edwards's direction, the light had been shifted to the other tube in such a way as to dissolve the "Morning" into a hideous picture of the conventional horned and hoofed devil. The picture was originally meant to be comic, but it now set Jim to running for dear life.
"Oui, c'est le diable! le diable! le diable!" cried the frantic bois brules, breaking off their invocations to the Virgin most abruptly, and fleeing pellmell down the hill after Jim, falling over one another as they ran. Quick as a flash Edwards threw about him a sheet which he had ready, and pursued the fleeing Frenchmen. Jim had already seized the reins, and, on the plan of "the devil take the hindmost," was driving at a pace that would have done him credit in the Central Park, up the trail toward Gager's, leaving the half-breeds to get on as best they could. Bourdon stumbled and fell, and Edwards lavished some blows upon him that must have satisfied the bois brule that ghosts have a most solid corporeal existence.
Then Edwards returned and captured the keg of powder. He assured the Lindsleys that the superstitious half-breeds would never again venture within five miles of a house that was guarded by the Holy Virgin and the devil in partnership. And they never did. Even the Indians were afraid to approach the place, pronouncing it "Wakan," or supernaturally inhabited. They regarded Lindsley as a "medicine-man" of great power.
But what a night that was! For Edwards stayed two hours, and made the acquaintance of Lindsley and his daughter. And how he talked, while Emilia thought she had never known how heaven felt before; and the old man forgot his inventions, and did not broach more than twenty of his theories in the two hours. He was so much interested in the tall trapper that he forgot the rest. Edwards ate a supper set out by the hands of Emilia, and left at three o'clock. He was at Pelican Lake next morning, and no man suspected his share in the affair except Gager, who had sense enough to say nothing. And Emilia lay down and dreamed of angels about the house. One was like Thorwaldsen's "Morning," and the other wore long hair and beard, and was very tall.
This abortive attempt to make a skyrocket out of Lindsley's cabin wrought only good to Emilia at first. The father was now wholly in love with the trapper. He praised him at all hours.
"He is a philosopher, my daughter. He understands chemistry. He lives in the arcana of nature and reads her secrets. No foolish study of the heathen classics; no training after mediaeval fashion in one of our colleges, which are anachronisms, has perverted his taste. Here is the Emile worthy of my Emilia," he would say, much to the daughter's annoyance.
But when Edwards came the hours were golden. Hanging his wolf-skin cap behind the door, and shaking back his long locks as he took his seat, he would entrance father and daughter alike with his talk of adventure. From the time of his first visit new life came to the heart of Emilia; and Mr. Lindsley, whose every whim the trapper humored, was as much fascinated as his daughter. But now commenced a fierce battle in the heart of Emilia. Edwards loved her. By all the speech that his eyes were capable of, he told her so. And by all the beating of her own heart she knew that she loved the brown-faced, long-haired trapper in return. But what about the fair-eyed student, who for very love and disappointment had gone to the arctic seas? He was not at hand to plead his cause, and for this very reason her conscience pleaded it for him. When her soul had fed on the words of the trapper as upon manna in the wilderness, she took up the old photograph and the eyes reproached her. She shed bitter tears of penitence upon it for her disloyalty to the storm-tossed sailor, but rejoiced again when she saw the tall figure of the trapper coming down the trail. A desolate and lonely heart can not live forever on the memory of a dead love. And have ye not read what David did when he was an hungered? Do not, therefore, reproach a starving soul for partaking of this feast in the desert.
And so Emilia tried to believe that Brown was long since dead—poor fellow! She shed tears over an imaginary grave in Labrador with a great sense of comfort. She tried to think that he had long since married and forgotten her, and she endeavored to nurse some feeble pangs of jealousy toward an imaginary wife.
Now it was very improper, doubtless, in Brown to come to life just at this moment. One lover too many is as destructive to the happiness of a conscientious girl as one too few. If Emilia had been trained in society, her joy at having two lovers would have had no alloy save her grief that there were not four of them. But it was one of the misfortunes of her solitary and peculiar education that she had conscience and maidenly modesty. Wherefore it was a source of bitter distress and embarrassment to her that, at the end of a long letter from a neighbor who had taken a notion after years of silence to write her all the gossip of the old village, she found these words: "Your old friend Brown did not jump into the sea at grief for his rejection, after all. He has written to somebody here that he is coming home. I believe he said that he loved you all the same as ever."
The greatest grief of Emilia was that she should have been so wicked as to be grieved. Had she not prayed all these years, when she could pray at all, for the safety of the young student? Had she not prayed against storms and icebergs? And now that he was coming, her heart smote her as if he were a ghost of some one whom she had murdered! Whether she loved him, or Edwards, or anybody, indeed she could not tell. But she would do penance for her crime. And so, when next she heard the quiet voice of "the long trapper" asking for her, she refused to see him, though the refusal all but killed her.
Poor Edwards! How he paced the shore of Swan Lake all that night! For when love comes into the soul of a solitary man it has all the force that all the thousand interests of life have to one in the busy world. How terrible were the temptations that sometimes assailed the religious eremites we can never guess.
Sunset of the next day found Edwards in the Red River Valley, far on his way toward Fort Garry, bent on spending the rest of his life as a "free trader" in British America. As for Emilia, she was now in total darkness. The sun had set, and the moon had not appeared. Brown might be dead, or she might not love him, or he might never find her. And she had thrown away her paradise, and there was only blackness left.
Edwards had already come within a few miles of Georgetown, where he was to take passage in that strangest of all the craft that ever frightened away the elk, the little seven-by-nine steamer Anson Northrup, when, as he was striding desperately along the trail, he was suddenly checked by a thought. He stood five minutes in indecision, then turned and began to walk rapidly in the opposite direction. At Breckinridge he found a stage, and getting out at Gager's he went down the trail toward Lindsley's.
Now Davy Lindsley had been in a terrible state of ferment. When he had found the philosopher, "the uncontaminated child of Nature, the self-educated combination of civilized and savage man," his daughter had perversely refused him, and the old man had taken the disappointment so to heart that he was in a state bordering on frenzy.
"Misfortune always pursues me!" he began, when he met Edwards under the hill. "Fifty times I have been near achieving some great result, and my ill luck has spoiled it all. You see me a broken-hearted man. To have allied my family with a child of Nature like yourself would have given me the greatest joy. But—how shall I express my grief?" And here the old man struck a pathetically tragic attitude and drew out his handkerchief, weeping with a profound self-pity.
"Mr. Lindsley, do you know why Miss Lindsley has become so suddenly displeased with me?" asked the trapper, trembling.
"Miss Lindsley, sir, is perverse. It is the one evil trait that my enlightened system of education, drawn from Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Herbert Spencer, and combined by my own genius—it is the one evil trait that my system has failed to eradicate. She is perverse. I fear, sir, she is yet worshiping the image of a misguided youth who, filled and puffed up with the useless learning of the schools, ventured to address her. I am the most unfortunate of men."
"Mr. Lindsley, can I see your daughter alone?"
The old man thought he could. But she was very perverse. In truth, that very morning Emilia had, in a sublime spirit of self-immolation, vowed that she would love none but the long-lost lover, and that if Brown never came back she would die heroically devoted to him, and thus she had sacrificed to her conscience and it was appeased. But right atop this vow came the request of Edwards for an interview. Was ever a girl so beset? Could she trust herself? On thinking it over she was afraid not; so that it was only by much persuasion that she was prevailed on to grant the request.
While Edwards talked she could but listen, frightened all the time at the faintness of her solemn resolution, which had seemed so irrevocable when she made it. He frankly demanded the reason for her change of conduct toward him. And she, like an honest and simple-hearted girl, told the other love story with a trembling voice, while Edwards listened with eyes downcast.
"This was five years ago?" he asked.
"And the young man's name?"
"Was Edward Brown."
"Curious! I think," he said slowly, pausing as if to get breath and keep his self-control, "I think, if my hair were cut off short and parted on one side as Edward Brown wore his, instead of in the middle, and if my whiskers were shaven off, and if the tan of five years' exposure were gone from my face, and if I were five years younger, and two inches shorter, I think——" He paused here and looked at her.
"Please say the rest quickly," she said in a faint whisper. For the setting sun was streaming in at the west window upon the face of the trapper. His hair was thrown back, and he was looking into her eyes with a look she had never seen before. But he dropped his head upon his hand now and looked at the floor.
"It might be," he spoke musingly, "it might be that Edward Brown failed to reach his ship in time at New Bedford, and changed his mind and came here, and that after Emilia came he watched this house day and night till his heart came nigh to bursting. But I was going to say," he said, rousing himself, "that in case the years and the tan and the hair could be taken off, and this trapper coat changed into one of finer cut and material, and the name reversed, that Browne Edwards, the trapper, would be nearer of kin than a twin brother to Edward Brown, the broken-hearted student."
What Emilia did just here I do not know, and if I did I should not tell you. To faint would have been the proper thing. But, poor girl! her education had been neglected, and I think she did not faint. When the old philosopher came in he was charmed with the situation, and that evening, when they two walked together on the bank of the Pomme de Terre, Emilia pointed to the stars, and said: "Do you know that in all these years God has seemed to me a cruel monster turning a crank? And to-night every star seems to be an eye through which God is looking at me, as my mother used to. I feel as though God were loving me. See, the stars are laughing in my face! Now I love Him as I did my mother. And to-night I am going to read that curious story about Christ at the wedding."
For God, who is love, loves to find his way to a human heart through love. And Edwards, who had been in bitterness and rebellion during the years of his exile, listened now to the voice of love as to that of an angel whom God had sent out of heaven to bring him back home again.
Mr. Lindsley is an invalid now. Lindsleyville belongs to Browne Edwards and his wife. And old Davy has made a will on twenty quires of legal cap, bequeathing to his son-in-law all his right, title, and interest in certain and sundry patents on churns, cannons, beehives, magic lanterns, flying machines, etc., together with some extraordinary secret discoveries. The old gentleman is slowly dying in the full conviction that he is bequeathing the foundation of an immense fortune to his son-in-law, and more wisdom to the world than has been contributed to its stock by all that have gone before. And he often reminds Emilia that she has to thank him for getting so good a husband. If it hadn't been for him she might have married that sickly student.
THE STORY OF A VALENTINE.
When my friend Capt. Terrible, U.S.N., dines at my plain table, I am a little abashed. I know that he has been accustomed always to a variety of wines and sauces, to a cigarette after each course, and to cookery that would kill an undeveloped American. So, when the captain turns the castor round three times before selecting his condiment, and when his eyes seem to be seeking for Worcestershire sauce and Burgundy wine, I feel the poverty of the best feast I can furnish him. I am afraid veteran magazine readers will feel thus about the odd little story I have to tell. For I have observed of late that even the short stories are highly seasoned; and I can not bear to disappoint readers. So, let me just honestly write over the gateway to this story a warning. I have no Cayenne pepper. No Worcestershire sauce. No cognac. No cigarettes. No murders. No suicides. No broken hearts. No lovers' quarrels. No angry father. No pistols and coffee. No arsenic. No laudanum. No shrewd detectives. No trial for murder. No "heartless coquette." No "deep-dyed villain with a curling mustache." Now if, after this warning, you have the courage to go on, I am not responsible.
Hubert said I might print it if I would disguise the names. It came out quite incidentally. We were discussing the woman question. I am a "woman's righter." Hubert—the Rev. Hubert Lee, I should say, pastor of the "First Church," and, indeed, the only church in Allenville—is not, though I flatter myself I have made some impression on him. But the discussion took place in Hubert's own house, and wishing to give a pleasant turn at the end, I suppose, he told me how, a year and a half before, he had "used up" one woman's-rights man, who was no other than old Dr. Hood, the physician that has had charge of the physical health of Hubert and myself from the beginning. Unlike most of his profession, the doctor has always been a radical, and even the wealth that has come in upon him of late years has left him quite as much of a radical, at least in theory, as ever. Indeed, the old doctor is not very inconsistent in practice, for he has educated his only daughter, Cornelia, to his own profession, and I believe she took her M.D. with honors, though she has lately spoiled her prospects by marrying. But socially he has become a little aristocratic, seeking an exclusive association with his wealthy neighbors. And this does not look very well in one who, when he was poor, was particularly bitter on "a purse-proud aristocracy." I suppose Hubert felt this. Certainly I did, and therefore I enjoyed the conversation that he repeated to me all the more.
It seems that my friend Hubert had been away at the seminary for three years, and that having at last conquered in his great battle against poverty, and having gained an education in spite of difficulties, and having supplied a city church acceptably for some months during the absence of the pastor in Europe, he came back to our native village to rest on his laurels a few weeks, and to decide which of three rather impecunious calls he would accept. When just about to leave he took it into his head, for some reason, to "drop in" on old Doctor Hood. It was nine o'clock in the morning, and the doctor's partner was making morning calls, while the old gentleman sat in his office to attend to any that might seek his services. This particular morning happened to be an unfortunate one, for there were no ague-shaken patients to be seen, and there was not even a case of minor surgery to relieve the tediousness of the morning office hour. Perhaps it was for this reason, perhaps it was for the sake of old acquaintance, that he gave Hubert a most cordial reception, and launched at once into a sea of vivacious talk. Cornelia, who was in the office, excused herself on the ground that she was cramming for her final examination, and seated herself at a window with her book.
"I am afraid I take your time, doctor," said Hubert.
"Oh, no, I am giving up practice to my partner, Dr. Beck, and shall give it all to him in a year or two."
"To him and Miss Cornelia?" queried Hubert, laughing. For it was currently reported that the young doctor and Cornelia were to form a partnership in other than professional affairs.
Either because he wished to attract her attention, or for some other reason, Hubert soon managed to turn the conversation to the subject of woman's rights, and the old doctor and the young parson were soon hurling at each other all the staple and now somewhat stale arguments about woman's fitness and woman's unfitness for many things. At last, perhaps because he was a little cornered, Hubert said:
"Now, doctor, there was a queer thing happened to a student in my class in the seminary. I don't suppose, doctor, that you are much interested in a love story, but I would just like to tell you this one, because I think you dare not apply your principles to it in every part. Theories often fail when practically applied, you know."
"Go on, Hu, go on; I'd like to hear the story. And as for my principles, they'll bear applying anywhere!" and the old doctor rubbed his hands together confidently.
"This friend of mine, Henry Gilbert," said Hu, "was, like myself, poor. A long time ago, when he was a boy, the son of a poor widow, the lot on which he lived joined at the back the lot on which lived a Mr. Morton, at that time a thriving merchant, now the principal capitalist in that part of the country. As there was a back gate between the lots, my friend was the constant playmate from earliest childhood of Jennie Morton. He built her playhouses out of old boards, he molded clay bricks for her use, and carved tiny toys out of pine blocks for her amusement. As he grew larger, and as Jennie's father grew richer and came to live in greater style, Henry grew more shy. But by all the unspoken language of the eyes the two never failed to make their unchanging regard known to each other.
"Henry went to college early. At vacation time the two met. But the growing difference in their social position could not but be felt. Jennie's friends were of a different race from his own. Her parents never thought of inviting him to their entertainments. And if they had, a rusty coat and a lack of money to spend on kid gloves would have effectually kept him away. He was proud. This apparent neglect stung him. It is true that Jennie Morton was all the more kind. But his quick and foolish pride made him fancy that he detected pity in her kindness. And yet all this only made him determined to place himself in a position in which he could ask her hand as her equal. But you do not understand, doctor, as I do, how irresistible is this conviction of duty in regard to the ministry. Under that pressure my friend settled it that he must preach. And now there was before him a good ten years of poverty at least. What should he do about it?
"In his extremity he took advice of a favorite theological professor. The professor advised him not to seek the hand of a rich girl. She would not be suited to the trials of a minister's life. But finding that Henry was firm in his opinion that this sound general principle did not in the least apply to this particular case, the professor proceeded to touch the tenderest chord in the young man's heart. He told him that it would be ungenerous, and in some sense dishonorable, for him to take a woman delicately brought up into the poverty and trial incident to a minister's life. If you understood, sir, how morbid his sense of honor is, you would not wonder at the impression this suggestion made upon him. To give up the ministry was in his mind to be a traitor to duty and to God. To win her, if he could, was to treat ungenerously her whose happiness was dearer to him a thousand times than his own."
"I hope he did not give her up," said the doctor.
"Yes, he gave her up, in a double spirit of mediaeval self-sacrifice. Looking toward the ministry, he surrendered his love as some of the old monks sacrificed love, ambition, and all other things to conscience. Looking at her happiness, he sacrificed his hopes in a more than knightly devotion to her welfare. The knights sometimes gave their lives. He gave more.
"For three years he did not trust himself to return to his home. But, having graduated and settled himself for nine months over a church, there was no reason why he shouldn't go to see his mother again; and once in the village, the sight of the old schoolhouse and the old church revived a thousand memories that he had been endeavoring to banish. The garden walks, and especially the apple trees, that are the most unchangeable of landmarks, revived the old passion with undiminished power. He paced his room at night. He looked out at the new house of his rich neighbor. He chafed under the restraint of his vow not to think again of Jennie Morton. It was the old story of the monk who thinks the world subdued, but who finds it all at once about to assume the mastery of him. I do not know how the struggle might have ended, but it was all at once stopped from without.
"There reached him a rumor that Jennie was already the betrothed wife of a Colonel Pearson, who was her father's partner in business. And, indeed, Colonel Pearson went in and out at Mr. Morton's gate every evening, and the father was known to favor his suit.
"Jennie was not engaged to him, however. Three times she had refused him. The fourth time, in deference to her father's wishes, she had consented to 'think about it' for a week. In truth, Henry had been at home ten days and had not called upon her, and all the hope she had cherished in that direction, and all the weary waiting, seemed in vain. When the colonel's week was nearly out she heard that Henry was to leave in two days. In a sort of desperation she determined to accept Colonel Pearson without waiting for the time appointed for her answer. But that gentleman spoiled it all by his own overconfidence.
"For when he called, after Jennie had determined on this course, he found her so full of kindness that he hardly knew how to behave with moderation. And so he fell to flattering her, and flattering himself at the same time that he knew all the ins and outs of a girl's heart, he complimented her on the many offers she had received.
"'And I tell you what,' he proceeded, 'there are plenty of others that would lay their heads at your feet if they were only your equals. There's that young parson—Gilbert, I think they call him—that is visiting his mother in the unpainted and threadbare-looking little house that stands behind this one. I've actually seen that fellow, in his rusty, musty coat, stop and look after you on the street; and every night, when I go home, he is sitting at the window that looks over this way. The poor fool is in love with you. Only think of it! And I chuckle to myself when I see him, and say, "Don't you wish you could reach so high?" I declare, it's funny.'
"In that one speech Colonel Pearson dashed his chances to pieces. He could not account for the sudden return of winter in Jennie Morton's manner. And all his sunshine was powerless to dispel it, or to bring back the least approach of spring.
"Poor Jennie! You can imagine, doctor, how she paced the floor all that night. She began to understand something of the courage of Henry Gilbert's heart, and something of the manliness of his motives. All night long she watched the light burning in the room in the widow's house; and all night long she debated the matter until her head ached. She could reach but one conclusion: Henry was to leave the day after to-morrow. If any communication should ever be opened between them she must begin it. It was as if she had seen him drifting away from her forever, and must throw him a rope. I think even such a woman's-right man as yourself would hardly justify her, however, in taking any step of the kind."
"I certainly should," said the doctor.
"But she could not find a way—she had no rope to throw. Again the colonel, meaning to do anything else but that, opened the way. At the breakfast table the next morning she received from him a magnificent valentine. All at once she saw her method. It was St. Valentine's day. The rope was in her hand. Excusing herself from breakfast she hastened to her room.
"To send a valentine to the faithful lover was the uppermost thought. But how? She dare not write her name, for, after all, she might be mistaken in counting on his love, or she might offend his prejudices or his pride by so direct an approach. She went fumbling in a drawer for stationery. She drew out a little pine boat that Henry had whittled for her many years before. He had named it 'Hope,' but the combined wisdom of the little boy and girl could not succeed in spelling the name correctly. And here was the little old boat that he had given, saying often afterward that it was the boat they two were going to sail in some day. The misspelt name had been the subject of many a laugh between them. Now—but I mustn't be sentimental.
"It did not take Jennie long to draw an exact likeness of the little craft. And that there might be no mistake about it, she spelled the name as it was on the side of the boat:
"There was not another word in the valentine. Sealing it up, she hurried out with it and dropped it in the post office. No merchant, sending all his fortune to sea in one frail bark, ever watched the departure and trembled for the result of venture as she did. Spain did not pray half so fervently when the invincible armada sailed. It was an unuttered prayer—an unutterable prayer. For heart and hope were the lading of the little picture boat that sailed out that day, with no wind but her wishes in its sails.
"She sat down at her window until she saw Henry Gilbert pass the next street corner on his morning walk to the post office. Three minutes after, he went home, evidently in a great state of excitement, with her valentine open in his hand. After a while he went back again toward the post office, and returned. Had he taken a reply?
"Jennie again sought the office. There were people all around, with those hideous things that they call comic valentines open in their hands. And they actually seemed to think them funny! She had a reply. It did not take her long to find her room and to open it. There was another picture of a boat, but the name on its side read 'DESPAIR.' And these words were added: 'Your boat is the pleasantest, but understanding that there was no vacant place upon it, I have been obliged to take passage on this.' Slowly the meaning forced itself upon her. Henry had fears that she whom he thought engaged was coqueting with him. I think, doctor, you will hardly justify her in proceeding further with the correspondence?"
"Why not? Hasn't a woman as much right to make herself understood in such a matter as a man? And when the social advantages are on her side the burden of making the advances often falls upon her. Many women do it indirectly and are not censured."
"Well, you know I'm conservative, doctor, but I'm glad you're consistent. She did send another valentine. I am afraid she strained this figure of speech about the boat. But when everything in the world depends on one metaphor, it will not do to be fastidious. Jennie drew again the little boat with misspelt name. And this time she added five words: 'The master's place is vacant.'
"And quite late in the afternoon the reply was left at the door: 'I am an applicant for the vacant place, if you will take that of master's mate.'"
"Good!" cried the doctor; "I always advocated giving women every liberty in these matters."
"But I will stump you yet, doctor," said Hubert. "That evening Gough was to lecture in the village, and my friend went not to hear Gough but to see Miss Jennie Morton at a distance. Somehow in the stupefaction of revived hope he had not thought of going to the house to see her yet. He had postponed his departure and had thrown away his scruples. Knowing how much opposition he would have to contend with, he thought—if he thought at all—that he must proceed with caution. But some time after the lecture began he discovered the Morton family without Jennie! Slowly it all dawned upon him. She was at home waiting for him. He was near the front of the church in which the lecture was held, and every inch of aisle was full of people. To get out was not easy. But as he thought of Jennie waiting, it became a matter of life and death. If the house had been on fire he would not have been more intent on making his exit. He reached the door, he passed the happiest evening of his life, only to awake to sorrow, for Jennie's father is 'dead set' against the match."
"He has no right to interfere," said the doctor vehemently. "You see, I stand by my principles."
"But if I tell the story out I am afraid you would not," said Hubert.
"Why, isn't it done?"
"I beg your pardon, doctor, for having used a little craft. I had much at stake. I have disguised this story in its details. But it is true, I am the hero——"
The doctor looked quickly towards his daughter. Her head was bent low over her book. Her long hair hung about it like a curtain, shutting out all view of the face. The doctor walked to the other window and looked out. Hubert sat like a mummy. After a minute Dr. Hood spoke.
She lifted a face that was aflame. Tears glistened in her eyes, and I doubt not there was a prayer in her heart.
"You are a brave girl. I had other plans. You have a right to choose for yourself. God bless you both! But it's a great pity Hu is not a lawyer; he pleads well." So saying he put on his hat and walked out.
This is the conversation that Hubert repeated to me that day sitting in his own little parsonage in Allenville. A minute after his wife came in. She had been prescribing for the minor ailments of some poor neighbors. She took the baby from her crib, and bent over her till that same long hair curtained mother and child from sight.
"I think," said Hubert, "that you folks who write love stories make a great mistake in stopping at marriage. The honeymoon never truly begins until conjugal affection is enriched by this holy partnership of loving hearts in the life of a child. The climax of a love story is not the wedding. It is the baby!"
"What do you call her?" I asked.
"Hope," said the mother.
"Hope Valentine," added the father, with a significant smile.
"And you spell the Hope with an 'a,' I believe," I said.
"You naughty Hu!" said Mrs. Cornelia. "You've been telling. You think that love story is interesting to others because you enjoy it so much!"
HULDAH, THE HELP.
A THANKSGIVING LOVE STORY.
I remember a story that Judge Balcom told a few years ago on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day. I do not feel sure that it will interest everybody as it did me. Indeed, I am afraid that it will not, and yet I can not help thinking that it is just the sort of a trifle that will go well with turkey, celery, and mince pie.
 This is the first story written by me, beyond a few juvenile tales; and it was the first short story to appear in Scribner's Monthly, the present Century Magazine. Mr. Gilder, then associated with Dr. Holland in editing that newborn periodical, begged me to write a short story for the second number of the magazine. I told him that something Helps had written suggested that a story might be devised in which the hero should marry a servant. He said it couldn't be done, and I wrote this, on a wager, as it were. But a "help" is not a servant. The popularity of this story encouraged me to continue, but I can not now account for the popularity of the story.
It was in the judge's own mansion on Thirty-fourth Street that I heard it. It does not matter to the reader how I, a stranger, came to be one of that family party. Since I could not enjoy the society of my own family, it was an act of Christian charity that permitted me to share the joy of others. We had eaten dinner and had adjourned to the warm, bright parlor. I have noticed on such occasions that conversation is apt to flag after dinner. Whether it is that digestion absorbs all of one's vitality, or for some other reason, at least so it generally falls out, that people may talk ever so brilliantly at the table, but they will hardly keep it up for the first half-hour afterward. And so it happened that some of the party fell to looking at the books, and some to turning the leaves of the photograph album, while others were using the stereoscope. For my own part, I was staring at an engraving in a dark corner of the parlor, where I could not have made out much of its purpose if I had desired, but in reality I was thinking of the joyous company of my own kith and kin, hundreds of miles away, and regretting that I could not be with them.
"What are you thinking about, papa?" asked Irene, the judge's second daughter.
She was a rather haughty-looking girl of sixteen, but, as I had noticed, very much devoted to her parents. At this moment she was running her hand through her father's hair, while he was rousing himself from his revery to answer her question.
"Thinking of the old Thanksgivings, which were so different from anything we have here. They were the genuine thing; these are only counterfeits."
"Come, tell us about them, please." This time it was Annie Balcom, the elder girl, who spoke. And we all gathered round the judge. For I notice that when conversation does revive, after that period of silence that follows dinner, it is very attractive to the whole company, and in whatsoever place it breaks out there is soon a knot of interested listeners.
"I don't just now think of any particular story of New England Thanksgivings that would interest you," said the judge.
"Tell them about Huldah's mince pie," said Mrs. Balcom, as she looked up from a copy of Whittier she had been reading.
I can not pretend to give the story which follows exactly in the judge's words, for it is three years since I heard it, but as nearly as I can remember it was as follows:
There was a young lawyer named John Harlow practicing law here in New York twenty odd years ago. His father lived not very far from my father. John had been graduated with honors, had studied law, and had the good fortune to enter immediately into a partnership with his law preceptor, ex-Gov. Blank. So eagerly had he pursued his studies that for two years he had not seen his country home. I think one reason why he had not cared to visit it was that his mother was dead, and his only sister was married and living in Boston. Take the "women folks" out of a house, and it never seems much like home to a young man.
But now, as Thanksgiving day drew near, he resolved to give himself a brief release from the bondage of books. He told his partner that he wanted to go home for a week. He said he wanted to see his father and the boys, and his sister, who was coming home at that time, but that he specially wanted to ride old Bob to the brook once more, and to milk Cherry again, just to see how it felt to be a farmer's boy.
"John," said the old lawyer, "be sure you fix up a match with some of those country girls. No man is fit for anything till he is well married; and you are now able, with economy, to support a wife. Mind you get one of those country girls. These paste and powder people here aren't fit for a young man who wants a woman."
"Governor," said the young lawyer, laying his boots gracefully up on top of a pile of law books, as if to encourage reflection by giving his head the advantage of the lower end of the inclined plane, "Governor, I don't know anything about city girls. I have given myself to my books. But I must have a wife that is literary, like myself—one that can understand Emerson, for instance."
The old lawyer laughed. "John," he answered, "the worst mistake you can make is to marry a woman just like yourself in taste. You don't want to marry a woman's head, but her heart."
John defended his theory, and the governor only remarked that he would be cured of that sooner or later, and the sooner the better.
The next morning John had a letter from his sister. Part of it ran about thus:
"I've concluded, old fellow, that if you don't marry you'll dry up and turn to parchment. I'm going to bring home with me the smartest girl I know. She reads Carlyle, and quotes Goethe, and understands Emerson. Of course she don't know what I am up to, but you must prepare to capitulate."
John did not like Amanda's assuming to pick a wife for him, but he did like the prospect of meeting a clever girl, and he opened the letter again to make sure that he had not misunderstood. He read again, "understands Emerson." John was pleased. Why? I think I can divine. John was vain of his own abilities, and he wanted a woman that could appreciate him. He would have told you that he wanted congenial society. But congenial female society to an ambitious man whose heart is yet untouched is only society that, in some sense, understands his greatness and admires his wisdom.
In the old home they were looking for the son. The family proper consisted of the father, good Deacon Harlow, John's two brothers, ten and twelve years old, and Huldah, the "help." This last was the daughter of a neighboring farmer who was poor and hopelessly rheumatic, and most of the daughter's hard earnings went to eke out the scanty subsistence at home. Aunt Judith, the sister of John's mother, "looked after" the household affairs of her brother-in-law, by coming over once a week and helping Huldah darn and mend and make, and by giving Huldah such advice as her inexperience was supposed to require. But now Deacon Harlow's daughter had left her husband to eat his turkey alone in Boston, and had brought her two children home to receive the paternal blessing. Not that Mrs. Amanda Holmes had the paternal blessing chiefly in view in her trip. She had brought with her a very dear friend, Miss Janet Dunton, the accomplished teacher in the Mount Parnassus Female Seminary. Why Miss Janet Dunton came to the country with her friend she could hardly have told. Not a word had Mrs. Holmes spoken to her on the subject of the matrimonial scheme. She would have resented any allusion to such a project. She would have repelled any insinuation that she had ever dreamed that marriage was desirable under any conceivable circumstances. It is a way we have of teaching girls to lie. We educate them to catch husbands. Every superadded accomplishment is put on with the distinct understanding that its sole use is to make the goods more marketable. We get up parties, we go to watering places, we buy dresses, we refurnish our houses, to help our girls to a good match. And then we teach them to abhor the awful wickedness of ever confessing the great desire that nature and education have combined to make the chief longing of their hearts. We train them to lie to us, their trainers; we train them to lie to themselves; to be false with everybody on this subject; to say "no" when they mean "yes"; to deny an engagement when they are dying to boast of it. It is one of the refinements of Christian civilization which we pray the Women's Missionary Society not to communicate to poor ignorant heathens who know no better than to tell the truth about these things.