He drew the face tenderly to his own, and kissed her quivering lips repeatedly, and at last a moan of anguish told how she was wrestling with her heart.
"Do you think you can hide your love from my eager eyes? Oh! I know that I am unworthy of you! I feel it more and more every day, every hour. It is because you seem so noble—so holy—to my eyes, that I reverence while I love you. You are so far above all other women—so glorified in your pure, consistent piety—that you only have the power to make my future life—redeem the wretched and sinful past. I tempted and tried you, and when you proved so true and honest and womanly, you kindled a faint beam of hope that, after all, there might be truth and saving, purifying power in religion. Do you know that since this church was finished I have never entered it until a month ago, when I followed you here, and crouched downstairs— yonder, behind one of the pillars, and heard your sacred songs, your hymns so full of grandeur, so full of pathos, that I could not keep back my tears while I listened. Since then I have come every Saturday afternoon, and during the hour spent here my unholy nature was touched and softened as no sermon ever touched it. Oh! you wield a power over me—over all my future, which ought to make you tremble! The first generous impulse that has stirred my callous, bitter soul since I was a boy, I owe to you. I went first to see poor Reed, in order to discover what took you so often to that cheerless place; and my interest in little Huldah arose from the fact that you loved the child. Oh, my darling! I know I have been sinful and cruel and blasphemous; but it is not too late for me to atone! It is not too late for me to do some good in the world; and if you will only love me, and trust me, and help me—"
His voice faltered, his tears fell upon her forehead, and stooping he kissed her lips softly, reverently, as if he realized the presence of something sacred.
"My precious Edna, no oath shall ever soil my lips again; the touch of yours has purified them. I have been mad—I think, for many, many years, and I loath my past life; but remember how sorely I was tried, and be merciful when you judge me. With your dear little hand in mine to lead me, I will make amends for the ruin and suffering I have wrought, and my Edna—my own wife, shall save me!" Before the orphan's mental vision rose the picture of Gertrude, the trembling coral mouth, the childish wistful eyes, the lovely head nestled down so often and so lovingly on her shoulder; and she saw, too, the bent figure and white locks of her beloved pastor, as he sat in his old age, in his childless, desolate home, facing the graves of his murdered children.
"Oh, Mr. Murray! You can not atone! You can not call your victims from their tombs. You can not undo what you have done! What amends can you make to Mr. Hammond, and to my poor little confiding Gertrude? I can not help you! I can not save you!"
"Hush! You can, you shall! Do you think I will ever give you up? Have mercy on my lonely life! my wretched, darkened soul. Lean your dear head here on my heart, and say, 'St. Elmo, what a wife can do to save her erring, sinful husband, I will do for you.' If I am ever to be saved, you, you only can effect my redemption; for I trust, I reverence you. Edna, as you value my soul, my eternal welfare, give yourself to me! Give your pure, sinless life to purify mine."
With a sudden bound she sprang from his embrace, and lifted her arms toward the Christ, who seemed to shudder as the flickering light of fading day fell through waving foliage upon it.
"Look yonder to Jesus, bleeding! Only his blood can wash away your guilt. Mr. Murray, I can never be your wife. I have no confidence in you. Knowing how systematically you have deceived others, how devoid of conscientious scruples you are, I should never be sure that I too was not the victim of your heartless cynicism. Beside, I—"
"Hush! hush! To your keeping I commit my conscience and my heart."
"No! no! I am no vicegerent of an outraged and insulted God! I put no faith in any man whose conscience another keeps. From the species of fascination which you exert, I shrink with unconquerable dread and aversion, and would almost as soon entertain the thought of marrying Lucifer himself. Oh! your perverted nature shocks, repels, astonishes, grieves me. I can neither respect nor trust you. Mr. Murray, have mercy upon yourself! Go yonder to Jesus. He only can save and purify you."
"Edna, you do not, you can not intend to leave me? Darling—"
He held out his arms and moved toward her, but she sprang past him, down the steps of the gallery, out of the church, and paused only at sight of the dark, dull spot on the white steps, where Annie Hammond had lain insensible.
An hour later, St. Elmo Murray raised his face from the mahogany railing where it had rested since Edna left him, and looked around the noble pile which his munificence had erected. A full moon eyed him pityingly through the stained glass, and the gleam of the marble pulpit was chill and ghostly; and in that weird light the Christ was threatening, wrathful, appalling.
As St. Elmo stood there alone, confronting the picture—confronting the past-memory, like the Witch of Endor, called up visions of the departed that were more terrible than the mantled form of Israel's prophet; and the proud, hopeless man bowed his haughty head, with a cry of anguish that rose mournfully to the vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary:
"It went up single, echoless, 'My God! I am forsaken!'"
The weather was so inclement on the following day that no service was held in the church; but, notwithstanding the heavy rain, Edna went to the parsonage to bid adieu to her pastor and teacher. When she ascended the steps Mr. Hammond was walking up and down the portico with his hands clasped behind him, as was his habit when engrossed by earnest thought; and he greeted his pupil with a degree of mournful tenderness very soothing to her sad heart.
Leading the way to his study, where Mrs. Powell sat with an open book on her lap, he said gently:
"Agnes, will you be so kind as to leave us for a while? This is the last interview I shall have with Edna for a long time, perhaps forever, and there are some things I wish to say to her alone. You will find a better light in the dining-room, where all is quiet."
As Mrs. Powell withdrew he locked the door, and for some seconds paced the floor; then, taking a seat on the chintz-covered lounge beside his pupil, he said eagerly:
"St. Elmo was at the church yesterday afternoon. Are you willing to tell me what passed between you?"
"Mr. Hammond, he told me his melancholy history. I know all now— know why he shrinks from meeting you, whom he has injured so cruelly; know all his guilt and your desolation."
The old man bowed his white head on his bosom, and there was a painful silence. When he spoke, his voice was scarcely audible.
"The punishment of Eli has fallen heavily upon me, and there have been hours when I thought that it was greater than I could bear— that it would utterly crush me; but the bitterness of the curse has passed away; and I can say truly of that 'meekest angel of God,' the Angel of Patience:
'He walks with thee, that angel kind, And gently whispers, Be resigned; Bear up, bear on; the end shall tell, The dear Lord ordereth all things well!'
"I tried to train up my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord; but I must have failed signally in my duty, though I have never been able to discover in what respect I was negligent. One of the sins of my life was my inordinate pride in my only boy—my gifted, gifted, handsome son. My love for Murray was almost idolatrous; and when my heart throbbed with proudest hopes and aspirations, my idol was broken and laid low in the dust; and, like David mourning for his rebellious child Absalom, I cried out in my affliction, 'My son! my son! would God I had died for thee!' Murray Hammond was my precious diadem of earthly glory; and suddenly I found myself uncrowned, and sackcloth and ashes were my portion."
"Why did you never confide these sorrows to me? Did you doubt my earnest sympathy?"
"No, my child; but I thought it best that St. Elmo should lift the veil and show you all that he wished you to know. I felt assured that the time would come when he considered it due to himself to acquaint you with his sad history; and when I saw him go into the church yesterday I knew that the hour had arrived. I did not wish to prejudice you against him; for I believe that through your agency the prayers of twenty years would be answered, and that his wandering, embittered heart would follow you to that cross before which he bowed in his boyhood. Edna, it was through my son's sin and duplicity that St. Elmo's noble career was blasted, and his most admirable character perverted; and I have hoped and believed that through your influence, my beloved pupil, he would be redeemed from his reckless course. My dear little Edna, you are very lovely and winning, and I believe he would love you as he never loved any one else. Oh! I have hoped everything from your influence! Far, far beyond all computation is the good which a pious, consistent, Christian wife can accomplish in the heart of a husband who truly loves her."
"Oh, Mr. Hammond! you pain and astonish me. Surely you would not be willing to see me marry a man who scoffs at the very name of religion; who wilfully deceives and trifles with the feelings of all who are sufficiently credulous to trust his hollow professions— whose hands are red with the blood of your children! What hope of happiness or peace could you indulge for me, in view of such a union? I should merit all the wretchedness that would inevitably be my life—long portion if, knowing his crimes, I could consent to link my future with his."
"He would not deceive you, my child! If you knew him as well as I do, if you could realize all that he was before his tender, loving heart was stabbed by the two whom he almost adored, you would judge him more leniently. Edna, if I whom he has robbed of all that made life beautiful—if I, standing here in my lonely old age, in sight of the graves of my murdered darlings—if I can forgive him, and pray for him, and, as God is my witness, love him! you have no right to visit my injuries and my sorrows upon him!"
Edna looked in amazement at his troubled earnest countenance, and exclaimed:
"Oh! if he knew all your noble charity, your unparalleled magnanimity, surely, surely, your influence would be his salvation! His stubborn, bitter heart would be melted. But, sir, I should have a right to expect Annie's sad fate if I could forget her sufferings and her wrongs."
Mr. Hammond rose and walked to the window, and after a time, when he resumed his seat, his eyes were full of tears, and his wrinkled face was strangely pallid.
"My darling Annie, my sweet, fragile flower, my precious little daughter, so like her sainted mother! Ah! it is not surprising that she could not resist his fascinations. But, Edna, he never loved my pet lamb. Do you know that you have become almost as dear to me as my own dead child? She deceived me! she was willing to forsake her father in his old age; but through long years you have never once betrayed my perfect confidence."
The old man put his thin hand on the orphan's head and turned the countenance toward him.
"My dear little girl, you will not think me impertinently curious when I ask you a question, which my sincere affection for and interest in you certainly sanction? Do you love St. Elmo?"
"Mr. Hammond, it is not love; for esteem, respect, confidence, belong to love. But I can not deny that he exerts a very singular, a wicked fascination over me. I dread his evil influence, I avoid his presence, and know that he is utterly unworthy of any woman's trust; and yet—and yet—Oh, sir! I feel that I am very weak, and I fear that I am unwomanly; but I can not despise, I can not hate him as I ought to do!"
"Is not this feeling on your part one of the causes that hurry you away to New York?"
"That is certainly one of the reasons why I am anxious to go away as early as possible. Oh, Mr. Hammond! much as I love, much as I owe you and Mrs. Murray, I sometimes wish that I had never come here! Never seen Le Bocage, and the mocking, jeering man who owns it!"
"Try to believe that somehow in the mysterious Divine economy it is all for the best. In reviewing the apparently accidental circumstances that placed you among us, I have thought that, because this was your appointed field of labor, God in his wisdom brought you where he designed you to work. Does Mrs. Murray know that her son offered to make you his wife?"
"No! no! I hope she never will; for it would mortify her exceedingly to know that he could be willing to give his proud name to one of whose lineage she is so ignorant. How did you know it?"
"I knew what his errand must be when he forced himself to visit a spot so fraught with painful memories as my church. Edna, I shall not urge you; but ponder well the step you are taking; for St. Elmo's future will be colored by your decision. I have an abiding and comforting faith that he will yet lift himself out of the abyss of sinful dissipation and scoffing scepticism, and your hand would aid him as none other human can."
"Mr. Hammond, it seems incredible that you can plead for him. Oh, do not tempt me! Do not make me believe that I could restore his purity of faith and life. Do not tell me that it would be right to give my hand to a blasphemous murderer? Oh! my own heart is weak enough already! I know that I am right in my estimate of his unscrupulous character, and I am neither so vain nor so blind as to imagine that my feeble efforts could accomplish for him what all your noble magnanimity and patient endeavors have entirely failed to effect. If he can obstinately resist the influence of your life, he would laugh mine to scorn. It is hard enough for me to leave him, when I feel that duty demands it. Oh, my dear Mr. Hammond! do not attempt to take from me the only staff which can carry me firmly away—do not make my trial even more severe. I must not see his face; for I will not be his wife. Instead of weakening my resolution by holding out flattering hopes of reforming him, pray for me! oh! pray for me! that I may be strengthened to flee from a great temptation! I will marry no man who is not an earnest, humble believer in the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than become the wife of a sacrilegious scoffer, such as I know Mr. Murray to be, I will, so help me God! live and work alone, and go down to my grave, Edna Earl!"
The minister sighed heavily.
"Bear one thing in mind. It has been said, that in disavowing guardianship, we sometimes slaughter Abel. You can not understand my interest in St. Elmo. Remember that if his wretched soul is lost at last, it will be required at the hands of my son, in that dread day- -Dies Irae! Dies Illa!—when we shall stand at the final judgment! Do you wonder that I struggle in prayer, and in all possible human endeavor to rescue him from ruin; so that when I am called from earth, I can meet the spirit of my only boy with the blessed tidings that the soul he jeopardized, and well-nigh wrecked, has been redeemed! is safe! anchored once more in the faith of Christ? But I will say no more. Your own heart and conscience must guide you in this matter. It would pour a flood of glorious sunshine upon my sad and anxious heart, as I go down to my grave, if I could know that you, whose life and character I have in great degree moulded, were instrumental in saving one whom I have loved so long, so well, and under such afflicting circumstances, as my poor St. Elmo."
"To the mercy of his Maker, and the intercession of his Saviour, I commit him."
'As for me, I go my way, onward, upward.'"
A short silence ensued, and at last Edna rose to say good-bye.
"Do you still intend to leave at four o'clock in the morning? I fear you will have bad weather for your journey."
"Yes, sir, I shall certainly start to-morrow. And now, I must leave you. Oh, my best friend! how can I tell you good-bye!"
The minister folded her in his trembling arms, and his silver locks mingled with her black hair, while he solemnly blessed her. She sobbed as he pressed his lips to her forehead, and gently put her from him; and turning, she hurried away, anxious to escape the sight of Gertrude's accusing face; for she supposed that Mrs. Powell had repeated to her daughter Mr. Murray's taunting words.
Since the previous evening she had not spoken to St. Elmo, who did not appear at breakfast; but when she passed him in the hall an hour later, he was talking to his mother, and took no notice of her bow.
Now as the carriage approached the house, she glanced in the direction of his apartment, and saw him sitting at the window, with his elbow resting on the sill, and his cheek on his hand.
She went at once to Mrs. Murray, and the interview was long and painful. The latter wept freely, and insisted that if the orphan grew weary of teaching (as she knew would happen), she should come back immediately to Le Bocage; where a home would always be hers, and to which a true friend would welcome her.
At length, when Estelle Harding came in with some letters, which she wished to submit to her aunt's inspection, Edna retreated to her own quiet room. She went to her bureau to complete the packing of her clothes, and found on the marble slab a box and note directed to her.
Mr. Murray's handwriting was remarkably graceful, and Edna broke the seal which bore his motto, Nemo me impune lacessit.
"EDNA: I send for your examination the contents of the little tomb, which you guarded so faithfully. Read the letters written before I was betrayed. The locket attached to a ribbon, which was always worn over my heart, and the miniatures which it contains are those of Agnes Hunt and Murray Hammond. Read all the record, and then judge me, as you hope to be judged. I sit alone, amid the mouldering, blackened ruins of my youth; will you not listen to the prayer of my heart, and the half-smothered pleadings of your own, and come to me in my desolation, and help me to build up a new and noble life? Oh, my darling, you can make me what you will. While you read and ponder, I am praying. Aye, praying for the first time in twenty years! praying that if God ever hears prayer, He will influence your decision, and bring you to me. Edna, my darling! I wait for you. "Your own, "ST. ELMO."
Ah! how her tortured heart writhed and bled; how piteously it pleaded for him, and for itself!
Edna opened the locket, and if Gertrude had stepped into the golden frame, the likeness could not have been more startling. She looked at it until her lips blanched and were tightly compressed, and the memory of Gertrude became paramount. Murray Hammond's face she barely glanced at, and its extraordinary beauty stared at her like that of some avenging angel. With a shudder she put it away, and turned to the letters that St. Elmo had written to Agnes and to Murray, in the early, happy days of his engagement.
Tender, beautiful, loving letters, that breathed the most devoted attachment and the purest piety; letters that were full of lofty aspirations, and religious fervor, and generous schemes for the assistance and enlightenment of the poor about Le Bocage; and especially for "my noble, matchless Murray." Among the papers were several designs for charitable buildings: a house of industry, an asylum for the blind, and a free school-house. In an exquisite ivory casket, containing a splendid set of diamonds, and the costly betrothal ring, bearing the initials, Edna found a sheet of paper around which the blazing necklace was twisted. Disengaging it. she saw that it was a narration of all that had stung him to desperation on the night of the murder.
As she read the burning taunts, the insults, the ridicule heaped by the two under the apple-tree upon the fond, faithful, generous, absent friend, she felt the indignant blood gush into her face; but she read on and on, and two hours elapsed ere she finished the package. Then came a trial, a long, fierce, agonizing trial, such as few women have ever been called upon to pass through; such as the world believes no woman ever triumphantly endured. Girded by prayer, the girl went down resolutely into the flames of the furnace, and the ordeal was terrible indeed. But as often as Love showed her the figure of Mr. Murray, alone in his dreary sitting-room, waiting, watching for her, she turned and asked of Duty, the portrait of Gertrude's sweet, anxious face; the picture of dying Annie; the mournful countenance of a man, shut up by iron bars from God's beautiful world, from the home and the family who had fondly cherished her in her happy girlhood, ere St. Elmo trailed his poison across her sunny path.
After another hour, the orphan went to her desk, and while she wrote, a pale, cold rigidity settled upon her features, which told that she was calmly, deliberately shaking hands with the expelled, the departing Hagar of her heart's hope and happiness. "To the mercy of God, and the love of Christ, and the judgment of your own conscience, I commit you. Henceforth we walk different paths, and after to-night, it is my wish that we meet no more on earth. Mr. Murray, I cannot lift up your darkened soul; and you would only drag mine down. For your final salvation I shall never cease to pray till we stand face to face before the Bar of God. "EDNA EARL."
Ringing for a servant, she sent back the box, and even his own note, which she longed to keep, but would not trust herself to see again; and dreading reflection, and too miserable to sleep, she went to Mrs. Murray's room, and remained with her till three o'clock.
Then Mr. Murray's voice rang through the house, calling for the carriage, and as Edna put on her bonnet and shawl, he knocked at his mother's door.
"It is raining very hard, and you must not think of going to the train, as you intended."
"But, my son, the carriage is close and—"
"I can not permit you to expose yourself so unnecessarily, and, in short, I will not take you, so there is an end of it. Of course I can stand the weather, and I will go over with Edna, and put her under the care of some one on the train. As soon as possible send her down to the carriage. I shall order her trunks strapped on."
He was very pale and stern, and his voice rang coldly clear as he turned and went downstairs.
The parting was very painful, and Mrs. Murray followed the orphan to the front door.
"St. Elmo, I wish you would let me go. I do not mind the rain."
"Impossible. You know I have an unconquerable horror of scenes, and I do not at all fancy witnessing one that threatens to last until the train leaves. Go upstairs and cry yourself to sleep in ten minutes; that will be much more sensible. Come, Edna, are you ready?"
The orphan was folded in a last embrace, and Mr. Murray held out his hand, drew her from his mother's arms, and taking his seat beside her in the carriage, ordered the coachman to drive on.
The night was very dark, the wind sobbed down the avenue, and the rain fell in such torrents that as Edna leaned out for a last look at the stately mansion, which she had learned to love so well, she could only discern the outline of the bronze monsters by the glimmer of the light burning in the hall. She shrank far back in one corner, and her fingers clutched each other convulsively; but when they had passed through the gate and entered the main road Mr. Murray's hand was laid on hers—the cold fingers were unlocked gently but firmly, and raised to his lips.
She made an effort to withdraw them, but found it useless, and the trial which she had fancied was at end seemed only beginning.
"Edna, this is the last time I shall ever speak to you of myself; the last time I shall ever allude to all that has passed. It is entirely useless for one to ask you to reconsider? If you have no pity for me, have some mercy on yourself. You can not know how I dread the thought of your leaving me, and being roughly handled by a cold, selfish, ruthless world. Oh! it maddens me when I think of your giving your precious life, which would so glorify my home and gladden my desolate heart, to a public, who will trample upon you if possible, and, if it can not entirely crush you, will only value you as you deserve, when, with ruined health and withered hopes, you sink into the early grave malice and envy will have dug for you. Already your dear face has grown pale, and your eyes have a restless, troubled look, and shadows are gathering about your young, pure, fresh spirit. My darling, you are not strong enough to wrestle with the world; you will be trodden down by the masses in this conflict, upon which you enter so eagerly. Do you not know that 'literati' means literally the branded? The lettered slave! Oh! if not for my sake, at least for your own, reconsider before the hot irons sear your brow; and hide it here, my love; keep it white and pure and unfurrowed here, in the arms that will never weary of sheltering and clasping you close and safe from the burning brand of fame. Literati! A bondage worse than Roman slavery! Help me to make a proper use of my fortune, and you will do more real good to your race than by all you can ever accomplish with your pen, no matter how successful it may prove. If you were selfish and heartless as other women, adulation and celebrity and the praise of the public might satisfy you. But you are not, and I have studied your nature too thoroughly to mistake the result of your ambitious career. My darling, ambition is the mirage of the literary desert you are anxious to traverse; it is the Bahr Sheitan, the Satan's water, which will ever recede and mock your thirsty, toil-spent soul. Dear little pilgrim, do not scorch your feet and wear out your life in the hot, blinding sands, struggling in vain for the constantly fading, vanishing oasis of happy literary celebrity. Ah! the Sahara of letters is full of bleaching bones that tell where many of your sex as well as of mine fell and perished miserably, even before the noon of life. Ambitious spirit, come, rest in peace in the cool, quiet, happy, palm-grove that I offer you. My shrinking violet, sweeter than all Paestum boasts! You cannot cope successfully with the world of selfish men and frivolous, heartless women, of whom you know absolutely nothing. To-day I found a passage which you had marked in one of my books, and it echoes ceaselessly in my heart:
"'MY FUTURE WILL NOT COPY FAIR MY PAST.' I wrote that once; and thinking at my side My ministering life-angel justified The word by his appealing look upcast To the white throne of God, I turned at last, And there instead saw thee, not unallied To angels in thy soul! * * Then I, long tired By natural ills, received the comfort fast; While budding at thy sight, my pilgrim's staff Gave out green leaves with morning dews impearled. I seek no copy of life's first half: Leave here the pages with long musing curled, Write me new my future's epigraph. New angel mine—unhoped-for in the world!'"
He had passed his arm around her and drawn her close to his side, and the pleading tenderness of his low voice was indeed hard to resist.
"No, Mr. Murray, my decision is unalterable. If you do really love me, spare me, spare me, further entreaty. Before we part there are some things I should like to say, and I have little time left. Will you hear me?"
He did not answer, but tightened his arm, drew her head to his bosom, and leaned his face down on hers.
"Mr. Murray, I want to leave my Bible with you, because there are many passages marked which would greatly comfort and help you. It is the most precious thing I possess, for Grandpa gave it to me when I was a little girl, and I could not bear to leave it with any one but you. I have it here in my hand; will you look into it sometimes if I give it to you?"
He merely put out his hand and took it from her.
She paused a few seconds, and as he remained silent, she continued:
"Mr. Hammond is the best friend you have on earth. Yesterday, having seen you enter the church and suspecting what passed, he spoke to me of you, and oh! he pleaded for you as only he could! He urged me not to judge you too harshly; not to leave you, and these were his words: 'Edna, if I, whom he has robbed of all that life made beautiful; if I, standing here alone in my old age, in sight of the graves of my murdered darlings, if I can forgive him, and pray for him, and, as God is my witness, love him! you have no right to visit my injuries and my sorrows upon him!' Mr. Murray, he can help you, and he will, if you will only permit him. If you could realize how dearly he is interested in your happiness, you could not fail to reverence that religion which enables him to triumph over all the natural feelings of resentment. Mr. Murray, you have declared again and again that you love me. Oh, if it be true, meet me in heaven! I know that I am weak and sinful; but I am trying to correct the faults of my character, I am striving to do what I believe to be my duty, and I hope at last to find a home with my God. For several years, ever since you went abroad, I have been praying for you; and while I live I shall not cease to do so. Oh! will you not pray for yourself? Mr. Murray, I believe I shall not be happy even in heaven if I do not see you there. On earth we are parted—your crimes divide us; but there! there! Oh! for my sake, make an effort to redeem yourself, and meet me there!"
She felt his strong frame tremble, and a heavy shuddering sigh broke from his lips and swept across her cheek. But when he spoke his words contained no hint of the promise she longed to receive:
"Edna, my shadow has fallen across your heart, and I am not afraid that you will forget me. You will try to do so, you will give me as little thought as possible; you will struggle to crush your aching heart, and endeavor to be famous. But amid your ovations the memory of a lonely man, who loves you infinitely better than all the world for which you forsook him, will come like a breath from the sepulchre, to wither your bays; and my words, my pleading words, will haunt you, rising above the paeans of your public worshippers. When the laurel crown you covet now shall become a chaplet of thorns piercing your temples, or a band of iron that makes your brow ache, you will think mournfully of the days gone by, when I prayed for the privilege of resting your weary head here on my heart. You can not forget me. Sinful and unworthy as I confess myself, I am conqueror, I triumph now, even though you never permit me to look upon your face again; for I believe I have a place in my darling's heart which no other man, which not the whole world can usurp or fill! You are too proud to acknowledge it, too truthful to deny it; but, my pure Pearl, my heart feels it as well as yours, and it is a comfort of which all time can not rob me. Without it, how could I face my future, so desolate, sombre, lonely? Edna, the hour has come when, in accordance with your own decree, we part. For twenty years no woman's lips, except my mother's, have touched mine until yesterday, when they pressed yours. Perhaps we may never meet again in this world, and, ah! do not shrink away from me, I want to kiss you once more, my darling! my darling! I shall wear it on my lips till death stiffens them; and I am not at all afraid that any other man will ever be allowed to touch lips that belong to me alone; that I have made, and here seal, all my own! Good-bye."
He strained her to him and pressed his lips twice to hers, then the carriage stopped at the railroad station.
He handed her out, found a seat for her in the cars, which had just arrived, arranged her wrappings comfortably, and went back to attend to her trunks. She sat near an open window, and though it rained heavily, he buttoned his coat to the throat, and stood just beneath it, with his eyes bent down. Twice she pronounced his name, but he did not seem to hear her, and Edna put her hand lightly on his shoulder and said:
"Do not stand here in the rain. In a few minutes we shall start, and I prefer that you should not wait. Please go home at once, Mr. Murray."
He shook his head, but caught her hand and leaned his cheek against the soft palm, passing it gently and caressingly over his haggard face.
The engine whistled; Mr. Murray pressed a long, warm kiss on the hand he had taken, the cars moved on; and as he lifted his hat, giving her one of his imperial, graceful bows, Edna had a last glimpse of the dark, chiselled, repulsive yet handsome face that had throws its baleful image deep in her young heart, and defied all her efforts to expel it. The wind howled around the cars, the rain fell heavily, beating a dismal tattoo on the glass, the night was mournfully dreary, and the orphan sank back and lowered her veil, and hid her face in her hands.
Henceforth she felt that in obedience to her own decision, and fiat
"They stood aloof, the scars remaining Like cliffs that had been rent asunder; A dreary sea now flows between; But neither heat nor frost nor thunder Shall wholly do away, I ween, The marks of that which once hath been."
As day dawned the drab clouds blanched, broke up in marbled masses, the rain ceased, the wind sang out of the west, heralding the coming blue and gold, and at noon not one pearly vapor sail dotted the sky. During the afternoon Edna looked anxiously for the first glimpse of "Lookout," but a trifling accident detained the train for several hours, and it was almost twilight when she saw it, a purple spot staining the clear beryl horizon; spreading rapidly, shifting its Tyrian mantle for gray robes; and at length the rising moon silvered its rocky crest, as it towered in silent majesty over the little village nestled at its base. The kind and gentlemanly conductor on the cars accompanied Edna to the hotel, and gave her a parcel containing several late papers. As she sat in her small room, weary and yet sleepless, she tried to divert her thoughts by reading the journals, and found in three of them notices of the last number of —— Magazine, and especial mention of her essay: "Keeping the Vigil of St. Martin under the Pines of Grutli."
The extravagant laudations of this article surprised her, and she saw that while much curiosity was indulged concerning the authorship, one of the editors ventured to attribute it to a celebrated and very able writer, whose genius and erudition had lifted him to an enviable eminence in the world of American letters. The criticisms were excessively flattering, and the young author, gratified at the complete success that had crowned her efforts, cut out the friendly notices, intending to enclose them in a letter to Mrs. Murray.
Unable to sleep, giving audience to memories of her early childhood, she passed the night at her window, watching the constellations go down behind the dark, frowning mass of rock that lifted its parapets to the midnight sky, and in the morning light saw the cold, misty cowl drawn over the venerable hoary head.
The village had changed so materially that she could scarcely recognize any of the old landmarks, and the people who kept the hotel could tell her nothing about Peter Wood, the miller. After breakfast she took a box containing some flowers packed in wet cotton, and walked out on the road leading in the direction of the blacksmith's shop. Very soon the trees became familiar, she remembered every turn of the road and bend on the fences; and at last the grove of oak and chestnut shading the knoll at the intersection of the roads met her eye. She looked for the forge and bellows, for the anvil and slack-tub; but shop and shed had fallen to decay, and only a heap of rubbish, overgrown with rank weeds and vines, marked the spot where she had spent so many happy hours. The glowing yellow chestnut leaves dropped down at her feet, and the oaks tossed their gnarled arms as if welcoming the wanderer whose head they had shaded in infancy, and, stifling a moan, the orphan hurried on.
She saw that the timber had been cut down, and fences enclosed cultivated fields where forests had stood when she went away. At a sudden bend in the narrow, irregular road when she held her breath and leaned forward to see the old house where she was born and reared, a sharp cry of pain escaped her. Not a vestige of the homestead remained, save the rocky chimney, standing in memoriam in the centre of a cornfield. She leaned against the low fence, and tears trickled down her cheeks as memory rebuilt the log-house, and placed the split-bottomed rocking-chair on the porch in front, and filled it with the figure of a white-haired old man, with his pipe in his hand and his blurred eyes staring at the moon.
Through the brown corn-stalks she could see the gaping mouth of the well, now partly filled with rubbish; and the wreaths of scarlet cypress which once fringed the shed above it and hung their flaming trumpets down until they almost touched her childish head, as she sang at the well where she scoured the cedar piggin, were bereft of all support and trailed helplessly over the ground. Close to the fence, and beyond the reach of plough and hoe, a yellow four-o'clock with closed flowers marked the location of the little garden; and one tall larkspur leaned against the fence, sole survivor of the blue pets that Edna had loved so well in the early years. She put her fingers through a crevice, broke the plumy spray, and as she pressed it to her face, she dropped her head upon the rails and gave herself up to the flood of painful yet inexpressibly precious memories.
How carefully she had worked and weeded this little plat; how proud she once was of her rosemary and pinks, her double feathery poppies, her sweet-scented lemon-grass; how eagerly she had transplanted wood violets and purple phlox from the forest; how often she had sat on the steps watching for her grandfather's return, and stringing those four-o'clock blossoms into golden crowns for her own young head; and how gayly she had sometimes swung them over Brindle's horns, when she went out to milk her.
"Ah! sad and strange, as in dark summer dawns The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds To dying ears, when unto dying eyes The casement slowly grows a glimmering square; So sad, so strange, the days that are no more."
With a sob she turned away and walked in the direction of the burying-ground; for there, certainly, she would find all unchanged; graves at least were permanent.
The little spring bubbled as of yore, the brush creepers made a tangled tapestry around it, and crimson and blue convolvulus swung their velvety, dew-beaded chalices above it, as on that June morning long ago when she stood there filling her bucket, waiting for the sunrise.
She took off her gloves, knelt down beside the spring, and dipping up the cold, sparkling water in her palms, drank and wept, and drank again. She bathed her aching eyes, and almost cheated herself into the belief that she heard again Grip's fierce bark ringing through the woods, and the slow, drowsy tinkle of Brindle's bell. Turning aside from the beaten track, she entered the thick grove of chestnuts, and looked around for the grave of the Dents; but the mound had disappeared, and though she recognized the particular tree which had formerly overhung it, and searched the ground carefully, she could discover no trace of the hillock where she had so often scattered flowers. A squirrel leaped and frisked in the boughs above her, and she startled a rabbit from the thick grass and fallen yellow leaves: but neither these, nor the twitter of gossiping orioles, nor the harsh, hungry cry of a bluebird told her a syllable of all that had happened in her absence.
She conjectured that the bodies had probably been disinterred by friends and removed to Georgia; and she hurried on toward the hillside, where the neighborhood graveyard was situated. The rude, unpainted paling still enclosed it, and rows of headboards stretched away among grass and weeds; but whose was that shining marble shaft, standing in the centre of a neatly arranged square, around which ran a handsome iron railing? On that very spot, in years gone by, had stood a piece of pine board: "Sacred to the memory of Aaron Hunt, an honest blacksmith and true Christian."
Who had dared to disturb his bones, to violate his last resting- place, and to steal his grave for the interment of some wealthy stranger? A cry of horror and astonishment broke from the orphan's trembling lips, and she shaded her eyes with her hand, and tried to read the name inscribed on the monument of the sacrilegious interloper. But bitter, scalding tears of indignation blinded her. She dashed them away, but they gathered and fell faster; and, unbolting the gate, she entered the enclosure and stepped close to the marble.
ERECTED IN HONOR OF AARON HUNT: BY HIS DEVOTED GRANDDAUGHTER.
These gilded words were traced on the polished surface of the pure white obelisk, and on each corner of the square pedestal or base stood beautifully carved vases, from which drooped glossy tendrils of ivy.
As Edna looked in amazement at the glittering shaft, which rose twenty feet in the autumn air; as she rubbed her eyes and re-read the golden inscription, and looked at the sanded walks, and the well-trimmed evergreens, which told that careful hands kept the lot in order, she sank down at the base of the beautiful monument, and laid her hot cheek on the cold marble.
"Oh, Grandpa, Grandpa! He is not altogether wicked and callous as we once thought him, or he could never have done this! Forgive your poor little Pearl, if she can not help loving one who, for her sake, honors your dear name and memory! Oh, Grandpa! if I had never gone away from here. If I could have died before I saw him again! before this great pain fell upon my heart!"
She knew now where St. Elmo Murray went that night, after he had watched her from behind the sarcophagus and the mummies; knew that only his hand could have erected this noble pillar of record; and most fully did she appreciate the delicate feeling which made him so proudly reticent on this subject. He wished no element of gratitude in the love he had endeavored to win, and scorned to take advantage of her devoted affection for her grandfather, by touching her heart with a knowledge of the tribute paid to his memory. Until this moment she had sternly refused to permit herself to believe all his protestations of love; had tried to think that he merely desired to make her acknowledge his power, and confess an affection flattering to his vanity. But to-day she felt that all he had avowed was true; that his proud, bitter heart was indeed entirely hers; that this assurance filled her own heart with a measureless joy, a rapture that made her eyes sparkle through their tears and brought a momentary glow to her cheeks. Hour after hour passed; she took no note of time, and sat there pondering her past life, thinking how the dusty heart deep under the marble would have throbbed with fond pride, if it could only have known what the world said of her writings. That she should prove competent to teach the neighbors' children had been Aaron Hunt's loftiest ambition for his darling; and now she was deemed worthy to speak to her race through the columns of a periodical that few women were considered able to fill.
She wondered if he were not really cognizant of it all; if he were not watching her struggles and her triumph; and she asked herself why he was not allowed, in token of tender sympathy, to drop one palm-leaf on her head, from the fadeless branch he waved in heaven?
"Oh! how far, How far and safe, God, dost thou keep thy saints When once gone from us! We may call against The lighted windows of thy fair June heaven Where all the souls are happy; and not one, Not even my father, look from work or play, To ask, 'Who is it that cries after us, Below there, in the dark?"
The shaft threw a long slanting shadow eastward as the orphan rose, and, taking from the box the fragrant exotics which she had brought from Le Bocage, arranged them in the damp soil of one of the vases, and twined their bright-hued petals among the dark green ivy leaves. One shining wreath she broke and laid away tenderly in the box, a hallowed souvenir of the sacred spot where it grew; and as she stood there, looking at a garland of poppy leaves chiselled around the inscription, neither flush nor tremor told aught that passed in her mind, and her sculptured features were calm, as the afternoon sun showed how pale and fixed her face had grown. She climbed upon the broad base and pressed her lips to her grandfather's name, and there was a mournful sweetness in her voice as she said aloud:
"Pray God to pardon him, Grandpa! Pray Christ to comfort and save his precious soul! Oh, Grandpa! pray the Holy Spirit to melt and sanctify his suffering heart!"
It was painful to quit the place. She lingered, and started away, and came back, and at last knelt down and hid her face, and prayed long and silently.
Then turning quickly, she closed the iron gate, and without trusting herself for another look, walked away. She passed the spring and the homestead ruins, and finally found herself in sight of the miller's house, which alone seemed unchanged. As she lifted the latch of the gate and entered the yard, it seemed but yesterday that she was driven away to the depot in the miller's covered cart.
An ancient apple-tree, that she well remembered, stood near the house, and the spreading branches were bent almost to the earth with the weight of red-streaked apples, round and ripe. The shaggy, black dog, that so often frolicked with Grip in the days gone by, now lay on the step, blinking at the sun and the flies that now and then buzzed over the golden balsam, whose crimson seed glowed in the evening sunshine.
Over the rocky well rose a rude arbor, where a scuppernong vine clambered and hung its rich, luscious brown clusters; and here, with a pipe between her lips, and at her feet a basket full of red pepper-pods, which she was busily engaged in stringing, sat an elderly woman. She was clad in blue and yellow plaid homespun, and wore a white apron and a snowy muslin cap, whose crimped ruffles pressed caressingly the grizzled hair combed so smoothly over her temples. Presently she laid her pipe down on the top of the mossy well, where the dripping bucket sat, and lifted the scarlet wreath of peppers, eyed it satisfactorily, and, as she resumed her work, began to hum "Auld Lang Syne."
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o' lang syne?"
The countenance was so peaceful and earnest and honest, that, as Edna stood watching it, a warm, loving light came into her own beautiful eyes, and she put out both hands unconsciously, and stepped into the little arbor.
Her shadow fell upon the matronly face, and the woman rose and courtesied.
"Good evening, miss. Will you be seated? There is room enough for two on my bench."
The orphan did not speak for a moment, but looked up in the brown, wrinkled face, and then, pushing back her bonnet and veil, she said eagerly:
"Mrs. Wood, don't you know me?"
The miller's wife looked curiously at her visitor, glanced at her dress, and shook her head.
"No, miss; if ever I set my eyes on you before, it's more than I remember, and Dorothy Wood has a powerful memory, they say, and seldom forgets faces."
"Do you remember Aaron Hunt, and his daughter Hester?"
"To be sure I do; but you a'n't neither the one nor the other, I take it. Stop—let me see. Aha! Tabitha, Willis, you children, run here—quick! But, no—it can't be. You can't be Edna Earl?"
She shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun and stooped forward, and looked searchingly at the stranger; then the coral wreath fell from her fingers, she stretched out her arms, and the large mouth trembled and twitched.
"Are you—can you be—little Edna? Aaron Hunt's grandchild?"
"I am the poor little Edna you took such tender care of in her great affliction—"
"Samson and the Philistines! Little Edna—so you are! What was I thinking about, that I didn't know you right away? God bless your pretty white face!"
She caught the orphan in her strong arms and kissed her, and cried and laughed alternately.
A young girl, apparently about Edna's age, and a tall, lank young man, with yellow hair full of meal dust, came out of the house, and looked on in stupid wonder.
"Why, children! don't you know little Edna that lived at Aaron Hunt's—his granddaughter? This is my Tabitha and my son Willis, that tends the mill and takes care of us, now my poor Peter—God rest his soul!—is dead and buried these three years. Bring some seats, Willis. Sit down here by me, Edna, and take off your bonnet, child, and let me see you. Umph! umph! Who'd have thought it? What a powerful handsome woman you have made, to be sure! to be sure! Well! well! The very saints up in glory can't begin to tell what children will turn out! Lean your face this way. Why, you a'n't no more like that little bare-footed, tangle-haired, rosy-faced Edna that used to run around these woods in striped homespun, hunting the cows, than I, Dorothy Elmira Wood, am like the Queen of Sheba when she went up visiting to Jerusalem to call on Solomon. How wonderful pretty you are! And how soft and white your hands are! Now I look at you good I see you are like your mother, Hester Earl; and she was the loveliest, mild little pink in the county. You are taller than your mother, and prouder-looking; but you have got her big, soft, shining, black eyes; and your mouth is sweet and sorrowful, and patient as hers always was, after your father fell off that frosty roof and broke his neck. Little Edna came back a fine, handsome woman, looking like a queen! But, honey, you don't seem healthy, like my Tabitha. See what a bright red she has in her face. You are too pale; you look as if you had just been bled. A'n't you well, child?"
Mrs. Wood felt the girl's arms and shoulders, and found them thinner than her standard of health demanded.
"I am very well, thank you, but tired from my journey, and from walking all about the old place."
"And like enough you've cried a deal. Your eyes are heavy. You know, honey, the old house burnt down one blustry night in March, and so we sold the place; for when my old man died we were hard-pressed, we were, and a man by the name of Simmons, he bought it and planted it in corn. Edna, have you been to your Grandpa's grave?"
"Yes, ma'am, I was there a long time to-day."
"Oh! a'n't it beautiful! It would be a real comfort to die, if folks knew such lovely gravestones would cover 'em. I think your Grandpa's grave is the prettiest place I ever saw, and I wonder, sometimes, what Aaron Hunt would say if he could rise out of his coffin and see what is over him. Poor thing! You haven't got over it yet, I see. I thought we should have buried you, too, when he died; for never did I see a child grieve so."
"Mrs. Wood, who keeps the walks so clean, and the evergreens so nicely cut?"
"My Willis, to be sure. The gentleman that came here and fixed everything last December, paid Willis one hundred dollars to attend to it, and keep the weeds down. He said he might come back unexpectedly almost any time, and that he did not want to see so much as a blade of grass in the walks; so you see Willis goes there every Saturday and straightens up things. What is his name, and who is he anyhow? He only told us he was a friend of yours, and that his mother had adopted you."
"What sort of a looking person was he, Mrs. Wood?"
"Oh, child! if he is so good to you, I ought not to say; but he was a powerful, grim-looking man, with fierce eyes and a thick mustache, and hair almost pepper-and-salt; and bless your soul, honey! his shoulders were as broad as a barn-door. While he talked I didn't like his countenance, it was dark like a pirate's, or one of those prowling cattle-thieves over in the coves. He asked a power of questions about you and your Grandpa, and when I said you had no kin on earth, that I ever heard of, he laughed, that is, he showed his teeth, and said, 'So much the better! so much the better!' What is his name?"
"Mr. Murray, and he has been very kind to me."
"But, Edna, I thought you went to the factory to work? Do tell me how you fell into the hands of such rich people?"
Edna briefly acquainted her with what had occurred during her long absence, and informed her of her plans for the future; and while she listened Mrs. Wood lighted her pipe, and resting her elbow on her knee, dropped her face on her hands, and watched her visitor's countenance.
Finally she nodded to her daughter, saying: "Do you hear that, Bitha? She can write for the papers and get paid for it! And she is smart enough to teach! Well! well! that makes me say what I do say, and I stick to it, where there's a will there's a way! and where there's no hearty will, all the ways in creation won't take folks to an education! Some children can't be kicked and kept down; spite of all the world they will manage to scuffle up somehow; and then again, some can't be cuffed and coaxed and dragged up by the ears! Here's Edna, that always had a hankering after books, and she has made something of herself; and here's my girl, that I wanted to get book-learning, and I slaved and I saved to send her to school, and sure enough she has got no more use for reading, and knows as little as her poor mother, who never had a chance to learn. It is no earthly use to fly in the face of blood and nature! 'What is bred in the bone, won't come out in the flesh!' Some are cut out for one thing and some for another! Jerusalem artichokes won't bear hops, and persimmons don't grow on blackjacks!"
She put her brawny brown hand on Edna's forehead, and smoothed the bands of hair, and sighed heavily.
"Mrs. Wood, I should like to see Brindle once more."
"Lord bless your soul, honey! she has been dead these three years! Why, you forget cows don't hang on as long as Methuselah, and Brindle was no yearling when we took her. She mired down in the swamp, back of the millpond, and before we could find her she was dead. But her calf is as pretty a young thing as ever you saw; speckled all over, most as thick as a guinea, and the children call her 'Speckle.' Willis, step out and see if the heifer is in sight. Edna, a'n't you going to stay with me to-night?"
"Thank you, Mrs. Wood, I should like very much to do so, but have not time, and must get back to Chattanooga before the train leaves, for I am obliged to go on to-night."
"Well, any how, lay off your bonnet and stay and let me give you some supper, and then we will all go back with you, that is, if you a'n't too proud to ride to town in our cart? We have got a new cart, but it is only a miller's cart, and may be it won't suit your fine fashionable clothes."
"I shall be very glad to stay, and I only wish it was the same old cart that took me to the depot, more than five years ago. Please give me some water."
Mrs. Wood rolled up her sleeves, put away her pretty peppers, and talking vigorously all the time, prepared some refreshments for her guest.
A table was set under the apple-tree, a snowy cotton cloth spread over it, and yellow butter, tempting as Goshen's, and a loaf of fresh bread, and honey amber-hued, and buttermilk, and cider, and stewed pears, and a dish of ripe red apples crowned the board.
The air was laden with the fragrance it stole in crossing a hayfield beyond the road, the bees darted in and out of their hives, and a peacock spread his iridescent feathers to catch the level yellow rays of the setting sun, and from the distant millpond came the gabble of geese, as the noisy fleet breasted the ripples.
Speckle, who had been driven to the gate for Edna's inspection, stood close to the paling, thrusting her pearly horns through the cracks, and watching the party at the table with her large, liquid, beautiful, earnest eyes; and afar off Lookout rose solemn and sombre.
"Edna, you eat nothing. What ails you, child! They say too much brainwork is not healthy, and I reckon you study too hard. Better stay here with me, honey, and run around the woods and get some red in your face, and churn and spin and drink buttermilk, and get plump, and go chestnutting with my children. Goodness knows they are strong enough and hearty enough, and too much study will never make shads of them: for they won't work their brains, even to learn the multiplication table. See here, Edna, if you will stay a while with me, I will give Speckle to you."
"Thank you, dear Mrs. Wood, I wish I could; but the lady who engaged me to teach her children, wrote that I was very much needed; and, consequently, I must hurry on. Speckle is a perfect little beauty, but I would not be so selfish as to take her away from you."
Clouds began to gather in the southwest, and as the covered cart was brought to the gate, a distant mutter of thunder told that a storm was brewing.
Mrs. Wood and her two children accompanied the orphan, and as they drove through the woods, myriads of fireflies starred the gloom. It was dark when they reached the station, and Willis brought the trunks from the hotel, and found seats for the party in the cars, which were rapidly filling with passengers. Presently the down-train from Knoxville came thundering in, and the usual rush and bustle ensued.
Mrs. Wood gave the orphan a hearty kiss and warm embrace, and bidding her "Be sure to write soon, and say how you are getting along!" the kind-hearted woman left the cars, wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron.
At last the locomotive signalled that all was ready; and as the train moved on, Edna caught a glimpse of a form standing under a lamp, leaning with folded arms against the post—a form strangely like Mr. Murray's. She leaned out and watched it till the cars swept round a curve, and lamp and figure and village vanished. How could he possibly be in Chattanooga? The conjecture was absurd; she was the victim of some optical illusion. With a long, heavily-drawn sigh, she leaned against the window-frame and looked at the dark mountain mass looming behind her; and after a time, when the storm drew nearer, she saw it only now and then, as
"A vivid, vindictive, and serpentine flash Gored the darkness, and shore it across with a gash."
In one of those brown-stone, palatial houses on Fifth Avenue, which make the name of the street a synonym for almost royal luxury and magnificence, sat Mrs. Andrews's "new governess," a week after her arrival in New York. Her reception, though cold and formal, had been punctiliously courteous; and a few days sufficed to give the stranger an accurate insight into the characters and customs of the family with whom she was now domesticated.
Though good-natured, intelligent, and charitable, Mrs. Andrews was devoted to society, and gave to the demands of fashion much of the time which had been better expended at home in training her children, and making her hearth-stone rival the attractions of the club, where Mr. Andrews generally spent his leisure hours. She was much younger than her husband, was handsome, gay, and ambitious, and the polished hauteur of her bearing often reminded Edna of Mrs. Murray; while Mr. Andrews seemed immersed in business during the day, and was rarely at home except at his meals.
Felix, the eldest of the two children, was a peevish, spoiled, exacting boy of twelve years of age, endowed with a remarkably active intellect, but pitiably dwarfed in body and hopelessly lame in consequence of a deformed foot. His sister Hattie was only eight years old, a bright, pretty, affectionate girl, over whom Felix tyrannized unmercifully, and whom from earliest recollection had been accustomed to yield both her rights and privileges to the fretful invalid.
The room occupied by the governess was small but beautifully furnished, and as it was situated in the fourth story, the windows commanded a view of the trees in a neighboring park, and the waving outline of Long Island.
On the day of her arrival Mrs. Andrews entered into a minute analysis of the characters of the children, indicated the course which she wished pursued toward them, and, impressing upon Edna the grave responsibility of her position, the mother gave her children to the stranger's guardianship and seemed to consider her maternal duties fully discharged.
Edna soon ascertained that her predecessors had found the path intolerably thorny, and abandoned it in consequence of Felix's uncontrollable fits of sullenness and passion. Tutors and governesses had quickly alternated, and as the cripple finally declared he would not tolerate the former, his mother resolved to humor his caprice in the choice of a teacher.
Fortunately the boy was exceedingly fond of his books, and as the physicians forbade the constant use of his eyes, the governess was called on to read aloud at least one half of the day. From eight o'clock in the morning till eight at night the whole care of these children devolved on Edna; who ate, talked, drove with them, accompanied them wherever their inclination led, and had not one quiet moment from breakfast until her pupils went to sleep. Sometimes Felix was restless and wakeful, and on such occasions he insisted that his governess should come and read him to sleep.
Notwithstanding the boy's imperious nature, he possessed some redeeming traits, and Edna soon became much attached to him; while his affection for his new keeper astonished and delighted his mother.
For a week after Edna's arrival, inclement weather prevented the customary daily drive which contributed largely to the happiness of the little cripple; but one afternoon as the three sat in the schoolroom, Felix threw his Latin grammar against the wall and exclaimed:
"I want to see the swans in Central Park, and I mean to go, even if it does rain! Hattie, ring for Patrick to bring the coupe round to the door. Miss Earl, don't you want to go?"
"Yes, for there is no longer any danger of rain, the sun is shining beautifully; and besides, I hope you will be more amiable when you get into the open air."
She gave him his hat and crutches, took his gray shawl on her arm, and they went down to the neat carriage drawn by a handsome chestnut horse, and set apart for the use of the children.
As they entered the park, Edna noticed that the boy's eyes brightened, and that he looked eagerly at every passing face.
"Now, Hattie, you must watch on your side, and I will keep a good lookout on mine. I wonder if she will come this evening?"
"For whom are you both looking?" asked the teacher.
"Oh! for little Lila, Bro' Felix's sweetheart!" laughed Hattie, glancing at him with a mischievous twinkle in her bright eyes.
"No such thing! Never had a sweetheart in my life! Don't be silly, Hattie! mind your window, or I guess we shan't see her."
"Well, any how. I heard Uncle Gray tell Mamma that he kissed his sweetheart's hand at the party, and I saw Bro' Felix kiss Lila's last week."
"I didn't, Miss Earl!" cried the cripple, reddening as he spoke.
"Oh! he did, Miss Earl! Stop pinching me, Bro' Felix. My arm is all black and blue, now. There she is! Look, here on my side! Here is 'Red Ridinghood!'"
Edna saw a little girl clad in scarlet, and led by a grave, middle- aged nurse, who was walking leisurely toward one of the lakes.
Felix put his head out of the window and called to the woman.
"Hannah, are going to feed the swans?"
"Good evening. Yes, we are going there now."
"Well, we will meet you there."
"What is the child's name?" asked Edna.
"Lila Manning, and she is deaf and dumb. We talk to her on our fingers."
They left the carriage, and approached the groups of children gathered on the edge of the water, and at sight of Felix, the little girl in scarlet sprang to meet him, moving her slender fingers rapidly as she conversed with him. She was an exceedingly lovely but fragile child, apparently about Hattie's age; and as Edna watched the changing expression of her delicate features, she turned to the nurse and asked:
"Is she an orphan?"
"Yes, miss; but she will never find it out as long as her uncle lives. He makes a great pet of her."
"What is his name, and where does he live?"
"Mr. Douglass G. Manning. He boards at No.—Twenty-third street; but he spends most of his time at the office. No matter what time of night he comes home, he never goes to his own room till he has looked at Lila, and kissed her good-night. Master Felix, please don't untie her hat, the wind will blow her hair all out of curl."
For some time the children were much amused in watching the swans, and when they expressed themselves willing to resume their drive, an arrangement was made with Hannah to meet at the same place the ensuing day. They returned to the carriage, and Felix said:
"Don't you think Lila is a little beauty?"
"Yes, I quite agree with you. Do you know her uncle?"
"No, and don't want to know him; he is too cross and sour. I have seen him walking sometimes with Lila, and mamma has him at her parties and dinners; but Hattie and I never see the company unless we peep, and, above all things, I hate peeping! It is ungenteel and vulgar; only poor people peep. Mr. Manning is an old bachelor, and very crabbed, so my uncle Grey says. He is the editor of the— Magazine, that mamma declares she can't live without. Look! look, Hattie! There goes mamma this minute! Stop, Patrick! Uncle Grey! Uncle Grey! hold up, won't you, and let me see the new horses!"
An elegant phaeton, drawn by a pair of superb black horses, drew up close to the coupe, and Mrs. Andrews and her only brother, Mr. Grey Chilton, leaned forward and spoke to the children; while Mr. Chilton, who was driving, teased Hattie by touching her head and shoulders with his whip.
"Uncle Grey, I think the bays are the handsomest."
"Which proves you utterly incapable of judging horseflesh; for these are the finest horses in the city. I presume this is Miss Earl, though nobody seems polite enough to introduce us."
He raised his hat slightly, bowed, and drove on.
"Is this the first time you have met my uncle?" asked Felix.
"Yes. Does he live in the city?"
"Why! he lives with us! Haven't you seen him about the house? You must have heard him romping around with Hattie; for they make noise enough to call in the police. I think my uncle Grey is the handsomest man I ever saw, except Edwin Booth, when he plays 'Hamlet.' What do you say?"
"As I had barely a glimpse of your uncle, I formed no opinion. Felix, button your coat and draw your shawl over your shoulders; it is getting cold."
When they reached home the children begged for some music, and placing her hat on a chair, Edna sat down before the piano, and played and sang; while Felix stood leaning on his crutches, gazing earnestly into the face of his teacher.
The song was Longfellow's "Rainy Day," and when she concluded it, the cripple laid his thin hand on hers and said:
"Sing the last verse again. I feel as if I should always be a good boy, if you would only sing that for me every day. 'Into each life some rain must fall?' Yes, lameness fell into mine."
While she complied with his request, Edna watched his sallow face, and saw tears gather in the large, sad eyes, and she felt that henceforth the boy's evil spirit could be exorcised.
"Miss Earl, we never had a governess at all like you. They were old, and cross, and ugly, and didn't love to play chess, and could not sing, and I hated them! But I do like you, and I will try to be good."
He rested his head against her arm, and she turned and kissed his pale, broad forehead.
"Halloo, Felix! flirting with your governess? This is a new phase of school life. You ought to feel quite honored, Miss Earl, though upon my word I am sorry for you. The excessive amiability of my nephew has driven not less than six of your predecessors in confusion from the field, leaving him victorious. I warn you he is an incipient Turenne, and the schoolroom is the Franche Comte of his campaigns."
Mr. Chilton came up to the piano, and curiously scanned Edna's face; but taking her hat and veil, she rose and moved toward the door, saying:
"I am disposed to believe that he has been quite as much sinned against as sinning. Come, children, it is time for your tea."
From that hour her influence over the boy strengthened so rapidly that before she had been a month in the house he yielded implicit obedience to her wishes, and could not bear for her to leave him, even for a moment. When more than usually fretful, and inclined to tyrannize over Hattie, or speak disrespectfully to his mother, a warning glance or word from Edna, or the soft touch of her hand, would suffice to restrain the threatened outbreak.
Her days were passed in teaching, reading aloud, and talking to the children; and when released from her duties she went invariably to her desk, devoting more than half the night to the completion of her MS.
As she took her meals with her pupils, she rarely saw the other members of the household, and though Mr. Chilton now and then sauntered into the schoolroom and frolicked with Hattie, his visits were coldly received by the teacher; who met his attempts at conversation with very discouraging monosyllabic replies.
His manner led her to suspect that the good-looking lounger was as vain and heartless as he was frivolous, and she felt no inclination to listen to his trifling, sans souci chatter; consequently, when he thrust himself into her presence, she either picked up a book or left him to be entertained by the children.
One evening in November she sat in her own room preparing to write, and pondering the probable fate of a sketch which she had finished and dispatched two days before to the office of the magazine.
The principal aim of the little tale was to portray the horrors and sin of duelling, and she had written it with great care; but well aware of the vast, powerful current of popular opinion that she was bravely striving to stem, and fully conscious that it would subject her to severe animadversion from those who defended the custom, she could not divest herself of apprehension lest the article should be rejected.
The door bell rang, and soon after a servant brought her a card: "Mr. D.G. Manning. To see Miss Earl."
Flattered and frightened by a visit from one whose opinions she valued so highly, Edna smoothed her hair, and with trembling fingers changed her collar and cuffs, and went downstairs, feeling as if all the blood in her body were beating a tattoo on the drum of her ears.
As she entered the library, into which he had been shown (Mrs. Andrews having guests in the parlor), Edna had an opportunity of looking unobserved at this critical ogre, of whom she stood in such profound awe.
Douglass Manning was forty years old, tall, and well built; wore slender, steel-rimmed spectacles which somewhat softened the light of his keen, cold, black eyes; and carried his slightly bald head with the haughty air of one who habitually hurled his gauntlet in the teeth of public opinion.
He stood looking up at a pair of bronze griffins that crouched on the top of the rosewood bookcase, and the gas-light falling full on his face, showed his stern, massive features, which, in their granitic cast, reminded Edna of those Egyptian Androsphinx—vast, serene, changeless.
There were no furrows on cheek or brow, no beard veiled the lines and angles about the mouth, but as she marked the chilling repose of the countenance, so indicative of conscious power and well-regulated strength, why did memory travel swiftly back among the "Stones of Venice," repeating the description of the hawthorn on Bourges Cathedral? "A perfect Niobe of May." Had this man petrified in his youth before the steady stylus of time left on his features that subtle tracery which passing years engrave on human faces? The motto of his magazine, Veritas sine clementia, ruled his life, and, putting aside the lenses of passion and prejudice, he coolly, quietly, relentlessly judged men and women and their works; neither loving nor hating, pitying nor despising his race; looking neither to right nor left; laboring steadily as a thoroughly well-balanced, a marvellously perfect intellectual automaton.
"Good evening, Mr. Manning. I am very glad to meet you; for I fear my letters have very inadequately expressed my gratitude for your kindness."
Her voice trembled slightly, and she put out her hand. He turned, bowed, offered her a chair, and, as they seated themselves, he examined her face as he would have searched the title-page of some new book for an insight into its contents.
"When did you reach New York, Miss Earl?"
"Six weeks ago."
"I was not aware that you were in the city, until I received your note two days since. How long do you intend to remain?"
"Probably the rest of my life, if I find it possible to support myself comfortably."
"Is Mrs. Andrews an old friend?"
"No, sir; she was a stranger to me when I entered her house as governess for her children."
"Miss Earl, you are much younger than I had supposed. Your writings led me to imagine that you were at least thirty, whereas I find you almost a child. Will your duties as governess conflict with your literary labors?"
"No, sir. I shall continue to write."
"You appear to have acted upon my suggestion, to abandon the idea of a book, and confine your attention to short sketches."
"No, sir. I adhere to my original purpose, and am at work upon the manuscript which you advised me to destroy."
He fitted his glasses more firmly on his nose, and she saw the gleam of his strong white teeth, as a half smile moved his lips.
"Miss Earl, my desk is very near a window, and as I was writing late last night, I noticed several large moths beating against the glass which fortunately barred their approach to the flame of the gas inside. Perhaps inexperience whispered that it was a cruel fate that shut them out; but which heals soonest, disappointed curiosity or singed wings?"
"Mr. Manning, why do you apprehend more danger from writing a book than from the preparation of magazine articles?"
"Simply because the peril is inherent in the nature of the book you contemplate. Unless I totally misunderstand your views, you indulge in the rather extraordinary belief that all works of fiction should be eminently didactic, and inculcate not only sound morality but scientific theories. Herein, permit me to say, you entirely misapprehend the spirit of the age. People read novels merely to be amused, not educated; and they will not tolerate technicalities and abstract speculation in lieu of exciting plots and melodramatic denouements. Persons who desire to learn something of astronomy, geology, chemistry, philology, etc., never think of finding what they require in the pages of a novel, but apply at once to the text- books of the respective sciences, and would as soon hunt for a lover's sentimental dialogue in Newton's 'Principia,' or spicy small-talk in Kant's 'Critique,' as expect an epitome of modern science in a work of fiction."
"But, sir, how many habitual novel readers do you suppose will educate themselves thoroughly from the text-books to which you refer?"
"A modicum, I grant you; yet it is equally true that those who merely read to be amused will not digest the scientific dishes you set before them. On the contrary, far from appreciating your charitable efforts to elevate and broaden their range of vision, they will either sneer at the author's pedantry, or skip over every passage that necessitates thought to comprehend it, and rush on to the next page to discover whether the heroine, Miss Imogene Arethusa Penelope Brown, wore blue or pink tarlatan to her first ball, or whether on the day of her elopement the indignant papa succeeded in preventing the consummation of her felicity with Mr. Belshazzar Algernon Nebuchadnezzar Smith. I neither magnify nor dwarf, I merely state a simple fact."
"But, Mr. Manning, do you not regard the writers of each age as the custodians of its tastes as well as its morals?"
"Certainly not; they simply reflect and do not mould public taste. Shakespeare, Hogarth, Rabelais, portrayed men and things as they found them; not as they might, could, would, or should have been. Was Sir Peter Lely responsible for the style of dress worn by court beauties in the reign of Charles II.? He faithfully painted what passed before him. Miss Earl, the objection I urge against the novel you are preparing does not apply to magazine essays, where an author may concentrate all the erudition he can obtain and ventilate it unchallenged; for review writers now serve the public in much the same capacity that cup-bearers did royalty in ancient days; and they are expected to taste strong liquors as well as sweet cordials and sour light wines. Moreover, a certain haze of sanctity envelops the precincts of 'Maga,' whence the incognito 'we' thunders with oracular power; for, notwithstanding the rapid annihilation of all classic faith in modern times which permits the conversion of Virgil's Avernus into a model oyster-farm, the credulous public fondly cling to the myth that editorial sanctums alone possess the sacred tripod of Delphi. Curiosity is the best stimulant for public interest, and it has become exceedingly difficult to conceal the authorship of a book while that of magazine articles can readily be disguised. I repeat, the world of novel-readers constitute a huge hippodrome, where, if you can succeed in amusing your spectators or make them gasp in amazement at your rhetorical legerdemain, they will applaud vociferously, and pet you, as they would a graceful danseuse, or a dexterous acrobat, or a daring equestrian; but if you attempt to educate or lecture them, you will either declaim to empty benches or be hissed down. They expect you to help them kill time, not improve it."
"Sir, is it not nobler to struggle against than to float ignominiously with the tide of degenerate opinion?"
"That depends altogether on the earnestness of your desire for martyrdom by drowning. I have seen stronger swimmers than you go down, after desperate efforts to keep their heads above water."
Edna folded her hands in her lap, and looked steadily into the calm, cold eyes of the editor, then shook her head, and answered:
"I shall not drown. At all events I will risk it. I would rather sink in the effort than live without attempting it."
"When you require ointment for singed wings, I shall have no sympathy with which to anoint them; for, like most of your sex, I see you mistake blind obstinacy for rational, heroic firmness. The next number of the magazine will contain the contribution you sent me two days since, and, while I do not accept all your views, I think it by far the best thing I have yet seen from your pen. It will, of course, provoke controversy, but for that result, I presume you are prepared. Miss Earl, you are a stranger in New York, and if I can serve you in any way, I shall be glad to do so."
"Thank you, Mr. Manning. I need some books which I am not able to purchase, and can not find in this house; if you can spare them temporarily from your library, you will confer a great favor on me."
"Certainly. Have you a list of those which you require?"
"No, sir, but—"
"Here is a pencil and piece of paper; write down the titles, and I will have them sent to you in the morning."
She turned to the table to prepare the list, and all the while Mr. Manning's keen eyes scanned her countenance, dress, and figure. A half-smile once more stirred his grave lips when she gave him the paper, over which he glanced indifferently.
"Miss Earl, I fear you will regret your determination to make literature a profession; for your letters informed me that you are poor; and doubtless you remember the witticism concerning the 'republic of letters which contained not a sovereign.' Your friend, Mr. Murray, appreciated the obstacles you are destined to encounter, and I am afraid you will not find life in New York as agreeable as it was under his roof."
"When did you hear from him?"
"I received a letter this morning."
"And you called to see me because he requested you to do so?"
"I had determined to come before his letter arrived."
He noticed the incredulous smile that flitted across her face, and, after a moment's pause, he continued:
"I do not wish to discourage you, on the contrary, I sincerely desire to aid you, but Mill has analyzed the subject very ably in his 'Political Economy,' and declares that 'on any rational calculation of chances in the existing competition, no writer can hope to gain a living by books; and to do so by magazines and reviews becomes daily more difficult.'"
"Yes, sir, that passage is not encouraging; but I comfort myself with another from the same book: 'In a national or universal point of view the labor of the savant or speculative thinker is as much a part of production, in the very narrowest sense, as that of the inventor of a practical art. The electro-magnetic telegraph was the wonderful and most unexpected consequence of the experiments of Oersted, and the mathematical investigations of Ampere; and the modern art of navigation is an unforseen emanation from the purely speculative and apparently meekly curious inquiry, by the mathematicians of Alexandria, into the properties of three curves formed by the intersection of a plane surface and a cone. No limit can be set to the importance, even in a purely productive and material point of view, of mere thought.' Sir, the economic law which regulates the wages of mechanics should operate correspondingly in the realm of letters."
"Your memory is remarkably accurate."
"Not always, sir; but when I put it on its honor, and trust some special treasure to its guardianship, it rarely proves treacherous."
"I think you can command better wages for your work in New York than anywhere else on this continent. You have begun well; permit me to say to you be careful, do not write too rapidly, and do not despise adverse criticism. If agreeable to you, I will call early next week and accompany you to the public libraries, which contain much that may interest you. I will send you a note as soon as I acertain when I can command the requisite leisure; and should you need my services, I hope you will not hesitate to claim them. Good-evening, Miss Earl."
He bowed himself out of the library, and Edna went back to her own room, thinking of the brief interview, and confessing her disappointment in the conversation of this most dreaded of critics.
"He is polished as an icicle, and quite as cold. He may be very accurate and astute and profound, but certainly he is not half so brilliant as—"
She did not complete the parallel, but compressed her lips, took up her pen, and began to write.
On the following morning Mrs. Andrews came into the schoolroom, and, after kissing her children, turned blandly to the governess.
"Miss Earl, I believe Mr. Manning called upon you last evening. Where did you know him?"
"I never saw him until yesterday, but we have corresponded for some time."
"Indeed! you are quite honored. He is considered very fastidious."
"He is certainly hypercritical, yet I have found him kind and gentlemanly, even courteous. Our correspondence is entirely attributable to the fact that I write for his magazine."
Mrs. Andrews dropped her ivory crochet-needle and sat, for a moment, the picture of wild-eyed amazement.
"Is it possible! I had no idea you were an author. Why did you not tell me before? What have you written?"
Edna mentioned the titles of her published articles, and the lady of the house exclaimed:
"Oh! that 'Vigil of Grutli' is one of the most beautiful things I ever read, and I have often teased Mr. Manning to tell me who wrote it. That apostrophe to the Thirty Confederates is so mournfully grand that it brings tears to my eyes. Why, Miss Earl, you will be famous some day! If I had your genius, I should never think of plodding through life as a governess."
"But, my dear madam, I must make my bread, and am compelled to teach while I write."
"I do not see what time you have for writing. I notice you never leave the children till they are asleep; and you must sleep enough to keep yourself alive. Are you writing anything at present?"
"I finished an article several days ago which will be published in the next number of the magazine. Of course, I have no leisure during the day, but I work till late at night."
"Miss Earl, if you have no objection to acquainting me with your history, I should like very much to know something of your early life and education."
While Edna gave a brief account of her childhood, Felix nestled his hand into hers, and laid his head on her knee, listening eagerly to every word.
When she concluded, Mrs. Andrews mused a moment, and then said:
"Henceforth, Miss Earl, you will occupy a different position in my house; and I shall take pleasure in introducing you to such of my friends as will appreciate your talent. I hope you will not confine yourself exclusively to my children, but come down sometimes in the evening and sit with me; and, moreover, I prefer that you should dine with us, instead of with these nursery folks, who are not quite capable of appreciating you—"
"How do you know that, mamma? I can tell you one thing, I appreciated her before I found out that she was likely to be 'famous'! Before I knew that Mr. Manning condescended to notice her. We 'nursery folk' judge for ourselves, we don't wait to find out what other people think, and I shan't give up Miss Earl! She is my governess, and I wish you would just let her alone!"
There was a touch of scorn in the boy's impatient tone, and his mother bit her lip, and laughed constrainedly:
"Really, Felix! who gave you a bill of sale to Miss Earl? She should consider herself exceedingly fortunate, as she is the first of all your teachers with whom you have not quarrelled most shamefully, even fought and scratched."
"And because she is sweet, and good and pretty, and I love her, you must interfere and take her off to entertain your company. She came here to take care of Hattie and me, and not to go down-stairs to see visitors. She can't go, mamma! I want her myself. You have all the world to talk to, and I have only her. Don't meddle, mamma."
"You are very selfish and ill-tempered, my poor little boy, and I am heartily ashamed of you."
"If I am, it is because—"
Edna laid her hand on the pale, curling lips of the cripple, and luckily at this instant Mrs. Andrews was summoned from the room.
Scarcely waiting till the door closed after her, the boy exclaimed passionately:
"Felix! don't call me Felix! That means happy, lucky! and she had no right to give me such a name. I am Infelix! nobody loves me! nobody cares for me, except to pity me, and I would rather be strangled than pitied! I wish I was dead and at rest in Greenwood! I wish somebody would knock my brains out with my crutch! and save me from hobbling through life. Even my mother is ashamed of my deformity! She ought to have treated me as the Spartans did their dwarfs! She ought to have thrown me into the East River before I was a day old! I wish I was dead! Oh! I do! I do!"
"Felix, it is very wicked to—"
"I tell you I won't be called Felix. Whenever I hear the name it makes me feel as I did one day when my crutches slipped on the ice, and I fell on the pavement before the door, and some newsboys stood and laughed at me. Infelix Andrews! I want that written on my tombstone when I am buried."
He trembled from head to foot, and angry tears dimmed his large, flashing eyes, while Hattie sat with her elbows resting on her knees, and her chin in her hands, looking sorrowfully at her brother.
Edna put her arm around the boy's shoulder, and drew his head down on her lap, saying tenderly:
"Your mother did not mean that she was ashamed of her son, but only grieved and mortified by his ungovernable temper, which made him disrespectful to her. I know that she is very proud of your fine intellect, and your ambition to become a thorough scholar, and—"
"Oh! yes, and of my handsome body! and my pretty feet!"
"My dear little boy, it is sinful for you to speak in that way, and God will punish you if you do not struggle against such feelings."
"I don't see how I can be punished any more than I have been already. To be a lame dwarf is the worst that can happen."
"Suppose you were poor and friendless—an orphan with no one to care for you? Suppose you had no dear, good little sister like Hattie to love you? Now, Felix, I know that the very fact that you are not as strong and well-grown as most boys of your age, only makes your mother and all of us love you more tenderly; and it is very ungrateful in you to talk so bitterly when we are trying to make you happy and good and useful. Look at little Lila, shut up in silence, unable to speak one word, or to hear a bird sing or a baby laugh, and yet see how merry and good-natured she is. How much more afflicted she is than you are! Suppose she was always fretting and complaining, looking miserable and sour, and out of humor, do you think you would love her half as well as you do now?"
He made no reply, but his thin hands covered his sallow face.
Hattie came close to him, sat down on the carpet, and put her head, thickly crowned with yellow curls, on his knee. Her uncle Grey had given her a pretty ring the day before, and now she silently and softly took it from her own finger, and slipped it on her brother's.
"Felix, you and Hattie were so delighted with that little poem which I read to you from the Journal of Eugenie de Guerin, that I have tried to set it to music for you. The tune does not suit it exactly, but we can use it until I find a better one."
She went to the piano and sang that pretty nursery ballad, "JOUJOU, THE ANGEL OF THE PLAYTHINGS."
Hattie clapped her hands with delight, and Felix partly forgot his woes and grievances.
"Now, I want you both to learn to sing it, and I will teach Hattie the accompaniment. On Felix's birthday, which is not very distant, you can surprise your father and mother by singing it for them. In gratitude to the author I think every little child should sing it and call it 'Eugenie's Angel Song.' Hattie, it is eleven o'clock, and time for you to practice your music-lesson."
The little girl climbed upon the piano-stool and began to count aloud, and after a while Edna bent down and put her hand on Felix's shoulder.
"You grieved your mother this morning and spoke very disrespectfully to her. I know you regret it, and you ought to tell her so and ask her to forgive you. You would feel happier all day if you would only acknowledge your fault. I hear your mother in her own room; will you not go and kiss her?"
He averted his head and muttered:
"I don't want to kiss her."
"But you ought to be a dutiful son, and you are not; and your mother has cause to be displeased with you. If you should ever be so unfortunate as to lose her, and stand as I do, motherless, in the world, you will regret the pain you gave her this morning. Oh! if I had the privilege of kissing my mother, I could bear almost any sorrow patiently. If it mortifies you to acknowledge your bad behavior, it is the more necessary that you should humble your pride. Felix, sometimes I think it requires more nobility of soul to ask pardon for our faults than to resist the temptation to commit them."