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Stories by American Authors, Volume 8
Author: Various
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"I'll have to give you quinine, my boy."

"Give me some of the tincture of Lethe."

"It is of no use to one to forget; don't be soft."

"Let us reason together, Sawbones."

The Doctor agreed, and Osgood began his story with, "Poor Peter," and finished it with asking, "Do you think I love her?"

"I'll bet a guinea," said the Doctor, "that she is married."

"She isn't," replied Osgood, indignantly.

"I am sure that she is engaged, as you call it, to somebody besides yourself."

"I know better."

"What do you propose doing when you get home?"

"What can I do with thirty dollars, which I left with Peter by-the-way?"

"We shall see what we shall see when we come face to face with Aunt Formica. I intend going the rounds with you in New York. I am a student."

He carried Osgood to his country-home beyond Liverpool, where they staid till the ship was ready to sail again. He amused his mother and sisters with stories of Osgood's adventures on sea and land, and represented him in the light of a "Jarley's wax-works" hero, till he was fairly cured of his melancholy.

Five months from the day on which he left New York Osgood returned, and stood on his Aunt Formica's door-steps with Dr. Black. They looked like a pair of Englishmen. Both had shiny, red noses, shiny, hard, narrow-brimmed hats, and shiny, narrow-toed boots, and the nap had brushed off their coats.

Osgood looked into the familiar area with emotion, and the Doctor looked at the windows with curiosity.

"They must be out of town," he said; "the house has been put in brown hollands."

But Osgood knew the habits of his aunt—knew that from the first of July till the first of October the house was put on an out-of-town footing; and that she skirmished between city and country, or watering-place. The bell was answered by a servant he did not know.

"I wish to see Mrs. Formica," he said, brushing past her, and entering the dark parlor. "Dr. Black and friend say."

Mrs. Formica came in a moment after with a slight air of amazement, which increased to astonishment when she saw her nephew. She gave a little yelp as he embraced her, and said, "Where have you been?"

"To Cape Cod, and to Europe. I have been shipwrecked, aunt—that is, I lost my mackerel venture, and have been taken care of by my noble friend, Dr. Black."

Aunt Formica grew pale at the word "shipwrecked," and turned to Dr. Black. Something in his face made her extend her hand and give him a warm welcome.

"Black may stay here while he is in port, mayn't he? He will amuse you with yarns about me."

"Of course," she replied. "Now tell me the whole story."

Between Osgood and the Doctor it was related.

"Why did you ever go from me?" she asked, wiping away a real tear.

"I believe, aunt, I shall keep up the business of going—it suits me. I can never live through your conventional cramps."

She did not think it prudent to combat him just then; but made a mental memorandum that something must be done that would change his foolish resolution. A plan developed at dinner that evening.

"I had a note yesterday from Mrs. Senator Conch," said Mrs. Formica. "She will be in Saratoga this week, and begs me to meet her there. Formica and I have been talking it over, Osgood, and we think that it will be pleasant for Dr. Black and you to go up for a week. You will go, Doctor?"

"Thank you, Madam, provided Osgood is not averse."

"Any of our set there?" Osgood asked.

"The Trees went up last Saturday with Barclay Dodge. They are making an extensive tour this year."

"What's Barclay Dodge along for?"

"He is engaged to Lily Tree!"

"Ah!" said Osgood, looking at the Doctor, who could not help giving him a malicious grimace. "How long since? It's a capital match, ain't it?"

"The engagement must have been announced soon after you left."

This reply put Osgood in a brown study. What impulse, he mused, had prompted Lily to give herself to Barclay Dodge? Would he have done so?

Dr. Black commented on Osgood's face, and considered himself in a fair way to make studies.

"As far as money goes," continued Mrs. Formica, "it may be called a good match; but certainly not as far as family goes."

"Family!" echoed Dr. Black, softly.

"His father was a tradesman," explained Mr. Formica, "while Lily can go back to her great-grandfather before trade need be mentioned."

"Old Mr. Tree's father," remarked his wife, "was a brigadier-general in the Revolution."

"He was a drover, for all that," said Osgood.

Mrs. Formica changed the theme, and talked of Saratoga.

"We'll go," Osgood said, crossly; "but I must first go to my tailor."

Mrs. Formica held a private conversation with him after dinner, gave him a check, and told him not to worry about the future: she had a plan in view.

"Plans go by contraries with me, aunt."

"You owe it to me not to be perverse."

"I can't pay any debt."

Previous to going to bed Dr. Black and Osgood smoked several cigars.

"You strike me," said the Doctor, "as growing to the dramatic just now. One event runs into another with monstrous rapidity among you Americans. How you differ from the English! How is it that you catch fortune by the hair so?"

"We are passionate and quick-witted."

"And then you repudiate with ease."

"Bah! you imitate Sydney Smith."

"I did not mean in the sense of State bonds precisely."

"I think," Osgood groaned, "that I begin to feel like a snob again. What shall I do to be saved?"

"Go on in the groove that is making for you. I'll stand by and be the chorus. When I hear thy plaints of misery I will let fall the tear; but remember that 'laws determine even the fates.'"

"Bosh!"

Except a dispute between the Doctor and Osgood concerning a slouched hat, which the Doctor would not wear, the party succeeded in starting and arriving amicably at the Union in Saratoga. In a few hours Mrs. Formica knew who was there. The Trees were at the Union. Mrs. Senator Conch had taken a cottage; but the Senator himself had stopped at Albany for a day to confer with the Governor. Old Madam Funchal of Philadelphia was at Congress Hall, with her train, and Mrs. Romeo Pipps Bovis and husband, from Boston. All her friends were round her; that is, the traveling set she was in the habit of meeting; and her spirits rose to the occasion. These particulars she detailed, in a white muslin morning-dress, to Osgood, who, dressed in a new cream-colored suit, lounged in the doorway of a small parlor off the hall. He shouldered round just in time to come face to face with Lily Tree, who was passing on the arm of Barclay Dodge. She stopped, of course, to shake hands with Mrs. Formica, whose apparently warm kiss fell on the edge of a braid of her chestnut hair with the weight and coldness of a snow-flake. Her face settled into rigidity when she turned to speak to Osgood, and, like a transparent boy, he looked, with all the earnestness his gray eyes were capable of, straight into hers. Aunt Formica and Barclay read a story at once upon the text his countenance furnished; but they both made the mistake of believing that Lily had rejected him. Lily was too much occupied in managing her own feelings to divine Osgood's. The imperative necessity of concealment, which all tutored women feel, governed her. She laughed a great deal, though nobody said a witty thing, and kept her eyes going between Mrs. Formica and Barclay with a steadiness which equaled the movements of the wax women in the Broadway shop windows. Mr. Formica and Dr. Black added themselves to the party, and the relief of an introduction to the Doctor came to Lily. She approached him, and his honest face induced her to skirmish lightly with him; but not a word did he utter of the whys and wherefores of his being with Osgood. He would not, at any rate, extend his self-elected office of chorus so far as to include her. He felt a dislike toward her. She was too thin, he thought; there was an air of wear and tear about her which was not pleasant. He felt, too, that she knew more than Osgood; and a woman, in his estimation, should never be the intellectual superior of a man she might make choice of. But the Doctor was an Englishman; his ideas of women had been developed by the cynical Thackeray and the material Dickens. There was a line between the two classes of women he only believed to exist—the bad capable woman and the good foolish woman—which could never be crossed by one or the other. The elements which go to make up a man, of good and evil mixed, never enter into the composition of the women of Englishmen of the present time. It is possible that Lily discovered Dr. Black's impression: she discovered it so nearly that she was certain Osgood had talked of her with him. Why had he? she wondered.

In a few minutes the party fell apart as naturally as it had come together. Lily went on her walk with Barclay; after which she retired to dress for luncheon, but instead of appearing thereat kept her room till evening.

Osgood avoided every body; he was tormented with an idea that Lily had suffered. There was no reason for his thinking so; he derived the idea from reasoning with himself—reasoning which meeting with her had put in play. In the evening he went to the drawing-room, and waited till he saw her come in. Barclay, who was waiting too, darted toward her, but Osgood reached her first. When Barclay saw Lily take the arm which Osgood offered her, he turned away; but changing his mind again went up to them.

"Osgood," he said, in a frank voice, "you have not congratulated me on my engagement to your friend Lily."

Talk of heroes and martyrs; was not Lily both, at that moment, standing between these two men, with her hair dressed by a barber, and wearing a pale blue silk?

She eyed with a dainty air a little bouquet she held in her hand, of tea-roses and geraniums, and applied it to her nose with great deliberation. She felt an impetus from Osgood's arm. He had not answered Barclay, but was dragging her decorously out of the drawing-room. When they were alone he spoke to her.

"I have faced death since I saw you. I have grown a man; but until now, I did not know that I loved you. Which man do you belong to?"

"I have faced life since I saw you," she answered, in a silvery voice, "and I belong to Barclay Dodge."

"Let us go back."

She tossed her bouquet over the railing of the veranda with a vindictive smile which would have astonished Osgood had he seen it.

Barclay was on the threshold; he looked at Lily and missed the bouquet; it was not in Osgood's button-hole—what could she have done with it? He looked at Osgood, and saw that his teeth were set with a passion which he could understand. Lily sat down in the nearest chair, and the young men moved away together.

"There is no need of any nonsense between us," said Osgood; "I was under a wrong impression regarding your engagement. I do offer my congratulations."

"Thank you," said Barclay, dubiously. And then they looked at each other with mad eyes. What a relief it would have been if they could have fought to the death!

Osgood left Barclay abruptly, and sought his Aunt Formica.

"Aunt!" he said, in a mild voice, "you need not ask Conch to blow any horn for me. I am going to sea."

"You will be better when she is married," she answered, significantly.

"I intend to before that. Your surmise is incorrect. You do not know that I ran away from Lily, as well as from you and the Sub-Treasury."

"What do you mean?"

"I offered myself to her; she accepted me, and on the strength of it I left her immediately. What do you think of me?"

"She is a little wretch. Did you care for her very much?"

"I thought she couldn't make a poor man a good wife, after I had asked her to be such. And I thought a poor man wouldn't be a good husband."

"It was the height of foolishness in both of you. It is most unwise for two people who have had luxuries separately to join and give them up."

"Luxuries! I wish you knew Peter and Maria."

"Osgood, you are morbid."

"Now, aunt, hear me. I am resolved to choose my own life; you must let me go. Whatever way I go, I shall not disgrace you. Formica may give me a sailor's outfit, if he chooses. Meantime let us enjoy ourselves for the remainder of the week." Notwithstanding she saw that he was determined, she applied to Senator Conch for a place, and he promised her one for Osgood in a department at Washington. When she told Osgood of it, he deigned no reply; but shook his head so fiercely that she forebore to trouble him.

Every day that he saw Lily she learned his nature by the contrast Barclay offered; she also learned to doubt herself. She never had been worthy of Osgood; it was fit that she should marry Barclay. She doubted whether she could keep up the strain, which she knew Osgood's love would impose upon her, of self-abnegation, self-denial, isolation, and independence. She was not sure that she did not prefer enervation with Barclay to action with Osgood. Barclay watched them both. Jealousy gnawed his soul, not because he doubted Osgood, but because he had a suspicion that Lily once felt an interest in Osgood, which might be on the point of awakening. He tried experiments upon her feelings, pinched them, tore them up by the roots, extracted them with wrenches of his will, applied slow fire; but he learned nothing. His motive was so palpable to Osgood that he more than once felt on the point of knocking him down, and had he seen any encouraging sign from Lily he would have done it. He sometimes sighed over Barclay's failure, hateful as his conduct was.

Through the torture which Barclay applied to her she saw the passion which tortured him. Could a woman have been quailed into love she would have been at his feet; for he broke loose from his feigned submission and savagely demanded an equal return of his love. Then came the full measure of her punishment. She was incapable of rising to the strength, height, and abandon of Barclay's love. She was just as unworthy of him as she was of Osgood.

How she hated herself!

Somehow she heard that Osgood was going to sea. It is probable that Aunt Formica's feminine malice directed the disclosure to her ears. She staggered Dr. Black a moment after she heard the report by asking if it was true.

"It is," he answered, with dignity, though inwardly scared.

She asked no other question of him, but snapped her fan together and walked away.

"Lily does not want you to go to sea," he said, when next he saw Osgood.

Osgood blew a ring of cigar smoke into the air and watched its disappearance.

"If wedding rings would only disappear that way!" said the Doctor.

Osgood blew another. "Include engagement rings," he said.

"One did vanish," replied the Doctor, slyly.

"I do not believe so. I swear she wears two this moment."

He left the Doctor, shut himself in his room, and wrote a long letter to Peter about himself, Lily, and Barclay, and posted it.

"Peter will understand me," he thought; "and more than that, he will understand Lily."

The last day of the Formicas' stay in Saratoga came. Osgood and Dr. Black appeared in traveling costume. Lily saw them enter the breakfast-room, and followed them with her father. As she passed their chairs, she asked, "Do you go to-day?" Osgood bowed. Dr. Black engaged Mr. Tree in making a remark.

"Why do you go?" she asked.

"Because Barclay stays," he whispered.

She turned a fiery red and passed on. He looked across the table once and met her eyes. She thought they said "Farewell." A wild wish rose in her heart which compelled all her nature to give way to it, to speak to him once more; to see him alone, and force him to tell her if he loved her. She resolved to find him somewhere, at all hazards.

Dr. Black watched her also. His comment was, that she was "coming to a crisis," and was beautifully following out the laws which governed her sex. "Why can't they be something without hysterics?" he lamented. "Osgood will break down if he is not got away." He mechanically turned back his wristbands.

Lily waited in an ante-room, whose door Osgood must pass on his way out, and when he came, beckoned to him.

"Say your farewell to me as you feel it," she said, her eyes in a blaze.

"I can not."

"You shall."

Her eyes and her voice threw him into a tumult; had he followed the desire which assailed him, he would have taken her in his arms and carried her off. As it was, he looked at her, with a far-off look, as if he were calling some one to his aid.

"Osgood, Osgood!" she cried.

"Lily!"

She wrung her hands.

"Lily!" he said again.

"No, no, you need not speak; you may go."

Both of them gained a victory.

"After I have gone," he said, "if you think it proper, will you visit Peter and Maria?"

"Peter and Maria?"

"The friends I found when I left you, who helped me to find a better self—a self that at last finds you."

"I will go."

"To-morrow, then, I will write you of them."

He was gone.

In a few days she received a letter which contained the narrative of his sojourn with Peter and Maria, and a letter of introduction to them. She showed the letter to Barclay.

"Shall you meet him there?"

She gave him no answer.

"On what terms are you with yourself?" he continued.

"To answer candidly, bad terms."

"Could you marry that beggar on better?"

"Alas! no."

"Tell me, are you satisfied with your choice?"

She looked so irresolute that he trembled and was sorry that he had asked the question. Her better angel took wings, however, and she laid her hand on his shoulder, saying, "I make no other."

So she went on her travels with Barclay in her train, and Osgood went on a voyage in the Stormy Petrel as third mate. When autumn came, and the travelers had returned to town, Lily grew miserable. One day she told Barclay that she wanted to read him a poem. He composed himself to listen, and she read "The Palace of Art."

"'What is it that will take away my sin, And save me lest I die?'"—

she repeated.

"Barclay," she entreated, "let me throw your royal robes away, and go to those friends of Osgood's, where I may learn that I am either worthy of you or of him."

A stormy scene ensued. He would neither allow her to go, he said, nor would he give her back her promise to him. But she was firm, and said that she must go. His imprecations and his tears agitated her, but did not shake her resolution. She had a battle with her father also when she mentioned the subject, but she triumphed over him so far as to make him promise to accompany her. She sent the letter of introduction to Peter, and received a pithy reply from him. He advised her to come. With Peter and Maria she learned why Osgood wished her to visit them. She left them with a request that they should allow her to return whenever she should wish.

She found Barclay sullen and unhappy; but in spite of himself she convinced him that they were not intended for each other. It was a work to persuade him to the contrary; but at last they parted not as foes but friends.

When the engagement was annulled she took pains to ascertain from the owners of the Stormy Petrel what time she was expected home, and before the date of her arrival she went on a visit to Peter and Maria.

There she studied the Marine List till she saw that the Stormy Petrel was in port. She said nothing of the fact to Peter, but as he read the Marine List too, he found it out for himself. He went away in his wagon a few mornings afterward, and when he returned Osgood was beside him.

"Thee is as white as a ghost, Lily," said Maria, after a few minutes.

Osgood put his arm round her, and they kissed each other. Peter pushed his hat on the back of his head, and kissed Maria, and said, "Give me my dinner."



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise every effort has been made to remain true to the authors' words and intent.

THE END

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