THE INNER LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
BY MRS. CAROLINE LEE HENTZ.
AUTHOR OF "LINDA; OR, THE YOUNG PILOT OF THE BELLE CREOLE," "THE BANISHED SON," "COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE; OR, THE JOYS AND SORROWS OF AMERICAN LIFE," "THE PLANTER'S NORTHERN BRIDE; OR, SCENES IN MRS. HENTZ CHILDHOOD," "LOVE AFTER MARRIAGE," "MARCUS WARLAND; OR, THE LONG MOSS SPRING," "EOLINE; OR, MAGNOLIA VALE; OR, THE HEIRESS OF GLENMORE," "HELEN AND ARTHUR; OR, MISS THUSA'S SPINNING-WHEEL," "RENA; OR, THE SNOW BIRD," "THE LOST DAUGHTER," "ROBERT GRAHAM;" A SEQUEL TO "LINDA," ETC.
PHILADELPHIA: T. B. PETERSON & BROTHERS; 306 CHESTNUT STREET.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by T. B. PETERSON & BROTHERS
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
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"Thou hast called me thine angel in moments of bliss, Still thine angel I'll prove mid the horrors of this. Through the furnace unshrinking thy steps I'll pursue, And shield thee, and save thee, and perish there too."
* * * * *
With an incident of my childhood I will commence the record of my life. It stands out in bold prominence, rugged and bleak, through the haze of memory.
I was only twelve years old. He might have spoken less harshly. He might have remembered and pitied my youth and sensitiveness, that tall, powerful, hitherto kind man,—my preceptor, and, as I believed, my friend. Listen to what he did say, in the presence of the whole school of boys, as well as girls, assembled on that day to hear the weekly exercises read, written on subjects which the master had given us the previous week.
One by one, we were called up to the platform, where he sat enthroned in all the majesty of the Olympian king-god. One by one, the manuscripts were read by their youthful authors,—the criticisms uttered, which marked them with honor or shame,—gliding figures passed each other, going and returning, while a hasty exchange of glances, betrayed the flash of triumph, or the gloom of disappointment.
"Gabriella Lynn!" The name sounded like thunder in my ears. I rose, trembling, blushing, feeling as if every pair of eyes in the hall were burning like redhot balls on my face. I tried to move, but my feet were glued to the floor.
The tone was louder, more commanding, and I dared not resist the mandate. The greater fear conquered the less. With a desperate effort I walked, or rather rushed, up the steps, the paper fluttering in my hand, as if blown upon by a strong wind.
"A little less haste would be more decorous, Miss."
The shadow of a pair of beetling brows rolled darkly over me. Had I stood beneath an overhanging cliff, with the ocean waves dashing at my feet, I could not have felt more awe or dread. A mist settled on my eyes.
"Read,"—cried the master, waving his ferula with a commanding gesture,—"our time is precious."
I opened my lips, but no sound issued from my paralyzed tongue. With a feeling of horror, which the intensely diffident can understand, and only they, I turned and was about to fly back to my seat, when a large, strong hand pressed its weight upon my shoulder, and arrested my flight.
"Stay where you are," exclaimed Mr. Regulus. "Have I not lectured you a hundred times on this preposterous shame-facedness of yours? Am I a Draco, with laws written in blood, a tyrant, scourging with an iron rod, that you thus shrink and tremble before me? Read, or suffer the penalty due to disobedience and waywardness."
Thus threatened, I commenced in a husky, faltering voice the reading of lines which, till that moment, I had believed glowing with the inspiration of genius. Now, how flat and commonplace they seemed! It was the first time I had ever ventured to reveal to others the talent hidden with all a miser's vigilance in my bosom casket. I had lisped in rhyme,—I had improvised in rhyme,—I had dreamed in poetry, when the moon and stars were looking down on me with benignant lustre;—I had thought poetry at the sunset hour, amid twilight shadows and midnight darkness. I had scribbled it at early morn in my own little room, at noonday recess at my solitary desk; but no human being, save my mother, knew of the young dream-girl's poetic raptures.
One of those irresistible promptings of the spirit which all have felt, and to which many have yielded, induced me at this era to break loose from my shell and come forth, as I imagined, a beautiful and brilliant butterfly, soaring up above the gaze of my astonished and admiring companions. Yes; with all my diffidence I anticipated a scene of triumph, a dramatic scene, which would terminate perhaps in a crown of laurel, or a public ovation.
Lowly self-estimation is by no means a constant accompaniment of diffidence. The consciousness of possessing great powers and deep sensibility often creates bashfulness. It is their veil and guard while maturing and strengthening. It is the flower-sheath, that folds the corolla, till prepared to encounter the sun's burning rays.
I did read,—one stanza. I could not go on though the scaffold were the doom of my silence.
"What foolery is this! Give it to me."
The paper was pulled from my clinging fingers. Clearing his throat with a loud and prolonged hem,—then giving a flourish of his ruler on the desk, he read, in a tone of withering derision, the warm breathings of a child's heart and soul, struggling after immortality,—the spirit and trembling utterance of long cherished, long imprisoned yearnings.
Now, when after years of reflection I look back on that never-to-be-forgotten moment, I can form a true estimate of the poem subjected to that fiery ordeal, I wonder the paper did not scorch and shrivel up like a burning scroll. It did not deserve ridicule. The thoughts were fresh and glowing, the measure correct, the versification melodious. It was the genuine offspring of a young imagination, urged by the "strong necessity" of giving utterance to its bright idealities, the sighings of a heart looking beyond its lowly and lonely destiny. Ah! Mr. Regulus, you were cruel then.
Methinks I see him,—hear him now, weighing in the iron scales of criticism every springing, winged idea, cutting and slashing the words till it seemed to me they dropped blood,—then glancing from me to the living rows of benches with such a cold, sarcastic smile.
"What a barbarous, unfeeling monster!" perhaps I hear some one exclaim.
No, he was not. He could be very kind and indulgent. He had been kind and generous to me. He gave me my tuition, and had taken unwearied pains with my lessons. He could forgive great offences, but had no toleration for little follies. He really thought it a sinful waste of time to write poetry in school. He had given me a subject for composition, a useful, practical one, but not at all to my taste, and I had ventured to disregard it. I had jumped over the rock, and climbed up to the flowers that grew above it. He was a thorough mathematician, a celebrated grammarian, a renowned geographer and linguist, but I then thought he had no more ear for poetry or music, no more eye for painting,—the painting of God, or man,—than the stalled ox, or the Greenland seal. I did him injustice, and he was unjust to me. I had not intended to slight or scorn the selection he had made, but I could not write upon it,—I could not help my thoughts flowing into rhyme.
Can the stream help gliding and rippling through its flowery margins? Can the bird help singing and warbling upward into the deep blue sky, sending down a silver shower of melody as it flies?
Perhaps some may think I am swelling small things into great; but incidents and actions are to be judged by their results, by their influence in the formation of character, and the hues they reflect on futurity. Had I received encouragement instead of rebuke, praise instead of ridicule,—had he taken me by the hand and spoken some such kindly words as these:—
"This is very well for a little girl like you. Lift up that downcast face, nor blush and tremble, as if detected in a guilty act. You must not spend too much time in the reveries of imagination, for this is a working-day world, my child. Even the birds have to build their nests, and the coral insect is a mighty laborer. The gift of song is sweet, and may be made an instrument of the Creator's glory. The first notes of the lark are feeble, compared to his heaven-high strains. The fainter dawn precedes the risen day."
Oh! had he addressed me in indulgent words as these, who knows but that, like burning Sappho, I might have sang as well as loved? Who knows but that the golden gates of the Eden of immortality might have opened to admit the wandering Peri to her long-lost home? I might have been the priestess of a shrine of Delphic celebrity, and the world have offered burning incense at my altar. I might have won the laurel crown, and found, perchance, thorns hidden under its triumphant leaves. I might,—but it matters not. The divine spark is undying, and though circumstances may smother the flame it enkindles, it glows in the bosom with unquenchable fire.
I remember very well what the master said, instead of the imagined words I have written.
"Poetry, is it?—or something you meant to be called by that name? Nonsense, child—folly—moon-beam hallucination! Child! do you know that this is an unpardonable waste of time? Do you remember that opportunities of improvement are given you to enable you hereafter to secure an honorable independence? This accounts for your reveries over the blackboard, your indifference to mathematics, that grand and glorious science! Poetry! ha, ha! I began to think you did not understand the use of capitals,—ha, ha!"
Did you ever imagine how a tender loaf of bread must feel when cut into slices by the sharpened knife? How the young bark feels when the iron wedge is driven through it with cleaving force? I think I can, by the experience of that hour. I stood with quivering lip, burning cheek, and panting breast,—my eyes riveted on the paper which he flourished in his left hand, pointing at it with the forefinger of his right.
"He shall not go on,"—said I to myself, exasperation giving me boldness,—"he shall not read what I have written of my mother. I will die sooner. He may insult my poverty but hers shall be sacred, and her sorrows too."
I sprang forward, forgetting every thing in the fear of hearing her name associated with derision, and attempted to get possession of the manuscript. A fly might as well attempt to wring the trunk of the elephant.
"Really, little poetess, you are getting bold. I should like to see you try that again. You had better keep quiet."
A resolute glance of the keen, black eye, resolute, yet twinkling with secret merriment, and he was about to commence another stanza.
I jumped up with the leap of the panther. I could not loosen his strong grasp, but I tore the paper from round his fingers, ran down the steps through the rows of desks and benches, without looking to the right or left, and flew without bonnet or covering out into the broad sunlight and open air.
"Come back, this moment!"
The thundering voice of the master rolled after me, like a heavy stone, threatening to crush me as it rolled. I bounded on before it with constantly accelerating speed.
I said this to myself. I repeated it aloud to the breeze that came coolly and soothingly through the green boughs, to fan the burning cheeks of the fugitive. At length the dread of pursuit subsiding, I slackened my steps, and cast a furtive glance behind me. The cupola of the academy gleamed white through the oak trees that surrounded it, and above them the glittering vane, fashioned in the form of a giant pen, seemed writing on the azure page of heaven.
My home,—the little cottage in the woods, was one mile distant. There was a by-path, a foot-path, as it was called, which cut the woods in a diagonal line, and which had been trodden hard and smooth by the feet of the children. Even at mid-day there was twilight in that solitary path, and when the shadows deepened and lengthened on the plain, they concentrated into gloominess there. The moment I turned into that path, I was supreme. It was mine. The public road, the thoroughfare leading through the heart of the town, belonged to the world. I was obliged to walk there like other people, with mincing steps, and bonnet tied primly under the chin, according to the rule and plummet line of school-girl propriety. But in my own little by-path, I could do just as I pleased. I could run with my bonnet swinging in my hand, and my hair floating like the wild vine of the woods. I could throw myself down on the grass at the foot of the great trees, and looking up into the deep, distant sky, indulge my own wondrous imaginings.
I did so now. I cast myself panting on the turf, and turning my face downward instead of upward, clasped my hands over it, and the hot tears gushed in scalding streams through my fingers, till the pillow of earth was all wet as with a shower.
Oh, they did me good, those fast-gushing tears! There was comfort, there was luxury in them. Bless God for tears! How they cool the dry and sultry heart! How they refresh the fainting virtues! How they revive the dying affections!
The image of my pale sweet, gentle mother rose softly through the falling drops. A rainbow seemed to crown her with its seven-fold beams.
Dear mother!—would she will me to go back where the giant pen dipped its glittering nib into the deep blue ether?
"Get up, Gabriella,—you must not lie here on the damp ground. Get up,—it is almost night. What will your mother say? what will she think has become of you?"
I started up, bewildered and alarmed, passing my hands dreamily over my swollen eyelids. Heavy shadows hung over the woods. Night was indeed approaching. I had fallen into a deep sleep, and knew it not.
It was Richard Clyde who awakened me. His schoolmaster called him Dick, but I thought it sounded vulgar, and he was always Richard to me. A boy of fifteen, the hardest student in the academy, and, next to my mother and Peggy, the best friend I had in the world. I had no brother, and many a time had he acted a brother's part, when I had needed a manly champion. Yet my mother had enjoined on me such strict reserve in my intercourse with the boy pupils, and my disposition was so shy, our acquaintance had never approached familiarity.
"I did not mean to shake you so hard," said he, stepping back a few paces as he spoke, "but I never knew any one sleep so like a log before. I feared for a moment that you were dead."
"It would not be much matter if I were," I answered, hardly knowing what I said, for a dull weight pressed on my brain, and despondency had succeeded excitement.
"Oh, Gabriella! is it not wicked to say that?"
"If you had been treated as badly as I have, you would feel like saying it too."
"Yes!" he exclaimed, energetically, "you have been treated badly, shamefully, and I told the master so to his face."
"You! You did not, Richard. You only thought so. You would not have told him so for all the world."
"But I did, though! As soon as you ran out of school, it seemed as if he made but one step to the door, and his face looked as black as night. I thought if he overtook you, he might,—I did not know what he would do, he was so angry. I sat near the door, and I jumped right up and faced him on the threshold. 'Don't, sir, don't! I cried; she is a little girl, and you a great strong man.'
"'What is that to you, sirrah?' he exclaimed, and the forked lightning ran out of his eye right down my backbone. It aches yet, Gabriella.
"'It is a great deal, Sir,' I answered, as bold as a lion. 'You have treated her cruelly enough already. It would be cowardly to pursue her.'"
"Oh, Richard! how dared you say that? Did he not strike you?"
"He lifted his hand; but instead of flinching, I made myself as tall as I could, and looked at him right steadfastly. You do not know how pale he looked, when I stopped him on the threshold. His very lips turned white—I declare there is something grand in a great passion. It makes one look somehow so different from common folks. Well, now, as soon as he raised his hand to strike me, a red flush shot into his face, like the blaze of an inward fire. It was shame,—anger made him white—but shame turned him as red as blood. His arm dropped down to his side,—then he laid his hand on the top of his head,—'Stay after school,' said he, 'I must talk with you.'"
"And did you?" I asked, hanging with breathless interest on his words.
"Yes; I have just left him."
"He has not expelled you, Richard?"
"No; but he says I must ask his pardon before the whole school to-morrow. It amounts to the same thing. I will never do it."
"I am so sorry this has happened," said I. "Oh! that I had never written that foolish, foolish poetry. It has done so much mischief."
"You are not to blame, Gabriella. He had no business to laugh at it; it was beautiful—all the boys say so. I have no doubt you will be a great poetess one of these days. He ought to have been proud of it, instead of making fun of you. It was so mean."
"But you must go back to school, Richard. You are the best scholar. The master is proud of you, and will not give you up. I would not have it said that I was the cause of your leaving, for twice your weight in solid gold."
"Would you not despise me if I asked pardon, when I have done no wrong; to appear ashamed of what I glory in; to act the part of a coward, after publicly proclaiming him to be one?"
"It is hard," said I, "but—"
We were walking homeward all the while we were talking, and at every step my spirits sank lower and lower. How different every thing seemed now, from what it did an hour ago. True, I had been treated with harshness, but I had no right to rebel as I had done. Had I kissed the rod, it would have lost its sting,—had I borne the smart with patience and gentleness, my companions would have sympathized with and pitied me; it would not have been known beyond the walls of the academy. But now, it would be blazoned through the whole town. The expulsion of so distinguished a scholar as Richard Clyde would be the nine days' gossip, the village wonder. And I should be pointed out as the presumptuous child, whose disappointed vanity, irascibility, and passion had created rebellion and strife in a hitherto peaceful seminary. I, the recipient of the master's favors, an ingrate and a wretch! My mother would know this—my gentle, pale-faced mother.
Our little cottage was now visible, with its low walls of grayish white, and vine-encircled windows.
"Richard," said I, walking as slowly as possible, though it was growing darker every moment, "I feel very unhappy. I will go and see the master in the morning and ask him to punish me for both. I will humble myself for your sake, for you have been my champion, and I never will forget it as long as I live. I was wrong to rush out of school as I did,—wrong to tear the paper from his hands,—and I am willing to tell him so now. It shall all be right yet, Richard,—indeed it shall."
"You shall not humble yourself for me, Gabriella; I like a girl of spirit."
We had now reached the little gate that opened into our own green yard. I could see my mother looking from the window for her truant child. My heart began to palpitate, for no Catholic ever made more faithful confessions to his absolving priest, than I to my only parent. Were I capable of concealing any thing from her, I should have thought myself false and deceitful. With feelings of love and reverence kindred to those with which I regarded my Heavenly Father, I looked up to her, the incarnate angel of my life. This expression has been so often used it does not seem to mean much; but when I say it, I mean all the filial heart is capable of feeling. I was poor in fortune, but in her goodness rich. I was a lonely child, but sad and pensive as she was, she was a fountain of social joy to me. Then, she was so beautiful—so very, very lovely!
I caught the light of her pensive smile through the dimness of the hour. She was so accustomed to my roaming in the woods, she had suffered no alarm.
"If my mother thinks it right, you will not object to my going to see Mr. Regulus," said I, as Richard lifted the gate-latch for me to enter.
"For yourself, no; but not for me. I can take care of myself, Gabriella."
He spoke proudly. He did not quite come up to my childish idea of a boy hero, but I admired his self-reliance and bravery. I did not want him to despise me or my lack of spirit. I began to waver in my good resolution.
My mother called me, in that soft, gentle tone, so full of music and of love.
In ten minutes I had told her all.
If I thought any language of mine could do justice to her character, I would try to describe my mother. Were I to speak of her, my voice would choke at the mention of her name. As I write, a mist gathers over my eyes. Grief for the loss of such a being is immortal, as the love of which it is born.
I have said that we were poor,—but ours was not abject poverty, hereditary poverty,—though I had never known affluence, or even that sufficiency which casts out the fear of want. I knew that my mother was the child of wealth, and that she had been nurtured in elegance and splendor. I inherited from her the most fastidious tastes, without the means of gratifying them. I felt that I had a right to be wealthy, and that misfortune alone had made my mother poor, had made her an alien from her kindred and the scenes of her nativity. I felt a strange pride in this conviction. Indeed there was a singular union of pride and diffidence in my character, that kept me aloof from my young companions, and closed up the avenues to the social joys of childhood.
My mother thought a school life would counteract the influence of her own solitary habits and example. She did not wish me to be a hermit child, and for this reason accepted the offer Mr. Regulus made through the minister to become a pupil in the academy. She might have sent me to the free schools in the neighborhood, but she did not wish me to form associations incompatible with the refinement she had so carefully cultivated in me. She might have continued to teach me at home, for she was mistress of every accomplishment, but she thought the discipline of an institution like this would give tone and firmness to my poetic and dreaming mind. She wanted me to become practical,—she wanted to see the bark growing and hardening over the exposed and delicate fibres. She anticipated for me the cold winds and beating rains of an adverse destiny. I knew she did, though she had never told me so in words. I read it in the anxious, wistful, prophetic expression of her soft, deep black eyes, whenever they rested on me. Those beautiful, mysterious eyes!
There was a mystery about her that gave power to her excellence and beauty. Through the twilight shades of her sorrowful loneliness, I could trace only the dim outline of her past life. I was fatherless,—and annihilation, as well as death, seemed the doom of him who had given me being. I was forbidden to mention his name. No similitude of his features, no token of his existence, cherished by love and hallowed by reverence, invested him with the immortality of memory. It was as if he had never been.
Thus mantled in mystery, his image assumed a sublimity and grandeur in my imagination, dark and oppressive as night. I would sit and ponder over his mystic attributes, till he seemed like those gods of mythology, who, veiling their divinity in clouds, came down and wooed the daughters of men. A being so lovely and good as my mother would never have loved a common mortal. Perhaps he was some royal exile, who had found her in his wanderings a beauteous flower, but dared not transplant her to the garden of kings.
My mother little thought, when I sat in my simple calico dress, my school-book open on my knees, conning my daily lessons, or seeming so to do, what wild, absurd ideas were revelling in my brain. She little thought how high the "aspiring blood" of mine mounted in that lowly, woodland cottage.
I told her the history of my humiliation, passion, and flight,—of Richard Clyde's brave defence and undaunted resolution,—of my sorrow on his account,—of my shame and indignation on my own.
"My poor Gabriella!"
"You are not angry with me, my mother?"
"Angry! No, my child, it was a hard trial,—very hard for one so young. I did not think Mr. Regulus capable of so much unkindness. He has cancelled this day a debt of gratitude."
"My poor Gabriella," she again repeated, laying her delicate hand gently on my head. "I fear you have a great deal to contend with in this rough world. The flowers of poesy are sweet, but poverty is a barren soil, my child. The dew that moistens it, is tears."
I felt a tear on my hand as she spoke. Child as I was, I thought that tear more holy and precious than the dew of heaven. Flowers nurtured by such moisture must be sweet.
"I will never write any more," I exclaimed, with desperate resolution. "I will never more expose myself to ridicule and contempt."
"Write as you have hitherto done, for my gratification and your own. Your simple strains have beguiled my lonely hours. But had I known your purpose, I would have warned you of the consequences. The child who attempts to soar above its companions is sure to be dragged down by the hand of envy. Your teacher saw in your effusion an unpardonable effort to rise above himself,—to diverge from the beaten track. You may have indulged too much in the dreams of imagination. You may have neglected your duties as a pupil. Lay your hand on your heart and ask it to reply."
She spoke so calmly, so soothingly, so rationally, the fever of imagination subsided. I saw the triumph of reason and principle in her own self-control,—for, when I was describing the scene, her mild eye flashed, and her pale cheek colored with an unwonted depth of hue. She had to struggle with her own emotions, that she might subdue mine.
"May I ask him to pardon Richard Clyde, mother?"
"The act would become your gratitude, but I fear it would avail nothing. If he has required submission of him, he will hardly accept yours as a substitute."
"Must I ask him to forgive me? Must I return?"
I hung breathlessly on her reply.
"Wait till morning, my daughter. We shall both feel differently then. I would not have you yield to the dictates of passion, neither would I have you forfeit your self-respect. I must not rashly counsel."
"I would not let her go back at all," exclaimed a firm, decided voice. "They ain't fit to hold the water to wash her hands."
"Peggy," said my mother, rebukingly, "you forget yourself."
"I always try to do that," she replied, while she placed on the table my customary supper of bread and milk.
"Yes, indeed you do," answered my mother, gratefully,—"kind and faithful friend. But humility becometh my child better than pride."
Peggy looked hard at my mother, with a mixture of reverence, pity, and admiration in her clear, honest eye, then taking a coarse towel, she rubbed a large silver spoon, till it shone brighter and brighter, and laid it by the side of my bowl. She had first spread a white napkin under it, to give my simple repast an appearance of neatness and gentility. The bowl itself was white, with a wreath of roses round the rim, both inside and out. Those rosy garlands had been for years the delight of my eyes. I always hailed the appearance of the glowing leaves, when the milky fluid sunk below them, with a fresh appreciation of their beauty. They gave an added relish to the Arcadian meal. They fed my love of the beautiful and the pure. That large, bright silver spoon,—I was never weary of admiring that also. It was massive—it was grand—and whispered a tale of former grandeur. Indeed, though the furniture of our cottage was of the simplest, plainest kind, there were many things indicative of an earlier state of luxury and elegance. My mother always used a golden thimble,—she had a toilet case inlaid with pearl, and many little articles appropriate only to wealth, and which wealth only purchases. These were never displayed, but I had seen them, and made them the corner-stones of many an airy castle.
And who was Peggy?
She was one of the best and noblest women God ever made. She was a treasury of heaven's own influences.
And yet she wore the form of a servant, and like her divine Master, there was "no beauty" in her that one should desire to look upon her.
She had followed my mother through good report and ill report. She had clung to her in her fallen fortunes as something sacred, almost divine. As the Hebrew to the ark of the covenant,—as the Greek to his country's palladium,—as the children of Freedom to the star-spangled banner,—so she clung in adversity to her whom in prosperity she almost worshipped. I learned in after years, all that we owed this humble, self-sacrificing, devoted friend. I did not know it then—at least not all—not half. I knew that she labored most abundantly for us,—that she ministered to my mother with as much deference as if she were an empress, anticipating her slightest wants and wishes, deprecating her gratitude, and seeming ashamed of her own goodness and industry. I knew that her plain sewing, assisted by my mother's elegant needle-work, furnished us the means of support; but I had always known it so, and it seemed all natural and right. Peggy was strong and robust. The burden of toil rested lightly on her sturdy shoulders. It seemed to me that she was born with us and for us,—that she belonged to us as rightfully as the air we breathed, and the light that illumined us. It never entered my mind that we could live without Peggy, or that Peggy could live without us.
My mother's health was very delicate. She could not sew long without pressing her hand on her aching side, and then Peggy would draw her work gently from her with her large, kind hand, make her lie down and rest, or walk out in the fresh air, till the waxen hue was enlivened on her pallid cheek. She would urge her to go into the garden and gather flowers for Gabriella, "because the poor child loved so to see them in the room." We had a sweet little garden, where Peggy delved at early sunrise and evening twilight. Without ever seeming hurried or overtasked, she accomplished every thing. We had the earliest vegetables, and the latest. We had fruit, we had flowers, all the result of Peggy's untiring, providing hand. The surplus vegetables and fruit she carried to the village market, and though they brought but a trifle in a country town, where every thing was so abundant, yet Peggy said, "we must not despise the day of small gains." She took the lead in all business matters in-doors and out-doors. She never asked my mother if she had better do this and that; she went right ahead, doing what she thought right and best, in every thing pertaining to the drudgery of life.
When I was a little child, I used to ask her many a question about the mystery of my life. I asked her about my father, of my kindred, and the place of my birth.
"Miss Gabriella," she would answer, "you mustn't ask questions. Your mother does not wish it. She has forbidden me to say one word of all you want to know. When you are old enough you shall learn every thing. Be quiet—be patient. It is best that you should be. But of one thing rest assured, if ever there was a saint in this world, your mother is one."
I never doubted this. I should have doubted as soon the saintliness of those who wear the golden girdles of Paradise. I am glad of this. I have sometimes doubted the love and mercy of my Heavenly Father, but never the purity and excellence of my mother. Ah, yes! once when sorely tempted.
We retired very early in our secluded, quiet home. We had no evening visitors to charm away the sober hours, and time marked by the sands of the hour-glass always seems to glide more slowly. That solemn-looking hour-glass! How I used to gaze on each dropping particle, watching the upward segment gradually becoming more and more transparent, and the lower as gradually darkening. It was one of Peggy's inherited treasures, and she reverenced it next to her Bible. The glass had been broken and mended with putty, which formed a dark, diagonal line across the venerable crystal. This antique chronometer occupied the central place on the mantel-piece, its gliding sands, though voiceless, for ever whispering of ebbing time and everlasting peace. "Passing away, passing away," seemed continually issuing from each meeting cone. I have no doubt the contemplation of this ancient, solemn instrument, which old Father Time is always represented as grasping in one unclenching hand, while he brandishes in the other the merciless scythe, had a lasting influence on my character.
That night, it was long before I fell asleep. I lay awake thinking of the morning's dawn. The starlight abroad, that came in through the upper part of the windows, glimmered on the dark frame and glassy surface of the old timepiece, which stood out in bold relief from the whitewashed wall behind it. Before I knew it, I was composing a poem on that old hour-glass. It was a hoary pilgrim, travelling on a lone and sea-beat shore, towards a dim and distant goal, and the print of his footsteps on the wave-washed sands, guided others in the same lengthening journey. The scene was before me. I saw the ancient traveller, his white locks streaming in the ocean blast; I heard the deep murmur of the restless tide; I saw the footsteps; and they looked like sinking graves; when all at once, in the midst of my solemn inspiration, a stern mocking face came between me and the starlight night, the jeering voice of my master was in my ears, a dishonored fragment was fluttering in my hand. The vision fled; I turned my head on my pillow and wept.
You may say such thoughts and visions were strangely precocious in a child of twelve years old. I suppose they were; but I never remember being a child. My sad, gentle mother, the sober, earnest, practical Peggy, were the companions of my infancy, instead of children of my own age. The sunlight of my young life was not reflected from the golden locks of childhood, its radiant smile and unclouded eye. I was defrauded of the sweetest boon of that early season, a confidence that this world is the happiest, fairest, best of worlds, the residence of joy, beauty, and goodness.
A thoughtful child! I do not like to hear it. What has a little child to do with thought? That sad, though glorious reversion of our riper and darker years?
Ah me! I never recollect the time that my spirit was not travelling to grasp some grown idea, to fathom the mystery of my being, to roll away the shadows that surrounded me, groping for light, toiling, then dreaming, not resting. It was no wonder I was weary before my journey was well begun.
"What a remarkable countenance Gabriella has!" I then often heard it remarked. "Her features are childish, but her eyes have such a peculiar depth of expression,—so wild, and yet so wise."
I wish I had a picture of myself taken at this period of my life. I have no doubt I looked older then than I do now.
I knew the path which led from the boarding-place of Mr. Regulus crossed the one which I daily traversed. I met him exactly at the point of intersection, under the shadow of a great, old oak. The dew of the morning glittered on the shaded grass. The clear light blue of the morning sky smiled through upward quivering leaves. Every thing looked bright and buoyant, and as I walked on, girded with a resolute purpose, my spirit caught something of the animation and inspiration of the scene.
The master saw me as I approached, and I expected to see a frown darken his brow. I felt brave, however, for I was about to plead for another, not myself. He did not frown, neither did he smile. He seemed willing to meet me,—he even slackened his pace till I came up. I felt a sultry glow on my cheek when I faced him, and my breath came quick and short. I was not so very brave after all.
"Master Regulus," said I, "do not expel Richard Clyde,—do not disgrace him, because he thought I was not kindly dealt with. I am sorry I ran from school as I did,—I am sorry I wrote the poem,—I hardly knew what I was doing when I snatched the paper from your hands. I suppose Richard hardly knew what he was doing when he stopped you at the door."
I did not look up while I was speaking, for had I met an angry glance I should have rebelled.
"I am glad I have met you, Gabriella," said he, in a tone so gentle, I lifted my eyes in amazement. His beamed with unusual kindness beneath his shading brows. Gone was the mocking gleam,—gone the deriding smile. He looked serious, earnest, almost sad, but not severe. Looking at his watch, and then at the golden vane, as if that too were a chronometer, he turned towards the old oak, and throwing himself carelessly on a seat formed of a broken branch, partially severed from the trunk, motioned me to sit down on the grass beside him. Quick as lightning I obeyed him, untying my bonnet and pushing it back from my head. I could scarcely believe the evidence of my senses. There reclined the formidable master, like a great, overgrown boy, his attitude alone banishing all restraint and fear, and I, perched on a mossy rock, that looked as if placed there on purpose for me to sit down upon, all my wounded and exasperated feelings completely drowned in a sudden overflow of pleasant emotions. I had expected scolding, rebuke, denial,—I had armed myself for a struggle of power,—I had resolved to hazard a martyr's doom.
Oh, the magic of kindness on a child's heart!—a lonely, sensitive, proud, yearning heart like mine!—'Tis the witch-hazel wand that shows where the deep fountain is secretly welling. I was ashamed of the tears that would gather into my eyes. I shook my hair forward to cover them, and played with the green leaves within my reach.
The awful space between me and this tall, stern, learned man seemed annihilated. I had never seen him before, divested of the insignia of authority, beyond the walls of the academy. I had always been compelled to look up to him before; now we were on a level, on the green sward of the wild-wood. God above, nature around, no human faces near, no fear of man to check the promptings of ingenuous feeling. Softly the folded flower petals of the heart began to unfurl. The morning breeze caught their fragrance and bore it up to heaven.
"You thought me harsh and unkind, Gabriella," said the master in a low, subdued voice, "and I fear I was so yesterday. I intended to do you good. I began sportively, but when I saw you getting excited and angry, I became angry and excited too. My temper, which is by no means gentle, had been previously much chafed, and, as is too often the case, the irritation, caused by the offences of many, burst forth on one, perhaps the most innocent of all. Little girl, you have been studying the history of France; do you remember its Louises?—Louis the Fourteenth was a profligate, unprincipled, selfish king. Louis the Fifteenth, another God-defying, self-adoring sensualist. Louis the Sixteenth one of the most amiable, just, Christian monarchs the world ever saw. Yet the accumulated wrongs under which the nation had been groaning during the reign of his predecessors, were to be avenged in his person,—innocent, heroic sufferer that he was. This is a most interesting historic fact, and bears out wonderfully the truth of God's words. But I did not mean to give a lecture on history. It is out of place here. I meant to do you good yesterday, and discourage you from becoming an idle rhymer—a vain dreamer. You are not getting angry I hope, little girl, for I am kind now."
"No, sir,—no, indeed, sir," I answered, with my face all in a glow.
"Your mother, I am told, wishes you to be educated for a teacher, a profession which requires as much training as the Spartan youth endured, when fitted to be the warriors of the land. Why, you should be preparing yourself a coat of mail, instead of embroidering a silken suit. How do you expect to get through the world, child,—and it is a hard world to the poor, a cold world to the friendless,—how do you expect to get along through the briars and thorns, over the rocks and the hills with nothing but a blush on your cheek, a tear in your eye, and a sentimental song on your lips? Independence is the reward of the working mind, the thinking brain, and the earnest heart."
He grew really eloquent as he went on. He raised his head to an erect position, and ran his fingers through his bushy locks. I cannot remember all he said, but every word he uttered had meaning in it. I appreciated for the first time the difficulties and trials of a teacher's vocation. I had thought before, that it was the pupil only who bore the burden of endurance. It had never entered my mind that the crown of authority covered the thorns of care, that the wide sweep of command wearied more than the restraint of subjection. I was flattered by the manner in which he addressed me, the interest he expressed in my future prospects. I found myself talking freely to him of myself, of my hopes and my fears. I forgot the tyrant of yesterday in the friend of to-day. I remember one thing he said, which is worth recording.
"It is very unfortunate when a child, in consequence of a facility of making rhyme, is led to believe herself a poetess,—or, in other words, a prodigy. She is praised and flattered by injudicious friends, till she becomes inflated by vanity and exalted by pride. She wanders idly, without aim or goal, in the flowery paths of poesy, forgetful of the great highway of knowledge, not made alone for the chariot wheels of kings, but the feet of the humblest wayfarer."
When he began to address me, he remembered that I was a child, but before he finished the sentence he forgot my age, and his thoughts and language swelled and rose to the comprehension of manhood. But I understood him. Perhaps there was something in my fixed and fascinated glance that made him conscious of my full appreciation.
"I have no friends to praise and flatter me," I simply answered. "I have loved to sing in rhyme as the little birds sing, because God gave me the power."
He looked pleased. He even laid his hand on my head and smiled. Not the cold smile of yesterday, but quite a genial smile. I could hardly believe it the same face, it softened and transformed it so. I involuntarily drew nearer to him, drawn by that powerful magnetism, which every human heart feels more or less.
The great brazen tongue of the town clock rang discordantly on the sweet stillness of the morning hour. The master rose and motioned me to follow him.
"Richard Clyde is forgiven. Tell him so. Let the past be forgotten, or remembered only to make us wiser and better."
We entered the academy together, to the astonishment of the pupils, who were gathered in little clusters, probably discussing the events of yesterday.
Richard Clyde was not there, but he came the next day, and the scene in which we were both such conspicuous actors was soon forgotten. It had, however, an abiding influence on me. A new motive for exertion was born within me,—affection for my master,—and the consequence was, ambition to excel, that I might be rewarded by his approbation.
Bid he ever again treat me with harshness and severity? No,—never. I have often wondered why he manifested such unusual and wanton disregard of my feelings then, that one, only time. It is no matter now. It is a single blot on a fair page.
Man is a strangely inconsistent being. His soul is the battle ground of the warring angels of good and evil. As one or the other triumphs, he exhibits the passions of a demon or the attributes of a God.
Could we see this hidden war field, would it not be grand? What were the plains of Marathon, the pass of Thermopylae, or Cannae paved with golden rings, compared to it?
Let us for a moment imagine the scene. Not the moment of struggle, but the pause that succeeds. The angels of good have triumphed, and though the plumage of their wings may droop, they are white and dazzling so as no "fuller of earth could whiten them." The moonlight of peace rests upon the battle field, where evil passions lie wounded and trampled under feet. Strains of victorious music float in the air; but it comes from those who have triumphed in the conflict and entered into rest, those who behold the conflict from afar. It is so still, that one can almost hear the trees of Paradise rustle in the ambrosial gales of heaven.
Is this poetry? Is it sacrilege? If so, forgive me, thou great Inspirer of thought,—"my spirit would fain not wander from thee."
The life of a school-girl presents but few salient points to arrest the interest. It is true, every day had its history, and every rising and setting sun found something added to the volume of my life. But there seems so little to describe! I could go on for ever, giving utterance to thoughts that used to crowd in my young brain, thoughts that would startle as well as amuse,—but I fear they might become monotonous to the reader.
I had become a hard student. My mother wished me to fit myself for a teacher. It was enough.
It was not, however, without many struggles. I had acquired this submission to her wishes. Must I forever be a slave to hours? Must I weave for others the chain whose daily restraint chafed and galled my free, impatient spirit? Must I bear the awful burden of authority, that unlovely appendage to youth? Must I voluntarily assume duties to which the task of the criminal that tramps, tramps day after day the revolving tread-mill, seems light; for that is mere physical labor and monotony, not the wear and tear of mind, heart, and soul?
"What else can you do, my child?" asked my mother.
"I could sew."
My mother smiled and shook her head.
"Your skill does not lie in handicraft," she said, "that would never do."
"I could toil as a servant. I would far rather do it."
I had worked myself up to a belief in my own sincerity when I said this, but had any tongue but mine suggested the idea, how would my aspiring blood have burned with indignation.
"It is the most honorable path to independence a friendless young girl can choose,—almost the only one," said my mother, suppressing a deep sigh.
"Oh, mother! I am not friendless. How can I be, with you and Peggy?"
"But we are not immortal, my child. Every day loosens my frail hold of earthly things, and even Peggy's strong arm will in time grow weak. Your young strength will then be her stay and support."
"Oh, mother! as if I could live when you are taken from me! What do I live for, but you? What have I on earth but thee? Other children have father and mother, and brothers and sisters, and friends. If one is taken from them, they have others left to love and care for them, but I have nobody in the wide world but you. I could not, would not live without you."
I spoke with passionate earnestness. Life without my mother! The very thought was death! I looked in her pale, beautiful face. It was more than pale,—it was wan—it was sickly. There was a purplish shadow under her soft, dark eyes, which I had not observed before, and her figure looked thin and drooping. I gazed into the sad, loving depths of her eyes, till mine were blinded with tears, when throwing my arms across her lap, I laid my face upon them, and wept and sobbed as if the doom of the motherless were already mine.
"Grief does not kill, my Gabriella," she said, tenderly caressing me. "It is astonishing how much the human heart can bear without breaking. Sorrow may dry up, drop by drop, the fountain of life, but it is generally the work of years. The heart lives, though every source of joy be dead,—lives without one well-spring of happiness to quench its burning thirst,—lives in the midst of desolation, darkness, and despair. Oh, my Gabriella," she continued, with a burst of feeling that swept over her with irresistible power, and bowed her as before a stormy gust, "would to God that we might die together,—that the same almighty mandate would free us both from this prison-house of sorrow and of sin. I have prayed for resignation,—I have prayed for faith; but, O my God! I am rebellious, I am weak, I have suffered and struggled so long."
She spoke in a tone of physical as well as menial agony. I was looking up in her face, and it seemed as if a dark shadow rolled over it. I sprang to my feet and screamed. Peggy, who was already on the threshold, caught her as she fell forward, and laid her on the bed as if she were a little child. She was in a fainting fit. I had seen her before in these deathlike swoons, but never had I watched with such shuddering dread to see the dawn of awakening life break upon her face. I stood at her pillow scarcely less pale and cold than herself.
"This is all your doings, Miss Gabriella," muttered Peggy, while busily engaged in the task of restoration. "If you don't want to kill your mother, you must keep out of your tantrums. What's the use of going on so, I wonder,—and what's the use of my watching her as carefully as if she was made of glass, when you come like a young hurricane and break her into atoms. There,—go away and keep quiet. Let her be till she gets over this turn. I know exactly what's best for her."
She spoke with authority, and I obeyed as if the voice of a superior were addressing me. I obeyed,—but not till I had seen the hue of returning life steal over the marble pallor of her cheek. I wandered into the garden, but the narrow paths, the precise formed beds, the homely aspect of vegetable nature, filled me with a strange loathing. I felt suffocated, oppressed,—I jumped over the railing and plunged into the woods,—the wild, ample woods,—my home,—my wealth,—my God-granted inheritance. I sat down under the oaks, and fixed my eyes upwards on the mighty dome that seemed resting on the strong forest trees. I heard nothing but the soft rustling of the leaves,—I saw nothing but the lonely magnificence of nature.
Here I became calm. It seemed a matter of perfect indifference to me then what I did, or what became of me,—whether I was henceforth to be a teacher, a seamstress, or a servant. Every consideration was swallowed in one,—every fear lost in one absorbing dread. I had but one prayer,—"Let my mother live, or let me die with her!"
Poverty offered no privation, toil no weariness, suffering no pang, compared to the one great evil which my imagination grasped with firm and desperate clench.
Three years had passed since I had lain a weeping child under the shadow of the oaks, smarting from the lash of derision, burning with shame, shrinking with humiliation. I was now fifteen years old,—at that age when youth turns trembling from the dizzy verge of childhood to a mother's guardian arms, a mother's sheltering heart. How weak, how puerile now seemed the emotions, which three years ago had worn such a majestic semblance.
I was but a foolish child then,—what was I now? A child still, but somewhat wiser, not more worldly wise. I knew no more of the world, of what is called the world, than I did of those golden cities seen through the cloud-vistas of sunset. It seemed as grand, as remote, and as inaccessible.
At this moment I turned my gaze towards the distant cloud-turrets gleaming above, walls on which chariots and horsemen of fire seemed passing and repassing, and I was conscious of but one deep, earnest thought,—"my mother!"
One prayer, sole and agonizing, trembled on my lips:—
"Take her not from me, O my God! I will drink the cup of poverty and humiliation to the dregs if thou wilt, without a murmur, but spare, O spare my mother!"
God did spare her for a little while. The dark hands on the dial-plate of destiny once moved back at the mighty breath of prayer.
"Gabriella,—is it you? How glad I am to see you!"
That clear, distinct, ringing voice!—I knew it well, though a year had passed since I had heard its sound. The three years which made me, as I said before, a wiser child, had matured my champion, the boy of fifteen, into a youth of eighteen, a collegian of great promise and signal endowments. I felt very sorry when he left the academy, for he had been my steadfast friend and defender, and a great assistant in my scholastic tasks. But after he entered a college, I felt as if there were a great gulf between us, never more to be passed over. I had very superb ideas of collegians. I had seen them during their holidays, which they frequently came into the country to spend, dashing through the streets like the wild huntsmen, on horses that struck fire as they flew along. I had seen them lounging in the streets, with long, wild hair, and corsair visages and Byronian collars, and imagined them a most formidable race of beings. I did not know that these were the scape-goats of their class, suspended for rebellion, or expelled for greater offences,—that having lost their character as students, they were resolved to distinguish themselves as dandies, the lowest ambition a son of Adam's race can feel. It is true, I did not dream that Richard Clyde could be transformed into their image, but I thought some marvellous change must take place, which would henceforth render him as much a stranger to me as though we had never met.
Now, when I heard the clear, glad accents of his voice, so natural, so unchanged, I looked up with a glance of delighted recognition into the young student's manly face. My first sensation was pleasure, the pleasure which congenial youth inspires, my next shame, for the homeliness of my occupation. I was standing by a beautiful bubbling spring, at the foot of a little hill near my mother's cottage. The welling spring, the rock over which it gushed, the trees which bent their branches over the fountain to guard it from the sunbeams, the sweet music the falling waters,—all these were romantic and picturesque. I might imagine myself "a nymph, a naiad, or a grace." Or, had I carried a pitcher in my hand, I might have thought myself another Rebecca, and poised on my shoulder the not ungraceful burden. But I was dipping water from the spring, in a tin pail, of a broad, clumsy, unclassic form,—too heavy for the shoulder, and extremely difficult to carry in the hand, in consequence of the small, wiry handle. In my confusion I dropped the pail, which went gaily floating to the opposite side of the spring, entirely out of my reach. The strong, bubbling current bore it upward, and it danced and sparkled and turned its sides of mimic silver, first one way and then the other, as if rejoicing in its liberty.
Richard laughed, his old merry laugh, and jumping on the rock over which the waters were leaping, caught the pail, and waved it as a trophy over his head. Then stooping down he filled it to the brim, gave one spring to the spot where I stood, whirled the bucket upside down and set it down on the grass without spilling a drop.
"That is too large and heavy for you to carry, Gabriella," said he. "Look at the palm of your hand, there is quite a red groove there made by that iron handle."
"Never mind," I answered, twisting my handkerchief carelessly round the tingling palm, "I must get used to it. Peggy is sick and there is no one to carry water now but myself. When she is well, she will never let me do any thing of the kind."
"You should not," said he, decidedly. "You are not strong enough,—you must get another servant.—I will inquire in the village myself this morning, and send you one."
"O no, my mother would never consent to a stranger coming into the family. Besides, no one could take Peggy's place. She is less a servant than a friend."
I turned away to hide the tears that I could not keep back. Peggy's illness, though not of an alarming character, showed that even her iron constitution was not exempt from the ills which flesh is heir to,—that the strong pillar on which we leaned so trustingly could vibrate and shake, and what would become of us if it were prostrated to the earth; the lonely column of fidelity and truth, to which we clung so adhesively; the sheet anchor which had kept us from sinking beneath the waves of adversity? I had scarcely realized Peggy's mortality before, she seemed so strong, so energetic, so untiring. I would as soon have thought of the sun's being weary in its mighty task as of Peggy's strong arm waxing weak. I felt very sad, and the meeting with Richard Clyde, which had excited a momentary joy, now deepened my sadness. He looked so bright, so prosperous, so full of hope and life. He was no longer the school-boy whom I could meet on equal terms, but the student entered on a public career of honor and distinction,—the son of ambition, whose gaze was already fixed on the distant hill-tops of fame. There was nothing in his countenance or manner that gave this impression, but my own morbid sensitiveness. The dawning feelings of womanhood made me blush for the plainness and childishness of my dress, and then I was ashamed of my shame, and blushed the more deeply.
"I am glad to see you again," I said, stooping to raise my brimming pail,—"I suppose I must not call you Richard now."
"Yes, indeed, I hope and trust none of my old friends will begin to Mr. Clyde me for a long time to come, and least, I mean most of all, you, Gabriella. We were always such exceedingly good friends, you know. But don't be in such a hurry, I have a thousand questions to ask, a thousand things to tell."
"I should love to hear them all, Richard, but I cannot keep my mother waiting."
Before I could get hold of the handle of the pail, he had seized it and was swinging it along with as much ease as if he had a bunch of roses in his hand. We ascended the little hill together, he talking all the time, in a spirited, joyous manner, laughing at his awkwardness as he stumbled against a rolling stone, wishing he was a school-boy again in the old academy, whose golden vane was once an object of such awe and admonition in his eyes.
"By the way, Gabriella," he asked, changing from subject to subject with marvellous rapidity, "do you ever write poetry now?"
"I have given that up, as one of the follies of my childhood, one of the dreams of my youth."
"Really, you must be a very venerable person,—you talk of the youthful follies you have discarded, the dreams from which you have awakened, as if you were a real centenarian. I wonder if there are not some incipient wrinkles on your face."
He looked at me earnestly, saucily; and I involuntarily put up my hands, as if to hide the traces of care his imagination was drawing.
"I really do feel old sometimes," said I, smiling at the mock scrutiny of his gaze, "and it is well I do. You know I am going to be a teacher, and youth will be my greatest objection."
"No, no, I do not want you to be a teacher. You were not born for one. You will not be happy as one,—you are too impulsive, too sensitive, too poetic in your temperament. You are the last person in the world who ought to think of such a vocation."
"Would you advise me, then, to be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, in preference?"
"I would advise you to continue your studies, to read, write poetry, ramble about the woods and commune with nature, as you so love to do, and not think of assuming the duties of a woman, while you are yet nothing but a child. Oh! it is the most melancholy thing in the world to me, to see a person trying to get beyond their years. You must not do it, Gabriella. I wish I could make you stop thinking for one year. I do not like to see a cheek as young as yours pale with overmuch thought. Do you know you are getting very like your mother?"
"My mother!" I exclaimed, with a glow of pleasure at the fancied resemblance, "why, she is the most beautiful person I have yet seen,—there is, there can be no likeness."
"But there is, though. You speak as if you thought yourself quite ugly. I wonder if you do. Ugly and old. Strange self-estimation for a pretty girl of fifteen!"
"I suppose you learn to flatter in college," said I, "but I do not care about being flattered, I assure you."
"You are very much mistaken if you think I am trying to flatter you. I may do so a year or two hence if I chance to meet you in company, but here, in this rural solitude, with the very element of truth in my hand, I could not deceive, if I were the most accomplished courtier in the world."
We had reached the top of the green acclivity which we bad been ascending, I fear with somewhat tardy steps. We could see the road through an opening in the trees,—a road little travelled, but leading to the central street of the town. The unusual sound of carriage wheels made me turn my head in that direction, and a simultaneous exclamation of Richard's fixed my attention.
A very elegant carriage, drawn by a pair of large shining bay horses was rolling along with aristocratic slowness. The silver-plated harness glittered so in the sun, it at first dazzled my eyes, so that I could discern nothing distinctly. Then I saw the figures of two ladies seated on the back seat in light, airy dresses, and of two gentlemen on horseback, riding behind. I had but a glimpse of all this, for the carriage rolled on. The riders disappeared; but, as a flash of lightning reveals to us glimpses of the cloud cities of heaven which we remember long after the electric gates are closed, so the vision remained on my memory, and had I never again beheld the youthful form nearest to us, I should remember it still. It was that of a young girl, with very fair flaxen hair, curling in profuse ringlets on each side of her face, which was exquisitely fair, and lighted up with a soft rosiness like the dawning of morning. A blue scarf, of the color of her eyes, floated over her shoulders and fluttered from the window of the carriage. As I gazed on this bright apparition, Richard, to my astonishment, lifted his hat from his brow and bowed low to the smiling stranger, who returned the salutation with graceful ease. The lady on the opposite side was hidden by the fair-haired girl, and both were soon hidden by the thick branches that curtained the road.
"The Linwoods!" said Richard, glancing merrily at the tin pail, which shone so conspicuously bright in the sunshine. "You must have heard of them?"
"Not heard of the new-comers! Haven't you heard that Mrs. Linwood has purchased the famous old Grandison Place, that has stood so long in solitary grandeur, had it fitted up in modern style, and taken possession of it for a country residence? Is it possible that you are such a little nun, that you have heard nothing of this?"
"I go nowhere; no one comes to see us; I might as well be a nun."
"But at school?"
"I have not been since last autumn. But that fair, beautiful young lady, is she a daughter of Mrs. Linwood?"
"She is,—Edith Linwood. Rather a romantic name, is it not? Do you think her beautiful?"
"The loveliest creature I ever looked upon. I should be quite miserable if I thought I never should look upon her again. And you know her,—she bowed to you. How sorry I am she should see you performing such an humble office for a little rustic like me!"
"She will think none the worse of me for it. If she did, I should despise her. But she is no heartless belle,—Edith Linwood is not. She is an angel of goodness and sweetness, if all they say of her be true. I do not know her very well. She has a brother with whom I am slightly acquainted, and through him I have been introduced into the family. Mrs. Linwood is a noble, excellent woman,—I wish you knew her. I wish you knew Edith,—I wish you knew them all. They would appreciate you. I am sure they would."
"I know them!" I exclaimed, glancing at our lowly cottage, my simple dress, and contrasting them mentally with the lordly dwelling and costly apparel of these favorites of nature and of fortune. "They appreciate me!"
"I suppose you think Edith Linwood the most enviable of human beings. Rich, lovely, with the power of gratifying every wish, and of dispensing every good, she would gladly exchange this moment with you, and dip water from yon bubbling spring."
"Impossible!" I cried. "How can she help being happy?"
"She does seem happy, but she is lame, and her health is very delicate. She cannot walk one step without crutches, on which she swings herself along very lightly and gracefully, it is true; but think you not she would not give all her wealth to be able to walk with your bounding steps, and have your elastic frame?"
"Crutches!" said I, sorrowfully, "why she looked as if she might have wings on her shoulders. It is sad."
"She is not an object of pity. You will not think she is when you know her. I only wanted to convince you, that you might be an object of envy to one who seems so enviable to you."
I would gladly have lingered where I was, within the sound of Richard Clyde's frank and cheerful voice, but I thought of poor Peggy thirsting for a cooling draught, and my conscience smote me for being a laggard in my duty. It is true, the scene, which may seem long in description, passed in a very brief space of time, and though Richard said a good many things, he talked very fast, without seeming hurried either.
"I shall see you again at the spring," said he, as he turned from the gate. "You must consider me as the Aquarius of your domestic Zodiac. I should like to be my father's camel-driver, if that were Jacob's well."
I could not help smiling at his gay nonsense,—his presence had been so brightening, so comforting. I had gone down to the spring sad and desponding. I returned with a countenance so lighted up, a color so heightened, that my mother looked at me with surprise.
As soon as I had ministered to Peggy, who seemed mortified and ashamed because of her sickness, and distressed beyond measure at being waited upon. I told my mother of my interview with Richard, of his kindness in carrying the water, the vision of the splendid carriage, of its beautiful occupants, the fitting up of the old Grandison Place, and all that Richard had related to me.
She listened with a troubled countenance. "Surely, young Clyde will not be so inconsiderate, so officious, as to induce those ladies to visit us?"
"No, indeed, mother. He is not officious. He knows you would not like to see them. He would not think of such a thing."
"No, no," I repeated to myself, as I exerted myself bravely in my new offices, as nurse and housekeeper, "there is no danger of that fair creature seeking out this little obscure spot. She will probably ask Richard Clyde who the little country girl was, whose water-pail he was so gallantly carrying, and I know he will speak kindly of me, though he will laugh at being caught in such an awkward predicament. Perhaps to amuse her, he will tell her of my flight from the academy and the scenes which resulted, and she will ask him to show her the poem, rendered so immortal. Then merrily will her silver laughter ring through the lofty hall. I have wandered all over Grandison Place when it was a deserted mansion. No one saw me, for it is far back from the street, all embosomed in shade, and it reminded me of some old castle with its turreted roof and winding galleries. I wonder how it looks now." I was falling into one of my old-fashioned dreams, when a moan from Peggy wakened me, and I sprang to her bedside with renewed alarm.
Yes, Peggy was very sick; but she would not acknowledge it. It was nothing but a violent headache,—a sudden cold; she would be up and doing in the morning. The doctor! No, indeed, she would have nothing to do with doctors. She had never taken a dose of medicine in her life, and never would, of her own freewill. Sage tea was worth all the pills and nostrums in the world. On the faith of her repeated assertions, that she felt a great deal better and would be quite well in the morning, we slept, my mother and myself, leaving the lamp dimly burning by the solemn hour-glass.
About midnight we were awakened by the wild ravings of delirious agony,—those sounds so fearful in themselves, so awful in the silence and darkness of night, so indescribably awful in the solitude of our lonely dwelling.
Peggy had struggled with disease like "the strong man prepared to run a race," but it had now seized her with giant grasp, and she lay helpless and writhing, with the fiery fluid burning in her veins, sending dark, red flashes to her cheeks and brow. Her eyes had a fierce, lurid glare, and she tossed her head from side to side on the pillow with the wild restlessness of an imprisoned animal.
"Good God!" cried my mother, looking as white as the sheets, and trembling all over as in an ague-fit. "What shall we do? She will die unless a doctor can see her. Oh, my child, what can we do? It is dreadful to be alone in the woods, when sickness and death are in the house."
"I will go for the doctor, mother, if you are not afraid to stay alone with Peggy," cried I, in hurried accents, wrapping a shawl round me as I spoke.
My mother wrung her hands.
"Oh! this is terrible," she exclaimed. "How dim and dark it looks abroad. I cannot let you go alone, at midnight. It cannot be less than a mile to Dr. Harlowe's. No, no; I cannot let you go."
"And Peggy must die, then. She must die who has served us so faithfully, and lived alone for us! Oh, mother, let me go I will fly on the wings of the wind. You will hardly miss me before I return. I am not afraid of the darkness. I am not afraid of the lonely woods. I only fear leaving you alone with her."
"Go," said my mother, in a faint voice. "God will protect you. I feel that He will, my good, brave Gabriella."
I kissed her white cheek with passionate tenderness, cast a glance of anguish on Peggy's fearfully altered face, then ran out into the chill, dark midnight. At first I could scarcely discern the sandy path I had so often trodden, for no moon lighted up the gloom of the hour, and even the stars glimmered faintly through a grey and cloudy atmosphere. As I hurried along, the wind came sighing through the trees with such inexpressible sadness, it seemed whispering mournfully of the dark secrets of nature. Then it deepened into a dull, roaring sound, like the murmurs of the ocean tide; but even as I went on the melancholy wind pursued me like an invisible spirit, winding around me its chill, embracing arms.
I seemed the only living thing in the cold, illimitable night. A thick horror brooded over me. The sky was a mighty pall, sweeping down with heavy cloud-fringes, the earth a wide grave. I did not fear, that is, I feared not man, or beast or ghost, but an unspeakable awe and dread was upon me. I dreaded the great God, whose presence filled with insupportable grandeur the lonely night. My heart was hard as granite. I could not have prayed, had I known that Peggy's life would be given in answer to my prayer. I could not say, "Our Father, who art in heaven," as I had so often done at my mother's knee, in the sweet, childlike spirit of filial love and submission. My Father's face was hidden, and behind the thick clouds of darkness I saw a stern, vindictive Being, to whom the smoke of human suffering was more acceptable than frankincense and myrrh.
I compared myself wandering alone in darkness and sorrow, on such an awful errand, to the fair, smiling being cradled in wealth, then doubtless sleeping in her bed of down, watched by attending menials. Oh! rebel that I was, did I not need the chastening discipline, never exerted but in wisdom and in love?
Before I knew it, I was at Dr. Harlowe's door. All was dark and still. The house was of brick, and it loomed up gloriously as I approached. It seemed to frown repulsively with its beetling eaves, as I lifted the knocker and let it fall with startling force. In a moment I heard footsteps moving and saw a light glimmering through the blinds. He was at home, then,—I had accomplished my mission. It was no matter if I died, since Peggy might be saved. I really thought I was going to die, I felt so dull and faint and breathless. I sunk down on the stone steps, just as the door was opened by Dr. Harlowe himself, whom I had seen, but never addressed before. Placing his left hand above his eyes, he looked out, in search of the messenger who had roused him from his slumber. I tried to rise, but was too much exhausted. I could scarcely make my errand understood. I had run a mile without stopping, and now I had stopped, my limbs seemed turned into lead and my head to ice.
"My poor child!" said the doctor, in the kindest manner imaginable. "You should not have come yourself at this hour. It was hardly safe. Why,—you have run yourself completely out of breath. Come in, while they are putting my horse in the buggy. I must give you some medicine before we start."
He stooped down and almost lifted me from the step where I was seated, and led me into what appeared to me quite a sumptuous apartment, being handsomely carpeted and having long crimson curtains to the windows. He made me sit down on a sofa, while he went to a closet, and pouring out a generous glass of wine, insisted upon my drinking it. I obeyed him mechanically, for life seemed glowing in the ruddy fluid. It was. It came back in warmth to my chilled and sinking heart. I felt it stealing like a gentle fire through my whole system,—burning gently, steadily on my cheek, and kindling into light my heavy and tear-dimmed eyes. It was the first glass I had ever tasted, and it ran like electricity through my veins. Had the doctor been aware of my previous abstinence, he might not have thought it safe to have offered me the brimming glass. Had I reflected one moment I should have swallowed it less eagerly; but I seemed sinking, sinking into annihilation, when its reviving warmth restored me. I felt as if I had wings, and could fly over the dreary space my weary feet had so lately overcome.
"You feel better, my dear," said the doctor, with a benevolent smile, as he watched the effect of his prescription. "You must not make so dangerous an experiment again as running such a distance at this time of night. Peggy's life is very precious, I dare say, and so is yours. Are you ready to ride? My buggy is not very large, but I think it will accommodate us both. We will see."
Though it was the first time I had ever spoken with Dr. Harlowe, I felt as much confidence in his kindness and benevolence as if I had known him for years. There was something so frank and genial about him, he seemed, like the wine I had been quaffing, warming to the heart. There was barely room for me, slender as I was, for the carriage was constructed for the accommodation of the doctor alone; but I did not feel embarrassed, or as if I were intruding. He drove very rapidly, conversing the whole time in a pleasant, cheering voice.
"Peggy must be a very valuable person," he said, "for you to venture out so bravely in her cause. We must cure her, by all means."
I expatiated on her virtues with all the eloquence of gratitude. Something must have emboldened my shy tongue,—something more than the hope, born of the doctor's heart-reviving words.
"He is come—he is come," I exclaimed, springing from the buggy to the threshold, with the quickness of lightning.
Oh! how dim and sickly and sad every thing appeared in that little chamber! I turned and looked at the doctor, wondering if he had ever entered one so sad before. Peggy lay in an uneasy slumber, her arms thrown above her head, in a wild, uncomfortable attitude. My mother sat leaning against the head of the bed, pale and statue-like, with her hand, white as marble, partly hidden in her dark and loosely braided hair. The doctor glanced at the bed, then at my mother, and his glance riveted on her. Surprise warmed into admiration,—admiration stood checked by reverence. He advanced a few steps into the room, and made her as lowly a bow as if she were an empress. She rose without speaking and motioned me to hand him a chair; but waiving the offered civility, he went up to the side of the bed and laid his fingers quietly on the pulse of his patient. He stood gravely counting the ticking of life's great chronometer, while my mother leaned forward with pale, parted lips, and I gazed upon him as if the issues of life and death were in his hands.
"I wish I had been called sooner," said he, with a slight contraction of the brows, "but we will do all we can to relieve her."
He called for a basin and linen bandage, and taking a lancet from his pocket, held up the sharp, gleaming point to the light. I shuddered, I had never seen any one bled, and it seemed to me an awful operation.
"You will hold the basin," said he, directing me with his calm, benignant eye. "You are a brave girl,—you will not shrink, as some foolish persons do, at the sight of blood. This side, if you please, my dear."
Ashamed to forfeit the confidence he had in my bravery, or rather moral courage, I grasped the basin with both hands, and held it firm, though my lips quivered and my cheek blanched.
Peggy, awakened by the pressure of the bandage, began to rave and struggle, and I feared it would be impossible to subdue her into sufficient quietness; but delirious as she was, there was something in the calm, authoritative tones of Dr. Harlowe's voice, that seemed irresistible. She became still, and lay with her half-closed eyes fixed magnetically on his face. As the dark-red blood spouted into the basin, I started, and would have recoiled had not a strong controlling influence been exerted over me. The gates of life were opened. How easy for life itself to pass away in that deep crimson tide!
"This is the poetry of our profession," said the doctor, binding up the wound with all a woman's gentleness.
Poor Peggy, who could ever associate the idea of poetry with her! I could not help smiling as I looked at her sturdy arm, through whose opaque surface the blue wandering of the veins was vainly sought.
"And now," said he, after giving her a comforting draught, "she will sleep, and you must sleep, madam," turning respectfully to my mother; "you have not strength enough to resist fatigue,—your daughter will have two to nurse instead of one, if you do not follow my advice."
"I cannot sleep," replied my mother.
"But you can rest, madam; it is your duty. What did I come here for, but to relieve your cares? Go with your mother, my dear, and after a while you may come back and help me."
"You are very kind, sir," she answered. With a graceful bend of the head she passed from the room, while his eyes followed her with an expression of intense interest.
It is no wonder. Even I, accustomed as I was to watch her every motion, was struck by the exceeding grace of her manner. She did not ask the doctor what he thought of Peggy, though I saw the words trembling on her lips. She dared not do it.
From that night the seclusion of our cottage home was broken up. Disease had entered and swept down the barriers of circumstance curiosity had so long respected. We felt the drawings of that golden chain of sympathy which binds together the great family of mankind.
Peggy's disease was a fever, of a peculiar and malignant character. It was the first case which occurred; but it spread through the town, so that scarcely a family was exempt from its ravages. Several died after a few days' sickness, and it was said purplish spots appeared after death, making ghostly contrast with its livid pallor. The alarm and terror of the community rendered it difficult to obtain nurses for the sick; but, thanks to the benevolent exertions of Dr. Harlowe, we were never left alone.
Richard Clyde, too, came every day, and sometimes two or three times a day to the spring, to know what he could do for us. No brother could be kinder. Ah! how brightly, how vividly deeds of kindness stand out on the dark background of sickness and sorrow! I never, never can forget that era of my existence, when the destroying angel seemed winnowing the valley with his terrible wings,—when human life was blown away as chaff before a strong wind. Strange! the sky was as blue and benignant, the air as soft and serene, as if health and joy were revelling in the green-wood shade. The gentle rustling of the foliage, the sweet, glad warbling of the birds, the silver sparkling of the streamlets, and the calm, deep flowing of the distant river, all seemed in strange discordance with the throes of agony, the wail of sorrow, and the knell of death.
It was the first time I had ever been brought face to face with sickness and pain. The constitutional fainting fits of my mother were indicative of weakness, and caused momentary terror; but how different to this mysterious, terrible malady, this direct visitation from the Almighty! Here we could trace no second causes, no imprudence in diet, no exposure to the night air, no predisposing influences. It came sudden and powerful as the bolt of heaven. It came in sunshine and beauty, without herald and warning, whispering in deep, thrilling accents: "Be still, and know that I am God."
I do not wish to dwell too long on this sad page of my young life, but sad as it is, it is followed by another so dark, I know not whether my trembling hand should attempt to unfold it. Indeed, I fear I have commenced a task I had better have left alone. I know, however, I have scenes to relate full of the wildest romance, and that though what I have written may be childish and commonplace, I have that to relate which will interest, if the development of life's deepest passions have power to do so.
The history of a human heart! a true history of that mystery of mysteries! a description of that city of our God, more magnificent than the streets of the New Jerusalem! This is what I have commenced to write. I will go on.
For nine days Peggy wrestled with the destroying angel. During that time, nineteen funerals had darkened the winding avenue which led to the grave-yard, and she who was first attacked lingered last. It was astonishing how my mother sustained herself during these days and nights of intense anxiety. She seemed unconscious of fatigue, passive, enduring as the marble statue she resembled. She ate nothing,—she did not sleep. I know not what supported her. Dr. Harlowe brought her some of that generous wine which had infused such life into my young veins, and forced her to swallow it, but it never brought any color to her hueless cheeks.
On the morning of the ninth day, Peggy sunk into a deathlike stupor. Her mind had wandered during all her sickness, though most of the time she lay in a deep lethargy, from which nothing could rouse her.
"Go down to the spring and breathe the fresh air," said the doctor; "there should be perfect quiet here,—a few hours will decide her fate."
I went down to the spring, where the twilight shades were gathering. The air came with balmy freshness to my anxious, feverish brow. I scooped up the cold water in the hollow of my hand and bathed my face. I shook my hair over my shoulders, and dashed the water over every disordered tress. I began to breathe more freely. The burning weight, the oppression, the suffocation were passing away, but a dreary sense of misery, of coming desolation remained. I sat down on the long grass, and leaning my head on my clasped hands, watched the drops as they fell from my dropping hair on the mossy rock below.
"Is it not too damp for you here?"
I knew Richard Clyde was by me,—I heard his light footsteps on the sward, but I did not look up.
"It is not as damp as the grave will be," I answered.
"Don't talk so, Gabriella, don't. I cannot bear to hear you. This will be all over soon, and it will be to you like a dark and troubled dream."
"Yes; I know it will be all over soon. We shall all lie in the churchyard together,—Peggy, my mother, and I,—and you will plant a white rose over my mother's grave, will you not? Not over mine. No flowers have bloomed for me in life,—it would be nothing to place them over my sleeping dust."
"Gabriella! You are excited,—you are ill. Give me your hand. I know you have a feverish pulse."
I laid my hand on his, with an involuntary motion. Though it was moist with the drops that had been oozing over it, it had a burning heat. He startled at its touch.
"You are ill,—you are feverish!" he cried. "The close air of that little room has been killing you. I knew it would. You should have gone to Mrs. Linwood's, you and your mother, when she sent for you. Peggy would have been abundantly cared for."
"What, leave her here to die!—her, so good, so faithful, and affectionate, who would have died a thousand times over for us. Oh Richard, how can you speak of such a thing! Peggy is dying now,—I know that she is. I never looked on death, but I saw its shadow on her livid face. Why did Dr. Harlowe send me away? I am not afraid to see her die. Hark! my mother calls me."
I started up, but my head was dizzy, and I should have fallen had not Richard put his arm around me.
"Poor girl," said he, "I wish I had a sister to be with and comfort you. These are dark hours for us all, for we feel the pressure of God Almighty's hand. I do not wonder that you are crushed. You, so young and tender. But bear up, Gabriella. The day-spring will yet dawn, and the shadows fly away."
So he kept talking, soothingly, kindly, keeping me out in the balminess and freshness of the evening, while the fever atmosphere burned within. I knew not how long I sat. I knew not when I returned to the house. I have forgotten that. But I remember standing that night over a still, immovable form, on whose pale, peaceful brow, those purplish spots, of which I had heard in awful whispers, were distinctly visible. The tossing arms were crossed reposingly over the pulseless bosom,—the restless limbs were rigid as stone. I remember seeing my mother, whom they tried to lead into another chamber,—my mother, usually so calm and placid,—throw herself wildly on that humble, fever-blasted form, and cling to it in an agony of despair. It was only by the exertion of main force that she was separated from it and carried to her own apartment. There she fell into one of those deadly fainting fits, from which the faithful, affectionate Peggy had so often brought her back to life.
Never shall I forget that awful night. The cold presence of mortality in its most appalling form, the shadow of my mother's doom that was rolling heavily down upon me with prophetic darkness, the dismal preparations, the hurrying steps echoing so drearily through the midnight gloom; the cold burden of life, the mystery of death, the omnipotence of God, the unfathomableness of Eternity,—all pressed upon me with such a crushing weight, my spirit gasped and fainted beneath the burden.
One moment it seemed that worlds would not tempt me to look again on that shrouded form, so majestic in its dread immobility,—its cold, icy calmness,—then drawn by an awful fascination, I would gaze and gaze as if my straining eyes could penetrate the depths of that abyss, which no sounding line has ever reached.
I saw her laid in her lowly grave. My mother, too, was there. Dr. Harlowe did every thing but command her to remain at home, but she would not stay behind.
"I would follow her to her last home," said she, "if I had to walk barefoot over a path of thorns."
Only one sun rose on her unburied form,—its setting rays fell on a mound of freshly heaved sods, where a little while before was a mournful cavity.
Mrs. Linwood sent her beautiful carriage to take us to the churchyard. Slowly it rolled along behind the shadow of the dark, flapping pall. Very few beside ourselves were present, so great a panic pervaded the community; and very humble was the position Peggy occupied in the world. People wondered at the greatness of our grief, for she was only a servant. They did not know all that she was to us,—how could they? Even I dreamed not then of the magnitude of our obligations.
I never shall forget the countenance of my mother as she sat leaning from the carriage windows, for she was too feeble to stand during the burial, while I stood with Dr. Harlowe at the head of the grave. The sun was just sinking behind the blue undulation of the distant hills, and a mellow, golden lustre calmly settled on the level plain around us. It lighted up her pallid features with a kind of unearthly glow, similar to that which rested on the marble monuments gleaming through the weeping willows. Every thing looked as serene and lovely, as green and rejoicing, as if there were no such things as sickness and death in the world.
My mother's eyes wandered slowly over the whole inclosure, shut in by the plain white railing, edged with black,—gleamed on every gray stone, white slab, and green hillock,—rested a moment on me, then turned towards heaven, with such an expression!
"Not yet, my mother, oh, not yet!" I cried aloud in an agony that could not be repressed, clinging to Dr. Harlowe's arm as if every earthly stay and friend were sliding from my grasp. I knew the meaning of that mute, expressive glance. She was measuring her own grave by the side of Peggy's clay cold bed,—she was commending her desolate orphan to the Father of the fatherless, the God of the widow. She knew she would soon be there, and I knew it too. And after the first sharp pang,—after the arrow of conviction fastened in my heart,—I pressed it there with a kind of stern, vindictive joy, triumphing in my capacity of suffering. I wonder if any one ever felt as I did,—I wonder if any worm of the dust ever writhed so impotently under the foot of Almighty God!
O kind and compassionate Father! Now I know thou art kind even in thy chastisements, merciful even in thy judgments, by the bitter chalice I have drained, by all the waves and billows that have gone over me, by anguish, humiliation, repentance, and prayer. Forgive, forgive! for I knew not what I was doing!
From that night my mother never left her bed. The fever spared her, but she wilted like the grass beneath the scythe of the mower. Gone was the unnatural excitement which had sustained her the last nine days; severed the silver cord so long dimmed by secret tears.
Thank heaven! I was not doomed to see her tortured by pain, or raving in delirious agony,—to see those exquisite features distorted by frenzy,—or to hear that low, sweet voice untuned, the key-note of reason lost.
Thank heaven! even death laid its hand gently on one so gentle and so lovely.
I said, death laid its hand gently on one so gentle and so lovely. Week after week she lingered, almost imperceptibly fading, passing away like a soft rolling cloud that melts into the sky. The pestilence had stayed its ravages. The terror, the thick gloom had passed by.
If I looked abroad at sunset, I could see the windows of the village mansions, crimsoned and glowing with the last flames of day; but no light was reflected on our darkened home. It was all in shadow. And at night, when the windows of Grandison Place were all illuminated, glittering off by itself like a great lantern, the traveller could scarcely have caught the glimmering ray of the little lamp dimly burning in our curtained room.
Do you think I was resigned? That because I was dumb, I lay like a lamb before the stroke of the shearer? I will tell you how resigned, how submissive I was. I have read of the tortures of the Inquisition. I have read of one who was chained on his back to the dungeon floor, without the power to move one muscle,—hand and foot, body and limb bound. As he lay thus prone, looking up, ever upwards, he saw a circular knife, slowly descending, swinging like a pendulum, swinging nearer and nearer; and he knew that every breath he drew it came nearer and nearer, and that he must feel anon the cold, sharp edge. Yet he lay still, immovable, frozen, waiting, with his glazed eyes fixed on the terrible weapon. Such was my resignation—my submission.